Category: Just me

World B. Free

This poem helps explain why I'll always be in love with basketball.

 

 

Twenty-five years ago

I went with my dad

To an old stadium

Gone and dearly departed

If not regretfully

To see my Indiana Pacers who

I loved stridently

At home

In the new Curtis Mathes set that

How were we to know

Lasted far too long

 

 

But there in person

For the first time

Was a different kind of feeling

Since they were bad

And most of my focus

Started and stopped on a man named

World B. Free

Although I’m not sure how much of

This poem

Is true

I have no doubt

About World B. Free

 

 

It started with his hair

Though it was not exceptional

Except in its lack of exception

Stuck in a time

I may never understand

But all the rest fit too

How much he loved the game

Even when it was an awful game

And tried without ever looking

As if he were trying

 

 

Mostly though

The shooting

Like little orange only rainbows

Up and down

With no gold at the end

Only more orange

And then at its beginning

The look that might have been a smile

If he’d known no one was watching

 

 

At the end of the game

It seems that no one else noticed him

Because watching him play

Might have kept someone from skipping school

As it did me from stealing gum

Off the too short racks

Meant to taunt me

At the store

But lots of kids did that

And their parents drank too much

Cheated with a waitress

Then left home

(Not because of the children)

Even though they’d seen World B. Free

On the court downtown

 

When I asked later on

My dad said he used to be called Lloyd

That may well be

But he was always World B. to me

  

 

© Gayle Force Press 2002

 

 

Perception Matters- Trump as Empire Builder

Some prominent Republicans have suggested that Donald Trump is unwilling to release his tax information because he’s hiding something important, maybe even a “bombshell”. Perhaps his reticence is about having the kind of effective tax rate Mitt Romney revealed in 2012 or using the tax havens he’s bashed in the past. National Review published a piece declaring that if “Trump won’t release his tax returns prior to the GOP convention, the delegates pledged to him on the first ballot should abstain” from voting for him. The implications are that something devious or even sinister lurks in the paper trail.

 

My theory is much simpler. I think the only thing that might make a difference for Trump supporters is the bottom line number. How much money does he have?

 

We’ve all seen the story play out before. A celebrity appears to have an immense amount of wealth but it’s illusory. Michael Jackson used to own an amusement park house for goodness sake!

 

This is why perception matters:

 

Trump’s primary appeal is his status as an empire builder. He describes himself as a winner and people believe it. After all, the strongest association we have with Trump is as ‘rich person’. In an America devoid of culturally significant dynastic families, it’s people like Donald Trump and the Kardashians who represent the 21st century image of American wealth. (We know nothing about most of the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Kennedys and Rockefellers in our midst today.) We’ve already looked behind the curtain at the Kardashians and seen the ‘momager’ Kris Jenner herself. We know she’s the wizard.

 

We have no idea what we’ll see when the curtain is pulled back on the ‘Trumpire’. If there’s far less wealth than we’ve been led to believe, it will be disastrous for Trump. Not because he’s funding his own campaign, despite what he says. But because the core premise of his candidacy will be gone. It’s only his wealth that resonates as successful. Without it, he’s just another reality show star with bad hair and a bizarrely attached following. Now that I think about it, I wonder if Kris Jenner will show up at the Republican convention?

 

 

-FDO

 

 

Perception Matters- Durant Is Clutch

 

We’re a week removed from one of the best NBA games this season. In many respects it was an instant classic. Golden State’s 121-118 overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder had everything you’d want in an NBA game. There was star power, including the last two MVPs (Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry) and 5 2016 All-Stars. There was tremendous execution (239 dynamic points). There were three point shooting records (Curry tied the single game record with 12 makes and broke his own season record). Above all, there was drama as Curry hit an absurd, contested 32 footer to win the game at the horn.

 

What we didn’t see though, was winning, crunch time basketball from one of the five best players in the world and apparently no one else noticed. The reality is that Durant failed massively in the last few seconds of regulation. While the Thunder were up two with a few seconds left, Durant caught the ball and instead of waiting to be fouled or trying to escape the trap, he instead threw an awful, long pass that was intercepted by the Warriors. (Klay Thompson and Draymond Green both played the defensive possession extremely well.)

 

Then, after this turnover and with less than a second left, Durant fouled Andre Iguodala while he was shooting a desperate jumper. @Andre then hit the game tying free throws to send the game into overtime. Now, going to OT does not mean Durant lost the game in this sequence but had he made the right play either time, his Thunder would have won the game.

 

This is why perception matters: Everyone thinks of Durant as a clutch player. Since his rookie year, he’s been a consistent big shot taker and maker, including some spectacular game winners. The perception is that he’s a fantastic player when it matters most. So the talking heads on TV basically ignored those last few seconds. Virtually all the follow up stories about this game were only about how awesome Steph Curry is, not about why he had extra opportunities to win this game, thanks to Durant.

