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Archive for May, 2010

It’s my fault. I knew this would happen.

This past Monday I sat on the couch and reveled in the Celtic’s complete dismantling of the Magic. Their 3-0 lead partnered with the Lakers dominant looking 2-0 over the Suns meant, in my mind, that a Lakers vs. Celtics finals was imminent. Images of Bird and Magic battling and Kurt Rambis being clothes-lined were running through my head.

Sunday night the Los Angeles crowd had thrown down the gauntlet. Chants of “We want Boston” issued the challenge. The Garden responded eagerly, as it always does. “Beat L.A.” was the response. The greatest rivalry in NBA basketball was about to be renewed.

I was in all out “Beat L.A.” mode. This is where I stumbled.

I have always jokingly (sort of) preached against jinxing your team. If your team won a playoff game with everyone in certain seats then they better be in those seats come game 2 of the series. Up 1 in the 9th with 2 outs is not the time to adjust your cap. Why mess with success?

Do these things actually affect anything? Maybe not. But are you willing to risk it? Are you willing to have the weight of a playoff collapse placed on your desire to wash your shirt? I didn’t think so.

Despite my history as the Jinx-Police – I dropped my guard. In my exuberance for the impending clash I wanted to do my part. I entered “Beat LA t-shirts” into Google, and found the simple, yet classic shirt that took over Beantown for the mid-80’s.  Eighteen bucks – a steal. My decision was made.

As my cursor hovered over the “Complete Purchase” button a fleeting moment of wisdom washed over me. Did we not just witness the Boston Bruins blow a 3-0 series lead. Would it kill me to wait two days for them to close out the series and THEN order the shirt? I ran it by the family and they just chuckled – assuming I would never make such an egregious error. My mind then drifted to the way the Celtics were making Orlando look like a high school squad and my enlightenment left me. I ordered the shirt.

Then game 4 happened. With a little help from a dull C’s effort and Paul Pierce conducting the worst final possession since Naismith hung a peach basket on a wall – the Magic won the game in OT (on the Garden parquet, no less) in eerily similar fashion to Game 4 of the Flyers/Bruins series. I was troubled. Yet we had beat them twice on the road already. Surely we would close them out in game 5.

Nope.

The Green got outplayed, and outhustled in every facet of game 5. I watched in dismay as the energetic Magic ran circles around our AARP stars. I cringed as Perkins collected his seventh, playoff technical foul and was ejected (a terrible call – justly earned by Perkins consistently winsome personality and gracious spirit). A handful of Celtic concussions later and the whole team – not just Big Baby – was looking like they had spent one too many rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson. 113-92 and it wasn’t that close.

What about L.A.? The Lakers dropped their next two in ugly fashion. The Lakers and C’s were 0-4 since I had purchased “the shirt”. I now began envisioning my shirt arriving in the mail, as nothing more than a depressing reminder of a second playoff collapse in a month.

So, there it is. If you had told me at the beginning of the series that we would be up 3-2 with a chance to close it out at the Garden, I would have been thrilled. There is still no reason we shouldn’t punch a ticket to the Finals tonight. Yet, just a few hours before the game I am in panic mode and it’s all my fault.

If things go horribly awry tonight – I’m sorry Boston. I’m sorry.

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A Basement Athlete’s Testimony

Hi. My name is Adam and I am a recovering Deluded Athlete. Thanks to DA, I have been clean for 3 weeks, but…

Have you ever heard your voice on a recording? Is there anybody who hears that and doesn’t say “I don’t sound like that!” Everyone nearby tells you, “No, that’s really what you sound like.” That doesn’t help. Quickly you forget about it and go back to the ignorant bliss of hearing your own voice in your own head.

The familiar dismay of that experience…is exactly what I experience when I get an authentic glimpse at my actual athleticism.

As you all know well – I love sports. I had a delightful and relatively illustrious, youthful, 3 to 4-sport career. I don’t want to boast, but you are talking to a man who turned an unassisted triple play in 8 year old baseball, once hit 91 of 100 free throws in the driveway (as well as winning a 9 year old free throw contest at the Franklin, New Hampshire Rec. Center). Brace yourself – I’m the guy who, in 1999, struck out Mason Roberge 3 times in one game, under the lights! (Complete game, 10 strikeouts, in the grunt-like-Monica Seles-with-every-pitch era of my pitching career). I know you are impressed.

