Iverson's battle cry dishonors troops in Iraq

By null, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 27, 2003

He didn't mean anything by it. I'm convinced. Blame it on Allen Iverson's poor perspective and pitiful judgment.

Philadelphia's uniquely gifted basketball soldier, as the NBA playoffs began, mused that it's "like going to war; you want to feel good about the guy next to you in the foxhole."

Halt! About face!

How silly No.3's analogy, how rotten his timing. Comparing athletic competition to war is always nonsensical, but especially when troops are risking far more than blowing a best-of-seven series.

Somewhere on a field of Iraqi combat, there is a jock named Pat Tillman. Not playing games. Last year, the 26-year-old Arizona Cardinals defensive back relinquished a seven-figure salary to become a $17,000-a-year Ranger (that's Army Ranger, Allen, not baseball Ranger or hockey Ranger). In combat far more threatening than the nastiest of NFL Sundays, Tillman has shared real foxholes with real heroes.

How about a salute, Allen.

QUICK KICKS: Paid my $6 to see Anger Management, figuring it was the Ron Artest story. ... Tampa Bay's hockey club should consider calling the Lightning highlight film The Spirit of St. Louis. ... Speaking of baseball Cards, which I wasn't, no matter how ambitiously Chris Berman grinds, no team will approach the nickname prowess of baseball's Gas House Gang in the '30s, with such wacky tags as Ducky Medwick, Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Dazzy Vance, Leo the Lip Durocher, Pepper Martin, Ripper Collins and manager Frank "Fordham Flash" Frisch. ... No, the Devil Rays will not be signing Zippy Chippy, even if he comes cheap. The so-called thoroughbred was banned by an Ohio racetrack upon losing a race by 32 lengths to deepen his career record to zero wins in 97 starts.

COACHES WHO FLEE: With the departure of Roy Williams from Kansas to North Carolina, followed by Bill Self leaving Illinois to operate the Jayhawks, an e-mail from Bill Dunne of Edina, Minn., says he has "little problem with a coach leaving for greener pastures as long as he has met the full obligation of a signed contract."

He wonders why colleges don't institute "no-compete clauses" similar to those involving TV journalists, disallowing a move to a rival organization for an extended period. Dunne thinks if there's an "out clause" when a contract is signed, that fact should be made public. Because of such a paragraph, KU is paying $500,000 to the Self-less Illini.

Often, when a highly sought coach is hired, new employers are prone to pile on perks while hiding anything that might be deemed negative. It's like a marriage in which the pre-nup is covered up until there's a divorce. Schools are to blame when contracts aren't tight enough, binding enough and potentially penal enough.

If they won't withstand legal challenges, passages in contracts are useless. In sports, it goes well beyond coaches. I would love to see athletes who sign scholarships be locked in for at least three seasons before being allowed to turn pro.

Then, there are trumpeted teens ...

For every wealthy, famous Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady or LeBron James, there is a flood of oversold and undereducated chumps, many romanced by greedy and/or shady agents.

After eschewing college, then experiencing the death of a pro sports fantasy, a victimized youngster can get the bends as he quickly drops to being an uncheered laborer making maybe $6.50 an hour.

- Whatever happened to Don James?