Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Remembering Ol' Dirty Bastard - An NBA Tribute

Today is the third anniversary of the death of the one of the most charismatic rappers in hip-hop history. Ol' Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan was a hero of mine, an inspiration who stuck it to The Man and lived life on his terms. Ol' Dirty didn't make much sense with his off-beat rhymes and sing-song drunken ramblings, but in an age of overproduction and cookie-cutter YouTube hip-hop dance songs, the surviving work of Mr. Russell Jones serves as a beacon of originality, a lighthouse on a coast of commercialism.

So in honor of the rhymes and times of Ol' Dirt McGirt, I've hand-picked five of his lyrics, spread out over his catalog, and applied them to persons of NBA significance. Enjoy.

"My advantage on the M-I-C is the slang/ That I manifest so you could never hang / Obviously you know my name by now/ I done thrown stupid parties all through your town" - "Goin' Down", Return to the 36 Chambers (1995)

Only one NBA player seemingly invents his own slang and throws the most stupid parties. The same player who lives in his own hyperbolic chamber and cheats at Halo - the one, the only Gilbert Arenas. Arenas has many NBA fans, especially bloggers, sprung on his every word and will assuredly use that advantage come the All-Star election.

"The things that you learnt in class is trash / You can't do nothin' wit' it, I put you in the past" - "Caught Up", The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones (2002)

The NBA has definitely been rough for 2006 NCAA leading scorers JJ Redick and Adam Morrison. Last year both struggled to adjust their game to the NBA level, with Redick battling injuries and Morrison becoming a punchline on defense. This year, it is Morrison who is hurt and Redick is again struggling, scoring only two points all season.

"Screwface ya bitches put food on y'all / He won't slip, won't trip, won't ever fall / Bitch you better obey me, better not betray me" - "I Want P**sy", N*gga Please (1999)

Only one man in the NBA is more untouchable than Elliot Ness. The man with the Teflon rep and the smooth smile. The Billy Dee Williams of the NBA, Isiah Thomas. Although the Knicks have clawed their way to mediocrity of late, Thomas's reverse Midas Touch and ability to weasel out of a possibly career-ending sexual harassment suit and still keep his job will soon be the stuff of legend.

"Crews be actin like they gangs, anyway / Be like, "Warriors! Come out and playiyay!" / Burn me, I get into shit, I let it out like diarrhea / Got burnt once, but that was only gonorrhea" - "Shame on a N*gga", Enter the Wu-Tang (1992)

With the Warriors struggling out the gate and the Mavericks accounting for one of their losses already, you know Dirk Nowitzki is salivating like Pavlov's dogs at the chance to get his revenge for last year's playoffs. Supposedly, Nowitzki took a few weeks off of basketball this summer to recharge. Don't be surprised to see that his offtime pays off come playoff time and he looks like a man on a mission. Nowitzki isn't looking to get burnt twice.

"I don't know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children." - the 1998 Grammy Awards

For all of Ol' Dirty's legal entanglements, his drug possessions, and his general disregard for the rules of society, there is one moment that showed the true nature and giving personality of Mr. Russell Jones. In February 1998, ODB helped save the life of a 4-year old girl trapped in a car wreck outside of his recording studio. This action allowed the girl to get into the care of hospital personnel much quicker.

Like Ol' Dirty Bastard, Ron Artest's NBA career has been marked with constant conflict. Like ODB, detractors of Ron Artest feel his inclusion in the league sets a bad example for the youth. However, this summer, Artest participated in a trip to Kenya to help feed underprivileged children in sub-Saharan Africa. Whether or not this proves to be an epiphany in Artest's life has yet to be seen, but it does show Artest too is for the children.

So R.I.P. to the ODB. There will never be another.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembering Ol' Dirty Bastard

His sound was an acquired taste. Those who like hip-hop liked Ol' Dirty; those with no affinity for hip-hop thought he was horrible. He was a rapper for the fellas, although he won over the ladies with songs with Kelis, Mya, and Mariah. He became a folk hero of sorts, a pre-cursor to Flavor Flav's VH1 celebrity. How could he be a famous rapper and still be on welfare, they asked? He was the epitome of celebrity ills, an artist whose character overwhelmed his real self. Where would he have been without hip-hop? Although it may have been his status that fueled his self-destruction, it was the talent behind that status that blazed an unforgettable path in hip-hop history.

