Category Archives: Sports

The New Lakers

Given the possibility of injuries, the ineptitude of general managers, drunken violence, rape newlakerscharges, and an utter lack of loyalty to anything but the pursuit of the almighty buck, I am probably way premature in heralding the coming-into-being, as I see it, of the New Lakers.  But I have enjoyed watching these guys lately; the fourth quarter comeback led by the bench in the fourth quarter against Minnesota was something to watch, something inspiring and surprising in the way the Lakers have not been in a long time.

The old Lakers, with Magic and Kareem, were the New Lakers, part 1.  They were interesting and surprising because Magic was always interesting and surprising, and those guys had chemistry, with Kareem playing DC to Magic’s AC.  There’s just something thought provoking about a tormented, introverted, 7’6 guy, who played basketball for his very life, for this one chance at being something other than a genetic freak, along side of wonderfully gifted exhibitionist and flaming extrovert who played for the pure and simple fun of it.

I won’t go now into the misery of the Van Excel years, and, while I do like to watch a team that wins, I never did enjoy Kobe and Shaq.  Sure they won, but they were damned predictable.  Either Kobe would end up dribbling endlessly to get a shot or they would throw into the Big Maw and he would dribble back and forth moving around people with that roadhouse butt of his.  Never, in the entire history of basketball, has any body made such devastating use of his butt than Shaq.  He never learned how to shot the basketball but he could open his own summer camp on the use of the butt in the low post.  Of all the Big Things Shaq called himself, he never did pay adequate tribute to his single greatest physical assist, and that was his butt.

They just weren’t any fun.  But more like the Yankees have become of late; just the best basketball team money could buy, especially in that truly pathetic last year of Shaq’s tenure, what with Gary, the Punk, Payton, and Karl, Joint Grinding, Malone.  What the hell were they thinking?  I mean the guys upstairs.  And, as for the guys down on the floor, they just never did click.  I was glad Shaq left and I am glad he was the one that did.

But back to the present.  I don’t remember a Laker team as deep, except maybe for that year or two they could bring in Bob McAdoo to replace King Kareem.  Now that was something.  But I would have to check the roster to be sure of that.  I think these “New Lakers” are deeper all the way down the bench.  And to Jackson’s credit he seems to be yielding a little on his “I hate rookies” attitude. Or at least, he has the sense to play the rookies so he can see what he has got.  If, as the season goes on, he starts playing a short line up, I think he is making a really big mistake, a much bigger one than any of the multiple of small one those rookies might make out on the court because right now he is sitting on a group of guys that have, if played, the potential to become one heck of a team, for a goodly number of years to come.

Take that Mo Evans—is that his name—as a for instance.  I don’t remember the game but he was hanging out right below the basket, facing back into the court, and the ball clanked off the rim, admittedly right into his hands.  But then—wham—I don’t think I have ever seen a guy go back up for the dunk, with so little flair, but such complete efficiency that had you don’t seen the ball coming down through the net, you would have known how it got there.  That’s a little surprise.  But I think these “New Lakers,” as I prematurely crown them, have more surprises in their bag.

Friday Night Out

I read this article where a working class academic took umbrage with his middle class academic colleagues when they described those who supported gun control as rednecks whose idea of a big pacificoceanFriday night out was going to Wal-Mart.  How could such people who would never think to stereotype a woman or a minority person or a gay person stereotype so completely members of the working class?

Hell, I say if the shoe fits wear it.  My idea of big outing, in light of my working class background, is going to Costco.  My idea of a really big outing is taking a truck load of crap to the dump.  The dump is usually pretty exciting and you get to throw all that shit out on the ground, and the whole place has a powerful odor and lots of birds, plus big tractors and shit like that.  I always found trips to the dump fulfilling.  What the hell is wrong with going to Wal-Mart or Costco or the dump?  If I really felt middle class people had better things to do on Friday nights I might be envious. 

My parents never went on outings.  I have absolutely no recollection of their ever having gone out for example to a movie.  They had two big outings:  Church on Sunday, and Friday evening a trip to the grocery store.  Because they went out to get groceries on Friday evening, the old man frequently bought a roasted chicken at the local market, so there wouldn’t be much to clean up after before they headed out to the grocery store, and when they got back we had to run out to the car immediately and bring the shit in because be damned if the old man was going to carry one of those bags in not when he had us slaves to do it for him.

