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Time to rock the All-Star vote

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  January 21, 2010 12:56 PM

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Voting is an unpredictable and precarious process. The will of the people is actually more like the whim of the people. We've learned that here in our very own backyard this week.

Regardless of political affiliation or leanings, you have to give Scott Brown credit for running a great campaign to be elected to the US Senate. He earned every vote he got, which for the purposes of full disclosure did not include my own. You can't say the same about a pair of fast-fading NBA stars, Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson, who could be carried into the starting lineups for the league's All-Star game, announced tonight on TNT, by the misguided vox populi.

It would be a complete travesty if either of these players made the All-Star team, and the fact that there is even the possibility that they could start the game based on fan voting is a sign that Celtics guard Ray Allen was right -- fans should not have the sole say in determining All-Star starters.

He is not alone.

In the political arena voting is a right, but in the sports arena it's a privilege. And it's being abused.  

In the last voting update the NBA released on Jan. 7, McGrady, a seven-time All-Star, had the guard spot opposite Kobe Bryant in the West, and Iverson, who has made 10 straight All-Star teams dating back to 2000, was inexplicably paired with Dwyane Wade in the East.

McGrady's own team, the Houston Rockets, won't even play him. He has played in six games and has a total of 19 points. The recalcitrant Iverson was dropped by the Memphis Grizzlies in November and hooked on with his original team, the Philadelphia 76ers, who were desperate to boost attendance and thought Iverson was the answer. The 34-year-old Iverson is averaging 14.4 points per game.

NBA fans must be eating Stephon Marbury's Vasoline if they really think that Iverson is having a better season than Rajon Rondo, who leads the league in steals per game and is third in assists per game. Or that T-Mac is a more worthy All-Star starter than the two best point guards in the game, Chris Paul and Steve Nash.

Please.

Closer to home, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett was a starter at forward in the East based on the last vote totals. He shouldn't be. Chris Bosh of the Raptors and Josh Smith of the Hawks are more deserving this season, but they lack the name recognition of KG.

Electing All-Stars for any sport shouldn't devolve into American Idol, a pandering popularity contest. By putting a player like Iverson or McGrady on the team as a starter you're preventing deserving players from making the team at all. Voting shouldn't be based on fond memories or familiar names.

The NBA is not alone when it comes to All-Star fan voting irregularities that would make George W. Bush blush.

Last year, with the NHL All-Star game in Montreal, fans of the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge overran the NHL's electronic voting, electing four Canadiens to the six-player Eastern Conference starting lineup. Goalie Carey Price and defenseman Andrei Markov were legit, but forward Alexi Kovalev and defenseman Mike Komisarek were homer picks for the Habs, taking starting spots away from more deserving players like Alexander Ovechkin, who won his second straight Hart Trophy as league MVP, and Zdeno Chara, who won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman.
 
More than 50 years ago fan voting gave a new meaning to the idea of a Red State. In 1957, Reds fans stuffed the ballot box for baseball's All-Star game and seven of the eight starting position players for the National League were Reds. The only non-Red was Cardinals first baseman Stan Musial.

That meant that two of the game's greatest players -- ever -- Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were not voted in by the fans. Instead, they had to be appointed by Commissioner Ford Frick, who removed Reds outfielders Gus Bell and Wally Post. Frick also removed the All-Star vote from the hands of the fans. Baseball didn't let fan voting determine its All-Star starters again until 1970, when the game was played in...Cincinnati.

There is enough evidence that fan voting alone doesn't work. It's not just the fans that fail to honor the process.

We've all seen coaches select their own players as All-Stars or players not vote for fellow players they don't like, hence Rodney Harrison's two Pro Bowl appearances in his 15-year career. Like our government, there needs to be a system of checks and balances.

Not surprisingly, the NFL has the best model of any of the professional sports leagues with fan voting, player voting and coaches' voting each counting a third.

Why are the starters less important than the reserves?

In the NBA, the reserves are chosen by a vote of the coaches. In the NHL, the league's hockey operations department chooses the reserves in consultation with the general managers. In major league baseball, where each team has to have an All-Star representative, the "Scott Cooper Rule" around here, eight pitchers and one reserve at each of the other positions is chosen by the vote of players, managers and coaches; managers get to fill out the rest of the roster, except fans vote online for the final players on the 33-man rosters of each league.

The argument for the fan vote is that fans should be allowed to vote for the players they want to see. Fine, if you want to see Iverson or McGrady then go on YouTube or watch SportsCenter. The All-Star game should be a collection of the league's best players in a given season -- the Kevin Durants, Brandon Roys, and Zach Randophs.

It shouldn't be like one of golf's majors, where aging stars get in based on past performance.

It's time to rock the vote and take all the power to choose away from the fans. 

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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