Toothpicks Do Not Add up to Salvation

Religious converts are often the most zealous about being pious. I was going to write that they fervently "act as though they are the most pious," but that's not fair, really. It's not an act because there is no intended deception. Rather, their faith is merely new, and often, the ardor with which they embrace it suggests making up for lost time. They sort of have to live like this, though, if they want their newfound faith to stick. I hope that I am not casting aspersions on converts; for me, this is anecdotally true and fairly intuitive. If you haven't grown up with something like a religion--which is so often ritually subscribed to and followed without question due to childhood custom and some organic familiarity--you have to work to make it yours. Observing the sabbath, retelling the mythology, mastering the traditions requires concerted effort, not least of all because adopting the identity that comes with a new faith almost demands an outwardly perceptible comfort with the material. Oh, you're religious now? Really? Were you in jail?

Mike Breen is a basketball convert. At least, that's how it sounds. Listening to Breen call a basketball game is like hearing someone new to Judaism intersperse oddly pronounced Hebrew among his usual idiolect: you know what he's doing, but it doesn't sound right, and you question its authenticity, not least of all because it already seems borderline obnoxious when you hear it from rabbis. For example, normal Jewish people don't speak in vernacular riddled with appositional Hebrew asides; that stilted dialogue is for Talmudic scholars and the mid-life convert who needs to prove just how meticulously he internalized his lessons while preparing a D'var Torah. Really, it's like this: if you want to talk about Egypt, just do so, and stop always coupling that word with "mizraim." You know? Or else, show up as a 200-year-old with a long-ass beard and the kind of robe that would have been suitable for The Ten Commandments (one of the great movies). Then you can say whatever you want, because that's some biblical O.G. shit. Abraham died when he was 175.

Nothing about Mike Breen is biblical O.G. He'll die still reading about Isaac and rams, to say nothing of never having bound his own son in a demonstration of his devotion. Nothing about his style is intuitively felt, or handed down, or in any way connected to a source from which his purported interest in the game might have originated as something naturally occurring. Breen is, instead, the worst kind of convert, the one who wants to believe, but more so, wants you to see that he believes. So he recites rules and adages; he tells you things that you already know, only he can't place them in the nuanced context which you've naturally developed. A typical Breen broadcast is pedantic and formalistic, merely the latest opportunity to make sense of it all and refine the appearance of assimilation to which he apparently aspires.

Breen's uncomfortable exposition and awkward, bookish narration paint a portrait of a broadcaster preoccupied with foreign custom and a literalist's insistence that the actual game match the theoretical form which serves as the foundation for all of his (limited) framework. Players who summon the temerity to play in new ways, or who have the audacity to defy convention, are joylessly regarded with mild condescension as "unique" or "unorthodox." That he acknowledges a Mickael Pietrus as effective always sounds like a concession, particularly when those words are juxtaposed against one of his moralistic paeans to more traditional souls, like a Ray Allen. (And I am not knocking the Ray Rays.) Like a child, he seems to bristle at events which deviate from his expectations and mores. When he even recognizes what's going on to begin with, of course. Were I to lead a Catholic mass, it would be filled with ostentatious emphasis on Latin and old-world ritual so that I might impress upon my audience just how closely I could adhere to all that I had been taught. Forget about whether it made sense, accommodated reality, or accomplished the ultimate goal. It would be absurd, of course, a farce that betrayed my underlying lack of context and lived understanding. I would immediately emerge as an alien, a heathen. That's Breen.

How often does he roll along next to Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson as a third wheel? As the guy who opts for the safety of silence, or the cover of digression, rather than allowing the conversation to proceed along its rightful course and, in turn, expose just how little he gets it? A felled Kenyon Martin claws at someone's leg and Breen wants to quickly move away from Van Gundy's exploration of playoff emotions so that the audience isn't deprived of a meaningless "game reset" with the score and time? When that information is forever available on the screen? Jackson and Van Gundy want to impart lessons learned from their own battles, perhaps tacitly endorsing rougher play, and Breen wants to launch off in another direction concerned with rigid civility and naive consternation about losing control? He is so brazenly a company man as he slavishly insists that referees were dealt a rough hand? Maybe put down your books and go outside sometime, Michael; you're trying too hard, and it's ugly. Mike Breen sounds as though he'd prefer to file a book report about lacing sneakers and holding the ball high rather than to actually think about the fluid, emotional, athletic, personality-driven sport of basketball.

