Sunday, March 28, 2010

MVP of the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament goes to…

Gus Johnson has always had a huge following.  He always gets love from big time sports media personalities like Bill Simmons and Dan Patrick for his over-the-top hysterics when calling games.  For some, though, his screaming during games, like his call during the classic UCLA-Gonzaga game from 2006, is just too much. 

As much as I enjoyed watching him do play-by-play on games and as classic as that UCLA-Gonzaga call is, I always pondered in the back of my mind whether or not his screaming was really necessary and I wondered if he was actually a good announcer or if being loud was just kind of a gimmick that made him stand out amongst a sea of old boring white guys doing play-by-play.

I don’t wonder about that anymore.

His work during this year’s March Madness tournament has been outstanding.  As an announcer, he probably hasn’t changed at all, but I just think he’s been perfect in the games he has called.  Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup between Xavier and Kansas St. was an epic game, the kind of game that reminds me why I bother watching sports in the first place.  And Gus just has a way of rising to the occasion in a way that no other play-by-play man can.

There’s a fine line between a media personality enhancing a sports presentation and making that presentation more about himself than the game that should be the focus.  It’s a line that Gus has always tip-toed along dangerously but somehow he usually ends up on the right side whether it’s college basketball, NFL games or MMA. I think what matters most is that his call made me just a little more invested in the game and the drama than if anyone else had called it.




For good measure, here’s that “OH GOD!” call from Week 2 of this past NFL season when Brandon Stokley of the Broncos reminds everyone why people practice the tip drill. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Roger Ebert, National Treasure


Before the dawn of the internet, when a movie review was a few clicks away on Rotten Tomatoes, there was Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.  The syndicated television show sometimes devolved into the film equivalent of ESPN’s Around the Horn (otherwise known as “Sports Shouting”) but the undeniable chemistry of its two hosts and the program’s thoughtful discussion on film was an irresistible combination, especially on a Saturday afternoon for a kid who didn’t have anything better to do or friends to play with.

In 1999, Gene Siskel would succumb to brain cancer and three years later, his chubby counterpart, Roger Ebert, would undergo the first of numerous surgeries to treat thyroid cancer.  By mid-2006, most of Ebert’s lower jaw had been removed and with it, his ability to speak or eat.

In the following years and continuing through today and hopefully days to come, Roger Ebert resorted to the skill that brought him fame on TV in the first place. 

He wrote. 

Not just about movies, Ebert dove head first into a wide range of subjects: food, politics, his weaknesses, his fondest memories, his personal reflections, he wrote about the things that made him human, a remarkable human being at that.  His Twitter account and his blog have been something to marvel at in the last several years.

I didn’t always agree with his movies reviews, but I appreciated his thoughtful input on why he felt a certain away about a film.  I cringed sometimes at the hootin and hollerin’ that would take place on his TV show, but I appreciated the passion that Ebert and his friend, Siskel, had for cinema.

It wasn’t until a brush with death that Roger Ebert took his writing to another level, in my opinion, by delving into topics beyond the subject with which he was most associated with.  Those familiar with his work before he became a TV star would argue that this is what he had been doing all along, but for those who only knew him as a television personality like me, it was something of a revelation.

If it took a courageous battle with cancer to get him where he is at now, then I am happy that he made it through that journey and that he has been able to share with us the kind of work that he has published online in the last couple years.

I hope that it won’t take a life-threatening illness for me to reach out to others or to touch the lives of people who I don’t even know.  We had a relatively small readership on this blog but it reached further than I ever expected it to.  The coolest kids in the room have all found better spots to  hang out at lately, but for the time being, this remains where I’ll want to publish writing that I’d like others to read. 

As much as I love Ebert and enjoy his writing, he isn’t perfect in my mind and neither am I.  I’m thankful to you guys who posted while I didn’t do shit for this blog and I’m thankful to those of you continuously pleaded for more posts.

What I know is this: if I couldn’t eat, if I couldn’t talk, I’d be here.  I’d be writing.  I’ll either continue to look stupid, or if I’m lucky enough, I’ll be able to put up the kind of work that Ebert and so many other talented writers have published over the years.

[Ebert's Twitter]
[Ebert's blog]

[The Esquire article that intimately portrayed him better than I ever could]