Column: Tell it like it is Chuck
Published 9:17 am Monday, March 27, 2023
Those of you who know me know that I am fond of Charles Barkley.
I did not think I could like the “Chuckster” even more until I watched his “60 Minutes” interview on CBS. As usual, Barkley was open and honest. He did not hold back on a variety of topics, including his opinion of himself and the state of college basketball, which is at a fever pitch right now as we approach the Final Four.
As I have come to expect, Barkley was unafraid to “tell it like it is” in front of a national television audience.
As an overweight athlete in high school, I was drawn to watching Barkley from his days at Auburn to his entire National Basketball Association career. Chuck was a role model of sorts to those of us who struggled with weight, but were decent athletes. He showed that hard work can overcome not having the stereotypical athlete’s body.
Chuck also had a darker side when he was younger and allowed his anger and ego to overtake his ability to make good decisions. He does not hide that, including talking about his anger toward his father, who left him and his mother when he was 1-year-old.
He also admitted Sunday night that he wasted some of his prime years playing angry at his father, at the teacher who kept him from graduating with his class, although admitting it was his fault, not hers, and by those who poked fun at him about his size when he was growing up.
I remember the incident that he said changed his life, but I do not recall him talking about it before. He spit at a player in New Jersey during a 1991 NBA game, but accidentally hit a young girl instead. Barkley called it the lowest moment of his life and said he felt like “the biggest loser in the world.”
From that point forward, Barkley only played the game for the love of it and because he was good at it. That translated into a joy his teammates and fans gravitated to in his final years in the NBA. It also led him to his current job as an analyst for TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” one of the most popular, if not most popular, sports show on any network.
He also works the NCAA Tournament for TNT. His commercials, especially those for the college basketball tournament with Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson are legendary. I stop whatever I am doing to watch every time a new commercial comes on.
But what really caught my ear Sunday night was his take on the NCAA’s “Name, Likeness and Image,” or NIL, which is similar to mine.
While in principal I am not against players receiving something more than just their college tuition, I am opposed to playing players because of their talent. That has opened a Pandora’s Box of issues that the NCAA will not be able to close moving forward if it does not act quickly.
Barkley said that between the next three to five years, there would only be about 25 college programs because they have the money to play the top players. The remaining colleges, because they cannot afford to pay, or will not pay out of principal, will be irrelevant.
I said when NIL was laid out for all to see that, it took us back to the old days when school boosters would pool their money and buy the best players in the country. The only difference is that they do not have to hide the money under the table.
I know there are a lot of people who do not like Barkley because he is outspoken. I can live with that. But I do have to ask the question as to why that is. If Chuck was so off the mark with his many comments over his years working at TNT, I would think the network would have dropped him. Instead, he has become a beloved figure to basketball fans and people in general,
We may need a few more people like Barkley in the world who tell it like it is without thinking about how will this affect me. I have always believed that people need to hear the truth, not have smoke blown up their chimneys.
Scott Novak is the sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at email@example.com