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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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Couple of Thoughts & a Few Questions

I saw on NBA Rumors that the Celtics are going to trade or release David Lee. How about this, as strange as it may seem: Why don't the Warriors take Lee back. He'd give them a hell of a lot more than Jason Thompson, and the Celts may be interested in Jason with one year left on his contract and him being younger and an East Coast guy. Probably best to let the Celts release David, then the Warriors can negotiate a more reasonable contract? Yes? No? Since I'm not knowledgeable about contracts and such, I don't know if this is feasible. Anyway, it would give David the chance to complete the circle, end his career with the Dubs. He did, lest people forget, do an admirable job off the bench in the Finals last season. Might be a classy thing to do.

I'm a huge Harrison Barnes supporter, so I'd hate to see him go in a sign and trade for Kevin Durant. It might be worth considering that more does not always equate to better. Okay, okay, I know it IS Durant. A Warrior team with Durant, Steph, Klay and Dray raining threes. Like the friggin Apocalypse.

Cam Newton may indeed be the quarterback of the future, but weren't the pundits saying the same thing about Colin Kepernick a while back? Remember the turtle and the hare tales.

As we approach March Madness, are there any clear leaders among among the college teams? Time to pick the underdogs, which will make for an interesting tourney.

Watched the Timberwolves lose to the Lakers and saw Kobe perform like the old Kobe. I take back what I said about him; even a few games like last night's, and he deserves to have his last All Star Game in the sun. Sorry Damian, you're up next year. As for the Timberwolves, they've got some solid young players to build into a championship team, but they need a coach that will get them to play defense on a regular basis. Tom Thibodeau comes to mind. There's something not right in my mind about Sam Mitchell, perhaps, a little too cool, a little too coach with a capital C. Just a gut reaction.

Is Terry Stotts of the Trail Blazers Coach of the Year? If the Blazers make the playoffs, he better be.

For Super Sunday coming up, how about a this football poem from my second book of poetry, Some Men.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Yesterday's win with seconds on the clock
made going back to work easier even after weeks
when everything for him had turned to crap.

They'd painted their faces green,
put on their wigs, donned their yellow capes,
circled their trucks like wagons heading west,

roasted hotdogs.. The ice cold beer tasted best
when shared with family and friends, a small
philosophy, but something he had learned to trust.

The newspapers were full of war in some country
he couldn't spell. The neighbor's son had fought there.
They brought him back a week ago without a leg.

A letter came that said his house was"upside down."
Thank God he wasn't out of work, he'd told his wife.
Thank God for Football. The game protected him from grief.

What he could save of this crummy time, he found
every Sunday in the stands with his high school pals,
who stood beside him on the dwindling factory line.

Half a Sunday without a worry. You think that's peanuts?
We're all small-town when it comes to fears. He'd said that,
he remembered, during a time out, coach challenging a call
while the referee looked into the past to see what was right. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Chinese New Year of the Monkey Warrior T-shirts and etc

Wouldn't it be great if the Warriors for Chinese New Years honored some of the great Chinese Bay Area basketball players such as Willie Wo Wo Wong (posthumously), Al Mock, Norm OwYoung Jang, and add Jeremy Lin to the list. Probably the time has passed for such a ceremony to happen, but maybe next year, huh? If any Warrior exec is reading my blog. How about it, Rick, Raymond?

I love irony. The 49ers give up on Vernon Davis, and he's back at Levi Stadium with the Denver Broncos competing in the Super Bowl. An aside: I had a good friend, now no longer willing with us, by the name of George Gutekunst, the garrulous owner of one of the great 4 star restaurants, Ondine, who used to host a Stupid Bowl party on Super Bowl Sunday. Always Osso Bucco and great conversation. Who attended? Socialist seamen, artists, novelists, poets, sportsmen, broadcasters, restaurateurs, journalists. No one watched the game.

My wife, Melanie, who fancies animal designs in clothing wants a pair of Cam Newton trousers. I love Cam's brash confidence, and I'd normally be pulling for him. But this year, I'm cheering for Payton Manning and the Broncos. Wouldn't it be superb and fitting for such a consummate pro to retire with a ring?

