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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, October 18, 2016

Ty Lawson and etc

When I taught high school in Reno, NV, I was placed in charge of an intervention program called Double Trouble that provided help to students suffering from drug problems. I have a lot of experience recognizing kids that are using. I also know that had any of our students been charged with four DUI's, there would have been a major intervention. I appreciate what Matt Barnes said about the Kings being a family. I get it. I also get that families enable their loved ones who are abusers, covering for a drunk father, drunk mother, drunk child.There is no such thing as "keeping it in the family," as Barnes would have us believe. Doing so, is dangerous and destructive. So, the Kings better take a hard look at what's going on with Ty Lawson. It could very well be that this is a different kind of "personal" problem, but I wouldn't bet on it.

AA is the only tried, true, and time tested way for an addicted person to overcome his or her addiction. You can take that to the bank, Vlade.

I continue to be appalled that the NFL would allow the Raiders to leave Oakland. Have there ever been more loyal and enthusiastic fans?   It's not the money. The $650 million Sheldon Adelson is contributing to the cost is not chump change, although he can definitely afford more. And taxing hotels does not cost the citizens of Southern Nevada bucks out of their pockets. I simply believe the whole deal is slimy. Like father like son? Big Al didn't hesitate to take the Raiders to LA when it suited his pocketbook, and return the team to Oakland when LA was no longer lucrative. So, here's the son following in his papa's footsteps. Big surprise. What the hell does the Al Davis Memorial Flame stand for anyway? Not loyalty.

Against the Chiefs, Kap looked physically strong, but mentally weak. When the arm is right, but the accuracy is off, it's all about being focused mentally. This is true of all sports in which the athlete is required to hit a target.

I posted this poem a long time ago. It is one of my favorite football poems, so here it is again,worth reading twice.

Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio   by James Wright

In the Shreve High Football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home,
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Forty-Niners and etc

After watching Colin Kaepernick under perform yesterday, it occurred to me that his under performance mirrored the entire teams performance. The 49ers are not a good pro football team. They might do well against Texas A&M, but probably not against Ohio State or Alabama. Where's the talent? Where is the enthusiasm? Where is the chutzpah? Is Carlos Hyde a premier running back?
Do we have outstanding receivers? Can the offensive line protect the passer or open holes for runners? There was so much space between the defensive backs and the opponents' receivers, the at 77 years old I could have caught Alex Smith's passes. Really, I'm not kidding; this is an awful team. If Trent Balke and Chip Kelly aren't seeing this, they need magnifying glasses. I still believe Kap has what it takes, but all of a sudden he's become a "work in progress." When I read in this morning's sports page Chip Kelly responding to the question of whether Kap will be his starting QB for the next game with a "Yeah, we'll see," I almost fainted. Are you  kidding me? Would you even consider putting the ball back in Blaine Gabbart's hands? Then, I thought, I wonder if Chip isn't an example of the Peter Principle. Great college coach, but over his head on the pro level.

Unlike the 49ers, the Raiders have the talent. So what is missing? Experience? Yes, they are young and need to go through the College of Hard Knocks. And perhaps, they need their coaches to supply them with some hard knocks. I always worry when a coach, on any level, is referred to as a "players' coach." The image I always get is a coach who wants to be pals with his players, which is a doomsday strategy. Give me a coach that "kicks ass" fairly and across the board, and I'll show you a coach players respect. Of course, unless the player is a weenie and a drama queen. Enough said, anybody who's ever played sports on any organized level knows the best coaches are those who hold their players to the highest standards.

It's time for Tony Romo to retire and leave his Cowboys in the capable hands of stunningly talented Dak Prescott. I have never been a Cowboy fan, but this Texas team has got everything it takes to win the Super Bowl.

Don't you love Drew Brees, passing Payton Manning's record of 15 plus 400 yard games. Makes you wonder why the Chargers traded him. Phillip Rivers for all his athleticism doesn't have that "Je n'est ce quoi" that Brees possesses.

Can't help cheering for the Sam Bradford led Minnesota Viking's, the only team in the NFL without a loss. Great come-back story for Bradford if he can keep it up. Another reason to be pulling for Bradford is that he is of Cherokee descent, one sixteenth on his dad's side from his great grandma, Susie Walking Stick, a full blood Cherokee. An NFL star Native American. You bet.

Hey, let's hear it for LeBron James, working to provide greater benefits and pension funds in the new CBA for older, retired NBA stars that were not the recipients of the great largess NBA players get  today. 

My pick for the Super Bowl: Dallas Cowboys vs New England Patriots.

Why I Never Played Football    by Tom Meschery

It's not that I lacked courage,
I was big and weighed enough to make
a decent tight end or with a little work
an offensive lineman or a fullback.
What I couldn't see myself doing
was getting dirty, playing in mud
or freezing in snow which, back then
when I was young,is what you had
to endure. Perhaps these days
with covered stadiums I'd think
differently. Still, there was bound
to be more blood playing football,
yours or somebody else's, than
 playing another sport. Gold
for example.See how clean
those guys are out on the links,
how civilized in their cardigans,
in their neatly pressed trousers?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hurrah for Our Pro Athletes

Let's hear it for the pros in the locker rooms around the country denouncing Donald Trumps'  misogynistic remarks about groping women. Not that raunchy stuff doesn't go on in locker rooms, but as one pro said, such stupidity and rudeness is attributable to the lowest common denominator of our kind. Do we want the lowest common denominator as our president? Clearly, America's professional athletes say NO. Trump has no  idea what the inside of a sports' locker room is all about. It's about loyalty, comradeship, and respect. With his behavior, Trump would be cut from any team I ever played for. He is not an athlete. He could never be an athlete. To suggest he was ever in a team locker room is an insult to athletes.

MLB playoffs. Baseball at its best. Here's a poem in honor of baseball and one of it's great legends. This poem also reflects the kind of traits best exemplified by true sportsmen. No one would ever write a poem like this about Donald Trump, whose character is so deeply flawed all that is left of him is empty ego. 

To Lou Gehrig   By John Kieran

We've been to the wars together;
We took our foes as they came;
And always you were the leader,
And ever you played the game.

Idol of cheering millions,
   Records are yours by sheaves;
Iron of frame they hailed you.
   Decked you with laurel leaves.
But higher than that we hold you.
   We who have known you best,
Knowing the way you came through
   Every human test.

Let this be a silent token
Of lasting friendships gleam
And all that we've left unspoken -
Your pals of the Yankee team. 

             * This was written at the request of Gehrig's teammates and inscribed
                 on a trophy which they gave him on "Gehrig Day" about a year
                 before he died.

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.