Tag Archives: San Antonio Spurs

NFL17 Pre-Play: Triumvirate Intact, Patriots Grip On Power Remains Firm

1 Jun

Hail the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft!

Never in the history of sport has a tightly-woven triad of money (owner), brain (coach) & brawn (player) so effectively organized and implemented an operation of success over such a long period of time and with so little apparent friction as have these three, compatible personalities.

Historically, the triumvirate has shown mixed results.

The ancient Romans, building blocks to Western civilization, triumvirated a couple of times (Caesar – Crassus – Pompey 60 BC / Antony – Octavian – Lepidus 43BC), without much claim to victory, save brief respites from war.

Jumping forward to the North American pro sport scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find the same owner, coach (mgr) and top player remaining together winning titles for anywhere near as long as the Foxborough Three have been doing it.

There were the Habs (1944-79), Yanks (1923-62), Celtics & Lakers, dynasties we’ve been talking about for generations but none a triumvirate of top-level talent staying intact for as prolonged a period as these Patriots powerbrokers.

There were the Lombardi – Green Bay teams where ownership (EC – BoD), coach and key offensive player in Bart Starr, the way under-rated Bart Starr, won lots o’ titles but in a much more concentrated timeline (1961 – 68). Condensed greatness is potent (70s Steelers / 80s 49ers) and terrific in its own way but not of the championship continuum on topic here and special too itself.

It’s in the NBA where is found the only real comparison to the Patriots trio-of-time-tested-title-takers, that being the San Antonio Spurs.

The trifecta of Peoria native and current owner Peter Holt (1993), coach Gregg Popovich (1996 >) and recently retired center and championship nexus in Tim Duncan (1997-16) garnered five NBA titles (’99, 03, 05, 07, 14) in sixteen seasons, though never back-to-back (NE: 04-05), requisite for the dynasty.

But that was then, this is now, and wow, the Foxborough Three are defending NFL champions again after their Swing Time SB51 OT win over the ‘gotta’ still be stunned’ Falcons, having made the grade even as their starry starter in Brady had to sit the first four on his Deflategate susp’n. The red, white & blue bunch have been setting and maintaining a standard of sport excellence unlikely to be matched for a long, long time. Never say never, right?

Detractors will bemoan, ‘Hey dingdong, don’t forget Spygate, you fool!’ Always class-acts, and never redundant, the bemoaner boys. Rules violations are wrong, some even bad, i.e., failing to cooperate with an investigation (destroying a phone). But the general public, those with no serious rivalry axe-to-grind or having little interest in promoting their own brand of team who seek ’The Greatest’ award (Cowboys, Steelers, Packers, 49ers), just won’t be too bothered by black-marks on a team’s historical ledger that involve spying or stretching of the rules, outside game-fixing and PEDs. Spys have helped us win wars. A bit off-track here but that’s how the more rationally-minded fan will think.

Can they keep it going? Not forever, they can‘t, as hard as that is to imagine in 2017. Someday Tom will hang up his cleats, Bill hand in his headset one last time and Rob just won’t care anymore. All three have accomplished just about everything they can in the business of football, personally and as a team.

With Tom and Bill both having set the new standard in SB tandem wins with five and the team having set the record for Super Bowl appearances last February in Houston with their ninth (9) (5-4) (Pitt – Dallas – Denver all at eight (8)), about the only achievement unattained is to match and then surpass the Steelers league leading six (6) victories in the Big Game.

But as long as Brady stays healthy and the Foxborough Triumvirate keeps itself amused, an NFL bound to get more amusing, and lengthy, if not better, with Raja Goodell’s kow-tow in relaxing celebration rules, Pats should keep winning.

If you’re expecting to read here roster depth-chart chatter, draft break-downs and musings on New England’s 2017 schedule, forget it. Trust, in Belichick & Company’s judgment and future performance, has never been more earned.

Besides, who’s gonna’ stop ‘em? Anyone in the AFC?

Ben’s a trooper but needs sideline help; Denver & Houston have D but the Os are iffy; Colts & Titans have Os but Ds are doubtful; Raiders Las Vegas engagement came at a bad time for a still maturing Carr; Harbaugh & Flacco know how but is owner listening; KC will play out the string with Reid & Smith; Miami has a good QB in Tannehill but no good game-plan and Cincy, well, they’re Cincy.

In the weaker NFC the Cards turned conundrum; Wilson has D but needs a plan from Pete, not protest (CK); Rodgers needs a run-buddy and a D; Saints showed spunk late; Bucs are rising; Cats didn’t claw back in 2016; Eli is locked-in (‘20); Cousins may’ve peaked and that leaves Atlanta who need to shake off the shame.

Maybe it’s like those other eras with one, or two, dominant clubs, Pack in the 60s, Pitt – Dallas in 70s, 49ers in the 80s: Until the big dog (NE) loses its bite, everyone keeps focusing on the leader of the pack, tripping over their tail at the worst possible times. Course, having a defense that can close the deal is key, its absence to continue to be the biggest issue for most teams in 2017.

But in every NFL season there is the unexpected, that turnaround team where everything begins to click (Falcons / Raiders 2016-17), or sustained success sprouts from where no special tillage had been undertaken (Dallas draft).

As long as Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain together in good spirits and keep “calm(ing) the envious spirit” in those sporadic challenges to their predominance, efforts that will require a charmed season aided in no small part by a capricious Sporting God set (See; Carolina ‘15 – Dallas ‘16), this 21st century will remain the Patriots Period, period.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, wc.cca, Ixnay-Beao; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, US-Department-of-State, 4.25.15; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; W.Wood, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 6.1.17 @ 2:13p EST, edit 6.26; Copyright © 2017

Tim Duncan: Spurs ‘Peerless Leader’ In the Paint

31 Mar

Roundball Recovery Act

They were giants of the sporting world, names like George Mikan, Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Wilt the Stilt, Truck, Moses, The Enforcer, Mr. Mean, the Big O, the Big E and the Big Redhead.

Basketball’s leviathans in the low post.

Fans thrilled at their combination of size, strength and agility. The battles they waged under the boards defined the National Basketball Association and made sport headlines for over 50 years.

But change is the constant in a consumer democracy.

The Chuck Taylor high-tops and short-shorts are long gone, replaced with hideous foot-wear and a plethora of prison-yard tattoos. Historic but cramped old arenas gave-way to bigger & brighter venues with better seats, paint-happy hardwood and $14.50 nachos.

And no change has been greater than disappearance of the inside game. In particular, the demise of the dominant center and power-forward.

....Duncan.CC-BY-2.0.wc.12.05.thmDifferent from women’s basketball where the tall pivot player still has a place, the menacing man in the middle has become an endangered species.

Since the days Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donned the Lakers’ royal regalia you could count on two hands the number of big men who’ve dominated down low: Robert Parish, Larry Bird, Kev McHale, Bill Laimbeer, Shaq, Magic, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard nearly fill out a very short list.

The culprit: NBA’s adoption of the 3-point shot.

The National was sitting pretty in the late 70s. In a State-sponsored legal structure that today embraces monopoly, the Assc’n siphoned what liquidity was left in it’s only competitor, the 10-year old ABA (‘67-76)), negotiated lucrative TV / merchandise deals but then started to get cute in the marketing department.

In 1979 they reached into their former rival’s bag of tricks (the ABA employed the dunk and the tres in 1968 “as marketing tool(s) to compete with the NBA (Wikipedia)”) and pulled out the three-point shot to prime the pump.

And b-ball’s never been the same.

There had been a symmetry, a yin & yang that worked a balance in roundball.

....Cowens.wc.1976.TSN.thm.R.KingsburyFans were treated to two theaters of play: one inside where bruisers like Thurmond, Dantley, Unseld, Reed, Walton, Lanier, Cowens, Maurice Lucas, Gilmore and Issel waged war; the other, out on the key where long-rangers David Thompson, West, Bing, Frazier, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, George “Iceman” Gervin, Brian Winters, James Worthy and Vinnie “Microwave” Johnson could heat up in a hurry. And then marvelous middle-men like Bobby Dandridge, Marcus Johnson and Bobby Jones who could seemingly do it all. A veritable smorgasbord of spectacular.

As long as both theaters had direction there was a symbiosis and the houses were packed. No need to bait with famble (fantasy – gamble), no talk of tank and the game flourished for all ages.

By the mid-90s the physical, combative play which had made the sport so colorful simply vanished. Centers and power forwards devolved into mere supporting cast. Much of the action moved away from the paint and out to the key where guards and wannabes directed the flow and became the stars.

The spotlight swung away from bangers and over to finesse men like Erving and Jordan as the 3-pointer and un-contested dunk became signature plays.

As most NBA rookies are today on the 3-yr maturation plan they’ll not develop the wide range of skills that stylers like Dr. J and Michael would eventually learn.

“You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle (Seinfeld).”

