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On a Need to Not-Know Basis
Steve Rushin
November 13, 2000
In an era of ever-changing rosters, uniforms and arena names, ignorance is bliss
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November 13, 2000

On A Need To Not-know Basis

In an era of ever-changing rosters, uniforms and arena names, ignorance is bliss

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To all those readers who suggest that I don't know what I'm talking about, I say this: Touch�. Damn straight. You got that right. I know exceedingly little about sports. What I don't know about sports could fill General Motors Place—which is more than can be said of the Vancouver Grizzlies, who play their home games in that arena, a major NBA and NHL facility whose name I had never heard until today. You think I know nothing? You don't know the half of it.

I have never seen a Grizzlies game or an Atlanta Thrashers game or a Baltimore Ravens game, not even on TV. (That these teams exist I accept largely on faith.) For the first time in my memory I have never heard of the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers ( Jim Tracy), have never lain eyes on the No. 1 contender for the heavyweight crown ( David Tua) and—until looking it up just now—couldn't have told you who plays what in the Skyreach Centre. (The Edmonton Oilers play hockey there.)

It's not that I don't follow sports. (I follow sports as if it were my job.) Rather, sports have become harder to follow than Roger Clemens's train of thought. Every time I switch off my TV, the players, arena names, uniforms and logos are randomly scrambled. (A day later, I'll watch in suspense as faces pop up like fruit in a slot machine: Shawn Kemp is a... Blazer? Glen Rice is a...Knick? Isaiah Rider is a...Laker?)

Each day is now more dizzying than the last, so that even the most vigilant fan is made to feel like a contestant in a minor league baseball promotion, trying to run the third base line after spinning madly around a bat. Our ignorance is doomed to endlessly increase, expanding at all hours of the day and night, like the universe or the NHL. Time was, even a non-sports fan might deduce where Mile High or Three Rivers stadiums were. But where, pray tell, is FedEx Field? Or the Xcel Energy Center?

Of course, our dislocation runs far deeper than this. More than the leaves now change colors each autumn: The Canucks, Mavericks and Titans do too. Even all that might be surmountable—the team colors that change annually, along with the players in them, and the names of the arenas in which they're displayed—if a team's logo remained a touchstone. But with a few timeless exceptions (the be-spoked B in Boston, a befeathered Blackhawk in Chicago) every NHL logo is now a fanged, furry animal preparing to pounce. Speaking of the NHL, sometime in the night, and without a referendum, they changed a fundamental rule of hockey: Overtimes are now played four-on-four. Thought you should know.

The truth is, I can't name four players on the Carolina Hurricanes. (Is that even their name?) Hockey's Nashville Predators and baseball's Tampa Bay Devil Rays are indistinguishable to me. Indeed, I suspect they are really the same "team"—a troupe of actors switching uniforms (and backdrops) each night in a SportsCenter studio in Bristol, Conn., performing "highlights" for the benefit of Larry Biel.

We must now consider the possibility that much of modern sports is a deception the caliber of Capricorn One, a movie in which a NASA "Mars landing" was really a ruse staged for television in the Nevada desert. Honestly: Can enough people possibly attend Atlanta Hawks games in—hold on while I look it up—the Philips Arena to make that whole costly enterprise worthwhile?

Then again, what do I know? Hardly anything, as I'm reminded every day. Even the simplest things in sports have become a mystery. I don't fully comprehend how a college football champion is determined. I frequently forget the name of the Boston Celtics' home arena. Finally—this pains me beyond words to admit—I'm insufficiently educated to understand the literary, historical and geopolitical allusions of the third man in the Monday Night Football booth, a position that was held not long ago by Frank Freakin' Gifford.

Only two things in life seem certain anymore: that Grant will forever remain in Grant's Tomb. And that the Orange Bowl will be played, come January, in Pro Player Stadium.