A Pocket of Resistance: Sports Commentary III

My original intention of these sports posts was do it weekly. That ain’t gonna happen.

If this were my “job” (and this site may soon look more like a job, but that’s another story), i would work to write one of these weekly. But it ain’t my job…yet.

For now, i will post these sports commentaries occasionally, hopefully with the same approach as Fred Russell.

This commentary was set off by watching a sport i do not fully understand or appreciate: soccer, specifically college women’s soccer.

Maureen was attending one of her “OSHER” classes, which she loves. They are college “courses” of various lengths for adults. No credit is given. The classes are taught, or presented by college professors. Here in the Southwest corner, San Diego State and University of California professors participate (i don’t think University of San Diego professors participate). Maureen has taken art history, history of religion, Italian, and a bunch of others, but no sports-themed courses, which is what this post is supposed to be about. So i shall cease this deviation from the topic at hand.

…Anyway, Maureen was out, so i washed the second load of clothes and was in the den (i like “den” better than “family” room: it’s just the two of us here now) folding and putting them on hangers . i turned on the television with the unlikely to be fulfilled hope of finding something watchable. Recalling something i passed over on the sports television schedule in the morning paper, i turned to the SEC Network, which fills up the non-athletic event airspace with some guy named Paul Finneman talking and talking and talking about unimportant stuff. But as the newspaper sidebar had indicated, i tuned into the Vanderbilt Women’s Soccer Team playing Florida in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

There are several things i should explain before continuing with my comments about the quarterfinal match.

  1. For anyone who has read just a little bit of my stuff or knows me, i am a huge Vanderbilt sports fan. Unlike many folks back home, i root for Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky (in that order) unless they are playing against Vandy. i also root for other SEC teams, with the same caveat about Vandy competition, when they are playing non-conference opponents, especially the PAC whatever number they are using now, which used to be “Ten.” I grew up as a huge fan of both the Commodores and the Vols because of my father and George Harding. i root for Vandy, not just because i attended there, but because they want to be competitive in the right way in the SEC (more on that and Athletic Director David Williams later), sort of like Stanford in the PAC whatever it is.
  2. i know very little about soccer, and a great deal of it makes no sense to me. i have watched USA in the World Cup and the Olympics and greatly enjoyed seeing my grandson Sam in one game a couple of years ago. i even played in a game in Key West in 1968. While attending Anti-Submarine Officer training, i joined a bunch of underwater swimming students, and several other students in the training command there to play a team from a Dutch ship that was there on a port visit. They beat the hell out of us. Castle Heights had a soccer team but i figured whoever played a sport in the winter in shorts didn’t quite have a grasp of reality.

But when i turned on the television, there was Vandy leading the superpower Gators, 1-0 in the opening minutes of their tournament soccer match. i had to watch. When i finished folding and hanging the clothes, i pushed the hamper to the side and sat down, other chores forgotten.

It was fun to watch. Florida is a powerhouse and Vandy held its own.

By game’s end, i understood the strategy. i enjoyed the play-by-play and color analysis, which was not over the top, but explained a lot of things i would have missed. The announcers were not super critical “Monday morning quarterbacks,” but pointed out the good play of both teams and praised individuals when they did something above the norm. They pointed out mistakes but the criticism was never harsh.

Vandy lost, 2-1, against a superior team, which frequently sends its  players on to professional teams and the Olympics (remember Abby  Wambach?).

The ‘Dores were smart and good enough to almost pull off an upset, primarily due to brilliant strategy and tactics by Coach Darren Ambrose. Simone Charley is a force. A bit of Ambrose and Corbin needs to be absorbed by Vandy football and basketball coaches. This game was fun to watch.  i’m not much of a soccer fan…but i’m getting there.

In fact, i may watch them a lot more next year.

World Series Observation

My wife has turned into a real baseball fan.

i was ready to move on to football and anxiously awaiting the Commodore, Aztec, and Mocs basketball season even though the University of Chattanooga, Tennessee changed its nickname from Moccasins in honor of the indigenous tribes that once roamed East Tennessee to “Moc” for Mockingbird, the state bird. Apparently some idiots thought “Moccasin” was an insult rather than an honor. i am still high on all three teams going into the season.

But Maureen turned on the baseball games. It was delightful to watch two teams, both of which i wanted to win. i leaned toward the National League Mets because i still dislike the designated hitter. The play was spectacular, and the Royals had a determination to win that was palpable.

But the announcers apparently never heard of a pause. They went off of target, explaining many things that were flat out wrong or stupid.

Joe Buck kept trying to promote individuals making from half a million to twenty-five million dollars as storybook figures. He did it with a voice volume loud enough to raise the dead and my ire. Apparently, just short of screaming at a fast pace is supposed to keep one interested in the baseball announcer world. He was terrible. Good thing his father, Jack Buck, was such a great baseball announcer.

Harold Reynolds was the best of the booth team, but he often went overboard in his analysis. Whatever happened to throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball, run the bases, and either score or be out?

Tom Verducci was simply a mess. i don’t like people who haven’t played the game at that level pretending to know as much or more than those that have. And quite frequently, he was flat wrong.

Ken Rosenthal is Ken Rosenthal: knows his stuff but i don’t care for his stuff being interjected during play.

Erin Andrews is savvy and her questions to the managers were very appropriate. But i don’t want to hear what a manager thinks he wants us to hear in the game. i want to watch his players, not him talk. i also wondered if she was there because of her credentials and effectiveness, which she had and was, or for eye candy.

In the first game, Fox Network suffered technical difficulties described as a loss of power in the fourth inning. i could not believe the network people had the power to stop the game in progress. They claimed it was because the loss of power meant there could be no instant replay review.

Give me a break. We’ve played baseball since the middle of two centuries ago without instant replay. They have umpires. Someone was making a decision based on, guess what: money, commercials potentially lost.

After the delay, the broadcast went to the MLB international network where Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz were handling the announcing duties. They were good. i did not like Vasgersian when he was the Padre television announcer. He wandered off the game and tried too hard to be funny. But for almost a whole inning, he and Smoltz were doing excellent work describing the game and telling the story without over-analyzing.

Then the Fox boys pushed Matt and John out of the booth and put in the three stooges, Harold, Todd, and Curly Joe.

Fox really distracted from a great World Series with enough drama to not require overkill.

Denouement

As much as i bash television, especially ESPN, Fox, and othe network coverage, for self-promotion, poor coverage, bias, terrible announcing, etc., etc., I have to acknowledge i can now watch Vanderbilt and many other teams in sports events i couldn’t even have listened to before the advent of ESPN in 1979. As much as i complain, i am glad the availability of sporting events is what it is today. And as i grow older, i know i can spend my more sedentary days to come watching sports.

So it ain’t all bad.

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