This week, the Barnstormer stalwarts are joined by Alex Wong — creator of the sports blog Steven Lebron, who we highly recommend following on Twitter here — to discuss Dwight Howard, dissect the Olympic cadaver, commiserate over the possibility of no hockey, and consider the perfection of King Felix.
DWIGHT HOWARD DEAL
Forbes — Here we go, right? Kobe and Shaq 2.0, right? Okay, on paper the Lakers just locked up the West and took the Heat deep into the Finals, six or seven games. On paper. Nash can handle from up top, Kobe can float and find a spot, Dwight can occupy the paint and Pau the low post and they can both gobble up boards, and Artest (still Artest) can haunt the perimeter waiting for double teams and cheating defenders to leave him acres of room from which to launch lazy threes that bury the Clippers, Spurs, Mavs, Nuggets (watch Denver) and, yes, OKC. And if things get close somewhere in the late rounds, and the Thunder are threatening to spoil the narrative, no worries, LaLaWood, because then Kobe has only to reach into his chest and wrench from his titanium ribcage the frozen steel conceptual art piece he calls a heart and show it to KD and Westbrook, drawing their attention to the fine line between chambers where, stamped in 6-pt Helvetica, is the word CHAMPION. Chastened, Oklahoma City’s Big Three, plus their ensemble comedy-ready cast, including Ibaka, Sefolosha, Nick Collison, and HASHEEM THABEET (!?!?), will slink back to their home on the lonely and windswept Great Plains and tell themselves they’re content to be the only show in town in a city where everyone thinks it’s just great to actually have their own professional sports franchise, and it’s exciting just to compete.
Well, what if it isn’t that pre-ordained, after all? Let’s exhume the fetid corpse of yet another sports journalism cliche and all say it together: that’s why they play the games. Who knows? Ain’t none of those Laker boys young, and Dwight’s back is about as reliable as my ‘96 Saturn. One of these pieces falls and the others might start to look a bit shaky.
At the end of the day, let’s all be thankful for two things: the West just got a whole lot more interesting, and the Dwight Howard Trade Saga has finally reached its anticlimactic conclusion.
Ibeas — I have absolutely no problem with the Lakers assembling yet another stacked team. There’s something in it for everyone. Those of us who still love Steve Nash get to watch our hero play for a very legitimate title contender. Those of us who hate the Miami Heat can now rest our repeat-spoiling hopes on a team that actually has a decent chance (because let’s face it, OKC is never going to cut it unless they get significant front court help). And speaking of OKC: all those sanctimonious Thunder fans who like to go on ad infinitum about how their team was built the right way and cures AIDS and has a negative carbon imprint and so on (finger pointed squarely at Forbes) get yet another bogeyman to favourably compare Presti’s Angels to. Because the only thing better than a high horse is a higher horse.
As is the case with the actual trade, everybody wins. Except maybe Orlando.
Spry — Orlando wins, eh Ibeas? There’s something you never hear. The NBA has become a joke. The players can orchestrate trades to any team they like, and apparently the only teams they like are the Heat, Nets, Knicks (why?), Lakers, and Celtics. There is no loyalty, no love, no respect for the game. I stopped watching the NBA years ago. It is the most egocentric, solipsistic league in the history of pro-sports. And the game itself is a boring track meet/marathon where the final 3 minutes take an hour, and what passes for spectacular is actually pedestrian. I was rooting for their work stoppage last year to go on forever. Dwight Howard? I hope he tears ligaments buying a round of Patrón at some cliché-Kardashian-filled-LA-nightclub-slash-reality-show-filming during the preseason and never plays another game, and the NBA either descends into the arena football realm of popularity or MJ, Larry, and Magic decide enough is enough and all comeback to teach the kids some respect.
Wong — As I said on Twitter on the night the trade was finalized, this is awfully bad timing to let you know that I’ve long been a Lakers fan. I cringed a bit watching Howard’s introductory press conference, if only because I think the contrast in personality between Dwight and Kobe will be an ongoing subplot for most of the season, especially if the team gets into a losing streak. Kind of like LeBron brushing Spoelstra’s shoulder during the time out, and all that excessive over-analysis that comes with being a super team.
Listen, nothing’s ever won on paper, ask the Philadelphia Eagles last year, or the Payton-Malone-Kobe-Shaq Lakers. We’ll have to wait for how things play out. And the question will remain the same as last year: at what point will Kobe realize that for the better of the team, and to get that sixth ring that he’s framed the last part of his career entirely around, he will have to cede control of the offense to some degree.
You could argue that he didn’t have the supporting cast to make that decision last year. But after finally being paired with a great point guard, and having the best big men combo in the league, Kobe can put a lot of questions about his individuality to rest, or cement himself as the stubborn superstar who does things his way. The former is the better option for the team, the latter might still be good enough with this squad to get that title.
Orti — There are two ways to make ceviche. The first way is a bit of a roll of the dice because you actually just squeeze lime juice over the seafood. They call this “cooking” the ceviche, but it’s not a form of cooking; it’s just squeezing lime juice over seafood and hoping for tradition not to kill you. I have been a victim of the lime juice not exactly “cooking” all of the seafood and the result is not pretty. The last thing I remember was the ocean and bile shooting out of my nose as I threw up and then passed out. But that’s a coastal ceviche. When you get inland a bit, it becomes tomato based. No one wants to admit this but the secret to a good tomato based ceviche is ketchup. Recipes will call for a splash of vinegar with tomato sauce because they don’t want to admit that what they are actually using is ketchup.
Spry — Dude, don’t tell people to corrupt good eats with ketchup. What is wrong with you?
THE ’12 DREAM TEAM FINAL VERDICT
Ibeas — Final verdict: 2012 US Men’s team has little chance of beating the one true Dream Team in a single game, and no chance of beating them in a series of any length.
Spry — For my thoughts on the Dream Team see above for my feelings on the NBA and their players. This tournament was a farce. I didn’t watch 10 seconds of it. It was an excuse for 12 overpaid Americans to walk around London with their cocks hanging out. It was the opposite of what the Olympics are supposed to be. Calling them a “Dream Team” is an insult to reverie. Instead of wasting time considering LeBron and his merry band of narcissists here’s a video of something that doesn’t suck:
Orti — Anyone remember when Vince Carter dunked over that French guy’s head in Sydney? That was the last minute of olympic basketball I ever watched. Sometimes, when I miss Olympic basketball, or just when I’m sad, I watch that, and I remind myself that it’s not about winning. In life, or the Olympics; sometimes all you need is to dunk over a French man’s head, but in more metaphorical terms obviously.
The breaking news on this 92/12 debate is that it will be settled on NBA 2K13 which will feature both teams so look for this game to be posted on YouTube numerous effing times.
Wong — I won’t get into the hypotheticals of the ‘92 vs. ‘12 team but I will say this: if there’s one player who may and should parlay this Olympics experience into something next season, I will say it has to be Carmelo Anthony. At times as dominant as LeBron, as efficient as Durant, as reliable as Kobe, his entire New York tenure has been terrible. But being on this stage, seeing his draft mate LeBron accomplish everything a basketball player could in one summer, being accused for pushing his point guard out the door as if he was more important than Anthony; all of these reasons should motivate Anthony to finally grab hold of the Big Apple and get the city behind him.
Also, expectations are lowered after back to back first round exits, and all the buzz is around Brooklyn, there’s just so many things pushing Melo to finally become the franchise player we got a glimpse of for one playoff run in Denver.
Forbes — I have already made my case for the return of the young and the unproven (i.e. NCAA players) to the US Olympic basketball program, but as long as we have NBA guys over there, I see no problem in enjoying it. This was a hell of a team, but they’re victims of basketball’s success over the last 20 years in that there are fewer noob teams to beat up on (excepting the Nigerias of the world), and the global level of play is considerably higher than it was back then. The best game of the tournament was the Spain-Russia semi, and the gold medal match, with the US holding off the pesky Spanish, was kept from being all that interesting by a set of refs with an overly precise understanding of the rule book. But still, the Americans showed themselves the best squad on the planet and I, for one, thought they did it in pretty entertaining fashion.
The ‘92 Dream Team represented a dazzling confluence of factors that won’t ever align quite the same way again, so I don’t see any point comparing any team to that one. Could you beat them? I doubt it. Maybe. Who cares? They were a gaudy, embarrassing collection of legends and talents, a shocking number of whom were in their primes; a marketer’s wet dream, and a fan’s greatest wish. The ‘12 team is what it is, a great collection of guys representing most of the best talent the US has to offer (if you swap Love for Rondo), and going up against a handful of international squads who can actually, almost, hold their own.
And thanks, Alex, for bringing up Melo, because I agree with you, and I find myself rooting for the man, for obscure and dubious reasons, to finally show us what he’s capable of, and I’m hoping those two weeks in London in the company of some pretty durned great players will inspire him to do just that.
LONDON GAMES: FINAL THOUGHTS
Spry — Kelley O’Hara, perhaps you thought my publicly declared crush on you was just for the sake of humour, but nothing could be further from the truth. I know about love at first sight—I’ve written on it extensively. We could be very happy together. I write poems, like, professionally. Google me. I’ll be a stay-at-home dad. I was a chef once. I cuddle like a boss. I drink too much.
