Friday, May 18, 2007
Here we have sport's greatest trophy, engraved with the names of all those who have come close to winning it, being mocked and abused on Boston Legal. I know that David Kelly is a hockey fan, and William Shatner probably enjoys the puck a bit, but did they need to make a mockery of the grail? It just seems wrong.
But then I realize. No one watches hockey. I'm a member of a small pocket of guerrilla hockey fans. Any coverage is good coverage and if William Shatner making a mockery of the Stanly Cup on national television shines a light(however embarrassing) on my sport then I might as well deal with it.
Until hockey is standing on it's own two feet we'll be forced to live with indignities like this one. And I'm willing to make that sacrifice.
Don't call me on Sunday between noon and 3pm. I've got a playoff series to win.
Monday, July 31, 2006
It Has Come And Gone
Since I first came to understand what a trade deadline was I have hoped and prayed that my team - The Padres - would make some impactful move. Well, this year, just like the others, I have been overwhelmingly let down. When the clock struck noon our big move was trading some minor-league nobody for Todd Walker (a major league nobody). WOW! Our goal (the previously stated goal by GM Kevin Towers) was to find a power bat at Third Base. So, we got an 11 year veteran SECOND BASEMEN with 8 homeruns. I mean it makes sense, right? Oh, hold on - first you have to close your eyes real hard and then shoot yourself in the head (but you don't die, you live on as a grossly disfigured human who couldn't get a suicide attempt right) and then, and only then it will make sense. I warned all my loved ones that today I might be very depressed. When asked why I always give the same response: It's the trade deadline and I'm a Padre fan. People who don't even care about baseball somehow understand. Well, when you think about it, we are in first in a division of 4th place teams, so why would we need a major change? I mean come on! The platoon of Geoff Blum, Mark Bellhorn and now Todd Walker at Third will more than make up for the lack of effort by our front office. Meanwhile, the Fuckin' Dodgers* land Greg Maddux (someone who openly said he would like to come to San Diego) and Julio Lugo! True Lugo beats his wife and Maddux is looking more and more like his brother Mike Maddux everyday, but the Fuckin' Dodgers* are in last place!! Everyone knows they aren't gonna win the division, everyone knows they suck, but they STILL MADE A MOVE!!! Sometimes being a Padre fan is as exhausting as being crippled.
Well, we move on. Here's to another Second Half of mediocrity! Here's hopin' we make it into the playoffs with a 83-79 record this year! Here's to Todd Walker - the next Ryan Klesko!!
*The Fuckin' Dodgers is the official name of the franchise as told to me by Phil Gorney.
Friday, June 23, 2006
When Athletes Rap
The Worst/Best Rappers from the Sports World
The Seventh Floor Crew (University Of Miami Football Players)
To their credit, their one song was never intended to be released, and if you listen to all seven minutes of it, you will understand why. The track was made in 2003 by some freshman football players, and was discovered on a blog site in 2005. It basically describes groupsex acts with co-eds on- you guessed it- the 7th floor of their dormitory. This was a mild controversy for about five minutes with no suspensions, because the song was never released, and The University of Miami didn't produce the record. The MCs on the recording have no real talent and the beat is repetitive, but it really shows you how the minds of 18 year olds who have way too much attention, see the world.
In 1993, everyone in the hip hop community was chasing Dr. Dre, and Shaquile ONeal was no different. In the same year that he entered the NBA he released his first rap CD Shaq Diesel. I have never listened the entire album, but I did buy the single for (You know I got) Skillz. I legitimately liked this song when I was thirteen, and I remember thinking he was just as good as any other MC. To me, he was changing the Basketball world and the rap game at the same time.
It is interesting to hear rappers talk about athletes who release music. In interviews, they always give them "mad love" but they always make it clear that they shouldn't be concerning themselves with music. Of course they are right, but athletes are usually bigger than rappers and rappers never forget it. How could anybody say to Shaq's face that he is a below average MC? He is, but he could eat me. I hope he never reads this!
"Come to me with those faggot tendencies and you'll be sleeping where the maggots be."
Iverson created a rap album named 40 Bars, which was dedicated to his wife Tawanna. However, after being criticized for its controversial lyrics, he eventually wasn't able to release it. Being the most Hip-Hop of the NBA's Hip-Hop generation, it made it almost impossible for Allen Iverson not to grab a mic and piss people off. He smoked weed, he fought with his white head coach, and he has been arrested several times. 40 Bars should have been a hit like his sneakers and corn rows, but he decided to leave the rap game before his career got started. Oh, what could have been? It would be nice if sometime he collaborated with another artist, but we know how he feels about sharing.
Terrell Owens is with out question the most frustrating personality in the world of sports today. His rap song, Im Back, is the most relevant work in this genre because it's a jab at an entire city, and the players on his former team. TO left the Eagles and went to the Cowboys after one of the most bizarre public feuds in the history of sports. He questioned his quarterback's blackness, his coach's authority, and the front office's ability to "show him the money." After a soap opera played out in public, he was kicked out of the organization, signed with America's team, and then jumped into the studio. The biggest game on the planet's biggest mouth put it all down on wax! Now it's not a good song, but at least- like the Miami Football players- he never released it for people to buy. He just posted it on his website and let world hear his fire.
