Invariably, when sports writers have the audacity to dip their opinions into the cesspool of politics, they’re reminded quickly and usually anonymously, via Twitter, that they should stick to sports. And that comes from people who claim sports writers know nothing about sports.
It would be easier for the sports media to stay in their lanes if sports figures did the same. We’ve morphed into crime reporters, business experts and political pundits because athletes and coaches keep getting into trouble, make millions of dollars and use the media for personal and political agendas.
Take Steve Kerr, for example.
Kerr has been revered for his intelligence and class as a player, commentator and coach of the Warriors. He’s coaching the best team in the NBA and with that comes a larger platform and bigger voice. Rather than stick to basketball, he has used the stage to criticize Donald Trump and his top aides.
Last weekend, Kerr was introduced as a former Magic “star” after averaging 2.6 points per game during a brief stint in Orlando. He was asked if being called a star was his version of “alternative facts,” a phrase Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway used while explaining false statements by Trump press secretary Sean Spicer.
“Yes, yes,” Kerr said. “Sean Spicer will be talking about my Magic career any second now – 14,000 points, greatest player in Magic history.”
In his light moment with the media, Kerr also was getting a message across. If you remember, he had a lengthy rant about Trump after the election.
“All of a sudden you’re faced with the reality that the man who’s gonna lead you has routinely used racist, misogynist, insulting words,” Kerr said in November. “That’s a tough one. That’s a tough one. I wish him well. I hope he’s a good president. I have no idea what kind of president he’ll be because he hasn’t said anything about what he’s going to do. We don’t know. But it’s tough when you want there to be some respect and dignity, and there hasn’t been any.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who graduated from the Air Force Academy, shared his opinion of Trump last week when he was asked about the Women’s March across the country and around the world.
“Our president comes in with the lowest (approval) rating of anybody whoever came into the office,” Popovich said. “And there's a majority of people out there, since Hillary (Clinton) won the popular vote, that don't buy his act. And I just wish that he was more – had the ability to be more – mature enough to do something that really is inclusive rather than just talking and saying, `I'm going to include everybody.'
“He could talk to the groups that he disrespected and maligned during the primary and really make somebody believe it. But so far, we've got (to) a point where you really can't believe anything that comes out of his mouth. You really can't.”
If this is leaning too much against Trump, allow me to list numerous sports figures who supported him before or after he was voted into the White House, according to USA Today:
Retired football coach Lou Holtz: “He does nothing but go first class in everything. He wants this country to be first class as well.”
Mike Ditka: “I think that he has the fire in his belly to make America great again and probably do it the right way.”
Rex Ryan introduced Trump during a rally in Buffalo: “We’re all here tonight because we support Donald Trump.”
Johnny Damon: “I’m a Trump fan ever since I met him seven or eight years ago. Everything he does, he does first-class – his hotels, his businesses, his golf courses. The issues all the other politicians failed to discuss, (Trump) is bringing us up to speed.”
Tom Brady has been friends with Trump for 16 years. “Sometimes he calls me, sometimes I call him,” Brady said Monday on WEEI Radio in Boston.
Trump thanked Bobby Knight for helping him win Indiana. Other supporters include Dennis Rodman, Richie Incognito, Mike Tyson, Nick Mangold, John Daly, Paul O’Neill and Terrell Owens.
Tony Romo and John Elway were among current and former athletes who attended Trump’s inauguration.
And that leads to …
Speculation about Romo landing in Denver intensified last weekend when the Cowboys quarterback and Elway, the Broncos’ GM, were photographed together at a victory bash for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. We know they were in the same room, but we’re they on the same page?
NFL tampering rules prohibit Elway and Romo from discussing (wink, wink) the possibility of joining forces in Denver while Romo is under contract with Dallas. Maybe they posed for a photo and parted ways. Or perhaps they dropped hints – “We’ll see you in training camp, ha-ha” – about a future together.
It’s ridiculous that such a wager can be made, but Betonline oddsmakers made Denver a heavy favorite (+250) to land Romo, meaning they offered $250 on a $100 bet. The Broncos were followed by Houston (+400), Chicago (+500) and Buffalo (+600) and the New York Jets (+600).
The Broncos have a good receiving corps but missed the playoffs last season with inexperienced Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch. New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy embraces an up-tempo attack that suits Romo’s style and improvisational skills.
As for the Romo-Elway photo, it was posted on the Facebook page of Glenn Stearns, a friend of Elway’s who founded a mortgage company in Southern California. Presumably, Elway didn’t object to the photo being shared, knowing it would stir the masses in Denver and beyond.
For added entertainment, check out Stearn’s video taken from a Washington taxi in which the cab driver was asked to name the top NFL quarterback in history. The cabbie picked Elway, not knowing the Hall of Famer was sitting in the back seat.
Only in Buffalo
All this talk about Romo had me thinking about his NFL career after signing as an undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois. He rode the bench for two years before taking off in 2006, when he won five of his first six games after the Cowboys started 3-3 with … Drew Bledsoe.
Romo started for the next decade and threw for 34,154 yards, 248 touchdowns and 117 interceptions before a preseason injury opened the door for Prescott. Romo led the Cowboys to the postseason four times, making the Pro Bowl after each of the playoff seasons.
Two others replaced Bledsoe in his career. One was Tom Brady, a former sixth-round pick now considered the greatest passer in NFL history. In case you hadn’t heard, he’s gunning for his fifth Super Bowl title in seven appearances when New England plays Atlanta for the title in SB LI.
The other quarterback who unseated Bledsoe was J.P. Losman, a first-round pick who was replaced by Trent Edwards, a second-round pick who was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed as a free agent who was replaced by EJ Manuel, a first-round pick who was … you get the idea.
You know the voting process is flawed when the big news to come from NBA All-Star balloting was about a player NOT being named a starter. Russell Westbrook will come off the bench after averaging a triple-double – 30.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 10.4 points – through 45 games.
Blame the fans? Sure, they accounted for 50 percent of the vote, and evidently many are smitten with Stephen Curry and, to a lesser degree, James Harden. But it doesn’t explain the other 50 percent coming from players and selected media. Baron Davis blamed Russian hackers, joking that it’s “out of control.”
More than two dozen players who played small roles, very few minutes or not at all this season – players like Quincy Poindexter, Marshall Plumlee and Tomas Satoransky – were listed as starters on the 324 ballots submitted by other players.
Westbrook should be a starter, but there are valid arguments for Curry and Harden. If given the opportunity to trade Curry or Harden for Westbrook, I would imagine a majority of GMs would decline. A major reason Westbrook is putting up big numbers is because everything revolves around him.
“I feel like I’m strong enough. I can handle the workload. Feeling good about it and doing it are two different things.” – Tiger Woods, ranked 663rd in the world going into the Farmers Insurance Open, about making a full return to the PGA Tour.
81 – Points scored by Kobe Bryant in the Lakers’ 122-104 win over the Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006.
73 – Points scored by the Lakers’ entire team in a 49-point loss to the Mavericks on Sunday, the 11th anniversary of Bryant’s 81-point game.
4 – Goals scored in the final 20 minutes by Sharks forward Patrick Marleau in a 5-2 win over the Avalanche. He joined Mario Lemieux in 1996-97 and Wayne Gretzky in 1980-81 as the only players in the past 70 years to score four times in the third period.
Suns center Tyson Chandler had a franchise-record seven straight games with 15 rebounds or more snapped last week against the Raptors. He had 16 points and nine rebounds against Toronto, which marked only the fifth time in 35 games this season that he had more points than rebounds in the same contest.
Thomas Welsh, a junior center for UCLA, was perfect on 28 free throw attempts over the first 21 games with the Bruins. The 7-footer hasn’t missed a foul shot in more than a year, going 42-for-42 since Jan. 7, 2016. Before the streak began, he was shooting only 62 percent from the line.
Times have been tough for Buffalo sports teams, but at least they’re not Sverdlovsk Region Select in a professional women’s hockey league in Russia. They have lost 105 straight games going back to October 2013. Said goalie coach Irina Votintseva in an interview with the Associated Press after a 5-1 loss this week: “We’re totally screwed.”