Iverson quietly makes his exit

Iverson The 76ers cruised to a big, 19-point defeat in Atlanta on Wednesday night, which in the scheme of things is probably for the best. The Sixers are the very embodiment of a team that is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The team could very well catch fire over the final 23 games and sneak into the last playoff spot.

Think about that for a second — a No. 8 seed means at least two extra home dates with LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal in town. That’s two sellouts for folks to come watch another visiting club instead of the hometown team.

That’s the point though, isn’t it? The Sixers aren’t good enough to get those extra two games against LeBron and Shaq, and they aren’t bad enough to make a difference in the lottery. If that doesn’t explain this team, nothing else does.

But now they don’t even have a hook or an angle. Oh sure, basketball junkies might want to tune in to check out how Lou Williams, Jrue Holliday and Thad Young fare the rest of the way, but your common, everyday sports fan who is simply interested in the wins, losses and not the nuance of it is likely gone.

Not that they were hanging around too much this season to begin with.

See, Allen Iverson is gone. Oh sure, we’ve strolled down this path before, but really, Iverson is done. We mean it this time. Not that we didn’t mean it before, like when he was traded to Denver, sent to Detroit, allegedly causing scenes in riverboat casinos and then signing on for Memphis for just three games. Hell, by this point we’ve probably written the story about Allen Iverson’s last stand in the NBA three times already. Truth be told, the guy was probably done when he bailed out on the Pistons late last season.

This time though it really is over because no other NBA team is sillier than the Sixers. Sure, the cynical types might look at the December signing of Iverson as a way to sell a few more tickets, which really didn’t work out quite like everyone had hoped. After all, that line about not being able to go home again wouldn’t be a saying if it wasn’t true.

Still, nothing has changed. One minute Iverson was here, the next he slipped away mysteriously. This time there was no trade, indefinite suspension or any of the old standbys. Instead, Iverson allegedly left the team because his four-year old daughter is sick with an undisclosed illness. Actually, not only hasn’t anyone spoken about the girl’s illness, but even those usually in the know say the information is particularly cryptic.

That makes it easier to understand this end for Iverson. When the health of a child or family matters is the concern, everything else seems pretty unimportant. Let’s just hope for the sake of little Messiah Iverson that the doctors can figure this out.

Forget about the fact that Iverson went away for five games, missed the All-Star Game, came back for a couple of games before disappearing again only to turn up at a benefit in Charlotte. The truth is Iverson’s departure not only was typical of him and the exact opposite of his entrance at every stop of his career, it is also indicative of how Sixers’ almost always go out.

Think about it for a second… aside from Julius Erving (who had been offered up in a bunch of alleged trades during his waning years, including one for the No. 3 pick in the 1984 draft… Chicago smartly decided to keep the pick), which Sixers player went away on good terms?

Let’s go through the list… Wilt was traded. Moses and Barkley were traded, too. Andrew Toney had the injuries and the battles with management, while Mo Cheeks was traded away but wasn’t told until he found Michael Barkann waiting on his doorstep. When a player and the Sixers are really done with each other, usually that’s it. After all, aside from World B. Free there aren’t any old-timers hanging around the games. Sure, fences get mended and everyone gets back on good terms, but when it’s over it’s over.

There’s no going back.

Sure, we’ll see Iverson again. The Sixers will probably put his No. 3 in the rafters next to Wilt, Mo Cheeks, Barkley and Doc, and Iverson is undoubtedly a Hall of Famer. We’ll surely see him at the induction ceremony.

But what we won’t see is how Iverson deals with life away from basketball and the spotlight and the adjustment that sometimes is so difficult. We also won’t know about how he handles the family matters that have besieged him, though we can only hope he comes out ahead.

No, there’s no way to practice for where he is headed now.

PODCAST EPISODE NO. 3

Jimi I imagine musicians get a complex when they are about to
go into the studio and hear a recording of Jimi Hendrix. Jimi, as we all
learned in school, was a force of nature. He was like Mother Theresa and
Genghis Khan all rolled into one when he held a guitar in his hands. How can
anyone measure up to that, the musicians must think. Jimi was playing hard ball
and everyone else is just trying to bat it off a tee.

That’s the way it is for us sentence writers when Bob Ford and Mike Sielski walk into the room. Oh sure, it might sound like I’m
blowing smoke, and you know what… I kind of am. But whether they know it or
not, those guys know how to work a room and when they say things people have no
other people have no choice to but to take the words to heart.

So when Bob told me, “You’re awful,” well, I just
couldn’t write it off. After all, I have never known Bob to be wrong. Ever. The
fact is, he is smarter than almost every person you know. The same goes for
Mike, too. If he isn’t right about something, he can explain why better than
anyone out there.

But Bob is a good sport. He came into our little show,
drank his beverage, ate his ham sandwich and participated in a lively
discussion about everything. He even taught us about physics and the
international dateline. The same goes for Sielski, too. The guy is an author of
a book. Better yet, Mike wrote a real book like a real author and not some
nonsense about lists of perceived greatness according to some guy and his
faulty memories. Who wants to read that? Moreover, who wants to chop down trees
to print those pages?

Put it this way: Mike has contributed to our culture and
our collective discourse. Mike has a legacy.

And with that, the gang got together for the third
episode of our little dog-and-pony show with two heavyweights. Once again we
talked about the Olympics and hockey as well as Allen Iverson and the idea of exclusivity and media semantics.

Bob told a story about his days from hanging around with Charles Barkley and Mike just said a
bunch of smart things.

Oh yeah, Dennis
Deitch
was back and offered a life tip, while Dan Roche stuck around long enough to offer some well-reasoned
points about the local basketball team. But guess what… Ol’ Dan bought a house
last weekend, too. Real estate bubble my ass…

Meanwhile, Sarah
Baicker
and I just tried to keep up with all the wizened souls we brought
into our lair.

Here take a listen:

 

PODCAST NO. 3

Also, keep sending in those comments and whatever else. Check
out the page we have on Facebook, too
. You’ll be glad you did.

Cabin fever or ‘All work and no play…’

Si We’re all pretty much sick of the snow and of winter in
general right about now. Call it cabin fever or just the doldrums of February
and it’s easy to understand why a lot of folks are just beat. Tired, sick and
beat.

When we finally come up for air after this weekend it
will be a six-day weekend for the kids. In the meantime, the little jackals
will continue to mercilessly pummel me with half-assed little kid snowballs
before waiting until my back is turned before attacking with some arcane
martial arts punch and/or kick.

Someone (for the love of God!) open up the schools! My
body is officially a giant wound.

Hopefully, there will be nothing to dig or defend against
this weekend so some of us can recoup from a week of beatings given out by
Mother Nature and my offspring[1].
In the meantime, there’s plenty to keep an eye on this weekend and strangely,
none of it has anything to do with the pro teams from Philadelphia.

Oh sure, spring training opens next week, but that’s
largely ceremonial to begin with since nearly every player has a.) been working
out at the training facility already, or b.) been working out on their own with
their trainer/guru/wife/teammates. But then again, baseball is pretty much all
ceremonial. There’s all that whiny, metaphoric Opening Day stuff that should
make anyone with any association with baseball want to stuff their head in an
oven. At least were at a point in the game’s history where we can laugh at the
rituals, traditions and rituals. With the drugs, bad behavior and institutional
racism that dot the game’s long history, a little ceremonial pining for dates
on a calendar isn’t all that bad.

Speaking of ceremonies, apparently the winter Olympics begins
in a couple of hours or something—it’s tough to tell. Since all the snow
earmarked for the folks in Vancouver has been transplanted on top of us, sane
people are winter-ed out. Besides, what are these events? The luge? I did that
when I woke up with a head cold and wanted to clear my nasal passages. Ski
jumping and free-style moguls? Whatever… I did moves better than those the
first time I ever put skis on my feet. No, I didn't try to make those moves, but that's just a technicality.

Big deal, right? Apparently the winter Olympics are a big
enough deal to shut down the NHL for two weeks right in the middle of the
season. Can you imagine that? The season was motoring on as its wont to do in
February and then all of a sudden the players leave and join different teams
for two weeks… and nobody cares! Remember the last time the NHL took a break
for the whole season back in 2004-05? Remember? They called it a “lockout” or
something?

No, I don’t remember it, either.

Nothing against the winter Olympics, but I doubt I’m
going to watch. In fact, the only way I’ll watch is if I slip on some ice, luge
down the hill in front of the house and end up in traction in the hospital. If
that happens (and only if that happens) and I can’t reach the remote (because I’m
in traction and my wife LOVES the pagaentry and the costumes of the ice skating), maybe I’ll watch. Hopefully that Johnny Weir will be skating, too.
I like that dude because he fits into a the long line of flamboyant, trash-talking
athletes like Reggie Jackson, Larry Bird, Terrell Owens, Michael Jordan and
Dick Buttons.[2]
Johnny Weir is also from the southern end of Lancaster County, which is a part
of the country that put the “thump” into “bible thumping.”

It is both perfectly logical and incredibly insane that
Johnny Weir is from Lancaster County, Pa. Please don’t ask for an explanation. If
you know, it makes sense.

Speaking of trash-talking flamboyance, the NBA All-Star
weekend takes place on Saturday where they will dunk, shoot and then play the
All-Star Game in a football stadium in Dallas. According to reports, they are
expecting 92,000 people to show up, which commissioner David Stern says will be
the largest crowd to see a basketball game “in the history of the world.”
However, Allen Iverson will not be amongst the attendees at the All-Star Game
even though he was voted in by the fans as a starter. No, we’re not going to
get into the pros and cons of fan All-Star voting and/or Iverson’s unworthiness
to participate in the weekend’s events designed to celebrate the majesty and
the egos of the best players on the planet. The truth is the NBA has the best
All-Star Game going simply because they don’t do that whole bit where every-team-must-be-represented
schtick that baseball does. Who wants to see the best player from a bad team?

No, making it to the All-Star Game in the NBA is
significant. It carries some weight because only 12 guys get to go. In last
summer’s baseball All-Star Game, Zach Duke was selected to be in the game. Oh
sure, 2009 was his best season because he went 11-16 with an ERA below 5, but
in the NBA an MVP candidate (Brandon Jennings, a stretch, but hey… he’s a
candidate) is relegated to the rookie game.

Nevertheless, the concept of the All-Star Games and
putting sledding on TV and calling it the Olympics is pretty old fashioned. You
know, old fashioned like the mail delivery that led to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to be shoved through my door.

Johnny_weir Look, even a beat-up and tired dude like me knows
old-fashioned when he sees it and this time it was shoved through the mail slot
in my door. So when I walked over to pick up the pile of magazines and junk mail
on the ground, I saw Brooklyn Decker
staring coquettishly from behind a bank statement. But rather than going for
the rather flimsy-feeling magazine, I went for the bank statement. After all,
in this age the fact that the bank is actually telling me I have money is the
biggest turn-on.

Brooklyn Decker?

Yawn…

Look, as one of those so-called red-blooded Americans, I
like half-naked women as much as the next person. Think about it… what else Americans
really do well any more. There's all-you-can-eat buffets; whining about
the weather; spiraling, out-of-control credit debt; and scantily clad men and
women. That's us.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

But c'mon, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?
In 2010? Really?

Poor Brooklyn. She looks so hip, young and fresh on the
cover of a magazine sold to a demographic filthy with men in their 40s. Is
there anything less hip than that? Worse, in the age where we can see anything
at any time with our onDemand and high-speed Internet connections, what's the
point of the swimsuit issue? Is it for the exotic settings or top-level
photography? The product placement for bathing suits that only 12 people in the
world can squeeze in to?

Whatever it is, the formula doesn't seem to work anymore.
Call it an anachronism to a different era when things like swimsuit models
weren't ubiquitous. Back in its heyday, the swimsuit issue really cornered the
market for such things. There was no Maxim or any other so-called men's
lifestyle magazines littering the newsstands the way they do now. Actually, in
the halcyon days of SI's swimsuit issue, it was all or nothing. If a guy wanted
to see that sort of thing he had to go to the back corner of a drug store and
reach to the highest shelf where they kept the Playboy and Penthouse
wrapped in a brown paper bag (or at least that’s what I’m told).

Yes, the good old days. Sigh!

Yet here we are in the digital age and Sports
Illustrated
is sticking to its guns. Just like it does every year, the
magazine offers up freakishly air-brushed and pushed up women dressed in
impractical swim wear. Or, barring that, body paint.