I always hear real musicians say that they were never into sports when they were kids because (a) they thought jocks were stupid and (b) because they didn't like the ultra competitive environment of team sports. I've heard guys in bands say things like this minutes before they've gotten on stage- followed by them talking shit about other bands after their set. I always find it funny when I hear that because musicians are probably the most competitive people I know. Most musicians hate most music- especially when it is on their level of their success, or above it. When athletes express themselves musically, it never seems like they really care about the result, and it's always strangely refreshing. They're just doing it for the love of music; at least someone still does.
Also, The 1985 Bears are beyond this blog.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Monday, June 12, 2006
Say It Ain't So - Jason Grimsley?*
The geniuses at ESPN had two poll questions on their website:
1) What will be remembered as the bigger steroid controversy – Barry Bonds or Jason Grimsley?
2) Do steroids and HGH actually help a ballplayers performance?
I think I can answer both these questions by using Jason Grimsley himself. Grimsley, as aforementioned is a relief pitcher, which is already a strike against his talent. He’s not now nor has he ever been a setup guy or The Closer (Wednesdays on TNT), he’s just a middle relief innings eater. He has only had four seasons with a winning record out of seventeen (3-2 with PHI in ’90, 5-2 with CLE in ’94, 7-2 with NYY in ’99 and 3-2 with NYY in ’00). You’ll notice two of those years were with the Yankees when the Yankees could have made a winning pitcher out of Jose Canseco. He made it to the postseason twice with the Yankees and pitched a combined 3.1 innings with 2 strikeouts. His career ERA is 4.77 and this year with the D-Backs was 1-2 with an ERA of 4.88 and 10 K’s in 27.2 innings. So, it was looking like another career year for Grimsley. Now, to answer ESPN’s brilliant poll questions:
1) Bonds is the bigger story and always will be – even if Frank Robinson comes back from the dead and hits 3,000 homeruns – oh, wait Robinson is still alive. Sorry.
2) According to Grimsley’s stats it would seem steroids and HGH do not help a players performance. At least a pitchers.
Now, to quickly finish on Grimsley – He was suspended 50 games by MLB and will likely retire and spend the rest of his days hanging out with Goose Gossage outside Nudie bars. Anyway, whoever thinks this is a real tragedy or controversy is just as stupid as Grimsley. There have only been three real tragedies in baseball:
1) Steve Sax and his disease
2) The Devil Rays
3) The 1994 strike in which had the season been finished Tony Gwynn would have hit .400 (thus being publicly known as the greatest hitter in modern baseball) Matt Williams would have broken the single season homerun record and The Expos would have at least gotten to the World Series and possibly won it. So, anyone who says this is a tragic does not care or know about baseball. Steroids helped people care again (how quickly we forget 1998). The game will never be clean. It seems odd that Eric Gagne just can’t get healthy. Although everyone seems to forget when he was a starter and about half the size he is now and oh yeah – he sucked. Or, how Albert Pujols hurt his back by reaching for a ball – y’know his job. Although, Pujols came out of nowhere and was a terrible ballplayer until guess what? He bulked up and learned how to hit the long ball…gee I wonder how he did that all of a sudden. Everyone is on some type of steroid or drug – everyone! Even David Eckstein. Stop wishing for a cleaner game and start accepting that this is pro sports for today. If you don’t like it then go read a book or spend time with your kids. Get over it. After all, you created this environment so pay the $30 to see it.
*Go read Joe Quadres “Hulkster and the Babe” article below. It’s genius and on the above subject.
Monday, May 29, 2006
That's right, guys. I know it's hard to believe. The spin doctors in Cleveland would have you believe otherwise, but don't listen to the hype. He'll tank your fantasy franchise and he'll tank your real team.
It occurs to me that I need an insider quote to prove that this news story is true.
"Yeah, he sucks," said, Steve Babbington.
Who is Steve Babbington, you ask? Not an insider, I answer.
Calls to the Cleveland Indian's front office went undialed.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The Babe and the Hulkster: The Creation of the American Shithead.
Let’s define any statistic as a "record." So Walter Johnson’s win total, 417 is A record even though it’s not THE record. Ok? We all on the same page? Good.
First of all, every record set before 1947 is bogus. 1947, of course, is the year that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Every record before that is bogus because the baseball talent pool was diluted. So: Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs were all bogus because he didn’t face any non-white pitchers. Also, Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak is bogus for two reasons. First, one of these non-white pitchers might have beaned Lou in his dome ending his streak. Second, baseball had not expanded to the West Coast, meaning that Lou never had a getaway Wednesday afternoon game at Fenway followed by a night game in Los Angeles. His internal clock was never altered so he never had to worry about his biorhythm forcing him to need a night off. Also, he didn’t play at night. So there’s another reason all records are bogus: No night games.
And since expansion had diluted the talent pool, all records after any new team entered the league are bogus. Sorry.
Cy Young’s 511 wins? Bogus. Cy Young pitched in the dead-ball era...never had to worry much about home runs. Because he didn’t have to worry about home runs, he never had to develop a pitch like, say, a slider or a splitter, to combat home run hitters. Since he never put slider or splitter strain on his arm, his fastball-curve-change mix was enough to keep it in the yard and keep him out of trouble and pitching every other day. So any pitcher who got by without a slider because he didn’t need it to get by these hitters has all bogus records.
And besides, the spitball was legal until 1921. So all pitching records before 1921 are invalid because they might have been cheating by today’s standards. So wipe ‘em all out.
