Friday, June 28, 2002

HEFNER WATCH: The Playboy Women of Enron issue comes out, major wire services somehow cover it. What's an Enron? Way to strike why the iron is hot.
CLIPPERS WATCH: Devastating takedown of the Donald (Sterling), again in the LA Times, making all of us doubt that the Clippers' gradual improvement will continue.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

CLIPPERS WATCH: LA Times: Donald Sterling ready to spend money. File that under "believable when seen."
THAT DANGED INFECTIOUS NIKE SOCCER COMMERCIAL SONG: Is an Elvis remix by Junkie XL; read the BBC's review here, buy it here or here. It's a fun song to inexplicably hear on the oldies station while driving to work in the morning. And, yes, Elvis now beats the Beatles for most number one records in United Kingdom history with this one.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

MORE BELATEDNESS: Here's Jim's giant response to Bruce Sterling. Get a cup of coffee, it's a lot, but worth it. Jim's post, I mean. I don't know what your coffee's like.
MORE BLOGWATCHING: Follow the NBA draft along with The Rapmaster. And watch to see what the Clippers do this time, there's trade rumors involving their picks and Cleveland's.
I JUST NOTICED: And bear in mind I'm an idiot, but lowflyin' lolana changed her URL and she's posting paintings now because her hits are down. Go and admire.

Monday, June 24, 2002

ANYHOW: We showed up at like six fifteen, six thirty to try and get on The Price Is Right and I'm like that'll be plenty of time --we'll be THE FIRST ONES THERE and end up sitting around so I brought my extremely informative book with me --David Harris' The League: The Rise & Decline of the NFL, written back when the NFL actually was in decline due to Al Davis' shenanigans and labor unrest and Bob Irsay and a bunch of different things. If you want to know anything about the Rozelle era and the formation of the modern NFL, this is the place to go, just realize the focus is almost exclusively on the owners of the NFL franchises; he barely mentions who won the Superbowls and other onfield stuff. But of course there's a huge line which I don't understand, having little game show knowledge --I shoulda asked Dave Tepper for tips, in retrospect-- I figured, how many people really want to get on a game show? The answer is many, and too many, and so my brother did not get to go on Price Is Right, which was the whole motivation for this sudden trip to Los Angeles.

So we went to DisneyLand which I understood to be the Happiest Place On Earth because Matt needed to be cheered up. Thank Walt there's still a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride there; that is such a great ride conceptually speaking, you get to accompany Mr. Toad on his night of debauchery and pay for it with jailtime, sudden death, and a trip to hell. How great is that? And they actually pipe in the heat for the hell sequence, which I had forgotten all about. Mr. Toad is like the Pac-Man of theme park rides: you know there's other rides that are more modern and visually impressive but Mr. Toad is conceptually eternal and should be enjoyable for the rest of human history. We also went on Pirates Of The Caribbean twice --my all time favorites. And they got this fastpass dealie which is like making a reservation at a restaurant so you don't have to wait in any lines. DisneyLand is as fun as I remember from my youth. And they're playing the Jungle Cruise for laughs now.

In line for Star Tours Matt and I decide the Star Wars Trilogy is really crying out for a giant audioanimatronic extravaganza ride a la The Haunted Mansion and Pirates. It could replace the hideous Innovations building where they teach you how to use Google.

The next day we find the La Brea tarpit and --yes-- it is a giant pit of tar. I swear it sounded more impressive when I was younger. Then we went to Koreatown so we could get bulgoki and I could ogle Korean chicks. Everybody had those "BE THE REDS!" shirts on. I mean, everybody. Then we went to a Dodgers game to watch them play Matt's beloved Red Sox. Dodger stadium is cool because every level has its own entrance. AND upper deck seats were only six bucks. Cheaper than a movie.

We also went to Santa Monica and drove through West Hollywood and wondered if we looked gay or not. Conclusion: maaayyybe. Then we saw the no-bad-seats-at-all Staples Center for a Los Angeles Avengers game, which was great for me, having never gotten the live AFL experience before. There was music before every play which helped get the crowd into but what really helped was knowing that if the Avengers scored 50 points everybody in attendance was getting free Carl's Jr. burgers. And when Carolina started making a comeback in the second half when the Avengers had 48 I was thinking "CONSPIRACY! CARL JUNIOR is calling in THE FIX!" But the Avengers ened up with 64 so we made out like bandits and Carl Jr. is ruing the day he ever met us, let me tell you.

