Monday, August 2, 2010

Mad Men and the NBA

Madison Avenue might* be the mecca of big advertising today (*unless you subscribe to the notion that it migrated to Boulder) but it definitely was during the its heyday subtly chronicled in Mad Men. A lesser known fact is that Madison Avenue is also where The Commish keeps his desk. No, not that Commish -- I'm talking about The Angel of Stern. David Stern and Don Draper both look out over the same stretch of road in New York City.

With the new season of Mad Men just warming up and the NBA off season having just about finished up, I thought we could take a look at some of the other similarities between Mad Men and what has happened with the Association since Game 7.

The Don Draper Corollary

Don Draper is an intriguing character. Half of the time you are rooting for him, hoping for another brilliant 2 minute soliloquy about how a toothbrush is more important than life itself, and the other half of the time you wonder if he has a conscience at all. All his infidelity and deceit makes him loathsome, but somehow as soon as he walks into SterlingCooperDraperPryce in his gray flannel suit, you forget all about his sordid affair the night before. And such is life in the NBA. We forget about off court drama as long as the player performs at a high level on the court. I think we are going to see the same thing with LeBron in Miami.

"You're so old fashioned"

After working again with Freddy Rumsen, Peggy Olsen finds frustration in his ideas and fires at him a simple dig, "You're so old fashioned!" A lot was made right after The Decision about how Jordan wouldn't have done this and Bird wouldn't have done that. And how Kevin Durant was a throwback because he wants to stay on the only team he has ever known. While some players -- Amare, Wade, LeBron, CP3, Bosh -- might want to fire this line at all their detractors, I think it fits better with the message being sent to another group of superstars; those on the way out. Shaq, Iverson and TMaq are stuck in some kind of time warp and remain old fashioned in their thinking. They may have some amount of validity in their thinking, but for the most part the league is collectively telling them that their idea -- the idea of who they are -- isn't going to work anymore.

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce

What started out as a great idea at the end of the third season has turned into struggle and strife. It was there chance to step out and make something of themselves, become relatively independent and more than anything be in the spotlight. Kind of reminds me of the NBA firm of Boozer Stoudemire Gilbert Wall. Boozer and Amare are in similar situations. They both left point guards who made them better than they actually are, but now they are going to have to earn it on their own. Gilbert is Dan Gilbert. He put some very bright lights on himself and has made some awful big promises. John Wall can no longer hide behind the gel in Coach Cal's hair or the tradition in Lexington. He gets to carry basketball in our nation's capital, and worry about showing up to practice one day only to find a half dozen guns laid out in front of his locker. Needless to say, everyone at this firm is about to realize just how hard their new life is going to be.

American Tobacco

American Tobacco (Lucky Strikes) puts almost all the food on the table at SCDP. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that they are in a delicate situation there. Kind of like the Nuggets and the Hornets and the Heat, Raptors and Cavs of last season. While its great to have a reliable meal ticket, you inevitably get put in the position of worshiping at their feet. It will be intriguing to see if the Hornets and Nuggs follow the lead set by the Raps and Cavs or if they will blaze their own trail and not be held hostage by Melo and CP3.

"I'm sorry sir, is Sam here bothering you? He can be a little chatty."

Back in the very first episode of the first season, Don strikes up a conversation with an african american employee at a bar. He is trying to find an angle on selling cigarettes when another employee, possibly the boss, comes over and interrupts. Don responds by saying, "We're actually just having a conversation, is that okay?" I hope that as the players association and the league try to figure out a new agreement, that it is okay to be a little chatty, to have some conversations. I don't want a lockout, and I don't think you do either.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Annual Report: 2001

I was tempted to talk about '69 and '71, but thought it might be better to spread out the years more. So let's hit a year in more recent memory, when– admittedly – both Charlie T and myself were in our "music-listening primes." I guess by "prime" I mean the time when you have sort of graduated from what you grew up listening to and moved into a new phase (at least for me, that's how it worked. I was less fixated on the Zeppelin-led classic rock of junior high and two-pronged jamband/alt-rock of my high school days). You listen with different ears. Whether they are more refined and less jaded is debatable, but at the time you sure think they're authoritative.

So, 2001. We survived Y2K, Ricky Martin, and boy bands. 9/11 happened. It will always be a banner year for a billion reasons unconnected to music. But the music also happened to be really great.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (free release) // Wilco
Time (The Revelator) // Gillian Welch
Two of my favorite albums of all time. I'm fortunate because I felt the same way when I first heard them, mind blown, ears appeased, heart filled. But, unlike some of the other albums that have since been demoted to bins like Overhyped, Failed The Test Of Time, and worse, these have stood strong. That they are both approaching America from such different angles and yet still seem somehow related (strong writing maybe? pure singing? nostalgia?) is a testament to the strength of 2001. Welch's "I Dream A Highway" might be the only 15-minute song featuring just 2 guitars and 2 voices that I ever wished was twice as long. And Wilco's entire album has survived time, which a lot of "glitchy production, studio experimentation" albums fail to do. With songs like "Jesus, Etc" and "Radio Cure", it's no wonder. The production wasn't veiling bad songwriting, it was adding texture to amazing songs.
Is This It? // The Strokes
White Blood Cells // The White Stripes
Oh, Inverted World // The Shins
Gold // Ryan Adams
Agaetis Byrjun // Sigur Ros
Debuts or not, these were the albums that buzzed, that introduced us to new voices in American music. Disaffected NYC hipster elite. Mondrian-inspired minimalistic, raw blues rock from Detroit. Smart, melodic indie rock. A prolific singer/songwriter who embraced his influences and excesses. Glacial soundscapes with an angelic voice sung in the supposedly made-up language of Hopelandish. There were better albums this year, but not many buzzier.
Amnesiac // Radiohead (I don't dare add to the superlatives. Let's just say it's still great.)
The Blueprint + Unplugged // Jay-Z
Love and Theft // Bob Dylan (I'm more of a Time Out Of Mind guy. Sue me.)
It's A Wonderful Life // Sparklehorse (RIP)

The Argument // Fugazi
Things We Lost In The Fire // Low
Maybe 2 of the albums I go back to most? Two great, smart, trend-oblivious bands at or near the peaks of their creative output.

Bleed American // Jimmy Eat World

musicforthemorningafter // Pete Yorn
One Nil // Neil Finn
I love a good pop song. Melodic and memorable. If the words are great too, then it's legendary. Some of these split the difference. Pete Yorn's album blew me away for awhile and was a nice patchwork of pop and indie rock and singer/songwriter and more. Neil Finn was just going about his usual business of spitting out great melodies. And Jimmy Eat World? Well, there's nothing cool about liking Jimmy Eat World. But I still love this album– its dramatic builds, its dreamy and desperate vocals, its drums, its college heartbreak. I remember going to lunch with a friend in 2001. Her much-hipper friend shows up and we're talking music and, before I know what I'm doing, I ask what he thinks of the new Jimmy Eat World. My stupid "hipster filter" kicks in and I try to control-Z, but it's out and it's even clearer how cool I'll never be. But, in the loudness of the restaurant, this guy thinks I asked about the Jim O'Rourke album. And he starts going on and on about it. And my friend shoots me a look and I sorta wave her off like, "It's not worth clarifying." The guy still thought I wasn't cool, I guess. But I never had to try to sell him on Bleed American.
Field Songs // Mark Lanegan
Old Ramon // Red House Painters
What's Next To The Moon // Mark Kozelek
My two favorite Marks. Kozelek closed the chapter on Red House Painters and opened up a whole new can of worms (a whole album of Bon Scott-era AC/DC covers?) and basically wrote his own license to do whatever. Lanegan, meanwhile, continued to do what he does best, which is write harrowingly, sing hauntingly, gargle gravel, and be one of my favorite odd rock icons. Plus, he contributed to the cactus weird of Desert Sessions.
Green Album // Weezer
Hot Shots II // Beta Band
Two quirky iconic bands say goodbye. Wait. What? What's that you say? Weezer kept making albums after the Green Album? Really?
Stephen Malkmus // Stephen Malkmus
Ancient Melodies of the Future // Built To Spill
Girls Can Tell // Spoon
Isolation Drills // Guided By Voices

