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Monday Superlatives

Bill Walton just keeps getting better . . . and weirder

March 15, 2021

Mitchell Layton

Is there anything I could write in this space that would adequately introduce the video I'm about to post? Is there anything that could top the written description: "Dave Pasch reading promos into the commercial break, while Bill Walton makes various disturbing sounds in honor of the Buffaloes?"

I submit, folks, that there is not. Just watch:

Or, watch this:

Or watch this, where he continues the animal noise theme in a, um, poetic comparison of beavers and buffaloes. Plasch's face in the aftermath is the real jewel here:

Or just listen to him make a vague weed reference:

This all happened in one night, Saturday, in a Pac-12 game you almost certainly didn't watch. It happens, in fact, every night that this man appears on TV, and lately he's been obsessed with animals, animal noises, or sometimes just noises. Here he was on Friday night:

Now, I would like to remind you that this is happening on ESPN, which is national television, which usually features professional men and women taking sports very seriously. Then, out of nowhere, on a late night on the west coast, you sometimes get somebody so strange, so unhinged, and so unfiltered, that he wouldn't be allowed on most public access stations. Let's back one more night to Thursday, where, in a game between Colorado and USC, he could be found talking about Chris Bosh and transitioning into a story about how the Colorado coach's daughter is studying abroad, and transitioning from there into a discourse on a book called Road to Valor. And it all happened in about 20 seconds:

This madness has been going on for decades, too. This is not someone descending into something like insanity over time. Here was Bill Walton during Shaq's career, talking about meteors and the grand canyon and erosion:

And I haven't even mentioned the glorious hyperbole, as perfectly summarized in this clip:

If you're craving more, there are tons of compilations on YouTube, and one of the great things about our technological age is that we'll be able to preserve this slice of strangeness among an increasingly homogenized sports media landscape. He's a mad hippie who never should have survived the early '70s, but he's been preserved in something like his original form all the way to the present, and at 68 he's somehow more deranged than ever before, to the point that he'll simply break down and start growling like a bear if he runs out of better ideas.

The words "national treasure" are thrown around quite a lot in regards to Walton, but this man is truly global, even universal. His vernacular transcends human language, his vibes transcend our understanding of emotion. When you try to tell your kids about him, they won't believe you because the right words don't exist. He's truly a marvel, and the Library of Congress should set about preserving every word he's spoken in a secure vault. One day, we might lose Walton, but we must never lose the Walton-isms.

College Basketball is the COVID Sports Disaster We've Been Expecting For a Year

Going back to last summer, a lot of us have expected that sports with the audacity to return in the middle of a pandemic would invite disaster. What's amazing is that by and large, they have not. You all know how well the PGA Tour has done, the NBA bubble was a big success, the NHL pulled off their playoffs and championship, tennis tournaments and golf majors went on, and even Major League Baseball and college football, without a bubble of any kind, figured things out without anything more than a few minor hiccups.

Now, at what is hopefully the tail end of the COVID nightmare in the U.S., we're seeing the disaster we expected, and it's coming in the form of college hoops. The ACC Tournament was an absolute shitshow, with Duke and Virginia dropping out and teams making the championship game by default. Now, the NCAA is saying that—this is real—you only need five healthy players to play in the big dance. At the same time, Duke decided that its season is not over, and that, sure, if picked they'll play. (Note: They were not picked.) Virginia seems to be using the same calculation.

All the games this year will be in Indiana, which seems like a good idea until you see how COVID has hit conference tourneys. If there's an outbreak in Indianapolis? Everyone is screwed. And unlike a lot of the professional organizations that have had success in tough circumstances, it's very, very easy to imagine the NCAA blowing this. The whole thing feels really foolhardy, and you get the feeling this could be the worst major sports debacle of the COVID era.

Your Must-Watch Historical Clip of the Week: Hagler vs. Hearns, 1985

When the sad news came out that Marvelous Marvin Hagler had passed away at age 66, my friend Steve gave me a great piece of advice: take the time to watch all 12 minutes of his bout against Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns. It only lasts three rounds, which makes it sound like a blowout, but in fact it's a classic. It's the closest thing you'll get to how boxing looks in the movies, where both fighters are throwing (and landing) haymakers second after second after second. It's a complete war, and it's incredible to watch. So let me reiterate what Steve said: Take the time. In the video below, the actual fight starts around five minutes:

I haven't seen anything like it. It looked like Hearns might win within the first minute of the fight, with Hagler stunned and retreating, but Hagler was such an incredible pure brawler that he kept throwing punches, refused to back down an inch, and within a round he had pounded Hagler into submission. At which point Hearns tried to box more than brawl, but Hagler wasn't having it; he smelled blood, and he got his kill. What a machine.

Your Must-Watch Curling Video of the Week: Alberta

I love curling now. This is Brendan Bottcher, needing two for the win in the semifinal of the national championships, and playing a sick angle. Don't even pretend you can resist this pure geometry: