Wednesday, June 30, 2004

LITTLE BROWN CATBLOGGING: Without the image files catblogging usually requires, due to my relative primitivism with technology. Advanced enough to have a blog, primitive enough to not care about not having a digital whatsis and a scanner and whatnot--that is I.

The little brown cat is much better now. His eye is now healed and goop free. He is no longer scrawny, as he has been pumped full of fluids and fed piles of food. His purring sounds less congested, and he's stopped drooling. He still sits there with the tip of his tongue sticking out of his mouth, though--I don't know what that means.

He is not what you would call a handsome cat. I struggle to not become emotionally connected to him, as a fifth cat would be too many cats in our household. A home must be found.

But he sure is an affectionate, well-mannered little bugger. No use of claws at all when I'm forcing antibiotics down his throat. Really hates the eyedrops, but who wouldn't? I still haven't thought of a good name for him, though. And if I can't think of a good name for him, that's more impetus to place him with somebody else. So that's how we'll play tihs. Okay? Okay.

John Judis has more on the Iraq=Philippines thing. I couldn't pick out a reasonable-sized quote--just read it. History repeats itself every hundred years, I guess. Stupid limitations of living memory.

Summer physics: homework is not collected. That is good.

Tomorrow night I go down the shore--the annual family reunion/collective vacation thing. I probably won't blog again until Monday, so stay well out there.

David Brooks kills Michael Moore:

Like Ernest Hemingway, Moore does his boldest thinking while abroad. For example, it was during an interview with the British paper The Mirror that Moore unfurled what is perhaps the central insight of his oeuvre, that Americans are kind of crappy.

"They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet ... in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy]," Moore intoned. "We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing."

It transpires that Europeans are quite excited to hear this supple description of the American mind. And Moore has been kind enough to crisscross the continent, speaking to packed lecture halls, explicating the general vapidity and crassness of his countrymen. "That's why we're smiling all the time," he told a rapturous throng in Munich. "You can see us coming down the street. You know, 'Hey! Hi! How's it going?' We've got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren't loaded down."

Naturally, the people from the continent that brought us Descartes, Kant and Goethe are fascinated by these insights. Moore's books have sold faster there than at home. No American intellectual is taken so seriously in Europe, save perhaps the great Noam Chomsky.

Before a delighted Cambridge crowd, Moore reflected on the tragedy of human existence: "You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe." In Liverpool, he paused to contemplate the epicenters of evil in the modern world: "It's all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton."

I generally dislike Brooks, but he kills Moore with his own quotes here. (Brooks looks so lightweight on tv compared to the Deep Thinkers he's on with, by the way, and he was all over the dial on Sunday. He should stick with the Chris Matthews level of discourse and not try to match wits with Fareed Zakaria, Thoughtful Person.)

Peter Vecsey destroys Dick Vitale:

Not to suggest Vitale isn't well-versed to warble on the pros. After impressing only himself (and fooling only Bill Davidson) at the U. of Detroit ?where Terry Tyler and John Long carried him like overburdened burros ? he coached (for want of a more truthful word) the Pistons when they really were the Bad Boys.

Try Vitale's forgettable foray (34-60) in one-plus seasons. How overmatched was Dickie Dunce? The '79-'80 Pistons, an outfit he personally assembled from which he was dutifully dismissed after a dozen games (4-8), wound up 16-66, the toilet paper standard for that franchise's futility.

The only banner that spittoon ever lifted was a white flag.


Having Vitale expectorate about the NBA Draft is like getting Michael Moore as keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention ... 'cept Moore may actually present a substantiated fact or a valid argument or two.

For example, Dickie V's criticism of the 76ers' choice (No. 9) of Andre Iguodala was hopelessly nearsighted and simple-minded. ("How can you pick a kid who only averaged 11 points over Luke Jackson [No. 10, Cavaliers], who's a great perimeter shooter, blah, blah, blah..." he bellowed.)

Well, for one thing, the 76ers already flaunt a great, young 3-point shooter named Kyle Korver.

No doubt this is news to Vitale.

More important, Iguodala averaged 12.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and five assists for the self-sacrificing, well-balanced Arizona Wildcats, a recurrent characteristic of a Lute Olson-coached team. The 6-6 aerodynamically sophisticated soph was the first player in the school's storied history to lead the team in rebounding, assists and steals in the same season. He was also the only Pac Ten player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and assists-to-turnover ratio.

Surely this is Vitale's introduction to these stats.

More perceptively, when junior Richard Jefferson declared himself eligible for the 2000 draft (No. 13, Rockets) he'd averaged 11.3 that season (one-tenth of a point higher than his average over three years), 5.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists for the self-sacrificing, well-balanced (Gilbert Arenas, Luke Walton) Arizona Wildcats.

Does Vitale sense something along the lines of a trend?

Jefferson turned out to be a pretty good pro/Olympian/rising All-Star without padding his personals in college. Iguodala is expected to enjoy a similar NBA career by everyone except Dickie Dunce, who doesn't seem to grasp the draft concept of picking the best pro prospect, not the guy with the most seductive numbers.


By the way, is anybody really surprised that the guy who married Seven of Nine tried to get her to go to sex clubs with him? I would've thought that would be specified, and underlined, in the prenup.

I don't think they had a "Star Trek" wedding, though.

T-Mac for Francis: Thunderbirds are go. I think this helps both teams. Orlando, with the draft and now Stevie and Cat, is no longer a one-man band and will be competitive next year. (Everybody was killing that Orlando/Charlotte/Atlanta/Washington/Miami division after the NBA announced the realignment last year, but you can't tell me that Nets/Knicks/Raptors/Celtics/Sixers thing looks a whole lot better.) And Yao and McGrady--that's a whole lot of potential there. That's an entirely different kind of dual threat from the Kobe/Shaq threat. T-Mac's about a million times more graceful than Kobe, and obviously Yao lacks Shaq's physical presence, but Simmons says he's the greatest passing center since Walton so that's good enough for me. The Rockets really need a solid point guard, though.

And now I rest.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

MUST....BLOG....BUT TOO....STUPID: Don't expect too much out of me the next eight weeks, is all I'm saying. Not that I'm really lighting it up right now.

But. One post a day.

All I want is one post a day.

Even if I have to resort to my least favorite sports column cliche and make every sentence a paragraph in order to artificially lengthen what I'm writing.

Even that.

I will do that.

I have no shame.

Oh yes.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

THE BEST KIND OF BATHROOM BOOK: Is the book that is durable, and high on page count while being, and can be stopped and started at any point. Much like the act of defecation itself, in an ideal world. The Complete Peanuts, Volume One, is such a book. I take in the can with me and open it at random, much like Augustine did with the book of Romans at the moment of his conversion. Except he didn't convert on the crapper, and all you're doing with the Complete Peanuts is reminding yourself of how great Charles M. Schulz was, and how different Peanuts was in the early days, and how strange it is that this comic strip became a cultural force.

As has been mentioned in many reviews of Volume One, these are not the Peanuts you're used to. The characters are built a little lower to the ground, and are not as expressive as they would become. Some of the gags are really bad, the kind of thing Ruben Bolling makes fun of sometimes when he turns his whole Tom the Dancing Bug panel into a mini comics section. And Sparky at this point had a real thing for making the third panel the punchline--usually a putdown--and the fourth panel the aftermath of the punchline: a character chasing another out of outrage, the character being chased running out of perverse joy. Saying, "It's risky, but I get my laughs" as Charlie Brown does, running away from Patty in a panel inside one of the front covers. But the heart of Peanuts is there: the philosophy, the insults, the precocious little children. There's one of the all time great Peanuts lines: Charlie Brown's "What a beautiful gory layout!" as he stands before the huge rack of 1950s comics with titles like GOUGE and STAB! and KILL and even HATE, which is completely appropriate since Peter Bagge is the only true heir to Schulz.

The book is designed by Seth and it seems like an attempt to reinvent the Peanuts franchise. Or at least to take it as far as possible from the greeting cards and other Hallmark pick-me-ups where these character currently resides. Those things have their place, but not in the early era of Peanuts where the characters were really insulting to each other. I applaud the attempt to do something different with Peanuts, though there's something art-comics-esque of this Seth-designed volume that will take some getting used to. I think Sparky would whack you with a hockey stick if you said Peanuts was art.

The first ever Peanuts set the tone, by the way: "Well! Here comes good ol' Charlie Brown! Good ol' Charlie Brown....yes sir! Good ol' Charlie Brown...

"How I hate him!"

Moving on here: Bruce O'Flit gives you the true historical metaphor for current-day Iraq. Hint: It isn't Japan and Germany, 1945. It is, in fact:

At the moment, the Iraq adventure is more or less where the Philippine adventure was in March, 1900; the open rebellion has calmed down a bit, there is a parallel civilian power struggle in the offing, and the Americans are changing leadership. (McKinley didn't have Kofi Annan back then, so he had to invent the Taft Commission to fill its place, but other than that we're pretty close.) That puts us about one year from the popular Aguinaldo figure's (Sadr's?) end, a year-and-a-half from a bloody American defeat that outrages the home front and leads to American reprisal atrocities (Balangiga), two years from the "zones" policy (what they called the Philippine concentration camps) and a decade away from the end of the still-to-come Moro (Kurdish?) rebellion. If everything goes according to precedent, Iraq will be a fully sovereign nation again no later than 2050.

What, you thought it would take less somehow?

On the NBA front: I dig the Sebastian Telfair conspiracy theory:

A report in the New York Post last month suggested that adidas would pay off the Trail Blazers to take Telfair in the draft. In exchange for the purchase of luxury suite seats and a marketing campaign around Portland, the Trail Blazers would guarantee the pick.

