Sunday, December 17, 2006

Those fightin' Knicks



There is something about a good brawl that gets the fan loyalty going. Maybe it's the togetherness of a team in combat, the us vs. them ideal, or perhaps the scrappy underdog fighting mentality. No matter the cause, a good brawl and it's proceeding rivalry brings a team and its fans together on a deeper level. No longer are we rooting for the team to win, we are rooting for them to survive and conquer. Victory in the game becomes secondary to victory in battle. Brawls may be bad for a game's image, but nothing beats the intensity of a good physical rivalry highlighted by a few haymakers.

Now I have had my complaints about Isiah Thomas. Honestly, I wouldn't be more pleased if he was no longer associated with the Knicks. However, after this weekend's throwdown between the Knicks and Nuggets, I am much more likely to pull for this team. No, I am not ending the boycott. But I do like the thought of a hardnosed fighting team that might lose every game compared to a well-behaved undefeated team.

Watching the Knicks fight the Nuggets brought back memories of brighter, more violent days when the Knicks took no guff and threw down with little hesitation - consequences be damned. Whether it was a Starks headbutt, an Oakley elbow, or a Van Gundy leg-lock - whatever it took to win. In honor of the Knicks showing some life and togetherness, The Serious Tip presents the best Knicks fights of the last 13 years.

Knicks vs. Suns, April 1993: Twenty-one players were fined and three suspended when former Knicks guard and current Celtics headcoach Doc Rivers went a round with Suns guard Kevin Johnson. And in a clip you might not see on ESPN too often, then-injured Knicks backup guard and current ESPN analyst Greg Anthony left the bench in his street clothes to join the squabble.

Knicks vs. Pacers, May 1993: The Knicks-Pacers rivalry was always like a good opening act before the Eastern Conference's headlining Knicks-Bulls series. One year before Reggie Miller went lights out and drew the ire of Spike Lee and Knicks fans everywhere, he was the recipent of a flying headbutt by John Starks. Give credit where credit is due - it wasn't Mike Tyson or Zidane who made the sports headbutt famous, it was John Starks.

Knicks vs. Bulls, May 1994: Although the Knicks and Bulls engaged in possibly the most intense NBA rivalry of the mid-90s, only once did they come to blows. During the game better known as "The Game Scottie Pippen Sat Out", Derek Harper and Bulls guard JoJo English duked it out at the top of the key. Although only Harper and English were involved, the fight eventually spilled into the stands right in front of Commissioner/Fuhrer David Stern. (Ranked 4th in a pre-Artest melee SportCenter Top Ten here).

Knicks vs. Heat, May 1997: With the Indiana Pacers sliding from playoff significance, the Knicks found a new opening round rival in former coach Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. While none of these games could ever be confused with the recent high-scoring Suns-Nets game, they made for great entertainment in their own plodding, tight defensive ways.

Of all the Knicks-Heat skirmishes, perhaps none was more intense than Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. With the Knicks down by nearly 20 points and the game winding down, Charlie Ward attempted to box out Heat forward P.J. Brown after a free-throw. Angered by what Heat fans refer to as an "undercut", Brown picked up Ward and flipped him to the ground. Conveniently, as the referees stood in front of the Heat bench preventing the Miami team from joining the ruckus, the Knicks players came to the aid of their fallen comrade. Consequently, every Knicks player who left the bench was suspended, costing the Knicks the following game and eventually the series.

Knicks vs. Heat, May 1998: In Round 2 of the Heat-Knicks War, former Charlotte Hornet teammates Larry Johnson and the Alonzo Mourning threw down in Game 4 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Yes, this was the game former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy clung to Mourning's leg like a pitbull. In what a Knicks fan can only call poetic justice, Mourning was forced to sit out the deciding Game 5 and the Knicks defeated the Heat and moved on to face the Indiana Pacers. (Ranked Number One in the SportsCenter Top Ten here.)

Knicks vs. Lakers, April 2000: Although I never had much positive to say about Chris Childs (I thought Charlie Ward was clearly better), I disliked him a little less when he exchanged fisticuffs with Kobe Bryant. First a headbutt (a Knicks tradition), then a right, then a left - word to the wise, never mess with a sober Chris Childs.

Knicks vs. Spurs, January 2001: After a physical game of elbows and jostling for position, Marcus Camby attempted to take his anger out on Spurs forward Danny Ferry. Unfortunately, this is the most embarrassing of the Knicks battles as Camby not only tried to sucker punch Ferry, but as Jeff Van Gundy stepped between the two players, Camby's punch missed and he inadvertently headbutted Van Gundy, cutting open the coach's face and requiring numerous stitches. (Ranked Number 2 in the aforementioned SportsCenter Top Ten here). No wonder Camby wasn't a factor in the recent fracas, he might have knocked out Carmelo Anthony.

Knicks vs. Bulls, January 2006 - In a game that can only be described as eventful, Maurice Taylor and Chicago's Chris Duhon mixed it up and Antonio Davis went into the stands to the defense of his wife. Not at the same time of course.

(Interesting side note: A few years ago I attended an FSU-Duke game back when Chris Duhon was playing for the Blue Devils. Through a connection I was able to get seats three rows from the Duke bench in the Duke family section. Great seats. So my friend Zheke and I are sitting there cheering on the Seminoles and Chris Duhon's mother turns around and yells at us for sitting where we were and not rooting for Duke. We tried to explain that we weren't bad-mouthing the Blue Devils or her son, we were just rooting for Florida State. Apparently this wasn't good enough for Ms. Duhon. Whatever, lady. Needless to say I am a little biased against Chris Duhon. But I digress.)

So that brings us to this weekend and the first NBA brawl since Ron Artest took on Detroit Rock City. Although the pundits, analysts (including the aforementioned Greg Anthony), and prognosticators may all bemoan the return of pugilism to the basketball hardwood, for Knicks fans it's just like old times.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Debunking Ali as the Edison of Rap



"Just like Muhummad Ali they called him Cassius/
Watch me bash this beat like a skull"

- LL Cool J, "Mama Said Knock You Out"


On December 9th, ESPN will premier "Ali Rap", a program that claims Hip-Hop/Rap music was born from the antics and proclamations of Muhammad Ali. But did Ali really influence rap music, or is ESPN merely grasping for straws in an attempt to capitalize on the attraction of one of the greatest boxers and public figures of the last 50 years?

In order to validate ESPN's claim, it is necessary to look at the difference between Ali and African-American celebrities prior to the late 1960s. Earlier African-American boxing champions such as Jack Johnson were undoubtedly victims of an exploiting white entertainment culture. Because of segregation, African-American boxers were seen as performers no different to the average white fan than the circus strong man or the bearded lady. Only when Joe Louis fought Max Schmeling in 1938 did the American people rally behind a black champion. Louis was an American - "one of us." For one fight, the rich and the poor, the educated and the unlearned, and the black and white were all united.

Nine years later, Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. Being the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues, Robinson appealed to to African-American communities nationwide. Robinson's strengths however, are the reason he is no longer as culturally relevant as Muhammad Ali, a claim made famous by ESPN columnist Scoop Jackson. Robinson's upbringing, military service, and college education separated him from the average African American. While their civil struggle was the same, Robinson, both because of his diplomatic nature and his initial agreement with Dodgers' owner Branch Rickey to not fight back, did not brazenly approach the social issues the way Ali would 20 years later. Agree or disagree with him, Robinson was not a threat. He was the Martin Luther King, Jr. of sports desegregation.

Although Jackie Robinson did not employ any braggadocio, to claim Muhammad Ali originated the art of "trash-talking" or "talking smack" prevalent in rap music is completely incorrect. Short staccato claims of power had existed in African-American culture long before the 1960s. Gospel, blues, and field hollers all carried the call and response, back and forth style of announcement, where a message was stated without many words being said. Blues singer Muddy Waters, for example, proclaimed he was "The Hoochie Coochie Man" and the world knew he was him, a boastful claim if there ever was. If ESPN narrowed its claim and presented the idea that Ali was the first African-American to employ these techniques in sports it might be more correct.

Where ESPN can claim Muhammad Ali influenced rap is in the role of populist hero. The idea of populist hero in rap/hip-hop culture is discussed in depth by Cutler Edwards in his thesis Kung-Fu Cowboys to Bronx B-Boys: Heroes and the Birth of Hip-Hop Culture. According to Edwards, the idea of hero was one who faced the struggle of his/her environment head-on, took on the establishment, and lived by his own moral code of justice. Edwards writes,

"the hero exhibits all those traits which a society collectively finds most appealing and desirable, and he uses those powers in the ways which it deems most appropriate. Usually this means that the hero performs acts that one feels one would not have the ability to carry out, lacking the physical strength or personal grit (or both) necessary to complete the tasks in question."

Edwards further contends the idea of hero continuing from the cowboy of the old western movies to the kung-fu fighter of more recent cinema to the art of breakdance "battling". By changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, protesting the Vietnam War, and standing up for social justice, Muhammad Ali fit all of Edwards's criteria and became a real-life hero to millions.

So did Muhammad Ali "invent" rap? No. Was he one of the first mainstream athletes to use the braggadocio of African-American celebrities such as Muddy Waters and Satchel Paige? Absolutely. Ali's ability and methods fit perfectly in an age quickly immersing itself in sound bytes and 30 second attention spans. No longer would lengthy discourse and the diplomacy of Jackie Robinson or Martin Luther King, Jr. move the masses. Catchy phrases such as "I am the Greatest" were the future, directly influencing "The Revolution will not be Televised," "Fight the Power," and "Get Rich or Die Tryin'."

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

A Night at the Winter Meetings



With the baseball hot stove heating up to an almost unbearable temperature, The Serious Tip decided to take a trip. Not just any trip, a trip to the 2006 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Time to see what these Winter Meetings are all about. And maybe get an inside scoop. You never know, maybe, just maybe, The Serious Tip will be the first place the world finds out where the Great Gil Meche will play next year.

