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News / Clark County News

Greatest column about sports hyperbole, ever

By Matt Calkins
Published: June 9, 2011, 5:00pm

The ball collided with Manny Ramirez’s bat and soared as though gravity were on sabbatical.

It was a pinch-hit grand slam in the sixth inning that put the Dodgers up by four runs and sent Chavez Ravine into hysterics.

The shot was an ideal way to spice up a meaningless regular-season game vs. the Reds in late July. But then came the buzzkill the next morning when an esteemed columnist wrote: “That was the third greatest home run in Dodgers history.”

Sigh. Rumor has it that the same writer saw “Star Trek” a week later and ranked it just above “Citizen Kane.”

The sports world is missing something, folks.

Not story lines, heroes or villains. Not suspense, scandal, or heartbreak, either.

No, it’s missing perspective.

One performance is no longer a chapter in a book — it is the book.

LeBron James is the quintessential example.

Nobody can seem to choose one label for the Chosen One.

He was the savior of the league when he was drafted in 2003, a prime-time playoff performer when he scored Cleveland’s final 25 points in a postseason game vs. Detroit in 2007, the King of Clutch when he knocked down an impossible game-winner vs. Orlando in 2009, and LeChoke when he failed to lead the Cavs past Boston in 2010.

But if you think the arc for his career is replete with undulation, just check out this season alone.

He was the wuss who opted for a stress-free route to a championship when he signed with Miami in July, a fourth-quarter no-show when he missed a series of last-second shots throughout the winter, “The Closer,” as ESPN wrote, when he absolutely dominated the final period in multiple games vs. Boston and Chicago — and The Guy Who Doesn’t Want to be the Man when his fourth-quarter production plummeted in these Finals.

Not since Eddie Murphy have this many characters been played so absurdly by one man.

Look, sports exist for entertainment purposes alone. And even though barflies may develop an ulcer while arguing Tiger vs. Jack, classifying an athlete as one thing one day and another the next doesn’t carry any true ramifications.

But isn’t this starting to become Charlie Sheen-marries-all-three-Kardashians ridiculous?

After the Bulls beat Miami in Game 1 of these most recent Eastern Conference Finals, an ESPN writer penned a column asserting that Derrick Rose had clearly emerged as the league’s best player. Chicago lost the next four games while Rose went 30 for 98.

Kobe Bryant was dubbed a quitter when he took just three second-half shots in a Game 7 loss to Phoenix in 2007, a petulant child when he demanded a trade that offseason, and the greatest competitor in basketball when he got a supporting cast and reached the Finals in 2008.

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Dirk Nowitzki was a postseason apparition when he was bounced from the first round three times in four years, and is now considered by some to be basketball’s best player in the clutch. Unless his Mavericks lose, of course — then he’ll be demoted to another schmuck who couldn’t close.

It’s getting out of control.

Aren’t you glad there wasn’t media to label George Washington “soft” after losing just about all of his early battles?

Do you think the columnist who wrote “Thomas Edison: Choke Artist” would have kept his job once the light bulb finally came around?

Obviously stories need to be generated after any high-profile sports event, and websites don’t get clicks when four consecutive columns read, “Well, let’s just see how this plays out.”

But why must our reactions be so instantaneous? Why does the pendulum have to swing with such haste? Why have black and white banned gray from the discussion?

To let one game, one series, or even one season solidify one’s opinion of an athlete is asinine. For now, at least.

Tomorrow, it might be brilliant.

Matt Calkins is a sports writer for The Columbian. He can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkins@columbian.com