Songs In A Minor // Alicia Keys

Aaliyah // Aaliyah (2x platinum, RIP)
No More Drama- //Mary J Blige
Apparently 2001 was a year where female neo-R&B struck a chord (A minor perhaps?) with me. Blige's voice, maybe our greatest contemporary R&B singer, and persona have always resonated with me and her song "Family Affair" is undeniable. I wish she'd make a record with Mark Ronson & The Dap Kings because it would be insanely great. Joe Henry producing would come in a close second. And of course, Alicia Keys and Aaliyah's hits were unavoidable. As a sidenote, pop/R&B legend Michael Jackson released what no one would've guessed was his final album (Invincible) in 2001
Souljacker // Eels
Gorillaz // Gorillaz
Vespertine // Bjork
The Photo Album // Death Can For Cutie

Songs from the West Coast // Elton John

Poses // Rufus Wainwright
Rockin The Suburbs // Ben Folds
It was a good year for piano men. Elton had a temporary revival with is best batch of songs in years. Poses still sounds amazing with standouts like "Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk", "In A Graveyard" and the title track. And Folds' debut sounded an awful lot like BF5 minus the kind of editing/filtering that a band provides. Still, it spawned at least 4 classic Folds' tunes.
Brushfire Fairytales // Jack Johnson
Room For Squares // John Mayer
It was also a good year for guys with guitars. Campuses across the country were flooded with fratboys in pooka shell necklaces scraping to learn "how to play some Jack" for the ladies. Bodies were wonderlands. Banana pancakes were made. Actual songwriters on college campuses were a little bit bummed. Clearly not my cup of tea, but deserving of mention, I suppose.
Amelie soundtrack // Yann Tiersen
Rock Steady // No Doubt (set up Gwen for megastardom)
10,000 HZ Legend // AIR
End of Amnesia // M Ward
Lateralus // Tool

Offseason Notes NOT Having To Do With The Douchecision

Some offseason notes:

– I am taking a little too much pleasure in watching the douchiness of T-Mac manifest itself this offseason. The Utah Bulls, er, Chicago Jazz, er, Chicago Bulls had a private workout with His WashedUpNess this week and, to hear Tracy talk about it, the Bulls front office was licking its chops about stumbling onto such an under-the-radar catch. These quotes encapsulate the magic dust he's sprinkling around. “Without me, without Boozer, they’re a .500 ball club,” McGrady said. Wow. Any quote that makes me defensive of Carlos Boozer deserves bold italics and a few extra vacation days. I can't wait til the Clippers sign him.

– In a related note, this is a fun offseason for Former Insanely Talented Alphas like AI and Shaq. The fact that some team is going to have to talk themselves into one of the game's top 2 or 3 most dominant centers ever (not anymore but still. Kareem got contracts when he could barely John McCain his goggles.) is a little sad to me. The bright side is: Pros vs Joes is always looked for some extra legitimacy and the combined MVPs, points, and NBA Finals appearances are legit.

– Also, The Utah Bulls. What the Bulls front office, in picking up Boozer & Korver & Brewer (who I miss the most, in spite of his complete inability to hit a jumper), is saying is: we believe Rose > Deron Williams. They are assembling, essentially, the same cast around Rose as Williams had. Now, Chicago fans, let's not carried away about Joakim Noah. Yes, I would take him on my team. No, he is not an elite big man. He and Memo Okur (who has one more all-star appearance than Noah) essentially cancel each other out, though I'm willing to admit that Noah's hustle is a plus. Luol Deng? A wild card of the same type as, oh, Andrei Kirilenko. Everybody KNOWS he's good. But what are you getting from him game to game, month to month? I think it's very interesting that the Bulls believe in the '08 Jazz that much. I did too, though, so I can't really hold it against them.

The Laker Upgrade. Miami gets the most ink. But the defending champs upgraded, in my opinion, to an insane degree. A tough, mix-it-up guy who can knock down equal amounts of superstars & shots in Matt Barnes. A PG upgrade (though the WNBA has a handful of PGs who would be an improvement over Farmar) in Steve Blake. And some more size (as if they were lacking) in Theo Ratliff, who- for the sake of this bullet point- I talked myself into. Still the team to beat.

– Chris Paul. Wah. You're an amazing talent stuck on a team in transition. Your friends are all teaming up to try to gang their way to rings. You also signed a contract. I'm sure there's a gun to your head everytime you cash those million-dollar checks. Sack up. Whiny multimillionaire athletes kill me.

– The Jazz, to avoid D-Will pulling a Kobe/Chris Paul, have made some moves– Jefferson, Bell, Hayward. They aren't Miami-level or Steal Gasol For Nothing level, but they are decent. As a Jazz fan, I'm happy to see something happen that includes Boozer taking his talents/attitude/entitlement elsewhere and guys who want to kill themselves for D-Will onto the court. Hearing D-Will tell Jefferson he's gonna make him an All-Star made me really happy.

Portland can suck it. Just because their "top tier, first round" talent can't stay healthy or perform up to par doesn't mean they should come pillage the hard-working, smartly drafted talent that the Jazz pick up (see also: Paul Milsap). Wes Matthews is a total stud and I worshipped his hard work in his rookie season. But it makes me sad that he's gonna get a ton of money to fight for bench minutes on a team whose best hopes are an injury prone elderly man still trying to have a rookie season and landing unhappy Chris Paul. This quote from Kevin O'Connor was money: "(Fesenko's) next on the agenda. (We'll) go from there, see what happens, see if Portland has any more money left."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Agreed to Terms

Just moments after The Decision, I received this text message from Spike - "mild hate and pure envy". I am only assuming it was a reference to me about LeBron taking his talents to South Beach and my beloved Heat, though he could have been referring to this fascinating project. (we'll get to that in the next couple days) I needed a little more time to sort through my feelings about the Heat's off-season transactions. I've been through a lot in 15+ years as a Heat fan; a kidney transplant, a Championship, a 25 win season, taking a chance on a kid from Marquette, learning to tolerate Shaq, all of sport-dom discounting the 2006 title because the Heat were somehow the only team in history to get a bogus call or two, a 16 win season, the New York Knicks (4 straight playoff eliminations, 3 in the first round even as the higher seed), Jermaine O'Heal, the Mike Beasley Experience, Clarence Weatherspoon, PJ Brown and Charlie Ward, Allan Houston, both Van Gundy's (one around Zo's leg) and Riles. I'm not saying I have been a tortured fan (though somewhere in the spring of 2003 I was beginning to wonder) but there have been some highs and lows to say the least.

Let me first address my feeling about the backlash of doubt and negativity.

Spike's sentiments could be easily applied to the majority of America's feelings about the Decision, but the problem is nobody will admit to it. The NBA has needed a bad guy since Kobe started winning again, so it seems that everyone is doing their best to make LeBron the league's foil. Had he gone to Chicago would there have been this backlash? New York? New Jersey? the reasoning for deciding on anyone of those destinations is about as reasonable as going to Miami to play with Wade and Bosh.(side note: everyone is saying Bosh is the lucky one in this off-season, raising his stock far beyond its worth. I say its Joakim Noah. He was labeled numerous times as an "elite big man". Sorry but that term is reserved for big men who average more than 10 and 10, and don't wear clown suits to the draft.) Anyway, its been astonishing to see how quickly everyone has forgotten what an incredible athlete LeBron James is. He is the two time reigning MVP. The country has been awing over his abilities on the basketball court for 9+ years. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16 AND actually lived up to the hype. I have been very critical of LeBron over the years, but I have never doubted his basketball playing abilities. If the league needs a supervillian that bad, then thats fine. But I think that stigma is going to fade rather quickly once tip-off rolls around. We'll see more #6 Heat jersey's pop up around the country in the first week of November than we saw Chris Broussard in the first week of July.

So take Spike's words to heart and if they don't seem to do the trick, try this little line from the mid 90's: The past is gone but something might be found to take it's place -- Hey jealousy

Now to address my feelings.