.....Durant.thm.OKC.K.Allison.2.1.14.wcThey don’t sell the game anymore, they sell celebrity, air-time (TV / Twitter), gambling (FanDuel / DraftKings) and merchandise (cantaloupe-sized driver heads and wicked metal bats in Little League (Outside the Lines (Disney); 3.1.11)). If it generates a revenue stream then history, integrity, quality and sometimes safety it would appear, get swept aside until uproar begins.

When big-shots like Kev Love (6’10) and Kev Durant (6’9) spend half their time on the perimeter, averaging around 400 three’s per season, you know the game’s gone soft. Both should live inside 15 feet. Instead, recent seasons have seen a steady up-tick in their 3PAs, surprising, given the fine shooting touch both possess when not launching long ones (FG%: .444 (.360) / .483 (.380)).

Prime example of a tamer NBA: In a 2012 post-season game between the Lakers and Thunder (G2), with 6 ticks left and down by just one, rather than design a drive to the hoop for two, maybe draw the foul for three and even on a 2-pt miss, possessing good rebound capability (Gasol / Bynum), coach Mike Brown opts for the low-% 3-pt’er that Steve Blake rims out. Both got lambasted post-game but what the Lakers did was SOP in today’s basketball.

There are men who keep alive dynamic play in the paint like Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Kev Love (imagine if he‘d forget the tres), DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond and forward Blake Griffin: A dying breed.

.....Chance.1913.Bain-News.LoC.thmClosing in on 40 (4.25.76), the former Demon Deacon (See Also; Chris Paul) and U.S. Virgin Islands native has seen his scoring average dip under double-digits (8.5) and minutes below the 25 mark (24.9 (55g)) for first time in his illustrious 19-year NBA career. But like the original “Peerless Leader” in Cubs’ champion Mgr/ 1B’er Frank “Husk” Chance (1898 – 1914), the savvy & strength Duncan imbues in his Spurs team down the stretch, a roster with no shortage of experience in fellow gray-beards in Tony Parker (14), Manu Ginobili (13), Andre Miller (16), Kev Martin (11), David West (12), Matt Bonner (11) and Boris Diaw (11), may make-up for the decline in mobility & capacity that father time always exacts from the athlete who loves the game and goes long.

For the 3-pointer, it’s time it was bounced outta’ the building. Send it, along with dunk contests and home run derby back to Cartoon Country, i.e., Saturday morning TV. That’s not likely to happen but seeing as how the youthenized NBA has no use for the balanced game, maybe a new adult pro league would. Then watch the roundball renaissance begin.

Don’t ever forget this pointer: It’s their business but it’s our game.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: T.Duncan, wc, M.Sandoval, 1.28.07; Duncan, 12.05, CC-BY-2.0, wc; D.Cowens, 1976, TSN, R.Kingsbury, wc; K.Durant, wc, OKC, K.Allison, 2.1.14; F.Chance, wc, Bain-News, 1913, LoC; Straight-Shooter-produce label.
Posted: 3.31.16 @ 5;16pmEST; Copyright © 2016

NBA15 Tip-Off: Top Storylines

29 Sep

“An old Indian game. It’s called put-the-ball-in-the-hole (“R.P. McMurphy“ to “Chief (One Flew Over the Cuckoo‘s Nest (’75))).”

* * * *

NBA 2015-16 is about to take the court.

Camps have opened with pre-season play beginning on October 2nd. The regular season is slated for tip-off at month’s end (27th). The opening act is a cross-country twin-bill pitting last season’s Finalists against a pair of playoff opponents, both with new head coaches.

The reigning champ Warriors get to unfurl their championship banner in hosting 1st-Rd foe New Orleans (0-4 (Alvin Gentry)), while the Cavaliers head due West to face the Chicago Bulls (Fred Hoiberg) at the banner-filled United Center.

1) Golden State Warriors

You can’t pen a piece about an upcoming season without first giving the champs their due. It’s made easy by the fact that the Warriors are expected by many to get back into the Finals, given the woeful competition and barring the dreaded injury influenza.

What 1st-year head coach Kerr and team accomplished still feels a bit fantastic.

His court leader in guard Steve Curry took regular season MVP honors and became the first 3-point specialist to lead his team to a title. All pretty special stuff that must’ve left victory parade participants Al Attles (coach) and Rick Berry (superstar) beaming with pride (’75 NBA title).

But a smoother roadway to title-town hath never been paved.

