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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.

Monday, October 15, 2018

2018/19 NBA Season Comments

Another NBA season that looks top heavy in the West, with Boston, Philly, and Toronto, easily the favorites in the East.

As a general rules, in my opinion, a team to win the NBA Championship must have at least two WOW players - Super-All Stars such as LeBron James, KD, Curry, Antetokoumpo, Paul George, James Harden, etc.

                                                      EASTERN DIVISION 

Boston Celtics: They are solid at every starting position with solid bench strength at every position. Irving and Hayward are WOW players (If Hayword is healthy) with some HALF WOW's in Jaylen Brown  Horford and emerging WOW player, Jayson Tatum.  The Celts can run, but are also patient. They can defend and rebound. Bench is strong. They have an excellent , gifted coach and appear to have all his players on the same page in terms of goals. You can't out tough them and you can't out finesse them, at least not in the East.

Philadelphia 76ers: They should be the second best team in the East, but a lot will depend on Embid's health and the development of Marquelle Fultz. Other questions, can Ben Simmons ever learn to shoot? Can JJ Redick have one more top notch shooting season after 13 years? I think the addition of Wilson Chandler will provide depth at the SF to help an great but inconsistent shooter Robert Covington. I like the coaching, but this season will test his mettle. Can the team defend as a team beyond the third pass? Joel Embid is a WOW players. Simmons is a HALF WOW, not a full WOW until he learns to shoot from middle distance and free throws. If all the stars are aligned, the 76ers could upset the Celtics. But not in a 7 game series.

Toronto Raptors: Have a point guard problem. Is Kyle Lowry a true point? Probably, but I'm not entirely convinced. He can shoot, even though streaky. Fred Vanvleet is a solid point guard, but over 80 games? Can the Raptors stretch the floor shooting threes? Lowry and CJ Miles are both streak shooters in my opinion. Danny Green is strong addition, and he can shoot deep. Green could turn into an X factor. Kawhi Leonard gives the team a WOW player. Lowry is a HALF WOW. But will Kawhi by in mentally is the question? Will he stay healthy? If he's right, the Raptors will be very tough. They are very solid at the center and power forward positions. I see lots of growth in Siakim.

Indiana:Pacers: Two huge question marks for a team I like a lot. Do they have a true starter-type point guard who can be a complete floor manager? I see Darren Collison and Cory Joseph as excellent PG backups. Perhaps Aaron Holiday? But he is a rookie and that's a lot to ask a rookie to take over the running of a team. At every other position I love this team. Oladipo is a WOW player. Myles Turner is a HALF WOW player with a caveat, which is - will he or won't he insist on being the star he can be? Or is he just a little too congenial?  I'm not sold on Doug McDermott, but he could prove me wrong. Bogdanovic will stretch the floor and Sabonis might make an All Star team one of these days. McMillan is a solid coach. Put an All Start type point guard on this team, and they go to the finals of the Eastern Division playoffs and maybe further.

Milwaukee Bucks: I'm picking the Pacers over the Bucks, but this could flip, as the Budenholtzer factor has to be assessed. Here's another team like the Pacers, with some questions at the point guard position. I've never been a Bledsoe fan. I think he makes bad decisions. Dellavadova is a true point guard, but he's slow and an inconsistent shooter. His D is top notch. The Bucks play him off the bench, and I bet most teams in the NBA would like to have a tough strong thinker like Delly coming off the bench for them. That leaves Malcolm Brogdan at the point. I like him, but not with any enthusiasm. Antetekoumpo is a WOW player. Krhis Middleton is a HALF WOW in my opinion. Zeller, Lopez, Maker are solid in the post. Can Snell at shooting guard shoot consistently? They have strong help off the bench at the power positions in Henson and Ilyasova. I think the Buck are one season and one draft choice/trade away from making some real noise.

Washington Wizards: What is it about the Wizards that I don't like? The chemistry? Wall and Beale should be dominant. Why aren't they? Was Gortat for Howard the gamble that will pay off? I doubt it. Never thought Howard ever worked hard enough at his game. Some strong young shooting forwards in Porter and Obre. Will Austen Rivers be the guy off the  bench that makes a difference?  Just too many question marks for this team to do anything but play themselves out of the first round of Eastern Division Playoffs. I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't make the playoffs. If Miami can get Butler without giving up too much???

