Saturday, December 22, 2007

Unchain My Heart: Sean Taylor, Barry Bonds, and the NBA

To: Reader of this Blog Note
Address: Random College or University in the United States of America
1234 Zoinks Blvd. Washicagofornia, USA.
Attn: College Student, (that means you)

There used to be a time when Thanksgiving meant celebrating another Detroit Lions loss and Cowboys’ victory with friends, enjoying a slice of your grandma’s sweet pecan pie after supper, tying your Adidas Superstar II’s in preparation for the exciting terror of Black Friday, and using your dad’s ballpoint pen to check off every annoying December date until THAT DAY…when you’ll find yourself on the living room rug grinning as you unwrap that new Matchbox racetrack/Beanie Baby/Game Boy Color (with Pokemon Yellow) that your parents bought after they suffered through that outrageously long line at (insert Random Toy Store here). Well, watching you giggle hysterically in disbelief while rolling around on the kitchen linoleum made it totally worth it.

Don’t worry…I’ll wait for you to wipe that nostalgic twinkle out of your eye.
(If you weren’t thinking about the awesomeness of some past Christmas while reading the previous paragraph, well…I just feel bad for you. Next time we cross paths remind me to give you a bear hug and buy you a creamsicle, okay?)

On Friday, as I watched a huge group of kids play touch football in 35 degree weather without hats, gloves, or even bothering to zip up their coats, I realized that the magic of the holidays has started to fade as I’ve gotten older. Since I’ve arrived at college, my only concern during Thanksgiving has been to get a ton of sleep, hustle and get some work done, and give the patented college answer to every aunt/uncle/cousin that bothers to ask about life at school.

Aunt: “Hi, Throwback Kid, how’s life at Howard University in…where is it again?”
Me: “Washington, DC. It’s good. Two down, two to go.”
Uncle: (chuckles) “Yeah, that’s right. You ARE a Junior now, that’s right! You must be the big man on campus now, eh?”
Me: “Na, just trying to get through this semester, ya know.”
Cousin: “Any po-TEN-tial cuties down there, TTK?”
(Mistake #1…failure to suppress microscopic grin in corner of mouth)
Cousin: “I see you man. I SEE YOU! I remember when I was in college…”
Me (wincing and looking at watch): “Can you pass the pot roast?”

Even though my motto of “getting out of the month of October unscathed” has governed my actions over the past month, I have noticed that a lot of folks are starting to slip into full fledged panic mode over the last two weeks. During Junior year, everyone gradually comes to the stark realization that college is no cake walk. Personally, I despise the fact that I actually micromanaged my Thanksgiving break this year. I despise the fact that I left no room for pure fun and unadulterated holiday joy on my schedule, instead focusing on idiotic group projects and frustrating essay assignments. I despise the fact that I missed playing NBA ’08 with my kid brother over the holiday because the frustrations of school have served as the millstone tied to my waist, the purple elephant in the room that I wish I could ignore…but can’t. Honestly, the last two weeks BEFORE finals week are without a doubt the most brutal weeks for any college student to handle. If you didn’t get a lot of rest over Thanksgiving break, make sure to get a good night’s sleep at some point over this weekend. Pray. Eat a well-balanced meal. Laugh a little. But then again, because of the time you’re taking to read this blog note, you’ve already come to that conclusion on your own.

That’s part of the reason I love this blog space. I love hearing feedback from my readers. I love arguing the validity of Tony Romo as the next golden QB of the NFL. I love defending the Yankees, Jets…and Knicks. I love believing that Charnele Brown (Kim Reese) could have been a great black female actor if she wasn’t overshadowed by Jasmine Guy (Whitley) on THE show. I love turning up 97.1 (in DC) to listen to that Christmas music, staring into the blank space of a Microsoft Word Document…and getting down to business.

