From The Cheap Seats

I'm old, I admit it. Not old in the decrepit sense, but old in the sense that I remember too much, remember different eras in sports. There is a tendency to think back on the past, especially the past that includes our youth, as the Golden Age. It wasn't really true, but it's hard to tolerate some of things I see. Now you probably think I'm talking about money here, but that's not really it.

I was a New York Knick season ticket holder in their Golden Age, the early 70's. They were beautiful, Reed, Frazier, DeBusschere, Bradley, Barnett, Monroe, and Lucas, blending together in marvelous cohesion. Those Knicks are long gone. The Pat Riley/Jeff Van Gundy Knicks are anything but beautiful, they are thugs, no more no less. In the two years of Jordan's first retirement, the Knicks "physical" style took them to the finals, where they and Houston produced some of the worst basketball ever seen at that level and damn near killed the sport. I'll give the Knicks credit, they were never afraid of the Bulls, they had the swagger that usually accompanies winning championships, without having won one, and they gave Chicago all they could handle.

Now comes Latrell Sprewell, the ultimate off-court thug to join the on-court thugs. He may have the talent to put them over the top. Yet I will not be rooting for them, even though from time-to-time, those uniforms and the Garden court bring back memories. Memories of the beauty and grace of the only two championship teams the Knicks ever had. These Knicks bring back memories too, of fights started, of snarling reactions, and yes, of coaches choked. Go Pacers.


The LPGA is in the process of changing the qualifications necessary to be in their Hall of Fame. They are unique in that admission to their HOF is based on accomplishments, not votes. It used to be you had to meet fixed, explicit criteria (30 wins plus 2 majors;35 plus 1; 40 wins), but there was a problem, no one was getting in. Amy Alcott was one win short eight years ago and she still is; at 42, she doesn't seem likely to get it. So they rewrote the rules, so she and Beth Daniel can get in. I have no objection to this, as the rules were written in an era where competition was much weaker. The reason they gave, however was ludicrous. The theory is that because there's now so much money involved, players won't play as long. Really, that's what they all said. Even though there's no evidence of Nancy Lopez and other competitive veterans leaving, that's what they said. This is the same cockamamie reason given why current Major Leaguers won't break career records. Face it, the likelihood of making millions of dollars never drove anyone away. Now they have a combination of point earning accomplishments, which seems reasonable. What isn't reasonable is the standard they set. It's so low that Annika Sorenstam is almost certain to make it this year. I think she is a little young to be in a Hall of Fame. Nothing against active athletes reaching that level, but she's going to have 15 more years after enshrinement. I guess the problem is that they worked backwards and couldn't find any other golfers within range, so rather than rule out the Stacys and Inksters, they'll let her in early. It's still going to seem funny hearing this young golfer referred to as Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam.


Speaking of golf, next time that guy at the tee yells out "You da man!", David Duval better have been the guy who hit the ball. After that incredible 59 in the Hope Classic, with 9 wins in his last 28 tournaments, he is clearly "Da Man". All that's necessary to fill out his resume is a Grand Slam win, and I'll be surprised if that doesn't happen this year.


Speaking of Halls of Fame, the vote for the NFL HOF takes place this Saturday. The big controversy surrounds Lawrence Taylor, unapologetic drug addict, felon, and deadbeat dad. The rules for the NFL HOF, unlike the baseball version, do not mention "character". All that matters is what happened on the field. Still, this tests the limits of such things. Here is a player who missed four games one season because he was suspended for drug abuse. Surely that counts as "on the field" negatives. He has shown no embarrassment, no remorse, nothing -- just an in-your-face attitude about all his repellent attributes. The man has less of a sense of shame than Bill Clinton and that's saying something. If it were up to me, I'd make him cool his heels in the waiting room for a year, and let in some worthy players who weren't miscreants.

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