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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Derrick Rose and the Raging Bulls

I have never broken a bone. Well, once in the tip of my finger, but that was the type of minor break that you keep to yourself for fear of losing street cred. The most “hurt” I’ve ever played with was a migraine headache, at a practice, and there were only a few game days when I had to take a shot of Dayquil in the morning to get over a runny nose.

Given my personal play-through-pain basketball history, you can understand that I have the right amount of authority to tell Derrick Rose to get back on the court.

A torn ACL has a different weight in my life. I wake up, eat breakfast, walk out to the hallway and step in an elevator. The elevator takes me down to the first floor, I walk a block outside and hop on a bus. On some of the tough days, when the bus is crowded, I will have to stand for the entire 25-minute commute! Bus drops me off at work, I hop in an elevator, sit in an office chair until 5 p.m.

With a torn ACL, I would miss out on months of lunchtime hoops, but I’ve missed that before from an injury called laziness. Honestly, the hardest part of an ACL injury, in my life, would be figuring out the healthcare paperwork. Does the employer pay for this? Do I pay for this? Obama?

In three months, I am marrying a dancer. A torn ACL means a completely different thing in her world. A career-ending type of thing. The fear of such an injury keeps her away from skiing in the winter or any other potentially risky activity to her legs. In Ashley’s world, a torn ACL is not the adversity in the story that the hero will eventually overcome; it is the tragic ending. The laws of science are undefeated in the world of dance.

Then came Adrian Peterson. The man who somehow became even better the very next season after his ACL injury. The man who has given sports fans everywhere reason to believe their superstar can not only come back sooner, but come back stronger. The man who can be partially blamed for Derrick Rose’s slow descent in Chicago from savior to selfish superstar.

For Derrick Rose, this year has been a perfect storm of outside factors all ganging up on him, increasing the pressure to hurry up and help his team.

Partially Adrian Peterson, partially Iman Shumpert, partially the mystery guy in Germany who can turn back 10 years on any knee. Pair that with Derrick’s brother who has been vocal about the Bulls needing more parts for Rose, then those “not enough” parts getting banged up but still willing themselves past the Nets and somehow taking game one against the Heat.

Kirk Hinrich played 60 minutes on a calf that can now only support shoot arounds. Luol Deng has God knows what, with serious words like ‘spinal tap’ and ‘meningitis’ floating around. Joakim Noah apparently forced his plantar fasciitis out of his foot and Nate Robinson has offensive explosions in between vomiting on the bench and 250 pound men landing on his head.

Oh, and then you got that whole Michael Jordan legend in the background. I live in Chicago now. The man is treated as a god here. If you didn’t know better, you would think MJ’s epic flu game took place every single night.

In Chicago, Derrick Rose plays an interesting role for the fans. He is not so much the second coming of Michael, but the protector, the man who can stop LeBron James from collecting all those MVPs and NBA rings. Rose is not asked to be Michael, he is asked to keep LeBron from being Michael. All year long the belief here, rational or not, was that the Bulls could weather the regular season, get back a healthy Derrick Rose and then take down the Heat when it mattered most.

The question I am interested in is not whether or not Rose should play. This subject has been debated ad nauseam and at this point, I say just find the internet opinion that matches your own and roll with it. Personally, I think Rose should do a David Lee in Game Three. Go out for a minute or two, get the crowd fired up, prove that he will go to battle for his guys. In this series, every point matters and that potential 7-0 run of Rose hitting a shot, crowd going wild, Nate Robinson getting a steal-layup, then Marco Belinelli hitting a three, that could change a game. In a Bulls-Heat game, seven points is the equivalent of 30 in Warriors-Nuggets.

The question I am fascinated with is whether or not the Bulls, at full strength, could even beat the Heat in a seven game series. Not just this year, but any time in the next three. Short answer: Yes. Let me explain.

Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer

The Miami Heat’s glaring weakness is rebounding. They are most vulnerable to teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers who have traditional big men that get on the glass. Noah and Boozer aren’t the same offensive threats as Randolph/Gasol or West/Hibbert, but from a rebounding perspective they absolutely devour Chris Bosh and any other Heat big.

Jimmy Butler Solution for Luol Deng

Salary cap wise, it will be hard to keep Luol Deng past next season. In 2014-15, the Bulls will have Derrick Rose ($18.8), Carlos Boozer ($16.8), Joakim Noah ($13.1) and Taj Gibson ($8) all on the books. That’s $56.7 million, add Deng and that’s probably $70 million. For five guys. A team needs 12 and the Bulls have not been big luxury tax spenders. There’s a reason Omer Asik got away.

