Kind of Red

December 6, 2010

More than a Game

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Painted One @ 9:37 pm

Twice I have used this space to convey my enthusiasm for basketball, while also failing miserably in trying to successfully predict the winner(s) of the annual NCAA tournament.  My futile efforts to complete my NCAA brackets, coupled with my repeated trips to the gym (that also serve as reminders of why I am not NBA material) along with the time I spend milling through articles on the worldwide leader in sports also demonstrate my love for sports as a whole.  I am not alone.  I have come to notice throughout the years that much of our captivation with sports derives first from its sheer entertainment value, which becomes enhanced by its unpredictability.

Moreover sports captivate us because, like other modes of entertainment, they serve as a medium to convey messages of a given society’s mores.  Sports represent intrinsic human traits such as competition, perseverance, determination, passion, teamwork, et cetera.  Consequently, we believe that we might learn a significant amount about an athlete’s character and personality merely by how the athlete plays his/her respective sport.  More particularly, sports in our nation’s culture communicate socially acceptable symbols regarding power, gender roles, race, class, et cetera.

Many sports writers have said similar things. One of whom I read on occasion (Bill Simmons) uses his platform as a popular sports columnist to also discuss, pop culture, in part because of the correlation between how society responds to phenomena within both realms.  Recently one of his readers effectively asked him what five sports-related questions he would want answered if he could have any such questions answered.  In his typical verbose fashion, he offered twenty questions he would want answered when asked for five.  I found his questions amusing for the most part, and they sparked curiosity within me regarding sports in the United States.  Below is my list of sports-related questions for which I would want an honest answer.  Where my questions overlap with his, I indicate as such.  Naturally, I only asked questions I presume a human could answer, so I excluded a litany of hypothetical questions that I mull over at times (e.g. how would Len Bias had fared in the NBA had he not died from his cocaine overdose, what if Bo Jackson had not injured his hip, what would have happened had the Lakers been able to trade Kobe Bryant to the Bulls before the start of the 2008 season, etc.).

Were the rumors that Babe Ruth had readily identifiable African American lineage true?

As reported by Daniel Okrent for Sports Illustrated, no one disputes that Ruth’s maternal grandparents hailed from Germany; however, many have questioned his father’s ancestry despite the fact his father’s family was considered white by those who knew them.  Furthermore, Ruth endured numerous questions of his racial identity during his playing career and was the subject of many vile, virulent taunts.  For instance, Ty Cobb reportedly refused to share a cabin with Ruth on at a hunting lodge in Georgia, saying, “I’ve never bedded down with a [expletive], and I’m not going to start now.”  Opposing bench jockeys also routinely hurled racial epithets at Ruth upon observing his full lips, broad nose and “swarthy complexion.”  Babe Ruth (and his ancestors) lived in an era where passing was more commonplace than society likes to acknowledge.  My question is simple, how much of these rumors were pure conjecture and how much had a foundation in the truth?

Why was Jackie Robinson selected as the first player to reintegrate Major League Baseball?

As many may know, Jackie Robinson was not the first African American to play in the major league (see above).  All jokes aside, African Americans played in the major league until the league implemented a ban in 1887.  Consequently, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 sixty years later in part because Dodgers’ General Manager Branch Rickey determined that the time was right for African Americans to resume playing in major league baseball.  Rickey reportedly considered selecting other players from the Negro Leagues, including—Satchel Paige (the biggest draw and highest-paid player in baseball at the time, was considered too old), Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella—but was convinced his team would rally around a single African American who “had the nerve and the gumption to stand the gaff.”  Therefore, he selected Robinson.  While the nation has retroactively embraced Jackie Robinson as a pioneering hero for shattering racial barriers, some wondered why a second string second baseman would be selected for such a prominent place in history.  Obviously, Robinson’s temperament played an enormous role in his selection, but was he also selected because he would not presumably dominate the major league?


Bill Simmons also asked “Why did Michael Jordan retire from the NBA at the peak of his powers and play baseball for 18 months?” I also would like an answer to that question.

Bill Simmons asked this question, and I also want the answer, “which baseball stars used performance enhancing drugs and how far did it stretch back? Late-1980s? Early 1980s? Mid-1970s? I want the complete list once and for all. Everybody.”

We have heard rumors of involvement of hundreds of players in the performance –enhancing drug scandal, and it seems as though more names emerge each season.  We simply need an exhaustive list once and for all, so that players can be accurately compared and the fibbers can e exposed.

As a follow up, how prevalent is the use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout other professional sports in the United States?

How has Magic Johnson stayed so healthy since his diagnosis?  Are there really no traces of HIV in his blood stream, as he suggests?