Trail Blazers general manager John Nash denied that such a deal was made and Wulff told that despite the team landing Telfair, that no agreement was ever made.

"As we understand, the story came from a former disgruntled adidas employee," Wulff said. "To suggest that we agreed to give the Blazers some $200,000 to do this is borderline ludicrous. We do some things with them, we will continue to do things with them, but there have been no marketing conversations about next year as of yet."

Conspiracy theorists could come back with the fact that Telfair's shoe, designed before he was drafted, was silver and black -- two of the Blazers' principal colors.

It explains so much more than the standard "high school senior Telfair had more upside than college senior Jameer Nelson" theory, doesn't it? Via SportsFilter.

Summer physics begins tomorrow. Pray for my weary self, my friends.

Oh, and one more thing: FULLERTON~!

Saturday, June 26, 2004

TODAY: Was a Saturday, my day of vacation between one summer class and another. The class starts Monday, and it's physics, so I'm working tomorrow so I don't squander any of my precious vacation time on the Fourth of July holiday, when I need to sqaunder it on pretending to study at some later date. The 24-hour Vacation went something like this:

--Because I am basically a flake I picked up a stray cat at work Thursady night. I was sitting there read my Norton Anthology to World Literature and I see this cat lying in the middle of the sidewalk. He's acting all submissive and docile, the way tame cats do when they want to get taken in (or at least they do in my experience.) Unfortunately, he also looks in really bad shape: Scrawny as hell. Little, too; in that awkward feline adolescence. One eye shut, reasons unknown. Drool trail hanging off mouth, so you're stepping away from him as he's trying to rub up against you. I tried to give him some of my tuna sandwich but no go, which makes me think he must be really sick. In my head I say, "Cat, I have a final tonight. For me to fail my final on your account--taking you to a shelter or whatever--would be a gross dereliction of my duty to myself. But if you're still here when I get back, I'll do something for you then." And of course he is still there when I get back, sitting on the same bench when I walked away from him, head down, not looking at anybody as they come by--if cats look depressed they look like this cat. So I cut holes in a copier paper box and take him home. My intent is, "Okay, the shelter is closed now, but I'll take him there in the morning. That will end my responsibility to a suffering fellow creature." Until my brother tells me they kill the cats at shelters. And my mom thinks the cat is really tame and he really is tame...

So of course I took him to the vet today. There's really nothing wrong with him after all, the eye was fused shut due to gunk, which is being discharged due to his respiratory infection which is forcing him to breathe through his mouth so that's why he's drooling. He is a sound cat. If we're stuck with him, then that's our fifth cat and we officially become "those weird people with all the cats."

--Worked on my applications for med school. Need to figure out which schools to apply to, so I'm not just, like, applying to the couple schools I really like and like two others. Thinking strategically. Which is not one of my natural gifts.

Also gathering ideas for the personal essay. Lessee here...nontraditional student, has worked in hospital for years, hospital environment led to interest in medicine, greater maturity than the wiseass punks you're letting in now--can't you tell?--lifelong interest in science, how it all ties in with my Bachelor's in creative writing, living with a baboon heart since age 5....scratch that last part, actually. But there's an essay there somewhere.

--Sat on the porch, enjoyed the day. It was quite the idyllic day here in South Jersey. My stinky new cat needed attention, too, and he's in quarantine on the porch.

--Reloaded ESPN's NBA page every five minutes. Just waiting for that T-Mac deal to go through.

This is Radio IROB, signing off for the broadcast day.
TWO FINE FINE DRAFT DIARIES: Simmons and SLAM. If you're coming here you've probably already read them, but they are both really great. I kind of get the feeling that Simmons is having a stylistic influence on the SLAM crew, at least for these diaries (was Simmons the first?) In sort of the way Simmons reports something, makes the jokes, and has a short concluding line--sort of the equivalent of Instapundit's indeed, if you know what I mean. Stuff like this, from Simmons:

9:33 -- Utah takes 7-foot-5 Pavel Prdzswsbqzpdne, who stands up and immediately whiffs on two high-fives. Not a good start for the Pavel Era. Katz calls it a "safe pick." Of course, the USA Today's scouting report mentioned that Pavel "takes medication for a hormonal disorder related to pituitary gland." I don't know if "safe" was the best choice of words, not after the Gheorge Muresan Era and Giant Gonzalez's wrestling career. Jacko quickly jokes, "Must improve: Genetic deficiency."

9:35 -- Stu Scott interviews Pavel and his interpreter. Just to clear things up, Pavel does understand English ... he just can't understand Stu Scott. Seriously, I'm not fronting.

9:38 -- Picking for the Blazers, the Nets take Victor Khryapa, setting off a round of "Do you know his brother, Fulla?" and "How 'bout his cousin, Tayka?" jokes. I just wish Rick Pitino had the chance to take someone named "Khryapa." It would have been like two worlds colliding.

9:41 -- Picking again, the Blazers take Sergei Monia, who platooned with Khryapa on the CSKA Moscow team in Europe. Either that's one helluva platoon, or the Blazers just screwed up twice. I'm leaning towards the latter. Meanwhile, we just learned that Monia's favorite actor is Robert DeNiro. Tough blow to Yakov Smirnoff there. A wakeup call, really.

We get this from Ryan Jones in the SLAM diary:

Pavel PodlZzkzkziniznkzkze has the biggest face I've ever seen. He's also wearing what appears to be a watch with a turquoise-colored leather band. Inexplicable.

As expected, Emeka and his apparently just-iffy-enough-to keep-him-from-going-No. 1 back goes No. 2 to the Bobcats. The chants of “YOOUUUUU-CONN!” from the Husky fans immediately behind us are relentless...and if our contact is correct, they might be even happier in a minute.

Meaning Ben Gordon. Maybe it's Ryan more than Lang showing the Simmons influence.

Anyway, me throwing up other people's draft diaries only highlights my own lack of one. Hey, got to make the grade, you know what I'm saying? But they're fun reads both. Bill is with his Dad again, only this time he's rented a suite somewhere on ESPN dollars. The SLAM guys are at the draft itself like the insiders they are. Plus they can make fun of ESPN in all the ways Simmons wishes he could. He really needs that anonymous blog, if just for the draft.

So I was thinking, maybe Orlando is picking up Jameer so they can send him to the Rockets to be their point guard, so the Stevie trade is more palatable. The Magic would keep Tyronne Lue as Stevie's backup, and the Rockets get a proven point guard who would have no problem getting it in to Yao.

Just some idle theorizing for your early morning reading. Hey, in theory, communism works, so take it for what it's worth.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

JUST LIKE CHRISTMAS: is the NBA Draft. The anticipation is more than the event. You look at all the mock drafts and there's all these weirdos out there and then the draft happens and they're just basketball players after all. It's another version of the disappointment that happens sometimes when the potential becomes actual. Now, when the season actually starts--that's when the fun begins.


--Most of the giants got taken, except for the Iranian. Pavel got traded to the Mavs right away. They also got Devin Harris for the point guard of the future. I guess--what--Cubes is just going to keep piling on and piling on the talent and giant contracts until the Lakers can't say no? The Shaq "trade me" talk certainly is cooling; Cubes must really want to press the deal while he can.

--The Blazers picked Telfair and two guys from the same Russian team. It all seems appropriate. Though I actually thought the Jazz were going to get all the international players.

--The Magic went with Dwight Howard, and I dunno. It's not a surprise. You know Okafor plays the right way--tonight's mantra--and you don't know if Howard will or not. This seems like the Magic are willing to wallow in the mire for a while. Except they traded for Jameer too, and he knows what he's doing. We'll see what they do with T-Mac.

We'll see what everybody does with everything. I hate to agree with Tom Tolbert, but this draft is so ungradeable, given how much flux the league is in right now. We just don't know how the pieces are going to fit, even at the top of the draft.

Hey. I'm beat. At least my professor liked my crappy obligatory humanities journal. Good night, and good luck.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

HAPPY NBA DRAFT'S EVE: I'm sure you've already exchanged gifts, as is the tradition in most households.

I have a final tomorrow--right in the middle of the draft, of course--so I'm gonna get some rest so I don't have too much to say in advance of the big night. Just want to say that this appears to be a really wide-open draft. Check out NBA to see what I mean. And then I'll tell you what I mean:

--Two blue-chippers, Howard and Okafor, who may be stars, or may be solid pros. But, aside from these two, we could get a draft full of busts or a whole lot of talent--there's so much intrigue.

--Case in point, there's four actual giants: Pavel, Ha, Jaber, and Peter Ramos.

--Jameer Nelson, the tiny point guard with the undefeated season who a lot of people are going to pass on.

--Sebastian Telfair, high schooler with a shoe contract.

--Delonte West, the Tayshaun Prince 3000.

I'm babbling. But, again, this is a really talented draft, but not a draft with star potential, if you know what I mean. A lot of pieces for the Dumars-like in the NBA to put together.

So don't let anybody tell you this is a weak draft. This is a strange draft--everyone a contributor, no one a LeBron. Maybe no one a Shawn Bradley either, just because (and because of guys like Shawn) the freakishly tall don't get the hype like they used to. And even Okafor and Howard aren't supposed to be megastars. I'm so looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

By the way: did the Wizards screw up again? Did the sun rise in the East? But I dunno. Stackhouse and Laettner are always good trade bait, and it's not like they're that good. I'm not sure what Cubes' purpose is, but I'm sure he has one. But Jamison isn't exactly a proven winner either, so it sure looks like the Wizards a treading water like usual. Maybe Eddie Jordan has a plan.

