Tag Archives: sports

4/21/16 – #PodGoal: 420 – “Welcome to Luckswing!”

Ep. 19 ‘Welcome to Luckswing’ w/ Joey Kern, Dujie Tahat, and Stephen Toyofuku

welcome to lucskwing podcast logo cropped

‘Welcome to LuckSwing’ – Our Flagship Program

This week:

2016 NFL Draft (01:20), Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson on the FRONT of the American $20 Bill (11:21), the New York primaries (20:45), and [insert theme music] Sunday’s return of “Game of Thrones!” (34:00)

Notes:

It is very obviously 420…

We are still working out audio kinks…sorry Clare…and everyone else.

Tarzan can heard making a smoothie around the 22 min mark, #themysterioushum

Stay tuned for our new Game of Thrones podcast starting next week!

Here are the links to the promised “History and Lore of Westeros” aka the “Game of Thrones” Blue Ray special features:

Season 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPI_xA1SoRg

Season 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC7rzczZ030

Season 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQh-Uk9L7rQ

Season 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKahi3qZuZw

Season 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzWo97BBeOs

You can also find us on I-tunes, Soundcloud, and at http://luckswing.podomatic.com!

2015 NBA Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference, Round 1

Listen. Listen. Listen. That’s how I’ve been taught to get people’s attention—just repeating the word listen. Are you listening?

It’s been a while since I’ve written basketball things, but, like, it’s NBA basketball season 2.0, the never-ending, highlight-manufacturing, circus show that ends the never-ending, highlight-manufacturing, circus show that is the NBA season in a burning blaze of glory. And I should have plenty in the tank so to speak, since I haven’t exactly availed of the aforementioned idiomatic tank in a veritable long ass time.

Atlanta Hawks (1) v. Brooklyn Nets (8)

Alright, so Kyle Korver narrowly missed being the only dude ever to make the 90-50-50 club (with a paltry 89.8 FT%, 49.2 3PT%, 48.7 FG%), but let’s be honest and admit that back in November, this was what we, the basketball elite, and Hawks fans from Macedonia to Decatur were positive was going to be the most memorable thing the Hawks did this year.

Yet somehow Coach Mike Budenholzer has orchestrated a magical season, turning a watery (pretty muddy water at that) lineup into a fine, 60-win vintage with notes of juniper berry that finish with savory, peppery undertones (read: Coach Bud is Jesus, which makes Greg Popovich God). Four of the starters made the All-Star game, only the seventh time in the history of the NBA. Collectively, they balance the 10th best offense that assists the second highest total in the NBA with the 5th best defense—all without anyone averaging more than 17 points or 33 minutes per game (both: Paul Millsap).

The Hawks have given us shades of the Spurs-East, and at times have been the most entertaining team to watch in the NBA (sorry I’m not sorry, Steve Kerr). This has been in large part due to the revelation Al Horford has been, putting up numbers not unlike The Big Fundamental Tim Duncan, himself.

               Player A: 18.0p, 8.4r, 3.8a, 1.5b, 53.8fg%, 21.4 PER, 8.7 WS

               Player B: 17.3p, 11.4r, 3.7a, 2.4b, 51.2fg%, 22.6 PER, 9.6 WS

Hold the suspense. Horford is Player A. Let’s keep in mind, Horford played only 29 games last season and 11 games two seasons before that.

Lastly, in your NBA playoff bacchanalia that I’ve been assured other people do as well and is a perfectly normal ass thing to do in celebration of the greatest sports event ever, don’t’ forget to pour one out for Thabo.

PREDICTION: Give me the broom. Give me the broom. *sung to Biggie’s “Give Me the Loot.” Hawks sweep.

Toronto Raptors (4) v. Washington Wizards (5)

This will be the second most intriguing matchup in the East. 2 things to watch out for besides the backcourt battle:

  1. Toronto GM Masai Ujiri launching another f-bomb in a pre-playoff game hype train spinning off a geopolitical beef with Paul Pierce that may or may not include POTUS, launch codes, and chants of Buck the FlueJays till infinite.
  2. What banal and innocuous hygiene tool will DRAKE! turn into one of the most brilliant marketing schemes of the year? What could possibly be better than lint rollers? Floss? Toenail clippers (wait, Steve Ballmer, did we just stumble into something together?!)? Hair curlers? Those tiny paper cups that fancy people keep in a dispenser for rinsing mouthwash? Indentured servants? Lest we forget, since DRAKE! officially partnered with the Raptors organization as “Trill Ass Global Skrilla Ambassador” or T.A.G.S.A., they have gone from a 34-win team that hadn’t made the playoffs in 5 years to one of the best teams in the shitty Eastern Conference to get bounced in the first round.

PREDICTION: Toronto will make it to the second round for the first time since 2001 and for only their second time in franchise history. It will take all 7 games, a whole goddamn country’s sheer force of will, and a Jimmy Brooks type effort.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) v. Boston Celtics (7)

Kyrie Irving has never played in a playoff game before. Neither has Kevin Love. The Celtics are surging. Brad Stevens is a wiz. All true statements. There’s also this:

Oof, harumph, and bazinga. Lebron James in the playoffs has averaged 28.0p, 6.4a, 8.4r on a crazy 48.2 fg% in an inhuman 42.7 playoff minutes per game. 2013 Finals, Game 6:

2008 First Round, Game 1 (LBJ first career playoff game):

2013 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 7:

2013 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 1:

2009 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 2:

2014 Finals:

He may just eat your babies:

PREDICTION: Cavs in 5.

 

Chicago Bulls (3) v. Milwaukee Bucks (6)

This matchup is super duper fun times for basketball wonks. The Bulls find themselves in a rare position where they’re facing a statistically superior defense come playoff time (although marginally so)—97.4 pts Bucks allowed per game v. 97.8 Bulls allow. Oddly, the Bucks score precisely the amount of points the Bulls allow—97.8. Jason Kidd has turned this band of long-armed avatars into the 8th best defense in the league with the most steals per game (9.6), all while sharing the ball at the 7th best clip with 23.6 assists per game. Unfortunately, the hustle J Kidd has inculcated into his young shapeshifters come at the cost of rebounds. They rank 24th in the rebounds while the Bulls tally the 3rd best rebounding rate in the NBA. Have I mentioned the Bucks height yet though? The starters come in averaging 6’9”, of which they’ll need every inch to corral Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, while staving off a deep and talented Bulls front court. The major storyline for the Bulls: emergence and resurgence.

Pau Gasol playing like it’s 2005, bumping Lil Wayne on his 512 GB iPod Shuffle on the way to a cool 18.5p on an alarming 49.5 fg% and even more alarming 46.2 3pt%—oh yeah, and there’s the career high in rebounding (11.8).

Nikola Mirotic making the case for Rookie of the Year and James (Harden) Beard Award honors averaging 20.8p, 7.6r on 44.1 fg% in just 30.8 mpg in March.

Jimmy Butler emerging as a go to offensive player in addition to the nightly guard-the-best-perimiter-player role he’s so dutifully filled the last few years; in addition to resurging this past month, following a few weeks of a bona fide injury scare.

Taj Gibson also coming back from injury in the last month to put up solid double-double-esque numbers.

Joakim Noah finally moving the floor like the 20something he is, running the floor, getting those assist numbers up from 3.5 in January to 7.2 in March.

Derrick Rose suiting up at all.

PREDICTION: Jason Kidd will find a way to get fined sans spilling drinks (though he’ll undoubtedly think about it), and it’ll be the most entertaining defensive slugfest you’ve ever seen. Bulls in 6

 

Doodads and Knickknacks

 

MVP for Lebron

Lebron James is a phenomenal basketball player and deserves the MVP award.

From a statistical standpoint, he scores more than Steph Curry but less than Harden. He assists more than Harden, but less than Curry. He outrebounds them all. He has the highest field goal percentage on the highest attempts. He is without a doubt the best defender of the group.

Then there’s the how-valuable-is-he-to-the-team wrinkle that gives blowhards like Colin Cowherd the leeway to say stupid shit on airwaves like Russell Westbrook is the second coming of Shaft and White Jesus.

But ultimately, I think it comes down to this: the Cavs we’re looking at now didn’t exist 12 months ago. The coach is new. Two of the three best players are new, and only four players remain from last season’s roster. Whereas the Golden State Warriors are effectively the same team. Even the Houston Rockets’ continued core brain trust of Kevin McHale, James Harden, Dwight Howard and those three other dudes that were also on the roster last season positively impacted this season’s record. If continuity establishes trust, which is the bedrock of the game within the game, the turnover and new environments must be considered. That James could perform comparably to Curry and Harden in brand new (old) conditions, points to his deservingness.

I tried to start this section with something like “Stephen Curry and James Harden have had prodigious years…” I really did try, and they totally have. But fuck that. I get it. Nobody likes to see the same person win everything for forever. But the shear amount of articles I get bombarded with about the closeness of this MVP race that don’t actually go into the argument for Lebron James is an insult. We only get Lebron for like another 5 years. Maybe. He deserves all of it. Everything.

Pitchforks for Michael Jordan

I had the good fortune of stumbling onto the below beauty of a quote from the G.O.A.T., His Royal Airness Michael Jordan. In a 2010 interview with CNBC, Jordan prophesized, “Ultimately, if you can say that I’m a bad owner and we’re winning championships, I can live with that. But if we’re not making the playoffs and we’re spending and losing money, then I have to look in the mirror and say maybe I’m not taking the necessary steps to doing what it takes to run an organization.” If by some miracle, MJ ever happened upon this paragraph (he won’t), I want to maintain a semblance of respect and dignity (a first), so I won’t say the thing I really want to say (also a first). I wouldn’t venture to say eat crow, but maybe the lackluster performance as owner is having disastrous effects on the legacy of MJ? Pish posh and thimbles and stuff. We love you anyway, you gambling, self-aggrandizing, conceited, arrogant, bald, beautiful old-ladykiller, you.

Bitterness and Glee Reign, Man

Last night, Shawn Kemp hosted a party in celebration of the Thunder missing the playoffs. It was amazing. Or at least, I think it was. I have kids and was building a bunk bed from IKEA while everyone was getting turnt at Neumos. Thank god for Twitter:

A Tale of Two Videos: Tony Stewart & Ray Rice

Tony Stewart will not face charges on the murder, the vehicular homicide or the accidental death of Kevin Ward, Jr.

I’ve lost all hope in humanity.

The American justice system has failed yet again. I can only surmise Eric Holder’s recently announced resignation comes as a result of the inaction by officials to hold yet another a popular white “athlete” accountable for his crimes (see: Duke Lacrosse team, Oscar Pistorius, baseball players).

 »«

Two weeks ago, the last apparent last bastion of the fourth estate TMZ released a video of Ray Rice shamelessly knocking out his then-fiancé Janay Palmer.

Once revered as maybe the top running back in the world, Rice’s career as it stands appears unredeemable. The Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice’s contract, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL Players Association has since appealed on his behalf, sighting tired (but unfortunately, most likely true) slippery slope, two punishments for one crime arguments.

 «»

On August 9th in upstate New York a 43-year old man driving a 1400 pound vehicle at a speeds of nearly 140 miles per hour hit a 20-year man—a boy really. The young man with a long, bright future ahead of him died, almost immediately. It was caught on tape.

One would hope—given the above circumstances—that the full weight of the law and public reaction would fall on the culprit. One would imagine that said culprit would be collapse under the pressure, a charged and convicted criminal as the world celebrates the triumph of justice.

 »«

So here we are. The NFL is the midst of a once-in-a-generation scandal. Employees are answering to the former Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (the goddamn Director of the F-B-goddamn-I!), turning over communications, cataloging steps taken and not taken in an investigation completed or not completed. Even Commissioner Roger Goodell—the shoot-first sheriff, self-proclaimed judge and jury of the NFL when he ascended to power—finds himself in the unusual position of target practice.

Rice is at fault, and the NFL and Goodell screwed everything to hell.

«»

There is a video that shows Ward’s murder. It wasn’t shown on ESPN or your local news, because it’s a video of someone dying (as if all that war footage of rockets firing and landing on nightly network news weren’t). Watch it here—if you can bear it.

The 43-year old man—Stewart, let’s be painfully clear—is free. He woke up this morning to a loving family, doting fans, a dedicated racing team and a job that he loves.

Ward will never get a chance to realize the NASCAR dreams Stewart shamelessly tried preserved in his all-too-early return to the track.

But more than that, Ward will never get to find and marry the love of his life, to swell with pride as he watches his children stumble and get back up, to grow old and see the world change. Ward will never get to turn the ignition or choke the throttle of his beat up no. 13, joke around with his team or get angry at his opponents, relish in victory or rise again from a loss.

Ward graduated from high school two years ago. Two years ago. And will remain fixed in his family’s memory an eternal 20-year old.

 »«

The institution of the NFL has been turned inside out—and rightfully so—for countless reasons. Among these include: the culture of violence that has been absorbed by the players’ family members for years, the countless players facing even more countless charges of violent crimes and the apparent cover-up (or shameful ineptitude, if you’re an optimist) of the Rice incident—only the most recent indication of the NFL’s unspoken mandate to “protect the shield.”

