“The fans come in and they take over the city. They’re ruthless. They’re vulgar. They cause trouble. They talk about your family. Swear at you. Who likes that? When people do that, it just gives you more incentive to beat them. Then when things like [the last game of last season] happen, you celebrate even more. You go to St. Louis — classiest fans in the game. You do well, there’s no vulgarity. You know what? You don’t wish them bad.”
“I got to see a priceless thing driving back to my apartment,” Scott said. “I see all the Boston fans walking around, and I mean they were crying crocodile tears. People were like this, walking side by side.”
Scott wrapped his arm around a reporter’s waist and began to wail to demonstrate.
“It was like someone shot their dog. I rolled down the window and I’m like, ‘Ah, hah, sucks doesn’t it, when someone laughs or makes fun of you when things aren’t going your way.’”
Former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy (above) and Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker have joined a chorus of criticism following the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools’ refusal to reschedule the state semi-final hoops contest between Robert M. Beren Academy and the Covenant School of Dallas. The former is an Orthodox Jewish day school and TAPPS have conveniently booked the playoff game to take place on a Friday. From the New York Times’ Mary Pilon :
“It is also my understanding that Tapps teams are not allowed to play any sports on Sundays,” Parker wrote. “Which I presume is out of respect for the Christian Sabbath.”
The organization posted a statement on its Web site on Wednesday that said it was adhering to its bylaws, which were written in the late 1970’s, when “the member schools at that time all recognized Sunday as the day of worship.”
Several of Beren Academy’s opponents this season agreed to change the time of their games to avoid conflicts with the Sabbath — including Our Lady of the Hills, the team from Kerrville that Beren Academy defeated in the regional final. Our Lady of the Hills will replace Beren Academy in the state semifinal game.
“I do understand that Beren was able to reschedule two of its earlier playoff games this postseason,” Parker said in the letter. “It is difficult to comprehend why it is not possible at this stage of the playoffs.”
Jeff Van Gundy, the former coach of the Houston Rockets and the Knicks, said he left a phone message with Tapps representatives this week expressing his concern.
“I called because when you’re the head of an association like this, the only thing you should worry about is doing right by the kids,” Van Gundy said in a phone interview Wednesday. “This decision has nothing to do with the kids. I feel like they made a mistake and they don’t have a vice president of common sense who will tell them that this is silly and it’s O.K. to change your mind.”
(Justin Turner, moments before being presented with an invoice for $24.95)
On Monday, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon greeted players arriving at Port St. Lucie with t-shirts bearing Underdog’s “U” logo, clearly proving for once and all that Jeff and father Fred cannot possibly be broke if they’re handing out such glitzy welcoming gifts. To 3B/lame duck David Wright, however, the gesture sets a tone he’s uncomfortable with, as the New York Post’s Mike Puma reports.
“I don’t really like using the whole Underdog thing,” Wrightsaid. “I don’t like really playing that card, but I think it’s a way to remind everybody in here that the outside expectations aren’t the expectations we have for ourselves.
“But we shouldn’t view ourselves as [underdogs]. We’ll let everybody else view ourselves as that because we kind of know what we’re capable of.”
One Met, who did not want his name used, said he didn’t like the Underdog idea because it gives the team a built-in excuse if it plays poorly. Others are less bothered by Underdog.
“I don’t know how well it’s going to catch on, but at the same time it’s something that why not?” Jason Bay said. “It’s just something to rally around, something to banter about. The T-shirt is not lying. It’s telling the truth.”
Former Indians power-hitter extraordinaire Albert “Don’t Call Me Joey” Belle made a surprise appearance at Cleveland’s Goodyear, AZ spring training camp earlier today, his first contact with the Tribe since leaving the club in 1996 for the White Sox. “I wanted to see the guys. I wanted to rehash some old memories,” Belle told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s Paul Hoynes, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a crying shame Fernando Vina and Hannah Storm couldn’t have been on hand for the reunion.
“When I got hurt in 2000 and couldn’t play in 2001, I was devastated,” said Belle. “I didn’t watch. I didn’t watch any highlights of baseball until Game 7 when the D-Backs won the World Series. I keep up with it now and watch a few games.”
“I’m a stay-at-home Dad,” continued Belle. “I’m Mr. Mom and I golf a lot. I’ll tell you facing David Cone or Roger Clemens was easy compared to being a dad. It seems like all kids get tired and cranky at the same time.”
Not surprisingly, his daughters can swing the bat.
