Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's amazing how much has happened in the sports world since the last time I posted. I have so many to attack for so much. First, how elated we all are that the Celtics franchise record losing streak has been halted before it reached NBA record levels. While some are inclined to accentuate the positive (consider this slide show on which tried to find one positive aspect of each of the 18 straight losses and highlight it), I choose to focus on the negative because I'm good like that.

While it's nice to get a win, and always good to get ESPN to stop beating the record losing streak angle to death, I think it does one good to remember the axiom of Winston Wolfe from Pulp Fiction and wait a bit before giving one another the gift of oral gratification. Let us not forget that not only are the Bucks a bad team, but they were also short handed. Michael Redd and Charlie Villeneuva were not in the lineup. You might not be tremendously impressed by either of those players, it is still a significant loss for a team with only 19 wins.

While I'm on the topic of the Celtics, I might as well attack the team's promotional "Guys Night Out/Girls Night Out" ticket packages. For $99 you and three friends/acquaintances can enjoy a Guys Night Out at the Celtics game where you will receive 4 hot dogs, 4 sodas and 4 autographed pictures of the Celtics dancers to go along with the chance to see the worst team in the worst conference of the NBA. Apparently women need even more inducement to see these "games." Their $99 gets them the same 4 hot dogs and sodas, but they also get 4 15% off coupons at the TD Bank North arena Pro Shop and free admission and line privileges to the Greatest Bar on Portland St. after the game.

That $99 package gets you seats in the balcony (if you want the four tickets in the loge section, it will set you back $149) for the following opponents: New York, Atlanta, Charlotte, Toronto and Orlando. If you want a higher class opponent, you can shell out $119 for balcony/$179 for loge to get one of these amazing four seat packages for Houston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Milwaukee or Detroit. It's a good deal, I guess, if you really want to see the Celtics. What I really resent is the patronizing gift of 4 hot dogs and 4 sodas to a party of 4 which probably represents a cost of $0.25 incurred by the concession people. Maybe throw in a bag of peanuts or two, or another round of soda, or even a second hot dog a piece to take a little of the sting out of the price.

The trouble with the Celtics as a team is that they are basically a poor man's version of the LA Lakers. Pierce is a slower, slightly less competetive, slightly whinier Kobe. Al Jefferson is a poor man's Lamar Odom. Perkins and the other spare parts at the 5 need to work a bit before we can consider them to be a poor man's Bynum/Kwame Brown/Brian Cook combo. But you get the general idea.

Then there is my hero, and yours, Jim Rome. Lately, he's been hammering Joe Torre for his handling of the A Rod situation in NYC. Now, there is probably some room for improvement in the way he dealt with A Rod, but I think Rome might want to step off his high horse before criticizing Torre for dropping A Rod in the batting order in the playoffs. It's not as though Torre sat in his office one day while he was bored and said "What can I do to Alex to make him fail and hurt this team?"

The fact of the matter is that A Rod was dropped to 8th in the order because he was underperforming by the standards of a player who was payed 1/25 of A Rod's salary. When I think back on Torre's decision, I am inevitably reminded of the scene in Patton when the General, as played by George C. Scott, slapped an enlisted man and said in his apology that his intention was to remind the young man of his obligations, both as a man and as a soldier.

Perhaps Torre thought that the gentle approach had brought little success, so maybe a sterner approach might work. And as for Jeter running the town and extending no welcome to A Rod, what should Jeter do? It was his town, and it is his town. Until some other player comes in and leads the Yankees to four rings, it will always be Jeter's town.

What we really need, as sports fans and as a nation, is a primer from the media on how all people ought to react to any given situation. Some commandments would be nice, but if there isn't a burning bush handy, some guidelines would be really help. Then we'd know what to do, and we wouldn't antagonize the reporters, talking heads and writers who, after all, only have our best interests at heart.

This brings us to the Tim Hardaway situation. The real issue isn't necessarily what he said. It would have been nice if he kept his motuh shut. He certainly hurt himself with his incredibly insensitive remarks. But some of the fault lies with Dan LeBatard, too. Until he put his foot into his mouth, no one in the whole wide world really needed to know, or cared to know, Tim Hardaway's position on homosexuals in the locker room. Or in the world at large, for that matter.

LeBatard said today on OTL that he asked all of his guests that question lately. That's a lame defense. If a gay athlete comes out then he should be treated like a human being. If he elects to remain in the closet, that's his business. It certainly isn't my business. Or Dan LeBatard's. Or LeBron James' business. Or Tim Hardaway's business. No one waits with bated breath to hear what Athlete X thinks about a given situation. Or at least they shouldn't.

Amaechi was right to an extent to shift focus away from Hardaway per se and direct his concern to what others who might be inspired to harm homosexuals because of his words. However, I think that Tim Hardaway bears no responsibility for any act committed against homosexuals. Unless he commits said acts. People have to be responsible for their own acts.

Almost as bad as the general insenstivity is when insensitivity masquerades as sensitivity. I thought Mark Cuban's response was as shallow as shallow gets. Perhaps there are more concerns than just the bottom line. And this writer from San Francisco who took a Utah columnist to task for mentioning that Amaechi was one of the worst players in Jazz history immediately after the announcement. But the thing about that is who even thought about Amaechi before he revealed he was gay? There is nothing particularly homophobic in saying that John Amaechi was one of the worst playes in Utah history if the stats support the argument. And if the piece had been written out of the clear blue sky, would we attack the writer for being mean-spirited.

In the end, there is very little any writer, TV reporter, politician, religious figure or athlete can do to stop homophobia. You can discourage it, punish it, ridicule it, but if we want to live in a free society people have the right to be ignorant. But I believe that in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: "My right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." People have the right to be homophobes, but they don't have the right to harm homosexuals physically or verbally. So Tim Hardaway shouldn't be punished beyond what the NBA has done so far, and maybe we should stop looking to our athletes for social commentary.

But I really hope I haven't ended up sounding like this guy. It's certainly not my intention. I certainly didn't want to go to the other extreme and imply that Hardaway's reaction might bear some similarities to Ted Haggard's. All I can say is that it's a very good thing for pro basketball that the Lakers Cavs game is going down to the wire as I write this. I am interested to hear Barkley's take on this whole mess, so I will stay up, edit this a bit and watch.

I will leave you with Charles Barkley's last words of the evening: "Ain't no 67 year old man in the entire world gonna outrun me." Amen Charles, Amen. I'm tempted not to do this, but I'm picking you in your footrace with Dick Bavetta this weekend. It's the one thing I'm looking forward to at the All Star Weekend.

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