Wednesday, January 29, 2014
The Knicks have gone through one of the worst stretches in NBA history. And my life as a Knicks fan has been filled with losing seasons, botched lottery picks, terrible ownership, and Isaiah Thomas, way too much Isaiah Thomas. To get through this streak that's been mediocre at best and downright pathetic at worst, Knicks fans have had to find enjoyment in the small things. One of these small things that brought so much joy to the depressed Knicks fans was Nate Robinson – actually, literally small.
Listed at 5’ 9” but actually probably closer to 5’ 7”, Nate Robinson is pound for pound the most exciting player in the NBA. During one of the darkest eras in Knicks history, Nate Robinson gave the fan a reason to tune in. According to new analytical stats, Nate Robinson’s style may not be considered super effective or conducive to winning, but hey, the Knicks from 2005-2010 didn’t exactly embody those traits either. Nate’s size (tiny), personality (huge), and ability to heat up at a moments notice (breathtaking) made the Knicks bearable to watch, hoping to see Nate put on a show.
Nothing in that time period was more exciting than seeing Nate hit his first shot, then his second, then a crazy, irrational, running three pointer 5 seconds into the shot clock, and you knew he was on, he was zoned in and it was going to be the Nate show. You began to text every other depressed Knicks fan that “Nate’s going off” and you would forget Isaiah was the coach, Dolan was the owner, and Eddy Curry was being paid millions of dollars, and just get to enjoy a man four inches shorter than me dominate a game of giants.
His stats from that era do not even come close to painting a picture of the enjoyment he brought to the fans during a time that lacked much to be excited about. In an era of Dolan/Thomas darkness, Nate was the small glimmer of light that as a Knicks fan I will be eternally grateful for.
Nate has bounced around the league, winning the affection of every fan base of every team he has played for, including on the national stage during the last playoffs for the Rose-less Bulls. But for a New York fan Nate will always be a Knick. In one of Gotham’s darkest moments he may not have been the hero we deserved but the hero we needed. He was our kyptoNATE. And that is why he will always be my favorite Knick ever.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Imagine a situation where a professional organization wanted to willingly pay someone tens of millions of dollars for their services, and that person wanted to willingly provide their services to that organization. And everything was completely kosher from both a moral and legal standpoint, yet still neither party could enter into that deal.
Sounds somewhat…un-American, I might say.
Yet that is exactly what happens every single year with big-time college football and basketball, which over the decades have warped into (or always were) the farm systems for the NFL and NBA. I don’t have to remind anyone that considers themselves even a casual sports fan that this system has become more and more exaggerated in its unfairness over the years. Large television deals and ticket sales bring in countless millions to universities, who in turn pay their athletic department members incredibly well. The professional sports teams get their farm systems, at no cost. Everyone wins except the athletes, somewhat per usual.
The NFL and MLB have their own, distinct, professional “minor” leagues, where players are paid, and are not burdened with the ‘amateur’ tag by any governing body, allowing them to make that money. There are a number of advantages to this. Specially talented players like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in the MLB can bypass the entire process and head straight to the big leagues (and make the big bucks they rightfully are able to earn), while there is still ample room for the less prodigious players to develop into MLB level talents, while actually earning money along the way.
I think that is the proper system, or at the very least, you can’t bar athletes like Jadeveon Clowney and Jameis Winston from making money that NFL teams are ready to pay them. Two years ago, Clowney would have been a top ten pick. In last year’s NFL draft, he would have gone number one overall. In 2013, his performance suffered, probably at least in part to the fact that he is a human being and not a football-playing-robot, and thus, injury had to be at least partly in the back of his mind. And while yes, these athletes can and do take out insurance policies on themselves, a one time payment of 1-5 million dollars is nothing compared to what a decade-long NFL career can yield.
One of the major arguments against high school athletes heading straight to the pros come in the forms of the Sebastian Telfair’s, or other players whose athletic careers have not panned out as planned. However, just because some players have failed, does not mean we should leap as a society to prevent, somewhat arbitrarily, someone from earning money that they are capable of earning. It goes against a lot of principles this country is founded on.
In terms of alternatives, I would have to defer to someone infinitely more informed on the subject than myself, but all I know is that preventing basketball players even a year, and preventing football players three years from earning money that they otherwise would be earning, is unfair, and un-American. It should end.