All right, more NBA tomorrow. You may have to wait awhile if you're looking the insightful pornography analysis you've come to expect from this here little slice of Blogistan.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

TWO FAILURES, EXPERIENCED DURING THE PENULTIMATE OBLIGATORY HUMANITIES CLASS: And not academic ones, which merely inspire hair-pulling rage in me--no, I'm not too worried about that, in this class. No, these are the social failure, or failures of will, and only inspire a sense of loss, of having had the chance to do something better but not succeeding, due to fear and basic lack of effort.

For Lo! Did I weasel out of having to read my crappy journal before the class. The semester-long assignment was, you see, to write a page or two on each of the reading assignments. Our professor asks for volunteers and some go willingly; I will go, I say to myself, only if forced. And last night I said to him, "Sooooo you'll consider my class participation an acceptable subsitute for my lack of journal-reading, right?" Or words to that effect. And he's like, well, probably not. But I am quite the talker there in class, making with the stupid questions all the time. So, today, he asks for those who have not yet presented their journals, please come forward. And I kind of half raise my hand and he doesn't call on me. So I got away with not reading my journal, and I don't think anyone else did. I am full of shame for not stepping forward, and shouldering the same burden as the rest of the class. My gregariousness in classroom discussions is no excuse. I have Gotten Away With Something, and cannot enjoy it, for my classmates did not (I think.) But maybe he was just cutting me a break so I shouldn't worry about it.

And Lo! I succeeded in not talking to the girl I have a crush on in this class. (There's usually one in every class.) Not only that, but I succeeded in not glancing at her, in her silent beauty, when I had the chance to at least three-quarters of the time. At the time I imagined this to be some triumph of my self-control, but does not make me feel like less of a fool for not raising the issue. But then you think, girl like that, she's got random people talking to her all the time--how're you gonna be different? And you can't think of a way to be different, and you retreat into silence, matching hers, so you at least have the triumph of not embarassing yourself. Which is a pale victory. I don't think she ever read from her journal either, but I really can't remember conclusively. So I am alone in my silent crush for her, just as I am alone in my weakness with journal reading. I am a wailing soul. With a blog.

Sorry about that, folks. Too many world masterpieces.

Your proto-Charlotte Bobcats. I hope the Drobber stays with them. In a league full of cultish white and European bench players, the Drobber is the one who deserves his cult.

New Simmons. It's his annual NBA tradability ratings thing. I wonder where he'll have Shaq this year.

Album I am listening to at saturation levels right now: Take Me To Your Leader, by King Geedorah. Another of DOOM's guises, though he has a lot of guests in this one. One of the tracks seems to be composed entirely of samples of Japanese monster movies dubbed in English, set to a beat, and another seems to be composed entirely of samples of anime dubbed in English, also set to a beat. Needless to say, I love it. One of these days I'm going to do track-by-track review of the entire Dumile catalog (and, yes, I figured out DOOM's real name.) Yep.

Thank you for your indulgence on a wretched evening.

Monday, June 21, 2004

"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?" "SPACESHIPONE." "THEY'VE GONE TO PLAID!": I guess the criteria for the X-Prize does not involve coming up with a cool name for one's spacecraft.

But it's welcome news, I think. I'm kind of a free marketist myself, and if the first private astronauts are going to be wealthy white people, so be it. It doesn't appear especially noble that tourism is the thing getting private citizens into space, but it's not like NASA is ever going to do anything particularly creative anytime soon. Why not let the citizenry come up with some new ideas, the way they do with any other walk of life? It was all well and good when we were fighting the Cold War and we needed astronauts who could double as symbols of our nation's goodness (and who thus had to be government employees, needless to say) but in the year 2004? Symbolism shmybolism. Let us allow the eccentric billionaires lead us into space. It's not like anybody else is going to.

Rand Simberg has more, as you would expect.

Also in the Chronicle: Rockets ready to trade Stevie Francis to Orlando for T-Mac. I am of two minds on this one. On the one hand, Stevie's skills as a playmaker were never such that I thought he would ever lead the Rockets to the title--he just never fed the big man enough. On the other hand, getting T-Mac for potentially only one year is a lot to give up Steve Francis for. The Rockets better be picking up a point guard who doesn't need to score a lot, if they want to succeed with a Ming & Mac Attack.

Work beckons. I'm gonna be up alllll night tonight.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY: You know who you are.

No thinking, a little linking. ESPN has this amusing little story up. Shaq's been mulling his departure since April, apparently. Excerpt:

Bryant called Shaq "fat" before the season. He said that Shaq begs out of games with mysterious injuries and that if he leaves the franchise, it'll be because of the big fella.

Shaq, somehow, never retaliated. When Kobe was late for meetings all year and late for practices, Shaq never said anything. When Kobe had his own mysterious injury [the sliced finger], Shaq kept his mouth shut. When Kobe wouldn't shoot that day in Sacramento, Shaq didn't say a word.

And the reason is, he'd promised Malone and Payton back in November he'd stay off Kobe's case.

"[The rift] didn't flare up again, because I promised Karl and Gary and all my other teammates," Shaq said. "I was advised to be the bigger man. To be corporate. Because he's already going through a delicate situation [in Eagle, Colo.] and I don't want to add to it. So I said, 'Just be the bigger man.' I'm big. I'm corporate.

"See, even though I'm Shaq, I still have people over me. People over me who I respect -- and when they speak, there's no questions asked. A lot of people called me. The owner of the Staples Center called me and said, 'You did the right thing.' I always have corporate meetings, and they said, 'You did the right thing. You're good, Shaq. Appreciate that.'

"See, with me and Karl and Gary and a lot of other guys, you can say something and it doesn't matter how you say it. They don't take it the wrong way. For example, I can say, 'Come on, Devean, mother------, play hard.' I can say that to Karl. But a sensitive guy will take that very sensitively."

Like Kobe?

"Like Kobe."

"See, even though I'm Shaq, I still have people over me." Heh.

Magic Eightball says about the T-Mac situation: Answer unclear. Try again later. But here are some possible situations.

Here's Ben Domenech on the horrible story of how Romania finally ended all foreign adoptions. There's a waiting list as long as Reed Richards' arm of American couples who want to adopt internationally. There are, according to Ben, 84,000 orphans in Romania. And there's one Cruella DeVille in the EU saying that since the possibility for child traffiking exists, all adoptions must stop. So tens of thousands of Romanian children will grow up as wards of the state. It doesn't get more depressing than that.

I mean, I'm sure you can grow up a ward of the state and have a happy life. All things being equal, I'm sure you--whoever you are--would hope your life proceeded in a different way, though.

Back to work.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

TWO BIG NBA STORIES THIS WEEKEND: And me with not a lot of time for blog writing, so I shall restrict myself to them.

First: Phil Jackson out at LA. Kobe a free agent. Shaq demanding a trade. It's the doomsday scenario for the Lakers, especially if Kobe doesn't resign.

Second: T-Mac wants out of Orlando. The Magic will oblige.

Plus the NBA draft is Thursday. Should be an interesting week. This sort of puts the kibosh on any possible Shaq & T-Mac team-up next season, doesn't it? Unless the Magic trade for Shaq, and somehow convince the Lakers that the number one pick plus a bunch of other guys is worth losing an unhappy Shaq for. And if they can convince Kobe to come back, and given that Buss is mortgaging everything now so Kobe can stick with them in the future, Kobe may feel obligated to come back. If he has that kind of conscience--he certainly doesn't have any conscience on the court. As a Clippers fan, I'd love to see him there, even though the moment he joins the Clippers is probably the moment he goes to jail for five-to-ten, given that they are the Clippers. The Shaq & T-Mac thing could happen, but it sounds like T-Mac wants out of Orlando no matter what.

Anyway--back to work. Stoopid obligatory humanities class. Like you care what I think about Augustine's Confessions.

Friday, June 18, 2004

ON THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER APPRECIATION FRONT: Sure, you can criticize them for the kind of crap they cover--celebrity scandals, and big, dramatic trials, though nobody picks on the 24-hour news channels for covering the latter. But the stuff they do they do really well. I got the new issue in the mail and within it you will find an excellent demolition of Mark Geragos defense of Scott Peterson. The one that claimed Laci's baby was born alive and thus that Scott couldn't have killed her because it meant she was alive past the day she disappeared or somesuch. I am predisposed to root against Geragos from his appearances on several early evening talk shows.

And there's an amusing Jennifer Aniston episode: "Gals always want guys to be romantic--and Brad Pitt outdid himself when he booked a table pour deux at the posh dining room atop the Eiffel Tower in Gay Paree. And when Jennifer joined him in the City of Lights, he whisked her up the tower, announced his romantic surprise--and was furious when wifey gasped, 'Oh, no we're not! You know I'm afraid of heights.' Snapped Brad, 'It's not like we're eating outside on the ledge!' But Jennifer was freaked, so Brad canceled the reservation and they dined quietly (I'll bet very quietly...) back at their hotel." Gotta love celebrity stories involving celebrities being unimpressed about celebrity things. There's also something there about Brad trying to get Jen a role in the Ocean's Eleven sequel, but Julia Roberts and Zeta-Jones quashed it.

Plus how can I not love a periodical that lets me know this happened:

Yes, that's William Hung in a Freddie Mercury leotard. The most amusing thing about American Idol continues to be that one-joke William Hung is the most famous person to come out of that show.

A little more magazine watching: the new SI mentions this in a story about Dwight Howard (which I assume isn't online; SI feature stories, like most of the National Enquirer, are rarely online): "When Dwight Jr. looks at the NBA logo, he imagines a cross superimposed over the slaloming outline of Jerry West." Which would make a weirdly cool t-shirt. The back could say, "By this sign, play basketball." Or even the original IN HOC SIGNO VINCES. Dwight wants to bring the word of God to the NBA, apparently. Good luck with that.

