My Dad vs. Claude Humphrey & Basketball

From the Hoss Martin Archives

Note: My father passed away on Thursday, August 11, 2016

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Memphis, Tennessee was a bubbling caldron of tension that was spreading throughout the Southland. The efflorescence of the Civil Rights Era along with the general discontentment with the status quo was observed by many within the culture.

Perhaps, this was the setting of an incident when my father (a point guard) attempted to steal a basketball away from Claude Humphrey in what should have been a nondescript high school game between opponents. Things suddenly changed as my dad managed to grab hold of the ball possessed by the big man.

Humphrey apparently took exception to this effort and thought he was fouled. Since no foul was forthcoming, Humphrey decided to grab my dad and lifted him up above his head. My father became a bit choleric after this action decided to take the basketball and hit Humphrey on top of the head as an act of reprisal. A donnybrook between both teams ensued without any injuries in the end; my father was able to walk away to play another week as if nothing had happened, and Mr. Humphrey managed to develop a successful college and professional football career and receive a well-earned (and long overdue) induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Aside from this high school tommyrot old, basketball was a game that conflated speed, nimbleness, and physical prowess. The sport was in constant development for decades until it reached its zenith about a decade ago.

            Today, modern basketball (both college and pro) has somehow adapted the moribund Run and Shoot offense of the gridiron into a debased form of hoops by launching projectiles anywhere on the floor, while everyone and their mother run in the other direction for an offensive possession. In essence, traditional basketball has devolved into city park/playground basketball with nuanced differences.

For example, let us take a few moments to examine the contrasts of the following:

  • Both have compensation involved: one is taxable under labor laws with a check, the other is under the table with grifts
  • They both have female admirers along the baselines.
  • Both have spectators along the perimeter of the court
  • Both require security personnel: one has individuals donning yellow jackets, the other is of a law enforcement variety accompanied with a canine
  • They both require liquid refreshments; a few individuals elect to have a compotation for stronger beverages besides Gatorade or Powerade
  • Both require a bit of forensics after every foul or questionable call
  • One used nylon for nets; the other typically chains
  • Somewhere Bill Russell could think that he may have drifted into the Twilight Zone with the lack of rebounding and defense witnessed today.

 

Although the aforementioned list is by no means apodictic, it is an effort to bring levity to a situation that has made basketball less compelling than it once was. It seems as if players have an aversion to low post moves and dominance in the paint.

Now, I am by no means advocating the Malice in the Palace or pernicious acts more suited for barbarous mixed martial arts. It just would be nice to see something more gratifying than jump shots and dunks resulting from fast breaks as a result of these incessant long-range missiles. The big man is almost as obsolete as the Commodore VIC-20.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Golden State Warriors: Everyone Loves a Winner

  In 1970, the late John Facenda with his signature mellifluous voice provided one of his best narrations in his career with NFL Films. Near the conclusion of the Super Bowl IV highlight video of the Kansas City Chiefs versus Minnesota Vikings depicting one of Vikings’ cheerleaders in tears, Facenda said, “Defeat is a personal thing, but victory belongs to everyone.”

Last night, the Golden State Warriors secured their fifth World Championship with a 129-120 defeat of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals. The nearly simultaneous aftermath of celebrations and a flurry of commentary on social media outlets were observed from the Bay Area to the Eastern United States.

The dubious reaction for a franchise that few seem to remember the impact of the great Rick Barry and Head Coach Al Attles in their championship in 1975 or the number of times Mark Curry pretended to play for the Warriors in the television situation comedy Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper during the nineties is a surprise. Nonetheless, young and old alike are enamored with the relatively affable personalities of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson. The Warriors have become so much of a fan favorite that even one of my neighbors has a Golden State flag in front of their residence here in Metropolitan Atlanta.

