Thursday, May 08, 2008
When last I left you, I had no voice. Or, at least, I had very little voice. This was not a good thing. I use my voice to make my living.
I had lost my voice via the expedient of shouting exhortations and curses. This was during game seven of the Boston Celtics NBA playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks. The exhortations, which were directed towards the Celtics, and the curses, which were directed towards the Hawks, worked. The Celtics won by a wide margin, thus enabling them to go forward into the next playoff round to battle the Cleveland Cavaliers.
I had tickets to game one of that series. This is because Balcony Gal and Balcony Guy - from whom I had obtained the tickets to game seven - had another scheduling conflict. They offered the tickets to me and MY WIFE. I accepted (with a nod of my head, since I had little voice and didn’t wish to strain the meager amount I had left.)
In order to be able to still do my job, I had to refrain from vocal activity during my everyday activities. My voice had to rest, big time, or else I might do permanent damage to it. I most certainly couldn’t blow it out again during another Celtics game. I could not shout encouragement at the Celtics. Nor could I shout curses at the Cavaliers, a much harder thing to control. When LeBron James is on the court, and your team is playing against him, it is very hard to control the urge to shout epithets.
James is a magnificent basketball player. He can carry a team, and has. However, no referee has ever called a foul on LeBron James that he deserved, at least according to LeBron James. I don’t believe there has ever been an instance of his being called for a foul and him acknowledging that he did, indeed, commit one. I may be wrong. Maybe he owned up to it once, back in his rookie season. I’d have to look it up. As a matter of fact, I think I will. Excuse me for a minute.
(*flips through NBA record book*)
Nope. Not one.
Anyway, LeBron shouldn’t be expected to acknowledge that he commits fouls. The NBA has told him, time and again, that many of the fouls he commits are, in actuality, not fouls at all.
The NBA has the weirdest officiating of any sport. There is openly acknowledged bias. The referees have a hierarchical system in mind when they call a game. Everybody, from the players and the announcers on down to the lowliest casual fans, knows this. Here is how the hierarchy is constructed.
VETERAN STARTER, BUT NOT A STAR
VETERAN ROLE PLAYER
ROOKIE STARTER WHO MAY BLOSSOM INTO A STAR, BUT HASN’T YET
In addition, when there is a tie between positions on the hierarchy, the call will go to the home team more often than not.
(This depends somewhat upon the score at the time. The team trailing will usually be given the benefit of the doubt more often than the team leading.)
Now, the chart does not usually apply to clear fouls. They are called as they appear, because if there is no room for argument, the hierarchy is not referred to. However, say there’s a call that could go either way; perhaps a blocking/charging call. Is it an offensive foul or a foul on the defender? Refer to the chart above. If the man with the ball is a veteran, and the defender is a rookie, the call will go to the veteran every time. The announcers of games even say as much right in the broadcasts. They say, “Joe Shlabotnick hasn’t been in the league long enough to get those calls.” And nobody from the league office says a peep to the network or announcers, because they know it’s true and so does everybody else.
If you think I’m exaggerating for effect, you haven’t seen enough NBA games.
LeBron has been a star since day one. Thus, he has had the benefit of the doubt from the officials since the first time he stepped onto an NBA court. And he expects to get the majority of the calls (or non-calls) and he does, too. So, why shouldn’t he whine a bit when the unexpected happens and one goes against him?
Getting back to what’s truly important around here – ME - I would have to sit silently in my seat at the game. I could not jump to my feet and scream, “You crybaby! Wah, wah, wah! Siddown!” Nor could I cheer on the Celtics with shouts of “DEE-fense (thump, thump) DEE-fense (thump, thump) DEE-fense!”
If you say that it makes no difference whether I chant and taunt, you would be wrong. Part of the advantage that comes with home court in the NBA is the noise level. It is up to the fans to disorient the enemy. The louder it is when they have the ball, the harder it is for them to operate. This is because the opposition are always wusses with tender ears, I guess. Also, the noise level of the crowd can sway the officiating (but only on exactly equal calls; the hierarchy chart applies all other times.)
