sports (2007-08)

Confessions of an "idiot jerk loser"

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

by Tony Basilio

I'm trying to find a tactful way to do this. Coming clean is never easy. Especially for an obstinate Italian-American like myself. My people don't exactly specialize in self-assessment. We're generally too busy doing that for the rest of the world.

As for me, here goes. I'm a real loser and a jerk-idiot. How else would you describe somebody who writes a column during December brow-beating and castigating Peyton Manning for taking so much money that it leaves his team little chance of winning a Super Bowl? This brilliant piece of sports opining came a couple months after a well-worded attack on UT's idea to honor Bernard King by retiring his jersey.

All I can say at this point is thank God for Kevin Stallings. His antics in Vandy's win over Florida have at least convinced me that while I'm the biggest jerk-idiot in East Tennessee, he reigns in statewide supremacy of jerkdom.

Yeah. I went on and on about Manning's salary and his enormous take in endorsements and the notion that Manning would be well served to give some money back to his organization so they would be better positioned to win a Super Bowl. Could the article have been more ill-timed?

Beano, my partner-in-crime, on Sportsradio 1180 is a lifelong Colts fan who happens to be an even bigger Manning fan. The article grew out of some December ribbing I was giving him about his then-woebegone Colts and St. Peyt. Little did I know that less than six weeks later, the joke would be on me. But isn't that what happens to somebody who is a freakin' idiot?

Meanwhile, Beano has never brought up the article now that the Colts have grabbed the brass ring, while Peyton is still grabbing fists full of money. Somehow a defense that couldn't stop anybody in the second half of the season carried Manning over the threshold for once. What a concept! Manning is a champion. Beano is a winner, and I'm an idiot-jerk loser.

So, what would a moron do for an encore? How about eat some humble pie on UT's recent retirement of Bernard King's jersey?

Back in the first week of November I wrote the following in Metro Pulse: "It would be great to honor Bernard King, but not retire his jersey. It would be wonderful to welcome him back to the family but only when (as the prodigal son himself did) he decides it's time to quit playing games. King, who never got his degree from Tennessee, has only been back on the campus three times since leaving school--twice in NBA exhibition games and once on a press junket to promote one of the games. Tennessee's most famous hoops son has been estranged for 30 years. It's been a separation that's occurred on his terms.

"It's wonderful that Ernie Grunfeld wants to help his friend Bruce Pearl get King back in the fold. It is, however, King who should make the first move. Tennessee is bigger and better than Bernard King. UT's basketball program is poised in the next few years for a rapid ascent that could take it 'Back to the Future.' That's with or without its King."

In retrospect, after seeing the events of Feb. 15 when King's jersey was retired in a night that many in the Vol nation are claiming as second to none (in any sport), I will come clean and plead guilty to being a fool. King's jersey should've been retired. It was the right thing to do no matter who initiated the strife with King and Tennessee. With or without a diploma, Bernard King is the school's greatest athlete.

Furthermore, his meaning to the living Vol fan was lost on me when I spouted off a couple of months back. Feeling the emotion the day after Valentine's Day led me to understand the unconditional love Vol fans have for the "King of the Volunteers." This is something that 20 years of living here in East Tennessee could've never prepared me to understand. Bernard King is our Michael, Magic, Babe and Sweetness all rolled into one. By the looks of him, he's certainly heading in that direction. OK. One cheap shot is allowed. At least it would be if I was coaching at Vandy. I've long maintained a double standard exists for Bruce Pearl versus other league coaches. Pearl's not one of them--doesn't play the game and never wants to.

Imagine if Pearl held a ball out away from a Florida player (Joakim Noah) who was trying to inbound a ball after a UT turnover only to curse ("get your f-ing hands off of me!") and then subsequently slapped the player (who did nothing out of line) across the wrists before flipping the ball at him. That happened last weekend in the league, and you heard nothing and saw nothing about it.

If Pearl did what Stallings did to Noah, it would've led in every sports section across the region as a confrontation between player and coach. It doesn't take Sgt. Schultz to see that at least I can get something right every once in a while. Thanks Coach Stallings, you jerk. There's hope for me after all!

Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM. Visit for more information.