I've never been good at being the front runner. I cringed as people made title and win predictions. I wanted the numbers from one to seven to go right back into LeBron's mouth. I tried to down play the potential of this team. I did everything I could to take things back to the Shaq vs Zo days, when someone else was the clear #1 and my guy(s) was/were the underdog. I also didn't want to be like all the Lakers/Cowboys/Yankees fans that I've hated my who life. I didn't want to be the guy who was the fan of the superteam, the highlight reel darlings, the team force fed to the public. I didn't want to have to explain to everyone who knows little about me that I have been a Heat fan my whole, post-2nd grade, life. I didn't want to be seen as the band wagoner. But over the course of the weekend following the LeBronal Conclave, the text messages started pouring in. Family and friends, acquaintances, people I hadn't heard from in years, high school friends that I was certain didn't have my number, and even people at the grocery store began congratulating me. My fears began to dissolve with every text message and I began to embrace the future. Then Beasley was shipped off. And Udonis came back. And Shaq was told "No Thanks". And Fisher went back to the Mamba. And Mike Miller came. And suddenly it was looking more and more like a team full of guys I could root for, guys I knew, guys I didn't have to brainwash myself into liking. I'm still not going to make a single prediction about wins or titles. But I will say that I am going to have the time of my life following this team, even if they are going to be front and center on ESPN and ABC for the next half decade.

Now to end with a collection of Heat related thoughts.

I never doubted Riley's power of persuasion and motivation. I mean he got Shaq, GP, 'Toine AND White Chocolate to play some semblance of basketball together...and get in shape. But I had myself talked into Amare and Joe Johnson several times. I was going to be okay with Gay and Boozer. I was hoping for Bosh and filler. I never would have really imagined this would happen.

I still don't know what to make of the "celebration" other than it was nice to see Wade back in the #3 and being flanked by #1 and #6 that didn't include the names Dorell or Mario.

I have always liked Dan LeBatard and I'm glad to being seeing more and more of him.

This < This

I don't think LeBron left any unpaid debts in northeast Ohio.

Zo played better than Shaq in the '06 Finals, period.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dear Ohio,

I have decided to use this platform, The Black Converse, to officially respond to the negative outpouring towards me after my little sit down with Jim Gray last night. (side note: I should have known it was going to turn out the way it did when Jim Gray was the only reported who would agree to sit in the director's chair opposite me. He doesn't exactly have a great track record.) I chose this blog to address you all since Charlie T, a very loyal Heat fan, is one of the few people outside of South Beach who has my back.

Charlie T has also been very kind and wise in helping me put my feelings into words, providing me with perspective and verse. I would like to first address everyone in America who thinks I made a bad decision with a selection from what appears to be a TBC favorite, Wilco.

Oh it's okay for you to say
What you want from me
I believe that's the only
Way for me
To be
Exactly what you want me to be

Just remember, I make my own decisions. You don't get to. You are not LeBron James. (and you're damn right I just referred to myself in the third person)

And now to address Ohio specifically. This is sports. Get over yourselves. Remember Kent State in the 70's, neither do I but it happened only minutes from my home. Kent State was a real tragedy. Allow me to refresh your memory by borrowing from one of your Lake Erie neighbors:

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Nobody dies last night. Nobody was even physically harmed. Again, I'm sorry but se la vie .

And now to my owner Dan Gilbert. I can't wait too see you backpedaling on defense as I come up the floor like a locomotive. I can't wait to chase you down on a fast break and slap the ball through the backboard as you go up for a girlish layup. Just kidding, I know I won't be invited over for barbecue's and pick up games anymore. I'm okay with that.

But if you really feel everything you comic sansed the world last night, take some advice from Frightened Rabbit:

So swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?

And if you were just reacting passionately because you just lost 100+ million dollars in the net worth of the Cavs, essentially resurrecting the Rockers, then thats fine. You should have taken a step back, put your laptop down and put this Hank Williams song on the stereo and called it a night.

It's hard to know another's lips will kiss you
And hold you just the way I used to do
Oh, heaven only knows how much I miss you
I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You.

And to my new fans in Miami:

Here i am in the place where i'com to let go-Miami
the bass and the sun set low.
Everyday like a Mardi Gras- everbody party all day
no work- all play, ok

So we sip a liitle something, leave the rest to spill.
me and Charlie at the bar running up a high bill
nutin; less than ill when we dress to kill,
and every time the ladies pass they be like "Hi Bron"

Cant wait for Halloween.

Yours for five years,


Lebron & the Heat Check

As sour grapes as possible and as a fan who (if you don't root for LA or MIA or BOS or maybe OKC and ORL) thinks the NBA just got less engaging, it's my job to make Charlie T's uber-happy life a little more miserable. So, I thought I'd revisit some of Charlie's anti-Lebron rants from TBC posts past. After all, Charlie T was more of a LeHater than I was from the start. Needless to say, that ended last night around 7:04 MST.

I was actually surprised by Charlie T's turnaround. I thought I would dig up dirt and throw it in his ecstatic face. But the results were mixed and Charlie was actually turning towards LeBron long before I'd anticipated. So here it is, in reverse chronological order, with Charlie T's posts in italics:


JAN 17, 2009
A big sarcastic jab that I can't really cut/paste without making this cross over into the 1,000,000 wordcount range. One highlight of Charlie T's translations of TV announcer fawning:
"Watch LeBron here as he takes over in the fourth quarter with a steal and a thunderous slam"
Translation: LeBron just ripped the ball out of Delonte West's hand, took a hesitation dribble just past half court and took 4 steps before dunking on the camera crew. For those who haven't seen professional basketball in a while, the rules have been changed to allow two extra steps if you take a hesitation dribble. Whatever that is.

FEB 10, 2009
Wah, wah, Cleveland.
That said, (Coach Brown) congratulations on sticking up for LeBron and Co. Your team has been so picked on. And it's nice to hear a little harmony with the sad tunes our dear martyr, St. BronBron of Our Lady Of Cleveland, has been singing lately.
FEB 12, 2009
We paired NBA players together in a fictional 2-on-2 tournament, one of many overambitious TBC Concept Series. They were usually paired for reasons of similarity or intertwining stories (Nash/Nowitzki, CP3/D-Will). Note how Charlie T emphasizes the utter fiction of this pairing.
Team Name: Unstoppable
Team Members: LeBron James and Dwayne[sic] Wade

Let's be realistic. This is the only way you will ever see these two play together in the NBA. You know full well that neither will take the paycut necessary to play on the same NBA team together. It just won't happen. That said, for this tournament, they have a lot going for them. (Pushing aside the obvious fact that they are two of the four legitimate MVP candidates this season,) They have some size (James) and both are super quick. Quicker than you might ever imagine. Trying to stop either of them in the lane is futile. Also, like all 2-on-2, this tournament will be Call Your Own Fouls. So, LeBron will be calling fouls on every play, assuring a lot of easy points for his team (because, come on, has there ever been a play in which LeBron wasn't fouled?)...

Feb 27, 2009
An open letter to LeBron. And not a nice one. I believe he calls LeBron "pathetic." Luckily South Beach is known for blurry memories. I do have to give it to Charlie T for skewering both Kobe and LeBron in the same post. I'll miss that. Oh, and Charlie T's soothsaying was only half right about Shaq. He came, but delivered no title.
Dear LeBron,

I know you spent a lot of time with Kobe over the summer. And I know you think he is soooo cool. But this is really a new low in emulation. You had ZERO ASSISTS last night against the Houston Rockets. I can excuse the Kobe-esque 33% shooting, the Black Mamba-ish one-on-five with everyone standing around watching you, even the post-dunk scowl. But for Mr. I'm Gonna Average A Triple Double For My Career? This was inexcusable. Even Ben "I Broke My Leg and Didn't Know It" Wallace had more assists and rebounds than you in half the time.

Keep this up and you'll never escape the curse of being the next Kobe Bryant. Except that Shaq won't be coming to give you a title.

Charlie T. Hustle Jr.

P.S. One rebound was pretty pathetic too. Correction, Really pathetic.
March 20, 2009
The turning begins.

It's no secret that there is a lack of butt kissing for LeBron here at TBC as opposed to the rest of the televisioned world. But I'm finding it harder and harder to find the holes in anything he does lately. In March, thus far, he is averaging 30 pts. 9 assists 9 rebounds nearly 2 steals and shooting 48%. Plus his team has only lost to Boston this month. So keep playing hard in the regular season, boys. I'm sure you'll give me plenty of chances in the playoffs to be critical.
Nov 13, 2009
The soothsaying, crystal balling Charlie T emerges. Was he precognitive or just really hopeful?
Now that we have established that Miami has retired the number 23, let's bring Mr. James back into the picture and add this theory to the long list of "Where will LeBron go in 2010" theories.

