Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Death of the Adverb, and Other Sports Casual-ties

There's something missing in sports these days. It isn't an overwhelming sense of entitlement in the NBA. It isn't a series of hilariously exorbitant contracts in baseball. And it certainly isn't a string of Cincinnati Bengals arrests.

No, what's absent from the current sporting world isn't on the field, court or ice; it isn't in the front office; it isn't in the character or demeanor of the athletes playing the game.

What's currently lost in the sports scene isor perhaps more accurately, isn'ton the television in your own home.

Eloquence. Insight. Meaningful observation of any kind.

It's a crisis of color commentary, both in the booth during games and in the studio all day long.

The cause is simple. Precipitated by ESPNas all sports media trends are these daysthe problem stems from an utterly befuddling new system of hiring. It isn't about who the network is choosing to put on air; although let's be seriousit's not as if the cast of NFL Countdown will someday be able to string together a handful of coherent thoughts. Instead, the issue is the immediacy with which the network chooses to move ex-players and ex-coaches in front of the camera.

I mean, what ever happened to spending a year or two at an afterthought of an RSN to hone one's skills before making the move to the national sports scene?

Take, for example, former Red Sox manager and current ESPN Sunday Night Baseball color commentator Terry Francona. I've got nothing against the guy. He isn't the best there is on the air, but I have seen worse. (Read as: but I have seen worse on every FOX Sports broadcast ever). 

The problemfrom a sports perspective, at leastwith the influx of raw commentators like Francona and many others is that there's no confort level. Instead of offering deeper insight into the game, which presumably a Trent Dilfer or a Bruce Bowen would have after player professionally for so many years, they "play it safe" and revert to the same trite sports cliches that your creepy high school coach used to try to motivate you when you played a Tuesday afternoon game against East Whocaresville High School in front of a crowd of 12 parents.

"It's going to come down to whoever wants it more." Or, "It's all about fundamentals." Or, "All it takes is one guy coming up in the clutch."

Stop me when you've heard this [on ESPN] before.

It would be bad enough if the deteriorating state of color commentary was only hurting the sports world, but to make matters worse, it's bleeding out and threatening the English language. The first casualty: the adverb.

Next time you watch anything on ESPN, you'll notice. How could you not? There are so many actions to be described in sports and each, it seems, is chronicled rather poorly. But the real shock is that the death of the adverb is no longer solely a sports phenomenon. It has since extended into nearly all types of news and broadcasting. Go ahead and sit through a half hour news presentation, and you'll see what I mean. What's happened to the adverb is just the first casualty in America's apparent war on eloquence. 

Maybe it doesn't bother you; it is, after all, a matter of taste. Perhaps I'm the pretentious asshole in this scenario, and if that's the case, so be it. But shouldn't it be a problem that the media industrya sector of the business world whose primary responsibility is the telling of storiescould have such blatant disregard for the words with which they communicate those events?

If I had the choice to watch a game with commentators or with field noise, there's a short list of broadcasters whose voices would populate the speakers in my living room. And given the enormous potential for analysts to shape the enjoyment of a broadcast, that truly is a shame.

When words get in the way, why have them at all?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Where would we be without Tim Duncan?

Did you know that Tim Duncan is the best player since Michael Jordan? Better than Kobe. Better than LeBron. Better than KG, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, James Harden's beard, Darko Milicic, and J.R. Smith on one of his good days.

Did you know that Tim Duncan won a championship in 2003 with Tony Parker in his 2nd year, Ginobili as a rookie, Stephen Jackson as the 2nd best player, David Robinson in his final year, Bruce Bowen, Steve Kerr, and...well...that's pretty much it. Danny Ferry played big minutes for this team. How did this happen?

Did you know that Tim Duncan averaged 21 and 12 and 2.5 blocks and made first team All-NBA in his rookie year? He went on to make the first team All-NBA his first 8 years in the league, 13 1st or 2nd team All-Defensive team, every all star game, and won 2 NBA MVPs.

Oh, and he won 4 championships.

Should've been 5.

So why does nobody know and, more importantly, nobody care?

Because Tim Duncan is the most boring athlete alive. Possibly ever. And he's held the NBA back for too long.

