Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Take on Michael Jackson

With reports now being confirmed that Michael Jackson has died and an outpouring of support for Jacko all over the media, I wanted to take this time to first voice my outrage and second hear from you guys on what you think Jacko's legacy will be.

First, my take. Sure, Micheal Jackson had a litany of mega hits. I won't list them, but we all know he was an incredibly talented and successful musician. He revolutionized dancing. His was a trailblazer is music videos. Thriller is still a cool video.

Then there were the wild accusations about Jacko's personal life. Spending the night in the same bed with children. Macaulay Culkin. Lisa Marie. The second marriage. The surrogate mother. The series of plastic surgeries. The visible change of skin color. The visible change of his nose.

And, of course, the elephant in the room, the child molestation accusations. Sure, Jacko was acquitted in 2005. Let's not forget OJ was acquitted as well. "Not guilty" does not mean the same thing as "innocent". I'm not saying he did anything, but, sometimes, where there's smoke, there's fire.

What do you think of Michael Jackson? What is the one indelible image of Jacko?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My take on Donte' Stallworth

This is a sports topic in some regard, but it is more of a legal and criminal justice topic. I also realize that this is a very contraversial subject. It is not my intention to ruffle any feathers. Let's just get straight to the facts.

Donte' Stallworth, while drunk, collided with a 59 year old pedestrian and killed the father of one early in the morning (7:15am) in Miami after a night (and part of the morning) of heavy drinking. In addition to 1000 hours of community service, a donation to MADD, 2 years of house arrest and a potential lifetime loss of his driver's license, Stallworth got 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter. The prosecutor cited Stallworth's clean record, cooperation with the police and a private settlement with the family of the victim as factors for his unbelievably short and light sentence. Stallworth's BAC when he was pulled over was .123, more than 50% higher than Florida's .08 legal limit. Stallworth has recently been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. He is likely to be cut by the Browns, his current employer.

On the other hand, Michael Vick served 23 months in Federal prison for his participation in a dog fighting ring. No people were killed. No people were hurt. No families were destroyed. Countless millions of dollars in bonus money, endorsements and game checks were and will be lost. Vick may never play in the NFL again. (I said may, relax).

Let's recap, shall we? Stallworth killed a man the night after earning a $4.5 million dollar bonus. Killed a man. As in killed him dead. Vick, directly and indirectly, killed and had killed numerous pit bulls. Look, I love dogs as much as the next guy. But, in no way would I equate the killing of a dog with the killing of a human being. Yes, what Vick did was horrible. Disgusting. Reprehensible.

How does a person who kills another human being get 30 days in jail while a person who killed some dogs get 23 months in Federal prison? Does that not incense anyone else???

I understand that taking responsibility for one's action garners support from the criminal justice system. Staying at the scene of the crime and cooperating with the police are good steps towards taking responsibility for what a person did. But, let's not lose sight of the fact that a man was killed. Killed because he was crossing the street at 7:15am. And because Stallworth was driving after drinking (heavily). Taking a breathalyzer after killing a person does not absolve a person of killing another person. Hello?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Random Musings

Well, with Bar Bri in full effect, along with my fear of failing the bar, I've been pretty busy (and productive) studying. A lot of people have told me to take some time to relax (thanks, guys) and try to stick to a routine. Well, blogging is part of my routine. Even if the frequency of posts has slowed somewhat, I'll keep at it. With that in mind, I have some (some what disjointed) topics that don't really warrant an entire post but I felt like should be brought to your attention.

1. Major props to Bagel for hooking up the post-bar trip. Nearly three days in Vegas. Comped suite. Which, and this is truly remarkable, has 2 bathrooms and is nearly the size of my apartment. I'm truly looking forward to that trip. The first 7 and 7 is on me. Ok, well, I'll pay the tip on the free first round.

2. While this may not exactly be news, it must be mentioned. People, it's Houston. It's June. It's hot. This is not new. It's hot every summer. Hell, it's pretty hot in fall and spring, too. In fact, it's not exactly "cold" during winter, either. I realize talking about the weather is not as controversial as politics or religion and people do tend to talk about the weather. But let's not complain as though this is earth-shattering news. I even do this sometimes myself, and I always ask myself, why are you surprised?

3. Is there a funnier minor character in a show than Ted in "Scrubs"? He is an incredibly funny character. He is such a loser. But Ted consistently cracks me up.

