Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012 Slam Dunk Contest and Other NBA All Star Weekend Activities

Here we go again.  It's NBA All Star Weekend, where former NBA "Stars," WNBA "ballers" and former players all get together to watch an utter lack of hustle and defense at the NBA All Star Game.  This is not the best platform for the kids to learn about the basketball fundamentals.  But they are still interested.

But before the All Star Game is actually played, we are "entertained" by various pre-game contests - the Celebrity Game, The D-League All Star Game, Shooting Stars, the Three Point Contest, the Slam Dunk Contest, the getting as high as you can contest, the skills contest, the list goes on and on.  We decide to watch some of the activities on Saturday night.  I have to first explain why C's favorite player, Luol Deng, isn't in the competition.  I tell him I don't know why.

Shooting Stars

The first competition we watched was Shooting Stars.  The two things I took away from that is that New York won, and Dennis Scott is extremely pudgy.

The Skills Competition

The Skills Competition features the boys' favorite player - Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma Thunder.  But Rajon Rondo is first.  Rondo's in chill mode as he sets the barometer pretty high.  Then Deron Williams blew right by him (Kyrie Irving, obviously nervous in this high intensity competition could not make any of his shots from the top of the key.  Even Rajon Rondo made his shot from the top of the key.

The boys are shocked that Westbrook does worse than Rondo and Williams.  Come to find out, Westbrook gets eliminated in the First Round.  Rondo also wins a tie breaker and proceeds to whip the ball at the chest of the guys he's playing for after the guy snickers at Rondo's time.

Tony Parker ends up winning the contest and completely ignores his civilian friend he is playing for.  What did Eva Longoria see in this guy?

Three Point Contest

"Seriously, Kevin Love is in the 3 point contest?"  The line up is so much better than the slam dunk contest - Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Mario Chalmers.  In fact, Chalmers and Love are tied after the first round and have to go to a tie breaker.  But Durant and James Jones takes the lead with 21 and 20 points over Chalmers and Love.

So I want Love to win, G wants Durant and C wants James Jones to win.  No one wanted to take me up on my wagering offer.  I guess I have to pay them their allowances.  Another tie, as Love and Durant tie for the trophy.  They are running out of time, so will they just give up?  No such luck....and Kevin Love wins!

Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

Chase Budinger, Jeremy Evans, Paul George and Derrick Williams.  Who the Hell are these guys?  I'd rather have Dee Brown and that guy from Toronto come out of retirement than see these schlubs.  Oh my God. 

P Diddy is a prop for Chase Budinger.  A pretty gook dunk where Chase jumps over Diddy and slams it home.  Great Pass by Diddy.  My nine year old said he could jump over Diddy too.  He's small, so maybe.  Jeremy Evans with a weak dunk wearing Rajon Rondo's headband.  Paul George tries a dunk and Charles Barkley has the line of the night "Larry Bird is watching this saying my two best players are going to get hurt."  Derrick Williams jumps over a motorcycle - kind of weak considering Blake Griffin jumped over a card.  #Spriteslam Paul George.

But Jeremy Evans comes up with a great two-ball dunk.  #spriteslam Evans.  George completes a glow int eh dark dunk and Williams takes a Rubio feed of the side of the backboard for a 360 dunk.  I don't know, now.  What I do know is that Budinger could totally see on the reverse dunk.  He didn't even fake out my nine year old.  Derrick Williams will definitely not win.

And after America voted, Jeremy Evans won the dunk contest.  #spriteslam. done.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Blue Man Group in Boston is Our Source for Toilet Paper Review

It's the first day of February Vacation with the kids.  Now what?  We decided against skiing up in Maine because once a year is enough - both on my psyche and on my wallet.  I suppose we could go to Cape Cod or Newport like we did on previous February vacations, but the kids were ambivalent about those ideas, so why bother.

Then we had an inspired idea - what about going to see the Blue Man Group in Boston?  We went to see the Blue Man Group a long time ago, purchased half price tickets in obstructed view seats (although they weren't really THAT obstructed, and the kids could tell their friends that they saw the BLUE MAN GROUP!

