Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I would sing some carols to you, but that's not why I'm here.

To get you in the spirit, I made a commercial for you.
May your holidays be happy [and holy] and safe!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sports Entertainment -- Aaaaah, It BURNS!!

You know when you normally play a game like Trivial Pursuit, you get assorted categories for questions. For example, you'll get the categories of Sports, History, Science & Nature, Arts & Entertainment, People & Places, and other categories depending on which version you play. Say you get the topic of professional wrestling. That is considered to be "sports entertainment." What category does that fall under? I'm dead serious...would it be in Sports or Arts & Entertainment?

We'll look into this topic during a special edition of Politically Incorrect with AnimaniacZero!

Hello, everyone! We're going to talk about the term "sports entertainment" today. How about we look at an Urban Dictionary entry of it?
Sports Entertainment - The biggest curse word for people who are fans of professional wrestling (TNA, ROH, indy promotions).

There you have it. It's practically taboo for those who are die-hard fans of the concept of professional wrestling. I've been a wrestling fan for many, many years, and there are things I enjoy about it that some people don't. Once of which is the kind of writing and booking that is involved--I do theater, so deal with that statement. Sure, that might add the "entertainment" part to it, but hear me out on this one.

Isn't sports a form of entertainment to begin with?
This is the main point I've wanted to bring up. It's like saying "ATM Machine" when that expression is clearly wrong. I'll admit, the addition of the business being "fake" results to the placing of the emphasis on the entertainment, but hello? Isn't there some form of athleticism involved to begin with? Let's not forget the roots. Before the blowing up of the booking business during the late 1990's with the Monday Night Wars, we all thought it was just guys grappling with each other and just talked trash on each other day in and day out. Now, those who are older (and smarter, mind you) can see through a lot of the "storylines" and predict stuff. Sure, I'll agree that it sucks the fun out of plots and angles, but when you've watched wrestling for so many years and have seen certain things happen so many times before, it's really hard not to draw conclusions and what have you.

During my debate a few weeks ago, I mentioned how I'm a real sucker for athleticism and how that alone can tell a story about a sport and what is needed to make a big impact. When it comes to that, I pretty much throw storylines out the window. For example, watch this match. There's a story behind it, but the moves and emotions tell enough of a story so that you don't need to know the original angle of it all. Make sure you watch the whole thing too. You'll see what I mean.

Here's another thing that's like nails on a chalkboard to me: they're not wrestlers or athletes--they're "entertainers" and "superstars." Let's not forget that some of you were fitness models and pro sports rejects once upon a time; you're considering yourselves in the ranks of actors and actresses now? You're funny. When you have absolutely no knowledge of grappling or striking, the smarter fans are going to notice, and you're going to get heat. For example, watch this trainwreck. It's really bad. I can't watch it all the way through, it's so bad. But I digress.

The one thing that I'll had to these "entertainers" though is that they know how to put on a show. I went to my first WWE show on November 29th in Philadelphia [WWE King of the Ring, whoop whoop], and the live atmosphere is pretty awesome. Sure, you can't change the channel when a squash match is on, but you're still there laughing about it with people that share the same feelings that you have. Yes, I go wild for a couple of guys (lol, check the Twitter sometimes on Mondays and you'll see what I mean) so a lot of things from that night disappointed me, but the endurance and "selling" shown by a lot of the guys was great to see live and somewhat up-close.
[Do I have photos of this event? Yes, but I feel like the WWE Corporate Police will eat me alive because they practically rule the world along with Disney and Oprah Winfrey.]

But let me say this before I go too far off-topic--it's still a sporting event to me. I was actually watching the movie Highlander last week and in the beginning of the movie the main character is at a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden (WWE's Mecca, as it were) featuring The Fabulous Freebirds. From the way it was portrayed, the athleticism and striking appeared real and there was no talk of storylines and how high the workers were on the corporate ladder. It was all about the sports. Bam. Argument made. Sure, there's a huge business underneath it all, but it wasn't so obvious back then.

Even in the independent promotions it's not very obvious...hmm, maybe because they actually focus more on wrestling. I point at Ring of Honor Wrestling when I say that. Sure, there's booking and inside stuff involved, but the guys tell their stories through wrestling, whereas promotions like WWE and TNA do more of their storytelling through "complicated" storylines, show vignettes and promos, and outrageous acting spots. Do I hate that? No, not necessarily, but sometimes the athleticism and the acting doesn't mesh very well at times. A lot of people may agree with me on this, so I don't feel stupid in saying that.

In conclusion, I heavily dislike the term "sports entertainment." Sports should already entertain. Even though wrestling entertains more than most, the usage of "entertainment" sort of...overdoes it. If I want more entertainment, I'll go downtown to see a musical or something. If I want to go to a wrestling event, I want to see some athleticism and some hard work. The lights and music are kind of a bonus.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

AZ's Slant on Sunday - Yao-za!


