Monday, September 24, 2007

Like Richard Nixon, I'm a coach not a player

Not everyone was happy about the breadth of the punishment that the New England Patriots received for being caught stealing play calls from their opponents. Voicing his distaste of the matter and offering a more appropriate sanction was Kevin from O'Fallon. Kevin wrote into the St. Louis Post Dispatch suggesting that the Patriots had also cheated in Super Bowl XXXVI and that the only way to make amends would be to play the game again...this November.

Kevin's treatise, perhaps edited by the Post's staff (hey, been there Kev--they edit out the good jokes :( !!LOL!!), failed to offer adequate specifics. Where, for example, would they play? Back in New Orleans? But that's merely semantics, other hard questions: Would the Rams have to be coached by Mike Martz or Scott Linehan? Who would play? Does Aeneas Williams come out of retirement? Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk reunited? Where's Tony Horne nowadays--not playing softball on our team, that's for sure.

All of which makes me believe, that Kev's tongue was firmly entrenched in his cheek when he wrote into the paper. Although, it is funny to imagine him (whoever he is) picking up the Sports section, reading the article, and destroying his house a la Chris Farley when he was told he was drinking Colombian coffee crystals. "You...son of a...You lied to me!"

(Sorry about picture size)

So maybe O'Fallon has produced another in a dying breed of satirists, one capable of keeping us all in check and balancing out the doom and gloom of Mallard Fillmore. And if so, that's a good thing.

Thankfully as followers of sports media we've had writers keep us in check--like Bill Simmons who reminded us that not only was there a war going on, but people are dying: "We live in a world in which global-warming activists charter private jets to take them from speech to speech, then tell people not to use so much toilet paper. We live in a world in which American kids are getting killed every day in the Middle East and nobody will mobilize a valid protest until the President finally decides, We're having a draft lottery...So save me the moral indignation about CameraGate. The whole world is screwed up." Yes, the whole world is screwed up and until the problems in the Middle East are solved and global warming is ended then, will you be allowed to think, "Wow, that was kind of a sleezy thing for the Patriots to do," without being a total dick. It's just too bad that you can only feel bothered by a certain number of news stories at a time. "Hey what do you think about the Jena 6?" "Who whoa whoa, hold up there guy, have you heard about a little thing called global warming? Or I don't know, maybe the war in Iraq? Those are the two issues we're concentrating on right now. Come back when those are solved and we'll talk about your Civil Rights crisis." And I love (this has offically become a tangent) that in the same paragraph (cut off by my elipses) Simmons mentions Friday Night Lights compared to Perez Hilton's new show--how one will be cancelled and the other is trash! Of literally the tens of thousands of things in the world to be morally indignant about, Bill Simmons chooses the fact that NBC might cancel Friday Night Lights. In his defense, though, it was a kick ass pop culture reference.

While that was one end of the spectrum, the other end was likening this whole scenario to Watergate. That little old political scandal which resulted in the resignation of the President of the United States and in combiantion with the Vietnam War sent America spiraling into an era of political skepticsm. Yeah, come to think of it, it was sort of like that. "Patriots have their Watergate." "Belichick's actions Nixonian." Give me a break. This would have sort of kind of been like Watergate had Roger Goodell told Belichick to tape the Jets, then denied the whole thing and fired Gene Upshaw when he tried to uncover the truth.

Where has journalism gone? I actually don't want to know the answer to that question, I really just want to hear Skip Bayless tell me how to feel about Barry Bonds.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

AOS Celebrity Encounter Tuesday: Carlyle Holiday Does Not Find Me Funny

I like to think I'm a pretty funny guy. Throughout the years there have been some clever jokes, a couple of good anectdotes, a well placed reference here or there to Vai Sikahema or Hammurabi which brings a smile to a few faces. But there is one person, who did not laugh at my jokes--his name was Carlyle Holiday. He used to play quarterback for Notre Dame.

I met Carlyle Holiday at a bar in South Bend, IN one summer. I was introduced to him and he told me that I had just missed seeing Drew Brees. I was a little taken aback by this because by this time Drew Brees was established as an NFL starting quarterback, so what he was doing in a South Bend bar in the middle of the summer I don't know. Anyway, Carlyle continued telling me that he had wanted to beat up Drew Brees that night, but decided not to. Good choice.

