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Joe From D.C., You’re On Sports Talk

Joe from D.C., You’re on Sports Talk

(New English Review) – Host: “Sports Talk—Joe, from D.C. You’re on.”

Joe from D.C.: “Thanks for taking my call. Here’s the deal: professional sports are a mess!”

Host: “What do you mean? They rake in humongous bucks.”

Caller: “Give me a break. There’s a pandemic—people will watch anything. Even basketball, which the three-point shot is ruining. Most NBA teams now make at least a third of their points from long distance. That makes games more predictable., man. Players actually dribbling, passing, setting screens, working the ball in—less and less of that, more and more long-range bombing.

Background voice: “Joe, are you on the phone again? Who is it this time?”

Caller (hand partly over receiver): “Ah, Blinken, yeah. Something about Afghanistan, Kamala …”

(Hand off receiver): “Then there’s all the dunks. Ho-hum, like the three-pointer. Besides, players used to be penalized for touching the rim. Now they hang on it. Cheap.”

Host: “What’s your solution, Joe from D.C.?”

Caller: “The average pro is six feet, seven inches tall. The average American male—and  I’ve always represented the little guy—is five feet, nine. If he has to shoot at baskets 10 feet high, then it’s time for the pros to hit baskets 11 feet up!”

Host: “That’d make games lower scoring—like soccer. More Americans watch NASCAR races than soccer. What else you got?”

Caller: “Pro football. Back in my day, teams used the pass to open their running games. Now it works the other way ‘round. I mean, let’s get real, man. Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans earned NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors by rushing for 2,000 yards, only the eighth time anyone’s done that. But Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers won his third Most Valuable Player award throwing for 4,900 yards and 48 touchdowns, three per game. Rodgers drops back to pass, I go for more nachos. But if Henry’s running the ball, I’m glued to the screen.

“Same problem in golf. In the 1950s, ‘Slammin’ Sam Snead boomed drives 250 yards or more. Last fall, Bianca Pagdanganan led the Ladies Professional Golf Association with a 287-yard average. On the men’s side, 300 yards was nothing.”

Host: “That’s just progress, right? Video swing analyses and better training?”

Caller: “Malarkey! Compare golf with baseball. Major League Baseball banned players from using performance enhancing drugs. But, come on, man! Golf embeds performance enhancers in the equipment. Every season the newest aerodynamic and high-tech designs for clubs and balls deliver greater distance, better control. It’s more engineering than sport.”

Host: “Fascinating. You’re on a roll, here, Joe from D.C. Hang with me during this commercial break …”

Commercial: “Men, is something lacking in your romantic life? Well, we’ve got the solution your wife or girlfriend’s been waiting for …”

Host: “We’re back, with the D.C. Curmudgeon. Anything else, buddy?”

Caller: “Yeah—no one plays by the rules anymore. It’s all de facto, not de jure.

Background voice: “Joe, did you just call the attorney general?”

Caller (faintly, off-microphone): “He called me, Madam Veep.”

Background voice: “Okay, then. But keep it brief.”

Host: “That’s pretty sweeping. What do you mean?”

Caller: “Umpires don’t call balls and strikes by the rule book. When TV superimposes a strike zone you see it barely goes above the batter’s belt, not up to his armpits like it’s supposed to.

“In football, holding happens on almost every play. In basketball players often travel with the ball, especially on those multi-step/no-dribble lay-ups. But refs usually look away.”

Host: “If we listened to you, Joe, games would slow to crawl. Spectators, and more importantly, sponsors, wouldn’t stand for it. Multi-billion-dollar contracts for broadcast rights are at stake.”

Caller: “But if we don’t play by the rules, it’s not sports anymore. It’s more like, like … politics! And we enjoy sports to get away from politics.”

Host: “Okay, but you haven’t mentioned hockey. What about the NHL?”

Caller: “C’mon man, hockey is pure politics. It’s always played by unwritten rules. You know, ‘I went to a fight last night and a hockey game broke out.’”

Host: “We’re out of time. Joe from D.C., thanks. Tomorrow, special guest Super Bowl winning QB Tom Brady, on his new book, Brown Rice, Black Beans and Steamed Broccoli—Breakfast of Champions.

Caller: “(Background noise) … Dr. Jill, would you get me another beer? I’ve only had one …”

Eric Rozenman is a Washington, D.C.-based writer. His first football helmet was leather.