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by Mike Fisher    Fri, Jan 20, 2006, 10:22 AM

       Generally speaking, covering, following or rooting passionately for the Dallas Mavericks is an extremely pleasurable experience. The Mavs are a collection of good people teaming to play a good sport with mostly great results.

       It is, for the most part, a real-life sporting version of Seinfeld's "Super Terrific Happy Hour,'' the Japanese TV show that earned Jerry a monthly royalry check worth pennies, all because his face appeared at the beginning of the overseas program.

       "Super Terrific Happy Hour.'' That's our Mavs.

         But I need to leave Jerry Seinfeld now, to instead borrow philosophical phrasing from a trio of other pop-culture icons.

         I give you Popeye: "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!''

       I give you "Network'' anchorman Howard Beale: "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!''

      I give you Dallas' own Leon Simon: "What you do speak so loud I cain't here what you sayin'.''

        You see, I'm upset. The Mavs are 29-10. They are "Super Terrific Happy Hour.'' Now, I'm really not a big proponent of boo-hooing because "The media doesn't give us enough credit'' or "So-and-so website doesn't rank us high enough'' or "Sponge Chuck Fat Pants made fun of us on TNT again.'' In terms of respect, who cares what some writer says, when the standings say that the Mavericks in this century have won 53 games, 57 games, 60 games, 52 games, 58 games, and this year, after Wednesday's impressive 103-76 road pounding of Houston, boast a record that again places Dallas among the very elite clubs in the NBA?

      I won't even bother providing evidence to prove my coming assertion; arguing against me here makes you a basketball idiot: No good NBA team -- let alone a great one -- gets dissed like Dallas gets dissed.

        OK, I'll relent. I'll provide one example, and one only. I won't seek out Peter Vescey or Sam Smith or Charles Barkley or some other nationally prominent charlatan/hater. That's too easy for me (and apparently, when it comes to Mavs-aimed potshots, too easy for them). Instead, I'll roam no farther than the hometown studio of ESPN 103.3, the D/FW-based flagship station of your Mavs.
        The Wednesday night postgame call-in show featured a topic I must admit I never saw coming: Dirk Nowitzki, the boys announced, is not among the top clutch offensive players in the game today.
        Are you friggin' kidding me?
      The fellas behind the mikes offered up a wide range of candidates for the honor of being better in the clutch on offense than The UberMan. LeBron. Billups. Kobe. AI. Duncan. Wade. Gosh, they names a lot of guys! When somebody nominated both Rip Hamilton and Robert Horry as being superior weapons to Dirk, I just about put my head through the dashboard.
       Far be it from me to tell somebody else how to conduct their talk show. (I've got enough talk-show problems myself, you know!) But given that this is the Topic of the Day moments after Nowitzki just dominated a game so completely that he needed only half a game to get to 29 points, and, well. ... So even the guys who ostensibly watch and study the Dallas Mavericks don't see how good they are?
       You watch. The win over Houston will be dismissed as "not counting'' because of the injury absence of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Now obviously, that was the Rockets' B-team (C-team?) that allowed Dirk 29 points in 25 minutes, that got nine points, 16 rebounds and six blocks from its three centers, that was outplayed over the course of the final quarter-plus by the likes of DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell and Darrell Armstrong.
      But what were the Mavs supposed to do here to earn some props? Win by 60? By 70?
      Next time you hear the criticism of the Mavs, run it through a filter. A filter that essentially asks, "If it's true that Dallas sucks at (fill in the blank), how have they accomplished (fill in the blank again)?''
      Let's try it:
     "If it's true that Dallas' point guards don't really know how to play the position, how is it they've led the team to the third most wins in the NBA?
     "If it's true that Dallas' centers are incompetent, how is it they've helped the Mavs re-make themselves into a good rebounding team, ranking sixth in the league, while also ranking as the third best shot-blocking team?
      "If it's true that Dallas' head coach is either too old (Nellie) or too young (Avery), how is it that despite the change the Mavs remain a league scoring leader in the 100-ppg range?
      "If it's true that Dallas never plays defense, how is it they've managed to be the third best team in terms of points differential?
    "If it's true that Dallas' owner is a 'distraction,' how is it that in terms of entertainment value, customer satisfaction and marquee reputation, the Mavs are somehow a model franchise?
"If it's true that Dallas' ability to run is not a foundation asset, how is it that even when it was a run-first team, it was able to advance to a Western Conference Finals?
        "If it's true that Dallas' MVP isn't truly a clutch player, how is it they've won games in every possible way behind the 26-ppg effort of Nowitzki?
       Seriously, if the critics -- national and local -- are correct, the Mavs can't handle point guard or center, can't coach or play defense, can't win with offense or a flashy owner, and damn sure can't win if led by Nowitzki, how in the hell are they in position to finish this season with -- check this out -- a 61-21 record?
       How is it that EVERYTHING around here is broken. ... except when it comes to W's and L's?
       I'll calm down from my Popeye position. I'm not going "Network'' on you. But the Leon Simonism, I'm sticking with. And paraphrasing: What the Mavs do speak so loud, I cain't hear what the critics are sayin.'' That's the only way to keep up the "Super Terrific Happy Hour'' mood the Mavs deserve.

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