Home > TV > Old jocks never die… they just annoy me on TV

Old jocks never die… they just annoy me on TV

Tonight, I’m watching UNC play St. Louis on ESPN2. The most troubling thing for a Tar Heels fan like myself isn’t the fact that the Billikens (whatever that mascot is) are giving UNC a good game. Like any televised sporting event, the bad part is the commentary — tonight provided by Terry Gannon and Len Elmore. Hmmm, grads from NC State and Maryland , respectively, calling a UNC game taking place in Chapel Hill. I’m just waiting for one of them to drop the f-bomb when describing the home team.

The fun part of tonight’s telecast is that Elmore has decided to start his own vocabulary. You know… an ex-jock getting a little creative on the air. Tonight, a shot that hits the back of the iron is “off the heel.” That’s a new one for me. If a shot hits the front of the rim, wouldn’t that be the “toe?” Can it hit the pinky side or the thumb side? Are we describing a basketball hoop or everyone’s favorite map of Michigan?

And get this… a player attacking on the drive is now going “off the bounce.” What? “Off the bounce” isn’t a basketball term, but it might be a good name for a romantic comedy featuring Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. Why? Because Ben needs the work, that’s why.

It’s a common problem for ex-jocks filling that “color commentary” role. Hopefully, it’s just a phase for Elmore, who, in my opinion, is one of the more tolerable color announcers in the game. In fact, the “heel” and “bounce” references disappeared in the second half. Apparently, somebody at the Deuce must have screamed at Lenny at the half. “Uh, Len, good game so far. Oh, and next time you use ‘off the heel’ we’ll dock your paycheck. Have a good second half!”

I can imagine it’s tough to carve out your niche in the crowded world of ex-jock inanities. I should probably include ex-coaches in there, so that I can throw in Dick Vitale’s ridiculous litany of phrases. For my money, one of the most disturbing is Bill Rafferty’s call of “with this kiss!” for any shot that goes off the glass. It’s not a bad call, per se, but the delivery is bizarre. He sounds like your creepy uncle after having a pint of egg nog at Christmas dinner. That ain’t cool.

When I actually listen to the TV announcers — and don’t resort to listening to UNC games on the radio — I’ve noticed that color announcers are falling into two camps. There are the entertainers (whose poster child is Dickie V) and the nit-pickers (with their patron saint, Billy “Why so bitter?” Packer).

For the entertainers, the game is a show, and they become a poor imitation of your drunken buddy commenting on anything of consequence. The danger of the entertainer is that when you’re watching a stinker of a game, you lapse into random missives that just piss off whoever is watching that game. Like Vitale talking about Dook or UNC while watching two Big 10 schools. Hell, Vitale does that if he’s watching a barnburner, with the scored tied in the 3rd OT. Yeah, Dick, we get it… UNC and Dook are 8 miles apart… but did you do any research on the teams who are, you know, playing right now, Dick?

The worst entertainer/commentator of all time is former UNC big man Brad Daugherty. I could write a book about how bad he was when he first got behind the mike. First, they robbed him of his Black Mountain, NC accent. Seriously, the guy used to sound like a NASCAR crew chief. Then, he gets on the air and does a poor man’s Bill Walton. And Bill Walton has made a career of doing a poor man’s Bill Walton. And that sentence sounds vaguely dirty. Let’s continue…

The nit-pickers might be my arch-enemies. They pay attention to the game, but it’s their job to second-guess every facet of what you see. Not comment, mind you. Criticize. Coach standing up too much? He should sit down. Sitting down? He should be more intense and stand up. A player missed a free throw? He should have, you know, made it. Lots of bad stuff happens during a game, so it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Just talk about the bad stuff and offer easy remedies. “The offense looks stagnant. Coach Williams should tell the guys to move a little more.” Man, that drives me nuts.

Watch a game with Packer involved and try this for a drinking game. Take one shot whenever he says that a team on the wrong side of scoring run should take a time out. Take two shots when he “really questions” why the coach isn’t calling the time out when the Great Packer says that he should. Chug a fifth of Beam when the timeout is called, only to have Packer say, “I think he was one possession too late.” Sure, you’ll pass out, but if you continue to listen, blood will be pouring from your ears. Nobody needs that.

Oh well, things could be worse. If anyone out there can remember when Lefty Driesell tried his hand as a color commentator, you know what I mean. He fit into a camp best described by a Bill Walton “Hooorrrrrible.” I don’t remember if he made up phrases, or if he just pioneered a new language. Well, back to the game. I’ll catch you later… “off the bounce.”

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Categories: TV
  1. Pit Row
    December 14, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    Great job on this. Unless your a Wake Forset Fan, folks hate Packer…and with good reason. Thanks for mentioning Nascar……

  1. August 13, 2006 at 10:46 pm
  2. February 8, 2007 at 12:31 am

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