JOHN GRANATO

My apology to the people of Houston

Jimbo Fisher appeared on The Bench with John and Lance. Bob Levey/Getty Images

It has come to my attention that I have disappointed some of you out there and for that I would like to apologize. On Tuesday we had Jimbo Fisher on the program like we do every Tuesday at 7:15 AM.

I made the decision to not ask him about the facemask incident. That was my decision. Not Lance’s. Not Del’s. Their credibility should remain intact. It is my credibility that should be in question here because I was the one who they asked to not mention the issue.

Make no mistake this was not a Mike Gundy situation either. For those of you that missed it, the Oklahoma State coach threatened the media that they would lose their player interview privileges if they asked them about a player who was transfering. That was a bully move. I abhor coaches who bully the media. That was not the case with Jimbo.

This was a simple statement by someone on his staff who said that the coach answered the question about the facemask incident and is moving on.

One more question about it certainly wouldn’t have hurt but by the same token what would have been added to what he had just said the day before? It was asked and answered.

Maybe I could have uncovered some pearl that would have shed new light on the issue but I didn’t. Maybe that one question would have changed the player-coach relationship and made the world a better place for them to coexist in love and harmony. Maybe. I don’t know. That will haunt me now until I die.

Trust me I’m not afraid to ask the tough question. When I was in Green Bay I asked head coach Lindy Infante about death threats to his family one particularly bad Packer season. I had the Green Bay police department in my office that afternoon trying to figure out where I’d heard that and how they could prevent it.

At the opening of Enron Field (now Minute Maid Park) I asked manager Larry Dierker if his pitchers might be afraid to pitch inside because of that short porch in left. He literally fell to the ground screaming that I asked unanswerable questions. (By the way, about midway through the season he was quoted as saying that his pitchers were probably afraid to pitch inside because of the short porch in left).

Gary Kubiak was so sick of my badgering him about who was his starting offensive line that he told Steve McKinney to tell me to get off his back.

If this was the Urban Meyer situation I would have asked about it. If this was the Penn St. or Baylor situation I would have asked about it. This was not. In my opinion this is a non-story. Your opinion may be different than mine. I appreciate that but I don’t think it’s a big deal.

I have a son playing college football. If he’s acting the fool and a coach grabs him by the facemask to get his attention I would have absolutely no problem with that. I’d encourage it.

I know this is a different world than the one I grew up in but I don’t think that world was all that bad. My high school defensive line coach, Coach Conrath, would walk around with a baseball bat and hit any of his guys that were misaligned. I guarantee you they paid attention to where they were lined up every snap.

Our basketball coach was also our P.E. instructor and he had a giant wooden paddle with holes in it that would make nice indentation marks on your butt when you caught a fresh one. Guess who didn’t fool around during gym? This guy.

But I digress. The real issue here is my credibility as a journalist now. It’s gone forever. You can no longer trust me when I call myself dark meat or when I tell you that I dreamed about Gary Pettis sending the runner. I’ve lost your trust and that hurts.

I will tell you that I should never have had that trust in the first place. I do not consider myself a journalist. As Del’s dad once so eloquently told him “The man is a clown, and you are his court jester.” It is who I am: morning radio clown and I’m OK with that.

I did the journalist thing back in the day. I was once the sports director at the NBC affiliate in Green Bay. I remember standing outside the Packers locker room on cut day. All of us huddled there like vultures waiting to pounce on guys coming out one by one after they’d been released by the team. I’d never felt so scummy. Here are these guys whose hopes and dreams had just been shattered and all we could worry about was getting some five second sound bite on the six o’clock news.

No thanks. If that’s journalism I don’t want any part of it.

So once again I apologize for losing your trust, as misguided as that trust was. We have had more coaches and will continue to have more coaches on our show than any show I know of. One of the reasons is that we are civil, another is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to  have fun with them which is something that’s rare these days. It seems to me that the media-coach relationship in this country is at an all time low.

Maybe we’ll ask Jimbo about that next Tuesday.







 

 


 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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