Archive February 2007

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What's Tony Dungy Saying?

After winning the Super Bowl, Tony Dungy stated that being a Christian coach was as important or more so than being the first black coach to win the Super Bowl. (Both he and Lovie Smith). And I thought, that either means one of three things:

(1) He's glad both he and Lovie Smith were Christian by birth, i.e., born to Christian parents, and haven't converted to another faith.

(2) He's glad not only two black coaches made it this year, but two ethical and moral ones, i.e., those that have Christian values like caring about the poor and turning the other cheek.

(3) He's glad someone who literally believes Jesus Christ is the messiah and will return again at the end of the world competed in and won the Super Bowl.

(1) is blatantly bigoted, as it implies he'd be disappointed if a Jew or Muslim coach won.

(2) is benign enough, but if that's all he means, why use the word "Christian"? Why not just say: "I'm glad to be paired not only with another black coach, but also a great guy."

(3) strikes me as bizarre. Even if Dungy believes in that literally (and I have no idea if he does), why should Lovie Smith's beliefs about the end of the world impact Dungy's feelings about him as a Super Bowl opponent?

So even though I think (2) is mostly how he meant it, I think there has to be an element of (1) or (3) in what he said - otherwise, why use the word "Christian?"

Now, I don't care if Dungy said something politically incorrect, and I don't think he should be punished for it, or anything drastic like that. I'm just wondering what he meant by it, or whether he just has a screw loose.

Top Cinq

I was having some drinks at the Crocodile Bar in Paris last week, and the bartender, who spoke less English than I do French, wanted to talk basketball with me once he found out I was an American who wrote about sports for a living. Most of all, he wanted to know who the best players were in the NBA. He asked about Tony Parker, who is huge in France, and I said: "Peut-etre top quinze (Maybe top-15). "Pas top cinq (Not top 5)." So he says: "Top cinq! Top cinq!" He wants to know my top five. And I started to answer, but then stopped. I told him I'd have to think about it, and I'd write it down for him. (I already had a piece of paper and a pen because the Crocodile has 300 different drinks on the menu, and you have to write them down or you'll forget which ones you've chosen).

I didn't want to give him a bad list - he was looking to me to give him the TRUTH on the matter, and I was pretty sure he'd be repeating what I told him to other people, so I wanted to give him something defensible in case he got challenged on it. A year ago, I might have made LeBron James my top choice, but while James is a great talent, his team is mediocre, and he's not carrying them to wins night after night. Kobe Bryant is great, but the Lakers haven't been much better than the Cavs since Shaq left. Kevin Garnett? Same problem. Tim Duncan? Doesn't seem dominant anymore, merely very efficient. Steve Nash? Scott Skiles said: Nash was "the best player on the face of the Earth." but he's not a great defensive player, and his team has never won anything. Dirk Nowitzki came very close to winning a title, and he's as difficult a matchup as anyone in the league, but the best player in the NBA? Anyway, I had to give him something:

Top Cinq:

  1. Steve Nash
  2. Dirk Nowitzki
  3. Dwyane Wade
  4. Kobe Bryant
  5. Kevin Garnett

I also wrote:

  • Tim Duncan
  • Tracy McGrady
  • LeBron James

I went with Nash because he's shooting 50 percent from the floor as a point guard who takes a lot of threes, and he gets 11 apg. That's unique in today's NBA. Dirk shoots a lower percentage from the floor despite being 7-foot, and he doesn't run the offense. Wade was third because he's Kobe without the attitude. Garnett was fifth because of his versatility and length. But Duncan, LeBron and McGrady (who is as dangerous offensively as Wade or Kobe and probably a better passer than either and is carrying the Rockets) have to be in the conversation. And Yao and Amare Stoudemire aren't too far off. They'd round out my top-10.

