I Like Shaq … and Dean too!

January17/ 2000

I’m coming out of the closet … I LIKE Shaquille O’Neal.  I also like the most politically outspoken basketball coach in the history of the world … but, of course, as noted in a memorable column two years – I also like Dick Vitale too. Swagger justifies these radically diverse opinions and addresses another issue of “primary” importance.

   There is a basic contempt that all “normal folks with a modicum of human decentcy” automatically have for anything connected with the NBA.  No other organization on the North American continent so consistently sticks it’s thumb in the eye of “middle class values”, morality, common sense, fair play, and good business sense. It’s not just limo drivers families and concierges that get acid reflux at the daily headlines of the new depths that the NBA descends to so unrepentantly  … all that said … I like Shaq!     

   Shaq is “cool” and does not take himself seriously.  He is Charles Barkeley without the potty mouth.  He is clever.  Certainly “more clever” than the wooden Indians that stick microphones in his face.  Yes, he is Goliath but Philistines need love too. 

   Shaq truly is “the 500 lb gorilla that stirs the drink with the camel’s nose under the tent”.

   Shaq can leave the “center stage” of LA for Miami … and take “center stage” with him.  If you chain an elephant to a barstool … chances are when you turn around … the elephant, the stool, and the whole freakin’ bar are movin’ on down the street.  Kobe The Consensual Adulterer will lick his lips and preen but Shaq Daddy is Da Man.  

   Shaq did eventually graduate from LSU and not only knows who his Daddy is but admires him.  

   Shaq’s only real negatives are that he is bigger than everyone else and can’t shoot free throws. Rick Barry COULD shoot free throws really well but took himself very seriously.  I prefer Shaq. Now Shaq is in Miami … where Rick Barry played his college ball … do ironies never cease!


   Bob Ross Column:  Our recent column on PBS afroed-artist Bob Ross produced “interesting reactions”. Those of you with the intellectual curiosity to hit “Read More” enjoyed the heck out of it.  Those of you interested only in Amato, Krzyzewski, Bunting, Baddour or Britany Spears chose to skip it – MISTAKE!  Go back and read the freakin’ story. It won’t kill you to expand your knowledge/interest base … trust me, I do it all the time. “ … drink deep from the Perian Spring.”  


   Dean Smith (aka Ye Olde Legend In The Basement) deserves almost all of the praise and plaudits that Tar Heel hoop zealots insist on piling on him, stopping short of the nail-scarred hands and the boulder that they roll aside each Easter to show his empty office. 

   Being partisan to the concept of pretending that student-athletes have some moral obligation to uphold the positive image of the University, I always applauded Coach Smith’s successful efforts to achieve that end.  Whether he did it with blank checks to the CHPD or not … his number of documented “bad boyz” was remarkably low for a 30+ year term.  Not non-existant as some like to tout, but indeed low.

   Unlike many who now deify him, I thought Dean was a great coach BEFORE MJ hit the jumper in ’82 and/or CWebb called for the TO in ‘93. He did not need rings to merit my undying praise. I don’t measure a coach by the errant bounce of a ball in a handful of select games … “coaching greatness” is measured in the decades of consistency that Dean Smith achieved.

   To inject the necessary controversy into this commentary, I have long wondered whether Dean’s extremely overt liberal political activism would have gone over as well anywhere else other than in Chapel Hill (or Berkeley or Havana).  For sure his leanings were and are totally sincere as, I am sure, are the political leanings of other coaches who chose to keep their preferences out of the public eye. 

   Only the most terminally naïve (a condition which can reach plague proportions on Franklin Street) would argue that over his 35 years at the helm, Dean Smith’s outspoken liberal views earned him numerous cashable “markers” from like-minded faculty squirrels and the South Building “Snoot” gang.  I do not fault Ye Olde Legend for playing the politically correct card so flamboyantly one little bit.

  Discussion of Dean Smith’s liberal politics usually begins with his recruitment of Charles Scott in 1966.  Certainly a landmark event.  What is not so well touted is that Charles “Lefty” Driesell was recruiting Charles just as passionately for Davidson where he would also have been “the first prominent black player” in either conference. Charles’ decision was a razor thin edge to Dean.  “Lefty” was known for many things … passionate admiration for Dr Martin Luther King not among them.  It is doubtful that The Old Lefthander would have been so heralded as a civil rights pioneer.

