Friday, April 29, 2016

Seems apt right?

Donald Trump has referred to his opponents as Lyin Ted Cruz and Crooked Hilary.  He called Republican challengers, Cruz and Rubio, those "two morons."  He has suggested that all Muslims should be banned.  And that we should build a wall such that Mexicans cannot come into the country. He has intimated that a female journalist was asking difficult questions because she was menstruating. He has suggested that Senator John McCain--a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War for several years--was not a war hero because he got caught. Trump said he likes those who don't get caught. Trump is running for president and has millions of supporters.

A substitute teacher in Michigan was fired recently for using the word vagina in a discussion of an artist's work.

Seems appropriate, right?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Started Early, Took My Dog.

A friend mentioned Kate Atkinson to me while we were having breakfast a few weeks back. He asked if I had read anything by her and I had not.  He said he was reading a book she wrote and liked it a lot. So, I went to the library and picked up Started Early, Took My Dog.  I knew nothing about it except the author had been recommended and it was a paperback. The latter fact was key since I was taking it in a suitcase for a trip that would involve a long plane ride.

I really liked this book.  There are some caveats but it was so well written and the characters--nearly always--well fleshed out.

It's a mystery.  In a nutshell (without giving away much): A woman police officer and her partner discover a dead body in an apartment.  A child who is alive is also in the apartment.  The story fast forwards forty years. The woman police officer is now retired making some extra money as a shopping mall cop arresting shop lifters.  A series of events take place that reminds the cop of the murder scene forty years prior.  The story--bouncing back and forth from 1975 to the present-- unravels the mystery of that death in April of 1975.

I mentioned the caveats.  There are a number.  (a) At least two key strings of the story are not tied up at the end.  One just needs to be, unless it is the author's intent to write a sequel--even so we should know more about Courtney before this book concludes.  (b) It is completely implausible that Jackson will bump into Tracy in the way he does. Yes, there are coincidences but that is ridickalus.  Also highly unlikely that two detectives will have such common names and related purposes. (c) The story is extraordinarily complex.  I had to keep going back to remind myself of who was who and what happened when.  In a way this was very clever by the author, dropping a character in who you might think was peripheral and then finding out that she or he was not.  However, this is not the kind of book you can start on a Sunday and pick up the following weekend. You will just forget who is who. I had a return long plane ride during which I could begin the book and so I read a whole bunch in one sitting--still I had to keep going back.

Okay that is the bad news. The good news is that the writing is engaging, the characters--for the most part--real and well developed.  In a way I liked the development of the peripheral characters because after a while you did not know who was important and who wasn't so trying to figure out who did it was like trying to figure out a case if you were a detective. Who knows what matters and what does not.

When I finished, I read up on the author and found that a main character in Started Early, Took My Dog is in three previous books by Atkinson.  I think some of the references to events in this novel are events that took place in the prior books.  It is an indication of how much I liked Started Early, Took My Dog, that I immediately went looking for the first in the series when I got done.  I just, moments ago, took it out of the university library.  Not sure I want to get into Atkinson's wild world again right now having just emerged from it, but it will be a book I will read not too far down the road.

Bottom line. Don't read this unless you are flying to Timbuktu, or are on vacation, or retired. You just have to read it in a few days otherwise, you will almost have to reread the whole book to remember who is who.  However, if you do like to read, and have time, and don't mind that some parts are not tied up neatly at the end, Started Early, Took My Dog, is a fun ride.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Brady Redux

There is something the average fan, and maybe even the learned sports writer, does not know. There must be.

The Brady saga continues.  Today a tribunal reversed Judge Richard Berman's decision and reinstated Tom Brady's four game suspension for allegedly tampering with footballs.  The majority argument, (there was a dissenter) had nothing to do with the facts of the deflation, but rather the right of the NFL to render a punishment under the collective bargaining agreement.

Berman's decision at the end of the summer was based on his perspective that the NFL had been capricious and sloppy in its findings which served as the foundation for the suspension. And, he reasoned, while the NFL has the right to punish they do not have the right to do so irresponsibly. Apparently the judges who opined in favor of the NFL today felt that either the foundation of the report was solid or the NFL had the right to be capricious if they wanted to be.

There is a big piece that has to be missing.  A very big piece.

If Tom Brady was certain of his innocence and the Patriots were similarly certain, they would and should scream bloody murder after all this time.  As I read through the findings of the NFL report there is nothing, nada, borscht, that comes any where close to proving that Brady was behind the deflation--nothing even to prove categorically that the balls were deflated.

But I am hoping that there must be something. Because otherwise, if there is no evidence, then the NFL is being run by a moron who will get his ass sued to such an extent that there will be no more NFL.  After all this time, Goodell would have to realize--even though I believe he is not the swiftest, and also believe that if it were not for his Dad, he would be a struggling nobody--that the NFL should give it up if there is no evidence.

And, also, if there is no evidence where has the Patriots' stones gone.  Are you going to take this abuse for over a year now if you are innocent.  It makes no sense that you would.  You played nice and you get this and you did nothing. You would bring out the lawyers.

So, I think something big, as in very big, has been withheld from the public. Either that or within a week Tom Brady and the Patriots will bring the NFL to its knees with a law suit.

I would love it if some reader can read the NFL report and show me something I missed that will indicate that Tom Brady instructed someone to break the rules and deflate the footballs.  When I go through it, I see nothing that would cause a dispassionate arbiter to suspend a marquis player at all let alone four games.

So, I think there must be something.

Steph Curry vs Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

I fear that Steph Curry's knee injury may keep him out of the playoffs. Like, I imagine, many other sports fans I have been checking the internet regularly today to discover the results of his MRI.  It would be sad and bad for the NBA if a freak spill (Curry slipped on a wet spot on the court) takes him out of this season.

I watched a documentary over the weekend about Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the NBA player identified as one of the top five players of all time in the NBA.  Jabbar was a very good player, but I don't believe that if he played in this era he would have been such a dominant force.  And I think one could write the same about many of the centers of the pre-three point era.  With the possible exception of Bill Russell.  Curry and other players who can consistently make three point shots are more valuable than Jabbar would have been in this era.

Before the three point rule came into effect in the late 70s, a team had to have a big man in order to be successful. The Knicks, until they got Willis Reed, were perennial losers because they had no dominant center.  A center was valuable in that era for three reasons.

The first was because he acted as a last stop defender for players driving to the basket. Opponents thought twice about taking the ball to the rim against Russell because he was so good at blocking shots.  A high percentage play in basketball, particularly at that time, was driving to the basket to get closer.  So, having a big guy in the middle who could swat away attempts close to the basket was valuable.  The second reason you needed a big guy was for rebounding. Nobody rebounded like Russell and Chamberlain.

The third reason why the big man was valuable, particularly for someone like Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain, was because the big guy would have an easier go of it to make a basket. If you were tall and athletic and could get the ball down low, your shot percentage was a lot higher than someone who had to shoot from a greater distance. Wilt Chamberlain was so strong that if he got the ball near the basket he could dunk the ball and maybe his defender at the same time. Jabbar was not as strong, but he had an indefensible hook shot which was almost a guaranteed two points if he got the ball low.

In contemporary basketball, however, taking a shot from around the basket may not be as wise as taking a shot from thirty feet away. When I played basketball a coach would scream at a player who took a long shot.  The chances of making a long shot were a lot lower than the chances of making one close to the basket.   Today nobody screams at you for taking a thirty foot shot if you can make a decent percentage. If you make a shot from thirty feet you get three points for your effort. If you dunk the ball you only get two.  What has become normal in today's game is for a player who has an easy guaranteed layup to throw the ball out to someone thirty feet away so that he can take a three. You don't have to be a math major to figure out why you might do that.  If you can make 5 of ten shots around the basket (a decent percentage) you would score 10 points. If you could make 4 out of ten shots from three point range, (Curry's percentage is 45%) you would score 12 points.   So, a coach would prefer you take a three than a two.

All this is to explain why a big guy in today's game is not as valuable as a player who can shoot from long range. Stephen Curry might not have even got a tryout in 1978.  Now scouts are looking for players who can make three point shots.  You absolutely need a big player for rebounding and shot blocking, but many teams compete successfully without a dominant center because the value of the big guy is diminished.  Draymond Green who plays with Curry is "only" 6' 7" but he is more valuable in 2016 than Jabbar would be in this era, because throwing the ball into Jabbar would get you only two points, while finding Curry or Klay Thompson--another sharp shooter--or shooting yourself as Green does well, is more valuable than dumping the ball down low.  Jabbar did not hit a three point shot in his entire career.

How come you don't see many 7 foot centers in college basketball and the pros? In the sixties you scouted all over for a 7 footer. You don't see them, because the scouts are not looking high and low for them. Now you look high and low for a guy who can shoot from long range. In fact, if a player today has what we used to say were "all the tools"--but cannot shoot from long range then he does not have all the tools.

Abdul-Jabbar would not have been in the top ten players of all time if he played in the contemporary NBA.

Steph Curry will be the NBA's most valuable player for the second consecutive year this year. I sure hope the injury he suffered last night is minor.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Everything I Never Told You.

I had a very long flight on Monday.  Four hours on the first leg, then a four hour wait that included a three hour delay, and then eight plus hours more in a cramped seat on American Airlines. The bad news was that I was wasted when I arrived. The good news was that I was able to read Everything I Never Told You in one day.

I rarely have done this before and maybe never have.  I have read many of the Parker, Spenser novels and they are a breeze, but I don’t believe I ever went from start to finish in one rotation. 

It was an interesting experience finishing it in one day in that I could, in the course of a few hours, have diverse reactions to it. And I did.  There were times when I was very annoyed, and still am uncomfortable with messages that may have been intended and, even if not intended, could be extracted by readers.  By the time I finished though, I felt better about the novel and was glad I read it. 

Some bare bones below that I do not think will spoil the read if you decide to get the novel.

The teenage daughter in a family of five is dead. This happens on page one, so I am giving nothing away with this information.  The family is understandably distraught.  Her brother thinks a neighbor is involved, the mother doesn’t know about the neighbor but is certain that the daughter was murdered, the cops are not so sure, the father seems to side with the cops, another insightful sister just wants to keep the peace.  

What I did not like about the book is that some of the negative experiences that upset the family seemed to be presented as justifications for the children's behavior. Nobody lives a perfect life and I was concerned with the depiction of the children as tortured because of issues that, while painful, we all have to deal with. 

When I got to the end I understood what I think is the author’s intent. Emotional blows—even those that we should be able to withstand—can sometimes derail us.  The title refers to many things that the family does not share, not only the husband does not share with the wife, and the wife with the husband, but things that the now deceased daughter never shared with the brother, the brother with the police, the suspected neighbor to anyone including the brother. 

It takes the entire book (not that long--just short of 300 pages) to find out how/why the daughter perishes.  I think the description is one of the more effective elements of the book. When it is revealed you can understand how and why this horrible event evolved as it did.

I recommend the book. It is well written and a good story.  I just would warn anyone who takes away from the novel that it is okay to behave irresponsibly and whine because you took a shot to the gut, that we all have our painful emotional experiences and yet have the opportunity to move forward in a positive direction. 

One last point. The neighbor’s revelation and the intimation at the end about what transpires in the future (the latter is peripheral to the story) does not ring true to me given what we are told about the neighbor throughout the novel. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Riddle Me This

Tyler Summitt has resigned his position as head coach of the Louisiana Tech's women's basketball team. Summitt is the son of famous Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.  Ms. Summitt is legendary for her success and pioneering for women's basketball.

The son resigned a few days ago because of an inappropriate relationship he acknowledged he had. While he did not reveal what that relationship was, some reports have indicated that Mr. Summitt was having an intimate relationship with one of the players on his team.

In his resignation comments, Summitt, a married man, said that he was "profoundly disappointed in myself for engaging in a relationship that has negatively affected the people I love, respect, and care about the most."

There have been columns written about the son's fall from grace and authors have wondered how this could have happened.  Such a stand up man from a family of unimpeachable character.  There are predictions that he is unlikely to ever recover from this episode and may never coach again. It is 2016.

Let's go back to the summer of 1972, forty four years prior.

I am in the second year of a masters program.  There was a cohort of about thirty of us who were pursuing a degree in what was called College Student Personnel. The program was, I write at the risk of appearing self-congratulatory, very competitive.  Those in my cohort began our studies in the summer of 1971.  We were housed together on the campus of the State University of New York at Albany and the housing was completely free.    We were mentored by three faculty who worked with us very closely.  The program involved the academic summer, then a placement during the academic year 71-72 at one of the SUNY schools throughout the state. Then we would return in the summer of 72 for a final semester of study before earning our degrees.  All coursework, retreats, everything but books was free.  Something akin to scholarship student-athletes.