Carlyle Holiday and Drew Brees' Mom: Neither big fans of Drew Brees

As fate would have it, Carlyle Holiday and I ended up moving to the same city. He in pursuit of his profesiional football career and I hoping to impart some American History on eager students--in hindsight neither of us were super successful. But, the point is this: Carlyle and I had a chance for one more night on the town together. My roommate and I were invited to go hang out with some of the Arizona Cardinals' rookies, who were there early for Rookie Camp. It was your cliche bar/nightclub, too many people dancing, too few willing to discuss what happened in 1066. I returend to the enclave where we had set up camp, past (maybe?) JJ Arrington, a lineman from Boston College, and found Carlyle Holiday. Everybody was having a great time joking around, telling stories, and enjoying life. So I figured, I would throw my hat into the ring and spin some yarn for the guys. Nothing but crickets. I even went to some of mainstays: a couple of college stories, some teachign experiences, a tough luck date. Nothing. In fact, at one point I thought I had offended Carlyle with a story about helping a friend win a Buffalo Wild Wings Eating Contest. My head fell in shame and I retreated. It may have been paranoia, but I had the distinct sense that as I walked away Carlyle was shaking his head in disappointment, expecting more, receiving less.

One guy, though, that was close to giving me a high five for a joke was wide receiver LeRon McCoy. He asked me what I thought of a specific girl on the dance floor. I went with the Wayne's World 2 reference: "Limber." LeRon appreciated the reference. So maybe this post should be retitled: "The Night I made LeRon McCoy Laugh"

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rememberance of Things Past

Terry Tempest Williams once wrote an essay entitled, "Why I Write." Due to the stringent copyright laws of this country, I won't transpose the whole piece, but here are a couple reasons she gave for writing. (As an aside I would direct anyone who is interested in writing creatively to not only read this, but to try and answer the question yourself):

I write to begin a dialogue.

I write because it makes me less fearful of death.

I write to forget.

I write because then I do not have to speak.

I write for the love of it.

I wanted to figure out what the point of writing this 'blog' is. I think it comes down to wanting to understand sports in America and speciifcally our fascination with professional and collegiate sports.

There has to be a purpose right? The time and energy we invest in watching, following, playing sports has to be more than just escape. Or does it? I have to say that on occassion I've gritted my teeth when reading Bill Simmons, but recently he's been very insightful. Anyway, he was talking about this recent NBA scandal (more to come), and he said something:

"If you're a diehard Suns fan, this now becomes the toughest playoff loss in NBA history. You have a legitimate case that you were screwed."

That's interesting pronoun use isn't it? "you were screwed." No you weren't. A team that you follow lost. But you didn't lose, a group of 12 men who have possibly never met you before lost, and they probably retired that night disappointed, shook it off, and prayed that the sun would shine tomorrow so that they could be redeemed. But you. You did nothing but watch and become emotionally invovled. Who are you? Who are we? Why do we care when we have nothing to gain and everything to lose? Trust me, you can only be disappointed when following sports. There is never a championship moment. Your team may win, but when the alcohol is wiped away and the confetti picked up, there's a moment you realize you didn't accomplish anything. But we watch and we follow and we become disappointed and feel let down by people we haven't met, or never will meet. So we find outlets for this disappointment. We play softball, or soccer, or talk about old high school football games. We need to feel connected, we need to feel like we could if God hadn't cursed us with these poor genetics.

So, after this disgression, here's my abbreviated answer to Why I write:

I write to understand

I write so there is a place for the thoughts that inundate my mind most nights before I go to sleep.

I write to drown out other people who say things like "'Nuff said," or "I didn't get the memo."

I write because I have something to say, even though on occasion I don't necessarily say it well.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bus(c)h League Soccer: Hey at Least it wasn't a Shutout

Boom Shaka Laka's stay at the top of the Bud Sports Adult Soccer League was transient at best. There's no other way to put it--we ran into a buzz saw this week, and were unceremoniously dismantled 6-1*. An asterix seems appropriate since, I personally felt that PNH United's final goal with 10 seconds left, was a little much, but I was also raised in a house which extolled the virtues of fair play and good sportmanship--unless you're playing Monopoly, where flipped boards were sort of par for the course

In our defense we were short handed--missing three of our better players. Plus, the "ringer" we brought in last week who notched two assists was nowhere to be found. But as a result the highlights were few and far between. Neil, Drew's brother, found the back of the net late in the second half cutting the lead to three. The low light of the game was definitely this week's ringer, an engineer at Boeing, who became frustrated half way through the second and left. I spent most of the game in the defensive zone, where my sole highlight was a collision with their forward on a crossing pass.

With Neil's goal this week and Drew's last week, I feel confident in saying that there has not been a brother combo this dominant since the Sedins were torching the Blues in the playoffs and leading me to Fantasy Hockey glory.

But in the end PNH United just had too much firepower. Their captain, John, was a pretty solid player, picking a couple goals and a few assists. Plus he just had a motor, hustled the entire game the entire game--it was like trying to run with a zebra on the plains of the Serengeti.

