meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow” Meschery's Musings of Sports, Literature, and Life Meschery's Musings on Sports, Literature and Life: 2011

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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


David Stern, Commish of the NBA, has cancelled the first two weeks of the NBA season, and it doesn't look like any agreement is forthcoming soon. Will there even be a season? On TV last night Sir Charles said no while Reggie Miller said yes, but a shortened one. Both players agreed that the owners are determined to create a plan that improves the competitiveness of small market teams and lessens the chances of large market team gobbling up all the super-stars. Good for them. But hold on, lets examine this goal a little more closely. I find it curious that very little is being said by owners and players about revenue sharing, the most important factor in creating small market/large market equity.

As I've stated in a previous blog, in this year's CBA talks, the players need to make some serious concessions in order to keep many of the NBA teams solvent. Sorry guys, but that is the hard truth. If you take a fifty fifty split with owners, believe me, you won't suffer as much as some people (read agents) say you will. As for the hard cap vs soft cap argument, I suspect a soft cap would work as long as teams had a strong revenue sharing policy, which they don't at this moment. See Kristi Dosh's article in Forbes 8/9/2011 Want to Repair the NBA? Start with Revenue Sharing.

So, I need to back up. When I say players must make serious concessions to NBA owners, it's with this caveat: The players should refuse to negotiate with the owners on any subject until the owners agree to a far stronger and more equitable revenue sharing plan than the one they have in place now. The minute the owners do so, then the players must pony up, but they will be doing so knowing that the owners are serious about improving the financial condition of their small market teams.

How do the NBA owners improve their revenue sharing plan? They need to look no further than professional football and baseball for models, not that either of the two are a perfect fit for the NBA. But certainly these are useful models for the NBA to use in devising their own unique plan based on their own economic exigencies.

There seems to be such logic in creating a strong revenue sharing plan, that it's curious that the NBAPLA is not making revenue sharing a greater part of the negotiations.

Without an agreement that creates equity between small and large market franchises, the NBA is going to become a mess with rich franchises garnering most of the super stars. You think not? Really. Ask yourself if you were a player, where would you rather play, in New York or Milwaukee?

Do I think franchises will go broke and fold. I doubt it, not for awhile, at least. Before that happens, values of franchise will go down and there will be a bevy of fire sales to new owners, who might move the franchises to other cities, (Atlanta to Omaha, for example) but will eventually succumb to the same economic problems as the previous owners.

Let me repeat, the NBA will become a mess. So, get with it owners and players, stop being knuckleheads and get the job done.

Competition   by Stephen Dunn

Because he played games seriously
   and therefore knew grace
comes hard, rises through the cheap

in us, the petty, the entire history
   of our defeats,
he looked for grace in his opponents,

found a few friends that way
   and so many others
he could never drink with, talk to.

He learned early never to let up,
   never to give
a weaker opponent a gift

because so many times he'd been
   that person
and knew the humiliation it it,

being pandered to, a bone for the sad
And because he remembered those times

after a loss when he'd failed
   at grace -
stole from the victor

the pleasure of pure victory
   by speaking
about a small injury or the cold

he wasn't quite over - he loved
   these opponents
who'd shake hands and give credit,

save their true and bitter stories
   for their lovers, later,
when all such lamentations are comic,

the sincere if onlys of grown men
   in short pants.
Oh there were people who thought

all of it so childish; what to say
   to them, how to agree,
ever, about dignity and fairness?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Solution

The NCAA has a terrible problem facing it. How does it justify the enormous amount of money their football and basketball programs haul in while the players who make these sporting events possible must resort to cheating to bring in a few extra bucks? The totality of TV money these days being distributed to athletic departments is astonishing. If this is not an example of inequity, I don't know what is. I'm not talking about the past, although that kind of inequality existed in the "old days," but not nearly as egregious. This is clearly a contemporary problem and needs to be solved in a contemporary manner, which means it must be solved by economics.

My wife has figured the problem out, and the NCAA should seriously consider her solution. It is fair for players and for universities.

Here's how it works: For every year that a scholarship basketball (male) and football player remains scholastically eligible and playing on the team, a certain percentage of money (to be decided by the an independent economic advisor) would be placed in his personal account, earning interest at (to be decided by an independent economic advisor). At the end of four [or five] years, upon graduation, the full sum of that account less interest would be paid to the player. If the player left school early, as is the case often in basketball, the accrued amount of money would remain in his account until that player graduates. The player could draw upon his account to pay for any college classes he needs to take towards earning his degree.  Upon graduating, any remaining money would be given to the player. If a player does not get his diploma, within ten years (it could be fewer years) of the date he left college to turn pro/tryout for the pros, the money in his account would be forfeited back to the university's athletic department. Players who left college for other reasons, (family problems, medical reasons) but have played a full year on the team would be able to draw on whatever they have accrued for that year, but only toward paying for college classes.

This is a simple and honest way to be fair to both university and athlete.

Just so we don't take our football too seriously, here's a funny football prose poem.

Football    by Louis Jenkins

I take the snap form center, fake to the right, fade back...
I've got protection. I've got a receiver open down field...
What the hell is this? This isn't a football, it's a shoe, a man's
brown leather oxford. A cousin to a football maybe, the same
skin, but not the same, a thing made for the earth, not the air.
I realize that this is a world where anything is possible and I
understand, also, that one often has to make do with what one
has. I have eaten pancakes, for instance, with that clear corn
syrup on them because there was no maple syrup and they
weren't very good. Well, anyway, this is different. (My man
downfield is waving his arms.) One has certain responsibili
ties, one has to make choices. this isn't right and I'm not go-
ing to throw it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

sports and food

The NFL season is about to start, which means I'm bound to gain weight. For me, football means finger foods: chips, salsa, guacamole and bean dips, pizza, and hotwings.  The thought of my imminent expansion, leads to another thought, and raises the question. Which sports are best for foodies? Humm? Let's begin with The Big Three: Baseball comes first. What else do you do between pitches, walks, check-swings, strike outs, and balks? Watch the third base man scratch his you know what? No, you call for another hotdog, your third box of popcorn, and second ice cream sandwich. At home, watching baseball is not quite as fun, since baseball was designed to be played or eaten in the outdoors, but it is more economical; you're not going to charge yourself for your second bowl of Fritos or cheeseits, are you? It's too bad I'm not a fan, I could become grossly overweight if I watched baseball as much as I do other sports.

Football follows baseball. Every time teams change from defense to offense and vice-a-versa, it gives the foodie time to pop something delicious into his or her mouth. I'm thinking tortilla chips and casos. The sport itself is designed to move slowly from huddle to snap, allowing more time to eat. As a dedicated foodie, I am delighted with the new kickoff. rule. Now there are hardly any opportunities for runbacks, which creates additional space from kickoff, to kneel-down, to huddle, to snap for me to consume...No, I don't think I'll tell you how much. The season has only started; there is no telling.

As for basketball, there is less time to eat except at halftimes, time-outs, or when a player is shooting freethrows, and freethrows can be significant especially if the game is tight, so you don't want to be distracted by eating. Now, there are certain foodies who will not allow something like watching the game interfere with their food intact. In Oracle arena you can find them in the halls loading up their food trays, talking with friends, on their cell phones, talking or texting, while the game is going on and trying to catch a snippet of the action on the television screens on the walls. These are not really foodies; they are entertainment gluttons.

OK, let's move on to the next tier of popular sports in America. Golf is probably the next most popular foodie sport. There is a lot of whispering going on, which lends itself to eating. In the old days before TV turned on its smarts, golf was so slow, it clearly rivaled baseball for most eating time allowed. But today, the camera switches neatly and quickly from hole to hole that an avid golfing fan and devoted foodie finds he or she must make a choice between dipping the chip in the guacamole or missing a spectacular chip from the sand trap onto the cup for an eagle. Watching on the course itself, you could consume a lot of food that is if the club allows picnic baskets or pizza deliveries.

If I was  hockey fan, I'd lose a lot of weight. The puck is moving too fast and the action is too intense for much food consumption. A foodie could get an ulcer trying to watch hockey while eating. Weight Watchers might want  to look into sponsoring hockey.

You can eat watching tennis, but you do so at your peril. Here's the problem. Just as you're about to cram a hotdog into your mouth the ball changes direction. Naturally your head follows, (this is called the follow the ball rule for spectators), and so does your mouth. The dog does not. It collides with your cheek; mustard and relish dribble down your chin and onto your white shirt. (There used to be a wear-white rule in tennis.)

Soccer is a sneaky sport. It's extremely hard to eat while watching soccer because the action is continuous, and there are no time outs allowed. However, recognizing the need for their fans to swallow a little beer and take a bite of whatever it is they bite on in those foreign stands, the players accommodate them by faking injuries. Even so, soccer fans to do not take advantage. In soccer food plays a secondary role to the chanting and swaying of arms. You can hardly eat while your arms are linked to your neighbor's, and you're singing at the top of your lungs.

There are lots of other sports to consider, water polo for example and luge. People who watch the Polo of the horsie kind wouldn't be caught dead eating while watching a match. Perhaps a gin and tonic or two, but certainly nothing as vulgar as hotdogs. Events such as track meets lend themselves to eating, but you don't find many foodies attending. Like the athletes competing, track fans have that lean and hungry look Shakespeare was talking about.

What sport did I leave out? Boxing. Too violent. Blood does nothing if not curb the appetite. Can you imagine trying to eat and watching that cut above bozo's eye opening into a canyon. Volley ball, same deal as tennis unless it's beach volleyball in which case the food issue becomes a gender issue. Male foodies know that they will not eat much while watching women players. It's the bathing suits. Ditto female foodies watching men. So it's stick to your gender if you want to eat.

