Game 15

Game 15

Friday, January 20, 2012
Game 15: Wells Fargo Center
Sixers 90, Hawks 76

PHILADELPHIA — Let’s say, for instance, you are a really good painter. In fact, you’re such a great painter that galleries fight to hang your work and critics can’t get enough of it.

And yet even though you are a terrific painter, people still get on you because you are a lousy sculptor. You’re going to say that doesn’t make sense, right?

Yeah, well, welcome to Andre Iguodala’s world.

When it comes to playing defense in basketball, there are very few people on the planet as good as Andre Iguodala. Truth is, Iguodala is such a good defender that he very well may earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team set to defend its gold medal in London this summer.

“If you would talk to the best scorers in the league that he’s guarded and say who is one of the toughest guys you have to go against, they would say, Andre Iguodala,” Sixers’ coach Doug Collins said.

“From a coaching standpoint, you understand what he brings. I love what Andre does for us.”

Yet for some reason the biggest criticism of Iguodala is that he is an inconsistent offensive player.

How does that make sense?

There is perception and then there is the reality when it comes to Iguodala and his weird relationship with certain segments of the fandom. The problem with that is the perception is usually the part that gets the most fanfare.

Often, Iguodala is criticized because his salary is “excessive,” yet it barely cracks the top 40 of all NBA players. Meanwhile, it seems as if Iguodala’s perceived unpopularity comes from his personality. He’s neither boisterous nor zany. He’s not one to suffer fools as evidenced in the 2006 Dunk Contest where he pulled off the most impressive and nuanced dunk of the show only to lose to Nate Robertson because he’s short and a better story. Rather than grin-and-bear it, Iguodala hasn’t appeared in another competition figuring there are better ways to have one’s time wasted.

Iguodala is all nuance and professionalism. There are all the things we can see like the fact that heading into last year he had missed just six games in six seasons and played in 252 regular-season games in a row. He’s led the league not only in games by playing in all 82 in five of his seven seasons, but also minutes played and average minutes per game. The dude plays the game and he's rare in that he's a ridiculously talented athlete with instatiable hard-nosed/blue-collar chops, too. He's the best of both worlds and he shows up and goes to work.

He earns his pay.

Last year he played the final two months of the season with tendonitis in his knees. Actually, his condition was similar to the injury that forced Phillies second baseman Chase Utley to miss the first two months of last season, yet Iguodala is rarely talked about as a gritty and scrappy player the way Utley is.

Ah, so maybe there’s a personality issue or something.

Iguodala is a bit of a rarity in sports in that he is a truth teller. He’s immune to cliché (well, as much as possible) and actually answers questions. Want an answer? Iguodala has one. And though it could be off the mark like some of his long-range jumpers, he’s always provocative. For instance, last year Iguodala and the team's top draft choice, Evan Turner, clashed a bit. It wasn't anything serious, just two guys from diffrent perspectives trying to figure each ither out. So, when asked about it, Iguodala presented a thoughtful, honest answer.

“Evan and I have had a pretty interesting year together — good and bad,” Iguodala said. “We’ve always tried to lean on each other. Over the past week we really bonded and I was happy to see him be in position to do something good and follow through with it.

“I’ve been saying all year that he’s a confidence guy and when his confidence is high, he plays really well. When his confidence is down, he has a lot of self doubt and he doesn’t believe in himself,” Iguodala explained. “But we all know he can play ball and we’ve had many arguments throughout the year in regard to talents and he’s going to prove a lot of people wrong.

“We had a chance to sit down and we had dinner together and were together for about three hours. We just reflected on the whole year and things that happened and what could have changed and things that made us better people or held us back a little bit. It was a good chat.”

When do athletes ever talk like that? It’s kind of like when asked a simple question about whether he will return to the Sixers next year and instead chooses to discuss the legacy he hopes to build.

