By Chris Pennant (@kwandarykitten)
There’s a lot of noise in this time of 24-hour news, and even the most insignificant sports tidbit get their five minutes of airtime.
However, most of this can be easily distilled into two categories: trash, and not trash. It’s difficult for a regular person to find the time to distill, but have no fear, I’ve taken it upon myself to do it for you. Here’s the first edition of “Trash or Not Trash.”
Conor McGregor (and UFC) — TRASH
I’m not a fan of mixed martial arts or the UFC, but friends of mine enjoy it. A few of those friends have passionately supported Conor McGregor for years, but they must be disappointed in his past year.
McGregor has been criticized in the past for throwing racial barbs at opposing fighters, but his brash dominance in UFC overshadowed most of the controversy. The deplorable things he said leading up to his 2017 bout with Floyd Mayweather could almost – almost – have been written off as the usual antics of combat sports, but they were very deliberately aimed at Mayweather’s race. That fight was the first time I actually saw McGregor’s prejudice on display, and it was not lost on many fight fans.
McGregor lost that fight, as most experts expected, but took home a huge payday. However, his lopsided defeat to Khabib Nurmagedov earlier this month, which began with an attack on Nurmagedov’s bus in April and subsequent felony charge, ended with a huge brawl following the stoppage of the fight.
Nurmagedov shouldn’t skate on this at all, as he jumped over the barrier and went after McGregor’s camp, sparking the fracas. But this followed months of ethnically and racially-charged attacks lobbed by McGregor via social media and press conferences. As SBNation’s MMA blog Bloody Elbow rightly observed, McGregor had this beatdown coming.
Drew Brees (and two dedicated Saints fans) — NOT TRASH
Last Monday, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie Tre’Quan Smith. That play cemented Brees as the NFL’s career leader in passing yards.
Over a 17-year career, Brees has passed for 72,103 yards, eclipsing 5,000 passing yards in a season five times (no other QB has more than one such season to their credit). As one Saints blog wrote last week, it’s entirely possible that no one will break the mark he sets. Not bad for a player who was almost forced to retire because of Marty Schottenheimer’s stubbornness.
Let’s also give a big “Not Trash” shout-out to these two guys,
Ben Gallagher and Grady Forkin, who decided to walk 71,940 yards before New Orleans’ game against Washington last week. As their Twitter account shows, the nearly 41-mile journey was no picnic for the two men, but it was worth it: they finished their “Brees-A-Thon” at the Superdome with a visit and photograph with the future Hall of Famer himself.
Note: of those five guys who passed for 5,000 or more yards in a season, none are listed any shorter than 6’3. Except for Brees. Take that, John Elway.
Jimmy Butler — TRASH
The competitive drive that transformed Jimmy Butler into an All-Star might turn him into a player no team really wants. The signs began a few years ago when he supposedly removed the rear-view mirror in his car, and the stories centering around the seventh-year guard have gotten wilder as time goes on.
The recent saga between Butler and the Timberwolves has reached a detente, but last week’s reports of Butler screaming at teammates and the general manager during practice led many to think he was finally going to get his wish for a trade.
That, however, does not merit a spot in the “Trash” section. Plenty of athletes are petulant, overcompetitive, or corrosive. But the fact that Butler and/or his camp clearly arranged for ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols to be in Minnesota in order to an interview directly after the practice? TRASH. Even the most basic “Basketball Twitter” watchers saw this for what it was: a publicity stunt.
Jimmy Butler built his reputation in the NBA by being the hardest worker in whatever room he walks into, but it’s obvious that he loves the bright lights of large-market cities.
Even with his old Bulls head coach and locker-room mates around him, Minneapolis doesn’t hold the same appeal as Los Angeles or Miami, which is where the T’Wolves were trying to ship Butler until those talks quieted this week. The word is that team owner Glen Taylor will continue to examine trade possibilities and Butler will play to his full capabilities in the meantime. But the once-promising Wolves are in turmoil, and they have only Jimmy G to blame.
Chicago Bears — (Surprisingly) NOT TRASH
I may be boycotting the NFL, but as I’ve said before, the league is impossible to ignore. This is especially true in Chicago, where the Bears will always be king, and this season, they have a legitimate shot to not only make the playoffs, but win the NFC North.
Wiser pundits have not bought into the hype yet, but all-world linebacker Khalil Mack and Money Makin’ Mitch (who is having a pretty good start to the season) have given Chicago football fans a reason to prematurely crow about Super Bowl aspirations. (If you were wondering, I’m still going to boycott.)
Chris Pennant covers professional and amateur basketball for WARR Media