I don't like the Golden State Warriors. I haven't for a while, and maybe a little bit longer than a lot of my inevitable-backlash brethren. The last time I clearly remember having affection for them, they were the chippy upstarts with the feel-good-story point guard giving the Spurs a run for their money in the second round of the 2013 playoffs. I said to myself, there's a team on the rise, and good for them. Now, only three short years later, that seems like a distant memory. Part of my inability to get on board with what seems like the entirety of the sports media and the whole fuzzy free world in their adoring love for the Dubs is that I'm a Lakers fan. That makes it really hard to root for other western conference teams in any way shape or form, sure, but the biggest part of my contempt for Golden State as they have risen to the basketball mountaintop lay in the fact that they carry themselves like a bunch of spoiled brats.

Matter of fact, a game against my Lakers earlier this regular season is a perfect example of why they really burn my toast on both sides. In pursuit of a record 73 regular season wins, the Warriors should have had no trouble with the young–––by all estimates terrible–––team I root for in early March, when they were absolutely rolling through their schedule. But the Dubs came out flat that afternoon, and my young guys flattened them in the Staples Center. It was a good win for us, and a potentially really bad one for the Warriors, who had not yet completed their magical 73-win season, and needed every W they could get to surpass Michael Jordan's 72-win Chicago Bulls. But instead of being humbled by a thumping from a clearly inferior team, I watched as their starters, who were relegated to the bench in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach, laughed their collective asses off.

I don't know what they were laughing at, but it shouldn't have been the LA Lakers, who were beating them handily, or really anything else for that matter. Winning percentage-wise, they were being visibly flip about the worst upset in NBA history.  It spoke to an arrogance that I feel pervades the team and the organization top to bottom. As an at-times arrogant prick myself, I can tell you, there are moments when you have to turn that bravado off, reassess, and get humble for a moment. A blowout loss to one of the league's worst teams probably should have been one of those moments, but there they were, yucking it up.

And that's when my mild to warm dislike for them turned into a ghost pepper hot fury. I thought, you know what, fuck these guys. As good as they are, we just dismantled them on national television, and they can't even suck it up and stoically accept defeat. Not only did it show a lack of respect for the valiant effort their opponent just put out (and truly, utterly piss me off), but it also made me think: where do these guys get off acting this way?

Yes, at that juncture they were defending champs, but they also won that ring with a string of match-up good luck in last year's Western Conference Playoffs. They also dropped two games to a Cavs team in that same year's Finals that found LeBron James without the next two best players on his team, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, who were also luckily for the Warriors, lost to injury. And yes, they were chasing the greatest regular season in NBA history, playing at a level so high that even a Delores Park hippie would call it stratospheric. But that's exactly when you should take a look in the mirror and say, "why did we just lose this gimme game to the lowly Lakers when we're trying to win 73 of them?"

At that moment, they chose to laugh instead of reflect, and it's not without a large amount of schadenfreude that I return the favor. After completing their record-setting regular season and coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 Western Conference Finals to set up a magical rematch with a now-healthy Cavaliers squad, they seemed like a team of destiny. They romped the Cavs in the first two games of the Finals and looked poised to torch my burnt toast to a blackened carbon nugget with a waltz to a second consecutive title. And even when they got thumped in game three, they came back to crush the Cavs in game four and put the series at an historically insurmountable advantage of 3-1. You see unlike their unlikely comeback against the Thunder in the previous round, no team in NBA history had climbed back from that deficit in the Finals. So towards the end of that pivotal game four, when they could've stayed laser-focused and accomplished their goal in a coming close-out game five, they made another arrogant mistake.

They turned the series around, right there in that victory they had in hand, and then proceeded to collapse like a failed Silicon Valley start-up in the next seven days. The hedge fund money began to bleed right out of the budget when their emotional and playmaking heartbeat, Draymond Green, took a shot at LeBron James and his groin with a flailing punch, this in the midst of a Warriors victory (in the game and the series) being all but an academic certainty. It made for the third time in the playoffs that Green, an unmitigated prick whose dick-head antics have inexplicably been re-branded as "intensity", took a shot at a dude's undercarriage. It also, upon league review, was a flagrant foul, giving Green enough of such fouls in the post-season to warrant a suspension he probably should've been handed in the previous series against the Thunder. You know, when he KICKED A MAN IN THE GROIN.

But yeah, Green followed up his hat-trick low blow by calling LeBron James something close to or exactly a "fucking bitch" on court, which isn't so much laughing from the bench at a bunch of twenty-something Lakers beating the stuffing out of you, but is perhaps the most blatant example of what happens when you tug on Superman's cape. Bron wasn't happy about any of it, and made that known to the press. So, with their third best player and emotional engine suspended going into a close-out game five at home, the Dubs, again, could have got their humble on and put Green's absence to the side and focused on winning the next game and a second consecutive NBA title. Instead, they pissed on the cape they just yanked on.