The Warriors breezed by the Pelicans (R1 4-0), did get tested by Memphis (4-2 (R2)) but then swept hot-house orchids Atlanta (4-0) and faced a Finals opponent in the Cavaliers who were without their #2 in Kev Love and hobbled elsewhere. LeBron James is special but he ain’t that special. Even Magic (Jabbar-Cooper-Wilkes-Worthy) and Larry (Parish-DJ-Maxwell-McHale) needed their buds.

2) Cleveland Cavaliers

Love re-signed in the off-season. What else do you need to know, except that LeBron James (2y ext’sn) is, if not giddy with optimism, fairly content with State of Cavalier-land and should fully expect a return visit to the Finals next May.

Mr. Blatt was a little shaky in the playoffs (“Not alot you can do (Curry)”), but then Eric Spoelstra came under frequent fire before guiding the Heat to a couple of O’Briens. And the East is pretty barren of serious contenders these days, the West not much better. That points to a quality of competition issue that was in all likelihood absent from everyone’s agenda this off-season. And that’s a shame.

3) Kobe Bryant

He’s denied having decided this’ll be his last run as a player, in opposite of GM Kupchak‘s public musings. Instead, Bryant speaks of a personal renaissance (“rebirth“). He did live in Italy. But Kobe’s body may have more to say about the decision than does his desire. And then planning on a final season absent formal annoucement may simply be his way of forgoing what he and many fans disdain, that being the “farewell tour,” aka, attendance-enhancer & memorabilia-booster.

Like the pantheon of pinstripers populating the long, mostly successful history of the Yankees, Kobe’s been a part of a similar near unbroken chain of great Lakers links since big George Mikan (d.‘05) and “Kangaroo Kid” Jim Pollard (d.‘93) were filling the peach-basket (it was steel rimmed) in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Some nicknames have surfaced over the 19 seasons he pounded NBA hardwood after enlisting straight from high school (Lower Merion, Ardmore, PA (‘96 R1-13 (Hornets-to-Lakers)), “Black Mamba” being the oddest. But like Wilt, Yogi & Cher, the worldly lad from Philly has always been known by one name, Kobe.

Suffice to say Bryant has scored lots o’ points and garned plenty o’ personal hardware in his long NBA tenure (MVP, All-Star, etc.), but it’s the title haul (5), equaling 80s Showtime, that will define his b-ball legacy.

To his character, well, let’s just say the sexual assault arrest (‘03), then case dismissal (‘04), a Bryant apology (sans admission of guilt) and final civil settlement, will likely afford the Lakers great the privilege of not having a statue erected outside Staples Center (x6) in his honor. Then again, these decisions aren’t cast in stone: 2030?

4) Spurs Forever?

There’s been discussion recently as to whether or not the Gregg Popovich Spurs have constituted a true dynasty. My initial view was that five titles in sixteen seasons was qualification aplenty and denial of such was stingy (P.Jackson).

Thinking more on it, a reflection triggered by the baseball Giants failure to once again defend their World Series or even Pennant titles, I’ve come to the belief that San Antonio’s inability to win back-to-backs or even get back to a Finals the season following a championship may very well disqualify them of the dynasty tag. No big whoop.

What owner Peter Holt (‘93) and his Spurs have accomplished since they took their first title in ‘98-99 may be more significant than achieving the dynasty thing: a space-time continuum (Poe). Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but weighty matters seldom do.

The core for 4 of the 5 O’Briens, Tim Duncan (C), Tony Parker (PG) and Manu Ginobili (G), all return for one more season as the Argentinian hints this one will be his last. When any of the three exit it won’t be long before the others follow.

Can the Spurs hold form and fashion one more title run in this staggered 2015-16 season? The infusion of more young talent with the vets didn’t take them too far last spring, bowing out to the Clippers in R1. But the door to title-town is wide open in this NBA and the humble Spurs seem to never stop learning.

5) Commissioner Adam Silver

Commissioners rarely rank high on those most-admired lists. Making money for the owners (and college Presidents), presiding over draft events and dolling out player punishment is what they devote majority of their time. Rarely, one will take the job to heart and go beyond the money rake (Landis / Giamatti (MLB)).

But don’t include Mr. Adam Silver in that select group. The name is apropos.

What can you say that’s inspirational about a point-man Silver who seeks to co-mingle gambling with sport (“good for business”) and handled the sad, multi-sided Sterling matter with all the finesse and courage of a corporate raider? He’s a media darling?

