But first, I’ll present what I call the Wide Receiver Ethos. I know football fans think Tim Brown is such a class act and Jerry Rice is such a great teammate. But listen, here’s the thing about star wide receivers: they are ALL prima donnas. They are all cry babies and ball hogs and malcontents. They are inscure jerks, driven — or undone – by the fear they’ll be rendered impotent during a game because someone else is driving the bus and they’re dependent on that driver to get them the ball. And they ALL want to blame someone else for the team losing. All of them. Even the so-called good guys, who just hide or temper the bad behavior better than a Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens.
They say in sports that fans just root for the laundry. And a lot of the time, I suppose that’s true. We’ve all experienced times when a player we hated ended up joining our team (such as the Yankees adding Kevin Youkilis) and slowly drop the hatred as the pressure builds to root for that player because he’s wearing your laundry. But sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes you start loving a player with the OTHER uniform on. You may not want it to happen, but it just does.
And it’s happened to me. Here are five players I should probably hate but somehow ended up loving.
1. Ron Artest
I love Ron Artest. LOVE him. I know I should hate him. I get it. The Malice at the Palace. The elbow to James Harden’s head. His generally rough and sometimes thuggish play. His R&B music producer career. He plays for the Lakers. And he hit the three-pointer that was the nail in the Celts’ coffin in the 2010 Finals.
I know I SHOULD hate him. But I love him. I’ve loved him since he played at St. Johns. Fearless. Aggressive defense. Energy all over the court. Loved guarding the other team’s best player.
If memory serves, I think I tried to trade for Artest several times in our fantasy college hoops league (Jon, can you confirm? Did you have him?). Even now in the later stages of his career, when his shot selection is suspect and he can’t cover shooting guards effectively anymore, I still love him. I love watching him play at an All-Star level on both ends of the court with the Pacers. I loved seeing him go toe-to-toe with Kobe when he was on the Rockets. And I wanted him on the Celtics so, so bad. Even when he won the title with the Lakers, part of me was happy for him and his therapist. I won’t deny it, either — his craziness is part of the allure. There’s just nobody like him in the NBA, maybe professional sports. Like Larry Bird said years ago, Ronnie’s a gamer and I wish we had more guys like him. Ditto, Larry. I love Ronnie.
See what I just did there? I called him RONNIE. That’s the depth of my affection for him.
Editor’s note:this column was written by my wife Elaine in response to Slate’s article last month titled “The League’s Woman Troubles,” which lamented the show’s boorish, sexist attitudes. As a fan of “The League,” she felt compelled to write a defense of one of her favorite shows. So suck it, Slate. Suck it hard.
I love The League…and I’m a woman. I think the show is hilarious – and I don’t even really follow sports. I live in Boston so it’s hard not to get swept up in some sports mania but I still consider myself a novice on most sports-related topics. I giggle when TV reporters refer to a Tight End. Much to my husband’s horror, I often refer to “man-on-man” defense. And I regularly forget how long a quarter or half lasts – and often ponder why it actually takes 3 times longer than what the timer says. But after 6 years of marriage, I’ve managed to absorb enough sports knowledge by osmosis to get by… except when it comes to world of fantasy sporting.
Enter “The League.” The show provides a comical view of the ridiculous world of fantasy sports — one that, frankly, I just didn’t get until watching the show. To me, fantasy sports just seemed like one big excuse for my husband to get out of doing chores. It’s the reason his iPhone has become a permanent fifth limb. “Honey, I have to check scores.” Really? Even during dinner? I don’t think so. It’s his excuse for not leaving the house on prime weekend days and saying things like, “Sweetie, I can’t move away from the computer during the draft.” And most of all, it’s his excuse for random trips to Vegas — even though I’m pretty sure you can’t bet on make-believe teams (yet!).
My friend Stephen emailed the news to everyone in my fantasy baseball league, including a number of Bloggers To Be Named Later, yesterday morning: “Ichiro is a Yankee! Thoughts?” Here’s how it went.
Jeremy: Yawn. I guess they’re getting a Dave Roberts? This guy is 38 (at least) and not an impact player anymore. They got him for two gloves and a fungo bat, though, so it can only help them as he’s such a smart ballplayer.
Jon: I actually am a little jazzed about this one. He’s way past prime, but still brings two elements that the Yanks do not have: OF defense and speed. He will replace Jones-banez in the defensive alignment, which is like replacing Kathy Bates with Brooklyn Decker in that scene in Misery. And I think he’ll hit much better than .260 in Yankee Stadium with Cano, A-Rod and Tex behind him than in Seattle with Kyle Seager behind him.
