Monday, December 29, 2008

Detroit Lions Finish Winless in 2008

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 31-21. With the loss, the Lions finished the 2008 season 0-16, giving them the distinction of owning the worst single season record in the history of the NFL.

The Lions have been bad for some time, but going 0-16 is just ridiculous.

I feel bad for Lions fans. The Lions have suffered through some rough times in recent history. They finished 2-14 in 2001 and 3-13 in 2002. They've had six different head coaches since the year 2000: Bobby Ross, Gary Moeller, Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, Dick Jauron and Rod Marinelli. Most of their recent first round draft picks -- all very high picks -- have been busts. And as President and CEO of the Lions, Matt Millen ran the team into the ground for years, but was -- inexplicably -- allowed to hold onto his job until earlier this year (thereby continuing to do untold damage to the team's future).

And the icing on the cake: The Lions have never played in a Super Bowl.

Truth be told, I've always kind of liked the Lions. I still remember, back in my childhood, when the Bears beat the Lions in the Pontiac Silver Dome to clinch a trip to the 1984 playoffs (the Bears hadn't been to the playoffs since their wild card appearance in 1978). I started paying attention to the Bears, and the NFL, at the end of the 1984 season. Walter Payton had surpassed Jim Brown to become the NFL's all time rushing leader earlier in the season, but the playoff berth clinching game at Detroit was the thing that really caught my attention and made me start following the Bears. Of course, the following year, the 1985 Bears went on to dominate the NFL and breeze through the playoffs en route to what would be the most lopsided victory (at the time) in the history of the Super Bowl. But I can't stress how enormous the the Detroit game that sent the Bears to the '84 playoffs was to Chicagoans at the time.

And I remember watching that game and thinking that, as much as I loved the Bears, the Lions were pretty cool too.

Later in the decade, I attended several Bears/Lions games at Soldier Field in Chicago. My family had Bears season tickets, and I was as big a Bears fan as you could find. But I always had a soft spot for the Lions.

And I loved the Lions' uniforms. The reflection of Soldier Field's stadium lights on the Lions' silver helmets made them shine as if they were made out of tiny, crushed up diamonds.

Of course, the Lions' helmets were not actually made of tiny, crushed diamonds. But the Lions had a truly precious gem on their roster: superstar tailback Barry Sanders.

And just as I feel bad for Lions fans, I feel kind of bad for Barry Sanders too. He was one of the greatest, most electrifying players to ever take the field in the NFL. But the national media never afforded him the recognition that he deserved. And in 1999, when he was about to surpass Walter Payton as the NFL's all time leader in rushing yards, he abruptly walked away from the game (despite still being in his prime). The Dallas Cowboys' Emmitt Smith later broke Walter Payton's record. And while Smith was a workhorse who exemplified hard work, dedication and determination, he didn't have half the talent that Barry Sanders had (although in fairness to Emmitt Smith, I can't really think of anyone else -- save for Gayle Sayers -- who was in Barry Sanders' league, in terms of pure talent).

All things considered, I don't know if there's a more tough luck group of fans than Lions fans.

And the Lions are only adding insult to injury in the hard-knock city that is Detroit.

Detroit has been bleak for decades. But its economic fortunes have taken a turn for the worse as of late. And with the American auto industry hanging on by a thread, things aren't likely to get better any time soon.

Consider the following "requiem for Detroit," penned by the Weekly Standard's Matt Labash:

We tear through the ravaged east side–not to be confused with the ravaged west side. When he was growing up, Charlie’s mom had a flower shop down here, but there are almost no signs of commerce now. In my line of work, I’ve seen plenty of inner cities, but I’ve never seen anything in a non-Third World country like the east side of Detroit. Maybe the 9th Ward of New Orleans after Katrina. But New Orleans had the storm as an excuse. Here, the storm has been raging for 50 years, starting with the closing of the hulking Albert Kahn-designed Packard Plant in 1956, which a half century later, still stands like a disgraced monument to lost grandeur.

There is block after block of boarded windows and missing doors, structures tilting like the town drunk after a vicious bender. Some houses have buckled roofs, some have blue tarps, some have no roof at all. Which is not to say nobody lives in them. A mail carrier I see on the street says desperate squatters will frequently take up residence, even switching house numbers as it suits them. Not all fires are started maliciously. With no utilities, they’ll often make warming fires on the floor. At one point, we stop the car just to count how many burned-out houses we can see without moving. We count six, all from different fires.

We enter the firehouse of Squad 3/Engine 23, or the “Brothers on the Boulevard,” as they are nicknamed. It looks like a very orderly frathouse. There is Dalmatian statuary, in lieu of a real dog, a mounted swordfish, a photo of [recently killed in the line of duty fireman] Walt [Harris] holding a giant sub on the bulletin board. It is ordinarily a place filled with mirthful gregariousness, a place where new recruits might get dropped to their knees with buckets of water, or where middle-aged men play air guitar to Thin Lizzy solos coming from radio speakers.