A "favorite" Breen moment for me came several years ago: Breen once looked on as Trevor Ariza, then a Knick, slammed home a put back that shifted the game's momentum and ultimately helped the Knicks win. It was a powerful, exciting moment, the sort which anyone who loves basketball feels viscerally and appreciates for its emotional resonance, to say nothing of its stylistic implications. A normal broadcaster may have experienced all of this and captured the moment with an exclamation and some admiring observation. Do you know what Breen said? He scolded that players aren't supposed to hang on the rim. It was classic, almost as though Breen suffers from a form of basketball Asperger syndrom which impedes his ethereal perceptions and leaves him grasping for a hold on the moment by relying upon textbook definitions, unrealistic ideas, and tangential tropes which he's memorized as an appropriate script.

Mike Breen's duality of not truly knowing but nonetheless seeking to impress with knowledge is an itch always just beyond my reach. More accurately, that this interloper--perhaps he's not truly a convert and more of a benign charlatan--has ascended to a position as basketball's lead broadcaster strikes me as a karmic crime of cosmic proportion. This is no terrestrial injustice; it is far greater. Breen's position in the basketball world feels like it inflicts injury upon my soul and the collective soul of the league and its constituency. In lieu of the stale, wooden, myopic nattering of a glorified mime allowed to speak, the NBA's game, people, and community all deserve narration and celebration that actually sees, let alone articulates, their full contours. The sad irony of Breen's ersatz authority truly arises when one reflects upon the bizarre fact that the NBA's confederacy of culture is wholly neglected by its own town crier.

Consider this: the Most Valuable Puppets ads have been striking because they have deftly given voice to certain truths without actually articulating them. We've enjoyed seeing the ebullient LeBron living with the removed Kobe--chalk all everywhere, rings in a display case--because the contrast efficiently, knowingly tells the story which has captivated NBA fans for a while: Kobe is the focused, relentless introvert whose professionalism extracts teammate adherence and whose refined style poses the only true challenge to Michael's legacy; LeBron is the effulgent, gregarious extrovert whose joy infects teammates and whose physical superiority challenges the conventional theories of possibility. Seeing the two as roommates acknowledges their friendship (to whatever extent it is genuine), while seeing the juvenile back-and-forth acknowledges the hefty tension which lies beneath the marketing veneer of collegial competition. The ads have animated our fascination by imagining these complicated relationship dynamics in the prosaic world of domestic partnership. Almost fan fiction, Nike has created a new chapter in the parallel narrative that helps to tell the true tale of the NBA. That the ads are so stylish only enhances their impact, because in no other league does style matter as much.

And then consider this: the most Mike Breen could ever say about Kobe and LeBron is that each is a "terrific player" who has "helped lift his team" and provided "so many of the things you want to see in a franchise player." Those aren't direct quotes, but they might as well be--conservative, judgmental, preachy, sufficient, and bland. That is Mike Breen, an unimaginative man who peers out at the basketball world through a colorless lens that precludes the sort of expansive, emotional, romantic vision that best and properly captures the NBA. The full puppet story, along with so many more of the league's attendant tales, cannot be accurately recorded in a manual and then taught to someone who seeks to "know" about them without possessing a latent affinity for his subjects. That just doesn't work, much as any old person can fly to Mecca, but that doesn't make him a Muslim. No matter how many times he recounts facts gleaned from a news story about the five pillars.

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At 6/02/2009 5:15 AM, Blogger David Lieberman said...

Another classic Breen buzzkill moment:


At 6/02/2009 6:23 AM, Blogger Dr Philosophy said...

He worked as a referee for years...might explain why is tends to be lenient on refs and harsh on players.

At 6/02/2009 8:02 AM, Blogger Alexander J said...

JOey; this essay really read like a sermon, don't know if that was your intention. I think Yusef Islam-Cat Stevens' conversion is an appropriate analogue.

I have always thought it to be a good idea to incorporate a choose your own broadcaster kind of thing in the future; maybe when the big network's contracts run up next they can get to establishing a more varied series of possible commentators to let the "yes, I voted for him in 2000 and '04." crowd get their warm milk from the Breens of the world.

didn't Marv Albert become about 8,000,000 times more fun to listen to after the Daily Show (pre jon stuart does exist, people) satirized the wearing of lady's undergarment scandal in an appropriately hilarious light?

