Monday, April 6, 2009
Seasonal Sports Dyslexia
Finally, the NBA basketball season is over. No wait, that was college basketball ending on April 6. March Madness morphed into April Anxiety! The NBA will continue to play into June. After that, the league takes a month off so that the players can get additional tattoos and make their brief but required appearances at paternity hearings. Then, it's back to the hardwoods, an apt name, given this particularly fertile and randy group.
Baseball season officially launched April 5, although they were playing in snow flurries in Cincinnati and Chicago. Shouldn't basketball season be over if baseball has started? Or maybe baseball starts too early. The boys of summer begin in the snow and often end in the snow when the World Series is decided in late October. In the middle of the regular baseball season, late July, the NFL starts playing pre-season football games, shorty after the NBA finals are final and long before the World Series begins.
Hockey; when, exactly, does that season begin? Is it almost over, just getting underway or is it time for the Stanley Cup and who came up with the name "puck" anyway? Probably the same dofus who decided to call it "hockey" instead of "ice boxing".
Then, thanks to college football, side by side with news stories of the Sweet 16, tight NBA play-off races (which will decide the four NBA teams that WON"T be in the play-offs) and baseball opening day festivities, the media are also reporting on collegiate spring intra-squad football practices. In the south, one would suppose that these events were as important as NASCAR.
Of course there is year-round golf coverage because the PGA tour follows the weather; January in Hawaii, February in Arizona, March in Florida, April at the Masters, etc. However, the stories are short and don't require much reporting skill. "There was a tournament, Tiger won." Next story.
Soccer, don't get me started. School kids have summer soccer, fall soccer and then spring soccer. Who, except for recent immigrants, really knows when the pro season begins and ends. And another thing, either you are hurt or you are not hurt, which is it, Miguel?
Bowling is limited to winter coverage in the media but for all I know there's professional kegling year round. Certainly one can kegle for the sheer joy of it year round, although there's not as much joy now that bowling alleys are smoke-free. There were few satisfactions like that of picking up a 5-10 baby split and smugly walking back to the scoring table for a long pull on an unfiltered Pall Mall followed by a deep, phlegmy cough. Pure pleasure; but I, as I so often do, digress.
Of all of the major professional sports, I regularly follow only baseball and golf, although Tiger has taken some of the suspense out of golf by eliminating competitive tension. One of the reasons that I prefer baseball over basketball, football or soccer is baseball's absence of "stylin". You don't see baseball players doing their favorite disco moves after a home run or a spectacular defensive play. They act as if they have done it before, which they have.
In the NFL, NBA and MLS, fans are regularly subjected to physically robust but emotionally stunted men doing boogie-woogie dances, pulling jerseys over their heads, leaping chest-to-chest and strutting like a barnyard rooster over a fallen opponent. These antics occur after a participant does whatever it is that he is paid to do. Baseball players do not showboat for a simple reason: in the next inning or three, each player will have to stand in the batters box and face a pitcher who throws a very hard object 96 m.p.h. It's far better if the pitcher is not irritated with you. This fact breeds better manners and sportsmanship among baseball players.
As a registered fogey, I grew up playing sports where any show of "stylin" would get one yanked from the playing field or court by the coach for being an idiot and poor sport. In this same vein, baseball pitchers have always been the unofficial regulators of self-aggrandizing show offs. Even Neon Deon left his boogie in the clubhouse when he made his brief appearance in the major leagues. Neon was fast but he wasn't 96 m.p.h. fast.
While there are occasional fights in baseball (poor sportsmanship) there are far fewer than in hockey and far less damage is inflicted. Pay close attention to the rare baseball dust-up and you will notice that few punches land and that the scuffle involves more wrestling and dodging and no one brings a bat. If this were not the case, baseball players would look like splay-noses, gaped-toothed hockey players. The primary reason for the lack of sucker punches and cheap shots in baseball, once again, is the presence of and the players' ultimate appearance in, the batters box.
Professional baseball players play a game that children play and generally play it with the same patina of good sportsmanship, even if it is enforced by the unspoken rule of the high, tight fastball.
Perhaps a batters box should be on the football and soccer sidelines and court side at basketball games. If a player is called for "stylin", the penalty would be to stand in the box against Brad Lidge for four pitches. 'Tis a sweet thought.
Observoid of the Day: Having a "Bad Hair Day" is a dream come true for a bald guy.