But today, nobody’s in the mood to smile. In a 90 percent black city, a firehouse is one of the only truly integrated places. The photo that ran with Charlie’s April story contained white Sgt. Mike Nevin, smoking one of his ever-lit Swisher Sweets, clapping black Walt on the shoulder. They looked like ebony and ivory, living together in perfect harmony. They faced death together every day. When they call each other “brother” around here, they mean it.

Several wear shirts memorializing their fallen brother. A black wreath commemorates him on one wall. Charlie and I hang out for the better part of a day, and the stories come fast and furious. Firemen tell me that the safest time to be here now is Devil’s Night, the infamous night before Halloween for which Detroit earned its title as the arson capital of the world. With Angel’s Night counterprogramming, which sees more cops and neighborhood patrols on the street, they’ve managed to whittle the over 800 fires they suffered in 1984 down to 65 fires this October 30. Only in Detroit could 65 arsons in one night be considered a success.

The Lions' futility may be the least of people's worries in Detroit. But they sure aren't helping to lift anyone's spirits.

More here.

(Image: Flint Journal)

A Serious Playa!

Through the ages, man has been bedeviled by several compelling, but unanswered questions. Since the beginning of recorded history, the greatest minds on the planet have pondered what one might call the eternal questions:

Who/what created the stars, moon and sun? Is there a god? If so, how many gods are there? Which god is the true god? Which religion is the true religion? Is there an afterlife? If so, what is the nature of the afterlife? How does one gain admittance to Heaven? How does one stay the hell out of Hell? How does God/the gods want us to live? What is just? How can we live
justly? What constitutes a meaningful/just life? What constitutes righteousness? How can we lead righteous lives? Which system of government is best? What should the purpose/calling of government be? What should government seek to achieve? Monarchy vs. democracy. Dictatorship vs. democracy. Democratic capitalism vs. fascism. Capitalism vs. Marxism. American-style free market democratic capitalism vs. Western European-style socialist-lite democratic quasi-capitalism. Small government vs. big government. What is the meaning of life? Etc. ...

But throughout all of human history, perhaps no question has befuddled man as much as the following eternal question: "How do you pick up girls?"

I won't attempt to answer that question in this forum. Although, maybe I should: teaching guys how to talk to and pick up girls has become a booming industry. Books like Neil Strauss' "The Game" have gone from being cult hits to becoming near-staples in the libraries of young men the world around (Shakespeare's Sonnets "The Game" is not, but hey, at least guys are reading something). And various pick up gurus (more here and here) have become wealthy by selling books, DVD's, and by hosting seminars which purport to teach the secrets of picking up girls (after looking at that Ross Jeffries guy's picture, I've got to admit: if that guy can get play, then maybe there really is something to his methods after all; maybe guys really should shell out their hard-earned Benjamins to gain access to his pick up secrets). What's more, the popular Vh1 television show "The Pick Up Artist" has helped to push the pick up subculture from the underground into the mainstream.

One thing's for certain, though: I doubt that the answer to the eternal question "how do you pick up girls" would be to take a video camera to the mall, approach every girl who catches your eye, film them as you hit on them (making sure that the camera pays special attention to their backsides -- especially as they walk), address them by saying "aayy baybay," determine their names by asking "what yo name iz, baybay?," marvel aloud at their their sexy bodies as you instruct them to exchange contact information with you (and verify that they are, indeed, at least sixteen years of age -- i.e., "Hell naw: girl, yo body too damn sexy for you ta jus be sixteen; look at dat sexssay booty!: yo azz gotz to be at least seventeen), and demand that they show you around the town later that night (after all, you're visiting town from da "A.T.L.," and you need a "sexxssay, sexxssay young thang" to "show you some thangz") . . . to be topped off with a nightcap.

But that's exactly what this guy did.


Damn. YouTube has removed the linked video, due to a "terms of use violation." I hope people got to see the video while it was still up. My description of the guy's pick up techniques don't do the video justice, though they are accurate. The video is pure comedic genius, although the guy who made the video wasn't joking; he actually thought he was being a "true playa" by utilizing the pick up methods I described (in addition to many more).

Maybe the "Real Ni**a Tube" and "Booty Cam" screen logos in the video didn't pass Google/YouTube's filters for offensive language. Maybe the video's title, "Booty Cam@Mall! Window Shoppin Hoez Homegrown" didn't escape the filters either. Maybe the fact that the guy didn't obtain a waiver from the girls before filming them and uploading video of their reactions on YouTube was a factor. Maybe the fact that some of the girls who he approached were, in fact, underage factored in too (the Lothario who made the video was, at a minimum, in his twenties).

Who knows what the exact violation of Google/YouTube's terms of use was. All I know is that the "True Ni**a Tube" booty cam video was one of the craziest things I've seen in a long time . . . especially because it was real. The guy in the video was ridiculous, but he was being sincere. He really thought he was being a serious playa.

The video was completely -- and perhaps, appallingly -- inappropriate. It deserved to be taken down. But it was funny as hell.

