Saturday, June 29, 2013

Professional Sports: A Melting Pot of Future Convicts?

     Long before Aaron Hernandez was investigated for his alleged involvement with a double murder in July of 2012, long before he was charged with 1st degree murder and 5 other gun-related charges, and long before he was accused of shooting a man in the face in February, professional athletes were committing crimes at a rate higher than many other social groups. Which is odd, considering that many of them are some of the most financially stable people on the planet. I believe that, in the simplest of terms, most people commit crimes so that they can have the things that they want. Robberies, Drug Dealings, Petty Thefts: these are all crimes that most people commit because they lack the means to have what they want, or to provide for their families. Other crimes are not planned, but are mishaps that occur frequently: Aggravated Assault, DUI, Domestic Violence. These crimes, although inexcusable, tend to have some sort of reasoning behind them for the most part. However, for those privileged individuals that are afforded the opportunity to play a professional sport, whether it be Football, Basketball, Baseball, or anything else, there is no reason that these crimes and worse should be occurring at such an alarming rate.

     The American people place athletes on a pedestal. In High School, when they have nothing, teachers will give them the grades they need to pass. Coaches will let them dictate the team. In some cases, students will help them forge test scores. When they get to college, they are treated like royalty. Female students are desperate for their affection, and male students admire their in-game play. They are allowed to act as if they are a step above everyone else on life's totem pole. For instance, athletes at Stanford University are given a list of easy courses to take, such as Social Dances of North America III, that are used as GPA boosters. By the time they make it to the professional ranks, there is no controlling their ego. Cam Newton, for example, told Peter King at the NFL Scouting Combine that he sees himself an entertainer and icon, without mention of being a Super Bowl champion or Hall of Fame Player.

     The idea that professional athletes role models leads us to believe that they are productive members of society, and it gives them the notion that they are invincible. Exhibit A: Gilbert Arenas. While under investigation for bringing guns into the Wizards' locker room following an altercation with teammate Javaris Crittenton (who by the way, is now awaiting a murder trial) Arenas pulled this on court display that got himself suspended for 50 games. To me, this is the perfect example of an Athlete's untouchable persona. He believed that even though he had just brought lethal weapons into an NBA Locker Room, it was okay for him to shoot down his teammates at a regular-season game with all the cameras on him. Arenas was in the news again this week, unfortunately, as he was arrested in California for having 100 pounds of illegal fireworks. The sad part is that this is not the only case of an athlete's blatant disregard for the law, although many of them are fortunate enough to avoid real punishment. Ben Roethlisberger, for instance, has been accused of rape on two separate occasions in two different states, but out of court settlements have kept him out of harm's way. Or Donte Stallworth, who was convicted of DUI Manslaughter, but only served 24 days in a county jail.

In addition to criminal allegations, we are going through an era where cheating is growing rampant, and athletes are steadily finding new ways to get ahead. Bruce Irvin and Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks were accused of using the drug adderall to enhance in-game performance. Of the great home run hitters of baseball history, many of them are steroid users: Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, and Jose Canseco, to name a few. A quote from the greatest cyclist of all time, Lance Armstrong: "It is impossible to win the Tour De France without doping." Its unfortunate that athletes think like this, but it is becoming the norm.

Hall Of Fame Running Back and Heisman Trophy Winner OJ Simpson was involved in perhaps the most famous car chase and murder trial of all time. He was found not guilty for the double murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend, but is currently serving a prison sentence for essentially stealing back his own stuff from another person's house. Although he was fortunate enough to stay out of jail after the first time he was charged with a felony, he proceeded to commit another a decade later. In the case of Aaron Hernandez, people are not as optimistic about his future. The evidence is overwhelming and he is in serious danger. He is not being granted bail, he has been released by the Patriots, and not to mention, he has a wife and kid at home.