Because The Serious Tip has to pay the bills, the trip didn't start until 4pm Eastern Time. Unfortunately, a trip to Lake Buena Vista also meant missing a key city rec league basketball playoff game. Oh well. We were 0-7 going into tonight. How much of a Cinderella chance did we have? But I digress. Off to the Winter Meetings. The Serious Tip is going to Disney World!

For the sake of speed and coherence, what follows is a chronological diary of sorts. I know The Sports Guy has pretty much cornered the market on running diaries, but anything less would become a blathering of philosophical prose. And who needs that?

4:02 Left for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. It's about 60 miles to Lake Buena Vista, I've got a half tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it'll soon be dark, and I'm wearing sunglasses.

5:20 Arrived at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Wow. Not only did I beat traffic by averaging about 85 on the highway, but this may just be one of the nicest resorts I have ever seen. Hopefully I'll see someone as rich as Lou Whitaker pull up in a stretch limo.

5:30 Entered the resort like I owned the place. No Lou Whitaker, but there were a few limos outside by the valets. Began strolling around. Found the Professional Baseball Job Fair, where hundreds, if not thousands, of aspiring individuals converge attempting to land jobs in professional baseball. You know what they say, "those who can't play, work". I wonder if this is how Theo Epstein or Mark DePodesta started?

6:00 Continued my mindless wandering through the exquisite halls of the Swan Resort. Found the Phillies reception room empty. Probably either closed for the evening or closed due to disbelief that the Phillies would pay recent additions Wes Helms and Adam Eaton more than they paid Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton.

6:15 Moseyed across the concrete boardwalk from the Swan Resort to the Dolphin Resort. Walked by gigantic outdoor fountains of, you guessed it, swans and dolphins. Entered the Dolphin Resort, and in moments was in a spacious lobby/lounge with a huge Christmas tree in the middle and a pianist off to the side playing Christmas carols and all of today's great Baroque hits.

6:20 Began to wander around the lobby/lounge. Unfortunately, out of the hundreds of people there, few had name tags, and those that did were usually labeled either "media" or "job seeker" or "Kenosha Blue Ducks." Hardly the people that will tell me where Dan Kolb is rumored to end up. That's the problem with high-end job fairs/ corporate gatherings: the important people never wear name tags. You are supposed to know who they are. Would you know the Brewers' or Devil Rays' general manager if he wasn't wearing a name tag?

6:23 Continued walking around. There were people from everywhere there. It was like baseball Mecca. There were representatives from dozens of minor league teams (what is a Savannah Sand Gnat?) and even international representatives. Who knew there was an Israeli Baseball League?

6:25 Hey, a familiar face: it's Kenny Williams, GM of the White Sox flanked by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. They look like they are holding court, lounging on a couch with several lackeys chattering around them.

6:27 Made my way to one of the many alcohol stands around the Christmas tree. By the way, shouldn't they limit alcohol availability at a place where hundred million dollar deals take place? No wonder Gregg Zaun got nearly 8 million dollars. Gregg Zaun.

6:28 Bought myself a beer. $5.50 for a Bud Light? Slowly sip the what better be the best damn Bud Light I'll ever drink.

6:32 A chance to talk to Ozzie Guillen! Introduced myself as "just a fan here to take in the Winter Meetings." Always the gentleman, Ozzie excused himself from the three guys he was talking with, pointed to one and explained "That was just my former lover." The sensitivity training worked well, didn't it Ozzie?

6:45 It's former Met, Giant, Brewer outfielder Darryl Hamilton! There is Lou Pinella and former Red superstar Tony Perez! And there is Tommy Lasorda! I wonder if Lasorda would convince me to come down if I was up in the Christmas tree.

7:10 Seemingly out of nowhere I came across a gaggle of reporters with their recorders out huddled around someone. That someone was Scott Boras, uber-agent supreme. Was I at the cusp of baseball history? Was something huge happening right in front of me?

7:21 As the reporters still engulfed Boras with microphones (could there ever be a successful claustrophobic agent?), I again wandered about. Then I had perhaps the highlight of my night. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mets GM Omar Minaya. Being a huge Mets fan since I was knee high to a grasshopper I had to say hello. I walked up to Mr. Minaya. "Excuse me, Mr. Minaya, I am a huge Mets fan here to take in the Winter Meetings and I would like to thank you for all that you have done for the team." Wow, as excited as I was, that came out rather well. Omar smiled, shook my hand, said thanks, and walked away. I am still naming my firstborn Omar, Pedro, or Carlos if the Mets win a championship in the next few years.

7:30 Saw a group of Asian reporters comparing notes after listening to Scott Boras for a while. Could Daisuke Matsuzaka have signed with the Red Sox?