So, what to do? I wanted to do my bit for the cause, but, as much as I love the Celtics, I couldn’t destroy my means of making a living.
MY WIFE, knowing my dilemma, stepped up and became the hero of the evening.
Understand that MY WIFE does not yell and scream. And I mean ever. She is generally a very quiet person. This applies not only to sports, but also to life in general. For instance, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she has raised her voice in anger. Hell, I could count them on the fingers of Jim Abbott’s right hand. And, when it comes to sports, she is a very casual fan. This is not to say she doesn’t know the difference between a free throw and a throw pillow, but she could go on living her life very serenely if, for some reason, basketball disappeared from the face of the earth.
However, she knew my situation. And she knew my propensity for doing what is not in my best interests. Even though I might go into the game knowing that I shouldn’t say a single word, I was likely to have my emotions overtake my sense at some point. So, she took over for me and never gave me a chance to croak myself. As the situation called for it, she chanted (“DEE-fense! [thump, thump] DEE-fense! [thump, thump]) and cajoled (“Let’s go Celtics!” [clap - clap - clap,clap,clap]) and yelled (“That was traveling! He walked!”) and jeered (“Boo! Bad call!”) and was almost as entertaining as the game itself, actually.
I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t a big kick to see MY WIFE jumping out of her seat to cheer. It was an even bigger kick to see her throw her head back and let loose with a big scream of delight when James Posey hit two free throws at the end to seal the game. Would that I had something in my arsenal to elicit such a response from her.
(Actually, I do. She loves me enough to scream like that at a basketball game when I couldn’t do it for myself. She was screaming like that for me. Well, at least that’s what I’m telling myself, and I will not be disabused of that notion.)
The Celtics won, 76 – 72. It was an ugly game for the most part. The defense was strong on both sides, but I think it was also a matter of the offense being weak. LeBron shot an amazingly horrific 2 for 18, and he turned the ball over 10 times. It was easily the worst game of his professional career. For the C’s, Paul Pierce scored 4 points and Ray Allen was held utterly scoreless for the first time since his rookie season 12 years ago.
(Interesting statistical anomaly: Pierce and Allen exactly matched LeBron in futility. They shot a combined 2 for 18, and also turned the ball over 10 times between them.)
I did not shout. I did not cheer. I did not taunt. I did not jeer. I did not eat green eggs and ham while Sam I Am shot his three-pointers. MY WIFE did all of that for me, and so my voice is fairly much back to normal now. And that brings us to the title of this piece, which must have had you scratching your head in wonderment.
Following the game where I lost my voice, I sent a recording of my ragged vocals to Balcony Gal, in order to show her what my passion had cost me. I figured she’d get a laugh out of it. She did. Later that same day, I received this from her:
That is Balcony Guy, although he doesn’t actually look like that now. He shaved off a beard he had sported for the past four or five months, and he had Balcony Gal shoot a few pictures of him in various stages of the process. The two of them have a fervent commitment to the funny, so they of course took some shots of him with that cheesy-looking moustache.
When they sent me the photo with caption, it was shown to a couple of people around the office. One of my co-workers was of the opinion that it looked uncannily like John Cleese’s facial expression during a particular Monty Python sketch.
As a matter of fact, I can't find a photo from that sketch showing the expression. So, to save time (and because I'm a lazy bastard) I went with the one below.
Anyway, in that sketch, Cleese plays a tourist who is using an English translation that is not only wrong, but also wholly absurd. And one of his lines is the title of this piece.
(Now, I could have just called this “A Dissertation Concerning Bias Amongst NBA Referees, Including More Praise Of MY WIFE”, but would that have brought a smile to your face? No.)
(Actually, if we're going for British comedians here, I think Balcony Guy looks more like Terry-Thomas than John Cleese, albeit with better dental work.)
Soon, with more better stuff.