Sometimes in sports, we lose sight of the fact that the only measure of success is not winning a championship. There are around 30 teams in every league and one championship for each year. The vast majority of teams and players will never achieve that ultimate goal. In the NBA, in particular, there is a tendency for repeat winners, as well. For every Larry Selke trophy that Kobe Bryant takes home, another 600 players have only what-ifs to ponder.
Are they all failures?
Should more modest levels of success be forgotten because there’s no hardware on the mantle to remind us?
Of course not. Sometimes in the cutthroat business of professional sports, players, teams, and even eras get swept under the rug, never to be appreciated fully. This is all leading up to a thought I had the other day.
The Ben Gordon-Kirk Hinrich Bulls are over. And only recently, at least in my case, I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect. Those were some fun times.
The preceding Bulls teams were so bad and nondescript, that they threatened to change the entire legacy of the franchise. That is clearly saying something, considering that the Michael Jordan-led teams had not too long before won an incredible 6 championships. Oh yes, we definitely had some suffering to endure in the aftermath.
But then, not a moment too soon, our spirits were lifted by a blue collar, hardworking group that had a seemingly unlimited upside. Suddenly, it seemed as if we could possibly become a team of destiny once again.
Kirk Hinrich seemed to only be scratching the surface of what experts thought he could become. A smart, vocal and scrappy player that played stingy defense and threw his body into the game. Ben Gordon, the undersized guard, with oversized shooting skills and a flair for the dramatic. I think we all remember those games where he just could not be stopped. Though we also remember those games where someone should have yanked him off the court and told him it just wasn’t happening. How about Andres Nocioni, the Argentinian sharpshooter with an assortment of skills unique to most players in the league and an undying passion for falling all over the place. This was the team that led the Bulls out of the darkness.
In hindsight, it wasnt the most talented team in the league. But, if I recall correctly, we were all stretching our imagination to consider them that way.
If Hinrich continued to improve, the whole team would take a giant step forward. Nocioni would obviously grow by leaps and bounds considering the relatively short amount of time he had spent in the States. Ben Gordon would improve his defense, and make even more clutch shots. Add a Joe Smith here, maybe a Brad Miller there, and we had a team that might be able to compete. And this is not even taking into account our true emerging star, Luol Deng. This guy could play defense, hit the jumper, and would do all the little things as well as big things in order to take this team into the stratosphere someday. Always a year or two away, mind you, but always on the horizon.
Just one more piece, right?
Oh theres Ben Wallace, we’re all set. Sounds kind of silly now, doesnt it?
Maybe even ludicrous.
And now, all thats left from those days is Deng and his huge hangover of a contract. Thats all we have to remind us of all that potential we used to convince ourselves we owned. Don’t get me wrong, there was a decent measure of success. Each year we would fight admirably to secure a playoff spot somewhere near the bottom of the conference seeding. I dont think anyone can forget about the dominating performance against the defending champion Heat. We took all four games of that series. We also put up a hell of a fight against a much better Detroit Pistons team in that next round. Alas, it was not to be. Years passed, reality set in, and players moved their separate ways in a slow procession.
And then one day, Derrick Rose burst on the scene amongst a barrage of hype. He was quickly followed that next year by a hidden gem in Joakim Noah. At this point the entire team had undergone a facelift. New talent, new attitude, new players, yet the same high expectation we once had for the group before. And now Luol Deng is the last memento of those days. Sometimes when I go through the roster in my mind, I forget that he is even on the team. Its not a knock on him, or his above average skills, its just the reality that he does not embody the spirit of this new younger team anymore. He is a holdover from the past. No longer are we waiting for that breakout season we once assumed would occur. He is just a supporting piece to this team led by the current young guns.
But I think we should look back fondly on the Pre-Rose years. They were a pretty good team, emerging from a horrific one. There were highs and lows. We all remember those embarrassing flareups in the media over Gordon coming off the bench. And Ben Wallace with his Headband-Gate distraction. But that really didnt define the times. They were simply a competitive basketball team. We could always see them making a trade that would suddenly skyrocket them to the top of the league. It was just a matter of time. There always seemed to be a level of potential that could be realized if they just had another year. But most importantly, at the time they were better than most of the other teams in the league.
What more could you ask for?
