Some Thoughts on LeBron

15 Jul

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On a plane to LA right now and had the urge to write so I decided to jot down some semi-coherent thoughts/rambles on LeBron. Also, I’m on a plane right now and can still use the Internet! I find this crazy, and felt like it was something that shouldn’t go to waste, even though this ride has been bumpier than (insert joke here).

I should preface all this by saying that I’m a huge LeBron James fan. I love watching him play, and I love how he plays. I love the way he embraces his place in the world, speaking up against Donald Sterling and in support of Trayvon Martin, in a way that Michael Jordan, he of the belief that “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” never did or would. I love how LeBron is becoming the Voice of NBA Players, and seems to be on a mission to do all he possibly can to help his constituency reclaim some of the agency that it lost in the latest Collective Bagraining Agreement.

So yeah, to say I’m a fan of LeBron’s would be fair. So when I say that I think he’s skating a bit right now, I want to be clear that I’m doing so from a room nowhere near where Skip Bayless sleeps.

Here’s my problem. Actually, there are a few things I’d like to take issue with, perhaps foremost being that by going back to Cleveland, LeBron allowed Dan Gilbert to win, which pretty much goes contrary to all those praise-worthy actions I mentioned few paragraphs above.

NBA Owner Dan Gilbert is—how should we put this?—a petulant incompetent nincompoop—I love that word!—who, if not for the too-racist-to-call-racist Donald Sterling, might still hold the title of Owner Players Hate the Most. It starts with that letter, you know, the one where he pretty much called LeBron uppity. But it also goes deeper than that. Not only did Dan Gilbert cry after LeBron left for Miami the way a spoiled two-year old does when his toy is taken away, but he also made it his mission to take as many rights away from NBA players as possible.

It was Dan Gilbert who, during the NBA’s latest labor negotiations, was most vocal from the owners’ side about how the league needed to make a hard cap and take away the players’ ability to play with their friends. He got his way, which is the reason the Heat couldn’t built a better roster around LeBron in recent years and hey look what just dropped in Gilbert’s lap because of that.

It was Dan Gilbert who was most vocal about the need to reverse the Lakers trade for Chris Paul. To continue with the poor analogy from above, Dan Gilbert was the two-year-old who thinks that because he had his toy taken away from him, no other two-year-old should be allowed to play with toys either. And make no mistake—Dan Gilbert views the Cavaliers, and their players, as toys.

By going back to Cleveland, LeBron allowed this man to win. He allowed an owner who has gone through more GMs and coaches in the past four years than most teams do in a decade, to now find himself on top of the basketball world, about to see his team compete for championships and his pockets overflow with cash.

This is what LeBron left Miami for. More so, it might be the first time since his initial Decision that LeBron took the easy path. Which is funny, because when he did that last time the public crucified him; this time around there’s only praise.

Are we really sure that the ”I’m coming home” narrative is truly what’s at play here? Maybe I’m just cynical, but it kind of seems like he and his friends decided, for a number of reasons—which you can read about in other places—to head back to Cleveland, and then figured out how to best package the decision so that this time around there would be no vitriol.

LeBron just chose a younger team, and, covertly, lowered the expectation bar about three rungs. In Miami it was championship or bust every year for him; in his essay for SI LeBron went out of his way to say that he’s not thinking about championships yet with his new team. And no one seems to have a problem with this. I’m not saying he did anything wrong, but I also don’t see how you can argue that it’s not a man taking the easier route.

Again, I love LeBron. I still think he has a shot to be the greatest player ever, and I don’t know if there will ever be a player I enjoy watching more. And while I’m kind of disappointed in his decision to go back to the Cavs, it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to make me route against him or turn into Skip Bayless. I just think it’s another example of how we’re all three-dimensional, and the reasoning behind our decisions—whether going home to help the hometown, or joining up with some superstar friends to chase rings—are never as simple as we pretend they are.

One last thought: I think there’s a fascinating study or piece somewhere in here on how absolutely crazy, and, one could say, simple-minded, sports fans are. All it took to come back to LeBron’s side was a well-crafted message. Nuance and looking at a story from all different angles is not the sports fans’ strength.

