I love Lethal Weapon
This will be short and probably not very entertaining. I'm actually embarrassed that I'm even about to write it, but I have some time to kill, and it's been annoying me so screw it, here we go.
I'm only 32. I'm not really "old" by your standard definitions. I have no major medical concerns, nor unexplained grumpiness towards specific demographics of people (except Canadians), and I'm still known to stay out until the sun comes out on a weekend, getting way too drunk for anyone's well-being. I'd like to think I still live a pretty "young" lifestyle, but there is one thing that keeps bothering me lately; unless it's a weekend, I can't stay up late enough for any major sporting event. I just can't do it.
This poses a problem for somebody like me who decided years ago to make sports a major part of his life (like so many others in this country, of course). Game times never used to be a huge issue for me. Sabres on a west coast road trip with 10pm starts? Of course I'm watching. NCAA tourney games starting at 10:45? Let's do it. Monday Night Football Jaguars Vs. Raiders? Sure, why not? None of this used to matter to me, even if I had to be up early the next morning.
Now? I haven't made it to the end of a MNF game in almost three years. I'd like to say it's my lack of interest in these games and larger concern for sleep, but now that's even been disproved from this year's NBA Finals. Once the Bills were obviously headed for another playoff-less season and the Sabres showed what a bunch of losers they were, I began investing myself in the NBA. Not just my New York Knicks mind you, but the league in general. What followed has been a huge appreciation for a league that I truly feel is the most entertaining of the big four (Basketball, Baseball, Football, & Women's Lacrosse. I gots hockey jokes!) The NBA playoffs have been wildly entertaining in both conferences and at the beginning of these finals between the Spurs and the Heat, I could not have been more excited....then I fell asleep during the 3rd quarter of game one.
I mean I tried to stay awake, I really did. I had every intention of making the long haul even though I had to be up at 5am. I just couldn't do it. Luckily, I managed to wake up with four minutes left in the 4th quarter and didn't miss one of the most amazing, clutch shots in the history of the league, but my point still stands. If I can't even stay awake for a game that I'm beyond legitimately excited about, am I getting too old? At first I was in denial worse than people who still think Darcy Regier is doing a good job. Old? No way, it's these God damn late starts, it's not my fault! Back when I was a kid, the NBA Finals started at 7pm, this 9 o'clock bullshit is the media's fault. They keep pushing the games farther back to hit the key demographic for advertising to twenty-something douche-bags who actually drink Bud Light and think it's good. As I think back to the 1993 finals when the Bulls beat the Suns, I was definitely not 12 years old staying up to midnight to watch the series every night!
Most the game times were at 9pm then, too?
I am getting old.
That's all there is to it. Most the time when I'm picking between more sleep and a sporting event, I'm going with sleep. And now, even when I think I'm staying up "late" to watch a game, I can't even do it. Shit, I don't even have kids yet! At this pace, by the time I'm 40 I'm not even going to make it through pre-game warm-ups (which isn't necessarily a bad thing if Bill Simmons and Mike Wilbon are still employed). Of the six complete games of this series, I have successfully made it through only half of them in their entirety. And honestly, that's only because both Sunday games had 8pm start times, and last Friday I got to go into work later than usual. That's why despite my hopes and dreams of the Gregg Popovich's Spurs topping the Heat and sticking it to David Stern last night, I'm a little glad they lost. Thinking about it, I would have missed the final game of the season AND would have been a zombie the rest of the week. Now with the final game in the series on Thursday and a day of nothing at work on Friday, I can go balls-to-the-wall for the big 7 and worry about catching up on sleep over the weekend. This is what I've become. Planning my sleep patterns days in advance if I simply want to stay up and watch one stinkin' game. This sucks.
Ah fuck it, pass me a metamucil and vodka and let's get the party started....but leave me alone from 4 - 5 in the afternoon, that's my catnap time.
So we got drunk at a Mets game last week. They lost. We recorded banter.
Honestly, we talk about enough bullshit with no real direction that I should probably give you some sort of road map but absolutely have no desire to be of such assistance. You'll love it all the same.