I shouldn't forget bowling, the problem is that there are never enough seats in a bowling alley to seat enough foodies. So most foodie bowling fans simply pass on watching and head for the chips and peanuts in the bar. Race car devotees can't really be considered foodies as they do not eat anything that is not deep fried and arrive at the event already overweight. Watching a bicycle race does not count, although generally speaking it provides a foodie fan time to make reservations at a restaurant close to the racing venue, to eat, drink, and still have time to saunter out to the road to see the pack sail by. At that point, the foodie is able to return to the restaurant for desert, or if in France for a slice of the local cheese, a pear, and a petite verre of port.

Badminton and table tennis? Bad sports for foodies. Watching these faster-than-light sports is like watching humming birds. You can't get any food in edgewise.Now, fishing, that's a foodie sport.

Fishing in Winter    by Ralph Burns

A man staring at a small lake sees
his father cast light line out over
the willows. He's forgotten his
father has been dead for two years
and the lake is where a blue fog
rolls, and the sky couldn be, if it
were black or blue or white
the backdrop of all attention.

He wades out to join the father,
following where the good strikes
seem to lead. It's cold. the shape
anything else - rise on a small lake,
the Oklahoma hills, blue scrub -
a shape already inside a shape,
two songs, two breaths on the water.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Randy Bennett

Randy Bennett and I had lunch about a month ago. Over the years I have met Randy either at St. Mary's games or banquets, but we never had a chance to really talk and get to know each other. Most of the time as we ate, we talked hoops, a little about my old St. Mary's team of '58 that went to the Elite Eight, losing to the team that won it all, Pete Newell's Golden Bears, and a little about his 2009/10 team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Butler, an accomplishment in my opinion that equals our 1958 effort. And we talked about the previous season's Gaels. If I expected to hear Randy express regret over that team's disappointing loss to Kent State in the opening round of the NIT, I was mistaken. No doubt the game ended not to his liking, but Randy made it clear those were his boys win or lose. Loyalty is essential to Randy Bennett. And looking back is a waste of time.

Toward the end of our lunch, I asked Randy if he was happy at St. Mary's. Yes, he said, they are good people. He liked the program they'd developed together. He didn't elaborated. He didn't need to. A man of few words, Randy Bennett said it all. 1) He is  happy. 2) The St. Mary's folks are good people. 3) The program is something they built together. I knew that I was talking to a man who believes in the team concept, from players through coaching staff, and through administration.

St. Mary's College signed Randy Bennett to a 10 year contract. I'm betting on 10 straight years of Gael's winning basketball. I'll be rooting for them. Congratulations to the team: Randy, Athletic Director Mark Orr,
and St. Mary's College President Brother Ronald Gallagher.

Just as there are All-Star coaches like Randy Bennett, and All-Star basketball players (you take your pick), there are All Star poets. Phillip Levine, a member of my All-Star Poets Team, has been selected Poet Laureate of the United States. A native of Detroit, he taught for years at Fresno State University, teaching and mentoring some fabulous American poets, including the genius poet and my tennis doubles partner at the University of Iowa's grad. school in Creative Writing, David St. John. A progressive and radical thinker, I'm betting Levine is going to shake things up at the Library of Congress. The following poem by Phillip Levine is not about sports, but it is about teaching, something I did for twenty-two years after I retired from professional basketball.

M. Degas Teaches Art and Science At Durfee Intermediate School - detroit 1942  by Phillip Levine

He made a line on the blackboard,
one bold stroke from right to left
diagonally downward and stood back
to ask, looking as always at no one
 in particular, "What heave I done?"
From the back of the room Freddie
shouted, "You've broken a piece
of chalk." M. Degas did not smile.
"What have I done?" he repeated.
The most intellectual students
looked down to study their desks
except for Gertrude Bimmler, who raised
her hand before she spoke. "M. Degas,
you have created the hypotenuse
of an isosceles triangle." Degas mused.
Everyone knew that Gertrude could not
be incorrect. "It is possible,"
Louis Warshowsky added precisely,
"that you have begun to represent
the roof of a barn>" I remember
that it was exactly twenty minutes
past eleven, and I thought at worst
this would go on another forty
minutes. It was early April,
the snow had all but melted on
the playground, the elms and maples
bordering the cracked walks shivered
in the new winds, and I believed
that before I knew it I'd be
swaggering to the candy store
for a Milky Way. M. Degas
pursed his lips, and the room
stilled until the long hand
of the clock moved to twenty one
as though in complicity with Gertrude,
who added confidently, "You've begun
to separate the dark from the dark."
I looked back for help, but now
the trees bucked and quaked, and I
knew this could go on forever.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Old Farts

Recently I spent a fun afternoon having lunch with a bunch of old farts. To be more precise, a bunch of old fart jocks. The lunch took place at Athens Burger in Dublin. It was a scene out of a Grant Wood's painting. The old farts were Dave Newhouse, the great sports writer with the Oakland Tribune, Bobby Wendell, a guard on Cal's NCAA championship basketball team, Dennis Williams, an ex basketball coach at UOP, our host George Baljevich, and me. Bill McClintock of the Cal Bears NCAA champs was also supposed to be there but was in Milwaukee running Pete Newell's Big Mens and Womens Camp. For those who might not know what that means, it's a basketball camp for players destined to be centers and are having trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. Drop step, first, fall-back jumper last, right, Bill?
I'm not sure about ex advertising execs or retired plumbers, but when old athletes get together, they manage to take sentiment to a new level. Notice I did not say sentimentality, which connotes an entirely more maudlin state of mind.. I won't mention our ages, but when someone uses the phrase, bye-gone days, you can probably make an educated guess. Names came up as they should since sports is really about people not events. Fred LaCour, for example. We all agreed he was the best SF high school hoopster ever to play the game - overall honors in that category going to Jason Kidd at Saint Joe's. Someone said that Rene Herrerias, assistant coach at Cal under Pete Newell and later head coach, retried from coaching, is now a San Francisco historian extraordinaire. I think that was me. Bob Hagler, St Mary's College undefeated freshman team's coach was mentioned and praised, so was Joe Gardere, of McClymonds High and briefly of St. Mary's - lots of amazing stories of Joe at 5'7" and his precocious jumping ability. We argued over who was the best Bay Area basketball player ever. Newhouse insisted it was Frank Lusetti of Stanford. Maybe, but how does one slight Bill Russell? I found out a bit about Jack Molinas, the ball player and gambler who fixed games. I had no idea he was that good a player.

You get the picture?  Old farts dropping names from their past. I loved every minute of it. It is healthy every once in awhile to honor those names.

When we stopped talking about players, we talked about the great playground system that flourished in San Francisco, run by the Parks and Recreation Department (Is there such a thing anymore?) that gave youngsters the space to hone their skills and compete without a lot of rigid structure. If you grew up in San Francisco, there was Lawton gym, Julius Kahn playground, Booker T, St. Monicas, St. Vincint de Paul's and Selesian's in the Northbeach. Every night of the week, players knew which gym to go to for the best competition. And on the weekends, the incomparable Marin Town and Country Club where Saturdays and Sundays the best of the Bay Area basketball players played shirtless and sweating on the club's sunny outdoor courts. Losers out. The beer, the games of Pedro, the Saturday night dances, ah!

Back to the names. How many people out there remember Willy Wo Wo Wong? How many people remember that two of the leading politicians in California George Mosconi and Johnny Burton were excellent college hoopsters. And I'll bet not too many folks know that Johnny Mathis played basketball for Washington High and San Francisco State and at 5'7" could dunk the ball. Remember the great guard Cappy Lavin? Remember Ron Tomsic? Remember the great Olympic Club basketball teams?

We talked about Bill McClintock and Pete Newell and that fabulous 1958-59 NCAA Championship team. Bernie Simpson, Bobby Wendell threw your name out on the table for discussion, and I countered with your St. Ignatius High teammate Ray Paxton, one heck of a deep shooter. We tossed around a lot more names. We laughed a lot. From his briefcase Baljevich brought forth old programs and player cards from his amazing collection of over 30,000 pieces of memorabilia. Can you imagine his house? He has to rent storage space for the overflow.

We talked until we began picking the crumbs off our plates and the sun began to set. Not really, but it seemed that way as our words shortened the afternoon to dusk. On my drive home I imagined Old Farts from all over America spending similar afternoons doing what we did, sitting around reminiscing, throwing out the names of ball players that make up the history of their regions.

Old Farts never die, you know, they just keep talking, and talking.

Cheap Seats, the Cincinnati Gardens, Professional Basketball, 1959   by William Matthews

The less we paid, the more we climbed. Tendrils
of smoke lazed just as high and hung there, blue,
particulate, the opposite of dew.
We saw the whole court from up there. Few girls
had come, few wives, numerous boys in molt
like me. Our heroes leapt and surged and looped
and two nights out of three, like us, they'd lose.
But "like us" is wrong: we had no result
three nights out of three: so we had heroes.
And "we" is wrong, for I knew none by name
among that hazy company unless
I brought her with me. This was loneliness
with noise, unlike the kind I had at home
with no clock running  down, and mirrors.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

One mystery solved, one remaining

Thank goodness for Joe Lacob, new owner of the Golden State Warriors. He has solved one of two mysteries that have been troubling me for awhile.

