A piece that I wrote on a day spent behind the scenes at the 94 WIP Morning Show…Source: 215mag.com
This was supposed to be about Evan Turner.
This was originally designed to be an ode to a player who took his game to the next level in his third NBA season. A man who lived up to his “Villain” moniker every time that he stepped out onto the court.
But Turner isn’t quite there yet. Every now and then, we catch glimpses of him displaying that killer instinct inherent in all superstars, but it’s rarely much more than a glimpse. On some nights, Turner is Lex Luthor. On others, he’s Mister Mxyzptlk. And while he’s staked his proverbial claim with the corner 3 this year (Turnersville - Population: 1), if you were to ask the Magic 8-ball whether Turner will ever make an All-Star team, the answer would be something along the lines of “Reply hazy… try again.”
In the absence of Andrew Bynum, there’s only one player on the Philadelphia 76erswho is on the cusp of stardom. One so quiet and unassuming that many wondered if he would ever take his game to the next level.
In our player previews prior to the season, Derek Bodner wrote that Jrue Holiday was the most likely candidate to be the Robin to Bynum’s Batman. So far this year, the Sixers’ starting point guard has had to assume the roles of both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson at times, with a little bit of Alfred Pennyworth thrown in for good measure.
Just five years removed from starring at North Hollywood’s Campbell Hall High School, Holiday is legitimately in the conversation when it comes to the top 10 point guards in the Association. His game has evolved to such a level this season that he should be in the mix for an Eastern Conference All-Star spot for the better part of the next decade. The plethora of quality guards in the East (Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Kyrie Irving,Derrick Rose and Deron Williams, et al.) will make it hard for Holiday to get a seat at the grown-up table each year, but it won’t be for lack of trying.
Truth be told, this is something of quantum leap for a man who was rated as the 73rd-best player according to ESPN’s NBA Rank project this past September. In fact, if the Good Lord is willing, the creek don’t rise and the duct tape on Bynum’s knees holds up, the Sixers could potentially have two of the top 40 players in the league on the court at the same time as early as next month.
The numbers on the back of Holiday’s trading card (19.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 4.2 RPG) don’t fully illustrate his true value. Even advanced statistics such as “win shares” fail to do justice to his impact this season: He’s clearly responsible for more than just 2.5 of the Sixers’ wins during the 2012-13 campaign.
If the MVP Award was truly given to the person whose mere presence dramatically improves his team’s play, Holiday would garner more than a few votes this year. Case in point: Holiday missed four games in December due to a sprained left foot. The Sixers lost all four games by an average of 13 points.
To hear Doug Collins tell it, the Sixers are perhaps too reliant on their starting point guard to be the focal point of the team’s offense. In 16 games this year, Holiday has shot less than 40 percent from the floor: The Sixers’ record in those contests is 4-12.
Jrue Holiday has a weakness for honey buns.
It’s important to note this because even though he plays with the aplomb of a 10-year veteran, Holiday is just like any other 22-year-old.
At the heart of it all, Holiday is just a young soul trying to make his way in the world. And, as one would figure, this youth is evident on the court as well. Holiday often throws both caution and ill-advised passes to the wind. His focus on the defensive end isn’t always as sharp as it could be. Sometimes, he plays at an 11 when a 7 or 8 is perfectly acceptable.
But along with that same youth comes hope for the future. Holiday still has plenty of room to grow, especially when it comes to improving his shot selection. If he ever embraces his ability to attack the basket off of the pick-and-roll, and overcomes his affinity for long jump shots, Holiday has the potential to be a perennial 20-and-10 guy. Not bad for a guy who was selected 11 spots after Johnny Flynn in the 2009 NBA Draft.
When Holiday received a four-year, $41 million extension in October, there was a fair amount of chatter among the basketball cognoscenti that the Sixers may have overpaid for their young point guard. Three months later, some of those very same writers are openly campaigning for Holiday’s All-Star candidacy.
