Friday, November 20, 2009

Flogging Mollie

So my local newspaper sportswriter has struck again. I promised I wasn’t going to browbeat the guy any more for his missteps, but . . . I guess I lied.

In today’s Virginian-Pilot, Bob Molinaro has once again littered the Sports section with drivel, and in this case, it’s indefensible. From the get-go: his column is entitled “More College Games on TV is Not Necessarily a Good Thing.” I cringed at first read, knowing all too well that the 666 words contained within (not a joke; not a coincidence) would evoke fist-clenching and teeth-gnashing.

I knew what was coming, for I have been reading Mollie’s stuff for way too long. He’s in his third decade of writing for the Pilot, and he hasn’t aged gracefully. Instead of donning the robes of a senior statesman and venerable elder like a Shirley Povich, over the years Bob Molinaro has absorbed the persona of a whiny old crankpot, a cantankerous curmudgeon with some sort of misdirected shoulder chip. I feel like I’m reading a third-rate Tony Kornheiser – in an era where even Tony himself is a pale shadow of his once-worthy self.

And so we venture through the barren wasteland of sports insight that’s today’s piece. The column asserts that the recent all-day, all-night college basketball extravaganza was a pointless exercise. It further attests that there are far too many college basketball games on television these days. Specifically, it highlights the fact that “292 ACC games will be on some form of television,” following it up with “But is more really better? I don't think so. More is just more.” Ugh.

He goes on to include the following assessments:

“Perhaps, too, the unintended consequence of ESPN's marathon is to remind jaded viewers that between now and March they can expect a glut of meaningless basketball games.”

“Many things are more enjoyable in smaller portions.”

“Attempting to digest basketball's TV schedule is like walking down an aisle at Costco past the industrial-sized containers of condiments. You like mayonnaise, but when you see it displayed in two-gallon jars, you feel indigestion coming on.”

And really, I could have included the entire segment. But somewhere in the mix, Bob tried to slip this one by me:

“I say this as a life-long fan of college basketball. I like eating chocolate, too, but not five times a day.”

No. Herein lies my problem with this article, Mr. Molinaro. If the words you wrote were uttered by my sister at dinner, by my co-worker between meetings, even by my dad flipping through channels, my jockeys would be obscuring my buns rather than ‘twixt cheeks in a knotted, painful, thong-like bunch. But the words were printed in a mass-circulation publication in a section labeled SPORTS. I expect a little – no, a lot more from you.

I want my network news anchors to be utter newshounds. I want them to eat, drink, breathe, sleep and sweat news. I want them to know so much about history that friends and acquaintances call them at all hours of the day just to settle bets, and to know so much about current events that their beer buddies nickname them “CNN.” I want them to have educated opinions on everything news-related – tempered with loads of historical perspective.

I want my rock critics to know much more than I do about music, and I think I know quite a bit. I want them to be able to tell me that a new Old 97’s album is in the works within 48 hours of Rhett Miller calling Ken Bethea to talk about it. I want them at a show three nights a week, to know things like why Adam Ant reversed the D’s when he would write ADAM AND THE ANTS, and to – at all times – be able to steer me towards unheard gems.

And dammit, man, I want my sportswriters to be insatiable sports addicts. I want sports on their brains at every waking moment . . . and also the backdrop in the every dream. I want them to secretly think that the NBA season isn’t long enough. I want them to call the day prior to and the day after the Midsummer Classic “Black Monday” and “Black Wednesday.” I want them to have a new take on tired topics, have a running schedule of must-see sports on the tube or in person, and run the company’s expense budget ragged by attending sporting events all year long. I want them more rabid than any mere fan, and I want the prose they put forth to exude sports fanaticism. Factor in a cool perspective bred of a supremely vast historical knowledge, and these are the people I want to read.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe the same folks who elected a guy president simply because “he seems like one of us, like he’d be a good fella to have a beer with” instead of actual inspiration want their sports columnists to be more everyman-ish, more average Joe – a casual fan just like them.

I think that’s bunk of the highest order. That column is a privilege. A pedestal. You’re there because you have two things going for you: (1) You can write. You put words together in a way that turns pages. (2.) You know sports in and out, up and down; you spend all of your time watching, writing, talking, and thinking about sports; and you bring to light the finer points the casual fans might miss.

