Those readers who know me in real life also know that I love my long-suffering wife without limit. Notwithstanding that sentiment and standing, she has – over the next 6 weeks or so – managed to create a family schedule that incorporates physical therapy sessions for me, travel to and from our vacation home in central PA, social engagements, visitors and daytrips to a variety of destinations such that it will be a challenge for me to maintain my normal writing schedule for this time of the year. Even considering my need for physical therapy – rotator cuff problems in my right shoulder – I maintain that I will be able to stay the course in terms of writing. If there is a glitch and if I miss a day or two here and there, you have been forewarned.
On Sunday night, the Falcons played the Browns in a final meaningless Exhibition Game. My choices for spending that evening boiled down to two things:
- Watch the Falcons/Browns on TV.
- Rearrange my sock drawer.
I chose to watch – not particularly closely – the game on TV. In doing so, I came to a realization about how my TV sports experience was about to get a lot better as the calendar flips to September.
- I know that there are Internet trolls who think Al Michaels is bordering on senile and who think that Cris Collinsworth hates their team specifically. The Internet is alive with hate for that announcing duo.
- FORGET ALL THAT! Michaels and Collinsworth are excellent announcers, and they add value to the telecast for much of the time that they are speaking.
- That is NOT the case with the Sunday Night Baseball presentation on ESPN with Matt Vasgersian, Alex Rodriguez and Buster Olney. Vasgersian – and to a much greater extent A-Rod – simply will not shut up. There is a lot of dead time in a baseball game and announcers need to do a bit of fill-in there but there are other times when the action on the field is self-explanatory to any viewer who is awake and sentient – – and it is those times when Sunday Night Baseball announcers will not STFU!
- When the producers “go to Buster Olney” the result is either a pabulum interview done live or a feelgood piece that he has prepared prior to the game. ESPN should recognize by now that Buster Olney has plenty of insight into baseball and great sources inside the game – – but they do not give him time and space to exhibit those areas of expertise with the airtime assignments given to him.
- Football announcing is different. Indeed, there are interludes in the game where nothing is happening, and the “dead air” needs to be filled. But there is plenty of time during action where the best thing an announcing team can do is to be quiet or to be emotionally present in the moment depending on if the play was a positive one or a negative one. Michaels and Collinsworth do that really well; they are a plus to the telecast. My Sunday night sports viewing events are going to be better from September through December if only for the significant increase in the competence and enjoyability of the broadcasters on the air for my games of choice.
Moving on … There appears to be a new baseball argot these days. I read somewhere that a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves had “thrown a 90-pitch Maddux.” Thanks to Google, it did not take me long to learn that “a Maddux” – named after first-ballot Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux – is a complete game shutout with 100 or fewer pitches.
Greg Maddux’s career in MLB spanned 23 seasons. During those years, he threw 35 shutouts in 744 game appearances. He also had 109 complete games over the course of his career. I have not found an easy way to find out how many of his 35 shutouts were “Madduxes”, but my guess is that the total is more than a mere handful, or the label would not exist today. I did run across a game he pitched in 1997 against the Chicago Cubs:
- It was a complete game.
- He threw only 77 pitches.
- He won the game – – but it was not a shutout. The score was 4-1.
The way baseball is played and managed in 2021, it seems unlikely that we will see any players compiling 109 complete games over a career; We may get to see “a Maddux” here and there over the course of a season, but most starting pitchers will have a pitch count in the 90s by the seventh inning even if they are pitching efficiently. The game has changed significantly…
I have refrained from comment on the new name image and likeness (NIL) rules regarding college athletes because I have this queasy feeling that at least some of those deals are akin to the under-the-table payoffs that happened with college athletes in previous times. Instead of a ”no-show summer job” at a glorious hourly wage, athletes now can take money from the same source if they agree to put their image on a coffee mug along with the company logo. Forget my cynicism for a moment and listen to something I have to say to all the athletes who are now cashing in on the opening wave of this revenue source:
- This income is almost assuredly not going to last for a long time. For those that make it to the NFL or NBA or WNBA, it will continue; for the rest of the “student-athletes” it is important that you be students now.
- Take courses in business administration – particularly marketing/advertising – and treat those courses as important lessons for your life. Learn something; do the work; study; ask questions. Working smartly with the money you are now earning will be important for your retirement years down the road.
- This is NOT the time to have your parents take care of things for you. Get yourself an agent and/or a lawyer with whom you are comfortable and BE SURE to file all necessary tax documents and returns with the IRS. You probably have never dealt with those folks before – – but you must do so now.
Finally, here is a thought about money from the poet and satirist, Dorothy Parker:
“Money cannot buy health, but I’d settle for a diamond-studded wheelchair.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………