During this ultra-slow time in sports, we aren’t left with much. As injury news and racial slurs (Riley Cooper) dominate our headlines, college and pro football can’t come soon enough. I do, however, have a couple of thoughts on some of the aforementioned topics:
-I’ve never been quiet about my allegiance to the University of Florida. I follow the football program about as closely as one man can, so trust me when I say Percy Harvin’s recent hip injury could actually serve as a blessing in disguise for the Seattle Seahawks (until now, when I unmask it). For as dynamic and valuable as Percy’s always been, the guy has forever had major durability issues. He struggled to stay consistently healthy during his time in Gainesville and he’s continued to deal with nagging injuries and migraine issues since then, too…Percy’s appeared in all 16 games in a season only once. The assumption I’m making here is that Percy’s hip surgery will keep him out, but not for the entire season, and if I’m a Seattle fan, I’d rather lose him early than late. A fresh Percy in Week 12 and beyond is exactly what the Seahwaks need to win a Super Bowl…it’s also something I don’t believe is be possible if Percy’s healthy and active during Week 1.
-Sticking with former Gators, I hated to see Riley Cooper making headlines this week for a less-than-positive reason. The word he used should not be used by anyone, blacks included (I’ll come back to this). Even worse, when you consider the hurtful intent with which he used the racial slur, the incident looks all the more damning. Still, I say I hated to see Cooper make the wrong type of headlines not because he’s a Gator, but because from what I’ve observed (from the outside) over the years he’s actually a pretty good guy. He’s played and been friends with black football and baseball players his entire life, comes from a healthy home, and has always been among the most popular athletes on his teams. Considering the above, I very seriously doubt Riley Cooper is a racist, and I truly believe he deserves a second chance. Those calling for his job in Philly need to hit the breaks. Remember, the Eagles currently employ Michael Vick, a black football player who has not only publically forgiven Riley, but also one who is currently taking advantage of a second chance he received. To an extent, I defended Vick during his notorious controversy, just as I’m defending Cooper now. Of course, what Cooper said was regrettable. In fact, it was more than that: it was stupid, it was disgusting, it was filled with hate. But don’t forget, when alcohol and confrontation are thrown into the equation, people don’t always represent their best selves. And if we can trust words at all these days, Riley’s apology was as sincere and heartfelt as they come. In fact, I believe this incident has hurt and embarrassed Cooper as much as anyone (Of course, unlike others, his pain is self inflicted). We should also take this moment to consider the extent to which some members of the black community – many of Cooper’s teammates included – have normalized the word. I wrote above that no one should use the word, blacks included, not because they don’t have the right, but because it perpetuates a damaging message: that context here matters, and that using the word can at times be OK. I’m part of the Jewish community, one that knows a negative stereotype or two. And sometimes within that community, there’s a sense that Jews themselves can employ these stereotypes, precisely BECAUSE they are Jewish. I, however, have never agreed with this approach. If I even jokingly reference Jewish stereotypes, it tells others, non-Jews included, that using them in the right setting isn’t really that bad, when in fact doing so can have an extremely dangerous impact down the line. Likewise, when blacks use the “N” word in daily language, it keeps the word alive, works to blunt its historically harsh significance, and sends all sorts of harmful messages to outsiders everywhere. If Cooper’s mistake is to teach us anything, it’s that certain words are just too hurtful to mess around with.
-Moving on to a lighter note, the PGA Championship starts next week, which means the golfing world will once again be watching to see if Tiger Woods can add to his Majors count. Speaking of Tiger, Justin Hanover and I discussed the all-time great on 790 radio last weekend and I made what I think is a pretty interesting comparison. In a way, Tiger’s career arc reminds me a bit Mike Tyson’s. In his prime, Tyson was dominant in the ring. He was so scary, in fact, that Tyson often won fights before they even started. The intimidation factor during his prime was huge, that is until he lost to Buster Douglas. From then on, after the world saw he was destructible, it was all downhill...the edge was gone. In the same way, when Woods was at his best, he had a certain aura about him. Sure, Tiger’s golf game was the best, but golfers themselves have also admitted they truly feared him. No one wanted to be paired with the guy, and few believed they could actually beat him when it counted most. But with marital issues in 2009 and numerous injuries since, Tiger, too, has lost his edge. And while he’s currently ranked No. 1 in the world, he hasn’t won another major since the ’09 fiasco and often appears tense on the biggest stages, in the most demanding moments (when he was formerly the best). Like Tyson, Tiger no longer intimidates before the whistle, and it’s hurt his game after it.
-Charlie Strong and Louisville finished off last season with a bang, embarrassing Florida in the Sugar Bowl. With that and the team’s soft schedule in mind, many have predicted a monster season for the Cardinals, with words like “undefeated” getting tossed around. Well Strong’s team got even stronger this week when former Auburn RB, and National Champion, Michael Dyer joined the fray. The 22-year-old Dyer has had his off-field issues, and took a unique route to Louisville, but no one can question his skill with the ball in his hands, rushing for 1,242 yards in 2011. Louisville already has two nice options at RB – Senorise Perry and Dominique Brown – but Dyer is a difference maker and will certainly make this year’s Cardinals even tougher to deal with.
-Finally, despite few headlines, Joe Dumars has quietly had himself a nice summer in Detroit. The team drafted Georgia SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, signed Josh Smith for reasonable money, and traded for PG Brandon Jennings earlier in the week. Of course, the Pistons aren’t title contenders just yet, but a franchise that was recently among the least relevant in the NBA now seems to be on the rise. A future starting five that includes Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe (though he’s set to become a free agent in 2014), Josh Smith, KCP and Brandon Jennings at least now deserves our attention.
OK, that’s all the captivating insight I’ve got for now, but if you’re interested in doing so, you're more than welcome to follow me on Twitter @BrainTrain9. Until next time…stay cool and keep reading…