Tuesday, October 17, 2017

2017-2018 NBA Predictions

Check out this basketball book ranking the top ten NBA players in three different ways.

Just missed

Out in the first round
Bos, Cha, Mia, Det

Out in the semis
Was, Mil

Conference Finals
Cle over Tor 4-1

Just missed

Out in the first round
LAC, Mem, Por, Min

Out in the semis

Conference Finals
GS over Hou 4-3

NBA Finals
Cle over GS 4-3

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

2017 MLB Postseason Predictions

Wild Card Games (of which I hate the concept)
Yankees over Twins
Dbacks over Rockies

Division Series
Cleveland over Yankees 3-1
Houston over Boston 3-2

Nats over Cubs 3-1
Dodgers over Dbacks 3-0

Houston over Cleveland 4-2
Nats over Dodgers 4-2

World Series
Nats over Astros 4-1

Monday, September 18, 2017

Top Ten Pound-For-Pound

Here's my pound-for-pound list. I take into account ability and accomplishment. The previous list was posted on May 12.

1. Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) [Previous Rank: 1]
2. Terence Crawford (31-0, 22 KOs) [5]
3. Gennady Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) [3]
4. Saul Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) [4]
5. Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) [6]
6. Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) [2]
7. Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) [8]
8. Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) [9]
9. Vasyl Lomachenko (8-1, 7 KOs) [10]
10. Erislandy Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs) [Not ranked}

Exiting the list:
Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs) [7]

Monday, September 11, 2017

Day 2 in Harpers Ferry

We left the hotel after Candace's poop clogged up the toilet. We drove to Harpers Ferry going over last evening's bridge into Virginia and then taking another bridge over the Shenandoah River into West Virginia. After we parked, there was the option of taking a shuttle into town or walking the two miles, hopefully along the coast. Bug voted for the shuttle, but wasn't forceful enough and lost out.

The walk involved another scamper across the highway- this time we had the benefit or a traffic light at least- and some precarious walking on the narrow shoulder of a road. Bug kept giving me "I told you so" looks and Candace said, "You know Bug was right." I was just about to admit it when we saw a sidewalk in the distance. Once I reached it, I knelt down and kissed it like a freed hostage returning to his homeland.

The walk into town, which was not along the shoreline at all, was interesting. We admired the porches and different style houses along the way. I was carded at 7-11 while buying Bug cigarettes, something that never happens to me back home. There were some tough hills along the way and pushing the stroller was a challenge, especially since I was sore from yesterday.

We ate at what might be the only accessible restaurant in Harpers Ferry. It had a nice view of the mountains and the train. My daughter didn't want to cooperate and I mostly ate standing up swaying her back and forth. My son chowed down on his first ever pickle, considering the twins just ate solid food for the first time on Friday... avocados. He also put some steak in his mouth and a tomato. He spit them out. My daughter grabbed potato chips from my hand and alternately tried to shove them in my mouth and drop them on the ground.

We kept walking and Candace pumped in public for the first time at the bottom of High Street. Bug hoped to get us frozen custard, but it turned out to be ice cream. She was disappointed, but I like it although the strawberry tasted like cherry ice cream with strawberries. After a long pit stop, we walked by the only site I really wanted to see, John Brown's Fort. It was underwhelming.

We then saw a beautiful view of the two rivers converging. We walked on the pedestrian bridge I had spotted yesterday- which was accessible only on one side- and saw Paw Paw Tunnel pretty close up. I had a panic attack being on the bridge pushing the stroller and I was thankful a train didn't come by while we were on the bridge. The tracks were extremely close to the bridge and I think the combination of the heights and the train being so close would have pushed over the edge.

We took a shuttle back to the parking lot and it was quick and fairly easy. I tried to get Bug to sit next to me with my son, but she didn't and an Australian guy started making small talk with me about the babies which was almost as bad as plummeting to a watery grave. After we arrived at the parking lot, Candace entertained a curious five year old. A man then came up and asked out kids' names. He recognized them as Hebrew and said, "Mazel tov" to us, probably an unusual occurrence in West Virginia.

