The Man With A Home

“On to bigger and better things” is often the saying. But bigger doesn’t always mean better. Just ask Tim McKinney.

McKinney is currently the Sports Information Director for Triton College in River Grove, Ill. McKinney’s story begins and continues with Triton College. McKinney was a graduate of Proviso West High School in 1995 and it was here he decided that he wanted to work on the radio calling sports. Tim visited prospective colleges but quickly  learned that it would be a couple of years before it would be his turn on the mic. It wasn’t until a power outage in his father’s home that he learned about Triton College.

Tim was at his father’s house when the power went out and he needed to fix his father’s clock. As Tim fixed the clock radio, the Triton College basketball game came over the airways. Tim listened and decided he would take a tour of the college. Seventeen years later, Tim McKinney is still a large part of the Triton College family.

While studying at Triton College, he traveled with the basketball team as a scorekeeper before earning his degree at Columbia College. He worked part-time as the play-by-play announcer for Triton College and community sports events on WRRG 88.9 FM, as well as freelancing for local newspapers. He was nominated four times in a three-year span by the March of Dimes for his work with the radio station and was recently inducted into the NJCCA Region 4 Hall of Fame.

While McKinney has had opportunities to move on from Triton College, the opportunities haven’t been the right fit. More importantly, you can tell the affinity he has for the college when he speaks about it. He’s found a home at the College and understands that’s just as important as a title or a salary.

The college also allows him to do other work. Tim has recently begun calling high school basketball games for High School Cube the Chicago Sun-Times’ free Internet prep streaming service. What started as a few games here and there turned into 34 broadcasts this season.

McKinney credits his preparation for his success. “Do the research,” he said. “Preparation is the most-important thing because you never know what’s going to happen.”

So while Tim hopes to continue to work with High School Cube, he will continue to work as the Sports Information Director at Triton College. Just visit any Triton College basketball game and you’ll be sure to find Tim working as the PA announcer.

The Northwestern Dilema

Former Northwestern Coach Bill Carmody

Bill Carmody has been fired after 13 seasons as the head basketball coach at Northwestern University. The news came Saturday morning after Northwestern finished the season 13-19 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament once again. The Wildcats have never made an appearance in the in the big dance. To put that into perspective,  the Wildcats are the only school in the power 6 conferences to never receive a bid to participate in the tournament.

“Look at 13 years. Athletic success does matter. It should matter,” Athletic Director Jim Phillips said. “We were here a year ago. One of the key differences was, we were down to one year on Bill’s contract. I didn’t feel an extension was warranted. It would have been really detrimental to the program, to Bill or his staff to try to recruit with less than a year on his contract.”

Carmody did take the Wildcats to four NIT Tournament selections in his 13 years, which should be considered an accomplishment given the state of the program when he took over and the limitations he worked with to build a program.

Before Carmody took over the program in 2000, current Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker interviewed for the position. In the interview, Amaker presented the hiring committee with three transcripts and asked if these students would be admitted to Northwestern. The committee reviewed the transcripts, and while the transcripts were good, the committee decided that the students would not pass the academic standards needed to be allowed into school. Two of the three transcripts belonged to college basketball stars Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley. Amaker then removed himself from the interview process, saying that he wouldn’t be able to build a winning program if he wasn’t able to get students like this into school.

Northwestern famously does not make any academic concessions for the basketball team. All of those who play for the basketball team, on scholarship or not, must qualify for school just as the rest of the student body does. At some other institutions this may not be a problem, but Northwestern is widely considered one of the best academic institutions in the country and those admitted have some of the best high school transcripts in the country.

Duke University is another school with high academic standards, but do you think that coach Mike Krzyewski has any problem getting who he wants into school?

Another way Northwestern has failed the basketball program is in the facilities. Trying to compete with other Division 1A programs, specifically ones in the Big Ten, is difficult when students see the difference between, say, what Ohio State has to offer and Northwestern has to offer. Not only does Welsh-Ryan Arena pale in comparison to the rest of the Big Ten, but their notoriously poor practice facilities play a role as well.

Add all of these factors up and you get the recipe for a school that has never received an NCAA tournament bid. It’s not even like bringing a knife to a gun fight, it’s like bringing a water pistol.  So while a change at the coaching position has been made, until the university decides to arm the school with even a metaphorical knife, it doesn’t matter who the coach is. The results will be the same.

Catfishes Go Fishing

 

Think that Manti Te’o is the only athlete naive enough to be a “Catfish” victim? Think again. Michael Roth, one of the Los Angles Angles of Anaheim’s highly touted pitching prospects, says that he was also caught up in a fraudulent relationship for nearly a year. Roth was the starting pitcher for South Carolina in each of the last three College World Series championship games. After winning the championship in 2010, Roth traveled to Maine to pitch in a summer league.

It was here that Roth received a text message from an unknown number. The text message asked if Roth was the cute Michael the unknown person had met. Roth spent time texting and speaking on the phone with a woman he had never met, just like Te’o. And just like Te’o, Roth never met the woman claiming to be Hope Porter. Scheduled meetings were always cancelled and even though Roth suspected something wasn’t right after a few weeks, he continued to communicate with the woman for almost a year. Throughout the episode, Roth learned that three of his teammates had also been communicating with the woman.

“As athletes, you’re a target in general,” Roth told the LA Times. “I think it’s part of the problem with a guy being a guy, when you’re younger. You see an attractive girl that tweets at you or texts at you or whatever, and you’re somewhat intrigued.”

While Roth said that he never fell in love or slept on the phone with the woman, he was able to sympathize with Te’o.

The more disturbing aspect of this story is that the phenomenon of “catfishing” someone seems to be more of a normal than isolated occurrence with young adults. It would seem that those participating in the vast opportunities of social media have excepted the risk of falling victim to similar schemes. While I could go on a tangent about how social media is debilitating the way human relationships are truly formed and maintained, the focus should remain on what athletes can do to avoid falling victims to similar situations.

The University of Michigan is one school that has become active in helping to educate young athletes on the trappings of social media. The school’s athletic director hired a hired a pair of consulting firms to monitor how university student-athletes were behaving on social media.

“One of the two consulting groups … utilized a young, attractive woman to go online and contact student-athletes. Did anyone take the bait? Some of them did, and established contact online with her,” athletic director Dave Brandon told the Toledo Blade. “The unnamed woman turned over to athletic department officials posts and comments that were made, and the names of student-athletes. During a presentation to Michigan’s student-athletes regarding social media awareness, the athletic department introduced the woman to the student athletes.”

While the method of education may seem odd, there’s nothing that does more to educate than experience. Te’o’s story may be enough for athletes to consider before engaging in an online relationship, but active education can only help. Universities across the country should follow in Michigan’s steps and take time and effort to address the students. The best solution for most would be to avoid social media, but in a culture that promotes social media avidly, giving athletes the tools to defend themselves seems more probable.

 

 

The Father Or Not The Father? That Is The Question.

Just a week after Michael Jordan celebrated his birthday, he was slapped with a paternity suit from a woman claiming that he is the father of her 16-year-old son. Pamela Y. Love, 48, claims that Jordan and her met in Chicago in the late 1980’s and the her son was the result of a 1995 encounter. Jordan was married to Juanita Vanoy, the mother of his three children, at the time.

Jordan quickly asked a Georgia court to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him saying that the father of the child has already been established.  Jordan released a statement through his representatives saying, “Public records show that the paternity of the child was established in a prior case in this same court many years ago and that Michael Jordan is not the father. He also filed a counterclaim seeking sanctions for the false claims made against him. It is unfortunate that well-known figures are the target of these kind of claims. Michael Jordan will vigorously defend himself and his reputation.”

Michael’s supposed  track record as a womanizer and a serial adulterer is well known, so the idea that he is the father of one of the women he had a relationship with is not that far fetched. The question as to why the woman waited 16 years to ask for a paternity test and child support remains.

The larger picture being painted is actually a sad one. If this is indeed a cheap attempt at extortion, then it shows the nature of humans and what they are willing to endure for a quick payday. Love picked a highly visible and significantly wealthy individual to seek payment from. Even crazier, Love’s son posted a video to Facebook claiming that Jordan was his father and that he wanted him to player a larger role in his life. Once again, this is all under the assumption that the claim is false, but either Love told a large lie to her son or her son is willingly participating. Neither of those scenarios paints a very glowing picture of the the Love household.

The largest red flags is the search for monetary compensation. Love had been married, so I am guessing that the child had been provided for in the past. And with just two years remaining before the child is legally an adult, the timing seems a bit odd. However, gaining even a percentage of Jordan’s income for the final two years would seem to be more than a substantial return for Love.

If the claim is true, then it continues to add to the stigma that professional athletes rarely take responsibilities for their actions. The boy just becomes another child that has grown-up without the benefit of having his father present in his life. If the child is indeed Jordan’s, then he has a responsibility to be a father to the child. As odd as it may be after 16 years, it is better to know your child and vise verca, than not at all.

The truth of this matter may never be solved, but I’m sure both parties would like the courts to rule in their favor. However, the truth that this is indeed a sad situation remains.

 

The NFL Meat Market

If you asked a group of men is they’ve ever watched an all-male beauty pageant, most of them would say no. But if you watched any of the NFL combine on the NFL Network this past weekend, then that’s exactly what you did. The combine has become just another event that NFL viewers tune into to wet their appetite for football. The combine’s most famous event, the 40 yard dash, has become must see TV for many of the avid NFL followers.

