meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow” Meschery's Musings of Sports, Literature, and Life Meschery's Musings on Sports, Literature and Life: 2013

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, December 31, 2013

Black Monday

Five NFL coaches fired, one, Rob Chudzinski, after only one year to prove himself. Hummmm, wonder how bad he could have been. As I don't consider myself knowledgeable enough about pro football, I can't say whether these firings were justified. Coaches in the pros and in the college pros take jobs knowing that they are in the hot seat from day one. The HOT SEAT has been constructed for them by impatient owners, and in the case of universities, impatient alums.

I wonder to what extent the players on teams have to do with a coach being fired? Let's look at an analogy and see if it fits. In the 25 years I was a high school teacher, I recognized that many students refused to learn, citing a teacher being too boring, too complicated, too demanding, too strict. But never once, in my experience did students look beyond these admittedly unappealing traits and ask if these same teachers knew their subject matter. It seemed to me it was always on the teachers to find a way to impart knowledge and never on the studentss to make the effort to absorb knowledge. Did the students REALLY try?

How many coaches know their stuff, but don't have players willing to put out the effort to understand what the coaches are asking of them? I'm guessing that of the five fired coaches all of them have good football minds and a couple of them have great football minds. Did the players REALLY try?

Many years back when I was coaching the Carolina Cougars in the ABA, my assistant came up to me one day and said, "Coach, I believe the player's ears are getting small." Players with small ears don't win games and coaches with players with small ears get fired. I quit after my first year because I was an insanely bad coach, but I also had players with ears the size of a breath mints.

Speaking of fired coaches, will somebody please tell me why George Carl and Lionel Hollins are not coaching in the NBA? I can think of at least five NBA teams that would have much better records if either of these two fine coaches were at the helm.

I suspect I'll get a number of comments reminding me of how important motivation is. Motivation, give me a break! Is it important for a coach and teacher to hype players and students? Of course, no doubt, but teaching and coaching are not dog and pony shows. I remember back to my years with the Warriors to my two coaches: Alex Hannum was charismatic and too demanding but knew his stuff; Bill Sharman was boring and too strict but knew his stuff. We played hard for both coaches.

Speaking of demanding, strict, often mean coaches, my Lowell High School basketball coach, Ben Neff gave his players hell. Those of us who could put up with his intensity learned to play the game. Ben wouldn't have lasted ten seconds in today's game, but boy, oh boy, did he know his stuff.

Here's a poem I wrote for him:

Ben Neff

Coach, I loved you. I owe my fundamentals 
to you. I do not hold it against you
that you called me a sonovabitch and
that you questioned what I was good for
and that your anger wound up as spit on my face.
Those of us who could withstand your anger
learned how to play the game of basketball
so well that we carried it with us into college
and me into the pros. But I remember a boy
trying out for the team you frightened badly
who ran and you chased him and he swung
up into the standard and sat like a bird
perched above the hoop crying while you
threw basketballs at him, one after the other,
and the rest of us, thinking it was funny,
fed you the balls, throwing nice crisp
two-handed chest passes just the way
you taught us, fingers straight, thumbs down.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Blake Griffin Whining

Griffin is calling what Andrew Bogut did to him during the last game "cowardly basketball." Strong words. Let's see. Here's what I saw. Griffin posted up, got the ball and started his patented backing in, knocking the defensive man back as far as possible in order to lower his shoulder, slam into the defender, make heavy contact, then use his incredible leaping ability to score over the defense. I've watched the Clippers a lot this year. Most players on other teams, finding themselves in this position backed down by Griffin in the paint, succumb easily to the high flying and powerful Clipper forward. Andrew Bogut, however, is not a backing down type of guy. He fought to keep his position. Is this cowardly? As for the tangle that followed the play, I saw Griffin initiate it by hooking Bogut around the waist. OK, so once the tussle started, Bogut grabbed Griffin's shirt. If' I'd been playing I would have grabbed his nose. Blake Griffin is no small man. He'd better prepare himself to be beaten on for the rest of his career. Anyone who plays the low post game has to accept physical punishment. You give (And Griffin gives a lot) so you better learn to take and stop crying about "cowardly" basketball. I've watched Andrew Bogut play ball for many years, and the big Aussie is hardly a coward. The fact is, I've never seen an Aussie basketball player who isn't as tough as nails. Stop whining, Griffin. Grit your teeth and man-up.

It's all about television, I know, but aren't these Bowl Games ridiculous? Teams that won only fifty  percent of their games are playing in Bowls. The Bowls have to be pretty enormous to hold all the food they represent: Beef O' Brady's, Pizza from Little Caesars, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chicken fil-A and a  bunch of Idaho potatoes, mashed I hope. Totally ridiculous.

Congratulations to Serena Williams and LeBron James for being selected AP male and female Athletes of the Year for 2013. Can you imagine if LeBron and Serena had married and had children, what perfect athletes they would have produced. Scary, scary.

So-called Major sports dominate our sports pages. But let's hear it for Shaun White, the Olympic medalist in snowboarding for being one of the great athletes of our time. Winter Olympics is coming up and I'm looking forward to seeing the Winter Games sports dominate the front page of our sport's section. No second page or third page coverage. Give our winter athletes the respect they deserve.

Here's an unconventional poem about skiing by Martin Steingesser. I like the way his words imitate the motion of skiing.


             sssss! stop -steel
                        w       up
                                 the world
                    between outstretched arms

                       trees like dark fur
                  on a small 

                           closely gray barkblur&sun

                             the distance
                         and clear
             clear as a
                                        of  ice
                             across the blue
                                     snow mountain

Saturday, December 21, 2013


It's tempting to say that defense is simple. All you need to have is the courage and toughness to go after an opponent. Of course Courage and Toughness are essential traits a defender must possess, but defense is hardly a matter of JUST willingness.

There is a lot of talk from Sacramento Kings coaches and players about how badly they play defense. You won't get an argument from me. Defensively, they suck royally - individually and as a team. However, the Kings are not the only team in the NBA this season that is playing atrocious defense. Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Utah, the Knicks, New Orleans, Denver, Minnesota, are all AWFUL.

I want to make a few observations about defense, that by no means provides all of the things a player needs to be aware of to play good D, but I believe are the principal keys to becoming a strong defender.

Primarily, the burden of how good a defensive team is falls on the INDIVIDUAL There are many professional basketball players who don't know how to play defense. Either they were never taught or they refused to learn. (Shame on any high school or college coach who uses only zone defenses and does not teach man to man D. You know who you are.)

There is one overriding principal for playing strong INDIVIDUAL defense. Just as players must ATTACK on OFFENSE, players must ATTACK on Defense. They must do their best to unnerve the opponent they are guarding. That means a defensive player must get in his opponent's face, belly up, refuse him the opportunity to go where he wants to go or to have a good view of the passing lanes.

If your opponent picks up his dribble, as a good defender you must swarm him. Make him make a difficult pass. If your opponent is cutting, make the cut hurt. If he is running off a screen, force him back the way he came. In all circumstances, BE PHYSICAL!

A defensive player one pass  away from the ball must crowd his opponent so the ball handler can't make the easy pass. All players must know where the ball and their man is at all times and be ready to HELP. All players must stay alert to the skip pass and be ready to CLOSE OUT fast and hard. In today's NBA, this is essential. In today's NBA, it is also essential that players learn how to defend against the pick and roll.

     #1 All good jump shooters must be fouled hard on the first shot they attempt.
     #2 No player should make an easy layup. Contest everything in the paint.
     #3 Playing defense hurts. Suck it up and live with it.
     #4 When you fight over a screen, be sure the screener feels the effect of your effort. He'll not be
          so eager to set the next screen.
     #5 NEVER give up on a defensive assignment.
     #6 Take every defensive assignment personally.

The following is one of my favorite poems about sports and life by David Allen Evans

Bus Depot' Reunion

Just over the edge 
of my Life a young sailor
bounds from a Greyhound's 
hiss into his mother's hug,
steps back, trades hands 
with his father, then turns
to an old, hunched man
maybe his grandfather -

no hand, no word goes out,
they regard each other,

waiting for something, and
now their hands cup,

they begin to crouch
and spar, the old man

coming on like a pro,
snuffling, weaving,

circling, flicks
out a hook like a lizards's tongue,

the boy ducking, countering,
moving with his moves,

biffing at the bobbing
yellow grin, the clever

head, never landing a real
punch, never taking one

until suddenly, exactly
together they quit,

throw an arm around each other
and walk away laughing. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monday December 9, 2013

This is an important date because what I witnessed last night, I have not witnessed in the five years I have lived in Sacramento. Last night I saw the Sacramento Kings of the NBA play basketball like it's supposed to be played. That is: players passing to each other, setting screens, making the extra pass, rebounding, defending vigorously, talking to each other on D,  relying on their offensive sets to produce open shots, and playing with enthusiasm. The result was a resounding, effective win over the Dallas Mavericks, a team that has been playing surprisingly well this early in the NBA season, and certainly no push-over.

The Kings' new owner, Vivek Ranafdive and his partners, promised the the River City a good product and it looks as if they are keeping their word. While the reborn Kings were thumping the Mavs, the three new players that were acquired the previous day from the Toronto Raptors watched their new team. They couldn't have been anything but impressed. One of those players, Rudy Gay (who Memphis stupidly traded away last year to the Raptors) should turn out to be the small forward the Kings have been desperately seeking lo these many years. Gay has the ability to create on his own, a Go-To Guy as the clock ticks down to the last seconds. How the other two players, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray will fit in is anybody's guess. Big kuddos have to go out to GM Pete D'Alessandro who orchestrated the trade.

I was also relieved that the Kings have finally had the good sense to see what point guard rookie and second round draft choice, Ray McCullam can do. His minutes against the Mavs was too brief to tell, but I predict that one of these days, sooner rather than later, he will be the Kings true Point Guard. No disrespect to the Pizza Guy Isaiah Thomas, who will always be an asset as the sixth man, a scorer and a disruptor, and deservedly a fan favorite.

The following poem should remind us all of our childhood days.

Playing the Game by Barbara Goldowsky

You stick out your fist: stone
breaks my two fingers playing scissors.

You offer your hand, open.
I shred the palm: it's paper.
I am still scissors.

Have you no heart? you ask.
But I am stone.

Your hand is still paper,
you wrap me up:
closer than blades,
harder than hearts. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Some Thoughts About NBA Teams on November 22, 2013

Teams in the NBA fall into four categories: Competitors, Over-Achievers, Under-Achievers, and Non-Achievers. Competitive teams are those that have a realistic chance to go far in the playoffs. Over-Achieving teams are those that have limited personnel but are working hard as a team and could surprise, but in the end don't have a chance of going beyond the first round of the playoffs. The Underachieving Teams are the ones with reasonably strong personnel, but not playing to their potential for one reason or another. In my experience, underachieving teams usually don't get it together. Non-achieving Teams are just that, weak. They are weak for a number of reasons: marginally talented players, players who are quite talented but don't play as a team, ineffective coaches, ineffective administration, ineffective ownership or team in the midst of rebuilding, the Magic and Celtics for example. These teams will remain at the bottom of their divisions throughout the season.

Competitors: LA Clippers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls. However, these team should not be too caught up in their greatness or one of the over-achieving teams will surprise them.

Over-achievers: Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Blazers. Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors. Each of these teams are probably one solid draft pick or strong trade away from becoming a Competitive Team. Hats off to these teams, especially the Bobcats.

Under-Achievers: Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets. On paper, lots of star power, but. . . Get your s--t together fellows or you're going to be an embarrassment.

Non-Achieviers: LA Lakers, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavs, Boston Celtics. Something is fundamentally wrong with these teams. Such as: they lack the right personnel, good coaching, imaginative administration, inspired ownership. They maybe on their way up (rebuilding, Magic and Celtics for example) or on their way down, (teams that don't have a clue), but you won't see any Non-Achievers in the playoffs this season.

The Winter Olympics are coming up. I've been watching the U.S. Curling Trials on TV. It's more exciting than watching the Bucks play the Cavs. Here's a poem I wrote about the sport of Curling.

Curling by Tom Meschery

Let's hear it for curling, a sport in which
two brooms, like blockers in the NFL
(I"m thinking Packers, Greenbay in the snow)
lead the running back, a guy named Stone
(not exceptionally fast, but relentless)
down the icy field; masked fans in parkas,
sipping from flasks. They're watching curling
on local ice, while I'm enjoying building
this extended metaphor, thinking that Milton,
had he a sense of humor, which there's no
evidence he possessed, might have appreciated.

My wife also enjoys curling. "What's not to like
about a sport played with brooms?" she asks.
"The ice needs cleaning, and the players
are only doing what any good wife would do."
She's talking to me while dusting,
which comes before vacuuming, a rule
in her sport that must never be broken. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday November 16th

This morning's sports section provided lots of food for thought. Lots to chew on, lots to digest, but I'm not swallowing what Matt Barnes said; "Obviously, the N word I used is a word that's used on the court, is used in the locker room, is used by most of my friends and family." Family? Really? You mean mom and dad use it? How about uncles, aunts? I'm having a hard time believing this. In the locker room? Used by friends? Can it possibly be as common to use the N word as Barnes makes it out to be? Barnes makes it sound like a generational kind of thing.

I listened to Charles Barkley at half time of an NBA game go off about how the media (and whites) simply don't get how black people use the word amongst themselves. On the same half time show I listened to Shaq quasi agree with Charles. Come on, Shaq, make up your mind. Later I watched Isiah Thomas on NBA Gametime answer Barkley with an unequivocal No. No! Never! The n word should never be used. According to Thomas, it is a word that is historically far too loaded to ever be used in a comradely way among African Americans. Thomas rightly brought up that Martin Luther King and Malcom X would never have used the word. But, perhaps, these Icons of African American history no longer mean the same to a younger, hipper generation of black men of which Barnes is a spokesman.

What do I think? I'm not a virgin. I've been in locker rooms and on the streets and playgrounds and have heard the word even back in my day used just as Charles described it. It never failed to make me feel unhappy, uncomfortable, and unclean. I would have felt the same if my Japanese friends would have playfully called each other japs. Or my Chinese friends called each other chinks. Or my Hispanic friends called each other beaners or spics. Or my Jewish friends called each other kikes. Poles, polacks; Italians, wops. I can go on and on. So, I ask myself, why does the Hip Hop generation of African Americans feel the word Nigga is ok? Ugh! Typing it just now made me cringe. All I see when I hear or see this word is centuries of evil, exploitation, and racial inequality. (Isiah said he saw black men hanging from trees)

But reactions like Isiah Thomas' must not be the case with the younger generation of African Americans. To me, such relinquishing of history is bewildering. All I can think of is it must have something to do with tone. I'm reminded of one of the opening scenes in the novel The Virginian by Owen Wister set in the wild west when the Virginian faces down his enemy, Trampas who has just called him a son of a bitch. The Virginian whips his pistol out, lays it on the table and says, "When you call me that, pahdna, smile."

If tone is what matters, there must be a whole lot of smiling going. As for me, I'm a white man (with some Tartar and Jewish blood mixed in) who knows where he stands vis a vis the n word. I can never utter it.

Also in today's sports, food for thought: I know it's only early in the NBA season, but isn't it revelatory that the three teams that hired Coach Gregg Popovitch's assistants are doing so well? In the same breath, let's hear it for the Indiana Pacers who are making the word Defense and team play fashionable. I do not mean to slight the Miami Heat. I have never subscribed to the notion that the Big Three were responsible for winning the two NBA championships. The entire Heat team play a rugged, in your face, type of defense. And, as far as I could tell, would have lost both championships had it not been for the inspired play of Battier and Allen.

Team matters. It's all that matters. The Warriors get it. The other strong teams get it. Teams that don't get it, better wise up. From this morning's sports: Roy Hibbert talking about well the Pacers were doing. "Some guys on this team before (in the past) were just trying to get a paycheck and go home and then chilling on the beach and sipping mojitos or something like that. That's not us." Am I impressed or am I impressed?

The following poem is about bull riders, a sport that doesn't have much to do with basketball, but the advice in it has a lot to do with how to play any sport.

The Bull Rider's Advice   by David Allen Evans. 

What I'm saying is
you can't take this thing light
and there's no saddle to sit in

you can do it one of two ways
as far as I'm concerned
if you want to do it

you can get on just for the ride
take hold of the rope like it was 
any old rope and pray for a quick 8 seconds
and no spinning

or you can wrap your fist into his back
so deep he knows you plan to stay awhile
dig in with your whole soul
until the sonofabitch is sick of you
and lets up

What I'm saying is 
it's up to you

Saturday, November 9, 2013


I'm in the process of finishing editing my recent writing project a Young Adult novel about bullying. As an ex high school teacher, I know how wide-spread bullying is among young people. With the intro of social media, that kind of behavior has increased dramatically. Now we not only have physical bullying, we have cyber-bullying. There's bullying going on, not only in our schools, but on all levels of society. We just have different names for it: Hazing, sexual harassment, intimidation, etc. So, I wasn't surprised to read about the bullying going on with the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. I'm glad to read that Johnathan Martin is bringing charges against Richie Incognito. (incognito: disguised or concealed identity, according to Webster's) From my experience with bullies, all of them are at their core concealing they are COWARDS. By bullying, Richie has probably been concealing this part of his identity for a long time. Incognito is what he is. What else is he hiding? He may change, he may not. It is highly probably that he will remain a big bully for the rest of his life.

But what of Johnathon Martin? What is it about him that he attracts a bully like Incognito? Martin is by no means a small man, nor is he weak, nor does he lack intelligence, nor courage. It takes a good deal of courage to play in the NFL. Why, for goodness sake, has he put up with this behavior from Incognito and some of his teammates for this long? Weaker, smaller, vulnerable kids, I understand how they find it difficult, near to impossible to fight back, frightened to raise the issue with authorities. I understand the history of women being exploited by men (bosses) in the workplace, the military being one of those oft repeated workplaces. But in Martin's case, I'm having a problem understanding why he didn't kick the hell out of Incognito. Or, at least try. There's an old expression I learned a long time ago: He who gets the first punch in, has the first punch in. Okay, okay, Johnathon, you probably did it the right and legal way. But you missed out on another possible and very satisfying way to stop being bullied called the playground, down and dirty way.

And what about the coaching staff and administration. Miami has a head coach and numerous assistants, trainers, locker room personnel. Are you telling me that not one of them had any idea of what was going on?
Give me a break! If the GM didn't know, he should have. If the coach and his staff didn't know, they should have. The owner should fire the lot of them.

I'll probably take some flak for this blog, but I have no sympathy for bullies. In another history, they would have been recruited by the Nazi to run their death camps. I do not believe this is an exaggeration. There are people who love to hurt people. I wish it wasn't so.

On a lighter note in the NFL, aren't we all cheering for Alex Smith, a decent man and a damn good QB, as he leads the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. The universe is rewarding him.

Here's a football poem from my upcoming book - Sweat: New and Selected Poems About Sports

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. Golf
for example. See how clean
those guys are out on the links,
how civilized in their cardigans,
in their nestly pressed trousers?

Friday, November 8, 2013


One of the certainties about life I've learned over the years - and there are not many - is that the world is governed by IRONY. The results of irony can be both good or bad. Recently, I've been experiencing one of the good ironies. For the last few months, I've been attending a gathering of ex California Bears athletes, mostly basketball players, many of whom were part of the Cal Bears team that won the 1959 NCAA Final Four and, here-in lies the irony, the same team that beat my team, the Saint Mary's Gaels in the Elite 8 ruining our chances for a crack at the championship.

Why am I breaking bread with many of my old rivals? Because I was invited by two of the players from that renowned Pete Newell team, Bill McClintock and Ned Averbuck. Tht too might be considered an irony. Just typing the name McClintock makes my ribs hurt with the honest pain of competition. I attended the first lunch with trepidation, not knowing what to expect, and drove away knowing I would be back. These men are my fellow Bay Area jocks. At each luncheon, we introduce ourselves and say a few words about our current lives. At our age, sometimes health problems are spoken of, but mostly, we talk about projects, about grandchildren, about sports in general, today's game sometimes. It's witty nostalgia and cogent observation. Smart guys all.

Recently, jocks from other colleges have been turning up. Mike Farmer (USF and NBA Hawks fame) has been coming. At the last lunch Kenny Flowers (Lowell High Prep Hall of Fame and USC starting guard) showed up. Flowers was my hero when I was in grade school. Dave Newhouse, legendary sports writer of the Oakland Tribune is a regular. Rene Hererias, the great Saint Ignatius High School and University of California Bears coach (he succeeded Newell) attends. After every lunch, I drive home feeling good that we celebrated our time as athletes, our camaraderie.

On another subject: the passing of Bill Sharman and Walter Bellamy. Bill was hired by the Warriors after Franklin Miuli, the Warrior owner, fired Alex Hannum. Hannum was a great coach and well-liked. Bill was not as well-liked, but he was an excellent coach. He took us to the NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76er coached by? Think of irony and fill in the blank. If you said Alex Hannum, you are on your way to understanding how irony governs our lives. Alex and the 76ers beat us in the 6th game. As for Walt Bellamy, center for Chicago, he won Rookie of the Year in 1961, the year I also was drafted by the NBA. Walter never saw a shot he didn't like, often shooting jumpers from the corner - 3 pointers in today's game. He played D like a matador. He was a funny man. He talked to himself during games, always referring to himself by his first name. "Walter doesn't get a break." "Referees don't like Walter." "Walter's going to the free throw line." He should have been a fiction writer.

In honor of Bill Sharman, a short poem by Edward Hirsch


". . . a constellation of players
Shinning under his favorite word,
Execution . . ."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Should Division I Universities and Colleges Pay Student Athletes?

This month my wife Melanie, and I have been driving her grandson and his girlfriend to Saint Mary's College, my Alma Mater, on college visits. Both kids were duly impressed, and why not? Saint Mary's provides one of the best all around, personal, community oriented educations in the country...Suffice it to say that after the presentations ended, my wife was ready to enroll, and I was ready to re-enroll, although I doubt they would see fit to offer me a scholarship the way they did in 1957.

The one downer of these visitations was discovering what the cost of attending a private college is today. I haven't thought about tuition since my kids were looking at colleges back in the eighties. It was high then, but nothing like it is today. Saint Mary's charges a whopping $58,000 per year tuition, room and board. If a student did not receive a dime of financial aid that amounts to $232,000 over 4 years. You could buy many of the condos in our area for that price. Saint Mary's College is not alone--all private colleges around the country charge similar prices.

For example Santa Clara, another private Catholic University costs $59, 589 per year. UCLA, a public university, costs $32,415; Chico State University costs $24,604 which = $98,416 at the end of 4 years. (We're talking a state university system school here, folks.) And just to be sure you don't think you can leave the state and get a break, out-of-state tuition room and board at the University of Mississippi will cost a student from California $27,294 per year or $199,176 after 4 years. Of course, you might believe living in Oxford, the same town in which William Faulkner lived and wrote, is worth the bucks.

What are all these facts about? Between thinking about the outrageous cost of higher education in this country and the ongoing controversy over whether scholarship athletes should be paid for their efforts on the fields of sports, I am reassessing my previous position. I was pro.

Now, I'm not so sure. I'm finding myself less impressed by the argument that scholarship athletes are being exploited because the universities are racking in the millions off the efforts of their athletes. I find myself thinking more about the middle class parents in our country who are just wealthy enough that their kids don't qualify for financial aid and don't have the money to pay the exorbitant cost of today's tuition, room and board (Imagine those parents having more than one kid of college age). It seems to me that the athletes need to be more appreciative of what they're getting in return for their services: Play a sport you love and get paid a free education. Sounds reasonable to me, considering starting annual salaries for teachers in any state fall below what it costs to go to Stanford for one semester.

My daughter and her husband fall into this middle class category. When I told her the costs of a private university education for a year, she said, that even if they could somehow afford it, she would not send her child to such a school as a matter of principal. There is no way I can disagree with her. And if things keep going the way they are, public higher education will soon also be out of the reach of most Americans.

Addendum:  Stipends for scholarship athletes should increase because studying and practicing make it nearly impossible to hold down a job. I'm talking about ALL student athletes, not only Football, Basketball, and Baseball players.

I don't blog much about baseball, but it is World Series time, so here's a terrific poem by Halvard Johnson

The Extra -Inning Ballgame

Wanting things to go on forever,
yet craving the apocalypse.
Reading the last few pages at one word a minute.
Wanting to teeter forever at the brink of the abyss,
and loving every minute of it.