Why does it matter? Because when sports columnists have that rare combination of wisdom, zeal, style and skill, they can elevate in the public an awareness, a sensibility, and a passion for all things sports. The best newsmen and newswomen keep you wanting to know more about what’s up in the world. The best music gurus can make you dust off the old stuff, dig up the new stuff, and get off your hind quarters and go see live music. The best sportswriters make the games pertinent, make them more interesting, keep you plugged into it all, and reveal an overt joy for the material in all that they do, say, and write.

So “Terrell Owens is a pain in the neck and a distraction to the team” doesn’t do it for me, Bob. “The Fighting Irish have problems bigger than Charlie Weis” starts to get a tiny smidge closer. (Although not including the barb “but no beltlines” was a missed opportunity.) Predicting the Skins would beat the Broncos was even better, going against the grain; that you pegged Kyle Orton as a major reason why proved fallible, and the thinly veiled, self-congratulatory “aw shucks, I’m not really a genius” cowpie of a column that followed undid much of that momentum, unfortunately.

And now this. Too much college basketball on TV? Oh, my. Are we longingly lamenting the demise of the days of three channels on the air giving us one basketball game a week and the knob we had to turn with our hands on the B/W with rabbit ears? If you really were a sports enthusiast in the truest sense or even a "life-long fan," you’d be telling us that there’s no such thing as too much basketball on the telly. You’d insinuate, as you did in today’s column that the hoops marathon was “ESPN gimmickry,” but you’d revel in it, anyway. Just as you’d wax poetic in March about “hope springing eternal” on the diamond, you’d be giddy with college pitball galore this week. Yes, many of the games aren’t must-see TV in the competitive or monumental way, but how fun is it for an otherwise national-broadcast-deprived I-A hoops program to get a little airtime? How fun is it to see a game played at 6AM? How fun is it just to be kicking off a new season? It all starts to get the college basketball juices flowing, and it should spark some interest in our sportswriters to do a little research and tell us who looks good on the local and national landscapes this season. But, no.

And too many games on TV this season? Piffle. I’m not suggesting you have to TiVo, watch, and critique every one of them. But how awesome is it that you have such a huge assortment of choices available? As analogies go, don’t equate this to the restaurant with a menu that’s too large. You have three minutes to make a meal choice, and some menus are indeed too big. But if that was your menu from now until the first week of April, wouldn’t you bask in the 10-page Bennigan’s-style book of food rather than a one-pager?

My decision to renew the Extra Innings package every year has increasingly become something you could file under “financially asinine,” and this season in particular should have scared me off. By March, though, I just know I’ll be plunking down way too much money for the awesomeness of over 1,000 baseball games available for my viewing. 1,000 baseball games. Is more really better? Hell, yes, you cretin. Am I going to watch 1,000 baseball games? Of course not. But I grew up lucky to get WWOR as a basic cable bonus for a couple of years, catching a Mets game here and there and wishing like mad for more. With the package, 140-150 Mets games are right there for me. And Red Sox games to see how Rob’s mental health is at the moment, and Yankee games so I can recall how Michael Kay’s voice could drive a man to mass murder, and just all those frickin’ games. I take the remote and stroll up and down the dial, rolling around in all that baseball like Woody Harrelson in all that money in Indecent Proposal. It’s not an “overcrowded schedule.” It’s absolute luxury, because I love baseball, and I love sports.

ACC basketball (not football, mind you) is great viewing. Top to bottom a competitive conference with a lot of history. More ACC hoops on TV is better to many, many people. Their local sports guy telling them it’s not is mind-numbing.

Bob, I sense that you aren’t Mr. Crabby-pants about sports so frequently in real life, that you do still revel in the concept. That maybe you’ve tapped into a persona that suits you. So show us the real you. Make us love it as much as you do. But if you’re not . . . if this is you, if you feel that all that basketball clogs the airwaves and precludes you from seeing . . . whatever other dreck is passing for actual television content these days, then please stop writing. Please step down, become sportswriter emeritus, and let someone else with an unquenchable thirst for sports and everything about it do your job. They’re out there, giddily tuning in, rooting for one side or the other, and celebrating an era when technology gives us sports overload.

Not bemoaning . . . celebrating.


[And I aim to put my money where my mouth is later today with an enthusiastic post about sports (and otherwise).]

74 comments:

zoltan said...

If Mr. Molinaro doesn't want to watch basketball, perhaps he should change the channel? That's what I do when I don't want to watch the channel that I'm watching. My cable box even came with a remote control so I don't have to get up to change the channel. It's nifty.