Orti — Crushes are harmless. I hope Kelley O’Hara goes for Spry. And he does cook well. I’ll say this: whatever “spirit of the Olympics” the whole charade rests on is long dead. With ruthless corporations writing off tax money to gloss their image to the world, security budgets that could probably fund a half dozen superhospitals or pay off the debt of a small third world country, I think we should give in to the inevitable and let corporations take over the whole thing and properly fund the athletes. Let countries off the hook so they can put their tax dollars to things that everyone benefits from and let the next round of athletes race with the golden arches and stupid swooshes on their jerseys. It’s the end game of the Olympics anyways. So fuck it. Besides, it’s a little tiring watching GE tell me how much they support moms when it’s mom’s footing the bill for these athletes and moms tending to kids injured by weapons sold by GE. .
Wong — I didn’t watch too much of the Games. My favorite random sport to watch was Tae Kwon Do, loved the end of the Mexico-Brazil men’s soccer finals (and making “We Have A Hulk” references at every turn as if it’s actually funny). Although I do have one question for my fellow Canadians, why did we spend so much time on an athlete that finished 52nd?
Forbes — Every four years we as a species spend an embarrassing and ludicrous amount of money, torch great quantities of non-renewable resources, and displace thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of already suffering people in order to stage a ridiculous spectacle meant to remind all 7 billion of us just how magical it is to be a human being, just how amazing we are, and of all the cool things our bodies are capable of doing. Inescapably, of course, we also manage to show off just how ugly, corrupt, misguided, self-interested, prejudiced, and mean we can be. So whatever, I was of two minds about these Games as I have been about past ones. Some cool things happened, other not so cool things, and the vast majority of us are no richer for the experience, while a microscopic number of us, who were wealthy to begin with, got even richer. The ceremonies bracketing the actual sports were really long, and now it’s over. Ho hum.
Ibeas — Imagine my disappointment when they didn’t bust out the Freddie Mercury hologram.
Spry — Ibeas is right. Where my hologram at?
NHL COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT AND POSSIBLE LOCKOUT
Orti — I see it like this. You open a store in the mall called The AwesomeStuffStore and you sell stuff that is awesome – like suits made of houndstooth and shit like gingham underpants that are cool in the summer and warm in winter. The guy across the mall sells gnocchi that his grandmother hand rolls and they serve that up with the finest Italian wine anyone’s ever tasted. Everyone loves the mall. Everyone is making money and even the employees are making a kick-ass salary to the chagrin of no one really. Then the manager of the mall has this great idea that he’s going to expand and make room for some shops that sell dirty diapers and soup kitchen leftovers and now the mall stinks like onions and an open diaper bin. Then, when lo-and-behold, he discovers not that many people are into buying dirty diapers and soup kitchen leftovers, he asks you and your some of the other early shop owners to bail out the dirty diapers guys because they can’t make their rent or pay their employees, and it’s making him look bad to the sponsors who paid top dollar for billboards outside the mall. You do it for a while because you’re a class act and maybe those newbies will learn a thing or two but when they don’t and the guy who runs the mall keeps asking you to pony up for them rather than maybe closing down those used diaper shops and leftover soup kitchen stands so other places that sell awesomeness can open, you tell him to go fuck himself. Then he suggests everyone lowers the wages of the mall staff so dirty diapers soup kitchen leftovers guys can stay afloat. Maybe that’s a shitty metaphor. Maybe it’s not. If there’s a lockout – it’s on the owners this time. From what I understand, the players aren’t asking for more – they’re being asked to accept less than what was previously negotiated by the owners.
Wong — Look on the bright side. If a year long lockout happens: Brian Burke can have a few more months to find six forwards to call his top six, the Sedin twins can get a head start on training for synchronized swimming, we don’t have to hear from Tim Thomas for an extra year, Rick Nash can play in the World Championships again, we can focus our attention as a nation towards the World Juniors, and best of all: it will remind us Canadians just how little this all matters in the North American sports landscape.
The NBA lockout created a void last year. If the NHL goes through the same exercise, it’ll just create a realization that the league is not that important.
Forbes — In which the NHL continues its efforts to prove itself the most ineptly run of the big four North American leagues. Oust Bettman, fix this, and quit trying to be relevant south of the Mason-Dixon.
Ibeas — In other countries, they interrupt your favourite show because one of their political leaders has just been shot in the face. In Canada, they interrupt your favourite show because the union has made an offer 0.5% higher than what the owners are demanding.
Spry — The NHLPA is not a union. They’re a club, a gang. I know this because during the last lockout, despite a war chest of millions of dollars to keep them rich during a prolonged lockout, many of them went to Europe and took jobs from other hockey players so that they could make even more money. I’m with the owners here. Shut up and play hockey. I don’t care about your hardships, because you don’t have any. The media, agents, players, PA, NHL, and the like should keep quiet until this is over.
