Category Archives: MICHAEL’S MUSINGS

DubNation: Here Comes Revenge

I return this nightmare I will find you.

Sleepless, cloaked in despair, I’m behind you

Far too late for frail amends, now its time for Sweet Revenge

Sweet Revenge I’m Dreaming….I will end you

The snickers, the derisive tones, the 3-1 jokes will come to an end when these NBA Finals are over in a few weeks.

That is because the Golden State Warriors 2017 Seek and Destroy mission is only missing one thing……the decimation of Cleveland.

How does that happen and why I believe this thing will be over sooner rather than later ?

  1. Revenge Factor……these aren’t the Washington Generals that want a piece of LeBron and the Cavaliers. This is a team that has gone 207-39 over the last three years. And, despite what the talking heads want you to believe this team is driven by one sole purpose, BEATING CLEVELAND….PERIOD. The fire burns hot in the guts of these Warriors who were shocked, stunned and frankly embarrassed by their 2016 Finals meltdown. This entire season has built to this point. Don’t under-estimate the fire that burns below.
  2. Warriors are just better…….When healthy and at full strength (which they are) the Golden State Warriors are simply better than Cleveland. Their multi-faceted star-studded attack. Their trio of deadly three-point shooters and more importantly their ability to defend. The most-underrated aspect of the Dubs is their ability to defend as a team. Their help-side is some of the best in the league and Cleveland isn’t in their same league. WHEN Cleveland wants to, they can defend at an elite level in spurts. But, consistently you can get good to great shots against the Cavaliers. This will ultimately be their downfall.
  3. TRUST…..The only player I trust on Cleveland to play well in each and every game is LeBron James. To be fair the player the Warriors should most fear is Kyrie Irving. His clutch gene was on full display in the Cavaliers Finals comeback last season. Trust is one of the biggest reasons why the Warriors are so great. They trust each other. They believe in each other. They recommitted themselves to this organizational doctrine after last year’s Game 7 last 5-minute debacle when they went off script and quit trusting and quit sharing. I don’t see that this time around. The Warriors have learned from the ills of last year and the weaponry is different. Their ability to play off of one another and not solely focus on going for “theirs” is what separates this team from 2016. If I’m Cleveland do I trust Kevin Love to make big shots down six with three minutes to go ? I wouldn’t…..
  4. Lest we forget…….Something strange happened on the way to the Warriors blowing that 3-1 lead and Cleveland capturing “The Land” their first basketball title. We forgot how God-awful Kevin Love was the entire series. We also forgot how terrible Kyrie Irving played in Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena to give the Dubs a 3-1 series lead. Watch the game. I have, he was dismal. Now, Irving responded with three amazing and clutch games over the final three, but the margin for error for this Cleveland team is much smaller than Golden State’s. Irving needs to be great ALL THE TIME. Love needs to be great ALL THE TIME. If they aren’t, this thing won’t be competitive.
  5. IT’S TIME…….If Kevin Durant wants to cement his greatness he will perform and excel in this series. It’s pretty damn simple. He left OKC because he didn’t want to play with a ball-hogging selfish stat accumulator in Russell Westbrook and he wanted to win in a free-flowing selfless brand and style of basketball. He has helped bring the Warriors to the precipice of a championship and it is his time to shine. No, not by scoring 40 points a game but by helping Steph lead this group with the same selfless style that had them win 67 regular season and 12 straight playoff games. It’s Durant’s time to shine. If he tries to do it by himself, then that is when trouble could creep in. He must remember why he came here and trust that the guys he is in the fox-hole with will help him bring it home.
  6. NO KLAY….NO RING…….As confident as I am that the Warriors are going to win this thing, the only thing that would bring me trepidation is if the Warriors don’t feed Klay Thompson and try to get him going. You notice that I don’t think the Warriors MUST get Klay going, but they need to make the effort like they did in the San Antonio series. I saw Curry, Draymond and Durant all pass up numerous open shots and opportunities to try and get Klay going. He never did. That’s OK. I believe if the Warriors get Klay on track then it opens EVERYTHING up for the squad and it will be “all she wrote.”  Klay needs to find his shot. If its not there, then take the ball aggressively to the hole, back-cut get a lay-up, get to the line. He is too good a player to not be a threat. The Warriors know this.
  7. I LOVE CURRY……..Yes, I love yellow curry, green curry, and red curry. I also love that Steph Curry is being discounted in these Finals. The story-lines are all about LeBron chasing Michael and Durant’s legacy. I think Steph needs a great Finals to cement his. Cleveland is going to attack him at every turn, running him off of screens and making him work for all his looks. The problem for the Cavaliers is they will not be seeing the hampered Steph of 2016 or the deferring and dis-engaged Steph of December and January. This current Steph is engaged, in-sync, and playing spry and ruthlessly. I think Cleveland will have a very difficult time defending him with the Warriors dizzying ball movement. LeBron may need this, as does KD, but Steph needs this as well.

