Tuesday, May 15, 2007


My orginial introduction post is still a work in progress, however, a friend of mine proved to be the source of something new.

My introduction to sports was similar to almost every person that calls him or herself a sports fan. I tried to emulate the guys I just watched on the TV screen on Sunday afternoons. My first love, as I tell people, was not a beautiful woman, but the beautiful West Coast offense ran by the San Francisco 49ers. I tried being Joe Montana or Steve Young, Jerry Rice or the underrated John Taylor, Roger Craig or Ricky Watters, pick your poison or era. Of course, it didn't take long for me to see that I was a bit undersized and had too much of a temper to play in the NFL. Yet, I found that I learned much more about football through osmosis than others. I was still curious about the roles of each other player besides the quarterback and wide receiver, so I would ask my father about them. He was his own telestrator for the younger son that didn't possess the physical gifts that his older brother had in order to play. As an engineer or a quality control specialist (had to throw in my business school speak) has to look at the process to find the bottleneck, the young kid was able to see the whole game from the sidelines.

Playing was a passion that translated later on into my stats-keeping and eventually my writing. Over that time, I became less stats-obsessed and more observant of styles and organization. Most fans and media only seen numbers and I would be foolish to dismiss them as they are barometers of performance. My parents are older than most parents of folks my age, so they enlightened me and my siblings on their experiences as participants and fans during the fifties, sixties and seventies. Coming up, we were able to recognize players and feats throughout several generations, not just out own. Fortunately, I never heard my parents utter the words "players nowadays are too _____" because they witnessed the struggles and the progress of sports and society that most of us wouldtake for granted. My dad, in particular, knew of my desire to learn the business. I was designing make-believe stadiums and logos during art class in junior high. I recorded salaries and seasonal stats onto index cards before the Internet became widely available and as my early years were spent without cable. I would grab the New York Times as it was the only paper in the area that would discuss the media and business with some form of fairness.

Especially in places such as New York, Boston or Philadelphia, sports media folks have a tendancy to be know-it-all, jaded and bitter hypocrites in addition to being portly and absurd. Each one of us have our moments of 'ridonculousness' as my former co-host in college would say, but the best are always learning something about the sports they cover. The hacks and loudmouths in this business tend to think that because they are part of the machine that they don't need to brush up on their skills. The sense of entitlement and arrogance that most of us have gets in the way of unearthing good stories and inviting new fans as opposed to making athletes infamous and labeling leagues. You don't get the soul of the game by almanacs and soundbites.

If you want to learn about something, you go to the source. If you want to build a knowledge bank, try your hardest to sift through the clutter and keenly watch your subject. If you want to know the difference between a hard foul in 1997 and a flagarant foul in 2007 or the evolution of the closer, dig deep. Even the experts miss what you might see.

Say What?!?!: Continuing the theme from an old blog and its preceding radio show, I tend to give folks something to think about or to discuss. With recent play during the NBA playoffs, it seems as if the entire world (or at least those who follow the sport) is in an uproar about Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw leaving the bench with seconds left in last night's Game 4 between the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. The uproar isn't necessarily the fact that they rose from the bench to see what was going on after Robert Horry's flagarant foul on Steve Nash, but about the rule that suspends anyone who automatically leaves the bench, regardless of their intentions. It was a necessary rule after the NBA needed to eliminate the fighting in the late seventies, yet it wasn't until the Knicks-Heat rivalry of the late nineties that the rule became re-enforced. It is funny that in the aftermath of a questionable study of race bias by referees that this comes to light. The bias in refereeing is far from racial so much as it is about protecting the superstars. Ten years ago, Patrick Ewing and other Knicks wandered off the bench as Stoudamire and Diaw had done, in order to figure out what was going on. Suspensions were handed down, which cost New York the series against Miami. This time around, there is clamor for going by the spirit of the law, not the letter. While I agree wholeheartedly, how different would things be if there was a bona-fide superstar (or even an anointed one as the league is full of these days) in the Knicks-Heat series? What if it wasn't Nash that was fouled, but it was Speedy Claxton or Delonte West? To keep the series exciting, the league will find a way to maintain the star power, yet the future of the rule is finally in question. Better late than never, right?

No comments: