Bring on Draft Relegation!

The NBA has a tanking problem. This is not a secret. Teams are intentionally and unapologetically trying not to win. Many people have written about it, and whether or not the tactic has any merit or not is something that can be (and has been) debated elsewhere. I want to talk about a system that removes the incentive to lose repeatedly. Bad seasons happen, injuries to key players happen, but consecutive miserable seasons without justification should not. But in the NBA they do, and teams are rewarded for it with high draft picks and luxury tax payouts from teams trying to win (or at least teams owned by Mikhail Prokhorov). This has to stop, and here’s how.

Relegation.

It is a model foreign to North American sports fans, but it has worked for years in Europe (most famously in English Premier League soccer), and it ensures that regular season games involving struggling (or outright failing) teams maintain at least some level of credibility by threatening them with demotion to an inferior league. The infrastructure doesn’t exist for the NBA to actually relegate teams to a lesser league at the end of a losing season… oh, wait a minute, it absolutely does, the D-League should exist for this very reason! In its current form though, the D-League is a minor league to the NBA’s major, and relegation in the European form requires multiple major leagues with incremental drop-offs between collective skill at each level. So if traditional relegation isn’t an option, what is the answer?

The NBA Draft. The very reason tanking is being undertaken in the first place is the best place to penalize perennial failures, and this is how to do it.

The collective agreement severely penalizes those franchises who repeatedly exceed the luxury tax threshold, and I would apply similar repeater penalties here. Single-year atrocities get a pass, as they can happen unexpectedly (key injuries, etc), and are not reflective of a systematic attempt to fail.

However, if a team finishes in the bottom four of the league in back to back seasons, their first round draft pick in the following draft would fall into the 27-30 slot in the first round, in reverse order of their win-loss record (the worst team in the league would get the 27th pick, the second worst the 28th pick, and so on). There is a slight wrinkle here depending on the results of the Entertaining as Hell Tournament (copyright Bill Simmons), but hold that thought.

If a team finishes in the bottom four in three consecutive seasons, they forfeit their first round pick entirely. A bit Draconian maybe, but the NBA has had no problems doling out harsher penalties against teams that were actually trying to be good, so why not punish the teams who are trying to suck intentionally?

If a team finishes in the bottom four in four consecutive seasons, they forfeit their first round pick for that season and the next.

Since 1994-95, no team has finished in the bottom four of the league for five consecutive seasons (not even the immortal Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies), so I’ll refrain from associating a penalty for that kind of behaviour, but I would recommend a league imposed sale of the franchise to a group from Seattle, St. Louis or Vancouver. A guy can dream, right?

The first, and most hypothetical, wrinkle? If the Entertaining as Hell Tournament (copyright Bill Simmons) or some variation is implemented, a team (or potentially two) in the bottom four (determined prior to the beginning of the tournament) would have the ability to win their way out of draft relegation by winning or finishing as the runner-up in the tournament (i.e. – making the playoffs). Should this occur, the winning team(s) would retain their draft position, and “break” their streak of finishing in the bottom four, removing them from repeater penalties the following year. The remaining teams in the Forgettable Four (let’s test out some monikers now), would be slotted to the final picks of the first round or would lose their pick entirely, depending on their situation.

The second wrinkle concerns draft picks that have been previously traded to other teams. If the Knicks (just randomly picking teams here everyone, calm down) deal away their 2018 1st round pick, but finish in the bottom four of the league in either 2016 and ’17 or in 2015, ’16 and ’17 (i.e. – affect their pick through incompetence), the team who acquired said pick receives it in the original, pre-relegation slot. If the Knicks (in this example) lost their 2018 pick entirely, but it was already gone in a trade, they would then lose their 2019 pick to uphold the deterrent. The lesson here: you shouldn’t be penalized if you’re smart enough to acquire first round picks from James Dolan.

