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Joe K. Morris- Armchair Allstar

I’M BACK

Any time I fail to realize that I’ve landed in the ideal place for my writing I need only think of this. My editor is as prone to fits of non-output as is this writer.

The editor of which I speak is John Embry. John graces these pages with his own writings from time to time, but will be the first to tell you that he won’t write when he doesn’t feel it, isn’t in the mood, doesn’t have time, or just doesn’t have anything to say.

That’s good for me. I need an editor that understands that sometimes a writer just needs to take 90 or so days off sometimes between columns.

I really haven’t had much to say since June 21st when I last put something into the old BTN inbox. I am however a man of my word. When I last left you I promised my next column would cover the NBA Finals, Ohio State’s football woes, John Calipari’s new contract, and why David Stern has the toughest job in America. Three months is long enough for you to wait for my take on these things, so here goes.

NBA FINALS

I can sum up my reaction to Dallas’ besting of the Miami ‘dream team’ in three words.

Ha, ha, ha!

Watching LeBron James and company fall completely flat in the NBA Finals was good for my soul. Not only am I usually a fan of the underdog, but I don’t care much for bullies, and that’s exactly how this Miami team struck me. Other teams have put together super squads just to win a title. When the Dallas Cowboys were ruling the NFL in the 1990’s the San Francisco 49er’s put together a squad just to beat the Cowboys, and it worked. Los Angeles signed Shaq and drafted Kobe Bryant as the final pieces of a machine they built to be a dynasty styled after the Chicago Bulls. And of course the New York Yankees routinely outspend some small nations in their quest for more World Series titles. Still that pales in comparison to what Miami did.

Miami told the world they would do everything to stack the deck in their favor, and they did it. They lured LeBron James to South Beach, added Chris Bosh, and resigned D’wayne Wade. Then they literally told the rest of the league to try to keep the title out of Miami if they dared.

Well, the Mavericks didn’t get the memo that the championship went to Miami because they wrote the biggest checks. The irony in that is stunning. Mark Cuban is the one guy in professional sports with enough money to write any size check. Cuban, a dot-com multi-billionaire, has seen his own efforts at ‘buying’ a title thwarted by bad decision making, and by an NBA front office that is far from supportive of his efforts. Going into the 2010-11 season most folks thought Cuban had given up on his NBA championship dreams because he wasn’t able to lure any of last year’s uber-free agents to Dallas.

Sources said early on that as soon as the ‘undermanned’ Mavericks were out of contention for a championship that Cuban would trade Dirk Nowitski to a contender as a way to reward him for his years of loyalty to the team. When Dallas didn’t make any ground-breaking trades before the deadline people said that Cuban had pulled the plug on this team and would dismantle it as soon as it faltered in the playoffs.

We’re still waiting for the dismantling and for the faltering in the playoffs.

The truth is that Cuban’s team of one star, and bunch of role-players, and some cagey veterans was just what Miami couldn’t handle. The big three did great in the regular season, but when they ran up on a team with no personality concerns that played real team defense it was too much for them to handle. The big three could find a guy to go one  against the world night in and out during the regular season and win games doing it. Dallas put up a defense that forced other teams to beat them with teamwork and unselfishness. With all their talent and stardom teamwork and unselfishness were two traits that were lacking on the Heat last season.

It did my heart good to watch a team win the title in what has become a sport revolving around super-talented individuals. Miami was supposed to be three times as tough a contender with three of the league’s marquee names on one roster. Instead they only ended the season with thrice the frustration of failing to bring home a Larry O’Brien Trophy.

If you’re a fan of the Heat you’d better hope they learned some lessons this summer, or the big three experiment could end up being a monumental flop.

•••

On to Ohio State.

Nothing has brought me more joy that Ohio State finally getting busted. I say finally because anyone with any knowledge of college football, half a brain-cell, and enough energy to open their eyes has know this was a dirty program for the last forty years.

Ohio State has always prided itself on being a football factory first, and the State University of Ohio second. What’s more Ohio State fans are belligerent in their support of their team, and revel in the fact that their team will do whatever it takes to not only get the best recruits, but to also keep them on the field after they arrive in Columbus.

It’s taken a long time, but things have changed in the NCAA, and now when you blatantly break the rules eventually you pay for it. That’s what’s happening now to Ohio State. While their infractions are major I have to believe that the punishments levied against them have as much to do with their culture of misdeeds than their current offenses.

I’m glad Ohio State is finally getting their just desserts, it couldn’t have happened to a more despicable group, and it’s been a long time coming. I intend on savoring every OSU loss for a while to come.

•••

Now for Cal’s contract.

It’s really no big deal. If you think he got a huge raise you’re wrong. This contract was more about telling NBA teams that Cal wants to be left alone than it was about giving the coach more money. It looks like a big deal on paper, and it stretches out his term in Lexington a little bit, but it was really only a ceremonial reward for his trip to the Final Four, and his way of telling fans and recruits that he plans on being around for a while longer.

•••

And finally, poor David Stern.

Stern is the NBA’s Commissioner and has to be in a world of hurt right now. Not only were the finals rated as low as they have been in 20 years, but his athletes and owners are likely not going to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement in time to save this season. The NFL is enjoying its highest ratings in a decade, baseball is getting its most viewers since its disastrous strike, and NASCAR looks to be picking up some if its lost momentum.

In the grand scheme of things the NBA is more than disposable. College basketball is a purer form of the game and rules hoops ratings for most of the season anyway. The NFL takes us more than halfway through the winter, and by the time the NBA Playoffs roll around people are moving outdoors to do other things. Even the most ardent NBA fan will tell you that the season goes too far into the summer and that it’s no longer a true team game, but rather an exhibition of individuals trying to outdo each other with moves and dunks. Plus there’s no defense until the playoff and the regular season doesn’t mean anything.

No matter what happens with the NBA lockout David Stern is the captain of a ship that just keeps springing leaks. If he can’t find ways to patch all of them in a hurry his ship is liable to hit the rocks, and his fellow owners are likely to find a new captain.

•••

Now that I’m back you can expect me to write two or three times more in the coming months. I might be moved to write more if you would send me a little mail now and then.

JOE K. MORRIS

PO Box 107

Woodbury, KY 42288

Or email to: [email protected]

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