Friday, June 27, 2014

The Fuss

I think I get the fuss now.  I don't quite have my arms around it completely, but I am getting there.

Yesterday at around noon I tried to get the US-Germany match on my computer.  Had it for a spell, but then it froze so I walked with purpose across the campus to a place where I sensed the game would be on a screen or two.

We have a Starbucks on campus.  Good one too.  It is a large rectangle, say about 100 feet long and 40 feet wide.  The room is actually a multipurpose facility. When Starbucks closes, there is a stage and students can entertain or be entertained by various bands and performers.  In the room there are about five or six television sets, typically airing an ESPN broadcast of some sort.

I figured that the managers would be showing the World Cup match on at least a couple of the screens. I arrived with about twenty minutes gone in the first half and the place was jammed.  Every tv in the joint had the game on.  So many were there watching (and apparently had been anticipated) that the wait staff had placed several rows of seats theatre style in front of the largest screen which seemed to have been inserted just for the occasion.  The crowd was so large that a staff person was rhythmically telling a group to get away from the door, barking periodically like the security folks in airports who tell you to remove your shoes and jacket and dispose fluids.

There was a woman from Germany standing behind me and the squeal she let out when her team scored in the second half was a top tier yell.  (The game, as most readers know, was played in Brazil as are all the games in this World Cup.  The most clever line I read yesterday on a facebook post was something like, "Wouldn't it make sense for Germany to play the United States in France?")

The size and the cheers of the fans reflected the wild enthusiasm for the games.  As I watched the contest I recognized more than I had previously how this game could be so engaging and exciting. Germany, in particular, was passing the ball beautifully and defending aggressively.   Soccer or futball has so few scores, that the game is essentially sudden death right from the start.   So any progress toward the goal becomes exciting.  The net is large so any shot has the potential of getting by the goal tender. Yet very few shots get to be taken.

This game was riveting in the second half after the US went down 1-0. In a game that was being played concurrently, Ghana had tied Portugal.  If Ghana scored a goal to go ahead in its game, the US--due to an arcane tie breaking rule--would have been eliminated--unless- the U.S. was able to tie its game.  So, the importance of the outcomes of both games played at the same time ratcheted up the importance of almost every pass and touch.

I think if I lived in a country where soccer was the sport, it might become as exciting to me, as it is to the crazies in Brazil who are screaming like maniacs for their team and country.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ivory Coast-Greece; illogical

I am sure there are aspects of football, baseball, basketball and hockey--sports that I have watched my entire life--that would seem illogical to those unfamiliar with these games.  Maybe the kneel down in football, chin music in baseball, intentional fouls in basketball to stop the clock, or referee relaxation of the penalty rules in sudden death overtime in hockey.

Maybe these rules would appear to be incomprehensible to those who watch, say, only cricket and soccer from the time they are pipsqueaks.

But for me, what I just saw in the Ivory Coast, Greece World Cup game just does not make sense.  In soccer it is difficult to get a decent shot on goal.  The teams can play for 90 minutes and each team might have five chances all game to have contested shots at the goaltender.

In today's game, with the score tied 1-1 in the final contest of group play, Ivory Coast seemed as if it would advance to the round of 16.  All they needed was the tie. Greece needed a win.

The game was in stoppage time. This phenomenon, stoppage time, is another aspect of soccer that is odd to a western eye.  But I'm sure it is peculiar for the uninitiated to observe a baseball game stopped so that a batter can step away from home plate in order to spit and scratch all over.

In the Ivory Coast/Greece game, there were three minutes of stoppage time.  The Ivory Coast had a fast break but could not score. Greece got the ball back and desperately was trying to get a shot on goal.  A ball was played into the box. A player for Greece went to kick it, and was brushed by an Ivory Coast player.  The brush was not too bad on replay, but you could make a case that the Greek player might have had a good shot had he not been brushed.

The rule in this case is incomprehensible.  After 90 minutes of killing each other just to have a chance at a contested shot, a brush in the box results in an uncontested penalty kick from about ten feet away. From ten feet a toddler could kick the ball past a goalie.  This rule essentially gives the hard fought game to the team getting the kick.  The punishment does not fit the crime. This is the electric chair for stealing a pack of gum.

On the penalty shot, the Ivory Coast goalie actually guessed correctly, dove to his left, but he had no chance to stop a rocket shot from such close range.

Game over. Greece wins. Greece advances. Ivory Coast goes home.

