meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow” Meschery's Musings of Sports, Literature, and Life Meschery's Musings on Sports, Literature and Life

What my musings are all about...

Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.

The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.

The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Start of the NBA Playoff


 Deep condolences to Pop andhis family upon the death of his wife.

Per my last blog, the Warriors were not ready for the playoffs. After 3 games against the San Antonio Spurs in which they are up 3 to zip, I amend my opinion to the Warriors being ALMOST ready for the playoffs. The first two wins were convincing. The third in San Antonio less so, but predictable for a do-or-die game for the Spurs. The Warriors need a healthy Stephon Curry. I hesitate to say, to go "all the way," since the Dubs still have KD, Klay, Green, Livingston, and Igudala. How about Igudala? Like a fine wine, he improves with aging. Why this vintage is best tasted in the playoffs continues to be one of the mysteries in sports. There are simply some guys who flick the switch to high gear in clutch time. I'm just guessing, but I'd bet the stats would prove that Igudala ranks in the top ten category of NBA players to greatly improve over-all performance during the playoffs. Anyone care to bet?.

Here is my take on the pitiful Twolves performances so far. Two of their star key players, Andrew Wiggins (a little too cool breeze for my taste) and Karl Anthony Towns, who from now on I will refer to as Bambi, are soft as Pampers on D. So where does that leave the Twolves if two key guys are soft on defense? Up crap creek. Aha, thus the Pampers simile. I thought coach Coach Thibodeau was supposed to be a defense guru. Butler and Gibson are the only two players that get down and dirty. It's playoff time: tough is defined by a new level of intensity. You embrace it, or you "go fishing."

The Rockets are tough, no doubt. They stretch the floor with their three point shooters. Harden is a God awful problem to defend, but I'd sure as hell take my chances of steering him to his right, not that he wouldn't make a few anyway. In my opinion there are two keys to beating the Rockets: contain Chris Paul and match up with Capella. Of the two, against the Warriors, Capella represents the greatest danger. 

OKC, even with its three supers, still looks vulnerable to me. Not sure the Jazz can pull it off, but the last game won on Oklahoma's court says about a missing Thunder ingredient to go the distance. Dare I say Carmelo? Perhaps that's unfair, but I've never thought he had an ounce of basketball smarts. I don't believe Westbrook is a smart basketball player either. He plays by instinct, which is off the chart, but so does Carmelo. Ergo: two players that lack court sense the team relies on is one too many.

Donavon Mitchell and Ben Simpson should share Rookie of the Year Honors. Can Simpson learn to shoot the basketball beyond fifteen feet?

I'm picking the Raptors to win it all in the East with respect to LeBron who could still pull off a miracle; he's that good. I have grudgingly come to believe in the King as the King, perhaps the perfect basketball body I've ever seen, although head to head I'd still want Jordan over LeBron on my team.

76ers team is still a year away, but they sure look good in spurts. Question: Did Marco Belinelli dump when he was playing for the Kings in order to get out of the River City? On every other team he's played for, he shoots the three with great precision. On the Kings he looked like he needed glasses.

Got to love the Pacers. They probably can't beat the Cavs, but the team should keep with their core guys and build around them Oledipo is smart and talented. One good draft choice, one smart trade and they will be relevant for a  long time. Where could they use help? A few more three point shooters at the one and two. A back up stretch 3 for Bogan.

Next year for Boston, with Hayward back and another good draft season.

John Wall joins Westbrook and Carmelo as instinct-only players. 

Mark Jackson, coach of the Knicks? Big mistake.

I find myself repeating favorite sports poems. Here's one that is wonderfully simple and is all about the essence of the game.

First Love   by Carl Lindner

Before sixteen
I was fast
enough to fake
my shadow out
and I could read
every crack and ripple
in that catch of asphalt.
I owned
the slanted rim
knew
the dead spot in the backboard.

Always the ball

came back.

Every day I loved 
to sharpen
my shooting eye,
waiting 
for the touch.
Set shot, jump shot,
layup, hook - 
after a while
I could feel
the ball hunger-
ing to clear
the lip of the rim,
the two of us 
falling through.




Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Playoff and etc

My Warriors do not look ready for the playoffs. This observation has nothing to do with their pitiful performance against the Utah Jazz. (Has there ever been a famous jazz musician from Utah?). Yes, the Jazz are a hot team, playing superb defense, the part of the game that is at the heart of the Dubs' problem. On close inspection, over the games minus Steph Curry, I have observed (observation #2) that the defensive "string" that binds the players on the court into a cohesive whole, is missing a piece of the string. All it takes is one player to lose his connection, ie: turn his head. lose vision, give up an easy lane, and in today's game with its fast pace, whip-around and cross-court passing, the stress the mistake places on the other four players is enough to break the continuity. As a blogger, I suppose I could name the player or players that appear to me to be deficient defensively, but I'll leave it up to our terrific coaches to sort this problem out, but sort it out they must.

Footnote #1:: Steph Curry's contribution to the Warriors' defensive scheme, given my criticism, can not be overstated. If Steph comes back reasonably healthy, the problem might solve itself.

Footnote #2: The Warriors are The Dubs when all their players are healthy, going full bore. The absence of key players recently has taxed the D. But that does not mean that the players who step in, should not be on the "String."

Patrick Reed, this year's Masters Champ's family history is personal. The press should lay off. However, Reed's past college problems - alleged thievery and team disruption - as they are related to sport, does appear to be fair media game.

I was pulling for Rory, and then Ricky, but I was impressed with Reed's poise and mental toughness. Being  numero uno on the leader board for all four rounds was no small feat. He forced the rest of the pack to play catch-up. So, right on, Captain America! However, the stars and strips score card is a little much.

One last comment about Patrick Reed. His body type is an inspiration to all weekend golfers. You don't have to be in shape to play golf. Have a few tacos, a couple of beers, and go for it. Who needs muscles.   

Years ago in the dark prehistoric days of the NBA, a number of players from the Cincinnati Royals, however unlikely it may seem, used the game of golf to get in shape for the coming NBA season. I don't recall if the Big O participated, but Wayne Embry, Adrian Smith, Bucky Buckhorn and Tom Hawkins did. They played in sweats, carried their own clubs, and sprinted between golf shots from the tee to the putting green. Now that's golf.

Wayne Embry, by the way, at 6'10" and a mile  wide set the best screens in the history of the NBA. No stats to verify, but I still have bruises after all these years.

Just a reminder, I'm still pulling for a four point line in the NBA. Imagine the arc of  the ball, fans holding their collective breath.

This morning's sport page was devoted mostly to baseball. My eyes are glazing over.

Here's a humorous tribute to golf. You may use your imagination as to the symbolism of the word, "club" in the poem.

A Public Nuisance   by Reginald Arkell

You know the fellow,
I have no doubt,
Who stands and waggles
His club about.

Empires crumble
And crowns decay;
Kings and Communists
Pass away.

Dictators rise
And dictators fall -
But still he stands
Addressing his ball







Monday, April 2, 2018

Convergence of Two Stars and etc

It's Seattle 1969. The setting is the practice court of the Seattle Super Sonics. Shooting free-throws is a graduate of West Virginia University, point guard, Rod Thorn and under the basket, shagging balls is a young ballboy by the name of Ricky Welts. I'm there too off to the side. I could be watching and imagine I am, thinking that these two persons' lives will, many years from now, converge working in administration for the NBA League Office. And, because, I am a seer, I recognize that the convergence will lead both of them to be inducted into the 2018 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Seer I was not. Back then, to guess that these two men would be inducted into the HOF would have been a long shot equivalent to winning the Super Lotto. Rod probably should have gone into coaching since he had a fine basketball mind instead of sports management, or into professional poker. Rick should have become the Governor of the State of Washington instead of an NBA executive whose development of NBA Properties earned him the League's undying gratitude. Now here they are, joining another Sonic, Lenny Wilkens in the Hall of Fame. Congratulations and bravo!

ETC:

I can't see Michigan beating Villanova. But I'm pulling for the Wolverines and a first NCAA championship for Coach Beilein. I'm addicted to underdogs.

Speaking of Underdogs, hats off to Ian Poulter for his Houston win and a seat at the Masters. The Brit  would not have made it into the Masters without this win. Clutch. 

