Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What We've Learned....

Confession. I listen to probably 4-6 hours of sports talk radio a day. Call me a junkie, addict, whatever. I'm okay with it. There are far worse things to be addicted to, and while I have been known to mumble Jim Rome drops in my sleep, I feel like sports radio has in some ways, made me a better person. At the end of every show, Dan Patrick, (after whom The Dan Patrick Show is aptly named) goes around the room with his "Danettes" and asks what each of them learned. A typical day can be filled with little nuances or insignificant facts, but the point that I think Patrick makes, whether he means to or not, is that there are things that can be learned by looking back at something as a whole, and recognizing what it is that did or did not happen, be it small or large, normal or unusual. I can't think of anything that this may apply to more than this years' Jazz season. With all due respect to the amusement park juggernaut that is Lagoon, the ups and downs of this year in Utah Jazz Basketball were the almost like a perfect storm; interesting roster mix, shortened season, first full year for Head Coach Ty Corbin, an unexpected return to the playoffs, and a roster overhaul in the off-season that also has included the front office. Arguably with a shortened season, you don't want to base too much of what we know going forward on a schedule that for practically every team included three games, in three nights, in three different cities, but what good would we be as fans if we didn't dissect every moment, analyze it, and spend the entire off-season determining how it relates to next year? Consider it your off-season workout as a fan. And don't be surprised if you find out a few things you didn't notice right off the bat....

The Youth Movement has Arrived

Okay, so it wasn't fair to build up into a tease like that, only to start off with perhaps the most obvious fact of the season, but let's break it down like so; this might be the most important thing to take from this season. The at-times superb play of Gordon Hayward, and the playoff emergence of "Beast Mode" aka Derrick Favors hulk-like alter ego (I submit Tiago Splitter as exhibit A and B) made this a pretty obvious fact to everyone, including the players. Paul Millsap stated in his exit interview that he felt he had proven that he could play the three, clearly trying to sell either Coach Ty or Management on the fact that he still has value as a starter, because Favors play against a still-productive Tim Duncan was nothing short of awesome. Raja Bell made it clear that he wanted out, deep down probably knowing that Burks' play throughout the season had relegated him to little more than a bench role, and even third year guy DeMarre Carroll threw his hat, (dreads?) into the youth movement ring with a heart and hustle-filled performance in game four that undoubtedly had many Jazz fans penciling him in as their under the radar all-star pick for next season, something I say only slightly tongue in cheek. Bottom line, as we move forward, it stands to reason that success the next few years rests more on the shoulders of Hayward, Favors, Burks and Kanter than it does on the good, solid veterans that Corbin relied on often to guide this team to the postseason. If they improve like Kanter's body has this off-season, I predict Amar's meltdown from excitement to win an Emmy.

Motor City meets Salt City

In several interviews since the end of the season, Kevin O'Connor has referenced the Detroit Pistons when asked about how he was trying to build the team. One of the most widely accepted methods of thought in the NBA currently is the need for a Superstar to win a championship, something that we can effectively confirm all the way back into the eighties, with one exception. Detroit. Clearly O'Connor and Jazz brass have come to the conclusion that staying competitive while recruiting a superstar is an unlikely occurrence, and O'Connor's magic iPhone app has locked in on a few traits for all the players he's brought it this off-season. Almost universally, every player turned Jazzman was described by outsiders as tough, defensively capable, with the ability to shoot decent from the outside. Not surprisingly, those Motor City teams were constructed similarly, with Chauncey and Rip Hamilton being the dead-eye shooters able to get it done in late games. Will Mo Williams take that role for Chauncey? Who will become the scorer for the Jazz? Hayward? Burks? Randy Foye? Can Marvin Williams become the lockdown defender that Tayshaun Prince was known for? Can Utah be the blue-collar, Dudley Doright version of the Pistons? If nothing else, with a young roster of talent and loads of cap space, it's worth figuring out right now, so you can fine tune a championship run in a few years, after Kobe, Lebron, and Kevin Durant have left each other dead like the closing scene of The Departed. Timing is everything, after all.

The Jazz are smart(er?) than fans give them credit for.

