Thursday, May 20, 2010

Myron’s Rolle’s Dilemma: Books or Ball?

I can’t believe they were saying those things about Myron Rolle.

Somehow, they skipped over his stellar resume. Myron graduated college in half the time, finishing all of his pre-medical school requirements and boasting a 3.75 grade point average…all while playing football at a top-flight school that expects excellence and demands success.

Perhaps they frowned upon Myron’s affiliation with Bobby Bowden, one of the greatest coaches in college football history, a man who finished his coaching career second on the all-time Wins list. He had a track record with defensive backs, refining the skills of veterans like Terrell Buckley and future Hall of Famers like Deion Sanders. Myron Rolle went to Bowden because he wanted to be trained by the best, a man most decorated in the amateur athletic realm, honored by many with the liberal distinction of G.O.A.T.

Maybe they forgot to look at his background, a young man reared by two capable parents, taught to love books and love sports, people whom he praised for his tremendous success.

No matter the reason, Myron Rolle remained in football purgatory late into that Saturday afternoon, wondering when his name would be called. Meanwhile, the experts kept using those damned words to question his motive.

Focus. Resolve. Commitment. Or lack thereof.

And I don’t understand why.

Apparently, neither could Myron Rolle.

“I had a lot of options, to go to medical school, to get (another degree) at Oxford, to enter politics now or keep my foundation going strong. There are so many different avenues I can take right now. The fact that I choose football, something that academics and people in the education realm, can’t really understand, I think shows my testament. I gave up a lot, I sacrificed a lot in my Rhodes Scholarship experience, to stay in shape, to make sure I was ready for this moment right here.”
All-American athlete. Medical anthropologist. Rhodes scholar. Isn’t this the type of story the NFL wants to promote?

But teams were still shook. The word on Rolle heading into the NFL draft centered around his dedication to the sport. Teams balked at his master’s degree and athletic honors. Endorsements from Bill Bradley and Pat Haden did little to bolster his stock. Finally, after 206 players came and went, the Tennessee Titans selected the Florida State graduate.

To the NFL gurus, the choice is clear: Sports over science.

Even when the percentage of talented individuals gaining access is lower for the league than med school. Even when the talent pool begs for folks to choose other professions. Even when the individual in question is an athlete and scholar…and holds a degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Oh well. Perhaps I’ll never understand.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I Am Legend

He was confused.

This team, HIS team, had dominated the competition throughout the tournament. He was ready to make a true ascension to the throne. His marketing team had peppered the country with advertisement all but declaring his greatness, a campaign that he rode to the doorstep of decadence.

And then, the unthinkable happened. An unnoticed trio of magicians (Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu) pulled the throne out from under the young king. An entire state watched in disbelief as the prince’s quest for NBA kingship was wrecked by this legion of raiders.

And he was stunned.

That night in June, Lebron James walked off the court without exchanging pleasantries. He changed into his civilian clothes, gave the media short shrift, and departed for the offseason.
And on that night, the King’s quest for transcendence had ended. For the moment.

This year, the self-proclaimed king has returned with a vengeance. Once again, Lebron’s team holds the best record in the league. Once again, Lebron’s cemented his status as the best player in the game. Once again, he’s expected to carry his loaded but flawed cast of characters to the red carpet. And as always, comparisons to “His Airness” (Michael Jordan) loom large in the background.

No matter how creative Scott Brooks becomes with Oklahoma City or how impressive Rajon Rondo is as the playoffs roll along, one subplot will remain paramount as the NBA playoffs move into the summer months. Heck, it’s actually become THE plot.

Lebron James: King or Prince?

There’s great expectations piled on the shoulders of this young superstar. And so far, he’s silenced the critics. In Game 4 of his opening round Bulls series, he more than answered the bell, putting together a vintage playoff performance we hadn’t seen since his Malice at the Palace (2007) or his Game 7 semis duel with Paul Pierce (2008).
Yawn. We've seen this movie before.

But in order for the virtuoso masterpiece to reach its alternate ending, in order to Lebron to separate himself from the Karl Malone’s and Adrian Dantley’s of NBA history…he’s got to finish what he started. The signet ring’s got to be on his finger. It’s time for the King to issue his decree to the NBA.


Then, and only then, will King James begin his authoritative rule.