Friday, March 30, 2007

Women's Sports Week: She is the Champion, My Friend

I figured we hadn't had enough classic song titles as blog titles on here yet. Ah, so much easier to twist the work of another to make a cute title than rather thinking up our own, eh? That said, let's talk about female sport champions.

I didn't want to post on this to start the week. Usually, most of us are controversial enough without help, thanks much. But I dislike how little emphasis there is in women's sports on achievement and winning the championship.

The standout example to me is women's tennis. In 1999 or so, the sport had a chance to set up rivalries that could last for a decade. And what happened? Ask the players themselves. Are you Martina Hingis, the Williams sisters, Anna Kournikova? Well then, you are a marketer's dream, and you should spend more time on fashion/movies/travel/becoming an entertainment superstar than on actually improving your tennis game. I know they had some injuries as well, but I really dislike how they used tennis as a stepping stone. On the other hand, are you Lindsay Davenport? Well then, you should prepare to be made fun of because of your looks, and have your accomplishments ignored.

Eh, I could go on and on about this, but it's Friday, and the last thing you need is to hear me rant and rave. I think the issue is clear. I would argue that any time a women's sports league or players attempt to focus more on appearance, style, and sexiness rather than the outcome of the game, it has been a negative in the long run. Sure, it's a short-term boost for the gate if, say, the left midfielder for your women's soccer team appears in a laddie mag; but there's no permanent benefit. Please, feel free to contradict me if you wish with examples. I'm arguing a principle more than providing across the board evidence. But I think the evidence may favor my argument as well. Sure, for marketing, say, a new perfume, using Anna for an ad will probably sell more bottles than using Lindsay would. But there's also the principle of honoring a champion for their achievements, and that is lacking.

So in oh-so-weak retaliation, today I am posting pictures of more obscure women champions over the years. No ring or medal earned, no picture.

Courtesy of here , Lindsay Davenport, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist and winner of all the big tournaments except for the French Open:

The great Laura Wilkinson, who won a gold medal at the Olympics for diving despite a broken foot. She has a great page that you should check out; I especially appreciate the video interview after she won the medal.

Erin Buescher, who it's very hard to find a picture of. Unlike the other players on this page, she's a role player, not a star. But she does so very well. She won the 2005 WNBA title with the Monarchs, and then turned around and made herself the Most Improved player in the WNBA the next year. She's also a really great person: one of the few athletes I've ever gotten to e-mail back and forth with until her site closed down. Erin, if you're reading this, send me an e-mail; I'd love to have an interview for here too :-) Hey, can't hurt to try, right? Shh, it's a rhetorical question.

Cynthia Cooper, 1997-2000 WNBA title winner and Finals MVP winner several times. Very underrated performer. She never really got much appreciation because of Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, but they haven't been able to win without her.

Ok, and with that we end Women's Sports Week. What did you think of having a running series like that; any preferences as compared to my random posting? I was going to have more text, but I was boring myself, so I became more picture-centric as the week went on. Or did you want more verbiage?

Guest Bias: Hibbert Essay

For a long time now, I've wanted to have a guest post on this blog, and I'm pleased to announce I finally found a guest blogger. In the hopes that we have more than one of these (yes, you too can volunteer), I'm titling the feature "Guest Bias."

Ted of A Price Above Bip Roberts' fame ( go here ) has been blogging strong all week long about Georgetown. I suggested he tell us more about Roy Hibbert. Here we have a 7'2" center from Georgetown who's still rather unknown to many college basketball fans! Surprising, especially in light of the big man legacy of the Hoyas. Ted fills us in below. Thanks Ted!

You gotta figure - well, if you went to Georgetown at least, like I did - that Thad Matta can't be too happy about this draw. I mean, if he had gotten UNC, he'd have a little reason to be scared - after all, UNC beat OSU this season already - but he would know what every hoops head in America also knows: Oden didn't play that game. With all apologies to the dagger-dropping of Ron Lewis and the oft-undiscussed skills of Mike Conley Jr, the true "man in the middle," literally and figuratively, for these Final Four Buckeyes is Oden.

And on Saturday, the biggest advantage that Matta and crew have every game is, essentially, neutralized before the opening tip: because in all likelihood, the guy standing across from Oden before "the ball is tipped" (apologies to Luther Vandross) is taller, and in some respects maybe better, than the frosh sensation.

Greg Oden, meet Roy Hibbert.

Hibbert, a 7-2 center for Georgetown who was hot for college basketball writers when the season began - we heard stories about how he always wanted to go to GU, how he was the next great center in a lineage that includes Ewing, Mourning, and Mutombo but seemed to fade a bit with Boumtje-Boumtje and Freeman, and how him vs. Aaron Gray would decide the Big East. Over time, though, Hibbert's own classmate Jeff Green came to steal the headlines, and in the process, the Big East Player of the Year Award.

