Sunday, January 27, 2013

I Can't Takes it No More.

I was on the Mass Pike today when I heard that Rajon Rondo is out for the year with an injury.

Later, after the Celtics defeated the world champion Miami Heat in double overtime, I was listening to a number of pundits talking about how the Celtics are done without Rondo, how the league will suffer, and how the ownership of the Celtics should "blow up" the team, i.e. trade the players because they have no chance without Rajon Rondo.

I can't takes it no more.  For the record, the Celtics have been awful this year. They were, prior to today, on  a six game losing streak.  Their most recent loss came after the reserves on the team had mounted a 27 point lead on the Atlanta Hawks. When the starters, with Rajon Rondo, entered the game, the Celtics blew the 27 point lead.

Nobody wants any player to have a season ending injury. Nobody wants any person to get injured regardless of her or his vocation. However, the plaintive wailing predicting the Celtics demise is incomprehensible to me.

When Drew Bledsoe got hurt in the 2001 season having "led" the Patriots to an 0-2 record against weak opponents, the pundits wailed about how the season was now shot. How could they possibly win without Bledsoe who had broken many records for passing and could, incontrovertibly, throw darts fifty yards down field?  What was bewildering about this whining was that the team had not won a game with Bledsoe. And the prior year the Patriots were 5-11. Again, nobody wants to see a player hurt, but predicting that a player who loses will be missed makes no sense.  All the Patriots did after Bledsoe went down is win superbowls three out of the next four years.

Rajon Rondo is a terrifically talented player.  He passes brilliantly and can find the open man for sensational plays. He can score a lot of points, make assists, grab rebounds.  However, statistics can be misleading. Rondo plays without a sense of urgency often enough, and with his head disengaged  so regularly (despite being a very bright man by all accounts), that the result has been that the Celtics, who rely on Rondo to run the team as its point guard, lose big games and have been exasperatingly awful this year.

The pundits today kept referring to Rondo's impressive statistics. Rondo had a triple double in each of the last two games. But the Celtics lost both of those games. A triple double does not mean anything if the team loses.  You could argue that without the player making the triple double, the team would be worse.  Well, no Rondo today, and the Celtics beat the best team in basketball. No Bledsoe, super bowl. No, Rondo, we will see.

Professional sports is not like the circus.  People go to the circus to be entertained.  People who go to games go to be entertained but want their teams to win. Entertainment without winning is insufficient to maintain fan interest and inconsistent with the ostensible goal of sporting events. Rondo is a showman.  He was fun to watch.  But he was not a winner. I cannot takes no more listening to wizards equating his stats to his value to the team.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This is the End

After I read, No One Here Gets Out Alive, a biography of Jim Morrison of the Doors, I realized that this guy was not such a class act.  The book was written, if not to glorify Morrison, at least to depict him and his philosophy favorably.  As much as I liked the music, and wanted to believe that Morrison was a mensch, I couldn't help but come away with the notion that he was indeed, rude and crude, and socially unacceptable not because he was rude and crude--but because he was not kind or considerate.

Still, despite this, and all these years after he has died and after I read the unflattering biography intended to be complimentary, I enjoy listening to the music.  And lyrics from songs like Break on Through to the Other Side, People are Strange, and The End, surface to my consciousness when the words seem appropriate.

And it was so as I watched the Patriots demise on Sunday night: the words to "This is the End" kept playing on the radio in my head.  The Patriots played like the teams they usually beat. Tight and stupid and unprepared.  Tom Brady who usually is like a computer at quarterback, played like a simpleton at the end of the first half, and at some key points in the second. Belichick the coach who rarely makes a mistake did not appear to have any answers nor did he appear to be aware of the potential questions.

Wes Welker dropped a key pass, Talib went down after a couple of plays,  A Brady pass was batted up in the air and resulted in an interception. Ridley got bonked on the head and coughed it up. I kept hearing, the words: "This is the End."

Usually I become a bit maniacal when I watch the Patriots. I was so unruly in the championship game last year that I declined an invitation to watch the subsequent super bowl game with a friend and a cousin, for fear that I might not be able to behave like a guest.  No such problem this past Sunday. I sat in my recliner and except for a couple of plays, did not move a whole lot. We were going to lose and we lost. 

We are getting old.

I regret to write this, but for the Patriots not only for 2012-2013, but beyond--I believe that this is the end.

Bigger issues to be concerned with for sure.

Book Review--Just Kids

A colleague here at work, a fellow a good thirty years my junior, suggested this book.  I'm glad he did. I'd not heard of it which might indicate how much of a reader  I am since I've had several people comment about how they'd read it when they've seen me with it the past few weeks.

