Curious Appetites

 

 

Alice’s knowledge

Surpasses her understanding

But matches her experience

 

Crazy though it seems

When cards and cats and queens

Comprise your waking nightmares

 

Blaming the food makes sense

 

 

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2015

 

 

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At This Bench

 

 

There’s a bench where I sometimes sit

Maybe on the pretense of resting

But usually just because

Water flows and falls and founts nearby

Going up in a rush

Very close to tiny rugged falls

 

 

At this bench are also paths

One back to the world

Of cars and shoes

The others go into the woods

Or so I guess

Because at each path’s start

Is a bridge

Of timeless origin

And uncertain strength

 

 

I can only tell that these paths

Continue onward briefly

Then quickly dissolve into imagination

 

 

I’ve promised myself to let go

And begin the journey

Discovering what each path holds

But I’m never quite prepared

To meet I don’t know what

So I’ll sit on the bench

And hope the paths are cleared

Until I decide I’m okay

With getting lost

 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2017

 

 

Hump Day Hoops- Regular Season Awards

 

 

This post is about regular season awards and status.* This year, there’s been extra attention paid to the media’s role in determining the salary options available to Paul George and Gordon Hayward if they make All-NBA teams. As peculiar as that clause in the collective bargaining agreement is, my guess is that number of games will be a more important factor in determining which players are labeled as top 15 in the league.

 

Lots of folks are suggesting that Kevin Durant and Chris Paul will fall short of All-NBA because they missed time this year. Except that they both played ~75% of the season, having 62 and 61 games under their respective belts. It’s gonna be interesting to see how their situations shake out. As for me, availability matters, but only as one element of the larger story of an individual season.

 

One last thing to mention is that I take the NBA’s positional rules seriously. Although ‘positionless basketball’ is the rage these days, there are still guidelines. Unfortunately, that means the third team center is taking a spot that would more realistically go to a different player. Uh oh.

 

 

MVP

Russell Westbrook

Yes, LeBron James is the best player in the world. Yes, Kawhi Leonard plays a more complete game. Yes, James Harden had an epic season, far better than the one that he registered when awarded the first Players’ Awards MVP in 2015. Still, Westbrook’s statistical accomplishments should prevent him from experiencing the odd situation Oscar Robertson faced when he averaged a triple double yet finished a perfectly reasonable third place MVP finish in 1962.

 

Sixth Man

Eric Gordon

Gordon has been the second best player on a very impressive Rockets team. Sixth Man is his permanent future role and he’s played it masterfully this year. In fact, he may well be redefining the job description for the future.

 

Coach of the Year

Terry Stotts

In October, I legitimately thought the Trail Blazers would start tanking a couple weeks before All-Star Break. Instead, Stotts freed Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum to be super aggressive, coaxed strong performances from a motley crew of barely rotation players and unleashed Jusuf Nurkic on the world. Making the playoffs in the West with this roster is a feat of wizardry yet somehow, Stotts is being totally overlooked for this award.  

 

Most Improved Player

Giannis Antentokounmpo

I have been high on Giannis for a few years now, still I’m astonished at the season he just completed. He finished the season in the top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots, leading the Bucks in all 5 categories. The other guys who have done that are Hall of Famers and Giannis is now on that trajectory. This year was his first in full flower as a de facto point guard and his capacity for growth is still overwhelming. Giannis will soon be stronger, a better ball handler and a more confident shooter. We may see a situation in which this year’s MIP is next year’s MVP.

 

Rookie of the Year

Dario Saric

Nearly by default, Dario Saric gets the nod because he’s the only rookie to a) play half the games and b) demonstrate star potential. Joel Embiid didn’t do the first and Malcolm Brogdon’s ceiling is not far from his roof, uh, current status.  

 

Defensive Player of the Year

Draymond Green

The Swiss Army Knife of the Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green, finally gets the nod he’s been desperate to achieve. One of the few players in the league who can reasonably guard anyone on the floor, Green sacrificed his offense to spend even more energy harassing anyone and everyone. He plays bigger, faster, and stronger than he is.

 

 

All-NBA First Team

LeBron James

Kawhi Leonard

Karl-Anthony Towns

Russell Westbrook

James Harden

 

It’s hard to imagine much dispute with the forwards and guards on my first team. In some order, those players should be the top 4 MVP vote getters. It’s the troublesome center spot where we have a mess. KAT has gaudy, empty numbers because his Timberwolves were still so bad. Yet, those empty numbers place he and (the usually playing center) DeMarcus Cousins a tier above the other options. Slotting Anthony Davis here is a cheap attempt to avoid the rules as written. The Pelicans work very hard to keep AD from spending time as a center. Let’s not pull a reverse Duncan where we disregard the action on the court.

