When Social Media Goes Too Far

March 24th, 2017

A sign of the times is that after a hard fought, highly entertaining game between Kentucky and Wichita State, the biggest story became the abhorrent behavior by the wife of the Shockers’ head coach, Greg Marshall. The guy who is at the center of all of this is some slapdick who, naturally, writes for a Kentucky fan site. Of course, he’s indignant about having been asked to delete what he sent out over the internet – and all his dweeb friends are supporting him in the name of the Second Amendment.

Really, should the fact Marshall’s wife was making an ass of herself be the top story? People are lambasting her for her foul-mouthed verbal attacks on the referees, UK’s coach and players. But shouldn’t the story be about the action in front of the reporter? I mean, this wasn’t anything like Charles Oakley and James Dolan. Sure, she made a fool of herself. Many people are saying she needs to get help. It certainly seems she does but is it this joker’s responsibility to alert the world about her problem? If the person involved wasn’t the head coach’s wife but, rather, a random fan in the stands, would all of this attention be necessary?

Think about it for a minute. If the person in question was your wife, mother, daughter or friend, how would you feel? Highlighting her had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. It’s highly doubtful any of the players, coaches or referees were affected (if this has been a recurring issue, Marshall would know but that is his – and her – business alone). In addition, the game was thrilling enough. To have a David vs. Goliath battle – in which David had a legitimate chance of winning – captures the attention of fans infinitely more than anybody’s actions in the stands.

Now, the whole sporting world knows – and, because of the power of the internet, probably even folks who have no connection to athletics. Did this kid really provide necessary entertainment with his video? Sportswriters and talking heads live to get a scoop. This latest move has sunk them to a low ebb. The fact this sick cat is receiving positive reinforcement is a sad commentary on today’s society. There’s only one thing to say to him:

“Congratulations, maybe someday, somebody will expose your demons to the world and you’ll understand what empathy is.”

 

Takeaways from the NCAA Tourney’s First Weekend

March 23rd, 2017

If nothing else, year after year, the NCAA Tournament always gives us talking points, things that befuddle, dazzle and perplex us. The water cooler talks is like no other time (except for this past presidential election).

1) Although it’s said every year – by seemingly everybody – there still has never been a 16 seed beat a 1 seed.

2) Just because somebody plays for one of those “brain” schools, doesn’t mean he can’t make a bonehead play. If you didn’t feel empathetic towards the Vanderbilt kid who foul a player from Northwestern – on purpose – with his team up a point and the game clock under 20 seconds, you don’t need a cardiologist because you have no heart. Naturally, the camera had to zoom in on him to capture his feelings during what was, arguably, the worst moment of his life. The nation got to see mouth one of the great two word comments of all time. If you read his lips, he said, “I’m trippin’.”

3) Another incredible scene was from Northwestern’s next contest when, somehow, a coach saw an infraction committed that the three referees didn’t catch. Think about it. When was the last time a press conference began with an admission of guilt by the NCAA officials association? While that non-call might not have determined the game’s outcome, the coach’s reaction to it, for all intents and purposes, did.

4) Non-power conference schools can still hang in there with the big boys and “going chalk” in your brackets gets you a lot of right answers but won’t win you the office pool.

5) The person who is least affected by the outrageous, bombastic comments of Lavar Ball is … Lonzo Ball. Note: For those Fresno readers, if you can find any of the memorabilia from my three-year tenure as the coach at Buchanan High School, check the logo I invented – three interlocking B’s – very similar to the Ball’s. No copyright infringement as I never did did anything to legally make it ours.

6) The only reason there was controversy over the foul committed at the end of the Seton Hall-Arkansas game was due to semantics. The college game used to have an “intentional” foul call which resulted in two shots and the ball. The game’s rules committee did away with the intentional foul and went with the NBA’s “flagrant one” and “flagrant two” type of fouls. The former is called when a player commits a foul while not making a play on the ball. The latter goes a step further. It’s called when the is intent to injure. What muddled the discussion is the Razorback fouled on the play tripped, making the foul appear worse than it was. Independent of whether or not the kid tripped, the call made was the right one. In past seasons it would have been called an intentional foul – which no one was in disagreement.

7) Because it’s nearly impossible to do, when a school has the perfect basketball coach, the athletics director will do most anything to lock him up. Apparently, that’s not the case at Oklahoma State. Good luck to the Cowboys trying to replace Brad Underwood. Whether or not the people at OSU are upset, you can bet Big 12 coaches breathed a collective sigh of relief.

8) Second guessing the selection committee is one of the easiest things to do at this time of year but there can be little doubt that Wichita State, Xavier and Middle Tennessee definitely got Rodney Dangerfield-ed.

9) I was an assistant coach at nine schools, all Division I, over a 30-year period. I’ve been a college fan for over 50 years. It still amazes me that people are so thrilled to see a team lose – like Duke this year. To hate a team that stands for what’s good in sports – sure they have their warts, especially this year, but don’t we all – defies all logic. Are people’s lives that sad that they derive so much enjoyment when a team comes up short? Root like hell for your team but if someone else’s misfortune causes you that much joy, it’s time to reexamine your own life.

“While filling out brackets is frustrating as all get-out, March Madness never disappoints.”

A (Not So) Comedy of Errors in Gonzaga-Northwestern Game

March 19th, 2017

After watching the first ten or so minutes of the Gonzaga-Northwestern NCAA round of 32 game, no one would ever have thought there would be a controversial call that might have decided the outcome. The Wildcats couldn’t score and, after the Zags jumped out big early, they, too, had trouble finding the bottom of the hoop. The end of the first half saw Northwestern creep a little closer.

Then, as the Cinderella kids (there was a time when the WCC team playing against a Big 10 squad would have been the underdog) kept on keepin’ on, the lead closed to five. Normally, the argument after a blocked shot is about whether the block was clean or if the shooter was fouled. This is the well-documented first ever appearance for the Wildcats if there was to be controversy, you almost knew it was going to be a play that’s seldom seen – like the defender cleanly blocking the shot but putting his hand and arm through the rim to do so. What was so odd was that Chris Collins, the ultra-passionate Northwestern coach, clearly saw the play, while the none of the three guys paid to do so, did.

One thing coaches tell players is – don’t compound your mistake. Make one mistake at a time. So, if a referee misses a call, don’t make a second one by slapping a complaining coach (or player) with a technical. In this case, however, that “rule” really didn’t apply. The official did not know he kicked the call. So when Collins vehemently argued, charging at the official (only to alert him of what he missed), gesturing with his arms what had occurred, the ref had no choice but to T him up. Collins was several feet onto the court and his actions did merit the technical foul. The lack of two points, plus the free throws awarded to Gonzaga and their subsequent bucket more or less ended the fray.

Collins’ post game explanation, which he made after hearing the NCAA’s explanation that 1) the call should have been goaltending, awarding his club two points and cutting the Zag’s lead to three but 2) that the technical foul was warranted because of his actions, was that he was human and emotional, plus “We’re coming back from 20 down.” On that, everyone would be in complete agreement. However, while it is true that emotions run high during NCAA competitions, another item coaches preach to players is to not let your emotions get the better of you – to, instead, keep your emotions in check and show poise. 

Unfortunately, that call is not reviewable. I’m unsure why not since so many others are and, in this case, it’s such an obvious violation. If, as the NCAA claims, the major purpose of reviewing calls is to get them right so that a bad call doesn’t influence the outcome of a contest, could a change be in store? It was so sad to see as compelling a story as Northwestern’s maiden voyage into the NCAA tourney end in such disarray.

As happened to Jud Heathcote and Michigan State in 1986 (see my 11/28/16 blog), Collins’ most likely response would be:

“Is your apology – and that call – retroactive?”

Do Sports’ Critics Ever Look Inward?

March 18th, 2017

If you happen to be a frequenter of this blog, you undoubtedly have read of my dislike of those talking heads and columnists who feel compelled to criticize players or coaches who fail to live up to their self-proclaimed standards. If Jim Rome has a legacy, it’s that he created such an industry. He knew, well before others, that a large section of the American public can be made to feel better about themselves when others, whose lives seem infinitely more successful, are ridiculed for something they’ve done or haven’t done. Although the latter group’s accomplishments in their chosen fields far surpass what most of society can lay claim to, still it is comforting to point out the “superior” groups’ shortcomings.

While we’re not dinner companions, I count Bill Self as a friend of mine. We became acquainted when he was the coach at Tulsa and I was on the staff at Fresno State. One year, his Tulsa team lost four regular season games and three of them were to us – by one at Tulsa, by two at Fresno and by three in the WAC tournament (the one year it was held in Fresno). I coached for 35 years so I feel I can comment intelligently on what makes a good, even a great, coach and what doesn’t. This year, Bill Self led Kansas to a Big 12 regular season championship – for the 13th consecutive season! As far as defining coaching greatness, that definitely qualifies.

Yet I came across a piece, written a year ago following the Jayhawks’ first weekend loss to Wichita State, in which Bill was blasted for his underachieving NCAA tournament record. Certainly, losing during the first weekend of March Madness – which his KU clubs have done three times – is no one’s idea of a successful conclusion to a season. But to dismiss his 2008 national championship (KU’s first in 20 years and, by the way, the only Final Four to feature all four #1 seeds) as the only national championship he’s won, is downplaying an overwhelmingly successful career.

The author of the article compared seven coaches’ post season records: Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and Bill. Self’s record was the weakest of the seven, having reached the Sweet Sixteen 10 times, the Elite Eight seven times and the Final Four twice. My answer to that is that somebody had to be seventh out of that list – and it’s not like the group is a bunch of shlubs. In fact, if Kansas were to win it all this year, he’d still rank seventh of that septet. Was the point that Bill Self is just an outstanding regular season coach but, when it comes to the postseason, he forgets how to coach – or, worse, he chokes? If so, what is the explanation for the 2008 season? Or his appearance in the title game in 2012? Luck?

Earlier in the week, I caught the end of a rant by Bomani Jones regarding Self’s poor NCAA tournament coaching record. Jones has strong opinions and expresses them eloquently. He’s obviously incredibly bright guy. But to hear him refer to the NCAA tournament as the “Bill Self-gag tourney” (or a some such term – the exact terminology escapes me now), makes listeners think there’s a hidden agenda of some kind here. As for the list of awards Jones has to his credit, in January 2014, he won three consecutive Around the Horn episodes and, as of October 30, 2014 (sorry, my search to find the updated Around the Horn stats proved more difficult than finding NCAA champions), has 104 wins in 373 appearances on the show. When it comes to winning actual awards, his greatest claim to fame is his sister is an award-winning novelist.

Wonder how he’d feel if someone went on the air with a, “Yeah but …” rant regarding her writing career? As in, “sure she won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction and the Lillian C. Smith Award for New Voices but where is her name when Pulitzers are handed out?”

Although I fully understand that a large segment of sports fans enjoy listening to shortcomings of those more successful than we are, I still have to think:

“Isn’t it a sad commentary on America?”

A Blast from the Past

March 15th, 2017

After watching the selection shows, I had the identical feeling I’ve had in past years – especially after Jay Bilas, deftly displaying his background as a lawyer, criticized the seedings of several teams. Not that he was wrong (certainly Wichita State should have received a better seed – and that mis-seeding a team causes problems for the rest of the schools in that bracket). It’s just that anybody can pick and choose the committee’s “errors.” Read on and dream of what would happen if my proposal of overhauling the committee was adopted. This was posted a year – and a day – ago.

Selection Sunday is the most exciting day of the college basketball season – certainly for those teams that have won their conference’s automatic bid – but also for those “power” schools that know they’re in but want to see where/whom they’re playing, the bubble teams and, of course, the fans. For the selection committee, their charge is both impossible and thankless. First, they spend an interminable amount of time trying to consider every team, factoring in such things as strength of schedule, wins against the top 50, road record, injuries to key players.

My pet peeve: Something that’s always baffled me is the mention of power conference teams and how many “top 50 wins” they have (even though most of them are at home ) while teams from lower leagues are penalized, e.g. Monmouth, for having losses to teams with RPIs of 200 & up (games which are usually played on the road). Basically, the committee’s message is if a “low- or mid-major” has some great upsets (always either on the road or, at best, a neutral site), they still must never lose a conference game (like Syracuse did at RPI 200+ St. John’s)? Power conference teams have the opportunity to win top 50 games during their league schedule; teams from lesser conferences have the opportunity to get “bad losses.” The better a team is, the more “up” its opponent is, its fans are – and when the game’s played in a band box, which many of those smaller schools call home – upsets occur – because it’s their Game of the Year. 

Back to the “overhaul” everybody, especially committee members, would love to see. What about – just one year – the committee was made up solely of the media, i.e. the NCAA Basketball Selection Committee would be a group including, but not limited to, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Doug Gottlieb, Seth Davis, Joe Lunardi – and selected sportswriters and talk show hosts? Not only have them choose the tournament field but seed it as well – including the play-in games. Also, they must take into account conference and geography concerns (or go with Bilas’ idea of just seeding the tournament from 1-68).

Then, put them front and center on television (allow them to choose a chairperson if they wish) to answer questions from the committee people – and their peers who were left off the committee. Put their feet to the fire and analyze why some teams got in, while others were left out – and why the seeds were chosen they way they were. Have them explain to the viewing public that there was no “looking ahead” to future match ups of a coach and his former school or two teams that would make for a controversial contest.

What would be a reason for such a change? Simple:

“Empathy”

The United States Has Become a Culture of Hate

March 11th, 2017

Independent of how you feel about the past presidential election, there can be no debate that our country is now more divided than ever. Half (give or take) of the nation’s people are now gloating – yet they continue to hate former President Obama and most, if not all, of the programs he passed or was in favor of. The other half are shocked and embarrassed, upset beyond belief – and are protesting and complaining about President Trump and … everything he says, does or does not do. The latter group, who consider themselves logical, reasonable human beings has been driven to hate as well.

The stories have been told and the lines have been drawn. Nearly everybody has decided which side they’re on – although some more passionate than others. As the saying goes, “it is what it is.” Anyone who knows me will tell you I have always highly opinionated. Maturity – and some will say, sensibility – has come to me later in life than to most. Since I retired in 2012 I’ve become Switzerland. I try to take an evenhanded approach to all issues.

Rather than try to attempt to bring parties together, pick a side or incite one group against another, I’ve chosen to sit back and observe. The main reason is I’m not sure who’s right and who’s wrong. Plus, I realize how limited an effect I’d have. To me, there’s good and bad in everybody and every organization. I read something a few days ago, written by Steve Keating (someone I do not know), which describes what’s happening in this country:

“Sorry folks but no one but you can make you hate. No one but you can get you to stop hating. Until everyone, EVERYONE, accepts responsibility for their own emotions the hate will not only continue, it will grow. Hating a hater is still hate.”


The Wisdom of Warren Buffett

March 9th, 2017

One thing about being retired is you have plenty of time to do … whatever you want. My friend, mentor and former boss, George Raveling (whom I’ve known nearly 45 years), is the greatest dispenser of knowledge of anyone I’ve ever met. Never does a day go by in which I don’t receive an email from him. Maybe one percent – and probably less – are of a personal nature. Rather, they deal with life – leadership, general people skills, business topics (many of those he sends because he knows my two sons are interested in that area – Andy because he recently received a promotion to senior account executive at Salesforce, Alex because he is about to enter the workforce after  graduating from college and finishing his basketball playing career (including a year hooping for fun and money in Australia).

A good deal of Rave’s emails are for them but, having been a student of people and life, many of the correspondence is quite interesting to me. One, in particular, was about different successful people and their tips on how to be successful. Granted, I wish I’d have seen these 50 years ago, when I was just graduating from high school, but nonetheless the information – and the attached links – were absolutely fascinating.

While I have not yet watched all of the links, the person whose thoughts are so illuminating is Warren Buffett. I say this because, having been a math major, logic is at the center of most of what drives me and I am amazed at the common sense approach Buffett, who is regarded as the single most successful investor of the 20th (and probably 21st) century, takes on almost every topic. What follows are just a few of his quotes. See if you don’t agree with me.

On whether or not to further your education (which doesn’t necessarily mean going to college): “Investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. If you’ve got talent and you maximize that talent, you’ve got a terrific asset.”

