A Couple of Things I Know For Sure (Absolutely Maybe)

Meryl and Sandy next flick? "Let's Play Les."

 

Tonight the Academy Awards are handed out, or “The Gay Man’s Superbowl” as a gay man once told me.   In the Best Actress race between Meryl Streep who gets nominated just by walking in front of a camera and Sandra Bullock,  both have put together an impressive body of work without possessing  impressive bodies.  

Meryl and Sandra are probably someone’s romantic daydream, just not mine.  Sandra is still rocking that pug-nosed cute chick thing and Meryl cleans up nicely, but as far as where either of them fall on the “hot or not” scale,  do either one of them make it past the elimination rounds to the winner’s circle.   Naaaah…not so much. 

After Mo’nique wins Best Supporting Actress, Morgan Freeman and Precious director Lee Daniels can settle back for the rest of the night.   This is not going to be a night for the brothers.  

I’ve seen The Hurt Locker and I haven’t seen Avatar, so I’m a bit more invested in one film over the other.  My feeling is Kathryn Bigelow wins Best Director while her ex, James Cameron takes the little gold man home for Avatar.    While Bigelow is well-deserving of the honor, her movie feels small like an indie flick that got the heart of critics jump-started but not audiences (as it’s $12 million haul at the box office indicates).   Hollywood likes to break down barriers and if Bigelow doesn’t end the shut-out of women directors,  how much longer will it have to go?  Plus,  The Hurt Locker is really good, so for Bigelow to win wouldn’t be an act of tokenism or political correctness. 

How it is a film can be named “the Best” while the person who directed it goes home a loser never made any sense to me.   Then again, forget it Jake.  It’s Hollywood.   It’s supposed to make cents, not sense. 

Kathryn, Oscar and James.  Three-way, anyone? 

A year ago, Ben Roetheslisberger was hoisting the Lombardi trophy above his head having quarterbacked the Pittsburgh Steelers to a Super Bowl victory.   these days he seems to spend most of his time being accused of behaving badly around women.  Like sexually assaulting them.  

What kind of moron do you have to be to put yourself in this kind of situation while you’re trying to fight civil charges on the same thing? Roethelisberger is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but his reckless behavior looks guilty as hell in the court of public opinion.  

Why did the “worldwide leader in sports” aka ESPN, wait some three hours before reporting on its website Roethelisberger was accused of sexual assault while SI.com, Fox Sports, Pro Football Talk, Deadspin, The Huffington Post and CBS Sportsline didn’t delay reporting the allegation?   There’s nothing wrong in exercising restraint before going with a story, but this isn’t the first time ESPN has sat on a story about Big Ben’s women troubles.  

Maybe if he were Black and played for the Cincinnati Bengals they would have.  

Roethelisberger hasn’t been charged with anything by authorities.  From what the accounts of some witnesses, he was a chick magnet (sex appeal is in the eye and loins of the beholder), so this may turn out to be nothing but a “he said/she said” scenario.    Tie goes to the quarterback. 

Big Ben Roethelisberger gets ready to show off Little Ben.

 

But if Big Ben wants to stay out of courtrooms  he might want to find more sedate forms of entertainment until he settles his pending civil suits.   Maybe stay home with a pizza and some brews and playing Madden.    Bad boys get spanked and Big Ben is being a very naughty boy.   Stay out of the bars,  carry any firearms, inject any steroids, buy any pit bulls or try to  make it rain on strippers and he should be reaching under center for the Steelers next season instead of bending for the soap.      

It’s been a rotten season for Allen Iverson. Busted out of two teams, injured most of the season and now finished for the rest of it and probably done as a NBA baller,  taking time off for sick daughter and now his wife is suing for divorce. A reason why might be this passage from “It’s No Secret” a kiss-and-more-than-kissing-tell-all by Carmen Bryan,  who used to ride both the jocks of Jay-Z and Nas and a self-described, “Hip-hop Helen of Troy”, (which sounds much classier than skank) took time out from screwing rappers to say about the tattooed baller: 

Allen was lean and muscled, a warrior, with tattoos and battle scars. Just looking at him got me excited. His body was scrumptious. His kiss was intoxicating and I felt like I was melting. Our antics took us from one side of the bed to the other. I couldn’t get enough of this man. He was so physically strong he thought nothing of picking me up and creating the most erotic of poses. When he finally possessed me I was so ready. He filled me completely and our rhythm was perfect. Allen was average in size but his gift was girth and technique. His sliding and swerving thrusts hit me in spots I didn’t know I had. And this was only round one.” 

