Monday, November 9, 2009
Let's see here. Allen Iverson becomes a malcontent in his final days in Philadelphia, ultimately resulting in his being dealt to Denver to pair with Carmelo Anthony, forming what was supposed to be one of the Western Conference's most dangerous duos. "The Answer" hoops it up in Mile High for the next couple of years, playing his typically selfish brand of ball, and leading his squad to one playoff victory against eight losses. Can you say "Washed Up"?? Apparently Joe Dumars couldn't, because he chose to deal his franchise player, Chauncey Billups, to the Nugs in exchange for the one-year services of Mr. Iverson, who by this time was living solely off his past reputation as one of basketball's elite. That one year could not have gone worse. Iverson's style clashed with fellow guards Rodney Stuckey and Rip Hamilton. He feuded in the media with head coach Michael Curry. And when all was said and done, he hid on the disabled list with a completely exaggerated, if not totally fabricated, back problem. The Pistons got swept out of the playoffs, meaning Allen Iverson's teams had now won a grand total of two playoff games in his last six seasons.
The thing is, lost in all the trials and tribulations during Iverson's one year in Detroit was this simple fact; dude wasn't that good anymore. He still had the same me-first attitude on offense with a propensity to jack up ill-advised shots. Only now he wasn't quick or athletic enough to just blow by his defender and get all the way to the rim. He'd more or less become a jump shooter, and a below average one at that. How any team looked at his performance last year and decided, "Hey, let's sign this guy!" is beyond me. But apparently the Memphis Grizzlies' organization was born with the same deformed "Common Sense Gene" as the Detroit Lions. Even though the Grizz had a young roster with young guards that needed consistent playing time to build confidence and experience, they chose to roll the dice and hope the addition of AI would not rock the boat too much. Maybe they thought he would somehow shed his 14 years of selfish behavior and suddenly become a rah-rah guy content with being a backup/mentor to O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley. Ohhhhhh rightttt, I forgot about thattttt. In other words, there was ZERO chance this was going to work out.
It was like the episode of Saved By The Bell when Zack is forced to lead an incompetent group of classmates during a series of physical challenges set up by the military recruiter visiting Bayside High. Zack brooded and complained about the band of misfits assigned to his team. As the other side built up a huge lead, Zack thought about quitting. But in the end, he realized what was the right thing to do. Zack returned to his squad, fired them up with some motivational words of wisdom, and the episode ended with his best buddy Screech taking home the title for the team. Zack was cheering him on the whole way. But unfortunately for Allen Iverson, the NBA does not flow as seamlessly as a 30-minute Saved by the Bell masterpiece.
In the real world, Iverson missed the first three games of the year with an injury. When he returned to appear in the next three, it was in a reserve role, playing anywhere from 18 to 28 minutes. Again, at this stage in his career and with the makeup of the Grizzlies' roster, this is quite understandable. That is, to everybody except Iverson. He whined, he cried, he threw his coach under the bus to the media. Just another day at the office for Ivo'. Finally, over the weekend, The Answer notified team brass that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence. He claimed that it was not an issue of playing time, but instead an urgent family matter. Sorry, Sir, but this sounds like a classic case of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. You told us last year that your back was too damaged to continue playing when it was widely known that the only real symptom you suffered from was a "badly bruised ego." You quit on your team then, and you are quitting on your team now. So Allen, take alllll the time you need in coming back. In fact, take the rest of the year off. Get your "family" straightened out...make sure the "back" feels right. And when you finally decide you're ready to reenter the league as something other than a basketball diva trying to relive his past glories, then make that cry of "Wolf!" one final time. You'd just better pray that there will be a team out there willing to Answer. Because the rest of us can still hear you...but we stopped listening a long time ago.
On a return trip home from Boston this weekend, my Dad made what was quite possibly the best observation of 2009. Looking out the window, he noted, "You could be sitting anywhere on the plane. There is always going to be a wing right next to your window." Sounds far-fetched, but it could not be more true. You could be in the first row up toward the front, you could be in Row 32 in the very back...push up the windowsill and that giant wing is going to be directly to your right or left. This happens without fail on every single flight. And just spitballin' here, but why do the airplanes really need wings in the first place? I look at birds and see them flapping their wings constantly to support their current flight. That makes sense to me. But the wings on a plane just sit idly by the side like two huge matzah balls looking for something to do with their life. Hey Wing, would it kill you to at least give us the impression that you're working by moving up and down a little bit during the flight so we don't walk away thinking you're a complete lush?
Name me a more annoying sports term from the last decade than "Bowl Eligible." Can't do it, right? Around this time of year, as many college teams start creeping toward their sixth and seventh wins, we become inundated by this paper-thin qualification for postseason activity. I hate to sound like Mr. Old School here, but back when there were only so many bowls, teams strived simply to compete for their conference title and then let the chips fall where they may. There was no mythical number of victories to reach. With Michigan in the throes of another historically awful season, you would think that one-hundred percent of the focus would be on their woeful ineptitude and their now-weekly train wreck on defense against the dregs of the Big Eleven. Instead, the media continues to pepper us with incessant reminders of the Wolverines' desperate quest to become "bowl eligible." We are told that with this most recent loss to Purdue, Michigan only has two chances left to secure their all-important 6th win that will guarantee them a spot in the most insignificant postseason in all of sports. Is this really what Michigan football has come to? Have the goals of the program really gone from "Conference and National Championships" to "Let's just make sure we get to .500 so we can be one of 68 teams able to claim they went 'bowling' this year"??? What a sad state of affairs. I understand that the current bowl system isn't going anywhere, and that there will only be more bowls in the future. (Get ready for the "Yankee Bowl" from new Yankee Stadium in 2010!! Sadly, not kidding.) But let's try and keep things in perspective. Rich Rodriguez has led Big Blue on another embarrassing campaign, and that will remain the case regardless of whether or not they achieve the silly "bowl eligible" status with a win over Wisconsin or Ohio State. And if you do happen to be one of those Michigan fans chomping at the bit to see the winged helmets out on the gridiron in the EagleBank Bowl, then you should probably seek out some kind of professional care. Honestly, you need help. And not the kind of help that can be served in a "Bowl."
He may or may not be the greatest human being of all time, but I can assure you this. Kenny G. is the most talented musician this world has ever seen. He is to the saxophone what Sandy Koufax was to the curveball. Others may have tried to perfect the art first, but when the master finally comes along, it's game over. Even though me and my brothers were never the biggest smooth jazz guys in the world, there was just something about G that drew us in early on. His hit CD Breathless got passed around our bedrooms so many times growing up you'd have thought we were related to the man or something. I'll never forget when Sam hypothesized what would happen if Kenny just opened his mouth as wide as it could go and screamed at the top of his lungs. He ventured to say that the resulting sound would be that of beautiful jazzy tones sounding just like those that emanate from KG's famous soprano sax. Like, if worse came to worst, and Homes forgot his sax back in the hotel room for a big performance, he could just step in front of the mic and start screaming, and nobody would bat an eye. For some reason, that comment always killed me. Just imagining Kenny G. getting frustrated doing his best to try and talk like a normal human being, only for his numerous attempts to be thwarted by his inability to make any sounds that weren't those of harmonic soulful beats. It's one of those completely insane thoughts that somehow seems completely feasible when you sit back and really think about it. But I digress. The reason Mr. G. is making news in the HSL world on this Monday is that it seems the Great One is back in the spotlight. The popular 90's alternative rock group Weezer is still doing their thing, and wouldn't you know it, they decided to grab a slice of "G" for their newest single. The resulting rehearsal video is just too funny for me. Weezer is rockin' along, playing this tune entitled I'm Your Daddy, and all of a sudden, at about the 1:55 mark, here come the flowing locks of one Kenneth G. striding to the front of the set with saxophone in tow. It almost looks like the band members have no clue who the guy is, and in all likelihood, they don't. The whole mix is just so bizarre that you can't help but watch it with an ear-to-ear smile. Of course, our boy plays flawlessly, and even pops in for a couple more bars as the song progresses. The combination of Weezer/Kenny G. is not one I thought I would ever be lucky enough to see. Thankfully, I was mistaken. Enjoy the G. Lord knows I have.
No, I still have not gotten over the time in middle school when a surly employee at Barnes and Noble admonished me for asking where the new Kenny G. album was located. He shot me a judging look and asked, "What, you like "elevator music"?? I stood up for G. then...I'm standing up for him now. You got a problem with that????
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