Chicago Bulls: Surprise team in the east.

                                                         WESTERN DIVISION


Golden State Warriors: Always tough for me to evaluate the Warriors objectively as I'm an ex Warrior and one of their biggest fans. So, I'll begin with the obvious - if Demarcus Cousins can recover fully from his torn Achilles tendon and play the way he did in New Orleans, the Warriors should win a fourth NBA Championship. If not, the Dubs have a problem in the post, (not sold on Jones) and may have to rely on Draymond and small ball, which is not a bad thing because Draymond is a Mr. All Around Stud. In all the other four positions, the Warriors are super solid. Cook has come along nicely and it looks as if Jacob Evans, the team's 1st round choice in June, will be a solid defender. Igudala and Livingston are a little long in the tooth, but should have enough where-with-all left for this season. I'm interested to see how Jerebko fits in to the Dubs defensively. I've always thought of him as a little soft on D. I'm a big Jordan Bell fan and am getting to be a Loony fan as his progress has been steady in defense and offense. Curry, Durant, and Klay are WOW players. Green is a HALF WOW (got to put more arc into the jumper for consistency's sake). Cousins is a WOW player. Lot's of WOW's going on. Could be a starting five with 5 All Star players. Coaching: EXCELLENT.

Houston Rockets: I thought that the Rockets would miss Ariza and Maboute, but I've changed my mind. PJ Tucker has shown me some stuff. He is definitely an X factor player. The Rockets have never had any defensive toughness, but PJ can change that. Even so, he is only one player. I still think the Rockets remain vulnerable on D: Hardin is an unwilling defender; Chris Paul, when all is said and done, is too small; Gordon is not a solid defender, and neither is Carmelo, who always looses defensive focus after the 3rd pass. .I'm a huge Capela fan. If Dwight Howard had Capela's work ethic, he be superman. Gerald Green is too flacky for my taste, and can make and has made in the past some awfully stupid moves. Ennis might turn into a strong acquisition. The Rockets will still be able to stretch the floor, so they will always be dangerous. As long as Chris Paul has a full healthy season, the Rockets are the only team I see giving the Warriors any trouble. D'Antoni is only an adequate coach in my opinion. Run and gun is easy to say.

Oklahoma Thunder: I will never be sold on a team with Westbrook running the show. Russell's problem is he's not a good point guard and he's not a good off guard. So what is he, really? A point shooter? Now what do you do with Dennis Schroeder? Is he really going to be happy coming off the bench? If OKC can figure out this problem, they'll be the 3rd best team in the west. At the forward and post positions, they are extremely strong. Steve Adams is awesome and doesn't need the ball to be successful, a HALF  WOW.  Paul George is a WOW player. Is Russell Westbrook? Not in my book, but I'll grant he's a HALF WOW. Nerlen Noel might turn out help when Adams has to rest. I like the Noel pick up - a little soft, but very long. Grant and Paterson are solid. Robinson will always play great D, but remains a shooting liability. Got to improve his free throws. Coaching has got to improve for this team to move forward. I see no strategic defensive or offensive strategy that's at all innovative. .

Denver Nuggets:  Lots of talking heads are predicting a break out year for the Nuggets, led my Nicola Jokic, a WOW player. Maybe, if Paul Milsap, a HALF WOW player, stays healthy and Isiah Thomas can find his Mojo. If those two players have strong seasons, there is enough talent that the Nuggets could upset OKC and hold off all other challengers except the Warriors and Rockets. And if I were the Warrior and Rockets, I wouldn't take the Mile High City's team too lightly. They can shoot and penetrate. Even though Plumlee is no threat offensively, he's a first-rate backup center, who'll run the floor and pick up cheap baskets. Solid if not imaginative coaching.

San Antonio Spurs: . Pop will find a way, but the loss of Kawhi was big. I've never been an Aldridge fan and Pau is getting old. Aldridge is a HALF WOW player. Who's going to run the club, now that Murrry is gone with an injury? Patty Mills? Maybe, but I like Patty coming off the bench. Who's going to stretch the floor? Derozen is a WOW player. but a middle distance shooting expert, Other than Patty Mills, where are the 3's coming from? The Spurs may turn out to be the worst three-point shooting team to ever make the playoffs.