I guess the combination of Fall weather and lack of sports has contributed to a level of seasonal nostalgia. Hopefully, that group has paved the way for a level of success in this current squad that will dwarf them in comparison. And maybe this group will be able to show off that success with rings on their fingers. But whatever the case, thanks Kirk, Ben, Noc, Deng, Scott Skiles and all the other players who came and went during that period. You guys werent great, but you were pretty good. And there is nothing wrong with that.
(Republished after some grammar errors corrected)
Its been a very strange few days. As somewhat of a wannabe English major and one-time journalistic hopeful, its hard to believe the situation that I have been put in. For those of you that don’t know, which is probably most everyone, I took a few photos of a misprint that I found on the Prince of Wales Trophy at the Blackhawks Annual Convention. Upon noticing the Typo, which had the Washington Capitals as the Eastern Conference Champions rather than the Flyers, I was perplexed. I looked around for a friendly looking face and asked for confirmation that, in fact, I was correct in what I saw. I literally thought that I must have been a bit looney. But A nice family shared my confusion, and it was confirmed.
Only minutes later, as I waited in line for a Duncan Keith Autograph, I tweeted every local celebrity in the sports world, as most were attending the event. I told them all in one way or another to go check out the trophy, which was readily available to all. This gave them all a day and half to go and have a look at the evidence themselves. Im sure that they recieve alot of tweets everyday, and for the most part are unable to respond or act upon them immediately. I did feel that SOMEONE, ANYONE, would go take some photos like myself. I even tweeted some people in the Philadelphia media, at that point just hoping they would look into it. (All this can be confirmed by reading my tweets from July 31st, or day two of the Blackhawks Convention)
I kept up my effort even after the event was over. To my surprise, the RocktheRed.com website picked up the story (http://rockthered.net/2010-articles/july/the-prince-of-wales-trophy-engraving-error.html), which I thought would lead to something more. What it lead to was, at first, a Yahoo Sports Blog which questioned the integrity of the photos (http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/The-great-Prince-of-Wales-Trophy-engraving-error?urn=nhl-261274). One thing this culture loves is cynicism, and its hilarious how many random opinions thought that “of course they were photoshopped.” These are the same type of people who like to act like they know there is more going on behind the scenes than anyone knows, in any scenario. Even such a mundane scenario as the one in question. Its better to act as if you are aware of a conspiracy rather than to get embarrassed if one indeed is being perpetrated unknowingly. I. E. Its what the cool kids act like.
Anyway, a very ignorant article was written by CSNPhilly(http://www.csnphilly.com/08/09/10/Debunking-the-Prince-of-Wales-Trophy-Hoa/landing_flyerandice.html?blockID=286541&feedID=6572), which used a “photoshop expert” who wasn’t named, and analysis not proven. It took the word of the Hockey Hall of Fame, who couldnt just take a current photo to end all of the speculation right there and then. It went on to say decisively that it wasn’t real and the photos were somehow altered. Despite the fact, that I reported it right away, took shots from many angles, and then immediately uploaded them from my phone, they had to be altered, right? Not to mention that I don’t own a computer, and rely on my droid for all my internet connections. ( I had to go to my parents house 30 miles away to finally reach a computer and write this.) And after all these omissions, the most glaring error had to have been the fact that I tried to reach the reporter in question by twitter, email, and the comments section of the article. No response, at all. None. I am the source of the whole story in question, does it not make sense to speak to the person who took the photos, AS A JOURNALIST. Pretty bush league if you ask me, especially considering that my character was in question as a direct result. Her twitter is @sbaicker, if you’d like to question her, even as she failed to do so to me.
It’s a very strange position for me to be in, considering that I was the one who was growing frustrated at all the hearsay and rumors in response to the Antti Niemi situation. I was the one who went out of my way to compliment a few of the folks who had not jumped the gun via twitter, and reported a false rumor. How the tables have turned on me.
I also want to make this clear that the original article, written by Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! sports, was not defamatory in any way. It was an open question that he was searching for the answers to. I also was very impressed that he called me and did an impromptu interview to gather information like a true journalist. He also did not jump to a conclusion and call it false, without enough information to do so. I am hoping he will break the story when there is proof, and he deserves most of the credit, no matter who ultimately breaks it definitively.