Despite all this, last Sunday came and went. Hundreds of thousands of fans across the country flocked to their football meccas and millions tuned in at home. Billions of dollars were made in salary and advertising revenue. The testament of sport.

It would be pretentious, and in many ways wrong, to call for a boycott of the NFL—and not just because it would never happen. After all, most football players are by-and-large good people (I think) who understand that they’re not actually allowed to pulverize other people off the field.

I would hope that recent events have disrupted fandom—at least for a blip—causing unease and skepticism. There has been some reporting on this, but not nearly enough.

Football is good. Ray Rice is bad. And the NFL fucked up.

End scene.

«»

Ray Rice knocked someone unconscious—his partner nonetheless. He may never face judge or a jury, but he is being punished—by the league he belonged to, the team he was a part of and the American public at large.

Tony Stewart Killed a person. Where’s the indignation? Why hasn’t ESPN rushed to Ward’s aide with hours of outraged Olbermanns and Wilbons?

When we were talking about Ward’s death—for that brief two week period that quickly was swept under the rug the moment Stewart gloriously returned to the race track to bravely not lose his position in the Sprint cup race—we seemed to shy away from what actually happened. Our headlines never used the words like “killed” or “fatally struck.” Instead it was an unfortunate accident that happened to an unfortunately young person.

“…an on-track accident that left 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. dead.”

“…he was involved in an incident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

“Kevin Ward Jr.’s death…”

“A sprint car racing incident involving NASCAR driver Tony Stewart left another driver with fatal injuries…”

It’s no wonder that Stewart got away with murder. Our verbs hid him from the truth of it. I don’t know yet if that was for his sake or ours. Both are infuriating reasons.

Accidents and death are part of the machismo of racing. I get it. But Ward didn’t die in an accident. He died after an accident—when Stewart’s right front tire clipped Ward, throwing him in the air like a rag doll. As for machismo, the NFL certainly doesn’t lack in it, and they’ve still managed to hold individuals to a modicum of accountability—no matter how disjointed and backwards-ass the path is to get there.

Stewart Killed a person. It’s on tape. I’m still waiting for the Fury of God’s Own Thunder.

The Crossover: Greetings from Earth, Basketball is the Best I Ever Had

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 Crossover.

Shea Hurley:

Dujie,

Please respond to this email having something interesting to say about basketball. I’m a little bored. You’re probably not: congrats once again.

Michelle and me went to Leavenworth last weekend and climbed a proper mountain so it’s safe to say my ankle is mostly healed. I talked to your mom at the wedding, she said you felt at fault. I said you weren’t but that it was fine you going on thinking you were. So it goes.

Dujie Tahat:

I do feel at fault. You’d never played basketball really before and I should have warned you sooner that an ankle injury was inevitable if you didn’t get any basketball shoes. Unfortunately, yours was much, much worse than most (almost grotesquely so), and your subsequent employment was dependent on your physical prowess (not all of us can be 6’4”, a sinewy 215 and have a perfectly symmetrical face—so fuck you love you!) . Also, that was just one of the worst-sounding, -looking, gut-bending injuries I’ve ever been on a basketball court to witness. That definitely added to the guilt (for your stupid affinity for Tom Brady):

I’m over it now.

On this topic though, I have been meaning to ask you a question: what it was like to fall in love with basketball?

Yes. Love.

I’ve spent nearly as far back as I can remember playing basketball and can’t remember what it was like in the early years/months. Of course, over that time, I’ve fallen out of favor with the game, and subsequently, recommitted myself. Even then, there’s a rush when I lace up for the first time in a long time. The distinct tightness and traction of basketball shoes, a mishandled dribble, the first swish, when muscle memory takes over, even the pennies and compression shorts— it’s thrilling.

In those moments, during games, I find myself in complete ambivalence–one of those truly unsettling moments where you’re equally culpable to opposing forces. One the one hand, I am reorienting myself to the logistics of the game: positioning, spacing, assessing my side’s needs and focusing on those (i.e. rebounding, shooting, etc. (not et cetera: those are actually the only two things on a basketball court I can actually do)). On the other hand, I fight to get in “the zone”—which is already a losing battle I think because the sensation has always felt more like finding “the zone.” As if I had drunkenly, haphazardly and accidently stumbled into that state of mind that I’d characterize by a sharp dullness, or a sluggish honing.

It is a strange position to be in—rediscovering something you know so well—holding both these necessarily contradicting thoughts in a singular mind, in a singular body, in a singular game.  One requires thought and analysis; while the other demands near-blankness.

xoxo

 SR:

My affinity for Tom Brady—the great protagonist of the American Dream—is childish, sure, but it is not stupid. Lupe Fiasco is stupid, so were running shoes and I should have known that much without needing to be told.

As for love and basketball, I’m a little hesitant to throw love around while talking about a sport so new to me. But there was definitely something pseudo-romantic going on. Playing basketball had the same kinds of insecurities as a new love. I knew I was going to have to stop for a long time very soon and I was reminded always that it was a risky way to get in shape. If basketball was a love interest it was a fem fatal minx. I was infatuated, I had everything to lose, and I knew that at any moment it could expose me as a klutz and a fraud. I just didn’t think it would be so dramatic, or have such severe consequences when it happened.

Generally speaking, it is a bad situation to be in when your employment is dependent on your physical condition. Sometimes the job is worth it—it seemed like it was to me—most of the time it’s probably not.

As it turns out the premier rappel and jump bases in the country are both on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest here in Washington. I asked one of the older hotshot guys why he never jumped and he told me to put a 100lbs pack on and jump off my house. That was why, he said. Needless to say aerially delivered fire-fighters get hurt constantly. A jumper a few years ago, seeing the rocks ahead of him, threw up in his flight helmet before breaking both his legs on impact. The point here is that an injury was likely all along, so no worries; I’d rather beef it in the gym in front of ten people than in the wilderness in front of, like, no one at all.

Anyway, back to basketball. They say if you’re new to something it is best not to be nervous when doing it and visa-versa, when you are skilled at something the nerves can heighten your senses and are generally good for performance. This was the pendulum swing I found myself moving through and I felt much more natural, even in the zone, while I was able to think less. Thinking less, of course, I can’t do consciously. When I was thinking more it was about what a big rube I must look like, with my tall socks, ticking-bomb shoes and general lack of basketball paraphernalia. Or maybe a ruse instead of a rube, like a big, cruel trick in the form of a rangy, althletic-looking body who you could be pretty sure played at least JV in high school but who was really completely inexperienced and (initially) completely unskilled. Brick, sorry. That’s the punch-line and the joke’s on you, teammates.