Klay Thompson told the press that he guessed Green must have hurt LeBron's feelings, and another role player on the team tweeted a fucking baby bottle emoji, a not so subtle jab at the best player on either team. And then that same best player, he of the four MVP's and two NBA championships, proceeded to forgo that metaphorical cape and become a literal basketball superhero. LBJ and the Cavs beat the Dubs the next three games consecutively, two of which were in Oakland, with James leading the way via back-to-back games of 41 points and a game seven triple double that shattered any kind of hubris these stupid Golden State jerks thought they had earned.

I've taken shots at LeBron in the past on this very same patch of the Internet blogosphere, and been proven wrong to a staggering degree. I questioned his fire and his outlook when he left Cleveland to go to the Miami Heat, but he made me look like an idiot with a pair of championships and even more notches on an NBA resume that when all the dust settles, just might be the most impressive in the league's history. But I licked my rhetorical wounds, both because he returned to my home state and the Cavaliers in 2014 with a more mature mindset, but moreover a displayed greatness that I feel lucky to witness, no Nike-branded pun intended.

As a fan, I enjoy watching elite athletes at the top of their game more than anything else, and despite the media's opinion that Stephen Curry and the Warriors had stolen his mantle as the best in the world, I knew better. I knew that a grown-up LeBron was not somebody to be trifled with, and as I've said so many times before, you doubt his particular brand of greatness at your own peril. It's a shame that the Warriors didn't see it the same way, because they might not have been quite so sure of themselves and pissed away the greatest season in NBA history.

Nobody has ever won an NBA Finals down 3-1. LeBron and the Cavs have now done exactly that, and on the 73-win Warriors' home floor to truly drive the history home. The city of Cleveland hasn't had a championship professional sports team in over 50 years. LeBron and the Cavs just won one, in a way that no other team in their sport ever has. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson scored a combined 31 points in the deciding game of the 2016 Finals, one less than their shit-heel teammate Draymond Green scored by himself. If they can't get humble now, I pity those Golden State fools. But as an Ohio boy, and a basketball fan, and a man who believes in respecting your opponent, I could not be happier that they lost. I'm laughing a very loud laugh right now, and the Dubs have done little all season to prevent me from feeling like I've earned it. They pushed to the limit what had become an increasingly entitled title-team attitude, and a righteous motherfucker from the Buckeye state just shoved it all the way down their chuckling throats. That feels pretty good, and I just had to say it.



To avoid having to do a big chunk of plot summation, or wade through too much recap, and most importantly to indicate there are nothing but spoilers ahead, I'm going to assume you've already watched season two of True Detective. If that is indeed the case, well lemme break it down like this…

We're all familiar with the sophomore slump. It’s that crucial second effort that suffers in the light of a particularly bright initial offering. It’s when the first thing you do is so good and compelling and well received that the world at large is in eager anticipation of what you've got as far as a follow-up act is concerned. Sometimes, you just can't quite measure up to that first, vibrant burst of creative energy and your second album or second novel or second film doesn't live up to what you accomplished that first go round. It's something that Nic Pizzolatto's second season of True Detective has been accused of over and over and over again throughout its second season on HBO. The first season, featuring the now indelible pairing of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, was known from the beginning to be a one-off series. It was one story told over the course of eight episodes of television, and would step aside after that run to allow in a new, totally different story for the show’s second season. 

After the smash success of McConaughey and Harrelson's masterful dual and duel lead performances, and a strange, Lovecraftian tale of the Louisiana bayou that had everyone in the free world wondering what exactly Carcosa was and who they thought the Yellow King may be, it would've been easy for the second season of True Detective to suffer for its predecessor’s success. It would have been easy for S2 to not live up to expectation, for it to fall under the shadow of the series' first iteration, for it to be an afterthought. And while the consensus of criticism and public reaction would lead you to believe that's exactly what happened here, in season two, allow me to tell you why if the second season of the show isn't better than the first, it certainly isn’t worse in any true usage of that word, and is a masterful piece of television in its own right. 

From jump street, and I mean that literally, from the sprawling and breathtaking views of the California landscape and in particular its interwoven highway system, we know we're in for a show that is going to bring together characters seemingly on separate trajectories, but with the same wish to move forward and to travel on down the road as it were. And whether intended or not, just like season one, they are fated to meet up and meander through one long strange trip of a murder investigation. Los Angeles is a place where everyone dreams of becoming someone else, and it is a perfect backdrop for a story that is all about its four major characters exploring the points at which their former lives turned on a particular pivot point, and they began to live the ones that they lead now.

