Thursday, August 27, 2020

Slant Pattern Odds and Ends

By Kevin Beane

* If you follow the Sports Central Twitter feed, which I contribute to, you perhaps already saw me express this sentiment, but it is one I feel bears repeating and fleshing out. It's about Thom Brennaman's on-air anti-gay slur. The ESPN story, prudently, did not give any specifics on Brennaman's slur, so I had to dig it up.

In working a Reds game, the production came back from commercial a little earlier than Brennaman was expecting and while he was finishing his thought in an off-air conversation, which was, "...one of the f* g capitals of the world."

I'd like to compare and contrast this incident with one that took place in an MLS match, where Houston Dynamo player Colin Clark is heard calling a ball boy by the same slur after the ball boy didn't give him the ball properly ahead of a throw in.

In both cases, the offenders were rightfully punished. In both cases, in apologizing, they used that most tiresome of phrases, that "it's not who I am."

Like hell it isn't. Why is it that most of us are somehow immune from this disorder where words we never ever ever use or think somehow leap out of our throats, as if extracted by a demon, at the worst moment, but not these poor guys? I don't have to worry if I will accidentally call someone by an anti-gay slur because I don't speak or think in anti-gay epithets. Funny how that works!

But the one difference between Clark and Brennaman is that Clark was in an adrenaline-packed situation. It doesn't make what he did any better than Brennaman did, but if this word is in his vocabulary and he's in a situation where discretion takes a back seat to the immediacy of competition then, well, at least he's not spouting off that awful word in low-pressure situations.

But Brennaman can't even say that! He was clearly talking about something casually, with the context of different cities I guess, and he still uses the word! He has someone taken a odious offense and made it even more odious. This is absolutely 100% who he is.

If Brennaman has integrity at all, he will not even attempt to get a broadcasting job ever again. He will retire or take private sector work only. He will fall on his sword. And yes — for the record, I do believe in redemption. I also believe that nothing is ever going to change if ever everyone who uses words like these is always forgiven and allowed back in our mass good graces.

Speaking of which, now that the Black Lives Matter message is getting amplified so much more now (and for that, I am grateful), can we do homophobia next, sports?

* I said in my last column that I am going to make an attempt to get into handball. I'm watching videos of matches and reading (and watching) tutorials. It's neat! There are elements of almost every sport we Yanks know better. Like hockey, there are power plays (they don't call them that), which also tend to be two minutes. Like soccer, there are yellow cards, red cards, penalty shots (far more common — several a game) and let's face it — at its most rudimentary, handball is basically soccer with your hands.

But what I find most intriguing is the sport's similarities to basketball. Rules and prohibitions regarding traveling, carrying, and double-dribbling are virtually the same(except in handball, you only have three seconds to pass, shoot, or dribble once you have the ball in your hands — no point guards draining the shot clock with the ball on their hip waiting for the offense to set up). Fast breaks basically work the same. But there's a crucial part of handball I find most comparable to the three point line, even though all goals are worth just 1 point in handball.

Let's say Steph Curry was on a 1-on-0 fast break, and instead of taking it in for the layup or dunk, he leapt from behind the three-point line, released the ball just before coming down near the free throw line, and it went in. Would it count as a 3?

Yes, it would, because he was behind the line when he leapt and didn't touch down until he had already released the ball. What counts is where he jumped from, not where he lands. You know this.

But no one ever really tries to make a three-pointer that way, because whatever advantage you are gaining by shortening the three-point distance you are losing in giving yourself inadequate time to line up your shot at a small target that still is plenty far away.

On the other hand, this is pretty much the whole name of the game in handball, where the goal is much larger and the demarcation line is closer. Shots have to come from outside this line (imagine three-pointers being the only permitted type of shot), so players leap as far inside the circle, and release the ball just as little before touching down inside the circle as possible. This video illustrates it pretty well.

* This week on the PGA Tour, Dustin Johnson won the tournament with a score of 30-under par. Earlier in the week, Scott Scheffler shot a 59. If you played the first two rounds at -2, you didn't make the cut.

It's time to make golf hard again for the pros. Lengthen the holes even more, make the greens more difficult, the rough more punishing and expansive. Who wants to watch a golf tournament when a bogey is practically out of the question on every hole? I'm not asking for Bethpage Black every week, but can we get back to a place where, say, -13 as a winning four-round score is the rule rather than the exception?

There are sports where the best players can essentially make a mockery of the game with their domination, and I don't get how these sports, or at least the easiest events, holds fan's interest. The other example is bowling. There are other forms of bowling, one of which, candlepin bowling, I've written about here before. It's scored the same as regular bowling, except you get an additional ball each frame, and still the record score is 245.

But in the type of bowling we care about (well, no we don't, but we care about it more than any other type of bowling), people — amateurs — bowl a perfect game every damn day in non-Covid times. And yes, I know its easier to roll a 300 when it's the venue and lane that you are used to, but with all of the different oil patterns of PBA lanes, there have been 27 perfect games on the PBA tour just that made it onto television. The total number of PBA tournament perfect games, non-televised portions inclusive, is surely in the hundreds if not the thousands.

And yet, here I have a version of bowling (again, candlepin), where NO ONE HAS EVER GOTTEN WITHIN 85% OF A PERFECT GAME, and no one cares outside of states where "cod" is pronounced with a W and even worse, everyone is a Patriots fan. A damn shame, really. Anyway, #makebogiespossibleagain.

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