By some quirk of fate we got bumped up into first class both ways which we had never travelled before and Matt and I decide to play "Who's The Bigger Rube?" by me asking if we can get the alcoholic drinky-drinks and by Matt wondering if he has to pay to use the headphones. We were the Nouveau Riche for those two flights, full of wonder at getting drinks while parked on the ground and more drinks whenever you asked for them. Yes: first class is all about the drinks. And all the cashews you can eat.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

VAYKAY: Going to accompany my brother as he tries to get on the Price Is Right this weekend. Stay tuned.
KEWL: A six-legged insectoid Finnish logging machine. Thank you, Boing Boing.
BLOGGING PUTS YOU THERE: One blogger's account of the night Korea won.
MEMO TO JIM HENLEY: Perennial WNBA doormats the Washington Mystics (one of the all-time great sports franchise names) are 7-1 and atop the Eastern Conference. Michael Wilbon explains why. Jim, get the WNBA Season Pass, it's only forty bucks --WOTTA DEAL!
AWRIGHT: New Rick Veitch. He's doing Aquaman now. Veitch's Maximortal is one of the greatest superhero comics ever; it was supposed to be part of a trilogy with Bratpack but the third part, Kid Maximortal or something, never came out. I'd rather see him finish that but new Veitch is better than no Veitch. Via Distorting the Medium.
ITCHY TRIGGER FINGERS: Remember when those Canadian soldiers got killed by a U.S. pilot in Afghanistan? Apparently the guy just wanted to bomb the hell out of something, and the Canadians just happened to be there. Flit has the story.
A LITTLE MORE ON THE KALBI/CAPELLINI GAME: Here's the Sportsfilter discussion on the game, they're theorizing that the ref forgot he had already carded Totti when he carded him again in overtime and forced his ejection from the game. Huh. It was a weird call to make in overtime, so maybe that is the most plausible explanation.

Italy and, that's two fine fine national cuisines and you hate to root for one team over the other based on food terms. If we're picking on that basis, Korea should beat out tasty yet not-quite-spicy-enough Spain and the U.S. should win over Germany --a one-sausage nation-- due to the sheer variety of our food products. Somebody else will have to judge Senegal versus Turkey. I've never had Brazilian food but imagine it has to be spicier than the sturdy potato-and-cow constructions England specializes in so Brazil has the edge there. But England has contributed meat pies and fish and chips to the world cuisine --the latter deserves like a food Nobel Prize-- so it's sort of a wash in my book. I dunno. England on penalty kicks.

Italy and Korea are also two completely baberiffic nations and in that sense the game always was win-win for us, the viewing public. Korea and Spain are kind of a wash in that regard, Brazil whomps England --you know this, maaaann-- we beat the Germans and I think Senegal beats Turkey. Let's face it, though, the U.S. dominates the world stage in terms of attractive women because of the zillion different ways an American woman can be attractive; our multifaceted, unpredictable attack destroys all challengers. America wins the World Cup in the lotsa-hotties scheme.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

BEST SEARCH THAT FINDS ME YET: Nietzsche bukkake. I can only thank Kitty.
INTERESTING LITTLE DETAIL ABOUT THE KOREA VICTORY: Check out this picture, it's the Korean fans spelling out "AGAIN 1966" in one wing of the stadium before the game. 1966 was the year that North Korea beat Italy. One wonders how long the division between the two nations is going to last --I don't think anybody's heart is in it anymore.
FOR PURPLE MOUNTAIN MAJESTIES! NO? HOWZABOUT, I'M A YANKEE DOODLE DANDY?: Review (via SPORTSbyBROOKS) of the ESPN announcing of World Cup matches. Jack Edwards is okay but his "Mine eyes have seen the glory" when the U.S. beat Portugal was incredibly silly; you think to yourself, you had ninety minutes to think about this and that was the best you could do? And it sounded rehearsed, which, as the review points out, the Univision "GOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLL!"s never sound like, even though you know they're coming. The shortcomings of not living in a soccer culture, I guess.
SLATE IS ON FIRE TODAY: Rob Walker on that horrendous Michael Jordan Hanes ad:

