Mister Blackwood*

 Coach Tom Blackwood and arch-rival Rob Collins battling it out at Acalanes High School on some Friday night in the 90s

Coach Tom Blackwood and arch-rival Rob Collins battling it out at Acalanes High School on some Friday night in the 90s

Mister Blackwood*

Piece of work, we used to call ‘em

That kid’s a real piece of work

And so were we

You, Crazy Tommy

Roger Durant calling you that, telling me stories from the 70s

You were a piece of work

But for all who saw you scream

So few saw the art

I nearly missed it too

TJB CAT, another original Minnesotan

Basketball coach, history teacher, father

Husband, ex-husband

Letter of recommendation writer for us all

You’re a piece of artwork

And now that you’re gone, nearly two decades into a strange century

It’s all too concise and too clear

The world you’ve left will not produce another you

It’s hard to imagine you escaped the 90s intact

To call you a character understates, overstates, underwhelms

You were a Picasso, born of Norman Rockwell and Bob Knight

You were better than Bobby Knight, better than Frank Allocco

Better at being human

For all your autocratic leanings you were a softie

My parents let me choose my own religion

I chose basketball

The gym, that gym, became my church

You were my father

You made life feel like Hoosiers

Those sweaters

Those snarls

Rare and cherished Cheshire smiles

Your voice bellowing throughout greater Martinez

“TWENTY!!!”

“ARRRRRCH!”

“BRONCO!!!!”

“JESUS CHRIST, JOSH TRIBE WILL YA STOP FREAKIN’ POUTING — GO RUN LIBERTY!”

Thank you, Mr. Blackwood

For Olympic Drill at summer camp

For hauling us to Chico, Healdsburg, Carmel

For making me drive you home when I was less drunk than you

For teaching me how to love video poker

For the two-foot power layup

For inspiring me to attempt to perfect the elbow jump shot

Thank you Coach, for never contorting or conforming

Thank you for letting me pay you back

For allowing me to redeem my adolescent ingratitude

For letting me scream at you

“PUT IN KJ!”

“IT’S TIME FOR THE PRESS”

“FORGET TWENTY, WE GOTTA GO MAN!!!!”

Thank you for trusting me to coach Justin

Thank you for sending me out of history class to put new nets on the rims

For those magical no-look bounce passes you used to throw in practice

Thank you for always having my back

I should have wrote this before you died

I’m sorry

I love you

Your movie’s over

It’s official now, you’re a classic

Andy Read: “No one ever said Jesus Christ better than he did.”

It’s true, and it counts

Flags half-mast in Minnesota

And Miramonte 

One-Two-Three… TOGETHER

 

*By one of the proud, the many, worst point guards in Miramonte history

Hoopaholic Diaries, Episode 1: Numinous Beatific Appreciation

 The rich get richer -- Boogie Cousins' achilles injury made way for the addition of the Warriors' fifth all-star (photo by Aric Crabb)

The rich get richer -- Boogie Cousins' achilles injury made way for the addition of the Warriors' fifth all-star (photo by Aric Crabb)

By Amos Manary

These are depraved times for a recovering basketball junkie.  As has been noted by each and every of the innumerable mouthpieces on behalf of endless outlets, this new era of ‘empowered player mobility’ has made the NBA an industry that never quits.  Gone are the days when the basketball monogamist had to wait through baseball and football seasons in order to get some action.

Unfortunately, most of the coverage is commensurately oleaginous with the vulgar times in which we unintentionally exist.  While the NBA is perceived as infinitely more ‘progressive’ than its American professional sporting counterparts, it’s nonsense nonetheless.  Smarter, slicker, Adam Silver’s public relations minions are indeed shrewder than the boneheads who run MLB, the NFL, NASCAR, et al, but that’s it. Every TV-talking hoop-head insists on referring to the human talents employed by individual NBA franchises as ‘assets,’ which of course they are, as are prospective draft picks, and enigmatic piles of hypothetical cash known as ‘cap space.’  I know, I know, they’re millionaires – but assets reeks of auction blocks.  Again, I know professional basketball is ‘a business,’ and if there’s anything that Americans actually know it’s that it’s money and only money that makes things go and that money’s got no morality, nor should anyone expect it to.  All’s fair in love and war and NBA free agency.  Finally, the elite within the NBA proletariat – i.e. the only league employees who actually play the basketball which produces profits in excess of the GDP of half the countries in the world – finally, the Ghost of Curt Flood has deluged the NBA and a handful of human beings who happen to be the very best at what they do are able to choose where they work… Hooray for the U.S.A.!  Adam Smith to Adam Silver, what a benign byproduct of our sacred goddamned market!  It’s a business!

 Hate KD on the Warriors?  Blame Oakland Tech's Curt Flood, who inadvertently helped create the modern NBA superteams.

Hate KD on the Warriors?  Blame Oakland Tech's Curt Flood, who inadvertently helped create the modern NBA superteams.

