Partial as I am to hopeless causes and sporting tragedy, I have been watching a lot of Wildcats basketball lately. This amounts to a terrible relapse for me, considering that I grew up in Cleveland, where life itself often appears to be a hopeless tragedy. But even there, it drags on, toxins, tumors and all.
In Cleveland, as resilient a cursed town as you'll find, it ain't the paint fumes and the steel mills you need to worry about. It's the sporting life that'll kill you. But despite all the lovable and lamentable losers over the years, Clevelanders were always blessed with an excellent sports culture, if it is possible to marry those two words. (Rather than opera and ballet folklorico, think of mold growing on a pair of socks that has been buried in the bottom of a locker for two months--at the very least, artfully grotesque.)
Part of that culture was being able to count on our local "homer" sports announcers to make the games as interesting and exciting as possible, all cursed things considered.
I must interject here that radio play-by-play man Joe Tait will forever haunt my dreams. He was a cruel man who--with the sheer force of his educated and elastic voice--made me believe time and again that our teams could rise to greatness, only to crush each foolish fantasy with the bitter truth, one perfectly described play at a time.
But never mind all that. I have long since spurned the demons of my youth and replaced them with a far more tantalizing and immediate source of disappointment: the Arizona Wildcats men's basketball team. Year after year, loaded with expertly recruited and well-coached talent, my adopted team makes me believe that it might--just might--emerge as king of the NCAA hill. And every year but one, they have failed to believe it themselves. Just like old times, except for that glorious, miraculous one.
And the culture. The culture here consists of old rich folks sitting on their complacent hands at McKale Center and then leaving before the game ends, the lamest student section west of the Mississippi and basketball know-nothings screaming for the head of one of the greatest coaches of all time. Those of us who can't afford to go to the games all the time get a television profile that makes you crave the radio. I had to laugh when I read an article in the daily rag a while back about how the current cable network of choice (ahem) is such a good deal for the Pac-10. Well, sure, if you define "deal" the way my Uncle Nicky the Teamster did. By any other definition, it sucks.
Consider a recent viewing experience. After anxiously waiting for food in a restaurant, I burst in on the hoop posse just in time to see--not the tip-off, but the foregone conclusion of some other totally irrelevant Pac-10 game! Nearly five minutes into the Arizona game, after we were forced to endure every last second of a desperate fouling charade staged by two schools 1,000 miles away, we were finally permitted to watch--a pack of commercials. A couple of minutes later, the screen went black, just long enough to hide one of the most exciting plays of the game. Wow. What a great deal!
In between periodic blackouts that persisted for the rest of the game, the announcers proceeded to mangle one analysis after another, while the boys in the truck consistently denied us the most crucial replays. Instead, we got plenty of pictures of the same freakin' dunk over and over, and lingering, disturbing close-ups of the University of Spoiled Children's Stepford-wife cheerleaders. Wow! Such a deal!
When they flashed a graphic announcing that UA guard Daniel Dillon hailed from "Melborne," I launched into a beer-blasted tirade. I mean jeez-us, the kid comes 8,236 miles to hustle his nuts off for us; you'd think they would spell his hometown correctly!
So, I say to thee, FUX Sports Net, that I've got yer missing "u" right here! I might continue to watch your stupid broadcasts, in true Cleveland fashion, because it's an offer that I can't refuse. But I will, without fail, mute your stupid commercials and ignore your lame announcers and find a way to synchronize the radio play-by-play to the picture. (DAMN that five-second delay!)
Give me Brian Jeffries, or give me death!