“My wife bought them a little t-ball set,” said Belle. “They love to go hit t-ball. I’d like them to play golf or tennis, but they’d rather hit the t-ball.”
Belle didn’t think there was a problem between the Indians and him.
“I thought the fences were already mended,” said Belle. “That was a long time ago. That’s the thing about free agency. It can create some bad feelings. I would have loved to play with these guys (Lofton, Baerga and Alomar) another five to 10 years. It didn’t work that way. But we’ve all gone on to have some success.”
Jack took particular aim at Minnesota rookie Derrick Williams calling him out for riding on the back of a motorcycle that he eventually (and lamely) jumped over.
He also made reference to Williams “cash register mouth” an apparent dig at the rookie’s underbite.
Williams responded in kind first pretending he didn’t know who Jack was and then suggesting “All I know is come draft night. That team lookin for a point guard.”
Williams checked himself after that saying he had to chill out. Jack eventually suggested Williams had to stop taking things so seriously, that he was only having some fun. But it didn’t sound like fun for either.
“Fifty years later, do we really want to be the only team in the league with even a question about the appropriateness of our name? Can’t we at least talk about that, without somebody wanting to start a fight for goodness sake?”
WRC’s Jim Vance is no Tom Ellis. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Contradicting a recent report by dogged detractor Howard Megdal claiming the Mets were no closer to finding new silent investors than they were months ago, owner Fred Wilpon told journalists at Port St. Lucie this morning that he’s lined up a number of new passive partners (if you count Jeff Wilpon and SNY), along with claiming, “there shouldn’t be concern about us owning the franchise…As long as I can, I plan to be the owner here.” From the New York Daily News’ Peter Botte :
“When I said two years ago that the Mets weren’t affected by the Madoff thing, I was telling the truth, because we weren’t (being) sued then. This was prior to the (Irving Picard) suit. Did it affect it? Sure,” Wilpon said. “It’s been a motion picture.
“But there was a point when the suit was almost three times what it is now, so it seems to be going hopefully in the right direction.”
Like Reyes last year, David Wright will play this season with an expiring contract and the possibility he will be traded before he hits free agency. Wilpon added that Wright’s situation “is not tied to” the Madoff proceedings.
“My intention is always to follow the baseball people in spite of what you all say that we run the baseball department. Sandy Alderson has a great feel for this, so does Terry, and if it works out, I’ll be thrilled,” Wilpon said. “There’s no finer guy, he’s just a very fine young man…and we’d be proud to have him as a son.”
Wilpon also was asked if the Mets’ finances will affect whether he authorizes Alderson to add payroll if the Mets are in contention.
“I would tell you let’s see how this team plays, and let’s see what we need,” he said, before adding of Alderson, “I don’t think I would’ve chosen anybody (as GM) that would’ve had a different philosophy. I was tired of throwing money at something and not getting the success.”
Not The Sniveling Shits, mind you. I’m not sure who was hoping for a hybrid of “Knight School”, “(Non)-Celebrity Rehab”, “Scared Straight” and the former Ultimate Warrior’s unique brand of life lessons, but if this catches on, I look forward to the entire Victory roster signing up.
Upon Andre Ethier reporting to Spring Training yesterday, an encounter with Southern California baseball scribes turned testy in a hurry. Not bird-flipping ugly, but awkward enough, reports the LA Times’ Dylan Hernandez, who described the Dodgers outfielder as “particularly impatient with questions regarding his increasingly uncertain future.”
Ethier wasn’t smiling. His face was expressionless. He didn’t say much. Whatever he said, he said quickly.
“I’m just giving you honest-truth answers,” he said. “I’m not your buddy, you’re not my buddy. We’re not going to sit here and have a bar-top conversation.”
Ethier wouldn’t say whether he would be open to negotiating a contract extension during the season with a new ownership group should the Dodgers be sold.
“It’s not my decision to make,” he said.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said when asked about Don Mattingly’s assertion that his temper resulted in 100 wasted at-bats.
Told that fans probably wanted to hear more from him, Ethier replied: “I’m here today to prepare hard, play to win and help the team win and that’s my ultimate goal. You’ll hear from the training staff if I’m not ready to go.”
Magic megastar Dwight Howard is in the awkward position of being the defacto host of the ongoing NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando, while making no secret of desire to find a new, more competitive place of employ in the near future. Though it’s generally assumed the Magic have little chance of retaining Superman beyond this June, the New York Post’s Peter Vecsey suggests firing head coach Stan Van Gundy might improve relations, even though, “it’s decidedly dubious whether the hypersensitive Howard could take the withering global grief” were the journalist’s advice actually taken by the team.
