Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

WALTON'S WORLD

The spectacular, magnificent world of Bill Walton spins a tie-dyed swirl of knowledge, calculated hyperbole, educational tangents, eccentricity, props and name drops, loyalty, intellectual curiosity, the Grateful Dead, bingo and, of course, basketball. "I am the luckiest guy in the world," Walton says. — John Marshall Associated Press

Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals

Arizona State vs. Oregon State

14:07, first half

Walton to play-by-play man Ted Robinson: Have you ever been to the Dutch Corner on the Alpe d'Huez?

Robinson: No-hooo. I'm guessing it's not in The Netherlands.

Walton: Oh, no. It's in the Alpe d'Huez, one of turns in the Tour de France on the big climb. They're all dressed in orange and it's fantastic.

Robinson: Oh, okay. That's a foul on Eubanks for Oregon State.

•••

A Walton-called basketball game is like performance art, viewers left buzzing and maybe a little confused when it's over.

Basketball, the game Walton loves so dearly, serves as the muse for the psychedelic galaxy spinning in his scholarly mind.

He certainly knows the game. The big redhead grabbed the dynastic torch from Lew Alcindor at UCLA in the 1970s and was named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players despite a litany of injuries. He also was one of the quirkiest pro athletes in any sport, a hippie spirit in tie-dyed shirts attending Grateful Dead concerts, throwing up peace signs and rebelling against the mainstream.

He hasn't really changed since those days, either. The man has a teepee in his backyard.

With a combination of basketball knowledge, supreme intellect — he went to Stanford Law School while injured during his NBA days — eclectic taste and anti-establishment outspokenness, Walton is one of the most unique and polarizing analysts in any sport.

"There's no announcer neutrality with Bill," Robinson says. "You either love Bill or you don't like Bill. If you're interested in the standard basketball broadcast, Bill's not going to be your cup of tea."

•••

13:29, first half

Walton: "Big G (Oregon State's Gligorije Rakocevic) from Montenegro. That's one of the five countries of the former Yugoslavia. You been there yet?"

Robinson: "No."

Walton: "Oh, beautiful, beautiful.

Robinson: "Oh, I have to go."

Walton: "Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Slovenia. Are those the five?"

Robinson: "Yes."

Walton: "I love geography. I love the Conference of Champions. GPII!"

Robinson: "I just love to see (Gary) Payton. Caught that in a rhythm."

•••

Cursed with a stutter when he was younger, Walton seemed about as likely a TV analyst as Jerry Garcia becoming president.

Now once Walton starts talking, he often doesn't stop.

With a Cosellian flair for hyperbole, he'll declare a bad pass "One of the five worst passes in the history of Western Civilization!" or call Arizona "The Thorean standard of the Pac-12 Conference."

Nothing is ever good, it's spectacular, fabulous or magnificent.

Several times a game he takes viewers on tangential rides through topics he finds interesting — and usually have nothing to do with the game.

Walton has brought back air from a Grateful Dead show to open during a broadcast. He rubbed "special dirt" from Temecula on his arms and face, wore a rowing singlet while announcing and played a Cal band member's glockenspiel on air.

Viewers, fellow announcers and producers never know where Walton is going, so everyone is always on their toes.

"You've always got to be listening," says play-by-play man Dave Pasch. "Not that you wouldn't normally with your analyst, but even more so with Bill you've got to have your antenna up constantly because he may say something you have to address in some way, shape or form."

•••

8:36, second half

Walton: Cheikh N'diaye, the 7-footer from Senegal. What an international flavor this conference of champions has. And everybody coming together in Las Vegas. The seventh-busiest airport in the world. And that doesn't include the private planes coming in.

Robinson: Nice lob ... and that's a good job by Jacobsen in there. Let two defenders fly by.

•••

Donning a tie-dyed shirt instead of a suit and tie, Walton sifts through stacks of papers in the minutes before tipoff, writing notes in the few spaces not covered in blue ink. The writing seems like something pulled from a preschool classroom.

"I'm not sure they're in English," Pasch says with a laugh.

But these notes, sometimes stacked 25 pages deep, are the lifeblood of a Walton broadcast, filled with details about players, coaches, the conference, random facts, celebrity birthdays that he can announce on air.