 

Peaking Wildcats making a run at a National Championship……

*THOUGHTS ON THE CHICO STATE WILDCATS FROM 35 THOUSAND FEET*

It’s not that we didn’t think they could do it, but to expect it was totally unfair.

The Chico State men’s basketball is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota getting ready to take on Lincoln Memorial at the Elite Eight for Division II basketball. The Wildcats magic carpet ride was punctuated last weekend with three splendid performances against the three respective regular season champions in the West Region.

First, Chico knocked off high-scoring Western Washington 96-83. Despite giving up 83 points the Wildcats were more than happy getting in a shootout with the Vikings. For the first time in a long time the Wildcats found room to move on the floor. Passing lanes that were clogged and impediments that were common place during CCAA play all of sudden turned into wide gulfs of space with which they could run their offense unimpeded against a Western team that gave up nearly 80 points a game. It must have felt like a jail-break for Chico State.

The free-flowing offense where movement and motion was rewarded. It had been a while since Chico had been that wide open for drives and shots. The game was truly a testament to how good the CCAA is. To win the CCAA you MUST play defense, if not you will get carved to pieces.

On day two the Wildcats encountered a frisky bulldog-tough type of team in Hawaii-Pacific. If the Sharks were a baseball team I would affectionately call them a bunch of “dirt-bags.” Fluidity of play and dogged aggressiveness characterized the Pacific West Conference Champions. We saw them systematically take care of the best defensive team in the country, CCAA-rival Sonoma State. I was thoroughly impressed with their defensive doggedness and anticipated Chico State would have their hands full.

Chico’s 15-point lead with 9:30 to go eventually turned into a one-point deficit with 1:55 to go. A furious 25-9 rally by the Sharks had the Wildcats on their heels, before Chico State righted the ship. The Wildcats ability to rescue the game after coughing up a 15 lead showed Chico State had come a long way in a year. After Isaiah Ellis took a charge with the Cats down and with 4 fouls, Robert Duncan made a driving lay-up. After Corey Silverstrom registered a steal and driving bucket the Cats had the whip-hand and outlasted HPU 77-74. The win showed many of us Chico State lifers a toughness that at times had been missing over the last few years. It’s hard to be critical of a team that has had as much success as the Wildcats for the last several years. But, sometimes and on rare occasions, when things went south, the Cats had a hard time pulling themselves out of the abyss, especially in the middle of a game. Not this time, though.

This Chico State team made winning plays to beat Hawaii-Pacific. Sealed the game with defense and disciplined offense and moved on to the regional championship game against UC San Diego.

The championship tilt against the rival Tritons will simply go down as one of the great basketball games in Chico State Wildcats history. 10 days before this title match-up UCSD had come out in the CCAA semi-final game and as All-American guard Robert Duncan said, “punched Chico in the mouth.” With 4 minutes left in the 1st half UCSD had jumped out to a 27-11 lead. The Wildcat offense was stagnant. There was not movement, no aggressiveness, a passivity to their flow that was not conducive to winning basketball. When the final horn sounded it was San Diego 65-53 over Chico State. The final score only told a portion of the story. The Tritons had taken the fight to Chico State, and for this team to accomplish the things they wanted to accomplish, that had to change.

Right from the out-set you could tell the Wildcats wouldn’t lose this game for a lack of fight. On their first possession they would grab two offensive rebounds. They would attack on the offensive end. The ball moved, the players moved, there was cutting and motion, it was a thing of beauty. It was nothing like the three games the Wildcats had played against UCSD this year. There was a precision and rhythm to the Cats’ offensively that showed this team at their peak. To quote Norman Dale in the movie Hoosiers, “all pistons firing operating as one.”

