Shaq Gets Big Laughs With Kobe Story

From Yahoo Sports. O’Neal provided perspective on Kobe like only he could, sharing a story about his early days playing with him en route to three NBA championships together.

“The day Kobe gained my respect, the guys were complaining, Kobe’s not passing the ball,’” O’Neal said. “I said ‘I’ll talk to him.’ I said ‘Kobe. There’s no I in team.’ Kobe said, ‘I know, but there’s an M-E in there mother f—er.’ I went back and told Rick [Fox] and Big Shot Bob [Horry], ‘just get the rebound. He’s not passing.’”

Book of the Week—Geezerball

I’m on a nice little reading roll, meaning a book a week. This week I cheated though when I subbed in a fun, short read, for a long, dryish, academic one that I was plodding through.

Geezerball: North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest (Sort of a Memoir) by Richie Zweigenhaft tells the story of the Guilford College noon pickup basketball game that I played in between 1993-1998 when I taught at the “small Quaker college”. The game is 44 years old and counting and some of the participants have been playing most or all of those years. One of the game’s mottos is “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.”

Richie, also known as “The Commissioner” is an accomplished author of several books on diversity in the American power structure. Now 75 years young, he’s the glue that’s held the game together over the decades.

Geezerball prompted a lot of reminiscing about those years and reflection on what’s most important in life. I remember 11 of the 29 players on the current geezer email list which is pretty remarkable given how bad I am with names. It also speaks to the game’s stability and what demographers have been telling us for awhile—that Americans aren’t moving nearly as much as in the past.

The game combines two of the very few things upon which most medical doctors and social scientists respectively agree—the importance of exercise to our physical health and the importance of close interpersonal relationships to our mental health.

“My wife says she expects to get a call one day saying I’ve died on the basketball court,” one geezer writes in the book. “If that happens, she’ll know I died happy.” In actuality, the game is probably extending the life of the participants. Even more importantly, it’s adding tremendously to the quality of their lives. Their friendships, and the humor that marks their interactions, are testaments to the power of community.

Among other remarkable aspects of the game is the fact that nearly all the participants are men. As a runner, I can’t help but notice more women running together; like the geezers, strengthening their bodies, their hearts, and their minds simultaneously. Same with the Gal Pal and her girlfriends who go on long walks every Saturday morning while catching up on the week’s events. I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems like men are more prone than women to prioritize their work lives, often to their own detriment. Given that, I find it inspiring that a dozen men in Greensboro, NC have been defying that norm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 44 years.

The sort of memoir reminded me of exactly how cool of an addendum the game is to the participants’ lives. But now, upon further thought, I can’t help but wonder if when those men near the end of their lives, they’ll think of the game as one of the most essential parts of their lives, and their work as more of an addendum. Meaning, what if we all have it backwards? What if the GalPal’s Saturday morning walks, my Saturday morning group runs, my Tuesday and Thursday night group rides are the core and everything else is the periphery?

This line of thinking may be just one more example of my economic privilege at work, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we organized our lives around Geezerball-like communities, where we prioritized movement and friendship over material wealth and status? Put another way, how much is enough? When it comes to work hours and money, there’s always a point of diminishing returns. At a certain point, more work means more impoverished relationships with family and friends.

In contrast, when it comes to walking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, or playing basketball or golf with friends, there is no point of diminishing returns. Our physical and mental health just keep improving. Our entire well-being. That’s the lesson of Geezerball.

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Weekend Assorted Links

1. Nearly all middle school teachers are highly stressed.

“The largest group, 66%, reported high stress and high coping. Nearly one-third of the participants, 28%, reported high stress and low coping. Only 6% of middle school teachers reported low levels of stress and high coping ability.”

2. Eleven minutes: A call from Kobe Bryant. Jayson Reynolds is an exceptional young adult author.

3. The killer(s) on the road: reducing your risk of automotive death.

“If I die in the next 10 years, the most probable ‘murder weapon’ is my vehicle or another vehicle on the road.”

4. All children are gifted—just in different ways.

“I’m sorry, but no school board, no group of parents has the right to label one homogeneous group of children ‘gifted’ based on the criteria established by the parents of those children and then consign the rest of the students to programs for the ‘not gifted’. That’s what happens.”

5. Can this one super-prospect revive the greatest dynasty in sports?

“She’s as good as anybody I’ve seen with the ball in her hands.”

Live As If Life Is Fragile

I spent the 1980s in Los Angeles. I was down with the Purple and Gold, even buying a scalped ticket one June day mid-decade outside the Fabulous Forum for a decisive championship victory against the Celtics. Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Cooper, Wilkes. Showtime.

But I was never really a Kobe guy like my mom.

Partly because of Colorado.

