Cleaning out the notebook before this thing gets too heavy to carry around:
Alex English talked about more than movies before the G.A.M.E.S. banquet the other night. He reflected on the fact that the first part of his pro career was spent sharing the court with drug-addled teammates and opponents.
At least that's the perception of the pre-salary cap NBA of the late '70s and early '80s.
Does this perception bother him?
"It doesn't bother me at all," said English, the former South Carolina Gamecocks great who will enter the Basketball Hall of Fame in September. "I think the NBA only mirrored society. The drug problem was no worse (in the NBA) than it was on Wall Street or in the school system. Unfortunately it's just a negative thing this country has.
"The positive thing about the NBA was that we were able to tackle that problem at that time. And that the players instituted a drug program themselves. It didn't take the commissioner coming down. The players themselves decided, well, we've got to clean our act up and we've got to police ourselves and we're going to put these stringent rules in. `If you can't do it, then you've got to go.' I think we were on the cutting edge when we did that."
Thanks to the NBA's three-strike policy, weaker sorts like Micheal Ray Richardson and Roy Tarpley were quickly drubbed out of the league. Contrast that setup with baseball, where seven-time drug loser Steve Howe is pitching in the independent Northern League and will likely get yet another chance.
English, who was a key member of the players association when it formulated its drug policy, takes pride in basketball's success story. He also thinks he knows what might have happened had the players not policed themselves.
"There probably would have been a lot more players falling by the wayside," he said. "I did see guys just throw their lives away. Fortunately, we were able to cut our losses and move forward positively. We were all pushing for the new policy. We knew we had to save some lives and to save our livelihoods."
And on that note ...