Utah Jazz:  A well coached team, a year away, in my opinion, from contending for the finals in the West if they make the right trade and draft choice at the end of the season. Not impressed with the point guards.I don't care if he's improved, Rubio is still a poor shooter so teams can slack off. Same is true with Dante Exum. Neto is marginal off the bench. Team needs a stud at the point, then watch out. Donovan Mitchel is a WOW player. So is center Rudy Gobert a WOW. Joe Ingles always mystifies me, how does that slow dude get his shot off? Crowder and Favors will give the Jazz strength at the power spots and occasional big point production, but not consistent. Will see about the progress of O'Neele. Looks like a lot of potential. Still wondering where there's real jazz in Utah.

Los Angeles Lakers: Will make the playoffs on the back of Lebron James. Definate young stars, Ingram and Kuzma will contribute. Rondo will help, but is a flake factor, so what will he be like at the end of the season? Other flake factors: Lance Stephensen, and Mile Beasley, with these two anything can happen. Javale, I love you, but not as a starter. The more minutes you get the greater the chance of errors. Lonzo Ball looks like he's worked hard on his jumper, but I'd still slack off him if it meant stopping James, Ingram or Kuzma. I was hard on Ball last year, but I'm seeing him in a more positive light. I like hard workers, and he appears to have worked hard on the off season to improve his game. I'm a big K Caldwell Pope fan, but there is only one basketball to share. Walton is a good coach and getting better OJT. If Kawhi comes next season, the Lakers become scary.

Surprise Team: If Doncic is as good as his rep, Dallas, maybe.

General over-all not going into the 2018/19 season: There are a lot of mediocre players in the NBA, so I hope the NBA is not thinking of expansion for a while.

It's still football season, so here's a football poem I wrote recently.

JAXON    by Tom Meschery

I’ve a grandson who plays high school football.
He’s a linebacker, which means he attacks
the ball carrier, hoping to dislodge
any pig skin or weapon of mass destruction 
tucked under  the runner's arm with the intention
of harming the National Interest or ruining
the chances of his team winning the game.
Football is that kind of sport. The difference
between death and a losing season is blurred.
Why not chuck a grenade to a wide receiver
and watch him explode into the end-zone,
or take a hit from a 300 pound line-man?
Or, in the case of line-backers, volunteer
to lose their memories before they’re fifty.





Monday, October 8, 2018

Why Am I Not Surprsed

I've been on vacation and have not kept up with the sports news. Too busy enjoying the quiet of New York City.

So, I came back to the Raiders fumbling the season. Why am I not surprised?

First of all: I knew from the start that they overpaid Carr. He's a worthy QB, but not at the expense of failing to sign Kahil Mack. Stupid and short sighted. This is on Mark Davis. (what kind of a son constructs an eternal flame for his father anyway?) I'll guarantee Al would have traded his eternal flame for Mack any day. Football decision, not BS.

Second of all: It is my belief that the principal of IRONY must be taken into account whenever decisions are made. When you hire a person who is presented to team fans as a season changer, "to fix thing for good" the chances are excellent that irony will step in, and the opposite will happen. It is an act of arrogance and arrogance always fails.

Third of all: John Gruden was out of the game for a very long time, a very long time. The game changes, players change. Was he really ready to take over a failed program? Really? As a color broadcaster I never thought he was that informative, but that is my bias. I will offer this, bias or not, that on air Gruden was way-over-the-top-full-of-himself. He reminded me of a puffed up little bantam rooster. I never felt he was authentic. Lack of authenticity is something pro athletes pick up on very quickly. The locker room has to be REAL. If it is not, things start to fall apart fast.

I've always loved the Raiders and Raider fans. My best friend, Bill King broadcast the Raider games for years, so I'd love to wish them success. However, success doesn't seem in the cards for the Black and White this season.

And, finally, perhaps this failure is the result of bad karma that is the result of  the team leaving their loyal Oakland fans for glitzy Lost Wages.

Or, could it be, that the fruit of the tree has fallen too far away from the tree.

Or, all of the above?

A 63 yard field goal by Graham Gano for the Panther's win deserves a kicking poem.