With all due respect to Petteri Koponen, Holiday is far and away the best talent that the Sixers have drafted in the past eight seasons. And as the only player in the league who averages 19 points and nine assists per game, there’s no doubt that the 76ers’ 6’3” playmaker has done more to earn a free trip in Houston in mid-February than any other Eastern Conference guard whose last name isn’t Wade, Rondo or Irving.
If it weren’t for Holiday, the only basketball-related storyline in the City of Brotherly Love this year would have been Bynum’s eventual(?), inconsequential return to a team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by the time Beyonce performs at halftime on Super Bowl Sunday. Instead, there’s still that faint glimmer of hope that the Sixers can make a late-season playoff push once everyone is present and accounted for.
Can Holiday eventually find himself on the league’s Mount Rushmore of point guards? As the Magic 8-ball would say, “ask again later.” But he’s been the best player who has put on a Sixers’ uniform this season, and his star figures to shine bright in the NBA’s constellation for many years to come.Source: libertyballers.com
The sport of roller derby is in the midst of a worldwide revival, and a large part of that renaissance is occurring each month on the campus of Temple University.
The Liacouras Center is the new home for the Philly Roller Girls, a skater-owned and operated league with the tagline: “Derby is back in the City of Sisterly Shove.” Since its inception seven years ago, PRG has grown to more than 50 members, and the organization now boasts three home teams (the Broad Street Butchers, the Philthy Britches and the Heavy Metal Hookers) and two travel teams (the Independence Dolls and the Liberty Belles).
Why is roller derby becoming popular once again? Well, besides the family-friendly atmosphere and the popularity of the movie “Whip It”, the answer may be as simple as this: “The sport is the speed of hockey and the impact and violence of football, but with girls,” says Adrienne Klein (aka “Rollanya Asse”) of the Independence Dolls.
A simple Google search will yield a basic understanding of roller derby, but a few paragraphs on a Wikipedia page can’t adequately capture the true essence of the sport. “The description really doesn’t do it justice,” says Arianne Masten (aka “Masten”), one of the stars of the Independence Dolls. “You have to see it in person.”
And to see it in person, all you need to do is to head to the Liacouras Center where the Philly Roller Girls host a doubleheader on the second Saturday of every month. Back on July 14, the Independence Dolls christened their new home arena with a 144-109 victory over the Texas Rollergirls’ Honky Tonk Heartbreakers (who were led by talented jammer “Flash Gorgeous”).
A description of how the Dolls scored their 144 points would be more than a little complex (and almost irrelevant, given that the bout was just flat-out enjoyable to watch). Between the jammers, the pivots, and the overall frenetic pace, it’s difficult for most people to fully understand what’s happening out on the track.
To their credit, the Philly Roller Girls do a masterful job of breaking down the sport in layman’s terms. Before each bout, the rules are explained during a simulated game played at half-speed, and during the matches, skaters from other clubs roam the stands, passing out information sheets and answering any questions that the spectators may have.
Of course, there are those who require a bit more education than others. “Once in a while, you get the infamous ‘Where’s the ball?’ question,” says Klein, who’s currently studying veterinary technology. “And I’m always like ‘My hips are the ball!’”
The Philly Roller Girls are a member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the parent organization that governs more than 200 roller derby leagues across the country. WFTDA is primarily responsible for creating uniform rules and guidelines that make the sport far safer than it was some 40 to 50 years ago.
That said, many of the conventions from the ’60s and ’70s still exist today. But don’t be fooled by the rainbow-colored socks and the… interesting team names: Roller derby is serious business.
And in case you were wondering just how physical it gets out on the track, let’s just say that the sport isn’t for the faint of heart. While the WFTDA has strict rules outlawing certain types of contact, torn ligaments and broken appendages come with the territory. “Playing a game is pretty much the equivalent of being in a car accident,” says Klein.