Yep, been there, done that.

Maybe Sports Illustrated already knows its
swimsuit issue is tired, yet keeps trotting it out there (and giving it away
for free on its web site) because it can. Think about it, are there any other companies whose egos are so out of control [3]that
they can fly staffs of people to remote points on the globe in order to take
pictures of women next to nothing? When times were flush it was no big deal,
but in this economic climate? Really? These days when folks are losing jobs and
their homes, sweet, little, hipless Brooklyn strutting around in the Maldives
in her fancy britches might be a little excessive.

Can't they just blue screen or Photoshop in the beach?
Hell, they airbrush out everything else, right?

Can they brush out all the snow while they're at it?


[1] Am I allowed to lock them in the garage
until the snow melts or school is back in session (whichever comes first)? Is
that wrong?

[2] Is there a more perfect name for a champion
ice skater than Dick Buttons? Silly question… the answer is no.

[3] You know, besides Bank of America, Bank of New York
Mellon, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co., Morgan
Stanley, State Street Corporation, Wells Fargo & Company, and Goldman Sachs

Forget the draft (just win, baby!)

Bad_news Even though the 76ers are playing some decent basketball
lately and slowly making up ground for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference
playoff picture, some fans of the team are actually aghast. Winning games and
slipping into the playoffs doesn’t serve these guys well, the argument goes.

There is some logic to that, but not much. Sure, the
Sixers might be able to add a missing piece to help build for the future,
however, even if they lose every game for the rest of the season they have a
small shot at nabbing the top pick.

So what’s wrong with making the playoffs? Based on the
Sixers’ draft history winning ball games and trying to rebuild with free agents
(always difficult to do with the NBA’s salary cap) might be the best tact.

Sure, we know all about the recent picks like Jrue
Holliday, Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala and
Sam Dalembert, who are all solid players and should help the team in the
future. All of those players were selected well out of the top 10 picks (except for Iguodala) from
draft classes that weren’t known for being particularly deep, so in that regard
the team did pretty well.

It’s just when the Sixers get into the top handful of
picks where things get crazy. Yes, Allen Iverson was the top overall pick in
1996 and he’s headed for the Hall of Fame, and Charles Barkley was taken fifth
overall in the famous 1984 draft. But for every Iverson and Barkley there is a
Shawn Bradley, Sharone Wright, Charles Smith, Keith Van Horn, Marvin “Bad News”
Barnes and whatever the hell that was in 1986.

Indeed, June hasn’t been the kindest month for the
Sixers.

Just look at what
happened from 1973to 1975 where the Sixers had four picks in the top five and
six first-round selections. That’s where following the NBA-record nine-win
season the team took Doug Collins with the top pick in ’73 (not bad), took
Roman Catholic and St. Joe’s alum Mike Bantom with the fourth-pick before it
was disallowed for some reason[1],
and then snagged Raymond Lewis from California State University at Los Angeles
at No. 18.

Collins, of course, was a four-time All-Star and scored
22 points per game in during the run to the Finals in 1977. However, injuries
ended Collins’ career before he turned 30. Bantom spent nine seasons in the NBA
before closing out his career with the Sixers in 1982. Instead of latching on
with the ’83 title team, Bantom played in Italy.

The dubiousness of the ’73 draft was trumped in a big way
in 1974 where the Sixers took Bad News Barnes with the second overall pick. It
actually might have been an interesting pick had Barnes not jumped to the
Spirit of St. Louis in the ABA before becoming the poster child for the era of
bad behavior in the 1970s.

In the history of nicknames, Barnes’ was perfect. During
his rookie season with St. Louis, he disappeared for days presumably to renegotiate
his contract—in the middle of his first season, no less. After days off the
grind (much easier to do in 1974), Barnes was finally located with his agent in
a pool hall in Dayton, Oh.

They always turn up in the first place you should look…

Barnes played in just 315 pro games, made the playoffs
once in the ABA and appeared in two ABA All-Star Games. That was when he was in
relative control. When Barnes was in full Bad News mode, it was pretty dark.
Check out this interview he
gave to Fanhouse last December
:

"I was making
40 to 50 grand a week [selling] the drugs,'' said Barnes. "I was making so
much money (in the selling of marijuana) it was hard to stay focused (on
basketball).''

Barnes said he served as an investor with drug kingpin Paul Edward Hindelang Jr.,
who would later cooperate with the government and forfeit $50 million in
drug-trafficking proceeds. Barnes said Hindelang's right-hand man was Roosevelt
Becton, a friend of the basketball player whom he describes as the
"godfather'' who "ran St. Louis.''

"Hindelang was the guy who started the 'mother ship,' which would park
five miles away and boats would shoot for the (Colombia) shore,'' Barnes said.
"He got a two-ton freighter a bunch of us (contributed for financially).
Then it would go down and buy two tons of Colombian marijuana.

"It was the
best marijuana. We bought it from the Colombian government for a dollar a pound
… I was investing money (in the operation).''

Talk about wasted talent:

"I was one of the five best players on
the planet, period"

"I would have been one of the 50 greatest players of all time,'' said
Barnes, 57, who now works with at-risk teenagers in his Men to Men program in
his hometown of Providence, R.I., telling them the pitfalls of drugs. "I
was one of the five best players on the planet period (with St. Louis). Just
ask anybody (from) back then … I was kicking some butt. … But I was going
on a downhill spiral. I met drug traffickers in St. Louis and they showed me
another way of life. And that was detrimental to my basketball career.''

Maybe it wasn’t so bad that Barnes didn’t end up with the
Sixers. Imagine Barnes in the frontcourt with Darryl Dawkins and Julius Erving
with a team that featured Collins, George McGinnis, World B. Free, Henry Bibby,
Steve Mix and Caldwell Jones. That’s a team that could have gone 11 deep with
Jellybean Bryant and Harvey Catchings filling roles, too.

Instead, Barnes was a wasted No. 2 pick in a deep
draft  where the Sixers could have
snapped up any one of the 18 players who went on to play at least 550 games in
the NBA. This includes Hall of Famer George Gervin.

The team finished up the three-year stretch of top picks
by getting Dawkins with the No. 5 pick before swiping Free in the second round.
In 1975, the Sixers did about just as well as they could do, arguably getting
the two players that went on to have the best careers of the draft class.

Still, the team didn’t really come together until Doc
came aboard in 1976. And despite the loss to the Blazers in the ’77 Finals and
to the Lakers in ’80 and ‘82, the championship squad wasn’t built on top draft
picks, though Andrew Toney was the No. 8 pick in the 1980 draft.

They got Mo Cheeks late in the second round in 1978,
Clint Richardson late in the second in 1979, as well as Franklin Edwards and
Mark McNamara late in the first rounds of the 1981 and 1982 drafts. Otherwise,
the best Sixers’ team was built with trades and signings… Bobby Jones came from
Denver for McGinnis; they bought Doc from the Nets; Marc Iavaroni was signed
after the Knicks waived him; and Moses arrived in a trade with Houston in which
the Sixers gave up Caldwell Jones and their first pick of the ’83 draft.

Not bad.

Moses If only the Sixers could have drafted as well when given
a top pick. Oh sure, Barkley and Iverson were hard to mess up, especially since
two of the greatest players ever were taken ahead of Sir Chuck (Hakeem Olajuwon
and Michael Jordan). But just imagine what could have been if the Sixers had
simply drafted Brad Daugherty with the top pick of the 1986 draft and dropped
him into the frontcourt with Barkley and Moses.

Instead, just before it was their turn to make the No. 1 pick, owner Harold Katz sent it to Cleveland for Roy Hinson (yes, Roy Hinson!) before dealing Moses and Terry Catledge to Washington for Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland.

/shakes head/

Those trades made little sense in 1986 and make even less sense now.

What were they thinking?

Imagine those three up front with Cheeks and Hersey
Hawkins in the backcourt.

Go ahead… we’ll wait.

Now imagine that the Sixers can knock off the Celtics or
Pistons as the ‘80s end and instead of taking Christian Welp at No. 16 in 1987,
they get Mark Jackson (third all-time in assists) or Reggie Lewis (perennial All-Star
before his untimely death). Sure, the No. 3 pick of Charles Smith and
subsequent deal for Hawkins worked out, but what if the Sixers would have just
kept the pick and taken Mitch Richmond instead. That lineup turns to Moses,
Barkley, Daugherty, Cheeks and Richmond.

Sigh!  

Strangely, the Sixers eventually have had a bunch of No.
1 picks in recent years, starting with Iverson, Joe Smith, Derrick Coleman,
Elton Brand and Chris Webber.

What? They couldn’t swing a deal for Kwame Brown?

Try this out—from 1990 to 1999 drafts, the Sixers have had 20 top
10 draft picks end up on their roster. Ready for them?

1990—Coleman (No. 1 to New Jersey) and Willie Burton (No. 9 to Miami)

1991—Dikembe Mutombo (No. 4 to Denver)

1992—Jim Jackson (No. 4 to New Jersey) and Clarence
Witherspoon (No. 9)

1993—Webber (No. 1 to Orlando), Bradley (No. 2) and Rodney Rogers (No. 9 to Denver)

1994—Donyell Marshall (No. 4 to Golden State), Sharone
Wright (No. 6) and Eric Montross (No. 9 to Boston)

1995—Joe Smith (No. 1 to Golden State) and Jerry Stackhouse (No. 3)

1996—Iverson(No. 1)

1997—Keith Van Horn (No. 2) and Tim Thomas (No. 7 to New
Jersey)

1998—Robert Traylor (No. 6 to Dallas) and Larry Hughes
(No. 8)

1999—Brand (No. 1 to Chicago) and Andre Miller (No. 8 to Cleveland)

So the Sixers certainly have had chances to rebuild with
the draft, only it really hasn’t worked out that way. Even the roster for the
2001 run to the Finals was constructed with trades and free-agent moves.
Considering that as recently as 1995 to 1997 that the team had a top three pick
each year and kept one player longer than two seasons explains all one needs to
know about the Sixers in the draft.

Tank it? No t'anks.


[1] My research came up small. Why did the
Sixers draft Mike Bantom No. 4, have the pick disallowed and then watch
Banton go to Phoenix at No. 8?

The solution for the Sixers is no Answer

Iverson_green The 76ers took care of Minnesota on Tuesday night in a game that was decided pretty early on. Thanks to a 12-0 early in the second quarter that spurred a 73-point first half for a Wachovia Center record, the Sixers rolled to their fifth victory in a row.

While it’s debatable whether or not the winning streak and positive gains in the standards serve the team or the franchise well, that’s not the main issue here. Instead, the Sixers are 20-31 with one game to go in Toronto on Wednesday night… if they can get out of snowy Philadelphia, that is.

But yes, the Sixers are heading into the All-Star Break feeling pretty good about things. Considering they are just 4½ games out of the final playoff spot in the East, it’s no wonder. Throw in the fact that the Sixers poured in 119 points with 30 assists and it proves that the team just might be pulling together.

So is it any coincidence that the Sixers have won five in a row and scored at least 101 points in the last four games without Allen Iverson?

How about the fact that with Iverson away from the team in order to tend to a personal matter, Willie Green has stepped into the lineup and shot 61 percent (22-for-36) with 57 points in four games? Or better yet, how about coach Eddie Jordan saying the big reason for the five-game winning streak has been the leadership from Green?

Coincidence?

What do you think?

With Iverson away, the Sixers have been playing exactly the way most folks expected when they started the season in late October. They are loose, confident and looking very much like the team that won 32 of their final 59 games last season to slip into the playoffs. Moreover, the sense around the team is that everything is right where it’s supposed to be.

“To me it’s been a combination of guys stepping up and a bunch of guys all playing well at the same time,” Green said.

“We’re starting to look more like the team that past couple of years that went to the playoffs. We’re just busy trying to dig ourselves out of a hole.”

And that’s just it. Would folks rather see the Sixers make a run at the playoffs and squeeze into a low seed and a probable first-round exit, or is it better to take a chance on the ping-pong balls? Sure, it would make sense for the team to attempt to add and develop the missing pieces through the draft, but even that’s no guarantee for anything. Just think about how many times the Sixers have been in this position in the past only to land on their bottoms in the same spot the next year.

