Monday, January 11, 2010

Another rendition of Athletes Not Getting It; NFL weekend not what they were looking for

So here we go again with Athletes Not Getting It.

This could be a nightly reality show if truth be told because it’s an epidemic. Sunday, when the Washington Wizards played The New Orleans Hornets, DeShaun Stevenson of the Wizards arrived on court with the words “Agent,” and “Zero,” written on the tape he had around his shins. He said later he wanted people to know that Gilbert Arenas—aka Agent Zero—was still a part of the Wizards and is not forgotten even though he is currently suspended indefinitely by the NBA for bringing guns into the locker room and then making light of his actions.

I have asked this question before and so have others: Is Flip Saunders coaching this team or has team president Ernie Grunfeld just provided him with a very good set to watch the 11-23 Wizards in action? Last Tuesday when Arenas did his fake shooting bit with his fingers during introductions in Philadelphia, Saunders claimed he didn’t see it so he took no action. He can’t use that excuse this time since Stevenson was out there the entire game with the Agent Zero on his shins.

Look, I know some people will say what’s the big deal and, to be honest, in the grand scheme of things it isn’t a big deal. But what this says is that Stevenson and the Wizards still haven’t figured out that this isn’t a suspension for leaving the bench during a fight. Once upon a time putting someone’s number or name on a uniform was done on rare occasions to honor someone who had died or, in rarer instances, someone whose career was suddenly cut short by an injury.

The Wizards are wearing the word, “Abe,” on their uniforms to honor Abe Pollin, the man who owned the team for 45 years until his death in November. That’s exactly as it should be. I think it’s neat that Marquette’s uniforms still include the name “Al,” in honor of Al McGuire because he was responsible for taking Marquette into the big time during his coaching tenure there. The “HK,” on the Phillies uniforms last season for Harry Kalas was entirely appropriate.

But Terrelle Pryor putting Michael Vick’s name on his eye-black when Ohio State played Navy wasn’t just dumb it was insulting. Vick was hardly a martyr. Coach Jim Tressel claimed after the game that he didn’t see it. Other athletes have done similar things on sneakers or socks for players who have been suspended for drug use or doing something stupid. Arenas is about as far from being a martyr as you can get. No one—including Stevenson—is saying his suspension is unfair on any level. So why in the world did Saunders not say something to him before the game on Sunday?

Something like, “Look DeShaun, we’re all upset about this but this didn’t happen TO Gilbert, he caused it to happen. We sent Antawn Jamison, our most respected player, to talk to the crowd pre-game on Friday to basically apologize for what’s been going on. Let’s just go play and not give people more reason to think we still don’t get it.”

Nope, Saunders did nothing. Stevenson played with the Agent Zero wrapped around his shins, the Wizards lost and the ship continues to sink. Sadly, given the behavior of just about everyone connected to the franchise, the ship deserves its spot at the bottom of the NBA ocean.


Meanwhile….The first round of the NFL playoffs produced exactly one game worth watching in the fourth quarter. You might have stuck with Jets-Bengals because of the Jets past history but no one who doesn’t bleed Dallas blue was still up for the fourth quarter—or for that matter the third quarter—of the Cowboys blow-out of the Eagles. The Patriots season was over before the end of the first quarter against the Ravens. Joe Flacco threw for a total of 34 yards and his team was never in trouble. I don’t think that’s how the NFL draws it up on the playoff bulletin board.

Arizona-Green Bay didn’t save the weekend but it at least provided people with a game worth watching and worth talking about. It’s funny isn’t it how the Cardinals have become the franchise that has been the most fun to watch in the last two postseasons? They weren’t supposed to beat the rising young Falcons in their playoff opener last year and they beat them. Then they pretty much destroyed Jake Delhomme’s career and stunned the Carolina Panthers. They whipped the Eagles and then engaged the Steelers in one of the most dramatic Super Bowls every played before losing in the last minute.

This year, they’ve blown a huge lead, missed what should have been a chip shot game-winning field goal at the end of regulation and then advanced on a defensive touchdown. Do you think the Saints won’t be a little bit nervous—given the way they’ve played in recent weeks—facing Kurt Warner on Saturday? Does anyone think that game is a lock for New Orleans? I don’t.