R.I.P. Ol' Dirty Bastard
(November 15, 1968 - November 13, 2004)

Probably the oddest O.D.B. tribute you will ever see, by Buckethead.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Not quite a night at Baseball's General Manager Meetings

Following the success of last year's trip to baseball's annual Winter Meetings, I decided to once again attempt to crash the main stage and hob-knob with baseball's power brokers. This year my target was the General Managers' Meeting, a pow-wow of baseball's wheelers and dealers. While not as grandiose as the Winter Meetings, the General Managers' meeting usually lays the groundwork for transactions throughout baseball's off season.

Similar to last year, my trip to the GM Meeting began at the end of the work day. Although last year I was able to leave at 4pm and avoid a majority of the Tampa-Orlando traffic, this year I wasn't so lucky. Call it foreshadowing.

What follows is a chronological description of my night. No, it's not a diary. It's a journal.

4:58 - left work. Yeah, that's right. I normally get out at 5, but because I had something to do, I left two minutes early. Gotta love stickin' it The Man.

5:00 - 6:20 - listened to Playboy Radio on the way to Orlando. Yes, that's a plug. Playboy Radio is the only talk radio I listen to. And I am awesome at their dating quiz show. One day I might just call in.

6:25 - Arrived at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel and Resort.

6:26 - Stopped at the gate by a sweet old lady in a security uniform who politely asked me what my business was at the hotel. Rather than saying, "I'm a huge Pat Gillick fan and I heard he was here", I went with the more confusing "Umm ... a friend told me to meet him here." That always works.

6:28 - Unfortunately, the sweet little gate guard didn't let me in. She pulled out her clipboard and asked for his name. Here is where I should have pulled an Obi-Wan Kenobi, waved my hand, and used the Force to control her weak and feeble mind. Instead, she was persistent that I not pass the gate without either a valid reason or proof that someone I know (and who knows me) was somehow beyond the gate.

6:30 - Dejected, I made a U-turn and pulled away from the hotel. I was curious though, what lay beyond the gate? Is that the normal procedure? Did the hotel put this little old lady at the gate to protect the sanctity of the general managers' meeting? I've always pictured the general managers hanging out in a smokey bar, sipping whiskey, and plotting their next blockbuster trade. Perhaps it's more like their own Hedonism event.

6:40 - Instead of getting back on the highway and driving the hour and a half back home, I decided to see if I couldn't get into the Hyatt another way. Might there be a back entrance, one that doesn't have a merciless old lady manning the gate?

6:42 - Pulled into a nearby Chinese buffet. I was attempting my own Mission Impossible. This was going to be a Dead Presidents-type gig.

6:48 - Walked along a passageway separating the Chinese buffet from a hotel neighboring the Hyatt. So far, so good.

6:52 - Strolled along the perimeter of the hotel's parking lot looking for a way in ... a break in the fence, anything.

6:54 - Found a way in. Although most of the fence dividing the two hotels was at least six feet high and lined with barbwire, a small section was not. It lacked barbwire completely and was only five feet or so in height. This was my way in.

6:54 and 24 seconds - Looked at the fence and its surrounding shrubbery.

6:54 and 32 seconds - Kept staring at the fence. You know, I am not as spry as I used to be. Especially when I am still fresh dressed like a million bucks in my work clothes.

6:54 and 51 seconds - What if I got arrested for trespassing?

6:55 - Do you think if I got busted for trespassing I can get Peter Gammons to interview me from jail? Maybe some one else? I'll even take Skip Bayless.

6:55 and 49 seconds - Tried to psych myself up for a simple fence climb - a hop, skip, and a jump into the bacchanalia that is the GM Meetings.

On second thought ...

6:56 - Walked back to my truck.

6:58 - Felt a vibration in my pocket. Realized it was my phone. Glad I didn't try to sneak in. Fielding phone calls while trying to sneak into a world-class resort is probably not advisable.

6:59 - Talked to my mom. I'm sure she would have been happy if I told her I was trying to break in to a resort to meet with people from pro baseball. She would have understood. She's supportive like that.

7:03 - Got in my truck and drove the long, dark, lonely highway home.

I'll be the first to admit this year's visit to the GM Meetings was nowhere near as productive as last year's trip to the Winter Meetings. This year there was no Ozzie, no Omar, no Jim Leyland, and no admittance.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jay Busbee loves the Mets ... just kidding ... just the '86 version

As a result of a tied bet, both myself and Atlanta blogger/writer/connoisseur of southern things Jay Busbee decide to write our favorite versions of the other's favorite team. Unfortunately, Jay is a Braves fan so I had to write about the Braves on his site. And here is his take on the Mets team that absolutely won me over those many moons ago. Jeez, has it really been 21 years since the Mets won anything?

