kwasi.on.sports

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Barriers crossed in Plantation Florida

This year, Erin DeMeglio made history becoming the first female player to play quarterback in a High School football game in the United States.  She did so by entering a game with 1:35 left in the 4th quarter.  There was no story book ending, as her team already had the game in control in the end but the real story is all of the different cultural angles at play in this story.

Beginning with the fact that in 2012, Erin is the first female QB to take a snap.  There are roughly 700 girls playing organized football in the States right now but none of them play quarterback.  As mentioned in a previous post, the QB position has been the most difficult position for any marginalized person to make a break through in.  As the on field leader and typically most cerebral position, coaches have always been hesitant to put someone out of the “norm” at the quarterback position.  Clearly, the time and the situation was right in Erin’s case, for her to have a chance to show what she can do.

From manager/water girl to an avid participant in flag football to her school’s Varsity team, Erin’s rise in the last few years has been meteoric.  Her coach, Doug Gatewood, saw ability to throw and toughness and decided to help groom her for her debut.   

Lastly, it is extremely ironic and almost fitting that Erin is making her mark for South Plantation High School! Who knew there were still schools named as such, especially in the deep south. Isn’t that the name of a school that Chris Griffin and the Quahog HS football team should be playing?  In no way am I trying to belittle the accomplishment that is being made at this school to break a gender barrier but the fact that its being done at South Plantation High School is unreal! This landmark barrier breaking feat is being done by  young woman whose school’s name reminds us of past barriers and limits around minorities. It is almost Disney like.  

(P.S. I’m sure Disney will have this film made within the next 3 years as a gender-switched revisit of the Notre Dame classic Rudy starring Selena Gomez as Erin DeMeglio and Joey Lawrence as the head coach).     

4

Valenzuela the Saviour

On this morning, 31 years ago Major League Baseball and the sports world in general was enthralled with Fernandomania. Fernando Valenzuela, then a 21 year old rookie starting pitcher had recently completed his National League record tying seventh shutout.  His stellar performance and Latino identity extended his icon status beyond Los Angeles, though managed to steal the city’s spotlight from Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers.  What gets overshadowed now, but was so well captured in the ESPN 30 for 30 dvd released a few years ago, is the pivotal role that he played in the cultural rollercoaster that had been created in Los Angeles at the time.

The Brooklyn Dodgers moved from New York City after a failed attempt to build a domed stadium in the heart of the Big Apple.  From the time the club decided to move southwest to LA it became apparent that while marginalized and minority communities were not big baseball fans, their lives would be impacted heavily by America’s pastime.  First, the agreement that the Dodgers reached with the city was to build a stadium in the Elysian Park heights housing project but after an election prompted a shift in political thinking, that plan was was cancelled.  Rather than demolish the assisted housing where many minorities lived, the plan was shifted to targeting the Chavez Ravine community, inhabited almost entirely by Spanish speaking residents. 

Unfortunately, there was no political hero to rescue these residents and in 1958 construction on the stadium began.  Of course before they could build Valenzuela’s future home, there was the little matter of the homes in the way and the families living in them. Residents were offered below market value and progressively worse offers to create panic and speed up the construction project.  With time, thousands of people would lose their homes, feel betrayed by the country they call home and completely disillusioned by the Dodgers.

In the twenty or so years that followed, this mass destruction of homes lead to a massive chasm being formed between the Dodgers and the fast growing Latino population in Los Angeles. Now like most businesses, social injustice and the further marginalizing of marginalized peoples becomes a much more pressing issue when the business is losing money.  I’m sure there was some guilt attached to watching what the construction of a baseball stadium had done to a community but the fact that a large demographic in the city had no interest in watching the team play prompted the Dodgers to send a scout on a mission: find a Mexican star.

The rest is history as Fernando Valenzuela was scouted in Mexico as a slightly overweight, unathletic looking pitching dynamo.  He began his storied career at a legendary rate with seven shut-outs, leading the Dodgers to the World Series and recapturing the desperately needed Latino fan base.  Valenzuela’s story is one that perfectly captures the interaction between sport, business and diversity. My hope is that by remembering this story in its entirety, sports fans will remember him as not simply a star pitcher but also the final protagonist in a cultural phenomenon.  I highly recommend seeing the well made Cruz Angeles ESPN documentary Fernando Nation.

