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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, November 19, 2019

Pay for Student Athletes

Is paying college athletes for their "brand" a tsunami in a tea kettle?

The controversy surrounding paying student athletes applies only to two sports: Basketball and Football. All other college sports do not generate anywhere near the kind of income that the Big Two do.

To begin let's clarify: Is it possible that the term Student/Athlete is an oxymoron? I'm not being snarky. I do not know the stats, but I'd be willing to bet that the basketball and football players who could sell their "brand" while attending college are not those who normally graduate from college, but leave early to join the pros where they can earn big bucks. As for other sports "stars" I give a nod to an Olympic athlete who returns to college. He or she may or may not have a "brand" that a sponsor might be willing to take on.

Going forward, I'm going to assume my premise is correct, in which case I see no reason to pay college atheltes unless the individual "star athletes" are willing to share their [in college] income with the rest of their fellow teammates. Rationale: "stars' do not shine brighter than the rest of the lesser stars in their constellation.

The alternative in my opinion is that the college splits the the entire basketball and football per year income 50/50 with all student athletes, each student athlete getting a check of equal amount. Rationale: A gymnast works just as hard to bring glory to the university as a basketball player.

I lean to the 50/50 option because it seems more equitable, covering all sports.

It is worth remembering that all scholarship athletes get full tuition room and board for their efforts on their sporting team. The last time I looked four yearsat a state school costs around $112 thousand. At a private college the costs for four years tuition, room and board comes to approximately $200 grand.

In return for a four-year free college education, an athlete is asked to be both a student and an athlete - a tough job no doubt. I've done it. It requires giving up a lot, usually personal entertainments, although I'm not sure I gave up too many dates or parties during my time being a student/athlete.

I guess I don't get what all the hoopla is about. Baseball figured it out a long time ago. The pros established a minor league. "Stars" in high school did not go to college (often) but went directly into MBL's system and worked their way up. It's time the NFL and the NBA provide the same kind of program for high school "stars" - minor leagues (NBA has a head start with the G League) so they don't have to do the "hypocrisy" few couple of years in college thing. Start doing what they are born to do from the beginning. If they're really interested in sociology 101, they can can always go to college later in life and pay their way. Harsh? You might want to ask a few random students on campus.

Net result college football and basketball will have to continue without the "stars" I'm not sure the games will suffer much. Most alums will continue to attend. There would have to be cost cutting,so the "minor" sports would not suffer, but it's all doable with a little less greed.

It's time sports in America went European anyway. From the get-go, the Europeans don't mix sports and education. Sports belong in sports clubs; education belongs in schools. What a concept!

Remember this; we all did it when we were really amateurs.

Playing The Game     by Barbara Goldowwsky

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

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

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

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


Monday, November 11, 2019

Refueling

Like the Phoenix, the Dubs will rise again. They simply need to stop and refuel the engine. I was not at all sure they were doing this before the season and into the first week. But as the injuries mounted: Curry down, then Drayond, and DeAngelo out for a stretch, the refueling option suddenly becomes a (whether the powers that be understood completely or not) a strategy worth considering: The Warriors could - and it looks like they will  and should - field a team of entirely newbees and newcomers.

As a strategy I'm all in. Let the remaining players - less the stars - sort out which of them are worthy of calling themselves Warriors. So far, it seems to be working. Call these  Warriors: Newcomer Warriors, Team Hustle, Team D, Team Smart (well not always), Team Coachable. Their effort culminated in an upset over a strong Portland Trailblazer team. The entire team played well. Grit, determination (and surprisingly to me not to them better skill sets). They were not going to be denied. I loved watching the game. Rooting for the Dubs as underdogs was an entirely new and enjoyable experience. And sort of humbling.

Since that Blazer game, not as much success, but it doesn't detract from the strategy and the need to analyze potential.