We did have the obligatory family outing every summer when I was in elementary and maybe junior high to the beach.  Since we were an hour or so drive to the Pacific Ocean I guess we had to take advantage of its presence.  These were dreadful affairs rife with potentials for disaster.  First, since these trips involved roasting weenies, we had to find the ice chest, the charcoal, the charcoal lighter fluid, and the hibachi like thing the old man used to roast the weenies.  By the time we had rounded up the shit necessary to make the trip, I was usually a nervous wreck.

That was followed by the drive.  Before they put in the freeway, there were actually stop lights, and it seemed every time we made the fucking beach trip half the city had also decided to go there.  This made for much swearing and cursing and pleading on the part of the old lady for the old man to drive more carefully.  Then the ultimate horror was locating a parking place near where my mother liked to go on the beach, a place without much sand but with tide pools for educational purposes.  The looking for a parking place could go on for some time attended throughout by cursing and whimpering.  Then there was lighting the fucking coal in the fucking hibachi…

So we usually ended up drinking some lukewarm soft drink and eating weenies in buns with sand in them.  Fuck but I would much rather have gone to Wal-Mart.

25 bucks

Traditionally, when a guy gets a letter for a varsity sport, he puts it on something.  A jacket, usually known as a letterman’s jacket.  So I got my letter for a varsity sport, basketball, in the spring of myletterman junior year, and along with the letter they give me a little pamphlet with a form to order a letterman’s jacket or sweater.  I guess I must have showed this to my mother, but anyhow, I remember her indicating that she thought the letterman’s jacket was awful expensive though maybe they could afford a letterman’s sweater.

I didn’t want any damn sweater.  That’s what guys who lettered on the JV (junior varsity) team got if they were stupid enough to wear their JV letter on anything.  And fuck the jacket was like 25 dollars, a good bit of money back in 1963.  I knew that much, so later when the old lady asked me if I really, really wanted a letterman’s jacket, I said no because no was the answer she wanted and if I said yes there would be no end of shit about the jacket.  Just getting her to sew the letter on the jacket would be a fucking agony.  

And maybe in some way I was relieved because I had this feeling that, if I did get a letterman’s jacket, I wasn’t sure I would wear it anyway.  Maybe I didn’t want to stand out or something or maybe I didn’t want to be identified with the jocks.  Hell, I didn’t know a single guy on the football team.  Or maybe people would think I thought I was special if I wore a letterman’s jacket and get the idea that I thought they were all a pack of shit eating idiots. 

 So I didn’t get a letterman’s jacket and fuck me, if I cared.  But years later, I got to thinking that things might have been different.  What if I had a father (or even a mother) who said something like:  “Damn, you got a varsity letter!  Now isn’t that great.  Where do we get the jacket?  Oh, you have a form here.  You’re right….that is a bit of money.  But what the hell? We can scrape it together.  What do you mean you aren’t sure you will wear it?  Sure you will wear it.  OK! OK!  I see the problem.  But it’s a warm jacket right.  You can wear it in cold weather.  That’s a good reason.  Right.  When people get cold they wear a jacket.  This one will just happen to have a fucking varsity letter on it.  Your letter!”

So what, things could have always been different.  They could always have been better or even worse for that matter.  Maybe I didn’t want a letterman’s jacket.  Maybe I wanted a different father.  Hell, he simply couldn’t talk like that to me, since he hated me and wanted to kill me, I guess.  Who’s going to spend 25 bucks on a letterman’s jacket for a kid you would just as soon kill.

Anyway, by now—if I had got the jacket—it would be long gone, in tatters, I guess, with moths flying out of it or whatever.  Just another piece of crap—in what does Yeats call it—the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.  I wonder what’s worse.  A nearly empty rag and bone shop?  Or a nearly full one?  Goddamn, with that echo in here I can’t hear myself think.

Rebound!

In three on three pick up games, I was a gunner.  If I got the ball in my hands, there was about a 75% chance I would shot it.  That’s because when I shot I made a lot.  Remember, I am talking 3 on 3 pickup games here; not the real varsity games where I tensed up.  And anyway my job on the varsity team was to garner rebounds, as best I could at my skinny six feet, cover my area on the press, and make outlet passes to our guards. 

The varsity game was made around the game of our two guards.  One of these was regularly all league and the other was 2nd team all league, and they could run the hell out of the court with our fast break.  I’d grab the rebond and fling the ball down court towards one of our guards who would cherry-pick at the drop of a hat.  Once the coach came in at halftime and said Tingle had got 13 rebounds.  That’s quite a few rebounds for a 16 minute high school half.  I had no idea that I had got 13 rebounds and knowing me I probably didn’t get a single one in the second half.