On game days, Walton spends the morning with the teams, often wandering onto the court during shootarounds to talk with a player or a coach — a big no-no to any announcer not named Bill Walton.

He has a natural curiosity about people — just ask the people he works with — and enjoys telling their stories to the world, sometimes for the first time.

"He talks to the players. He works as hard as any analyst I've been around in terms of gathering information from players," Pasch says. "He knows players' parents' names, he knows their backgrounds, their stories and loves telling them."

2:47, second half

Walton: The story of Max Hooper of Oakland University. Last year, they played at Arizona in one of those money games for a team that needs to travel like Oakland University to get some exposure. So Max Hooper, he's got a dad — we all have dads — Chip Hooper, who's a legend in the music industry. Chip has been fighting some very serious health issues while Max has been chasing his dream of playing at Oakland University. So I know Chip from a lifetime of music, instrumental in the music business. Max, on senior day, he hasn't seen his dad in a long time because he's dying of cancer. Tom Gores, owner of the Detroit Pistons, flies Chip Hooper to their final game from California, Northern California, Monterrey, the Big Sur Area. Max has a big game, player of the game, and he runs up the stands and his dad is lying there in a hospital gurney in the arena, and the tears and the sadness. To see Gary Payton here, to see all the dads here, Bud Collins, it all rolls together. Thank you Chip Hooper for everything, thank you Bud Collins.

Robinson: Well, there's a huge swing for Arizona State.

•••

Since recovering from debilitating back pain in the late 2000s, Walton has lived his life at an appreciative slant, filling his lungs with the joy that comes from a second chance. It comes across during his broadcasts in a hurricane of enthusiasm for basketball and all the things he loves most.

Walton refuses to rehearse with his play-by-play man and usually doesn't even want to have conversations before a game.

"I have to be ready for music, economy, geography, populations — it's been amazing how wide the breadth of his interest is," Robinson says.

This is Bill Walton's world. It's specular, fabulous, magnificent.

Comments
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Avalanche

Could tell just how much Ryan Callahan meant in the Lightning dressing room by hearing teammates talk about his latest injury. Steven Stamkos said he was "sick to my stomach." Brayden Point called him a "heart and soul player." Teammates all saw how ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

The good news for the Lightning is that GM Steve Yzerman is hopeful RW Ryan Callahan will be ready to go in 3-4 weeks when his upper body injury is re-evaluated. The hard part, however, is finding someone to replace the veteran wing. "I don’t know if...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Melo cheered, then booed as Knicks spoil his return

Melo cheered, then booed as Knicks spoil his return

NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony got the cheers but the Knicks got the win, shutting out their former All-Star in the second half and beating the Thunder 111-96 Saturday night for their fourth straight victory. Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rangers stay hot against a favorite opponent, the Bruins

Rangers stay hot against a favorite opponent, the Bruins

BOSTON — Mats Zuccarello scored a power-play goal 1:56 into overtime to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Saturday. Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller also scored for the Rangers, who won for the ninth time in 13 games (9-3-1) overall...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Sports in brief

MLBTRADE SENDS KEMP BACK TO L.A.OF Matt Kemp was reacquired by the Dodgers on Saturday as part of a five-player trade with the Braves. The Dodgers sent 1B Adrian Gonzalez, LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Brandon McCarthy, INF Charlie Culberson and cash to Atla...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Mistakes doom Ducks in new coach’s debut

Mistakes doom Ducks in new coach’s debut

LAS VEGAS — Cedrick Wilson caught 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown, safety Kekaula Kaniho returned an interception 53 yards for a score and No. 25 Boise State beat Oregon 38-28 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday. Brett Rypien threw for 362 yard...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: Florida State at Texas12:30 p.m.FS1Women: Georgia Tech at Georgia1 p.m.SECStony Brook at Providence2:30 p.m.FS1North Carolina at Tennessee3 p.m.ESPNSavannah State at Baylor3 p.m.Fox SunWomen: USF at Florida International...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Cabreras team up for first-round lead at Father/Son Challenge

ORLANDO — Two-time major winner Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the Father/Son Challenge. Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in the pop...
Updated: 11 hours ago