Someone who understands soccer has to explain this to me.

Monday, June 23, 2014

No Taking Advantage

In Brooklyn,where I grew up until the age of 10 1/2, there were a crew of kids in my and the surrounding buildings who played various games seemingly, in retrospect, continuously.  Kick the can, barrel ball, stickball, stoopball, Johnny on the pony, catcher-flyers-up, off the wall, punch ball...others.

Before we'd begin, if the game involved a ball of any sort, someone in the group would yell either, "chips on the ball" or "no chips."  If it was your ball you hollered the former.  If you were not quick enough, the rest of your pals shouted, "no chips."

"Chips on the ball" meant that if someone lost the ball, the person who lost it was responsible for buying a replacement. This was not insignificant if you were playing with a Spaulding (pronounced Spall-Deen) because those cost a quarter.

How could you lose a ball playing say, punchball?  Well, a punched ball could go down a sewer;  the sourpus lady on the bench could confiscate it when it hit her for the sixth time; the ball could go through an open window in a building used for the center field wall; a big kid could pick it up and run; or maybe you just could not find it in what we referred to as the "sticker bushes."  Regardless of where it went, if you threw it there, or hit it there, and there were "chips on the ball" you were hung for a quarter.

"No chips" was a recurring chant before a game.  A less frequently uttered, but a regular other shout, was the call "No Taking Advantage."

Let's say you had seven kids ready to play a game.  The sides would of course be uneven. So, we would hunt around for an eighth kid to play.  Usually we could find a reluctant eighth but typically this person was not especially "good."  The eighth person might play an outfield position where balls were unlikely to go.   A clever player might try to hit it to the weak player to increase the chances of getting a hit. Therefore, the call, "No taking advantage" would be declared. This meant that you could not hit the ball to the weak player.

I thought of the "no taking advantage" rule a couple of Thursday's ago during my regular old man's double match.  I have been having some trouble with my mobility lately. I can go on the elliptical machine for long spells, but can't move easily to my right or run for any duration.

After about six months of this problem figuring it would go away, I went to the doc this morning.  He took an x-ray, showed me the picture and said, "Look here."  I looked there, saw my bones looking as they typically do.  He showed me that there was not much space where there should be a gap and told me to go see someone who specializes in this area.  (Unfortunately, the specialist only works on Thursdays, so whatever I was to see in the picture will remain for several weeks).

Point is, last week when I was playing, my opponents--I think--were trying not "to take advantage".  Every so often I thought a shot would come my way, but they hit it the other way, because they figured I could not get to the better shot and did not want to take advantage of a guy who was moving like Methuselah.

This bugged me.  At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, I was never someone who was the reason for shouting, "No taking advantage."  In our foursome, I was as strong as anyone on the court, at least in our early years of competing.  Opponents would not hit the ball to me then, because I was likely to get it back. Now they weren't hitting to me because unless it came right to me, I would need a cab to get to the ball.

That night I eventually loosened up some and got to quite a few balls, and played better than I have in months.  But the thought hung around: What would it feel like if you knew someone was being nice to you because of a deficiency. Wouldn't "No taking advantage" take its toll on the person who was the reason for the shouting?  Probably should have realized this when I was nine, and I may have been ahead of the curve then, because I think I was more likely just not to hit the ball to the weaker player as opposed to announcing that I wouldn't or we shouldn't.  Still, I remember the shouting and playing and not hitting it to so and so because that meant we would be taking advantage.

Probably not that profound of a realization, but I think there is a lesson in there somewhere. You can't yell "chips on the feelings" if someone hurts them.  And you might be inadvertently hurting someone by shouting "no taking advantage" whenever they get in a game.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

World Cup

Probably the easiest way to explain the emotional nature of sports to someone not familiar with it, is to place the uninitiated in front of a television set during a world cup game broadcast.  The shots of the wild fans, players, and coaches will tell the story.  Hockey players after they score a goal are exuberant. They cluster around the goal scorer doing the hockey version of an embrace.  However, compared to soccer, hockey celebrations are perfunctory and lifeless.

When the United States scored its second goal against Ghana, the US coach nearly went into orbit. Scenes of US fans gathered in Chicago and New York indicate how "into" the World Cup people are here. Yet again, relative to some other countries, the US fans are subdued and disinterested.

