"I hated that sweater for the same reason I hate when a player preens for the camera in the 'I'm going to Disney World' commercials," Reilly writes in his latest, thus completing his transformation into Andy Rooney.
Also? "I hated that hat for the same reason I hate those hideous championship T-shirts and caps that teams don the instant the final buzzer sounds."
Why does Reilly hate all these things? The reason has something to do with the terrible immodesty that's only recently swept across the sports landscape, a "hideous new trend," Reilly calls it, of which Phil Jackson's X hat is the latest example.
Start with Phil Jackson. When he and his Lakers fricasseed the Magic to win another title, it was Jackson's 10th NBA coaching championship, a new record. Jackson had become the king of coaches. Everyone knew he was going for 10 — it's not like it was a secret — and there was the appropriate applause, huzzahs and standing on chairs.
But that wasn't good enough for him. He decided to paint a mustache on his Mona Lisa by quickly grabbing a hat with a big X on it — for 10 — and plunking it on his head.
Hey, look what I did, everybody!
How were the Magic supposed to react to his new look? It was as if Jackson were saying, "Sorry to wear this in front of you so soon, but, c'mon, we knew where this was going, right?"
Strip away all the bad jokes in a Reilly column now and all you're left with is some cranky bleating about sportsmanship and a John Elway quote. Last month, he wrote about a mean old community college softball coach in Minnesota, elevating someone no one had heard of into a symbol of everything dark in the human soul. Last week, he tsk-tsked over Tiger Woods' temper, which is maybe the last trace of Tiger's humanity that hasn't yet been covered by a Swoosh. Now he's manufacturing some outrage over commemorative wardrobe, because it's boastful and "unbecoming." Here he is, still yammering on about the X hat:
Tacky. Shrill. Brash. For a Zenmaster, it was very un-Zen. Here was the all-time preacher of team hoops, with his team all around him — still sweaty from all that teamwork — and Jackson suddenly went 100 percent "me." That hat said, Aren't I amazing! Doesn't this hat prove it? Don't you wish you had one?
What the hat also says is, Here's $25 for the American Indian College fund, which means that Jackson is at least something less than 100 percent "me." But that's no matter. For Reilly, it's far more important that the sports world conform to his narrow conception of what it should be, which is something with all the moral complexity of a Matt Christopher book.
Sore winners [ESPN]