November 01, 2006

Follow That Taxi Cab

The words on the ESPN digital display atop the taxi cab at the corner of 57th and 3rd late Tuesday night read: “Red Auerbach laid to rest in brief, simple ceremony.”

Now, normally I find those taxi cab digital signs to be about as captivating as a college history lecture on the subject of…

Sorry, I tuned out there.

Anyhow, this particular display immediately grabbed my attention, even if for all the wrong reasons. Brief, simple ceremony? I know there are severe limitations on space and word count for those things, but whoever is in charge of those headlines has got to do better than that.

And it’s not just that the sentence “Red Auerbach laid to rest in brief, simple ceremony” is boring and nondescript. It goes even further than that – it’s almost like the sign is getting all catty and passive aggressive with its choice of words.

Take, for instance, the use of the word “brief” to describe the ceremony. If you want to make a short intuitive leap, it’s almost like the sign is implying that no one had anything to say about the guy (My, that was an awfully brief ceremony…I thought this guy was supposed to have been important).

And if you’re so inclined to continue overanalyzing with me (come on, it’s fun), the word “simple” might suggest that the ceremony was somehow lacking in appearance or decor, as if to hint that Red’s family didn’t have the loot for a fancy service. (A nice ceremony, but I’m a bit surprised it was so simple for a man of his stature…)

In any case, you get the idea – it’s a small point about one headline pertaining to a larger-than-life individual. And the simple fact is, the thing just should have been written differently, or it should have been left off the top of the taxi altogether.

Which brings me to my next point, which is that the digital ticker on top of the taxi cabs is without a doubt one of the biggest wastes of time, money and energy I can think of that could so easily be eliminated. (How would we easily eliminate them? Simple: Arm me and a few of my associates with sledge hammers – and preferably really cool-looking uniforms – and we’ll walk around the city smashing the cursed things into a thousand pieces whenever we see one.)

Just think about how useless these things are for a second: First of all, the scores are rarely, if ever, up to date, the news headlines, as we know, are poorly written to the point that you could in the right frame of mind interpret them to be talking shit about a dead guy’s funeral proceedings, and the fact is that anyone who actually wants to know such sports-related information while out and about is going to be far more likely to get the info on his cell phone than go sprinting in front of traffic to chase down a speeding taxi cab on 7th avenue.

Seems to me that these displays would be far more useful if they made like that big freeway sign in L.A. Story (our second L.A. Story reference in about two weeks) and frequently distributed profound, life-altering advice to anyone who was ready and willing to notice it. Now that would be a useful thing to have on top of taxi cabs.

Of course, from a strategic standpoint this would probably not be a wise move for ESPN, because any honest digital display that intended to change our lives for the better would most likely tell me and countless others of my ilk, “You’re wasting far too much of your time following sports.”

A couple random thoughts to get out of the way:

  • Great start last night for Miami’s defense of its NBA title. I was lucky enough to miss most of this game, so I can’t say for sure whether it was about Chicago’s new defense being absolutely nasty or whether it was about Shaq being disinterested and currently out of shape, Antoine Walker still taking 3’s he can’t make and Gary Payton looking like a very old 37. And now that I’ve written it out, I’m pretty sure Miami has some legitimate causes for concern.
  • While watching the Panthers-Cowboys game over the weekend, I found myself pondering the following question: Who do you think would win a fight between Julius Peppers and a grizzly bear? And yes, I know it’s obvious that a fully-grown grizzly would most likely tear off Julius’ arms at the shoulder and use them to bludgeon him into unconsciousness, but I guess my bigger point was that I’m pretty sure there’s no dude in pro sports I’d be more afraid of pissing off than Peppers. Because think about it – not only does he have the power to demolish you with one decisive, downwards strike of the fist, but he also has the speed to catch you if you decided to swallow your pride and run away. (Not that I would ever think about running away or anything...)


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