As much as the Warriors are lauded for their offensive skills, it's clear to me that their chances of winning a second championship rests with their defense. When they're playing lock-down D, they explode on the offensive end. Otherwise, they go a little "up and down" scoring in bunches, then giving up points so teams stay within striking distance. Not something they want to happen as they start the second half of the season run to the finish line.

I'm with Steve Kerr when he said of Draymond Green that it was great that Dray owned up publicly to being "selfish, unselfish," a nicer piece of rhetoric this old English teacher hasn't heard for awhile. Go Draymond! You slipped that screen nicely.

Back to the 49ers: Still on my "ticked off" hobby horse. When will San Franciscans finally vent some anger over the 49er team continuing to call themselves, the San Francisco 49ers, for God's sake? The team's stadium is in Santa Clara, built with San Jose taxes. The Super Bowl teams and media are staying in San Jose hotels and eating in San Jose restaurants. Media day and all its Hoopla taking place in San Jose. Come on! What does San Francisco get? A little "festival on the Embarcedero." Big Deal! Let's not kid ourselves Citizens of the City of Saint Francis, you are no longer starters, but relegated firmly to the bench, and don't think for a second that San Francisco will win a best 6th man award, you are way down on the end, picking splinters out of your butt. Sorry, I should have used a football metaphor, but I'm a roundball man.

I've finally decided to write a memoir. I'm at a point in the writing talking about some of the great players from my era. Here's a small poem written in the voice of Earl Monroe, the great Bullets and Knicks' guard of the 60s and 70s.

Earl "The Pearl" Monroe

In the rec leagues,
they called me Black Jesus.
When I walked onto the court
the crowed parted like water.
In college, someone found a rhyme
and I became a pearl.
I guess I've been a mixed
metaphor ever since. Sometimes,
when I backed a player 
down into the paint
and spun into my shot,
I knew before the ball left
my fingers it was going in.
At that moment
I could have healed lepers,
raised the dead.  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

Richard Sherman is mistaken. He may indeed see concussions for free every Sunday, but that doesn't mean the movie shouldn't be seen by all football players, especially NFL ones. It's not about the injury, Richard, it's about the years and years of COVER-UP. It's what powerful people can get away with. Yesterday, I watched The Big Short, and walked out of the theater wondering why the hell aren't a bunch of mortgage bankers serving time in prison. 8 million people lost their jobs; 6 million people lost their houses, and the bankers are doing it all over again creating new and speculative financial instruments to make themselves wildly rich, while duping the public. Perhaps not as dramatic, but every bit as venal, as the mortgage bankers, the NFL owners and league administrators remain out of jail  Withholding information about the serious life threatening danger of head trauma has to be prosecutable. Okay, the NFL is working their butts off now, but only NOW that the publicity has forced them to; otherwise, you can bet your bibby that nothing would have been done, and the status quo, vis-a-vis concussions, would have remained in tact. Richard, your Stanford education should have prepared you to be a thinking man. Concussion is a thinking movie.

More should be written about the great University of Tennessee' women's basketball coach Pat Summit and her heroic battle with dementia. Find out more, go on line, write her, let her know that this battle is easily as important as any she went through as a coach. Hers is a life of amazing courage.

Isn't it ironic that Alex Smith keeps chugging on, playing excellent football for the Chiefs, and Colin Kapernick who replaced him is now wobbling on the cusps of obsolescence.  Sorry Kap, teetering you might be, but I'm hoping that you don't fall off and that in 2016 you find your game with another team.

The Dubs squeaked one past a pesky Denver Nuggets last night, managing it without four key players, so more power to them. I continue to be amazed by the performance of Draymond Green, a power forward at 6'6" while playing every other position on the floor. Noticeable to me was Draymond starting the offense last night at the top of the key. Won't be long before he's Curry's back-up point guard. Only kidding. I love Shaun Livingston, definitely a candidate for the Sixth Man award, although he'll have to compete with Andre Igudala for the honor.

Kudos to Carson Palmer. What fortitude to do what he's done, to fight back from obscurity and injuries to lead a formidable Arizona Cardinals to a possible Super Bowl championship.

Baring injury, how many yards will Christian McCafferey rack up before he leaves Stanford for the NFL? On another Pac12 note, if the Ducks hadn't lost their quarterback Vernon Adams Jr to injury, would the Ducks have been in the Rose Bowl instead of the Cardinals? I wouldn't be surprised if Vernon Adams doesn't wind up in the NFL one of these days.

