I'm endlessly fascinated by the nonsense that comes out of the mouths of sports announcers. There is of course the standard, garden-variety absurd hyperbole and the general misuse of the English language. The utilization of the word "literally" for instance should really be banned in sports commentary, since it is almost always (not literally always) used incorrectly.
Most of the time I just ignore it. What can you do? Besides, Awful Announcing exists for the purpose of ridiculing bad announcers, so I don't have to. And as it happens, we are quite spoiled in Clips Nation to have two very clever and eloquent commentators in Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith who I would maintain make far fewer gaffes per game than most in the business. Smith certainly succumbs to the tendency towards exaggeration, while Ralph will get tripped up from time to time on strange things (in the Houston game Tuesday night he continually referred to Rockets guard Tony Douglas as "Tony" which made me think that he thought his name was Douglas Tony or something), but by and large we are spoiled and quite lucky to listen to one of the best announcing teams in the business.
And then there's Jon Barry.
Sorry to get overly snide, but Barry said something during ESPN's broadcast of the Heat-Warriors game that had me in awe of its stupidity. I went back on the DVR a couple of times to make sure I'd heard him correctly, that it was really as ludicrous a statement as I thought it was. And yup, it was.
LeBron James, as you may have heard, became the youngest player ever to score 20,000 points in the NBA last night, reaching the milestone at the age of 28. After a lead in from play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch about how James could have reached the milestone even sooner were he not such an unselfish player, Barry said this:
If he was still in Cleveland this would have happened a couple of years ago.
Barry's point was that by playing beside great scorers like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami LeBron was giving up scoring opportunities -- which is a statistically accurate, if relatively minor, observation. But even allowing for a looseness with language and a fungibility of the word "couple" which should mean two but is frequently used more vaguely than that, this statement is just absurd. Regardless of the magnifier used -- couple, few, some, one, whatever -- using the unit of a year, and then making it plural, is crazy all by itself. After all, LeBron's only been out of Cleveland for two and a half years, and one of those was shortened by the lockout. For Barry's statement to be true at face value LeBron would have had to reach 20,000 points midway through one more season in Cleveland, scoring the points it took him two and half seasons to score in Miami in less than one full season in Cleveland. Wow.
Let's do the math, shall we...
In his final threes season in Cleveland, over the course of 232 regular season games, James scored 6,812 total points, an average of 29.36 points per game.
During his tenure in Miami, in 178 regular season games, he has scored 4,756 points, an average of 26.72.
So yes, LeBron's scoring has decreased (by less than 9 percent) since he left Cleveland.
If LeBron had continued to play in Cleveland, scoring at a level commensurate with his final three seasons there, he would have accumulated the 4,749 points necessary to reach 20,000 during his 162nd additional game with the Cavs. That is to say, 16 games sooner than he actually reached the milestone.
I think we can all agree that "16 games" does not in any way constitute "a couple of years" -- in fact, it is one fifth of one NBA season. It is, for the most part, one NBA month. An accurate statement in this situation would have been "If he was still in Cleveland this would have happened last month." Not super exciting I realize, but accurate. And if you tried to get away with saying "a couple of months" it would be a stretch.
Let's look at what would have had to happen for Barry's actual statement to be true. I'll give him as much benefit of the doubt as I can on the "couple of years" thing and say that if LeBron had achieved the milestone at some point in the 10-11 season, you could reasonably fudge that as being "a couple of years" ago. We're talking April 2011, less than two full years, but that's splitting hairs. However, I don't see how you can reasonably allow for any scoring in the 11-12 season, because now you're into November 2012, less than 15 months ago, which I think we'll all agree is not a reasonable timeframe to be described as "a couple of years" or really anything that requires you to pluralize the year.
So, in order for LeBron to have reached 20,000 points in Cleveland's final regular season game on April 13, 2011 (and I'm going to allow him to play all 82 games that year, even though he missed three in Miami in reality), he would have had to average almost 58 points per game in that extra, magical season in Cleveland, roughly double his actual average there. Who knew how much LeBron was giving up by taking his talents to South Beach?
I've never done it, but announcing is no doubt very difficult. You have to fill the silence constantly, even if you don't really have anything to say right at that moment. You might get caught off guard and misspeak. Heck, I write things that are incorrect all the time, and that's writing -- it's a lot harder to edit extemporaneous courtside prattle. But come on. LeBron's scoring has dipped 9 percent in Miami, and he's been there for less than three seasons. It doesn't take a math major to know that the difference in accumulated points would be measured in games, not years.