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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.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Arrogance of Youth. the Incredible Draymond Green.

Only the arrogance of youth would allow for the following: "We're living in a special era of basketball. For my money, the players have never been more athletic, versatile or skilled, and that in conjunction with a wave of tactical brilliance, means the NBA game has never been better. These are all-time great players with few, if any comparisons in basketball history." 
So saith, Dieter Kurtenbach of the San Jose Mercury News, a young man by the look of his photograph. Unless, like a senior citizen on dating website, he posted a younger version of himself. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt he didn't, which makes Dieter too young to remember the Kareem, Magic, Worthy, Bird, McHale, Chief era. Too young to remember The Jordan Bulls, The Knicks, The Jazz of Malone and Stockton. Too starry eyed to recognize the dismal play of most of the basketball teams in the NBA today. Need I list the teams and mediocre players? If Dieter fully investigated the Boston Celtics of the Sixties, (how many championships did they win?) he might want to adjust his thinking slightly.

Ah, well, before the young fellow accuses me of being an old foggy, which unfortunately I am, and he will be too. I do agree with him that today's NBA All Stars represent a special time in basketball. But let's not get overly modernistic or futuristic. Let's not forget history, which countries so often do and the world suffers for it. In making comparisons between eras and players and jumping to conclusion, ya gotta to recognize that The Three Point Shot was a demarcation between all such basketball eras rhetoric. Not the apples and oranges thing, but between the traditional apple pie and the more exotic creme brule.

Ponder the NBA without the three. Who'd win, Magic's Lakers or Hardin's Rockets? Without the three, do today's Warriors defeat the Birds' Celtics of yore? Who wins between Wilt's 76ers and LeBron's Heat? How about arguably the most technically skilled NBA basketball team, albeit not the most athletic, of Bill Walton's Blazers? I daresay, without the three the Blazers would defeat most of the 2018 playoff contenders. With the three, that's creme brule.

But Dieter is absolutely on the money when he praises the athletic virtues of Draymond Green. The man is a MAN. The Heart of the Warriors is it's triumvirate offense of Curry, Thompson and Durant, but the soul of the Warriors is Green leadership on Defense. And when Draymond's offense is on, he makes the Dubs unbeatable.

My wife and I are on our way to Italy on a month's vacation. I will miss my Warriors, but I will not miss trumps tweets. I was advised to wear a Canada button on my clothes in Europe as trump and his ilk have made our dear country less dear in the eyes of the world. But I will not. Our country has weathered great storms before, we can escape this storm, hopefully not too battered. Perhaps by the time we get by trump will be impeached and indicted for his indefensible and illegal relationship with KGB killer Putin.

With baseball season threatening to take over television coverage after the NBA ends, I give you one of the great baseball poems by one of the great Beat poets.

Dream of a Baseball Star   by Gregory Corso

I dreamed Ted Williams
leaning at night
against the Eiffel Tower, weeping.

He was in uniform
and his bat lay at his feet
-knotted and twiggy.

"Randall Jarrell says you're a poet!" I cried.   (*Jarrell, one of America's great poets.)
"So do I! I say you're a poet!"

He picked up his bat with blown hands;
stood there astraddle as he would in the batters box,
and laughed! flinging his schoolboy wrath
toward some invisible pitcher's mound
-waiting the pitch all the way from heaven.

It came; hundreds came! all afire!
He swung and swung and swung and connected not one
silder curve hook or right-down-the-middle.
A hundred strikes!
The umpire dressed in strange attire
thundered his judgment: YOU'RE OUT!
And the phantom crowd's horrific boo
dispersed the gargoyles from Notre Dame.

And I screamed in my dream:
God! throw thy merciful pitch!
Herald the crack of bats!
Hooray the sharp liner to left!
Yea the double, the triple!
Hosannah the home run!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Flashy NFL Draft Boring and Etc

You got to be a total college and pro football aficionado to get watch the mind numbing NFL college draft. Compared to the simpler NBA draft, the NFL has way too many positions on defense and offense. That's 24 separate positions, with separate skill-sets. I don't think many people in football land were carefully watching the progress of left tackles or right tackles, which I learned for the first time today, reading the results of yesterday's draft, have different skill sets. "I feel like I've mastered both sides and I'm ready to go at either one," said Mike McGlinchey, the San Jose 49ers first round pick. So, I suppose there must be some left offensive tackles who have not, and are therefore relegated to a lifetime career as left tackles on the O-Line. Of course there are other sports with very specific position skills, I'm thinking baseball in particular. But there are only 9 positions to consider. Besides, MLB doesn't have a college draft extravaganza. NBA teams select the best at most five very different positions with several of the positions having overlapping skill sets. For example, a #2 guard (the shooter) could possess #1 point guard skills sets. I'm probably over explaining. My bottom line is I watched until the last of the five best college QB's were selected, then switched channels. I'm guessing many other fans did.