Here's hoping in 2016 that the NBA will grant an NBA franchise to Seattle to bring back a team that was so cruelly and deceptively torn from them. Here's hoping the NBA rescinds that ridiculous rule that you can't foul a bad free-throw shooter in the last two minutes of a game. Here's kudos to the NBA for having the courage to stand up against gun violence. Now, how about being specific - against all guns except those used for hunting? The Splash Brothers making a pitch to the public to conserve water is a wonderful public service. Right on, fellows!

Recent death of my old teammate Joe Barry made me think back to that marvelous team we had at Saint Mary's College in 1959 that went to the Elite 8 and lost to an equally fabulous California Bears team. Joe and Bobby Dold made up our back-court, and might have been the slowest and most effective back-court in the entire country.  As I look back on games, I recall how frustrated guards looked trying to steal the ball away from either Joe or Bobby. Go into that Good Night, Joe with the same tricky maneuvers and you're sure to make heaven's team.

I don't think I'll ever encourage my grandsons to play football, but knowing its dangers, I still enjoying watching the game, a kind of hypocrisy, I grant you. Here's a lovely old poem about quarterbacking, I dedicate to all the great NFL quarterbacks. Yeah you, Joe Kapp.

The Passer   by George Abbe

Dropping back with the ball ripe in my palm,
grained and firm as the flesh of a living charm,
I taper and coil myself down, raise arm to fake,
running a little, seeing my targets emerge
like quail above a wheat field's golden lake.

In boyhood I saw my mother knit my warmth
with needles that were straight. I learned to feel
the passage of the bullet through the bore,
its veins of flight between my heart and deer
whose terror took the pulse of my hot will.

I learned how wild geese slice arcs from hanging pear
of autumn noon; how the thought of love cleaves home,
and fists, with fury's ray, can lay a weakness bare,
and instinct's eye can mine fist under foam.

So as I run and weigh, measure and test,
the light kindles on helmets, the angry leap;
but secretly, coolly, as though stretching a hand to his chest,
I lay the ball in the arms of my planing end,
as true as metal, as deftly as surgeon's wrist.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Few Last Posts Before the New Year

Before starting the New Year with a clean slate, let me get a few sports gripes out of the way.

 Eliminating kickoff run-backs in the NFL did away with one of the "funest" parts of the game.

Why can't soccer figure out something better than the offside rule so we Americans can indulge
our appetite for more scoring. Five or six points doesn't sound off the wall to me.

All sports on TV. You got to stop hard booze advertising. If not, at least don't make drinking
the hard stuff straight, over the rocks look like it's the fun thing to do. Our youth are watching.
This is shameful.

When will we stop babying our athletes? Is winning so important, the jocks can be ass-h---es or
worse, and management does nothing.

How about making it clear to our pros that getting in fights, and hanging out in strip clubs is
 stupid. Isn't Johnny Manziel, Johnny Dumb-Ass or what? Are you listening Cleanthony Early. By
 the way, taking your girlfriend to a strip club - real classy, remind me when I advice my grandson
 where to take his date. As for you, Derrick Williams, bringing two ladies of the night back to your
 apartment for  tea and crumpets is an invitation to be robbed.

Lets stop fans voting for All Stars. I don't care how great Kobe is, this game is for this season's
All Stars. Carmelo the ball stopper is not worth a vote either. Dwight Howard,, and All Star? All he does is smile and loose. Also, in the NBA, how about something inventive to make the All Star game more than a bunch of guys playing zero defense and casting up shots from Peoria. Here's a thought: play the game by quarters. If the teams are tied two quarters a piece, have a three on three half court win by two game to settle winners. 

I'm so tired of DeMarcus Cousins antics, frown, groans, astonished looks, slow footed
lumbering down the court that I can barely watch a King's game any more.

I hope I'm not the only one, but I believe the 49ers treatment of Colin Kepernick was boorish, and
it is my deepest wish that Balke trades him and the young man comes back and kicks the red and
in the teeth.

Why isn't San Jose up in arms over the the 49ers still calling themselves the San Francisco
49ers? Whose tax dollars are we talking about?

