Someone Teach Me How to Make Good Excuses

Ten bucks says Isaiah Rider’s third grade teacher could tell myriad stories of an impressive 12 foot, 500-pound dog with a special craving for paper products?

How else could an 8-year-old Rider account for his inevitably missing homework?

We are, after all, talking about a guy who has turned excuse making into an art form that renders Picasso a freakish hack by comparison.

And while I am no longer surprised by the basketball player’s propensity to alienate teammates, coaches and any remaining fans with his childish antics, I still can’t help but wonder what exactly is running through his cranium that so consistently compels him to screw up.

The newest addition to the Denver Nuggets thanked the latest team to offer him redemption and one last shot at salvaging a once promising career, which has more recently resembled a greasy sludge comparable only to New Jersey tap water, by skipping the squad’s first practice.

Whoever didn’t see that coming has vision problems that not even 90-year-old automobile drivers can rival.

Perhaps the only thing more curious than Rider’s continued self-destruction, after all, is that NBA teams continue to gamble that his ample talent is worth enough headaches to make investing in Excedrin stock the soundest of financial moves.

“We hope the kid can make it, but we can’t give him one chance after another after another,” Dan Issel told The Associated Press. “If he shows up and he plays hard, he will be here. If he doesn’t, he won’t. It’s that simple.”

That could be a song by Creed, I’ve heard it so damn often.

Clearly, this man is more than any coach, general manager or psychotherapist is equipped to handle. His antics could convince a priest to sell his soul to Satan and spend eternity working for a phone sex company, just to never have to deal with the dunce again.

At least, however, he makes no pretense about his lack of devotion.

Sure, every year when the latest “Will Someone Take a Chance on Isaiah?” episode rears its ugly head, he says all the right things, makes all the right promises about how he’s committed now to the team he’s with, and there will be no more no-shows, no more tardiness to practices and games, no more selfishness.

It’s understood that, unless Webster’s has your mug next to the word “gullible,” you don’t buy it no matter how much free Microsoft software comes included.

People expect Rider to take the money (in this case, a one-year, $840,000 contract) and run.

It comes as a little bit more of a surprise, however, when someone like Jim McIlvaine is able to pull it off.

True, he is a seven-footer, and therefore inevitably destined to receive sufficient attention from NBA GMs to make their wives question their husbands’ sexuality, but you take one look at the crew cut ‘do and the cheesy goatee and wouldn’t think him capable of pulling off a Rider-esque dupe job.

Despite never averaging more than 3 points per game in three years with the Seattle SuperSonics, he convinced the New Jersey Nets to give him a five-year, $35 million deal.

Now, after playing just 106 games in the past three years and never translating his Jordan-like scoring ability into anything above 2.4 ppg, he’s told the Nets he doesn’t really like basketball, and agreed to let them buy out the remaining two years of his contract?worth $12.6 million, mind you?for a bargain-by comparison $7 million sum.

I want to call the Nets fools for paying a man an average of $3.5 million a year to do nothing for them, but then, considering that he appeared in but 18 games (at 10.8 minutes per) a year ago, and hauled in a whopping 1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds last year, I guess they were already doing that.

“It’s just a personal opinion, he’s a guy who doesn’t really enjoy the game of basketball. Why have him here? It’s like torture,” said Nuts?er, Nets?coach Byron Scott.

That’s some pretty flattering stuff.

I imagine he had to have had some pretty good excuses for both his feigned and actual ineptitude along the way (C’mon coach?I don’t wanna get posterized with this haircut. I promise I’ll go to the barber tomorrow. [Wink, wink.]) before finally dropping the ruse and copping to suckering a group that, quite frankly, has a reputation for being suckers in personnel decisions.

I suppose I could complain about how inherently unfair it is that men such as Rider and McIlvaine can draw a six-figure check to skip practice and a seven figure one to show up and sit on the bench in a cheap suit, when I can be in my office till midnight or beyond and not make enough to afford the wardrobe of the guy who cleans Bill Gates’ pool, but that’s not my beef?

I’m just wondering if there’s some kind of special class these guys took that teaches the art of excuse-making, because I sure as hell want in.

Trying to convince a sociology professor that the dog ate my homework just isn’t cutting it for me.

Eric welcomes feedback at: [email protected]