Some highlights of how this would have affected the draft in the past two decades, in reverse chronological order:

  • Cleveland forfeits the chance to draft Anthony Bennett and give Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose simultaneous heart attacks.
  • The Washington Professional Basketball Franchise lands an impressive triple facepalm, missing out on John Wall, and getting Jordan Crawford at #27 instead, then forfeiting the picks that became Bradley Beal and Otto Porter (okay, maybe only a double facepalm).
  • Sacramento drafts Greivis Vasquez at #28 instead of Boogie Cousins at #5.
  • Atlanta forfeits the pick that lands them Al Horford.
  • Philadelphia, ironically enough, takes the top prize by losing the pick that landed them ALLEN IVERSON, instead drafting Priest Lauderdale at #28 (bitter note from a Vancouverite – even if this had happened, Vancouver and Toronto still wouldn’t have been able to draft Iverson because fuck David Stern, and the Answer would have become a Milwaukee Buck).

By taking away the one carrot that tanking franchises have to look forward to, you  effectively remove the incentive – teams are no longer tanking, they just suck. Wouldn’t you prefer to hear that from befuddled general managers?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Value Judgments

After watching the first season of True Detective on HBO I found myself in a very contemplative state, but probably not the state the show intended, and certainly not the state Rustin Darkness Yeah! Cohle lived his days in. Part of the fun and excitement of watching a show like True Detective, or Breaking Bad or Lost for that matter, is engaging with others who are sharing the experience with you. You talk about your favourite characters or scenes, you complain about the show’s missteps, you theorize about how it will end; but the conversation is no longer isolated to the office lunchroom. If you enjoy diving into the internet as opposed to merely surfing on it, there is no shortage of memes, articles, podcasts, or communities available for your consideration.

The questions I began asking myself were, am I losing my ability to draw my own conclusions about what I’m watching? Am I digesting so many other viewers’ comments that I no longer have my own thoughts, but rather an amalgamation of theirs? Are my attempts to expand my cultural horizons actually stifling my own creative ability? Even if I disagree with what I read, is it then tainting my viewing experience? Is the level of enjoyment I get from listening to or reading the opinions of others reducing the amount by which I enjoy watching the actual topic of the conversation? These questions have been troubling me, so I thought I would explore the topic a little.

The genesis of this for me (and likely scores of others), was Jeff “Doc” Jensen’s weekly Lost previews and recaps on ew.com. Never before had I come across such intense research and theorizing devoted to one show (especially on an episode to episode basis), and it completely changed the way I approached the program. Lost was the first show I ever binge-watched, as I needed to catch up on the first two seasons, and it was the first show I remember spending more time thinking about after each episode than I did during. By the time I discovered Jensen’s work I was already hooked on the show, but his articles took it to another level. Despite Lost‘s ultimately disappointing conclusion, it was a show that begged you to believe that the creators had a grand plan, and that every facet of the show would eventually be explained; Jensen’s work did nothing to persuade the reader/viewer otherwise, and it is a virtual guarantee that he gave more thought to the imagery, plot, and characters than Cruz and Lindelof did. The fact that Lost, plot-wise, was more of a fly by night operation, thus proving most of Jensen’s work moot, had little to do with the long-term impact of the experience; I would no longer be able to approach TV drama as passively as I had in the past.

I’ve been living that recap life since Lost, and although it has opened my eyes to things I may have missed otherwise, it has undeniably changed how I’ve viewed television for the past several years. From Lost to Mad Men to Breaking Bad to Game of Thrones and most recently True Detective, I feel like I am bringing more to the table each episode from a critical perspective, but most of what I’ve brought is appropriated or flat-out stolen. It has got to the point where I honestly question whether or not I’m the asshole in the room pseudo-bragging about the symbolism of some set-piece or the t-shirt so-and-so is wearing or that call-back to that scene from the first season, just because I heard Andy Greenwald or Chris Ryan or Emily Nussbaum talk about it the day before. When I talk to people about television who I can tell do not consume it the way I do, I feel equal parts astonished and envious, as I can’t imagine why they would eschew all of the available information out there while simultaneously admiring their self-imposed isolation. I would like to believe I’m capable of digesting others’ opinions while maintaining my own original thoughts, but lately it has felt like my own internal critic is being overwhelmed by the strangers I’ve unsuspectingly let in the door.