I found the article I couldn't find yesterday; Kevin Drum didn;t link to it, but it was spotlighted on his site--you know, The Washington Monthly. It's here. A snippet:

[Mike] Lazzo's team saves money in other ways. Instead of using high-priced actors, the writers themselves do some of the voices; friends of theirs and non-traditional talents supply others--for example, "Sealab" features the voice of left-wing pundit and Newsday columnist Ellis Henican as the supremely stupid character Stormy. Instead of shelling out for high-tech pieces with baritone voiceovers for their bumpers--the packaging that runs just before a program is going to start--they used simple white-on-black text in informal dialogues with their audience--telling stories about what went on in the office that week, or featuring pithy quotes from the online message boards. When they wanted to promote a specific show, it was done in-house for as cheaply as possible--their promo guy gleefully showed me a typical spot, consisting of white text superimposed over images of jumping flames, bragging that it cost "about $1.99" to make. This sort of pride in spending as little as possible on everything is a common theme at Williams Street. In his disarming Southern drawl, Lazzo explains that at most networks, the enormous costs of producing television shows means that network executives favor safe choices, but, at Adult Swim, "We've designed the system to be inexpensive enough to make risky choices."

"That's one of the things that Mike does, and one of the things that we're glad that he does--he don't give a shit," says "Sealab 2021" co-creator Matt Thompson. "He's like: 'Well, they'll watch it or they won't. Then we'll do something else. If they don't like it, it only cost us 5 dollars to make the damn thing.' He just didn't care, and there's something really cool about that. Because, the audience, all those people? They don't care either. And that's why advertisers have jumped on board and said 'This is where we can sell our cheese!' Because what other block of programming on TV can actually bring you the demographic of the 'I-don't-give-a-fuck' kids?"

The article, by Justin Peters, also has a good history of American animation. I will quibble with this unjustified slam on the cartoons of my youth: "The 1970s and early 1980s saw a downturn in cartoon quality, as the airwaves became cluttered with shows about innumerable latently homosexual superhero teams, or crass marketing tie-ins like Mattel/Filmation's "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" or Marvel's "G.I. Joe"--shows not only specifically designed to appeal to children, but also to sell them low-quality action figures and accessories." The "latently homosexual superhero teams" I have no idea about; he may mean that because Ace & Gary are animated like the Hanna-Barbera Superfriends, the Hanna-Barbera Superfriends were latently homosexual. Which is not a premise I would find tenable. But, look: just because a cartoon fulfills an advertising function doesn't mean it does nothing but advertise. Even advertisements do things besides advertise. And is there that much difference between a multimedia merchandising phenomenon that starts as a cartoon, like the Powerpuff Girls, or one that starts as a toy, like the Transformers? Not much, to my mind, and to say one is better than the other is just to say you like cartoons better than toys. I think. If things are crap they should be judged as crap based on their content, not their origins.

Here comes the "cartoons were better in my day" part: The Marvel/Sunbow/Hasbro cartoons were really fun adventure cartoons, maybe not intelligently written, but not dumb, either. They contributed several notable characters to our cultural lexicon: Destro, Cobra Commander, Optimus Prime, Starscream, Megatron. Zartan maybe; some others. I have no idea these characters are not more widespread. Save some hip hop lyrics and that one Optimus Prime appearance on Family Guy, there's been very little media penetration by the cartoon stars of the 80s. I wonder if this is due to Hasbro holding them a little too close in a legal sense.

USA Today had a really great Abu Ghraib story today. Josh Marshall digests it for you.

Finally, more Lakers drama. Apparently Jerry Buss wants to keep Kobe at all costs, which means letting Phil Jackson go. But Shaq has made it quite clear he doesn't want to play for anybody besides Shaq, which is leading many people to think when push comes to shove it'll be Shaq leaving the Lakers, not Kobe. And they'd have to trade Shaq away to do that, as improbable as that sounds. Lang Whitaker comments:

Kobe is obviously younger than Shaq and probably has more NBA years left in him than Shaq does.

But I can't fathom willingly getting rid of Shaquille O'Neal from your team. He is the most dominant player of all time. If it means getting rid of Kobe, I'd get rid of Kobe. I've said it so many times I'm sounding like a scratched CD here, but I think Shaq is perpetually the most valuable player in the NBA. Would any team not want Shaq, even if they already have a good center?

Anyway, the Lakers seem determined to get rid of him. What could be fatal to their efforts to trade him, however, would be if Shaq comes out and announces that he will not play for the Lakers next season under any circumstances. The other teams can lowball the Lakers, knowing they'll have to take the best offer on the table just to move Shaq.

He then follows up with some potential trades:

Shaq to Dallas for Dirk Nowitzki, Antoine Walker and Josh Howard
This works under the cap, and if Shaq really is on the block, it'll take a blockbuster to get him. Who's the one owner out there that's not afraid to pull the trigger on a huge deal? Yep, that's you Mark Cuban. The question here is why move Dirk Nowitzki? He's about six years younger than Shaq and the best player on a really good team. But with the team they have now, the Mavs aren't winning a championship. Do you sacrifice Dirk's potential for the immediate impact of Shaq?

Shaq to Orlando for Emeka Okafor, Grant Hill, Juwan Howard, Drew Gooden and Tyronn Lue
Shaq still has a house in Orlando and has talked about returning one day, and Shaq and Tracy have always talked about wanting to play together. Maybe that day is now. This gives L.A. a bunch of good players, which they need, and a young center that will be a great player for years to come, and Shaq and Tracy get to team up in Orlando.

Shaq to Utah for Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Arroyo, Raul Lopez, Greg Ostertag, Matt Harpring, Mo Williams, Mikki Moore, Gordan Giricek, Jarron Collins, Raja Bell, Curtis Borchardt, Aleksandar Pavlovic and Michael Ruffin
Won't happen, because Utah would be left with just Shaq and Tom Gugliotta, but that's what it would take to work under the cap.

So--yes--you could trade the entire Utah Jazz for Shaq. If you were wondering.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

ODDS & ENDS: Two days after the NBA finals and I got nothing. T-Minus three days until I start posting my grocery lists. Cheetos, Oreos, into that what you will.

Jim Henley today:

"Since September 11, 2001, this country has faced not an existential threat, but an essential one: who will we have the courage to be? Lately, abetted by an administration gone mad with vainglory, we have begun to fail that test. We take it as our right to commit the abuses we condemn in others. Worse, we take it as our right to transgress ourselves, and continue to condemn those who trespass likewise. I myself have been too willing to simply observe and record. This morning I will start making those calls Applebaum enjoins me to make. Please do likewise."

Anne Applebaum article he's talking about here, where she says, regarding American torture:

The military is conducting its own inquiries, of course. But without political support, the military alone will be unable to push further, to uncover who, exactly, gave the military its orders, and which political decisions created the conditions that made abuse possible. The press is hard at work too, at least that part of it that is not supporting the idea that the Constitution somehow permits torture, and always has. But articles, television reports and blogs are useful only insofar as they move the public.

For in the end, it is public opinion that matters, and it is on public opinion that the fate of any further investigations now depends. Voters have some items of information available to them, as listed above. Voters -- ultimately the most important source of pressure on democratic politicians -- can petition their congressmen, their senators and their president for more. If they don't, the elections will be held, the subject will change. Without a real national debate, without congressional approval, without much discussion of what torture actually means and why it has so long been illegal at home and abroad, a few secret committees will have changed the character of this country.

Indeed, if the voters can't move the politicians, and the politicians aren't courageous enough to act alone, we may wake up one morning and discover that torture has always been legal after all. Edmund Burke, a conservative philosopher, wrote, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." It looks as if he was right.

This part being the scary part, of course: "Without a real national debate, without congressional approval, without much discussion of what torture actually means and why it has so long been illegal at home and abroad, a few secret committees will have changed the character of this country." And it's just that easy, turning us into the Romans.

I'll be honest--I can't see myself making the calls like Jim wants us all to. Strongly worded e-mails, that I can handle. Filling up somebody's e-mail box isn't the same as lighting up their switchboard, I'll grant you, but one does what one can.

Mitch Albom wrote the best article in praise of the Pistons (as opposed to writing about why the Lakers lost) I've read. Sports Guy collected his thoughts and is back bringing the random thoughts in his distinct way. His previous Finals article, about Isiah, was more meaningful but less in his distinct voice, if you know what I mean.

He also points out the 1995 Rockets were "something like" 4-to-1 underdogs, making the Pistons the biggest upset since then. The Pistons were 6-to-1 underdogs. I think we'd have to know where those Warriors and Sonics teams were in Vegas terms to settle this.

By the way, Albom had this quote: "'I don't really want to be America's Team,' Hunter said. 'They did that with the Cowboys, and then half the people liked them and half the people hated them and who cares? Forget about being America's Team. I want to be Detroit's team. This is about the people of Detroit.'" I was born in Detroit. We moved three weeks later. I have warm feelings for it, this city I've been to maybe twice in my life besides the first time.

Hey: three of the old MST3K guys have a new website. Via Franklin Harris.

I read this really great article today about how Adult Swim got started because Turner let whoever came up with it do whatever they wanted in the Sunday 11 to 2 spot provided they did it cheap, but I can't remember where I saw it. There's be a link around here if I did, followed by pithy commentary. Perhaps a quote, even. But no--memory fails, and you are burdened with this horrid meta-blogging. Indeed.