Do I really need to point out the obvious racial and sexual tensions hovering just below the surface here? Is there anything fresh to be said about a mostly white, and mostly naked, group of guys looking from Michael Jordan to their own nether regions with an air of wistfulness and inferiority? I didn't think so. Just draw your own conclusions on that.
SOCCER GRABS THE PUNDIT NATION: Anne Applebaum on soccer, the last place patriotism is allowed in Western Europe. And why rooting for the U.S. promotes geopolitical instability:

[T]he significance of the American team's weakness has always been underrated, too. Particularly now that the Olympics have been spoiled by total American dominance, it is nice for everybody else that the United States always loses at the only game the rest of the world really cares about. Now that the United States has started to do a bit better, the future looks darker. Hearing the score of this morning's Mexico game—and the rumors that riots might start in Mexico City—I immediately worried: If the United States started to dominate soccer the way it dominates basketball, then anti-Americanism might really start to get ugly.

As it stands, the relationship between the United States and soccer is perfect. Americans—citizens of a modern state—have plenty of opportunities to show their patriotism, on inaugurations and at school assemblies and on the Fourth of July. They don't need to do it in soccer stadiums as well. Europeans, on the other hand—citizens of postmodern states—have fewer and fewer, and need those soccer highs badly as a result. Cheer for the American soccer players if you will—but keep your fingers crossed, and hope the U.S. team doesn't upset the balance by winning too many more matches.
KOREA BEATS ITALY: Jeepers this sounds like a great game, full of emotion and craziness and reminding you why you watch sports. The replay's on at 2 on ESPN2 so set your VCRs.

Monday, June 17, 2002

REVENGE OF GAME SIX: Plain Dealer column on the subject; weeks after the fact, of course, but I am trying to follow this story:

I'm not a conspiracy theory guy. Conspiracy buffs are probably drawing lines from the bent envelope corner in the Patrick Ewing lottery to Michael Jordan's push-off of Byron Russell to the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the Kings-Lakers series to devil worship by Proctor and Gamble to John Nash in "A Beautiful Mind," going quietly nuts.

But Game 6 was the worst-officiated big game I ever saw.

The sixth foul on Scot Pollard and the fifth on Vlade Divac were mythical. There was no contact at all. They helped disqualify the Kings' two best low-post defenders against Shaquille O'Neal. In what became a travesty, the Lakers either scored or went to the line. They shot 27 free throws in the last quarter to the Kings' nine. The Lakers made 34 field goals and four 3-pointers to the Kings' 38 and eight 3s, yet they won Game 6, 106-102.

Referees Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney and Ted Bernhardt rank with Cole, Bob and Jim Younger as notorious thieves. The great flaw of basketball is that referees have too much latitude to determine how the game is played. (It also holds for baseball umpires. Remember those "outside strikes" by Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in the 1995 World Series, which the Indians couldn't have reached with oars?) Coaches and players who criticize refs are fined. The NBA is judge and jury for its own officials, and bad performances are simply covered up. I don't know how you fix it, either.

But I do know the NBA is a league that ridiculously fined the Cavs $150,000 and suspended coach John Lucas for two games for inviting high school superstar LeBron James to a workout. The punishment seemed too much for the crime, since Jordan, a part-owner in Washington, had done the same the year before. NBA vice president Russ Granik haughtily refused to discuss the Jordan case, increasing the perception of favoritism. In the LeBron James case, the NBA could say it was trying to discourage high school players from skipping college. It's a worthy cause.

So would be docking the three blind mice of Game 6. Nothing less is at stake than public belief that the league is on the level.

Via SLAM LINKS. Mark Cuban advocates docking the refs for bad performances too, but I guess the NBA feels like that would call the whole game into question. But the whole game already is in question...
INTERESTING NBA HYPOTHETICAL: Who could beat the current Lakers? asks Michael Wilbon. Surprisingly, he picks the 1990 Pistons:

Of course, there's nobody since Wilt Chamberlain who could match up physically with Shaquille O'Neal. (If the conditioning-obsessed Wilt came along today, instead of being a toned and naturally muscled 275, he'd be a sculpted 315.) But the Pistons had one of the great defensive rebounders in Bill Laimbeer. James Edwards was a 7-foot shooter who could take Shaq outside; John Salley a long-armed shot-blocker; Rick Mahorn a power forward with the perfect mentality and body to bang; and Dennis Rodman, a gnat who could out-quick Shaq.

