Left Wanting More: A Complicated Goodbye to Lavoy Allen

Left Wanting More: A Complicated Goodbye to Lavoy Allen

I'll be the first to admit that this is at least a day or two late. For practical reasons, I held off on writing a Temple-San Diego State recap until my emotions no longer clouded my judgment. A rant about what went wrong would have been just as unthoughtful as a gushing lovefest about "how hard those boys fought." Sometimes, it just takes a bit to put it all together, especially when you're discussing something as emotionally consuming as sport.

What you'll find below still isn't a recap. It's actually a lot more complicated. And, it is because it's complicated that I have devoted more than 140 characters to the topic's consideration.

Many, if not all of you, by now know that the Temple Owls were eliminated from the NCAA tournament on Saturday night following a double-overtime loss to the San Diego State Aztecs. During and following the game, Temple senior Lavoy Allen became and stayed a "trending topic" within the city of Philadelphia on Twitter. While some of the words were complimentary, many of them—the large majority, in fact—were not.

This isn't really about the reductive qualities of (at maximum) a 140-character box, because I think those limitations are pretty self-explanatory. Instead, this is about what happens when we confuse what we want with what we think we're owed.

Over the course of the 2010-11 season, I have consistently heard the following two phrases more than any others from Temple coach Fran Dunphy:

  1. Well, I appreciate the question...
  2. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't know where this program would be without Lavoy Allen. 

With Lavoy's last game in a Temple jersey now played, we're somewhere around seven months from figuring out the latter. In the meantime, there are those observers who feel no need to wait. 

Because I lack both the desire and the know-how to find all those uncomplimentary tweets, I'll sum up their general message. "Lavoy Allen let Temple down on Saturday. He let his coach down. He let his teammates down. He let his fans down. Lavoy Allen is no leader. In a word, Lavoy Allen...is soft."

Line by line, tweets poured in ripping him for his 12-point, 11-rebound performance. And, while "soft" was the word most often used, you can search your imagination for synonymous expletives, because they were typed, too.

The question I had then, and still have now, is simple—"Why?"

Lavoy Allen has hid under no rock. He's played in a total of 135 games in his college career, giving you 135 chances to get to know him as a basketball player. While he has indeed improved every year, he has also retained some of the limitations he possessed when he came to campus as a freshman. This can hardly be considered an anomaly in college athletics. In truth, it can hardly be considered an anomaly in professional athletics.

Here's a fair question: have I ever criticized Lavoy Allen? Yes. I've done it on multiple occasions for multiple reasons. I encourage you to click the "Temple University" tag and start digging for evidence. I've wanted him to put on weight. I've questioned his rationale for shooting from range. I, like those people on Twitter, have wanted to see a killer instinct. I've spent 135 games over the course of four years looking at a 6'10 monster and wanting him to act the frigging part.

When Michael Eric was lost to a season ending knee-injury more than a month ago, I finally got that Lavoy Allen. I got a Lavoy Allen who finished his college career with seven straight double-doubles. I got a Lavoy Allen who treated opposing defenders like a joke, and offensive rebounders like a waste of time. I got a Lavoy Allen that asserted his will not just because he could, but because his team needed him. There has always been potential in Lavoy Allen, and there remains still more untapped.

And that's the real issue: we have been left wanting so much more.

We've watched watched Lavoy Allen. We know what talent that lies beneath his friendly and, yes, even passive exterior. And, it is because that talent has been there the whole time that we wanted it all the time. Now, we won't even get it some of the time.

From here on out, I'll stop using "we" and switch to just "me." When he was here, I wanted more from Lavoy Allen. I wanted him to be great. I wanted him to reach his potential. I wanted him to dominate. I wanted him to grip the basketball, take two massive steps and assault the rim like it owed him money. But, when I'm really honest about it, more than anything else, it's that I wanted to watch him do it. I wanted to see him become the player I wanted him to be, and I wanted him to become that player when and where I could see it. I think that goes for all of us.

Sports fans are selfish by nature. We want people we've never met to justify our arbitrary decision to support them on our own terms.

Though I don't know Lavoy Allen, I've see him around quite a bit. I've passed him on the street. I've shook his hand. I've wished him "good luck." I've told him he "had a good game." I've begged him to "beat the Hawk." Hell, I've even participated in a snowball fight with him. But I don't know Lavoy Allen. And he doesn't know me. A great many of you don't know him either. And, more than likely, he doesn't know you.

Still, by the time you're done reading, I will have devoted more than 1,000 words to him. And 48 hours before I embarked on this endeavor, enough of you devoted at least 140 characters to expressing opinions of your own. 

After 135 games spread out over four years, watching Lavoy Allen play basketball has taught me a lesson. We don't always get what we want, and we aren't owed it either. Lavoy Allen is the textbook definition of judging an athlete not for who he is, but for who we want him to be, and then confusing the two. We wanted him to be a killer; it was just never his style. Of course I wished for more both for and from Lavoy, but I feel damn privileged to have gotten what I received. I've seen four NCAA tournament appearances, three Atlantic 10 titles, two columns with double digits and one brand new all-time leading rebounder in my program's history. We just all fell into the trap of confusing who he was for what we wanted.

So, who was he? Lavoy Allen was one of the greatest Owls in a rich Temple history, and he could have been even better. Somewhere between his 1,421 points, 1,147 rebounds and 4,352 minutes played, that point got lost. I used to want more from him; now, I just want more of him. 

Maybe I didn't need 1,188 words to sum up how I feel about Lavoy Allen; because, now that it's over, I don't even need 140 characters—just 47 will do. "Thank you, Lavoy, and good luck. I'll miss you."

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

uspresswire-marlins-jose-fernandez.jpg
USA Today Images

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

The Marlins announced Fernandez's death, and the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said Lorenzo Veloz of the Fish Commission.

A news conference was planned for later Sunday morning.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times -- landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries -- before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.