Heres a few things to take a look at while forming your opinion. I have a photoshop expert @tfgot that spent time analyzing the photos down to the code (http://regex.info/exif.cgi?dummy=on&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gonrad.com%2F201008%2Foriginal.jpg). His opinion is that they are not doctored in any way (“@TFGot @ChiBDM EXIF photo data suggests your images are real.”). I thank him very much, and I urge people to check out his twitter page to see his detailed and very complete analysis. This is a total stranger, who in fact was a little miffed that I was unable to understand the computer jargon at first. Clearly someone who has nothing to gain no matter what he reports, and also no reason to want them to be real. Another thing is that recently, someone in the comment section of the Yahoo! article came forward and shared that he had seen the same error at the convention. I’m sure if I can get this more exposure, then more people will come out and confirm it. But the easiest way to do this would be to have the Hockey Hall of Fame just take a current photo, or at least to explain that there is a reason that the Washington Capitals would be included. If this could take place, then I could continue on and keep my integrity intact. Let’s be honest, this would be a pretty difficult prank to pull off, and without any particular reason. No, I don’t hate Chris Pronger enough to pull this stunt. In fact, I admire Philly. They had us at our final wits, and it seemed as if they were on the verge of taking over the series. Quite an accomplishment for a 7th seed. I will always have great respect for them.
I realize that ultimately this is a small matter. I assume its human error. This is absolutely no conspiracy. It was an interesting, funny story before it took this turn toward the absurd. The most important thing for me is to prove to a certain population that have heard my name attached to a media perversion, that I am not guilty of whats been accused. Please don’t let my name be under attack. It means more to me than you think. Thank you so much for listening.
Some of you might be wondering about the timing of such an article. Joakim Noah has signed an extension with the Bulls, and most of the media is writing about how this would spell the end of any possible trade for Carmelo. But remember the offer of Deng, Gibson, Draft Picks etc. that has been dangled in front of the Nuggets. Denver cannot afford to just let Anthony go at the end of the year. That would probably spell the end for more than a few in the Nuggets front office.
And yet, Carmelo can waive any trade that he deems unsuitable for himself, by not agreeing to sign beyond a single year. No one in the league would take a risk like that, especially considering the unabashed love that he has shown for the New York area. Sources have already confirmed that at one point, only the Nets, Knicks, and Bulls were acceptable to him. Recently, the Nets efforts have seemingly fallen by the wayside. They had a fair trade on the table that would benefit each of the FOUR teams that would have been involved in their grab at the superstar. Time went on, and nothing came of the effort. So now the Knicks and Bulls seem to be the only contenders. And with that as the backdrop, here is my attempt to convince the final piece of Chicago’s championship puzzle.
*This article is a representation of a viewpoint, and not structured to be an ACTUAL letter to Carmelo Anthony. But Carmelo, if you miraculously come upon this letter, I won’t complain if you read it.
It seems like you are on the brink of a career changing decision that will lay the groundwork for your basketball legacy. Before I continue, I realize that you are not the one ultimately in control of your future. The Nuggets can trade you to whomever they decide. I also realize that you have a bargaining chip due to it being the last year of your contract. Any team that will be trading for you will, without a doubt, need you to sign an extension to make the transaction worthwhile. So, you do have more than a modest amount of sway in this decision.
Alright Melo, I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine your future. Lets pretend that you have signed with the New Jersey Nets. But not the current Nets, who at this point are nothing short of horrible, but a Nets team that has broken apart their team and erased any help that they may have acquired via the draft in the coming years. Now you can play for one of the worst teams in the league in one of the most crime-ridden cities in the country. Also, Think about watching Nuggets highlights on Sportscenter every single night. Each one mentioning the feel good story of how they continue to play their hearts out despite the departure of their prized superstar. Then the attention will shift to the Nets game. Your team will be comfortably below .500 and struggling mightily. I don’t think the New York press will let you forget about that.
But wait, you think. What about the insane Russian billionaire owner that everyone is talking about. The way people make it sound, just standing next to Mr. Prokhorov will make you a billionaire by Osmosis. Sadly, a billionaire is virtually worthless in a salary capped league. In fact, in this NBA, its the GM’s who can pinch the pennies that are ultimately successful.
And what about this move to Brooklyn that will suddenly make the Nets relevant. Maybe. Maybe not. If they have traded their assets for Carmelo including 1st round draft picks, its gonna be a long haul before this unlikely resurgence. You’re 26, my friend. These are your championship years. I would assume starting over in a “rebuilding process” might not seem like an enjoyable option.
