Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
Sports are an absolute. Unlike politics, sports have a definite winner and loser. It's the one universal thing about sports that attracts fans. We, the fans, enjoy knowing that at the end of any sporting event there will be one team that's victorious, while another will soak in defeat. We enjoy knowing that with all the stats and variables taking place on the field of play, the only thing that matters is the final score.
The same can be said when looking back at a player's career. Whether right or wrong, we enjoy labeling a player "good" or "great" by whether or not he won a championship. Why is that? Why does a title, a championship, hold so much merit into how a player is viewed for the rest of time?
Simply put, a metal trophy signifies the purest example of someone being the best, of living up to their expectations.
As kids when we imagined ourselves playing in the NFL or NBA, we do not imagine scoring the winning touchdown in the NFC Championship Game or hitting the game winning three pointer in the Eastern Conference Finals. No, we imagined winning the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals.
We imagined being number one.
I mention all of this because of one current player still fighting in the NBA playoffs: Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki is a 10x NBA All-Star, a 4x All-NBA First Team member, the 2007 NBA MVP winner and someone who has averaged over 23 points and 8 rebounds for a career. With his 7'0" frame and his patented fadeaway he is as unique of a player as we have ever seen. His style of play has made him unstoppable and when he does hang it up he will probably be in the Top 15 of NBA Career Scoring Leaders.
In short, Nowitzki's career has been expectional. But through it all the one glaring omission is that Nowitzki has never won a title. And if Nowitzki never wins a title the only thing that will remain on his record is the note, "Can't Win the Big One."
This is what I like so much about the playoffs in any sport. I enjoy watching a cherished veteran, a future Hall-of-Famer put up absolutely everything in hopes of getting the one thing missing from his trophy case.
Since the debacle now known as the 2006 NBA Finals, Dallas has gagged in almost every way imaginable way. In 2007 they got bounced in six games in the first round to the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors. In 2008 they got knocked out again in the first round by the New Orleans Hornets and in 2009 Dallas lost in the first round to the San Antonio Spurs.
I like the Oklahoma City Thunder and what they have going on with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. I like the Chicago Bulls and Derek Rose, but neither of those teams have the intrigue or appeal that the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki bring to the table.
We see it all the time in sports, but rarely does it happen where the veteran going for his last shot at a championship grabs that elusive ring. We saw guys like Charles Barkley fight valiantly to get another shot in the finals, but fall short in the postseason. We have seen the likes of players like Karl Malone lose three NBA Finals series (1997, 1998, 2001) with 1997 and 1998 ending in the most dramatic fashion.
You know what was one of the bigger things I enjoyed about the Saints winning the 2009 Super Bowl? I enjoyed seeing a 12 year veteran like Darren Sharper, who contemplated retirement, who was let go by the Minnesota Vikings because his playing days were long gone, who was a part of the Green Packers team that lost Super Bowl XXXII, stand up and fight through it all and win a championship. Those moments sell me sports. Those moments bring me back. The glitz and glamour are nice, but seeing that guy who has worked tirelessly his entire career finally get that moment where he can put one index finger in the air is what resonates the most.
On April 23rd the Dallas Mavericks coughed up an 18 point 4th quarter lead against the Portland Trailblazers. With the win the Blazers tied the series at 2-2. We all thought the Dallas Mavericks were on course for another postseason collapse. Fast forward 15 days to May 8th and the Dallas Mavericks were putting the finishing touches on the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers with a 122-86 thrashing.
Nowitzki's situation remains unique because that window we all thought was closed for his moment of glory still seems to be ajar. Here's a guy who has been with the Dallas Mavericks through thick and thin. How fitting would it be for Nowitzki, having been victimized countless times for his team's failures, to overcome it all and take home the title? Better yet how fitting would it be for Dirk Nowitzki, loyal Maverick and all, to take down the evil Miami Heat empire that took away his dream five years ago?
It would be nothing short of a fairy tale.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Every family has one. He is either your father, brother, uncle or distant relative, but we all have that uber-competitive family member who plays every sporting activity like his life depends on it.
Uncle Ted Dandridge of Erie, Pennsylvania is no different.
Last week the Dandridge family had their annual family reunion at the nearby state park. The afternoon consisted of burnt hot dogs, lousy potato salad, volleyball and the traditional basketball game. Like so many years in the past Ted played the meaningless game like it was the Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
"Did you see me out there?" Ted proclaimed. "No one can stop the February 1986 Pennsylvania High School Player of the Week! I still got it baby!"
Ted put up a "family reunion record" 57 points in the game, including 0 assists, 24 rebounds and 12 blocked shots of 8-year-old nephew Timothy Dandridge.
