Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Eternal Struggle

You know a rivalry is polarizing when it causes you to think illogically. I pride myself on trying to look past stereotypes. Ideally, I'd hope to overcome misconceptions and take every human being at face value. But when I think of Texas A&M Aggies, I immediately imagine them as redneck cavemen who are ready to invade Poland. This makes no sense. Some of my favorite people and closest friends in my lifetime went to A&M. But, when you say that, that word: Aggie...I don't know. I have bad thoughts. The better part of my nature says, "Hey, it's just a game." And then, there's the dominant portion that says, "They're all mongoloid hayseeds until they prove otherwise."

That's what makes college rivalries great. The emotions run deep and take over. Tonight's matchup between Texas and Texas A&M was no exception. This was one of those games that extend from wire to wire and leave you feeling spent. Twice, it looked like Texas was in a position to close out and seal the victory. Twice, the ball ended up in Acie Law IV's hand, and he made something happen. His performance was truly remarkable. There's no doubt in my mind he has a chance to be a remarkable player at the next level. The game almost slipped away from him multiple times, but he just willed the Aggies back into it. If Texas A&M can get their fouling under control, they're going to be terrifying in the NCAA Tournament.

But, Texas had answers. Kevin Durant was predictably clutch and incredible. So was D.J. Augustin, who'd be considered a much better prospect if he wasn't dribbling in Durant's shadow. This win may not put Texas over the top in the rankings, but it's a step in the right direction. More importantly, it's a huge psychological victory for a team that needed to prove its toughness to itself. The Aggies play a dirty and physical game, but Rick Barnes's team gritted their way through it. And besides, who wants to lose to cavemen twice a year?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tim Hardaway Opposes Your Gay Agenda

When John Amaechi came out, it became inevitable that someone was going to say something stupid. Shavlik Randolph, Steven Hunter, and others made some ignorant comments. Nothing particularly strong or hateful, just middle-school insecurity. I should be encouraged by this. Hell, it'd be great to think that everyone in pro sports was ready to accept the idea of a gay teammate. I'm sure most athletes have played with homosexuals during their careers, but a world where jocks felt free to be out in public would be very different. Still, there was a small part of myself that couldn't wait for the NBA's Carl Everett, whoever he might be, to stick his foot in his mouth. You know, to use a public platform to declare his opposition to the gay/dinosaur invasion. To take a stand against John Amaechi and his vile plans to subvert pro basketball with the collaboration of Fagosaurus Rex.

Tim Hardaway may not have taken it that far, but he got his sneakers pretty well planted in his throat. On Dan Le Batard's radio show, the former Warriors and Heat star made a series of inflammatory comments when asked how he'd react to having a gay teammate. When the host gave him an opportunity to soften his stance, Hardaway refused, proudly labelling himself a homophobe. Tim didn't stop there, using a later interview to claim that his feelings were shared by many NBA players, and that he'd hate a gay family member too. How incredibly sad. Amaechi got it right when he responded that Hardaway's comments weren't the problem. The fact is, he's probably speaking for a lot people. Most are probably just too smart to blow endorsement and other employment opportunities for the sake of getting their opinion out there.

Now we get to the strange part. The object of so much of my ire up until this point, Isiah Thomas, has been the gold standard in responding to this situation:

We're a diverse society. We preach acceptance. We're proud of our diversity. No matter what your sexual preference might be, there's an acceptance and a tolerance level that should be accepted everywhere. No one should be excluded. Sports has always been a testing ground for what society will or won't accept. We accept and we embrace diversity. If we're not tolerant, we'll become tolerant...If it's in my locker room, we won't have a problem with it. I can't speak for somebody else's locker room, but if it's in mine, we won't have a problem. I'll make damn sure there's no problem.

Wow. I feel so conflicted! This is like when I started to see Kobe like something other than a total ball hog. I don't know how to feel. Isiah Thomas said and did the right thing, and came off as genunine when he did it? Where exactly do I go from here? Say what you want about Isiah, I know I have, but he's not a homophobe. So, to review, he's a terrible GM, an iffy coach, a bad businessman, a serial groper, a baby seal clubber, but not a homophobe.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Prince Declared MVP of Super Bowl XLI

After confirmed badass Devin Hester ran back the opening kickoff for 92 yards and a touchdown, it appeared that all was right with Super Bowl XL1. The scrappy underdog was winning, Peyton Manning was pouting, and the biggest game of the year was being played outside in real football weather. Peyton's opening drive did little to dismiss his reputation as a lifelong choker. He threw two passes that should have been interceptions, and then finally the Bears obliged him with a pick. Things did not look good.

Of course, we all know that four hours later, he'd pulled it out anyway. The monkey was off his back, now Dan Marino can get back to being Dan Marino, etc. But, for all the credit that was due, I could not help but chafe when he was named MVP. Hadn't they been watching the game? Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai solidified that victory: wasn't it obvious? Maybe he was awarded the trophy as a study in contrast. That is, he's not Rex Grossman, so he was a shoo-in.

Maybe this sounds like sour grapes, but it's not. Peyton Manning is a good quarterback, and the story of "will he ever win the big one" was getting so old it's not even funny. But nothing Peyton did in the Super Bowl screamed MVP, and his performances in the rest of the playoffs were even worse. Manning finished with 3 touchdowns and 7 interceptions after four games. That's just embarassing! If the Colts had lost, everyone would be publicly taking him to task for letting down his team. But thanks to the brilliant coaching of Tony Dungy, he's raking in the kudos. Serious, hats off to Dungy. Peyton hasn't changed a bit: he still sucks in the playoffs. His coach just figured out how to work around it.