June 03, 2009
Leave it to us to make a big deal over nothing at all, and completely miss something that counts.
Jeff approached his producers after it became apparent that the Orlando Magic had a solid shot at the NBA Finals, and told them that if ABC didn't "'think it's best for me to call the Finals, I'm fine with that, I understand.'
"Because it is unusual and I certainly don't want to compromise anything. But they said they wanted me to do it.
"So I'm going to do the best I can, realizing that hey, I'm going to try to be as objective as possible, but I want my brother's team to win. There's no question about that."
Of course there's no question about that. There shouldn't be.
And why, again, should we have a problem with this?
And why should we be asking this guy to pretend? To watch his tongue? To try and deceive us, when we clearly know better?
(Hell, your significant other likely knows better. At some point during this month's Finals, she's going to see a shot of Jeff Van Gundy and mention something like, "didn't you tell me that he was the mustache-guy's brother?" That's the sort of stuff that sticks. And that's OK.)
Two important things about a topic that is, clearly, not all that important.
First, we're big boys and girls. We can handle this. We're grown up enough to understand what Jeff Van Gundy is going through, where his loyalties lie (even though they've only been in place for, quite literally, 24 months), and how it's going to shape his broadcasting style. That is to say, it's not going to have much of an impact when he's discussing Trevor Ariza(notes).
(Yes, I know, Stan was the coach when the Magic traded Ariza. Not the point.)
Secondly, it's sports. This really doesn't matter. I mean it really, really, really doesn't matter; and I'm the guy watching Jeff on the ESPN replay of the game at four in the morning.
I never understand it when fans, especially those with League Pass who can watch games from out of their area, turn on an announcer for "being a homer." Being a homer isn't a crime. Hell, it's to be expected. Being annoying and bad at your job? That's not a crime, but it's something to rip on. Don't rip on them just for wondering whether Paul Pierce(notes) deserved a continuation on that foul. Rip on them for acting like mugs while wondering about the and-one.
Homers among the local sports media? That's beyond lame, mainly because so few of those major columnists are from the actual area they're writing in. And yet, work an Internet search for "Jack Nicholson," "better watch out," "can't handle the truth," and "Pietrus," and you know you're going to end up at the Orlando Sentinel.
But we can see past JVG, even if he tries to be sly, and that's OK. I'd much prefer it out in the open, because it's a bit of an affront to our intelligence to pretend that keeping it quiet will allow us to forget.
The one thing I think pretty damn important?
Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were on Pardon the Interruption last Friday, a day before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. While discussing how and where they'd watch that Game 6, a contest they didn't have to cover in person, Jeff mentioned something about disappearing for three hours, and hoping he'll like the news of the outcome that eventually makes its way to his neck of the woods.
"I won't be watching. I can't watch. And I'm hoping for the best."
OK, that I have a problem with.
I understand why you won't watch, or can't watch. Nerves are a funny thing. But as the lead analyst on a national TV broadcast -- you better watch. Or ABC better find someone else.
Doesn't matter how smart a basketball mind you are, doesn't matter how great a coach you are, and it doesn't matter how well you know the Magic through your brother. The game teaches us new things every time out, there's always room to learn no matter who you are, and I really hope this was more self-deprecating humor from Jeff.
And, at worst, I really hoped he crammed like hell with Magic game tape once he became aware that Orlando was making the Finals. Really, really hope.