IRKSOME ISSUES With pitchers and catchers not scheduled to report for another three-and-a-half months, I’ve been in a foul sports mood of late. Time to get a few things off my chest.
  • “Four-peat” after me . . . . With the NBA season upon us, and the mighty Lakers aiming for their fourth straight title, this obnoxious expression has taken hold of sportswriters and sportscasters like an annoying facial twitch. It was somewhat cute the first time Michael Jordan’s Bulls pulled off a “three-peat” (at least the synthetic noun/verb included its origin). Not anymore. How about this: next time a team manages what Bill Russell’s Celtics did during the Sixties, I’ll authorize the use of the word, “eight-peat.” Until then, spare us.
  • “We’re taking the season one game at a time.” Sports clichés are somewhat similar to raking leaves in the fall: a necessary annoyance we suffer for a larger purpose. But this one has got to go. If someone can show me the first athlete to play TWO games at the same time . . . I’ll concede this expression as an informative slice of jock analysis. Otherwise, why not tell us you put on one sneaker at a time? One glove at a time?
  • Grisly grammar. It started the first time I read a Memphis Grizzlies press release that made reference to a “Grizzlie.” Then there was the confusion over our NBA team’s abbreviated nickname: “Griz” in the local and national press, “Grizz” according to the team’s marketing staff. Finally, we have the FedExForum. Three words, two of them abbreviated, no space . . . ahhh! I’m not sure if the Grizzlies need Jerry West or Mrs. Hockenbury, my sophomore English teacher.
  • BCS B.S. Take it from a sportswriter who loves numbers. Statistics will tell you only what the statistician wants you to know. The various algorithms, equations, and permutations that make up the Bowl Championship Series ratings system for college football is an atrocity. If Joe Six-Pack can’t wake up Sunday morning and do the math over breakfast, well, Oz remains behind the curtain. If Miami and/or Oklahoma slips ever so slightly (read: one loss between them), you can be certain Notre Dame will do some leapfrogging and gain a slot in this year’s “championship game,” the Fiesta Bowl. If you don’t believe this, I’ve got a seat for you at the “Televison Ratings Are Everything” annual conference, to be held at Disneyland and sponsored, of course, by ABC.
  • Roster baggage at U of M. I’ve got nothing personal against John Grice or Chris Massie. But what are these guys doing at the Larry Finch Center? Massie made the ill-advised decision to test the NBA draft . . . trouble is, no NBA team chose to test Massie. He’s academically ineligible for the fall semester and will need to pull off the classroom equivalent of a triple-double to play in January. Grice is in his third year as a Tiger and has played all of eight games due to academic shortcomings. I’d like to think basketball is the lifeline toward a degree for these two. I’m afraid the more likely case is they are poster boys for the kind of player John Calipari should ignore on his recruiting ventures.
  • Big Orange bleating. This is a down year for University of Tennessee football. But with the outcry and rails against everyone from Kelley Washington to Casey Clausen to Phil Fullmer, you’d think the Arkansas State squad had transferred to Knoxville. The Vols are 5-3, for crying out loud. They have a more than reasonable chance at going 7-5 (maybe even 8-4) and reaching a bowl game for the 14th(!) consecutive season. My father (a UT alum) told me stories about the trials of Bill Battle when the Orange Army got uptight, and I saw firsthand how the legendary Johnny Majors was fitted for a hangman’s noose. Simply put, the sense of entitlement among Tennessee fans gets tiring in the years UT doesn’t put up 10 wins. Want to find a football program to whine about? Visit the Liberty Bowl.
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