And To All, A Good Night

The SEVEN
25 December 2013

I.  A Book In Her Stocking?

You might have just about concluded that Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Porsha Stewart, ex-wife of former quarterback extraordinaire Kordell “Slash” Stewart, had made one of the most unbelievable statements ever when she said that there had to be an opening for the railroad at an Underground Railroad historical site. It becomes more amazing when you learn that her great-grandfather was civil rights legend Hosea Williams.  You mean to say she didn’t get any more than that over the family dinner table?

But then I read posts by one of my Twitter follows who stated that many of her students also think that the Underground Railroad was an actual railway.  Maybe a book or two in all of their stockings would be apropos.

II.  I’m Dreaming Of A White Super Bowl

So there has been discussion about the possibility of moving the date of the Super Bowl should weather be a problem in New Jersey at Met Life Stadium on February 2nd, 2014.  Didn’t commissioner Goodell and the rest of the NFL decision makers realize that New Jersey is in the Northeast – and Met Life has no dome – before they chose Met Life for the game?

Moving the date of the Super Bowl is not exactly like taking the local high school game and moving it back a couple of days.  Thousands of people will be coming into the area to see the game played on that day, and many of these people will have to return to their homes virtually immediately after the game. I would hate to be one of these people who have spent a mini-fortune to attend the Super Bowl, only to see it postponed and all of that money out the window…and all the NFL would say is “sorry.”

III.  Giving Their All

Certainly the injury issues encountered by the New York Knicks this season – and last year, for that matter – are no secret.  But it was interesting to have watched them barely eke out an overtime win against the League’s weakest team so far, the Milwaukee Bucks, in a game where if they were any better at all, the Bucks would have walked away with the win. 

What made it most interesting, in retrospect, was seeing the San Antonio Spurs – without future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – play their system in their stars’ absence and defeat a good Golden State Warriors team.  In fact, San Antonio’s all-time record in this era in the absence of their “Big 3” is 4-9; a small sample, yes – but a better percentage than 80% of the teams currently have in the Eastern Conference. 

IV.  My Bad

Perhaps the people getting themselves dunked on with knees in the chest by LeBron James this year…most recently Ben McLemore and Paul Millsap…should consider staying out of the way – or at least make sure they show their best side for the camera. Staying out of the way would not only keep them from getting posterized, but it would also ensure them not getting called for the blocking foul they each deserved.

Meanwhile this week we have seen that LeBron can be big even when not dunking on defenders’ heads.  In the midst of Miami’s intense comeback win over the Pacers, James and Mario Chambers shared some extremely heated words during a timeout.  Later, LeBron was seen telling Chalmers “I was wrong. My bad.” When the best guy says “my bad” to a role player, that shows real leadership.

V.  Hurts So Bad

What a shame it was to see the season-ending – again – injury to Brook Lopez, as well as the injury to the just-returned Kobe Bryant, expected to be out for approximately six more weeks. That said, these injuries hit these teams in completely different ways:

Lakers –  With injuries already sidelining Steve Blake and Steve Nash, they were going to be hard pressed to get a playoff spot in the super-tough Western Conference, with or without Bryant – and if they got one, it would likely be the eighth seed, earning them a shot at either San Antonio or OKC. (No, Portland, I’m not going to immediately put you in that class yet.) They are almost better off with a good draft pick.

Nets –  This really hurts a team built to win THIS year.

VI.  Under The Tree?

Hopefully Santa Claus – Black or otherwise – will have put enough presents under the trees of those people who have begun patronizing the newly-opened and heavily-hyped online casinos legalized in New Jersey. Just in case these folks forgot to bet with their heads, and not over them…

VII.  Although It’s Been Said, Many Times, Many Ways…

Merry Christmas to you!  Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and remember the reason for the season.

Superman, The Grandy Man, and The Fat Man

The SEVEN
16 December 2013

I.  Kryptonite

Did the Indiana Pacers’ emerging superstar Paul George invest in a warehouse of Kryptonite?

Just asking…because of that vicious dunk in last year’s playoff series…as well as their game last week. If you missed it, down the stretch in last week’s Fan Night game on NBA-TV between the Pacers and the Miami Heat, the world’s number one player, LeBron James:

– missed a driving layup over Roy Hibbert
– got one blocked
– got called for traveling in the midst of another drive
– air balled a three-pointer.

Meanwhile, George was draining threes and leading the Pacers to a comeback victory.  Chapter 2 of their 2013-14 rivalry will be on Wednesday.

II.  New York, New York – or Nowhere to Go, Pt. 2

The greatest and, for my money, most entertaining NBA rivalry for most of the ’90s was between the Knicks and the Pacers, who met in several heated playoff series matchups during this time period.  Now the Pacers are back at the top of the conference while the Knicks are about a biscuit away from the bottom – and their cross-river rivals, the Nets, are just a game better off.

In my last column I laid out a scenario where embattled Knick coach Mike Woodson would not only keep his job, but win coach of the month honors after guiding the team to a 10-4 month. Halfway into that stretch of games, they are 4-3…probably not what they would have hoped for, but Woodson remains employed.  If they were really going to make any noise the season, they would go 6-1 in the remaining seven to make my prediction come true.

It’s funny how one or two wins by either of these teams gets the NYC media ready to crown them…until they lose another couple.

III.  West Side Story

Recently the Portland Trail Blazers’ asked, via Twitter:

Is it too late to join the Eastern Conference?  Asking for a friend.

You gotta believe there are a bunch of teams in the West (such as the Kobe Bryant-returned Lakers) that would apply for a temporary transfer if they actually could. As of this writing, 11 of the 15 Western Conference teams are at or over the .500 mark, whereas only 3 of the 15 Eastern Conference teams are…which brings to mind the concept of tanking, the idea that certain general managers have intentionally put together teams that would be unable to compete for a playoff spot in order to be in the position to draft some of the outstanding collegiate players projected to be available next spring.

When you look at the records of the teams in the Eastern Conference, you are forced to come to this conclusion:  You can’t even try to tank in the East.  The roster you thought unable to compete might win the Atlantic Division.

IV.  Deion’s Safe At Home

First, congratulations to “Famous” Jameis Winston, the winner of the 2013 Heisman Trophy!  

Now…I seriously doubt anyone will ever accomplish the feat that Deion Sanders did back in the day, hitting a home run for the Yankees and returning a punt for a touchdown for the Atlanta Falcons within the same week.  Contracts and organizations would probably fail to allow that nowadays…but that said, I saw a pinpoint throw Jameis made from right field in a Florida State baseball game to throw out a runner at third base, and I’m led to think perhaps he ought think about that game with the little ball.  And perhaps that should also go for Russell Wilson, whose MLB rights (along with Winston’s) are held by the Texas Rangers.

I know Wilson is a star NFL quarterback who many feel will be playing in the last game of this season, and Winston just won the Heisman, but if they happened to check out the transactions column in their local papers during the last few weeks, they would have seen that the New York Mets have signed the 40-year-old pitcher Bartolo Colon to a two-year deal.  This after losing the soon to be 42-year-old LaTroy Hawkins via free agency to the Colorado Rockies.

There is a great possibility that neither Wilson nor Winston will be playing pro football at the ages of 40 or 42.  And yes, there is no guarantee that they would remain in MLB to that age…but certainly one’s baseball career is less likely to end via injury at an early age.

V.  The Grandy Man

After trashing them repeatedly in this space, I must congratulate the Mets for their signing of outfielder Curtis Granderson, a free agent that the Yankees chose not to pursue in terms of re-signing.  I know they were upset because Curtis has struck out a lot during the past few seasons, but perhaps they forgot that he led the American League in homers during 2011 and 2012.  Now that Robinson Cano has gone cross country, some of those 80-some odd homers might have come in handy.  Anyway, kudos to the Mets for trying to get back to relevant. 

VI.  Just What The Doctor Ordered

After all the insane talk of heads rolling, incompetency, impeachment, and repeal of the Affordable Care Act…also known as Obamacare…the enrollment numbers are way up now – and in the states with the state-administered “exchanges,” the numbers are through the roof.

Obamacare – which Republicans hate…although it is quite similar to the plan in Massachusetts successfullyimplemented by their own 2012 presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney – is here to stay.  So the right-wingers will have to find something else to latch onto…

VII.  Santa Claus

Leave it to the crew on the FOX air to find something…host Megyn Kelly’s assertion that Santa Claus is definitely white.  I would suggest that had Ms. Kelly gone to see Tyler Perry’s just-released “A Madea Christmas,” she might have come to a different conclusion.

Then again, Madea is a fictional character.

It Is Better To Give Than Receive

The SEVEN
4 December 2013

I.  Take It Off…Take It All Off

If you happen to be a friend of Jacoby Ellsbury, you may want to give him a razor this holiday season, something the bearded Red Sox center fielder will not re-gift after signing a free-agent deal with the no facial hair-allowed New York Yankees. Then again, if you’re not a friend of his, no worries; the tabloid-dubbed “Ellsbury Dough Boy” will likely be able to afford one on his own as the checks come in from his 7-year, $153 million dollar deal.

