DAVID WELLS, NBA HOME COURT ADVANTAGE, DONTRELLE WILLIS

May 15, 2009

Mike Penner of the LA Times reviewed “Boomer” Wells’ work as a baseball commentator on TBS. I always felt this was going to happen and that Wells
might turn out pretty good as a mixture of John Madden and Charles Barkley. Penner said: “David Wells will mark the 11th anniversary of the perfect game
he pitched for the New York Yankees against the Minnesota Twins in the most unusual place:
In the press box, behind a microphone, providing analysis for TBS’ coverage of another Yankees-Twins game.
Behind enemy lines, in other words.
‘I was never really fond of the media throughout my career, because of the way I saw certain things written, certain things that were said, and how a lot of
the reporters kind of stereotype us,’ Wells said. ‘I always fought with those guys.’
Despite his on-and-off feuds with members of the media, Wells was considered a good quote during his playing career, a well of colorful observation TBS
is trying to tap.
Wells made his TBS debut on May 3, a Boston-Tampa Bay game.
‘A great experience,’ he said. ‘I think it was the first time I ever sat and watched a nine-inning game without getting up and going into the clubhouse and
watching golf, like a lot of guys do.’
Asked if he encountered any surprises in his first game as a broadcaster, Wells said, ‘Yeah. Suit and tie.’
On preparing for a telecast: ‘I’m not the type of guy who’s going to watch a lot of baseball. I’d rather be out in the woods hunting. In fact, I just got back
from Alaska. I was up there for three weeks, off and on, hunting my bears.
‘It went great. I finally got them, a brown and a black. It’s a pretty incredible place, Alaska. It’s not for pansies, I can tell you that. It’s a man’s world up
there. When you’re in that bear’s element, now you’re on their level. You’ve got a gun, they’ve got a lot of teeth and claws, and if they get you, you’re done.’
On Charles Barkley saying he was happy the network hired Wells because now it had someone “fatter” than him: He must have meant ‘phat.’ I’d love to get
on a scale and we could just prove it once and for all. But I want to whup his . . . in a footrace. Because he got beat by an 80-year old man, see if he could
get beat by somebody his own age.’
Actually, referee Dick Bavetta is in his late 60s and Barkley won the race, at the 2007 NBA All-Star game, but you get the point.
TBS hired Wells in hope that he might become a baseball version of Barkley, someone who speaks his mind and shoots from the hip.
‘I hate to read,’ Wells said. ‘I’m not a big reader, especially reading off a teleprompter. I just rather ad-lib, go out and say what’s on my mind. I have been
doing it for years and, I guess, why stop now? But I guess it’s going to have to change a little bit. I’m going to have to grow up some time.’

I watched that “so called” terrible 83-75 beating inflicted on the Celtics by the Magic that forced a game 7 in their series, THAT WAS PLAYED IN
ORLANDO. I emphasized that because Boston actually had more FG’s than Orlando (32-30). The BIG difference came on the free throw line where
Orlando was 17-31 (.548) and Boston was only 8-13 (.615). The zebras called 28 PF’s on Boston and only 15 PF’s, on Orlando, the home team,
I thought NBA Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to the officials about eliminating these types of inconsistencies.

The San Francisco writers correctly congratulated Dontrelle Willis for his return to the active list for Oakland. Bruce Jenkins said, “Dontrelle Willis didn’t
need to win that game last night. He didn’t need to strike out the side, blow people away or generate that old-time excitement in the crowd. He just needed
to throw strikes. In that sense, the first stage of his comeback was a success.                                                                                                                                             
Willis doesn’t want to hear about any “anxiety disorder,” which is how the diagnosis came down in the wake of his well-documented struggles. He just
wants to play baseball again. He had plenty of chances to reveal stress or anxiety as the game unfolded in Minneapolis, and he shrugged them off, one by
one. With a little help from plate umpire Paul Schrieber, who tightened his strike zone into a tiny square, Willis would have fared better.                                                                                                                              
The point is that Willis showed some command, to say nothing of velocity (as high as 93 mph with his fastball). Fans undoubtedly feared the worst when he
walked his very first hitter, the Twins’ Denard Span, and Justin Morneau — sitting on a 1-1 fastball after Willis had worked Joe Mauer with that pitch
exclusively — hit an awe-inspiring two-run homer to dead center field. But Willis
didn’t get rattled. He only walked two batters in his 4 2/3 innings, and that was the only statistic that truly mattered.”
Gwen Knapp added, ”. Willis seems to be part of a watershed period in pro sports, which should eventually make it easier for athletes to seek proper
medical help for emotional or mental disorders. The stigma has already been eroded by Zack Greinke’s comeback and phenomenal success this spring, a
development that seemed extremely unlikely when he walked out of the Royals’ spring training three years ago.                                             
Diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder, he could easily have become a pariah in a world that trains athletes not to flinch when they’re hit by
90-mph fastballs. Credit the Royals for hanging in there with him, and Greinke for not covering up his illness. Even 10 years ago, that might have been
impossible.                                         
The constant attention and enormous sums of money lavished on athletes has to make disclosing any kind of mental disorder extremely risky. But Shaun
Andrews, an offensive lineman with the Eagles, just gave an extraordinary interview to the New York Times, in which he discussed his ongoing fight with
depression and described being bullied about his weight as an adolescent.                                                                                       
Among other things, he talked about his extravagant spending – ‘I wasted $300,000 on a car’ – and the unique pressures of being a young, wealthy athlete
from a poor background. More to the point, he managed to do it with a certain humility and without an overlay of self-pity.                                                                                                      
It’s May. Football is in minicamps, not midseason. Once the games start, Andrews won’t be able to dwell on these issues. Willis is at that point now, but
someday, maybe he can explain what he has been through. It won’t be easy, even now. Athletes hate talking about physical ailments; just thinking about
them is viewed as weakness. But denial about depression only makes the problem worse, and the sports world seems closer to seeing that it might take guts
to stare it down.”

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