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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.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Barnes and Cousins

Sac Bee superb sports writer, Andy Furillo, is right. Back in the day, athletes in NYC had special hang outs. He mentioned a few: Bachelor III, Toots Shor, Wilt's Small's Paradise. There were others. Bill King, our broadcaster and recent inductee into broadcasters Hall of Fame, George Lee, a teammate on the Warriors, and I liked to unwind at Willy Pep's, a small piano bar, named for the owner, the great lightweight boxing champ. Did we stay out late? Some of us did, some did not. I don't intend to preach as it would be the pot calling the kettle black. I once say Richie Geurin, the Knicks' All-Star point-guard, the night before our game, stumble out of Bachelor III and pass out on the sidewalk. He scored 40 points with what had to be the biggest hangover of all time. In today's sports-world Richie would have made headlines for the drunken incident. But we were living in a different era.

Today in the mele that is the music/dance/glitterati scene celebrities are noticed, and there are, indeed, predators out there willing to suffer a black eye or a choke hold to get their hands on some big time cash. This is going to be Matt Barnes defense: that it was a setup. Maybe, maybe not? The problem with Barnes's view of things is his history of violence. The problem with Cousins is that he followed Barnes. Good job, Vlade, bringing in a mentor and role model for your star, who already has an "edgy" personality, to say the least.

A sucker punch? Why not grab the guy and put him in a bear hug, DeMarcus? I know, I wasn't there. Anyway, the legal system will sort this out. There is video and witnesses, and of course (if you have the cash) settlements.

I'm more worried about Coach David Joerger's statement explaining that sitting Matt Barnes for last night's game against the Knicks was a planned rest-day. First of all, rest Barnes? Really? Barnes may be 36 years old, but he's not even a starter and this is very early into the season for resting players. Something does not read right. What it is, I'm not sure. What does management know about the incident? From a purely coaching perspective, Barnes defense was crucial against a one-on-one super star like Carmelo Anthony, who went off for 31 points, so I don't buy that Barnes needed rest. He was needed.

Be careful Coach, succumbing to bad management decisions can be deadly for your coaching career.

Speaking of bad management decisions. I was talking to someone recently who assured me that there was another better player involved in drafting the 7'2" slow footed Greek center and not taking Marquees Chriss in the first round of last year's draft, an excellent player who might come to the Kings next season. I sure hope so because Chriss is going to be a first class power-forward in the NBA for a long time.  

On to a more pleasant topic - Bill King, the voice of the Golden State Warriors, the voice of the Oakland Raiders, the voice of the Oakland Athletics and my dearest friend, gourmand, bibliophile, and Slavophile: There was a time when Bill was broadcasting all three major sports at the same time as their seasons overlapped, something never done in the history of broadcasting. His wonderful wife, Nancy, dear woman, hardly saw Bill at all as Bill was always on the road. Some people will remember Bill's famous expression "Holy Toledo" as he announced something special happening on the field or court.

If anyone is interested in a bio of Bill, the title is HOLY TOLEDO: Lessons from Bill King, Renaisance Man of the Mic by Ken Korach published by Wellstone Books.


The following is a poem I wrote for Bill after his death and read at his memorial service:

In Memoriam, Bill King (1927-2005)      By Tom Meschery

     I prosper, circled by thy voice;
     I shall not lose thee though I die.
                 -Alfred Lord Tennyson

My friend, you are speaking and we hear pictures.
For you are sitting courtside or above the game.
For the action is moving from left to right on the dial.
For someone is rising to shoot a miracle.
For the referees are dying in your microphone.

For the air is tumbling with punters' kicks
For your call, Bill, leaves the tailback no choice
But to believe in the hole that opens as you speak.

For someone has hit a home run beyond Toledo.
For the squeeze-play has caught the runner

In the middle of a metaphor - a rabbit undecided
Between which hunter he'll allow to shoot him.
For a player is trying to steal second
Sliding headfirst under your words - he's out!

For today I am feeling a great pity for anyone
Who has never heard you state a Beaujolais Nouveau
Is best served slightly chilled with brie on buttered toast.
For we all have an appetite for your voice.
For we need directions to the best restaurants
Or we will lose our way and die of hunger.

For I hear you reciting in Russian
the poetry of Pushkin and Akhmatova.
For we are together on a train racing across Siberia,
And we are drunk with vodka, and we are weeping.
For I will keep you like a tongue in my heart.
For I hear you now railing against the politicians
Right and Left. For they are hiding like gophers
From your voice. They fear only your Nancy  more.

