Monday, August 30, 2010

That British Announcer for the FIBA W.Championships

Who is this man? (Quotes from USA v.s. Brazil)

"Whoa! The American's didn't score even though it seemed IMPOSSIBLE for them NOT to!"

"Whatever happens between these two teams...we've been royally treated here today in Istanbul."

[Shot clock starting at 9:59 instead of 10:00] "I hope it doesn't come down to the last second...wait what am I talking about? I hope it does."

"He looked [Splitter] like he'd run out of oxygen...but he found one more."

"Rose lost it!....but he only lost it because Barbosa got a little piece of it..." (Listening to him say "Barbosa", I feel like this is "Pirates of the Caribbean.")

Is it the accent I like then?

"He must have had just a little fear when he heard the whistle 'Hey that better not be on me!'....and it WASN'T."

Final sequence of the game:


Tremendous stuff here. When I first heard this particular announcer I remember thinking how relatively childish he seemed compared to the likes of NBA play by play and color commentators. You know, guys with the slang, the cadence, the Stu Scott, especially the former coaches and players who offer unmatched, elite expertise. THOSE guys know what they're talking about. But within one half of the USA v. Brazil game early this week, those (haughty) thoughts were abandoned and I found myself riveted as much by the announcer's style as the game itself.

He brought passion, knowledge of the game's international players (most of whom I'm sure the domestic guys wouldn't have a clue about in addition to not being able to pronounce names), and some truly admirable lines delivered to enhance the moment in the action. That last bit is reflected in the quotes above, and magnified by the fact that this unnamed Brit (still can't find the chap online) is working the booth alone.

Sometimes he sounded like he was having a conversation with himself, which was quite funny, if unintentional. The man's enthusiasm was absolutely contagious and I quickly found the vocabulary he used to describe the game endearing and nicely contrary to the lines we hear during NBA games. His descriptions of the action were refreshing, colorful, and without a hint of pomposity. Perhaps best of all, there was no lame ribbing of other booth members (also, there were no other booth members), insulting of players, or disdain of the level of play. There's something very pure at work here.

During the very good Lithuania v. Spain contest...I mean game, the American announcer (another mystery man) displayed his kindred spirit. He spoke of Lithunian players Robertas Javtokas, Jonas Maciulius, and Martynas Pocius as if he coached them or knew them through the years. After a rebound and trip to the line for Maciulius, the announcer said "He is a good, good player, he does all the little things." Oh truly? My skepticism wouldn't allow me to believe this without seeing it with my own eyes. As Lithuania was struggling to cut into the Spanish lead( Spain being the most recognizable team in the tournament besides the USA with names like Gasol, Rubio, Fernandez, Garbajosa, and Navarro) the player who "did all the little things" got to the line with gritty drives. OK, so he can do gritty drives.

And then, Maciulius took a hammer, a heavy one, probably steel, and drove the announcer's point home by stripping Rudy Fernandez (he who dunked on Dwight Howard in the Olympics) TWICE IN A ROW and taking it in for TWO TWO-HANDED SLAMS! He pretty much single-handedly made Lithuania's comeback. Naturally, our announcer was going wild.


And again, when Lithuania took the lead.

I love this game.

I love this game. That was THE company line, the slogan, of the NBA a few years back. Let me tell you, it didn't sound one bit contrived coming from the announcer.

Here are true fan of the game, and of the moment, sharing with us their joy. Bonus points for the American announcer's classy ways when, during the nail biting moments at the end of Lithuania v. Spain, the cameras were inexplicably focused on fan reactions when the game was going on. He said something to the effect of: "The camera crew has been great all game long, but let's keep it on the action, please!" Not mean at all.

Maybe it's easy to subconsciously root for the little guys and the underdogs. I'm likely way off base in describing these two announcers with a "blue collar" version of a sports announcer. But the smaller FIBA stage (funny calling the world stage smaller than the national one, but it's absolutely true) has me not only interested, but pretty damn riveted. And while the players and the play are the primary reasons, they are getting an enthusiastic lift from some pretty cool commentary guys.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Black Mamba" versus "Cobra"

In retrospect, Kobe Bryant should have chosen "Cobra" as his handle. Cobras are probably the most notorious venomous snakes in the world. You don't want your nick to be something so specific it borders on obscurity and your average fan will cock an eyebrow at it. You want to choose something a little broader, something that everyone recognizes and associates with deadly-killer-who-strikes-swiftly-and-with-finality (that is what Kobe was going for, right?). Kenny Smith was "The Jet", not "The F-15". Cobras have trademark hoods. Scary. They have rhythm. Beautiful. Black Mamba, on the other hand, sounds a bit feminine.

