Why We Are Sports Fans

Loyal readers of this site know that I have been following the the NBA playoff series between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls rather closely. I have no real positive rooting interest (though Joakim Noah is a Gator) in this series. I do have a negative rooting interest as I have always hated the Celtics (I also hate Notre Dame football and Duke basketball and have come to hate the Red Sox of late, before 2004, it was mainly just contempt and pity). But sometimes a sporting event becomes compelling on its own terms. The Bull-Celtics series has become that this year. I am obsessed with it and can't wait for tonight's Game 7.

The great Bill Simmons, the greatest sportswriter alive( On second thought, it is still Mark Kram (correction, Kram passed away in 2002) and probably the most entertaining writer alive, writes:

Think of all the crap we deal with as fans. "Bulls-Celtics 2009" explains why we put up with every story about Clemens and Bonds and Michael Vick and Terrell Owens and everyone else who conspires to make sports less fun.

Yes it does. For JThomas:

Speaking for me only

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    Simmons the greatest sportswriter? (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by lobary on Sat May 02, 2009 at 11:27:17 AM EST
    I usually agree with you, but this is blasphemy. Simmons sucks. He doesn't write about sports as much as he uses sports as a vehicle to write about himself and his love of all thing Bahston. I cannot stand him and his nonsensical ramblings.

    Who, in your opinion, is the greatest (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Sat May 02, 2009 at 11:33:35 AM EST
    living sportswriter?  

    Is Roger Kahn still alive?  Must google.


    Just off the top of my head? (none / 0) (#11)
    by lobary on Sat May 02, 2009 at 11:38:17 AM EST
    Doug Glanville is a better writer than Simmons.

    I see Simmons as more of an internet personality than a writer, and I blame him for the annoying trend of unfunny one-upsmanship by bloggers across the internet.


    I love Glanville (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat May 02, 2009 at 11:46:52 AM EST
    You know what, on second thought, since Mark Kram is still alive, he is the greatest living sportswriter. the Thrilla in Manila:

    It was only a moment, sliding past the eyes like the sudden shifting of light and shadow, but long years from now it will remain a pure and moving glimpse of hard reality, and if Muhammad Ali could have turned his eyes upon himself, what first and final truth could he have seen? He had been led up the winding, red- carpeted staircase by Imelda Marcos, the first lady of the Philippines, as the guest of honor at the Malacaûang Palace. Soft music drifted in from the terrace as the beautiful Imelda guided the massive and still heavyweight champion of the world to the long buffet ornamented by huge candelabra. The two whispered, and then she stopped and filled his plate, and as he waited the candles threw an eerie light across the face of a man who only a few hours before had survived the ultimate inquisition of himself and his art.

    The maddest of existentialists, one of the great surrealists of our time, the king of all he sees, Ali had never before appeared so vulnerable and fragile, so pitiably unmajestic, so far from the universe he claims as his along. He could barely hold his fork, and he lifted the food slowly up to his bottom lip, which had been scraped pink. The skin on his face was dull and blotched, his eyes drained of that familiar childlike wonder. His right eye was a deep purple, beginning to close, a dark blind being drawn against a harsh light. He chewed his food painfully, and then he suddenly moved away from the candles as if he had become aware of the mask he was wearing, as if an inner voice were laughing at him. He shrugged, and the moment was gone.

    A couple of miles away in the bedroom of a villa, the man who has always demanded answers of Ali, has trailed the champion like a timber wolf, lay in semidarkness. Only his heavy breathing disturbed the quiet as an old friend walked to within two feet of him. "Who is it?" asked Joe Frazier, lifting himself to look around. "I can't see! I can't see! Turn the lights on!" Another light was turned on, but Frazier still could not see. The scene cannot be forgotten; this good and gallant man lying there, embodying the remains of a will never before seen in a ring, a will that had carried him so far -- and now surely too far. His eyes were only slits, his face looked as if it had been painted by Goya. "Man, I hit him with punches that'd bring down the walls of a city," said Frazier. "Lawdy, Lawdy, he's a great champion." Then he put his head back down on the pillow, and soon there was only the heavy breathing of a deep sleep slapping like big waves against the silence.

