If You Like Reading About Balls…

… well then you should consider reading my dad’s new blog.

He writes about all kinds of balls, actually. Not the kind I’ve implied here, though – the less horrifying ones. Baseballs. Footballs. Basketballs. Tennis balls. You get my drift.

If any of you faithful blog followers have read my About Me page, you know that my father is something of an academic writer that raised me to value education and strive to be a writer. Some of my most remembered experiences growing up were of going to basketball games with him in the dead of winter, of sitting in the locker rooms with my eyes covered while the players talked about sports, music, and women; of being known by the football coaches he interviewed so well they knew exactly what I’d want at Christmas time. Since his days as a part time sports writer, my dad has published four books on all things (sports) balls. He’s working on two more as I write this.

So the other thing I learned from my dad was to be brutally honest; to be blunt. It’s why snark drips from the words that come out of my mouth. And why I started blogging. It was only a matter of time, really, until he decided to blog himself – especially since he cannot write his opinions in the terribly long and somewhat specialized sports history topics he writes journals and books on.

While he writes primarily history now in his retirement, his blog is going to be devoted to mostly current issues in every arena of sports he has something to say about. In the vein of the b(itch), his first blog post coming tomorrow will be to vent on the issue of bowl games.

Check out his website The Schmidt Sports Corner and make sure to “fan” him on Facebook too.

Now … back to my usual crassness, for your daily helping of pig balls:

Well, we can file this under ‘Reasons to Hate the Lakers’

My favorite time of the year has officially begun: basketball season.

Having grown up with my father – a sports writer – I generally dislike most sports. It isn’t that I have a misunderstanding of sports, or that I prefer girly things to the sweaty, meaty masculinity of it all. It’s that I feel like I have been overexposed. My father has written numerous books, countless academic journals and encyclopedia entries, and has published more newspaper articles than even he can count. And the sports he has covered (and thus overexposed me to) have not been discriminating – growing up, I was forced to attend and be an active part of almost every sport you can imagine (with the exception of ping pong). I will never forget the Chicago winters when Friday after Friday I was bundled up to sit for hours in the locker room with my eyes covered; as well as the countless sunburns I got sitting in the aluminum bleachers. So to say that I have been “overexposed” is probably an understatement. Much to my own chagrin, I know more about the ins-and-outs of most sporting events played in the United States than I want to, which is why I generally dislike the majority of them.

Except – of course – basketball. Something about basketball stuck with me through the years. Possibly it is my love of the Chicago Bulls. Very likely it is all the things other than the ball that the game represents. Whatever it is, I love it and now that the lockout is over, the season is upon us.

If it sounds like I’m bragging or rambling – I’m not. Possibly I’m rambling, but really I feel the need to qualify. In my experience, sports have and always will be male-dominated; that includes in the commentary. (And for those of you planning on commenting off on a rail about some random female sports reporter showcased on ESPN: spare me. A few women – bombshells, I might add, for the mainstream male audience to salivate over – does not change the unambiguous fact that sports in America are relatively male dominated.) Even at home I feel like every man in the room pompously believes I don’t understand or know anything about what’s on the television – even when they know my experiences with my dad as a sports writer. Nothing makes me laugh more hysterically (inside, of course) when someone tries to explain to me something about sports as quite a few have referred to “in layman’s terms.” I don’t mean to be as pompous as them and act like I know everything; I mean it is hilarious that I get stereotyped as someone who would know nothing and need to be talked down to.

So we’ve established: I’m at least marginally qualified to talk about this. On to the Los Angeles Lakers, in layman’s terms.

One of the reasons why I love basketball so much is because of the potential it has to help guys get off the streets and out of gangs. You can always tell when a guy has gone from “rags to riches” in the NBA – not only because of the PR campaign telling you about it, but because of the amount he gives back. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing these big, lovable guys giving back to the communities from whence they came. Unlike a lot of other sports, basketball combines more qualities than are even imaginable. Where other sports require skill and passion, basketball is a combination of skill, finesse, agility, talent, personality, respect, philanthropy, and passion. And while the players make an obscene amount of money, and the franchises do need funds to run the teams – the almighty dollar really has little to do with the sport, itself.

So when I see teams like the Los Angeles Lakers – a franchise that is way too big and far too wealthy for its own good – I thoroughly expect to see a good deal of generosity, philanthropy, and (at the very least) fairness in their activities on as well as off court. And while many of them as individuals (e.g. Gasol, Fisher) are among the better people playing in the NBA right now, it is undeniable that the team and the franchise is not any of those things. When I moved to California, rather than seeing an awesome powerhouse of a team that combined skill with general goodness, I saw a bunch of numbskulls cheating on their wives, shouting homophobic slurs during the game, doing very little for the community, and all-around acting like big, overpaid babies.

So what’s new that we can we file under ‘Reasons to Hate the Lakers,’ you ask? Simple: the CP3 scandal.

If you were awake at all yesterday, you know that there was a bit of a scandal over the Lakers franchise deciding to trade Odom and Gasol to acquire Chris Paul (otherwise known as CP3). Of course this was discussed for a while and – while Paul has questionable knee problems – this still seems relatively good for the Lakers, primarily because it would put them in the position of potentially acquiring Dwight Howard as well. The question that was on the tip of my tongue, though, when I learned of this trade was simply: why would the Lakers trade two guys formerly considered ‘franchise superstars’ for one guy that is only so-so?

I’ll tell you why: money and unfairness.

