It’s after the game in Miiwaukee on Saturday night and I’m waking down the hall to the Raptors locker room to see what’s up and I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in too long.
And the first thing that came to mind – even before congratulating him for getting the Bucks to the playoffs was:
What if the Raptors hadn’t screwed up so many years ago when they had the chance to hire Hammond?
What if they hadn’t blown it by going through a ridiculous process of whittling a large group to four only to say they were going to open up the process again only to come back to the same four and eventually picking Rob Babcock.
The four – Babcock, Jeff Weltman, Mark Warkentien and Tony DiLeo (remember that Gang of Four?) – were basically underwhelming at that time and that the Raptors – and I am pointing a finger directly at Richard Peddie – didn’t even deign to interview Hammond, who was the No. 1 man to Joe Dumars in Deroit at the time, was a shocking blown opportunity.
John wanted the job and deserved to have a shot at it; the short-sightedness of Peddie and his people set the franchise back years, so far that they might still be digging out almost a decade later.
Look, you all know that I understand completely that nothing in professional sports is linear, you can’t say with certainty that if this had happened, that would have happened and this other thing would have happened and the future would have been differently.
However, I can say, with the utmost confidence, that the course of Raptors history would be incredibly different if they had at least the sense to interview Hammond and offer him a job he wanted so many years ago.
Of course, I go to “if ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas” but seeing John and chatting with him briefly made me realize what a blown opportunity it was way back then.
The fact I’d spoken briefly to Rob the night before in Minneapolis had sent me down memory lane, talking to John on Saturday made the trip a bit more wistful.
No, I was not glued to a TV last night watching the crooners at the Country Music Awards but when decompression was needed after that Saturday night carnage in Milwaukee it did mean a visit to Buck Bradley’s, the usual post-game haunt.
And as Jimbo The Bartender and I are reminiscing about legendary Grunts who’ve been on the same stools, this comes on the juke box.
It wasn’t exactly the most picturesque ride in the history of transportation but the train between Milwaukee and Chicago is easy, quick and now I’m trying to figure out how I can do more next season.
It’s downtown to downtown, no Institutionalized Security Paranoia to deal with and you can get up and walk around if you want to.
And since your bag never leaves your sight, Amtrak can’t lose it.
Now, I’ve mentioned before that I think the Davis Cup has lost a lot of its allure and that a team event for an individual sport is somehow odd but, by all reports, Milos Raonic and the rest of them captured the imagination of even casual sports fan back home.
And that’s pretty cool.
I’m not the biggest tennis fan in the world, that’s for sure; my interest generally lies in the final weekends of the Grand Slams. But I am a fan of sports and compelling stories and history and I think even the most short-sighted among you need to realize what was accomplished on the weekend.
Now, I understand that vagaries of scheduling given the individual pursuits these athletes have to make but isn’t it too bad that we’ll have to wait until September to see the semifinals of the Davis Cup?
Maybe not, actually.
Isn’t part of what made the weekend special the fact that big events like that don’t come around too often? It’s not like we get to cheer for Canada every couple of weeks or even every month so when they do play, the focus is even more intense.
Whatever, I can probably say this for the first time in my life: I wish I’d been able to see Canada’s tennis team play on the weekend.
Can’t recall ever sitting in a sports bar surrounded by 40 or so televisions and asking the dude at the door to switch one from a Sunday night baseball game to a women’s university basketball game.
Yep. Sure did.
That’s what covering the Canadian team will do to a guy, that and a compelling story of Notre Dame and Connecticut meeting for the fourth time this season.
Now, the play was far from crisp – I think Notre Dame shot a Raptors-like 30 per cent or something like that – but it was fun to watch Natalie Achonwa again and, besides, the 312 was quite tasty.
I honestly don’t care one lick about the college game tonight but since the NBA has ceded the night to the kids, I’ll be watching and I just hope the kid from Mississauga makes a shot or two so I can brag.
And guess I’d like to see Michigan win, if only to make Jalen happy.
Over and under on the number of times we see cutaway shots to The Fab Five is a dozen.