We were tired but happy to have had the experience when we decided to make one last trip to Sonic on the way home. Everyone got their drinks and food excited once again to indulge in this still rare treat. I only wanted a drink this time. A minute later, that drink collapsed onto my feet; the bottom of the cup having snapped and drenched the floor as my daughter screamed. I sang to her- the alphabet and a declaration of fatherly love worked the best- mourning my fallen beverage.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Trip to Harpers Ferry

After picking up Sonic- a rare treat for a DC area resident- we checked into the hotel on the Maryland side of the border. The hotel looked wheelchair accessible from the photos online, but turned out to be unquestionably not accessible. The receptionist told us that he constantly complained to upper management to bring the hotel up to code but his pleas evidently fell on deaf ears.

We set out on a walk to Harpers Ferry, which was supposed to be about a mile and half away. My plan was to take a short walk to the C&O Canal path to a pedestrian bridge that would cross to Potomac into West Virginia. It seemed pretty simply on Google maps.

The walk started off bizarrely. We walked along the highway, Candace in a wheelchair, me pushing an unwieldy behemoth of a twin stroller, and Bug bringing up the rear. We must've appeared like a menacing gang to any onlookers. We reached  a bridge that had a very narrow walkway and Candace had trouble getting the wheelchair through the narrow opening. The width of the stroller also posed a problem, so I was tasked with jogging over the bridge to see if it was the right way. I have a big fear of heights and bridges make me especially anxious because my real fear is plummeting to a watery grave.

The view from the bridge was stunning- full trees climbing up the rolling mountain above the smooth current of the Potomac River- but the chain fence disappeared and I realized that it was possible to trip and fall to a watery grave in the Potomac.

I went about halfway and cringed at the thought of pushing the stroller over this long bridge on the off chance it was the right way. So I came back, but I did manage to see the C&O path way far below us.

We decided to head back to the hotel and ask, but Candace saw a sign that said "River Trail" with an arrow pointing left. So we- wheelchair, stroller, and all- decided to run across several lanes of highway traffic to follow the sign. Turns out the sign said "River & Trail" and seemed to be for a store, rather than an actual trail.

We crossed the highway again and went back to ask the receptionist how to go to the trail. I half-listened to his explanation. We piled into the van- no small task- and headed in the right direction until I determined that we should turn on Sandy Hook Road. The receptionist didn't mention anything about Sandy Hook Road and the name didn't seem like a good omen, but I decided it was the right was to go based on the map on my phone.

Sandy Hook Road turned into a curvy mountain road that we had to inch forward in some stretches in order to avoid a head-on collision. We eventually drove by the pedestrian bridge I had seen on Google Maps and saw that it wasn't wheelchair or stroller accessible. We turned back, went through the winding road again, and finally found a good spot to park (which happened to be where the receptionist had told us to park).

From there we walked the C&O Canal path. It was a gravel path, which made for a bumpy ride for Candace and the babies. Bug was hopped up on sugar and she and Candace, who was not hopped up on sugar, took turns insulting and threatening me, which they found very funny. There was a pool of algae covered water under the railroad tracks. We reached a few openings in the path and got a glimpse of the view, which was worth crossing a couple highways for.

Along the way, Bug grabbed a weird looking fruit, peeled it and ate it. I was sure she was going to die when Candace also took a bite. They both marveled at how sweet it tasted, so risking death I took a bite too. It tasted like a mango- which I like- crossed with a banana- which I don't. Turns out they're called paw paws. None of us are dead yet.

We walked all the way to a spot under the first bridge and turned back. Bug and I were aching when we made it back to the hotel, exhausted from pushing the stroller, carrying my chubby little son, and an ill-advised sprint on the bridge earlier in the evening.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Rick Allen is a Terrible Track Announcer

I'm not the most knowledgeable track fan by any stretch of the imagination. I watch the Olympics and lament not watching the World Championships, but it's hard to find time to work it in. So, an announcer would have to be quite bad for me to notice. I noticed Rick Allen's performance yesterday.

