Whitt's End: A Mavs Look at 'The Boys In The Bubble'

Whitt's End: A Dallas Mavs Look at 'The Boys In The Bubble' In Our DFW Sports Notebook
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Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 6.5. 20 …

*As a kid in the 1970s I was fascinated by the made-for-TV movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. It starred John Travolta as a sick kid banished to a germ-free environment inside a bubble. 

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Life, I can confirm, indeed comes full circle. As, coming soon, I’ll be fixated on more boys in more bubbles, better known as NBA 2020.

The end of the season will commence July 31 in Orlando, with 22 teams – including the Dallas Mavericks – playing eight regular-season games before commencing a “regular” playoff format. With every team housed inside the confines of the same Disney resort, life in the NBA “bubble” will be governed by a set of safety protocols including daily COVID-19 testing.

The good news: The amended format (read more here) greatly helps the Mavs. They can move up in the standings before the playoffs, but not down. They are currently 7th in the West, seven games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies. To drop to 8th they’d have to go 0-8 while the Grizzlies went 8-0. With a 6-2 finish, the Mavs could realistically leap the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz.

Of course, when every game is played in the same gym with no fans, will moving up be an advantage? Tune in with me to a riveting season of “The Boys in the Bubble.”

*Give me Dak over Drew. To be the quarterback of my NFL team in 2020. To be my neighbor, forever. 

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With more than 77,000 passing yards and a record 547 touchdowns, Drew Brees is obviously a Hall-of-Famer. But he confirmed this week that his Canton-level athletic gifts are mitigated by his kindergarten-level American nuance. 

Brees is 41 and tone deaf; Prescott 26 and woke. 

The two quarterbacks split at our crucial George Floyd fork in the road Wednesday, the New Orleans Saints’ star doubling down on his color-blind flag-humping while the Dallas Cowboys’ leader put his money where his mouth is. 

Said Brees in an interview with Yahoo Finance, “I’ll never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag.” 

Said Prescott in an Instagram post in which he pledged $1 million to improve police training and address systemic racism, “You have to change yourself before you can ask anyone else to change.” 

Brees immediately took friendly fire for being deliberately obtuse from athletes such as LeBron James, and even his own teammates.

“You literally still don't understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee??" James said in a tweet, referencing Colin Kaepernick. “Has absolutely nothing to do with the disrespect of the flag and our soldiers.” 

Saints’ receiver Michael Thomas retweeted a comment from a journalist saying, “How can anyone watch George Floyd get murdered and their response when asked about it is ‘Respect the Flag’?” 

Saints’ safety Malcolm Jenkins went a step further in a tear-filled Instagram video, calling Brees part of the problem. 

“When the world tells you that you're not worthy, that your life doesn't matter, the last place you want to hear it from are the guys that you go to war with and the guys you consider to be your allies and your friends,” Jenkins said. “Even though we’re teammates, I can’t let this slide.” 

Even Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers opposed his peer, saying on Instagram, “A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now.” 

Brees, who last year also was criticized for supporting a Focus on the Family organization that condemns gays and same-sex adoptions while offering “pray the gay away” conversion therapy, remains more concerned with America than with Americans. 

“Is everything right with our country right now? No, it’s not,” Brees said. “We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity.” 

To his credit, Brees apologized Thursday on Instagram, saying, “I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening.” 

Amen. Instead of symbolism and propaganda, Prescott chose action. In announcing his pledge, he said, “As a Black Multi-Racial American, I am disgusted and unsettled! … As long as cops continue to profile blacks as a threat, cops will continue to be perceived as untrustworthy. … We must commit to hold ourselves in our communities accountable. We must teach one another about our differences. We must embrace the different colors, cultures and ways of life. To be multi-racial is beautiful and that is what this country is.”

With only 15,000 yards passing and his 100th touchdown still on the horizon, Prescott isn’t in Brees’ stratosphere as a player. But as a compassionate person, he’s already passed him. Dak is willing to pay for a better America moving forward. Drew simply demands you salute the status quo.

*Day 86 without sports … Three months into our COVID-19 constraints and I still don’t understand why it’s okay to fly next to people on American Airlines but not okay to cheer next to people in American Airlines Center.

*I’m confused. Saw a certain TV host applauding Brees for using his platform to speak up for what he believes in. “He’s allowed to have an opinion,” she says. But, um, it’s the same host that told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” when he did the same thing. Hmm. Wonder what the difference in the situations could possibly be?

*Day 87 without sports … At some point we’ll return to “normal.” Or perhaps not. I went on a dinner date to a restaurant this week. Before long, I wondered why. 

“We could have this drink at home on our patio,” I said. 

“We’re paying $9 for hummus and sitting around a bunch of strangers in masks,” she said. 

It wasn’t necessarily an unenjoyable experience, but more so a realization. It would be cheaper, more intimate and obviously safer to just stay at home. Same for traveling. Where once we planned grandiose vacations to exotic islands, now we take joy in hiking through the forest around our nearby lake. 

At some point we’ll return to “normal.” Or is this our new version?

*Disappointing that America’s Team hasn’t commented on America’s Tragedy. Jerry Jones, your crickets are deafening.

In the wake of George Floyd and at the dawn of change, now is the time for action – not just action verbs. That said, something beats nothing, right? 

