Et tu, Billups?

Chauncey, Chauncey, Chauncey.  Well if anyone was going to have a flukishly good game to sink the Nuggets at home, I guess I’m glad it was him.  For the season, Billups is averaging 16 points per game on 36% shooting.  Last night, he scored 32 on 55% shooting.  He even went 50% (6/12) from three-point land.  Crazy game.  Good for him.  But I hope the law of averages catches him on Thursday.

Other thoughts on last night’s game:

The NBA still needs to address the flopping problem.  Both sides were in rare form, and several key calls appeared to be influenced by flopping defenders.  The rules say that flopping can be called as a technical foul, and since 2008 the league can fine players for flopping.  But, I can’t remember the last time I saw the foul called, and if anyone has actually been fined for this, please put in a call to Sergey Brin.  Google is apparently the last to know.  I have to believe David Stern is OK with the trend, since the rules exist but are never enforced.  Until the league actually does something, there will continue to be no disincentive for a player who has been beaten or on a mismatch to try a flop.  Nothing against the players. It’s pro sports; if the ref doesn’t call it, you take advantage of it.  Teach sportsmanship in high school; NBA players are there to put (lots of) bread on their (large, gold plated) tables.

I’ve tweeted on this other topic, but the Denver Nuggets Dancers are a few $1 bills away from becoming pole dancers.  Far be it from me to complain about their ever-shrinking wardrobe.  You go, girls.  But their style of dancing has passed from the realm of family-friendly entertainment and into the area of Shotgun Willie’s.  I can appreciate an attractive woman just as much as the next guy, but a team of barely clad bumpers-and-grinders just made me embarrassed for the fans with small kids.  If at the next game, they come out on the floor to reenact a soapy, shower scene, I won’t be totally surprised.  Tim Tebow was courtside for the game, and I could see why he stepped away before the Dancers started their half time show.

The Nuggets have a big week to start a huge month.  Before they go to bed on Saturday, they will play the Clippers, Memphis and Portland on the road.  Plus they get to play the Lakers, although that one is at home.  Maybe the Kobe will be distracted by the Nuggets Dancers.

Thoughts on Paterno

I just wanted to get out a couple of thoughts on the Joe Paterno situation.  The good thing about not having a real writing job is that I don’t have a real editor breathing down my neck for a timely article.  I have the luxury of taking my time to let things percolate.

I’ve thought about things and at the end to the day, I feel indescribably sad for Paterno.  Of course I sympathize for the victims of the abuse that occurred, but I’m focusing on Joe Paterno here, not Jerry Sandusky and his crimes. (Another benefit of not having a real job is that I can say crimes and not “alleged crimes”.  He’s guilty.  See, I can say that too.)  I have no relationship with the victims, and the legal protections in place will prevent me from ever knowing anything about them.  I’m left to imagine their situation, and quite frankly I don’t want to.

But as a sports fan, I did have a relationship with Joe Paterno.  Paterno became the head coach at one of our country’s most storied college sports programs years before I was even born.  Since I was old enough to read a sports page, he’s been there.   And trust me, I’ve read a lot of sports pages over the years.

But beyond that, when you read more about his story, he lived an amazing life.  The number of young men he inspired to do better in their own lives is too many to count.  The dedication he had to helping others help themselves, while done in private during his life, are finally being revealed after his death.  The model program he led showed us all that we didn’t need to prostitute our values to have success in sports.  Yet the tragic consequences of a series of bad decisions in his 80s, has led to a downfall that is heart wrenching.

Does anyone really think that if informed of the full extent of Sandusky’s behavior Paterno would have leaned back and thought, “well everyone needs a hobby”, or “he may be a sick man, but he’s one heck of a defensive coordinator”?  A look at Paterno’s track record makes that impossible to believe.  Yes, his lack of action is appalling.  Yes, we all believe we would have done something different.  Yes, Jerry Sandusky needs to spend some time in a prison general population so he gets his due.  But think about Paterno.  A legacy of dedication to excellence, a legacy of leadership, a legacy of doing the right thing are tarnished because of a brief period in his 85-year life when he didn’t do the right thing.

But here’s the part that stands out to me.  I’m sure over time, hard feelings toward Paterno will soften.  Long after Sandusky is dealt with, society will once again remember Joe Paterno the way he should be remembered.  But Paterno will never know it.  Just a few weeks after being unceremoniously kicked out of Penn State, he took his final breaths and fell victim to lung cancer.  I have heard that it’s not uncommon for a person of advanced aged to pass away soon after their spouse has died.  I have a fear this is what happened to Paterno.  His life’s work, his opus at Penn State, died in a public furor more appropriately aimed at Jerry Sandusky.  Too soon thereafter, Paterno died too.  I just hope his last thoughts were of a pleasant nature.  But I fear it may have been, “I led, I inspired, I shaped.  I set a good example, I was a good husband and a good father.  Yet, I leave today as a pariah.”  That’s why I feel so sad.