Etc #1

Thrilled to read that Steph Curry will be back on the court against the very dangerous New Orleans Pelicans, coached by ex Warrior assistant coach Alvan Gentry, perhaps as soon as the first game on Saturday. Without Curry, the Warriors are the Warriors. With Curry, the Warriors are the Dubs. This has to do with how far the Dubs can stretch the floor with Steph. Of its starters, three downtown shooters makes a huge difference these days as opposed to a team with two downtown shooters, no matter how good they are.

Etc #2

 My wife and I are off to Europe for the month of May, which means we'll miss the Western Conference second and final rounds. We are sorry about missing these games, but we have a date with Italian and French cuisine. We'll be cheering for the Dubs from our sidewalk cafes. If Tony Parker wants to join us as our translator, he's welcome. I have informed the Warriors that we'll be back to watch them defeat the Cleveland Cavs for their third NBA Championship. 

Etc #3

What a frosty last second winner LeBron shot to beat the Pacers! Form and rotation of the ball as it left his fingers, I could see it was going down.

Here's a poem I wrote a couple of weeks back honoring the death of a excellent high school and college point guard and later college coach, Bernie Simpson. Bernie played on the 1969 University of California Bears NCAA Championship team.


Bernie’s Funeral    by Tom Meschery

He was the starting guard on the high school team
that beat my high school team three straight years
for our city’s championship, and the guard
on the college team that beat my college team
in the NCAA tournament and left me at the bar
drinking beers while his team went on to win it all,
and it was him standing on a ladder cutting down
a piece of the net that I felt belonged to me.

I’m staring at the huge crucifix behind the altar.
The Ave Maria is being sung, and I’m wondering
about the minutiae of memory when I should be
thinking about the big picture of Bernie’s life.
The Ave ends and the priest begins speaking
about resurrection, an idea I find impossible
to consider. So I picture Bernie’s jump shots.
instead. They were pretty damn accurate.
It occurs to me that thinking of Bernie’s body
rising into that jumper, not with a lot of height,
but enough that the ball floated over the hand
of our guy guarding him, is strange and perhaps
inappropriate now that he no longer has a body.
And that soon I too will no longer have a body,
which should make me more serious but doesn’t.

After the priest, the eulogies begin. The best
is a daughter remembering her father’s words:
Show up; have faith; execute, that have given her
something to live by and pass on to her children.
After mass and the reception, on my drive home
I’m wondering if I've left any words behind
for my children to cherish after my death?
Nothing so eloquent as Bernie's I’m afraid.
More like keep your elbow directly under
your shooting hand; don’t leave practice
without making your last shot. Or, since
I have always found tranquility and joy
waiting for me in the kitchen, make sure
that you season while you’re cooking
and never be afraid to try new recipes.



 




Friday, April 20, 2018

Start of the NBA Playoff


 Deep condolences to Pop andhis family upon the death of his wife.

Per my last blog, the Warriors were not ready for the playoffs. After 3 games against the San Antonio Spurs in which they are up 3 to zip, I amend my opinion to the Warriors being ALMOST ready for the playoffs. The first two wins were convincing. The third in San Antonio less so, but predictable for a do-or-die game for the Spurs. The Warriors need a healthy Stephon Curry. I hesitate to say, to go "all the way," since the Dubs still have KD, Klay, Green, Livingston, and Igudala. How about Igudala? Like a fine wine, he improves with aging. Why this vintage is best tasted in the playoffs continues to be one of the mysteries in sports. There are simply some guys who flick the switch to high gear in clutch time. I'm just guessing, but I'd bet the stats would prove that Igudala ranks in the top ten category of NBA players to greatly improve over-all performance during the playoffs. Anyone care to bet?.

Here is my take on the pitiful Twolves performances so far. Two of their star key players, Andrew Wiggins (a little too cool breeze for my taste) and Karl Anthony Towns, who from now on I will refer to as Bambi, are soft as Pampers on D. So where does that leave the Twolves if two key guys are soft on defense? Up crap creek. Aha, thus the Pampers simile. I thought coach Coach Thibodeau was supposed to be a defense guru. Butler and Gibson are the only two players that get down and dirty. It's playoff time: tough is defined by a new level of intensity. You embrace it, or you "go fishing."