I got a rather comical picture of myself getting a rebound in the Daily Nixon, as I continue to call the rag that passes for a newspaper in San Diego:

 

 

reboundone

 

That’s me getting a rebound by sticking my leg up in the air. Sometimes, I don’t know why, getting a rebound one of my legs would go up a lot higher than the other.  And kicking out like that was a pretty effective way of keeping people at a distance.  For some reason, as you will note, while the other team, Helix High, had cool uniforms that look like uniforms, our coach for some reason ordered uniforms with short sleeves.  I don’t know what the fuck he was thinking about.

Maybe somebody at the Daily Nixon had it in for me because they put another picture of me in the paper doing something comical again:

rebound2

 

This time I am apparently attempting to take the rebound away from my own center, though honestly, I think he is the one acting stupidly by jumping on my back like that.

Green Eggs

I don’t know how I got in the Boy Scouts.  I am pretty sure I was not consulted, and when the old man got involved so he could go hang out with other adult males on the camping trips, doing whatever the hell they did in their big tent, I was stuck.

tenderfootThe high light of the camping trips—aside from getting to crap in the great outdoors which brought back fond memories for me—was somebody or other beating up on Richie White.  Like the whole Troop or maybe it was Pack took turns at beating him up.  He was short and scrawny and wore glasses and had a greasy lank of black hair that flopped across his forehead that made me wonder if Hitler as a kid had looked like that. Also he was constantly snorting, with snot running from his nose, and when he talked he sprayed.  

 And he was sneaky and perverse.  In Boy Scouts you get merit badges for doing things like tying knots or cooking a meal; getting those badges is how you move up in the organization.  So one time Richie’s turn to get his cooking merit badge came around, and somehow he managed to cook up green eggs.  So first, Richie denied they were green; they were maybe a little “greenish.”  So kids started like yelling look at the fucking things.  Greenish! My ass.  

And then he said it wasn’t his fault something must have been wrong with the eggs.  And then people said like fuck it man you cooked the fucking eggs and they came out green.  And then he said they were good to eat even if they were green.  And people said, well, fuck it, then, you eat them.  Go ahead and eat.  So Richie stuck his fork in them but he couldn’t eat them he said with everybody looking at him.  

A couple minutes later you hear this screaming and yelling out in the bushes.  Somebody is beating up Richie.  And there was one of my Patrol, I guess it was, sitting on Richie’s chest and beating him about the head and shoulders because, the guy said, Richie had said he had eaten the eggs and then the guy saw the eggs lying right there in the bushes.  So he had decided to beat on the lying mother fucker.

I was the leader of my Patrol, a smaller group within the Troop; every Patrol had its own name, like Wolfs, or Bears, or something.  I don’t remember the name of my Patrol but I was the leader of it.  So I said, we can eat cereal instead because I knew we had those little boxes of cereal and I knew we had milk.  So we sat around in the dirt and ate cereal; that calmed down things a bit.  But they decided that since Richie had eaten all the eggs himself that he wouldn’t get any cereal.  So Richie sat there and started to holding his stomach and groaning that he had a stomach ache.  I really understood why the guys wanted to beat on him.

Richie was the kind of kid you catch with his arm in the cookie jar, and he would say, you were mistaken.  His arm was not in the cookie jar, even though he was standing there plain as day with his arm in the cookie jar.  But you play that game too often and you can start believing it yourself.

Gopher!

Being that my father was a farmer, albeit a rank failure as one, maybe I inherited some man of the soil genes because starting in junior high and through high school and later when I was living in the green room, I was appointed keeper of the family garden.  We had a whole .5 acre down back, so the garden wasn’t exactly a modest affair. 

gopher trapI would start preparing the soil in March when it would be all clumped and hard to work from the rains.  That dirt had a lot of clay in it, but I would turn it over and then make a trip to the chicken shit place and dump the chicken shit all over what I had turned.  In early April the soil dried and became workable. 

I planted zucchini and corn seeds, and being a worried wart, I was all the time coming to see if they were coming up or not.  Cause if they didn’t come up when they were supposed to the timing might be off for the summer heat.  So one evening I am sitting there admiring my handy work, and  right before my eyes the finely worked earth around a young and healthy look zucchini bud starts to move and then the whole zucchini disappeared right before my eyes.

Fucking gophers!

