Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April Top 15

15. Nirvana - Sappy
14. Queens of the Stone Age - I Think I Lost My Headache
13. Tift Merritt - Something To Me
12. Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway
11. U2 - One Tree Hill

10. The Guess Who - Hand Me Down World
9. Foreigner - Feels Like The First Time
8. Van Morrison - These Are The Days
7. Chris Isaak - I Wonder
6. Emmylou Harris - Queen of the Silver Dollar

5. Bee Gees - Tragedy
4. T.V. Carpio - I Want To Hold Your Hand
3. Tift Merritt - Broken
2. Sheryl Crow - If It Makes You Happy

Song of the Month: Fountains of Wayne - Radiation Vibe

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Defense is the Difference

The Phoenix Suns had the highest shooting percentage the NBA has seen in eleven seasons, but they are about to be ousted in the first round of the playoffs because their opponent plays much better defense. Three prominent Suns – two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, power forward Amare Stoudemire, and shooter Gordan Giricek – are amongst the league’s weakest defensive players. Their opponent, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, is a defensive juggernaut that has consistently emphasized defense over offense since Gregg Popovich became coach and they drafted Tim Duncan with the #1 pick eleven years ago. The Spurs give big minutes to players like Bruce Bowen (6 points, 40% shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 assist per game), Kurt Thomas, and Ime Udoka because of their defensive skills. During the season, the Suns actually traded away their best defensive player, Shawn Marion, and acquired Giricek.

The Philadelphia 76ers have managed to take two of four games against the second seeded Detroit Pistons solely because of defense. Incredibly talentless on the offensive end, the Sixers are gritting through this series with balls-to-the-wall defensive intensity. They’ve forced 64 turnovers in the four games so far (16 per) from the team that had the NBA’s fewest (11.1 per) during the regular season. Forcing turnovers is essential for the bricklaying Sixers, as they lead to transition opportunities. Andre Iguodola might not be able to make an uncovered eight foot jump shot right now, but if he steals the ball he’ll usually outrun the other team and dunk it, or pass to one of his high-jumping, terrible-shooting teammates and have him finish it off.

The Los Angeles Lakers handily swept their first round playoff series with the Denver Nuggets. There are many reasons for the gap between these two teams, but perhaps the most noteworthy is the defensive gap between the teams’ starting guards. The Lakers start Derek Fisher at the point because he doesn’t do anything stupid, makes a few open threes, and knows how to play D. They also have Kobe Bryant, whose defensive ability separates him from the rest of the league’s top scorers. The Nuggets play Allen Iverson, who simply isn’t big enough, Carmelo Anthony, who is slow and doesn’t try, and the red-hot J.R. Smith, who hasn’t made defense a career priority. In this series, Carmelo and Iverson struggled while most of the Lakers flourished.

The Houston Rockets willed their way to a 22 game winning streak during the season on the strength of defense and hustle. They lost Yao Ming, one of their two offensive playmakers, to a season-ending injury during that win streak, but kept churning out wins on the sweat of their defense. They don’t have the horses to compete with a loaded Utah Jazz team in these playoffs, but gutted out a road win in game 3 and almost another in game 4 with desperation tenacity. Carl Landry’s game-winning block on Deron Williams in that game 3 was the most exciting play of the playoffs thus far.

It’s generally believed that defense is a product of desire, conditioning, and practice. This idea is probably in perpetuance because this is the case at all but the highest levels of athletics. For most casual athletes, defensive efficiency is a product of effort. But once you get to the NBA, it’s not just about trying. Talent matters too. Take Iverson, one of the most competitive athletes in the world. He wants it as bad as anyone, and he’s in the best shape in the league. He’s always amongst the NBA leaders in steals, and this season led the league in steal/personal foul ratio. But AI is small. Players have no problem shooting over him or backing him down. He needs help guarding bigger players, and he’s always guarding a bigger player. The Lakers were the ultimate Kryptonite for the Nuggets because they are the best passing team in the league. Denver always tries to send a man in to help Iverson and Anthony. The Lakers were able to beautifully exploit these double teams with perfect passes to a wide open man. The precision of these passes also limited turnovers, which kept the Nuggets from getting into their comfort zone in transition.

Defensive talent is perhaps the most underrated aspect of winning basketball. It’s harder to see with the naked eye and it’s harder to quantify. If it was easily discernible, Steve Nash never would have won an MVP award. Remember that it’s not really his fault though – he just doesn’t have the physical tools to play great defense. Players like Bryant, Landry, and Iguodola don’t just try hard – they have the quickness, size, and strength to win games for their teams on defense.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Feel Good Hit of the Spring

I’ve been listening to the Queens of the Stone Age album Rated R quite a bit lately (it’s excellent). The first song is “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”, a blistering double entendre with only these words in the lyrics: “Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol.” The chorus is: “Cocaine.” The idea here is that the Queens have no interest in anything real clever or advanced; they are going to rock, and rock hard.

The Philadelphia 76ers are the Feel Good Team of the ’07-’08 NBA season. After losing to the Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, the Sixers steadily declined to a 33-49 record in ’03-’04. Then they brought in Chris Webber to compliment star Allen Iverson, but C-Webb went over the hill and the Sixers had a couple more mediocre seasons. Last season Iverson gave the team an ultimatum to find him support or trade him; they chose the latter and shipped him to the Nuggets for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first-rounders. This season, in the midst of a seven game losing streak, the Sixers bought out the useless Webber’s contract.

On February 4th the Sixers were 18-30. Then the fortunes of the franchise suddenly turned around. The Sixers won five games in a row (all at home), lost to the Timberwolves, then won fourteen of their next eighteen including wins over Orlando, at Phoenix, at Detroit, San Antonio, Denver, and at Boston. Though they lost their last four against weak East competition, they comfortably made the playoffs as the 7th seed in the pathetic Eastern Conference.

I was excited to watch the Sixers play the Detroit Pistons in their first round playoff series. I’ve been curious to watch the Sixers for quite some time, as their young roster has no big names whatsoever. I’ve been wondering how they’re winning these games.

I watched the first game of the Sixers/Pistons series start to finish, intent on uncovering reasons for Philly’s second half surge. It didn’t take me long to realize the Sixers are not a very talented basketball team.

Trust me – these guys stink. Their alleged star player, Andre Iguodola, is an average swingman who takes too many threes. Iguodola is a decent player but wouldn’t even start for most (maybe all) of the Western Conference playoff teams. Their highest-paid player, center Sam Dalembert, has very few offensive skills. Starting shooting guard Willie Green is a dull bricklayer with 28% 3 point shooting and a 2:1.5 assist/turnover ratio. Power forward Reggie Evans, a former Denver Nugget, is one of the worst shooters in basketball (46% free throws).

The Sixers have no explosiveness, no difference-makers, no game-changers, no exciting blast of energy to turn around a game. They traded their one potent three-point shooter, Kyle Korver, to the Jazz for Gordan Giricek (another pure shooter) and a future first-round pick, then released Giricek and became the worst three-point shooting team in the league.

Coming off the bench for the Sixers are 21 year-old Louis Williams, a run of the mill point guard; efficient 19 year-old forward Thaddeus Young, their one exciting prospect; bland young guard Rodney Carney; and a crew of stiffs including Calvin Booth, Jason Smith (a rookie from Colorado State), and former Duke frustration creator Shavlik Randolph. In that first playoff game against the Pistons, Young was the only player who showed the slightest potential.

But here’s the thing about that first game against the Pistons:

The Sixers won the game.

I’m still not sure how it happened. The Pistons were cruising. There wasn’t much doubt about who was going to win. The Pistons are more talented at every position and far more experienced. Beating the Sixers, who finished the regular season with a 40-42 record, should be an afterthought. These are the same Pistons that won the championship in 2004 and have been in the thick of the title chase ever since. On the road with no lurking firepower, making a comeback to win a game in Detroit seemed almost impossible for the 76ers.

