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The Sportsman of the Day
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By Bob Frantz
Like a shot of deer antler spray filling a dirty back room, let's go here, there and everywhere …
-- Wait, what?!? Ray Lewis doing something illegal? No way. Couldn't be.
At Super Bowl media day this week, the retiring Baltimore linebacker stayed true to form in refusing to answer questions about the still-unsolved double-murder he was involved in 13 years ago, but just days before his second Super Bowl appearance, he now has to deal with questions about a banned substance he allegedly used to recover from his torn triceps in time to play in the playoffs.
I won't go so far as to call this new hit on Lewis' reputation "divine intervention," but we can at least throw a "poetic justice" at the self-glorifying Lewis, who has been all but canonized by a storyline-starved media in the two-week hypefest leading to the Super Bowl.
-- Speaking of the honorable Ray-Ray, thanks to the many Ravens' fans who have flooded my email inbox and my Twitter account with hate messages after last week's accurate recounting of Lewis' role in the 2000 murders in Atlanta. When one manages to generate this much profanity, hatred, and threats of violence from legions of fans who devote themselves to a football player who has refused for more than a decade to identify which two friends in his rented limo killed Richard Loller and Jacinth Baker, thereby exposing their hypocrisy to the light of day, one has done his job well.
-- One more thought on the Ravens: It looks as though the man who brought that franchise to life, after stealing it from its rightful home in Cleveland, may finally be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While such an undeserved honor for Art Modell will certainly sting Browns' fans, they may take at least some small comfort in the fact that they won't have to endure a speech from Modell on the steps of the Hall in Canton, just 40 miles from the site of one sports' greatest crimes. If induction is inevitable — and it shouldn't be — a posthumous honor should be a little less painful to bear.
-- On the subject of pain, 2007 NBA No. 1 pick Greg Oden is looking to return to the league next year, and the Cavaliers are reportedly one of the top two teams in pursuit of the talented-but-fragile 7-footer.
The other leading contender for Oden's services? The Heat, of course.
The Cavs are said to be interested in Oden's glass knees for up to $4 million per season. I'd be OK with taking a flier at that price, as long as the Cavs don't guarantee a nickel of it. If the guy wants anything more than cab fare guaranteed, he can take his wheelchair and his walker to South Beach.
-- San Francisco wide receiver Randy Moss, who has coat-tailed his way to the Super Bowl with the Niners, playing little more than a supporting role with 28 catches this season, dropped some jaws this week when he declared himself the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game.
Such a statement would be blasphemous enough given Jerry Rice's stature as the game's all-time pass catcher, with statistics as unreachable as Cy Young's 511 career victories, but for the words to come from Moss is especially galling. The 35-year-old was arguably the most talented player at his position, but his reputation for laziness and selfishness was extraordinarily well-earned.
For me, the moment Moss admitted that, "I play only when I want to play" more a decade ago, he forfeited any claim he may have had to all-time greatness.
-- "Student of the game" is an often-repeated and generally overused phrase to describe an intelligent player, but a more perfect phrase cannot be found to describe Cavaliers' all-star Kyrie Irving.
In an interview with Irving at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards last week, at which he was named Professional Athlete of the Year, I asked him how he is so easily able to take over games in the fourth quarter. His answer was devoid of the typical athlete-speak — "I don't know, I just go into a zone, man, and that's my time to shine."
Instead, Irving described how he spends the first three quarters of games studying defensive tendencies, taking mental notes of how opponents respond to various dribble-drives and passes, and even passing up golden opportunities early, in order to surprise defenders with unseen attacks late.
Irving is already one of the game's most gifted physical players, but with a mentality like his, at just 20 years of age, it's only a matter of time before he's recognized as the greatest point guard on the planet.
Student of the game, indeed.
Bob Frantz hosts "The Bob Frantz Show" on WTAM-AM 1100 from 7 p.m. to midnight weeknights, and following Cavaliers, Indians and Browns games.