Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Billiards = Excitement, Desperation Full-Court Heaves, Jay Bruce, Etc.

I've recorded so many sporting events on VHS tape that my collection is fifty years beyond embarrassing. Forget about my understandable 500-1000 hours or so of Nick Van Exel footage and focus on the endless stream of 8-hour Maxell's with labels such as "Brian Reith's 4th Start" and "A-Rod's Texas Rangers Debut." If you were to raid my old bedroom at Mommy and Daddy's, your opinion of me would immediately change. It's that bad. So, as you might assume, I have an opinion or twelve of ESPN Classic.

ESPN Classic was the greatest idea for a television channel in the history of greatest ideas for television channels. And yet, they run Classic Billiards (and often Classic Bowling) nearly every day. If you're a heterosexual male, you probably already knew this. Anyway, let me go ahead and assume that Classic Billiards isn't drawing M*A*S*H-finale ratings. Fine, I get it: ESPN Classic wasn't a ratings smash when ESPN was pumping money into its misguided project, so they can't shell out big cash to run forgotten but outstanding Sweet 16 games and Monday Night Football contests. But if you're just going to waste an hour of programming with programs that originally aired on ESPN and cost (I'm guessing) $0.00, why do it with recycled 9 Ball tournaments?

I have an idea: Why not run Classic SportsCenter?

And no, I don't mean those retrospective shows about the Bay Area earthquake, Magic Johnson's HIV announcement or Michael Jordan's retirement; that stuff has been recycled far too many times. What I'd like to see is a random SportsCenter from October 2, 1994 (or whatever). I want to see how sports were covered back then. I want to see Stuart Scott when he was entertaining and Linda Cohn when she was pretty (wait, bad examples).

Actually, now that I've given this an extra second of thought, I don't care about the evolution of sports coverage. Well, I do, but that's not why I want to watch random, sixteen-year-old SportsCenters. I suppose I just want to be nostalgic. SportsCenter was a really big deal to me when I was a little boy way back in the 1980's and 90's. I feel like watching those suckers would be akin to rifling through my collection of 1987 Topps baseball cards (assuming my mother hadn't thrown them out.)

But anyway, that's a good idea. I have good ideas. I like sports!

2. Scenario time: You play basketball for a the's the playoffs...1.9 seconds remain in 1st quarter...your team is down two (or up twenty, it doesn't really matter) receive an inbound pass a good 85 feet from the hoop...what do you do?

A. Hold the ball until the horn sounds.

B. Dribble the ball twice, take an exaggerated extra step, give the impression that you'd like to help the team win, wait 'til the horn sounds and fire up a 65-footer.

C. Take maybe one dribble toward the hoop and heave a Hail Mary that has maybe a 1 percent chance of going in.

Not to sound like Bob Knight on his worst day, but I absolutely would not tolerate Options A and B if I were coaching a basketball team. Options A and B are so bloody selfish, and yet so common, that I still have trouble believing that this trend is apparently here to stay.

In case you're wondering why players don't attempt these end-of-quarter miracles, it comes down to field goal percentage. Attempt an almost-certain-to-miss shot and your FG% will drop (although these are often the same bozos who carelessly chuck three-pointer after three-pointer despite years of overwhelming evidence stating that they're lousy shooters. Cough, cough, Ron Artest). Plus, would this ever happen in the 4th quarter of a game you trail by two points? Of course not.

(Note: This trend has actually trickled down into rec leagues, where they keep score but not individual statistics. There is nothing funnier than seeing a 27-year-old drug dealer, who is playing in a wife beater, hold onto the ball seventy feet from the basket during the final few seconds of the the half. He doesn't know why he's not trying to score, but the players on TV do it, so it must be the thing to do.)

This isn't really a big problem, and it probably doesn't affect many outcomes (since everybody does it), but it is a problem...or at least one of my ten biggest pet peeves. And an innovative coach should step in and challenge his team to do something about it.

A few years ago Tony LaRussa started batting his pitcher eighth because he believed -- over the course of a 162-game season -- his team would score four or five more runs. Four of five more runs...over the course of an entire season! Yes, you read that correctly. At the time I reacll a lot of people calling the move pointless (and a slap in the face to the usual No. 8 hitter), and a lot of people chalking it up to typical LaRussa arrogance. Regardless, I don't remember anyone claiming LaRussa wasn't doing absolutely everything in his power to win absolutely every game he managed.


That's all for now, boy and girls. I wanted to write about the myriad of articles popping up recently regarding Jay Bruce's perceived struggles, and how bad luck was attributable. I wanted to write that nobody but this guy (me) had the courage to write that article a year ago (last June again and this April), back when the media was killing him...and how everybody seemed to piggy-back me after Bruce's batting average jumped up twenty or thirty points last month. Whatever.

Think I'm overreacting?

Listen, this crappy website barely gets any traffic. Sure, I have my loyal fanbase, but it's a blip on the radar. But go ahead and Google "jay bruce struggling" piece from last June comes up second on the search results page.

I'm not accusing anyone of stealing, but it's good to know I'm planting seeds.

-Brad Spieser (


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