The glaring and recurring theme of the entire season is that of past lives. They're referred to directly, as when Ani Bezzerides's new-wave father tells Ray Velcoro he has the biggest aura he's ever seen––he must have “lived hundreds of lives”––or when Vince Vaughn's Frank Semyon wonders whether he maybe really did die in the basement he was abandoned in for days as a child, or when the crooning Lera Lynn, the brooding songstress in Frank’s seedy saloon, tells us on more than one occasion over a stripped-down guitar line that this is “her least favorite life”. But more importantly, and more thematically, our four respective lead characters are all struggling to escape from the turning point in their actual, current lives. Something Semyon would tell us is a point we all face. A point at which we stopped being what we were and started being what we are, whether we like it or not. Or maybe you don’t remember that amazing scene between Semyon and his employee Stan’s now orphaned son in the backyard? After Frank has tried to make up for the boy’s father’s death with a financial gift to his widow and a promise of retribution, he tries to comfort the young man with a speech about life’s pivot points, and what we can do when we stand perched atop one. (One of many scenes that make this season worth a re-watch, I might add, but I'll get there…)

And all four of our leads have these fulcrum points, when life went from being one thing, and turned into another, and it’s what they spend all season grappling with as their individual demons meet just like those spaghetti junctions in the California highway system. The murder investigation of Ben Caspere brings these four people together in compelling and fascinating ways, as the investigation of Dora Lange's death in season one brought Rust and Marty together to confront their own broken lives.

Just like their investigation into the serial murders in Louisiana eventually forces Rust and Marty to confront their failed attempts at a successful family and a happy, meaningful existence, Caspere's murder entangles the four points in season two's dramatic square as they try to confront and adapt to their lives beyond a certain unwanted past travail. Caspere's death brings Ani back to where her molestation occurred, Frank back to the violent, criminal past he is desperate to escape, Woodrugh back to his days as a mercenary and the regret of a homosexual love affair, and Ray back to the murder of his wife's rapist and the dispute over his son Chad's bloodline. 

For Woodrugh, we see a man trying to beat back not only his inescapable sexual proclivities, but also a dark past in the U.S. army and as a mercenary fighting the same fight against whatever it is we think we're fighting for in the Middle East. For Ani, we find out, it's a sexual assault in the woods near her father's strange, mysterious [sic] sanctuary. One that she isn't entirely sure she didn't want, she tells Velcoro, crazy as that might sound. For Frank, it's the aforementioned experience in his father's basement, but also as an adult, his abandonment of his baser tendencies to pursue a straight life and a legacy for his children and grandchildren (he didn’t wear a suit 'til he was 38 remember…). For Ray Velcoro, it's moving beyond a murder that if it is not justified, is at least understandable, but has still left him a darker, more violent version of the person he wishes he was. 

Not only did the murder change him, but he later realizes he killed the wrong man (it’s one of the many ways the show really really really puts the screws to Velcoro, but I’ll leave that for another time). Ray not only wishes he was more like his son, but that we all were, he tells the boy and the audience in a voicemail doomed to be undelivered in the towering redwoods and lack of cellular signal that draw the plot towards its close. In a brilliant illumination of the season's aesthetic, Ray was foreshadowed to perish among those trees in a masterful dream sequence featuring his father and a Conway Twitty impersonator that even David Lynch would have to tip his cap to. But oh yeah, that plot!

It's knotted and muddy and some would tell you damn near indecipherable, but in reality, it's not only that the story is really not that hard to follow along with, but more importantly, it’s secondary to what the show is trying to accomplish this season and as a series as a whole. While the far-out ramblings of Rust Cohle and the inescapable demons of his partner Marty hang like a morbid and beautiful tapestry over the intense, mystic mystery at the first season's core, likewise our four leads in season two navigate through and confront their own existential dilemmas against the backdrop of an equally strange and unknowable menace that so characterized season one. It's a yarn that is still dense and moody enough to hang like baryonic matter over the dramatic scaffold of season two's own unique dark matter(s). Plot is secondary to motivation and character study in True Detective's universe, and we're better off as viewers because of it. 

And not to be too redundant, but a point well made is one made thoroughly, so let's look at our characters one more time, in particular those vivid motivations. Because motivation made manifest is where Pizzolatto's writing really shines. 

  • What do you do when you're trying to run from the fact that you murdered your wife's alleged rapist? If you're Ray Velcoro you spend your life fucked up on guilt and therefore a grab bag (or glove compartment) full of substances, all the while fighting in every way possible for the right to continue to raise the son that might be yours or could more likely be the offspring of the very man you murdered.
  • How about if you can't come to grips with your own sexual preference and the despicable things you did in the U.S. armed forces or their shadowy subsidiaries? Well if you're Paul Woodrugh you again, abuse substances, and then try and careen your bike off the road at alarming speeds and cry through terrible hangovers only to seal things up by walking into what you seem to know is certain death. 
  • Or what if your drunk of a father locks you in a basement as a kid and then as an adult you are a vicious criminal with a seeming heart of gold? If one Frank Semyon, you again, maybe abuse some substances and do everything you can to escape your criminal past and make a legacy for your as-of-yet unborn offspring. 
  • And let's say, you're Ani Bezzerides and you get molested by some creep at your father's way-out spiritual retreat in the woods? Well for starters, you (you guessed it) abuse some substances and spend your time railing against your father's perceived wrong-doing and evident apathy and lecture your sister about exploiting her sexuality whenever you can. Also, you stab things and people with your dead mother's knife. 

