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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.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ailene Voisin. Sacramento Bee Sports 9/25/2016



Ailene Voisin, sports writer & a feature editor for the Sacramento Bee in this morning's paper (Sept. 25,2016) wrote an excellent and insightful article about the African American NBA legends who brought about some semblance of racial equality in the 1960's, demanding and winning equal rights in the cities in which the league played - guys like Lenny Wilkins, Wayne Embry, Elgin Baylor, Don Chaney, those who carried on the fight that the great Bill Russell started. I was around during those times, having been drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors in 1961. Being raised in San Francisco, I was not as exposed to racial intolerance as players from other parts of the country. So I went into the league, unconcerned and slightly naive about race. But in December of that year when I heard about what the Saint Louis Hawks did to my good friend and fellow basketball player from San Francisco, Fred LaCour, I knew growing up in the mostly racially tolerant Bay Area of California had not prepared me for the real world.

Fred was  probably the greatest high school basketball player to ever play in the bay area until the arrival years later of Jason Kidd. Fred played for the University of San Francisco and was drafted in the second round by the Hawks in 1961. Fred was biracial and dated white women. Saint Louis, Missouri, a boarder town, heavily influenced by the South, was the least racially tolerant city in the NBA. The three white stars of the Hawks, Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, and Clyde Lovellette did not approve of Fred's dating white women. How dare he? They saw to it that he was cut from the team, even though, at the time Fred was released, he had been playing at a very high level.

That over fifty years have passed since my good friend got the shaft because he was half African American and blacks are still struggling for equality hardly seems possible, but it is a fact, and a gross historical injustice and a stain on our national honor. I agree with Wayne Embry that the anthem is our country's symbol. So, we stand to honor that symbol when it is played. I love this country. As a Russian immigrant, I appreciate its many freedoms. But these are freedoms that white men, such as myself, immigrant or native born, take for granted. I've never been denied freedoms that black men and women have been denied.

It is time and long overdue for white people to take a hard look at our symbols and see if they realistically represent all of the people that live in this country--are we equally protected by our constitution. If the answer is that those symbols do not measure up, shouldn't we whites join Kap and other NFL players and kneel when the anthem is played? Or, how about this: African American and all other people of color stand with their hands over their hearts while we whites kneel with our heads bowed. Because - and I say this with a heavy heart - the racial, religious, and social intolerance in our United States of America is mostly the result of the prejudiced attitudes and ignorance of white males. You don't believe me? Ask yourself, who controls the power? Who makes the decisions?

The following poem is the voice of Maurice Stokes, a fabulous African American NBA player who was knocked to the floor going in for a layup and wound up paralyzed from the neck down. His is the story of great courage. It is also the story of great friendship. All the years that Stokes lay paralyzed, his teammate Jack Twyman (a white man) cared for him, and raised money for his teammate's family. The friendship between these two men in the middle of today's racially tense times is instructive and profound in the lesson it teaches us about honor and goodness.

Maurice Stokes   by Tom Meschery
     
                         Rochester Royals forward, left paralyzed after an on-court accident.

I'll not answer to the word, coma
this new name they've given me
without asking, as if I don't know
who I am. I'm Stokes.
I play for the Royals.
The game is not over.
I have one foot on the floor,
the other in the air, the ball
cradled in my hand, my eyes
focused on the rim, fans rising
out of their seats, ready to applaud.
I've not yet made that split-second
decision to shoot or pass
on which so much depends.
The moment we leave the floor
such calls are out of our control.







Friday, September 16, 2016

Nate Thurmond Pan Handle Basketball Courts Rededicated

Yesterday my wife Melanie and I attended the re-dedication of the outdoor basketball courts in Golden Gate Park's panhandle to the memory of Nate, The Great, Thurmond, teammate and good friend. Nate's wife, Marci, was there with friends and family. Jim Barnett represented the Warriors, as usual doing a fabulous job speaking about Nate the Great. His ex Honor Willy Brown spoke about Nate, friend and client. Willy doesn't talk, he orates, which is fitting since Nate deserves an oration. The courts have been resurfaced and new glass backboard standards added. They are ready to go in keeping with a long pick-up game tradition of San Francisco hoopsters that dates back to when I was growing up in the Richmond District and playing ball at dozens of outdoor and indoor courts throughout The City.  It was the hardcore way of learning the game, unlike today's sanitized AAU productions. I talked to a couple of forty year old guys who told me they've been coming to the panhandle courts every Saturday for the last twenty years. Let's fill all the outdoor courts in The City with youngster shooting hops. Jim Barnett suggested that money should be found to place a statue of the Great Nate at this panhandle site, in the shadow of the eucalyptus and evergreen trees. That too would be fitting.