Ellis was simply other-worldly. The Wildcat junior scored 19 of his game high 34 in the first half. The Tritons having watched Chico hit 25-of-50 from three-point range in the first two games of the regional were reluctant to double Ellis, out of fear of leaving the triumvirate of Wildcat shooters open, they paid the price.

Even after an 11-0 run by the Tritons sent their faithful into a frenzy, giving UCSD a 57-51 lead, Chico would counter with a 14-7 run of their own and this time it was more than Ellis. Corey Silverstrom would get hot taking top of the key and wing three’s to set it off. All the other pieces for the Cats played well including the other duo on the “core-fore” Jalen McFerren and Duncan. The beauty of Duncan’s play is he facilitated much of the Wildcat success. In past year’s Chico had to have Duncan score, but this year Duncan and Wildcats thrive when he facilitates ball movement and action. His talents necessitates constant attention. That attention opens things up for his mates and in the regional Duncan has never been better. McFerren took the slings and arrows from all teams to run the offense with continuity and flow. His 37-minute 1 turnover performance may be one of the more over-looked great games of the season for the Cats, but not by those of us that saw him play.

Everyone in uniform for Chico State played well against San Diego. In retrospect there just wasn’t a player who didn’t play well, that how championship teams are crowned.

With as well as the Wildcats played they still had to withstand an incredible shooting display by the Tritons. UCSD shot 14-of-26 from three-point range, making Chico State pay for their double-teams against sophomore post Chris Hansen. The complimentary pieces were tremendous for San Diego, but as CCAA-MVP Adam Klie said after the game, “we just couldn’t get stops. They (Chico) just played really well.”

Knocking off three conference champions in four days is not an easy task. When you do it, deep down you have to think all things are possible and that is the attitude the Chico State Wildcats bring to Sioux Falls. The Cats finished in a tie for third in the CCAA, got knocked out in the semis of the CCAA Conference Tournament but their championship pedigree is undeniable.

This Chico State core pushed themselves to heightened levels of exhaustion just to win a CCAA regular season title in 2016. They would never win another game the night after they clinched. They expended so much energy to win that regular season title, they had nothing left.

There was a conscious effort as many Wildcats professed to me in October to perform and win in the NCAA Tournament. The conference accolades and rewards were nice, but the NCAA Tournament riches are better. This team knew this, and their experience in losing in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years lit a flame that, at times dimmed slightly, but never extinguished.

They are peaking. They are hungry. And, they don’t feel like they are anywhere near finished.

 

Reason for optimism with Chico State baseball at 35 thousand feet

(pictured is Cody Snider after his solo blast at Minute Maid Park that gave Chico State a short-lived 2-1 lead on Sunday against Central Missouri)

Call me an eternal optimist but I am not discouraged even as the Chico State Wildcat baseball suffered a gut-wrenching loss on get-away day against 3rd-ranked Central Missouri at Houston’s Minute Maid Park on Sunday morning.

Chico was two outs away from victory before the game slid through their fingers in frustrating fashion resulting in a wild walk-off celebration for the tournament’s hosts.

Cody Snider’s laser down the right field line snuck inside the Chick-Fil-A foul pole, lighting up the Wildcat dugout and bringing the Cats to the brink of two-win weekend. But, the Baseball Gods disagreed.

You see when you don’t play the game the right way Mr. Baseball God doesn’t believe that should be rewarded. While Chico’s starting pitching and defense was absolutely stupendous all weekend, their pedestrian approach at the plate left a lot to be desired. Chico managed only two hits in a series opening loss to Texas A&M Kingsville on Friday afternoon, despite Hunter Haworth and the bullpen pitching very well.

On Saturday, the Wildcats were the beneficiaries of three St. Mary’s of Texas errors in the 3rd inning resulting in four runs. They also received two walks and those walks would come around and score in the 8th inning on wild pitches as the Cats would add to their lead, beating the Rattlers 6-3.

On Sunday, Chico State had numerous opportunities to put runs on the board and just couldn’t take advantage. Head Coach Dave Taylor was lamenting his team’s approach to situational baseball before the game and has more ammunition for mid-week teaching moment heading into CCAA play on Friday.

Chico was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Sunday and 1-for-22 on the weekend. Yes, the Baseball Gods don’t like long swings in hitters counts with runners in scoring position and the Cats would pay the price as the Mules of Central Missouri would walk them off with a 3-2 win.

