…a collection and expansion of my notes from the week in sports
March 2, 2014
Allen Iverson had his jersey retired last night by the Philadelphia 76’ers. When I first heard this news, it did nothing to jump out at me as monumental. AI was one of the greatest players of the last generation, so he should have his jersey retired. What’s the big deal? Then, as I read all of the tweets, and started recollecting my own memories, the significance of the ceremony began to increase. He first jumped onto the national landscape when, as a highly touted High School player, he was involved in a gruesome bowling alley brawl. That, coincidentally, was also the first time he was the root of a conversation built on race and culture in this country. It took a college icon in John Thompson, Sr to give the kid from Hampton, Virginia some credibility in the public’s eye. And even as the legendary coach wrapped his arms around the talented guard, it was still not enough to shield him from criticism. At barely six feet tall, Iverson went on to star at Georgetown for the next two years. He led the Hoya’s to regular appearances on highlight-reels, not only for his all-around ability, but for his ferocious dunks on elite players nearly twice his size. Despite his undeniable college success, questions still remained. His size was thought to be a problem, and he wouldn’t be able to dominate amongst professionals as he had done in high school and college. For every question there was about Allen Iverson, he had an answer, which led to him being dubbed “The Answer.” Not only was he successful as a pro, he was absolutely dominant. Everyone wanted to be like him. Whether that included tattoos and cornrows, or just to have his athleticism and ability, he stood out in a crowd. It is said he took the torch from Michael Jordan, and it has since been passed to Lebron James, as being the face of the NBA. For someone who had such a dynamic effect on the culture of not just our country, but the world, you would think some respect was deserved. Did he say some controversial things? Who hasn’t! Were those things often taken out of context, or exaggerated? You are entitled to your own opinion. Allen Iverson is the only player of his caliber, in any sport, that I can recall being blackballed by the entire league. For the treatment he received, you would think his name was Felton, Hernandez, Sharper, Carruth, Tyson, Vick, or perhaps Pistorius. But no, the only thing Iverson was ever accused of killing was practice. Bill Parcells openly admitted to not making Lawrence Taylor practice, so why was AI always held to a different standard in the public eye? The same LT, by the way, whose name can be added to the list I just mentioned. After the news of his jersey being retired began to settle, the more clear its impact became. Was this an Adam Silver move, or would David Stern have also been on board. If the Sixers weren’t starved for a distraction from their awful season, would this have been done at this time? In my opinion, it is almost admittance by the league, and the organization, that they were wrong. It was a highly deserved ceremony, but somewhat of an apology as well. Regardless, when Allen Iverson was bestowed with this honor, it was the people that provided the Answer: he is beloved by the fans as an icon, and will never be forgotten.
The New York Jets select 18th in this year’s NFL Draft. It is perceived that the teams fan base is pessimistic and carry’s a defeatist attitude. I happen to think this can be said of any teams fan base, but I am in the Gang of Green. I say this because I absolutely hate the draft position this year, and it is not because I am in despair. The Jets woefully need some help on the offensive side of the ball, more specifically at the skill positions. Even more specifically, the positions that can get open and catch balls. With that being said, I only see three potential difference makers in the first round, and they figure to be gone by the time John Idzik will be able to select. Unless he channels Mike Tannebaum’s anxiety and trades up, the 18th pick will be too late to grab Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, or Eric Ebron. Yes, I will agree with the consensus that this year offers quality depth at the Wide Receiver position. However, Watkins and Evans are the only real #1 wideouts that I see available. Kelvin Benjamin and Odell Beckham, Jr are getting plenty of attention, but the only second tier guy I would consider making a 1A is Brandin Cooks. This isn’t a scouting report, so to briefly explain my stance you must understand this is more about Geno Smith than it is any of the other receiver’s talents. And that is not meant to “pamper” the young Jets quarterback, as some have implied, but merely to assume the team will stick with him going forward as the starter. Smith has incredible athleticism, but is far from a complete quarterback in many facets. It would be great if this team had a workhorse, game changing running back, but they don’t. Therefore, Geno needs people that can improvise with him. He needs receivers that can find a way to come back to the ball and get open on broken plays. Guys that can go into confined areas and make catches on Geno’s bad throws. Evans made a habit of this at Texas A&M, where Johnny Manziel seemed to improvise every play. Watkins was the center of every opponent’s game-plan and for three years passed with flying colors. Cooks has shown similar strengths to his game, but doesn’t possess the same size as the other two Wide Receivers, which leads to Ebron. Although the monstrous Tight End from North Carolina has NFL scouts drooling, he still has a few questions about him being an absolute stud – mainly his hands. Even with those concerns he is just too talented to not take the risk. I do like Benjamin and Beckham, even Marquis Lee, but they need a more accurate passer to fully realize their talents and potential. If the team truly believes in Geno Smith as their present and future signal caller, than I think you have to draft accordingly. At 18 they do not get any one that will make the difference to get them back to a playoff team. There are many other needs besides Wide Receiver and Tight End, and if Watkins, Evans, and Ebron are gone I think the team would be better off trading back and acquiring multiple assets. The difference between Watkins/Evans and the next guys is huge, in comparison to those next guys and the likes of a Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, or even Chandler Jones. With the depth of Wide Receiver where it’s at, it would be wiser to take advantage of it rather than to reach from desperation.
In honor of the 86th Annual Academy Awards, I present some Oscars from the sports world…
Best Actor: Carmelo Anthony, who despite his team’s awful season has managed to fool most Knicks fans into still supporting him. Ironic that he doesn’t pass, yet gets one all the time from fans.
Best Supporting Actor: James Dolan, who continues to mettle in his teams affairs even though he has no expertise as a talent evaluator. His pulling of the strings from behind the scenes, are proving to be disastrous.
Best Actress: The US Women’s Hockey Team, whose demeanor in a gut-wrenching loss was commendable. The team gave Americans many reasons to be proud, despite finishing with the short end of the stick once again to rivals Canada.
Best Supporting Actress: Geno Auriemma, who in his 28th season as Head Coach of UConn Women’s Basketball has the team at 28-0. With a win at Louisville on Monday night, they will finish the season undefeated for the fifth time during that span.
Best Picture: Wichita State Fans, whose sign “Have We Shocked You Yet” summarized the entire NCAA Basketball season.
Best Cinematography: Masahiro Tanka, whose splitter fell off the table like a magic trick in his much anticipated MLB debut. If this is what he looks like in his first Spring Training outing, we have a lot to look forward to.
Best Director: Steve Lavin, who is bringing St. John’s back into college basketball’s national spotlight. After a set-back due to a bout with cancer, the coach has the program back on track.
Best Screenplay: Philadelphia 76’ers signing High School senior Kevin Grow to a two-day contract. Although he suffers from Down syndrome, the franchise made that go away for the longest 48 hours of the 18 year olds life.