And, of course, 1920 was the year that the "live-ball era" started. Anyone before that: wipe out the records. The pitchers had it too easy and the hitters too hard. Of course, since the live-ball era began, hitters have had it easy because the ball jumps off the bat. So any records set after the dead-ball era have to be wiped out because they discriminate against Honus Wagner. So all hitting and pitching records either before or after 1920 are all bogus.
Getting back to travel, all records set before the Dodgers and Giants moved to California are bogus. Again, Tris Speaker never had to play on West Coast time. However, all players now fly to their destinations. Tony Lazzeri had to take a train. So all ballplayers who have flown to a game have bogus records. Wipe ‘em out. Planes are cheating.
And as far as race goes, although 1947 saw the first black player, real integration did not occur until the sixties. So all records between 1947 and, say 1964, have to be wiped out for the same reason: racism. But of course, players in the sixties and seventies often took greenies (for those of you who are pathetic wastes of carbon and call yourselves baseball fans without having read Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, "greenies" are speed). So they were cheating. Records go bye-bye. But if speed is cheating, so is coffee, right? Caffeine is also a stimulant, as is nicotine. So any baseball player who ever drank a cup of coffee or smoked a cigarette during his playing days cheated. C’est La Vie, Le Record Book.
And we can’t forget alcohol or marijuana. While not stimulants, both beer and pot are mood-altering. Can’t have different moods, wouldn’t be fair to the straight-edgers. All those records–especially Mickey Mantle’s–are history.
And not to exclude any races, no one before 1994 had to face a Japanese pitcher. Did Mike Schmidt have to worry about Hideo’s splitter? Nope. Guess all Mike’s records gotta go too.
Besides segregation, WWII disrupted baseball. So by way of the "Reverse Bogus Theorem", Ted Williams’s and Joe DiMaggio’s records have to go too. They missed significant playing time during their peak years. That means their numbers are less than they would have been. Because their records are not accurate reflections of their talent, all their numbers are bogus because they’re too low.
Also, after Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968, baseball decided pitchers were too dominant so they lowered the mound to give hitters the edge back. So, by today’s standards, any pitcher before 1968 has bogus records because they cheated by not filing down the mound of their own volition.
Finally, steroids are cheating. Anyone who took steroids cheated. All the records are bogus. I think that about covers it all, right?
First of all, there is only one reason that steroids should be banned from baseball. I don’t care about the record because all records have (just) been proven to be bogus. Seriously, any statistic has meaning only relative to its time. In every sport. So none of them mean anything out of context. If you analyze the context, you can decide who the best players of any given era are and that’s as good as it gets. And I like home runs. They’re fun. Do I care if a guy wants to shrivel his balls and have violent mood swings? Why should I? What do I care? None of these guys care about me, why should I care about them?
There’s not even any scientific proof that steroids are bad for you. Not directly anyway. Name one person who has died as a direct result of steroid use. Direct use. Meaning that if you ‘roid rage and jump off a bridge, it doesn’t count. The ‘roids didn’t kill you, the fall did. Name one. Go ahead. I’m waiting.....
See. Nobody. Lyle Alzado? Nope. He had brain cancer which doctors now acknowledge was totally unrelated to his steroid use. Ken Caminiti? Nope. He died because he drank, took painkillers, and smoked crack. While steroid use may have contributed to his mood and state of mind, thus working as a gateway to larger problems, they didn’t kill him.
In fact, there hasn’t been a single study done on the long-term health effects of steroids. Not one. Some doctors–the dumb ones–say that there doesn’t need to be a study because it’s common sense. There has also been no study on the long term health effects of shooting yourself in the balls. There doesn’t need to be one; common sense tells you that your health will be negatively effected if you’re bleeding from the scrotum. But are negative health effects due to steroids common sense?
Really? Why? What are steroids? Well, most often, they are testosterone hormones. Generally they are engineered and not natural, but they are testosterone. And of course, testosterone is present in every human being. Everyone. We’re all on ‘roids.
Time for "Layman’s Sex Ed:" Testosterone is what makes men men. Estrogen is what makes women women. It can be categorically stated that women should not take steroids if they want to remain women; the reason female body builders who take steroids look like men is because, chemically, they ARE men. Taking testosterone turns women, literally, into men. And vice versa. Prior to sex change operations, the first thing the doctors prescribe is testosterone for women and estrogen for men. Literally, gender is based on chemical composition.
So why then do we assume that men who take testosterone are going to die from it? They are simply adding to an already large pool. In fact, steroids have never even directly caused any medical problems, much less death. No, I’m serious. Let’s look at former Pro Wrestler and anti-steroid crusader, Superstar Billy Graham.
Graham is crippled. He took steroids in the seventies and eighties to increase his muscle mass and enhance his career. However, eventually, his muscles were so large that his bones could not support them and his body began to break down. He blames steroids. Well, yeah, I guess. If he could not have otherwise increased his muscle mass beyond the breaking point, then, yes, steroids contributed to his decline. But they contributed to that decline: lifting too many weights and having too much muscle CAUSED it. A lot of people think that the same thing happened to Mark McGwire. McGwire spent most of his later years on the disabled list with foot and leg injuries. The reason why was probably that he was literally too large for his legs to hold him up.