The faculty were there for us every step of the way.  They helped us locate the academic year placements, taught many of the classes, mentored us about other classes to take, visited us during the academic year at the schools where we were placed, and coordinated/led three retreats held during the course of 1971-72 in Syracuse, Star Lake, and Rochester New York.  During the evenings in the summers, the faculty often led discussion groups about what we had studied. In a way they were like coaches for an athletic team.  Before the program began we were invited to the home of one of the faculty members where we met each professor and their spouses.  These social evenings with faculty and their families were not at all uncommon.

So, the first summer came and went. I left in September for Binghamton New York and buddies left for Oneonta, New Paltz, Cortland, and all over the great state of New York to do their practicum.  We met as a cohort for the retreats in Syracuse in October, Star Lake in January, and Rochester in April. We became a rather close band of graduate students.

At our first meeting when we reconvened as a cohort in June of 1972, we had a re-orientation session for the second summer with the three faculty members. At the end of the session, one of the faculty members said he had an announcement to make.  He told us that during the year he had fallen in love with one of the students in the program.  He was leaving his wife and would be moving in with the student.  He told us he wanted to be upfront with us all.

While this seemed unconventional and there were some raised eyebrows, even for the peace-love hippie era, there were absolutely no calls for this guy's ouster. Nobody even suggested he leave the program.  During the summer of 72, this faculty member continued to work with us as he had before and, after the first day of some mild surprise, the cohort just went on with the program.

The faculty member did not make a speech about how he had hurt those he loved. Nobody thought his career was ruined.  Nobody even mused about him leaving the program.

This was 44 years ago.  Two score and four years later, Tyler Summitt is wearing the scarlet letter and all are shaking their heads wondering, how and why.

Here's my question.  Has our society progressed or regressed?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

post game

That was one of the best regular season games ever.

Stephen Curry made shots that were optical illusions.  What a fantastic battle.

If you watched it you likely saw it on the NBA channel. I thought the Golden State commentators were excellent.

The Warriors have now tied the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls with 72 wins. On Wednesday they can defeat the Memphis Grizzlies and have the best record of all time.

It is so that the championship is what matters. But, gee, this achievement of 72 and possibly 73 wins in an 82 game season is fantastic.

And the way they won tonight. Playing two games in two nights. Flying from Tennessee to Texas last night arriving in San Antonio at 230 in the morning, and then Curry making shots that were, as my grandfather would have said, ridickalus.

San Antonio played an excellent game, but the Warriors, on the road, were warriors.  The contest on Wednesday will be in Oakland.  You think the joint will be jumping?  Good lord.

How would you like to be a scalper with a couple of tickets to Wednesday's game?


I have become a fan of the Golden State Warriors.  For about a month now I have checked to see when they would be on television in the Boston area and have cheered them on like a serious follower when I have been able to watch their games.

For those not in the know the Golden State Warriors are two games shy of breaking the record for most games won in an NBA season. They now-as of 530 eastern time--have 71 victories. At 7 eastern time tonight the Warriors play the San Antonio Spurs--the second best team in the NBA. If the Warriors prevail, they will have to defeat Memphis in a few days to have 73 wins and break the Chicago Bulls 1995-96 record of 72-10.

Why am I fan of Golden State?  They are located, for those geographically challenged, 3000 plus miles from where I currently am perched.  So, they are not a local favorite.  Sometime in the early 90s I visited my cousin Joe in California and he took me to a Warriors game. But while I enjoyed the game and experience a lot, that is not what turned me on to the Warriors this season.

It is the way they play. They pass and run and are trying--even though it does not matter in terms of the standings--to break this record.  Stephen Curry is a joy to watch. The guy can shoot from anywhere and works hard to get open. Klay Thompson is a shooter's shooter.  In one game last season Thompson scored 37 points IN ONE QUARTER. IN ONE QUARTER.  I watched the video of that outrageous spree and if you are a fan you have to see it.   Then there is Draymond Green.  I think he is the kind of guy who if he was not on your team, you would hate, but on your team you love. He plays all out every minute of every game.  The benchwarmers on Golden State can shoot the three and pass and rebound.

Unfortunately, I do not think they will tonight. San Antonio is a great team as well. They have a record of their own that they want to protect and that is being unbeaten at home.  The Alamodome will be rocking and probably is rocking right now 90 minutes or so before game time. It will be tough for a tired Warrior team who just played last night in Tennessee to get it up to beat San Antonio tonight.