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you? - Chris Kluwe, Minnesota Vikings Punter
— 

This quote was taken Deadspin as an open letter in response to archaic and out of touch Maryland Legislator Emmett Burns who claimed that when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbedejo spoke pro gay marriage, he was speaking for himself and no other NFL player.  Almost right on cue, Kluwe, from the rival Vikings came out and released the amazing tongue and cheek response above.  Needless to say that response was necessary to remind middle America that a one sided, bigot minded opinion DOES not speak for the greater population and for all athletes.  

The name Emmett Burns alone, sounds like he was working with Doc Brown in Back to the Future III wearing a cowboy hat and trench coat. Why a legislator in Maryland feels the need to make broad, paternalistic statements about marriage in State where it is so highly contested is extremely unfortunate but that he thought he could represent NFL players is sad and pathetic.

Thank God that Kluwe, Ayanbedejo and 26 other active NFL players have come out in support of the first prospective openly a Gay NFL player.  Now, obviously, some of the opinions shared by active NFL players are not the most supportive in societal terms for 2012 (If that’s how they are, that’s how they are. I mean, we’re teammates so, as long as he’s being a good teammate and being respectful and everything, that’s cool.” - 

Fact is that there is now a collection of players who are unified in their fight for equal marriage which is a big positive step.  http://outsports.com/jocktalkblog/2012/09/12/robert-griffin-iii-rob-gronkowski-eric-decker-trent-richardson-gay-positive-nfl-players/ .  I don’t know if I’ll ever say this again, but let’s hope the legislator can start taking cues from pro football players on critical issues.

ESPN North American Team Rankings: A lesson in perspective

First off, shout out to my friend Winston who read my mind in suggesting this post. Recently, ESPN released their ranking of all 122 professional sports franchises. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the link:

http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/teamrankings#table

I can’t help but feel that the following disclaimer was somehow omitted from this report.

*Note: While we say pro sports, we only mean North American sports as clearly we are aware that there are sports played outside of this continent.  Also, this report is created and based on the ideas of an American media outlet for American fans and for those reasons, read on once you are draped in an American flag and have no prior knowledge of sports.

It becomes difficult to narrow down the many flaws in this ranking system and the subsequent “Ultimate” rankings so I’ve decided to simply list my thoughts beginning with reasons why regardless of your formula, these outcomes mean they need revisiting:

- ESPN devotes very little energy or resources to the NHL which is why they would have been better served to complete these rankings without considering hockey teams.

- Prestige, fan loyalty and importance to the city or area is in no way taken into account.  How can you properly assess things like bang for you buck, affordability and fan experience without considering these facts? Those three key areas are why the Yankees, Red Sox and Leafs rank near the bottom in affordability yet sellout consistently and are such beloved and traditional, iconic franchises.

- Do you want to know why the Tampa Bay Rays, Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Coyotes are top 3 in terms of ticket prices and concessions? Because they have to be! Even with such cheap prices, both the Rays and Coyotes rank dead last in their respective leagues and the Pacers were second last last year but with the Nets moving to Brooklyn, they should complete the cellar dweller trio this year.

- Its also amazing that according to this report, the lack of attendance does not consistently impact the stadium experience. Somehow both the Pacers and Coyotes rank in the top 40 of franchises in stadium experience yet they have the fewest fans in the building in each league. Are we to believe that bright yellow seats in Indiana are so pleasing to the eye that the experience of watching this team play is better for having so many empty ones?

-  The NHL run, owner-less Phoenix Coyotes are the highest ranked hockey team. WHAT? When an organization mired in ownership turmoil for the last 4 years, in a league heading to its second lockout in 8 years is your 6th best franchise, go back to the drawing board.

- Somehow Bountygate, the pay per injury program that put yet another black eye on the NFL, run by the players and coaching staff of New Orleans Saints I guess didn’t happen? How else could they be ranked 8th overall, and 9th in both player likeability (including off field conduct) and coaching expertise (leadership on the field. How your Defensive coordinator being suspended indefinitely, head coach being suspended for the year and three players being suspended as well (though an arbitrator overturned this decision for now) doesn’t put you near the bottom of both rankings is beyond me.

