I suffered a high ankle sprain when the opposing tight end hit me with an illegal cut block. At the time, I relished the moment. Despite all the efforts of my teammates to assist, I walked off on my own, dragging what was left of my healthy left leg. I received a standing ovation from the crowd as praise for my "toughness." It was the football mentality's machismo that encouraged me to limp off without help despite all evidence to the contrary to common sense. That limp is all too familiar to those who know me today, as it springs up after an hour or two of any pickup basketball game.
I can’t, however, recall the last day I played football.
186 days. That’s the length between the Super Bowl and the first NFL preseason game. There’s no one more excited to see the media attention turn away from the NFL player conduct than Roger Goodell. Since the end of Super Bowl 47, more than 40 arrests involved NFL employees. More than 8 per month, almost two per week since the Super Bowl. An ugly offseason was capped off by an Aaron Hernandez murder indictment.
The cheers of the hometown crowd bring subliminal pressures that are usually ignored by the talking heads. The assumption is always that the home team has the advantage. Sure, there’s the familiarity and energy that a team can only get from its home court, but there’s just as much of a possibility for uneasy, piercing silence that resonates through a nervous and disappointed crowd. That can be crippling.
Last Wednesday at 4:00pm I received this text message:
I had two paradoxical reactions to this message. The first reaction was boyish excitement at the possibility of being in the same room as one of the most (in my opinion the most) magnetic personality in the history of sports. Every thing about Michael Gerard Tyson was must-see TV, there hasn’t been a documentary made about him I haven’t invested the time to watch. I could only imagine what it might be like to experience what he was like live and in person.
It's fitting that there's Dr. J documentary premiering tonight on NBATV, because I feel the same way about Dr. J, now, I'm sure my children will feel about LeBron James two decades from now. When I hear men who came of age in the 60s and 70s talk about the evolution "modern basketball player" they trace it back to Elgin Baylor, who passed the torch to Dr. J, who shovel passed it the Michael Jordan. Dr. J is almost never discussed amongst the greatest 10-15 players of all-time, but his legacy is mostly relegated to anecdotes and folklore. Most of my peers have very little appreciation for his impact on the history of the sport, which must frustrate those who witnessed the Afro puffed, Converse wearing phenom create highlight after highlight, before the highlights were on SportsCenter every night.