If I’m not naive to the shrinking violet my inner voice has become, then why do I continue to bombard it with the views of others instead of letting it live? My hope is that the communal experience of watching a show week-to-week, and engaging in all the discourse that goes along with it, provides me with more ongoing vitality than almost any other group experience left in our society, and that a well-fed intellect is more useful than an alienated one. My fear is that I am just an intellectual coward afraid to take ownership of my own theories for the fear of being wrong or to be perceived as simple, and that I would rather stump for someone else’s theory than craft one of my own. First world problems, I admit.

So, how much value do the legion of previews, live-tweets, and recaps bring to my experience? Would I enjoy watching these shows as much without any outside commentary? Would I be better off saving them all until the end of the season or series to then compare against my own notes? After some reflection, I realized that some of my favourite memories from the best television shows of the recent past are the moments directly tied to something I read or heard before or after the episode. The holy shit! moments for me are never just the big reveal or the unexpected twist, but whether they hold true to what I (or someone whose opinion I trust) had come to believe; the conversation holds more meaning for me than the show itself.

It’s a bit like watching sports, if the television show is the game itself; how much enjoyment can you possibly get from it if you aren’t rooting for one of the teams? Granted, the relative quality of the art itself is important, but how much value can it hold if it doesn’t inspire a deeper connection or understanding?  Just as a sports fan picks his favourite teams over time, I’ve cultivated my own team of trusted writers, critics and other resources; they are a representation of my feelings about television, and their opinions are an extension of (and sometimes, the impetus for), my opinions. In watching television now, I find myself rooting for my team of connoisseurs to be validated to somehow justify my support of them. Although I admit they sometimes take me places I wouldn’t choose to go on my own, twenty-five years of Dallas Cowboys fandom proves that I’m capable of extending the benefit of the doubt equally across mediums.

Which leaves me with the issue of originality. I don’t believe that I’m simply a critical drone who enjoys extolling the wisdom of others, but I will admit that the balance between my own opinions and those gathered from others is too often tilted towards intellectual theft. Perhaps this isn’t really the fault of too much media consumption, but rather a simple case of my own cognitive laziness; the time I’ve spent writing this post is far more than I’ve ever dedicated to thinking about a particular TV show, let alone a single episode, and that should probably tell me something. If spending a bit more time contemplating the things I’ve watched (and perhaps even writing it down once in a while), leads to an increased sense of ownership over my opinions, then there’s a victory in that.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Nike Kobe 9 Elite: Doc Brown Would Approve

Nike Kobe 9 Inspiration

Nike is scheduled to release the Nike Kobe 9 Elite on February 8, 2014, straying from previous releases in the Kobe, Lebron and KD lines by launching the Elites before the base model. The Elite editions in all of these players’ lines, and especially Kobe’s, haven’t deviated much from the original models, but if the leaked images of the Kobe 9 Low are even remotely close to the finished product, the Elite 9s will change that significantly.

The shoe is remarkable in many ways, from the technology utilized (this is Nike’s first basketball shoe to incorporate their innovative Flyknit technology, along with the now commonplace Flywire and Lunarlon components), to the bold and unique styling (Flyknit allows for spectacular colour combinations unseen on other fabrics or materials, and ensures at least some level of variance from pair to pair).

For me though, the most intriguing thing about the Kobe 9 Elite is what it reminds me of, and the hints it gives to Nike’s future, and past.

