I spent some time in a hotel earlier this week.
I love hotels. Maybe it's because I'm not a business traveler and rarely associate hotels with my job, but if the hotel is relatively well run I could live in it for a month and never ever care about coming home.
The only drawback is when you're in your room, you're forced to watch whatever sports programming is available at the hotel (that is if you don't have all of the latest devices, which I don't).
This often means forced viewing of ESPN. And believe me, I hate myself every minute I'm watching it. The only times I watch ESPN anymore are when I'm at work and again the sports programming options available there are limited. But at the hotel, I was watching it every morning, and then again late at night.
As usual, I was looking for the latest information on baseball games, which ESPN thinks you don't need to know. What you REALLY need to see is the latest basketball trade featuring players I've never heard of, or some pointless NFL training camp story whose shelf life is one week max, or a loud musical montage on the glory of college football season.
But somehow I managed to finally see an account of the Dodgers-Angels game in which Clayton Kershaw pitched. The ticker told me the Dodgers won 5-4. But I think it took an hour and 40 minutes before I saw the highlights (yes, I know I could have checked on my phone, but it doesn't do highlights). In that time, I was informed four times that Tiger Woods may or may not play in the PGA Championship. The hysteria was well worth it, because Woods didn't make it past the second round.
When ESPN finally worked its way to baseball, another round of hysteria accompanied the "showdown" between Kershaw and the Angels' Mike Trout. These one-on-one dealies that have infected the team sports conversation in the last few years are one of the most vacant part of sports dialogue that I know.
But ESPN hyped away. Trout got a couple of hits against Kershaw. EXCITEMENT! But, oh by the way, the Dodgers won the game. On a 12-foot hit. By someone not named Mike Trout. Or Clayton Kershaw.
The next day perhaps you saw the ESPN airing of Kershaw's prickly encounter with the media in which they peppered him with Trout questions until Kershaw had to tell them he wasn't going to go into individual approaches to batters.
I was happy to see my favorite player was as annoyed with this line of questioning as I was.
These MANO-A-MANO talking points have got to stop. They're so stupid, I cringe every time I see or hear one. ESPN isn't solely to blame. They're everywhere in the media. Last fall I was forced to put the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady "head-to-head" showdown into our newspaper. I didn't want to do it, but I was overruled. It's particularly goofy in football because quarterbacks don't play against each other. Duh. They play against the defense.
Really the only place this makes sense (outside of boxing or tennis) is in the world of fantasy sports: Your quarterback is playing in the same game as my quarterback, let's see who has better stats and who will get more points out of it. Coverage of sports has devolved into a fantasy sports storyline.
In baseball, man-against-man is interesting for an at-bat or two. Unless it's the World Series and it's Reggie Jackson against Bob Welch in the bleeping ninth inning, it really isn't more than a curiosity. A pleasant part of sports, no doubt, but just a curiosity.
A curiosity shouldn't lead the sports report.
And if it's leading the sports report because your network suddenly views the game highlights as "not as interesting," then that is when I move on, and have moved on to other places where I can get what I'm looking for in sports.
You know, that team-against-team stuff.
I know. I'm old-fashioned.
But so is Clayton Kershaw.
Night card binder candidate: Clayton Kershaw, 2011 Topps Update, #140
Does it make the binder?: Yes.
And to show there's no hard feelings:
Night card binder candidate: Mike Trout, 2012 Topps, #446
Does it make the binder?: Yes.
Maybe they can duke it out there in the binder. I'll be sure to forward ESPN the results.