4. One of my non-career but life in general goals, starting a BBQ team, is starting to gain some traction. Finally getting a real smoker was a good first step, and joining forces with competent and like-minded people was a second (that is not a shot at anybody else, so just relax). Come check out what we put together on July 4th.

5. The College World Series is a great display of why people love sports. I know this isn't a sports blog (thanks for the heads up, Gizmo) but sports are an important part of life in America. You can say what you want about me, but I'm not going to sit here and listen to people bad mouth The United State of America. Most of these kids, even at the height of college baseball, are not going to play professional baseball, let alone in the Major Leagues. But they play with heart and passion, and it's truly inspiring to see.

6. This is the 20th anniversary of the movie Major League. This is my favorite sports movie and is one of my favorite movies, period. Truly a hilarious movie. Bob Uecker ad libbed many of the lines in the movie. He also wrote a book named Catcher in the Wry. Perfect summer read for anyone, you know, not reading other crap all day long. I highly recommend it.

7. I'm surprised more people are tired of Michael Phelps that Roger Clemens and Mike Vick combined. Truly surprised.

I'd say more, but we can all agree 7 is a better number than 8. So, I'll leave it at that. Have a good rest of the week.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My take on Dwight Howard

Despite helping to lead the Orlando Magic to it’s first ever NBA Finals victory in Tuesday’s Game Three against the Lakers, and also putting in his best overall performance of the Finals in Thursday’s Game Four loss, Orlando’s Dwight Howard has been surprisingly underwhelming in the championship round so far, especially for someone widely regarded as the most dominant big man in the league today.

When looking at Howard’s performance and why it’s not befitting of the league’s top big, it’s important to take a glance at the Finals performances of some the modern top bigs who came before him, and why, if Howard is to lead his team’s comeback against the Lakers and is to be considered in the upper echelon of NBA centers, his game, especially on the offensive end, needs to be taken to another level.

The first and most obvious Howard comparison would be to the last big-name Magic center, who incidentally is also the last to lead Orlando to the Finals, Shaquille O’Neal. They have the same nickname, the same theme music and even the same physical style of play. But Shaq’s ability to elevate his game in the postseason, and in particular the NBA Finals, is where the comparison stops.

Shaq has elevated his scoring averages from the regular season every time he’s appeared in the NBA Finals, except for his loss to Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets in 1995. And his overall playoff scoring, rebounding and assist averages are all higher than his career regular season averages. And with his three consecutive Finals MVP awards, he is generally regarded as one of the best Finals performers in NBA history.

Howard has also drawn comparisons to the aforementioned Olajuwon, due to their freakish athleticism and unusual combination of size, speed and strength. However, Olajuwon’s highly refined and utterly devastating post moves dwarf Howard’s relatively archaic offensive skill level, and much like Shaq, Hakeem was well known for putting in his best work during the post season and especially the Finals.

Olajuwon spent the Rockets two championship runs making a habit of outplaying and occasionally even embarrassing all of the top centers of his day, including O’Neal, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, and even took it to an aging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during Houston’s surprising run to the Finals in 1986 (despite their eventual loss to Boston).

Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon

Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon

He also has one of the largest leaps in career playoff scoring from his regular season averages of any player in NBA history, including averaging an astonishing 33 points per game for the duration of the 1995 championship run, while his career playoff assists, blocked shots, rebound averages and shooting percentages all are higher than his regular season totals. Hakeem’s famous 1995 scoring dominance was also punctuated by averaging 10.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.0 blocks per game – all truly incredible numbers. And his back-to-back Finals MVPs cemented his legacy as one of the ultimate NBA clutch performers in every sense of the word.

It only seems right to compare Howard to the last great big man to grace the post season hardwood as well, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan.

Timmy D’s four championship rings were brought by postseason increases in points, rebounds, assists and blocked shots, and his three Finals MVP awards elevated him into an exclusive stratosphere of modern NBA centers/winners, along with O’Neal and Olajuwon.

Dwight Howard, on the other hand, while also increasing his post season averages in points, rebounds and in shooting percentage, still seems to be missing that certain understanding of the offensive game and the complete offensive repertoire that these other three truly great modern big men had.

His postseason scoring average this year of 19.6 points per game is the highest postseason average of his career, while the same number would be considered pedestrian, if not downright disappointing, for any of the other three mentioned centers. And his Finals output has been even less, as he’s averaging only 16.4 points per game against a Lakers squad not exactly known for its interior defense.