From my limited perspective, there are three reasons the Sixers win games. The first is Andre Miller, quite possibly the perfect point guard for this team. Miller has spent most of his career playing the point for bad to mediocre teams, once leading the league in assists while playing for the Clippers. Miller is not a flashy player and is useless as a three point shooter, having made just three all season. But he is a fabulous passer, an underrated scorer, a sly rebounder, a solid defender, and one of the smartest players in the league. He’s the ultimate floor general for this team. While the Sixers lack skill, they are fairly athletic. Miller’s pinpoint passing, particularly on alley-oops and running the break, maximize scoring opportunities for his army of jumpers and bricklayers.

The second reason for the Sixers success is head coach Maurice Cheeks. Coming out of West Texas State in 1978, Cheeks wasn’t drafted in the first round. Yet he played point guard for fifteen years in the NBA, made the NBA Finals three times, won a title, played in four all-star games, and made the NBA all-defensive team four straight years. He retired as the NBA’s all-time steals leader, fifth in assists. Now that the Sixers have weeded out defensive cancers Iverson, Webber, and Korver, Cheeks has them playing his brand of ball – the third reason they are able to win games.

The Sixers play excellent defense. They play HARD. Dalembert is a gifted defensive player in the Dikembe Mutombo mode. Their guards are all very quick and strong and they play defense with passion. They play like it’s the last possession of the game all game long.

The Sixers beat the Pistons on Sunday because they wanted to win more than the Pistons did. They played harder. The Sixers don’t have the ability to do anything too clever or advanced; they are just here to play, and play hard. I don’t think they will win many more games this playoffs, and they have no chance to win the championship, but it’s always great to see superior effort overcome inferior talent.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Secrets of the '07 - '08 Denver Nuggets

The only team I watched substantially during the NBA’s regular season was the hometown Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets spent the season battling for a playoff spot in the Wild West, and eventually emerged with the 8th and final seed. The general opinion is that the Nuggets are an overpriced, underachieving pack of hooligans who don’t play hard, don’t play defense, and don’t care about anything other than throwing down stylish dunks and swishing long range jumpers. Most general opinions on the Nuggets are in fact myths. I’m here to set the record straight, debunk the myths, and reveal nine critical secrets enveloping the team.

Secret #1: The Nuggets are a likable team.

The Nuggets are actually a lot of fun to watch. Allen Iverson’s game is one of the most exciting and appreciable in the league. The Nuggets play a fast-paced, entertaining, flowing game. None of their players are selfish. Two of their players are overpaid while the rest are reasonably priced. They have several players – Iverson, Marcus Camby, Eduardo Najera, and Linas Kleiza, to name a few – with unique skill sets that make them a pleasure to watch. They play well together, they score a lot of points, and…

Secret #2: The Nuggets don’t play that bad of defense.

The Nuggets gave up 107 points per game during the regular season, second most in the league. But this is almost entirely due to their style of play. They generally shoot the ball very early in the shot clock and run up and down the court, creating more possessions per game for both teams. According to the Hollinger Defensive Efficiency ratings, the Nuggets actually have the 9th best defense in the league – and merely the 11th best offense. This is a simple formula based on how many points a team scores or gives up per possession – the Nuggets give up the 9th fewest points per possession in the NBA. They also have the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Camby, who led the league in blocks (by a wide margin) for the third consecutive year. Camby also finished second in the NBA in rebounds.

Secret #3: The Nuggets are well-coached.

The Nuggets are often viewed as underachieving because of the big-name players – Allen Iverson (the NBA's third-leading scorer), Carmelo Anthony (the NBA's fourth-leading scorer), Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin – on their roster. The truth is none of these guys are top-tier players. Anthony and Iverson are both fairly one-dimensional scorers who don’t do that much else (Carmelo can rebound if he wants, AI can pass if he wants). Camby rebounds, blocks shots, and bricks jumpers. K-Mart we will deal with later (he stinks). The Nuggets do not have a top-15 player on their roster. It’s hard to be one of the best teams in the NBA without one. Simply put, the Nugget starters are not as talented as most people believe.

