Thursday, January 22, 2009

Missing Marty Burns

A week before Christmas, Marty Burns announced that he was leaving I haven't really seen many articles covering this, so I wanted to give full credit to him for all the great writing he's done over the years.

I always appreciated Marty Burns' writing at, yet I could not think of one particular article that truly stood out to me. Yet, every time I saw his column up on, I would instantly click the article. For most writers, I carefully check the content first to see if it was worth my time. Some of you probably don't know who he is, but you might recognize him by his headshot:

I was rarely disappointed. He always had something interesting to say. I enjoyed how he could write a good article without gimmicks. He didn't have to make references to popular culture or convince us how funny or brilliant he was. He was willing to let other people be the focus of the story. I struggle with doing this myself, so I greatly admired his ability to let the story speak for itself without making it overly dramatic.

Take a look again at his last column. It's his farewell column...and he waits until the very last paragraph to talk about himself! He instead talks about the great Jerry West and how hard-working all the NBA players and coaches are. Read his last paragraph:
These kinds of basketball conversations with the men who made the NBA great are one thing I will miss as I get ready this week to leave To widen my court, so to speak. Whether or not I continue to write about the NBA in the future, I will remain a fan of the game and an admirer of those like West who care so much about it that they will never close their minds to ways of making it better.
It's very classy of him to say that. I encourage you to read some of Marty's old work in the archives of Thank you, Marty, for your consistently good writing about the NBA, and for your willingness to put the story first. Marty mentioned in his last column that he has a family, and I'm sure they've had to sacrifice at times so that he could do justice to the column. So I hope the lay-off is a blessing for them and that he can then soon find work again. Wherever he ends up, I'll read him there too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Can't win with (without) choirboys

I'm not a betting man, but the Giants/Eagles matchup tempted me like few games have. The Eagles admitted after their second meeting that they were able to pressure the Giants much more easily without Plaxico being in the line-up. The Giants had no answer for this, and so the Eagles were able to shut down the Giants running attack.

I see some interesting parallels between Plaxico and Manny Ramirez. In both cases, a very talented minority athlete who was more of an irresponsible goofball rather than some sort of thug was ushered out by a championship-winning organization. And in both cases the teams fell short of the championship game because of it. I believe that with Plaxico, the Giants would have beaten the Eagles (6-2 against them with Plaxico in the line-up) and then thrashed the Cardinals (behind the Giants pass rush).

I was on several high school teams where the coaches were forever clashing with the best athletes. The best athletes often are stupid, ok? Let's not cover over this. Very few individuals are extremely talented athletically AND very smart AND socially/morally responsible. It's just rare that one person has all those skills, which is why the media fawns so much over the David Robinsons of the world.

However, the problem is that after a little success, coaches and managers get arrogant. They think that they can win with character instead of talent, and that their brains can scheme up plans to overcome the diminished talent. They are almost always wrong. Great accomplishments require great talent. It's one thing to jettison the over-rated Shockey; it's another to dump your only truly game-breaking receiver. It's funny now to read the NY or Boston papers around the time that the so-called "trouble-maker" was dumped. What's truly more responsible and ethical; to work with a complicated athlete who for the most part has broken no laws, or to give up on them and dump them? John Thompson had it right when he was saying Georgetown needed more "thugs." A strong program is able to incorporate some individuals who are quirky or a little off and make good use of their skills.

Now, you can't win with thug teams either. Go back and look at the 86 Mets...76 Raiders...95 (Barry Switzer) Cowboys...all of them one-championship wonders that could have instead have been dynasties. I can't help but think that those teams actually needed some good characters as well. For example, there was an interesting article on's Page 2 on how a critically needed Raiders defender was high for the 77 AFC championship game, and how that helped cost the Raiders the game.

Overall, though, the lesson is clear. In any walk of life, you have to be willing to put up with some headaches from your top performers. They must be punished for failings; fines and suspensions may be needed (see Steve Smith in Carolina). But this high-horse moralizing from sports reporters acting like a GM is courageous for getting rid of All-Star talent like Manny or Plaxico for little in return is completely inappropriate.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Love is a Game: "Wanna Kiss My Boo-Boo?"

So over Christmas break, I played as much basketball as I could. I got poked in the eye my second game out, and got some nice marks to prove it. It didn't hurt bad, but it looked kind of cool, except when my friend asked me if I was wearing mascara (ouch!).

I was talking to a girl on AIM (yes, I'm about 15 years old, ha, I still use AIM), and suddenly realized that I might be able to milk the injury. So I took a quick snapshot and sent it along, trying to play the "wounded warrior." It failed miserably, mostly because I look like I'm posing for my domestic violence lawsuit:

Your Honor, my client was merely asking his wife for another sausage from the pan when she maliciously and fervently ground the tongs in his eye! Just look at the photo of the damage!

So what about you all--have you ever tried to milk an athletic injury to get some attention from a crush, and did it work? Were you the type to get lots of autographs on your cast, or were you the poor soul who had to write on his own cast to make it look better?