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Sheed’s Staying Power

Philip Matthews —  Sunday, January 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

In case you’ve missed it, Rasheed Wallace is back in the NBA. That’s right– the 38-year-old whose grungy beard likely has better stamina than his body is back for more. Sheed came out of his two-year retirement this year to sign with the Knicks, making the oldest team in the league that much more… mature. It should come with no surprise after two years out of basketball that this newest addition sat out the six exhibition games because he wasn’t in shape. So just how is Wallace fitting into his role with the Knicks, and why would an accomplished veteran of 15 years come out of a two-year retirement?

One would expect Sheed’s role to be somewhat minimal this season, being that he’s probably there mostly for his experience, leadership, and all those mystical qualities you hear that good teams have. Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Wallace is an insurance or ‘what if’ guy for the squad this season. He’s excelled at that role. Through the first quarter of the season he’s averaged 15 minutes, just over 7 points and 4 boards per contest, while helping the Knicks get off to a solid start.

The fact that he’s back and contributing certainly makes for a good story, but there has to be more to why a man 38-years-young would come out of a two-year retirement. He’s got a solid legacy: he’s an NBA champion with the Pistons and a 4-time All-Star. Money? I’m sure extra pocket change ($1.7 mil) doesn’t hurt, but there’s no way that is a major factor. Another ring? That’s what Sheed is saying, and that has to be part of the reason. Maybe he wants to pass along his knowledge of the game to his teammates? Probably somewhat truthful.

Sure these things have something to do with Sheed putting himself through the grind of an NBA season again, but we all know the real reason he’s back… He’s not done running his mouth.

He might have been able to hang up the high tops, but he couldn’t slow down his tongue. He was probably content no longer posting people up, but he’s not done putting people in their place, or at least attempting to. He even said it himself in an article with the New York Times. He explained that at his age his speed and agility obviously aren’t the same, “but yet I can still talk. That’s an extra defender out there.” Whether it’s instructions to his teammates, something he’s seeing in the defense, or a call he disagrees with, saying Wallace isn’t afraid to speak his mind might be the understatement of the century.

Wallace is widely regarded as one of the best trash talkers the game has ever seen, and his record shows… literally. He holds the record, a very safe one at that, for most technical fouls in a season with 41… that’s a “T” every two games. Many believe this record can go on the “unbreakable” list next to Wilt’s 100-point game and DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Since Sheed set this mark during the 2000-01 season, Antoine Walker’s 23 has been the most in a season. Also, a rule change implemented in 2006 forcing a player to sit out a game without pay after his 16th technical, and each additional technical after that only gives Wallace’s mark more insurance.

For his career, Wallace has approximately 317 technicals. Two of those came early in December during a classic Sheed “Ball Don’t Lie” episode that makes for must see TV. Wallace’s 317 is a solid feat nonetheless, but it fails in comparison to Jerry Sloan’s lofty 400 or so. Does Sheed have his sights set on the career mark? Only time will tell, and the clock’s ticking. If so, he better get to work. Or better yet do what he does best… just sit back and let his mouth do the work for him.

Whether he’s back in an attempt to help the Knicks bring a ring back to their storied franchise, or if he just needed an outlet for his many words and occasional tirades, Wallace has been and will continue to be worth paying attention to this season. Do yourself a favor and tune in. You never know what you might see… or hear.

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By: Philip Matthews

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In today’s day and age, no matter what field you’re talking about, a business, the media, you name it, it’s all about production. That’s all that really counts. Are we putting forth our best product, pleasing customers, and ultimately accumulating dollars? That’s what it boils down to. However, at some point, there is a line in which businesses, in this case the media, can jeopardize the quality and sometimes credibility of the product- in an attempt to boost their ratings.

Recently, ESPN has had some eyebrow-raising instances on some of their shows, which have caused their fair share of controversy and conversation. This raises the question: is ESPN doing their job efficiently when these instances happen, or are they trying to boost their ratings by sparking debate even if it crosses the line at times?