But, as predicted, it was still Hibbert who decided the Big East, in the sense of his 18 point, 11 rebound performance in an absolute thumping of Pittsburgh in the Conference Tournament Finals (I was there, about 45 rows up, among all Pitt fans; they didn't like me). Gray that same game? 1 of 13 from the field, 3 points. I had to drive back to work at 3am in the rain, with a daylight savings time change screwing me, and you know what? It was still worth it.

Hibbert's Big East title game performance is just the latest in a string of fine, quality outings by the "Big Fella" (apologies to Gus Johnson there). He first made a name for himself - Irony Alert - last year in the second round against a different Ohio State team, when he propelled the Hoyas into a battle with Florida. We'd ultimately lose that game in part because Hibbert (and Green) didn't have the endurance to rock out with Horford and Noah for 40 minutes. Now, they seemingly do.

See, Hibbert started slow this year - 11 points and 2 rebounds in 30 minutes when we lost to Pitt in January; 10 points and 5 rebounds against a Seton Hall team he should have owned later that month - but then, he picked it up. And when he did, we (in the collective sense) did as well. 20 points and 11 boards against Louisville, in a game we really needed at the time; 23 and 11 in the very next game, vs. ranked Marquette; and 20 and 6 when we pasted West Virginia in the one after that. We needed all those, and we got them in large part because of Roy.

Hibbert's got a little problem with foul trouble, sure - it almost cost us in the Big East Semis against Notre Dame, a game that Green basically threw on his back as it progressed - but check this: since Pittsburgh in the conference finals, the man in the middle in blue and gray hasn't gone for less than a double-double. Against BC? 17 and 12, willing us back. Against UNC and "Crazy T?" 13 and 11, despite foul trouble.

I'll be the first to admit, Hibbert makes mistakes - i.e. fouling - and he's not the most mobile man on the court. Hansborough and now Oden are both capable of moving around him, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be able to, or victory will be secure for them. Also consider: in the two losses of Ohio State's that Oden actually took the court in (Wisconsin and Florida), he was - yes, yes, I know, he was less than 100 percent - harassed by an aggressive, physical inside game: Brian Butch on Wisconsin, and Horford/Noah/et al on Florida. Georgetown can do that too, with Ewing, Summers, Macklin, Green, and the Biggest of the Big, Mr. Hibbert.

So take a good look before the ref heaves the rock skyward, Mr. Oden (can I really call you Mr? Alright, granted, you look 41). You haven't seen anything like this one yet.

Check Ted's site for more Hoya perspective during the Final Four.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Women's Sports Week: Gymnastics and Figure Skating

Too often I put my cool pictures and videos at the bottom of a post, after my reader has fled, complaining of eye strain and ennui. So here's some nice pictures of Sarah and Emily Hughes, both figureskaters, with David Wright of the Mets.

And here's Andy Roddick with Sarah.

I realized the other day that I've been depriving my reader of corny sport-appropriate pick-up lines. How sad! "Oh 'insert figure skater's name here', skate into my life, and let our love forever be quadruple and triple forever with no doubling!" There you go, should you meet a skater anytime soon. Just another service of this multi-talented blog! Next week, a few lines for those seeking a relationship with curlers or discus throwers. Just kidding.

Gymnastics and figure skating are perhaps the most widely accepted and loved feminine sports. And that was before those pictures gained the sports some new fans, ha. There's very little stigma, if any, attached to women participating in these events. Both are sports where the finish is completely determined by judges, as opposed to referee sports. Also, the looks and reputation of the performer are very important in the judging.

However, I thought it useful to share with you some information I recently read that disturbed me greatly. Have any of you read or heard of Joan Ryan's book, "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters?" It's an older book from 1995 or so; look it up on Amazon for reviews and analysis. Basically, it said that young female gymnasts (and to a much lesser extent, figure skaters) were being badly mistreated, including a few deaths due to injury, depression, and eating disorders. It was quite horrifying; conduct that a pro football coach couldn't get away with in was the norm in gymnastics, where the competitors are young teens. I think gymnastics is dead to me now. It's not like I was a huge fan to begin with, but the book was way too much.

Figure skating really isn't so bad, according to the book. The one thing that bothered me from a fairness aspect is how much figure skating is rigged based on past reputations. The judges have their favorites. The competitors have to be "on" at all times at the competition, because the judges are always watching them, even in the hotel lobby. Thus, I find it ironic that many times, the champion of figure skating events at the Olympics has not been the favorite. Sarah Hughes is a well-known example in 2002.

I wanted to call attention to an up-and-coming skater today who's not a current favorite. She reminds me of Sarah Hughes, in that Alissa Czisny just has a way of coming up big in events where she's underrated. Alissa won the long program at Nationals this year, beating Kimmie Meissner and Hughes (Emily). Remember the name. Check out her official site if you wish, which is where I got the pictures from.

