The Lowe Down

Category: Sports (18)

Chan Lowe: Miami Heat win NBA Championship


The arena bulged with screaming fans, many of whom had paid exorbitant sums to scalpers to witness the event.

Down in the $30,000 seats at courtside, well-known entertainment figures from the movie and recording industries languished, looking bleary-eyed after three straight nights of partying.

The band struck up, the crowd mouthed the lyrics to the National Anthem, and the festivities began. Over the loudspeaker system, a disembodied voice introduced the home team. The structure resounded with cheers and foot stomping as the spectators savored the announcement of each position.

“Middle-School Math Teacher!”

“High-School English Teacher!”

“Guidance Counselor!”

“School Librarian!”

“American History Teacher!”

One by one, the team members trotted out and stood before the crowd, beaming at the adulation. Then their former pupils arrived on the court: captains of industry, hedge fund chiefs, leaders of humanitarian organizations, even former Presidents of the United States. There were hundreds of them. They approached the team, and after shaking each of their hands in gratitude, they presented them with paychecks in the millions of dollars.

Confetti fell. All over the city, cars honked and people pounded on pots and pans. Behind the scenes, the teachers’ agents were already on their cellphones, negotiating new contract terms with school boards with the threat that they might take their talents elsewhere.

Meanwhile, way up in the nosebleed seats sat a group of folks who didn’t have the means to buy their own tickets, but had won a few ducats in a lottery.

All they knew how to do was run around and pass a ball back and forth, and toss it through a metal ring with a reasonable degree of accuracy. It was more of a calling than a living, and to perform it with consummate skill required a unique combination of talent, teamwork and a lifetime of devotion.

Unfortunately, society placed little value upon running around and throwing things through hoops, so they were forced to battle resistant government entities every year for the pittance they received.

They understood that this was the way things worked in a free-market society. Fortunately, they weren’t in it just for the money. It was also for the joy of knowing they were leaving a mark on future generations.

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Chan Lowe: Obama, Lin and Clinton collide in Miami


I never thought I would be drawing Jeremy Lin. I’d heard his name bandied about, but since I don’t follow sports, I had to ask my editor who he was.

When the Sun Sentinel news desk found out that⎯by coincidence⎯an incumbent president, a former one, and more important, the sports flavor of the month would all be in Miami on the same day, it was decided that we would do a full court press (sorry, I couldn’t resist) to commemorate the serendipitous event.

My editor, Tony Fins, and I batted the subject around. He opined that Obama and Lin had something in common. They had both come out of nowhere and become instant media darlings.

It occurred to me that Clinton, too, fit into this category. He grew up poor in Arkansas, did well in school, ended up at an Ivy League college, and the rest is history. Lin is the son of Chinese immigrants, also got into an Ivy League school, and was not even mentioned the last time the Knicks played the Heat in Miami. Now, thanks to his recent accomplishments, everybody in the country (except, obviously, me) knows who he is. Barack Obama, the self-described “skinny kid with a funny name,” gained admission to Harvard, gave a memorable speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and became America’s first African-American president an incredible four years later.

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Chan Lowe: The NASCAR diss of the First Lady


It was an unlovely moment. A quintessentially American one, too, since as a nation we love to voice our true feelings lustily.

I’m sure there were many fans in the NASCAR stands who were embarrassed when their brethren booed the nation’s First Lady, and who were ashamed on their behalf for not having enough respect to at least keep their mouths shut if they didn’t approve of the way the woman’s husband is running the country. After all, she came all the way down to help the families of veterans in need.

It really isn’t about respect for the First Lady, though. It’s that many Americans (some of whom attend NASCAR races, and some who do not) feel that she is a usurper to her position, as her husband is to his office. They don’t actually see the Obamas as President and First Lady, because to them they are squatters in the White House. Their very existence sullies the institutions they represent. It’s the same attitude that allows a member of the U.S. Congress to feel perfectly comfortable shouting “You lie!” during the State of the Union speech.

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Chan Lowe: The Penn State scandal


It isn’t all that surprising that an athletic program like Penn State’s, which prided itself on its pristine record of “victory with honor” should experience such a profound fall from grace.

When a record of any kind is created, it becomes an institution in itself, a sacrosanct entity to be revered. It develops its own imperative, which is that it must be safeguarded at all costs. In this case, the comparison that has been made with the priestly abuses in the Catholic Church is an apt one: The preservation of the institution and its image becomes even more important than the furtherance of its original purpose. In the case of the Church, that purpose is to save souls. In the case of a college football program, it’s to win games and, second, to build character in young men.

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Chan Lowe: The insult of NFL blackouts


I’ll admit to knowing nothing about the business of sports, but it strikes me that there is something fundamentally wrong with a business plan that requires a stadium to sell out for a professional game before local fans of that team are allowed to watch a game on TV.

If the owners have to resort to that kind of strong-arm tactic, then maybe they’re peddling something defective. Who wants to sit out in the elements freezing, or broiling, or getting rained on in seats that are so far away from the action that the players look like little dots on a mat, when high-def television allows the typical NFL aficionado to visually undress a cheerleader as if he were within smacking distance of her pompons?

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Chan Lowe: The Michael Vick deal


You don’t have to know anything about sports (and I don’t) to be thoroughly disgusted by Former Dog Fighter Michael Vick’s $100 million six-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. There are so many repellent elements to it that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Because Vick can throw a ball and run better than anyone else, the Eagles are happy to reward him with a salary that leaves many of us in this anemic economy slack-jawed, even though he presents anything but a fine example for young people who, for better or worse, look to sports figures as role models.

I know a few classroom teachers who are better at what they do than many others, yet they are reduced to scrabbling for the paltry crumbs thrown their way by grudging governments. But, as we know, the money goes where the money is. When you want to get together for an evening of bonding at a sports bar, you and your buddies don’t crack open an algebra textbook.

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Chan Lowe: The UM athletic scandal


When I lived in Oklahoma in the 70’s and early 80’s, a University of Oklahoma football game was about the closest thing you get to an outdoor religious service without going to Bible camp.

Tickets for games were considered legal tender for all manner of favors and services rendered. Corporations handed them out as perks. Back then, at least, OU was best known for its football program. In fact, one of its presidents is reputed to have said, “My job is to build a university of which the football team can be proud.”

Like any priesthood, the players were treated with kid gloves and got special handling. There were tutors provided to help them pass their academic courses, the training table served all the best and most nutritious foods, and then there were the rumors, spread with a knowing wink.

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Chan Lowe: The Miami Heat loss


If, like me, you don’t follow sports, then the recent crescendo surrounding the Miami Heat’s progress through the NBA finals is just part of the background noise of living in South Florida, like the wail of emergency vehicle sirens.

Some of my basketball-minded colleagues, however, have been expressing their despondency and⎯this being South Florida⎯their retributive anger toward their erstwhile heroes since last night’s fall from grace.

I think they have a right to be ticked off. Sports is a profession where excellence is rewarded not just handsomely, but obscenely when you think about the poverty that holds the rest of the world in its grip. It may be exceeded only by arms- or drug-dealing in terms of concentrating vast wealth into the hands of a few.

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World Cup trumps LeBron news

spain.gifOK, this is the last LeBron cartoon I’ll do for a while. Give me a break-- it’s a local story.

And besides, that’s only two in a row. I recall doing five or six straight when the Presidentially defiled blue cocktail dress emerged into the public sphere.

As we celebrate here in Heatville, and betrayed Clevelanders burn LeBron jerseys in effigy, we ought to remember that our newest star hasn’t even scored a single point yet for his new team.

Meanwhile, the Spaniards pulled off a genuine sports feat yesterday. Never having made the finals of the World Cup before, they can now claim to be the best players in the world in soccer, a sport that every country except ours takes seriously.

Now, to Americans, this is tantamount to being the world champions of tiddlywinks when you’ve got sports like basketball and football to think about, but let us remember that there is a fine line between chauvinism and ignorance.

A fan for the losing team, the Netherlands, put the significance of soccer in its proper perspective during a radio interview, while revealing what long memories Europeans have.

“It would have been nice to win,” he said, philosophically, “but the really important thing is that we beat the Germans.”

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Chan Lowe: LeBron James joins Heat

lebron.gifIf you’re one of those weirdos like me who doesn’t follow sports, then you just sit back with bemusement and watch everyone get orgasmic over LeBron James’ announcement that he’s joining the Heat’s roster.

My colleagues, in their rhapsodizing about a LeBron-enhanced future, tout the economic boon this will be for the region (this is the way fanatics always justify professional sports developments, like asking me to help pay for a stadium I will never go to).

To hear them toss around the term, “King James,” you’d think they were talking about the man who unified Great Britain and commissioned one of the greatest works ever written in the English language.

But that King James probably didn’t pull down anything like LeBron’s salary, either.

If nothing else, it gets us all talking about something besides the economy, housing foreclosures, Afghanistan and the slick.

And for that—you have my thanks, LeBron.

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Chan Lowe: World Cup blahs

It confounds sports promoters everywhere that the United States, which even has a dog in the World Cup fight, is an impenetrable fortress when it comes to embracing a sport that is the passion of every other country in the world.

Some say it’s because it’s a sissy sport where people don’t use brute force to get ahead (which means that it clashes, metaphorically, with the American concept of what it takes to succeed in our society).

That doesn’t explain the appeal of baseball or basketball, or why rugby, which is even rougher than American football, is still considered a boutique sport here.

No, I think it’s the myth of American exceptionalism. In our minds, there’s us⎯and then there’s all them other countries. The very fact that that soccer is the rest of the world’s sport makes it un-American.

Besides, some third-world country could beat us, and probably will. Talk about embarrassing.

Best to ignore the whole thing. How many guys are left on The Bachelorette this week?

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Chan Lowe: Tiger's Resurrection

rapture.gifThe use of religious symbolism in this cartoon is, of course, facetious--but I used it advisedly.

Tiger Woods, as I mentioned before, has been following the classic American redemption cycle for shamed celebrities. The only surprising thing is how quickly his rehabilitation has moved on through the pipeline.

Wasn't it only last Thanksgiving that Tiger's wife collapsed the whole carefully-constructed house of cards with a golf club? His "reputation specialists," must know something we don't yet realize, which is that the American attention span has become so short that a few mere months are enough to cleanse us of our repulsion and prepare us anew to mindlessly purchase whatever the man endorses.

When you compare his days in the wilderness to the years that medieval souls were condemned to Purgatory for far lesser sins, Tiger has gotten off with a wrist-slap.

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Tiger Woods

barbara.gifFame--and infamy--are all about narrative. A savvy celeb who intends to remain in the game weaves an easily digestible narrative about him- or herself for public consumption, and sticks with it.

We all knew Bill Clinton was a serial philanderer and a liar, but while the Monica Lewinsky story captivated us, it didn't cut to the quick the way the Tiger Woods story does.

Why? Because Clinton's defiling of the Oval Office sanctum was merely a sin of degree. It shocked us, but it was in character.

Tiger Woods has spent his career spinning a squeaky-clean image for the purposes of creating a brand that sponsors would wish to associate with. When he was found to be a cad, and a multiple-repeat offender at that, it ran contrary to the myth.

To many people, he represented everything that was good and clean and decent about professional sports. Kids even played with Tiger action figures and dreamed of growing up to be like him someday. Not just rich, but wholesome.

But they were confusing the character with the man. When we looked at Bill Clinton, we knew exactly what we were seeing. Bill never let us down, because he couldn't.

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Alex Rodriguez and steroids


Lord knows we needed a distraction. Between the Caylee Anthony memorial and the Boss Man jetting around the country telling us that if we weren't all going straight to economic Hell, we were at least going to make a pretty close pass, it was practically throat-slitting time.

Along comes A-Rod to take our minds off our problems. Why the fascination with his juicing up? Why care? I'm guessing it's like looking at candid paparazzi photos of superstars wearing bikinis, and finding out they have thigh saddlebags just like you do.

Feet of clay. "Yeah, I could hit as good as him if I'd taken 'roids, too. Anybody could." It says something about us that we make heroes out of people who can connect with a leather ball, then knock 'em down. Adulation translates into money, which is why grabbing an edge where you can is hard to resist.

If you want to put sports figures up on a pedestal, why not make role models out of the folks who do such a good job, time after time, of getting those foul ball lines perfectly straight with the lime cart? Or how about that guy who proudly mows the outfield just so, leaving a Scottish tartan pattern behind? We appreciate the majesty of their work, it's far more consistent than that of a star hitter, and they probably don't need drugs to do it.

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The Olympics and perfection


The Founding Fathers were pretty smart when they inserted the word "more" into the phrase, "in order to form a more perfect union," in the Constitution. They were recognizing that humans are fundamentally flawed, and that the best they could hope for was to keep improving the forms of government they devised.

The problem with a state-run operation like China's is that the State derives its authority from the assertion that it is inherently perfect, and therefore knows best. Hence, we see the Chinese doing things at the Olympics like substituting a girl with perfect teeth to lip-sync for the real performer, who will now grow up imagining herself to be forever unacceptable to society.

Gymnastics, apparently, favors the really young. So, what does the State do when there's a mandatory minimum age of 16 for contestants? They doctor their papers. This perfection thing is serious business. I was watching the poor Chinese girl who snagged only a bronze in the All-Around behind two Americans. You could read the shame all over her face, a shame that will be handed down in her family for generations. It's a good thing the Chinese won gold in the team competition, or they'd all be herding yaks in Gobi Desert Re-education Camp #14 by now.

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The Olympics and Politics


To paraphrase the Roman poet Juvenal (I think): an anxious populace, having long ago abdicated its duty to govern itself, awaits only bread and circuses.

Why Juvenal? Because I'd rather paraphrase him than Paris Hilton or Britney Spears.
Actually, he's proof that societies have been practicing avoidance techniques for thousands of years. Let's face it-- McCain and Obama are a couple of downers who spend all their time telling us what a mess we're in, and how the other guy will make things even worse. Who wants to listen to that day in and day out?

Light the torch, nuke the popcorn, and let the games begin! There's plenty of time for self-government later.

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2008 Beijing Olympics and air pollution


The last athlete left standing wins the gold. Since we won't be able to make out through the haze who's on the podium, it's time to bone up on our national anthems.

Knowing the Chinese entrepreneurial spirit, chances are somebody in Shanghai will see this blog post and start producing these things by the hundreds of thousands.

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Protesting the Olympics


The Chinese, in their ancient wisdom, have provided us with the bond that unites mankind.

Drawing the Earth gives me a rare opportunity to use my compass, which normally lies around in a drawer waiting to stick me in the finger when I'm scrounging around for an eraser or something.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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