As I write this, I can’t help but make the mental leap that the predominantly white sports of baseball and hockey have systems where players can leap from high school to the pros or paid minor leagues, while the predominantly black NFL and NBA do not. But that too might be a discussion for some more intelligent and informed than myself.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I think the Knicks should never made made that Anthony trade 2 years ago next month. The Donny Walsh Knicks were improving, playing well together, and fun to watch. Felton was playing great point guard, Chandler looked like the perfect 6th man, and Gallanari like a star in the making. Suddenly, they were gone, PLUS this year's first round pick, for Anthony and some old men.
This year's Knicks are an obvious train wreck. Not Melo's fault, but whole game is 3 guys standing around waiting for him or Smith to take some awkward 20 footer.
I also think they should trade Melo NOW since he seems to want to walk at year's end.
In Defense of Melo:
The NBA is a star driven league, and to win a championship a star player is needed. The only team in recent memory to win a championship without a superstar is the 2004 Detroit Pistons, which was one of the most talented, unselfish starting fives ever assembled.
And there is no doubt Carmelo Anthony is a superstar and a top-10 player capable of leading a team to the championship. The Knicks have the star. It is instead the incompetency of a front office unable to build a suitable roster around him that leads to consistent embarrassment.
What the Knicks gave up for Carmelo, while all players I like and whose leaving the Knicks upset me, have not proven to be anything but solid role players. Even worse, they were role players who were due to be given pay raises very shortly after being traded. It would have been impossible to sign Carmelo the following summer and still be able to keep Gallinari (who got four years for 42 million) or Wilson Chandler (who got 5 years for 37 million). Beyond that, Timofey Mozgov has been proving this season to be a decent rim protecter who is best known for having Blake Griffin leap over him on a monster dunk that is still sometimes played on Sportscenter. Nobody there is winning you a championship. The Nets gave up more to get Deron Williams, who is far more of a selfish, egotistical, me first, coach killing player than Carmelo has ever been.
The problem with the Knicks is the front office, which has surrounded him with offensive, shoot-first players. It is unfair to label Carmelo selfish or lazy. He has absolutely been carrying the Knicks with Chandler down, putting some heroic performances up. He is the best isolation scorer in the game and a hugely underrated offensive rebounder and passer. The Knicks roster may not be talented enough to challenge the NBA elite, but you cannot blame Melo for anything. Besides, their recent winning streak has shown that when the Knicks play hard and smart, Carmelo is capable of leading his team unselfishly.
Friday, January 10, 2014
It’s not the 311 wins, or the 3 Cy Youngs, or 3,640 Ks, or career 2.86 ERA, as amazing as those numbers are.
It’s not the 1.121 career WHIP, or the incredible 11 Wins Against Replacement (WAR) in 1973 – stats that didn’t even exist back then, and wouldn’t for another two decades.
It’s just that at a certain time and place in my life, sports fandom was all about Tom Seaver. Walt Frazier was awesome, and Joe Namath completely cool, but if you were a junior high baseball fanatic in Connecticut in the late 60s, and a basically straight arrow, high achieving kid, Tom Seaver was your go-to sports hero.
Mr. Clean Guy from California, living in Greenwich, CT with a knockout blonde wife always referred to by reporters and announcers as “the lovely Nancy Seaver,” he was the guy we all would have preferred to be instead of the acne-challenged wiener tweeners (another word that didn’t exist then) we knew ourselves to be.
Tom Seaver simply showed up at Shea in ’67, won the Rookie of the Year award, and then spearheaded the Mets quick climb to a 1969 World Series championship. No one who watched that ’69 season will ever forget it, especially the night an obscure Cub named Jimmy Qualls broke up a Seaver perfect game in the 9th inning. Your uncle, my kid brother, who watched that game with me on our single color TV, will never get over it.
As nearly perfect as that game was, what Tom and the lovely Nancy did after the Mets won the Series struck my young soul as actually perfect. They took out an ad in the New York Times saying something to the effect that, “If the Mets can win the World Series, why can’t we find a way to get out of Viet Nam?” As much as our dads hated that ad… that’s exactly how much we loved it.
And as Tom Terrific and I have aged, he’s never let me down. In a joint interview with Johann Santana a few years ago, he said something like this to Santana, ”I love the way you fight for wins. I’m don’t like the way today’s pitchers say that their job is just to keep their teams in the game. No, your job as a pitcher is to win. If your team scores three runs, you give up two. If your guys score two, you give up one. And if your guys score one, it’s your job to pitch a shutout.”
I really like that.
There’s another Seaver story I love. In 1968, the year of the pitcher, Bob Gibson finished the season with an incredible 1.12 ERA, which was one of the prime factors in baseball lowering the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to ten in order to make a pitcher’s life harder.
