Monday, April 17, 2006

Violators: Beware of "The Code"

Violators: Beware of "The Code"
(Originally published in April 16 edition of The Hammond (La.) Daily Star)

There are several codes out there in existence — key, DiVinci, Morse and Napoleonic to name a few. There is one code that supersedes them all in the world of sports, “The G Code.”
The G-Code is more than simply than a hip, catchy phrase. It is an unwritten code based upon the Golden Rule that quietly governs us all and provides order.
Just like any law or code, there are acts that bring forth violations of the code and there are violators that commit such acts.
What does this have to do with sports? A lot, actually. Sports are also governed by unwritten codes that are strictly adhered to. Violations of those unspoken laws have resulted in bench-clearing brawls and ring-filling fights.
Are you still a disbeliever? Here’s a recent list of code offenders along with the year they committed the offense and a description of that offense.
•Zab Judah, butt-kicking recipient (2006): Judah, overwhelmed by Floyd Mayweather Jr. a week ago in their welterweight title fight, punched Mayweather in the groin and behind the head. Judah’s actions incited an in-ring riot between his entourage and Mayweather’s corner.
•Chris Paul, lead-pipe lock for NBA Rookie of the Year (2005): In Paul’s last season at Wake Forest, he reached around North Carolina State’s Julius Hodge and punched him in the groin in an ACC tournament game.
•Rafael Palmeiro, ex-Viagra pitchman (2005): He lied to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs with finger-pointing and tough talk. Weeks later, drug tests showed he was juicing up. Raffy’s response: It might have been the “B-12 shots” that Miguel Tejada gave him. Officials tested Tejada’s stuff, and it was actually vitamin B-12.
•Kobe Bean Bryant, shotaholic (2004): When hemmed up by law enforcement in Colorado, he told them he should have done what Shaquille O’Neal does. According to police reports, Bryant alleged the Big Aristotle paid off women not to say anything about him. Bryant added the Diesel had paid up to $1 million in hush money for situations like Kobe’s Eagle, Colo., fiasco.
A teammate will not give it his or her all for a teammate that put someone else under the bus in an attempt to save one’s skin or make oneself look good. Speaking of that, that brings us to another G-Code violator:
•Terrell Eldorado Owens, primadonna (2000-present): Owens questioned quarterback Jeff Garcia’s play and sexuality while they were together in San Francisco. He demanded to go to Philly, and raved about how good Donovan McNabb is. After the Eagles lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, he bashed McNabb, his play and leadership abilities while portraying himself up as the gallant warrior.
Owens later put Eagles management under the bus and portrayed himself as a victimized football player that signed a bad contract. He fought Hugh Douglas in the locker room, made a rap song dissing the Eagles and auditioned for an infomercial for exercise equipment outside of his home. That’s just the stuff that’s easily remembered.
All five of the examples do have consequences. All five lost a measure of respect, which is arguably the most important commodity in sports. A man punching another man in the nether regions in a non life-threatening situation, or when John Doe implicates James Doe in a situation that does not involve James Doe, are extremely serious G-Code violations.
There is another aspect of sports that gets strained due to these code violations, and that is chemistry. Teams require some kind of symbiotic loyalty in order to be successful, and that loyalty hinges a lot on respect. No teammate will put himself or herself on the line if he or she does not respect another teammate that pulled off some highly questionable stuff.
Stealing signs and head-hunting in baseball, sending the "goon" in to commit fouls in basketball and chop blocks in football are all serious violations as well. They basically equate to the aforementioned scenarios in the G-Code. Brawls and disagreements have broken out over those things in the past, and will continue as long as people are willing to violate the code.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

SLANT-N-GO: Overloaded LSU Bandwagon Deflates Tigers

Originally appeared in April 3, 2006 edition of the Hammond (La.) Daily Star.

Rapper Mike Jones is noted for the following lyric: “Back then, they didn’t want me. Now I’m hot, they’re all on me.”
The same applied to LSU’s men’s basketball team and coach John Brady before the Tigers’ run to the Final Four ended abruptly at the hands of UCLA.
The road to Indianapolis was long for the Tigers’ basketball program, both figuratively and literally — much longer than the 847 miles it takes to go from Baton Rouge to ‘Nap Town’.
The only thing is, they took a lot more people on the bus than they expected. The LSU bandwagon could have filled Tiger Stadium, which sits across the street from and casts a long shadow upon the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Brady’s basketball team has been fourth on the popularity charts on the LSU campus — behind football, baseball and the Seimone Augustus-led Lady Tigers — for a long time now. That’s despite the fact LSU averaged 21 wins a season since 2001-02 and qualified for postseason play each year since the ’01-02 campaign (two postseason NIT bids and three NCAA tourney appearances).
LSU men’s basketball games at the PMAC haven’t exactly been hot tickets, despite the success of the Tigers. Home attendance averaged just over 8,100 in 2001 and officially increased to 9,469 this season, but the arena holds 13,472 in its men’s basketball setup. The team has not cracked Division I’s top 25 in home attendance in any of Brady’s nine years at the helm, only averaging over 10,000 in 1999-2000 — the Tigers’ Sweet 16 year.
Radio shows and newspapers have criticized Brady and the team constantly over the years, and the players heard it all.
Glen “Big Baby” Davis wanted to ask reporters about the criticism hurled at the team after their Final Four-clinching win over Texas, but he did not get the chance. Tyrus Thomas said he felt they were still the underdog and the media and fans heaped praised upon them solely because the Tigers are one of only four teams left with a shot at the national championship.
They went from SEC regular season champs to tourney dark horse to the biggest thing to hit Louisiana since high-speed Internet access in the matter of weeks. The Tigers were been tabbed as ambassadors of post Katrina/Rita Louisiana, Davis became a less-threatening version of young Charles Barkley with his gift of gab and play on the court, and the trampoline-legged Thomas’ name has been splattered across various NBA draftnik Web sites as a potential lottery pick.
They went from afterthought to having Gov. Kathleen Blanco declaring Friday “Purple-and-Gold Day” and visiting them on the campus. Blanco, along with other head honchos and new-found Tiger fans, took the trip to the RCA Dome and cheered on the Tigers.
In lame teen movie terminology, LSU went from the geeky girl that sat alone for lunch to the prom queen everybody wanted to either date or be friends with. Just like those teen movies and their contrived plots, the Tigers turned themselves from geek to chic, much the surprised delight of most but to the Tigers’ own chagrin.
No wonder Brady closed practices to the public before the team left for Indianapolis. All the new-found popularity was enough for a no-frills guy like Brady to break out into hives and heebie-jeebies. A coach like Brady — who took the job in 1997 in the wake of “Lester Earl-gate” and NCAA sanctions — and a team like the defensive-minded Tigers did not need the kudos.
The extra passengers and their baggage on the bandwagon slowed the Tigers down — as evidenced Saturday night.
Turning them into the favorite, like prognosticators and fans done in days leading into the game, seemed to take their edge away and shrunk that once-huge chip on their shoulders. Maybe all the hoopla started to get to the young Tigers and they started to drink the Kool-Aid.
Ultimately, the weight of the bandwagon was too much for the team to bear. Like Icarus getting his waxed wings too close to the sun, the Tigers came down crashing from their hoops euphoria. The moral of the story: check the capacity limit sign at the front of the bandwagon before jumping on.