Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ain't this just Super for New Orleans?

I had expected to get a call Sunday night from at least one of my good friends.

Some kind of friends, eh?

You see, I knew they were in New Orleans, hopping from jazz club to jazz club in the French Quarter. They were there, in the heart of Saints country, enjoying the Super Bowl on television; they were hoping, praying and cheering for not just a team but for a city.

For if any city in America deserved to win a Super Bowl, if any city deserved to celebrate living, to turn its attention away from a decade of heartache, disaster and despair, hard-luck New Orleans would be that U.S. city.

The place has had its share of disappointment -- more than its share, actually. Can any big city claim the kind of hardships that had visited this port city in the past decade? The place almost lost what had been its signature: the ability to party like it's 1999.

How do you party in the face of so much despair, though? Is it unholy to look at life in this peculiar Southern city and not mourn its struggles?

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Arenas one star worthy of our forgiveness

    You can find no quick truths to a man's contrition. Take Gilbert Arenas, for example. Arenas wrote a column in The Washington Post decrying the stupidity of his brandishing handguns, as if he were Wyatt Earp, in a place where Glocks and .44 Magnums didn't belong.


    His essay was a compelling piece of prose, words worthy of a man who knew his behavior was outside the lines.

    "I understand the importance of teaching nonviolence to kids in today's world," Arenas wrote an op-ed piece for The Post. "Guns and violence are serious problems, not joking matters -- a lesson that's been brought home to me over the past few weeks."

    From his words, he sounds as if he understands his civic failings, though who can be certain. I mean, what Gilbert Arenas wrote might just be another one of those SportsCenter moments that athletes are fond of.

    For we've seen apologizes aplenty from high-profile athletes - from men like Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Donte Stallworth, Michael Vick, and we all know that, at some point, we will see Tiger Woods producing his camera-ready moment. It will, of course, come with the appropriate tears and the maudlin words penned by Tiger's agent to give humanity to his client's serial infidelity.

    But Tiger and Tyson and none of the other athletes gone wild are what interest me this day. Besides, a few of them have already fallen on their swords in hopes of being forgiven. I'm sure some people have forgiven, knowing that nobody's life is absent flaws.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fade into the sunset Favre, fade into ...

His act has long ago worn on people's nerves.


The waiting: the months and months of waiting.

The wondering: What will Brett Favre do now?

Favre's answer came quickly, if you can call it an answer. Favre, the feckless star with the golden arm who serves more waffles than IHOP, said he's "highly unlikely" to return next season.

And we're all supposed to believe him, right?

Maybe those who haven't followed Favre closely might find credibility in things he says. The rest of us, well ... we should know better. For Favre is a man who can't make up his mind, and his indecisiveness has ruined the chemistry on teams he's played for.

At some point, NFL coaches have to believe they've squeezed everything they can get out of Favre's arm, and he's given them and the NFL everything he has to give. He's set more records than any player who has ever lined up under center. He's won games everywhere he's gone, playing so well that no one can argue he's not destined for the NFL Hall of Fame -- first ballot, too.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Under the radar: Colts coach fine being there

I see Colts coach Jim Caldwell as the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL coaching fraternity, but the slights that Caldwell has had to endure almost make the late comic seem LeBron James-like in the acclaim his work got.

Caldwell should be as fortunate. For it's hard to find a Super Bowl coach who has had a lower profile than his.

Under the radar?

Caldwell is like a stealth bomber; he doesn't make a blip on the radar. When his profile does show up on the screen, it will be the first time it does.

Get respect?

Caldwell was probably the person Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul," had in mind when singing her signature hit about "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

LeBron's decision: Slam door on dunk contest

It was a thought too luscious to consider. It was something you had longed for -- dreamed about, really -- hoping it was more than words floating in the air like the aroma of fresh peach cobbler.

You wanted to believe more than disbelieve, and LeBron James had left much for basketball fans to discuss: In or out, who could say for sure?

He had dropped hints that he might be "in." Yes, LeBron had weighed putting his name into the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, an All-Star Game sideshow that used to be cooler than the game itself.

But its cool factor has taken a beating in recent seasons. The contest is akin now to pay phones in an IPhone era. For gone are the days when Dominique Wilkins, Larry Nance, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Air Jordan himself - the highest of the high flyers -- signed up for the slam-fest.

The contest needed a big name to revive interest in it, and no name in the NBA is bigger these days than LeBron's. Of course, having Kobe back would have heightened interest in the contest as well, but Kobe had done his turn. He won the contest in '97 when it was played in Cleveland, LeBron's town.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reclusive McGwire should stay in hiding

The invisible man has reappeared. He's back in baseball, back where he always belonged, back where he had made a name for himself - a name tarnished now, though.

His return was preordained -- really. Few men with high profiles walk away from the game and leave it in their rearview mirror. And Mark McGwire was hardly different. He was a star, after all; stars can't live without the attention and the adulation that stardom brings.

And not many athletes were as famous as Mark McGwire. Not many men are as infamous as Mark McGwire either.

What fame he had has long since eroded, washed away in a flood of allegations about his use of steroids.

His assault on Roger Maris' record for homers during the summer of 1998 riveted the sports world. He and Sammy Sosa, a partner in the chase, were nightly fixtures on sports shows.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

U.S. vs. Japan: Can Bud make this idea work?

Even the empty-headed can sometimes find the smarts to take ownership of a good idea now and then, and that applies to the most know-nothing executive in the history of team sports. For Bud Selig is to intelligent leadership what Tiger Woods is to fidelity or what Bernie Madoff is to wise investing.

But the baseball tsar -- His Royal Budness -- has hit a home run with his interest in taking the sport to global heights it hasn't reached before. Selig has held talks with Ryozo Kato, commissioner of the Nippon Professional League, about a real World Series: the best team in the United States against the best team in Japan.

Not that the idea was Selig's. How could a fresh idea come from a mind that hasn't had one since the turn of the 1600s? Yet Selig deserves a tip of the ballcap for recognizing a good idea when he sees it.

And this is a good idea whose time has come: the Major Leagues vs. the Japanese League for a"world" championship.

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