LeBron won't be able to have #23 when he goes to Miami next season. If he can't have it then nobody can. Nobody.
Jan 26, 2010
More saying of sooth.
LeBron becomes a little tougher to pin down (we all know the lack of income tax in Florida has got to be alluring) but there isn't as much mystery around it as there once was.
Feb 9, 2010
The Official Pro-LBJ post.
Here at TBC, we've been mostly down on LeBron James . Not because he is a bad basketball player, but mostly because we didn't like being force fed hearty helpings of King James everywhere we looked. We, or maybe just me, felt that the hype was vastly over done for a guy so young and relatively unaccomplished. This season, I'm starting to have a change of heart. I have seen quite a few Cavs games and James has definitely taken his game to another level. It's not only affecting his game, but the rest of his team looks phenomenal. He makes JJ Hickson look like the second coming of Scottie Pippen (which he isn't...Hickson will be out of the league a year after he stops playing with LeBron) and he makes Shaq (at least for 5 possessions a game) look like Lew Alcindor out there. Nobody else could do that I am convinced. Kobe would chew those guys out to the point that they wouldn't even show up to practice. Wade (as much as it pains me to say this) would get his 20 and then take the rest of the game off. ... And that is why I now buy into LeBron. And the Cavaliers.
March 2, 2010
Charlie posts his theories on why LBJ changed his uni #. Truly soothsaying, this one. People in NYC wish he were just a little more accurate.
Theory 3: He is going to play for the Miami Heat next year and the number 23 is retired there (Michael Jordan). Likelihood: 15% (he could have whatever number he wanted upon changing teams)
Theory 7: Number 6 is LeBron's Team USA number and he wants to recreate Team USA in New York with Wade and Bosh. This is the first step. Likelihood: 45% (Bosh and Wade could just change their numbers upon switching teams)
May 10, 2010
Charlie types a post about how players' value/legacies/perception hinge on how their playoff performances shake out. He put LeBron in a category of players who have "done very little to help themselves" in the 2010 playoffs. I'm not sure if Charlie is saying that LeBron's best has to be better or that the sinking ship could use a more valiant effort by its doomed captain. This was just 2 months ago.
(LeBron) is doing exactly what everybody knows he is capable of, except he has to do it every moment of every game. How does this not (improve) our view of him and shouldn't it be more about his teammates? Yes, they are to blame for their disappearing act but consider this: if a home-schooled child never learns to read, is it his fault or his parents'? LeBron is the parent in this case and his teammates are the illiterate children. Any sign of trouble and LeBron immediately takes over. He can't sit back idly while his teammates struggle through words like "rebound", "defense" or "make an open shot." Of course, we enjoy watching him dominate and I can only imagine Mo Williams does too. He has just become too accustomed to it happening. Same for Side-Show Bob, Grand Theft West, Sheldon Williams's brother-in-law and ABC's in-studio analyst for the 2010-2011 season Mike Brown.
And finally, in the midst of the playoffs and after a post that quickly mocked LeBron's elbow, Charlie T tired of hyperbolic and sycophantic journalists and announcers. We all did. Sarcastically and fed up, he posted this:
LeBron James is the greatest athlete in the history of the game. Wherever LeBron goes will turn that franchise around. You have to say something nice about Early Exit LeBron but both those comments are way off base. Great Athlete? Yes. Franchise Player? Yes. Beyond that? Let's leave it open for debate.
Well, the debate has started. We all know how Dan Gilbert feels. And in Comic Sans no less.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh No

Remember when Ryan Adams used to write great music? Those were the days...

Weezer Team Up With Ryan Adams

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Likert Scale

The Austin City Limits with the Swell Season was on again this last weekend. During their set, they invited out celebrated Austinite Daniel Johnston to sing "Life In Vain" with them. I was taken back to when I saw Daniel Johnston perform for the first time, but this time I understood something new about him. One of the great things about his live performances is that there is an overwhelming sense of positive energy in the room. What this energy stems from is the collective support for him, the desire of everyone in the room for him to succeed. That is something we rarely experience. Even in the best concerts there seems to be a group of people who are upset, wishing they were else where, fault-finding, or looking to score. All of these produce some sort of negative vibe. The absence of that vibe is what made the Daniel Johnston show so unique and you could even feel that vibe on TV.

I wanted to try and work this into some post-NBA Finals angle where I talked about how unlikeable Kobe, Pau, Fisher and the rest of the Lakers are...but you already know that. Then I thought about mentioning the Jazz and how there are at least 3 stiff white guys that they like in the draft this year. Too easy. Maybe something about liking the Heat's chances to get Dwyane Wade a real teammate? I don't want to jinx it. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of things worth liking out there, but the Swell Season performance with Daniel Johnston has to be right at the top of that list.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Annual Report: 1989

And now for a year that I actually remember pretty well. One look at this list shows that things were shifting, broadening. There's mainstream rap, alt-rock, classic rock, top 40, industrial, the seeds of grunge, folk, metal, jamband. Even if some of the drum sounds are unforgivable, it was a good time to make music.

Full Moon Fever//Tom Petty
One thing we have to make clear here is Tom Petty's place at the table. For whatever reason, I don't feel like he gets his due for being a songwriter (and a hitmaker) on the level of the legends. And, friends, he is. This album is not my favorite TP album (might be 3rd?) and still is pure proof: listenable top-to-bottom with songs that jumped out at teeniebopper radio listeners ("Free Fallin'") and resonated with Johnny Cash ("I Won't Back Down"). The mix of hits and singalong anthems with songs that bring the sadness like "Face In The Crowd" and "Yer So Bad."Petty and Jeff Lynne were on fire between this record and...
Mystery Girl//Roy Orbison
Like A Prayer//Madonna
Rhythm Nation//Janet Jackson
Seeds Of Love//Tears For Fears

Disintegration//The Cure
Paul’s Boutique//Beastie Boys
Don't Tell A Soul//Replacements
Pretty Hate Machine//Nine Inch Nails
The birth of alt-rock? No, I know you want me to say it was Big Star or the 13th Floor Elevators or Velvet Underground. But this is when it broke through and even MTV had to pay attention. These (with the arguable exception of Bleach and Don't Tell A Soul) are seminal, career records for each band. The Beasties got serious(er). The Pixies put their flag in the ground. The Cure made the record that, 20 years later, they'd be asked to devote entire concerts to. And Trent Reznor brought industrial music to the masses.
New York//Lou Reed
Freedom//Neil Young
Two all-time legends dig in. I still remember listening to Lou Reed's "Dirty Boulevard" and knowing that it was something special and rawer than the rest of the produced stuff I was listening to in junior high. And as a Neil Young loyalist, I'm here to remind you that he destroyed in the 90s, starting with this album's bookending "Keep On Rockin' In The Free World." Oh how I love that man.
Spike//Elvis Costello
Flowers In The Dirt//Paul McCartney
My introduction to Elvis Costello, unlike many early adopters, was through his late-80s/early-90s work. And, to this day, it's my favorite era. My friend Matt and I wore out a taped-off-the-radio tape of "Veronica" while at basketball camp one summer. When I found out McCartney had co-written it, it seemed only natural, being a young Beatlephile as I was. Then, Matt's sister was dating a Macca fan, who turned us on to Flowers In The Dirt. A little uneven maybe, but it gave us "Figure of Eight" and most importantly the Costello co-written "My Brave Face." Such a great song.
Oranges & Lemons//XTC
Heart Shaped World//Chris Isaak
Margin Walker + 13 Songs//Fugazi
13 Songs. Where to start? Somehow it crept past my Classic/Modern Rock filter and landed a giant punk (postpunk? anti-BS?) haymaker in my ears. This album pushed me around, challenged me, and demanded I rethink what great music was. The fact that this could co-exist in the same year as Full Moon Fever and Like A Prayer makes me very happy.
Crossroads//Tracy Chapman
Indigo Girls//self-titled (both of these are still listenable. I will hold them up to any contemporary folk record)
Steady On//Shawn Colvin
Nick of Time//Bonnie Raitt
Flying Cowboys//Rickie Lee Jones (89 predated Lilith Fair by quite a bit, but was responsible for planting its seeds)

Oh Mercy//Bob Dylan
Dylan & The Dead
"Most Of The Time" and "What Was It You Wanted" are classics. Read the chapters about the making of Oh Mercy in Chronicles and you'll at least reconsider its place in history. As for Dylan & The Dead? Well, it's Dylan and the Grateful Dead, so if you were expecting smooth edges, you were disappointed.

