Saturday, December 09, 2006

Point-Counterpoint

If you watched the end of Thursday night’s Heat/Kings game and had no vested interest in seeing a Heat win, you probably threw your pet at the television. Yes, even if you own a 200 pound St. Bernard, I know that in a fit of rage, you used superhuman strength to throw him into the television because of what happened in the final seconds. Here’s the play: Kings down by 1, Wade misses a shot, Bibby gets the rebound and takes the ball to the other end, and as he’s going for the game winning lay-up with a second left, he is hit on the arm by Dwyane Wade. No Call. Game Over. I don’t have a pet in my room, so I grabbed the closest thing to an animal, a giant carton of Pepperidge Goldfish, and threw that into my television. Needless to say, I made a mess. I was still fuming this morning, so I got on the phone with the NBA Referee Union and the Miami Heat in order to find out what the deal with the refs’ infatuation with Dwyane Wade is and how Wade, himself, feels about the situation. I had a surprisingly easy time getting written responses from both parties. This writing/blogging thing is working out well. Here is what they sent me.

Dwyane Wade Can Do No Wrong

By Joe Crawford on behalf of all NBA Referees Past, Present, and Future

There isn’t a better player in the NBA today than Dwyane Wade. That young man plays the game the way it should be played, and it’s a gosh darn shame that he gets hammered every time he makes a move to the basket. What the players in this era don’t realize is that they are big guys, so when a little guard like Dwyane ( Note: I want to call him Flashy but NBA rules prevent me from showing favoritism by using nicknames, especially pet ones that hint a slight man-crush), drives the lane and is accosted by thugs like Erick Dampier and Dirk Nowitzki, I must call a foul. It’s not like Dwyane is out there wearing football pads because if that were the case, we wouldn’t have to call fouls in his favor since we know he would be protected.

Which leads me to my next point about Dwyane Wade, his sympathy toward other players. Because Dwyane gets hit on every possession, he understands the most gruesome physical punishment, so he would never foul another player, unless, of course the Heat are losing and are forced to foul (though, not likely because Dwyane Wade is so gifted and such a great player that it would be difficult for another team to beat the Heat). I know what you’re thinking, “But Joey, I have seen Flashy (see, I can use it because you’re saying it, not me) make contact with another player during the course of play.” Of course, Dwyane is going to brush up against another player during a game, but the difference is that Dwyane’s is purely incidental, thus no foul is necessary.

Have you seen the footage that Ford Motor Co. shot of Dwyane Wade giving a group of underprivileged kids a bunch of new basketballs and new basketball hoop? It is one of the most heartwarming videos I have ever seen. Then, to top it off, Dwyane gives their homeless coach a brand new Lincoln Navigator and rides home on a rusty bicycle. How can a compassionate man like Dwyane Wade ever do anything wrong in life, let alone on the basketball court? I think players are just jealous because they do nice things like that all the time but are never lucky enough to have Ford there with a camera.

A significant change this year for the referees is the mandate that we call more traveling and carrying violations. Luckily, Dwyane Wade was such a great ball handler before Commissioner Stern handed down the order that we don’t even worry about those penalties when he has the ball. In fact, we are so sure that he is such a great leader that his obsession with correct ball handling has trickled down to everyone, including Antoine Walker’s shake-and-bake move, an obvious carry, that we no longer make those sorts of calls against Miami.

Finally, have you seen this week’s Sports Illustrated? Dwyane Wade is SI Sportsman of the Year, probably because of the incredible punishment he takes on the court, the respect he has for his opponents, and his contribution to his community. And it’s up to us, as referees, to ensure that the SI curse does not destroy Dwyane, as it has many others, so we have made a proclamation entitled “Help Keep Dwyane Awesome,” in which we declare that at any point in the game, Dwyane Wade will get the benefit of the doubt. But we are sure a play involving Dwyane could never be ambiguous because Dwyane Wade plays basketball and life the way it was meant to be played.

Michael Jordan Didn’t Get This Many Calls

By Dwyane Wade

Am I a great NBA player? Of course. I don’t think I deserve all this preferential treatment, but I’ll take whatever they give me. Actually, my ascent to the top of the referee pyramid was a pretty easy one. I started wearing a flak jacket like old Royal Air Force pilots wore in World War II and thigh pads like NFL players do so that I could fly into the lane and crash into guys with no physical repercussions. However, I can’t just fall down and get right back up, so I milk it for a few seconds and stay down long enough for people to get scared that I may not get back up. But of course, I stand up. To be honest, I’m not even remotely hurt when I fall down. People tell me that I have better protection than Army Soldiers in Iraq because at least I wear a flak jacket that prevents harm. My life is pretty easy; I can get to the free throw line nearly 15 times a game by simply going out of control in the paint, hit a defender, and throw the ball near the basket.

When I’m on defense, I slap guys’ hands and arms all the time. I am also a master hip-checker thanks to my upbringing in Chicago where we played “no blood, no foul.” So I have taken those skills to the NBA where they are widely accepted by the referees for whatever reason. These guys let me do whatever I want as long as I have a smile at them. I have a feeling I could re-enact the opening scene from The Last Boy Scout and kill two players on the court, and the referees would testify that it was a murder/suicide. I should try that, especially if I play the Pacers because anything could happen with Stephen Jackson and guns.

I think these referees are enamored with my care for disadvantaged kids because they always tell me how nice I am for giving away all those basketballs, the hoop, and the car. I don’t think they realize that was a Lincoln commercial that I got paid a ton of money to act in. The Ford Co. gave away those balls, the goal, and the Navigator; all I did was show up and smile. I didn’t even help them set up that hoop. I rode the bike around the corner where a limousine picked me up and took me to my 10,000 square foot mansion. The kids tried to follow me, but I told the driver to step on it. Unfortunately, one of them got caught underneath a tire, so that basketball team is looking for one more player.