At 6/02/2009 8:21 AM, Blogger dizzle said...

@ AJ: Yes!!!

At 6/02/2009 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Knock em out the box Rick, Knock em out Rick."

Aces Joey. The people have spoken, we want Hubie!

At 6/02/2009 10:25 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Most impressive thing about this piece? You actually made me respect Mark Jackson as an analyst for two sentences.

At 6/02/2009 10:53 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

BOOM goes the dynamite!
Breen really is the worst.
I also think he has personally made flagrant fouls a bigger issue just by the way he overreacts to EVERY SINGLE "playoff" foul.
Just watch and listen for the way he exclaims, "OH! HARD FOUL!!!" as soon as Kenyon Martin or one of his ilk remember that protecting the paint is part of basketball.
There's really nothing left to say, though.

You completely "Ethered" Breen.
And there is absolutely no way he even knows what that means.

At 6/02/2009 10:59 AM, Blogger djturtleface said...

I'm always torn between my love for Sir Charles and my love for JVG's color commentary, especially compared to the quite awful Reggie Miller. But the moral dilemma ends pretty quickly whenever Breeny gets onto the mic. I remember Simmons did a BS report with him and it was the most boring thing in the world. All he did was talk about the things he had done in the past. Trying to loosen him up, Simmons said "You called one heck of a game last night" (right after the Knicks-Golden State 127-144), to which Breen made a terrible ABA joke involving the Pittsburgh Conquistadors and red-white-blue ball. Sports guy didn't really laugh, then basically forced him to say that he approved of fast-paced basketball. Breen seemed less jovial for the rest of the hour long podcast.

...Quite upset that the Finals are ABC, even though JVG is hands down the best in the game.

At 6/02/2009 11:16 AM, Blogger Aaron said...

Torn, because I love Breen-Frazier doing Knicks games, though mostly that's because I love Frazier and his dictionary.

Also, I don't want to challenge your assertion that often converts brim forth with uncomfortable and awkward passion, but the specifics of your discussion of Jewish converts felt off to me. In the Orthodox circles I move in, conversation is littered with yiddishisms and hebraisms and we speak not of Abraham but of Avraham, or even Avraham Avinu.

"Kiddush is a little shvach today. Nu?"

The convert is the guy who tries to keep up and manages... sort of. But the rhythms are off. It's not that he mentions Mitzraim that's the problem. It's that he stuck consistently with Mitzraim, instead of switching back and forth between Egypt and Mitzraim as the flow of conversation demands.

But no, I don't want to say Breen is a convert. Breen is more like an old-style Conservative Movement Rabbi, someone who buttons up all of his emotional interest in the name of presenting a professional front. You'll never see him dance with the Torah on Simchas Torah with true passion. You'll never see him really let go of himself on Purim- he only drinks enough to keep up appearances. He's invested in religion enough to collect his paycheck, and he gives you enough effort that you wouldn't think of firing him, but he would never think that inspiring was part of the job description. The poor attempts at humor that people mention are just part of his true detachment. And yet... you'll hear him complain all the time about how his flock isn't observant enough, how the Conservative Movement is losing its intellectual momentum.

At 6/02/2009 12:07 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Breen used to work for Imus. That seems relevant.

At 6/02/2009 12:52 PM, Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Wow. Stunning Jeremiad here. Nice work. Nice work inDEED.

At 6/02/2009 12:54 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I take back what I said about Jackson. Well, not compared to Breen, but the reason I think JVG so consistently makes Jackson look foolish is that Van Gundy cares so little about proving his legitimacy/orthodoxy.

At 6/02/2009 1:46 PM, Blogger dunces said...

I'd argue that heritage is exactly the reason that dinosaurs like Breen exist. He's not a convert, he's an ossified artifact of a time past. He harps on these established patterns cause he can't stay in front of what's actually happening. I fear the same thing might happen to me when I age.

He's on the broadcast because sports, even basketball,are havens for the traditionally-minded; I just wish we could get another audio track, maybe a director's commentary?

At 6/02/2009 2:06 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

Worth noting that the idea of Breen as a convert is more than a conceit. He actually is a converted NFL analyst. At least I think Joey was referencing that point.

