Pressing Social Issues in Sport Part 4 of 4

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Paul M. Banks has an exclusive interview with Dave Zirin discussing the past, present and future social issues at the heart of sports

On a recent episode of “The Simpsons,” Mr. Burns bought a basketball franchise (Mark Cuban made a guest voice appearance). On that episode, Burns opened up a new arena by telling the crowd “Welcome to the American dream: a billionaire using public funds to finance a private playground for the rich.”

This joke had a lot of painful truth to it, as that’s exactly what happens in each one of our cities when a new billion dollar stadium is built. Our hard earned tax payer dollars go towards financing a private building that each one of us must pay $50 every time we want to go see the inside of it. That money could be going towards solving the health care or climate crisis; or towards our badly under-funded infrastructure, public transportation and school systems. As a sports fan and journalist, I have to put these awful truths aside in order to enjoy watching the games I love so much. I asked Zirin how most sports fans do this. Is it cognitive dissonance? How come there have been no protests or organization against these heists of public funds? citi-field

“Huge percentages of people, according to polls like Rasmussen oppose public funds for stadiums, so the sentiment is there. I think people get that they’re being screwed, but there’s very little engagement by the left towards the people who have the capacity and the experience to organize people against such a thing. With the world of sports, because you have a lot of people who see themselves as ‘on the left’ or ‘fighters for social justice:’ because they see sports as something alien to them, they have no capacity to figure out how to organize sports fans,” Zirin said.

I agree- too many leaders on the American left have overlooked sports, downplayed their importance or just conceited that arena to the right. That’s the wrong route to take and it’s a good example of why we’re in this mess.

Sportswriter Dave Zirin is the author of four books and his column, Edge of Sports, appears on Sports Illustrated’s website. He is the host of XM satellite’s weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio. I asked him what his next project is all about.
“I just submitted the draft in for a book that’s going to come out on Simon and Schuster’s Scribners brand, the working title is “Bad Sports: How owners are ruining the games we love.” And it’s looking at the way pro sports owners are creating an environment for the fans that’s inhospitable and I compare them to the AIG bankers and insurance giants who have gone repeatedly for short term gain, and with few exceptions have just completely trashed the concept of stability for their sports, alienating fan bases, kids, municipalities, and doing all of this just because there are some very short term benefits for them to do so. And it’s hallowing out their sports…it’s a light read,” Zirin responded.

I have a feeling the names George Steinbrenner, Peter Angelos and Bill Wirtz might end up in this next tome.

Original Bull and Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan Interview

By Paul M. Banks

Earlier this month Utah Jazz Head Coach Jerry Sloan was announced to the Basketball Hall of Fame. He is the only coach in NBA history with 1,000 wins for one team and fourth on the list of all-time most-winning NBA coaches. He has also coached one team longer than anyone in NBA history. The 2009-10 season will be his 22nd season (and 21st full season) at the helm of the Jazz.

After Tom Kelly stepped down as manager of the Minnesota Twins in 2001, Sloan became the longest tenured head coach in American major league sports with their current franchise. The only manager in any top professional league that has headed their current team for longer is Alex Ferguson of the English football team Manchester United.
He played for the Chicago Bulls during the franchise’s formative years. He was the first player selected by the Bulls in the expansion draft, earning him the nickname “The Original Bull.” Sloan played in two All-Star Games during his NBA career, and was also named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team four times. He is currently fourth on the Bulls’ all-time scoring list.

With an average of 2.15 steals per game (tabulated over his last three seasons), Jerry Sloan is ranked tenth in the NBA’s all-time leaders category for steals per game. His playing career was cut short by successive knee injuries, and he turned his attention to coaching. Because of his influential career with the Bulls, the franchise retired Sloan’s No. 4 jersey, the first jersey retired by the Bulls.


Paul M. Banks: What are the biggest differences between small market and big market?

Jerry Sloan: Basketball’s basketball, I never thought I did that bad in Chicago. We worked hard and had some guys who are probably not the kind of guys that you’re going to win with on a consistent basis. I thought that if they had the patience, we could have worked it out, I never thought that I couldn’t.

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On his ability to operate in a bigger market…

JS: “Sure, if they had the right philosophy. If the players know you’re expendable they don’t have to play. If the agents and everybody tells them, he’s not going to be here, wait a couple weeks, the coach will be gone don’t risk getting hurt wait and play for the next guy then they’re not going to play for you.”



On whether he ever had an agent or needed one…

JS: When I took the job in Chicago, Mr. Wirtz and I had kind of a run-in, he didn’t want to talk to me anymore, so I had a go between. I just didn’t feel like I wanted to be put in a corner.”

On his not needing an agent in Utah…

JS: “They’ve been fair. I’m just happy to have a job, the organization has been fair with me all along.”

PMB: A lot of people had run-ins with Wirtz over the years…

JS: It’s just one of those things, he’s the boss and I realize that. So I didn’t want to get into a shouting match with him.

Regarding whether he pays attention to the internet and blogs and all the information available out there these days…

JS: “Well, I’ve never paid attention to all that stuff. There wasn’t that much stuff going on when I came into the league, I was aware of guy’s getting fired. You can listen to everybody in the world, but you’re the one who’s responsible.”

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PMB: What’s been the key to your success/long run?

JS: Pretty simple, our owner hasn’t fired me, when I tell our players at the beginning of the year I’m going to be here, I’m going to be here. I’ve been able to do that for a long time. not too many have had that opportunity. I guess if I did something crazy they would probably get rid of me pretty quick, but so far I haven’t done too much.

Nothing too crazy?

JS: “Well, I did get suspended for 8 or 9 games once”

Commenting on the 6 NBA coaches fired before Christmas this season and job security in the association…

JS: “I’m always concerned about what owners are thinking, are they letting the players run the team or are they letting the agents run the team? I’ve seen this for a number of years and it’s really frustrating because a lot of great coaches, better coaches than I’ll ever be, have been fired, some of them two or three different times. Somewhere along the line it looks like patience is something worth while if you’re willing to put up with it. I know there’s tremendous pressure on owners, coaches and players, but we’ve been lucky that our ownership has stuck by us. You lose 56 games and still have a job, you’re pretty lucky.”

On whether he had any worries his run could come to an end…

JS: “Well, I never thought I’d even play a year, so it’s no big deal, I’m happy to have done so, but I had people tell me I would never play in this league.”

Of course one of Sloan’s best quotes ever was published awhile ago…

“I don’t care if he’s 19 or 30. If he’s going to be on the floor in the NBA, he’s got to be able to step up and get after it. We can’t put diapers on him one night, and a jockstrap the next night. It’s just the way it is.” — on second year guard C.J. Miles, the youngest player on the 2006-07 Utah Jazz

Douchebracket Ghost Regional

Welcome to the d-bag bracket, a tournament deciding the most insufferable douchebags in all of sports. Please feel free to comment as much as possible, because your feedback will help determine who advances to the Final Four.

This is the bracket compiled by “The Ghost in the Machine”

1. Ron Santo- Not sure what’s more annoying, his failure to realize what’s occuring at any given moment during a Cubs game or his pathetic wait by the phone every 2 years to see if the HOF will let him in.

2. Ronnie Woo Woo Wickers- This guy shows up at Sox games. Would Soxman go to Cubs games?

3. Hockey spectators who don’t wait for the whistle.-
I missed Havlat’s  GWG last week vs Anaheim b/c the clown in front of me decided he needed to leave while play was still in progress.

4. Mike Murphy- 670 the Score midday host makes me feel like I’m listening while wearing earmuffs. Not sure he’s ever had an original thought that made sense either.

5. Adult Autograph seekers-
Let’s hang out in front of a hotel or stand in line at a fan convention for hours so that maybe my baseball card will get signed and I can put it on Ebay and make $5.

6. People Who listen to games on the radio via headphones while they’re at the game.

If you need the play by play, stay at home. If you don’t know what’s happening you shouldn’t call yourself a fan of the sport you’re attending anyway.

7. Sports Talk Radio callers with ficitious trade proposals which will never happen.

Uhhhhhh, what if the Bears traded  (insert young stud player not on team here) for (insert mid round draft pick here) and (insert bad, aging, overpaid veteran here). (Heavy breathing)

8. Baseball Fans who cheer for their team after a runner beats out the throw to 1st thwarting a possible double play.

If you’re cheering for the hustle, great, but they should be hustling all the time. This play is no better than a pop-out to the infield.

9. Players who trash talk late in games when their team has no chance of winning.

Congrats Mr. WR for getting a first down. Thanks for making the over-the-top first down gesture so everyone can see you. Oh, wait! Your team is down 21 points with 2 minutes left? Get your a$$ back in the huddle.

10. ESPN/USA Today Men’s College Basketball Poll

You’re telling me that these coaches actually sit down and fill this thing out?

11. Steve Downie-This 1st round draft pick has been eligible to play in approximately 162 pro games in the past 2 seasons. He’s been suspended for 40 of them comprised of a 20 gamer for blindsiding a player from behind and another recent 20 gamer for slashing a linesman. I like the goons in hockey, but this crosses the line.

12. Bear Weather- One of the biggest fallacies in Chicago Sports. MORE TO COME
13. Fans who run onto the field during sporting events

I’m drunk! My friends will give me $100 to run on the field! OK! I now have 5 200+lb security guards on top of me. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. BARF

14. NFL Rule Committee for not allowing the ball to be used as a prop.

Come on! This is fun; it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Creativity should be encouraged!

15. Storming the court when your team has a reasonable chance to win the game in the first place.

This unfortunate trend should be reserved for when your school has no business beating the team it just did. Not when, for instance, the 24th ranked team beats a top 10 team. PLEASE!

16. Bill Wirtz

I hope you’re watching what’s going on at the UC. If you weren’t dead, you’d be top 5 on this list, because most likely, the Hawks would still be in the tank.