Thursday, April 23, 2009

War and Peace in Round One

I wasn't going to post today, but I just finished reading... okay, skimming... the 5000-word story the (Current) Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, just wrote on the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Seriously. Five-thousand words. First round. Two games in, yet.

Yesterday, Simmons showed why he's the most popular sports writer of all time. His take on the mindless – and mandatory – sideline interviews with NBA head coaches during the game was fantastic. And funny. And needed to be said. Next I want him to take on the mindless and mandatory shilling of the NBA by the presumptively unbiased announcers on the NBA Cares program, wherein the millionaire humanitarians are ordered to come out from behind their tinted SUV windows and make an appearance in the community.

Then today he hits us with a shark-jumping column on why the Chicago Bulls (of the wildly impressive 41-41 regular season record)-Boston Celtics (who else?) series was "one for the ages."

Did I mention it was 5000 words? Here's what he should have written:

Oh, don't speak to me of the other teams. Perhaps I don't understand things, but they never have wished, and do not wish, for war. They are betraying us! The Celtics alone must save the NBA. Our gracious green team recognizes its high vocation and will be true to it. That is the one thing I have faith in! Our good and wonderful squad has to perform the noblest role on earth, and it is so virtuous and noble that God will not forsake them. etc. etc.

The defending champs, with a 62-20 record this season despite being without many of their aging prima donnas for many of those games, are not only a lock to win the series, but are one of the favourites to be the last team standing. Again. Why Simmons felt the need to tell us why this was the series to beat them all – and spend 5000 words doing so! – is beyond me. Well, not really. The Celtics are involved. If he was going to tackle this series, how about this angle: The fact that a pretty bad (albeit improving) Bulls squad took the first game in Boston and lost a squeaker in game two, spells doom for the once-mighty C's. Maybe not in this series, but down the road. Instead, he builds them up the opponents thusly:
They are slightly more talented than a depleted Boston team.
Uh, sure, Bill.
They will be positively frightening at home with their crowd behind them. (I see them winning Game 3 by 20-plus on Thursday night.)
For the record, the Bulls lost by 21 in game 3. (For the record, I thought this column was over-the-top ridiculous this afternoon when I read it, before the Celts hammered Chicago.)
This has a chance to be remembered as one of the most exciting first-round series ever played.
Ever? Really? Seriously?... No, didn't think so, either.
One thing separates him from other world-class rookies who preceded him on a big stage: As far as pure point guards go, he might be the best athlete we've ever seen. If you built the ideal point guard, like how you can create a player from scratch on "NBA Live," wouldn't you basically create Derrick Rose? Lord help us if he ever learns how to shoot 3-pointers. Regardless, after Games 1 and 2, the ceiling has been removed for Rose. I am prepared for anything over the next 12 years. Anything.
Derek Rose is a good rookie and he played a couple of really good games. But why the hype? Tonight his line was 9 points (on 4-of-14 shooting), 3 boards, 2 assists and 7 turnovers. They're reassembling that ceiling as I write.
All I know is this: Only a few current players can win two games per playoff series by themselves, and he's one of them. If the goal is to win the title and not just compete for one, then I want Ben Gordon on my team. It's as simple as that.
That's Ben Gordon. Yes, that Ben Gordon. There's Kobe, LeBron, Dwyane [sic] and, uh, Ben.
So, where is Rondo headed? I still believe a modified version of Magic's surreal 1981-82 season could be in play for Rondo down the road: Something like 16.7 ppg, 10.7 apg, 8.2 rpg, 2.5 spg and an All-Defense nod to boot.
That's Rajon Rondo. Yes, that Rajon Rondo. D'oh! I'm going to start calling him Homer Simmons. (If I watched it with any regularity, I'd be able to come up with a killer Simpsons reference.) It was either Homer or Leo Tolstoy. I mentioned it was 5000 words, right?

So he builds up his boys (frustrating as hell but understandable, I guess). But why build up the very mediocre Bulls? Simple. By doing so, he's either setting himself up for the big fall or – and this is the big reason – he is able to show what warriors his hometown heroes are.

Simmons also answered a question I had long wondered about. Finishing up a very funny section on why he hates everything about Joakim Noah, he adds parenthetically:
(Of course, if he played for the Celtics, I'd love him.)
I'll never understand that line of reasoning. It's like saying if some pop cultural movie character were to all of a sudden do something from another pop cultural movie... Okay, sorry. I can't do Simmons-like analogies.