7:33 Again walked over to the Scott Boras congregation, but veered away when I saw Hall of Fame reporter Peter Gammons talking baseball with several other people. You don't miss an opportunity to eavesdrop on Peter Gammons. It's like being on hand to see Jimi Hendrix jam, Picasso doodle, or Emeril whip up a quick dessert. A true master in his element.

7:40 After trying to listening in on Peter Gammons yet not look like a stalker, I spoke with a reporter for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. After asking about the hubbub around Scott Boras (she defined it as nothing but a semi-daily update on the Boras family of clients), we discussed the differences between looking at the Winter Meetings from the perspective of a fan and a member of the media. For me, this was a Mecca of celebrity, a once-a-year occasion to be at the cusp of baseball news. For her, it was a chore, a long few days filled with 16 hours of being on the clock for 30 minutes of actual news. And not really exciting considering she speaks with ballplayers for a living. I guess it depends on perspective. I was still having a blast.

7:46 Hey, it's Jim Leyland and Tigers coach Lloyd McClendon. And Leyland doesn't have a cigarette in his mouth. I am surprised.

7:47 Wow, although Kenny Williams has left, Ozzie Guillen is still holding court by the couches.

7:51 Saw ex-major leaguers Ellis Burks and Bryan Harvey. Quick notes: For some reason a reporter wanted to ask Burks how J.D. Drew will do in Boston. How long ago did Burks play there? For how much less money? Yeah, of course Ellis can explain the pressure Drew will be under. Oh, and Bryan Harvey, recognizable from his trademark moustache, looked like someone straight from the Country Music Awards show. Boots, buckle, the whole nine yards.

8:01 Walked into the San Diego Padres reception room to find something to eat. I don't if I was supposed to be there but I had a free turkey sandwich courtesy of either the San Diego Padres or Walt Disney World. Mighty tasty.

8:06 Saw Tony LaRussa. Even though his Cardinals beat my Mets, I walked up, introduced myself, and said "Congratulations on your season, Mr. LaRussa." He replied "Please, it's just Tony." The genius just flows from him.

8:10 Ozzie Guillen is still the person to talk to. Even soon-to-be-Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. has joined him. Ripken is one tall dude, by the way.

8:12 Spoke with one of the many job fair candidates. As she spoke about the importance of networking, I admitted I was just there as a fan. She did tell me one hot rumor though, not sure how true it is. Barry Zito to the Rangers for 17 million a year for 6 years. Wow, my first inside scoop.

8:30 By the way, this master networker was so good, she got Ozzie Guillen to buy her a beer by claiming I bet her that he wouldn't. I am sure it helped that she was quite attractive.

8:40 Overheard Ozzie Guillen finally tell his posse "Let's go" and out he went. Suddenly the party got much less cooler.

8:42 Took one more walk around the lobby/lounge, once again checked out the Christmas tree and the pianist, saw ex-Giant, ex-Pirates pitcher Don Robinson and several other former major leaguers I recognized but I couldn't identify, and made my exit.

Wow. Why did I never visit the Winter Meetings before? For only $9.50 for parking and $5.50 for a beer I met or saw some of the biggest names in baseball and stood where the story of the 2007 season will begin. Unlike some of this offseason's multi-million dollar contracts, that 15 dollars was money well-spent.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Saint Bobby and the Babe



In the pantheon of sports greatness few stand taller than Babe Ruth. The Babe transformed his sport, revolutionized the sports celebrity, and became one of the premier icons of post-depression America. Although his records may have been surpassed, his epic shadow still stands over baseball to this day.
Like Ruth, Florida State University Head Football Coach Bobby Bowden has become an icon in college football. Along with Penn State’s Joe Paterno, Bowden stands head and shoulders above his coaching contemporaries and has become possibly one of the most recognizable faces of college athletics in America.
Although one was an athlete and the other a coach, the careers of Babe Ruth and Bobby Bowden contain almost eerie similarities. As the career of Bobby Bowden strolls towards the sunset, a comparison of these icons is not only overdue, it is essential.

Origins towards Success

Both Bowden and Ruth entered their respective fields with two other organizations prior to reaching the teams that brought them to greatness. For Ruth, his rise to success began as a minor leaguer in Baltimore in 1914, continued as an up-and-coming major league veteran with the Boston Red Sox from 1914 to 1919, and reached its apex and superstar status with New York Yankees from 1920 to 1934.
After four years as a young head coach at Samford University (Howard College), Bowden progressed to West Virginia University, where he established himself as a capable head football coach winning 42 and losing only 26 from 1970 to 1975. In 1976 Bowden left West Virginia and came to Tallahassee where eventually success became the routine.

Years of Dominance

Eerily both Babe Ruth and Bobby Bowden can claim 14 years of nearly unmatched dominance in their fields. For over a decade, each was the greatest among their contemporaries and established levels of achievement seldom achieved.

