Nothing makes me happier than having something to be pissed off at. I think that’s why I continue to enjoy sports so much. Now, I can’t complain too much, as being a Pittsburgh fan of a certain advanced age has allowed me to experience an unfair amount of sports euphoria in my life.
I’ve seen my teams win six Super Bowls, three Stanley Cups, two World Series and a college football National Championship. I’ve rooted for some of the best athletes ever to play their sports. The sports karma gods blessed me by having my parents reproduce in Pittsburgh. Imagine if they’d have been fucking in Cleveland or San Diego way back when.
Yet I still find so many things in sports to be irritated about. In the past week I’ve screamed at my TV over the following sports-related items, each one of them highly overrated. [Please note that this irrational bitchiness is in no way a result of my Pittsburgh Penguins shitting their playoff bed by losing so embarrassingly to bitter rival Philadelphia. I assure you that my insane ass would find these items vexing even if I were nursing a Stanley Cup hangover.]
Hockey fans slapping the glass when the play is directly in front of them
If you watch hockey, you’ve seen these assbags. Two of the toughest athletes on the planet crash into the boards at a ridiculous rate of speed. They battle on razor-sharp, potentially lethal skates for the puck, pushing and kicking and banging each other with their shoulders and sticks. Throughout the game, they’ve used their legs and feet to block spheres of frozen, rock-hard rubber flying at them at 100 miles per hour. They furiously bang into each other for 60 minutes three to four nights per week. They will occasionally have the stones to drop their gloves and have an actual fist fight, knowing full well they could get knocked cold in front of 18,000 people.
But you, the pasty, twig-armed cubicle schlubb from Technotronics, Inc., are going to show these skating masses of testosterone and muscle how tough you are with your sorry-assed, limp-wristed slaps on a protective slab of 3/4-inch thick, highly reinforced glass. Uh huh. I know I’ve seen a badly shaken Zdeno Chara miss a shift or two after being terrorized by The Fan Hand.
Maybe you think you’re throwing the player off his game, which is even more laughable. He’s able to maintain his focus with 18,000 hostile people screaming at him and a 225-pound goon looking to check him back to Saskatoon, but it’s your feeble glass slaps that are going to throw Alex Ovechkin or Pavel Datsyuk off of his world-class game.
Now, if you do the glass slap with a smile on your face and you’re not too intense about it, then okay, you’re just having a little innocent fun at the ol’ hockey game. Hell, with what front row seats cost these days, you ought to be able to give Jaromir Jagr a handjob if you are so inclined. (Believe me, in the 90s I’d have shown up in Row A with two bottles of Jergens to reward the Great 68 for his world-class exploits.) So a smiling glass slap is cool.
But you faux badasses who pound the glass with rage are just ball-less turds who are showing your cocks in a situation where there is no way in hell you can get your ass kicked. We all see you making a fool of yourself. Well, almost all of us. The players are too busy being truly badass.
Athletes claiming they are “humbled by …” some sort of accolade
If you follow sports at all, you’ve heard athletes say this after being elected to a hall of fame or setting some record. “I gotta tell ya, just being mentioned with guys like Ruth and Gehrig is pretty humbling …”
Explain to me what it means when an athlete says this when he has just been recognized for doing something extraordinary in his sport. I always thought that being humbled meant that you were cut down to size. You hit four homeruns and bat .738 during a weekend series, then you quit dominating the Pittsburgh Pirates and fly across the state to Philadelphia, where you go 0-for-14 against Halladay and crew. That’s being humbled.
But some athlete will get named MVP or perform a feat that puts him in same company as Joe Montana or Michael Jordan, and he’ll say that he his “humbled” by having his name included in such company. He’s either lying or severely lacking in basic word use skills.
Just be honest and say what you are really thinking. “What’s that? Only Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey have done what I just did? That means I’m even more awesome than I thought. If I was an insufferably cocky bastard before, I’m taking swagger to a whole new level now. Okay, interview over, bitches. Now someone send me a clubhouse boy to wash my balls …”
Baseball players crashing into shit
Can we stop lauding Major League baseball players who separate shoulders or knock themselves senseless by crashing into a wall in the third inning of a June game?
I expect pro athletes to give 100 percent all the time, but they do not need to dive over railings or into dugouts or hurl themselves face first into outfield walls unless they’re at a crucial juncture of a post post-season game, and even then it might not be worth it. Risking long-term injury while trying to prevent a fourth inning double just doesn’t seem to make long-term sense.
If you’re on a 25-man roster, you’re one of the best baseball players on the planet. Even the shittiest major league baseball players have immense talent and are of great value to your team. That value is eliminated if you break your ankle sliding into the metal barrier to the stands while trying to catch that foul pop off the pitcher’s bat.
Bill James or some of those other stats gurus need to do a study that mathematically proves that it’s better in the long run to let a ball drop than it is to hurl your body into something made of steel or wood in attempt to gain one out. If superhuman Matt Kemp saves two runs by crashing into the outfield wall but suffers a shoulder separation that ruins his swing for the rest of the season, would those two saved runs be worth it to the Dodgers over the long haul?
Yes, I know teams miss the playoffs by one game, and all teams lose their share of one-run games during the course of a season, and perhaps a gave-saving, wall-smashing catch could have made the difference between October baseball and October golfing. But if the player who saves that one game ends up on the disabled list for a few weeks, chances are his absence from the lineup will lose you more games in the long run.
But most professional ballplayers, even if faced with statistics that prove that crashing into walls is folly, will continue to give 110 percent. Unless we can get fans in the front rows to scare the shit out of them by slapping the box seat railings and outfield walls.
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.