Hey there, Serious Tip readers. I’m Jay Busbee, head honcho over at the Atlanta sports site Right Down Peachtree. Being an Atlanta sports site, one of our obsessions is the Atlanta Braves ... which puts us directly at odds with Mets fans like Jordi here. So back at the beginning of this season, Jordi and I made a little wager, much like those cheesy mayor-versus-mayor bets. Whoever’s team won more games would get the benefit of a post from the other guy. Worse, the loser would have to write about the winner’s team ... in positive terms.

Well, the Braves and the Mets split the season 9-9. If either team had managed to put together a winning record against the other, they would’ve probably been in the playoffs. But it wasn’t to be, for either of us. (Tom Glavine has been spotted driving a brand-new red-and-blue Lamborghini around the streets of Alpharetta, Georgia, but that’s another story.) Anyway, earlier this week Jordi turned in a fine essay on the 1977 Braves, perhaps the most woeful team ever assembled.

Me, I’m taking the opposite tack. My personal favorite Mets team—besides the ones that finished in second place behind Atlanta, of course — was the 1986 squad. Thanks to legions of annoying Red Sox fans — who make me want to embrace Mets fans at this point — the 1986 season is known at least as much for “it gets behind the bag!” as it was for the Mets.

And that’s a damn shame, because the 1986 Mets were — oh my lord, I can’t believe I’m typing this — one of the coolest teams of all time.

Look at that team: Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, a couple of young phenoms who were already being sized up for Hall of Fame plaques—and, based on what they’d already demonstrated, deservedly so. Keith Hernandez, probably the best defensive first baseman of all time. (Before baseball ruled it illegal, he used to stand in foul ground to make it easier to lay tags on runners leading off.) Gary Carter and Ray Knight were among the best in the game at their respective positions. Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, and Wally Backman, young loons who were every bit as talented as they thought they were. And Davey Johnson, a manager who had no problem declaring right from the start that this team was going to kick in the teeth of the rest of the league ... and proceeded to inspire his team to do just that.

The team began with a 20-4 record in April, and — much like the 2007 Patriots — didn’t let up at any point during the season. They got into no less than four bench-clearing brawls over the season; in July, so many players got thrown out of the game that Johnson had to put nutjob pitcher Roger McDowell in right field. The team finished with an astonishing 108 wins, running away from the league and fooling the rest of the sporting world into thinking that collections of wacko personalities could actually gel into a cohesive unit.

But as impressive as the regular season was, it couldn’t compare to the ’86 Mets’ postseason—particularly the two Game 6s. In Game 6 of the NLCS, facing the Astros, the Mets found themselves down 3-0 after the first inning, and wouldn’t tie up the game until the ninth. The game ran until the 16th, when the Mets put three across in the top of the inning, the Astros followed with two in the bottom, and Orosco closed the door with the winning run on base.

Game 6 of the World Series saw the Mets down to their final strike before Mookie hit that fateful slow roller up the line. Of course, the Red Sox still had a chance to win the Series in Game 7, but much like the Bartman fiasco with the Cubs nearly two decades later, the Sox were dead before the first pitch of Game 7 was ever thrown. (Interesting side note: I was at the 1993 Old-Timers’ Game befre the All-Star Game in Baltimore. Buckner was playing first. Somebody hit a slow roller up the line, Buckner fielded it flawlessly, and you could hear 50,000 people go “ohhhhh ...” — as in, “Why couldn’t he have done that seven years ago?”

Anyway, the ’86 Mets were a once-in-a-lifetime collection of insanity, and sure enough, they all fractured not long afterward. Strawberry, Gooden, and Hernandez saw their careers affected or derailed by drugs. Dykstra achieved more fame as the sparkplug of the grubby 1993 NL Champion Phillies, and is now — I swear this is true, here’s the link — a stock-picking columnist for TheStreet.com. Hernandez and McDowell were the first and second spitters in that famous Seinfeld episode, and McDowell is now the mild-mannered pitching coach of the Braves.

So raise a beer — or something stronger — to the 1986 New York Mets. (Check out Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won! for far more on the subject.) They were baseball’s last great team of knuckleheads that actually won anything. (The 2004 Red Sox were self-promoting, self-aware knuckleheads, which is infinitely worse.) In a world of 24-hour sports scrutiny, we’ll never see their like again, and that’s a damn shame.