After being sold to the New York Yankees in 1920, Ruth began an offensive assault unmatched in baseball history. From 1920 to 1933, Ruth led the Yankees to the World Series 10 times and paced the American League in home runs 12 times, averaging 45.5 home runs per year. His style of play and home run hitting ability changed the way baseball was played, brought fans to the ballpark as no player had before, and made the New York Yankees the premier benchmark of success in major league baseball.
From 1987 to 2000, Bobby Bowden was the Babe Ruth of the college football sidelines. Although Bowden did establish a culture of successful football during his first 11 years at Florida State (1976 to 1986), he won only 90 games. Starting in 1987 however, Bowden led the Seminoles to 153 victories, lost only 19, won two national championships, nine conference championships, and reached a major end-of-the-season bowl game every year.

The Houses that They Built

In 1923, the New York Yankees opened Yankee Stadium, a 70,000+ capacity venue featuring decorative facades, an “unheard of” amount of fan friendly restrooms, and executive offices for team officials. Because of the success of Babe Ruth and the Yankees since the Babe’s arrival the new stadium was aptly nicknamed “The House that Ruth Built.” Of course, Ruth wouldn’t disappoint, hitting a home run in the stadium's grand opening.
Although a new stadium was not in the plans for Florida State University, Bobby Bowden’s continued success in Tallahassee and a growing student body (possibly derived from a successful athletic program) forced the administration to revamp Doak Campbell Stadium and transform it into the largest football stadium in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Like Ruth’s new home, FSU also incorporated a large part of its administrative offices into the new stadium, adding offices for not only the athletic department, but admissions, registrar, and financial aid. As a tribute to Bowden, a bronze statue was created in his likeness in 2004.

The Later Years

In 1934, Babe Ruth “only” hit 22 home runs. According to ESPN’s baseball analyst Rob Neyer, “Ruth had turned thirty-nine in 1934, and though he could still hit — in ‘34, Ruth was maybe the third-best hitter in the American League, behind only Gehrig and Foxx — he couldn’t do much else.” Ruth’s 22 homers placed him 8th in the league as the Yankees finished second and began to rely more heavily on Triple Crown winner Lou Gehrig. The impression that Ruth could only hit home runs became truth as his batting average was his worst since his rookie year 20 years earlier. After the 1934 season and a falling out with management, Ruth would leave the Yankees and play his final season with the Boston Braves, hitting only six more career home runs. He left the game with 714 home runs, a record that would stand for nearly 30 years.

After reaching the National Championship game three years in a row and winning every game in the 1999-2000 season, the Bobby Bowden-led Florida State Seminoles began to fall off their perch as the nation's premier dominant football program. Although Bowden became the all-time winningest coach in college football, the Seminoles have only won 10 games once since 2000. Like Ruth before him, Bowden’s detractors have grown in number and have claimed his ability to coach has diminished, forcing the Seminoles to rely more on the talent on the field and not on the strategic mind of Coach Bowden.

It is highly unlikely that Bobby Bowden will be forced to finish his coaching career with another organization as Babe Ruth did with the Boston Braves. At nearly 80 years old, when Bowden leaves Florida State, his career will be over. Although there is history in elderly coaches turning programs around in the face of detractors (see Joe Paterno – 2005), even if Bobby Bowden fails to do so Florida State Seminole fans should take solace in knowing they witnessed a legend – a man so good at his profession Babe Ruth should henceforth be referred to as “The Bobby Bowden of Baseball.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

The Life and Times of Big Jelly



With baseball season over and the Florida State football season begging for a merciful end, it is time to take a look at one of the last bastions of pure sports integrity - pro wrestling. Just kidding. I speak, of course, of college basketball. And how better to conjure up the spirit of Cinderella than to profile one of the largest, most underappreciated characters to take the court in recent times: Nigel Dixon, center for Florida State University (1999-2002) and Western Kentucky (2003-2004).

Nicknamed "Big Jelly" because of his tremendous size (nearly 7 feet tall and at times near 400 lbs), Nigel arrived at Florida State under the tenure of Head Coach Steve Robinson. According to The ACC Area Sports Journal, "massive center Nigel Dixon was an unheralded, high-risk signee." Despite this less than glowing review, Dixon became a crowd and campus favorite and his "Big Jelly" nickname was voted best in college basketball by the editors of the Sporting News. Even his attire quickly became fodder for legend as he was fitted for "Nigel sized" shorts.

But size alone does little beyond attracting attention. Big Jelly had to prove his worth on the court. From the moment he stepped onto the college hardwood, Nigel was able to vastly improve his conditioning, lose over 100 pounds, increase his athleticism, and begin to grasp his potential as one of the preeminent big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference. After a disappointing freshman season, in which he averaged only 1.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 6.4 minutes a contest all off the bench, Nigel became a starter during his sophomore year and averaged 6.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 14.7 minutes per game. Among the highlights of these first years were a season-high 12 points versus Duke during the 1999-2000 season and 23 points and 10 rebounds against Rhode Island in the 2000-2001 season.