Boston, MA. 12pm.  The first issue occurred the minute we got to Bostix, the half price theater outlet in Faneuil Hall.  It's closed on Mondays, despite the fact that the agency was advertising half price tickets for the day we were there.  How were we supposed to buy these tickets, exactly?  I just remember seeing tickets from $49-$89 per seat.  For my nine year old, seven year old and five year old (who was the most skittish of the bunch when I showed her a picture of the Blue Man Group trio), those half priced seats would be most useful.  How much was that ski trip again?

A couple of bills lighter, when we finally got to our seats in the middle balcony, there was definitely an air of excitement - maybe it was from the toilet paper hanging over our heads.  The show, as I remembered from our visit years ago, started the same way - two scrolling screens imploring us to turn our cell phones off, while telling us to wish some guy Robert a happy birthday and celebrate someone who won a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics (I don't know if either were true).  MM and I were barraged by questions of "What did that say" and "What's so funny?" as were watching the scrolling screens.  They were going to fast for the seven year old to read, the five year could only pick up words like "if," "we" and "the" and the nine year old was still salty about having to sit next to Mom instead of Dad.

The first sketch once the lights went down was the Blue Man Group banging their drums with yellow, red and blue paint dancing from their drums, mixed with some artistic paint ball and marshmallow art renderings from the mouth.  The kids were instantly mesmerized, particularly when they grossed the audience out with the marshmallow in the mouth mountain landing in the lady's pocketbook.

The second skit involved three smart phones coming down from the rafters.  The skit had the Blue Man Group guys go behind the phones and show up on the screens of the smart phones in near perfect synchronicity.

"How'd they do that?"  I heard in unison. 

The sketch was stopped for a Late Arrival Alarm.  That seemed staged, but maybe that was just me (in any event, get there on time).  Quickly followed by the pipe drums.  Pretty cool, especially when they did a quick refrain from Crazy Train.

We were then entertained by some audience participation sketches - first a lady who looked a little freaked out to be up on stage (at first) being courted by the three blue men, then a guy who was used as a paint brush (although it didn't look like him as the guy was hung upside down and thrown against the wall canvas like a rag doll).

The finale featured the ubiquitous toilet paper (I now have a couple of piles of toilet paper with blue paint on them in the back of the truck - awesome) and four huge beach balls.  The kids went absolutely crazy.  It didn't stop there as the guys performed a drums finale and stood around posing for pictures.  The kids couldn't stop talking about them.  

Ultimately, a successful start to the vacation.  I would strongly suggest you bring the kids, but pay for those half price seats, the theater is not that big and not really that obstructed.  Only six more days of vacation to go.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Kid, Gary Carter and the 1986 World Series

Gary Carter has sadly passed away this afternoon of brain cancer at the young age of 57.  Enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, Carter was an important piece not only for those Montreal Expos teams back in the late 1970's and early 1980's, but for the Mets teams during their run of good fortune from 1985-1988.  His teammates never seemed to have anything bad to say about Carter and he was known as a power hitting catcher who was not only durable, but slick fielding (to the tune of three Gold Gloves).  I, for one, remember him for one Series, and one series only.

Lazy singles are excruciating.
What I remember about Carter was the 1986 World Series.  Being a Red Sox fan, I have a lot of memories of that World Series, most of them bad.  Al Nipper pitching Game 4 (ugh).  Roger Clemens asking out of Game 6 before the eighth inning started.  Bob Stanley, Calvin Schiraldi, Bill Buckner.  The list goes on and on.  To add to the misery, Gary Carter managed to singlehandedly win Games 4 and 6 for the Mets.  I readily admit that I cried after watching Game 6 and the juxtaposition of my tears with Carter's happy hand clapping as he crossed the plate in the 10th inning of Game 6 is something that is burned into my memory, probably forever.   

