It's pretty rare to have any intrigue in All-Star voting. (Rory Fitzpatrick was an exception, but that was a gimmick.)
That's what makes Gilbert Arenas' selection as a starter for the East in the NBA All-Star Game – surging ahead of Vince Carter at the last moment – so amazing.
Arenas' final surge was nothing short of jaw-dropping spectacular: Arenas was more than 200,000 votes behind as recently as TWO WEEKS AGO. He finished 3,000 votes ahead. I've never heard of that kind of swing in the NBA – and maybe All-Star voting in any sport. (Maybe MLB?)
Next, it is the official coronation that Agent Zero* has arrived as a top-tier NBA star. It's been unofficial all season: First came the love from the bloggers. Next came the various crazy don't-call-them-quirks that humanized Gil in a way that no other NBA star was. Then came the scoring binges. Then the surprising success of his first signature shoe. And, now, the validation of the masses: A starting spot in the All-Star Game. (And not just any All-Star Game, but the greatest All-Star Game in the history of sports, if only because it's in
Meanwhile, there's a second angle that makes this even better: He displaced Vince Carter, who long had a lock on the All-Star starting spot, simply off of one dunk contest a long time ago. Since then, he has steadily lost cred among fans, but maintained a mysterious populist grip on that All-Star starting spot. But even VC couldn't stop the ultimate populist NBA hero: Agent Zero.
Oh, and as Gil himself pointed out: Thanks to the Sixers for trading the leading vote-getter among guards in the East, Allen Iverson. That moved everyone else up a spot and allowed Arenas the chance to pass Carter.
(Want merely the latest reason that fans love Arenas? On his NBA.com blog, he was referencing the mission he's on to score a ton on the USA Basketball coaches who snubbed him last summer. Mike D'Antoni joked earlier this week that he'd hate to see what Arenas would do against Coach K and Duke. And so Arenas said on his blog he'd score "84 or 85" against Duke. I would pay a minimum of $1,000 to watch that on pay-per-view. We're quickly getting to the point where there has never been a player in NBA history as uniquely entertaining – combining on-court and off-court performance – as Arenas.)
(* - Please, mainstream media, start crediting the Wizznutzz for that nickname)
More NBA All-Star: Nice to see Chris Bosh join Arenas with the regulars Shaq, LeBron and Wade in the East starting lineup. The West is the same-old-same-old:
Aussie Open: You're either a Serena man or a Maria man. (But I absolutely don't want to shut out the women readers: You're either a Serena woman or a Maria woman.) And I'd like to know which.
College Hoops: Duke edges Clemson...barely. It took a layup at the buzzer, but the bigger story was the way that Duke blew a 5-point lead with 13 seconds to go, necessitating the need for the buzzer-beating bail-out. (Oh, wait: Go figure -- Duke basically cheated their way to the W, using a friendly clock-operator to steal the win. Via Deadspin and Fanhouse.)
NBA Last Night: Hey, look: The Clippers are back at .500 after Cat Mobley's 3 beat the buzzer to beat the Nets.
NFL: The Garrett-Watch. I am not sure why, but I'm fascinated by the Cowboys-Garrett situation. At the very least, he's the offensive coordinator, but I think it's fairly obvious Jerry Jones wants to elevate him to head coach as soon as possible. What kind of head coach would sign with his successor literally standing next to him?
MLB: The Red Sox will finally sign JD Drew. His place next season on the DL is inevitable.
But not before USA Today's Sports Media Apologist Michael Hiestand can weigh in by ripping bloggers while offering Sean a virtually unfiltered platform to protest, which he continues to do (and, by the way, Sean has the absolute right to do).
Let me focus on Hiestand's coverage: Wouldn't balanced journalism – even for a columnist – maintain that it would be worth finding someone with the other point of view to weigh in? I'm just asking.
Because everyone who has listened to the tape agrees Sean said "Jew" (and certainly didn't say "chew"), and that all Sean had to do is plausibly admit that it was a verbal flub with no intent to harm.
Then again, Hiestand has ESPN talent on his speed-dial, but I've never seen him quote a blogger. No, that would offer a wee too much legitimacy for a medium that must scare the hell out of him.
After all, the best, most timely, most insightful sports media criticism is coming from bloggers, not from newspapers.
Wow, that last rant could signal this could be a feisty Firday...