Now I know some of you guys may be horrified by the posts this week. I assure you, this isn't going to turn into "Figure-Skating Weekly" anytime soon. But this is a boring time of the year sports-wise; why not pay attention to some less-appreciated and followed sports now? One more post tomorrow, and then we'll get back to the usual 51 weeks-a-year diet of masculine sports.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Women's Sports Week: Tall Girls Tall Girls Whatcha Gonna Do?

Apologies to, of course.

LZ Granderson had an article titled "Big Girls Need Love Too" ( He said the following and got similar quotes from his interviewees: "A life handcuffed by low self-esteem because she's taller than everyone else in class. A life so desperate to be liked that she'd rather be promiscuous than continue being alone...Basketball gives larger women a place to belong and often starts the healing process from years of psychological abuse."

Aside: Is it me, or has Page 2 suddenly improved? Frankly, since Whitlock left, they haven't had a good football writer. So October-February, I spent a lot of time clicking on the site, muttering about my wasted time under my breath, and departing. Much better now, though.

So what do you think? Is it really that bad, tall(er) females of the world? Do short girls have all the fun? My impression was that for females, tall is ok, fat is not in American culture. (Not saying it's right, by any means; I'm just saying that seems to be the cultural norm.) Personally, height is good: I like it when I can see eye-to-eye with a woman, literally. But maybe it is tough for tall females (and short males, which is an ENTIRELY different can of worms) out there. Look at this poor girl: I found this video linked to from

Now some people are arguing as to whether the rim is really 10' or not; she makes it look so easy! But I'm more concerned about her as a human being. She just doesn't look that happy. Almost as if she's being exploited as some sort of freak show. At the end, I think she smiles. But it is worrisome.

Others, however, seem to be quite pleased with their height. This woman refused to have her growth stunted and is now a star volleyball player:

So anyway, blog readers, give me some feedback on this one, I want to know. In our American culture, do taller females have a harder time than shorter females when it comes to being appreciated and respected? And I mean, in general, not just sports. When it comes to sports, do you really think that sports will help taller females with self-esteem? Or that the athletic options just make things worse, and make the females feel exploited for their height?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Women's Sports Week: North Carolina-Purdue

Hey, it's Women's History Month...and here I haven't done anything about women's sports. And I seriously do have several posts saved up, so here goes. Hopefully one each day until Saturday.

You already know about the re-match possibilities for the men's NCAA tournament: OSU-Georgetown, Florida-UCLA, and Florida-Georgetown would all be re-runs of last year's tournament games. But the NCAA women's tournament features a great re-run of its own. North Carolina-Purdue last year was the best women's game I have ever seen. It finished 70-68 North Carolina (see a game recap at on an Ivory Latta lay-up with about 3 seconds left on the clock. This year's North Carolina-Purdue matchup kicks off Tuesday 9 PM EST on ESPN and is sure to be a good one.

Reasons I like Purdue in this game:

Revenge Factor. I always think the team that last lost has an advantage.
The Nerdyness yet Trendyness of Purdue itself. Start with the Boilermakers name. Make it Boil, indeed. Then add the black and gold colors, which for some reason I've really come to like over the years. Finish with a series of interesting people such as Drew Brees, Gene Keady, Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson.
Two seniors (see below), who helped put the team on their shoulders after the team changed coaches this year. It's impressive that they did better than last year with a new coach.

Wait, we haven't had a chance to objectify anyone on the Purdue roster yet! Phew, almost forgot:

Although ladies, really, it's ok to dress up for press conferences, just a little:

Reasons I like North Carolina in this game:

Ivory Latta. When you first see her, you'll think there's no way she should even be on the floor. She's so short and frail-looking. The Allen Iverson comparisons are spot-on for that. But her game is more than that. She has a great ability to relentlessly pester bigger guards and force turnovers. She made a play last year in the game where the Purdue guard tried to knock her down after she made a steal, and she somehow kept her footing and still scored. And she ended the game by scoring the winning layup. I really envy (and appreciate) her energy. Here's a funny picture of her:
Ivory Latta
Actually, I think she's biologically incapable of taking an unfunny picture:
Me & my girl Ivory Latta...the girls point guard...we are tight now
I think it'd make for a neat storyline if she can make it to the Final Four in Cleveland; her and Lebron James are good friends and are actually the same age. (Wow, think about that; surprising, isn't it?).

Ramses the Ram. If you haven't heard, the student who played the mascot died recently from being hit by a car. It's very sad. I'm sure some of the ladies on the team knew the mascot. And I do think that it is an inspiration of some sort. Here's ol' Ramses in better days:
team plus ramses

Monday, March 26, 2007

Who wants to watch Mutombo?!