But it will be fun to watch.  Following the Warriors is an example of what makes sport fun. I get such joy out of watching the games.  I may not be the easiest person to live with during a contest, but it is great to have enthusiasm for a game for no other reason than you are kind of pulling for the good guys.  I am not at all a fan of Tim Duncan--a stud for San Antonio--but I do like some of their other players, Tony Parker for one, and Manu Ginobli for another. And I am crazy about the coach for the Spurs, Gregg Popovich.

I am also a fan of Steve Kerr, the coach of the Warriors.  I liked him when he was a player--ironically a player on the 95-96 Bulls that hold the record the Warriors are trying to break.  I read just moments ago that the result of a back operation he had this past summer left him debilitated and he had to have a second operation to correct the damage from the first. I read that he suffers very painful headaches still. Yet the guy does not complain. He enjoys life and feels blessed to be coaching this great Warriors team.   When he was a freshman in college Kerr suffered a blow that would level most of us, and put some of the best of us in a woe is me mode for the rest of life. His dad, a professor and president of a university in Lebanon, was murdered by crazy jihadists.  As a freshman Steve Kerr got a phone call that informed him that his dad had been murdered.  Kerr's resilience, his take every day as a new opportunity attitude, is something to be admired and emulated.

I won't feel terrible if San Antonio prevails tonight, because I like Popovich and Parker.  But I am pulling for the greatest show in the NBA this evening.  Go Warriors.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Yiskadayl v Yiskaddish

The fans of the Boston Bruins are saying Kaddish throughout New England.

After defeating the Detroit Red Wings in an exciting game on Thursday, the Bruins were ready today to do what was necessary in order to earn a playoff berth in the NHL Stanley Cup tournament that begins this upcoming week.  When the dust cleared on Thursday night, the Bruins had several ways to make it into the playoffs. They would get in if

  • The Bruins beat the lowly Ottawa Senators this afternoon and the Detroit Red Wings lost to the New York Rangers.
    • The Red Wings did their part and lost to the Rangers. However the Bruins choked on a ten foot zucchini losing to the Ottawa Senators 6-1 at the Boston Garden.
The Bruins had another route to the playoffs even if they lost. They would get in if the Philadelphia Flyers lost its two remaining games. The Flyers ended that hope early by winning this afternoon. Their game tomorrow does not even matter now.

So the Bruins who looked like a shoo-in for the playoffs just a few weeks ago are done. It is over. No more iffs. The Flyers are in. The Red Wings are in. The Bruins are cleaning out their lockers.

I really like the coach of the Bruins. He seems like a stand up guy. I love how he handles press conferences speaking in English when the questioner asks in English, and responds in French when the question is presented in French.  He doesn't make excuses.  But the poor man will be out of a job before the playoffs begin.  Instead of blaming the players who underperformed, management will banish the coach.

I have written here before that hockey is my least favorite of the four professional sports, but the game is growing on me.  The officials have instituted rules that limit the likelihood of fighting which I often found to be a blemish on the game.  The action is intense for sixty minutes and the athletes are so stunningly skilled.  And watch out for the women's game which is getting better annually.

The Bruins just came out flat today. Some will blame the first string goalie who became ill before the contest and could not play.  It made a bit of a difference but they would have lost anyway.  The Bruins just did not have it.  It's too bad for true fans of the Bruins of which there are many in these parts.  I pull for the New York Rangers in hockey when I do watch, so I still have a dog in the race since the Rangers made it into the tournament. But I feel for the loyal Bruin fans chanting kaddish this afternoon.  The sports talk radio hosts were really kvetching as i drove into town this afternoon after the game.  Every caller sounded like they had lost a love.  For those folks, they had.


This is a terrific picture of my folks. It was in the summer of 1980 when I rented a house on Cape Cod.  During the preceding school year I was living and working in western New York.  A friend of mine had a friend who was going to Europe for the summer.  She, the friend of the friend, lived on Cape Cod and had a cat. She needed someone to rent her home and take care of her cat.  I volunteered.

So during the summer of 1980 I stayed in Eastham, MA.  In retrospect a very happy two months.  My folks came up in early August to visit.  Mom had turned 56 a few months earlier and Dad was 56 a few months before that.  I am now ten years older than my folks were in this photo taken on the deck of the house that I rented.