“The very first bout that I saw, I saw a couple of girls get taken out on stretchers,” said Masten, a nuclear operator by trade. “Fortunately, that was a particularly rough bout and that doesn’t usually happen.”
What usually does happen is an intense, spirited competition that appeals to fans of all ages. When asked how she would sell the sport to a novice, Masten summed it up perfectly.
“Amazing, hard-hitting action… Chicks on skates beating each other up… A whole lot of fun for everybody.”Source: 215mag.com
More than 1,000 collegiate and international basketball players are eligible for the NBA Draft each year, yet only 60 of them actually hear their names called on draft night.
What happens to everyone else?
Well… there are the fortunate few who are able to snag training camp invites, and perhaps 100 more attempt to make a living playing basketball either overseas on in the NBA’s Developmental League.
That said, there are still hundreds of others - including former All-Conference and All-American standouts - who never get the chance to play professional basketball again.
Starting next year, The-BALL - or Basketball Alumni Legends League - is set to change all of that.
The-BALL is the brainchild of Michael Wranovics, a Stanford MBA graduate who (in a previous life) directed an award-winning documentary about Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run ball called “Up For Grabs.” The connections that Wranovics made during the filming of that movie led to the creation of The-BALL: a hyperlocal summertime basketball league that aims to be different from anything that you’ve even seen before.
“It’s a professional league that has collegiate sensibilities,” said Wranovics in a phone interview with two.one.five magazine.
The unique selling proposition for The-BALL is that the roster for each team will be comprised of former college basketball stars from nearby schools. “It’s a chance to continue to see players that you came to know and love during their college careers,” said Wranovics.
With the NBA Finals ending in June each year, The-BALL’s summertime schedule will allow it to make a statement during what is typically a quiet period on the pro sports calendar. Since the league will run from mid-June through August, players who make a living either overseas on in the D-League will have the opportunity to participate in The-BALL during their respective offseasons.
The-BALL is intended to serve as a stand-alone entity, but it could also become a feeder league of sorts. “I would not be surprised at all if some of our guys make it all of the way to the NBA,” said Wranovics.
Initially, all of the teams in The-BALL will be located in college basketball hotbeds on the East Coast, and the league itself will be headquartered in Philadelphia. With so many ties to California, why did Wranovics choose to start the league here?
“The Big 5 is as pure as it gets in college basketball,” said Wranovics. “Philadelphia is the perfect place for this.”
All of the Big 5 coaches have voiced their support for The-BALL, and St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli has been something of an unofficial spokesman for the league. Although The-BALL is about a year away from a soft, four-team launch, the organization has already started the process of securing venues and identifying potential team owners. “It’s not just an idea on a napkin,” said Wranovics.
In order to spark interest in the league, The-BALL will hold “Showcase” games on August 4 and 5 that will pit a team of former Philadelphia-area stars against a similar squad filled with former college standouts from the Washington, D.C. area. The August 5 contest will tip-off at 8:00 PM at St. Joseph University’s Hagan Arena, and both games will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet.
Nearly every Big 5 school will be represented in The-BALL’s two exhibitions: Former players from Temple (Ramone Moore, Dionte Christmas, Mark Tyndale), Villanova (Allan Ray, Curtis Sumpter, Reggie Redding), St. Joe’s (Pat Carroll, Ahmad Nivins) and Penn (Zack Rosen) have all committed to appear. Several D.C.-area stars (including Georgetown’s Austin Freeman and Maryland’s John Gilchrist) are slated to play for the Washington team.
“We couldn’t be happier about the players and coaches we have been able to attract to these events,” said Wranovics in a press release announcing the Showcase events.
With Phillies tickets in high demand, and Eagles tickets too expensive for the casual fan, The-BALL should have little difficulty attracting a fan base in the Philadelphia area. The passion for sports here is insatiable, and a unique league such as The-BALL could be the perfect summertime endeavor for both fans and players alike.Source: 215mag.com
Less than two months removed from its best postseason run in nearly a decade, the Philadelphia 76ers franchise is like a ship without a rudder.
