Saturday, July 25, 2009

Was Charles Barkley Truly Short for a Power Forward?

Much of Charles Barkley's legacy has been built on him being an undersized power forward. For example, says "However, as a player he was the greatest anomaly in basketball history. Listed at 6-6, but probably actually closer to 6-4, he played power forward as well as anyone, often dominating players half a foot undersized power forward with rebounding as his only discernible basketball skill." You can also read a rather passionate debate on Barkley's true height, thought to be 6'4.75", here.

However, the problem with measuring height from head to toe to determine NBA skill is that it does not correlate well to basketball skills. For example, a guy with a long neck and long face will be several inches taller than a guy with a small face and no neck. What is most important is how high the shoulders are. For example, I am 6'0", but quite honestly, a lot of that is my giraffe neck, ha. When I was pressed into playing forward/center for some teams, it quickly became clear that I played much shorter than my height. But just who do you think has a small face and no neck?

For example, take a look at this photo of the 1992 dream team. Jordan, reported to be 6'6", and Barkley are side by side. But Barkley's shoulders are definitely higher than Jordan's.

I think Barkley was a great NBA player. But I always get annoyed at how head height is so overrated in the NBA. I believe Barkley's shoulder height was more in line with a 6'7" or 6'8" player. While that still makes him undersized for the typical power forward, it no longer makes him extraordinarily so. I'd like to read a Barkley profile without unnecessary gushing about how undersized he was, because it's just not true.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Doug Shackler and the Erin Andrews Hotel Tapes

At first I thought Deadspin's late Friday story that Erin Andrews may have been illegally taped in her room, was just filler, or that week's deleted scenes. However, turns out that Erin Andrews really was videotaped by a scheming pervert. What frustrates me about the situation is that Doug Sheckler, the owner of the site that posted the video, is a fellow sports blogger. He had the vision to help start Epic Carnival, which was a great chance for some smaller bloggers to write back when Fanhouse and Deadspin seemed to control everything. I knew him in passing only--he promoted and linked to a few of my stories here and there, which I really appreciated. I did know he was a hard worker. He always was tweeting more stories he had just posted. I in fact finally unfollowed him, as too many of the numerous tweets were NSFW links to some actress on one of his "other" blogs. Lots of good that did me while sitting in my office!

Yes, that "other" blog...let's be honest. Sports blogging gets some views, but it is nothing compared to porn. I've watched with equal parts disdain, irritation, and amusement as several colleagues decided to add more pictures of women with few or no clothes or ads to NSFW material in their blogs. I understand the rationale. If you're trying to make money off your blog, nothing brings viewers like women. But my views on ethics and posting photos of hot women are rather prudish...and yes, I'm proud of that now."

But unfortunately, Doug worked too hard. I found the following short e-mail from him in my folders. It's two years old, written after I had complained about his site's comment section in a comment on the site. He followed up with me (click to enlarge)

At first glance it's great--the editor of a big sports blog site was willing to hunt down a commenter just so he could improve his site. But no, "always looking to improve" was exactly the problem! Unfortunately, the path Doug followed in trying to improve made him commit a crime. The traffic and money from sports blogs apparently weren't enough for him. He kept branching out, going just a little farther with each new blog...and went way, way, too far. There's a lesson there for some of us sports bloggers. Ambition and hard work are not pure virtues.

The very mundane nature of the videos is what makes them so sad. Erin is curling her hair before work. Like many a woman, she's preparing herself for the harsh scrutiny of a world that tends to judge women on their looks first. And so, the violation seems more offensive because of it.

I'm ending this rambling with a few quotes from some old Erin Andrews interviews that seem sad now. Click to read the complete interviews.

Q: What about the attention you receive for being a sports personality when you're not an athlete?

E.A.: It's flattering...I know that there's a window of time where people think, "Oh, she's a big deal." You know that's going to run out. You kind of just look at it and laugh. I grew up in the media; my dad is in the industry as well. I know there's a time frame and this will all go away and I'll go, 'Wait a minute! What about me?' I know it's nothing to get freaked out over.

OMDQ: ...I think a lot of it is the sense that they’re waiting for a mistake, waiting for a slip-up somewhere.

EA: ...I remember one of the first times I ever saw something on the Internet that was written about me I ran out into my parents’ living room and I started to cry. Somebody had written about the size of my nose and that I needed a nose job. And my dad is in television, and I grew up in the industry, so I never found it weird to see my dad on the six o’clock news because that’s what he does, but when I came out crying - and this is when I first started - he just said, “Look, do you want to do this?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he’s like, “Suck it up, because this is what it’s about, and because you’re a female, people are gonna take notice more than anybody else,” so…it’s a fantastic job, it’s an amazing thing to be a part of, I have the best seats in the house, it’s what I want to do, so to me, those little things are worth it.

OMDQ: I think you’re right on in that because it seems like lately that there has been more focus on you. It’s like every blogger (including me) has to write something at some point.

EA: I can’t do anything on the sideline without somebody making a big deal out of it. So, you know what? At one point, I can look at it and be like, “Oh my gosh, why do people care?” But at the same time, it’s so flattering because who am I? I’m nobody...

I'm afraid that Erin Andrews is indeed crying tonight, over something much worse than a cruel comment about her nose. I feel bad. I can't really think of a good way to end this. I hope sports blogs won't be crucified for one man's sin. But I worry we may deserve some of that blame and shame. Eh, good night all, I'm done.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pick-up Chronicles: FEED ME!

On Sunday I tried out with a league volleyball team. I'm relatively new in town, and I was a free agent. They wanted to make sure I could play first, which I had no problem with. We played a weak team, and our setter told us "See that guy with the glasses? This is his fourth game ever--he's awful! I saw him play Wednesday. Try to aim at him if you can!"

We killed in the first game, but the second game was tight. It was about 20-19, us, and I was hitting strong side in the front row. I was antsy--the game was slipping away, and I knew it. If you've ever played pickup, you know the feeling of fear when you realize the other team wants it more than you do. Pickup ball isn't really about talent, to a certain extent. It's about the will to win, and which team is willing to eat sand, wood, or gravel to get the ball first.

Our weak side hitter was decent, but he was matched up against the other team's two strongest players on blocks. He got a weak spike off, and then got blocked on the next volley. I was seething with unusual rage. I made eye contact with our setter when she looked my way and half-hissed, half-growled "Feed me!"

I was embarrassed, quite honestly--here I am trying to make a good impression on this team, and I'm growling at our setter. The words came out before I could stop them. (I'm lucky a certain 5-letter word didn't follow; thank you, conservative upbringing!). I tried to correct myself by making a plaintive head nod towards my opponent on the other side of the net. It was the guy with the glasses. She set me the next two times, I scored, and we won.

Why did I tell this story? (It's not because intermediate volleyball is so fascinating, promise). Because it taught me a lesson. Whenever a Terrell Owens, Dwight Howard, or Shaq pops off in the media about wanting the ball more, I used to scoff. "Ooh, what a baby! Work hard and stop talking, and you'll get the rock!"But then I think of that game on Sunday...and how I was utterly helpless to take advantage of my matchup. My hopes for helping our team were completely on the shoulders of our short setter. I could jump out of the gym and be 7'0", but it made NO difference unless she decided she wanted to set me. I felt powerless. And I realized that it's exactly how a big strong guy like Shaq or TO must feel when their fate is in the hands of a short guard or scrawny QB. Next time some wide receiver or center complains about not getting the ball enough, I'm keeping my mouth shut. I've learned my lesson.