“Girth and technique?”   “Sliding and swerving thrusts?”   

Yep. That might give wifey a reason to kick you to the curb. 

The Answer may have run out of them.

 

As an Iverson fan, it hurts to see the little big man limp away from the game he’s given so much to looking like an aging baller plagued by arthritis in his knees, his body breaking down and a stubborn inability to change his style of play to fit into a team concept of basketball.   Everyone but the clueless fans that voted A.I. on the All-Star team knew he didn’t really deserve it, but that’s a testimony to how popular Iverson is with fans.   Even when his game and star is in decline, he remains a name brand in a NBA full of “superstars” with all the appeal of cold pizza. 

There are reports Iverson has issues with gambling and alcohol.    Others say his body is too beat up and his mind too set upon only being a starter for Iverson ever to step on a NBA court again.   Whatever the reasons are behind it, the downward arc of Iverson’s career has been no fun to watch.    

I don’t  rule  out Iverson attempting a comeback next season.   But I’d rather he hang it up with some of dignity intact instead of  jacking up jump shots in some dead zone like Indiana or Sacramento because he can’t move on to the next phase of his life.   It’s better to be missed than for people to wish you’d just go away.

Is Iverson The Answer to the Sixers’ Problems?

Back in black?

After Allen Iverson’s dalliance with the Memphis Grizzlies flamed out (I had the under at a dozen games.  He lasted three),   the 34-year-old baller found himself back on the streets looking for work.   Same as before over the summer when Iverson was a free agent following a very short and unhappy season on the bench of the Detroit Pistons,  he found his phone wasn’t ringing.   The problem then and now is even with as much talent-starved teams as there are in the NBA, they aren’t lining up to hire a ball-hogging, shoot-first 6-footer who can be poison when he’s pissed out and refuses to consider any role where he  isn’t a starter.

So when Iverson announced he was retiring after the Grizzlies cut him loose, the general consensus was pretty much, “Yeah, sure thing, A.I.”    Nobody bought it.  Every general manager from Boston to Sacramento knew Iverson wasn’t hanging it up as much as he was hanging out the “have headband will travel” sign to any team willing to take on his $3 million salary and hand over the keys of the franchise  to an unquestionably talented basketball player, but also one of the most unrepentant gunners ever to step on the court.   Iverson’s unwillingness or incapability to change his game made him toxic and untouchable.

 In 2006, the Philadelphia 76ers, the team that originally drafted him and where he played for 10 seasons, shipped A.I. out to the Denver Nuggets for what exactly nobody remembers anymore.   Iverson’s selfishness had worn out Maurice Cheeks, whom he had claimed was his a dream coach, and was retarding the progress of the Sixers’ younger players.   It was like a beautiful marriage that had gone sour.  Iverson wanted out and the Sixers couldn’t wait  for him to be gone.  

So what  happened?  Nothing much really.  Iverson couldn’t help Carmelo Anthony bring a championship to Denver and though the Sixers have made it to the NBA playoffs, they’ve only been first-round roadkill for the better Eastern Conference teams.  

Don't call it a comeback.

The Sixers have started this year’s interminable NBA season at a lousy 5-11 record as they are an uninspired blend of players too green (Louis Williams, Jrue Holliday, Mareese Speights,Thaddeus Young),  too middle-of-the-road (Andre Iguodala), all wrong for a system they don’t fit in ($80 million man Elton Brand) or just have no game (Samuel Dalembert).  Williams was plugged in at point guard this year, handed the ball by new coach Eddie Jordan and told, “Make with the magic, kid” and pushed out on the floor.  He hasn’t been great, but he’s been the MVP of a team that in the City of Brotherly Love isn’t getting much of it as the Sixers  rank 29th in attendance.

