NBA Thoughts After Warriors-Jazz

* The game looks a lot different from three rows behind the floor. All the blue and gold right up close made me feel like I was back at my brother’s high school in 1993 watching a game. Albeit with much bigger guys. And the paid admission for the whole gym probably wouldn’t have paid for our two tickets.

* Not that we paid for them. It’s cool to have a wife who has basically turned into her workplace’s Winston Wolf and is compensated accordingly.

* The nicest sportcoat and date-night Docs on earth can’t conceal the fact that the top of my domepiece is a disaster area. I must take all possible measures to avoid ever being photographed or televised from above and behind ever again.

* I know much is being made of the Baylor kid, but I don’t think Biedrens is ready to give up the 5 spot yet – nor, based on last night, should he.

* Looking forward to seeing John Jenkins become the next Stephen Curry. Not looking forward to the thought that it could happen next year.

* Reggie Williams isn’t getting near enough money, and would be a great piece of the puzzle for the Warriors to hang onto going forward.

* I’d a lot rather trade Ellis than Curry – Ellis has certain avowed knucklehead tendencies that I think might have been constrained had they kept Baron Davis around, plus he’s prone to go cold at bad times (he had TWO points last night. I put as many points on the board in the first half as he did.)

* The Warriors have a stand up in one end under the luxury boxes, where random DJs will spin tracks and mix on the fly before the game and at halftime. And they do a pretty good job too.

* To hell with the cheerleaders, the “Flying Ws” are the most amazing thing I ever saw. These guys do ridiculous shit off a trampoline in front of one goal after the third quarter, and it’s got to make the doctors in the audience get dollar signs in their eyes…but they stuck every landing.

* I do like the move back to the more traditional look – the lighter blue and no more red-orange third color – but it appears to have cost the Warriors their costumed mascot. On the other hand, the four weird guys look less like mental patients now that they’re in blue rather than orange. And they all have impressive throwing arms; one guy was slinging shirts into the stands at a distance that normally requires the gun.

* Doris Burke is really quite a good color analyst, and should get more airtime.

* Part of what really undermined the NBA for me was when the draft was taken over with high school kids and foreign players. Being a follower of college basketball, the notion that being a senior in college meant you weren’t good enough for the NBA, else you’d have been drafted already – it flew in the face of logic and reason, especially as one underage bust after another crapped the bed. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out as the CBA expires and the NBA faces its own labor trouble – although it should be obvious at this point that the owners have all the cards in that upcoming negotiation.

* This was enough to take the edge off the Vandy debacle this weekend – which was further softened when we didn’t drop out of the top-25. Now just beat Florida and all is forgiven.

* Thanks for the tickets, sweetie – more thanks for driving home ;]

Why The NFL Deserves Whatever It Gets

The Jay Cutler nonsense really put a spotlight on the worst aspects of the league. To wit:

* A culture of rugged machismo that requires players to sacrifice their health, short term and long alike

* A media and commentary culture that couldn’t be more uniform or lockstep

* A ubiquity unparalleled by any other sport in America

* Everything this article talks about.

I’ve made no secret that I don’t care for the NFL – I really don’t care for it with the upcoming lockout looming. After all, we’ve just established that the players are expected to push themselves beyond the limits of health or sanity. Now consider that NFL contracts are non-guaranteed, which means that except for the signing bonus, a team can cut their $100M quarterback tomorrow and owe him not a penny. Now the ownership is pushing for an 18-game schedule, which can only make player health a bigger issue than ever. And this is a lockout. That’s the key thing: this is not a player strike, this is ownership shutting down the game until the players give in.