It’s no secret Howard (and others) is dying to distance himself from the sound of Stan Van Gundy’s tedious screeching. Might management be willing to sacrifice a measly coach to accommodate their centrifugal force?
It certainly wouldn’t be a franchise first. Owner Richard DeVos approved Brian Hill’s firing when Penny Hardaway led an uprising, ignited the previous season by Shaquille O’Neal, whose mantra to management was, “We can’t get to the next level with this guy” and advocated the hiring of Chuck Daly.
Superstars slaying coaches is as old as Sparta. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon might want to raise that theme in an upcoming round table discussion, considering such an authority as Magic Johnson is on the panel.
If Madge could get Paul Westhead dumped, and he’d overseen a Lakers’ championship one season, a lost mini-series, and 11 (7-4) games prior, and later had outsized input into Pat Riley’s eviction following four titles, surely Howard has some sway/leverage regarding the retention of a coach (and GM, for that matter) who so far has supervised a single Finals appearance.
(what, you were expecting he’d be pen pals with Eerie Von?)
Full credit this Sunday morning to the Newark Star-Ledger’s Andy McCullough, who has accomplished the near-impossible ; in discussing Jason Bay’s musical preferences, gig-going history (beating the traffic before the end of a Metallica show, attending a 1996 Rage Against The Machine performance described as, “I couldn’t have picked a more raucous concert to go to,”) and virtual friendship with Eddie Vedder, the Mets’ underachieving left-fielder comes off as uncooler than he did previously. Which is saying something. Unless and until Mike Piazza starts blogging about who he’d save if Dream Theatre and King’s X were both drowning at the same time, it will take some doing to top the following cringe-worthy exchange.
1. So how did you get to know Vedder? Sean Casey, who’s a diehard Pearl Jam fan, he’s hung out with Eddie numerous times. When I got traded to Boston, we played a game and that night Eddie was playing somewhere in Boston on his solo tour. And he signed this poster, “Hey, Jason, welcome to the Red Sox.” And then Casey gave me his number. So we text back and forth.
2. Were you nervous when you first met? I’ve never met him. I’ve never actually technically met him. And that’s the funny part. Casey was like, “Hey, here’s his number, he said text him.” So he was like “Hey, sounds good man. If I’m ever up in Seattle recording . . .” He’s never up there. He’s got a lot going on. I’m probably the last person [on his mind]. “Oh, I’ve got to call Jason Bay!”
3. So you’re e-migos? Absolutely. Our avatars hang out.
4. So what do you text about? Randomly, I saw he got married. “Hey, congrats.” “Hey, thanks, man. Heard you had a baby.” Stuff like that. “Hey, you’re album’s coming out tomorrow. I need new walkup music. Anything good?” And he was like, ‘Not going to help you there, bud. It’s all ukulele.”
Valentine once got ripped by the New York press (me, included) for suggesting Mets star Todd Hundley “needed more sleep,” which was actually a kind way of saying that he stayed out too late, which is a kind way of saying he should maybe drink a bit less. Hundley was a really nice man, but Valentine was right (yes, I was wrong). Hundley still is a great guy, but everyone around that team knew he should have drank less.
Valentine was lambasted at the time by Hundley’s enabling agents, the Levinson brothers, who should have realized Valentine was right and gotten their client to sleep more. The agents should have thanked Valentine for caring about Hundley but instead to this day carry on a behind-the-scenes campaign against Valentine over his kind euphemisms. Not nice.
In this case, no one could argue with Valentine, unless not publicly. Red Sox star David Ortiz told Dan Roche of WBZ-FM, “We’re not here to drink. We’re here to play baseball. It ain’t a bar.”
Anyway, Valentine isn’t afraid to do what’s unpopular. Asked how his decision was received at today’s team meeting, Valentine said, “Do you mean was it a standing ovation or booing.”
Enormously successfully Madonna tribute artist Lady Gaga’s interest in the Grand Olde Game is well documented — it was only two years ago the pop star made an appearance in the Yankee clubhouse, followed shortly afterwards by a controversial visit to Citi Field. So it should come as little surprise that in the latest issue of V Magazine, the former Stephanie Germanotta tackles the subject of Tracy Ringolsby least favorite film since “Lottery Ticket”.