I'm not much for trolling, and for the most part I try not to debate too much over twitter, but I also do keep up with a lot of what the fans have to say, and for the most part, it isn't always good. There is an itis that seems to be spreading amongst sports fans in general to doubt whatever it is that their team says in the media, or to

Dennis Lindsey Likes Kanye Songs

Golden Friday

If you've been thrashing on the waves of life lately, looking for a buoy to grab hold of, look no further than today's drop. Maybe it was the chicken lime burger I had for dinner last night(definitely not), or maybe it was the A$AP Rocky playing on my Spotify this morning(yup), but the Champ is back and ready to train for another heavyweight battle against the blerg and boring blogs of the bodega. Will this lead to weekly entries? Hardly. Will your Friday be better for reading this? Doubtful. Have I spent the last hour and a half trying to organize my paper clips by size, weight, and density? Let's just get to what really matters most, my thoughts.....okay fine, just humor me for a bit by reading them anyway.

-If the top headlines are an accused murderer losing his All-American brick at his Alma Mater and Alex Rodriguez paying random doctors he's never met to "clear" him from an injury that most likely was fabricated to begin with, it must be late July. The dead season of sports has been magnified x1000 with the growth and demand of sports-related news, including Twitter honks and Deadspin comment board devotees. So of course this would be the perfect time to work desperate sports fans into rabid, foaming at the mouth nutcases for football season by running every major conference media day this week. Do I enjoy media days? Sure, in about the same way that I enjoy the guy at the drive-thru throwing an extra package of Chick-fil-a sauce in with my nuggets. Media days, preview shows, Phil Steele's oracular spectacular of a pre-season publication all contribute to the hype that gets fans to pack the stadium seats on opening day, but is it really the best approach to covering upcoming seasons? All the effort, money, and time spent on predicting perhaps the most unpredictable of all life's dramas? How often do fans unnecessarily put pressure on their teams early on because they hear a few choice comments or quotes, thus dooming any team that doesn't meet expectations to an early demise? Angry rantings aside, there are more important matters to discuss, like why did Kim and Kanye decide that  $750,000 worth of gold plated toilets was a good idea?

-Continuing on with rants about things that don't really matter, UPCOMING JAZZ SEASON!!!! Seriously though, if it hasn't been covered by any of the Jazz-centric blogs or tremendous beat writers Jody Genessy and Bill Oram, you probably don't need me rehashing it here. I'm less excited about the season than I thought I would be, simply because contending for a playoff spot, even if it is the 8th seed, is exciting to me. Obviously I want a trip back to the Finals someday, and so I see the necessity of what the Jazz are doing, and will abide, like the Dude that I am....


That doesn't mean the Jazz need to do the same. Now is probably as good a time as ever for the organization to get the off-court side of the Jazz really developed for the hopeful playoff/championship run. Jumbo Tron was the right place to start, because now watching a game from the upper deck will actually be worth it, but there are other areas I'd like to see improved. Granted, these all won't be popular, but whatever, that's what comment sections are for, right?

1. Bring back the Copper and Black- Just for one game, maybe two. Part of this is me missing that whole era due to a relocation project that I participated in for two years in the frontier town of Ukraine, but the other part is those jerseys are kinda cool. It's a solid change of pace from what we have currently, black is easy to wear, and I'd rock the sh*! out of a black Kanter 0 jersey. The option of a black out at the ESA is also ripe for unintentional comedy.

2. I've heard stories that in the old Salt Palace, there used to be a brass band that would play songs and such around the arena during breaks and before and after games. There is a distinct stereotype that there is no Jazz in Utah, so what better way to switch it up than to re-create a Mardi Gras-type atmosphere before, and possibly after, every game? This would obviously be a long term goal, as you could expand the outside of the ESA to have a concourse like Bankers Life Fieldhouse(had to Google the current name) where fans could meet up and either enjoy some tunes, or have tweet ups as our loyal twitter #Jazznation has been known to do. I'd also gear the in-arena stuff more towards a Mardi Gras celebration than the kind of Utah fluff that we have now. Also, can we pick a postgame victory song and stick with it? Preferably not Enrique Iglesias. Seeing as how winning games will probably be few and far between, Get Lucky by Daft Punk would make sense, but what about Curtis Mayfield's Move On Up(only a slight ripoff of Semi-Pro), or Kanye's take with Touch the Sky, even though I kind of hate Kanye now.

3. Jazz Dancers, the line has been drawn. Top this, and take your rightful place among the great NBA Cheerleaders already. This state has far too many beautiful women for our team to not be able to produce something equal to that Rockets' video.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl 47 and Reminders to Breathe

If the food during the game wasn't giving you heartburn, then the results of the game absolutely should have. 

Few events capture Americana at its' best (and worst, in some cases) like Super Bowl Sunday. Food in mass quantities, booze galore, and production standstill are all regular culprits, but the last few years, the games have been boring, dull, and mundane. With a varied week of story lines ranging from Deer Antler Spray, to the Harbowl (Battle of the Brothers) I was leaning heavily towards expecting a dog of a game. Waking up this morning, it was hard not to crack a smile and get excited thinking about it. Wow, was I rewarded for it.

-I love New Orleans, and I love the fact that they hosted the Super Bowl. It may be my dream destination for either a Super Bowl, or a National Championship, should I ever be that lucky, but blowing a circuit for 34 minutes was a colossal disaster, and had Baltimore not pulled out the win, the city may have taken it in the shorts for it. It still leaves questions to be answered, but at this point it just adds to the lore that was one of the better Super Bowls of my lifetime.

-Colin Kaepernick started 10 games in his NFL career. 10 FREAKING GAMES! He threw a total of one bad pass, and was a straight up assassin every time he left the pocket. Terrell Suggs looked like he personally took it upon himself to deliver blows every time he could on him, and the kid never lost his cool, never lost his composure, never put his team out of contention, outside of the delay of game timeout they had to burn early. While he did struggle with getting plays off somewhat this season, it really is one of those things that will fade with time as he gets more comfortable making reads. I know defenses will break down film in the off-season, and schemes will be devised, but I have to wonder if ten years from now, we don't look back at him and say he's the greatest Quarterback of this generation. I just don't see flaws in his game at all.

-Speaking of flawless, now would be a good time for Joe Flacco to toot his own horn. (I make jokes for a living. My living is gooooood......not) The man played a beautiful game, aided by some terrific plays by wideouts Jacoby Jones and Anquan Boldin, and had the "eyes of a goat" all game long. I don't know if you can call him an elite QB, but when he needed to make plays, he did. What really intrigues me though, is rewind two or three years with me. Fans hate Flacco, Dull Joe, or Succo, or Flucco, whatever they were calling him, and throughout it all, his teammates stood by him. Never did they waver publicly, never did they disband, even though it seemed that would be the best way to go. Cut to Jim Harbaugh and the Niners, all trying to stand up for Alex Smith, then eventually cutting him out of the picture mostly because he was hurt, partly because, truthfully, Colin Kaepernick is a better, more talented QB, and then cut to which team won tonight. It speaks to something about consistency, faith in your teammates, belief in one another, and Deer Antler Spray for torn triceps can do for you. I can't argue that Alex Smith would have won that game, or gotten the Niners to the Super Bowl even, but I think it speaks strongly that you can have different philosophies and still be successful. 

-On a personal note, it always seems a bit surreal to see people I know in the NFL. I've been watching Haloti Ngata destroy offensive linemen for 12 years now, three of those from a first person view behind a facemask, and to see someone like him succeed, flourish, and now stand as a Super Bowl champion makes me feel both emotional and elated. He had every chance to make bad choices and to turn into a bad dude, but he did what was right, has always been a good teammate, and his hard work, work ethic, and character (along with a tiny bit of athletic prowess) have paid off in spades. If you don't know his story, I suggest you find it. I'm both lucky and grateful to have played with the guy, and am happy to see him accomplish something that he truly deserves.