 

 

Second Team

Anthony Davis

Giannis Antentokounmpo

DeMarcus Cousins

Stephen Curry

John Wall

 

This is where AD belongs. He might be the first person chosen in an all-league reset draft but he didn’t do as much as James and Leonard, perhaps not even as much as Antentokounmpo (see Most Improved Player).  His frontcourt mate Cousins has somehow become underrated. I don’t know how his stat lines get ignored so regularly but they do. When you score like Jerry West, rebound the ball like Hakeem Olajuwon and get assists like Kobe Bryant, you’re a special dude. Boogie Cousins is a special dude. Stephen Curry got lots of heat this season for not being TRANSCENDENT. He was still the third best guard in basketball. In a down year for him and a banner year for Harden and Westbrook. Wall elevated his game and his team. His all-around game gives him the edge over the scoring dominant guards in the East.

 

Third Team

Jimmy Butler

Kevin Durant

Rudy Gobert

DeMar Derozan

Isaiah Thomas

 

Butler and Durant had stretches of real MVP contention but couldn’t manage that level for the whole season for team chemistry and injury reasons. Gobert became a dominant force on defense and a consistent offensive presence, squeaking past Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard on this list. DeRozan and Thomas were fantastic offensive players who led their teams to impressive seasons with unconventional approaches.

 

Honorable Mentions

I need to apologize for omitting a few folks. Damian Lillard never seems to get recognition but this spot would have been well earned. Yes, his Blazers made the find of the year by swiping Nurkic from the Nuggets but Nurkic is the only Blazer frontcourt player who would even be in the rotation of most other playoff teams.

 

Paul George had one month of being one of the 5 best players in the world and half a year of being one of the top 15. His all-court game is, at times, astonishing. Still, there’s a decent chance that he’ll only be the third best small forward in his division for the next three years.

 

Draymond Green had such a down year in shooting and scoring that I actually feel okay about leaving him off but he and Klay Thompson both have credible arguments that they should be on this team.

 

Finally, Chris Paul has often been the fourth best guard in the league this year and taking him over Derozan and Thomas would make sense to any GM in basketball. His absence from this team reflects his missed games more than his performance. As always, CP3 is a dominant player. 

 

 

FDO 

 

*This piece won’t get edited and published until Monday, April 17 but rest assured, the content was written BEFORE the first weekend of the playoffs began. Regular season recognition derives from only the regular season.

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2017

 

 

 

NBA Playoffs 2017- First Round Predictions

 

 

Sadly, I don't anticipate much late series drama in this first round. I DO expect the Atlantic division to be embarrassed. 

FDO 

 

Western Conference

 

Warriors in 4

It will be a tremendous boost to the Trail Blazers to win a game in this series. My guess is that the Warriors will win each by double figures. Don’t be surprised if Klay Thompson has a 50 point game.

 

Spurs in 5

The Spurs and Grizz play marvelous basketball against each other. However, getting a chance to watch Pau and Marc Gasol battle is likely to be the best memory Memphis fans will pull from this matchup. I anticipate that the Grizz will work very hard and look very old.

 

Rockets in 5

Houston might well sweep the Thunder despite Russell Westbrook having multiple 40 point triple doubles. The Rockets may have a game where they make 20 more 3 pointers than OKC.

 

Clippers in 7

This is the one Western Conference series I anticipate living up to our expectations of greatness. These teams are evenly matched despite being so different. By Game 5, Clippers fans will be dreaming of how fantastic they would be if Gordon Hayward were on their team. Home court and Chris Paul’s playoff cool will ultimately prove to be the difference in Game 7.          

 

 

Eastern Conference

 

Bulls in 6

The Bulls veteran toughness will come to the fore as the Celtics experience playoff pressure. The King of the Fourth will be revealed as a playoff pauper while Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade finally give the Bulls a series victory over Boston.

 

Cavs in 6

The Cavs have advantages everywhere except the Center spot where Myles Turner will have to prove he’s ready for stardom. He’s not. LeBron ALWAYS is and can simply will the Cavs to a comfortable series win.

 

Wizards in 5

Unless Dwight Howard time travels to 2009, the Hawks stand little chance against this Wiz team that has the most cohesive starting lineup in the East. I won’t be surprised if Washington sweeps the Hawks into the offseason.

