Saturday, February 25, 2006

Autistic Statistic

Here we go again ... stuck between a rock and a hard spot. In this case, "the rock" = ESPN’s Throwdown Thursday and "the hard spot" = Bracketbuster Saturday.
Alas, 'tis all part of Judgment Week (presented by Cisco Systems).
The inner-conflict shall percolate.


Some salvation, however, was achieved a few nights ago when ESPN offered another textbook example of re-establishing itself as EspyTime Theater (emphasis on the "Espys," which emphasizes throwdowns and the three-run jimmy jack and emphasis on "theater," which depicts that which is theatrical and may be more melodrama than actual drama).
So, it's necessary to ask: "Why did ESPN feel the need to use Jason McElwain to scratch its melodramatic itch?"


Everybody's seen the video clip by now ... the one where the autistic kid in Rochester, NY (Jason McElwain) comes off the bench and wins our hearts by sinking six 3-pointers in the final minutes of that high school game.
The next day, some of us recalled that poignant moment and then wept quietly at our office cubicles.
Well, some of us didn't.
And that's not solely because we don't work in an office cubicle.
It's because most of us iconoclasts see right through melancholy and melodrama.
As a full-fledged iconoclast, it's essential to spot the "con".

The truth is, America's acknowledgement of autism evaporated the very moment that EspyTime returned to its regularly-scheduled programming ... y'know, the hard-hitting issues such as: “Sunday Conversation: Should Roger Clemens pitch in the WBC?” … or the espn.com poll: “Will Roger Clemens pitch for the Astros this season?" (log on and vote now!)… will the Clippers make a run in the Western Division? … does Roger Clemens like the Clippers chances? … Carmelo missing a dunk … a breakdown of why Carmelo missed the dunk … Day 3 of Barry Bonds taking BP and shagging flies at spring training and trying to look natural and “not noticing” the cameras … more, more, more pf Sean Salisbury violating your TV space and, thereby, violating you.

EspyTime Theater is adorable the way that it provides one of those "Jeepers, that's swell" stories just to show “how much we really care” (sniff).
It’s so fashionable.

While those highlights were EspyTime Theater's version of "Autism Week In Review," a few questions spring to mind. Such as:
--- Did EspyTime acquire that video clip of Jason McElwain because the network dispatched its “Today’s Autistic Athlete” correspondent to the game?
--- If the kid’s good enough to drain six treys in the final minutes of a ballgame, then why didn’t he start the game?
--- If his team wasn't winning by 20 in those final four minutes, what then?

Seems to us as though maybe, earlier in the season, Jason McElwain's autism might've "gotten in the way."
So, the kid was allowed to do something safe ... such as handing out towels during timeouts. Then, once the timeout was over, he could go back to "staying out of the way" with his pesky autism.
A few weeks ago, America didn't need Jason McElwain as a prop for "theater."

America has allowed EspyTime Theater to lead it down this path before -- to yield to "feel-good stories" which are extremely misleading. And, the knee-jerk reaction is usually, "Jason McElwain -- whose name I didn't know 15 minutes ago -- was living out his dream."

For the record, EspyTime Theater returned to earth two days after airing the heroism of Jason McElwain by devoting as much time (less than one minute) on late-Friday’s SporkCenter to the winner of the “Hairy Back” winner at an NBA game.
Yup … Fatso with the fur all over his shirtless torso … posing topless at midcourt of an NBA arena … sure brings tears to your eyes, don’t it, Jeremy (or whatever your name is, Forgotten Autistic 3-Point Maker)?
(Note: It can’t ALWAYS be about the autistic kids because, dammit, flabby freaks with hair all over their backs have dreams, too)

Sensitive creature that it is, ESPN aired a BETTER piece on its Friday 6 o’clock SportsCenter ... Chris Connelly narrating a 5-minute piece about the Pop Warner Challenger League in East Greenbush, N.Y.
The league is for kids with disabilities who want to play football and who face everyday challenges which are greater than coming off the bench to pop six treys.
Those kids' stories/situations will rip yer guts out.

Not that Jason McElwain isn't challenged -- it's just that EspyTime gave America only a 15-30-second peek inside Jason McElwain's world.
Thus, EspyTime gathered material for an Espy Awards show without twisting our arms to either recognize or understand autism.
That's your autism snapshot, America -- less than 30 seconds of warm n' fuzziness to recollect for when you forget the kid's name next week.
For a lot of us, we learned everything there is to know about autism in "Rain Man."

"Five minutes 'til Wapner."

Maybe there are guys out there who are prepared to take this Jason McElwain thing to the next level ... such as Sharpie-ing the initials “J M” on the left sleeve of their dress shirts, then, while out at happy hour, brazenly approaching a 36-24-26 so that they can point to the sleeve and say, "That’s
for my little buddy, Jeremy McElroy ... the guy you saw on SportsCenter the other night ... that little dude who demonstrated a triumph of the human spirit when he was singlehandedly leading his basketball team to the city championship. That little kid is autistic. Here ... it's on my ESPN Mobile phone, check it out. I don't work with autistic kids right now, but I plan to. Y'know, someday, they’re gonna invent a cure for autism or pass legislation that'll outlaw autism, but, until they do, all we can do is keep praying as we fight the good fight."
(Heavy sigh for melodrama and ... five ... four ... three ... two ... one ...)
HER:
"That is soooo sweet. You're very sensitive."

With the proper Owen Wilson softness and inflection in your voice, yes, you can play "Autism To Win" and bed that little feminita who you plied with margaritas.
It's called "raising awareness."
Best of all ... it's for the kids.

Once we're done "fightin' for the cause," we can go back to bashing T.O. and hatin' on Bonds -- because those are concepts we understand.
Now that Jason or Jeremy or whatever has served his purpose, when someone asks us about autism, we can shrug and say, "Yeah, that's the thing that Boomer Esiason's kid has."
Oops... cystic fibrosis, whatever ...
If Boomer's kid is so special, why ain't he poppin' in six treys in the final minutes?


Maybe we'd all feel a little better if the coach of Johnny McElray's allowed a wheelchair-bound teen to play the final five minutes of a non-league game next season.
Then again, wheelcahir b-ballers are losers for one very specific reason.
They can't dunk.
And that doesn't fit into the EspyTime Theater paradigm of "Trendy Diseases & Afflictions."

Besides, do you have any idea how difficult it is to pick up a wheelchair b-baller (in his wheelchair) and carry him off the court on your shoulders after he sinks the game-winning three?

People with real, everyday struggles ... what a pain in the ass ...

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