Monday, May 6, 2013
It's hard to imagine the Bulls having much of a chance in the series. I'll bet the farm the Bulls will not get swept. Realistic expectations? They lose in 5, including a straight beat-down in Game 1. I don't prescribe to the theory of "rust" being a factor for great teams in the NBA playoffs, and the Bulls will still be without Louie Deng. Here's what to look for in the series.
1) Will the Bulls be able to guard both Lebrizzle and D-Wade without Deng, assuming even when he returns, he's not 100%? Chicago, even without Rose, is one of the only teams in the league that can guard Miami one-on-one. The question is, with Hinrich also undoubtedly limping through the series, can Jimmy Butler bring it on the perimeter defensively in order to keep Chicago from having to help off shooters? Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers struggled shooting against the Bulls in the season split, largely because they were taking contested shots. The Bulls need a monster effort from Butler, and if the Bulls front-court displays the ridiculous toughness it showed in the Brooklyn series, Chicago will prevent buckets at the rim like North Korea prevents UN scientists from inspecting its nuclear power plants.
2) Speaking of Chicago's bigs, will they put on their big-boy pants offensively? Carlos Boozer, please don't be a bitch. Carlos has played his best against Miami all season, averaging 19 and 15. He needs to be a man all series. Will Joakim Noah also be able to be the Game 7 Iron Man from Saturday night? Probably not the entire series, but potentially enough to keep things interesting. Stat of the series: the Bulls grabbed almost 1/3 of their missed shots in the four previous games against Miami. Get offensive rebounds, wear the Heat out underneath, do not allow Lebron and Wade to start clowning in transition. Simple game, right?
3) Will Nate Robinson have Tyrone Biggums like energy and explode for a zillion points? Huge key for the series is the Bulls' ability to push around Miami's less physical front court. However, even if you get the expected production out of Boozer and Noah, you still need Crazy Nate to go bananas. Again, this Bulls team is playing without Deng, and possibly Hinrich, for Game 1 and potentially beyond. That doesn't mean Nate should take every shot he fancies, but he needs to average 20+ in the series for the exhausted Bulls. Miami is fantastic at rotating defensively because of it's super quick perimeter. Nate needs to get into the lane to create easy hoops for his bigs and himself, because Chicago won't be raining threes. If Nate makes good decisions and creates for himself and others under control, the Bulls have a fighting chance.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Projections don't look good for Lone Ranger. Too bad. I like Armie Hammer.
And, c'mon America, how can you not love this?
Projections don't look good for Lone Ranger. Too bad. I like Armie Hammer.
And, c'mon America, how can you not love this?
OH, SO YOU THOUGHT I COULDN'T EXPLAIN THE SEC NETWORK'S EVENTUAL TAKEOVER OF AMERICA USING THE HUNGER GAMES?
Clay Travis holds a cool sweet tea as he sits on a porch. He overlooks a beautiful slice of land somewhere below the Mason Dixon Line. He raises the glass to his lips, tasting the nectar of the South. He looks to his right at Paul Finebaum, relaxing in a rocking chair by his side. “Pretty good livin’, eh Paul?” Paul starts to rock back, stops, and shoots a steely gaze toward a poor sap on his knees a few feet away, staring off into the distance. Paul clears his throat, “AHEM.”
Mark Emmert shakes himself from a daydream. “I’m sorry, sir, I got caught up thinking about President Slive and all he has meant to us.” He crawls over to Paul, who kicks his legs up and rests them on Emmert’s back. “Well, Mark, at least we know you’re a loyal son of Dixie,” says Paul, finally able to rest comfortably. “Now, Clay, this is good livin’.”
A hazy figure emerges on the horizon. Backlit against the brilliant summer sun, Clay tries to identify the apparition. It draws closer…starts to take shape….a man….wearing a suit….closer….a Houndstooth hat….still closer….the checkered patterns of his sportcoat….even closer….Clay reaches for Paul’s hand, piecing the clues together….Paul’s eyes widen….the figure, mystified by his surroundings, finally meets their eyes….it is, in fact, Bear Bryant…. “Is this Heaven?” asks the Bear. “No, Coach,” stammers Clay, “this is the Capitol.” Bear is confused. “The Capitol of what?” Paul elbows Clay, embarrassed by his lack of self-awareness. “Sorry Coach, a lot has changed,” he chimes in. “You know this land as Alabama.” The year is 2024. The SEC has conquered America.
Bear Bryant settles in on the porch, trying to come to terms with a future not possible in his wildest dreams. “So, wait a second, you mean to tell me our conference runs everything?” Clay and Paul are giddy as can be, translators of the new world to their old world idol. “Oh yeah, watch this,” says Clay. He rings a tiny bell. Urban Meyer, worn from years of defeat, limps out in full English Butler attire. He carries a tray with a pitcher of sweet tea and pulled pork sandwiches. Clay shakes his empty glass; Urban freshens him up. Paul takes a sandwich and scolds Urban, “Aren’t you going to offer anything to our guest, Traitor?” Urban leans in and, with a bitter grace, places the tray in front of Bear to peruse at his leisure. Paul encourages him, “Try the pulled pork, Coach. It’s delectable.” Bear takes a sandwich and begins to munch. Urban exits back into the house.
Bear starts to come to terms with his new reality, but is still a bit skeptical. It all seems too good to be true. “Okay, I know I’ve missed a lot, but wasn’t he a big deal at Florida? Why did you call him ‘Traitor’?” Clay jumps at the chance to throw Urban under the bus. “Well, you see, Coach, Traitor decided to retire from coaching the Gators to attend to his ‘family’, but just two years later, he took the Ohio State job. So, as a reward for his years of service to the SEC, we allow Traitor to live in the Capitol. But, as punishment, he serves at our beck and call.” Bear nods, “Okay, that makes sense. Who’s the strange man Paul’s using as a footrest?” Mark Emmert tries to chime in, “Well, you see Coach, I’m….” Paul turns as red as Georgia’s home jersey. “THAT’S ENOUGH MARK!” “YOU WILL SPEAK WHEN SPOKEN TO! I apologize for the intrusion, Coach. This man is Mark Emmert. He was the spineless President of the NCAA when it crumbled. He was our inside man. He is honored to be in your presence.”
Bear grins. “You finally did away with that posturing, hypocritical NCAA, huh? Incredible. How’d you get this far? Didn’t that one Polish basketball guy try to stop you?” Paul and Clay break out into uproarious laughter. “HAHAHAHA, basketball. A non-contact sport; we still let them have their three weeks of fun,” explains Paul. “Yes, it’s actually a nice side business for us now that we got the bloated NCAA out of the way,” adds Clay. "It's also a fair distraction from some of the more mundane spring football practices." Bear is almost sold. “Okay, but there’s no way ole’ Joe Paterno was okay with all this. How’d you guys get around that crotchety bastard?” Clay and Paul look awkwardly toward each other. “Too soon,” they reply, simultaneously.
Paul flips on a TV in the corner. It’s all SEC Network and ESPN programming. He starts channel surfing. One station has re-runs of White Girl Wednesday, a canceled reality show starring then 25 year old Marshall Henderson going to Oxford clubs and trying to make out with trashy whores who don’t have any self respect. “Oooo, White Girl Wednesday re-runs!” Clay yells. “You might have to leave it on that, Paul.” Paul ignores him. He turns to the next channel. Southern Recovery is on, Marshall Henderson’s current reality show in which he half-heartedly attempts rehab for the third time. Clay changes his mind. “Ohhhhhhh, man, nevermind, leave it here. I think Johnny Manziel does a guest spot on this episode!”
The TV doesn’t distract Bear very long. “So, seriously, guys. How did the SEC actually take over the United States?” Paul leans forward and turns off the TV.
“Well, it really wasn’t that hard. In August of 2014, the SEC launched it’s own conference network by partnering with ESPN. We’d won every championship since 2006, so the SEC was America’s king of college football. Whether you liked an SEC team or not, you watched SEC football. So, we retained our CBS deal for Saturday afternoon games, but we also had prime placing on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU. We had three viewing windows for SEC Network games on Saturday: morning, afternoon, and night. The public hailed us as heroes. With our morning window games, the masses were no longer forced to start their college football Saturday’s with the nasally musings of Pam Ward. Gone were the days of suffering through Illinois and Minnesota, praying for a running back that could run faster than any of the Sausage Race guys at Milwaukee Brewer games. With wall-to-wall SEC coverage, the SEC Network and its ESPN affiliation dominated the American viewing audience. The SEC Network generated almost $500 million its first year. The ratings didn’t lie, and Americans began to accept that SEC content was the only true content.