Now, sound it out. Kobe, Cobra. Cobra Bryant. Kobe "Cobra" Bryant. After he won his 5th championship he could have changed it (in Shaq-style) to be Kobe "King Cobra" Bryant.

No, no adder is as poisonous as a Black Mamba...but come on, what sounds better?

* Apparently Adonal Foyle's nickname was The Cobra. I'm sure Kobe could have taken it like he took the Lakers.

Lebron Spoiling his Family with Front Row Seats

"But I mean, even my family gets spoiled at times watching me doing things that I do, on and off the court."
- Lebron James, GQ Magazine interview

Incredible stuff. If I were to defend his quote...I think Lebron wanted to say that he spoils EVERYONE with his incredible basketball abilities. His ability to shrug his way to a triple double. To drive with the speed of a guard half his size while crushing power forwards and centers with earth shaking force. To shoot, shake, and, *ahem*, crab dribble, his way to seemingly effortless buckets. What Lebron wanted to say was that everyone, even his family, are witnesses. He wanted to take the heat off his quote from late last season. I get it.

What I don't get is the "off the court" stuff. I don't think he's talking about buying homes and cars and better lives for his family and friends, because he specifically uses the verb "watching." What does he spoil them with? Watching him dance? He might be better than Wade and Bosh, but I don't think he's spoiling anyone with his dance moves. He's no Lilou or Hong 10.

His family is spoiled by watching him off the court. What things does he do? Perhaps he's just really good at picking up hot chicks. Maybe it's his looks. Lebron is so funny he spoils them with his jokes? At this point he's much more unintentionally funny with the things that spew from his mouth. He's ripe for a Tracy Morgan spoof on SNL (host it, please!)

I can see him in his mind's room taken physical form, slapping sticky mental notes to the walls. With each *smack* another name is added onto the list, Lebron yelling with the incredulous fury of a schoolyard bully who doesn't understand why teachers, parents, and other kids don't like him. "But I'm the biggest and baddest! I'm a global icon! Lebron James is just doing Lebron and Lebron needs to take his talents to South Beach!"

J.A. Adande of ESPN wrote about Lebron's mental notes and the not so thinly veiled threat they possessed: "What Jordan did do -- and would have done regardless of the era in which he played -- was make good on his threats and hold anyone accountable. Vengeance was his, time and time again. Now that LeBron decided to follow the Jordan route he needs to follow the journey to its natural end point. "

I doubt Mr. Adande truly believes Lebron has it in him. For Lebron, the journey he is taking now isn't natural to him. Jordan was a CCC (Cold Calculated Ciller...errr) since youth. He'd make a list slowly, methodically, and then never, EVER let that name back on his good side again. Lebron is hurt, and vengeful, whereas Jordan has venom running through his veins. I'm not even sure if Jordan had a "good" side in the sense we think is normal. A conversation for another time, but I think the comparisons between the two men really need to stop. Pissed off, feelings-hurt super kid versus wrathful natural assassin. It's like a bull with its balls tied up compared to a...certain kind of snake...hmmm.

On another note Lebron James actually hates Clevelanders, well, a lot of them. ("There's a lot of people in Cleveland we still hate to this day.") Since he "understood a lot of people would be hurt" with his t.v. Decision spectacle, the above quote only affirms his intentions to get back at those he and his crew couldn't stand. Maybe I'm reaching on this one.

The backlash against Gilbert and its coupling with yet another third-person referral ("I don't think he ever cared about Lebron") is understandable. Gilbert deserves James's ire and is waiting for it, while James referring to himself in the third person is OK because that's just what he does. As long as he stops calling himself "King" James. Because a king he is not. He is a duke, riding in with armor and lance to the services of South Beach royalty. He will lend his terrifying blend of speed and brute force to the leader of that team, Dwyane Wade. But just having the most overwhelming blend of talent and physical gifts does not a king make. Nor does a wellspring of hate. MJ may have been the only one true king of the NBA. The closest guy to that moniker in the NBA right now is Kobe Bryant, who's nickname just so happens to be "The Black Mamba".

All hail (insert: revile) Duke James. Being spoiled by watching him no longer refers to the amazing show he puts on, but rather getting caught in the odorous reek of his aura.