For all those in the Albany area that consider themselves fans of the U Albany Great Danes men’s basketball team, today is your day. Today is the day after your school’s first ever NCAA tournament victory, albeit one that came in the second-tier first round, or play-in game as it’s more commonly known, where the worst teams in the tournament play for the right to join the square field of 64. They handled Mount St. Mary’s last night, and early this morning landed in Orlando where tomorrow they’ll take on the #1 ranked Florida Gators, a team that’s won 26 straight and the SEC regular and tournament championships. For the sake of comparison, Albany did not win a single game against a team from a so-called “power conference,” even using the term loosely.
I don’t know if you can home again. But you can go back. At least that’s my take on Phil Jackson, since New York can’t truly be his only home, even with the considerable career he enjoyed as a player with the New York Knicks. But for someone who’s fairly synonymous with Chicago and the Bulls, and someone who won a fist full of titles coaching the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s hard to consider New York his only base. As someone recently told me when I asked where Pele the soccer player lives, Phil Jackson lives everywhere.
If you’re an American winter Olympian, you should be happy about one thing – that Russia waited until after the Sochi Olympic Games to roll troops into the Ukraine. So technically, Russia didn’t break the nearly irrelevant Olympic truce that harkens the ethos of the ancient games, where at least for two weeks or so, countries withhold from attacking other countries. Now that the final medal has been awarded, all bets are off on that front, not that Russia hasn’t violated that pact before, as recent as the 2008 Summer Games when Vladimir Putin led an invasion of Georgia the eve of the opening ceremonies.
So for the record, there are no actual Mount Rushmores for sports. There’s no baseball Rushmore, with Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron chiseled into some rock ledge. And there’s no mountain with Johnny Unitas next to Jim Brown. So any discussion of the Mount Rushmore of any sport is purely hypothetical, as are many sports debates.
It’s easy to root for Michael Sam. The Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year came from beginnings beyond humble, with most his siblings are either dead or in jail. His parents split, and he ended up the first in his family to even consider college, much less make it there on a football scholarship to Missouri. He came to campus as an average talent, undersized and anonymous. And after years of work, he led the SEC in sacks and tackles for a loss and now stands on the precipice of making an NFL roster as a star defensive end. He avoided the pitfalls that could have stopped him at any point, from childhood to emergent star on campus, to win the American lottery of sorts, to avoid the plague of poverty that sticks like a contagion in too many disadvantaged families. That, in itself, makes Michael Sam the kind of guy you’d like to cheer for.
So what if you threw a party, and no one came? Ask Vladimir Putin about that. He’s got a big old party going on right now in Sochi, a term that now invokes sentiment far beyond its Olympic ideal. In now a matter of hours, Sochi will begin its two weeks hosting the Winter Olympic Games, an event that’s been so long in the making it feels like it should already be over.
It is Super Bowl Week, only four days before an excuse to eat nachos with four kinds of cheese and sandwiches on colored bread. Super Bowl week is like a giant vacuum. It pretty much sucks up all the attention for the greater part of everyone’s waking hours. If it doesn’t have Super Bowl tie, it’s not likely to get much press this week.
Know this. Professional sports and bravado are related constructs, if not synonyms. There’s a whole lot of reasons for that, starting with the fact that it takes a whole lot of ego to honestly believe you’re the best in the world at anything, much less something that typically involves direct physical conflict. For example, it’s probably tough to be the world’s leading Proust scholar, to steal from Little Miss Sunshine. And not a whole lot of people know Proust. Imagine believing you can run down the street faster than anyone else. That’s a whole lot of self-confidence behind that blazing speed, which is why watching the promenade towards the starting blocks of the Olympic 100 meter final is like watching peacocks show their feathers. At some point, you better believe it if it’s going to be true.
In life, it’s often advantageous to be selfish. It’s a sad truism of personal advancement. Think about the guy in the office that only pads his own resume, at the expense of helping the team. He’s the one with multiple job offers and an executive salary, while the rest of the team keeps the place running. It’s unfortunate, but too often true.