Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Limits of Showmanship

As a former high-school and collegiate athlete prone to wearing his heart on his sleeve, I am a big fan of flair in sports. If you can throw down a nasty two-handed dunk as opposed to laying the ball up, I’m all for it. If high-stepping won’t get you tackled from behind as you gallop into the end-zone, by all means, do it. If you have a 99-mph fastball in your repertoire, feel free to stare down Prince Fielder before you strike him out. In fact, I have a strong aversion to athletes who are overly-fundamental--denying fans the spectacle: the San Antonio Spurs and the Duncan Robot are unwatchable; I cannot buy into the Peyton Manning vanilla precision offense; and, base-hit baseball minus the occasional long ball is just plain bland.

Still, if there is one thing I hated amongst former teammates above all else was when the showmanship detracts from the players overall athletic performance. If the 360ยบ dunk hits back iron, if Leon Lett allows himself to be stripped in the Super Bowl, if excessive ritual in the batter’s box leads to your striking out—then, flair no longer adds to the spectacle of sport. Rather, one player’s romanticized ESPN highlight ends up not only making a fool of him, individually, but hurts the entire team. Or, he simply hurts himself. Here is a prime example from Mozambique soccer:


Jeremy said...

Meh. To each his own.

I'm more traditional, act-like-you've-been-there sportsman. I admire an engineered run more than a homer (or I used to back when I thought baseball was cool). I see nothing wrong with a 2-1 hockey game. In football, smashmouth is fine when it works.

bw said...

Isn't that the risk you run, though, if you show a little flash? If you're going to advocate for high stepping, dunks with flair, and behind the back passes, shouldn't you just expect that one of those isn't going to work out because of the increased degree of difficulty?

Corry Cropper said...

I always respect it when a guy hits a home run, puts his head down, and runs around the bases. But he may only be doing this to avoid being beaned the next time he's up to bat.

That said, I also like seeing athletes, who are showmen after all, entertain. And when they brick a dunk, face plant when blocking a shot, or lose a gold medal because they're hot dogging it on their snowboard, well... that's more entertaining still.