Ok. There. I mentioned something having to do with Texas. Now I can make the rest of the blog about what's really got me steamed.
For those of you who haven't been following the NBA playoffs (and taking a look at the ratings, that's most of you), here's what all the palaver is about:
In Game Four of the Western Conference Semi-Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns, Spurs players were attempting to foul Suns point guard Steve Nash because they were down and time was running out. Well, they fouled him alright.
As Nash was darting along the sideline, near the Phoenix bench, Spurs forward Robert Horry, chasing after Nash, gave the speedy point guard a check with his hip, sending Nash flying into the scorers' table. A fracas immediately broke out as Suns coaches, unsuccessfully, tried to restrain their players who were on bench.
The Suns had been complaining repeatedly during the series about dangerously aggressive play from the Spurs, especially from Bruce Bowen, who's made the All-NBA Defensive team seven consecutive years, and perhaps frustration got the best of them.
The next day, NBA official and punishment czar Stu Jackson handed down suspensions. Robert Horry was suspended for two games for his hard foul, which was unusually high for this type of foul, by the way, but, then again, it's the play-offs and you can't be making exceptions.
Along with Horry's suspension, two Suns players, Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw, were suspended one game each for their role in the melee.
The one-game suspension rule given to the Suns players applies when there is a fight occurring on the floor and players leave the bench area because of it and Stoudemire and Diaw, despite not throwing any punches, definitely did that. (By the way, we're not even going to kid ourselves addressing when Tim Duncan went onto the floor earlier in the game because there wasn't a fight going on. A fight's a fight. What happened at the end of Game Four was a fight. Moving on.)
What occurred next was a tidal wave of outrage from media and fans alike. A rule had been broken, but most people were definitely not satisfied with the outcome of the punishments.
Phoenix went into Wednesday's contest down two players, especially hurting due to Stoudemire's absence, and the Spurs, thanks ironically to a late three by Bowen, beat the Suns in Game Five, 88-85.
On ESPN Radio, host Dan Patrick suggested to NBA Commissioner Stern that he should have overturned the ruling because the series is being decided by Horry's hard foul on Nash and Stern responded:
"It's being decided because two Phoenix Suns, who knew the rule, forgot about it, couldn't control themselves and didn't have coaches who could control them and don't you forget it."
Yes, the Suns players were simply reacting, but revenge is never, ever an excuse. For anything. True, it's whoever hits back that gets the punishment in almost any situation, but guess what? That's life. As difficult as it is for each of us to learn that, we have to and this serves as a testament to that.
This rule was specifically put in place to prevent large brawls from occurring, which have previously tarnished the NBA. The Suns are not being unfairly punished. If Stoudemire and Diaw don't come off the bench, then Horry gets a two-game suspension and that's the end of it. Five guys on the Sun's bench followed the rule, two didn't.
It's too bad that this happened because this has been a great, great NBA playoff series and we want to see all of the stars on the floor. In the end, though, logic must rule the day.
There seems to be a clear divide in the arguments over this. Essentially every talking head who has attacked this issue with emotion rather than logic thinks Stoudemire and Diaw (primarily Stoudemire, due to his star status) should play.
That's why Stern, who has repeatedly shown himself to be the best commissioner in all of sports, deserves our praise, not our scorn. Such a large majority of people didn't want this to happen and, admittedly, Stern didn't want it to happen either, but he made a principled, unpopular decision based on the rules and doing what is right. Few officials in all of sports would have the courage to enforce the leagues' rules, which were voted on by every owner, including the Suns' Robert Sarver, when it's this unpopular to do so.
You cannot make exemptions for star players and the argument that the league should make an exception in this case in the "best interest of the league" is nothing short of blatant hypocrisy.
This ruling should be celebrated because it's essentially proof that the NBA Draft Lottery, long suspected of being rigged, is actually clean. It's in the "best interest" of the NBA to give New York Knicks the first pick in the draft because it's the league's biggest market, but its marquee team is, well, terrible.
But they don't. They don't because integrity of the league is more important than immediate profits. In the long term, that's truly how a sport grows.
At Game 5, a Suns fan held up a sign with a picture of Stoudemire's face on it with bars across the front that read "FREE AMARE".
That fans' sign perfectly elucidated his own hypocrisy. It didn't say "FREE DIAW", it said "FREE AMARE". The suspension only mattered because it happened to a star player and people want preferential treatment for their star players, the same star players whose preferential treatment is one of the biggest turn-offs to the NBA for a large segment of sports fans.
Is it a bad rule? Sure. Players shouldn't be suspended for merely wandering away from the bench when calamity ensues, but it is the rule and the commissioner, despite the fact that he's the figure head of the sport, cannot arbitrarily make up a new rule, on the fly, in the playoffs. The players know the rules, the coaches know the rules and they are punished accordingly for breaking them.
The NBA didn't decide Game Five, Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw did.
And don't you forget it.
