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What my musings are all about...

Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.

The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.

The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.

Monday, April 14, 2014

More knuckleheads and morons

Colin Kapernick and Quinten Patton, now Aldon Smith, not to mention the other NFL players vying for membership in the Knucklehead Club. Has any statistic minded person figured out the percentage of athletes in trouble in comparison to other professions, say dentists or plumbers? Well, you might argue (being a defender of athletes) that Athletes work under constant pressure and are strung tight. Humm? I wonder how many ballet dancers have been arrested for talking about having a bomb while in an airport. How about Air force pilots putting themselves in a room alone with a woman serving them drinks? Oops, I guess this has happened. It might be a tight race to see who has the most members in the Knucklehead Club, athletes or military personnel. All right, if not the military, how about teachers or computer engineers?

Let me suggest that Professional sports teams draw up a list of NO, NO's and deliver them to all  the players at training camp. Memorization required. Examples:

YOU WILL NOT PLACE YOURSELF IN A COMPROMISING POSITION ALONE OR WITH OTHERS WITH A WOMAN OR WOMEN IN WHICH THERE IS ALCOHOL BEING SERVED OR DRUGS BEING USED OR ANY CLOTHES BEING DOFTED.

YOU WILL NOT CARRY A FIREARM IN YOUR VEHICLE. YOU WILL NEVER SHOOT A PISTOL UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES DURING A PARTY INTO THE AIR OR INTO A PERSON.

YOU WILL NEVER LEAVE THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT IN WHICH YOU WERE INVOLVED NO MATTER HOW DRUNK YOU WERE.

DO NOT TAKE MUSCLE ENHANCING DRUGS.

DON'T BULLY, OR WE'LL SEND YOU  TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE. HOW ABOUT FIRE YOU?

DON'T SEND PHOTOGRAPHS OF YOURSELF NAKED TO ANYONE OVER THE INTERNET OR FACEBOOK OR WHATEVER.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WILL YOU SAY THE WORD, "BOMB" IN AN AIRPORT, TRAIN OR BUS STATION.

EVERY MORNING, STAND IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR AND REPEAT, I'M NOT SPECIAL.

I can think of at least 50 more rules athletes could stand to take to heart. But, then, they might have to give up thinking they were special and thus not required to follow normal human behavior. Ooops, again. Has anyone seen Wolfman of Wall Street? Enough said about normal behavior. On the other hand, perhaps, greed is normal behavior. As for sex, the second theme of the movie, (There are no others.) I'll leave it up to you to decide if the sex your were watching on screen represented normalcy.

Perhaps there is no such thing as normal behavior?

How about classy behavior, then?

As an NBA rookie I was taught by word and by example by older teammates (Hall of Famer Paul Arizin comes to mind) that I should always "show class." Can't say I always succeeded, but I tried.

Being a snazzy dresser and driving extravagant cars does not mean you have class, which is what I think some of today's pros think. Although, I have to say D Wade puts on quite a show in the fashion department.

Returning to the title of my blog, let's talk about Morons. Who was the talking head on Fox News recently who objected to the movie Noah because it was not a documentary?

I love movies and taught film at Sierra College for years. Noah is the kind of movie that would turn me off  movies forever. As soon as the Ex Angels Rock People came on the scene to protect Noah and help him build the Ark, I was ready to head for the exit. There was a Kings game on TV I could watch if I wanted to torture myself.

I thought it was a put-down on Live at the Masters following  Bubba Watson's win that the course suited him because he's a lefty, naming other lefties that have won The Masters, the implication being that the course favors lefties, the further implication being that Bubba is not as good on other courses.

Here is a poem I wrote about golf from my new collection of poems - Sweat: New and Selected Poems About Sports.

Why I Never Played Golf

I didn't trust myself. Imagine
losing a match by one stroke
on the eighteenth green, his putt
longer than mine. He sinks it
for a birdie, and I sink mine
for a par, and I have my putter
in my hand and a bad temper,
and he is smiling at me.
You understand, smiling.



Monday, April 7, 2014

College Athletes' Unions

Forming unions has always been the best way to force recalcitrant ownership/administration to do the right thing. I'm speaking as the son of an Old Union Man and a great believer that unions have been and still are at the heart of a prosperous America. Proof? All of a sudden athletic departments are all over the news promising to create long term medical benefits for their scholarship athletes, which seems to me one of the most critical goals of the college players unions, and to do right by them. We'll see.