As they say on PTI, I'll try and do better tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

SO YEAH: You want to feel breathlessly excited about the Pistons winning, but its more of warm glow thing due to the way they annihilated the Lakers. It's like with the Nets the last few years; they were so overmatched, I didn't experience crushing disappointment so much as an enveloping cloud of dull pain.

Sign the Lakers were collapsing that seems obvious in retrospect #1: Phil Jackson was a lame duck coach. Teams with lame duck coaches, with their futures up in the air, tend to lose focus, even if it is Jackson.

Sign the Lakers were collapsing that seems obvious in retrospect #2: I think Phil had to overwork Kobe, putting him on the press every time on defense against Chauncey, and then work him on offense. Not that he had much of a choice, given their limited roster.

Sports Guy seems like he had most of his post-Finals column written before today--not that it isn't a really good column, about Isiah watching old Pistons games for the first time. Maybe we'll get something a little more in depth from him soon. Or maybe not. How many ways can you explore a complete defensive throttling? I feel guilty talking about the Lakers more than the Pistons, but their story is the more interesting at this point. It's not every day a championship team collapses this dramatically. And I'm still not giving the Pistons as much of their due as I should; I'm thinking, "Well, there's no way they can repeat. No team can play that hard having already won one championship." But dismiss the Pistons at your peril, obviously.

But Sports Guy speaks the truth. "These guys" means the Lakers:

These guys didn't care about each other. They didn't like playing with each other. They didn't play hard until you practically stuck a gun to their heads. They thought passion came with an on-off switch. With the season slipping away before Game 4 of the Finals, five of the veterans pulled the coach into a bathroom and threw everyone else under the bus. The message was clear: Every man for himself. The exact opposite of 12 guys coming together as one.

And then you had the Pistons. Years from now, they'll remember their journey just like Isiah remembered everything during that TV show, when the memories came flooding back, when the footage of a 10-year-old game brought him to tears. As Isiah described it, "Seeing that, and feeling that, and going through all that emotion, I mean, as a player, that's what you play for. That's the feeling you want to have."

And maybe I'll be able to evaluate just how good the Pistons were this year given a little time. Right now it's like talking about how great the Ostrogoth sack was when the big story is the fall of Rome. Well, not exactly, but something like that. That's a difference between this all-time upset and Rams/Patriots as well. The Rams had the stars, but they'd only won the one superbowl (and that was by the skin of their teeth) and it's the parity-rrific NFL anyways. This was the NBA; upsets almost never happen. Unless they do. Better NBA minds that mine will have to do an in-depth comparison between the 79 Sonics and the 04 Pistons.

AND the Pistons won the middle three--another unexpected part of their championship. Watching the games, you realize the Lakers should have been swept, so overwhelmed were they. That Kobe shot in Game Two was their final miracle, and something that made me think they were still in it; it's hard to argue against luck. To put it another way:

"He has that quality I admire most in a general. You know that Napoleonic anecdote? The Marshalls of France were extolling the the tactical prowess of a certain young commander. The Little Corporal cut them off tersely, 'All very well and good, but tell me one thing; is he LUCKY?'"

One of my favorite file cards. Was there ever a more intelligent toy line than GI Joe? I think not.

Thus endeth the blog post for the day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

NBA FINALS, GAME FIVE: I kinda had that feeling tonight like when I was watching the Cubs in Game Six last year, thinking, "All right--time to watch a little history." Thankfully, the history actually occurred tonight.

That was as dominant a series as any of the previous West over East conferences. Except the East team one and they really weren't suppoed to. I mean, no way, absolutely not. But I guess the signs were there that the Lakers were ripe for the loss:

--Escaping against the Rockets. A few people pointed out the Rockets could have reasonably been up 3-1 in that series.
--Getting the miracle win over the Spurs.
--Letting the Wolves come back against them more than a few times.

Plus all the Lakers' injuries. Still, they were absolutely flattened, and regardless of how obvious the signs were against the Lakers, nobody could have predicted this kind of mauling. Shoot, the Nets took the Pistons to seven--which I guess was the de facto NBA Championship we all thought Lakers-Spurs was.

Would the Pistons have mauled whichever team came out of the West this year? Looking at the way they played tonight it certainly seems that way. But it seems like the tired, injured old collapsing dynasty known as the Lakers were particularly susceptible to the Pistons' pressure. I think the Spurs, or the Wolves, or whoever, would have lasted at least six. This weird Lakers team, though, not dramatically different from what had come before, had no answer for a driven, well-coached team.

And Chauncey Billups, mister six franchises himself, is your MVP. It could've gone to Ben Wallace or Rip, but Chauncey really outplayed the Lakers' point guards, which you can't say about the other two, so it makes logical sense. I mean, you have to pick a MVP, and it has to be from the winning team--right? Otherwise Shaq would be the clear choice.

Darko, Darko, Darko.....Larry puts you in and you can't make two foul shots to get yourself on the box score. Well, Dumars wanted to win right now. And Carmelo would've sat on the bench most of the time too, though not that much. Carmelo would've made those free throws, though.

Whew. I'm almost disappointed--it's anticlimatic when any team gets crushed like this. Almost disappointed, of course; it's still
the Lakers.

So....yeah. The Pistons are your NBA champions. It's one of the bigger sports upsets ever. You just saw that NBA rarity, the team greater than the sum of its parts, win the title. How about that?

Monday, June 14, 2004

NBA FINALS, GAME FOUR: I don't have a lot of time to write tonight--let me just say that the consensus opinion on Game Four that seems to be emerging is that Kobe cost them the chance to win the game by refusing to get it in to Shaq. Which could be interpreted as saying the Lakers are the more talented team, they just don't want to win as badly as the Pistons, or do the things they need to do to win. Kobe in particular won't take it to the hole. Then again, it's not like the Pistons provide easy access to the hole.

I just want to avoid delegitimizing the Pistons. Yes, much of the Lakers discombobulation is of their own making, but that doesn't change the facts that 1. outside of Shaq and Kobe, they aren't the most talented team; 2. talent aside, they don't have anybody who can guard Rasheed; 3. with Karl Malone out, they are very much the same team who lost to the Spurs last year with the occasional Gary Payton drive to the basket; and 4. guys just get less hungry after they win. And guys are really hungry until they win. So in terms of desire and mental stability, the Pistons are the better team.

Look, it's a cliche, but this thing is hardly over; all the Lakers need is a couple of good, smart games from Kobe and we're looking at Game Seven. Whether Kobe can give them that kind of game at this point is questionable, but he's certainly physically capable of it.

I dunno. Maybe people are talking about the Lakers after these losses more than the Pistons because it's such a spectacular self-destruction. I just don't want to take anything away from the Pistons. Maybe, of all the teams the Lakers could have faced, the Pistons were the one most capable of pushing them to the brink. Their defense brings out the worst in any team; with the Lakers, it just happens to take the form of the drama we've been hearing about all season but amped up to the nth degree. So perhaps if the Lakers are self-destucting, they're being goaded into it.

Not that they've completed that process yet. One game to go. The Pistons better do it tomorrow night; if this thing goes back to LA.....I know no team has lost after being up 3-1, and no team has ever won the middle three. I get the feeling that if the Pistons don't change the latter fact, they may end up being the first team that give up the title being up 3-1. The Lakers still scare me, in other words, and should scare the Pistons as well.

At least Shaq won't get that extra day of rest this time.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

LIKE HAN SOLO SAID: I got a bad feeling about this.

Magic calling out the Lakers, Shaq and Kobe returning to their creative tension method of winning games, the Lakers talking up the magic triangle, Shaq being asked about his decline all weekend, Phil Jackson calling out the refs, the Pistons' well-publicized problems with Game Fours, a weekend of rest....I'm seeing some Laker stepping forward for a big game who isn't Shaq or Kobe, along with big games from them. Possibly GP or that huckster and hack, Devean George. If Slava Medvedenko is the Lakers' hero tonight, I'm quitting.

But the tea leaves are coming up Lakers for me tonight. I just hope it's an effort win either way and not a magic triangle win. Effort wins keep the Pistons' chances alive.

While Chris Hitchens went inside to freshen his drink, Laura Rozen cornered a Chalabi-friend. You should read Laura's whole blog, of course.

Remember: If you're a Lakers fan, you are actively choosing evil. Even if you're from LA you could be a Clippers fan. No other evil sports franchise gives you the chance to turn away from it due to the presence of an alternative if you're a native of that area, save the Yankees.

Detroit News: Pistons at pivotal point. Wounded Lakers are primed for comeback. I'm not the only one with a bad feeling.

The one bright spot for the Pistons is that Rasheed has done jack thus far. If Karl isn't playing tonight, one suspects he won't get fouled onto the bench quite so quickly, as the refs won't treat Medvedenko or George or Luke Walton with the same respect they give crafty veteran Karl Malone. So a big game from Rasheed will counteract any offensive trickery the Lakers employ, in my opinion. I will leave it to bigger basketball theorists than I to decide if using the triangle will have that great of an impact, given Fisher's injuries and the Lakers' inadequacy at the other two positions. Fisher can still make that shot from the corner, though.

I love this 2004 Pistons=1979 Sonics thing. Once every 25 years a team arises within the Matrix, able to change it from within....

This extra day between championship games is one day too long. I bet the whole state of Michigan got the bad feelings right now.

Over in the Arena league, it's meet the new boss/same as the old boss for your Arenabowl XVIII: SaberCats vs. Rattlers. We were this close to the AFL credibility-destroying Crush vs. Rush Arenabowl. I await the credibility meltdown of future VooDoo vs. Soul Arenabowls.

