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.