Three important plugs before we get to this week’s links …
1. A few weeks ago, we raised $5,100 on eBay for the Jimmy Fund, thanks to a generous Cleveland reader (and YouTube Hall of Famer) named Judson Laipply. Coincidentally, the Jimmy Fund was launching a Rally Against Cancer this month in which local companies and corporations launch donation “teams” to see how much money they can raise. Even though I’m not technically a company, I started my own team (Sports Guy Posse), and we figured out a way to re-route Judson’s eBay donation to get going toward a lofty goal of $75,000. Even if you can only afford a $5 donation, every little bit counts and you still helped the cause. Remember, all charity donations may be tax-deductible, and if you’re not familiar with the Jimmy Fund, please check out this Web site to see what the organization is about and who they’re trying to help.
2. I hate gratuitously pimping ESPN shows, for obvious reasons, but we have an important one premiering Sunday night at 9 p.m.: “Black Magic,” a two-night documentary about the plight of black college basketball teams in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s and how they paved the way for the guys we’re watching today. I watched a 90-minute cut in New Orleans and thought, from the footage I watched, this has a chance to be one of the single best things ESPN has ever aired. If you aren’t affected by the stories of people like Bob Love and Cleo Hill, and if you don’t get a rush from Earl Monroe footage, then I don’t know what to tell you. We’ve heard and read and seen so much about the heroes who integrated professional baseball in the ’40s and ’50s (and rightfully so), but the majority of the principles in “Black Magic” have never really had their stories told. If you care about basketball, or American history for that matter, I don’t understand why you’d skip this show. Then again, I don’t understand a lot of things.
On a personal note, I was mesmerized by the vintage footage of Earl the Pearl and Cleo Hill, who was really Iverson before Iverson, as you’ll see when you watch the documentary, and immediately placed Cleo in my Pantheon of “Post-World War II Athletes Who We Simply Don’t Have Enough Tape Of,” along with the Pearl, Bob Cousy, Dr. J (ABA version), Gale Sayers, Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, David Thompson, Young Wilt Chamberlain and Willie Mays.
3. In last week’s podcast with Jason Whitlock, I mentioned in passing a book about Charlestown (Mass.) High’s 2005-06 basketball team by Neil Swidey called “The Assist,” but that wasn’t a good enough plug, so we’re extending it here: I plowed through the book over Christmas vacation and thought it was the second-best book about inner-city high school basketball behind Darcy Frey’s “The Last Shot” (on sale for a stupefying $2.60 on Amazon right now).
For anyone from Massachusetts, “The Assist” should be a must-read because of its extensive history about the ridiculous and short-sighted busing plan for Boston-area schools, as well some excellent reporting about the city’s complicated hoops scene. For anyone else, you’ll identify with the theme of minority kids from one-parent (and sometimes, no-parent) families getting lured in all different directions by their coach, gang members, girlfriends and everyone else who can either help them to their potential or sidetrack them from reaching it. And the basketball stuff is handled the right away — not too much of it, but enough that it keeps you engaged with the team. It’s a well-written book that’s worth reading, although I will always feel like Swidey held back a little on embattled Charlestown coach Jack O’Brien, a complex character who ends up melting down near the end of the book for reasons Swidey can’t totally elucidate. Maybe the epilogue in the paperback will have a better answer for that one.
On a personal note, this book meant something to me for two reasons: I lived in Charlestown for nine years, and I spent a few months following South Boston High’s 1996 state championship team for a 15,000-word piece that never ended up never running anywhere because I didn’t have the juice to get it published (that’s how I like to look at it) or it wasn’t good enough (probably the real reason). Since I’ll always regret not going all out, rolling the dice and writing a full-fledged book about the team, it was great (and a little bittersweet) to read Swidey’s effort about the Chucktown team and compare the various players and experiences to everything I remember about that Southie season. Benny LeBron, I hope you made a good life for yourself.
Onto a whopping batch of links …
One other note: It’s easy to forget this now, but there was a definitive top-three for that 2003 draft (LeBron, Darko and Carmelo) and Detroit would have been skewered for taking Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade at No. 2. Those guys just didn’t have the same value. In fact, when I re-read Chad Ford’s pick-by-pick analysis after that draft (this isn’t a convoluted excuse to link to an article in whichChad called Maciej Lampe “the steal of the draft,” I swear), I was reminded that (A) Miami stunned everyone by taking Wade at No. 5 and (B) there was a real debate at the time whether Bosh would ever put on enough weight to be anything more than the next Keon Clark. So saying “they could have had Wade or Bosh with that pick!” is unfair unless you’re making the argument Detroit should have traded down. There’s no way Wade or Bosh was going second in that draft.
on MTV.com, not just because Corey Feldman introduces it in the beginning like he’s James Lipton, but because of the way Corey seems to be randomly inserted into the trailer at various points, almost like how they stick Guillermo into real movie trailers on Jimmy Kimmel’s show.
and might have to retire. Bad times. Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery. On the bright side, it was impossible for me to drop him lower on my fantasy draft chart.
Now read this USA Today story about Brett Favre’s postretirement TV prospects in which nearly every network except CBS basically comes out and says, “We don’t have any room, but we’d love to get Brett Favre!”
And, um … that’s why things ain’t changing any time soon. By the way, a few of you have asked me if the ’08 Packers qualify for the Ewing The-, er, the Tee Martin Principle. Nope. Favre won a Super Bowl which makes him ineligible.
with Adam Duritz, but holy hell is it weird! I know it’s only mid-March, but this is the odds-on favorite to end up as the “Craziest Celebrity Interview of 2008.” Apparently it’s been a long December for Adam.
SalPal on Favre … Jon Weinbach’s mini-feature on USC’s bizarre decision to give Lil Romeo a basketball scholarship … an extended interview with David Stern on Oregon Live … Slate’s Josh Levin on the Emperor’s Club and its now-defunct Web site … Bob Ryan remembers a scouting trip he once took with Dave Cowens … NBA.com’s feature on the 1979 Nets-Sixers game that was resumed right after the teams made a six-player trade … and Kurt Streeter’s L.A. Times column on Jamiel Shaw’s death.
Some YouTube suggestions from the readers …
1. Bill K. in Phoenix: “I was at the Los Suns-Los Spurs game on March 9, sitting about five rows from courtside when Shaq dove into the crowd right at me. I also happened to be recording the action on my digital camera. Shaq showed some great hustle and the energy in the place went to a new level after that … as did the Tim Duncan’s whining. Enjoy!”
(Note from Simmons: Two days after this game, there’s an even better clip
of Shaq running toward the Phoenix bench like he’s going to dive for a loose ball and the entire team clearing out like a tsunami was coming. High comedy.)
2. Jeff in Canton: “The Peter Gammons Theme Song. This is absolutely absurd, but I defy you to not sing it for the next three days. Welcome to my Hell.”
3. Ryan in Santa Monica, Calif.: “My jaw dropped when I stumbled upon this YouTube clip tagged ‘Female Mike Tyson’ and, .000437 seconds later, I clicked on it. I am giddy every single time I watch it. And perhaps the best part of the clip is Anne Wolfe’s reaction to her own abilities. ‘Female Mike Tyson,’ indeed!”
4. Chas W. in Cleveland: “Check out this old video of the infamous 1972 Ohio State-Minnesota basketball brawl. A Minnesota player pulls the old “let me help you up … and then knee-you-in-the-groin” trick. Well played.”
(Note from Simmons: Add this incident to the list of “Things That Would Have Made Skip Bayless’s Head Explode Had They Happened Today.”)
5. John in Hanover, Mass.: “I’m not sure if you’ve seen this, but I highly recommend this clip. It’s an old roast of Muhammad Ali (before Parkinson’s took away most of his motor skills). My favorite part of the clip is when Muhammad goes after Howard Cosell’s toupee.”
6. Mo in Minneapolis: “Great clip
for you, Sports Guy — ‘The Rhino’ Craig Smith and Randy Foye debate who’s better 2Pac or Jay-Z. Notice the white reporter with no knowledge on the subject.”
(Note from Simmons: The white reporter kills me. Big-time.)
7. Archit in San Jose: “Read your links this week, saw the T-Mac ’13 in 33′ and remembered seeing this on YouTube
a while back: someone recreated T-Mac’s 13 in 33 on NBA Live. Pretty cool.”
8. Mike G. in Keene, N.H.: “I can’t believe you don’t have the video ‘Tommy Heinsohn Goes Berserk’ on your NBA video list! Check it out, absolutely classic Tommy.”