That Time I Blew off Timothy Geithner

2 Jul

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Monday night and I was on my way home from work. I decided to take the scenic route to the Subway and walk a few extra blocks. I normally get on the Subway at 28th street but on this night I would walk north and get the 4 or 5 train at Grand Central instead. Sitting at a computer and in an office all day can make your body crave movement.

As I waited for the 4 or 5 train to arrive, a man approached me with a question. I was reading Jonah Keri’s latest on Grantland, which I pre-loaded on my phone so that I could read it while on the Wifi-less subway. The man wanted to know what stop the 4 train goes to after 59th street. He was thin and wore a tailored suit. There was a blond woman with him. He had a face that looked familiar, too, though I barely looked up from my Android phone to answer him.

“I’m not really sure exactly where,” I said, and this wasn’t a lie. I knew I had to get to east 86th street, and I knew this train would get me somewhere close to there. Whichever stop wound up being the closest would be the one I used. Of course, I didn’t say any of this to him. I think I mostly just grunted my answer and barely raised my eyes

The man asked the person standing to my right, another man who looked to be in his late 20s. He had a full brown beard and was a bit stocky. He was also wearing a baseball cap and shorts, and was also much more helpful, and polite than I.

“To 86th street,” he said, and that, apparently, was not the answer the man wanted to hear. He, and the woman, walked to the opposite end of the platform and waited for the local 6 train to arrive. A few moments later they were gone.

“Didn’t that guy look a lot like Timothy Geithner?” said the 20-something with the full beard.

That’s when it hit me—yes, it certainly did look like Timothy Geithner, the former United States Secretary of the Treasury, or, for those not up all the happenings of the economics world, the dude played by Billy Crudup in HBO’s Too Big to Fail.

“Yeah, it actually did,” I answered. “Funny call. I thought he looked familiar, too.”

I started to replay what had just happened. Had I just blown off the former Secretary of the United States Treasury because I was too busy reading something breaking down the first half of the Dodgers’ season? Eh, whatever, I thought, partly consoling myself. It probably wasn’t him anyway. No way I wouldn’t recognize that guy and that face and that forehead, and no way he’d be the kind of man who asks for subway directions.

“Was that just Timothy Geithner?” a dark skinned girl who had dashed across the platform said to me and the bearded man to my right. No one, in the history of the world, has ever dashed across a subway platform for a more boring reason. “I’m 99 percent sure that was him.”

Yeah, so apparently I pretty was rude to Timothy Geither on Monday. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud.

Awkward Moment

18 Jun

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I get my groceries, usually, at the Associated Supermarkets on Amsterdam Avenue a few blocks northeast of my apartment. It’s not the best supermarket, but the prices are decent, the selection is solid and, most importantly, they deliver.

In Manhattan, where you’re walking and not driving to grocery stores, this is, obviously, extremely helpful. It’s really the main reason I go to Associated. It’s pretty much a cheaper version of Fresh Direct and one that allows me to pick out my groceries in person.

But here’s the thing: I never really gave any thought as to how the groceries actually got delivered. I go to the supermarket, put them in my cart, pay for them, leave the bags there, go back to my apartment, buzz the delivery guy up Seinfeld style about an hour later, take the bags from him, give him a tip, and process complete. I always kind of looked at it like a hot dog—a wonderful thing but one with a curtain you don’t want to see behind.

Yesterday I saw behind that curtain. I think I’m going to be carrying my groceries home for a while now.

I paid the bill yesterday as I normally do, informed the cashier that I’d like to do delivery. She packed up the bags, told her supervisor and he sent over the delivery guy. He read my address and said something to the cashier in spanish.

“Is anyone home in your apartment now?” she asked.

I told her no but that I was heading there now.

“K, so he’s going to go back with you,” she said.