Just look at when the Sixers had the No. 2 overall pick in 1993 and took Shawn Bradley. Thanks to that pick the team ended up with the No. 6 pick in 1994 (Sharone Wright), No. 3 in 1995 (Jerry Stackhouse), No. 1 in 1996 (Iverson), No. 2 in 1997 (Keith Van Horn), and No. 8 in 1998 (Larry Hughes). With the players taken in those drafts the Sixers should have been set for a decade based on the tank theory, but all that happened was they ended up in the lottery six years in a row with six different coaches.

Anyone want to take a chance with the No. 9 pick added to this bunch?

How about this plan instead:

Let Iverson play out the string and then sail off into the sunset. If he wants to keep playing next season, let him—just not with the Sixers if he demands on taking a starting gig and minutes away from anyone on the roster. After all, the Sixers aren’t the only team that has had success this season when Iverson went away. Just look at what Memphis has done since The Answer “retired.” Rather than being a mentoring veteran on a team with seven players in their first or second years in the NBA, and 10 players with no more than three years of experience, Iverson threw a fit about coming off the bench.

Kind of ironic that the oldest guy on the team was also the biggest baby.

The numbers explain it all. Four straight wins in which the team has averaged 107 points for the Sixers, a .553 winning percentage in the hardcore Western Conference for Memphis and a 9-16 record for his teams when he gets into a game this season.

Besides, at this point in their careers there is nothing Iverson does better than Green.

So there’s the elephant in the room. Clearly the Sixers are a better team without Iverson, but for now the players are going to (unironically) chalk it up to things finally starting to come together.

 “Our defense is playing a little better and we’re communicating a little more,” said Andre Iguodala, who has scored 19.3 points per game in Iverson’s absence. “On offense we got in a good flow, too.”

No one is admitting as much now, but for the Sixers the answer appears to be no Answer.

One for the ages

Sixers_nets There are human beings that travel around in order to cover the Philadelphia 76ers. Believe it or not, they are smart and caring people who live lives and have others who care about them. In fact, guys like Martin Frank and Dennis Deitch or two fellows that I consider friends and I wish them no ill will.

Apparently the team in which they cover is a little more sadistic, but we'll get to that in a moment. If these folks are going to survive the season and come out on the other side of it OK, we should know a little something about them just in case…

Martin and Dennis are as talented as they come in this business of ours. Martin always cuts to the heart of a story and he sees things that most people miss. He and I also spent a long May afternoon wiling away the time at Pimilco before Smarty Jones ran to a record-smashing victory in the 2004 Preakness. Since there were a slew of races on the undercard before the big race and they had a betting window in the press box, Martin and I decided the only logical thing to do was to study the race form and put a few dollars on a horse or two.

If I remember the day correctly, Martin did OK with the horses and the writing. I did better with the writing than I did with the horses. On the plus side, I came away with a better understanding of the phenomenon known as, "The betting window in the press box." I'm on the pro side of the argument (if there is even an argument).

Deitch is the most clever dude covering sports in Philadelphia. That’s not hyperbole or blowing smoke, either. Facts are facts and if there is anything remotely interesting going on with the 76ers, Deitch is the first place to check. That’s not a knock on anyone else, it’s just that Dennis sees through all the traps and talking points floated out there.

So when I finished watching the Lakers and Celtics play in one of the more entertaining NBA games this season, I flipped over to watch the Sixers face the Nets…

Yeah.

Let’s just say there was a bit of a difference in the quality of play in the two games. After watching the Lakers handle the Sixers last Friday night, my interest was piqued enough to want to watch how they measure up against a better opponent. Better yet, it was quite a treat to see a stellar performance from Celtics’ point guard Rajon Rondo. That dude can play.

Meanwhile, up at the Meadowlands it didn’t take very long for my heart to sink into the pit of my stomach and immediately feel a bit of empathy for Martin, Dennis and the rest of the gang. Did they get hazard pay for traveling to North Jersey to watch that game? Do their eyes still ache more than a day later?

I can only imagine that Deitch probably had to drop to one knee in order to catch his breath and re-organize his thoughts shortly after the final horn sounded. Poor guy.

The Sixers beat the Nets on Sunday evening, but not by much. Thanks to… well, thanks to no one in particular, the Sixers dealt the Nets their 42nd defeat (83-79) of the season in 46 games. For those scoring at home, the Nets are on pace to finish 7-75 this season, which is two wins shy of the all-time worst season in pro sports by the 1972-73 76ers. Frankly, it’s amazing that any team in this age of sports (with expansion and a salary cap) outside of the Los Angeles Clippers could flirt with a record that seemed like the NBA’s version of Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak.

Yet like the ’73 Sixers once were, the Nets are 4-42, but just missed pulling off their second win in three games. If the Nets could have won on Sunday night, it seemingly makes the record for the worst season safe for another year. But if there was ever a game the Nets should have won, it was the one against the Sixers. After all, the Nets’ defense held the Sixers to 36.5 percent shooting from the field and out-rebounded them, 50-47.

Looks like the Nets might have a date with destiny.

“I looked at the stat sheet and saw we shot, what, 36 percent? And still won the ball game? Man,” Allen Iverson said. “Obviously they didn’t play well at all for us to be able to win a game like that.”

What about the gang who had to sit there and then write about the game afterwards? How demoralized are those guys? Do you think it’s easy watching bad games night after night? Having seen the 2002 and 2004 Phillies up close the answer is an obvious, no. Losing is a communicable ailment that is airborne and contagious. It infects all that it comes in contact with and ruins the good will of kind-hearted people.

Worse, a game like Sunday’s in the Meadowlands can break a man’s spirit. When the game ended I was worried about the writing corps and feared that something bad was going to happen. Maybe after filing a story they would go to their car in the parking lot and find that the tires of the car had been slashed. Maybe after watching the game someone developed a rash and needed to rush down the Turnpike in order to get something lanced?

These are the times that try men’s souls.

Fortunately, morale appears to be high. In the Delaware County Daily Times, Mr. Deitch looked at the game from a historical perspective. Sure, the Sixers won the game, but in the process they nearly took the sport back to its peach basket days.

Deitch wrote:

If you said that this abomination set the game of basketball back 50 years, Wilt Chamberlain would crawl out of his grave and smack you for disrespecting his era.

Burn the tape. What, they don’t use tape any longer? Melt the memory card.

If you witnessed this game, seek therapy. And you might want to enter a decontamination shower, like Meryl Steep in “Silkwood.”

It really was that awful.

Here’s the ugliness Double D describes: The Nets scored just two fastbreak points in the game and were whistled for a shot-clock violation when trailing by two points with less than two minutes to go in the game. With feats like that one has to wonder about the Nets’ chances against the Washington Generals.

It wasn’t too much better on the winning side, either, with the Sixers missing 16 shots in the final quarter. More telling was the fact that the Sixers didn’t break into double-figures in scoring in the final quarter until the final minute. By that point the Sixers had to score because the Nets kept fouling them to stop the clock.

And to think, after the game some of the Sixers had the nerve to talk about how bad the Nets are.

“It is a frustrating thing. We just can’t play down to the level of our competition,” Iverson said.

“I’ve been on some pretty poor teams, but never that poor,” said Elton Brand, who went from going 66-7 in two seasons at Duke, to 15-67 in his first season in the NBA with the Bulls.

To be fair, maybe Sunday’s epic wasn’t the worst game ever or set the league back a half century, but it wasn’t one to be proud of, either.

Wrote Deitch:

So, maybe the fog of time just made it seem like Sunday night's game was the worst. But trust me — this was a once-in-a-decade display. There were at least five shots that hit off the side or bottom of the backboard. (I'm still trying to figure out where the hell Willie Green was aiming that fourth-quarter shot.) The general sloppiness and disorder was brutal to watch, and the fact that both teams saved their worst play for the fourth quarter — you know, when you're supposed to put your best foot forward — made it a form of torture to watch.

Send the video to Abu Ghraib.

Living in Kobe’s (and Phil’s) world

Ai_kobe Wild and unparalleled success in sports is an odd thing to witness up close. So too is TMZ-like celebrity complete with television crews and boom mics (literally) chronicling every single step a guy takes on his way home from work.

Actually, it’s probably true of watching elite-level success in any occupation though it seems doubtful that there is celebrity attached to a top surgeon not on Oprah or CNN. Chances are a big-time scientist does not ever have to worry about being mobbed by adoring fans at the mall.
 
But for guys like Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, success is usually a very strange thing. In fact, it seems as if there is something about both men that makes others do things they wouldn’t normally do in hope of being noticed. Oh yes, Kobe and Phil make regular folks act brave.

Think about it—if you saw Jackson or Kobe on the street chances are you might shout something to them, or even stop and ask a question. Better yet, you might even ask for an autograph or a handshake. And yes, this is odd. It is especially odd because no matter what Jackson or Bryant have accomplished, they must be accountable to complete strangers.
 
Who do you have to be accountable to?
 
Yes, with great power comes great responsibility… or whatever it is that Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben taught us. The rules are different successful sports stars whether they like it or not.
 
For instance, look at Jackson. At 5:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon he was obligated to answer some question from the Los Angeles and Philly media on topics that he probably never contemplated. Like had he ever thought about the significance of owning the all-time record for victories in Lakers’ history? After all, with the 98-91victory over the 76ers at the Wachovia Center on Friday night, Jackson needs one more win to tie Pat Riley with 533 regular-season victories.
 
Does Jackson think about that kind of stuff?
 
“No.”

Not in the least?

“It’s just a matter of hanging around and showing up to work. That’s 90 percent of it… who said that, Woody Allen?”

Indeed that was Woody Allen who astutely pointed out that 90 percent of life was just showing up. The other 10 percent, perhaps, is left for answering questions and filling out paperwork.
 
Jackson is the only person in North American professional sports to win 10 championships as a coach. Certainly it helps that all he had to do was “show up” and coach a pair of teams with players Michael Jordan, Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, but Jackson also won an 11th title as a coach of the CBA's Albany Patroons when his star was Frankie J. Sanders.

The J. stood for "Jumpshot."

Still, after six titles with Jordan and the Bulls and four in Los Angeles, Jackson is asked to ponder which team he should most be linked to.
 
Again, it’s doubtful Jackson has ever mulled an answer to anything remotely close to that question. After all, his legacy is pretty safe with both franchises.
 
“There's a generation of people that identify with the Showtime Lakers of the ‘80s and similarly with the '90s Chicago teams,” Jackson said. “I don't know if you can say we're the dominant team of this decade, but we're pretty close. So I'm sure there's a whole generation of kids who see me only as the Lakers coach. They're not familiar with the Bulls at all.”

Yeah, yeah… which is it, Bulls or Lakers?

“I'd have made the jacket with both sides—one side the Lakers, one side the Bulls,” Jackson smiled.
 
Jackson, though, comes from a time when the art of thoughtful give-and-take was part of being a living and breathing person. It actually mattered what people thought about certain topics whether they were an athlete or not. Sure, guys like Jackson were always asked for their opinions on a bunch of subjects simply because he’s famous and famous people, for some reason, have opinions that matter more than others. It’s the same deal with all the Lakers, because, as forward/reality-TV star Lamar Odom said, “Everyone on this team is Hollywood.”

Odom is right about that, but when it comes to the Lakers there’s one star shinier than the rest.

Kobe Now I heard stories about Michael Jordan’s days in Chicago where the reporters that covered the team rarely got a chance to stand next to the guy they were writing about. Sometimes, the stories go, they had a chance to shout questions at him as if he were a president walking across the South Lawn to Marine One. Most of the time Jordan planted himself in the middle of the practice gym or locker room and he was engulfed by cameras and recorders. He was in the middle of that pile up somewhere and the only hope for a lot of writers was to hear one little nugget or word from the man himself.

Toward the end when Jordan was playing for the Wizards, he moved his post-game tête-à-tête to a conference room where questions were shouted as if he were some Hollywood diva ensnared in some controversy. Cameras flashed and shouted voices collided in midair and made an awful mess of white noise. Sometimes Spike Lee was waiting in the wings.

That wasn’t quite the case with Kobe on Friday night at the Wachovia Center, though between the snap shots from camera phones and the boom-mic men blindly walking backwards, it would have been easy for someone to get run over.

All that just to hear what a kid from Lower Merion Township had to say about basketball.

Actually, the brunt of the questioning was focused on the back-and-forth scoring showdown between Bryant and Allen Iverson during the third quarter of Friday night’s action. Suddenly, for a handful of minutes, it was as if it was 2001 again for Iverson. For Bryant, however, it was just another Friday night. Nevertheless, the awful truth that no one really wanted to admit—especially Bryant—was that as soon as the Lakers’ star switched over to guard Iverson, the show stopped.

