Monday, June 13, 2011

SPORTS: Premature Celebration

Much is being made today of the juvenile antics of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. First, there was the little celebration in Game Two that was JUST a tad premature. Up 15 and dancing seemed to spur on the Dallas Mavericks who managed to come back and win the game, en route to actually winning the NBA Championship last night. And there was the equally juvenile mocking James and Wade were caught on tape doing before the fifth game, making fun of Dirk Nowitzki's illness in the prior game. The Miami Heat would never win another game in the post-season.

Celebrating and mocking are the kind of things pro athletes shouldn't do, but often do do. And get away with. In the first case, it's understandable, if nauseating. I've always been a Joe Paterno fan. "Act like you've done it before"  In the second case, karma got them but good. Good. I had a low opinion of James before the tape saw the light of day. It's lower now. And Wade, the only one of the Amigos who hadn't earned universal scorn, is coming into some of what James and Chris (Just Another Guy) Bosh have been deservedly getting all year.

Where the Heat goes from here is anybody's guess. The excuse-makers are already out in force saying they predicted the team would have growing pains before going on a multi-year title spree. Yeah, but, there is that el foldo act James did over the last fortnight. And surely, somebody in the NBA final is going to be willing to get physical with Bosh and Wade. If you can't beat them, then beat them up. The Brian Cardinal's of the world have worth afterall. I can see several finals appearances by Wade and James (and a trade of Bosh to help them get back there). And I can see other teams employing what passes for what has become winning strategy against the Heat.

And that will probably bring a smile to my face.

Before I go, let me tell you just how incendiary premature celebrations are. In all of sports. Last century, I was guest-coaching the local peewee rep softball team in a game against Woodbridge. I'd coached most of the kids before and Barry Murphy needed a one-night stand-in as he and his wife were elsewhere. Soooo, I was pressed into duty. Bear in mind, to this point, a Bramalea team had NEVER, EVER lost to a Woodbridge team. But this was the best Woodbridge team at any age level in years. And a nice guy name Willard was coaching, and he generally knew his stuff.

I made a mistake right off the top. I talked the umpire into calling pitches from behind the pitcher. It was a one-umpire crew and this bunch of Bramalea ball-players were led by Barry's boy David, one of the better catchers in Ontario. They still employed many of the pick off plays I'd put in for them the year before and I wanted the umpire close to the bases to make calls on those plays, of which I expected there to be more than a few. What actually happened was that the Woodbridge players that got on bases got off to illegal leads just about every time. And none got caught. And as good as David was, he didn't succeed against these running lead-offs.

Bramalea found itself down 4-1 heading into the final inning. I was mortified of course. Then, Willard did something natural and stupid. He starting bagging his equipment. Like any coach anywhere else in the world, I pounced. I started screaming at my kids to look at what he was doing. He looked up mortified. His kids all looked too. ALL he was doing was cleaning up ... just a little too early. "He thinks the game is over!!!" Naturally, the kids rallied. We took the lead 5-4 and then tacked on another run that shouldn't have scored. A runner running from second to third was tagged out for the final out of the inning on a non-force play. We had a runner scooting home from third at the same time, but he didn't make it in time. Nevertheless, I yelled at the umpire, who had is back turned to the plate, "Run scores since he beat the tag!" And I got the (wrong) call. This was a make-up for the fact that the Woodbridge kids had run roughshod all game long. I hadn't complained at all since I was at fault for letting them do it in the first place. I had taken my medicine, and a measure of revenge.

Woodbridge did nothing in their home half of the inning and Bramalea left town with the perfect record in tow. I apologized to Willard as best I could for the show I put on. He was gracious about it, but he quit coaching rep ball at the end of the season and I was told he said he didn't want to win anything bad enough to do what that crazy Bramalea coach did.

He was right to retire.

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