If the Raiders leave Oakland, it will be another sign that the owners don't give a crap about
loyal fans. That it's all about the "bottom line."

Let's be absolutely clear about building new arenas, so far not one that's been built has come
anywhere near improving the community whose tax dollars were used to cover costs. They
are simply a bad use of a city's financial resources. Better to spend tax dollars on schools and police
departments. Hurrah for the Warrior owners who're building the new arena on their own dime.

Darla Moore and Condoleeza Rice, give me a break. Are we supposed to get all teary-eyed
and grateful to the Augusta National Golf Club that they allowed two women to join? Can't
wait for the next pair so honored. They won't be Democrats. And it won't be happening soon.

Cage fighting. A sport? I guess, but should our children, already exposed to enough violence, be
 watching it? No way!

Don't B.S. people, NBA, NFL, you know very well that Fantasy Basketball, Football is
gambling. Let's get the kids started gambling early, shall we?

I'm thoroughly disgusted with the NBA league office for creating a rule that coaches can't
call for fouls on their opponents' worst free throw shooters in the last 2 minutes of a game.
The message this is sending to our youth is that fan interest (read bottom line thinking) is more important than a player buckling down and learning to shoot free-throws. It's disgusting that a professional basketball player can't shoot at least 70 % from the line. Disgusting. Disgusting.
And all fans should be made aware that these so-called pros are simply too lazy to care.

After all this ranting I'm not much in the mood for a poem, but here's one small one I wrote about another of my gripes: NBA dance teams. Who choreographs these poor girls? Have they no imagination?

NBA Dance Team

There's a timeout.
The dance team rushes onto the court
and begins dancing the dance of flinging hair.
The music's thumping.
They're humping air.
My wife, sitting next to me, says,
"Sesame Street for the big boys."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

This & That

Isn't it high time the Kings realize who their center is? If they don't, the answer to the question is an extremely talented basketball center/forward (stretch if you prefer as he can hit 3's) who will be just good enough to be considered great, but not emotionally capable of greatness. Case in point. After the the recent game against the Washington Wizards, he could not admit that he was thoroughly outplayed on both ends of the court by Marcin Gortat, the Wiz's Polish center. No Polish jokes please, this guy is a true pro. He outran, out hustled, out shot, out rebounded and out smarted Cousins at every turn. Cousin's response to the media was to excuse his lack of effort on the coach's the defensive scheme. He was just following orders? Give me a break. 

From the very beginning of his career, DeMarcus Cousins has whined, or angered, or complained, or rationalized the fact that it is his responsibility, given his talent, to lead his team (he loves to refer to the Kings as "his" team.) by example. Example is, in fact, the only way to lead a team. One more time with feeling: By example. Not by talk. Talk is as useless as titties on a papa pig. As long as the Kings are not playing my Warriors, I am a loyal King's fan, and I am tired of watching Cousin lumber down the court. He is the last man back on offense and the last man back on defense most of the time. I can't imagine this lack of hustle has not been noticed by the coaching staff and administration, since it is clearly evident by any fan who's not visually handicapped. I've been a part of professional basketball as a player for ten years, and as a coach, both head and assistant, and for many years as a devoted enthusiast of the game, and I know a con-job when I see it during the game and hear it after the game, or read it in the sport pages. I do not doubt DeMarcus Cousins' talent. Countless times, I've turned to my wife after watching some fabulous move Cousins' made that led to a score, and remarked on his skills. So, it breaks my heart when I see those skills at the mercy of a weak temperament. I don't know how Cousins can change. It may be tragically that he will remain throughout a long career averaging 20 pts and 9 boards a game while never getting close to a championship.

In this morning's Bee, a article by my favorite sports writer Ailene Voisin about Omri Casspi. Right on, young man. Don't think the coaches around the league haven't noticed your improvement. Talk about hustle both ends of the court. Israel should be proud.

Good news. Steve Kerr looks like he is close to returning to the Warrior bench. If anyone doubts this will be a smooth transition back to leadership, don't be concerned. This team understands the meaning of the word team from top to bottom.

Enough about basketball. How about a lovely sonnet about archery, a sport not often in the sport pages.

Archery Instructor

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 they will find them all.
The boys move dimly in the woods. Bemused,
I slowly let the scene be blurred unreal

And dream 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.