Mavs owner Mark Cuban has been verbal and visible during the protests. His team put out a statement last Sunday night. The Texas Rangers, too, released their response via social media, condemning racism and “pledging to help be part of meaningful change in our society.” General manager Jon Daniels went a step further, saying eloquently “It’s hard to see. It stirs a lot of feelings, emotions, fear. To state the obvious, I'm not black; I can't sit here and put myself in the shoes of somebody who is, and I don't have the same response to it or fears as far as how it might affect myself or my kids personally, walking down the block. But I've just been trying to look at it from the perspective of: what can we learn? More importantly, how can we ultimately help?” 

And as of Thursday, 18 NFL teams had released some form of statement. But not a peep from the Cowboys, who in the past have indeed engaged in non-football issues such as protesting the national anthem. (A team source tells me “we’re working on something,” but how difficult is a dang statement?) 

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is donating $1 million. Saints owner Gayle Benson formed a Social Justice Leadership coalition. About 70 percent of NFL players are black. All but two owners are white. Jones is powerful. When he leads, businessmen follow. When he speaks, fans listen. When he’s silent, it’s disturbing. 

Racism, inequality and police brutality will not be solved with a tweet or press release. But a conversation is a starting point. Said presidential candidate Joe Biden, “None of us can be silent.” Dak hasn’t been. Jones and the Cowboys shouldn’t be. If they need help, here’s my draft:

From condemning racism to backing the blue to supporting civil rights, America’s Team stands – and kneels – with America.

Wasn’t so difficult, was it? Jones and the Cowboys don’t need to take sides, but they’d be better served to alert everyone that they are at least taking notice.

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UPDATE: The Cowboys have issued a video statement.

*Day 88 without sports … When folks swoon about the good ol’ days, hopefully this isn’t what they had in mind. We’ve returned to the virus pandemic of 1918, the economic crash of 1929 and the civil rights riots of 1968, all in the span of 90 days.

*We’ve all struggled to differentiate days during COVID-19, but we haven’t seen nothin’ yet. Days are about to become months are about to become seasons. As in, The Masters and The French Open played in September and the NBA ending when it should be beginning. The NBA’s edited schedule calls for a potential Game 7 of The Finals on Oct. 12. Weird as that will be, what will it mean for 2021? Teams usually open training camp in October. I, for one, am all for the NBA starting on Christmas. Next year, and every year afterward.

*Had enough politics and protests and … Fine, can I interest you in a frog on my patio having a snack in s-l-o-w-m-o-t-i-o-n?

*Hot.

*Not.

*While the NBA, NHL and NFL all have plans to move forward with some semblance of seasons, baseball might issue an intentional walk to 2020. In preparations for a lost season and lost revenue, the Texas Rangers released a host of minor league players this week. Most notable among the 37 moves was the parting with outfielder Eric Jenkins, a second-round draft pick in 2015 who painfully never made it out of Class A. Ouch.

*Day 89 without sports … I understand white privilege thusly: I’ve never left my house and worried about my safety solely because of the color of my skin. A deeper dive into Black vs. White environments in America reveals that 28 percent of blacks know someone who has died from COVID-19, compared to only 11 percent of whites.

*Only 100 days until the Cowboys kick-off the 2020 season against the Rams in Los Angeles. You’re welcome.

*Day 90 without sports … Popular song right now is “Death Bed” by somebody called Powfu, accompanied by something called Beabadoobee. In it, the chorus is repeated – back-to-back with zero pauses – 13 times. How do I know? Because I counted. Because I grudgingly like it.

*By the time the Rangers play their first game in new Globe Life Field, Globe Life Field will no longer be new. For what it’s worth, the team says that of the 13 home games missed in May only two would’ve been played with the roof closed.

*Day 91 without sports … Our obsession with Joe Exotic feels like years ago. The game is now over, and we have a final score. Carole Baskin 28, Joe Exotic 0. An Oklahoma judge ruled this week that Exotic – who’s in jail for a murder-for-hire plot of Baskin – must surrender his Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park to his former foil.

*I once revered Lance Armstrong. Wore the Livestrong bracelet. Wrote award-winning columns about him. The works. I’ve since and long ago labeled him “the biggest fraud in the history of sports.” He lied to not just sports fans, but to millions of people fighting cancer. After watching ESPN’s documentary Lance, I still cringe at his defiance and arrogance. Defining quote: “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

*Day 92 without sports … Reminder that we are NOT outta the COVID-19 woods yet, Fourth of July parades are already being canceled in Dallas.

*Peanut butter without jelly. The Kardashians without money. COVID without 19. Sports without fans? It’s going to be a unique experience, us watching our games without fans in the stands. In Korean baseball and German soccer, they are using cardboard cutouts as sort of crash-test dummies for ambience. But will the NBA without fans give us a pure product, the best players prevailing in a raw, unplugged environment? Or will it give us a hollow commodity, lethargic players limping to an eerily quiet, bastardized championship deserving of an asterisk? 

I don’t pretend to know. But I can’t wait to find out.

*Just when you’re trying to wrap your head around NBA games without fans, how about sans coaches? As part of his league’s safety precautions, league commish Adam Silver says “certain coaches” may not be able to be on the bench “in order to protect them.” The CDC says people 65 and older are at higher risk of COVID-19 complications. 

Oldest coaches in the mix are the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich (71), Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni (69) and Pelicans’ Alvin Gentry (65.) Rick Carlisle is 60.

*This Weekend? Early-morning tennis Saturday, followed by some DIY landscaping. Have I mentioned yet that I miss watching sports? As always, don’t be a stranger.