Friday, March 23, 2007

Tim Floyd Hearts OJ Mayo: A PTI Thriller

Not only did Mike Tirico fill in admirably today on Pardon The Interruption (normally PTI is unwatchable if either Tony or Wilbon are missing), but we had some hot interview action with USC's Tim Floyd. It seemed a little odd that Floyd would submit to an interview on the day of a regional semifinal, but about halfway through the "five good minutes," it became clear why he would do so: my man had a bone to pick.

On Wednesday, Tony and Wilbon discussed the latest OJ Mayo "controversy" which occurred when Mayo threw the ball to himself off the backboard, dunked it, and then unleashed a jai alai-esque ball toss into the stands. He was then ejected, but still managed to parade around for a few minutes, soaking up the adoration of the crowd. Oh yeah, and he went for 41-11-10 as his Huntington HS team won its third straight state title, clinched the mythical national title, and finished the year 41-1. But I digress. Anyway, Wilbon in particular was all over Mayo for his behavior and Floyd for recruiting him (particularly the part about Mayo not giving out his cell phone number). I thought it was a little harsh, especially when you consider how incredibly aggressive the media has been in painting Mayo as an uber villain (the infamous referee head butt was nothing but a hilarious and shameful acting job on the part of the ref - a guy who should absolutely be mocked at the same level as that weeping judge from the Howard K. Stern hearings). That said, we all know that Wilbon is a sports moralist and a bit old school and to be honest, I almost always agree with him.

One person who didn't agree with him on this one? Tim Floyd. The former laughingstock of the NBA (what is it with USC being able to turn crappy pro coaches into college geniuses? First Pete Carroll and now Floyd) was all kinds of fired up today. He tolerated questions about North Carolina with a modicum of charm, praised his players, and even gave a nod to Henry Bibby. But the minute that Mayo came up, he turned into a cold-blooded killer. He ripped Wilbon even though he wasn't even there. He argued with Tony. He got up on his soapbox and rambled about four minutes past the interview cutoff point. It was remarkable.

And what struck me about the whole thing is that he really meant it. This wasn't just a guy trying to set the record straight or looking to put a positive spin on things; Floyd was honestly pissed off. He clearly sees Mayo as a kid that has been victimized by the adults in his life and vilified by the hypocritical media and he was out to defend him. He barely knows the guy, yet he displayed the kind of righteous anger that would normally be reserved for a fifth year senior or a blood relative.

The whole thing was so abnormal (PTI interviews are normally pithy, humorous and certainly never double the allotted time) that it left me reeling. Is Tony secretly seething inside? Is Wilbon now on a warpath? Is Tirico looking to get away from the set as quickly as possible? Finally, is OJ Mayo actually one of the "good guys"? I have many questions and I can't wait to get the answers.

Great stuff.

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