I will deaden the pain of tonight's game by catching up on much neglected homework and watching it in silence in the backgroud. If I end up deadening feelings of joy, so be it, Jedi.
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: I ramble drunkenly across the white blogspace.

Atrios gives us Rush Limbaugh on the cornerstone of our culture called marriage.

Subcomandante Blow Hard is stirring up the rubes again.

Also, Jer is worried about this game tonight (Sunday). As am I. Especially after the shellacking Magic gave them in the press. If this "Lakers in six" mantra is to hold true, obviously the Lakers have to win tonight. The scary part is, if they're going to win they're going to have to do something completely unexpected, something that will confirm the supergenius status of Phil Jackson and the Jordan-in-waiting status of Kobe. (Shaq will be Shaq. He usually does the same thing game to game.) That, or the Pistons will inexplicably let up as they do sometimes. If it's the former, it means the Pistons are broken and it really will be Lakers in six. If it's the latter, the series is still the Pistons' to win.

And I can kind of see what Magic is doing, singling out Gary Payton in particular, but if he doesn't get the triangle by now he's not going to get it because Magic told him to. I can't see the wisdom in criticizing Karl at this point, though, for taking a poke at that fan. What's done is done; harping on it only points to how dysfunctional the Lakers are at this point.

I liked this comparison: "There’s really no NBA champion to compare the Pistons to. To strike an analogy, you have to think of the Patriots in the NFL or the Devils in the NHL – teams that win by total teamwork, unstinting effort, defensive brilliance, and an unselfish offense that does just enough to get the job done." By Mike Celizic. Reading somewhere about the Pistons giving a press conference as a team reminded me about how different they really are. And they're almost as cool as the Patriots, though nothing's cooler than when the whole Patriots team walking out together at the beginning of their first Superbowl win. Still, the title of Celizic's piece is "Pistons title would be greatest upset ever" and it's all about how the NBA is the worst sport ever as far as upsets go, so if you're sold on the Pistons now, there's still every reason in the world to believe they will not get it done. I hate to type that, but they are fighting a lot of NBA history.

On the early early morning of Game Four and still no Bill Simmons NBA finals column. I thought his new deal with ESPN was going to give us three columns a week. Wot gives?

I was checking out Tim Kraus' blog--just one of the many Blogspot blogs I don't get to read as much anymore, due to my hateful office firewall--and he's fallen off for the finals. But I was going through his links and got reacquainted with the guy, whom, I am pleased to say, is bringing the Lakers hate.

Even Yglesias and MaxSpeak are bringing the Lakers hate. Shouldn't the Lakers be the team of the left, representing, as they do, the nefarious Hollywood left? And the hardworking, getting-ahead-by-the-sweat-of-their-collective-brow Pistons be the team of the right? Maybe the right (the mythical hegemonic right--you know who they all are) just doesn't watch a lot of basketball.

Matt also has something up on my favorite pet topic of his: laying the smack down on Samuel Huntington.

Jack Shafer in Slate talks about something I've known about for a few years now: the journalistic greatness of the National Enquirer. And how even now people confuse it will the Batboy/Elvis sightings/400-pound baby papers it looks exactly like.

I will be back tomorrow, no doubt full of fear again before or during Game Four. I haven't pulled for the upset liked this, nor been more aware that the underdog had a good chance at succeeding, since that crazy Diamondbacks/Yankees series of a few years back. Remember when the D-Backs got to the unhittable Mariano Rivera in the seventh game? Impossible stuff happens in sports sometimes. Perhaps a Phil Jackson team can be "gotten to" in the championship round. But, you know, whatever.

Friday, June 11, 2004

NBA FINALS, GAME THREE: Well, what do you say to that? It was even more dominant than Game One. The Pistons looked like the Lakers used to out there, making all the little plays that are the equivalent of twisting the knife when you've already got it buried somewhere in the opponent's anatomy. They doubled Kobe at all the right moments (i.e., when he wasn't expecting it.) They kept the ball out of Shaq's hands when the Lakers bothered to pass it to him. Rip Hamilton outscored Shaq and Kobe combined.

And Rasheed was stil out of the game after the first quarter. Amazing stuff.

Still, two things are bugging me. Well, three things, but the third is just the usual Laker-hating jitters: they'll put into gear, Fisher will start flopping, Kobe will hit some threes, Shaq will do his Superman walk, etc. The two are historical, as I mentioned on Sportsfilter today:

1. The thing about no team ever winning all three at home. Not that the Pistons have to win all three at home, but I can't imagine them wanting to go back to LA. Then again, they handled the Lakers in both games in LA so maybe that isn't that big a deal. But that last minute foul on Rashed doesn't get called at home, though, and if it happens in a Game Seven, the Pistons are outta luck.

2. The thing about no NBA team winning a title without a superstar. However much that is worth. And it's completely arguable as to what constitutes superstar status. I thought I got that from Bill Simmons, but what he actually said is this:

The team with the best player ALWAYS wins the Finals.

This isn't even a theory; it's like saying, "Every summer, it will become hot." Just look at the last 25 years -- only the '81 Celtics and the '89-'90 Pistons teams fail the Best Player Test, but those teams were absolutely stacked (and I still think the '89 Pistons were one of the best five teams ever, but that's a story for another time). Can you imagine a team winning the Finals when they didn't even have one of the top two players in the series? It would be unprecedented. And seeing Detroit win the title while getting no contribution at all from the No. 2 pick last summer ... I can't even imagine how weird that would be.

So....yeah. The sheer unprecedentedness of the Detroit Pistons makes me nervous. Then again, the fact that most everybody picked the Lakers in six (including Simmons; hell, even Kevin Drum) should make you wonder too.

This picture is a pretty good graphical summation of Game Three. Via the DVDVR.

And something completely different:

Congratulations, Maria.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I EXPERIENCE CONSTERNATION DURING GAME THREE: Just the way I fear the Lakers in general, that aura of inevitability they give off. Like, that even though they don't look like they have a clue how to penetrate Detroit's defense--as of half way through the 2nd quarter, they have scored three points in that quarter--they will win anyway. Not so much that they'll find a way to win, but a win will drop in their laps, a la Game Two. That whatever god that has blessed Phil Jackson will drop another cloud over the eyes of his opponents. I have no reason to believe this given the way the Lakers have played thus far, it is just based on the accumulated good fortune of the Lakers over the past few years. And if it's hard for me to believe that the Pistons can fight a pattern of destiny, I imagine some of that must be in the Pistons' heads as well.

Or maybe not. Maybe they're just like, Well, whatever. As they should be if they want to have any hope to win this thing.

This guy in the Detroit News is really mocking fate--almost dangerously so:

Apparently, one thing we’re just gonna have to accept, as these NBA Finals go on, is that it’s all about the Lakers, even when it’s not all about the Lakers.

A few untrained eyes saw the Pistons playing their standard stuffy defense in their Game 1 victory. The Lakers, reigning NBA Divas, didn’t quite see it that way. Maybe they were too busy yawning and preening to see straight, or shoot straight.

In many ways, the Lakers are a disgusting team. Disgustingly arrogant, disgustingly dysfunctional, and on occasion, disgustingly good. It’s virtually a guarantee they’ll be awake and inspired for Game 2 tonight.

But here’s what the L.A. boys might not realize, as they pick and choose when to play, and whose turn it is to take shots. The Pistons’ defense is more a riddle than an anomaly, not simply solved with increased effort and concentration.

The Lakers will show up tonight, fashionably late. And when they step on the floor, they’ll see those same annoying Pistons, fabulously flawed on offense, ferociously functional on defense.

And then:

“We beat ourselves,” O’Neal said. “I think it has gotten our attention. We realize that team is not going to lay down because the Lakers are in the building. It’s not anything they did to throw us out of our game. I just think it’s more us.”

Maybe, truthfully, that’s how it will turn out. The Lakers can turn it on better than anyone. But to lose by 12 at home, and shoot 39 percent, and have Payton in a complete funk, the Lakers look legitimately discombobulated. The Pistons, who have been lucky to top 35 percent in these playoffs, shot 46 percent in Game 1, the most startling statistic.

Of course, something always is amiss with the Lakers, and they usually figure it out in time. They trailed San Antonio 2-0 before righting themselves.

So it makes no sense for the Pistons to be offended, and outwardly, they’re not. Actually, they’re used to being dismissed.

“When a team doesn’t shoot well, I don’t care who you are, it’s hard to say it was the defense that did it,” Joe Dumars said as he watched practice. “I don’t look at that as a slight or anything. But this is the NBA Finals, and I expect a team to be ready. To say we caught somebody off guard is a little amusing to me.”

In other words, no alibis, please. This is what the Pistons do, when they do what they do. By rotating personnel and changing defenses, they force the opposition to reassess its offense. The Pistons have won four of their last five road playoff games by keeping it close, until the other team withers.

Maybe he isn't talking at fate too much, actually. But he is establishing that the Pistons are very much unlike any opponent the Lakers have faced in their previous championships. Who were teams with good offenses, but basically orthodox defensively. So when the Lakers put in into extra gear they could throttle the hell out of the other team at key moments. But "throwing it into gear" doesn't exactly change the game on the Pistons, since to throw it into gear would be to approach where the Pistons are defensively for most of the game. So PhilJax is going to have to try some other tricks, if he has them.

Lakers 32, Pistons 39 at the half. The only thing more comical than a Detroit Pistons fast break is a Ben Wallace dunk attempt. But you can't get mad at the Pistons too much because than they go down to the other end and prevent scoring in possession after possession. It's legit offense by subtracting the other team's points. Darnedest thing.

I wish the Lakers weren't hanging around, though.