While I realize that taking on the responsibility of ranking franchises is a difficult task and far from an exact science I think that there are some elements of this “ranking” flaws that could have been avoided.  Too many of these mistakes and erroneous ideas are present for ESPN to release this report and want true sports fans to take it seriously.

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Why, Ben? Let’s lose the comma!

With Lance Armstrong joining the long, LONG, list of “disgraced” athletes who have cheated their sport by using Performance Enhancing Drugs, I feel it’s time to revisit to the unofficial “poster boy” for steroids and see how different these two stories really are. I feel that while time has played a role in all of this as we now understand how widespread PEDs really are, race and nationality play a big role too.  Ben Johnson as a Jamaican born, Black sprinter was left with no support though he accepted his fate as a guilty athlete.  Armstrong on the other hand, armed with the privilege of being a white, male, American athlete not only denied his guilt but sued and silenced those who presented facts that showed his drug use and is yet to appear truly apologetic or genuine in an admission. Below is a are some relevant facts that show just how different the two are:

Admission

BEN: Once tests were made public and evidence was present of his drug use during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Ben admitted guilt and has ever since. In fact, his admission and lack of denial most likely lead to his “poster boy“ status.

LANCE: After close to a decade of evidence showing his PED use, Armstrong used lawsuits and threats to further defend himself. Immediately after retiring, Armstrong continued the fight for his innocence. His admission only came after countless inquiries showed evidence of his drug use and doping.

Requests after admission

BEN: For the sport of Sprinting to be looked at in general and cleaned up. Argued then and continues to argue now that Sprinting as a sport is dirty “before his time, during his time and after his time.” He has argued that he is one of many sprinters to have used PEDs but part of a select few that got caught.

LANCE: Based on the timing of his interview with Oprah, many observers thought that Armstrong’s only motivation was to free himself of some guilt but mainly to try and be reinstated as a potential triathlete. When asked by Oprah Winfrey about whether he hoped to compete again, he replied:

“When you see the punishment – I would go back and say you are trading my story for a six-month ban [the punishment cyclists who testified against Armstrong were given] – so I got a death penalty, meaning I can’t compete…I hope to run the Chicago Marathon when I’m 50.“

This quote along with his seeming cold and distant body language point to a lack of remorse that many observers were hoping for.

Support Network in place

BEN: Once found guilty, Johnson was cast aside by the Canadian Olympic Committee and left to defend himself. In fact, he was presented as an individual renegade to the point that his coach, Charlie Francis who provided the steroids, was active in track training soon after the 88 Olympics. The COC has never backed Johnson and joined in the global effort to label him a cheat and disgrace him.

LANCE: So far, the facts point to possibly the most intricate and complex doping scheme that the sporting world has ever seen. Armstrong’s cycling team was not only supportive in his exploits but rumours are now surfacing of just how much of a bully Lance was to his teammates and other cyclists.  There are stories of his demeaning and ostracizing anyone who threatened to speak out about his team’s drug practices. 

Immediate Public Reaction

BEN: Hatred. After being celebrated as Canada’s track hero, Johnson was quickly described as the Jamaican sprinter, who represented Canada. This change was accompanied by the Canadian public distancing themselves from the disgrace that he brought them.

LANCE: Before his admission there seemed to be two groups. Those who thought he was cheating and didn’t need his admission and those who didn’t care. The reaction immediately after has been similar where some have defended him and others continue to hate that he lied.

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“Well it’s stupid and MAYBE offensive but I don’t know if it’s racist…”

Trigger #1: Tyler Bozak completed his Bill O'Reilly hat trick within the last three years by using blackface to be Michael Jackson. Step 1 was dressing with friends in blackface and wearing dreadlocks as Jamaican bobsledder in 2012 which was followed by step 2 when he defended Raffi Torres’s black face Jay Z costume in 2011.

Trigger #2: Terry Bradshaw says on air that running back Reggie Bush (who is Black) was running for a touchdown “like he was chasing a bucket of chicken that the wind was blowing”. 

There was a time when society was so racist that there were no limits to how minorities were treated or represented in the media. Blackface, minstrel shows and segregation were the “norm”, so there was no need for the media to portray something other than what society accepted.

