Why I love basketball

My love for basketball began in 1990, when I was 12 and playing with dinosaur erasers.

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The general store in my elementary school sold these cheap little erasers that came in different dinosaur shapes: pterodactyl, triceratops, tyrannosaurus rex, stegosaurus, etc. As a young kid, I mostly played baseball and football. I’d make up long, elaborate games between teams of dinosaurs. Their body types determined their positions: the pterodactyls, with their long wing spans and slim bodies, were wide receivers and centerfielders, adept at reaching up high for touchdowns (or interceptions) and reaching over the wall to steal a home run. The squat, powerful triceratops were tight ends and catchers. The t-rexes played linebacker and pitcher (the short arms gave him a deceptive arm angle). The stegosauruses were offensive linemen and designated hitters—you weren’t getting by one if he didn’t want you getting by, and good luck getting a fastball by that tail. Continue reading

2013 Knicks In July: Now THAT’S a spicy off-season!!!

It’s the halfway point of the off-season, that dead zone between the sexy days of free-agent/draft/trade buzz and the post-honeymoon hangover of training camp when nerds like me make audible sounds of delight as we discover a 10:00 a.m. summer league game. Jeremy Tyler’s mother has spent less time this summer thinking about Jeremy Tyler than I have.

To break up the monotony and ensure I don’t think anymore about Jeremy Tyler than I already have, let’s look at the Knicks roster changes from the end of last year to now. Continue reading

One man’s (this man’s) racism

When I was almost 10, my family moved from Uniondale, a mixed-ethnic town on Long Island, to Webster, a 95% white town in western New York.

Our new house was much larger than our old one. More bedrooms. More bathrooms. Huge lawns. Our neighborhood was virtually crime-free. Virtually. I came to learn crime-free is a euphemism for “white people here do fine, but that don’t mean your non-white ass is safe.”

My family moved not because we wanted to, but because my father had been discriminated against, racially, at his job. The mostly black powers-that-be where he worked didn’t like a Puerto Rican having the unprecedented success he was having; they didn’t like how popular he was becoming. So they conspired to prevent him from advancing in his career. They did so formally, and so he filed a lawsuit, and proved he’d been discriminated against, and he won. Then we moved away. Winning a lawsuit doesn’t mean you win anything. The racists got to stay. We left the town my mother had grown up in, left our grandparents who lived next door, our aunt and uncle around the corner, a lifetime of friends made, a place we never felt was anything but home. My friends were all different races and ethnicities, and so anything about me that was different had never felt “other.”

One of our first days in Webster, while we were on our front stoop, a little girl passed by on the street. Couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6. “Go home, spics,” she sing-songed as she skipped away. “Nobody wants you here.” Continue reading

The XYZ of hating everything about the Brooklyn Nets except the Nets

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Let’s say you’ve been dumped.

Say it’s been a little while since you were dumped, and you thought you were handling it OK, and one day you bump into your ex, who we’ll refer to as ‘X,’ and X’s new boyfriend/girlfriend, who—since you can’t help but look at and wonder “Why?”—we’ll call ‘Y.’ Continue reading

Merry born day, lil’ girl

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We met when you were 5.

I was packing up my car to get you and your mother and me away from the city. Hurricane Irene was coming. The last time a hurricane hit the city, the subways flooded. It was a mess. This storm, we’d been told, was worse.

Your dad drove you up from Maryland as the storm approached the city. You spend summers with him. I walked in the apartment and there you stood, beside your mother.

“Maddie,” she said, “this is Mommy’s friend. Matthew.”

You didn’t say anything. Neither did I. Continue reading

March 17, 1993

I found one of my English essays from 9th grade. I typed it up and am posting it here, for a few reasons:

1)   I like seeing my writing from back in the day. On the one hand, I think it’s strong writing for a 14-year old. Also, I like seeing how bad it is compared to my writing now, yet at the same time, full of the same weaknesses.
2)   I like seeing how passionate yet ignorant I was, politically. Makes my current passionate ignorance more palatable.
3)   It’s educational. The more you know, the further you’ll go…into student loan debt.
4)   When I was 14, I thought I was in love with a girl in my neighborhood. She was tall, and blonde, and all summer she went around the neighborhood on roller skates. One day, unexpectedly, she came to my house. She wanted to hang out. So we hung around out front and started talking. I thought this was the start of something magical…until I told her I was going to Puerto Rico later that summer, and was anxious about flying, and she said, “Why don’t you drive there?”
5)   Because Harvey Levin is an asshole. An asshole who speaks for many.

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Continue reading

A brief Sunday morning NBA thought

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I don’t wanna get all Clarence Darrow on y’all, but this morning I made the mistake of trying to watch ESPN’s “Sports Reporters,” or as it should be known, “Short Old Men Making More $$$ Than Ever Due To The Exploding Revenues In Sports Today Who Are Always Bitching About The Exploding Salaries Of Players Nowadays.” After 10 minutes of Dwight Howard-bashing, I decided to do something wholly unorthodox. I did some intelligent research.

The gnomes on the Sports Reporters claimed Howard doesn’t know how to win and doesn’t care about winning, and that the only way he can ever hope to salvage his “legacy” is, you guessed it: to win. I used to use the # of rings a player won to determine his greatness, because I was young, and I had more time to be stupid than I do now, and because I hated Dan Marino and enjoyed any opportunity to take his stupid face down a peg.
I don’t believe rings define players anymore. But, for the sake of argument, let’s take a brief look at Howard’s resume, ring-wise, versus other “recent” great big men:  Continue reading

99 miles from LA…(plus 1,451 more to the Toyota Center)

My fellow Americans, our long national Dwightmare is over…our system of free agency works; our great collective bargaining agreement is a CBA of limits and not of license. Here the fear of the blank checkbook rules. But there is a higher power, by whatever name we honor him—Lebron—who ordains not only scoring but passing, not only offense but defense.”

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D12 is a Rocket. Doesn’t make him an a-hole. Or an underachiever. Or afraid of Los Angeles. Doesn’t mean he can’t handle playing Kobe to Kobe’s Shaq. Doesn’t mean he made a mistake, or wronged anyone.

Fans love to gripe about everything pro athletes enjoy. The money. The connections. The Twitter followers. Fans don’t love to acknowledge the realities of life as a pro athlete that suck. The lack of privacy, for instance. Say it’s Opening Day. You call in sick to work and go to the game with a buddy. Drink some brews. Get some sun. Good times.  No worries about anyone seeing you. No worries that strangers will snap your picture and post it all over the interwebs, and that before the national anthem is over, millions of people will know you’re playing hooky.

Say your wife is about to give birth to your first child. Many, if not most jobs, are cool with you prioritizing this once-in-a-lifetime miracle. In sports, where social and gender sensibilities evolve with tectonic slowness, a player missing a game—one game!—because of childbirth is still, sadly, a talking point.

Let’s say you graduate from college. You did well in your major. Upon graduating, you find out you’ve been drafted to work for a company in Cleveland/Salt Lake City/Orlando/Sacramento. Doesn’t matter that you’re qualified and interested in working in NY/LA/Chicago/Miami. You’re required to spend at least 4 years with the company that picked you (bear in mind: the average career in your field is only 5 years, and anyone nearing 30 is past their earnings prime). Voice any displeasure with this or angle for a way out, and you’ll be publicly eviscerated by millions. They’ll curse at your wife and kids. In public. Continue reading