It can’t be an easy job, Commissioner of a major sport. But some leaders are more suited to the task than others who have no more love for the game than the politician who dons whatever ball-cap the campaign whistle-stop dictates.

Bold moves like paring down of an excess of franchises that might pump life’s blood in quality of competition back into the sport, and elimination of gimmickry like the 3-pointer (ABA) that’s destroyed b-ball’s dichotomy, could work wonders for a popularity of that’s ebbing at lowest in decades. Odds on that: 1000 to 1.

6) Team Potentiality

Before the 2015 Conference finals, if you asked me to name-off teams likely to contend for next season’s showcase venues, I’d have included the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks with no hesitation. That was four months and “a 1000 years ago.”

Both front-runners flamed-out in their respective CFs, winning one measly game between ’em both (4-0 (ATL v CLE) / 4-1 (HOU v GSW)).

While the Grizzlies and Clippers didn‘t advance as far in 2015 post-season play, both showed something to build upon. Los Angeles’ addition of wily vet Paul Pierce may be the binding-agent they truly need to become a cohesive crew.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: S.Curry, wc.cca, 2.24.15, K.Allison.
Posted: 9.29.15 @ 2:18pm EST; Copyright ® 2015

Homer or Hater, History Will Love These Patriots

4 Feb

Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” Gen. George S. Patton (’43), as portrayed by George C. Scott (“Patton (’70)”).

Things were alot clearer back in 1943, not always better, just more clear.

..............Brady.10.11.09.wc.J.Beall.thmb

What’s clear today is that America “love(s)” the New England Patriots, winners of Super Bowl 49 over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks (28-24). They just don’t know it yet. Too many in too high (& low) places too busy tearing ’em down (Deflategate).

But this is just what the doctor ordered for what ails the Patriots and the NFL.

And you can also chalk one up for passer-QB who looked to be on his last legs.

Patriots’ five-star field-general Tom Brady threw for four TDs, set a Super record for completions (37 / 50) and joined 49ers QB Joe Montana as only players to take the MVP trophy three times. Had Seattle not gone from “boom“ to bust, linebacker Bobby Wagner (10t / 2a / INT) might’ve been only the 4th middle-man defender to claim the award and follow teammate Malcolm Smith, the ’14 recipient.

A Seahawks victory would’ve heralded a new era in the NFL, one where manager-QB, i.e., Russ Wilson, Joe Flacco, displaces the 5000-yd passer as top dog.

It didn’t happen, but it’s coming.

..............Brady.11.8.09.P.Keleher.thmb.pocketpasser

It’s just a matter of time before pass-machines like Brady, Peyton & Eli, Rodgers, Romo, Brees, Ryan, Rivers, Cutler, Stafford and their ilk ride off into the sunset with not many of their set waiting in the wings.

We saw the writing on the wall last year in SB48 when Hawks demolished Denver (43-8) in what seemed to’ve been the final, major chapter in the great Peyton Manning story.

And with run-QB dominating the college scene so certainly that a third-stringer can come off the bench and run his team to a title (OSU’s Jones), the patent pro-passer is soon to become, if not a dying, a very rare breed, indeed.

But rather than “ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive” and bask in the glow of an NFL standard-bearer‘s success, the cherry topic has been hijacked once again by those who would scandalize & deconstruct a great game, choosing instead to pile-on Seattle’s proven head coach Pete Carroll as a means to second-guess & scapegoat the pain away.

...........P.Carroll.wc.cca.12.29.13.M.Morris.thumb

Apart from a minor melee in the game’s waning moments as Seattle saw it slip away, Super Bowl 49 was a truly splendid showcase, a back n’ forth barnburner, decided only in the final minute when Seahawks QB Russ Wilson, 2nd & goal w/seconds left, tossed an errant pass through hands of Ricardo Lockette to be intercepted by johnny-on-the-spot safety Malcolm “blessed” Butler to clinch it for New England.

If you buy the blowhard line, Carroll blew the game in play-call.

And if that sounds familiar, it should.

It was just a few weeks back when Packers’ Super coach Mike McCarthy had his reputation drug through mud by similarly thin-skinned malcontents (See; NFCT15 ‘Cheese-Melt’).

The complaint: ‘Hawks should’ve run Marshawn Lynch (24 / 102y) for go-ahead TD rather than a pass play. This skewed thinking, even as Lynch got stymied at the 1 on prior play and the grapevine holds that ML had been less-than reliable in his five, 1-yd goal-line run attempts in ‘14 (1-5).