Game 4.  I can't believe that Al Nipper of all people is starting this game.  Back in 1986, the Red Sox had three pitchers - Clemens, Bruce Hurst and the coked up Oil Can Boyd.  Al Nipper was serviceable, but no one in their right mind thought that Nipper pitching in the Series was a good idea - except for Lou Gorman and John McNamara.  I still remember listening to the strategy on TV that day.  After winning Games 1 and 2 in New York, the Red Sox felt that they could afford to throw away a game at Fenway Park by throwing Nipper out.  This way both Hurst and Clemens would be on their regular rest for Games 5 and 6.  What a ludicrous idea in retrospect since we weren't talking about a 162 game season anymore, we were talking about a seven game series.

Carter played a wonderful game.  He teed off in the Fourth Inning on an Al Nipper change up for a two run homer to give the Mets the initial lead, 2-0.  He then led off the Sixth inning with a double that briefly got by Dwight Evans in Right Field.  When he tried to score on a fly ball to left field by Ray Knight, he was unceremoniously tagged out on a close play by Red Sox catcher, Rich Gedman.  I still can't believe that Nipper was out there, though.  Later in the 8th inning, Carter again hit the ball over the Green Monster, this time off of Bobby Crawford for his second home run of the game.  Lovely.

Game 6.  Carter started off slowly in this game, flying out, grounding out and striking out in his first three at-bats of the game.  What was a plodding game soon became very interesting as the Mets came up to bat losing 3-2 in the bottom of the Eighth.  After a seeing eye single was followed by a two sacrifice bunts (the first one leading to Lenny Dykstra being called safe at First Base), Carter tied the game with a sacrifice fly to Left Field to tie the score 3-3.  Damn you, Calvin Schiraldi!

Then that fateful 10th inning...Red Sox hero Dave Henderson led of the top of the 10th with a home run that all but ensured the World Series MVP and a post hanging up in my bed room.  A single by Marty Barrett made the score 5-3 going into the bottom of the tenth.  Both Keith Hernandez and Wally Backman lifted lazy flyballs for the first two outs of the inning. 

I could taste the World Series win.

Then with a 2-1 count, and just one out away from immortality, Carter lifts a little rainbow to left center field.  I contort my neck hoping that the pain will move Greenwell or Henderson closer to catching the ball.  I was wrong.  I was a fatalist at the time, so I saw Carter on First Base clapping his teammates on and instead saw Kevin Mitchell hitting a three run home run even though Carter was the only guy on base.  Schiraldi strikes again!  Carter's single, and his reaction after that as he rounded the bases seemed to breathe new life into the Mets.  If that hit was by someone else, I'm not so sure that the Mets would have continued the comeback.  It seemed like Carter willed his team to victory.  I don't need to go into details, but that hand clapping still haunts me to this day.

So Carter goes on to save the day in both Games 4 and 6.  I hated him at the time, but as time passed, I respected his toughness and his ability to be clutch when it counted the most.  He always seemed to save his best performances for the post season and my team happened to be the victim back in 1986. I now watch those games (and games from the 1981 post season) with awe. 

Baseball lost a great player and a great man this afternoon.  RIP.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Luol Deng is His Favorite Player?

Luol Deng?

C asked me the other day to name his favorite basketball players.  I started with the usuals, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki.  And then he looked at me like I had two heads.  You don't know who my FAVORITE player is, he asked?

C's favorite player..seriously
Give me a hint, I told him.  And I finally got it when he said his first name started with an L.  Luol Deng is his favorite basketball player.  Seriously, the starting small forward for the Chicago Bulls, a graduate of Duke University is his favorite player?  Why isn't KG or Rajon Rondo his favorite player?  Larry Bird or Reggie Lewis?  So I asked him why he was his favorite player.

1.  He is on my second favorite team, the Chicago Bulls.  I'm cringing at the thought that his favorite team is someone like the Lakers or the Heat?  I let the question go unanswered and just assumed his favorite team is the Celtics.