Mystery #1: Why haven't the Warriors retired Chris Mullin's number and placed it along other retired numbers high above Oracle Arena on the Warriors Wall of Fame? Solved by Joe Lacob. Mr. Lacob has announced that Chris will indeed be honored in keeping with Warriors' tradition. (Hey, istn't it great to hear someone talk about Warrior tradition again?) Why Chris was not honored long ago I'm sure had to do with some petty squabbling during the previous ownership, which flew in the face of Mullin's tremendous contribution to the Golden State Warriors and to the game of basketball. Good for you, Mr. Lacob! We look forward to honoring one of the greatest Gym Rats in the game of basketball and one of the NBA's best.

Mystery #2: Still unsolved.  Why haven't the Golden State Warriors honored Franklin Mieuli  with A Night at one of the games, show some clips of the eccentric, lovable fellow; allow some players to say a few words? If some of you out there in Warrior Land don't know who Franklin is (died April, 2010), here's a quick history. Franklin was one of the investors who brought the Warriors from Philadelphia in 1962. He became principal owner the following year and kept the team in the Bay Area on a shoe-string budget. The Warriors won their first and only NBA Championship in 1976 during his ownership. His personality was eclectic to say the least: moody, intelligent, loyal, zany, sensitive, tough, humorous, often inscrutable, and, yes, eccentric, a man who once rode his motorcycle into a bar to order a beer, and lived for a time on his catamaran. After Franklin sold the Warriors, he remained a devoted fan, hardly ever missing a home game, watching the action from his court-side seat wearing his Sherlock Holmes hat and cape. There are a lot of ex players waiting for a Franklin Mieuli Night to happen, ready to fly in from all over the United States to honor him.

It may be, for some reason, the Mieuli family does not want such a Night. If that is the case, they should say so and clear up the mystery. Otherwise I look forward to Mr. Lacob righting this wrong. If anybody represented Warrior tradition, it was Franklin.
Here is one of the first poems written about sports. It keeps my thinking in perspective.


He slowed once
and death caught him.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

NFL Retiree Care: The Next Issue

I'll keep this short. Gwen Knapp's article in today's Sporting Green, reinforcing the argument that the NFL must do more to help retired NFL players suffering from dementia and other diseases because of their years playing professional football, begs the question who will take care of all the football players who didn't play in the NFL? How about players from the CFL, and other professional football leagues?

More importantly, what about the men who began playing contact football at around age ten and didn't stop until the end of their senior year in college? Does anybody doubt that university football programs do not mirror the NFL in intensity and violence? Is it possible that after playing football for the University of Miami, or Ohio State, or Alabama, or USC or any other Division I university (I do not exclude Division II schools), many of the athletes (those graduated and not gone on to the pros) have already experienced enough hits to the head that make them vulnerable to brain related illnesses in the future?

If your answer is no, I suggest simply that you attend some major college football team practices. I've watched a few over the years. I'm no wimp, but some of the pounding I've observed, make me happy I took up the game of basketball. Heck, you don't have to go to a college game to witness head pounding, spend some time at a local high school football practice and game. Remember, some of these high school boys will be blasting each other for another four years in college. Do the math. I don't have the where-with-all to pay for the kind of in depth research it will take to determine how playing intense football for, say, eight years (high school + college) can affect a young man's brain, but a major newspaper like the Chronicle has the resources.

How about it Ms. Knapp? I won't even charge you for this Pulitzer Prize winning story.

Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio   by Jame Wright

In the Shreve High Football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

NBA, Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Here's the deal. Everybody knows the rules of haggling. If you don't know, go to any bazaar in Morocco. The shop owner starts high, you counter low, and you come together in the middle. Sold!

Now that you've got the cash issues out of the way, move on to the big stumbling block: hard and soft caps. Are you trying to tell me its an either/or proposition, that there is no middle ground? I don't believe it, and neither do all the fans out here in NBA land who, I'm afraid, are beginning to feel that professional sports is a big pain in the ass, not to mention the pocket book.

My biggest fear is that the NBA players will let their collective egos get in the way of a rational solution. Let's face it, the players are absolutely RIGHT when they say that they are not responsible for the financial mistakes of the owners. Everybody agreed to the last CBA, etc, etc, yada, yada yada. Now the owners are crying poormouth, but did anyone notice the selling price of the last couple of teams? Guys, as hard as those numbers are to stomach, it doesn't matter how stupid some of the NBA owners have been, how much they have overspent, how greedy they have been not to revenue share. The bottom line is that, unlike the NFL owners, NBA franchises are hurting financially big-time.

It is up to you players to come to the rescue of a league that is out of control. Give the league its hard cap, and higher percentage of gross revenues. In return your union can make the following demands: owners must revenue share, (that will keep the smaller franchises alive and competitive), owners must create an independent accounting system which the union is free to inspect. Finally, owners upon selling a franchise will pay a % of the enormous profits said owners receive at point of sale back to the union to be used for, say, retired players' medical benefits, etc. You can figure out the etc's. (These profits are astronomical. OK, I realize any owner who reads this will be clutching his heart and running to his cardiologist, but I'm dead serious).
Players, union leaders, if you are not willing to take the high road, then I'm afraid Sir Charles is right. There may not be a season next year, and that will be a shame. Who will suffer the most? The Players. The owners will go to their respective country clubs, light up cigars, and go on with their privileged lives. They may be joined at the club by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasul, and others who already have their $$$ safely socked away in investments. But what about the rest of you? OK, I guess you'll survive as well.   It's not as if you've been underpaid these last few years, like all the high school teachers I know. Finally sports writers will lose stories and blogers will stop paying attention. Over the land will fall a faint mist of regret. But nobody will be opening his or her umbrella.

As for the fans, they too will survive, but they may decide to buy season tickets to their local college games and, who knows, may find that those games are a lot of fun to watch. If there is a lockout, that's what I'll be doing. My wife and I will be sitting in the stands rooting for our St. Mary's Gaels. They play an awesome brand of basketball.

While the NFL is locking out its players, and the NBA is doing the same, Wimbledon has been going on. Maria Sherapova lost, which is tantamount to saying Venus goddess of love fell from grace. And Bob and Mike Bryan won the men's doubles for the second time. The Sporting Green didn't give them a lot of ink, even though they are Stanford grads. What's up with that? Oh, I guess they're too worried about the NBA lockout to notice. And documenting Michael Crabtree's silly twitters.

Here's a poem about Tennis

On the Tennis Court at Night   by Galway Kinnell

We step out on the green rectangle
in moonlight: the lines low,
which for many have been the only lines
of justice. We remember
the thousand trajectories the air has erased
of that close-contested last set -
blur of volleys, soft arcs of drop shots,
huge ingrown lops of lobs with topspin
which went running away, crosscourts recrossing
down to each sweet (and in exact  proportion, bitter)
in Talbert and Olds' The Game of Doubles in Tennis.
The breeze has carried them off but we still hear
the mutters, the doulefaulter's groans,
cries of "Deuce!" or "Love two!",
squeak of tennis shoes, grunt of overreaching,
all dozen extant tennis quips - "Just out!"
or, "About right for you?" or, "Want to change partners?"
and baaah of sheep translated very occasionally
into thonk of well-hit ball, among the pure 
right angles and unhesitating lines
of this arena where every man grows old
pursuing that repertoire of perfect shots,
darkness already in his strokes,
even in death cramps waving an arm back and forth
to the disgust of the night nurse,
and smiling; and ta few hours later found dead -
the smile still in place but the ice bag
she left on the brow now inexplicably
Scotch taped to the right elbow - causing
all those bright trophies to slip permanently,
though not in fact much farther, out of reach,
all except the thick-bottomed young man
about to double fault in soft metal on the windowsill:
"Runner-Up Men's Class B Consolation Doubles
St. Johnsbury Kiwanis Tennis Tournament 1069"...

Clouds come over the moon;
all the lines go out. November last year
 in Lyndonville: it is getting dark,
snow starts falling , Zander Rubin wobble-twist
his worst serve out of the black woods behind him,
Stan Albro lobs into a gust of snow,
Dom Bredes smashes at where the ball theoretically
could be coming down, the snow blows down
and swirls about our legs, darkness flows
across a disappearing patch of green-painted asphalt
in the north country, where four men,
half-volleying, poaching, missing, grunting,
begging mercy of their bones, hold their ground,
as winter comes on, all the winters to come.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Draft

Yesterday, I said I'd have more to say about the 2011 Draft after a little time to think about it. Well, I've thought about it and can't say there's much to get excited about.

I'll start with our Warriors. Klay Thompson is a strong pick, a deadly shooting guard who can, by all accounts, play defense. Add to that second round pick Charles Jenkins a two guard from Hofstra, some pundits have described as having a lethal shooting touch. Looks like the Warriors have created an effective and perhaps powerful guard rotation. Is it possible Thompson can play some at the three? What's left is the same front court: Biedrens, Lee, Udoah. Unless Biedrens can achieve a magical turnaround and Udoah find some offensive and rebounding skills, David Lee is left hanging out there all by his lonesome as the only consistent power player and, as some have suggested, Lee is not as tough from the four as he was playing the 5 with the Knicks. The addition of Jeremy Tyler, a 6'10" 250 19 year old project is what it is - a project. Worth $2 mil? Maybe. Ed Ziti writing for Hoops Daily seems to believe Tyler has an upside worth the risk and the bucks. He cites Tyler's wingspan of 7'5", which sounds highly doubtful to me. He couldn't cut it playing in Israel and quit. His effort was better in Japan. Hmm, what's the average size of Japanese players?
Ah, well, I'm being a bit snarky. We wish for all players the opportunity to reach their potential. Let's remember the history of Kwame Brown and Tyson Chandler. Chandler made it, Brown was a bust. That's a 50/50 model. Let's hope Jeremy takes the path of Chandler. When all is said and done, the Warriors still have a huge hole in their power positions, and I don't care what Jeff Van Gundy says about the NBA becoming a perimeter league, no team will win a championship without strength, length, and depth in the paint. So, Warriors, put on your thinking caps. You need a Rudy LaRusso, a Maurice Lucas type player badly.