Patti Smith, the author of this memoir, was not famous when I was in college.  It was several years after that she became well known and, at that point. I was not paying that much attention to rock and roll that came after say,  Abbey Road.  I knew of Robert Mapplethorpe only because sometime in the 80s he had an exhibit in Boston which was, as was many of his exhibits, controversial. Even for a so called liberal city, there were those protesting the displaying of his photographs in the Institute of Contemporary Art.  So, I recall the brouhaha about his work.

This book is about the early years of Smith and Mapplethorpe who were unlikely lovers in the late 60s and early 70s.  Even after Mapplethorpe came out as gay, he lived with Smith and shared an emotional bond with her that is evident in nearly every page of the book.

I was in school during the heady days of the social and anti war movements.  The so called hippies were more prevalent than those called "straights" on my campus from 1969-71.  Of course the hippies were often no more hip than an investment banker, it just was cool to wear bell bottoms and speak the language of revolution at the time.

Even those on the extreme left that I knew were not in the same arena as Smith and Mapplethorpe.  Their life experiences on the streets, in Brooklyn, and at the hotel Chelsea, with a variety of truly far out characters was something to read about.  Smith is matter of fact about the events in their lives that were not in the realm of the conceivable to most people I knew, even those politically and artistically in the vanguard.  Let's see, Smith and Mapplethorpe were lovers and nearly penniless. She had a part time job. He had none so he felt bad and decided to become a hustler to make money. She was not keen on it, but did not put the kibosh on their relationship because of it.   While living with Mapplethorpe, Mapplethorpe takes on a male lover and yet Smith and he remain attached in their art and as cohabitants.  She has an affair with Sam Shepard and then another with Jim Carroll (Basketball Diaries) who is also a hustler.

None of this is presented in the book to titillate, just a matter of fact description of their lives together when they were Just Kids.

I liked the book. It is not a page turner, or was not for me, but I liked that Smith now in her mid 60s presents her life and lifestyle without regrets.  There is very little, "oh what were we thinking" It is more this is who we are.  I admire people who have the courage to live alternative lifestyles and who stayed true to who they are/were without succumbing to the comfort of convention..  There are photos and poems throughout the nearly 300 page book, and the last dozen or so pages are filled with them.  The poems are not my cup of tea and the photographs do not seem to me to be, as my grandfather was wont to say, "so extra".   Still, the book seemed true--and it was an interesting depiction of a segment of the far left in the late 60s and 70s.

Monday, January 7, 2013


Moments ago, Brent Musburger, the announcer for what is, inappropriately, called the college championship game said that Alabama is now a dynasty in college football. "And" he said, "they did it on the field, not by a vote.""

Alabama is drubbing Notre Dame.  There are now eleven minutes left in the fourth quarter and Alabama leads 42-7.  If it is possible given the score, the game is not even that close.

This is the third "championship" Alabama has "won" in four years. Why not call them a dynasty?

Simple. The championship games they have won, they have won because a computer and a committee decided that they would be able to compete in the championship game. And the same computer and committee determined the opponent.  So, Alabama was invited to play each of the years when they "won."  There was no tournament to determine who would get to play.

Oregon, in each of the last two years has lost, like Alabama, only one game. Oregon was not invited to compete to play for the championship in either 2012 or 2013.  A team cannot "win" a championship if they cannot participate in the championship game.

Last year Boise State as well as Oregon lost only one game.  Boise State was not invited to compete for the championship. One loss Alabama was.

In the 2011-2012 season, Alabama, in fact, had lost earlier in the year to the very team they defeated in the "championship" game.  A computer and a committee determined they should have a rematch and prevailed in it.

There is no dynasty in college football, because there is no tournament or playoff system. If there had been this year, for example, Notre Dame would have lost in the first round. It is clear tonight that they are not a top flight team.  Texas A & M and Oregon would have as likely played in the championship game as Alabama and Notre Dame if there was a bona fide method for determining a champ.

In every other sport, the team that is a champion is the team that went through a playoff system and had won the right to compete for a championship.  I have written before here that the current BCS system is meaningless and the crown could easily have gone to one of several other teams this year and in each of the years Alabama has "won."


Today the mediated communications about football dealt with the quarterback for the Washington Redskins.  Last night he played in a playoff game when an injury he sustained a few weeks back, appeared to get worse. Some early reports today, Monday, indicate that RG3 may be out for portions of next year.  Some pessimistic reports suggest that the injury may be career ending.

The head coach for the Redskins is taking an awful lot of heat today.  He asked RG3 if he was ready to play, and the rookie phenom said he was.  RG3 played and hurt himself in the first half. He continued to play in the second half, but then went down when his knee took an ugly twist that left him motionless on the field.

The question is should he have played?

There are two subquestions.  The first is whether or not playing increased the chances of a career threatening injury. The second, only to be asked if the answer to the first question was a "NO" is did the player give the Redskins a better chance to win than his substitute would have.

