Embarrassing

October 30, 2010

I’m not a big LeBron James hater. I think “The Decision” was ill-conceived and egomaniacal, but I’m grateful for it because it provided an awesome test of our supposed sports mores. We say we value teamwork, cooperation, and personal sacrifice in the name of winning championships. So James made a move that embodied all of those values and he’s getting killed for it. Yes, the process was sloppy, but the result is exactly what most of us say we want from our most gifted athletes. Frankly, I share James’ befuddlement about what is expected of him.

But I do hate Miami Heat “fans.” I want to say “Miami fans,” but apparently Dolphins fans are quite loyal and the Marlins’ ownership situation complicates the picture enough for me to overlook their terrible attendance. Heat “fans,” however, are conclusively frontrunners. If the team is good, the place is packed. If the team is average or worse, it’s a tomb. And even if it’s the new-look Heat’s home opener against an in-state rival that also happens to be an elite team, well, that won’t quite do it either, since it’s a Friday night and Heat “fans” have better things to do.

Some of this criticism is rooted in sour grapes, of course. I know this would never have happened in New York, that Madison Square Garden would have been rocking in a way that I haven’t heard since the lockout-shortened ’98-’99 season. Oh well. At least New York now has a young, interesting, and likable Knicks team that is constructed to win games instead of to sell off bad assets.


Is Ty Lawson Better Than Chauncey Billups?

January 6, 2010

*More than usual, this post is heavily statistical. If you have a deep and abiding interest in the Denver Nuggets, Ty Lawson, Chauncey Billups, statistics, or anything I have to say in general, then I would encourage you to read on. If none of these interests apply, you might find this to be kind of a snooze.

Through a certain friendship, I’ve become well-acquainted with Denver sports over the years. The Nuggets, Broncos, and Rockies have joined teams like the Louisville Cardinals, Tennessee Titans, and Atlanta Braves in the group of teams that I’ve developed a small rooting interest in because of intra-national friendships. And because my Denverite friend lives right here in New York, I often find myself discussing the Coloradan sports scene. Past topics have included Jay Cutler’s petulance (go ‘Dores!), Josh McDaniels’ incredible ability to alienate, and the Matt Holliday and Allen Iverson trades. I can’t believe I have a strong opinion about each of those items, but I do.

Just recently, however, the Nuggets’ swoon has been a hot topic. That it has coincided with starting point guard Chauncey Billups’ injury has added an interesting element to our conversations, primarily because of our differing assessments of Billups’ ability. I asserted (with some vague knowledge of the pertinent stats) that the drop-off from Billups to rookie backup Ty Lawson isn’t as significant as many might think. He asserted, quite understandably, that Billups is the experienced caretaker of the offense, the team’s leader, and oh yeah, he’s still a pretty good player. Us being us, we proceeded to argue this point at length on several occasions. And me being me, I’ve hit the internet for some evidence that would either support or refute my claim. After some research, I’ve more or less decided that – at worst – Billups and Lawson are equally effective, and that it’s more likely that Lawson holds a slight edge. Read the rest of this entry »


Doubting Tyler Hansbrough

December 19, 2009

If, heaven forbid, my four years in college had been streamed live on the internet, there’s a good chance you would have seen me doing one of five things every time you tuned in. The first is me socializing. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. The second is me hunching over my computer screen watching the Yankees on MLBtv. The third is me agonizing over whether or not to skip a class so that I can hunch over said screen. The fourth is me frantically writing papers or studying for tests, usually in a massive unlocked lecture hall at three in the morning. And the fifth is me making fun of Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough’s four years in college doubled (or even tripled) mine in fanfare, fame, and prosperity. You can familiarize yourself with his many accomplishments here, but it’s safe to say that he had one of the greatest college basketball careers in history. He was an incredibly effective and productive player, and there’s really no room for argument there.

Hansbrough was also one of the most awkward, high-strung, spastic, and irritating players I can ever remember watching. These things would have been true even without the heaps and heaps of sometimes-creepy adulation foisted upon him by the sports media. His celebratory high-fives often missed his target’s hand. He paced around the court during stoppages in a disturbing way, in a way that you would expect a tortured mad scientist to in the bowels of his dysfunctional laboratory. He always expected any physical contact with his body to result in a foul on the opponent, and when it didn’t happen, we were graced with what was – for my money – Hansbrough’s most enduring contribution: the Hansbrough Face. Bug-eyed, bobble-headed, and mouth agape, it was a look of almost total incredulity mixed with a bit of entitlement. It’s more than a little reminiscent of Beaker. It was this face that I relentlessly mocked throughout college, often with the help of my assenting friends.

During today’s North Carolina-Texas game, ESPN’s Dick Vitale fulfilled his contractual obligation to bring up either Tyler Hansbrough or Mike Krzyzewski at some point in the broadcast. Senior forward Deon Thompson scored a basket, which caused Vitale to say the following:

Deon Thompson is the number one or two option on this year’s team. Last year, he was the fourth or fifth option, because of all the great players on that team like Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson. And how about Hansbrough proving all the doubters wrong in the NBA this season? That kid can play.

Tyler Hansbrough was a great college player. I knew this without Vitale’s paroxysmal reminders throughout Hansbrough’s time at North Carolina. But there is absolutely, positively no way that anyone can argue that Hansbrough is “proving all the doubters wrong” with his current performance in the NBA. Read the rest of this entry »


A Guy Can Dream

May 31, 2009

With the Yankees just losing to the Indians in the bottom of the 9th inning, my instinct is to author another post about the continual mismanagement of reliever deployment. Today’s offense was the refusal to use Mariano Rivera in a tie game on the road, even if it meant (as it ultimately did) losing the contest. Once again, we see that most managers simply will not use their closer unless he is protecting a lead in the 9th inning. I repeat: even if it means losing. 

To pacify myself, I will look at the following image and hope that the Cavaliers’ surprising elimination will nudge this ardent dream one step closer to a glorious reality.

80391809NB002_CAVS_CELTICS


Big 10 Basketball, An Animated Adjudicator, And Shane Battier

February 18, 2009

I’m working on a few major posts, but in the meantime, I’d just like to share with you three links that require three different amounts of time to enjoy.

The first and briefest is, quite simply, the box score from tonight’s Penn State-Illinois game. The final score? 38-33, Penn State. Lately I’ve been adding pictures to my posts, because they often add visual flair to this formerly drab space. In that vein, my first instinct was to include in this post a picture of someone projectile vomiting, because I think that’s more relevant to this game than either team’s logo or mascot. But, because this is a family website, I’m taking the G-rated route.

213illinois-logo

There. Hooray Big 10 basketball.

* * * * * * *

While watching tonight’s Providence-Louisville game, I noticed that one referee in particular was making his calls with tremendous vigor and conviction. After seconds of squinting, it occurred to me that the coaches, players, and fans were graced with the enthusiastic presence of Ed Hightower, who can often be found assuming positions like this when spotting an infraction:

Ed Hightower theatrics

 

Now, this guy isn’t the most enthusiastic professional referee. But he’s hyperactive enough to have inspired a fantastically funny gallery to which Deadspin linked a couple weeks ago. It can be found here. My personal favorite, for those interested, is the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” rendition. There’s something for everyone.

* * * * * * *

Lastly, I wanted to share with you The New York Times’ recent piece on the increasing use of statistical analysis in the NBA. In the column, Michael Lewis (of Moneyball fame) examines Houston Rockets swingman Shane Battier, his under-appreciated skills, and the Rockets’ deployment of those skills based on unconventional but fruitful scrutiny. It’s a bit long, but it’s awfully interesting and well worth the time investment for basketball fans and generally curious readers alike. 


No Steroids? No Outrage

February 16, 2009

On Sunday night, Phoenix Suns’ guard Jason Richardson was arrested for speeding in Scottsdale, Arizona. Richardson was reportedly clocked at 90 mph in a 35 mph zone. That’s bad. Upon approaching Richardson’s vehicle, the officer noticed that the player’s 3-year-old son was in the car, and not in a child seat. That’s reprehensible.

If you can do this, you can avoid social ridicule.

If you can do this, you can avoid social ridicule.

But because there are no accusations of cheating, or opportunities for Congressional grandstanding, or threats to the sanctity of a sport, this story will go the Brett Myers route, and disappear within a week. Sometime in March, Richardson will be on the business end of a thunderous alley-oop, and his reckless and horrific endangerment of his own child will be long forgotten because he has a vertical leap of 40 inches. 

Like I said, the steroids scandal reveals a lot more about us than it does the athletes.


Alonzo Mourning’s Legacy Should Be Mixed

January 22, 2009

Today, former Hornets, Nets, Raptors (kind of) and Heat center Alonzo Mourning retired from professional basketball. Mourning left a wonderful career in his wake. In 15 seasons, Mourning averaged 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks, all while shooting 52.7% from the field. During his peak, which lasted roughly from 1995 to 2000, Mourning was a game-changing force on the court. He blocked shots at an astonishing rate, while altering countless others. He was fiery, physical, and passionate. This is what the vast majority of professional basketball fans will remember about Alonzo Mourning. Indeed, it is all true.

My memories of Mourning are considerably more mixed. They are tainted, inevitably, by the fact that I am a Knicks fan, and Mourning spent much of his years with the Heat. I am not sure how much this penetrated the national sports consciousness, but from 1997 to 2000, the Knicks and Heat really, really hated each other. It was not a rivalry perpetuated solely by fans. This was genuine and personal contempt for one another amongst the players and coaches. Any rivalry that gets its own Wikipedia page must be legitimate, must it not? Read the rest of this entry »