Winning and Misery: A Love Story

LaBron

What’s most interesting about LBJ going to the Lakers is that it simply feels like another vacation for the dude. He went to Miami for four years and then came home to Cleveland. Now he’s going to the other coast for another four years, and is there any doubt he resigns with the Cavaliers to finish out his career? Unless, that is, James plans on playing as long as Tom Brady- who plans on playing until he’s forty five . . . or until someone discovers that he is, in fact, a cyborg. Whichever comes first.

Personally, I’m thankful James didn’t drag “Decision 3” out . . because the World Cup is way more interesting news, even if most sports media here in the states ain’t shutting off the LBJ spigot till it runs dry. So we’ll get more devotionals to the King and more questions as to who might come join his posse. And make no mistake, he ain’t beating the Warriors unless he gets him some deputies . . not even close.

Hopefully all that baller business happens sooner than later, because I want me some open highway for the beautiful game of futbol. Unlike the NBA off-season gossip pages that James books passage on every four years, soccer’s four year itch is actually filled with live action; and if you ain’t been paying attention to this particular World Cup, I am sorry.

I ain’t throwing shade at us state side simpletons for possessing a drive-thru attention span when it comes to sports. After all, we are what we eat. And most sports outlets behave like hired lemmings in that they follow one story after the next over the cliff, regardless of its verity or relevance.

I hope LaBron 2K works if only because I still root for Magic Johnson, even now. And because the Lakers haven’t been likable since forever. And because I believes James paid his debt in full to Cleveland when he brought them a title. Let’s please not inject ‘loyalty’ into this when it comes to a free agent athlete choosing his work place. Owners and front office peeps don’t make bank based on being loyal, and neither should the players.

I can see the way James is playing this thing. He figures his great white whale- the Warriors- stands in the way of his title legacy either way; so by moving into their conference, he doesn’t have to worry about losing to them in the finals again. Plus, his presence puts LA in ‘win now’ mode, which means that Magic will do everything in his power to get his new stud a second, and maybe even third star. If that happens, LBJ doesn’t believe Boston, or any other team in the East, can beat him so long as he gets past Golden State.

This is a Michael Corleone move for James. He’s moving the family out West while he still has the clout whilst looking at laying down a monolithic paradigm for next gen superstars. James has always been a vocal presence and a civic minded individual, so what better spot to lay down his ascension to future NBA owner than in the land where power brokers play?

In the present, all James has to do is resurrect some agreeable facsimile of the Showtime Lakers- a team that was born inside my favorite decade- the ’80’s. Unless of course he gets his sidekicks. Because in that case . . expectations go bling.

Showtime Lakers

The Showtime Lakers were Magic and Kareem, James Worthy and Byron Scott and lemme put it this way: If Cirque du Soleil was a basketball team? They would’ve been the Showtime Lakers. And while I patterned my set shot after Worthy, he wasn’t the reason I slicked back my hair. Pat Riley was the coolest cat in the room and I fell in love with the way he coached up a starting five. Riles was style and substance. With his Armani suits and slicked back hair, he was the living breathing embodiment of a Hollywood ad campaign.

And those Lakers teams led by Riley are the reason I fell in love with the Association in the first place. They were a mythological advancement for a league they had helped save- along with the Boston Celtics- years earlier. Pat Riley put it best when he said it was an all or nothing proposition when you play for a star laden Lakers club. “There’s winning and there’s misery,”. All or nothing. Hang a title banner or get out of town. I’m thinking if Riley were to offer any advice to LeBron in the event he builds an LA ‘superteam’, it would be short and sweet.

You better fucking win it.

Beware the Lies of March (Madness)

deflated basketball

Don’t worry, this isn’t a whiny, frothing rant on the shitty state of the sports world. No . . this is a whiny, frothy rant on the shitty state of college basketball.

I used to be a fan of college ball back in the day. Back when players stayed in school all four years. Back when conferences made sense. Back when fundamentals mattered more than gangster posing and preening and three pointers and slam dunk highlights.