Let's get a quick rundown of the big guy I'm going to be talking about right now:
(Music Please)

Yao Ming
Age: 30
Height: 7' 6"
Weight: 310 lbs.
Center for Houston Rockets

Okay, we have a Chinese giant on our hands. He's been gifted with height, ergo he was shown the ways of the basketball.
However, as of late, he's been having issues like this... (Yes, I went there)

What does this mean for the future of the gentle giant? It's not good. With as many injuries in such short time, it's going to take down some of his credibility and his overall ability on the court. Let's be honest here, kids, once someone starts getting hurt over time, they can get a little rusty. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, right? Sure, he's 30, but guess what? It's his ankle. Constant wear and tear on something like the ankle or foot can be absolutely pivotal on a player's future.

Come to think of it, it also does a world of hurt on the international involvement in American basketball. Remember that Spanish kid--what's his name? Ricky Rubio? Yeah, him. See, international impact is so thinly spread in this country that I can't even remember his name. He even caught on with my drift and didn't bother signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves last year. Heck, Allen Iverson went to Turkey to play basketball. That's how "uncool" we are, I guess. But honestly, when was the last time the NBA got a really huge international star playing on our soil? I can't even find that. Someone else probably could.

Without doubt, the advertising world sans-Ming for another season is going to lead to...well, more reason to hire another tall guy like Shaq to represent the height required to be considered a big NBA star. Believe me when I say this: when you're unique, you will be used to draw attention. Self-explanatory. I feel like we're back in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show again or something with the sensational attraction methods, but seriously, that's what guys like Yao and Shaq are mainly used for (honestly, it's not so much Shaq anymore...he's made a bigger name for himself, finally).
Example: Yao + Vern = Obvious.

But I digress in these cases. A hurt man can result in a hurt product, resulting in hurt relations around the country and in foreign audiences. It sucks, but what are you going to do? Accidents happen. I bet Yao will be a good sport about it. He'll still promote and do what he can while off the court.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From the Field to the Booth - A Lifelong Obsession

(Originally drafted in October [yes, October], this was completed in memory of Don Meredith) 
Michael Strahan, Cal Ripken, Jr., Alexi Lalas, Don Cherry, the list goes on and on.
Is it a case of a real love for the sport that the person just can't stay away, or is it just flat out annoying and they need to retire completely?

In thinking about this topic, you have to ask the question: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" No really, I'm serious. Many of the sports broadcasters that you see time and time again have experienced the game from the field long before they wear a suit and tie before a video camera. Sure, some guys first retire, then go fish or golf for a few years, compete on Dancing with the Stars, or maybe even get into trouble with the law. Today, some retirees call that the beaten path. Why? Nobody really knows. In today's day and age, people over 65 are still working and trying to make themselves useful. That leaves the younger folk to go: "Hey, we have college degrees and credentials and awesome hair and stuff. What about us???" It's okay, guys. I feel your pain.

Anyway, reverting back to the age-old question, wouldn't you think that it's a lot more effective to have a guy who has experienced these kinds of things to be talking about them? I mean, if they've had a career of 15+ years and still have a brain that's more than intact to speak of these experiences, they will obviously know enough to educate the audience and give them stronger insight. Not just players, but coaches who have led future legends through their paths to greatness have also proven themselves worthy enough to provide a decent enough opinion on management and choices of play. Agreeing with me now? If you don't care and refuse to agree with me because retired guys annoy you, I think Mr. John Madden should shoulder block you through a wall.

But in all seriousness, their move to the booth isn't a cheap way of saying "I can't get away from the sport." It's almost like another marriage; it could also be compared to the priesthood. For example, the former player/coach loves the sport so much that they put it on themselves to continue to teach and continue to entertain. It's their calling. I guess we can throw the ultimate irony card out there too because when a particular guy tries to get another job after their "sporting retirement" it just so happens to dance around what they originally did in their prime. But then there are really nice cases in which players take their love and pride and not abuse their knowledge and pasts in their sport.

I'd like to take the time out to note an example of what I mentioned above. His name is Doug Glanville. A native of the country of New Jersey [please laugh at the South Park reference], he played for the Chicago Cubs, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Texas Rangers over the course of about eight years. He also went to the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in systems engineering. In other words, he's insanely smart, and I'm super jealous of him. Anyway, he has a vast knowledge of marketing, and after his retirement from baseball, he worked in a marketing firm, and then began writing sports columns. Today, he works for ESPN and writes columns and even books. Saying this wholeheartedly, you should read some of his stuff. It's very, very good, and it shows a lot of knowledge and passion about what he had seen not just in the sport aspect, but from the business and the dark sides of it.

