Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Optimistic? These Are Your 2013-14 Lakers (NBA Preview)

You can try the best you can
If you try the best you can
The best you can is good enough.....

Well here we are. Another NBA season. As happy as I am for various reasons (Return of D-Rose, Miami’s 3-peat bid, Dwight Howard in H-Town - yes, I want to see him do well), I’m also staring dead at a Lakers team with the lowest expectations I’ve seen in 10 years.

Steve Nash is pushing 40. Pau Gasol is still at a high level but hurting. And of course, Kobe Bryant won’t be starting the season opener for the first time in ages. And this is what the starting lineup looks like tonight.

Yeah, this is what they are. A decent lineup that doesn't strike much fear. It’s a reminder that this team has to prove what they are. Not just to the doubters but to the fans who want to know what the Mad Doctor Mike D’Antoni will cook up. Year 2 of his tenure scares me because he’s still the coach and unless he magically decides to commit to defense, everything’s a tossup.

That’s why I feel like Radiohead’s Kid A. Coming to a new world that looks familiar but is radically different and unpredictable. Yet, I’m trying to stay optimistic with Thom Yorke’s sad, bleak voice encouraging me.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekend Wrapup (Links!)

A busy weekend for me leads to good writing. I might be having another feature coming up this week so stay tuned. That might take the edge off what was a rough weekend for my teams (UCLA got boatraced after 3 tight quarters, Dallas let Calvin Johnson go off and Matt Stafford win the game in the last minute).

Here's your brief links.

Recapping Week 9 in the Pac-12 over at Bro Jackson - let the countdown begin for Oregon vs. Stanford!

I covered Mira Costa High School's big win over Peninsula HS where they ruined homecoming and surprisingly passed the ball efficiently for a being a run-oriented team. As always, check those videos on the side, shot by yours truly. (Daily Breeze)

Tomorrow, I'll be posting my thoughts on the Lakers' season. My feelings are a little more optimistic - not in a Sounds of Blackness way, but more Radiohead. Trying to make the best of a bleak situation and I'm taking a glass half full approach without being ignorant of what's around or missing.

At the same time, I have some positives to look at. It won't be a lost season but it'll be close.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Wrap! (Weekend Links and Thinks)

Saw the Lakers' recent preseason game against Utah and I realized this team might actually be alright. For the first time in a while, they have youth and guys who can score on their own. If Steve Nash stays healthy, he might actually feel like he's in Phoenix again with Xavier Henry, Nick Young and Jordan Farmar splitting some backup duties with Steve Blake.
Alas, that tough opening schedule makes it also easy to realize it's going to be every bit a struggle as I thought. But I'm glad Kobe is taking his time because it's not how the season starts but how it ends.

The Grambling situation has been far too complicated for me to address here. As someone whose parents and sister went to HBCUs and personally had to overcome my anti-HBCU bias in college, I'm saddened by what the administration and the Louisiana government have done here and I'm glad the players took an eloquent stand for their rights and safety.

Check out the excellent Monday edition of His & Hers Podcast with Jemele Hill, Michael Smith and HBCU product Bomani Jones speaking on it all.

Tell me which sounds better? The Boston Red Sox saw their nine-game World Series streak ended or they lost their first game in 27 years? Which is more accurate when you add that Boston has only been in three World Series since 1986 and had completely different teams in 2004, 2007 and this year. You decide but as I always say, context is so critical and we as the media need to do better with numbers to make it sound cool AND accurate

That said, on to the links of what I've done this week.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend Wrap (Pac-12 Roundup + More Links)

It was a busy sports weekend for me and while the Chargers and Cowboys handled their business, it wasn't pretty seeing my UCLA Bruins get punched in the mouth. At least USC lost to Notre Dame. Here's what I was up to.

Narbonne-San Pedro has become the most competitive high school football rivalry in the LA City Section since 2008. I covered their latest chapter, a 12-11 Narbonne win, and also contributed some postgame notes (Daily Breeze)

I also covered a lil JUCO football action at El Camino College. Tough loss for the Warriors but I ran into former Dorsey HS/USC standout Stafon Johnson, who was working with the running backs. (Daily Breeze)

My UCLA Report Card: With a nod to my tutoring roots, I graded UCLA as harsh as I possibly could because they deserved it. (UCLA 24/7)

Recapping the Pac-12 was a lot of fun this week and it just shows that there's Oregon/Stanford and everybody else. After the Top 5 teams, it's a mess. (Bro Jackson)

Also I threw in a little extra today on the first BCS poll coming out Sunday. The beginning of an American past time for the last time - hating the BCS before it goes away for the college football "playoff". (Bro Jackson)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weekend Links!! (It's Friiiiday, Throw Your Neighborhood in the Air)

Some things for the road as we enjoy today. As usual, I'll be out on Friday Night Lights hanging at Narbonne vs. San Pedro. I've seen three absolute thrillers with both teams (twice in 08 - including the infamous tied City Final, once in 2009) so I'm excited except for the prospect of being cold out there.