Though, and Orti will like this, the longer the work stoppage lasts the longer the Leafs are tied for first place.
Orti — Spry’s right. If this thing goes all season then I can say the Leafs went undefeated.
FELIX HERNANDEZ IS PERFECT, MELKY CABRERA IS NOT
Forbes — As a not-so closeted Mariners fan (if you’ve never been to Safeco Field, you need to get yourself there), I feel as though the post-Ichiro era needed a defining moment, and got it on Wednesday night. Felix is a beast. Felix is a force. The ball coming out of Felix’s hand is a precision weapon with guidance systems designed by Stanford eggheads in collab with a team from MIT. If there is any justice, the Mariners have already recognized Hernandez as the key to their return to relevance, and vowed, behind closed doors, never to let him go. In ten years, I want Felix imparting his hard-won wisdom to a new generation of M’s hurlers. I want this perfect game to be the reason the fanbase won’t ever allow management to turn the King over for prospects, even when his best days are a distant memory.
Congrats, Felix, and congrats, Seattle.
Ibeas — I don’t think there’s anything I can say about the Melky Cabrera situation that hasn’t already been said, and said better, by the Iron Sheik on his official Twitter account (@the_ironsheik).
Spry — Baseball has a remarkable resiliency. Baseball is your buddy who hits on every girl at the bar, and doesn’t care about rejection or failure or heartbreak, and then with fifteen minutes to go before last call, the most beautiful, gentle, kind woman in the world buys your buddy a drink, and she laughs at his stupid jokes, and they are together for 5 years until she cheats on him with a poet from Moncton, New Brunswick. That’s what happened to baseball on Wednesday.
Orti — I know what you’re thinking – you can’t put ketchup in the ceviche, but people do it. That, a little fresh coriander, some lime juice, bang. Fucking ceviche. Handful of popcorn in that. Homerun.
Spry — Don’t put ketchup in anything. Ever. Ketchup ain’t got no sense. And I’m always on board with coriander, but I’m a Canadian and we call it cilantro.
Wong — I think this was two years ago now, I went with my friend Eric to the Jays game at the Rogers Centre to face the Rays. It was the day after J.P. Arencibia’s thunderous debut, and we were expecting runs to come in bunches. A running joke Eric and I always do is start counting the number of outs to a no hitter. In the first inning. When the lead-off man was retired by Brandon Morrow. We both said: “26 to go”. Except on this day, it actually almost happened. Morrow had a no hitter with 2 outs in the ninth, when Evan Longoria (or it was Dan Johnson) hit a grounder between the hole at first and second. Aaron Hill dove, and got in front of the ball but not in time to make a throw. No one remembers a one hitter. Actually that’s not true, I just remembered it all.
A long winded way to say: congrats to Felix Hernandez and Seattle Mariners fans. Some of us spend a lifetime without ever seeing a no hitter, let alone a perfect game. Then again, some of us have never seen our baseball team in the playoffs either.
THE LAST WORD
Forbes — Unrelated to anything we have discussed, last night I had a terrible premonition that this will be an ugly season of regression for my New Orleans Saints, one that washes the good taste of relative success enjoyed for several years now and replaces it with the familiar tang of loss and heartache and the realization that the Saints are, by most measures, one of the most abysmally run organizations in major professional sports. I could be wrong. I hope I am. Maybe Marty Sartini Garner has something to offer here, some treasured nugget of hope. But I got a bad feeling.
And also unrelated: I’m calling it — Reds to win the Central, Pirates to grab a Wild Card, and it’ll be 1990 all over again, with AJ Burnett playing the part of Doug Drabek.
I’m also calling that Orti will bust out the Magic Johnson jersey driveway mullet story.
Ibeas — I found out Ichiro was a Yankee only yesterday. Is it wrong to feel so good about being out of touch?
Orti — I once owned a Magic Johnson Olympic jersey from those ‘92 games. I would wear it in my driveway and dish to myself with a blind pass, just like Magic, off the aluminum siding, and then throw down a sick dunk with the net lowered to 8 feet. For that brief time I was in the air, I could feel the wind in my mullet.
Spry — Dude, all the time with the “Magic Johnson blind pass and mullet” story. Your memories of youth are a weird mix of Zack Morris and The Littlest Hobo.
Where’d the summer go? Seems like yesterday I was getting saucy and doing the picks for my Olympic gymnastics roto league, and now I’m making Labour Day plans. It’s horrible that there’s no pennant race for the Jays, and even worse that the team is putrid.
I’m sad now. Who wants to go out for drinks?
Wong — I’d like to dedicate my Round Bus appearance to Mike Sirotka’s career as a Blue Jay.