All-Star ogling
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Granted, The Cooler has taken a Rip Van Winkle-like nap on the NBA since, oh, the late 1980s, but when did they kidnap the thing and put a cricket game in its place?

I swear I saw a final score of 155 to 145 at Sunday's All-Star Game, and I half-expected to hear a BBC announcer say: The West Indies bowled six wickets for a 155, while plucky Englishman Beef Wellington and teammate Yorkshire Pudding hit three bats each for a 145.

Come to think of it, the NBA All-Star Game could have used an understated man at the mike. When will the NBA learn from our more classic American sporting venues, like Yankee Stadium? P.A. god Bob Sheppard could read from the DMV Handbook and make it sound like the poetry of Robert Frost by inflection alone. "Whose woods these are, I think I know/But always travel at 25 miles per hour through a school zone."

Mariah Carey
If there's one thing that get players and fans going ...
Instead, the NBA has spent the past two decades getting the guy on the P.A. system who has just mainlined six Jolt colas, then backed it up with a triple-espresso and a man-sized hit off of NFL-issued smelling salts. MICH-AEL JORRRRRRRRRDAN!

Hey, like we don't know who Jordan is? Like we don't get fired up for the guy on his name alone? What ever happened to speaking softly and carrying a big stick? You think great men throughout history needed the over-hyped intro? What, before the Lincoln-Douglas debates, some jackass with a bullhorn shouted: "He is a 6-foot-4 statesman ... from rural Illinois ... ABRAHAMMMMM LINC-OLLLLLLLLLN!"

Still, the NBA All-Star Game offers some unique viewing opportunities, if only because it's a chance to see the worst case put forward by the defense since the O.J. Simpson trial. Bullfighters are appalled by the defense played at an All-Star Game. It's an insult to their craft.

I saw where, at some points, timeouts were actually called. What could Rick Adelman possibly say during a time-out? "Hey, guys, how about a little old-school defense? A little man-you-ball? A little don't-give-up-baseline?" He would be met by blank stares, at which point the TV timeout would end and he would clear the huddle and reignite team chemistry by saying: "Allright, on 3, Mariah Carey's hemline ... 1 ,2, 3 ... hemline!"

Today on Page 2
  • The Sports Guy nearly skipped the All-Star Game, but he decided to watch and came away impressed with ... Mariah. Check out his running All-Star diary.
  • What were the All-Stars thinking? Ralph Wiley's Uncensored Thoughts says LeBron was on their minds.
  • Are the Lakers finally getting their show back in order? Charley Rosen reports on the champs.
  • Page 2 cartoonist Kurt Snibbe likes to call it the "Air-Star Game."
  • The Daily Quickie chalks up all the winners and losers from All-Star Weekend.
  • The boys emerge from the huddle, all smiles.

    I love this game.

    Without further ado, on to our mid-February Weekend List of Five, a descriptive clause which should speak for itself in its own barren way:

    1. Jordan
    Who doesn't love this guy? Who doesn't think he's one of our all-time All-Timers? Who doesn't think he is the sheer joy of sports, the pure beauty of athleticism?

    Listen: In the summer of '92, in the NBA Finals between the Blazers and Bulls, I stayed up till 4 a.m. in Dublin, Ireland to watch SkySports. I watched Jordan rain home six three-point baskets in the first half, punctuated by that famous shrug of the shoulders when he hit his sixth. I shouted out in amazement, thus ruining the late night vibe for my Irish roomie, Brian Mc, who rushed downstairs from a shag session with an Irish bird to see what was the clatter downstairs. I had to sheepishly tell him that, halfway around the world, Jordan was lighting it up.

    But hey -- Jordan's an Irish name, right?

    All that said ... who was that bricklayer out there at the All-Star Game?

    Michael Jordan
    When Jordan walked on the floor, the Finals were over for Portland.
    Somebody pointed out to me early in the game where Jordan was 0 for 7, and I said: Jordan's playing? Who put on ESPN Classic? Is this the 1991 All-Star Game? And if so, who's checking Clyde (The Glide) Drexler?

    Man. It's the year 2003, and Jordan's still playing in All-Star Games? I know it's a nice gesture, and I know he's an American treasure, but what ever happened to the graceful exit? Instead, we had to watch him go 0 for his first 7. It was like watching Bill Clinton trying to hit on one of the "The Golden Girls." Or something like that.