Across the water from the Tony Soprano body-dumping area that is Newark, sits the beautiful “concrete jungle” that is New York City. Now we tackle the Knicks Offer.
Remember how the Nets moving to Brooklyn would finally bring success to the franchise?
Consider this fact. The Knicks have played in Manhattan, right in the center of New York City, one of the great metropolis’ of the history of the world, and have not won a championship since the early 70′s. Just being in New York doesn’t mean a thing, especially in the NBA. In fact, the epicenter of the NBA orbits around Miami after this free agent season with no change in sight. Maybe you think there will be more marketing opportunities in the Big Apple. Maybe for a winning player on a winning team. But we are talking about an already awful Knicks team being stripped for the present and future in their trade for you. Sometimes millions of people watching you is not a good thing. Especially when you will be put in a situation to fail every night. Not only that, but you would be leaving a quality team to try and rebuild with a less than stellar one.
And can we really trust your would-be teammate A’mare Stoudemire to play at such a high level with no Steve Nash?
The style of hyper-overdrive offense that the Phoenix Suns play has undoubtedly padded a few stats over the years. And If A’mare does not play like the star that he may or may not be, the situation will be even worse.
But there are more issues to consider. Imagine 18 million boos aimed directly at you. Ok, I realize thats dramatic. But imagine your reputation being demolished when you cannot live up to the unrealistic expectations that will be heaped upon you.
But maybe you are assuming that once Chris Paul’s contract is up, he will join up and become the “Third Musketeer”.
That is a nice daydream, but are you really willing to spend the prime of your career hoping that the recently injured Chris Paul will see things your way?
Seems pretty uncertain, especially considering that the salary structures of the league may or may not change after next season. And if that is the case, the changes will be geared toward PREVENTING these “Super Teams” from happening.
The icing on the cake here may be the fact that this is a franchise that has hired Isaiah Thomas TWICE. Yes, how embarrassing. And in his typical fashion of turning gold into fecal matter, he is on the verge of screwing up this deal as well. He is being accused by the Nuggets of tampering with you through back-channels in a less than honorable way. In fact, the rumor going around town is that they have already decided to stick it to New York by refusing any offers. And even if that stance were to change, or possibly is inaccurate, I don’t see any of the other teams being accused of such breaches of professionalism. Perception is everything, and the Knicks have been buffoonish in their attempts to make their perception a positive one.
OK, OK. I said I’d keep the Knicks discussion short. But this is the team I actually fear you may resort to. And the only good reason that I have not debunked is the pure entertainment value of the city. It is a hell of a city, with sparkling lights, beautiful women, unlimited dance clubs, and celebrities around every corner. I definitely can’t argue that point (Though in all those categories, Chicago is way up on the list as well.)
Here is what you need to ask yourself. Is the chance to hang out in New York worth the damage your basketball legacy will endure?
Not to mention the money I predict you will miss out on.
How about when you crunch the numbers later and realize how much money an NBA champion makes in endorsements compared to a good player on an awful team. Even in New York. That won’t feel good.
So you can probably guess, I’m a Bulls fan. And I’ll admit it, this is all part of a devious plan to make you rich beyond your wildest dreams, with championship rings on every digit. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that notion might interest you. This can happen only if you insist on making the Bulls your ultimate goal. This can’t happen if Joakim Noah is gone as a result of the trade. Whatever happens, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Carlos Boozer need to remain on the squad. Otherwise, things get a little murkier and unsure. So, its time to take the hardball approach for a little while and ultimately use your “sign and trade” leverage as a way to force the Nuggets’ hand. The New Jersey Nets have a better offer it seems. However, you still have to sign an extension to make it work. Refuse the Nets, and the Bulls will be next in line (unless the Nuggets force you to turn down all the other teams that are NOT on your list.) This will take a little willpower, but so does winning an NBA Championship.
Now a quick flash forward to 2011 with the Bulls logo squarely on your chest. The starting 5 of Rose, Boozer, Noah, Brewer, and you has just won the NBA Championship. Not only that, you will have beaten the “SuperFriends” in Miami, one of the fiercest and most hated teams in NBA history. Our town of 8 million people will bow at your feet. Millions of casual observers will have watched you play your heart out game after playoff game. The marketing possibilities both locally and nationally will go through the roof. Your life could quickly turn into a corny fairytale before too long.
