Photo Essay: Philly Teenage 90s Bedroom

By David Berlin

After graduating law school and taking the bar exam this summer, I recently came home to live with my parents in suburban Philadelphia. Being temporarily domiciled in my childhood bedroom might not be optimal for getting the ladies, but at least I finally have time to document my collection of early to mid-‘90s sports memorabilia. My “No Fear” t-shirts, Starter winter jackets, and L.A. Gear light up shoes are all long gone, but a few priceless artifacts still remain.

First up – this vintage poster from 1997, celebrating the inaugural interleague baseball season.

The only surviving evidence that Travis Fryman ever existed.

Even though all six of these guys are still alive, doesn’t it kind of feel like you’re looking at a cave painting of ancient Egyptian pharaohs? Continue reading

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The Employed Ones: Free Agency Culture of the NFL vs. NBA

By David Hauser

Jobs.  Ask any politician a question this political season and he or she will inevitably find a way to bring the conversation back to jobs.  Politicians may be underhanded and smarmy, but they still remain a better metric than even twitter for assessing the most salient issue of the day (as of course, they must be on the cutting edge of what best to pander to).  Since the worldwide economic collapse in the Autumn of 2008, we have seen American state governors wage war against unions, politicians get tagged with the vaunted “socialist” label, endless political arguments about whether cutting taxes or increasing government spending is a sounder methodology for creating jobs, the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, and I can only guess the term “job creation” will be plastered and super-glued to our nation’s collective forehead over the next eight months as Barack Obama and (seemingly) Mitt Romney vie for the White House this November.  The operative word in this endless political theater is: labor.

As writer and pop-philosopher king Chuck Klosterman pointed out last year, every major sports and cultural story of 2011 revolved around labor.  Two of the three most popular American sports leagues had labor disputes over the same three to fourth month period.  Charlie Sheen fought his highly publicized dispute with CBS all because of labor.  Hell, even the lowly Detroit Pistons tried to organize a strike against their own coach last year by not attending practice as their unfortunate season wound to a close.  In what must be perceived as some kind of socio-cultural clash of class and wealth, this country is in the midst of a major financial distribution transition and without coincidence the sports world mirrors the broader American culture in coming to grips with this issue.

For the third year in a row, the NBA’s on court brilliance has been hijacked by the labor narrative.  Dwight Howard’s “Indecision 2012” significantly overshadowed the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament.  NFL fans, who were not afforded the fast-paced rush of a traditional free agent signing period last year due to the NFL’s aforementioned labor dispute, are treating this year’s free agency period as some kind of sacrosanct religious experience (with the likes of Mario Williams, Peyton Manning, and Tim Tebow on the move).

More than ever, sports fans are wholeheartedly consumed by free agency player movement.  Through some form of fragmented sublimation of our country’s unemployment crisis, it remains easier to analyze and critique the labor relations of our athletes and celebrities than internalize and personalize our own fears about the rapidly shifting wealth and labor landscape in America. Continue reading

Dwight Howard’s True Alter Ego?

As Adrian Wojnarowski outlines here, Dwight Howard has been throwing a red herring at Magic management all along and has been working to make his “real team,” the New Jersey Nets stronger for next year.

“Why would Howard push for a trade now? So the Nets have to give up Brook Lopez and draft picks? For Howard, he can finish the season with the Magic, make the playoffs and leave on July 1 for a contract with the Nets, who can offer him a four-year, $81 million deal – about $28 million less than what the Magic can give him in a fifth year. Adidas wants him in a major market – New York or Los Angeles – and this scenario promises him the highest possible value on his upcoming renegotiation on his shoe deal.”

Young Point Guard Debate

Jeremy Lin may not be a rookie, but in his first substantial playing time in the league he has lit up the NBA.  He’s not the only young Point Guard shredding the league these days.  Ricky Rubio has emerged in Minnesota as a Messi-like magician, turning the parquee into his own personal midfield.  Kemba Walker is trying to rejuvenate the always floundering Charlotte Bobcats franchise with the brand of energy and enthusiasm that brought UConn a National Championship last year.  And Kyrie Irving made everyone else on this Mt. Rushmore of young PGs look foolish and overmatched in this past weekend’s Rising Stars game (not to mention dismissing all the naysayers who insisted Derrick Williams should have been the #1 pick in the NBA draft last year).

And we have not even mentioned John Wall, Jrue Holliday, Norris Cole, Kyle Lowry, or even Glen Falls, NY’s Jimmer Fredette (still emerging).  The NBA is overflowing with young Point Guard talent beyond the likes of established (but, still young!) vets like Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, and Deron Williams.