by Clendon Ross
Inside Texas Co-Publisher
May 16, 2007
Dallas, Ames, Waco, Stillwater, College Station and… Orlando? Which one of these kids is not like the other? If you said College Station, I certainly wouldn't argue. A town full of Aggies is definitely like no other, excepting maybe those in less advanced cultures where ritual replaces rational thought. But I digress. The first five on the list are, of course, regular stops for Longhorn teams. Orlando not so much. Take advantage of this opportunity. I know, theme-park-centric Orlando isn't exactly Southern California (where the Horns will visit in 2011 to face UCLA), New York City or Chicago, but it's a bit sexier than El Paso, Fayetteville and Houston, the non-conference roadtrips scheduled for 2008-2010. With all the festivities around the opening of the new, on-campus Bright House Networks Stadium, with just a 45,000-seat capacity, it may be one of the toughest tickets of the season, though…
Seven Longhorns got a draft day call from the NFL last month, including two first rounders, and at least some early projections indicate that next year's group of draftees could meet that total, and perhaps exceed it at the top. Several early draft rankings tab senior wideout Limas Sweed and senior defensive tackle Frank Okam as probable first rounders, with Sweed a potential top 10 pick at or near the top of the wideout class along with Cal's Desean Jackson and OU's Malcolm Kelly. Another Horn with first day potential, according to projections, is offensive tackle Tony Hills. Then there's a large group of guys that have potential draft value, maybe even first day depending on performance this fall and combine testing next spring: Billy Pittman, Robert Killebrew, Scott Derry, Marcus Griffin, Derek Lokey and Drew Kelson…
I'm pleased with the news that the Longhorn section in the Cotton Bowl for the Texas-OU game will remain opposite the tunnel. I don't see any advantage the Oklahoma team gains from having the tunnel seats, so why disrupt the seating tradition every other year? Plus, I had no desire to sit in the traditional Sooner sections. Aside from being tainted by decades of Okie butts in the seats, they're further away from the Food Court building, and particularly Bailey's, my favorite beer (five coupon!) and food booth…
With Dravannti Johnson's late-April pledge, the Horns' commitment total reached 19 in a class we originally projected to be 20-22 signees, what may be a conservative estimate given the number of prospects still on the board. We still consider most of the out-of-staters longshots (Pennsylvania QB Terrelle Pryor, California RB Darrell Scott and Colorado LB Jon Major), but Salt Lake City LB Lynn Katoa joins in-state prospect Garland DE Chancey Aghayere as serious candidates for two of the final spots in the class, while at least Flower Mound TE James Hanna, Garland LB/S Joseph Ibiloye, Houston Yates DE Damian Square, McKinney Boyd WR Jeffrey Fuller and Louisiana S Damien Jackson appear to be in line for more evaluation…
With a series win over A&M this weekend, the Horns will clinch the regular season conference baseball title. But a sweep would be even better. You see, if A&M wins a game this weekend, it will be the first time since 1993-94 that the Aggies will have beaten the Horns in football, basketball and baseball in the same athletic year. Simply clinching the league title is more meaningful than continuing A&M's streak of futility, but Texas certainly shouldn't give the Ags any more bragging rights than they've already earned this year with a football win and a basketball split. Also of note, a series win by the Horns would clinch the Lone Star Showdown title for Texas. With just the single baseball point outstanding, the Horns currently own a 9-1/2 point to 8-1/2 point lead in the standings that take into account all the head-to-head results in men's and women's sports for the 2006-07 season. In essence, a tie would be a huge win for an Aggie program trying to catch up to its big brother in Austin.
NFL Should 'Just Say No' to Ricky
by Bill Frisbie
May 14, 2007
Ricky Williams plays better on grass. But the opinion here is that the 1998 Heisman winner shouldn't play at all this season following published reports that he has -- again -- violated the NFL's drug policy.
Officials in the NFL's substance abuse program advised commissioner Roger Goodell to delay Ricky Williams' reinstatement after the former Longhorn failed a drug test last month, according to weekend reports. Williams wants to rejoin the Miami Dolphins following a one-year suspension for a previous violation of the drug policy. It doesn't take a crystal ball to determine that the Commish (who sent Adam 'Pacman' Jones packing in the suddenly image-conscious League) will not likely reinstate Williams who has played all of 12 NFL games since 2003.
Presumably, most Horn fans still care more for Williams than they do the reputation of the NFL. Either way, we should support a decision not to reinstate Williams this season.
Having said that, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy involved when pot smokers are treated like pariahs while binge-drinkers, relatively speaking, are appluaded. But keep in mind that the League suspended Williams in April 2006 following his fourth violation of the NFL drug policy. Players know the rules, and many are paid mega-millions as long as they don't violate them. What's more, Williams still owes the Dolphins' organization $8.6 million for breach of contract with his 11th hour decision in 2004 to trade professional football for professional yoga. Two years later, former Dolphins coach Nick Saban risked alienating his roster by going to bat for Williams following his fourth drug-related suspension.
The fact that Williams endeared himself to so many Longhorn fans during his record-setting collegiate career makes it difficult to advocate for his continued suspension. (Truth be told, Williams could probably still be elected mayor of Austin). But if the subject was, instead, a highly-paid, high-profile colleague whose contributions were critical to the success of your business, then the implications of a fifth failed drug test take on a different perspective. We then see the problem for what it sadly appears to be: a serious addiction. Given all that was at stake, given all the second chances, given the NFL's recent crackdown on questionable behavior, given all that Williams still owes, the reports that Williams still could not pass a drug test the very month he sought reinstatement indicate that the biggest obstacle he will face this year is not between the hashmarks but rather between the ears.
The clock is ticking on whatever may be left of Williams career. He turns 30 next Monday, and that renders the reports of another failed drug test ever more unsettling for those who would love to see Williams -- just once -- regain the punishing form that saw him shatter NCAA career rushing record in 1998. But this goes beyond our need to be entertained or to live vicariously through athletes. For Ricky, it needs to be personal.
I remember when current Texas QB Colt McCoy mentioned that he gave up soft drinks in the sixth grade ("I was up to a six-pack a day") just to prove to himself that he could do it. McCoy realized, as a middle-schooler, that the issue wasn't so much that he had soft drinks but rather soft drinks had him. He hasn't touchd a drop since.
Granted, there may be no comparing a narcotic with a Dr.Pepper. But Ricky Williams needs to prove to himself that he can do this: not just for the money but for reasons of his own personal integrity. Williams has less to prove on-the-field than he does off-the-field -- and that is where his energies need to be fully directed.