BYU Wins Holy War

BYU Wins Holy War
George, like Collie and Harline before him, is now still open!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mark's Thoughts: Derek Fisher a Sports Hero

How quickly Jazz fans forget what/why Fisher did what he did...

It is frustrating to hear what people (in Utah) are saying about Derek Fisher. The man went through a personal hell last year. His ten month old daughter, Tatum Fisher, was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a childhood form of eye cancer. Retinoblastoma has a 87% morality rate worldwide (although the majority of that number comes from developing countries), and 97% of survivors in the United States live with moderate to severe visual impairment (Source:

It wasn't only his personal life that was taking a hit. Fisher was also in the middle of a down year in Utah, with his numbers taking a dive across the board. He was playing out of position at the two guard. He was being forced to guard taller and stronger players, and his game took a hit because of that. The Jazz didn't get Fisher last year for what he brought to the court; rather, they acquired Fisher for his off-the-court leadership. He was a stabilizing influence in the locker room, and he was able to establish Williams and Boozer as leaders of the Jazz team.

Fisher took hero status for many Jazz fans during the Golden State playoff series last year. The game really did play out like a movie. Fisher had flown to New York to be with his daughter who, at the time, had an undisclosed disease. He would try to make it back in time for the game, but wasn't sure if he would be able to make it in time. Sloan decides to keep the roster spot open in case Fisher makes it to the arena in time. The game begins and Deron Williams gets into early foul trouble. Dee Brown comes in and plays well, until Okur falls on top of Brown and he is forced to leave the arena in an ambulance. Sloan turns to Andrei Kirilenko to run the point for the majority of the first half. Meanwhile, Fisher lands in Utah, and is informed by his personal assistant of the situation at the game. He asks permission of his wife to leave his daughter so he can play in the game. Gaining permission to play he is lead, by police escort, to the arena. Back in the arena Williams picks up more quick fouls in the second half, and the point guard position is back in the hands of Kirilenko (who didn't do a half bad job of running the point in the game).

Watching all of this unfold was very dramatic. Watching the cameras follow Fisher into the locker room and then onto the court built the drama. The fans in the arena started to go insane once they saw Derek Fisher approached the bench. Fisher didn't have a chance to sit down as Sloan pointed at him and told him to get into the game. The fans gave a standing ovation to Fisher as he entered. Fisher lead to a key turnover by Baron Davis in the fourth quarter, and force overtime. In overtime Fisher hit a three that sealed the victory for the Jazz.

During the post-game interview of Game 2, Fisher revealed to the public what was wrong with his daughter. He was not trying to seek the limelight, nor was he trying to raise himself up as a troubled man that needed the sympathy of a fan base. He made public, and was very open with his daughter's condition, to raise awareness for the new treatment that was available to combat Retinoblastoma. Due to Fisher's openness many other parents became aware of the new procedure that is able to save the vision of the child. Derek Fisher has made the cause of raising awareness about the disease his personal project.

Most Jazz fans know this story, and many were at the Energy Solutions Arena when it happened. Yet, it needs to be retold. Why? In the aftermath of this terrible situation the story has been distorted and presented in a terrible light.

Derek Fisher, after the season was concluded, wanted to move somewhere so that he and his family could take care of their daughter. The Jazz organization allowed Fisher out of his contract. Many Jazz fans thought that the logical step to take would be to move to New York, the location where Fisher had been flying back-and-forth to for days. Yet, it was a curve ball to many for Fisher to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. Many Jazz fans started to cry foul upon hearing of this signing. One of the loudest was the owner Larry H. Miller. He on his weekly radio interview expressed displeasure over Fisher going to the Lakers, and went so far as to say he would've had second thoughts about releasing Fisher from the contract if he knew Fisher was moving to LA.

These feelings of scorn by many Jazz fans lead to the booing of Fisher when he returned for his first game in Utah since joining the Lakers. As much as Game Two against the Warroirs was one of the top moments in franchise history, the booing of Fisher upon his return was one of the lowest points in Jazz history. The fans were booing a Jazz hero.

Fisher didn't use his daughter as an excuse to get out of the contract with the Jazz. Think what kind of human being would use their sick daughter as a bargaining chip to negotiate out of a situation. Fisher isn't that type of person. Yet, many fans ask why did he go to Los Angeles instead of New York or another team back east? First, Los Angeles was always on the list of possible destinations for Fisher. The doctor in Los Angeles is an ex-colleague of the doctor who performed the surgery on Tatum. He is more than qualified to continue the treatment on her. Professionally it is a much better situation for Fisher to be in. Who in the NBA would want to willingly go to New York and be part of that train wreck? Why would Fisher want to be a Knick, when he could get the same care for his daughter and be a Laker?

Also people forget the situation that greeted Fisher in Los Angeles when he arrived. Kobe wanted out! He wanted to be traded, and there wasn't anything that the Lakers could do to keep him. It wasn't as if the Lakers were ready to be a juggernaut in the Western Conference. Fisher had no idea that they were going to steal Pau Gasol from the Grizzles, and that Bynum was going to become a low-post beast. He also took a large pay cut to join the Lakers. 6.5 million dollars isn't a small amount of money. That was a large amount that Fisher walked away from to do what was best for his family.

It is hard sometimes to disconnect the player from the game. To see beyond the uniform that the player is wearing. Yet, in the case of Derek Fisher it needs to be done. When the game starts I hope that Fisher and the Lakers fall on their faces, but before and after the game Jazz fans need to show some class and give love to Derek Fisher.

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