In America, we've always loved the rogue. The confidence man. The grifter. As long as nobody gets hurt, we can watch with a smile just short of envy when we see somebody put one over on someone else. As long as it's someone else.
In Portland, we've had the chance to see it up close in a couple of different ways this week.
Has anyone done any better job of fooling a few naive politicians, the daily newspaper and a lot of other media lately than the guy I like to call Mr. Baseball Ñ Craig Marquardo? You know, the guy from Florida who said he's a movie producer Ñ and, oh, yes, he has a group that wants to move a big-league team to Portland and doesn't want or need public help with a ballpark.
I'm not sure if Marquardo is trying to fool us or himself. Perhaps he's just delusional.
The Tribune's Andy Giegerich did some checking this week and found that Marquardo's bio has more holes than last season's University of Oregon pass defense. I knew that about one question into a radio interview with Mr. Baseball this week.
'I understand you played professional baseball,' I said.
'Well, no,' he said, 'I played in the minor leagues and for a New York Yankee starter league team.'
'But the minor leagues are professional ball,' I said.
'Well, yes, technically,' Marquardo said.
Uh-huh. Sure. To begin with, anyone who ever played minor-league ball bristles at the suggestion that he didn't play pro ball. Secondly, I've never heard anyone talk about a 'starter league team.' This is before I found out that there's no record of him being drafted in 1990, the year he said he was picked by the Yankees.
Of course, the guy claimed to have gotten to Triple-A ball in his first season, to have been wounded in the Persian Gulf War (he now says it happened after the war) and to have sung backup for Sting on a world tour at age 15. All guys dream about being rock stars, war heroes or pro athletes Ñ but this is taking it to a new level.
He thought I roughed him up on the air pretty good Monday, then turned right around and came back on the show Tuesday. He just couldn't resist. Honestly, I think he'd come on every day if we asked him, but I don't think the world is ready for a daily Marquardo Minute. A little of him goes a long way Ñ but you have to admit, there's something about him that's quite amusing.
At first, I thought he might have done the stadium campaign in Oregon some harm, but I doubt it. Nobody could have bought into this guy for long.
And, yes, we were conned this week by the Dallas Mavericks, too. Three games into the first-round playoff series with the Trail Blazers, they had us thinking they were pretty hot stuff. Yeah, they were great. Future NBA champs.
But faced with the opportunity to close out the Blazers in Game 4 at the Rose Garden, they played like frauds. I mean, they were like frightened children in a thunderstorm, trying to find a bed to hide under. And by the way, Rasheed Wallace should have been fined just for being wrong after Sunday's game Ñ both teams did not play hard. The Mavericks faked it, Rasheed, my man.
Then on Wednesday in Dallas, when a good team would have polished Portland off, the Mavs came out tentatively and missed a great opportunity to take the Blazers out of the game early. Portland hung around and kept the game close, then sat back and watched Dallas choke in the final minutes.
My pillow is harder than the Mavericks.
Now the teams return to Portland for Game 6 tonight, with the Mavs exposed as the con men that they are. Don't be surprised if Dallas just tanks this one and saves itself for the Game 7 matchup back in Dallas. I mean, once a con artist is unmasked, there's really no use in continuing the ruse.
At some point, even Craig Marquardo has to understand that.