Coincidentally, the 2014 season was when the four team playoff began. We won the first two playoff championships. By 2016, President Barack Obama was about to end his second term. Congress was incapable of accomplishing anything, and since it was obvious Mike Slive was the smartest man in the world, they voted to make him President and Supreme Leader for the rest of his life. Pretty much everyone agreed that we were in better hands with Slive than any of the other idiots that might run for President, so Americans were generally okay with it.”
A foghorn blasts throughout the estate, interrupting Paul. Massive cargo planes fly in formation overhead. Clay jumps out of his chair. “THE REAPING, IT’S REAPING DAY! REAPING DAY!” Bear is completely lost. Paul tries to settle Clay down. “Okay, relax Clay. Settle yourself. Let our security detail know that we are heading to town.” He turns to Bear. “Don’t worry, Coach. It’s all about to make sense.”
Clay, Paul, and Bear sit in a luxurious tour bus as it drives down a rural road. Off in the distance, Bear can see some strange, outdoor fortification. RV’s fill massive parking lots as far as the eye can see. Tailgaters wave at the bus as police cars pull along all sides, leading it unimpeded towards the enormous structure. Bear is both exhilarated and mortified. He looks to Paul for reassurance. Paul senses Bear’s need for context.
“Okay, so here’s what happened. After President Slive took over in 2016, things were great for a few years. He understood the value of tradition, so he allowed all the conferences to exist as they were before the launch of the SEC Network. Teams were allowed to compete for the championship, and only one spot was automatically reserved for the SEC Champion. It usually didn’t matter, as the league was so dominant there had always been at least two SEC teams in the playoffs. But, then, in 2020, there was a great uprising. Three of the four teams in the playoffs were from outside of the SEC.”
The bus pulls up to the front of the structure. A massive fifty-foot gate swings open to allow them through. Bear reads an electric sign: Welcome to Sabantown: Heart of the Capitol. The bus goes down a dark, underground tunnel.
“The three teams from outside the SEC were Oregon, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. They had grown formidable, and made Americans feel nostalgic about the ‘Before Time,’ when the SEC was equal to other conferences. The fourth team, from the SEC, was Alabama. Of course, Alabama was led by the incomparable General Saban.”
As the bus comes to a stop, Bear, Clay, and Paul can hear echoed chants of “S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C.” Clay starts to get anxious. He can feel the southern pride flowing through his veins. “Can we go up to the field? It’s about to start!” Paul thinks for a moment. “Clay, why don’t you go ahead? I need to figure out how to explain to President Slive that Coach Bryant is back from the dead. We’ll watch on the monitors here.” Paul goes back to the story.
“So, Notre Dame and Alabama win. Many in the South scoffed at the Fighting Irish; the program was a relic. Brian Kelly had once dared to challenge General Saban in the BCS Championship Game, and he was beaten into submission before halftime. I, however, saw this team as different. See, Notre Dame had established a big footprint in the South with its partial affiliation to the ACC. The Irish had grown bigger, faster, stronger, and meaner by poaching sons of Dixie. Brian Kelly had become Hannibal, the merciless General of Carthage, and his warriors presented General Saban his greatest challenge. Americans began to believe that indeed, Notre Dame could win. They began to yearn for the ‘Before Time’ and question President Slive. In an epic battle watched by nearly all Americans, General Saban beat back the rebellion. The fallout was painful. Notre Dame was forced to sacrifice Lou Holtz as penance for its sins against the SEC. Traitor Meyer was charged with inciting revolution when he predicted a Notre Dame victory on the SEC Network’s pre-game show. Thus, he is now our manservant. President Slive officially disbanded all conference affiliation outside of the SEC. But, being the compassionate Supreme Leader he is, he broke the nation up into 12 Districts so that its teams could still ‘compete’ for the championship. They are required to recruit only within the boundaries of their Districts. Two teams, or Tributes, from each District compete against each other, until only one Tribute from all the Districts remains. Then, that Tribute is blessed with the honor of being sacrificed against one of the three SEC teams in the playoffs….Hold on, it’s beginning.”
Mark Schlabach and Chris Low appear on the TV monitors, wearing crimson and orange suits, respectively. Schlabach walks to the 50 yard line of an elaborately decorated football field. “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Reaping! From District 1, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Ohio State Buckeyes….District 2, the Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes….”
Paul picks up the story. “You see, Districts 1, 2, and 4 produce what we refer to as ‘Career’ Tributes. These Districts take great pride in the competition, and volunteer teams to participate in the games.”
Bear nods his approval, turning his attention back to Mark Schlabach, who's already announced several Tributes. “District 5….the New Mexico State Aggies.”
“You see, the other Districts have their teams chosen at random. They do not appreciate what an honor it is to compete with our fearless warriors
Mark Schlabach and Chris low introduce the remaining teams. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the honorable Tributes for your 2024 Games! Happy Games! And, as always, ‘May the odds ever be in your favor’!”
Paul puts his arm on Bear’s shoulder. “Do you understand, now?” Bear, overcome with emotion, hugs his friend. Paul gently rubs Bear’s back. “Bear, there’s just one thing I don’t understand. Weren’t you dead? How are you here?” Bear steps back and wipes a tear from his eye, “God promised. He said, ‘You will live once more, when the South rises again.’”
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
For over a month, I’ve been idly kicking around the idea of starting a blog. What was my purpose? What did I want to say to the world that I couldn’t aimlessly crap out in 140 characters on Twitter?
Considering I was once barely considered a college basketball player, I wanted to start with a lighthearted spring college hoops preview. But, then Jason Collins made history. He has come out as an actively gay athlete participating in one of the world’s most popular professional leagues. So, sorry to the five of you who were expecting “Nick Berardini’s Hilarious Preview of College Basketball’s Post-Draft Declaration Deadline Pre-Season Top 25 Extravaganza” to kick things off. History wins.
We are not, as individuals, a very bright species. Yes, we collectively have accomplished great things. But, individually, the average human does less with more intellectual capacity than just about any living creature. A dog barks because he hears an unfamiliar sound; we can cognitively reason that it’s just the mailman. I’m not trying to condescend to you, because I’m guilty as well. I could be far more intelligent than I am. There’s absolutely no reason why I can’t do trigonometry after learning it for a year in high school. I took four years of Latin, and I consider the fact that I remember to pronounce the v’s like w’s a monumental victory for public education. I have the capacity to learn quantum physics. Instead, I spend countless hours screaming at my TV, cursing Frank Haith for going to late clock on-ball screens the last five minutes of every close game. STOP CLOCK-KILLING AND RUN YOUR OFFENSE. I could probably find more dynamic things to do with my time.
We typically coalesce our interests into the things that sustain us, so, realistically there isn’t too much harm in curbing our intellectual curiosity. I could get on my soapbox about the dangers of Teen Mom, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of Whatever Whoretown, Stephanie Meyer novels, Top 40 music, and tabloid journalism, but pop-culture identity probably doesn’t ruin America quite as much as I like to believe. Some of my best friends indulge in the things that I find shallow and petty, yet they are intelligent, productive members of society capable of deep psychological deduction. So, despite our laziness, we have come incredibly far. Roughly 150 years ago, we justified slavery as an economic necessity and massacred thousands in the name of Manifest Destiny. 50 years ago we made African Americans use different bathrooms. Hell, 20 years ago, millions were terrified of people with AIDS.
The most prevalent danger of our intellectual indolence is that it makes us susceptible to groupthink. The world can be a callous and apathetic place, and the Internet sometimes reveals our darkest thoughts. With the social media revolution, we’ve given everyone a voice. While there have been far more victories for citizen journalism than defeats, the defeats do hit hard. Bigotry and discrimination thrive within ignorance and polarization. We used to gather information from sources that had earned the right to speak to us; now, the uninformed have to deconstruct massive amounts of content just to start at the beginning. Impressionable people that don’t have factual information can be swayed by the wrong voices. We are afraid of what we don’t know, especially when we don’t know whose opinion to trust.
