There’s that saying in poker that you never remember all the little pots you won to build bankroll, but it’s impossible to forget the one big mistake you made to lose it.
It’s true for more than just poker.
I’ve been working at the Daily for the last three years – and almost every day for the last year. And in that time, I’ve written a few decent pieces. But man oh man, have I made a lot of screw-ups. I can easily think of a half-dozen big mistakes that I’ve made at this paper.
The first day that I was on my own as sports editor I got the score wrong – not so much wrong, but I said that the wrong team won.
I once spelled Reilly Olson’s name Riley.
In one paper, I let it print that the hockey team was playing “today” when, in fact, it was playing the next day.
I picked Ohio State to beat Michigan in the last football game of the year this year, and I picked Nebraska to cover the spread. Though I was right about both of those, I’m told it infuriated some folk.
In a column I wrote, I gave Bo Schembechler less credit than he deserved, leading to dozens of furious e-mails and a lot of not-so-nice names.
I’ve been told that I write about myself too much – to whomever said that, stop reading this column now.
But one of the stupidest things I ever wrote got no backlash, no e-mails. It was probably because no one knew I wrote it, or knew how to contact me.
It was the fall of 2003, just before the NBA season began, and the Daily was getting ready to do preseason picks – a tradition when we have extra space. I did the picks not because I’m an NBA expert or anything, but because I happened to be sitting around the Daily when it was time to do picks.
I thought very carefully about my selections and put them in the paper. Most were not very surprising or memorable. But then I got to two picks:
Most overrated player – LeBron James.
Most underrated player – Kwame Brown.
I doubt there’s been a bigger mistake involving two No. 1 picks since Michael Olowokandi and Len Bias (too soon?).
I had my reasons. I figured that LeBron James was the single most hyped player ever to set foot on an NBA court. Sports Illustrated had written about him when he was a junior in high school. It was absurd. How could he possibly live up to the hype? There was no way.
He was amazing in high school. The St. Vincent-St. Mary’s games they showed on ESPN made him look like Michael Jordan. But that was high school – when ‘Bron was bigger, faster and stronger than the guys he played. I doubted he could do it week in and week out against the best players in the world for 82 games a year.
Plus, he had to try to resurrect the Cavaliers. That’s a task in itself.
The Kwame Brown thing is a little less excusable. I don’t have an excuse, but since Brown was on my hometown Wizards for most of his career, I’ve always had a soft spot for the first high school player to be drafted No. 1 overall.
My friend Jim scoffed at the picks, but I stood by them, insisting they were right on and exclaiming it was going to be Brown’s breakout year.
I’ve never been more wrong.
James far surpassed everyone’s expectations. He was one of three rookies ever to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. The other two were Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan – pretty good company. He was 2003-04 rookie of the year – the youngest player ever to win the award. And, recently, he became the youngest player to reach 5,000 points – beating Kobe Bryant (more good company). He’s currently third in the NBA in points per game (30.9) and 15th in assists per game (6.3).
Most impressive is the way he’s turned around the Cavaliers. They haven’t made the playoffs yet, but they’ve been close the last two years. They’re 25-17 this year, and if the season were to end today, they’d be the No. 4 seed and would be playing a home playoff series.
Kwame Brown, on the other hand, averaged seven points and five rebounds per game last year. He has yet to score more than 14 points in a game; James has a career-high of 56. Brown skipped practice, was benched for the Wizards’ playoff run and was promptly traded to the Lakers.
Needless to say, I was wrong. When I got a column a little more than a year ago, I promised Jim that I would apologize to The Michigan Daily readers who I may have insulted.
My time’s running out at the Daily – I’m leaving after the Super Bowl – so I’m down to my last couple opportunities.
Now if only I could remember how I built my bankroll.