Sunday, October 20, 2013

Celebrate To Win, Not To Place Or Show

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

Another way ESPN has changed the world:

Choreographed, and sometimes forced, celebration.


I have not watched “The Price is Right” since I had the mumps and missed school when I was 8. (What a bittersweet week THAT was.) If a lady from Tacoma cries when she wins the Grand Prize Showcase, I respect that. I’ve got to believe she really needed the washer and dryer and the trip to Tahiti.

But if she starts crying for joy, then reaches behind her, grabs a bucket of Gatorade and douses Bob Barker/Drew Carey, my gut tells me she’s not sincere.

Picture Charles Nelson Reilly getting an answer right and then, “overcome with excitement,” diving from the top corner of the Hollywood Squares onto the stage and into either a wash tub or the arms of Rose Marie.

No good. Too planned.

So maybe this is a little scary to share because maybe it means I am getting as old as Mt. Rushmore, but all these football and baseball celebrations and gyrations in games that aren’t for the Big Enchilada seem overwrought with “look at me!” instead of “look at what our team did!”


Baseball now has wild card, one-game playoffs. Tampa Bay won a one-game playoff to advance to the next series and their star pitcher pulled out Silly String and stringed everyone. That is a bit premature as this sort of one-game playoff is not quite like 1951 and Thomson hitting The Shot Heard ’Round the World to decide who goes to the World Series. Besides, four games later, Tampa was out of the race. That’s a lot of wasted Silly String.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were tearing jerseys off each other after beating Atlanta in a best-of-five series last week, but that only advanced them to the League Championship Series. And then there will be the World Series. In other words, the Dodgers still had EIGHT MORE GAMES TO WIN to become world champions.  

So why the goggles for the Beer and Champagne Baths when you still have games to win?

The answer is ESPN. These players grew up watching people celebrate. First it was celebrating a title, but slowly it’s grown into celebrating their time on television. Today’s players are conditioned to perform for television.

When Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, he WALKED OFF THE MOUND. His catcher, Yogi Berra, Berra-hugged him. Sweet.

I watched the 1965 World Series on a DVD recently and when Koufax shut out the Twins in Game 7, he walked off the mound and his teammates hugged him as they hopped toward their dugout. And that was GAME SEVEN!

Thomson and the Giants went crazy in the Polo Grounds in 1951 because they came from four runs down in the final inning to advance to the World Series. Mazeroski’s homer in the 9th won the 1960 World Series and set off a wild celebration at Forbes Field. Nothing scripted. You can watch the replays and still feel authenticity.

Today, with most postseason wins, athletes go overboard. But it’s all they’ve known. TV orchestrates it. With so many sports televised, someone is always celebrating something on sports television. And that’s led to choreographed first-down gyrations in September, end zone dances, Gatorade baths (Make it stop!), and – this is the worst – receivers pretending to whip flags out of their pants, demanding a penalty whenever they don’t catch a pass in tight coverage. Tail wagging dog.

Sports is still the only REAL reality television. Except, sadly, when it’s not.