Most notably, it was Rob Parker, a guest analyst occasionally on ESPN’s First Take- a debate-centered show on which Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless can bring up good points for fans to chew on, but it also tends to flirt with the line and sometimes beats issues into the ground. They like to bring up controversial issues, such as race, to prove they’re not scared to talk about them (summarizing their reasoning). In talking about Robert Griffin III and the issue of race in the game, Parker mentioned that Griffin was “not black enough” or “down with the cause,” mentioning that he was a Republican and had a white girlfriend. This sparked a wave of rebuttals from all around the media world, as well as forcing ESPN to suspend Parker indefinitely.

Next, ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge, who has always been super critical of the playing abilities of Tim Tebow, moved from criticizing Tebow on the field to bluntly attacking and questioning his character. After anonymous reports of Tebow telling Coach Rex Ryan he no longer wanted to play in the “wildcat” package after Ryan named Greg McElroy the starter instead of Tebow, Hoge called Tebow “as phony as a three-dollar-bill,” criticizing his character and his status of being the ultimate team-oriented guy. Adam Schefter and Ron Jaworski, who were in the segment along with Hoge, were much more objective about the issue, reporting what Tebow actually said to them and looking at his side of the situation as well, and they seemed to take the report from “sources” with a grain of salt.

In response to Hoge’s comments, Tebow repeatedly said he never quit on his teammates. Furthermore, he went on to address the comments saying, “For people to not know the situation and then start to bash your character and then say you’re a phony or you’re a fake or you’re a hypocrite, I think that’s what’s disappointing and that’s what’s frustrating.” Exactly what Merrill Hoge has against Tebow we’ll probably never know, but it is obvious he wanted his comments to be heard loud and clear, and they have, sending ripples throughout all the media world, as he went straight for the jugular and reputation of one of the game’s most popular players. Maybe he should keep more of his personal frustrations to himself, or just work on his tie… too good to go unshared.

More recently, ESPN’s NFL analyst Lomas Brown made headlines for himself with comments he made in an interview on ESPN radio in late December, admitting that he purposefully whiffed on a block out of frustration in a 1994 game with the intent of getting his quarterback knocked out of the game. He succeeded, as his quarterback Scott Mitchell left with a broken finger. Brown’s comments came across almost boastful, and he showed no remorse, which is disgraceful, especially to talk about betraying a teammate, not to mention the motive of injury, for the world to hear. Brown, who later apologized for his comments on ESPN, is ironically suing the NFL for not doing enough to protect players from concussions.

With all of this said, I am by no means insinuating that ESPN is terrible at what they do or should totally revamp the way they do things, especially after mentioning the comments of just three employees. I am an avid watcher, and I understand the irony of me being critical of comments a few people made, but all of us at some point have to take self-inventory and examine what our purpose is and how effectively we’re doing it. ESPN, quite frankly, dominates the sports media world in this country, and in effect can seemingly do and talk about whatever they want. Just one example of this has been the Tebowmania, when Doug Gottlieb, who then worked for ESPN, admittedly was told “You can’t talk enough Tebow.”

The network of ESPN is there to “serve sports fans,” (to quote their mission statement) which is done by reporting sports stories and providing analysis on these stories, and for the most part they do a good job. But recently it seems that they have spent almost as much time making headlines as they have reporting them.

So, in closing…

ESPN,

We don’t want you to create the news… just relay it.

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By: Philip Matthews

Notre Dame deserves to be in the National Championship game.

Thats it. That’s all it takes. With that simple sentence you’re either disgusted and ready to close this article or you’re mentally fist-pumping, chomping at the bit to show all the “haters” some “truth.” Whether it’s your renewed hatred for Notre Dame, tried and true loyalty, or bandwagon seat that’s been dusted off this year, the relevance of the Irish amplifies the magnitude of this national championship game for a plethora of reasons, and the timing could not be more picturesque.

It seems there is no room on the fence when it comes to Notre Dame– you either love them or you hate them. Their perfect season up until this point has forced the few fence flirters to choose a side and stand by it. Undoubtedly, some of this comes because of the unwavering obsession the media has with covering all things Irish. However, it cannot be denied that Notre Dame embodies one of the most polarizing brands in college football. This is partly due to the media mania that encompasses anything they do. Maybe it’s due to the contract with NBC, easy road to the BCS, or the several other arguably unfair advantages. Possibly it’s those shiny helmets (ask Rick Reilly about those), or Rudy, or the “Win One for the Gipper” speech.

