Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Hoop Dreamin'...

I just saw "Hoops Dreams" again...That movie is dope, dope....dope.

To me that was more of a 'Chicago' story than a basketball story.  High-top fades, Cabrini projects, Seward Park, Westinghouse gym, line-dances, and house parties with no electricity..West Side livin'!...

I've seen "Hoops Dreams" about ten times now, but I haven't caught it in over the last three years.  It is fun to see a lot of old faces throughout the flick....Funny, there were several McDonald's All-Americans that came from Chicago during William Gates's and Arthur Agee's time period.  Howard Nathan, Tom Kleinschmidt, Juwan Howard, Deryl Cunningham, Rashard Griffith, and Jaimie Brandon.  Where are they now?

A lot of people really feel bad about basketball after watching that movie.  Their reasons are valid, but if you look at basketball with reality, the sport is still great for inner cities.  Ball is one of the the only things that not only gives inner-city kids self-esteem, but ball also is the only thing that gives a urban public school any esteem.  Shameful...but true.  And there's not a lot of other strategies to entice kids to stay in school and push out of the system.

Believe me, if there was no ball, there would be about twenty or thirty kids from each school back out in the street roofing hubcaps, or worse yet, about ten in jail and five or six dead.

So, I can't fault guys like "Coach Ping".  Yes, he's a hard-@$$, and he is a Chicago old-school relic.  However, he has pumped a lot of kids to colleges, and believe me, without a St. Joe's or a catholic league education, those kids couldn't get a job twisting caramel wrappers at the Ferrara Pan company. 

Interesting note:  Two summers ago, I was chilling with Deryl Cunningham, who played for 'Coach Ping' at St. Joe's, between rec games that he was reffing at a health club in the Gold Coast.  Other than Juwan, he had no idea of where any of those guys like Nathan, Kleinschmidt, or Gates were.  One statement that hit me more than anything from our conversation was when he said..."I should have gone to Duke". 

When he said that I immediately thought about Calvin Hill's statement about athlete's lives.  "There are two lives for athletes.  The life that they lived during their careers, and life that they spend on looking back at their career."

"SI" said in this summer's 'Where are they now?" issue that Arthur is starting a clothing line based around the movie...the cycle continues...So, before I shoot the system down.  William got a Marquette education.  Arthur had a shot at JUCO...Both had shots, and like it or not...The shots were available because of ball.

Second note:  It was funny to see Bo Ellis "Chicago style" selling William Gates on Marquette by stating that Junior Bridgeman, Marques Johnson, Bob Lanier, and Oscar Robertson played in the same building....Looking at the rafters, they're in the Bradley Center...Yo Bo, those guys played at the Mecca.  Stop fibbin'....

Still is and always will be one of my TOP FIVE Movies of All-time,

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Saturday Evening Post

What an article by Frank Deford!...Yesterday's SI.com had a special treat for lovers of local announcers.

Deford waxes poetically of his days listening to Chuck Thompson, who was the Orioles' announcer for years, and he's right on with mentioning the Brooklyn/LA Dodger legend Vin Scully, but what I love about this article is that Deford taps into the love of listening to descriptions of a game that we can not sometimes see or witness first-hand. 

Here's my best announcer list...

Vin Scully - Los Angeles Dodgers
Bob Costas - NBC Baseball/NBA on NBC/HBO Sports
Jon Miller - San Francisco Giants
Tim McCarver - Fox Sports
Jim Nantz - CBS Sports
Mike Patrick - ESPN
Billy Packer - Jefferson Pilot/CBS Sports
John McEnroe - HBO/NBC

A lot of people hate announcers that aren't "homers", but that's what I believe makes a great announcer.  The ability to call a game not only honestly and effectively, but also the ability to not get "caught up in a moment." 

I grew up listening to a wide range of announcers, and the list contains some heavyweights.  Jack Brickhouse, Harry Caray, Marty Brennaman, who I really didn't like too much, Mike Patrick and Billy Packer.  So, my standards are high.  I'm glad to see that Deford introduced one of the best parts of sports to debate.  "Who is your favorite voice?"

Back, Back, back...

Z to A - Views from "Dr. Z" to Views on Armstrong

Back for a new season with a new font, new dashboard...courtesy of 'Blogger'...And let's see if we can throw a different style of blogging coming into the fall season of 2004. 

So, without further adieu, let's take a look at an article that was released on Wednesday afternoon from one of my all-time favorite columnists, Paul Zimmerman, of 'Sports Illustrated' and 'SI.com' called "Fame Game".

Zimmerman is on the NFL's list of senior sports writers, who vote Hall of Fame selections for the Senior's Selection Committee each year.  After visiting the NFL Football Hall of Fame last year in Canton, Ohio, I learned first-hand of the dilemma that is facing many of the members deciding upon who to select as candidates for the senior committee every summer....The dilemma is that are just too many great candidates to choose from the pool of great veterans.

"Dr. Z" described this problem in "Hall of a Task", an article that he posted on SI.com last year.  Look at the list, and you can see the problems he and other writers are facing.  Remember, they can only choose one player from the veterans list each year.