The Nike Air Mag, originally created in 1989 for the film Back to the Future Part II and then rereleased in 2011 for charity, stands as one of Nike’s most fascinating creations and one of the greatest hype-magnets ever. Marty McFly’s shoes (in the film at least), lit up and laced themselves! They are the ultimate ‘I want to have proper foot support and look fly while remaining as lazy as possible’ piece of footwear ever, although I doubt that was Nike’s intent. Regardless, despite the overwhelming excitement upon their rerelease in 2011, there was a certain level of disappointment that Nike hadn’t developed the technology to achieve power-lacing nirvana quite yet. Fear not sneakerheads, Nike was way ahead of you:

In a not so subtle manner, Foot Locker manager #2 played by Tinker Hatfield (the one and only), essentially confirmed that power-lacing was on the Nike docket for 2015.

It goes without saying that Kobe Bryant likes to win stuff. He wants to be the best, at everything, and although his signature line with Nike has been a raging success (especially since the Kobe 4 debuted), how could he challenge Michael Jordan’s sneaker legacy? Maybe by having the first power-lacing basketball signature?

Mag vs Kobe

I believe that the following things happened, and I will continue to believe that they happened until Kobe Bryant, Eric Avar or Tinker Hatfield personally tell me otherwise. I believe that during one of their design meetings in the immediate post-2011 Air Mag world, Kobe told Eric and/or Tinker that he wanted his signature line to be the evolutionary through-line to the 2015 Air Mag. His line would slowly begin to mimic design cues of the original Air Mag, but with modern technology and materials. They would utilize the newest technology available, working towards an inevitable power-lacing option that would be proprietary to his line for at least one generation of basketball shoes after the 2015 Air Mag releases. Tinker and Eric think this is brilliant, because as amazing as the 2015 Air Mag will be, it is a shoe rooted in the past, and Tinker is always focussed on the future. Kobe loves it because it’s another stamp on his legacy passport.

I love thinking that this happened, and I love the fact that Kobe’s desire to win everything makes me believe that it might have actually gone down like that. Either way, it’s exciting when innovation takes form, even if you have to stretch the imagination a bit to see it.

 

Posted in Basketball, Shoes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Driven to Extinction: the Vancouver Grizzlies Experiment

22 percent (21.956 actually; they didn’t earn the full 22). Over the course of six seasons (including the strike-shortened 1998-99 season), the Vancouver Grizzlies NBA franchise didn’t even manage to win 22 percent of their games. If you ask a random person walking down a Vancouver street today what they remember about our dearly departed team, their first memory is probably tied to wins and losses; The Grizzlies? Umm, they sucked. Like, really bad. Sadly, it’s a just reputation, but there was so much more to the Grizzlies and their eventual relocation that gets ignored or forgotten, and basketball fans in Vancouver deserve a better explanation.

I remember the morning of August 11, 1994, waiting in line outside of Winning Spirit (the official retailer of the Canucks, Lions, and Grizzlies at the time), at Guildford Mall with my friends and one of their Dads, waiting to find out what our team would actually be called. We had been told nothing, but this was the day when the team name, logo and colours would be announced and, of course, immediately available for sale. The curtain was raised at the front of the store, and there it was. The team’s brief dalliance with the name Mounties had thankfully come and gone, and we ended up in pretty good shape with Grizzlies. I mean, hell, we could have been purple dinosaurs just as easily. We didn’t have jerseys yet, but one of their key elements was already clear. Teal. A lot of teal. It was the mid-1990s, so it’s easy now to scoff at the colour choice, but even then, at the age of fifteen, I was left wanting. This was not a colour that intimidated, impressed, or even begged for respect. This was the colour of twenty-two percenters. Despite the failure (the NBA gets at least partial blame here, as they dictate what colours will be worn by their teams), the logo actually holds up over time, as all of the throwback Grizzlies hats reappearing now have shown. The jerseys (unveiled almost a year later) don’t, at least not without a healthy dose of irony on behalf of the wearer. After waiting outside of the store for more than an hour, and staring at the various apparel choices for nearly as long, I didn’t buy anything. Not a hat, not a t-shirt, not a sticker. This was not a good start.