A part of the post-lockout deal was that money paid in luxury taxes for player contracts would be diverted to smaller NBA teams to help even the playing field a little. It is no surprise that there are big teams and small teams and – much in the way our economy becomes more and more divided and seemingly unfair – money continues to create a larger gap between teams that may otherwise be excellent contenders against one another. So while I don’t doubt that the Phil-Kobe franchise wanted to cut costs a little to make some wiggle room for the likes of Dwight Howard to come in, it cannot be denied that an added benefit to the Lakers was to weasel their way out of that $21 million luxury tax that was being paid out on Odom and Gasol’s contracts. As it stands, Dwight was not a given, and even more compelling is that the tax on his and CP3’s contracts would still have amounted to far less than Gasol and Odom’s. Trade two superstars for a guy people call “questionable” to save some money and keep the place on the throne of the NBA? Sounds like a good deal to me! (For the Lakers, that is.)

Of course this is all very conspiracy theory, or at the very least a little overanalytical of the situation. Such ideas wouldn’t come into play, though, if it weren’t for all of the other colossal reasons the Lakers are what is wrong with professional sports to begin with. If they didn’t have a laundry list of negatives (from Kobe’s blatant homophobia, to dirty playing, to acting like poor sports when they encounter a team unequivocally better than them, to Kobe referring to Michael Jordan’s record as “that aint shit,” to the fans that riot for no reason…the list goes on), then people wouldn’t jump to assume just more of the same from the team that has over 11 million Facebook fans, and yet not one unscarred thing about them.

The best part in all of this is that the Laker fans only know how to defend the Lakers and this bogus blunder of an attempted-trade on one of three levels.

First, they try and defend the capitalist aspect (“…well, if the owner wants to cut costs, he should be able to!”), which brings to mind a simple reminder that while basketball is business-like, basketball is and never has been a business (which means it doesn’t get to play by business standards).

When that fails, they move on to innocuous and illogical attacks on anyone speaking against the team – like “Laker hater in the house” or “you so stupid!!” Sure guys…

And then, as a last resort, Laker fans respond when someone says something that is in opposition to and/or is very likely the truth about their team by saying absolutely nothing. I have never heard more silence from Laker fans than when I’ve said something that is without a doubt a pejorative truth about the downsides of the Los Angeles franchise. Keep quiet, ignore the truth; and we never have to admit flaws in our beloved purple and gold.

As a result, I fully expect this blog to go uncommented. But what do I know? I am just a layman, and a woman to boot. I don’t have any experience with basketball, or sports in general at all . . .

Stop Being Such a P*s*y

I’m not a fan of the p-word, but I feel it is in order at this point.  Stop being such a p*s*y!

Who am I referring to, you might ask?  Men.  Not all men, just some.  Let me elaborate:

I recently read an opinion piece by a CNN contributor, called Why Men Are in Trouble.  The crux of the article was that, beyond just reaching equality, women have surpassed men in education, career, and salary in the United States, today.  What is disturbing about this trend is not that women are doing more than men (which is troubling on a number of other levels beyond the extent of this particular blog); but really that it is correlative to some other things going on in American culture.  Most noted, as the author of the article points out, is the fact that as the numbers of unemployment and lack of education for men go down, the numbers for video game use among 18 – 34 year olds surpass those of young boys.  Further, role modeling in the mainstream media, particularly in movies, no longer espouse the typical qualities of a mature, responsible, adult male.

Now, I have no problem with adult men playing video games, but there are conditions which must apply.  If you have no job and no car and are over the age of 18, well then there is a big problem if you are spending all of your time in your parent’s basement playing video games.  If you are in college but prioritize your World of Warcraft marathons over going to class, there is a big problem with you as well.  What has happened with American culture that 20% of the male population is unemployed and sitting around their parent’s homes playing video games all the time, not taking the responsibilities that an adult male should be taking?

I think the other relevant point in the antiheroic qualities of men in movies, and male role models in general, is a strong one.  Men in movies now are portrayed not as heroes, leaders, or responsible and upstanding members of society.  They’re pot smoking babies that don’t want to grow up.  They show up on the screen as whiney children that refuse to take responsibility for their actions.  It’s no wonder there are so many single mothers out there, and children abandoned by their fathers, when the classic role models in our film and media do the same, exact thing.  It was like when Manny Ramirez was first busted by the Dodgers a few years ago for doing performance-enhancing drugs.  Everyone said “well, everyone in sports does it.”  As a role model for young men growing and looking to people like Ramirez to model themselves after, is that an acceptable response?  The same can be said for every movie or television show where the male characters act like adult babies in the face of situations where they should be acting otherwise.  But just because everyone does it now, does not make it okay.

I cannot count on both hands how many men I have run across in my own life that act like complete babies when it comes to a myriad of things.  Some of them, I wonder if they are even really men.  I started to notice this a few years after mother’s day when I saw a family member (who shall remain nameless because I know his mom and brother read this blog…) post on his Facebook page “just got back from a nice brunch with my mommy.”  I almost vomited when I saw this because, while in normal circumstances it might be sweet or a nice, mother’s day gesture, I knew that it was indicative of the fact that on most days of the year he (like a lot of men) still cowered under his mother’s skirt.  And how many of us don’t know at least one man who acts irresponsible when it comes to his family, or (more often) his job?  Who spits in the face of his family or the people around him, and refuses to take responsibility for the decisions he makes?  Who will walk out on a job whether he has a way to pay his own bills or not?  Or, how about more simply put:  how many of us can say we don’t know a guy that’s skating out on his child support, or on properly caring for his wife?  I can name a lot of those, which is a sad state of affairs if you ask me, faithful blog followers.

But I think this goes much deeper than just video games and bad role modeling.  Somehow our generation – our entire culture even – has gotten the idea that we don’t have to actually take responsibility for anything.  This is a great problem, which will only become greater, if something doesn’t change.  My solution is about twenty-fold, from education to government to parenting, etc.  But for the sake of being brief (for now), I’ll stick to just saying to all those men out there (and you know who you are):  stop being such a p*s*y!