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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, July 26, 2016

Rest In Peace, Nate, the Great.

One of the hymns sung at Nate's funeral today was the lovely, old Protestant hymn entitled How Great Thou Art. The hymn honors the greatness of the Deity, but as the chorus sang on beautifully and enthusiastically I found myself drifting, thinking of the greatness of my friend and teammate, Nate Thurmond. Given the goodness of Nate, I'm certain God was not insulted.

Speaker after speaker stood at the podium in front of an assembly of mourners: family members, friends and teammates, church members, basketball players, past and present, coaches, administrators, fans, media and people who might  have wandered in off the street into Providence Baptist Church to find out what all the fuss was about, praising Nate, not only for his athletic greatness, but for his spiritual greatness.

One last and lasting image of the funeral: All attendees were dressed appropriately in dark clothing, except one older man standing in the back of the church. He was unshaven and a bit shabby in baggy jeans and unlaced athletic shoes, wearing a Nate the Great #42 jersey, untucked over his pants. He was crying.

There were times during the funeral that I found myself in deep non-religious meditation, simply being in a holy moment. Looking for a poem to end today's blog, I came across this lovely meditation by Li Po

In the Mountains on a Summer Day

Gently I stir a white feather fan,
With open shirt sitting in a green wood.
I take off my cap and hang it on a jutting stone;
A wind from the pine-trees trickles on my bare head. 

                                   Translated by Arthur Waley

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Lighten Up, Draymond

A very shot blog today. I read in the sports news some of the details of the Draymond Green altercation. That he got in a fight doesn't bother me. I'd be the worst hypocrite if I criticized him for that. However, Draymond, you got to get off of that "Do you know who I am" crap. You are smarter than that. You are no more or less important than the kindergarten teacher and the guy who works his butt of collecting your garbage. You need to get over yourself, and a be a Warrior.

This poem has a lot to do with honesty, telling it like it is and not condescending to stars just because they think they're big shots.

Why My Wife Could Never Coach in the NBA

            For Melanie

She is far too honest. She will not abide laziness.
After a loss, the locker-room would not be pretty.
She would start with the Stars first, then work
her way around the room with her game face on,
in her teacher-voice telling each one of them
exactly what they did wrong. my wife is a stickler
for details. With her red pencil sharpened to a point,
she would dispense Failures. She's seen many Duke
games on TV coached by Krzyzewski, who looks
like he has sharp teeth. Like him, she'd get in their faces
and gnaw off their noses. She would yell, shitfuckpiss,
which she's often done embarrassingly in the past.
Outside the locker-room, the reporters listening
would write about her behavior that the commissioner
would not appreciate. There would be a blood-bath 
of honesty. In the end, not enough players
would be left standing to suit up for the next game. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sports Page Stuff

SPORTS 7/19/2016

I read this morning that ex-Cardinals' executive got 4 years jail time for hacking Astros' database. For years at approx. $30,000 bucks per year = $120,000.00 for the four. For HACKING???? We wonder why people question our justice system. This isn't justice, it's foolishness. A fine was imposed of $250,000 dollars. Why tie up our prison season for hacking. I can think of a number of different punishments better suited to the crime than to financially burdening our taxpayers. If you agree, send a letter to your newspapers, your state senator or representative.

Speaking of foolishly spending taxpayer money, how much moola do you think was spent on Deflategate? Sometimes I think our various systems of government are simply silly, silly, silly, which in my mind is more telling than being incompetent and stupid. At this moment, retired Washington Supreme Court Justice, Donald Horowitz and other judges, and like-minded attorneys are working on streamlining our judicial system. God help them. 

Russians caught doping. No? I would never have guessed, wink, wink, wink.They got a dope for a president, so what's new? The East Germans made a culture out of doping. I IOC is dope as it is. So we have dope governing dope.

Could it possibly be that the Sacramento Kings, who desperately need a point guard/shooting guard passed on Denzil Valentine and drafted a 7' 3" 19 year old Greek center who is out of shape (at least not in NBA shape) and is slow and has poor footwork???? You know that I'm confused by the number of question marks I used.

SPORTS 7/20/2016

Pro wrestlers are suing the WWE for head injuries. Really? Road Warrior Animal and Paul Mr. Wonderful didn't rehearse all those take-downs, falls, slaps to the head, choke holds? You mean to tell me that pro wrestling is a legit sport? I'm flabbergasted.

Fastest pitch ever in the majors recorded at 105.1 mph. And the sport is still boring.

I'm pushing for a four point line in the NBA. Anybody agree?

Was the recent cover of SI thrilling seeing KD wearing a Golden State Warrior uniform?

Lots of pressure on Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. Can his speed and quickness be enough in the NFL?

SPORTS 7/22/16

Good for the NBA taking the All Star Game away from North Carolina. The irony, of course, is that this game would have been a great way to showcase a franchise owned by an African American, Michael Jordan.

Read where DeMarcus Cousins is trying to pick the brain of Carmelo Anthony while they're together on the USA Olympic Team. Let's hope Cousins doesn't decide to play defense like Melo, who never learned to play one on one in Syracuse and has refused to learn properly. The Knicks will never be a winning team with Carmelo. Never. For the sake of Sacramento, my adopted city, let's hope this too will not be Cousins' fate.

Not a poem, but an image without which poetry can not survive.

Blood Sports

I found red boxing gloves under the tree.
They each reminded me of a reindeer's heart. 

               Jack Driscoll. "Boxiing Towards My Birth."




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Next Nate the Great Thurmond

I have been thinking of Nate Thurmond a lot since his death. Mostly about what a fine human being he was. But this morning I started thinking about what a fabulous all-around center he was. One could argue that he was the best All Around NBA center to play the game. Let's consider the Hall of Fame centers in the NBA: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Willlis Reed, Bob Lanier, Hakeem Olajuwan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, and Bill Walton (with the caveat that Walton did not pass the test of time). Nate had superior offensive skills than Russell and Reed. He had better defensive skills than Chamberlain, Olajuwan, and Walton. He could out-reboud and out-pass Ewing. It's a close call, but he was a better rebounder than Jabbar, over-all and clearly over that same number of seasons. Remember, I'm talking about the wide spectrum of skills-sets required of a dominant center. Does that mean that if you were starting a team you'd select Nate over Russell or Jabbar? Probably not. Still, there is a good argument for Nate being the all around most skilled center that ever played. Then, there's Shaq and Duncan, as yet not in the Hall of Fame to consider. Shaq had few authentic skills except for incredible size and quickness, and Duncan, well, everybody calls him a power forward.

Having said all this about Nate. I'm trying to think if there is any center even close in skill to Nate Thurmond playing today in the NBA. There isn't, not by a long shot. Not by an enormous long shot. Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousins? Give me a break.

There is, however, one player that, were he to work his butt off, might - and I say might because I don't know how mentally tough and more importantly how ambitious he is - become a center in the mold of the Hall of Fame centers mentioned above. His name is Steven Adams of the Oklahoma Thunder. In this modern NBA game of small-ball, Adams is the only player I can see who has the speed, the size and the athleticism to be a dominant at his position in the small ball era. So far, of course, he has virtually no offense. But imagine Adams with a jump hook, a drop step, a step-back jumper and improved passing skills. Combined with rebounding and shot blocking and paint defending he already has in his skill-set. Oh, my goodness. One could build a team around him.

Do other people see Steven Adams' potential the way I do?  Doesn't matter. The question is does Steven Adams recognize the potential that I see in him? In my opinion, Steven Adams could be the next Nate Thurmond. And you can't be a better NBA center than that.

Since this is really the second tribute Blog about Nate, I'll close with this from the Bible rather than a Poem because its message is all about how my friend lived his life.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition 
or vain conceit,
but in humility consider 
others better than yourself.

                                 Philippians 2:3


Monday, July 18, 2016

Hoops Hot Shot Tourney

Three lines of poetry to live by as you start aging are from Alfred Lord Tennyson's Ulysses. In his old age Ulysses (Odysseus) is talking to his seamen, trying to convince them to go out on one last heroic voyage. They'd much prefer to sit by the fires and brag about their exploits when they were young. The poem ends with these lines spoken by their old chief:

  How dull it is to pause, to make an end
  To rust unburnished, not to shine in use,
  As if to breathe were life. 

There was a group of us that played basketball regularly at Saint Vincent de Paul's gym in the Marina district of San Francisco. Most of the guys were Catholics from Saint Ignatius High School. I was one of the heathens from Lowell High, a public school. There was Barry Cummings, Jim Toso, Pat Harrington, Gene Spadaro, Rich Luchessi and Bobby Randall. Their basketball skills varied from damn good to, well, not so good. But they all played with enthusiasm and grit and street ball toughness. The smallest guy of the lot was Randall. The next smallest guy was Cummings and he towered over Bobby. Next to me, they were the two most skillful basketball players. Next to me, Randall was the most devoted to the game. (See rest of blog to find out who was finally the most devoted). He simply loved hoops. Basketball courts were his home. He was tricky, had a fine shot, and possessed a good handle. If he'd been even five inches taller, Bobby would have played varsity in high school. The same might be said for Barry although Barry was not the gym-rat Bobby was. Besides, Barry was in love with his dear Teresa and romance can play hell with an athlete's dedication. I'm not sure if  this is exactly accurate, but decades have passed and all memory bets are off.

Recently, I received a letter from Bobby Randal now, like me, in his seventies. He's retired from the postal service, no longer Bobby, but Bob. I never liked people calling me Tommy, so I suspect Bob is happy to have left behind his youthful diminutive. In the envelope were a bunch of newspaper articles about an annual basketball tournament for seniors beginning at the age of fifty-five and up into the seventies called Hoops Hotshots. Bob won the seventy-seven and up bracket. According to the article, he'd won for the seventh straight time. To win this year, Bob hit 44 out of 50 perimeter shots.
Watch out Stephan Curry!

In the spring I'd had both my shoulders replaced and bragged to my wife's grandsons that when the shoulders healed, I'd show them how a NBA pro did it. When the time came, Bob, I want you to know that I could not even reach the basket from the free-throw line. Is that pathetic, or what?. The day after that embarrassment, your letter arrived. I had to smile. In old age you caught up to me and passed me. If we played a game of hoops today, you'd kill me. I greatly admire your resolve to be the gym-rat you always were. Had you lived in the times of the Greek myths, I suspect you, Bob Randall would have been the first sailor on board Ulysses's boat, ready to go on a last adventure. Or, perhaps having to leave your beloved game of basketball behind, you'd decline. 

Here's a poem I found on the Poetry Foundation website dedicated to Phil Jackson

Loony Bin Basketball   by Mary Karr

The gym opened out
before us like a vast arena, the bleached floorboards
yawned toward a vanishing point, staggered seats high
as the Mayan temple I once saw devoured by vines.
Each of us was eaten up inside - all citizens of lost
        and unmapped cities.

Fran hugged the pimply ball
over his belly like an unborn child. Claire
dressed for daycare in daffodil yellow an jelly shoes.
David's gaze was an emperor's surveying a desiccated
battlefield. Since he viewed everything that way, we all
        saw him the same.

The psych techs in Cloroxed white
were giant angels who set us running drills, at which
we sucked. The zones we set out to defend were watery
at every edge. We missed close chest passes, easy combos
Our metronomes run different tempos,
         John proclaimed. 

Then Clair started seeing
dashes stutter through the air behind the ball.
Then speed lines on our backs, and then her own head
went wobbly as a spinning egg. She'd once tracked
planetary orbits for NASA and now sat sidelined
     by her eyes' projections.

Only Bill had game.
Catatonic Bill whose normal talent was to schlub
days in a tub chair - his pudding face scarred
with chicken pox - using his hand for an ashtray,
belly for an amrest. Now all that peeled away, and he
      emerged, clean as an egg.

He was a lithe
and licorice boy, reeling past all comers, each shot
sheer net. He faked both ways, went left. Beneath the orange
rim his midair piroettes defied the gravity that I
could barely sludge through. He scored beyond what even       
       Claire could count

then he went panting
hands on knees as the orderlies held out water cups,
and the rest of us reached to pat his back or slap
his sweaty hand, no one minding about the stench or his
breath like old pennies.Then as quick as that
      he went.

inside his head
some inner wench did reel him back from the front
of his face bones where he'd been ablaze. He went back and
back into that shadowed stare. Lucky we were to breathe
his air. Breath is God's intent to keep us living. he was 
     the self I'd come in

wanting to kill, and I left him there.