Dr. Feelgood//Motley Crue
Shine//Mother Love Bone
Sonic Temple//The Cult
Louder Than Love//Soundgarden
Hard rock/heavy metal was in a time of transition, still on top of the heap, but about to be undercut by a little album by a band called Nirvana. These five records represent a stratification of hard rock in 1989. The Crue was pure L.A. hedonistic party metal. Aerosmith was the east coast version that had more songs your girlfriend liked. Mother Love Bone (not well known, I know) were a bridge between the grunge to come and metal as it was. If you listen to Andrew Wood on some songs, you might think it was Steven Tyler, except Wood's sexual metaphors were less lazy and pedestrian. Then there was The Cult, who never really fit into any of the cliques-- too new wave for hard rock in the mid-80s, too hard rock for alt-rock in the 90's. But the songs were good. And then Soundgarden, a metal band that went back to Sabbath School, loved odd time signatures, and twisted it all in their own way.
Mother’s Milk//Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Real Thing//Faith No More (and then two bands trying to fuse rock/funk/rap-- Fishbone's important Truth & Soul was a year earlier)

In Step- Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
Yellow Moon- Neville Bros
The Stone Roses// self-titled

Automatic//The Jesus And Mary Chain
Key Lime Pie//Camper Van Beethoven
Suck On This//Primus
Cosmic Thing//The B-52s
Blind Man's Zoo//10,000 Maniacs
Devil's Night Out//Mighty Mighty Bosstones
The next tier (not in quality, but commercial success) of alt-rock. A nice variety, you gotta admit. A fan favorite by JAMC (controversial at the time for its synthesized drums and bass), namedropped by the Death Cabs and Jimmy Eats of the next wave; a proper farewell for CVB that gave us the immortal "Pictures of Matchstick Men", a live debut from Primus who would weird their way into the top of alt-rock through the 90s and spawned a horde of Claypool clones (but nobody had the storytelling chops, much less the bass ones); a solid showing from 10,000 Maniacs with the hit "Trouble Me"; and a hardcore ska showing from Boston's own MMB. Like I said in the intro, don't knock 89's variety.
Big Daddy- John Mellencamp
Avalon Sunset- Van Morrison
Journeyman- Eric Clapton
Workmanlike efforts by Hall of Famers. Journeyman is too slick but had hits and the gem "Running On Faith." Big Daddy is decent but forgettable in light of what else JCM had done. And Avalon Sunset was touted as a VM's return to the muse, but resulted in us having to hear Rod Stewart slaughter "Have I Told You Lately." Ugh.

Brain Drain//Ramones (Dee Dee's last. Gave us "I Believe In Miracles", "Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)" and "Pet Semetary.")
Let Love Rule//Lenny Kravitz

Annual Report: 1967

When asked about the best year in music, 1967 is among the most popular responses. And it's no wonder with powerhouse, pantheon, test-of-time releases like:

(Now, I wasn't there. So I'm warily trusting a mix of Wikipedia, iTunes, and random other googling.)

The Beatles//Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
For a long time, this record was considered the gamebreaker, the most important album, the best album, the measuring stick. Then, fickle tides turned and journalists learned they'd sell more magazines and get more click-thrus if they went with something more controversial (less obvious) or unexpected. I'm not saying it's my favorite album (a distinction Charlie T outlined expertly in the previous post), but it's gotta be up there with the best. Especially in the historical (an artist no less than Jimi Hendrix was covering Sgt Pepper mere days after its release), break down the walls (a concept record that stretched the studio-as-instrument concept) context. And especially because it has the song "A Day In The Life" on it. And then consider that "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever"– both released as singles– could technically be on this record? Goodness gracious. Oh, and they also released Magical Mystery Tour this year.
Jimi Hendrix//Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love
Speaking of Jimi Hendrix and two-albums-in-one-year, this pair is ridiculous. And, no offense to Magical Mystery Tour, but it's no Axis: Bold As Love. Try "Little Wing" and "Castles Made of Sand" and "Spanish Castle Magic" and "Stone Free." That's insane. I don't think today's generation understands what we lost when we lost Hendrix. He showed more greatness in a few short years than the careers of most bands today combined. Pardon me while I go yell at the kids on the lawn.

Aretha Franklin//I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You
Love//Forever Changes
Cream//Disraeli Gears
Big Brother & The Holding Company//s/t...janis...
The Velvet Underground & Nico
Miles Davis//Neferiti
Bob Dylan//John Wesley Harding
It gets lost in the shuffle of Insanely Great Dylan albums, but this is solid. And culturally relevant. Try these reviews on for size:
"For an album of this kind to be released amidst Sgt. Pepper, Their Satanic Majesties Request, After Bathing at Baxter's, somebody must have had a lot of confidence in what he was doing ... Dylan seems to feel no need to respond to the predominate [sic] trends in pop music at all. And he is the only major pop artist about whom this can be said." -Jon Landau//Crawdaddy

And it gave us "All Along The Watchtower" which was covered memorably (to the point of changing Dylan's view on the original) by- wait for it- Jimi Hendrix.
13th Floor Elevators//Easter Everywhere
"Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, a band out of Texas. They were basically the first psychedelic-rock band. 1965. And if you listen to old 13th Floor Elevators stuff—Roky Erickson especially, his voice—and then go back and listen to early Led Zeppelin, you know that Robert Plant absolutely copped everything from Roky Erickson. And it's amazing. And Roky Erickson is sitting in Austin, Texas; he's just there. And Robert Plant had a huge hit. It always goes back to those guys, you know? I love those fucking guys." -Johnny Depp//2005//Esquire Magazine
With Roky Erickson's deserved resurgence over the last couple years and triumphant album with Okervill River this year, we see once again that Johnny Depp was ahead of the curve. Robert Plant, you're on the clock.
debuts by The Doors and Grateful Dead
solid showings from Pink Floyd, The Who, The Small Faces, the Stones (a kind of pathetic reaction to Sgt. Pepper, but with some ok songs), Buffalo Springfield...

and that's ignoring albums by seminal artists I'm less familiar with like Wes Montgomery, BB King, Roy Orbison, Howlin' Wolf, and Coltrane.

The sheer volume of great music coming out of 1967 may not compare to that of other years, but the longstanding greatness does. We will find years with more great music, but will we find years with greater music?

The Best Versus The Favorite

Walk around Los Angeles over the weekend and you would find an inordinate amount of Kobe Bryant jerseys. Its obvious many of the people are wearing them in support of the Lakers playing in the Finals but what isn't so obvious is why they chose to wear Bryant's jersey over many other more likable Laker's jerseys. Magic, Worthy, Divac, West, Baylor, Van Exel, AC Green, Karl Malone, Mark Madsen, Irwin M Fletcher or even Kurt Rambis. I'd even settle for someone slicking their hair back with Riley Grease of donning some of Jack's amber tinted sunglasses. So why does the majority chose a Kobe jersey over anyone else? Its because he is the best. The debate about whether or not he is the best player in the league is still open, but he is clearly the best player on the Lakers even though he is the least likable. Pau-bacca gives him a run for his money at times, but those are few and far between.

Come with me for a moment as we shift away from the hardwood and put on the headphones. The reason I'd like to explore the topic of best vs favorite isn't another ridiculous Kobe Bryant debate. It has to do with music. Specifically Josh Ritter.

The best song on the newest Josh Ritter album, So Runs The World Away, is undoubtedly The Curse. The lyrics show an acute attention to detail and are constantly folding back on themselves making the song deep and rich. The waltz piano places the story in a time where people who fell in love had a penchant for dancing. The story is unique, unforgettable and timeless. Everything about the song elevates it above the other songs on the album. Yet its not my favorite song, and maybe not even top 3 on that album. (Lantern, Change of Time and Folk Bloodbath are its fiercest competition) So why don't I like the best song on the album? Its nothing personal nor is it a personality trait where I have the undying need to always dislike the best. The Curse just doesn't connect with me like the other aforementioned songs. I can clearly see why it is the best song, but that isn't enough for me. Just like knowing who the best player is doesn't make me join his leagues of fans.

