RCS Sidelines

March 21, 2012 8:30 AM

Column Awards of the Week (3/13-3/19)

By updating RealClearSports I read hundreds of articles every week but sometimes there are particular passages that need highlighting. And to make these passages more palatable I'm doing them in award form! The awards are completely random and will change weekly.

Column Awards for slide.jpgLeBron James has been throttled plenty for how he handled "The Decision." There has been endless debate about whether he should've stuck it out in Cleveland or whether he made the right choice. We've heard people say that Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan wouldn't have teamed up during their prime just to chase a ring. Those players sought out challenges and wouldn't take the easy way out the argument goes.

All of this type of talk resurfaced surrounding Dwight Howard. Howard clearly needs a lesson on media manipulation because he was all over the map all season about whether he wanted to stay or go. It's understandable that a young man making such a huge decision would waver back in forth but as a professional athlete in the limelight he has to learn not to share that with the press.

One of the biggest criticisms of Howard was questioning whether his primary goal really was to win a championship as he had stated time and time again. If that was the case why had he left Chicago off his list of potential trade destinations? Howard alongside Derrick Rose? That team would definitely give the Heat a run for their money in the East. But instead it seemed like Howard was chasing fame in the bright lights of Brooklyn.

In the end, Howard decided to stay put for one more season. He is giving the franchise a chance to show it can help him win a title. It's unlikely that will happen and we'll have to go through all of this once again next season. The criticism of Howard has died down since his decision to stay. I think he found a good middle ground. He didn't commit long term but he also didn't just abandon the franchise that drafted him. He showed loyalty but not blind loyalty. All of this is to bring up the issue of Steve Nash.

Steve Nash has been with the Suns since 2004 and you used to be able to pencil them in for 50-plus wins and a second tier title contender. But last year they were under .500 and this year they are hovering right around that line as a border line playoff team. Nash is 37 years old now and miraculously doesn't seem to be slowing down. He still leads the league in assists at over 11 per game. He has won 2 MVP awards. But Nash has never been to the NBA Finals. And yet, Nash has not asked for a trade and seems content to stay in Phoenix. His loyalty is admirable but should it also be criticized?

Why doesn't Nash want to be traded to a contender? He has given the Suns some amazing years and no one would fault him for asking for a trade. What does it say about Nash that he hasn't asked for one? Most NBA stars getting to the latter stages of their careers wouldn't put up with languishing in mediocrity but for some reason Nash is resigned to stay in Phoenix. Where is the outrage over this?

Loyalty in sports might be something of a rarity and thus fans and the media eat it up. They love the romantic idea of a player sacrificing to stick with an organization, retiring and having their number retired. But while Howard has been criticized for not making winning a top priority, Nash has been given a pass. Loyalty is a nice story but in the end, what matters most is winning and if that isn't Nash's top priority, shouldn't he be criticized for that? On to the awards!

Best Headline of the Week
I usually don't include blogs very often but I couldn't pass this one up. From Kissing Suzy Kolber: The Bears Trade Multiple Picks For Multiple Personalities.

Obviously this is referring to the Dolphins trading Brandon Marshall, who has Borderline Personality Disorder. Insensitive? Of course. But that's one of the things KSK does best and I appreciate that.

Old Quote of the Week
Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated wrote a tremendous piece about Antoine Walker and the sad tale of how he blew about a hundred million dollars and is now toiling away in the D-League. In the piece, he brings up a past quote of Walker's that doesn't get old no matter how many times I hear it: When asked why he shot so many threes, he responded with a phrase that would come to define him in the eyes of many: "Because there are no fours."

That's the type of hubris that makes some NBA players stars and others absolute train wrecks. I wonder if Walker wished the NBA had Rock N Jock rules so he could hoist up 25-pointers.

The World We Live In
Last Friday the Grizzlies fell to the Raptors and Ron Higgins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal brought us this gem from Tony Allen: "No disrespect to Toronto, but we shouldn't lose to a team like that," Grizzlies' guard Tony Allen said. "We had plenty of chances."

No disrepect? You can't follow "no disrespect" with "we shouldn't lose to a team like that." I think this is just another example of players learning a sort of post-game press lexicon where they say things without even thinking of them. It's just a cliche to say "no disrespect" and whatever comes after that is clearly going to disrespect the opponent. Just come out and say it. The Raptors are horrible and that means the Grizzlies were even worse than that on Friday.

