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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Because College Park’s filled with people who are not actually from Maryland, we see a lot of people in completely random–and awesome–jerseys. Each week (ish), we’ll be posting a little about the best we saw. Maybe there will even be pictures.

We have a picture this time!

I somehow doubt this front-row fan’s just an all-purpose Florida sports fan, but I do give him credit for picking the best of the (many) possible Shaquille O’Neal jerseys. O’Neal only played four seasons in Orlando, but he had the Magic in the Finals by his third.

Also: Did you know the Magic have made the playoffs 13 of the 18 years? I’m hoping you didn’t.

I was watching Around The Horn last night, because I do strange and unproductive things with my time, and thus heard the likes of Woody Paige and Tim Cowlishaw discuss what percentage of the Jeremy Lin hype derives from him being Asian-American. They concluded it was very little. Just look at his stats–he’s clearly playing great basketball–they said.

Yeah, right.

Jeremy Lin is the biggest sports story in America right now–and if you think that’d still be true if he were black and playing for the Charlotte Bobcats, you’re just trying too hard. This truth doesn’t take anything away from Lin: It’s significant that an Asian-American’s basically carrying an NBA team and shattering soft bigotries, and it’s significant that one of the league’s marquee franchise finally has a player the rest of America’s embracing, not scorning (it’s probably also significant that they finally have a point guard).

Lin’s basketball journey, yes, is a little more off-the-beaten-path than even your “typical” out-of-nowhere guy: undrafted out of Harvard beats second round out of a mid-major. But that’s ultimately minutia. Flip Murray was a second-round pick out of Shaw University, and he averaged nearly 24 points in his first 11 games for Seattle in 2003-04. On statistics alone, he might even outpace Lin a little. Where was his Sports Illustrated cover?

Buzz Bissinger recently “uncovered” this, writing a column chastising the basketball collective for daring to get excited about Lin.

Because he plays for the hapless Knicks, lousy at whatever they try to do, any unknown player who goes on a tear and actually seems to enjoy the game of basketball while doing it is going to be hyped beyond all rationality.

And sorry, because people hate to hear the cold truth, but there is a factor of race: if he were African-American, would there be the same type of hysteria—oops, I’m sorry—Linsteria? Nope. He would be perceived as a potentially very promising black player, but because of the eternal and wrongheaded assumption that all professional black athletes are naturally gifted, there would be none of the linsteria.

Bissinger isn’t wrong here–unlike the Around The Horn panel, he can see what’s directly before him. But he says Lin’s popularity derives not from being Asian-American, but from being not black–he’s the latest Next Larry Bird, the next “Great Hope.” I’ll gladly throw up Steve Nash’s two MVP awards in response to anyone who denies Bissinger’s “Great Hope” exists, but Lin’s hardly the first non-black/European player since Bird to break into an upper echelon of NBA talent. Yet do all of Kevin Love’s games sell out in Toronto?

Bissinger’s insistence on fitting Lin into this worldview marginalizes the possibility Lin might be a source of pride for millions of people. And not just Knicks fans–Asian-Americans, too.

It’s not racist to admit Lin’s a big deal because of his race, and it’s not trite East Coast bias talk to admit if he weren’t in New York we’d all be hearing a lot less about him. Let’s just enjoy that the Knicks’ newest messiah happens to be a cultural icon, and let’s also enjoy that the cultural icon plays his home games at the greatest basketball arena in the world.

I didn’t really know how to feel about the Ravens’ 23-20 AFC championship game loss. I’m not angry, and I never really was: Billy Cundiff screwed up, and Lee Evans screwed up, but they don’t owe me anything. Cundiff and Evans (and let’s be clear here, all discussions of this game, for all of time, should include “and Evans”) are, really, just two people who made mistakes at work. But they didn’t commit medical malpractice–I can warrant being angry about “mistakes at work” if they somehow wronged me. Given that the Ravens covered, that doesn’t apply here.

I’m also not at all hopeful; I know some smart people have pointed out this team isn’t nearly as old as the presence of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed make it seem, but opportunities like this just don’t come around that often. Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, Ladarius Webb and all the Ravens’ other very talented young players could keep improving and never again reach the NFL’s final four. The Ravens are also unlikely to play many more divisional-round games against T.J. Yates.

The NFL, probably because it’s the culmination of extremely small sample sizes rife with massive injury risks and short careers, exists in a weird place between the NBA, where teams’ ultimate progressions are remarkably obvious, and the NHL and MLB, where the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals happen. In the NFL, teams had their last chance two years before anyone realizes it. Try telling Jacksonville Jaguars fans in January 2000 that their team, coming off a 14-2 season, won’t make the playoffs again until 2005. Or Minnesota Vikings fans the next year that second-year quarterback Daunte Culpepper and third-year receiver Randy Moss had exactly one more playoff win in them. Then again, try telling an Indianapolis Colts fan in January 2006, after a 13-0 start and their first home divisional playoff game since 1999 went up in smoke when Ben Roethlisberger somehow arm-tackled a safety at midfield, that the very next year would indeed be the year.

The Ravens vastly outperformed expectations that Sunday–they covered the spread and once again proved they’re quite capable of holding elite offenses in check. I don’t think they got lucky–Tom Brady threw two interceptions, but only because of superb plays by Baltimore’s sometimes-maligned, not-Ed Reed defensive-backs. The Ravens were every bit as good as the Patriots were. And the Patriots are the team that’s favored to win the Super Bowl.

After their first three possessions, the Ravens moved the ball, if not at will, with consistency and flow. On a 3rd-and-3 to effectively ice the game, Reed beat Brady, mano-a-mano. The Patriots’ inability to grind out a first down late in a game looked to again be their undoing, something Bill Simmons will almost surely have mentioned, whenever I can stomach reading and listening to his take on this game. Sure, there are Ravens coaching decisions that deserve questioning–the inexplicable draw on the edge of field goal range and the refusal to “ice” a clearly rushed Cundiff even though icing the kicker isn’t a thing that actually works, anyway. But I’m not sure either of those are much worse than Bill Belichick sticking Julian Edelman on Anquan Boldin.

In baseball, teams reach a point–a win total in the mid-90s, roughly–where when the inevitable playoff disappointment comes, a smart GM will throw his hands up and tell himself, “I did what I could.” While there’s always work to be done for the future in the ever-changing NFL, for 2011, the Ravens reached that point. The defense certainly didn’t cost them this game. I don’t think an offense that three times advanced the ball into New England territory after falling behind by 3 did, either. I suppose you can argue special teams did–but Cundiff made the Pro Bowl last season. The Ravens didn’t massively overlook the kicker position last summer; they entered the season with one of the better ones, and he missed a field goal at a very inopportune time. Sometimes shit just happens, without a reason. Sometimes the scoreboard malfunctions and you don’t realize in time. Sometimes that outcome with the 1 percent chance of occurring actually occurs.

It’s just math, and math sucks.