Pre-Jimmy Butler’s development into a legitimate starter, the only options to keep Deng would have been take the luxury tax hit or amnesty Boozer to make room. Neither plan helps their chances against Miami. The new, emerging Butler gives the Bulls a young replacement and a much cheaper alternative if worst comes to worst and Deng leaves for a team that can offer him more money.

Keep them both, and you can have Butler on Wade, Deng on LeBron, Hinrich coming in for backup minutes either guarding Wade or guarding Chalmers. You need 96 combined minutes from your shooting guard and small forward. Butler, Deng and Hinrich are all 40 minute a game type of players.

Coach Thibs

Toughness. Defense. Instills the belief in his players that they always have enough to win. What ultimately gives the Bulls a chance against the Heat is their ability to ugly up the game. Keep the score low. Any coach who can win game one, on the road, without his franchise point guard, starting shooting guard and starting small forward, against a Miami Heat team that was on a historic tear through the league, put that coach on the sideline and your team will always be prepared for battle.

Dwyane Wade’s Age

Dwyane Wade quietly turns 32 next season. Gradually, the “Big Three” will turn into the “Massive One and his still-better-than-Cleveland-days supporting cast.” Maybe that’s the greatness of LeBron; he makes Wade and Bosh look like role players rather than NBA All-Stars. Keep an eye on Wade’s stat line against the Bulls for the next three seasons. At 34, I think he will struggle to average 16 ppg against the combination of Bulls guards. Of course this means he will probably go off for 30 in Game 2.

Is Derrick Rose the Right Missing Piece?

I watched Nate Robinson’s Game 1 performance then tuned into Stephon Curry afterwards and realized, that’s the style of point guard that can hurt Miami. You need to have a guy who has no fear launching from deep and can beat the defender with their quickness. A Russell Westbrook/Derrick Rose, muscle his way to the basket point guard is not the right solution.

Oddly enough, the problem with Rose against Miami is that he plays like a mini-LeBron. Power dribble, power dribble, barrels into the lane and gets to the rim. This is what makes Rose such a dangerous player, but also a danger to his own body. Against Miami, it’s not the right strategy. There is no room in the paint for that type of 1 on 5 offense.

When Rose drives in against Miami, he quickly runs out of space and can either a) try to muscle past, hoping for a foul or b) have the “oh crap” moment, get caught in the air, look to make a pass behind him, which LeBron or Wade quickly sniffs out and turns the other way for a dunk.

With Nate Robinson, his panic button is the floater. This at least gives Noah and Boozer a chance to grab an offensive rebound. As crazy and out of control as he gets, the ball is always going forward. The teammates are also ready for a pass because who knows, it could come at any point. With Rose, the other guys tended to stand and watch, let Derrick carry the offensive load.

The belief that Derrick Rose is the instant solution to push the Bulls past the Heat is misguided. Here are all the things that need to happen for the Bulls to win a series against the Heat, if the two teams were to match up at full health:

1. Dwyane Wade, either by age or matchups, becomes a 15-16 ppg player not 22-25 ppg

2. Derrick Rose adjusts his game, becomes more facilitating, better outside shot

3. Jimmy Butler has to stay at the Jimmy Butler of the last three games level

4. Same with Joakim Noah

5. Mike Miler, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, or Ray Allen can only have one shoot-the-lights out game

6. LeBron James can’t become Game 6 and Game 7 of 2012 vs. Boston Celtics LeBron James

Pretty easy list, right? My point is, even if Derrick Rose does come back in this series, the Chicago Bulls have to play their A+ game every night and hope Miami has four B-/C+ games to push six games let alone seven or the unthinkable upset.

One game at a time. Don’t get too high or low on either the Bulls or the Heat. There is a whole lot of basketball left to be played.

NBA Playoffs: They Were Men When We Were Boys

Growing up I remember watching Midland High basketball games; cheering on iconic players like Chris Kelsey, Nathan Yopp, Ernie Sutton. I remember the guys in my older brother’s grade: Matt Brown, Tom O’Brien, Nick Butler, Rian Roberson. These were the local heroes, the legends on the court, the cool summer basketball camp counselors in the summer time.

As a young basketball player you aspired to be them.

Fast forward years later and I was on the varsity basketball team. I remember realizing, wait, our record’s the same as theirs was. Our guys are the same height. Wait, are we… equals? Are we better?

Then comes winter break. Coach Krause invites the older guys back to the gym to beat up on us right when we’re on the edge of overconfident. Ernie comes in. Nick Butler. My older brother. Matt Brown. Logic says they’re all in the 6-foot tall range but not to me. I’m back to being the kid again and these guys are the giants I cheered on.