I had tried about everything to tame them except poison, not because I was ecologically conscious but because I didn’t want to take the risk of poisoning my self some how.  I had tried the various folk methods.  I stuck hoses in their holes and ran water for hours but to no avail.  Once the area behind the garden sank down and once the water went into a neighbor’s yard.  Then I did the thing with car flares, and went around sticking them in the holes till it looked like the backyard was about to become a volcano.

 The only thing that really “worked” or seemed to produce concrete results was a gopher trap.  So seeing my zucchini disappear I went out and bought a new one.  It looked like a rat trap, though much bigger, and had teeth designed to clamp down and break the gopher’s neck.  I was careful with those damn things.   You’d put some cheese or something on it as bait and then jam the trap as far as you could in a hole, and then come out the next morning, pull the thing out by its chain and see if you’d had any luck.

I swear that particular summer I was like the Great White Hunter of Gophers.  Every morning I hooked something.  I would pry open the jaws and throw the corpse over into our neighbor’s back yard which was all covered with weeds.  I mean they wouldn’t notice it.  Then one day I pulled out the Moby Dick of gophers. This sucker was huge and it had reddish head hair and a reddish tuff beard just like me and the fucker wasn’t dead.

So I went and got a two pound hammer out of the back of the truck, and there I am about to perform the coup de grace when my little brother comes up and goes on, Is it still alive?  Are you going to kill it with that hammer?  Are you going to hit on the head? You know it looks like you? And I just sort of blew and said, would you get the fuck out of here, goddamn it to hell.  And—wham–as he walked off, looking hurt, I splattered the things head.

I apologized to my brother and said I don’t know why but I just got angry for some reason maybe because I felt hoisted on my own petard.

Another Damn Brick

brickIt still hurts if I think about it.  

We got to the finals of the pre-season Christmas Tournament in 1963.  The coach stole everything he could from UCLA.  We pressed constantly and for an entire quarter one poor team we played in the tournament never made it past half court.  Their guards looked like they were ready to cry with frustration.

But the team from La Jolla had scouted us out, I think.  They brought their big center to half court and broke our press easily.  Also I didn’t know it till I walked on it but the college court where we played the finals was bigger than a high school court.  We had more territory to cover and we couldn’t cover it.

 They played a zone on us, and the piss of it was they dropped way off  me on the outside and clamped down on our best player, a shooting guard.  Over and over the guard threw it to me.  I didn’t know what to do with it but shoot.  I could have been more than 18 feed out, a lay-up for me on a normal day, and I threw up one brick after another.

Shit.

 If I had made even a couple of those, we might have pulled them out of the zone a bit.

After that—and it was my senior year—my playing time declined.  I had started as a junior and up till that point as senior.  But the coach started playing a junior instead; he couldn’t shoot for shit as far as I could tell, but he was six feet three and near 190 compared to my running weight of 148 at six feet. 

They didn’t call me “Nick the Stick” for nothing; or “Mahatma,” in acknowledgement of my more spiritual side, or maybe because I looked like I had been on a fast.

 

 

Hoop

 

hoop

 

Aw.Glowing hard wood.The stink of socks and sweating bodies.The squeak of sneakers.The bong bong bong of the b-ball.The steady muttering of low level cussing.

Basketball probably saved my ass.

I tried out for Pony League and made a team.  But I didn’t get to pitch or play much.  Once the coach put me at third base.  A guy makes it to second and—for god’s sake—he tries to steal.  I make like what I have seen on the TV.  I go for the ball with a sweeping motion.  Completely miss.  And the ball hits me right in the testicles.  Fucking-A did that hurt.  So much for baseball.

I had grown nine inches in a year and become quite ill coordinated.  I actually fell over my own two feet on several occasions.  My feet had shot out too.  So I had to reassess my sport’s career.  Suddenly I was towering over my peers.  Obviously I needed to make use of my new found height and basketball recommended itself.  Besides I liked it.

 So I did what I had done with baseball.  I practiced.  As with pitching, I could practice basketball alone.  Out back was an empty space of flat white dirt.  Leche, it was called.  Like milk.  Apparently it was a left over from some ancient time because it had been created out of decomposed sea shells and such.  I decided to put up a hoop and my father said he would help.

I dug a hole, mixed up some concrete and stuck a 15 foot long four by four piece of redwood in the ground.  Bolted to it was a backboard, made out of ply wood and painted white.   The hoop was attached to that. 

The playing area was narrow.  I couldn’t go much to the right or I would run into a rock wall that held up the little lawn out back and if I went too much to the left I would go over the edge of the little plateau  down into a field full of anis weed.   But I could shot straight away from at least 20 feet although by that point the ground began to slope and I was shooting at a hoop about six inches too high.