-I told people when they asked me for my picks, that I was cheering for the Ravens, but I thought the Niners would win. As I review the game in my head, I can't help but think that this 49ers team was different from the one that ended last season and started this season. There is something to coming in under the radar that I think gives you the edge, and it was noticeable in the way both teams behaved with the media. Ray had his day, but otherwise stayed low profile, passing up on his traditional pregame dance, while you had self-started controversy from Randy Moss and his claim of being the greatest ever, and Chris Culliver's ridiculous remarks taking away from what should have been a mostly distraction-free week. Though blocking and tackling are still the essentials to winning any football game, there are reasons that players talk about humility and hard work and focus with such fierce repetition in interviews. They matter. I don't want to say that the Niners were unfocused, but maybe they weren't as prepared as they should or could have been. This team was so fun and successful the year before because they were hungry, and driven by fundamentals. Fast forward a year, and all the talk and attention may have gone to their heads. Cross that with the Ravens, a team that struggled for a good chunk of the year, was doubted and questioned by outsiders, and watch them come together and unite for the cause. Pretty amazing. It was also the perfect recipe for an entertaining game, right down to the final minute. Really, on Super Bowl Sunday, that's what we all need, is a good recipe. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Trapped in the Closet

Truth be told, I needed this game.

I've readily admitted that I give sports too much attention from my life pie. I've tried to find other hobbies, but at the end of the day, the correlation between the number of Jazz fans that love the Jazz and love The Bachelor series (guilty myself) has convinced me that I live for drama, and nowhere else is that more available, more unpredictable, than sports. So when things stop going well with my team, I get upset. I stew over it. As a Ute fan, it has been a long, frustrating 5+ months. Pile on top of that the recent Jazz woes, Bengals playoff loss, well, you get the point. I needed this win tonight something fierce.

The Jazz delivered.

There are still plenty of debates to be had. We have zero answer for offensive production outside of Al. Hayward has a great night against Ray Allen, but if Shane Battier is on the floor, does he still produce at that rate? Favors is terrific, and maturing, but his offensive game is so lacking that he's almost unplayable unless Al is there to hold his hand and score. Burks has shown promise at the point, but clearly is a work in progress, as opposed to a solution. Marvin Williams still looks uncomfortable offensively. The list goes on and on.

Tonight is about celebrating the win, enjoying the bask of the super bright lights of "The Solution", and cracking as many dumb jokes as possible about how with near frigid temperatures on the streets of Salt Lake City, the Jazz figured out how to beat the HEAT, but as Bill Oram (@tribjazz) pointed out, the Jazz have beat San Antonio and Miami, and lost to Sacramento, New Orleans, Philly, Phoenix, and Atlanta. That's some maddening inconsistency from a team that has prided itself on execution and effort in order to win.

And maybe part of why we've had so many struggles is because we do play so hard. These guys are all prideful, hard working, fighters and even though I may scream and yell from time to time at Al Jefferson's defense, it is blatantly obvious how badly he wants success right now. Bad habits can be hard to break, apparently, even for NBA stars.

As the rest of the season plays out, and more storylines and "narratives" unfold, there will undoubted be more moments of drama, be they good or bad, along the road to the playoffs, and like the sucker that I am, I will continue to tune in, because I love the drama, err, team, and when it really counts, they seem to give me what I need.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lebron vs. The World

One thing I hate about talk radio is the lack of originality. Granted, listening to sports talk radio for roughly six to eight hours daily probably isn't recommended if you are looking for fresh takes, but neither is jumping from desk to desk terrorizing your coworkers' cubicles with Dust-Off and jar of used staples, so I do what I have to in order to keep my sanity. So, I hate when I rehash topics that have been discussed ad nauseam, but today, I have to. It's been eating at me, causing me restless nights of sleep and days of loneliness and disconnect(not really), and I have to let it out. No, I don't have Bieber fever. I'm not secretly in love with Nickleback. This might be even worse....

I want to like Lebron James.

Seriously. I do.

Please withhold your shaming of me until I have a chance to explain.

