sports (2007-16)

The linkage is a New York thing, no?

Hits and Misses

by Tony Basilio

In the last Metro Pulse I took this space to marvel at the notion of interconnectedness in the sports world. The older set grew up on the wives' tale that when things happen, they do so in threes. I remember my mother, God rest her soul, saying ad nauseam whenever something calamitous would happen, "These things come in threes."

Mom would have loved the recent events of the sports world. Yeah. They came in threes. Funny thing is the events that triggered one another almost never came to be. When the week ended a blowhard curmudgeon was out of a job, the poverty pimps were buoyed and no one will ever again ask, "What's a Rutgers?" The events have led a nation to open a dialogue about race in a country that was celebrating the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's breaking the color barrier in baseball. And did I tell you that the Duke lacrosse team is innocent? This head-spinning confluence of separate yet inextricably related occurrences has me wondering, what if? What if?

What if Rutgers never would have gotten to the finals of women's basketball? It came close to happening. Ironically, the Lady Scarlet Knights of C. Vivian Stringer needed some help from Duke in the regional finals to advance to the Final Four. Down 53-52, Lindsey Harding, the ACC Player of the Year, stepped to the line with 0.1 seconds remaining. She and the Blue Devils had just been given a gift after a steal that resulted in her being fouled during a driving lay-up. So there she stood. A 75 percent foul shooter with an opportunity to put Duke into at least overtime just by going 1-2 from the line. She had an opportunity.

Sort of like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who took full advantage of their opportunity in the form of indefensible comments by Don Imus to launch an all-out attack on the obviously contrite radio host. Never mind the fact that both Jackson and Sharpton recieved forgiveness from the American public for past transgressions. Sharpton's undoing could've been the ginned-up controversy over Tawana Brawley that resulted in ruining a man's life. Recently, Jackson went to Durham and stirred things up with Mike Nifong in declaring the Duke 4 guilty, while pledging to start a scholarship fund for the student/dancer/accuser. Dizzying. But follow along. Opportunity.

If Lindsey Harding hits her foul shots or at least one shot (and remember, she's 75 percent from the line on the year), Duke more than likely advances and Rutgers (tattoos and all) goes home. Consider this: If Harding converts, is the Rev. Jackson then the one on the defensive? Because without Rutgers' win, Imus probably never utters his insensitive remarks. And without the Imus comments, maybe the TV news focuses more on the plight of wrongly accused Duke boys. You know, the rich white guys from a nationally ranked lacrosse team who had to have done it, didn't they? Isn't this how they act, Rev. Jackson?

So if the Lady Vols and Duke end up playing for the national title, I submit that Imus is still working. A strong reason for Imus' egregious remarks was opportunity. Yes, opportunity. Rutgers' appearance in the women's final was a New York story. Imus is a New York host. Rutgers' appearance as a rugged bunch of gals juxtaposed with the more conventionally Lady-like Vols gave him an easy foil for his misplaced, sophomoric, misogynistic and, in this case, racist humor. If Duke and Tennessee are playing for it all, Imus, like the rest of America, pays little attention. Ask most Americans following the Imus story who Rutgers played for the national title and they're likely to draw a blank. But somehow women's college basketball became the catalyst for the national controversy of the month. If Harding makes, it's likely that Imus misses. If Imus misses, Jackson apologizes. Or does he?

When quizzed by CNN's Anderson Cooper if he owed the accused in the Duke case an apology for his rush to judgement, Jackson was indignant. "No. Even if they didn't touch that girl they still had her there dancing naked. That's immoral behavior," Jackson said. Yeah, Rev., but by your standards, isn't fathering a love child a little more outside the lines? Lindsey Harding's miss gave Jesse and Al a chance to make.

Capping off the week was the baseball celebration of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's courageous integration of baseball as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Brooklyn, as in metropolitan New York. As in Imus. As in Sharpton. As in Rutgers.

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.