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Tom & Tony

The Washington Post has great columnists on the sports page - the NY Times doesn't come close. Today Tony Kornheiser writes on the two coaches in the NBA Finals, Phil Jackson and Larry Brown. He's known both of them for more than 30 years. His column combines personal knowledge with observation based on years of experience, leavened by a little good humor:

I've spent my adult life as a sportswriter trying to figure out what makes Larry leave. If you want to talk about it, pack a lunch.

Larry understands the game better than anyone. But he's tortured by players' lack of effort and lack of discipline -- which makes the modern NBA the worst possible place for him. One of the reasons Larry moves around so often is because players get sick of him in just a few years; they see him as too rigorous. It's just as well, because Larry usually hates half the players the day he gets there, and the other half by the end of the season. Larry really should be coaching high school; I think that's where he'll finish up. He's a teacher first. The pros don't want to be taught; they think they already know everything. And college kids stay just long enough to be pros.

With his laissez-faire attitude, Phil Jackson is coaching in exactly the right setting, and with his obsessive perfectionism Larry Brown is coaching in exactly the wrong one. But for the different roads they have taken, they've ended up in the same place -- they're the best in the business. Phil succeeds because he knows exactly when to say something to his players. Larry succeeds because he knows exactly what to say to his players. But enough of this high-falutin' objectivity. Get out of here; I've got to paint my face Pistons blue for tonight's game.

That's the punch line, but there's much more; read it all.

Tom Boswell is not so funny in this column, on the NHL's impending demise. Demise may be too strong a term, but lets face it - the players and the owners are playing a classic game of "chicken," and tragedy awaits if neither side blinks. Boswell is an astute observer, and identifies the problem that the American sports scene poses for the NHL:

The NHL needs to understand that, if it goes away for a year, the sports public -- which has so many games, seasons and athletes -- may discover it prefers a world with far fewer pro hockey highlights on TV or NHL stories in newspapers and magazines.

With a year to think about it, we might ask whether we really needed to know so much more about the NHL than we do about women's golf or college lacrosse or pro soccer or NASCAR or who knows what?

Why, we might ask, is the NHL covered like a major sport? What's so important about it? If few missed it when it was gone, why treat it as a major sport when it comes back?

So, NHL, do you feel lucky? Go on, take a season off.

Make our day.

Greg at the Sports Law Blog sees the problem in similar terms.