03/27/12

Tim(e) Square

The New York Jets officially announced Tim Tebow yesterday as their backup quarterback. And, starting underwear model. (Are the Jets running a football squad or a modeling agency? Sanchez and Tebow have now appeared in more sultry advertising than a Hardee’s cheeseburger. If Quinn and Brady and Cam could be traded to NY as cornerbacks, the Jets would be competitive for the Lingerie, if not the Super, Bowl.)

This just generally strikes me as a horrible fit. Tebow is certainly going to put pressure on Sanchez for the starting role, which may or may not be very effective at making Sanchez any better at his job. More importantly, the interpersonal dynamics just seem so weird. Tim’s been lampooned so much he’s like a internet gif. I would think it would be difficult for a proud and sort of street locker room like the Jets to embrace this dude. But, it sounds like he preferred it to Jacksonville. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’ve already done one Tebow song. I can’t bring myself to do another, quite yet. But, to join the fracas, I thought I’d repost. This is what I said about him back in the fall.

A new post tonight, I promise. Brad Pitt and Sean Penn raise an orphaned litter of Mango together.

Performed by the ipoetlaurete. Produced by pumpkinFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

All Things

02/16/12

Mid Range

Well, just like “Tebow Time” before it, “Linsanity” has forced my hand. While those of us who consume life- and work-debilitating quantities of ESPN and sports talk radio think that all the world must surely have heard of Jeremy Lin, most of the world does not consume life- and work-debilitating quantities of ESPN and sports talk radio and, therefore, aren’t under the working and erroneous assumption that everyone has. So, I’m sorry to 90% of you reading this who just don’t care.

So he’s Asian-American. A Harvard graduate. Played insignificantly for three NBA teams, including one in the D-League, the NBA’s equivalent to church league basketball. Gets an opportunity to start for the New York Knicks only because the Knicks had a junior varsity high school crew coxen running the point. He proceeds to set the record for most points averaged in the first five starts of any NBA career. ANY. The Knicks who were impossibly 8-15, when Lin was inserted, won 7 straight games, including two at the hands of game winners by Lin. Sound familiar?

By all accounts a stunning story for these three reasons. One: no one had EVER heard of him. Ever. Tebow had been heralded since around the pull-up/training pants stage. Two: Genuinely electric and historic basketball playing. Shooter. Scorer. Playmaker. Clutch. Three: He’s the first American of Asian descent to make the league.

Before I finish with Lin, I’d like to make two basketball points that no one else on the planet will really care about. But, they are massive pet peeves of mine and are moderately implicated by the Lin story.

First, if I hear another person decry the death of the mid-range jumpshot or jump shooting in general, I’m going to strap them to one of those Silence of the Lambs upright stretchers and allow Blake Griffin to repeatedly Mosgov them in the face. Larry Bird said it again the other day on Bill Simmons’ podcast. Saying it’s racist goes way too far but there is this weird bias against the modern game and in favor of the ancient game that is bothersome. Do you want to know why the modern game is characterized by dunks and three point shots? It’s not because black people are flashy or selfish or don’t know how to play “real” basketball. It’s because the dunk and the three are the two most efficient shots on the floor. Period.

What does every basketball coach and fan from this bygone era of on-the-top-of-the-ball dribbling and bankshots say about shooting? USE THE GLASS. Over and over. One of my high school basketball coaches looked and walked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. As his feet slapped rhythmically through the lane he would loft this horrible shot off the glass that never seemed to go in. (I’ve never understood how the muscle motor skill calculation as to accuracy and velocity for a bank shot was necessarily less complex than directly in the basket, but anyway.) They wanted you to use the glass because by their estimation it was the most efficient and easy shot. They would say things like, “Who cares how it looks” and “who cares if you won’t get any prom dates shooting it.” All they cared about was the bucket. They weren’t preserving the heritage of the game or the purity of any particular type of shot.

So, why have things changed. Is there any more efficient and high percentage shot on the planet than the dunk?? Basketball players dunk because it is essentially guaranteed to go in. Why would you perfect a 15 foot jumper when you can reach your arm down through the iron with the basketball in your hand? What happened to all the bank shot enthusiasts that haunted my adolescence? Is it maybe because the bankshot busy bodies themselves can’t reach their arms down through the rim?

And, the three pointer. Have you seen high school players shoot this shot? Have you seen college and pros shoot it? The NBA line is so deep, I’ve seen Steph Curry accidentally toe it while eating nachos at the concession stand. How can any human watch modern basketball and think these kids can’t shoot? It’s mind boggling. But, people rejoin, “They can’t hit that 15-18 footer though, like ol’ Havlicek and Pistol Tight Wad Pants.” Well, why would you, when you can step back four feet and get a whole EXTRA point?? I don’t understand.

So, the dunk and the three point shot have made the 15-18 footer the poorest and most inefficient shot on the entire court. It’s not significantly more makable than the three, and you get the same amount of points as a, wait for it, . . . dunk! It’s a matter of simple economics. The modern basketball player is making the most logical and efficient choices about shot selection. Why can’t the bankshot bureaucrats, the traditional champions of shot efficiency, see this?

Point two, and the one that circles back to Lin. Just as there appears to be this bias by fans and analysts against the modern game, the modern game has developed some of its own barriers to entry and full acceptance. It’s pretty plain that at the highest level, black people play basketball better than any other group on the planet (whatever the word “black” precisely means; obviously we understand race is a fluid genetic spectrum). And, because professional athletics is such serious money and because talent scouting is such an unpredictable enterprise, it is always safest to pick the longest, quickest, highest jumping athlete you can find. That’s also just sound economics and business judgment. The laws of probability say that you are going to find higher quality performers picking along those metrics.

