Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Xavier McDaniel, I Presume?"

(Since the Knicks continue to surrender second half leads and lose games I figured that we're going to need to do something else with this space on occasion. With that in mind I've trekked through the wilds of the Internets to find the latest news on some of our long-lost Knicks from happier times.)

When asked about by Mitch Lawrence at the News about the way the NBA has changed, Sam I Am Cassell recalled a manlier, brawnier and more violent time defined by, among others, our very own Charles Oakley:
"I won a long time ago, when there was the real NBA," he said. "When the league was all about men....The league is very soft now...I know a lot of guys, like Charles Oakley, LaSalle Thompson and Buck Williams, they couldn't play in the game like it is right now. The enforcer on the team, he'd be cut right now. The game was tougher. It ain't that tough right now. It's like they're protecting the quarterback."

...Although the Seattle Sonics are experiencing some growing pains in Kevin Duran'ts first year the one player who has been getting high marks from folks around the league is former Knick Kurt Thomas, who has been banging in the paint and hitting pick-and-roll jump shots in the great Northwest this season.
THOMAS TARGETED: The one player the Sonics are anticipating they will be asked about in coming weeks is center Thomas, who has an expiring $8 million contract and has shown he can still play at a high level. Thomas entered Thursday averaging 7.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game.
The Sonics may consider re-signing Thomas for next season because he has been such a positive influence on the younger players and he is the team's most legitimate center in years.

So, Kurt Thomas, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is:
A) playing for a cap-friendly price
B) a valuable trade commodity
C) A positive influence on younger big men
D) Better than previous big men the Sonics have had, including Jerome James

Of course, the Knicks kicked Thomas to the curb, largely because Stepon Marbury and his negative influence on younger players didn't get along with Kurt's crazy eye. And, to replace him Isiah drastically overpaid for the guy that Seattle would never choose over Kurt. Looking back this may be the personnel carousel that most epitomizes the Isiah regime.

Anyway, I hope Kurt gets traded to a contender. I love watching him body-up on Duncan in the playoffs and would root for him most anywhere that he lands.

What Does Super Sunday Say About Super Tuesday?

Or, Do I Really Want Eli Manning to Be My President?

Walking to the PATH station this morning the streets were as electric as I've ever seen so early on a Tuesday morning. There were business men in grey flannel suits filing down Newark Street toward the train, volunteers in wind-breakers and jeans handing out flyers for their candidates, they were young children bundled up ambling to bus stops, they were older children with open coats, darting eyes and cigarettes and they were dozens of blue-shirted Giants fans who were skipping out on work to go see the victory parade downtown.

Being bound for work (as well as a Jets fan) I couldn't help but be a little jealous of those, like one of my roommates, heading down to the Canyon of Heroes. But, I'm not going to one of those parades until it's my turn. Whenever that is. Regardless, this was as bustling a Tuesday as the Big Apple is likely to see in some time. Not only is it a victory-parade Tuesday following on the heels of a memorable Super Sunday, but it is Super Tuesday when 24 states are holding primaries or caucuses to determine who be will be each party's nominee for President. In other words, it's kind of a big day in the City, especially with NY's very own second-term senator Hillary Clinton being one of the candidates on the block today.

Walking past the already drinking Giants fans I was wondering if the parade was a good thing or a bad thing for local voter turnout. Would people vote because they were out of the house and had called out of work? Or would they not vote because they usually vote on the way home from work and had been drinking all day long? I figured I would let someone smarter and with some numbers at their disposal figure out those answers. Instead, I am focusing on what, if anything, Super Sunday may reveal to us about Super Tuesday, what the players' performances may tell us about the candidates and what the postseason may have in common with the campaign trail.

For example, is Eli Manning football’s version Hillary Clinton? Hmmm....Both “New Yorkers” have been vying for the affection of the Empire State for several years now with mixed results. Hillary has gained vociferous supporters and attracted virulent enemies while Eli has sold a lot of jerseys since he scorned the Chargers although he has never been embraced on anything other than a monthly, pay-as-you-go basis. They have both had doors opened for them by their last names and both have looked like they may be undone by their last names at times as well. Their blessing is their burden as they look to form their own identities in the world.

