Friday, June 1, 2007

While we're on sports:

Catching the occasional NBA game and of course the NBA playoffs, I am often reminded of some words from the late Doctor of Gonzo Journalism (Hunter S. Thompson):
My grudge against Brent Musburger has been smoking on a personal back burner for many years - since the early 1980s, in fact, when Brent was covering the NBA finals for CBS-TV, and it involves the word "downtown."

That is when Musburger changed the language of sports-writing forever when he came up with the ignorant notion that any basketball player firing off a long three-point shot is shooting from "downtown." (Celtics announcer Johnny Most might have coined the "downtown" trademark in the 1960s, but it was Musburger who beat it to death.)

I still hear in my dreams the wild stupid gibberish coming out of that yo-yo's mouth every time Nate McMillan or Dennis Johnson drilled one of those long flat three-pointers.

"All the way from downtown," Brent would scream, "another one from Downtown!"

It drove me mad then, & it still does every time one of those fools blurts it out. It was quickly picked up and adopted by a whole generation of half-bright TV commentators every night of the bloody season. It has become part of the Lexicon now, & will not be easy to correct...In gyms and Coliseums all over America (even Greece or Korea), wherever basketball as we know it is played, there will be some howling Jackass braying "From downtown! Another three-pointer! Is this a great country, or what?"


"Going downtown" has more than one meaning - from going to work at 66 Wall Street in New York to anal rape in Alcatraz - but it always means going to a busy place, for good or ill. The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang says it's "where the action is" - a noisy, crowded place with many intersections & tall buildings & freaky-looking strangers.

Indeed we all know that place. We see it every night on ESPN & on the hardwood at Boston Garden...It's the violent little places just under the glass on a big-time Basketball court where tall brutes slam each other around like crazed fish. They call it "Rebounding."

Downtown is where you score - not somewhere out in the wilderness, where people are far apart & not much happens. You don't fire a long jump shot from Downtown, you fire it into Downtown. The Real definition of "Taking it downtown" is to suddenly drive to the basket & into a cluster of 7-footers who seem to have you sealed out - like Allen Iverson launching himself at Robinson & Duncan & dunking it over them.

The Curse of Musburger (January 1, 2001 - reprinted in Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness).
One of the good things I can say about the Western Conference finals game five was that not once did I hear any announcer or commentator use that cursed term. Three-pointers were merely called for what they were. I found that tremendously refreshing, although my wife did not seem to share my enthusiasm nor appreciate the disdain for the sort of postmodern usage of the term "Downtown" in the professional basketball vernacular. The point remains, that "downtown" is where the action is both in reality and metaphorically. If Duncan lands a layup in the paint - that's downtown. Ginóbili's three-pointers, which on a good night can be impressive for their deadly accuracy, are by contrast coming in from the 'burbs. Anyone who lives in or can remember the 'burbs will tell you that there isn't much action worth speaking of in the 'burbs.

To drive the point home, I tried referring to each successful layup, each offensive rebound leading to a quick 2-pointer in the paint, each slam dunk as from "downtown." My wife just gave up and tuned out any conversation after the first quarter of Game 3 (which was really the only interesting game of the Spurs-Jazz series, and would have been much easier to savor had there been announcers not cursed by Musburger).

On to a tangent: one of the local steakhouses/bars has Finally begun serving Guinness Extra Stout. When I first heard of this development about a couple weeks ago, I thought we've got to see this for ourselves. The rumors have been proven true. After seven years of lamenting the lack of an Irish pub, this is truly a small but crucial step in the right direction. Slainte!

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