Have you noticed the new traveling and carrying rules in the NBA this season? I was so nervous that I would get called on those when Jason Kapono (the only guy on our team who can read) read the league memo to our team. Luckily, I got a call from 25 referees telling me that they wish the league didn’t have to make them call traveling because the level had deteriorated so badly despite my perfect ball-handling skills. I was like, “Yeah, I’m glad you guys recognize solid play” while thinking “WTF! Are these guys crazy?” Whatever, I’ll take it. My jump stop is my only legitimate move, but everything else is predicated on stop-and-go dribbles as well as shifting pivot foots. Life is grand.

And then get this! I am SI Sportsman of the Year! Can you believe it? I wasn’t even close to being league MVP last year, I didn’t contribute much to the sports community, and I was the benefactor of some of the most questionable calls in NBA History on the way to an NBA Title and Finals MVP. I thought if an NBA player would get the award, it would be Kobe for his 81 point game (Note: I plan on making 81 free throws in a game some day). Even Vince Young had a bigger impact in sports than me with his legitimate championship performance on top of his incredible rookie season. Hell, Ladanian Tomlinson has put on an absolute clinic in the NFL this season, and SI still picked me. Pretty soon, I may have to begin questioning humanity if I’m getting accolades that stem from questionable calls and overly generous character representation. But for now, I’ll accept them because, well, I’m Dwyane Wade, and people love me.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We're Gonna Go Streaking!

We won last night. If we win tonight, that’s called a winning streak. It has happened before. –Lou Brown, Fictional Manager of the Cleveland Indians

When I was 10, my bedtime was 9 o’clock, which sucked because I couldn’t stay up to watch Mavs games, so I would fall asleep listening to Wally Lynn call games. Unfortunately, the Mavs were so bad that the games became just a formality, as there wasn’t all that much to get excited about. However, there was a game where the game captivated me because the Mavs were about to knock off the Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Pat Riley, and the Miami Heat in Miami. And as he does best, Jim Cleamons led the team straight into the ground, and they subsequently blew a fourth quarter lead. But there was still one last hope, the Mavs had the final possession. I’ll never forget Wally’s call.

“Mashburn is wide open from the corner. FOR THE WIN!”

(Clank)

(Crowd goes wild)

“Hearbreak Hotel.”

I say it after every Mavs’ loss. No matter how close the game was, I will look at the score and Heartbreak Hotel comes to mind every time.

So you can imagine how much it sucks for the Mavs to lose for me. I am forced to think of three crappy things: The Elvis Presley song, the aptly titled movie about Elvis (starring the guy who plays Jack Parkman in Major League II as Elvis), and the 1995-1996 Dallas Mavericks lead by Jim Cleamons and called by Wally Lynn.

Streaks are what make sports fun to diehard fans. Winning streaks are fun when they go on, but they suck once broken. Losing streaks are terrible for their duration, but once they’re over, you look back at them with a smile. Proof? How about the first 17 games of this season?

The year started with a 4 game losing streak. Losing two games to division rivals, one by 6 the other by 31. Throw in a pathetic showing in LA and a loss to Don Nelson of all people, and the Mavs are looking at pretty dismal year. Once the Phoenix game happened, though, we forgot all about those first four games. In fact, as a Mavs fan, I was happy that the losing streak occurred because it fueled their fire and got them over their post-Finals hangover. Yeah, they were humbled in the Finals, but 0-4 told them that 2006-2007 is a new year, and they better learn to play together.

And for the past 12 games, life has been great. No Hearbreak Hotel. As a fan, you have to get excited when no one can beat your team for 12 games. I’m not going to lie, I walked with a spring in my step when I thought about the Mavs winning 12 in a row.

And then last night, it all came crashing down. Though inevitable, one of the hardest losses to take is the one that ends a winning streak. Winning streaks bring so much promise, and then reality kicks in. Texas-OSU II anyone? The winning streak seems meaningless now that it’s over, but that’s what I’m here for. Here’s why 12 games is significant.

There are four teams this year that can win the NBA title: San Antonio, Phoenix, Miami (they are the defending champs), and Dallas. In the streak:

  • The Mavs beat the Spurs and Suns on the road
  • Took care of three other division wins
  • Pancaked three Eastern Conference teams
  • Won two other road games
  • Swept their only 4 in 5 (four games in five nights)

I didn’t even mention the smackdowns put on Sacramento (on national television) and Toronto.

People can scoff at the streak and say it was mostly against inferior opponents, but I have a question for you Mav haters. Who isn’t an inferior opponent? When it’s all said and done, this streak is going to look pretty damn impressive because Phoenix, San Antonio, Washington, Chicago, and possibly New Orleans will all be playoff teams. That’s five of the twelve right there. So 7 of the twelve weren’t top caliber, but streaks are predicated on beating up on bad teams and getting a head of steam to take down big dogs, which is exactly what happened when the Mavs went into San Antonio and grinded out a win.

I was going to do an analogy of winning streaks to relationships, but after I wrote it, I looked like a bleeding heart, which, if you know anything about my weekend, is certainly not the case. So then I was going to turn that analogy around to winning is like hooking up, but again, I would appear desperate, which, if you know anything about my weekend, you could argue that case but would eventually lose.

Anyway, I will be watching tonight’s game on YES network at Buffalo Wild Wings (35 cent wings!), hopefully with my favorite waitress, Amy. If the Mavs win tonight, I will finally get the courage to make a deal of this. If not, I’ll stew every Tuesday until the Mavs win while I’m there.