The Unbridled Pragmatist
smart enough to know how dumb we are

Mar
29

So Bill Simmons decided to call 2002 a “septic tank” of college basketball.  You know what else happened in 2002?  My junior year of college.  In April of that year I sat in the Georgia Dome as my Maryland Terrapins won their first and only NCAA men’s basketball title.  The year was magical, incredible rivalry games, the last ever Terp game at legendary Cole Field House, a road trip to Atlanta for Spring Break where 10 dudes split one hotel room.  The Embassy Suites we stayed at during the Final Four may have cancelled both the free happy hour and breakfast buffet after we left.  When free food and booze is available to college kids you make it count; we drank like Lindsay Lohan and ate like Brian Wilson.

 Now back to Bill Simmons.  Is he a knowledgeable basketball fan? Sure.  Is he a cocky windbag with a super self-inflated ego?  Sure.  Does he often refuse to admit outside factors that discredit his at times ludicrous claims?  Sure.  Combine these factors and you get asinine statements like the “septic tank” state of college hoops in 2002.  In honor of BS, I will refute his claim Dr. Jack style.

Let’s examine Maryland’s run to the ’02 title.  They opened the tourney against Siena and Wisconsin, neither team had a player of note, and Maryland beat both handily.  The second weekend brought two college basketball powerhouses, Kentucky and UConn. 

 Kentucky’s star player was a tall, lanky fella named Tayshaun Prince.  You may remember him from his starting role on the Detroit Pistons 2004 NBA championship, or if you prefer his spot on the 2008 gold medal winning USA Olympic team.  I bet the dude plays in the league for a dozen years.  And you know what happened?  Maryland beat his team in the Sweet 16.

Next up was UConn, who had a pretty tough swingman that currently has two NBA all-star games on his resume.  Some know him as Tough Juice, others simply as Caron Butler.  He was a force in college. UConn’s Hall of Fame coach has called Butler one of his favorite players to ever coach.  Butler was also the Big East Player of the Year.  You’re right Bill, definitely no talent in college hoops in 2002.  And you know what happened?  Maryland beat this team in the Elite Eight.

 Atlanta and the Final Four came next.  Maryland played Kansas on one side of the bracket while Indiana played Oklahoma on the other.  The Kansas team featured Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Wayne Simien.  All played in the NBA, all were first round picks.  I could go further, cite Hinrich’s scoring ability for the Chicago Bulls, or Gooden’s weird facial hair, but it’s not necessary.  That Kansas team was loaded, they went to the NCAA final the following year. Ol’ Roy’s squad was stacked with talent.  And you know what happened?  Maryland beat them in the Final Four.

The final game.  Maryland versus Indiana.  Indiana was a surprise to get that far; they beat the odds-on favorite to play the Terps in the title game, the one and only Duke Blue Devils.  Duke in 2002, yeah, they had some talent.  Jay Williams, starting point guard, NCAA Player of the Year.  Williams was the number two overall pick in the NBA draft that year.  Williams suffered a horrible motorcycle accident and never lived up to his pro potential.  Ask any talent evaluator of William’s NBA prospects and he was labeled “can’t miss”.  He was the prototype for the strong point guards coming up every year now; Eric Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall.  Do you think they modeled their game after Jason Kidd?  Hell no.  These are strong guards attacking the paint and knocking down the jumper when the defender can’t stop them.  Williams could not be stopped in college, and would have gone number one overall if not for an 8 foot tall Chinese dude.  Oh yeah, the Dookies also had Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy Jr.  Boozer has multiple all star games to his credit and an Olympic gold medal.  Dunleavy is on his way to a decade in the pros.  But Duke lost to Indiana (on a gameplan designed by Gary Williams I might add) so all Maryland could do was play Indiana.

 The Hoosiers were not a deep team but they had one stud.  Jared Jeffries was a sophomore when he led his team on an improbable run to the NCAA final, named Big 10 Player of the Year in the process, and later a lottery pick for the Washington Wizards.  Indiana also had a bunch of farm boys who could shoot the lights out.  And you know what happened?  Maryland beat them to win the national championship.

So Maryland beat some pretty qualified teams with some damn good talent.  Maybe it would be fair to look at the Terp’s roster.  The leader and heart of the team was Juan Dixon, drafted 17th overall and who played in the NBA for six years.  The starting center Lonny Baxter was a second round pick and bounced around a few teams for a few years in the pro’s before he was undone by awful decision making.  Chris Wilcox went pro after the championship, was a lottery pick at #8 to the Clippers.  Needless to say, his career has largely been a bust.  I blame it on the Clippers, and I think Simmons has written expansively on the inescapable stink of LA’s second team.  Some careers are not meant to be:  David Thompson liked cocaine, Christian Laetner was an asshole, and some people are subjected to life under Donald Sterling.  Despite all this, Wilcox is still in the league making millions of dollars and probably smoking really good weed.

The player with potential for the most NBA longevity on that team is the one with the simplest game.  Dixon never had the size to make it in the pro’s, and Lonny was just too crazy.  But Stevie Blake will play 15 years.  He knows his role, is a pure point guard, and can knock down the open jumper.  He is the perfect backup point guard for an NBA championship team, and I would wager he plays in an NBA Finals some day.  He does all the right things, and sometimes, especially in the hyper-schizophrenic NBA world, that is enough.

 2002 was a great year for college hoops.  We can’t always take Bill Simmons seriously, after all this is a dude who lost to his wife in an NFL pick ‘em.  Don’t take your anger over attending Holy Cross out on 2002.

Mar
24

I just left one of the biggest glad handing sessions I’ve ever been privy to.  And it was dope.  South by Southwest is a collection of music industry types celebrating their importance, but when you can move past the inescapable condescension, the party is outfuckingrageous.

It doesn’t stop and it doesn’t start, there is just a constant stream of beer, cigarettes, chicks in cowboy boots and often free food.  If you wanted to, and were quite committed, I believe you could go the whole week without spending a dime.  One night I ate a dozen tacos simply because they were free and they were there, and I was hammered.

I_love_tacos

There are day parties (“showcases” in industry parlance) and night parties.  Typical day is heading downtown about 1 in the afternoon, seeing a few indie bands who don’t want to be playing the showcase, then milling about for a while trying to impress girls.  Somewhere along the way some herb gets smoked too.

The night showcases/parties are where it starts to get a tad obnoxious.  Remember: day=fun and carefree.  Night=long lines and no chance of seeing the bands you want to see.  I had a wristband and a decent hook-up, and going to shows I wanted was still basically out of the question.  Not sure about everything being bigger in Texas, but certainly the lines are longer.  Coming down for South by I had an itinerary and long list of bands I wanted to see.  After my first two hours in Austin I realized there would be no itinerary, lines dictate where and when you go.  And the worst part is these places aren’t even crowded, they merely create the line to propagate the elusive veneer of coolness.  It’s quite a spectacle.

I’m coming across negative about the experience, and I don’t mean to be.  I loved it.  Again, I loved it.  I love Austin.  I want to move there a thousand times over.  Just a pleasant town without the snobbery that pervades DC and maybe the whole Northeast.  (DC counts as the Northeast right?)  I saw one band that elicited real emotion, made me want to bring them into my exclusively illegally downloaded music collection.  The Scanners, they are British and the leader singer is hot.  I also went to a hip hop show where the main rapper was wearing yellow sweatpants.  I am no expert, but you might need to get a pair of jeans if you’re going to make it big buddy.  I think he invested his pants money in his mouth, which was part gold and part platinum he told me later.  Nice guy though.

The band I am genuinely bummed I missed was Sleigh Bells.  I sweat them like Brenda did Dillon at West Bev, I had it all lined up to see them at the NPR party, but the damn lines were my undoing.  Maybe part of the problem is my ridiculous impatience; that shit really is a virtue and something I wish I could buy at Walgreens.

The weird undercurrent to everything at South by is the vast majority of people are very cool once they let their guard down.  But everyone, including me, has their guard up.  We all set out to prove just how indie we are, or how relevant we are, or who heard of the newest buzz band first, when in fact let’s just enjoy the massive get down going down.  There’s Lone Star to drink, dope to smoke, bands to cheer and people to meet. The town, the scene, the spirit is too damn good and too damn important to let it go to waste in a march to prove elite.

I met a band that drove from Pennsylvania to Texas to play at 11 am at some shit showcase.  They didn’t care.  They were happy.  They had a chance and we’re going for it.  That’s what I thought SXSW to be, and that is what it can be.  No idea if their band is good, but I want them to make it.  It was funny, we were all at this party and there was some bonafide singer there in some Ozzfest type band.  The dude was kind of a douche, but he said something important as he handed me a joint.  “It’s not about being a rockstar, it’s about making music that you care about and can be proud of.”  It’s that simple.  It’s not about lines and what minor celebrity may be at what energy-drink-sponsored-party.

A special thanks to my wonderful hosts.  You are my boys forever and I will slang MusicSkins ‘til I die.  You should order one too.

Sep
27

Hardest I-told-you-so of my life.  I knew we were walking into the perfect storm in Detroit and it all came true.

Time to blow it up.  Get rid of Vinny, Zorn, Campbell, CP, Landry, Hall and Haynesworth.  I wish we could get rid of Snyder but it won’t happen.  I just hope they bring in a real GM.

I have tickets next weekend and have no idea what to expect.  The booing will begin before kickoff, and I imagine continue throughout the game.  The frustration has boiled over, the fans will no longer accept mediocrity, or the lousy team that a decade of mediocrity has created.

The Skins were the pride of my youth.  Sadly, they have become the embarrassment of my 20’s.  Thanks Danny.

Jul
24

While I will never prove it, I am pretty sure David Brooks must read my blog.  His column is in accord with my last post, either way BarryO is blowing his chances at this health care game.  Plenty of polls show it too.

Enjoy the weekend everyone.

Jul
16

The election of President Obama was a landslide.  There were celebrations in the streets from DC to Nairobi.  People were elated, and the international goodwill raised the worldwide image of the US after a ruinous 8 years of Bush leadership.

So where is the leader now?  He has the house passing the costliest, most ridiculous health bill ever seen on Capitol Hill and now his hand picked Attorney General is discussing prosecuting CIA officials after the POTUS guaranteed immunity for previous actions.

Simply put the President needs to exercise his considerable power and vast popularity.  Use the bully pulpit made famous by Reagan; come up with a realistic health bill and control Cabinet members.  What is worse is the President is getting pushed around by those in his own party.  Sweet ol’ Nancy Pelosi has been pushing Obama around since his inauguration, continuing to do so with both the health bill and the CIA witch hunt.

The House health bill has no chance of passing through the Senate.  Significant changes will be made before any bill gets to 1600 Penn.  The correct move would have been Obama inviting leaders from the House and Senate to devise a plan for a health bill, then those leaders going to their fellow legislators and writing the bill Obama wants, not to mention a bill with potential to pass.  Instead, extreme corners of the left hijacked the health bill, presenting an impossible, financially crippling bill to the Senate.  Thanks again Nancy.

As for the CIA, bad things happened.  We get it.   Don’t do it again, it is utterly un-American.  Please somebody tell Nancy and her cohorts on the periphery of the national conscience to move on.  At this point the over saturation of prisoner abuse and torture is approaching levels never before seen.  Or never before seen until the media circus that was MJ’s funeral anyway.

Jul
07

Is this dude really going to have a major impact on Health Care Reform in our country?  Why Minnesota, why?

This tool is now a US Senator

This tool is now a US Senator

What is most jarring is the sudden importance of this comedian turned politician; Franken will sit on the Senate Judiciary committee to examine Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as well as a crucial spot on the Senate committee focused on health care reform.  Health care will be the biggest piece of legislation debated in 2009, now we have one of the most partisan elected officials in history as the 60th Democratic Senator, effectively making an unstoppable majority.  Franken contends he has come to Washington with no eye towards partisan politics; let us hope he is true to his word.
Jul
06

Great op-ed from Roger Cohen, reminds me why I went back to school and attempted this journalism stuff anyway.  Democracy is on the way to Tehran, a force bigger than any dictator, unless you’re in Honduras.

Sarah Palin, huh? 

These running shoes are made for walking

These running shoes are made for walking

That speech rambled along like a 13 year old girl explaining her favorite Jonas Brother.  I realize her shtick is to speak from the heart, shoot from the hip or whatever cliche is applicable to nonsensical babbling, but, come on, she needs advisors in her camp that will stand up to the Duchess of Dumb.  Who thought the timing of the announcement would not be questioned?   Friday night of a holiday weekend screams avoidance.  Palin once possessed the personality and charisma to lead the Republican Party.  Through a series of ridiculous, often bizarre, actions, she will never reach that position.

Jun
25

Health care reform — can we save the time and call this a preliminary disaster?  Every American deserves the option to purchase health insurance; those who cannot afford insurance should be subsidized.  At the same time employers cannot be mandated to provide insurance for all employees.  Has Nancy Pelosi or any of her ridiculous brethren looked at an economic forecast lately?  Americans are losing jobs at a rapid pace; is it a good idea to force employers into more expenses?  No.  Employee mandates are the worst possible idea.

What did you say is going on in the economy?

Nice shades Nanc....

 The most ridiculous part of this debate is that there is already a bi-partisan health care reform proposal on the table!!!   Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bob Bennet (R-UT) worked outside of party constraints and came up with a plan that is affordable to uninsured individuals and affordable to the federal government.  Best yet, the millions of Americans happy with their existing plan make no changes. 

The plan won’t work.  Politics are stronger than bright ideas, ultimately both Wyden and Bennet become pigeonholed by party leadership.  Something will happen on health care, my guess is by September, but why go through the absurd motions of floor debate in both chambers of Congress when an acceptable, perhaps preferable, plan already exists.

Across the world we have a much different problem.  Protesters are being killed in the streets, students brutalized by militia-titled teenage maniacs, all while the world watches Tehran.  We are right to watch, we cannot intervene due to the delicate nature of relations in the Middle East, and, sadly, because our armed forces are spread too thin throughout the rest of the region.

But at what point are we irresponsible to continue to encourage the protests?  I want nothing more than Ahmadinejad exiled like a modern day Napoleon, though time is the strongest asset the revolution has.  To expect a sudden implosion of power in Iran is naive, protesters should follow recent successes in Eastern Europe and continue to organize non-violently, slowly eradicating the power base from the bottom up. 

When students lay slaughtered in the streets of Beijing parts of the world expected democracy to take over in Mao’s backyard.  It still hasn’t.  No way is the Iranian autocracy nearly as forceful as their Chinese counterpart; however, we cannot expect the revolution to occur overnight.  All that occurs expecting overnight results are more tragedies, more blood in the streets.

Feb
26

 When I was in college my friends and I watched and re-watched a tivoed HBO special of Jamie Foxx doing stand up.  One of my favorite bits was Foxx imploring various people in Hollywood and beyond to go “sit down somewhere”.  He gave this advice to OJ Simpson, Mike Tyson and others; basically telling them to avoid the limelight for a while, and be quiet.

 

I think much of the audience for President Barack Obama’s first Congressional address would be served to listen to similar advice.  Obviously the lights of politics never dim in Washington, but at this point America deserves politicians that will not incessantly provide standing ovations in ambitious attempts to advance their political agenda.  What might have been a 20 minute speech dragged on at least twice as long while the President consistently paused to receive the ovations.

 

I understand this is tradition, and it dates back some time.  I also understand the oratorical skill of Obama and the enthusiasm that inspires; however, these are serious times.  Our nation stands perilously near a cliff in almost every way imaginable – our finances drained, our military spread hazardously thin – perhaps those in power would allow a speech without posturing?

 

Leaders on both sides of the party spectrum played the role.  Senator Orrin Hatch appeared on camera more than Michael Vick at a PETA rally.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi practically appeared to be in an aerobics class during the speech; she would jump from her chair to applaud with such speed it was almost jarring.  I realize these are the typical actions of politicians, but these are not typical times.  Americans are losing their jobs, losing their homes, losing their life-savings and with it their lives as they knew them.  Let us treat these times not with somber pessimism, but with the solemnity they deserve.  This was the essence of Obama’s speech, though it was hard to hear between all the clapping.

 

In similar times, FDR had his most success speaking directly to the nation in his historic Fireside Chats.  Perhaps that success was partly attributable to the lack of politically-themed interruptions.

Dec
30

I found this interesting, not just the article but the content and the timing.  Is Rove trying to show us that Bush is in fact intelligent, which is obvious for someone with his education and professional credentials?  Rove created and sold the dumbed-down yokel, tough cowboy image that Bush rode to two terms of presidency.  Why now, a month before his tenure as President is over, cite his academic prowess.  Seems bizarre to me.

 

Enjoy the article, here is the link.

 

Rove is undoubtedly a political genius, though this move seems like a genuine act of friendship.  Perhaps after years of selling out his friend and ally as a hackneyed farmboy, Rove is willing to allow he is actually a blueblood prep-schooler.  There is nothing wrong with that, in fact most American Presidents come from similar wealthy, educated upbringings.  My best guess is Rove is trying to save some face for his old friend, who leaves 1600 Penn with the most tarnished Presidential legacy since Nixon.  Rove wants us to know the better side of George W. Bush, but sadly this comes too little, too late.

 

Great follow up by Richard Cohen here.