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.

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Is Larry getting a pass?

April 1, 2008

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I grew up in one of the best eras of basketball — the 90s. Nothing was more exciting than coming home from church on Sunday afternoon and watching the NBA on NBC. And, come June, almost knowing MJ and the Jordanaires would contend for yet another title. Some of those great battles were between the Bulls and the Knicks. Jordan vs. Starks, Pippen vs. Oakley, Ewing vs. Cartwright.

Take away Mike and the Knicks probably would have one at least one championship in the 90s. But like the Jazz, Suns amd others, the Bulls were always there, standing in the way.

So even though I wasn’t a fan, the I respected the relevance on the Knicks and what they brought to the league. So, the last couple of years, it’s pained me to watch the team I grew up loving to hate, run in the ground by Isiah Thomas and the Knick management.  

Since the “Ewing era” the Knicks have been on a free fall and, since Isiah took over, the pace has been accelerated. Despite having one of the highest payroll in the league haven’t made the playoffs in seven years.

The blame has falling directly on Thomas, and rightfully so. From assembling a team full of 2-guards to his inept coaching skills, Thomas, unfortunately is the face of the Knicks’ downfall.

Because it’s one of th NBA’s signature franchises and because it’s New York, this situation has been magnified. But a similar situation is going on in Indiana and is slipping under the radar. Hall of Famer Larry Bird is the president of the Indiana Pacers and, like Thomas, has overseen his team fade into obscurity and become one of the laughing stocks of the league. But, unless you live in the Midwest, you probably don’t pay attention or don’t care.

Since the infamous brawl a few years back with the Pistons and coupled the with the retirement of the face of the franchise in Reggie Miller, the Pacers have struggled on the court. Off the court, former Pacer Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson and current players Jamal Tinsley have found themselves in off-the-court issues that have embarrassed themselves and the organization.  But another is going to pass with no playoff appearance for the Pacers. And really, nobody’s going to care. 

So while Isiah gets hammered in the media, where’s the uproar about Larry?


Pacers start(ed) four white guys

February 28, 2008

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I ran across this earlier over at The Big Lead and found it very interesting/surprising. Last night, the Indiana Pacers started four white guys in their game against the Bulls.

Not that I every really cared, but the Pacers have dropped off the radar since the Reggie Miller-era ended a couple of years ago and I don’t even know who their coach is or what their record is.

But in this day an age, it’s rare that you have one white guy starting for an NBA team, much less four.


All-Star game recap

February 20, 2008

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As the second half of the NBA season upon us, it’s only fitting that we look back at one of the league’s signature events — All-Star weekend.  As noted in previous post, from a public relations standpoint, last year’s festivities in Las Vegas was a disaster.

But all accounts, this year’s event in New Orleans was a huge success, Page 2’s Sports Guys sums it up for me. Even one of the league’s harshest critics following Vegas, Jason Whitlock, said the weekend made the NBA ‘matter again’

For me, I watched every event from the celebrity challenge on Friday to the 3-point shootout and historic slam dunk contest on Saturday to the game on Sunday.

But an interesting debate caught some steam on Monday. The question was asked, what matters most the NBA All-Star game or the Daytona 500.

NASCAR’s biggest race — often called the Super Bowl of racing is probably the one sport I just can’t get into. To me, it’s boring and lacks suspense, aside from the crashes. But it has a large following, filling stadiums every week.

The target audience, however, is completely opposite than that of the NBA.  NASCAR has a large southern, white audience. The NBA is targeted to more of an “urban” audience. Because of this, stereotypes and perceptions arise. In the lastest edition of ESPN the Magazine, Chris Palmer looks at the crisis the NBA has with perception.  For the sixth straight year, the NBA All-Star game’s ratings were down. What does this mean? Is the NBA losing relevance in America, because globally, the game is as popular as ever.

Part of me thinks that the brawl a couple of years ago and the dress code set the league back a couple of years. But, with the emergence of new starts like Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Brandon Roy, etc., the NBA is on its way back and will be better than ever.


“Black Thanksgiving” is almost here!

February 13, 2008

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On tomorrow, thousands will begin their descent on Nawlens (New Orleans) for the 2008 All-Star weekend, an event WP columnist Mike Wilbon so eloquently coined  “Black Thanksgiving.”  and what Page 2’s Bill Simmons called “Hip hop Woodstock.” If you remember, it was only a year ago that the game was held in Las Vegas and, depending on who you talk to, was either a huge success or complete disaster. While it brought in nearly $100 million in revenue, there were over 400 arrests. Most notably, it was the beginning of the end for Pacman Jones as he “made it rain” all the way out of the NFL.

There’s no doubt the NBA is a “black” league so-to speak. The majority of its players are African-American and many of the fans are as well. Recently, All-Star weekend has been a destination of choice for young black folks. It has surpassed Memorial Day and the 4th of July. The hip-hop community comes out in masses and can be seen at events and sitting courtside for the actual game. But the fact remains, the money and influence still comes from white fans and that’s evident from the front office to the majority of fans in the stands. So, to some, the NBA’s image is again on shaky ground.

The always controversial Kansas City Star and FoxSports columnist Jason Whitlock compared attending All-Star weekend in Vegas to walking the grounds of a maximum security prison. Of course, he received intense criticism from critics who believed he was a “sellout” and over exaggerated things.

 Look, whenever a large group of people get together, black or white, there will be issues. The reality is though, because of the spotlight and amount of money involved, the NBA All-Star weekend will be heavily scrutinized by those in the media and in public opinion. Can things be changed to make the event safer and run smoother? Of course. But there has to be some personal accountability on those who attend to behave properly.

 Some have suggested having All-Star weekendin New Orleans is disaster waiting to happen. While the N.O. is still struggling post-Katrina, if there’s one city that can handle a big event it’s the Crescent City. 

I’ll reserve my judgement until after this weekend. Until then, if you’re heading to the ‘Nolia, have a ball!