A 35-31 campaign capped off by an appearance in the conference semifinals would normally be cause for celebration in most cities. Yet discerning Sixers fans are well aware that their beloved team is caught in a morass of mediocrity: too talented to be considered bad, yet not talented enough to be a legitimate threat.
A suggestion for the team’s theme song next year? “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel.
Unfortunately, the 76ers’ playoff success this past season is nothing more than a cheap cologne that masks the team’s true scent.
So instead of rebuilding (which would be the most prudent course of action), the franchise has focused its efforts on re-tooling the current roster.
But so far, their moves to that end have left many scratching their heads this offseason.
The Sixers’ biggest need is in the middle, and the team chose to “solve” that issue by re-signing center Spencer Hawes to a two-year, $13 million deal.
That would be the same Spencer Hawes who ranked 341st in the NBA in points per possession allowed last season (0.91 PPP, according to Synergy Sports). The same Spencer Hawes who averaged less than 24 minutes per game in the Eastern Conference semifinals, as his Charmin-like defense forced head coach Doug Collins to replace him with rookie power forward Lavoy Allen.
Hawes would be a decent backup center on most teams, but expecting him to competently guard physical big men in the post is little more than a pipe dream.
Elton Brand was the team’s most effective interior defender last season, but the 76ers used the league’s amnesty clause to part ways with the 13-year veteran. Brand looked every bit of a 33-year-old with bad knees at times last season, but his long arms and guile made him a nightmare for opposing bigs. In post-up situations last season, Brand was 16th in the league in points per possession allowed (0.61 PPP).
It is unknown who will provide that brand (no pun intended) of veteran savvy this season.
Presumably, Thaddeus Young will slide into Brand’s spot at the 4 position, but he doesn’t have enough experience guarding power forwards to be an immediate difference-maker.
In regards to the backcourt, the ‘Sixers are still in search of a true playmaker off of the bench. Jrue Holiday has been the team’s only point guard ever since he arrived in Philadelphia three years ago, and no one currently projected to come off of the bench for the Sixers can effectively run the offense.
More than anything else, the Philadelphia 76ers need a true sense of direction. Not from the bench: Collins has coached this current group of players as well as humanly possible.
No…The problem lies in the front offices of the Wells Fargo Center. The team president, Rod Thorn, has one foot out of the door, yet he’s still the figurehead of a new ownership group that is unwilling to take the drastic steps in order to make the team a true power in the NBA.
Until they do that, they’ll be left floating in the proverbial creek without a paddle.
And without much hope for the future.Source: bleacherreport.com
After the split in basketball-related income and the new mid-level exception, one of the most interesting items in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement is known as the “Amnesty Clause.”
Under the new CBA, each team is allowed to waive one player and have that player’s salary removed from the team’s salary cap. Once that occurs, any other team under the salary cap is free to submit a claim for the player under a modified waiver process.
In short, teams can submit offers to assume some of the amnestied player’s remaining contract. After all of the bids are submitted, the team with the highest offer is awarded the player, while his original team is still required to pay him the remaining amount on his contract.
While the amnesty clause can be exercised prior to any season of the CBA, it can only be used for contracts that are currently in effect.
In recent weeks, many have suggested that the Philadelphia 76ers use their amnesty exception on power forward Elton Brand. While Brand might be the team’s most valuable player, his contract hampers the team from acquiring the superstar-level talent it needs in order to compete with the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
Given the flexibility with which the clause can be used, the 76ers essentially have three options:
Exercise the amnesty clause on Elton Brand prior to this season
Using the amnesty clause on Brand frees up approximately $35 million from the 76ers’ salary cap over the next two seasons. However, the 76ers will be on the hook for most (if not all) of his salary, and it’s doubtful that the team’s new ownership group would be willing to pay that much to someone who isn’t on the roster.