Running of the Bull

At the risk of ruining my reputation as a fact and numbers driven being, I will make this public admission.  I love the New York Post.  Wonder why?  First, go www.cnn.com, and let me know what you see. Actually, I’ll save you the time.  It’s full of headlines that can be translated to read “Newt Gingrich Has A Decent Shot At Being Your Next President” or “If You Thought Auschwitz Sounded Bad, Wait Until You Hear About  The World You’re Leaving For Your Kids”.   Now, check out www.nypost.com.  I’ll wait…

See?  Today the headline is “Demi’s ‘Bull’ Binge: Actress Guzzled Gallons of Energy Drink Before Collapse: Report”.  (I love that they finished with the “Report”, by the way.  Nice touch.  Very breaking newsy.)  But The Post is not your ordinary tabloid.  Sure the lead is about a plasticized actress who pounds energy drinks, but keep this in mind.  They have a separate section (Page Six) that is dedicated to updates on entertainment and celebrities.  That means that the editors at the Post see the Demi story as actual news.  What fun!

So go ahead and depress yourself with CNN or Fox News telling you how much the worlds sucks, the country sucks, the democrats or republicans suck, etc.  In fact the only good news you’ll find over there is that cell phones are slowly killing us so we’ll all die of brain tumors before the world starts to totally suck.  Me?  I’ll stick to the NY Post.  The day’s world events are buried in there somewhere, so if you want a dose of reality you got it.  But nothing cheers you up more than while your life may be in shambles, at least you are not an aging starlet with a very public addition to soft drinks.  Thank you NY Post.  I feel better already.

Unexpected NBA

Don’t stop reading this if you are not an NBA fan.  I’m not either.  I don’t like hip-hop, I can’t understand tattoos, and 20 year-old millionaires make me queasy.  But if you haven’t had the chance to watch the Denver Nuggets play a game this season, you need to.

As background for the uninitiated, for the last 7 years Denver was a dangerous but underachieving team led by superstar scorer Carmelo Anthony.  Last season, Anthony expressed a preference to move to a larger market after his contract expired, so the Nuggets traded him to the NY Knicks in return for a cache of players and future draft picks.  The trade left the Nuggets young and without a marquee player.  But since that trade, the team has ripped off the third best record in the entire league.

There is no other way to put it.  They are a bundle of fun to watch.  Their lack of an anointed scorer means lots of sharing.  It’s not unheard of for the team to have 5 different leading scorers in 5 consecutive games.  Ironically, I hate today’s NBA because of the superstar trend.  Too many times a  team will set up at half court so their “Carmelo” can get the ball and work a one-on-one play against his man.  Yawn.  Not the Nuggets.  The ball moves constantly.  But even with the distributed contributions, they are the top scoring team in the league.  The only other team even close to them is the superstar-laden Miami Heat, who by the way were the runaway favorites to win the title entering the season.

The team is also very young and ridiculously deep.  Where other teams run opportunistically, the Nuggets leverage their youth and run constantly.  I almost feel bad for teams on the dirty end of a back-to-back when they have to survive the 4th quarter in Denver.  I strongly suspect the Nuggets lead the league in vomiting by opponents.  And their depth gives them furious rotations of fresh and hungry players.  Coach George Karl has to be the envy of other coaches in this regard.  Where players on other teams elect to defer defense until the post season, the Denver players can’t afford that luxury.  The implied message from Karl is clear, “You are all young, and you need playing time to build your résumés.  So, I strongly advise you to play your ass off every time you get in the game.  If you don’t, there is a bench full of guys just like you who will gladly take your minutes.  And then you can watch until one of them decides to take a shift off.”  When the subs come in, it’s a madhouse of energy.

I was worried that the team was building its success on fast passing and hot outside shooting.  If that is the case, there is always the risk that a cold night from outside can bury you.  Last night, however, they dominated inside, scoring over 90 points in the paint.  If you’re wondering how good that is, it set a new NBA record.

There is also a lot of speculation that while the Nuggets are a good regular season team, their lack of a “go to” scorer will hurt them in the post-season when defenses tighten up and points are harder to come by.  A superstar scorer can pound the defense until he scores, is fouled or loosens up the defense for another player.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

In the meantime, carve out some time and watch this team.  It’s entirely possible that the no-star, double point guard Nuggets are just an experiment that gets abandoned next off-season.  In case that happens, don’t squander your chance to watch an NBA you never expected.

