Centers' Little Helper

Dennis Hans, unrenowned former adjunct professor of mass comm and American foreign policy, relentlessly exposed the Bush administration’s “techniques of deceit” BEFORE the Iraq war, when it could have made a difference (see links). For decades he has fought baseball’s discrimination against lefthanded infielders and promoted his ingenious clockwise solution. A lifelong advocate for a flowing, non-brutal, flop-free NBA, he now champions the cause of its second-class citizens: the centers.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

When Mr. Blackwell Meets Mr. Shaqwell
This sartorial satire ran in slightly different form in the Oct. 16, 2005 New York Times. Here is the original link.

New York Times
Oct. 16, 2005

When Mr. Blackwell Meets Mr. Shaqwell
The Fashion Police Arrive in the N.B.A.

By Dennis Hans

Word on the street is NBA commissioner David Stern has enlisted Shaquille O’Neal in his campaign to rid the league of players who wear sloppy, jockish or otherwise unbusinesslike attire when out of uniform and in the public eye.

Stern will do his part by fining any player who frightens small children and offends red-state sensibilities by donning a throwback jersey, blue jeans, sneakers or, God forbid, a do-rag. O’Neal, via his “Mr. Shaqwell” persona, will turn dress-code violators into laughingstocks with witty put-downs in the tradition of Mr. Blackwell, the Hollywood designer known world-wide for his annual list of the “Ten Worst Dressed Women.”

O’Neal first unveiled Mr. Shaqwell last spring, when he nearly brought veteran TNT sports reporter Craig Sager to tears with nasty comments — in both pre- and post-game interviews — about Sager’s eye-catching neon-orange sportcoat and matching tie.

Although O’Neal enjoys skewering contemporaries, he knows his history and has always treated trailblazers with the utmost respect. He befriended George Mikan, basketball’s first highly skilled skyscraper and superstar, hailing the Laker legend for paving the way for future giants, including himself. Well, what Mikan was to centers, Mr. Blackwell is to rappers.

As O’Neal and anyone else who has ever cut a rap CD knows, a staple of the genre is the rhyming insult. Long before the first hip-hop MC picked up a mic to put someone down, the wicked fashion critic was composing rhymes that sliced and diced stylistically challenged celebrities. Without Mr. Blackwell, there is no Snoop, Cube or Shaqwell.

And he’s still at the top of his game. Here is Mr. Blackwell’s verdict on Jessica and Ashlee Simpson: “From gaudy, to grim, to downright frenetic — these two prove that bad taste is positively genetic!” As for this year’s worst-dressed winner, Nicollette Sheridan of Desperate Housewives infamy: “In barely-there bombs she’s a taste-free pain — let’s crown her the Tacky Temptress of Wisteria Lane!”

O’Neal holds a master’s degree in law enforcement, so he’s a natural to walk the NBA’s fashion-cop beat. Informed sources say Mr. Shaqwell has already prepared the following zingers for the league’s most notorious sartorial stinkers, all of whom are prime candidates for hefty dress-code fines:

• With worn-out jeans and long, greasy hair, the Suns’ Stevie Nash is a grungy nightmare.

• A.I. [Allen Iverson] “keeps it real” with his gangsta attire, but if I said he looked sharp I’d be a 7-foot liar.

• Tim Duncan is to bland what tuna is to canned. He buys his threads at the Big & Tall store, in a special section marked “Dressed to Bore.”

• Mark Cuban is rollin’ in dough, but his jock-wannabe jerseys scream “Just say no!”

• Tom Tolbert’s turtle-neck chic can’t disguise the fact he’s a pencil-neck geek.

Mr. Shaqwell has also penned a put-down of a coat-and-tie coach who, in more ways than one, simply doesn’t measure up: “The only thing sadder than vile Hack-a-Shaq is Jeff Van Gundy as a Munchkin in Black.”

Catty, to be sure. But Mr. Blackwell believes Mr. Shaqwell has a long way to go — and not just as a fashion critic: “It’s not just his free throws that leave much to be desired. If he plays D like he disses, it’s time he retired!”

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Verajao wins my “Blanche DuBois Defender of the Year” award

In his Courtside Blog for the San Antonio Express-News, Richard Oliver cites my recent piece on the Cavs' Anderson Verajao, who's in San Antone for tonight's first game of the NBA Finals. (Scroll down Oliver's blog to the section “Flopping on the Deck.”)

As I explain in the essay,

The honor goes to the player who best exemplifies the fundamental characteristics of Ms. DuBois, the tragic figure of Tennessee Williams’ stage and screen masterpiece, “A Streetcar Named Desire”: dependence on “the kindness of strangers” and a preference for “illusion” over “realism.”

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Blanche said it, and Verajao lives it. The strangers he depends on are the NBA’s Rules and Competition Committee (RCC), headed by Executive Vice President Stu Jackson, as well as the referees who enforce the Committee’s rules, interpretations and “points of emphasis.”

As I’ve shown in a series of articles dating back to 2001 (which I recount in this December 2006 open letter to Director of Officials Ronnie Nunn), under Jackson’s seven-year stewardship the RCC has shown ever-increasing kindness toward late-arriving or still-sliding help defenders (who will often make a late lateral slide or hop in reaction to evasive action the driver has taken to avoid the charge seeker), whistling innocent offensive players for charging as promiscuously as Blanche slept with young men after her husband’s suicide.

The preference for illusion over realism and a willingness to, as Blanche puts it, “misrepresent things,” leads into a discussion of flopping, and Verajao is on record acknowledging that he sometimes exaggerates the force of an opponent’s contact. That makes the ref’s job nearly impossible, because he has to distinguish legal “marginal contact” — a common occurrence in NBA games — from contact that merits a foul.