On choosing a job: “Take the job you would take if you were independently wealthy. You’ll do well at it.”

On assuming risk: “Don’t drive a truck weighing 9900 pounds over a bridge that says, ‘Limit 10,000 pounds’ because you can’t be sure about it. Go down a little farther and find a bridge that says, ‘Limit 20,000 pounds.’ ”

On overwhelming odds: “How do you beat Bobby Fisher? Don’t play him in chess.”

On continuing to succeed in business: “The  biggest thing that kills a business is complacency … you always want to be on the move.”

On having limited knowledge: “It’s a terrible mistake to think you have to have an opinion on everything. You only have to have an opinion on a few things.”

On how to know if you’re in the right business: “If you have a good person running a business and it isn’t making any money, you’re in the wrong business.”

On what to look for in an employee: “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”

On cash vs. assets: “Cash is a bad investment. Its value is sure to decrease. But it’s a good thing to have – like oxygen. You want to make sure you have enough but you don’t need an excessive amount.”

On parenting advice: “There is no power like unconditional love.”

On his childhood idol, Ben Graham: “He looked at the people he admired said, ‘I want to be admired so why don’t I start behaving like them?’ And he found that there was nothing impossible about behaving like them.”

On his incredible success: He quoted Thomas Wolfe who said, “I’m no genius but I’m smart in spots – and I stay around those spots.”

Listening to the simplicity of Warren Buffett, I came to the conclusion:

“Common sense is not so common.”

Foster Didn’t Help Himself at the Combine But the Damage Will Be Minimal

March 7th, 2017

By now, every football fan knows Alabama’s Reuben Foster blew a gasket, waiting not so patiently in line for a physical at the NFL Combine. NFL teams knew about it minutes after it happened. Maybe even before it was over. That’s how “intel” works in today’s professional sports world.

Independent of the situation and how tired, upset or demeaned a player feels, he just has to behave since his every little move is being scrutinized. Apparently, Foster was so beside himself with the delay that he played the “don’t you know who I am?” card. The incident escalated to a physical confrontation with a hospital worker and Foster was sent home – certainly not his strategy when he packed his bags to attend the event.

Reactions were mixed – mostly because of Foster’s considerable talent. Feelings ranged from this is a red flag and needs to be looked into in greater depth to, no worries, everyone at Alabama say it’s totally out of character and is an anomaly. It was universally agreed that Foster’s action was that of an immature young kid, the majority chose to emphasize the young part of it. While many felt there was cause for concern, on the flip side, especially on-the-record spokesmen for franchises that might be in a position to draft him, there were apologists, some going as far to say he might have even been provoked. Naturally, the obligatory apology written by Foster (or, more likely, one of his representatives) followed.

Thus is the state of professional sports. If you are considered an impact player – which Foster certainly is – negative character traits will be overlooked, especially something as, and this might be a poor choice of words, but innocent as what he did. Skill and a player’s “numbers” matter more than anything to football coaches and executives because they win and lose games more so than any other aspect. However, in today’s NFL, the character of a player is being analyzed more closely than ever due to recent domestic violence cases as well as dependency on illegal and performance enhancing drugs. Maybe due to the public demanding these guys understand right from wrong but mostly because teams are paying more and more for players – and no team can afford to shell out millions in guaranteed money to a first round pick – also which Foster is assured of being – if he has a fatal flaw in his character. Wasting a first round pick can cripple a franchise.

In the case of Reuben Foster’s melt down, the voice of reason belonged to the one and only Stephen A. Smith who, in his own inimitable style, reminded the youngster – and everybody in ear shot (which encompasses quite an area) – that the NFL has eyes and ears everywhere. Stephen A’s reaction was simply:

“Why would you allow yourself to be in any kind of predicament whatsoever?!?”

Lonzo Ball Knows What Pressure Is

February 27th, 2017

After coaching for 35 years, I can attest that a player’s parents are his biggest supporters (I imagine the same holds true for the distaff side but my entire experience was limited to boys). Even for superstars, the odds are against them. Although high school is so far away from the NBA, still, kids – and their parents – dream.

