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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The War on War Analogies

Continuing the effort to constrain free speech in our newfound era of terrorism and preemptive military action, the media have shamed Kevin Garnett into apologizing for having the temerity to compare the Minnesota Timberwolves' game seven against Sacramento tonight to war--a comparison that has been made by athletes of various sports about a zillion times in the past. This is the same thing that happened to Kellen Winslow when, after a loss last fall, the University of Miami football stud angrily called himself a "soldier." In one ridiculous instance soon after 9/11, I read an article wondering whether the football term "blitz" was appropriate any more.

Obviously, no statement like the one Garnett made is meant to have anything to do with actual war that is ongoing or that happened in the past. It is simply a figure of speech, a way of expressing a mindset, an emotion, and nothing more. We do like our athletes to be expressive, don't we? All the faux-outrage from our saintly media members is especially galling in instances like this.

The statement actually wasn't far off in what has been a surprisingly physical and intense series for two teams not known for being that physical or intense. I think it's been good for them both because the winner will be sufficiently battle-tested (oops, I mean "tough basketball-tested," sorry) to take on the Lakers and their arsenal (er, group) of future Hall of Famers. (Do the Golden State Warriors have to change their nickname now, by the way? Commissioner Stern?) I think this hardening effect from the seven games may prove more helpful to the survivor's (ahem, winner's) chances in the Western finals. Not that they'll beat the Lakers, mind you, but it should be a good one tonight.

The NHL's Western finals between Calgary and San Jose also continues with game six tonight. It's been a bizarre series, with the road team winning each of the first five games, again proving how pointless the NHL regular season and home-ice advantage really are. For all I've been pulling for them, I want to call Calgary "America's team," except they're based in Canada. At least Canada is behind them, it seems.

As I have extended exposure to the greatness of Jarome Iginla, I also can't help but think of Chris Rock, who has made jokes for years about how black guys one day would come to dominate hockey in addition to the other pro sports. I remember Rock doing a riff on this back in his SNL days, and he recently did another bit on black guys and hockey in his latest HBO special ("LeBron on skates"). If Rock actually followed hockey, he might realize that Iginla, a black guy, is already the best hockey player in the world.