I only wish I found the game sooner.

stay dreamy

DT:

Lupe Fiasco is not stupid. He’s a God. Toe shoes are stupid. I mean for Christ’s sake, wear regular fucking shoes! Or go barefoot! Mostly just pick one—stop trying to do both!

Also Tom Brady is not, I repeat not, the Nick Carraway of the American Dream—way more like Gatsby, or our 21st century version:

I mean, sure, seventh round pick, career back up, turned his one opportunity into multiple MVPs and Lombardi trophies, but whatever: the dude benefitted from the most effective pro football system since Vince Lombardi’s 1960s patented “Our endzone is that way, idiot!” offense.

Tommy Boi went to private school, went to football camps led by former Atlanta Falcon (and ArenaBowl Champion!) Anthony Graziani and grew up in San Mateo, California, among the top 25 wealthiest counties in the U.S. (just under $83,000 per capita), and the third wealthiest in California. There’s only one paradigm in the American Dream that his ascendency captures: MORE!

(Also, thanks Wikipedia for not failing to prove my point. This time.)

As far as basketball goes, I hadn’t meant love in a romantic sense. An initial pass makes that seem way too limiting, but I think you might be onto something.

Upon further review, I realized that I recently married a woman I’ve been on and off with for six years. Our relationship bears many of the characteristics of the relationship I have with basketball: there’s a definitive muscle memory to our motions, reading and reacting, learned instinct, a general machinery and lines that dictates the parameters but that wouldn’t mean a thing without the sheer joy of improvisation and cooperative freeplay.

There is one undeniable difference though: primarily that all sport ends.

I don’t believe that any human relationship ends—especially one that bears love. It just changes form.

To that end, when does basketball end? Surely, Basketball does not.

I get great joy from watching—marveling, really—at professional basketball players whose whole livelihood, whose whole identity and techne are contingent on what their bodies can do, a physical limit. To them, basketball never ends. They are the closest thing there is to the embodiment of Basketball. And yet, their’s is a precarious agreement with fate. Their very existence is all a gamble, a tightrope walk. Thousands of jumpshots, rebounds and crossovers a season, not to mention practice, conditioning, playing with the kids, each an opportunity to cripple these giants of the game.

I mean, can you imagine, these guys as fragile?

I’ve said it before, you need to watch Hoop Dreams. Not only will it keep warm your fire for the hardwood, but it’s just a great fucking movie. It changed the way documentaries were made thereafter. I bring it up though because what could be harder than your employment relying on your physical ability? Probably that the only opportunity you’ll ever have at any social mobility relying on your body.

To preempt some of your certain criticism: Yes. It’s not fair. Big picture, it’s a social condition that needs to be addressed.

The fire fighter that jumps out of a helicopter with a 100lbs strapped to their back into a blazing wildfire is perhaps the perfect metaphor for those kids. They’re the elite of the elite, playing men, acting like men when they’re probably only still boys, carrying their families and communities on the shoulders into a situation that will almost certainly eat them alive.

One of the kids Hoop Dreams follows, William Gates, suffered from a debilitating knee injury just as he was turning on in high school and college scouts were starting to pay attention. In fact, he had gotten into private school on a basketball scholarship. He never made it. He got swallowed by the fire.

I was never that elite of an athlete at anything to merit that kind of attention or even fancy. We were poor but, my parents insisted on education as my way up the ladder. I guess in many ways I’ve been tremendously lucky. It almost seems like a crime to insist that I, too, had and hold onto my own Hoop Dreams.

xoxo

SH:

Fine Dujie,

Tom Brady went to private school in San Mateo. But any descent parents would send their kid to a school that good if they could, if only to buddy-up with the crowd. And I should hope that when hardworking parents succeed in supplying their children with this quality of upbringing they do not resent the child as you seemingly resent the adult for what he got. So what if he went to private school in San Mateo? Tommy Jr. didn’t have say in the matter. This is to judge the son by the sins of the father (which—tsk-tsk—is anti-enlightenment and un-American) and frankly a sin I think you would readily commit.

But say (as you do) that Brady’s rich and lazy, embezzling, glitterati parents managed to jostle him into the lowest tier of a public university’s football program. Let’s give him the debts and credits starting there. Remember when he got to Michigan he was a timorous figure in the long shadow of Brian Griese, was 7th on the depth chart and seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety. He had to claw for the starting job at Michigan and for his spot in the pros. As a football player, it doesn’t seem like he was given much of anything besides talent, a pure apprehension of failure and a work ethic to channel it. These characteristics, thank you for noticing also, do evoke shades of Jay Gatsby.

“The Child is the father of the Man” as Wordsworth put it, probably holds true for both figures. I imagine the newly invented penniless Jay Gatsby looked out at the copper-kahuna, Dan Cody from the shores of Lake Superior much the same way the young Tom Brady Jr. regarded Joe Montana from the aisles of Candlestick Park.

The difference of course is that Brady does not come from piss-pot North Dakota. He did get his Daisy: the far-flung, sylphlike wonder of femininity Gisele Bündchen, and hasn’t yet suffered tragic decline and demise by the careless lies of careless people. Not to get too far ahead of myself though, he does play for the NFL, and with Junior Sau in mind, he might shoot himself in the chest before it is all over.

As for Lupe, I wouldn’t want it thought that I set myself up (and what a set-up it would be) so I will be short: He has paranoid delusions about the government of the United States, which is pitiable in its way, but also annoying because of his swollen following of credulous discontents who will take a junk-theory over the facts in plain view, if only to distinguish themselves from the presumed naiveté of cow-eyed parents and classmates and I guess whoever else.

~ ~ ~

Long break here. Work sleep work sleep work.

~ ~ ~

At age ten, I was deposed of my spot—middle back row—on class-picture day because I wasn’t any longer the tallest kid in class. It hurt then like no bad grade ever had or could. I feel a pathetic now remembering it, but I was young, and regarding at least my height, I grew up. Priorities, anxieties and pressures all changed. Problems might have arose if they didn’t, and games are a good example because maintaining skill at them becomes increasingly less practical as time goes by.

I’m not like William Gates (is the irony of that name addressed in Hoop Dreams?), who might have turned fragile athleticism into a career (i.e. a person for whom the game is practical). That was made clear to me early on. Time to go? Okay then, won’t have to tell me twice. The problem is with people hanging around after they should have left like drink-spilling old men at college bars: It’s just not going to happen these people and they’re the only ones who can’t see it.

Gates is exactly the kind of cautionary, all-eggs-in-one-imploded-basket-tale that 17 year-olds are hard wired to ignore in lieu of stories of guys who made it. If you can dream and not make dreams your master… If only. Outliers is bunk by the way.

