When did Barkley become so beloved?

May 28, 2008

For the record, I love Charles Barkley.

I grew up in what I’ve said on numerous occasions was the greatest eras in the NBA — the 90s. And Barkley was among the top players during that time starring most notably the 76ers and later with the Suns and Rockets. Barkley never won a championship, but was named to numerous All-Star teams, won an MVP and was part of the original and only Dream Team.

Again, I’m a Barkley fan.

If my memory serves me correctly, while he was playing, Barkley was just as loved for this off the court “antics” as for his play for 48 minutes. The media loved him, because of his candor and, aside from the infamous spitting incident and the “I am not a role model” commercial Barkley maintained favor  and had crossover appeal, which, for that time, was essential for the black athlete.

But to his disadvantage (or maybe in hindsight it was an advantage), depsite his success and personality, Barkley spent his career in the shadow of his boy Michael Jordan. During that era, Barkley was at best the third most popular black NBA player behind Jordan and Magic Johnson, both of whom won multiple championships.

But as I watch the NBA playoffs, have conversations from time to time with people at work and watch how Barkley is talked about in the media, it’s become clear that Barkley is without a doubt the most beloved former NBA player period and arugably the most popular athlete, past or present.

I just can’t figure out when that transition occurred.

Barkley, along with Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith, is part for the very popular TNT NBA team. Most of the time, Barkley talks about everything except basketball and does it in a way that nobody raises an eyebrow or questions him. When he does get in trouble or says something controversial — it’s just Charles being Charles.

How he’s ascended to this status is beyond me. Maybe, since he didn’t venture into coaching or front office work like Jordan and Larry Bird, nor became a successful entrepreneur like Magic, he was able to carve his niche through television which allows him to be visible and in turn land commercials with Dwyane Wade.

Whatever the case, Barkley is one of THE go-to voices for all things, not just basketball. People value his opinion and maybe, it’s not really important why we do.

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Doc or Bust?

May 20, 2008

Often times during a game, whether football or basketball, I’ll get a call from my mom, who, as a result of me playing sports growing up, has turned into a pretty solid sports fan. Most of these calls come at the end of the quarter or at halftime to “see if I’m watching.” Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not, but I take the calls anyway to make it appear as though I’m interested. One of the funny things about my mom’s fandom and many other “old schoolers” alike is that no matter whether they are familiar with the team or not, as long as there is a black coach on the sidelines, they’re pulling for that particular team.

Exhibit A: The 2008 NBA Playoffs

Last night after the Hornets were eliminated by the Spurs in the Western Conference semis, my mom called and was sad. She said: “Well, another one of my teams as been eliminated, so I guess I’ll pull for the Celtics now.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle because this has been going on for the last month. When Dallas was eliminated and subsequently Avery Johnson was fired, you would have though all hell was about to break lose. And now that Mike Brown and Byron Scott’s teams are no longer in it, there’s only one of “us” left — Doc Rivers. And for my mom and others who are loyal supporters of the black coach, it’s their only hope.

While I support the black coach in any sport, it’s not as serious as those in my parents and grandparents generation. If you really think about it, you can understand their position. In their day and still somewhat today, it was rare to see a black coach in any sport. “We” were considered not smart enough or not skilled enough to be a coach at the highest level. Al Campanis  in a famous interview, said blacks didn’t have the necessities to be a manager in Major League Baseball.

We’ve definitely come a long way in leadership in professional sports. You can find black coaches in every sport at every level. The lesson I took from observing my mom is that people of all races should be proud of the advancement and success of black coaches, but not get comfortable and forget to support them, not matter what team they represent.


Bron Bron to Mama James: “Sit yo a** down”

May 15, 2008

I saw this live and after I figured out the young lady in the middle of the rucus was Gloria James, LeBron’s mom, I died laughing. And I wasn’t even going to bring this up until Jemele weighed in today.

I agree with her on this point– you should never, under any circumstances, cuss and your mom, or either parent for that matter. As upset as I’ve been at both of my parents, I can’t even fathom what would happen if I drop a cuss word on them.

But in this situation and under the circumstances, I can understand. I can also understand it if he and his mom have that kind of relationship — which some people do — where bad language is the norm. But in a crucial game four, in a must-win situation and with large men in the way, I can see how Bron Bron would be upset and let that slip. I can see it, but it doesn’t make it right. James apologized after the game and on ESPN the following day.

Jemele suggests we can’t look at LeBron the same way after this. I disagree. Anyone who’s played sports has dealt with over zealous parents and, while we may not have cussed at them, we’ve wanted to put them in their place. Many my feel as though LeBron was out of line, particularly since this was seen by millions. But, in this case I think we can give him a pass because when you’re paid millions and in the heat of battle,you have to be on your game at all times. And, if someone gets in your way they’re fair game, even if it’s your mom.

Just make sure apologize real quick.


Kornheiser takes buyout from Washington Post

May 14, 2008

Although he hasn’t written a column for The Post in what seems like forever, Tony Kornheiser made it official today — he’s taking a buyout and leaving the Washington Post. If you’ve paid attention, he’s made several hints at this on PTI over the past several weeks so this doesn’t come totally as a surprise, to me at least.

Nationally, Kornheiser is known obviously for his work on ESPN, particulalry PTI (one of my favorite shows) and Monday Night Football. But, before he became a “brand” he was one of the best columnists in the country who not only wrote about sports, but had a weekly column in the Post’s Style section. Those of us who grew up reading him can vouch to this. When he was in the zone, he could hang with the best of them and he’s combination of style, wit and general good writing made him a must read.

