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Twisted Sister

Posted 2/21/2001

I don't know who should be considered more responsible for scamming Baltimore citizens in last week's Mobtown Beat report: Tom Scocca of City Paper or Frank Pratka of the Baltimore-Cuba Sister City Project (Mobtown Beat, 2/14). The article suggests that Varadero will become Baltimore's sister city in Cuba. Granted, sisters were never meant to be equal, but some sorority pairings just can't be forced. Paris should not be sister to Rehoboth. London should not be sister to Chincoteague. And Baltimore, inshallah, should not be sister to Varadero.

What Scocca fails to mention in the article is the fact that Varadero is a beach resort. Not only that, it's a beach resort primarily for tourists, not Cubans. Pratka says the establishment of sisterhood is for cultural and social exchanges, not commercial ones. Um, so who would we be exchanging with? Old, sun-drenched, and leathery Italian and Russian tourists? If the important part is the province rather than the actual city, as the project members seem to be implying (and which I am still skeptical about), then fine, but at least mention the fact that Varadero is a flashy foreign resort, not just a neighborhood.

Matt O'Brien
Baltimore

Germany vs. Holland
I was amused by Donald Holland's assertion that "[t]he difference between current Germany and the United States is that the former is a partial dictatorship posing as a democracy while the United States has active freedoms other nations covet" (The Mail, 2/14). Mr. Holland may be pleased to know that, while Supreme-Generalissimo-for-Life Gerhard Schroeder will not allow him to march around Frankfurt in an SS uniform while singing "The Horst Wessel Song," he is free to drink beer in a public park while listening to uncensored Eminem songs on the radio, and no one will hold a gun up to his face--not even the cops!

Colin Meeder
Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Basket Case
When I first began reading Tom Scocca's latest column, "We Myself & I" (8 Upper, 2/14), I was anticipating a long-overdue dissection of the NBA and all its shortcomings. For a while, Tom got it right. Professional basketball as played in the NBA is dull as dirt and outrageously overpriced. Later, however, he falls back on the serial wrongheadedness that plagues the thinking of NBA Commissioner David Stern and his sycophants. Tom threw me off when he started by actually talking about the game of basketball. When he switched to mooning over the stars of yesteryear (Magic, Bird, et al., ad nauseam), he fell into the celebrity trap that has plagued the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain.

Can you imagine Major League Baseball allowing, say, five strikes and seven balls for hitters deemed by the leagues and the media to be superstars? How about the NFL giving star running backs a few extra yards per carry? Well, that's what the NBA has been doing for years. The refs looked the other way while Michael Jordan took as many as five or six steps on the way to one of his slam dunks. Citing other examples would take up this entire paper.

What gives NFL football and Major League Baseball their timeless quality and consistent interest is respect for the game. It seems lost on the NBA that college basketball, as epitomized by the March Madness of the NCAA tournament, continues to draw huge audiences both at the games and on the tube in spite of the many fine players lured to the NBA by the big bucks. The reason is clear: It is the game itself, not the celebrities, that make it happen. The NBA has serious structural problems too. The season is way too long. As a result, the significance of a single game is minimal. The fans know it, but, most importantly, the players do too. Player indifference compounded by fatigue from an impossible regimen of travel, practice, and play means a fan base paying huge money for lackluster performances. Adding to the regular season a layer of seemingly endless playoff series leaves all but the most rabid fans of the surviving teams exhausted at best, bored out of their skulls at worse. Unless reconstituted to resemble the college game with a drastically shortened regular season, a sudden-death playoff format, and coaches free to determine a team's approach to the game based upon its strengths and weaknesses as a team, the NBA will soon trail professional "wrestling" in the sports pantheon, and that ain't even a sport, for God's sake!

Joe Roman
Baltimore

Coaching Conundrum
After reading Tom Scocca's column "The Best Man" (8 Upper, 2/7), I've decided City Paper is not for me. His piece dated Jan. 31 regarding the Ravens and Art Modell gave us a hint of what a diminutive soul he is. And just in case we didn't get it, he furthered his cause on Feb. 7 by claiming Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis was passed over for a head coaching job due to color. Leave it to City Paper to throw down the race card. Why am I not surprised?!

