King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Of thrown chairs, roughed-up cameramen, furry red ... mascots and a last look at the NBA: The readers write.


Salon Staff
July 1, 2005 11:00PM (UTC)

The funniest letter I've gotten in a long while wasn't intended to be funny. It was from an Oakland A's fan who wrote in about Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers roughing up a TV news photographer, the subject of Thursday's deathless prose.

She had followed a link in that column to one I wrote last year about another Rangers pitcher, Frank Francisco, throwing a chair into the stands in Oakland, breaking the nose of a fan. The letter writer agreed with me that the media was out of line at the time in blaming fans for the incident.

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She signed her letter, "Jen Medeiros, Chair, Oakland A's Fan Coalition.

And out of mine is where I fell.

Let's finish up the first half of the year and the first half of the baseball season by dipping into the old mailbag for letters about Rogers, Marquette's nickname and various NBA subjects. I won't run any of the letters I've received saying, "When the &%#! are you going to start writing about baseball?!" The answer is: Next. Ish.

We start with a Fourth of July-related complaint.

Adair Iacono: While I commend you for adding a line from "The King of Comedy," I have to say, I can't believe you gave "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth" to Robert Horry (or anyone). To a small degree, it bugs me that, whatever AFI says, it's no more a true movie quote than "Hasta la vista, baby"; they're originally from other sources, and I'm anal retentive about such things.

More to the point, though: Athletes have a lot of iconic images, but, apart from Muhammad Ali on the Viet Cong, very few landmark lines that aren't comic. Lou Gehrig's is one of the few. It's also one of the most gracious public moments in sport, and really, how many of those do we get?

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Steve Matuszek: Gimmicky column. Steve Rushin quality. I almost missed the one actual joke. It was a good one, though.

King replies: Agreed.

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NBA old-timers' pensions

Stan "Whitey" Von Nieta: I'm one of Bill Tosheff's guys who gets no NBA pension at all. We did play under conditions that today's players would not believe. We also did extra things like playing exhibition games, conducting basketball clinics for kids, speaking at lunches, and visiting kids in hospitals to promote the league. We did all of these things without extra compensation. I like to think that our efforts contributed considerably to the growth of the league, and should be recognized.

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Stephen Rifkin: First off, welcome to America. Now you're just like everyone else in this socially Darwinian place. Sucks to be you, I guess. Second, if the NBA is going to put a lower limit on age and eliminate a pool of potential players that is like 80 percent black then it stands to reason they should chop off the old players at the knees who are nearly 100 percent white.

Its axiomatic and only fair. David Stern is running a business, baby. It's just business and you should have donned that blue Wal-Mart vest when you had the chance.

Jay Milton: Everyone associated with the NBA should be embarrassed. And you think the NHL clowns are bumbling idiots? Of course they are, but the NBA guys are giving them a run for their money (or not, as the case may be) lately.

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Mike Meyer: It is a travesty that a sports league with so much money refuses to recognize the essential contributions of these men.

Mary McFadden: When I was growing up in Frisco, when it was still a working-class town, we kids would walk to the corner store and talk to John Brodie about football. We could hang out at Kezar where old guys we'd never heard of would talk to us about their "old days."

When dropping out was the thing to do, Nate Thurmond came to my friend's school to talk about being educated, disciplined and talented. These guys were celebrities, but not deities. And they didn't try to sell us shoes.

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We were all working class then, because even playing ball was work and work was as important as the money you made working. You knew where you came from and where other people came from, they helped you believe you could go somewhere. That connection has been broken, so the personal historical context has gone missing. So, unfortunately, has empathy for the original, now aging athletes.

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The NBA Finals

Jim Smith: Here's a gripe you may or may not share. Al Michaels had a nasty xenophobic habit [during the Finals] of referring to the Pistons as the "world champions." Maybe I'm being churlish, but aren't there some foreign leagues who aren't invited into the contest? Didn't we get hosed at the Olympics? So whose "world" are we talking about.

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King replies: I used to share this gripe, but in the last few years, 10 years maybe, I've kind of gotten over it. It's true "world champions" is a little rigged, since the rest of the world doesn't get to play, but let's be real: What champion of what league is going to beat the Spurs in seven? Or the Pistons. Or the Clippers. Or the Hawks.

The Argentine national team? I don't think so. What got beat at the Olympics was a hodge-podge semi-all-star team that had a few weeks together to practice.

Also, I'm with Bobby Valentine in saying I'd rather see the World Series champ meet the Japanese champ than some national-team World Cup thing. Though I doubt the Japanese champs would fare well over time.

Anyway, I tend to say "NBA champions," "Super Bowl champions," "World Series champions," rather than world champions, but I'm not religious about it.

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James Miller: What has been instructive to me about these Finals is that it shows, writ large, what a bunch of fucking hypocrites much of the sports press is, and many of the casual NBA fans.

For years they bitch about flashy, hot-shot players with no fundamentals. Then Steve Nash wins an MVP for assists, basically. Then two teams of picture-perfect shooters, passers and defenders make the finals for the first time since Bill Russell found the first gray hair in his beard and what?

Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser snored through the Finals. Swine.

King replies: I don't know about "picture-perfect shooters," but it's a great point.

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Bill Doyle: Dear NBA: You may recognize me. I used to care about you, remember? You used to be exciting. (Remember how I used to call you "Enbie"?) You used to actually involve players who could shoot (and not just non-stop 3-pointers). Remember how excited I used to become around playoff time? How I would cancel plans to watch you on TV? Well, I can't stomach the sight of you anymore.

Somehow King Kaufman, who is a few years older than me, sees something in you that I don't. In fact, NBA, he sees something so compelling that he has apparently decided that during your playoffs, baseball doesn't exist. This is strange, because it is the opposite of how the local sports media treat you today.

Even when my formerly beloved Celtics were in the playoffs this year, the radio and print media around here were more focused on baseball than you. Quite an indictment in a town with 16 championships, no?

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The NBA draft

Eric Thompson: Could not agree more with your assessment of the Andrew Bogut selection by the Bucks. I've been a fan since the Sidney Moncrief era, and man, what a chickenshit pick this was. G.M. Larry Harris picked Bogut cuz he wanted to be assured of a job next year, not because Bogut will win them championships. Sure, Bogut all but assures them of a 10-game improvement next year -- but last time I checked that's only about the No. 5 seed. In the (L)east. Yawn.

I will say that I don't see Bogut being another Michael Olowokandi -- a center with potential never realized. Bogut's got a much more developed game and looks to have more fire in his belly than the Kandi-man. So I don't think it's a bad pick. Just an uninspired one. And uninspired wins championships ... oh ... never.

King replies: I agree Bogut will be better than Olowokandi. I was only equating them in terms of their being consensus overall No. 1 picks who I didn't think should have been No. 1 picks.

Kenneth Dintzer: I've never gotten all that excited by the draft. Few of these characters will ever play serious time in the NBA for the team that drafts them. There's only 360 slots in the NBA. That means maybe 25-30 slots open each year, maybe fewer. And most of those slots are toward the towel-waving end of the bench.

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Kenny Rogers goes off

Jim Weiss: Rogers has always been a hothead. I remember watching him his rookie season, pacing and stomping around the mound between every pitch. The guy has the brains of a brick.

So [Wednesday], there's our Kenny punching the crap out of a photographer, right in front of a half-dozen other photographers. Genius. Genius on his part, and genius on the part of a front office that has mishandled Rogers' contract negotiations from the word go.

They've fed him like chum to the slobbering talk-radio mob, first by leaking that he'd threatened to retire if not given an extension, and then by hinting that he chickened out of his last start (due, of course, to his having punched a cooler and broken a bone in his non-throwing hand ... genius).

Sheer provocation, and it worked. Rogers' tiny mind has snapped, and now the future is uncertain -- for the guy with the best ERA in the American League! If there was any question where [Rangers owner] Tom Hicks' priorities lie, the handling of Kenny Rogers should clear away all doubt.

Ken Burzynski: Throttling a poor working stiff harnessed with 30-plus pounds of equipment doesn't fit any reasonable person's definition of "integrity" and "toughness."

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Marquette's nickname

Steve McPherson: For my money, I think they should go with the Marquette Arquettes. Kill two birds: new nickname, much needed work as mascots for Rosanna, Patricia and David. Plus, think of the headlines when Courtney Cox-Arquette comes to watch her husband cheer at the Alabama-Marquette games.

Ryan Waddell: It's funny that Marquette is so adamant about not using the Warriors nickname. I attended the University of Waterloo up here in Ontario, and our nickname is the Warriors. Our mascot was this lame-o dude in a Roman centurion outfit. Perfectly non-offensive, if cheesy. I'm not sure if we ever had Indian connotations to our Warrior nickname, although I doubt it since the women's teams were called the Athenas.

Tom Mueller: I hope once you absolutists have saved the country from Indian nicknames and imagery, you can help us get rid of other offensive nicknames like "Irish" and "Texans" and "Cowboys." Now that Andre the Giant has passed from the scene, I suppose we should let "Giants" go until another Giant arrives on the scene.

M.H. Dunlop: The whole affair had a lotta disgusting elements. First there was the letter from the university explaining that the (then) new nickname, the Marquette Gold, was not to be thought of as merely a sports nickname; no sirree, it was a brand, and successful branding was about to go forward at quite a clip.

So of course that all fell apart, and then came the ballot that did not even offer Warriors as a choice. Furthermore, ballot instructions asserted that if I wrote in "Jumpin' Jesuits" my entire ballot would be disqualified. I had not even known that anyone was promoting "Jumpin' Jesuits" but being told I could not write it in struck me as very pushy.

King replies: Jumpin' Jesuits just absolutely rocks.

Dennis McKinney: Just a quick note to let you know that, as a Marquette grad, I find the university's mascot naming procedure about the dumbest fucking thing to come out of Milwaukee since Lenny and Squiggy. At least they were halfway amusing at times.

How about the Big Furry Red Penises. That's a team I could cheer for.

King replies: Western Kentucky, take note.

Previous column: Rogers, Marquette

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