    Time may well erode that long morning drama in Manila, but for anyone who was there those faces will return again and again to evoke what it was like when two of the greatest heavyweights of any era met for a third time, and left millions limp around the world. Muhammad Ali caught the way it was: "It was like death. Closest thing to dyin' that I know of."

    There is no finer piece of sports writing than this article.  I will brook no argument from anyone on this point.

    Did your guy win a Pulitzer? (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:04:35 PM EST
    Poignant piece, but what a horrible sport.

    It is a terrible sport (none / 0) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:09:07 PM EST
    It should be banned.

    It mesmerizes me. I love boxing.

    After the Bulls-Celtics game, I will be watching, on PPV no less, the Pacquiao-Hatton fight.


    I haven't noticed, BTD, is it a pricey (none / 0) (#21)
    by easilydistracted on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:28:11 PM EST
    PPV Event?

    Never mind, just got an advertisement from (none / 0) (#23)
    by easilydistracted on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:39:45 PM EST
    Time Warner Cable in email

    Gladiators or cavemen? (none / 0) (#28)
    by oldpro on Sat May 02, 2009 at 01:28:23 PM EST
    Maybe a bit of both.


    And now garage fighting.  And unlimited.  And women...

    Dreadful.  Can't watch it.


    Luckily KUSC FM is streaming (none / 0) (#29)
    by oculus on Sat May 02, 2009 at 01:43:47 PM EST
    opera recordings on line.  Tonight is live chamber music concert.  Whew.

    Beautiful. (none / 0) (#16)
    by lobary on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:05:03 PM EST
    That is sportswriting at its best. Thanks for posting that. Kram's exemplary piece is the kind of prose I want to read as a sports nut, not the barrage of witty one-liners and cruel personal attacks from the countless Bill Simmons knockoffs whose writing screams "LOOK AT ME I AM SOOO FUNNY".

    I'm not so sure about that (none / 0) (#47)
    by cal1942 on Sun May 03, 2009 at 01:04:54 AM EST
    try this:

    Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.

    For a lead in to a game story that's damned hard to beat.

    We haven't made a Grantland Rice in decades and we are the poorer for it.


    Baseball... (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Sat May 02, 2009 at 09:38:36 PM EST
    ...under a roof is an afront to Mother Nature and the American way of life.  

    So is playing in snow or frigid weather (none / 0) (#50)
    by DFLer on Sun May 03, 2009 at 10:34:24 AM EST
    The baseball season USED to end earlier.

    Today is Derby Day (none / 0) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat May 02, 2009 at 10:20:17 AM EST
    I like horse racing and used to follow it closely. I could not care less about the race today and could not tell you a thing about it.

    That's how obsessed I have been with the Bulls-Celtics series.

    Yes, Simmons (none / 0) (#3)
    by JThomas on Sat May 02, 2009 at 10:34:36 AM EST
    really nailed it with his ''walking the dog'' column. As a die-hard Bulls fan, he has captured my sentiments exactly when he says this is the NBA Finals for me. I know we are not going all the way, but dammit, I want this series so bad I can taste it.

    And,as he said, I am too old to give a crap about the ancillary stories that seem to dominate the sports coverage...just give me the games,please.
    And as he said, when you have the rare series,game or whatever where it all falls into place, the ying and yang..it is delicious.

    I am one of those rare fans that have never been really put off by Noah,even at Florida, altho as a Big Ten fan,I wanted OSU to win the NC game.
    And when Noah was drafted by the Bulls, I had no issues..he was best available.
    Many fans still rail on the guy,but I have loved his play on the court since mid-season,and that is all I care about.
    The NBA needs to use his steal and dunk in their current very spot-on ad campaign about amazing things happening...it is perfect for a black and white slo-mo treatment. As the Bulls radio announcer said on the call ''I can't believe what I just saw''..I agreed. He showed his daddys speed on that full court drive,and his amazing handle of the ball for a 7fter..now if he could only shoot...he is getting there,tho.

    This is the make or break game of the season as a bulls fan...if they win this game, the season is a big success...lose it, and it is good but not a big success. Love game sevens. Go Bulls!


    I do not run the NBA (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat May 02, 2009 at 10:42:55 AM EST
    but for you, I added the clip to this post.