I lay down on the airplane back from Japan, tossing around some dashi, fondling my pearls. I watched the movie Moneyball for the first time. I began to laugh and smile as [Brad] Pitt talked romantically about the game. I suddenly imagined that my pearls were teeny-tiny baseballs. When a player hits a home run, the baseball is flung into an abyss of enigma and screams so great. It travels so far that only rarely is one caught in the bleachers. Where do these balls go? Where do all these wins get encased? Are they in a heavenly baseball land floating around for players who pass to acknowledge? Or do they disappear?
By the end of the film, we discover the truth about winning from our hero. It only matters if you’ve changed the game. Being kicked in the teeth is par for the course for this kind of win, a win that not only pisses off the team you’ve beat, but every other team, their coaches, owners, and even some of the greatest baseball players of all time. You’ve made your own set of rules and gone so far on your own talent, no one can possibly crack the truth behind your wins. You were either lucky or were cheating. Nobody likes the game that they’ve won over and over again to change.
….to say nothing of my efforts to remain the laziest pseudo-sports blogger in North America. I know it’s easy to sneer at younger folks waiting outside shopping malls for overpriced sneakers, but if you told me other coveted goods were up for grabs inside one of these suburban monuments to materialism, who’s to say I’d not be on the receiving end of a truncheon beat-down, too?
As mentioned far and wide, Ryan Braun no longer has a 50 game suspension hanging over his head after an arbitration panel nullfied his MLB-imposed PED penalty. Reached for comment by The Star’s Brendan Kennedy, former World Anti-Doping Association head Dick Pound (above) argues the reigning NL MVP got off, “on a very thin legal technicality that has no substantive value at all,” (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)
“He’s running around saying that he’s cleared is a misstatement,” insisted Pound. “Anybody who’s at all neutral in this is going to say, ‘Well, he dodged a bullet with that.’ ”
“This is a 20:1 ratio (of testosterone to epitestosterone) — give me a … break,” Pound said, adding that storing the sample in a fridge over a weekend would not change its contents.
“There was no sign of any tampering, so I don’t understand how a properly formed independent panel could come to the conclusion that that invalidated the test,” Pound said. “It’s not sitting there in the fridge generating false testosterone.”
Pound said Major League Baseball should review its contract with its players regarding performance-enhancing drugs in order to close any loopholes that may be there. But he blames Das, the independent arbitrator, not the league, for what he believes was the wrong decision.
“Frankly, (Das) should have had more sense or more judgment.”
When he wasn’t quoting scripture (and lines from that great religious epic, “The Waterboy”, Rangers OF Josh Hamilton told an assembled Spring Training media throng earlier today that he’s not inclined to let his recent alcohol relapse diminish his bargaining power with Texas. From the Dallas Morning News’ Evan P. Grant :
“The Rangers have done great things for me,” Hamilton said. “Let me ask you a question: Have I done great things for the Rangers? I think I’ve given everything I had. This is still a business. It’s the entertainment business, but it’s still a business.
“I love Texas. I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love everything about it. But I’m not going to sit here and say that I owe the Rangers. I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers.”
Hamilton was asked if he would reward himself a long-term contract, if he had the opportunity to decide.
“It’s not for me to make that decision,” Hamilton said. “I hate that this happened. They have been very good to me. But I know I will play baseball. I know God has taken care of me and provided for my family. I’m not going to just jump at whatever might be the first thing offered me. I’m confident in my sobriety. I’m confident in my family’s support. I’m here and I’m going to play baseball.”
J.R. Smith tallied 14 points off the bench in the Knicks’ 102-88 loss in Miami Thursday, but it’s a far more audacious sum that’s making headlines this week, as NIUBBall.com claims the former Nuggets SG accumulated fines in the 7-digit territory during his NBA lockout-inspired stint in China this year (link swiped from Yahoo’s Eric Freeman).
According to a report published by NetEase, Smith had US $1.06 million deducted from his salary over the course of the season for missing practices. Most of the missed practices came during pre-season while his team, Zhejiang Chouzhou, was getting ready for the start of the regular season. The sum was deducted from his salary, a final number that represented about one-third of his total salary.
Zhejiang Chouzhou general manager, Zhao Bing, said that the team was simply enforcing a clause in Smith’s signed contract and that the team gave him ample warning throughout.