Speaking of Warner, I wonder where people stand on the issue of his Hall of Fame credentials Personally, I think he has to be in. He took the Rams from nowhere to two Super Bowls—winning one. His career appeared over when the Giants dumped him and everyone figured the Cardinals signed him to back up Matt Leinart. Instead, he came this close to winning The Super Bowl a year ago and now has the Cardinals back in the conference semifinals with 11 victories under their belt.

I think you put all that together and he’s a Hall of Famer. I’ve never been a fan of Warner’s tendency to give all the glory to God after wins. I just don’t think God should be invoked as playing a role in the outcome of any sporting event. If you want to thank God for giving you the ability to play, that’s fine. Just don’t imply he cared if you won the game. People point out to me all the time that President Obama has more important things to do than fix the BCS. If that’s the case God CERTAINLY has more important things to deal with than the NFL playoffs.

The all-timer in this area was Michael Chang insisting after he won the 1989 French Open that his victory was the result of having a closer relationship to Jesus Christ than Stefan Edberg did. When he was asked how he could possibly know that one way or the other, he insisted that he did in fact know it as a certainty.

When I was working on my book on the Baltimore Ravens I asked Ray Lewis, who has six kids, if he thought he would get married anytime soon. “God and I are working on that,” Ray replied. Who knows? Maybe God secretly runs e-harmony.

(Note to readers: If my bringing any of this up bothers you, sorry. I’m not trying to be blasphemous or question anyone’s beliefs. I just think people should keep their beliefs private, especially when it comes to implying that God has anything to do with the outcome of a game).

One other completely un-related note: The PGA Tour began its 2010 season this past weekend. I couldn’t help but notice the number of people who said or wrote the words, “without Tiger Woods.” For the record: Woods hasn’t played in The Tournament of Champions (that’s what I still call it regardless of what corporate name is slapped on it) the last five years. Phil Mickelson hasn’t played in eight years. We’re Tiger-centric enough as it is without implying his “indefinite absence,” somehow means he’s going from playing 40 weeks a year to zero. There’s still a good chance that the absence will mean he ends up skipping exactly two tournaments he normally plays—San Diego and The Match Play.

Thank God they’re playing golf again. (yes, that’s a joke). It’s nice knowing there’s some place on earth where it isn’t freezing cold outside.


Kevin Kaczmarek said...

John, it was such a busy sports weekend, but I was hoping you would weigh in on UT's victory over No. 1 KU. With UT suspending players last week, they played with only six scholarship players and 4 walk ons, who not only played significant minutes, but played a integral role in the win. March Madness comes early this year!

Anonymous said...

What is the definition of Hall of Famer in the Canton? I can't see how Kurt Warner isn't one....he has had great stats, done well in the postseason, played better under pressure than during non-pressure times, and most importantly, has impacted the game in a big way over the last decade. If he'd have played better for the years with the Giants would it really matter that much more?

I don't see how he's not a Hall of Fame player.

rich m said...

how can Tiger and Phil skip the opening tournament? Isn't it a guaranteed check and it's Hawaii!

Gordon said...

Tiger may not have been in Hawaii but that didn't stop the Golf Channel from force feeding us non-stop Tiger. I've seen that nike logo fall into the cup on 16 at Agusta so many time in 2010 that I've vowed to NEVER EVER buy or accept as a tee prize a NIKE ball. Enough of Tiger already he is one guy. Their are 149 other exempt players to watch. And I'm fine with a Tigerless PGA Tour.

No Tiger.............WHO CARES?

As for Kurt Warner and the HOF, next time I talk to God I'll do everyone on this blog a favor and ask him. Where is George Burns when we really need him?

Anonymous said...


I'm a person whose faith is very important to me, but I'm pretty much with you on most of the god-talk by sports celebrities. Generally, I find it awfully trivializing and I wish they wouldn't do it. I think God would be much more glorified if one of those dudes would give a portion of their salaries to feed the poor. But, I'm willing to give Michael Chang a pass. He was 17 when he won the open . . . and given the sheltered life of young athletes, he probably had the maturity of a 14 year-old.

I love your writing. Thanks for making interesting and meaningful commentary on the world of sports.

JJ said...


I've gotten to the point that I don't care what happens off the playing field, who gets paid what, who took which drug....All I care about is watching the sport. I wonder if I'm the only one who feels that way.