As for paying the athletes, sure. Why not increase their monthly stipend so they don't have to take off campus or on campus jobs? Being a full time student and full time athlete is hard enough without having to worry about money for bus fare home to visit mom. It was tough when I was in college and it's still hard to juggle full time athletic and academic commitment. A few more shekels can't hurt and it won't break the bank.

What about salaries? Nonsense. I'm all for unions, but they should not be used for frivolous demands. Scholarship athletes are not really employees. Even if they could be called employees, their salaries are four year, room and board, scholarships, which amount to' beaucoup' bucks. Tuition, room and board at my Alma mater, Saint Mary's College in California these days is approximately $58,000 dollars per year, about the average for private colleges and universities nationwide. You do the math for four years. State schools are not much less for out-of-state students. $40,000 to $50,000 per years is a pretty good starting salary, the equivalent of starting salaries in the world of business and far better than starting salaries of first year high school teachers.

In my opinion, if the revenues from university football and basketball indeed support all the scholarships and costs of the "so-called" minor sports, then the Big Time Television Embraced sports are doing a great service for a lot of amateur men's and women's athletics. I would, however, if I were the union, demand to see an independent accounting of where all the money goes by college sport. I'd hate to see too much more money spent on ridiculously high salaries for most coaches of big time athletic programs, Duke, Alabama, Kentucky, etc. Until each major university opens up its books there will always be a question marks.

The most important consideration by the union organizers should be how the union can help ALL the men and women playing collegiate sports, not just the elite football and basketball players.

Since I'm advocating for more attention being paid to "minor" college sports, here's a poem about Archery

Archery Instructor   by Richard Aldridge

My boys walk down the range intent to find
Lost arrows well beyond the target flown
Tomfoolery forgot, they scuff around
The underbrush, each searching on his own.
To them it's treasure hunting of a kind.

But since it's I who am responsible
For all the archery equipment used,
I wait here hoping hey will find them all.
The boys move dimly in the woods. Bemused,
I slowly let the scene be blurred unreal

And dram that I might well be Cupid here
Whose orders were: 'Bring back my misfired darts!'
Except on second thought I feel more sure
That what I'd mean is 'halves of broken hearts.'

A very foolish fond old man, said Lear.  




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Phil Jackson and the Knicks

It's not surprising that Phil Jackson took the job with the Knicks, but he better be careful. The Knicks have been a sink-hole for coaches and GMs for a long time. Some pretty credible coaches have not fared well. Dolan, the owner, will still have the last word, and I worry that any man who thought/thinks Isiah Thomas was a brainy GM, could, on a whim, sabotage Phil.

As for personnel, Phil Jackson will sort that out, as he will the coaching situation. I bet he'll bring in a new staff right away, before the draft. As for players: JR Smith and Martin are a knuckle-heads and should be gone. Tim Hardaway Jr.has a great future. Tyson Chandler can still be a shot blocker and presence in the paint. Felton and Prigioni? Lack inspiration, but could stay on as solid backups. The Knicks need a true point guard with imagination and intelligence. Amare Stodemire could be a productive power forward, but he can't seem to get Steve Nash and the pick and roll out of his consciousness and he's constantly injured. Shumpart? Perhaps in the Triangle could blossom.  All the rest of the bench should seek employment elsewhere.

That leaves Carmelo????? I don't see how he isn't the best scoring 3 in the business. Whether that's enough for Phil to keep him, who knows. Chicago sure wants him. Carmelo and Chandler for Noah? What a post player in the Triangle Noah would be. I worry that Carmelo is psychically damaged and can not change from a ball-stopper to a ball-mover. Carmelo reminds me of a poor man and his attitude toward food. You got to get as much on your plate as you can. You never know if the bowl of grits will come around the table again.

Anyhow, Phil Jackson will figure it out. The Knicks organization need someone with strong instincts way more than they need an X's and O's guy. Phil's bball instincts are razor-sharp.

Think of it Phil - Museums, Broadway plays, opera, ballet, real deli, and a penthouse overlooking Central Park. What a way to close out a Hall of Fame career.

You taking this challenge,when you certainly don't need any more fame reminds me of Ulysses in his old age exhorting his aged men to go on a last adventure with him.
               "How dull it is to pause, to make an end.
               To rust unburnished, not to shine in use,
               As though to breathe were life."