At 6/02/2009 2:17 PM, Blogger David said...

Jeff van Gundy has become a national treasure. As the Rockets' coach (pre-Adelman) he always presented a thoroughly dour front to the media, and habitually looked as if he hadn't slept for a week. We all heard how the players thought he was great, funny, smart, passionate etc., but we never actually saw it until he showed up putting the colour into NBA commentary. Yes, he really was funny, smart, passionate.... and unpredictable. Whether it was a nail-biter or a stroll it didn't matter: he was thoroughly entertaining. In fact, the bigger the blow-out (and the less need to closely follow the action), the more room there was for his oblique asides, surreal humour, and tangential flights of fancy which Breen was forever trying to reel in. Maybe he has found his true calling, as he seems to be having much more fun now than he ever did as a coach!
You should get him to write a foreword for the new almanac.

At 6/02/2009 2:58 PM, Blogger Jon L said...

It's good to see basketball announcing discussed in a way different from "these are the grades I've given each team." It really does often seem like Breen is in a different booth from Jackson/Van Gundy, and he's engaged in a different conversation than they are.

On Marv/Reggie, I actually think Reggie Miller was decent the last two games of the Cleveland-Orlando series, and I wonder how much of that was working with Marv Albert. He didn't really drop any great insight, but he also wasn't obviously offensive. The biggest problem with him previously was, I think, a lack of relating his playing days to what he's watching. As much as I dislike/disagree with Mark Jackson, as you point out, at least he's trying to relate the game he knew to the game as it exists now. Albert, though, usually seems (or pretends to seem) interested in asking the person he's working with about his coaching/playing days, or at least mentioning it in order to prompt a response. Breen seems less interested in doing that and more interested in the audience knows the letter of the rules.

At 6/02/2009 3:34 PM, Blogger tray said...

"And yet... you'll hear him complain all the time about how his flock isn't observant enough, how the Conservative Movement is losing its intellectual momentum."

Did we Conservatives ever have intellectual momentum? Serious question, I've only been around since 85 and never noticed we had any, but perhaps back in a day I'm not up on?

At 6/02/2009 4:38 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Annoying Writerisms

#3 Florid Verbs

"The car grumbled its way to the curb" is on the verge of being so colorful it's distracting. {Florid fr. Lat. floreo, to flower.}

If a manuscript looks as if it's sprouted leaves and branches, if every verb is "unusual," if the vocabulary is more interesting than the story … fix it by going to more ordinary verbs. There are vocabulary-addicts who will praise your prose for this but not many who can simultaneously admire your verbs as verbs and follow your story, especially if it has content. The car is not a main actor and not one you necessarily need to make into a character. If its action should be more ordinary and transparent, don't use an odd expression. This is prose.

This statement also goes for unusual descriptions and odd adjectives, nouns, and adverbs.

At 6/02/2009 5:09 PM, Blogger Aaron said...


This is completely off topic and so not the point, but yes. Absolutely the Conservative Movement once had intellectual momentum, and in some ways still does. JTS is the beacon. In terms of the struggle to balance honest intellectual study of religious texts and historical contexts with faith and emotional connection to the history of the Jewish people, the Conservative Movement does have a kernel of strength.

I personally find my own tenuous Modern Orthodoxy more meaningful, and I think the Conservative Movement has made several significant bad decisions in recent years, but I refuse, as many both Orthodox and Conservative do, to totally discount the Conservative Movement.

At 6/02/2009 5:46 PM, Blogger Joey said...

dunces makes a good point--breen earns praise for his "professionalism," and i think that reflects that a majority of the viewership probably likes his dry calls and constant return to the letter of the law which governs the game. I also would imagine that what I (and likely most on this site) hear as irksome, close-minded self-righteousness hits the right notes with the same people who have made Joe Buck the voice of both baseball and Fox football.

At 6/02/2009 6:26 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

This was so good. I love the repetition of the full name, Mike Breen, Mike Breen, Mike Breen. It's like a ceremony or incantation of a certain type of nothingness.

I've often wished for an Albert/Van Gundy booth. Have they ever worked together? Maybe it would be too much.

At 6/02/2009 9:22 PM, Blogger Dave Fonseca said...

Mike Breen, to me, seems less of an over zealous convert and more a bureaucrat.