College players, if lucky enough to be invited, descend on Indianapolis for a weekend full of workouts, tests and interviews. These results can increase or decrease the potential draft position for many of those attending. If a prospect runs a fast 40 time, does X number of reps on the bench press and has a great vertical jump then they may see more general managers knocking on their doors. Well that’s what the NFL and those promoting the viewing of the combine would like you to think.

The reality is none of those things are really what NFL general managers and scouts are there for. There’s no denying that a strong showing can open the eyes of those attending the combine, but the most important things for general managers and coaches are the medical examinations and the interviews. The boring stuff.

Most talent evaluators do their evaluation based on game film, not how fast someone is able to run 40 yards in track shoes without pads on. Some of the best showings at the combine are by players who couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie. Instead, those there to evaluate talent want to learn things about the player that game film can’t tell them.

Investing millions of dollars into a rookie player, especially before the new collective bargaining agreement, is a risky proposal. Most first and second round draft picks are the building blocks for franchises. Making sure that a player can actually play is probably the most important criteria when a team considers drafting a player, but knowing how they check out medically and even psychologically carry significant weight as well.

So while the NFL wants you to focus on the numbers that are coming out of the testing, those making the draft decisions are focused on what the medical examinations and team interviews tell them. Can you blame the NFL though? Would viewers really tune into to see an MRI of a knee or a player answering questions about his personal life? Excluding Manti Te’o, I’m guessing there wouldn’t be a lot of interest.

The most amazing thing to come out of the combine isn’t a sub 4.3 40 yard dash time, but the fact that the NFL finds a way to remain relevant all year long. Somehow during the middle of the NBA and NHL seasons, an all-male beauty pageant captures the attention of sports fans across the country. The fact that I’m even writing about it shows the NFL is doing their job. So next year when the NFL trots out the dog and pony show that is the NFL combine, just remember the most important things happening are the ones you can’t see.

 

The Forgotten 50th Birthday

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players and best ambassadors for the sport turned 50 last week. While media outlets all over the country were celebrating Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, his close friend’s birthday was an afterthought. Charles Barkley’s 50th birthday received little fanfare; just a sit-down interview with Ernie Johnson that aired on NBATV. While Michael Jordan’s impact on the game of basketball worldwide is second-to-none, Barkley was a great player and possibly even a better ambassador in his own right.

Barkley was a small town Alabama boy who stared at Auburn University. Drafted with the 5th pick of the 1984 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, the undersized power forward would go on to play 16 years in the NBA. He appeared in 11 All-Star games, was a five-time All-NBA first team selection and won the NBA MVP in 1993. He was also a member of the Olympic Dream Team, winning gold medals in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Barkley’s career averages of 22.1 points-per-game and 11.7 rebounds-per-game grabbed him a spot on the NBA’s 1996 “50 Greatest Players In National Basketball Association History” list. Sadly, one of the largest holes in his resume is the thing people remember the most. Barkley never won an NBA title. The closest Barkley ever got to winning an NBA title was when he lost in the 1994 NBA Finals to the Chicago Bulls.

Much of Barkley’s basketball legacy has been defined by this very fact. The 23,757 career points and 12,546 career rebounds are often forgotten when considering how great of a player Charles actually was. And while Barkley’s impact on the court can be quantified with statistics and accomplishments, one could argue his biggest impact on the game of basketball has been his mouth.

In 1993, Charles became the focus of a Nike ad in which he stated, “I am not a Role Model.” While the ad created controversy, the message was one the Charles has stood by to this day.

“I think the media demands that athletes be role models because there’s some jealousy involved,” Barkley told The New York Times in 1996.  “It’s as if they say, this is a young black kid playing a game for a living and making all this money, so we’re going to make it tough on him. And what they’re really doing is telling kids to look up to someone they can’t become, because not many people can be like we are. Kids can’t be like Michael Jordan.”

This was only the beginning of Charles becoming a refreshing voice in a politically correct world. In 2000, he joined TNT as an NBA analyst and can still be found there today. His insights, humor and self-deprecating attitude have endured him to millions of fans around the country. In a media world of larger than life egos, Barkley’s ability to never take himself too seriously has made him must see TV.

Lost in some of the humor is the fact the Barkley still knows basketball. In the fraternity of ex-NBA players, few are willing to criticize current players like Charles. He’s never worried about ruffling feathers; often challenging players to become better versions of themselves.

Charles is never afraid to address more serious issues either. Barkley has long been a supporter of teachers, doctors and service men and women. He has often made it known that these are the people he truly admires. When Charles talked about not being a role model, these are the people he wanted others to look up to. So while we often overlook what Charles has to say, the message is correct.

In his sit-down interview for his 50th birthday with Ernie Johnson, Charles was asked to reflect on his life. A thoughtful Barkley said that basketball has given him everything in his life. It wasn’t arrogant, but thankful. In a day and age with spoiled and selfish athletes, Charles is one that understands just how truly blessed he is.

So here’s to 50 more years, Happy Birthday Charles Barkley.