Donald Sterling and the United States of Outrage

By now everyone has heard of the Donald Sterling story. The media frenzy went far beyond ESPN and Sterling’s recent interview with Anderson Cooper definitely added more fuel to the fire.

His comments were terrible. There is no gray area, no, “I think his words were taken out of context” justification. The NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, rightfully punished Sterling with a lifetime ban and the forced selling of the Los Angeles Clippers. Sadly that sale is going to make Sterling a ton of money.

I have no further input on Sterling’s comments. There’s nothing more to be said. However, I do think this Sterling situation has revealed a serious nationwide problem. One that we all suffer from to some degree.

Simply put: our national outrage-o-meter is out of whack. 

It seems like the media has kept us in one state of outrage for the last five years. Before Sterling there was Paula Deen. Before Paula Deen there was Miley Cyrus twerking. Before that there was Lance Armstrong cheating, Tiger Woods cheating on his wife, Anthony Weiner’s selfies, Mitt Romney with a dog on his roof, Mike Vick torturing dogs, Mel Gibson ranting against Jews and Barack Obama hinting at socialism to Joe the Plumber.

Not to mention Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. They’ve got a special case of outrage because they tick off the self-righteous people like myself who are “outraged by outrage”.

What I mean by that is Kim Kardashian will post a photo of her buttcheeks, Kanye will say he’s like Jesus and people like me will get on their soap box shouting, “What type of country do we live in that this is news! Why do people care about these two! I care so little about them that I just wrote a 500 word blog post showing just how little I care!”

“Outrage” has become a drug or, at the very least, like a handful of jelly beans.

When this Sterling story fades away, my blood sugar levels will drop and I’ll need another sound bite to fill the void.

With each repetitive outrage, the next one loses its impact. These “grave offenses” end up becoming just part of a generic, interchangeable formula:

Famous Person + Doing Something They Shouldn’t + Public = Outrage

Example:

Miley Cyrus (role model for young girls) + twerking on a 40-year-old man + MTV Awards Goes Viral = Outrage

Now plug in Donald Sterling. Or Jonah Hill. Or Justin Bieber.

An even more advanced formula, the holy grail combination that networks dream at landing, is called the Outrage-alanche. It’s the same formula as the one from above, just throw in some religion or political aspect. This equals ‘Royal Outrage’ and gets us hooked for another month on the same story.

This is why you will hear things like:

Oh, the Liberal media wants to crucify Paula Deen, but where were they when Jay-Z said the n-word!

Oh, Fox News wants to make a big deal about Barack Obama’s comments, but listen to these same newscasters seven years ago defending President Bush!

Don’t take the bait! Conservatives don’t have to support Paula Deen out of some weird twisting of the First Amendment. Liberals don’t have to hold a grudge against everything President Bush did in office.

There is a legitimate alternative called: I’m just not outraged by that.

Simple. Healthy. And the best part is when something truly outrageous does come along, that outrage is taken more seriously.

How can this be implemented?

There is not 24 hours worth of news in a day. In reality there’s probably only 15 minutes worth of info. So check in once. Go back to the good ol newspaper or watch Jon Stewart at night. That’s all we need.

And let others around you be outraged by Lindsay Lohan’s next DUI. Let there be horrible hashtags when a baseball player is suspended for steroids. Let there be mass Facebook profile photos supporting some obscure piece of legislation (below is my profile pic from January 2012. Look how outraged I was!).

Don’t be outraged by other people’s everyday outrage, instead sit back and enjoy the calm seas. That way you’ll have plenty of stored up energy the next time a Donald Sterling level situation comes around.

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Medium Rare Bracketology

By: Chris O’Brien

Have you ever been entrusted to create a playlist?

Any kind of playlist. Background music for a dinner party. A collection of soft rock hits for the dentist. Grinding music for a sweaty dance party.

Each setting has a list of ol reliables. For example, there has never been a documented case of “Get Low” failing at a dance party. Same can be said for “All I do is Win” or Usher’s “Yeah”.

But you can’t loop the handful of reliables for two straight hours. Eventually you have to go a little riskier. Not a problem at first. You add Beyonce, Ke$ha, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and the playlist still looks great. Only problem is you don’t feel like you’ve made your own personal stamp. The list is too generic. You gotta think outside of the box.

That’s when things get weird. Sometime around 3 a.m. you take a good hard look at the following songs:

  1. Thong Song
  2. Who Let the Dogs Out
  3. Total Eclipse of the Heart
  4. Mambo No. 5
  5. Sweet Caroline
  6. Party in the U.S.A

I have seen all six of these songs work and I have seen all six of these songs fail miserably. Sweet Caroline can win over an entire baseball stadium or kill a dance party. I witnessed Mambo No. 5 clear out a basement of 80 people like it were a bad fart. I have seen Party in the U.S.A get booed and I have seen Party in the U.S.A. get an introvert to dance on a bar.

These are the songs, and there are hundreds more, that can make or break a playlist. When they connect, you’re a genius. When they fail you’re an idiot.

Just like–and here comes the loose transition to college basketball–your March Madness Bracket. This year the race is wide open. I’m two weeks away from seeing a bracket and I already feel like I’ve screwed up my picks.

Just a few minutes ago I watched Penn State beat Ohio State, Arkansas win at Kentucky and Duquesne win at Saint Louis. Yesterday I was contemplating Saint Louis to the Final Four, now I’m contemplating how to pronounce Duquesne!

This year my plan is to over-plan. I am preparing in advance, hoping to make some sense of this year’s tournament picture before I see the bracket. These are my Reliable Picks:

  1. Florida
  2. Kansas
  3. Syracuse
  4. Duke
  5. Arizona

Low chance of losing before Sweet 16, high chance of making the Final Four and if they do get upset, most of the people in your pool will go down with you.

My next group is the 16 teams I feel good about taking to the Round of 32 and almost feel safe putting in the Sweet 16.

  1. Cincinnati
  2. Louisville
  3. Wichita State
  4. Villanova
  5. Creighton
  6. Michigan
  7. Wisconsin
  8. San Diego State
  9. Michigan State
  10. Kentucky
  11. Virginia
  12. Memphis
  13. Ohio State
  14. UCLA
  15. New Mexico
  16. Oklahoma

Could they go further than the Sweet 16? Absolutely. But picking them would give me a little heartburn.

So the logical thing for me to do, I have 21 teams above, I should wait to see the matchups and try to get 16 of them to the Sweet 16. The problem is:

1) March Madness is never that simple

2) There are 16 teams, the “Bittersweet 16”, that are itching to be the bracket busting equivalent of the Thong Song. That sentence gets weirder each re-read, but what I’m trying to say is these 16 teams are a couple of beers and some ESPN.com roster searches away from looking like Final Four contenders.

They also have a high risk of losing in the first round. Or being selected to the N.I.T.

They are the teams you kick yourself for not having the guts to have picked further or ban yourself from ever picking again after they lose by 10 to some team from the MAC.

Over the next 16 days I will focus on one team a day and bring some confusion/clarity for you to consider later when the bracket is released. There are at least 275 better sources of March Madness advice than what you will receive here in my Medium Rare Bracketology, but who knows, maybe one of these 16 teams will turn out to be the sleeper pick that your bracket needs. Or they may ruin your bracket. Time will tell.

For now, here are the 16 Bittersweet teams in alphabetical order. Click the team for their article or head back to the ‘Medium Rare Bracketology’ tab above for the list.

Florida State, Gonzaga, Iona, Iowa, Iowa State, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Saint Louis, SMU, Stephen F. Austin, Texas, Toledo, UCONN, UMASS, VCU, Vermont.

Did I forget a team? Should any of these 16 teams be moved up a category? Does anyone have game film on Stephen F. Austin? Let me know. Message or tweet me @MediumRareBooks or send me an email chrisobrien30@gmail.com. 