So, before you proclaim a famous athlete as your idol or role model, it is necessary to ask yourself a few questions:
     1. Does this athlete's life outside of sports reflect that of a responsible person?
     2. Are they going beyond ethical boundaries to compete at the highest level?
     3. Is this athlete leading a double life as a violent criminal?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NBA Finals Preview: Game 6

Game 6 is tonight. The San Antonio Spurs travel to American Airlines Arena to face the Miami Heat tonight at 9:00 EDT on ABC.

Will this be the end of the big three? Will this validate the questions that critics have had about LeBron James since the 2007 Finals? Is this the game that will finally take LeBron James off his pedestal?

In short, no. The Miami Heat will win Game 6 of these NBA Finals for a number of reasons that do not have anything to do with the game, and a number of reasons that do.

First, the reasons that people have been throwing out for the past couple days that have nothing to do with the game:
     -The Spurs have to come back down to Earth sometime.
     -The series has gone back and forth each game.
     -The Miami Heat haven't lost back to back games since January.
     -The Miami Heat are the best team in the NBA.

None of those reasons will factor into tonight, because the playoffs are a game by game monster, and besides game 1, each game has been a must-win for the team that has won the game. All that matters tonight are the players and the coaches. When the Spurs lose this game, it will have nothing to do with the idea that what goes up must come down, because their shooters could very well hold up tonight and come down all next season. The up-and-down nature of the series' is purely a matter of who need's the game more, and tonight the Spurs need this game just as bad as the Heat, as many people do not believe they can win it in a Game 7 situation.The Heat's propensity to win games after a loss is countered by the fact that the Spurs are 14-2 in the last 10 years when given the opportunity to close out series' on the road. Calling the Heat the best team in the league is arguable at best, especially given Dwyane Wade's knee injury and Chris Bosh's soft play, and LeBron's recent fatigue issues.

The 6 biggest match-ups in tonight's game 6:

     Gregg Popovich vs. Erik Spoelstra:

Popovich is obviously the better and more experienced coach in this match-up, and he has 4 titles to his credit. However, Spoelstra has been in the title 3 years in a row, and he is no pushover. He called out his players on being exposed by one-on-one matchups with Parker and Ginobili in Game 5, and hopes to engineer a different outcome.

     LeBron James vs. LeBron James

I firmly believe that there has never been another athlete with as much potential and ability as LeBron. Nodody can convince me otherwise. However, if he can't help counter the Spur's scoring runs, his 25 point games will be meaningless. It is most important for him to take over the game when the Spurs are hot, because he cannot be stopped by anyone but himself. The Spurs went on at least two double digit runs last game. The Heat rebounded from the first, but were unable to recover after  a 75-74 deficit became a 87-75 Spurs lead in the 4th quarter.

     Tony Parker vs. Heat Defenders

This is the key. The Spurs run through Tony Parker. When the Heat outscored the Spurs by 18 points in the second half of game 4, Parker had 0 points and 3 assists. Preventing him from getting to the basket and distributing the basketball is preventing the Spurs from winning the game.

     Heat Shooters vs. Spurs New Big Three

Danny Green, Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard make up what I would like to refer to as the new big three. All three of these guys have the ability to score 20 or more points in a game, and if any of them do that tonight, the Heat are in trouble. On the Contrary, the role players on the Heat have the ability to score some big time points as well. Ray Allen is arguably the greatest shooter in NBA History, Mike Miller had 7 three's in the closeout game last year, and of course "The Chalmers Game" where D-Wade had these praises for his point guard afterwards.

     Pain vs. Gain

No pain, no gain is what I have always learned. Dwyane Wade looks like he is in extreme pain every time he over exerts himself on a play, constantly grimacing, or coming off the court to get massaged, or even going back into the locker room every once in a while. For the past two games, he has been able to overcome the pain and produce the way he has for the past 10 years. However, its hard to believe that he will be able to keep this up with little rest.