Oh well. Here's a screen shot of the video:

The girl's reaction to the guy's suggestion that they go back to his place is classic, as can be seen in the screen shot. She did agree to call "Real Ni**a's" phone from her phone though, thereby giving him her phone number (not that she ever has to actually take his call).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Things Not Looking Good for Chicago's Daily Newspapers

Once again, Drive and Dish takes time out from talking about basketball to ponder the falling fortunes of Chicago's daily newspapers. Today's reminder that the city which once claimed the most vital print journalism culture in the world -- sorry New York; during the newspaper industry's prime, Chicago was the true newspaper capital of the world -- is perilously close to having no major daily newspaper comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

Today, only two major dailies remain in this city of 3 million, and both are in serious trouble from declining circulation, plummeting ad revenue and a new kind of competition that threatens to make newsprint itself obsolete...

Even as the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on federal corruption charges brought the latest and most luscious of scandals to the teeth of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, questions were swirling about their futures...

In the 1970's, Chicago had four major daily newspapers. By the 1980's only two remained. But even through the late 1990's, the parent companies of the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, Tribune Company and Hollinger International respectively, remained in good financial shape. And as recently as the early 2000's, countless industry analysts considered Tribune Company -- with its myriad media/entertainment holdings -- to be a company that served as a model for how media institutions could position themselves to take advantage of the 21st Century era of media consolidation and synergy.

But these days, even the Rod Blagojevich scandal can't move newspapers. In days gone by, Chicago's rampant political corruption -- and the intersection of Chicago and Illinois state politics with organized crime -- helped to fuel its legendary newspaper wars. Journalistic heavyweights like
Mike Royko and John "Bulldog" Drummond became household names because of their reporting and/or commentary on those all-too-common subjects.

How dismal must the current climate for Chicago's dailies be that amidst one of the biggest political scandals in the history of Illinois (a state replete with political scandal), no one expects the scandal to provide the papers with a shot in the arm?

The tabloid-size Sun-Times' average weekday circulation has fallen 3.9 percent from last year, to 313,176, and its Sunday circulation has declined 4.5 percent, to 255,905.

Those declines actually were better than the industry average and not as steep as the Tribune's 7.8 percent drop. But the broadsheet Tribune, with a higher proportion of sales from outside the city, still sold about 203,000 more newspapers than its rival on weekdays and 609,000 more on Sundays, despite a higher newsstand price ...

Gary Weitman, a spokesman for Tribune Co., said the Tribune newspaper remains economically viable, and the Dec. 8 bankruptcy filing by the parent company didn't suggest otherwise.

"The Sun-Times is in a more dire situation than the Tribune," he said.

Sun-Times spokeswoman Tammy Chase agreed Chicago's second-largest paper faces serious financial challenges. But she said the Sun-Times is doing everything it can to stay afloat, including slashing costs by about $50 million in 2008.

"We're not giving up," she said. "We're not waving the white flag."

Notice that, in his attempt to ameliorate the concerns of Tribune employees/analysts/creditors/potential suitors and present the Tribune as economically viable, Tribune Company's spokesman, Gary Weitman, pointed to the "more dire situation" of the rival Sun-Times.

I'm sure that will allow everyone to sleep better.

Implicit in Mr. Weitman's description of the Sun-Times' situation as "more dire" than the situation of the Tribune is the acknowledgement that the Tribune's situation is, indeed, dire ... just less so than the situation of the Sun-Times.

As for Tammy Chase's parallel attempt to spin a rosy future for the endangered Sun-Times, protesting that "we're not giving up" and "we're not waving the white flag" doesn't do much to inspire confidence. That's the kind of statement one might have expected to hear from the John McCain campaign once the first 2008 election returns began to trickle in and it became eminently clear that Barack Obama would be swept, by landslide, into the Presidency ... except for the fact that the John McCain campaign -- perhaps taking their cue from John McCain himself -- had given up and had waived the white flag, long before election day.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

On behalf of the entire staff here at Drive and Dish, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours. We'd like to thank you for taking time out of your busy holiday schedules to visit our little basketball blog. We hope that our efforts bring joy and cheer to your web surfing sessions, especially in this holiday season.

May there be peace on Earth, good will toward man, and may all your hoop dreams come true.

Oh, and for your viewing pleasure, we've included the following pictures of Christmas from around the world. We hope that you'll enjoy them.

Once again, Merry Christmas, and thanks for stopping by:

Above: Christmas in Aleppo, Syria

Christmas in Beirut, Lebanon

Christmas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Christmas in Tokyo, Japan

Christmas in Athens, Greece

Christmas in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Christmas in Moscow, Russia

Christmas in Bern, Switzerland

First image (above text): Christmas in Copenhagen, Denmark


Last year, Drive and Dish showed a Christmas scene from Prague, Czech Republic.


I guess Drive and Dish isn't the only blog that thought a "Christmas around the world" post would be a cool thing to publish. It was on Christmas eve that the editorial staff here at Drive and Dish made the decision to create such a post. As such, we spent several hours scouring the web for pictures of Christmas celebrations from far and wide. The post was published on Christmas morning.

But after Power Line blog attached a similar "Christmas around the world" feature to a post that originally offered musings about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad's Christmas address to the UK on British television (yes, you read that right: as a special Christmas gift, a British television network invited the kufir [infidel]-hating, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran to scold the British public for their evil ways) on Christmas night, people will probably just think that we ripped the idea off from them.