A couple of things that I remember from that visit.  One, my mother was reading a book called Ordinary People.  It subsequently became an academy award winning movie with Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland playing the leads.  When I saw she was reading the book I got a bit of a pang.  I had read it myself, and I had given it to her, recommending the book.  I got the pang because I knew that she had already read it.  I asked her why she was reading the book again fearing I would know the answer. And I was right. She said she thought the story was vaguely familiar, but had no recollection of reading it.  It was probably a year or so from when she first read it.

It was real hot during their visit. Even in Cape Cod usually a refuge from the heat.  I took them to see a play at a summer stock theatre that I'd discovered during my stay. This was and probably still is a terrific troupe that comes or came to the Cape each summer. The plays were excellent and the actors remarkable in that one week a guy might play a character from Shakespeare, the next a gangster in Guys and Dolls, and then the following week be in a play set in Sweden.  Just fantastic versatility. Anyway, I took them to see An Enemy of the People.

I had never seen the play before and knew nothing about it.  It was hotter than Hades in that Theater.  No air conditioning is typically necessary on the Cape but that night it was brutal. The actors had to wear winter clothes for some scenes and I thought they might drop from the heat.  An Enemy of the People is special, at least to my way of thinking.  It is about a guy who discovers that there are toxins in the water, but to out the fact that there are toxins is to undercut the financial security of the people who live in the town. Peoples' livelihoods are based on the perception that the water is free from toxins.  So, the person who insists that people could be poisoned by the water is ostracized because the citizens' immediate fear of losing their livelihood trumps everything else. The whistleblower becomes an enemy of the people.  Very moving play and it had to be wonderfully done for us to sit through it in what seemed like 100 degrees inside the theater.

The thing about seeing An Enemy of the People with my folks is that I knew that they were the sort of folks who would always side with the whistleblower. That when there was a right way and a wrong way to go, my parents defaulted to the right way, even when the wrong way had its immediate benefits.  And I have benefited because of their natural leanings.

Today, April 9, 2016, my mother would have been 91 years old.  I think dead is dead so wishing her a happy birthday is probably, as my paternal grandfather would have said, ridickalus.  But who knows. My mother would be inclined to think that there was a possibility.   So, happy birthday mom. Thinking of you today.  What I look like as you turn 91.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Villanova Plus

Three musings about the sports events of last night, Monday April 4th.

(1) The end of the UNC//Villanova championship game was as good as it gets.  I have watched so many basketball games with so many exciting endings.  There are few contests that have ended like last night's.  The shot that Paige hit to tie the game at 74 would have been sensational if it came in a game of horse in an empty gym.  A double pump released as the player was coming down and an essential make given the three point deficit.  Fantastic.  And then Villanova racing back to hit the winning shot with only tenths of a second left on the clock.

(2) After I came down from the basketball game, I switched the channel to watch continuous action in the women's world championship gold medal hockey game.  I had been watching intermittently during basketball commercials.  Now with no basketball left, I was all in for the hockey game. One of our students here, Kendall Coyne, is on the Olympic//World Championship teams. Mostly because I know Kendall and partly because it was the championship game I was riveted until past 1 am. The 0-0 contest went into sudden death overtime.  Towards the end of the sudden death period, the US scored the lone goal.  It was a thrilling victory after which I could not sleep for another 45 minutes.  It is a sad comment that while the men's basketball championship deserves a lot of media coverage, I have not seen a word today written about the women's world championship victory.

(3) I had alpha and omega moments as it relates to UNC coach Roy Williams yesterday.  His post game teary interview made me feel bad for him. He was as eloquent as one can be when the team he  had coached for seven months lost in the last second. Williams commented that the difference between winning and losing in basketball games can be minimal, but the emotional gap between winning and losing is huge.  Williams eyes were red and I felt for him.  This perspective on the coach was antithetical to what I was thinking about him before the game. During an interview earlier in the week, the coach was asked if UNC would be penalized by the NCAA because of serious academic infractions.  His response was startling and made me angry.  Williams said that he expected no sanctions as there had been no allegations. Without allegations there could be no reason for sanctions.  The problem with this assertion is that it is not the case.  I think what he meant to say is that there have been no direct links between the academic offenses and the basketball coaches.  While this may be so, anyone who has examined the offenses knows for sure, that the institution committed outrageous academic fraud by designing a system where athletes would be granted grades for bogus classes.  It would be a stretch to contend that the athletic department was not involved.  So, it angered me to hear him attempt to contribute to a narrative that pretended UNC athletics was innocent.  However, now after hearing him speak after the game, I am inclined to cut the guy some slack.  Maybe he misspoke during the pre game interview.  Maybe he was deliberately not being candid.  Regardless I feel for the guy today.  His team plays brilliantly, makes an impossible shot to tie the game, and then sees the season end with a jump shot taken with less than a second left in the season.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Bulls in 4. I don't think so.

I just read that Scottie Pippen believes that his '95-'96 Bulls would have swept the 2015-2016 edition of the Golden State Warriors. For those not following this NBA story, this season's Golden State Warriors are chasing the '95-'96 best all time regular season record. The Bulls finished that year 72-10; Golden State is currently 68-8.  The Warriors will have to win five of their next six games (which include two against the very tough San Antonio Spurs) in order to best the '95-'96 Bulls' record.

Scottie Pippen, a forward on the '95-'96 Bulls, apparently thinks that if there could have been a best of seven series between his old team and the present day Warriors, the Warriors would lose, and lose in four straight games.

As it relates to Pippen's athletic skills (holding aside his predictions for a few paragraphs) I am definitely in the minority.  I believe Pippen to be one of the most overrated players ever to lace up sneakers.  He is listed among the top fifty players of all time on at least two lists of which I am familiar.  Horse manure.

Pippen's name is familiar to fans because he had the good fortune to play with the best basketball player ever--Michael Jordan, be coached by an excellent leader, Phil Jackson, and play with other outstanding basketball players.  Take Jordan away from Pippen, put Pippen in the hands of a less wise mentor, and Pippen is just another NBA player.

This was evident the year that Jordan thought he would try his luck at playing baseball. Overnight the Bulls became pedestrian and Pippen showed himself to be a selfish player who really could not score on his own. He could play good defense and was an effective rebounder, but he was not great.  He pouted when he did not get to take the last shot. He was jealous of Tony Kukoc who was more offensively skilled.  The guy was just a notch above average without Jordan.

Put Michael Jordan on your team, add Kukoc, add Steve Kerr who could shoot better than very many, add Dennis Rodman who--while being a class A jackass--was the best offensive rebounder of his era and maybe any era (I personally am partial to Paul Silas for all time offensive rebounder), and then Scotty Pippen's value as a defensive player is more brightly illuminated. But no matter what the geniuses say, he was not, not, not--so extra without such a remarkable complementary cast.

So, his claim that they would beat the Warriors in four straight bugs me.  First of all he is wrong.  I do think the Bulls would win in 7 because they had Jordan, but they would not have been able to stop the stunning trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and the unheralded but remarkable Draymond Green in every game.

I have begun watching the Warriors regularly. I am concerned that they are one injury away from being less of a powerhouse. You take Curry or Green out with an injury and yes then the Bulls would sweep.  If they have all players healthy, the Warriors are dazzling and one of the best teams of all time and of any era.  With Curry, Green, and Thompson I think they take the Bulls to 7.

But my semi rant here has less to do with the what-would-happen-if-the-Bulls/Warriors-match-up- could-have-taken-place, and more with the chutzpah of Pippen.  Scottie Pippen pouted as if he never got his due when, in reality, he became a somebody when he was just like many other players.  Some humility and gratitude for his good fortune is in order.

Opening Day

April 3rd, Opening Day in baseball season.  The day before the championship game in Men's basketball. Three days after I returned from Florida and we had to open the windows in our house in Boston because it had become very warm.

I look out the window.

It is snowing.  Not flurries. Real winter looking snow that I will have to shovel.

Yeah, there's probably no such thing as Climate Change. The Democrats are just scaredy cats.

Some random thoughts this snowy Sunday:

I saw Villanova play in its first game of the tournament. They played the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  Villanova was as unimpressive then as they were impressive last night in taking apart Oklahoma.  Sportscasters talk about the eyeball test.  I eyeballed Villanova at that game in Brooklyn.  I thought they would not get out of the second round.  So, either something is wrong with my eyeballs or Asheville is a powerhouse (it was close until the last minutes of the first half) or Villanova was not trying against Asheville.  Villanova looked very strong last night.

North Carolina (Chapel Hill) played tough against Syracuse and prevailed.  They were not that impressive though. They do have a lot of big guys and Villanova essentially has one big guy.  Many of North Carolina's shots were from in close last night.