Mix these four things together and add one big conspiracy that involves sex, corruption, revenge, and the LA riots, and you bet your ass I'm invested. Again, kudos to Mr. Pizzolatto. And don't even listen to these haters, please, on your way to penning season three. 

Taken this way, the character studies offered in season two are in fact richer and more satisfying than season one, where at the end of the day Marty is simply a softened version of the same cruel bastard he always was, and Rust ends up a little more hopeful about the "big gutter in outer space" he so narrowly avoided leaving behind for good. Given their respective fates, the four main characters in season two leave us with a much more meaningful road traveled and more importantly, their fates tell us something deeper about the intermingled highways of life that we are surrounded by, if not the past ones where things are something completely different. Ray's failure to make amends with his family, Frank's inability to fight back his catalytic pride, Woodrugh's obsession with his own self-destruction, and Ani's exposure of the vast California conspiracy she escaped from with Ray's second son in tow not only all feel earned, but pitch perfect. A friend and I were discussing how the real difference between season one and two is that the bulk of S1 was so good that the finale felt forced and flat, while the breadth of S2 is so great because it also nails the landing, even without a flat circle of time and cribbing its themes and dialogue from Eugene Thacker and H.P. Lovecraft

Season one focuses on two leads. One, the dark, misanthropic "Michael Jordan of being a son-of-a-bitch“ who's obsessed with his and the world's existential ennui finds out that things really aren't so bad because of a near-death experience. The other, a womanizing, adulterous, violent father of two, makes an unearned peace with his family because hey, time heals all wounds. Compare those fairly trite denouements with where the four, equally compelling characters of season two find their respective fates:

I'll take Ani's pursuit of justice for Ray, Ray's pursuit of a nobility in death, Woodrugh's misplaced pursuit of his own destruction, and Frank's commitment to the way things outta shake out and to a belief in his own integrity––I‘ll take all of that, any day––over Rust's near-death change of heart and Marty's attempt to make peace with the family unit he wittingly destroyed by the end of season one. Everything about the characters in season two, from their make-up to their motivations to their fates, rings much truer than anything season one had to offer. Tell me why, you grousing internet loudmouths, we should sacrifice true character development for snappier dialogue? Because it's not like season two was without its fair share of memorable lines. And it's not like the corruption in Vincy is that far off from that in the bayou. And it's not like the demented sexual shit that everyone's least favorite lawn care professional was into is that different from Caspere and the young and old Chessani's weird secluded sex parties and manipulation of government contracts for their own personal pleasure. 

I could also get into how Farrell's Velcoro, McAdams's Bezzerides, Vaughn's Semyon, and Kitsch's Woodrugh were equally compelling performances in comparison to McConaughey's Cohle and Harrelson's Hart, but you'd never agree with me. Or I could tell you how that famed tracking shot in the projects in season one is easily rivaled by the out-of-nowhere shoot-out near a meth cookhouse in season two, but this post is long enough as is. Or we could investigate the beauty and execution of Frank’s long walk through desert, gut-cut and watching his life flash before him, but again, in the interest of closing things up, I won’t.

Suffice to say, I watched damn near the entire series over again before Sunday's finale. I suggest you give it a second watch at some point too. As a favor to me, at least watch those opening credits one last time. Pay attention to our silhouetted characters as they move against the backdrop of the California highways and in particular to the almost too on-point lyrics of Leonard Cohen's "Nevermind", a tune that poetically sums up the show's purpose to near poetic perfection. We get the world we deserve, Frank Semyon tells us is his belief, and it's my belief we got the follow up to season one of True Detective we deserved. It's a damn fine piece of drama at the end of the day, and sooner or later I've got a feeling you'll watch it again. If I did my job and you're still reading, you just might watch it with a more open mind, and find there is a fitting reward for doing so. 



A lot of folks don’t like coachspeak, and you can certainly count me among the number with a distaste for that athletically Orwellian compound word. Beyond morphology though, the concept itself is one of the least attractive parts about watching sports. We've heard most coaching cliches so many times we can rattle them off ourselves: team effort, everyone's focused, I'm proud of these guys, we'll look at the film, we're moving on to the next game, yap yap yap. And while I will concede there’s rarely anything of importance gleaned from a coach’s in or postgame shibboleths and evasions when faced with the media, there has always been one ballgame bromide that feels more authentic than the rest: a game is not decided by one play.

I like that adage because while it doesn’t soften the blow of a loss caused by a boneheaded mistake or enhance a heroic play at the end of the day, it is still true to a large extent. Competition is, from start to finish, flush with moments that chaotically careen into each other through some kind of contentious butterfly effect. It seems unfair and untrue to say that one specific thing, at one specific time, can be the sole and deciding factor in a game’s outcome. But then of course, Super Bowl 49 comes along and becomes the strongest candidate yet for the exception that proves the rule. 