The collective bargaining agreement that was just signed means even the lowest paid NBA player will be a millionaire. Several times over. The problem is that – and these numbers are from years ago but you’ll still get the gist – there are 720,000 high school players, 18,000 college players and 450 NBA players.

Nearly every parent I dealt with during my three-and-a-half decade career thinks his or her kid is better than he really is. Hey, if you’re not going to be the president of your child’s fan club, who do you think is? Youngsters who get cut have parents who are flabbergasted a coach couldn’t see the, if not innate ability, then immense potential, their child has. Similar for the kid who doesn’t play as much, or doesn’t start, or starts but doesn’t get as many shots, or is the focus of the team but isn’t featured enough. These parents are appalled at the lack of respect shown for their child’s skills.

Then there’s LaVar Ball. Last season his three sons played for a high school that went undefeated, won the state championship and averaged over 100 points a game. In a 32 minute game, that’s pretty remarkable. LaVar’s oldest boy, Lonzo, signed with UCLA. If you’ve never seen him play, you’re missing a kid who, barring injury, ought to, not only beat the odds and become one of the aforementioned 450, but have a long and prosperous career – beginning next season because if there was ever a one-and-done, it’s LaVar Ball’s son. At 6’6″ he’s perfect size for a point guard (which is actually his best position) and although is shot is unorthodox, he shoots a good percentage and just might be one of those rare types whose technique, flawed as it may be, is better left alone. There are a score of shooting coaches (not nearly as many as there claim to be) who could remake his shot but, most likely, all of them would agree to simply give him a ton of repetitions and overcome the imperfection.

Lonzo’s shot might not be his biggest obstacle however. Just listen to LaVar and it’s apparent who Lonzo’s biggest fan is as well as, in all likelihood, his biggest impediment. The bravado displayed by his dad has no limits. Bragging doesn’t scratch the surface when discussing Lonzo’s future. For starters, after four games LaVar guaranteed that UCLA would win the NCAA Championship – and not because of Steve Alford’s ability to strategize. That wasn’t nearly strong enough. Last week he said, “I have the utmost confidence in what my boy is doing. He’s better than Steph Curry to me. Put Steph Curry on UCLA’s team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens.”

Now, did he mean that, if Steph Curry were on the current Bruins’ squad, he wouldn’t be good enough to have than solidly in third place in the Pac-12, behind Oregon and Arizona, where they currently reside? Or that, if Lonzo were with the Warriors they’d not only have the best record in the NBA but, … what? Does he mean that Lonzo would have been the two-time defending MVP (last season unanimous) and Golden State would have won more than 73 out of 81 games last year?

He’s admitted to telling his sons, “Somebody has to be better than Michael Jordan. Why not you?” Michael Jordan? Heck, he might not be the best point guard in his freshman class! Is the elder Ball intent on placing so much pressure on his son that he derails his career before it starts? Or does he feel he knows what buttons to push to get the most out of him? Not too many people would agree with LaVar Ball’s behavior. I, for one, think what he’s doing is beyond excessive.

Yet, the last time we heard a parent speak with such braggadocio about his children, his name was Richard Williams.

“How did his kids turn out anyway?”

Magic’s New Position Turns Him into a Mini-Trump

February 26th, 2017

When the Lakers named Magic Johnson their president of basketball operations, the basketball community was split. As Donald Trump has divided the country into those who favor him and those who, let’s just say, don’t, Magic has had a similar effect in the world of hoops.

Dan Le Batard fired the first shot, claiming Magic “cut the line” because he’s famous and charming. Le Batard, who some claim ought to have an “s” strategically placed in his surname so it would sound like what it actually means in French (look it up), continued. “Magic Johnson was given a late night television show, because he’s famous and charming. Failed in 11 shows. Magic Johnson was given a head coaching job of the Lakers, because he’s famous and charming, failed in 16 games. Magic Johnson, not interesting as a broadcaster, given broadcasting opportunity after broadcasting opportunity, because he’s famous and charming. And now, he gets to run the entire Lakers organization because he’s famous and charming. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. He’s a very kind man, to be in his presence is to be awash in all the things people like about celebrity, he will make you feel special, but he wasn’t good at any of those jobs I just mentioned, and he got all of those jobs, bypassing a whole lot of people who are more qualified, because he’s famous and charming.”