The Grizzlies roster, from inception to departure, is comical in retrospect. Prior to the expansion draft, which was almost completely devoid of plus basketball players, the Grizzlies brass decided to sign a player in a misguided attempt to connect fans with someone who would actually be on the roster. That player, and I use that term loosely, was Kevin Pritchard, a future NBA GM but not a future NBA player; a guy who couldn’t even make it through training camp. Draft picks aside (we’ll get to them), the most memorable players from the Vancouver-era Grizzlies wouldn’t even register a blip on casual NBA fans radar. Can I interest anyone in a Sam Mack throwback jersey? Michael Dickerson? Anthony Peeler? Each of these guys managed to be a top-three scorer for the Grizzlies during at least one season in Vancouver, which speaks volumes about the lack of talent in the league during those years. The 90s have been accurately described as the “too much, too soon,” generation in the NBA, but “too awful,” wouldn’t be a bad descriptor to tack on, as the talent pool was practically dry by the end of the decade. Suffice to say it wasn’t a good time to try and build a roster from scratch, and when your draft picks don’t work out, you end up with depth charts that look like this. That said, blaming the Grizzlies failures solely on a lack of available talent ignores the absolutely turrible job Stu Jackson did while employed as the Grizzlies’ general manager. Stu’s archived bio on NBA.com contains the gem, “he had a hand in shaping all aspects of the [Vancouver Grizzlies] organization.” How that sentence is allowed to exist on the bio of someone who was employed in any capacity ever again is one of society’s great injustices, let alone someone who was then promoted to a position with the NBA. The Otis Thorpe trade alone managed to screw the franchise post-Jackson and post-Vancouver; it takes a singular talent like Stu to gut the present and future of a team (and two cities!) and parlay it into a promotion.

I’m sure Stu Jackson is good at something (despite the evidence to the contrary), and if that something had been drafting college and high school players, the team may have survived to see their seventh birthday in Vancouver. He wasn’t, and thus, they didn’t. The team’s first NBA Draft in 1995 established the Grizzlies drafting ineptitude and utterly horrendous luck early, and it continued for the next five years. In a laughable attempt to make sure that Vancouver and Toronto wouldn’t become instantly dominant by landing repeated top lottery picks (thanks Orlando), the NBA assigned the Grizzlies and Raptors the 6th and 7th picks respectively, in what amounted to a five player draft. For Vancouver, that resulted in the selection of Bryant Reeves, more famous at the time for shattering a backboard during practice at the Final Four than for being athletic, skilled, or particularly interested in playing basketball. Moving forward, both teams were forbidden from “winning” the first overall pick for the next five years (No Duncan or Iverson for you!). Regardless of this asinine rule, top-five picks for five years in a row should have produced at least one sure-fire All-Star if not multiple, but through a combination of bad drafting and a staggering lack of overall talent available (the 1996 Draft notwithstanding), the Grizzlies ended up with a roster made up of beta dogs (Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Mike Bibby), outright disasters (Antonio Daniels and Stromile Swift), and future moving targets (Steve Francis). If you can allow yourself to forgive the first overall pick embargo (I can’t), then the 1996 Draft is really the one that hurts, and gives some credence to the argument that poor drafting was the biggest reason that Vancouver lost its franchise. In what turned out to be one of the best draft classes of the past thirty years (SLAM 15 Cover Alert!), the Grizzlies picked Shareef Abdur-Rahim (nice player, occasional moments of brilliance), over three future first-ballot Hall of Famers, including two MVPs and one of the greatest shooters to ever live. I won’t try and make the Kobe Bryant argument here, because at third overall, it would have been a tough sell to mostly uneducated fans that a kid out of high school was ready to lead their team, and nine other teams passed on him after Vancouver. Ray Allen however, would have been defensible at the time and a perfect building block for a team that had just drafted a big man the year before. (Sidebar: does Ray get to be Jesus if he’s playing in Vancouver?). The toughest miss here though is obviously Steve Nash, but it also would have been the biggest stretch at the time. In no way, shape, or form was he projected as a third overall pick, but for a team based in Vancouver, this should have been a no-brainer. Despite promising attendance numbers during its inaugural season, the Grizzlies were still struggling to connect with their community, and a homegrown talent that had proven his mettle in the States would have been the right play, draft projections be damned. As Nash has proven with his Sports Clubs and Whitecaps ownership stake, he is truly tied to his home province, and he would have represented the Vancouver Grizzlies better than anyone else could have, regardless of whether or not he achieved the same career arc that he did in Dallas and Phoenix. The drafts to follow all had their what if scenarios as most drafts do, but none of them so clearly demonstrated how slight the margin is between franchise salvation and impending doom the way 1996 did. One last act of masochism; compare the Grizzlies drafting ineptitude to their expansion brothers in Toronto. Despite picking, on average, two spots lower during their first four drafts, the Raptors ended up with Damon Stoudemire, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter. The Grizzlies during the same period: Reeves, Abdur-Rahim, Daniels, and Bibby. Stu Jackson everybody!

