From The Cheap Seats

Last weekend's round of playoffs wasn't much of a surprise, as the Broncos and Vikings dominated their weaker opponents, the Falcons, about to go up 21-0, had a ref take back the touchdown and the ball, lost concentration and had to hang on for a two point victory. The Jets had a couple of calls go against the, leading directly to ten points for the Jags, making the game a tighter one than it had any business being. As promised, my picks went 3-1 against the spread, leaving me 5-2-1 for the playoffs, with the two losses and push tainted by dubious calls. This week's selections are later in this column. First…

The Special Commemorative Farewell Michael Column

I think it's a law that you have to make this seem like the biggest thing ever and I don't want the sportswriter police to come for me. Since more stations carried MJ's retirement press conference than are covering the impeachment trial, I guess it was a big story. Maybe it would have seemed bigger to me if it a) hadn't happened once before and b) was remotely a surprise. I never thought he was coming back this season, the whole charade the Bulls went through was laughable. The theory that the shorter season would make it easier for him has it backwards; he wasn't going to come back for a schedule that has him playing 4 games a week, on a team that may be disorganized and possibly without Scottie Pippen. The golf course awaits and Michael is heading there -- look for him on the Senior Tour in 2014.

What I found interesting was the talk of how Michael saved the league. This isn't remotely true, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson did that. What Michael was part of was the commercialization of NBA stars in a manner that no one could have imagined. That was more Nike's doing than anything, since MJ didn't create Air Jordan, didn't create the most famous logo in the world, didn't bring in Spike Lee to direct commercials. The problem the NBA has now is that the shoe companies are backing off from celebrity driven campaigns, so they will have to create their own superstars with a lot less help. Of course, Michael will still be around sucking up a lot of the advertising dollars, which isn't going to help.

Still, there's no denying his greatness. Not just in the scoring championships, or the defensive player of the year awards, but in the championships. For better or worse, because there are only five players on the court, one man can dominate basketball like no other sport. Few players dominated the way he did, could bend the game to their will as he could. We each have our favorite moment, or ten. My favorite was the flu-ridden Jordan scoring 38 points against the Jazz in the NBA Finals, carrying his team on his back, until they emerged victorious and could help him walk to the dressing room. Courage is an overused word in sports, it should usually be reserved for people who storm machine gun nests or rescue children from burning buildings. That night, he had it, giving everything he had left for his team.

Yes, he was the best player ever, and I've seen most of them. For the record, my top ten (I count winning championships as a key component) --

  1. His Airness
  2. Magic
  3. Larry Bird
  4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  5. Bill Russell
  6. Wilt Chamberlain
  7. Hakeem Olajuwon
  8. Oscar Robertson
  9. Jerry West
  10. John Havlicek

I'll defend these next time. Feel free to send nasty mail.


Now on to Sunday's games:

Minnesota 34, Atlanta 17 : The Falcons are a very good team, but they're not as good as the Vikings. Dan Reeves has a great coaching history, he gets as much out of his teams as they have to give. But when they come up against superior forces, they don't have a history of hanging tough. Maybe last week's 49'er game wasn't a real indicator of the Falcons quality, perhaps the team that should have had a 21-0 lead was the one that will show up this week. I think they've reached the end of the line.

Denver 27, Jets 24 : Parcells, on the other hand, doesn't get blown out unless his offense is helpless, which they most assuredly are not. This should be a terrific game and I expect it to go down to the wire and maybe beyond. I don't like going against the Broncos in Denver, I don't like taking the points in a Championship Game, since the team that wins almost always covers. I just like going against Parcells even less. J-E-T-S…JETS!


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