A rare three-pronged sports update:
- Alas, Chanda’s aged wiles proved too little to take down the mighty Venus. But she put up a good fight, losing 7-6 (7-4), 6-3. In the first set, Chanda broke three set points. I’m telling you: give her two functioning knees and she can still compete.
- Did you know you have to be a jock to be a Rhodes Scholar? I knew the Rhodes used to have a reputation for having a preference for athletes (e.g., Whizzer White), but I never realized it was one of the four stated requirements. (“[E]nergy to use ones talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports.”)
A crabwalk.com source close to the Rhodes application process tells me “physical vigor” can be an acceptable substitute for a letter jacket. But still, it still seems a bit wrong in this day and age to have a very clear “no cripples allowed” rule.
(Then again, if you’re going to be initiated into the Illuminati and learn about how to bring about One-World-Government, that may involve some occasional jogging.)
- Finally, some very sad news. Popeye Jones was released by the Golden State Warriors Friday, thus likely ending his NBA career. (Being released by the Warriors is like being expelled from your fifth high school. You’re unlikely to find any more takers.)
I mourn this cold transaction because I have loved Popeye Jones for more than a decade. Herewith, the reasons:
1. His name is Popeye. I shouldn’t have to explain this.
2. The man has the finest ears in all of sport. Surely his NBA wealth could have allowed Popeye the luxury of some sort of ear-shrinking surgery. Or at least ear-compressing surgery. But no — the man continued to let his ear-freak-flag fly, and I admire that.
3. He was, at one point early in his career, quite a productive player for the hometown Mavericks, averaging a double-double in points and rebounds.
4. He was a member of one of my favorite class of athlete: the undersized workhorse. I know it’s tough to think of someone 6’8” as undersized, but that’s borderline tiny for an NBA power forward/occasional center. But Popeye was always under the basket, scrapping for the ball and outhustling more physically talented players. He’s always beaten expectations. I mean, how many second-round draft picks from 1992 are still in the NBA? I don’t know, but that number is asymptotically approaching zero now that Popeye’s gone.
5. He was The Man in college. Popeye went to tiny Murray State in Murray, Kentucky. But he didn’t let his distance from the spotlight stop him. Oh, no, not Popeye! He was a scoring machine when his team needed him, and he even led the nation in rebounding as a senior. I have a very distinct memory of watching Popeye and Murray State play in their conference tournament in 1992, his senior year. I don’t remember who they were playing, but I remember he looked like he was facing a bunch of eight-year-olds.
6. He always came up big in the biggest situations. Dude led the Murray State Racers to three straight conference titles and was conference tournament MVP all three times. When he got a shot at the big time, in the NCAA tournament, he was again a stud, scoring 37 points against the No. 1 team in the country (Michigan State) and forcing them into overtime — as a sophomore. That game remains the closest a No. 16 seed has come to beating a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
In other words, Popeye Jones is a selfless, smart ugly dude of whom little was expected and who ended up kicking everybody’s ass because he just worked harder. Truly, a hero for our times. Godspeed, Popeye.
I'll be sad to see Popeye retire, too. He was a fan favourite here in Toronto when he was a mad rebounder for the Raptors. I loved his buggy eyes even more than his ears, though!
Joshua Benton is the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, among other things. Before that, he was a staff writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News. (More.)
Any opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of my employer. In many cases, they may not even be mine.