Any enlightenment so far? 1) All of the newbees have shown they are willing to play Defense. All of them need to play defense more consistently. 2) Eric Paschall appears to have the skills to be a Stretch Four or even a Stretch Three. He can elevate on his jumper, has a quick release, excellent form, the ball rotates beautifully, and he's not afraid to shoot. He is also able to put his head down and go to the bucket. We'll see about Paschall after his rep gets around and teams start focusing on him. 3) Jordan Poole has a chance to become a solid Two Guard. Again, great form, no fear, terrific rotation on the ball, and a shooters' mentality. Got to work on his D, but I see willingness. Both of these draft choices are another feather in GM Bob Myer's quiet extraordinary hat. 4) Spellman seems to be gaining confidence and losing weight. A big who can shoot from deep. Think Mareese Speights. 5) Cauley Stein has to board better and shot block better. If he does, he could be an answer or at least one answer. 6) Bowman, a surprise point guard. Goes to the basket, appears to be fearless. I worry about his height. Maybe Lee is the better of the two coming off the bench? 6) Alec Burke may be an important reserve on a strong Dubs team next year. Think Livingston . 7) Marquisee Chriss? With a body like that and jumping ability, why not? But maybe a couple of other teams he's been on have wondered the same thing. I'll give the kid the benefit of the doubt. He's worth cultivating.

Enough, already. Let's move on to a few quick comments about other NBA teams.

The Celts losing Kyrie and gaining Kemba is a positive for the Shamrocks. If they had kept Horford, I'd have given them a chance to win the East. Kemba is a whole lot more understated and willing to spread the offense around than Kyrie was. Horford might be one of the best Pros power forwards of the 21st century NBA - under the radar somewhat. .

The Miami Heat should not be overlooked. Butler seems happy and relaxed. (For once) Adebayo is coming into his own. So is Justise Winslow. Myeer Leonard, the big  7" 2" shooting guard from Portland is proving to be pretty capable as a shooting center..  Goran Drajic is an under- the-radar point/shooting guard (Think Michael Connelly). Coach Spoelstra has not lost his smarts just because Lebron is gone. The kid Tyler Herro is a hero. In an Eastern Conference that is top heavy, they could reach deep into the playoffs.

Bucks. Now that the Lopez twins are together, Bucks all the way. I may be kidding. You decide.

In the West, I'm beginning to like Dallas more and more, and Houston less and less. With all their players back healthy (Bagley primarily) and a little seasoning, after new year, the Kings could surprise the pundits. With Connelly at the helm, I like Utah, but doesn't Rudy have to be tougher? He's shot blocker, but does not instill fear.

If I were a Republican Senator, I'd demand to be traded from the Trump Team. Total loser.

I'm not much of a boxing fan, but I am old enough to remember watching the icons: Sugar Ray; Marciano, Patterson, the other Sugar Ray, Ali, etc. 21 century boxers? Ho humm. Here's a poem for them:

The World's Worst Boxer

Apis! the men you boxed with, grateful that you 
never hit one of them, erect this statue.

                            Lucilus
                            translated by Humbert Wolfe









Thursday, October 17, 2019

Okay, China is Getting a Little Boring

What is the frigging PROBLEM? Adam Silver explained that the NBA supports FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Period, End of Story. Why is everyone in the NBA, including the most outspoken and politically active equivocating, vacillating, sidestepping, and generally dancing the Texas Two Step around the Chinese going ballistic over Darryl Morey's support of the Hong Kong protesters? "We in the NBA support Freedom of Speech" should be the answer to all the probing by the media that would like nothing better than to catch players, coaches, etc with their hypocritical pants down, ie: Lebron James' recent comment. James Harden apologizing for his GM. Steve, Pop, Come on???
Freedom of Speech is at the backbone of our Republic. It's not a hard concept to articulate. Our country is being faced with a President who'd like nothing better than to curtail FREEDOM OF SPEECH. We MUST defend this essential principal. That's all I'm saying. That's all folks in the NBA needed to say, but for some reason couldn't figure it out and started blathering nonsense.

