Tuesday, December 20, 2005

An NBA Carol

The television flickered in the dim twilight of my living room. Another evening at home, denying the wintery forces at work outside my window. An empty Styrofoam container on the coffee table, the remains of my Jamaican takeout, and the sports page, tattered and read over multiple times, were the only signs of life on this particular night.

The droning of the television made me sleepy and I could hardly keep my eyes open as Reggie Miller tried to make a December matchup between the Raptors and Bucks bearable. His voice seemed to hypnotize me as I sat slouched on the sofa with a scowl and drooping eyelids.

Rafael Araujo foul…..T.J. Ford missed shot….Jamaal Magloire offensive board….T.J. Ford misses again…..Calderon on the break dishes to Mo Pete…..turnover…..Michael Redd feeds Bogut in the post…..another Araujo foul….zzzzzzzzzzzzzz


I suddenly awoke to a horrible caterwauling. My head on a swivel, and my eyes darting around the room, I shook in terror. What was that awful racket? I grimaced and shrank where I sat as I realized the horrible din of Stephen A. Smith’s mighty and idiotic ranting. Click. Off with the television. I mumbled to myself, “The NBA sucks….bah, humbug.”

The clock struck twelve and I stirred slightly in my sleep. Several hours of contorted sleep had left me twisted and even grumpier than before. I rubbed my eyes and forced myself upright on the couch again. Half asleep and foul as filth, I stared bitterly at the now silent television. All that remained of my unpleasant night of NBA “entertainment” was a haunting flashback of Bill Walton’s face smirking and babbling unintelligibly.


The television suddenly came to life. After a brief hum and a dull blue glow, a blurred and ghostly image emerged. I pinched myself to see if I was completely awake. Seemed to be. A face appeared, giving shape to the apparition. In my confusion I initially mistook this countenance as the likeness of former Bulls GM Jerry Krause, but soon realized that it was a far ghastlier and sinister visage. It was none other than the ghost of David Stern!

“What’s your problem with my league?”, he uttered cheerfully, with a slight sense of condescension in his voice.

I sat dumbfounded.

“What’s not to like about an internationally popular product? The finest athletes in the world competing in some of the most exciting cities in the United States.”

Was he speaking to me?

“Yes. Mr. East. It’s to you that I’m posing this inquiry. What’s not to like about highlight reel plays, and great musical acts, all under the same roof, and in your living room every night?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”, I retorted, “You call those guys the finest athletes in the world? You call Charlotte, North Carolina, Salt Lake City, and Milwaukee some of the most exciting cities in the world? You’re on something, man.”

“Hmmmm. You can please all of the people all of the time.”

“You know what Sterny-boy? That’s your problem.” I added, “ You are trying to please all the people, all the time. No one who loves this sport could give two shits about Nelly at halftime, or what the players are wearing entering and leaving the arena. Most of all, no one cares about half the so-called teams you trot out there passing for competitive franchises. Your game plain sucks. Bah humbug.”

Stern’s forehead wrinkled and he paused for a moment shaking his head. “You are a lost soul, Mr. East. You ask for too much. The start of the NBA season is a time to appreciate what you have. You have lost your sense of what this league means to millions of people all over the world. What would your winter be like without the glorious NBA? You shall soon find out….You will find new hope and a chance for redemption tonight.”

I guffawed. Yeah, right.

"You will be haunted," resumed the ghost of Stern, "by Three Spirits."

My countenance fell almost as low as the ghost's had done.

"Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Davey Boy?" I demanded, in a faltering voice.

"It is."

"I -- I think I'd rather not," I said.

"Without their visits," said the ghost, "you cannot hope to shun the path of apathy. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one."

"Couldn't I take `em all at once, and have it over, Sterno?" I hinted.

"Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!"

A horrible day of waiting followed. Coffee tasted bland and stale. All the newsstands seemed sold out of the new edition, and a bitter wind burned my face, taunting me. I could swear that it spoke…..”Yes! And it counts!!”, and “Oh….a spectacular move by Michael Jordan.” Could I be hallucinating?

