KingMidget's Ramblings

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A Song For Today

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I was the Markelle of Marquette Drive

Markelle Fultz was the first pick in the 2017 NBA draft last year. Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers, he was considered a can’t miss prospect. And then something happened. 

It’s difficult to know exactly what that something is. Fultz played one year in college, averaging 23 points per game and shooting 41% from three point range. So, he apparently is a shooter and a scorer.

Only somewhere along the way he lost his shot. The team hasn’t actually been forthcoming and they have shielded Fultz from the media. But it appears that he either had a shoulder injury and tried to adjust his shot to accommodate the injury … or … after his one year of college experience somebody told him he needed to change his shot and in the process of trying to do so he damaged his shoulder.

Regardless of the order of events, Fultz apparently has lost his shot and speculation is that he now has developed a mental block when it comes to shooting the basketball. In golf terminology, he has the yips.

Years ago, as a young lad, I grew up on Marquette Drive. We had a basketball hoop attached to the roof and had free reign to shoot the rock on our driveway. I developed some odd habits on our driveway. For instance, dribbling and shooting with my left hand, even though I am right-handed in just about everything I do. In fact, if I tried to dribble a basketball with my right hand, you may just have concluded I was the most uncoordinated kid in town.

I also developed a shot that wasn’t really conducive to actually playing the game of basketball. Instead of a jump shot where I might release the ball from above my head, I shot from somewhere around my shoulders. I was deadly accurate with my shot, but it was far too susceptible to being blocked.  Give me a game of H-O-R-S-E and I was good. Give me a game with players moving and passing and shooting and, well, I just filled space on the driveway.

One day, my big brother told me I needed to develop a jump shot. I tried. Working on releasing the ball from higher up, trying to adopt the form I saw other players had. It was a complete and utter failure. I soon lost all memory of how I used to shoot the basketball and in my efforts at the correct form, I lost all ability to actually put the ball through the hoop.

And so my basketball career ended. I could have been a 5′ 9 1/2″ white point guard with no speed and no hops but a sure thing shot. I wasn’t. I lost my shot. I lost my confidence. Couldn’t even get to an H or an H-O in a game of H-O-R-S-E.

I blame my brother. As do all big brothers, he found a way to squelch my talents. I coulda been somebody.

Zero Sum

In a recent article, Michael Lewis writes about a whole bunch of interactions he had with the Trump Administration in recent months. He attended a press conference, sat down with Steve Bannon (who interestingly is related as having a thought I’ve pondered for years — America is in decline and the elites don’t care), and a few other things.

But what struck me about the article, is the opening paragraph or three. He writes about how so much of our current dynamic and current political debate is based on a zero-sum approach.

Approaching any aspect of life as a zero-sum game has obvious practical costs: Deals that leave some people better off without making anyone else worse off suddenly don’t get done, because making some people better off now, by definition, makes other people worse off. It also comes with some psychological side effects. It cripples your imagination. It blinds and deafens you, as you sort of know what your adversary is going to do or say before they do or say it. Or, rather, you know how you are going to make sense of it: uncharitably.

This is we are today in America. Any victory for one side is viewed as a loss by the other. In such an imagination-free world, compromise is simply not an option. We are crippled, blind and deaf. Lewis states it perfectly.

I am reminded of a Republican leader’s comment early in Obama’s first term that their goal would be to ensure he was a one-term President. To me, this is when the zero-sum approach took root in American politics. Yes, I’m sure Republicans would claim it started before then. Maybe some time during the second Bush Presidency or back in the Reagan years Democrats did something to oppose a Republican initiative.

But here’s the deal, while some Democrats have opposed all Republican policies, there have been enough Democrats motivated by moving forward that those Republican Presidents have been able to get support from both parties for major initiatives. Think the Iraq War. Think GWB’s expanded Medicaid drug benefit. Think a whole lot of things.

Now, think about the Obama Presidency and ask where any of that collaboration was. I’m open for a discussion on this, but to me at least on the national level, the zero-sum approach began with the Republicans. And even now, Democrats are showing they aren’t entirely enraptured of zero-sum.

I don’t mean for this to be a “blame the Republicans” piece. No, one could argue that in the state where I live, the Democrats have essentially done the same thing. Over the last 25 years, what once was a red state turned to purple and then turned entirely blue — at least in terms of control of statewide elected offices and the Legislature. The truth is that there are still large swaths of red and significant numbers of conservatives, just not in numbers sufficient to achieve any power at the statewide level. And what have the Democrats in power done with that — ignored Republicans and conservatives and stripped them of any input on legislation and policy initiatives.

No, this isn’t just a Republican problem. It isn’t just a Democratic program. It is an American problem. Are we going to continue our American decline as we refuse to listen, to talk, to negotiate, and to compromise? Or will we one day put aside the harshest of our differences and recognize our citizenship is one thing we share and one thing that should unite us?

(Side note: it is exactly this zero-sum approach that has come to dominate American politics that has afforded people like Vladimir Putin the ability to meddle in our elections. Just saying.)

 

A Song for Today

Reminders

This past week I joined a fitness club for the first time in at least a decade. I’ve been twice so far. And in short order was reminded of several things from my last time going to the gym.

Reminder #1 — running on a treadmill is really, really, really boring. I don’t know what it is, but running out in the world is far easier and more appealing than running on a treadmill will ever be.

Reminder #2 — it is a good thing there are women in the world because, my god, the male body is an ugly thing to behold. Hairy and lumpy and just … ugh. The female presence is important for two reasons — because apparently you all are attracted to us hairy lumps and where would we be without that and because your form is far more appealing to look at and where would we be without that.

And, no, I don’t make a point of staring at the other men in the locker room. It’s kind of hard to ignore them because of …

Reminder #3 — some men believe that it is perfectly okay to walk around stark naked in the locker room without wrapping a towel around their parts. They think nothing of standing right next to you without a towel around their hips or without putting on a pair of underwear. I get it, there is that time in between taking your towel off and sliding on your underwear when everything is out there. But I’m talking about these men who stand there for moments on end, with their junk right in my face. Walking back and forth, parading it all, lumps and hair and little Mr. Happy without a towel or underwear to cover up It seems most of the men who do this are older, which means they are lumpier and hairier. Why?

The joys of the gym.

Any ideas for making the treadmill more interesting?

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