Oops! 3 February 2011

Every sport has its signature move or moves.  In baseball, it’s the home run blast, or the 6-4-3 double play, the against-the-wall catch or the sick throw from third.  In football, it’s “the hit” – that Ronnie Lott, Mel Blount, Patrick Willis smackdown, the juke, the acrobatic sideline catch. In hockey, it’s the body check and the slap shot. In basketball, it’s the dunk.
It’s been around for a while, now, the dunk. Back in the ‘70s, when I recall it becoming fashionable, the dunk was a move you only a saw a couple times a game (if that much).  And then it was a Dr. J-leaving-the-Earth-at-the-free-throw-line thing of beauty or a backboard-shattering (twice!) gorilla slam by Darryl Dawkins (for the youngsters, he’s the main reason for today’s collapsible rims) or Houston’s “Phi Slamma Jamma” fraternity.  Not surprisingly, with players getting ever taller and highlight tapes becoming ever more prevalent (and demanding), the dunk has become more than just basketball’s signature move,  it’s practically a basketball staple.  There are even dunking contests these days, sort of like MLB’s home run derby.
In other words, seeing a player dunk a basketball is today something that the vast majority of fans have seen.  Oh, we still love to see it.  We look forward to it.  But we’re no longer entranced by it, we’re not awestruck by it, except on the rare occasion when we see a Dunk Like No Other.

Unless you’re a Big Ten announcer. Watch this clip of last night’s Indian-Minnesota game and you’ll see what I mean.  This otherwise ordinary dunk reduced the booth crew to blithering idiots. Seriously, you will not be able to translate this gibberish.  It was as if they’d never seen a dunk before. This sort of lunacy is usually reserved for the SI Swimsuit Edition.

For those of you who aren’t living in the Greater Washington, D.C., metro area, we have here our own little football team, which is being systematically run into the ground by its little owner, Dan Snyder.  For those of you who are Redskins fans (some of whom are even related to me), you have my sympathies.  The Shakespearean tragedy that has become the Redskins franchise grabs headlines in this area the way Paris Hilton does in … well, everywhere. Anyway, the revolving door of coaches and quarterbacks, the bad trades (after bad trades after bad trades), the dictatorial style, the ridiculously highest-in-the-league prices, the moneygrubbing (charging fans to watch practice? Really?), it all adds up to a laughingstock. Which, in certain circles, is exactly what the Redskins and Snyder have become.  And some folks have been very vocal about it. One DC paper in particular.  Last fall, reporter Dave McKenna wrote a funny (I read it, it was funny) piece about Snyder, who, apparently, is only just now becoming so offended as to try and have the reporter fired.  Yes, fired. Dan, please. This isn’t Panama and you’re not Noreiga. Focus on your football team, pal, not people who (justifiably) criticize you.

They say Momma always knows, but in the case of Floyd Raven, maybe Momma didn’t know quite enough.  Raven, the #8-ranked HS football player in Louisiana had indicated, prior to yesterday’s National Signing Day, that he was leaning toward three schools: Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Michigan.  Sometime yesterday,  a fax arrived at the Nutt House in Oxford, MS.  Raven’s signed letter of intent to play football for the Rebels. After a day of out-recruiting the other, lesser school in Starkville, Ole Miss football officials were overjoyed.
There was only one problem.  Raven’s signature was bogus.  His mother (Hi Mom!) had forged her son’s signature and fired off the fax to Ole Miss.  Worse, Raven had – unbeknownst to his momma – changed his mind and decided on Texas A&M.  Oops.  It was explained (sort of) by Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt at an afternoon press conference, part of which (the really good part) you can read here.  Ultimately, no harm no foul.  Momma didn’t know, as Raven explained.  Raven’s an Aggie, and Ole Miss still has a Top 25 recruiting class.

I’m sure the folks at the Starkville Cow University of Mississippi (I’ll leave it to you to put the acronym together) were snickering into their cowbells and poking each other in the ribs over this – while at the same secretly wishing that Raven’s momma had forged her boy’s name on their school’s stationery. Then their recruiting class (or lack thereof) would have at least gotten mentioned in the news.

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