Vital side-note – My cousin Brian finished second in that free throw contest. I always relished pointing out how short his trophy was.

Apparently free throw superiority does not an athlete make.

I remember my first glimpse of a video of one of my basketball games – my bubble didn’t burst. It exploded.

My family always jabbed me about my lack of cat-like, physical prowess. I knew I didn’t possess the raw athleticism of Lebron or Usain Bolt. It’s just that I assumed that my limitations were more the Larry Bird brand of un-athleticism than the Brian Scalabrine vein of un-athleticism. The tale of the tape was sobering.

The game on the video was a perfect snapshot of why I fancy myself a real athlete. I didn’t play poorly. I scored 15ish points and played rock-solid defense. The problem was never respectable production, but rather how I looked pulling it off.

It was a play midway through the second quarter. To this day, my memory of the moment is crystal clear. I received the ball just over half-court, turned and darted – gazelle-like – across the three-point line, before pulling up and nailing an 18-foot jumper.

Not exactly.

Upon further review, I apparently caught the ball just outside the 3-point line. The high-light reel footage then revealed a husky, 11 year old body impersonating a mix between a 90 year old man speed walking and a wounded animal. I shuffled forward five or six steps before pulling up and sinking the 18-foot jumper (set-shot). Yes! I had that final part right! Ah, outside shooting…the chunky, slow, white guy’s loyal friend.

My family – my own family – laughed with cruel pleasure, as the reality of the situation swept across my face.

I’ve since recovered. That’s the party line at least.

Listen…I do love sports. In the moment – I can get lost in almost any dramatic sports situation. Forget an October, Red Sox game…I can be briefly enraptured by any game coming down to the closing moments, with the result still in question. It grabs my attention and it won’t let go. Whether it’s game 7 of the World Series or this afternoon’s wiffle-ball game, where I faced a 3-run deficit with 2 outs in the final inning and the bases loaded with imaginary runners.

(Walk-off grand slam by the way…booyah.)

For better or for worse, any success I have ever had in sports was made through caring more passionately than everyone else. It was never through besting someone physically. I’m the type of person who takes every golf shot with the knowledge that the golf handicap required to enter a U.S. Open qualifier is 1.4. Just in case my 9.8 ever takes a precipitous drop of 8.4. I don’t expect to win a major or anything…I’ll just qualify for the Open as an unknown name and have an unexpected – yet magical – first three rounds, before grittily losing to Tiger or Phil, in a hard-fought playoff. I’m not unrealistic. I would obviously never win in that situation.

I’m the guy who won two (2), yes, TWO “110% Team Player” awards. Take that in. Move on.

I would love to be the sober, non-gambling Pete Rose. An MVP, yet the guy who would sacrifice life and limb to stretch a single into a double, pummel his body diving into 3rd base, or bowl the catcher over to win the meaningless, 1970 All-Star game.

Instead, I’m the guy who has convinced himself that tearing my ACL at 13 years old stunted my athletic career. The guy who remembers playing a full basketball game on an undiagnosed, torn ACL and broken tibia and still scored 8 points. The guy who therefore realistically assumed that I would have score 40 on a healthy leg. I had the heart of Charlie Hustle, Larry Legend, or Trot Nixon and I was even a starting player on most of my community sports league teams.

So what am I saying? I’m planning on golfing tomorrow. If I can break 80 then my handicap will be one step closer to 1.4 and the U.S. Open Trophy.

Wish me luck.

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Hello, Ladies & Gentlemen. Welcome to my first “Sharks & Lamps” post. I will occasionally share unsolicited opinions on random things in sports, entertainment, history, theology, politics – life in general – that I think are either overrated or underrated. No real rhyme or reason. Just whatever is on my mind.

What do you mean the title confuses you? Sharks are so overrated as killing machines. There are more people killed every year by falling coconuts than by shark attacks. And what lamp really gets the appreciation it deserves, when you really stop and think about it? I really shouldn’t of had to explain this.

Overrated

Phil Jackson – Doesn’t winning a record ten NBA championships as a coach make you the greatest coach of all time? No. Just…no. The “Zen Master” sits eight wins from yet another title and I am nauseated* to hear him included in the same discussion as the great, Red Auerbach – simply because the legendary Celtics coach only racked up nine. Red smoked his victory cigars after building the Celtics dynasty from scratch. He implemented his strategy with skill, precision, and a prescient recognition of talent. In the process, He changed the way basketball teams were run.

Of course I’m not saying that Jackson isn’t a capable coach, but look what he had to work with. He coached Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaq in their primes! Is “triangle offense” anything more than code for “give the ball to MJ.” You could plug in any hobo you pulled off a park bench – or even Mike Brown – and they would be bound to win a few rings with those players.

Great coach? Probably. Overrated? Absolutely.

Christopher Columbus – So what’s my offense with the man who supposedly discovered the new world? Well – jog my memory – what exactly did he “discover” again? Oh, you were thinking about that time he got lost, wandered around, landed in what he thought was India – and found other people already living there? Does this mean I can arrive at any place I’ve never been and call dibs on having discovered it?

GUY 1: Hey! I discovered Toledo!

GUY 2: Over 300,000 people live in Toledo…

GUY 1: Well I don’t know any of them and they look funny.

Columbus is GUY 1.

As if that’s not bad enough…

To this day we refer to Native-Americans as “Indians” because Columbus thought he was in India. Seriously? Our identification of an entire race of people is defined by Columbus not having a GPS? Had he seen a long, winding wall when he got there would he have called them Chinese?

How this guy got all the attention he has I will never know. Overrated doesn’t even describe it. I’m all worked up now.

Underrated

Events That Make You Hug Strangers – Thanks to Meghan Daly for pointing this out to me. Meghan went down to the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia to watch Game 7 of the Bruins/Flyers series on the jumbo-tron. (Why did I let myself get emotionally invested? Why did I do that to myself? Why? Anyway…) She described the unabashed frenzy of 20,000 people erupting as the go ahead goal was scored. Complete strangers were jumping on top of one another, high fiving , and – to use Meghan’s words – “intimately and joyfully hugging one another.”

Have you ever been to an event like this? The fun insanity is indescribable. I’ve only been to one…

Last year Jackie and I went to Game 1 of the Celtics/Magic playoff series in Boston. We lost the game, but there were about 15 minutes in the fourth quarter that were like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

Early in the third quarter the Green were down by almost 30. Hope had been abandoned – when  they started inching back. 30 became 20, and people started high fiving.  20 became 12 and you started hugging your wife, your new found friends, and even the guy down the row with the wacky hat, covered with tattoos. When Ray Allen hit a three to cut the lead to 4 – the place exploded. A guy closely resembling Big Mike from American Idol immediately placed me in a bear-hug, lifted me off the ground, and blasted in my ear, “This is going to happen!!” People were draped over each other. You frantically scrambled for someone else to hug. I looked up at the 17 championship banners hanging from the rafters and they were actually swaying in the insanity. The man next to me threw his five year old son up in the air and shouted “I’m so glad I’m here with you!!” – his shouts barely audible over the rattling stadium.

Coming off an Orlando timeout Ray Allen took a 3 that would have cut it to 1. The ball sunk half way through the rim and then – in a torturous and gravity-defying twist – hopped back out. I still wonder if the building would have stayed on its foundations if that shot had gone down.

Yeah. Way underrated.

Tim McCarver’s Ability to Make Inane Comments – I’m not plowing new ground here. I’ve written about color-commentators and their groan-inducing ways. Mr. McCarver, however, still manages to make me cock my head to one side and say, “hmmm.”

During last Saturday’s Red Sox/Yankees game he offered this gem.

“When covering second to turn a double-play, players like to get the transfer throw at the letters. Because that’s where their arms are.”