HOWEVER, and there is always an however. If you feeling strongly about the Hong Kong folks protesting, then, by God, like Darryl of the Rockets, you (I'm talking to the greater YOU) need to say it loud and clear, and F**k the money. Of course, that's easy for me to say from my rocking chair retired NBA players' seat. So, I'll accept what criticism comes my way over this blog.

No poem for this blog. Except, perhaps,

"Who'll stop the rain. . ."

Friday, October 11, 2019

BREAKING NEWS!

BEIJING, CHINA:

Official Chinese Sports Federation: Yao Ming announces upcoming friendly games between Chinese teams and the following Euro-League teams Fenebahce, Olymiacos and Saski Baskonia have been canceled for lack of interest. Tickets for future Euro League preseason games have been reduced 50%.

Official Chinese Government Marketing Announcement: 90% off on all basketball gear for the following players: Nando de Colo of Renerbahce; Sergio Llull of Real Madrid; Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos; Mike James of Saski Baskonia; Nikita Karbonov of CSKA

Central Government Politboro Announcement: All black market sales of NBA gear are reaching alarming levels. Citizens wearing NBA jerseys will be prosecuted. Anyone wearing a Rockets jersey will be tried for treason.

International Times Front Page: 150 Chinese citizens, wearing NBA jerseys poured gasoline over themselves in Tianamin Square and turned themselves into human torches in protest of government's anti NBA policies.

Wall Street Journal: Protesters in Hong Kong are wearing Fear the Daryll jerseys. Sales of Rocket gear in Taiwan have tripled.

White House: President Trump announces lifting tariffs on some Chinese goods. He expects China to continue boycotting the NBA, a league that is far too liberal. "If you criticize the President of the United States, bad things happen," Trump stated.

Official Chinese Sports Federation Up Date:  Tickets for Future Euro League games have been reduced by 75%.

NBA News: NBA properties show 200% increases in sales in India. New African NBA sponsored professional league is resounding success. Sales of NBA gear wildly popular. NBA to play exhibition games next season in Mongolia, much to the chagrin of Chinese Basketball Federation.

Summer's gone, but let's have one last summer poem sent to me by Ron Adams, assistant coach and defensive guru of the Golden State Warriors.

In Summer's Amber   by Gilbert Rogin (one time editor at Sports Illustrated)

Thickened with light, the spaces of summer
hold sound like the sea.
A playing-field shout outlives the play;
an outboard motor is put up, its drone preserved,
as it were, in summer's amber.
Only at night are the sounds quick and falling:
the water breaking each time the jumping fish falls;
in the white barns, horses stamping
in their dreams' dark furlongs;
grooms sitting out under the elms
in canvas chairs, on tack boxes,
telling lies. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Back from Europe in time for the NBA Season. . .

. . . and controversy: China vs the NBA. I pick the the NBA. I've been reading all the hoopla, pundits - right and left - going off. I really don't understand what the big deal is. Adam Silver got it right when he said the League doesn't dictate players, administrators, and coaches' political opinions. "The NBA can't operate that way," Silver stated. Good for you Adam. It should have been your first statement, but you got handed a pretty "tricky' situation on speed dial.

So, here's how I see it moving forward. China dumps the NBA - Aw, poor baby got it's feelings hurt. So friggin what? The NBA sticks to its guns. Let them cancel games and gear contracts. No doubt lot's of money is going to be lost. Initially. But how about in the long range? I can't see it happening.

Can the Chinese possibly be that dumb?

Basketball is hugely popular in China. Millions and millions of their citizens - kids, men and women - are playing the sport and following the NBA and its stars. I doubt seriously that the enthusiasm for the sport and particularly for the NBA is going to diminish because of one email by Rockets' GM.. Eventually the Chinese government will have to relent. Or, of course, the government, in its wisdom, can go courting the Euro-League teams as a substitute for the NBA. Not exactly the same caliber of basketball, is it?  And the millions of Chinese NBA fans will not buy it. Name me one Euro League star who the Chinese will embrace the way they do stars from the NBA. Can't think of one? Neither can I.