I'm not comparing The Curse to Kobe Bryant. I would never do that to anyone or anything since Kobe has no equal when it comes to loathsomeness. But its an easy, relatable example and I had to tie this back into the NBA Finals somehow. We are a music/sports blog after all and have failed to mention even once that the Lakers and Celtics are playing for all the marbles.

The thing about wearing the best player's jersey or even rooting for the best player, is that often it is the easiest. Its the easiest jersey to find, you know more about that player than any other, you are force fed their highlight reels. This is not always the case with the best songs, unless you stick to top 40 radio. This is also not the case with The Curse. Nobody is making it any easier or harder to like it. It comes down to my own personal choice and preference. It comes down to me choosing my favorites instead of making the best a part of them, and not confusing them.

Clearly this is an issue throughout sports and music. Just look at all the people on the Rajon Rondo bandwagon now. Not that he hasn't had some great moments in the playoffs but are we really forgetting about Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Steve Nash and Derek Fisher that quickly? (one of those is a joke...I'll let you decide) There is no way any of those guys no show in game 1 the way Rondo did. I do think Rondo was one of the funnest games in the NBA and i prefer watching him over a lot of those other guards, but in no way do I think he is the absolute best.

I'm going to start using the word favorite a little bit more and the word best a lot less, and I hope you do too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

2010: Bracing For The Pantheon?

Not to get all Bill Simmons on you, by which I mean "immediately and rashly overreact to an isolated incident, impregnating it with more meaning than it ever ought to have ("HOOPS ARE DEAD IN CLEVELAND AFTER LEBRON'S LAST LOSS"), spitting out superlatives ("THE CELTICS ARE AN EMBARRASSMENT" and "RONDO IS THE BEST PG IN THE LEAGUE!!" within weeks of each other) like they ought to be etched in stone ASAP*. But, here I go: is 2010's year of music angling to be a pantheon year? I know it's early and many of these albums still have to measure up to the ol' test of time, but I don't think the question is wrong. It feels like a supernaturally good year and it has to be asked:

Will 2010 go down as one of the great years in the history of music?

The National//High Violet
I know it's early, but it's about time TBC got a chance to counter all the Animal Collective and Beach House premature hype over the past year with something we think is actually deserving. I can't remember the last time I heard an album all the way through and wanted to hear it over again. And again.

The Hold Steady//Heaven Is Whenever
Josh Ritter//So Runs The World Away
Two TBC perennial favorites with what I suppose you could call transitional albums. On our initial listens, we agreed that Heaven Is Whenever gave us a great new chapter in the Hold Steady canon. We disagreed on the highpoints of So The World Runs Away, so that jury is still out
Broken Social Scene//Forgiveness Rock Record
Mose Allison//The Way Of The World
The Black Keys//Brothers
Dr. Dog//Shame
Anais Mitchell//Hadestown
There were 2 weeks where this albums sang the words "ALBUM OF THE YEAR" to me every day. Somehow the musical-hater in me could swallow a folkie musical based in mythology with guest spots by Justin Vernon, Ani Difranco, Greg Brown, and the dude from the Low Anthem. I am a sucker for ambitious high concept that's well executed (Janelle Monae, we'll get to you). And adorable voices like Anais Mitchell's.

Retribution Gospel Choir//2
Damien Jurado//Saint Bartlett
Frightened Rabbit//The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Jason Collett//Rat a tat tat
Four albums from some TBC usual suspects. Will they fare as well as Stay Positive? Or will they go the (still respectable but kind of disappointing) route of Yonder Is The Clock, following up a great record with a good one? I have my guesses, one of which is pretty obvious by the fact that I haven't dared buy the Jason Collett record yet.
Jakob Dylan//Women & Country
Patty Griffin//Downtown Church
Neon Trees//Habits (come on. Animal is catchy as catch.)
Peter Gabriel//Scratch My Back
Broken Bells//And I just got too lazy to look up album names. Bad journalism? It's a BLOG!
Jonsi's solo album
Horse Feathers
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Bettye Lavette
Sarah Sample
Sayde Price
Mumford & Sons
Tallest Man On Earth
Beach House
Drive By Truckers
New Pornographers

And still (potentially) to come:
The Arcade Fire
Tift Merritt
Blitzen Trapper
Sun Kil Moon
Nada Surf
The Roots
The Weepies
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Wolf Parade
Crowded House
Los Lobos
Fleet Foxes
Beastie Boys
Robert Plant//Band of Joy (his follow-up to Raising Sand)
the actual release of Sparklehorse + Danger Mouse

And stuff I should check out:
Roky Erickson + Okkervil River
Avi Buffalo
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Maybe the most interesting to me. NPR will do that with their special, literate, elitist Kool-Aid
Janelle Monae
Flying Lotus
Titus Andronicus
LCD Soundsystem
Merle Haggard
Laura Marling
Morning Benders
Sleigh Bells
Angus & Julia Stone
White Hinterland
Crystal Castles
The Besnard Lakes

Now, on a mass scale, I don't know that anything ever (especially in the post-mp3 world) will ever compete culturally and on a massive scale like a year that includes the Beatles and Stones and Dylan and Cash and...yeah. But as far as great and meaningful music that matters? This year has to at least sit at the kids' table while we wait for the results of the test of time.

Last year had a solid top 15 albums, but both Spike and I found a lackluster overall year to be saved by a few stellar albums. This year doesn't look like it'll have that problem.

I've often asked friends if they could only pick one YEAR of music, what year would it be?

In this new series, Annual Reports, we'll list albums from particular years and maybe even try to rate the years against each other. Some of it will hopefully help us see how 2010 fits in context and some of it will help those of us who maybe weren't there (or alive) to see/hear music in a new contextual lens, and the rest will just be an excuse to talk about music.

As the year goes on, we'll return to this post, revisit the names, see how they're shaking out. Next stop, though, is the nearly universally heralded 1967.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Concept Career

Separation Sunday is constantly in a battle with Boys and Girls in America for the right to be my favorite Hold Steady album (a very coveted distinction). What sets Separation Sunday apart is its dedication to telling a single story across the entire album. The concept album theme faded with Boys and Girls in America, though the characters in the album were mostly consistent. Then the cast of characters started to disappear. What I didn't realize, is that the stories continued...they are just more veiled than before.

My research into Craig Finn's lyric sheets hasn't been very in-depth just yet, but I have managed to put one story together. We all know the story of the girl who bet on horses and then used the money to buy drugs. The horse was named Chips Ahoy. Well, that girl hasn't been lost and forgotten. Someone is trying to hook-up with here again and have a Weekender with her. Allow me to expound. The song, The Weekenders, starts out, There was that whole weird thing with the horses. At first this could be a reference to anything really because weird things happen when you mix drugs, alcohol and animals. But later on in the verse he sheds a little more light on the situation, You've still got a bit of clairvoyance. If twice is a coincidence, then four times has to be undeniable. The two other instances come later in the song. First, You could say our paths had crossed before, and then later, I remember the O.T.B. O.T.B., for all those unseasoned horse racing gamblers out there, is Off Track Betting. That line pretty much seals the deal. Horses, Clairvoyance, Betting, Crossing Paths Before. It all adds up.

The greatest revelation, however, isn't that he has made contact with the Clairvoyant Horse Gambler once again, but its that there is a strong possibility that the Hold Steady didn't just make one concept album, but they are possibly working on a concept career. I feel like an archeologist who just uncovered some weird bones in the middle of Wyoming. And it turns out those bones might be related to some incident involving a Cheyenne Sunrise.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Its More Engaging When You Don't Know"

The National's Matt Berninger tried to describe the lyrics to "Bloodbuzz Ohio" in a veiled string of words and then ended it with, "Its more engaging when you don't know." That really sums up my draw to The National and more specifically, his lyrics. The same can be said about most of my favorite things, I like not knowing exactly what the intent is. I like having the space to fill in the blanks.

Nothing kills a movie for me like seeing 5 different trailers, each one getting increasingly more revelatory about the plot and showing "all the good parts". You could get me to see just about anything, or at least be excited about seeing it, by not showing me much more than the name of the film and some shots of each actor in the movie. Beyond that, you're giving me too much information and my interest wanes. Again, its more interesting to watch it unfold.

The same goes for sports. If I have a game on the DVR and I mistakenly catch the score before I've seen the whole game, I won't even bother. Its not that I don't want to watch the game, but it takes away my main motivation for watching; answering the question of who is going to win. The NBA Playoffs this year have been surprisingly entertaining. Sure there have been plenty of no-shows and series sweeps, but that is going to happen and even some of those series were entertaining (Phoenix/San Antonio).