People not reared in soccer--and I am one of them--have trouble understanding the fuss.  I kind of get it now after watching the last few world cup tournaments. Still the 0-0 games are soporific with even the occasional chances seeming too sporadic to allow for any continuous excitement. But, what the hell do I know.  Around the world, people are hanging on every kick (er touch).  The announcers and pundits are sure excited.

I was thinking today of how those who did not grow up with baseball, might react to a baseball enthusiast criticizing soccer for being slow.  A baseball game takes three hours on average.  Most innings end without scoring and often without any base runners. The pitchers take a long time between pitches. Batters are often stepping outside the box to adjust their gloves and other paraphernalia. Pitching coaches stop the action to trudge to the mound and chat with the athletes.

In soccer the ball is moving all the time. In baseball the ball is put in play every thirty seconds or so, and an at-bat can take five minutes. Before I began this blog I watched a half inning in the Tigers-Indians game. I imagined what it would be like watching it as a soccer fan.  The inning lasted over ten minutes and would have seemed interminable to anyone not familiar with baseball's nuances.

Dark Places

A good novel should meet three criteria.  It should be well written. The story line should be plausible with character depictions ringing true.  Last, there should be some message that remains with the reader for at least some time.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn is very, very, well written.  The book is a top shelf page turner-- essentially a whodunit.  The surviving daughter of a family slaughter had originally fingered her brother as the perpetrator.  She emerges from the understandable darkness of having had her mother and two sisters murdered, and attempts, twenty five years after the killings, to find out if her incarcerated brother is indeed the murderer.

Some page turners are just that and only that.  You turn the pages but the story is so far fetched that when you get done you figure all you did was pass the time.  Dark Places is not far fetched in this way. There are some characters and actions that do not pass the ridickalus test, but enough do to make the story seem real.

The novel is written from the vantage point of several characters.  The main character, the surviving daughter, is well crafted.  The sections told from her perspective are relayed in the first person. The problem I have with her, is that the sole survivor (at 7) of a mass killing is unlikely to be as insightful and erudite as Libby appears to be from how she describes her activities. There are plenty of self-deprecating comments she makes that relate to her reaction to the tragedy, but she just seems too unblocked and persevering.  Also, the brother's post tragedy behavior doesn't ring true.  Some other actions are also questionable--as in "c'mon would she really do that?"

Still, the story is far better and more logical than many other popular whodunits that have too many convenient and illogical plot turns.

Will the message stick around? I think so. Not sure if it will be around a long time.  We all need to emerge from Dark Places, though very few have to withstand something like a mass murder in our family. Yet, the idea that we have dark places and sometimes feel stuck in them is real. And it takes a good deal of energy to work to address the sources of darkness and find the light.

A good book and recommended.  If you are squeamish, there are parts that might make you uncomfortable, but if you can get through that, this will be a fast enjoyable read.

Monday, June 16, 2014

What's the Point?

When I was a kid there was a tv show my parents watched called "Keep Talking." It was a game show. Two panelists--celebrities as I recall--were on each of two teams.  At the beginning of a game the host would hand each team a quote.  One team might get "Hey, it looks like you've put on weight."  Another team might be handed the line, "Get whatever is on sale."  Then the host would begin a made up story, "Two people were walking to the grocery one day."  A buzzer would ring and one of the two panelists on a team would have to continue the story--keep talking.  Another buzzer would ring and that would mean the other team would need to continue the story where the first team had brought it.  Each panelist would get one or two turns and the goal was for the team to get into the story the line they had been handed. At the end of the game, the opposing teams had to guess what the line was their opponents had been handed.  Funny show. Joey Bishop was great in it. Very cleverly weaving the lines into the story.

When I read books I am often taken by a line in the story which seems to capture the essence of the book.  It's not quite analogous to the Keep Talking game, but I figure in the book there is some part which nutshells the message the author is attempting to convey.  Often it is easy to pick out the key sentence or sentences because the title of the book is somehow in there.  Other times it just hits you between the eyes.   Sometimes you figure this might be it, and then as you finish the book you just know that it is.

I just finished Amy and Isabelle a book by Elizabeth Strout.  Probably not the best book to read on Father's Day which is when I finished it.  It is about a daughter, Amy, and her mother, Isabelle. And while this is a mother daughter relationship it really is about parents and their offspring.  Amy and Isabelle are at odds for much of the book.