Um, this was not part of the plan. Never have five blocks felt so long. 90-degree heat, me walking with empty hands, on my right an older dark skinned man pushing my $100 worth of food in a shopping cart and following my directions home. I tried to fall back a bit, make it seem like I wasn’t guiding a servant carrying my stuff. I called my brother and my mother in a desperate attempt to visually distance myself from the image I thought I might be portraying, but neither of them had time to talk. I tried talking to him but his English was not very good. So I just walked.

Now, it should be said: I am, by no means, attempting to disparage this man’s work. A job is a job, after all. So maybe I shouldn’t feel bad. Maybe this is how this man makes a living for a family and me feeling guilty and subsequently changing my habit of getting my groceries delivered would actually do more harm than good. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Eventually we arrived at my apartment and I decided to give him a really nice tip. In hindsight, I think this might actually be something that portrays the exact image I was trying not to. Or maybe the fact that I’m worrying more about the image it portrays is also an example of me falling into one of those traps.

These are all deeper questions for a different time. All I know now is that I’ve seen how the hot dogs are made.

New Story on Keith Van Horn

13 Jun

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My latest story for SLAM Magazine, which will be in the upcoming throwback issue, which is going to be awesome, went up online today. It’s on Keith Van Horn. Check it out when you get a chance; it’s not everyday you get to read a “where are they now” story about someone who didn’t go broke. Also, had a blast writing and reporting it. Van Horn’s an interesting dude, mostly because he’s really not so interesting. Except in the NBA where he’s different from most guys. And he loves his family and hated moving. These things can, often, make it very hard for an athlete to succeed. But I’m giving away my hard work—go read the story to hear more about him :)

 

Carmelo to Miami?

12 Jun

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So I’m kind of confused right now. When LeBron first decided to head to Miami, I supported him (not that he cared how I felt but the relationship between fans and players is a whole separate subject for a different time). Why crush someone for placing winning above everything else? Isn’t that what we always ask from our stars? In fact, I’m pretty sure one of the first columns I ever wrote was a defense of LeBorn’s Decision, which, out of fear and embarrassment, I’m going to refrain from finding and linking to. If you want to reach a cheap Bill Simmons imitation there are plenty other places around the Internet where you can do so. But I digress.

The point is that I, as a basketball fan, had no problem with great players linking up. Which is why this Carmelo Anthony thing has me completely torn. And kind of confused. On the surface, my reaction to this should be no different than it was towards LeBron. If Carmelo were to head to Miami it would be an honest admission: that he’s not good enough to win on his own. Really, it would be the most (only?) selfless basketball decision he’s ever made, a choice symbolizing growth as a basketball player, a mature decision made by a man who’s learning from his past.

Which is why I’m really confused by the part of me that wants to go all #HotTakey on Carmelo. You make the Knicks waste all their assets in a trade for you because God forbid you lose a few million, making it clear that getting your cash is more important than winning, and same goes for getting your shots, only to now, out of nowhere, have the epiphany that maybe you’d like your career to go a little differently and that you’d kind of like to maybe, occasionally, win a playoff series. 

This is the definition of inconsistent thinking, and I’m not really sure where it’s coming from. Fandom I guess (just don’t tell anyone that this reporter still roots), and also I think I’m interpreting it as Carmelo trying to be something he’s not. With LeBron, and the way he played, a willingness to sacrifice individual glory (which, looking back now, it’s kind of funny that people thought that going to the Heat, and winning championships, would hurt LeBron’s basketball legacy. Don’t ya’ll know that it’s all about the ringzzz.) jived with what we knew about LeBron as a basketball player. He was aways a pass-first guy; this was just him passing first in his basketball decisions, too.

Carmelo, on the other hand, is like the complete opposite. Scoring and money and status come first. Going to Miami to give up all those things to get a championship, it just doesn’t fit. It’s not him. Or at least it never was. It almost seems fake, or contrived, or like someone doing what they think they’re supposed to do. Of course it could also be coming from a good place.

Why I’m so quick to reject that notion, and why I’m getting so bothered by someone, potentially, showing the ability to grow, is something I’m having trouble putting my finger on.

Anyway, just some rambling.

24 Live Blog, Episode 6

12 Jun

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Previously on 24

- Lady Stark, very mean, and not a very good jude of people and what makes them click.

