Stoner Sports News: Howling over Howland/The Rangers Get a Whirling Darvish

There’s been much flap about a Sports Illustrated article alleging that UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland has been lax in his coaching duties, leading to losing seasons. The article quotes unnamed sources alleging that three freshman players “regularly drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, sometimes before practice,” but weren’t disciplined by Howland, possibly over fear of losing them to the NBA.

In a sport where marijuana use is acknowledged, and the NBA players negotiated a deal allowing for off-season toking last December, comments on the SI article have tended towards, “let them have fun, as long as it doesn’t affect their playing.”

Don MacLean, UCLA’s all-time leading scorer who works as an analyst for Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket, told the LA Times, “I wasn’t a person who sat in my dorm room and studied all day, but nothing I did got in the way of coming to practice ready to go. Being social is part of being in college and I’m not going to condemn anybody, but this got in the way of UCLA being a good basketball team and that’s on the players.”

MacLean added, “Being 16-13 is why this was written. I’m not sure it would have been if UCLA was 25-6.”

The same Times article quotes former UCLA player and all-time top NBA scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s autobiography Giant Steps, where he talks about smoking marijuana (after researching the topic thoroughly) and trying LSD while at UCLA.

Howland has said he emulates legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. In a 2001 New York Times Magazine story about Bill Walton, who also played for Wooden at UCLA, quotes Walton’s first wife, Susie, whom Walton met at UCLA, as saying, “Wooden let Bill smoke pot but not the other players.” In a certain era, it was easy to catch Walton standing head and shoulders above the crowd at Grateful Dead concerts.

Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard said on a 2008 radio show that he smokes marijuana during the off season, adding, “most of the players in the league use marijuana” and ”everybody in the media world and in the sports world” knows it. Mavericks owner and self-made billionaire Mark Cuban calmly commented, “It depends if we win or lose … If we win, ‘Boy, it’s amazing what guys do for motivation. It worked!” Cuban said. “If we lose, ‘Oh, what a distraction.”‘

If human worth can be measured, how’s this: On Saturday, the UCLA Bruins defeated Pac-12 first-place team Washington, 75-69. “We played with a lot of moxie,” Howland said, adding, “I think the adversity of this week brought us closer together.” Ah, kinda like a pot party would.

An intelligent take on the topic can be found on Netflix, which now offers VIP Aaron Sorkin’s first TV series “Sports Night.” Episode Two has a sports TV anchorman telling a magazine that he’s a member of a pro-marijuana-legalization organization. The character makes some fine arguments for reason and sanity in the drug war while the network insists he apologize on air, citing his contract’s morality clause and raising the specter of insurance fraud. How many more potential spokespeople are similarly silenced, one wonders?

In other sports/stoner news, Tim “The Freak” Lincecum pitched two solid innings in the SF Giants’ pre-season opener on Saturday. Lincecum had a sore back, and catcher Buster Posey didn’t play but is expected to this year, recovered from injuries he sustained when Florida Marlins’ Scott Cousins crashed into him while trying to score last May. Timmy just opened a Twitter account, following the MLB and Red Bull, for which he is a spokesperson.

Lincecum could have some competition for the top MLB pitching puffer from Yu Darvish, who flew in from Japan to start as a Texas Ranger wearing a pot leaf on his shirt. The $111-million pitcher denied knowledge of the meaning of his apparel, but has been a bit of a bad boy: according to Wikipedia, he was caught smoking in a Pachinko parlor during Spring Training 2005, despite being underage for both smoking and gambling. A spokesman for DyDo’s Coffee, he has announced plans to contribute 100,000 yen for each regular season win to the Yu Darvish Water Fund for the instalment of water systems in developing countries.

Darvish just pitched a shut-out inning in a spring training game. The Rangers were co-owned by George W. Bush, who was in the stands when Lincecum, Posey and the Giants defeated the Rangers in the 2010 World Series.

Meanwhile, in the real world, California resident Christopher Diaz is sitting in a Texas jail and facing life in prison for possession of 14 grams of hash. Diaz was extradited from Mendocino county and is awaiting trial on April 2 for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, a first degree felony. According to his parents, Diaz is a severe asthmatic who was hospitalized repeatedly as a child and uses cannabis medicinally. He is the father of two young children. Read more. Here’s a link where folks can contribute to Diaz’s legal defense fund.

Ellen Komp is Deputy Director of California NORML and a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture. She manages the website and blogs at Tokin Woman.