The Rockets are tough, no doubt. They stretch the floor with their three point shooters. Harden is a God awful problem to defend, but I'd sure as hell take my chances of steering him to his right, not that he wouldn't make a few anyway. In my opinion there are two keys to beating the Rockets: contain Chris Paul and match up with Capella. Of the two, against the Warriors, Capella represents the greatest danger. 

OKC, even with its three supers, still looks vulnerable to me. Not sure the Jazz can pull it off, but the last game won on Oklahoma's court says about a missing Thunder ingredient to go the distance. Dare I say Carmelo? Perhaps that's unfair, but I've never thought he had an ounce of basketball smarts. I don't believe Westbrook is a smart basketball player either. He plays by instinct, which is off the chart, but so does Carmelo. Ergo: two players that lack court sense the team relies on is one too many.

Donavon Mitchell and Ben Simpson should share Rookie of the Year Honors. Can Simpson learn to shoot the basketball beyond fifteen feet?

I'm picking the Raptors to win it all in the East with respect to LeBron who could still pull off a miracle; he's that good. I have grudgingly come to believe in the King as the King, perhaps the perfect basketball body I've ever seen, although head to head I'd still want Jordan over LeBron on my team.

76ers team is still a year away, but they sure look good in spurts. Question: Did Marco Belinelli dump when he was playing for the Kings in order to get out of the River City? On every other team he's played for, he shoots the three with great precision. On the Kings he looked like he needed glasses.

Got to love the Pacers. They probably can't beat the Cavs, but the team should keep with their core guys and build around them Oledipo is smart and talented. One good draft choice, one smart trade and they will be relevant for a  long time. Where could they use help? A few more three point shooters at the one and two. A back up stretch 3 for Bogan.

Next year for Boston, with Hayward back and another good draft season.

John Wall joins Westbrook and Carmelo as instinct-only players. 

Mark Jackson, coach of the Knicks? Big mistake.

I find myself repeating favorite sports poems. Here's one that is wonderfully simple and is all about the essence of the game.

First Love   by Carl Lindner

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.




Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Playoff and etc

My Warriors do not look ready for the playoffs. This observation has nothing to do with their pitiful performance against the Utah Jazz. (Has there ever been a famous jazz musician from Utah?). Yes, the Jazz are a hot team, playing superb defense, the part of the game that is at the heart of the Dubs' problem. On close inspection, over the games minus Steph Curry, I have observed (observation #2) that the defensive "string" that binds the players on the court into a cohesive whole, is missing a piece of the string. All it takes is one player to lose his connection, ie: turn his head. lose vision, give up an easy lane, and in today's game with its fast pace, whip-around and cross-court passing, the stress the mistake places on the other four players is enough to break the continuity. As a blogger, I suppose I could name the player or players that appear to me to be deficient defensively, but I'll leave it up to our terrific coaches to sort this problem out, but sort it out they must.

Footnote #1:: Steph Curry's contribution to the Warriors' defensive scheme, given my criticism, can not be overstated. If Steph comes back reasonably healthy, the problem might solve itself.

Footnote #2: The Warriors are The Dubs when all their players are healthy, going full bore. The absence of key players recently has taxed the D. But that does not mean that the players who step in, should not be on the "String."

Patrick Reed, this year's Masters Champ's family history is personal. The press should lay off. However, Reed's past college problems - alleged thievery and team disruption - as they are related to sport, does appear to be fair media game.

I was pulling for Rory, and then Ricky, but I was impressed with Reed's poise and mental toughness. Being  numero uno on the leader board for all four rounds was no small feat. He forced the rest of the pack to play catch-up. So, right on, Captain America! However, the stars and strips score card is a little much.

One last comment about Patrick Reed. His body type is an inspiration to all weekend golfers. You don't have to be in shape to play golf. Have a few tacos, a couple of beers, and go for it. Who needs muscles.   

Years ago in the dark prehistoric days of the NBA, a number of players from the Cincinnati Royals, however unlikely it may seem, used the game of golf to get in shape for the coming NBA season. I don't recall if the Big O participated, but Wayne Embry, Adrian Smith, Bucky Buckhorn and Tom Hawkins did. They played in sweats, carried their own clubs, and sprinted between golf shots from the tee to the putting green. Now that's golf.

Wayne Embry, by the way, at 6'10" and a mile  wide set the best screens in the history of the NBA. No stats to verify, but I still have bruises after all these years.

Just a reminder, I'm still pulling for a four point line in the NBA. Imagine the arc of  the ball, fans holding their collective breath.