9. Philip in Alexandria: “Wow. Wow. Holy (bleep).”
And finally, 15 suggestions from the readers to take us home:
1. Ben in New York: “This movie premiered at an indie film festival in Hartford about the Mighty Whale. It’s fascinating and reminds me of your work with trying to save the Sonics. Long live the Brass Bonanza and the Mighty Whale!”
2. Matt R. in State College, Pa.: “This picture of Gordon Giricek cuddling a ball is now my wallpaper.”
3a. Neil in Charlotte: “A sportswriter becoming a GM is not unheard of. In Charlotte we are blessed — I mean, cursed — to have Marty Hurney as GM of the Panthers. Back in the ’80s, he was a sportswriter with the Washington Star and Washington Times. Seeing how the Panthers are currently stuck in a world of mediocrity and the draft classes and free-agent pickups of Mr. Hurney have left a lot to be desired, many of us, myself included, would prefer he go back to sportswriting.”
3b. Mike in Portland, Maine: “This helps your cause to become the best Bucks GM — a profile of Chris Snow, who is a fellow Syracuse grad, who went from writing the Red Sox beat for the Globe to being in charge of hockey operations for the Minnesota Wild, all before the age of 26. Amazing.”
5. Jamin in Oakland: “Sadly, a VERY similar story to Jamiel Shaw’s murder rocked the Bay Area four years ago. The victim was [supposed to be] headed to Oregon on a football scholarship a day or two after he was murdered.”
6. Davor in Orlando, Fla.: “I don’t think you realize how close Duncan was to signing with the Magic back in 2000. Duncan himself confirmed this just during the Finals last year. Also, the Magic were prepared to still sign McGrady, with Duncan and Hill in tow, using Bo Outlaw in a sign-and-trade.”
7. Travis in Boulder, Colo.: “This podcast from ‘This American Life’ is a month old, but Act 1 is a behind the scenes look at ‘The Onion’ as a writer’s room tries to come up with headlines for a new issue. As a writer, I found the room’s deconstruction of which jokes are funny (and why) to be particularly insightful. Also, I know you’re a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan, so I think you will really enjoy the hilarious Act 4. He basically just shares, with a small audience, some anecdotes from his earliest days as a journalist on the staff of The Washington Post. I don’t want to spoil them, but they are great.”
8. Dennis G. in Portland, Ore.: “This is an old article from the American Journalism Review (2002) but I had never seen it before — pretty revealing look at the Onion newsroom and the then-burgeoning Onion media empire (whatever happened to that movie, guys?). Some good stuff toward the end about their 9/11 issue.”
9. Adam in St. Paul, Minn.: “Yes, the conversion rate sucks and shipping is expensive, but you can’t say no to soccer jerseys as worn by Sly and Pele!”
10. Darius in Brooklyn, N.Y.: “If anyone will appreciate the hilarity that is this blog, it’s you. My friend is getting bent over by Verizon. He created a blog that is updated daily about this ongoing saga, and he plans to utilize it to ‘bring the company to their knees.'”
11. Bill from Ankeny, Iowa: “Did you see Michael Rapaport signing ‘Separate Ways?’ Where is your wife and the front bumper of her car when we need them?”
12. Chris M. in Houston: “You linked to the N.Y. Times feature on Hank Steinbrenner [last week] but failed to mentioned this quote: ‘Hank Steinbrenner, who will turn 51 next month, bears a disconcerting resemblance to his father, George M. Steinbrenner III. The square, pinched face, the broad shoulders, the barrel chest, even the tiny feet, are all unmistakably Steinbrenner.’ Even the tiny feet??? As the old saying goes … [editor’s note: we can’t run the old saying] … and that explains why the Steinbrenners have a chip on their shoulder regarding having to be the best in everything else.”
13. John F. in Hanover, Mass.: “Not sure if you saw this, but Troy Brown was roasted at his alma mater, Marshall. I have two questions, first of all, would Jeff Ross be able to roast a guy who is genuinely as likable as Troy Brown? Secondly, does Ross make a Spygate joke with Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick there?”
14. Tim in New York:
“Now, I know why Isiah is paying Jerome James $5.8 million. He’s averaging almost 40 points and 30 rebounds per 48 minutes this season.”
15. Bradley L. in Montreal: “I sent my buddy this link to a Rudy Fernandez montage to show him that maybe the hype about this guy could be legit. To which he replied, “I hear this guy is going to be awesome too” and sent me this montage of Brent Barry. Sort of puts it all into perspective.”
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy’s World.