Hating Lebron has become en vogue, much like the short-lived Kony 2012 movement or making a Kardashian joke, as if he was some modern day Benedict Arnold, turning his back on his native land to go skipping off into France with baskets of wine and cheese. We all have our reasons for the perceived "hate", and all in all, most of them are at least defensible. We hate that he stabbed Cleveland on national TV, that he chose the road less taken, or less manly, or easier, depending on who you talk to, by teaming up with a "rival" in Dwayne Wade. We despise the fact that he controls his own destiny so fully, that he has such freedom and can essentially do whatever it is he wants, while the majority of us are constrained by money, family, career, or various other influences. The honest truth? Dude is practically spotless. Outside of his mother (and let's be honest here, almost everyone has been embarassed by their mother at some point) causing minor drama with a valet, and a Delonte (see what I did there?), Lebron has done nothing that a typical citizen would define as offensive. In fact, outside of an incredibly stupid pep rally, where, defensibly, LBJ got caught up in a moment and made a statement that was incredibly dumb, insulting, and possibly motivating, a few rogue quotes, and a badly publicized birthday party, he's been a beacon of positive examples. (You could even argue that the "Not One, Not Two," debacle should be on management, seeing that they were the ones to organize it, thinking only of capitalizing financially on "The Decision". I'm appalled that no one thought throwing this party would result in people throwing anything they can get their hands on at you every time you leave your home state, cursing, and outright hating your team. This is common sense 101 for 75% of the population. I'm just sayin.)

His play alone should be enough to have quieted any critics. Like anyone, LBJ is not perfect, despite his recent Herculean play in both the NBA Finals and the Olympics, and though the antagonism against the King has died down considerably with his recent title triumph, there still remains a huge part of his legacy that is yet to be made, and with every missed shot, missed opportunity and season without another ring, the door will once again be opened to drink the Lebron Haterade and criticize the greatest player of the current generation.

He does a ton of good things off the court, as well, most of which I'll skip for lack of my time and your attention. His teammates rave about what a great guy he is, and rarely do you catch such a scrutinized superstar on a bad day, or see him overreact to the massive herd of media that covers his seemingly every move. That alone might be more impressive than his on-court game, until you watch him run a fast break.

All of the above reasons make me want to like Lebron.

Simply, we've never seen an athlete of his caliber, magnitude, or ability. I have zero doubt that he could start today for every team in the NFL. Can you picture him as a defender or an attack in Soccer? Messi who? Rugby, Tennis, Volleyball, hell, practically every team sport save Hockey and possibly Baseball (unless he's hiding some skills there, which I would find completely possible) would reap benefits from him taking his talents there.

I'm sure you get my point.

People in life are going to believe what they want to believe, sometimes despite being presented with evidence that often presents a story quite to the contrary. When I write about basketball, I typically write from the perspective of a Jazz fan, and my loyalties will likely always lie there, but I'm not so blinded by adoration that I don't appreciate greatness. I've seen his games, watched him dominate, heard the quotes, seen the proof. Lebron James may end up the greatest player of all time, but though I've tried my hardest to embrace the man, I can't in good conscious say that I will ever support him, outside of the fairy tale ending of him finishing his career in the valley of salt and granite. My heroes are guys who fight their guts out, shed tears when they lose, fight the uphill battle, and know that with great power comes great responsibility. Lebron has a gift unlike any we've seen in generations, a transcendent talent that we are lucky to be able to witness, but at the end of the day, we're all just pawns in the Lebron show, patrons in the audience as he writes, directs, and stars in the play of his life. I won't say that James has been wholly selfish, but the way he operates has always been about him, and rarely anyone else. His style of play(wanting to distribute as opposed to taking over games), the move to Miami, seeking help from Wade and Bosh, the commercial he made in retaliation to the Decision backlash, playing "the Villain" (the one thing he's probably ever done poorly), all of it rotates around what Lebron wants. At the end of the day, that is something I just can't overcome. Not when it comes to a guy I idolize.

Greatness can be defined in multiple definitions, the most common of those being a feat that surpasses all others similar to it. Howver, greatness for me is personally defined by doing the thing that sometimes is the hardest, and giving the most of yourself for the benefit of others, and figuring out how best to share your talents with the world. I will never blame Lebron James for wanting to do things his way, we all have days and moments where we think that will be great, but I can't currently stand behind a player who had so much potential to change so much, from the way people view athletes, to his influence over a community, or how his play was relocating the axis of professional basketball to Ohio, even, and chose to do what he wanted over it all. More power to him. He doesn't need my support, nor that of the many others who feel the same as I do.

There are millions of small-market, underdog kids however, that could have used his.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Guest Poster: Chris Reed on Utah's Evolution

How's this for a pre-season thought parade?

How much has Utah Football changed in 15 years? Let's take a semi-iconic moment from The Holy War and just run a course of what has happened since then...

Well on November 23, 1996 Kautai Olevao slobberknocked Ronney Jenkins, but Utah lost the game
Now, on that day had you told me the following would be Utah Football on 10/1/2011...

Utah would go 10-6 against BYU after that day
Utah would go to 12 bowl games
Win 9 of them, IN a row
Including the Sugar, AND Fiesta Bowls
Your current Defensive Coordinator would become your Head Coach
Only after serving 2 years under some Receivers Coach at Notre Dame who would put Utah Football into another orbit
That some 5'8" 100lb kid at Bonita Vista Middle School in San Diego would be the QB of the rocket ship after getting recruited by only ONE other D-I school. 
That the same kid would be drafted into the NFL #1 overall
The BYU Offensive Coordinator that year would become your Offensive Coordinator in 2011
In year 1 of the PAC12 Conference
Which the U is now a member of
The QB coach and future Offensive Coordinator would be some 9 year old in Houston
The same 9 year old would be MVP of your Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama
The Receivers Coach is a guy who is a redshirt WR for the blue team across the field
Utah's SR defensive end that day would become the current Defensive Line Coach
Working under a BYU fullback on a mission who is now the Defensive Coordinator
With some kid on the Highland High roster as the Safeties Coach
With a guy playing at Ricks as the Special Teams Coordinator
And that you'd lose your home Pac-12 opening game against the same BYU QB (now coach at Washington) who beat you that day throwing a whopping 12 passes
In a stadium that doesn't give your ass splinters
With an Olympic Torch behind a TV Screen
Where standing room only tickets are sold out...

I'd have told you that to save time, I could kick you in the groin right there, and save you 15 years of disappointment.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

We Are Utah Jazz...?

It's doesn't fit right. When you think of Jazz music, you think of Chicago, New York, LA, and most especially New Orleans, not Rocky Mountains and snow. So why is Utah so adamant about keeping the name Utah Jazz? Don't they realize how stupid it sounds on the outside? Outside of Mormons and the "Greatest Snow on Earth," or possibly polygamy, nothing is more recognizable about our state than the Jazz, and for a former sleepy mountain community that has now grown into a recognizable metropolis, holding on to what has helped us become amazing is important.

I can argue that we have plenty of Jazz influences here, from the Arts Festival to the Park City Jazz fest, but rather than spend my time trying to prove that Jazz is just as legal as fry sauce in Utah, I'd rather explain what Utah Jazz really is, because it has to do with something other than music here. The Jazz are about who and what the state of Utah has to offer. When Dan Roberts yells at a frenzied crowd, How Bout This Jazz, he's not only referring to the team, but to the epic atmosphere of the Delta Center/ ESA, perennially ranked as one of the hardest and loudest places to play in the league; where two of the most intense, highest rated NBA Finals took place. He's referring to a fan base that has been treated to immense amounts of success from a small market that probably should have lost the team years ago. He's referencing Larry Miller's passion, Karl Malone's amazing work ethic, John Stockton's heart and hustle, which in my opinion, is still second to none, and the embodiment of consistency and taking things one day at a time and giving your best effort in everything, the one and only Jerry Sloan. This Jazz, right here in Utah, is a song that we don't sing, but a lifestyle and a community that so many of us live for, because we need some Jazz in our lives. People often talk about the blue collar nature of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and how the franchise reflects the toughness of city, but things are almost a reverse in Utah. The state has embraced the legacy the Jazz have left over the years by being hard-working, flying under the radar, and developing a consistency of winning that has become expectation. I believe that sports franchises are important not for the games they win as much as the type of communities and relations that they build. I've hugged perfect strangers, built legitimate friendships, and developed a love for writing because of This Jazz. So when Tom Benson comes asking for a name, the answer we all need to give has nothing to do with a name, because we can't give it back. Our Utah Jazz is a sound, a music, a passion completely different than anything a New Orleans franchise could ever have, and though no one outside of this community and it's "Nation" spread across the country can understand, we would not be giving up a name if we were to let them have it. We would be giving up a piece of  who we have become, and who I continue to believe I am. The phrase is hokey, but it really is true. Here in the rockies, We Are, Utah Jazz.