How did the other teams fare?

I still believe the Cavs screwed up not taking Derrick Williams. I'm convinced they could have landed Kyrie Irving anyway with their fourth pick. Tristan Thompson is a solid player, but they have a few of his kind of the team already.

The Timberwolves helped themselves with Derick Williams. Williams and Love will be a solid 3 and 4 combo. If Rubio pans out, they will be a much better team. I'd still trade Beasely.

Oh, if only Jerry Sloan hadn't quit. I just know about Corbin as a coach. But let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he and the Jazz (Wouldn't it be nice if the Jazz and Hornets traded names?) improved their team considerably. Enes Kantor could be an instant success, and Alec Burks by all accounts is a guy who can score in bunches.

Charlote has a team leader in Kemba Walker, and if Bismark Biyambo proves to be the shot blocker and rebounder he's purported to be, the Bobcats will be an improved club. Getting rid of a poison guy like Steven Jackson was a smart move. Not they have to light a fire under Diaw.

The Sacramento Kings have a chance of making the playoff if Jimmer Fredette is the NBA caliber player I think he is. (I love gym rats.) The Kings three guard rotations of Thorton, Evans, and Fredette looks lethal to me, especially if Evans can improve his outside shot. As a team a lot hinges on the continued development of DeMarcus Cousins who looked at the end of the season as if he was coming along nicely. Add to that mix a bona fide 3 shooting forward in UCLA's Hunicutt and you have all the positions and backups covered. Isiah Thomas? Another JJ Barea? Probably more a Muggsy Bogues.

Phoenix and Houston are plus on my board because I think the Morris twins will be solid contributors out of the gate. Houston may have a sleeper in Donatas Motiejunas.

I think Philadelphia helped themselves a lot by drafting Nicola Vucevic of USC. I was hoping the Warriors would take a shot at him.

The Washington Wizards will be better defensively with the addition of Chris Singleton and better offensively with Jan Vesely, so they helped themselves.

The pundits were raving about Kenneth Faried as the rebounder of the century. Can't shoot a lick, so he better rebound. I doubt if Denver helped themselves there unless they feel they're going to lose Nene.

That's all folks. The rest of the teams may or may not have helped themselves. Good luck to all. What I love to see are the guys the brain trusts missed who in the summer get a look, make the tryouts and stick. Let's think good thoughts for the underdogs, the forgotten, and leftovers of the draft.

Was it a good draft year? Most of the pundits said only average. I think it will turn out in the end a good one. My hope is that this years incoming NBA players clear out some of the awful deadwood filling out rosters the last few years.

I found this wonderful poem about Moses Malone. Wouldn't teams love to have had a Malone in this draft?
Raise your hand if you remember the Stars of Utah?

In Memory of the Utah Stars   by William Matthews

Each of them must have terrified
his parents by being so big, obsessive
and exact so young, already gone
and leaving, like a big tipper,
that huge changeling's body in his place.
The prince of bone spurs and bad knees.

The year I first saw them play
Malone was a high school freshman,
already too big for any bed,
14, a natural resource.
You have to learn not to
apologize, a form of vanity.
You flare up in the lane, exotic
anywhere else. You roll the ball
off fingers twice as long as your
girlfriend's. Great touch for a big man,
says some jerk. Now they're defunct
and Moses Malone, a boy wonder at 19,
rises at 20 from the St. Louis bench,
his pet of a body grown sullen
as fast as it grew up.

Something in you remembers every
time the ball left your fingertips
wrong and nothing the ball
can do in the air will change that.
You watch it set, stupid moon,
the way you watch yourself
in a recurring dream.
You never lose your touch
or forget how taxed bodies
go at the same pace they owe,
how brutally well the universe
works to be beautiful,
how we metabolize loss
as fast as we have to.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Draft Day

I just finished watching the first round of the 2011 draft. Tomorrow, after I have time to think it all through, I'll probably have a lot more to say. However, I have one question about the Cleveland Cavaliers' selections.

Why didn't the Cavs select Derrick Williams of Arizona first and take the chance that Kyrie Irving would be there for them in the fourth pick? The Timberwolves just signed Ricky Rubio, so clearly they would not select Kyrie. The third team picking was the Utah Jazz, a team that was high on Enes Kantor, the 7 ft center from Turkey. Perhaps the Jazz would have taken Irving, but there was a high probability that they wouldn't. It might have been worth the gamble for the Cavs to toss the dice and perhaps wind up with both Williams and Irving. Maybe the Cavaliers had inside info that Utah liked Kyrie, but over the last couple of weeks coming into the draft, I hadn't heard about it being discussed by the pundits. Any thoughts on the subject out there?

For me, basketball season officially ends with the NBA draft. My wife, who loves basketball, is nonetheless delighted for a little respite between seasons. Now come the outdoor summer sports: baseball, tennis, and golf, and the great outdoors for fishermen and hunters. Here's a poem about fishing by the great American short story writer, Raymond Carver

The Catch    by Raymond Carver

Happy to have these fish!
In spite of the rain, they came
to the surface and took
the No. 14 Black Mosquito.
He had to concentrate,
close everything else out
for a change. His old life,
which he carried around
like a pack. And the new one,
that one too. Time and again
he made what he felt were the most
 intimate of human movements.
Strained his heart to see
the difference between a raindrop
and a brook trout. Later,
walking across the wet field
to the car. Watching
the wind change the aspen trees.
He abandoned everyone
he once loved.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Couldn't Resist

With all the hoopla that surrounds the NBA draft, I figured there was enough being said, and what the hell does an old jock like me know about these young players anyway? I managed to see a few during the NCAA Tournament, but the vast majority are question marks to me. But I have been poking around on the Internet lately and listening to some of the sports pundits, and I'm getting an itch to weigh in. So, finally, I couldn't resist.

Here are a few predications and comments:

1. Jimmer Fredette will be a strong player in the NBA. I like his quick moves to get into the paint and lateral
    quickness once in there. Pay attention, I didn't say speed. Fredette has a quick release, great eye, and
    shoots from downtown. I don't think he'll back down from anybody on defense.

2. Chris Singleton will make the team that drafts him happy.

3. Kyrie Irving will NOT make the team who drafts him happy.

4. Neither will the team who drafts Brandon Knight be happy. Plays too straight up and down for me. What
    do I mean? Body is not loose. And he has no left hand.

5. The team who lands Nicola Vucevic is going to be jumping up and down with joy. Warriors, please,
    consider him! V is a legit 7 footer with a huge wing span. He likes to mix it up, and he has a soft touch.
    Perhaps Beidrens can be salvaged. It's not that I think the Warriors should give up on the young man, but
    why not be on the safe side in case Andres finds his skills are more suited to a less physically demanding

6. The Timberwolves will regret it if they don't select Derrick Williams. He's the only player in the draft this
    year who is going to make an impact from the start. At the end of the season he'll be averaging 20 points
    a game and be select Rookie of the Year.

Speaking of the Timberwolves. If they select Williams, and IF  Ricky Rubio becomes the point guard he's supposed to be, I predict the Wolves to be a playoff team next year. Beasley needs to be traded. He's talented but has a low basketball IQ. Martell Webster is solid and Westley Johnson will be a fine shooting guard or small forward. Of course the Wolves need a center, (who doesn't) but in the meantime Milicic and Pavovic can fill up the paint and knock a few people down. Love can play the post if the team decides to play small. And they have some decent folks on the bench at all positions.

I read where Dwanye Casey got the job at Toronto. I googgled his resume. Lot's of successful assistant coaching jobs with successful teams and successful coaches. 50/50 with the Timberwolves as a head coach, before they fired him. Successful in coaching internationally in Japan. I wonder why the Warriors didn't interview him?

Any other predication about the draft:

1. Enes Kanter. Now that he says he's the best in the draft, he better walk his talk. I predict baby steps.
    Maybe down the line.

2. Nolan Smith and Shelvin Mack might surprise teams as second round choices.

3. Kawhi Leonard never impressed me.

4. Klay Thompson could turn into one hell of a small forward.

Here's a poem for the University of California Bears baseball team doing the Bay Area proud in Omaha at the college World Series. I loved to play the game when I was young before I got hooked on hoop.

How to Play Night Baseball    by Jonathan Holden

A pasture is best, freshly
mown so that by the time a grounder's
plowed through all that chewed, spit-out
grass to reach you, the ball
will be bruised with green kisses. Start
in the evening. Come
with a bad sunburn and smelling of chlorine,
water still crackling in your ears.
Play until the ball is khaki -
a movable piece of the twilight -
the girls' bare arms in the bleachers are pale,
and heat lightning jumps in the west. Play
until you can only see pop-ups,
and routine grounders get lost in
the sweet grass for extra bases.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Sport's page 6/12/'11 All the Guys Who Could Beat the Hell Out of Marciulionis

In Bruce Jenkin's column today, he quotes Donnie Nelson of the Dallas Mavericks, son of Don Nelson, ex coach of the Warriors that he (Donnie) would take Sarunas Marciulionis, ex Warrior guard, in a fight against anyone in the HISTORY of the NBA. Please recognize that I capped the word history. I am now going to list all the players in the HISTORY of the NBA from my era 1961-71 (I can't speak for other eras)who could beat the _ _ _ _ outta Marciulionis. For the purpose of this blog, in order to speed up the process, I will refer to Marciulionis from now on as M. My list will not be in any chronological order, but as the various baddest dudes come to mind. I welcome any past or present players to input the baddest dudes of their eras.