Earvin “Magic” Johnson shocked the sports world, and reminded millions of the perils of reckless behavior, when he announced on November 7, 1991 that he had contracted HIV, and would retire from playing basketball.  He had received a call October 24, 1991 from Dr. Michael Mellman, then the Lakers’ team physician, informing Magic that he must meet with him immediately.  They met the following day, and Dr. Mellman informed Johnson he had contracted HIV.  A second test later confirmed the ominous news, and Magic made his announcement after consulting with family and close friends.  At the time, many deemed his diagnosis a death sentence, and most Americans expected to watch the legendary basketball player to wither before their eyes.  Ironically, he fared so well and maintained such pristine health, that he became a symbol to many that HIV and AIDS were not as deadly as advertised.  In the years to follow, he has mounted an ambitious crusade to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS, and debunk myths that HIV and AIDS are innocuous inconveniences.  His wife, Cookie Johnson, once famously proclaimed in an interview with Laura B. Randolph of Ebony Magazine that, “The Lord has definitely healed Earvin,” and there have been other stories circulating that Magic has no detectable signs of HIV in his blood stream.  As a result, scores of people have wondered how has Magic stayed so healthy since his diagnosis nineteen years ago?  Are there really no detectable levels of HIV in his bloodstream?

Was Curt Shillings actually bleeding during Game 2 of the 2004 World Series Game?

In 2004, Curt Shilling, then a Boston Red Sox pitcher, became famous for a red stain on his sock.  He was the Red Sox with a red sock.  A bloodstain appeared Curt Schilling’s right sock as he pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning of Game 2 of the World Series on Oct. 24, 2004.  The Red Sox team doctor reportedly placed stitches in Schilling’s ankle to hold a dislocated tendon in place.  Many (most notably Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne said Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli told him it was paint on the sock rather than blood) have opined that it was a hoax designed to gain Shilling more publicity.  Additionally, many skeptics doubted the authenticity of Schilling’s claim that the stain was indeed blood due to the color of the stain, and because the stain did not grow as he supposedly continued bleeding.  Shilling subsequently issued a $1 million challenge to anyone who could prove his sock did not have blood on it, stating, “If the blood on the sock is fake, I’ll donate a million dollars to that person’s charity, if not they donate that amount to (Schilling’s charities for ALS research),” he wrote. “Any takers?” I would like to know if the whole thing was an elaborate hoax.

What is a good approximation of how much revenue a “superstar” collegiate athlete generates for his (and in some instances her) respective school?

We need to know.  It will be the first step in determine how to appropriately compensate these “student” athletes.

What will it take for the NCAA to implement a playoff system for college football?

It’s time isn’t it?  It would seem most years as the college football season comes to a close there is seemingly controversy on how the two teams slated to appear in the Championship Game were selected.  Notwithstanding, college football fans support the innately flawed system, because it is all they have.  One would believe we would all benefit from allowing teams to face each other head-to-head rather than subjecting teams to the convoluted system of deciding who will play for a championship.

How long was the NFL aware of Brett Farve’s alleged indiscretions prior to conducting its investigation?

Why wasn’t Dominique Wilkins selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame at his first opportunity?

Those who follow basketball know Jacques Dominique Wilkins unequivocally played professional basketball at a Hall of Fame level.  Moreover, he deserved to receive that recognition at the first opportunity (what other professional sports’ league 9th all-time leading scorer was not voted to their respective hall of fame on the first opportunity).  He did not (he was voted in on his second opportunity), despite being a nine-time All-Star, a seven time all-NBA team member, a member of the All-NBA Rookie team and one-time league scoring champion. Is there a reason why other than the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has a flawed method of voting?

Bill asked this question, and it needs an answer: “What happened to LeBron (and to a lesser extent, the Cavaliers as a team) between Games 3 and 6 of the Boston-Cleveland series in 2010?”

Which professional athlete’s private persona is so dramatically different from his/her public persona that it would most shock the general public if they were to learn of it (e.g. Tiger Woods)?

Is there anyone else whose private persona would actually surprise the public if they were to learn about it?

Bill also asked, “What happened exactly in Kobe’s Colorado hotel room in 2003? And how much was the settlement?”

I have my suspicions, but would like a definitive answer.

I would also like to know what exactly happened in that bar bathroom in Ocmulgee, GA between Ben Roethlisberger and his accuser?

See above.

How much of professional sports is predetermined?  Do I want to know the answer to that question?

I believe this one is self-explanatory, yet in the event it is not.  Each professional sport in the United States has fallen subject to speculation that the outcome of its games are (or have been at some point) predetermined, at least in some particular instances (e.g. The Chicago White Sox scandal in major league baseball, the Tim Donahy scandal in the NBA, etc.).  How much of that speculation is true?  How much of it is merely disgruntled fans voicing displeasure after an unfavorable outcome of their team?  Do I really want to know the answer?

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2 Comments »

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