Fred Kaplan: Reagan's Cold War "victory" was actually a collaboration with that other 80s hero, Mikhail Gorbachev. Essentially, he says that the peaceful end to the Cold War was a result of having these two weirdos in charge of their respective nations, and the specific interplay between the two of them. Interesting stuff.

Diana Moon on reactions to Reagan's death.

The second half, begins. With stomach a-queasy, I resign myself to watching it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

NBA FINALS, GAME TWO: The consensus opinion: Larry Brown gave the game away but not telling his team to foul Shaq if he got the ball. DA explains it most reasonably:

See, I think Larry Brown is the greatest basketball coach currently walking this earth. There is no situation, no team, no time in which you wouldn't want him on your sidelines drawing up sets and trying to get your team to play the right way. ("Play the right way" is Brown's mantra, his shorthand for basketball played the Dean Smith Way. It should be on Brown's tombstone.) And for about 90 of the first 96 minutes of the Finals, P4P has been a step ahead of Phil Jackson. He's had his Pistons ready to play and he's adjusted brilliantly on the fly.

But there is no sugarcoating this: Brown made a mistake, it says here, in the waning seconds of Game 2. And as a result, he's going to have to do his greatest coaching job in the 48 hours his guys aren't on the floor, between Game 2 and Game 3.

With Detroit up three with 10.9 seconds left in regulation on Tuesday, Brown surely knew that the Lakers, after dawdling with the ball in the backcourt before calling timeout, had no choice but to hoist up a long-distance rock. And onto the court for L.A. walked Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Karl Malone ... and Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal, of the one career 3-pointer in 20 attempts. O'Neal, the career 53.4 percent free-throw shooter.

But surely, the Diesel was on the floor simply to set a screen for Kobe or Fisher, or maybe even Walton, who'd hit a three earlier in the game and was playing out of his mind. And then, Malone inbounded the ball ... to O'Neal! If ever a player was on a floor with a neon sign around his neck flashing
Foul Me! Foul Me! (and don't forget the $4.99 buffet from 4-6 p.m. in the Palmetto Lounge), it was Shaq.

But O'Neal was allowed to catch the ball and hand it off to Luke Walton, who got it to Kobe, who ... well, you know.

"We talked about" fouling O'Neal, Brown said. "But I didn't think they were going to throw it to him. ... We talked about if they threw it inside, yeah, Shaq gets it, put him on the line. But I don't want to take a chance like that."

LB. You could probably assume in that situation that if Shaq catches the ball outside the 3-point line -- Shaq, the career 5-percent 3-point shooter -- he's not going to turn around and fire. He's looking to pass. Probably to Bryant. Almost certainly to Bryant. Who else but Bryant?

Said Ben Wallace: "I thought about it ... but that's a shot we have to live with."

Of course, Wallace should have fouled him. But players, in this situation, are allergic to the idea of making contact. Their instinct is to stay away; no one wants to give a team three free ones that could tie the game. This is where a coach has to come in and overpower their uncertainty. He has to say, "This is the right thing to do. Foul Shaq if he touches the ball at all."

Never minding, of course, the atrocious foul given to Rasheed Wallace when Shaq scored on him which, with Shaq's made free throw, made it a three-point as opposed to a four-point deficit. At that point of the game, with Sheed basically standing straight up, and Shaq scoring anyway, you don't mae that call. But you do, and Eric McErlain doesn't like it, and people just mutter to themselves that that's why they don't watch the NBA. Me--I suspect nothing unintentional. Basketball is merely a flawed game, like soccer, as, during crucial, game- and championship deciding situations, referees can decide games. They can find themselves emotionally swayed by the crowd, or by perception of a momentum swing, or by the stature of a player they have worked with for years, and make calls like that one regularly enough that people suspect that the NBA is fixed. But it is the game itself that is flawed, in my opinion; there is too much room for human error in it, and the purity of the competition is not up to the gold standard that is the NFL. But hey, either you live with the flaws or you watch a different sport.

Oh, and Zen boy?

"I told them God smiled on us tonight," Jackson said. "We were fortunate they didn't foul us at that particular time."

Sod off. Your miracle offense doesn't look quite so miraculous when you put a bunch of hacks out there--witness the San Antonio Spurs, NBA champions, 2003. And watching the Lakers during that game last night, I swear Kobe missed two or three ridiculous shots before that one to tie went in. And I was thinking, "The Lakers don't want to work to win this. They want fate to drop it in their laps." Well I hope your burning of choice thighbones finds the Basketball Gods unresponsive, since you have offended them by putting a team out there basically unwilling to work for the title, save the 40-year old guy who busted his knee last night. You clod.

Of course, if Phil really is in tune with destiny, my appeals will be in vain. But I hope the Gods do have a sense of justice, and reward work. If this means the Lakers raise their level of play and work their way to the title, that is good. But please, ye sporting deities, no more friggin' Lakers miracles.

Bill Simmons destroyed the Larry Bird controversy today:

Eric, Staten Island, NY: Do you think Bird's comment will tarnish his legacy in many peoples' eyes?

Bill Simmons: I don't see how that's possible. The guy was expressing an opinion - an it's not like he was off-base or anything. For God's sake, Keith Van Horn was the 2nd pick in the draft 7 years ago. Raef LaFrentz got taken ahead of Pierce AND Vince Carter. I don't think it's a stretch to say that teams actively look for white players with star potential to market to a mostly white fan base.

And here:

Bill Simmons: I agree... it's ridiculous. The ironic thing was that Bird came from a similar background to many of the black players who were in the league when he was playing - dirt-poor, family tragedies, etc. So I think he always considered himself closer to the black players than the white players, as strange as that sounds. He never wanted to be the Great White Hope. Read the section about him in BREAKS OF THE GAME by Halberstam some time, it's all about the irony of Bird being marketed as a Great White hope when his background was tougher than just about any black player.

And then here:

Bill Simmons: Look at the white guys in the league at the time - guys like Kelly Tripucka, Kent benson, Marc Iavaroni and so on. None of those guys could guard Bird. Bobby Jones was the only white guy who could think about guarding him. That was his point. I'm truly scared for our society if we've reached a point where Bird can't even joke about something like that.

Your true racist asshole of the day is, of course, Bill Parcells:

"You've got to keep an eye on those two, because they are going to try to get the upper hand. Mike wants the defense to do well, and Sean, he's going to have a few . . . no disrespect to the Orientals, but what we call Jap plays. Okay? Surprise things."

See, even while he was explaining why he wasn't being racist, he was being racist. What a dick.

Finally, I'm glad Luke Walton is a star now. Just like Tony Parker was an emerging superstar about a month ago, though that took two whole games to Walton's one. I guess that makes Luke bigger than Tony at this point. I await Darko Milicic's 12-minute-long finals MVP performance.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

WHEN YOU BACK TO SCHOOL: And they make you take the obligatory humanities course to get your degree? Watch out for the class where the teacher splits you up and makes you argue if Oedipus really deserved his punishment or not. And you argue for two straight hours in a room the air has a lot of difficulty circulating through. That class is a killah. The "no" said ending up winning on the technicality that while he thought he deserved it, and the play clearly means to say he deserved it, we could not say if he deserved it or not. I think he did, though I was on the "yes" side, but anyway Oedipus was a big drama king; he would've found a way to kill his father and sleep with his mother and poke his own eyeballs out prophecy or no prophecy.

Summer classes in general may be more effort than they're worth. True, you get the credits quick, but how much time to you have to absorb this stuff? I may regret taking physics under these conditions.

Kevin Drum: Reagan, Midwesterner at heart.

Bill Simmons goes to Italy, has a little bit about the NBA finals.

There's always a zillion subplots to every NBA finals--I mean, you can find a lot of little stories when this one event is all you have to write about. One I find interesting is the matchup pitting the Reggie Miller 3000 (Rip) vs. the Michael Jordan 3000 (Kobe). Which doesn't bode well for the Pistons, of course. But just the fact that there are these stylistically second-generation stars is remarkable.

Lakers 44, Pistons 36 at the half. Well, whatever.

Monday, June 07, 2004

LOTS OF REAGAN STUFF OUT THERE: You should read Jesse Walker, and Nick Confessore busting on the Reagan-lovers. Atrios was proving with poll numbers that Clinton was, in fact, more popular during his presidency than Reagan was during his, so you could go there and check that out. But really, if you're reading this site you know where to go get the non-hagiographic Reagan remembrances. Which we could all do without. Be strong, lads, we must only last until Friday, and then John Kerry restarts his campaign.

Still in the glow of the Pistons' victory, while pretending I don't really care. Fearing the disappointment of the eventual Pistons collapse. But it's not like they fluked into that victory Sunday night. Tomorrow we shall see if it's simply a matter of the Lakers flipping the switch to "on" again, or if the long-noted inability of the Lakers to defend the pick-and-roll will be their undoing again.

That's all.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

NBA FINALS, GAME ONE: Heck of a game, eh? If you're a Laker hater, that is. Granted, it's only Game One, so I can't crow too much, and the Lakers traditionally make adjustments after losses and win four in a row and blah blah blah blah blah. Still, the Pistons did pretty much control that game. The Lakers tried to step up and do their arm-flailing hustle defense in the third and fourth quarters, but it was to no avail.

The Pistons game plan is ridiculously simple: cover Shaq and Kobe as well as you can, but do not--absolutely do not let the rest of the Lakers beat you. There was like, what, two open threes for the Lakers, one for George and one for Rush? Fisher never had an open shot. The Pistons just throttled the Lakers bench and that was it.