Meschery's List

Al Attles: would be able to hit M five times before M could get off one punch. Outcome: M down for the count.
Richie Guerin: Ex marine Drill Sargent and credited with one of the longest fights in the history of the Garden.
Andy Johnson: Not sure anybody survived a fight with Andy. Kierkegaard wrote the book Fear and Trembling based on Andy.
Wilt Chamberlain: Wilt lifts M off the ground, breaks his spine, and throws M's body into the stands. I saw Wilt knock out Clyde Lovellete (Clyde was 7ft and 285 lbs) with a punch that traveled barely six inches.
Gus Johnson: Remember him? He was the first to dunk and break a backboard. No question he'd break M just as easily. Body type? Think Dwight Howard.
Jim Luscatoff: The Celtic enforcer, crazy Russian street fighter.
Bill Bridges and Zelmo Beatty: Both of the St. Louis Hawks, and both would find M easy pickings.
John Brisker: A truly crazy dude. Wound up being a body guard for Idi Amin before Brisker disappeared in the jungle. Rumor has it he's still there living off the land.
Casey Jones: A lovely man, quiet and self effacing, but no one tangled with him.
Wayne Embry: Imagine a tank crossed with a hippo. Imagine M in an Embry bear-hug.
Reggie Harding: Probably wouldn't be a fair fight. Reggie was said to be carrying at all times.
Jerry Sloan & Norm Van Lear: M was bigger, but no way meaner than these junk-yard dogs.
Marvin "Bad News" Barnes: Another street fighter. Check out the nickname.
Larry Costello: Another nice guy, but Marine Corps background persuaded most folks to stay clear of him.
Dave Cowens: Might be a toss up with M, but I'd bet on Cowens.
Johnny Green: Anther guy who'd land punches 5 to one. M's on the floor again.
Tom Hoover: Not a household NBA name, but you didn't want to mess with him.
Willis Reed: If I was M, I'd think twice.
Wendall Ladner: Rest his soul, died in an airplane crash. Cajun wild man and not to be messed with.
Earl Lloyd: Ask anybody who played against him what the outcome would be if you fought him.
Dave Debusschere: I'll throw his name in even though I never saw him fight, but Dave grew up in his old man's bar. I have a feeling he learned a few things there.

Whew! I'm getting tired. I can probably list at least 10 more obvious bad dudes, but lunch awaits. As for other eras, here are a few names that come to mind: Ron Artest, Daryl Dawkins, Rick Mahorn, Karl Malone, Mose Malone, Maurice Lucas.

Instead of my usual poem, here is an excerpt about toughness from a memoir I'm writing.

Toughness, in my day, was decided for you as a youngster on the playground courts against neighborhood legends that drove you to the metal fence or left you hurting on the asphalt. You got up, dusted yourself off, and continued playing or you left and didn't come back again. Any damn fool could fight, but sometimes you need to be that fool, to gain respect, but mostly you won respect by never giving up, always coming back for more, until one day you became the guy schooling the younger players.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hiring Mark Jackson

You got to hand it to Joe Lacob. By hiring Mark Jackson, a terrific NBA player, but a man who hasn't coached basketball on any level, he certainly put his imprimatur on the 2011/12 Golden State Warrior team. It's his baby now. Had this hire been a last minute three point shot that won a game, Lacob could have run down the court, bent over, cradling (as the image suggests) very large cajones in his arms, no doubt drawing a substantial fine from the NBA office.

I watched Mark Jackson's introduction this afternoon on television. Jackson certainly doesn't lack confidence. I can see what attracted the Warriors to him. But as important as confidence is, in my opinion, it's only as good as one's ability to coach. I found that out in 1971 when I retired from playing and was hired by the Carolina Cougars of the ABA to be their head coach. Like Jackson, I had no experience other than my own ten years of playing under a couple of extremely fine coaches: Alex Hannum and Bill Sharman. I felt I had learned a great deal from them and that knowledge would hold me in good sted.

As a coach, I failed badly. That doesn't mean that there hasn't been inexperienced coaches who have been successful, and that Jackson won't be. I truly hope he will. Every Warrior fan is wishing nothing but the best for him. But evoking the names of great coaches he played under, does not substitute for coaching experience. If Jackson had been an assistant to some of those coaches, that would be something much more substantial upon which to base an opinion. And being a TV color commentator provides little in the way of coaching experience. In fact it can be detrimental as it is far easier to critique from the outside than it is from inside the locker room. Jackson said he will surround himself with quality experienced assistants and that is wise. But the bottom line is that this will be a Mark Jackson team, not a Mark Jackson assistants' team.

I was happy to see Jerry West sitting in the front row during the television presentation. To hear that he was involved in the hire is a good omen.

I'm not sure if I'd been Jackson, I'd have predicted a playoff team for next year, but that's the confidence thing that Jackson possesses in abundance speaking. Jackson must know, as everybody in the Bay Area already knows, that there will be personnel changes and additions before the Warriors have any chance of making the playoffs.

There was only one question about his future players. A reporter asked about Monta Ellis. Jackson's affirmation of the young star (I look forward to coaching this fine young man) contradicted rumors in the news this morning that the Warriors were considering trading Monta. That struck me as odd. And what about Bierdrens? What about other key players. If these reporters had been from Jackson's home state of New York, Mark wouldn't have gotten off quite so easy. Instead our kinder and gentler news men and women wound up throwing out softballs aplenty, that Mark kept hitting out of the park with his confidence bat.

I would have preferred less personality and more substance. "More matter and less art," Queen Gertrude says to Polonius in the play Hamlet. But the second Mark opened his mouth today, he set the ground rules by which he is going to be judged. Confidence and Leadership. Clearly now Mark Jackson must walk his talk.

As for my take on the hire? I'm an X's and O's guy.

Mark Jackson played with the Knicks and Patrick Ewing. So here are both referenced in a lovely little poem that has really very little to do with basketball and everything to do with it.

We Still Have Basketball, Sara   by Lisa Olstein

That one long year we moved
in and out of each other's rooms
on the pick and roll, preferring a running game
to the slow-down of half-court. If I said
your tendency was to choke in the clutch,
you might say mine was to look for fresh legs
down the stretch. Coming up against
the trading deadline and playoff divisions,
we broke down over technical fouls,
illegal defense violations. Now, whenever
the Knicks have a big game, I know where you are
and if they're playing the Celtics, you know
where I am too, and Sara, when I heard
about Ewing's broken wrist, I was sorry
I ever gloated over his bad knees.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NBA Salaries

   Go on line and check out some of the NBA's outlandish salaries. I did recently and sat in front of the screen scrolling down the list of players and salaries and shaking my head. It's awfully hard feeling sorry for the NBA owners as they prepare to ask for concessions from the players' union when teams continue to pay some of these stiffs, and I mean stiffs, salaries that don't in any way reflect their talent, not even their potential. When a guy like Mareese Speights receives (I hesitate to use the word earns) $1,773,960.00 - not Yen - a million more than JuJuan Blair and Taj Gibson, something is definitely wrong. Do you know that Kwame Brown is still getting $1,352,255 per year. That's an embarrassment. Kostas Koufas is making $1,298,642 per annum. Craig Brakins who is playing in the D League is being paid $1, 306,920. Ouch! I've never heard of Trevor Booker and he's pulling down a cool $1,204, 560. Double Ouch! And the great Solomon Jones is stealing $1,500,000. Do you know that LeBron James is not even in the top ten salaries? While Rashard Lewis and Michael Redd are paid more than LeBron. LeBron could take both of them on at the same time and beat them in a game of twenty-one.
   Trust me that there are a lot more examples and more egregious ones I could have used. Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. Draft picking dumb has been going on for a long time. The Warriors in my era, I recall, selected a few stinkers. No need to name them. They're hopefully all retired government employees by now.
    I don't really begrudge the players. They have the right to earn whatever the market will bear. But I sure wonder who in the world selects these players. General managers, coaches, and scouts put their heads together, and what? Come up with some of these losers? OK, I slapped my wrist. It was unkind to call them losers. How about non-starters? There is a D League for players and coaches, I wonder if there shouldn't be a D League for general managers and scouts? Who in the hell are these guys that spend their owners money so freely? Or is it the owners who want to freely spend money?

One of my top ten sports poems is about softball.

Missoula Softball Tournament   by Richard Hugo

This summer, most friends out of town
and no wind playing flash and dazzle
in the cottonwoods, music of the Clark Fork stale,
I've gone back to the old ways of defeat,
the softball field, familiar dust and thud,
pitcher winging drops and rises, and wives,
the beautiful wives in the stands, basic, used,
screeching runners home, infants unattended
in the dirt. A long triple sails into right center.
Two men on. Shouts from dugout: go, Ron, go.
Life is better run from. Distance to the fences,
both foul lines and dead center, is displayed.

