Chris Bosh Kills Skip Bayless with Kindness, Teaches Us a Lesson

Chris Bosh Kills Skip Bayless with Kindness, Teaches Us a Lesson

I know this isn't a "Philadelphia story," but it's nonetheless worth your consideration, especially if you have strong feelings for either of the two men in the above title.

As many of you know, Skip Bayless is the star of the ESPN program 1st & 10. A writer for the Dallas Morning News for nearly two decades, Bayless claimed national prominence at ESPN thanks to his wildly outspoken, sometimes controversial views on the world of sport.

To many, Bayless is a loudmouthed, nonsensical, caricature of a pundit. His audacious comments frequently fly in the face of basic logic and human understanding. When challenged to support his views with evidence, Bayless frequently repeats his prior claims, becomes frustratingly evasive and grows increasingly belligerent. This 2009 interview with Mike Missanelli—where Missanelli asks Bayless to provide specific examples of illicit fan behavior in the stands of a Philadelphia sporting event since the implosion of the Vet—hits every one of those notes.
I'm not bringing this up because I necessarily have it out for Bayless, or 100% of the time disagree with him; instead, it's because Skip Bayless has willfully chosen to rob himself of his own basic humanity.

I'll clarify right now that this post is not to meant to be one long bitch session about some guy I don't like. If it was, I could turn on 1st & 10 on almost any day and be moved to write a diatribe about why I think "Skip Bayless is the antichrist" and how he should, in the parlance of a certain Facebook group, "Shut the F*** up."

Instead, this is meant to show how someone generally detested can become instantly likeable by evidencing even the smallest bit of vulnerability.

In November 2010, Chris Bosh "sucked." He "sucked" because he played for the Miami Heat. He "sucked" because he wasn't playing up the standards of winning "not 5, not 6, not 7..." NBA titles. He "sucked" because he took part in this. He "sucked" because he parlayed great stats on a bad team into a fat contract and media attention he didn't deserve. He also "sucked" because he at times physically resembled an actual Raptor.

But sometime last spring, Chris Bosh stopped "sucking." Sometime last spring, Chris Bosh proved that he wasn't just a "great stats, bad team" kind of player; he proved that he did deserve the media attention he received when he stood next to two of the top five players in the NBA; he proved that with his play, the Heat might be even be capable of winning all those "not..." titles; he even proved to look less like an actual Raptor.

Still, at the end of 2011 NBA Finals, I continued to label myself as "anti-Chris Bosh." He screamed and pounded his chest every time he made a play, and I could see his obnoxiously colored mouth guards all too often and it just wasn't happening for me, even in spite of his dramatically improved play. I remember remarking at least nineteen times throughout the playoffs, "I'd tell Chris Bosh to act like he's been there before, but I know he hasn't." I had it in for Chris Bosh, and I was really excited about it.

In this way, I was absolutely no different than Skip Bayless.

Fast forward to September 2011 and we find out that Chris Bosh has had enough. We find out that the 6'11 power forward is not going to tolerate being called "Bosh Spice" any longer. So what does this supposedly unlikable, overrated, calculating and callous member of the NBA's most-hated franchise decide to do? He decides to go on 1st & 10, sit directly across from his harshest critic, and respond to accusations about his "manhood" with dignity and class.

In the twelve minutes of video below, Chris Bosh made me a fan of Chris Bosh. And maybe it says something about me that this turn was so rapid and so easy, but all it took to change my mind was the realization that this guy is aware that he exists in a larger world.

Chris Bosh isn't affected, he's effected. And this is what separates him from someone like Bayless.

While Bayless admits to hearing the barrage of criticism he so earns on a daily basis, he also admits to ignoring it—fully. Chris Bosh, on the other hand, listens to all the criticism he likewise earns, and processes it. He hears it, understands it, contemplates it, acts on it.

This is how evolved human beings behave. They realize that they exist in a world that includes consciousness outside their own and they adapt to their changing environments. Nothing is static. Nothing is black and white. Everything is gray, and moving, and shifting. Everything is subject to change, including my opinion of Chris Bosh.

In the twelve minutes below, Chris Bosh calmly sits across from Skip Bayless, defends his family name, politely responds to Skip's criticism, and takes full responsibility for his poor play at the beginning of the last season. Chris Bosh resembles a real human being offering his real thoughts on real events.

On the opposite side of the table, Bayless continues to evince his hyper-aggressive, hyper-judgmental, hyper-affected persona. He resembles more of a caricature, more of an actor playing a part, than a individual with a legitimate investment in his own sense of self.