This morning's sport page was devoted mostly to baseball. My eyes are glazing over.

Here's a humorous tribute to golf. You may use your imagination as to the symbolism of the word, "club" in the poem.

A Public Nuisance   by Reginald Arkell

You know the fellow,
I have no doubt,
Who stands and waggles
His club about.

Empires crumble
And crowns decay;
Kings and Communists
Pass away.

Dictators rise
And dictators fall -
But still he stands
Addressing his ball







Monday, April 2, 2018

Convergence of Two Stars and etc

It's Seattle 1969. The setting is the practice court of the Seattle Super Sonics. Shooting free-throws is a graduate of West Virginia University, point guard, Rod Thorn and under the basket, shagging balls is a young ballboy by the name of Ricky Welts. I'm there too off to the side. I could be watching and imagine I am, thinking that these two persons' lives will, many years from now, converge working in administration for the NBA League Office. And, because, I am a seer, I recognize that the convergence will lead both of them to be inducted into the 2018 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Seer I was not. Back then, to guess that these two men would be inducted into the HOF would have been a long shot equivalent to winning the Super Lotto. Rod probably should have gone into coaching since he had a fine basketball mind instead of sports management, or into professional poker. Rick should have become the Governor of the State of Washington instead of an NBA executive whose development of NBA Properties earned him the League's undying gratitude. Now here they are, joining another Sonic, Lenny Wilkens in the Hall of Fame. Congratulations and bravo!

ETC:

I can't see Michigan beating Villanova. But I'm pulling for the Wolverines and a first NCAA championship for Coach Beilein. I'm addicted to underdogs.

Speaking of Underdogs, hats off to Ian Poulter for his Houston win and a seat at the Masters. The Brit  would not have made it into the Masters without this win. Clutch. 

I don't think I've ever seen Clutch like the two last second game winning jumpers in the Final Four like the ones shot by Arike Ogunbowale. These were not cast up prayers, but beautifully executed shots, with perfect form and great rotation. Drilled. Ice. Arika's dad is from the West African country of Nigeria, an immigrant. A proud immigrant. Immigrants and the children of immigrants have done a lot for this country. I think it's safe to say that the United States is a country of Immigrants. Take that, trump!

Got to love Kobe's support of women's basketball. How about running for a political office. State Senator, Governor, Kobe. You're beginning to look and sound very presidential. God knows we could use someone in the White House who speak Spanish and has an understanding of our brothers and sisters south of the boarder. I must admit in his early career I would never have lauded Kobe. But he's really grown up big time.

So happy to see Patrick McCaw was not injured seriously. Terrible fall. The way the game is high flying, it is even more important to remember the case of Maurice Stokes, undercut going in for a layup, who wound up paralyzed for life. We learn from history - or we fail.

With the season drawing to an end, I guess I'll take a shot at some predictions. Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors in the Finals of the West. Warriors win in seven. Even though my Dubs are struggling some, here's why. As tough a three point shooting team, the Rockets are, I still believe their D is suspect, especially over a seven game series. Cleveland wins the East. It's all about LeBron. My admiration for him has grown over the years, and it's not just because of him taking a stand against the nitwit in the White House, although that shows great smarts. With Curry back, the NBA Championship goes to the Dubs for a three out of four and the start of a Warrior era in Chase Arena in the City of Saint Francis.

Ron Adams, assistant coach of the Warriors and Defensive Guru sent me this poem. It's fabulous.

The Streets of Heaven by Philip Raisor

     Tell me how you die and I will tell you who you are,

                                              Otavio Paz

I stand in line. The woman ahead of me
blowzy-haired and angry, is told that grace
is the act of restraint and road-kill is not a sport.
She can choose to wait or test the judgment
at another entrance. I know that morality,
penance, a kind heart don't matter, nor the faith
I embraced or didn't, the people I saved I know
the key is where I land on the scale of commitment.

Earnhardt, Sr. died for the game, and got in.
Many ancient Egyptians buried juggling balls
with them, as though endless practice and craft
were their gifts to the next world they entered.
I ask if I can peek in, maybe stand on the edge
and look into the vast canyon of pit, arenas,
fields, fairways, pools, rings, tables, tracks,
courts, beaches, forests, mountains

where war is forbidden. Here is what I bring
for review, a nasty fastball, a runner-up ring,
individual initiative, a contrary attitude, the heart
of a poet. I bring a willingness to run like an outlaw,
honor the Greeks and Makahiki, invent new games,
practice past dusk, play on the second squad,
and keep score until I can get in the game
with eternity left on the clock. I hope it is enough.