A great number of things happened in Super Bowl 49 that if turned on their heads would no doubt beget a multiverse of different in-game permutations and sportball superposition, but we’re all really here to talk and think about one thing aren’t we? We’re here to talk about one play. The play that sure as hell felt like it independently and unequivocally decided the game’s winner and loser. Cue a fairly-well-executed segue…

Since my last post was all about the Buckeyes, I thought it only fitting to start my quick hit on the Super Bowl with two “threes” that will always be associated with the greatest coach in Ohio State football history: Woody Hayes.

1. Because he felt that a consistent offense should be one in which a run play garnered at least three yards, the media termed his brand of football: “three yards and a cloud of dust.”

2. In order to illustrate this belief in the running game and his aversion to the forward pass unless necessary, Woodrow is said to have said, in some form or fashion: “Three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad.”

For a guy like Woody Hayes, who had amazing running backs at OSU, including one of the greatest in college football history in Archie Griffin, this run-first, pass-seldom plan of attack was not surprising. Woody wanted to grind you down on offense and smack you in the face with an elite defense, and the best way to do that is to is to run, run, and run some more when you’ve got the ball. And you’d think that Pete Carroll, another great coach in his own right with a string of similarly stout defenses and a comparable running back in the terrific Marshawn Lynch, might have heeded ol’ Woody’s clarion call to the ground game at the very end of Super Bowl 49. But you’d be wrong of course, and I betcha coach Hayes’s words are hitting Pete pretty hard in hindsight.

And yes, this is a case of hindsight, that’s for certain. Fans absolutely love to second-guess a coach or player’s decision-making, and this is always with that very comfort of retrospect ready in their apoplectic quiver. It’s very easy without any pressure and the outcome already in front of you to say what you would’ve done. You, the guy on the couch, not the guy that’s a coach. You, the guy playing armchair quarterback, and not the guy with men the size of armchairs flying at him. We all can say what we would’ve done to make a game different, but we’re usually delusional, if not totally full of shit. But what if, in this case, we aren’t faced with of a matter of “I would have” but instead a matter of “you should have”?

I make this somewhat murky distinction because I want to give Pete Carroll and the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the decision to throw the ball with time winding down against the Patriots last Sunday. Yet just like so many armchair quarterbacks before me, I simply can’t. That’s because the moment the ball was snapped and Russell Wilson dropped back to pass, I couldn’t believe what was happening. I’m not alone of course, as the entirety of sports media and the general public alike have followed suit in pillorying Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for the decision not to hand the ball to one of the league’s premiere running backs with only three feet to go on the road to a Super Bowl title. 

I mean gentlemen, this is Marshawn Lynch. Marshawn freaking Lynch. The man whom, ever since he described his attitude on the field to a reporter at an NFL Rookie camp in 2007 as “Beast Mode”, has lived up to that maniacal, threatening moniker with vicious aplomb. A runner whom when called determined, determines what that concept even means. This indomitablity has helped him truck dood after dood after dood throughout his career and become a runner whom renown has yet to outrun. I bet even A.E Housman knows that Beast Mode, the attitude-turned-noun, could’ve dotted the Patriots’ “I” from one yard out and prevented Tom and Bill from getting that elusive number four.

Yes, he eats a lot of Skittles and grabs his crotch to celebrate a TD and won’t talk to the media unless you absolutely force him to, but he was a storyline in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl more so because he is the best player on the Seattle offense, and probably the best player on the entire team (Sherm, I hope you’re not reading this and good luck with that Tommy John sitch!) than for any off-the-field antics. The Patriots’ coffin seemed all but sealed in those final 30 seconds of action, and I might, if I were coach Carroll, have been creative on second down if there were some mere mortal in my backfield, but with a hammer like M. Lynch, you go ahead and try and hit that final nail.

We’re so puzzled by Seattle’s decision not to give the ball to Lynch because it makes so much sense to do the opposite, hindsight or no. You need one yard, you have a devastating running back, and you have a time out to spend. Don’t overthink things. Give the ball to that cannonball of a man and let him earn you a Super Bowl. It’s why you have him, it’s how you’ve used him these past seasons over and over again, and it’s why you are in talks to pay him a boatload of money this offseason. Feed the damn beast gentlemen.

Why wouldn’t you take a chance on something that has a more than 50% chance of working with two downs to go? Why wouldn’t you, in a game that we’re told over and over by coach after coach is about big name players making big time plays, let that scenario play out in the most crucial moment of your season? Why wouldn’t you thank your lucky stars that a football caromed off of nearly every part of Jermaine Kearse’s body and somehow landed in his hands, back on the ground, and take the sure route to a TD in the aftermath? Why the hell would you throw the ball? It really is puzzling. I felt it immediately, and I can’t fight the feeling now. The pass was a bad idea. It was a terrible idea. It was in all estimates unconscionable. 