Bruce Richmond
Bel Air

Cheers to Tom Scocca and his column "The Best Man." This piece is the most articulate I've read on the lack of black coaches in the NFL, most notably the most deserving Marvin Lewis from the Ravens. When the Cowboys won Super Bowls in the early '90s, assistant coaches Butch Davis and Norv Turner had jobs before the playoffs even started. When their season was eventually over, the coaching world was wide open for them.

When are we going to stop kidding ourselves about the role race plays in this? If it's not about race, what is it about? Qualifications? Experience? Management skills? Are we supposed to believe Marvin Lewis doesn't have these after orchestrating one of the best defenses of all time with a lion's share of distractions (Ray Lewis, lack of offensive production, etc.)?

Thanks for bringing evil out into the light. I'm putting your column on my office door, which is a popular place with my college students.

Eric Byrd
Westminster

Still Ravin'
Uh oh, the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Baltimore sports fans actually have something to be happy about for a change. We all know what that means. Time for some snotty cynic from City Paper to drop trou and take a big, stinking, steaming dump in the punch bowl (8 Upper, 1/31). Thank you, Tom Scocca, for being so predictable. And don't forget the Charmin.

Don Brizendine
Baltimore

In the Jan. 31 issue of City Paper, toward the end of his usual anti-Ravens tirade, Tom Scocca relayed a story he supposedly obtained from The Washington Post about how Art Modell, in 1993, allegedly persuaded multimillionaire Robert Tisch to drop his efforts to obtain an NFL expansion team for Baltimore and buy half of the New York Giants instead. The thrust of this story was that Modell did so in order to doom Baltimore's chances of obtaining a team so that he could take Baltimore's stadium deal for himself.

While Scocca may well of have read some version of this story somewhere, if he had bother to do an hour's worth of independent factual research, he would have found that the story is completely contrary to what actually happened.

For example, if Scocca had bothered to do a quick Internet search, he would have quickly (it took me all of about 15 minutes) discovered that the official New York Giants' Web page reports that Tisch actually bought his share of the Giants in 1991--two years before the NFL awarded Charlotte and Jacksonville expansion teams in 1993.

If Scocca had been more ambitious, he could have confirmed that Tisch bought into the Giants in 1991 by checking the NFL's Official Record and Fact Book (page 276 of the 1997 edition).

If Scocca had been real ambitious, he could have checked Sun writer Jon Morgan's 1997 book on how the Browns became the Ravens, Glory for Sale, which also reveals that in 1993, when the NFL owners met to award the last expansion team to Jacksonville, Tisch was one of only two owners on the expansion committee to actually vote for Baltimore getting a team over Jacksonville (page 193, Tom).

Finally, although I believe I have read that Modell did actually suggest to Tisch that he buy into the Giants (both Tisch and the other Giants owner, Wellington Mara, are close friends of Modell), when Modell did do so--1991, not 1993--he was in the process of spending $13 million to build a 10-acre training center and corporate headquarters in Cleveland that opened in 1992 (page 211 of Morgan's book). As such, I seriously doubt that when Modell suggested to Tisch that he buy into the Giants, he was even considering moving the team. (Although I will admit that the $13 million did turn out to be a very poor investment on Modell's part.)

Its a shame that Scocca let his rush to pen yet another insipid anti-Ravens tirade get in the way of what I thought was a fundamental part of journalism--checking your facts before you write your story.

Vince Columbia
Ellicott City

Tom Scocca responds: Art Modell's phone call to Robert Tisch did happen in 1991, rather than 1993. I regret the dating error. That does not, however, change the basic facts: At the time, the NFL's expansion process was underway; Tisch was the evident frontrunner to lead Baltimore's bid, and Modell called him off. Whatever his motives, Art Modell torpedoed this city's best shot at an expansion team. Then he collected on our stadium offer himself.

As for Brizendine's punch bowl, 8 Upper rejects any accusations of cynical party-pooping. 8 Upper has been firmly against the Ravens from the beginning, even when the team stunk.

Editor's note: Two sure signs that summer's coming: pitchers and catchers report to Florida and we bug you about our Sizzlin' Summer calendar. Send the who, what, where, and when of your summer happenings to Sizzlin' Summer c/o Ronald Hube, City Paper, 812 Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201, or fax it to (410) 523-8437, attention: Sizzlin' Summer. The deadline is March 10.

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