 

Bucks in 6

The next two weeks will be the first time casual fans realize that Giannis Antentokounmpo is Scottie Pippen 2.0.  While the Bucks don’t have enough firepower to do damage moving forward, they’ll be able to take advantage of their tremendous size while Toronto’s playoff demons rise to torment them again. 

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2017

 

 

The Cuckoo Clock Is Ticking: The 2016 Presidential Election Forecast

 

Four and eight years ago, I made public disclosures about my predictions for the Presidential elections. In both elections, I got the entire map correct. <back pat> (I was especially pleased with 2012;  virtually nobody got that one right.) The streak probably stops at two. 

 

 

This year, I have far less confidence in polling data, the American polity and my own ability to read the tea leaves. However, the conversation keeps coming up so I might as well give it a shot. What do I have to lose? Besides the rest of my sanity…

 

So here’s my map: http://www.270towin.com/maps/RJjN4 

 

Go ahead, explore it, analyze it, mock it. I’ll wait.

 

My prediction is that in a couple months, Hillary Clinton will be the first woman since Catherine the Great to be the most powerful person on Earth.

 

Yup, I have it Clinton 342- Trump 196. That includes a couple tricky oddities. 1- Omaha area district peeling off for her as it did Obama in 2008 and 2- Clinton winning Ohio  despite polling leads for Trump. I figure that between Kasich’s disdain and The King’s support, Trump has to contend with two of the three most important men in that state. (I assume Urban Meyer is a Trump voter.)


I also kept Utah, Arizona and Georgia red. Those all feel very tricky to me. Utah, because of the Evan McMullin factor, would not surprise me if Trump, Clinton or McMullin won. Trump’s disastrous misadventures in wooing Mormons are the stuff upon which a reality show might be based. If he wins there, it will be because of voter inertia. If Clinton or McMullin wins, it will be because there is a rare, genuine opportunity to send a political message. In that battle, I generally assume inertia will win out.

 

Georgia is just a mess. Ditto for North Carolina but for different reasons. We should just accept that North Carolina is now a blue state. Tar Heel blue in fact.

 

I’m also not going to be surprised if Arizona goes to Clinton. Just because McCain resurrected his campaign doesn’t mean Arizonans are actually going to support Trump.

 

The surprising takeaway from a 342 number for me is that it would push Clinton beyond Obama’s Electoral College haul in 2012. I’d never have guessed that a year ago.

 

One more day until history’s made!

 

 

FDO

 

 

 

 

Where Do You Stand?

 

Every spring, my US History classes learn about the Vietnam War. For most students, it’s a new experience to study Vietnam. Invariably, students have an important misconception about the war: they presume most Americans were opposed to fighting in Vietnam. When I share evidence that the war was incredibly popular for years and never became statistically unpopular, they often feel shock. The reason is simple. People lie about their support for the Vietnam War. It’s now the cultural norm to acknowledge it as a bad war. People want to be on the right side of history in their memory, if not in their actions.

 

We are already seeing a similar process unfold regarding the Iraq War. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly lied about opposing the Iraq War. Why? Again, it’s culturally preferred to acknowledge that Iraq was a bad war. That means average citizens rewrite their positions in much the same way Trump does. These kinds of lies have become both ubiquitous and casual. Unless you’re a public figure, who will take the time to go back and discern where you actually stood on Iraq more than a decade ago?

 

But, do you remember? Do you remember what you thought a year after the September 11 attacks when President George W. Bush insisted Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was part of an axis of evil? Do you remember Donald Rumsfeld telling us all that Iraq was intimately connected to al-Qaida? Do you remember whether you told your family, friends and co-workers that we needed to invade Iraq or that it would be a horrible mistake? I’m guessing you do. I’m guessing that sending Americans to fight, kill and die in Iraq mattered enough that you thought about it and made a choice.

 

Well, what about now? If someone asked you about Iraq, would you tell them the truth? Would you acknowledge the wisdom or folly of your choice?  

 

You already know where I’m going with this, right?! 2016 features the clearest choice between Presidential candidates in modern times. We have major party candidates with stark differences in experience, temperament, perspective and vision. The hallowed middle ground for which presidential campaigns usually compete is a void this year. And at the ballot box, America will make a genuinely historic choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

 

Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan declared that he would not make any effort to assist Trump’s campaign and other House Republicans should feel free to withdraw their support as well. What Ryan did not do is repudiate Trump or rescind his endorsement of him. He recognizes what a debacle the Trump candidacy is but can’t bring himself to make a public stand against it. Dozens of current and former GOP officials, including President George H. W. Bush have already announced they will vote for Clinton. What about you?