    I was watching in the press room at Pebble Beach, covering the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (by grace of the sportswriting Gods) and all I could think was: MJ. You should be here, buddy. Let the teenagers throw down dunks and lay bricks from anything outside 10 feet. Let the Players Parking Lot be filled with Hummers, while you roll to the first tee at Pebble for your foursome with Mark Grace, Rocco Mediate and Davis Love III in a courtesy Cadillac.

    Come, Michael. We'll have you at Pebble. This is where you belong, baby.

    2. Jordan, part deux
    I see where Vince Carter surrendered his starting spot for a fellow Tar Heel.

    Hours earlier, Davis Love III won at Pebble Beach -- and Love was Jordan's boy back in Chapel Hill.

    Davis Love III
    Score another one for the Tar Heels.
    The state of North Carolina had not seen such a fine hour since the tobacco industry locked up the endless-crates-of-smokes contract with all of Eastern Europe.

    Speaking of which, Carolina is currently serving as a lighthouse for The Cooler, a beacon in the midst of a dark, dark night. Wasn't it just last year that the Tar Heels suffered NCAA hoops ignominy worse than Dean Smith's most savage, sheets-soaked-with-sweat nightmare?

    And now, the baby blue Heels are back.

    Thou art my inspiration, as we pause to consider the wreckage that is UCLA basketball right now.

    Now, don't get me started. If I got started, the authorities would have to come with a butterfly net, and put me in the Rubber Room. Let's just say that it's only weeks now that Steve Lavin will be consigned to eternal exile, and the CPR paddles will be bestowed upon Lon Kruger or Rick Majerus or Ben Howland to lead a once-proud kingdom back into the light.

    Carolina, thou art our inspiration. The Cooler salutes ye.

    3. Our new favorite quarterback
    Huge news, Cooler-dwellers: Patriots QB Tom Brady met up with yours truly at the AT&T after a round at Spyglass Hill and, after proper identification was presented, admitted that he, himself, is a Dweller!

    A Super Bowl MVP, reading this tripe!

    A young, handsome, superstar-in-waiting QB, logging on to read these sophomoric rants!

    Tom Brady
    "I'm goin' to Disney World, right after I read The Cooler!"
    Thank God he was too busy last year to sign on during Super Bowl week, when I believe somebody chloroformed me and ghost-wrote that he had "the whole Joe Montana vibe going, only without the talent."

    Hey, it was meant as a compliment, man.

    Anyway, the good Bay Area lad was in fine spirits. He's a Giants baseball fan, and a Dweller.

    Our first admitted star reader! I'm dizzy with excitement.

    So if anybody needs to find me, look for the guy in the Patriots No. 12 jersey, typing out half-baked one-liners on an antiquated laptop.

    And Tom Brady rules, man!

    4. The Great One: as cool as it gets
    That said, we also had the chance to meet Wayne Gretzky this week at the AT&T, and at the risk of being a Hall of Fame jock-sniffer, it must be said: The pasty Canadian is a cool customer.

    Understand, The Cooler does not traffic in the stereotype that all pro star athletes are useless wastes of space. Some of my more cynical brethren might think so, but we like to look on the bright side at The Cooler, and guys like Steve Young, Jason Giambi and Garrison Hearst are highly-amusing and interesting cats. We find merit in some of these people, even though others have told us to take a long walk off a short pier, even when there are no short piers available, and they use f-words in between.

    Wayne Gretzky
    Even off the ice, The Great One lives up to his name.
    That said, here's the scouting report on Gretzky: One of the greatest athletes in the history of North America. As unassuming and unpretentious as your favorite drinking buddy. A guy who made it to the final round of the AT&T with his Canuck partner, Mike Weir. He gets it. He stayed out of the way for Love and Weir. Played fast. Picked up his ball when needed. Smiled. Signed autographs to take the heat off of the players.

    As a hockey illiterate, I couldn't tell you the first reason why he was The Great One. I'm just saying, after this weekend, I'll buy the argument.

    5. Days away. Just days away!
    On Friday in Scottsdale, Arizona, the San Francisco Giants, and many teams around Major League Baseball, present to you the following four words. Chew on them. Sleep with a smile. Dream of sunshine and high skies. And plenty of cold beer:

    Pitchers and catchers report.

    I cannot follow that with anything but a weekly farewell, dwellers. And that includes you, too, Mr. Brady.

    Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



    Brian Murphy Archive

    Murphy: Much ado about nothing

    Murphy: Getting faced

    Murphy: Fond farewell to an historic hellhole

    Murphy: Pink houses for you and me

    Murphy: Nothing beats a comeback

    Murphy: Heaven, hell and the NFL

    Murphy: Don we now our gay apparel

    Murphy: Beware the Heisman

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