To me, the converts would be the broadcasters going out of their way to give undue praise to any and all wild expressions of self on the court rather than accepting them as coming in the "flow of the game."

In a basketball fantasy land, Mike Breen Mike Breen would probably opt for a job at the DMV.

I'm not sure what I'm getting at here, but I just wanted to point out that as well written as this piece is, it strikes the wrong note with me.

At 6/02/2009 10:11 PM, Blogger Fundefined said...

I believe Mecca is closed to all non-muslims unforunately. One must provide proof to the Saudi govt. via mosque to enter Mecca.

At 6/03/2009 12:17 AM, Blogger Ben said...

When I think of Breen's style, it almost forces me to imagine my old English teacher commentating a game. It's almost as if Breen is a New Yorker columnist dictating his philosophy via TV instead of print.

I think the reason why he sticks out the most is 'cause he reminds us all of our P.E. coaches without the passion and excitement that comes with sports. He's more interested in being remembered as a heroic wordsmith instead of an epic narrator. He seems more fit to be a philosphical professor than a simple commentator.

And it's nice to see FD's kosher side every once in awhile. Diggin the references to the Talmud.

At 6/03/2009 12:26 AM, Blogger Ryan M said...

living in NYC for the Larry Brown and Isiah regimes, Breen and Frazier were the only things worth tuning in for when the Knicks attempted "basketball". Breen loses a lot of his passion when the teams (and broadcast) go national ... and when he must play the ultimate straight man to the Van Gundy-Jackson comedy tandem.
but i don't think he's that bad. not that bad at all.
and you lost me on the LeBron-Kobe puppets as a respective looking glass into their souls and character. its an advertisement. and a rather annoying one.
i will give you props for pointing out Breen's lame "company man" tendencies. but i can't recall when we had a truly "breakout" star in the commentator department for the Finals. like the refs, nobody's happy. we all want sparkling revolution.

At 6/03/2009 12:45 AM, Blogger breene said...

hoping the extra 'e' helps me differentiate.

At 6/03/2009 4:20 AM, Blogger The Backwards K said...

@Tim - Fuck you, buddy. Go shove your ridiculous grammar opinions up your ass.

FD - Just a devastating takedown here. Very good stuff.

At 6/03/2009 9:22 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

In what fucking world is Mark Jackson a competent analyst/color commentator? I don't care if this is relative to Breen, who, by the way, your other ESPN choice is Tirico. I'll take Breen any day over Tirico any day of the week, and I will also take Breen talking over Jackson talking. I at least like it when Breen says, "bang," although I might just like him more than Tirico because he works with Van Gundy, who is awesome. I want Van Gundy with Kevin Harlan!

At 6/03/2009 12:54 PM, Blogger appel82 said...

My friend and I giggle every time Mark Jackson says something because he always uses the same phrasing, and similar words, almost like a phone number cadence, e.g., "And he's THE KIND OF GUY, when the BALLS IN HIS HANDS, GOOD THINGS HAPPEN!

It's funny because it's like he thinks more about his emphasis than about what he actually said. Dynamically not insightful, JVG is a good Yin to his Yang, as long as he's not being accidentally racist.

Who the fuck is Mike Breen?

At 6/03/2009 2:11 PM, Blogger M.A.P. said...

This piece is interesting, because I see more of these qualities in Mike Tirico rather than Breen

At 6/03/2009 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tirico calling Flip Murray's dunk on Hinrich, where Kirkles socks him in the balls:

Yeah, Tirico is like the whitest black dude ever, and the fact that Van Pelt is infinitely more hip/street than Tirico is immediatly obvious from their radio show, but Tirico can at least summon some enthusiasm for great plays, unlike Mike Breen. Breen is robotic and sterile, while Tirico just tries really hard to contain his enthusiasm.

Although maybe I just like that call because Hubie casually asks if Flip used a trampoline.

At 6/03/2009 3:14 PM, Blogger Ana said...

Yeah I completely agree. Breen is robotic...so monotone.
-Ana B

check out www.sportslegendschallenge.com

At 6/03/2009 4:02 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Breen was hired for the size of his cock, not for how he uses it.

wv: chicke (Hearn, Hot Rod, we miss you.)

At 6/03/2009 5:31 PM, Blogger Tim said...

@The Backwards K

It's not about grammar, it's about writing. This author obviously cared more about sounding like a good writer by filling his story with fluff, then being a good writer.

At 6/03/2009 6:24 PM, Blogger Robert M said...

I really enjoy the pieces here, but this one, entertaining as it is in spots, feels labored and misguided in tone. My feelings correlate most closely with Ryan M and Dave in the comments -- Breen is at worst buttoned down and staid, and whatever strengths he has are not always well presented in a trio with JVG and Jackson.

The writing here can be particularly interesting and penetrating when it attempts to analyze the public personas of NBA personalities (including broadcasters), and play that off against any inklings of less well known or private personality characteristics that may lend a twist to the analysis. But Breen in this piece is being taken entirely at face value -- his accountant broadcasting voice is so pronounced that he himself has mocked it and made it the butt of jokes with friends. Surely the author could have done better than to cast him as a wannabe convert with an insufficient appreciation of the flow of the game, based on the stiffness of his calls and the few nuggets of knowledge he shares on broadcasts?

I personally feel Breen isn't being given sufficient credit for the way he is capable of directing the flow of the game from a broadcasting standpoint and for his knowledge of the game, but opinions are like...you know what. Is the "karmic crime of cosmic proportion" the existence of Breen, or is it the structure of broadcasts that play off broadcasters with neutral personalities against opinionated color analysts?

I've personally found Breen to be a refreshing voice on Knick broadcasts in tandem with Clyde Frazier, especially when compared to most other local broadcasting teams I've suffered through on League Pass. I don't have an issue with the author's distaste for Breen's ascendancy nationally (I have mixed feelings myself because I don't know that the 3 man team format gives him the best platform), but it would have been much more illuminating to examine what makes certain broadcasters who "play it straight" or who affect professionalism work versus certain types of color analysts. And the NBA's dynamic of white and black when it comes to announcing styles and presentation of the game is itself a fascinating topic worthy of FD analysis (which I may have missed somewhere on this site).

The comparison of Breen to Joe Buck feels particularly off to me, as they don't come across as anything like each other apart from the fact that they're both white.

At 6/03/2009 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just watch the vid that David Lieberman posted, Dahntay Jones throws down a breakaway windmill dunk, and Breen says something like, "Should be easy, Jones makes it more difficult."

The post is saying that Breen uses book-learned observations. Like, no fuck, it was difficult, but you or I would describe the dunk as amazing, game-breaking, athletic, or even youthful indiscretion.

Breen would call LeBron's Game 2 winner as being "timely" or some bullshit, while everyone else would call it God-like.

At 6/03/2009 9:27 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

Don't care for Breen either. But what does this post mean when contrasted against the one from 5.27.09?

"Liberated fandom allows us to root for who we want, in the ways that we want, largely because of our desire to claim ownership over a certain value or aesthetic." -- Free Darko, 5.27.2009

Are all who come late to the game posers or only those who claim ownership but don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk?

The two posts seem to contradict each other at times, and at others cooperate to distill basketball's relevance to the emerging 21st century aesthetic.

At 6/04/2009 3:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how bout kevin calabro over breen? hes an old analyst for the sonics and was hired onto ESPN afyer the move to oklahoma and is considered one of the best in the game...there is your replacement

At 6/04/2009 3:56 AM, Blogger jim said...

i'm no breen fanboy or anything, but i think i appreciate his predictability in a way i couldn't have anticipated. the truth is, all announcers are repetitive, and the ones we generally claim to love the most are the ones that make us laugh the most or who excite us the most. but--and perhaps i'm in a small minority here--i get tired of sensationalist announcers even more quickly than i get tired of the conservative ones. sure, breen (and the like) offer us the staid commentary on phenomenal events ("jones made it more difficult"), but i find it much easier to swallow than the hyperenthusiastic commentary we get from other commentators.

i guess it just comes down to this: i don't like being told how i'm supposed to feel after a play happens, and with breen i can pretend like he's not trying to shove his opinion down my throat. it's not that he isn't offering a lens through which to view the game, but that it's more subtly colored.

decide for yourself, i suppose, which you prefer. isn't that what it comes down to?

At 6/04/2009 11:16 AM, Blogger Justin said...

