10 most overrated events in sports
This occurred to me last weekend as I listened to CBS's Jim Nantz whispering over the piped-in chirps of birds and Windham Hill piano music: The Masters golf tournament isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's special, sure. Beautiful course, no doubt. Prestigious to win, of course. But is it really a "tradition unlike any other''? It's just the whole arrogant attitude that the Masters is the only true golf tournament that rubs me the wrong way. Much of the blame for that goes to CBS's coverage, but, over the years, the Masters certainly has played a major role in the propaganda.
So it got me thinking about events or happenings in sports that are overrated, not as special as we are led to believe. The list is longer than 10, but these are the first 10 that come to mind.
Poker on TV
Don't tell me it's not a sport because every time I turn on one of the ESPNs, I'm looking at some guy in a cowboy hat going "all in.'' People must watch it because every network this side of C-SPAN shows it, and I would not be shocked to see Senatorial No-Limit World Series of Poker any day now. I can hear it now, "Arlen Specter is hoping for a diamond or a seven on the river.'' I don’t get it. Playing poker is fun. But watching others play it? It's like watching someone fish or hunt. Where's the appeal? Bunch of guys in dark glasses and really stiff hats promoting a poker Web site who look like they haven't showered in four days staring at cards while playing for money that I can’t win. If Gabe Kaplan can become a star again doing this, there's something inherently wrong with it.
National signing day
Some kid I've never heard of … from some high school I've never heard of … from some town I've never heard of sits at a table and puts on a hat. There ya go. That's signing day. Then some analyst I've never heard of tells me what a coup this is for the school whose hat the kid is now wearing. Then we get accosted with lists from other people we've never heard of telling us which schools had the best day, and we get upset if our school is not on the list and we start Web sites like FireJoePaterno.com because the "old man can't recruit anymore!'' Tell you what, have your national signing day and I'll tell you in four years who had the best recruiting class.
Don't know the athletes and don't care about them. They might be great kids. I'm sure I'll hear about how they get up at 3 in the morning to train before going to their grandmother's funeral and then straight to their treatments for the rare and life-threatening disease they contracted while working in a shelter for abandoned kittens. Still don't care. I have never heard of them and it's impossible to get excited about watching them in a sport that I never watch except for every four years when it's rammed down my throat. The Games do give us special moments — Mary Lou Retton, Mark Spitz, 1980 hockey team — but there aren't enough of them to justify wading through the other 172 hours of coverage. I'll wait for the Cliffs Notes — the Bud Greenspan documentaries.
College bowl season
Only two games matter. The national championship and the bowl with my alma mater. But are there only two bowl games? Nope, there were 30 more than two bowls last season. Cincinnati vs. Southern Miss? Central Michigan vs. Purdue? Fresno State vs. Georgia Tech? Those were actual bowl games last season. I wouldn't be interested in these games on a rainy day in early September and yet these games, theoretically, are supposed to be the among the elite of the season. Rule of thumb: If Detroit and Boise, Idaho, are hosting, the college bowl season is too long.
Major-league baseball All-Star week
It starts with the Home Run Derby. I get it. Big-leaguers can hit home runs off of fat 65 mph fastballs. Seeing a slugger belt a homer in a game is cool. Seeing the same slugger belt like 12 of 14 pitches for homers off the bullpen catcher is like counting sheep. After about six homers in the first round, it starts to get boring no matter how many times Chris Berman yells, "Baack, baack, baack … '' Then comes the game, which is about as close to a real game as an All-Star Game can be, but you're still not going to see a pitcher back up a hitter or a runner take out a shortstop on a double play. So while we're at it, let's throw all the All-Star games, especially football's Pro Bowl — a game that even the players don't want to attend — on the list.
The Kentucky Derby
Weeks of buildup and hours of pregame for a two-minute race, and I bet 99 percent of the country can't name either a horse, owner or jockey and don't have the slightest idea of what’s exactly in a mint julep.
Here's what kills me. Teams draft players then immediately trade them. In 2007, six players in the first round ended up being traded almost as soon as they were drafted. In 2006, the number was eight, including one guy who was traded twice. In 2005, there were seven players drafted out of high school or from another country. In 2004, that number was 14, including three from Russia and two from Slovenia. So here's what you end up with: My team takes a guy I possibly never have seen play, but wait, that's not my guy because we just traded him for another guy I've possibly never seen play. And, oh, yeah, the first round takes like three hours. No thanks, I'll catch up on opening night.
Always on the short list of the best rivalries in sports, but USC-Notre Dame hasn't been "USC-Notre Dame'' in years. The 2005 football game was good with the top-ranked Trojans taking on the No. 9 Irish. But throw out that season and the last time USC and Notre Dame both finished in the top 10 in the AP poll was 1989. The last time they finished in the top six together was 1974. Simply put, this game hasn't decided the national championship in decades, the teams are not in a conference together and it isn’t a backyard brawl. Just because they play every year doesn't make it a great rivalry. Right, Army-Navy?
The Indy 500
When I think of the Indy 500, I think of Frankenberry cereal, Studio 54 and the waa-waa-waa-waa theme song to Sanford and Son. Those were things that were way hip in the 1970s and are irrelevant today. It's not even the best race of the day let alone the best race of year.
Around the Horn
ESPN does a lot of great things on television. This isn't one of them. The roundtable show during which four sports writers — usually men, usually white, usually middle-aged — scream at one another comes off as way too scripted. It doesn't even remotely resemble an actual conversation about sports, not with yelling for the sake of yelling, cornier insults than a Dean Martin roast and the guests spewing off numbers they can't possibly know off the top of their heads. Seriously, you think Woody Paige just happens to know how many quality starts Gil Meche had over the past four seasons? Pardon the Interruption works so well because hosts Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon are themselves and talk like two regular sports guys. Around the Horn fails because the guests don't appear to be themselves and aren't likeable.