December 30, 2012
“Welcome to Around The Horn, I'm Bob McCown,” said McCown, introducing his daily sports panel style talk show, where arguments are presumably scored based on their simple merit but are more accurately scored by how much McCown agrees with his sportscaster guests, who all appeared via satellite feed. “This is the show where I'm forced to listen to four blathering idiots try to convince me that they actually have something interesting to say, when I know they don't.”
“Nice to see you too Bob,” said guest Woody Paige from The Denver Post, his gravely drawl belying his typical dry playful style. “You know what I learned today?” Paige asked with a big smile.
“I don't care what you learned today,” snapped McCown, pressing the mute button on Paige's microphone, which shut it off for ten seconds and deducted a point from his score. “That was, sadly, Woody Paige, our colleague from Denver who shows up because even the Yeti detests his existence. The rest of our panel of idiots are:”
McCown introduced his guests, pausing in between to let them greet the audience on their own.
“Jason Portuondo,” said McCown. “Nice prediction over the weekend Tim,” replied Portuondo in his suave but playful tone. “You just got served!”
“Tim Cowlishaw,” continued McCown, “Okay, I admit, I thought the Gators were unbeatable at The Swamp,” responded Cowlishaw, admitting defeat. “Give Buffalo credit for coming from behind so late...they showed remarkable resilience.”
“You're still getting deducted,” snarled McCown, taking five points away from Cowlishaw, forcing him to start the show with -5 points. “Lastly...the only guy I can tolerate, Steven Brunt,” continued McCown. “Thanks for having me on the show today Bob,” said Brunt with a telling smile, “and honey, I love you.”
“What did you do now?” McCown deadpanned, knowing Brunt was hiding something.
“Nothing,” replied the unassuming Brunt, although his body language clearly betrayed him.
“Come on now Stephen,” said Cowlishaw with a smirk, “you're not usually this cordial to your wife on this show.”
“Okay,” said Brunt, admitting defeat, “so I may have broken my wife's favourite vase as I ran out the door and blamed it on my kids...but it was an accident and I feel really bad about it.”
“No you don't,” scoffed McCown. “You hated that thing.” Brunt just sat silently, unsure of how he could squirm out of McCown's assessment. “You get a mute because we're right,” said McCown as he pressed Brunt's mute button.
The studio announcer then boomed the title of the show’s first segment, called “The First Word”. McCown wasted no time bringing up the first subject.
“Okay,” growled McCown, “I think you all know this story- it only got on The View- but, in case you’ve been living in a cave and can’t see the video of the play that we’re obviously showing on screen, Jesper Mattson of the Colorado Rockies had his hearing yesterday concerning his elbow to the chops of Pittsburgh Penguin Petr Taticek late in Colorado’s loss to Pittsburgh. The hit sent Taticek into his own goalpost knocking him out cold, but, thankfully we’re told, he’s getting released from hospital today and is expected to make a full recovery without missing much playing time. Now, yesterday, Mattson had his hearing with Mr. Funny Words, whom we all know is Robert Browning. Everyone expected a suspension, but Mr. Mattson apparently was so contrite that Browning just rebuked him and let him off the hook. Boy…if ‘I’m sorry’ was good enough to get out of jail…” McCown’s voice trailed off, as he shook his head in disgust.
“Okay, let me begin,” grovelled Paige.
“No,” said McCown, muting Paige. “Tim gets to start us off.”
“Okay,” said Cowlishaw, clasping his hands together and gesturing wildly into the camera as he spoke. “I might be alone on this one, but I agreed with Browning on this one. There’s no way that Jesper Mattson intended to hit Petr Taticek the way that he did…guys fight for position all the time in front of the net…especially at the end of the game…this was just an unfortunate result of that.”
“Jason,” said McCown, shaking his head at Cowlishaw, “tell me you don’t agree with that idiot.”
“I do actually,” replied Portuondo.
McCown didn’t hesitate to push the mute button, leaving Portuondo visibly shocked. “Paige,” groaned McCown, “surprise me and start making some sense to me.”
“Okay,” started Paige, “well, I know I’m from Denver-”
“I’m warning you Woody…don’t go there!” yelled McCown, menacingly brandishing his mute button.
“Hold your trousers there Bob!” shouted Paige back, making the “calm down” motion with his arms. “I’m not going there, don’t you worry…I heartily disagree with Cowlishaw and believe that Jesper should have had…” Paige stopped momentarily to grab a book before continuing, “the book thrown at him!” with Paige throwing the book at the camera as he finished that sentence. “I don’t know, Cowlishaw, how you can even think this was 'just a hockey play'!? Jesper knew where he was on the ice! He knew how far he was from the goalpost…he had to have known how far Taticek was from the goalpost too…so bullocks on that…he meant to do that.”
“Woody, I don’t know how you can contend he meant to do that when he never even looked at Taticek,” said Brunt, jumping in. “You never see him take his eyes off the play to see who’s behind him…sure, he likely felt Taticek’s presence but I highly doubt there was any kind of premeditation in the attack…he just felt Taticek there and instinctively tried to push him out of the way…and, unfortunately he hurt Taticek. This was reckless, sure, but it wasn’t premeditated.”
“Stephen, Stephen, Stephen,” started Portuondo dismissively, “once again you have it wrong,” he continued, noticeably grimacing and shaking his head. “Hockey players are the kings making plays that look accidental only look accidental…how many guys fall into the opposing goaltender after being tapped on the shoulder by the defender? We see that all the time. This is no different…he knows where he is on the ice, he knows where Taticek is right behind him and he knows where the goalpost is…this isn’t an ‘oops’… this is an ‘oops!’ ” He raised his hand to his mouth as he finished, pretending to feign an apology as he said that last word.
“Okay, you’ve passed theatrics,” scoffed McCown, “but that’s not the point…how many games Jason? You missed mentioning that.”
“Oh right,” replied Portuondo, realizing his mistake. “I’m with Woody- he should have received the maximum, which in this case is seven games.”
“Eight actually,” said McCown, deducting a point. “You forgot about the injury.”
“Right,” said Portuondo, nodding his head in acknowledgement. “Hey, arithmetic wasn’t my thang, man…that’s why I became a broadcaster.”
“Okay come on guys!” chimed Cowlishaw, eager to defend his stance as the only one who didn’t believe a suspension was warranted. “Elbows happen all the time! We’re not going to be suspending everyone for laying elbows now, are we? Besides, I think we’re all forgetting that he was penalized on the play…it’s not like the referee missed it or something…Jesper already knew what he did was wrong, but, even that, this was no different than any other elbowing play we see all the time in hockey…if this was an elbow that happened during a battle along the boards we wouldn’t be talking about this the way we are now…there was just an unfortunate set of circumstances that led to the injury.”
“Plays like that,” scoffed Portuondo, “they’re just nudges…this was a full-on shove…I really don’t know how you can say that this was just an accident.”
“You have to remember Jason,” chimed in Brunt, dryly, “that your adrenalin is going wildly at that moment in the game…what you may think is just a ‘nudge’ could turn into a really violent thrust because your brain hasn’t caught up to your muscle speed yet.”
“Okay, okay, okay,” interjected McCown. “We’re going in circles on this. It’s safe to say that we got two people here who though Mattson should have been suspended for a long while, one who thinks he shouldn't be suspended at all, and one who thinks he should have received some kind of punishment (but not a huge one). Do you know what I think? I think violence has no place in this game and Jesper Mattson should have been made an example...I don't care if it was an accident, the play was boneheaded and reckless, and by not suspending him, you are telling other players that this kind of stuff is 'okay'. 'Cause once one guy gets away with it then it tells other guys they can get away with it too...and then we get an even bigger problem. Do you know what else I think?” McCown paused waiting to see if someone responded. He then finished as he does for every topic. “You're all idiots!” McCown scowled, while hitting everyone's mute button.
Robert Browning's Office, Buffalo, NY
“I have myself flummoxed,” said Browning to his Vice-President, Taylor Rogers. “None of the scribes seem able to deduce the appropriate opinion regarding my fiat on Mr. Mattson. Their indecision leaves me puzzled.”
“I read Damien Cox's article too,” said Rogers. “He too doesn't understand why there's so much division amongst the press...he thinks you should have punished him severely.”
“Mr. Cox is a fine gentleman,” said Browning, “but he does not comprehend the complexities of the decision. You must understand that for the proper engagment of the game of hockey requires that no further discipline be issued. Their dismay over the ultimate malaise of Petr Taticek unveils their true duplicity in the matter- if such a result did not leave Mr. Taticek in any form of further distress, we would not be conversing about enlongating Mr. Mattson's absence from the game.”
“I guess,” said Rogers, disagreeing. “However, by not suspending Mattson we open the door for other players to do what he did for much more harmful purposes.”
“I am aware of that possibility,” replied Browning. “However, the players' performance of such acts occurred before Mattson and will occur after. We cannot thus expect this to be any kind of preventative measure. We must thus evaluate this play on its own merits as if an injurious result did not take place.”
“Well,” said Rogers, pondering what Browning said. “Fair enough. I just think the division in the media suggests that this is a bit of a judgement call and that maybe you should have erred on the side of safety.”
“I acknowledge that line of thinking,” said Browning. “I know my fiat could have been determined in another manner...and the pensiveness I endured to lead to such a resolution was an arduous traverse…but the sanctity of the game was in jeopardy…I could not manufacture a diktat against it.”
“You did what you had to do,” said Rogers. “Only time will tell now if it was the right decision.”