The Wide Angle: It’s a slam dunk to slam dunk … trust me

Published 6:30 am Saturday, January 2, 2021

Like many people in this country, I start my days off by watching ESPN’s morning line-up of shows giving opinions on Ben Roethlisberger.

However, lately I’ve become more and more irritated about some of their programming choices, specifically, how they treat their Top 10s.

But first, a little more background on my own sports life for those that may be joining me as a superb use of a New Year’s resolution. I’m looking forward to crossing that 50-reader mark.

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Let’s review the facts of my illustrious high school sports career. I would tell you of my attempts to play at the college level, but those were summarily halted on a pre-college visit to the University of South Dakota on the vague notion of playing college baseball.

I guess there isn’t quite the need for a 5-11, not quite 100-pound baseball player at the collegiate level.

That resounding disappointment aside, I was  (thinking generously) an okay athlete. Luckily, I was able to avoid serious injury when my tiny self decided to avoid football after my sophomore year. It was an act of self-preservation.

I was a moderately good shooter in basketball provided nobody was standing in front of me and I had a good 2-3 seconds to get the shot off my hip. When the basketball is nearly as big as your head, hitting fade-aways is generally a far-off dream.

Posting-up was a non-existent idea, much like going out for track and field.  Hahahaha … track.

Baseball was really my only option to be good because in high school baseball, size isn’t necessarily a requirement. However, my size did minimize the options of where you could stick me. Even though I played every position at some point in my time on the diamond, there was really only one in which I could thrive — second base.

From there, throws to first were easy enough as were flips to second and throws to third and home. The infield was at my disposal.

Playing catcher, though, was a problem and generally you like to have a big target at first base. Third base scared the crap out of me because of how fast balls can get to you and you need a pretty strong arm to play outfield. For that same reason, pitching was an issue because of that same problem of arm strength. I might say however, if you put me behind somebody who threw substantially harder, then opposing batters would have a hard time dialing down to my change-up. Ironically, the change-up was pretty much my fastball.

I was an enigma on the mound. Or as my friends always looked at it … weird.

This long-winded history of my time attempting sports is for perspective purposes. I like sports and so I watch sports things, though not the Timberwolves because oftentimes that’s not sports. It’s simply running back and forth while chasing James Harden.

As an extension I enjoy watching ESPN’s Top 10 each day. But here’s my problem — the featuring of the dunk.

I can appreciate a good dunk and what it does for the crowd. Covering Austin for so many years, I can understand how the crowd got fired up when Douth Gach threw-down.

I can remember two dunks by Tom Aase in particular that included the first game-winning dunk I’ve ever seen as well as dunking on De La Salle in the state title game.

Those were meaningful. But dunks in college and the NBA aren’t that impressive, especially those that I see a lot of time on the Top 10. Top 10s, I always thought, were reserved for extraordinary plays that meant something, not run-of-the-mill dunks with nobody contending the shot.

Big deal, you’re 6-6 or bigger and can dunk. I would be worried if you played at that level and couldn’t dunk at that size.

Oman Oman was on the Top 10 after hitting a full-court shot in the Packers huge win over rival Northfield. This past Wednesday morning they featured a high school girl hitting a game-winning three that was huge and impactful.

The Minneapolis Miracle, just about any scoring play in soccer and hockey — those are big plays with big meaning. LeBron James, standing at 6-9 and 250 pounds, and his dunking isn’t that impressive. He’s already three-forths of the way there.

Yes, I’m fully aware that I’m probably not appreciating the force in which these guys put one down and yes, there are some amazing dunks, but none of them on Wednesday’s list were anything but, “Okay, neat.”

And maybe some of you think I’m jealous that I can’t dunk myself. Well, no. I’m not because basketball is not something I thrived in.

It’s hard to thrive in a situation where a teammate is told to apologize to the ball after kicking it. Jaded? Maybe. Or maybe I didn’t understand the ball’s feelings when it understood I couldn’t dunk it.