That’s why Jason Collins is a hero. In a culture prone to hyperbole, he deserves every adulation bestowed upon him. This is a colossal step forward for others afraid of themselves and who they are. Jason Collins is inviting the public and his colleagues to judge him, if they dare. He is betting on our rationality, and even if he wins, acceptance and support certainly won’t be unanimous. Jason’s decision to come out shows how much he is willing to risk.
THE INSECURITIES OF THE LOCKER ROOM
Consider the sanctity of an NBA locker room. These are some of the most idolized men in an intensely macho profession, bonding with each other to form a collective toughness and togetherness that sets out to compete at arguably the highest athletic level in the world. Not too many of us equate homosexuality with machismo. Jason Collins now trusts that when he walks in that locker room, his character and experiences as a professional will trump the stigmas associated with homosexuality. It takes real courage to face your colleagues and invite them to discuss who you are so openly. He wrote in his essay to Sports Illustrated, “I’ve been asked how other players will respond to my announcement. The simple answer is, I have no idea. I’m a pragmatist. I hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” So far, the reaction within the league has been overwhelmingly positive. Clearly, support for Jason’s decision won’t be as universal as it was on Monday. At 34, he’s nearing the end of his career, and if he’s lucky enough to sign a free agent deal this summer, he will be faced with whispers in the locker room. There are plenty of ways to undermine a player. The entire sport is built around trust and respect, and it only takes a couple of teammates to poison his credibility or role as a locker room leader. My hope is that the mantra of, “If you can play, you can play,” will carry the most weight for whomever he signs with. Jason’s homosexuality won’t make him any less useful as a basketball player, and I have faith his teammates will agree.
Despite all the insecurity he must be feeling, he’s also opened the door for others in the league to come out publicly. If you believe he’s the only one, you’re an idiot. Do the math: 30 teams times 15 players on a roster. There are certainly others.
THE PUBLIC’S FASCINATION WITH HOMOSEXUALITY AS DIFFERENT
Imagine being a nameless worker your entire career, and suddenly you’re the CEO. Everyone knows you; everyone watches your every move; everyone judges you; that’s what awaits Jason now. His entire career, he’s been best known for fouling hard and having a twin brother who also played in the NBA. From now on, Jason is famous for being “the gay one” in public. Now, he will know what some stupid people think because he can read their thoughts. Obviously, it’s scary for him because the bigoted are so accessible to each other. Yet, even for those who don’t care that he’s gay, being gay still makes him different. The only reason homosexuality is taboo is because we make it taboo. We push it aside; we see it as different; we don’t want to address it; we fear it; we think of it as a defect. Homosexuality is not a disease or a choice. Jason, writing about his pre-teen years, wrote, “It was around this time that I began noticing subtle differences between Jarron (twin brother) and me. Our twinness was no longer synchronized. I couldn’t identify with his attraction to girls.” Do we really believe that 12 year old Jason Collins woke up one day and said, “You know what, I think I like guys. This whole vagina thing, not really sure how that’s going to work for me.” He was a 12 year old. If it was a choice, do you really believe that millions of LGBT people would choose to suffer through despair and loneliness because they simply wanted to be different? Plus, don’t you think it would be pretty easy to determine if homosexuality was a choice? “Hey, kid, are you gay?” “What’s gay? I like Ninja Turtles. Are they gay?” He’s pushing the discussion closer to a point where society does not treat homosexuality as a learned, different behavior. Jason Collins is heroic because he is choosing to open his life up to the world, to supporters and detractors, in order to get us to a place where countless young people no longer have to be different.
THE HYPOCRISY OF SOCIAL MEDIA CRUSADERS
“Christians” have already come out to cast stones and preach hateful speech based on selective scripture. Groupthink is most dangerous amongst the uneducated, and discrimination is easily disguised or justified when there are lots of concurring voices.