     Tim Duncan vs. Chris Bosh

The bigs have not been at the forefront of this series, but they very well could play a huge part in tonight's game. Chris Bosh has had a double double in each of the Heat's wins, while only having 1 in the 3 losses. The same goes for Duncan: he has played much better in their wins. Chris Andersen has not played in the last two games, which may have to change tonight because the Heat are consistently having match-up issues inside and out. I expect Bosh to see some time at power forward tonight, where he likes to step out and shoot three pointers. If he does, do not be surprised if the Veboshiraptor reappears, as it took him 65 million years to win his first NBA title and he is ready for another one.

P.S. Always expect a Hard Day's Night against the Heatles.

Monday, June 3, 2013

LeBron's Legacy


LeBron's 4 MVP Awards

     The best player in the NBA has been dominating the league since he was 18 years old. For 10 years, he has been the most dynamic player in the league averaging 27.6 points per game, along with 7.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists. Since entering the professional ranks, he has accomplished things that only him and Michael Jordan have been able to do over the course of their basketball careers. 4 Time MVP, Reigning NBA Champion, Reigning Finals MVP, 2 Time Reigning Olympic Gold Medalist, 9-Time All NBA Selection, NBA Scoring Champion, Father, Philanthropist, 6-8 250 lb, LeBron James.

Michael Jordan's Rings (Count Them Up)

     Despite all of this success, LeBron James continues to come under fire for one reason: Winning. As a child prodigy, James has been compared to Michael Jordan ever since he entered the NBA. To the old-timers, and to a certain degree the new generation, Michael Jordan is an untouchable figure. No matter what anyone does, there will still be those that believe he is far and away the greatest to ever touch the court. It is hard to argue with 6 rings and 5 MVP awards, but he has become somewhat of a Chuck Norris-Like figure in the eyes of his fan base. LeBron James is an outstanding player that is in a class of his own at this stage of his career, but he is playing in a different era than Jordan, and comparisons truly do not work well across those types of barriers. Bill Russell is the king of the 60s. Kareem in the 70s. Magic and Bird in the 80s. Jordan in the 90s. Kobe, Shaq, and Duncan shared the 2000s. This decade belongs to LeBron. It is his own, and should not be compared to any other player. As we all know, he has no regard for human life.

LeBron vs Paul George

     Tonight, the Miami Heat will face the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. Some would say this is critical juncture in the career of LeBron James, because a loss would forever taint his legacy. Soon after joining the Miami Heat, a now-infamous pep rally where LeBron James claims that he will win multiple championships, "Not 1, Not 2..." All the way through 7 championships is being cited by many sources. Now, it is being speculated that if the Heat lose tonight, there will be no big three next season, and LeBron will end up leaving the Heat with 1 title in 4 years. ESPN's DJ Steve Porter made this famous auto-tune mash-up to sum up his first season with the Heat. Last year, the critics were silenced, and nobody had anything bad to say about LeBron or the Heat. This season, during the regular season, the Heat won 66 games and went on a 41-1 tear that shocked the world. However, a couple injuries here, a couple bad plays there, and here they are, the same situation as last season: Game 7 at home in the Conference Finals. However, this time, they don't have the momentum. 

LeBron's latest SI Cover

My Prediction

A lot is being made of the fact that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, perennial all-stars and superstar talents, are averaging just over 25 ppg combined during his series vs the Pacers. With the Birdman back to challenge Roy Hibbert in the middle, Wade and Bosh will provide a boost, 35 points combined between the 2 of them. LeBron will do his thing as usual, something around 30 points. The X-Factor will be the role players: Chalmers, Allen, Cole, Haslem, and Battier/Miller. At least 2 of these players will have to score in double figures, because as we have seen, when Haslem is making his jump shot, or Allen is hot from 3-point range, or Cole and Chalmers are driving to the basket, this team is virtually unbeatable. Miami Heat win this win in a close game, despite heroic efforts from Paul George and Roy Hibbert, 100-93.

So the question stands. When it is all said and done, what will be LeBron's Legacy?