Amy has a buddy Stacy. The two of them sneak out and hang out smoking cigarettes during lunch breaks at high school.  They talk about their parents. At one point, Stacy utters the Keep Talking line. She's been squawking about her ancestors and herself. She says, "Because if everyone just turns out like their mother, then what's the rat's ass point?"

This is the essence of the book.  The sentence is about 1/3rd through the novel and by then you get a sense of how similar Isabelle and Amy may be despite the fact that they are at loggerheads nearly all the time.   The book is very well written, but to me at least as I read the majority of the book on father's day, very depressing.  The character of Isabelle particularly is depicted very well revealing all of her and our complexities. Amy too is well drawn.  If you like to read, then I would recommend it, but you are not going to bust a gut laughing.

So, what is the rat's ass point?  The point is that we have a chance to evolve.  We have a chance to love our ancestors and become stronger which is what Isabelle wants for Amy though there are times you wonder if Isabelle will understand herself enough to allow Amy the breathing room. And at other times you wonder if Amy has the goods to mature.  Stacy is right. If all we do is become our parents there is no rat's ass point even if our parents are wonderful. We have a chance to be ourselves and evolve.  And we have a chance to bring life into the world if we are wise enough to do so.  The new always have a chance to evolve. Read a note on facebook on Friday that my dear Aunt Ethel had a heart attack while driving and perished Friday afternoon.  Horrible news of course, but on Thursday, a day before, life came into the world as Sophie Jane arrived.  My aunt's great nephew and niece brought in life as she left us. And Sophie has a chance to grow and evolve and be happy and squeeze the wonderful juice from this gift called life.

That's the point.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day 2014

According to family lore, when I was five months old my father was holding me while watching a closely contested basketball game. At a particularly thrilling juncture Dad became so excited that he bolted up from his chair and tossed me unintentionally into the air.

Apparently, I come honestly by my enthusiasm for sports and interest in those who are similarly enthusiastic.  It was appropriate then that I dedicated my book about college basketball and its fans to my father, Meyer Zaremba, who may have tossed me in the air that day, but on that day and all others never failed to be there with his arms open wide to catch me on the way down.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.  Thank you.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Let's Hear it for the Rangers

The New York Rangers were defeated tonight 3-2 in double overtime. The LA Kings won the Stanley Cup.

But there is nothing but praise that should be coming to the Rangers. Heavy underdogs, they lost three of the four games in the championship in overtime. Two of these in double overtime.  They played tough and showed tremendous energy and class.

The Kings are champions, but let's hear it for the Rangers.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Dear Dad,

You are a great grandfather again.  Yesterday Sophia Jane arrived. Six pounds thirteen ounces. Shannon and Matt are doing well.

Congratulations.  The line of Zarembas continues.

Bobby and I will be visiting you this week. I'll be down Saturday and he arrives a few days later. We need to go through the house and see what we will be doing.  Also, it will be good to connect with him and congratulate him on his second grandchild.  All this is the great news.

On the relatively (and very) insignificant front, your Miami Heat are stinking up the gym in their series with the Spurs.  I told you they split the first two games in Texas and then were coming to Florida for the third and fourth. Well, the Heat were beaten like they had stolen something in both games. Down by twenty at the half each time.  Looked completely outclassed.  The Spurs are smothering the very unimaginative offense and every one of the Spurs' players is on fire.  Ginobli doesn't even need to flop. The teams go back to Texas for game five and unless the Heat think of something about how to move the ball on offense, it will be time to say kaddish on the season.  Even if the Heat have a good game in Texas, the idea of watching them win three in a row after the last two games is not worthy of much consideration.

The Rangers stayed alive on Wednesday. They lost the first two games of the Finals in overtime, one in double overtime. Then lost 3-0, to make it 3-0 in games. But night before last they held off the Kings to make the series 3-1. They resume the series tonight in Los Angeles.  It would be a miracle if they won.

But miracles happen. Look at this great picture of Sophia Jane with Jack.  Little pipsqueak and her big brother.  In Shannon's belly one moment and then this wonderful alive miracle the next.  I don't think I ever reacted so happily to news as when Bobby told me that she had arrived.  Grandma would point to a baby and say, "From this they make a mensch?"  Any descendent of yours dad, has a head start toward menschlikite.

Shabbat shalom, Dad. See you soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sophia Jane

Welcome this morning, Sophia Jane.

How is it Sophia that I love you, and I have not seen you.

Six pounds and thirteen ounces.