I've enjoyed the suspense of the games, but I haven't enjoyed the hyperbole surrounding the cast of characters involved. THis goes back to the need to not know. Every announcer, writer, analyst and goofy-dressed reporter has used up their lifetime allotment of exaggeration in this playoffs alone. Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the game. Rondo made the greatest play in Celtics' history. No he isn't and no he didn't. But does he have at least 3 exciting plays a game? Yes. Can't we just leave his place in history undefined until he strings together a couple seasons, yes I said SEASONS, full of the play we've seen from him recently? LeBron James is the greatest athlete in the history of the game. Wherever LeBron goes will turn that franchise around. You have to say something nice about Early Exit LeBron but both those comments are way off base. Great Athlete? Yes. Franchise Player? Yes. Beyond that? Lets leave it open for debate. Don't just sling hyperbole for the sake of needing to say something. The list goes on and on. Pau Gasol, best bigman in the game. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, best young tandem to team up with. Knicks, best opportunity to become a legend.

Say anything like this, and I'm immediately disengaged. I'd rather wonder how good someone can become and how good they are than see them ranked "all-time". I'd rather hear the questions than the answers, and don't think I'm alone.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Write or Be Written

Long has the adage floated around that those who win the war write the history books. I wonder if that saying exists in Great Britain. Or in Japan. Or anywhere that has very publicly lost a war. My guess is there isn't a phrase for that in German and that it only works in American English where we have a sparkling record in battle...or at least completely unwilling to admit defeat. Therein lies the point. No matter what happens, we write the history. We decide what we will remember.

The NBA is no different than American History. Players decide how their legacy will be written. At no other time during the NBA season are there more words being poured into the history books. Just ask First Round Tracy how important the playoffs are to NBA History. This year has been no exception to the rule. There are players who are actively writing and re-writing their legacy on the court. On the other side of the coin, there are players who are passively letting their history be edited like a bunch of college freshman who just realized anyone can edit a wikipedia page. Its not win or go home, its write or be written.

The Writers
This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a small selection of players who have done more for reshaping our memory of them than anyone else.

Steve Nash
We already knew he was tough and that he made his teammates better. But we weren't sure he could carry his team. We didn't know if he was wired with a "get on my back and I'll make sure we walk away with a win" chip. Turns out he is. I thought he was crazy wen he re-signed with Phoenix for four more years. I thought Amare would be an idiot to hitch his wagon to a 36 year old white guy who will have to guard the quickest players in the league. I was certain there were a number of better opportunities for Nash where he could push hard for two years for a title and have a better supporting cast. Turns out I was wrong. No matter how the Lakers series turns out, I will never again say that Nash didn't deserve those two MVPs.

Grant Hill
Take note all you twilight-of-your-career-stars who still think they need 20 shots a game and enough touches to get into a rhythm even though they no longer have the physical ability to require even a single team, let alone a double team. Grant Hill has effectively gone from aged, former star to defensive stopper and effective role player on a winning team. Just ask Jerryd Bayless how efective he has been.

Deron Williams
He has played in the the second round or later in nearly everyone of his NBA seasons, yet judging by the kind things being said about him, you would think this was his first trip to the playoffs. The only thing he has done differently this year is break Chris Paul's knee. Its working.

The Being Written
This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a small selection of players who have done very little to help themselves.

Remember Oliver Miller? I do, but only because Shaq is a glaring, constant reminder. He obviously didn't take any notes from Grant Hill during his 18 months in Phoenix.

LeBron James
He is doing exactly what everybody knows he is capable of, except he has to do it every moment of every game. How does this not help our view of him and shouldn't it be more about his teammates? Yes they are to blame for their disappearing act but consider this: if a home-schooled child never learns to read, is it his fault or his parents? LeBron is the parent in this case and his teammates are the illiterate children. Any sign of trouble and LeBron immediately takes over. He can't sit back idly while his teammates struggle through words like "rebound", "defense" or "make an open shot". Of course we enjoy watching him dominate and I can only image Mo Williams does too. He has just become to accustomed to it happening. Same for Side-Show Bob, Grand Theft West, Sheldon Williams's brother-in-law and ABC's in-studio analyst for the 2010-2011 season Mike Brown.

Andrei Kirilenko
A couple years ago, AK "threatened" to walk away from the NBA. Then someone must have told him how many Rubles equals one million Dollars. He had a mini-renaissance for about 3/4 of the season before returning to Siberia.

Joe Johnson
He must really be looking forward to that max contract with the Nets. He will then really see what its like when fans don't show up. He wil have to drop the "e" from Joe in order to fit in, but thats a small price to pay for the max contract badge of honor.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Five Bests from the Playoffs (thus far)

5. Portland Fans chanting "Lets Go Blazers" last night with 30 seconds to go and the Suns leading by 9 points.

4. Bango's Backflip. Who says a mascot doesn't have any effect on a game?

3. @LeBronsElbow

2. Tie: Durant blocking Kobe to add insult to injury in game 4 and the Irony behind the "Carmelo's People of Utah" ad campaign.

1. Dwyane Wade's 46 point outburst and subsequent yelling at his hand.

Dragon Slaying

The Lakers, Spurs, Blazers, Nuggets, Jazz, Suns and Mavs have all been staples of the Western Conference playoffs the last decade or so. This lack of diversity in the Playoff gene pool has led to some great playoff games, great meltdowns and a great set up for this year. The late 90's proved to be the same kind of scenario in the Eastern Conference with the Knicks, Bulls, Pacers, and Heat. Coming from those series were a number of great Jordan moments, Reggie's theatrics and heroics versus the Knicks, and the Playoffs best announcer, Jeff Van Gundy, clinging to Alonzo Mourning's leg. It seemed that every year a Heat/Knicks matchup was inevitable, because it was. From 1997-2000, they met every year in the Playoffs and played the maximum number of games each series, with the clinching game of the series being decided in the closing moments of the game. Miami only beat the Knicks in one of those four series, the first one in 1997. After that, the Knicks became Miami's dragon; the naturally sworn enemy and inevitable matchup for the Heat, a matchup they could never overcome.

The Heat went through another stretch, although much shorter and less dramatic, when a matchup with the Detroit Pistons seemed destined every year. This may have had more to do with the Pistons versus Shaquille O'Neal (dating back to their upset of the Shaq/Malone/Kobe Lakers), but it was the Heat's dragon to slay if they wanted to win a championship. This year, the west is full of such destined matchups. Mavs/Spurs. Jazz/Nuggets. Suns/Spurs. Jazz/Lakers (potential). Suns/Lakers (potential). Lakers/Spurs (potential). Jazz/Spurs (potential). Its almost a paper/rock/scissors set up. Spurs own the Suns, Lakers own the Jazz, Spurs own the Lakers, Lakers own the Suns, and for the sake of the analogy lets just say the Jazz own the Suns. Each team seems to have a date with destiny, a passage though fire, or any other cliched hero/dating reference. Somebody is going to have to slay their team's figurative dragon.

Who wins in all this melee? We do. The way the first round has gone, we can almost assume that round two will be turned up to 11. I'm still hoping that Kevin Durant walks on water for the next two games of the Lakers/Thunder series, but if not it doesn't mean that the best basketball is behind us. Rather, its yet to come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Bad To Worse

This isn't 2008. The Heat aren't loading up their starting line-up with a murderer's row of Stephane Lamse, Kasib Powell, Alexander Johnson and Earl Barron. There isn't the hope of a Mike Beasley coming in as a proverbial savior. Most importantly, we aren't worried about whether or not Dwyane Wade is going to have the career arc of Penny Hardaway. These things I am grateful for as a Miami Heat fan.

The one thing that does compare to 2008 is the taste in my mouth after Tuesday night's drubbing in Boston. It didn't only give me nightmares from 2008, but from seasons past in Miami Heat lore. Allow me to expand.

