Jeff Van Gundy pines for the rough and dirty basketball heyday of John Starks, Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman.
So that probably explains why he talks like it’s still the Reagan era.
While working Monday’s Western Conference Finals matchup between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers, the NBA analyst became miffed when referees assessed a flagrant foul against Phoenix’s Jae Crowder for slapping Paul George in the face while contesting a shot.
Rather than exclaiming something fun like “It’s the Real Househusbands of Glendale!,” Van Gundy took his analysis in a problematic direction. While watching a replay of the slap, he lamented:
“I’m sick of the sissyfication of the game!”
I probably don’t have to spend too much time explaining why in 2021, no TV personality should ever use the word “sissy” as a pejorative. (If you need a refresher, Cyd Zeigler wrote a primer a few years ago about why “sissy” is a homophobic slur.)
Suffice to say, the only context in which “sissy” is appropriate to use on TV is when RuPaul is offering tips on perambulation.
But it’s another thing entirely that Van Gundy decided to sneer about “sissyfication” in sports after everything that has happened over the last week. Instead of feeling angry, my first response was incredulity.
Really, Jeff Van Gundy? You’re going to drop an anti-gay slur that implies sports are going soft just seven days after Carl Nassib did one of the bravest things an athlete can possibly do? The same week that the NFL — America’s bastion of machismo — released a promotional video proudly proclaiming “football is gay?”
Considering that context, Van Gundy should be embarrassed. Judging by his playoff record, at least he has plenty of experience with that.
It’s probably not surprising that Van Gundy went full troglodyte for everyone to hear. His most famous days as an NBA head coach were spent with the 1990s New York Knicks, the biggest rival of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls during their second three-peat.
The best way to describe the Van Gundy Knicks style of play would be, “You have more talent than us, so we’re going to punch you: a lot.”
But when the NBA decided they preferred their product to be more free-wheeling and watchable, the league instituted rules changes. Suddenly, Van Gundy’s preferred strategies became irrelevant.
So now, he’s lashing out at the best players on the planet, and taking the LGBTQ community down with them. It’s all rather pathetic.
The times passed Van Gundy by on the court long ago. Based on the slurs he’s apparently still willing to drop for the entire nation to hear, it appears they’ve passed him by off the court as well.