 Unfortunately, some members of the media have mistakenly taken an impressive achievement by the Warriors and fell prey to unconscionable platitudes by claiming that Golden State’s dominance is the best thing for the National Basketball Association. Despite the rhetoric, the 2017 NBA Finals were anything but spectacular. The series was marred by nondescript games that became more of a soporific effect upon me than a thrill.

Of course, the Golden State Warriors cannot concern themselves with how their dominance may impact the NBA henceforth. Head Coach Steve Kerr and associates must continue to strive for excellence by preventing complacency of a juggernaut that should remain so for some time to come. The rest of the Western Conference, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the league must find creative ways to procure enough matériel to be able to compete with the Warriors in the foreseeable future.

In fairness, we should not make derisive statements against Golden State of today without considering the Boston Celtics from 1957-1969 who won 11 titles during that era. Boston was victorious almost every year without the NBA imploding.

The NBA will be okay with the preponderance of the Golden State Warriors, but many individuals question how the league will be perceived without the development of a nemesis who could at least make these almost perennial champions suffer hyperhidrosis. For the time being, GSW should be commended for their excellence because having the best athletes does not always guarantee championships. The 1968 Baltimore Colts were in a similar situation in the NFL and succumbed to the New York Jets in early 1969.  Selah

Pittsburgh Penguins: That Same Old Song

  The Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 defeat of the Nashville Predators on the road in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final secured the franchise’s fifth title in its 50-year history. Both teams were deadlocked 0-0 in a competitive series at Bridgestone Arena deep into the third period until the Penguins’ RW Patric Hornqvist fired a quick shot from virtually behind the net off Goaltender Pekka Rinne’s left elbow with 1:35 remaining.

            Instantly, the once boisterous Music City crowd was silenced and reflective only to become completely funereal as Pittsburgh’s LW Carl Haegelin provided the coup de grâce with a wrist shot on an empty net for an insurance goal at 19:46. When the final horn sounded, the ebullient Penguins were observed celebrating on the ice and along the bench as debris showered the playing surface without endangering any of the players.

            The two consecutive championships by Pittsburgh was an unseen mirabilia since the Detroit Red Wings achieved it around the inception of the Nashville Predators as an expansion team in the National Hockey League. The Penguins had not witnessed this achievement since their co-owner, Mario Lemieux, won the Conn Smythe Trophy for them in 1992.

            Although the Nashville Predators and fans alike were disappointed at the end of an excellent season, a number of them remained inside of the arena until each Penguin had the opportunity to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup above their head as a sign of respect. Nashville’s ascendency also proved that the sport of ice hockey could be a fixture in non-traditional regions if the club is managed reasonably well.

            Mismanagement resulted in the demise of the Atlanta Thrashers who were established one year later than the Predators in 1999. The parsimony of the multi-headed dragon representing ownership doomed this franchise approximately four years after their only playoff entry that resulted in a sweep by the New York Rangers in 2007. Nevertheless, the former moribund franchise was acquired by ownership in Winnipeg, and the resurrected Jets have not enjoyed tremendous success either following a 4-0 sweep by the Anaheim Ducks in a meaningless playoff run in 2015.

            Therefore, the Nashville Predators have assembled a talented core with Mike Fisher, Roman Josi, Colton Sissons, P.K. Subban, et cetera that should win a championship in the near future with minor adjustments. They just were overmatched with a formidable and experienced hockey club that just knew how to make things happen in their favor when they needed to the most.

            Pittsburgh was victorious in one of the world’s most challenging sports with Sidney Crosby, Patrick Hornqvist, Matt Murray, and Phil Kessel holding the team together. Of course, winning a championship in Pittsburgh has become par for the course for them along with the Steelers and Pirates.

            In conclusion, this series was beneficial for the NHL because it moves the league further away from the labor and lockout issues back in 2004-2005 by becoming a distant memory. While other media outlets attempt to ignore this incredible game with tepid coverage, NBC Sports has continued to provide excellent broadcasts of every single contest from the regular season to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Gradually, people are more willing to gravitate to the National Hockey League because of the relatability to its players and the like.