Well, I can’t see anybody taking issue with the last part – nor should it be considered a negative. Heck, who doesn’t wish people would describe them as famous and charming?  Yet, I would seriously disagree that Magic was hired for his current job because of those two qualities. At least he didn’t land the job because he’s only famous and charming, even though those two traits will go a long way when it comes to luring free agents to the Lakers. Consider, many of the current free agents, and in the next few years, admittedly grew up idolizing Magic. As a free agent, being wined and dined by your idol – adding to the other “ancillary” benefits of living in Los Angeles, e.g. endorsements and business opportunities, weather and tradition, to name just a few – can be very persuasive to a young, impressionable (and highly talented) player.

Le Batard also made the statement, “His Twitter account should disqualify him from the job.” A legit shot, especially after reading some of the banal tweets Johnson has put out for public consumption – two in particular regarding his overall assessment of the Warriors: “With Steph Curry on the floor the Golden State Warriors are a championship team! Without him they are still a very good team!” and “When Steph & Klay are playing great together the Warriors are a hard team to beat.” His criticism of tweeting congrats to the Knicks for hiring Phil Jackson, however, is a low blow as Magic was far from alone in expressing that sentiment after Jackson’s hiring. His current duties, though, certainly won’t include being in charge of the Lakers’ social media account since that’s not what L.A. hired him to do.

Probably due to the fact that Johnson is famous and charming, Le Batard’s comments received immediate push back. Stephen A. Smith, who worships at the altar of Magic, prefaced his remarks saying he was a friend of Le Batard. He then vehemently took his friend, Dan, to task (as he is known to do to folks on a daily basis). Stephen A. applauded the move by the Lakers organization, calling Magic (another of his friends) “a basketball savant.”

Michael Wilbon’s response was based more on facts than emotion. Wilbon’s retort was, “So Le Batard bases Magic’s worthiness on a failed talk show and failed coaching career but not the 25 years since of success in business?” Point, Wilbon. Add to not only his mega success in business but his Hall of Fame career. Sure, that didn’t help him host a late night talk show nor be great on television – even when what he’s discussing deals with his own sport (think Oscar Robertson and Pete Rose). As far as the charge he failed as a coach, it’s almost a fact that superstar players don’t make good coaches.

But his success in running (numerous) overwhelmingly successful businesses? That takes leadership skills, hiring good employees, delegating and a multitude of other talents. If you want to say his role was just that of a front man, then he must have been a helluva front man. I choose to believe his companies thrived because he was more than “just a pretty face” or as Le Batard would have us believe, a “famous and charming” one. Too many successful enterprises.

Of course, another issue just had to be brought up. Keyshawn Johnson took his support of Magic a step further by “reading between the lines” and claiming LeBatard’s criticism was racially motivated. Jorge Sedano, Keyshawn’s broadcast partner on the show, jumped in and said, “No, I know Dan, that’s not true.”

Johnson’s reply? “I don’t know him, but that’s the way I look at it.” To that reasoning, we say, “C’mon, man!”

Isn’t it a shame, with all the struggles we face in America, that anytime someone who isn’t black (Le Batard is the son of Cuban immigrants) criticizes a person who is black, somebody will scream racism? Make no mistake, racism is a major problem in this country. Strides to correct it have been made but, in this case – and, full disclosure, I don’t know any of the people mentioned above - it’s unfathomable that Dan Le Batard could have risen to where he is in his profession (sportswriter for the Miami Herald and radio personality on ESPN) by making statements like he did about Magic Johnson with racial intent. And I don’t like Dan Le Batard! He’s a pompous know-it-all (a quality so many ESPN, and other TV, radio and print people possess in today’s media world) who is popular because of the controversial topics he (delightfully) talks about.

When it comes right down to it, rhetoric is just that. Whoever is right in this instance – and to people like Le Batard, Wilbon and Smith, being right is what really matters – will soon enough be evident because Magic has a job unlike that of media people. See, in Magic’s new endeavor:

“they keep score.”