Friday, April 27, 2007

The Bostonization of Sports Commentary

Watching ARod kill the ball over the past few weeks has made me laugh at all the people who rip him or say that he has under-performed on his contract (as if 2 MVP awards was under performing). It's made me realize that sometimes, even things that are generally good can conspire in a way to produce bad results.

Over the course of the last several years a trend toward negativity and shouting has been on the rise in the media. In large part, this is due to the fact that with more media choices than ever, many think the only way to be heard is to yell. Oddly enough, an increase in options had led to a decrease in the overall quality of information that most of us can get. There is more pressure than ever on the primary sources of sports news (the networks and ESPN) to go for flash instead of substance, because the suits figure that understated analytical commentary won't hold the viewers interest when pitted against no talent ass clowns like Terry Bradshaw yelling about everything in sight. I call this the "Roman Commentary" after chief idiot in charge, Jim Rome.

Couple this with fact that New England has become the center of the sports opinion world. ESPN's location in Connecticut has led them give extra attention to the Boston teams of the Patriots and Red Sox. They even hired a local blogger and made him a star. Now, look, I love ESPN, and I'm a Bill Simmons fan, but they have helped to spread the 'Boston' culture all over the States. What is the Boston culture?

Hating your rival and tearing them down at every chance.

Boston fans HATE the Yankees and ironically refer to them as 'the Evil Empire'. They hate ARod because he plays for the Yankees. Fans in Boston are more smug, more hateful, and less civil than fans in almost any other part of the country. They have also exported the "Choker Philosophy".

The "Choker Philosophy" was born out of the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl at the same time the Colts rose to power combined with a general cultural shift toward less thoughtful analysis and more mindless name calling. It has imbued and polluted every area of sports now. Fans in Boston resented the fact that Peyton Manning got more press than Tom Brady. They (quite wrongly) asserted that if Brady won Super Bowls and Manning didn't, Brady MUST be better. They were shallow and stupid and ignored any of the dozens of real reasons the Patriots won such as brilliant coaching, a brutally tough D, an amazing kicker, and a lot of luck. Brady is a great QB in his way, but he's not Manning and never will be. They couldn't accept that, so the denigrated him. They called him a choker, a loser, stat boy, and (gasp) Marino.

Bear in mind that when Marino was playing, no one called him these names. He was understood to be the best, or at least one of the 3 best along with Montana and Elway. He wasn't vilified and questioned at every turn. When he played, the media didn't continually crucify him. But now, his name is an insult. Now, everyone mocks him when he appears at the Super Bowl. Now, the Dilfers and Johnsons of the world are somehow more complete players. Why? The Bostonization of sports.

When the Patriots started to win, they made the Red Sox look bad. Then the Sox won. Boston was on top of the world, and they wanted everyone to know it. Only players who won championships were great; guys who didn't were losers. There was no need to debate who the best QBs were. One only had to rank them in terms of Super Bowls. If one QB had more rings than another, he must be better. This was the ONLY way to elevate Tom Brady above not just Manning, but Elway, Unitas, Griese, and any of a number of other Hall of Famers.

Guys like ARod and Manning got killed every time their team lost a playoff game, whether or not it was their fault. Manning played very well in Colts/Steelers game 2 years ago. He almost single handedly pulled them from the grave. But when Vanderjagt yanked the kick, Manning was the choker. ARod single handedly won a postseason series for the Yankees against Minnesota a few year back, but then he struggled in the ALCS, so he's a choker.

In Baseball, winning or not winning a title was NEVER the standard. The all time greats like Williams or Banks that never won titles were not viewed as failures. But now, the Boston minds have decided to kill the most brilliant player alive (Alex Rodriguez) because he doesn't play for the Red Sox. So what do they use? They can't use facts or stats or analysis. They use name calling. ARod is a choker. Just like that bum, Manning. They can't win the big one.

Peyton had it right when he refused to play this game by 'celebrating' the monkey off his back. He recognized that the entire discussion was stupid and didn't want to validate it. Manning and ARod are two of the greatest players in the history of their sports. We shouldn't let the Beantown Whiners destroy our enjoyment of their exploits. Boston fans started the culture of hate in sports, and yet Bill Simmons wrote a column with a surprised tone last fall called "We Hate Everything" in which he was shocked that people hate the Patriots. People hate the Pats because Pats fans hate everyone. They were too smug, too irrational, too ungracious. They chose to rip Manning rather than celebrate their team. They worship Brady, fine. But it wasn't enough. They had to kill Manning at the same time. Their mistake was they bet against the wrong horse. By the time all is said and done, Brady will be remembered as a fine qb, but they'll say, "He was no Manning" and he'll look the less for it. That comparison should never have been made, but they begged for it confident in their hatred. Now the tide has turned, and they act shocked that no one likes their team or them.

I'm glad for media options. I like ESPN. I like Bill Simmons. But together, they have all worked against decency and reason in sports. They tear down heroes rather than build them. They mock the defeated rather than respect their efforts. Sure, Manning's off the hook-he's a 'winner' now. ARod's still on it, but his performance is teaching us all over again how great he really is and and always has been.

So yes, we make fun of Brady and the Pats here. And yes, we think that Brady is classically overrated and gets way too much credit for other people's hard work. But that's not his fault. He'll never win another Super Bowl, but that doesn't mean 'he's lost it'. It won't be any more his fault when they don't win than it was when they did. We won't be calling him a choker or a loser (not seriously anyway).

We reject the Bostonization of sports.

Of the sports stars I've watched over the years, only Vanderjagt was consistently bad in big moments, and even he hit some amazing 50+ yard Fgs to win games. On any given day, someone is going to be the hero and someone will be the goat. There's no point in labeling or killing guys for it.

We reject the "Choker Philosophy".

If you don't have something to say that is either a. smart or b. funny, shut the hell up. If you can't get people's attention without being outrageous, then you don't deserve to be heard.

We reject "Roman Commentary".

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