“I always think about that, keep climbing the charts with some of the greatest basketball players ever — Dr. J, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Hal Greer, Wilt Chamberlain. The franchise has been here forever. And just for my name to be brought up for the guy with the most steals in team history is something I've always thought about,” Iguodala said. “I want to continue to climb the charts and take the team to the next level.”

No, Iguodala is not like most of the athletes that have come through town. He seems to be a strange mix of Charles Barkley, Donovan McNabb and Scott Rolen. At different times all three of those guys were the most beloved or loathed athletes in town. Iguodala is just different. He's the guy a lot of folks just can't accept for who he is.

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.

Primoz Brezec, we hardly knew ye

Wilt When one thinks back on the historical significance of
some of the mega-deals that have gone down in the name of basketball in this town,
it almost leaves a guy breathless. Ponder for a moment the fact that two teams
with origins in Philadelphia traded away Wilt Chamberlain when he was in the
prime of his career…

Not once, but twice!

Imagine that—arguably the greatest individual talent ever
to play basketball was traded from the Warriors to the Sixers for Connie
Dierking, Paul Neumann, Lee Shaffer and cash before going from the 76ers to the
Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff. The first trade
came a season after Wilt led the league in scoring with nearly 35 points per
game and 23 rebounds, while the second one came two seasons after the Sixers
won their first NBA title (third for a Philly team) and the big man went for
24-24 and led the league in assists.

But just like that, he was gone. Poof!

Trading away Wilt Chamberlain was hardly the most dubious
deal in the history of Philadelphia NBA teams. Nope, not even close. Ever hear
the story about how Maurice Cheeks was traded in August of 1989 to the Spurs,
only Mo didn’t know about it until he arrived back at his house and found a
reporter there waiting at his doorstep. Go ahead and ask Michael Barkann about
that one sometime because he was the guy who broke the news to Cheeks.

No word if Michael B tracked down Christian Welp and
David Wingate, too, to tell them they were packaged with Cheeks to get Johnny Dawkins
and Jay Vincent.

Charles Barkley was traded simply because he had outgrown
Philadelphia and probably would have been arrested for aggravated assault on
Armen Gilliam if he had to stay another day longer. The Barkley deal returned
the Sixers Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry, which is the basketball equivalent
to trading Curt Schilling for Travis Lee, Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla and Nelson
Figueroa.

Sometimes trades have to be made for the sanity of
everyone who remains. Barkley and Schilling had to go for just that very reason—we
needed to stay sane and so did they. However, on the scale of trades that
should have warranted the state to step in and send owner Harold Katz upstate
to the nervous hospital for a little vaca, the deal on draft day of 1986 is an
all-timer.

Whenever I think about the Deal of ’86, I think of it two
different ways. In one I look at it kind of like Robert E. Lee meeting Ulysses
Grant in the courthouse at Appomattox in 1865 to sign the papers signaling the
end of the Civil War. Then Lee slowly rode off on that white horse of his and
wandered around in the wilderness until it was time to check out.

The other thing I think of is the Saturday Night Live sketch from the ‘90s when Kevin Nealon and
Victoria Jackson play interviewers who ask dumb politicians deftly worded
questions about just how far they can shove their heads into their derriere.
Always gets a giggle, though in real life it’s not so funny.

Think about it—in one day the Sixers traded Hall-of-Famer
Moses Malone and solid frontcourt man Terry Catledge to Washington and then
sent the No. 1 overall pick of the deep (yet cursed) 1986 draft to Cleveland.
The pick turned out to be perennial All-Star Brad Daugherty. Maybe the Sixers
somehow knew that Daugherty’s Hall-of-Fame career would be cut short at age 28
because of back injuries? Or maybe they didn’t want a guy who got 21-and-11
during the last four years of his career?

Either way, the Sixers turned away Moses Malone, Brad
Daugherty and Terry Catledge, plus two first-round draft picks and got back Roy
Hinson, Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland…

No, there’s no punch line. That really happened!

