meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow” Meschery's Musings of Sports, Literature, and Life Meschery's Musings on Sports, Literature and Life: 2010-11-28

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.

Friday, December 3, 2010

On Aging 12/3/2010

   I have been thinking recently about growing old with all its accompanying aches and pains, something an athlete who has grown up putting so much trust in his or her body finds particularly difficult, and Sachel Page came to mind. He had lots of wonderful things to say about aging. Here are three:
     "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."
     "Age has a mind of its own. If you don't mind, it don't matter."
     "How old would you be, if you don't know how old you are?"
   Then I was reminded of a poem about Page I read a long time ago in a terrific anthology called Sprints and Distances.

To Satch (or American Gothic)  By Samuel Adams
Sometimes I feel like I will never stop
Just go on forever
Till one fine morning
I'm gonna reach up and grab me a handfulla stars
Swing out my long lean leg
And whip three hot strikes burnin down the heavens
And look over at God and say
How about that!


Free Throws 12/2/2010

   The free throws being shot by some of today's NBA players are actually too painful to look at. During those excruciating moments, I find myself gazing into my lap and waiting until the groans stop before I return to the action
   Mostly it's the centers. I played with Wilt Chamberlain, a notoriously bad free-throw shooter. The poor man tried everything, even Rick Barry's underhand toss. Everything, that is, except putting in the time it takes to become skillful. And that may be the problem with today's brick layers. But not entirely.
   There is a question of their technique, equally painful to watch. What I don't understand is that everything these player need to become competent from the free-throw line is right there staring them in the face, if they'd only see it. Pray tell, you say. Ok here's some free advice: Get video tape of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash (there are a few other virtuosos) and copy exactly what they do. And I mean exactly, step by step. If this sounds simplistic, so be it.
   But if a parrot can learn to imitate human speech, a man with some modicum of will power can imitate the exact motions of another human being. If there is any trick to this for tall men to overcome, it is this: seven footers are already so close to the height of the rim (10 feet from the floor) even 15 feet away, that they can't imagine the angle their shooting arm must be in at the end of a shot - at at least a 45 degree angle from the floor. As weird as this sounds, I believe it freaks them out to have their arm reaching up so high. So what do they do? They flatten their arm and that creates a flat shot. Duh!
   Is there anything else they can do to improve their technique? Well, yes. they can keep their shooting arm extended instead of dropping it so quickly. I learned about keeping my shooting arm in the air from the brothers I played with and against in the Bay Area, oh so long ago. They called it "Styling". Looking good meant something to them. And so did making free-throws.

Foul Shots: A Clinic    by William Matthews

      for Paul Levitt

Be perpendicular to the basket,
toes avid for the line.

Already this description
is perilously abstract; the ball
and basket are round, at the nailhead
centered in the centerplank
of the foul circle is round,
and though the rumpled body
isn't round, it isn't
perpendicular. You have to draw
"an imaginary line," as the breezy

coaches say, "through your shoulders."
Here's how to cheat: remember
your collarbone. Now the instructions
grow spiritual - deep breathing,
relax and concentrate both; aim
for the front of the rim but miss it
deliberately so the ball goes in.
Ignore this part of the clinic

and shoot 200 foul shots
every day. Teach yourself not to be
bored by any boring one of them.

You have to love to do this, and chances
are you don't; you'd love to be good
at it but not by a love that drives
you to shoot 200 foul shots
every day, and the lovingly unlaunched
foul shots we're talking about now -
the clinic having served to bring us
together - circle eccentrically
in a sky of stolid orbits
as unlike as you and I are
from the area those foul shots
leave behind when they go in.

Golden State Warrior 2010/11

As most fans in the Bay Area know, the Golden State Warriors' journey since the halcyon days of Nate Thurmond, Rick Barry and All Atttles and his NBA Championship has been less than awe inspiring. Yet the fans have remained loyal and cheering. So I want to say to those fans, "Take heart, you loyalists!" As the Depression song goes, Happy days are here again. Well, not exaclty "here" yet, but around the corner. Well, not exactly around the nearest corner. Still, close enough to allow a very old Warrior to muse approvingly about Keith Smart's 2010 team and its prospects:
*  I like it that the men are trying to play defense.
*  I like the fact that the team has 3 Downtown Freddy Brown    shooters. (You can't win in the NBA these days without accurate 3-point shooters.)
*  I like that the Warriors have a solid power forward with smarts.
*  I like that they have two, maybe three quality bench players.
*  I like the fact that theirr center seems to be coming out of a two year mind-bending slump. (He's no Duncan, but he has potential to grow - IF - he's got the will    power. If not, the corner might be a few extra blocks down the street.
*  I like the soon-to-be added power off the bench.
*  I like the look of the Warrior's first round draft choice.
*  And I like what I see of the coach and a solid group of ex NBA players as assistants.

    Ok, this has probably already been said in one form or another by the press, so let's move on. At the present time, the Warriors may not be the team to bring back those years of Hannum, Sharman, and Attles, but the pieces - not just rooks, but bishops, knights, and castles - are starting to fall into place. That said, this season's wins and losses remain an important measuring stick for future growth. So what can Warrior fans expect? I predict a winning season. This is how the Mad Russian sees it: There are 30 teams in the NBA. Of the 30, there are only 10 elite teams: Lakers, Mavericks, Jazz, Thunder, Celtics, Magic. Hawks, Heat (the Big Tres will slowly reach their potential), and Bulls. Denver, a self-exploder, will fall on its own grenade. And the Hornets will lose their sting. This means that 20 teams are vulnerable. If the Warriors improve, as I believe they will, they can beat any of those 20 teams, or, dare I say it, all of those teams. What the hell, I'm an optimist, why NOT all of them?

Good "D"   by James McKean
     after Edward Hirsch

Their centerr blocks out and the ball
falls into his lap like the coach's book

says it will. Pivot, two-handed chest pass
to the outlet man, his flip

to a guard sprinting up the middle and the crowd
senses a break rolling at half court

and rises now for the finish, the jam
over a nondescript visitor

in knee wraps, invited to play in this gym
well lit on aFriday night in a state

that welcomes him and would send him racing
and bruised except he's hustled back

and turns in their key to wait - all taped fingers
and high tops - before the whole floor,

the forwards in thrir lanes pumping toward him
fast., two points on the stat sheets

written all over their faces, the guard dribbling
too high, head down as if he

needs a script, the guard who loves his right hand,
who pulls up late, who looks where he

passes, drunk on the home court's
din of expectation, everyone on their feet

for a goal good as given
over the nobody in his dull uniform

who stutter rushes the guard left, left
hand up, right down,

and releases the  moment the pass is flung in panic,
the forward rising toward the basket

empty-handed because good defensse reads well,
lives in the passing lane and lifts

the ball from beneath. Now, the forward,
who can't come down fast enough,

and the guard, suddenly tired, find far
up the floor the score turned,

the time gone and the crowd at a loss, fumbling
to sit back down, to say anything

for what's been stolen.