Dan said...

bravo mr. whitney, bravo. who is sending this to bobby boy's editor? anyone? anyone?
"Piffle" is my word of the wkd.

Dan said...

and as a fan of the real flogging molly's...well, bravo once again sir. BRAVO!
good day.

Dave said...

i really loved reading this post for the first seventeen paragraphs-- passionate and true-- but then my attention wavered. do you always have to be so verbose? maybe if we had bigger monitors here at EBHS . . .

rob said...

says the guy who wrote a 789-word sentence this morning

zoltan said...

This is simultaneously fantastic and terrifying.

http://tinyurl.com/y94zlxn

rob said...

gift for mark and dave:

http://bit.ly/pfBTZ

Mark said...

That's weird. I'll stick to my normal, stationary tattoos, thank you.

Dan said...

am i the only one here upset about oprah going off the air in '11?

Marlin said...

Maybe the same folks who elected a guy president simply because “he seems like one of us, like he’d be a good fella to have a beer with” instead of actual inspiration want their sports columnists to be more everyman-ish

In the greater Hampton Roads area that may be true. How else can you explain Tony Mercurio's continued airtime?

Is Bruce Rader still doing the high school football reports on WAVY TV 10?

zoltan said...

Wasn't Bruce Rader the weatherman?

rob said...

no, no, no, no. don blondbaldingdude was the weatherman. bruce rader owned the sports airwaves.

Dave said...

thanks for the moving tattoo article, rob, but it had no information about whether back hair would grow through this new technology. until that report comes out, i'm going to have to pass.

rob said...

i assume it would not, dave, because of the non-porous nature of the material. this opens all sorts of possibilities for you.

rob said...

don slater?

zoltan said...

Slater, Rader, it's all the same.

Whitney said...

Rob is correct. Don Slater is still the meteorologist at WAVY-TV 10.

Bruce Rader defected to the Fox affiliate, but he's still doing his thing here as well. And he makes Bob Molinaro look like John Feinstein.

rob said...

well, when you put it that way, i can see your point. um, i mean, i understand your meaning:

"I meet with the gays here and there. They were in my house two weeks ago. I don’t mind gays. But I don’t want ‘em stuffing it down my throat all the time," - Utah Senator Chris Buttars, explaining his opposition to allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

Whitney said...

Point/counterpoint: a friend of mine who writes for the paper made a fair point (two, actually) in an e-mail:

Two things in Bob’s corner:

1) He writes four times a week. I write three times a week and eat, drink, sleep column. Everywhere I go, every conversation I have goes through a filter. “Is that a column?” It’s slowly driving me crazy. Doing it another day a week? Unfathomable to me.

2) He’s been writing a column, I think, close to 30 years. I’m finishing up my third. For me, that’s 450 opinions and there are lots of days (like today) where I feel tapped. But 30 years? In the words of Chris Berman, “JESUS!”


I concede that part-time contributor to Gheorghe: The Blog and Misery Loves Company (RIP) is not near enough of a by-line (it's not even a by-line) to be telling a guy what to write. I also concede that I wish I had his job, so jealousy might fuel the smarm.

I still stand behind the point of the post, and tilting at windmills is what we do here, but those are reasonable points.

Now back to your regularly scheduled dipshittery.

Dan said...

don't sell GTB short, it's a tremendous non-byliner

zoltan said...

"I meet with the gays here and there. They were in my house two weeks ago."

Every single one of them. In his kitchen. It was fabulous.

Mark said...

"I meet with the gays here and there."

It's like you assholes are going out of your way to taunt me with good material (that I can't use) ever since Rob's email from late last weekend. Damn you all.

rob said...

that's the second gtb-related awl of the day for me. you guys are the best.

Geoff said...

I, for one, miss the Wheelhouse themed gay jokes. Add this to the list of things Rob's liberalism has ruined.

TR said...

For the record, I have no idea what awl, ngs or natch means. You guys and your fancy Internet tricks. ;)

What I do know is that Charles Dolan is very concerned about Iverson becoming a Knick. The team is on pace to win 16 games and he's worried about chemistry. Dildo extraordinaire he is.

Mark said...

But Geoff, it "overshadows" what we here at G:TB do.

Mark said...

TR...I've got to admit that your thoughts on the Knicks this year were right on. I really didn't think they could be much worse than last year.

I...am an idiot.

zoltan said...

Isn't natch shorthand for naturally? No?

