Wednesday, March 4, 2009

One Is The Loneliest Number... Especially When It Belongs To Somebody Else

Allen Iverson could have really learned a valuable lesson from Gary Sheffield, circa 2007. Sheffield came to town with hopes of being the missing piece on a team that had just dropped the World Series to the Cardinals in five games. But he put himself behind the 8-ball before he even picked up a bat and started violently wagging it back and forth. Sheff decided he was going to don jersey #3, which in Detroit only means one thing when it comes to the Tigers. Alan Trammell. Never a wise idea to come to a new team and try ingratiating yourself to the fans by immediately taking over a number that already carries such tremendous history for another player. Apparently Allen Iverson did not get the memo.

When he first touched down in the Motor City, AI was already pouncing on Chauncey's #1 before they could even wash Mr. Big Shot's sweat from it. I know it's a secondary thing and a number is just a number, but it's the absolute wrong way to enter a city as a newcomer. Show respect for the franchise and its past heroes. Select another digit. Would it have been so hard for AI to throw 50 grand Rodney Stuckey's way so he could wear number 3, like he had his whole career? Iverson could have went with double zero, for the number of titles he will win during his career. Or he could have opted for #20, signifying the number of times he uttered the word "practice" during his infamous press conference in Philly (though Carlos Delfino made the fatal error of trying to wear '20' after Jon Barry had just left...again, no respect to the greats).

There's just something to be said for karma in sports. Look at how Chauncey handled the move to Denver, and the immediate success that followed as opposed to Iverson's immense struggles with the Pistons. Chauncey immediately let the Nuggets' brass know that his jersey was to have a big '7' etched on the back when he suited up. He wanted to honor the most beloved figure in Denver sports, Mr. John Elway. Chauncey was not stepping on anyone's toes here, since it was a completely different sport. He didn't try and go pull off the #14 that Robert Pack had made so famous in Denver during the mid to late 90's. He understood the situation and #7 was the perfect choice. It just showed class. It let the people of the Mile High City know that while Chauncey had been gone for a while, he still had a great appreciation for the sports history in that town and the legends that had come before him. I thought Iverson's selection was nothing but a big "Screw You" to the Pistons fans he should have been trying to endear himself to. And look what happened.

Gary Sheffield will be entering his 3rd season with the Tigers in a few weeks. Everyone is still waiting for the dominant Gary Sheffield to appear, but it will be impossible for him to do so with this terrible jersey karma haunting him at every turn. Allen Iverson has yet to find his stride in Motown, and will most likely flee the city before he ever does so. Chauncey Billups is flourishing as a Nugget, and was welcomed back with a monstrous ovation during his introduction Tuesday night in front of the Palace crowd. Just like loyal Tigers followers and the #3, to Pistons fans, there will always be just one Number matter what last name is printed on the back.

A Poor Choice of Words

Huel Perkins is usually a pretty reliable news anchor for FOX-2 Detroit that is not going to wow you, but will get the job done. He's relatively straightforward, looks a little bit like Jim Cleamons, and remains the only person on the face of the Earth to be named "Huel." But I thought he and the rest of the FOX-2 News staff made a very irresponsible decision in their wording of the lead story on Monday night's 10 PM telecast.

That first story was about the four men that went missing in the Gulf of Mexico (one was found and recovered) this past weekend. One of those men, Corey Smith, has been a Detroit Lion for the last three seasons, giving the story extra meaning regionally. Now, by the time this story ran Monday night, much of the hope had realistically faded in terms of finding Smith and the others. At this point, tragically, his death was more or less a formality, as search crews were planning to call off their efforts in the next 24 hours. So how does Perkins begin the night's newscast? "Free Agent Corey Smith remains missing at this hour." Free agent??? This is a man that has most likely lost his life, and the descriptor Perkins uses for Smith is one that lets us know of his contract status. When you are fighting for your next breath, things like 'incentives' and 'no-trade clauses' become unimportant.

There are many times when sports fans and the viewing public are curious of a certain player's deal, but this was absolutely not one of them. People watching the news wanted to know if Corey Smith would ever again be seen alive...they were not sitting there wondering, "Hey, so this guy is eligible to sign with whichever NFL team he wants, right"?? There were a number of other ways Huel Perkins could have opened that story. For his first words on the air to be "free agent" when it had clearly become a life and death issue did Corey Smith, his family, and the viewing audience a great disservice.

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