As the moments drew near to one, I sleepily settled into my favorite armchair. “Ha. There are no ghosts and there was definitely something funny in that Jamaican takeout yesterday.” I said to myself.

The clock struck one and a mist rose from the floor at my feet. I shuddered and begged for forgiveness as a full bodied spirit sprang from the mist. My terror was instantly replaced by a feeling of whimsy. I don’t often get “whimsy” but I can’t explain it any differently, so live with it.

A man stood before me, in monochrome black and white. He wore leather kneepads and extremely short shorts. Clearly he was something out of the “cager” era of basketball and a living monument to the set shot and the three-man weave.

“Hey. What’s with the Nancy-boy outfit.”, I offered mockingly.

BLOW!!!! A solid punch to the jaw sent me reeling. CRASH!!! Another elbow to the chin had me seeing stars.

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. East. I’m the Ghost of NBA Past. A member of the “Original Celtics” club. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about, or has you mind been so rotted by MTV and Miller Lite that your are unable to recall anything beyond 10 minutes of your most recent history.”

Fearing another violent reprisal I remained seated on the floor rubbing my jaw. “I follow you well enough tough guy. What are you here for?”

“Well, you long for a better brand of basketball, and I’m here to bring it to you, lad. Let’s take a look at basketball in my day, and you’ll learn a thing or two about the real meaning of the NBA.”

The television came to life with a sepia glow and I watched transfixed as barnstorming white guys in hot pants bobbed and weaved like chickens. Underhanded free throws and bountiful chest passes abounded and I grew dizzy from watching.

“What the fuck do you call that mess?”, I asked.

POW!!! Another solid shot to the nose. I reeled, but I saw that one coming and managed to take the punch like a man. A little blood trickled from my nose and I sneered at the ghost for a moment.

“You’re trying to tell me that I should appreciate that crap?”, I asked. “I’m sorry. No disrespect intended, but I was thinking a little more about the Clyde Frazier Knicks when I pined for an era of basketball lost in the past. Not you lot of dinosaurs and your shorts with belts. Begone! Bah humbug!”, I shouted.

“Very well”, said the ghost, “perhaps the next ghost will snap you out of your stupor”

And with that, he was gone.

The next night, the mist rose again, and I wondered what horror awaited me. The sight of hoop-themed ghouls was becoming old hat and it was going to take more than a dusty old cager to rattle me tonight.

“YO!!! Don’t you eyeball me mother fucker!!!”

I fell to the ground shivering as a full 7 foot terror loomed above me. It’s face was turned into a horrible screw and darts shot from it’s eyes pinning me to the floor.

“Yeah, boy. Stay down there and show me some mother fuckin’ respect.”

My eyes peeked upward to take a closer look at the giant. I noticed a terri cloth headband around the beast’s head, and realized that I was being visited by a foul and wretched likeness of Clifford Robinson. Yup, Uncle Cliffy was in the house.

Fear having been replaced by admiration and respect I stood.

“Wow. Uncle Cliffy in my living room. The NBA is fantastic after all!” I beamed.

“Glad to see your sorry ass is coming around.”, he answered.

“Well, I wouldn’t say I’m coming around, but I am wondering what you of all people are doing here.”

Cliff reared back and laughed maniacally. He rubbed his chin and answered, “ I am the last living player from the 1980’s, Mr. East. I am all that’s left of Showtime.”

With that, the two of us shared some wicked Jamaican takeout and watched highlights of the 1987 Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics. I had started to come around to the league a bit, when Cliffy chimed in, “Y’know what, man? I’m getting’ real tired of hearing your pissing and moaning about watered down leagues and expansion crazy commissioners. Can’t you let more of us get ours, man?”

I thought for a moment before saying, “You have a point Uncle C, but here’s the thing. I’d rather see Chris Paul paired with Paul Pierce and Dwight Howard than divided between a bunch of shit ass teams. If it means that you are out of a job a few years earlier so be it.”

Cliff frowned and rose up again. He scowled and shook. “You are a jaded and spiteful fan, Mr. East. What have we done over all these years to have you treat us so unappreciatively? Perhaps Commissioner Stern is right. It’s too late for you. Only the last ghost will have a chance to redeem you.”