I still can’t believe the Spectrum wasn’t overrun with an
angry mob out of an old movie like It’s a
Wonderful Life
with folks screaming for Harold Katz as if he were the
miserly Old Man Potter. Why weren’t there riots?

So it is above the din of discontent that we recall the
inglorious days of yore when our NBA team out-smarted itself and ruined things
for a while. In the aftermath of Wilt going to the Lakers, the Sixers set the
record for the worst season in the history of the sport with just 9 wins in
1973. And, perhaps, maybe it’s even reasonable to think that the Sixers have
never really recovered from Draft Day of ’86. Why not? In addition to losing
two Hall-of-Fame quality players, they also gave up two first-round draft picks
and picked up Jeff Ruland, who went on to play just 18 games over the course of
five years. Current Sixers’ GM Ed Stefanski knows that if he puts his hand over
an open flame and keeps it there for a bit, it’s not going to end well.

Smart right?

Maybe. But then again, maybe not. After all, at 20-33
these Sixers are going nowhere fast. They are too good to benefit from the
draft and too bad to do anything of note in the playoffs. Moreover, two players—Elton
brand and Andre Iguodala—have contracts that aren’t very conducive to a team
hoping to rebuild in the current salary-capped NBA. I think I called it NBA DMZ
a few days ago. Basketball limbo might be a better term.

With the majority of fans hoping the team would unload a
valuable player, but cap-unfriendly guy like Iguodala for any number of teams
we heard about on the rumor mill (and confirmed by the GM) in order to acquire
the coveted expiring contract so favored in these crazy times, it was funny to
hear the reaction to an actual deal. No, funny is not the right word there
because it implies that a good time was had by all. Let’s just say it was
fascinating to couch the reaction from the fans against the words from
Stefanski. See, the GM thinks his team is underachieving and isn’t as bad as
the 20-33 record indicates.

No argument here.

However, if the GM makes a deal he doesn’t want to give
up Iguodala for Jeff Ruland. Sure-and-steady Eddie wants some talent back in a
trade, too. Why wouldn’t he? Good for him.

“For us to take back expiring contracts for talent didn’t
make much sense, and it would not have gotten us close to a lot of the team
[much further under the cap],” Stefanski explained.

Primoz brezec Fair enough. So when the only deal at the trade deadline
is one which the Sixers sent Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and a second-round pick
to the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Jodie Meeks and center Francisco Elson, well,
let’s just say it feels a bit underwhelming. In fact, it feels a bit
disappointing, too. I mean, think of all those little kids out there talking
about, “Roy-al with Cheese!” and sporting those Primoz jerseys with ol’ number
whatever he was on the back.

Nobody ever thinks about the kids.

In light of the mega-deal, I solicited opinions from the
man on the street (via Twitter) for thoughts on the deadline blockbuster… this
is what I got back:

A fellow named Robert from Philadelphia asked, “Who are
the Sixers?”

Oh come on, we know… but
do we really know them.
They never let us get close enough.

A man who calls himself Kevin from Philadelphia seemed
most distraught, writing: “Just when I got my Royal Ivey jersey…”

Isn’t that how it always works?

A guy named Dan from Delaware astutely pointed out that
Francisco Elson speaks five different language, including his native tongue,
Dutch, says this fact will help him in Philly: “He can translate DNP-CD however
he likes.”

After that the responses just got weird and I kind of
checked out after the one from a guy who describes himself as a “Philly
Phanatic,” who asked: “Is the real Ed Stefanski in a cave somewhere and
actually Billy King has pulled a 'Face Off' switcheroo?”

When we start comparing the 2009-10 Sixers to a Travolta/Cage vehicle, it's time to stop.

Yes, the trading deadline can send us all off the deep
end, but at least this time we didn’t have to go for the torches and pitchforks
to storm whatever it is to strom.

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?