John Hadl - QB 
Larry Brown - RB
Willie Galimore - RB
Gino Cappeletti - DE
Otis Taylor - WR
Art Powell-  OT
Bob Hayes  - WR
Kyle Rote - WR

As Zimmerman pleads..."...all of these great players...narrowing down the list is just brutal..."

Here's some more for you...

Jerry Kramer - G
Bob Brown - T
Mick Tingelhoff - C
Rayfield Wright - T
Carl Eller - DE
Chris Hanburger LB
Tommy Nobis - MLB
Chuck Howley - MLB
Cliff Harris - S
Dick Anderson - S

Look at Zimmerman's problem...."OK, I know this list of mine will draw hundreds of angry responses -- the people I've omitted, etc. All of those gripes will be justified. But do this yourself. Write down all 68 names, choose 15, and just look at the roster of greatness you've neglected. It's tragic, actually."

Well, it looks as if his talk with the senior's committee to expand the list to two or more selections fell into a vacuum because Zimmerman brings the dilemma up again this year.  He also mentions that he is no longer a member of the veterans committee, which is a damn shame because no one knows pigskin talk like the "Doc".

Here are some of his selections for the eligible newcomer classes, which require a player to have been retired for five years....Zimmerman explains his voting strategies with this quote.  "Next February Dan Marino will be a slam dunk, and Steve Young will be pretty close. That eats up two spots. The two seniors, whomever they will be, should occupy two more places, and I'm basically committed to voting for both of them, since I pushed so hard for so many years to get two of them nominated."

So, who do you choose?  Dr. Z doesn't give his final picks, but I would like to see Punter, Ray Guy, and Cornerback, Lester Hayes make it.  I also think that Guard, Bob Kuchenburg, who was the heart and soul of the '72 Miami Dolphins, would be a great selection.

I would think that Redskin, WR, Art Monk, would be a shoo-in, but when Dr. Z explains his reasoning, I tend to agree.  "Art Monk is another four-timer. A great possession receiver. Caught a lot of balls in Joe Gibbs' system. Every time I mention that I didn't vote for him because I simply felt that other people were more deserving than a guy who caught 900 eight-yard hooks, I wake up all the Washington diehards, who start screaming about my anti-Redskins bias. Start stirring, you folk out there. It will happen again. "  Probably would, and is it fair to call Monk, the "Franco Harris of Wide Receivers"

Zimmerman also mentions one of my all-time favorites and one of my most underrated excellent pill throwers, which leads me to ask the same question.  How about QB Ken Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals?

My veteran picks.  Well, I understand Dr. Z's dilemma.  I do wish that I could select two.  I'm going to choose Guard, Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers.  You're telling me those sweeps for Taylor, Hornung, and Pitts, were solely created by Fuzzy Thurston...c'mon.  Get over the 'Instant Replay' flack that he created.  Let one of the great guards in to the ceremony.  My runner-up second pick...LB, Tommy Nobis, Atlanta Falcons.  Bad team, Atlanta provided no pub, and he still gets no respect.  Nobis deserves a slot.

Great reporting by Richard Sandomir on Lance Armstrong and Armstrong's endorsement power with the article "Armstrong Shows Stage Isn't Over 'till It's Over" today's NYTimes...For me, watching Lance perform over the past two years has been very similar to watching the impeccable Jordan performances with the Bulls during the two titles that he won in '96 and '97...He has reached "Ruthian" mythological performance levels.

A lot of people are trying to create the same controversial retirement talk that swirled around MJ for his last three years.  People don't realize that Lance is not only making $17M this year, but 'Discovery Channel' will be sponsoring his team for the next three years. 

Don't think that the 'Outdoor Life Network' won't push on him a bit...

As Sandomir states, "Armstrong's success has also meant a huge boost for OLN, which is carrying the Tour for the fourth year. Through 19 days, the average rating for the live broadcast is up 14 percent to a 0.49 (291,060 households); the rating for men 18 to 34 is up 120 percent."  The "Cyclysm" and "The Lance Chronicles" programs have really pushed Lance to the forefront in cable television.

Sandomir also reports that Power Bar, "The Fuel of Lance," sponsors a commercial-free half-hour on the Tour telecasts and the "Live Like Lance" sweepstakes. Trek, which supplies Armstrong's Madone SL and Madone SSL bicycles, is promoting its "Ride With Lance" contest.

He quoted Zap Espinoza, the brand manager for Trek with this statement.  "When people say, 'What is our marketing effort?,' I say, 'Lance is our marketing effort,' " "Lance means everything to our company. We've been with him for every Tour victory....The bicycles that Armstrong has used in the past have always been available for sale to everyday customers...and the ones he is now riding will be available soon. One costs $4,800, the other $7,500.... What he means here can't be quantified."

Reading between the lines of Armstrong's sponsorship revenue figures, I think you'll see Lance go for a 7th, 8th, and possibly a 9th.  With the conditioning that this guy puts into his summer runs of dominance, it's not out of reach.