It has been a very strange week, particularly after Sunday as whilst the actual Pro Bowl game was being played the news of Kobe Bryant’s death broke.
This has been huge news round the world and has given a different feel to Super Bowl week. The approach Bryant took to his sporting career transcended the sport of basketball and made a Bryant a significant figure in NFL locker rooms. He had pursued also his new post playing career with as much vigour as his basketball. I can think of any other league MVPs who by age forty-one also had an Oscar.
He was also a complex individual, and with all the positive stories surrounding him, it is also important to acknowledge that he was charged with sexual assault in 2003. At the time he flew back and forth from the court case to play games and eventually the case was dismissed as the victim refused to testify. The woman, nineteen at the time of the attack had her name leaked several times as well as being smeared by the defence team. What we do know is that after initially denying the incident took place, Bryant admitted to not explicitly asking for consent and after the case stated that he understood that she had a different understanding of the event to him. Bryant also settled a civil suit, part of which was a non-disclosure agreement on his side.
As ever, a lot of the recovery of his reputation was down to returning to winning ways on the court and society’s view of successful men. However, Bryant also became a committed family man, taking pride in being a girl dad and an advocate for women’s sport as well as reaching out and mentoring a number of sports people. He was interested in many things including his next chapter and storytelling, but one of the sadder aspects of this whole situation is the death of his middle daughter Gianna, who was only thirteen and was pursuing her own basketball dreams.
In this era of real-time social media reactions and the seeming desire to divide in good and bad people we forget that everyone is hugely complex and good deeds in one area do not negate bad actions in another, but if we are to believe in redemption or at least the attempt to make amends then we have to give people a chance to improve. We can’t ignore or excuse Bryant’s actions in this case, but nor can we define him solely by them and so the man who was capable of great feats on the basketball court is the same person who was involved in the sexual assault case and approving his legal defence. It is the same man who inspired people round the world as well as his peers, who doted on his children. When you contemplate his death you think about the family without a father or daughter, the other children and parents from the same team who also died, the woman who is witnessing the reaction to Bryant’s death filtered through her own trauma and complex feelings about what is happening.
People are complex and only here for a short time and so we have to make the best of what we have, strive our best every day, and face the consequences of our actions whether we intended the outcomes or not.
There’s no easy way to segue out of this topic and back to football, and it feels like a lot of the Super Bowl coverage has been subdued because of that very fact, but I can steadily make my way back to football because what I was just writing about is relevant to one of the key players for the Kansas City Chiefs. For all that I’m a big fan of Andy Reid, and I’m so impressed by Patrick Mahomes, one of the key skills players for the Chiefs is Tyreek Hill who has his own complex history. A fifth-round draft pick by the Chiefs due to a domestic assault of his then pregnant girlfriend, which saw him dismissed from the Oklahoma State football team. He’s been a successful player for the Chiefs going from a speedy returner to one of the best receivers in the game, but in the off-season he was investigated over the care of his son, who we know had a broken arm and was taken into care. The investigation was dropped and he has been given a contract extension, in part because of his conduct around the team and I have read the stories about how he has matured but as ever, if you have talent then often it seems you get to play your way out trouble. I’m hugely looking forward to the Super Bowl, but this will be itching away at the back of my brain because we shouldn’t forget that as great as some of these players are, they are human and complex and in some case you wonder where the line between rehabilitation and facilitation lies.
My schedule has got out of step this week, so I’m going to wrap up with a couple of quick points, and will drop my proper preview of the Super Bowl Sunday morning so you can get up to speed because as strange as the build up as been, the actual games looks like it could be one for the ages.
What I Saw
I saw a few video highlights of the quarterback throwing competitions and other of the periphery competitions, but the Pro Bowl is not a proper game of football and I freely admit to not watching it, even if it does get a very high rating in the States.
What I Hope
There is so much to hope for having been repeatedly been reminded of the frailty of life over the last few weeks.
In life I hope we take on board the lesson that we have to make sure we make the most of every day and the opportunities that gets presented to us as there are no guarantees that we will get another chance tomorrow.
What I hope for Sunday is that the game lives up to the potential I see in it, and for a few hours a large section of the world sets aside the struggles of life and gets to enjoy what could be a truly glorious game.
In the meantime I’ll hand over to Dan’s Dad for normal service on the trivia front, and don’t worry, I very definitely have thoughts about the oncoming game.
What We’ve Been Asked
‘The penultimate game of the season has come and gone. Apart from stating that the AFC ran out winners by 5 points we can switch focus to what I can see as a potentially great Super Bowl this weekend.
I’ve harboured a liking for the Chiefs’ work all season and have said as much. My thoughts were that the Saints would be my choice to represent the NFC in Miami, after the Vikings rolling them over in Wild Card week. The Vikings were less successful in the Divisional week losing to the 49ers and from there San Fran rolled over the Packers to become a very capable contender.
In a 49ers / Chiefs Superbowl, who wins? I’ll leave Gee to do the coaching analysis but for me, while SF have a great momentum the Chiefs may benefit from by-passing the Wild Card game so I’ll plump for H.C Wolf to edge out Sourdough Sam by 6 points,
And in the Trivia nothing really changed in terms of Dans lead of a still gettable 3 points.
For the Pro Bowl the questions were on the 49ers and Seahawks.
For San Fran I asked one of my occasional stinkers which was, “How many 49er quarterbacks were inducted into the Hall of Fame in the 20th century?”
Well I was impressed by the ideas that came through and the guesses were plausible, but the answer was actually just 1.
Only Y.A. Tittle (1971) was inducted in the 20th century. Although Joe Montana and Steve Young played in that century, they were inducted in the 21st.
Moving up the coast to Seattle I asked what turned into a head scratcher with, “Which player finished the 2003 season as the Seahawks starting quarterback”?
The answer of course was Matt Hasselbeck. He started every game for the Seahawks in 2003, earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
2 points each to Gee and Dan for that one leaving us with scores of 30 – 33 respectively.
Which brings us to the final game and the completion of our road trip round the 32 teams with the final 3 teams, and 4 questions – because I can!
First stop this week are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, tell me:
The Bucs played in only one tie game in the 20th century. Who was it against?
Moving onto the Tennessee Titans so tell me:
Which player started at quarterback for the first game of the 2005 season against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh
At last we get into DC and for the Washington Redskins tell me:
The Washington Redskin franchise began in 1932 in the NFL. What was the team’s name in that season?
Trawling for questions throws up some interesting info and with the closing question for the season, which I predict will be got by both, is
Which famous football czar ended his career in Washington as coach?
Three points for each question this week so there are twelve points on the table so go for it!
And so, to Miami – Lets play Ball!’