The other day the 6’1″, 175 lbs Williams had a close encounter with Antwan Jamison, the 6’9″, 235 lbs power forward of the Wizards and came out on the losing end with a broken jaw and looking at eight weeks of eating his meals through a straw.   The Sixers, who only have a rookie and a journeyman backup to turn immediately put out the “help wanted” sign in search of some veteran to step in before the whole season ended up in broken pieces like the teeth Willams was spitting out.

Well, hello there Mr. Iverson.  Cue up “Starting All Over Again,” if you please.

I was a  76ers fan when the likes of Dr. J. and Moses Malone were balling for the team and then when Sir Charles Barkley was moving his big mass up and down the floor of The Spectrum.    The Sixers haven’t done much right since . They traded away their best players and tried to build around Great White Dopes like Shawn Bradley.   That might have been when I jumped ship on the Sixers.  Bradley, a 7-foot 6-inch stringbean was paid millions by the Sixers, Nets and Mavericks to stand under the basket and end up getting facializied as players half his size lined up to  throw down some of the nastiest dunks in NBA history right in his grill.  

Shawn Bradley in a typical postion: getting served.

  Drafting Iverson in 1996 was the last time I felt any interest  in the Sixers.   Aided immensely by Larry Brown’s coaching, Iverson dragged the team into the 2000-01 Finals against Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’ Neal’s vastly more talented L.A. Lakers, where they stole one game from the inevitable champs before succumbing four games to one. 

All of the usual A.I. red flags are flying high; he’s a selfish ball hog, an indifferent distributor and passive defender and when he’s unhappy, everybody in the world knows it because Iverson is not the type to suffer in silence.  

But really, what can he hurt for a dogshit team that’s watching the season circling the drain?   The Sixers are already boring and nearly hopeless.   With A.I. back in town, at least they won’t be boring.   He’s still one of the fastest guys in the league and Jordan wants the Sixers to get out and run, run, run.   Brand and Dalembert are two mismatched parts in Jordan’s system as Brand is a plodder and Dalembert virtually useless though he’s paid like a superstar. 

I’m not one of those purists who get bent out of Iverson’s shoot first, shoot last and shoot always approach to basketball.   In David Stern’s NBA great teams have given away to great individual play and even a diminshed Iverson is a great individual player.  If he doesn’t embrace the team concept it’s because A.I. trusts in his own talent than that of anyone else.

It doesn’t take a Herculean effort to make the playoffs in the NBA.   Not when there are at least a dozen other teams who are even more horrid than the Sixers such as the New Jersey Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves who between them have played over 30 games and won only one. 

There’s a lot of good reasons not to bring A.I. back to Philly but the undeniable fact is the Sixers aren’t going anywhere without him.   They might be at least watchable with him because even now with Iverson’s all-out, sweat blood approach to the game, he’s entertaining and an attraction for a team that doesn’t give fans much reason to cough up $3500 for a top-tier ticket package. 

An Iverson return trip to the land of cheesesteaks holds both risks and rewards for the Sixers, but really, what do they have to lose.  It’s not as if they were raising any sand without him.   If I were living in Philadelphia, would I go see this team?   No.  I would not.  If  Iverson were wearing a  76ers  uniform would I reconsider.   Yes, I would.  

Before he became just another NBA nomad drifting from team-to-team, Iverson’s nickname was “The Answer.”   A second go-round with the Sixers could be disastrous or just what this team without an identity needs.   Without pulling off a major trade or dumping Brand or Dalembert’s insane contracts, this team is going nowhere but the draft lottery.  With Iverson, there’s at least a chance of sneaking into the playoffs as a seventh seed.   If that turns out to be the case, A.I. might have to start calling himself “The Solution.” 

The once, the former, The Answer?

Still The Answer?

A Good Little Man Beats a Bad Big Man.

My daughter thinks one of these guys is cute.

My daughter thinks one of these guys is cute.

Jason Whitlock, a sportswriter for the Kansas City Star and Fox Sports doesn’t believe you should kick a man when he down.  Maybe just stomp on his groin just a bit.

A week after I had my say about Allen Iverson, Whitlock gets his digs in.  Or more accurately, gets out a baseball bat and starts whacking away.

Time for another typical drive-by hit from Whitlock.  Let’s go down the checklist and see if he hits all his usual targets.

1.  Take a cheap shot at a dead rapper?

Mentioned Tupac Shakur who’s been dead for 13 years.  Check.

2.  Makes a wild leap in logic comparing an athlete to a greater social problem?

“We’re a nation of Allen Iverson, and the unchecked Wall Street greed that has us on the brink of collapse is nothng more than our chickens coming home to rot.”

Chickens come home to rot?

Check.

3.  Demonstrates he knows little to nothing about the sport he’s writing about?

“…Anthony and the Nuggets sitting at No. 2 in the West and the sexy pick to win it all.”

The Denver Nuggets the pick to win the NBA Championship?  Current Vegas odds say the Nugs are no better than 12 to 1.  What’s sexy about that?

Check.

4. Instead of adding anything close to a sober and reasoned analysis of Iverson’s career, Whitlock pulls out his butcher knife and starts carving.  Among his schoolyard taunts and insults are “Loser”, “the victim of a dysfunctional upbringing” and “ghetto warrior”.

You can’t pay for incisive analysis like that .  Which is probably a good thing you don’t have to.

Check.

Five years ago before he got canned from ESPN, Whitlock was singing a different tune about Iverson when this supposedly supremely selfish baller gave up his summer to represent his country at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

This team is being discussed unfairly in the media and being treated unfairly by American sports fans. There’s a lot of convenient denial going on. No one wants to deal with the truth because they’re having too much fun blasting a bunch of black millionaires for being lazy, unpatriotic and stupid. With the exception of adding the word “millionaires,” this is a very familiar tune.

What bothers me most are the charges that Iverson and Co. aren’t trying and don’t care. First and foremost, they do care and they are trying. They’re competitors. They know what’s at stake. They don’t want to be ripped at home.

The criticism of USA Basketball is borderline racist, is definitely unsophisticated and exposes a lot of super patriots as hypocrites. Allen Iverson is wearing our jersey — our red, white and blue — and playing the game the way we taught him to play it.

We owe Iverson support when he’s representing us abroad. Save the hatred for when he’s back home skipping Sixers practices and boring us to death playing a two-man game with Glenn Robinson.

...guess which one?

Guess which one?

That was Whitlock in August 2004 in an article entitled, “The Haters Can’t Handle the Truth.”   Two years later he would be fired from ESPN for publicly criticizing two other sportswriters.   He landed at Rupert Murdoch’s FOX Sports.com where he would reinvent himself as the Alan Keyes of sportswriting and go on television to blast other Black men with remarks such as this, “Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are domestic terrorists lighting fires and picking everyone’s pocket on the way out of town. Jackson should be down at Duke apologizing to those lacrosse players – he owes them an apology for stirring up that mess. Black America is tired of Jackson.”

Don’tcha just love it when guys like Whitlock who’s never put his big butt on the line for nobody steps on those that have?

But the most disturbing image isn’t the idea that a guy who was suspended from his column by his employer and was fired from ESPN is suggesting A.I. is a loser, it’s this deeply frightening and disturbing sentence:

“Picture me rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.”

Jason Whitlock is one jelly donut away from 350 pounds (and that’s a estimate that’s probably kinder to the less than svelte Whitlock than he deserves).

Laughing his ass off? That’s a lot of ass.

If I had the millions of dollars needed to start up a newspaper or buy a pro basketball franchise, I’d hire Iverson to play ball before I would employ Whitlock to write crap.

The Question is “Who Wants ‘The Answer’?”

The question for The Answer is where will he be next season?

The question for "The Answer" is where will he be next season?

These days I’d just as soon play a NBA video game than watch a NBA basketball game.   I don’t have a favorite team though I have a sentimental attraction to the Philadelphia 76ers. 

What I do enjoy is watching certain players.  Guys like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard and the little big man, Allen Iverson.

The thing is unlike James, Wade and Howard, three  young players whom are just entering their prime, A.I.  is on the downstroke.   He’s bounced around from the Sixers to the Denver Nuggets to now the Detroit Pistons, in what is the unhappiest and least productive season of his 13-year career.

The problem is Iverson, the guy with the ankle-breaking crossover  who fearlessly threw his body around, thinks he’s still an elite player.  He is.  But only for short bursts of time.  The rest of the time he’s holding on to the ball too long, dribbling too much and not getting his teammates involved as they watch him jack up a bad jumper than clangs off the rim.

Iverson was shut down for the remainder of the season by the Pistons due to a back injury he’s struggled with, but it’s just as likely the team figured they were better off not dealing with the distraction of a aging superstar who had publicly declared his unhappiness with coming off the bench.

After a 111-98 loss on April 2 to the absolutely awful New Jersey Nets, Iverson said about his new role as a sixth man, “I won’t do this again in my career.  I’ll retire before I do this again.  I would leave the game before I’d do this because I can’t be effective like I know I can (by) playing this way. ”

“It’s just that I’m not used to it.  It’s just not someting that I’ve ever been able or had to do.”

Immediately, the same haters who have always hated Iverson because they didn’t like his tattoos, didn’t like the way he spoke, didn’t like the way he dressed and didn’t like the way he played jumped up and said he was being “selfish.”

Some nobody named Mike Perry wrote on his blog,  “The NBA will be a better place if Allen Iverson retires after this year.”

“The Detroit Pistons knew what they were getting this year when they traded Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets.  They didn’t acquire Allen Iverson.  They acquired his expiring contract.  Allen Iverson’s expiring contract is worth more than Allen Iverson.  When Iverson becomes a free agent this summer, he will quickly find out his services are not wanted anymore in the NBA.  There is not one contending team or playoff team that will sign him.”

“He is a cancer.  He is a plague.”

I have a sister and sister-in-law that have both fought cancer and I really don’t appreciate idiots who throw that word around casually and where it doesn’t apply.   I feel the same way about stupid sportscasters and jack-ass jocks who call their games, “war” and other gross exaggerations like that.

Who says no playoff or contending team wouldn’t sign Allen Iverson?  Is The Answer the answer for a team like the Celtics or the Spurs?  Probably not.  But for a team that lacks a dynamic scorer and a player who can still put fannies in empty seats in NBA arenas, A.I. could be exactly what they’re looking for.

Don’t tell me talent-starved dead zones like the Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves wouldn’t happily pay A.I.  Maybe not  $20 million a season for a beat-up 34-year old shooting guard in a point guard’s body, but the dirty little secret of the NBA is there are a lot of teams that don’t have much talent or any reason to watch them. 

Most of the teams that do make the playoffs won’t be there for long.  They’re just there as speed bumps for the likes of the Lakers, Cavaliers or Celtics.   Nobody is expecting to see the Chicago Bulls last very long or go very far.    If nothing else Iverson sells tickets and never underestimate how important selling tickets are.

I don’t know if Iverson is being selfish or not.  I had dinner with a couple of friends this week and they double-teamed me until I finally admitted that even if Iverson is on the down escalator he’s still better than Rodney Stuckey who is starting at point guard for the Pistons. 

All n’ all,  the Pistons and Iverson were just a bad fit.  They were just looking to rent him for one season and then dump his contract and free up cap space.  I saw a few games where Iverson was feeding the ball to his teammates and trying to set them up.  Of course, I also saw him jack up some lousy shots, dribble the ball down to 22 seconds and make some half-hearted attempts at playing defense.   Nothing new about that.   He’d done the exact same thing with the Sixers and Nuggets.

The probem isnt A.I. falls down.  It just takes him longer to get up.

The probem isn't A.I. falls down. It just takes him longer to get up.

I fully expect to see Iverson in the NBA next season and starting for somebody.   Even in decline, he’s still more exciting and entertaining than some of the has-beens, never-weres and never-will-be’s running the backcourt of NBA franchises. 

I also expect the haters who have always hated everything about The Answer to keep hating.  It’s what they do best.