Friday, May 19, 2006

The Man Who Could Save the Blazers

Taking into account recent history, where we stand, and where we're likely to be for the next couple of years, there's one guy I believe can help this team out as much as any other you could name. He runs 6'10", he's a good scorer, and a decent rebounder. You may have heard of him. His name is Mychal Thompson.

That's right, I said Mychal Thompson.

At 52 years old he's slowed down a little on the court, but he still does one heck of a job on commentary. And we need him.

The Blazers seem to have little grasp on what effect the people broadcasting the game have on the product itself. Everybody knows Clyde Drexler, right? He's maybe the most instantly recognizable person in Portland. But unless you were on the coaching staff or following the team around the country during his time with us, most of your impressions of Clyde were formed not just by watching him on the court, but by hearing people interpret what you were seeing. Without those broadcasters, you don't know Clyde (outside of maybe a ferocious dunk and some sweet jumpers). How much did Bill Schoneley do for your relationship with Walton and Lucas? How much did Steve Jones do for your overall appreciation of the game? (There's a post on that somewhere below.) Broadcasters are our translators, the bridge between us and a complex, often brutal world of larger-than-life figures which to most of us is undeniably alien. They're as important in many ways as the players themselves. Maybe more so in this time of on-court misery. They may not change reality, but they are the single greatest influence on how we perceive it.

When we ran a poll at the O-Live site last summer asking for the most influential Blazer of all time, the winner in a landslide was Mr. Schoneley. That ought to tell you something.

Blazer management has taken a horribly cavalier attitude towards on-air talent in the last few years. Having all of our broadcasters on one-year contracts is the height of foolishness. You think Kevin Calabro works year-to-year? Marv Albert? Ralph Lawler? Even if they love the team and love working here, anybody with real talent is going to be insulted by that treatment, and rightfully so. Thus we're beginning to see Brian Wheeler--whom most would consider the strongest link in the current radio/TV broadcast quartet--interview other places each summer. And anyone who thinks that wasn't part of the disenchantment that developed in the Steve Jones situation has a screw loose. Clearly the Blazers are under-valuing the contributions and role of their broadcasters. If they're trying to pinch pennies, they're doing it in the wrong department.

Approaching Thompson about taking the TV analyst spot would be a master stroke. He's working radio in Los Angeles now. I don't know if TV in Portland beats radio in LA, but if not, make it worth his while. Mychal connects with fans. He's honest, but he has a fantastic sense of humor. I remember when he did local radio on the old KFXX sports talk station he talked one afternoon about the most disappointing draft picks in Blazer history. When somebody called in and suggested one of them was HIM, he handled it with grace and humor. (Now that's class.) He was also the first person I remember publicly predicting the upswing we saw in the late-90's. I'm not saying he's the most accomplished X and O commentator, but he knows his stuff. In a world full of false-cheerleader announcers trying to convince you that down is up and bad is good, Mychal has the rare gift of being able to tell it like it is and make you like it anyway. What more could you ask?

This is not so much a critique of our current crew, rather a plea for management to realize that this would be a quick and easy way to connect more people to the team...or at least a plea for them to realize that this not an area to skimp on. I don't know if management has the courage to abandon the company shill stance that so many teams are taking. (What good has that done them, by the way? How's the image of the league been overall in this era?) I don't know if they have the foresight to jettison this ridiculous year-to-year model and entice Mychal with a longer-term deal. All I know is that fans would really enjoy listening to the guy. He'd make you wish Courtside Monday Night was Courtside Every Night.

Everybody's hoping we can get a new superstar on the court this off-season. I don't know how realistic that is, but why not a new superstar behind the mic?



Blogger Scott R said...

I do agree with your points in that we need the better announcers.

However, I live in San Diego and have the opportunity to listen to "loose Cannons" on xtra sports 570 with Steve Hartman and Mychal Thompson and Mychal is the biggest Laker HOMER there is. It really annoys me since Portland brought him into the league, he had his best years with Portland, and then in the twighlight of his career he gravy trains the lakers for a ring. I don't think he has enough loyalty to Portland to take on a job such as you propose, but if he could change his loyalty back to the black and red i'd definitely listen to him speak. I will agree that he does have a way to of talking that makes bad seem good and sour taste sweet, but i think it is more of a political style of speaking he does anyhow. I've called their show and called him out on the air but he basically just skirted the topic without really answering any of my questions about his loyalty(could be that he is loyal blazers, but has to appear loyal lakers since they sign one of his checks...but i don't like it none the less).

7:04 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

lol...I would bet, as you said, that he's loyal to whoever is paying him. That's his job, more or less. I assume he loves both Portland and L.A. in their own ways. I know the Blazers would never shell out enough to draw him back from the bigger, sunnier market he's in now, but if I were the owner, I sure would. After all, you're paying six billion dollars to Z-Bo. What's $500-600 thousand more to Mychal?

Even if they won't do that exactly, I wish they would wake up and realize how money spent on broadcasters is important, as is the faith and/or ongoing loyalty of those broadcasters. That year-to-year thing is absolutely ridiculous. Totally bush league. Why not just post a sign at the employment office saying, "We are a third class organization. Please plan accordingly."?

If you have contact with Mychal maybe you should send him a link to this site? Maybe he'd like to know that somebody still remembers and cares...

Enjoy San Diego, my friend. I understand the weather is immaculate.


7:20 PM  
Blogger Scott R said...

i will shoot an e-mail to the loose cannons and see if he at all interested. good thought!

As for the weather here IT SUCKS. too damned dry, and i miss all of my mountains and especially the rivers...but, the "scenery" is very nice indeed. LoL

6:38 PM  

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