Casual observers may say we weren't ready to play, maybe we didn't deserve to win. Obviously our dedication to the weight room is lacking, but with a full team who knows how the game would have turned out, since it wasn't so much PNH United as it was John, he's good.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Faith is the Highest Passion

Where do we find meaning? Is it being able to exert grace under pressure? Is it surviving in the face of adversity? Rising above and discovering who lies inside? The NBA playoffs operate on an existential plane. You define yourself. Willis Reed. Jordan over Ehlo. Robert Horry in the last three seconds. Kobe to Shaq. Lebron slays Washington. In the playoffs no player is bound to the constrictions of past humans. No player is bound by the past.

There has been much written and much discussed about the apathy and lethargy of the NBA's regular season. Teams spending time position themselves for Oden and Durant, suspensions, fights, uninspired play. But there has been an equal amount written about how these playoffs will make us all forget about that. That the past has no bearing on the present.

“The self-assured believer is a greater sinner in the eyes of God than the troubled disbeliever”

In the playoffs you got to bear down. Defense wins championships. But there's something about Nash pulling up and hitting that three while the shot clock reads 18. Or Barbosa scorching past Smush for the lay up as the shot clock scrolls from 20 to 19. There's Amare, right where he needs to be with 17 left on the shot clock. They'll play defense another day. Right now, they're busy disproving your antiquated theory.

“There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.”

This is Chris Bosh's chance. He defines himself in this series, if for noother reason than he is facing Vince Carter. No matter how he left Toronto, Carter is the face of the Raptors--it took one slam dunk contest to prove that. But moreso, Carter was the one who took them to the playoffs. It was Carter who had them a shot away from the finals. It wasn't McGrady. It wasn't Doug Christie. Possibly Charles Oakley, possibly. But now Bosh has the chance to have people forget them all. And he knows it. "...[W]hen you have a guy who was pretty much the cornerstone of basketball north of the border.When you thought about the Toronto Raptors, you thought about Vince Carter, the Air Canada thing. It's been about two or three years now and people are still talking about it. That shows how important it was." This is Chris Bosh's chance to put to rest the past and define himself.

"Acting is a question of absorbing other people's personalities and adding some of your own experience."

I will never forget watching UMass-Georgetown in the Elite Eight, when Marcus Camby and Allen Iverson were playing a different game than the eight other people on the court. Now they're teamed up? Yikes. But that was then. There's been a few clicks on the old odometer since. Questions about melting were asked and answered by the media. This group never questioned. They embraced their current existience and went about figuring it out.

“Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”

From 1990 until this point the only real significance the Warrior had was a guest appearance on an episode Hanging with Mr. Cooper. The one where Mark Curry tries out for the team, only to be stymied by the pranks of Tim Hardaway. Think about that. This was an organization that earlier this decade was composed of Richardson, Arenas, and Jamison. They could have been the evolution of Run TMC. Now though, Stephen Jackson is redeeming himself. Don neslon is adding a new chapter. Monta Ellis is getting his due. no longer do they need to team up with Rodney Peet's wife to get noticed. They don't even need a gun being fired in the air outside of a strip club. All they need now is Andris Biedrins and Baron Davis. The rest is taken care of.

“Pleasure disappoints, possibility never”

Can you imagine this with Steve Francis? It had to be McGrady and Yao didn't it. We waited for three seasons, drooling over the possibility of what could be. But then there were back aches, and knee problems. Now though, not even Bonzi Wells can submarine this. There's a good chance Battier took a charge while you were reading. Steve Novak makes you ask what ever happened to Travis Diener? Yeah, that is Bobby Sura. Injuries are so last year, possibility and potential are giving way to reality

Hell is other people.

I just have this feeling if it was Phoenix versus Kobe, the Lakers would have a better shot of winning.

Man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have.

It seems lost in the Suns and the Mavericks' win streaks. Forgotten amongst Bosh and Howard. Michael Finley who? Tell me about Ty Thomas. That's where the Spurs are. Duncan holding three rings, three MVP's, wanting people to remember that he's ready to play. He's bounced Shaq before. He's beaten Dirk. How many titles does Nash have? Didn't he drop Billups and Hamilton? He's ready, and since you don't remember, he doesn't mind reminding you.

Man is fully responsible for his nature and his choices.

Not enough has been written about Chris Webber. He has not received enough attention. When we talk about tragic characters his name comes up. But when we talk about villains of the game, shouldn't he be there as well. He was nearly indicted. He destroyed Michigan basketball. He quit playing in Philadelphia and now he has become rejuvenated in Detroit. But that was the past. In the new season, he has the potential to fulfill his homecoming. Caesar crosses the Rubicon. Webber wins a championship for the state of Michigan. Big Ben who?