    Thanks, BTD (none / 0) (#5)
    by JThomas on Sat May 02, 2009 at 10:45:18 AM EST
    that was an electric moment.

    Is there a reason you don't want (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Sat May 02, 2009 at 10:29:02 AM EST
    to read p. 1 of Simmons' piece?

    p.s.  Greatest sports writer alive. Maybe you're right--don't know.  But w/o the qualifier:  Jim Murray, LAT.

    Jim Murray (none / 0) (#48)
    by cal1942 on Sun May 03, 2009 at 01:09:50 AM EST
    was something special.

    Maybe I need to get a dog. Why did (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Sat May 02, 2009 at 11:21:53 AM EST
    Bud Black put in Sanchez to pitch in the bottom of the 9th inning in a no score game against the Dodgers?  Why didn't he go to his closer, Heath Bell?  

    An excellent point (none / 0) (#14)
    by CoralGables on Sat May 02, 2009 at 11:52:23 AM EST
    but most of the time a team won't go to their closer on the road in a tie game, saving him instead for if they take the lead. At home just the opposite, they probably would have gone to the closer.

    I'm with you though, I would have gone to Heath. It was a very tough way to end a tremendous pitcher's duel between a Cy Young Winner for the Padres and a kid for the Dodgers.


    "Most of the time" is the operative (none / 0) (#30)
    by oculus on Sat May 02, 2009 at 01:45:17 PM EST
    phrase.  Sanchez has been a disaster as a reliever.  Bell has been picture perfect so far.  AND it is the dreaded Dodgers.

    I thought you might appreciate (none / 0) (#37)
    by CoralGables on Sat May 02, 2009 at 06:40:04 PM EST
    knowing you are a notch ahead of 2 major league managers. With the Mets on the road in a tie game today in extra innings against the World Champion Phillies, they leave their best reliever sitting on his butt in the bullpen.

    Instead of using his $9 million a year closer in Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets manager instead goes deep into his bullpen and his choice gives up a single, a hit batter, and a walk to load the bases in the 10th, and a bases loaded walk ends the game.

    The Mets manager should have stayed up late to watch the Padres game last night. He may have learned something. Instead he left his 9 million dollar man in mothballs.


    Awwk. BTW: just returned from Von's (none / 0) (#43)
    by oculus on Sat May 02, 2009 at 08:04:22 PM EST
    where I discovered Farmer John's DODGER DOGS!!!!!

    I think (none / 0) (#19)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:18:23 PM EST
    everyone needs a dog....just saying.

    Are dogs addicted to sports on TV? (none / 0) (#31)
    by oculus on Sat May 02, 2009 at 01:46:33 PM EST
    No (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by CoralGables on Sat May 02, 2009 at 02:04:18 PM EST
    but they will lay at your feet keeping you company while you curse Duaner Sanchez as he walks three in the bottom of the 9th.

    I'll watch game 7 but (none / 0) (#9)
    by lobary on Sat May 02, 2009 at 11:34:59 AM EST
    I didn't care very much about game 6 because I was too preoccupied with finding a link online to watch the Rockets/Blazers game to give a crap about the Celtics/Bulls.

    That was one of the most maddening eighty minutes of my sports viewing life. The Rockets tipped at 8:30 but we Rockets fans (not in Portland or Houston) were forced to endure TNT's inexcusable neglect. No in-game updates, no cutaways to Houston, just commercial after commercial after commercial. TNT should not carry the NBA playoffs if they cannot develop contingency plans in cases where the earlier game goes to OT.


    I like Simmons. (none / 0) (#10)
    by Tony on Sat May 02, 2009 at 11:37:46 AM EST
    This was a great column.  It will be interesting to see what kind of shelf-life his writing has, since he uses so many pop culture references, but for my money he is quite good.

    Still, nobody asked me, but for my money the best sportswriter alive is Joe Posnanski.

    Chamberlain, Russell, Magic, Bird... (none / 0) (#12)
    by oldpro on Sat May 02, 2009 at 11:38:56 AM EST
    Jordan and (of course) "watching the doctor operate!"  Great fun watching the best do what they do.

    My maternal family has been obsessed by team sports (mainly baseball, basketball and football) as long as I can remember...ever since one uncle made it to professional baseball for one pathetic season with the NY Giants in 1932.  All male sports, of course.  Then came Title 9 and the gloves came off in the family as the females and their mothers 'went to bat for the girls'!

    I knew we were making headway when my son bought me a Seattle Storm sweatshirt one Christmas and regularly attended their games!  Now he (and most of Seattle) have segued to soccer and the Sounders.  New rivalries to boo and new talent to cheer on!

    What fun.  Personally, I love to watch individual sports these days...Tiger, tennis, the Olympics.

    Lucky you. (none / 0) (#24)
    by lobary on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:52:13 PM EST
    What I wouldn't do to have a family member listed on baseballreference.com!

    Google Art McLarney baseball (none / 0) (#26)
    by oldpro on Sat May 02, 2009 at 01:10:36 PM EST
    and you'll see just how pathetic it can be!

    Sweet guy, tho.  Went on to coach basketball at the UW, '48-'50 w/ a fair W/L record.  Everyone who ever knew him loved Art.  He wasn't cut out for the cut-throat, mad-dog alumni/fans.


    Today is a treat for sports fans (none / 0) (#18)
    by lobary on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:15:33 PM EST
    NBA playoffs. NHL playoffs. The Derby. Saturday baseball. Pacquiao/Hatton.

    This is a good day to break out the smoker and crack a few beers.

    Never like sports (none / 0) (#20)
    by SOS on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:25:36 PM EST
    to boring

    The royal "we" (none / 0) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat May 02, 2009 at 12:28:35 PM EST
    Heh. As in (none / 0) (#27)
    by oldpro on Sat May 02, 2009 at 01:12:11 PM EST
    "We are not amused!"

    I like women's team volleyball. (none / 0) (#25)
    by Fabian on Sat May 02, 2009 at 01:04:55 PM EST
    It's fast.  It's exciting.  It's competitive.  It's a real team sport.  It's fairly easy to follow the action.  The rules aren't complex and arcane.  

    But it's not a money maker.


    Bill Simmons is great (none / 0) (#32)
    by CST on Sat May 02, 2009 at 02:02:47 PM EST
    of course he shares my bias so it's hard to judge him against other sports writers - since he is probably the only one where I read every column religiously.

    What a series.  That was a heartbreaking play by Noah, all the more because it was Noah.

    I know that neither team will beat Cleveland, and this really does feel like a "finals", although i will probably change my tune if the celtics make it through to play the cavs.

    Anyway, basketball is thoroughly on the brain today, as soccer is on (Real Madrid vs. Barcelona) in the background and I keep hearing "Ray Allen" instead of "Real Madrid" and other various basketball referneces.

    I just hope we can hold it together on our home court.  Both the Bulls and the Celtics have great crowds (unlike the Lakers in the finals - what a disgrace) so it should be a thoroughly entertaining game.

    Go Celtics!

    Sailing! I know. It's like (none / 0) (#34)
    by oldpro on Sat May 02, 2009 at 02:05:04 PM EST
    watching paint dry.  But still...sitting here in the window, watching 5 teams of young 'uns battle the elements and learn to sail in a tippy little daysailer.  Kids 8-14 or so.  The wind's come up and they're getting their first real run, racing one another, mark to mark and back again, right in my front yard.

    Instead of watching...they're doing!  Love it.

    Great day for sailing here today (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by oculus on Sat May 02, 2009 at 08:07:18 PM EST
    also.  Harbor Island.

    I'm not always in agreement (none / 0) (#35)
    by brodie on Sat May 02, 2009 at 02:43:51 PM EST
    with the diarist on certain political/historical matters, but as for the list of hated sports teams, I'm in accord.

    Definitely the Celtics.  Probably since as a youngster I saw their unfair home-court advantages:  the quirky dead spots on the court that only the home squad was most familiar with, the crowd so close to the court screaming at the refs like an angry mob, the curious like-clockwork way the ball used to somehow roll off the rim late in the game for the visiting team, while the most improbable shots for the Cs managed to get a gentle bounce and go through for victory.

    Red Sox, check.  Especially for their Bush-backing Repub pitcher, Schilling. Though not as much hatred there as for the New England Patriots, the team that might have cheated its way to a SB title or two before they were caught.