He also got a shot in at NBA reffing, a subject near and dear to my heart. The guy can rant with the best of conspiracy theorists when it comes to horrid officiating. But it rings a little hollow when it never occurs to him how many breaks his storied team has received over the years, not the least of which was last season.

Okay, got that off my chest. Let's get away from that subject altogether. Here's a little semi-rant on the subject of cheap corporate sponsors. This one is from the week of May 18-25, 1995:

The Sports Guy
by Guy MacPherson

It always amazes me what people will do for anything remotely resembling a prize. Have you checked out a Vancouver Canadians game lately? Yikes. Some kind of contest or another goes on between almost every inning. And they’re not giving away cars, folks.

Let’s see now... There was the pitch contest after the top of the first. Throw a baseball through a hole and win a “beautiful door mirror.” I’m surprised every game isn’t a sell-out with prizes like that.

At the bottom of the first, a contestant had the opportunity to knock down a bowling pin to win two hours of free bowling. Somebody pinch me.

After one and a half innings, there was some kind of contest where the lucky winner picked up a Pepsi gift certificate. You should never look a gift certificate in the mouth, I suppose, but at this point I realized there was no thrill in watching others embarrass themselves for a bogus prize from some cheap corporate sponsor, so I didn’t pay full attention to the rest. I mean, Definition gave away better prizes.

I do remember, though, there was a T-ball contest, the Fox trot, where that hilarious C-FOX dog pretends to race a toddler, a horse race behind the left field wall with cardboard cut-out horse heads attached to long poles, and a game where a contestant is given the letters to Nat Bailey’s favourite restaurant and has to arrange them correctly in 30 seconds. The successful ones get a gift certificate to the White Spot. I’ll buy someone dinner at the White Spot if they get down on the field and arrange the letters to spell Spew It Hot.

Isn’t baseball worthy of watching without all the small-time hoopla? It’s as if they’re saying, “We realize the game is dull as dirt, but come on out to the ballpark for the excitement of watching fans stand on their heads for that magical chance of winning back the two dollars they spent to get in!”

It’s not just the Canadians, or baseball. Commercial radio is the worst – although we expect it from the high school dropouts who make up AM radio. Some wacky deejay tells us, in a deep, resonant voice, to pollute the city with signs declaring radio allegiance, and everyone gets out their crayons.

The newspapers aren’t innocent, either. The Province has turned a weakness into free help by way of their Head Games ’95 contest. They’re giving away Canuck playoff tickets to the reader who comes up with the best Canuck headline. Presumably, since it is the Province, the winner will have to use the annoying term ’Nucks.

Contestants will have a tough time outdoing the professionals at the daily tab, who scintillate us six days a week with such gems as “Blues Breakers”, “Schumacher Shines” “Medvedev Marvellous”, “Perez Power”, “Prep Prodigy Poised for Pros”, and “Kamloops Wants Cup Keepers.” Do I detect a trend? All this time you thought the Province writers were illiterate. In fact, they are alliterate.

I think a potential winning headline, then, might be something like “New-look ’Nucks Neutralize Nervous Nords 9-Nothing in Northern Knockout”. Feel free to use it.

The Vancouver Sun is also giving away tickets. The sophisticated paper is holding a limerick contest. I’d like to have been in on that meeting. I don’t know if I’m more amazed that someone came up with the idea, or that someone above them actually okayed it. With a team nickname like Canucks, I wonder just how many verses will be printable. And if any of the players will be from Nantucket.

I’m offering this one for anyone who cares to use it:

There once was a defenseman named Jyrke
Who too often played like a turkey

He coughed up the puck

That over-rated Canuck

But the announcers thought he was the greatest thing since beef jerky.

Oh, what the heck. I’m on a roll. Here’s one more:

There once was a goalie named Kay
Who never got in to play

He thought that he should

But he just wasn’t that good

So he would sit on the bench and pray... to be traded to a team that would play... him but he definitely wasn’t going to stay... and he wrote insightful columns in the Province for pay... although someone else wrote his headlines, no doubt a layman... entering a contest, but that’s okay.


  1. That's beautiful man! Any chance on putting the old columns at a larger font size? That size would have done me fine back when it was written, but nowadays it's a bit of work to read it. Of course well worth the work.

  2. Let's see... you're 45... trouble reading the small print... Looks like it's time to take a visit to the optometrist and join the glasses brigade.

    I suppose I could make the size bigger, but I want to set it apart from the introductions. I suppose I could experiment with different things.

  3. Love the pic of Tolstoy, man.

    Unlike Jack, I have no trouble reading the small print. But I have a 24 inch monitor.