Dear Announcers, Tight Ends Play Football. This Conversation is Over.
As a brief priming exercise to today’s post, I want you to think about something for a few seconds. Really think about this. Take it seriously:
If you’re being 100% honest with yourself, have you ever really learned anything you didn’t already know from a television sports color commentator?
Something occurred to me over this last weekend. It rattled me hard enough to shake me out of my work-induced blog-posting drought (sorry) and was serious enough for me to bring to you, the masses.
I’ve stated on this blog a few times that I am an active Saints fan, and that’s really only important as a means to telling you that I watch every game Jimmy Graham plays. It’s still only halfway through this NFL season, But Graham is having a hellacious year in terms of total yards and touchdowns, leading pro tight ends in both categories by pretty comfortable margins. I’m also enough of an NFL fan to have seen plenty of the all-time tight end greats that have played during my lifetime. In particular, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. What do all three of those players have in common? Besides last names starting with G.
They played basketball before they played football. There are probably more tight ends that have played basketball before moving to football, but the point is that same:
Why won’t the announcers shut up about football players who used to be basketball players? They are football players now, and in the case of these three particular tight ends, they are outstandingly good football players who don’t play basketball anymore so stop talking about it.
Sure, in basketball sometimes you have to jump up and grab a ball over a crowd of other players. That happens in football, but it’s hardly the same thing. It happens in rugby too. And water polo. And soccer only no grabbing the ball. The football-basketball comparison is tangential at best; and more realistically, it’s coincidental.
We don’t ever hear about other NFL players and the sports that they played before football. In several years of watching Drew Brees, I have never heard the announcers talk about him playing tennis growing up. Tennis involves a bunch of running and jumping and court vision and forceful arm movements and other quarterbacky things. As far as I can tell, tennis developed Drew Brees for football just like basketball developed Tony Gonzalez.
Michael Vick was drafted by the Rockies in 2000. But you never hear any commentary on how his experience in baseball affected his passing ability. That seems like an actual direct correlation you can make with some real cause-effect relationship.
I know my fellow ‘90s enthusiasts remember when Reggie White wrestled in WCW Slamboree 1997. Sure, professional wrestling is a joke, but that joke had the whole country laughing for a couple of years in the late ‘90s and Reggie White jumped in the ring with the best of them. He lost, of course. But he lost to Steve McMichael, another NFL vet. Ok this one doesn’t count, but Reggie White probably could have been an ok wrestler.
Sav Rocca played Australian rules football. Which is pretty much just a whole bunch of guys getting into fisticuffs and then punting. Again, a 1:1 correlation in terms of skills translating from one sport to the other.
And yet we don’t have to endure stats about Rocca’s Aussie league experiences every time he takes the field to punt. So why is it necessary to comment on Antonio Gates’ relatively forgettable basketball career every time he catches a pass in traffic?
But with all these basketball-player-turned-tight-end success stories, it can’t just be a coincidence that all these basketball guys makes the transition to football so easily can it?
The short answer is no, it’s not a coincidence. But I don’t write this blog to give you the short answers to things. If I wanted that, I’d just tweet.
But seriously, this is America. The best male athletes out there grow up playing football and basketball. And yes, they play both. Everyone plays both. In fifth grade, I played both, and I was something like 5 feet tall, 65 pounds and an allergen-induced asthmatic. A guy built like Tony Gonzalez would grow up excelling at everything athletic he tried. He was probably a 99th percentile basketball player. It turns out he’s a 99th percentile football player. Tony Gonzalez could have been a 99th percentile swimmer or high-jumper if he wanted to be. In every sport that’s watchable on tv (sorry, bocce), the players who succeed are the biggest, fastest and strongest players, and the athletes who have the right combination of speed, strength and agility are good at whatever they do. Was Jimmy Graham good at basketball? Sure. Is he even better at football now? Definitely. Are the two related? Hardly.
Here’s an example. The video below shows off a Jimmy Graham catch that I don’t think a lot of NFL players could make. It’s in no way like a basketball play, but we hear the announcers force the basketball reference in there because apparently the Jimmy Graham stat sheet (which is very impressive this year) was replaced by a post-it note that only says “USED TO PLAY BASKETBALL.”
My point is that I’m tired of hearing about the basketball background of these football players. Is there really nothing else to say about a guy who can run the length of the field faster than guys half his size and make catches in stride using only one hand? So what if they used to do something else, the reason we are watching them now is because right now they are good at football. Stop breaking down how similar jumping over guys in one sport is to jumping over guys in another sport and focus on the important thing — Jimmy Graham just jumped over a human person. Literally propelled his body using only his legs to a height that was literally more vertical than an entire other being. And not a short one either, a professional athlete. Who cares what he used to do? He plays football now and he’s awfully good at it. Talk about that.
I hope you get what I’m talking about.
In other news, SpreeGoogs is back.
In other other news, about a month ago, I had a new single-day high for people reading my blog. We hit 1,318 views in one day, which is absolutely fantastic. I hope you all keep reading and sharing with your friends. And I hope you all start writing comments and remembering to rate these posts too.