Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sports Stops, or What Comes to an Empty Mind

I love talking about sports, but I hardly chime in with my own personal opinion on this space. Maybe it's because there's a lot of trash and speculation out there, and what's more, one is likely to get his eyes gouged out over a sports opinion than over one's politics.

If you don't believe this, try any random football (and for you Americans, it's soccer) match and spout vitriol in your section when the home fans are celebrating a goal.

So now the Celts, one of my favorite all-time sports franchises (though they really s*cked the past few years), added Kevin Garnett, did a 180 on the youth movement and have a totally gutted roster. Oh yeah, they added Eddie House, a career 41% shooter with a shoot-first-ask-questions-later game, and Scot Pollard, a center who averaged less than 5 minutes per game last season, and whose claim to fame was screaming "Hey kids, do drugs!" on national TV. NIIIICCCEEE. And please, don't tarnish Reggie Miller's legacy by bringing him out of retirement.

I'm intrigued, of course, and while I feel good about the C's it's still a toss-up if any of their new power trio falls to injury.

Shaq gets Penny back, even for what is essentially a try-out until January, the Cavs have done squat, and Kobe is still steaming for major help. Eddie Jones joins the Mavs and Chris Webber is contemplating on joining him. The Warriors have given Richardson away for an unproven draft pick, and two black holes with no D (Randolph and Curry) are paired in New York.

Lots of talk on these stories --- I'm looking forward to the season.

BTW, referees do fix games, so this whole Refgate in the NBA is just par for the course. Yes, it cheapens the game, but one can never divorce gambling from sports. He was just too stupid, or too greedy, or both, to get caught.

So the Philippines ends up with a 9th-place consolation at the FIBA Asia Tournament. Time to face reality, folks. We do have good individual players, but with the way the team is constructed, we don't have enough juice to beat better-prepared foes.

Recruiting should start at the high school ranks (junior and senior year), and training should start from then. We should also dispense with the PBL as a junior league for college kids and instead subject the whole collegiate level to deeper competition and higher stakes. Make the whole thing national. With national exposure and TV coverage, it would make sense for a young player to stick with his regional school rather than go to Manila for a crack at the big time. Sure, it may weaken the big school programs, but anyhow, I don't believe for one second that the UAAP and NCAA leagues are amateur at this point - athletes are just recruited like hired guns to puff up the pride of the alumni.

Let the PBL be a junior league for the PBA discards and retreads, and --- if they can pull it off --- it should serve for a regional recruiting base for talent not scooped up by the schools. Start with 24 signees from the amateur/college ranks and about 12 players from the pro ranks. The pros should be released by their clubs and should play full-time for the program. The "A" squad plays in the PBA while the "B" development team plays in the PBL, and occasionally, against the college teams. The "C" squad (the youngest) plays full-time against university-level teams to hone their skills. International exposure is a must. Teams sent to international play are interchangeable, and only the best combination should be sent to tournaments that have significance for Olympic or World Championship competitions.

Commitment for the young players is for four years while the pros are for two years. The pros need a shorter time frame so they can still work on their careers. The young ones should receive some academic instruction as well, mainly to prepare them how to spend money, manage themselves in front of the media, and most of all, to give them the mental capacity to appreciate the nuances of the game. Sorry, the skillz are not enough to get you over the hump. One can have all the talent, but without focus it means nothing. The student-players get credits in general studies, and in the event one gets cut from the team, he will certainly have a flock of suitors for his services. He can then play out the rest of his college-eligible years.

The TV ratings would work incredibly well --- international teams can come over for exhibition matches, and maybe the Philippines can host an international-level tournament in between PBA conferences. Plus, all the sponsors can come out in full force for the team.

But this is all-so-simple, which is why the head honchos never latch on to it.

Meantime, today is the anniversary of SHARE, so happy anniversary guys!

Speaking of some sports stories --- during the Renascence period of SHARE (1992-95) we had some pick-up games with the graduating peer counselors of LSGH and got our asses kicked. Chuck Encarnacion had an unconventional jumpshot, but that dude was unconscious from 12 to 15 feet. Mon Barredo had some skills but his ballhogging doomed us as he got into a shooting contest. Jacky Plana led the PCs and killed us in the paint - it would have been great to imagine had Jacky gotten two or three inches taller, he would have had enough elevation and handle to dunk... It was sort of funny to remember my trying to elbow my way in there, though the younger guys were a bit unsettled that I had some vet moves in boxing them out for rebounds or going for loose balls.

Then there was this game in La Salle Lipa ... Gerard and Feds were matched up against Robert and me in some friendly competition. The game was getting more intense when I dove for a loose ball and went out of bounds of the concrete court. The ground was wet, and the grass even made it more slippery. I slipped all the way on my bottom and jammed my left knee underneath a concrete bench. For my valiant effort, I received a gash across the knee, not to mention scrapes everywhere.

The cut looked worse than it felt, but I think I managed to bleed all the way while the guys semi-dragged me to the College clinic. My friends ribbed me all the way, and even the nurse couldn't decide whether to be angry or to break out in laughter.

Looking back, it set the tone for a really bad weekend, at least for me (one of those really bad weekends - I manage to remember them because I had so few). Oh, well. I talk a bigger game than play it, anyway.

Music trip: I'm into some classic rock right now, and stumbled across some old hits from the Rolling Stones. It's totally inappropriate, but the tune is catchy, and while the overt message may seem wrong, it is spot-on on the inner motivations of people and manages to reach a scathing commentary on modern society.

I remember Jay Pascual popping in his "Interview with the Vampire" CD (a good selection among the rest in his ginormous collection --- even back in the day when cassettes were still holding off their coming obsolescence) with the cover version of this song by Guns 'N Roses. He let it rip during one of those rare times we were together for a speed trip. It did seem that he was channeling his inner Brad Pitt during the drive.

At least we didn't NEARLY fall off a highway construction like we did during the time Jay, Des, and I did a trial of the partially completed C-5 highway. We sped on one of the incomplete northbound interchanges (instead of taking the safe service route, naturally) and were surprised to see a mountain of earth instead of clear road. Jay braked hard and we spun oh, I don't know, maybe 540 degrees.

The adrenaline rush was exciting, but I would exchange that for living, because the fall would have ended our lives right there and then.

Maybe we would have, and perhaps I'd be blogging from some place down south, if you get my meaning.

Back to the song ... the original is a lot cooler, and though Axl Rose in his prime could pull off more vocal acrobatics than Mick Jagger, and Slash could let 'em rip like Keith Richards, the G 'N R boys could not have matched the coolness of their seniors. Well, after all, after 45 years, the Stones are still rocking (and they are not).

(M. Jagger/K. Richards) (The Rolling Stones)

Please allow me to introduce myself -
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul and faith
And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out,
"Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all
It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me - have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, um yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, um mean it, get down

Woo, hooh - Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah!
Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
I tell you one time, you're to blame

Ooo, hooh
Ooo, hooh
What's my name
Tell me, baby, what's my name
Tell me, sweetie, what's my name?
Ooo, hooh
Ooo, hooh

Oh, yeah

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