Miami Heat NBA Champions: LeBron’s MVP Ranking

By: Christopher O’Brien

A lot of weird things happen in the 24 hours following a championship victory.

Sometimes you have a guy like LeBron James who rolls into the club wearing a shirt with a picture of his own face as a vampire.

Sometimes you have Dwyane Wade enjoying a $70,000 bottle of why-the-hell-am-I-not-getting-in-the-business-of-selling-these-types-of-drinks?!?

Sometimes you have a guy like Chris Bosh who takes the champagne celebration to a whole new level.

There’s, “Will this be a dynasty?” claims, there’s Skip Bayless getting owned by Mark Cuban, there’s the back and forth of:

“where does LeBron rank all time/

it’s too soon come on now/

well, but can we at least talk about it though/

no, that’s ridiculous/

but please?”

I don’t really have anything new to be said. LeBron played amazing. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook also played well in this series. Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers came up huge in Game 5. Neither one of these teams is going away any time soon.

What I wanted to do was find out where LeBron’s NBA Finals MVP performance ranked against the all time greats. Maybe someday I’ll tabulate every NBA Finals MVP and do a complete ranking, but for now, I’m taking a little easier path.

Here are the top 12 players of all time according to Bill Simmons:

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Bill Russell
  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  4. Magic Johnson
  5. Larry Bird
  6. Wilt Chamberlain
  7. Tim Duncan
  8. Jerry West
  9. Oscar Robertson
  10. Hakeem Olajuwan
  11. Shaquille O’Neal
  12. Moses Malone
Since this list consists of seven big men, a couple of shooting guards, a few small forwards, and the game’s greatest point-forward, it’s really hard to compare any of them against each other. This is why I have the CPR.

I have fallen in love with my own “CPR statistic.” I add the minutes, points, assists, rebounds, blocks, steals together. I then subtract missed shots, missed free throws, and turnovers. A missed field goal, 2-pt or 3-pt, is (-1) and a missed free throw is (-0.5). The number at the end of this is a player’s Complete Player Rating.

LeBron James’s 2012 NBA Finals CPR was 76.2. Here are the instances from those 12 players listed above who went above 76.2

Magic Johnson – In 1987 he had a 77.52.

Larry Bird – In 1984 he had a 77.95, in 1986 he had a 78.67

Tim Duncan – In 1999 he had a 79.7, in 2003 he had an 82.2

Hakeem – Had a 79.85 in 1995.

Kareem – Had a 82.18 in 1971.

Wilt  Chamberlain – Had the second highest CPR I could find with an 86.74 in 1972.

Shaquille O’Neal – In 2001 he had an 85.3. In 2000 he set the record for best CPR with an incredible 89.12.

Michael Jordan – The moment you probably have all been waiting for. How did the new king stack up against the old king?

Michael Jordan has the edge in 1991 and 1993 with an 83.3 then a 83.65, but I found it interesting that LeBron’s 2012 performance ranked higher than MJ’s 1992, and ’96-98.

I was also interested to see how LeBron compared against the 2006 Dwyane Wade.

2012 LeBron CPR: 76.2

2006 Wade: 75.67

Then, finally, I wanted to see ’12 LeBron vs. ’07 LeBron and ’11 LeBron

2012 LeBron CPR: 76.2

2011 LeBron: 65.62

2007 LeBron: 58.41

In conclusion, LeBron James put together by far his best NBA Finals performance. It’s not the best in history, not a top 5, but it’s right in the mix rubbing shoulders with the legends’ bests. LeBron’s 2012 Finals, according to the CPR, was better than four of Michael Jordan’s NBA Finals performances. He’s hushed tons of his critics and has secured his spot as the greatest player on the planet.

But now the real climb begins. Each NBA title/Finals MVP after this point moves him another notch higher on the all-time list. How high can he get? Not sure, but I’m ready to witness.