In this morning's paper I saw where Lost Wages approved the money to fund a new football stadium that they hope will convince the Raiders to move to their faux metropolis. Oakland can't afford a new stadium, really; it has too many essential community fixes to pay for before it can think of funding a stadium for their truly goofy fans who think every game is Halloween-time. Oh, how I'll miss those marvelous scary costumes if the team moves. However, of all cities to pick up the Halloween theme and run with it, it's Vegas. So, after this vote, as I suspect, the Raiders will become the Las Vegas Raiders. If it's not Oakland, then Vegas seems to most closely fit the Raiders persona. I wonder, however, why the good citizen of Las Vegas are not questioning why one of the richest men in the world, Sheldon Addison, needs public funding for this project? Come on, Sheldon, are you that cheap? Considering the growth of NFL franchises, this is a totally no risk investment. Give the citizens of Southern Nevada a break.

Staying with football. Does any Niner fan really think Blaine Gabbart has the kind of superstar skills and, more importantly, instincts, to lead the 49ers to a championship? In my opinion, at best, Gabbert will provide the 49ers with a Alex Smith type leader. That's not a bad thing, but it's not a great thing.
Does that mean I like Kap at the QB over Gabbert? No, I don't. I do, however, believe that Kap has the "intangibles" that Gabbert doesn't possess. To demonstrate it, Kap will have to be traded to another team. Too much negative Trent Balke stuff has gone down for Kap to recover his mojo as a member of the 49ers. And for Kap's sake, I hope the trade comes soon.

Here's a pretty lovely old poem about football by George Abbe

The Passer

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 mothee knit my warmth
with needles that were straight. I learned to feel
the passage of the bullet through the bore,
its vein 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 fish under foam.

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

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Kaepernick

Being a man who grew up in the Sixties, I was unimpressed with Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the National Anthem. I knew guys protesting the Vietnam War who marched down the middle of the street facing National Guard soldier holding rifles and batons. Some went to prison to protest that War. Many, like Tommy Smith and John Carlos, lost their careers and jobs because they protested the way African Americans were being treated in our country. That took courage. But a protest is a protest. And if it is heartfelt, then our Constitution gives any person the right of free speech. This inalienable right, this profound document, is the most important part of what we honor when the flag is raised and the Anthem sung. Therefore, sitting or kneeling is as much a confirmation of our Constitution as standing with our hands over our hearts. 

Personally, I would stand because I'm an immigrant, the son of Russian immigrants who arrived in the United States after World War II to live and grow and achieve in a country that took us in. Would I stand if I were an African-American today?  As a high school teacher, I always exhorted my students to walk for awhile in somebody else's shoes before making decisions about them. If I were a black man today, I know I'd be pissed. I'm not giving black males a pass, nor any other race a pass. We should obey laws, but we should also be able in this country to demand justice. There is  a lot of blathering about law and order these days, but very little talk about justice. So, yeah, but not without sadness, I'd join Kaepernick in solidarity as I suspect a lot of African American football players will do this season. I will, however, not grow an Angela Davis Afro were I even able to do so. That's carrying protest too far.

Here's a poem I wrote as part of a series of poems about my travels in West Africa.

Coaching in the Republic of the Congo    by Tom Meschery

Entering the airport, the soldier
guarding the passport booth
can't be more than fifteen years old.
He's holding a rifle at port arms,
a cigarette dangling from his lips.
Above him, a banner in red print reads:
A Bas Les Americans! Down with Americans!
"Don't worry," the Embassy man says,
"They don't mean basketball players."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Awah, poor DeMarcus Cousins.

Poor DeMarcus, the international referees are not treating him with the respect he deserves. I guess that's why the frown and whine we're so used to seeing on the court here in Sacramento has returned to the face of our big baby, the attitude that the Kings administrators insisted has been replaced with a new, more adult, serene, and determined DeMarcus. Good luck to that!