But let’s be real. A championship might not happen with the Bulls. Nothing is ever guaranteed. So here is my worst case Bulls trade scenario. You play 5 years going deep into the playoffs every year. The people of Chicago are still buying your jerseys by the handful and lining your pockets. If there is blame to hand down, it would not be shouldered only by yourself. So maybe the championship thing might not work out. Still, playing in front of packed crowds, with talented teammates, opportunities at titles, and incredible exposure, will make for a very worthwhile career.
So think it over. The longer you mull it, the more obvious the answer becomes. Dare to dream while you still can.
With Much Admiration and Respect,
I can’t believe the war in Iraq is essentially over. It was done with a minimum of embarrassment, but also with a minimum of violence. This was the longest war in the history of our nation, spanning one third of my life. And now, thankfully, its done.
Its strange to think that some people have turned this pullout into a polarizing issue. Forget about that. Our troops are home, and they performed admirably abroad. I don’t think the decision to go to war in Iraq is divisive anymore. The most progressive Liberals will tell you that they would probably never have given the President the ability to go to war unimpeded had they known it would have taken this long, and cost so much money, and so many (not considering other wars) young lives. The staunchest Conservatives will tell you that it might have worked a little better under different circumstances, better strategies, etc. But what links those two viewpoints is the recognition that it was time to leave. I congratulate President Obama on effectively ending this ordeal with such little fanfare, and so quickly.
It lasted a whole nine years. At times, it seemed that things were going well. I remember how proud I was (even though I had not supported this particular war) when the ecstatic Iraqis began destroying statues of their deposed dictator. You could tell in their eyes that this was their Berlin Wall crumbling, albeit with a much less certain future. We had used our immense military power to take down a truly evil man. If only the elements that brought him into power were more easily destroyed. The nation was too divided for a quick reconstruction, and changing the hearts and minds of a whole country was not feasible given the amount of time that America generally allows before demanding results. These are all lessons to be learned, and in this case relearned. But everyone deserves a little blame. So everyone should be elated.
Maybe, in time, the infrastructure that we have built, including a semi competent police force, military, and just upgraded amenities in general will allow for a generational shift toward peace in that nation. I have always believed that the more money and resources that a nation can gather, along with a free government that oversees injustice in commerce or in civil rights, are the keys to building a more humane society. In short, the happier and more motivated that Iraqis become, the less they will fight with one another and other nations. Hopefully, we have done enough. The story is not over yet.
This clearly was not a war in the sense that WW II was a war, with huge death counts and international uncertainty. It was, however, something that was becoming more and more of a black cloud. And now, this issue has been laid to rest. It seems as if our country was spiraling under the weight of war, recession, and unrest. This was a step in the right direction. When I heard the news, I got that warm patriotic feeling again. My patriotism was not gone, rather it was restrained. It was akin to the feeling that a parent has when their child spends a week in detention. They still love him with all their heart, but they aren’t exactly singing their praises for those seven days. But detention is over.
We pray for those that we have lost, and remind them that it was not a sacrifice in vain. For those of us that are here right now, rejoice. Our nation has dealt with issues that dwarf this war over the course of our history. And just like this one, it took years for life to improve. Congratulations everybody, we are on our way. And I love this country.
(This was written right after we won the Stanley Cup Championship. So its a classic.)
We won, its official. Besides UNC College championships which I could only celebrate with myself, this is my first time at winning it all. Not only did we win, we carved a moment in time forever. This team will be legendary to everyone who witnessed. For at least tonite, politics, financial issues, racism, depression, or anything negative has been put to rest. Our city and all its inhabitants now have the right to cheer and honk their horns and smile at nothing.
And maybe to some, sports dont make sense.
Why arbitrarily root for a group of hockey players’ success?
I would tell you this reason. Just like the people you work with, the people you hang out with, the people you see almost everyday become fixtures in your life, so do sports teams. They become a shared fixture in your life, and just as other fixtures, you wish them well. And when a team like this comes along, its easy to want the absolute best for them.
Its for memories, bragging rights, exhilirating moments and a chance to be a kid again. Its shelter from life’s storm, and a reminder that even in an increasingly impersonal world, the best things in life are meant to be shared with everyone.
Do you remember where you were, who you were with, where you were in life?
I do. And I always will. Take a moment, folks. Take it all in.