Back in 2010 when ESPN was televising the World Cup, I wrote that I really enjoyed the British announcers that ESPN had gathered up to do the games. You can read why I enjoyed those telecasts here. In that posting, I said that my favorite announcer of the lot was Ian Darke who has continued to be associated with ESPN on and off in the intervening years. Earlier this week, ESPN announced that they had extended their relationship with Ian Darke.
According to the announcement, Darke will be the main announcer for US Men’s and Women’s National Team games including friendlies, games that lead to qualifying for World Cup competition and any World Cup games that fit into the schedule. As is often the case, there is a lot of management speak and high-fallutin’ verbiage that accompanies such an announcement. This was no exception but in this case, I tend to agree with much of what the management-speak boils down to:
“Ian is one of the finest English-language commentators in the world and his work has elevated our overall presentation of soccer since he joined ESPN. Ian has become a destination listen and has the proven ability to appeal to a wide audience. We are thrilled he will continue as an integral member of our team for years to come.”
The new contract extends through 2020 which means he will be on ESPN for the next men’s and women’s World Cup games. I like that…
In the NBA, the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour meanders on. I use the term “meander” here not in the sense of “aimless wandering” but to connote its random happenings in various NBA cities. Plenty of commentators have spent time and energy trying to put Bryant’s final season into some sort of context with regard to his “legacy”. Such commentary seems to take one of several forms:
These celebrations are for the fans who want to see him play just one last time and for players who have been his opponents and/or teammates in the past to acknowledge him as “one of the greats”. Therefore, this set of extravaganzas is all good.
These celebrations are nothing but a dog-and-pony show that the NBA and various teams are milking for all it is worth. It overshadows the NBA season and demeans the NBA product.
These celebrations unfortunately culminate with Bryant playing in a real NBA game demonstrating that his once prodigious skills are no longer present. This distorts completely his legacy; this is like watching Willie Mays stumbling around in the outfield trying to find pop-flies in the sun.
There is a nugget of factual basis in all three of those sorts of commentaries meaning that all of them are sorta right but not completely right. I only want to address the “tarnish the legacy” argument here. My problem with this sort of thinking is that sports legacies create and maintain themselves and they do so without much help from commentators and they do so on a long term basis not a memory of the final performance of the athlete. We remember Willie Mays as a great baseball player despite his final days in uniform; we remember Muhammad Ali as a great champion despite his final performances in the ring. A truly great athlete who attains and deserves a “legacy” is not a “one-hit-wonder”; he/she has earned whatever legacy exists by means of sustained superiority.
I really think the commentators who lament the “tarnishing of the legacy” here miss a very important point. Kobe Bryant has been on this “victory lap” for about 3 months now; plenty of people have put themselves in the camp that they wish he would go out gracefully instead of the way he is doing so because – and this is important – they want to remember him the way he was and not the way he is now. Two points here:
Focus on how you remember him from his glory days and shrug off a sub-standard performance or two that you might see this season. That is what you would have done if he had chosen to retire back in December instead of “soldiering on”.
The very fact that you yearn to remember him differently – and gloriously – demonstrates how good a player he was over the course of his career. That fact assures that he will have a “legacy” and that it will be a positive one.
Kobe Bryant was not the greatest NBA player of all time. In fact, I would argue that he was not even the greatest Laker of all time; in my mind, that position is occupied by Magic Johnson but I acknowledge that other fans may put some other Laker in that exalted slot. Having said all of that, Kobe Bryant was an exceptionally gifted player; he will be remembered for a very long time; when people reminisce about his on-court skills and leadership and energy, they will remember all of that in a positive way.
When my kids were young, they grew up watching Sesame Street which meant that I too spent time watching that program. Call it a guilty pleasure if you want, I used to enjoy Sesame Street almost as much as my kids did. In the Washington Post yesterday, in the agate-type “Transactions” column, I was reminded of Sesame Street. With regard to pitchers signing contracts, it was a day brought to you by the letter “Y”:
Rangers signed Yohander Mendez to a 1-year contract.
White Sox signed Yordi Rosario to a minor league contract.
D-Backs signed Yuhei Nakaushiro to a minor league contract.
Too bad the Yankees could not sign Yogi Berra to a contract on the same day. Sadly, Yogi is on the wrong side of the infield grass…
Finally, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this comment about a former teammate – and opponent – of Kobe Bryant:
“Shaquille O’Neal is getting his own statue outside Staples Center. For nostalgia’s stake, it will be erected in the general vicinity of where his free-throw attempts used to land.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………