During the women's 10,000 meters Rick Allen stopped announcing as soon as Almaz Ayana crossed the finish line first. The director switched to the competitive race for second between Dibaba and I have no idea because Rick Allen never mentioned her. Craig Masback picked up the slack and pretty much called the rest of the race.

While Rick Allen's 10,000 meter call left something to be desired, his announcing of the men's 100 meters didn't go well at all. One of the fun parts of the pre-race build up is when the runners first come out to the track. Maybe Rick Allen was checking his Twitter, because he didn't mention the runners appearing. Ato Bolden tried to fill in, but by the time Bolden realized Rick Allen inexplicably wasn't talking, it was too late and it unfairly made Bolden look a little foolish.

Before a semifinal heat, Rick Allen said, "Surprisingly, Justin Gatlin is getting booed." Bolden tried to be professional. "This is a pro-Bolt crowd, so..." then very quickly adding, "not surprising." Before the final, while the camera was on Bolt, Rick Allen mentioned Bolt's dancing. I would've preferred something like, "a three-time Olympic gold medalist in this event, Bolt's charisma has made him a global superstar."

Just before the race, Rick Allen started randomly listing some of the runners' last names for no discernible reason. In a moment of foreshadowing, Justin Gatlin wasn't one of the names mentioned.

During the hush of the crowd moments before the start of the race, Rick Allen said, "The crowd, silent." Something more like, "Usain Bolt, the greatest 100 meter runner of his generation in his final race" might have set the scene better.

So Rick Allen did a terrible job in the build up, but of course he would do better during the race, you say. If you said that, then you'd be wrong. He essentially repeated the names Bolt and Coleman in what turned out to be a very tight race for second. One name not mentioned during the entire race was Gatlin, the winner.

As an announcer, your job is to make things clearer for the viewer. Rick Allen diverted the attention away from the real story and only until a good bit after the race even acknowledged, "Gatlin thinks he won." I don't know if Tom Hammond was some great track announcer or not, but I liked him. He did a great job of building the tension and rising to a crescendo as the runners crossed the finish line. He made it exciting to watch.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Coaching Trump (Part 6)

Donald Trump continued his dance with open white supremacy during the spring of 2016 over my objections. But Trump was heading my advice in another area.

"David, let's talk about our proposals for an ObamaCare replacement. I'd love to be able to cover every American," Trump said.
"Don't worry about policy Donny," I answered.

During my time working with Herman Cain, I had tried to teach him foreign policy. It was a disaster. He tried his best, but he came across as ill-informed. Add some allegations of sexual harassment and his candidacy was done. Though Trump was more interested in the wonky side of policy debates, he had an elementary knowledge of the issues, as do most people without experience in government. I decided we wouldn't make the same mistakes as Cain. Instead, we wouldn't even pretend Trump knew the first thing about policy.

"But David, I need something to say when they ask about health care. Right now, I've got nothing. I only talk about repealing ObamaCare. The media is questioning my credibility."
"Forget about that shit," I said. I cussed a lot because, unlike most professions, people in politics cussed a lot. It gave the cusser a feeling of self-importance. The more cussing, the more self-important.
"What about discussing interstate state trade in the context of health care reform," Trump asked.
"No one gives a fuck about that shit in a Republican fucking primary. But whatever, Donny. Just dumb that shit down."

That's when Trump came up with "the lines" line whenever he was asked about health care. I tried to shield him from other things that past presidential candidates absolutely had to know to be considered viable. He was clueless about the nuclear triad. He didn't even really know how a bill became a law or the basic responsibilities of the president. When he would say something stupid about any of the above, the media would mock him, liberals would snicker, and the Republican base lust more and more for Trump.

He maintained his delegate lead throughout the spring. But two things worried me even more than the explicit white supremacy. Trump kept threatening violence at his rallies and the people around him kept taking weird meetings with Russian officials.

Out on stage, Trump's machismo would get out of hand. We had talked about feeding off the crowd and saying ridiculous shit to see if his fans had a line. They didn't. But telling his supporters to punch protesters could be viewed as inciting violence. We didn't need him to get arrested. Things were going well and the reaction to a potential charge was unknown.