Except that apparently, it also isn’t – or the hoop universe ain’t immune to the bizarre, overriding hypocrisy endemic and perhaps innate to the American experiment, the central premise of which has always been: how to best pedal this crap?  The metaphysical corporatism that’s tattooed to the American psyche.  Serious blind spots.  So while throughout showbiz, actions that might ordinarily be – according to the ethereal standards of basic decency – deemed scurrilous at best, pirate-cutthroat at worst, are excused, exonerated and elevated due solely to potential/actual profitability.  Floyd Mayweather, LaVar Ball, say whatever you may, are good businessmen, and therefore must be given ‘props.’  America’s specialty has always been making excuses for good business, no matter the means by which profits are extracted.  Trump or no Trump, it’s a wonder the extermination of the natives and the enslavement of Africans aren’t praised more openly, as both were extremely good for the miscalled free market.  This is what we as Americans know, deep down, anything’s that’s good business can and will inevitably be not only tolerated, but chalked up to, sanctimoniously mind you, the Progress of Man. 

Yet, for inane reasons too tribally infantile to utter, to half the folks earning their dime blabbing about the goings on of the few hundred fellas who earn their dime playing hoops, from former players to sideline beauty queens, Kevin Durant will always be soft, a ‘traitor’ even – as if the OKC Thunder represent their own republic.  Business is just business unless you’re a black American basketball player who prefers Oakland to Oklahoma City and chooses to play for one of the best coaches instead of one of the worst; who chooses to depend on the game’s top point guard, as opposed to the one who’s literally the least reliable.  It’s not hyperbole. Don’t get me wrong, Russ is fun to watch, a regular Roman orgy of  creatively inefficient athleticism.  But Steph Curry happens to be the most efficient, winningest point guard in the game, with the top ‘true’ shooting percentage in the league, while Westbrook rates dead last in that category.  The talking heads can’t muster four phrases without spitting out something about how it’s the age of ‘analytics,’ yet none of them point out that according to analytics, Durant would have to be a bona fide moron to continue on with Bonehead Donovan and Westbrick, who definitely cares more about fashion than quarterbacking his hoop squad.  And good for him and who cares. 

But to badmouth Durant, insist his human flesh has become synonymous with glutinous confection, because he actually cares about the thing he’s paid millions to do…  Because he wants to be the best he can be…  That he wants to play for the team that’s the best because they’re the best team, for that he’s earned a Scarlet C.  But the C ain’t for cupcake, as the fat-bellyaching blabbering we might call the Collective Charles Barkley Underbelly of Unconsciousness, insinuates or outright insists.  I for one understand why Durant lashes out at any and every Joe Fuckbrain who talks shit about his choices on social media.  He might not know quite how to best express it, but the reality is that Kevin Durant is the reincarnation of Curt Flood and nobody’s appreciating him for that.  The C stands for Curt.  Nobody appreciated Curt Flood either. That OKC was up 3-1 against the Warriors is irrelevant – his move was nothing akin to Michael Jordan joining the Pistons; and even if it was, who the shit cares, lest you’re an Oklahoman middle schooler.  Everyone needs to grow the fuck up, take a peek at the genocide your tax dollars pay for in Yemen and learn to love the Dirk Nowitzki who can guard anyone instead of nobody, the seven-foot Alex English with handles. Wake up America, the Small Forward is one of your greatest creations!         

 Larry Legend and the Human Highlight Film. 

Larry Legend and the Human Highlight Film. 

Julius Irving, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, LeBron James, Kevin Durant.  Cheryl Miller, Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore.  If you’ve got something bad to say about any of these human beings you don’t have the brains you were born with.  You’re not Big-Game James Worthy of uttering Kevin Durant’s good name.  

The venomous hatred (still) being hurled in KD’s direction, like that for LeBron (but worse) when he went to Miami, is the epitome of madness.  Of all the pro athletes who bash their wives’ faces in or have been involved in other instances of criminally actionable violence, it’s black guys who switch teams of their own volition who catch the most heat.  If you’re one of these (likely proud) ‘haters’ who’s just added a picture of Boogie Cousins to your dart board,  then the Samuel L. Jackson character from Django Unchained is undoubtedly your cinematic hero, lest it’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s character from that same film.  You’re favorite word must be uppity. 

By the way, the sports world hardly made a peep when every great white baseball player in the ‘90s cut their hair, shaved their beards and joined the Yankees.

Now that Durant on the west coast is such old news, the new charge against him is oversensitivity – for some unfathomable reason, we want our entertainers to be perfect.  As if being sensitive is a flaw.  It isn’t.  It’s a tell-tale sign of humanness.  Kevin Durant’s sole ‘crime’ is that he’s all too human.  And like Arthur Rimbaud, absolutely modern.

 All eyes on KD (photo by Jamie Sabau)

All eyes on KD (photo by Jamie Sabau)

The NBA itself – meaning the players, coaches, teams, style of play – has never been better.  But the actual basketball warrants nearly nary a mention amid the mountainous coverage devoted to what someone Tweeted, which outlandish outfit Westbrick wore, what Snoop thinks of LeBron’s business acumen, what Kawai Leonard didn’t say, along with quieter innuendos pondering the validity of the so-called Kardashian Curse, aka wondering whether Reality TV alpha-sex-kitten-witches will steal Ben Simmons’ soul and thereby derail the Sixers’ vaunted Process. (Speaking of those demonic lunatics, expect Simmons to have a down year.  The Kardashian Curse – that shit’s real.) 