Brand was arguably the team’s MVP last season, leading the 76ers in points (15.0 per game), rebounds (8.3), and blocks (1.3), while providing invaluable leadership for a young unit. The 76ers wouldn’t be getting rid of Elton Brand due to a lack of productivity—they’d be doing it purely for salary cap (and luxury tax) purposes.
Pulling the trigger on Brand now primarily makes sense if Philadelphia plans to go after one of the prizes in this year’s free agent class. With the move, the 76ers would have about $18 million in cap space—money they could use to re-sign Thaddeus Young and to also go after a highly-coveted big man (Nene, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol).
For the record, the chance that the 76ers use the amnesty clause on Brand this year is highly unlikely, especially considering the fact that Brand might be head coach Doug Collins’ favorite player. But it is an option, and it’s definitely something that has been discussed by the team’s front office in recent weeks.
Exercise the amnesty clause on Elton Brand prior to next season
The 2012 free agent class is far deeper than this year’s crop, so it may make sense for Philadelphia to wait a year before using the amnesty provision on Brand. Orlando’s Dwight Howard is clearly at the head of the class when it comes to post players, but other intriguing options at the 4 and 5 spots include Kevin Love, Brook Lopez and Andrew Bynum.
Keeping the 32-year-old Brand would give the team a sense of stability, which isn’t a bad thing for a squad that finished the season winning 38 of their final 66 games. And for the team’s front office, eating $18 million in salary (and getting another year of production out of Brand) would be a much easier pill to swallow than cutting bait with Brand this offseason.
Without Brand, the Sixers are only committed to approximately $33 million in salary in 2012-13 (assuming that the team picks up reasonable options on Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Craig Brackins). In theory, if Philadelphia re-signs Young and center Spencer Hawes this offseason for a combined $11 million/year, the 76ers could potentially have $15 million to spend during next year’s free agent bonanza.
Do not use the amnesty clause on Elton Brand at all
Of course, the 76ers could opt not to use the clause on Brand entirely. If they’re insistent on amnestying someone, the prime candidate would be small forward Andres Nocioni—the move would free up $6.65 million from the team’s cap this season.
Doing that would give the 76ers a bit more flexibility in re-signing Young and/or Hawes this offseason, and would put them well under the NBA’s luxury tax threshold. Then again, Philadelphia could just buyout the final year of Nocioni’s deal—his salary being on the books won’t prevent them from making any significant moves this season.
As it stands, Brand and Nocioni are the only two players on the roster where using the amnesty clause is a legitimate option. Despite the disdain many 76ers’ fans have for their starting small forward, using the amnesty provision on Andre Iguodala would be flat-out irresponsible. Not only is Iguodala an extremely productive player, but he is far too valuable of an asset to let go for nothing.
The 76ers aren’t required to use the amnesty clause at all, but the option to free up a significant portion of cap space might just be too enticing to ignore.
Let the debate begin.Source: bleacherreport.com
Ten years ago, the Temple University football program was on life support.
The school was not-so-politely asked to leave the Big East Conference in 2001 for a number of reasons, one of which included the notion that the Temple Owls were considered “non-competitive.”
Four years later, the school’s Board of Trustees agreed—by an 8 to 7 margin—to keep Temple football at the major college level. Along with that vote came a pledge to commit the resources needed in order to restore the program to its former glory.
That commitment appears to be paying off rather nicely these days.
Following Saturday’s 34-0 homecoming win over Buffalo—the team’s fifth victory this season by more than 30 points—the Owls have won 20 of their past 27 games.
In junior Bernard Pierce, Temple boasts one of the best players in the nation: a running back capable of breaking off touchdown runs reminiscent of those typically seen in video games. And the man who leads the latest iteration of the Owls—head coach Steve Addazio—previously earned two national championship rings as a member of Urban Meyer’s staff at Florida.
