Monday, May 14, 2007
Today on The Press Buffet, I'll be looking at the various ways that sports columnists face impending elimination. I'm not talking about quality restroom time a few hours after hitting the buffet table, I'm talking about the choice of direction any writer must make when his hometown team is in a 3-1 hole and is highly unlikely to make the next round.
Do you rage against the dying of the light? Throw in the towel? Or do you pull a Mariotti and claim your team didn't belong here in the first place?
After the jump, we'll leave our hearts in San Francisco and see if Chicago's still Toddlin'
San Francisco Chronicle
The Warriors thought Oracle magic would carry them, and made a convincing case for it in Game 3, but the Jazz came back inspired by Derek Fisher's courage and Carlos Boozer's raw power to take the series back to Salt Lake. Writers at the San Francisco Chronicle show us two approaches to writing about impending doom.
The Pollyanna approach, taken by Scott Ostler ("C'mon guys, did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?")
I think I saw one fan in the parking lot checking his dipstick with a yellow T-shirt.
If you're sticking around to see how this thing ends, what you should know is that this is a situation made for the Warriors. The wild dogs are underdogs to the bone, and a task like needing to win three in a row, two of the games in Utah, doesn't bother them.
Then there's the seldom seen Respect for a Worthy Opponent approach, taken by Bruce Jenkins:
He was the least detestable person in the arena, the one most difficult to hate. Derek Fisher's story is so powerful, he seems almost a separate entity from the Utah Jazz. And yet there he was, almost single-handedly taking down the Warriors after a night full of Carlos Boozer body blows. If anyone was responsible for the termination of the Warriors' home-court magic in Sunday night's Game 4, it was a friend and former teammate who has more playoff experience than anyone on either team.
In Motown vs. The Windy City, the tone is slightly more leaden, probably because the Bulls turned in three straight overmatched performances before winning game 4, and not in a particularly convincing fashion.
Chicago Tribune (login: firstname.lastname@example.org password: freeharold)
Rick Morrissey gives us the ever popular "Stick a Fork in Us, We're Done" speech, in which he seems to be trying to force clever phrases into every paragraph. I guess you might as well have fun while you're writing the epitaph:
Deep down, Skiles has to know that the Bulls' best isn't good enough. If they had played the way they played Sunday in the first two games in Detroit, they wouldn't have won either game.
(Playoffs!!! Playoffs????? Hell, we were done before the series even started!) /Jim Mora
Mike Downey at least believes the Bulls had a good shot at this series, though he seems to be the only ray of sunshine in gloomy Chicago. Also known as the "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" approach:
Here is how Games 1, 2, 3 and 4 should have gone:
Games 1 and 2 on the Pistons' home court: Blowout, blowout.
Games 3 and 4 on the Bulls' home court: Blowout, blowout.
We should be in the middle of a rock-'em, sock-'em, bang-up NBA playoff series. Detroit 2, Chicago 2.
And then Sam Smith is clearly trying to be the Tony Kornheiser of the Midwest, with his silly, silly jokes. This is the "Go Down Swinging!" school of writing:
When the Bulls show up Tuesday in Auburn Hills, Mich., for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, there should be a coffin in the middle of the locker room as the players gather quietly before the start of the game. Suddenly, the lid would begin to creak and open slowly. Then Scott Skiles would jump out and scream:
"We ain't dead yet!"
Ha ha, ho ha ha ha. That would be a pip.
Demonstrating at least one of the reasons he's such a lightning rod for criticism, Jay Mariotti pulls out the monster stinkbomb "We Lost This Series in the Offseason":
(B)ecome only the fourth team in U.S. pro sports to overcome an 0-3 deficit and win a series, and I'll walk to midcourt like Michael Jordan and smooch the snorting, painted Bull on its nostrils.
For the moment, I'm still thinking Kevin Garnett is a better idea than the current core.
''We're not concerned at all,'' said Rasheed Wallace, the Motor City motormouth.
Clever indeed! First "Hey, I like adjectives!" and then "I told you I was right about KG", and finally "Rasheed is mean". Hey, Jay, you go to war with the Big Ben you have, not the KG you wish you had.
And, finally, the "We're Facing a Superior Team, and the Only Reason We Won Game Four is because They're Toying With Us" debate, which takes too long to type, and as such is rarely employed. Unless you're Rick Telander:
Did the Pistons really care if they won this game, for a sweep, away from home, right now?
Didn't look like it to me.
For instance, if Game 2 star Chris Webber (22 points then, 0 points Sunday) is awake, will someone please notify his teammates?
Basically, the only thing all of the writers can agree on is that hair is the key to basketball. The Warriors are led by a beard with Baron Davis attached, and nearly every Chicago scribe hinted at the theory that Chicago can only win when Big Ben lets the 'fro go.
As a sidelight, I was also interested to see how the opposing papers are covering the Bruce Bowen is a Dirty Rotten Cheater story:
The San Antonio Express News' Mike Monroe reveals that yes, Bowen meant to knee Nash, just not in the Neuticles.
And fair-minded Dan Bickley from the Arizona Republic points out that Nash was already playing like crap before he gave new meaning to "The Tuck Rule".
So, basically, this bowdlerized speech from The Untouchables would seem to sum it up:
Nash: I want to get the Spurs! I don't know how to do it.
D'Antoni: You wanna know how to get the Spurs? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. Bowen sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Phoenix* way! And that's how you get Bowen. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I'm offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?
That's it, I'm spent. I'm off to look through my thesaurus so I can spice up my columns, Mariotti-style.