Nobody really can stay with Kobe, but if Joe Dumars was able to do a decent job on 26-year-old Michael Jordan, it stands to reason he'd do OK on Kobe. Mark Aguirre could more than hold his own with Robert Horry/Rick Fox. And oh, by the way, who on the Lakers would be assigned to guard Isiah Thomas?
AND THEY'RE DANCING (AGAIN) IN THE STREETS: U.S.A. beats Mexico 2-0 and we face Germany next, which is bad. But getting to the semis is good. Charles Oliver is happy for all the right reasons.
GENERATIONAL ANGST WATCH: Reason on the continuing death of rock.
WHY I STILL READ SALON: Even though their political coverage is locked up behind passwords and twenty dollars they aren't getting, they'll still declare Pac-Man a masterpiece and let me read about it. I love this bit where Pac-Man is located in the pantheon of pop cultural icons:

The psychic space that Pac-Man grew to occupy in early 1980s popular culture was truly enormous, filling in the vacuum of downtime between "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" and stepping into the breach vacated by Kiss, when all of America realized that the "Unmasked" album sucked, and sucked hard. Kiss and "Star Wars" are important for an understanding of Pac-Man, in that they created the model for the multimedia marketing blitz that Pac-Man subsequently adopted. But there's a crucial difference here.

The pseudo-mythic underpinnings of both "Star Wars" and Kiss gave their marketing campaigns a relative embarrassment of semiotic riches around which to build licensing opportunities. I mean, of course there was a Kiss comic book. Of course Toys 'R Us carried a full line of toy light sabers. But I can guarantee that no marketing executive looked at Pac-Man in 1980 and said, "You know what? I think there's a phone here."

Rather, it was Pac-Man's very spareness and abstraction that allowed for so many permutations to make their way into the culture. Pac-Man became a kind of Everyblob. Licensed images of him were slightly humanized, lending him arms and legs to allow for a variety of active poses, as well as a set of black eyes with the suggestion of pupils. But by and large he remains an abstract figure, limited to a few stock activities: eating, chasing, being chased. The most commonly reproduced image shows Pac-Man at a moment of triumph, devouring his ghostly nemeses. In nearly every image, he is smiling broadly, his eyes given a mischievous tilt; he looks like a good-time guy, a cross between R. Crumb's Mr. Natural and a Wilson tennis ball.

The article also reveals that Pac-Man's creator wanted a video game that looked like a cartoon --thus explaining the friendliness of the Pac-world-- and that the Japanese name, Puckman, was from a Japanese word meaning, roughly, "to flap one's gums" and not because Pac-Man looks like a hockey puck, which is what I had always heard but I guess is apocryphal. Good stuff.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

PRETTY GOOD FOR THEIR TIME: Bill Simmons on why the Lakers aren't a dynasty yet.
CURTAIN FALLS ON NBA SEASON: As the Nets get swept and the Lakers win the title yet again. From the Joe Netsfan site, here is Champagne's gracious-in-defeat wrapup of the final game. Kenyon Martin had 35 points to lead all scorers in the losing effort. And what was up with his tongue? Kobe channels Jordan sometimes in that way; Kenyon was like mainlining him.

Anyway, the Shaq-Kobe combination remains unstoppable until proven otherwise, with Shaq providing the meat of the offense, and Kobe taking them through at crunch time. Kobe should be doing the Nestle's Crunch ads. It's not like Shaq disappears at crunch time, you'd just rather give it to Kobe then.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

PROBABLY MY LAST GAME SIX POST: Cause I think people will forget about it in a minute. Anyway, here's the full text of the Nader letter. Listen, say what you will about Nader, but if I was a consumer advocate and I wanted to take on somebody in the sports industry I'd start with the NBA. There's a 96 percent chance a large-market team will reach the NBA finals --over the past 23 years, anyway. (Via SPORTSbyBROOKS.) And there's nothing funny going on here? Just so you know, during the same time period the World Series involved a large-market team 38 percent of the time, the Stanley Cup 35 percent of the time, and the freaking Superbowl --our number one championship-- 22 percent of the time. Yikes. I guess the NBA feels like they have to appeal to a mass audience to get people watching, like the game can't stand on its own two feet, or would be at NHL levels ratings-wise if it did. I mean, if there actually is a conspiracy involved here, which is perfectly debatable.