And I didn’t understand how he couldn’t get along with Shaq.

And I didn’t like his final, post achilles seasons, as the franchise spiraled downwards.

But since Sunday, I’ve read a lot and learned many things that I didn’t know. I deeply respect that he inspired way more people way more than I realized.

I especially liked this. “A Lasting Friendship: Kobe Bryant and His High School English Teacher”.

And, as a fellow “girl dad”, this.

My mom was wise, she probably saw things I didn’t or wasn’t able to. It’s sad she barely out-lived him.

Nine lives ended too soon. The only way to respond is to not take for granted whatever time we have left. Live as if life is fragile.

The Path Less Followed

Last Saturday morning, approaching the mother of all hills at the end of West Bay Drive, Dan, Dan, The Transpo Man posed a question. Why did our small group become runners?

I detailed my personal fitness journey in the early days of the humble blog, but I’ve continued to think about the question during recent solo efforts.

I suspect we’re runners because we inherited above average self-discipline from our parents. They modeled it day-in and day-out in myriad ways separate from running. They woke up early. They went to work. They dedicated themselves to their work. They saved their money.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we run at 5:45a.m*. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. We were fortunate, our parents were Redwoods.

*except Saturdays, when we ease into the day and start at 7:30a.m.

Enough Of That PUNishment

A friend in Winnipeg is as gifted a punster as I’ve ever known. I guess that’s what happens when you teach middle school for a couple decades. Shortly after the Seahawks loss he wrote:

“Ah, the Seahawks! If one is going win at Lambeau, one has to be tougher than Rambo. Yes, Seattle did Russell up some points in the 2nd Half, But the Packers converted some Big 3rd Downs at the end, by Aaroning it out. It was a Gutsy Performance by both teams.”

It’s really too bad no one asked me for advice with 3:30 left. You can’t punt there because Rogers was routinely finding seams in the secondary.

I liked the decision to go for two and the standard second half rally. Wilson is special, when he’s done, we may never see the likes of him again in the Specific Northwest. Enjoy him while he lasts.

I didn’t like the predictably slow start and the very late drop.

That loss probably came down to the delay of game against San Fransisco which cost home field, and most importantly, a week’s rest.

Oh well, it’s time for basketball, and before we know it spring will be here and “a tradition unlike any other“.

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Weekend Assorted Links

1. Steve Spence’s legendary sub-5:00 mile streak comes to an end after 43 years.

2. Who do the Duke and Duchess of Sussex think they are? Afua Hirsch explains.

“If the media paid more attention to Britain’s communities of color, perhaps it would find the announcement far less surprising. With a new prime minister whose track record includes overtly racist statements, some of which would make even Donald Trump blush, a Brexit project linked to native nationalism and a desire to rid Britain of large numbers of immigrants, and an ever thickening loom of imperial nostalgia, many of us are also thinking about moving.

From the very first headline about her being “(almost) straight outta Compton” and having “exotic” DNA, the racist treatment of Meghan has been impossible to ignore. Princess Michael of Kent wore an overtly racist brooch in the duchess’s company. A BBC host compared the couple’s newborn baby to a chimpanzee. Then there was the sublimely ludicrous suggestion that Meghan’s avocado consumption is responsible for mass murder, while her charity cookbook was portrayed as somehow helping terrorists.

Those who claim frequent attacks against the duchess have nothing to do with her race have a hard time explaining these attempts to link her with particularly racialized forms of crime — terrorism and gang activity — as well as the fact that she has been most venomously attacked for acts that attracted praise when other royals did them. Her decision to guest-edit British Vogue, for example, was roundly condemned by large parts of the British media, in stark contrast to Prince Charles’s two-time guest editorship of Country Life magazine, Prince Harry’s of a BBC program and Kate Middleton’s at Huffington Post, all of which were quietly praised at the time.

Her treatment has proved what many of us have always known: No matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in this society racism will still follow you.”

3. Trump takes credit for decline in cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society says he’s wrong. How long until their funding is cut further?

“The President has a history of proposing to cut funding from the National Institutes of Health’s budget, which includes funding for the National Cancer Institute, an agency that leads, conducts and supports cancer research. The final budgets that Congress approved ended up being more generous than Trump’s proposals.

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote on Twitter, in response to Trump, that ‘cancer rates dropped before you took office. Hopefully they keep dropping because Congress rejected your cruel research budgets, which sought billions in CUTS to @NIH and the National Cancer Institute. This is good news despite you – not because of you.'”

And so it goes, in these (dis)United States of America.

4. Why do people believe in hell?

“How can we be winners, after all, if there are no losers? . . . What success can there be that isn’t validated by another’s failure? What heaven can there be for us without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?”