I'm sure if all of you have heard, but Tracy McGrady has set a target date to return from microfracture surgery, and that date is November 18. What he's going to do once he comes back or whether he's even ready to come back are secondary issues, because chances are if you heard this news when it broke, then you actually found out about this before the following people:
-- Tracy's doctors
-- Rockets GM Daryl Morey
-- Rockets coach Rick Adelman
-- Pretty much anyone employed by the Rockets
Proving once again that what he lacks in passion for actually playing basketball he makes up for with a bizarre misdirected passion to be a doctor, Tracy McGrady gives all of us the straight dope on when he's going to be coming back, maybe kind of, sort of, maybe not. Because this is what Tracy McGrady does -- finds any way he can to keep himself as the center of attention even if it means alienating the franchise that continues to fulfill their obligation of cutting him seven figure, bi-weekly checks for doing nothing more than blogging once a month and presumably rehabbing his knee. Seriously, I think this is unofficially the 1,000th self-diagnosis we've gotten from Tracy since he arrived here in 2004.
Never mind that he gave us a target return date of November 18 and then proceeded to tell us his MRI is scheduled for November 23. For a wanna-be doctor, Tracy does not grasp the concept of how time works. Typically, you go get the MRI, get the clean bill of health, and THEN you play. Saying "I am hoping to return on November 18, and my MRI is scheduled for November 23" is a little like saying you plan on impregnating your wife on July 3 and scheduling sex for July 8.
If the Rockets/T-Mac marriage wasn't on the rocks before, then at this point it appears at the very least to be in counseling and interviewing attorneys. Morey has been saying that Tracy has been practicing "off and on"; Tracy claims he is practicing without limitations. When asked about the difference in opinion between Morey and him, T-Mac answered "I said what I said; he said what he said." In other words, "it's my world, not the Rockets' world."
Looking for a polar opposite to the McGrady-Rockets scneario? Well, go ahead and juxtapose Tracy McGrady pretty much deciding to be his own media-relations department with Mark McGwire's being hired as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. Both guys were at one time hailed as the face of their respective franchises, and for very different reasons saw their stars flame out. While Tracy has become a loose cannon of random medical diagnoses and haphazard target-return dates, McGwire has spent the better part of the post-Mitchell Report Era in seclusion, like J. Peterman in Seinfeld, essentially making golf courses in Southern California his personal Burma.
Now scheduled to come back as the Cards hitting coach, McGwire realizes that the questions about performance enhancing drugs -- the same questions that Mark McGwire ducked about as gracefully as a Chuck Hayes free-throw attempt before Congress a few years ago -- will be asked all over again as soon as Big Mac steps out of his car the first day of spring training. The team realizes this too, and in turn are spending inordinate amounts of energy trying to figure out how to handle Big Mac's return from a media standpoint.
Whether McGwire's can translate his hitting prowess (largely power-based, with a good eye, and a swing with LOTS of holes) into improvement for the Cardinals' current crop of hitters remains to be seen; what is not up for debate is that Mac's dysfunction and inability to apologize have already made the Cards spend more than one minute on something OTHER THAN improving themselves as a team. And that's no one's fault but Mac's (and the Cards for hiring him).
Two dysfunctional athletes -- T-Mac and Big Mac. Two different flavors of dysfunction. I think it's time to pull out the Wednesday Tale of the Tape.....who is the more dysfunctional MAC? Is it Tracy McGrady? (boooooooo) or Mark McGwire? (yea....wait.....I mean, booooooooo)
TALE OF THE TAPE
"DYSFUNCTIONAL MAC" CATEGORY
Hometown: Houston, TX
Wt: 223 LBS
Hometown: Somewhere in Southern CA
Wt: About 300 LBS less than in 1998
T-MAC: Hubris. Tracy is fairly certain that the world, at least as it pertains to basketball in Houston, revolves around him. Also, may think he is actually a certified doctor, which is a bit of an issue since he has exactly zero college credits to his name.
BIG MAC: Denial. McGwire seems to think that if he keeps avoiding questions long enough and deciding to ignore the past that we will all forget that he looked like a huge rocked-up version of Ronald McDonald back in 1998.
BIGGER DYSFUNCTION: McGwire. At least with Tracy, if he happens to think he's a proctologist on a given day, he'll drop some good fake proctology stories on you.
DEFINING MOMENT ON COURT/FIELD
T-MAC: Many will say [fill in name of playoff failure here]. I choose his getting rejected by the rim on a reverse dunk against Milwaukee last season.
BIG MAC: Belting home run number 62 in 1998 and then celebrating on the field with Sammy Sosa, successfully capturing what at the time was the "most roided-up moment" in sports history. (It was soon suprassed by any of the on-field celebrations involving the Red Sox or Yankees of the early 2000's.)
BIGGER DYSFUNCTION: McGrady. McGwire has at least had a moment where it brought people together, even if it was soaked in androstendione.
DEFINING MOMENT OFF COURT/FIELD
T-MAC: As the trade deadline approached last season, Tracy though it would be a good time to go ahead and knock out that microfracture surgery he'd needed so very badly. Problem was the team found out right around the same time we all did.
BIG MAC: In front of Congress at the Steroid Hearings (that's what I call them), McGwire basically said he wasn't there to talk about the past....about fifty times. Unfortunately, nobody cared about his views on the future.
BIGGER DYSFUNCTION: McGwire. The "playing the public for a bunch of fools" thing wears thin. Plus, McGrady actually used surgery as a way to avoid being traded, which gets points for creativity.
FULFILLING CONTRACTUAL WORTH
T-MAC: Tracy McGrady has been one of the highest-paid players in basketball for years, has never won a playoff series, and has worn out his welcome everywhere he's gone.
BIG MAC: Big Mac was paid in a pretty sporty fashion as well, won a World Series with Oakland in 1989, and helped save baseball in 1998, even if it did end up with him being pumped full of every hormone short of monkey semen.
BIGGER DYSFUNCTION: McGrady. Not even close, and to the point where I get angry typing about it.
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T-MAC: "It's my fault. It's my fault we missed free throws. It's my fault we lost both games. Blame me. It's my fault we fouled to tie the game up. That's my fault. It's my fault they get easy layups. It's my fault we're not executing well on the offensive end. It's my fault a couple people in the stands ordered Heinekens and they got Budweiser. It's my fault. I'm sorry."
BIG MAC: "I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject."
BIGGER DYSFUNCTION: McGrady, mainly because my Heineken order always gets screwed up at Rockets games and now I know why.
T-MAC: McGrady treats rehab the way a college student treats a pass-fail course, doing just enough to get by; plus, he's gotten by largely on natural ability his whole career.
BIG MAC: Granted the chemical enhancement is undeniable, but you don't get to be that big on roids alone; plus, Mac actually worked pretty hard on improving throughout his career to the point where the Cards actually want him back as a coach.
BIGGER DYSFUNCTION: McGrady. Unless palming the ball and holding it away from your body for 18 seconds before launching a three becomes a prominent part of NBA offenses, T-Mac probably won't be asked to coach 'em up any time soon.
T-MAC: Vince Carter, his cousin, who may actually be a bigger diva than T-Mac himself.
BIG MAC: Dan McGwire, his brother, who is the gold standard for cement-footed, big-armed, overrated quarterbacks.
BIGGER DYSFUNCTION: McGrady, in a landslide.
CONCLUSION: T-MAC 5, BIG MAC 2. Congratulations Big Mac, you are less dysfunctional than Tracy McGrady, which is a little like being taller than Kiefer Sutherland, but it's something. Now, if you'll please apologize so we can all move along ....