Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wild world of sports ...

One of my favorite news programs on the air doesn't air on CNN or Fox News. It airs on ESPN. Pardon the Interruption is a funny, entertaining and often informative half-hour series that involved two sports columnists from the Washington Post, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, discussing (i.e. arguing) about the issues of the day - mostly, but not entirely, focusing on the wacky world of sports. The story goes that the two colleagues work across from each other at the Post and spent most of their time debating (i.e. yelling at) each other about what was happening in what news organizations affectionally call the "toy department". One day someone had the idea to take that concept to the airwaves. The show debuted on ESPN in 2001 and has become one of the most popular series on the cable channel.

This week, PTI is dark so ESPN can focus on this Sunday's Daytona 500, touting the return of NASCAR to its airwaves with a weeklong strip of preview shows. Right now, I suspect that Kornheiser and Wilbon must be chewing at the bit, as this may have been the worst week possible for them not to be able to go at it in front of their viewing audience. Not only have there notable stories in the actual field of play, especially the long losing streaks of both Duke University - four in a row - and the Boston Celtics - 18 (!) straight - but, in typical sports fashion, there have been plenty of shenanigans off the court as well, including:

* The positively stuptifying dismissal of San Diego Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer. Despite leading the Chargers to the best record in the NFL and having probably the most talented team in the league, Schottenheimer was fired Monday night after his long-standing feud with general manager A.J. Smith finally reached a point of no return. It's hard to determine, though, what was the dumber move - getting rid of a popular and knowledgeable coach who earned a 14-2 record (the best regular-season finish in team history, by the way); or doing it at such a late date that finding a suitable replacement may be all but impossible, especially since most observers thought that Marty would be gone as soon as the Chargers lost their playoff game to the New England Patriots. There are other ways to potentially sabotage a strong franchise, but perhaps none as asinine.

* The mindfart of former NBA star Tim Hardaway, who may have torched his future post-basketball employment prospects - not to mention his good name - with his incendiary comments regarding the presence of gay players in his former league. Asked on a Miami radio station about his reaction to the coming out of former player John Amaechi last week and how he would have dealt with a gay player on his own team, Hardaway passionately declared that he would have a real problem with that and went on to say that he "hates gay people," that he is "homophobic" and that homosexuality "shouldn't be allowed in the world, in the United States." Hardaway later apologized - not so much for his opinion but for stating it out loud - and Amaechi letter commented that he appreciated the honesty that Hardaway displayed, but the incident has left many NBA pundits scratching their heads. The real fun of this, of course, is that Hardway is fooling himself if he thinks that he has never showered alongside a gay teammate, because the law of averages would dictate that he has done just that. One must also wonder how he would have reacted if, say, a white player had replaced the word "gay" with the word "black." Or, in his case, "overrated."

* The weekly incident of a parent going haywire at his kid's sporting event - in this case, a father taking the officiating of his son's wrestling match into his own hands. Take a look (you will believe a 11-year-old can fly):

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, don't it? If it's any consolation, it's unlikely that Law & Order will be doing an episode based on this incident - as they already did one about parent rage several years ago, that time involving actual murder and a hockey rink. Chin-ching!

Throw in, ironically enough, the run on NASCAR suspensions prior to Daytona, not to mention the chaos involving Anna Nicole Smith (a non-sports story, but still an irresistible one), and it's clear that Kornheiser and Wilbon would have plenty to talk about had they been on this week. They may have to expand to an hour, American Idol-style, just to catch up come Monday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. Eastern, 2:30 Pacific.

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