Thursday, April 22, 2010

I mock your draft.

ESPN managed to make the NFL draft look like the Miss America pageant. Complete with musical interludes, cutesy videos of the players and a woman voice-over before the commercial breaks asking questions about whom the next pick would be. Television.
Sometimes I sit and marvel at the nonsense we subject ourselves to and how much of it winds up on television. I'm free to switch to any of 500 different channels, (and I do) but a few thousand people thought it would be a great idea to sit in Radio City Music Hall and watch ... teams picking players. Honestly, the things that amuse us. And me.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell comes out every ten minutes or so with his three-by-five card with the name of a player and reads it like he's announcing the winner of a Nobel Prize. Of course, for the money ESPN forks out to broadcast this nonsense I suppose it should have its own brand of pomp, complete with Suzy Kolber in a -- gown? Egad.
Maybe next year we can have Suzy dance with the draft picks like on that other TV show. Berman, Gruden and Kiper could be the judges and make snide comments about how the kid will never make it in the NFL if he can't learn to tango. It's the dance of love.
Teams get ten minutes to make a pick. At some point it says on the screen THE PICK IS IN, then we wait about two minutes so that Chris Berman and the other know-it-most's at the desk can pontificate on whom they think the player is going to be. Sometimes the cameras go backstage where the lucky player is sitting at a round table with some hangers-on, talking on a cell phone and crying tears of joy.
It's like their football wedding day - where everything is perfect and they can't wait to get to work for their new team. You've seen it. Crying because they're so happy! Wait a few years when he's a free agent and the team is disrespecting him with a lousy $10 million a year deal. Or worse yet, when he holds out at training camp - this year - because his contract isn't good enough.
The team loves him because, "We didn't think he'd be there at [pick number]." They have to say that, lest they upset the guy that the know-it-most's told us they were going to pick in their mock draft, which rarely looks like the real one, hence the name. The panelists turn to Mel Kiper (the expert) and ask him why this kid went so high (or so low) because Mel had no idea that he was going to be taken where he was taken. Mel seems incredulous, but it's only because he's clueless.
It's all big-time TV now, and it isn't just spread out over a Saturday and Sunday. Now, it's in prime time on Thursday, early evening on Friday and some part of Saturday, so that draft-nicks can isolate themselves from the outdoors for three more days. Interestingly, the TV coverage is rife with ads for beer, chips and sandwiches. Chow down, wide load!
After the pick, the panelists tell us about his glorious bench press statistics. "He benched 225 for 19 reps." That's great, but how does it apply to football? He needs to tackle the quarterback, not tackle him, lift him up and put him down 19 times. Once is plenty.
Meanwhile, people sit for hours watching stuff they could read about the next day. There isn't any storyline or particular drama. It's just a guy in a suit reading the name of another guy in a suit. It fascinates me like a rail crash. I'm appalled but I cannot look away. Although I did manage to see most of the Phillies/Braves game, the Flyers playoff win and "The Office."
I do have my standards.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Opposite ends of the sports spectrum

Reports from the LPGA say that Lorena Ochoa will announce her retirement from professional golf on Friday. It must be nice to abandon your career at the age of 28. For all that we hear about how women's golf is struggling, can life really be so bad that they are leaping out at 28? Perhaps not. They make millions off the course for commercials and product endorsements, and if they're smart they bank it all and get out while their womb is still warm and they can raise a family. What I find interesting is that the best women's golfer in the world can suddenly decide to hang up her cleats and sit in a chair. We'll see how long it lasts.
Lorena has the personality of a golf bag, but her impact on the game has been great. The LPGA will miss her competitive side, but on a personal side I can't tell you three things that she has done off the course - which is probably a good thing. Generally, the LPGA has a nice group of athletes. You probably won't read about any sex scandals or bad behavior. That makes for a dull bunch, but from a league standpoint they are also manageable and worthy of respect, which is more than can be said for a lot of other sports...
Troubled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisburger has been suspended for 6 games by the NFL for "violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy." That's funny. A league with so many miscreants has a personal conduct policy. Meanwhile, some in the media are saying that the penalty is too stiff because he wasn't convicted of anything. That's where sports and real life separate.
In real life, teachers and cops are routinely suspended for "allegedly" doing something before they go to trial or it is proved that they actually did anything wrong. Their names are put in the newspaper and the allegations are printed. Maybe they go to trial and are acquitted? If they are it's doubtful that you'll hear about it or that the acquittal will garner as much attention as the accusations. That's the problem I have with the news media and their use of the word "allegedly." You can say anything about anybody, and if you couch it with the eraser-phrase allegedly the media isn't responsible.
You allegedly had sex with a teen aged girl, sources say. Sources? They don't have to disclose their sources or prove anything. That's where you see people leaving the police station with a coat over their heads. It should be illegal to print a story about someone until a court of law has declared their guilt or innocence, but I live in a Utopian society where quarterbacks are treated like regular people, so don't pay any attention to what I think.
The furor surrounding the Roethlisburger story is all about him being a superstar athlete. Somehow, we think (or some of you think) that his being a Super Bowl winner makes him adhere to some special behavior pattern that the rest of us do not adhere to. But he is really just a knucklehead athlete who would probably be flipping burgers or washing cars if he couldn't throw a football really far.
Strangely, the alleged crime scene in his latest fiasco (there have been others) was washed clean and scrubbed beyond even the CSI crew. Key pieces of evidence are missing and it is widely believed that the police conspired to keep Ben out of jail. Allegedly.
According to the Inquirer's Stephen A. Smith, There's no assertion of innocence when surveillance tapes that could be used for evidence are "accidentally" taped over and subsequently erased. Or when the scene in question - the sink, floor, and toilet - is scrubbed down with Pine-Sol eight hours after the alleged incident because no one told the janitor it was, indeed, a crime scene. Or when the police themselves make a concerted effort to dissuade the alleged victim from filing charges - before waiting four hours after the bathroom was cleaned to call in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Of course, if it were you or me - well, you - we'd be sitting in jail on a million dollars bail that we couldn't possibly meet, because they wanted to "make an example out of you," and our company would have suspended us without pay pending a trial. But Ben skates the law and is slapped by the NFL for six games, which could possibly turn into four if they deem him worthy.
Yeah - I'm guessing four games.
Maybe it's just sour grapes because I can't throw a football or run really fast. Or maybe it's a statement of fact. They drained the water from that gene pool, so I struggle along with most of us. What I really wonder about is why sports is so important when they do not contribute anything substantive to our lives other than entertainment. They don't make a product or supply a service that we can use. In fact, what they do winds up costing us money, and we buy garments with their names on the back. It's no wonder they feel like the world owes them something, and you can't blame them for feeling that way because we do it to them ourselves.
But that's the life of a big-time athlete. Their lives are sheltered from the time they are old enough to be considered better than their peers. They blow through high school, get a free space in the university of their choice and make millions just to sign their name to a professional contract. Meanwhile, some kid who is really good at math or has a skill in life has to find money for school and beat the streets looking for a job.
And God forbid he makes a mistake in life, because he's screwed. It's a strange place, this America.