I try to steal the tricky manager's signs.
Is hit-and-run the pulling of the ear?
The ump gives pitchers too much low inside.
Injustice? Fraud? Ancient problems focus
in the heat. Bad hop on routine grounder.
Close play missed by the team you want to win.
Players from the first game, high on beer,
ride players in the field. Their laughter
falls short of the wall. Under lights, the moths
are momentary stars, and wives, the beautiful wives
in the stands now take the interest they once feigned,
oh, long ago, their marriage just begun, years
of helping husbands feel important just begun,
the scrimping, the anger brought home evenings
from degrading jobs. This poem goes out to them.
Is steal-of-home the touching of the heart?
Last Pitch. A soft fly. A can of corn
the players say. Routine, like mornings,
like the week. They shake hands on the mound.
Nice grab on that shot to left. Good game. Good game.
Dust rotates in their headlight beams.
The wives, the beautiful wives are with their men.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


After watching Lionel Messi of Barcelona play this afternoon against Manchester United and score two goals I could become a born again soccer fan. As an I-need-to-see-more-scoring American sports fan that sounds close to unpatriotic. But what a sight the little fellow was weaving through his Man U opponents, the ball seemingly clinging to his feet unwilling to part with him until he order it to go and then with such speed and accuracy into the net. A long time ago I saw the great Pele play and marveled. I never thought I'd see a soccer player that talented again. In between Pele and Messi, surely there have been a number of fantastic players, but since I'm not a consistent observer of the game, I am only partially aware of them.

If Messi hasn't converted me, he has made me more of a fan of the world game than I have been. I know when Barcelona is playing I will be tuned in. Does this make a convert? Not quite yet. I still believe soccer needs to figure out a way for teams to score. A couple of goals more per game I don't think is asking for too much.

Soccer doesn't really need the United States to be hooked on soccer, but if it ever does, watch out NFL.

Wimbley Field in London where Champions Finals was held holds 80,000 fans and it was filled to capacity.

In poetry there is something that's called a "found" poem, writing that is not meant to be a poem but comes close to poetry. Here is some inspired comments by Ray Hudson a British soccer commentator as he watched Lionel Messi.

"Neither With Net nor Trident"
The genius, the genius of
In our modern-day life
  He doesn't know
What he's going to do
   So how the hell
  Do the defenders
You cannot contain him
        With a net
        Or a trident
   He's got pace
  He's got pace
He's got vision
   And he's got
 Finishing power
        His cup
  Runneth over...
  Magnificent Messi
       Wild man
He doth bestride the Earth
      Like a Colossus.

Is there one American sports' commentator on radio and television who comes close to such eloquence, such passion? Can you imagine Marv Albert watching LeBron James and quoting from Julius Caesar?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Open Forum: On Lance Armstrong, Chronicle Wed. May 25, 2011

Dave Zirin argues that trying to identify athletes who gain an advantage through doping is a waste of the government's money and time. Given the state of our economy, not to mention myriads of far more serious criminal activities left unattended to, such an argument might sound logical. Wouldn't they be better dealt with, he asks, by their own sports' federations?

The answer might be yes, if indeed those sports federations had ever been serious about stopping doping. Prior to the government coming on the scene, those so called self governing federations took little notice of the drugs in their sports. Without the government stepping in, one could legitimately ask would any of the All -Star cheaters, such as Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, etc, been sanctioned? I doubt it. More than likely today, they would all be receiving their accolades, playing in celebrity golf tournaments, and writing their Hall of Fame induction speeches.

If you agree with me, that leaves only the government to act as an independent entity with enough clout to expose said cheaters - all cheaters, including the iconic Lance Armstrong if indeed it is proven he used blood boosters, blood transfusion, and testosterone shots, to gain an advantage over his opponents who, by the way, might very well have been doping themselves.

Frankly, I don't give a damn how much money Lance Armstrong raised for Cancer. I'm an athlete and I have cancer. Like Bob Lypsyte and other cancer survivors, I am grateful for Armstrong's effort to raise money for cancer research. It's the least he could have done after the medical profession saved his life and his career. Now, the best that he can do is tell the truth and take his consequences. Redemption without confession is meaningless.

Cheaters should be banned from their sports for life. It is the best way to discourage future cheaters and preserve the integrity of sports. All their awards should be returned. Their names should be struck from any record book. And, if they lied to the grand jury, they should, like any citizen, go to jail. Period, bottom line, end of tawdry story.

Was there anything better than riding your bike when you were a youngster, bending over those handlebars, pumping like crazy, wind in your hair? Here's a haiku about a riding a bike in a city.

My Bike

The wind behind me
Water bottle is my friend
Watch that taxi door

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jerry West

Congratulations to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber the new owners of the Golden State Warriors. First they hire a fresh, young executive, Bob Myers, then they bring Jerry West on board as a member of the board and as a consultant, sensibly before they hired a coach. Thus, allowing a great basketball mind, like West's, to weight in on who the future Warrior coach will be.

I played ten years against Jerry. It was a challenge, a thrill, and a privilege. Oh, don't get me wrong, every time he drove the lane I did my utmost, with respect, to put him on the seat of his pants.

Recently, I was trying to figure out if I was playing today how many Flagrant Ones would have been called against me, and based on today's salaries, how much it would have cost me over a ten year NBA career.
I'll entertain all guesses. Flagrant Two's should not be included in your totals. I'll own up to a few F-2's - in which case a fight would have immediately taken place and benches cleared - but the majority of my hits were always struck going after the ball; the player simply was an extension of the ball. By the way there were a lot toughter dudes than moi back in the '60's.

In my last book of poems, Nothing You Lose Can Be Replaced, there is a poem for Jerry West.

Jerry West    by Tom Meschery

That nearly half-court buzzer beater
that kept the Laker's playoff hopes alive
was never in doubt. I knew its certainty
from fingertips to rim. Jerry, as sweet
as that shot was, I want to tell you
about another one far sweeter:
night falling and the cross-winds
of San Francisco full court pressing
All City Ray Paxton, postman
with the soft touch we depended on
in the clutch. He "called it" (something
you forgot to do) seconds before the rain
would have ended the game with nothing
resolved, summer over, the lucky players
off to college where they'd play
to big crowds indoors, safe and dry.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Warrior's Search for New Coach

This morning I read where Mike Brown, ex coach of the Cleavland Cavaliers is the front runner to get the heading coaching job of the Golden State Warriors. I read this and my heart seized up. Say it isn't so! The team just fired a coach who didn't hold his players accountable. Are we going to hire another coach of the same ilk? Did Brown ever hold LeBron accountable? Did Brown every have a strategy to use the great King James effectively on the offense. Not that I saw. They say defense is his specialty. If it was, I couldn't see what was so special about it.

In the same article I saw where the Warriors were talking to Lawrence Frank. Now there's a choice that makes sense. Working with a lot less talent than Mike Brown, Frank won lots of games other coaches of lesser skill would not have won. His own intelligence and a couple of years being an assistant to Doc Rivers makes him a far better choice than Brown. Frank coaching Kidd was a good combo. Frank coaching Curry and Ellis would be too. The Nets made a mistake firing him.

McHale? Really? He has tons of personality and NBA superstar charisma, but check out his coaching record. And not Sam Mitchell whose teams never played an ounce of D. Chuck Pearson might be a possibility if he promised to coach exactly the opposite way from the way he played.

And what about Adelman? Please don't tell me the Warriors are not going to interview one of the NBA's most successful coaches?

Is there another Tom Thibodeau out there? Dwane Casey's record with the Timberwolves and basketball history at Kentucky doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence. How many superstars in Japan did he coach?

Brian Shaw looks as if he has what it takes, but does he know anything other than the triangle?

There is not a lot of room for a mistake picking a coach this year. We need a head coach who has the intelligence and strength to create a winner. Our fans have been extremely patient.

I've been offering up a lot of basketball poems recently. So let's change the subject. How about body building. It is a sport, ya know. Here's one from a female point of view.
Pumping Iron    by  Diane Ackerman

She doesn't want
the bunchy look
of male lifters:
torso an unyielding love-knot,
arms hard at mid-boil.
Doesn't want
the dancing bicepses
of pros.
Just to run her flesh
up the flagpole
of her body,
to pull her roaming flab
into tighter cascades,
machete a waist
through the jungle
of her hips,
a trim waist
two hands might grip
as a bouquet.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Culled From the Sport Pages

Are NBA fans really witnessing a transition from the Old Guard to the New? Lots of talk about that in the sports pages, radio, TV. I wouldn't go so far. Consider the teams that made it to the finals of the eastern and western division finals: Mavericks vs Thunder and Heat vs Bulls. Of all the players on the four teams, there are only three bona fide new super stars: Rose, Durant, and Westbrook. You can't really call Lebron, D Wade, and Bosh youngster any more. Wade is 29, Bosh and James are 27 and they've all three played over seven years in the NBA. Go back into all the teams that made the playoffs. You can't call Dwight Howard at 26 one of the New Guard. Nor can you say the same for Amare Stoudemire at 29,or Carmelo Anthony at 27.  So tell me who among playoff participants, aside from Rose, Durant, and Westbrook, are the New Guard? Serge Ibaka, maybe? But I doubt it. I suppose all this New Guard fuss must include players from non playoff teams like Tyreke Evans and Demarcus Cousins of the Kings. The jury is still out on both of them. Tyreke can't shoot and Cousins is still in need of a good therapist. Blake Griffin, of course. But again, he doesn't have a complete game - yet. But I won't quibble as he is a true future star as is Rajon Rando. There is no doubt we are saying goodbye to some stalwart supers in the 4th quarter of their careers: Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and maybe Manu, but the players filling the gap, are certainly not the young guns, at least not yet. The super stars of the NBA are the stars that we have been enjoying for awhile, those who are starting the 3rd quarter of their careers and still have quite a way to go before their retirement.

Damn brave of Rick Welts of the Phoenix Suns to revel he is gay. The NBA has been leading the charge against immigration discrimination (Los Suns), and recently against gay and lesbian discrimination (It's not cool to use the word Gay pejoratively). Right on. Perhaps some of the NBA's gay players will come out of the closet. You don't believe there are any? Really?