Drumming Up Fake Controversy
Jemele Hill of ESPN thinks the 49ers made a HUGE mistake courting Peyton Manning and thus spurning Alex Smith: Only, the 49ers didn't reward Smith, a free agent, for his stellar play in 2011. In fact, they effectively dissed him as soon their pursuit of Manning began.

Stellar play? Alex Smith was an above average QB but stellar might be pushing it. Is there similar outrage in Miami and Tennessee for the "stellar play" or Matt Moore and Matt Hasselbeck? After all, Hasselbeck had a higher completion percentage and Moore had a better QB rating. Most would say Smith had a better year than those two but it's not an open and shut case. But more importantly, this entire argument seems like it's just fishing for something. This will become an easy storyline if the 49ers fall off this season or will make an uplifting story if Alex Smith perseveres despite even more adversity. But I assume Alex Smith is a professional and that he will understand why the 49ers pursued Manning and will easily look past that and do his job this season. But no matter the results, this convenient storyline will be used to explain Smith's success or failure.

Tebow Is a Better Person Than Alex Smith
Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union believes Tebow will be just fine no matter happens to him this offseason: If that somebody turns out to be the Broncos' Tim Tebow, look for him to handle it with the same calm, driven disposition in which he dispatched the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime of the AFC playoffs.

This is nothing against Frenette, but it's just interesting to see how differently Alex Smith and Tim Tebow are treated by the media. Tebow will be just fine but Alex Smith will be devastated. Alex Smith has dealt with so much crap throughout his years in San Francisco and he'll be just fine. I'm sure Tebow will be as well. Well, at least from an emotional standpoint. The jury is still out on his prospects as a QB.

Column Quickest to Become Outdated
Before Sunday's NCAA Tournament games that included both Lehigh and Norfolk State playing Xavier and Florida respectively, David Steele of Sporting News wrote: So, yeah, March Madness can survive a little more of the Colonial, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Patriot League. And a little less of the Pac-12, and the Big 12, and even the Big Ten and the ACC.

This column was actually outdated after Saturday's games and became even more erroneous after Sunday's games. Let's take a look at what teams are left now that it's down the sweet 16. 14 of the 16 teams are from the six major conferences and Xavier's not exactly a small basketball school. The only real cinderella is Ohio. So it's not exactly the best year to be making this argument.

Yet they're completely significant come tournament time (referring to label of mid-major), every year. Thus, Gonzaga is underrated as a seventh seed. Which, by the way, is as bad a problem as being left out altogether. Those in charge of such things can try to make a case for where Gonzaga was seeded, and why Memphis was seeded eighth after the season it had, and why Murray State -- remember the Racers, the last team in the nation to lose, the program that didn't back down from anyone -- was a No. 6. It wouldn't be a good case. It rarely is.

Now I don't get it. If these mid-majors are just as good as the schools from the major conferences than what does seeding even matter? Shouldn't they be happy to be a lower seed and not have to face one of the other mid-majors?

Column to the Extreme!
Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle sees things pretty cut and dry in relation to Jeremy Lin's future: Looks like things are pretty clear-cut with Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks. Either he rides out the current storm and helps the team make the playoffs, or he fades into oblivion and finds himself on the free-agent market.

I'm not sure if Jenkins has kids or not but I'd feel sorry for them if he does. "Son. The SATs are extremely important. If you get above a 2000 I believe one day you'll be President. If you get below that, well, you'll be a disgrace to my name and I'll have to disown you. I'm sorry but there's really no in between. Now sharpen that No. 2 pencil and go get 'em!"

Most Absurd News From Dwight Howard Trade Saga
Michael Wallace of ESPN has an interesting tidbit on how the Magic wooed Howard to stay one more year: But 86-year-old Magic owner Rich DeVos confirmed Friday that an 11th-hour conference call he had with Howard on Wednesday night played a role in keeping the league's best center in Orlando. It was during that call, as the Magic were in San Antonio to play the Spurs, when as many as 17 people were on the line. That group included DeVos' grandchildren, one as young as age 16, who weighed in on the ordeal. ... Howard conceded that the conference call did sway his decision.

I really don't know how to feel about this. Without knowing DeVos or his grandkids, if I were in Dwight's shoes I think I'd be appalled that he tried to use kids to emotionally manipulate me. This is how Howard made his decision? Howard really has a problem with wanting to be liked too much. There's a nice middle ground between LeBron and Howard and that's where all players should attempt to fall between.

A Member Of