“This was the arrangement when he came to the team,” said Zhao. “Every practice we let him know. If he expressed to us that he wasn’t going to come to practice, we’d tell him that in accordance with our contract, we’re deducting money from your salary. And he’d always get back to us with, ‘Whatever. If you’re going to take it, then just take it.’”
The article adds that Zhao Bing repeatedly told J.R. about the seriousness of the situation, but that he continued with the attitude that it was an unimportant issue for him.
Someone familiar with the decision said the appeal went Braun’s way not so much on contesting the result of the test but the testing process itself, some kind of technicality. And it was arbitrator Shyam Das who decided to rule in favor on that technicality, making it a 2-1 decision by the three-man panel.
It is my understanding that MLB officials are not pleased with how this played out and will be making a statement in support of the drug testing process. And they indeed have put out a statement saying they “vehemently disagree” with the arbitrator’s decision.
A source familiar with MLB’s drug policy indicated there were only a few ways to overturn a positive test, such as proving a chain-of-custody issue, a flaw in the collection process or providing proof that the player’s team signed off on the substance. Otherwise, the “strict liability” aspect of the policy makes it extremely difficult to exonerate a player.
Apparently, Braun won his appeal by contesting something in the process itself.
Tampa police pulled over Dukes’ orange Chevy Camaro for a routine traffic stop at Nebraska and Sligh avenues at 1:08 a.m. today, according to an arrest report.
When officers approached him, they saw flakes of marijuana on Dukes’ shirt, the report said. Dukes, 27, who played for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2007, was also trying to eat a small bag of pot, police said.
Dukes, of 5528 Liberty Plain Circle, Tampa, was charged with tampering with physical evidence, possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis, possession of drug paraphernalia and three counts of driving with a canceled or suspended license, according to the sheriff’s office.
Thank you, thespian powerhouse Rich Johnston for the heads up about the existence of the above, forthcoming motion picture. I’m no Pauline Kael, but from this vantage point, Rich and colleague Matt Horseshit have already managed a more impressive filmography than Chris Issak and John Taylor combined.
“No one has ever seen the president of this league do what I did tonight. That’s leadership.” That’s how Westside Baseball President / coach John Kelly describes his taking his lumps over an ill-advised Facebook post following the passing of Whitney Houston (above). ““I could have gone up there and said, ‘kiss my ass,’ ” argues Kelly to the Oaklawn Patch’s Lorraine Swanson, though that’s sort of what he’s doing after the fact.
Kelly told Patch that he made the comment out of frustration that Houston, who publicly battled drug addiction throughout her singing career, was being elevated as children’s role model by the news media.
“I’m so sick if reading about this dumb stupid N—– Whitney Houston..she’s the dumb ass that decided to do drugs n kill herself stay with that woman beater … she blew more $$ up her nose than most of ye will make in yer lifetime … there are kids dying real fathers n mothers fighting for their lives…grow up ye dumb assess…think she’d give a flying f— about u???? Just saying.”
Kelly, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2008 Democratic primary for Cook County Recorder of Deeds, admits to posting the comment on his Facebook page.
“I made the comment,” he said. “I had a bunch of friends and cousins making comments about Whitney Houston. I’m sorry I did it. I deleted the post and then I went and apologized. I apologized 100 times over. This is a personal vendetta against me.”
“We’ve fought wars for the right of freedom of speech,” he continued. “It’s my personal Facebook page. I put stupid stuff on there.”
You might think after paying Albert Pujols more money than God, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim would run marketing ideas past their otherworldly first baseman for approval. And you might also suspect, that if said team erected billboards around Southern California that offended the recently acquired slugger, Pujols would have something to say about it a little sooner than weeks after they went up. But you and me are just naive like that, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derick Gold outlines ;
It was with some surprise in the past month that the Angels — clearly tone deaf to Pujols’ past public comments — started advertising Pujols and the Angels on billboards around the Anaheim area with the back of his jersey and a simple over-sized phrase: “El Hombre.”
“I prefer not to use that,” Pujols said earlier today, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I still have the same respect for Stan Musial as I had, not just for what he’s done in baseball but for what he did for his country. That’s something you have to appreciate.”
“El Hombre” is Spanish for “The Man,” and “The Man” is a nickname given Musial during his playing career by the fans in Brooklyn. It has stuck, and is now even part of the name for Musial’s business, Stan The Man, Inc.
It appears that the Angels constructed and implemented the campaign without discussing it with Pujols. The three-time MVP had warmed somewhat (or, at least accepted its inevitability) to the nickname at one point later in his career with the Cardinals, though as recently as early last season he reminded a reporter about his request not to go by “El Hombre.”