Big Jelly would take a big step towards the next level in the 2001-2002 season. Again starting over 75% percent of his games, the mammoth center led the Seminoles in rebounding with 6.4 per game, averaged 8.1 points per game and shot 49% from the field. Among the highlights of his season were 15 points and 10 rebounds against eventual National Champion Maryland and a similar performance against Virginia. He also played a key role in one of the most shocking upsets in Florida State basketball history, a 77-76 victory over then-number one ranked Duke.

Alas, the emergence of Big Jelly as an ACC force to be reckoned with at FSU would end with the hiring of new head coach Leonard Hamilton. Depending on which side of the story you believe, the Nigel Dixon Era at Florida State ended because Hamilton prefered long, athletic, swing players who could play a more up-tempo game or because Big Jelly wanted a redshirt year, something he was denied under Robinson. As dark clouds covered Tallahassee, Nigel "Big Jelly" Dixon moved on to Western Kentucky University.

After being a transfer redshirt for the 2002-2003 season and slimming down to svelte 320 pounds, Big Jelly would become "Big Firm" at Western Kentucky. As a relative unknown to the Sun Belt Conference, the new and improved Nigel Dixon was the only player in the conference to average a double-double with 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Among the highlight of his breakout year included a league-high 15 double-doubles and career highs in steals, assists and blocks. In one game against Marshall, Big Firm had 29 points and 16 rebounds. In another contest against Ball State, the big fella scored 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Nigel Dixon had become unstoppable.

With such a monster season, Big Jelly/Big Firm achieved national attention and won numerous accolades, including First Team All-Sun Belt Conference, Newcomer of the Year and Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-American. Would the NBA be the next step? Could Big Firm bang bodies with Shaq or Yao Ming?

Despite claims that Dixon was a poor ball-handler for a big man, and would "challenge Chris Dudley as the worst bricklayer in NBA history", the Detroit Pistons signed Nigel on October 1, 2004. Dixon played in three preseason games with the Pistons, averaging 1.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 12.7 minutes. Unfortunately, with All-Star center Ben Wallace and potential star Darko Milic, the Pistons released Nigel Dixon after 18 days.

After being released by Detroit, Nigel Dixon brought the Big Jelly/Big Firm Show to Greece, playing for MENT Vassilakis in the Greek Basketball League. While in Greece, Nigel only played in 11 games and recorded a disappointing 4.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Although his performance in Greece was not to the level he had achieved in America, the Denver Nuggets took a chance and signed Dixon on September 30, 2005. His stay with the Nuggets lasted less than a month, however, as he was released on October 26, 2005.

Less than a week later, in early November 2005, the Fayetteville Patriots of the NBA Developmental League, seeing the talent that made him a Western Kentucky star, made Nigel the second overall pick in the NBA Developmental League Draft. Sadly, the Big Jelly/Big Firm Era in Fayetteville was over rather quickly, as Nigel left the team on November 22.

When last seen, Nigel Dixon was plying his craft in the Korean Basketball League for the Pusan Magic Wings and making the Korean International All-Star team. With any luck, the powers that be in the NBA will realize the massive talent, drive, and determination in Nigel Dixon and the "Big Jelly/Big Firm Experience" will be playing in an NBA city near you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Man's Influence on Sports




Many moons ago, in the dawn of the Internet, there was a web site called The AfroSquad. The AfroSquad was a group of funky fresh individuals who warned us about "The Man" - that all-powerful, all-knowing personification of authority. According to CrazyMan of The AfroSquad,
"The Man" is an intangible bugaboo that masterminds the hardships and tragedies of that thing we call life. Being technologically superior, he can morph into anything he wants- your boss, the local authorities, the president, your parents, a lawyer, the guy that signs your inadequate paycheck, etc. You can use that last sentence as a mad-lib for added effect.
When you work 13 hours, come home at 8:00PM to realize that you locked your key in the apartment- blame it on "The Man"- because he made you do it. When it takes another 2.5 hours to get some scab to open your apartment door for you- blame it on "The Man"- it is all his fault. When the scab requires 20 bucks to open your apartment door, beat the crap out of the scab, because he is "The Man". But defiling the scab/"Man" apparition will be to no avail because, by the time your finished teaching the scab 'the true meaning of sorrow', "The Man" will be somewhere else already- probably stealing your loved one's monogamy.
But don't be fooled, "The Man" can be in multiple places at once just as easily as you eat a Twinkie in just four bites. He can simultaneously be controlling the red stoplight you run, in his secret hideout faxing your brain the endorphins that result in deviance, AND in the cop car that catches you do it.
Just about the time things started going global and the whole world went online, The Man pulled the plug on the AfroSquad. For years, there was no AfroSquad on the Internet. Only recently has there been a resurgence of AfroSquad videos on YouTube and ifilm.com.

With the AfroSquad at bay, and their recent videos looking more like SNL skits than public service announcements, The Man has continued his shenanigans. Sadly, in no area is The Man's presence more evident than in the wide world of sports.

As my own PSA, I am beginning a list of things The Man does or tries to get away with in the world of sports. It's a short list, but hopefully we can raise awareness in an attempt to vex or befuddle The Man. If I am missing something utterly significant, leave a comment or e-mail me at theserioustip@yahoo.com. Gracias.