Everyone characterized labor disputes in pro sports as “millionaires fighting billionaires.” Nowhere is this less true than the NFL, where players can be ejected at the drop of a hat after an average career of 3 years and facing a slew of long-term health issues that are becoming too evident to ignore. And yet, the NFL is beyond question – it’s on every freakin’ channel (seriously, it’s on five different networks), it’s even got its own channel, it draws tens of millions of viewers for a championship game that is to football what St Patricks Day is to Irish drinking, and it is as staid and boring a league and sport as can be imagined. Seriously, when a direct snap to a running back makes everyone break out in cries of “WILDCAT!” and is treated as an innovation on par with the Manhattan Project, it’s apparent that professional football is dull AND predictable – everyone runs a Tampa Cover-2 defense, everybody runs some variant of the West Coast offense, fake kicks are rarer than a virgin at Auburn, and the quality of announcing is such that I would rather listen to local broadcasters on radio while riding around than actually endure a game watching the kind of borderline mental defectives that Fox uses for games – or worse yet, the moronical stylings of Monday Night Football and Jon Gruden. (I TELL YOU WHAT, JAWS, YOU NEED TO TAKE CHEAP SHOTS IF YOU’RE GOING TO RUN A BLOG, AND THIS BLOGGER RIGHT HERE CAN TAKE A CHEAP SHOT, I CALL HIM THE SHARPSHOOTER, BECAUSE THIS GUY CAN TAKE THE CHEAP SHOTS.)

The head of the NFLPA said that on a scale of 1-10, the probability of a lockout was a 14. It would be Armageddon for pro football in this country. And nothing in the world of sports would make me happier than to watch the biggest, fattest, smuggest sports league on Earth implode for an entire season.

Bloody hell.

It was bad enough to give up 36 points to Clarke, but we gave up 20 points to a scrub who had 17 points on the year. Combined. Not a 17 point average, 17 TOTAL POINTS.

I’m not posting this on Anchor of Gold, because I don’t want to kick off in a swirl of negativity, but there are some things that have to be said and I’m going to say them now:

1) It’s time to consider the possibility that Jeffery Taylor isn’t going to happen. The only starter not to win SEC Player of the Week yet is showing no reason he should; the scoring load in conference play is being shouldered by Jenkins and Ezili. Taylor isn’t playing like the best player in the league; he’s not even the best player on his own team and he may not be the best player at his position. He needs to step up and lead this team and it isn’t happening.

2) Our guards can’t defend. Twice now we’ve given up ridiculous career nights to guys who should never have filled up the basket like that. Jenkins, Tinsley, Fuller – they aren’t slowing guys down, let alone stopping them.

3) I shudder to think where this team would be without Festus Ezili.

4) We lack adaptability. Against St. Mary’s and Mississippi State, we broke out the press and made it work – but not this weekend. We were able to run and gun a little better last week, but it didn’t happen today. If the other defense isn’t giving in to our strengths, we don’t seem to be able to play to their weaknesses and exploit them. And a lot of that goes to…

5) INJURY. This team’s strength was supposed to be a nine-man rotation and the ability to run teams into the ground with our depth. Instead, Andre Walker has played one game since December 1, and Steve Tcheingeng hasn’t played double-digit minutes since his foot injury. And then, today, Lance Golbourne goes down and doesn’t return, finishing with no points at all. Suddenly, we’re looking at a road game with a team that’s effectively six deep – of which two freshmen. Our roster of healthy regular upperclassmen is Jenkins, Ezili, Tinsley, and Taylor – and we’ve already established that Taylor isn’t doing what was expected of him.

This is as bad a situation for Vanderbilt as can be imagined. We are underachieving in a big way – the talent this team possesses isn’t showing up in the results on the court. The way they fall behind, the way they go cold at the end of the first half, the way they fumble away seemingly insurmountable leads – something’s wrong with this team from the ground up. And the time to fix it is running out.

Mobility thoughts revisited

So my laptop inexplicably shat the bed overnight Saturday. I went to bed with it running a backup and woke up Sunday morning to a completely dead and unresponsive brick. SMC reset did nothing, nor any amount of mucking with the battery, so it went to the Apple Store for a warranty fix, and in the meantime, I’m working with the house Mac mini, a borrowed iPad, and my phone. And so far, I’ve about concluded that if the choice is between an iPad and an 11″ MacBook Air, I have to take the air – simply because the iPad is no solution for Apple Remote Desktop or for serious blogging. Which may be a factor later on for reasons the last post may clarify.

CDRE Stagger Lee

Jay Cutler’s problem

(crossposted from Anchor of Gold)

First, if you haven’t read Spencer Hall’s article, read it. I concur in every particular.

Done? Sweet. Now, an analogy (they’re those things on the SAT, for you non-Vandy SEC fans – you know, the SAT, the one harder than the ACT? Never mind):

Brett Favre:Mark McGwire::Jay Cutler:Barry Bonds.

Think about it. Favre is out there dragging around the field, playing progressively worse until finally being dragged off, and Minnesota”s out of contention – and each of his previous three seasons after “retiring” ended with a game-killing interception, usually in the playoffs – but because he’s a good ol’ boy and a gunslinger and like a kid having fun out there, he completely skates. Even after we all saw why he wears that jersey number. (Too soon?)

Meanwhile, here’s Jay Cutler with a grade-2 tear of the MCL – but because people don’t like his personality, he gets no benefit of the doubt. Actually, strike that – because people don’t like what they think is his personality. Problems with the coach in Denver? Jay’s a spoiled little whinebagger, and never mind that Denver fired Josh McDaniel once they realized that you can’t catch New England Patriots-ness like you would a cold. Cutler ineffective in Chicago? Never mind that Chicago led the league in sacks allowed this year, or that #6 already has one concussion on the season. Comes out of the NFC title game on a national stage? Well he must be a girly-man wimp, since he can obviously walk around, they should have to drag him bleeding off the field as he fights to grab his helmet and run back out there! Never mind that an MCL tear on a quarterback’s plant leg is basically an invitation to crumple in a heap, assuming you can stand up long enough to try to plant on it.

The NFL machine – the league, its amen corner on ESPN, and even some of the players, who haven’t wrapped their heads around what “union” means – have already made their decision. Jay Cutler is Not Their Kind Of Guy. And in the ultra-conservative, ultra-conformist, neo-Dickensian world of the NFL, that’s the worst mark a player can bear. Meanwhile, off we go with one alleged rapist in the Super Bowl and a convicted dogfighter in the Pro Bowl.

But Cutler’s the bad guy. Ah. OK.

Tell you what, all you muttonheads burning your jerseys in the Windy City – if you’re tired of our boy, why not consider releasing him? I’m sure there are at least a few teams that might like to take a chance. Speaking as a guy who has Redskins fandom the way other people have, say, herpes, I’d sign Cutler tonight with no hesitation at all. Because unlike the usual assortment of steroid freaks and has-beens on the Sabbath gasbag shows (Deion? DEION SANDERS thinks somebody’s soft? That’s like having Paris Hilton call you a slut), those of us who have actually seen #6 at work know the truth: if he ever had an O-line commensurate with his talent, Cutler would have some kind of ring already.

A little advice for the yuk-yuks on cable, and AM radio, and throughout the blogosphere: forget about what you “know” and try looking at what’s actually going on. You might be a little surprised. Meanwhile, I’ll be out somewhere raising a glass in my black-and-gold #6 jersey, because that’s our guy. I got his back.

(ETA: About ten minutes after I posted this, I got a message from the site admin, and…um…I’m on the front page of AoG and have been issued full front page posting privileges. Gulp. After 17 years, I’m a sportswriter again.)


(21) St. Mary’s 70

Vanderbilt 89


Overcame a slow start, multiple runs, erratic officiating (to put it kindly), and some nontrivial injury issues to paste a ranked team. We needed that. Would have been a lot better if we’d beaten Tennessee last weekend, though…

flashback, part 26 of n

For some reason, January always makes me think of snow. Or at least very cold. All the way back to 1982, when we had snow for four days and got out of school. (It was clear by Friday…which was a scheduled inclement weather day, so no school for a week. Yay Alabama!) It was cold and dreary and rained as often as not.

Twenty years ago, January meant an interim term class on magazine writing – based around The New Yorker. I would wake up around 7:30 to 10,000 Maniacs on the CD player (Hope Chest, if I remember right), pour some coffee into the 4-cup coffemaker I’d gotten for Christmas, tie on the 3/4-height Nike cross-trainers (also for Christmas), and hike up three flights of stairs in the second-oldest building on campus. As it turns out, working in the style of The New Yorker was remarkable preparation for blogging – I had to do a feature piece, a movie review, a couple of Talk of the Town items, a little bit of everything. I was intrigued by the ads, of all things – I didn’t know what a single-malt scotch was until I saw the Macallan ad. I wound up subscribing to the magazine – a subscription I carried for 20 years before giving it up in favor of…a Kindle-based subscription.

Needless to say, an interim class on campus adds up to a lot of free time. January of ’91 is the first time I bought a bartending book, thinking I should learn to drink properly if I was to imbibe alcohol. (It didn’t take, largely because when you’re an undergrad you don’t have the money or legal purchasing power to drink well. One more reason to change the alcohol policy in America.) It was also when Desert Shield finally turned into Desert Storm, and the draft-nervous males over 18 started pouring everything into a glass (I think the “Air Raid” was Dr Pepper, Bacardi, Canadian Mist, some sort of creme de menthe stuff and berry-tinged mineral water). After all, Iraq was still sporting the fourth largest army in the world, undefined chemical weapons capabilities, short-range ballistic missiles, and we honestly had no idea what a post-Cold War shooting war would look like.

If I’m honest, it’s about that time I should have been working on dumping my first college girlfriend, rather than staying with her another two and a half years. Hell, she didn’t even like basketball, and I wasn’t yet in the pep band, so getting to games was a bit tricky. On the bright side, we were still on the punch system for meal plans, and the soda fountain in the cafeteria was free to just walk up to and fill your glass. I switched to a 32 oz carry model almost instantly.

Later Januarys would be more interesting – 1992 was spent mostly in post-Communist Central Europe, 1995 in a light dusting of snow in Nashville while watching college hockey, 1998 on Appalachian interstates with snow up the hills and a new AT&T phone in one hand, 2001 on a snow-covered lawn with my new crush object, 2007 at the pinnacle of my Apple career hanging out in the company booth at MacWorld, or 2009 kicking off a new job and returning to train commuting. But looking back, 1991 was something of a cusp. The fork in the road appeared, and I didn’t take it.

Lesson learned.

the next step in the Gabriel Hounds-ing of my wardrobe

Although it’s something I’ve been eyeing for over a decade, and at some point you just have to pull the trigger – so once I gave in on the peacoat, this was inevitable…


The one I originally looked at was a Stocker and Yale model, but this one is by Traser, a Swiss company specializing in tritium-based illumination for watches. Illumination is based on phosphorescent material stimulated by tritium gas, with a half-life of 12.5 years (the illumination is only warrantied for ten, though) and the watch bits are a quartz movement with a battery life of 4 to 5 years. And it’s waterproof enough for the shower, so I’m hoping this will take care of the whole one-watch-for-everything daily wear. After all, ten years would be longer than any watch in my current rotation, and if I’m changing the tubes out at age 49 or 50 I would say I’ve gotten my money’s worth from it. (I don’t actually have the money, but that should be coming soon if I get my incentive money for getting healthy…)

And it definitely works clearly at 3:30 and 5 AM, and I know this for a fact after last night.

Qui Audet Adipiscitur

Or, for those who aren’t Catholic, or UK Special Air Service, “Who Dares, Wins.”

I didn’t think anything was going to come of it. Hell, at one point I thought she was coming out to make a move on one of the other guys. I had made my new years’ resolution to stop fooling around online and try to make an effort at real-world communication with people, and besides, I still had months to run on my “I’m going to stay single for a year” pledge. And when we were trying to sort out details on the phone, it was unbelievably awkward – she wasn’t saying much, and I was rushing to fill the silence, and she kept waiting for me to shut up, and sometimes that can take a while…

All I’m saying is that if you looked at the two of us – who we were, how we were, relative alcohol and nicotine intake (especially then), personality generally…you would have bet the house that nothing would ever have come of it. Especially if you heard that my first move on getting back to my place was to open up the photo album.

But there were sparks. Huge ones. The future best man, sitting across the table at dinner, later remarked that the spectacle of the two of us trying to play it cool was transcendent comedy. Our future wedding reader (and roommate for a year) had to pointedly correct the speculation that “I don’t think he’s into me at all.” Each of us knew something was happening, but neither of us knew that we both knew. Or something.

And eventually, she went in for the cuddle, and got it. And I went for the kiss – as well hanged for a sheep as a lamb – and got it.

Who dares, wins.

The worst hack romantic comedy writer in Hollywood wouldn’t dare pitch the nonsense that followed over the next 48 hours, right down to the scene with snow all over the ground and all the Christmas lights still up after almost a month and the mad dash to not one but two airports, and the spectacle of one man doing his best Darrell Green impersonation the whole way (slainte, mate). But shortly thereafter, she worked up the nerve, shoved all the chips to the middle of the table, and asked “how long before I can say I love you?”

And I took a deep breath, kicked my original plans over the side, and answered “Now’s good.”

Who dares, wins.

It takes a certain amount of foolishness to pledge yourself to a long-distance relationship 2500 miles away, but we did it. Valentines’ Day in DC, to eat dinner at West 24 (James Carville’s old Cajun-fusion place) two tables from Mike Wilbon. My birthday in DC, to pass muster with the denizens of the Four Provinces. A whirlwind 48-hour trip to meet in Atlanta, given the excuse of somebody else’s party. My trip to Silicon Valley, to face the guns of a seemingly endless stream of family, college friends, co-workers, you name it, all giving me the same look I would have gotten if I’d walked up to the table and said “Do you mind if we dance with yo’ dates?”

And ultimately, in a Cosi in Alexandria one day in May, a decision: a future that inevitably led toward California if things went well, but which would begin in DC. And a month after a plane crashed into the Pentagon, she loaded up the Jetta and headed East.

Who dares, wins.

I see looking over this now that I’ve left out all the important stuff. The whirlwind year in 2003 that led to the move in 2004. How we almost bought a house, then didn’t, and wound up with the perfect house as a result. How we almost lost our minds trying to get out of toxic jobs and took turns falling ass-backward into something good enough to let the other person go nuts for a while – and wound up with the perfect spot for each of us. How after an entire life of being willing to live with the devil I knew, I stopped being afraid to step out on the ledge. How the lights of San Francisco twinkled across the bay as Nat “King” Cole’s music led us onto the floor

I think there was originally meant to be a song here. But I’m not sure what would really sum up properly. Maybe “Brown-Eyed Girl” or “A Pair of Brown Eyes” or we could fall back on “Stray” by Aztec Camera, which she played for me that first weekend, or…never mind, I got it. From a song I first heard during another snowy January in Washington DC, back in 2003, I turn it over to Mssr. Suggs and his band of Nutty Boys:

I never thought I’d miss you half as much as I do

And I never thought I’d feel this way, the way I feel about you

Soon as I wake up, every night, every day

I know that it’s you I need to take the blues away

It must be love, love, love

Nothing more, nothing less, love is the best…

Happy anniversary, sweetie. The first ten were only a good start…

MBA 11 test notes

So fate, through no fault of my own, has arranged for me to play with an 11″ MacBook Air for an hour or two, in the guise of setting it up. Early impressions:

1) It’s wider and thinner than my old netbook was, which makes it slightly easier to use in the lap but kind of wobbly too. It can be done, I’m just not sure I’d want to do it all day.

2) The keyboard seems damn near full sized, or as close as makes no difference, and is a damn sight better than the netbook’s keyboard. I’m typing largely without error. No question, this would kick the shit out of the iPad for text entry on the road, and with a smaller profile than carrying iPad + Bluetooth keyboard.

3) I was able to VNC back to my own computer largely without a fight. It’s obviously as limited as you would expect from an 11″ display cramming 720p-type resolution into a confined space, and I probably wouldn’t want to ARD with it full time, but the option is there. And text is largely readable on the remote machine with a normal web browser up.

4) No kidding, when closed this thing is about an inch and a half longer than an iPad with the same width and thickness. Don’t know how the battery life would be – Apple claims 5 hours, and those claims have largely been borne out with newer hardware.

So I guess that’s it. Even with just 128GB of SSD space, I would (and could!) live with this as my main axe, especially for travel support purposes. As bootable thumb drives start to trump DVDs (a 16 GB thumb drive is FAR easier to work with than burning a DVD!) the lack of an optical drive ceases to be an issue. As quick and flickable as an iPad? Probably not, but certainly the SSD makes the speed much more reliable, and having 12 Mbps Internet at home takes that problem away…This could work.