Sir Chuck of Late Night

Charles-barkley Charles Barkley will host Saturday Night Live this evening, which is kind of funny even before the acting and the sketches are revealed. In fact, there is no need to put Sir Chuck on a comedy show because all he has to do is walk into a room and everyone smiles.

The dude hangs out with Urkel and then gets a DUI… take away the DUI and that's comedy gold!

Anyway, I think Charlie needs his own show where he just sits there and tells stories. Having had the chance to hear a bunch of stories about Barkley from ex-players and former scribes that covered him, they are hilarious (and in a good way).

I wish they could all be repeated here.

You don't need me to tell you that Charles needs his own show. That's common knowledge. But if you're one of those sissies that likes proof and stuff, ask yourself this:

How many other athletes do you know that have been asked to host SNL twice?

Uh-huh.

The last time Chuck hosted the show, Nirvana was the musical guest. Check out this promo featuring the host and the band where it looks as if Novaselic is about to post up Barkley on the low block:


SNL-Nirvana outake
http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=11514968,t=1,mt=video

From that first appearance I recall Al Franken doing his Stuart Smalley bit where he made fun of Charles for not winning any championships. I also remember a walk-on by Mugsy Bogues and a sketch where Charles beat up that purple dinosaur, Barney, as if he were an overmatched ballplayer from a small African country in the Olympics.

Now that's funny.

Spitting mad

Charles-barkley There’s an old-timey saying that I’m sure you heard your grandmother or great grandmother say in a fit of frustration.

“I’m so angry I could spit!”

When you give it some thought it makes a lot of sense. Most of the time anger provokes violence, but some believe violence is the last refuge of a weak mind. So if a person cannot control themselves, yet don’t want to resort to violence, the only recourse is the most disgusting thing a person can think of.

Here comes the loogie!

I’ve been in this position before. The setting was a fifth-grade kickball game in the schoolyard at James Buchanan Elementary, where our class was in a tight game against the other fifth-grade class. But as the action got heated and recess began to wind down, the sixth graders poured out of a side door and onto the macadam. Inevitably, since they were the oldest and therefore “kings” of Buchanan Elementary, they really didn’t care that we had an intense kickball game going and strutted right through the infield en masse.

“Get off the field!”

That’s where it started and it went quickly downhill from there. One thing led to another and I was shouting down the third base line at Megan O’Brien, who was wearing a lovely cable-knit sweater (at least that’s the way I put it out there for the sake of the story). So with the intensity of the game superseded by the intensity and frustration of the argument with the sixth graders, cooler heads did not prevail.

Having grown up with a sister not too much younger than me, I learned very early on that a man never, ever hits a girl. Ever. We learn hard lessons when we’re 4-years-old and hitting girls is the one that lasts the longest…

That and lifting the seat.

Remembering an incident when I was 4 where an argument over the crayons led to a punch in the nose for my sister, I knew better. However, I wanted to get Megan and her sixth-grade classmates off the diamond so we could finish the game before the recess bell rang and we had to go inside. Instead of taking a poke at her, I gathered up the saliva in my mouth and let it fly.

Not smart.

The intention, believe it or not, was to fire off a warning shot—you know, brush ‘em back a bit so we could finish the game. The problem was my aim was a little too true and the next thing I knew Megan was running and screaming toward the recess monitor with the evidence on the forearm of her nice, cable-knit sweater.

That was the end of the school day for me.

It’s interesting how people react to spitting and specifically, spitting on people, places or things. In fact, I’ll wager that spitting on a person is worse than a punch in the nose based on reactions. Truth is, it’s a valid argument that because Roberto Alomar spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during an argument in the 1997 baseball season, he was not elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Alomar It doesn’t matter that Alomar and Hirschbeck have buried the hatchet, but it does matter that two legacies are somewhat defined by a single incident. Alomar very well may have been the best second baseman of his generation, but he spit on an umpire during an argument and that swayed a handful of voters from validating his career.