In a few short years, the Owls have risen from the proverbial ashes of the late 80s and 90s. Not only are the Owls dominating their own conference, they’re winning games against nationally-recognized programs that boast dozens of four-star recruits.
Even those who had completely written the team off are beginning to pay attention once again. The renaissance on North Broad is rapidly approaching its final stages.
When it comes to Temple football, everything is different now.
In the not-too-distant past, Temple gave away thousands of football tickets to area schoolchildren.
For the kids, it was a rare opportunity to watch a football game in an NFL stadium. For the university, it was a philanthropic way to fill the building.
Attendance was a priority for Temple in those days, especially since the Big East was threatening to revoke the school’s membership due to lack of fan support.
However, even with free tickets readily available, convincing people to spend their Saturday afternoons watching college football at Veterans Stadium was a hard sell.
It’s not hard to figure out why: Temple simply wasn’t very good.
From 1985 to 2006, the Owls had exactly one winning season. There were two years (1985 and 2005) in which the team didn’t even win a single game.
To borrow a phrase from Malcolm Gladwell, the tipping point for Temple football came on December 6, 2005. On that day, the school announced that their new head coach would be former Virginia defensive coordinator Al Golden—a fitting last name for the man who would spark the rebirth of the Owls’ football program.
Golden was all of 36 years old when he accepted the job, and the former Penn State tight end brought with him an energy and a passion that hadn’t been associated with Temple football in decades.
The season before Golden arrived on campus, the team finished 0-11. Four years later, Temple ended the regular season 9-3 and earned an invitation to the EagleBank Bowl—the school’s first postseason appearance since 1979.
Golden was showered with accolades for his work reviving a program many had left for dead. And with those accolades came job offers: last December, he decided to take his talents to South Beach to become the head coach the Miami Hurricanes.
Many wondered if Temple would be able to find a coach who could continue the success that Golden ignited during his five years in North Philadelphia. Those worries were put to rest less than three weeks later when Steve Addazio was formally introduced as the 25th head coach of the Temple Owls.
As a former offensive coordinator and associate head coach for the Gators, Addazio is keenly aware of what it takes to compete at the major college level.
He wasted little time in garnering his first major win—a 38-7 rout over Maryland in College Park on September 24. The victory marked the first time Temple had ever defeated an ACC school.
“[The win] was great for recruiting, and it was also great for the development of our football team in the big scheme of things,” said Addazio in an interview on The Broad Street Line last week.
The energy surrounding Temple this season is hard to ignore.
The team has been featured in a number of national articles, and the Owls routinely find their way into ESPN highlight packages, thanks in large part to the on-field exploits of Pierce.
The Bristol-based network seems to have something of an affinity for the Owls. When ESPN was forced to find alternative programming after the NBA canceled the first two weeks of its regular season, what did it choose?
Last week, the Owls’ early November matchups against Ohio and Miami University were moved from ESPN2 to ESPN. The Miami game will mark the third time that Temple will appear on ESPN’s primary network this year, and the contest is one of the school’s record-setting eight national TV appearances this season.
Seemingly overnight, the Owls have turned into appointment television. More than 1.9 million people watched Temple nearly upset Penn State earlier this year—a record TV rating for the university.
There are still a few things missing, however.
The pomp and pageantry that surrounds most other Division I schools isn’t yet present on North Broad Street.
There is no ceremonial walk through the heart of campus, nor is a singular hand gesture that unites the team with the fans. Traditions such as those will come with time and, most importantly, success.
Success is precisely what the Owls have enjoyed in recent years—barring an epic collapse, they will likely be bowl-eligible for the third consecutive season.
Even so, fans have been slow to warm up to the new-look Owls.
More than 57,000 came out for the Temple-Penn State game, but the Owls have averaged less than 27,000 for their other three home dates this season.
“I think [the fans] are missing out on a great experience,” Addazio told The Broad Street Line. “The atmosphere is electric.”