..........R.Wilson.wc.cca.11.11.12.L.Maurer.thumb

Most football folk know all too well that one-yard away from pay-dirt can play like one-mile through hell against a determined defense. It helps explain why the pass play, even with a capable run-threat, has been preferred goal-line call since Don Coryell (STL) brought Sid Gilman’s (SD / AFL) wide-open pass-attack to the NFL in early 70s.

NBC announcers Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth must shoulder most the blame for igniting the flame of discontent on the play call, and then fanning it.

Like two compulsive school-boys, these two veterans of TV broadcast put Pete Carroll & staff right, smack dab in the cross-hairs of pointed & petulant criticism.

Al: “Amaaaazing.”
Chris: “I’m sorry, but I can’t believe the call.”
Al: “Me, neither.”
Chris: “I can’t believe the call…I cannot believe the call…a guy (Lynch) that’s been border-line unstoppable this part of the field (wrong)…I can‘t believe the call.”

Run vs pass debate is as trivial as it gets in post-game analysis. Paper vs plastic but not near as practical. ‘Bag it and move on’ is the preferred choice of most.

......NFL.wikiproject.6kb

What‘s most curious in all the mealy-mouthed, Monday morning criticism of the Hawks’ brain-trust was how Seattle supporters, bandwagon-variety, no doubt, are cannibalizing their mastermind in Carroll, architect of the Seahawks championship rise to power.

Wilson is championship-caliber, that’s in the book, but he’s clearly still learning the finer points of his trade, like finding his target’s bread-basket or calling post-snap audibles.

As for Lockette, had he brought his gripper hands we might’ve had “Simultaneous Catch-gate,” Part II (See; GB-SEA ’12).” That would’ve been a hoot.

But there’s been a slight shift in mood by Tuesday.

..............Patriots.wordmark.60-92.wc.cca.thmb

Fans and reasonable (media) minds are starting to tire of the finger-pointing and Seattle whine, reminiscent of the Wisconsin vintage in 2012 (“Simultaneous Catch”) a particularly bitter blend. Ugh.

In the investigative state, Deflategate has already worked to add more unwashable tarnish (Spygate) onto Patriots legacy trophy, regardless of the League‘s final finding.

But even if the NFL finds a failure-in-standard (psi low) constituted a violative act with intent to gain an unfair advantage, a string of determinations hard to fathom at this point, such a wrong, given SB49’s result and likelihood that every player has, on occasion, converted a shenanigan into gamesmanship, will not place very high on most folks’ totem pole of misdeeds, the outraged Mark Brunell sect, notwithstanding.

..............Pats.SBtrophies.10.05.wc.cca.thmb.pkeleher

On the tsk-tsk templar, with top spot constituting highest degree of culpability (violent crimes, game fixing & PEDs), lowest eliciting a stern finger-wag (taunting), deflation of game balls rides below cheap shots and just above faux crowd noise (ATL).

When historians compile & catalog events of time to rank NFL’s greatest teams, most are guided by comparative viewpoints informed in logic & fact, weeding out extremes, those mindsets captured by contemporaneous bias / prejudice, i.e., haters & hangers-on.

..............P.Brown.wc.Bowman.52.thmb

The Lombardi (60s) & Lambeau (20-40s) Packers, Walsh-Seifert 49ers (80-90s), Brown’s Clevelanders (40-50s), Noll’s Steelers (70s), Halas’ Bears (40s) and whomever Chamberlin coached (Canton / Frankford), are indisputably top-tier. These are the teams that birthed the dynasty tag. No doubts.

The 2nd-tier might include Steve Owen’s Giants (30s-40s), Landry’s (70s) and Johnson-Switzer Cowboys (90s).

Third-tier: Shula Dolphins (72-74), Parker-Wilson Lions (50s), J.L. Howell’s Giants (50s), Ewbank Colts (50s), Neale Eagles (40s) and Shanahan Broncos (98-99), with some subjectivity in play.

And where will the Belichick-Brady Patriots end up in the pantheon of greats?

...............Belichick.8.28.09.wc.cca.K.Allison.thumb

Even with some tarnish, they’re clearly well-positioned to join the elite, given the titles (4), SB showings and, like their b-ball peers, San Antonio Spurs, their unprecedented longevity in success. They could find themselves in with the cream of the crop (top tier) once Tom hangs up his cleats and Bill turns in his head-set, which could be years away.

But this week, the Patriots are big winners and the whiners merely bottom-feeders in need of a good, firm (figurative) slap.