I do! The shot-blocking machine has decided to show us he's just a regular guy...or not. Dikembe Mutombo, goofing off for NBA TV.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Superstar Maybe: OJ Mayo Photos

So I went hunting for OJ Mayo pics with random fans, and yes, there already are some out there.


Wow, where do I start? First, "You're in good hands" with OJ Mayo, ha. Second, OJ's high school team in Ohio was...the Trojans. Exact colors of USC, too. Not so surprising now that he was interested in USC, is it?

---he signed my phone too hahaa great night
Oh, he signed their phone, too. Autograph imitators of the world, here's a head start.


Random dude with OJ

me and OJ Mayo

More OJ goodness; the caption is a tongue-in-cheek "He loves me."

me and OJ MAYO!!!!

Another good reason to hate on the young and successful. They can earn all the millions they want, have all the TV time they want. But when they are getting all the brunnettes, that's the last straw for me.

Yeah say somethin!!...HaHa...Us w. OJ MAYO himself!!!

Go read the caption if you get a chance. The spelling and grammar is a delight :-p

My thanks again to all the teenage females of the world for making this post possible, ha. And if photos alone count for anything (they don't), OJ will be ok at the next level. I like the way he carries himself in these pictures. Greg Oden, take notes on how to conduct yourself around high school girls when the camera's out.

Hate the Game: OJ Mayo

for some background, among other pieces.

I don't know quite what I think about OJ Mayo. There's definitely been some off-court troubles, and the switching of schools always irritates this traditionalist. I always would rather see someone try to make it where they are than switch and connive their way to the top.

However, I can't believe some of the blog comments about this guy when it comes to the way he chose USC. How dare the kid not give his cell phone # to USC! How dare he just make up his own mind to go to USC without being recruited, just for the publicity! etc. Can we please stop ritualistically hating on anyone younger and more successful than us? It's knee-jerk by now. Go read Jones's comment on . He sums things up pretty well and is definitely my comment of the week. (For more of his writings, ).

Yes, everyone who disagrees with OJ is right. OJ Mayo SHOULD give his phone number to Tim Floyd so he can be text'ed and called 20 times a day. He SHOULD let coaches lie to him and make promises that they can never be held liable for in a court of law. Coaches SHOULD continue to do anything they can get away with to sign players. Coaches SHOULD continue to press for 1-1 time with impressionable minors, so they can throw around their authority and mess with the kid's head. Coaches SHOULD continue to pay off their parents, grandparents, and high school coaches, just so the kid can't even trust those closest to him. OJ SHOULD pay no attention to how the LA glow attached to Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush made them millions more than they might have gotten otherwise. OJ SHOULD let some old kindly grandpa like Roy Williams or Mike K. take him to some country campus, which will cushion him and leave him completely vulnerable to the big city NBA lifestyle. Great advice, you all. Who's smarter, you or OJ Mayo? The game is a scam, so he's not playing it. It's that simple.

I am fired up about this, because I have a friend who was good enough to play college ball, and did. His coach was everything a coach shouldn't be. He hates basketball now. Before you all hate an OJ Mayo, hate the game first. Don't look at the OJ Mayo's who can escape that undercurrent. Look at all the guys who just want to get an education, play a little ball, and instead get chewed up by the system. Look at all the well-meaning poor parents who think the coach really wants to help their kid instead of exploiting him. Take a closer look at what's being done to those kids. My friend is going to make it, because he has a strong two-parent family who fought for him. Most other players don't have that advantage.

Friday, March 16, 2007

SuperStar Be: Kobe Bryant Photos

I didn't finish up my Kobe Bryant analysis properly with some fan pics, and I've been overcome by guilt (nausea? apathy?) ever since. So here's the pictures:

Ali, Jus, & me w/ Kobe
Yes, joke all you want, there are plenty of pictures of Kobe with young female fans. He was the MAN with that fan-base pre-Colorado.

A-dazzle & me pimpin it out w/ Ron Harper
Just because I'm amused at the mix of tall NBA players with tweenagers, here's one more; Ron Harper.

Yes, Kobe will take pictures with the birthday girl...

Kobe and the girls!
And all of her friends, too. By the way, the caption was "what a lucky guy!". Um, he's Kobe Bryant! And you are who?! Love the West Coast attitude.

Kobe and Nick
The caption here made me kind of sad. "Kobe Bryant and my lil bro. His face lit up that night, he was so excited to meet Kobe. He doesn't really understand what happened with Kobe because he's lil, so he really really idolizes Kobe." Us older people can joke all we want about scandal, but it really does affect the kids.

Another one from the same set as above.

KOBE annie &me
This reminds me of some sort of farcical movie "Mr Kobe goes to Hollywood" or something. So staged. :-p

Kobe Bryant && the girls
More of the same

Us with Ben
No, I'm not at all envious of little teenage girls with rich fathers who get backstage access to NBA stars like Ben Gordon! And this shade of green I'm turning is just because of, um...I don't want to talk about it.