    (come to think of it, those 3 teams from the major sports have had more than their share of championships of late -- all the more reason to root against overdog overfed Boston ... )

    Duke.  Again, the screaming mob too close to the court.  And the Repub factor again, with smug Coach K.

    Pulling again for the Bulls tonight, though I'm pessimistic about their chances.  When was the last time a good Celts team lost at home in a Game 7?


    Hm (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by Steve M on Sun May 03, 2009 at 04:05:25 AM EST
    Assuming you wouldn't count the 2005 edition as a good Celtics team (and who would?) the correct answer is 1982.

    Six Weeks (none / 0) (#38)
    by CoralGables on Sat May 02, 2009 at 06:51:37 PM EST
    Until the CWS. June 13th thru June 24th. It's the one thing that makes Omaha famous...that and one electoral vote for Obama in a sea of red.

    Steaks... (none / 0) (#41)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Sat May 02, 2009 at 07:25:55 PM EST
    ...and horse racing too.  Hopefully, those two are not in any way related to each other.  

    It's always a treat to hear the ping of an aluminum bat and to see baseball played in a non-sullied, team oriented (compared to MLB) manner.  

    Some Blatt trivia:  

    Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium is one of the few stadiums that still uses live music instead of prerecorded music.

    And (none / 0) (#42)
    by CoralGables on Sat May 02, 2009 at 07:35:07 PM EST
    Warren Buffett.

    I could do without the aluminum bats but baseball from Rosenblatt, and the locals adopting teams at the start so everyone has a fan base, is a treasure. And in what other college sport could you find people rabidly rooting for the Anteaters or the Shockers or the Owls.


    Why we love baseball (none / 0) (#39)
    by DFLer on Sat May 02, 2009 at 07:00:36 PM EST
    a perfect evening, barbqueing, drinking wine and listening to the Twins on the radio.

    Joe Mauer is back in the line-up after off-season surgery.

    Last night in his first game, with two swings in two at bats, he hit a home run and a double. Later walked and scored

    Tonight, he's 2 for 2 so far. he must be batting 1000 or so.


    Opening Day (none / 0) (#40)
    by CoralGables on Sat May 02, 2009 at 07:16:12 PM EST
    2010 is going to be very special for Twins fans. You finally get out of the Dome and play on real grass with no baggy walls and no more balls lost by outfielders in the gray ceiling.

    I had the pleasure of spending time with Tom Kelly during Spring Training when he was managing and have been to the Dome for games twice. It's easy to pull for the Twins. Always competitive and they always play hard. It's a shame they couldn't afford to keep Johan.


    Love Tom Kelly (none / 0) (#45)
    by DFLer on Sat May 02, 2009 at 09:05:53 PM EST
    a real "baseball man" Still hangs out with Twins for spring training. His successor, Gardenhire, is also very cool.

    Re balls lost in the ceiling...hey! that would be mostly for visiting teams....so don't mind so much.


    As a Bulls (none / 0) (#51)
    by JThomas on Sun May 03, 2009 at 12:24:10 PM EST
    and White Sox fan, I have to turn the page now to baseball season. Bulls just could not knock down open shots last nite. Salmons and Ben..10-35 from the field...ouch.

    So, on to the baseball season where I can only pray that my Sox knock the snot outta the hated Twins again this year.

    When the Twins get out into mother nature next year, they will have a rude awakening to how real baseball is played...meanwhile,the dome is a blight on the national pastime for one more year. Go Sox!


    Watch out 'Big Tent' Democrat (none / 0) (#52)
    by BanVick4Life on Wed May 20, 2009 at 10:34:18 AM EST
    ...Clemens and Bonds and Michael Vick and Terrell Owens and everyone else who conspires to make sports less fun...

    You are starting to sound like one of those rabid animal fanatics. It is SAD that your enjoyment of an entertainment vehicle trumps your concern for living creatures. Let's hope your concern is enough to keep people like Vick and his peers away from defenseless loved ones in your family. Think about that if you ever have kids in daycare, or put a parent in an adult care facility.
    The FBI has recognized the connection since the l970s,when bureau analysis of the life histories of imprisoned serial killers suggested that most, as children, had killed or tortured animals. Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse.