Monday, July 27, 2009

Commending to You: Dave Dameshek

And now for something completely different.

The current scene for sports news and commentary can make one's head spin. The monopolizing and ever-expanding World Wide Leader continues to gain ground, but so much that there is continual backlash; ESPN is truly never far away from you at any one moment. The blogs, the radio, the semi-gossip/semi-news outlets, the feeding frenzy of the sports media on stories that exactly zero persons care about (see: Vick, Michael; Favre, Brett; Bryant, Kobe). It is altogether one chaotic hot mess.

Bill Simmons is a sort of calm amidst the agonistic storm, a voice millions read and share together, laughing and bickering and emailing around. He and Rick Reilly represent two successive generations of sports readers, two ways of looking at the world and at sports, as two unifying writers who bring together some sort of odd coherency (however mixed and mashed and hobbled) within a scene so diverse and so divided that it is curious we think it all belongs to the same genus. I know many who love Reilly and especially his stories; Simmons is my man, though. He fights the good fight, he writes excessively, he loves basketball in general and the NBA in particular with a ferocity I relate to, and even when he isn't a model citizen, he's a blast to read and seems (intentionally) as if we could grab some coffee and argue over Spurs versus Celtics for hours. Bill Simmons owns sports writing, and even in his barely-over-a-year-old podcast, is beginning to own sports podcasting.

Enter Dave Dameshek.

Dave Dameshek just celebrated the one year anniversary of his own (daily) sports-related podcast, aptly titled Dave Dameshek On Demand. As a Pittsburgh transplant in Los Angeles, he has been in prime position by tradition and by geography to comment on recent sporting events (Penguins, Lakers, Steelers, Dodgers, etc.), just as Simmons has for the past decade with Boston sports' dominance. Dameshek is actually a good friend of The Sports Guy's, and accordingly I was introduced to Dameshek through the B.S. Report a year ago last summer. It was a slow courtship, but by the time the Steelers looked to be gunning for a Super Bowl run, I found myself regularly tuning in to hear his take, and was hooked. Since March his podcast has been a daily fixture while working at the library, and recently I've been pleasantly surprised by his decision to split each day's podcast into two "more bite size" podcasts that usually add up to a longer total running time than only one would have.

But why do I love Dave Dameshek? Let me count the ways.

1. His sly intelligence. The man is a walking sports trivia book, and it comes from years of soaking it in through a great love for the various American games available to us. But more revealing is his language. He may feign the blue collar style, but don't be fooled: the man knows how to talk, and that says enough.

2. His endless word plays. I call Dameshek the King of Synecdoche: he never knew a boring noun he couldn't elucidate by a more elaborate analogy, nor an idea for which a made-up term couldn't be imagined. See: The Shekster's Dictionary.

3. His love for the particular. Dameshek refuses to relent on the issue of tradition, belonging, and fandom -- he is a Pittsburgh fan through and through, hailing from "the banks of the three rivers" -- and all aspects of sports need comply with this singular fact, not the other way around. See: his unenviable quest to decide whether to raise his son a Pirates fan, aka "preemptive emotional child abuse."

4. His humor. The man is hilarious. See: Hypothetical Horatio.

5. His contrarian nature. Not only does Dameshek continue to fight the good fight -- in Los Angeles, no less -- of arguing that trading Ariza (and possibly Odom) for Artest was utter foolishness, he's usually in the minority in his opinions. And that's always a good sign.

6. His self-deprecation. No endless talker or semi-public personality is worth paying attention to if he can't laugh at himself. Dave Dameshek can, and does. See: the Pie Face fiasco.

7. His family life. One of the most refreshing things about Dameshek is his apparent unwillingness to criticize his wife on air, or to complain about family life at all. This is a rarity for any man, much less someone comedically gifted and in sports. See: calls home to Cindy, with references to Baby Oprah and Jean-Claude van Dameshek.

8. His voice. It is nasal, it is loud, and it is funny when shouted or whispered. See: any conversation about food.

9. His taste. From movies to the 80s to sports figures to music (sometimes), Dameshek can always be relied upon for recommendations and excellent pop culture arguments and discussions. See: Jon Hamm.

10. The one man house band. Dick Banks puts together enjoyable and frequently funny songs for the show, whether opening or closing the podcast or introducing guests, and they sort of ground the daily differences in a familiar regularity.

11. The Sass. Skylar "The Sass" is a fantastic semi-co-host and contrarian to Dameshek's own contrarian style, and if it weren't for the quality of the guests, I would want to hear them argue it back and forth every day.

12. The revolving door of guests. The Blue Horseshoe, show humorist David Feeney (my favorite), The Ed (my least favorite), Beto Duran, A. Martinez ... the list goes on. Always light, always substantive, always fun. The chemistry never fails.

I could go on. The point being: listen to Dave Dameshek. Subscribe to iTunes, try out the podcast. You won't be disappointed.

(And with that: thanks so much bloggers -- it's been a thin slice of heaven.)

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