I've always loved Carlos Santana's music. So I was delighted to see he admonished Alabama and Arizona for their immigration laws when he was awarded the Beacon of Light Award before the Phillies-Braves game.

Stanford Women's Water Polo team won the National Championship against the University of California Bears. Am I mistaken or are we talking about two teams from Northern California going Uno and Dos for the National Title. Imagine the publicity a match up like that would generate if it were basketball or football. The Big Game for the BCS Championship, or the Bears vs Cardinals winding up in the NCAA Finals. Would you think that news of those events would be stuck in a lower right hand column on page 2?

The history of the Golden State Warriors first round and second round draft picks is nothing to be proud of. Not that other NBA teams histories are that much better, but as an ex Warrior and fan, I'm not interested in other teams. I want our front office guys to do a better job. I want to see a break with the past. What do I mean by the past? Since 1985, the Warriors have selected only four quality players: Chris Mullins, Mitch Richmond, Jason Richardson, and Stephan Curry. I would include Chris Webber but he is one of my least favorite players, and he let the Warriors down with his selfish performances.  Of the four, only Mullins can be considered a game changer. And if you go to the web site, Golden State of the Mind, you can log on to all the stars the Warriors missed out on, a list that makes me wonder if the family parakeet wasn't making our team's selection. The following players were available, but the Warriors passed over: Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Trancy McGrady, Dirk Nowitski, Andri Kirilenko, Tony Parker, Amare Stoudimire, Carlos Boozer, David West, Josh Smith, and Joakim Noah.

So, what does it take to make shrewd and knowledgeable draft choices? Lots and lots of hard work and plenty of assistant coaches on the road watching tons of college games. I also suspect those coaches and scouts better have a first hand knowledge of the NBA, not just of college ball. It might be too late to make changes, but whoever has been doing the scouting for our team, well, can our new owners trust them to make better decisions this year and into the future? Track records speak for themselves, don't they?

For all you fans who like good basketball stories, I recommend Counting Coup by Larry Colton, a true account of a high school girl's basketball team on the Crow Indian reservation. It is funny, tragic, intelligent, and loving.

Here's a poem by Sherman Alexie, a Native American writer and basketball player.


I remember sun-
days when the man I
call my father made

me shoot free throws, one
for every day of my life
so far. I remember
the sin of imperfect

spin, the ball falling in-
to that moment between
a father and forgive-

ness, between the hands reach-
ing up and everything
they can possibly hold.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

San Francisco Chronicle Sporting Green, May 10, 2001

Why am not feeling sorry for NBA and NFL athletes who are rushing to have their divorce settlements reduced because of the lockout? Could they possibly argue that after years of being paid extraordinary sums of money, they can't afford to make the payments they agreed upon to support their children? Now if these were school teachers being locked out, or factory workers who've lost jobs to out-sourcing, I could be more understanding. Should we feel sorry for Antonio Cromartie who has had nine children by eight different women? Does he belong in the knucklehead club, or what? I admit Cromartie is an extreme example, but do you know that the divorce rate among athletes is 80%? Furthermore, must I feel sad for these fellows who buy 10,000 square foot homes now scurrying to their nearest banks to refinance their mortgages. I wonder if those folks who have been jobless for the last couple of years and lost their homes are sympathetic? Or how about the people who were hoodwinked by greedy brokers and mortgage bankers into buying homes that are today upside down in value? Are those poor folks wringing their hands over the predicament of the professional athletes? Our entire economy is upside down, and these spoiled children we call roll models are crying poor. Give me a break!

I was amazed to read that the NFL is just now considering testing their athletes for Human Growth Hormones. Check out the neck sizes of some of these behemoths. Hmm!

Today's sports contains an article about the Giants' players growing beards thus promoting a rash of sympathetic fans to grow beards too. It's called the Fear the Beard Syndrome. You want to know how it got started?  Back in the 2007 NBA season, my son Matthew and his friend Dan started a website for Baron Davis, the Warriors' bearded point guard and called it Fear the Beard. It became an extremely popular site during an exciting season in which the Warriors, an 8th seeded team in the playoffs, knocked off the #1 seeded Dallas Mavericks. Is this where the Memphis Grizzlies got the idea to grow beards in this years' playoff? The Giants? If the beard craze continues, pretty soon all professional athletes will look like Presidents Ulysses S Grant or Rutherford B Hayes, not to mention fans who will also be wearing Fear the Beard T-shirts and caps. I understand an entire line of men's Fear the Beard clothing is being considered. If you don't believe that my son started this, Baron Davis still has his website, check it out, the first of its kind. My son and his friend, woe is me,  failed to obtain a copyright on the logo.

Before there were Human Growth Hormones, there was Big Daddy Lipscomb.

Goodbye to Big Daddy  by Randall Jarrell.

Big Daddy Lipscomb, who used to help them up
After he'd pulled them down, so that "the children
Won't think Big Daddy's mean": Big Daddy Lipscomb,
Who stood unmoved among the blockers, like the Rock
Of Gibraltar in a life insurance ad,
Until the ball carrier came, and Daddy got him;
Big Daddy Lipscomb, being carried down an aisle
Of women by Night Train Lane, John Henry Johnson,
And Lenny Moore; Big Daddy, his three ex-wives,
His fiancee, and the grandfather who raised him
Going to his grave in five big Cadillacs;
Big Daddy, who found football easy enough, life hard enough
In his yellow Cadillacs - to die of heroin;
Big Daddy, who was scared, he said: "I've been scared
Most of my life. You wouldn't think so to look at me.
It gets so bad I cry myself to sleep -" his size
Embarrassed him, so that he was helped my smaller men
And hurt by smaller men; Big Daddy Lipscomb
Has helped to his feet the last ball carrier, Death.

The big black man in the television set
Whom the viewers stared at - sometimes, almost were -
Is a blur now; when we get up to adjust the set,
It's not the set, but a NETWORK DIFFICULTY.
The world won't be the same without Big Daddy.
Or else it will be.

Friday, April 29, 2011

NBA TV Analyists

I'm happy to see that Craig Sager is back to wearing his outlandish costumes again. At the start of the NBA post game season (I call it a season because it lasts longer than the regular one), the suit Sager was wearing looked GQ - well not exactly but close enough that I thought Sager had undergone a clothes intervention, which cured him of his addiction to bright colors. Say it isn't so, I said to myself. And, thank god, it wasn't. The next game he was back wearing a pink sport suit over a pin-stripped baby blue shirt and a lipstick red necktie with a green flamingo emblazoned on it.

Enough has been said about Ernie Johnson and his band of merry men. For those of you who criticize the Abbot and Costello routine Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley have been chanelling, imagine what it would be like if instead of the dynamic duo, Johnson had to play host to Bill Walton and Chris Webber, Walton with his  condescending prattle and Webber with his used-car-salesman-smile. Let me ask you, would you buy a car from Webber?

Speaking of criticism, lots of it on the Internet blogs directed towards NBA Gametime's Rick Kamla. The word obnoxious keeps coming up. I think he actually knows a lot about basketball and cares about the game, but his delivery leaves a lot to be desired. He reminds me of those teachers who try to act like their students. In Kamla's case the students he's trying to imitate are also afflicted with HD - Hyperactivity Disorder. Grow up, Kamla and stop trying to be one of the dudes!

Hubie Brown is my hero, at seventy-three still going strong and knowledgeable as ever. I bet he could still coach a team and be successful. As for the other color men, Reggie Miller is competent. I enjoy listening to Steve Kerr who reminds me of Doug Collins, in my opinion the best hoops analyst in the business, now the coach of the 76ers and doing a damn good job of that. The guy that has impressed me the most recently is Greg Anthony. Here's a guy who has come a long way in the elocution department since his days as a player in the NBA. He'll age well.

As for Kevin McHale, let's hope the Rockets hire him as a coach, so he could hire Dennis Scott and Steve Smith as assistants, and NBA Gametime could bring in Cheryl Miller to team up with Brent Barry in their stead. If Mike Fratello, the Czar, could only stop with the Brooklyn accent, you could listen to his comments, usually pretty astute, without feeling you were being transported to the Big Apple. Stan Van Gundy is funny, knowledgeable, and literate.

The sideline reporters need to learn more about the game of basketball so they can ask coaches and players meaningful questions. I love the look on Phil Jackson's face as he responds.

Matt Winer doesn't have the sense of humor Ernie Johnson does, but he is a smart and smooth studio host. Marv Albert is Marv Albert, hair piece and all, one of the best voices in broadcasting.

I couldn't find a poem about TV sports analysts, but I wrote this one for three of the best radio play by play men in basketball.

Play-by-Play Men   by Tom Meschery
        for Chick Hearn, Marv Albert, & Bill King.

You can't out-grow those nights:
Chick faking players high
into the popcorn stands.
The dribble drive, shots
that never scored without
Marv's blessing, "Yessss!"
In The City, Bill King screams
"Holy, holy Toledo!"
while one more jumper aimed
from twenty feet drops
a contemptible fifteen.

