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Star power

Sports | MVP Nash sits on the All-Star bench while and old and busted Shaq starts. What are the fans who vote thinking?

Issue: "'Into captivity they shall go'," Feb. 24, 2007

If political theorists ever wanted to poke holes in the American democratic system, the fan voting for the NBA All-Star game might be the place to start. Even before Phoenix point guard Steve Nash ruled out appearing at the NBA's All-Star game on Feb. 18, the league's fans decided Nash was good enough only to ride pine during the game's tipoff. Why? Fans cast only 1.5 million ballots for Nash, the reigning two-time league MVP.

It's a strange result considering the panel of reporters and broadcasters that hands out league-wide awards has named Nash the game's best and most valuable player for two straight years. Fans only see him as the fourth-best Western Conference guard behind voted starters Kobe Bryant (2.1 million) and Tracy McGrady (1.9 million) and All-Star reserve Allen Iverson (1.8 million).

Nash, who is having his best season as a pro, was selected by coaches as a reserve, but the fans' oversight raises the question: Should they be entrusted with suffrage when it comes to selecting the league's top players? The snub of Nash is one indictment of the All-Star system. Voting in Shaquille O'Neal is another. Do fans know what they're doing? By the time the vote was announced near the end of January, O'Neal had played in a grand total of five games.

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By comparison, reserve All-Star center Dwight Howard, a young rising star, was averaging more than 17 points and nearly 12 rebounds per game while leading a resurgent Orlando Magic. If fans truly want to see the old and busted Shaq Diesel lumber up and down the court rather than the new hotness of Dwight Howard, perhaps they need to reevaluate their basketball priorities.

But occasionally the masses do get it right. Even as the legions marked their ballots for the injured O'Neal, fans finally stopped the Vinsanity and gave rising star Gilbert Arenas the slight edge over New Jersey's Vince Carter, perennially a questionable choice by fans.

Around the Horn

NFL: The latest of the San Diego Chargers coaching problems was self-inflicted. After offensive coordinator Cam Cameron left to become head coach for Miami and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips left to take the top job with Dallas, the Chargers opted to fire their own head coach, Marty Schottenheimer. Victims of severe coaching attrition, the Chargers also lost their tight ends coach and linebackers coach to other teams.

NASCAR: Not everyone is loving what Toyota is doing for them-namely, NASCAR drivers. In its much-ballyhooed entrance into the American racing circuit, Toyota failed to place any of its vehicles above 14th in Daytona's pole qualifying laps. Toyota officials say they aren't completely discouraged: "It was a little bit disappointing from where we'd gotten our hopes up," said Andy Graves, Toyota's lead man for NASCAR. "But this is a new challenge for Toyota."

BASKETBALL: Struck with a four-game losing streak, Duke dropped out of the AP top 25 men's college basketball poll for the first time since the 1995-96 season. A loss at Maryland gave Duke seven losses for the season and had some wondering if the Blue Devils, barring a successful conference tournament run, wouldn't become a team on the bubble come March.

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