"Doesn't matter if you are 35 or 8 the Ted-O-Nator is going to bring it 100 percent all day," Dandridge explained. "The joke is on the other team! They lost again! Ha! What a bunch of losers!"
Some of the highlights of the game included Ted sporting his high school uniform with a head band, 12-year-old Katie Dandridge getting elbowed in the face before Ted hit a fade away jumper, Ted throwing the ball at older brother Joel Dandridge's face during an inbounds play and Ted dropping the F word numerous times when fellow teammates did not understand the play he was calling.
"Did you see that jumper?! All day every, every day. It's what I do," Dandridge said. "During Thanksgiving this year Katie made a snide comment about my apple pie. That will teach her a lesson next time she thinks about ragging on the Ted-O-Nator!"
Despite putting up 57 points and leading his team to another victory, not all was well for the winning team.
"For the past 5 years Ted has gotten progressively worse at this reunion," teammate and cousin Rick Gathers said. "We all talk about not inviting him to the reunion, but then we start thinking that maybe his 41-year-old brain now understands that maybe it's not the best idea to block every shot of your youngest nephew. Or maybe it's not the best idea to drop kick the ball 30 feet in the air simply because you believe you got hacked by a 12 year old girl while you were going for a layup. We all hope this, but it never gets better."
The game ultimately ended when Ted jumped off Joel's back and dunked the ball, thus breaking the rim after hanging for two minutes. Following three minutes of trash talking by Ted to the opposing team, everyone decided it was best to just go eat the lousy potato salad and try to make the best out of yet another pathetic family reunion.
"Am I happy the Ted-O-Nator dropped 57 points and pulled down 24 monster rebounds? You bet," Ted explained. "But the Ted-O-Nator is never satisfied. If this team wants to be the best everyone has to play their best. No more dropped passes like Rick and his slow son did today. I did not beat St. Joseph High School in 1986 with a fade away jumper with two seconds left just to watch my family members dog it in a family reunion bloodbath 25 years later. This is war."
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
James Donaldson was like any other resident of Topeka, Kansas.
“He was a good husband, a good friend and an even better host,” local neighbor John Barkowski said.
At 54 years old Donaldson was a happy man who could light up a room with his winning smile, but with the recent ongoing saga dealing with the ever-boring NFL labor talks, for all intensive purposes, multiple reports say Donaldson simply went insane.
Donaldson has been a season ticket holder of the Kansas City Chiefs for 22 years, but as far as the game of football he has been a fan for life.
“James was a true fan of the Chiefs, but more so he was a fan of football,” his wife Amy Donaldson explained. “Honestly, he loved seeing a grown man get hit so hard that he would suffer for the rest of his life. That is James for you.”
When news of a possible NFL lockout came up Donaldson remained optimistic things could be resolved.
“He knew it was coming, but knowing James he really thought things would get resolved, that the season would come just like any other season. I just don’t think he ever thought the constant boring coverage of an NFL lockout would cause him to lose his mind,” Barkowski explained.
Once Super Bowl XLV concluded every sports station spent countless hours evaluating the possible NFL lockout from what needed to happen to prevent it, what the garbage owners wanted, what the players wanted and what in the living hell a “collective bargaining agreement” actually was. Through it all, Amy says, Donaldson watched every minute of it.
“I think he was just trying to be a good fan,” Amy Donaldson said. “I think he just wanted to show everyone that he could and would understand what exactly was going on. Poor guy just never realized that if you try to acquire too much worthless information in a small amount of time you lose your mind. You go insane.”
Today is March 9, 2011. The sun comes up in the morning and dries the dew on the grass. Laying in a lawn chair in the grazing meadows at the Topeka Institute for the Insane is a man wearing jorts, no shirt, a red bandana and eating a bag of Cheetos. Foam slowly drips from his lips as he yells at the sky some incoherent babble.
This is James Donaldson. I try talking to James. I ask him a question about the NFL. He turns towards me, but is unable to make eye contact. His eyes wander. The only thing he mutters, or I can make out is something about “decertification.”
“What is decertification Roger,” Donaldson yelled. “What is it Roger?!”
This is who James Donaldson has become: lost, incoherent and of course insane. This was a man who only liked football, a man like any other man who just wanted to know what was going on with the possible NFL lockout. Unfortunately for a guy like Donaldson that task turned out to be too burdensome.
Some day when the Chiefs do play again their fans will rejoice from Arrowhead Stadium, but in one section of the stadium there will be an empty seat.
The seat of James Donaldson: a normal guy who went mad because of the constant news coverage of the dull, dreary and tiresome details surrounding the possible NFL lockout.
Only time will tell if James Donaldson is the only victim.