 

But just imagine if it had been LeBron James or Dwight Howard who’d failed as spectacularly as Durant did. The narrative afterward would have been entirely different. It’s about perception.

 

 

FDO

 

 

In the New World

 

As Black History Month comes to a close, I want to share this poem I have had the good fortune to read at some Black History events.

 

"In the New World" was initially inspired by the 2008 Presidential campaign. It continues to be inspired by the loving, good works of people all around the world. We are becoming the change.

 

-FDO

 

 

You can feel the changes

As the people begin to move

From Earth’s every corner

Bringing with them hope and strength

Knowing their dreams can soon take flight

In the new world they will create

 

You can see the changes

As the people begin to rise

Loosed from the shackles of fear

Breaking the bonds of ignorance

Rejecting the power of separation

In the new world they will create

 

You can hear the changes

As the people begin to sing

Songs of courage and strength

New as a baby’s cry

Old as the language of life

In the new world they will create

 

You can be the changes

As the people begin to build

Bridges from one to all

Forged from peace and justice

Raised on love and truth

In the new world we will create

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2008

 

 

A Thousand Stars

 

This poem was inspired by doing what we should all do on a regular basis: looking up and around.

-FDO

  

 

This was the night

Of a thousand stars

So rich and full

The earth itself seemed

To pause

In admiration

  

These thousand stars

All in their place

So near to be

So impossibly

Far apart

Making belts

Crabs, cups and crowns

 

 My thousand stars

All waiting outside

Knocking silently

At my door

Allowing me

To discover them

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2003

 

Ten Years Gone

 

 
I have lots of favorite days every year. Rachel’s birthday, Jake’s return from summer break, 46118 Christmas… They’re all beautiful days for me every year.
 
Today is always the worst.
 
My mom died on October 1, 2005.
 
 
 
Rachel and I bought a car that day. It’s the first and only new car either of us have ever owned. We drove to my parents’ house where Rachel, my dad and I talked about the car, discussed my new job at Brebeuf and had as normal a conversation as is possible when someone is dying of cancer in the big bedroom.
 
My dad and I spent part of the afternoon in that bedroom talking about our plans for the next stage of Mom’s care. We came to some decisions and made sure Mom was warm; shared some laughs and tears and rubbed Mom’s feet and arms; we talked about how well we could manage to continue making good choices for her and discussed how we could take care of each other.
 
A couple hours later, Dad called to tell me Mom was dead. My initial thought was confusion; I didn’t know what he meant. When he repeated himself (I’m so sorry I needed him to say it a second time…), I squealed. I groaned. I uttered a primal, urgent sound that I’ve never heard before or since. It was the sound of my soul being sucked out of my body.
 
I was on autopilot as I drove back to Mills Road and I sped as though I could somehow manage to hold on to something of my mother if I just arrived quickly enough.
 
The last thing I clearly remember from that entire day was thinking how mad Mom would be if I killed myself driving recklessly on 465.
I think I slowed down.
 
 
 
In the intervening decade, I’ve lived a wonderful life. The gifts of love I’ve received have blessed me beyond measure. The heartbreaks of living have reminded me how much I continue to love the people in my life.
 
And every single day, I miss my mommy.
 
Today is always the worst.
 
 
 

Reflecting on John Lewis

 

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Selma march I want to take a moment to reflect on the life and career of John Lewis, one of my personal heroes.

 

“Registering to vote is an act of commitment to the American ideal. It is patriotic. The Federal Government must decide whether it wants to let Southern Negroes register. It must make that choice this summer, or make us all witnesses to the lynching of democracy.”

 

-John Lewis

 

 

John Lewis was a young college student when he got his start as an activist in the Nashville Student Movement. Lewis was often viewed as the prodigy of the movement as he was the youngest of the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement by a full decade.

 

 

As a co-founder and an early chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Lewis first became a national figure during the Freedom Rides of 1961. It was during this endeavor to desegregate public facilities in the South that Lewis was beaten so badly many feared his death was imminent.

 

Continuing his leadership of SNCC, Lewis was one of the speakers at the legendary 1963 March on Washington. SNCC worked throughout the South to develop Freedom Schools that trained nonviolent activists and 1964’s Freedom Summer efforts at registering potential Black voters.

 

Lewis was also one of the leaders of the Selma, Alabama march now referred to as “Bloody Sunday” because of the brutal beating Lewis and many other nonviolent protestors received at the hands (and clubs) of the Alabama State Police. It is this march we celebrated last weekend.  