When it comes to basketball (as opposed to Trump's dumb tariff war), China needs the NBA more than the NBA needs China. The people in Hong Kong may or may not get what they want, but the Chinese mainland NBA fans will damn sure get their NBA games and their NBA gear.

There is a lot to say about pressure from the bottom up. Power to the people!

And, an aside of note from the White House: Is Trump the biggest baby in the world, dissing Steve Kerr because Kerr didn't go off on the Chinese? Meanwhile Trumps' spat with the Chinese government is breaking the backs of our farmers. What a twit. Kerr's got more integrity in his little finger than Trump has in his entire obese body.

As for my beloved Warriors. They've got their work cut out for them. Klay has to come back of course, but I'd damn sure not rush it. I know Klay is "Old School" but it there is the slightest chance the knee isn't perfectly healed, he needs to be kept out the entire season. There is enough talent right now to surprise the pundits. "Oh, yeah?" I can hear the pundits now. "Oh, yeah?"

I'm not saying it will be easy. However, there's just enough offense that the Dubs can make the playoffs, as long as their Defense becomes like the steel curtain. Once the Warriors make the playoffs, and, say, Klay does come back after All-Star break, who knows? Remember Lamont Cranston, of day-time radio? "The Shadow knows."

My wife says I'm dating myself. So what? I'm Old School, emphasis on the Old. Here's what my wife and I are going to do: We're finding what the odds are of the Dubs making the playoffs and getting past the first round and putting some money down. Yeah, We're that confident/

A few general comments before my next Blog when I rank teams and go into team by team detail.

In the West:  1) The Lakers are not deep enough to go too far into the playoffs, and Anthony Davis has never played a full season healthy. 2) Even if Paul George's shoulders are not right for a while, the Clips will be better than last year, and last year they were on the cusp of being damn good. 3) I've never been sold on Hardin's D. And Westbrook is probably a smart guy, but he plays dumb, and there's just going to be too much two-man-ball, at the expense of the rest of the guys on the team. It's going to wear thin after a while. 4) Jazz, after mid-season, could be a real bad-ass threat, big personnel improvement, shooter in Bogan and terrific point guard.in Conley.  And always solid D.

In the East: 1) Should be Milwaukee's year. 2) If Simmons has learned how to shoot the trey, should be Philly's year. 3) Ain't going to be Boston's Year. Loss of Horford will cut deeply. 4) Like Hardin,
I've never been a  Kyrie Irving fan, and recently especially as he keeps yapping about wanting his "own" team. That's too much ego for me to trust his leadership. You've never heard Curry saying the Dubs are "his" team.

And finally, how about the 49ers? Haven't been back in the U.S.A long enough to catch up on the NFL, but it looks like the San Jose 49ers are the real deal. Now, if they'd only stop showing Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge during television commercials. Come on, Citizens of San Jose, you paid for the state-of-the-art stadium, and they're still calling the team San Francisco.

A few weeks back in Florence where my wife and I were hanging out, checking out the Caravaggio's,
The David and the Matisse's and eating lots of Spaghetti alla Vongole, we had the pleasure of observing a boys basketball team of CUS Firenze practice and scrimmage, 36 ten to twelve year-old youngsters playing tough and working hard, and parents in the stands cheering their children on. Perhaps these boys will be the beginning of a new generation of great Italian basketball players. Good friend, Massimo, keep encouraging your son and his teammates. For the love of basketball and sportsmanship. We'll see you next year. Dinner at Toto's.

Given  our time in Italy, a poem by Virgil from the Georgics seems appropriate.

The Chariot Race

Have you not seen them fighting for the lead,
Their chariots plunging when the  barrier drops,
The drivers' surging hopes, the pounding fear
That drains exulting hearts? They close in,
Ply the lash, crouch over loosened reins,
The  glowing axle spins, the drivers' bodies
Seem now to scrape the  ground, and now to soar
Through empty air, wheels rising in the wind;
No hanging back, no rest: a gold  cloud
Of sand swirls in their wake, the  flecks of foam,
The breath of the pursuers, soak them through:
So great is their love for praise, their will to win.