FIRST THE GOOD NEWS

Here is the good news. Front line starters Hunter Haworth, Casey Costello and Cam Greenough were lights out all weekend. Haworth pitched six shut-out innings on Friday, and even though he surrendered four earned runs in the 7th inning. His line was not indicative of how dominant he was 6.1 innings 6 hits 4 earned runs with 10 strikeouts.

Casey Costello tied up a good hitting team in St. Mary’s on Saturday pitching six shut-out innings, giving up only 5 hits and not allowing a run.

On Sunday Junior right-hander Cam Greenough was lights out. He pitched 7 shut-out innings giving up 6 hits and striking out seven. Taylor couldn’t have asked for more from a group that is expected to be the backbone of the Wildcats 2017 pitching staff.

The defense was tremendous all weekend. Whether it was acrobatic catches by Sonny Cortez in the spacious Minute Maid Park on Friday or diving and sliding catches by Cody Snider in right or Casey Henderson ranging deep in the holes at short the Cats flashed the leather only committing one error all weekend and now have only had three miscues through their first 11 games. Defense will win a lot of games for the Wildcats this year.

Staring pitching and defense, the elements which are the back-bone of the Wildcat program, and they appear to be in fine shape again this year.

THINGS TO FINE-TUNE 

I am encouraged about the 2017 Chico State Wildcats because I saw this team “rake” all season last year. I saw them devour mediocre pitching and even find a great bit of success against some of the CCAA’s best. This 2017 has returnees up and down their line-up and I simply don’t think their struggles at Minute Maid will continue. There are too many good, veteran hitters who have experience and know what it takes to win.

Talking about it and executing are two distinct things but I feel very confident that we will not see a Wildcat team go three days and manage only 1 hit with a runner in scoring position the rest of the year. Ironically the hit was a bunt, that was meant as a sacrifice by Andru Cardenas on Saturday, but the St. Mary’s second baseman forgot to cover first base. Cardenas was given a hit. The only knock with the runner in scoring position all weekend.

I really like the “stuff” coming out of the Wildcat bullpen. This weekend they did scuffle a bit. Both Andrew Schantz and Jae Wagner walked lead-off men in the 8th and 9th innings to allow Central Missouri to get lead-off men on. Those walks directly led to Mules runs. This Cats group is expected to be strike-throwers and that was lacking at critical times this weekend. That will get better and in turn Chico will be able to nail down these tight games late.

While I sit on this team flight home with a bunch of ball players who reveled in the experience of playing at Minute Maid Park, they also know they left a win or two in Houston. They fell to a couple of really good teams in tight contests. They lost games where the little things mattered and Chico State didn’t do them. The early season problems are fixable. The starting pitching and defense is fantastic, overwhelmingly dominant at times. Chico isn’t hitting now. They will figure it out. And, when they do, look out.

*Photo courtesy of Skip Reager with Chico State Athletics http://www.chicowildcats.com

Thoughts on the Chico State Wildcat Men from 35 thousand feet

*Here are some thoughts on the plight of the Chico State Wildcat men’s basketball team from 35 thousand feet as I fly to Houston with the Chico State baseball team to Houston*

The news emerging from the Division West Region NCAA Men’s Basketball committee on Wednesday afternoon had to send a jolt of energy to the Chico State men’s basketball team.

The first regional ranking has the Wildcats sitting at number five in the West Region with the top eight teams going to the NCAA Tournament in three weeks.

The news had to be thrilling for a Wildcats team that has dropped three in a row and four of their last six. With losses over the last 11 days to Sonoma, San Francisco State and Cal State San Marcos the Wildcats were left to wonder whether their early season success would be over-looked, but as we like to emphasize, your post-season fate rests on your body of work and not entirely on “what have you done lately?”

For a team that was averaging nearly 78 points a game, the Wildcat offense has come to a stand-still during their skid. During the recent downturn it’s not as if the Cats are playing a bunch of also-rans. Sonoma State has the best Division II defense in the country and their match-up zone that put the clamps on Chico is “hell on wheels.” The Seawolves held Chico to a season-low 50 points in a 16-point win.

San Francisco State has interior size, perimeter athleticism and followed their game-plan perfectly in holding Chico to 51 points 10 days ago. The biggest surprise in the down-turn was Chico’s sub-par performance against the Cougars of San Marcos. At Acker Gym and after a great week of practice the Wildcats were held to 58 points in a heart-breaking loss against a team they put 80 points on in early December. It was Chico’s first loss at home in 13 games this year.