There is only so much room in the spotlight.

“He’s a scorer, he and I both,” Bryant said. “That’s what we do. We can score when we’re 70 years old.”

These days Bryant does a little more.

“It’s evident that he is one of the best ever to do it,” Iverson said. “He goes out there night in and night out and plays the same way every night.”

And every night he gets wrapped in a cocoon of otherworldliness. People steel up some nerve and get brave. They ask questions and snap pictures. They want to ask questions and hear answers no matter how mundane they are.

They want a moment where someone spectacular shows some humanness no matter how bizarre the setting really is.

Haiti and Sam Dalembert, Part II

011310-sam An hour before tip-off, Sam Dalembert did not look like he was ready to play a basketball game. Understandably drained and confused by what had occurred in his birth country a little more than 24-hours before, Dalembert eyes gave answers to questions that his mind could not.

Was his aunt OK, despite the news that her house had been “cracked” by the earthquake that registered 7.0 on the Richter Scale a little before 5 p.m. in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Tuesday? Or, when would the next message from Dalembert’s father arrive? Just before the tiny Carribean island lost power, the elder Dalembert sent an e-mail signifying they were, “OK.”

“OK” is a relative term, of course. Even in the most technologically advanced country, an earthquake the magnitude of the one that devastated Haiti on Tuesday would leave its mark. Put that earthquake in the poorest country on this side of the globe that was still reeling from being battered by four hurricanes since September of 2008, and it sounds so cruel.

It isn’t enough that the average Haitian lives on less than $2 a day and had been governed by infamous dictatorships for decades, now the people on the poor island are waiting for the aid to arrive while gathering the dead amidst total destruction.

They are poor, Dalembert says, but proud.

"A huge part of me will always love the country, love the people in it. We're strong people, we deal with stuff. No matter what's going on, we always find a way to stay happy. We joke about situations when most people wouldn't make a joke," he said. "That's why people say, 'Why is Sam always smiling?' When you come from where I come from and where you are right now, every day is a blessing. I don't have to deal with finding food. I don't have to deal with looking in my freezer and not finding food."

Dalembert’s birth city Port-au-Prince, so close to the epicenter of the quake, is a city larger than Philadelphia yet currently has no operational hospital. Actually, it had nothing before the earthquake hit, but now it has death and destruction without hyperbole. Haiti, as it was, is gone.

Moreover, Dalembert’s father was in Port-au-Prince with members of his family on a business trip when the earthquake hit. Before Wednesday’s game against the Knicks, Dalembert said his dad sent a message via an e-mail from his aunt with the news of his whereabouts. 

But that was more than a day ago and no word has trickled out since.

“Yesterday I turned the TV on and just kept on watching and watching and just waiting for an answer in front of the phone. I contacted everybody I know there, but no answer,” Dalembert said before Wednesday’s game. “I wasn’t able to get as much information as I wanted to. It’s really frustrating. All I’ve got is watching the screen. I’m here and there’s nothing I can do. It’s really killing me right now.”

How does anyone attempt to understand the unfathomable? Better yet, how does a guy show up for work with so much uncertainty in his life? If Dalembert decided to check out and coast through the New York Knicks, who would have blamed him?

“Hopefully, for two hours he can escape,” Sixers’ coach Eddie Jordan said before the 93-92 defeat.

Sammy_d “I could tell that today was a different day for him because he wasn’t the same old Sam,” Allen Iverson said. “When I saw it on the news last night the first thing I did was call him, and you could tell in his voice he was struggling with the situation.”

There were two ways Dalembert could have gone against the Knicks… he could have disappeared, or he could have lit it up.

Dalembert lit it up with a season-high 21 rebounds to go with 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

“He showed what type of a professional he is—he came out here and did everything he had to do for us on the basketball court to give us a chance to win, and that shows a lot of character on his part,” Iverson said.

It turned out that playing basketball was the easy part. It became a type of therapy since there was no one for Dalmebert to call and the only way he can do to help is send money. In fact, the Sixers revealed after the game that in addition to pulling down all those rebounds, Dalembert was organizing a benefit to raise funds for more aid for Haiti.

For now though, all he can do is wait and hope that maybe he’ll hear something soon.

“It’s tough, frustrating,” Dalembert said. “It’s crazy, out of your mind. It’s like you’re locked in a cage. You cannot move. You cannot do anything. I tried to go over there, but they said there’s no plane going there. Nobody can go there.

“There’s really nothing I can do except play, then send money and help out.”

Imagine not being able to talk to your family. Or imagine not knowing whether your closest friend, father, aunt, brother or sister are alive or dead.

Imagine having all of that weighing you down into an emotional abyss as if it where an anchor on the Titanic…

All before you go and pull down 21 rebounds.


To help Sam Dalembert send relief aid to Haiti, go to the UNICEF site.

Halladay the latest to join greatest era in Philly sports history

Presser Sometimes it’s easy to get excited about the littlest things. Maybe it’s a new episode of a TV show, or a favorite meal. Or it could be a small gift or a short trip to a favorite place.

You know what they say—sometimes it’s the small things that matter the most.

So when the team you’ve written about for the past 10 years gets the game’s best pitcher who just so happened to be the most-coveted player on the trade/free-agent market, it should be pretty exciting…

Right?

Yawn.

Sitting there and listening as Roy Halladay was being introduced to us media types during Wednesday’s press conference in Citizens Bank Park, a different feel pervaded. Usually, during such settings it’s not very difficult to get swept up in the emotion. After all, teams usually trot in family members, agents, front-office types and other hangers-on. In rare cases, like Wednesday’s Halladay presser for example, the national cable TV outlets turned out to aim cameras at the proceedings.

But when a team introduces its third former Cy Young Award winner since July after trading one away, there’s a tendency to become a little used to big events like introductory press conferences. Think about it—this year the Phillies have added Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. That’s five Cy Young Awards right there.

At the same time, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Charlie Manuel, Jayson Werth and Ruben Amaro Jr. all got new contracts since the Phillies won the World Series. Not to mention, the team signed Placido Polanco, Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez and, of course, had that little parade down Broad Street.

In other words, you can see why it was easy not to get too worked up over Halladay’s arrival. That’s doubly the case considering the Flyers fired a coach and the Sixers welcomed back Allen Iverson within the past two weeks. Add in the facts that the deal for Halladay took three days to come together after Amaro spent the week in Indianapolis denying involvement of anything and it’s easy to get a little jaded.

Wait… is Ruben denying he was even in Indianapolis now?

Of course with success comes boredom. In fact, a wise man once told me that championships were boring and bad for business. Perhaps he is correct, because while people are excited about the recent developments with the Phillies, they also are expected now. It’s not quite complacency, but during the past decade every Philadelphia team has been in the mix to acquire the top players on the market. Sure, we’re still getting used to all of this largesse and therefore go a little wild for guys like Halladay, but really…

Been there, done that.

That brings us to the grand point—this is the greatest time ever to be a Philadelphia sports fan. Ever. Since 2001, every team but the Flyers have been to the championship round of the playoffs and every team has made gigantic, stop-the-sports-world acquisitions.

Just look at the list of names:

Roy Halladay
Pedro
Cliff Lee
Jim Thome
Larry Bowa
Jeremy Roenick
Chris Pronger
Peter Forsberg
Chris Webber
Elton Brand
Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo
Terrell Owens
Asante Samuel
Jevon Kearse
Michael Vick

If the team wants them, they are pretty darned good at getting them.

Certainly that wasn’t always the case. A friend’s dad often tells the story about how he and his friends were amazed that a Philadelphia team could get a player like Julius Erving, and I remember watching on TV when Pete Rose signed his four-year, $3.2 million deal with the Phillies. The fact that the Pete Rose signing was on live TV proves how big it was because, a.) there weren’t a whole lot of channels on the dial back then. Just 12 and none of them offered all sports programming. Cable? What?

And, b.) I didn’t even live in the Philadelphia region when Rose signed. Hell, I didn’t even live in Pennsylvania.

Oh, there were other big deals, too. Like when the Sixers traded Caldwell Jones to get Moses Malone, for instance. But they were few and far between. For every Moses, there was always a Lance Parrish lurking at the podium ready to take questions about how he will deliver the championship.

Thome_cryAs far as those big moves go, the mid-season trade for Dikembe Mutombo was the first major move for us at the CSNPhilly.com site. We had three people on the staff back then and the trade came down on a snowy February afternoon that kept us cooped up in our little corner of the second floor in the Wachovia Center. Better yet for the Sixers, the deal for Mutombo was one of the few that worked out as designed. Mutombo gave the team the defense and presence in the middle it lacked and made it to the NBA Finals.

With Shaq and Kobe in mid dynasty, a trip to the finals for a team like the Sixers was as good as winning it all.

Jim Thome’s arrival was bigger yet. Not only was Thome the biggest name on the free-agent market, but also he was a symbol that there were big changes coming. Of course the unforgettable moment of Thome’s first visit to Philly was when he popped out of his limo to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the union guys from I.B.E.W. who held an impromptu rally outside the ballpark to try and sway the slugger to sign with the Phillies.

Moreover, Thome’s introductory press conference was memorable because the big fella was reduced to tears when talking about the switch from the Indians. It was a scene that hadn’t been repeated in these parts until Allen Iverson got a bit weepy when talking about his return to Philadelphia.

Oh yes, Philadelphia will make a guy cry.

Or maybe even do a bunch of sit-ups in the front yard.

Maybe in a different era, the acquisition of Roy Halladay would be a bigger deal. Maybe when the contract plays itself out—potentially five years and $100 million—we’ll view it differently. Until then he’s just another big name in a veritable cavalcade of superstars that seem to wind up in our town.

Tuning in for the re-runs with A.I.

Alleyi Every night on several channels on the dial, one can watch repeats of Seinfeld and The Simpsons or any other TV show that reached its glory in the 1990s. It’s a wonderful thing, and it works for everyone involved.

For the broadcaster, the old standbys are not only ratings winners, but very attractive to the advertisers. The advertisers, of course, spend the money that makes the world go round and keeps those repeats of Everybody Loves Raymond coming. Meanwhile, the folks at home know that if they need a little chuckle or a chance to unwind with some mindless humor/background noise, just dial it up.

In fact, shows in syndication are so popular that sometimes even the start times of live events like baseball playoffs are pushed back a bit in order to air that one sold episode of Friends.

See, it’s a win-win for everyone.

But according to the 76ers’ general manager Ed Stefanski, his team is not airing this latest repeat for the money or the ratings. Oh sure, the show aspect of it is compelling enough, and when one looks at the attendance numbers for the Sixers this season—the team is next-to-last in average attendance—it’s obvious that something is missing. Whether it’s the bad economy and the holidays approaching or the hangover from back-to-back World Series trips by the Phillies and playoff runs by the Eagles and Flyers, folks haven’t connected with the Sixers.

Of course the current seven-game losing streak and spate of key injuries don’t help either.

So rather than dig up some old I Love Lucy episode to play on the Fan-a-vision above the arena, Stefanski and the Sixers opted to sign Allen Iverson to a non-guaranteed contract. That means if the team doesn’t think it’s working out with Iverson, they can just let him go. You know, kind of like what the Memphis Grizzlies did last week.

Buh-by, A.I.

And like any other re-run we all know how it’s going to end with Iverson. We’ve all seen this show before. In 2006 when Iverson was still with the Sixers, we walked out on the team and coach Maurice Cheeks, failed to show up for practice (Practice?!), and was suspended until the team could find a place to trade him.

Iverson ended up first in Denver where he and Carmelo Anthony couldn’t figure out a way to share the ball. When Detroit came calling with Chauncey Billups offered, it was a too good of a deal for Denver to pass up.

You know how it goes from here. Iverson was relegated to bench duty, a tantrum followed, and then he quit on Detroit and Memphis. No, as far as ungraceful exits go it’s not quite Willie Mays tripping in the outfield with the New York Mets or Johnny Unitas wearing that gaudy San Diego Chargers uniform, but it was perfectly clichéd nonetheless.

If there is earth to be scorched or bridges to burn, Iverson is your man.

But that’s not why the Sixers dialed up Iverson. That would be way too easy for even the most cynical of us to scoff at. No, this time the non-guaranteed contract and the relative bottom-basement $650,000 salary if the team chooses to keep Iverson for the rest of the season is way too convenient to pass up.