Speaking of practicality and dreams and the boy being the father of the man, the image of the adult offered by the NBA—by pro sports in general—is not in the least bit practical. It provides a select few, a pre-selected few even—because DNA transcription is really more important here than anything that might follow—a chance to be rich and eccentric and idolized while it strings everybody else along.  Right now there is a guy just down the way on a barstool lamenting his wretched heap of a life to some poor stranger all because, he says, coach wouldn’t put him in, or his knee went out, or Ms. Bitch English teacher failed him out of eligibility. You’ll notice that when you chance upon this tedious foe (you have, and you will again and again and again) he is reliably incapable of prompting your sympathy.

The owners of the NBA—here I invite you to pause and muse with me on the oatmeal colored folds and gathers of Donald Sterling’s collapsing face—are nothing if not shrewd capitalists. Having an underclass of snowflake-or-bust kids who are made to think their endeavors on the court, or the field are more likely to repay their efforts than what they do in the classroom is agreeable; friendly; face-sucking, hand-under-shirt, over-bra simpatico to the status quo. The status quo being, of course, that the kids are without skills or footing and people like Sterling (who has excess money in almost exact proportion to excess skin) go on selling them hoop dreams. Dreams which are, to borrow a phrase nothing but net.

As I realize there is a Macklemore song about this I fill with self-loathing.

Talk to me

Shea

DT:

You did a whole thing there where you grew up and became a cynical old curmudgeon in the span of your last five ‘graphs. Good for you!

I’m going to try and keep this under 3000 words because I turn into a pumpkin after that.

Very quickly on Tom Brady: I would send my kids to private school. I hope to. But let’s not amplify the narrative. His ascendancy is limited to football—which, frankly, isn’t a mountain he could climb without coming from an upper-class, white, privileged family. I take no offense to his unlikely (sports) myth. As a fan of sport, I cannot help but to admire it. I do take offense to calling it the American Dream, and him the main character of it. America is no longer just a sea of pretty white boys (bad news for you). The American Dream connotes there is no alternative. His life wasn’t on the line and neither was the socio-economic outcome of his children. With or without football, Tommy Jr. probably would have still been rich, and his kids would still have their trust funds.

191 words to go.

The Brady discussion seems the perfect digression for the irony of William Gates’ name.

You are unassailably right about how the NBA is structured and capitalism in general. It sucks to be a Plebian. It’d be way cooler to wear a toga and admire little boys. But it sucks much less to be a Pleb that has mastered—or at least gets the daily opportunity to master—a craft as endlessly surprising and infinite as basketball.

Gates is a cautionary tale. There are a dozen of him for every Jimmy Butler. But you can’t blame people for doing what they’re good at, and hoping to achieve the highest form of success doing it. Anyone who can commit to that, seems to me, is the true “protagonist of the American Dream.” Failure is part of the equation. Much less talked about (makes a less inspiring poster), but completely necessary.

I know you’ve probably got some cheeky rebuttal, but this email exchange is my thing, so you’re going to have to hold onto it until next time.

xoxo

The US B-squad: Nationalism v. Not Playing and Other Takeaways from this Weekend’s Friendly with Brazil

Basketball is back! Basketball is back! Basketball is back!

Well sort of.

This weekend’s matchup of Team USA v. Brazil marked the first international competition leading into this year’s FIBA World Cup.

20 years ago, the generation that produced the Dream Team understood the greatness of the US in the context of having achieved that greatness. Charles Barkley, David Robinson, MJ, Magic, Larry and the lot lived, at bare minimum, through the conclusion of the Cold War—Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf.

On the other hand, we 20somethings—including the 16 on the US Men’s Basketball roster—have spent our entire lives being the best goddamn country in the world. At least that’s what our leaders have told us for our entire recollection. Living in a country that uses that same line to score cheap political points as often as American politicians do, it’s no wonder that generation at large has acquiesced into a quiet, unexamined cynicism of anything that comes close to resembling nationalism.

I am sympathetic to this point of view, but I unequivocally reject it.

I was born in the Philippines and came to America by way of Jordan. I’m not saying my life was particularly harder than the next immigrant’s. It wasn’t. I was tremendously lucky in many ways. But as I begin the work of assembling, to the best of my abilities, the modern American Dream—providing a comfortable home, plenty of food and quality education for my kids and wife—I am struck by how many people take these things for granted, as if it were a birthright. They’re not. And it takes a uniquely special place to allow the “Dream” to become possible through the sheer force of will alone.

What does this mean against the backdrop of basketball?

Well it’s easy to fixate on the negatives, easier still if the negatives of the country you live in become the predominant narrative. Who wants to play for a country with an intractably divided government? Who wants to represent a country with hackneyed foreign policy that more resembles Settlers of Catan than responsible world leadership? Who wants to be the face of a country whose caricature of itself in the world community is goofy, glutinous and rude?

These aren’t at all the reasons so many NBA stars aren’t competing in this year’s FIBA World Cup. But that they are all true, make the decision that much easier. The disastrous injury of Paul George provides the perfect out. With loudmouths like Steven A. Smith in their corner, it’s almost a wonder that Rudy Gay even answered Jerry Colangelo’s call.

That said, I appreciate Gay not just because off his healthy dose of Nationalism, but because he understands at some level, for pure, selfish basketball reasons, this is how you get better: by competing with the best in the world against the best in the world.

Anthony Davis as the go to guy

With 20 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks in 26 minutes, Davis was clearly the go guy for Team USA. The blocks and alley-oops were to be expected. But the insistence—and more telling, the allowance—of the 15-foot jumpers that rimmed off early on speak volumes to where Davis lies in the totem pole of the team.

Early in the fourth quarter, Davis’ dive into the second row to save a ball sparked a 10-0 run. Three of the next few plays featured Davis blocking a shot only to retrieve the ball while falling out of bounds, finishing an alley-oop out of nowhere and a textbook 25-foot jumper that netted nothing but, well, net.

With all the talk of him being “next,” the heir apparent to Lebron James and Kevin Durant, it’s easy to forget Davis is only 21. Of course he’s faded in and out throughout his first two seasons in the NBA. He couldn’t even drink! But this weekend, he was bodying Tiago Splitter with little remorse. Asserting himself more fiercely than the boy-king has been given the opportunity to show. With Monty Williams on the US Basketball coaching staff, this only helps to make Davis less boy and more king.

The Great White Hopes

I know Coach K is of Duke. He loves white dudes, especially white dudes who think they can rap. But seriously, remaining on the US roster:

  • Kyle Korver
  • Gordan Hayward
  • Chandler Parsons
  • Mason Plumlee
  • Klay Thompson

Ok, so Thompson is half Bahamian, but he doesn’t try nearly as hard as his Splash Brother at being Black. Of greater concern: what are Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee still doing here? At one point the announcers mistook a lob for Parsons as one for Plumlee.