Who knows, maybe they ripped the idea off of us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Updated 2008 Christmas Eve Scouting Report on Santa

Last year, Drive and Dish published a detailed scouting report on Santa for Christmas Eve. The scouting report gave a brief historical background on both Santa Claus, and several national and cultural traditions that are based on the life of Saint Nicholas. It then commenced by providing a semi-thorough scouting report of Santa Claus' strengths, weaknesses and tendencies as a basketball player.

Although the post went largely unnoticed at the time of its publishing, it has generated a fair amount of web traffic over the last few weeks. The post's history of Santa Claus and the various St. Nicholas-based traditions has attracted some interest, but nearly 70 percent of the web surfers who've clicked on the post have done so after they conducted an image search and found the following picture of Santa Claus dunking a basketball:

Since so many people have found Drive and Dish's 2007 scouting report on Santa, we thought we would be well advised to provide an updated scouting report on Santa for Christmas Eve 2008.

For the history of Santa Claus go here and here. For Santa's Wikipedia page go here. For the history of Saint Nicholas go here and here. For St. Nicholas' Wikipedia page go here. To read about Saint Nicholas and the evolution of Santa Claus, go here and here.

Scouting Report on Santa for Christmas Eve 2008:

As for our updated scouting report, little has changed in the last year, at least in terms of Santa's strengths. Santa is still old and fat, but he hasn't lost his amazing, near other-worldly powers. And despite his advanced age and rotund physique, Santa still has the ability to defy gravity -- albeit with the assistance of his reindeer and sleigh. Still, even Michael Jordan in his prime didn't quite have the kind of hang time that Santa does. Santa's ability to soar through the air is unparalleled. And Santa is still as quick as a flash. Who else can traverse the entire globe over the course of a single night? Sure, it's true that Santa doesn't have to make stops in Saudi Arabia, North Korea, or Iran (he's not allowed in those countries anyway), but he goes just about everywhere else! Even Allen Iverson and Derrick Rose can't cover that kind of ground in such a short amount of time.

And Santa gets the better of Iverson and Derrick Rose on another front: Iverson and Rose may both be amazingly adept at identifying and attacking open seams in defenses, but nobody can fit his body through tighter seams and openings than Santa Claus. After all, the jolly old guy with the belly that jiggles when he laughs (like a bowl full of jelly) is able to sneak into peoples' homes and dish out presents by hurling his portly self, along with his bag full of presents, down their chimneys. Talk about threading the needle!

And since we're on the subject of Santa's amazing ability to dish out of presents, Drive and Dish has to hand it to the big guy: he is, without a doubt, the greatest distributor in the history of the game. Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Chris Paul drop some crazy dimes, but they've got nothing on Santa Claus' ability to drive (his reindeer and sleigh) and dish (presents)! And considering Santa's propensity to quickly fly back up the chimney and take off in his sleigh after he's placed presents under the Christmas tree, we've got to consider him the greatest practitioner of "give and go" who ever lived . . . even better than John Stockton!

However, the global economic meltdown may have hurt Santa's game in ways that his advanced age, excessive body weight, and poor training/dietary habits (does Santa really have to chow down on milk and cookies at every house he visits?) have not. As such, Santa may not be capable of producing the kind of output on Christmas Eve 2008 that the world has come to expect from him. Make no mistake: Santa has been remarkably consistent over the years. And if anything, his production has actually increased as time has worn on -- especially in the economic boom years of the 1980's, 1990's and early/mid 2000's. But just as even the best basketball players are susceptible to having the occasional rough outing (although, in his prime, Jordan never really had one), Santa is bound to have an off night once every decade or so. And though Santa is still quite impressive, even on his off nights, it must be noted that he is capable of being knocked slightly off his game -- particularly during economic downturns and recessions. Remember, the Depression era 1930's were a pretty rough decade for Santa, at least by his standards. Santa was still great in the 30's (and his appeal as a corporate product endorser was as great as ever -- he was a "can't miss" pitchman long before Michael Jordan's name graced the first pair of Air Jordans), but there's no question that his production dropped off. And in the early 1940's, the difficulties presented by World War II prolonged Santa's era of diminished stats. It wasn't until America's economy rebounded at the end of World War II that Santa enjoyed his career renaissance. But once he rounded back into top form, he was unstoppable (1947 was a particularly sweet year for St. Nick: he was named Comeback Player of the Year and he was the subject of the classic film Miracle on 34th Street).

So Drive and Dish is predicting that, given the current tough state of the economy, Santa may be more susceptible than usual to having one of his off nights. But remember, an "off night" by Santa's standards is still pretty magical. Santa will still be productive, regardless of whether he's got his "A-game" going. After all, he's still Santa Claus! Nevertheless, it is possible that his 2008 production won't quite be up to the lofty standards that the world has come to expect from Santa Claus.

On the other hand, we can't rule out the possibility that Santa will come out and surprise the world with another dazzling performance. Ever the prime time player, Santa has always been the kind of guy who thrives on adversity and pressure. As the saying goes, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." And Santa has had some of his best moments amidst the toughest of circumstances. Never forget: Santa Claus is a big time, money player. It's never a good idea to bet against Santa. Like Michael Jordan, Santa is THE MAN.