In recent years, he’s written less and less as other opportunities have presented themselves. People have blasted him for this, especially when his wingman, Mike Wilbon still writes somewhat regularly for the Post, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing. A lot of the bashing comes from people who tend to have forgotten that TK has been working for the Post for nearly 30 years.

I wish him the best and, it’s not like he’s going anywhere. PTI’sstill going strong, his radio show is great and he still has MNF. But still, in the age of dying newspapers, it’s sad to see one I looked up to leaving. I’ll put his Bandwagon columns up against any series of sports columns past or present.


Stephen A. debuts at ESPN The Mag

May 9, 2008

In the latest edition of ESPN the Magazine, basketball analyst and political pundit Stephen A. Smith’s new column debuted.  In case you missed it, Smith’s radio show ended a few weeks back and there was wide speculation that we was done at tWWL. But he has a new contract and, among his new roles, he will be a featured columnist on ESPN.com and in The Mag. In a way, aside from his many television roles, Smith is getting back to his roots as a writer. Say what you want about him, but in his hey day, he was a very good reporter and columnist, particularly in Philly. And plus, another black columnist in a major media publication and online entity is a good thing.


But this isn’t like him…

May 6, 2008

For the record, I’m not a Colts fan. I am, however, a Peyton Manning fan simply because I like the way he plays the game, and to me, his off-the-field ads/endorsements are funny. Plus, the few times I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with him, he’s seemed genuine. And, I’m a big Tony Dungy fan. Aside from being a Super Bowl winning coach, I believe he’s a man of values and stature who should be a role model for men of all races to aspire to be like.

But that’s where it ends. However, because of their success, I’ve had no other choice but to watch them play because it seems they’re the national game every week during the regular, so I feel like I know the team fairly well.  I know Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday

And Marvin Harrison.

Harrison is arguably one of the top-5 receivers of the past 20 years. His numbers can’t be ignored and he finally added a Super Bowl ring to his resume a couple of years ago. But he doesn’t get the same national attention because he isn’t as “flamboyant” as some of his other wide receiver counterparts — Chad Johnson, T.O., Brandon Marshall, etc. Because he’s “quiet” and “plays the game with respect” he has been lauded by the media. Because he doesn’t celebrate when he scores a touchdown, he’s squeaky clean.

So this week, when allegations surfaced about Harrison being involved in a shooting incident in his native North Philly ‘hood, I was curious to see how people and the media would respond now that something like this has happened to a “Marvin Harrison type of guy”

For the record, count me among the many who didn’t see this coming, but don’t count me as one who was suprised. One of the mistakes fans and media make, particularly when analyzing the black athlete, is thinking we know how a person is based on how they look and what they do for the 2-3 hours they’re about catching a ball.

Assumptions are made and stereotypes are formed. If said player is tatted up, beats his chest and shows any kind of emotions, more than likely, to the outside world at least, there has to be something wrong with him and he’s labeled as troubled and a thug. On the flip side, a player like Harrison, who doesn’t draw attention to himself and is soft-spoken, can’t possibly have any problems because it just doesn’t seem like something he’d do.

Guilt or innocence is besides the point. I hope Harrison makes it through this. Say what you want about T.O. and he perceived selfishness and arrogance, but you never hear about him getting arrested, in trouble etc. But the media potrays him as the bad guy. Maybe we should stop thinking we know people based on what we see once or twice a week when they’re in a uniform.

 


Random Thoughts

May 1, 2008

 

-I’ve always wondered how long Johnny Dawkins would stay at Duke. With Coach K still very young (by coaching standards), it seemed it would be at least 8-10 years before the Duke job came open. And, even then, would he be named the successor.

While being the head assistant at one of the premier college programs in the nation is a great job, at some point one would think Dawkins would want to branch out for himself and get from under the shadow of Coach K.

So, when Dawkins accepted the Stanford job late last week, it was surprising, yet promising. I think Stanford is as perfect fit for Dawkins because of its similarities to Duke as far as athletics and academic requirements. And while Dawkins is a East Coast (D.C) guy and has never been heavily involved in the travel aspect of recruiting, I think he’ll be successful. Former coach Trent Johnson, who left for LSU established a solid foundation for Dawkins to come in and take it to the next level.

– We all saw how Barry Bonds was treated by the media during his last and finals days. We saw the scrutiny and harsh treatment Bonds received anytime he stepped outside of AT&T stadium. Many were quick to call racism and say Bonds was treated unfairly by the media and fans. On the flip side, many felt because Bonds had been a jerk throughout his career, the treatment he was receiving was well-deserved.

Part of me felt it was race and another part felt it was magnified simply because Bonds was the “biggest” name implicated thus far in the entire steroids scandal. I was curious to see what would happen when and if another star, particularly white, would come under fire.

So when Roger Clemens was first implicated in the Mitchell Report, I pulled up my seat to watch. Initially, as I wrote on here, I felt Roger was getting a pass. I was all ready to jump on the “call for bullshit” bandwagon.

But in the last few days with allegations of women of the side, coupled with everything that has taken place in the last few months with the congressional meetings and Brian McNemee and all that, methinks Roger Clemens has had an equal, if not worse, fall from grace.