First, the game Tuesday night had the luck of the draw when it comes to announcers. Anytime you can get Reggie Miller as the color guy during a TNT telecast, you can count on ridiculous hyperbole, knife twisting and wound salting, overexcited yelling at random times, and terrible anecdotes. Tuesday was no exception. The Heat were hard at work preparing the finest turd sandwich that $73 million can buy. Everybody could see that. Reggie managed to reiterate it at least a dozen times at the expense of my fandom. Then he began to get loud and obnoxious, yelling things like "Trade KG" every time Big Baby made an awkward lay-up or "the side-line three should be renamed the Ray Allen" as Ray poured in 3 balls from all over the court. Only two other announcers have driven me as mad as Miller Time did tuesday night; Doug Collins and Bill Walton. These three share a common bond. They are poor color commentators who somehow get some of the bigger games and spend the entire night embellishing their careers and raising even the most meager of stars to the upper echelon of NBA greats. Not to mention they are 10 times worse when your team is losing.

There was a time during the late 90's Heat playoff runs where I had to watch games on mute because Bill Walton seemed to be commentating durning EVERY Heat game. And they would lose every game he was working. It was a dark time for me. I didn't even have to watch the games to know the outcome. I just had to hear the play by play long enough to distinguish the voices.

Doug Collins is just as bad. Just watch any Lakers game. Or any Bulls game in the late 90's. Or any Jazz fan during their Finals runs. Or even a Suns fan as recent as Sunday night. He has the ability, same as Reggie and Bill, to take a bad game and make it worse.

I'd like to thank Charles Barkley for begging TNT to switch over to the Suns/Blazers game and saving me from further misery. And I'd like to ask for just one playoff game win this year. Just one. But if not, I'm glad the Celtics are looking like they really might have one more run left in them.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Canada's Team/End of Season Edition

After losing out to another sub-.500 team for the final playoff spot (paging the league: let's make a .500 cutoff.) and on the brink of losing the only real star on such a disappointing team, Canada has spoken and here are the latest rankings in The Campaign To Become Canada's Team:

1: Vancouver Canucks
Ottawa Senators
Montreal Canadiens
Anybody but the so disappointing Raptors and that includes Toronto's least favorite player Vince Carter's Magic*.
1,000,001: Toronto Raptors

* Don't worry. This is the first and last place you will ever see the Magic belong to Vince Carter. It was solely for clarity's sake.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Tables Have Turned

The worst thing about playing a team you are guaranteed to beat is the outside chance you won't beat them. Welcome to the psyche to everyone who has to play the Nettes in the last couple weeks of the season. Seeing the Nettes on the schedule right now is worse than seeing the orange-hot Milwaukee Bucks, the streaking Phoenix Suns, The Jackson Five, or even the Promise Making Chicago Bulls. You never want to lose to the worst team. Ever.

As a Heat fan I went through it a week ago as D-Wade and Co went to the Meadowlands and I am staring down the barrel of another potential disaster the last game of the season in Miami.

Here is why it sucks. Lets say you are the Phoenix Suns who are a game out of second place in the Western Conference. One of your rivals, the Mavs, are playing a tough Grizzlies team on the road and the other rival, the Jazz are playing a tricky Warriors team at home. You've got the Nettes on the schedule. One of the 3 worst teams OF ALL TIME but who are playing like a playoff team now. Winners of 3 out of 4 including one over the Spurs. So the Suns are thinking they are moving up to at least the 3rd seed and possibly the 2nd. You have penciled in a win because you don't think you'll be the team to lose to them. You won't be one of the 10 wins they have all season....right?

So while one Lopez tries to get braggin rights over the other, I'll be biting my nails hoping that the Nettes can pick up a win or two against someone else so it doesn't have to happen to my guys.

TeeMak Reinvents The Postage Stamp

I went to the Jazz/Knicks game the other night and, besides being underwhelmed by the Jazz's nonexistent Blood In The Water instinct, I was completely floored by a player I didn't think I could like less.

Tracy McGrady, you are a being of miraculous ways. There I was, thinking I despised you at the very peak of my despise-ation. And you, with your loafing indifference and half-assed shrugs (I mean, MAN, who shrugs half-assedly? A shrug is, by definition, half-ass!), cleared the clouds away, revealing yet ANOTHER PEAK OF DESPISE-ATION. Plaudits, Tracy.

In any other job, you would be fired. And your severance package would stink because your employer would have just cause. You clearly don't give a crap. You couldn't defend a mime in a fake box. And wouldn't even try. For millions upon millions of dollars. Ask the average American what they would do for just ONE million dollars.

Take a charge every night for 82 nights? Absolutely.
Run myself to exhaustion everyday for a full calendar year? No question.
Live in NYC and play basketball? Wait. YOU are paying ME?

You talented, lazy prince of the coast. Only in the unreality world of the NBA and its ridiculous contracts can you get away with such garbage. No wonder Houston sat on you until they could ship you to somebody who "wanted" you. Frankly, I'm amazed D'Antoni even bothers. He's shown no aversion to sitting purported "studs." (And let's get this out of the way now: you are no longer a stud. You may have been a star. Moronic voters may have been deluded enough to nearly vote you into an all-star position. But you are done. Cooked.)

Would I be so abrasive if you tried? No. I respect guys whose knees have quit but whose hearts refuse to. I respect guys whose grit outweighs their talent. I respect guys whose effort nods to the fact that they're blessed to get to go do for a living what the rest of us carve time out of our pathetic lives to do for FUN.

I hereby take away from your cousin Vince the moniker of The Postage Stamp. Your revolutionary approach to mailing it in has shamed him. Congratulations. I'll even capitalize the "T" in PosTage Stamp for you. Since I know you'd be too lazy to do it yourself.

PS: Thanks for the draft pick.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


This video is getting quite a bit of attention lately, but not for the right reason. Everybody thinks that Biden was referring to some legislation that passed and was signed on Tuesday. The signing that Joe Biden was so excited about was that of me returning to the Cavs. See, I had been hanging out in Washington for the last couple weeks and I made a few friends. Who knew DC was so friendly to 7 foot Lithuanians? Among those new friends was none other than the pride of Scranton, PA.

That friendship had its benefits. I didn't have to spend my time at the local YMCA or some DC high school working on my game. I was in the White House every day balling it up with Joe and O (as they like to call each other) on the White House parquet floor. I was always on Joe's team because Obama had someone new playing on his team everyday; Brad Pitt, MJ, Bill Bradley, Barkley. But Joe and I were an unstoppable combo. We didn't lose a single game.

Thats why it is a big effing deal that I am returning to Cleveland.

When I got back to Cleveland and signed my new deal, LeBron whispered the same thing into my ear that Biden whispered to Obama. I'm glad he finally realizes it.

You know what I said back? Don't screw this up or I'm going to be playing in New York next year.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Things I Wish I Had Remembered Before Last Wednesday or Broken Brackets

Ohio, St Mary's, UNI, Cornell, and Washington made everyone completely unproductive over the weekend and completely leveled everyone's bracket. Sure, I wish I would have pick at least one of those teams. Who wouldn't (because NOBDOY did unless your name is Jay Bilas). But if I had to fill out a bracket again, knowing what I know now, I would do things a little differently. However, the changes I would make don't include any of those teams. It involves this grainy little YouTube clip:

Why did I not pick Jordan Crawford and his Xavier teammates to do more than beat the Golden Gophers before bowing out? How did I forget the most talked about basketball player of last summer? And most importantly, how did I not pick out some kind of anti-LeBron storyline to root for during the tournament? I know I've done something of a 180 on LeBron this season, but that doesn't mean he isn't still fun to root against. Jordan Crawford was that storyline and not only did I miss it, I air-balled it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Two Recommendations

We do album reviews here. Nor movie reviews. Not book reviews. Album reviews. And even those are starting to be hard to come by. But, as Charlie T mentioned, I've been on the clock with The Man lately and thus away from TBC. But it did give me some time to read.

I finished Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball. It's as exhaustive as it looks and sounds. My quick, Twitter-length review is: exhaustive, funny, smart look @ who matters in NBA history by an admitted homer. Ends weak.

But I read it- all 600+ pages of it- in under three months. So that's saying something. If not for the last two chapters' petering out, I'd really recommend it (as long as you take it with a spoonful of I Can Tolerate A Celtic Bias antivirus). Maybe later I'll take a stab at a real review, but suffice it to say, I tore through it. I even used his MJ Is Better Than LeBron Until... argument a day after reading it.

And, speaking of Simmons, I can't recommend highly enough the latest 30for30, Winning Time about Reggie Miller's classic clash with the 90's Knicks. Even my wife was riveted, gasping, laughing out loud. Very very good.