A little retro Kobe for you.

kobe bryant
And the parade of teenagers continues...

kobe bryant with n o quarterback
Kobe Bryant and Drew Brees. Interesting random meeting.

Me and Kobe Bryant
We needed one Kobe 'fro picture, didn't we?

Oct 2006 - We Ran Into Kobe Bryant @ the Mirage
I was concerned that you would think Kobe only took pictures with white female teenagers, so here's proof that he takes pictures with female teenagers of ALL races. Shows you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Dear John Letter to Females who Love Sports

Dear Females who Love Sports,

It breaks my heart to say this. We've gone through a lot together, ever since those sweaty, happy days of full-contact basketball in middle school gym class. I've stalked, err, seen you at more sporting events than I can count, either playing or happily supporting your team. You have a special place in my heart, right up there with "Females who Share MCBias's Religious and Political Biases" and "Females of an Certain European Ethnicity".

But I believe the time has come for us to part. I don't know when the music (played, of course, by a collegiate marching band) stopped for me.

* Maybe it was the n-th time you hijacked my favorite sports sites with some less than witty innuendo or sloppy avatar of your cleavage that kept the witty commenters panting for pictures of you. Or, even worse, seducing sports blogger X (and Y, and Z) into quoting your less-than-amusing reports and chats on his blog. This stopped them from writing jokes to amuse me, and I had to get back to work sans humor boost.

* Maybe it was when your looks in the audience during the game became more talked about than the game itself. We both know that those looks are to be discreetly monitored by those blessed with excellent peripheral vision, not trumpeted by the announcers. Personally, Erin Andrews and Jenn Sterger were old news a year ago.

* Maybe it was when the ordinary members of your demographic took full advantage of the 10-1 ratio (and I'm being kind) of males to females at sporting events to convince guys that they were extraordinary. I do not come to your movie nights and fake passion for chick flicks, and neither should you come to my sporting event and claim lifelong devotion to the team whose colors match your eyes the best.

* Or maybe it was something like this (click to enlarge):

I have given you more than your share of my waking and thinking moments. (Note: waking does not imply thinking. But you knew that.) But when you mess with my love of sports to force me to pay attention to your ordinary self**, I can no longer adore you. Depart from my favorite sports blogs and events, and trouble them no more! Or, remain, but stop using sports as a means to an end (or my end, or anyone's end) instead of enjoying the game itself. By all means, have sports crushes. I'm not saying check your gender at the door. But please, spare us the public, distracting, desperate ploys for male attention.

Sincerely, MCBias.

**Dear Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. I meant someone else. Thursday still good?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bloggolalia: Comment of the Week

So one aspect of the recent success of sportsblogging that gets under-rated is how much it has to do with commenting. The comments of the readers have made a big difference as to how good the sites actually are. Some sites, I read more for the reader response than the post! It's so powerful, that even ESPN wants to get in on commenting on sports web-sites. (Ok, that and commenters re-visit to see if anyone cares, which builds hit-counts and boosts ad-revenue. Shh...enjoy the magic here.) Anyway, in honor I want to feature some of the best comments of the week. Just one for this week, from FreeDarko:

At 11:35 PM, The Electric Zarko said...
It's because Kobe is a Euro. The best Euro of all time! And this unconciously realized dichotomy causes us concious disharmony, realized along the spectrum from Shoal's positing to Ed's flailing.

Fascinating! You know, seeing Kobe as a Euro matches my "Immigrant with Skills" theory beautifully, so, of course, this is a great comment. What? It's not MC-UN-Biased! heh.

But seriously, if you have any comments on any sports sites that you want to nominate, let me know. We'll make this a weekly feature, perhaps. I hope I don't sound too arrogant for saying this, but I have way too many ideas, and not enough time. I would hate to work at blogging full time; I love having a blogging surplus of ideas, instead. So I'll try to scale this back a bit.

Friday, March 9, 2007

High Stress Ref

This YouTube'er decides to venture into the world of sports in his "job" as a referee. Amusing stuff; I won't ruin it for you by saying more. But come on, haven't we all seen a high school game or two with a ref like this?

Here's the producer's homepage on Youtube, if you want to see his non-sports stuff.

SuperStar Be: Kobe Bryant Video Omission

I somehow didn't post what may be the most viewed Kobe Bryant highlight video. Didn't find it the first time I searched. I hate leaving things incomplete, so here you go.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

SuperStar Be: Kobe Bryant Be the Immigrant with Skills

So, finally, the last Kobe essay! Incidentally, thanks to our man #24 for giving Jaric a little 'bow last night. Although, I don't know why I'm being thankful when I don't even keep track of my views. Horrors! What a blogging sin!

