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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Game Time

SportsProf would like to alter his format a bit today and make observations on a variety of topics:

1. Charades. U.S. Men's Basketball Coach Larry Brown has got to be kidding himself if he thinks that Allen Iverson can truly shoulder a team captain's responsibilities. The headline today is that Iverson, Amare Stoudemare and LeBron James were suspended for tonight's game against Puerto Rico for missing a team meeting. Perhaps now we can enjoy Iverson rant to the press, saying, "Team meetings. Team meetings? You're just talking about team meetings. Bleep." Because we know what AI thinks of practice, we probably now know what he thinks of team meetings.

But watch, you'll hear Larry Brown, who detests confrontation, say in his monotone that he still "loves the kid." I'm sure that when Coach Larry was a younger man and watched Leave it to Beaver, he thought Eddie Haskell was really cool. But AI as a captain? Perhaps Larry Brown spent some time in Ricky Williams' world (or adopted his unique form of inhalation therapy) when deciding to make AI the captain. Come on, Larry, you're not coaching the guy anymore, there's no need to [fill in the blank -- mollify, appease, stroke] him.

2. Boggle. Hard to say if anyone has been helped by these trades. The Mets traded many prospects for a pitcher with an iffy wing (Kris Benson) and a pitcher whom the D-Rays think they can do without (V. Zambrano). The Phillies got 2 relievers, but they weakened their CF platoon, the Giants weakened their bullpen for a lefthanded bat off the bench, and the Dodgers and Marlins gambled (especially the first-place Dodgers) by trading some big names. Brad Penny and Hee Sop Choi might help L.A., but they traded their emotional leader in Paul LoDuca (leaving them a hole at catcher, which, the last time I checked, was an important position) and a very solid reliever in Guillermo Mota. Time, as it always does, will tell. But none of these trades probably will put these teams into the playoffs, and while the Dodgers are in first, losing LoDuca will hurt and could give a team chasing them a better chance.

3. The Price is Right. Mike Tyson, in an attempt to satisfy about $38 million in debt, fought a relatively unknown Brit, Danny Williams, last night and lost in 4 rounds. Tyson was once the most feared fighter in the ring, and, perhaps, ever. What is he now except a caricature, and even those who poke fun at some of his sound bytes should think twice about doing so. Because Iron Mike isn't even remotely funny any more. His predicament is downright sad.

4. Survivor. There used to be some magic to the Olympics. Remember in '72, when the Bowling Green alum Dave Wottle ran the middle-distance races wearing a baseball hat and staged some amazing come-from-behind victories, or when the Finn, Lasse Viren, won the 5,000 meters and then the 10,000 meters and then ran the marathon for the heck of it and finished in fifth? Remember when the U.S. hoops team was made up of the best collegians, and how you used to read about the day jobs of many of the people who competed? Remember when the summer almost stopped because there wasn't an internet and there weren't satellite dishes or cable packages with 100 TV channels, so that basically all you could get were the Olympics on TV? Remember Jim McKay's priceless commentary, Howard Cosell's doing the boxing, where every punch was riveting?

What happened to those games, those times? When everything was better?

SportsProf doesn't know what happened, but he senses that people don't seem to care as much about these Olympics as they have about past Olympics. There are too many security concerns, too many blood-doping scandals, too many over-hyped athletes and, while we're at it, over-compensated ones. Here's to the Olympians who toil in the obscure sports, where there isn't a lot of money, and where they have legitimate day jobs. Here's to clean competition, impartial judges (SportsProf will argue that any sport that can be determined by a judge might not be a sport at all, but an exhibition) and some great efforts. The Olympics need a bunch of virtuous stories to improve their image.

Let's watch to see if the best stories are a product of the competitors themselves, and not the NBC ratings' machine.


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