North Carolina is a two point favorite and I think they will cover.  UNC Chapel Hill would beat UNC Asheville by 50 points.  Villanova only beat Asheville by 30.

I will bet that one third of the outdoor opening day games today and tomorrow in major league baseball will be postponed because of weather. The Red Sox are scheduled to play its opener in Cleveland on Monday April 4th.  Sure.

Okay. I have to go get the snow shovels from the shed where I put them away I thought for good on March 24th before I left for Florida.  It was probably wise of me to come back to Boston a couple of days ago.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

But can he sing like Meyer.

My brother and I spent several days this past week at our parents’ home in Florida.  We saw our great friends, Wally and Eileen, who were so kind and helpful to our parents in their last months.  

Thursday was our last day in Florida.  We did some cleaning up and submitted papers to the condo association.  Mid morning, my brother reminded me that he wanted to go to the condo Current Events club.   

My father was a regular attendee at a number of clubs in the community.  More than an attendee actually, he often was the coordinator and led the programs even when someone else was, nominally, responsible for doing those jobs.  He never usurped someone else’s role, always giving credit to whoever had the title, yet he was the brains and industry around the programs.  Dad was active in the Yiddish club and often gave lectures.  He coordinated the programs and contacted guest speakers for the Culture club.  And Dad was a regular contributor to the Current Events club.

The Current Events club, as the name might suggest, was a group of folks who wanted to discuss what was happening in the news.  In an election year like this one politics are central to the discussions.  If it weren’t for Dad, the Current Events club would have been a madhouse. You put twenty Jews in a room to discuss politics and there likely will be contentious shouting which might seem--to an outsider--as if those with differing opinions could come to blows.

To avoid a brawl, Dad wrote out rules for engagement.  When could one begin speaking? How long could a speaker have?  What were the limits on digressions to topics not under discussion? He also implemented a rule that prohibited members from referring to another member when presenting his or her arguments.  There could be no, “I disagree with Murray and think he is misguided.”  Or worse. You could only talk about your own perspective and not ridicule someone else who had made a comment.  

I never went to any of the current event meetings.  I imagined they would be contentious despite dad’s policies and, for some reason, I was rarely down there on Thursdays at 1030 when the group convenes.  But my brother had gone on a number of occasions.  He enjoyed the meetings and I think went at times to listen to Dad whose wisdom was typically more reasoned and even handed than most others. 

On Thursday, he also wanted to see if now, two years since dad has passed, some of the legacy of Dad’s involvement was evident.  It was.  There was decorum throughout. The rules that dad had implemented were followed so that all who wished to, could get in their points. Sure, steam was coming through the ears of those who disagreed with certain political perspectives, and there were still veiled barbs. “There are people in here whose names I cannot mention who are more than confused.”

When it came time for my very wise brother to contribute he began by saying what an honor it was to contribute to the group as it was dad who was so active in the club.  Then he went on to make his point about the merits of polling .

Near the end of the 90 minute meeting, the head of the club made some comments.

“There’s a man in the back there, who sounds a lot like Meyer, is smart like Meyer, uses big words like Meyer, and is logical like Meyer.”

Bobby was touched by the remark.  But what came after choked him up as it did me when he relayed the episode later.

After the leader made his comments about the man in the back who “sounded smart like Meyer” etc, a member from the group shouted out, “But can he sing like Meyer.”

Then another quipped, “But can he speak Yiddish like Meyer?”

Then a third said, “But can he tell jokes like Meyer?”

And a fourth, “But is he a mensch like Meyer.”

Our dad was an unusual man. Now two years later his mark is still evident.  I was reminded of a time at a camp reunion in 2009.  Dad had been the head counselor of the camp but was unable to attend the reunion.  Ona, the wonderful coordinator of the reunion, asked me to lead the prayer before the meal in the way that Dad used to when the camp kids would eat.  I know this prayer in my sleep, but when I went to say it at the reunion, somehow I forgot some of the lines. And when I did so, a very good friend, very good naturedly quipped, “He’s no Meyer.” 

I got a laugh out of it. I had flubbed the line. But the fact is that there are few people who could be called “a Meyer.”  We are very fortunate to have been raised by this guy. And dad, if you are listening, there is no chaos at the Current Events club still. You may be dead, but you’re alive and kicking at the Current Events club--and elsewhere.