Again though, if I may employ an SAT analogy here…


I get it. I really do get it. But still…

The only thing I can say that flies in the face of my disbelief, the only real condolence that can be handed Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson, and Darrell Bevell’s way is that Malcolm Butler made an absolutely fantastic play on the football that was thrown on a second down that will forever live in Super Bowl lore. He broke on that thing like a secret service agent on an assassin’s bullet. He knocked Ricardo Lockette out of the way and grabbed Wilson’s pass out of the air with such assurance and speed that the sporting world seemed to freeze for an instant and rotate 180 degrees on its axis. The game moved so quickly from one outcome to the other that I give Russell Wilson props for even walking upright off the field afterward. I would have collapsed, buffaloed and dismayed, paralyzed with the shock usually reserved for catastrophic injury.

But that’s Seattle’s only real quasi-positive takeaway here. That’s it. The kid made a helluva play on the football. Yet Seattle’s offensive braintrust still called the play, and Russell Wilson still threw a little high and wide, and Marshawn Lynch still did not get the football in a scenario expertly constructed for him by the Super Bowl gods. Brady led the Pats to the go-ahead score, but a Patriot did little else between then and that second down play to prevent Seattle from grabbing the victory. Lady luck seemed to be booty-calling the ‘Hawks once again, just like she did against Green Bay in the NFC championship, and the kids from Seattle were going to have one more incredible win to seal rare back-to-back Super Bowl titles. But it was not meant to be, because Marshawn Lynch wasn’t given the chance to make it manifest. A game is not decided by one play, but this Super Bowl was.



Now that the euphoria of the Ohio State University’s victory in the inaugural College Football Championship Game has (essentially) worn off to the proper extent, I thought I’d share my thoughts on one of the greatest games of my life as a sports fan. I don’t say that last part with any whiff of hyperbole, because the only game I can really compare it to from a personal standpoint is the last time Ohio State won college football’s national championship back in 2002. That would be the game with the now infamous delayed pass interference call in overtime against a heavily favored Miami Hurricanes team. You might recall it? Miami was loaded with more NFL talent than the current roster of the Jacksonville Jaguars and were thought to be unstoppable. That is until we stopped them, and I threw a chair across my parents' living room, and then proceeded to join my friends and complete strangers alike in a night of pure and uninhibited celebration throughout the streets of Toledo, OH. It was a night when I remembered why I watch sports and root for teams––especially the Buckeyes––in the first place. 

That’s because while the majority of a fan’s experience is usually pain and disappointment, more seasons where you don’t win it all then you do, on the rare nights at the culmination of the rare season, the feeling of coming out on top simply cannot be topped. After a 2014 season that began with the preseason loss of our Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Braxton Miller, featured an embarrassing loss to a (maybe not even) mediocre Virginia Tech team, and the loss of our second (!) Heisman Trophy candidate and replacement for Miller, JT Barrett, the fact that we were even in that game two weeks back didn’t even really make sense. It didn’t feel completely and entirely real. Not even after we trucked Wisconsin 59-0 to make it into the four-team playoff, or after we manhandled Alabama in the semifinal game. It still didn’t feel right. We weren’t actually playing Oregon for the National Championship with a third string quarterback who played out of his mind in those two preceding games. It couldn’t be real.

But it was, and then that third QB, Cardale Jones, lead the bucks to a third consecutive postseason win to beat Oregon, and then my head nearly came off my shoulders from a combination of screaming, yelling, uncontrollable smiling, and enough alcohol to subdue the Oregon nose guard that 12 Gauge overtook in the open field in one of the game’s signature moments. I was out of my mind with glee, an insane level of adrenaline coursing through my veins, and I’m sure that both the people that joined me to watch the game and passersby alike thought that I was some sort of raving lunatic and not the buttoned down scribe you know so well here at the Hip. And what I want to impart about all of this, about this amazing feeling, is what that feeling means, and why I think it's important.

You can’t tell me that sports don’t matter. I spent my whole life living out the proof that that’s not true. And you can’t tell me that that’s wrong, because I’ve spent my whole time writing this blog with points to the contrary. Sports are a part of my life, and they’re a part of all of our lives, whether we choose to be active fans that sometimes embarrass themselves like no other, casual fans who tune in for the big game, or people that don’t give one iota of a shit what athletes do with balls on fields and courts and rinks and pitches the world over. There isn’t a purer joy that I’ve come across than one of my favorite teams getting to the top of the mountain in their particular sporting metier. Nothing. Not the love of family or a beautiful woman, not in personal accomplishment or a good deed. And certainly not in the birth of a child, because I don’t have that one under my belt. I’m far too careful when my belt comes off for that. But anyways.