The General would’ve agreed.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credits: T.Brady, wc.cca, A.Campbell, 9.14.14; T.Brady, wc.cca, 10.11.09, J.Beall; Patriots pocket, wc.cca, P.Keleher, 11.8.09; P.Carroll, 12.29.13, wc.cca, M.Morris; R.Wilson, 11.11.12, L.Maurer, wc.cca; NFL wikiproject; Patriots wordmark, wc.cca, 60-92; NE Patriots SB trophies, 10.05, P.Keleher, wc.cca; P.Brown, wc.cca, Bowman, 1952; B.Belichick, wc.cca, 8.28.09, K.Allison.
Posted: 2.4.15 @ 12:45pm; edit 5:11; 2.5 @ 1:07am; 2.6 @ 12:29pm EST

Spur-ring Change in an ESPN World

17 Aug

Earlier this month the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs took “one small step for (woman)” when they announced the hiring of the first female game coach in Association history in the person of Becky Hammon, a long time WNBA guard who is currently rostered on Spurs sister organization, the San Antonio Stars.

Side-bar: Sisters in step have to include 2014 Little League World Series ball-players Emma March (VAN) and Mo‘Ne Davis (PHI) who’re leaving their own imprints on the surface of Planet Equality.

Hammon will not be the first woman assistant coach in NBA history. That honor belongs to Lisa Boyer who worked as a Cavaliers practice coach in 2001-02 under John Lucas but was paid by the now defunct WNBA franchise Cleveland Rockers (1997 – 03).

Reigning NBA championship guru, Gregg Popovich, had this to say on the hire:

I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs (NBA.com / “Spurs / 8-5-14).”

......B.Hammon.wc.cca.5.09.P.Shilikov.1.2m

It remains to be shown this writer, however, if in fact Becky will actually be on Spurs’ payroll or instead compensated indirectly as was Ms. Boyer back in 2001 (“terms of the (Hammon) contract were not announced,” as is “club policy” / “Spurs” / NBA.com).

One would guess the Spurs go all in and make BH an official NBA coach upon conclusion of this WNBA season, her last, and then buckling-on her spurs for duty.

Side-bar sequel: Bear in mind Spencer Tracy’s (Drummond: Inherit the Wind (‘60)): “Progress was never a bargain, you have to pay for it.” Will more girls rising to higher levels of play simply mean more youngsters will feel pressured into using PEDs?

But while San Antonio and NBA look to’ve taken a step forward for gender equality, Disney’s sport media arm ESPN, the self-anointed “worldwide leader” in all things athletic, seem to have taken “one giant leap (backward) for mankind” when they recently opted for suspention (suspension + vacation) of their acerbic & self-satisfied First Take co-host, Stephen Smith, rather than outright dismissal, after Smith made dicey dialogue in wake of the NFL’s suspension of troubled Ravens’ run-back, Ray Rice.

......R.Rice.wc.cca.8.17.10.USAF-SS.B.Hughes.1.36m

The general Rice facts:

The Ravens’ star and then girlfriend Janay Palmer were both arrested in February for a disturbance at an Atlantic City hotel. The event occurred in an elevator where, upon exit, Rice was seen on video pulling Palmer, apparently out cold, into the hallway. Rice was charged with 3° aggravated assault. The next day both were married. In May, he entered a not guilty plea seeking entrance into a State “pretrial intervention program” or in alternative, a plea bargain requiring A/M counseling (“Ray” / NFL.com (AP) / 5-1-14).

In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the League’s punishment: a two-game suspension for Rice to start the 2014-15 season.

What exactly transpired in the elevator has not been made public and Rice is not talking, or, as ESPN’s Keith Olbermann has put it, Ray has not “owned up.”

The fact Rice was initially arrested, then indicted (GJ) in what looks to be an absence of mitigating facts that Palmer’s prone state was internally or drug induced, leaves only one reasonable assumption: she was victim of a serious, physical blow by the accused.

.......R.Goodell.8.30.12.wc.cca.2.9m.SSG.T.Wade.USMA

Goodell’s taken flak for what some see as serving up ‘punishment light’ in the Rice case, and that on top of what could seem to the casual observer as a kid-gloved prosecution.

I was in that camp myself early on, disappointed in what appeared a lack of leadership by Atlantic County prosecutor and NFL headquarters both. But I’ve come around.

When a party (Palmer) appears to have little or no desire to see the system of justice carried to its fullest extent, stronger evidence is wanting, the other party (Rice) is 1st time offender and precedent looms, ‘book throwing’ is out of the question . That’s this.