Eli will never be Peyton and Hillary will never be Bill. Yet, at this point, both still have the chance to be just as successful in their chosen fields. Of course, no one seems to give either a chance of actually being better. Nevertheless, their more famous family members provide visible support. This is alternately a source of strength and a weakness. Peyton Manning could be seen (on television) pounding his fists and aggressively rooting for his kid brother during the Super Bowl and I don’t doubt that CNN has been full of images all day of Bill doing the same for his wife.

Both Hillary and Eli find succor in our collective inclination towards that with which we are already familiar, towards that which is dynastic and proven. Of course, both these two have seemed determined, at various points in their careers, to find out just how much leeway such a fondness for familiarity and a name-brand would get them. They have tested our limits and our patience but never outstayed their welcome.

So, if Eli is like Hillary does that make Tom Brady like Barack Obama? At first, it seems strange to equate the super-model dating, Hollywood-baby-daddying Golden Boy with the underdog senator from Illinois who in the span of two decades could go from teaching law to leading the free world. After all, Brady is the establishment at this point in his career whereas, no matter how far we think we’ve come as a country, Barack’s candidacy still hinges on whether or not white America will vote for a black man. Without reserves of political capital built up over years in the public eye, Obama is definitely not from the same establishment that Brady is. Brady is the Man while Barack would be wise to have a staffer keep an eye out so that The Man doesn’t sabotage his candidacy.

However, the two of them may have more in common than meets the eye. Both rose to prominence suddenly and without the obvious posturing and pomp of their peers. Eli and Hillary, I’m looking at you two. Brady was forced into duty after Jets linebacker Mo Lewis sheered a blood vessel in Drew Bledsoe’s chest during a week 2 tilt in the 2001 season while Obama took the Democratic Party by storm with his rousing keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Both exude confidence and engender belief with seemingly each professionally act. They have also each been paid that highest of (liberal, non Catholic-hating) American compliments, they have been compared to a Kennedy: Obama to JFK and Brady to JFK, Jr.

Brady and Obama were able to seize their respective moments (the ’04 DNC and the ’01 injury to Bledsoe) because they have that special something about them that makes the teenybopper and the pollster in all of us swoon. Maybe it’s the well-defined cheekbones. Maybe it’s the charisma. Maybe it’s the pedigree: Brady is one of the few to ever quarterback the Michigan Wolverines while Obama is the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. Or, maybe it’s just the way they look in those finely tailored suits. I’m note sure, but both are uber-composed, smooth and seemingly at ease in every situation. Well, except, in Brady’s case, when Justin Tuck is charging him down. Meanwhile, Eli and Hillary can seem frantic, like they’re trying too hard. Maybe Obama is politics’ version of Brady, after all.

But, really, if you think about it, shouldn’t Hillary be the Patriots since she is the candidate who seems to inspire the most angst amongst detractors? Deserved or not, both Hillary and the Patriots are polarizing amongst neutral fans and undecided voters. People can’t deny their experience but can’t help but question how they achieved it. Was it spying? Or was it favors and nepotism? These doubts are likely based more on gut-reactions to each, something about a pantsuit or ripped sweatshirt, rather than any informed look at the bodies of work.

But actually, now that I really sit down and think about it, Mitt Romney should probably be represented by the Patriots in this matching game. Right? He could be Washington’s version of Bob Craft, since those two both feign All-American aw-shuckishness while actually being gazillionaire industrialists in the Mr. Burns mold. Both are also from Massachusetts but not actually of Massachusetts.

So, if Romney’s Mormon money train rides the same rails as that Coors Light train that so famously pulled through Kraft’s Gillette Stadium in that commercial then his challenger, John McCain, would be like Tom Coughlin of the New York football Giants. You can’t help but respect these two ornery old guys, even if you wouldn’t want them coaching your own team. Both are battle-tested veterans (one of them literally) with a wealth of experience. Their careers have had ups-and-downs and they’ve had to bounce back from failures that seemed like they were going to get the best of them right up until the moment when they prevailed. They’re not warm and fuzzy when you see them on television. In fact, they look like they would tell you to get a haircut and complain about the muzak in the elevator being too loud.

