Friday, March 26, 2010

Gushing Over Gus

Anyone who watched the KSU-Xavier thriller last night went to bed knowing they saw the best game of what’s been the best NCAA tournament in years.  They know as far as sports go, last night was as good as it gets.  Why?  Well, it went to double overtime, but lots of games go to double overtime.  It was a classic duel between two great players, but lots of games are classic duels between two great players.  It had clutch plays and buzzer beaters, but lots of games have clutch plays and buzzer beaters. Don’t get me wrong: these things made the game great.

But what made it the best was Gus Johnson.

I never paid much attention to who was calling a game until recently, and I think it’s mostly because none of them ever stood out to me.  And I mean that as a compliment.  Announcers, generally, should be like umpires, shot-clock operators, and long-snappers: They’re best when you don’t notice them.

But Gus is a different story.  Gus doesn’t call a game, he lives it.  He’s the announcing equivalent of Allen Iverson – he leaves everything he has on the floor.  I know I haven’t been around that long, but I’m pretty certain no other announcer today, or ever, comes close to matching his energy. 

And it’s totally genuine!  When we listen to Gus and hear him go bonkers, we don’t think he’s doing it to steal the show from the players, we think he’s doing it because he loves what he’s seeing!  He really thinks the action is that remarkable.  His passion seems to know no end.  A third-grade soccer game could get him excited.

Watch someone watch a Gus Johnson game.  Whether their team’s winning or losing, I guarantee you they're smiling.  Gus is so lovable and infectious, you forget who you’re rooting for.  You just don’t want the game to end.

The number one trending name on Twitter last night wasn’t Crawford or Pullen, it was Johnson.  All of the sudden, people are interested in announcers.  “Who’s gonna call the Final Four?” they want to know.  “Is it Gus?”  “If not, WHY?”

Good question.  CBS hasn’t announced the lineup yet, but it’d be a shame if it wasn’t Gus.  I mean, it’s not like we wouldn’t watch, of course.  It’s the Final Four.  The Pinnacle.  The Last Dance.  The End of the Road.  Nothing beats the Final Four.

Except the Final Four with Gus Johnson.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


One day last May, I was sitting at work when I got a call from my little brother, Robby.  He was bubbling with excitement.

"Bro," he said.  "Can you believe there's only 149 days until college basketball starts??"

Robby talks, studies, and obsesses about college basketball more than anyone not named Vitale.  He finishes his homework by 7:00 every night -- not because he's a good boy, but because that's when the first games start.  If the work isn't done, he'll wake up early and finish it in the morning.

So when all of Southern Connecticut lost power just hours before the NCAA Tournament Selection Show -- thanks to the worst storm the state had seen in thirty years -- I felt bad for the families forced to temporarily relocate to hotels, and the women forced to go to friends' houses to shower and do their hair.  

But there was no one I felt worse for than Robby.

He'd dreamed about seeing these brackets for months.  He studied Joe Lunardi's Bracketology on every day, calling me with hypothetical matchups, asking me who I'd take.  And now they were out for real -- on television and computer screens everywhere -- and the kid who'd been looking forward to them the most couldn't see them.  

There was nothing he could do.  

What did Robby do to deserve this?  Did he piss off the gods in a previous life?  Over-indulgence is a deadly sin.  Was this his punishment for being over-obsessed with sports?  I'm over-obsessed with sports.  Should I be worried, too?

Or maybe the issue is that kids have become too reliant on technology.  When I was Robby's age (I know, I sound so old), I got my scores from a newspaper.  He could do that if he wants.  But that isn't enough for kids today.  They need media that lives, breathes, speaks, and runs on electricity.  It's more engaging, but it also makes you more vulnerable.

Yesterday, Robby called me around lunchtime, dying to talk college hoops.  He still had no TV and no internet, and just ten minutes of juice left on his unchargeable cell phone.  

"Bro, please talk matchups with me."
"I can't, bro. I have to work."
"Just ten minutes bro.  Please."
"I really can't, bro.  I'm sorry."

"Bro," he said, desperate and deflated.   

"It's all I have left."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The 'Beauty' of DVR

The only downside to a Herman family trip to UConn-Louisville (at Gampel! on Senior Day!), was missing the USA-Canada Gold Medal Hockey Game.  
But not to worry, right? This is the 21st century! We can 'DVR' it. It'll be just like watching it live....

11:00AM-12:00PM - Greg and I take train to Connecticut; I text Robby to remind him to record hockey game. He does.

12:00-3:00 PM - I preemptively text friends, asking them not to send updates; UConn game begins. Huskies off to great start. 

3:40 - Kid in seat in front of me turns to friend and says, "1-0 Canada."  Dad and I overhear. 

4:20 - After blowing big lead, UConn loses on last-second layup.

4:30-6:00 - Car ride home spent in silence: UConn lost, CD player not working, and all of us too fearful to to turn on the radio because we didn't want to hear the hockey score.

5:30 - Text from Lindsey. I contemplate not reading it, but trust it's not about the game. Lindsey: "Pizza 33...YUM."

5:45 - Robby convinces me to tell him what I knew about the first goal.

6:15 - Home, and finally start watching.  Mom tells us Robby's SAT tutor is coming at 7:15, so Robby fast-forwards whenever possible.  Fast-forward button gets stuck.  We miss the first goal. Greg accuses Robby of doing it on purpose. No one's having any fun.

6:35 - Canada scores again. We begin to worry game's not worth watching, fast-forwarding whenever possible. 

6:55 - USA scores!!!  Canada up 2-1 heading into final period. But USA with momentum.

7:15 - Robby's tutor arrives...with fifteen minutes left in third period. We take hour break. No one's happy about it.

7:20 - I go on Robby's computer to check train schedules for getting back to New York. I open a new window, so I don't see anything, but forget Robby's that home screen is I see image of ice rink, with players from both sides.  Canada might have been celebrating, I'm not sure.  I convince myself I'm not sure.

7:25 - No longer trusting the internet, I go upstairs and read a New Yorker article about mountain people in the hills of New Jersey.  

8:15 - Robby's session ends.  We turn on DVR.  It's somehow skipped ahead to eighteen minutes left in overtime.  Overtime?!?!  We rewind to find out what happened. USA incredibly tied the game with 25 seconds left in regulation. And we missed it.

8:20 - We watch overtime from eighteen-minute mark. I ask Robby if he remembered to tape the show after in case game runs over allotted time. He didn't. Yelling and blaming ensues.  If game doesn't end in next 15 minutes, we run out of tape.  No one enjoys overtime.

8:30 - Sidney Crosby beats Ryan Miller to end the game. Canada wins, but Miller wins MVP. Even though USA lost, I feel nothing but pride for our guys. I watch us graciously shake hands with the Canadians. Hockey might not be up there with my favorite sports, but this tournament was truly spectacular. Honestly, I didn't want it to end.

8:32 - DVR cuts out.