The civil rights movement raised awareness which caused society to change and thus the media began it’s slow, painstaking journey to social equality. This began with questioning what might be offensive to others or even racist. Mass media moves slowly and as late as the 80’s you’d be surprised as to what was still acceptable (I am well aware that there are still examples but it was worse, trust me). If you don’t want to take my word for it, here are some Examples

From there we moved into a time where people were very concerned with not appearing racist or offensive in their ignorance.  I’m thinking of the times where people (and media) first started to wonder if to say black, dark skinned, African-American or yet another description of someone who is part of the African diaspora. In this period of sensitivity and internal questioning, everyone’s radar was honed in and we could detect that insensitive comments and actions were racist, offensive and stupid.

So where are we now?  I’d argue we’ve taken a few steps backwards. Today, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and feelings which therefore means that very little self reflection or consideration for others takes place.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that the media and non marginalized people feel the need to protect their self interests and opinions rather than think of the effect they might have on others. This is, at least in part, because we have moved into a “post-racial” era where everyone is “colour-blind”, and therefore “not racist”. 

Racist and stupid have somehow become mutually exclusive.  Rather than question if something is offensive, the media simply blankets all racist, sexist or homophobic incidents by saying it “might” be offensive.  No self reflection needed, just know that it could be offensive. How did we get here? How did we get to a place where a 23 year old hockey player wearing blackface or a 52 year old media analyst could still be protected by a shield of ignorance, and not have to pay the price for being racist as well as stupid?  

For many this issue comes back to “clear intent”, but that line of thinking is neither acceptable or progressive, especially from media figures.  Yes, there are still many actions that are extremely racist because they have intent and planning but the increased use of this “racist scale” is dangerous. The way this scale works is that things aren’t racist because there is something else more racist. Monkey chants at black footballers in Europe? That’s racist. Wearing black face on Halloween? It’s “stupid” but is it “racist”? (The answer by the way is yes).  

As a minority, this scale is about as useful as a moisture scale that debates whether something damp is truly wet because something else is soaked.  They are ALL wet!

Rather than question whether something stupid is also offensive and racist, ask yourself why you think it’s stupid.  Chances are it’s stupidity is rooted in institutionalized racism which as the name suggests, is racist and therefore offensive.  

4

Yesterday, Lincoln Alexander, a Canadian trailblazer and human rights icon passed away at the age of 90.  I can’t help but feel that few people lived a more eventful or “impactful” 90 years and for those reasons while it is sad when someone passes, I feel we should definitely celebrate his life and his candour.  Any man who lived life honestly, spoke freely and defined hard work by always persevering, has earned the right to be recognized in the many that he already has been (and hopefully will continue to be posthumously. When the opportunity presents itself, make sure that you read his autobiography,“Go to school, you’re a little black boy” or view the documentary with the same title that chronicles how the son of a maid and a porter could go on to become an MP and Lieutenant Governor. In dissecting his story and reflecting on his life its amazing that the place he called home was also home to an athletic icon who himself is living a distinguished life.  

Chuck Ealey, who was the focus for Stone Thrower, the fantastic Charles Officer documentary which is part of the TSN Engraved on A Nation series, also achieved racial and professional success in Hamilton.  As a young man growing up in Ohio, Ealey was fortunate to end up at a high school where his coach was less concerned with the stigma of a black quarterback and much more concerned with winning. With winning as his focus, he decided he would give Ealey the start and he never looked back.  All he did, was lead them to several State Championships. He was recruited to play at the University of Miami BUT as a third string quarterback, so he opted for the University of Toledo where he could start immediately.  Toledo lost the last game before Ealey arrived and lost the first game after he graduated but a funny thing happened in between: they went 35-0! The Ealey led Toledo team completed the longest unbeaten streak in Collegiate football history.    

   Think it was enough to make him an NFL top pick? Nope! Again he was asked to switch positions to either running back, cornerback or wide receiver.  Much like Linc did before, he refused to take no for an answer and told NFL teams that if he wasn’t going to play quarterback, they shouldn’t draft him.  In the end that brought him to the CFL where he lead the Hamilton Tiger Cats to the 1972 Grey Cup.  

In a time when our youth struggle to find appropriate role models and are unsure of where to turn when they need guidance, I’d like to propose these two gentlemen as Canadian heroes.  If you feel like there are some obstacles that are standing in your way be it race, sex or economics, look at these two men.  They managed to work hard, try their best and when they were told no, work harder. I feel we’ve lost one hero but at a time when we usually look south for black heroes, we can stay right here in Canada and find a two legends who helped build Hamilton.