Oh yes, it was the loogie heard ‘round the world.

Remember when Charles Barkley spit at a heckler in New Jersey, but hit a little girl instead? Of course you do. Every time Sir Chuck gets arrested or does anything controversial and they recount past slip-ups, the spitting incident always gets mentioned and is usually placed high on the list of the worst things he ever did.

Charles Barkley has been arrested for throwing a man through a plate-glass window in Florida, punching a man in Milwaukee, and for a DUI charge in Arizona. HE ALSO SPIT ON A LITTLE GIRL!

For that incident in New Jersey during the 1991 season, Barkley was suspended and fined $10,000. He also bought season tickets for the girl and her family and went on to forge a friendship with them. However, when his career was over it was that one little gob of saliva that was the blemish on his record he most regretted.

“I was fairly controversial, I guess, but I regret only one thing—the spitting incident,” Barkley said. “But you know what? It taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that I was getting way too intense during the game. It let me know I wanted to win way too bad. I had to calm down. I wanted to win at all costs. Instead of playing the game the right way and respecting the game, I only thought about winning.”

Oh yes, the loogie can force one to look inward.

Apparently that’s what happened when Dave Spadaro, the editor of the Eagles’ web site, decided it would be a neat and compelling bit of commentary to walk onto the middle of Cowboys Stadium and drop not one, but two wet ones on the iconic logo star. Based on the video it seemed to a moment where the spitter was striking some sort of defiant stand…

You know, like that guy who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square.

Maybe if Spadaro had stood in front of a star-logoed tank or handcuffed himself to the goal posts while being beaten by men dressed in Cowboys’ garb, perhaps there would be more sympathy toward his allegiances. Instead, he issued a press release/apology on the team’s official site.

Obviously he misread the way people feel about the act of spitting and what it represents. Sure, a lot of people understood the sentiment of spitting on that blue star—especially after the Eagles were dominated by the Cowboys and had to return for a rematch in the playoffs this Saturday. But spitting? Really? Is he in the fifth grade?

Take a look:

Clearly Spadaro was attempting to rally the home team against the hated Cowboys. Why else would a person drop gooey spit on an inanimate symbol of… well, the 50-yard line? But even in this case the clownish act was greeted with head-scratching from the Eagles.

“Who spit on what?” running back Leonard Weaver said with a shrug following Thursday afternoon’s practice. “

So now, the dude representing a certain segment of the fans by standing on the star and coughing one up with a video cam in hand, did not exactly sound the bugle to charge for the ballplayers.

“I didn’t even know he did it,” Weaver said. “That has nothing to do with us as a team.”

Let’s just hope he didn’t spit onto the field with a head cold.

Sir Chuck of the 19th Hole

july14_barkley_299x299We’re going Dawk free from here for awhile. In the future we’ll get all indignant about those one-year offers, but not now.

Instead, here comes Sir Charles of the Links… Sir Chuck of the 19th Hole.

Yes, it’s true. Charles Barkley is in rehab. No, not that rehab, but instead a rehab for one of the most atrocious and offending elements of his public persona.

Yes, Sir Chuck is working on getting that golf swing solved.

Here’s the thing about that – Barkley’s swing is/was so bad that it wasn’t as if he could head down to the local driving range and hook up with a pro to iron out things. It was just a horrendous physical act – more like a dry heave in the middle of a hiccup – that anything else. The fact is, Barkley’s swing defied biology, chemistry and his drinking buddy, Steve Urkle, who we imagine has a smooth stroke — he probably has the weight distribution and everything down cold. Won’t move his head either. Laser focus.

So because it was too far gone for any common remedy, Barkley brought out the big guns. With the Golf Channel’s cameras rolling, the ex-Round Mound of Rebound turned Rotund Master of the Mic, sought out the help of swing doctor, Hank Haney.

For the uninformed, Hank Haney is no typical golf coach. Nope, not at all. When Tiger Woods needs to figure out why his drives are going just 300 yards and slightly right of center, he dials up Haney to get him squared away.

