Archive for June, 2011

The 2011 NBA Finals is now tied at 2 games apiece. The Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat are putting on a great show for all the fans. Every game seems to come down to the last possession, making for great theater. Some people are even asking if this is the best Finals in the last decade.

But the real question on everybody’s mind is; “Where is LeBron James?”

It was only a few weeks ago that Scottie Pippen was saying he is a better player than Michael Jordan and now people are ready to put his face on the back of a milk carton.

On the biggest stage of his career LeBron has come up small. After playing 46 minutes and only scoring eight points in Game 4 of the Finals people are beginning to wonder if he has what it takes to be a true champion.

To be fair, James has had great playoffs so far. After dominating late in games against the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls people were beginning to talk about how clutch LeBron had become. It seemed like he was finally ready to be crowned “King James.”  But something funny happened on the way to the coronation. Namely, LeBron stopped playing. At least in the fourth quarter of the Finals. So far in the first four games of the Finals LeBron has a combined 12 fourth quarter points. Those numbers are certainly not Jordanesque.

The one player in this series who has earned the right to be compared to Jordan has been Dwayne Wade. He has been dominant in the fourth quarter and has carried the Heat throughout the Finals. He’s been the one closing out games while LeBron fades into the backdrop.

Fans and media alike are starting to bring up Game 5 against the Boston Celtics from last year’s playoffs. It was widely believed that LeBron, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, simply gave up during that game and used it as an excuse to leave Cleveland. People may now look at that as just another example of LeBron not being able to handle the pressure of a big game.

He came to Miami to win a championship and he very well may do it this year. The Heat still have a great chance to win this series. Two of the last three games will be played in Miami. But what happens if LeBron continues to play poorly and still get a ring? Will he be happy to be playing the Scottie Pippen role instead of the Michael Jordan role?

It will be interesting to see if the Heat can win a championship not because of LeBron but in spite of him.

Jim Tressel is no longer the head coach of the Ohio State football team. He resigned yesterday amid a growing scandal which involved OSU players selling memorabilia in exchange for tattoos and other items.

The fallout was pretty predictable. Buckeye fans were asking what the big deal was. “After all,” they reasoned,” it’s only tattoos.” It’s not like OSU was paying players to come play football and giving their parents homes like USC did with Reggie Bush. Or having an ACTUAL PAYROLL like SMU did back in the 80’s. This is just a couple of autographs that were exchanged for tattoos. No harm, no foul.

The problem with that argument is that it ignores the real violation.

According to the official timeline, Tressel first learned of the memorabilia-for-ink scandal back in April of 2010 when he received an e-mail from a Columbus lawyer stating that some of his players were selling OSU memorabilia, a clear violation of NCAA rules. At that point he should have reported this to the University. But he didn’t. He sat on the email because, according to him, he “couldn’t think” whom he should report it to. The NCAA rules are pretty clear. Any violation MUST be reported to the coach’s superiors. Tressel failed to do this.

In December of that same year, the US Justice Department informed Ohio State that they have uncovered evidence that OSU players were selling memorabilia for tattoos. (Justice was investigating the owner of the tattoo parlor for drug trafficking.) At that point, Tressel said he had no knowledge that his players were engaged in such activity, which was a lie. He knew what was going on back in April.

It wasn’t until April of this year that Tressel, under pressure from a Yahoo Sports report, held a press conference and finally admitted he knew what was going on way back in 2010. That press conference pretty much sealed his fate.

The NCAA will forgive a lot but failing to report a violation is not one of them. And lying on top of that will only make it worse. And Jim Tressel did everything to make it worse.

If history has taught us anything it is that the cover up is always worse than the crime. From Richard Nixon to Martha Stewart.  From Bill Clinton to Barry Bonds.  When you lie to the powers that be, whether it be the NCAA or the US Government, you just make things harder on yourself.

Many fans in Buckeye Nation are trying to float the argument that Tressel was sticking up for his players. He was trying to protect them. His loyalty to his players is a virtue and he shouldn’t be punished for that. While I agree that loyalty is important, I’m not sure that’s what he was doing. His “loyalty” to a few key players has hurt many more innocent players. What about the rest of the players on the team who didn’t break NCAA rules? They are going to be the ones who have to take the punishment form the NCAA.  Where is Tressel’s loyalty to them? The football program will most likely lose some scholarships and may have to vacate some victories, perhaps even a whole season.

The players named in the scandal may never play another game for Ohio State. Some of them, like quarterback Terrelle Pryor, may head for the NFL and avoid any kind of punishment. The only ones who will be punished are the players who followed the rules, Jim Tressel, THE Ohio State University and the fans.

If Tressel had turned over the e-mail he received back in 2010 and told the truth he may very well still be the head coach of OSU football and the city of Columbus would not be in mourning today.