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The Two Sides of Lavar Ball

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

One theory is that Lavar Ball is one of the most polarizing people on earth. That can’t be true because in order to be polarizing, there needs to be folks on both sides of the issue and it appears one side so heavily outweighs the other, that annoying is a better description that polarizing.

During the past 20 or so years of my life, I have taken pride in trying to see both sides of an argument or a person. Nobody can be all good (with the exceptions of Gandhi and Mother Teresa) and nobody can be all evil (Adolph Hitler and Charles Mason made/is still making a good run at proving that assumption invalid). Most people have both decency and discourtesy somewhere in their DNA. Lavar Ball, for all his LOUD brashness and inappropriateness, should be congratulated on several accounts.

As a Caucasian, I need to step gently when discussing the shortcomings of my black brethren but, it’s my firm belief – and I imagine others of all races will agree – that the biggest problem in the black community that they have in their power to correct is the absentee father. They can’t solve poverty, crime, lack of opportunities or certainly, racial profiling without assistance from other groups, most notably whites. But the high rate of fathers not being in their children’s lives is well within their capability to correct.

And on that subject, Lavar Ball should be applauded. As opposed to being absent, he has been a dominating presence in the lives of his three boys. In a world in which there seems to be a story on domestic violence (within all races) on a daily basis, his and his wife’s marriage seems to be one of mutual love and respect. In addition, he has provided a beautiful home and life for his family, as well as being a powerful factor in all their lives. Some may say a little too powerful but the fact remains his is as tight knit a group as any family.

Not only has Ball been a strong influence in his kids’ upbringing, he has truly had quite an impact in making them the talented young men they are. Beginning with his “choice” of spouse – many times he’s (jokingly, we think) referred to his selecting his wife because of her genes – to the fact that he didn’t want to cease control of their basketball fortunes to someone else. Independent of one’s beliefs regarding summer basketball – and there are altogether too many horror stories – he decided the best person to train and coach his boys was him. He didn’t complain about the coach(es); rather he formed his own team. Many parents complain, few take the drastic, costly and time consuming task of putting together a squad. Some might criticize his charging other youngsters to be a part of his team but, judging from his three, he has produced a trio of good players (one of which might be the overall #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft).

Now, he’s never going to be compared to Ozzie Nelson but that was never his goal. Unquestionably brash, with an ego as big as all the outdoors, people say he is putting too much pressure on his sons yet that remains to be seen. Judging from the eldest son, Lonzo, he doesn’t seem to be adversely affected at all. His less than stellar play in UCLA’s loss to Kentucky was more due to injury or just a bad game than to someone wilting under the pressure of a brazen dad.

Of course, Lavar Ball is by no means a saint. His pomposity has been chronicled ad infinitum – which he appears to relish. He is either living vicariously through his children or is a master marketer. He has been called obnoxious (with good cause) but, in his defense, he says that people who’ve known him realize he hasn’t changed his manner; it’s just that he now has a podium. He maintains he has always been true to himself – which ought to be considered an admirable trait.

No one can contest his making some of the most asinine statements (no need to list them here as they’ve received as much coverage as any topic in March Madness). In the end, he needs to live with all his braggadocio. Whether his act actually sells merchandise (other than him, I have yet to see anyone wearing his apparel) or his brand takes off, is yet to be determined. The negative pub he’s brought upon himself is well-deserved. One example is when Stephen A. Smith asked him why a company needed to give him a billion dollars up front, that every player who has a brand performed to a level to deserve it first, so why not show a reason someone should fork over that kind of cash, his reply was to shout over Smith, yelling, “Up front, that’s right – up front!”  He never answered the question and the only reason he stopped was because the show’s host moved on.

Rating individuals’ qualities from 0-10, 10 high, most people are 3’s and 4’s (bad qualities) or 7’s and 8’s (good ones). Lavar Ball’s qualities are 0’s and 10’s. In all:

“Lavar Ball is outspoken – by no one.”

 

Takeaways from the NCAA Tourney’s First Weekend

Thursday, 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

Sunday, 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?”