So the first game starts. They’re physical. They block shots. They throw full court passes. They can still dunk. 5-0. 6-0. 7-0. We rush our shots. Take bad shots. Throw the ball out of bounds.

The first game’s a blowout. Second game too. It doesn’t really make sense considering we have set plays and practice every day. These guys are in college and may go weeks without stepping foot on the court.

But they have the key psychological edge: They were men when we were boys.

When Kevin Durant was 14, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade had just entered the NBA. For all of high school, Durant was cheering these guys on, hoping to elevate his game to their levels, idolizing their talents.

Likewise, when LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade were in middle school, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett were beginning their Hall of Fame NBA careers.

It’s a one-sided fandom. Pierce never rushed home to watch LeBron James’s Youtube clips and Tim Duncan certainly never went out and bought a Chris Bosh middle school jersey. Hell, Duncan racked up thousands of NBA points before Serge Ibaka had even picked up a basketball.

The Spurs and Celtics are the older guys to the Heat. The Heat are the older guys to the Thunder. Older guys are afraid they might lose, younger guys are afraid they might win. 

I think we all, to some degree, set limits on ourselves. We view ourselves belonging in a certain league, category, bracket and it becomes very hard to break out of that box. It’s why our older brothers always seem to win the 1-on-1 games, or why we’re intimidated to ask our boss for more money, or why we’re hesitant to ask a girl out of our range to the prom.

Think about it. If your friend says, “Hey, I set you up on a blind date. She’s really hot, great body, she’s a good singer too,” then you go to the restaurant with a certain expectation in place. However, if you show up and that girl turns out to be Rihanna, suddenly it’s a whole different ball game. Your heart’s racing faster, you stumble over your words, voice cracks, sweat profusely.

But why? She’s technically the hot girl with a good singing voice described by your friend. Except that she’s not. She’s Rihanna and you’re you. The two aren’t supposed to go together.

Or how about when Jesus told Peter to join him on the water walk. Peter’s doing great for a while until he starts thinking, “I’m walking on the water with Jesus! Holy crap I’m walking on the water with Jesus! OH CRAP, I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE WALKING ON WATER WITH JESUS!”

This same logic is why I think Michael Jordan could beat 99.8 percent of the world’s population at basketball into his late sixties. Reasoning? Only a select few, when they’re a basket away from winning, would be able to get past the mental hurdle of, “Wait, I might actually beat MJ?” It doesn’t matter if this MJ has gray eyebrows and walks with a cane, almost everyone’s minds would picture him in his Chicago Bulls prime.

So how can the younger guys ever win? The secret: They have to believe, not only that they belong on the same court, but that it’s their turn and the older guys already had their chance. Kevin Durant put it this way:

“We never thought we were supposed to wait our turn. We just know we’re supposed to take everything.”

The Thunder’s defining moment was this year in Game 4 against the Spurs when Durant carried the team  in the fourth quarter. When your best player rises to the challenge, it’s contagious and that’s why you saw the The Thunder come into Game 5 with new confidence and were able to beat the old guys in enemy territory, something I thought would take several more years of growing pains to accomplish.

The Miami Heat had this moment last year when they finally got past the Boston Celtics in Round 2. This year they couldn’t get it done at home in Game 5 and now find themselves up against the ropes… again. They will have to beat the older guys two times in a row, once on the road, to keep their title hopes alive

Honestly, I don’t know between the Thunder and Heat who is in the better position. Mathematically, it’s the Thunder. They only have to go 1-1. But, psychologically, the Heat have no other choice than to fight, scrap, play their heart out and see if they can win two in a row. No thinking involved.

For the Thunder, they have to face the fear that they might just win one of these next two games and head to the NBA Finals. They are 48 minutes away from completing a path that involved them beating the Mavericks, Lakers, and Spurs; three teams that have combined to win 10 of the last 13 NBA Championships. Unlike Peter, maybe it’s best the Thunder don’t look down and realize they’re walking on water.

Forget the ages, by the end of the week we’ll know exactly who are the men and who are the boys. 

           

 

NBA Playoffs: They Were Men When We Were Boys

Growing up I remember watching Midland High basketball games; cheering on iconic players like Chris Kelsey, Nathan Yopp, Ernie Sutton. I remember the guys in my older brother’s grade: Matt Brown, Tom O’Brien, Nick Butler, Rian Roberson. These were the local heroes, the legends on the court, the cool summer basketball camp counselors in the summer time.

As a young basketball player you aspired to be them.

Fast forward years later and I was on the varsity basketball team. I remember realizing, wait, our record’s the same as theirs was. Our guys are the same height. Wait, are we… equals? Are we better?

Then comes winter break. Coach Krause invites the older guys back to the gym to beat up on us right when we’re on the edge of overconfident. Ernie comes in. Nick Butler. My older brother. Matt Brown. Logic says they’re all in the 6-foot tall range but not to me. I’m back to being the kid again and these guys are the giants I cheered on.

So the first game starts. They’re physical. They block shots. They throw full court passes. They can still dunk. 5-0. 6-0. 7-0. We rush our shots. Take bad shots. Throw the ball out of bounds.

The first game’s a blowout. Second game too. It doesn’t really make sense considering we have set plays and practice every day. These guys are in college and may go weeks without stepping foot on the court.

But they have the key psychological edge: They were men when we were boys.

When Kevin Durant was 14, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade had just entered the NBA. For all of high school, Durant was cheering these guys on, hoping to elevate his game to their levels, idolizing their talents.

Likewise, when LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade were in middle school, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett were beginning their Hall of Fame NBA careers.

It’s a one-sided fandom. Pierce never rushed home to watch LeBron James’s Youtube clips and Tim Duncan certainly never went out and bought a Chris Bosh middle school jersey. Hell, Duncan racked up thousands of NBA points before Serge Ibaka had even picked up a basketball.

The Spurs and Celtics are the older guys to the Heat. The Heat are the older guys to the Thunder. Older guys are afraid they might lose, younger guys are afraid they might win.

I think we all, to some degree, set limits on ourselves. We view ourselves belonging in a certain league, category, bracket and it becomes very hard to break out of that box. It’s why our older brothers always seem to win the 1-on-1 games, or why we’re intimidated to ask our boss for more money, or why we’re hesitant to ask a girl out of our range to the prom.

Think about it. If your friend says, “Hey, I set you up on a blind date. She’s really hot, great body, she’s a good singer too,” then you go to the restaurant with a certain expectation in place. However, if you show up and that girl turns out to be Rihanna, suddenly it’s a whole different ball game. Your heart’s racing faster, you stumble over your words, voice cracks, sweat profusely.

But why? She’s technically the hot girl with a good singing voice described by your friend. Except that she’s not. She’s Rihanna and you’re you. The two aren’t supposed to go together.

Or how about when Jesus told Peter to join him on the water walk. Peter’s doing great for a while until he starts thinking, “I’m walking on the water with Jesus! Holy crap I’m walking on the water with Jesus! OH CRAP, I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE WALKING ON WATER WITH JESUS!”

This same logic is why I think Michael Jordan could beat 99.8 percent of the world’s population at basketball into his late sixties. Reasoning? Only a select few, when they’re a basket away from winning, would be able to get past the mental hurdle of, “Wait, I might actually beat MJ?” It doesn’t matter if this MJ has gray eyebrows and walks with a cane, almost everyone’s minds would picture him in his Chicago Bulls prime.

So how can the younger guys ever win? The secret: They have to believe, not only that they belong on the same court, but that it’s their turn and the older guys already had their chance. Kevin Durant put it this way:

“We never thought we were supposed to wait our turn. We just know we’re supposed to take everything.”

The Thunder’s defining moment was this year in Game 4 against the Spurs when Durant carried the team  in the fourth quarter. When your best player rises to the challenge, it’s contagious and that’s why you saw the The Thunder come into Game 5 with new confidence and were able to beat the old guys in enemy territory, something I thought would take several more years of growing pains to accomplish.

The Miami Heat had this moment last year when they finally got past the Boston Celtics in Round 2. This year they couldn’t get it done at home in Game 5 and now find themselves up against the ropes… again. They will have to beat the older guys two times in a row, once on the road, to keep their title hopes alive

Honestly, I don’t know between the Thunder and Heat who is in the better position. Mathematically, it’s the Thunder. They only have to go 1-1. But, psychologically, the Heat have no other choice than to fight, scrap, play their heart out and see if they can win two in a row. No thinking involved.

For the Thunder, they have to face the fear that they might just win one of these next two games and head to the NBA Finals. They are 48 minutes away from completing a path that involved them beating the Mavericks, Lakers, and Spurs; three teams that have combined to win 10 of the last 13 NBA Championships. Unlike Peter, maybe it’s best the Thunder don’t look down and realize they’re walking on water.

Forget the ages, by the end of the week we’ll know exactly who are the men and who are the boys.