The Crossover: The Dangers of Fandom, et al

A product of thoughtful consideration (and content quotas!), I’ve begun email exchanges with a variety of luminaries across a range of professions and interests. This is hardly true. There is something to be said, however, about the implications of form qua blog and the enacting of discourse, but I won’t say it because it’s mostly doodoo. Academic and grounded in…something, but doodoo nonetheless. With that resounding endorsement, I present to you the first installment of The Crossover.

Dujie Tahat:

Dude, I’m only kind of into the Mariners. I said it. Or I wrote it. Or whatever. It’s out there. There are pangs of guilt and all. But I can’t bring myself to do it anymore. I love being a shameless fan of pretty much everything (Lebron, mahjong, froyo), but I think I’ve found my limit—or at the very least, I’m awfully fucking close to it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome that they’re much better than they’ve been in a long time (and of course it had to happen the year the AL West wasn’t a fucking pig sty). But frankly, it’s hard to get excited about simply not sucking.

My floating apathy has made it so I’ve watched precisely and only one inning of Mariners baseball pretty much all season (sure I’ve skimmed a few games, even saw that one live that they lost, but nothing close to the pitch-by-pitch, frame-by-frame intensity of this last game).It was the 9th inning of the game against the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

Bottom of the inning: the first M up to the plate Kyle Seager grounds out easily to the first-baseman. Been there. Done that. Now Kyle Seager is one of six dudes on the Mariners I could name or pick out of a line up. At this point, my hopes have been dashed so many times, I can’t even muster the strength to put names to constant revolving door of faces that is the Mariner’s lineup in recent years.

Down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth, somehow a tying run gets to first. Somehow. Something tingles inside of me. I see a dude with an upside-down fedora on his head, and what are certainly Microsoft bros doing some kind of jig to get on the jumbo screen. It seems like a classic American baseball moment—the kinds that scream Underdog and Self-Reliance. I allow myself to get invested.

Then the dude with the wicked cool white beard at the plate for the M’s grounds to the pitcher (the pitcher!) who swings it to the second baseman who swings it to first. Double play. Game over.

Vindication of suspicion. Festering betrayal. And now we’re here.

xoxo

Joey Kern:

Consternation understood.

I was recently having a conversation with Owen who is probably one of about 4 people I know who still labors under the masochistic delusion that the Mariners might someday be good. It takes a special kind of internal fortitude to care deeply about a team that has been godawful for so long without so much as hinting towards improvement in the meantime. Note that the context of this conversation is the Mariners’ recent reacquisition of Kendrys Morales, a DH who is playing poorly for Minnesota following a contract holdout who turned down a qualifying offer from the Mariners this past offseason and also expressly stated that he had zero interest staying in Seattle and signing an extension. People really hate playing baseball here.

In bullet form below are some of the comments that I think are more or less indicative of Mariners’ fandom at large:

  • We just traded for fucking Kendrys Morales
  • Bleh
  • I’m going down with this ship (to the moon!)
  • But I won’t put my hands up and surrender. There will be no white flag upon my door, I’m in love and always….will be
  • I’m Mother Teresa, I get off on the weak and pathetic—come die with us Kendrys
  • I heard we are calling up Chris Taylor
  • The more the merrier!
  • #wacotexas
  • #davidians
  • #masssuicide
  • Let’s see Felix tomorrow
  • Sounds good I think I already have tickets if not let’s go ahead and buy them because after all, we are white
  • The color of Kings!
  • And prophets
  • Lost Prophets
  • Last Train Home

I would say that pretty much runs the gauntlet of Mariners fandom with a quick nod to white privilege and the Pacific Northwest at-large in the end there.

What has been sort of incredible about the Mariners is their consistent ability to put solid pitching staffs together without any real success in terms of wins. Pitchers are considered a volatile commodity in baseball and that consideration has been largely validated in light of the recent rash of elbow-injuries that has more or less decimated the “next wave” of great pitchers.

The Mariners have developed multiple arms that have proven to be effective, durable big-league players and despite this advantage over several other organizations who haven’t sniffed the kind of consistent success generated by pitchers coming up with or acquired by the Mariners (Fister, Vargas, Felix, Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias, etc.), we have not been able to parlay this organizational strength into wins as it is offset by a near-mythic weakness.

What has hurt the Mariners is their inability to do what many other organizations take for granted: develop young high-talent position players. There has been almost no way to explain this decade-long trend save to perhaps chalk it up to wacko pagan superstition or blame the ballpark (which is nonsense, the spacious outfield in Safeco actually should be a great place to hit for guys willing to adopt a reasonable, line-drive approach and the power alley in right is hardly so far away as to not work for guys trying to hit for reasonable amounts of power. Kyle Seager is on pace to hit for just shy of 30 dingers and he is not a big or imposing figure by any stretch of the imagination and oh by the way his middle name is Deurr). The reality is that, for whatever reasons, solid fast-rising minor-league performers have been called up to the Mariners to die—their only real chance for healthy, productive careers being basically predicated upon a move to another, more God-fearing organization.

DT:

White guilt might be favorite part of interacting with Seattlites on the whole. Love the bulleted list—bonus points for demonstrating visual acuity!

(See! I’m doing it again! Dammit, have I become the Pharrell Williams of sports blogging—too happy with everything!)

I am ardently sympathetic to loving teams that don’t love you back. Mine left me. Or should I say, was stolen from me, 19th century Peshawar-style stole my betrothed. As if it were my fault that I somehow miscalculated the overly complicated agrarian-collective-bargaining-agreement dowry system. I mean, doesn’t five chickens seem equitable to three sheep to you??

Anyhow, I’m still scaling the peaks and spelunking the caverns of the Torabora-like landscape of my fandom. As of late, I feel like I’m over compensating. I mean I really, really, really got into the Phoenix Suns this season. Unreasonably so. To the point that when they lost their second to last regular season game against the Memphis Grizzlies (falling out of playoff contention), I felt personally scorned. For days, I shit on the Eastern Conference. I fucking love the Eastern Conference. I’ve shown time and time again, I can’t help it. I have Stockholm syndrome, and Marcin Gortat is my captor:

With 48 wins, the Suns would have been the third seed in the East! Everyone thought they were tanking. They weren’t supposed to be that good. Correction. They were supposed to be terrible. They’re rolling out two point guards: one who can’t shoot and one who’s European. Gerald Green is their “sparkplug.” Channing Frye is coming off a season off due to open heart surgery. Who’s P.J. Tucker? Which Plumlee is that again? How do you tell Marcus and Markieff apart when they have the same tattoos?!?! These were the Lost Boys of the NBA and Hornacek was Peter Pan—it might as well have been magic! The Suns finish the season with the 9th best offense and the 10th worst defense. They tried hard, and it somehow seemed to work!

Maybe it’s precisely due to the blindsiding whirlwind with which the Suns entered my life that I fell so head over heels for them. In some ways, it wasn’t so different from the last great Seattle Supersonics season, 2005. Talk about a franchise that didn’t hang its hat on sustained excellence…

Coming off a 37-win season—which wasn’t terrible considering the roster and that they had posted the third best offense—the Sonics somehow exploded for a “salty” 52 wins, and a third seed in the West. The roster: Ray #JesusSaves Allen and Rashard #AmnestyKing Lewis, the second highest scoring duo that season (behind none other than Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes, baby! Man this was weird time in the NBA…) and most recently spotted singing backup vocals for the King and his Court on South Beach. Luke Ridnour the boy wonder. Reggie Evans, I’m fairly certain is a Pokemon. Jerome James, most famous for the fast one he pulled on Isaiah Thomas the greater New York metropolitan area. Danny Fortson, the Enforcer LOL. Antonio Daniels, the Popovich-schooled sage. Vladimir Radmonovic, who couldn’t miss a three all season and was my introduction into high-integer jersey numbers (#77). Vitaly “lay the lumber” Potapenko. Nick Collison, last seen digging a shallow grave for himself in the hard Oklahoma country. And the greatest glue-guy of all time: Mateen fucking Cleaves. There were some Robert Swifts in there and a nephew of Dominique Wilkins but whatever.

Seriously though, writing that just sent me back to freshman year of high school, sitting cross-legged on my bed listening to untelevised games (which there were quite a few of because they were supposed tot be terrible) on my alarm clock radio. My alarm clock radio! Jesus, who was I?

Xbox, play ESPN.

Suffice to say, I’m utterly familiar with holding out hope. That singular aberrational season, at one point in my life, deluded me into thinking: “Yeah, that Johan Petro/Mikhael Gelabale/Mohammed Sene/any other Sonics-drafted foreigner is ahelluva potentially game-changing prospect, bro!”

Shades of that one ever weirder season—shortly after a decade of good Sonics ball—that teamed up a 32-year old Gary Payton with a 38-year old Patrick Ewing (only his penultimate season playing in the Association!).

Seriously, let’s never forget that this was a thing:

That was the season Nate Macmillan was promoted to head coach after a 6-9 start. They actually won 44 games that season, but missed the playoffs. Maybe they were more like the Phoenix Suns…

It was Desmond Mason’s rookie year and there bears a lot of resemblance to Gerald Green:

     

I’m pretty sure I had a point here before I went .gif hunting.

It was probably that 13 years is long fucking time to go without even a glimmer of hope. In my mind’s history of things, I generally characterize the Sonics as being a pretty bad team, but that isn’t really true. At least they gave us something to root for every few years.

Does this mean the Mariners are due for a big one?

xoxo

JK:

No. The Mariners are not due for anything because in baseball there is no semblance of enforced parity and the illusion of benefit provided by the draft doesn’t really fool anybody anymore.

In basketball you can suck your way into being a good team. It happens all of the time. The 76ers have consecutively drafted 2 project big men coming off major surgeries with absolutely zero expectations regarding their immediate contribution. Actually, that isn’t even correct. They did have expectations regarding the aforementioned-and-now-named Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. They expected neither of them to contribute at all. The 76ers did not draft Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid despite their injuries, they drafted those players because they were hurt.

And why not? The 76ers understand exactly what the score is in the NBA. With a fairly strict cap and some extremely complicated logistics regarding trades (where players are moved like cattle from team to team over and over again despite any real value due purely to the fact that they have a cap number that allows them to match up with a trading partner’s asset’s salary), the quickest path to success in the NBA is the path that would at first glance seem the most ponderous—developing high-upside and talent.

I love the New York Knicks. They were the first basketball team I cared about and when the Sonics got pulled out from underneath me, they were the only team in the NBA that I had left to cling to. The Knicks are a blueprint about what not to do in the NBA. James Dolan is a drunken fuck-wad of a human being whose face is perpetually fixed in the stubble-clad rictus that seems to simultaneously project a kind of leud impertinence, a fierce impatience, and a lack of the kind of mental firepower which would be required to reign in either prior impulse.

His body’s presence in this universe being an abuse of the space it occupies, Dolan’s swelling girth and ever-swarthier features are simply an exaggeration of that abuse—a fact that now lends my perception of him a unique sort of disdain usually reserved for highly-televised white-collar criminals, a profound, deep yet somewhat passive disapproval and smoldering hatred founded in both expectation and hardwired bourgeoisie disgust that is inextricably tied to discovering a billionaire is an idiot whilst simultaneously assuming that they should fucking know better.

James Dolan does not want to build through the draft. James Dolan doesn’t give a fuck about the draft. James Dolan thinks that free agency is a quick fix. Free Agency is quick but it doesn’t fix a hell of a lot. As a rule, teams should do what Dolan does not do in the NBA. The 76ers know this. Sam Presti knows this. So when the 76ers draft Joel Embiid, they see more than the project that he is as a player. They see the opportunity to grab a high-upside talent that they can develop along with the added bonus that his initial limitations will keep them out of the mediocrity doldrums. It is good to suck in the NBA. It is crippling to be average.

Baseball doesn’t work this way. Baseball doesn’t give a fuck about your rules. Salary cap? Lol. There is a luxury tax (sort of) that teams are trying a bit harder to avoid (as there is now a stipulation that teams are charged a greater penalty for being over the luxury tax multiple years consecutively) but it isn’t that big of a deal and most teams fall well below it. The difference in payrolls between a team like the A’s and a team like the Dodgers is astronomical. Baseball is less about the matching of salaries and more about the gravitas of a franchise and the amount of money a team is willing to pay. The Mariners signed Robinson Cano because they were willing to pay 40 million dollars more than anyone else. There was no cap number to work with, it wasn’t a matter of Robbie getting multiple “max” offers and choosing from among them based on location, strength of the franchise, etc. Robbie went to Seattle because we backed a truckload of guaranteed cash into his lap over a ludicrous ten-year deal that pays him more than Lebron is paid now until he is 40 years old even if he were to break his leg in half and never even watch a baseball game on TV for the rest of his life. Note that this number is also representative of his base salary and does not consider some of the incentives and performance escalators built into the deal that are often underreported because cosmically, who fucking cares.

So you see that Free Agency is a cluster-fuck where a team can buy their way into contention. Every team cannot do this however. The Dodgers seem to have at least 5 guys on their team making more than 100 million dollars over the next 5 years. It goes without mentioning that the A’s cannot and do not have similar resources at their disposal, seeing as they are still posting the lowest attendance in baseball despite possessing the best record in the league.

If we switch gears to operate from the NBA perspective, we can point to clever drafting as a solution, but in baseball, the draft is more or less worthless unless you luck out with a Strasburg or a Trout, but even then, Mike Trout was drafted among the last 10 picks of the first round of his draft. Baseball players are never proven entities until they have played and performed well in the major leagues for multiple seasons. Baseball is too difficult and too unique of a sport for someone’s physical talents to mask other aspects of their game that lack refinement.

A guy can have Lebron’s strength and Usain Bolt’s speed and still never amount to anything. It happens all the time though with less hyperbolic comparisons. Carlos Peguero was a Mariners prospect who could hit a baseball about as hard as I have ever seen a guy hit a baseball. Carlos Peguero was and remains fucking terrible, and the last time he was in the headlines involved his wife going on an online shopping spree with Felix Hernandez’ wife’s credit card.

All of the aforementioned issues are compounded by the fact that only American players are eligible to be drafted in baseball at all. Ever notice that there are many players in the league with names like Carlos? Yasiel? Masahiro? Most of these players were never subjected to the draft process and were instead offered the opportunity to choose their own organization to play for since, you know, it is their fucking career. (Small exception to be made for Japanese players. Though, in the new posting system, a team need only bid the maximum 20 million in order to negotiate with the player in question, which makes the process identical to true free agency albeit with a pay-to-play element that eliminates some of the less serious names from competition)

These players are subject only to restrictions that have recently been put in place regarding international signing bonuses. That being said, these restrictions are flimsy and do little to change the landscape. High-profile teams are therefore in the driver seat to land international free agents based on the strength of their international popularity as well as the iconic nature of the franchise itself. That is why a guy like Yasiel Puig is far more likely to end up in Los Angeles then say, Minnesota. It is fucking cold in Minnesota and if you were a guy who just defected from Cuba you are not going to want to go play in the cold in front of small crowds for less money—not when Los Angeles is off to the West throwing dollars at players like its Magic Fucking Mike. A similar statement can be made for the Yankees, whose storied franchise is often on the tip of young international player’s tongues as they offer the kind of panache and international celebrity that any young, insanely talented man dreams of.

The result is that the MLB is more of a “rich get richer” kind of league, lacking some of the parity of the NBA or NFL. That being said, allowances have to be made in regards to the successes of low-budget phenoms such as the Oakland A’s or, to a lesser extent, the Tampa Bay Rays. These teams lack both the appeal of a high-profile destination and the backing of crazy-rich owners. Despite this, Oakland has found success by targeting undervalued assets buried within asset-rich organizations. Baseball teams are unique to basketball and football teams by virtue of the fact that they function as much larger organizations with several minor league affiliates under their direct control. The result is a wealth of assets in each organization that can at times become either overlooked or simply lack a place in the vision of an organization.

The A’s get a lot of kudos for player development, but their true strength lies in targeted scouting of existing undervalued assets in deep organizations. That is why when the A’s are linked to a guy like the Mariners’ Nick Franklin, it makes a lot of sense. Nick Franklin plays second base and is blocked for the next 10 years by Robinson Cano. He has consistently shown that he cannot play Shortstop at the major league level but he is young and has a highly projectable bat with some impressive power given his diminutive frame. Franklin has a good chance of being a solid major league player, but he has no place on the Mariners. Enter the A’s, they realize the positional issues with Franklin and identify him as an asset. Further, by recognizing that the Mariners have to trade him at some point in time to derive any value from him (he will not replace Cano) they ensure that they have all of the leverage in any ensuing negotiations. That is why the A’s never seem to give up anything to get the guys they do. They look for overabundances of positional talent within an organization and negotiate aggressively with trade partners that lack any real leverage.

The Mariners aren’t like the A’s. We are a bad organization run by bad people operating in the middle ground between the big boys who just make it rain on free agents and the clever guys who maximize their assets as well as the assets of others. We either need Paul Allen to swoop in and start throwing scrillions at guys or a new front office with more maneuverability and less interference on the part of ownership. We lack these things presently. That being said, we are playing pretty well now so whatever maybe we turned it around.

Go Mariners!

DT:

Hmmm. That was the clearest explanation of off-season baseball I’ve ever encountered, and I have tried maybe a dozen times to figure it out over the years. The “Magic Fucking Mike” metaphor is almost certainly what drove the point home.

Acquisitions and franchise structure in the MLB seem to oddly resemble the structure of a lot of soccer leagues (enter a healthy dose of nationalism juxtaposed with that game that they use their feet in that we just refuse to call football though, literally, everyone else in the world calls it that).

There are clearly issues with the way baseball teams conduct business (looking at you Jack!), but if they have something right on the whole, it’s got to be in player development. I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how the NBA is doing it (and I’m working on a piece now that’s got some ideas).

Perhaps it boils down to talent. History has proven you can’t win an NBA championship without a top ten (maybe 15) player. The game of baseball inherently diffuses talent across the park, and this results in (overblown) underdog movies starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. I’m no expert, but I’d venture to say the talent disparity between a Mike Trout and Toronto Blue Jays Triple-A MVP Ryan Goins is not nearly as steep as the one between Lebron James and NBA D-League MVP Othyus Jeffers.

That is probably a pretty obvious goddamn statement, but it’s almost 4,000 words later. It’s been an interesting ride, for sure. That said, I kinda like this format.

Thanks for trying out the experiment, Joey. We’ll do it again soon.

And, reader, if, defying logic, you are indeed out there: God bless your eternal soul.

 

Mariners scoff at modern, civilized notions of consent, abduct Kendrys Morales with possibly leud intent

The ever-reluctant Kendrys Morales just got abducted by the Mariners front office. The “Hit-it-here Café” never sounded less like a place to drink beer and eat sandwiches and more like a fuck-dungeon

Kendrys Morales has recently, against his will, been bound and gagged and dragged to Safeco Field under the guise of darkness in exchange for Hard-throwing but control-challenged reliever Stephen Pryor

I am not entirely sure what to make of this exchange. Honestly, it is hard to be excited or terribly dejected about this trade. It is just about as Mariners a move as I have seen in awhile. The fact that it weirdly corresponds to a Jesus Montero promotion makes it even a tad more head-scratching, not in light of the Montero promotion itself (he will almost certainly be sent straight back down upon Morales’ arriving with the club) but in light of how I am reminded that Montero is mashing down in AAA and could actually maybe be exactly the same sort of player Kendrys will be. Whatever.

In the meantime, the Mariners have placed WFB (Willie Fucking Bloomquist) on the DL to make way for Montero. Since Chris Taylor was called up as well, there will need to be some other room made on the roster for Kendrys. I imagine we will just send Montero back down but what we could see is a Hart DFA corresponding to a situation where Lomo sees some outfield playing time which ought to be terrible.

Kendrys Morales has been worth -.9 WAR in limited action this year. This is a bad number.

We know he is a good hitter from last year where he proved that he was more or less recovered to his pre-leg-injury self (or some such approximation of that bygone state of being). He has not been good this season- though he has recently embarked on a 12 game hitting streak during which he has batted .292 with some walks and doubles thrown in for funsies. Morales has a career wRC+ of 114 so we know at least that the generalized, platonic form of Kendrys Morales is a player worth having in your lineup. That value is increased when you look at the disparity between that wRC of 114 and Cory Hart’s present wRC+ of 77. When looking to assess value in a trade or acquisition, it pays to look at the player being replaced as well as the general need of the organization. Kendrys would be a downgrade on many teams but the Mariners offense is ostensibly inferior to many teams.

The above paragraph is all well and good but my sunny outlook gets smothered and covered cumulonimbus-style when we realize that the positive picture I misleadingly portrayed earlier totally is totally cloud-metaphor’d by the admittance of Cory Hart’s career wRC+ of 115. When you compare career numbers between the two players, they are basically the same guy from an offensive standpoint, with Hart being less of a liability on the basepaths. These have been 2 solid career hitters who each have sucked mightily this year due to rust.

So basically the Mariners have made a lateral move with the expectation (read: desperate, clawing, raving, drug-addict-in-a-methadone-clinic hope against hope. Like a bigger long shot then sending the fucking ring to Mordor) that Morales has less rust to shake than Hart. The difference here is that Hart missed an entire season with injury rather than missing a few months of a season waiting for a contract during which time we can assume that Kendrys was at least able to play some sort of baseball against someone whereas I imagine Cory was just able to lift weights and shoot things down in wherever the hell he is from, which I imagine is the sort of place where one would shoot things because like holy fucking Christ have you seen the guy?)

Despite my inclination to think every move the Mariners make is a poor one—I am willing to let this one play out a bit. I have been disappointed that Hart has been unable to turn it around this year and I was never terribly disappointed with what I saw from Morales as recently as last year. Sure, he is a nightmare on the basepaths and he can’t really field a position but he was a guy who could help a team score a run or two that they might not otherwise have scored without him around. Conversely, Hart has been a black hole of suck for a while now and his prospects of improvement grow bleaker with each passing day. The word ‘bleaker’ should be eradicated from existence, it sounds like the name of my 3rd favorite muppet.

If the Mariners want a rental to help out in this contrived, ridiculous playoff-push of ours than there are certainly more costly rentals than buying low on a fairly consistent performer at a position of need for a young reliever recovering from a serious injury who is struggling in AAA.

I am sure most Mariners fans and bloggers wildly disagree with this, but I am willing to bet some of that is just based on the whole cringe-inducing notion of trading for a guy we could have potentially resigned. But if that is the case, consider this: the Mariners offered Kendrys a 3-year deal worth substantially more than he was ever offered by another team and he turned that money down to hold out and potentially waste an entire season. Kendrys really doesn’t want to be a Mariner, but the Mariners really want Kendrys. By trading for him, he has no choice in the matter. The Mariners scoff at modern notions of consent thereby ostracizing themselves from Jezebel writers nationwide. Given this paradigm, perhaps we should all reconsider our fandom?

Welcome to Seattle, come die with us Kendrys! You figuratively don’t have any choice.

#BREAKING: RELIGIOUS FORMER FOOTBALL COACH TONY DUNGY DENIES ALLEGATIONS OF BEING A GREAT COACH

[Editor’s note: In response to quotes that appeared in Monday’s Tampa Tribune, Tony Dungy has released a statement. After Pro Football Talk notified Dungy that they had not yet developed the technology to publish the unintelligeble wet fart he submitted, Dungy provided a text alternativea “read-along” as he called it. The full content of it appears below.]

On Monday afternoon while on vacation with my family in the panhandle of Idaho, I was quite surprised to read excerpts from an interview I gave several weeks ago related to this year’s NFL Draft (mostly because, I was higher than a motherfucker when I said those things and my bitch had just started popping the Dom).

I was asked whether I would have drafted Michal Sam and I answered that I would not have drafted him. I gave my honest answer, which is that he’s black and any player blacker than me gives me the heeby-jeebies. I just don’t know how to talk to those guys. I asked my old, blind pastor Kludd for guidance once and all he handed me was a rope (talk about taking an idiom too far!). It was weird.

I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL.  He absolutely does.

I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process.  It should not. All the dick waving and gay shit that happens in an football locker room—Mike’s going to be just one beautiful gay packing peanut in an unnecessarily large gay box delivering a giant gay dildo to my gay lover Notyep Gninnam.

I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team (and thank God they didn’t because I would’ve said some shit the FCC would’ve definitely had to investigate). Of course I would! He’s hella black! And he has a pretty, white boyfriend so you know he’s got the whole life game figured out! He’s taking down us whites from the inside!

I have been asked all of those questions several times in the last three months and have always answered them the same way—whatever way my publicist/NBC Sports Executives tell me to say.

What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams and generally make my job wayyyy easier at any cost. I mean, I drafted boys strictly to blow Peyton during timeouts all. the. time. but those pussies sure as hell weren’t getting Sportcenter specials or Oprah TV deals!

I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization. Everyone in the NFL is already gay. Really, really gay.

I do, however, believe that the Miley-Cyrus-wrecking-ball-sized media attention that comes with me riding it, swinging my Lombardi trophies and dominatrix whip might, maybe, potentially be a distraction. Possibly. But only if you’re paying attention. So really it’s your fucking fault! Fuck you, man!

Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction. JK! LOL! SMH LMFAO!

I wish Michael Sam nothing but the best in his quest to become a star-fucker in the NFL and I am confident he will get the opportunity to show what he can do on the field. I hear Matt Ryan’s on the market….

My sincere hope is that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation (and by play I mean his wicked gay sex game!).

-TD

 

Guest Post: New Clubs, Same Old Racket

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] G [/dropcap] oing to the golf course cannot be recommended highly or often enough. The Beast of Boredom is rank and hairy and rising always on its hind limbs to overtake you, and the internet alone will not save you. The solitary sound of that little ball as it is welted into deep-green empty space, however, is as numinous a thing as there is anywhere, in any sport, and it will not fail you.

For those of us who can’t dunk a basketball, or send a baseball to the econo-stands on a line, a beautiful drive is maybe the highest confluence of physical power, symmetry, and control we will achieve. And we are not all alone; as you know, the list of retired and working athletes who regularly play golf is as long in length as it is high in profile. Clyde Drexler, Pete Sampras, Jerry Rice to name a few, even Mark McGwire—oh the motley bouquet of P.E.D. applications—probably have, no offense, lower handicaps than you. McGwire is purported to be an even-par golfer, discouraging I know, but take heart: Your friends will take your reported 85 (or whatever) at face value.

Ah, the drive: The sacrosanct, fixed concentration before the stroke begins is broken by the slow, dilatory rise of the back swing. The back swing stretches the front facing shoulder as the club-head reaches over to its cap and swooshes back down, igniting the ball and the fragrance of the turf. The ball lifts and disappears in an evanescent gleam.

If you have never tried this, it’s worth a Saturday. It’s worth a Saturday in any case.

The game of golf is not, however, won or fully appreciated from the tee, and while this seems like common knowledge it also seems that most golfers tend to spend their money emphasizing this particular aspect of the game. If the above has you considering a weekend loaf on the links, or at least the driving range (I consider my effort a failure if it does not) please also consider the following before you do.

It is more important to have a good hat, or a shirt that fits right under the arm, or a descent pair of sunglasses than it is to have an expensive or new set of clubs. If you can find grandpa’s blades in the storage room, by all means use those—the point is it doesn’t really matter.

Bobby Jones Jr., the spindly little boy who grew up to be a golf champion and legend, the co-designer of Augusta National, and a practicing lawyer of descent reputation and character (among these things, which is the rarer achievement you may decide for yourself) set what was then the single round record (in a winning effort) at The Open at St. Andrews with 68 through eighteen. This was done in 1927 with clubs made from persimmon and hickory and it would be over thirty years before the record was lowered again. The current record—Nick Faldo’s second round 65—was set in 1990 and has been tied only once.

That’s 63 years of golf-club technology developed through the most industrious years of the 20th Century to yield three strokes at St. Andrews, or 1 stroke every 21 years. This period has accounted for the slowest rate of professional improvement since the game was invented. I’ll add that golf is now being played by more people in more places than ever—bigger pond equals bigger fish—and is exponentially more lucrative than it has ever been. The winner’s share for Faldo in 1990 was £85,000 and for the most recent champion, Louis Oosthuizen, £850,000. These two factors convincingly negate really any credit that could be given to the dubiously improved balls and clubs.

No player has ever shot under 63 at one of the four major-championships and Johnny Miller first did it in 1973. I scorn to remind you that that was over 40 years ago.

A record, forty years unbeaten, in a sport whose sponsors supply so much esteem to their equipment, and to themselves, of course, for the equipment’s ongoing refinement and development, must mean only one of two things: Either golf club and golf ball manufacturers are not taking their jobs seriously; or, and this is my itching suspicion, they do not actually have a job to do in the first place—besides stamping the little bludgeons out. After all, they are not dealing with electric cars or Lady-Viagra or other things which technology might foreseeably improve.

Remove the word golf and you will be confronted with the essential absurdity in the phrase club technology. We have had 41 seasons of voguish product lines and glittery new rollouts since any bunch of them actually delivered what they all have promised to confer. No need to feel sorry for the sheep-like bourgeoisie that Callaway, Titleist and Ping annually fleece of their pocket money, I agree. This, however, is a plain racket that panders in magazine ads to the most solipsistic depths in the American psyche and is an embarrassment to any thinking, albeit occasional, reader of Golf Digest on every other glossy page.

The Shooter McGavin vibe of the sports’ ostensible practitioners aside I won’t hear it said that a game I love is all about class, or money, or anything of the sort. Class and money are about class and money and they have as much to do with golf as they do with anything else, which admittedly is a lot.