- Russian Minister With Awesome Mustache is on to Chief of Staff Tate Donovan and his forgery.

- MOLE! We found the mole. Et tu, Benjamin Bratt.

- British are dumb are ruin Jack Bauer’s plans.

5 pm-6 pm

5:00

- Red head down. And for some reason the girl running away is just chilling with the neighbor who saw her and not talking to cops.

- Oh, hey, like, you think maybe Neighbor Dude should have told cops what she saw? It’s like no one except Jack knows how to do their job properly. Jack for World Czar!

- That’s some damn good police work right there, Local Cop.

- “He’s with me.” “I don’t give a damn about your protocols!” DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE MESSING WITH?

- Heller’s sweater is very cute. Feel like that should be mentioned, and probably should have done so earlier.

- The numbers that Jack has in his cell phone…

- “You’ll have complete cooperation.” Oh, President Heller, you’re so naive.

- Britain and US leaders about to go at it…Get. It. On!

- WOW! Heller striking first.

- USA! USA! USA!

-  Just hug it out.

- “I personally give you my word that he will have everything he needs.” Yeah, that’s not happening.

- Lady Stark is MEAN.

5:15

- Oh shit, new CTU London character, and he’s fishy looking. Mole stuff is in play. Can’t wait for Benjamin Bratt to suddenly start seeming more suspicious, and doing suspicious things, around the office now.

- SHITTTTT. It’s Edward Snowden/Julian Asange dude. Should have seen this coming, such a 24 move. The left wing whistle blower figure isn’t some idealistic individual trying to make the world a better place—he’s just in it for the money. Show is in full swing now, by the way.

- This local cop not surviving, right?

- Another classic 24 back-and-forth. “Dr, I need to speak to her as quickly as possible.” “That’s not possible.” Yes it is, I’m Jack Bauer, BITCH.”

- No one adds please to the end of a harsh demand quite like Jack Bauer.

- Is now really the best time for a soda, Lady Jack? Don’t you pay attention to your mentor? Do you ever see him drinking soda?

- Ah, not for her. And what the fuck is ginger beer?

- This girl has it pretty put together considering she just saw her mom get stabbed to death like 12 minutes ago.

- Girl’s got great hearing, too. She heard all the stuff her aunt and mom were talking about?

- This guy’s sneaky—or maybe next time Lady Jack shouldn’t have this super classified and urgent convo OUT LOUD IN THE MIDDLE OF A WAITING AREA.

- “Find out exactly where she is, we’ll take care of everything from here.” I’m no drone expert, but if you’re using one to blow up a hospital does it really matter that you find out exactly where she is in the building? Wouldn’t a shot towards the center do the trick?

(No clock after coming back for commercial for some reason, so guessing it’s about 5:27)

- Benjy Bratt setting this dude up, huh?

- “It’s important this stays between us.” Yeah, not suspicious at all.

- Bratt gonna develop a conscience?

- Chief of Staff Tate Donovan gonna pull something here, right?

-Damn, Jack going guerrilla style. Not really sure what the point of knocking her out was.

- “I’m sorry I shouldn’t have done that, I just hate these people.” Is it possible that Jack’s gotten even darker.

- Dammit! Drink.

- Hahah, these bad guys exchange non-coded text messages.

5;40

- Dammit Drink.

- Nice call of the bluff, Jack.

- So the hospital staff are evacuating people and no one thinks to check on the young girl there by herself? London’s got awesome nurses I see.

- Hahah of course Jack and Lady Jack happen to cross paths while coming out.

- Well this is a new one for Jack and 24—trying to outrun a drone in a car.

- Wow, gruesome injuries they’re showing.

- Dammit! And another Dammit! Drink, drink.

- Hahahah I guess going Mike Tyson on that dude was necessary.

- You see, you can just pull a gun and yell, “Get out of the car.” No need to knock people out.

- Why you threatening poor homeless people, Jack?

- Boom! Faked the shit out of you, Lady Stark. And her son’s of excited for just killing his sister, no?

