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Sports Authority

Carson: Bill Walton gives true color commentary

| Friday, February 5, 2016

Generally speaking, sports exist because they’re enjoyable to play. If you play a pick-up basketball game at the gym, you’re probably not doing it for the five dudes standing on the sideline that have next after you’re done — because let’s face it, they’re not getting much enjoyment out of your 0-for-7 shooting performance on wide-open 3-pointers with two air balls.

Of course, it’s a completely different world when sports are played at a high level and become spectator sports. Even the most mundane sports — I’m looking at you, curling — are exciting when they’re played at a high level with higher stakes.

But when we watch Bill Walton call a game late on a weeknight on ESPN? We aren’t watching for the quality of play, man, we’re watching for the quality of commentating.

That’s not to say that Arizona’s matchup last week with Oregon wasn’t an interesting game — especially given the fact that the Ducks snapped then-No. 1 Arizona’s 49-game home winning streak — or that Walton’s analysis of, well, the actual game is any good (Hint: it isn’t).

But he’s the best color commentator in the business.

Watching Walton call a college basketball game is nothing short of an adventure through the magical world of the mind of a guy who’s nothing short of being crazy. During that Oregon upset win last week, Walton pulled out a can of dirt from Temecula, California — he describes the dirt as “magic” — and rubbed it all over his arms and face. Yes, that Temecula, the Southern California city more known for being the site where some dude on Twitter wanted to fight another user about Kobe Bryant on Christmas in 2014 than anything about the city itself.

But if we were to say that was the height of Walton’s weirdness on television, it’d be a complete and total lie.

A quick search of “Bill Walton” on Twitter turns up a slew of great results; a recent link to him talking about volcanoes during an Arizona trip to California gives us a gem of a quote.

“Are you aware that there’s three volcanoes going off right now in the world?” Walton pondered. “Something’s happening. The planets are all lined up.

“ … Somebody better watch out what’s gonna happen to Yellowstone pretty soon. That’s where they’re predicting the next big one.”

Bill Walton: NCAA champion, NBA champion, volcanologist. Alright then.

What else has Walton said?

“With DeMarcus Cousins, I want more. I don’t want a six-inch, I want a 12-inch.”

“I want to see the rivers flow. I want to see the mountains covered with snow. I want to see rainbows and volcanoes.”

“I majored in biology at UCLA. On sorority row.”

“Are you old enough to remember when people used to defect?”

“I was way in the back of that [limo]. I was way in the back with Ray Lewis. And it was unbelievable how much fun — oh my gosh.”

And that’s the absurd stuff that doesn’t pertain to basketball.

When his son Luke played at Arizona, he was asked if he knew a little something about him.

“Yeah, he’s a 6-foot-8 forward from the University of Arizona.”

Then there were these:

“John Stockton is one of the true marvels, not just of basketball, or in America, but in the history of Western Civilization.”

“Come on, that was no foul! It may be a violation of all the basic rules of human decency, but it’s not a foul.”

And perhaps his greatest ever:

“We celebrate his brilliance, and when you talk to Boris Diaw you realize what a classical human being he is. It was 201 years ago today, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E Flat, which escorted in the age of Romanticism in music. And when I think of Boris Diaw, I think of Beethoven and the age of the Romantics. This guy has it all.”

Boris. Diaw.

There are times when I watch a game because it’ll be a good contest. And there are others when I watch one because it’ll be a good time.

Thank you, Bill Walton, for giving us the latter each night you’re on the call.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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