Monday, November 9, 2009

Musings on Watching Sports

Caution: Sports esoterica is ahead. You can try to go with the flow, or come back tomorrow for something less arcane.

It became apparent to me, early on in our relationship, that in order to spend any time at all with TBG I was going to have to learn to watch sports on tv. That's a very different set of skills than learning to love sports or playing sports or attending live sporting events. I had to become adept at sitting and staring at men (always men until the Title 9 girls grew up) moving in patterns which were obvious to TBG and a total mystery to me.

My earliest memories of Zaydeh, G'ma's father, involve watching baseball on tv. Bouncing on his shoulders in front of the black and white Zenith in the living room while he hummed Zionist pioneer songs as his Brooklyn Dodgers went about their business. I'd probably have grown up loving baseball as much as Doris Kearns Goodwin except that I was only 5 when the Dodgers made Zaydeh cry. After they left, he lost his passion for baseball. He wasn't cheering for laundry - he was cheering for his home team.

That was the last time I spent with anyone who might have called himself a sports fan. We'd watch the World Series - it was usually the Yankees, after all - and Joe Namath certainly captured our attention, but I never watched games just because they were on until I went to college.

Over the years, I've come to love college basketball (though less so now in the era of one-and-done), and sometimes I can even see the plays unfold on the court. Mostly, no matter what the sport, I watch the athleticism without much understanding the nuances of the games. Basketball's easier to follow - it's only 5 on 5 - than football (I may never live down my "Wait a minute - there are catchers and there are runners????" comment) but it really doesn't matter. While I can always appreciate a stellar performance by and individual, that's not what I see. The boys are watching the strategy, I'm taking in the gestalt.

Most of the time, I ignore the blather from the commentators. I like Cris Collinsworth (which is a good thing since he is everywhere) on tv and I continue to believe that some of the best written journalism in America today lives within the covers of Sports Illustrated. I liked replays with the telestrator in Madden's hands - I might not have understood the subtleties of his point, but I always got the general idea. And I like watching the coaches.

When Mike Nolan wore a suit and tie and Reebok had a hissy fit, I had an opinion. When The BigTuna was with the Jets, Daddooooo scouted their practises at Hofstra and reported on his repartee with Parcells, who always talked to the fans as he left the field. I watched Phil Jackson give Eastern philosphical treatises to multi-hued Dennis Rodman and admired the chutzpah. John Wooden and Mike Ditka and Dusty Baker and Mike Singletary .... I pay attention to the coaches.

I never liked Bill Belichick. His cut-off sweatshirts seem disrespectful to the experience. If you're going to work, and you're going to be in charge, you should take the time to look the part. The cheating scandal was appalling and confirmed my opinion. He's not someone I'd want in my life.

And then there are his assistants. Romeo Crennell went to TBG's beloved Browns and the thud was enormous. Eric Mangini struck out with the Jets and isn't doing much better with those poor Browns, either. Notre Dame is stuck with Charlie Weis and doesn't seem to know what to do about it. At the time it seemed that all three were hired because they'd learned from the master. But the master had a videotaped advantage, so maybe they didn't learn anything at all. Maybe they were just caught up in the soul-less search for an edge that tarnished careers around but never seemed to really touch Belichick.

But then there's Denver this year. What am I to make of Josh McDaniels? Still reeling from the Shanahan departure debacle, the Broncos could have been forgiven for having an off-year. Instead, with a 33 year old at the helm they are 6-1 heading into MNF tonight.

Professionally, McDaniels was with Nick Saban at Michigan State for just one year before joining the Evil Empire in 2001. Basically, he served his entire pro-football apprenticeship under Belichick. I begin to feel creepy.... credit might have to be given......... but wait..... there's hope for those of us who don't want to see any good in the Patriot's leader........ McDaniels has a great football family. He'd been following his father, the high school football coach in Ohio, to practises since he was 5 years old. Thom's won state championships and had the #1 team in the nation and I've got to think that some of that rubbed off on Josh. Maybe when he sat on the sidelines, and maybe when he played quarterback for his Dad, and maybe around the dinner table or in the backyard or in the car on the way to the grocery store, someone imbued this young man with the ability to come in and start to win.

I really want to think it's a family thing.


  1. just fyi, it was Reebok, not Nike, that has the NFL apparel license. They were the ones who freaked out over the Nolan suit situation.

    Otherwise, cool post.

  2. I will edit appropriately. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.


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