Wednesday, January 12, 2005

It's a Wonderful Game

January 12, 2005
By Paul Benedict

It's Tuesday night (my only night off for the rest of the week) and I'm snowed in. I had big plans to get sauced and reprise my arresting rendition of "Bust a Move" for a packed house at Bottega this evening, but Mother Nature decided to rain--err snow on my parade. And with that, here I am doing what I do every single night of the week--watching basketball. Five minutes ago I said to myself, "Jesus, Paul. What the hell are you doing? Your job is to watch NBA games and on your one night off this week, you spend it watching more NBA?" And that's when I decided to lean up, bust out my laptop, and just start writing. So why am I still watching this debacle of an NBA studio show called 'NBA Fastbreak'? Why did I lie here and watch one terrible team (Hornets) beat another (Knicks) in a poorly played game? I think I just heard someone from the back shout out, "because you're pathetic!" Wait wait--let me step away from this muse for a second--

ESPN is doing a feature on the NBA's best hair. Are you joking? Ok, let's get this out in the open. Greg Anthony, I like. Sharp, insightful, anything but funny. Same goes for Tim Legler. Matt Winer is just a train wreck and they need to get him the hell out of there before somebody gets hurt. My point is--stop trying to be funny! You're not Ernie, Charles, and Kenny, ok? Please, if I roll my eyes one more time I'm going to look like Stuart Scott (oohh, low blow--sorry Stu).

Ok sorry, but that all had to be said. Now where was I--right, why do I lie here and watch basketball all night? (Well for starters, I wouldn't be if I could bust out of here, but after doing my fair share of donuts on the Merritt Parkway a couple weeks ago at 3:30 in the morning, I'd say it's a swell idea to cool it on driving in icy conditions for awhile.) Obviously there's other things I could have been doing besides listening to MSG analyst John Andariese tear into Baron Davis every 3 minutes for playing "outside of the system". Please. You think Byron Scott is coming down hard on the Baron for putting up 21, 5, and 10 as the team extended its season-high win streak to TWO GAMES? Me neither. See this is just one of the reasons why I love the NBA so much. In no other sport are there such generational gaps. The game has changed so much in the 25 odd years Andariese has been doing Knick games that sometimes even Johnny Hoops himself can't understand why Scott was handing the keys over to Baron to drive this team to their fourth victory of the season.
In no other league is there such a vast array of personalities that we all have the chance to know because simply, the NBA is played with 10 players on the court at once. Not 2, not 4, not 18, not 22. And for that matter, not with helmets on, not in cars, not in silence, not in rain, not in snow, not with sunglasses, not to music, not with animals, not on drugs, not with equipment, and certainly not in skirts or tights.
In no other league can you assume so many different identities while playing. There's the high-flyer, the gunner, the stiff, the defensive stopper, the sharpshooter, the space eater, the playmaker, the hustler, the glass cleaner, the scrub, the go-to-guy--I could go on. But because basketball can be played proficiently with such a vast array of individual skills, you can often be who you want to be.
In no other league is there such drama. There's Kobe and Shaq, the Christies, TMac, Vinsanity, Quentin and Brandy, Spike and Reggie, Isiah Thomas, Danny Fortson, Iverson, Larry Brown, and obviously there's TNT--we all know TNT IS DRAMA. And while some may loathe the baggage that comes with drama, we all damn well know a story behind a story is better than just a story.
In no other league is there such jaw-dropping athleticism as there is in the NBA. There's acrobatic dunks, dream shakes, Kobe Bryant, crossovers, alley-oops, behind-the-back passes, block parties, LeBron James, fadeaway jumpers, no-look passes, the Phoenix Suns, drop steps, spin moves, posterizing jams, and Kevin Garnett. In other leagues what do you have? Double plays? Game winning field goals? Chip-ins? Empty net goals? Double axels? Pit stops? Overhead slams? Turkeys? Please.
In no other league is there such remarkable diversity. There's 82 international players from 36 different countries, kids jumping from high school, ACC products, Southland products, guys from the projects, guys from the upper-class prep schools, guys who were told they'd never make it, guys that always knew they would, guys that are shorter than my Moms, guys that are taller than Shrek, and then there's Shaq, who's physique and personality will never be witnessed again.
In no other league is there such an engaging and exciting game played. Not anywhere. Let me leave it to the legendary Magic Johnson who once summed it up so eloquently: "You're watching beautiful basketball. The ball is moving, 5 guys are playing. Oh, man! Ooooh! I mean it's just awesome."


At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're right about nba fastbreak on espn. greg anthony is so observant and so well-spoken. the show is a waste of his talent. tim legler, he's really not that good at all. he essentially just jumps on the bandwagon, and when he goes out on his own he looks like a total fool. between his overblown comments immediately after the brawl in detroit and the reactions to him by players and joe schmoes around the nation, i bet legler is let go after this season.

ideally, nba fastbreak would be much more like the nfl show featuring suzy kolber and ron jaworski (the other guy is so biased that he doesn't deserve to be mentioned by name). it doesn't have to be that serious, but i would very much appreciate a more in-depth look at why a team like seattle plays such good offense and rebounds so well. nfl plays are much more complicated to break down, but nfl matchup does it in a way that makes sense and is very interesting. there's no show on any network (even nba tv) that even attempts to do a comparable analysis of basketball, which is kind of sad in my opinion.

between you guys and some columnists like eric neel and bill simmons, there's some good stuff in print, but it's just a shame that there's nothing better on tv. god knows there's enough channels.

ultimately, and maybe i've said this before, the problem is this: 90% of the sports media, and increasingly and especially espn (which makes up like 60% of the sports media on its own), doesn't really care about sports. they say they do, they pretend they do, but really they're more interested in catering to a particular demographic with mistakenly imagined traits. that's why we get that know-nothing woman in the studio during the world series. that's why sportscenter spends 30 seconds recapping the vikings-packers game and then over 7 minutes about randy moss's fake mooning (which was genius and hilarious, by the way, once you learn the context -- something espn grudgingly, briefly provided via a tony dungy quote buried in the middle of the segment). that's why brett favre and peyton manning are worshipped and worshipped and worshipped until you feel like anybody who roots for them must be a fucking asshole. sometimes it feels like nobody is interested any more in REPORTING a story; instead they all seem hell-bent on CREATING a story by constantly coming up with some sort of controversy that fits the prototype of those that get batted around the more pathetic talk-radio shows. similarly, it feels like nobody cares enough about the game to analyze it or even just marvel at it; instead it seems as though the media cares about the games only to the extent that they can be used to fuel new controversies (e.g., end zone celebrations, flagrant fouls, inside pitches, BCS debates).

anyway, sorry to take up so much space. it's just that your comments really tapped into something that keeps popping into my head every time i pop on the tv. keep up the good work.

Slack Jawed Gawker (as if you hadn't figured it out already)

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Great points Slack. It's a disgrace that ESPN is just ex-pros getting their bleeps bleeped by non ex-pro's and we are force-fed their opinions. Why do you think Simmons is such a minute figure at ESPN. The guy should have his own televsion channel for god's sake. He would only use ex-pro's for humor and strictly humor. He's the man, why can't sports cater to him instead of these jack asses like Michael Irvin, Tom Tolbert and Mark Schlereth? I hate sports. I done with this website. I'm going to chill with Ricky. Peace


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