Golf though, when seen from the fairway instead of the clubhouse, is about other things.

To begin with, it is about the dictatorial clutch of a good groundskeeper and the essential Hanoverian exercise of pitiless dominion over all that troublesome vegetation. It is about hoary double entendre and childish sexual innuendo, obviously. It is about a person in silly clothes trying to command a petulant little ball while adhering to austere, made-up rules of principle. And, most singularly—now largely a bygone casualty of TV invigilation—golf is about self-governance and personal accountability. Like P.G. Wodehouse said of character: “Golf… is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that [no one] is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.” If you have the competitive vein and have ever felt unsure of who you are when no one is looking that little pencil will tell you right away.

The golf course is a land apart from everyday life where I can face my essential human futility—the inability to transmute intention into reality—on prettier and more reassuring grounds and terms. I wouldn’t be without it and I invite you all to join.

The Enlightened One: Lebron James Going Home (Part 1)

“What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react?”

-Lebron James, “I’m Coming Home”

»«

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] L [/dropcap] ebron James has been “The Chosen One” since he was in utero. It’s a good moniker, no doubt. But his style of play—his insistence of team, his vision, his willingness to defer in the right situation—has repeatedly shown that more than anything, James is “The Enlightened One.”

With his essay published on Sports Illustrated website announcing his move back to Cleveland, James is perhaps (hopefully) elevating his off-court persona to match his on-court game.

«»

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] I [/dropcap]  was saddened when James made his decision to leave Cleveland for Miami. In the months between his announcement and the 2010  season, the sadness of “The Decision” fixated on its showiness of it–excacerbated by SportCenter and every other sports media outlet, it festered into full-blown animosity.

I didn’t burn jerseys, publicly try to humiliate James (or myself in the process) or really anything beyond bear an unfounded resentment for the guy. Still, to Lebron James and his family:

I am profoundly sorry for the intensity, acrimony and utter absurdity of the feelings I felt.

[There are many things wrong with the preceding statement. I know that. It brings up lots of questions about the rights I have as a fan to place expectations on an athlete, where the ownership of performance/achievement lies and the inequitable selfishness inherent in a fan-celebrity athlete relationship. In practical terms, this apology serves nothing insofar as no one, I repeat no one, in the James clan will ever read this, so it doesn’t really matter except that it matters to me that this is written somewhere, recorded somehow and declared publicly. Something tells me James would appreciate this latter notion.]

»«

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] W [/dropcap] hat I love most about James’ recent decision is that he wrote an essay. He didn’t tweet it. He didn’t have a lackey leak it (although Rich Paul might have). He didn’t even play coy with the media.

The greatest player in the world publishes a humble and revealing missive on the sports equivalent of the Washington Post.

In the essay, James writes about and gives us all-too-short meditations on family, the idea of home and the realistic expectations of winning and playing in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform again with the team as it is presently constituted.

If anything, the essay demonstrates that for James, Miami clearly was “like college for other kids.” Shown for all to see is a deliberate maturity that, in prowess, matches only his physical gifts and basketball talents, and perhaps more pointedly, it’s a maturity that just wasn’t there four years ago.

There is no greater metaphor for that than the fact his essay exists.

«»

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] L [/dropcap] ebron James is the best basketball player in the world. It’s been well-documented, and he’s earned his stripes and accolades and then some. But hidden in his essay is James’ basketball philosophy, the one we’ve been guessing at since we saw More Than A Game.

“I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys.”

James gets it: the game above the game.  He understands roles, spacing, teammates’ abilities, opponent’s tendencies and can calculate his next move in less time than it takes us to say “Erik Spoelstra is the luckiest coach on the planet!” James is a basketball genius, and his aim is to conduct, facilitate and generally be the embodiment of a higher state—the vipassana, if you will—of basketball. He plays basketball; his aim is Basketball. There is no real measure of this, no data point we can boast or visual we can capture. The Heat’s 27 game win streak in the 2012-13 season is probably the closest thing. James knows that better than anyone.

“I’m not promising a championship.”

James also knows how hard championship trophies are to earn. And he’ll spend the next few years ply his young, new teammates with the genius-wisdom it takes to achieve the highest state of basketball ever conceived.

»«

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] “I [/dropcap] feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously…I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile.”

And with a nod towards himself, the preeminent figure in all of basketball returning to Ohio, James is returning home to lead by example:

“Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”

When James bounced to Miami, it was in the midst of the recession. Ohio did not take it well. Just before “The Decision,” Forbes listed five Northeast Ohio cities (Cleveland, Toledo, Youngstown, Akron, Canton) among the 20 most miserable in the US—including James hometown.

With downtown revival and having recently earned the bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, Cleveland seems to be on the rise (there’s a joke to be made about the RNC here, but low-hanging fruit and all).

James return not only signals that resurgence but bolsters it. How many things can you put Lebron James face on and the phrases “I’m coming home” or “#OH” or “I’m baaaaack”? There are millions of dollars of revenue returning to NE OH with Lebron.

“I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown.”

«»

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] “I [/dropcap] ’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted.”

Lebron James wrote this essay. Sure Lee Jenkins helped—probably cleaned up the language and focused the ideas—and it could very well be that what’s on SI is dramatically different from what James started with. But I have to believe—ardently and fully in my own made-up narrative of the man—that after James made his decision to go to Cleveland and made the subsequent decision to publish his personal, written decision, he sat down at a computer and hammered on a keyboard until it all made sense.

The essay reveals so much about James’ rationale and where his heart lies. It was measured and thoughtful. But nothing is more revealing than his choice to write the essay in the first place.

I can’t wait till he writes the next Life on the Run and runs for office.

 

Everyone Needs A Hobby

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] S [/dropcap] eems appropriate at this point in time, in light of a few recent victories that could be readily classified as very un-Mariners insofar as said victories were not only emphatic but, in a way, expected, to address the elephant in the room: this Mariners’ season has coincided with the invention and subsequent growth of the blog you are reading today. Luckswing may be responsible for the Mariners’ successes.

What are the things required as a winning baseball team? Good players are certainly nice. Baseball is a good place for identifying good players because the numbers over large sample sizes tend to allow for some pretty well-thought predictions as to a players’ future successes  and failures. That being said, Chris Young sort of flies in the face of that. Chris Young sort of flies in the face of everything though. The term “Flies in the face of” is an unexamined idiom. Idioms are pretty much always unexamined which is why idiomatic language pretty much never translates well between languages. They just do not make sense divorced from the cultural context that birthed them. To shatter the generalization I just made, apparently this particular idiom’s origins involve some rural-ass scenario where a hen flies in the face of whatever predator, probably some canine like the dogs we keep as pets or the foxes we wish we could keep as pets, attacks her. So basically Chris Young is waging an assault against conventional metrics and expectations fueled by sheer farm-animal-desperation and he, like the rest of this improbable team, is succeeding.

Now that we have introduced improbability and desperation into the scenario, let us subsequently introduce the creation of this blog and by doing so really obviously connote (the words obvious and connote are also indirectly competing words but fuck you) that there was a certain degree of desperation in this blog’s creation—the quiet sort of desperation that manifests itself in really boring symptoms from probably more boring causes.

Luckswing was created, in a way, out of desperation. It shouldn’t take any reader a very long time to realize that this blog is more of a hobby than a job. Jobs pay you money and are almost by definition boring. If you think your job is exciting, there is a fairly decent chance that you are a habitual abuser of anti-depressants and are rapidly accelerating towards a hell of a wake-up call or you simply haven’t worked at your job for a very long time.

