Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Next Dylan Revisited

Nobody will ever have a life that mirrors Bob Dylan with his influence, longevity, relevance and success. Likewise, nobody will have the cannon of apocryphal tales that surround the persona that is Bob Dylan. This is a series of articles that compare different prominent pop culture figures that, at some point in their career, have paralled Dylan. The original Next Dylan ramble can be found here.

Early on in his career, Dylan was the folk music darling. He was connected to the past legends including a relationship with the aged Woody Guthrie. He had a very successful debut into the recording industry and his fans lived and died by his every word and saw him as a messiah who had come to deliver them. He may not have been pinned as a phenom from an early age, but he definitely burst onto the scene relatively young and had immediate success. Whether he had sold his soul or was given his gifts, he was undoubtedly talented beyond measure.

I wasn't around in July of 1965 when Dylan plugged in at the Newport Folk Festival, a stones throw from New York City, and went electric. But I know it has gone down in folklore as being an alientating and momentus event. I'm not sure if Pete Seeger really had an axe and was considering cutting the microphone cable and if he really thought that Dylan was disgracing folk music by going electric. But I do know that people booed Dylan, that he was called a traitor, that his artistic decisions were questioned. Everyone had a comment and a critique about his decision and for years, it would be the moment that defined his career.

There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic, and said 'Hey look, let’s get together and play on one team.' - Michael Jordan

Fast forward to July of 2010. A similar parallel develops just outside of New York City at the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club. A young, talented superstar alienated his fan base and set off a chain reaction of responses and accusations that paralleled those of Dylan going electric. The lore behind his decision is more defined by the media coverage than first hand accounts, but it has still managed to find a way into our pop culture cannon.

Dylan went electric and LeBron made a decision. Dylan went on to release Highway 61 Revisited that has one of the best songs ever written and was the ultimate response to the backlash following his treason. LeBron has gone on to have a fantastic post season and has gone a long way to quiet his critics. And we are about to find out if he has a "Like A Rolling Stone" waiting for us in the Finals.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bibby Fined By Bulls For Defensive Play

Breaking Story: Mike Bibby fined by the Chicago Bulls for playing defense.

ESPN's Greg Stink reports that Heat guard Mike Bibby was caught on video moving his feet on the defensive end of the court and keeping his body between Derrick Rose and the basket. The Bulls have fined Bibby $125,000.00. Sources say Bibby will not appeal the fine and he issued an apology through his agent this afternoon.

"It wasn't until after the game, when I was out of the heat of the battle, and I saw the tape that I realized how disruptive my actions were. My coaches have been telling me for years that defense is something I shouldn't play. I don't know what got into me last night and I sincerely apologize and I promise that it won’t happen again.”

Bibby also said through his agent that he didn’t expect any further action from the league and that the fine from the Chicago Bulls should be seen as sufficient punishment.

Later, after the media was let into the practice facility following the Heat’s practice, Bibby addressed the media further on the issue. He referenced the Lakers and their recent string of post-season success with an over-the-hill point guard occasionally playing some textbook defense. His point was that just because someone happened to catch his defense on tape, upload it to YouTube and then share it across Twitter and Facebook, doesn’t mean his offense was any less egregious than Derek Fisher’s undocumented defensive play. When asked about the fine as a deterrent in the future Bibby responded by saying that the culture of defense in the league is too engrained and will likely persist even with fines and public backlash.

Bibby’s later comments will surly draw repercussions from the league but he also raises some intriguing points. Surely the league will look into how to curb this recent spark in defense before fans start tuning out in exchange for something more open to offense and scoring.

Wire Tapped Conversation

The following conversation was leaked by an as yet unnamed government operative who happened to be wiretapping either Chris Bosh (suspicion that he is actually an alien?) or Carlos Boozer (just trying to deport for the hell of it). It occurred someplace in South Beach last Saturday night.

BOSH: Hey, Booz.
BOOZ: Hey, Bosh.
BOSH: (awkward silence) Look, yo. I got to clear the air.
BOOZ: Sure. And why are you suddenly talking like you're some urban playground dude?
BOSH: Not sure.
BOOZ: Fine. Continue.
BOSH: OK. So I need to clear the air– when you referred to the Miami Heat as the Big 2, that kind of hurt my feelings. I mean, I make as much money as they do!
BOOZ: Ah, man, Bosh. I'm sorry. I didn't think you would take it THAT way...
BOSH: What do you mean.
BOOZ: I mean, I know and everybody knows that you make as much money as they do. You're undeniable that way.
BOSH: (blushing) Aw, thanks, Booz.
BOOZ: Yeah. What I meant was: they are the Big 2 of SKILLS, of SUPERSTARDOM, of PLAYING BASKETBALL. Not money, Bosh.
BOSH: (relieved) Oh good. I thought maybe you were trying to insinuate that I don't get paid like they do.
BOOZ: Never.
BOSH: Man, I'm glad we talked about this. Now look there's this other thing...
BOOZ: Yeah?
BOSH: I was thinking...
BOOZ: Go on, Boshie.
BOSH: What if, tomorrow, we just sorta let each other go off. Shut up the naysayers who are saying we're soft and overpaid and not producing. Just a gentlemen's agreement. You get your 20-10. I get mine.
BOOZ: Interesting.
BOSH: I just think it's mutually beneficial.
BOOZ: It is. It is. But I'm gonna need at least 15 boards just to shut up Noah.
BOSH: I'll give you 15 boards. You give me 3o points...I'm a scorer. Ight?
BOOZ: Ight.
BOSH: (pauses) What about who wins?
BOOZ: (waits, watches Bosh for a reaction) You know we don't care about the W's. Just the GW's. (laughs maniacally as if he has just dunked on a role player when the game is already out of hand)
BOSH: (laughs)
BOOZ: (laughs more)
BOSH: (tries to laugh more than Boozer, gets tired) Look, we get paid the same for an L or a W. And we both know neither of us is gonna win or lose a game for any team, much less these two.
BOOZ: So...we on? 20-15 for me? 30-10 for you?
BOSH: We on. (shakes hand)
BOTH: (letting go, wringing hands gingerly with overdramatic winces)
BOSH: You know I played more than you in the Olympics, though, right?
BOOZ: Huh?
BOSH: Nothing.

Friday, May 20, 2011


First of all, the headline is pretty funny.

The man is known for many things– his iconic and unstoppable skyhook, the goggles, championships at UCLA, MVP awards in the NBA, appearances in Airplane! and Full House– none of which are his absolute contentedness. It's a headline in the vein of "Sky Is Above Us" and "Music Has Notes." It doesn't exactly shatter our idea of Kareem or make us feel like we're learning something new. It's a little more like what my friend used to say about listening to female artists like Sarah Mclachlan and Natalie Merchant; he always felt like he'd hear their songs and think, "Awww...what's wrong now, Natalie?"

As a kid, I read Kareem's autobiography, the second one, entitled Kareem. I was a fan of Showtime. I can rattle off the names of the role players on those Laker teams. I remember Kareem's big farewell season, when teams were gifting him rocking chairs and stuff. And as the brother of somebody who died of cancer, I have deep sympathy for his battle with leukemia. So I come from a place of at least moderate measuredness.

I get that Kareem is one of the Lakers' and the NBA's and the history of basketball's greatest players. Dominant at every level, a crazy specimen in both his peaks and his longevity. He's way more than a Hall of Famer. He's in the argument for most dominant ever (the argument only, though, because it's still Jordan) I will not argue that.

And that's precisely why this statue tantrum is so crazy. Are all the other accolades not enough? Was being recognized as an All-Star NINETEEN times a little condescending? Were you not awarded your SIX MVP trophies with enough fawning adulation? Were the SIX championships and TWO Finals MVP trophies not given enough weight in the public eye? Is it feeling a little snubby to have only won THREE NCAA titles and who knows how many All-NBA and All Defensive team spots? Is the fact that the NCAA banned the dunk primarily because of your dominance not quite outstanding enough?

Kareem has been honored plenty for his playing, which he stopped doing 22 years ago. Now, I'm not going to argue that there shouldn't be a statue of Kareem outside the Staples Center. That's not the point. Magic has one. Chick Hearn has one. I think Kareem meant as much to basketball as those two greats did.

The point is: since when are we entitled to statues? Since when does anyone DESERVE a statue? Especially while we're still alive? David slew Goliath and got a statue in Florence, Italy hundreds of years later; not even the place where he downed the giant. Beethoven only got a lousy bust that goes on top of your grandma's piano; the least she could do is dust it.