I was pleased.

Gopher Ball

The opening day in my Little League featured each team in the league playing an inning.  So all the players from all the teams were there; a lot of parents showed up, and there was bunting and such stuck in the chain link.  My second year with the Rams my coach said I would pitch the first half of the first inning against some team.  I was a bit PO-ed because I figured that meant his son would start our first real game.  He had started grooming his son for the job, so that we would have 3 strong pitchers rather than the 2 we had the year before (me and another guy). 

I could see the writing on the wall; less starts for me.  That meant I would be sitting more on my butt on the pine because I was a rare thing for Little League.  I was a pure pitcher; i.e. I couldn’t do anything else.  Usually guys who pitch in Little League are good athletes and play some other position when they don’t pitch.  But not me.  I pitched and I batted ninth.

I was a little pissed off and didn’t feel entirely honored to get the job of pitching the first inning of an exhibition game.  So I decided I would have some fun with it and take the opportunity to practice my gopher ball; this involved a long stretch towards home, and I would swing my arm so low that my knuckles would sometimes graze the ground.  With the proper spin the ball would go straight up, curve down, and drop right on home plate or right behind it.  It was a pure junk pitch and slow as molasses.  You could light up your cigarette and take a drag in the time it took that thing to get from me to home plate.

So I pitched a gopher to the first guy and he swung and missed.  I struck the guy out, and then I started out on the next guy with a gopher and adults in the stands began to boo.  I was amazed; they were actually booing.  I was stoked.  Fuck the fuckers, I thought.  I was pitching a legal pitch; I wasn’t pitching underhand.  I was breaking my wrist and the umpire could see that.  So if they thought I was throwing a pansy pitch, let their little Johnny prove it by knocking it out of the park.

I struck out the next little fucker too on a straight diet of gophers; and the last one hit a one bouncer that even I could handle.  Three up.  Three down.  And nobody was booing when I walked off. 

Hell, I was the most fun they had all day.

I laughed about that one inside all the way home on my bike.

Pitching Solitary

Pitching Solitare

 One day, after we got to CA, I was wandering around the neighborhood and came upon a baseball field.  Kids were playing with adults and I saw that the following week Little Leagure tryouts would be held.  As part of my never ending attempt to get out of the house, I tried out and got on a team mostly because they took everybody.

 I had never played the game before and quickly learned a) that I could not hit the ball, and b) if I accidently did, it didn’t go anywhere, and c) I was afraid of being hit by the ball, and d) I couldn’t catch a fly ball, and e) I could hardly throw from third to first.  But I was undeterred;  I was reading baseball fictions for kids and even some histories of baseball teams, and I watched parts of games on Saturday with Dizzy Dean as the announcer.

 Because I knew my limitations and faced them squarely, I decided that the only way I would play on a team would be to become a pitcher.  I had observed that pitchers lost when they could not get the ball across the plate and walked everybody.  So in the backyard, I drew a square on the block wall about shoulder high for a little leaguer and went out back and threw the ball over and over again in the direction of that square.  Over and over again, until I had the control problem under control.

 I had also observed that most Little League batters, about 75%, were in fact just as afraid of the ball as I was.  They were really afraid of big guys or short compact guys who threw the ball fast and hard.  Unfortunately, I was not short and compact or big; I was skinny and gangly.  In my readings, I had become fascinated with the spitball pitcher and generally with pitchers who threw junk.  I decided I would throw junk and further to scare the batters I would throw side arm.  I perfected the motion so that for an instant the poor batter would feel I was throwing the ball directly at him but then it would zip across the plate at the knees and sometimes I got it to drop directly on home plate.

 Something else I think was going on.  Perhaps I had settled on pitching because one could practice at it with nobody else present.  Dizzy Dean threw rocks at a barn door.  Usually one throws a ball to somebody else; but to do that one needs somebody else to throw it to.  I played pickup games of course, but I never recruited anybody to pitch to.  Instead in deciding to be a pitcher, I was beginning to show in late childhood that I was an insipient outsider or solitary.  Moreover, by deciding to become a pitcher—something at which I could practice alone—I was learning how to manage as a solitary.

 Baseball is a game for people who love people (are the luckiest people in the world).  I always loved that walk to the mound.  Alone.  And while I don’t watch baseball much anymore, I hate those commercials that keep us from watching the reliever walk causually in from the bullpen.  Out of nowhere.

optimists