Anyway, Kobe is the Immigrant with Skills. See, when your and my grandpappy came through Ellis Island, they had to learn English and kneel to the culture or else. They started washing dishes in some little hole, and when they accidentally brought a customer tomatoes instead of a Coke or something, they had their "welcome-to-America" moment. This moment consisted of the manager slapping them upside the head and saying "Learn some English, you immigrant trash!" They then were forced to learn our difficult language, shower more than once a week, and embrace our exorbant consumption and wild Jezebel women. Wait a minute, that last part is only on TV shows we export to gullible nations. I, for one, have not seen a Jezebel in weeks.

But, suppose your grandfather was a brilliant Russian mathematician, or your grandmother a beautiful Swedish songstress, or your son was a 6'7" baller who could jump to the NBA right out of high school. THAT type of immigrant doesn't need to assimilate. The manager learns their language, not the other way around. (My dear Swedess, I advise you to avoid the late shift on weekdays for your safety). And for years, they can happily hang out in their unassimilated form, not needing to conform to our nation. Of course, they can't speak English to the wild Jezebels, but they also save a bundle on deoderant and soap. And if they are skilled enough, the Jezebels don't care. Not a bad deal.

Then, one day, people realize that the immigrant is getting a sweetheart deal. And that immigrant becomes a whipping boy. It happened to Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, and Shaq. But as I was saying elsewhere, the difference is that the street and the MSM (Mainstream Sports Media, of course :-)) both hated Kobe at the same time, WHILE he was winning championships! I hated him myself for years; hated his arrogant look, hated that he went straight from high school to the NBA and negotiated his way to LA.

Then, I realized that Kobe was human, at the Philly All-Star game. That really, he's one of those guys who tries to act so tough because he really doesn't know how to interact with this culture. I think Colorado was an outgrowth of that; Kobe hadn't really done that sort of thing when he was younger, so he tried it when he was older and bungled it. (Let me say, though, I feel for that girl. How would we feel if it was an 18-year-old boy fan instead?). I stopped hating Kobe, and started feeling sorry for him. Despite his HUGE skill set, he really doesn't know how to fit in. Like many an athlete, and even more for an athlete born to an athlete, he never got to be anything but Kobe the Baller, from "Ballerstan", if you will. That's his identity, and he hid there during the teenage years...only to find that there's nothing to him but that.

So to lay it all out there; I now sympathize with Kobe. I'm not necessarily a fan of his game. But I feel that he has some real issues, the way he's mercilessly cut his family and others out of his life, the way his public persona always seems to be changing. I'm not going to give you one of those "He needs our love, not our hate!" speeches. But imagine if everyone in your life loved you for just one thing, and that one thing dominated your life so much that you became that one thing. It's not necessarily the blessing you think to be dazzlingly beautiful, blazingly intelligent, mercurial in your creativity, or awesome in your athleticism. People don't see you as truly human anymore; you are from another place. They admire you, fear you, hate you, and never try to understand you. You are (deep breath to create false drama)...the Immigrant...with Skills...Kobe Bean Bryant.


To me, this is the real Kobe; trying to look as he has something to do, but actually looking rather lonely and out of place for a wealthy athlete. Maybe it wouldn't hurt Kobe, now that he's no longer the youngest player on the team, to admit that he needs a friend or two, or nurture some friendships. But the man just sits there, waiting for someone or another to show up, while pretending that he meant to be alone. I'd pity him...if he wasn't a wealthy athlete. Awkward problem, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

SuperStar Be: Kobe Bryant Be His Father's Revenge on the Country Game

I needed all this text to make my point, so I don't apologize. If you're going to skim, though, please do read the descriptions of "City" and "Country" ball.

The thought of this post has been heavily influenced by David Halberstam's seminal work, "The Breaks of the Game". David speculates, err, reports to his heart's content (or am I the only one who is suspicious about some of his conclusions?!)about all sorts of racial issues in basketball. But he fails to elucidate on the two types of game that were clashing in the NBA at the time. This is my, not Halberstam's, take on the tensions between the two styles:

"City" Basketball. To me, City means isolations, dribbling, a faster style of play, a greater ability to improvise, a lack of repetition. If you're the best player on the floor, you should get the ball and drive, every time. Paradoxically, despite the love of dribbling, it's usually practiced by those who played many games with others. Usually, players of city ball tend to favor style over substance. A coach of a successful City team tends to be underappreciated; City players can sometimes be overly artistic in temperment, and need to have their emotions more carefully managed.

"Country" Basketball. To me, Country means players in motion at all times, passing, a focus on fundamental play,running plays to perfection, and getting the ball to the open man, whoever he may be. If you're the open player on the floor, you should shoot, every time. Paradoxically, despite Country's fundamentally sound game, coaches of Country still overcoach them. Country would rather win ugly than lose pretty. A coach of a successful City team tends to be overappreciated; Country players are so fundamentally sound that they can do much more for themselves than they are allowed to do.

The descriptions of those two styles are pretty much "black ball" and "white ball"; or, if you prefer, "athletic" and "non-athletic", "And 1" and "college", etc. I played with a 5'7" white guy who could 360 dunk volleyballs in high school, so I'm certainly aware of the exceptions. Halberstam also notes the exceptions. (Maravich, black ball. Westphal, black ball. Interestingly, I can't recall Halbersam citing any black players who played "white ball" except maybe for Hollins, but I would certainly put Kareem in the "white ball" category for his fundamentally sound post moves.)

The 70's were pretty much a high point for the tension between the two styles. It appears to me that the two leagues were somewhat split, with the ABA being City and the NBA being Country. The ABA lost. Proponents of City ball were often booted and blackballed (a pun, unfortunately, in this context) out of the NBA for their lack of discipline both on and off the court. Most of the great playground legends such Earl "The Goat" Manningult and the "Helicopter" played around this time. It may have culminated in the series between the Blazers and Sixers, where the Blazers were mostly Country and the Sixers were mostly City. The Blazers won, giving Country ball proponents ammunition for at least 15 years. "See, maybe those City ballers can start at some positions, but if you want a championship, you need Country ballers!"

Joe Bryant was on that Sixers team, a talented scorer on a team full of them. He ended up leaving the NBA after a rather mediocre career, as a full proponent of the City game. Throughout the 80's, Country ball continued to reign in the person of Larry Bird. One can make an argument that even Magic Johnson, with his love for passing, had a lot of Country ball in him.

However, then Michael Jordan came on the scene. He proved that a City baller could lead a team to a championship. (Here's one for you conspiracy theorists though. Why was Phil Jackson given so much pub on that team as some sort of mastermind? He was fully a City coach, managing emotions. The offense system was Tex Winter's, not his. I honestly think that it may have been the last gasp of Country ball, trying to give Phil the credit over his City ballers.) That was the beginning of the end of Country ball's reign. It was officially over when Kobe arrived in the same short time span as Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, and Tracy McGrady (nice 10-32 the other night, T-Mac, mostly on jump shots).

Unlike Joe, Kobe didn't get trapped behind the team's established star (Julius Erving for Joe). Unlike Joe, Kobe wasn't forced to try to play someone else's game. Unlike Joe, Kobe's team won the championship. Unlike Joe, when Kobe was seen as a ballhog, the people who saw him that way were forced out of the organization. And when Kobe's team first went to the Finals, it defeated the team coached by the ultimate Country star, Larry Bird.

I suspect that Joe Bryant taught Kobe well about minimizing his weaknesses, because City doesn't get a second shot. Unfortunately, perhaps he succeeded too well; his own son is now estranged from him, and Kobe's incident in Colorado reinforced to me one more thing. Kobe Bryant be...the Immigrant with Skills. Self-explanatory? That's what your eye drops wish. Excrutiating details later this week, plus the ever-beloved fan pictage. Peyton Manning's not the only one pictured in teenage girl birthday parties.

Monday, March 5, 2007

SuperStar Be: Kobe Bryant Be an Orange, not a Peach

So this week, instead of jamming all my Kobe analysis into one post and forcing you to go for the eye drops before you reach the end, I'm splitting it into three or four. By the way, I just amusedly thought that as Kobe ages, he should ask to be referred to as "Kobias", in the spirit of "Toby/Tobias". We have the -y or -ey endings for junior people; why not the -ias for senior editions? Oh, ok, it was just a transparent space-filler move. Still, the -ias ending is very under-rated...not that I'm (MC)bIAS'ed or anything...

Anyway, for a long time I've been following coverage of Kobe. Even long-time Kobe watchers like Slam Magazine say that it's very hard to get a read on what Kobe's personality really is and who he is at heart. I'm not going to argue with them; I haven't done 3-4 feature-length interviews with the man. But I think that Kobe's much more of an orange than a peach. When you break open a peach or chew through a peach, you go from a soft outer layer to a harder inner skin to finally a nut, that is hidden from view by the peach skin. (Insert your own "Kobe" and "nut" joke here!). There's a true center of the peach, and if you can open it up, you'll find a solid core. In other words, if Kobe is a peach, we don't understand him because he's hiding the core so well. But if we could get him to open up, we could find the basis of who he is and what he thinks.