But, what someone like Lin suggests is that we are missing an entire roped off well of the talent pool. There are two explanations for someone like Lin. Either, that he is truly an aberrational talent and it just so happens that we are lucky that the coincidences of the cosmos aligned to reveal him where the system was designed to overlook OR that there are many more Jeremy Lin’s out there but only a few, by virtue of circumstances, are afforded an opportunity to perform and be recognized.

I’ve long been convinced of the latter school. You can’t tell me that the system is so good that it is catching every single nontraditional athletic talent that exists. Take Steve Nash for instance. It’s universally agreed that he is a freakish athlete. All of these guys are. But, are you telling me that Steve Nash is the only remaining anglo-saxon who is competent to run the point in the NBA? Is Lin the only asian? Surely there are 2 others. Or 10 others. It seems that there is some issue of opportunity.

There is no more unforgiving sport than basketball. Basketball coaches are the quickest to sit a player for physical mistake. Missed shots, turnovers. Coaches swear that the mental mistake is the only intolerable one. But, it’s just not true. And, it’s especially not true for athletes, like Lin, who maybe don’t fully “look” the part. Doubt already exists about their game and so the margin for performance error is razor thin.

But, here, Mike D’Antoni’s hand was essentially forced, by necessity and circumstance and maybe even at the instigation of Carmelo Anthony, to play Lin. Otherwise, he almost certainly would have been cut within days of when he made his actual first start. That’s a real fact. But, because the Knicks were playing so poorly and essentially had no other alternative, Lin was given his opportunity. More importantly that opportunity came with space to fail. Because you necessarily can’t get any worse than losing almost all your games, Lin had freedom to be aggressive and relaxed and natural. He’s averaged nearly 7-8 turnovers a game. That’s a lot of excused mistake that almost no other team would have tolerated from a no-name, asian point guard.

The short: There is a slight market correction to be made in professional athletics. On the margins, not at the top, more scrutiny probably ought to be paid to highly skilled athletes even where they occupy non-traditional bodies or come from non-traditional programs or have names that can be conjugated in crazy, non-traditional ways. Lindestructible!

Oh, and I also think dunks and threes are freaking awesome. So, shut up neighborhood dad with the undefendable baby hook/beer in the hand shot.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djcluich.

Today’s song blog here:

Grace to Fail

12/12/11

5280 Feet

I tried to delay this topic. Actually, that’s not true at all. I was never going to address it. Didn’t even feel any real pressure to. I had a couple folks ask me about him on Twitter but wasn’t inspired. And, that’s not because I don’t cover sports or am somehow above a cheap human interest story (I do, and I’m not). But, to me there was no real story in a Tim Tebow song. Certainly not one that had any fresh angle that I was excited about. Now, Egyptian elections? On it.

At some point, however, you can’t be a credible rap news site and continue to avoid such a national event. The David Gergen’s of the world start taking you a little less serious. Bill Kristol doesn’t call quite as often. Serious people look to me for what it all means. To help them make sense of the mysterious world of the National Football League.

I really don’t have the energy to recount the entire Tim Tebow story. All-time great college quarterback at the University of Florida. Universally doubted as an NFL caliber starting QB. 4th string on the Denver Broncos depth chart. As a result of impossibly bad play by the starter, Kyle Orton, a crush of public opinion forces the hand of Bronco management who starts Tebow after a 1-4 start to the season (for my non-sports readers that’s 1 win to 4 losses). Tebow is mercilessly criticized by pundits and performs at a statistically absurd low level. All the while, he leads the Denver Broncos on an inexplicable 7-1 run, in spite of barely being able to throw the ball in a manner that resembles, in any respect, a thrown football. Included in those 7 wins are 5 or 6 of the most improbable comebacks ever seen, culminating in yesterday’s most stunning victory over the Chicago Bears at Mile High stadium in Denver. The Broncos were down 10 with two and a half minutes left and won 13-10.

ESPN commentators, who have been tearing apart his technical ability for months, stared blankly into the cameras postgame. And said things like “wigi board,” “magic eightball,” “floo powder,” and “banana pants.” Actually, they didn’t say “magic eightball.”

Another critical detail about Tim Tebow: he may be the most outspoken athlete concerning his Christian faith that there has ever been. Eye black with bible verses. Kneeling prayers mid game. Heaven pointing. Pro-life commercials. Glory-to-God given before EVERY statement to the media. Every single one.

I have never been a Tim Tebow fan. He was a gator. Who could reasonably cheer for that?

I’m also a little queasy of Jesus cheerleading. Full disclosure, I wore a “Jesus is BOSS” (as in Hugo Boss) shirt in college. I have spent my entire life being roughly public with my faith. I guess in time I’ve been increasingly concerned about what those displays really say to others and about myself. Jesus himself asked us to do our praying in closets, not on corners. And, there is just something too rote about thanking God every single time you open your mouth. I wrestle with how to keep the name of God precious. The Divine is not something to hide. But, it’s also not something to parade, like a float.

What is happening in Denver is fundamentally a sports story. The roster of the Broncos has rallied around a young and relentless quarterback and are outperforming their talent. It’s one of the greatest underdog stories we’ve seen in a while.

It is at the same time a story about faith. Not that God has picked sides in the AFC West. But, that He is our strength in all things. Tim Tebow knows that truth and is unafraid in life and in football.

I am as happy as I’ve been in a long time watching the Broncos be really special at football week after week. I’m also happy that Tebow honors the Lord in it all.

Performed by ipoet. Produced by pumpkinFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

All Things