The Kicker's last Steps

     For Jack Driscoll

One point behind, ten seconds left,
I lunge forward

a halo of gnats around my head.
I always thought field goal kicking
should be easy,
like pushing a word
from my tongue into the air.
But the goal posts
move backward
ten yards with each step.
Foto
And alone on this field -
only the year lines like a ladder I've forgotten
how to climb, the moon's floodlight
like a stiff graduation gown,
the empty avenues
of bleachers?

When night fog clutches my ankles
like the pudgy hands of a linebacker,
I try to thin of anything but kicking
(the river beyond the goal posts,
the blank scorecards. of my parents faces),
try not to think that in an instant
my toe must dive
deep into leather
as if it's in love  with it.

From the sidelines my approach must look
almost casual, as though I hardly care -
in the silence of this last step
I hear the winds of three ducks above me
flying toward the creaking ice of the river.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Start of the NFL and Etc

Oakland Raiders: John Gruden may not be enough and Derrick Carr looked frightened. I mean, did you see that last intercepted pass. That was a basketball shot that looped straight into the hands of LA defensive back's hands. Guy looked totally surprised before running for a TD. Carr looked uncertain and flinchy the entire game. like he was worried about getting hit. I hope that's not true, but I think Gruden made a mistake saying "everything they [Raiders} do is about Carr.

San Jose 49ers: (Let's call them what the are and not SF) Back to football. Garapolo looked pretty average. He's obviously not. But at the end of last season, he was a surprise. Now that teams have film of him, they're better prepared. This makes all the team deficiencies more important to solve.
In the meantime, Shanahan wins the "Spin" of the NFL's first week: impressed with how G handled adversity.If you don't make it as a head coach, Kyle, there's a job waiting for you in politics.

New York Jets: Have finally got a QB. Darnold looked mostly like a vet as he led his team to a win over the Lions, which is not a shabby outfit. It was a serious performance.

Early betting on the vikings to win the Stupid Bowl would be reasonable. LA Rams next in line.

Arizona Cardinals might as well get it over with and make Rosen their starting QB. Preseason showed the kid had poise, skill and cockiness needed to be a big time NFL quarterback.

My long-shot team for max improvement is the Cleavland Browns.

This could be a very lopsided NFL season with wide disparity between the good teams and the bad, a little like our economy, the rich getting richer and the poor (and Middle Class) getting poorer.


                                                              ETC

Pro Tennis has got to get off that weird and outdated rule that coaches can't coach from the sidelines. In what sport, other than tennis, do coaches have to sit on their hands and keep their mouths shut as they watch their athletes perform? DUMB AND MORE DUMB. That silly ass ref during the Serena William's match calling calling a foul for a coaches "thumbs up" gesture. It started a chain reaction. Serena should not have blown her cool. Her racquet toss required a point loss.

Lots of CHEERS Keegan Bradley winning the BMW. Bradley hasn't won since since 2011. Love watching him approach shots: approach, step back, approach a second time. measure, step back, approach, twist club a couple of times. My wife calls him "Nervous Nelly". Nerves off steel at the end against Rose in the playoffs.

More CHEERS for Djokovis wining the US Open. Got a ways to go to tie Federer's 20 Grand Slams, but he's in striking distance of Nadal's 14.

The recent death of my old college roommate and Saint Mary's College basketball teammate, John Shirley prompted this poem.

On Hearing of John’s Death   by Tom Meschery

Got an email
from Ron with a poem
about the wind that is a gift
on a day I needed one having heard
of the death of my college roommate,
the best and only one-legged basketball player
in the history of Saint Mary’s College who’d limp
past you for a lay-up if you weren’t careful, so smart
he barely studied his sophomore year and got straight A’s
and nearly drove me out of my mind learning, instead of reading
the Classics, while I was struggling with the dactylic hexameter of the Iliad,
how to play one fucking song, Easy Rider on his guitar, the same notes over
and over; and the poem Ron sent me closed with the wind sounding like
a blues harmonica that arrived, as befits poetic license, all the way
from Pluto, the farthest planet in the Universe, which is where,
perhaps, if one does not believe in heaven, my roommate
John is now entering like the wind, the fierce wind
of his life no longer limping but sure footed
past Pluto, past all other undiscovered
planets, their moons and suns
and the dark matter
of our lives.








Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Stolen Base Gone like the Dinasaur

In this morning's Sacramento Bee Sports dated 8/21/'18, there was an article by Gary Peterson arguing that baseball was better before Metrics. I'm not a huge baseball enthusiast, but along with the article, there was a photo of Goose Gossage stating that baseball today was very difficult for him to watch. As much as I was a fan, Gossage was one of my favorite baseball players. He had a great name and a great flair and a great mustache. So, I read. After I finished it seemed to me he'd made his point: "The game is all home runs and strikeouts, absent all risk/reward gambits." Why? Because the actuarial tables say they result in negative metrics. The writer went on to illustrate with a bunch of comparisons between teams of the past vs teams of the future. Since he used metrics, my eyes glazed over. Let's see if I get the gist: Hits to strike out ratios - today more strikeouts than hits.  According to Scott Miller of Belcher Report: If you have a poetic bone in your body, you got to love this: As if they [batters] were 18 blindfolded men chasing a butterfly. As for pitching. American League as of today had turned in only 20 complete games. The National League only 10. At this rate, AL would complete 31 and NL 13. Giants Sam Jones in 1960 completed 13 himself. Onward and upward. According to the writer, there has been an average of 1.37 stolen base attempts in the majors this season, the lowest figure since 1964.

I told my wife. "Geez," she said.  "the stolen base was the only exciting play in baseball." That sort of summed it up for me. But I email my friend Larry Colton, ex of the Phillies and holder of the single game strike out record for the University of California for his thoughts on the subject, who is my baseball guru for his comments.

We wait with bated breath.

Metrics strives for some kind of statistical perfection. Not only is that impossible, it is boring.

Not exactly a baseball poem, but it could be.

Midnight Lazaruses   by Chaun Ballard, from Rattle summer 2018 issue


we were married
                                   to
concrete
                                   playgrounds, blacktops
                                 
                                   where seven days

nights
                                   a ball would drop

and like that
                                    bodies would complete

shadows
                                    and a game would be

found.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Mea Culpa Redux

I've already apologized via my blog for my years of denigrating golf as less than a sport. And to all golfers who give a jot about my beliefs, I apologize again big time. After watching the latest Open won by Brooks Koepka, chased to the 18th by Adam Scott and  Tiger Woods  (Go Tiger!), I have come to this realization: Golf played on the professional level is the most psychologically (mentally) and physically demanding sport of all the major sports in the world.

Please note, however, that I limit my definition to professional golf, not the ordinary get-out-and-play the links on weekend variety, in which case the level of mental and physical wear and tear drops significantly..

Onward and upward to the pro golfer. No athlete is challenged to perform his or her sport under such mental and physical strain while requiring such precise accuracy than golf played on the highest level. Mental acuity, physicality, precision, accuracy, and subtlety - all must come together at exactly the same time with different requirements of force for each stroke from the T to putt.
Not to mention the hazards. Imagine what kind of skill is needed to come out of tall grass or looking up through trees as your ball rests on the side of a hill. It's a little like asking a basketball player to shoot the ball from where it lands in the stands after an errant pass. I watched with renewed respect for the game as Koepka, Scott and Woods, three marvelously conditioned athletes, competed.

Let me say that I'm not blind to a few of the tubbys on the professional tour, who provide hope to all the rest of the out-of-shape weekend linkers, but I do not exclude them from my definition. They will simply play themselves out of the pro tour with back problems. A few, such as the enormously out of condition, John Daly, might move on to the Champions Tour by dint of their superior skills. So be it; there are always anomalies. 

Least people didn't read it in small print and on the last page of the sport's section, our U.S.A women's softball team defeated the Japanese to win the World Softball Championship. WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, not some weenie championship. In my section of the paper, overshadowed by less important articles, like the Ryder Cup who's in the conversation.

I don't blog about baseball, but this baseball poem I recently read in a must read collection called This Loss Behind Us; A Triple Play of Poetry (Pint Size Publications) is beyond funny.

Pope Vincent by Paul Hostovsky

If you would like to be summarily excommunicated from the merry flock
the blue and white acolytes who clap on cue and shout appropriate epithets,
all you have to do is say something less than supportive about his royal divinity
Pope Vin Scully
Now 88 and still helping the team sell things.
Let us pray he never dies.