So undoubtedly, Haney must be able to help a lost cause like Chuck, right?

Take a look:

Locking up Sir Charles

For awhile I thought Milwaukee was the worse city in America. I had a good reason to think this, too. No, it had nothing to do with those toughs always messing around with Richie Cunningham, Potsie and Ralph Malph that the Fonz always had to straighten out. It also didn’t have to do with those geeks Lenny and Squiggy or Milwaukee natives Latrell Sprewell, Heather Graham or Liberace.

Nope, those folks didn’t get me riled up one way or another, though it was difficult not to be a big fan of Heather Graham as Roller Girl in “Boogie Nights.”

There was one reason why I thought Milwaukee was the worst city in America…

Charles Barkey.

Yes, Sir Charles almost ruined Milwaukee for me and here’s why – he kept getting arrested there. In fact, it got to the point where it seemed as if the police were waiting for Big Chuck at the airport to pick him up for some trumped up charge.

Charles, of course, was arrested in Milwaukee in December of 1991 when he punched some dude named Joseph McCarthy in the nose. Apparently McCarthy and his pals saw Charles hanging out in a Milwaukee bar early one morning and yelled, “Hey Barkley, show me how tough you are.”

That was followed by an invitation to fight which was RSVP’d with the right to the nose.

A few hours later, Charles was arrested and held in the local lockdown for four hours before posting $500 bond. Eventually, the case went to trial before Barkley beat the rap because of self defense.

Barkley didn’t only have trouble in the local bars in Milwaukee, either. Sometimes he even had trouble on the basketball court, like that time at the Mecca during the mid-‘80s when he brawled with Paul Mokeski.

Then again, ol’ Chuck mixed it up in a lot of cities, like that time he tossed a guy through a window in Orlando in 1996. That was one incident that Barkley says he regrets.

“I regret we weren’t on the second floor,” he said.

Anyway, just because Barkley got arrested in Milwaukee doesn’t make it all bad. The thing that makes it bad is that the police in Milwaukee have no trouble rousting Sir Charles when he hits town, but they just can’t seem to figure out the caper of the guy who is killing and eating people.

Yep, in Milwaukee Charles Barkley goes to trial for bopping some lout in the nose, all while Jeffrey Dahmer was walking the streets.

So if you are looking for a reason to dislike the Brewers when they face the Phillies in the NLDS this week, there it is.

Ol’ Charlie Barkley coming through for Philadelphia again.

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Gettin’ back…

Speaking of coming through for Philadelphia and Chicago, how about that Jim Thome?

For those that missed it, Big Jim launched a 461-foot bomb well over the center field fence in the seventh inning to give the White Sox a 1-0 victory over the Twins in the playoff game to determine the winner of the AL Central.

With Thome’s homer, the White Sox go on to play the Rays in the ALDS. Better yet, the win got Thome back to the playoffs for the first time since 2001 when he and Charlie Manuel went in with the Cleveland Indians.

On another note, it’s hard to believe it’s been more than three years since Thome last played in Philadelphia. Actually, it’s 111 homers ago.

Who knows… maybe Thome will take a trip back to Philly in late October. Hey crazier things have happened.

The playoff predictions are coming on Wednesday morning… be ready.

Our man Chuck

Most former NBA stars rarely do interviews with The New Republic or magazines of that ilk. That’s of course if one ignores the position paper on Keynesian economics that Larry Bird wrote for The Financial Times a few years ago.

But in the latest offering of The New Republics’ web site, Charles Barkley speaks (surprise!) candidly about everything but basketball. Called Beyond Basketball: Race, Class, and Politics, Chuck lays it out.

Apropos of nothing, how great would it be to have someone like Charles Barkley playing for a Philadelphia team now?

More: Charles Barkley hates on xenophobes…
Beyond Basketball: Race, Class, and Politics