Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

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Lebron James and his headband against fellow hair loss victim Manu Ginobili

The NBA Finals have ended following a seven-game seesaw that saw the Miami Heat come out on top and Lebron James add a few support beams to his legacy. In the dramatic final two games we saw the full-range of the game’s most iconic figure. He struggled, he pouted, he pressed. He was uncharacteristically bad in the first half of game six but after losing a head band, he regained his dominant form hitting a clutch three down the stretch en route to an overtime victory. In defiance of the more superstitious observers who speculated he may ditch the accessory forever, the headband was back for game 7. Lebron played his best game of the series, leading Miami to its second straight title, and collected another MVP trophy, headband and all. I guess every king needs his crown if only to hide a receding hairline.

I’m so glad its finally over. The NBA season seems ridiculously long, and I only started watching a month ago. I can’t blame anyone but myself for wasting so much time watching these silly series featuring the Bulls, Clippers, Nets, Pacers and Grizzlies (where do they play again? Knoxville?) as if one of these inferiors might actually shock the world and find a way to ultimately win a whole SERIES against Miami. Upsets like that never happen. There were plenty of good games, sure, but in retrospect, the thing to do would have been to set a timer and only turn the TV on for the last five minutes of each game. Jesus, if I see that Chris Paul/Cliff Paul twin commercial one more time I’m going to throw a hamburger at a baby.

What is a “good game” in basketball anyway? It could be back and forth for the first forty minutes with crisp passing, solid defense and flawless execution on both sides, but when one team pulls ahead and maintains their lead in the closing minutes, they usually get credit for having dominated and the casual viewer feels cheated. On the other hand, there are sloppy games that have huge, bipolar swings just because one or the other team goes catatonic and keeps turning the ball over and jacking up stupid shots. Suddenly, one guy starts hitting threes and all of a sudden the game is tied with twenty seconds left and it’s all about momentum and when and whether or not to intentionally foul. These, of course, are the most fun to watch, practically BECAUSE they are poorly played in the technical sense.

Good lord, I got to the point where I was planning my life around these damn games. I actually rescheduled an appointment Tuesday night at the mechanic’s. My car wouldn’t lock. I risked being robbed blind just because I wanted to see if Danny Green would come back and hit twenty 3s in game 6 and make Lebron cry or do that thing where he chews his jersey.

So finally the time of year has come when sports take a vacation as long as you aren’t super into July baseball, the WNBA, World Cup qualifiers, and oh…the rest of the Stanley Cup, (if you happen to be a Canadiaphile). How wonderful it will be to have my evenings free. I’ll finally have a chance to knock the dust off the novel I started in September and watch that Netflix disc that’s been sitting on top of the DVD player since the days when people still used Netflix to watch DVDs, or maybe I’ll pay the bills, run the vacuum, clip my toenails.

Have a good summer sports world. I’ll see you September 9.badass Philly Eagle

Bob Gibson
Tonight, feeling in the spirit of spring and at a loss for something to watch over dinner I decided to revisit the Ken Burns’s Baseball. I evaluated my mood and chose my favorite “inning,” the one covering the 1960s.In a world of upheaval, the game finds itself evolving quickly, transforming in a few short years from the black-and-white clips of game 7 of the World Series in Pittsburgh, to a game of color and closeups that resembles what we see on television today. The old urban ballparks are demolished and replaced by concrete stadiums with expansive parking lots. The Player’s Union is born as players, in a struggle for emancipation from the Reserve Clause mirror the efforts of the Civil Rights movement in the quest for freedom.

As the war in Vietnam escalates and violence breaks out in cities across the country, football rises in popularity. In 1967 the first Super Bowl delivers short spurts of simulated warfare to living rooms across the country. It is viewed by more people than any game of that year’s World Series. Burns presents us with and era in which refuge from everyday turmoil cannot be found even in a pastoral, summer game. The National Pastime seems threatened and its traditionalists wonder whether it is possible for Americans to escape from the explosive, fast-paced world to the serenity of ballpark.