   “Lefty” subsequently signed another black NYC player, Mike Malloy, the following season.  In Lefty’s final game as Davidson’s coach in 1969, Charles nailed the coffin shut on Malloy’s Wildcats in the Eastern Regional Finals with a remarkable buzzer-beater in, ironically, Cole Field House.  How do I remember … cause I was sitting about 5 seats down from Coach Smith when it happened. “Forrest Gump” Swagger answering destiny’s doorbell once again.

   Two years earlier I had ridden with Charles Scott in the backseat of the Corliss brothers’ Ford Falcon to Louisville for Dean Smith’s first Final Four appearance … an appearance spoiled by Don May and the Dayton Flyers.

   All right, let’s cover Dean’s infamous “endorsement” of Republican Richard Vinroot during Vinroot’s first (of many many) run for Governor in the mid 90s.  I recall Dean’s effusive statement was “Richard Vinroot played for me in the early 60s but was not good enough to play much even on mediocre teams … now I hear he’s running for Governor.  Yes, I know him.”  


 Swagger’s Stumper

Charles Scott was NOT the first African American

to play intercollegiate basketball at UNC.

Who was?


   My favorite Dean Smith political story occurred just two years ago during the US Senate race between Skippa’s boy Erskine and Miss Liddy.  Dean, flanked by Uncle Gut and Mad Matt, hosted a fundraiser for Erskine in Chapel Hill.  The involvement of Dean, and his celebrity associates (all three of whom were on the UNC payroll) was noted prior to and following the event.  Fine with me … more power to’em.

   Several weeks later … guess what happened?  Satan’s bastard child Mike Krzyzewski hosted a mirror-image event for Miss Liddy at the Washington Duke Inn … and a Tsunami of indignant outrage poured forth from the left-wing holier-than-thous on both the UNC and Duke campi.  Proving that, indeed, politics creates the very strangest of bedfellows.

   As I recall, the vocally expressive Coach K told all the indignant snoots they could “go F themselves” and they retreated in a harumph.  Miss Liddy won the election and Dean was next seen at a midnight vigil at Central Prison in a vain effort to save some serial killer rapist from “Ol’ Sparky”. 

   I mention all this because Coach Smith was prominent front and center at the recent Two Johns Rally at NC State.  Dean occupied the camera angle seat on stage usually reserved for the multi-ethnic unwed mother or paraplegic gay dwarf.  Historians did take note that this was the first time Dean Smith had ever attended a public gathering on the State campus where no one threw a AA battery or coke can at him.  That has to somehow be a sign of progress …! 

   BobLee Swagger thinks it is just fine for Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, BLS hisownself, Whoopi Goldberg, or Mel Gibson to publically declare their preferred political preference and risk partisan ire … Dean E. Smith and Bob L. Swagger … two “legendary sports icons” willing to stand up for what they believe … bwahahahaha! 

    Whoopi lost Slim-Fast, Rush lost ESPN and BobLee will lose at least 2 more puckered butt readers. As my uncle Nathan Hale Swagger might have said … “I regret that I have two more puckered butt readers to lose for my opinion.”


   On a non-partisan political note … North Carolina’s primary elections are this coming Tuesday.  This is the incestuous election where Repubs and Democs cannibalize themselves in picking candidates for the Big Blood-feast in November.  For any of my ultra right-wing crowd looking for “the right guy” here are BobLee’s Best Buddies … Joe Knott for Attorney General … Graham Boyd for 13th Cong Dist … Neal Hunt for NC Senate … and, I suppose, Bill Cobey for Guv but I’m not opposed to “the kid from Wilmington” Patrick Ballentine. Despite Dean’s ardent support (!!!) Vinroot has become our Harold Stassen.  GO VOTE!  Me and the Mizzus done done it.


   Steve McQueen was Josh Randall – Bounty Hunter … he carried a sawed off 30/30 he called “The Mare’s Leg” … Former UNC gridder from the 70s, Bill (Will’s Daddy) Chapman, was front and center on this one. Yes, Maha got it to.

Great Time with the High Point Rotary on Thursday!  FINE bunch of folks.  

The Triad IS Swagger Country for sure. 

   BobLee Returns to The Triad on Tues – August 3 for the Triad Sports Club @ Marriott at PTI … details to follow.  I better outdraw John Feinstein … I’m bigger and much funnier!

   My celeb status grew this week.  I now have a traveling “posse” … Prince Albert The Long is my one-man entourage.  Albert is UNC’s last 4-sport letterman and a special BLS Buddy.

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