“We made a basketball decision here when we found out that Lou Williams will be out close to eight weeks, which is 30-plus games,” Stefanski said.

“Allen was the best free agent out there for what we need right now.”

Ai In other words, chances are the Sixers wouldn’t even give Iverson a second look had Williams not been hurt. Sure, Iverson still puts the fannies in the seats (in this town) and as far as soap operas go there has never been anything like him in the history of Philly sports. So when thinking about this move look no further than at the Phillies and their mid-season signing of Pedro Martinez last summer. In need of a dependable, No. 5 starter, the general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. took a flier on the three-time Cy Young Award winner and one of the best right-handed pitchers in a generation with the caveat that if it didn’t work out, the team could waive him.

No fuss, no muss.

As it turned out, Pedro ended up pitching a couple of gems during the regular season and one in the NLCS before taking two starts in the World Series. Obviously, that move worked out.

Don’t expect the Sixers to get to the NBA Finals (or even the playoffs) just because they signed Iverson. After all, he couldn’t start for the lowly Memphis Grizzlies and even the New York Knicks didn’t want any part of Iverson. But as a stop-gap, ahem answer, Iverson might just be good enough.

Nope, this is the perfect scenario for Iverson and the Sixers. This is a repeat with some DVD extras in that it can be sold as a farewell tour of sorts. It can be billed as the extended swan song of a career that, statistically-speaking, is more than Hall-of-Fame worthy.

So break out the old “Practice” video and the dizzying step-over on Tyronn Lue because Iverson is back. No, he’s no longer the answer, but he sure is a lot more entertaining than anything else that’s on.

Iverson remains true to himself

Iverson So the word from somewhere is that Allen Iverson is retired from the NBA. Jut like that, without so much as a Farewell Tour that the true greats like Kareem and Doc had, the self-proclaimed “The Answer” is off to kick back on the back porch or terrorize hourly-wage casino workers at a riverboat near you.

Then again, was there ever a better way for Iverson to go out? A simple word-of-mouth–or in this case, word-of-blog–and it was finished. No sloppy ending, no tears, no more practice.

And that’s a good thing. Unlike most athletes, Iverson always called the tune. He didn’t want to come off the bench, adjust his game or mentor younger players with the last-place Memphis Grizzlies, so rather than sulk and pout, a talent as deadly as his crossover once was, Iverson just quit.

Good for him.

Maybe he heard about Willie Mays falling on the ground during the 1973 World Series while finishing up his career back in New York for the Mets. Certainly he remembered how silly Michael Jordan looked in that Washington Wizards uniform in his last two seasons.

Why put himself through that?

No, Iverson claimed he was a starting player. He was MVP of the All-Star Game twice and MVP of the league in 2001. He won the scoring title four times and until the Pistons and Grizzlies cut his minutes during the last two seasons, he averaged close to 30 points per game for his career. Why should he change? Why should he admit that he’s just the same as everyone else? Time, that great equalizer, finally caught up to Iverson just as it did for all of the NBA greats. It happened to Larry Bird in his early 30s just like it happened to Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and every other NBA player with a lot of miles and games on the legs.

Iverson is 34 and that’s the magic age for NBA players. That’s the age when players have to figure out how to adjust or go home.

Iverson decided to go home.

It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of though the word leaking out is that Iverson still regards himself as a top-level player. Apparently the fact that he had just one taker during a summer of free agency and not even the hapless New York Knicks wanted him when the last-place Grizzlies placed Iverson on waivers.

Sometimes the end comes faster one last drive to the hoop. At least it seems as if Iverson  gets that even if reluctantly.

*
So how will we remember Iverson? Certainly in Philadelphia it will be as the most controversial and polarizing athlete to hit town.

At the same time he very well might have been the most exciting and electrifying Philly ballplayer. Every night was a highlight film waiting to happen even if they didn’t all result in wins or championships.

Oftentimes it was the little things that were most impressive about Iverson. Like the time when he played 41 minutes and scored 29 points with a separated shoulder against Golden State in 2001. Or that week in 2002 when he had a triple-double in one game and 58 points in another. Nevertheless, in a pile of superlatives, Iverson’s best game was Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals in Los Angeles.

That was the one that culminated with this:

So if it’s over for Iverson, it sure was fun. Still, it’s not difficult to wonder if it could have ended a little better (or happier) for everyone.

Iverson not ready to age gracefully

allen iversonGetting old isn’t easy. Things that didn’t hurt now hurt for no logical reason. Moving around in the morning is difficult, again, for no logical reason. Worse, the ol’ recovery and bounce back time is impossible to pinpoint.

Basically, your body gets a mind of its own. The worst part about this is your body has bleep for brains.

Oh, there are a few folks out there who have aged gracefully. Just look at Dara Torres, or Jamie Moyer. Torres is 42 and set an American record in the 50-meter freestyle at the Beijing Olympics when she was 41. Moyer, as we know, has kept one step ahead of the clock for at least a decade. Over the last three seasons, the soon-to-be 47-year-old lefty has won more games than any other Phillies pitcher.

Better yet, Moyer still has the fire to compete. He didn’t have the best season in ’09, but he fought like hell even when he was bumped from the rotation. Out of the bullpen, Moyer gave up four runs in five appearances and helped solidify an inconsistent corps of pitchers.

A couple of years ago Moyer told me that he can still do the same things he always did, only slower and with more breaks.

Perhaps the secret to Moyer’s ability to avoid the pitfalls of age is the page stolen from Satchel Paige. You know, “Don’t look back because someone might be gaining on you.”

“I always felt that I had a burning desire to play,” Moyer said last summer. “In those years I always thought that you’re going to have to strip the uniform off my back. I’ve been released a couple of times, but all that did was fuel the fire for me a little more.”

Then there is Bernard Hopkins, who will fight Enrique Ornelas next month just a few weeks shy of his 45th birthday. And, of course, there’s always the ageless wonder himself, Don Wildman.

Wildman and his Malibu Mafia make everyone look old.

The truth is there is no correlation between age and athletic performance. The difference in why the older athletes struggle so much is desire, changing priorities, wear-and-tear and lack of fitness.

Maybe that’s where Allen Iverson fits in.

Iverson is not old by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he’s just 34, which is younger than Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Anthony Parker, Ben Wallace, Derek Fisher, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd and Shaquille O’Neal. The difference between Iverson and those players is that they all made adjustments in their game and training regimens, while coming to terms with their age, while Iverson has not.

Iverson, apparently, hasn’t learned that he is 34. He hasn’t figured out that 14 years into the league he needs to hone different skills and can’t just go running into a brick wall every time down the court.

Oh yes indeed, we’re still talkin’ ‘bout practice.

To say Iverson is at a crossroads doesn’t begin to explain it. In fact, Iverson is about to be wiped off the map so completely that he’ll need a GPS to find his way. In his first season playing for the Memphis Grizzlies—his third team since being traded from the Sixers in 2006—Iverson has left the team after playing in just three games.

The reason? He doesn’t want to come off the bench. Worse, he doesn’t want to be a wise, mentoring veteran on a team with seven players in their first or second years in the NBA, and 10 players with no more than three years of experience. It’s kind of ironic that the oldest guy on the team is also the biggest baby.

When one of his younger teammates apparently didn’t see that Iverson was wide open during an overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings, Iverson lashed out at the inability to get him the ball and his reduced role on the team.

“I’m not a reserve basketball player,” Iverson said. “I’ve never been a reserve all my life and I’m not going to start looking at myself as a reserve.”

Nope, Iverson wants to get his. Otherwise he’ll just go home.

That quote from Moyer in which adversity and professional slights only served to make him work harder, make smarter moves and change his tactics is completely lost on Iverson. The only thing fueling the fire within Iverson is his massive ego.

And so he’s gone home.

Worse, he sounds like a cranky old man. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Iverson complained that no team aside from Memphis wanted him during his summer of free agency. In fact, he’s so disillusioned that no one wanted him and the only team that made a bid last summer sees him as a reserve, that retirement seems like a real possibility.

That’s too bad. It’s too bad because Iverson is a tremendous talent and was one of the few players in the NBA that was worth the high-price of a ticket. But in the NBA, there just aren’t too many players who can do at 34 what they did at 29 or 30. Oh sure, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar continued to be an effective ballplayer through his mid-30s, but Michael Jordan retired for the second time when he was 34. Even Wilt Chamberlain was primarily a role player when he turned 34.

Then again maybe Iverson gets it. Maybe we can save the psycho-babble and simply chalk up Iverson to being a grouchy old man who sees a bunch of kids running past him? But rather than thinking up new ways to keep up, he’d prefer to snatch the ball when it gets kicked into his yard with the loud, sad bellow:

“Get off my lawn!”

As for aging gracefully, well, that doesn’t seem too likely with Iverson. Plus, if he returns to the Grizzlies, coach Lionel Hollins (an ex-Sixers guard like Iverson) says there are some lines that must be toed.

The Answer must abide.

“Allen has his own interpretation of things. I know the truth. He knows the truth,” Hollins told the AP. “What I would like to do is let Allen handle his (personal) issues, make a decision on whether he’s coming back or not and concentrate on what we have to do as a team, both if he’s not here and if he is here.”

Yes, it’s a hard thing getting old. Especially when it takes much more practice.

Iverson not ready to age gracefully

image from fingerfood.files.wordpress.com Getting old isn’t easy. Things that didn’t hurt now hurt for no logical reason. Moving around in the morning is difficult, again, for no logical reason. Worse, the ol’ recovery and bounce back time is impossible to pinpoint.

Basically, your body gets a mind of its own. The worst part about this is your body has bleep for brains.

Oh, there are a few folks out there who have aged gracefully. Just look at Dara Torres, or Jamie Moyer. Torres is 42 and set an American record in the 50-meter freestyle at the Beijing Olympics when she was 41. Moyer, as we know, has kept one step ahead of the clock for at least a decade. Over the last three seasons, the soon-to-be 47-year-old lefty has won more games than any other Phillies pitcher.

Better yet, Moyer still has the fire to compete. He didn’t have the best season in ’09, but he fought like hell even when he was bumped from the rotation. Out of the bullpen, Moyer gave up four runs in five appearances and helped solidify an inconsistent corps of pitchers.

A couple of years ago Moyer told me that he can still do the same things he always did, only slower and with more breaks.

Perhaps the secret to Moyer’s ability to avoid the pitfalls of age is the page stolen from Satchel Paige. You know, “Don’t look back because someone might be gaining on you.”

“I always felt that I had a burning desire to play,” Moyer said last summer. “In those years I always thought that you’re going to have to strip the uniform off my back. I’ve been released a couple of times, but all that did was fuel the fire for me a little more.”

Then there is Bernard Hopkins, who will fight Enrique Ornelas next month just a few weeks shy of his 45th birthday. And, of course, there’s always the ageless wonder himself, Don Wildman.

Wildman and his Malibu Mafia make everyone look old.

The truth is there is no correlation between age and athletic performance. The difference in why the older athletes struggle so much is desire, changing priorities, wear-and-tear and lack of fitness.

Maybe that’s where Allen Iverson fits in.

Iverson is not old by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he’s just 34, which is younger than Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Anthony Parker, Ben Wallace, Derek Fisher, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd and Shaquille O’Neal. The difference between Iverson and those players is that they all made adjustments in their game and training regimens, while coming to terms with their age, while Iverson has not.

Iverson, apparently, hasn’t learned that he is 34. He hasn’t figured out that 14 years into the league he needs to hone different skills and can’t just go running into a brick wall every time down the court.

Oh yes indeed, we’re still talkin’ ‘bout practice.

To say Iverson is at a crossroads doesn’t begin to explain it. In fact, Iverson is about to be wiped off the map so completely that he’ll need a GPS to find his way. In his first season playing for the Memphis Grizzlies—his third team since being traded from the Sixers in 2006—Iverson has left the team after playing in just three games.

The reason? He doesn’t want to come off the bench. Worse, he doesn’t want to be a wise, mentoring veteran on a team with seven players in their first or second years in the NBA, and 10 players with no more than three years of experience. It’s kind of ironic that the oldest guy on the team is also the biggest baby.

When one of his younger teammates apparently didn’t see that Iverson was wide open during an overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings, Iverson lashed out at the inability to get him the ball and his reduced role on the team.

“I’m not a reserve basketball player,” Iverson said. “I’ve never been a reserve all my life and I’m not going to start looking at myself as a reserve.”

Nope, Iverson wants to get his. Otherwise he’ll just go home.

