Quite the conundrum for someone who resides in the DubNation but loves the Dawg Pound

Unlike many in Cleveland who felt a tremendous surge of joy and glee when LeBron James finally brought a championship to The Land, my feelings took a much more circuitous route.

I am a life-long Golden State Warrior fan who grew up a stones throw from the former Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, as well as a life-long Cleveland Browns fan who lived and died with the team through Red-Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Move. So, here I sit, devastated from a fan’s perspective that my Dubs could have silenced all the doubters and nay-sayers, but instead lost three straight games at the most important time of the year and succumbed to Cleveland and King James along with his merry group of bandits.

I see friends who I correspond with during the football season rejoicing with that joy that only being an invested supporter of a franchise can bring, yet I have nothing to say to them. Their joy is my pain.

I am still numb. A win in either Game 5, 6 or 7 would have meant that the Charles Barkley’s, Chris Russo’s and Colin Cowherd’s of the world would have had to shut their traps and give the Dubs their due. A title would have validated a team, a franchise that had been questioned from the very moment they won last year’s championship. All the DubNation heard was, “if Cleveland was at full strength they would have schooled the Warriors.” That was hanging in the balance over the final three games of the series. Yet the Warriors couldn’t deliver. I am not one to believe the Warriors title needed validation, but I did want for all the noise-makers around the country.

A week ago the Warriors were sitting with a 3-1 series lead knowing that no one in the history of the NBA had blown such a lead in the NBA Finals. At the time the Warriors had blitzed Cleveland in Ohio and it appeared the Warriors would wrap it all up at home. Then Draymond was suspended, Kyrie Irving and James combined for 82, Cleveland jumped out to a 31-9 lead, and James had a block for the ages while the Warriors went scoreless for the final 4:39 of the season and it was over.

Poof ! Done

This whole meltdown thing had to be shocking for the bandwagon crowd, but for those of us that love this game we knew this thing wasn’t over, even after Game 4. But none of us actually thought it WOULD happen. It was shocking. It was stunning.

The Cavaliers will have a parade on Wednesday where the loyal fans of Cleveland will celebrate their first championship of any kind in 52 years. Many of those celebrating will be Dawg Pound faithful, for them I am thrilled. They have had to endure a wretchedness that only Art Modell can bring. Sitting in one of those cars being honored will be Earnest Byner. One of my favorite Browns of all time, he was stripped by Jeremiah Castille at the 3-yard line in the waning moments of the 1987 AFC Championship game resulting in a second gut-wrenching AFC title game loss for the Browns. Byner will be applauded and honored by a fan base that simply wants to cheer for a man who gave his all but came up on the wrong side of history. I will applaud and cheer for Byner, a Cleveland Brown legend.

The rest of it will be too much, the wound is still open, the emotions still to raw. As Steph Curry said on Monday when asked when he will get over the Game 7 loss, “I will get over when we win another one.”

So true Steph, so true

I live in the DubNation but proudly reside in the Dawg Pound

Excuses won’t win an NBA Championship; playing better will

It wasn’t the refs.

It wasn’t the NBA headquarters.

It wasn’t a conspiracy.

It was Cleveland.

If you call yourself a Warriors fan and you are blaming the Warriors predicament on some vast right-wing conspiracy, take a seat and get some knowledge.

The Warriors have been pushed to the limit in these NBA Finals for one reason and one reason alone. The greatness and dominance of LeBron James. Yes, I said it. LeBron James, who was roundly vilified and ripped for his passive play in Game 4 has come out with reckless abandon in Games 5 & 6. His controlled aggression and play-making ability has dictated the game and tempo for his Cavaliers. His decision-making has been impeccable as he distributes when he needs and attacks when he sees a sliver of space. To not admit as much is being blinded by fandom.

Warrior fans have been up in arms  and have been preaching that conspiratorial anthem since Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5. The fact is, is that Green put himself in a horrible predicament by not showing any self-discipline earlier in the playoffs. His chippiness and constant chatter put him in a position of focus. His energy and passion is the life-blood for this team, but his energy can also be a detriment and we saw that at the end of Game 4. The NBA didn’t suspend Green. His lack of discipline dictated that he be penalized for that the Dubs paid a steep price.