It is no surprise what is giving Chico State trouble right now. The match-up zone. The offense was cruising until Greg Kamanksy’s Cal Poly Pomona Broncos put the clamps on Chico’s offense in late January at Kellogg Gym. After the game Kamansky told me, “that’s best our zone has been all year.” Well, the rest of the CCAA has taken notice and employed their different versions of a defense that has suddenly put the skids on the free-flowing, ball is a blur Chico State offense.

The Wildcats have been known to carve up the zone, but inexplicably their flow has come to a stand-still against the zone over the last several weeks. Chico State head coach detests when the ball “sticks” in a players hands. By “sticking” he means when the ball is held by the offensive player, player just holds it as movement and cohesive play stops. There has been too much sticking. Too many times yours truly says, (Chico State player) is “surveying the scene.” When Chico attacks the teeth of the zone, they are either driving right into the heart of a double or triple team, make an ill-advised pass or take a bad shot. The synchronicity of the Wildcat offense is dis-jointed and has frustrated them as a group.

Clink was at wit’s end after last Saturday’s loss calling his teams’ offense “putrid.”

There is a silver lining to this slide. Last year the Wildcats lost steam after a 22-3 start and capturing their second straight CCAA title and could not recapture the magic dropping their final three games of the season including their NCAA Tournament opener against UC San Diego. Almost the entire squad that saw their season end so unceremoniously last year is on this squad and they will do whatever they need to do to prevent a repeat of last year.

Coming into the season the professed goal of many of the Wildcats I spoke with was not winning a 3rd straight CCAA title, but it was to go into the post-season playing their best basketball. With two weeks left in the regular season the regular season CCAA title may have come and gone, but the hopes of playing their best basketball still sits there like the ultimate carrot on a rope.

This team is too good and too veteran to let this little down-turn define their season. It will take more than talking about how good they are though. This team has to come together, maybe have some tough internal conversations, look themselves in the mirror and figure out what kind of team they want to be. I know they can do it, their rabid supporters know they can do it. Now we wait for them to figure it out.

Photo courtesy of Chico State Wildcats at http://www.chicowildcats.com

Preparing for the new Authoritarian reality

 

There has never been a more important time to get off the grid and become a ghost than now.

With the election of Donald Trump, the expanded executive powers  were borne out of the George W. Bush administration and then were put on steroids under Barack Obama. These powers are now in the hands of Donald Trump. There is always a danger when one branch of government purports they “need” expanded powers to “protect” the country. These powers were born after 9/11 with the Patriot Act under the auspices of protecting America. Proponents claim the Patriot Act has stopped numerous attacks but can not specifically cite one instance where it has, it can not be argued though that these powers have curtailed the personal liberties of every American. If I don’t want you reading my emails and tracking my movements, you shouldn’t be able to.

The great danger in keeping these policies in place is that one day America would elect a tyrant. We have.

If Donald Trump does half the things he professed during the campaign personal liberties will be in shambles. It’s up to you to be prepared on the best ways to fight.

I hear people say all the time. “I have nothing to hide, I don’t care what they see, I have nothing to hide.” That is a great response to which I always respond, “that is great, if you have nothing to hide here is a piece of paper I want your passwords to all your email accounts because I would like to read your emails.” I have never had one person hand over their passwords. They trust their government but they don’t trust their buddy ole pal.

While most of us are not revolutionaries and have nothing to hide, some of us don’t want the government snooping on some of our most inane of discussions. It’s not a matter having things to hide, it’s a moral standing and making sure we are  living under the laws and protections our framers envisioned.

There are 59 NSA centers around the nation collecting data on every American and sending the data to the new  8 billion dollar data center in the desert of Utah. This metadata is analyzed, logged and stored. No one knows how an authoritarian regime will use this information so if you have ever been critical of our leaders, it’s important to know what the government has their disposal….EVERYTHING.

Keywords, codes and passwords are all being logged. Any negative thing said about anyone, everything is being logged. The game has now changed with an ego-maniacal authoritarian in a position of power. Nonsensical Twitter and Facebook posts, blogs and essays are being logged and no one knows how this totalitarian and his minions  will operate with so much information.

Now that the Authoritarian age is upon us here are some things all of us should consider if we want to small snippets of independence.