In the final analysis, Drive and Dish expects another typical solid outing by Santa Claus, even though the "experts" are predicting a down Christmas. Santa is an old pro. Even when the chips are down, Santa finds a way to come through. Year after year, he exhibits the kind of gritty leadership one expects from a grizzled veteran. And he should -- after all, St. Nick has been in the game since the 4th Century! So although circumstances could prevent 2008 from proving to be a banner year for St. Nick and his Christmas Express, we can say with certainty that Santa Claus will do whatever he can to conjure up his A game this Christmas Eve and that he'll give it everything he's got tonight. That much is simply a "given." And who knows, maybe Santa will surprise everybody with yet another special outing.

Never bet against Santa!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Newsflash: SF Chronicle Reports Asian Americans Not Prevalent in College Basketball, NBA

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bryan Chu reports that Asian Americans are rare in college basketball and the NBA. When I first saw Mr. Chu's article linked on a basketball news aggregator (located in the right hand column, just below the "Welcome to Drive and Dish" text, right here at Drive and Dish), I expected it to report a rise in the ranks of Asian Americans who compete in intercollegiate basketball. I also expected that it would likely profile a few current Asian American college basketball players. As such, I saved the article, figuring that it would be worthy of a Drive and Dish link and a few Trashtalk Superstar comments about the general growing popularity of basketball, the specific popularity of basketball in Asia, Yao Ming, Yi Jianlan, and the roles Yao and Yi have played in breaking down stereotypes and influencing the growing popularity of basketball in Asia and among Asian Americans, etc.

In my own anecdotal experience, I've noticed a steady increase in the numbers of Asian American youths playing middle school basketball, high school basketball, AAU basketball, etc. (particularly in Chicago's Western and Northwest suburbs). And I know of several gyms and outdoor basketball courts where Asian ballers predominate.

So I didn't expect Mr. Chu's article to present the Asian American basketball player as a dying breed in college basketball and the NBA. Apparently, Asian Americans used to be commonplace in college basketball and the NBA. Who knew!?!

What's more, I was even more surprised to see Mr. Chu's article attempt to blame the supposed dwindling numbers of Asian American college and NBA basketball players on racism. True, Chu also points to socioeconomic factors, Asian American parenting habits, and even PlayStation 3 and Wii as factors in the supposed decline of the Asian American basketball player. But make no mistake: the main theme in Mr. Chu's article is that racism is preventing Asian Americans from playing and coaching in college basketball and the NBA.

And I just don't buy that argument.

Although it's true that coaches and scouts (to say nothing of the sports media) have been notorious in the past for their adherence to racial stereotypes, I think that the old stereotypes have been dying a steady death for the last decade. Remember, it used to be widely believed that black quarterbacks lacked the arm strength and the mental capacity to be successful in college football and the NFL. But two generations of black quarterbacks have smashed those stereotypes into oblivion. Similarly, white football players have been kept from playing skill positions in college football and the NFL because of the long-held stereotype that white athletes are all slow and un-athletic.

There is, perhaps, nothing that better exemplifies the absurdity of the NFL's old ironclad racial stereotyping than the case of Tim Dwight. Tim Dwight, who is white, was a football and track & field standout at the University of Iowa in the mid/late 1990's. He was fast enough to win the 1999 Big Ten championship in the men's 100 meter dash, yet NFL teams shied away from drafting Dwight, primarily because scouts -- unbelievably -- questioned whether he possessed the requisite speed to play wide receiver in the NFL. Dwight more than answered those questions when he raced past defenders to an iconic 94 yard touchdown return in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Prior to Tim Dwight's Super Bowl touchdown, the myth of the slow white guy had been crumbling following the success of fast, athletic, high-profile NFL stars Jason Sehorn and Brian Urlacher. But Dwight's touchdown served as an exclamation point to the NFL's changing conventional wisdom regarding white players' ability to run fast.

In basketball, the increasing importance of the three point shot has allowed black players to break the ridiculous old stereotype that black basketball players couldn't be good perimeter shooters. And starting sometime around the time Brent Barry won 1995 NBA All Star Game Slam Dunk championship, the past 10 years-plus has seen many white basketball players throw water on the old stereotype that white men can't jump.

What's more, in 2000, "White Chocolate" Jason Williams showed the NBA (and the sports media) that it is, indeed, possible for a white basketball player to break defenders down off the dribble. And white boys -- from the Professor (And1 Street Ball legend Grayson Broucher) to Syracuse's Eric Devendorf, Portland Trailblazer Steve Blake, and 2005 NBA MVP Steve Nash -- have been breaking defenders' ankles ever since (technically, Steve Nash has been breaking ankles since his rookie season in 1996-'97 -- but the sports world only started to notice Nash's deft point guard skills after it became more acceptable for white basketball players to be seen as anything other than the stereotypical slow, three point specialist who requires double screens to get his shot off).

When NBA scouts tabbed China's Yao Ming as the likely first pick in the 2002 NBA draft, many people questioned whether Yao actually had the ability, or the mentality, to compete in the NBA. But Yao's near-instant success in the NBA -- not to mention his outstanding basketball fundamentals, high skill level, positive attitude, humility and eminent coachability -- caused teams to start scouring China and South Korea for prospects. Wang ZhiZhi and Yi Jianlan became hot NBA prospects almost overnight.