But theoretically, if you worked out enough, you could experience this same injury. If your muscles are too heavy for your bones, your bones will cease to function. That’s physics. By the same token, if you have too much fat for your bones to hold, they will similarly cease to function. But pizza is not illegal (thank god) even though there is no evidence that illegal steroids are intrinsically worse for you than pizza is. Assumptions and guesses, but no evidence.
Let’s stay on the topic of pro wrestling. This week on Costas Now, Mike Schmidt is quoted as saying that Babe Ruth is the single icon of pro baseball. That all topics on baseball prowess start and end with Ruth. This is both obviously racist and kind of fair at the same time. Ruth’s records (bogus) have pretty much all been broken (bogus-ly) at this point. So based on numbers alone, the Babe is not the best baseball player in any single category, much less overall. Critics (read: racists) often say that Ruth was a superior ballplayer to Hank Aaron because he did what he did in less at bats. Hmm. Well, ok. But perhaps if the Babe had eaten less, drank less, chased less tail, and been as "good" (acknowledgment of judgement) a man as Hank Aaron, he would have had more at bats and a longer career. As it was, the Babe was a fat, drunken, promiscuous jackass so I guess we’ll never know what he might have done with Aaron’s at bats (and it doesn’t matter because, through no fault of their own, Hank and the Bambino are completely bogus).
But although Schmidt’s point is racist, it’s also fair. Because, after acknowledging the inherent racism that existed in America during the Babe’s career, he is still the single most transcendent personality and he defined American sport. So many outside factors contributed to this: mass media improvements, economic prosperity, WWI elevating the United States as a world power, etc. But the Babe was the man. It doesn’t matter if Aaron is better: The Babe was first. Not only did Babe Ruth define the careers of everyone who came after him, he also defined the careers of everyone who came before. If there was no Babe Ruth (or another guy who meant what he means), Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe mean nothing. His celebrity makes theirs.
The most direct comparison I can think of the Babe Ruth is Hulk Hogan. Hulk singlehandedly turned pro wrestling into a part of Americana. Let’s not talk about the fact that wrestling isn’t a sport–that’s completely beside the point. (Besides, wrestling is not fake. It’s fixed. They are not the same thing. Look at how any aged wrestler looks and walks for proof). It is part of our culture. People paid to watch the Babe play; people paid to watch Hogan pretend to play. Both Babe and Hogan defined everyone both before and after them by creating history. Would I have ever heard of Gorgeous George or Bruno Sammartino if there was no Hulkster? Nope. Since Ruth’s time, baseball players are better. Period. The Babe couldn’t make the big leagues today unless he hired a trainer. It’s that simple and if you don’t see that, you’re living in your own reality (for more on reality, see Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman. No, I’m serious, you don’t know what life is about until you read this book–he makes Noam Chomsky seem full of shit, and that’s saying something). And today’s wrestlers have more moves and more skill than the Hulk ever had. Just watching his later matches will tell you that. He looks like a relic and the crowd cheers not his skill, but his nostalgia. In a sense, they are cheering themselves and their own memories. Feeling good about watching Babe Ruth run around the bases on old films is exactly the same.
This is the problem with steroids: they’re unfair. Not to the records; fuck the records, man. And Mother Fuck morality too. To a man, every retired player has said that if they played in this era, they would have taken the ‘roids. Everyone. Athletes are competitive–that’s their job. They would–and did–do anything they could to be competitive. If ‘roids are necessary to be competitive, then you do ‘em. Period.
But that’s where fairness comes in. Let’s say you and I are competing for the 1st base job on the Kansas City Royals (oh....the fantasy just ended for you, didn’t it? Not me. I like barbecue sauce). We are the same age. Our minor league numbers are literally identical. I don’t mean similar: IDENTICAL. In fact, our potential is also identical and Bill James projects that, barring injury, our statistics after twenty years will be identical. Here’s where the parable begins: Victor Conte calls both of us on the same day, offering us steroids. You say no. Who cares why? Maybe you’re smart and thinking about your future. Maybe you have principles and don’t want to cheat. Maybe you like the size of your testes and they are your identifying characteristic. Shit, maybe you’re just afraid of needles. Whatever the reason, you turn him down.
I, on the other hand, say yes. Maybe I’m dumb and don’t care about my future. Maybe I have no principles and cheat on everything. Maybe my balls are too large and I’m looking forward to testicular reduction. Maybe I have a needle fetish. Whatever the reason, I say yes.
Now, what happens? I am better than you. I have more power and more endurance. I am more durable. I win the job. I go on to make millions, you go on to make mortgage payments. I cheated. It’s unfair to you.
Fairness is the definition of sport. The reason we like sports more than we like life is because sports are fair. They must be or they’re pro wrestling. Imagine sport as unfair. You can’t, can you? The rules are the same for everyone. They must be. What makes you angrier than when you think a umpire’s call is unfair? Not wrong, not a mistake. Unfair. Nothing makes me angrier than that. I think more about that than I do about world hunger. Not kidding. And you do, too. And you know it. We get enough unfairness in life. We are supposed to cheat. We are supposed to call in favors. We are supposed to get more than we deserve if we can. Name one time you turned down a raise because you thought you didn’t deserve it. You never have, neither have I. In fact, my own mother told me she wished she’d raise me to be more of a jerk-off because then I would be more "successful." I wouldn’t worry about taking advantage of people for my own gain (for Econ 101, see my previous blog). But sports are based on fairness. An unfair sport is not a sport; it’s a life. When all conditions are fairly met, the best man wins. And that’s what we want. We want to believe that being good at anything is worth something. We want to know that if we work hard enough, we will get what we really deserve. Happiness and Success. The American Dream (not Dusty Rhodes).