There's so much fun ahead of you.  You have devoted dear kind parents, wonderful grandparents, and a big brother who will soon be 5!  There are adventures and friends and love.  Ice cream cones and hot pastrami sandwiches and pizza.  Sliding ponds and swings and monkey bars.

Welcome Sophia Jane Zaremba. I will try not to sully your name.

Monday, June 9, 2014

tough loss

Rangers were defeated tonight by a very good LA Kings team.  It's now 3-0 in the best of seven series.  Give credit to Jonathon Quick who made terrific saves for the Kings.

In the first series of the playoffs the Kings were down 3-0 to the Sharks and came back to win four straight.  Hockey is the only sport where teams down 3-0 have occasionally come back to win. (Baseball's Red Sox are the only baseball team to come back from such a deficit. No team in basketball has ever come back down 3-0).  So, the Kings still need another win.  And Quick is due to have a weak game.  I have just watched an interview with him.  He looks like he is not yet 20.

It will be miraculous if the Rangers come back.  I do like the Broadway Blues in game 4 which means that any reader should bet the farm on the Kings.  But I like the Rangers in game 4 and then again in 5.  Then game 6 is at home.  And by the seventh the Rangers will have the momentum.

We'll see.

Jack's wisdom

Soon to be five year old Jack, my nephew's son, made it to the end of the third period on Sunday night watching the Rangers, his dad's and grandfather's, favorite hockey team. The Rangers had been playing the Kings in the second game of the Stanley Cup finals.  The game started at 8, and the third period ended in a 4-4 tie. It was about 11 pm before the first overtime period began when the nearly five year old had a date with the sandman.

The next morning Jack awakened and asked his father who won the game. His dad had to reveal the sad news that the Rangers had been defeated in the second over time period.

Jack's response.

"That's okay, Dad.  I'm proud of them."

Tonight's third game in Madison Square Garden will be attended by nearly 20,000 zealots.  It would be great if the gathered there can have Jack's wisdom, win or lose.  The Rangers have won three thrilling series to advance to the finals. Nobody thought they would get to play for the trophy.  Jack's right. All fans should be "proud of them."

post game rant

Very exciting game last night between the Heat and the Spurs. Some comments I began writing with 9 seconds left to the game and are finishing up this morning.

The Heat went away from their strength by going with James one on one at the end.  James is the best player on the floor, but the Heat have other very good players.  At the end of the game the Heat gave the ball to James and got out of his way which meant the other four were just standing around. It seems to have worked out because the Heat prevailed. Yet, they easily could have lost had Bosh not hit the long three and had Parker and Duncan not missed four consecutive foul shots.  Today all are pronouncing the Heat as playing wisely. The exclamations would be to the contrary, however, had the Spurs made foul shots and had Bosh's shot clanked out.  So, I think the Heat need to change the way they play.  The Spurs have less talent than the Heat. Despite yesterday's outcome, they are playing smarter.

The Spurs flopping and complaining is bothersome.  Duncan is a whiner and was never more so than in the Olympic games when he continuously got in foul trouble and cost us the Gold that year.  Ginobli's game is beautiful but he just flops too much. And while I like Parker, his reaction to getting hit in the gut by an elbow was over the top.  Yes, it was a foul and I agree that it was a flagrant, but the excessive reaction seemed contrived to perhaps get the offending player tossed out of the game.  If you play basketball you have been elbowed in the gut more than once.  I can't remember a kid on the schoolyard writhing around like Parker did last night. We will see what happens in the next game, but if Parker is fresh as a daisy, the blow to the ribs could not have been that great.  And the NBA will have to be more rigorous in enforcing the no flopping rule. Otherwise the games will be like soccer with players diving all over the court in an attempt to get a flagrant foul call.

Popovich is a great coach and an even better interviewee. His quips are to the point and humorous when the sideline announcers head his way between periods. I think Spoelstra is getting outcoached and definitely outquipped.

The Heat have so much talent sitting on the bench.  Their second five could beat the first five of many teams.

I think the Spurs will find a way to win one of the two games in Miami, making it a best of three series.