…Sigh…

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* Footnote Tangent

Yes, People, it’s “nauseated” not “nauseous”! To be “nauseous” means that you cause or induce sickness, not that you are sick or feel sick to your stomach. I don’t care if some prominent Dictionaries have buckled under and submitted to common ignorance. So, to be clear, Phil Jackson makes me nauseated, not nauseous – though I must confess that, more than once, when someone has announced that they were nauseous, I have been sorely tempted to say, “I couldn’t agree more!”

Send your Overrated/Underrated ideas to adamshorey@enjoyinggrace.org.

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Pink Hats, Bandwagon hoppers, Front–running weasels, Post-LeBron Cavs fans, Fair Weather Fans.

These are a sampling of the labels that I and other commenters on the blog have used to slander  “Johnny-come lately” fans across the nation. I have disparaged those who happen to find themselves fans of the Cowboys, Yankees, Lakers, and Duke Basketball – even though they were born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan or Hoboken, New Jersey.  I have ridiculed the droves of people who don’t know who Carlton Fisk, Bernie Carbo, or even Nomar Garciaparra are; yet they brazenly refer to the Red Sox as “we.” As if those who lived through Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, and Aaron Boone didn’t earn any special stature or provenness. I’ve treated most Yankee’s fans as sub-par human beings, if they don’t have geography or a family heritage to explain their allegiance to the Bronx Bombers. Okay, fine – even if they do have geographical or familial credentials. I have proposed creating “qualification” tests to distinguish real fans from the fake.

So I am a confessed “fan snob” – something of a sports elitist in my own humble mind. It bothers me that counterfeit fans don’t have to wear a t-shirt or something to identify themselves as such – a Scarlet “C” as it were.

This post (though this may not have been evident so far) is something of a confession. I didn’t watch more than 5 minutes of a Bruins game not played at Fenway Park this season. Three weeks ago, I didn’t know the names of more than four or five players – if that.

Yet here I sit – the Bruins on the verge of a Yankee-esque choke*, fighting against the Flyers and momentum for a dream matchup against the arch-rival Habs in the Conference Finals. I, Adam Shorey, find myself watching the clock, waiting for a gut wrenchingly decisive Game 7. Yes, a hockey game.

It’s official. 2010 might be my year of fair-weather fandom.

I excused my passion for USA hockey as an example of pure patriotism. I overlooked the level I rooted for Butler (where my Grandfather Ellis was offered – but chose not to accept – a full basketball scholarship in 1958) in the Final Four as just another example of rooting for the underdog. I became suspicious of myself when I realized that I was watching the World Cup selection show (as a less-than-proven soccer fan) and subsequently counting down the days until what may be the biggest soccer game in United States history – vs. England on June 12. Today’s eager anticipation of an NHL game confirmed it.

I realize and confess that I am not a “real” Bruins fan, but the excitement of these playoffs is undeniable.

So this entire post is just an extended preface and apology for saying…

Go Bruins.

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* Footnote Tangent

I find deep satisfaction in knowing that every time any team, in any sport, takes a 3-0 lead in any series, that ESPN will pull up a Sportscenter graphic to make note that the only MLB team in history to blow such a lead was our dear New York Yankees – as the Red Sox marched to the 2004 Championship.

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So apparently cats don’t always land on their feet. I’ve grown accustomed to prominent politicians, entertainers, and athletes

breezing through scandals unscathed – reinventing themselves overnight. I had assumed, by now, that this particular scandal would already be well in the rearview mirror and that we would be marveling at one more layer of this man’s invincibility. I realized, this week, that the consequences of the Tiger Woods saga – for Tiger Woods – are far more real and stubborn than I had supposed.

From my perspective, the low-point of Tiger’s PR nightmare didn’t happen on Thanksgiving night – snoring in the breakdown lane, with a 3-iron impaled in the rear window. Nor did it come when scintillating text messages were released, or when mistress number ten came forward – or fourteen or fifteen. It didn’t come at his scripted, android-like press conference, or when he reverted at Augusta to the curt, cursing, club-slamming Tiger we’ve always known. It didn’t even come when he missed the cut at Quail Hollow, calling his previously irreproachable game into question.

