Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Tweener: A let-down, a spectacular quarter, and a spectacular revelation

On February 26 I wrote my inaugural Tweener column. It's that time of the week again - here are this week's quick hitters:


One of the most unfortunate feelings in life is being let down. I'm talking, major time let down, like your city's franchises repeatedly make the playoffs or have great seasons and can never win anything important (cough Denver cough).  This isn't some "I wanted to go for a bike ride and it rained" kind of crap. I really mean let down. As far as I can remember, this has happened to me 4 times in my life: (1) when I was flying home from abroad and passed out on the plane, causing me to miss my connection cause they made me go to the hospital, causing me to get stuck in London for 5 days because of snow (this was really not tight at all), (2) when I was 14 and had gotten the new version of Madden each Christmas for like 5 straight years and all I could think about on Christmas Eve was getting to play it for 14 hours the next day, and then "Santa" didn't bring it that year, (3) when I heard Emma Watson was newly single, only to have someone respond to my exuberance with "yeah did you hear how she said she's done dating American men?", and (4) when my parents didn't fill the pinata at my kindergarten birthday party with candy (this is actually the most anti-climactic moment of my life...but the good news is one of my classmates still managed to hit my uncle in the face while we were trying to break the empty-pinata, so that saves it a little bit).

Why did I say all of that?

Remember that time they photo-shopped Steve Nash's face onto
John Cena's body for the cover of this issue?

Because the Lakers let me down. The talent and potential was all there...and then nothing happened. They started poorly, and we waited. And then we waited some more. And then Kobe won them a couple of games. And then they got Pau back. And we waited some more. And they squeaked into the playoff conversation...

And then nothing. Injuries, lack of a coach cohesion...whatever you want to say...it was gone. They should have had everything: a floor general (Nash), shooting (Nash, Kobe), rebounding (Dwight, Pau, Ron Artest), interior passing (Pau), thunderous dunks (Dwight, Kobe), play-making (Kobe), one and a half bench players (Jamison, Meeks, and Blake each count as a half), end-of-the-bench players to celebrate (Sacre)...regardless of how much you like or hate the Lakers, it could have been incredible basketball. Perhaps even should have been. I feel like we've been deprived of something majestic.

Boom goes the dynamite

Speaking of majestic...remember that time I wrote that thing about how we shouldn't label Steph Curry an NBA superstar?



I mean, I still stand by that (for now), if only because I still believe that phrase is too broadly applied. But remember who else I mentioned? Lebron, Durant, CP3, and Timoney Dunker have all proven themselves (CP3 has been especially essential), Carmelo (a combined 55 field goals and free throw attempts on Sunday, but is one victory away from advancing), Wade (hurt), Pierce (about to be out), Westbrook (done), Griffin (decent, but good), and Nash/Kobe/Dwight (all out, injured, and dysfunctional).  Which lands Steph clearly in the top 5 in the playoffs so far, and more likely in the top 3 thus far. Winning is how we must judge super-stardom...and he is certainly doing that. His stats through 4 games: 27ppg, 10 assists/game, 4 rebounds/game, 3 steals/game, and 5 "wait EXCUSE ME" moments/game.

(My favorite one from game 4? His pump fake in the corner, one dribble to reset, launching of a three...and then turning around to avoid contact and NOT EVEN WATCHING IT GO IN. It's the first three in the video below. Oh and also the pull-up three he hit on a 1-on-4 fast break.)

Anyway, our resident Denver fan Paul put it this way: "I don't know how you design a defense when someone pulling up from 28 feet is a credible threat."  Me either. Or how you plan for all but two players on a team shooting over 50% through the first four games. I don't know. But it has been and hopefully will continue be awesome to watch:


"Courage. What makes a King out of a slave? Courage.
What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage.
What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.
What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Courage.
What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Courage.
What makes the Hottentot so hot?
What puts the "ape" in ape-ricot?
Whatta they got that I ain't got?"

One of my favorite speeches from a movie. And I was reminded of it yesterday as NBA center Jason Collins officially "came out," and in doing so he became the first active athlete in a major American sport to do so. And that, my friends, takes courage. As the political junkie of this blog, I'll spare you how excited and encouraged I am that this happened.  What is even more encouraging is the out-pouring of support from current players, former players, politicians, and even the NBA itself.  The "gay-rights" movement, in my mind, is no longer a movement. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of progress still to be made on all sorts of fronts. But the movement, the people involved, and those coming out have all gone mainstream. It is a part of who we are, just as it is a part of who they are. And I could not be more proud to say that.

But, just so I don't leave this on a heavy note, here are my favorite responses to Collins' declaration:

"I think it's more surprising that Jason Collins openly plays for the Washington Wizards." - Ex Replacement Refs, @ObliviousNFLref on Twitter.

"Thank goodness Jason Collins has come out - I was afraid we were going to have to listen to Tebow-mania crap all day." - Everyone Someone on Twitter...whom I can't remember and that I can't find again.

And then there's this from Metta World Peace, whose new name I will use because he has completely earned it with these comments (follow this link to see the picture):

"Whether it's a free country or not, you should be free to act as you want to do as long as it's not violent. No matter what it is. I came here in a Cookie Monster shirt because I wanted to, and I was going to wear the pants. But I thought you guys were going to judge me. I was going to wear the hat too. But I thought you guys would judge me. I didn't want Mitch [Kupchak] to judge me. So that's why I didn't wear the hats and the pants. But I should've wore it. You should be free to do and act how you want to act."

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