  1. Get encrypted email. Preferably from an overseas source. Switzerland is a great choice. Their protections for individual liberty and privacy are some of the best in the world.
  2. Get a VPN service. A Virtual Private Network. This service will take your online conversations off the social grid. If you want to post so everyone can see you, you won’t need it. If you want to share documents, strategize or just rail against the authoritarian regime now in place VPN is essential. DO NOT get VPN services based in the United States, the UK, Australia, Canada or New Zealand. These countries are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence. The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a “supra-national intelligence organization that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries”. If you get VPN “based” in any of these countries, you are wasting your time if you don’t want the NSA snooping on your activities. The joint surveillance doesn’t stop there. There are also agreements in place with the NINE EYES group that includes Denmark, France, Netherlands and Norway. When you throw in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden in the 14 EYES conglomerate, one can see how far-reaching the tentacles of the NSA reaches. These subsidiary groups to the FIVE EYES have agreements with the Big  Five, but are thought to have homegrown safeguards in place that prevent blanket surveillance. But, still good to know the 14 countries that are working in concert.
  3. Virtual Private Networks used in conjunction with the Tor Browser are the strongest protections one can use against the oppressive practices of authoritarian regimes. Never use a free VPN service. Pay for the service and don’t leave a trail or purchase. Use bitcoin of some other unidentifiable payment method. Remember, everything can be tracked, but if you use an anonymous payment method to purchase an anonymous and undetectable service, with verification sent to an encrypted email, it will be very difficult to track your moves, especially if you plan on organizing a resistance to President Trump. These protections must be staples to organizational mechanisms.cxzqksqvqaavhcq
  4. DO NOT LISTEN TO APPLE AND MICROSOFT…….This morning according to the Associated Press the two tech giants along with other tech companies urged their customers to use their fingerprints, faces or eyes as digital keys for their devices. DON’T DO IT. Law enforcement can make you unlock your devices with fingerprints, faces or eyes, but they can’t make you hand-over a password. Make sure your passwords are long, complicated, have upper and lower case letters, have numbers and symbols. Preferably at least 6 or more digits. If the authorities want to open your phone they can get it. But, the more you educate yourself in how to take control of your device and how to wipe it clean……FAST they will be stuck.

In closing, if authorities want your information they can get it. The resources available to the National Security Agency are unimaginable. But, if you plan to fight against the current Christian theocracy and United State regime, you must do it away from prying government eyes.

The storm is coming, you need to be prepared. Once you realize its here, it will be too late.

Every athlete should be offended by Donald Trump

As a professional sports broadcaster covering professional, collegiate and high school sports for more than 25 years I take a great exception to Donald Trump’s characterization that his repulsive comments about women are simply “locker room” banter.

I have been in locker rooms where athletes knew who I was and may have been careful about what they were saying. I have been in locker rooms where the athletes didn’t know who I was and discussed all matters unfiltered. Without a doubt the language can get salty but I have NEVER in thousands of instances  ever heard an athlete brag about sexually assaulting a woman. In fact, if such a discussion ever took place I do not doubt that athlete would be confronted by his teammates and either turned in or ostracized by his mates.

Unlike Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President, 99.9 percent of society doesn’t find sexual assault as something that should be glamorized and “bragged about.” I am not sure what kind of alternate reality Trump and his minions operate in but locker-rooms are not filled with a den of vipers looking to denigrate and assault women. Every athlete should take great exception to a man who professes to know what takes place in a locker-room and act as if it is common-place where assaulting and marginalizing women is tolerated and accepted behavior.

When he said, “locker-room” banter I seethed. What the hell are you talking about ? What kind of locker rooms are you going to ? Certainly not where any “real” athletes hang out.

I want to make it clear. Locker-room language can get salty. It can get pretty damn male. But, bragging about sexually assaulting women and athletes forcing themselves on women?…..that does not happen.

Don’t let this Trump lie become ingrained in your consciousness as truth.

“Devil Magic” may have met its match

The San Francisco Giants carpet ride of glory may have met its match in an October even year with this year’s 103-win Chicago Cubs.

There has been something magical about the Cubs this year. Joe Maddon and his fun-loving bunch believe this is their time. They have the group young and wild enough to give the finger to 108 years of no banners. They are the best team in baseball and they carry themselves like they know it.

It was only one game but the Cubs and Jon Lester tamed the beast that roars in last night’s 1-0 win. The “Devil” also saw some moments of trepidation when calls that usually go their way in October’s past, inexplicably didn’t.

Early on it seemed the Giant mo-jo was intact. A sliding acrobatic catch in left center by Gorkys Hernandez kept the Cubs at bay early, and a tremendous sliding snag of a hard hit grounder late by Kelby Tomlinson had Satan and minions delighted. But, that all turned in the 9th when Hernandez was called out on a check-swing, that replays clearly showed was a bad call and he should have been awarded first base. The call was even more painful for the Giants when Buster Posey rattled a ball off the ivy in left-center that would have easily scored the speedy Hernandez with two outs in the 9th.

You will say this a little thing, but I say its big. These are the types of plays, the types of breaks that always go the Giants way in October. Last night they didn’t.

Devil Magic is on full alert. It only takes one of those quirky plays to not go your way allowing even-year doubt to start seeping in.

Giants collapse is historic in scope as Dodgers surge

The more I rip on the guy, the more his merry-band-of-do-gooders proves me wrong. I am still not a fan of many of Andrew Friedman’s moves but I would be foolish not to acknowledge the Dodgers tremendous second-half run which has led to a 4-game lead of the San Francisco Giants with 25 games left to play.

This collapse by San Francisco is something of legend. And, make no mistake this is a collapse. Our favorite story-telling play-by-play man, the venerable Vin Scully alluded to it on Monday night calling the Giants collapse one of the “strangest things he has seen in his 67 years in the game.”

Lets dissect the Giants sub-par play, something that brings smiles to all Dodger Blue faces…..

First, after compiling the best record in baseball at 57-33 on July 10th, the Giants have turned into the worst team in baseball. No, really, since that date the Giants are 17-31 and that is the worst record in baseball. How did it happen ? Well, the Giants have under-performed in almost EVERY statistical category in baseball.

On July 10th the Giants had four players with an OPS better than .800. Since then not one player has on OPS better than .800. Madison Bumgarner hasn’t been very good either. He had a 1.94 ERA before the All-Star Break, since then a pedestrian 3.66 ERA. Jeff Samardjiza’s ERA is nearly 4 and-a-half and Johnny Cueto has been good not great going from a 2.47 ERA in the first half to a 3.90 ERA in the second half.

As much as you want to focus on the pitching struggles the Giants collapse is all about their hitting. Buster Posey hasn’t homered in 40 games. Hunter Pence is only hitting .231 since coming off the DL and Brandon Crawford is only hitting .242 in the last month.

Were the Giants beyond their ski’s in the first half ? Giants fans will tell you “yes.” But, the fact remains they were the toast of baseball. San Francisco had a 4-game lead on the Chicago Cubs on July 10th. Now, the Cubs don’t even see them in the rear-view mirror.

On June 26th the Giants had an 8.5 game lead on the Dodgers. On that same day the Dodgers learned Clayton Kershaw and his 1.79 ERA had a back ailment and was going on the shelf. Here we sit 10 weeks later the Dodgers have picked up 12.5 games on the Giants and are 4-clear of their rivals with 25 games left.

The Dodgers have done it with superb bullpen work (gulp) ! I can not believe how well the Dodgers pen has performed. I not only buried this group aside from Jansen but I walked them through the town-square and had the faithful holler “SHAME SHAME SHAME” over and over. What a performance by a group of guys who I had given up on. If this was a two or three work resurgence I would hold my platitudes. This group has done this ALL SEASON. Well done boys ! But, I better not see Pedro Baez in a tie-game in the post-season with other options available.

Friedman’s plan to strengthen through depth has worked. Double and Triple-A call-ups have performed, most notably Andrew Toles who has been a revelation. Friedman had Toles in Tampa before Toles almost behaved himself out of the game. But, Toles cleaned up his act and Friedman never forgot the skill-set. Kudos to Friedman. Julio Urias and Jose DeLeon are future stand-outs in the Dodgers rotation. I understand the need to monitoring usage and pitch count, but I want to see these guys if the Dodgers are fortunate enough to get to October. I better not see the 76 million dollar busts in Anderson and McCarthy, I better not see it.

While I was not a fan of the Ellis for Ruiz  and Hill and Reddick for three power arms. Now that they are here, I believe this helps the Dodgers if they play in October. Despite being predominantly left-handed on offense, the Hill trade really helps the Dodgers rotation, especially with his eminence Sir Clayton on his way back.

