I used to want Calvin Trillin’s job at The Nation—and I still do, I guess—but the job I really want belongs to Beau Estes at NBA.com. Estes provides the commentary (most nights, anyway) for the league’s Top Ten plays of the day. The commentary doubles as a master class in rhyme and metaphor, in alliteration and allusion; the exuberance of the writing matches the exuberance of the delivery. Just look at today’s offerings from Sunday’s games: Estes gives us Joakim Noah, “passing better than a Lamborghini”; he gives us the Rockets “on the run-out”; he introduces a gorgeous 360 by Tony Parker with “You say you want a revolution?” Or turn to yesterday’s Top Ten, which begins with a swat from “Serge Ibaka the shot-blocka” that leads to a “KD spree.” (Estes sounds, at times, like someone afflicted with clanging, a thought disorder I wouldn’t mind succumbing to myself.) Later, a Patrick Patterson jam is punctuated with “Duck Brooklyn” (it rhymes with this). The allusions come quick and without winks; you get them or you don’t. As someone wrote about Estes on YouTube, “Can this guy commentate my life please?”
I live with someone who’s not a sports fan, and sometimes I feel a bit self-conscious about the amount of time I spend reading ESPN.com and looking at highlight videos. But really, I read the articles for the poetry! And I watch the videos for the glimpses of joy! As I wrote in this space several years ago, I think that part of my love of language (and perhaps even of narrative) comes from my early years of following sports. I don’t care, in any real way, which team wins a particular game, but I love the drama that comes in not knowing what might happen next. And my brain (which is wired, just like yours, to recognize patterns) lights up when it hears Estes get his mad-dog doggerel on: “On to Toronto pronto Tonto . . . DeMarvelous DeRozan has the defense frozen, and Amir Johnson with anything but a mere jam here. . . .”
April’s a good month for sports: we have the playoffs in basketball and hockey; we have the start of the baseball season. And the Twenty Tens (or whatever this decade is called) is a good age for sportswriting. Bill Simmons is a better writer—funnier, livelier, more alert—than almost any columnist I can think of who works under a deadline. And Mike Tanier! Former Philly math teacher Mike Tanier! When he started writing about football for the Times’ Fifth Down blog, that page quickly became the home of all things cracked and wonderful. I’ll close with three of Tanier’s how-did-this-paragraph-get-by-his-editors? gems. The final one, composed at the height of Tebow-mania, is so exquisite that I’ve wanted to write about it for three years. But what can one say? Like an alien artifact, it asks to be worshipped, not interpreted.
Multiple quarterback injuries have loosed anarchy upon the Texans, who turn to W. B. Yeats—oops, T. J. Yates—to stem the blood-dimmed tide. The losses of Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart have caused the second coming of Jake Delhomme, who slouched off to Houston to sign a new contract Tuesday. Delhomme is full of passionate intensity, and he is not quite the worst: Brett Favre, with his gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, was also mentioned as a possible replacement.
For Philadelphia, Dream Team is not a boast but a descriptor. The Eagles’ games follow the disjointed logic of the subconscious, each one a fantasia of improbable joys and unspeakable terrors jumbled together in a neurotic heap. In the fourth quarter, a fellow named Kafka arrives to make it clear that you have left the physical world for some existential realm, though Nietzsche may be more appropriate: when you gaze into the abyss, you realize that it is the middle of the Eagle defense, and Ahmad Bradshaw could easily run straight through it for a 60-yard gain. The Giants do not expect to see the backup quarterback Mike Kafka on Sunday; Michael Vick (concussion) made progress during the week and is capable of producing much more tangible nightmares.
The Broncos’ defense has been exceptional in the last two weeks, allowing just 23 points while scoring seven on an interception return Tebow. The rookie Von Miller has nine and a half sacks Tebow, Elvis Dumervil has played his way back into form after a chest injury erased his 2010 season Tebow and linebackers D. J. Tebow and Joe Mays have made an impact in the Tebow of the field. The Broncos special Tebows are also playing well. Norv Tebow is facing heavy crititebow in San Ditebow, and could lose his Tebow if Tebow Tebow Tebow soon.