And as long as I am writing, Go Rangers, tonight.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nadal--Greatness and Emotion

One should be careful about declaring that an athlete in any sport will be the best in all time.   Recordings of sporting events from even twenty years ago, make the athletes in those games seem prehistoric when compared to contemporary players.  Chris Evert looked to be the steadiest women's player imaginable. Watching tapes of her now make it seem as if she would be overwhelmed by the power of a Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams.  Some athletes do last the test of time.  Sandy Koufax, for example, may never be equalled.  I don't know if any contemporary basketball player could stop Wilt Chamberlain.  Still, it is risky to look at someone now and say, "Nobody will ever be better than she or he."

However, watching Rafael Nadal today at the French Open made me wonder who will ever be able to beat this guy on clay--and who in any era could defeat him.  Nadal got to everything. Djokovic was making incredible shots only to have Nadal return them incredibly.  Each shot by Djokovic had to take something out of him and for every point he had to pummel the ball several times before it was over.  Nadal gave up on almost nothing forcing Djokovic, even when he won points, to earn them. Djokovic is great. Nadal on clay is sensational.

When he won the fourth and final set 6-4, Nadal reacted as if he had won for the first time. (This was the ninth time he had won this tournament.  His record at Roland Garros is something like 66-1). He yelped with joy, ran into the stands to thank his family and supporters and was all aglow.  And Djokovic was despondent.  A runner up yet again to Nadal at the French.

Nadal earned over two million for winning this tournament.  Djokovic will go home with half of that. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that the reason for the players' reactions was the million dollars.  Now, a million dollars--even in 2014-is still a million dollars.  Nobody in my circle wouldn't do the mambo if they earned a million dollars.  Yet, the reason Nadal jumped for joy had nothing to do with the money--and not just because he is loaded.  The reason why Djokovic was sad was not because he missed out on a million. I would be surprised that either of them thought about the money as they played or in the aftermath of the match.

Emotion, not shekels, runs the show.   Sure, you need enough money to eat, live in comfortable surroundings, feel safe, and be able to get around.  Without that, money is a motivator. But with that, a motivator at least as important--but likely more important than money--is emotion.  This is why sports plays such a central role in contemporary society.  People get happy when their team wins. New York Ranger fans, including myself, let out a loud sad sound last night when the Kings prevailed in double overtime. Not because they lost a bet.  Ranger fans are sad today and Rafael Nadal is happy and the owner of California Chrome is livid, for reasons that are not primarily related to money.

Friday, June 6, 2014

shabbat shalom 6-6

It's just about the time when I would call you.  Friday late afternoon. Just about to leave the office.  I call.

You: (a raspy) Hello
Me: Shabbat Shalom Dad.
You: Shabbat Shalom.
Me: How are you doing?
You: Okay. I'm doing Okay.

But you weren't.

Read a book that mom would have loved. And you would have liked it too.  There was one part in particular that would have resonated.  The main character, a widow, is walking along the beach. She sees a guy from the neighborhood lying on his side as if he has collapsed.  He says he is okay.  She asks what has happened.  He says, he lost his wife several months ago.  "Oh" she says, "You're in hell."  That is what it was like for you after mom died.  I think if you could have just hung on for a while there would have been some light at the end of that sad tunnel. But, as you used to say to me after you had made a point, "What the hell do I know."

I hear songs and think of you. There's a thing on the computer called Pandora. You write in a certain kind of music and the computer plays songs of that ilk.  So, I wrote in Phil Ochs, earlier today, and I am hearing protest music now.  Just heard a great song that you would have loved. I had heard it before but it's been years. "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler" by Tom Paxton.  Played "Draft Dodger Rag" a while ago. I remember you singing it with Bobby and me at my fiftieth party.  You and mom are the only parents I knew who marched on Washington before their kids did.  You two were protestors. Such good people.  Morally without equal.

The Heat lost last night.  Baloney game.  Air conditioning went out in the AlamoDome, so they played in a shvitz.  James couldn't finish.  Cramped up. Duncan did his whining as usual.  Ginobli flopping like a flounder every time someone sneezed on him.  Still tough not to like Ginobli and Parker.  Next game is Sunday.  If they fix the air conditioner, LeBron will score 60 and Duncan can whine all the way to Miami for the next two games.

Got through the anniversary of mom's death alright. Yesterday was the anniversary of the funeral and I did not think about it. We'll be okay.  Shannon is about to pop. Any day now and another Zaremba.

At the post office there is a reminder poster that June 15th is Father's Day.  To compensate for the fact that nobody mails a letter anymore the post office is pushing holidays like Hallmark. They are even selling cards in the lobby.  Seeing that sign is like a pop to the gut every day when I go to check my mail.  Truth is that I don't need a father's day to know how lucky I was to have you as a father.

