Whoa Nelly, you”ve got to love sports!

Paul Wong
Chris Kula: Unsung Ann Arbor

But more appropriately, you”ve got to love sports cliches, because once you get to March Madness, it”s a whole new season and anything can happen.

On any given night, a different cliche can come out, give 110 percent and prove it belongs in the upper echelon of trite, overused commentary.

I really think a super-secret, Stonecutters-like contingent of television broadcasters declared an embargo on original thought circa 1975, leaving the sports-viewing American public no choice but to step up its intensity in the face of adversity and choke down the kind of verbal swill that”s just as common to sporting arenas as any beer brewed in St. Louis and twice as stale.

The play-by-play of smarmy, plastic-haired announcers like oh, wait everyone, ranks on a scale of mental anguish (with one being a light, midday dream of a unicorn tea party and 10 being a sadistic, Wild Turkey-fueled groping at the hands of a Tuscaloosa junkyard employee named Ceephus), somewhere around a hard eight. And you just can”t teach that.

These broadcast guys are perennial contenders for the prestigious Stating the Obvious Championship, which entails stiff competition from the worlds of meteorology (“February will start the same way January ended cold”) and the hosts of “E! Wild On” (“Being full-body massaged while sipping a Mai Tai and watching the sun set over your secluded, South Pacific beach is a nice way to spend a Saturday.”)

But by bringing their A-game of such brilliant insights as “It”s a game of two halves” and “We don”t play these games on paper,” sports commentators highly touted rookies and seasoned veterans alike have the ability to break the game wide open, swing the momentum in their favor and say exactly what we already know. Statistics don”t lie.

And it”s a total team effort, too, because the play-by-play crew can always rely on their on-the-sidelines counterparts to provide investigative injury reports (“Steve, judging by the massive ice pack being taped to Talley”s shoulder, it appears as if he”s injured his…shoulder”) and gripping interviews with players” girlfriends, grandmothers and girlfriends” grandmothers. That”s just pure fundamentals.

The prototypical announcing team consists of the ber-smooth play-by-play guy, most likely a graduate of a broadcast journalism program and, so, an epic tool, and his color commentary partner, in most cases a former player/coach. At least once a game, Mr. Play-By-Play will subtly reference Mr. Color”s once-great playing career, saying something like, “Kenny, you knew a thing or two about scoring titles, didn”t you?” to which Mr. Color will chuckle humbly and reply, “Only if you mean high golf scores!” and they”ll have a good laugh, even though Mr. Color is really thinking, “My wife sleeps with a six-time All-Star, six-time All-Star.”

And if there”s a color commentator with a particularly colorful background, such as former basketball great and self-professed “huge Deadhead” Bill Walton, you can expect to hear some horribly hackneyed attempts at connecting two disparate topics like hoops and psychedelia. For example: “Ron, that fast break was executed as smoothly as the “Scarlet Begonias” into “Fire on the Mountain” from 3/18/77.”

But the on-air method that absolutely haunts me is the forced banter that follows the contractually-obligated plug of a network sitcom: Mr. Play-By-Play uses a cheesy little segue in order to give the day and time, and then joins Mr. Color in singing the show”s praises, often while the cameraman trains his lens on the show”s star, who”s conveniently sitting in the bleachers.

Just once, I”d love to hear this dialogue:

Jim: And Avery Queen enters the game for the Wolverines. Speaking of Queen, TV Guide has called “The King of Queens” one of the funniest shows on television. See for yourself, Mondays at 8 p.m., only on CBS. Billy, do you ever watch “The King of Queens”?

Billy: I do, Jim, and it is some vile trash!

Jim: Ha ha … trash indeed, Billy.

Billy: Now me? Jim, I like a good “A-Team” re-run on F/X.

Jim: (growling) The BA stood for bad attitude.

Billy: Jim, I”ll tell you what: There”s no question about it: The bottom line is: You couldn”t stop Mr. T, you could only hope to contain him.

Chris Kula lets the game come to him every Thursday. Give him feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at ckula@umich.edu

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