Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011's Top 10 Flashes In The Pan

In the lobby of my business hotel while on my latest trip, I pawed through a newspaper, mostly to distract myself from the same-old same-old breakfast. In that dead tree of local advertising, I found this small tidbit: Jessica Lynch, the one-time cause celebre / manipulated tool of the American media who wanted to put a blonde white woman in the middle of the Iraqi war effort, has completed a teaching program. She will now, presumably, go further into obscurity, and spend the remainder of her working days trying to duck a decreasing number of guys at paret-teacher nights who want her to talk about her brush with fame.

And kudos to her for that, really; it can't be easy to turn aside dubious stardom for a far more ordinary, albeit sustainable, life. I'm sure that someone offered her five figures and up to disrobe before a camera. It speaks to an odd but potent amount of personal honor, or maybe just shyness, that she had the fortitude to say no to that. It's her life and her choice, and as choices go, that one is pretty great; I hope my grown daughters would, in a similar circumstance, do the same.

But what it made me wonder about is the following; who is important right now in our Blogfrican world that, well, won't be six months from now? And more importantly, will there be any surprise to it at all?

10) Jose Reyes. Hard to say this signing was such a splash now that the Marlins were already trumped by the Angels landing Albert Pujols, but a week later, it's still hard to see what the Fish were thinking. Reyes isn't the type of guy who is going to drag a team to contention, stay "healthy" if the team is out of it and there are no personal goals to achieve, or age well. The only way he'll be relevant outside of fantasy sports again is a trade.

9) Jimmer Fredette. Last week, the Kings made a small under the waves signing: guard Marcus Thornton, who they stole from the Hornets, to a multi-year and suspiciously large contract, at least to people who actually believed that the NBA owners were going to practice austerity given the HORRIBLE FINANCIAL CONDITIONS they've been under. (Wink, wink. Having the media report your lies as fact is fun, isn't it?) Anyway, assuming that Thornton doesn't rest and vest with his new deal, this speaks volumes to what the Kings are going to do at the off guard position; play the unknown athletic black guy who's actually kind of good, rather than the college white boy freak show who will sell jerseys and tickets for a very brief period of time, before the world realizes that unlimited shooting range doesn't translate when half of the league can outquick you. The college game does not translate to the NBA, people...

8) Billy Beane. You could argue that he's not even relevant now, but as the latest same-old same-old sales (hey, Josh willingham hit here a little in 2011; that means he's gone in 2012) and moves of young plus pitchers for dubious returns show, there's nothing new under the sun in Oakland. Which makes anyone with a pulse wonder; why is he still there, when presumably there are other, more plush clubs willing to pay for GM magic? Because (a) he's a part-owner and in there like a fat woman in a hot bathtub, and no other team finds him all that magical. Count the 47 remaining A's fans in that group, by the way.

7) Peyton Manning. Have you noticed how quickly corporate America has moved to new spokespeople during NFL games? It's because no one wants a guy who isn't playing, no matter the reason, and the dirty little secret of Elder Manning is that he really might not ever play again. The lifetime records don't really mean that much (in this pinball football age, they won't last more than 10 years anyway), it's not as if he hasn't banked enough coin in his life to buy a country or six, and if he leaves now, he gets to keep his health, his reputation, and his one laundry icon image. Especially if/when the Colts suck into Luck. And it's not as if any new team's fan base is going to be very understanding of any struggles or patient in any way. This way lies Favre...

6) Kobe Bryant. Not exactly a good week for the best 2-guard of this century; he loses his best 2-way teammate (Lamar Odom) for nothing of tangible value, the team signs a defensive hole (Josh McRoberts) to play the 4, and after David Stern caves to small marketeers, the club more or less emasculates what's left of Pau Gasol. Coach Phil Jackson is gone, and the boarder Clips are now the chic pick in front-runner LA. Oh, and he's got more miles on his legs than a Kenya marathoner.

Does he pule for, or get, a trade? Unlikely. Can the team bring in Dwight Howard, Superman-like, to make them relevant again? Can't imagine it; there are no young assets here that make sense for Orlando to start over with, and after that Shaquille O'Neal experience, you had to think that Orlando isn't anxious to continue the trend of sending great big men to Staples. Can Andrew Bynum stay healthy while becoming a top five option in the pivot? Hell no; Bynum can't even stay on the court when he is healthy now, having gone all Wrestling Heel on JJ Barea in the foldo sweep against the Mavs last year. Add it all up, and it spells the long dark twilight. At least he's getting paid. A lot.

4) Bill Cowher. Here's a fun little fact about coaching NFL games that the national media never seems to get: you really shouldn't do it into, say, your '50s. By that point, you are old enough to be well and truly out of touch with your players, and you are also, due to the continuingly curious hiring standards of NFL ownership, not likely to be their skin color. You're going to be out of shape while demanding that they be in it. You are going to be stuck in an offensive and defensive mode of play calling that was forged 20-30 years ago, for the most part, without enough adjustment and evolution into stuff that actually works now. You will also be far more likely to have grown children that demand your time; you neglect them at your peril. And you just find yourself passing out at your desk if you try to live the same hours as an obsessive 20-something.

This is why young men win the World Series of Poker. This is why old coaches that go into broadcast booths never seem to leave them. And this is why Bill Cowher, who left on his own accord and will never, ever, walk into a situation with better ownership or a more forgiving fan base, ain't taking big dollars to go to Jacksonville or Miami or Kansas City or any other place you can mention. But he's very flattered that you all keep pining for him.

3) Chris Berman. There is no better tenured position for a celebrity in America than to be a sportscaster. You don't have to be good at your job, funny, likable or even self-conscious enough to understand that your worth in this world is maybe a thousandth of what you think it is. All you need is for the viewing habits of the public to not change, and for the most part, they don't. The people who have been watching the World Wide Lemur now have been doing it for so long that they just don't think about it. Seriously, when's the last time you actively thought about which channel you were putting on for pre or post-game timewaste?

So why will this change? Because cable is going (has to go) to a la carte pricing; the economy, and the ever-growing number of cord-cutters, especially among young people without ingrained habits (i.e., the people that advertisers absolutely have to reach), demands it. When that happens, the gross numbers for ESPN go down, and the bean-counters there will start to put a hard eye on what they can live without. Oh, and add to that point the little joy that is the NFL getting bigger and bigger contracts from them. All of which is eventually going to lead to some suit asking this asshat to take a 30-40% pay cut or retire. One assumes that won't taste too good, and a diminished role will ensure. And the ratings... won't change a whit. But your life will be better, really. So enjoy that when it happens.

2) David Stern. Oh, he's not going away anytime real soon; we'll still be looking at his craven puss in June as he makes some awkward speech on the floor at the Finals, and tries to ignore the boos (good luck with that) from any sentient fan. But he's got about as much credibility now with the players and media as a Wall Street lobbyist. From the lockout lies to the Chris Paul debacle, piling up on top f the Seattle screwjob and the Vancover screwjob and the enforced white man's wear for players that could buy and sell him on the open market... it's all old, old, old. No one likes, respects, or fears him anymore, and as soon as the Hornets are sold off, he'll be about as relevant as Bud Selig in MLB. And possibly less well-liked. (Wow.) So why on earth should he stay, other than spite?

1) Tim Tebow. The overwhelming answer to this question, if only because QBs that take 20-30 hits a game by design can't possibly have a long NFL career. Independent of any other factor at work here -- the massive media coverage, the clear flint eye from his own management, the sense that every wacky running game play gets schemed and solved with a quickness in the NFL (remember the WILD! Cat?)... this ain't going to last. It just can't. So, you know, enjoy it while you can, crucisniffers....

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