I admit it. I enjoy a good gladiator show. That’s why I watch the Seattle Seahawks each week. This Sunday, our beloved local mesomorphs will enter the arena along with the San Francisco 49ers for what Anthony Burgess called “the old ultra-violence” in “A Clockwork Orange.”
In my early newspaper career, I was a sports writer and sports editor. I saw some insane collisions when I walked the football sidelines. Russell Crowe’s “Gladiator” character would cringe.
Ah, the spectacle of sport. In a questionable display of parenting, my 8-year-old son and I laughed and watched a San Francisco city bus being overturned by delirious, drunken fans after the 49ers won their first Super Bowl in 1982. (Some role model I was.)
A few years later, I was persuaded to read Daniel Mannix’s classic 1958 book about the sadistic Roman games, “Those About to Die.”
Naval battles — in the water-filled Colosseum! Herds of giraffes and lions brought in to be slaughtered for the masses! (The transport logistics alone boggle the mind.) Sexual depredations! Five thousand gladiators slain in one epic battle!
Now THAT’S (Roman) entertainment! La dolce vita for the masses!
The crowds wanted even more carnage, so the Emperor Trajan gave one set of games that lasted 122 days. Ten thousand warriors and 11,000 animals were killed. No Pax Romana here. It makes today’s mixed martial arts battles seem almost craven.
And imagine the killer TV ratings this would get today.
I was also in the Baseball Writers Association. The best thing about that gig covering major league ball in Montreal was getting the last interview the legendary Jackie Robinson ever did.
But baseball, once my youthful passion, is — for many reasons, I’ll spare you — something I rarely watch anymore. It’s sports Ambien.
But I have noticed that hapless Seattle Mariners play-by-play guy Rick Rizzs has the most embarrassing home-run call you’ll ever hear, to wit(less): “Goodbye Baseball!”
Hmm. Did the Mariners’ radio tonsil stay up all night dreaming THAT one up?
David Letterman had the two best home-run calls ever:
“That missile is headed to Moscow!” and, “Sell the toys, rent the room. This baby ain’t coming home!”
The best/funniest sports movie ever, hands down: “Slapshot,” which Paul Newman once said was his favorite film.
The Hanson Brothers! Ogie Oglethorpe! Old-time hockey!
“Slapshot” is a brilliant, clever parody of both hockey violence and male sexual immaturity. And, for its time at least, it was one of the most foul-mouthed (i.e., realistic) films ever. The best part: It was written by a woman! I watch it often, and it always cracks me up. I highly recommend it.
I asked Port Townsend’s leading hockey fan and NHL authority, John Hayes, about this classic and flawless film, and he agreed, adding, “Go Sharks!” (San Jose superfan Hayes is a Silicon Valley transplant.)
Best humor in sports
You can have fun writing, reading and hearing about sports if you don’t get emotionally involved or take them too seriously.
A very funny guy, Michael Bradley, who goes by the sobriquet El Hombre, is a cynical (i.e., realistic) Philadelphia sportswriter who guests on Seattle’s ESPN Radio (710 AM) each Tuesday at 1 p.m. El Hombre is invariably funny and irreverent about the latest sports idiocies. He’s worth checking out.
The best humor in newspapers? It’s often found on the sports pages.
One of the funniest sportswriters was the late Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times.
When a local sports team vastly inflated its attendance figure by 10,000 fans, Murray wrote:
“Most of them came disguised as empty seats.”
Bill Mann of Port Townsend has written the humor column for CBSMarketWatch and USA Today. He’s firstname.lastname@example.org.