If you’re a GM and can pick one Under-25 PG to build around, who you taking??

NBA All-Star Game vs. NASCAR Daytona 500

Shhhhhhhhocking...it would appear we have virtually two mutually exclusive viewing audiences

By David Hauser

In a breakthrough new study, social scientists have discovered virtually no crossover appeal in viewership of NASCAR and NBA basketball.  Ironically both NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and the NBA’s All-Star Weekend Festivities will be held over the same weekend, both in Central Florida.  Here’s to hoping these two different viewing audiences do not get into any turf war tussles this coming weekend.  Unfortunately, Lenny Kravitz’s PR team was not privy to these shocking new findings until too late…

Magicians at Work: the All-Star Weekend Sideshow

Magicians, Dwight Howard and David Stern, host the awkward All-Star Weekend Festivities

By David Hauser

I have a pretty poor memory, but this I still recall.  In 6th grade (1995ish), at a nearby table in my middle school cafeteria I noticed a young relatively non-descript female classmate wearing a homemade Orlando Magic white t-shirt to school on some random weekday during the NBA season.  Scrawled in bright colorful puffy paint across the front (and back) of her shirt was the following trivia question about NBA journeyman/Magic backup point guard, Brian Shaw: What is the most valuable import Orlando has EVER received from Miami? A. Tropical Storms? B. Cuban Food? C. Their overflow retirees? D. Brian Shaw?

I think I remember this over a lot of other random things from my past, in part because I would have been completely and utterly mortified to ever wear a homemade t-shirt to middle school (much less one with puffy paint text on it).  At the time I was more reticent to see this as some kind of not-so-cool-junior-high-fashion-choice than some socially courageous display of local team pride.  But with hindsight, I look back at this nameless girl in her puffy painted white v-neck with some degree of fondness.  Her shirt, and my passive glance and long-term memory stamp of it, represents the authentic and real power of sports; the impact a seemingly silly logo or jersey can have in bonding two strangers in even just the slightest way. Continue reading

A Gratuitous Cheap-Shot Piece at a Genuinely Nice, but Unlucky Guy, Greg Oden

The hills may be alive in the plains of Oklahoma, but are most certainly not in Portland at the sound of yet another Oden season-ending injury

By David Berlin

Greg Oden is like the spouse that went to the store to get cigarettes and never came back. The former 2007 #1 draft-pick will miss the 2011-12 season after his fifth knee surgery. “Don’t worry baby, I’ll be back in 15…”

Oden is more of a disappointment to the Blazers than a school day during a blizzard is to third graders. Oden is more of a let down than a $15 alcoholic beverage, heavy on the ice. He’s more damaged goods than Cuba Gooding Jr.’s career post-Jerry McGuire.

I want to say to Blazers’ fans that it’s not the end of the world, it could be worse. Except it couldn’t be worse. Kevin Durant, the 2007 #2 pick, scored a career-high 51 points Sunday night to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA’s best record.

This is as bad a draft scenario as you could possibly get. Clearly the Blazers asked the wrong girl to the prom.

Except, wait, there is one even worse scenario. Like, for example, if your team drafted the Durantula, maybe the best player since Michael Jordan, and then left your city altogether. Okay okay, when you look at it that way, it pretty much just sucks to be a pro basketball fan in the Northwest. But I hear the hiking out there is phenomenal.

The Leaderless NBA

Editor’s Note: The footnotes appear at bottom of the page rather than next to the corresponding paragraph where the footnote is placed, still working to resolve this (one work-around is that footnotes open in separate window next to essay when clicked on).  Enjoy the footnotes nonetheless; they are worth the obligatory “scroll time.”

Bill Russell ain’t got nothin’ on Dwight Howard.  So maybe Bill Russell won a few championships (alright maybe more than a few, 11), put together an MVP season or two (or 5), and, hell, even coached himself (and his teammates) to an NBA championship once upon a time (as one of the only successful player-coach stints in recent sports history)[1], but the great Bill Russell was never wise enough to be a personnel man.

Dwight Howard is a new breed.  Sports pundits have always marveled over what a perfect athletic specimen D12 is for the center position, but his brilliant brawn has blinded us from his acute managerial and scouting prowess.  Little did we know, but he has a knack for knowing what creates a championship team.  By god, he has the secret formula!  Let’s get him some chalk and a board and see what he can teach us…wait, your grand plan for improvements around the Amway Center is Monta Ellis and 31 year old Stephen Jackson…hmmm…can we get that chalk back, I believe Office Depot allows same day returns…. Continue reading