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-The Man likes those few days around the MLB All-Star game when no sports are on.
-The Man likes night baseball, Astroturf, and the DH.
-The Man wants all celebrities in New York to become Mets and Yankees fans at the same time.
-The Man thinks all games the Yankees aren't favored in should be rained out.
-The Man thinks it's "shocking" that anyone could win the World Series besides the Yankees.
-The Man calls Harlem Globetrotter wins "shocking".
-The Man loves Derek Jeter.
-The Man holds career minor leaguers down.
-The Man likes the idea that the winning league in the MLB All-Star game gets home field advantage in the World Series.
-The Man let the dogs out.
-The Man wants a NASCAR channel to replace the NFL Network.
-The Man actually only disliked Rod "He Hate Me" Smart.
-The Man wants to make a 24-hour celebrity poker channel.
-The Man wants Allen Iverson to practice.
-The Man runs the BCS.
-The Man raises ticket prices.
-The Man hated the Negro Leagues for all the wrong reasons.
-The Man wants all stadiums everywhere to be named after obscure companies. Even little league fields.
-The Man owns a Yankee and Red Sox hat and wears the one with the better record.
-The Man wanted Canada to win the World Baseball Classic, eh?
-The Man hates college basketball and their "Cinderella" teams.
-The Man picks Duke to win every night.
-The Man cheers for rain on opening day.
-Namath is an anagram for the Tha Man.
-And The Man absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt HATES blogs. Especially sports blogs.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bloggin’ Through the Ages (Everyone Loves a Blog)


Let me pause for a moment from my normal rants and raves about sports and culture and take an introspective look at what I am doing here. Not introspective as in “what is my purpose in life?” or “why do people still remember Kato Kaelin or Clara Peller?” but introspective as in “what is this blog thing you speak of?”. Although this train has been a rollin’ for quite a while, I think it’s high time I took a look at the phenomenon of blogging, or Weblogging, to use its original name.
Thanks to Al Gore’s Internet and the Freedom of Speech, we have arrived at a time where most everyone can express themselves for the world to read (everyone of course, refering to those with computers and internet connections – you know, the civilized among us). From documenting the battles of war to analyzing the intricacies of college lacrosse to discussing the drama of the 9th grade dating scene, many people have taken the opportunity to type their piece and “publish” it for the world to read.
But imagine this phenomenon at an earlier time. How different would history have been if we had people blogging their thoughts on events through the years?
Take, for example, this prehistoric blog found on a Commodore 64 in the caves of Western Europe: – Went hunting today for a bit. Decided not to draw on the walls like everyone else. I hate art. Maybe one day those Neanderthals will understand my idea of writing. But anyway. Gotta go. By the way, its getting a bit cold. Its been -38 degrees all year. Hopefully it warms up. Later.
And this blog from old England: – Saw that Shakespeare guy the other night. Do ye a favor and do not go to see his plays. They are a complete and utter waste of time. Romeo and Juliet both die. Where is the drama in that? And his women characters? They are boys dressed as women. What a rip off. And when I walked out early, did they give me my shilling back? Not at all.
And could this blog have changed history? – Hi world. My name is Adolf. Although I am not a big fan of Jews I think I am going to voice my opinion on here to let my stresses out. They iritate me so much! They need to go away. Move out of Germany, you Jews. My family thinks by me letting out steam on this blog I will be a more happy-go-lucky person, and I think they are right. So sorry about being so anti-Semitic but I gotta go. Peace and God bless.
Through their accessability and resulting impact, blogs have become our online diaries of sorts, accurately revealing the perspectives of today. Quite possibly even to a level of over-saturation. But those I feel truly sorry for with this blogging phenomenon are tomorrow’s literary historians. Whereas in the past, they had only the works of the literate minority to shine light on culture and popular life, with today’s “blogosphere” they will have an infinite clutter of information to sift through. How might a future historian determine what sources and opinions define the 21st century? In a strange way maybe the question is its own answer. Perhaps blogs have become our culture – a society defined by its freedom of expression, modern communications, and self-importance but with little to no restraint, moderation, or the substance of a defining voice.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

5 Good Reasons Jeff Bowden is A O.K.


In the spirit of ESPN Classic's "5 Good Reasons Why ..." I have decided to try and justify Jeff Bowden's continued employment with Florida State football. This is going to be an exercise in intellect, as I am among the many who wish to no longer see Jeff anywhere near Doak Campbell Stadium or Seminole football. But for the sake of argument here are my 5 Good Reasons Jeff Bowden is not to blame for Florida State's recent offensive ineptitude:

5) The Re-emergence of the U Starting in 2000, the University of Miami reclaimed its spot as one of the premier football powerhouses in the nation. Save for this year's dismal start, Larry Coker has taken the recruits of Butch Davis and his own players and made "the U" one of the best teams in the ACC. Gone are the days of beating sorry Miami teams 47-0. Who knows how many of those recruits would have gone to Florida State had Miami stayed on probation?

