Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Jim Souhan: The Man with No Perspective

The job of a sports columnist is to take a different approach to a story. Find a unique angle or tell the reader something they wouldn’t gather from the AP’s account. Of course Jim Souhan breaks the mold for columnists. He does a sufficient job of recapping the feud between US speed skaters Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick. And then we get his paycheck-earning insight.

For those who might have missed this speedskating spitball war because, oh, there was a good cooking show on the Food Network, Hedrick won a gold in the 5,000 meters, then complained that Davis was unwilling to skate in the team pursuit, which theoretically would have given Hedrick a chance to win five golds.
I’m confused. Is Souhan cynical because he has to watch the Olympics, or angry for missing his Rachel Ray shows, or calling his readers stupid for not watching speed skating? He might be irritated with the unnecessary drama and cat fighting in speed skating, but if that’s the case, why write another 500 words on the subject?

Davis kept referring to speedskating as "pure sport," even suggesting he prefers no fan or media attention.
I love pure sports too, but I won't get to spring training until March 14. Until then, I might occasionally take a wrong turn at the cappuccino machine and find myself at a speedskating event, and if two stars are going to keep kicking each other under the table -- or if Hedrick's going to let his cell phone ring whenever Davis talks, as he did Tuesday -- then we might take notice.

Souhan the Snob emerges. I don’t think anyone, even speedskaters, think that the sport is bigger in the US than team sports. But just to be sure, Souhan washes his hands of any affection for lame-o speedskating. If you’re like me and read all of his columns fishing for signs of ignorance and stupidity, then you recall he wrote a glowing column on Hedrick and speed skating just last week:

Hedrick's is the cowboy way -- no whining, just a Texas two-stride past skaters who hadn't heard of him until he made them memorize his backside.
Granted he had no idea that both Hedrick and Davis were babies, but at the time Souhan seemed interested in the event.

"Shaq and Kobe said a lot more to each other than Shani and I did," Hedrick said with a smile, long before Davis incited the verbal brawl.
Shaq and Kobe won championships together before splitting.
Davis and Hedrick? They refuse to win anything together, and neither will get traded to Norway.

Comparing two pansies in a team sport to two pansies in an individual sport doesn’t work very well. Shaq and Kobe also had ten other teammates that required chemistry. A speed skating relay is not really a team. 100m sprinters are almost always selfish and prima donnas too, which makes a better comparison. Of course the last time sprinters were in the news was like two years ago. Well outside the realm of research for a columnist.

They are cursed by proximity, tied by fate, bound by mutual hatred.
That sentence is the crown jewel (the voice in Souhan’s head says “Pulitzer!”). It sounds like a cheesy movie tag line. Keanu Reeves stars in Impossible Love.

We haven't seen a Winter Games rivalry like this since Tonya Harding put a contract on Nancy Kerrigan's knee.
You got the feeling Tuesday night that Davis and Hedrick left the building in search of Jeff Gillooly's phone number.
That’s right, two Olympians who have a verbal spat is equivalent to Harding plotting a physical assault on her rival. The story was reasonable until the last two paragraphs. Then the vessel suddenly and spectacularly ran ashore.