For Varuna is sailing under the Golden Gate
For it's you, not Nureyev, on the stage dancing.
For you are painting your voice on a canvas
For you are taking a nap under your table.
For you are eating peanut butter and onions
For your cat Hank is attacking the hibiscus.
O Jubilate, he is more worthy than Jeoffrey.
For Nancy is waiting, tired of being alone.
For you have left your words behind for us.
For all we need to do is turn on any radio
Close our eyes and listen to your play-by-play.

Notes about this poem:

18th century British poet Christopher Smart wrote a poem, Jubilate Agnos, (Praise to the Lamb)
a part of which honored his cat Jeoffrey. This poem is written in the style of Smart's poem.

For three years, Bill King was simultaneously the radio ply-by ply broadcaster for the Golden State Warriors, Oakland Raiders, and the Oakland A's, a feat unequaled in the annals of major league sports broadcasting.

Varuna: Bill and Nancy's 44 ft ketch

Bill loved poetry, painting, the ballet, and all the arts. 

Bill King was famous for punctuating great sport's moments by yelling "Holy Toledo!"

Nancy, Bill's wife died before Bill, in June of 2004.
I

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pigskin, B-Ball and Karate


Pigskin::

I know a hell of a lot more about basketball than I do about football, but there are common denominators that can be applied to all sports, the two main ones being: Offense and Defense. When both stink, it doesn't matter what sport, from curling to NFL football, the team or individual athlete stinks.

I've been holding my nose watching my "San Jose" 49ers this season and the odor is not getting any better. The problem is two-fold: Trent Balke and Chip Kelly. It's Balke's responsibility as GM to provide his coach and staff with quality players at all positions. This has not happened. It is Chip Kelly's responsibility as the head coach to prepare his players to play and to devise a scheme on both ends of the field enabling them to compete. This has not happened. In my opinion the hires, the trades and the drafts Balke has made seem weird or dumb. In Kelly's case, he just seems like he's over his head - a strong college coach, but a lousy pro coach. Believe me there's a big difference in the two levels. Considering the history of the NFL, there have only been about ten coaches who were successful in college and the pros. Chip is not going to join their ranks. What is finally telling for me is the 49ers lack of enthusiasm and energy. The athletes step on the field an already defeated team.

Basketball:

The  Sacramento Kings made a huge mistake not drafting Marquese Chriss of the University of Washington (and a local kid) in the first round. The young power forward is starting for the Phoenix Suns and showing tons of promise. Of course Marquese has to grow as a player, but he is not a project the way the King's Greek is. A slow footed big man??? Really, Vlade? How many teams are winning with slow footed bigs these days? 

As for the present team, I got to hand it to Dave Joerger, he's got a team composed of a bunch of vets (Cousins excluded and apologies to Rudy) who'd have a hard time being starters on any other team in the NBA playing well on both ends of the court. Not well enough to win, but not embarrassing themselves. Once Coach  Joerger can get his men to become a fourth quarter team, they might win some of the games that they presently can't close. I suspect that if, and its a big IF, the Kings management can provide Coach Joerger with some talent, he'll bring winning seasons to Sacramento.

However. (Isn't there always a however?) Why is  it that the Kings can't play consistent aggressive defense, particularly in the fourth quarter? In most cases when that is the question, the answer is the team is not in shape physically. Might that be possible?

Karate   by Stanley Plumly

If I could chop wood.
If I could just cut through
this furniture.

the paraphernalia
of blocks
and stacks of boards,
wedged and
piled 
head-high,

if I could break the back
of a single two-by-four,

if the Japaneses instructor would only
lay his little building
of bricks
in front of me,

if I could only drive nails
deep into the hard rose of the wood.



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mark Cuban Got It Right

Loud and clear, in my book Mark Cuban is a stud. Here's what he recently said about our President-Elect donald rump: "The President-Elect is a present and immediate danger to our country."

Cuban is not a stud in the eyes of NBA referees, and he's been a thorn in the side of NBA officials and there have been times watching him on TV that I've thought he was clearly over the top, but I'm going to give him a Meschery pass for all future shenanigans. Go for it, Mark. Raise some hell for the good of our country.

Sorry to see Omri Casspi relegated to the deep bench in Sacramento. I can understand Coach Jaegor's position; he prefers a grit and grind offense and Omri needs to be in a team that plays uptempo. But on the defensive end, Casspi could be a big plus. Even so, for Casspi to be effective, he need reasonable minutes, which he'll never get on this season's Kings. Maybe back in Houston with D'Antoni. Maybe in LA. The Clips could use defense and another three-point-shooter.