His assist numbers remain abysmal, at only 1.8 per game, which should be much higher for a post-up center whose team is trying to run their offense through and who is being doubled with regularity. This shows a still elementary understanding of the offensive complexities of post work, that Howard is still not realizing the full impact his physical presence and offensive skills can have on the game simply by creating matchup problems and getting his teammates involved. By comparison, Duncan averaged 3.5 assists per in the post season, Olajuwon 3.2 and O’Neal 2.8.

Howard also struggles immensely with his free throws, shooting only 64 percent in these playoffs, including 1-4 down the stretch in Thursday’s loss. It was Howard’s clutch-time misses that kept the door open for Derek Fisher’s late-game 3-ball heroics that put Orlando in its 3–1 series hole.

Is Kobe Bryant Overrated?

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal

At the moment, on the offensive side of the ball, Howard lacks Olajuwon’s grace, footwork and refinement, Duncan’s strong basic fundamentals and understanding of the game and O’Neal’s realization of the full prowess his size and strength gives him.

Even Howard’s supposed strong point, the defensive side of the ball, has a hard time measuring up to the others. Howard’s career post season block averages of 2.6 per game lead only Shaq’s 2.2, still trailing Duncan’s 2.7 and well behind Olajuwon’s playoff average of 3.3. Those numbers become even lower if you take away Thursday night’s 9-block extravaganza, which based on Howard’s previous 35 post season games, was more a one-game anomaly than a trend. This suggests that the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year still has a long way to go on the defensive side before he can take his place among the NBA’s modern elite centers.

The only portion of Howard’s Finals and overall postseason performance that can be considered truly dominant has been his rebounding, as he’s averaging a huge 15.6 boards per game this post season, including 16.5 against L.A. And you can’t take that away from Howard, but he’s doing it on a team that basically asks him to grab every rebound while both forwards hover around the perimeter.

Ultimately, it will be Howard’s performance the rest of the way out that will truly write the end to Orlando’s season. Will he be able to lift the team onto his broad shoulders and take them to the promised land, as the other great modern centers have done? Or will his youth, inexperience and still rudimentary understanding of the offensive part of the game be too much for the Magic to overcome without a truly dominant scorer to pick up the slack?

And though he’s still young, and there’s many pages left to be written in the story of Dwight Howard’s NBA career — both O’Neal and Olajuwon lost their first Finals appearances only to bounce back better than ever later in their career — the initial chapters of his legacy will be cemented in these last several games of the 2009 NBA season. If he truly wants to be considered a dominant NBA big man, he’ll take this opportunity to prove it to us.

You know what really grinds my gears Part 7

You know what really grinds my gears? I'm glad you asked, because it is the following list of activity that really grinds my gears.

1. Brett Favre. Seriously, has this "I'm retired, no wait, I want to play again" dance gone on long enough. He has tried the same tired song and dance every year since 2005. I couldn't care less. Even though the media now jokes about the saturation over the air waves about Brett Favre, they continue to document and report his every move. Favre, who hasn't been an elite QB in close to 7 years, and hasn't been an above average QB in 3 years, is more likely to throw interceptions than touchdowns. He's not a gun slinger anymore. He's old. And I don't care about him at all. Go away and stay away.

2. In the same vein about over saturation, people who update their facebook status every three minutes or every time they do anything, no matter how mundane, need to stop. Realize I've already blocked your updates on my facebook account. Eating a sandwich, or driving to the grocery store do not need facebook updates. A play by play of your day at work is, again, something I don't need to see on my computer screen. If I wanted to know what you were doing at that exact moment, I would call you (Thanks for that line, Guillermo McMillan).

3. Comcast. Not only was the Internet and cable out for half of the day Wednesday, but it's been going out on a nearly day by day basis. Why would I continue to pay outrageous bills for a hit or miss service? Oh, right, there is no other cable company. A monopoly. How American.

4. People in the express lane at Kroger (or any other grocery store, but I shop at Kroger these days) who haggle over a few cents when a line builds up behind them. If you bring coupons and watch the cashier like a hawk, go to the regular lines. Don't go to the express lanes. And if you have 15 items or more in the 15 items or less line and have coupons and cause the manager to have to come give you a rain check because you couldn't get your Fiber One and a discount before you START writing your check, let alone whip out your check book, you need to go to the regular lanes. Not the express lane. That is the lane reserved for people with a few items and ready to pay with a credit card or debit card. You know, those people who can move along in an "express" fashion. The name express is not just thrown out there because the grocery stores like the way it looks. It's a convenience feature. Get out of the lane, grandma.

5. Those "guys" who wear the Euro-tight jeans. Listen, you're a guy, you don't need to wear skin tight jeans. There is no reason to wear pants so tight they don't even go over your hind quarters. Get a hair cut, buy some new pants, and for God's sake, wearing a thin tie with an untucked shirt looks moronic so don't do that. I'm not sure you realize this is Texas, not Paris or Milan. Wear your jeans the right way.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My take on Kobe Bryant

First, let me get a few things out of the way. I know this is not a sports blog, but sports are important to me and this is my blog. So, deal with it (Abbie, I'm talking to you). Second, I'm going to keep this strictly on the topic of basketball. I'm not letting my personal distaste for Kobe Bryant color this post. Third, Nate, these are facts and stats and are not intended to ruffle any proverbial feathers.

Kobe missed some free throws and the Lakers did not beat the Magic in game 3 of the somewhat anti-climactic NBA Finals. (I barely watched the game, and I'm one of the last 11 NBA fans left in the United States but that's not the point). Watching Sportscenter, I saw Kobe saying that he's used to making game winners and carrying his team to victory. Part of that is true. Kobe carries his team on a nightly basis. It's hard to argue he's not one of the best players of this generation, if not of all time. He's surely in the conversation of top 5 to 8 guards of all time. Some of his teams have been less talented than others, but the Lakers have been contenders more often than not with Kobe on the team. Largely because of Kobe. Like him or dislike him (he is a polarizing figure, one way or another [and if you disagree with that, you're drinking just not being objective]) Kobe is incredibly talented.

But let's talk about clutch. How do we define clutch? Let's define it as a game winning opportunity. Not just buzzer beating shots, as that would be statistically insignificant. Let's define clutch as:
  1. With 24 seconds or less, then it truly is a "last possession" situation potentially
  2. With a margin from tied to down 2, the team can take the lead with a made basket (including 3's)
  3. By excluding a down 3 situation, we don't have the "gimme two point buckets" that defenses will sometimes yield to the quick bucket/intentional foul strategy option you often see exercised.
Using stats from (an incredible NBA site, by the way, for the other 10 of you out there) analyzing the past 5 seasons, including playoffs (through February of this year), the league average for shots in this situation is .298. Not that great, but these are challenging shots. Some of these shots are from half court or beyond. Some are with less than one full second remaining.

Who has made the most of these game winning shots in the past 5 years? I'm glad you asked. It's Lebron James, with 17. We all remember the shot he hit against Orlando with hands in his face. Trey (allegedly) celebrated by imitating Lebron's chalk throwing. It was an incredible shot, without a doubt. What is the King's percentage on these shot? .340. Better than league average. Lebron also has 6 assists in these situations. So, one could argue he has created 23 game winners, when adding shots and assists.

Where is Kobe on this list? Well, he's fourth with 14. Certainly nothing to sneeze at. What is his percentage? Again, I'm glad you asked. It's below league average at .250. How many turnovers does he have in these situations? 5. He leads the entire NBA in that category. How many shots has he taken? 56. Wow, that's a lot. He leads the NBA in that category as well. Kobe also leads the league in misses, with 42 game winning shots missed. How many assists does Kobe have in game winning opportunities? One. In 62 chances (56 shots, one pass, 5 turnovers).

This is not to say Kobe is terrible. Clearly, I'm not saying that. I'm saying he's not infallible. But when you hear people say Kobe is the best finisher in the league, re-think that. He's not the most clutch. He doesn't pass to his teammates in those same clutch moments.

I thinks we can all agree that superstars get calls in the NBA. Michael Jordan did, Kobe does, Lebron does, Wade does. Just like in baseball where the tie goes to the runner, the borderline call goes to the star. This is nothing new. But I wonder how many of these calls were bail out calls, or touchy calls, or borderline calls, or superstar calls?

Bottom line: Kobe's good. Very good. He can absolutely finish a game the Lakers are winning by hitting jumpers and getting to the line. But, he's not the best at winning games in the clutch. And he's surely no MJ. Remember when MJ passed to Kerr and Paxson? Those were the plays MJ made. Who besides Kobe has made a game winner for the Lakers? Horry, on an amazing shot that he took after getting an offensive rebound and Fischer, who made an insane shot on an inbounds play. Both of these were against the Spurs in different years.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Update on Best Burgers in Houston

As a general introduction, the previous list was made up of places I had eaten. So, places such as Bubba's, 5 Guys, Mockingbird, Amazon Grille, Sullivan's, and Vic and Anthony's did not make my list, nor will they be added at this point. McCormick's burger, for 2 dollars, is very good. But I would hesitate to call it anything more than a happy hour burger. In an attempt to broaden my horizons, Miller's and Southwell's were places I frequented in the past 10 days.