I don't think I've ever seen Clutch like the two last second game winning jumpers in the Final Four like the ones shot by Arike Ogunbowale. These were not cast up prayers, but beautifully executed shots, with perfect form and great rotation. Drilled. Ice. Arika's dad is from the West African country of Nigeria, an immigrant. A proud immigrant. Immigrants and the children of immigrants have done a lot for this country. I think it's safe to say that the United States is a country of Immigrants. Take that, trump!

Got to love Kobe's support of women's basketball. How about running for a political office. State Senator, Governor, Kobe. You're beginning to look and sound very presidential. God knows we could use someone in the White House who speak Spanish and has an understanding of our brothers and sisters south of the boarder. I must admit in his early career I would never have lauded Kobe. But he's really grown up big time.

So happy to see Patrick McCaw was not injured seriously. Terrible fall. The way the game is high flying, it is even more important to remember the case of Maurice Stokes, undercut going in for a layup, who wound up paralyzed for life. We learn from history - or we fail.

With the season drawing to an end, I guess I'll take a shot at some predictions. Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors in the Finals of the West. Warriors win in seven. Even though my Dubs are struggling some, here's why. As tough a three point shooting team, the Rockets are, I still believe their D is suspect, especially over a seven game series. Cleveland wins the East. It's all about LeBron. My admiration for him has grown over the years, and it's not just because of him taking a stand against the nitwit in the White House, although that shows great smarts. With Curry back, the NBA Championship goes to the Dubs for a three out of four and the start of a Warrior era in Chase Arena in the City of Saint Francis.

Ron Adams, assistant coach of the Warriors and Defensive Guru sent me this poem. It's fabulous.

The Streets of Heaven by Philip Raisor

     Tell me how you die and I will tell you who you are,

                                              Otavio Paz

I stand in line. The woman ahead of me
blowzy-haired and angry, is told that grace
is the act of restraint and road-kill is not a sport.
She can choose to wait or test the judgment
at another entrance. I know that morality,
penance, a kind heart don't matter, nor the faith
I embraced or didn't, the people I saved I know
the key is where I land on the scale of commitment.

Earnhardt, Sr. died for the game, and got in.
Many ancient Egyptians buried juggling balls
with them, as though endless practice and craft
were their gifts to the next world they entered.
I ask if I can peek in, maybe stand on the edge
and look into the vast canyon of pit, arenas,
fields, fairways, pools, rings, tables, tracks,
courts, beaches, forests, mountains

where war is forbidden. Here is what I bring
for review, a nasty fastball, a runner-up ring,
individual initiative, a contrary attitude, the heart
of a poet. I bring a willingness to run like an outlaw,
honor the Greeks and Makahiki, invent new games,
practice past dusk, play on the second squad,
and keep score until I can get in the game
with eternity left on the clock. I hope it is enough. 





Saturday, March 17, 2018

Pro Immigrant and Proud and etc

Howrah for super lightweight contender, Jose Ramirez for being proud of his immigrant status and placing billboards to that effect all over California's central valley. Jose, you can put my name up there with yours. I am an immigrant. I came to the United States after the Second World War, a stateless kid of 8 years old. son of Russian immigrants. I spoke little English. At  that  time, the United States was being poisoned by Senator McCarthy's red scare, Russians were all being accused of being Communists. The atmosphere was much like President Trumps scurrilous attack upon Hispanic people. McCarthy and his cronies were calling people like me pinkos and traitors, the way Trump is calling Mexicans, murderers, rapists and terrorists. We're talking deja vue all over again. Right Yogi? We need all immigrants to the United States to follow Jose Ramirez's lead and put up their own billboards across this land.

If Donald Trump had been president in our country's 1950's he would have been subpoenaed by the House Un-American Committee for consorting with Vladimir Putin. Oh, I get it, the Republicans are telling the country by their silence that Putin is not a Communist and not an enemy of the Untied States. LIARS! How much more proof do you  need that Putin is a killer, a trigger pulling ex-KGB officer who has murdered his political opposition and is cyber-attacking us. Perhaps, the Republicans would like to move to Russia and become part of the Russian Duma. Huh, guys, is that what you'd prefer, to live in an oligarchy, ruled by Vladimir Putin? If so, I'll spring for airline tickets. Not only does your party whore for the NRA, you are now PIMPING FOR PUTIN.