Here's some last minute things to throw at you.

UCLA vs. Stanford. Biggest game for the Bruins all year and they have a much better chance of winning that I thought two weeks ago. I got your preview, breakdowns and predictions for how tomorrow will go.  (UCLA 24/7)

For the rest of the Pac-12 this weekend, visit Bro Jackson and see my preview. You might learn some things about why the conference is stronger than anybody not named the SEC.

I spread my wings a bit with the Daily Breeze this week. I covered my first water polo match and Thursday, I covered my 2nd cross country match. Check out those videos on the side cause those were shot by yours truly.

And if you missed that piece I wrote here on Steve Bartman and how we wrongfully label folks goat and chokers, here you go. Enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Steve Bartman, 10 Years Later (On "Goats" and "Chokes")

Apologies for the quiet over here. My other obligations have been keeping me busy but my mind is still racing with ideas to write about. This week has given me the chance to finally get something off my mind.

10 years ago Monday was the Steve Bartman game. Game 6 of the NLCS. I remembered it vividly because I was out on campus at school and came back to hearing folks go crazy in my dorm. Five outs from the World Series, the Cubs blew a lead and instantly all the blame went to one fan who interfered with Moises Alou.

The 2nd thing I remember is posting something on my AIM profile saying Cubs fans shouldn't blame Bartman because a bigger goat was Alex Gonzalez who promptly bobbled a routine ball that should've been a double play. Last I checked, no matter how if Bartman should've left it alone, Gonzalez' play was far more egregious. Plus, one play doesn't blow a 3-0 lead.

If anything, maybe it exposed me to how hardcore fan bases are firsthand instead of just reading about it. I always grew up a rational sports fan but seeing the irrationality of hate directed towards Bartman was terrible. Few people talked about how a Gold Glove caliber shortstop made a crucial mistake or how the Cubs lost Game 7 despite Kerry Wood on the mound or how Josh Beckett was nails in Game 5 (and in relief in Game 7) to save the Marlins from being eliminated.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rising to the NLCS (The Dodgers and Me)

The only thing standing between the Dodgers and the World Series is the St. Louis Cardinals. The team that’s as good postseason money as anybody with 3 straight NLCS appearances.

But for some reason, I’m pretty confident this Dodgers team’s magical ride won’t end. I feel like it’s 2008 all over again when this was the first trip in 20 years. I wasn’t confident about the 2009 NLCS because I felt like Philly already had our number. This year, I’m feeling much different.

It hit me when Juan Uribe hit that home run in Game 4. I was wearing my Kershaw replica jersey that I kept on from my tutoring gig and I jumped around my living room like I jumped during the two walk-off wins at Dodger Stadium I attended this year. Once again, the excitement around this team is like nothing I’ve seen since 2008.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Housekeeping Notes (Couple Links, Videos and More)

I've been neglecting to post some links in here on what I've done. So let me show you some of the good of what I've been up to as I'm surrounded by a wave of Blue Euphoria after the Dodgers found another way to win a close game.

I'm going to write a piece about memories of the 2009 LCS tomorrow but let me preview it by saying this. I wasn't confident the Dodgers were going to win that series. This time? I have a lot more faith.

My weekly Pac-12 Roundup/Power Poll - Stanford-Washington leads it off. (Bro Jackson)

My 1st time ever attending, much less covering a cross-country meet. It wasn't just 85 degrees but it was a dry heat at a dirt road course with a difficult hill to climb at one point during the race. Nevertheless, it's a great story where I took a lot of video but also inspired me to get back more consistent on running. (Daily Breeze)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Recapping UCLA/Utah and Week 6's Pac-12 Preview

Happy Friday everyone. Couple of quick links and then I'll let you enjoy your weekend. I got a couple of prep assignments this weekend so stay tuned on my Twitter for the links and what not.

1st link of the day: My report card for UCLA's narrow victory over Utah at UCLA 24/7. The Bruins exorcised a few demons having not won in their last two trips to Salt Lake City and their defense led the charge with six interceptions.

Hat-tip to Brett Hundley doing it all with a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown, as well as a punt. Also props to Myles Jack showing why he'll be a Freshman All-America team candidate with the game-saving INT and tipping a pass to lead to another. I rarely call linebackers ballhawks but he's turning into one.

Link 2 looks ahead to Saturday where I preview the remaining four Pac-12 games at Bro Jackson. The best games are in the evening with Arizona State/Notre Dame and Washington/Stanford. Part of me wants Washington to upset the Cardinal but since the Cardinal haven't lost at home since 2011, it might not happen but it'll be a good close game.

Also, it could be validation why I rank Stanford ahead of Oregon. If Stanford wins, they would've beaten one very good team in Washington and another in Washington Sate. Oregon hasn't gotten to the meat of their schedule yet.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Robert Griffin III, Derrick Rose and why Marketing Recovery is a Dangerous Setup

Reading Howard Bryant’s piece on Robert Griffin III and the negative effects of marketing his recovery, I thought about Derrick Rose and why RG3’s play is a strong reminder he did the right thing. And also the nature of our times where everything is marketable no matter if it’s sound or not.

Seeing RG3 struggle is exactly why I’m glad Derrick Rose took his time. People can crack jokes about who came back to play before he did but for once, I’m glad an athlete showed discipline and didn’t rush back due to pressure. RG3 has been described as not himself and held back due to that brace. As if his body wants to do something but his mind can’t yet.

We often forget that the toughest part of injury recovery is mental. It’s trusting your body to do what it used to before. It’s not letting the reactions to your performance (good or bad) affect your already recovering psyche. The Scriptures say that the body is willing but the flesh is weak and too often, we see that when the mind interferes with a well-built frame.

Marketing someone’s return to action is just that. A return to playing but it doesn’t guarantee a return to stardom. It’s all about coming back to work to do your job, not asking if mentally you’re ready to do it. Like most else, injury recovery is now available to the highest bidder to fit a narrative.

It’s a catchy slogan but what does it prove when RG3 and Washington is at 1-3? What does it prove when D-Rose caught unnecessary hell for daring to listen to his body and not team doctors? Is the goal to come back or come back when you’re mentally, as well as physically, ready.

Adrian Peterson didn’t have a flashy marketing campaign when he tore up his knee. Just like Rose and RG3, he went to work and busted his butt.  His quick success has spoiled microwave fans who expect others to return quickly without realizing AD was the exception, not the rule.

Derrick Rose gave in to the campaign but he was in control of it. He wouldn’t let his teammates, coaches, doctors, media or fans force him to do anything he wasn’t ready for.

RG3 gave in to the campaign but I never thought he was in control. He wanted to come back ASAP and it seems like he and the coaching staff were at too many odds leading up to season 1. Even though I feel Shanahan hung him out to dry in the playoffs, Bryant's point about someone's image being their worst enemy is turning out true here for now. 

Griffin has used the first four games to get back in the groove and while I can't blame him for wanting to be out there when it counts, it's clear the results are mixed. Yes he's currently 6th in passing yards but he's thrown for four interceptions and he hasn't looked confident running the ball. But yet, because of the marketing and bravado and football culture, he came back maybe sooner than he would admit to (and he even hinted as much in February)

Instead of marketing recovery, we should be encouraging patience. Unfortunately, I fear we’re going to see this play out again in a month when another superstar may recover too fast from injury. Kobe Bryant may be seeing a terrible Lakers team and feel the need to throw on the Superman cape but I’d rather him wait and do it when he’s fully ready and tested it.

Modern medicine has made recovery quicker but it doesn’t mean the mind is right. RG3 talked all the good game in the world but the proof is in the pudding. Derrick Rose was honest as well and by waiting three more months instead of rushing back for the 2013 playoffs, he bought himself more time to get mentally ready to play. If anything D-Rose set himself up to succeed later while RG3 was set up to face the wrath if he failed right away because of the machine behind him.

As a Cowboys fan, I hope RG3 gets right soon. Peterson’s 2nd half performance should be a reminder that the best lies ahead. But I hope we remember that recovery - no matter what some company tells us - is a process that can’t be sped up and it continues long after athletes are cleared to play.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Goodbye Lane Kiffin (And What Lies Ahead for USC)

Now that the dust has settled a bit on Lane Kiffin's departure, I'll pass along my thoughts from Bro Jackson on his firing. I've said plenty about him already this year so I'll just bring this point up.

People have mentioned how USC has suffered from scholarship reductions. While that has hurt depth issues, the bigger problem isn't how deep they are. It's how unprepared the current Trojans are. It's how USC has slowly lost its luster with recruits in the area. This is according to 24/7 Sports ranking kids out of California who committed to USC

2011: 5 Top 10, 3 more in Top 20, Antuan Woods at 25 (Marqise Lee's year)
2012: 6 Top 20, Jordan Simmons at 23
2013: 3 Top 10, plus current freshman phenom Justin Davis at 21. As a non-Cali bonus, they snagged the No. 1 QB in the country.
2014 class: 1 Top 20. ZERO Five star commits. Several four stars.

The numbers declined sharply. That's where USC's problem was. Local kids didn't want to go there anymore because the program was getting toxic and as much as losing the fans hurt, losing relevance among recruits hurt. Nobody wanted to play for Kiffin similar to how local basketball talent didn't want to play for Ben Howland at UCLA after a while.

So as I did my current video on where they go from here, that's where they have to start. Re-endear themselves to the public and to the kids. Lane Kiffin's damage can be easily reversed but it might not happen this year. It's like solving pollution - you can't get rid of it right away but every step helps.