Opinion

No Country for Melo Tony

Carmelo Anthony

New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the fourth quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden. Memphis Grizzlies won 95-87. Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

So the Clippers and the Knicks are apparently talking a Blake-for-Melo swap. I’m not sure how to react. Seriously??? The ex-LA resident Clipper fan in me wants to cry. There is no Knick fan in me – despite going to school in New York City – but if there was, oh, my. Send Melo Tony away! Send him away for a pick. Send him away for no picks. Send him away for a piece of pizza. Just get him out.

Five years ago, there used to be a few sure things in the NBA. The Clippers being the laughing stock of basketball was one of them. They were “cursed!” Never mind that being cursed just meant drafting the wrong players, signing the wrong players, and just making poor decisions in general. Honestly, the Clippers weren’t cursed. They were lucky. There were no Greg Odens. No city of Cleveland stuff. Elton Brand ruptured his Achilles’ and ran away to Philadelphia. Count your blessings, LA.

Blake Griffin saved the Clippers. Without him, they’d probably still be firing coaches, paying nobody any money, and squandering draft picks. Nowadays, Clipper Nation is alive and well. Sometimes, people might even mention the Clips as championship contenders before cooler heads prevail. Regardless, they compete nightly and aren’t a total drag like the Lakers. None of that is remotely possible without Blake Griffin — the guy who turned the pretenders into the contenders. Without him, Chris Paul doesn’t even consider going there. There is no Doc Rivers. You think Captain Jack stops by? Not a chance!

To make matters worse, it’s not like they’re considering a trade for Paul George. Carmelo Anthony currently heads a team with a 10-22 record in the worst conference ever. You don’t trade your curse-breaker for a shot-taker. You’re a smart guy Carmelo, I’ll give you that. You’ll get out of this somehow, you always do. But I’m not worried about you. I’m worried about the Clippers.

Why would Los Angeles even consider that trade? I understand ESPN is, from time to time, very gossipy. So this all might be a whole bunch of gossip. But if you’re the Clippers, the existence of this rumor means – at the very least – you thought of the trade. How else would ESPN get wind of it? They’re next level, ESPN. They grab the rumors where they start: the frontal lobe of the human brain. The fact that someone in the Clippers organization actually formed a thought that involved trading Blake Griffin for Carmelo Anthony is pure, crazy madness.

I would have said the Clippers were a changed franchise a week ago. I would have gone out on that limb. But maybe that change was about as real as an ex demanding a second chance because they spent a year “traveling.” True colors are true colors, sometimes. You can’t go to a bunch of temples in Chiang Mai, party with Australians and suddenly claim you’re a better person. Change starts inside.

Melo Tony hasn’t changed his whole career. But you know what? That’s fine. He knows who he is. And he seems to be okay with that. More power to him. But if the Clippers make this trade – and that’s still an if, thankfully – all they’re doing is confessing that they were pretenders these past four years. That’s lame.

If I was a Clippers fan, this rumor would terrify me. It’s like Llewelyn Moss going back to that No-Country-shootout to give the dying guy some water. Why!? You could have walked away with the king’s ransom! Instead, you’re trading it for the king ransomer. Blake Griffin isn’t a perfect player (or a defensive ace) either but he’s shown a willingness to improve. He’s also five years younger than Melo Tony. That right there, is enough for me.

So go ahead Clippers. Do what you need to do. I just hope that Doc Rivers speaks for the entire organization when he says all this is “stupid.” Because honestly, it kinda is. Clipper Country should be No Country for Melo Tony.

Winning isn’t Everything

Winning Isn't Everything

Kobe Bryant is all about winning. He’ll do whatever it takes — especially $48 million contracts. So was that guy who said “winning isn’t everything.” Apparently, it’s the only thing. You probably don’t find this strange. I don’t either. After all, that’s what we’re about. Being competitive. We want our teams to win, our kids to win, our pets to win, even our fantasy teams.

But what if winning wasn’t just an outcome? What if it wasn’t the truth? What if it was more or less a concept – like time – that we use to contextualize our sports experiences? After all, measuring our lives in seconds, years or decades seems pretty shortsighted. And so maybe winning is too.

Look at it this way — is there anything more important and less understood than time? For something so pervasive, time is really hard to define. We really don’t know that much about it (scientifically, that is). All it leaves are its traces; the universal laws we can’t seem to undo: Skin wrinkles, fruit rots, beer goes flat. In this sense, time is really a whole bunch of entropy. Everything – from the hair on your head to the garden out back – is always moving towards a greater state of chaos.

Like time, sports are also entropic. They tend to progress towards greater chaotic states. The start of an athletic event – very much like the start of a universe – is compact and highly energetic. At a precise moment it will suddenly and rapidly expand to fill box scores, human consciousness and the internet. Over the next 48-60 minutes (depending), that previously neat and tidy package will unravel and progress towards a messy, complicated ending. That’s just the way of sports. It’s also the way of the universe.

The intricacy along the way cannot be understated. Look inside this microcosmic universe and you’ll see players tire, game-plans fail, shots fall short. But there, amidst all that madness, is a universal athletic truth — Everyone will try and stem that chaos. They will do whatever it takes. Coaches substitute and adjust game-plans. Players drink electrolytes and use deer antler spray. Spectators switch seats and invoke witchcraft.

If we know one thing about life, it’s that things tend to unravel and don’t tidy back up again. From this perspective, “choking” and “losing” are par for the course. They are naturally occurring by-products of life. Because life isn’t perfect. Everything just wants to fall apart.

The beauty of watching an athlete strive to keep it all together in the face of these universal chaotic realities — that’s what sports are all about. Chris Paul‘s dribble hesitation, Roger Federer’s footwork, a human being plunging from thirty feet into a body of water and not making a splash. It’s these moments that make us realize that nothing is perfect but that is the joy of sports — It’s the illusion, if only for just a second or two.

Often times, winning is a natural product of this elusive perfection. But defining these awesome athletic processes through a myopic lens of “we won” or “you lost” is doing sports (and the universe) a gross injustice.

So next time you watch an athletic event, remember the densely packed particles in a 0-0 score and all the chaotic possibilities they will rush out to become. Then remember that’s what we’re made up of. The planets, stars, galaxies, everything. It’s about the little things. Same with sports.

A Festivus for the Rest of Us: Alternative End-of-Year Sports Awards

kids_dragging_treeIt’s that time of year again! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Festivus for the rest of us!

A lot has happened this year. The football death machine is finally winding down and the Pro Bowl is going to be Super Cool. NBA teams are figuring out what they’re made of, famous players are turning into zombies, and David Stern’s end is nigh.

What’s more, the year is almost over! Soon we can start anew – New York Knicks style – with even hollower promises of getting things together, joining a running club, and not eating pints of ice cream at 3AM whilst on Tinder.

It’s really a time for rebirth, the holiday season. One last time to drink, eat, watch TV, and capitalistically consume ourselves to a final, metaphorical death before we wake up shivering in front of a Christmas tree wearing elf pants.

So when you’re talking words with those strangers you share DNA with, reaching for the Fireball to kill the pain, praying that Michael Bublé sounds different in another room of the house, just remember — it won’t, and he doesn’t.

Instead, check out this Alternate Holiday Award Celebration! People do some awesome things for the holidays. In honor of the Festivus pole, let’s mix it up and dish out some alternative sports awards.

The Catalonian Christmas Award

Catalonians have a tradition of putting a defecating man in their nativity scenes. They also have a Tio de Nadal, which is a pooping log that’s put in a fire on Christmas eve and beaten with sticks.

The award goes to the sports teams of New York! Thanks to Eli, Carmelo, and the Nets for making the holidays in New York resemble poop. Given a chance, the city would gladly beat them all with sticks.

The South African Cookie Stealing Award

South Africa has a tale about Danny, a boy who was murdered by his grandmother after stealing Santa’s cookies! This insanely irrational overreaction award goes to Joey Crawford, the only man this holiday season who will gladly T up his own children, eject his mother-in-law, and call an offensive foul on the ham.

The SantaCon Award

Lousy, loud, and drunk Santa Claus pub crawls! Nothing says America like vomiting and fighting people who don’t believe in Christmas. This award goes to the American in all of us — the Dallas Cowboys. Managing to stay relevant for all the right reasons – like losing and making really solid strategic decisions – the ‘Boys will always have our drunken, obnoxious hearts.

The Ukrainian Tree Decorating Award

Ukrainians decorate their trees with spiders and spider webs. None of that glittery weak stuff. This rad, black metal award goes to the Carolina Panthers, who have one of the most bizarre color schemes in all of sports. Nothing says awesome like black, silver, electric blue, and cats!

The Austrian Krampus Award

Krampus is a Christmas devil who beats naughty children with branches. Remember to behave, if not for the fear of unactivated charcoal but for your own life too, kids. This award goes out to the NFL and Roger Goodell for their giddy willingness to punish smaller, less powerful components of football in order to take the spotlight off the real guys in charge. The NFL will always take the moral high ground, so long as it doesn’t involve losing money.

The Japanese KFC Award

The Japanese have a tradition of eating KFC on Christmas Eve. This soul-sucking consumer award goes to ESPN, for airing commercial after commercial about guys pulling beer out of glaciers and older men creeping on their wives now that they’re physically capable. I’ll lose it if I have to ask another question like “Why is there a bar in the middle of an antarctic glacier?” or  “Does every guy who went to ‘State’ suffer from ED?”

Kobe Bryant: Judgement Day

t-800-12

After watching Kobe Bryant’s eight turnover, -.31 PER gem of a day, I found myself in a torn state of pity and sarcasm. I love Kobe, I love making fun of him and I can only do that because he’s an all-time great.

Sunday night was a cruel, cruel reality check.

What if he’s not Kobe anymore?  Is there a point to basketball? Who will we deem the best clutch player of all time without any statistical evidence to back it up next? Nobody else deserves to shoot 6-of-24 and win a Finals MVP.

Kobe at least offers a variegated shrubbery of insult-fodder. Nick Young has about one week’s worth of monochromatic jokes. He’s so dimensionless we’re resorting to this, which just isn’t funny.

Kobe’s proven year in, year out that he’s a machine (sorry, Sasha) and this is all starting to look eerily like Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Kobe’s the T-800 who’s been replaced by a newer, swaggier T-1000 (Nick Young) and Steve Blake is John Connor because he looks like a kid that probably has a whiny voice.

Anyway, you find yourself rooting for the same guy you rooted against in the first Terminator because now he’s older, cooler, has a sense of humor and is up against a whole bunch of Swaggish-evil. The T-800 is clearly outmatched but there’s no way the dude is getting outgunned. The T-1000, on the other hand, is just a relentless, one-trick pony in pursuit of his next shot. Nobody wants to root for that.

We all know how it ends. Swaggy P shish kebabs Kobe with a pole but Kobe re-routes his system to an alternate power source and grenade launches Swaggs into the melting pot. But this is where the movie gets sad. Because Kobe still has to go. The movie’s ultimate realization is that even a Terminator has a heart. And that heart must be melted into oblivion.

The T-800 can’t actually self-terminate either. Linda Hamilton has to do it for him. That’s the thing with these great players — they’re often unable to self-destruct unless the circumstances are right, i.e., joining a miserable team who hits the red button for them.

Enter the Brooklyn Nets.

If Hollywood is where dreams and personalities go to die, Brooklyn is where basketball Terminators go to liquidate their chips. The Nets have arguably the second-best power forward in NBA history in Kevin Garnett (because Tim Duncan isn’t really a power forward) and a Hall of Fame, NBA Finals MVP in Paul Pierce. Both of them are currently self-terminating in a giant, industrial melting pot in Brooklyn.

I mean, those guys terminated the ultimate Kobe Bean Terminator in 2008. Last year, they were both highly functioning, effective basketball players. Nobody saw this coming. Their collective negative drop in PER this season is -14.82. That’s like a whole league average, anti-player. They have managed to create some sort of negative value T-1000 out of their decline that is as rotten as Pau Gasol (14.90 PER) is valuable.

It could be worse, I guess. They could be on the Knicks. If the Nets are the league compost pile, the Knicks are the New York City garbage system. One is at least full of things, or the shells of things, that were at one time colorful and useful. The other just stinks and give you tickets that cost a lot of money.

Anyway, with all these once-great machines waving goodbye to Linda Hamilton as the industrial elevator takes them to their ultimate doom, I’m not ready to see Kobe Bean go there yet.

You’ve got an alternate energy source somewhere, Kobe. Find it.

You’ll have to self-terminate someday of course, because we can’t have Nick Young getting that chip of yours.

But not yet.