Every summer, for decades now, Seaver and Gibson meet for a drink at Cooperstown during induction weekend. And every time, the first thing Seaver says to Gibson is, “It was all your effing fault.”So that’s Tom Seaver, one of the few idols I still have.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
A funny thing happened to me recently as I was visiting my girlfriend’s family a couple of days before Christmas last year.
I was sitting in the living room talking to her 6 year old little brother, and the subject of what he was getting for the holiday came up, as it often might when you find yourself talking to little children around Christmas. He was prattling through the typical young-child things that one could guess a young child would want for Christmas when something he said didn’t quite fit with the rest of the inane list.
He said that he had asked for Jordans. The shoes. He even knew which edition he wanted, the three’s. I was astounded that a child who is too young to even remember Michael when he was on the Wizards still wanted his iconic shoes all the way in 2013.
Because Jordan is my favorite athlete of all time for a myriad of reasons, both ones that a six year old would understand (his will to win, etc.) and others (his will to win in Vegas, etc.), I had to press him a little bit on this.
“Why do you want Jordans? Lebron has a new shoe out, so does like every other NBA player. Why don’t you like them?” I asked.
“Why does Lebron have a shoe?” he said. He cocked his head sharply as he said it like he really couldn’t believe these other players were worthy of a signature shoe line.
That last statement I couldn’t even really believe, ‘Why does Lebron have a shoe?’ What? It was one of those jarring statements that really cut to the core of a situation that only a young, filter-less child could make.
Now the obvious, and probably correct answer to the question why a child too young to actually witness the greatness of Michael Jordan in real-time would want his shoes, is the fact that Nike has quite vigorously marketed Lebron in a very different, subtly less-appealing way. And try as they might, Adidas and other footwear companies have never had the impact in terms of emotion-raising marketing that Nike has over the decades. Michael and his Jordan brand are quite literally the Holy Grail of sports marketing, and in the end, that is probably the reason why young children even past Michael’s career span want to Be Like Mike.
But personally, as huge Jordan fan, I would like to think it goes a little bit deeper than that. In this admittedly isolated incident of my girlfriend’s younger brother, her step-dad actively shows his son clips of Michael on YouTube. The little man loves basketball, and he prefers YouTube clips of Jordan to live games now. Call him crazy, but I just call him a straight shooter who knows greatness when he sees it. And my main point here is, in this case at least, he knows Jordan the player, and not just Jordan the brand.
He’s old enough to know a little of the history of the game, and he knows everyone is trying to get to Michael’s mark of six championships. And he’s DEFINITELY too young to know there are some older players with even more championships than that. And just like my opinion of Michael, his won’t change either if someone does get to 6.
As far as he’s concerned, Michael Jordan is the best player to ever lace ‘em up, and he never even saw Michael when he was actually in the league.
And for people like me, someone who was in the supremely impressionable ages of 6-10 right in the second half of the Bulls six-championships-in-seven-years run, Jordan was truly a God. As a kid, I looked up to other athletes as well, guys like Derek Jeter, but in the back of my mind, I always knew that if you put those two guys in the metaphorical ring, Michael would wipe the floor with The Captain. There is something about that deathly focus he had on winning championships that fascinates me, and it is something that I deeply admire.
Although there are TONS of other athletes I would rather play a round of golf with, and despite the fact that I know if I ever met Michael Jordan in person I may very well come away with the feeling that he was a dick, I will never forget the passion he played the game with, and no matter what happens in the future of basketball, when Michael was in his prime, we all witnessed true greatness.
Despite all his flaws, Michael Jordan’s attitude towards his sport has inspired me a lot of the years, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing there is a six year old kid out there watching YouTube clips of him, even if it’s only one.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
"Baseball is continuous, like nothing else among American things, an endless game of repeated summers, joining the long generations of all the fathers and all the sons."
-- Donald Hall
We are a father and 2 sons, a boomer and 2 millennials, joined in a life-long love of baseball and other sports, despite disagreeing with each other about… nearly everything.
Would Mickey Mantle be great today? How about Jim Brown? Could Bill Bradley even play today?
Would any 2013 NBA team dominate any1973 team?
Is baseball too slow? Football too violent? Thursday night football one night too many?
Should college football and basketball be more like college baseball, with minor leagues formed to groom future players?
SportsCenter… still great or a parody of its former self?
These are big questions debated in bars and dens across the country, week in and week out, and not just every four years like pointless political talk.
On this site, we will take on this stuff. Hence, sports den.
And we will look at it all from the perspective of two different generations. Hence, 2gen.Welcome to 2gensportsden.