Who Was That Guy?

I am not, in general, a big fan of Big Red. Bill Walton often tends toward bombast, florid language and, of course, incessant references to John Wooden. One of the first posts I wrote for TSF was, in fact, a lengthy diatribe about Walton. Oh, and did I mention the incessant references to John Wooden.

Well, having watched more of the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament than I expected, and in the spirit of giving credit where credit’s due, I gotta say – damn.

Before last night, I’d only caught a few minutes here and there over the past few days, but I’ve enjoyed watching the American team. I know the competition isn’t great, and Argentina, the toughest competition, is still to come (Brazil does feature two bona fide NBAers, Barbosa and Nene). But, the Americans look great. They’re really moving their feet on defense, and they’re simply running their opponents off the floor. With JKidd quarterbacking the break (backed up by Billups and Deron Williams), and Carmelo, LeBron and Kobe filling the lanes, USA basketball’s been unstoppable. With mobile big men in Amare Stoudamire and Dwight Howard, and zone-busting shooters like Michael Redd and Mike Miller, the team is, to trot out a well-worn cliche, hitting on all cylinders.

Last night, for some odd reason, I actually recorded the game against Puerto Rico, which tipped at 11 pm, and was glad I did when I woke up with insomnia at 4 am. So, I watched that whole game. The Americans ran away and hid, 117-78. But, an unexpected pleasure was Bill Walton’s color commentary alongside play-by-play man John Saunders. I had noticed, in the previous snippets of games I’d caught, that Walton was well-prepared, knew the players on the other teams surprisingly well, and was refraining from his usual, incessant John Wooden, “right way” talk.

But, over the course of last night’s game, Walton was truly entertaining. He was extremely well-informed about the Puerto Rican players – their tendencies, their previous international experience. He was knowledgeable about international basketball, pointing out how many Argentinians and Brazilians (several hundred in all) play in the Italian and Spanish professional leagues, which Walton described as the two best in the world outside of the United States. Walton also noted that both Italy and Spain have liberal citizenship laws when it comes to individuals who can trace ancestry to those two countries. This helped explain, Walton pointed out, why Brazilian and Argentinian nationals were in high demand in the Italian and Spanish leagues.

Walton is very well-traveled, and kept a running travelogue of Puerto Rico’s great natural tourist destinations (Saunders asked at one point whether there was any place in the world that Walton hadn’t been. Walton laughed, and said New Zealand, and then discussed New Zealand’s recent surprise win over basketball power Australia in the Oceania play-in tournament).

Walton also provided an overview of Phil Jackson’s literary oeuvre, including his book “Sacred Hoops,” written before Jackson became the Bulls’ coach, that described Jackson’s experience coaching basketball in Puerto Rico (at one point, late in the game, Walton read a passage from the book that illuminated Puerto Rico’s passion for basketball.) He took the time to criticize the United States for the environmental damage it has caused at the bombing range in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Walton also mentioned how tragic it was that Puerto Rico’s baseball league, the oldest running in Latin America, was closing down because of a lack of funds, and rattled off a list of Hall of Famers – including Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn, Sandy Koufax and, of course, Roberto Clemente – who played ball there.

At one point, the conversation turned to the Chinese Forward Yi Jianlian (who signed with the Bucks today), and whether his refusal to sign with Milwaukee could subvert the draft system. I was certain that Walton would take this opportunity to lament the passing of the good old days. Instead, he quickly and dispassionately rattled off a list of players who, in the past, have managed to refuse to accept being drafted by a particular team. Among the players Walton mentioned – Steve Francis, John Elway, Eli Manning and Kiki Vandeweghe.

Despite keeping up an extremely wide-ranging and, as I said, well-informed commentary about sports, Puerto Rico and even gun control at one point, Walton and Saunders did a really nice job of calling the game. They were relaxed, insightful and the telecast entirely lacked the cheap psychologizing and stale references to character that so often mar the typical American sports broadcast.

Walton didn’t overstate what the Americans have accomplished, noting that the competition will, of course, be much tougher in Beijing next year and that Argentina’s impressive starting five of Ginobili, Oberto, Nocioni, Delfino and Luis Scola won’t play in the current tournament. But, he gave credit for their play while not mentioning, one single time, John Wooden, or UCLA basketball or how much better things used to be. Whether it was because no one is watching, or because the American team has played so flawlessly and selflessly that there’s little to criticize, or because the fact that it’s an international tournament has somehow shut off Walton’s less desirable instincts as an American sportscaster, I found listening to Big Red to be a real pleasure.

I’m looking forward to the next game.

18 Responses to “Who Was That Guy?”

  1. Well jweiler it sounded like old bullwinkle I mean Bill Walton was actually better then he was when the US played that game Saturday night. I won’t even watch those idiots on ESPN. I will wait for the tape delay on NBA TV.

    Anyway Walton was a idiot on Saturday night. He spent half the game talking about how the paper champ steve nash was the best player in the world and how Kobe should ask for a trade. Next the fool talked about brazil and how it borders every country in South America. Then he talked about how Brazil was named after a piece of wood. Then he talked about how Brazil had one of the largest populations in the world. I’m surprised that he didn’t mention that brazil as a country has the second largest black population in the world. Second only to the US.

    All in All that weed smoking fool talked about everything except the MFing game.

    What can I expect from a fool that once said that Luc Longley was playing like he was Wilt Chamberlein.

    In my Bill Walton voice ” Pass that joint over here so I can take a hit and forget about this pain in my foot.”

  2. Excuse me I meant kobe shouldn’t ask for a trade.

  3. On the real jweiler that was a great article. Its just that bill walton works on my nerves. But I guess that shows how good your writing skill is. If you can write a article on that fool and make it interesting your a he11 of a writer.

    Maybe if you wrote the script for a woody allen movie you could actually make it interesting?

    D@mn my fault jweiler I may be asking for a little too much.

  4. You and I must be watching a different set of games J.

    Walton’s semi-incoherent rambling combined with his ridiculous takes on basketball are getting worse as his prior LSD and weed habits seem to be affecting a penetration of early onset dementia.

    And as a Kobe fan, his takes are particularly galling as he continually attacks Kobe on an almost minutely basis.

    Finally, I did notice the one time they paid lip service to the NBA ref scandal. As he and his cohort announcer maladroitly tried to sweep things under the rug, Bill literally screamed out loud at the suggestion thought of Donaghy naming other refs “WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD ANYBODY BELIEVE ANYTHING DONAGHY HAS TO SAY ABOUT ANYTHING.”

    Nope, no two ways about it, Walton is an incoherent fool.

    Oh and BTW, When he said Kobe was the most talented player in the world, but not the best player in the world, that title apparently going to that defensive and scoring juggernaut Steve Nash, I almost reached into the screen to strangle the dope head.

  5. Guys

    I can’t vouch for Saturday night – I didn’t watch that. I only really watched last night most of the way through, and found him entertaining and not given to the moral hectoring he usually engages in. Maybe I judged him last night by the low bar he’s set.

    He didn’t mention Nash last night but yes, I agree, he clearly judges Nash by a different standard than he judges other players.

  6. Oh and BTW, When he said Kobe was the most talented player in the world, but not the best player in the world, that title apparently going to that defensive and scoring juggernaut Steve Nash, I almost reached into the screen to strangle the dope head.

    HAHA…………..when I heard that I wanted to ask that fool what he was smoking. Because that had to be some potent stuff he was smoking in order to say something that stupid.

  7. I actually agree with JWeiler.

    I found Walton highly entertaining. He knows a lot of random stuff that was interesting to hear about.

    While his comments about Kobe and Nash pissed me off, for the most part I found him to be a good listen.

  8. Walton actually defended OJ Mayo last night, which shocked the Hell out of me for a number of reasons.

    He must’ve been off that purp last night:)

  9. 10FootBongz Says:

    Nice summary J,
    While I wouldn’t necessarily want Walton announcing a really important game, there aren’t many guys in sports that I would rather have announcing a blowout than him. Anyone who can come up with a line like, “Isn’t it a little early to be bringing in the human victory cigar, Zan Tabak?” deserves time on TV.
    He turns the word “TERRIBLE” into a full sentence, and he knew Jerry Garcia. You can’t hate on that (although I hope to actually see some hate on that).

  10. Just watching the first half of the game tonight illustrates why I can’t stand Walton.

    It’s not just that he reads his facts from index cards as I now know more about the nation of Uruguay than I ever wanted to know, it’s that the big pot head feels the need to talk EVERY DAMN SECOND. And it gets him into trouble.
    This from tonights game

    Bill’s partner: The other team was saying “uh oh” when LeBron was driving for that dunk
    Bill: That’s what the people of New Orleans were saying two years ago “Uh oh” when Katrina hit.

    Dude is a bigger dunce than Boney.

  11. I haven’t been watching the games, but while I generally can’t stand Walton’s announcing, he does get half a pass because he knowingly plays the fool… and the audience knows its part schtick

    PS: Can somebody PLEEEEEEEEEAAAAASE get a rebound!

  12. More idiocy from the big pothead.

    During the game, he said that in Uruguay, there was the same type of colonization that occured in the other nations in South America because there was no gold or silver. Then later he pointed out that 95% of the population of the country was of white European descent.

    I tell you, dude is dumber than a box of cracker jacks.

  13. Bill is entertaining to me… yeah he usually rambles too much about Wooden, the old days, UCLA and the ‘right way’ but he’s refreshing. In this FIBA tourny, its nice to see that an American takes the time to actually learn about another culture and supply an array of random factoids, you think Costas, Stephen A., Marv, etc are gonna do that?
    [BILL WALTON VOICE] Carmelo Anthony is simply unguardable, he’s the best player on the US team. Throw it DOWN Melo, Throw it DOWN!!![/BILL WALTON VOICE]

  14. kulturejam Says:

    “Do {they} have black people in Brazil?” Where’s Alfred E. Newman when you need him?

    You either love Big Red or you hate him. But his critics have to remember: UCLA basketball was great, both before and after Bill played there. “There are no final four banners in Pauley Pavilion”. John Wooden was the greatest coach in the history of team sports, and Walton has every reason to be proud of the fact that was a Bruin and played for Wooden. Many of those who resent Walton’s comments are probably people who would like to trumpet Duke or North Carolina or Kentucky or Indiana basketball, but realize that UCLA’s accomplishments overshadow any claims they could make. Oh, and in the interests of full disclosure, I earned my M.A. at UCLA, but of course that has no bearing on my enthusiasm for Bruin basketball. None whatsoever.

  15. Origin,

    Brazil has the largest Black population outside of Africa. The U.S. has the second largest.

  16. TeeDee I am speaking on Country not Continent.

    Remember Africa is not a country. It is a Continent.

  17. However I do understand where you are coming from Teedee. The Census only lists about 11 million brazilian folks as black. Since some brazilians who have black in them don’t even consider themselves black.

    So thats the stat I was going by. But we all know if you go by the one drop rule its really about 80 million.

    He11 barbosa might not even consider himself black.

  18. JWeiler – I guess you missed the game between the US and Canada. Walton went on this nasty flashback of when he traveled through Canada while adding some incoherent cultural references that were nothing short of comical.

    I’m just happy I didn’t have to endure his nonsense during the NBA Finals this year.

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