5:52 

- Yep, this meeting location isn’t sketchy at all. If this guy survives, he’s gonna make a terrible field agent.

- He’s not dead, of course, so now we got the plot to play out.

- Russian Minister With Awesome Facial Hair. I love this guy. He’s also VERY perceptive. And we’re about to get some awesome blackmail. Chief of Staff Tate Donovan is in trouble.

- This is where Russians disappear and then reappear again at really inopportune time. Pretty sure this happened with Chinese once. 24 is so good at recycling old plots with new players.

- Heller getting emotional. Weird. He gonna hand himself in? Is that even possible for the president to do?

- Sweater is coming off. Heller means business.

- hahaha that picture they got Lady Stark looking at with her daughter—the girl doesn’t look ANYTHING like Simone looks today.

- “Can I trust you to keep your word?” Yeah, because if she says yes I’d totally believe her and anything else she has to say. No reason to think otherwise.

- Yeah, this is dumb, and awesome obviously, but not fully doing it for me. Anyway, see ya’ll next week.

The Four Stages of Nakedness in the Locker Room

3 Jun

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There are, in my opinion, four stages of feelings that males have about being naked around other males. They evolve with age.

The first is when you are born. From then to, let’s say around the age of five or six, kids just don’t give a shit. Let everything (not hang) out into the open. Need to change you clothes—do it right at the kitchen table. Why the hell not? Then they start going to school and I imagine that’s where some of the shyness starts to build. Suddenly social cues and circles matter and fitting into the group becomes something that’s important. With that, the first stage of nakedness comes to an end.

Stage II, age 7 to about 13, give or take when the kid goes through puberty. Here everything stays hidden. At friends’ houses bathrooms are turned into dressing rooms. In camp, showers are taken with bathing suits on. It’s a crazy time, and a difficult one. Life is hard in Stage II, especially when puberty comes around and everyone starts looking different.

Stage III, high-school until, well, that’s the thing. I’m not really sure when Stage III ends and that’s why I’m writing this post. Stage III is what I would label as the best stage. You’re comfortable but not too comfortable. If you need to change in the locker room you do it right in front of your locker; there’s no longer a need to go searching for a stall. Or to do the whole wrap-a-towel-around-your-waist-thing. You don’t waste time with such shenanigans due to a fear of being naked in front of other men—but when you do find yourself in such situations, you don’t take your time with it either.

Until you hit Stage IV. Stage IV people are not ones you want to be around. Stage IV people are those who appear to enjoy being naked in a locker room and treat as if it’s something they’ve been looking forward to all day. They walk from the showers to their lockers to the sinks, seemingly never even considering the thought of throwing on a towel. When they do, eventually, grab one, they proceed to stick one leg up on a bench—whether or not you’re sitting on it really doesn’t matter—and dry and pat and everything down, one leg at a time. After that they put a shirt on first, and then socks because of course they save underwear and pants for last. They might even shave first.

I had forgotten about the existence of Stage IVs; given that I’m not in an office every day I usually go to my gym already dressed as needed and shower back at my apartment. It had been a while since I had spent time in a gym locker room but recently, due to some new scheduling stuff, that has changed. It didn’t take long for my reintroduction to the Stage IVs. My first day back I got a very warm welcome.

Now I’m not the kind of man that gets freaked out in a locker room. You just do your thing, keep your head down, or up, and take care of your business. For me, my issue with Stage IVs stems more from curiosity. Perhaps issue is the wrong word. Really, I just don’t get it. How and when does this transformation happen. In 20 years will that be me? Is it a conscious decision or more of a natural evolution? Do Stage IVs even realize what they are, are they just completely oblivious, or as you get older do you just not give a shit about stuff like that? I guess 10-year-old me thought Stage IIIs were kind of weird so maybe it is just something that happens over time.

One of these days I might have to ask, though I’m not exactly sure how that conversation would go.

Oh, also, if you ever decide to write a blog about naked men walking around a locker room, be a bit creative with your Googling when looking for a photo for the post. I made a few mistakes before typing Ryan Gosling in and, well, I think I need to add some more stages.

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