What would have happened if Tim Duncan never picked up a basketball?
  1. Keith Van Horn would have been picked number 1 by the Spurs, and we would never have had to watch a team win a championship while averaging 80 points a game.
  2. Poppovich would be coaching in a big market, like New York. Combine the best coach with the best market, and you get the best talent. Everyone loves a dream team.
  3. Chauney Billups would have been drafted 2nd by the 76ers, who would have been the perfect backcourt mate to Allen Iverson. And we all know that the NBA can never have enough Allen Iverson.
  4. Allen Iverson never lets Chauncey shoot, so Chauncey never becomes "Mr. Big Shot" and we never have to listen to that stupid nickname aver again.
  5. The Detroit Pistons never happen, meaning teams don't try to copy them by only focusing on defense.
  6. Kobe would have 6 championships, making the Kobe-MJ debate really legit.
  7. Jason Kidd gets a championship with the Nets, encouraging teams to play at a faster pace.
  8. Faster pace means more points, more 3-pointers, and more dunks.
  9. More dunks means more fans.
  10. More fans means the NBA would have already expanded into Europe.
  11. More fans in Europe means more European players choose to play basketball instead of soccer.
  12. Basketball becomes the greatest sport in the world.
We'll never know how great the NBA could have been without the "Big Fundamental." But we do know that there's a reason people youtube "crazy dunks" instead of "basketball fundamentals."

Why Baltimore Orioles Fans Hate The Law Of Large Numbers

After April...

...After September.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bobby Petrino: Different Story, Same Ending

At first glance, Bobby "motherf***ing" Petrino (or BMFP) became what every man dreams of becoming. Dominant head football coach, drives a motorcycle, and hooks up with hot chicks.

$20,000 and 9 days later, maybe we wouldn't want to be him after all. Here's three things we've learned through this process.

Bobby Petrino isn't exactly a nice guy
First, he tried to steal the head coaching job at Auburn from Tommy Tuberville, the same guy who hired him as his Offensive Coordinator just a few years before. Then, he quits on the Atlanta Falcons halfway through the season, leaves them a note telling them he's leaving, and heads to the University of Arkansas. Now, he's fired for lying to his boss, manipulating the system, and spending a little bit too much time with a girl 30 years younger than him. Some wonder whether he would have gone on to win a championship had he stayed at Arkansas, but it always seems that a lack of character ends up catching up with most in sports.

Winning is most important, but not the only thing
This might be a strange thing to say, since Bobby got fired, but anyone who followed the situation closely knows that the decision was essentially a coin-flip throughout the entire process. I still think it could have gone either way. The case against Bobby? He lied to his boss, embarrassed the university, and hired his mistress. The case for Bobby? He won 21 games the past two years. That's it. Looking back, this should have been an easy decision, especially from a legal perspective. Two people who are having an inappropriate relationship are working together. One of them definitely had to go. Legally, Bobby should have been the first to go.

Winning 21 games almost saved Bobby, so the question becomes: how much would have been enough? Would Saban have been fired? What about Les Miles? What if Arkansas had beaten LSU on the last game of the season? No one will ever know how many more wins would have tipped the scale in Bobby's favor.

Being a coach keeps getting more difficult
I won't ever condone Bobby's actions or anyone else who was fired for their behavior, but the outcome may have been different 15 years ago. The media was a huge factor in this decision, and Bobby may have been saved if it weren't for the fact that Arkansas would have looked terrible to the rest of the nation. Millions of Americans have skeletons in their closet, and the majority of them can get away with it. Not coaches. Their room for error keeps getting smaller and smaller. Because of that, I doubt we will see many coaches stay with one team for more than 10 or 15 years anymore. There is too much pressure. Too much information. Too many land mines. There is no excuse for a coach abusing his power, but the coaches who follow every rule to the T and still win are few and far between.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Olympic Countdown: 109 Days

Are you as excited for the 2012 Summer Olympics as I am? You aren't if you're Iranian and easily offended. But for the rest of us, it's time to start counting the days down. Only 109 to go, according to this fancy countdown clock. You can also keep an eye on the the 2018 Pyeongchang games if you just can't get enough of countdowns, clocks, and all things Pyeongchang.

In honor of my second favorite quadrennial sporting spectacle, here's a 2008 video of people's life-long hopes and dreams being shattered in Beijing. Enjoy.