Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sports This Week: Racist Writers, Soggy Fans, Soporific Announcers, And Naptime At Staples Center

Al Sharpton is at it again. Apparently on Monday well-known New York Post sports columnist Steve Serby was writing about how the Giants have handled the Plaxico Burress-primadonna issues this season and he wrote, "Good for [head coach Tom] Caughlin for tightening the noose around Plaxico Burress." Sharpton of course called the comment, "blatant racism," and a "media lynching."

So my question is this: is there any possibility that the writer had anything remotely close to racism in mind when he wrote that? ESPN's Michael Wilbon (who is black) said no. Or did he perhaps use the wrong term? If he had said, "tightening the reins," would it have been different? Would Sharpton then be upset with Serby for comparing an African American man to an animal? Seriously, there are so many problems in the world that we should be worried about. Is a guy using the wrong turn of phrase one of them?

Similarly, in West Hollywood there is a guy who hung an effigy of Sarah Palin from his chimney as a part of his Halloween decorations. Clearly it is a political statement, but it is also kinda funny. Had it been John McCain or Bush or Cheney or Osama bin Laden or Tom Cruise or the guy's neighbor or any other man, would it have been offensive? Of course not. I can see how the same thing with Barrack Obama would be crossing the line because in our overly politically-correct world, I doubt many people could look at that and see the statement about a political candidate and not a black man being hung. Probably rightfully so. But the fact that people are lining up in front of the home to protest a scene that is less ghoulish than many homes and nearly every Halloween store-front in town is completely insane.

Speaking of insane, I am excited for the Rays to win Game 5, the longest game in baseball history, and return to St. Pete for Game 6 so DirecTV can give us those fabulous blimp shots of the outside of the dome. Money well-spent there!

Bud Selig has been getting ripped for how he handled the rain-delay of Game 5. Honestly, what could he have done differently? The forecast called for 1/10" of rain over four hours and they wound up getting about 3". His fault? So maybe they could have delayed the game after about 4 innings when it got pretty wet out there. It was clear that they were not going to get a respite from the rain on Monday and that meant they'd finish Tuesday (or later), thus wiping out the innings that had been played - they'd start over from the first inning by rule. Is that what anyone wanted to have happen? How many plays were affected by the rain? They keep showing Jimmy Rollins drop a pop up and B.J. Upton steal a base as effects of the rain. Rollins dropped the ball because the wind blew it in, and Upton should have been slowed down by the rain.

The only problem out there was the mound; everyone else can get muddy. But with pitchers not being able to plant, there is a good chance someone will get hurt. But does anyone think that they should have called it after five and end the World Series there? Selig got lucky by having the Rays score to tie it up - he got bailed out. But what else could he have done? And besides, he had had a meeting with both G.M.s and managers and explained that what they would do in this scenario is exactly what ended up happening. The sportswriters are just upset they weren't in on it, but they should get over themselves and remember that they are there to report what happens, not to be involved in decision-making.

I have been trying to put my finger on what it is about Tim McCarver that I don't like (and that most people don't seem to like). He is a little full of himself, but they all are. His southern drawl is a little annoying, but I like to believe that I am not that prejudiced against southerners sounding stupid no matter what they're saying. I think I have figured it out though: he doesn't really give any commentary. Joe Buck just seems utterly bored with baseball and there is more dead air than any other broadcast team, but McCarver just doesn't say anything. He says what just happened, yes, but with no commentary. Being a commentator, this is a problem.

Listening to Harold Reynolds on TBS (and formerly ESPN), is a treat because he tells you what the coach should do on every pitch. He gives stories about similar scenarios. He reacts to plays like a fan and talks about the significance of things without every moment having to be the most important moment in American history like Buck seems to do. McCarver barely responds to what has happened and almost never gives any insight into what the managers or players might be thinking strategically. He just reads the graphics on the screen and gets pissed at Dion Sanders for spraying champagne on him. But at least Fox has those stretching, warming-up robots to keep us entertained.

Fox is now famous for their crowd-shots. The moment a play ends, we get two or three crowd shots and they return to the pitcher just in time for the next pitch. I don't like this for a few reasons: I don't give a crap about the fans for one thing. I want to see the players' reactions; those are the people we all sat down to watch. I want to see a pitcher's frustration. I want to see a guy stealing signs. I want to see a manager yelling at the umps. I don't want to see a baby sleeping on daddy.

However, it would be funny if Fox broadcast a regular season Laker game, because it is so dark in Staples Center for Laker games, you wouldn't be able to see anyone and the producers wouldn't know what to do with themselves. For the playoffs, the Lakers turn the crowd lights up so the celebs can get on camera, but in the regular season it looks like they had a power outage. It is as though they figure the Laker fans are pretty much napping the whole time anyway, so they may as well turn the lights off for them and hope the players don't make too much noise and wake everyone up. Last night's season opener wasn't a good game, but it was without a doubt the worst crowd I have ever seen (or heard, I suppose) at a professional sporting event. The Expos' crowds, all 4,000 strong, were louder. People always say that L.A. crowds don't cheer until the scoreboard says to and last night the scoreboards must have been turned off with the lights.

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