On-court issues don’t really tell this story fully though, as bad teams last in their original cities all the time. In retrospect, there couldn’t have been a worse economic time for Vancouver (or Toronto, in this case), to be given an NBA franchise, and this is one of the biggest reasons I believe an NBA team would flourish in the city now. During the Grizzlies existence, the US dollar was worth anywhere from 1.36 to 1.54 what the Canadian dollar was worth at the time, instantly putting the team at a massive financial disadvantage. The Orca Bay ownership group that paid 125 million for was awarded the Grizzlies franchise was essentially a family business that also owned the Vancouver Canucks (hold your Canucks thoughts for a moment though, as they can’t be ignored here), and the newly built, privately funded, grossly over-budget GM Place. This was not a diverse, capital-rich ownership group that could withstand the type of market obstacles at play here, and that is before you take into account the lack of a salary cap and an unprecedented jump in player salaries that Orca Bay clearly didn’t budget for. The average NBA player salary rose from 2 million dollars in 1995-96 (the year the Grizzlies began playing) to 4.2 million during their last season in Vancouver; an increase of 110 percent over five years! In a pre-sabermetrics, advanced stats universe, the Grizzlies were placed in the unenviable position of either keeping up with the Colemans and the McIlvaines or adding cheapskate to their already stellar losers, Canada and teal stigmas. Unfortunately, they chose the former, and planted a money tree on Bryant Reeves’ ranch to the tune of 60 million dollars, which, I imagine, sounded like a fair number for 16 ppg and 8 rpg at the time (picture me cringin’). The price of doing business with the NBA in the late-nineties was not something that Arthur Griffiths or his successors (has that term ever sounded less appropriate?), were prepared for or capable of adapting to, and the team’s ties to the city frayed more with each passing of the ownership torch. Sadly, for Vancouver basketball fans, none of these obstacles exist now, making the Grizzlies departure more difficult to reconcile than ever before. Note: an attempt to contact Griffiths for comments on this story went unanswered.