Appearances from, as usual, the Barrister
and the Apologist
, and guest spots from our friend who is a Red Sox fan and my buddy JB who split sometime in the 7th inning. Musical interludes from Jefferson Airplane, The Beastie Boys, Ozomatli, Walk the Moon and Radiohead.
Oh, and we talk about my homie Rabbi Darkside
(from Buffalo, by way of Brooklyn) who just came out with an album. Order that shit on iTunes now!
For the podcast, bitches, download here
(choices!), hit the iTunes button below, or the stream from the player. Booyah.
It seems silly to try to avoid talking about it, so I'm just gonna say it. Times like these make it easy to put sports in their proper perspective. Too often we allow ourselves to slip into a place where we "live and die" on the successes and failures of our favorite franchises and freely discuss how much we "hate" Tom Brady or LeBron James. It's mostly tongue in cheek, but at the same time, I know I'm not the only guy who has a sporting event ranked in his "Top 5 Most Enraging Moments of All-Time." For some of us, sports might occupy all five. But after something like the bombing at the Boston Marathon or the explosion in West, Texas, you realize that none of it really matters all that deeply to us and that you hate athletes like you hate mayonnaise. You remember that a hero isn't a quarterback playing on a broken leg. It's a marathon runner at a blood bank two miles from that desecrated finish line. Hopefully, you go back to the games with fresh eyes and remember that this is only entertainment. Invigorating, maddening, wonderful entertainment.
And with that in mind, no matter who you root for or against, the NBA playoffs bring a welcome respite from a very taxing week.
The regular season of the NBA serves more as context than content. We usually know who the good teams are and by the time the season ends, it feels more like you've been waiting all this time for it to start. And let's face it, this all feels like a preamble to Heat\Thunder II, The Rematch.
This is what awesome looks like.
Both teams took over 1st place this season (and for the foreseeable future) in their respective conferences. Both defenses have virtually identical numbers to last year. Somehow, both stars got better. Durant improved in nearly every single statistical category, while James led his team on a 27-0 streak that may have permanently silenced the "Can he be clutch?" conversation for good. And both seem likely to be raising MVP trophies at some point on their journey to the championship round.
But there hasn't been a championship round between two 1 seeds in 13 seasons for a reason. While the teams that enter the playoffs are very often predictable, what happens between the first round and the last is anyone's guess.
The path to the Finals is certainly much more difficult for Oklahoma City. James Harden leads a promising Rockets team their way in the first round. Assuming the young Rockets aren't ready yet, next the Thunder would most likely face the dynamic & deep Clippers. CP3 & the Poster Child lead a great blend of youth & experience that could easily give Durant, Westbrook & the rest of Thunder a very tough series. But if OKC can knock off Lob City, it's hard to predict who they'll face next.
Golden State is a fun team to watch, but also a likely first round out. The Lakers are an intriguing story line, but it's hard to tell what, if anything, they've got left at this point. Without Kobe's production & World Peace's defense, it's hard to see them winning two seven-game series. The Spurs are looking every one of their many years. And Denver has a good team, but not a great one. All this adds up to an opponent that, if they make it, the Thunder will most likely be favored against.
Across the aisle in the East, life is easier for the Heat. The Bucks are beaten already and neither the Nets nor the Bulls pose much of a threat. Yes, Chicago ended the 27-game winning streak. And if Rose returns, they'll certainly be able to give James & Co. a tough, grinding series, but it's hard to see them making it to the conference finals.
It's obvious that the biggest threat to Miami's Eastern Conference title are their old rivals, the New York Knicks. But to get there, the Knicks will have to knock off another rival, the Boston Celtics.
Clearly, this is the most intriguing matchup. To say this series will be emotional is like saying Captain Ahab was a little preoccupied. If there were ever a team built for this kind of unwanted scenario, it's these Celtics. Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett know their window is closing, but remain defiant in the face of long odds. You know they will give absolutely everything they have for each other and their fans. And they'll make sure everyone in their locker room does the same.
And they'll need every bit of it to stop 'Melo. Anthony is playing the best basketball of his career on the best team of his career. The Knicks haven't been this close to a title shot since Clinton was President. But can they handle that pressure? While they've certainly proven that they deserve to be amongst the league's best teams, they're still a franchise without a series win this side of 2000 and a star who's been out of the first round once in his career. All signs point to their talent overwhelming the undermanned Celtics, but don't be surprised if the Knicks make their usual early exit.
That being said, it's most likely that New York will get past Boston and whoever escapes the "Who Cares" series between Indiana and Atlanta. Then the two stars of the 2003 Draft will hopefully put on a show for the history books.
Over 10 years ago. God, I'm old.
It still might seem as though we're just waiting to get to the Rematch and that's certainly where I think we're headed. But at the risk of wearing out a tired cliche (whatever, the playoffs started 45 minutes ago and I'm out of time), there will most definitely be some excitement you won't want to miss along the way. Don't miss the start of Game 3 in Boston. Track how many Holy-shit!'s the absurd talent of LeBron, Durant and Westbrook bring out of you. Keep an eye on James Harden and Steph Curry. And whatever you do, make sure you watch any highlight reel involving the Clippers.
This is as belated as we've been in a while. Maybe the dad among us shouldn't promise to edit anymore, particularly on a noght of such heavy drinking. With esteemed Deeg colleague Monsieur Boner Shorts in town, things got weird.
I won't bother recapping it, except to say this was recorded the night of Tuesday, March 26th, in the midst of Sabres, Knicks, USMNT, Clippers/Mavs and shots of whiskey. Also, the Scizz was there, so if you love the soft tones of his Franklinville accent, make sure to join in the fun with a download.
or stream below if you want, whatever. Subscribe via the itunes link below, or via RSS at www.deargodwhyussports.libsyn.com/rss ... I think?
The Apostles of Bob (Yachstman & Scizz)
The title of this episode is slightly misleading since we don't even discuss the Lakers until the second half of the podcast, but it has a lovely ring to it, so shove off.
Fresh off the NBA All-Star break, the Apostles gathered on a day off to discuss the state of the New York Knicks and the monumental fear that comes with it. This crippling fear, of course, was proven 100% accurate by the Knicks when they got absolutely dismantled on Wednesday night in Indiana and schooled Friday night against Toronto. Yay! The Road to the 5th seed! (We also recorded with WGR personality, "Coach "Sal Capaccio on his Buffalo Bills Now! podcast
so feel free to check that out AFTER YOU LISTEN TO THIS!)
We also discuss the potential playoff outlook of the entire Eastern & Western Conferences, why we both hate Dwight Howard (I mean besides Nazi sympathizers, who doesn't?), and finally say a few kind words about the legendary Jerry Buss, may he rest in peace. Bonus: Scizz pronounces Stephen Curry's name wrong while trying to compliment him and Yachtsman might have threatened to poop on the floor of MSG too. Music interludes go punk this week with the Clash, Bad Religion, and Iggy & the Stooges. Download from Libsyn
, iTunes, or stream below.
Sorry if you only want to listen to the CrapTastiCasts. We use the same feed so just delete this shit when it downloads....OR listen to us because we're neat!
Apologist and Barrister, feat. The Continental
Oh dear.... Craft beers. Whiskey. Vanishing dignity.
You may be aware that Apologist and I recently rendez-vous'd (not a word) for the Bills game Thursday night, using the time out at the bar as a perfect opportunity to revive the little-known Legal Limit podcast franchise. You also may be aware that new-to-the-Deeg Continental - of Smarten Up! mailbag fame - joined us, making her podcast debut.
You probably wouldn't have predicted this level of shit show, though. Good good, we are terrible. Actually, really, just the Barrister. He was most definitely over the legal limit, right guys? ... I'll show myself out.
We talk Bills/Dolphins, of course, but also take potshots at Al Gore, celebrate the Knicks move to 6-0 against the Spurs, talk about how the NBA may pick up disgruntled hockey fans during the lockout, commiserate Ryan Fitzpatrick's role in Bills franchise history, laugh about blunts and guns, and then bump into some Hurricane Sandy refugee Chicago Bears fans who happen to also love the Miami Heat. I'd claim it all makes sense in the end, but it most surely does not. Luckily, I'm pretty sure it's about what you've all come to expect from this embarrassment of a website.
Musical interludes include Jefferson Airplane, Oddisee, Bob Dylan and The Beastie Boys.
Stream below, download here
, via the iTunes button below, or on our podcast page here
Checking out Jeremy White's twitter feed. Considering just quitting.
What a busy week it has been at DGWU Sports! Between news of the NHL Lockout and our battles with the various personalities at WGR for refusing, as is their custom, to engage with viewpoints other than (a) their own, or (b) those of the mouthbreathers who call into WGR and make it their mission to express their vehement disdain for everything in the world, there was a LOT to discuss when we gathered Wednesday night. More shots were fired and kindling put onto the world of Buffalo sports media so that we can continue to watch it burn. Heh. Sports.
Oh, and there are those Buffalo Bills, too, which is actually where we started in segment one as we recapped the shit show that was Sunday with the Deeg. Bills @ Cardinals was by no means an enjoyable time, but recapping the fun times we had and the trainwreck of a game ended up being pretty fun/depressing/rage-inducing.
In segment two we welcomed Colin Bruckel, one of the founders of TheHosers.com
, a site we have linked to for a while and which provides stellar insight about the legal issues surrounding professional hockey and, in particular, the CBA. Colin's assessment of the current CBA negotiations was as interesting and well-presented as any I've heard, and it is an understatement to say that we were lucky to have him on. I would note, however, that since our discussion took place before the NHLPA presented its own offers to the league (and before Bettman rejected them immediately), you'll want to keep an eye on his site for more hot legal takes. Or you could continue being ignorant and just keep listening to the superficialities of sports talk radio.
Segment three brings it back to our wheelhouse of inappropriateness and ill-conceived sports takes as we talk the USMNT's win on Tuesday, the NBA's new policy restricting pre-game celebrations, Apologist's suicidal ideations following the Orioles' elimination from the playoffs, and our predictions for the Bills/Titans game this weekend. I must add that we had intended to talk more about (read: make fun of) Shawne Merriman's return to Buffalo, but had to toss that to the back burner so we'd have time to talk about the more pressing issues of gloating about our intellectual superiority over talk radio hosts. It's a burden, really. In any event, I'm hopeful that Merriman's second tenure in the 716 will give us plenty of opportunities to point and laugh.
Musical interludes this week are provided by Broken Bells, Gov't Mule & REO Speedwagon, as well as - of course - The Jambrones.
and stream below, or check out our Libsyn
page or iTunes button below where you can get all of our archived podcasts and subscribe for future hot, aural takes.
I am a new Knicks fan. I wasn't there for Patrick Ewing, John Starks' dunk heard round the world, or Spike Lee getting into the face of Reggie Miller. In fact, to this day Reggie is still one of my favorite players, I still hate John Starks, and I cheered so hard against Ewing when he played the Chicago Bulls I used to make bets with my teacher in 6th grade with extra homework on the line. This means I'm not a typical fan. When my friends that are life long Knickerbocker fans talk about the pain and suffering the team and organization has caused them, I shut up and take a back-seat (learn a lesson here you post-lockout hockey fans).
The Knicks team I fell in love played between 2008 - 2010. They were a rag-tag group of players nobody expected to play well, and were all there simply filling space until the massive free agency rush of 2010 began. But these players, guys like David Lee (I still have an unworn jersey from him), Wilson Chandler, and Danilo Gallinari were fun to watch. They weren't big time names, but they played hard every night, and maybe my passion for lovable losers from my Buffalo sports teams made me latch on. Who knows.
Sidebar: Is that Spoelstra with the backwards cap? AMAZING.
LeBron won a title. After a spring filled with the Apologist tweeting from the @DGWUSports
account in a way that strongly suggested some deep fetish that would make even Delonte West blush, I suppose I should be thankful Aps didn't hop on here with a piece about how he's happy to be a Witness to the sweat from LBJ's balls. That said, I recognize that the NBA isn't my wheelhouse... But, LeBron won a title, and - a week out - I find myself with some things to get off my chest.Caveat #1: This may be the only time I give him any credit, so if you can't stand any concession of LeBron's greatness, take it with a grain of salt.
Caveat #2: If you think his victory merits an end to the vitriol spewed his way by fans like me, you don't get why I watch sports, so if you breathlessly worship Bron Bron without regard to his many failings, take this with a grain of salt. And then think about walking into traffic.
In the lead-up to the Heat's ultimate victory last week, the prevailing wisdom was that a championship for LeBron James would provide a respite to the neverending media coverage and fan arguments about this athlete-turned-caricature. The meme of "LeBron as Choke Artist" - and the reactive and defensive push-backs that always followed - has been THE story of the NBA since James decided to forego the role of Hometown Hero
for that of Captain Callously Self-Centered
. And it hasn't disappointed, even for those of us who abhorred the circus of it all, wishing that ESPN would focus more on the sport rather than the hype.
For better or worse, our shared hope for an end to the endless hype and bickering (some amongst the brethren of the Deeg) is ultimately futile. This is what happens when one of the greatest players to ever play the game takes the court for a redemptive moment of achievement. We talk about it. We have to. Just silently watching it unfold seems a disservice, whether you've chosen to think of LeBron as athlete in pursuit of highest victory, or villain whose success is being built in the wake of heartbreak and deep resentment.
How we digest a moment like this - watching a player in complete control of his craft, getting the most of himself - can speak volumes about ourselves. What to focus on? The absurdity of James' talent and the story of his on-court achievement, or the callous way his brand has been marketed, creating a LeBron that exists between tip offs? If you focus on his image, maybe you miss out on the joy of seeing a great player, but if you focus on the player, maybe you miss the context of the icon performing amidst constant analysis, expectation and attention. Your choice then is whether you want to enjoy a truly remarkable player without getting bogged down by the background bullshit, or whether you'll be guided by your sports soul as it reminds you that this gifted player represents everything you hate about modern sports.
Even for the most vehement of LeBron haters, his talent has never been questioned. Indeed, the dude is so talented that the biggest knock against his play has been that his achievement had yet to match the potential he carried within his gigantic 6' 8", 250 pound frame. His enormous physical gifts all-but-guaranteed that he would at least get a shot in the NBA. He was a beast in high school, dominating in a way that was inarguably unfair to the opponents who simply hadn't been blessed with the kinds of tools that James had from early on. Those physical gifts - innate, unachieved and invaluable to his game - were enough to get him to the pros. His prior failures, then, were a basis for the argument that he was all talent, no heart. We all knew he could
win it all... but only if he wanted
LeBron, 4th quarters.
Those criticisms of his play, based in an overarching sense that he was showing himself to be undeserving of the immense gifts appearing in his genetic code, were probably unfair, though hell if I cared when I was a few beers deep. In any event, those criticisms are largely irrelevant now. James has little else to prove as a player. After seeing him dominate the deciding game against OKC, it was clear that he finally wanted it and was actually interested in playing up to a level commiserate with his innate talent and gifts. He did the work and he succeeded. Good job, I guess.
Yet, as much as he has closed the book on those performance-based questions about his likely legacy as a player, satisfying even the most vocal critics, so much of the story of LeBron is off the court. And that off-court story is arguably more important, as it provides a more complete narrative of LeBron's impact in pop culture and provides us real reasons to watch. We pick sides and sit down to observe the best player in the game and hope for outcomes that provide some sort of karmic conclusion to the morality play that so often force our heroes to act out. Success is thus irrelevant, as it just as easily affirms the things we hate about James - his choice to pursue a title with a stacked deck in a city so undeserving of a title that it makes me want to strangle a Marlin, for example.
This is by no means a pure way to consume the sport, though getting hung up on these particulars is also by no means uncommon. His image, with the persistent taint caused by, among other things, his public declaration that he just wasn't that into Cleveland anymore, is the real reason we all love to hate the guy. I could give a shit if he wins a championship or not, or whether he nails that last shot or not (well, I would prefer not)... He's still the guy who grew up jumping on the bandwagon of teams I hate and ignoring the franchises from his hometown. He's still the guy who took on the mantle as Messianic figure for the Cavs, only to leave the team in the lurch, still waiting on the salvation he promised. And he's the guy who scoffed at us when we collectively criticized him for callously pissing on his hometown fans and who has built advertising campaigns on shoving those criticisms right back in our faces.
He's the fucking WORST.
And unlike a player who is just a simple, unlikeable dick (Bill Laimbeer comes to mind), LeBron is the worst kind of villain - the one who wants everyone to love him, convincing some to do just that, but wanting that love to exist in lockstep with his insistence to act as he chooses, regardless of the foreseeable consequences. Forgive me for thinking that this is a reprehensible level of disrespect to his fans, almost assuming that we're all unthinking narbies, waiting only to be entertained by dunks and blocks and a nightly mist of hand powder before every game.
I'm certainly aware that these musings may not apply to everyone, or even anyone, and I know that there are probably many fans of the game who can easily ignore the context within which LeBron has existed as a brand and who can watch without being swayed by the narrative of callous sports star. After all, LeBron's callousness was nothing new or completely unexpected. It was a logical next step for the sports free agent to capitalize on media interest (and laziness, IMO) and create a spectacle out of his departure to a new, exciting team. Next logical step or not, though, these are the kinds of things that matter to me as a fan and guide the way I think about sport. The ethics of it are what make the whole thing matter to me at all.
No amount of achievement can overshadow the creamy pile of douche in which this guy seems to bathe on a a daily basis. While he may be a different guy on the court - a winner now - he's still that same dipshit off it.
REALLY? FUCK YOU.
So, even if we all have one less jab to throw at James now that he has shed the role of "choker," LeBron is still out there, making sure we know how great he thinks this achievement is and how happy he is to have finally "silenced the haters" or whatever other bullshit cliché ESPN is feeding us this week, ultimately giving us yet another new reason to hate his smug, fabulously talented face. A ring doesn't fix that, and so long as LeBron remains wedded to his role as self-centered star and uninterested in rehabilitating the image he created by atoning for his prior mistakes and our understandable indignation at them, I'll keep having my delightfully immature fun by calling spades on this d-bag.
Love this? Hate it? Leave a comment below, and follow me on the tweet machine @theycallmedubs
There are many things that I love to hate, and that are so easy to hate. Restaurants that serve ranch with their “buffalo” chicken sandwiches (I’m looking at you, everywhere in Albany, State College and Montpelier), people who drive 65 in the fast lane, and southerners come to mind. Just as easy for me to hate for so many years has been the NBA, a hatred which I have cherished and nurtured to the point that I can barely make it through a quarter without working myself into a blinding rage. The refereeing is far and away the worst of the major four sports, where even apologists talk about preferential teams and players to the point which respected media personalities blatantly ask the commissioner about fixing games. Many of the best players of the last decade have been so goddamn unlikable they make John Edwards or Tony Heyward seem like decent guys. There’s the style itself, filled with possessions of one guy driving to the basket while his four teammates stand around, or missed shots as the entire offense is already retreating, leaving no one to bother contesting a rebound. (Editors Note: I think the rest of the Deeg would wholeheartedly disagree with that. In 2003? Yes. Now? No way. But oh well, let the new kid have his rant!) Then there is the seemingly incomprehensible- to me at least- infatuation for it throughout this country, filling ESPN’s daily “top plays” with dunks and blocks, dedicating such a massive amount of their airtime to a sport while overtly ignoring the one that so many of us in WNY care about much more.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a fan, in the way I was a fan of every sport growing up. I cheered against the Bulls throughout the 90’s and adopted the Suns as my favorite team, with Charles Barkley as my favorite player. But as the 2000’s came and I moved on to rooting against the Lakers at every turn, I simply couldn’t appreciate the game anymore. (Editor’s Note: As noted above, because the early 2000’s were awful sauce for b-ball.) The most entertaining moment in that NBA era happened for me when sitting at a bar underage in 2004, I overheard a buddy scream in astonishment “they’re fighting the fans” as we watched “The Malice at the Palace” unfold before our eyes. I wanted to appreciate Lebron as a Cavalier and for a short period I did, until he revealed himself to me as an egomaniacal douche specializing in blowing games to the Magic and Celtics and unable to win unless he stacked the deck in his favor.
(Quick aside: The thing I harp on the most when it comes to Lebron being an insufferable tool- and what should have made “The Decision” easy to see coming- is the teams he cheered for growing up. Despite being from Akron, he rooted for the Bulls, Yankees and Cowboys while all three were in their hey-day. Every school, including yours, had a kid like this in it. I feel comfortable saying that every one of those kids was a revolting little shit and is now likely a self-absorbed asshole. I find it much easier to accept Lebron’s demeanor when seen in this light.)
All of the above are the only reason I’ve tuned in the past couple weeks. To mutter at every uncalled travel, to sigh in resignation as Lebron drives to the basket, to rage at every biased call in the Heat’s favor, every terrible shot choice, every uncontested rebound and every jerkoff that thinks flashing gang signs is kosher in front of a national television audience. But soon my long-cultivated and loudly-proclaimed hatred for the NBA will come crashing to a halt. I will be tuning in for games in November for the first time since my childhood. I’ll be live tweeting them and attempting to pass myself off as a student of the game. I will actually purchase an NBA jersey and wear it proudly to summer parties and camping trips sans undershirt. I will be engaging in hoops talk with the friends that I’ve so often dismissed as they attempted to preach the merits of the modern game to my stubborn ears.
So what happened?
Andrew Nicholson happened.
If you even passively follow WNY sports, odds are you’ve heard of him, the forward who led St. Bonaventure to an improbable run to their first A-10 Tournament title and their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2000. You may have also read that he is pegged to go somewhere in the middle of the first round of this year’s NBA draft. Beyond the box scores lies the story of an unforgettable season, one that brought to me and any Bonaventure fan those moments that remind you why you fell in love with sports in the first place.
Basketball was what introduced me to the campus where I would have the best years of my life. During a high school basketball tournament in Olean, our coaches brought us to a Bonas game to kill an afternoon before one of our games. St. Bonaventure hadn’t even been on my radar for college; I was still looking at larger schools, more identifiable names much farther away. That walk through campus, from our hotel to the Reilly Center immediately placed it on my list. It became the only campus I ever bothered to visit during my “process” of picking a school and I arrived for my freshman year in 2002 with those vague, generic hopes for the next four years that I presume all incoming freshmen have. At least I knew I had the basketball games. They were identifiable, tangible, and I looked forward to them immensely during a time that could be nothing short of terrifying.
Any alumni can tell you what happens next, the timeline seared into our memories. February 2002 it’s found out the team had admitted and was dressing an ineligible player, soon after that all conference wins are vacated, the team doesn’t dress for the final two games and the school President, athletic director, coach and assistant coach are gone. In August that year the chairman of the Board of Trustees takes his own life. Sanctions are imposed, crippling sanctions that would have damaged a large program and appeared to be nothing short of the death penalty for my tiny college in the hills. During my sophomore, junior and senior years combined, the team won six conference games and seventeen games total. I attended one game during that time, left at the half with the Bonnies down some twenty-odd points. In hindsight it’s disappointing to have attended during the lowest point in the program’s history, but like everything else going on off-campus during those years, I was ambivalent, more than content to spend those nights partying instead of watching the comedy of errors that was going on at the Reilly Center. The basketball team may have always been part of the college experience there; it just wasn’t going to be a part of mine.
'04-05 Bonnies only season ticket holder
Nicholson stepped on campus in 2008, the year that my last large contingent of friends graduated, effectively ending any visits to the college where I could act as a student. From then on my visits would consist of hotel rooms instead of dorm rooms, and nights out meant the bars and not the keg parties and townhouse beer pong that had always preceded them. Luckily for the basketball team, their future also looked nothing like it had in the 02-08 era.
I won’t bore you with numbers; anyone with a working Google machine can see that the Bonnies immediately became a .500 team with Nicholson, winning as many conference games as the stiffs that walked the campus in my day managed to do in three years. They managed to make the CBI in 2011 which my sources tell me is a legitimate postseason college basketball tournament of sorts. (Editor’s Note: Statistics – being neglected by the Deeg since 2011)
It’s so rare to see something in sports that truly causes you to feel awestruck, to shake your head and simply admire what you’re watching. Lebron against the Pistons in 2005 was like that. Game six of the World Series was like that. The comeback game against the Leafs this year was like that. Watching Andrew Nicholson dominate this season brought the same awe, watching one player maintain his game at a level so far and away better than everyone else on the floor and doing it in the faces of double and triple-teams for the majority of the season. He grabbed twenty-three rebounds against Duquesne and didn’t score less than nineteen over the last ten games, topping twenty-five six times. He dominated the A-10 tournament in a way I’d only seen from schools much bigger and much farther away, and he was from my school, my tiny school doing it in front of the college basketball world. That was incredible. But a couple weeks before that A-10 tournament in which he’d be named the MVP, in a game against St. Joe’s that was only televised online, he showed all who cared to watch that he was a player whose legacy will be cherished at that school.
Even now it is difficult for me to find the words to describe the swing in emotions I experienced that day, from despair to euphoria and then back and forth numerous times in a matter of minutes. Luckily for you who like sports (and if you don’t why the fuck are you reading this?), that is a feeling we can all relate to. I mean, here are just a few of my tweets from the final minutes and overtimes:
What a joke ·
This team’s losing in the first round of the A-10 and making the CBI. ·
Wait, what? ·
Nicholson is what would happen if ’04 David Ortiz and Chris Drury had a kid. (Editor’s Note: Gross.) ·
Sports man, freaking sports.
So what’s next for him? Well the two teams I don’t want him to go to- Heat and Lakers- seem relatively unlikely, as he should be gone before Miami selects and the Lakers don’t even have a first round pick. The mock drafts I’ve seen- a big ‘fuck you’ to ESPN for putting theirs behind the insider paywall scam- have him going to Boston or Cleveland, with Oklahoma City and Atlanta as other possibilities. One of my friends from Bonas doesn’t see him lasting past the teens. That’d be nice, but I’d be fine with the twenties. He’s certainly not as muscular or athletic as those in the upper echelon but he can make a shot from anywhere on the floor and would be a perfect change-of-pace guy on many NBA rosters. Regardless, I will have a new favorite NBA team come next Thursday and will be following them in a way I haven’t followed a team in nearly twenty years.
I know my fellow alumni as well as friends that have seen him play are on board, but now I’m putting the call out to all of you to join the bandwagon, assuming you missed the stop in March. We may never appreciate the NBA like those in New York, Boston, Chicago, or Indiana do, we may always be resentful of the overblown coverage that the league receives compared to the underappreciated NHL, and we may be turned off by many of the very players that are the best in the world, but this kid, this chemistry-degree graduate from Toronto is something special if for no other reason than he belongs to Western New York now. He’s ours
, and he’s easier to root for than any Niagara Falls product who flamed out of the league. (Last Editor’s Note: Scizz here, I’m still holding out for Flynn, God dammit!)
Either join the bandwagon or tell me all your NBA jokes soon because come November I won’t find them so funny anymore, especially if they’re about my favorite team- whoever they may be.
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