 

As the sixties came to an end, Lewis became deeply involved in electoral politics. Initially, he became a prominent advisor for Robert F. Kennedy’s Presidential campaign in 1968. For the last quarter century, Lewis has served his country as a member of Congress from Georgia.

 

In some respects, Lewis is considered the conscience of the national Democratic party. It was Lewis' decision to switch his support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary that opened the floodgates of superdelegates declaring Obama their preferred candidate.

 

Lewis continues to fight for human rights to this day. His efforts to pursue justice have extended well beyond his original pursuit of racial equality to include a whole host of social concerns. Still, he is widely perceived as the most important living link to the Civil Rights Movement.

  

I continue to be grateful for John Lewis. You should be too.

 

 

FDO

 

 

Happy Ending (flashback)

 

Today is the day I needed to brush off the car windows, take a long drink of coffee, turn the radio off and remind myself that I can remember how beautiful Indiana will be in just a few months. It almost helped. 

 

So here's a flashback to the beautiful days of August.

 

FDO

 

 

I had a happy ending to my summer.

 

Since I teach high school I have a wonderfully extended summer break. During the doldrums of February thinking about summer break is sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed. (Do I hear an amen, teachers?) Even though today is August 6, it’s the end of my summer break. In Indiana that means I’m at a late start school. Nearly everyone else has been back for a week already. I wanted to squeeze the last bit of fun out of my last summer day.

 

Okay, on to the reason I’m writing this. This summer I’ve spent lots of time playing basketball. I’m a basketball junkie to the nth degree and nothing is quite as fun as being on the court myself. I had one of those catastrophic Bernard King[1] knee injuries a few summers ago and was convinced for quite some time that if I ever played basketball again it would be super casual, probably just some shooting games. HA! My family doctor insisted that I should play as quickly, as much and aggressively as I could. I’ve done my best but it’s been a very long process. I could say that I’ve taken lots of Baby Steps[2] in that effort.

 

For a while I only played indoors on wood courts. That was a hassle and got expensive quickly. It was also infrequent enough not to be very helpful. I moved on to concrete with great trepidation meaning (deep sigh) almost exclusively to the court <5 minutes from my house where I suffered the initial injury. Month after month, I played sporadic halfcourt games with my giant knee brace on. Every time I got jostled or tried to jump or sprint dig in for a loose ball, my heart jumped into my throat.

 

Slowly I gained a bit more confidence and became to willing to run fullcourt games. Always with the giant brace, usually avoiding a full sprint and often mentioning my injury out loud just so everyone would know.

 

Now this summer I’ve moved dramatically from fear to fun. My 16 year old son and I went to the local park to play this afternoon and were joined by some other high school kids and a couple 20 somethings. I usually wear my brace if there’s a chance a real game will happen but today guys seemed to appear out of nowhere so I wasn’t prepped like usual.  No brace.

 

I was guarded by a very physical guy who knocked me down multiple times. Once, he hit me so hard that I went sprawling to the ground, play stopped, my defender apologized and everyone came to check on me. It was so nice to realize that they were more worried about me than I was worried about myself. As soon as I got up, I teasingly declared that I was an obvious target because I wasn’t wearing my knee brace today. Everyone understood I was joking and started laughing. Even six months ago I couldn’t have imagined this kind of tumble serving as a tension breaker but it was. And it worked. The game resumed normally.

 

And the happy ending? After playing several games I announced that I only had one more left in my legs so half a dozen of us played 21. I was astonishing! I made lots of difficult shots, rebounded really well and dominated the game. I think the next highest score was 8. Playground 21 isn’t exactly known for Tom Thibodeau[3] defense but nobody likes being dominated. It was definitely the best I’ve played in years and happened at exactly the end point of the summer. Nice.

 

Then I drove home while Jake hung out and played for an extra hour. And there’s the difference between 40 and 16…  

 

 


[1] Okay, Derrick Rose. I can do 21st century references…

[2] ™Leo Marvin

[3] He’s the best defensive coach in the NBA.

 

 

© Gayle Force Press 2015

 

 

Hump Day Hoops: Indiana Pacers- Think Tank

 

Okay. I give up.

 

I won’t try anymore.

 

The relentless optimism and best case scenarios; the hypothetical matchups and ‘well, what if’s. It's all over now, Blue and Gold. No more pretending.

 

It’s time to tank, Pacers.

 

Maybe there’s still some universe in which the Pacers can win a playoff series but I don’t think it’s this one. Not anymore.

 

After the debacle of Mo Williams (MO FREAKIN’ WILLIAMS) scoring 50 points on the Pacers, there’s no reason to encourage the Pacers to continue making an effort to win every game this season.

 

It’s really a shame too. The East this season is likely the worst conference in modern NBA history. The most important statistic is this: Only 5 teams in the East have a positive point differential; only 5 teams in the West have a negative point differential. The Pacers of the last two years would be the favorites to win the whole conference this year.

 

Except the Pacers aren’t anything like they have been for the last two seasons. Mo Williams wouldn’t have sniffed a 50 point game against those Pacers. The reality is that this group is bad enough that I’m convinced they should begin planning now for next year.

 

Since the Pacers still have the core of a contending team, they don’t even have to pursue some radical renewal plan. They can back to the top of the conference next year with good health and a couple straightforward moves. Next year, they have a first round pick they should use to get another lottery talent on the roster, preferably an offensive minded wing. Right now Paul George is the only Pacer who can drive to score.  They also have three second round draft choices and some easily offloaded contracts that can be parlayed into a useful player. Heck, who knows, Dallas might be willing to do Devin Harris for CJ Miles straight up.

 

The problem is that the Pacers seem scared to do a short term rebuild. They appear stuck in the old fashioned mentality that every win is beneficial. That’s just not the case in today’s NBA. If you’re interested in winning championships in a place like Indiana you simply must acquire maximum talent through the draft. (Signing premier free agents simply won’t happen.) It’s much harder to get that kind of talent drafting at 15 than it is at 5. (And yes, the Pacers are bad enough that they might reasonably have the fifth worst record in the league this year. They don’t need to rely on lottery luck.) This much is clear.

 

It is, at best, unclear if the Pacers have the organizational discipline to play for the long term instead of the short term. I don’t think they do judging by Larry Bird’s public statements. The talk of Paul George playing 1 on 1 is frightening. The very worse thing that could happen to the Pacers is another injury to Young Trece. The second worse is his return lifting them to the 7th or 8th seed this Spring.

 

The Pacers don’t need to be a .500 team this year. They need to be bold enough to be bad for a year. And Pacer fans need to let them know it’s ok.

 

It’s time to tank, Pacers.

 

I probably need to thank Mo Williams for proving it to me.

 

 

 -Franklin Oliver

 

 

Hump Day Hoops: Indiana Pacers- Think Tank

 

Okay. I give up.

 

I won’t try anymore.

 

The relentless optimism and best case scenarios; the hypothetical matchups and ‘well, what if’s. It's all over now, Blue and Gold. No more pretending.

 

It’s time to tank, Pacers.

 

Maybe there’s still some universe in which the Pacers can win a playoff series but I don’t think it’s this one. Not anymore.

 

After the debacle of Mo Williams (MO FREAKIN’ WILLIAMS) scoring 50 points on the Pacers, there’s no reason to encourage the Pacers to continue making an effort to win every game this season.

 

It’s really a shame too. The East this season is likely the worst conference in modern NBA history. The most important statistic is this: Only 5 teams in the East have a positive point differential; only 5 teams in the West have a negative point differential. The Pacers of the last two years would be the favorites to win the whole conference this year.

 

Except the Pacers aren’t anything like they have been for the last two seasons. Mo Williams wouldn’t have sniffed a 50 point game against those Pacers. The reality is that this group is bad enough that I’m convinced they should begin planning now for next year.

 

Since the Pacers still have the core of a contending team, they don’t even have to pursue some radical renewal plan. They can back to the top of the conference next year with good health and a couple straightforward moves. Next year, they have a first round pick they should use to get another lottery talent on the roster, preferably an offensive minded wing. Right now Paul George is the only Pacer who can drive to score.  They also have three second round draft choices and some easily offloaded contracts that can be parlayed into a useful player. Heck, who knows, Dallas might be willing to do Devin Harris for CJ Miles straight up.

 

The problem is that the Pacers seem scared to do a short term rebuild. They appear stuck in the old fashioned mentality that every win is beneficial. That’s just not the case in today’s NBA. If you’re interested in winning championships in a place like Indiana you simply must acquire maximum talent through the draft. (Signing premier free agents simply won’t happen.) It’s much harder to get that kind of talent drafting at 15 than it is at 5. (And yes, the Pacers are bad enough that they might reasonably have the fifth worst record in the league this year. They don’t need to rely on lottery luck.) This much is clear.

 

It is, at best, unclear if the Pacers have the organizational discipline to play for the long term instead of the short term. I don’t think they do judging by Larry Bird’s public statements. The talk of Paul George playing 1 on 1 is frightening. The very worse thing that could happen to the Pacers is another injury to Young Trece. The second worse is his return lifting them to the 7th or 8th seed this Spring.

 

The Pacers don’t need to be a .500 team this year. They need to be bold enough to be bad for a year. And Pacer fans need to let them know it’s ok.

 

It’s time to tank, Pacers.

 

I probably need to thank Mo Williams for proving it to me.

 

 

 -Franklin Oliver