Here we go again with things to go away
By now, you’ve seen a sampling of one man’s opinion on what is wrong in the world of sports these days.
Last week in this space, I presented some of my personal peeves, using alphabetical order and listing one item per letter. Obviously, there are other examples I could have cited that would certainly be justified.
Instead of the letter “D” standing for “dunk,” for instance, it could have referred to “day-night doubleheaders,” the greed-driven abomination that many years ago replaced the two-games-for-one-price deal major-league baseball teams typically offered fans almost every summer Sunday. And in the “A” category, “agents” could have easily been substituted for “apology” with no difficulty at all.
But that’s the fun of compilations — most of them tend to be open to debate. Whether you agreed or disagreed with my earlier suggestions, I’m surmising they at least provided a little food for thought.
And now it’s time to mentally nosh once again. This week, I offer those things worthy of disdain that begin with letters “J” through “R,” and I imagine you can see where this is headed.
So you’ve got an entire week to start considering your own “S” through “Z” items whose existence you wouldn’t mind having cease. As for this week, here goes:
• Jockspeak, like its verbal cousin “coachspeak,” is a phrase attached to the prattle that frequently passes for insight when sportsmen are questioned by interviewers. It can take on various forms, ranging from in-sport jargon to a flood of clichés.
Either way, it’s mind-numbing. How many more times must we be subjected to athletes and coaches talking about “A-gaps,” “dime packages,” “diamond-and-1s” and “motion offenses” before we become homicidal? Many coaches love to spout a lot of terminology in the hope they can convince outsiders that preparing a game plan is akin to studying nuclear physics.
And if the technical terms don’t drive you crazy, surely athletes’ constant references to having to “make plays,” “stay focused” “work harder” and “come together as a team” will have the same negative effect.
• Kilometers frustrate me. Call me shallow, stubborn or supercilious — I’ve been called worse — but I never understood the need for metric measurements in the U.S. In a sporting sense, it simply creates confusion among those of us who were schooled in the pre-computer era.
Let me put it this way — running backs still seek to become 1,000-yard rushers each season, long-ball hitters aim for 500-foot home runs and football teams occasionally face fourth-and-inches situations. Until those circumstances change, and with no animosity directed toward track-and-field athletes, I’d prefer to ignore the kilometers, meters and millimeters.
• Legal wrangling has become as much a part of sports coverage as it is in news reporting. If a story isn’t about lawyers trying to keep their troublemaking clients out of the Big House — and I’m not talking about the football stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., here — it’s chronicling the efforts of other attorneys to get their law-abiding, but underachieving clients less “insulting” contract offers from franchise owners.
Oh, and along the way the legal eagles also make sure to bemoan teams’ penurious habits while conveniently ignoring their own desire for budget-busting paydays.
• Media, of which I’ve been a member for a long time, do not escape my wrath. To some of you, it may seem as if I’m biting the hand that feeds me, but it’d be inexcusable on my part if I totally excused my peers’ shortcomings.
My gripe, which is one shared by other detractors of our profession, is that too many reporters go out of their way to try to stir up trouble. Neophytes, especially, often think nothing of breaching trusts, purposely baiting individuals or using information gathered from unreliable sources to get a story out — and, more importantly, their name known — to the public as quickly as possible.
Such acts make all of us in the business look bad, which is something our mustard-stained attire is perfectly capable of doing on its own.
• NBA officials admittedly don’t have the easiest task in the world, but it also isn’t the toughest, even among rules enforcers. But not since Bobby Brady alienated his TV chums back in the early 1970s by taking his safety-monitor duties at school way too seriously has a group whose primary function is to preserve order been so reviled.
Granted, all game officials find themselves in something of a lose-lose scenario in regard to gaining a high level of approval, but NBA referees are singled out here because they are the ones most able — and sometimes, it appears, willing — to alter the tenor of a game. By calling a ticky-tack foul against it, they can immediately halt a team’s momentum and, worse, possibly cost it a couple points on the scoreboard. And the fact it’s long been theorized that stars and marginal players are not treated equally doesn’t enhance the refs’ image any.
The average baseball fan probably can’t identify more than a few major-league umpires; the same goes for hockey fans and officials, the latter of which, by the way, are generally outstanding given the speed of the sport they must monitor. But not only do basketball fans know a number of NBA refs by name and sight, they fuel the conspiracy flames far more often than their sports-watching brethren, an accusation not helped by former official Tim Donaghy’s admission that he had bet on some NBA games he worked.
• Overpriced items, which these days pretty much describes anything connected to attending a professional sporting event, are also a source of aggravation. About the only thing still without a price tag attached to it is restroom use, but that’s only fair since patrons are likely ridding themselves of about $50 or $60 worth of beverages by the fourth inning or second quarter of said game.
Tickets, souvenirs, parking — they’re all ridiculously expensive, but that’s the financial burden we must all bear to have on our favorite team’s roster a $20 million-per-year first baseman who bats .230 and runs hard only when being pursued by autograph-seeking kids.
• PEDs have called into question most notable accomplishments in baseball over the past couple decades. Not every player suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs during his career has confessed or been officially tied to them, but the evidence against those parties is nevertheless pretty strong.
In particular, hitters’ increased power numbers raised eyebrows. Defenders say it was nothing more than coincidental. So, too, I suppose, was the sudden ability of 140-pound, slap-hitting shortstops everywhere to go deep at Ruthian rates.
Baseball is supposedly working to clean up its act. Guys like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez show that plenty of work remains to be done.
• Quality start may be the biggest misnomer in sports. Think of the various definitions of “quality” — among them are “excellence” and “superiority.” Neither of those words applies to quality start.
Once upon a time, baseball pitchers were expected to throw complete games, barring an offensive siege unleashed by batters in the opposing lineup. And heaven help the manager or coach who attempted to remove any competitive hurler prematurely — former St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson, for instance, might have fired his next pitch at whomever approached him from the St. Louis dugout.
Now, though, six innings represent a quality start, and this is in an era when pitchers are part of a five-man, not four-man, rotation, and, thus, receive an extra day’s rest. And what’s sad is that no one strongly debates the idea. Of course, I imagine nobody has bothered to query Bob Gibson about it.
•Richie Incognito, the Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, is the latest poster boy for bad behavior in the NFL and serves as proof of just how much coaches are willing to overlook.
Incognito made news over the past couple months for his role in harassing former teammate Jonathan Martin, but he’s been a loose cannon for years. He was involved in a number of scrapes while at the University of Nebraska before Cornhuskers coaches tired of his antics, and Incognito also undermined an ensuing quest to enroll at Oregon.
But he’s a big, strong, tough guy, so Incognito has always managed to find work in football. There are plenty of others like him, too, located all around the sports landscape, which can lead to only one conclusion.
When it comes to character, it doesn’t matter if jocks are winners or losers, just so long as they can play the game.