Two former NBAers are vying for the mayoralties of two of America’s largest cities. In Detroit, former Piston Dave Bing just picked up the endorsement of the Free Press, and in Seattle former Sonic and Washington State Cougar James Donaldson announced his candidacy.
Obviously, it’s Bing who, if victorious, has the toughest, most impossible job ahead:
Detroit’s problem is rooted in the transformation that the US economy is undergoing.
Old manufacturing regions such as this have been declining for some time.
There is a budget crisis. Rising unemployment and population loss have reduced the amount of tax revenue coming in. Vehicle sales are falling in an area whose economy is dominated by the so-called “Big Three” car manufacturers. House prices have been tumbling.
In Detroit, the population too has been falling for years. In the middle of the last century almost two million people lived in the city. Today it is less than a million, as people have moved out to the suburbs.
Detroit’s challenge is to manage the loss of people, jobs and revenue, without allowing the city to fall further into despair. It is a tough job.
What happens when you spice the European basketball championships with some Baltic hostilities?
First the Lithuanians threatened to walk off the court for good with two minutes to play because of suspicions about the refereeing, then the third-place Croats did walk off the medal stand and out of the arena just before their former countrymen, the Yugoslavs, were about to receive their gold medals.
As the flags rose and a small marching band attempted to play the Yugoslav national anthem, the rambunctious Greek crowd booed the winners, as they had booed them for much of the game. The boos drowned out the anthem, just as politics ended up drowning out the basketball.
A thought-provoking quote from Celtics guard Ray Allen on LeBron James:
“Mike (Michael Jordan) paved the way for all of us to open up the endorsement door. But the one thing that Mike never was is political. I think in today’s era, the NBA player has an even greater podium if he chooses to use it. And with Barack Obama being the first black president, it’s a great forum. I think that would separate him from anybody who’s done this. … It’s great to be a basketball player, but to transcend sports is a big responsibility. If he were able to pull that off — if he wants to pull that off — I think that would set him apart.”
Jordan was, of course, famously apolitical. Whether it was his perhaps apocryphal remark that “Republicans buy shoes, too” or his refusal to endorse the black challenger to Jesse Helms’ North Carolina senate seat, Jordan chose to remain above the fray. In my view, this is merely a personal choice and not a moral failing (although I’m critical of Jordan’s silence on Helms).
Famous athletes, as far as I’m concerned, are obligated to obey the law and be charitable. (And I mean charity in the genuine sense, not in the “sham foundation” sense or the “coerced by Frank McCourt” sense.) It’s not incumbent upon them to be politically active.
He’s now forecasting the NBA Finals: it’ll be Cavs-Lakers.
Obama’s NCAA bracket revealed his risk-aversion when it comes to making hoops predictions, so it’s not surprising that he’s going with the one seeds.
Irvin Muchnick in BeyondChron provides a necessary reminder of the business of NCAA scholarships:
Most fans mistakenly believe athletic “scholarships” – the very word is an Orwellian perversion – have four-year terms. Not so, Huma points out: “The NCAA only allows year-to-year scholarships. At the end of a scholarship year, a coach can take the scholarship away from a player for any reason, including permanent injury.” You can’t accuse them of reneging; the agreement is explicitly worded to permit the institution, at its sole discretion and convenience, to yank the scholarship out from under the recipient like a hook rug.
For whatever reason, the exploitation of the college athlete tends to pass under the radar. Keep in mind that college athletics is wildly profitable–consider, for instance, the 2007-08 budgeted revenues reported by the NCAA:
For the past few years, developer and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner has been angling to move his team to Brooklyn. With each passing day, though, it’s looking less and less likely. First, the slumping economy complicated Ratner’s plans for the Atlantic Yards development, of which the Nets’ proposed new arena is part, and now the AIG bailout is getting in the way. From the New York Observer:
Today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell publicly released a letter he wrote to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, requesting that the Obama administration act to block Barclays bank from leasing naming rights for the arena—a move that, if realized, would be a major blow to the project …
Mr. Pascrell, a Democrat who represents an area full of New Jersey Nets fans just west of the Izod, wrote to Mr. Geithner that he should block the naming rights deal, which has not yet closed, because Barclays received monies from embattled insurance company AIG, which itself received tens of billions in federal bailout dollars.
I realize the futility of arguing against the notion that TARP recipients–especially indirect TARP recipients like Barclays–can’t indulge in sponsorships, but I do it anyway. Anyhow, it’s clear that Pascrell is covering his hide back in his district and not making a principled stand. As such, I would say that the Obama Administration won’t take such a meddlesome step–in essence preventing the return of major-league sports to Brooklyn–but one never knows these days.
Ron Morris has penned a fairly brave column in the State. In it, he takes on his fellow South Carolinians’ dogged insistence upon flying the Confederate flag in the public square. Here’s what that has to do with sports:
For yet another year, Columbia was left off the national basketball map, despite having an 18,000-seat arena that could host a regional and a university willing to put on the show.
You might have forgotten that Columbia can never be the site for a pre-determined NCAA tournament. Never, at least, until the Confederate flag is removed from the State House grounds.
I lived the first 29 years of my life in Mississippi. Both my parents were born in Alabama, all of my family–immediate and extended–still lives in the South, and I have ancestors on all sides who fought for the Confederacy. And not even I can understand why the South clings to the symbols of a war fought to preserve slavery (spare me the revisionist pablum about states’ rights being the casus belli).
Anyhow, for a state that’s not exactly an economic pacesetter, you’d think they’d be more concerned with bringing in out-of-state dollars than with genuflecting before long-ago insurgencies.
With that said, I wouldn’t want to be Ron Morris’ inbox right now.