George Karl receives the brunt of the blame for this perceived underachieving. The truth is, Karl implements a dynamic strategy that maximizes the performance of his team. He could slow things down and bring down that 107 points per game his team gives up, but he understands that the high-octane run and gun approach is the strategy that gives his team the best chance to win over the course of the season. He also does a nice job coming up with single-use plays at key points during the game, uses timeouts effectively, and has developed an excellent substitution pattern. Which brings us to…

Secret #4: The Nuggets have one of the top three benches in the NBA.

Only the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics can compete with the firepower the Nuggets bring off the bench. Linas Kleiza is the prototypical “offensive spark” bench guy. He can score from anywhere on the court, he runs the floor, he can post up or shoot the three, he plays a bit recklessly, he never wants to come out, etc. Eduardo Najera is a renowned “hustle board” kind of guy. He does the Little Things. He dives after loose balls. He takes charges. He fouls big guys. He elbows and pokes. He can be The Enforcer if needed. And this year, he learned to shoot the corner three. And Denver’s most dangerous bench player…

Secret #5: J.R. Smith is the X-factor of the 2008 NBA Playoffs.

J.R. Smith, a mercurial 22 year-old straight-from-high-school shooting guard, is one of the few bench players in the league explosive enough to take over a game. When he’s on, his game resembles Kobe Bryant’s. He’s a leaper, a dunker (placed second in the NBA dunk contest a couple years back), a slasher, and a shooter. This season he stepped his point production up to 12.3 a game (in just 19 minutes per) and three-point shooting up to 40%, despite many of them being fallaways, desperation heaves with the shot clock winding down, or four feet plus behind the arc. When he gets hot, he’s unstoppable.

The problem for Smith has always been consistency. He continues to take wild shots when they’re not falling; this bad shot selection can quickly submarine a team and frustrate teammates. But after three feud-filled years with Smith, Karl has learned when to pull Smith out of the game and when to let him out of his cage. If Smith catches fire during these playoffs, he becomes an unsolvable puzzle for opposing defenses and can be the difference-maker. In a crucial late-season matchup that essentially determined the final seed in the Western Conference playoffs, Smith scored 24 points in 26 minutes against the Golden Warriors and effectively ended their season.

Secret #6: Kenyon Martin is one of the worst starting power forwards in the NBA.

I cannot properly express my distaste for this man. All he does is stand around waiting for someone to make a drive and then pass to him so he can throw down an athletic dunk. He seems to miss every shot but his dunks. He plays terrible stand-around-and-watch defense. He’s always injured, except for this season. He’s especially hated because of his massive contract - a contract ESPN’s Bill Simmons named the league's worst - which pays him $59 million over the course of this season and the next three. It’s not his fault the Nugs were stupid enough to pay him this much money, of course. It’s just a shame they made that desperation signing instead of exercising some fiscal responsibility. The possibilities for what the Nuggets could have done with the money are endless.

Secret #7: The point guard play for the Nuggets is possibly the weakest in the league.

This one isn’t really that much of a secret. The only point the Nuggets play is Anthony Carter, because supposed starter Chucky Atkins sustained a serious injury before the season and hasn’t been able to play much. Carter wasn’t even in the NBA for most of last season, and he doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. However,

Secret #8: Denver’s weak point guard play doesn’t matter.

The Nuggets start Carter and he plays about the first eight minutes. After that, Karl generally brings in J.R. Smith and has Iverson bring the ball up. It really doesn’t matter. Karl has completely deemphasized the significance of the point guard position for the Nuggets. It doesn’t matter who brings the ball up, or dribbles it at the top of the key. The Nugget bigs – Camby, K-Mart, Kleiza, and Najera – can decently handle the ball. Iverson and Smith are very comfortable bringing it up the floor. Denver's offense is just not predicated on point guard play. Again, Karl deserves credit for this savvy adaptation.