See? That's what we all like about the guys that come back to analyze sports! The PASSION! That's what we want! It's not about the money, it's not about the fame, it's all about the love and passion and drive they get from talking about something they love.

Here's another example, and I'm going to use one of the greats that we have just lost recently. I'm talking about Don Meredith. After playing his whole NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys, he joined Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford on Monday Night Football. Although he had a controversial mouth at times, he was seen as comic relief and brought a lighthearted atmosphere to the broadcast booth. C'mon, he sang Willie Nelson for cripes' sake. He was a funny guy who knew when to show dryness and grit.

I think I've stated my case well enough. You can never live without certain people poking in and out of your life. It's like acquaintances you had in high school: you might not have ever been super close with them, but you can always count on them to give you advice and provide an opinion as an outsider looking in on a situation they might have been through before.

As for the young'ns striving for opportunity, get ready to fight with me. 
TONIGHT, WE DINE IN... you get it.


Monday, December 13, 2010

You Want Foul Play? FINE!

Although I may have just begun to follow the NFL on a consistent basis this season, it feels like more and more dangerous hits are being recognized on local television from teams outside of the city I live in. Not just that, these players giving these hits are receiving massive fines left and right for what can be considered a "blatant hit."
Are fines the answer to this? Do these athletes really mean to dish out these nasty-looking hits?

We'll find out the answer to this on today's episode of...The Sports Nut Court.

Today we're going to look into some cases in which certain players have been slammed and exactly why they are in such deep issues. Here at The Sports Nut Court, we try to get all of the facts and start to figure out why the foul play is bringing about the excessive fines and hassle. Let's bring out our defendant before Judge AnimaniacZero:

And here we are. Mr. James Harrison, 32 years of age, and throughout the past 14 weeks, he has garnered four pretty-looking fines under his belt. I won't lie, some of the hits he's dished out look pretty devastating. Here's the big issue though: as nice as the guy is and as much as he didn't mean the hits, he still hit the guys and also showed some unsportsmanlike conduct. In his defense, it's rather ridiculous how he's getting slammed in vicious amounts in a particular period of time.

In any case, he isn't the only guy that has been on this end of infamy. Many other players (and even members coaching staffs) have been accused of rough hits and disorderly conduct resulting in massive fines and massive hair/dread pulling. A couple of weeks ago, a sports analyst on Twitter (the name escapes me at the moment...why do I think it's Deion Sanders for some reason?) noted that money shouldn't be an answer to every hit and every instance of bad conduct. Although suspensions have become all too common in other sports, fines could be regulated in a much more honest fashion. Factors for fines that could be looked at are: status on the team--i.e. rookie, veteran, just a typical idiot that opposing fans absolutely hate--the salary of the player in question (which, in my opinion, is a really good idea), and the list of other offenses that have been committed in the past. I'll admit that a lot of the guys "up top" in the NFL are very trigger-happy and don't like to think things through when it comes to penalization.

Something that has to be taken into account with these hits is that not all of them are done on purpose. After seeing a dangerous hit on DeSean Jackson in October, players had said that the hit wasn't done on purpose although it was as ruthless as it looked on television and on the field. The guy was penalized of course, but what else could have been done? It's not like he followed through with more disorderly conduct and celebrated the hit that caused a concussion. It's like the saying that some people don't even know their own strength. That, and the hear of the competition can really blind the moment of actually hurting someone. Believe me, that does happen sometimes.
[Flashback: When I was in a soccer tournament at Fort Dix, New Jersey one year, I was running backwards and saw one of my teammates move a girl off of the ball. This girl on the other team literally flew and landed sideways on her knee. When she screamed, it was one of those "forced out screams" when you're in so much pain you can't even scream or react loud enough for the pain to lessen. I didn't exactly see what happened to her until she was on the stretcher, but we then saw that her kneecap was so far to the right on her knee that it looked like a contortionist's knee. At any rate, I know for a fact that my teammate didn't do that on purpose. It's not like she really wanted to knock the girl's kneecap out on purpose. That kind of stuff happens.]

Verdict: Here at the Sports Nut Court, we wish the best of all of the athletes in a high contact sport. But when it comes to freak accidents and stupid, honest mistakes, you can never really find an effective way to "punish" someone, for the lack of a better word to describe it. We can all be thankful that these athletes have the money to compensate for these happenings, but I'm not sure if we can prevent these freak accidents unless if the sport ended altogether. However, I doubt people would want to see that happen. It's like saying we can prevent freak car accidents during inclement weather by not going out and driving in that stuff. But people do it anyway. So--what can be done? Something that seems reasonable and smart. This mindless fining method needs to be fixed so the NFL doesn't look like the Catholic church according to those from the outside looking in.