Coronavirus pause reminding us sports on TV used to be better

As I sit here under house arrest, trying to kill time before it kills me, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not just sports. The pandemic has only added to the intrigue: Why so many more good questions than good answers?

It’s not just MLB managers who remove relief pitchers after they’ve struck out the side on 10 pitches, but national and international episodes that generate blank stares in exchange for good questions.

Last week in Amsterdam, someone apparently took advantage of the coronavirus to steal a Van Gogh from the city’s eponymous but shuttered museum.

So now what?

Does the thief post it on eBay? “For sale: Original Vincent Van Gogh painting. Believed completed in 1888, the start of his ‘Speak Up, Can’t Hear You’ period. Best offer over $15 million. Auction closes Thursday, noon. Shipping, handling negotiable. Please, no Interpol.”

Or perhaps it can be placed for sale at a corner gas station chain link fence art-for-sale display, among those works with the faux velvet black backgrounds depicting a naked woman riding a unicorn. “Er, Claude, how much for the Van Gogh?”

Where do you find a middleman to fence a Van Gogh?

As always, a significant down-swing in the stock markets, such as last week’s caused by the pandemic, has been labeled by Wall Street as “a correction.” Does that mean brokers first issued investors bad advice based on bad info, no mention of a correction?

So how come when the market’s way up no one identifies the surge as “incorrect”? Or is this another “burglary gone bad”?

And then it’s back to watching “vintage” telecasts of sports, decades old. That has come with two consistent realities:

1) None are in high def. 2) all provide the best, uncluttered, full-screen views of the games. No scrolling ads and repetitive info, no corners filled with stats and other distractions designed to be fully considered by morons. Just the games.

Crazy, I know, but that’s how they used to do it.

Yep, years before the technological progress we now “enjoy” — the kind that’s supposed to enhance our appreciation of what we’re watching — TV actually served its primary purpose. TV intentionally tried to show the games in live, full-screen form.

Crowd shots, if any, came infrequently as opposed to after every pitch. Those old-time shot-callers seemed cursed with intrinsic standards that told them that people already watching the game didn’t tune in to see an endless collection of shots of other people watching the game.

Late in close basketball games, no one was distracted by irrelevant stats over live play attesting to how many lead changes there have been and how many “points in the paint” were scored by each team — even if breakaway layups were registered as “points in the paint.”

Football games were left to be seen as — get this — football games. No meaningless or wildly misleading red-zone and third-down efficiency calculations. Fumbles were called “fumbles.” And those older telecasts, too, kept the screen mostly free of everything else except live football.

Thus we’re left to wonder if latter day TV executives, producers and directors, perhaps under the same house arrest restrictions as we, have watched and reached a similar conclusion. Might they now realize that progress means better, not different? Better doesn’t mean loaded with even more artificial additives?

I doubt it. I suppose this time is more likely being used to scheme more ways to obstruct the view, to further defeat the primary purpose of live sports television. Otherwise, one of the networks by now would’ve given common sense a try.

So just more good questions looking for good answers. How much you want for that Monet?

National coronavirus outbreak creates a new type of cage match

As the coronavirus pandemic leaves so many of us to try to separate sense from nonsense, the stridency of our political warriors has begun to imitate no-holds-barred cage fighting and the pre-fight rituals during which opponents trash each other, as if they’re not already scheduled to fight.

The shameful virus blame game, Democrats versus Republicans, left versus right, seems particularly insidious (and childish) in that if one side could conclusively prove that anyone on the other side knew how bad — how lethal, how endlessly destructive — this would be, yet decided to keep that secreted, he or she should be charged with genocide.

But there is no such American culprit, so both sides try to encourage us to believe that the other side is more culpable than the other, thus the demands for a cure have been lapped by calls for the necks of the other side, a holy war between losers.

The common life-or-death good — and good faith — has been sacrificed to the most ridiculous, and harmful form of politics that cable TV news networks can feast on.

And if the day arrives when a scientist discovers a cure or, at the least, a significantly virus-limiting treatment, the first question asked will be, “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?”

Now back to the cage matches.


Sam Tolkoff, a NYC sports legend from high school and college basketball to the Borscht Belt, passed away last Saturday at 93.

Known as “Mr. T,” he was the 35-year basketball coach of his alma mater, Bronx’s James Monroe High. A mere 35 years!

That was just for starters. For more than 20 years, Tolkoff summered as the activities director at Brown’s Hotel. As Monroe’s baseball coach, he introduced the Mets to one of his kids, Ed Kranepool. After World War II, he played point guard on Clair Bee’s LIU teams. Years later he was an assistant hoops coach at Fordham.

Tolkoff’s friends included Jerry Lewis, Arthur Ashe and another Monroe man, Hank Greenberg. He may have outlived his fame, but for over 70 years Tolkoff cast a giant shadow.

No taste on Gattis podcast

Not too long ago, professional athletes speaking to the media or into microphones would try their best to keep it clean. Now they see it as an opportunity to be bad-dude vulgar. Ex-Astros catcher Evan Gattis last week obligatorily loaded up on F-bombs during a podcast. At 33, he doesn’t know better.

Evan Gattis
Evan GattisGetty Images

Virus Miscellaneous: Alan Whitney, long-gone N.Y. Post managing editor, posted a sign in the men’s room that read, “Employees Must Work Before Washing Hands.”


Sure, Mike Francesa, transparent as always, wants to threaten and otherwise rid himself of the Funhouse Twitter account (@backaftathis). They regularly nail him to every word of his very own bogus claims and boasts. Subsequently, Francesa and WFAN can no longer lose any more damning tapes. I’ve known the fellow at the wheel for several years. Francesa and FAN would be wise to try to censor him — he runs an honest ship.

Filed under 4/4/20