Warrior fans are crying foul after tonight’s Game 6 where Steph Curry was called for several ticky-tack fouls. Blah blah blah……Even with the fouls Warriors head coach Steve Kerr kept him on the floor, so it didn’t for all intent and purposes affect the amount of minutes Curry played. The fouls called on Curry had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. Curry scored 30 points and played well.

The Warriors find themselves in a Game 7 because LeBron James and Kyrie Irving played from another dimension in Game 5 and took advantage of Draymond Green’s absence to confuse the Warriors on the defensive end. They each scored 41 in epic performances.

The Cavaliers perimeter defense on Curry and Klay has been splendid. With every pick and roll there are two bodies there to ride and harass Klay and Curry. Kerr made mention that the Cavs are riding Curry and Klay off of these screens and that was certainly a seed planted for Game 7. Without Green in Game 5 and Bogut in Game 6 the Warriors post-play has been in one word….ATROCIOUS.

Festus Ezeli has been awful and looks like he has regressed over the last two weeks. Kerr can hardly leave him on the floor. Harrison Barnes combined to go 2-for-20 in Games 5 & 6. The Cavaliers can’t guard everyone when they are doubling and bodying Curry and Klay, so they are leaving Harrison Barnes open. He has been awful. Just putrid. I can make an argument that if Barnes hits even half of his open looks in Game 5 the Warriors are having a parade tomorrow in Oaktown. Barnes is a HUGE reason why we are seeing a Game 7 on Sunday.

And, other than Leandro Barbosa the bench was pedestrian in Game 5 and in Game 6. Throw in Andre Iguodala’s back spasms and the DubNation has reason for some consternation.

Throw out any of these reasons, but please do not say the Warriors have been forced to a Game 7 because the refs have it out for them or there is some type of conspiracy. It makes you look amateurish and foolish. When the Warriors beat the Cavs in Games 1, 2 & 4 it wasn’t because of the officials or some type of league-wide conspiracy. The Cavaliers winning Games 5 & 6 is simply because they are playing better, stronger, and are more tenacious on both ends of the floor.

Game 7 will be amazing and I fully expect the Warriors to finish off this amazing 73-win season with a win on their home floor. They have been pushed and tested this entire post-season, as it should be. They will have traversed through the ultimate gauntlet and will have won back-to-back championships. But, if they don’t, do not blame. Here is a novel concept, how about recognizing the greatness of their opponent and giving Cleveland some credit. After all, they were 10-1 underdogs after Game 4 and were left for dead. Besides, if ANY team can beat this great Warriors team three straight times, including two at the Oracle, then they deserve it. Should be an amazing Game 7 !

 

Chico State baseball family says “goodbye” to a man who taught us all how to be a grinder……

The Chico State baseball family buried a young man this week way too soon.

Aaron Demuth was 31 years old. He was laid to rest on Monday in his hometown of Vacaville. Those of us that knew him were not surprised to see a standing room only crowd where the church services were held.

To know Aaron was to like him. What was there not to like ? The gregarious towering man was jovial and fun-loving. Those that knew him best always said he had so much zest for life and attacked life with passion.

Aaron was a devoted family man who loved his family and friends. He had a special affinity for hunting and baseball. Depending on how the Giants were doing depended on what he loved more. Aaron passed away after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. It was a courageous fight that saw Aaron live by the moniker that has been a hallmark of the Chico State program……GRIND.  Aaron and his equally as devoted and courageous wife, Lindsey fought, scratched, clawed and “grinded” their way through the fight.

As I recalled memories of Aaron, one singular moment comes to mind and tells you a lot about the Demuth family. It was a Chico State game in 2006 and the Wildcats were playing the San Francisco State Gators. The day before the game I had gone to the Bay Meadows race track and here I sat 24 hours later after that visit to watch the ponies and I wasn’t feeling too well. I had obviously eaten something that didn’t agree with me and within minutes my play-by-play calls had turned into a desperate attempt and hope that the inning would end so I could go get sick somewhere. When I finally was able to leave my broadcast set, I saw Aaron’s father, Glenn approach me.

