Clippers vs. Lakers Reaction

When the season began, the Clippers merely moved forward once again in the shadows of the nearby circus, far under radar and beyond the glare, sharing the same arena as the Lakers but not the same platform. This is why today feels so … what’s the word … gratifying? … for the L.A. Team Not Fit For A King.

Oh if only you could know how much joy I am taking out of the Clippers win over the Lakers last night. They showed the toughness and grit that defines Clippers, whilst the Lakers looked sluggish and unable to respond.

As a lifelong Clippers fan it has always been frustrating playing second fiddle to the team in purple and gold. Even during the Lob City era, The LA Clippers still took backseat to the Lakers. Now with LeBron, it seemed that they would be back from their slump, ready to challenge for the title they have desperately coveted. Now that appears to be out of reach, as the Lakers will almost definitely not make the playoffs.

Last night’s beatdown represented more than a win and a loss, it showed to two teams trending in opposite directions. This is a huge step forward for the Clippers, as the Clippers are poised to make the playoffs without an NBA superstar and plenty of cap space to work with this offseason. Meanwhile the Lakers are broken physically and spiritually, with LeBron unable to muster the same tenacity he had while in Cleveland. Now with playoff hopes diminishing rapidly, the Lakers are in free fall.

Last night, The Clippers put nails into the coffin of the team that has overshadowed us for so long and showed why they are a deserving playoff team. Jerry West, Doc Rivers, and Steve Ballmer are ready to take this team even further, and I cannot wait to see the end product. I wish I could explain exactly how happy I am am, but I know I cannot. All I can tell you is it feels very good. Clipper Nation, this is just beginning.

The Oscars & The NCAA

But the easiest way to demonstrate relevance would have been to hand major trophies to two of the year’s most-loved films: Black Panther and A Star Is Born. When it came time for the two biggest awards of the evening, those movies were nowhere to be found.

This from writer David Sims, hits on the continuous ambiguity that is the Oscars. It is hard to know who the awards are for, and why certain movies continue to be selected in spite of the complaints that are made against them. I have not watched Green Book, so in a sense I probably do not get to complain. Regardless, it is still a confusing pick considering the complaints  from the Shirley family and the other films that came out this year. Free Solo, Roma, Black Panther, First Reformed, Minding The Gap and others all seemed to be lost on the academy. The Oscars continue to mystify me, as this year they tried to branch out and show that they were changing when in the end they really were not that different.

How valuable is an Oscar? Well in terms of money it seems to help a great deal, however its ability to reward merit is slightly skewed. When looking at the Oscars, it is important to remember that the voters are a specific group of people who have specific tastes. Not everyone has those tastes and that is okay. If you do not like the movies that get selected, ignore the show. Many terrific people (Alfred Hitchcock) and movies (reference the list) never get the recognition they deserve.

Justice demands the removal of artificial barriers to fair compensation. Here’s another one: Just organizations do not reap billions of dollars from mainly poor kids and then grant them fewer rights and more obligations than their peers.

This article from David French points to something I highlighted in a Michigan Review Article last year. After Zion Williamson went down with another knee injury, I continue to struggle to see how and why the NCAA should be allowed to function the way it is.

The athletes are not fairly compensated for the revenue they produce, and they cannot even work minimum wage paying jobs that any other college student would be able to if not for NCAA rules. I am fine with these athletes not being professionals, so long as they are also not barred from competing professionally whenever they want. The idea that they have to spend years in college to develop is absurd. Professional teams should be responsible for development academies, not colleges who should focus on academia and future employment.

 

Free Solo & Meru should be watched together

When I went to see Free Solo I was amazed, bewildered, and shocked. It was a film so deep and emotional, something seemed to separate it from so many other films of its kind. Alex Honnold, Free Solo climber, someone who climbs without ropes or a harness, sets his sight toward El Capitan, a rock so huge it had never been free soloed let alone climbed before. The film follows the preparation and the people around Alex as he attempts to make one of the most incredible climbs in human history.

What is great about this film is not whether or not he makes it, but rather its focus on Alex’s preparation and difficulties as well as how the people around him deal with the possibility of him falling to his death. It is gripping and fascinating stuff, but the true star is not Alex but rather his girlfriend Sanni McCandless, as she becomes our voice to Alex in many ways.”I do not understand why he wants this.” When she asks would you rethink your climbing priorities with me he bluntly says “No but I appreciate your concern.”

Watching him climb is gripping and thrilling stuff but going through Alex’s life is what sets this film apart. The director Jimmy Chin, who after Alex finishes his climb says, “That is a huge weight off my shoulders.” In order to understand that weight you should watch Meruavailable on Netflix. Jimmy Chin directs as he and his friends Conrad Ankman and Renan Ozturk attempt to climb a Mountain that has never been summited before, the Shark’s Fin at Meru. Jimmy this time gets more personal focus and his family dynamic is once again fascinating. It is just as if not more brutal than Free Solo, but just as captivating. It gives the insight into not only Jimmy’s life but the climbing life as well.

I encourage you to watch both films as they are great showcases of not just the sport of climbing, but also the human experience. The highs, lows, trials and tribulations all add up to an incredibly brilliant set of documentaries that I think go together incredibly well. For Free Solo I give a 9.5, and for Meru I give up an 8.5. Free Solo is a better film but both are great in their own way and I recommend watching both together.

Also there are plenty of great reviews on Free Solo but my favorites are from David Sims and New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens!

Kareem Hunt & Tua Tagovailoa

A video surfaced of Kareem Hunt pushing a 19 year old women, and it is not nearly as shocking. The NFL has once again shown itself to be incompetent to actually investigate its own problems, and the rash punishment of Kareem Hunt shows that no one, not the Kansas City Chiefs nor the Players and Owners, have changed when it comes to the subject of Sexual Assault.

The NFL currently has $14 Billion in revenue and yet they are absolutely powerless to actually get and obtain footage that would be tangible to actively see if there players behave in such a way. Instead they have punished people without evidence of anything taking place, and not taken action when they could have in the cases of Ray Rice and Kareem Hunt.

In a statement released by the Kansas City Chiefs, they apparently were alerted about the situation in February and the NFL “conducted an investigation” with law enforcement. How and in what world the NFL with $14 Billion dollars in revenue could not get the tapes but TMZ did is utterly absurd, and while the Ray Rice tape is objectively worse, this does not make the situation any better. The fans of the NFL who care about the character of the league should be outraged and should demand a response from the NFL.

He can go 15/15 and if he throws a pick it’s the worst game

This is a quote from a piece that came out on College Gameday describing Heisman candidate Tua Tagovailoa and his “ohana” or family. The piece starts with his dad Galu explaining that he made his son throw lefty even though he was a natural righty so that his son could be similar to him. They then go on further to admit that at home he learned from “bible and belt” and would be whipped if he did not perform well. The quote above is him describing his “discipline” toward Tua for lack of performance. The piece then went on to discuss that his Dad made the decision for him to commit to Alabama and they moved to Alabama with him.

Yes you read that right. Tua and his family admitted on a televised piece on College Gameday that they beat Tua and that it was all apart of their family character. This story reported by Tom Rinaldi, is a ridiculous display of a puff piece, one that does not accomplish its goals and attempts to make (albeit some) light or positive out of a family situation that is clearly toxic. While that could have been a story about familial ethics that could have been made fascinating, it became a shameful promotion of bad parenting. I do not have a child but if I did I would be horrified that this piece was displayed.

For the record I used to love Tom Rinaldi and he is a reporter I still respect. However, he should know better, and this promotion of toxic home dynamics should have been avoided. While I want to critique Tua’s dad, I will not tell him how to parent, however as someone who used to be an avid watcher of College Gameday, I would have hoped ESPN had better judgment. However, for at least that piece, they did not. ESPN and parents are allowed to do what they want, but we can and should question the reasoning and merit when we do not think something is up to parr. This piece deserves heavy scrutiny and I hope ESPN will make better decisions in the future.

Cristiano Ronaldo, LA Clippers, and Jamal Khashoggi

Cristiano Ronaldo has been accused of sexual assault, and while I do not like speculation do me a favor and indulge in my speculation for a little bit. This will once again be a case of he said she said, however if he is guilty it would not surprise me in the slightest.

