Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Man's Man

As I watch the playoff madness of the NBA and NHL unfold before me these last couple of weeks, I am reminded of the legacies and long histories both sports have created over the century. However, there's one issue that just doesn't seem to sit well with me and I honestly believe this issue will continue to change the landscape of sports. That indigestion is flopping. Straight up flopping. I hate it. I understand the tactic and the use of flopping, but I wonder if one day it'll just be too much for me to handle. I'll leave you with four exhibits and my rant. (I'll try to get this short..but I really could go on for days).

Exhibit 1. James Harden.
It all started a last week with the Mavericks/Thunder series. Like previously mentioned, I'm a Dallas homeboy. It shouldn't be a surprise I'm rooting for the Mavericks to win it all this year. Game 3. Western Conference Finals. It's a close game (as it should be). Every point matters (yes, of course). But when you have to act to get points...I just don't know what's worst..the refs making the call or the flopper who gets awarded the points. Don't get me wrong, James Harden is a beast. He's young and very talented and could be a starter anywhere in the league. But it's a sad thing when young, rising stars are already learning this flopping "trade" to gain a competitive advantage.

Of course, there's always a subjectivity about the flagrant/technical fouls and its intent blah blah blah. JVG's got it right. Fine them for flopping. Get rid of the theatrics. I hear all about basketball in the 80s and 90s and the toughness and grit that playoff games consisted of and I wonder what they'll look like in ten more years. I wish I could have experienced the Bulls/Pistons or Celtics/Lakers. Just tough, grown-man basketball with legit elbows. When I think of playoff basketball, I envision sweat, blood, and tears (grown-man tears of course). None of this pansy play.

Exhibit 2. Chris Bosh.
He has gotten tons of criticism this year. I started to feel sorry for the guy because he's actually put up decent numbers. Sure he's not the "big" man everyone wanted him to be in Miami, but he still gets the job done. However, let's rewind to a couple nights ago. Eastern Conference Finals Game 5. Joakim Noah loses his balance while guarding him. Bosh gets the ball and drives down an open lane. Boozer comes over and lays a hard, "playoff-basketball" foul. I'm down with that. There's nothing free in the NBA playoffs. You got to earn them. Oh..but of course there's an extra tumble, turn, floppy flop. Oh..of course here comes a flagrant foul. Oh..of course Bosh gets up like Boozer just slapped his mother. It was a hard foul. If you want to be an all-star in this league, you should be use to it. (But then again, being an all-star on the Raptors doesn't say much). Learn how to take a hard foul and then I'll respect your game. You aren't even worthy for an embedded youtube clip.

Exhibit 3. Lebron James.
Please don't think I'm ragging on the Heat just because they are in the NBA Finals against the Mavs. But let's be real with Lebron James. Scottie Pippen said LBJ "may be the greatest player ever to play the game." WOW. High accolades for someone who hasn't won a ring (but someone else can blog about that). But let's be honest, Lebron James really is the face of the NBA whether you admit it or not. Lebron is a household name and will be for years to come. He's an all-star, superstar, whateverstar you can think of. He is the real deal. I bring him up only to shine some light on how flopping is infiltrating even the stars of tomorrow. Eastern Conference Finals Game 6.

I don't question his toughness. Not one bit. But Lebron James is better than that. I know it gets the job done and he will easily get calls for him until the day he retires...but the sport needs a superstar to be above that. Michael Jordan wasn't known for flopping. Try and youtube that. I couldn't find anything relevent. Let's not start comparing Lebron to Jordan. Please give MJ more respect than that. I want a Lebron James who bullies his opponents with brute strength and athletic, God-given talents a la "I-don't-need-a-foul" to Joakim Noah/refs/the fans/everyone watching him run through the Bulls (ECF Game 4). That's what the NBA needs.

Exhibit 4. Steven Stamkos (he plays hockey for those in the South).
The sole inspiration for this post. I thought about writing about flopping after watching Harden. And again when I saw Bosh try to get krunk. And again after Lebron winked to his coach after his flop. But it was Steven Stamkos (former #1 pick 2010) that inspired me to write this. As much as the first three exhibits made me a little queesy about the greatness of playoff sports, exhibit 4 leaves me no doubt that hockey (at least) is in good hands. Though I didn't get to catch Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight (date night with the girlfriend, the 2nd priority after #1 God and before #3 sports), I caught some of the highlights. Midway through the 2nd period, Stamkos takes a deflected puck to the face from 15 feet away. A FRICKING PUCK TO THE FACE. That's no flop, my friends.
Of course, he's not the first hockey player to take a puck to the face (God bless everyone else who has). But it's the aftermath that really inspires me. Immediately after taking it to the face, Stamkos makes a bee-line to the locker room. He knows his face is gonna be f-ed up. He knows he needs repair. He knows it's Game 7 of the ECF and his team is in need of him. Stamkos is no joe-shmoe. He is the team's best scorer and an instant offensive catalyst. If his team has any chance of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, he needs to be out there. He doesn't need to sell his toughness to anyone. People see it right away. Shoot, he even comes out with a gash over his nose and a caged mask. Fricking Lebron can't even play without his dinky little headband. So I tip my cap to you Mr. Steven Stamkos for being an athlete and showing us what it looks like to a real man's man in playoff sports.

I'll leave with this quote from Ron Artest -- "I don’t even know how to take a charge. To get the charge you have to fall. I’d rather not fall. You call an offensive foul, possibly be a fight. That’s just how we grew up playing basketball. Growing up if you took a charge on the playground and called it, you got stabbed."

The sports world needs more Steven Stamkos and Ron Artest.


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