For nearly the entire video, I find it impossible to actually listen to Skip. All I can focus on is a jittery, upset, irritated, overworked, probably over-caffeinated cartoon. And that cartoon is ranting and raving across from a secure and confident man.

I realize Bayless is, to an extent, playing a character, and that the show's producers encourage him to act in the manner in which does. That's reality and that's television. And that's fine. But there is nothing preventing him from softening his stance on the rare occasion to reveal a more genuine side to his personality.

Sadly, in the one instance it's possible that Skip will lay down his guard for even just a moment, he immediately quashes all hope of redemption by telling Bosh "that he respects Chris for having the courage" to sit across from himself, as if he, Skip Bayless, were the end all and be all of Chris Bosh's fragile emotional psyche.

Chris Bosh showed me in just a few minutes that underneath all the screaming and the chest-beating and the exposed mouth-guards that he is a real person capable of contemplating both his public perception and own self-perception.

Skip Bayless, on the other hand, even when offered the chance to behave like a real human being, even when away from the provocative flame-throwing of the Stephen A. Smiths and Two Live Stus, even when faced with what appears to be a highly likeable, non-threatening individual, he showed the world that maintaining his affected personality is more important than evidencing any form of an effected response.

I said at the beginning that this isn't about the ways in which I currently detest Skip Bayless, and I maintain that it isn't. This is about the ways in which we judge public figures, and the ways in which we unfairly treat them as absolutes. Yes, Chris Bosh once was this monolith of a soft forward I found to physically resemble a Raptor. But, now I see him as a complicated person with a genuine interest in his own public perception.

But Bayless, Bayless remains an absolute. He is a monolith of an individual and he exists in this way because it is how he willfully chooses to present himself.

Moving forward, I am fully prepared to make a leap of faith on Skip Bayless. I am prepared to change my opinion. And I'm prepared to do it on the day he shows me that beneath his affected exterior exists a self-aware and vulnerable
interior. But until that day comes, I will continue to view him as the absolute he wants me to see. I will continue to believe that his affected personality is really in line with authentic perspective. And, thanks to his own actions, I will continue to believe he lacks the basic functions of his own humanity.

Congratulations, Skip. You've succeeded. You are alone.

Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

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Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

DETROIT – Back when they were racking up National League East titles and filling Citizens Bank Park night after night, the Phillies could slug with anyone.
 
Those days are gone.
 
So even on a night when they got some power from two young up-and-comers in their lineup, the Phillies still couldn’t get enough to match up with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
 
“We don’t have enough pop to go blow for blow with them,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
The Tigers belted four home runs, three against starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, in beating the Phillies, 5-4, at Comerica Park (see Instant Replay).
 
Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph both homered for the Phillies, but Ryan Howard, no longer even close to the player he was during those aforementioned title years, slipped deeper into the May quicksand. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May.
 
“Man, it’s been brutal,” Howard said after the game. “I’m not going to lie. I need some breaks, man. It’s been tough. I’ve hit some balls hard, but they’re not finding any real estate out there.
 
“I have to keep grinding and swinging. Luckily, it’s still early to get it turned around.”
 
Yes, it’s early for some guys.
 
But it might not be that early for Howard. He’s 36 and in the final year of his contract. His slump has coincided with Joseph’s ascension from the minors. Joseph played first base Monday night and looked good at the position. In addition to hitting a game-tying homer in the sixth, he had a double. Half of his six hits in his first seven games in the majors have been for extra bases.
 
Joseph will continue to play first base while Howard serves as the designated hitter in the final two games of the interleague series in Detroit. After that, Joseph is expected to start against lefty Jon Lester in Chicago on Friday. If he keeps hitting – and Howard keeps struggling – the situation could be ripe for Mackanin to continue to play Joseph, even against the right-handers Howard usually sees.
 
“I'm going to look at it a week at a time,” Mackanin said. “We'll see. At some point it might come to that, but I can't say it's imminent.”
 
If Howard starts spending more time on the bench, it will be part of a downhill progression that started in the second half of last season when he became a platoon player. Will a progression to the bench ultimately lead to his being released in the coming weeks? Well, if Joseph keeps hitting and continues to earn playing time, management may have to seriously ponder the move.
 
Even with Franco and Joseph hitting home runs, the Phillies didn’t have enough to match the Tigers’ thunder.
 