And keep in mind too that Goodell is hardly lacking in the wherewithal department when it comes to punishing wrongdoers, as Bountygate and Bullygate suspensions attested.

While my heart says Ray got off easy, the brain says Goodell’s 2-game ban was prudent.

But curiously, prudence proves a poor substitute where public perception demands more.

In the public’s eyes, League’s response to Rice speaks to a woeful lack of concern on the issue of domestic violence against women. Due to that perception, right or wrong as it is, NFL’s hard-on-the-eyes, pink-wear campaign, designed to aid fight versus breast cancer, with a welcome up-tick in female fandom, could experience a consumer backlash.

NFL’s actions on Rice are somewhat shaped by precedent, not so, for ESPN.

State crime codes, along w/ ancient mores & norms, provide that a person is permitted, even encouraged, to defend themselves or others in close proximity if under a physical threat that’s imminent, unavoidable (locales vary on retreat), presents threat of bodily harm and the force used is reasonable & necessary to repeal the threat.

Might such a defense be what Mr. Rice claimed: a physical force used on Palmer in the elevator was justifiable?

And this is where Mr. Smith’s comment red-flags.

On ESPN, Stephen used the word “provoke” to describe how generally, one (Palmer?) may help to bring about a physical retort by their own behavior. The concept self-defense would’ve sufficed there, but then, what self-respecting macho man wants to publicly admit to such a need in the presence of a woman?

Putting aside cheap word games, the question of force reasonably necessary arises.

A punch, slap, physical aggression from any adult, whichever gender, can be hurtful, even deadly serious. America’s female correctional facilities do not lack for residents.

But Ray Rice has thighs the size of tree trunks, arms as big as logs, and twice as fast.

That he appeared no worse for wear in video, albeit, not the clearest imagery, while Janay was laid-out prone on the hotel carpet, strongly suggests Rice was either the aggressor or at least exceeded his grant in S/D, or “provok(ery),” if you prefer.

.......S.Smith.wc.cca.7.31.10.Diversity1.101k

Smith is more than simply a TV commentator, he’s a network motif.

Beginning around 2012, the CT-based media giant swung to a different tack.

Stephen became the mid-day face of the new ESPN, a hip-hop happening network where everyone’s touchin’ screen, movin’ & groovin,’ but where at times you may feel you’re inside a big cocktail shaker: one part Ketel One® vodka, other, Real Housewives.

Then there’s old man Skip Bayless, the former face, back when his very popular 1st and 10 segment ruled the ratings but which was then surprisingly given the boot, who’s been demoted to the George “Gabby” Hayes saddle, i.e., side-kick.

ESPN’s new mission: youthenize, everything & always. These folk used to set the standard. Now they just drive in the same tired trends.

First shake-up, ditch the old reliables like Classic and ESPN News, in same manner CNN dumped Headline News for hardcore gossip. As if kids couldn’t handle quality.

In its place: ESPNU (can’t get enough SEC redo & Title IX), radio-TV amalgamations and their double-dip commercial spots, a flagship program (Sportscenter) that, when it’s not reduced to ticker-tape status at screen’s bottom is so packed to the port-holes w/teen soundtracks, club-wear dress & talking heads you’d think you were at a discothèque.

Enter Stephen, who joined forces with cocky kindred spirits C. Cowherd, T. Kornheiser and spit-sure, ex-jocks like Ted Bruschi, Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley as members in ESPN’s AKC: All-Knowing Club.

And the kids, like the adults who tune-in religiously to shock-jockery AM radio, eat it up like it were a Skittle®-coated, Oreo®-cookie ice-cream bar, so the Suits think.

If ESPN president John Skipper (2012) and Disney cohorts think for one minute that the new face and his line (“provoke”) will continue passing muster with the viewership they so desperately court (kids and women), they’ve got another thing coming.

But that’s one of the many beauty-marks on the monopoly figure: she’s never wrong, and when she is, she’s not. Hey, you want all-in, metaphors come with admission. Welcome to equality.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Posted: 8-17 @ 6:44 pm, EST
Photo credit: B.Hammon / wc.cca / P.Shilikov – 5.09 (x2);  R.Goodell / 8.30.12 / wc.cca / SSg – T.Wade / USMA / 2.9m;  R.Rice / wc.cca / 8.17.10 / USAF – SSg B.Hughes;  S.Smith / wc.cca / 7.31.10 / Diversity1 / 101k.

Edit: 8/17 @ 8:48pm