4) Keeping up with the Joneses Who can forget Jared Jones? The next quarterback in line after the graduation of Chris Weinke, Jones was supposed to keep the seat warm for California super-stud Chris Rix. Well Mr. Jones got thrown off the team prior to the 2001-2002 season skewing the prefered rotation of college quarterbacks becoming starters as juniors. Instead, Chris Rix became a starting freshman quarterback with a lot of potential and not much results. This mix of star potential and ill-fated mistakes plagued him throughout his FSU career. Thanks for messing up the rotation Jared. You get shot in some neighborhoods for that.

3) Joe Mauer Yes, the same Joe Mauer who is currently leading the major leagues in batting average is partly to blame for FSU's woes. Mauer was supposed to be the "next big thing" after Rix, and was recruited out of Chris Weinke's old high school in Minnesota. But what does Mr. Mauer do? Does he save FSU football? No. He turns down FSU after getting drafted by the hometown Twins. Good career move? Maybe. But fortunately Bobby Bowden reportedly "promised to keep a scholarship open for Mauer 12 years after he is done with baseball" (The Kansas City Star). Come on Joe, you know Tallahassee is much nicer than the Twin Cities.

2) Bobby Bowden's coaching tree Like all great coaches, eventually the apples fall from the tree. In Coach Bowden's case, losing Mark Richt to Georgia and Chuck Amato to N.C. State really hurt FSU football as both coaches have used their Bowden-taught wisdom against Coach Bowden. Although it is a credit to Coach Bowden's career and abilities as a teacher, the branches of this tree have come back to whip the Seminoles in the face.

1) The Emergence of ACC Football In 1992, USA Basketball, the "Dream Team", destroyed the world competition on their way to the gold medal. One year earlier, FSU entered the ACC, similarly destroying all in their path. Why compare the two? Because in both cases their opponents have caught up in terms of talent and training. USA basketball hasn't won a gold medal of late due not only to inconsistent play but to the rising talent throughout the world. FSU football, likewise, has not contended for national glory of late also due not only to inconsistent play but also to the increased emphasis on football recruiting in ACC Country. Years ago, talents like Phillip Rivers, Julius Peppers, and Mario Williams would have been no-brainers to join the FSU juggernaut. But like most monopolies, the competition eventually comes back.

Honorable Mentions: Injuries: see Thorpe, Cro; Castillo, David; and other assorted linemen.

Academic problems (alarm clock-related): see Rix, Chris.

Legal problems: see McPherson, Adrian; Rouse, Fred.

God complex: see Sexton, Wyatt.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

News of the Day

Don't Hate, Pontificate!
Why, oh why did the Pope quote a 14th century Pope's description of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed?

If the Holy Cee was trying to build a bridge for peace, couldn't he have found someone better to quote? John Lennon, maybe? How about a quote from the California rock band The Uninvited, "I talked to God and God said ... 'Just be nice, and see that makes things alright'."? Or maybe Billy Joel's "We didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning"?

Thailand, Thailand, some love little girls and some throw coups land.
Not only does Thailand attract weirdos like John Mark Karr who claim to "love" children in a Michael Jackson-sort-of-way, but now the Thai military has decided to overthrow the government while the Prime Minister was visiting the U.S.

Of course, my only question is whether or not the Thailand military still uses wooden soldiers.
More wooden soldiers here.

But Mama Said George Bush is the devil.
Always loquatious Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proclaimed U.S. President George Bush was the Devil and that the podium at which the U.S. President made his United Nations speech still smelt like sulphur.

Unfortunately President Chavez did not make clear whether Dick Cheney was always ornery because of his Medula Oblongata or because he has all those teeth and no toothbrush.

More Bush Burnings
Does anyone else find it funny that a little more than a year after Kanye West announced George Bush doesn't care about black people, thousands of New Orleans Saints fans of all races will be attending next Monday night's Saints football game in the Superdome wearing the "Bush" jersey of recent draft pick Reggie Bush?

Overrated person, place, or thing of the week

Elvis Presley - not because of his musical career, but because those annoying Elvis impersonators who continue to dress up like Elivs nearly 30 years after "The King" has passed away. Or nearly 30 years after he began working at a 7-11 in Michigan, depending on your personal beliefs.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Day One: Growin' All Up in the Ghetto

Ok, let's see how far I can go with this blog thing before "The Man" shuts me down. Just kidding. Well I guess this is going to be a place for me to post my thoughts, musings, and random ideas. So sit back, enjoy, and comment as you see fit.

A bit about lil' ol' me: I graduated from Florida State; had my own random column for that fine literary publication, the FSView and Florida Flambeau; and I am currently living outside of Tampa, FL. These experiences, as well as a childhood spent locked in a basement, will mold a lot of what I talk about. And of course, random references to current events, music, books, television, movies, or sports (especially the NY Mets, Knicks, and FSU Seminoles). But you get the point. Enjoy.