Good Luck, Phil.

After Meditating   by Tom Meschery from Sweat: New and Selected Poems about Sports

     For Phil Jackson

I return to your book, Sacred Hoops
and think, perhaps you've discovered
the secret to the modern game,
the centered-self each player can achieve
with right-breathing, as if the soul
were a tight muscle in need of stretching.

Team mantras, spiritual championships

If only I'd known
I didn't have to throw that  elbow
at LaRusso or stalk Chet Walker
or take a swing at Wilt,
while my breathless teammates
feared for my life.
All I had to do was breathe
my way out of anger.
Lungs instead of fists.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bracketology

I'm watching a bunch of college tournament games, trying to get some idea of my Big Dance picks, not that I have any hope of doing better than previous years. But it's a fun week of basketball, made a bit more interesting if you have a buck or two riding on the outcome.

While watching some of these elite teams, it occurred to me that Jerry West might have gotten it wrong. Recently Jerry said he wasn't impressed with this year's NBA first round draft picks. He's right in that there are no franchise players coming out this year, ready to make an instant impact. But, in my opinion, there are a number of potential franchise players. Last years group of NBA rookies, aside from Olidepo and Carter-Williams, were pretty ho-hum. This year's groups have a tremendous up-side. While last years groups could be compared to bottle of ordinary red table wine, good enough to drink, but nothing you'd serve at an important dinner party, this years group is like a early Cabernet Sauvignon from a vintage year, the problem being they need to age before consumption. Still, stick a couple of these bottles away in a wine cellar for awhile and Viola.

From my recent collection just out from Black Rock Press, a poem about making your Big Dance picks

Bracketology  by Tom Meschery

   First, lay out the brackets neatly  in font of you
so there should be no wrinkles that would inhibit
a clear vision of each team, as there are many teams
that are unworthy and exist only to confuse you.
   Start drinking coffee. Have more than one pencil
because the choices are numerous and the day is long,
and outside the world is going on without your. Be sure
the pencils are sharpened to a fine point.
   Beware of the first round of thirty-two teams that once
would have played in the NIT. One of those teams will surprise
you and ruin a bracket. At that moment you will consider
suicide.
   Do not drink alcohol
   It is wise to listen to the experts, but eschew the ones
with loud voices. Remember da Vinci, "Nothing strengthens
authority so much as silence."
   Do not believe in the teams closest to your heart;
they will betray you. You will not go wrong if you start
with the highest seeded teams, but understand the theme
of Greek tragedy that we suffer most when the mighty fall.
   When you get to the Sweet Sixteen, do not be deceived
by its adolescent name. There is nothing sweet about defense
and rebounding; therein lies the secret to winning,but some
will be seduced by offense. Do not follow their lead.
   It is wise to rise from your desk and exercise before picking
the Elite Eight. You might consider a gift for your wife
as she is even now preparing for your absence and is weeping.
   Resharpen your pencils. Continue to avoid alcohol.
   With eight teams left your confusion is mighty. At this point,
it would be worthwhile checking with the secretaries
in your office who have probably already picked the winners
according to the teams' name and colors. Never repeat this in
public as you will be called a misogynist. But neither should you
ignore their advice for intuition often out-performs logic.
When you get down to the Final Four, consider prayer. God
loves basketball, but be aware that the Devil is in the details.
  Once you make your picks, do not go back and change any
as it will insure the ones you changed were the correct choices.
   Turn in your brackets boldly..Begin drinking alcohol.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What NBA Players Need is a Little Honesty

What NBA players need is a coach who'll tell it like it is, someone like my wife, for example. Here's what she'd say to some of these overpaid children:

Dwight, you've been living on your jumping ability since you were ten years old. It's time for you to become a real center. Learn to pass, learn more than one post move, get your footwork together, and learn to shoot freethrows. No, no, don't tell me you're  trying. Just do it!

DeMarcus, baby, has anybody told you you're a baby? No, probably not. Okay, I'll admit you look like you're giving it a little effort this season, but it is not nearly enough if you're going to be the All-Star you claim you are. Lose that silly scowl, lose ten more pounds, learn how to block shots - players drive the paint against the Kings at will. Give up yelling at the refs; they could give a shit and love nothing better than to slap you with technicals. Stop pretending you're a guard and give the ball up on the break. And learn some more post moves.