According to the ESPNLosAngeles.com report, the Angels consider “El Hombre” “one prong” of a larger campaign.
As Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban suggested last week, Lin is getting a ton of attention not just because his is a great story, but also because he plays in the media capital of the world, and in this capital, Lin has had the town to himself since his run began. Which is why it’s going to be interesting to see if his exploits continue to be headlined after New Yorkers start hearing news about Joba Chamberlain’s surgically repaired right arm, A-Rod’s troubled knees and Derek Jeter’s battle with age.
Baseball may be ho-hum in some places, but this is still very much a pinstriped city. Yes, fans here love an underdog and a winner, but history suggests that nothing in sports surpasses Manhattan’s obsession with the Yankees. The Knicks, thanks to Lin, are the hot team. The New York Rangers are among the Stanley Cup favorites and the New York Giants just won the Super Bowl. But make no mistake, the Yankees are the big bully here in Manhattan and opening day is just six weeks away.
I’m gonna assume Gumbel actually converses with however many New Yorkers he can actually stomach to make eye contact with, and unless he’s living in a very different city than the one I’m familiar with, 100% of the population aren’t baseball fans. Of those who are partial to baseball, a healthy percentage — despite the best efforts of a bumbling, incompetent, unethical Brooklyn Dodgers-obsessed family — are more interested in the New York Mets. And others still, manage to follow more than one sport at one time.
All of that said, if Lin continues to rack up double-doubles and the Knicks play anywhere near the level they’ve managed since his emergence, it’s hardly a stretch to think the team will remain a very hot topic. During the playoff runs of the 1990′s, do you recall interest in baseball stifling local enthusiasm for either Knicks squad? Me neither. For decades we’ve been told that NYC is a hoops city. If you’re to believe Bryant Gumbel, this long-standing love affair takes a back seat… to Joba Chamberlain’s rehabilitation.
Early in the season, there was a game when Kyle [Orton] got hurt and the coaches were calling for me to go in, but Kyle got up and finished the game out. So I was the second-string guy. Then, a few weeks later, they decided to put Tim in. I felt like the fans had a lot to do with that. Just ’cause they were chanting his name. There was a big calling for him. No, I didn’t have any billboards. That would have been nice.
If you look at it as a whole, there’s a lot of things that just don’t seem very humble to me. When I get that opportunity, I’ll continue to lead not necessarily by trying to get in front of the camera and praying but by praying with my teammates, you know?
I’m sure when the CFL or an indoor football league come calling, Quinn’s promise to engage in low-key prayer will weigh heavily in where he ends up on the depth chart.
Former Clippers reprobate Keith Closs (or someone pretending to be him) once made a brief public statement in this space, refuting David Roth’s claim the former had once signed an autograph for a child, “Fuck Tha World, Keith Closs”. “It’s only so obvious that you don’t know me and probably never will,” wrote Closs (or his self-appointed spokesperson), though it seems Slam’s Matt Caputo has been granted more humble insights. “Nobody disrespected the game of basketball like I did,” declares a contrite, working-on-sobriety Closs, who apparently has never watched the celebrity game during All-Star Weekend.
During the ’99-00 season, his last in the NBA, Closs felt alienated from his teammates. He had verbal altercations with Michael Olowokandi and Maurice Taylor and skipped practice when he was hung over. He also took his drinking to a new level. Closs says he started mixing alcohol in his water bottle that last go-round. He’d sometimes pop open emergency exits at the Staples Center at halftime to smoke marijuana in uniform. He says he even passed the blunt to a late-arriving fan one time. In the decade-plus since his last NBA game, Closs says he has come to understand why his name was tarnished around the League.
“I was out there dunking on dudes smelling like three bars, then they’d take me out and I would refresh my water bottle,” Closs says.
One memorable and telling incident occurred during the ’04-05 season, when a bottle-tapping, blunt-smoking Closs played for the now-defunct CBA Rockford Lightning under coach Chris Daleo. Rockford’s bus picked Closs up at a highway rest area outside Detroit en route to a game in Birch Run, MI. That night the Lightning lost to the Great Lakes Storm and Closs never returned to his hotel room after the game. The next morning, he was found heavily intoxicated and asleep underneath a police Christmas tree. “I was the biggest gift the Lansing Police Department ever got! There wasn’t shit to do but get drunk in those cities,” Closs says. “Even the residents said so.”