With that he was gone.

I spent the next 24 hours contemplating my stance on the league. Uncle Cliffy had a point. The weird old cager also showed me that the current game is far more watchable than whatever that game was they used to call basketball when Dr. Naismith hung the peach basket on the wall.

Time flew and the mist once again rose……the final ghost was a face I didn’t recognize and I swiftly introduced myself.

“I’m Mr. East. Who the Hell are you?”

“Heh. You don’t know me yet son, but you’d better watch your tongue or I’ll make sure this NBA experience is your last. I am the final ghost after all. Your last chance. The ghost of NBA future. You can call me O.J. Mayo, point guard of the future.”

“Ooooh.”, I actually said out loud. I have a weakness for a good point guard. “Tell me O.J., what is in store for the league in the future that I should be all excited about?”

The apparition paused and smirked. He laughed to himself a bit and finally replied, “Me. You should be excited about me you punk ass bitch. I’m the future. Like it or leave it. I run, shoot, pass, and play defense. The league is filled with guys like me and the game is producing ballers from all corners of the world. Stick with this game, or miss out on all the fun.”

I had to ask one more time, “What about the teams in all the shitty towns around the US? What about the halftime shows and the corporate sell out shit? What about the guys that only come to play in their contract years? What does it all mean O.J.”

The ghost again smirked and then shrugged his shoulders. “I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. The thing is, isn’t it all worth it? All the circus shit? Isn’t that what sells papers and keeps you writing your blog? Think about a future without all that….”

And with that, he was gone.

Dawn came and I still had no answer. Unlike Scrooge, I was not transformed. Would I be damned to an eternity of apathy? Perhaps not. I managed to pick up the remote and catch the pre-game show on TNT. Why not? I hear the Nets are on and Uncle Cliffy just might get some burn.

Merry Christmas and God Bless Us All……Everyone…..

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Check out the gams on Kobe!

Do you remember the ad Joe Namath did wearing pantyhose? Well...

Can any one of you tell me what the f&^% is up with the tights Kobe is wearing this year? And what's with the wacky acid trip kicks he's sporting? Has he lost his f*%^&ing mind? He looks like one of those guys you see out on Melrose or at the Promenade near Santa Monica pier. His shoes look like roller blades and those tights are like crazy man pants. He should be selling oranges and shouting incoherently at people passing by......

Basically, he's the NBA's fashion equivalent of "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski.

Mr. East

I'm not sure what Mr. East's fucking problem with Kobe's sassy leggings is, but I suspect it has to do with a traumatic experience he had with an 8th grade field trip to see Cats.

Growing up in the 70's and 80's, if some dude was sporting tights like this you'd basically figure him to be slightly retarded or running late to ballet. At some point in the early 90's, around the time dudes started to shave all their body hair and put mousse in their hair on a regular basis, athletes started rocking tights now and then as a sign of sports excellence. But this was mainly runners and fringe sports. Soon, though, as mainstream sports athletes started to adopt the workouts and styles of cutting edge sports, they embraced the tights. But basketball? That shit is fucked up.

Kobe is a bitch, we all agree on that, right? A psychologist could most likely easily diagnose his marriage at age 21 rather than playing the field as any man in his right mind would do in that situation, rape/assault/dirty fuck of a girl in Colorado, and now sporting tights as obvious sexuality issues as he struggles to be a "man." He wants so badly to be Jordan but just does not get it-- Kobe is an unlikable asshole.

How the hell one can ball in tights is beyond me. I suspect the real reasons why Kobe sports the spandex look are two-fold: 1) he played well in them once and players believe they will keep playing well if they adhere to sticking to the same routine; and 2) he wants to draw attention to himself and hopefully spark a new trend that he can claim he started. Uh, not gonna happen, Kobe.

I just wonder how the NBA dress code fines Kyle Korver tons of $$$ but lets Kobe wear tights? I guess that’s corporate bureaucracy for ya’.

Mr. West