It was weird.

The Manimal Mannihilates

Keneths Faried’s development had been interesting to track all last season. As Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson and every other offensive asset for the Nuggets fell to injury, Faried turned his balls-out effort game into an unorthodox offensive game replete with funky jumpers, twisting hooks and the occasional, surprising guard-like spurt.

Early in the first quarter, Faried scraped the potential of what he could become though. With the ball 20 feet out near the elbow, Faried put the ball on the floor, splitting defenders. As he got close to the  basket, he drew Davis’ defender at which point Faried flips a nifty one handed, hook-ish pass to an open Davis for an easy bucket.

Then early in the third, on the other end of the floor, Faried knocks the ball loose on an entry pass and winds up with the steal. Instead of hanging back and letting an “All-Star” finish the play after his outlet pass, Faried runs the floor anyway—literally the only other team USA player in the picture.

11 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists. Classic Manimal.

If Faried continues this play into the NBA season and “takes the next step,” the Nuggets could be fun to watch. More intriguingly, he can transform from the exemplar of hardwork into a titillating trade chip.

James Harden might be a selfish dude…

Which is a strange thing to admit considering that just three years ago, he was the best sixth man on the planet (I still love you Jamaal. Don’t ever leave me!)—a position that necessarily requires astute self-awareness, honest evaluation and a coming to terms with collective success outweighing personal glory.

This offseason, Harden’s seemed to turn his on-court game of give-me-the-ball-I’ll-mash-turbo-into-the-lane-and-I’ll-probably-get-fouled-and-get-mine-while-you-just-stand-out-there-wide-open-and-I’ll-pass-it-to-you-some-day-maybe-I-promise-I’ll-probably-think-about-it into the perfect metaphor for the way he lives his every day, non-basketball life. Even if Donatas Motiejunas was misquoted and Dwight Howard, D-Mo and Harden all rendezvoused nightly to McGangbang Double QPC’s like they were racing to a heart attack, the Chandler Parson’s saga does not instill confidence in Harden’s leadership ability (to be parenthetically fair, almost everything involving Chandler Parsons or Chandler Parsons’ hair is, to some varying degree, a saga. I mean have you seen his perfume commercials? Epic pretty man, pretty girl saga).

Upon Parsons signing with the Dallas Mavericks, Harden said:

Dwight (Howard) and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets. The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We’ve lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we’ll be fine next season.

Harden’s defense remains that he wasn’t specifically talking about Chandler Parsons. Two things here:

1)      Even if you weren’t talking about Parsons, there are still 10-12 other dudes on your roster. If my Masters in NBA Management from the University of 2K has taught me anything, there are three other Starters and one Sixth Man in addition to the two to four Role Players and remaining Bench Warmers. The four dudes not in Role Player role do not like it when you downgrade them like that—especially in public. That demonstrates cloudy thinking at best and an egomaniacal philosophy of basketball at worst.

2)       Harden was clearly talking about Chandler Parsons!

Apparently, Harden and Parsons have squashed the beef. But even in the way he talked about the reconciliation, he can’t seem to remove himself:

No matter what, if the Rockets are playing good, Dwight and James get the praise. If we’re doing bad, Dwight and James gets the bulk of criticism.

I’m still waiting for Parsons to trip Harden or snip his beard or something as he finds a spot to sit.

Lastly (I could probably round up three or four more obscure supporting points, but because I’ve withered away too many neurons on this point already), when asked about Paul George’s tremendously unfortunate injury, Harden still couldn’t remove himself. The first words out of his mouth:

I gotta amp up my game. I’m not just a scorer, I’m a playmaker as well.

YOUR EXPERIENCE IS NOT THE DEFINING NARRATIVE, JAMES!!! That said, I’m probably still picking Harden in the first round once fantasy basketball season rolls around.

Have you heard yet? Derrick Rose is back.

Reading the reports on US Basketball PPGI (Pre-Paul George Injury), one would think Derrick Rose is the only player on the team. After watching a game, it makes sense.

With 4.6 seconds left in the first half, Coach K put Rose back in (after getting cut on the face). Rose said his instructions were to run the floor and get a good shot. Rose did. Like a flash of lightning, he drove right by an impending trap, leaving two Brazilians stunned in disbelief. Sprinting the full 94 feet, letting a floater bank off the glass, he masterfully executed with such contradictory force, I have to believe he could run for public office one day.

There was also the ridiculous cross over near the end of the third, where he went right to blow by his defender only to change hands in mid air, only kind off avoid a big, finishing with the left.

I can’t wait for new D. Rose .gifs…

Rose ended the game with only those two fieldgoals (7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 turnovers), but more impressive than the actual plays were the ferocity of his demeanor. He was the fastest, hardest dude on the floor the whole game. He had some missed floaters and even a missed dunk, but that he was convincingly there for those is a reassuring sight for sore, sore, Chicago eyes.

This game featured more words than I’d ever heard Rose speak at once—sans his MVP acceptance speech (but to be fair I started bawling as soon as he talked about his mama, so I really didn’t hear half of it). My immediate reaction: it seems like Rose is more comfortable being vocal. This is fantastic news for the Bulls who need an assertive Rose to reclaim MVP form.  Rose has always strictly been a “let my play speak for me” kind of player. He was in the right situation for that. No one ever criticized Rose for it because his play was exceptional. The combination of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer let him lead in deed and not in word. It’ll be fun to watch Rose become the guy again on and off the court.

70 days. Does my breath smell bated?

 

Jesus Montero is back and agility drills cannot save you

Jesus Montero is back in a Mariner’s uniform.

If you are anything like me then you had already more or less forgotten about Montero’s existence, save in those few moments where you chuckle to yourself whilst wondering if he could eat an entire lasagna and still find time to take some steroids.

The answer is yes motherfuckers and Jesus is back to show you just how effective he can be. Maybe.

A once prized prospect, Jesus Montero’s first season with the Mariners was bad(ish) but bad in a pretty forgivable, lets-wait-and-see sort of way that inspired people to hope for progress and made said progress seem inevitable in the same way as say, getting fat when you’re older. This expectation was framed by the narrative that accompanied Montero. Basically, his ceiling was fixed in the minds of those who had heard the scouting reports and saw the minor league production. His performance was then characterized as a low to medium baseline from which we expected Montero to steadily ascend and grow into the right-handed masher he was all but assured to be when poring through the scouting reports documenting his performance in the Yankees’ farm system.

Little did we know that those cheese eating fucks over in New York likely doctored those reports, wrote his SAT for him, proposed to his nonexistent wife for him, and genuinely disguised his all-up shittiness in every facet of his life for the sake of return value in the form of Michael Pineda who (haha) has ended up being fuck-awful (and a pretty bad/ineffective cheater) as well.