The recent revival of the Temple program has led to the belief that the school may soon receive an invitation to a major conference, possibly for all sports.
Temple would seem like an ideal candidate for the Big East, but according to several reports, Villanova (who competes in the conference in all sports except football) balked at the league adding another team from the Philadelphia market.
However it shakes out, Temple clearly has the credentials worthy of major conference membership.
This season, they’ve defeated a top-level ACC team (Maryland) and almost beat a nationally-ranked Big Ten team (Penn State). Last year, they notched a victory against Connecticut—the team that would eventually win the Big East title.
Off the field, the school’s Board of Trustees recently approved a $9 million expansion to the team’s practice facility. The upgrades will quadruple the size of the current complex, and will allow Temple to be more aggressive when it comes to recruiting.
It’s hard to imagine that the Big East—or any other conference, for that matter—would refer to the Owls these days as “non-competitive.”
The school’s mantra this season is “Philly Proud, Temple Tuff”, and Addazio and his charges do their best to fulfill that motto every time they step out onto the field. And with each passing week, the renaissance of a proud Philadelphia football institution comes closer to completion.Source: bleacherreport.com
What happened Thursday night to Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds wasn’t the first act of racism that he’s encountered in the sport of hockey, but it was probably the most blatant.
In a preseason game in London, Ontario, Canada, an object landed on the ice as Simmonds prepared for his shootout attempt against the Detroit Red Wings.
A banana peel.
With Simmonds being one of the few black players in the NHL, it doesn’t take much dot-connecting to figure out that the banana peel was a thinly-veiled allusion to Simmonds’ race.
The fact that someone would do something so ignorant in such a venue is probably more sad than it is offensive. In a world where information is available virtually on demand, there is still a sizeable segment of the population so uneducated and ill-informed that they find satisfaction in crudely insulting members of a different race.
The move was clearly a pre-meditated act: no one just “happens” to bring bananas with them to a preseason hockey game. And it wasn’t the first time during the game that the coward attempted the feat: according to reports, the fan tried to throw a banana peel on the ice after Simmonds scored late in the third period to tie the game at 3-3.
We’ll likely never know who threw the banana peel onto the ice. That’s the thing about many racists: they love to make a show of things, but are quick to hide when the glaring lights just might be shone upon them.
It was thought by some that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 would usher in some kind of post-racial society. That clearly isn’t the case, nor will it ever be. Quite simply, there will always be people who hate other people strictly on the basis of race - a trait which none of us has any control over.
While the incident occurred in Canada, it could just as well have taken place in any arena in the NHL (or any other league, for that matter). Other black hockey players - most notably Kevin Weekes and Peter Worrell - have said that they also endured racial slurs and taunts during their respective playing careers.
There’s always the hope that these types of actions - no matter how despicable - spark far greater reactions. Ideally, the NHL would use this incident as a springboard for a campaign against racism and/or discriminatory behavior in general. Similar initiatives have been embraced in the English Premier League, where many of the league’s black stars routinely deal with overt displays of racism from fans of opposing teams.
That isn’t likely to happen, however. On Friday, commissioner Gary Bettman offered a tersely worded apology and moved on. And while the NHL isn’t obligated to do anything in the case of Wayne Simmonds, perhaps they are ignorant of the power that they possess to effect change in situations such as these.
After the incident, Simmonds showed far more class than the person who tried to unnerve him.
“When you’re a black man playing in a predominantly white man’s sport, you’ve got to come to expect things like that,” Simmonds said. “Over the past 23 years of my life, I’ve come to expect some things like that. But I’m older and more mature now… I try not to think about stuff like that.”
He shouldn’t have to think about things like that. But the fact remains that racism is alive and well in and around this country, some 47 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
For the record, Simmonds scored on that shootout attempt when the banana peel was thrown.
Wayne Simmonds 1, Racism 0.