Vancouver sports fans like to fancy themselves as ride or die loyalists when it comes to their teams, but we are an absolutely ridiculous group of front-runners who will bury our jerseys in the backyard during tough times. Given the joint ownership situation with the Grizzlies and the Canucks, the success of the former was hugely dependent on the success of the latter, and the Canucks were riding high when Vancouver was anointed as an NBA city. However, by the time the Grizzlies hit the hardwood for the first time, the Canucks were coming off a strike-shortened season and were a team in decline. After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994, the Canucks were quickly ousted from the playoffs in 1995 and 1996, and then missed the playoffs for the next four years. This dark period for the Canucks franchise included a much-maligned change of logo and jerseys, and the cataclysmic Mark Messier/Mike Keenan era that had even the most ardent Canucks fan tuning out. This reversal of fortunes resonated at the box office, as attendance steadily declined from 1995-96 through 1999-00, dropping 18% overall. This drop was almost identical to the 19% drop the woeful Grizzlies experienced during the same period, and demonstrates just how quickly Vancouverites will ditch local sports teams. Conversely, local residents have been happy to pay exorbitant ticket prices to watch a winning product lately, as the Canucks currently have a sellout streak stretching past 430 games (best in the league), but I digress. A decline in ticket sales and the complete absence of playoff revenue from the Canucks did the Grizzlies no favours inside the Orca Bay offices, and with a failing product on the hardwood, Griffiths desperately needed a successful team on the ice to keep GM Place the hottest new club in town. But as they are wont to do, the Canucks failed, leaving their owners with little choice but to put their less successful (and increasingly expensive), child up for adoption. The majority owners that followed Griffiths (John McCaw and Michael Heisley), lacked the ties to Vancouver that Griffiths had, and despite what they may have stated initially, efforts to keep the team in Vancouver were minimal. David Stern and the NBA has even more blood on their hands, as their initial opposition to relocation evaporated quickly; Stern admitted as much in an interview with Bill Simmons, but his post-mortem mea culpa doesn’t change much for the NBA fans in Vancouver.

The Association’s decision to allow the Grizzlies’ relocation looks even worse in retrospect when you consider how disastrous their timing was; the NBA managed to extricate itself from the North American market best positioned to facilitate their endeavours in Asia just as Asian migration to Vancouver exploded. Metro Vancouver is home to the highest percentage of Chinese, South Asian, and Filipino residents in the country (as per Statistics Canada), populations that have grown exponentially since the nineties. The NBA has taken great steps to increase its presence in Asia, especially in the past five years, but as North America’s gateway to Asia, Vancouver could have been the launching point for all of the NBA’s globalization initiatives in Asia. As beneficial as Vancouver could have been to the league’s efforts, the demographic changes in Metro Vancouver alone have created a new and growing NBA fan base, even in the Grizzlies absence. The city as it exists now bears only a slight resemblance to the one that welcomed the Grizzlies twenty years ago, and the city has an audience fluent in the game that it lacked in the past.

Vancouver and the NBA was a tragic relationship in the truest sense, where the best intentions were scuttled by terrible timing and poor decision-making. Everything the NBA initially saw in Vancouver turned out to be true, but they were ten years ahead of their time and were unable to weather the economic and managerial storms they encountered or created themselves. Outgoing NBA Commissioner David Stern has said that he doesn’t see a return to Vancouver in the league’s future, but perhaps boss-in-waiting Adam Silver will see Vancouver as a place to start anew, and not as the tortured former fling that Stern clearly regrets.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Fatherhood Quarterly

Ten things I’ve learned in my first three months as a father:

  • I’m a really selfish person; if not in my actions, then definitely in my own mind. Having a daughter seems to be curing me of that really fast.
  • Sleep is really underrated.
  • Having a few beers with friends isn’t the same when you know you have to go home and change diapers instead of immediately passing out in your clothes.
  • The first time you think you’re about to drop your child is intensely frightening. The next five, less so.
  • Being a father is a little like being a rock star (your eyes are always bloodshot, you’re awake for days on end, people scream at you all the time), just without the money or sex.
  • New parents acquire an amazing skill that causes them to project all their baby’s positive attributes into meaningless adult traits (she’s in the 97th percentile for height at birth, she’s going to be 5’10”!!), but ignore anything even remotely negative (oh stop it, all little girls fart loud enough to wake up the dog).
  • Ignore the parents who volunteer advice. Listen to the ones who wait for you to ask.
  • Don’t complain to your wife about anything. Ever. Again. She has it much tougher than you do.
  • All the hard things (no sleep, endless crying fits, diaper blowouts, etc), are instantly forgotten when your child looks you in the eye and smiles.
  • Reading a book to my daughter for the first time (Vader’s Little Princess, obviously) was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Plea to the Cowboys Players

Dear Tony and co,

It’s been a tough year. It’s been tough in the same way that a lot of Cowboys seasons have been tough lately; talent wasted, leads squandered, coaches befuddled, Jerry indignant.