He mentioned in the press conference that he “had everything,” and in a sense he does. This attitude could lead him to do exactly what he is being accused of, as he could feel that something that is not is he needs to take. While there is no doubt he faced a hard road to become one of the greats, now he is an incredible athlete who has been and is continually told that he is incredible. He is an incredible looking male, who is one of the greatest athletes ever. After a while, when people tell you that everything is yours, you start to believe it, for good or for ill. To me, he probably felt as though this is a woman he could take, because he was Cristiano Ronaldo. Again, innocence until proven guilty is crucial, and so at this time it is hard to say. However, it would not shock me if this is true.

In lighter news the LA Clippers are 2-2, which is a decent start for a very decent team. While many of you may be wondering whether or not Clippers fans even exist, I can tell you with confidence they do and I am a part of a small minority. My beloved Clippers traded away most of their best players, for assets. This team is full of assets, and it is going to be fascinating to see how not only they will perform but if they can attract a legitimate superstar.

The ceiling in my eyes for the Clippers is a 6th or 7th seed in the playoffs. Will they actually win anything? Probably not, but the team is still an exciting prospect nonetheless. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks to be a sensational rookie, with length, handles, and defense to match. I am hopeful for my Clippers but also willing to moderate my expectations in the hopes of a team that is incredibly successful in the future.

Also, I am shocked at the Jamal Khashoggi killings, and at the responses from both Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Both seem desperate to remind others of their importance, however both come off as hypocrites. President Erdogan wants to remind everyone that he is a pivotal ally who is against this kind of press brutality, but he has cracked down on his own people and officials for years, and is in charge of a country that has attempted to bully others into denying the Armenian Genocide. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince has tried to shape himself as a reformer, yet he cannot seem to stop himself from resorting to brutal tactics in order to take power.

This is a sad saga, and one that I hope gets resolved. But it is on all of us too hold both of these regimes accountable, and to make sure that justice in this case is served. Journalists and the press keep our leaders accountable, and it is our responsibility to make sure both countries understand this.

The Pain of a Migraine & Wayne Rooney

Migraines are painful I regret to inform you, and I found out in rather brutal fashion on Wednesday night. I was hosting an event for the AEI Executive Council with Reihan Salam (awesome guy by the way), when I noticed a large blurry spot in my vision. I could not make out a word on my phone screen and an hour later my hand hurt in some kind of way.

After arriving at the Urgent Care center in Ann Arbor, they treated me and dealt with me being I am sure less than pleasant. I was annoyed and in pain, and they reacted with stellar poise. If you have a migraine, get medication as soon as you can and do not let it sit for too long. Otherwise a flash can turn into a nightmare.

Also there was a brilliant profile on Wayne Rooney I highly encourage you to read. If there is any 30 for 30 material in the MLS, this run from DC United might very well be it. I think it just might be the best sports story we have seen in awhile.

 

Is Boxing a Sport?

Laugh at me, this is a very serious matter. The Canelo-GGG fight was apparently incredible although I did not get to watch it. Whilst many thought the fight was close, a large number of people disagree with the decision to give it to Canelo. The first fight I did watch and thought the GGG should have won the fight. However, by what measure, and how do we even score this?

Judging has been boxing’s biggest problem, and to me the reason while it may very well not fit the category of sport. To me sports, regardless of the level of physicality, have clear winners and losers that are decided in the respective game or competition. So then can we say esports is a sport? I would say so, even if there is not serious “physical activity” the winner is clearly decided upon by what happens within the game. Gymnastics, Diving, and others are harder to justify. How can it be a sport if judges all with different backgrounds are assigning scores? Are these competitions incredibly difficult? Of course, but it is still not a sport in my book.

Boxing is an interesting case, as it for me depends on the situation for whether or not we can classify it as a sport. If a knockout occurs, then yes I would call it a sport. If not, I would call it an “athletic competition”. Maybe I am crazy but I think I am on to something here. Stay tuned for more in the future.

Son escapes military duty and Michigan’s first loss

The beloved Tottenham Hotspur player Son Heung-Min escaped mandatory military service after he helped his home country of South Korea beat Japan in the final of the Asia Games in Indonesia yesterday. It is a great for Son, as he is a hardworking joyful player who now gets to live out his career without having to worry about 22 months away from the game. Regardless, the rule for mandatory military service seems slightly ridiculous out of context.

If I ran a country, I would make sure mandatory military service is not a thing to begin with. Why? People should be able to choose their career paths, regardless of some of the practicalities that mandatory service may serve. Countries like Israel and South Korea may indeed need mandatory service but again you have the right to choose what work you want to pursue, and to me mandatory service gets in the way of that. However, if you are going to have the rule, it is strange that you would make exceptions for Football players after they win a tournament. What did they do for their country that someone else did not? Why are athletes allowed to get special treatment if they do well? Is representing your country only about the result? To me, it is brutal for all the players involved that their futures hung in the balance over winning a football game. While I do not know what I would say in its entirety, however I can say that this pressure was unnecessary and unfair to someone like Son and the rest of the South Korean national team.

Yesterday also featured Michigan’s very first football game of the season, which they lost by a final score of 24-17 to Notre Dame. It was great to see both teams back on the field, as it is one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. It is also good to know that Michigan is not hiding from difficult opponents, when we push our players it makes our program better as a result. However, Notre Dame were simply the better team, and we deserved to lose by more than we did.

Jim Harbaugh came into Michigan and seemed to be able to do no wrong. Now, the questions will begin.  I personally do not think it is fair to put him on the hot seat yet, as this is the first game of the season and we have a long way to go before we truly know what kind of football team we have. It is still reasonable that Michigan wins nine games which for any school would be a fine season. However (uses James Earl Jones voice), This is Michigan, and Michigan will not be happy with good enough. He has turned our program around since the Brady Hoke and Rich Rod days, however his novelty to make any team incredible is beginning to fade. Questions remain and by the end of the season, I hope for Michigan and Jim Harbaugh’s sake that the team plays better than it did last night.

 

How LAFC won me over

I have followed soccer for a few years now, and despite being from LA, I failed to really get into the LA Galaxy. However, after my third LAFC game I am officially a fan of the club.

The stadium is absolutely gorgeous, in the middle of Expo Park, you can see the sun setting as you walk in. Meanwhile, the fans are electric, while the supporter section is full and rocking. In any club’s first year, getting a supporter’s section to even show up is an accomplishment in itself. Not only are fans there, but they are absolutely rocking.

The players this team has are young and exciting, most notably former Real Sociedad player Carlos Vela. Every time he touches the ball he seems to make music, flicking the ball onward, nutmegging players, and grinning after each effort. This along with new signing Christian Ramirez, speed racer Latif Blessing, and captain Laurent Ciman have created a culture in their first year that is one of the best the MLS has to offer.

If you live in the area and have not been to an LAFC game, I encourage you to go, they are not super expensive and is insanely fun. I think this team is great for LA’s soccer culture, as it gives us a soccer rivalry to be proud of and grows the game in our city and our country.

 

Fixes for the NBA and Monday Motivation

Here are a few ideas on how to fix the NBA:

  1. Reduce season to 58 games in which every team plays each team twice. Tie breakers would be decided first by head to head, then by point differential throughout the season, if neither break the tie they would play an extra game. This would reduce injuries and increase the importance of each regular season game, rather than the season dragging on for too long.
  2. Make the playoff an eight team playoff in which the top teams regardless of conference or region make it. Eight teams would create more pressure on regular season games and force teams toward the top to play until the very end of the season and not rest or stop playing once they have clinched a playoff spot. This would also reduce the length of the playoffs, which can go on for months. This leads to more injuries and less novelty toward each playoff game.
  3. The bottom four teams should be relegated to the D-League or a lower tier counterpart and those teams would be replaced by four newly promoted teams. This would prevent tanking and force teams to be as competitive as possible each season.
  4. Get rid of the NBA Draft and allow players to sign for whichever team they like so long as it fits within the salary cap. Preventing players from playing for there desired franchise is absurd and would be deemed unfair in any market outside of professional sports. That being said, I enjoy trades and they can make for fascinating drama. It also gives teams consequences and it is much simpler than the current transfer system throughout soccer. I would keep the rest but give players more leverage in picking which teams they can play for. While I also am not a fan of the salary cap, it helps even the playing field if properly used. However, in time I would like to see it go and allow teams to offer as much as they can in order to woo players.

Those are just some ideas although I am sure there needs to be much more than that to prevent injuries and keep the entire season engaging.

For your Monday Motivation, this stop and assist by Wayne Rooney to win the game for DC United is incredible. If this doesn’t fire you up, I don’t know what will. Happy Monday!