“Mike, are you Ok?” He asked. “Not so much I am gonna get sick.” Having never met Glenn, but knowing who he was, I was appreciative he checked on me. As I stayed near the bushes and got sick, Glenn proceeded to leave a game that his son was playing in and went to get me some water. By the time he got back, which was a few innings later since there was no snack bar in San Francisco, I was feeling a little better. Mr. Demuth didn’t have to do that, but he did. It has always stuck with me as a sign of genuine kindness when you really don’t have to be.

It was a simple gesture. In the grand scheme of life, it was a small thing. But, the compassion and caring that Glenn Demuth showed me that day a great example of why Aaron turned out the way he did. It was selfless and kind. The apple certainly didn’t fall too far from the tree.

Many of his former Chico State teammates will have their memories of Aaron. Aaron’s baseball exploits are legendary and some of his home runs are still sailing through the stratosphere somewhere. Whether Aaron swung as hard as you could and connected for a colossal blast, or whether he swung and missed. He did it with aplomb and passion.

My memories will be a of a guy who played on two of the most memorable teams in Chico State history (2006-2007) He hit some big home runs and had some big hits for this program. But, I will remember him as a guy who didn’t just give lip service to the “GRINDER” moniker. Aaron is the ultimate grinder in the game of life, and in that we can all celebrate and take great pride.

You will be missed Aaron. Let your Chico State baseball family grind for you now

LISTEN TO SOME OF AARON DEMUTH’S BIGGEST HITS IN HIS CHICO STATE CAREER, INCLUDING A WALK-OFF TWO RUN HOME RUN IN THE 1ST ROUND OF THE 2006 NCAA WEST REGION CHAMPIONSHIPS…..

 

Dodgers wasting Kershaw’s best years….

We are witnessing one of the great pitchers of our time. One of the great pitchers in the history of the game. Yet, here we sit with a team that can’t hit, has no starting pitching depth, a sieve for middle relief and a 250 million dollar payroll. Whoopeee !

I have stated numerous times that we, the fans deserve better. How about Clayton Kershaw ? He deserves better. I respect the Dodger fan who can watch the game, and accept the fate regardless of how deep the knife turns when Pedro Baez or Chris Hatcher enters the contest. Sorry, I am not wired that way.

Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Brynes have done a few things well. They have kept the kids and developed them and they didn’t over-pay Zack Greinke. Other than that I am finding it hard to see the redeeming value in their approach.

Let me play devil’s advocate here. What if Mark Walter was interviewing Friedman and mandated that the payroll be cut closer to 200 million dollars ? What if Walter told Friedman that he wouldn’t mind a few steps backward if it set up the Dodgers for decades of success by re-stocking and replenishing a decrepit minor league system under Frank McCourt ? What if Walter told Friedman, “I am paying you to rebuild the foundation of our franchise, while cutting payroll. If we win, great, if we don’t, that’s ok, as long as the foundation is built.”

Do I believe this is what transpired in his job interview ? Well, maybe. How else can you explain these moves or lack thereof ? The Dodgers have one of the most anemic offenses in baseball while banking on players that shouldn’t be banked on (Puig, Grandal,) They went on the cheap for the bullpen, turning converted catchers an infielders into relief pitchers and then act shocked and surprised when they don’t get results. They signed often-injured starting pitchers hoping to catch lightning in the ole bottle, instead they got more injuries. You “experiment” with infielders as relievers when you are rebuilding. You don’t do it when you are a piece or two from winning the pennant. I am not that smart but I called this. I wrote about it. I felt it and could see it. Why couldn’t Dodgers ownership ? I am starting to believe this was the plan. Break this team down to the sum of its parts and hope. How else can such fool-hardy decisions be rationalized ?

The saddest part of this hypothesis is the Dodgers are wasting the talents of one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game. Clayton Kershaw is special, but his greatness has a shelf life and that shelf life probably has three or four more years. I will concede Kershaw hasn’t helped himself in the post-season, especially in 2013 and 2014. But, if you come after Kershaw you must also be critical of a front office that devalues pitchers that get outs in the 7th and 8th innings.

Kershaw and the loyalists who Bleed Blue deserve better. I have racked my brain to rationalize the Friedman/Zaidi and Byrnes approach. The only think I can come up with is this IS the plan. Break it down to build it back up into a juggernaut. So far, not so good. The proverbial jury is still out. In the meantime I will look longingly at the Chicago Cubs and salivate.