Tuesday, July 05, 2005

True Believers

It is time for the Hatcher's summer reading recommendation - True Believers - The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans. It is a must for all sports fans, written by a guy who is a fan of all the Philly teams, so he knows how tragic that inner life can be. The book is very funny, especially the chapter on frontrunners, a chapter that talks about bandwagon fans with scorn. A certain friend of mine, for example, has a geographical loyalty to the Kansas City Royals, which served him very well in 1985, but has done little for him lately; in the interim, he's gone to great lengths to discover generations-old familial loyalties to the Yankees and the Braves.

Fair warning - I may have way too much in common with this guy to be giving a fair recommendation; the Emerson quote about our own discarded thoughts coming back to us as works of genius jumped into my head when Queenan started in on certain sportscasters I personally love to hate.

The relationship men have with sports is fraught with animosity. We hate the owners, we hate the players, we hate the announcers – especially Dierdorf and Walton – and we are not that crazy about the sportswriters.

…the very worst thing the average fan will be forced to endure throughout his lifetime is the nonstop blather emanating from the announcer’s booth. Consider the Strange Case of Delphic Dan. At 5:56 pm on February 9, 1999, when ABC officially deposed Dan Dierdorf as color man on its venerable Monday Night Football, the sound of rejoicing could be heard all the way from the Redwood Forest to the Gulfstream Waters. In many Midwestern cities, massive rush-hour traffic jams developed as thousands of men poured into the streets to celebrate. In a number of southern burgs, mayors were compelled to declare a municipal holiday as city workers were far too tanked up to operate the heavy machinery.

The explanation for such ebullience was not hard to fathom. A pontificating blowhard and all-purpose front-runner who always found a way to dump on the losing team as soon as it became apparent that they were going to end up on the short end of the score, Delphic Dan Dierdorf was the one common thread uniting fans in Philadelphia, Chicago, Green Bay, and points west. Everybody who loved his hometown football team despised him. Not since Louis XVI got his head chopped off in 1793 had a long-suffering, downtrodden populace experienced such an adrenaline rush.

I've always hated Dierdorf! Queenan goes on to lament CBS hiring him shortly after America's celebration. There is less about Bill Walton, although there is this:

Then basketball season starts, and he gets treated to the bookend jackasses Bill Walton and Steve “Snapper” Jones, nattering back and forth about the genius of John Wooden and the good old days of post-up centers… Please stop drooling about the Wizard of Westwood. We know you went to UCLA. Our unborn grandchildren know you went to UCLA. But so did Kareem. And you couldn’t hold his jock.

I wish he did a while chapter on these guys. Little mention of Mussberger in the pantheon of eminently hatable sportscasters, but that mention is after his long rants on others, which he concludes by saying "don't even bring up Mussberger", indicating hating him alone could fill a book. The one disappointment - he mentions Tim McCarver as an enjoyable sportscaster - the only excuse for this, and it is only barely plausible, is that McCarver is an x-Phil. Nonetheless, my father probably rolled over in his grave, as he liked to pass so many of his summer days on the front porch listening to Whitey (Richie Ashburn) and Harry Kalas announce Phillies games on the radio. Ashburn was the anti-McCarver as a color man - he didn't feel it was necessary to treat baseball like it was rocket science and explain the minutae of the finer points of the game. And Ashburn and Kalas were comfortable even in silence (as all great couples are) whereas McCarver cannot abide 2 seconds of dead air.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true about Whitey. I listened to many, many games on the radio and this is how it went every night.

Harry: And Michael Jack Schmidt steps to the plate. He struck out in his last time up.

Whitey: Harry, I'd like to thank Mary Ellen Hardline from Upper Darby for these wonderful brownies we're enjoing right now.

Harry: They are great, Rhoden delivers, swwwwing and a miss by Schmidt (hear crowd booing in the background).

Whitey: Harry, I'd like to send out a quick Happy 61st Brithday to Arnold Flemmeister from Consohocken......

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Memories, and screw Andy Musser.


11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe Queenan, despite his LaSalle background, is one of my all-time favorite writers. If you ever want to get a full view of America, read his book "Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon".
I honestly believe Harry the K has lost a few steps since the passing of Whitey. Larry Andersen is solid, but nothing matched "His Whiteness" as a sidekick. Scott Graham's dad must own the studio.


1:35 PM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

I thought he said in the book that he was from St. Joe's. LaSalle, St. Joe's - same school, clearly a couple rings down from Villanova. So in a way you are right, Boz, but I don't want any Explorers getting overly excited.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Clupbert said...

Jon Miller and Joe Morgan are a great sunday night baseball team! And the SF bay area's local color man for the Giants, Mike Krukow, is the best. More than I hate broadcasters, I hate analysts. The worst in the world is Stephen A. Smith and Sean Salisbury. They do nothing but blow smoke and don't know a damn thing.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Lime said...

Dad hated Harry Kalas for at least 20 years. The only thing that made him stomach him was how much worse Andy Musser was. It wasn't until the 80's that he began to warm to him. By Saam, bro, By Saam.


Dad's rolling in his grave.

6:53 PM  

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