As I write this note, my biggest hope is that these words, phrases, quips, and jokes are always an encouragement to my readers. Before I hit “Publish” on my blog notes, I make sure that there is at least one heartening comment embedded in the text. As my friend Anand echoed last Tuesday, the drama, stress, and tension immediately enter my world “as soon as I step out of the door of my room in the morning.” For some folks, it’s even sooner than that. That’s why when I winced when my buddy Jayy said that I should write more serious blog notes. I’m not afraid to mention my disdain for ESPN’s lack of coverage on the Sean Taylor incident, choosing instead to show highlights of a 3-0 game in Pittsburgh – a game covered extensively by their family of networks – over a major news story featuring a high profile athlete clinging to life. I’m not afraid to yell “wild goose chase” after the feds indict Barry Bonds with their only proof hinged to the story of two San Francisco Chronicle journalists. I live in a city that sees 700+ Sean Taylor’s fall by the wayside each year due to reckless crime, and watch as thousands of my brethren fill up county and state prisons in record numbers. However, because these next two weeks of finals, projects, and exams has every college student in a vice grip…I think I’ll leave the commentaries to Jason Whitlock, and David Aldridge for now.

Since I’ve wasted too much time over the last month, I’ll rap up my NBA Season Previews. I mean, we’re almost a quarter of the way through the season and I STILL haven’t talked about all the teams in the NBA yet. Since there are a lot of sitcoms still left on the table, I donate my next blog note entirely to a show – this time, of your choice!
Here are the options for next week:
1. The Jamie Foxx Show
2. Family Matters
3. The Wonder Years

Let me know (either in the comments or in a message) which of the three shows I should analyze next week. Also, if you have any other show suggestions, you can add them in also after you let me know your choice from these three options above. (For the record…NBC’s sitcom Scrubs will happen, so don’t worry…I’ve got it covered.)

Now, play your Charlie Brown Christmas CD , snuggle into your favorite college sweatshirt, turn your TV’s up stop studying for the next 10 minutes, and get ready for my West Coast Breakdown!(I would have thrown Wild’n Out on the Pick List...but I did that already last year. And, yeah...I can put shameless plugs into my Facebook “notes.” Go Knicks!)

Southwest Division
1. San Antonio Spurs:
Greg Popovich is hands-down, the smartest coach/GM in the NBA today. With one of the league’s smallest markets, Popovich has correctly used a top-10 player throughout his prime (Tim Duncan) and surrounded him with interchangeable talent to continue to win in the playoffs. Big men win and point. MJ’s Bulls were the last team to win a championship without a solid big 1998.

2. Dallas Mavericks: After last year’s meltdown, Avery Johnson finally learned that every single game in the regular season isn’t important. The way Avery ran the team last year is equivalent to your friend keeping his/her foot on the throttle of your Honda Accord throughout an entire cross country trip. At some point, don’t you advise them to put the car on cruise control? Unfortunately, Cuban was too busy dancing with the stars to notice. Enter Golden State.

3. Houston Rockets : I’ve always liked Jeff Van Gundy. He’s one of the better color commentators covering the league right now (after Reggie Miller), and he brings enthusiasm to an otherwise dry (yeah, I’m talking to you Mike Tirico) broadcast booth. It’s a wonder how one smart move by GM Daryl Morey has transformed this Rockets team. Van Gundy is a chip off of the Pat Riley block, a theory that states “play defense and throw the ball to your big man at all costs.” During his tenure, Jeff never realized two important things – the league has become scoring guard heavy, and Yao is better when he’s facing the basket. With all that said, Houston’s only one T-Mac injury away from another disappointing season. (Note to Gilbert Arenas...get healthy.)

4. New Orleans Hornets: This is definitely my sleeper team out West. Chris Paul + Guys who can catch alley-oops (Chandler) and shoot (Peterson, Peja) equals...Buckets all day. Too bad their city hates basketball. Some analysts even aruge that if Hurricane Katrina never happens, they’d be making plans for Oklahoma City right now. Intriguing.(By the way, John Paxson must be kicking himself right now. The Bulls are stuck with an older, less effective version of Tyson Chandler at thrice the cost (Ben Wallace). Enjoy the bayou, Tyson.)