The real question is: Will Girardi continue to insist on batting Granderson second for no apparent reason besides the Yankees win more games than they lose?
And considering the Yanks gave up more in DJ Mitchell (who is probably maxed out as a 5th starter/long reliever) than the Sox did for Curt Schilling, I don’t want to hear it about a fungo bat.
It was 11 years ago yesterday: We gorged on cheesesteaks, soaked up the sun, and scalded ourselves on the plastic seats in Veterans Stadiums’ 600 level (we splurged on the $8 seats). On the day he retired, Jorge Posada would identify my bachelor party as one of the worst memories of his Major League career. Here’s how the people who were there remember it.
Paul: I was happy that day. The Phillies were playing the defending champion Yankees in a classic Andy Pettitte vs. Robert Person match-up, I was getting married just a couple weeks later, and we had gorged on cheesesteaks earlier in the day (at Pat’s, not Geno’s).
Jon: Aside from RFK stadium in DC, Veterans Stadium was the single worst ballpark in which I’ve ever had to watch a game. I’m including in that calculus the Daytona Cubs’ home stadium from when I was 17 years old, the Eugene Emeralds’ stadium, the Salem-Kizer minor league team home stadium, and even Shea Stadium. So bad.
Rob: I agree with Jon. The Vet was a dump. I’ve visited a lot of bad ballparks in my day (Shea Stadium, Angels Stadium, Wrigley Field) but the Vet was truly a marvel of poor design, unfriendly decor, and a complete disregard for cleanliness. But I have to say, it would have been a much worse experience had it not been for the fans. The place had a great crowd, and they were fully invested in beating the Yankees. Philly has great fans. There, I said it.
Stew: Leading up to the game, I was excited about the great Philly cheesesteak that we were going to eat (not sports related but the fat kid likes his food). Paul’s brother Dave gave me quite the tutorial on ordering so I would not look like a rube from Richmond and embarrass the group. Still find it funny that the “secret” ingredient is wiz, but have to admit, it was the best cheesesteak I’ve had.
During the game, I marveled at Jon’s Rain Man-esque way of pulling stats out about every player current and former in the entire Yankee organization.
Jon: I can’t believe Posada only got charged with three passed balls. Wohlers got charged with a wild pitch that was definitely Posada’s fault, and what doesn’t show up in the box score was how many balls Posada absolutely shadow-boxed at in his futile efforts to “receive” pitches. Picture a blindfolded mental patient with muscle impulse control issues in one of those Chuck-E-Cheese cash-grab air chambers. That’s how Jorge caught balls on his good days, and we’re talking about his worst day.
Rob: Watching Jon freak out over a Yankees game is one of my favorite past times, and this game was truly special. It was like Posada had gone all Knoblauch. He couldn’t have stopped a ball with goalie pads and a stick that day. It was amazing.
Ken Davidoff, Newsday: [When he retired], Posada identified his personal highlights as breaking into the majors in 1995, catching David Wells’ 1998 perfect game, and being on the field for the last out of the 1999 World Series. His worst day? July 15, 2001, when he committed three passed balls against the Phillies at Veterans Stadium.* (*Actual quote!)
Paul: Robert Person walked six guys, but the lowly Phillies had a 4-3 lead after five innings. It was an appropriate metaphor for my impending marriage that the underdog was playing so far over its head, because I was definitely marrying way out of my league. In the eighth inning, the Phillies put the game out of reach with four runs, and Jon was getting taunted by liquored-up Phillies fans who were probably also suffering from sun stroke.
Jon: If you think Yankees fans suck, try Yankees fans blowing their obnoxious load after a Jeter home run in the first inning of a game in Philadelphia, then bolting in the 8th after Wohlers came in and did what Wohlers’ does. I was a pretty lonely Yankee fan in Section 659 in the 9th inning.
Stew: I think the baseball gods were looking out for Paul, as I think that was the only game in that particular series which the Phillies won. I remember because they went into extra innings the next night and had like 10 hours before playing a double header after arriving in Detroit for the following series. It was a big story on ESPN.
Paul: I think Stew may have had one too many appletinis in Atlantic City the previous night, because I don’t remember any of that. Anyway, as we’re leaving Veterans Stadium, Pearlman (AKA Rob) has an altercation with some Yankees fan in the men’s room, yelling at this guy wearing a Rivera jersey that he saw his knob in the bathroom and that it’s incredibly small. (Our question: Why was he looking?)
Rob: So here’s what happened. I ducked out during the middle of an inning to go use the restroom. Which was absolutely wretched, and made me yearn for the days of Fenway’s old piss troughts, but that’s another story. Anyway, I enter the restroom and I’m all alone. I’m doing my business at the urinal, and of course two Yankee fans n their mid-to–late 30s walk in and immediately spot my Nomar T-shirt and Sox hat. One guy was good natured about ripping on me….but the other guy was a total douchejuice, as Buzz Bissinger would say. This dude was wearing a Rivera jersey, and he starts yelling at me about how I made a wrong turn on the turnpike and need to head back north to Boston. And I laugh it off, but then he starts to get mean. Like, really angry about it. And I’m there trying to pee in the urinal and he’s right there at the urinal next to mean screaming at me. It was uncomfortable. So I said something to the effect of “Why are you so pissed off at me? Your team wins all the time, and you awlays beat the Sox, so you should be happy. So what’s the problem? You must have a really tiny dick.” And that pretty much did it — his buddy starts cracking up, but Rivera is super-pissed and he zips up and looks like hes gonna come at me, but thankfully some Philly fans enter the bathroom right at the moment and start tearing into the Yankee fans. So I made a quick exit, confident that I had made a clean getaway. Or so I thought.
So the game ends, and we’re exiting our section and into the concessions area with a huge crowd of people shuffling their way toward the ramp that leads us out of this hell hole of a ballpark. And suddenly I hear someone yelling and I turn and it’s Rivera. And dude is SCREAMING at me and working his way through the crowd toward me. I made a split-second decision — I figure being in the hostile environment of the Vet, Rivera isn’t reallt going to jump me with all these Philly fans around. So I yell, “Hey Rivera! I saw you in at urinal and you’re this big!” holding my thumb and index finger maybe a centimeter apart. And the dude absolutely flips out, which I guess is to be expected. Luckily, it was just too crowded for Rivera to get to me, and we made it out of the fray with no bodily harm. But Jon took me aside and made an excellent point. He said, “I understand you’re pissed and you wanted to get back at that guy, but you just told a hundred people that you looked at that man’s dick in the bathroom.” Touche, Jon. Touche.
Paul: Interleague play was still a big deal at the time, and these parking lot vendors were selling T-shirts for $6 with the Phillies and Yankees logos, and the legend “Innerleague Series.” I had to have one. The Rivera-shirt guy never did find us. Eleven years later, I’m still happily married, and most important of all, I still have that T-shirt.
Rob: So Paul decides to stop in the parking lot and look at these stupid T-shirts that say “Innerleague Baseall” because these hicks in Pennsylvania can’t spell, and he wants to buy one. And to be honest, I’m still watching out for Rivera, afraid the guy and his buddies are gonna jump me in the parking lot and just wanna get out of there. And Paul’s holding us up because he wants to buy one of these stupid T-shirts?
Jon: One final sports-related observations of Paul’s batch party: Paul is utterly, totally, and completely incapable of dribbling a basketball with his left hand. But I already knew that before this day.
You’ve seen it all before. An owner decides, usually surreptitiously and sometimes maliciously, to move his team to new city and in exchange, he or she receives a new publicly-funded setup as well as other government goodies. In professional sports, team owners do this all the time for new stadiums and arenas.
Curt Schilling did with his video game company, and he was crucified. And that was before 38 Studios defaulted on a government loan payment, laid off its entire staff and made a mockery of its funding deal with the state of Rhode Island.
No, Schilling was thrown on the cross the minute he decided to move his company from Maynard, Mass., to Rhode Island two years ago. The hammers and nails came out later.
I’ve always been fascinated by contextual morality, and I can’t remember when its ugly melon was reared quite so memorably, and never in a way that intersected two of my passions – sports and video games.
People who have sent us helmets out of the kindness of their hearts:
Barb Buse Breen (and her aunt Ellen)
Kelly Farrell (and her sister Camille)
Scott & Susan Mealey
Katie Caputo Roberts
Minor League teams that have generoulsy donated helmets to the collection:
New Britain Rock Cats
Oklahoma City Redhawks
Toledo Mud Hens
Wilmington Blue Rocks
We write about sports. We make a lot of jokes. We do our best to use good grammar.