However, when you open an orange, there is no solid core. Instead, the outside is hard, but the inside itself is empty. There may be a thin filament, or some juice, or even air at the center. That's how I think Kobe is. There's no true enigma at the center of Kobe's personality. Instead, the core of who Kobe is has been constantly changing over time as he's grown up in the limelight. If he had not spent most of his formative years in the limelight, I might buy tales of Kobe as a great enigma. Instead, I think he's more of a black mamba, in that he's constantly growing and shedding new skins. Wait, do black mambas shed skin too? Eh, no way I'm looking that up now. :-)

Next up: Kobe Bryant be...the Revenge of Joe Bryant and the City on the Country Game. I get to delicately dance through matters of race while trying to avoid text that makes me the subject matter of the next NOIS or LTMA post; should be fun.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Superstar Be: Kobe Bryant Videos

Not only is Kobe Bryant a superstar, but he's in Los Angeles, a media hub. Because of the video production skills of Lakers fans, he may have the highest quality highlight videos of any basketball athlete. I decided to show off some of them, because I was so impressed by the videos. We'll get into my own views on Kobe soon, promise. But I just wanted to show you what's out there.

Here's the video that introduced me to what was possible with video mixes:

Kobe Bryant and Shaq Story to "Since You've Been Gone"

Oh, that wasn't smarmy and sappy enough for you? "Become" by LK-47.

OK Laker fans, I'll let you empty your tissue box here while the rest of us move on. "Take these Broken Wings", using Tupac's "Until the End of Time":

Next, the movie preview mixes. These are really creative and mix movie previews and voice-overs with Kobe footage.

A Matrix movie preview with Kobe clips.

An Ali movie preview of Kobe Bryant's rape scandal, Ali voice-over clips.

Finally, some of the more aggressively musically scored Kobe videos. You can find many more of these, but here's just a few.

Unfortunately not embeddable, this video makes clever use of POD's Boom:

His fans feed off the Kobe hatred, taking it as just envy of the best. Lots of good mixes of aggressive rapping with aggressive jamming. Here's one of the longer ones.

Apparently using music from The Matrix (Clubbed to Death), here's another long take on the Kobe Bryant biopic. You may want to fast-forward to the middle of the video if you've seen enough Kobe dunk highlights by now.

OK, tomorrow I hopefully have time to tell you why Kobe Bryant Be...An orange, not a peach. Say what? It'll make sense soon enough.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Bloggolalia: Blogging Sans Hat

I decided to put up a late Friday post for weekend discussion, and see what the response is. The term "Bloggolalia" is a word mash that literally means "talking about blogs." (Lalia is a Latin/Greek word that means talk, more or less). I think it looks cool, so there you go.

Usually, MC Bias writes as if other sports blogging sites don't exist. (He also spends a lot of time listing the pros of cons of "I", "we", or "MC Bias" as terms to refer to oneself while blogging, and is giving serious consideration to the fourth-person "you" or "one"). However, a recent controversy on drew his attention. (FYI: The comments and/or post may offend you if you are sensitive to foul language or the abortion issue. Proceed.) The author made this comment: "Let this be the 1000th reminder that nothing -- nothing -- on this site is serious unless I make it an explicit point to "take off my With Leather hat."

I thought the throwaway reference to hats was an excellent metaphor for a dilemma that occasionally annoys me in sports blogging. Many of the best sites employ "hats"; that is, the author is talking in a very distinct style. That style often isn't how the person actually lives/talks in everyday life. The styles can be intriguing and entertaining, or irritating and biased, depending on your preferences. A short listing of "styles" would be Leave the Man Alone's or The Big Lead's sports media surveillance and analysis, Deadspin's self-depreciating, whimiscal humor, KSK or With Leather's testosterone rush, This Suit is Not Black's cross-out self-exultation/depreciation, and Nation of Islam Sports Blog's over-the-top and yet internally consistent exultation of the black race. I think that's enough mischaracterization of one's blogging elders for now, so I cease and desist.

However, what bothers me about a blogging hat is that a style, by definition, is often imitable. So if you wear the same blogging hat all the time, it gets very easy for someone to borrow that hat. Additionally, if we were to hold a contest, long-time readers of each site listed above could dredge up a passable imitation of that site's writing style. Plus, as the sites grow in popularity due to their hats, they attract detractors who have caught on to what hat the blogger is wearing. After all, isn't this the knock on Simmons? That he became popular because of his hat, but isn't changing the hat anymore? Perhaps the only difference between today's new sports bloggers and Simmons is longevity.

In the end, I think the right way is to begin by blogging with a hat, but to discard the hat once the site reaches a certain age or level of notoriety. I think Yaysports and Slamonline do this well. You may argue that Yaysports has the blogging hat of Photoshopping sports pictures, and that Slamonline has the blogging hat of supporting hip-hop ball. They may have started that way in the eyes of some, but there's been a lot of evolution since then. Explore the text, and you'll find variety in writing style and posts from each.

Of course, I blatantly disregard my own conclusion, and enjoy blogging hatless myself when no one is reading. :-) Let's hear it for blogging ADD!!! So, for your discussion this weekend while I attempt to school kids a decade younger than me in my high school's annual alumni game; hats, or no hats? And if you feel I have unfairly characterized your hat, by all means, comment.