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Redskins name has to go

Recently, a campaign has started to gain traction in Ottawa for the Nepean Redskins, a local football team, to change their name.  Much like the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, the Redskins name continues to be extremely offensive to Aboriginal communities and through social media, the movement continues to gain support.  The movement was started by Dee Jay Ndn of local band A Tribe Called Red,who states:

“The name would be the same as calling a black man the N-word. It’s extremely derogatory,” said Ian Campeau, a.k.a. Dee Jay Ndn. “As First Nations we haven’t had a civil rights movement yet. That’s why society lets the Redskins name slide.”

Simply stated, these names are extremely offensive and amazingly the two most disappointing aspects of this story continue to be: 1) the team adopted the name Redskins in 1981 and 2) many people are opposing the name change.  The 2nd doesn’t surprise as much as the first but the amount of senseless and unaware responses from local sports fans is frightening. Many people have facetiously posted that the Senators or Canucks should probably change their names as a sarcastic way of reducing a valid concern.  It’s interesting to see how people grow accustom to terms regardless of their history or reference and then try to minimize the efforts of a community to correct a wrong.  Many people in opposition claim the name isn’t offensive and that it is just a name but I wonder, would they approach an Aboriginal person and say “Hey Redskin, how’s it going?”. Like you, I doubt it. Another argument that has been made is that it would cost too much money to change the name (in the neighbourhood of $125, 000) that the local organization simply doesn’t have.  While that is most likely true, here’s an idea: get behind the campaign and ask the government to fund the name change.  Considering this nation’s poor record of Aboriginal rights, funding a name change would be a symbolic and simple way of taking another small step to writing one of the many wrongs. 

Much like the recent Yunel Escobar issue that has put an ugly mark on Toronto as a city, the fact that a youth football team in our nation’s capital can have such an offensive name, is despicable. Sadly, it also points to the fact that Canada’s silent approach to race relations and fear of exposing it’s shortcomings, means that outdated practices continue.  Unfortunately, the name of this football team and the resistance that this campaign has met is yet another simple reminder of the horrendous way First Nations people and community at large continues to be disrespected in Canada. Not only should the government fund the name change, they should interject right now and offer to do so immediately.    

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Part 2: Escobar and the Jays Management Team

Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays GM has been a revelation in terms of building a hardworking, young and hungry team in Toronto.  He has also done a great job of turning pieces that were not helping the club into talented players like Escobar and Colby Rasmus.  Not to mention, he also managed to pry manager John Farrell from AL East giants the Boston Red Sox and managed to retain him when it seemed like they were going to try and take him back last summer. 

All of the above being said, what occurred on Saturday is the act of one player which appears to be endemic of a larger problem within the organization. No coach, team mate or executive saw what he wrote and were either curious or offended? Anyone who’s seen Scarface knows that that word is used in a derogatory manner throughout the film and should at least of asked Escobar what he wrote and why? None saw him writing it at the time or even more plausible none decided to speak up to either him or to their manager about what they knew would surely be a controversial message throughout the 3 and half hour game. John Farrell should be letting off some steam at anyone and everyone who was around Escobar if he truly did miss this himself.

And what does it say about John Farrell that his players are willing to attempt such a stupid stunt while on his watch.  It’s not as if Escobar didn’t consider the possibility that his message would be captured by the media but rather it seems that the threat of being “caught” wasn’t much of a deterrent. I just can’t imagine him attempting such a crazy prank with a more disciplined and intimidating manager (Ron Washington anyone?).  But let’s see. John Farrell came from which organization? The Red Sox? Who was his mentor there again? Wasn’t it Terry Francona, he of the chicken and beer clubhouse DURING The game? I hate deflecting attention from Escobar who at 29 should know better, but it is clear that the management team and coaches need to accept some responsibility for allowing this to occur. 

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Yaya James and Lebron Toure


To the naked eye, there are a multitude of obvious differences between Miami Heat, All World Small Forward Lebron James and Manchester City and Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure.  Lebron James is the most well known athlete globally and has been a fixture in the public eye since he was was a teenager who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline The Chosen One. Yaya Toure, by contrast, was a little known West African footballer well into his 20’s until he was given some exposure in the football world as a holding midfielder for Barcelona.  He is now a well known and well respected athlete near the top of his sport while LBJ’s fame has transcended his sport and sports in general.  The similarities though are there for those who want to see them….