No, to me Tiger’s lowest point (so far, at least) came this week at the Tour’s “fifth major” – The Players Championship. The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass hosts one of the most spectacular and flavorful challenges on the PGA Tour schedule. The nerve-fraying 17th island green was where Tiger thrilled the gallery by holing a winding 60 footer on his way to winning in 2001. Last week, however, Sawgrass became the arena for what – one must charitably hope – is the low point in the career of the greatest golfer ever to lace up a pair of funny looking shoes.

After three pedestrian rounds, Mr. Woods was well out of contention. He then did something completely unexpected on the 7th hole on Sunday. He pulled out of the tournament, citing a previously unmentioned neck injury. That’s a big deal under any circumstances. Tiger Woods doesn’t make a habit of quitting tournaments. Yet what struck me differently was not the withdrawal, but rather the unfamiliar media reaction.

They were skeptical. Some overtly called the injury fake – a possible ploy to take the attention off of his slipping golf game. An effort to squeeze sympathy out of the fans and media – to reframe the storyline of his recent struggles with the revelation of hidden pain and suffering.

Lest we forget, for more than a decade – prior to Thanksgiving evening – Tiger Woods was a god in the sports world.  Tiger singlehandedly revitalized the image and popularity of golf. I myself first picked up a club after watching Tiger annihilate the Master’s field in 1997. He is rumored to be the first billionaire athlete, mostly acquired through his enormous, now-dwindling endorsement deals. Along with Michael Jordan and, more recently, LeBron James, Tiger was one of the athletes who evoked worshipful tones from sports anchors across the country – tones that are commonly reserved for Presidents, Oprah, or, you know…God.

Tiger hit the peak of his deity status at the 2008 U.S. Open where he continued his seemingly inevitable march towards surpassing Jack Nicklaus’s record for most majors won in a career, by winning this highlight tournament on one healthy leg. After winning, he missed most of the next year recovering from knee surgery.

From there, it was all down hill.

This precipitous, painful freefall has been covered ad nauseum in the last six months, but became permanently significant (for me at least) when, this weekend,  the media rolled their eyes and criticized the man they once revered.

Tiger has done inconceivable things on the golf course. That’s his world. He has never been particularly pleasant in the way he did it. Aloof and self-indulgent – his personability has never been as good as his short game. Tiger is about to discover just how long the trek back up the mountain really is.

Will Tiger return to glory on the golf course? Maybe. Probably. Given his driven nature when it comes to golf it seems likely that he will recover enough to get the five majors he needs to pass Nicklaus. Much will be made of this, and (from a golf perspective) deservedly so. He really is the greatest to ever play the game. Can he ever recover his image or personal stature?

In happier days the sportscasters would have told you to never doubt Tiger Woods. Yet – honestly – I don’t think he can do it.

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Some of the greatest athletes of all time have had memorable and successful comebacks. Do you realize that Michael Jordan won as many championships after his comeback as he did before he retired to play baseball? George Foreman won the heavyweight title after retiring…twice. Golfer, Bobby Jones, returned after a devastating car accident to win many more majors, and Ted Williams won MVP awards after serving in WWII. Am I saying that the return of the Basement Athlete is as big as that of Michael Jordan, George Foreman, Bobby Jones, or Ted Williams?

I would never say that, but the numbers do speak for themselves.

It has been 268 days since the last time I posted on the blog. Do you remember 268 days ago? Obama was president and gas was really expensive? Ah…those were the days. We were so young and innocent.

Last summer I was consistently posting on the blog and enjoying every minute of it. All four of my readers were being moved to tears, laughter, and driven to reflection. Then…silence. Had some harm come to the Basement Athlete? Where were his life-altering posts? Accusations of writers block began to fly. Where was the Basement Athlete?

School. I was at school. Suddenly my writing was assigned and required and, if possible, substantially less witty.

Yet, summer has come and the additional time needed for writing has brought my mind back to the slightly, mildly successful Basement Athlete blog.

So please stay tuned, as I hope to begin posting with some relative consistency again in the days ahead.

Please check in tomorrow for the first new post…

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