As for Russia, his shit-for-brains son and son-in-law had these moronic meetings with Putin's people. They thought it would be insurance against Hillary. I thought it was a catch 22. If we lost the general, Trump probably wouldn't get in trouble for it, but we would lose. If we won, this Russia shit would hang over him like a nuclear cloud. There was no upside to it. And Trump Jr. and Kushner were really stupid in their dealings with the Russians. They would be caught for sure. I tried to get Donny to stop both. He said he would. But you know what happened...

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review of George Karl's Book

Furious George contained some interesting tidbits. There were certain players that Karl didn't like: Ray Allen and Carmelo Anthony for example. It was fun to relive Karl's former teams. But the book had some problems.

The most frustrating issue was incorrect facts. Karl played four seasons for the San Antonio Spurs- two in the ABA and two less successful seasons in the NBA (which totaled only 33 games). You would think he played all four years in the NBA if you read this book and didn't know any better. He describes a fight with the New York Nets as the longest in NBA history even though it took place in the ABA. He implies that the Virginia Squires were an NBA team.

Karl puts Clyde Drexler on the Houston Rockets two years too early, claiming Seattle "took down Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and the Rockets in seven in the second round" in '93. Drexler joined Houston in '95. In '93, he was still on Portland.

He claims to have joined the Milwaukee Bucks as head coach during the lockout on August 30, 1999. The lockout ended that previous February. He became head coach in 1998.

Incorrect facts, especially ones so obvious, infuriate me, but the book had some other issues. During the first part of the book, there is a loose chronological order with too many asides and tangents to really be coherent. The book settles down in the second half and becomes mostly linear in organization.

I have no problem with Karl naming players he didn't like. I think he took it too far with his pseudo-psychoanalysis of Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin. Apparently, growing up in poverty in single-parent homes effected them in a certain way. Karl admits he had no experience with either experience and he had trouble getting close to either man. Karl believes Carmelo is a player who cares more about scoring points than winning games and questions Anthony's defensive commitment; that is completely within Karl's expertise and thus a fair analysis. The "psychoanalysis" isn't.

There was also a sorry-not sorry tone to the book. Karl mentions his flaws in dealing with players suffering from substance-abuse (Chris Washburn), depression (Kendall Gill), and addiction (Mel Turpin). He admits that he wasn't knowledgeable enough to handle these issues in an appropriate way. That was refreshingly mature from an ex-jock and longtime NBA head coach. Yet he also shits on these players as if he learned nothing at all.

A similar tone was struck when he discusses racist comments he made about Doc Rivers and "Afro-American" players who are anointed as head coaches. Karl argues that his real point was that some assistant coaches should get looks at the head job instead of ex-players with no coaching experience. That's a legitimate point. But Karl tries to erase the racial tone in his original comment. He's the one who brought up "Afro-American" ex-players. He could have left out the word originally.

But he didn't. So he needed to address the racism in his comments. Karl's explanation in Furious George was about as weak as it gets. First of all, he argues that since he's spent his life in basketball, a sport that employs a lot of black men, he can't be racist. My college basketball coach was certainly racist, describing the team as his "plantation." Karl is a white man "in charge" of black bodies; of course a basketball coach can be racist. His other excuse is that the writer manipulated him into a state of comfort after hanging out for a couple of days. Sounds like Karl's true self came out because he felt comfortable. That's not an excuse. I would've liked him to understand the offensiveness of his comments.

If you can get beyond those issues, it's at least worth a read.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Coaching Trump (Part 5)

"Why'd you say that?" I shouted at Donald Trump.
"Say what?" he asked innocently.
"The thing about shooting people on Fifth Avenue."
"But David, you said that a few weeks ago," Trump answered.
"Right, but that was just between me and you. Don't give away the game!" I scolded.

