A few items:
1) Stephen A’s rant yesterday was a riff off of comments made by veteran linebacker (and Michigan alum) Larry Foote. You can read Foote’s comments here. In essence, Foote said that the message Lynch is sending is “f–k authority.” Since Lynch has either complied with the letter of the policy, or paid the requisite fine, I don’t agree. I’m not going to defend Lynch’s crotch-grabbing, but the focus on his behavior, given a larger league culture of sexism, militarism and violence leaves me unmoved that Marshawn Lynch is *the* guy sending the wrong message to kids.
And what about the message the commissioner has sent, with all of his prevaricating and then refusal to be interviewed on the day of the freaking Super Bowl, his league’s biggest event? Oh, I forgot, black players from impoverished circumstances are more responsible for this country’s social ills than the Roger Goodells of the world.
2) Before I heard Stephen A’s ridiculousness yesterday, I was going to say something nice about Mike and Mike. So, here it is. Greenie paid a really heart-felt tribute to Charlie Sifford, who died on Tuesday at the age of 92. Sifford broke the color line in golf when he began playing on the PGA tour in 1961. He endured vile racist spewings over the next several years, managed to win two tourney titles along the way and was recognized in November by President Obama, who awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom. I knew essentially nothing about Sifford before Greenie began talking about him yesterday. Greenie noted that he is a golf lover and cataloged all that he appreciates and enjoys as a spectator of and participant in the sport. But Greenie also noted that golf has long been a sport of exclusion, by gender, class and, of course, race and has been justly criticized for that history. He and Golic both advised googling about Sifford. I did so and, among other things, found this really nice piece from last Fall about Sifford, by Bill Rhoden. Kudos to Greenie in particular for his affecting homage.
3) It’s true of all sports, of course, but I am especially struck these days by the degree to which basketball analysis tends to be a fact-free zone. Case in point: Bruce Bowen discussing the Cavaliers this morning on Mike and Mike and, in particular, Kevin Love’s struggles. Love is still a productive player, but his performance has certainly slipped so far this year relative to his established level. Bowen offered all kinds of intangibles-based explanations for that which, who knows. But he also made one empirical claim – that Love is taking a lot more threes this season. Yes, I looked that up because I was skeptical. And it turns out that Love is attempting fewer threes per game this year than he has in any season since 2010-11. I guess Bowen missed that when he took his Kevin Love eye test. It’s also becoming de rigueur for the basketball commentariat to express outrage over Damian Lillard’s exclusion from the Western Conference All-Star team this season.
Lillard is an exciting young player and has taken a huge step forward this year. He would be a worthy all-star. But it’s become popular to suggest that he’s now a better player than Chris Paul. And sorry to say, this is also a fact-free assertion. Lillard’s posterizing abilities notwithstanding, Chris Paul still does just about everything better on a basketball court. He’s a better rebounder, a more efficient shooter and has a vastly better assist-to-turnover ratio, which is kind of important for a point guard. He also beats Lillard in steals per game. Lillard scores a few more points per game because he takes more shots. And despite all the malarkey out there, points-per-game remains the stat that drives most basketball analysis.
More people are down on CP3 because he hasn’t distinguished himself in the postseason and, after a decade in the league, that matters for a player’s rep. But the next time you hear a pundit trying to sound smart by telling you Lillard’s the better player than Paul, just remember that’s not really based on anything real.
Though it’s true, this dunk was especially awesome: