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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.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Random Comments

 Random Comment #1: NBA average free throw shooting percentage: 77.2%; WNBA average free throw shooting percentage: 80.2%

Random Comment #2: PGA of the Tee 290 yards; LPGA of the Tee; 254 yards. Makes one think that if LPGA gals were allowed to tee off 40 yards in front of the men, they could compete at every other level. Make that happen, and wouldn't a competition between genders knock the socks off of any previous golf tournament TV ratings?  

Random Comment #3 Does Ben Simmons  of the Philly 76ers, have no shame? How does a guy pulling down this amount of $ shoot so dismally? 23 % from the field. Less than 30% from the free throw line. Come On, Ben!!!

Random Comment #4: Happy to read the NFL is being sued by Saint Louis folks for the team relocating to LA. through the use of some pretty slimy tactics. How about Seattle filing a suit against the Oklahoma Thunder's owner for his slimy relocation tactic moving his newly bought team to OKC. (When he bought the team he said he wouldn't move it, Right. Liar, liar, pants on fire!)

Random Comment #5: In todays The Athletic, evaluating 2021 NBA draftee: About 3 pt shooting Corey Kispert from the Zags: "Kispert is 22, which is a fossil relative to the other players available. . . "  Takes me back to 1961 when I was drafted #1 by the Philadelphia Warriors (San Francisco Warriors/Golden State) I was a 22 year old fossil and gave the NBA and my teams ten pretty damn good years of production. I'm not sure what the diff between 10 years and 15 years means in the NBA. Lots of first round draft choices who are teens wind up in the G League being paid first round draft choice salaries while not helping the home team at all. I'm thinking of a knock-down shooter like Kisspert and another 24 year old from U of Oregon by the name of Chris Duarte. Both can come in and produce right now, not three years from now. 

Random Comment #6: As per John Hollinger in The Athletic talking about Free Agency: As a result, teams are likely to pump the brakes on a max deal for Lonzo Ball. Something in the range of 100 million over 4 years seems more likely. As my wife said, "Awh, poor baby, how will he ever manage?"

Random Comment #7: Big ATTABOY to Jacob Stenmstz, the first Orthodox Jew to be drafted #1 in the MBL. Reminds me I need to re-read Chaim Potok's The Chosen. The first part of the book takes place on the baseball field.

Random Comment #8: Nigeria and now the Aussies beat our boys in red, white and blue. And the Argentinians pushed USA hard. Now JaVale Magee joins the team. Really???? 

Random Comment #9: Congrats to Natalie Diaz for winning a Pulitzer Prize this year for poetry for her Post Colonial Love Poem, published by Greywolf Press. Natalie played basketball for Old Dominion and pro ball in Europe and Asia. Makes one think basketball players should write more poetry. 

Natalie doesn't write poems about basketball as far as I know. She does start one stanza on the Teotlachco ball court. If you're scratching your head, the Aztecs invented basketball. 

Instead of a poem, here's one of a series of Why Indians are Good at Basketball written by Nicole Tower, a journalism student at Arizona State University

We know how  to block shots, how to stuff them down your throat because when you say, "Shoot!" we hear howitzer and Hotchkiss and Springfield Model 1873.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Nigeria Beat USA + Nostalgia

 I just finished watching Nigeria's Olympic Basketball Team defeat our Team U.S.A. in a practice game in prep for the real thing in Japan. It was a first effort by both teams and could easily be an indicator of the teams' strengths and weaknesses. It was clear to me that this game was not being taken lightly by both teams. I was cheering for our guys, but by the fourth quarter when it appeared that Nigeria might upset us, I suddenly found myself cheering for the Nigerians to win. That's exactly what happened. The green and white beat the Red, White and Blue. 

 A team from the continent of Africa has never beaten a basketball team from the Untied States before. How good must the Nigerian players feel being the first. Forget, this was a practice game. It was a W. The Nigerian players will not only be heroes in their own country but in all the countries of Africa. It is probably a good time to be sure all my readers understand, there was no dearth of NBA players on the Nigerian team. Over the years the countries of Africa, primarily of West Africa, have sent the NBA some fabulous athletes, beginning with legendary Hall of Fame center for the Houston Rockets, Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon. And I should point out that many of the great European basketball players that played in the NBA in recent past and play now have West African family roots. 

I was not being disloyal pulling for Nigeria to win, I was remembering fondly and with a modicum of pride, that I was one of the first NBA players to bring basketball to West Africa. In the Summer of 1963, Bill Russell and Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics, as part of a joint NBA and United States Information Agency (USIA) good will project, traveled to West Africa to hold basketball clinics. They worked only in the country of Senegal. The following summer, John Havelick, KC Jones, and I made the same trip to Senegal and to three additional countries: Mali, Ivory Coast and Liberia. To say basketball was in its infant stages is an understatement. Many of the young men and women we coached didn't have athletic shoes. Some played in their bare feet. Many shot the ball with two hands.The following summer I went back to West Africa with Siugo Green, point guard, of the Saint Louis Hawks, to coach again. And after I retired from the NBA in 1971, I returned for four months to West Africa in the fall of 1981, By then,  our earlier coaching lessons had taken root and many of the players were demonstrating great promise. In the 21st century, the NBA has benefited greatly from that promise.  

That was the last time I was in Africa, but I've traveled there often over the years in my memory and in my heart.  So, right on Nigeria! Right on West Africa! I'll bet you Hakeem The Dream watched tonight's game and was smiling at the outcome.

I wrote this poem for my third book of poetry, Sweat: New and Selected Poems About Sports. 

Hakeeem Olajuwon

           aka Hakeem The Dream

In Africa each morning practice starts

with warm-ups. The youngest on the team,

perhaps sixteen, always the first waiting for me,

sit in the thin shade below the backboard, 

reading the latest article about Hakeem.  

We stretch hamstrings, then slow jog

around the court. He keeps pace, all the while

talking about The Dream. "Dis donc," he says,

"With The Dream we would defeat Senegal

and be Champions of West Africa   

"Que pensez vous, entraineur?" What do I think?

I can't think about anything other than the red

and smoky sun rising over the opposite basket,

the heat already seating my shirt, and how

the rains suddenly begin half way through practice.

I shag his jump shots, the ones he says 

are like Hakeem's. He says he too will attend

the University of Houston, later play in the NBA.

"Vous m'assistez?" But his shots are ugly, too flat;

they lack the back-spin, the softness of the Dream's.

I nod my head, whatever I can do - my best shot,

I am in the country of Burkina Fasso.

Its name means Land of Up-Right people. 

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Speculations, Comments, and Stupidities

I rely on The Athletic for my sports news now that our local newspaper, The Sacramento Bee, no longer does late news of any kind. For my readers information, newspapers all over the country are being bought by hedge funds and are being systematically dismantled. For example what pleasure can be derived from reading about the winner of this year's Masters two days after the green jacket was presented to the first Japanese golfer, Hideki Matsuyama?

This is by way of an intro to some of the info I've been reading on The Athletic. I'll start with three:

Warriors: Lots of speculations about what the Warriors should or should not do about this years' draft, mainly centering around should they use last years exceptionally talented first round draft choice in a  trade of solid vets to join Mr. Curry for a run at the championship, or should they bundle their 7 & 14 picks to move up to a fourth for a better youngster. The writers provide scenarios in between these two larger themes. It is my humble conclusion (and as a prior Warrior I have no inside info) that the Warriors are going to stay pat with what they've got. Sometimes teams need to make judgements and take risks. I believe taking the risk that Wiseman will be a better offensive and defensive contributor next season after a real off-season is odds on likely. He just has to be 50% better to make an impact. This would allow the Warriors to use Loony in a true back up role where he is more comfortable and for which he is better suited. As for #7 & 14, I can name a couple of college players in the draft who are not in diapers and NBA ready to contribute. I'll not name names. So Klay comes back as strong or close to strong and what do you have? On the other hand, let's say the Bucks are willing to give up Giannis for Wiseman and Wiggins and the 7th and 14th. Is that truly a no-brainer? Speculation is fun. 

Comments about the  Playoffs: I'm rooting for the Bucks to win in the East because I've always held a soft spot in my heart for Milwaukee, a true working mans town and home to my good friend Charlie Dee who never saw a scrum in rugby or a political battle he didn't like. As for the championship, I'm all in for the Suns. I'm a big fan of Coach Monty Williams, who might be the perfect example of a pro coach that has found the middle ground between toughness and compassion, between "his way' and "their way" And let's all cheer for Chris Paul. There is not a player I can think of who deserves the ring more. Always the true professional, never a complainer, always a mentor for his younger teammates. Go Chris!!

Stupidities: Todays The Athletic about Mavs hiring Jason Kidd and Blazers hiring Chauncy Billups, Kidd with a spousal abuse history (he pleaded guilty in 2001) and Billups with a more serious sexual abuse accusation for which he was found not guilty. The stupidity here is not that these two men have a dubious history. One owned up, the other was found not guilty - end of story. Move on to what makes them good candidates. Kidd has had two tries and flamed out in both. This should not inspire a lot of confidence in Mr. Doncic. Other than one year as an assistant with the Clippers, Billups has miniscule experience. Why is that important, considering Steve Kerr of the Warriors was selected having no prior experience coaching at all? Because the person the Blazers brought in for two interviews, Becky Hammon, the assistant coach for the last five years with Pop in San Antonio, is far more qualified than Billups. Talk about tokenism. Stupid? You bet. Both teams, on both counts. 

Lot's of pro golf these days. Rocket Mortgage Championship. Where the hell are the superstars in golf these days? The Open in Scotland coming up. Here's a lovely Haiku by Andy Brumer

Is golf an art

or a science?

Does a coin have one side or two? 

Monday, June 7, 2021

A Few Comments and Observations from this Morning's Sports Page

 Clippers defeat the Mavs. I was pulling for the Mavs, not for any basketball reason, but because Mav's owner Mark Cuban was such a vocal critic of psycho Donald Trump. Such a comment will cost me Trump supporter. To which I reply who wants them?

What Dallas wants  (desperately needs) is a better supporting cast for their super star. Let's start by getting rid of Porzingis So he knocks down the 3 ball occasionally and dunks a wide open feed, Big Deal! The Mavs get more D out of flat footed Boban the Giant. Ever notice that when Porzingis catches the ball within 10/15 feet from the basket with a smaller man guarding him, the 7 foot plus passes out rather than turning into a jump shot. Is he afraid of a little body contact? And who the hell can he guard? Make a trade, Mavs; there might be a sucker out there. Think young, long, athletic 3's and 4's. Next on the list is a rim protecting center who will love every minute of Donic's lob passes. Imagine a Clint Capella of the Hawks or DeAndre Jordan in his heyday. They also need a true point guard off the bench who doesn't need to score but can play solid D. Will Kleeber ever be be a reliable shooter? This a a long shot, and I don't know if it's what can be done, but how about keeping Boban in Dallas all summer working on footwork, low post moves, and maybe ballet lessons. I'm not kidding. If the bieeeegggg man were only slightly better, he'd be one hell of a back up center. You can not teach height. 

I understand what a force Denver's Jokic is, but why don't I like him? My wife says it's because he's always wiping his nose on his shirt. Maybe it's because I'm getting tired of his "pitiful pearl" whining to the officials. Jokic is huge, talented, the difference between the Nuggets losing or winning. What does he expect? He needs to check out a clip of Shaq with the Lakers. Opponents beat on the big fella relentlessly, and he hardly ever said anything, just beat everybody down. I was never a great Shaq fan, but the man was not a complainer. Have I beat this drum before? If so, it deserves beating. 

Will 76ers' Joel Embid ever stay healthy through a full season? But he played through the slight miniscus tear, and darn near brought his team from behind to beat the Hawks who almost blew a 30 point lead. 

Let's close with a hats off to two women in sports: 

Yako Sasso, a 19 year old from the Philippines won this year's U.S. Women's Open. She tied Inbee Park as the youngest winner in event's history. Question? Why are there so many Asians in women's pro golf compared to men's?

Simon Biles won her 7th U.S. All-Around Championship. Did we have any doubt?

It's take me out to the ball game season, so here's a baseball poem.


I say to my doctor my spine 

looks like a curve ball,

and he says

it's breaking pitch

to the inside. I think that's funny,

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Commetns & Observations

 Lets start with Phil Michelson winning the PGA. At my age, I'm always excited to watch a senior citizen beating the youngsters. I'm a little concerned, however, about the writer in my local paper referring to Mickelson as the  "Peoples' Champion." Given that Phil is clearly a millionaire a couple of times over and has griped and grumbled over the burden of high taxes on the rich, it doesn't seem to fit his conservative mindset. But I love the story about Phil flying all night cross-country during a tournament to be at his daughter's recital, then flying back again to play. A good father deserves a pass from a grumpy liberal like myself. So right on, Phil. Let's hear it for over 50. 

Norway vs Scotland for the Gold in the Mixed Doubles International Curling Championship in Aberdeen, Scotland. Canada vs Sweden for Bronze. U.S. needs to work at its game. 

I saw some moves by 76ers' Joel Embid in yesterdays win over the Washington Wizards that made me appreciate the big fella better - on the dead run down the center of the paint, received the pass and made a lovely finesse underhand reverse English layup, ala Step Curry. How about a three way tie for MVP: Jokic, Curry and Embid?

Why can't opponents figure out that Trae Young is going to shoot a floater when he penetrates the paint?

I love the way Russell Westbrook handled his trade to the Wizards like a true professional, never a whine, played hard 100%. Deserves a lot of credit. If he could ever hit consistent 3's he'd be un-guardable, but he rushes his shot. Hummingbird reflexes. A summer project? What do you say, Russell?

Knicks in the playoffs after an 8 year absence. Give Tibs and Julius Randle tons of credit. I wonder if the Lakers would love to have Randle back? 

Speaking of the Lakers, Andre Drummond has been a great surprise. Low post centers still have a value in the NBA. 

Speaking of the Lakers, it looks as if AD and LeBron are finally physically ready, which does not bode well for the rest of the Western Conference. 

The importance of three point shooting never more evident than the Utah win over the Griz last night.

Offense smashes into the chest of the defender, knocking him ass over tea kettle and the defender is called for a block??????? What the F- - k! Player sets a screen for dribbling teammate; player guarding the dribbler smashes into the blocker, spinning the blocker around. Ref calls moving screen????? OMG!  

The worst dribble-bully in the league is LeBron James. He lowers his shoulder and smashes into defenders at an All Star rate. Rarely get called for a charge. Harden ain't too bad at it either, although Harden's acting job, thrusting his arms dramatically into the air wins the Meschery Shakespeare Award. By the way, is anybody tired of LeBron always grabbing his head and writhing in pain when he gets knocked down 

Keep a lookout at the end of the season for Meschery's Gotcha Awards.

Instead of a poem. 

I urge all my readers to look up on the internet the story of Louis Armstrong's life as a virtually destitute child in New Orleans and being taken into the home of a Jewish family by the name of Karnovsky. You'll be inspired. Satchmo in Yiddish means "Fat Cheeks."

". . . It's a wonderful woild. . . oh, yeah!"