To add insult to injury and to build on the inevitability of getting-fat-whilst-aging comparison I lobbed to myself in the prior paragraph; Jesus went ahead and made a literalist out of me this year by showing up to spring training having eaten a swimming pool of sour cream and borrowed Guy Fieri’s thyroid glands. He got fat.

Hyperbole aside, he was more or less unapologetic for his mockery of the term “athlete,” saying straightaway that he had done figuratively nothing but eat all offseason.

To be entirely honest, Montero can totally be fat and probably still play baseball. Having watched Montero pretend to be a catcher and then subsequently mime around first base for a few months, it is clear to even the most aggressively casual observer that Montero cannot play any position on a baseball field. Note here that when I say “casual observer” I am not even referring to the observations of a non-baseball-fan. That degree of casualness does not convey the hyperbolic message for which I am striving. When I say “casual observer,” think instead of your hypothetical Grandma, having recently immigrated from Serbia or some such place and having never even seen baseball before watching Montero play baseball on a satellite TV over a poor signal out of the corner of her eye while you try to teach her how to text with her new iPhone at the same time.

The dumbed down message is: it is abundantly clear that Jesus Montero will never play in the field. He is a DH and that is all he will ever hope to be. The thought process that leads people to occasionally believe that any rube with 7+ fingers can play first base has been proven incorrect.

Jesus Montero committed 9 errors in 59 games at first base down in AAA Tacoma. This number looks pretty bad on the surface. It looks worse when one considers that 1st basemen will typically only get an error assigned to them if they fuck up in an extremely egregious, obvious, and costly way. Often times a catchable throw across the diamond that the 1st baseman cannot pick will simply result in an error for the poor guy making the throw—even if everybody in the stands, having watched major league baseball or even minor league baseball once or twice knows that a 1st baseman should catch any throw that he can get his glove to. It is pretty much his only job.

The resulting logic suggests then that if Montero was assigned 9 errors in 59 games then it is fairly safe to assume that he was responsible for even more buttfuckery on defense that simply didn’t get charged to him and statistically qualified as his own personal little error—even though everyone watching, scorer included, was likely aware that, similar to 9/11, it was all Jesus’ fault.

So Jesus Montero is a DH and a DH he will always be. As of right now—despite my obvious misgivings regarding Jesus Montero, the player—I prefer seeing his name slotted into the lineup against left-handed pitching than say, Willie Bloomquist. While I appreciate that Willie has been less than completely useless in his starts this year that does not change the reality that an offense featuring Bloomquist as either a 1st baseman or DH is likely to be an offense that is terrible. While I have pretty much zero confidence in Montero as a player or human being, the guy at the very least has some power, which is something our current roster lacks in pretty much any capacity. The Mariners can do worse than rolling out Montero against lefties. They already have done worse.

So take heart in low expectations my morbidly-obese-but-working-slowly-towards-being-just-chubby friend—you can’t possibly disappoint us more than you already have! And to you Mariners’ fans: take heart in the weird optimism that comes with the thought that Jesus can’t possibly get any worse than last year (can he?) and therefore he really has nowhere to go but up!

Optimism reigns supreme in Mariners’ town.

#BREAKING: SOLANGE KNOWLES FURIOUS THAT SOME PEOPLE THINK HER NAME RHYMES WITH “MERINGUE”

According to an anonymous source, Solange Knowles, professional celebrity and sister of talented family member Beyonce Knowles, played sports in High School thusly qualifying her as a subject for breaking news stories on a sports blog.

Having buried the lead, Solange’s recent outburst with her talented family member’s “boo,” Jay-Z was reportedly due to a misunderstanding in regards to the pronunciation of “Solange.”

“The name Solange is not exactly intuitive to pronounce, nor am I even sure it’s a name at all,” Mr. Z likely said in a recent press conference, “there is literally no precedent I can think of that makes that a name. Was her grandma named Solange? Who named her then? How am I supposed to know how to pronounce a name if the letters comprising it look like a schizophrenixzplaying Bananagrams?”

Trying to make a good impression, Mr. Z pronounced the name to the best of his abilities—assuming that the name rhymed with popular pie-ingredient-thing: “meringue.”

“I don’t know why her parents named her ‘Solange’ but I am familiar with lemon meringue pie. Seemed to be a perfect fit,” Jay-Z reasoned while wiping his ass with a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ as Leonardo DiCaprio snorted a massive line of coke off of Mr. Z’s hardcover version in the shower.

“Don’t know why she got so upset being tangentially related to a delicious dessert. Makes me wonder if this girl has ever even been to a fucking Marie Callender’s before. Fascist”

Relations between the two remain strained.

The Seattle Mariners, reclaimers of optimism

The Mariners recently decided to take 3 of 4 games from the Oakland A’s. They wrapped the series with a completely unnecessary doubleheader yesterday brought on by a situation earlier in the year where Oakland’s poverty literally leaked on to the field of play, turning it into a Swamp of Sadness-equivalent and resulting in several of the Mariners’ ponies losing the will to live, languishing in the muck adrift in their own sense of desperate apathy, the faint call to carry on muted through the mufflers of their own helplessness until they were utterly submerged.

 

Yesterday’s doubleheader played itself out in about the oddest way imaginable. The Mariners picked up a win in the first game, going to extras following a weird start by Felix Hernandez in which we didn’t appear to have any of his pitches working. Felix surrendered eleven hits and 3 runs, yet the Mariners, behind a couple well-timed dingers by team strongmen Hart and Zunino managed to make it out alive from a game where Yoervis fucking Medina was credited for the win. Oddness.

 

The second game saw a resurgent Erasmo Ramirez return briefly from AAA in order to turn in possibly his most serviceable effort of the season, going 6 innings and allowing only 2 earned runs in the process. The problem in this second game was offense, which seems to hardly be surprising when the lineup includes the corpse of Brad Miller, Willie Bloomquist, John Buck, Cole Gillespie and Stefen Romero. I understand we want righties in the lineup but you need to have quality right handed hitters for this to make sense. If I want beer but don’t have any beer I don’t start fermenting my own urine. The Mariners are fermenting their own urine. It smells like Bloomquist’s grit.

 

A big positive to come out of the 1st of these two games is James Jones’ play in center field. The guy looks infinitely superior to anybody else the Mariners have wheeled out there since Franklin Gutierrez was patrolling center. He made a fantastic diving catch in the seventh inning and made a few excellent plays in the early innings besides. His routes look rather…sober…compared to those we have become accustomed to with Abe Almonte scurrying about. To cap it all off he flashed a plus throwing arm and was able to reach base a few times as well.