Whether it’s fair (or deserving or whatever word you want to use) or not, Notre Dame has become relevant again this year causing the love and hatred alike to flow that much smoother. And people want to see it. When Notre Dame faced USC with a trip to the ‘ship on the line, ABC’s broadcast was the most watched since the ’06 OSU vs. Michigan game and the fifth most watched on any network since at least 1991. The drama of a backup quarterback replacing the star and possibly spoiling the resurgent Irish’s hopes of perfection was almost too good to be true. Then Lane Kiffin seemingly took the reins and chauffeured Notre Dame right to the BCS National Championship game, but that’s another story.

Likewise, within 32 hours of beating USC, Notre Dame had ticket orders for the championship game from all 50 states, 6 Canadian provinces, UK, Australia, Mexico, and Germany. Then two weeks after defeating USC, their ticket office had received over 100,000 ticket orders… and SunLife Stadium, the site of the BCS National Championship, holds around 80,000 or so.

Let’s set the stage. Entering the ring we have Notre Dame– this storied, resurgent program that’s lost 10 of it’s last 12 bowl games but has seemingly risen from the ashes this year… and waiting on them in the corner pounding its collective fist is Alabama– the closest thing we’ve seen to a college football dynasty in quite some time, as they’re going for their third title in four years.

But what’s so captivating about this particular championship game may not be the fact that it’s two traditional powerhouses in quite different stages of their programs’ life cycle. Sure the media has been eating up that story line, and if you’re like me you’re sick of all the coverage the history of these two programs has been getting. Whether it’s The Bear, Rudy, or Lou Holtz stumbling, fumbling, and mumbling through his memories of the glory days, surely it’s about time to shut up and play some football.

However, what’s most enthralling about this game is the current scope of college football–namely, the implication of the 4-team playoff beginning in 2014. The game we love is on the cusp of it’s foundation shifting, which most agree is a much needed change. I tend to agree with this opinion. Even if the pros do outweigh the cons, a change of this magnitude will most certainly cause some adverse ripples in one way or another.

Amidst this change in the landscape of college football there’s been an underlying argument in nearly every headline or story, especially over the past six years… the SEC vs. everybody else. Even as this season has unfolded it’s boiled down to a heavyweight bout between Notre Dame and the SEC, with others (namely Oregon and Kansas State) being bullied away. The fact is there and cannot be denied: 6 BCS National Championships in a row speak for themselves. But some argue the league receives kingly treatment even when it’s ‘undeserving’ in the BCS, rankings, accolades, etc. It’s extremely tough to even form a case that it’s not the best conference in football, but many seem weary of the success the conference has had and want a change. And they’re getting it. This 4-team playoff will lend more structure to the argument, due to more of it being played out on the field and a decreasing reliance on the computer rankings and polls. The arguing will shift somewhat from the fans and the media bickering whose body of work is more impressive to the committee, which will determine the four teams worthy of a shot at a title.

The best team will be decided on the field, without as much help from computers, which is what we all want and deserve. On the contrary, the regular season will be a fraction less meaningful and the underlying argument will become more watered down as it will be less centered around media and fan rants and force teams to earn their title on the scoreboard.

As we’re on the verge of this change that many have longed for, what better way to send out an era than what we have on our plate this season. I know there’s one more year until the 4 team playoff is inaugurated, but I doubt the story lines will be as rich. Two traditional powerhouses facing off: one that’s become a mainstay, and the other that’s miraculously risen from mediocrity this season. The SEC, in the form of Alabama, will try to bulldoze its way to a seventh consecutive title, while Notre Dame hopes to finish off their miraculous season and avoid becoming just another victim to the SEC tyranny. Whether you love Notre Dame or you hate them, either emotion has undoubtedly been strengthened with their success this year; or maybe you’re exhausted from the dominance of the SEC and can’t wait for the playoff because you’re holding out hope that it will somehow shift the argument back in favor of everyone else.

We’re on the foothills of a mountain of change in college football, and it would be wise to enjoy this seeming climax to the BCS selection era now, in which ratings will be high and points probably at a premium, and then worry about the playoff system and its implications when it comes.

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By: Philip Matthews