TJ said...

Geoff makes Tony Randall look like The Marlboro Man.

You happy now Mark?

rob said...

'awl' is 'audible work laughter'. i believe teejay coined it.

Geoff said...

And ngs is "no gay shit." As in, "Hey, I'd really love to blow that dude...no gay shit."
Second thought, that's a bad example. I'll take a lap and get back to you.

rob said...

i can't in good conscience hold mark back at this point.

Mark said...

Well that's going to change the tenor of tomorrow's picks column.

Mark said...

I keep reading Geoff's comment and laughing. That guy, he can bring the funny...when he's not wrist deep in semen.

Geoff said...

The semen makes your cufflinks extra shiny. Just FYI.

KQ said...

Whit, I think maybe you're taking this a little too personally. It is what it is, you know? I'm just sayin...


[And I aim to put my money where my mouth is later today...]

And i thought you guys weren't supposed to make gay jokes anymore.

rob said...

and the circle is complete.

TJ said...

Circle gets the square...

TJ said...

Jack and Jill went up the hill...each with a buck and a quarter...

Geoff said...

Tj is:
A) hammered
B) watching Ford Fairlane
C) perusing the clearance rack at Best Buy
D) standing by a hill asking people what their name is and how much money they have on them

TJ said...

E) stealing geoffs babies

Geoff said...

So, in other words, A).

TJ said...

Don't get mouthy...you don't want "Mark" yelling at you 'cause you're "gay"...

Geoff said...

Luckily Rob would never allow that.

TJ said...

Sadly for rob, we usually hold our editorial meetings just out of his reach...

rob said...

the magicians are doing some work this evening.

TJ said...

Let's see what the cuse has to offer

TJ said...

Andy Rautins...he's the 2009 jj reddicik non-poetry still shooter

TJ said...

Cuse BABY

rob said...

etan thomas vs brendan haywood this evening. sorta like wilt vs russell.

rob said...

carolina vs cuse - is it bad form to root for some sort of natural disaster?

TJ said...

Or, finkle v. einhorn.

TJ said...

Vitale wants this game to go cuddle time

TJ said...

'Cuse in da house!!!!

Mark said...

Carolina looks like nothing more than a collection of athletes tonight.

rob said...

carolina has twin gawky honkies? that's a unique twist.

TJ said...

"So what is it that you say you do here???"

Mark said...

Actually there are 3 gawky honkies including Tyler Zeller. The two you were referring to are the Wear twins, two very highly rated gawky honkies from California.

rob said...

the big east is 40-0 this season?

rob said...

is jason williams starting at the point for orlando with nelson out?

TR said...

Tim Howard's Everton squad goes up against Man U on the Fox Soccer Channel tomorrow at 1130 am or 1230 pm. Get some.

Mark said...

He's their backup PG Rob. Who else would be starting?

Mark said...

There is a player named George Iloka on Boise State who appears to be rocking the Gumby ala Bobby Brown.

rob said...

just wasn't aware he was a magician. and iloka's do is tight.

Mark said...

Yeah, he came out of retirement (a retirement that had more to do with his dissatisfaction with his decision to sign with the Clippers last year...basically he thought better of it and then abruptly retired before training camp) this season and signed with the Magic in August as the backup PG. It was a good move, imo. He has good history with Van Gundy in Miami and is a major upgrade over Anthony Johnson as a backup PG. Make no mistake about though, the Magic are FUCKED without Nelson down the stretch of games this year. They were often bad last year in those situations and now they don't have Turk to create late in games. They have to have to Nelson to compete deep into the playoffs.

Mark said...

Also, are we witnessing Josh Smith making the leap? Sure seems that way early in the season.

Mark said...

Why Vince, why?

TJ said...

I'm watching Liverpool/Man City right now. Why?

Mark said...

Hey Teej!! Me too!

Mark said...

I think that's why you are watching TJ.

TJ said...

Switched to NFL Network, watching this Davone Bess story. Good stuff.

Mark said...

I love Davone Bess. Terrific 3rd WR. Smart, fundamentally sound. Runs great routes, has good hands.

You seriously need to switch back to this match. Two goals in in the last 5 minutes. All knotted at 2. My namesake is none to happy right now.

Mark said...

I really enjoy hearing announcers say my name over and over again.

Whitney said...

Bob Molinaro threatened to kick my ass if I didn't bump his mug from the top of the blog, so I just chucked a little post up there now.