The solid single lashed over second.
A shortstop's arm, just long enough to catch it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Back to Blogging

Reader: Welcome back Meschery. You haven't blogged since last February. What's up with that?

Meschery: It got to be too much. I was right in the middle of writing three novels called The Courtside Collection about sports, teenagers, disabilities, improbable dreams, gender issues, jocks, villains and heroes. Get the picture. That's a lot of stuff to pack into books and required all of my energy.

Reader: So, are you finished with these novels?

Meschery: Yes. Now I can get back to blogging, but I'm not going to do it the way I did in the past.

Reader: How are you changing?

Meschery: I'm only going to blog once a week. That way I can devote my time to writing poetry.

Reader: Good, I loved the sports poems at the end of your blogs. Very unusual. Are you still writing poems about sports?

Meschery: I sure am. In fact, I have a new collection of poems coming out this November called SWEAT: New and Selected Poems About Sports. I think you'll like it. You can order it from Black Rock Press, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV 89557-0224.

Reader: Terrific. I'm putting in my order. Can you give us a preview?

Meschery: You bet. At the end of today's blog.

Reader: Thanks. Now, I'll let you alone, so you can get back to blogging.


I was a little nervous this morning knowing I was going to start blogging again. So, I reread some of my past blogs. In hindsight, I made some pretty decent predictions. And enough mistakes to be slightly embarrassed. Oh, well, got to go out on a limb when trying to predict sports. Sometimes you cut off the branch you're sitting on. For example, I was really hot for the Timberwolves last NBA season. Injury to Love cost them, and Rubio never played back up to his past brilliance. Kirilenko is gone to play for the Russian team in Brooklyn. Some symmetry there, don't you think? The Nets are looking good for this season, but will all the ex Celtic stars mesh with the rest of the squad? There's only one ball to be shared. Deron Willliams is going to have to be smarter delivering assists than I think he is. Is there a back-up point guard on the team that can deliver if Williams goes down? And I'm not on the Jason Kidd bandwagon either.

Okay, here I go. Predictions for the 2013/14 NBA season.

In the East: (God, do I hate to say this), Miami followed by Indiana but not by much. Pacers could defeat the Heat. Their two additions Scola and CJ Watson are solid pluses and the return of Granger is huge. Chicago comes next. Unless they can  find a 3 point shooter, they will have problems. The Nets. as many good players as they have, they are vulnerable if they lose Lopez to injury, plus I'm not sold on Kidd as a coach.

Indiana vs Heat for the East.

In the West: Sorry, San Antonio. I'm picking the Thunder. Westbrook is back and it looks like his knee is fine. More importantly, I believe the Thunder has finally found their center in New Zelander, Stevie Adams. Give him half the season to figure the game out. The Clippers? As good a coach as Doc is I don't think he'll be able to figure out how to balance all that athleticism. To many runners and leapers and no half court game. How about my Warriors? If their top 7 players remain healthy they could upset teams and wind up in the Western Division finals. If they get to the finals, who knows? Big Mo could take them to the top.

San Antonio vx Oklahoma in the Finals in the West.

I'm going to save commentary about the Warriors, my old team, for a blog all their own. One point, however. I bet the fans these days are delighted with Mr. Lacob's trade of two years ago that brought Andrew Bogut to the Bay Area. Boos turn to applause. Smarts wins out.

Clippers vs Miami for the NBA Championship.

Of course these predictions could change with injuries. There's just no way to get around injuries in pro sports these days. Faster, stronger, more athletic players, if they're playing full out, can't avoid being injured.
Okay, everybody know this, so what's my point? Perhaps it's time to evaluate drugs that help repair muscle even if they do fall into the banded substance categories. Let's bring the medical profession into the conversation about which drugs should be banned and which are useful.

What about the Kings? Since I'm living in Sacramento I should say something. Wither thou go'est Cousins, goeth the Kings. Am I confident the young man will be able to turn a new leaf? I've witnessed some improvement. He's trying his best to keep his emotions in check, I'll grant him that. I don't, however, see that he has improved as a player. I don't see a single new move. It's all same-o-some-o offensively: outside jumper or bull his way, a la Shaq, into the paint. He's too athletic not to score, but will he be enough of a threat that teams will double and triple-team him? I don't think so. All in all, without considering Cousins, the King personnel is composed of a lot of bench type players, good reseerves, but reserves they are, not starters for any good team. The Kinds came up in the draft with two great rookies in Mclemore and McCullums. I'm betting these two will be the Kings 1 & 2 of the future. Greivas is an OK pick up. Again, a bench player on any good team. I'm not sure about the Landry deal. Big bucks for a non-starter. With the Warriors Landry was most effective coming off the bench. I don't see him as a starter. If I were the Kings I'd trade Salmons, Fredette, Patterson, Outlaw. If the Kings have to play with reserves, at least  they should find some reserves who will play hard-nosed defense.

Here's the poem I promised from my new collection.  It's about Hall of Fame point guard and coach Lenny Wilkens, my Seattle teammate and friend, and one of the best players in the history of the game.

Slight of Hand
                 For Lenny Wilkens

It doesn't matter how often our coach
tells us to over-play Wilkens to his left hand,
he goes there anyway, with that slippery move
that looks to me as if he's skating. Somehow
he slips through the jam of players rushing
into the paint to impede his progress.
To no avail. It's a pass to Zelmo or a slick
floater. Exploiting our vanity for having been
born right handed, he flaunts his left.
If only it were once or twice a game, but time
after time he shows us how the trick is done,
opening the black hat to reveal the trap door
from which he pulls the white rabbit and then
closing it before we can learn his secret.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Solution for Deadly Boring NBA All-Star Game

I can't remember when I last watched an NBA All-Star game, perhaps there was a time when the game seemed competitive to me, but when was that? I can't remember when I didn't watch the Saturday night skills competition - a fun time and worth a pizza and beer. But the game itself? Gad, how boring.

It occured to me that a two day series of skill competitions would be one solution, but I doubt if there would be much interest from advertisers. The term All-Star Game means a Game, the greats competing against each other, but of course they don't really compete, do they? Why should they and risk injuries?. So, here's my thinking: lets combine skills competition with the game. It could be done in the following manner:

1) Create a 4 point line.
2) Place a bull's eye logo at center-court. Any player who shoots the ball and makes it from inside the logo
    would earn 6 points.
3) Place two squares 3x3 feet adjacent to the sideline midway between the half-court stripe and baseline.
    Shots made from within that box would be worth 5 points. Referees would determine if a players
    feet were within the box.
4) Floaters shot from beyond the freethrow line would be worth 3 points.
5) Hook shots shot from beyond the freethrow line and below the 3 point line would be worth 3 pts.
6) Hook shots shot from above the three point stripe and below the 4 point stripe would be valued
    at 4 points.
7) A player would get the choice of shooting freethrows with or without a blindfold. A player could double
    the normal freethrow value by selecting to shoot blindfolded. Imagine the game coming down to a team
    down by three points and fouled in the act of shooting with .01 left on the clock. Normally there would
    be no way the shooter's team could win the game, but by selecting to shoot blindfolded, the shooter
    could win the game if he made both shots sightless.
An added attraction for the NBA advertising gurus would be to sell sponsorships for the various new shooting areas, ie: Box shots could be sponsored by box stores (Wall Mart/Home Depot, etc); the bullseye center-court-shot could be sponsored by Target Stores; blind freethrow shooting could be sponsored by Lens Crafters; floaters by United Airlines.

I can think of a number of other fun possibilities. The strategy required to play such a game would invigorate the All-Star Game, make it relevant while keeping the players safe from injury, which is the main reason the players today do NOT compete with vigor.

Think About It NBA! Big Bucks rolling in, lots of fun for fans.

The San Antonio Spurs have just finished their Rodeo road trip - as usual successfully. Is there a better coach in the NBA than Pop?

Here's a Rodeo poem.

The Closing of the Rodeo  by  William Jay Smith

The lariat snaps; the cowboy rolls
      His pack, and mounts and rides away.
Back to the land the cowboy goes.

Plumes of smoke from the factory sway
       In the setting sun. The curtain falls,
A train in the darkness pulls away.

Goodbye, says the rain on the iron roofs.
       Goodbye, say the barber poles.
Dark drum the vanishing horses' hooves.