But, seriously, think about Christianity for a second. The entire faith is based on the teachings of a man who hung out with tax collectors and whores. I’m a Catholic. I believe in Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no way I can fathom Jesus, in all of his infinite wisdom, using the catchphrase, “It’s Adam and Eve; not Adam and STEVE.” It’s outrageous. Scripture has been used for centuries to pistol-whip uneducated masses into “good” behavior deemed acceptable not by what’s moral, but by manipulative, power-starved charlatans. Do we even need to get into the countless examples of things the Bible says you shouldn’t do that are patently ridiculous? Leviticus and Romans are often cited as entries that condemn homosexuality, but dozens of Christian scholars have argued that both passages are misinterpreted or mistranslated. “Eww, but Nick, ugh, I just can’t even imagine it. It’s so unnatural.” Think Jason Collins wants to imagine your fat body trying to mount a woman for three minutes of awkward penetration? That’s not natural, either. Get over yourself; you don’t have to think about it. If you’re such a Christian, sexual thoughts won’t permeate your subconscious anyway.
It’s one thing for regular people to show themselves as stupid when they join the discussion publicly, but I cannot understand the reaction of some that make their livelihood in public. King Dope Mike Wallace of the Miami Dolphins took it upon himself to remind the world that beautiful women exist for our hedonistic pleasure. What an existential poet. This idiot-savant is understandably egotistical because he has been handed a charmed life and he’s proven himself to be a moron, so it’s not a total shock when he abuses his right to speak to thousands of people. Chris Broussard? His opinion is irrelevant. He has every right to believe that homosexuality is a sin, yet despite putting it thoughtfully, his words will now be used as justification for the more hate-spewing masses that have already used the Internet to tell Jason to, “Burn in Hell fag.” Is that fair? No. I don’t believe Broussard was being hateful, but it was a lose-lose situation. His comments further perpetuate the idea that homosexuality is a learned behavior that can be corrected. You have to understand your place in society, and his voice reaches millions. Unintentionally, his voice will now be used as vindication for those looking to believe their hateful opinions aren’t prejudicial. He was also using Jason’s very personal decision to come out as a platform to explain why he isn’t a bigot. How egotistical and dense can you be? This is not your time to explain yourself and what you believe on national TV. Then he used the patented “I have gay friends” defense. What a clown. Nobody with a brain believes that Broussard has his finger on the pulse of the nation when it comes to hot button issues, so why jeopardize the relationships and trust you’ve built with NBA sources by joining the conversation? Even if some of your sources agree with you, they now see you as an opinionated commentator. You’ve moved beyond your responsibilities as a reporter. There was the expected backlash from conservative public figures, many of which came out to support Broussard, but his lack of self-awareness is astounding.
The Crusaders are making every effort to downplay Collins as a hero. In fact, some are even questioning why Tim Tebow, who takes some flack for being very open about his Christian faith, is not similarly celebrated. Yup, congratulations America. We managed to pull Tebow into this thing.
Again, this is where the Internet can be unfairly judgmental, and Tim has certainly been the butt of plenty of jokes for being honest about who he is. It would be the height of hypocrisy to judge Tebow for living honestly yet support Collins. But, are we seriously comparing the levels of persecution? This isn’t ancient Rome where they fed the Christians to the lions. Tim Tebow has to deal with unfortunate cynicism or snide jokes; do we need to compare what he deals with to what awaits Jason Collins as an openly gay man? Forget what he’s already had to deal with as a closeted homosexual, or the fact that homosexuality has, unlike Christianity, a recent history of violent persecution in America. Jason Collins, as an American citizen, will be denied basic rights afforded to others. Simply disallowing Jason to marry another man deprives him of over 1,300 Federal rights granted to heterosexual married couples. Want to keep playing the Tim Tebow is a hero too game?
JASON IS A HERO
Heroism should be defined by exceptional individual action. That action may be simple, but it has to be profound. I consider Rosa Parks a hero for simply refusing to give up her seat on a bus. We look back as a society now and are embarrassed that it was even necessary for her to be heroic, but Ms. Parks helped drive us toward progress. Jason Collins is choosing to endure persecution in order to help us evolve. It’s almost a certainty that eventually, rationality will win out, because we are collectively logical and compassionate. Ironically, groupthink will eventually push us to a place where the bigoted come to understand how wrong they are. The question is: how long will it take for us to no longer view Jason as different? He’s still facing a polarized world in which far too many people undeserving of a voice can tell him what they think. Luckily for us, he doesn’t really care anymore.