But not me. I know better. I know that you are all shitheads. All of you. Yes, you too, Nick. But that’s ok: being a shithead is a good thing. I think my major problem in life is not that I’m a shithead: Everyone is a shithead (except, perhaps, Hubie Brown). My problem is that I KNOW that I’m a shithead–the majority of you think you’re great. So while I am hating myself for being a shithead, you all are bathing in your own feces, enjoying the aroma, and being richer better people than me. Congratulations: you know the meaning of life. The meaning of life is to ignore the fact that you’re a shithead and fuck as many people as possible.
Do not sympathize with my self-imposed doom–I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because I’m David Eckstein, not Barry Bonds. I leave the dominance to you. Me....I like to scrap.
Ok, so I didn’t have George Mason going to the Final Four in my bracket. Like most people, my bracket was completely busted the first weekend. The only Final Four team I had that made it was UCLA, which doesn’t count because it was a homer pick that I made with my heart. But anyone who was shocked that a mid-major made the Final Four hasn’t been paying much attention to college basketball.
Certainly, it was a surprise that THIS mid-major made it. George Mason was a bubble team that, frankly, didn’t actually deserve to be in the tournament at all, with superior teams with superior competition like Cincinatti and Michigan watching at home–or at least from the NIT. But the success of George Mason brings two points home.
First, the NCAA is talking about expanding the tournament to include more teams. This, like most things the NCAA does, is intensely stupid. The only thing that makes sense on this end is to eliminate the pointless conference tournaments (which affect the mid-majors most by the way, since any big name school that doesn’t win their conference tournament is still in whereas a mid-major team with a losing record can get lucky and win the tourney eliminating a better team), add a weekend, and let EVERY team in. That’s right–the round of 330. You think a 16 beating a 1 would be an upset; how about a 1 losing to a 64? If a team like George Mason can make a run to the Final Four, there’s an argument that any team can. Rather than continue with the stupid selection crap, which is no better than the BCS except it gets less air time, just let ‘em all in. OR stick with 65. It’s a nice, round number....well, it was when it was 64 at least. The entire system of college basketball is inherently flawed by the ‘one and done’ concept. In a way, it’s this flaw that makes March Madness so great. Do you think George Mason could beat ANY of the teams they played in the tournament in a best of 3? No way, Jose. But any team can beat any other team once, and the team that gets hot at the right time wins the championship. Was Florida the best team in college basketball? Nope. But they were the best team playing basketball in the last three weeks of March and that’s what matters. It is this belief that gives every team a chance; you don’t have to beat Duke in a best of three or five or seven. You just gotta hold JJ down for 40 minutes one time and you’ve got it. This is what makes March Madness exciting and great, but don’t kid yourself that the best team wins every year. That ain’t never gonna happen and unless you’re willing to eliminate 75 % of the field, have 16 teams play in best-of-seven series and call it June Madness, you just have to accept that the best team probably won’t win. And that’s ok. At least there is some kind of tournament in basketball, which is better than football.
Second, and this is my main point: The reason for the success of the mid-major is Kevin Garnett. And Kobe Bryant. And Lebron James. Even Robert Swift. Early entry into the NBA has created the monster mid-major. The reason is simple: the mid-major teams have generally older rosters. 22 year olds versus 18 and 19 year olds. Now, look, talent is talent. Both UCLA and Florida had young teams: UCLA had only two seniors who played significant tournament minutes and NO juniors who played a lot, and Florida was comprised mostly of juniors and sophomores. So look, the competitive advantage still lies with the big schools and always will. But that gap is lessened by the experience of the players on mid-major squads.
Let’s say Lebron would have gone to college. Do you think he would be more likely to play at Duke or Wichita State? Exactly. He, like all players with his talent, would have gone to the best team he could get on, even if he decided to stay close to home and play for the Ohio State NCAA Violations–ERR–Buckeyes (Jungle Love, anyone?). The point is that the players who go to the NBA in no way dilute the talent pool for mid-major schools who could never land them anyway. One could argue that there is a trickle-down effect, i.e. Lebron James goes to UNC and a scholarship player who is currently at UNC ends up at a mid-major. But at college age, the difference in talent between the Lebrons and the Gerry McNamaras is at its highest. One rule of sports is that the higher you go, the closer in talent you get. The best NBA player (Kobe) is much less better than the worst NBA player (maybe Keith Closs, if he’s still in the league) than the best college hooper (Adam Morrison) is better than the worst college hooper (some walk-on at Liberty or somewhere). And the difference between Morrison and unnamed Liberty shooting guard is less than the difference between the best high school player and the worst, etc, etc. Each new level weeds out the worst players and because athletic talent is finite, the gap lessens. Simple, although complicatedly stated. (Yes, I know that complicatedly is not a word–maybe you could instruct me on my English while I’m giving you the Cincinnati Bowtie...see urbandictionary.com for details).