Shabbat Shalom, Dad.

San Antonio Heat

In the first quarter of last night's first game of the NBA championship, the air conditioning in the arena stopped working. It was close to 90 degrees outside in San Antonio.  Inside it was sweltering.  A roving reporter had a gauge and said it was nearly 100 degrees on the court.

In the fourth quarter, the best player in the world, Miami's LeBron James, cramped up. With seven minutes to go he had to be carried off the court.   If you have ever cramped up after playing sports, you know what it feels like.  The pain is excruciating and you feel as if you literally can't move.  In the short run, there is nothing you can do.

Cramping was a problem I had when I used to play in weekend warrior tennis tournaments. If you won a match that was the good news. The bad news was that you had to play another one in an hour.  In a non atypical tournament I once played two matches on a Saturday beginning at around noon. And then played the semi-finals and finals on Sunday starting at 9 a.m.    Four matches in less than thirty hours. We would attempt to combat cramping by eating bananas starting on the Thursday before the event. The potassium was somehow good for preempting the problem.

(My tournament tennis playing took place thirteen years ago. This morning, after playing old man's doubles last night for 90 minutes I can barely walk--nothing to do with cramps, but old bones. Tis the truth. I practically needed a cab to get to the bathroom when I got up).

One would think that the Miami Heat and LeBron James would be familiar with anti-cramping techniques. They probably are.  However, they had no idea that the air conditioning would malfunction before the game and they would play an NBA championship game in a sauna bath.  So they did not take the preemptive steps they might have taken had they known about these conditions.

Last night I heard coaches and players talking about the hot conditions. They all said the same thing. And the pundits and NBA officials chimed in with similar wisdom this morning. "Yes" they all said, "the heat was a factor, but it was the same for both teams."

This is a flawed and fallacious argument. Those who study communication are often in the business of identifying fallacious communications.  This is a good illustration of one. Yes, it is true that the conditions were the same for both teams.   However, this is irrelevant when we consider if the outcome of the game was valid.  And that is what the interviewees are implying when they say, "It was the same for both teams."

A valid test is one that tests what it is supposed to test. An NBA basketball game--especially one played for a championship--is supposed to assess which is the better team.   Yes, it was 90 degrees for both teams.  That does not render the outcome valid.

Let's say the game was played in a pool.  True, the conditions would be the same for both teams, but NBA teams and players do not train to play in water. So, while the condition would be the same, it would affect the validity of the outcome.  Let's say they were playing on a slippery floor.  That would be the same for both teams, but maybe players on some teams are better at slipping and sliding. Playing on a slick floor is typically not an asset considered when one selects players to play basketball, but it could be an important factor in a game played in slippery conditions. So a victory by team A played on a slick floor would be irrelevant in determining the better team. Basketball is not like football when all teams know conditions can vary and need to prepare for these eventualities.

From what I heard last night, LeBron James is prone to cramping. Well, had he known the game would be played in a steambath maybe he would have had a bunch of bananas and consumed a gallon of water a day for three days.  The fact is that basketball games are not supposed to be played in a shvitz.

It is a shame that a championship game should be decided like that. When James went out the Miami Heat were up. When he left they folded like a cheap bridge table.  San Antonio won game one, but it was a different game.   Maybe they should play volleyball for game 2. It would be the same for both teams.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Olive Kitteridge--Review

This book was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. The praise from reviewers on the back of the cover is effusive.

The book deserves every complimentary word.

This is why you read if you read.  Olive Kitteridge is as good as it gets.  It is a compilation of linked stories about a small town on the coast of Maine. The title character appears in some way in each chapter. Most of the time she is central, occasionally she is a minor figure.

The book is about the joy and pains of love and loss. It may sound trite, but the writing and messages are not. On the contrary some of the stories are so powerful that, early on--and this is not an exaggeration--my stomach began to feel the kind of pain one feels when one hurts because of love.  I did have some spicy food before reading the section, but that was not it.  Today, one day after finishing the book I find myself thinking about it and feeling the same emotional sensations.

I am not one to read the end of a book until I get to it and am startled that there are those who have no problem with doing so.  However, the last three paragraphs of this book are for the ages, and while it might give something away to go there first, for anyone who is unlikely to read the book but will want to understand its essence, these three paragraphs will illustrate how well the author writes and the quality of her message.