Although the focus of Mr. Chu's article is on obstacles that stand in the way of Asian American basketball players (the article makes no mention of college and NBA basketball players from Asia who are active in American college basketball and the in NBA), I think that the recent success of several foreign-born Asian basketball players in college basketball and in the NBA indicates that racism against Asians is not keeping Asians out of the game.

As I indicated, racial and ethnic stereotypes have, indeed, prevented otherwise outstanding athletes of all races from having equal opportunities to compete in sports in the past. But those old stereotypes -- and the barriers that they helped to perpetuate -- have been falling by the wayside for several years.

As a general rule: if you can play, you can play. That's why I have a hard time buying the argument that Asian Americans are being kept from playing basketball because of racism. I don't doubt that some of the old stereotypes continue to soldier on. But I just don't believe that good basketball players are being denied the opportunity to play for college and NBA teams solely due to their Asian heritage.

After all, basketball coaches get paid to win games. They lose their jobs when they don't win enough games. And the pressure on coaches to win (particularly in college basketball) has only increased exponentially in recent years. These days, coaches get placed on the proverbial hot seat after so much as a single losing season. But in order for basketball coaches to win games, they need to have good players on their teams. That's why coaches and scouts continue to take scouting to new levels of thoroughness, if not absurdity (i.e., scouting 5th and 6th grade basketball games).

If an Asian American player has enough game, his ethnicity isn't likely to prevent him from playing basketball in college or in the NBA.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Minnesota Upsets #9 Louisville

On Saturday, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers upset the #9 Louisville Cardinals 70-64 on a neutral court in Glendale, Arizona. At a perfect 10-0, Minnesota is off to its best start since the 1976-77 season.

Al Nolen led Minnesota Gophers with 18 points. Blake Hoffarber had 15 points off the bench for the Gophers.

The game reunited Minnesota Head Coach Tubby Smith with his former boss, Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino. Smith served as an assistant to Pitino at Kentucky for two years before leaving to become the Head Coach at Tulsa. Smith later succeeded Pitino as Head Coach at Kentucky when Pitino left to become the Head Coach and General Manager of the NBA's Boston Celtics in 1997.

Hiring Tubby Smith in 2007 was nothing short of a coup for Minnesota. Sure, Smith was on the hot seat when he left Kentucky for Minnesota; his days in Lexington were likely numbered. But his arrival in Minnesota delivered instant credibility to the Gophers basketball program. In his first season as Minnesota's coach, Smith turned a program that had been either mediocre or bad for several seasons into a scrappy, 20 game winning team. Now Tubby Smith has the Gophers undefeated, and with a major upset under their belt with just one week to go before Big Ten conference play begins.

Drive and Dish was impressed with Minnesota's hire of Tubby Smith, and last year we predicted that Coach Smith would have the Golden Gophers competing for Big Ten championships in the near future. But that future may have come sooner than even we realized.


On a side note, Minnesota's upset of Louisville marks yet another impressive upset of an AP Top 10 rated team by an unheralded upstart from the Big Ten. When combined with Michigan's upsets over then-#4 UCLA and then-#4 Duke, Minnesota's upset over Louisville should serve notice to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, if not the talking heads at ESPN and in the national media, that the Big Ten might not be "down" again this year (sure, Michigan State's drubbing by North Carolina didn't do much to help the Big Ten's image, but their thrilling 67-63 upset of #5 Texas on Saturday surely did).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ole Miss Coach Charged With Assaulting Cab Driver

Thursday night, the University of Mississippi's basketball team lost to Louisville 77-68. But that's not why the Ole Miss Rebels are in the news. The media has suddenly become interested in Ole Miss basketball because the Rebels' head coach, Andy Kennedy, was charged with assaulting a cab driver. Deferring to the presumption of innocence, I will respectfully withhold comment on Coach Kennedy's case. One hopes that the Ole Miss administration will also wait until the facts come out before they take action, although considering the extent to which political correctness saturates every aspect of life on America's college campuses, not to mention the notoriously risk averse decision making inclinations of university administrators, Mr. Kennedy would probably be well served to get a real estate license, or to consider selling insurance.

I will say one thing: if he's guilty, he's got to go. But I question why a white guy who came up in the urban friendly culture of the basketball world, and whose players are primarily black, would hurl racial epithets at an African cab driver (the accusing driver hails from Mauritania). However, if the charges are true, and/or he's found to be guilty, it will be terrible for his team and for his university. Time will tell: Kennedy has a Jan. 16, court date.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Famed NY Strip Club Scores to Close; NBA Players Forced to Find New Manhattan Haunt

Attention NBA players: Legendary New York strip club Scores has likely offered up its final lap dance. Scores will close before the start of the new year.

"It's over; it is what it is," said Scores lawyer George Weinbaum. Co-owner Elliot Osher confirmed the closing.

A weak economy, the loss of the W. 27th St. Scores' liquor license and the possibility the E. 60th St. joint would lose its booze ticket all helped do in the flesh factory.