That quote from Moyer in which adversity and professional slights only served to make him work harder, make smarter moves and change his tactics is completely lost on Iverson. The only thing fueling the fire within Iverson is his massive ego.

And so he’s gone home.

Worse, he sounds like a cranky old man. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Iverson complained that no team aside from Memphis wanted him during his summer of free agency. In fact, he’s so disillusioned that no one wanted him and the only team that made a bid last summer sees him as a reserve, that retirement seems like a real possibility.

That’s too bad. It’s too bad because Iverson is a tremendous talent and was one of the few players in the NBA that was worth the high-price of a ticket. But in the NBA, there just aren’t too many players who can do at 34 what they did at 29 or 30. Oh sure, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar continued to be an effective ballplayer through his mid-30s, but Michael Jordan retired for the second time when he was 34. Even Wilt Chamberlain was primarily a role player when he turned 34.

Then again maybe Iverson gets it. Maybe we can save the psycho-babble and simply chalk up Iverson to being a grouchy old man who sees a bunch of kids running past him? But rather than thinking up new ways to keep up, he'd prefer to snatch the ball when it gets kicked into his yard with the loud, sad bellow:

"Get off my lawn!"

As for aging gracefully, well, that doesn’t seem too likely with Iverson. Plus, if he returns to the Grizzlies, coach Lionel Hollins (an ex-Sixers guard like Iverson) says there are some lines that must be toed.

The Answer must abide.

“Allen has his own interpretation of things. I know the truth. He knows the truth,” Hollins told the AP. “What I would like to do is let Allen handle his (personal) issues, make a decision on whether he’s coming back or not and concentrate on what we have to do as a team, both if he’s not here and if he is here.”

Yes, it’s a hard thing getting old. Especially when it takes much more practice.

Hitting the soft 14

joe_pesciWASHINGTON – Last night I watched the movie Casino, the Martin Scorsese epic with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and, of course, Mr. Warmth himself, Don Rickles. Actually, the movie was on while I was doing a bunch of other things like reading, editing, you know, that kind of stuff.

It was Wednesday night and there was no baseball happening here in D.C. so I was kind of on my own. What? Was I going to watch hockey?

Not unless Keith Jones is playing.

Anyway, Casino was on providing perfect background noise until that scene where Pesci, “half in the bag,” as Rickles described him, showed up at the Tangiers looking for  $50,000 marker at the Blackjack table. Things got ugly not when Pesci asked for the cash, but when the dealers kept turning over picture cards one after the other when all that did was leave him busted.

As most folks remember, Pesci kept picking up the kings, queens and jacks off the felt and threw them back at the dealer with the message that the poor schlub working at the table could take it and do something that would be illegal in most Midwestern states.

Actually, what Pesci was doing probably was just enough to get a guy banned from the Greektown casinos in Detroit. At least that’s the way it seems based on the latest incident involving Allen Iverson in his soon-to-be ex-hometown. Apparently Iverson hasn’t had much luck at the tables and has been taking it out on the poor schlubs working the tables.

According to reports, Iverson has been banned from two Detroit casinos for “boorish behavior.” Counter reports indicate that no such ban has occurred, though this winning quote from the Detroit News.

“He is a bad loser, and he loses a lot, often throwing his chips or cards at dealers,” Pistons beat writer Chris McCosky reported on his blog. “He is often loud and disruptive, according to witnesses, rude to dealers, other players and the wait staff.”

It was also reported that police had to be called when Iverson’s bodyguard got into a fight at a casino and that NBA security was investigating incidents at other casinos.

Oh, but there is more…

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Iverson caused a disturbance at a casino outside Minneapolis earlier this season and had a long history in Atlantic City while he was with the 76ers.

For instance, in December 2005, Iverson got into an argument with a dealer at the Trump Taj Mahal casino after the dealer overpaid him $10,000 initially refused to give the chips back.

Then, in February 2004, the paper says Iverson urinated into a trashcan at Bally’s on the casino floor.

Yeah…

And we’re talking about practice?

So when they say life imitates art (or vice versa), apparently that really is the case. Besides, it’s a good thing he’s not throwing the dice, because we’d hate to hear what happens if Iverson takes a beating trying to hit the hard eight.

As it turned out, Pesci didn’t fare too well at the end of the movie… maybe the same kind of ending is coming for Iverson’s basketball career.

Hitting the soft 14

image from fingerfood.typepad.com WASHINGTON – Last night I watched the movie Casino, the Martin Scorsese epic with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and, of course, Mr. Warmth himself, Don Rickles. Actually, the movie was on while I was doing a bunch of other things like reading, editing, you know, that kind of stuff.

It was Wednesday night and there was no baseball happening here in D.C. so I was kind of on my own. What? Was I going to watch hockey?

Not unless Keith Jones is playing.

Anyway, Casino was on providing perfect background noise until that scene where Pesci, "half in the bag," as Rickles described him, showed up at the Tangiers looking for  $50,000 marker at the Blackjack table. Things got ugly not when Pesci asked for the cash, but when the dealers kept turning over picture cards one after the other when all that did was leave him busted.

As most folks remember, Pesci kept picking up the kings, queens and jacks off the felt and threw them back at the dealer with the message that the poor schlub working at the table could take it and do something that would be illegal in most Midwestern states.

Actually, what Pesci was doing probably was just enough to get a guy banned from the Greektown casinos in Detroit. At least that's the way it seems based on the latest incident involving Allen Iverson in his soon-to-be ex-hometown. Apparently Iverson hasn't had much luck at the tables and has been taking it out on the poor schlubs working the tables.

According to reports, Iverson has been banned from two Detroit casinos for "boorish behavior." Counter reports indicate that no such ban has occurred, though this winning quote from the Detroit News.

"He is a bad loser, and he loses a lot, often throwing his chips or cards at dealers," Pistons beat writer Chris McCosky reported on his blog. "He is often loud and disruptive, according to witnesses, rude to dealers, other players and the wait staff."

It was also reported that police had to be called when Iverson's bodyguard got into a fight at a casino and that NBA security was investigating incidents at other casinos.

Oh, but there is more…

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Iverson caused a disturbance at a casino outside Minneapolis earlier this season and had a long history in Atlantic City while he was with the 76ers.

For instance, in December 2005, Iverson got into an argument with a dealer at the Trump Taj Mahal casino after the dealer overpaid him $10,000 initially refused to give the chips back.

Then, in February 2004, the paper says Iverson urinated into a trashcan at Bally's on the casino floor.

Yeah…

And we're talking about practice?

So when they say life imitates art (or vice versa), apparently that really is the case. Besides, it's a good thing he's not throwing the dice, because we'd hate to hear what happens if Iverson takes a beating trying to hit the hard eight.

As it turned out, Pesci didn't fare too well at the end of the movie… maybe the same kind of ending is coming for Iverson's basketball career.

Iverson No Longer Has the Answers

It’s kind of like a guy who holds his hand over an open flame and is upset if he gets burned. Oh, we all saw it coming and knew the result, but it still funny to watch the guy with his medium-well hand whine and complain about his own silliness.

Yes, Allen Iverson hasn’t changed a lick, folks.

It seems like forever ago that Allen Iverson played for the 76ers. But two trades and 2½ seasons later, Iverson still hasn’t gotten it. Sometimes he says the right things and claims that it’s about the team and winning a championship, but the reality is starkly different.

No, Iverson has not changed.

Continue reading this story …

Iverson No Longer Has the Answers

It’s kind of like a guy who holds his hand over an open flame and is upset if he gets burned. Oh, we all saw it coming and knew the result, but it still funny to watch the guy with his medium-well hand whine and complain about his own silliness.

Yes, Allen Iverson hasn’t changed a lick, folks.

It seems like forever ago that Allen Iverson played for the 76ers. But two trades and 2½ seasons later, Iverson still hasn’t gotten it. Sometimes he says the right things and claims that it’s about the team and winning a championship, but the reality is starkly different.

No, Iverson has not changed.

Continue reading this story …

The bench? We’re talkin’ ’bout the bench

Allen Iverson was many things during his decade-long stop in Philadelphia. Aside from his inspiring play on the court – and uninspiring penchant for practice (Yes, indeed, we are talkin’ ‘bout practice) – Iverson was a proud man. A “warrior” as he liked to call himself.

Practice?

Nevertheless, it appears as if time and injury are starting to creep up on ol’ Alley I, but then again, if we’re all lucky it will catch up with us too. However, in this case, Iverson might be relegated to coming off the bench for the Detroit Pistons when he returns to the lineup from a back ailment.

Practice and the bench, too?

According to a story on freep.com, the Pistons are doing quite well without “The Answer.” Moreover, it sounds like he ought to get used to substituting in when he returns.

“I think he’s going to fit right in,” Coatesville’s Richard Hamilton told freep.com.”It’s a tough role for him because I know it was a tough role for me.

“So I think he will be great. We’re going to cheer for everybody and do everything possible to win games.”

Iverson threw a hissy fit when ex-Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks wanted to slowly work him back into the lineup from the bench a few seasons back. In one of his better known (but not a top 10) rants, Iverson laid out his resume to criticize Cheeks’ plan to use him as a sixth man.

In the end, Iverson got what he wanted – he started, squeezed off his shots and then got dealt to Denver…

And when that honeymoon ended quicker than anticipated, Iverson landed in Detroit.

Though it sounds as if the honeymoon is coming to a quick end in Detroit, too. According to a freep.com story, Detroit fans will likely give louder cheers to ex-Piston Chauncey Billups than their new sixth man, A.I.

***
OK, another Dawkins thing:

It could have been worse – the Eagles could have given him an empty golf bag on his way out.

Practice, not a game

Allen IversonEd. note: The following was slated to run on the special CSN 10th Anniversary Web site, but was spiked because the content, I was told, was a sore spot with certain folks. I’m not sure who those folks are (actually, I am, but I’m not going to tell you), but I was also told to save the essay for my blog. I never felt like it fit until now because Allen Iverson will play in Philadelphia for the first time since his trade to Denver.

When Comcast SportsNet hit the cable airwaves in these parts on Oct. 1, 1997 it literally changed how diehard sports fans watch their games. Actually, it changed nothing about how we sit around and watch a routine ballgame on any given Tuesday night on the calendar. No, Comcast SportsNet changed how we watch the games.

Emphasis, as stated, on watch.

What changed wasn’t a person’s rudimentary knowledge of the sport or the rules or whatever. It’s a little more nuanced than that. Instead, what Comcast SportsNet did was take the pre- and post-game media scrums and turned on a camera. Sounds simple, huh? Well, sometimes the smartest move is the most obvious one. Yet by making that simple, smart move, CSN gave the viewers at home essentially the same vantage point as most of the reporters covering the games – only without the player interaction and clubhouse towel-snapping and whatnot.

And trust me, that is no great perk.

Nevertheless, by turning on the cameras for the press conferences and locker room action, Comcast SportsNet gave the intuitive fan something a little more breathable than the five-second sound byte on the evening news mixed in with 90-seconds of highlights. It also made the quotes in the newspaper a little more tangible. Instead of reading between the lines of a quote for the deeper meaning, or relying on the analysis of desk jockeys breaking down the game on the post-game show, fans were given the chance to deconstruct a player’s words. Body language, facial expressions and inflection of voice were all there to be translated in any manner a fan chose.

Sure, it is still true that the best quotes and the best stories are still the dominion of the print media. This little caveat of the sports media is unlikely to change and there are many reasons why. One, of course, is that a conversation between one player and one scribe is typically more revealing than the one between a player, an interviewer, a cameraman and the thousands of folks watching at home. Players are human and humans prefer the intimate nature of a quiet conversation between small groups of people. When those camera lights go on sometimes even the most seasoned player sweat, shake and quiver with nervousness. Being on TV, even in this age of media over-saturation, is still a big deal. Until everyone is wired (wireless) with a microphone for their own web site(s), the dichotomy between TV and newspapers covering sports is not going to change. But as for the everyday press conference with the players and the coaches, Comcast SportsNet changed the game.

It’s all there, unedited and unfiltered.

Now it’s hard to discern whether or not turning the basic press conference into reality television is an act of genius or not. After all, it doesn’t take Stephen Hawking to figure out that sports fans want as much access to their sports heroes as possible. Genius, of course is in the eye of the beholder – one man’s Picasso is another man’s velvet Elvis.

