Friday, July 08, 2005

Hardly Knew Ya

Houston Chronicle sports nostalgiaist Mickey Herskowtiz nearly went slack with grief this morning in eulogizing Calvin Murphy's long association with the Houston Rockets, which ended on a predictable blue note with the announcement that the manic NBA Hall of Famer won't be back as color analyst on the team's TV broadcasts. ''We have known him for going on 35 years,'' Herskowitz declared in launching his wet 'n' warm brief for Murphy's continued presence at a courtside microphone.

Actually, we (whoever we is) didn't ''know'' him at all, and Herskowitz, in recounting the glory that was Calvin, delicately omitted the most astounding numbers of Murphy's career: his 9-for-14 run (or was it 14-for-9?) in extending his DNA unto the next generation. That is, the 14 children by nine women (yeah, it's 14-for-9) that Murphy fathered, a figure that was revealed just before Murphy was tried and acquitted on charges he had molested 5 of his daughters.

Oh, Herskowitz did vaguely allude to a "lifestyle" for which, he claimed, Murphy is now being punished by the Rockets (or by "we," the community at-large) after being found innocent of criminal accusations. A lifestyle? Shit, hoss, that's no lifestyle. Those are prodigious, Wilt-like stats, ones that have sealed the local Legend of Calvin for all time. It was Murphy's indiscriminate sowing of seed, and his inability or unwillingness to support some of the resulting spawn, that directly led to his day in court, innocent or not. It's not hard to understand why the Rockets might want to put some distance between the organization and a guy whose knack for knocking up women was almost equal to his talent for knocking down free throws. (And isn't fathering 14 children by 9 women prima facie evidence of some insane compulsion? Think of the grief that can befall a man who fathers a mere 3 or 4 by, say, 2 women.)

Murphy's forced departure is a shame, though. We at Slampo's Place have been fans of Murphy going back to his college days in the previous century. And our respect only grew when about 15 years ago we witnessed Calvin, soaked with seat after running a clinic for kids at a local Y, slump down against the gym wall and, without catching his breath or toweling off, tear through a three-piece box of Popeye's someone had delivered. We (whoever we is) wouldn't have imagined it at the time, but it's possible that later on that very afternoon the inexhaustible Murphy rinsed the New Orleans-style herbs and spices from his mitts, charged right out to locate a date and set about fulfilling his biological destiny.

What's really sorry is that Murphy, despite the tiresome banter with straight man Bill Worrell, was a decent commentator. He knows basketball, has a sharp eye for the flow of the game, and certainly is enthusiastic, if not downright insistent, about sharing his knowledge. He'll be replaced by Clyde Drexler, who doubtless will bring to the job all the fire and excitement he brought to his short stint as coach at the University of Houston, and Matt Bullard, the ex-Rocket who used to hang around behind the 3-point line and wave his right hand a lot. Of course, either will be an improvement on Van Chancellor, who, while filling-in for the on-hiatus Murphy last season, almost made us ashamed to be a cracker.

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