Faried, I get it. Everybody gets it. You're the Manimal. Now get some skills. A simply 18 foot jumper would be nice. How about learning to shoot off the bounce?

To the entire Detroit Piston team: Guys, look around the locker room. There's a whole lot of talent here. But you're a bunch of wussies. You play no D, you don't pass the ball, you don't give a crap about your teammates. Drummund,lets start with you, you need to buckle down and learn the game. You won't be given a pass very much longer because you're young. Jennings, you have tons of talent, but you can't guard my grandmother, and you think shot first, not pass. Smith, first, start playing Defense, don't just look like you're playing D. And, for heaven's sake, study the game a little and stop relying on natural talent. Get a mid-range game.

Mr. Irving and Mr. Waiters, the two of you simply don't play any defense. Oh, Kyrie, you look shocked. Waiters, you don't look as shocked. I guess you already know you were never taught to play D in college having played only Zone. So you run around with your arm raised and call that defense. Ask Carmelo how long it took him from Syracuse to now to learn how to guard somebody, and he's still not that good at it.

Carmelo. There's no denying you are one of the great scorers of all time and possess one of the greatest jump shots of all time, but what is missing in your game? Great All-Stars make players around them better. You don't. Why is that? Could it be that you are the quintessential ball stopper? It's not a team game when all the other players are standing around watching you.

DeAndre Jordan, first and foremost you have to learn to shoot a free-throw. Isn't it embarrassing that your coach has to take you out of a game when it's crunch time because the other team will intentionally foul you?
You say you're trying? Aw, poor baby. Trying doesn't cut. Check out your teammate, Blake Griffin, he's substantially improved both freethrows and jumpers.

Mike Dunleavy, you're another guy who couldn't guard my grandmother. How is it a someone with your long arms and speed can't defend? Your father did.

Ricky Rubio, guess they never played defense in Spain, huh. Better learn soon or you won't get the big bucks when free agency comes around. By the way, you're the only European star I've seen who can't shoot the ball from any distance.

Tyson Chandler, you've never learned to shoot, not even a simply jumper from the freethrow line or a little jump hook. How is that? All these years and has nobody told you that all you're good for is the occasional dunk?

Jason Thompson, sweetheart, have you ever committed a foul you haven't shaken your head over in disbelief? How about when you push a player in back going for a rebound? It's pretty obvious.

Jimmer, Jimmer, Jimmer, you could use some footwork, some muscle. You're learning to get your shots, but the man you're guarding can still get by you any time he wants. I don't see a mean streak in you. Better get one pronto.

Andrew Bogut, you need to hire your fellow Aussie and Olympian, Matthew Dellavadova to teach you how to shoot freethrows. The basket is ten feet high and fifteen feet away. The height and distance never changes. Are you listening? NEVER CHANGES.

Well, that's what my wife would tell these professional athletes. I'm convinced that some of these athletes haven't figured out what the word professional means.

I read this morning that the Kings have another power forward. I assume they're working with a plan in mind. as much as I love Reggie Evans's rebounding, hustle, and defense, he's a "Hack a Shaq" candidate. Come on folks, can't any of the dozens of assistant coaches that proliferate on teams these days teach their players to shoot freethrows?

Go Warriors! Has the cheering stopped yet? What a stroke to get Steve Blake. This scrappy point guard is just what the doctor ordered to spell Steph Curry. Blake has been a positive force on every team he's played. He defends with intensity and skill, he looks to set up his shooters, and he doesn't back away from making shots himself. His energy is infectious. At 33 years old, he still has 3 maybe 4 solid years ahead of him.

Has anyone been noticing that Patty Mills of Saint Mary's College, my Alma mater, has found a home with the San Antonio Spurs? Patty may very well inherit the starting point guard position after Tony Parker calls it a career. Go Patty!

And, the Galloping Gaels have another player in the NBA, Matthew Dellavadova, who is proving he too can play at the next level.

First Love  by Carl Linder

Before sixteen
I was fast
enough to fake
my shadow out
and I could read
every crack and ripple
in that catch of asphalt.
I owned 
the slanted rim
knew
the dead spot in the backboard.
Always the ball
came back.

Every day I loved
to sharpen
my shooting eye,
waiting
for the touch.
Set shot, jump shot,
layup, hook -
after a while
I  could feel
the ball hunger -
ing to clear
the lip of the rim,
the two of us
falling through.