So the point is that with a diluted talent pool, the gap between the Big Schools and the Little Schools is lessened. Combine that with NBA early entry for the players who actually do go to college for a while and the gap is lessened still. So as long as the NBA has no age limit–or at least no legitimate age limit–the parity in college hoops will remain. By the way, Mr. Stern, age 19 is not an age limit. Players who don’t go to college won’t go anyway–they’ll merely attend the 13th grade at "prep schools" or they just won’t go anywhere, giving them a year with nothing to do but get themselves into trouble. If you think the NBA puts pressure on young men who suddenly have lots of money, believe me, poverty puts more pressure on them.
And this is a message to Dick Vitale and all the other people who encourage basketball players to stay in school: Shut the fuck up and stop being racists. That’s right. Asking an athlete to turn down millions of dollars (or at least hundreds of thousands) to earn a college degree is OVERTLY racist against African-Americans.
African-Americans are poorer than white people. In what is perhaps the first act of journalistic responsibility in the history of the Sports Minute, I’ve actually done some research (albeit about 10 minutes on Google, but until I’m gettin’ a paycheck for this, that’s all you get). According to Professor Oscar Barbarin at the University of North Carolina (see, I even got it from a hoops school), the median annual income for an African-American family in 1997 (gimme a break on the year, ok?) was $25,050. However, that number is well above the poverty line, which for a family of three, is $12,000 a year. When taking into account the median, you have to know that the median just takes all the money and divides it by the number of people, meaning that the median is higher than the average because people above the poverty line are well above it and those below it are less significantly below it, simply because the number is smaller (you can do this yourself or you can just trust me). In 1998 26.5% of African-Americans lived below the U.S. poverty line, as opposed to just 12% of the overall population. Meaning that if you’re African-American you are more than twice as likely to be poor (do the math, folks, this is The No-Spin-Zone) than if you are not.
This is a sports article so I’m not going to go any further. If you would like to write an article on how economics is not related to race and that African-Americans have made their own bed, I’m sure Karl Rove would love to hear from you. But these are the numbers I’m using so deal with it. If any of you have watched any of Sebastian Telfair in Through the Fire on ESPN, or for that matter Spike Lee’s He Got Game or the excellent documentary Hoop Dreams, then you know the kind of poverty that many of these players live in (shouldn’t Telfair’s cousin, Stephon Marbury, have helped out a little more? Whatever, easy for me to say).. Now the argument for staying in school is this: You might break your leg or you might not be good enough to play in the NBA, so you should stay in school and get your degree so you’ll be prepared for the future. Let’s address several points relating to this steaming-pile-of-hippo-poo argument:
1. Ok, let’s say you’re going to break your leg and never be able to play again. It’s a foregone conclusion; there’s nothing you can do to change it. Let’s say it’s going to happen in your 3rd year of either college or pro basketball. If it happens in your third year of school, you have no money. Maybe the school takes away your scholarship; the scholarship is for student-athletes, and you are no longer an athlete. Now you have to either leave school or pay for your last year. And you can’t pay for your last year because you’re broke. But if you break your leg in your 3rd year in the NBA, you have three years’ salary (and you’ve been saving it in case you break your leg, of course....you have, haven’t you?), which is about $2 million, give or take. Now you are far from broke. If you want to go to school and get your degree, you can. Shaq did it, you can do it too. And now you don’t need a scholarship cuz you ain’t broke no more. See how that works? So how can anyone say that you shouldn’t take the money now? College will always be there later, but the money is there now. So what do you do? You take the money because...
2. ...you’re fucking broke!!! Okay? You and your entire family are in imminent danger–actual, like "death danger"--every minute of every day and have been forever. Either you are a victim of crime, which could kill you, or you are a perpetrator of crime in order to try and make some money to get you and your family OUT of imminent danger. Playing college basketball will do NOTHING to change this; NCAA athletes work for free and if you try to get your family out of poverty like Reggie Bush (although I don’t know whether they were poor in SD or not), you get a bunch of shit. But if you’re in the NBA, the first thing you do is get your family out of poverty...everybody knows that. So, in order to keep your family ALIVE, you take the money now. And besides...
3. ...college ain’t worth a shit anyway. Ok, maybe it’s not that cut and dried, but it’s all over the news now that college doesn’t guarantee you a job, nowadays. I’m living proof of that. College is a great place because you go in a kid and hopefully, come out a man. I loved college so much that it’s my goal to become a professor so I don’t have to leave. All I’m saying is that.....
4 ...college is not for everyone. There’s a myth that your worthiness as a human being is based on whether or not you went to college and it just ain’t so. College is one road....there are many others. If the only reason you’re going to college is to play sports, you shouldn’t go. If you want to hang out with different folks, get laid, and maybe learn a thing or two, then by all means go.
So poverty is linked to race; anyone who says differently is either a racist or an ignoramus, period. As an illustration, let me pose this question: When was the last time you heard Kevin Kennedy say that a middle-class suburban white kid was making a mistake entering the baseball draft instead of going to college? You have NEVER heard Kevin or anyone else say that. Baseball players go right into the minors from high school all the time; in fact, before Moneyball changed the rules, being a college baseball player was a step down from playing rookie ball. It makes logical sense; rookie ballers are pros, college players are amateurs. So how come nobody tells these white kids to stay in school and get their educations? And for that matter, let’s come back to race and economics. Why aren’t Dominican players encouraged to play college ball? Shouldn’t they be planning for their future? Have you taken a look at the College World Series? I haven’t seen that many white people in one place since I visited Pepperdine (which, not coincidentally, is a frequent participant in said World Series). How many foreign-born players play or played college baseball? The only one I can think of is Alex Cora, who played short at the University of Miami, and technically, Puerto Ricans are not exactly foreign-born anyway. Again, I ask the question, why don’t we hear about this? Why is there no uproar?
And this uproar does not come from the college coaches themselves. They get it. Both UCLA guards, Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo have made themselves eligible for the NBA. In my opinion, both of these players should stay in school because they’re not ready for the NBA. First of all, the high school players who make it in the NBA are always big guys. Not necessarily centers, but big for their position at least. The shortest high school player who’s become a major superstar is Kobe, who is a 6'7" guard! The rest–Garnett, Stoudamire, Moses Malone, Lebron James–are huge guys. Guards who skip college, like Sebastian Telfair, have less success as a rule. Naturally that’s because little guy skills–shooting, ball handling, decision making–are the result of practice and you get more practice playing in college than in the NBA. Also, with the exception of babyfaced Carmello Anthony, you can tell how a guy will do in the NBA just by looking at him. If he’s 18 and looks 25, that means he’ll play like he’s 25. If he looks 18, he won’t. I realize this seems silly, but think of all the early entries into the NBA. Which ones succeed, the old looking ones like Jason Kidd, who hasn’t aged a day since he looked like a 35 year old man as a sophomore at Cal or the young ones who are, literally, still growing into themselves? Name me one young looking player, besides Carmello, who has succeeded as an early entrant? I’m waiting......
See. Nobody. Although it seems random, the facts prove it to be true, and as Sherlock Holmes says, "Kids who don’t shave can’t play in the NBA." (Or was it Craig T. Nelson who said that? No matter...) Both Farmar and Afflalo are 19 and look 19; thus they should stay in school. And of course, UCLA coach Ben Howland is trying vehemently to talk them into staying, for their own benefit and for his, right? Dead wrong. Howland gets it. He thanked them for all they’d done for him and the program and wished them well if they move on and welcomed them back if they decide to stay. Howland knows that the NCAA is a coaches’ league–he is more valuable to the Bruins than say, Greg Popovich is to the Spurs. Because once Pop has his system and players in place, it runs itself. New guys are taught the system by the guys like Duncan who have been running that system for years. If Pop retires and his top assistant takes over, the Spurs can still win. There are exceptions like Phil Jackson and Larry Brown, but remember this expression for future clarity of life: The exceptions PROVE the rule. But even in the best of circumstances, Howland’s oldest players have only been there four years. So each year, a college coach is recruiting the best players to run his system. If you get great players, you know they’re not staying. That’s the reality. So you recruit a player for that particular year. That’s college hoops and the coaches understand it and support it.
An anecdote: One year at Duke, sophomores Elton Brand and William Avery both declared for the NBA. Coach Mike Krzyzewski (yes that is spelled correctly...I know because I cut and pasted) said publicly that Brand was ready for the NBA and Avery was not, and encouraged Brand to go and Avery to stay. Why did he do this? Because he understood. It’s not as though Brand was less valuable than Avery–anyone who watched a single Duke game that year knew it wasn’t the case. And it wasn’t because he didn’t have a point guard to fill Avery’s spot–he had Jay "Don’t Call Me Jason or White Chocolate (but you may call me ‘Future Hell’s Angel’)" Williams on the way. It was simply because it was true and he wanted both players to succeed. Will Avery’s family was very upset; Will’s mother even accused Coach K of discrimination, an accusation somewhat devalued based on the fact that, when last I looked (last night), Elton Brand is also black. But she was absolutely right. Coach K was discriminating against Will Avery because he was not as good a basketball player as Elton Brand. History has borne this out–Elton Brand is an NBA superstar and Will Avery is out of the league.
Are Dick Vitale and those of his ilk racist, on the scale of Nathan Bedford Forrest or David Duke? Of course not. Vitale loves all races equally, loves all basketball players equally, loves everything equally except subtle, measured speech. But Vitale’s short-sightedness makes him, by definition, an ignoramus as it relates to this issue. By not looking at the economic inequalities as they relate to race in America, Vitale is being racist by being underinformed or, more likely, biased. Vitale wants Lebron James in the NCAA because his presence will make the NCAA a better product, thus increasing his own relevance and cultural and economic viability. No, he does not think of it in those selfish terms, but the fact remains the same. And anyone else who begrudges poor people of living their dreams and using any great talent they have, be it basketball, music, acting, etc., is an ignoramus, too.
I apologize for those of you with degrees in Economics, but it’s time for another "Layman’s Economic Lesson: from The Quey Dewey Doo (that’s me). .50 Cent’s movie is called Get Rich or Die Tryin’–simple mathematics and economics will tell you that most people will die tryin.’ Capital is finite, in the sense that there is only so much American currency at any given time, based on the Gross National Product. That amount of money is divided by the number of Americans. If a select few have most of that money, then the rest of us don’t have it. Meaning that we can’t all be millionaires because there is not enough money for that to be the case. If there are "haves," there must be "have-nots." All we can do, short of Communism, is do the best we can to try and give everyone a fair shot at being a have. But every time someone becomes a "have," he or she must mathematically create 3 or 4 "have nots." Simple math. As Tavis Smiley (a truly ironic surname for an intensely serious individual) said on Real Time with Bill Maher aka Politically Incorrect with Swearing, the problem is that the only "have" role models African-Americans have are athletes and entertainers. Sure, there are some black businessmen and educators like Cornell West who are role models, but–say it with me–The Exceptions PROVE the Rule. Until that changes, African-Americans will do whatever it takes–as they should–to become that "have." That’s capitalism, folks. And that’s sports. Athletes are entertainers whom we pay to entertain us. If we are entertained, they get paid commensurate to their ability (or perceived ability or perceived future ability). If not, they don’t. That’s capitalism, folks. And unless you’re a Red, that’s the way you want it because that’s the system you continue to support by not revolting and putting GOP heads on spikes.
