Friday, March 20, 2009

Stick To Calling Play-By-Play And Leave The Jokes To The Professionals, Kevin Harlan

Now fully embroiled in the NCAA Tournament, it is a little hard to focus on anything else in the world of sports. I got tickets to the see the Team USA in the World Baseball Classic semifinals on Sunday and finals on Monday, but of course my first thought was, "which tourney games will I miss?"

Without delving too deeply into all the things I noticed and wrote down to write about in yesterday's March Madness games, there are a few key ones, with the Kevin Harlan story being the punctuation mark on this one:

It was nice to not have the threat of hearing Billy Raftery hanging over my head all day. Or Brent Musberger, for that matter. Raftery will be in Dayton today, which is where Musberger was on Tuesday for the Play-In game. When I first saw that game on ESPN, my first thought was that it was a pretty sloppy for a big time high school game. Then I realized that it was an NCAA Tournament game and I couldn't figure out which was more horrible to have to sit through: Musberger trying to figure out how to work "Buckeeeeeeyes" into his call of the game, with Steve Lavin just kinda being confused the whole time, the staggeringly bad play from Alabama State and Morehead State, or the nearly vertical angle from which you have to watch the games from in Dayton. Do they film from the moon there? It's like a sports-themed Rogaine commercial.

Do we really need a play-in game? Is there good justification to have the two worst teams in the field play against each other. Imagine this: UConn and Carolina beat their 16-seeds by a combined 4000 points yesterday, and those 16-seeds were better than Moreheads State, who plays Louisville today. Adding the 65th team is a waste of time. Does the 7th or 8th best team from the Pac-10, ACC, Big East, or Big Televen really deserve an at-large bid to the Dance?

During commercial breaks on Thursday, I was switching to ESPN's Tourney coverage which was funny. They aren't allowed to show game footage because the games were still live and that's a TV contract standard. So they just sat there and talked about the games. It was like watching a radio show. But I did see on their ticker that Bobby Bowden had a great quote about the NCAA's ruling to erase wins from many Florida State sports over the last few years because of a massive cheating scandal that the school did nothing about. They announced that Bowden had come forward to defend the Athletic Dept. like it is a surprise...he's gonna lose 14 wins and now be way too far behind Paterno to ever catch up. Anyway, Bowden's quote was, "It's like killing a flee with a hammer." Actually, it is like handing down a measured penalty against an athletic department for having no institutional control. Which is like hitting a nail with a hammer, I guess.

The first game of the day showed why we love this Tournament. How many people in Kansas City had probably ever heard of Cal State Northridge before yesterday? I'd say the 100 Northridge fans in attendance plus 10, tops. But the entire crowd galvanized and was roaring for CSUN as their upset bid against Memphis progressed. Villanova was the rare big-conference school to be in upset-danger, but still have the crowd on their side.

During the lull between games, ESPN did a Major League Baseball bracket and had some of the Baseball Tonight guys pick a baseball bracket. Peter Gammons said, and no one batted an eye, that the Dodgers have the best offense in the National League. What? Who? There's Manny, and a few guys who used to be pretty good, and some guys that are supposed to be pretty good, and Dodger Stadium, which does not exactly help a mediocre hitter become a great one. Am I this biased against the Dodgers or is this as insane as I think it is? Furcal, Hudson, Loney, Manny, Ethier, Blake, Kemp, Martin - it is a good line-up for sure. But considering that they will be pitched to by pitchers who are leading all the time because the Dodgers forgot to hire any pitchers, and considering that there are three, maybe four, potential .300 hitters and four, maybe five, potential .225 hitters, this is not a daunting line-up to me. Everyone is waiting for these young Dodger phenoms to take over. After two average years in the Bigs, when do you stop waiting and and start looking for their replacements?

A big thank you goes out to Jeremy Pargo for his dunk and that thug from Morgan State that supluxxed Blake Griffin or there would have been utterly no highlights from Thursday. See the :40 mark of this video for the Griffin play and watch this one of the Pargo play. Sorry if those links get taken down...both are probably breaking copyright laws.

Later today I will post a list of my favorite first names from sports. I have been recording the greatest and most oddly spelled names in sports for a while and have determined that about 15-30 years ago, people naming their kids were really, really stupid. Or at least they had very high opinions of themselves and wanted their kids to have names that no one had ever had before. Like Steffphon, Jrue or D'Qwell.

And finally, Kevin Harlan was telling the story of how "Humpty" Hitchens got his nickname as a child. He loved the song "The Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground (and who didn't besides my parents?). So Harlan went on to say , "That [song] brings back memories of my wedding night." Now I don't think I need to explain what the "humpty dance" is a euphemism for. So after Harlan just went on national television talking about having sex with his wife on their wedding night, he quickly tried to backpedal it down to a clumsy joke about that being his and his wife's first dance song. The damage was done. That poor bastard should probably also be called "Humpty" now. "This is Humpty Harlan and Dan Bonner with you here in Portland for tonight's second round match up between the 4th seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Cinderella Hilltoppers from Western Kentucky." There should be a list of really embarrassing things said by sports announcers, and if I can find some other really good ones, there probably will be next week.

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