5. Memphis Grizzlies: With a new “no-name” coach (Marc Iavaroni), young players (Gay, Lowry, Conley), and older stiffs (Brian Cardinal) surrounding their “superstar” (Pau Gasol) this looks like a rebuilding year in Graceland.

Northwest Division
1. Denver Nuggets:
This team is going to light it up this season. Iverson’s still a legitimate force, Carmelo is coming into his own (definitely a more polished scorer than Lebron), and Camby’s still guarding the paint to prevent the Nuggets from turning into another non-defensive team (see: Suns, Knicks). After they run away with the division, I think the K-Mart issue and the downgrade at PG over the summer (Blake > Atkins) is going to kill them come playoff time.

2. Utah Jazz: The Williams/Boozer connection is eerily similar to another super tandem that we’ve seen before (Stockton/Malone). Jerry Sloan is the best coach in the NBA without a Coach of the Year trophy in his office. Last year, the NBA rewarded a coach (Sam Mitchell) that watched a group of young, athletic guys (Bosh, Ford, Graham, Bargnani) dissect an extremely pathetic Atlantic Division. Once again, Sloan’s going to prove why the Jazz have been competitive since the early 90s. (Also, I love how the talks surrounding Kirilenko completely died off. Did the Mormons tempt him with their debauchery, polygamy and liquor?)

3. Portland Trailblazers: Did you know that this team is built around two players with knee surgeries? (Roy and Oden) Yikes.

4. Seattle Sonics: P.J. Carlesimo is the Norv Turner of the NBA. No wonder Latrell pulled a Wayne Brady and choked this guy.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: No Big dice. Wolves’ fans better enjoy watching Antoine Walker do the shimmy. He reminds me a little of that fat kid from

Pacific Division
1. Phoenix Suns:
Though Steve and Co. can’t play a lick of D, they score enough buckets to make their usual stroll through the regular season. I pray that Amare learned how to guard a big man on the block over the summer...or we’ll see another Spurs/Mavs West final.

2. Golden State Warriors: Stephen Jackson is one of the best all-around players in the NBA. Since his return, the Warriors have gone 6-2. Since the league is extremely scoring guard heavy, every team needs a guy who will mix it up with the Lebrons and Wades of the league. The rest of the team will just play Nellieball and hope to play Dallas again in the postseason.

3. Los Angeles Lakers: Funny how a winning streak can cool off the trade demands of a superstar. Bynum, Farmar, and the rest of the rookies are playing great basketball, Phil Jackson just signed on for another handful of years, and Kobe’s Hollywood dream is finally starting to come true. Maybe if they can trade Odom for Jermaine O’Neal...

4. Sacramento Kings: While lounging around the Towers three months ago, I was watching Reggie Theus pretend to care about his daughter’s basketball career on an episode of Baldwin Hills. Reggie Theus is the West Coast version of Isiah Thomas. He should have stayed at New Mexico State…because once Bibby gets traded (hopefully to the Cavs for the league’s sake), he’ll be left with Brad Miller’s cornrows, and the craziest man in the NBA…Ron Artest…just looming, waiting to unleash his fury on the next drunk fan.

5. Los Angeles Clippers: My friend Mike James told me that he’d like to see Kobe in a Clippers uniform. Even though Molo and Marley are probably now slapping five, do you really think that Kobe enjoy a team with the cheapest owner in the NBA? Donald Sterling is the anti-Dolan (Knicks owner). He refused to sign Odom and traded him for 40 cents on the dollar, believed that his GM (Elgin Baylor) knew what he was doing with the franchise’s #1 pick (Michael Olowokandi?), let Brian Simmons stroll to the Bucks, and is ready to let Corey Maggette go after he’s proven to be the only consistent scorer for their club over the past five years. This team’s future is tied to an aging vet (Sam Cassell), a mediocre SG (Mobley), and two guys coming off of season-ending injuries (Livingston, Brand). If this doesn’t spell disaster, I don’t know what does.

Anyway, let me know which show to psychoanalyze next week, and enjoy finals week!