I don't want to hear any comparisons to the last time a Larry Brown team beat the Lakers in the first game of the championship, the Sixers in 2000. That was a completely different game between completely different teams. The Lakers were unstoppable that year, and the Sixers pulled off a gritty, gutty, Iversony, Rockyesque, Philadelphia-like victory against all odds. It took an overtime to do it and the outcome was always in doubt. The Pistons had control of this one; they did what they had to do and a little more and they won by quite a bit.

I think those nine points from Ben Wallace were probably the main margin of difference in this game. It's merely obvious that Ben looks ridiculous around the rim, so every open jumper he makes is like free points.

I'm really glad that the little Phil Jackson tricks didn't work. Like rolling out the Medvedenko/Rush/Fisher scrub team when the starters weren't getting it done, who usually play the Lakers back into the game when that trick works. But it didn't. His psychological tricks aren't going to work against the Pistons--this team seems a little bit too well coached to slack off against the scrubs. Any psychological tricks will have to involve goading Shaq and Kobe into a championship-level effort. Which he will have to do. Remember what Bill Simmons said about being appalled at how the Lakers were unprepared for the Spurs? This looked like the same kind of thing here, and only a lucky Derek Fisher shot saved them that time.

Anyway, the ESPN News talking heads just said something about how in 1991 and 2000 Phil Jackson teams lost their first games and then won the next four. So there you go. The Lakers lost. The Pistons won. Whatever.

That's the trouble with these chicks
Next experiment twelve strands from double helix
No I haven't seen Kes, Neelix
"Oh yeah? You just stay away from her with those lyrics!"
Please--ain't nobody fuckin' after her
I'm out of here soon as I fix the flux capacitor

Followed shortly thereafter with:

Sparky, I had enough of your malarkey
For one, don't mark me--and who you callin' "darky"?

Maybe I wouldn't love Doom like I do if he didn't use so many comics and science fiction and cartoon references--but so what? Those references speak to me, as they say. And how many people can rhyme lecithin with aspirin? Not many.

I love being in that stage of album-purchasing, by the way, where you buy your really great album and listen to it again and again, because it's just that great. I must be up to twenty listens now with Viktor Vaughn.

Jeez, that's it. Have to read Homer, Aristophanes, Virgil and Ovid yet this weekend, and say something halfway intelligent about them. But let me leave you with this, via Jim Henley: a supervillain armed with a killer bulldozer emerges in Colorado. Well, almost a supervillain; the guy, upset with town fathers for oppressing his business, killed himself after his rampage, and the traditional supervillain meets his demise via his own arrogance or the ingenuity of a hero. But still: he had a superweapon and he used it and the authorities couldn't stop him. That's a supervillain in my book.

Friday, June 04, 2004

MAYBE I WON'T SAY TOO MUCH ABOUT THE PISTONS, ACTUALLY: Because what can you say? Everybody is picking the Lakers in six. If the Pistons win it will be some kind of miracle. We know the way the Lakers will play--Shaq will do his thing, Kobe his, scrubs will come out and make shots, etc.--but we don't know how the Pistons will play, but we assume it won't make much of a difference.

I did enjoy this bit of Lakers hate from Alan Paul in the Links yesterday:

Many people would take great glee in seeing Big Ben flexing over a sprawled out Shaq, or Tayshaun using those pterodactyl arms to pin one on KB. I mean, has there ever been a less likeable, less joyful great team? I have not been a Lakers hater these last years, but this team has pushed me over the edge. All the whining, all the bickering, all the sociopathic behavior, all the Big this and Big That. And while I'm at it, I'm sick of hearing Malone and Payton talk about how much money they gave up to come to L.A. First of all it was their choice. Second of all, Malone did not take an 18.5 million dollar pay cut as he keeps saying because no one was offering him 19.5 million this year.

Then again, today Lang brought out somebody who claimed the Lakers are fun to watch--which is, of course, an outright lie, so I think SLAM just likes to mess with us at this point in the season. Get us watching, what's good for basketball being good for SLAM and whatnot.

Turning to beer: A minor part of the laughability of the current Bud campaigns is those print/billboard/maybe-tv-too Bud Light ads that are a response to somebody else's ads--Miller Lite or Michelob Ultra--that say, basically, "HEY--all light beers are low carb! Drink ours because it tastes better!" And Bud is forced into this position because their product is flawed vs. other products in the same market niche--there are beers with less carbs than Bud Light. Wouldn't it be better for them to just ignore the carb-based advertising of their rivals? Or to cook up a lower-carb Bud Light? Perhaps this is their plan, but in the meantime, they're just admitting they have no good ideas for their products, just like their lizard ads reveal they have no good ideas for their advertising. There is a real sense of decline in the land of the King of Beers, methinks.

David Corn's new blog has quite the subtle URL. Yes it does. Via Matt Yglesias.

In the past week my mom found my old MF Doom album under the couch, which led me to see if he had anything else out and he did, as Viktor Vaughn, last year. Further Internet research has exposed two more albums under two more aliases: Madvillain's Madvillainy and King Geedorah's Take Me To Your Leader. Doom would make it a lot easier on his fans as far as buying his albums goes if he'd stick to one name, but then he wouldn't be MF Doom. Or then he would be MF Doom, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I wish I knew more about hip hop, because Doom gets pretty universal acclaim but he's also a really underground figure, which makes me wonder if he's just weirder than the rest of the hip hop out there. This is not a question I can answer, I who am in the mode of, "I don't know hip hop, but I know what I like. And I like this." I just wish I knew where the Viktor Vaughn samples from the album are from; Googling it only leads me in circles, back to the album, and not to whatever the source material is. If it is source material; it sounds goofy enough that it could be something Doom just made up and made sound like he was sampling some cheesy early 80s comic adventure show.

The MF Doom message board. It will provide me with answers.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

THE OBLIGATORY HUMANITIES CLASS: The one the school requires you take in order to graduate? I'm taking it now. Despite the fact I read most of this stuff back in high school. I'm looking over the syllabus and seeing Genesis, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, Oedipus, and thinking, I guess the public schools really have collapsed. But maybe the point is more to revisit these things on a college level.

So it's all good. Besides, I'm enjoying revisiting these things, and it's not like I was going to do it on my own. I mean, I am on the cusp of finishing my first book for pleasure of the calendar year 2004 (Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude) so I am grateful in a way for being forced to take this course and forced to read non-biological texts. In another way it's a hassle but there you go.

Our instructor was having trouble getting some people to treat the Bible as literature, and not the infallible word of God or what have you. He handled it well, not insulting anybody, but you could tell this was not a direction he wanted us going in.

BEHOLD; I have a blog; thus I can pronounce thoughts of the Book of Genesis, King James version: What's up with the "There were giants in the Earth in those days" line? Google reveals the usual Internet array of crankitude and knowledge. And another picky plot point: is there an origin of Egypt in those genealogies somewhere? Because I don't see it and then all of the sudden, there Egypt is, oppressing Abram. So it's interesting how Genesis goes between being a universal tale (the first creation story, the Babel story) and a specific historical epic of the Semitic peoples, His chosen people in particular.

BEHOLD: I, who have little knowledge of things I just wrote about, have now added them, for all time, to the aether of Google, and the archives of Blogger. And so that came to pass.

We also read Gilgamesh, which is like your 70s buddy picture for the first half and your bleak 70s revenge picture where the hero seeks revenge and does not find it, only bleak meaninglessness in the second half. You can see why it was so popular in the ancient world.

Tomorrow: I blog again. I may even mention the Detroit Pistons.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

WHO UNLEASHED STEPHEN A. SMITH?: Who encouraged him--told him his schtick was funny? Somebody at ESPN must've told him something like that, something like, "Stephen, the rants are great, the numbers are up, keep doing what you've been doing." I guess they think what he does is at least different than the usual ESPN blandness they have when it's Greg Anthony and the two other guys whose names I can never remember. And Screamin' A. isn't bland, but he really looks like he's forcing it, trying to force a personality that isn't there. You can't exactly fault ESPN for trying but this stuff apparently really is lightning-in-a-bottle rare, which is why the TNT guys are the only ones who are really good at the guys in the studio talking sports thing. Possibly Chris Berman and T.J talking football as well; and of course PTI. But the Fox NFL guys are so painfully forced, with the guffawing and the paint-by-numbers making fun of each other. I don't care if it actually is unscripted, it still looks completely wooden on tv. The NFL on CBS is an attempt to replicate the alleged success of the NFL on Fox, so a fake version of something wooden is something wood-panelled and REALLY horrible, I guess. So, anyway, ESPN is turning to Stephen A. because they have no clue how to get something as good as the NBA on TNT, and yet they are painfully aware of how clumsy their guys look next to the EJ-Kenny-Charles holy triumvirate of basketball analysis. Charles is the abused all-too-human Son, EJ the Spirit and Kenny the Father by default, if you must know. Maybe that isn't the right metaphor.

Your random basketball thought of the day: Phil Jackson is the greatest one-dimensional coach of all time. He'll never change his system to fit his players, but he'll never coach a team that doesn't have players singularly great enough to power the triangle. You know what I mean? I just can't see him taking different sets of players to the playoffs multiple times, a la Larry Brown.

The Memorial Day drive meant I missed the Lakers beating the Wolves, which is fine. No cicadas were sighted in backwoods Virginia--apparently my brother and his wife live in some mystical calm within the cicada storm, as I could hear them in the distance but never had one land on me and creep me out like they're supposed to. I guess if you're a cicada once you see that true whose roots have been feeding you and everybody you know for the past seventeen years, there's not much of a need to seek new territory. This is useful but does not provide an exact answer to my question.

Meats consumed: steak, chicken, ground beef, hot dog. And Jimy Dean pure pork sausage, though that was for breakfast. Only two beers were consumed. I was driving. I'm a wuss.