@ Tim: Truth. Big ups for voicing what I was thinking the entire way through. I worried that I was just being a dick for pulling out my red pen, but this had the feel of a freshman (and I mean high school) essay on "a Topic of Your Choosing." The tone and force resonate with an uncomfortable and irrational fury at the subject... essentially for being milquetoast. And that it's couched in stiff and stiff-collared writing - in essence, poor feel for nuance and flow - provides me a second level of ironic bemusement.

@ everyone else: Maybe it only seems like bad writing in comparison to the Shoals and Co. I come here for, but nonetheless, homedude misfired badly and if we're to be honest appreciators and critics and fans, let's allow people their honest evaluation.

@ Joey: Keep at it, man. I only say this shit because we all have to crawl before we can walk... and all that. You put yourself out there for a (narrow, nerdy) world to see and that's more than I do on the regular.

Oh, and try watching the games a few more beers deep. In HD. With other people. Eventually, you stop noticing the Breens.

At 6/04/2009 12:47 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Thanks, Justin. Any other tips for how to watch sports, or what I am allowed to care about? Actually, this would be really cool--could you direct me to the list? Like, it's been codified, right? And another thing: what's this HD? Is he a sports player? If you could answer my questions, I'd really appreciate it. I'm hoping to get to the level of fandom where I can just completely ignore the Breens. That would be so cool. What's it like up there?

Sort of related: do you have a book on paternalism coming out? That would probably be a fun read, written, I can only imagine, with a tone and command of language perfectly calibrated for everyone in the audience.

To be serious: I have no problem with disagreement if you want to like Breen, or if you are indifferent toward him. Maybe you think what I've described is better applied to another announcer. Or maybe you think that an idea, or a metaphor, or an analogy was off. Maybe your opinions and tastes are totally different than mine. That's all cool, and I would be happy to read why. And maybe you hate the way I wrote this essay because you wouldn't have used those words as I did. All understandable. It probably isn't the best thing I've ever composed, and it may, indeed, be overly indulgent. I don't think any of that is unfair.

But don't affect this bullshit big-brother, I'm-down-because-I-want-to-help-you tone. It's insulting, and it makes whatever merit there is in your substantive point--that some high-school-quality writer like me shouldn't be so animated about Breen being so milquetoast because I should drink more beer and be less stiff-collared--almost impossible to think about rationally.

At 6/04/2009 2:05 PM, Blogger Garry Shuck said...

I couldn't disagree more. Breen is a solid, if unspectacular play-by-play guy. I prefer Marv to him (give me Marv and the Czar any day), but I like Breen, right down to the "Bang!". JVG is good, colorful, and self-deprecating in a funny, not obsequious way. Jackson is an abomination. They could record his track for "NBA Live" and just punch a button for his canned responses to any given play.

At 6/04/2009 6:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Joey,

I realized you were right about DangerDoom. Doom gives an uninspired effort I guess, and it is poor form/gimmicky to put ATHF on an album. I think one needs to be high as fuck to appreciate that shit.

You ever hear Madvillainy?

At 6/05/2009 9:11 AM, Blogger Joey said...

Madvillainy is dope. No disagreement there.

At 6/05/2009 4:10 PM, Blogger Pope John Wall said...

Funny that people came to comment on an article about Mike Breen's lifeless, textbook assessment of "proper" Basketball, with their lifeless, textbook assessment of "proper" writing.
Make of it what you will, but I actually enjoy the way Mark Jackson hits his lines. I think the idea that he cares less about what he says and more about how he says it is correct, and I enjoy that, albeit maybe with a certain level of ironic detachment.

At 6/05/2009 5:05 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

Comment fight!

Hi Pope John, my impression of the writing critics was not that they are against florid prose (they are reading FreeDarko! I guess this post got linked to by deadspin and TrueHoop though, so maybe they are new...), but that they felt that this was a fairly poor attempt at said style and that the piece would have been much better served by a less-ambitious approach.

I assume that the contrast between Breen's staid announcing and the over-the-top language of this piece (someone praised it as sermon-like) was on purpose.

At 6/06/2009 12:13 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

For years I was annoyed that Breen was unable to pronounce the surname of Fabricio Oberto correctly (he always pronounced it with the same vowel sound of "Bert" as in "Bert and Ernie"). See, for example, here. But with the Spurs out early this year, my dander is not up...


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