Looking at the objectively, the Bulls are scorching the league again this year.  While everyone is talking about the Thunder, Heat and the Clippers, the Bulls have quietly put together the best record in the league.  I guess C is just a front runner.  We'll see if the Bulls can take the Celtics with a hurt Derrick Rose this afternoon at the Garden.  It will have to be the Boozer and Deng show this afternoon.

2.  I like him because he can make deep 2s just like me.  An interesting point.  Not that he's a great 3 point shooter, but that he's great at deep 2s.  That's similar to saying Jacoby Ellsbury is a great triples threat.  But let's look at the numbers.

Interestingly, Deng is shooting only 43.7% this year and 37.9% from beyond the arc.  Kyle Korver is wiping the floor with Deng's brick this year.  What's interesting is that Deng never took more than 117 three pointers in his career until the 2010-11 season when he took a startling 333 attempts, making only 34.5% of them.  Maybe he should stick to the "Deep 2s."

Further, Deng's PER is only 16.3, which IS higher than his career PER of 16.2, but still outside the top 50 in Player Efficiency.  Not bad, and I would love him over Ray Allen, but still not the material of "favorite player" status.

3.  He is also good at rebounding.  This was an after thought for C, and looking at the statistics, the same holds true for Deng.  While his total rebound figures are almost a full rebound better this year than his career, and his defensive rebounding average is the highest of his career, his average is still only 7.1 per game.  I suppose we can say that his rebounding is good for a small forward or guard.

At the end of the day, Deng is a decent player, akin to Ray Allen or Rudy Gay.  And at least my choices are UConn guys.  That being said, C will be getting a Deng jersey for his birthday and I'm looking for tickets to this afternoon's game to take him to. 

Deng is his favorite player, after all.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wes Welker and I Both Share a Giant Nightmare

We were driving around earlier tonight when I asked C if he blamed Tom Brady for last night's Super Bowl loss against the New York Giants.

"No, I don't blame him.  I blame stupid Wes Welker.  He should have caught that ball!"  He was dead serious.

So one of the most valuable players on the Patriots, who couldn't catch a pass that was thrown about two yards behind him with 4 minutes left was the sole reason for the Patriots to choke away another Super Bowl against the New York Giants?  It had nothing to do with Tom Brady foolishly throwing the ball away on the Patriots first offensive play for a safety?  It wasn't a defense that couldn't force a Giants punt when it counted most?  And I suppose the Giants played pretty well, but my loser's lament will never really admit that.

But was it really Welker's fault?  In that sequence, BenJarvis Green-Ellis was absolutely stuffed on First Down, losing a yard.  Welker's miss was on Second Down.  On Third Down, Branch seemed to have also whiffed on a Brady pass that would have ensured a first down.  But let's just say that Welker catches that ball.  There is 4 minutes left, the Patriots have the ball on the 25 yard line with a 2 point lead.  I see the Patriots turning on the conservatism, centering the ball within the hashmarks and kicking a field goal to make it 20-15.  I think the outcome is the same - just a much more powerful and lasting loss.

And on the ensuing Giants' possession, Mario Manningham caught a beautifully thrown ball from Manning for a 38 yard gain that seemingly dealt the Patriots a death blow.  I even remarked during the game that I didn't know how Manning made that pass since he was entirely throwing off of his back foot.  After that, Manning connected with Manningham again for 18 yards and Nicks for 14 yards to bring the ball comfortably within field goal range.  Again, I ask...was it really Welker's fault?

Ultimately, yes.  If Welker catches that ball, the Patriots go up by 5 with less than two minutes left.  The Giants have no timeouts left and if there is one thing that the Patriots were good at all year - it was the one turnover at the end of the game to save the game.  It would have been a tough catch, but Welker's made tougher catches and it's tough to make that argument when we see David Tyree on the Giants' sideline.

I agree with Gisele.

Oh yeah, if the Patriots scored a field goal and stopped the Giants to keep the score 20-15, ole JMR would have won the Fourth Quarter squares.  Like I said, Loser's Lament.