Hunter S. Thompson has a quote for this scenario that I have liked for some time: “Old whores don’t giggle.” Seems simple enough given a brief, cursory look. Great job on that first glance because it is every bit as simple as it seems initially or “out of the gate,” (to further estrange this from whatever subaltern other we feel like alienating today by using more idiomatic language).

Fuck it though. Let’s dig into the aforementioned simple-ass quotation just for funsies. Sex is fun and that is probably the jump-off point Hunter is trying to construct to then jump to the second axiom “jobs are boring” and see where he gets from there. Sex is fun because the chemical response to orgasm is literally a volcanic eruption of fun-chemicals attributed to the release of the neurohormones oxytocin and prolactin as well as endogenous morphine. But that is not all that there is. Obviously this is not the case. There is a different part of people who enjoy sex because it intrinsically validates a perception that is browbeaten into young people in American society and likely several other societies as well: the idea that the subject, male or female, can attain objects of their sexual desire and in doing so simultaneously validate their own need to be desired as well. It is the exultation in possessing and being possessed. Feelings of attachment post-sex make sense because the act correlates so strongly with notions of objectification that it will usually take real, mental work to adopt the kind of loosey-goosey collegiate attitude towards sex that most people can only get or at least pretend to get once they have done it enough. But even then, this work can often only be internally justified if the sexual subject is themselves confident of their own ability to possess multiple objects and thereby require less of an attachment to just the one, in which case they are more a collector than anything and they still covet the sexual object of possession but in their case what they covet is less of a single entity and more of a state of mind whose passivity is only supported by the ability to switch into successful attainment of a unique object at any given point in time. Basically this is like the Spotify of people fucking each other and similar to Spotify once your wifi connection ends up sucking i.e. you get fat or old and can no longer possess the multifarious objects of attainment at will any longer and are forced to either A) settle down, a term that explicitly includes the uncomfortably connoted “settle” or B) die cold and alone with your better years behind you and the distinct feeling that you may have wasted whatever energy you had on something that ended up being about as frivolous as a heroin addiction except perhaps even more expensive if you managed to knock/get knocked up along the way.

Neither of these seem like good options, which is why people will struggle with notions of “want” wherein they claim to want somebody to see past their own ability to be objectified and bitch and moan and wail about how nobody perceives the real them when in reality the only “real” thing under the surface essentially is anxiety regarding the desirability of the surface. Sucks to suck, as they say.

Ignoring all of that, let’s just accept the supposition that yeah, sex is fun. If that is the case then sex as a job is inviting tedium into what should be qualified as an escape from tedium. That is essentially Hunter’s point then when he says that “Old whores don’t giggle.” Any activity when pursued for and subsequently equated to financial benefit for too long shifts from having its end as something pleasant to having its end as something we deem necessary. It becomes an act of survival and the performance of that act repetitively until elevated to the rank of “profession” becomes just a faculty or aptitude, an adaptation for capitalist survival.

Fun things become un-fun very quickly when you are forced to participate in these activities against your will for extended periods of time for fiscal compensation that is in no way related to the object, subject or product of your labor but is instead a function of whether or not you are doing whatever it is you told somebody you were going to be doing for money. Somebody thinks that what you are doing for work is worthwhile. They have to. “Worth” is even in the fucking word and worth in this context is referring to money. To then retranslate the sentence above: Someone is giving you money to do something that they think is worth money. If they are paying you to do something that they did not think was worth money, then they are either extremely generous people or clinically insane and these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive in the least.

Operating within the worth-as-fiscal-compensation paradigm it is pretty easy to see that this site, what I am doing presently, is “worthless.” Writing doesn’t intrinsically benefit anyone if your notion of benefit is restricted to those things that allow you to, as they say, “put food on the table” or “pay the bills” or whatever else. Earning money for doing something has become the human equivalent of being say, a hunter or a gatherer, except that in this case there are actually just a few entities providing the necessary elements to living such as food and shelter while the rest of us basically just wallow in our own compensatory filth. Homeless or unemployed people in this setting become sort of the equivalent of a lion with a broken leg or a really lazy vulture and basically have no place in the edifice we have constructed over time beginning with whatever fuck thought capitalism as a system was a good idea when really it was just a way to create a society that flits from distraction to distraction and constructs flimsy, lazy narratives to ascribe meaning to what is essentially a living breathing game of flappy-bird untowards death with the worst part about that ride being the fact that we evolved to realize how pointless it is and in so evolving now strive to counter that helpless feeling by assembling a meaning as to “why” we have this awareness when really all we want is a compelling reason to stick our fingers in our ears going ”LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA.”

So yeah, blogging is worthless. It compounds its worthlessness by virtue of it being but one of many blogs amidst an absolute sea of un-edited unrestricted buttfuckery that plagues every deep corner of the internet—millions of people advocating their right to be heard without realizing that the cacophony of the group and the singular lack of specialness inherent to each individual entity makes their voice but one dissonant tone amidst a garbled scream that sounds like a stadium filled with teenage girls all enacting some sort of reverse-peristaltic apocalypse. Word vomit. It’s like Mean Girls, basically.

So yeah. This site was created as one of those voices amidst the cacophony-orchestra (the cacophestra?) as a means to exert some sense of voice or will or something that is pointless. If the rantings and ravings of this post haven’t made it abundantly clear how I feel on the matter there is this tidbit: participating in activities for one’s own survival are necessary but necessity is not enjoyable and necessity does not satisfy the “want” to feel as though the ever-elusive and ever-self-deluding “I” has a voice separate from its efficacy within a system of buying and selling.

The worst way to conceive of this voice is the whole “My voice matters, I am going to change the world, blah blah blah.” These are the words of deluded millionaires and their children-turned-sofa-activists who probably aren’t even 100% sure what their definition would be of “the world” and certainly do not seem conscious of the fact that the pedestal for ignored reform and change is itself a luxury inherited by being born to the royalty of the system they pretend to hate. Seems kind of shitty that “change the world” has become a cliché, but it has. The whole notion of changing the world has become one wherein it is less important that this nebulous “world” has changed but rather that the person wants it to be themselves who have changed it and thereby validate their status as a precious little snowflake for which there is none other so special and unique and just lovely.

So instead: Sports! Why not? Has there ever been anything as meaningless as opining as to the outcomes of events structured within arbitrary rule-sets for which people are paid millions of dollars to skip their formative educations and hit round things with sticks? There probably has! But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t some pretty meaningless shit we are hitting on here. This is the point. If you ever find yourself taking things too seriously or losing grasp on the meaningless expressions within life’s little hell-ride towards extinction than you do so at your own loss. You lose the joy of, “wow that orgasm sure was nice” and creep ever closer to Hunter Thompson’s hypothetical whore being dully pounded into oblivion without so much as batting an eyelid and all of those little giggles become yawns and you have turned pointless hobby into vocation into job into total bore.

So now we can make claims like, “The Mariners’ successes coincide with Luckswing being created. We are responsible for their success.” Why not? I invite all readers to come bury their heads in the sand with us. Everyone needs a hobby, right?

#BREAKING: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS TEAM MEMBERS TO HOLD CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FOR FALLEN STRIP CLUB

Our source.
Our source.

Members of the Portland Trailblazers found out today that Jiggles strip club, a team favorite, is being torn down today, and according to sources raised in Japan but very familiar with American culture and deeply, deeply embedded in both organizations, Blazers players are not taking it well. Various team members have invited citizens of Portland to join them as they host a candlelight vigil tonight on the steps of the Moda center in remembrance of RipCity’s celebrated sleaze saloon.

Team leader, Super Sophomore and rapper hobbyist Damian Lillard has begun crafting a eulogy for the forsaken fuzz joint in the form of his now wildly popular #4barFriday:

“Where I gon’ get bitches at?

With Jiggles closed, no booty clap–

in my face.

Now I gotta bring strippers back to my place?

My momma not gonna like it–AYYY!”

 

French import Nic Batum, often thought to possess a higher level of class due to his origins hailing from one of the cultural Meccas of the Western World, responded perhaps the most violently of his teammates.

“DORME VOUX! ZIDANE! FORMAGE–UN, DUEX, TWAT! VOULEZ VOUS COUCHER AVEC MOI CE SOIR, CE SOIR, CE SOIR!”

Our Luckswing translators have diligently labored to uncover the true meaning of his conniption fit. It translates to something along the lines of: “WHO AMONG THE CAT DONKEYS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS CAT MESS? WHERE WILL I NOW GO TO WATCH NAKED GARDEN TOOLS THAT MAKE ME FEEL MANLIER? I WILL KILL A FELINE FEMALE DOG WITH MY OWN UBER-REFINED FRENCH MAIDEN HANDS GODDAMMIT!”

According to our sources, Batum went on for another hour, but due to obligations with our advertisers (yes, we have advertisers!), and, to a lesser extent, FCC regulations, Luckswing is unable to publish those comments.

Upon finding out that Portland has the most strip clubs per capita of the 50 largest cities in America, Batum promptly saluted the American flag, shrieked like an eagle and ordered a round of whiskey and pomme frites for everyone!

 

Melo le Bro, Mellow Lebron: The Rise of Player Power

“Being able to have flexibility as a professional, anyone, that’s what we all would like.” –Lebron James

“The grass isn’t always greener.” –Carmelo Anthony

 »«

 

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] T [/dropcap] he stage is set for The Decision 2.0. And you can’t throw a cat a sports blog without it digging its claws into a juicy cramping Lebron calf—which is to say, it’s been covered.

In this free agency, everyone seems bizarrely prepared for any outcome. The shock of James leaving Cleveland in 2010 so thoroughly rocked the sports-voyeurism world that, at this point, everyone is prepared for any possible narrative: betrayal, redemption, a new chapter, the second coming, locusts.

Since James’ agent announced his intention to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat, Bleacher Report has posted 81 click-baiting click-stravagant click-shows ranging from the 24 Hair Styles Pat Riley Wore That Reveals Everything Was Not Fine In Heatlandia to the 17 Instagram Posts From Miami Strippers Promising Lebron Will Return To South Beach (only one of those is made up).

On the flip side of the same coin, suddenly half the NBA teams seem like they’re in position to court the King, and GMs the league over are logging 17 hours a day on ESPN’s trade machine, discussing with Ray Donovan their options for disposing of Emeka Okafor/Roy Hibbert/Kris Humphries’ dead bodies.

Needless to say, free agency has changed. At the very least, it is at an inflection point. It has gone from desperate clamor to full on frenzy.

James bailing on the Cleveland Cavaliers was among the greatest things to happen to NBA players (I never thought I would write that sentence seriously). Such a public display from the best baller in the world—while causing much pain for some—put the power squarely in the hands of players: a striking divergence from the long, sordid history of rich white NBA owners and David Stern! getting richer, older and whiter at the expense of players getting blacker, younger and (markedly less) richer.

Whilst in the shadows of the last throes (he said, hopefully) of owners self-inflating their resources into magnanimity—or worse, benevolence (read: Donald “But I love Coloreds!” Sterling)—the emergence of player power seems be making its strongest case ever.

Don’t get me wrong. Steve Ballmer and Mark Cuban aren’t suddenly making way for players at their super-secret ultra-exclusive billionaire masquerade sex balls or even the pantheon of Forbes lists they find themselves on the top of. But the money bags are no longer the greatest determinant of the basketball landscape (never thought I would see that sentence outside of the Luckswing #BREAKING section).

The two biggest influencers of the NBA’s immediate landscape are James and Anthony.

That’s a good thing.

Self-aware players are a good thing. Self-awareness leads to self-determination. Marquee players are the tent poles of the NBA, and so long as they make these self-aware decisions in relation to that, the NBA’s future is truly in their hands. Ever conscious of their role in the NBA—and, to a grander extent, popular culture—players are untethering from the traditional moors of money, big markets and money. Hopefully.

»«

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] A [/dropcap] s Carmelo Anthony earned his comeuppance in the NBA, he was often labeled selfish.  A criticism he fought to shake in New York.

By all accounts, ‘Melo is ready to win now, to sacrifice pay and stats, to, in short, kick it with the bros. If he signs with a team outside the Knicks, he leaves $39 million on the table and an extra year of job security (a premium considering he’ll be 34 at the time).

Unfortunately, at his peak this last season, he had the least amount of help. Tyson Chandler got hurt, then old. Raymond Felton thought he was Gilbert Arenas—and then carried guns places. Iman Shumpert’s plateaued. The Andrea Bargnani experiment was a colossus of a failure.  J.R. Smith kept doing J.R. Smith things. Rasheed Wallace, Steve Novak and Jared Jeffries weren’t there to save New York (this sentence, I was prepared for).

Couple that with never having been a true free agent before and of course Melo’s gone on the biggest, baddest wine and dine tour outside of American electoral politics.

Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement born of the 2011 NBA lockout, teams have more money and player contract longevity has decreased. Technically, this is called “player sharing,” but for 2K addicts, this is Fantasy Draft activated in Association mode.

Among the frontrunners, here are the teams he should go to, the one he won’t and the one he will:

The Dallas Mavericks

Rick Carlisle: one of only a handful of coaches that move the needle/maybe the second best coach in the NBA.

Dirk Nowitzki: one of the greatest power forwards of all time.

Monta Ellis: Monta ball can be made to succeed, anything can be made to succeed.

Tyson Chandler: buddy.

Texas: big hats, no state taxes.

Mark Cuban: you’ll be set for life.

Vince Carter’s Knees: a path to follow as ‘Melo ages.

No state taxes.

The Chicago Bulls

Tom Thibodeau pushes his players to the brink. He labors his stars with so many minutes that they miss multiple seasons, allowing them to casually get injured while running routine plays.

Sorry, Chicago, that I’m not sorry.

Joakim Noah not-so-jokingly told his coach he’d hate him if they weren’t winning. ‘Melo is north of 30 now. Being a Bull would shorten his career by three years.

The New York Knicks

New York is home. And there is something to be said about being the hometown hero, and being the guy championship teams are built around. It sounds silly, but can you imagine what it’s like to score 62 in Madison Square Garden? (you don’t because no one has ever done it) Drag a subpar team to the playoffs in the city you grew up in? Be the best player on the first team in NBA history in the state that made you a college basketball god?

Sure. These are pie-in-the-sky aspirational narratives, at best. Seeing this things to fruition requires tremendous risk and work. But Phil Jackson is a persuasive man, and he’s hellbent on doing the Pat Riley thing—but, like, with Zen.

Also (and I hate to admit this), Melo kind of fits the mold of the great players that have never won. George Gervin, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins make way on the Mt. Rushmore of Losers!

»«

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] L [/dropcap] ebron James is staying with Miami. I want to indulge in the circus display of what he ate today, but not really.

The Heat are a second playmaker and a combination of serviceable point guard/center away from pushing the Spurs to seven—if not winning it all.

