Not Where “Amazing” Happened, But Better

So, I went to the Prudential Center in Newark to see the Nets play the Golden State Warriors last night. I think it was as nice of a live professional sports experience as I’ve been to in years. Please don’t stop reading.

I know. I was watching two teams with losing records; one with no shot and one with almost no shot of a postseason, as we head into the 66th game of a long 82 game season. The Nets new ballyhooed acquisition, Deron Williams, couldn’t play. It was cold and damp out and, well, it was night in the Port of Newark, NJ. One was bound to ask to ask oneself is this really “where amazing happens?”

Well, let me tell you what happened: On the court, a close competitive game was played, decided by four points in last ten seconds. I watched the preternaturally talented Brook Lopez hustle, dive (in the second quarter), defend and score the last 9 points of the game — like a star does — to lead all scorers. I watched David Lee, like he does, quietly, appropriately and selflessly accumulate another double-double. I watched Stephan Curry and Monta Ellis dart, slash and score with a repertoire of offensive moves where not one move looked at all like the others. I watched Sasha Vujacic for four quarters personify the charming basketball adage shoot-to-get-hot-shoot-to-stay-hot. I observed Anthony Morrow take and make big shots all night because, you may not have known, he played for Golden State before he went to the Nets and this was his first time “hosting” his old mates. No wonder he scored a season-high 22. Nice little storyline for anyone who knew the story. End to end, for 48 minutes I saw quality professional performances and serious competition. And, “amazingly” there might’ve been only about three dunks the whole night.

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Dave Hollander on George Plimpton and the Art of Interviewing

The following is an excerpt from a March 2011 interview with Dave Hollander by Jerry Barca for the Plimpton! Book Club:

Author and sports columnist Dave Hollander is the last person to record an interview with George Plimpton.

Plimpton established the Art of Fiction interview series in The Paris Review, the Plimpton! Book Club spoke to Hollander about the art of interviewing. Hollander, an attorney by trade, gave away the secret as to why he can get away with the sometimes smart-aleck style of his interviews. He offered up the most surprising information he ever heard from an interviewee, and he wondered what Plimpton would think of today’s sports blogger.

Jerry Barca: What did you think of George Plimpton’s work?

Dave Hollander: His work is affectionate and intellectual. He really likes the subject matter he engages. When you read, I guess, what we can call his sports writing, he’s throwing all his powers of observation into it. I don’t find his writing to be clinical as much as it is exploratory. He is like a man who has been dropped on a foreign planet and who is trying to describe everything for all of us who have never been to that planet. And he does it with such affection. Some people try to take a slant or try to make a point. The only point he tries to make is description of what it is he’s writing about. It is often lilting toward humor, but mostly it is affectionate. He is just enjoying himself with tremendous fondness for the subject.

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NFL Owners vs. NFL Players 2011: The Owners Will Win

The confetti air-drop in Dallas at Super Bowl XLV was merely prelude to the real NFL paper war. And it’s a war the owners cannot lose. They never could.

Union reps, league spokespersons and media will prattle on about fairness and revenues. The NFLPA may be right that the owners could share a bit more of the loot and still enjoy lots of profit and no lag to their rising franchise valuations. Both the NFLPA and the NFL should own up to their shameful treatment of retirees and to the unavoidable long term injuries that result from their violent but pleasing game. Yet as long as the NFL enjoys anti-trust protections, they really are the only game in town and whether the players believe or not, the league can do well — quite well — without them.

Why am I so sure?

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Flashback Q&A with Josh Hamilton

(Originally Published on AOL Sports, August 2, 2007)

“Josh from Cincinnati”

My little subheading is playing off HBO’s new, hard-to-know-what-the-hell-is-happening show, John from Cincinnati.   I like the show.  Recently, for another publication, I interviewed Austin Nichols who plays the enigmatic, could-be-alien title character.  (Great guy.)

Many people have trouble with the show because it provides no answers.  There’s no resolution at the end of each episode.  You get no rest, just more questions.  You know, like real life.

But why did David Milch, the brilliant writer/producer of NYPD Blue and Deadwood choose Cincinnati as the place where it is believed his pivotal character comes from? Milch doesn’t make random, meaningless choices. Could it be that Cincinnati, of all places, is where the most heartbreaking issues of betrayal, redemption, mercy and forgiveness converge?

Take the story of Maurice Stokes. He was the powerful rebounding forward for the NBA’s 1958-59 Cincinnati Royals. As a result of being knocked unconscious during a game, Stokes suffered post-traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor control center, leaving him in coma, permanently paralyzed.  He died at the age of 38.  All-Star games, celebrity golf fundraisers and athletic centers have been named in his honor.  Also take the story of the Cincinnati Reds Pete Rose.  For so long he was the picture of pure baseball. Now he is synonymous with disgrace. Baseball still cannot forgive him.

Then there’s Josh Hamilton.  The current Reds outfielder is a great modern day story of a second chance.  He’ll be the first to tell you he couldn’t have done it alone. His case reminds me of the story I heard told on the hit NBC show, The West Wing, but I’m sure it’s been told in many places:

Man falls into a hole. He can’t get out. People gather around but no one can help him.  A priest comes by and says a few Hail Mary’s, but he can’t get out of the hole.  A Rabbi comes by and reads from the Old Testament, but he can’t get out of the hole.  Then a friend comes by and jumps down in the hole with him. The man says to his friend “Oh great. Now we’re both stuck down here.” The friend says back “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before.  And I know the way out.”

Josh Hamilton got out. Now he’s in Cincinnati, playing baseball.

Your road to recovery has been well documented and celebrated. Now that the spotlight has died down, is this the hard part –  living day-to-day with day-to-day little things?

It’s really not. I wasn’t looking at it before like the day-to-day routine was any different: being with family, going to park and doing my job.  I still get opportunities to share my story in different cities but at the same time it’s really no different to me.

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Introducing “The Good Guys”: The NBA Phoenix Suns

Rah, rah, rah. The reshuffled NBA rolled out their “new look” rosters this month after the league, in the offseason, underwent a full frontal LeBronomy.

Teams are not just presenting themselves with new players but with entirely new — intentional or unintentional — team personalities. The Miami Heat and their Three Profiteers are viewed as collusive and bratty. Targets are on their backs. The Knicks finally revamped their roster then repulsed everyone, recalling the disgraced Isiah Thomas and unashamedly presaging his return, likely as future GM. No doubt many females on the MSG staff relish the thought of working under him. The Nets poured on the Russian dressing and the Spurs remain an Alamo of isolated, sanctified professional basketball. The Baby Bulls are coming of age. Phil, Kobe and the rest of the Lakers will play hard to get, showing little weakness as they plan to defend a title.
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