Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kobe Can't Do Without Me

Some Never Learn

Just when you thought it was safe to turn on your radio -- Don Imus has struck again.

The morning radio host who last year lost his job with CBS after referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team as a bunch of "nappy-headed hos" apparently hasn't learned his lesson, as on Monday he made racially insensitive remarks with regards to Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones.

Sports announcer Warner Wolf was talking on Imus' show about Jones' desire to drop his Pacman nickname and be called Adam in an attempt to rehabilitate his image. Imus asked Wolf what color Pacman was, to which Wolf replied, "African-American."

"Well, there you go," Imus said. "Now we know."

On Tuesday's program, Imus expressed shock at the fallout, saying his comments were "a sarcastic point" about race. "What people should be outraged about," he said on-air, "is that they arrest blacks for no reason. I mean, there's no reason to arrest this kid six times. Maybe he did something once, but everyone does something once."

Imus also called the criticism of his comments "ridiculous" and pointed to the diversity of his show's staff -- specifically, a black producer and two black co-hosts.

He basically used the "some of my best friends are black" defense.

Far be it for me to give Jones the benefit of the doubt, given his past, but in this instance I'm on his side. Pacman told The Dallas Morning News that Imus' comment upset him and that "obviously, Mr. Imus has a problem with African-Americans ... I will pray for him."

WABC-AM in New York, Imus' current employer, said punishment would be unlikely, which shouldn't be surprising. It took several weeks of lost revenue before CBS fired Imus over the Rutgers comments, so why should now be any different? We've seen that as long as Imus can keep advertisers and ratings, he can pretty much say whatever he wants and get away with nothing more than a tongue-lashing from the public.

But it's painfully obvious this is a man who has not learned his lesson. Whether that's out of stupidity or a lack of concern, I'll let you be the judge.

To criticize Pacman for his troubled past is one thing; to insinuate he did the things he allegedly did simply because he's black is another thing entirely -- and completely unfair to African-American athletes who don't find themselves in trouble with the law.


Am I the only one who thinks Shaquille O'Neal's freestyle rap about Kobe Bryant in a New York club Monday night is being blown way out of proportion?

Granted, the lyrics, which included the line "Kobe can't do without me" appeared to be a low blow in light of the Lakers' six-game loss to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, where Bryant had a chance to win his first ring without O'Neal. But seriously, is the sports media this hard-up for a story that it's going to dissect Shaq's rapping skills?

Shaq told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that it was all in good fun, that it was just what MC's do. While I buy that, I don't buy Shaq's assertion that things are completely good with Kobe. The two have sort of feuded since Shaq got run out of Los Angeles in 2004, and even though the two appeared to play nice in recent years, it's not entirely surprising to see Shaq take a shot at Kobe now that the Finals are over.

What gets me is: Shaq always seems to be the one taking a run at Bryant, not the other way around. O'Neal shows tremendous immaturity in his inability to let things go, yet the media gives him a pass -- but I guarantee if Bryant was the one rapping "Shaq can't do without me," we'd be blasting him up and down Rodeo Drive.

How is it Shaq's the one who can't let things go, when he was the one who won a title after leaving L.A.? I would've thought winning the title with the Heat in 2005 would've healed whatever wounds Shaq still felt, but apparently, he still sees fit to throw Kobe under the
proverbial bus.

And apparently we're just bored enough to give this sort of thing the time of day.

Return of the Mullet

All indications are that ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose will be named the new coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. The Lightning, which won the last Stanley Cup before the lockout, had the worst record in the NHL last season at 31-42 -- not to mention one of the worst minor-league affiliates in the Norfolk Admirals.

While this is great news for Melrose, who coached in Los Angeles during the Wayne Gretzky days, I can't help but wonder who ESPN would get to replace him. While I would never consider myself a hockey fan, I enjoyed listening to Melrose break down the game because of his knowledge, energy and obvious enthusiasm for the game.

While I could do without the greasy, grey mullet, the fact that he loved the game he talked about made it easy for me as a sports fan to follow along and care about what he was saying. I'm not sure ESPN has anyone who can match that energy and passion.

Will Melrose be a success in Tampa Bay? Hard to tell; I know next to nothing about the team, and all I know about him as a coach, I heard from Gretzky this morning on SportsCenter -- where he extolled Melrose's virtues as a guy who can coach the star while showing the same respect to the role players.

I wish Melrose the best of luck in his return to coaching, though I wish he would've stayed on TV. With ESPN in dire need of quality on-air personalities, losing Melrose is a tough one for me to take.

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