Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Snidely Whiplash Needs His Own Sports Talk Show

Sad to say, the sneer has always been one form of sports commentary. Sadder to say, nowadays it often seems as if it's the only form.

The awesomely gifted and even more awesomely dedicated young men (and every now and then , their women athlete peers) who reach the top rungs of professional sports get looked down on so often, those who get paid to think, talk and write about them must live on the planet Neptune. Being humans, athletes often deserve criticism for their words and deeds. Being in a zero-sum trade, they frequently lose. But the posture assumed by their critics is distasteful in the extreme. I've made fun of Bill Belichick in my time for his habit of describing the weakest of upcoming Patriots' opponents as a roster of 45 Hall of Famers to be, but that hyperbole is closer to the truth than its opposite number in print or on the air where jocks and the teams they play for are depicted as hapless stumblebums.

Around here, the Houston Texans are the of Stumblebums of the Week. The Texans weren't as good as the Patriots this season. They almost surely won't win the divisional playoff game in Foxboro Saturday night. Too bad for them. Too bad for the rest of us, they are being subjected to an awful new American pastime -- ridiculing the underdog. They are discussed with adjectives and vocal tones of pure disgust.

This is inaccurate. The Texans are a flawed team, but they don't stink. No team in the final eight of the playoffs can be that bad. They could lose 48-7 against the Pats (and they might!) but that would be because New England played a superb game, not because Houston had some nerve showing up in the first place.

Worse yet, the sneering is dishonest. In a technique whose best-known practitioners in Boston are Michael Felger and Dan Shaughnessy, it's a setup for future sneers, the creation of a scenario where no matter what the score, the commentator can't lose.

If the Texans get massacred, the commentator will sneer some more and say "what did you expect?" If the Patriots win a close game, they will be viewed with alarm (the concern troll's sneer) until the AFC title game. Should the Texans pull the shocking upset, why then the commentator can spend the months until training camp sneering at the New England organization instead.

Don't know about you, but I find games where one side can't lose to be tedious.  Also crooked.


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