The West Side Scores has been closed since May. In March, the the State Liquor Authority of New York revoked Scores West's liquor license after undercover cops described widespread back room prostitution at the West Side location.

What does the closing of Scores have to do with basketball? Not much, really. But since Scores was a magnet for NBA players, guys in the league will have to find a new Manhattan strip joint to frequent.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Michigan Upsets Duke

On Saturday, the upstart Michigan Wolverines basketball team upset No. 4 Duke 81-73 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Duke, which entered the game undefeated, had already beaten Michigan 71-56 in the 2K Sports Classic two weeks ago, and had just dismantled #10 Purdue earlier in the week in the ACC vs. Big Ten Challenge.

The victory marked the second time in as many weeks that Michigan (6-2) has upset the fourth ranked team in the nation. The Wolverines upset then -No. 4 UCLA in the 2K Sports Classic before going on to lose to Duke in the tournament's final.

Michigan, which hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998, is beginning to put together a strong Tournament resume (assuming their newfound winning ways continue through the Big Ten portion of their schedule). Drive and Dish thought that the hiring of John Beilein as men's head basketball coach was a master stroke by Michigan in 2007. Drive and Dish had been extremely impressed by Beilein's work at West Virginia and it was our opinion that Beilein was the best candidate to turn the Wolverines' long under-performing basketball program around.

It looks like he's starting to get it done.

(Image: Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

Tribune Company to File Chapter 11?

For the last several months, Drive and Dish has followed the demise of several print media publications (more here). Of particular interest to Drive and Dish has been the precipitous decline of the Chicago Tribune following the sale of Tribune Company -- the parent company of the Chicago Tribune -- to Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell (more on Mr. Zell's takeover of Tribune Co. via The New York Times).

This afternoon, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Tribune Company may be preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy:

In recent days, as Chicago-based Tribune continued talks with lenders to restructure its debt, the newspaper-and-television concern hired investment bank Lazard Ltd. as its financial adviser and law firm Sidley Austin to advise the company on a possible trip through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, people familiar with the matter say.


Interestingly, the Tribune Company's law firm, Sidley Austin, used to employ both President-elect Barack Obama and future First Lady Michelle Obama. It was at Sidley Austin in the summer of 1988 that Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama first met. At the time, Ms. Robinson was a young lawyer and recent graduate of Harvard Law. She was tasked with mentoring a summer associate (and Harvard Law student) named Barack Obama.

Sidley Austin also used to employ Bernadine Dohrn. Ms. Dohrn is the former leader of the Weather Underground, a former domestic terrorist, a former fugitive, and the current wife of controversial University of Illinois-Chicago Distinguished Professor of Education (and fellow ex-Weatherman, bomber and fugitive) William Ayers. More on the Weathermen (later known as the Weather Underground) and Bernadine Dohrn here (Ms. Dohrn reads a declaration of war on the United States 40 seconds into the video), and here. View the FBI's 1976 file on the Weather Underground here. Finally, The Claremont Institute discusses Ms. Dohrn's past here.

President-elect Obama's friendship with Ms. Dohrn and Mr. Ayers (as well as his work with Mr. Ayers on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and on the board of the Woods fund) was a source of controversy in both the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary and the 2008 general Presidential election.

Bernadine Dohrn began working as an associate at the prestigious Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin in 1984, four years after ending an eleven year run as a fugitive. Ms. Dohrn worked at Sidley Austin from 1984 to 1988. As the Northwestern Chronicle notes (Ms. Dohrn is currently a faculty member at the Northwestern University School of Law), " at the time, the law firm was headed by Howard Trienens, who (represented) Dohrn's father-in-law Thomas Ayers when he was running Commonwealth Edison."

The Chronicle noted the concern of some Northwestern Law alumni that Ms. Dohrn's employment at Sidley Austin may have "represented a serious conflict of interest and reeked of influence peddling." It also noted that Ms. Dohrn was unable to pass the Character and Fitness portion of the New York bar due to her criminal past, and cited one Northwestern Law alumnus' befuddlement as to the kind of work she could have done for the firm, given her criminal record:

"Show me another law firm that hires a known criminal who can't get into the bar," O'Shea said.
In October, Drive and Dish noted the Tribune Company's close ties to (and apparent sympathies with) the campaign of then Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.

So what is Drive and Dish trying to say? We're just noting that Sidley Austin is a firm that has clout. And in Chicago, there's nothing more important than clout. But while the word clout may have originated in Chicago, the old saying that it's not what you know, but rather who you know is not exclusively applicable to the Windy City. No one enters the spheres of power and influence without having connections.

At his old blog, the Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez discussed three pieces which dealt with Barack Obama's rise in Chicago politics and Mr. Obama's place in what Mr. Fernandez termed the "Byzantine labyrinth of Chicago connections." Mr. Fernandez cited the work of University of Santa Clara law professor Steve Diamond who asked "who sent Barack Obama:"

(Mr. Diamond) explains the context of the word "sent".

