Friday, July 2, 2004
Hey, that was a great victory celebration for the Jackson Rage, wasn't it? Celebrating their great triumph at home last Saturday night at Jackson State before the largest crowd of the season in the first WBA championship game … uh, OK, so it didn't happen.
The Rage came in with everything going for it. Led by Mario Austin, the league's player of the year, and Richard Williams, who should have been coach of the year, the Rage was a heavy favorite. Sure, the team's last two games with the Southern Crescent Lightning had been tight, but playing at home figured to put the Rage over the top.
Instead, the Lightning, led by former Ole Miss player Derrick Allen (19 points) and coach Litterial Green, a Moss Point native, made itself right at home. After trailing by 13 points in the first half, the Lightning finished the first half by outscoring the Rage 11-5 and opened the second half with a 14-3 run. The Rage stayed close, but could never catch up.
Austin played well in what was likely his swan song with the Rage (18 points and 11 rebounds). Expect him to soon settle his dispute with his former agent and get a long look in an NBA camp.
Williams recently quit after one season as boys coach at Pearl High School, saying he couldn't do justice to that job while he was coaching the Rage. Uh huh. Williams will be coaching a college team sooner than later.
The Rage was the WBA's attendance leader this season. If the league is to survive, it needs more teams in markets like Jackson and Raleigh, N.C., and less in places like Bristol, Tenn., and Rome, Ga. Whether the league can do that will decide whether Jackson gets to play for a title again in 2005.
We Waited 49 Weeks for This?
Mississippi is the 49th stop on Sports Illustrated's 50-stop tour of the United States. The results, in the June 28 issue, are a turd in the punchbowl of journalism. How could a magazine that supposedly has an army of fact-checkers get the name of Mississippi State broadcaster Jack Cristil (they spelled it Crystal) wrong? There were some other factual errors, too.
Even worse were the errors in editorial judgment. One could argue that the 1984 Alcorn State-Mississippi Valley State game was the state's greatest sports moment, but one would be wrong. Jackson native Richard Ford turned in an essay that was largely gibberish. But he had written a novel called "The Sportswriter," get it? And for some reason, SI chose the Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo as the sports event that typifies Mississippi. Wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong. High school and college sports are the lifeblood of Mississippi. E.M. Swift's article begins, "The scene was bizarre, colorful and teeming with life, a tableau worthy of Faulkner." If the piece had a soundtrack, it would feature "Dueling Banjos." Mississippi deserved better.