Miguel Cabrera belted two home runs and in the seventh inning clubbed his 500th career double. He then came around to score the go-ahead run on a single by Victor Martinez.
 
Entering the game, the Tigers were among the top teams in the American League in batting average (.265), runs per game (4.60), homers (56) and OPS (.758).
 
Meanwhile, the Phillies couldn’t get much lower in offense. They ranked near the bottom in the National League in batting average (.233), runs per game (3.23), homers (32) and OPS (.651).
 
“You look up and down their lineup on the scoreboard and it looks like everybody is hitting .300 with eight or 10 home runs,” Mackanin said. “It can be daunting.
 
“The middle of their lineup hurt us with the long ball. We knew they were swinging the bats well lately. They weren’t earlier. Now they’re swinging well and we couldn’t contain them.
 
“We got 12 hits of our own. But they’ve gave a lot of power on that team.”
 
The Phillies are at the start of a challenging trip – three in Detroit followed by three against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have the majors’ best record. The Phillies, a surprising four games over .500, will be tested on this trip.
 
They did not pass the first test. Velasquez had trouble commanding his pitches and for the second straight start ran a high pitch count. He took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the fifth, but it evaporated quickly under the weight of homers by J.D. Martinez and Cabrera. Reliever Colton Murray also gave up a homer in the inning. He also allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh as Mackanin held David Hernandez back in case the Phils got a lead.
 
“Velasquez didn’t have any command of his secondary pitches, pretty basic stuff, and he left some fastballs over the plate,” Mackanin said. “You have to throw quality pitches to a lineup like this. If you make mistakes against them they don’t miss. If you don’t command your secondary pitches against good hitters they become like sharks and smell blood and hit the fastball.”
 
Velasquez said he should have gotten the loss, not Murray.
 
“You can’t shy away from hitters and I did that,” he said. “You’ve got to pitch inside. I pitched around them.
 
“I’ve got to do something about this. I’ve got to challenge hitters.”

With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

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With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin made a strong statement Monday night when he benched his best hitter in the seventh inning of a tie game.
 
With Odubel Herrera on the bench for the final innings, the Phillies went on to lose, 5-4, to the Detroit Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Mackanin did not regret his decision to yank Herrera and his team-high .335 batting average from the game.
 
“It’s important to me to set that tone,” Mackanin said. “When you don’t hustle, I’ve got a problem.”
 
Herrera had singled in each of his first three at-bats. He drove in the Phillies’ first run with a hit in the third inning.
 
But when he bounced back to the pitcher and took his time getting to first base in the seventh, Mackanin abruptly pulled him. Even Ryan Howard said something to Herrera in the dugout.
 
“He didn’t run,” Mackanin said. “One of the ingredients to our success to this point is the fact that guys play with energy and they play hard. We’re training them to play the game the right way and not running is not the right way.”
 
Herrera said he did not run because he was “frustrated” and “angry” with the at-bat. He said Tigers reliever Justin Wilson “got in his head” by varying his delivery times. Herrera even mentioned that Wilson quick-pitched him.
 
“The pitcher was playing with me,” he said. “I have to learn from it. I didn’t think [Mackanin] was going to bench me, but I understand why. I can’t argue. I was frustrated. I respect the decision. I know that I did wrong. I have to learn from my mistakes and it won’t happen again.”
 
Mackanin is a huge fan of Herrera. He has predicted the 24-year-old Venezuelan will someday win a batting title.
 
But Mackanin indicated after Monday night’s game that Herrera might be developing some bad habits — at least when it comes to the hustle that Mackanin values. The front office values it, too. Playing with “energy” is something the front office frequently says it wants to see, and the ability to get his players to play with energy is one of Mackanin’s strengths.
 
“I’ve seen it in the past and it’s been trickling in,” Mackanin said of Herrera’s occasional lapses in hustle. “I didn’t like it and I made the decision. He knows he should have run.”
 
Jonathan Papelbon put a chokehold on Bryce Harper’s neck last year in Washington for a similar transgression.
 
In the Phillies’ dugout Monday night, Herrera got a little talking-to from Howard.
 
“That was great to see,” Mackanin said.
 
Said Howard: “Doobie's got a lot of promise. He’s going to be around this game for a long time. He makes things happen. He brings energy to the game.
 
“The pitcher lost the grip and had to double-pump. If you’re running hard, maybe he makes a bad throw and you’re on base.
 
“I just told him, ‘You’ve got to keep going. I know it’s not the at-bat you wanted, but look at me, bro, I’m still out there grinding.’ If he’s running there, the pitcher could throw it away and he could be on second and we could squeeze a run out.”
 