Isn’t it? No? Well, how can we fix it? Simple. We pay college athletes. Understand me: WE don’t pay anyone. Neither do the Universities. We just let them hire agents and take endorsement deals. That’s it. All we have to do is stop being hypocrites. Name one other profession where we insist that people work for free. I’m waiting.....
See. Nothing. In fact, we encourage EVERY OTHER KIND OF ENTERTAINER to get paid if they can. Look, the corruption of amateur sports happened a long time ago, folks. The minute a television network sold airtime for commercials during an amateur athletic event, it was over. The minute that we paid announcers to announce the games, it was over. And, most of all, the minute we gave universities an economic incentive to have successful sports programs, it was really over. Everyone makes money on college sports except the players. Remember Larry Eustachy, the Iowa State coach who got fired for drinking with underage coed girls at frat parties? At the time he was fired, he was being paid $1 million per year to coach basketball. That $1 million salary made him the HIGHEST PAID PUBLIC OFFICIAL IN THE ENTIRE STATE OF IOWA!!!! More than the governor or the state senators or the University presidents. Does that mean that Larry Eustachy was the most important public official in Iowa? A basketball coach?? Really??? Was Iowa State even any good? Did they win any championships? No. So you’re telling me that a coach who never even won the Big Dance was the most important public official in an entire state?
In the baldness of this hypocrisy, there is no evidence to counter the claim that in some ways, college basketball players are slaves!!! Slaves!!! Don’t give me that crap about getting a free education. First, they ain’t getting much of an education as schools like Iowa State. Shit, I’m at Purdue now, a respected institution. It ain’t Stanford, but it ain’t Florida State either. Do you have any idea how easy it is to get a degree here? They’re gonna give me a MASTER’S degree and I’m not even smart enough to heat up a frozen dinner. You can major in Sales!!!! Sales!!! You can actually get a degree that trains you to work at Wal Mart!!! Or Hospitality and Tourism Management!!! Are you kidding me? Secondly, the average tuition at these schools in like $15,000, small potatoes compared to the amount of merchandise sales, ticket sales, and pretty much bribes (in the form of appearance fees in NCAA tournaments) that these schools make. And that doesn’t even take into account the free publicity. How many people go to Penn State instead of Penn because of superior athletics? And out-of-state tuition is even more. Purdue makes no secret–in fact they loudly and publicly trumpet–of the fact that since Texas native Drew Brees attended Purdue, their Texan enrollment has largely increased. Not all of these students are on scholarship...most of these students are attending Purdue (at least indirectly) because of Drew Brees. How many number 9 Purdue football jerseys, at $70 a pop, do you think Purdue has sold in the last ten years? I don’t know, but I imagine a six-figure profit is not out of line. And Purdue isn’t cheating. I saw Kyle Orton at a gas station last year, at the height of his Heisman hype and easily the most famous current Purdue athlete. And he was driving a shitty red pickup! No perks for Kyle. Would it have been so bad for anyone for Kyle to make 30 or 40 grand hocking hamburgers? Or even his own #18 jerseys? Paying Orton that small amount could have increased Purdue’s profit margin even further. Believe me, college athletes are a steal for fat, white, repugnant businessmen disguised as educators to exploit and they should start exploiting them even more. Colleges are a business. They’re not free and nobody has the right to go there for free. It’s time for them to start acting like businesses and not plantations exploiting African-American athletes.
Apart from masked hypocrisy in the form of morality, what is the downside to allowing college athletes to seek their fortunes? There is none. Technically, they are still amateurs. No one is paying them to play basketball, people are paying them to endorse products. People pay Matt Davis to endorse products, and he can’t even dunk a basketball (can he? I confess my own ignoramus status as regards to Matt Davis’ basketball prowess). Why shouldn’t Joakim Noah (good example cuz he don’t need the money) be allowed to do the same? And why can’t they hire agents? First of all, you don’t HIRE an agent, because they don’t get paid if you don’t. That’s what an agent does: he is your agent who represents your interests. But why should athletes be held to a higher moral standard than the rest of us? Because they can jump high that means they can’t get paid? It’s like the U.S. Government paying pig farmers to raise less pigs, because they waste created by those pigs was more costly than the pig market could earn. Well, I didn’t raise any pigs at all. Not one pig. My contribution to the environmental benefits of not raising pigs was not exceeded by anyone on Earth. Equaled, but not exceeded. Did I see a dime of that money? NO. Not pig-cent-number-one was contributed to the Joe Quadres Cigarette Fund. So how on earth can we feasibly ask people to use their talents for free when we are quite happy to be paid for having no talent at all. Why should a pig farmer who is NOT raising pigs be paid more than a college basketball player?
This is an essay without a conclusion. Try not to feel cheated.