 

A decade from now, there will be an established cultural norm about this election. And in the final referendum of history, every American will have a story to tell their friends and family about where they stood at this critical moment.  What story will you tell? Will that story be true?  

 

In 2016, where do you stand?

 

 

FDO

 

 

This is an update of a previous post.

 

 

From Morning to Night

 

From morning to night

My odometer reads 112 miles more

Revealing the evidence of small town living

With a need for big city paychecks

 

 

Returning to it,

the quiet cozy apartment

Seems like home

A still new pleasant discovery

Filled with all the books and plants

and gadgets we love

And seeds being sown

For the life we plan to live

 

 

From morning to night

A certain light has dimmed

And the belly I kissed

Before it began to retch and round

Is flat and empty again

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2004

 

 

Barry Bonds Making History

 

Fifteen years ago, Barry Bonds broke what used to be one of the most hallowed records in American sporting life. He hit 71 and 72 home runs in a single season. 

 

When, in 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa launched their epic chase to breach Roger Maris' 61 HR mark established in 1961, the nation rejoiced. America began falling back in love with baseball its ugly strike led to a 1994 season with no World Series. Even when most of us recognized something deeply suspicious about the Hulking physiques of these sluggers, we all smiled and kept watching

 

Three years later, the greatest (and surliest) player in recent memory hit bomb after bomb in a whole new world. Steroids were perceived as the worst destructive force the game had ever seen. The luster of the home run was gone. And outside his home park in San Francisco, fans mostly watched Bonds with begrudging eyes. 

 

I, instead, marveled. Sure, Bonds had enhanced his body dramatically. That seemed de rigueur in that era. I didn't hold him more responsible for steroid use than any other player. His excuses of using the BALCO derived "cream" and "clear" without knowing what they were seemed absurd and childish though perhaps they were a necessary fiction. The reality is that no one else was pursued for using steroids in quite the way Bonds was. Far more than his newfound power, Bonds' disdain for reporters and media etiquette was always his real crime. 

 

Let's remember, baseball is a game that requires exquisite timing and nearly instantaneous decision making, especially in the batter's box. Due to Bonds' unprecedented hitting acumen he was the recipient of astonishing numbers of walks, intentional walks and pseudo intentional walks. (This pattern only grew. In 2004, Bonds reached base 376 times on only 373 plate appearances. NOT a typo.) Despite seeing so few pitches because of the (understandable) desire of pitchers to avoid him, he maintained an unbelievably high rate of success. 

 

Now that the dust has settled and Bonds has been fired from his only post-retirement job in baseball, let's please take a moment to acknowledge the real life history we were able to watch a decade and a half ago. Let's remember when the greatest player since Willie Mays did what no one has ever done in the history of baseball. And enjoy it. 

 

 

FDO 

 

Mike Pence- Trump’s Best Hand?

 

I’m looking forward to watching Tuesday night’s Vice Presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. Part of my intrigue is the Trump campaign’s effort to use Pence to appeal to women and moderates. After living through Pence’s term as Governor and watching his antics in the House for the previous decade, I find it telling that Trump’s team is convinced that there is a chance this strategy will work. Pence is a smart, seasoned politician with the kind of governing credentials Trump lacks. What he can’t do is build bridges.

 

There is a laundry list of examples of Pence’s firebrand divisiveness. Whether the issue is abortion, contraception, the superiority of Christianity or his efforts to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ Hoosiers, suffice it to say Pence has more than earned his rep as a FAR right attack dog.

 

The most pertinent recent example involves the thousands of Hoosier women who have participated in a group called Periods for Politicians formerly Periods for Pence. As Governor, Pence supported the kind of restrictive, intrusive anti-abortion law whose provisions sound like they were dreamed up in an Saturday Night Live writer’s meaning. Then dismissed as too unrealistic.

 

Perhaps the Trump campaign is correct in assuming that Pence’s placid demeanor and friendly mien will create the kind of sane, sympathetic image that was supposed to be the hallmark of compassionate conservatism. If so, tonight will be the most successful public event for Republicans since the dawn of autumn. (Poor Kelly Ayotte.) It will also be a shocking change of form for the people Pence governs.

 

 

FDO 

 

Blackface

 

The face in the mirror

Is black

Not brown or cocoa

Or anything else

The too nice people

Might try to tell me

Since it’s about opposition

And the power of whiteness

The power they validate

By denying it exists

Comes only because I am

And must continue to be

Black

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2005