What a coincidences, free agent Eric Reid, an outspoken African American 49er Safety and critic of police brutality and supporter of Colin Kaepernick, is not getting a lot of requests by other NFL teams for his services. Do we live in a Racist Society? You bet we do!

As much as it broke your March Madness brackets, (and mine) you have to love these upset teams: Buffalo, Marshall, and last night's 16th seeded UMBC fantasticals  pounding # 1 University of Virginia.

Hat's off too, to Virginia's coach, Tony Bennett, for his very adult, no whining comments after the game. There are lessons to be learned from hard losses. Sorry Coach Lombardi.

Bracketology     by Tom Meschery

    First, lay out the brackets neatly in front of you so there should be no wrinkles
that would inhibit a clear vision of each team, as there are many teams that are
unworthy and exist only to confuse you
    Start drinking coffee. Have more than one pencil because the choices are numerous
and the day is long, and outside the world is going on without you. Be sure the pencils
are sharpened to a fine point.
    Beware of the first round of sixty-four teams and the bubbles teams many of which
would have played in the NIT. One of those teams will surprise you and ruin
a bracket. At that moment you will consider suicide.
    Do not drink alcohol
    It is wise to listen to the experts, but eschew the ones with loud voices. Remember
da Vinci, "Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence."
    Do not believe in the teams closest to your heart: they will betray you. You will not
go wrong if you start with the highest seeded teams, but understand the theme of
Greek tragedy that we suffer most when the mighty fall.
    When you get to the Sweet Sixteen, do not be deceived by its adolescent name.
There is nothing sweet about defense and rebounding; therein lies the secret to
winning, but some will be seduced by offense. Do not follow their lead.
    It is wise to rise from your desk and exercise before picking the Elite Eight.
You might consider a gift for your wife as she has missed you and is weeping.
    Re-sharpen your pencils. Continue to avoid alcohol.
    With eight teams left, your confusion is mighty. At this point, it would be
worthwhile checking with the secretaries in your office who have probably
already picked the winners in the office pool according to the team's names
and colors. Never repeat this in public as you will called a misogynist. But
neither should you ignore their advice, for intuition often out performs logic.
    When you get down to the Final Four, consider prayer. God loves
basketball, but be aware that the Devil is in the details.
    Once you make your picks, do not go back and change any as it will insure
the ones you changed were the correct choices.
    Turn in your brackets boldly. Begin drinking alcohol. 

 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Dear Basketball

Dear Basketball, that won Kobe Bryant an Oscar, is a touching and poignant personal meditation of gratitude to a sport that meant so much to him. Any athlete who has embarked on the journey from childhood athlete to adult professional athlete couldn't help but be touched by Kobe's reflections. I cheered when he won. Together with the art, it was splendid.

Later, however, I worried that Kobe's writing is referred to as a poem. I've been teaching poetry, writing poetry and reading poetry for a long time. Dear Basketball seemed to me to fall short of my understanding of poetry. It lacked simile or metaphor or imagery. In the end, as touching as it was, it didn't provide an insight into something of the world, never understood before, which is, for me, one of the most important results of a good poem.

I fussed in my head over this. You have to understand I've been a poet now far longer than I ever was a basketball player, and longer than I was an English teacher. I take poetry as seriously as Steph Curry takes his jump-shot. When I read Hallmark cards, I gag. Most of the poetry I find on poetry websites, and hear at slams or open mics is simply a bunch of feelings, written vertically that have been expressed before to the point of cliche -  sentimental, overly emotional, and boring.

However, Dear Basketball, is not emotionally boring or sentimental. It is heartfelt. It is warmly understated. It made me feel good. Which still leaves me wondering if it is a poem. I'll have to fuss over this some more. In the meantime, instead of a poem to end my blog as I usually do, here are a number of definitions of poetry by some of the great poets of our time. You make up your own mind
about Dear Basketball.

"One demands two things of a poem. Firstly, it must be a well-made verbal object that does honor to the language in which it is written. Secondly, it must say something significant about a reality common to all, but perceived from a unique perspective. What the poet says has never been said before, but, once he [she] said it, his readers recognize its validity for themselves."
                                                              
                                                                 W.H. Auden


"If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry."

                                                                Emily Dickinson 

"Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful."

                                                                 Rita Dove