Watched the Warriors dismantle the Pacers. Granted the Pacers were missing their star Paul George, but it wouldn't have mattered in the end. The Warriors are coming into their own. It's becoming increasingly noticeable that the Dubs are going to be extremely deep, and Coach Kerr, to his credit, is giving reserves lots of minutes to grow their confidence. This will not be an eight man rotation. 

The following poem is from a collection I'm working on written in the manner of the ancient Asian poets. All the poems will be about sports. This form of poetry is called a Lu-Shih, a four-line poem that was a favorite of two of the greatest Chinese poets, Tu-Fu and Li-Po.

Sky Hooks    by Tom Meschery

His body high in the air
His hand cradling the ball, letting it fly
Waiting for it to fall from the sky,
Looking up, holding my breath. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Retired English Teacher's Lament & etc

I know, I know, so many of our NBA players leave college early, some after their freshman year, but they all went to high school, so there's no reason to make the following Russell Westbrook grammatical errors:

"We just wasn't ready. Just wasn't ready tonight, starting with myself. . . I could have did  a lot of things better, man. . . " You could have started by paying attention in your English class, Russell.

Should you be embarrassed? I think so. You are a model for other young men. If Russell talks like that, hey, that's cool. You are not the only professional athlete who hasn't the slightest idea about English grammar and usage, so consider yourself one of a number of failed English students playing professional sports.

Should we blame your failure on our public school system to teach you? Probably. But that doesn't mean, later, on your own, you can learn to speak correctly, if not for yourself, for little boys and girls that call themselves your fans. The Thunder is paying you plenty of money. Go back to school during the off season. Hire a tutor. I'm available, and my fees are reasonable.

Etc: If the Kings can play defense as aggressively as they did last night against a very strong team like the Toronto Raptors, they will no longer be disrespected around the league. Nothing excites an ex NBA player who built his career on defense, more than to see players flying around the court, swiping at passes and dribbles, closing out strong, making steals, blocking off the borders, working their butts off. Congratulations to Coach Jaeger and his staff for emphasizing this part of the game.

In these troubled times we need poetry to enrich our souls. This poem seems perfect to me. I read the following section and felt better.

Running   by Richard Wilbur

1. 1933
   (North Caldwell, New Jersey)

What were we playing? Was it prisoner's base?
I ran with whacking keds
Down the cart-road past Rickard's place,
And where it dropped beside the tractor-sheds

Leapt out into the air above a blurred
Terrain, through jolted light,
Took two hard lopes, and at the third
Spanked off a hummock-side exactly right,

And made the turn, and with delighted strain
Sprinted across the flat
By the bull-pen, and up the lane,
Thinking of happiness, I think of that.
 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trump Blues

Since the election, I've been in an unrelenting depressive state. Never in my worst nightmares could I have imagined donald trump winning the presidency of the United States. I thought we were a better people. I saw us becoming more multicultural, not less, more racially embracing, not less, more inclusive, not less; more compassionate. There were so many signs during the last eight years I took for the truth: our television shows and movies were increasingly becoming biracial. Advertising were beginning to use biracial couples to sell products. Everywhere I looked on the streets where I lived, white people and people of color were living as neighbors, marrying each other, bearing proud biracial children. There were still serious racial problems, but we would fix them. I would have bet every cent I had that donald trump could not have won more than a few southern states, that the rest of the electorate would reject him as, simply, not in step with the expanding bi-racialism of the United States. Was I ever wrong.

In regard to trump and the NBA, it is clear to me that any owner who voted for the donald is no better than Donald Sterling, the racist.

And to those of you who placed the sign in front of a school recently that read: Trump Nation; Whites Only, let me ask you this question: On that day that you yearn for so much when America becomes all white and all Christian, who will be left to hate? Who else? People like you, poor uneducated white haters. In your Trump Nation, you will become the neglected and reviled minority.

It is time to send as much good karma Colin Kaepernick's way. We need for him to become a successful quarterback in the NFL because the greater his success, the great his protest will resonate throughout the country. In the next four years, we're going to need a lot more Kaepernicks, not for the sake of the 49eers, but for the sake of America.

Athletes   by Walker Gibson

The groggy fighter on his knees
Sways up at nine, postpones the count;
The jockey, forty-to-one shot, sees
Them all go by, yet whips his mount;
The losing pitcher, arm gone lame,
Still drops that last one in, a strike -
So you and I play a stubborn game,
Disaster prodding us alike.
So you and I, ignoring odds,
Tug caps, clutch ropes, and flail our whips,
Make sacrifices to the gods,
Breed children and build battleships.
Though ours is not an athlete's doom,
Nor death like any locker room                         * The word locker in the original was
                                                                               shower. I changed it to the more
                                                                               modern term.