I would imagine that this news went over like coal in the stocking for Brett Gardner, the incumbent Yankee starting center fielder who had just finally cracked the starting lineup for good this season.

II.  Chicago Fire

For fans of the NBA and great basketball – and, of course, the Chicago Bulls – it is tragic that Derrick Rose is out for the season yet again.  One can only hope that come next season Rose will be able to resume his great career strengthened and injury-free for years to come.

Unfortunately the Bulls, still an outstanding defensive team, have even more of a fire to put out than they would have had they retained the services of Nate Robinson, who performed such a large role in Rose’s absence last season. Super Nate may be the most under-appreciated player in the game, a fact that was never more on display than on the night of January 1st, 2010 when, as a member of the New York Knicks, he came off the bench (to which the then-coach Mike D’Antoni had him inexplicably glued for fourteen games) to score 41 points and lead his team to victory.

III.  Are You Kidding?

Nothing against the Portland Trail Blazers, a team with several talented players that may have not reached the levels that some expected the past few years, but how many people would have thought that after approximately 20% of the season, Robin Lopez’s team would be playing much better than that of his twin Brook?  Because of their 5-13 start, Brook’s Nets are taking major hits in the media, there was turmoil on the bench between head coach Jason Kidd and now-demoted lead assistant coach Lawrence Frank, and the players are uncertain as to how to pull it together. 

Funny what a difference a few weeks can make…I would almost bet that half of the folks who are trashing the Nets now may have been calling Bill de Blasio on election night to ask where in Brooklyn the championship parade would be held.

IV.  Nowhere To Go But Up

Some of those same people snickered at James Dolan’s pre-season declaration that the Knicks were championship-team material – but no one expected them to be sporting the worst record in the league on Thursday – which they could be by the time they meet the Nets in the Battle for the Bottom.

This said, their December schedule may be the Christmas present coach Mike Woodson needs:

12/5 – @Nets
12/6 – Orlando (6-12)
12/8 – Boston (8-12)
12/10 – @ Cleveland (5-12)
12/11 – Chicago (7-9, still reeling from loss of Rose)
12/13 – @ Boston
12/14 – Atlanta (9-10)
12/16 – Washington (9-9)
12/18 – @ Milwaukee (3-14)
12/21 – Memphis
12/23 – @ Orlando
12/25 – OKC (13-3)
12/27 – Toronto (6-11)
12/28 – @ Toronto

Fourteen games – of which it is not inconceivable for them to win ten, losing only at Toronto and Boston, and at home to Memphis and OKC.  Such a performance this month would catapult them – with a 13-17 record – back into the thick of Eastern Conference competition, and might earn Woodson a coach of the month trophy…or at least save his job. 

V.  Get Well, Derrick

To anyone wishing or planning to send a get well card to Derrick Rose, take heart; by virtue of being an NBA player, and by virtue of the fact that Bulls management has a stake in getting him back on the court as soon as possible, Rose has access to the best medical care money can buy.  If he did not have that kind of access to care, Bulls fans especially would complain about the length of time his return is taking, and wonder why he did not get better treatment.  

Why, then, is it not imperative for everyone – not just superstar hoopsters – to have that type of access to care?  Why are the “Foxes” and (Republican/Tea Party) Friends so almost gleeful at the less-than perfect Obamacare website…which has, by most indication, been largely rebooted and repaired?  Could it be that anything to tarnish and bring down this President – even if it harms the country – is good in their eyes?

VI.  It’s Over

No, because racism ended.  At least according to a tweet from the Republican National Committee:

 – Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in ending racism.

After getting slammed on Twitter with a hashtag of #racismendedwhen generating some hilarious responses, the RNC walked it back to “her role in fighting to end racism.” Still, the first sentiment is that which they would have you believe – and if that is the case, then no, calling Obama un-American, demanding his birth certificate a million times, and every other ludicrous thing they have done since January 20th, 2009 (when Republican leaders met and strategized on how to obstruct everything Obama attempted to do) were not racist at all.

VII.  Giving Tuesday

First there was Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday.  Now they have been joined by Giving Tuesday, which was yesterday.

In the spirit of giving, here are a few worthy organizations to give a little something to during this holiday season:

Mt. Pleasant Christian Academy International, New York, New York.
A small private school with a great record of sending underprivileged youth to colleges and universities. 

Harlem School of the Arts, New York, New York.
A beacon of light in cultural education in the Harlem community for 50 years.

Food for Friends, Rahway, NJ.
Don’t get it twisted…the stock market is higher than ever under President Obama (that’s right, Rush/Ted Cruz/Hannity), but some of our neighbors are still hungry and homeless.