However, one of the greatest moments in the history of television (at least in the last 10 years) was aired live on Comcast SportsNet – unbleeped. That moment was on May 8, 2002 when Allen Iverson delivered his famous “practice” press conference.

OK. I know what you’re thinking. You are questioning the hyperbolic notion that Allen Iverson talking about practice (not a game) was some sort of transcendent TV moment like the last episode of MASH or something like that. I guess in that regard, you are right.

But not by much.

Here’s why the Iverson moment was touchstone event:

It transcended mere sports and became an actual figment of the pop culture. The phrase, “We’re talkin’ ‘bout practice, man,” has entered the popular lexicon and become a significant slab of cultural wallpaper.

Still not buying it? OK, try this:

In July of 2006 I was walking with my family on the Pearl Street pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colo., which is that town’s version of South Street only it’s cleaner, more eclectic and filled with vagabonds begging for change wearing $250 peasants’ shirts and $125 Merrell sandals. About 10 minutes into a walk past falafel stands, smoothie shops and kiosks advertising the gigs for the latest touring jam band, a kid on a skateboard wiped out right at my feet. I gave him a moment to catch his breath (my son chased down his board) and then offered a hand to get the kid back on his feet. Once I realized he was OK and would live to skate (or die!) another day, I said, “Looks like you need a little more practice.”

“Practice,” he said, without hesitation and as he brushed a well-coifed dread from his face. “We’re talkin’ about practice.”

Then he smiled and skated away.

Has anyone ever heard of a skateboard kid quoting Jim Mora’s “Playoffs” screed, another famous post-game rant that was captured on live TV? How about Howard Dean’s demented rebel yell? I sincerely doubt it. But Allen Iverson, thanks to Comcast SportsNet’s foresight, gave that wannabe Neil Blender in Boulder a quipy line to throw back at some smart-alecky, 30-something from Pennsylvania.

And we are all the better for it.

OK, you concede, the Iverson press conference was a cultural phenomenon. But didn’t the Terrell Owens press conferences from his driveway – including the one where he invited everyone over to watch him do sit-ups – supersede Iverson’s, “Practice”?

No, and here’s why:

If you go to the circus and see a man swallow a two-foot sword engorged with flames, it isn’t news. It’s odd and maybe a bit disturbing when one wonders about how that circus performer (is “freak” the proper nomenclature?) discovered he had the innate ability to swallow fiery objects. Just how does he practice? Certainly the swallower has made mistakes while honing his act… what happened as the result of those sessions besides a few new scars and an interest in the stock performance of Bactine?

The point is that the dude swallowing the sword at the circus is simply doing his job. That’s it. He’s punching the clock. When Terrell Owens and his agent were doing their little song and dance in the driveway it was the same exact thing as the guy in the circus – it wasn’t news, it was just a performance-art piece.

But what set Comcast SportsNet apart on May 8, 2002 was that it could tell a story better than anyone else simply by turning on the cameras and getting the heck out of the way. The second coming of Damon Runyan or Red Smith could never do justice to Iverson’s words. Actually, you be the judge. First, here’s is the video from that press conference.

And here is the transcript of the press conference:

“If Coach tells you that I missed practice, then that’s that. I may have missed one practice this year, but if somebody says he missed one practice of all the practices this year, then that’s enough to get a whole lot started. I told Coach Brown that you don’t have to give the people of Philadelphia a reason to think about trading me or anything like that. If you trade somebody, you trade them to make the team better… simple as that. I’m cool with that. I’m all about that. The people in Philadelphia deserve to have a winner. It’s simple as that. It goes further than that… If I can’t practice, I can’t practice. It is as simple as that. It ain’t about that at all. It’s easy to sum it up if you’re just talking about practice. We’re sitting here, and I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re talking about practice. I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last, but we’re talking about practice man. How silly is that? … Now I know that I’m supposed to lead by example, and all that, but I’m not shoving that aside like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I honestly do, but we’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice man. We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We’re not talking about the game. We’re talking about practice. When you come to the arena, and you see me play — you’ve seen me play right — you’ve seen me give everything I’ve got, but we’re talking about practice right now. … Hey I hear you; it’s funny to me too. Hey it’s strange to me too, but we’re talking about practice man, we’re not even talking about the game, when it actually matters, we’re talking about practice … How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?”

See what I mean. The video was so much better. Watching it again all these years later still makes me laugh because it’s one of the greatest rants ever. But it also makes me remember how Allen Iverson played when he was with the 76ers. Sure, there were other issues with Iverson that will be deciphered and agonized over for decades to come, but no one can deny that Iverson was entertaining. He played hard, he played to win and, yes, even gave us a good show. Yeah, maybe people wanted Steve Nash as the undersized guard leading the title run, but when Iverson was here no one ever complained about being bored.

Better yet, we got to see the whole act, live, on Comcast SportsNet.

A conversation between A.I. and Jim Mora

***

Latest on CSN.com: Howard Focused on Big Season, Not Big Contract

Hamels Focused on Health, Winning for ’07

***

When we struggle, we reach for help. That’s why I’ve been running with my iPod lately. Of course “struggling” is a relative term, but for some reason I’ve needed a little extra motivation in order to put in the miles. So in that regard, these digital files that randomly were pumped into my skull during this morning’s jaunt:

  • Love Sick – Bob Dylan
    There’s a nasty guitar lick on this one that I just can’t get enough of.
  • Trigger Cut – Pavement
    Interestingly Mark Ibold, the bassist in Pavement is a Lancasterian and his brother, Hans, was a year ahead of me at J.P. McCaskey. Mark, however, went to Lancaster Country Day, which I am staring at out my window as I type and ran past as this track played… on another note, Pavement’s first album is one of those “desert island” type records.
  • Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield
    Believe it or not, there is some interesting guitar work on this one — OK, that’s pushing it… just let me have some fun. Besides, this one worked very well in that bizarre scene in Boogie Nights. You know the one — John C. Reilly, Thomas Jane and Marky Mark go over to Alfred Molina’s house where his houseboy keeps lighting and setting off firecrackers. That scene should be studied in film schools across the country. Rick Springfield should be proud his song was used in that manner.
  • Southside – Moby
    I read something that Moby hated this song and Gwen Stefani’s effort in it and that he nearly cut it from the album. It’s kind of a cool song, I guess.
  • There Goes My Gun – The Pixies
    From a Peel Session. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to dig in to John Peel’s collection?
  • Knowing Me, Knowing You – Evan Dando
    Just Evan and a guitar playing an ABBA song — that’s hard to beat.
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Devo
    During the early days of MTV — back when they showed videos and were interesting — this was a staple. It also makes me think about a Devo and John Belushi story that can’t be repeated here.
  • Last Exit – Pearl Jam
    Recorded in Camden on July 5, 2003. Eddie Vedder was at the Vet that day before a Phillies game and he is really very short… then again, I’m 6-1 so maybe it’s not him. Maybe it’s me? Nevertheless, I watched and enjoyed Vedder’s appearance on Iconoclasts on the Sundance channel where he’s spends a day surfing and hanging out with Laird Hamilton in Hawaii. Most impressive is Hamilton who has inspired me to run or bike to the ballpark one day this upcoming summer. It will probably have to be a day game though, because I’m not riding or running home on the Turnpike after dark.
  • I Will Refuse – Pailhead
    Ian MacKaye and Al Jourgensen? Get out of here!
  • It Didn’t Turn Out That Way – Mose Allison
    Mose Allison writes and performs perfect songs perfectly. Lately, it’s taken force to get me to hit the shuffle button instead of listening to the new Evens record and Mose Allison.
  • Bonzo Goes to Bitburg – The Ramones
    My favorite Ramones song ever.
  • Bleeding Powers – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
    Ted and the gang has a new album on the way. As a live performer, Ted is hard to beat.
  • A Doubt – John Frusciante
    OK… I forgot to include Frusciante with The Evens and Mose Allison. Better yet, Frusciante’s epic output last year is some of the most interesting stuff I’ve heard in a while. I just don’t understand how a guy can put out piles of exciting and great work like Frusciante has and then moonlight in a band as predictable and tired as the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
  • I Grow Cold – Shudder to Think
    There was a time when all I listened to was Shudder to Think’s “Ten Spot,” “Funeral At the Movies,” and “Get Your Goat.” I think that was 1993 or 1994.
  • Good Day Sunshine – The Beatles
    This one played as I ran by my mom’s house and James Buchanan’s Wheatland.
  • Spirit of the Radio – Rush
    This one reminds me of walking to school in fifth grade at James Buchanan Elementary. That was about 25 years ago.
  • Boredom – The Buzzcocks
    The Passed covered this one back when we were in high school.

    That was fun… maybe I’ll try to get out again later since it’s supposed to be really cold tomorrow.

  • Powder, man… we’re talkin’ ‘bout packed powder

    Vacation time. It’s use-the-days-or-lose-them time. It’s also recover from a 16-hour day that was Tuesday when Allen Iverson was finally traded away from the 76ers. Needless to say, there is a bunch of server space that has been impeded upon in the name of delving into the intricacies of the trade.

    I’d say trees were killed, too, but we all know that newspapers, in their hardcopy form, are irrelevant.

    Apparently, Iverson said he never asked to be traded, which is a unique spin after being inactive for the 76ers for six games. Unless Iverson lives in a cocoon or cave he surely heard the stories saying that he did, indeed, ask for a trade. It’s a wonder he didn’t say anything sooner.

    Meanwhile, as a regular traveler to Colorado and parts of the Denver metro area, I’m going to make an easy prediction in saying that Allen Iverson will take over the sporting landscape of that area unlike any other athlete, excluding John Elway, Dan Issel and Frank Shorter. Iverson immediately makes the Nuggets viable in Colorado, which is something. Afterall, the big events out there are Broncos games, track or cycling Olympic Trials when half of Boulder empties out, and the annual Colorado vs. Colorado St. game.

    The hard part, as everyone has been writing, will be to get shots for Iverson and leading-scorer Carmelo Anthony. Who knows, perhaps the new dynamic duo will just start playing one-on-one against each other in the middle of games.

    Another concern is getting Iverson to practice in the medium altitude in Denver. Then again, he likely won’t have the same distractions in Colorado that he had in Philadelphia. Atlantic City won’t be 45-minutes away, though there are the low-stakes gambling halls in Central City and Blackhawk.

    Better yet, forget about Friday’s and Dave & Busters. Just try to keep Iverson off the slopes in Aspen, Vail, Crested Butte or Telluride.

    Powder, man… we’re talkin’ ‘bout packed powder.

    Of course he can always go up to Boulder and play hacky sack on the Pearl Street Mall, too. Who cares that the team is now being re-nicknamed from Nugs to Thugs… personally, I prefer Carmelo and the Super Sucker (punchers), but that’s me.

    So with Iverson gone what are the 76ers going to do to remain in the news? How about an encore for Larry Brown? That’s definitely a unique one. Has Brown ever returned to any of the 274 teams he’s been with during his career? I don’t think so.

    Other stuff
    Apparently there is a big football game on Monday night. What intrigues me the most about the game – other than the fact that it could determine whether the Lancaster Crackers are the PSFL champion or merely the runner-up – is what if it were to be played in Philadelphia like the NFL originally wanted?

    Elsewhere, I enjoyed reading Todd Zolecki’s Q&A with patron saint Bill James. I suppose it’s fair to label Todd as a “sabergeek.”

    Goofin’ off
    So what does a vacation mean around here? Well, yesterday it meant a 20-mile run that beat me up a little bit. To recover I ate a half gallon of mint chocolate cookie frozen yogurt on top of a chili sauce and tofu with rice dish my wife makes.

    Tonight I plan on a modest recovery run since I struggled to run 6:45 pace during the 20-miler, followed by a trip to the haircuttery with our 2-year-old boy and dinner at one of the Japanese restaurants here in town.

    Yeah, it’s pretty wild around here.

    Later in the week some traveling, movie-viewing and other domesticated tomfoolery is on the agenda. Plus, since a lot of my friends work at home or in offices nearby, I might stop in and bother them.

    See, told you it’s going to be wild.

    Goofin’ off

    Whenever I want a good laugh I read my horoscope. Better yet, the astrology stuff that attempts to pinpoint my personality and future based on my birthday are the best. Because I was born on December 10 – like Emily Dickinson, Susan Dey and that big dude from The Green Mile – I’m supposed to be inscrutable and philosophical… or something like that.

    Be that as it may, there are a lot of people who take their astrological sign and star charts seriously. In fact, some people treat it as a religion.