The night before, the Minnesota Vikings held out their quarterback because of an injury and started a player who had not thrown a single pass the entire season.  A few years ago the quarterback for the Chicago Bears took himself out of a playoff game when he was injured and some speculated not debilitatingly so.

In hindsight RG3 should not have played.  He did make his injury worse and he did not give his team a good chance to win after the reinjury in the first quarter.

But the coach did not have hindsight; nor did the player.  Years ago in 2001, the Patriots' Tom Brady twisted his ankle severely in the AFC championship game.  He had to come out and due to the heroics of one of the best players never to get the credit he deserved--Troy Brown--who ran back a punt for a touchdown, blocked a field goal which resulted in a touchdown, and caught a clutch pass for a final first down in that game, the Patriots advanced.  Brady had his ankle shot up with painkillers to play in the next game--the super bowl. And the Patriots won.  Brady did not reinjure his ankle but could have.

John Havlicek played some games for the Celtics with one shoulder hanging off. KC Jones, similarly, played the final game of an LA series with so much tape on his leg that you could not see more than a couple of inches of skin.  Johnny Unitas led a final drive with blood gushing out of his face.  These players should not be made out to be heroes, because they took this risk.  However, they took the risk and did no further damage--which could have been what happened to RG3.  It just didn't.

Every player in football runs the risk of a career ending injury every single time he steps onto the field. If playing increases the risk of an existing injury becoming worse because of the vulnerability that the injury creates--then the extent of that risk is an essential consideration.  And coaches must not put their players in jeopardy.  In this instance with RG3 unless there is information not yet revealed, it is tough to know if the coach did the wrong thing.

A few hours prior to the Redskins game, the Ravens took the field with Ray Lewis returning to the field after a long period out because of an injury.  Lewis played a respectable game and did not reinjure himself. Nobody today is calling the Ravens' coach a fool for allowing him to take the chance of reinjuring his arm to the extent it would never be useful again.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Banana Split

It's been cold here since the New Year.  Very cold.

Better during the last week in December, but there was some snow on my route from Harrisonburg to Boston on the 26th.  Route 81 was so bad that both lanes were clogged with trucks and travelers returning from visiting family--all vehicles skidding on a thin layer of ice as the snow came down. I drove in Buffalo and Albany and Binghamton in the 70s and early 80s so I have some experience driving on bad roads. This was as bad as it can get.  Finally, I pulled over to a motel after going only 70 plus miles in three hours.  The next day was fine and I drove all the way back in mostly great weather with time to chill before the cold set in as 2012 ended without incident.

The motel I pulled into in Winchester VA was just fine.  The good news was that it was warm, the staff friendly, the ramp back onto 81 easy to access.  There was a hot breakfast the next day and a restaurant attached for dinner the night I arrived. The bad news was that the restaurant was a Denny's--not a welcome sight as I have found the fare in the chain typically bland over the years.  A waitress was very nice and kept calling me honey which I overheard she called everyone from ages 8 to 98. The omelette I had was good enough and I was about to end it with that when I saw a banana split advertised on the dessert menu.

For some reason that banana split looked like the treat of treats on the menu.  I can't tell you why I have rarely had these over the years, but I haven't opting often for hot fudge sundaes as an adult, ice cream sodas as a teenager, and malteds as kid.  This banana split looked like just the sort of thing that a fellow who had driven three hours on ice deserved to eat.  So I, honey, asked for one.

What is a banana split? It is a banana, split.  I buy bananas at home.  My understanding is they are good for potassium.  When I was an active tennis player playing in tournaments I would eat a bunch of these in the days before a tournament to preclude cramping which, otherwise, was inevitable if I played several matches in a weekend.  So, I know bananas and can split them.  I also buy ice cream on a regular basis and this tendency is a good reason why I need to spend over an hour on the elliptical each evening or otherwise look something akin to a heiffer. 

So, it would be easy to make myself a banana split, but I can't remember ever having done so. 

Out it came. The waitress said, "enjoy honey" and I went at it.  

It tasted like a banana with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream.  Not as exotic as I imagined it would be.  I sat in my booth for a while thinking about banana splits and how something like a banana with icecream in it had become an attractive dessert offering that had, just moments ago, appeared to me to be something far more grand than what it was.

Coach Bill Belichick is wont to say "It is what it is" when he refers to phenomena.  I guess that is what I can say about a banana split.  It is what it is, nothing more.  I think, however, there are phenomena--unlike banana splits--that transcend what they are.  

Some sporting events, for example, transcend what they are.  This weekend's and next weekend's football games will be more than 22 players pushing one another around.  Ask hockey fans, who are missing the season because of the NHL labor dispute, if the absence of a hockey season is just missing a series of games, or something more.  Human relationships are also more than what they are.  A kiss is more than just a kiss for those who are attached at the heart.  

But a banana split--unlike emotional desserts like an exciting sporting event or a loving embrace--it just is what it is.