Let's begin with the article I read about DeMarcus in this morning's Sacramento Bee that suggested that our Big Guy was not alone in his disgust of FIBA officiating. Said article pointed to Tim Duncan also unhappy with international refs. This begs the question, who would you believe, Tim Duncan or DeMarcus? In Tim's case, a player who rarely complains and in all ways, on and off the court, a dignified and adult human being, such anger must be taken seriously. In the case of DeMarcus, a player who always complains, is hardly ever dignified, and rarely acts like an adult, insulting coaches and teammates, such anger can not be taken seriously. It is just another example of a young man who has little or no interest, beliefs or attitudes other than his own. In psychology, this is the definition of an egocentric personality. I hasten to add that the DeMarcus also exhibits a number of sociopathic traits, such as: Unreliability, lack of remorse, egocentricity, loss of insight, and poor judgement and failure to learn from experience.These do not make him a sociopath, but neither do these traits make for a stable personality.

On to the Summer Olympics, a much more interesting and exciting subject. We have been treated to one of the greatest athletic performances in the history of sports: Michael Phelps rising even higher into the pantheon of athletic Gods. In terms of sheer output, he is at the pinnacle. In terms of history he joins the likes of  Jesse Owens, The Dream Team, Bob Beamon, Nadia Comaneci, and Abebe Bikila.

On to the Forty Niners. Lots of interest in today's preseason game. Who is going to be the Niners QB? I'm pulling for Kaepernick.

Speaking of Kaepernick, I've been writing silly poems about sports for kids that I hope will turn into a published collection. Here's one I wrote about Kaepernick.

What's a Kaepernick?   by Tom Meschery

Would you buy one for your cat?
Would you carry one on your back?
Is it pumpernickel bread,
Or something simple like a nickel?

Could you hide it in you cap?
Or in England call it kippers?
If you're rhyming as in rap,
Would a Kaepernick have flippers?

Would a Kaepernick throw footballs?
Not with such a name. It's foolish.
He should find a cure for cancer,
Be an astronaut, that's the answer.

A Kaepernick should be a count
Like Metterlink or someone better.
Perhaps a prince of even king,
Not playing football for a living. 




Saturday, August 6, 2016

Proud of Brazil, maybe.

As soon as the Brazilian opening ceremony ended, I rushed to my computer to find out if Brazil's enormously effective pleas to save the environment wasn't a gross display of cynicism. I knew that during the last 40 years close to 20% of the Amazon Rain Forest has been eliminated, Brazil being the largest country and thus the most culpable.

As I searched the net, I was happy to read that since 2009 Brazil has been making an effort to stem the destruction. Proof is in the pudding, as they say, and in the case of this Amazonian pudding, the Brazilian Environmental Agency IBAMA has cancelled the Sao Luiz doTapajos mega-dam project in the heart of the Amazon. Hurrah, good for them! Now, lets work on the other 42 hydro dam projects planned in the Tapajos Basin and the hundreds ear marked across the Amazon Forest. I say this with respect. The ceremony that opened the summer Olympics was not, thank goodness, just for show, and in this regard Brazil and its citizens can be proud.

Another note, and less to be proud of, Brazil should do more than praise the culture that originates out of its slums and do more about doing away with its slums. 

All the politics aside, what's not to like about all the best athletes in the world meeting and competing head to head. Sure, the Big Dogs usually take home most of the medals, but occasionally some of the smaller countries get to stand on the podium and watch their flag being raised.

In my humble opinion, more should be done by the networks to promote more of the less sexy sports, (actually, they are sexy) like Tae Kuan Do, badminton, table tennis, Greco Roman wrestling, archery, fencing, equestrian.

One more shot at the ad biz. Was anybody annoyed by the number of commercials that interfered with a splendid opening ceremony last night. Auto sales vs The Girl from Ipanina?? Are you kidding?

Sorry that Pele did not light the Olympic flag. If Pele was physically unable, couldn't they have done what Atlanta did with Ali, have him standing at the top and receiving the torch for the final touch. I don't get it. There's got to be more to this story.


David Allen Evans wrote a fine poem about pole vaulting:

Pole Vaulter

The approach to the bar
is everything

unless I have counted
my steps     hit my markers
feel up to it      I refuse
to follow through
I am committed to beginnings
or to nothing

planting the pole
at runway's end
jolts me
out of sprinting
I take off     kicking in
and up     my whole weight
trying the frailty
of fiberglass

never forcing myself
trusting it is right
to be taken to the end
of tension    poised for 
the powerful thrust to
fly me behyond expectation

near the peak
I roll my thighs inward
arch my back     clearing
as much of the bar as I can
(knowing the best jump
can be cancelled
by a carelss elbow)

an open my hands