Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Icons R Us: From Favre to Kobe to Phil Ivey

The Bald Truth

Frankly, I didn't pay attention to a single thing Brett Favre said as he talked about getting ready to play his first game in Green Bay since becoming America's most famous vagabond since Jack Kerouac.

It was his tone of voice - almost catatonic, as if he had been awakened from a deep slumber just in time for his midweek press conference - that told me all I needed to know.

He is working so hard to seem low-key, it's obvious he's not. The man is as nervous and anxious as a teenage boy going to his first high-school dance.

Which is perfectly normal. Favre doesn't want to show up for the dance, trip over his own two feet and land face-down in the onion dip. Pretty hard to impress the ladies, the peers and the onlookers that way.

I'm guessing Favre will be received quite well by the folks who spent more than a decade and a half naming their kids Brett.

And he should be. Favre created wonderful memories for those Cheeseheads. He won them a championship. He restored pride in all things Packer. He played hard and with the enthusiasm of a rookie, even when he was old and gray. He never missed an opening coin toss, no matter how crappy he might have felt on a given day. He gave his life and blood for that organization.

Yeah, it ended weirdly. Yeah, in recent years he's been more wishy-washy than John Kerry on a bad day. Yeah, it sucks for Packerland to see Favre in freakin' purple.

But it's all worked out pretty well for the Packers, too. There certainly aren't many QBs better than Aaron Rodgers.

Of course, Favre is approaching Sunday's return with great anticipation. I'm really looking forward to the game, too - and I'm not a Packers fan, not a Vikings fan and, last I looked, not scheduled to play in it.

The Balder Truth

The NBA season has begun, so I'm just a little tardy with my predictions:

The Lakers will beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Kobe will repeat as MVP.

The Spurs will take the Lakers to 7 games in the Western Conference finals.

The Cavaliers will win fewer games with Shaq than they did without him.

LeBron will start shopping for real estate in New York.

The Bulls will increase their win total from 41 to 43 and again will lose in the first round of the playoffs.

Will that convince John Paxson and Jerry Reinsdorf to extend Vinny Del Negro's contract? Only if they are fools.


Imagine Phil Mickelson turning in a Masters scorecard with the wrong score marked down at No. 12. Or Kevin Garnett shooting at the wrong end and scoring an important basket for the opponent in the NBA Finals. Or Peyton Manning looking right at a wide-open receiver in the end zone and, instead of throwing the ball, taking a knee in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. Or Derek Jeter forgetting how many outs there were in Game 5 of the World Series and throwing the ball into the stands to allow a run to score.

Hello, Phil Ivey.

ESPN The Magazine's latest cover boy as "The Best Poker Player On Earth," Ivey had what should have been a winning flush on Day 8 of the World Series of Poker's Main Event. Instead, he simply threw it away.

I'm not saying he folded because he wasn't sure he could beat his opponent. I'm saying the betting already had ended for the hand and his opponent already had shown his two-pair when Ivey, without taking another look at his two face-down cards, mucked his ace-high spade flush into the discard pile.

Incredible. The best poker player on the planet, playing on the game's biggest stage, simply forgot what he had in his hand.

The mistake cost Ivey more than 2 million chips and was a huge part of his free-fall from near the chip lead to the brink of elimination.

This all took place shortly after a pre-recorded interview in which Ivey spoke of his heightened concentration level and his determination to finally reach the Main Event final table - a destination that has eluded him forever.

It's a tribute to Phil's skill that he was able to recover and qualify for the final table. And it's a lesson - a rather refreshing one, too - that even the masters screw up royally.

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