Secret #9: The Nuggets’ best big man is a non-factor.

In last year’s first round playoff series loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Brazilian power forward Nene was the best player on the Nuggets. Nene is an aggressive, powerful, fearless power forward. Unfortunately, he has been unavailable for most of this season. Nene missed 22 games early in the season with a thumb injury, then had a malignant testicular tumor removed in January. He returned to the lineup in late March with limited conditioning and immediately injured his groin. He hasn’t played since. His impact in the playoffs will be somewhere between nonexistent and minimal. This is very unfortunate, as a healthy Nene would vault the Nuggets into real contention for the NBA Championship. As is, I expect the Nuggets to win a couple games against their first round opponent (the #1 seeded LA Lakers) before falling in the first round for the fourth straight year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Basketball Blog

These are the facts:
  • I love writing
  • I love watching basketball games
  • I love writing about basketball games
  • Most of my blog readers think I should become a professional sportswriter
  • I don't play a whole lot of poker these days
  • There will be one or more intriguing, competitive NBA playoff games almost every day between Saturday and the end of May
  • This NBA Playoffs could be the best ever
I think I could and would be a top-notch sportswriter if I decided to make it my profession. Three reasons why it's not my profession right now:
  1. The amount of money I make playing poker dwarfs anything I'd be making writing sports
  2. I cringe at the thought of covering high school girls basketball my first six months on the job
  3. I rely too heavily on bulleting and numbering
Somewhere down the line I may decide to make it my profession. I've always known this and I've always treated this blog as practice, as a portfolio, as a resume. For the NBA Playoffs, I'm going to try to step it up a notch and write about three times a week. Hopefully I can make some insightful and entertaining posts and continue to build the portfolio. I'll kick it off in a couple days with the story of the 2007-2008 Denver Nuggets.

Monday, April 14, 2008

High Concept

With 100 players left in the FTP 1k Monday:

I had about 1700 chips going into this hand - about five big blinds. This was not a misclick. Special credit to Matt Viox for "suggesting" the play:

Dealt to GnightMoon [Th 3s]
YoungSupremacy folds
TheBrain has 15 seconds left to act
gagillionaire has been disconnected
gagillionaire has reconnected
TheBrain folds
gagillionaire has 15 seconds left to act
gagillionaire has been disconnected
gagillionaire has reconnected
gagillionaire folds
Exitonly folds
SBRounder has 15 seconds left to act
SBRounder is sitting out
SBRounder has timed out
SBRounder folds
SBRounder has returned
gagillionaire has been disconnected
gagillionaire has reconnected
GnightMoon calls 340
1Mastermind folds
Adzizzy124 calls 170
bonafidedonkey checks
*** FLOP *** [7s Ah 5d]
Adzizzy124 checks
bonafidedonkey checks
GnightMoon has 15 seconds left to act
GnightMoon bets 421
Adzizzy124 folds
bonafidedonkey folds
Uncalled bet of 421 returned to GnightMoon
GnightMoon mucks

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Satellite Revenge

A month ago I found myself in a predicament very late in a WSOP main event supersatellite on PokerStars. We were only a few away from the seat, I was short, a player with an even-sized stack moved all-in in late position, and I had pocket aces in the small blind. I tanked for almost a minute and then called after considering the pros and cons of calling versus folding. I was a lock to win the seat if I called and won, and likely to win it if I folded. The math dictates that I should call if the chances of the aces holding up against the pusher's range are higher than the chances of winning the seat if I fold. I didn't quite compute it at the time, but it turned out I was supposed to call. After I called, my opponent rivered a straight with queen-ten offsuit and I lost out on the seat.

I've played a couple more satellites since then with no luck. Today in the Stars $650 satellite I was able to build a chipleader stack (including cracking another poor soul's aces with 65s all-in preflop) with about 100 players left, 24 of them getting seats. I got switched to a couple bad seats and blinded off for hours until there were 30 left and I picked up my favorite hand, king-ten suited, on the button and shoved in for about nine big blinds. The big blind, who had about eleven big blinds, thought for a very long time and called with ace-queen. The flop gave me no help but a king on the turn followed by a blank on the river and I had doubled up and locked up the seat.