This isn’t to say that players shouldn’t make the jump to the NBA if they possess the skills. Hey, if you can make baller money . . go do it! But this is to say that the pillars of the sport- Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Mike Krzyzewski- have failed their young charges. Miserably. Not the one tenth of one percent who end up playing at the next level. They have failed the ones who won’t. But since those kids aren’t where the money’s at, no prob.

Rail on all you want about John Calipari being shameless. Damn the basketball factory he’s running at Kentucky, but yanno what? He is the only one who ain’t lying. And most of his starting lineup actually will get drafted by an NBA team. So there’s that.  See, all the rest of these coaches love Calipari, because he’s the punching bag for their transgressions.

This didn’t just happen overnight, mind you. It happened over decades and decades, as the money got bigger and the priorities of these institutions of higher learning became increasingly narrow and subversive. How else to explain how it is that many taxpayer funded schools wantonly recruit athletes with rap sheets . . recruit athletes from the other side of the world . . hire coaches in order to ‘bribe’ recruits into playing for them.

Why doesn’t someone ask Jim Boeheim how he got out from under the Bernie Fine scandal? Why doesn’t someone ask Jim Calhoun how, if he loved his kids so much, he could leave them and his school holding the bag when he walked away from a litany of transgressions, unscathed? Why won’t someone ask Pimp Daddy Rick Pitino what he’s smoking when he boasts of always having run clean programs? And why in the blessed fuck doesn’t someone ask Michigan State coach Tom Izzo to be real, or at least try? When Izzo says he won’t answer any non-basketball related questions in fairness to his players, why doesn’t someone ask about the women and the girls? Was it fair to them? Every single fucking question he is asked should be about the women and the girls.

And now we get “March Madness”- the most over hyped production since Waterworld, and every bit as anti-climactic. How else to explain a tournament where every single ‘upset’ is a subjective enterprise? I mean, a committee seeds the teams, which is overwhelmingly subjective. And then, when a nine seed beats an eight seed, everyone screams UPSET!. The truth of the matter is there are very few true ‘upsets’ in the tournament, yet we are led to believe it happens all the time and every year. It’s nonsense, perpetuated by networks who buy the rights to televise this tournament for a shitload of money, after which they lord over the NCAA. The tail wags the dog, and the tail is big money that leads to more corruption, which leads to the next scandal. After which the NCAA will get tough by taking wins away from a school, titles too. But it won’t change a fucking thing, because the system is built for cheating.

I know exactly one thing about this year’s tournament. My son’s school (Penn) is slotted as the sixteenth seed in some regional . . somewhere . . Whoville or Buttfuckswana who knows? What I do know is that these kids- all of ’em- will be pulled out of the classroom to go play tournament basketball for days, maybe even weeks at a time. Not that the high profile athletes have to worry themselves with missed class time, unless they want to be students. The academics are optional for too many of these kids, and the sad fact is that too few of these kids will make an NBA roster, so yanno . . a college education is kind of important.

The Penn Quakers will be playing the number one seed Kansas Jayhawks. The game will most likely be over before halftime, and Kansas will probably make another title run because they’re a minor league basketball team whose integrity as an academic institution now runs a distant second to being a basketball power, since that’s where the money is.

The Penn kids will be just fine, and who knows . . maybe a few of them will even be representing the Kansas kids before too long. Either as player/agents or in a court of law. Harsh, sure. True? Absofuckinglutely.

I’ll fill out a bracket in which I guess my ass off, but I will not watch a minute of the tournament. Because college basketball doesn’t need me, they already have their money.

Maybe it was always going to be this way. Maybe college basketball was destined to be a runaway train whose allegiance to the almighty dollar over every single other thing was gonna happen regardless. Maybe it was always destined to crash and burn in the same way Bobby Knight’s coaching career did, after one too many bad grandpa acts. Come to think of it, Knight is symbolic of college basketball- a high profile bully whose boorishness was overlooked because winning games mattered most. Knight was the literal bottom to a bottom line that honors winning games over all else. I wish Bobby Knight would’ve tried his act on the wrong person, just once. Because he didn’t need kudos and applause. What he needed was a good ass kicking.

So too, does his sport.