Howard went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May.
 
Mackanin said his message to Herrera was complete. Herrera will be back in the starting lineup on Tuesday night.

NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

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NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

BOX SCORE

TORONTO -- A series that once looked lopsided is now even.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points, including a driving layup in the final minute, and DeMar DeRozan had 32 as the Toronto Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99 in Game 4 on Monday night.

DeMarre Carroll scored 11 points and Bismack Biyombo had 14 rebounds as Toronto improved to 8-2 at home this postseason and got back on level terms after big losses in Games 1 and 2.

"We've been counted out, and we like that challenge," DeRozan said.

The next challenge for Toronto? Game 5 on Wednesday night in Cleveland, where the Raptors are 0-3 this season, losing by a combined 72 points.

"We have to continue to make sure that when they punch, we punch back," Lowry said. "And if they punch three times, we punch four times."

The Raptors are 2-6 on the road in the playoffs.

After a 10-0 start to these playoffs, the Cavaliers are counting on home court advantage to help them reach their second straight Finals.

"Going back home we have to play a lot better and I think we will," LeBron James said.

Cleveland lost consecutive playoff games to an Eastern Conference opponent for the first time since dropping the final three games of the conference semifinals to Boston in 2010.

"We had a few defensive breakdowns that you can't have down the stretch of a game, especially in the playoffs," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "They executed every time we made a mistake."

James scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving had 26 for the Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 18 points. Channing Frye scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Lowry scored nine in the fourth and DeRozan had 12, connecting on five of six shots.

"It's a cakewalk for me when (Lowry) gets going," DeRozan said. "It opens up everything."

The Raptors led 78-69 to begin the fourth but Frye made consecutive 3-pointers as Cleveland opened the final quarter with an 8-0 run, cutting it to 78-77. The Cavaliers made their first 11 shots of the fourth quarter.

"It wasn't enough because we got off to a horrible first half once again in this building and you're playing catch up the whole game," James said.

Frye's errant 3-point attempt at 4:12 was Cleveland's first miss of the fourth. DeRozan made two free throws at the other end and, after another miss by Frye, Carroll made one of two to put Toronto up 99-96 with 3:23 to go.

A long 3 by Irving made it 101-99 with 2:00 left, but DeRozan answered with a driving bank shot at 1:33. Toronto got the ball back after Biyombo blocked J.R. Smith's 3, and Biyombo kept the offensive possession alive by rebounding Lowry's missed shot. After a timeout, Lowry let the shot clock wind down before driving for the decisive layup, making it 105-99 with 22 seconds to go.

Toronto jumped out to a 13-5 lead as Cleveland missed eight of its first 10 shots. Following a timeout, the Cavs made five of their next six to cut the deficit but the Raptors led 27-24 after one quarter.

Lowry scored 15 points in the second, making three of Toronto's four 3-pointers, as the Raptors opened a 57-41 halftime lead despite not shooting a single free throw in the first two quarters. It marked the first time a team led by 15 or more at halftime in a conference finals game without shooting a free throw since Game 2 of the 2001 East Finals between Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Bucks made two of six from the line, the fewest ever made in an NBA playoff game at the time.

DeRozan shot Toronto's first free throws at 6:13 of the third after being tackled by Smith on a drive. The foul drought came after Raptors coach Dwane Casey was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials following Toronto's Game 3 win.

Fans cheered derisively when Matthew Dellavedova was called for Cleveland's first foul of the game at 8:56 of the second.

Not much to Love
After shooting 3 for 19 in Game 3, Kevin Love shot 4 for 14 in Game 4. He finished with 10 points. Love did not play in the fourth after appearing to injure his left ankle when he stepped on referee David Guthrie late in the third. "It didn't feel too great," Love said. Lue said Love's health was "no concern."

Fair and foul
Cleveland didn't shoot any free throws in the third quarter and had just two in the fourth. Twelve of Toronto's 19 free throws came in the fourth.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James and Irving each had six assists. ... Cleveland shot 3 for 23 from 3-point range in the first half. The finished 13 for 41. . Cleveland's Dahntay Jones served a one-game suspension for hitting Biyombo in the groin in Game 3.

Raptors: Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas was active but did not play. He's been out since spraining his right ankle in the third quarter of Game 3 against Miami on May 7. ... Toronto is 10-1 in the playoffs when holding opponents below 100 points.