Process, assets, business, Orwellian notions of perception is reality – that’s what it all boils down to, apparently.

Like everything else in the American death it calls life, the soul, spirit and science have been stripped from all equations.  Go outside the mainstream, it can at least get somewhat fun: the crowd convinced the NBA (and all sports with money at stake) are all rigged as pro wrestling, and who assert that furthermore, it’s just as obvious.  My favorite among this subgroup are those few precious Youtubers dedicated to complexly convoluted theories that all NBA outcomes are predetermined by Kabalistic Gematria wizards salaried by Illuminati honchos to ensure every final score pays homage to Horus or some other god of Babylonian Mystery Religion lore.  I’m as conspiracy-minded as they come and don’t for one second think the days of Tim Donaghy are dead and gone, but this business that they put in number 12 with 12 seconds on the clock so he could nail a 12-foot jumper from the short-corner to bring the losing team’s total to 112 so as to lionize Allister Crowley (and his son, Barbara Bush) – I don’t think they’re right. 

But Barbara Bush, may her soul rest well in hell, was probably Crowley’s son.           

Lookout for the Lake Show: in defense of JaVale

I don’t care what anyone says, the Lakers look good to me.  All this nonsense about ‘colorful characters’ who can’t shoot.  This pervasive presumption the Warriors can only be beaten at their own game is patently false.  As in 2015 (73 wins be damned), the same two dudes represent the only real threat to GSW supremacy: LeBron and Kyrie.  Loads of people are picking the Celtics to make it to the Finals, some saying they’ll prevail.  Nobody’s giving the LeBron a shot to make his ninth straight Finals.  Luke Walton won’t survive if the Lakers miss the playoffs.  Well, I’d think not!  Miss the playoffs?  Are people fucking nuts?  They may wind up the sixth or even seventh seed, but come May, when LBJ’s had many moons to figure out how to utilize his new Cabinet… Look the fuck out.

The Warriors’ vulnerability resides on the glass and in the paint – and kooky as Stephenson, Beasley, Rondo and JaVale have been painted, in reality they’re all scrappers who’ll be tough to keep off the boards and out of the lane.  But the pundits on TV seem to agree – these additions are curious, dubious or just plain dumb and doomed.  Much has been made of this collection of ‘personalities,’ media-speak for cuckoos, which Magic Johnson and Rob (Lowe?) Pelinka have assembled to surround LeBron and the Lakers’ ‘youth core.’  Everyone’s lamenting their lack of long-range snipers.  Even if it’s true that the Lakers are merely embarking on a one-year experiment and will tread water until they can ‘acquire’ a Name Brand To Be Named Later, I’m betting Steve Kerr feels like he’s in Back to the Future – it’s the dawn of the ‘80s all over again, the Lakers and Celtics ready to reclaim the league.

For cruel and unusual reasons, media ringleaders have chosen to forget or ignore the competency JaVale McGee displayed during his stint with Golden State.  Somehow, McGee’s reputation has been illegitimately reverted to its previous status quo: Chief Galoot.  He’s no Kareem, but I’d take him over Tristan Thompson in a heartbeat.  Like the NBA PR slogan says: JaVale cares.  He gives a shit how his team does; does so without ego.  He probably won’t play too much, but he’ll contribute something and won’t harm the Lakers a lick.

 JaVale McGee participates in the 5th annual Athletes vs Cancer Celebrity Flag Football Game on August 12, 2018 in Los Angeles

JaVale McGee participates in the 5th annual Athletes vs Cancer Celebrity Flag Football Game on August 12, 2018 in Los Angeles

Everyone says the only way to beat the Warriors is to D’Antoni them to death: take and make more three’s than the Splash Brothers.  Hmm.  The reason the Rockets took the Warriors to Game Seven (besides the absence of Andre Iguodala), was the Warriors’ inability to slow the flow of uncontested Clint Capella dunks and Chris Paul midrange jumpers.  The Warriors have trouble with muscle.  Counterintuitively, guys like P.J. Tucker, a loose-ball-grabbing master, can be weirdly troublesome.  By 21st century standards, the W’s two best players are extraordinarily skinny.  Durant’s revealed himself to be a fantastic defender and Curry’s defense has been unfairly maligned, but their slighter frames can be shoved aside.  Draymond can’t guard everyone.  The legs of Iguodala and Livingston won’t get younger.  The key to beating the Warriors is physicality – nobody’s gonna out-finesse them, you gotta pound them in the paint, bludgeon them with put-backs.  Move the ball, take it to the hole; disrupt their flow, force turnovers; get as many of their all-stars in foul trouble as possible.  Switch everything, shoot more free throws; get more dunks.  

Last year the Cavs traded half their roster, essentially, for the players the Lakers no longer wanted.  Now LeBron gets to play with the guys Magic Johnson (no dummy) thought were worth keeping.  Consider that until Tyronn Lue finally gave Rodney Hood some minutes (after the Finals had long been decided), LeBron had played the entire playoffs without a single teammate who could create his own shot.  LeBron needs a Kyrie Irving, a (somewhat younger) Dwayne Wade, far more than he needs Mike Millers or Kyle Korvers.  Josh Hart can play Kyle Korver much better than Kyle Korver.  The combination of Rondo, Stephenson, Beasley, Ball, Kuzma and Ingram add up to at least half a Kyrie/Wade.  All those guys can make something good happen with the shot clock already wound down.  If nothing more, the Lakers as currently constructed are infinitely better than last season’s Cavs. 

Plenty of folks assume Luke Walton won’t survive the season because he’s not ‘Magic’s guy.’  Personally, I’d love to be the son of Bill heading into next season.  All his guys have a lot to prove, and except in Lonzo’s case, not much to lose.  Whoever ends up coaching them, they’re are in much better shape than anyone other than hopeful Laker/LeBron fans are envisioning.  They’re a hard guard; a lot of guys who can get to the cup.  Kinda crazy maybe, compared to say Kyle Korver, but LeBron thrives in chaos, and if the colorful characters exude as much chaos and contentiousness as everyone seems to think they will, Magic, LeBron and Luke will figure out how to channel that energy towards Warrior slaying.  Lonzo will shoot better and his father will shut up or the son will be benched, traded or have his star status permanently relegated to the reality show realm.

Don’t underestimate Magic and his Non-Brons.  They might end up with Kawai or Anthony Davis or Jimmy Butler before the trade deadline, and even if they don’t, should the Lakers and Warriors square off in the playoffs, I promise you LBJ won’t get swept again.

That being said, whether Boogie’s Achilles heals or not, the Warriors will win it all again next year and nobody less invested will be more pleased than yours truly.  If they stay healthy, all other prognostications will be quickly rendered obsolete.  Klay won’t go to L.A.  Durant ain’t leavin’.  Hate the Warriors?  Grow up, get used to it, jump out the window – it’s not gonna get any better for you anytime soon.

Speaking of KD, have you seen him play basketball?

Read what Andre Iguodala said recently – he’s right, Durant’s the most efficient, versatile scorer ever.  Without weakness, he never goes backwards, even on fade-away step-back jumpers.  Even when he reverts to the iso-habits honed under Scotty Brooks and Bonebrain Donovan, he never takes ten dribbles over eight seconds without going anywhere.  John Wooden loves him from heaven.  Positive step.

New Negative Norm

I know why, but still must groan why when I see the new preferred format for televised sports talk.  Shows like ESPN’s First Take and Fox’s Undisputed have decided the best way to maximize ratings is to seat some former sorority queen in mammary-accentuating dress between two or more blabbering debater-dingbat-dudes and meekly, maternally referee the monkey-mind vomit they spew screamingly.  Here I must insert mild praise for ESPN’s The Jump and its hostess Rachel Nichols, who’s a relative Georgina Plimpton when juxtaposed against the aforementioned useless floozies, worst of which is always the potential Playmate of the Month who sidekicks for Colin Cowherd like a lobotomized, Caucasian Robin Quivers – and boy is Cowherd no Howard Stern.  Though perhaps never has a man possessed a more apropos moniker – he literally herds the cows.

Kareem was also right when he recently dismissed the who’s the GOAT question out of hand, calmly as only Kareem can, explaining that since basketball is a team game, consisting of athletes who play with different teammates, for different coaches, in different eras, comparing them directly without consideration to their diverse circumstances, is absolutely useless.  As stupid as comparing Bob Marley to Beethoven.

 NBA all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

NBA all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The most idiotic topic I’ve heard explored:

“Michael Jordan’s legacy dinged by LeBron’s philanthropy.”  Yes, in terms of social consciousness, Nike (evil sweatshop corporation) shill LBJ does trump Nike shill MJ.  And Putin ain’t no Stalin.  So fucking what.  It’s great LeBron builds schools and calls Trump a bum – but to act like he’s Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell or Kareem, to infer there’s one iota of risk to his so-called outspokenness is like making Anderson Cooper out to be Harvey Milk, or to say Cari Champion is rather similar to Ida B. Wells.  Or better still, it’s like saying Omarosa is the modern day equivalent of Harriet Tubman.  

Best Offseason Footage Findable on Youtube

Coach Pop playing spirited dummy-d against the Team USA in drills.  Looking spry at nearly 70, it’s no wonder the recent widower has been so successful – he loves what he does.  It’s the most underplayed aspect to the Lone Superpower, villainous-for-no-reason (beyond their top-to-bottom competency) Warriors: Coach Kerr’s revolutionary emphasis on Joy.  Popovich ain’t known for fun or funniness, lest it’s the deadpan sarcasm he employs to belittle the imbecilic questions the league forces him to field.  Watch for DeMar DeRozan to have a career-year for the Spurs – and more fun than he’s had in years, in spite of the Spurs’ legendary no-nonsense approach.

James Harden performs no differently in the Drew League than he does with the Rockets.  What a strange goofy-footed genius he is – and what a horrific defender.  His favorite thing to do, no matter the venue, is to catch the ball and hold it for a relative infinity, jab-step nine or ten times, and then shoot a long three without ever having moved, with his four teammates left with no other choice but to watch, along with the rest of us.  In the NBA stats are like profits and nobody can resist lauding the giant margins guys like Westbrick and Hardshot post each quarter.  My vote for last season’s MVP would have been: 1) LeBron 2) Durant 3) Curry.  Anthony Davis would be in there.  All awards suck.  Pointless, useless back-slapping.  I pray the NBA drops its new Oscars’-esque nonsense.  Regular season honors should be granted immediately after the 82nd game.

Bringing it all Back Home

Last potshot at those who laud the NBA as more enlightened than the NFL – it’s like saying Trump is better than Pence because the President’s fascistic tendencies are more secularized, or those who prefer Pence because he’s never once uttered pussy with an ovarian connotation.  NBA players kneeling for the anthem?  Out of the fucking question – standing in worshipful attention for the anthem has always been absolutely obligatory.  The last NBA guy who tried to sit for the anthem got run out of the league faster than you can think assalamu-alaikum.  Do yourself a favor and learn what happened to Chicago Bulls sharpshooter Craig Hodges after he wore a dashiki to the White House and dared present the first President Bush with a letter detailing his civic concerns in the wake of Rodney King.

Things have gotten much worse since the days of Rodney King.  Beatings like the one he somehow survived are less common.  Now they just shoot to kill.  Or beat you to death for not putting out your cigarette after not putting on your blinker to change lanes.  In the America of Sandra Bland, people have their panties in a knot over guys on one knee during the song by Mr. F.S. Key.  The National Anthem should be changed to ‘This Land is Your Land’ and everyone should get on both knees and pray to Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse et al for undeserved forgiveness.  It’s only the most gargantuan genocide ever, but the NFL team in the nation’s capital city will always be the Redskins.  Think of a Berlin soccer club and its fans insisting it be allowed to call itself the Kikes.  

Basketball remains the most democratic of sports – and in the Association, the best team always wins: the team that’s chemically most cohesive, which is most similar to a great jazz quintet.  Players, like musicians, oft possess egomaniacal traits, but in order to succeed, those tendencies must be sublimated for the greater good.  So if one has the childlike nerve to honor fun as part of the reckoning, the Warriors are even farther ahead than their insane assemblage of talent would indicate.

Selah.

 Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf prays during the National Anthem at a March 1996 game in Chicago. (AP Photo / M. Spencer Green)

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf prays during the National Anthem at a March 1996 game in Chicago. (AP Photo / M. Spencer Green)

Coming to the defense of the bandwagon fan

 Hockey fans in Las Vegas can't be described as diehard, but they are still out there having fun. (photo by Christian Petersen)

Hockey fans in Las Vegas can't be described as diehard, but they are still out there having fun. (photo by Christian Petersen)

By Michael Moniz

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a person who takes part in or becomes enthusiastic about something only when it is popular or fashionable is considered a “bandwagon fan.” Chances are at some point, someone has called you this, either to try and separate you from whatever success you’re following or just try to put their own self on a higher level as a fan. I am here to tell that it is 100% fine to be a bandwagoner and that us “diehards” need people like you to help sustain the success of our team.

You see this with every team that has quick unexpected success, whether it’s during March Madness with its alumni scattered through the country and some guy in your office who went to Loyola (happened to me this year), or people that live in the Bay Area and cheer for the Milwaukee Bucks because they are of Greek heritage and their best player is from Greece. These are the small nuances that help bring a whole new demographic of fan to the sporting world. Without them, the product that is out there would be nowhere near what we see today.

If you know me, you know that I am a diehard Notre Dame fan. I’ve followed them probably closer than any other sports team, without having any real connection to the school other than being Catholic and part Irish (not just on St. Patrick’s Day).  But back when I was about five years old, I started off as a bandwagon fan. My older brother loved Notre Dame and everything he liked, I did too. We both jumped on the Notre Dame train that year and luckily they won the National Championship. 30 years later after heartbreak and constant ridicule from friends and family, I now wish big bro John was yelling “Roll Tide” back then instead.

With the Giants title runs in 2010, 2012, and 2014, along with the recent dynasty run by the Warriors, people LOVE to throw shade at us fans and call us out for jumping on a bandwagon. We immediately get defensive and usually spout off a few facts about having a Will the Thrill poster in our room growing up or saying that we used to emulate Tim Hardaway and his killer crossover to prove that we’ve been following the team long before they were considered a success. These people will then move on from bashing us to then going after the actual bandwagon fan base. The fan that doesn’t know more than three players on the team or you could’ve sworn was a Kings fan in the 2000’s. At this point, don’t try and distance yourself from the bandwagon fans. Embrace them.

Fans from other teams will be quick to shoot them down or feel like they need to quiz them on some obscure facts about the 1954 team or something to make them feel like they’re not a true fan. But who cares about the level of fandom? There is no rulebook or certain level of knowledge one must have to cheer for a team. Not everyone can be a huge fan with season tickets or have an infatuation with certain players. Does this apply to movies too? Do people quiz others while waiting in line for a premier and then ostracize them if they don’t know what the weather is like in Mordor from Lord of the Rings?

Fair weather fans mean just as much if not more to the bottom line for your team. They’re the ones that spend the massive amounts of money at the drop of a hat to get new merchandise during the playoffs to feel part of the excitement throughout the city. These fans help fill seats throughout the season for all those diehards that choose to watch the game at home because they want to listen to the announcers.

Yes, they will be the first ones to leave when you’re having a bad season. Who really cares though? Their excitement won’t come close to match yours when your team that you’ve rooted for your entire life wins a title. The feeling you get and the pure joy that it brings you is unlike anything else and can only be appreciated by people that’ve had it. That’s what being a fan is all about.

Bandwagon and diehards are all fans at the end of the day. Just enjoy the ride.

The BIG3 Basketball League arrives in Oakland, filling Oracle with hoop legends

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

A long list of basketball’s living legends will arrive in Oakland this Friday evening for a quadruple header of competitive 3on3 basketball in Ice Cube’s BIG3 Basketball League. Starting at 4pm inside Oracle, Bay Area basketball fans will be treated to four hours of star-studded, albeit over-the-hill NBA basketball. To top it off, die-hard Warriors fan E-40 will be in the house to provide live entertainment.

Now in its second season of existence, the BIG3 Basketball League consists of eight teams, competing for eight weekends, followed by two weekends of playoffs with the championship round held in Brooklyn. Friday will mark Week 3 of the 2018 season, bringing together a collection of players and coaches that made the NBA what it is today.

The Bay Area legends that will be back in Oracle on Friday include Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Drew Gooden and Josh Childress. Gary Payton and Rick Barry will also be seen on the sidelines as coaches. If you look beyond those with Bay Area ties, you’ll find tons more star power, led by coaches Dr. J Julius Irving, Iceman George Gervin, Charles Oakley, Michael Cooper and Rick Mahorn. WNBA legend Nancy Lieberman is also a notable head coach. Other players on the floor will include Mike Bibby, Quentin Richardson, Chirs “Birdman” Anderson, Metta World Peace, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Nate Robinson, just to name a few.

Nobody will mistake this for the NBA Finals between the Cavs and Warriors, but when you put this many hyper-competitive NBA superstars on one (half) court, you’re bound to have some fireworks of some sort, rest assured.

The rules of the BIG3 are fairly simple. The half court games are played to 50, win by two. The teams are comprised of seven players. There are three circles out beyond the 3-point line that count as 4-pointers if your foot is in the circle. There is also a 14-second shot clock and the defense must clear the ball outside the 3-point line when they get a rebound.

The Trilogy, led by Kenyon Martin took home the inaugural championship trophy last season. This year, they are off to an 0-2 start. So far the league leader in scoring this season is Baron Davis. He figures to have another big game back on the Oakland hardwood.

If you can’t make it out to Oracle to see the madness in person, all four games will be available either on Facebook Watch or FOX. If you’re looking to gamble on these games, we recommend you seek help.

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Friday’s Schedule

4pm Trilogy vs. 3’s Company (Facebook Watch)

5pm Ghost Ballers vs. Ball Hogs (FOX)

6pm Power vs. Tri-State (FOX)

7pm Killer 3’s vs. 3-Headed Monsters (FOX)

"20 years in the making" - How Bay Area photographer Ezra Shaw got the SI cover shot he so deserved

 (Photo by Ezra Shaw)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw)

By Connor Buestad | Connor@Section925.com

Over his 20-year career with Getty Images, Bay Area based photographer Ezra Shaw has been at about every important sporting event you could dream of, usually in the front row, trying not to get run over by a multi-million dollar athlete. He’s shot the Olympics over 10 times, not to mention the Tour de France, the America’s Cup, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and everything in between. If you’ve picked up a magazine or logged onto the internet over the last two decades, chances are you’ve stopped and starred at his stunning work. The articles below his photographs rarely do them justice.

Even with print’s inevitable decline, a Sports Illustrated cover shot is still the holy grail for a sports photographer in this day and age. Few things are as timeless in the world of sport. But 19 years into his career, Shaw still hadn’t had his work grace the cover yet. The box was still left unchecked. But all that would change thanks to a painful knee injury.

“Oh you want to hear about the Julian Edelman cover?” asks Shaw with a strong tone of humility over a coffee in Berkeley. “Well let me start by telling you I wasn’t even supposed to be at that game, to be honest. I was scheduled to be at a ski race that weekend.”

Instead of taking one of the most iconic photos in Super Bowl history, Shaw should have been freezing his toes off in a pair of ski boots on the side of Mammoth Mountain. Downhill skiing has always been one of his most challenging and fulfilling sports to shoot, and Getty was sending him out for a race to do what he does best. The only problem was that he suffered a nagging knee injury of his own six weeks before. Skiing down a downhill course to find camera position wasn’t going to work that weekend.

“I put a call into my editor at Getty and we figured out a solution. One of the photographers scheduled for the Super Bowl was nice enough to switch assignments with me. So I showed up at the football game with a bum knee and he went to Mammoth. The ski race ended up getting cancelled because of white-out conditions and I got an SI cover out of it, so I’m not sure how fair that trade was,” laughed Shaw.

Not only was Shaw struggling with a knee injury that weekend, when he arrived to shoot the Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl, he was assigned a position nowhere near the field. “Usually I’m down on the field, but since my knee was hurt and I was the last photographer on the list, they put me in a seat up in the second deck. It was a comfortable spot, but I certainly wasn’t getting great pictures for the first three quarters,” said Shaw.

Indeed, the game was a dud. Nearing the end of the third quarter, The Patriots trailed the Falcons 28-3. It was seemingly over. But what ensued over the next 14 minutes into overtime was unforgettable. The Pats stormed back with 31 unanswered points, highlighted by a circus catch from Edelman on a miraculous heave from Tom Brady. Both products of the Bay Area.

As it turned out, from his perch in the second deck, Shaw held a perfect position to capture the moment. A photo that would forever freeze-frame a historic comeback into one perfect image.

 The closing seconds of Steph's first NBA Title (Photo by Ezra Shaw)

The closing seconds of Steph's first NBA Title (Photo by Ezra Shaw)

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A graduate of Syracuse University’s famed Newhouse School of Communications, it wasn’t until after college in 1996 that Shaw knew for sure that he wanted sports photography to be his career. That’s when Shaw took former Sports Illustrated editor Maureen Cavanagh up on an opportunity to attend the Summer Olympics in Atlanta to serve as an assistant for the SI photographers. He vividly remembers driving to the Opening Ceremonies in Atlanta alongside Richard Mackson and a dozen of the best of the best photographers in the world. Two decades later, when Shaw was snapping his first Sports Illustrated cover, Mackson just so happened to be a few rows down from him, capturing his own Super Bowl shots. It had all come full circle. 

When you talk to Shaw you learn quickly that sports photography has a big element of luck involved. You have to be in the right place at the right time at the right point in the game. Not to mention the right newspaper or magazine has to pick up the right photo. There are a ton of moving parts. That said, Shaw is a master at giving himself the best chance to succeed.

This involves arriving at events days in advance to scope out the best possible angles and backgrounds for potential shots. For example, he’ll climb into the catwalk attached to the ceiling of Oracle Arena in Oakland to attach a remote camera for shots of overhead dunks. Or he’ll scour sight lines for hours on end at AT&T park in San Francisco to find the perfect landscape shot of the ballpark by The Bay.

“I’m always looking to capture the atmosphere of a sporting event,” explains Shaw. “I want people to feel what it was like to be there. If I have an opportunity to shoot from a wider angle to capture the emotion of the event, I will try to provide that perspective.”  

Not only has Shaw witnessed countless sporting events and championship moments, he’s also seen an industry change dramatically over the past 20 years. Early in his career, Shaw remembers attending games with rolls of 36 exposures of film at his disposal. In other words, he couldn’t miss his moment, he only had so many shots to take on a given night. The process could be time consuming. Today, Shaw arrives courtside with a Canon digital camera that will take 14 frames per second for him. Hundreds of photos are taken at every game he attends nowadays. The idea of sticking out above the rest with a noticeable photo is more difficult than ever. It can't be the only thing you think about on a daily basis.

“Overall, one of the most important things for me is to be someone who is easy to work with among other photographers," says Shaw. "If you are trained correctly and work hard at all the events you attend, not just the Super Bowl or the Finals, the photos will come and your work will be recognized.”

So even if it is a Wednesday afternoon A’s game in Oakland, with a sea of empty green seats in the background and the playoffs nowhere to be found, Shaw will still be hunkered down in the Oakland Coliseum’s wooden photo well, chipping away at his craft. Never knowing how the story is going to end or what will ultimately wind up on the cover when the magazine finally goes to print. 

How to execute a perfect day at AT&T Park

By Michael Moniz

For the people that have never ventured to a San Francisco Giants game or just want to experience it like a veteran fan of 35+ years does it, I wanted to walk you through a “perfect day” at AT&T. At least from my humble perspective. 

Starting off at 10:30am, you arrive at Broderick’s in Walnut Creek.  Arguably the best burgers in the East Bay, having a choice of anything from Bison to Duck to Boar to Angus Beef, you can’t go wrong with any burger. These THICK burgers will give you a base to keep you going throughout the day. Also, they have a HUGE selection of beers and a full bar to choose from to get the day going.  Ask for Mikey. Best bartender in WC.

Hop on WC BART around 11:15 with a full stomach, maybe a few road sodas, and a full phone battery. About 45 minutes later, get off at Embarcadero Station. Now I know most people take MUNI to drop you off in front of the stadium, but that has never been my favorite. I find a lot of joy, walking down Spear St alongside other Giants fans during a beautiful day in June. You see, there are a few hidden gems at the end of Spear St along the Embarcadero that you’ll miss if you take MUNI.

Around 12:00PM, you have your most important decision of the day. Beer or Liquor? Hi Dive or Reds? Two historic stops that all Giants fans go to, these spots are a must to enjoy a quick bucket of beers between a few friends (Reds) or a Tito’s and Soda with two limes (Hi Dive). I personally love Red’s as you can get a bucket (6) of Rolling Rock for about $23. In the city, that’s practically free. Also, you’re literally sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the ships roll in. Can’t beat that!

When you look at your IPhone for the 13th time in the last 45 minutes and you see that it is 12:45, start the 10 min walk down the Embarcadero to the stadium.

Things to look for:

- Pedi Cabs. This is the definition of FU money. Usually cost about $10/person although there is no standard fee. I’ve negotiated to $5 one time. I recommend you to try it at least once in your life. It’s like rolling up in a limo. Cool status thing, but once you’re done and you pay, you realize it wasn’t worth it. Can help you if you’re running late or impress a date!

- Multiple kids selling various items (water, peanuts, etc). These kids are good. They will get you in conversation and literally run after you to try and close the deal. Pretty sure they make more than me.

- At least one person singing/playing a musical instrument. These aren’t the run of the mill people. These are entertainers that usually have a mic and speakers and sing covers well. Throw a buck.

- Two guys selling bootleg Bay Area sports teams clothing and hats. Out of everything, this is by far the best value on the strip. Half of my Bay teams (Niners, Dubs, G’s) clothing wardrobe has been purchased from these kinds of people. Shirts, beanies, blankets, If it has a team logo on it, they have it. Also definitely illegal.

 

Now the clock strikes 1:00PM as you’re entering the park. Best place to enter the stadium is in the back near boat docks. Quickest way into the stadium plus you don’t have to walk up the ramps.

Everyone has different preferences for seats. Obviously sitting as close as possible is ideal, but I’m assuming most of you weren’t a part of Google’s IPO. I’ve sat pretty much everywhere, but my two favorite spots were LF bleachers (137) and deep 3rd baseline (Section 134). The value for these seats is unprecedented in my mind. Bleachers you can usually get for $15-25. Section 134 are probably the cheapest lower level seats while also being very easy to get to, near food, and gives you access to the lower level and able to sneak to better seats.

You’re starting to get hungry as it been a few hours since that Bison burger. As soon as I enter the park, I go and get a nice IPA. New this year to the stadium is a partnership with my favorite beer, Sierra Nevada. Sign me up.

As I sip on the hops, I always like to walk around the stadium once and just take in all the different views. I make my way to my seat after and enjoy my view for the first inning or 2. When that is finished, make your way to behind centerfield bleachers for the famous crab sandwich. Although very expensive ($17.50), it is something that you HAVE to eat. Two pieces of toasted sourdough bread, graciously drenched in butter, around about 3-4oz of crab meat and mayo. Tomatoes are also on this and help make this the BEST sandwich in the park. I typically eat this right away. 

After devouring the crab sando, make your way to get some Gilroy Garlic Fries. I’ll warn you right now. This is pretty much minced garlic with some fries on the side. Been a staple forever, and easily the fan favorite. I’ll grab those and another beer and head back to my seat to enjoy the rest of the game.

As you’re watching Mad Bum throw the heat and Kershaw throwing the meat, remind Dodgers fans around you about their choke job last year. If the Giants can’t win, then I’d like the Doyers to suffer a slow, painful loss like they had last year.

There are 4 songs that could be played during the game. The first is obviously in the middle of the 7th, “Take me out to the ballgame” like at every baseball game you’ve ever been to. You have a civic duty to sing your ass off.  In the 8th inning, if the Giants are tied or losing, they play “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. If they’re winning, “Lights” by Journey is played. Either way, Journey kicks ass. If you’re lucky, you might see Steve Perry sing from his seat.

As the game ends in a 1-0 Giants win over the Doyers with Mad Bum throwing a complete game shutout and hitting a solo homer, you’ll walk out of the park with Tony Bennett singing “I left my heart in San Francisco” in the background.

If you want to keep the party going, I recommend 21st Amendment bar a block away or Pete’s or Momo’s right across the street for a celebratory beer. I tend to like doing that for day games so the crowd isn’t so heavy on MUNI or BART getting home.

So there you have it. The perfect Giants game. I almost forgot, you can actually live it this Sunday, June 17th as the Giants host the Doyers at 1:15PM. Do me a favor and bring a friend or your kid and have yourself a day!

Section925 Podcast Ep. 204 - Right Field Will from the Oakland Coliseum

Will MacNeil, better known as "Right Field Will," is at virtually every single Oakland A's home game in Section 149 of the Right Field Bleachers. Will sits down with Section925 and tells stories about being the most dedicated A's fan of the modern era.