Estate Sale

I went to one of the emotionally oddest events of my life today.  It was an estate sale, and I’m not sure if it was depressing, scary or motivational.  Perhaps my emotions were heightened by the fact that I know a member of the family.  Still, it was a real reminder for me to focus on what’s important in life.  What will be my legacy?  There are those out there, and we all know them, whose priority it is to amass personal possessions.  Before you jump to conclusions, please keep in mind I’m not some bleeding heart lefty; if you got the dollars by all means spend them.  I fact, I encourage you to spend obscene sums on my writing.  But, I hope you have something else that provides value and fulfillment in your life.  That glass bowl that you and your wife picked up on a trip to Europe years ago?  The one you painstakingly hand carried on the plane because you didn’t trust packing it in your luggage?  It really only has value because you were in Europe and your wife was with you.  Regardless of what you paid, it’s the memories that make it seem so precious.  Remember that an estate sale typically happens after the family has removed the things they want to retain, so all that likely remains are the items that were of significance to no one but the deceased.  Once you pass, that bowl from Europe, the one you showed off at New Year’s Eve 1981 and that served as the ice breaker about your nightmare taxi story in Prague, sits on a table at your estate sale with an orange tag that reads “$7”, while people you never met comment on how tacky your taste was.

It was truly sad to see lives of people I tangentially knew picked over like a roadside yard sale.  So many of the memories that had been built up over decades in that home were gone, and all that remained were the bed in which they slept, the kitchen table at which they dined, and the martini glasses they pulled out for only special occasions.  There was a time when the bed was the bed someone made love in during that first night in their new house.  There was a time when the kitchen table was the place someone found out their oldest son was engaged.  And there was a time when the martini glasses were the glasses someone used to toast a new law school graduate.  This morning, the bed was just squeaky and in need of a new mattress, the kitchen table doesn’t go with anyone else’s décor, and the martini glasses are praying for a good home that will keep them unbroken for at least a year.  But amidst all those dark thoughts, it was a warning and a sign for me.  Don’t get distracted by the baubles along the road.  You can have fun with them, and please enjoy your one trip on this Earth.  But, stay focused.  Remember always to keep an eye on where your journey is going.

Wow, they actually won.

Q: How many hookers was Tim Tebow caught with after winning the Steelers game?

A:  None.  Yet another reason he does not belong in today’s NFL.

Q: How many hookers was Tim Tebow caught with after winning the Steelers game?

A:  None.  He runs far too well to be caught.

Q: How many hookers was Tim Tebow caught with after winning the Steelers game?

A:   Just one, but he was only teaching the underprivileged youth how to shower.

Q: How many hookers was Tim Tebow caught with after winning the Steelers game?

A:  Who cares, he just won a playoff game.  Go to town, son!

I am a man in torment

I am a man in torment.  I liken my state to the psychotic who suddenly realizes the friends he’s had for years are not real.  My eyes have seen, and they have been validated by my sense of hearing, smell, and touch.  But what I’ve seen, heard, smelled and touched, may not exist.  Everything I know to be right is turning out to be wrong.  Most challenging of all, I find myself questioning my most core values and staunchly held beliefs.  My faith is wavering.

Of course by now you can tell I am a Denver Broncos fan, and I am speaking of the situation involving Tim Tebow.  I watched pre-season just like everyone else.  And like most people, I saw a player who was confused, poorly trained, and wholly absent of the most fundamental of skills.  When the Denver coaches made the change from Kyle Orton, I was ecstatic.  Finally, we could put the quarterback controversy to rest, while pleasantly setting ourselves up to draft the greatest college prospect since our own John Elway.  Then the team started winning, and my psychosis started.  Tebow’s play was flawed, to put it mildly, but the wins kept coming.  I should have been happy for our beloved Broncos, yet I found myself embarrassed and even angered by the success.  I saw poor performances rewarded with victory, and we moved hopelessly out of position for the draft.  I was sure we didn’t have a sustainable answer at quarterback, but from what seemed to be a massive dearth of talent emerged a division lead.

The last three weeks of the season where a welcome respite for me.  Although I had to face the truth that our quarterback situation would destine the team to several more years of mediocrity, at least I could be sure the delusions about Tebow were gone.   But today, I wonder if the delusions were my own, and my reality is once again a blur.  The team won a playoff game, and Tim Tebow threw for more passing yards against the top defense in the league than any other quarterback this year.  I try to pin my senses to the fact that it was done on only ten completions, but I remember the win and my stupor begins again.  I am no longer unable to function.  When I should be reading up on the 2013 quarterback draft class, I find my attention uncontrollably drawn to web sites that sell jerseys with the number 15 on them.

Next week’s game against the Patriots may be my only remaining hope.  Messrs. Brady and Belichick can break me from this endless night that consumes my consciousness.  Yet in that salvation, I’m rooting for my team, my Broncos, to lose a second round playoff game.  The conflict burns at my soul.  Someone please help me before I go insane.