Physical Specimens  

Football and basketball are both filled with athletes who are The 1% physically of men.  Both sports are grueling that they require each player to dedicate hours to the gym and treadmill just to maintain and hope to excel over the months of that both seasons consist of.  Now of course there are the occasional Paul “Gazza” Gascoignes and Charles “Sir Charles” Barkleys but we remember them (and give them nicknames) to remind ourselves of how unique they truly are.  They are an exception to the rule as men who somehow maintained a high level over their careers while also looking like they just came from the local bar (Note: In many cases they didn’t just look like they came from the bar. After all, don’t YOU look like you’ve been drinking when you’ve been drinking??)  

Conversely, in James and Yaya we have two men that don’t come along often. As a 6’3, 200 lb midefielder, Yaya Toure is physically superior to almost any other person he may line up across from in the centre of the pitch.  Built like a centre back or striker, he is able to blend his visual physical superiority with a work rate and cardio strength that is much more suited to a smaller, more average sized midfielder.  It’s no wonder that he is able to do things that the average midfielder just can’t do.

Sound familiar?  Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock over the last ten years or are a loyal subject to Daniel Gilbert, you are well aware of the physical superiority of man-chlid turned Super-man sized Lebron James.  Standing 6’8, 250 pounds Lebron James is built like no other basketball player ever.  He is stronger, faster and more explosive than anyone else in the world.  Over the last year he has added to his legend by not only winning his first NBA Championship and Gold medal at the London Olympics, but by playing every position on the court in the process.  Which brings me to my next point…

Jackknives

Both of these men are JACKNIVES! They are blessed with the ability to play seemingly any role on the pitch/court.  Starting Mario Chalmers, he of the 6 points and 3 assist average at point guard? No problem, Lebron is your man.  Growing tired of watching Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony avoid bumps and rebounds as your starting Centres? No problem, LBJ will play in the post and play 5 for you.  He’ll also lineup at either forward position or become your scoring of guard whenever he sees fit.

Yaya Toure is the Lebron of the pitch.  No he does not play keeper or routinely lineup as a defender or striker but keep in mind, he is a footballer.  What structure and play calling is to basketball is what fluidity and independent ingenuity is to football.  While the match is occurring you’ll see Yaya move periodically from his holding midfield position to an attacking midfield role to defending or striking as his club needs him.  He is there winning headers in either box, linking play between teammates or scoring crucial goals when his club needs him most.  Sound like anyone else you know? Is this thing on? That’s also one helluva segue to the last trait that makes these men twins in different worlds.

Clutch

Late in the BPL season, making the difficult trip to Tyneside at St. James’ Park, Manchester City find themselves behind Newcastle 2-1 late in the match.  Yaya time.  He not only scores the tying goal but then goes one better and scores the winner to help keep his club at the top of the table.  Plays and goals like this became routine over the 2011-12 season from the Ivorian.  He was easily the most valuable player to his club and in the BPL all season leading Manchester City to their first Premiership title in 44 years.

A year ago, everything written about Lebron James centred on the fact that he faded late in the game and wasn’t there when his team needed him most.  Not only articles but a ton of jokes floated around the web (Why did LeBron James get an automatic transmission in his Lamborghini? He’s not good in the clutch.)

What a difference a year makes. Here we are in 2011-12 and there is no way around it, Lebron James is not only the best basketball player in the world but also the most clutch.  He not only did everything his team needed (when they needed him most) but also WANTED the ball at the most crucial times in every important game.  Kevin Durant and the Thunder making a late run? Pass it to Lebron.  Spain within a bucket in the 4th quarter of the gold medal game? Pass it to Lebron.  Within the last year, Lebron seemingly turned fiction to fact as he was the real life Will Smith of Bel Air Prep reducing NBA all stars to looking like Washington Generals.  

Next time you watch a Manchester Derby and the Heat take on the new look Lakers, just remember that in many ways, you’re watching the same thing.  Both Toure and James will use their physical superiority, unmatched versatility and clutch ability to give their teams what they need most, when they need it most.  An ocean may separate them, but the uniquely named Yaya and Lebron will provide their sport’s with unique skills and qualities that only they can.