Anyway there's new Bill Simmons and he devotes a little to Game Six too, and adds to the conspiracy theorizing, with caveats:

If you examine the last four NBA playoff campaigns, during every situation where the league definitively "needed" one of the two teams involved to win -- either to A) change the momentum of a series so it didn't end prematurely, B) keep an attractive, big-market team alive in a series, or C) advance an attractive, big-market team to another round -- the officiating appeared to be slanted towards the team that needed that game. I use the phrase "appeared to be," because reviewing an official's performance is purely subjective. Maybe I'm dead-wrong.

About Game Six:

2002, Lakers-Kings, Game 6 ... LA needs a win to stay alive ... from an officiating standpoint, the most one-sided game of the past decade ... at least six dubious calls against the Kings in the fourth quarter alone ... LA averaged 22 free throws a game during the first five games of the series, then attempted 27 freebies in the fourth quarter alone of Game 6 ... rumors that David Stern wanted to pull a Vince McMahon and declare himself "The special guest referee" for this game prove unfounded.

And he adds this:

By the way, I would feel remiss if I didn't share this information: Dick Bavetta was assigned to every one of the above games. That's an absolute fact. You can look it up. Doesn't mean anything ... I just felt the need to pass that along. It sure looks bad, doesn't it? Maybe the league could do a favor for Bavetta and not assign him to Game 3 of the Finals, especially if the Lakers jump to a 2-0 lead over New Jersey.

Kind of like Michael Wilbon in that Bill wants to make sure he knows he's going into possibly goofy territory here and warns you about it, though he seems more convinced that there is something funny going on with NBA refs than Wilbon. But no more Game Six bitterness; there's finals on.
WANG GONE MISSING: Not even Mark Cuban can locate Wang Zhi Zhi:

"We have called and gone to Wang Zhizhi's house every day, at least twice a day to try to locate him," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "We have been unable to do so for the past several weeks. We do not know where he is, or how to get ahold of him."

They're already speculating this may affect the draftability of Yao Ming. But, I mean, if I was Wang, I wouldn't be going back.
NETS WATCH: Slate's Hugo Lindren on Keith Van Horn:

What prevents Van Horn from realizing his potential as a 6'10" small forward with a rare array of inside/outside skills is a peculiarly heightened form of self-consciousness. In the way he shoots and cuts to the basket and sets a pick, and even in the way he pulls his socks all the way up to his knees, you can sense an unhealthy fixation on form, on doing it exactly right. Every time Van Horn does something on the court, he is actually doing two things: He is doing whatever it is he is doing, and he is watching himself do it. This hyper self-awareness turns every game into an emotional rollercoaster, full of pointless highs and lows that are often far removed from the outcome of the game. When you see a guy hit a three-pointer in the second quarter and run down the court with his hands in the air as though he had just cured cancer, here is one thing you know: That guy will probably not hit that shot in the fourth quarter.

He also says what we're all thinking: the Nets are a very odd team. Actually, he says the Nets are "a very odd team to have reached the finals", is the exact quote, but I think the fact that they've reached the finals only puts their oddness out there where everybody can see.
I HEART BASKETBALL: Game One was Lakers 99, Nets 94 and it seemed like the two teams were feeling each other out more than anything else. The Nets were nervous the first quarter, the Lakers built a huge lead and held onto it. I dunno. The Nets missed a ton of free throws so, I want to think, if they had made them they've been right there at the end except with the lead, but then I think the Lakers would've found a way to come back anyway as is their style. We shall see if the Nets can build leads like they did against Boston and hold onto them four times --like they did against Boston. Otherwise this series will be Nets-Celtics with the Nets being the Celtics.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

NEXT THEY'LL BRING BACK BATMAN FAMILY AS A DAYTIME SOAP: Dreaded Purple Master has the news about the WB's Birds Of Prey, a series steeped in DC continuity, both pre-Crisis (The Huntress, the daughter of the Golden Age Batman and Catwoman) and the 80s "edgy" revisionist period (Oracle, the former Batgirl left paralyzed by the Joker.) Harley Quinn (a Batman: The Animated Series character) and Black Canary (a character who spans the length of superhero comics history) so the WB is really mixing and matching here, like the way you can get tacos and fried rice at the Ponderosa. This all serves to remind me that The Killing Joke --where Batgirl got shot-- is the worst Alan Moore comic I've ever read. Just completely over the top, in a bad way; Moore is better with introverted sociopaths as in From Hell than the in-your-face nuttiness of Joker and Batman. And I hate the fact that such a cruddy comic book is completely enshrined now in DC continuity because it was so popular at the time and took Batman to the next level or what have you. Whatever.
EVEN MORE GAME SIX STUFF: Ralph Nader didn't like Game Six either:

Ralph Nader wants the NBA to review Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, saying the nation's confidence has been shaken enough lately by business headlines.

The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings 106-102 in the game. But Nader, a consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential candidate, and the League of Fans, a sports-industry watchdog group, sent a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern on Tuesday asking for a review, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

``At a time when the public's confidence is shaken by headlines reporting the breach of trust by corporate executives, it is important, during the public's relaxation time, for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in commercial sports performances,'' the letter said. ''That sense was severely broken ... during Game 6.''

The Lakers shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter and scored 16 of their final 18 points at the foul line. The letter also addresses an incident where Lakers guard Kobe Bryant elbowed opponent Mike Bibby in the nose. A foul was not called with less than 20 seconds remaining in the game.

``Unless the NBA orders a review of this game's officiating, perceptions and suspicions, however presently absent any evidence, will abound,'' the letter said. ``A review that satisfies the fans' sense of fairness and deters future recurrences would be a salutary contribution to the public trust that the NBA badly needs.''

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

YOUR BREAKS OF THE GAME EXCERPT OF THE DAY: From pages 88 and 89 of David Halberstam's fine book:

The Cuckoo Man was Jack Nicholson, the movie star, a devoted follower of Laker basketball who had a seat right next to the Laker bench. In the championship season, when Portland had played Los Angeles, Nicholson had thus sat only three feet away from the last man on the Portland bench who, in this case, happened to be Lloyd Neal, and everything Nicholson said, every cry praising Kareem or belittling Walton, thudered in the ears of the Portland players. It was if he had been chosen by the gods to bedevil them. At the halftime the Portland players had filed into the dressing room and one of the other players, impressed that so famous and yet now so manic a presence was seated so close to them, asked Ice if he knew who his neighbor was. No, he said, who? "Jack Nicholson, Ice," someone had answered. "You mean the little fellow, not much hair?" Neal asked. "Yes." "Who's he?" "A movie star. Did a picture One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." "Oh yeah," said Ice, "I know who he is, that guy." The others were not so sure whether Neal had seen the movie or not, they could never tell about Ice, whether he was smarter than they thought but playing dumb, or dumber than they thought but playing smart. In the second half Nicholson had kept up his cheering, loud, partisan, a noise that fell relentlessly upon the Portland bench. Then, late in the game, at a crucial moment, the game hanging in the balance, the Lakers had made a run and Kareem had gone out for a shot and as he did, Walton had gone up too and he had blocked it, and even as Walton reached the apex of his jump, his hand outstreched, the entire Portland bench had been aware of an even more dramatic moment: Lloyd Neal rising out of his seat, huge now, initimidating, a great dark-visaged figure pointing a massive and threatening finger in a massive threatening hand at the suddenly tiny Nicholson. The others had watched this tableau, it seemed frozen in time for them, as if to symbolize the team's new invincibility, that they would not be beaten, not by Kareem, not by Los Angeles, not even by rich and celebrated actors, for there was Ice screaming at Nicholson, "Take that, mother-fucking cuckoo!" The moment had become part of the unofficial team history, a symbol of its triumph, and Nicholson, star of Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces and other great American films, had become simply The Cuckoo Man.

"You tell The Cuckoo Man," Ice told McKinney, "they going to cut me one more time. Then I'm going to heal, get it all better, and then I'm going to come down there and get his ass."

End excerpt. Excerpted without italics, as it looks better that way.
MORE GAME SIX STUFF: A Michael Wilbon column from Sunday's paper. Here's a sample, but read the whole thing:

Let me start by declaring I have no ties to Los Angeles or to Sacramento, and have no rooting interest in the series other than that I did pick the Lakers to win in six games. And I have zero tolerance for "conspiracy" stories, that the NBA and NBC conspire to influence if not straight-up arrange the outcome. Don't believe a word of it, never have.

Having said that, I have never seen officiating in a game of consequence as bad as that in Game 6. It was bad in Game 5 in Sacramento, when the Kings got the benefit of some very questionable calls, then unforgivably rotten on Friday night in Game 6. Scot Pollard, on his sixth and final foul, didn't as much as touch Shaq. Didn't touch any part of him. You could see it on TV, see it at courtside. It wasn't a foul in any league in the world. And Divac, on his fifth foul, didn't foul Shaq. They weren't subjective or borderline or debatable. And these fouls not only resulted in free throws, they helped disqualify Sacramento's two low-post defenders.

On the other hand, Kobe Bryant elbowed Mike Bibby in the nose in plain view with the Lakers up by one, but no foul was called on Kobe, even though Bibby lay on the court and then went to the sideline bleeding. The difficult thing about refereeing an NBA game, compared with Major League Baseball and NFL games, is that virtually every single call is subjective. But the calls made on Friday night were just plain wrong, right out in the open for everybody watching on TV to see, even before replay.

Mark Cuban on one of those endless ESPN Sunday talk shows said something to the effect that there's nothing wrong with NBA referees themselves --it's just that there's no control over them by the league, which leads to the huge disparity of fouls called from game to game.

Monday, June 03, 2002

MORE GAME SEVEN STUFF: Slam's Lang Whitaker on Game Seven:

After scaring the confidence out of Derek Fisher, the soul out of Phil Jackson's patch, and the streetwise thuggishness out of the Maloofs, the Sacto Kings collapsed like a house of 'tards last night. Despite it being a tight, overtime game, it sure wasn't much of a game. The Kings were shooting like deadly Chris Dudley from the free throw line (a combined 8-19 from Turk, CWebb, Christie and Vlade), while boxing out like Keith Van Horn (four Lakers hit double digits in the rebounding column).

And yet I'm sure people will talk about this as being one of the great games of all time. For Kings fans, sure, it's a great game because it represents the night the Kings came thisclose to making the Finals. For the rest of us? Well...

I miss the great games we used to see. I still remember, growing up, sitting on the floor in my parent's den watching the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, where Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird loaded two franchises onto their backs and carried their teams to the finish. You could double them, triple them, whatever. They just kept scoring. Nique finished that night 19-23 for 47 points, and as Nique told me last year, "You know, you had two guys who didn't want to lose on opposite teams, and it was, was a shootout."

The Kings played last night more like a shut-out. Turkoglu wouldn't have shot that ball down the stretch even if the ball was on fire. Sure, Bibby had 29 points, on 11 of 25 shooting. Turkoglu played 30 minutes and got off 7 shots. Peja -- still slowed by that ankle trouble, I assume -- went 3 of 12, and tossed up a fantastic airball with the game on the line. And the Lakers weren't much better, as Shaq and KB8 combined to go 22 of 51. Heck, Fox and Horry went 11 of 29.

Because no one was playing defense, both teams were able to get off enough shots to hit 218 points, as ugly a 218 as you'll ever see. It's more than just hitting clutch shots. Hitting clutch shots because you carried your team to that spot is one thing. Hitting clutch shots because everyone else missed is something else.
SPEAK OF THE BLAZERS: Little Star-Ledger article remembering the '77 Blazers, with quotes from Dr. Jack himself.
DANG IT: I go away for a few days and Blow Hard retires. Leaving the We Are Full Of Shit blog in control of Generalissimo Thornton. Being Dear Leader....won't be the same anymore....
MORE GAME SIX MUSINGS: One of the interesting points David Halberstam makes in The Breaks ff the Game is that the NBA is the youngest of the four major sports and was the one most influenced by television and was the one most willing to alter its "product" to get itself on TV. Halberstam wrote that twenty years ago and I think the NBA still sees itself foremost as a television product and will try and do what it can to get itself the all-important Ratings. Watching Game Six you knew the league wanted seven games for these Western Conference Finals. Almost apologetically, they gave the Kings a fair shake in Game Seven and the Kings spurned them but there you go. Hopefully it all worked out for the league, which it probably always does, in the end.

Seeing the Kings try to laugh off Game Six at the end there, I though for sure they would win Game Seven; they would take an obvious screwjob in stride and come out and win. But maybe it hurt them a little too much, and was why one King who did not fall off throughout the playoffs --Doug Christie-- could not respond when the Kings needed him to.

One more thing: I don't think you can blame Webber this time. He did what he could. And Mike Bibby is a deity.
OTHER BASKETBALL LEAGUES HEARD FROM: The Storm beat the Fire yesterday and Jackie Stiles looked terrible. She's the rookie of the year 2001, the all-time points leader in NCAA history and she's coming off wrist surgery and she made one point yesterday, out of two chances at the free throw line. Not a good sign.
FINALS: Diane Pucin on Nets-Lakers:

Kidd is the most unemotional—meaning totally controlled on the court—leader around. Kidd will not flop or whine about foul calls, will not frown at a missed shot, will not pump a fist or leap for joy after a great play. Everything he feels, Kidd lets flow through his arms, his hands, his heart and into the basketball. Mr. Triple-Double has an unbendable will and unbreakable concentration.

Whether his teammates can make the best use of his passes, whether the Nets can find someone to guard Shaquille O'Neal, whether Kerry Kittles and Keith Van Horn will hit the open jump shots Kidd will get them, whether the bench players like Lucious Harris, Richard Jefferson and Aaron Williams will be as productive as they were in New Jersey's six-game Eastern Conference finals victory over the Celtics ... all that remains to be seen.

But don't dismiss the Nets. There has been an arrogance about the Lakers this season, a feeling that playing hard all the time wasn't necessary or worthwhile, that another title was a birthright. The Kings proved that it isn't. The Kings showed the Lakers that a team must play hard and well every night—and every minute.

Will the Lakers remember this by Wednesday?

The Nets, man.....I don't know what to think. Bill Simmons said somewhere that the last team to win the title without a legitimate go-to guy was the '77 Blazers and that was because they played so well together. The Nets definitely lack the go-to guy and require various players to step up at various times --Jason Kidd is not a go-to guy in the usual sense because he's not a scorer. They have three seven footers to throw at Shaq --Canadian T-Mac, Aaron Williams, Jason Collins-- and the brooding, enigmatic presence of Kenyon Martin, who has quietly shed the thug label in these playoffs and now radiates only intensity. I can't tell if he's the heart of the team or Kidd is; maybe Kidd is the heart and Kenyon the soul, or something like that. But these weirdo Nets --I don't know. They look amazing when they win and awful when they lose --some teams, remember, look good even when they lose. The finals will show if the Nets are an illusion or a great, unpredictable team.

Hey, the Patriots beat the Rams in the Superbowl. I will try and take that for what it is worth.
ANYWAY: Game Seven the Kings beat themselves. No question. No excuses either, unlike in Game Six which was the NBA fan's worst nightmare in terms of conspiracy-theory feeding by the sheer number of bad, Laker-favoring fouls. A horrible game to watch, was that Game Six. But the league thinks to itself, All right, we'll give Game Seven to the Kings and they basically tried to do that or at least make it an evenly-called game. But the Kings refused to comply and make those free throws and they lost because of that, because of not making the easiest shot in basketball. Mike Bibby tried to will them over the hump but he mostly had no help; Webber didn't disappear --he held Shaq back, he made the first basket in overtime-- but Christie, Stojakovic and Turkoglu flat-out vanished. Nay, they did not vanish, they became actively, conspicuously terrible, Christie and Peja with the missed threes, Hedo with the drive and dish into the hands of like seven Lakers inside. So to sum up, the Kings fell apart at exactly the wrong moment and lost a series they should have won. That is all.

And here's David Aldridge on Game Six. We all saw it.
BLOGGUS INTERRUPTUS: Long weekends kill me sometimes. And Memorial Day weekend I was out in the sun watching the college lacrosse championships and I got really burnt and I walked around this Internet in a haze where all I wanted to do was download console emulators and play Coleco Ms. Pac Man on my computer. So that is what I did.