Want a statue today? Commission it yourself, Kareem. You've gotten more recognition and opportunities and money in your post-playing career than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. You're a legend. Even your biggest critics have to admit that. Now stop acting like a jealous toddler, EXPECTING a statue and move on with your life.

Kareem has a history of shoulder chips, abrasiveness, and moaning about opportunities that haven't been his, mistreatment, and more. Some of the chips are probably justified. But not the statue tantrum.


Game 2 of both the Bulls/Heat and the Thunder/Mavs series' have featured key players and all-stars banished to the bench in the 4th quarter. Boozer, Noah and Westbrook. This got me thinking, which albums, that have been on rotation in the first half of 2011 are at risk of being benched and who might be stealing their playing time.

In order to qualify for a shocking benching, they must have performed at a high level throughout the season, or at least have been highly touted. In otherwords, its not bad to be on this list right now, just don't be on the bench in the 4th quarter.

First half All-Stars who could be at risk of being unseated:
Iron and Wine
The Decemberists
The Low Anthem
Wye Oak
Bill Callahan
Jessica Lea Mayfield
Paul Simon

Albums coming up that I expect a lot from/could get some play in the 4th quarter:
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Wilco 8th LP
Richard Buckner (making a long overdue return to my radar)
My Morning Jacket
Jane's Addiction (with Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio)
Fiona Apple
Avett Brothers
Death Cab For Cutie

One of the things Blake Griffin said he took away from his rookie campaign was being able to pace himself. He would play all out in the first quarter and first half of games and then end up with nothing in the tank when the 4th quarter rolled around. As a takeaway lesson from his rookie season, he said he was going to learn how to pace himself and save something for the 4th quarter so that he could close out games with the same intesity that he used in the 1st quarter.

The same could be said for artists planning an album release. Sometimes you're so excited about what you've just done in the studio that you want to get it out to the public. If you want to end up playing in crunch time, making year end lists and garnering editorial praise, sometimes its better to pace yourself.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Life or Death or Basketball

As The Black Converse lies writhing on the ground, mere breaths away from a finally being being freed from this cruel world, there are some around the NBA wondering if their fate is somehow running parallel to this blog. There are others (cough...Spike...cough) who are wondering if their fate on this blog is tied to an NBA roster. Indeed it is a strange time for all things basketball and blogs.

In a matter of weeks we might see the passing of an entire generation of champions. 17 of the last 21 championships are in the hands of Phil Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal and the Spurs. All may have had their last rodeo. Or they might be back like one sequel too many in an action series, complete with "I'm getting too old for this @#$%" quips and all the grunts and groans that come with aged bodies. Its also fair to say that these upcoming Conference Finals may contain 17 of the next 21 champions. Or they may fail to yield put anyone ahead of Adam Morrison on the NBA rings ladder.

It’s this uncertainty that makes sports so great. We actually get to see it happen rather than some grainy YouTube video or contradicting third hand accounts or Hollywood reinterpretations.

I'm a homer. I probably always will be. I like all things Heat and resist most things not-Heat. But I am trying to enjoy how things are playing out in these playoffs. I was fixed on every Lakers game that "was headed for a terrible wreck, and like good tragedy it’s what we expect*." I found myself, along with Spike, being able to fully enjoy Chris Paul like we were listening to Dashboard Confessional — in a sound proof, hip proof room and turned all the way up, singing along. I have loved the tension and brilliance between Westbrook and Durant and I can't help but feel like they are going to give us a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot before painfully splitting up a la Tweedy and Bennett. I have especially enjoyed seeing Wade and LeBron play beautiful basketball without the weight of the world on their shoulders. I have unexpectedly enjoyed Memphis' improbable run like I unexpectedly enjoyed seeing Animal Collective live (and with the same parallel of not being interested in anything else the Grizzlies ever do).

*Josh Ritter "Thin Blue Flame"

I had a big long post about how the Heat have done things their way, regardless of the second guessing and criticism, and have been successful in doing it. But I felt like that took away from the spirit of excitement around every game, every night. Maybe LeBron can't do it alone. Maybe Wade can't either. Maybe winning a championship is such a heavy task that it can't be done alone. I'm struggling to find a player who won it all with a team of 4th graders. Heck, Frodo couldn't even throw a ring into a volcano without help. Who really cares? This isn't life or death. It's basketball. There is a month of basketball left this season, and regardless of who is playing I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.

Especially because the Lakers are out.