Friday, June 24, 2016

Any Given...oh, I see what you did there.

Ramblings Post #316
Stumbling can be a good thing. Sometimes that stumble can help you right yourself, help you spot flaws you didn't even know you had. Stumbling can occasionally lead you to new things and new ideas. This is figuratively speaking mind you. Literally it means you may have to get a really good pair of shoes repaired. 
This guy got a TV show?
I'm not sure who Bill Simmons is or why he has a show on HBO. I'm vaguely aware he worked for ESPN, or maybe batted third for the Piscataway Pit Birds like 15 years ago. He sounds like he used to do color commentary for Junior League golf or the Western Maine Curling association, you know, something like that. But I'm sure of one thing: His new show might be worth watching. Although Simmons comes across - and dresses exactly like - an extremely well-off suburban dad who just happens to have former NBA players and movie stars as neighbors, his first broadcast indicates one thing about the show that all other sports talk shows lack : the willingness show unsanctioned outrage. 

If you've ever watched a sports show you know only properly sanctioned outrage is allowed. For example, SportsStar X does something despicable - punches a baby, elbows a nun, posterizes someone's grandmother - and the sports reporters all express a kind of properly worded, carefully temperate anger at the situation. Or Team 55 makes a horrible play or executes egregiously poor sportsmanship, and cue the middle of the road even handed admonishment. Every so often a veteran reporter will quietly, but professionally, mention that they disagree with an official league action - doesn't matter which league - but that's about all the fury you might get. They can't bite the hand that feeds them. For all that access, big time sports reporting has become for the most part a PR wing of professional sports. Sports Radio is still kicking and screaming, thank god, but at the national level it's all rather bland. Sometimes PTI gets it, but mostly bland.

So flipping through the channels I spotted this new show, Any Given Wednesday, and stopped to see what it was. The first guest I saw, Charles Barkley was suitably feisty. But then Barkley once threw a man through a window, feisty is expected, although he's mellowed a bit to now we cheerfully refer to him as "a character." And then some reason probably having to do with a promise over drinks, Ben Affleck was invited to Simmons super fake looking living room set that looks like the house it would be would be in would be featured in Architectural Digest. Not real relaxed, fake relaxed. They joshed and joked. It was genial. Then, Simmons asked Affleck about Deflate-gate. 

It was like watching a Twitter meme explosion happen in real-time. Ben Affleck turned into the Boston sports fan nut that calls into the radio station to argue with the DJ - from his bedroom in his mother's basement, where he sleeps on Red Sox sheets under a poster of Larry Bird while wearing Boston Bruins PJs. He let loose in a rant that included shots at the league, the media, opposing teams and anyone else who might doubt that the Pats are greatest team ever and made it clear that this whole thing is based on pure jealousy. It was in a word, beautiful. And I didn't agree with a single thing he said. Not one. I am stunned that the show aired it.

Untethered from a sports network, and using no footage, the show might just be able to get away with poking holes in the polished front that is modern sports reporting. For a while. Right up until the leagues start "suggesting" their talent, former or otherwise, just not drop by. 

Until then, this might just finally be some good sports television.  

Barkeep. Next time, make sure they have beer. No, they need whiskey. And give him an hour.

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