Honestly, look at your season. Assuming we don’t look too hard at the games you won and consider how close you came to losing a couple of them, this should be a 9-5 team on the verge of punching their playoff ticket this weekend. The losses to Detroit and Green Bay were abominable, and those weren’t even the games that you lost by 32 and 17 points. The Denver loss was both admirable and stroke-inducing at the same time; only the Cowboys could have their quarterback throw for 500+ yards and 5 TDs in the first 57 minutes of the game, yet still be in a dogfight for the final 3. That’s 10-4 without stretching the imagination too much, but alas, we’re back in familiar territory.

Your next two opponents are eminently beatable. In fact, you’ve actually beat both of them already this year. Remember those games? They were in October, which are no different than games in December, and you’d be smart to remind yourselves of that.

Washington is starting Kirk Cousins this week because Mike Shanahan. This is not when you let out a sigh of relief that you don’t have to chase RG III around all day. I’ve seen your defense. Kirk Cousins will fuck you up if you’re feeling relieved right now. Kirk Cousins is Peyton Manning as far as you should be concerned, and if you’re not preparing as such, you will lose. This is what they call a trap game, and since I know that your coach has no idea what that is, I’ll explain. Don’t think about Philadelphia next week, because Philadelphia doesn’t matter if you don’t take care of Washington first. This game against Washington is the Superbowl. It’s the difference between you having or not having a job next year.

As a Cowboys fan, I would be remiss if I didn’t hedge a little here. I have learned over the past twenty-six years that if I look upon you with blind optimism, you will cause me extreme physical pain. Therefore, I won’t ask you to promise victory, but play like men. December is not the time for Milton Berle games; it’s the time for Charles Haley games.

Your owner may be insane, and your coaches are definitely atrocious, but excuses won’t earn you any more forgiveness from me; I’m done apologizing for you. Win or lose these next two weeks, play like you care. Please.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Einstein must have been a Cowboys fan

If insanity is best defined as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” then they better get started on some new asylums, because there are a lot of Cowboys fans in the world, and this is getting ridiculous.

After receiving an early Christmas gift from Matt Cassel and the Vikings on Sunday morning, the Cowboys had the opportunity to take control of the NFC East with two very winnable games against Green Bay and Washington, which would leave week seventeen against the Eagles essentially meaningless. For thirty minutes it looked like they were actually going to pull it off too, and that is what makes them the Cowboys. Green Bay finally realized at halftime that the Cowboys’ defense is historically bad, and the Cowboys inexplicably decided to throw the ball 51 FUCKING TIMES, including the three sacks they gave up. They led the game from the 4:52 mark of the first quarter until the 1:31 mark of the fourth quarter (48:21 straight!), yet managed to call passing plays 74% of the time. DeMarco Murray averaged 7.4 yards per carry for 134 yards without leaving the game injured, but only had eight carries in the second half . This is completely inexcusable play calling, but apparently Tony Romo is at fault because he audibled out of one running play that resulted in an interception, as if the last swing of an axe is what falls a tree, but not the 50 swings prior.

Jason Garrett, for his entire tenure as the Cowboys’ coach, has proven himself to be hopelessly unprepared to win professional football games, and this is just the twenty-sixth example. And yet, here I am, writing myself into the fifth stage of loss for the seventh time this year, as if there was ever really any other potential outcome. This season alone, the Cowboys are ticking items off Bill Simmons’ levels of losing as if it’s a to-do list; by my count, there are three Stomach-Punches (Denver, Detroit, and Green Bay), and two Full-Fledged Butt Kickings (New Orleans and Chicago), all clouded by an Achilles Heel, Broken Axle, Goose/Maverick Tailspin love-child that encapsulates the entire season.

But I’ll be watching next week. The TV in my padded cell only shows Cowboys’ games.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment