Szwaja's Sports Blog

Monday, November 28, 2005

One of the first things you learn in Journalism 150 is that you're not supposed to interview your friends. Looking back on it, that wasn't really bad advice. As a young journalist looking to make your mark, you have to branch out and really get into the minds of strangers. You can't make it by talking to your roommate, your roommate's aunt and your biology TA. That said, I'm totally against completely outlawing interviewing friends. Sometimes friends can offer great insight. And other times, more importantly, you have to consider the built-in level of respect that can come with sitting down to speak with a friend.

I can illustrate that point by detailing Dan Patrick's interview with Michael Irvin on Monday afternoon during Patrick's radio show. Patrick and Irvin are friends. Both work for ESPN, and Irvin makes frequent appearances on the show. He even has his own intro that goes something like this, "It's time for the Playmaker on the Dan Patrick Radio Show..." As we all read over this past weekend, Irvin was arrested in Texas on Friday for possession of drug paraphanalia, more specifically, a crack pipe.

Usually, Patrick and Irvin talk about the weekend's games, the Monday night game and the upcoming weekend's games. Not Monday. Monday they talked about how that crack pipe ended up under the driver seat of Irvin's car. The Playmaker went on to tell this sappy story about his friend who has been battling drug addiction and how he took the pipe from this friend when he found it on him. He said he was planning on throwing it into the Dumpster at the grocery store because in Dallas if you're a celebrity, "people check your garbage," Irvin said. After Irvin finished telling his story, which sounded more like the script for a made for TV movie, Patrick said what no other journalist could have said.

He sat silent for a moment, and as a listener, I envisioned Patrick just staring at Irvin, who was there in the studio with Patrick. Then Patrick went into a story of his own, a story that revealed his father was an alcoholic who always seemed to have an excuse or some other reason why he needed to drink. He then told Irvin he couldn't believe that story unless Irvin went straight to the ESPN drug testing center and took the test to clear his name.

"I'll do everything I can to clear my name, Dan," Irvin said.

"So you're going to take the test?" Patrick asked.

"I don't know the legalities, Dan," Irvin said. "I'll have to call my lawyer."

Translation: I don't want to take a chance, Dan. I could very well fail that test.

Patrick put on the press. He wanted Irvin to agree to take that test, and Irvin wasn't ready to bite. Then, seemingly without any reason to do so, Irvin tried to justify his past (and present?) drug problems. He went off on this tangent about what he called a "generational curse," which he said is detailed in the Bible. He noted that his father, his uncles, his brother and he himself have been subjected to this curse, because all have had drug problems. He said there was nothing any of them could have done about it. He noted that this "generational curse" is explained in the Bible. More on this later...

Anyway, Irvin left the studio and Patrick wasn't finished. He mentioned to Keith Olberman, who now appears on the show every day starting at one o'clock, that he wanted to believe Irvin but simply couldn't. He again mentioned his father, and took it a step further.

"Alcoholics and druggies are the best liars in the world," Patrick said.

He went on to explain that people with drug addictions always have an excuse, that they always have someone or something else to blame for their problems. Without even knowing it, Irvin dug himself an even deeper hole with his faith-based story. Suddenly, it wasn't his fault he was a druggie. It was some hereditary defect that's explained in the Bible. He had no control over himself, there was no stopping him. Sounds to me like Irvin's still got problems.

The point I opened this blog with was that it's not wrong in certain situations for friends to interview friends in journalistic settings. I like that point, but it's not why I decided to sit down and write this blog. I'm not a Michael Irvin fan. I hate Jerry Jones. I hate the Cowboys. I hate their stupid uniforms. I didn't mind Emmit Smith until he broke the career touchdown record, ripped off his helmet in the endzone and posed for the cameramen, which is the reason why, to this day, NFL players cannot voluntarily remove their helmets while on the field without being assessed a 15-yard penalty. So, yeah, I hate Smith. I hate that stadium. I hate the stupid mascot. I just don't like 'dem Cowboys.

And even though I hate the Cowboys, Irvin's appearance on the Dan Patrick Radio Show would make my stomach turn no matter who was talking into that mic. There's no doubt in my mind after hearing Irivn's excuses that he's still on drugs. I'm sure there are thousands, millions of people out there that just can't give it up like Irvin. But none of those people talk to me in the form of football programs on ESPN every weekend. I don't have any type of connection to those people like I have with Irvin. He's my example. And as bad as it sounds, I look at and listen to Irvin and think, I'm never going to let any drug screw me up like drugs have screwed this guy up. It's kind of like that movie Blow. I remember guys in high school who everyone knew did the magic snow plastering the movie poster up inside their lockers because they loved the movie. I always found that kind of ironic because that movie's message was that drugs screw you up more than you can imagine. After I saw Blow, I promised myself never to touch the stuff. It inspired me to stay clean. Now, I never considered doing cocaine or any drug before I saw the film, but that movie sealed the deal: never, under any circumstance, would I do drugs. Michael Irvin reinvigorated that sentiment on Monday.

Irvin is the only one fooling himself. Current druggie or not, he still doesn't get it. He's blaming his problems on some curse that is he says is in the Bible. How whacky does that sound? Like I said before, I can't stand Michael Irvin, but he serves his purpose. Just listening to him talk about his drug problem is the perfect example of how bad drugs can mess with your mind. Stay cool, my friends.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Random thoughts from last night's Bulls game in Portland...

The Bulls aren't playing defense like a Scott Skiles team usually plays defense. They will get better, so I'm not too worried. But in a much-improved Eastern Conference they better step up real quick or John Paxson will be hoping for some ping-pong ball luck at the NBA Draft Lottery this summer.

Sebastian Telfair, who the hell do you think you are? I've only seen bits and pieces of Telfair's game, but what I've seen has been pretty impressive. Still, Telfair will never be Jason Kidd. He'll never be John Stockton. Etc. There was Telfair last night making play after play, then deciding it was cool to show up his opponents on the way back down the floor. If you didn't see the game, I'll try and put his actions in words. You know that look 50-Cent has when he kind of pushes his upper lip upward with his lower lip and nods his head. That's what Telfair was doing to Kirk Hinrich and Co. last night. Since you decided to skip out on college all together, Sebastian, learn a few lessons before it's too late: have fun on the floor, but don't act like you're Stephon Marbury, or you'll end up as a cocky, overrated, no-good point guard who can't lead his team to the top of the standings, a la Marbury. Remember, Marbury left New Jersey and they went to the top. Marbury left Phoenix and they went to the top. That's no coincidence, trust me, Sebastian.

It's not about how bad you school Ben Gordon in the seventh game of an 82-game season. It's not about how cool your unnecessary no-look pass to Theo Ratliff looked. It's not about how bad-ass you look while staring down Jannero Pargo as you delay getting back to play defense.

It's all about penetrating past your defender every time you get the chance to do so ... in all 82 games ... and acting like you've done it before. It's about finding the open man. It doesn't have to be pretty. It's about playing defense. If you noticed, Telfair made some things happen on the offensive end of the floor last night, but Hinrich and Gordon made him look like a pansy on the other end.

Speaking of Hinrich, he's not playing very well right now, yet he's still so solid. When he finally starts playing like Captain Kirk, he should fit right in as the out of place white guy on the floor during the second weekend in February.

Andres Nocioni is shaping up as quite the find. All of a sudden, Nocioni is a shooter, to go along with his energy, defense and nastiness. Meanwhile, Luol Deng can't seem to find the nylon when he gets outside 15 feet. Deng is at his best when he's attacking the basket, and he seems to be getting worse as a shooter. You have to wonder if the wrist is still a factor.

Michael Sweetney one-ups Eddy Curry across the board as far as this Bulls fan is concerned. Remember when Skiles was asked last season what Curry had to do to become a better rebounder? "Jump." That was all Skiles had to offer, and I thought it was one of the best, most up-front answers any coach had ever given concerning one of his players. Curry didn't jump. He just kind of watched. Sweetney isn't an All-Star rebounder, but he jumps, throws his arms around and fights. The only thing Curry ever fought for was a call from a referee. Sweets has better touch around the basket, and he can hit the occasional 18-foot jumper. Curry couldn't, and still can't, throw a pass to someone standing 18 feet away. And, lastly, Sweetney can catch the ball. Again, Curry couldn't, and still can't, catch a beach ball if you threw it his way. Right now, I miss Antonio Davis more than I miss Curry.

Then there's the other twin tower of yesteryear, Tyson Chandler, who grabbed seven rebounds and added four points in Portland. Those are some serious $62-million man numbers, huh? And don't forget this telling stat: Chandler averages less than one block per game. We all know TC isn't a scorer, but Pax is paying the man to block shots and grab rebounds. Chandler's not earning his cash right now. The only positive: I don't think we have to worry about him hitting all those incentives in that heavy contract of his.

In closing I'll offer another positive: Sebastian Telfair, yeah, he's not a Bull, so we've got that going for us, Bulls fans. It could be worse. You'll see, trust me.