    Along those lines is a report in The New York Times where Japanese baseball players are judged on their blood type.

    Why blood type and not eye color?

    Anyway, new Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is a warrior who can face down any difficult situation – like facing Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez with no outs and the bases loaded – because his blood type is O.

    Think I’m kidding? Read this story… like I wrote, it’s in The Times.

    On another note, I happened to hear former Phillies manager and current Red Sox skipper, Terry Francona, on Dan Patrick’s radio show this afternoon while driving home with my son from his school. During the show, Patrick asked Tito if he anticipates and communication problems with the new, $52 million man who is set to pitch for the Red Sox.

    No, Francona, said, adding, “If he wants to go out and pitch seven, eight or nine innings every night, I can pat him on the butt in any language.”

    Factoid
    This is from sometime ComcastSportsNet.com contributor and former “Best Damn Sports Show, Period” researcher, Bill Sudell:

    Here’s how things are going at the Wachovia Center: The Flyers have won eight games, the 76ers only five. There are 31 teams – 23 in the NHL, which has played more of its schedule, and eight in the NBA – with as many or more wins than the 13 the Flyers and Sixers have combined.

    Don’t let the door hit you…
    Here’s a surprise – some Philadelphia police officers are happy to see Allen Iverson (reportedly) on his way out of town.

    Here’s the money quotes via Philadelphia Will Do, via the Inquirer’s police blog:

    “”He’s a hoodlum, a thug” proclaimed one police officer. Another one of Philly’s finest said, “He doesn’t make our lives any easier as cops. He thinks he can drive a thousand miles an hour down City Avenue and that no one is supposed to say anything to him.” Another officer commented how disgusted she was when he allegedly turned down a young fan looking to get his autograph at TGI Fridays.”

    Just for the sake of nothing, I decided to look up all of the 76ers’ coaches during Allen Iverson’s time in Philadelphia. They are:

    Johnny Davis 1997
    Larry Brown 1998-2003
    Randy Ayers 2003-2004
    Chris Ford 2004
    Jim O’Brien 2004-2005
    Maurice Cheeks 2005- present

    Meanwhile, just for fun, I decided to look up the managers Scott Rolen has played for during his career. Like Iverson, Rolen was the Rookie of the Year in 1997.

    Jim Fregosi 1996
    Terry Francona 1997-2000
    Larry Bowa 2000-2002
    Tony La Russa 2002- present

    As one can tell from the list, Iverson really didn’t become a coach killer until Larry Brown bolted for Detroit. Meanwhile, Brown has been in and out of two organizations since leaving Philadelphia.

    Downloaded playbook
    Apparently, Eagles’ rookie Jeremy Bloom is resourceful. How resourceful? Well, instead of using his iPod to listen to music or watch movies, Bloom uses his handy-dandy little computer to learn the Eagles playbook.

    According to a story on ESPN.com, the rookie out of CU-Boulder records himself reading the playbook, loads it onto his iPod, and then works out while listening to himself tell himself what to do.

    The winning graf:

    Eagles special teams coordinator John Harbaugh observed Bloom doing his solo work, but had no idea what he was listening to. “I thought there was music in that thing,” Harbaugh said.

    Deal or not?

    According to a few newspaper reports, it sounds as if Allen Iverson – once again – is controlling the 76ers. Apparently, as reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Iverson balked at a trade to the Charlotte Bobcats, which ruined a potential deal.

    That’s one story, but there are others.

    Those other stories are all rumors, of course. The Kings, Celtics, Timberwolves, Mavericks, Globetrotters, Real Madrid, and yadda, yadda, yadda, are all interested in making a deal for the 76ers’ star-crossed All-Star but have yet to cross the eyes and dot the tees.

    Needless to say, on the record the teams rumored to be involved in negotiating for a deal to get Iverson have all denied their involvement. So in other words, no one knows who knows what is true.

    Or false.

    But here’s a theory no one in Philadelphia is really giving much credence. In fact, the idea of it just makes the head spin and is so hard to grasp that it could make the feint of heart break into convulsions…

    Ready?

    Maybe no one wants Iverson.

    Let me write that again…

    Maybe no one wants Allen Iverson on their basketball team.

    There it is.

    Oh sure, big-time players like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will say they want the so-called Answer. General managers like the T’wolves’ Kevin McHale and owners like the Kings’ Maloofs will say that Iverson would be a lovely addition to their franchises, too. But when it comes down to putting the money, the soon-to-expire contracts and the draft picks where the mouth is, the Iverson trade watch is dragging on like a hostage situation complete with TV graphics that spell out the time that has passed.

    In that regard, I suppose we’re at “Day 5: Iverson Watch.”

    It has a little bit of a cool ring to it, but maybe we should add an exclamation point at the end.

    Punctuation and splashy graphics aside, lending some fuel to the ugly-stepchild theory is all-time three-point shooter Steve Kerr, who not only played and battled with Michael Jordan, but also serves as an NBA analyst on TV. That, I suppose, makes him an expert on most things related to the NBA. According to Kerr, who talked to Dan Patrick on the eponymously named ESPN radio show, the only teams that would make a trade for someone like Allen Iverson are the ones that are beyond desperate.

    “There are only a few teams in the league that would even think about wanting to pull the trigger because the baggage is just too heavy,” Kerr said about trading for Iverson on Patrick’s show. “I’m like everyone else in that I love the way he competes and I love his talent, but part of being a winner is understanding team dynamics and the importance of practice and being professional and being at team functions. If you’re going to take a guy like that and pay him 20 million bucks a year, that’s a pretty big risk.

    “In my mind, the teams that will do it are really desperate.”

    There’s another caveat, too, said Kerr. In exchange for Iverson, the Sixers will likely want expiring contracts and draft picks in return in order to build a team for the future. But with Ohio State phenom Greg Oden likely to enter the NBA Draft this June, there aren’t too many teams that will want to hand over a lottery pick if they have a ping-pong ball in the mix for the No. 1 selection.

    “But who is going to give up a first-round pick this year when you know Greg Oden is probably going to come out,” Kerr asked, wondering if a “deal is going to happen at all.”

    Is it likely that we could enter, “Day 37: Iverson Watch!”? Probably not. But let’s at least lend some weight to the notion that the 76ers just might tell Iverson to stay at home for the rest of the year.

    Don’t worry, Alley I, the checks will keep coming.

    The long good bye

    Needless to say, NBA followers are speculating and watching where Allen Iverson might end up. Slam Magazine has its choices, while the Timberwolves’ Kevin Garnett wants his boss Kevin McHale to get on it and make a deal pronto.

    How crazy would it be for Iverson to end up with the Sixers’ once-hated rival, Boston?

    So if this is the end for Iverson, perhaps we should start the long tributes. Why not start with the coup de grace:

    And then this one:

    How about his best game ever:

    Wrong Answer?

    Years from now we will be still debating Allen Iverson’s legacy with the 76ers and as a Philadelphia professional athlete. Certainly, it’s hard to rate Iverson on par with Wilt, Julius, Barkley or Moses Malone. Aside from reaching the top of the NBA as members of the Sixers, there is just something about those guys that illicit wistful reminiscences from people who think on those things.

    That’s not to say Iverson didn’t accomplish a lot during his time with the 76ers. After all, his 2001 season is up there with one the all-timers and there was a stretch where watching Iverson was just as exciting as it was during the era that featured Doc, Bird, Magic and Jordan.

    By now, of course, most folks who follow these types of things have heard the news regarding Allen Iverson’s desire to be traded from Philadelphia, and his boss’s desire to accommodate his request. Nevertheless, unlike everything else that occurred during Iverson’s past decade with the 76ers, the upcoming ending to his time is not at all unpredictable. Everyone saw it heading this way years, and years ago.

    Then again, if it didn’t end badly it would never end.

    Iverson was a rarity in the post-Jordan NBA in that he was a player that was actually worth the steep price of admission. Throw in the fact that he is built more like a middle-distance runner than an NBA MVP and it made Iverson even more intriguing.

    But intriguing is pretty much all Iverson was during his soon-to-be completed career as a 76er. He was never the self-proclaimed “Answer” despite carrying the team on his narrow shoulders to five games of the NBA Finals in that magical 2001 season. Oh sure, Iverson made his teams competitive, interesting and a threat, but he never made them better.

    He never made them a contender.

    With the 76ers, Iverson was a lot like a middle-distance runner on a track team or a collegiate wrestler. In those competitions the focus is on the individual result with the team a secondary thought. With Iverson the only way to discuss his game was to talk about the numbers.

    For instance, Iverson was a lazy team defensive player but always seemed to poach enough steals to make the league-leader lists and even crack the All-Defensive charts a few times. Meanwhile, Iverson averaged 28.1 points per game during his career on nearly 24 shots per game. Compare that to Doc (24.2 points/18.8 shots), Bird (24.3/19.3), Jordan (30/23), or Barkley (22.1/14.5) and it’s clear that Iverson is the perfect NBA player for the video game age.

    For a historical context, perhaps the best comparisons are notorious gunners Bernard King, Alex English, Dominique Wilkins or George Gervin… without the finger roll.

    Or the ring.

    That last part is hardly Iverson’s fault. Actually, Iverson was always adamant about winning being his top priority. It’s just that winning is more than playing hard in the regular-season games scattered on those nights between November and April. Winning is an everyday thing. It’s a summertime time. A weight room thing. A get-to-bed-early-so-you-can-recover-for-the-next-one thing.

    Winning also takes a commitment from the front office, too, and oftentimes it appeared as if the Sixers weren’t putting team together with the correct pieces. Whether that’s a by-product of having Iverson on the team or the state of the modern NBA is for smarter people to figure out, the point is that if Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Julius Erving or Magic Johnson needed the right teammates, Allen Iverson certainly needed them, too.

    Let’s not pile on the criticisms of Iverson and the 76ers because that’s not totally fair. Surely Iverson was an inspired player and tons of fun to watch. Like it was stated previously here, those traits are hard to find in the current NBA. But it’s hard to wonder if there was something more with Iverson. Did he get the most out of his ability and talents or was some of it wasted? Make no mistake about it; Iverson gave us everything in games and in interviews when he chose to do them. But it’s hard not to wonder if there was some more left.

    Could there have been more for the Sixers and Iverson during the past decade or are we just being greedy?

    You know, greedy like Iverson dribbling the ball with the shot clock winding down.

    The Get Over Yourself Award

    Like last week, this week’s Get Over Yourself Award was easy to dole out. We’re bestowing the honor on The BCS.

    Oh no, we’re not giving it to the governing body of NCAA dolts who devised the system that determines the college football national champion through nothing more as significant as the team are “liked” and well thought of. Instead we’re using The BCS as a catchall for the folks who burn lean tissue and time by actually paying attention to college football.

    Shame on you!

    The problem with The BCS and college football is just that – people pay attention to it and write about it. I guess, in that regard, I am just as guilty as everyone else for actually spending time on the inanity of Division I college football, but I guess I just can’t help myself. But mark this down – I will not watch any of the college bowl games that will be played between now and whenever.

    Neither should you.

    Actually, if you (yeah, you) are one of the folks who complain about The BCS system or the fact that there is no playoff in Division I college football, then yes, by all means tune in. The networks and corporate sponsors know you are weak and will give in because you want to watch their games.

    So until you (yeah, you) tune out and let the NCAA, the networks and the sugar daddy sponsors see the ratings go down, there is not going to be a change.

    Do you really think the NCAA wants change? Do you think they care which team is the national champion in any of their sports? As long as the cash from CBS, NBC, ABC/ESPN rolls in, George Mason can go to the Final Four and Boise State can go undefeated and have no shot at winning anything.

    In all actuality, it’s a pretty basic system the NCAA has devised for college football… you’ll get what we want to give you unless, of course, you don’t.

    They don’t care either way.

    So if you really want to support college football, go see the local Division II or III team play. At Franklin & Marshall College, the Division III school blocks from my house, the admission is free, the games start around noon on Saturday and move at a nice pace because there are none of the ubiquitous TV timeouts.

    Better yet, the players are actually playing because they love it. There are no delusions about an NFL contract like too many big-time college and high school athletes have in Division III sports. Oh sure, the quality of play is only slightly better than a good high school football team, but your kids won’t be able to tell the difference.

    Elsewhere
    According to Peter Vecsey (yeah, I know… ) in the NY Post, Allen Iverson has asked to be traded away from the Philadelphia 76ers.

    I have nothing else to add here.