Saturday, June 7, 2008

On The Sprain and ESPN's Inability To Cover Sports Like Adults

I used to love SportsCenter, because it was so clever: it seemed to me like the anchors spent hours dreaming up weird and funny stuff to say on television. It was a product of the talent that they had at the time: Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, Charley Steiner, Craig Kilborn, Rich Eisen, Kenny Mayne, etc. These guys were funny, so the show was funny. Even straight-arrows like Jack Edwards did the show professionally.

But once these guys left, the wit they brought to the set became institutionalized. Now the jokes make themselves, the moments of pathos seem hackneyed, and the show has become devoted to the lowest common denominator in sports coverage. In this case, it's Paul Pierce's knee.

In Friday night's SportsCenter, they led off by taking five minutes to talk about whether Paul Pierce really hurt his knee or not, emphasizing his quick return to the court. They played some skeptical comments from Phil Jackson and relayed the to the Celtics, and voila!, they had a story. A friend from Boston asked me what I thought, when I had hardly thought about it at all. The reason? The Celtics had already divulged what the injury was and all of Pierce's symptoms fit with it perfectly.

Have you ever sprained something? Has anyone at ESPN? Maybe John Anderson running into a copier, or Neil Everett rupturing a vocal chord while screaming? Well, here's what happens: you hear a pop, sh*t hurts like hell, and then you figure out the extent of the injury. If it's a minor sprain, the pain will stay somewhat constant. If it's a major sprain, it'll get worse. Pierce had a minor sprain, but it was a minor one, so he was able to come back. He'll be in serious pain during game two.

Is it too much to ask for ESPN to do this simple, obvious analysis?

At this point, I'm afraid it is. People want to talk about the aesthetics of the Celtics victory rather than how they did it — shut down those little pieces of crap that are the Lakers second-tier players, play great D on Kobe, hold up a mirror to Gasol's face. They gave about three minutes to this, after the knee talk. Maybe after game two they can get renowned sprain expert Lisa Turtle to weigh in on whether Pierce is still faking it. I hear she's available.

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