It is now a sprint and the Dodgers are rolling. 4 games up on the Giants with 25 to play. Los Angeles and San Francisco play 6 games against one another including the final three in city by the bay.

I still can’t believe the Dodgers are in this spot. I still don’t believe this team is more talented than the teams we had from 2013-2015 but this team may be better than all those clubs. They have that IT factor that plays in October. As for the Giants, they are just scuffling to be relevant in October.

Freedom necessitates nuance in Kaepernick debate……

I actually thought the only news we would hear about Colin Kaepernick this summer would be that he would be traded or cut. Little did I know that Colin had something else on his mind

Regardless of where you stand on the Kaepernick and SitGate you have to admit, he has made himself relevant again. Albeit in a way that has nothing to do with football.

Let me start with this. I fully support Colin Kaepernick’s right to sit during the national anthem. If he wants to make that statement, he is fully entitled to do so. He is entitled to use his celebrity however he sees fit. Personally, I am not a huge fan of how he is making his  statement, but it’s his choice not mine. He is free to protest however he wants.  I also fully support those that are vociferously voicing their displeasure at his actions because they see it as a slap in the face to the  men and women who have died for our country. Some have gone completely overboard in their criticisms of Kaepernick and they are free to do that as well.

It really doesn’t matter what you think about the wars and “police actions” we as a country have engaged in. If you believe that flag and the anthem represent those that fought for our freedom and you take offense, be offended. What has emerged in this whole debate is what the anthem and the flag mean to so many of us, and in this regard I think this debate is important.

Kaepernick sees great injustice in how African-Americans are treated by law enforcement. I have never seen injustice suffered by African-Americans and being supportive of law enforcement as diametrically opposed. I have always believed the rules and perceptions of behaviors by minorities have been scrutinized and punished at a higher rate than whites. In fact, statistically its inarguable.

With the recent spate of high-profile shootings and arrests many in our country see this as a chance for real change. The way we can change things is by sitting down face-to-face and having some difficult discussions. These moments for change can’t take place if one side or the other refuses to open their minds and at least put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

If we can agree that a man selling CD’s on a street corner out of the back of his car does not deserve to be shot to death and that ALL police officers are somehow looking to frame, shoot and incarcerate African-Americans, then maybe meaningful dialogue can take place.

The problem is patience is growing thin. When is enough….enough. How many more minorities have to be shot for the most trivial of infractions. Social statements are a way of bringing attention to matters of race and equality. We are seeing these statements in the case of Kaepernick.

I love the national anthem. Have always had great reverence for the song that represents this country. During the last week though I have learned a little more about the man who wrote the anthem, Francis Scott Key. Key was not a great guy. Key was deep-seeded racist. I had no idea he was a slave owner who wrote a verse that glorifies the killing of slaves who left for Canada during the War of 1812. As you can imagine that verse is not included in our anthem. You can read more on this in Jon Schwarz great piece on The Intercept website…..

https://theintercept.com/2016/08/28/colin-kaepernick-is-righter-than-you-know-the-national-anthem-is-a-celebration-of-slavery/

This revelation while surprising doesn’t change the way I feel about the United States when I hear the song. I told you “nuance” was coming and here it is. When I hear the song I think about all the men and women who had to courage to answer the call to fight for this country regardless of what was at stake. I seem to always think about those young kids who stormed the beaches of Normandy, scared, alone and knowing they were probably going to die, but fought  for us anyway. I think of the Tuskegee Airmen. Despite the great inequities of the time, they STILL saw promise in this country to fight for it and make a better life for themselves and their families. They didn’t bitch about life being unfair, and it clearly was. They fought ferociously for our country. That is what I think about when I hear the anthem and put my hand or hat over my heart.

This brings me to more nuance. In a free society the song can mean anything to whomever hears it, ingests it and thinks about it. Freedom and having liberty is not easy. How boring would our nation be if everyone agreed ? How would we cultivate change without our vast array of differences in thought and perspective ? The song and reverence I feel for it does not mean I glorify and celebrate slavery. The song, the flag mean something unique to all of us. It gives all of us a chance to reflect on the great sacrifices of soldiers, family or people we haven’t met. And, the song can also represent an opportunity for someone to protest what they see has been great injustice in our society.

The freedom to disagree. The freedom to criticize those who we disagree with. The freedom to think. The freedom to be our unique self. There is nothing more American than that.