Friday, September 14, 2007

An Unfair Start

I know nobody cares about NBA basketball in Pittsburgh, but let me tell you why the Greg Oden injury has hurt this potential fan. Greg Oden, for one, went to my school, The Ohio State University. But it’s not just that, there’s something special about this kid that made me want to follow his career, and life, in the NBA. It’s not just because he’s a freakishly good athlete either… hear me out on this.

I once saw Oden mosey across the Oval at Ohio State, in 80 degree heat, and act like just a regular student. He wasn’t courting females…He was just being himself. For those of you who don’t know, and I’m guessing that’s a lot of you, the Oval is the mecca for hot females… and particularly those in bikinis. If you’re an athlete, particularly one of the best athletes in the world, it’s your grocery store; hell it’s your internet, because everything you could ever need is there! (And technically the Oval does offer Wi-Fi connections)

It was finals week and Greg Oden was only a few days away from being drafted #1. I came out of a conference with a professor, looked up, and saw Michael Conley Jr. dribbling a basketball, with Greg Oden trailing about 10 feet behind. Best friends, right? One walks ten feet behind the other…but that’s just Greg Oden’s walking pace. Just seeing the man walk is a sight. Many of us will never actually see Bigfoot, but Oden is the next best thing.

Anyway my real story, Pacman Jones, Chris Henry, Michael Vick….Most athletes go through life thinking they are bigger than life itself. We see it too much, athletes who think they are above the law because well…money has their back.

We’ve all seen interviews with Greg Oden, he’s lovable. He’s a breed of athlete I don’t think I’ve ever seen. Oden once came to my friend’s frat house and just sat quietly in the corner, none of the “Hey Look at Me, I’m an Athlete”…or…”I’m better than you” hoopla…just a kid at heart, acting like a man.

Sports have plenty of quality human beings, but none so sincere and as young, as Greg Oden.

I wish Hockey was much more popular, so people could pick up on the characteristics of a young phenom like Sidney Crosby.

I wish Lebron James was marketed a bit differently because he still carries a cocky persona that our country’s culture should really look to abandon.

I just wish Greg Oden had never hurt his knee. Who knows where this injury will put him, but I do know his rookie year would have been a spectacle. I was lucky enough to see this man play in college, and at that time he wasn’t even at the top of his game, playing with sprained right wrist. Half effort for Oden was enough to dominate the Big Ten, and I’m still only convinced Oden was only showing 75% of his potential in the National Championship game. Oden had more…he turned his abilities on and off from time to time because he could. Why use all your energy, when it only takes 50% to beat your competition. Oden is 7’0’’ of pure monster. He would have been the best center in the game, the big man that everyone looks up at…literally and symbolically.

I’ve always enjoyed college basketball, but my interest has never translated to the pros. Sure I’ve watched the NBA playoffs, but only the last 5 minutes…that’s all that matters to me. The exciting finish, the last shot...nothing about the regular season interests me, but Oden would have changed that. His little kid heart would have made me a fan because I want to see guys like Ron Artest and Allen Iverson get rejected into the tenth row night in and night out. Oden would have shown this game some newborn excitement, with a touch of class along the way.

It’s not like all is lost, hopefully his debut has only been put off for a year, but I really wish a career like Oden’s didn’t have to start like this.

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