Miller's (on North Shepherd) was very good. It was everything I had heard it would be. I would have to say that the onion rings were only pretty good. Leighton and Wes had chicken fried steak sandwiches, which in no way could be bad. Simply no way in the world.

Southwell's (the one across from Memorial High School) was not only hard to find (I blame Katy and Google Maps equally) but not all I had heard it was. It was good. Don't get me wrong. But it was not great. If I could borrow a thought from Nathan, a burger is somewhat similar to a hot wing, in that it is easy to make a decent one but difficult to make an exceptional one. Southwell's made a solid burger. But, it was not as good as some of the other places.

One of those places, which I had been to before this last came out and which I have been to since this list came out is Lankford Grocery. It's tucked into the neighborhood around Taft and West Gray. For those who don't know, it closes at 3 and is closed on Sundays. The Firehouse Burger is incredible. You will sweat, you will cry, and you will love it. The Soldier Burger is served with a fried egg and looks very good. The down home feel is a big part of the charm and makes this place special. Tater tots don't hurt either. Neither does a side called "Tex Mex" -- fried jalapeno and onion strips. Think onion rings, but strips. The peppers aren't hot, but are full of flavor. The burgers require two hands to hold and eat, the patty is well seasoned and medium-cooked.

I hesitated in the earlier post to make this declaration, but this is the best burger in Houston. You need to go immediately. You won't be disappointed; you'll wish you'd been going to Lankford for years.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Guest Post from "Private" Schubert

Before Leighton tells his story, let me provide a little background. We had both discussed getting haircuts this week, perhaps shorter than normal. Which is fine for me. My hair is usually pretty short. So getting a "2" guard cut isn't that short. Leighton, on the other hand, has a problem. I'll let him explain, in his own words, with a few minor edits from me. Last thing, before we get to Leighton's story...He came over to my apartment around 945pm. I was talking on the phone to my side kick, Abbie. I opened the door and said "Oh god. Leighton has no hair. I'll have to call you back."

The Haircut From Hell.

By Leighton Schubert.

It was a fine Tuesday afternoon. The sun was shining, a bird was singing a lovely tune, there was not a cloud in the sky. But little did I know, there were dark clouds looming in the distance of my day.

I needed a haircut. So I marched down to my normal place, which shall go nameless for their sake (editor's note: TGF on West Grey). After signing in on the list, I was quickly ushered to a waiting station. There was a nice (editor's note: old) Vietnamese lady waiting to cut my hair. (editor's note: this same woman cut my hair within the hour of butchering Leighton's hair. She kept saying nonsense to me and I kept pretending not to hear her. She was clearly rattled.) We exchanged the normal hair cutting pleasantries and I informed her I wanted my hair to be shorter than normal. (Little did I know my wish would soon be granted..)

She pulls out the clippers and proceeds to cut three quarters of my hair with no issue. Then it happened.....

As she was trimming the left side of my hair with the clippers, some sort of malfunction occurred. The details are a little fuzzy, but as far as I could tell the guard on the clippers must not have been attached correctly. Said guard fell off and the lady then made another swipe at my hair with no guard on the clippers. Yes, NO guard! (Editor's note: Oh boy!!)

All hell then proceeded to break loose. Everyone in the vicinity, both customers and employees alike, reacted with an audible gasp at the sight. The Vietnamese lady attempted to "fix" the problem by combing over what was left of my hair that she did not buzz off. Oddly this did not work.

The manager then headed over for a strategy session to figure out how short we would have to cut the rest of my hair to match with my new "hair style." After a short meeting of the brain trust, we decided I would have to have a 'one' guard in order for it to match. So that is where we stand.

The best part of the story is that upon leaving, the people that were waiting in the lobby area were all telling me that it did not look that bad. Nothing like pity from complete strangers. I may be wearing a hat for the next 4 weeks.

Above is a picture of my new haircut. (Jager Bombs anyone? How about you Willy Mac?) I look like a mix between a private in the Army and a convict...