Yeah, there’s just a joy in this type of victory that cannot be duplicated. Not because it's any more important than the feelings associated with those other things I just threw out, but because it is entirely different. As a sports fan, you are at the absolute mercy of things completely out of your control. And while all of our lives certainly take on that feeling from time to time, we are always behind the wheel, through our sorrow and our jubilation. We’ve always got a varying level of control over the outcomes that produce a happy ending or a sad one in our day-to-day lives. With sports, you simply “root for the laundry” as they say, the jersey on an athlete’s back, at the end of it all. You have your favorite players and coaches and teams for a reason, you tell yourself, but that doesn’t mean that carries any weight whatsoever in what those coaches, athletes, and teams accomplish. You are along for the ride, whether it crests for long periods or reaches dizzying heights of success more often than you can believe. Either way, you’re gambling with your emotions, and the high you get when the big payoff comes through is a feeling unlike any other. Except, maybe, gambling itself. Let’s table that for another time though, because while I certainly have my opinions on that endeavor, today I endeavor to talk about that night and that game a couple weeks back.

After the game wrapped up and my friends left me to my own devices, I did what I always do after a big Buckeye win. I called my dad, the one who feigns an eroded attention to the game, even though I know better, I called my homies who were gathered around a screen back home, where I wish I could have joined them, and then I pumped my fist and exalted and smiled and almost broke into a boyish skip on my way to the neighborhood bar closer to my house. The liquor was beginning to speak to me, and I wanted to be a little nearer to my bed if my Columbus, OH bred victory high wasn’t through in peaking. I got to the bar, where there wasn’t a Buckeye fan in sight, and seemingly, anyone in sight that even knew that a football game had been played that night. I was asked what the hell I was so happy about. Then I opened my jacket to reveal my scarlet and gray beneath and wouldn’t you know it? I yelled and screamed and smiled and demanded champagne. 

Like the sports fans the bar was so lacking in, it was also bereft of a sparkling white, but that did nothing to slow me down. I enjoyed myself a little bit more on bourbon at $3.50 a glass, looked in a mirror just to see my smile and tell myself that this feeling was real, and walked my drunk ass home, completely content. It wasn’t until the following evening though, that I really felt at home with my excitement. I ran into a friend of mine that next evening at the very same bar, and we started talking about the game and more specifically how happy I was. He, the Louisville Cardinal basketball die-hard, knew this very same feeling just two years ago when his squad trumped Michigan for a basketball national championship, so we decided to compare notes. 

I told him that night two years back, when Louisville beat––yes, indeed, Ohio State’s hated rival––Michigan for the championship, I looked around the bar after the win. Everyone in Louisville was over the moon sure, but this guy, my man, he was fucking losing it. He was out of his mind happy. The kind of happy I vaguely recalled from back in 2002. When our crew came to the decision to find another bar where even more friends were hanging out following U of L’s big win, there was only one guy I wanted to ride with. I settled into shotgun in his Subaru, he made me download “One Shining Moment” onto his iPhone, we blared it with the windows down, and he honked, hollered, and high-fived total strangers on our way to the next watering hole. I was living vicariously, but it was still a small amount of glorious. So we talked about that night in his car and that game against Michigan, then we talked about my game, and then he took me back to a different championship in Louisville basketball history that made it all come together for the both of us.

My man laid out the following story:

The Cards were at the very front part of the Pitino era, and there was a new-found aura of urgency and hope surrounding the program. He and a friend were watching a game in the lead up to that year’s NCAA Tournament and the vibes were good at the bar in question. The scene at the bar was entirely positive, because the good folks of Louisville knew their team was on the upswing, if not contenders at the given moment. My man and his buddy fell into conversation with another fan at the bar, some 15 to 20 years their senior, who recalled vividly the last time Louisville won the basketball national championship, back in 1986. The guy was an aeronautical engineer or something of the like in my man’s memory, but he’s not exactly sure. He’s an airplane enthusiast at very least. Our Enthusiast told a tale of the night of that game in ’86, when my man and his buddy were only grade-schoolers, when Milt Wagner drained two free throws to seal the victory and a championship for the Cards. The Enthusiast was at this very same kind of bar he says, and he decided to step outside to have a look at the reaction. What he saw was a neighborhood and a city treading through a flood of good feeling…

It’s a main drag in Louisville, but there’s a fire engine driving up and down the street, horn at full blast, elated firemen whooping their way through the night. Strangers are embracing in the streets, smiles are pasted on faces like plastic surgeries gone awry, the sound of people yelling their heads off is damn near deafening. The Enthusiast looks to my man, then to his buddy and shakes his head for a beat. “Everyone was just so happy.” My man, retelling the retelling, drops the emphasis on the word “so”, because the Enthusiast did too. And yes, sports fans, that’s it exactly. So happy. My man goes on to say that he and his buddy, to this day, awash in the good feeling that comes with a big Cards win, still lock eyes, smile, and say it again. Everyone is just so happy. That’s why I watch kiddos, that’s why I root for my guys in Columbus, that’s why I stress and freak out, and let the Bucks take years off of my life and reequip my scalp with a set of new gray hairs. It’s all for that one night, at the end of the year, when everyone is just so happy.

It’s a feeling that when it grips you personally, is great-drugs kind of euphoric, but with none of the manufactured good time you know is lurking behind it. It’s the kind of feeling that when you see it in the eyes of the other fans around, becomes a kind of telepathic good vibe that you don’t want to let go of. It’s the kind of mass hysteria that can grip a city in the opposite way of riot and upheaval, but still lead to the burning of cars and couches and maniacal shouting and embracing and attempting to fly through the roof. It’s that amazing kind of happy that only sports can claim to impart. And man, let me tell you, there ain’t nothing like that feeling. 



Let me tell you why I don’t like James Harden. It’s certainly nothing personal. I am not the type of fan to dismiss a player on a few interviews or how they carry themselves or their unfortunate choices in facial hair. A player’s demeanor and attitude can go a long way towards enhancing an already high opinion of their athletic ability and transform them from someone I admire into one of my favorite players, but it is rare that the opposite is true. I try and judge and if need be dislike someone on the field of play purely on the merits of their performance. There are exceptions, where by the accretion of ill will and the need to prove time and again that they totally suck I have indeed written a player or two off––ahem, Dwight Howard––I try to keep this a rare occasion in both life and sport. You really have to earn a spot on my shit list when it comes to personality, and Mr. Harden is assuredly not in that swath of the sporting population.

I dislike Harden purely on the content of his game. He is a deadly three point shooter, a fantastic slasher, an above-average passer, and one of the league’s best all-around scorers. Nothing not to like there. But it is the manner in which he can over and over, within the span of even a single game, make you forget about all of that that really puts me out. That’s because his true primary focus on offense, and hell, in his game as a whole, since he has never shown much interest in defense whatsoever, is doing whatever it takes to get to the free throw line. The ability to draw fouls is part of becoming a complete offensive superstar, but in Harden’s case it does not merely accentuate his talents, it sublimates them into afterthoughts. His knack for getting to the line does not underscore his game, it is what his game is all about. Quite frankly James, you look soft son.

He flops, he flails, he sends his arms and legs akimbo, crashing through the lane like an unconscious sky diver, embellishing every single point of contact made on his way towards the hoop, or more usually, the floor. Half the time, it doesn’t even appear he has designs on putting up a shot, but is driving into the teeth of a defense with the single goal of hearing a referee’s whistle sound. He acts as if fouled so often in fact, I don’t believe most refs know whether or not he actually earned a legitimate call. It’s a cheap way to make an NBA living, and to go about your business as a star player. I question a man as the cornerstone of a franchise and as a leader if he earns his buckets acting his way to the stripe and not hitting shots from the field. Not only that, but the way he plays damages the league as a whole, since the NBA has recently solidified to the casual fan its reputation as a game with less and less watch-ability. 

The greats have always found a way to get to the line, from Jordan to Shaq (most times unwillingly) to Kobe to LeBron, but it has always been a part of their game, and not its centerpiece.

Harden’s position as the poster boy for the NBA’s flop-first shortcomings is often brought into severe focus by active defenses, as was the case on Saturday night, when the Rockets hosted the dazzling Golden State Warriors. Golden State players were in foul trouble early and often, and visibly showed their frustration with near the same frequency as whistles were blown. Phantom contact and questionable calls haunted their defensive efforts, and though they held the Rockets under 40% from the field and Houston seemingly could not buy a bucket, the Warriors still found themselves in an eight point first half hole.

They were outperforming Houston when the clock was running, but got killed at the line time and again, with baffling foul calls that sent Klay Thompson to the bench with two fouls in the blink of an eye, left Stef Curry laughing in disgust, and let Harden continue to score without any ability in the early going to hit a shot. It made me shudder to think what a playoff series between these teams would look like, and brought up memories of the 2006 NBA Finals, which were competitively dismantled by Dwyane Wade’s knack for failing down on every drive into the lane. The Mavericks watched in awe as their series lead evaporated and Wade’s free throw shooting eventually turned the tide of the championship series in Miami’s favor. 

That’s why Harden really burns my toast. He doesn’t just offer up an aesthetically, if not morally lacking form of basketball, he hurts the flow of the game as a whole, creates impossible decisions for referees, and hampers the defensive abilities of what as a whole is a supremely talented defensive league. Instead of a wonderful, up and down, back and forth blur of beautiful basketball, I get feigned attrition and finesse-as-function histrionics wrapped in an ugly looking beard. The cynics can claim what Harden does is within the rules and in fact a brilliant manipulation of the NBA’s status quo, but I didn’t develop a love of sports to be a cynic. I want it to be more than that. I want it to not just entertain me, but delight me. Not only to fill my time, but make that time worthwhile. I want the ballet of basketball performed with grace and tact, not reduced to an ugly grind where I watch one player thrash through a defense and shoot free throws. I don’t want to watch James Harden, that’s for damn sure.