Life has no meaning the moment you loose the illusion of being eternal.

Fourteen in a row. Eighteen in a row. "To the lose the way they did last year..." For some reason though, I can't stop thinking about Dirk throwing Terry under the bus. The disunity. The kicked weight machine. Is it really theirs to lose?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

AOS Celebrity Encounter Tuesday: Lorenzo Romar Wants You to Give it Your All

In light of Saint Louis University's recent firing of head men's basketball coach Brad Sodberg, I thought it would be relevant to tell of the time I met former men's basketball coach and current University of Washington head coach, Lorenzo Romar.

On Saturday mornings, while a senior in high school, I checked ID's at a local gym. The job was pretty easy: pick up towels, change the water cooler, sweep the floor, make sure nobody blew out their knee, etc. Most of the time I read or studied biology (Probably the reason I remember that Mitochondria = powerhouse of the cell).

Anyway, from 9-12 the gym was reserved for pick-up basketball games. The demographic of this gym was mostly middle age doctors and business man, some local celebrities that your parents would be excited about meeting, and every now and then a former collegiate player--Troy Robertson, Scott Highmark, even Anthony Bonner showed up, until my buddy gave him a hard foul and jeopardized his ten day contract with the Knicks.

On the particular Saturday in question, Highmark showed up accompanied by Romar. For those of you who don't know, Highmark played basketball at SLU in the mid 90s and with Erwin Clagget, H. Waldman, Donnie Dobbs, led SLU to back to back NCAA tournaments.

Now I didn't know much about Lorenzo Romar, but I knew he had played in the NBA. A quick look at Wikipedia confirms that he did indeed play five years for the Warriors. So the field of participants was an All-Conference USA forward, a former NBA player, and a bunch of doctors who had no cartilege in their knees. Bone on bone.

Romar started the game being very defferential. Doing the little things that made him the perfect teammate. Fighting down low for rebounds, solid entry passes and off-the-ball screens. Soon though, his team started to fall behind and that's when Romar morphed into Teen Wolf. Not Jason Bateman Teen Wolf II either. No, we're talking Michael J. Fox, i'm taking this game over Teen Wolf. I mean he was grabbing rebounds at one end, dribbling down the court, pulling up and sinking the shots in another guy's face. Romar was putting on a clinic and brought his team back within one.

But much like the premise of Teen Wolf, the other players became disenchanted with just winning, they wanted to share in the glory. Next time down the court, the ball made its way into the hands of another player. The guy, I believe he was a dentist, was wearing a brace for every appendage, and decided to take a three, which clanked off the rim. Romar was not pleased with the shot selection and decided to let him know about. Romar goes off on this guy at half court explaining the situation, how he has the hot hand, and basically the shot wasn't needed. The dentist tried to defend himself, but Romar would have none of it, telling him next time down the ball had to go through Romar's hands.

Lorenzo Romar: In it to win it

Bus(c)h League Soccer

Three things have disappointed my father more than anything else:

(1) I never read any of the Lord of the Rings Books
(2) I never did Boy Scouts
(3) I was inept as a soccer player

Now that I'm 25 and realize the sacrifices that my pops has made for my betterment I decided to try and make amends. So I signed a letter of intent to play for Team Boom Shaka Laka of the Bud Sports Adult Soccer League.

Last weekend, the team took the pitch for the first game of our eight game regular season. We knew very little about our opponents, Team Evil, but their apparent lack of attention to pregame calisthetics led us to beleive they would be a push over. However, that was before we realized that they had former World class goaltender Jorge Campos minding the net.

This guy was ridiculous. Leaping saves, diving saves, kick saves, he did it all. Even when Andy cleated him in the face, earning a yellow card, he came back, better than ever. Just a true competitor. The first half ended with both teams deadlocked at one, and Team Boom Shaka laka regretting having done nothing for the past seven years but smoke two packs of Lucky Strikes a day. Tad out of shape.

The second half was much of the same. Our team spent the majority of the half in the opponent's zone but continued to be stymied by the brick wall. The minutes melted away and with a tie seemingly imminent, I declared a moral victory, but my roommate Drew had other intentions. Doing his best Thierry Henry impression, he netted the game winner with less than five minutes to go. Unfortunately unlike Henry, though, Drew's celebratory dance was a little more subdued.

Heading into next week's game the Bud Sports League Power rankings have us listed at number one, although a closer look makes it seems that these rankings are based on wins and then alphabetical order. But, you never know.