In Chicago politics a key question has always been, who "sent" you? The classic phrase is ... from an anecdote of Abner Mikva's, the former White House Counsel (Pres. Clinton) ... As a young student ... he walked into the local committeman's office ... and was immediately asked: "Who sent you?" Mikva replied, "nobody sent me." And the retort came back from the cigar chomping pol: "Well, we don't want nobody that nobody sent."

So it is reasonable to ask, who "sent" Barack Obama? In other words, how can his meteoric rise to political prominence be explained?

Mr. Fernandez continued:

Diamond's answer is speculative, but informative because it provides a look back into the youthful life and times of the man who might be the next President of the United States.

(So), who did “send” Obama? The key I think is his ties not to well connected uber lawyer Newton Minow, as Kaufman suggests, but more likely to the family of (in)famous former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers – not just Bill Ayers, but also Bill’s father Tom Ayers and his brother John as well. Obama was a community organizer from about 1985 to 1988, when he left Chicago for Harvard Law School.

In a May, 2008, article about Mr. Obama's connections with Mr. Ayers, the Chicago Tribune's Ron Grossman wrote of how Ms. Dohrn's and Mr. Ayers' connections had helped to propel the former fugitives to prominence in Chicago:

(I)t's hard for an outsider not to see the map of family connections behind their paths.

Ayers' father moved in philanthropic circles with Howard Trienens, an attorney with the powerhouse firm of Sidley Austin. The two served together on Northwestern University's Board of Trustees. Ayers was chairman of that group, then handed the post off to Trienens in 1986.

Trienens headed Sidley Austin when the firm hired Dohrn in 1984. She had never practiced law and had been out of law school for 17 years.

Ultimately, the Tribune Company's retention of Sidley Austin to handle it's rumored bankruptcy proceedings is more instructive than it is surprising. As Mr. Grossman wrote in the Chicago Tribune, Sidley Austin is a "powerhouse" law firm; it has deep ties to many of Chicago's movers and shakers. And Chicago, like New York and Washington, D.C., is a city where powerful individuals run in small, insular circles.

There's nothing wrong with the Tribune Company's retention of a powerful law firm to represent it's interests. To the contrary: hiring Sidley Austin was an obvious move for Tribune Co. But it's worth noting that in Chicago -- the city that gave rise to the concept of "clout" -- the Tribune Company's law firm has more clout (i.e., connections to the powerful) than almost any other.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Female Iowa Fan Travels to Road Game, Gets Drunk, Has Extra-Marital Sex With Stranger in Men's Room Stall, Places Blame on Husband

Meet Lois Feldman. Mrs. Feldman, from Carroll, Iowa, is an Iowa Hawkeyes fan who traveled to Minneapolis, MN, with her husband to attend a football game between her beloved Hawkeyes and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Unfortunately for the Feldmans, things didn't exactly go according to plan, as University of Minnesota campus police caught a very drunk Mrs. Feldman having sex with a stranger in a men's room stall at the Metrodome.

Now Mrs. Feldman is complaining that the incident has ruined her life; she lost her job as an administrator at an assisted living facility, and she has become the most famous cougar/cheating wife in Iowa. Interestingly, Mrs. Feldman seems to think that she bears no responsibility for her skanky behavior at the Iowa vs. Minnesota game. In fact, she's placed the blame on everyone but herself. First, she blamed her intoxication on the people who she tailgated with:

Feldman, who describes herself as a light drinker, drank wine at the home of family friends before the football game.

She said she doesn’t remember how much she drank, but the party’s hosts refilled her glass each time it was low “so I’m sure I drank a lot.”

Then she hinted that her husband was at fault because he permitted her go to the game in her inebriated condition:

Feldman said her husband later told her he’d tried to talk her out of the game because she was intoxicated.
“He said I didn’t realize it was that bad,” she said. Feldman said her husband accompanied her to the game, but their friends stayed home.

Finally, she accused the guy who she hooked up with in the men's room stall of "taking advantage of her."
One sentence later, however, she insisted that her adulterous bathroom sex shouldn't be held against her anyway, due to her drunken state at the time of the incident:

"I was taken advantage of in my state of mind,” she said. “This is not me. We’re a very good family. This shouldn’t happen.”

Notice that Mrs. Feldman hasn't apologized for her incident. Nor has she publicly asked for forgiveness from her family or from the community. She has, however, absolved herself of any guilt whatsoever. And she's put the blame squarely on the shoulders of three separate parties: the tailgaters, her husband, and the stranger in the men's room.

Also notice that, despite all her finger pointing and playing of the blame game, Mrs. Feldman has informed the public -- albeit indirectly -- that her indiscretion shouldn't actually be held against her, as she was drunk at the time (guys who are veterans of the modern dating scene may recognize the oft used "I was drunk, so it doesn't count" argument -- no word, however, as to why she continues to hold the guy with whom she hooked up responsible for "taking advantage" of her if it doesn't count anyway). What's more, she reminded everyone that she's a good person who comes from a good family, and that she doesn't do the kinds of things that she did.

Finally, Drive and Dish would be remiss if we didn't point out that her beta male, Hawkeye fan husband has been "supportive" of her. In a more just world, he'd tell her to get lost, and to go support herself.


Classical Values ponders whether Lois Feldman should be able to claim that she was raped.

More on Mrs. Feldman's behavior here.