It’s hard for me to admit. I want more than anything for James to accept the role of mercenary. There has never been an all-time great mercenary. Imagine, for a moment, a universe wherein LBJ took six teams to the NBA Finals, winning eight Larry O’Brien trophies only to recuperate his image spending the last three years of his career in Cleveland as an elder statesman of basketball.

I called my psychic, and Cleopatra told me that James is waiting on the Heat to sign someone who moves the needle. Tops on the list, Lance Stephenson.

Ya. That guy. Stephenson would be a perfect fit for the Heat. He’d effectively be Dwyane Wade’s replacement, with better defense and passing.

Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons, Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless, DJ Augustin, Patty Mills, Greg Monroe, Jodie Meeks, Luke Ridnour, Chris Kaman, Xavier Henry, Brian Roberts, Spencer Hawes, Nate Robinson, Channing Frye, Pau Gasol, Greivis Vasquez, Mo Williams, Shaun Livingston, Emeka Okafor are all viable options across the pay scales. Adding any two of these guys would make the Heat that much more dangerous.

#BREAKING: CHRIS BROUSSARD ADMITS TO INVENTING PERSONA TO SAY ALL THE THINGS HE REALLY MEANT TO SAY ON SPORTSCENTER

According to sources inside the ESPN organization that are familiar with the situation (and are definitely not part of the entourage/pulling things out of their ass), Chris Broussard has invented a twitter persona @LetMeBGreatt to say all the things he wants to say on Sports Center, but isn’t allowed to say per company policy, FCC regulations and the general unspoken laws of polite human interaction.

Sources confirm that immediately following a segment wherein Broussard confirmed a source confirming insider confirming an agent confirming Lebron James willingness to stay with the Miami Heat, Broussard lost his shit.

“Fuck this!” Broussard allegedly told his social media intern. “These white people are too fuckin’ stuffy with their J.J. Beane catalogs and New England sensibilities.  I gotta let my motherfuckin’ freak flag fly on this motherfuckin’ social network site, bruh!”

Following in the footsteps of Jonny Manziel, Broussard admitted to our sources that he had gotten fed up with being forced to pretend to be so buttoned up, and in a recent self-rediscovery binge watched Boyz N The Hood, Above The Rim and Juice, simultaneously rekindling his love affair with Dead Prez, Wu Tang and Immortal Technique.

Recently the account claiming the handle @LetMeBGreatt popped up with sharp criticism of the sports-media-circus-complex:

Y’all swear y’all know how NBA players think

— $corpio ☕️ (@LetMeBGreatt) July 3, 2014

 

Then Broussard got nostalgic:

My Kobe jersey I got when I was like 13 is my pajamas tonight & still fits

— $corpio ☕️ (@LetMeBGreatt) July 3, 2014

 

Then it got personal:

 

In a twist worthy of a Steve Soderbergh flick (and perhaps fearing that his secret would be found out), Broussard turned the sharp sword of his avant garde twitter nom be plume on himself:

Guest Post: Consider NOT Watching

It is a hard enough time trying to live my own life, televised sports aside. It’s difficult: just try filling up the day with activities that are of your own design.

TV entertainment, at large, is no help with this pursuit. It is, in fact (IN FACT: I have to put the blame somewhere), the principle obstacle to it. Among the many arresting, come-hither faces television programming makes, the most tantalizing for many—my own shameful, feckless self, included—is sports.

The NBA Finals transported me out of the utter boredom that otherwise was my languid, lonely weeknight evening and delivered me the kind of solitary stimulation whose only rival is that unutterable height of masculine indignity: the video game.

But where did it take me really, these NBA Finals? And what exactly did it ask of me once it plopped me down?

It took me three time zones away—as many tax-brackets to be sure—and impel me to exist vicariously through other fellow humans who have not a scant idea or care that I exist.

Why should he?

Unlike me, Mr. James apparently has a life of his own to keep him busy—hence this arrangement in the first place.

At this point, it may sound like I am dogmatically opposed to entertainment in general (to anticipate a criticism), but that would be only partially true.

A movie, like, say, a book (they exist!), begins somewhere, says its piece and is over. Voila and ta ta, you let two hours blissfully slip away with little industry to show for it. Nonetheless, the movie is over. The movie is kaput. You can go ahead and get on with your own business now if you like, but sports never goes belly-up, does it? They never even end—there is always the next game, the next series, the next season (maybe you have noticed…).

It is not the time lost watching the game that is the tragedy (although this is pointlessness-squared, and, frankly, there is not all that much time to spend). It is the time spent in listless anticipation of the next game wherein the calamity lies. There is no shortage of better things to worry about in the world, believe me.

The person who might be described as a “fan”—although I admit to feeling a pang of guilt for hectoring them with this term, but, having apparently forgotten the word’s etymology, they seem take no offense to it—has been infected by sports entertainment. The mind-rot extends well beyond the temporary insanity that axiomatically accompanies the viewing of these frenzied pageants. “The game,” the thing that once upon a time was the escape from the banal and tedious hours of the lonely evening, now becomes the principle supplier of the tedium and nail biting in the meantime.

Ergo Sports Center.

»«

I can’t help but feel embarrassed for Faith Hill (or Hank Williams Jr. or the Dixie Chicks or whoever) when I hear it sung—you know the jingle: “I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday Night!”

Does she mean to tell me my whole day has been building toward a blood-sport television program? It’s not even consolation anymore; the day is to be organized around it! It’s a bit like gleefully looking forward to watching other people in the sheets.

And don’t, I beg you, tell me this nonsense brings out the best in people or brings them together. Tell that instead to the tens of thousands who now choose to sit in “Family Zone” seating at NFL games to avoid a fist-fight with a drunk over a loyalty to the wrong team, or a lack of zeal even for the right one. Maybe there is something compelling about the number 42 or Michael Sam, but for every Jackie Robinson story there is a John Rocker and Riley Cooper and Kobe Bryant and Garrison Hearst and so many more to be sure, holding down the hatred for now like so much sour milk. And, mind you, these are only athletes who have said hateful things.

How is it, then, that this caravel of primeval loathing keeps its anchor under a monsoon of unchecked praise—praise issued on account of even-handedness and for providing our children with good “role-models” no less? There are more than a few athletes I would call outright criminals if that tag did not so sinuously fit on the team owners as to make the players’ crimes almost too piffling to be worth mentioning. Which, in your estimation, is more appalling: that Ray Rice punched his wife unconscious and dragged her around the Revel Hotel lobby by her hair? Or that the official Ravens Twitter account, seeking to smooth “Little Ray’s” brand back to that of game-time idol, tweeted: “@Ravens Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”?

Did you hear that young, impressionable men of America?

It was—once again—her fault.

From the theft of money by Little League presidents in Hawaii to Wisconsin, to the shady business dealings of pro-team owners (yes Mr. Cuban, quite a slippery slope there indeed) to the flat out, knife-in-teeth piracy that is the dealings of the NCAA in all its shadowy forms, these bodies have no shame and brand themselves as if they have no guilt.

Lastly, and with the above in mind, I have heard all I can bear about “locker room culture” as some kind of relativistic, Margret Mead-esque excuse for anything. It’s a debasement to the language in the first place. And in the second, is that really what a man does? Dawn plastic armor and fight make-believe bad guys from the next town over? I don’t think so.

I mention this just as a point of comparison:  My four-year-old nephew dresses up like Iron-man on Sundays sometimes and shoots lasers out of his fists. Say what you like of me if I join in. It is not much of a game for an adult, but at least I’m the one playing.