Perhaps, tonight,
wherever you are, stalled
in traffic or home in your room
radio close at hand,
the game on tempting you
to try those nights again,
to be your favorite
play by play man.Why not?
You know their words
by heart, their cadences.
Set the dial, the true court's
left to right, drop an octave
and begin, holding one fist,
like a microphone,
close to your mouth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Coaching the Warriors

    This blog is in no way a criticism of Keith Smart's coaching job this season. I thought he did well under adverse conditions (one of them being the worst first round draft choices in the history of the world and the underworld since Chris Cohan bought the Warriors). What's that old saying about you can't make a horse race outta horse manure? Smart may indeed become a good coach in the NBA. And I hope he gets his chance.
   That said, I humbly point out that there is a great coach available, no OJT required. That coach is Rick Adelman, late of the Houston Rockets - the lateness due to Rocket management brain damage, or that illness owners of teams often succumb to called "lackachampionship."
   Indeed Adelman has not won an NBA Championship, but does that mean he is not a great coach? Not by my standards. To my way of thinking a great coach produces consistently competitive playoff teams. The key word being consistent. As for a Championship, Adelman and his worthy Sacramento Kings should be wearing the rings gifted to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002 by some of the most shameful and disgraceful refereeing in league history.
    Adelman's only lackluster years were the two as the coach of the Warriors, but with every other NBA team he has coached, his teams have been successful. Adelman teams play hard on both ends of the court. He is intelligent and creative, and most importantly he is respected by the vast majority of the players he has coached.
    Signing Rick Adelman unfortunately means not renewing Keith Smart's contract, which is a shame. Smart deserves a chance to prove himself. But how the heck can the Warriors pass up an opportunity to sign Rick Adelman?
   Perhaps the Rockets should hire Smart. And if Irony rules the universe, which I'm convinced it does, Smart will go on to win an NBA championship in Houston.
    And what will Rick do as the Warriors' coach? What he has always done, produce tough-minded, competitive NBA playoff teams, ones that the Bay Area fans can be proud of and deserve. Will he produce a championship team? We'll never know unless the Warriors hire him.

   Michael Harper was my son's poetry professor at Brown University. I've read and enjoyed many of his great poems, but none were about sports until I found this one. Harper weighs about 300 pounds, so I can't see him shooting jumpers.

Makin' Jump Shots   by Michael Harper

He waltzes into the lane
"cross the free-throw line,
fakes a drive, pivots,
floats from the asphalt turf
in an arc of black light,
and sinks two into the chains.

One on one he fakes
down the main, passes
into the free lane
and hits the chains.

A sniff in the fallen air -
he stuffs it through the chains
riding high:
"traveling" someone calls -
and he laughs, stepping
to a silent beat, gliding
as he sinks two into the chains.

Sporting Green Saturday April 16, 2011

From page 1: NHL finally on the first page of the Sporting Green. Lots of folks excited. Pas moi. I have never been able to see the damnable puck. (Is it possible that if I were a Canadian, I'd have better eyesight?) I think I have the puck in my sights, then, voila, it's gone and players are crashing into each other on the boards. Where the hell is the puck? I think I see something round, black,and shiny in the middle of all the skates. But I lose my concentration because two skaters are beating the stuffings out of each other and, unlike the NFL intellectuals, these damn fools have taken off their helmets. There's bound to be blood. I guess fights are one of the reasons some people enjoy watching Canada's national sport, eh? I'd settle for just being able to see the puck enter the net.

Also from page 1: According to Rusty Simmons, Keith Smart didn't get a vote of confidence from the new owners of the Warriors or from Larry Riley, who didn't get much of a vote of confidence from the owners either when they hired his replacement, assistant GM, Bob Meyers, who claims the Warriors are a "volcano ready to erupt." Wow! It's Krakatoa arena not Oracle. Before there is any eruption, the Warriors must find a tough minded five who is able to make opponents think twice about driving into the paint; make sure Monta and Curry understand how to play defense; find a third guard for the rotation who is a lock-down defender; find a point forward who can create off the bounce, (or hope Darell Wright can learn over summer); develop a defensive philosophy, (one that includes a fourth quarter strategy); clean all the dead wood from the bench and start all over again acquiring bench strength (what the heck is Radmanovich and Bell good for? Radmonovich couldn't guard my old grandmother.) I like Jeremy Lim, (as a fourth guard) but can he shoot at all? Beidrens should be ashamed of himself. If the Warriors stay status quo or even close to status quo, the only eruption will be of the hips. Sorry, that was a little crude.

From page 9:What a hoot. Kobe's Lakers and GLAAD - Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation -announced a partnership. Was that partnership in the works before Kobe opened his insensitive mouth? This is called after the fact epiphany. Reminds me of the Nixon bunch going to jail and discovering religion.

More from page 9: Can't wait for the Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma Thunder game tonight. Nothing against Carmelo, but isn't it wonderful to see the Nuggets prove you can be competitive without a "go-to-guy."  Besides, Carmelo couldn't guard my old grandmother either. Perhaps the "they don't guard anyone" Knicks should trade for the Warrior's Vladimir, the defensive specialist. (Oops, waited too long to post this. Can't wait for tonight's second game.)

I attended the last game of the Warriors' season against the Portland Blazers and watched a good three point shooting contests, better than the one at the All-Star game, at least. Not much in the way of basketball. Whoever hired the band that plays at the Warrior games, should be forced to sit next to the sax player for the rest of his or her life; no ear plugs allowed.

This hockey poem is too long to type out in it's entirety. The last section, entitled, The Goalie,  is the best in my opinion.

The Hockey Poem   by Robert Bly

4 The Goalie

     And this man with his peaked mask, with slits, how fantastic he is, like a white insect, who has given up on evolution in his life his family hopes to evolve after death, in the grave. He is ominous a a Dark Ages knight...the Black Prince. His enemies defeated him in the day, but every one of them died in their beds that night...At his father's funeral, he carried his own head under his arm.
    He is the old woman in the shoe, whose house is never clean, no matter what she does. Perhaps this goalie is not a man at all, but a woman, all women; in her cage everything disappears in the end; we all long for it. All these movements on the ice will end, the advertisements come down, the stadium wall bared... This goalie with his mask is a woman weeping over the children of men, that are cut down like grass, gulls that stand with cold feet on the ice...And at the end, she is still waiting, brushing away the leaves, waiting for the new children developed by speed, by war....

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Test Scores and Coaching

Florida Governor, Rick Scott signed a teacher merit-pay bill that will "overhaul how teachers across the state will be evaluated and paid." The law creates an evaluation system that "relies heavily on student test score data to judge teacher quality." Teachers around the country gird your loins. Unless this educational trend can be stopped, it marks the end of creativity in the classroom and turns students over to the data minded wonks.

I can't begin to tell you how much data minded wonks upset me. What are they thinking, that classroom teachers can be evaluated like sports coaches? The test for coaches is simple. Succeed or get fired. In sports this is a reasonably accurate way of judging a coach's ability as long as the time frame the college or pro team allows the coach is reasonable and level playing fields exist.

These testers would argue that results of tests will allow teachers to remediate students who fail the tests. Nonsense. Most of the kids failing standardized tests are right-brained thinkers, and no matter what teachers do, remediation will not help these kids to pass these tests.

The object of education is to pass tests, right?


In the classroom, things are never so cut and dry as they are in coaching. A test score is not like a winning season, nor is it like a losing season. High test scores do not measure a student's knowledge, nor do low test scores demonstrate a student's lack of same. It simply measures a student's ability to take a test. It may or may not test how much knowledge the student possesses. It certainly does not test potential or creativity. Right brain functioning students historically do far worse on tests than left brain (logical) thinkers. Does that make them more worthy?

In sports, there is room for both kinds of thinkers, but never in the world of standardized tests, at least not the one's I've ever seen, and I taught in high school and college for twenty years after retiring from professional basketball. In the NBA there was room for players like Bill Bradley and Earl Monroe from my era and LeBron James and Tim Duncan in today's game - left brains and right brains helping their teams to excel.

If only government and leadership in education would come to realize the need to test both sides of the brain to measure knowledge, if only they would realize that both sides of the brain need to be represented in the classroom, if only they weren't such left brainers. Gad!

But they just don't get it. If the trend to standardized tests continues as the principal evaluation of students, it won't be long before they will soon wipe out diverse thinking in classrooms while the contents of standardized tests, developed by left brain bean-counters, will see to it that right brained thinkers will fail.

 Read, future dropout rates skyrocketing.

If only the education wonks would take a lesson from sports coaches. In team sports, coaches have always known they can't succeed with only one type of player. In team sports, it's essential that there's a mix, not just of role players and starters, but of players who approach the game from different mind-sets.

And just so bean-counters don't think I'm picking on them, there is even room in coaching (and teaching) for the statistical wonks (I'm thinking of  the GM of the Houston Rockets), just as there is a place (but not a significant place) for the educational test-only-been-counters in education.

Do you get the picture, you out there in the Department of Non-Education?

Governor Rick Scott will probably see much better test scores in the future. He will also lose a great number of creative students and teachers. And the consequent long-term brain-drain for Florida will be profound.

Watch out, America, the wonks are putting on a full court press.

When I was teaching, skateboarders, stoners and Goths were often emblematic of classroom failure. Most of them I knew were right-brain thinkers and did not function well in standard classrooms, nor did they do well on standardized tests. Here's a poem about skateboarding, one heck of a fun sport.

Skateboard   by Thom Gunn

Tow Head on his skateboard
threads through a crowd
of feet and faces delayed
to a slow stupidity.
Darts, doubles, twists.
You notice how nimbly
the body itself has learned
to asses the relation between
the board, pedestrians,
and immediate sidewalk.
Emblem. Emblem of fashion.
Wearing dirty white
in dishevelment as delicate
as the falling draperies
on a dandyish
Renaissance saint.
Chain round his waist.
One hand gloved.
Hair dyed to show it is dyed,
pale flame spiking from fuel.
Two Head on Skateboard
perfecting himself:
emblem extraordinary
of the ordinary.

In the sexless face
eyes innocent of feeling
therefore suggest the spirit.