These traditionalists—represented here by Baseball’s usual talking heads of Doris Kearns-Goodwin, George Will, Roger Angell, Bob Costas. Gerald Early, Studs Terkel, et al—are even more magnificent in extolling the beauty and virtue of the game in the context of 60s then they are in the series’ other installments. We are told of the absence of time in baseball, how the other team can never kill the clock and has no option but to keep giving the other guys a chance, and even if you’re dying, you know you can live forever as long as you keep hitting. We hear an African American writer describe his emotional response to the ritual of the Star Spangled Banner before a game and how baseball was the only thing that made him feel connected to his country. Later, he describes the empowered feeling that drove him to march and to fight for civil rights. His rationale was that they had to prove that they would do whatever it took to achieve justice.

There is a part that describes the drama of inaction during a game. The excitement of baseball is rooted in the mind of the viewer; it happens in the endless seconds between pitches where a player digs in the dirt with his cleat, adjusts his cap, waggles the bat. While these things are happening, endless possibilities run through your mind as you watch. You play out every possible scenario before it happens so that when something finally does actually happen, it’s like a dream fulfilled. Sometimes, during these moments a hush can fall over the entire ballpark for just a few moments and you know that everyone there is going through this deeply intellectual process. It is this sequence that draws the viewer to the game in a way that nothing else can. The results can be explosive.

This is how I understand the sixties. Endless anticipation of huge things to come, revolution and the personification of tremendous sacrifices and powerful wills exacted on a collective target. People always say there was something in the air, the vibrations of the time—those vibrations are the same as the anticipation you find in any baseball game coupled with the payoff or the devastation everyone knew would come. It was a time of people proving they’d do anything to get what they wanted.

That baseball is still alive and well only proves that there is a place for ideas to be born in America. It is proof that we still believe big things can happen if we can only imagine them.

In a recent Gatorade commercialKevin Durant is taking the ball down the court against the Miami Heat. He penetrates the defense, drives hard in paint, goes up for the slam and is met mid-flight by Dwayne Wade; just as Durantula is about to jam it home, Wade reaches up and blocks it.

Cut to Durant, snapping upright in bed, covered in sweat, a look of terror on his face. It was just a bad dream. (Think Tupac in the video for “California Love” or any other character waking up from a nightmare in anything ever.)

Durant then eats a Gatorade power gel thing and sets about training harder than ever in the dank, Rocky IV solitude of most training sequences you see in commercials.

Soon, we’re back on the court. Thunder-Heat again, Durant drives, Wade meets him mid-flight but this time…BOOM Durant slams it right in D-Wade’s grimacing face. Now it’s Wade waking up from a terrible nightmare.

“Win from within” says the tag line.

Aside from the metaphysical implications of two people sharing the exact same dream, this phrase is somewhat peculiar. After all, success must always come from within. Motivation at the highest levels of any field is essential and where else can motivation come from?

The suggestion is that we are motivated not by the will to succeed or the desire to reach our goals or dreams; it isn’t from a ravenous craving for the nectar of victory that we blast through the pain barrier.

We win for fear of failure.

Yikes.

Lets face it. Competition is about ego. We like to think of mano y mano, toe to toe, trash talk and posterizing a lesser player to fuel our own glory but high level performance is about competing with yourself. Professional athletes talk about swagger and confidence all the time. Every one of them grows up being (and being told repeatedly) that they are the best anyone’s ever seen and THAT is their motivation. In their mind they always know that if they bring it, they can’t be stopped. If they were afraid of failing, they’d have never made to the big time it in the first place.

So how about this for a commercial. Durant steps onto the court. He looks at the women in the crowd and knows they want him. He looks at the men, some of them a foot and a half shorter than he is as knows they envy him. He looks at the kids in the stands and every one of them is wearing an OKC jersey with his name on the back.

He thinks of his beautiful home, his cars, his mother who wants for nothing and how it feels as good to stroke a three against Miami as it did to stroke a three against a rival middle school team when he was 13.

Getting blocked by Dwayne Wade? The thought never crossed his mind.

Kevin Durant doesn’t have nightmares.