Impressions of the Super Bowl from Paris

I'm in Paris on vacation right now, and having arrived Sunday morning local time, my first order of business (even before sleeping) was to find an ex-pat bar that would be televising the game (12:30 am start time Monday morning). I found a place relatively near my hotel, called the Great Canadian Pub. The girl who answered the phone cheerily told me there would be a "30 Euro Cover, but it includes two drinks. And I had better get there early if I expected to get a seat."

Now I probably could have gone elsewhere, but I figured I would drink anyway, and two drinks would be 20 Euros anywhere here, so when 10 o'clock rolled round, I got lazy and walked over there. I got by the door guy, who was distracted, but the bartendress, who I think I spoke to on the phone, busted me, and I coughed up the Euros (30 Euros is about $40).

Of course, the bar was packed, so I had to essentially maintain a presence there so as not to lose my seat for two and a half hours until game time, and of course, during the four hour game. This might not be so bad had I not just taken an 11 hour flight that morning and not been operating on two hours' sleep.

The first drink I ordered was a Guinness, and when I was done with that (still well before game time), I realized I should get my 30 Euros worth, so I ordered their most expensive scotch (some Oban) of which they were careful to pour me exactly one ounce.

I struck up a converstation with a girl next to me at the bar - she was from Kansas, living with her fiance out here. She was waiting for two Parisian friends to arrive who wanted to experience an American sporting event, but who were "scared" to attend alone, so they were having her show it to them.

The pre-game show on the Sky Network, or whatever it's called, featured Don Johnson (of Miami Vice) and Cecil Martin, "former Eagles running back." I guess they couldn't get Jerome Bettis or Marshall Faulk, so they went with the next best guy. To his credit, Martin did look ever so slightly like "Rico Tubbs," Johnson's Miami Vice partner. I couldn't hear the volume thankfully, but it seemed heavy-handed for them to think: "Super Bowl's in Miami, Don Johnson's associated with Miami through a TV show that aired 20 years ago, let's have him do some pre-game commentary," but what the hell, it was an hour before the game, and we were overseas. You can imagine then that I found it surprising that Johnson was the in-studio commentator (along with Martin) FOR THE ENTIRE GAME. Of course, it couldn't be much worse than the Aikman-Buck team that does the Fox games every Sunday.

After two drinks, I'm fading, so I start on the coffee (4 Euros, and no free refills), though the Canadian girl behind the bar did give me one free one grudgingly. I tried to pay with my American Express card, but they didn't take that, either, and I joked that perhaps "Canadian Express would work here?" which drew a slight smile - an oasis in the desert of her derison toward me. They took my Mastercard, though.

Of course, the game started with Devin Hester making a truly electrifying kick return, and the bar, mostly partial to the Bears, erupted. Then Manning threw a pick, the teams exchanged what seemed like 10 or 12 fumbles, and Manning found Reggie Wayne wide open for a big score. Then Thomas Jones busts a huge run, and the Bears score again. I turn to the girl next to me, and her Parisian friends, and say: "Make sure you tell them this is NOT normal for an NFL game."

After the first quarter, the game was largely a dud - it basically went exactly to script - Manning plays well, the Bears get some bounces to stay in it for a while, and then Grossman destroys whatever slim hope they had. I lost a little cash on the game, but I'm mostly concerned with Pianow and Salfino being totally right about the game on my XM show, while I was mostly wrong.

It's funny though because even after the pick for the touchdown that gave the Colts a 12-point lead, the Bears still could have covered had Grossman not thrown the ball behind an open Bernard Berrian down the field. If he puts that in the right place, it's a touchdown, and the Bears are down five. Woulda, coulda, shoulda - it's not even that compelling when Grossman is the guy you're talking about. Pianowski in particular was right when he said: "You can forget about a backdoor cover with Grossman at the helm", and then he cited Grossman's playing-from-behind stats.

On the bright side, I met some ex-pat girls who want to show me around the city the next few days, so all was not lost - except that the Pub wouldn't take a credit card for less than 15 Euros, and my bill was 13, so I had to give the girl an extra 2-Euro tip. At 5 am, I honestly didn't care.

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