This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
Going into the Final Championship series against the Celtics, Kobe Bryant was compared often to Michael Jordan. Kobe, the NBA's regular season MVP, the greatest athlete since the great MJ. Now that the Celtics have whooped the Lakers for those NBA Championship rings, it is abundantly apparent that Kobe is in fact no Jordan.
That's not because he just couldn't carry his team on his back. The 39-point drubbing the Lakers suffered Tuesday night needed a step-up by all his supporting cast. That's not because he didn't throw all his considerable talent and his desperate desire to win at the basket. Boston double-and triple-teamed him and crippled his penetration routes.
Kobe's no Michael Jordan because, as many times as he's played with and against the best basketballers in the world, he has no reverence for the game he plays. He has no sense of the nobility of sport After Game 4, a horrible slide to defeat, having squandered away a seemingly insurmountable double-digit lead, this was Kobe's quote to the press: "We wet the bed. Nice big one, too. One of the ones you can't put a towel over." That was the analysis by the sport's Most Valuable Player in the middle of the year-end fight for honor and history? "We wet the bed. Nice big one, too."
I don't care how sweet this guy's moves are. He's the antithesis of noble. He's no Michael Jordan. The MJ of this era is Tiger. His 91-hole, sudden-death US Open victory on Monday overflowed with brilliance, sportsmanship, kindness, charisma, humility, honesty, courage -- and nobility. What a special champion he is. Let's hope his knee comes around, for his sake and for ours.
Now on to baseball. The Yankees have lost their ace starting pitcher for at least ten weeks. On Sunday, in an inter-league game against National League Houston, where pitchers hit, instead of the American League rule of Designated Hitters substituting for pitchers, Chien-Ming Wang came rounding third and felt a pop on the top of his foot. Monday's MRI showed a torn tendon and a sprained ligament and Wang will be out until at least August.
Any player could hurt himself sprinting around the bases but the mathematical odds are infinitely higher for a player who never runs the bases. As Chien-Ming Wang's veteran teammate, Mike Mussina, puts it, the pitchers of the American League take a bit of batting practice before an inter-league game but they never run the bases. And as Yankees manager Joe Girardi puts it, "It's a manager's worst nightmare when a pitcher's on a base-path."
Since inter-league play was instituted back in 1997, American League teams face National League teams only a few times during the regular season. Home-team rules apply. There was no DH for Wang in Houston.
One of the reasons behind the DH is to extend the careers of terrific hitters. The Tigers' Al Kaline needed 139 hits in 1974 to reach the big 3,000 number. As a full-time DH, he got to 3,007 and into the Hall of Fame.
George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski and other Hall of Famers have similar histories as DH specialists.
Now that's the word that doesn't sit well with National Leaguers specialists.
They claim themselves purists. The nine guys who take the field are the nine guys who step up to the plate. Let's get real. The pitcher is a specialist.
This is the tenderly protected thoroughbred whose multi-million dollar arm is swathed in warm sleeves the moment he gets back to the dugout. The American League DH rule protects the pitcher's career.
I know one man I won't ask to explain the logic of the National League rule to me. That's Joe Girardi. His worst nightmare just came true.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Banner image: Good sport: Rocco Mediate, left, has a laugh with Tiger Woods even though he won't be going home with the trophy. Photo: John Mummert/USGA