Speaking of seeing people on television, maybe Tiki Barber could be best described as football’s Howard Dean, currently figurehead of the Democratic Party, cautionary tale on YouTube and noticeably irrelevant person. There was a time, not too long ago, when you felt that both would be the man to take their team/party to the Promised Land. Dean was at the vanguard of the Internet revolution in campaigning and Tiki was the League’s most well-rounded player coming out of the backfield. It’s seems like yesterday that they were “young” and vital and at the top of their games but each liked the spotlight too much and couldn’t keep their mouths shut if you gave them a platform. Dean had too many states to conquer and Tiki too many morning talk shows to visit. Oh, well.

But, then thinking about Dean makes me remember how fickle the great mo’ (mentum) can be on the campaign trail. And, thinking about momentum, I can’t help but think that the easiest way to lose it in a football game is to have your quarterback throw a pick-six, which Eli did three times in a single-game this season en route to leading all quarterbacks in interceptions with 20 in the regular season. And, it is all those interceptions that makes me remember who Eli Manning really was all season long and who he has been during his entire career. I wonder, how did he beat Tom Brady and the Patriots? I don’t know, but he sure did it. We all saw it. It definitely happened. And, it was awesome.

But does that mean that he is a better quarterback than Tom Brady? Or that the Giants were a better football team in 2007 than the New England Patriots were during that same time span?

I don’t think that the result in the Super Bowl really changes what already happened, at all. It just means that the Giants won the Super Bowl and that winning the biggest game of the year isn’t necessarily the same as being the best during the course of that year. The NLF isn’t like the EPL where the final record is all that matters. This is America and we have playoffs. Well, except in college football, where we don’t.

Eli Manning was better on Super Sunday, but Tom Brady has been better overall. The Patriots lost on Sunday but they were the best overall. That’s why they were 18-1. Baseball fans have accepted this principle, that regular season is only a means of getting to the postseason and being the best is not a pre-requisite for winning the postseason tournament. In football too many people were prematurely crowning the Pats without realizing that.

Now what does this mean for Super Tuesday? Does that mean that the best candidates will receive their party’s nomination? Or that whomever travels to the most states today will? Does that mean that the best candidate will win the general election in November? Or will the one who plays flawlessly during the playoffs?

I don’t think I want Eli Manning to be my president. Even if I’m so glad that he won the Super Bowl.

Thankfully, today is also Fat Tuesday. That means that it’s Mardi Gras and that I can have drink to calm my nerves about the presidency and to toast 18-1 and the Giants. Well, after I stop off and vote. Of course. And, then tomorrow, once Lent begins, I can give up convoluted comparisons between sports and politics. I’ll give that up, for sure. That, and junk food. And, maybe the Knicks.

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. Deron Williams. Left by waiting by the mailbox when the All-Star invites were sent out, Deron dominated All-Star Chris Paul last night as Utah rolled over New Orleans. Williams had 29 points and 11 assists while holding CP3 to 6 points and 6 assists. Williams and the Jazz are now 7-1 against Paul and the Hornets since the two guards entered the league.

2. Boston College Hockey. Perenially ranked in the Top Ten and a staple in the Frozen Four there are few times that BC Hockey is ever the underdog. One of those times is the annual Beanpot Tournament, kicking off the first Monday in February for over half a century. For whatever reason, Boston University has controlled the four-team dance that also features Harvard and Northeastern. Last night BC exacted some revenge with an OT victory over their Comm Ave. rivals. BC will face Harvard in next week’s championship game.

3. Steven Gerrard. The talismanic Liverpool midfielder has been named captain of the England soccer team. With two former captains, vying for spots in the side (Terry and Beckham) and vertigo-inducing expectations new skipper Fabio Capello (and his captain) must feel like Atlas as his team prepares for tomorrow’s friendly against the Swiss.

4. Democracy. It’s Super Tuesday. Go out and vote.

5. Al Jefferson. Yes his team lost, but Shane Falco keeps racking up eye-boggling numbers. With 33 and 16 last night, Jefferson kept the Wolves in a tight-game against a deeper and more talented Rockets squad. It seems like this Wolves team has started playing better the past few weeks (like the Knicks) but continues to lose (like the Knicks).