. Tuesday, January 22, 2008

There were two sides to Bobby Fischer and it shouldn't come as a surprise that nobody is really quite sure which side to focus on after the chess legend died in Iceland on Thursday.

On one side, you have the child prodigy who took the chess world by storm. He began winning championships at the age of 13 and to this day is the only American to ever win the World Chess Championship. He made chess more than just a game a bunch of old people sat around and played.

On the other side, there was the mysterious, reclusive man who disappeared from the game and the public eye at the height of his success and became an angry, hate-filled person as the years progressed.

As a chess player, it can't be stated enough what he meant to the game. He was arguably the best ever. He was the one who my friend's father, who taught us how to play chess as kids, always told us stories about.

Fischer's crowning moment was winning the World Chess Championship from russian player Boris Spassky in Iceland in 1972.

Those of us under the age of 40 will probably never understand quite what this victory meant to the American people at the time. Maybe your parents or grandparents can tell you. It was at the height of the Cold War and you had Fischer becoming the first American World Champion, defeating a russian to win the championship that had been dominated by the Soviet Union for almost its entire existence.

And of course, that is where everything fell apart. His eccentric behavior began to take over his life in 1975 when he was scheduled to defend his championship against Anatoly Karpov. Fischer made a list of 64 demands in terms of tournament conditions that had to be met for him to play the game. When they were not met, he opted to forfeit the title to Karpov.

From there, Fischer went into hiding, not making so much as one public appearance until he reemerged in 1992 to play a re-match with Spassky in Yugoslavia, which was illegal due to a United Nations Embargo that put sanctions on sporting events.

He won the match and then went back into hiding. He was on the run from authorities as he began on a downward spiral that never seemed to end. Born of Jewish descent, he began going on radio shows, bashing all Jews and calling for the slaughtering of the entire race, claiming that he was not in fact Jewish.

Worse yet, still bitter about not being allowed back into America after his 1992 match, he went on a radio station in Europe after the attacks of September 11 and applauded the terrorists, calling for the destruction of the United States.

It's hard to believe a man who had at one point meant so much to America, had been reduced to a self-hating supporter of terrorism.

And as such, it's not hard to believe that the same man died alone in the country of Iceland to very little sympathy or fanfare.

Losing Isiah Would Get Knicks On Winning Track Again

. Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Not since September 2001 has the city of New York seen as much confusion as it has seen since the NBA season tipped off back in October, and Osama Bin Laden has nothing to do with it.

People can point their fingers at Isiah Thomas for the debacle of a storied New York Knick franchise that was once a perennial playoff team.

In recent years, the pride of New York basketball has became the embarrassment of the NBA, compiling a 42-74 record during the two seasons that Thomas has been the coach.

Although Thomas has, at best, had a mediocre coaching career (173-189) with Indiana and New York in five seasons, most of his damage has been done off the court as a general manager.

Just last summer, Madison Square Garden was ordered to pay Anuche Browne Sanders $11.6 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit in which Thomas allegedly called Sanders a "bitch," and forced her to kiss him.

Of course, Thomas didn't have to pay.

It seems that for most of his career in the NBA, Thomas has been a bully in getting his way, and no one seemed to question his judgment.

When he forced Larry Brown, one of the premier coaches in NBA history, to leave the Knicks so he could coach, no one with a reasonable mind in the Knicks' ownership had foresight enough to intervene.

When Thomas thought it would be genius to play two shoot-first-pass-later point guards (Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury) at the same time, no one tugged his coattails to let him know that it would not work.

When Thomas drafted a third point guard, the undersized but passionate Nate Robinson from Washington, and traded for underachieving players in Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry, no one, except the fans in New York, saw the freight train engineered by Thomas collide into the Garden, leaving a pile of crap on the hardwood floor for Knick owner James Dolan to clean up.

Apparently, Dolan is in no rush to save his crumbling franchise from the man who used it and abused it, and turned it into a wasteland of greed, selfishness, hopelessness and unhappiness.

If Dolan is banking on Isiah Thomas to lead the Knicks to a championship, then he needs to file for bankruptcy now because Thomas is only good for destroying teams.

Ask Indiana and Toronto.

Oh, I also forgot to mention that he single-handly brought down the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) league because of his mismanagement, which should have been a clear indication for Dolan not to hire Thomas in the first place.

Bottom line: Thomas is incapable of turning a team into a championship team because he is, and always will be a loser.