We are a nation who love to have our emotional chords strummed; which is why every time we watch a major sporting event on TV, the heartless broadcast conglomerate carrying the game likes to force feed the viewing audience with a sentimental “heart warming” back story on one of the participating athletes.
ESPN’s Chris Connelly (with the help of a really good melancholy piano player) has made a living off of these syrupy segments. There you are, watching highlights of the Reds blowing a six run lead in the ninth on SportsCenter, then all of a sudden Stuart Scott pulls a 180 (“ya’ll, that ain’t even right” he says, acting as a medium to the urban sector) and introduces us to an armless pitcher who tossed 3 1/3 innings of shutout ball in a high school game somewhere in Kansas…Cue Connelly, and cue the tears. Some of these stories are really good, I mean really really good, like awkward tear up in front of your friends good.…if you didn’t get goosebumps watching the autistic kid drop bombs in his only game as a high school basketball player, then you haven’t a pulse. However, some of the stories only illustrate how desperate the network is to make us care about the likes of Udonis Haslem. Such was the case last night at halftime of the epic 3-day, 14 hour game 5 of the NBA Finals. This “heartwarmer” focused on the Mavs’ Josh Howard.
The piece started out with all the makings of a truly gratifying winner. The piano music was hauntingly solemn in the background, while Connelly came in with his earnest, yet forgiving voice:
“…but Josh Howard was never supposed to be here. That’s because Josh Howard was never even supposed to walk.”
Like a vessel caught in an angry Atlantic vortex, I was immediately sucked in. He must’ve overcome a rare childhood illness, or survived a grizzly bear attack while he was walking his usual twelve miles to practice everyday as a youth. Yet my disquiet was soon trumped by bewilderment, as Connelly continued his tale.
“That’s because Josh Howard was born severely bow-legged.”
What? Bow-legged? That’s it? There’s not even a fancy scientific name for bow-leggedness? Does the Doctor just come in and say, “Josh, whew, this is never easy. I’m afraid your suffering from a severe case of…well…your legs is bowed man.”
Come on NBA. Come on ABC. Surely Jason Terry saved a cat from a burning inferno or something. The piece went on to explain how Howard had his legs broken and reformed, enabling him to become the athlete he is today. Which of course, in my unbalanced mind, conjured up the image of one of my favorite scenes in my favorite movie of all time:
“What? Ain’t ya eva seen a boy with braces on his legs befo? Forrest, if God wanted all of us to be the same, he’da put braces on all our legs.”
Now before you pull out the bad taste card, I’m genuinely happy for Howard. I’m glad he got his legs “unbowed” to become the rising star that he is today, and he no longer has to run down the court like Yosemite Sam. But come on…I was born with feet flatter than Shaq’s free-throws, where’s my somber piano music ABC? What about Keith Van Horn’s epic struggle to overcome his acute case of homeliness to now being only the second ugliest player on the Mavs behind Dirk? I’m not saying Howard’s bows don’t warrant attention, I’m just saying at least be consistent.
I can almost see next week’s SportsCenter…
“Jeffery Tucker is like most kids: he plays basketball in the park after school. He enjoys dirtbikes, chatting with friends online, and the New York Yankees. However, his shirt tells the truth of what he hoped would remain a lie, and then you realize that Jeffery is not like the other kids. That’s because two years ago, at the age of 12, jeffery was diagnosed with CAPS, Chronic Arm Pit Sweat, a rare disease which tragically, Old Spice and Axe Body Spray have yet to combat.”