A Blast from the Past

Wednesday, 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

Saturday, 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

Thursday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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

Sunday, 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.”

Sometimes Wrong Is Just Wrong

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

As a parent, we always have to be on the lookout for “teaching moments.” The sports world usually offers many such opportunities. The most recent example is the case of Charles Oakley – what he did, how he was treated and how he reacted.

If you don’t know the back story of Oakley, you’ve probably tripped up and landed on this blog by mistake but, to sum it up, Oakley was a very good NBA player for, among others, the New York Knicks. Not a superstar, a la Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson or Bernard King, but a guy who brought it every game and earned his money, something that fans appreciate.

James Dolan, Knicks owner, has seemed to have done all in his power to destroy this proud franchise, making one awful move after another. Although I’m not sure which is which, the relationship between Oakley and Dolan is like that of oil and water. The facts are a little muddled but at a recent Knicks’ contest, Oakley may or may not have been drinking, may or may not have been spewing nasty comments to his former boss but, what is known is that he was asked to leave the Garden. He did not, however, leave peacefully, rather he confronted security and got into shoving matches with those attempting to do their jobs.

Fans have been overwhelming pro-Oakley in this situation, some because they love their Oak, some because they despise Dolan, many because of both. Whichever side you belong to, one thing is necessary for this discussion. Regardless of Dolan’s ineptness or fan reaction, Oakley’s actions that night were wrong.

About a week earlier, DeMarcus Cousins got a technical foul with 1.1 seconds to go. It was his 16th of the season, meaning he was suspended for the next one (and pay a fine of $4K but that means little for a guy making so much that the suspension will cost him $154,000, or 1/82nd of his salary). The game was lost. He couldn’t control his emotions one more second? So the people who shelled out dough for the next game are deprived of catching him in action because of a hissy fit.

Fans of Cousins, e.g. those who like unstoppable low post players who can play beyond the three-point line and also protect the rim at the other end, claim referees are against the big fella. After watching Cousins pick up his 17th T, they might have a point as replays showed it was nothing more than a flop. When asked about it postgame, Cousins’ reaction was, “It’s obvious I can’t be myself. Me playing how I play is what makes me the player that I am. Obviously it’s not acceptable, so I’m trying to find a way to, you know, do what these guys are asking me to do. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to find a way.”

True to a point but the “Me playing how I play is what makes me the player that I am” comment shows the lack of maturity his critics have leveled at him since his career began. The axis of “right” goes through the top of Boogie’s head and out the other end. His world revolves around him, not unlike many folks. Whatever his beliefs, though, they don’t give him the right to be a boor.

In another basketball related incident, broadcaster Dan Dakich, known for – and proud of – his controversial commentary, stepped over the line while working the Michigan State-Ohio State game, calling the Spartans’ fans whiners and making the comment that one kid attends MSU because he couldn’t get into Michigan.

Funny line. I used to hear similar comments. When I worked at USC there would be signs at our home games against UCLA which said, “My maid went to UCLA.” Ha. Freedom of speech, right? So what’s the difference between that sign and what Dakich said? First and foremost, the signs are made by fans while he’s a professional, paid broadcaster who is on the air.

Next, Dakich’s son is a member of the Michigan basketball team (as a redshirt), making his tweet that much more inappropriate. Making the twitter war look worse for Dakich was the fact he deleted the tweet but, naturally, not until after somebody took a screen shot of it – so it lives forever. Dakich, enjoying his new career as enfant terrible, has been milking the situation, refusing any type of apology. He’s using what he created to his advantage, becoming somewhat of a role model for those who look up to him, similar to the way Jim Rome spawned a band of “shock jocks” in the sports world. It’s a way to be someone, for the first time as Rome and his minions are, or reinvent himself as Dakich, whose playing and coaching careers are over, is doing.

Not so great for parents who might have had higher hopes for their children. “Fame” is something people (not all let’s be clear) want desperately to acquire. Yet rude or barbaric behavior shouldn’t be acceptable, whether the person believes it’s necessary or that the end justifies the means.

What much of this reminds me of is the line that’s become part of our culture – and upsets me to no end:

“He was speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment.”