A few hands later I did this for the first time in my career:

PokerStars Game #16716195525: Tournament #83595798, $615+$35 Hold'em No Limit - Level XIX (3000/6000) - 2008/04/14 - 00:52:59 (ET)
Table '83595798 49' 9-max Seat #5 is the button
Seat 1: MrTile (350624 in chips)
Seat 2: txhammer (37898 in chips)
Seat 3: TravestyFund (103064 in chips)
Seat 4: Sage Phantom (51962 in chips)
Seat 5: throwinphins (11557 in chips)
Seat 6: teacuppoker (62624 in chips)
Seat 7: rivermanl (56360 in chips)
Seat 9: moledaddy (248413 in chips)
MrTile: posts the ante 600
txhammer: posts the ante 600
TravestyFund: posts the ante 600
Sage Phantom: posts the ante 600
throwinphins: posts the ante 600
teacuppoker: posts the ante 600
rivermanl: posts the ante 600
moledaddy: posts the ante 600
teacuppoker: posts small blind 3000
rivermanl: posts big blind 6000
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Sage Phantom [Ac As]
moledaddy: raises 10669 to 16669
MrTile: folds
txhammer: folds
TravestyFund: folds
Sage Phantom: folds
throwinphins: folds
teacuppoker: folds
rivermanl: folds
moledaddy collected 19800 from pot
moledaddy: doesn't show hand
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 19800 | Rake 0
Seat 1: MrTile folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 2: txhammer folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 3: TravestyFund folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 4: Sage Phantom folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: throwinphins (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: teacuppoker (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 7: rivermanl (big blind) folded before Flop
Seat 9: moledaddy collected (19800)

A few minutes later it was over. I'll be playing in the main event this summer courtesy of Pokerstars, though I will try to avoid wearing their gear if i can help it. I think I will also have ten nights at the Palms or something. It may go to the highest bidder.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Top Ten Beatles Albums

10. With the Beatles
9. Please Please Me
8. Rubber Soul
7. Revolver
6. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
5. Let it Be
4. A Hard Day's Night
3. White Album
2. Help!
1. Abbey Road

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Another Thing Not To Mention In The Profile

I just wrote a five page strategy guide (single spaced) to The Settlers of Catan for no reason other than I wanted to.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Give Me the Pros

In what will be remembered as a classic national championship game, Kansas came back from a nine-point deficit with 2:12 remaining to force overtime and then defeated Memphis 75-68. I will remember it as a thoroughly dreadful debacle of a title bout, void of quality play, intelligence, maturity, and entertainment value. I will end up remembering it as another negative turning point in my appreciation for NCAA sports.

There was a time when college football was my favorite sport to watch. The CU Buffs were consistently eating at the top of the food chain and had a fantastic rivalry with the Nebraska Cornhuskers; the big games were mostly on CBS and ABC on Saturday afternoons where and when I could watch them (we didn’t get cable till I was in high school); the Daily Camera did a good job with their college football coverage. Eventually I realized college football’s postseason was a farce, archaic and preposterous, so nonsensical that it rendered following the game frustrating and pointless. Imagine reading 500 pages of Faulkner, only to pause a month and a half right before getting to the climax, then reading a final chapter written by Danielle Steel. That is college football.

This past season, in fact, was the wildest in the history of the sport, but its ending was so random, convoluted and disattached that no one cared about or remembered the conclusion.

Unlike college football, college basketball has an efficient and logical system for ending its season and determining a champion. The most casual of fans are drawn into March Madness – it’s fast-paced and to the point, and the ingenious bracketing and seeding puts nonchalant fans on the same ground as hardcore viewers.

Gradually I have become frustrated by the weaknesses of college basketball. It’s not fair to compare it to the NBA, but it can’t be avoided. It is hard not to view major conference college basketball as an unofficial development league for the NBA. This national championship game featured Derrick Rose of Memphis, likely to bolt college in a few days to be the #2 pick in the next NBA draft. Memphis also has a host of potential bargain-bin NBA backup types, players like Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey, and Shawn Taggart. Most of the Kansas Jayhawks have NBA aspirations. Probably 5 or 6 of them will end up there.

But the college product is so inferior to the NBA. There are players like Rose who will eventually be studs in the NBA, but would hardly be useful right now. Even the best players, like last year’s national player of the year Kevin Durant, come into the league no better than the average player. The most entertaining and likable of the college stars, players like Dee Brown, Adam Morrison, and Stephen Curry, may not even make it in the pros. The NBA is a collection of freaks, and once you watch enough sports and grow older and all ideas of imagining yourself competing anywhere near that level have gone out the window, you really come to appreciate those freaks. You wouldn’t think it, but watching someone like Dwight Howard dunk just gets better and better with age.

It should also be remembered that Memphis coach John Calipari, one of the best in the college game, was a complete failure in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets, much like Rick Pitino, Mike Montgomery, Leonard Hamilton, etc. The NBA standard is just so much higher.

The trouble with a game like Memphis against Kansas is that it comes off as an NBA game without the NBA quality. I know I’ll see most of those guys in the big leagues, but none of them (except Rose, who played poorly in the championship) will be stars. I also know that most of those guys don’t give a flying fuck about the education. If they did, they probably wouldn’t have chosen to use a full scholarship on Memphis or Kansas (personally I would have chosen Duke, Stanford or Davidson), they probably wouldn’t be majoring in sports and leisure management, and they wouldn’t leave for the NBA before graduating. Finally, I know modern college basketball is surrounded in shady dealings.

There are always nice stories like Davidson in college basketball, but in the end these teams always lose to the Kansases and North Carolinas. The best college basketball teams are the ones that have players who came there with the end goal of reaching the NBA; that’s the inherent problem with the game.

If I want to watch an NBA game, I’ll watch an NBA game. When I don’t have a Davidson to root for, it just feels like watching a development league. The NBA has its problems too, of course – but it’s so much more hygienic without the mirage of education, with the knowledge that these men are professionals and are treated as such.

The national championship game was one of the dreariest, most depressing games I can remember watching. It was played poorly from start to finish, both teams making far more sloppy mistakes than good plays. Stupid fouls plagued both teams, including a late one on senior Joey Dorsey that may have cost Memphis the game. Both teams shot the ball poorly and turned the ball over continually. It was a gloomy reminder that most if not all of these players will soon be forgotten.

The greatest pleasure I got from this game was a perverse satisfaction watching Memphis, so celebrated as the best team to ever shoot free throws so poorly, blow all those big ones when it mattered. This was a game that was lost, not won.

The NBA Playoffs start in less than two weeks.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Half Empty

For my friend Alia’s birthday, a bunch of us went up to her parents’ awesome house in Loveland. At the end of the night we hit the hot tub (and an adjacent frigid lake). Alia’s sister didn’t want to get in the hot tub. Apparently she was concerned about her body. At that time, it wasn’t up to her standards.

Eventually, the Bag coerced her to put on a bikini and join us. She looked great. I was befuddled as to why she ever hesitated.

The problem was, she was seeing her body through her eyes. If she had seen herself through my eyes, she would have felt completely different.

I can’t ever seem to see my life through someone else’s eyes. If I could, I think I would feel a lot better. Sometimes I think about all the things I have and all the talents I have which I know others covet. Honestly I think I am a talented young man with the resources to do whatever I want the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I spend a lot more time thinking about the things I don’t have.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Survivor Stereotypes

We're now about halfway into Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites, the sixteenth incarnation of the groundbreaking show. This season has already proven to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable in the show's history, and could potentially reach dramatic heights not scaled since the monumental festival of backstabbing that was Survivor: All-Stars. Fans vs. Favorites features a perfectly combustible mix of strategical maniacs, take-it-personal hotheads, spectacular athletes, hot chicks, and ornery older people. They've got the formula down cold now, a formula that consists of
  • Jeff Probst
  • A somewhat intriguing but not too distracting location
  • About three twists along the way to keep the players and audience on their toes
  • The following stereotypical characters:

The Alpha-Male

This player is hell-bent on controlling his tribe. He wants to be the leader and can’t stand the thought of another player usurping his power. He seeks to crush the other alpha-males as quickly as possible. He views Survivor as “King of the Mountain”, not a game of winning friends and influencing people. Eventually, inevitably he gets stabbed in the back (often by those he believes are under his control). This player has never won the game, though those who have managed to compromise his qualities (Yul, Earl) with social tact have dominated recently.

Best Example: Boston Rob
This Season’s: Mikey B, Joel

The Cute Girl

This girl is super-cute. She has girl next door looks which make her disarmingly friendly and unintimidating, unlike “The Body.” The weakness of this player is usually in the strategy department – she is too nice to make the cold-blooded plays needed to win the game and doesn’t ally herself strongly enough with the power brokers. She usually gets about 4th place.

Best Example: Elizabeth
This Season’s: Natalie

The Body

Not to be confused with “The Cute Girl”, The Body comes storming onto the scene in a low-cut bikini and gets a lot of camera time from day one. This player always makes a deep run. Usually she’s unobjectionable and surprisingly crafty. Players follow her without really realizing it, making her a very dangerous but underappreciated threat to win it all. Basically, there is no reason to vote this player out until the very end when winning the million is the paramount concern.

Best Example: Danni
This Season’s:

The Overanalyzer

Best Example: Jonathan
This Season’s: Jonathan

Season One champ Richard set the standard for the meticulous, calculating, backstabbing schemer who considers all the angles. The problem is everyone watched Richard do this, and everyone is now wary. Usually, this player loses the trust of his tribemates and gets stabbed in the back, just as he or she would have done to another. This is the character that I would most likely end up becoming if I was on Survivor; I would try to avoid it but eventually I wouldn’t be able to help myself.

The Athlete

A freak in challenges but usually lacking in the social game, no Athlete has won the game since Ethan in season three. The Athlete usually gets voted out late in the game because his tribemates are concerned he is going to win the remaining immunity challenges and off him as soon as they get the chance.

Best Example: Ozzy
This Season’s: Ozzy

The Urban Black Woman

This woman is always put on the show for the “fish out of water” quality where she is totally overmatched by the environment, generally disinterested in tribe politics, and a liability in challenges. This player never gets voted out the first five weeks, but is rarely a threat to win it all.

Best Example: Cassandra
This Season’s: Cirie

The Asshole

This guy is just a straight up douchebag, chosen to create hard feelings and drama.

Best Example: Jean-Robert
This Season’s: Joel (who was really more of an Alpha-Male)

The Under-the-radar Girl

This player flies under the radar for the entire game and is never in danger until the final five. This player has the best chance of winning the game. She doesn’t attract too much attention with her looks, and doesn’t ostracize potential jury members. The key for her is to make sure she has her nose in on the strategy, so the jury gives her some credit. Becky, for example, was unable to get this credit and received no votes from the jury.

Best Example: Tina
This Season’s: Alexis

The Grumpy Old Man

This player often hangs around for a while, but no one takes him seriously and really you have to wonder how he gets past the casting call.

Best Example: Rudy

This Season’s: Chet


As for this season, I believe the favorite at this point is Amanda, who has played the role of The Body to perfection.

Top Ten Nirvana Songs

10.On A Plain
9. Sliver
8. Heart Shaped Box
7. Aneurysm
6. Dumb
5. Come As You Are
4. About a Girl
3. All Apologies
2. Lithium
1. Smells Like Teen Spirit

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Top Ten Colors

9. Purple
8. Silver
7. Gold
6. White
5. Orange
4. Black
3. Red
2. Green
1. Blue