 

I still have no fucking clue why McClendon went ahead and slotted him in the 2 hole for his first start in the Major Leagues, but I am willing to suspend my disbelief if the guy continues to play well because frankly, the Mariners need good defensive outfielders to man center and if he can make the tiniest bit of noise at the plate and on the base paths I think he could be a valuable addition moving forward. The tools are there, if the polish can come with it on the job, then welcome to the squad Mr. Jones.

 

The Mariners are heading home following a road trip that took them to a game above .500 where they will be taking on the Kansas City Royals who presently mirror the M’s location around the mythical .500 line. Royals fans probably expected more from their squad moving into 2014—they experienced one of their better seasons in recent memory last year and have been posturing as though gripped by a win-now mindset as evidenced by their (probably idiotic) trade of former No.1 prospect in all of baseball, Will Myers, for serviceable former Rays’ starter James Shields.

 

The trade reeked of the same desperation-spunk surrounding the Mariners’ trade for disgruntled Canadian injury-enthusiast Erik Bedard in which we gave up Adam Jones, now a perennial All-Star for the Orioles and emerged no closer to “winning now” than we had been before, with the added caveat of lacking even the “winning then” that perhaps Jones could have helped with.

 

In that sense—I feel for the Royals’ fan base as a similarly afflicted bunch. The Royals also have several home grown positional prospects-turned-regulars who have taken forever to develop and often developed into something that rested well below their perceived ceilings as prospects. Eric Hosmer never became really as cool as he seemed, Alex Gordon didn’t figure it out until he was like 26, etc.

 

I suppose both of those players are better than their Mariners’ counterparts in Smoak and Ackley, but regardless, the results have not been there with a similar organizational approach.

 

So hey Royals, throw us a bone here. We can’t both make it to the playoffs can we? And you had George Brett once! Your franchise has even won/been to the World Series before!

 

At this point, as a Mariners fan, it is cool to even be able to care still. I have seen optimism dwindle so much faster than it has this season and for the team to remain afloat at this point in time is a revelation. I look forward to going home and seeing the Mariners play baseball and I have been able to do this for more than a month. I think this is what it must feel like to be a fan of a team that is good. I like the feeling. It makes it easier to sleep at night and it saves me money on liquor.

 

Go Mariners.

Robinson Cano, ceilings, floors and the potential to reach either

The Mariners didn’t feel very Mariners last night.

Opening day (read: night) is a perennial renewal of fandom- a time where wearied fans can spin extrapolated narratives from a single good night of baseball. We can exult in the possibility that meaningful (insofar as someone can really call any sort of professional sport “meaningful”) baseball may be played late in the year.

Opening night offered Mariner’s fans several narratives to cling to. I am going to cling to one of the more obvious ones: Fuck me, Robinson Cano is a Mariner.

Robinson Cano has been a model of consistency throughout his career. Sure, there has been a bump or two in the road naturally—but for the most part Robinson Cano has been a consistent, durable lefty with a smooth swing, gap power and a batting-title-worthy hit tool. He does all of this while playing great defense at a premium defensive position.

His one main criticism (his apparent lack of hustle) is basically just a byproduct of how easy he makes the game look. Cano hit an infield single last night. Poo-tee-weet.

Therefore, when “baseball people” preach ceaselessly about building “up the middle,” Robinson Cano is the kind of player that they salivate over But Robinson Cano isn’t a steak, he’s a human being. And a real hero. #Drivesoundtrack

Let’s take a quick look at Cano’s last 5 years in WAR according to Baseballreference.com:

Year

WAR BB%

2009

4.5 4.5

2010

8.1 8.2

2011

5.7 5.6

2012

7.0 8.8

2013

6.8 9.5

 

I went ahead included Cano’s BB% for funsies. An interesting aspect of that facet of Cano’s game is that his BB% for his first 5 years in the league was never above 5% which validates the perception he carries as somewhat of a free-swinger.

For a Mariners team that has been notoriously awful at getting on base for quite some time- his uptick in BB% is encouraging and probably stands to improve if only by virtue of the free passes he will inevitably be receiving, the first taste of which we experienced last night. It is also worth noting that his better years in terms of overall value were the years in which he posted a higher BB%. Could be coincidence, but it may not be. Mysteries abound.

Mainly we see consistency. Cano has consistently produced at an all-star level for 5 years. As you can see, there is some fluctuation in his WAR numbers year-to-year, but that fluctuation has been between that of an All-star and MVP contender. The Mariners have not had an everyday player like Cano in quite some time. As a point of comparison, the Mariners’ best everyday player for the past two years has been Kyle Seager. Kyle Seager has never been worth more than 3.7 WAR, his value last season. Cano’s worst season in the last 5 years is nearly a full win more than our most valuable position player the past 2.

In terms of familiarity, that makes Cano to the Mariners what a breakfast menu is to Taco Bell. Glorious. And yet the times are changing, Cano is in Mariners green, and I can get a waffle-sausage-taco for less than 3 dollars. As Professional Baseball Hat Enthusiast, Fro-yo Magnate and Sportsketball Agent Jay-Z once said during a private, unsuccessful negotiation with Hank Steinbrenner: “That’s the anthem, get ya damn hands up.”

There have been those who have argued that the money spent to land Cano would have been better spent distributed among a number of lesser players to make up for some of the question marks the Mariners roster still has.

I disagree with this notion. It seems to me that, given the relative youth and volatility of this roster, signing Cano makes sense if the organization maintains the belief that the younger guys have the potential to figure it out following 2 or 3 years of big league experience.

Cano’s consistent value allows the Mariner’s baseline to hover more closely to respectability. The volatility and potential upside of the rest of the roster is the projected gray area that can fill the gap between that baseline and a potential playoff contender, should a portion of the younger guys outperform what have been largely skeptical projections.

And there is the gamble upon which our season hinges: the young guys.

The great “if.”

We have been fed this narrative before, but it has never been nearly as plausible as it seems now in the post-coital embrace of last night’s victory.

The young guys are not as young as they used to be. This is a group that has less time to prove itself, but also a more realistic opportunity to do so. Rather than a group trying to carry a team on their inexperienced shoulders, they are instead a group with multiple seasons of big-league experience trying to bridge the gap between a slightly-less-lackluster-than-usual floor and a rather exciting ceiling.

Let us hope our young guys will be the moon-shoes to Cano’s feet, as long as he doesn’t hit his head on the ceiling fan!

That analogy was so fucking bad. I am sorry. Go Mariners.

Note: As a quick reference for various stat definitions and other baseball-y things, check out the glossary on fangraphs.com. If you scroll down they have some cool articles that detail the ins and outs of advanced statistics. Definitely worthy of a read.