A Tip Of The Hat To T. S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot said that April was the cruelest month.  I have no comment on that, but I do think that Friday is the cruelest day if one is writing sports essays Monday thru Friday every week.  The good stuff on the clipboard has already been used in the essays from Monday thru Thursday and – truth be told – Thursday night is not a typical time for great new revelations in the sports world.  In case anyone is reading this a few days hence, today is a Friday…

There is a story afoot today based on a report from the NY Post earlier this week.  According to the report, Chris Berman may be back in a “reduced role” with ESPN during the football season this year.  According to the report, all of the wrinkles have not been ironed out yet, but the idea supposedly is:

  • Chris Berman would appear on some SportsCenter programs and other NFL-related programming starting this Fall.
  • More importantly, he would be part of some of ESPN’s NFL Countdown programming between now and the end of the NFL regular season.

Berman is “semi-retired” and has already committed himself to certain events on weekends during this football season.  So, he is not out there as a free agent for ESPN to pick off the vine so to speak.  However, his return to ESPN in a visible role is important for a couple of reasons:

  • NFL Countdown ratings tanked last year when Berman was no longer the “host”/” traffic cop” on the program.  Sam Ponder took Berman’s place and it is never a good career move to follow a legend in a job.  From what I saw, Sam Ponder did a good job – – but she is not Chris Berman and that fact alone cost her some viewers and some credibility.  With him back in a “part-time capacity”, Sam Ponder might get a boost as it may appear that he is handing the baton to her so to speak.
  • NFL Countdown ratings dropped 12% last year as compared to the year before that. One need not be a “TV-genius- in waiting” to recognize that is not a good thing…

ESPN has undergone a lot of personnel turnover in the past couple of years and many of the choices for new “faces of the franchise” have hot worked out all that well.  Recently, ESPN seems to be working to mend fences with some of its popular alumni and to get them back on the air in spot roles.  If Berman comes back, he can join Keith Olbermann as part of the “old-timers’” reunion there.  Berman and Olbermann have a long history together going all the way back to the time when both had recently graduated from college.  It might be very interesting to see the two of then hosting SportsCenter and NFL Prime Time on some weekend this year.

As the NY Post said:

  • Chris Berman may be back … back … back…

There is another angle to NFL news today that is far less uplifting than the idea of Chris Berman to the airwaves.  You must recall that the NFL settled the lawsuit against it regarding concussion injuries and their long-term effects regarding long-retired players.  That settlement was more than $700M.

Well, now it seems as if claims against his escrowed fund are coming in far more frequently and for far more money per claim than had been estimated.  Originally, the thought was that about $400B in claims would be paid out in the first decade after the settlement.  It turns out that just over $500 B has been “settled out” in terms of claims in the first 16 months wherein claims could be filed.  Here are two imperatives that face former NFL players who may or may not want to seek “protection” under these protocols:

  • More than 6,000 former players have undergone the baseline assessment.
  •  Former players become eligible for payment based on the development of certain specific conditions, without having to demonstrate a football-related cause.

I do not want to be a callous hard-ass here, but that second item listed above gives me great pause.  I am not saying that former NFL players have gamed the system or have found ways to “defraud it”, but it sure seems to me as if the recipe for major-league abuse and profiteering is not that difficult to ascertain.

There seems to be a new “buzz phrase” going around for athletes or coaches who asked about the techniques that players may need to employ in order to “achieve their potential”.  This is the sort of pabulum everyone has come to expect from interviews near to or just after NFL teams break camp and head back to their home digs.  That does not make it any more meaningful or interesting to listen to.  Anyhow, the latest “buzz-phrase” that far too many fresh recruits to basketball and football teams have been taught to use as their go-to source of wisdom is this one:

  • Our team [The Fighting Annelids] overcame obstacles that would have given Hercules pause lo those many years ago.
  • Nonetheless, we/they persevered.  So, let us hear from Coach Flabeetz on this matter.
  • Thank you all.  The single most important thing that our student-athletes did during the trials and tribulations of this season is that they “stayed within themselves”.

Holy Checkmate, Batman …  What other choice might those student-athletes have had?  Astral projection to the gridiron on Saturday afternoon?  Well, Caped Crusader, maybe it would not have been worse when considering the outcomes…

Finally, here is an observation by Brad Rock of the Deseret News from back in the time this year when the ESPYs filled time on the airwaves:

“Danica Patrick tweaking LeBron James at the ESPYs: ‘When LeBron hosted, he made fun of me too.  I’d say we’re even.  J.R. Smith would say, ‘We’re up by one’.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………




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