We lost Iowa to that smarmy lowlife Ted Cruz. I knew we would lose the caucus because our campaign was based on Trump's fame and charisma, so we didn't have any kind of ground game. We won New Hampshire and I knew we were on to something. Primaries were to be our bread and butter, because the American electorate is so disengaged it's possible Trump was the only Republican candidate some people had ever even heard of.

At the end of February, notorious white supremacist David Duke endorsed Trump. This reminded me of when Louis Farrakhan endorsed Barack Obama in '08. After an initial stumble, Obama handled it perfectly. He disavowed the endorsement. A handful of people for whom Farrakhan's endorsement actually means something might be pissed, but ultimately, the endorsement showed fence-sitting black voters that even a radical black nationalist supported him while not turning off white voters by shunning the endorsement.

That was our plan for the David Duke endorsement. Secret racists would love that Duke endorsed Trump, but we wouldn't alienate the vast majority of our supporters who feel David Duke takes it too far.

Instead, Trump rambled, "Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don't know. I don't know. Did he endorse me, or what's going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists."

Oh, fuck! Trump actually ran against David Duke for the Reform Party's nomination in 2000, so there's no way anyone would buy that he didn't know who David Duke was. I was sure this would be undoing. I was already pissed that he kept retweeting white supremacists' praise for him.

"But David, you said race-baiting will help win the nom," Trump explained.
"Yeah, but with dog whistles. Not so explicitly."

Then I told him a little story: "Ronald Reagan started his 1980 general election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It's only claim to fame is it's the location where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1965.The local authorities were complicit in the murder. No one was charged at the time. There he talked about his belief in states' rights and the need for local empowerment. Reagan didn't just come out and say, 'You should be allowed to kill black people and get away with it.' That's what he meant, but he used coded language. That's what we need to do."

But he wasn't doing it. More and more I felt that I was losing control of the campaign and the attention of the candidate. After winning the Florida primary, Trump had a bunch of steaks and magazines on a table next to him. He claimed that they were Trump Steaks and Trump Magazine even though both had long been out of business. I had nothing to do with that ridiculous stunt. I wanted to get back to the core themes of the campaign: hating Mexicans and Muslims.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Coaching Trump (Part 4)

Following my guidance, Trump had insulted Mexicans, veterans, and the disabled and yet was leading in the polls for the Republican nomination. "Donny, you could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters," I told him chuckling. But I deep down I understand how fickle the Republican base is. In 2012, potential voters flooded first to Michelle Bachman, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich, and then Rick Santorum, before settling on Mitt Romney.

I kept stressing the importance of Islamophobia. All across America, ludicrous bills were passed in Republican strongholds banning Shariah law. Many Americans didn't even want mosques built in their communities. An embarrassingly high number conflating over a billion Muslims with the minute percentage of terrorists who claim to follow the Islamic faith. My plan was to exploit that bigotry all the way to the Republican nomination.

I quickly wrote an internal memo laying out our plan to focus on Muslim-hating: "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on."

I was tired when I wrote it. The memo included bullshit justifications from dubious polls. But I knew we couldn't rely on "facts." So I included this justification: "Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension."

This was just hastily written brainstorms. I was hoping to talk to the rest of the campaign crew about how to best present our anti-Muslim stance. Then I turned on the news and this idiot actually read my memo word for word at a press conference. He even started it, "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States..."

"Donny! What the fuck was that?" I screamed over the phone that night.
"What's wrong?" Trump asked like a kid about to be scolded.
"That was a fucking internal memo! You moron! It was complete nonsense. And why the hell did you start it in the third person?"
"Oh! Whoops," Trump admitted. "I couldn't go out there and wing it. You know this bigotry angle doesn't come naturally to me."
"Yeah, I know, but that wasn't for this press conference."
"Oh no! Do you think it will hurt the campaign?" Trump wondered.
"Yes! You sounded insane out there. We need to be tighter in the future," I demanded. "If we have one."

As you know, it didn't hurt the campaign. By the time the South Carolina primary rolled around, 75% of the Republican electorate in that state actually agreed with what would become known as "the ban." Trump kept surging in the polls.

A few weeks later, at a rally, Trump exclaimed, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters."