Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Platform for Change

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Recent sports headlines have been dominated by an all-star NBA forward from Maryland.  No, not the ‘Skins fan from Prince George’s County.  Oh he’s gotten plenty of run after snubbing the Wizards, crushing dreams in Oklahoma City and inking a deal with the Golden State Warriors, the NBA’s first non-LeBron-James Evil Empire in years.  Pause The Kevin Durant Chronicles for a moment; a former resident of Baltimore, the land of orange, purple and Natty Boh, stirred up far more important publicity last week.

I’m not a fan of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.  Yes, he’s a big-time scorer who can flat out drain the orange.  But he’s an obligatory defender, his effort is questionable and there’s no evidence that he makes his teammates better.  One dimensional.  Generally overrated.  Not my cup of tea. 

That’s Anthony the player.  But Anthony the man and unexpected political activist?  That guy has my attention.  That guy has my respect.  In an overwhelmingly sad week that saw police shoot and kill Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and Micah Johnson kill five officers in Dallas, Anthony took to social media to express his outrage.  Here are his paraphrased thoughts (the post is worth reading in its entirety):

“We need to steer our anger in the right direction…towards the system.  Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work…we need to come together more than anything at this time.  We need each other.  I’m calling on my fellow athletes to step up and take charge.  There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore.  THE TIME IS NOW.  DEMAND CHANGE.”

When confronted with domestic or international turmoil, I often turn to Fareed Zakaria’s book “The Post-American World” for solace.  In it, Zakaria argues that, by historical comparison, we occupy a peaceful world, one whose cultural and economic interconnectivity largely mitigates dangerous political discord and ill-intended personal or national ambition.  The evidence is convincing: We’ve achieved unprecedented levels of trade and economic prosperity; cultural barriers are reduced by travel and information exchange, and; large scale war between superpowers, the kind that results in massive casualties and global instability, doesn’t exist. 

Still, with alarmingly frequent terrorist attacks and senseless killings, it is difficult to remain hopeful in humanity’s grand earthly coexistence, despite Zakaria’s logical, fact-based counterpoints.  Human nature as it is, it seems that stereotypes will corrupt the small-minded, greed will infect the ambitious and religious zealotry will distort the worship of a god into an instrument of pure evil. 

The tendency for decent, loving and well-intended individuals is to respond to social calamity by controlling what they can – personal attitudes and actions and the world view of youths they influence – and steadfastly remaining part of the solution.  The development of strategies that promote the world’s safety, progressive international relationships and the infrastructure for social fellowship and equality is deferred to a nation’s leaders, a term often synonymous with politicians.      
Given the scope of today’s challenges, that is mostly an understandable and defensible reaction.  For what happened in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas during America’s Independence week, it isn’t enough.  The world has a common opponent who is terrorizing free, peaceful people around the globe.  Yet here we are in America, the allegedly most diverse, open and tolerant nation in the world, struggling with senseless internal violence.  We have to demand better of ourselves, resist shameful stereotypes and appreciate and promote our common humanity. 


That is part of Anthony’s point.  The added layer is that while sports is a fun, joyous reprieve from the ugliness of everyday life, there comes a time when it should be more.  Anthony’s fed up and willing to use his NBA platform to be a change agent; he’s challenging colleagues to do the same.  We should all applaud his courageous activism and stand behind him, Knicks fan or not.  Otherwise we’re just individuals left rereading books or returning to other familiar outlets to soothe the pain of the latest crisis and retain hope in our flawed species.  For me, Anthony’s crusade is well-time; I need more than Zakaria’s wisdom to maintain faith in this world.     

Work v. Playtime

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The last week or so has been a struggle.  I’ve watched Australian Rules Football, random College World Series games and “Without Bias”, a 2009 ESPN documentary on the death of former Maryland Basketball star Len Bias, three times.  I’ve even trolled the internet like a pathetic TMZ junkie for 
Johnny Manziel chatter.  Is a 2 a.m. table tennis tournament next? 

The problem: I’m a sports addict without an adequate fix.  I need whiskey shots, but the only elixir available is Coors Light.  I’m pounding Silver Bullets but they just don’t deliver the desired effect.  Maybe I need to go “Old School”, channel my inner Frank the Tank and deploy a beer bong. 
I should have a compensatory protocol; this happens every year.  See, the moment the Fightin’ LeBron’s defeated the Golden State Warriors and exercised Cleveland’s demons, sports fans were tossed into a cold, harsh world with only one active major sport (MLB).  No frozen pucks or slap shots.  No touchdowns or daily fantasy football binges.  No more three point bombs.  This is how Aussie football ends up on one’s television.  I even caught myself reading about Great Britain’s departure from the European Union.  #Brexit!  Help…

Finding inspiration in these depressed athletic times is difficult, but a Norseman - by trade, anyway - managed to do so.  When asked during a recent ESPN interview about his remaining NFL shelf life, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, 31, offered an interesting reply.  “Training camp, going through the grind, OTAs and all that – that will definitely be a deciding factor.  Physically, body-wise, I’ll be good.  It’s just mentally…it’s so repetitive that it’s more suited toward the young guys…it gets kind of boring.”

For the average person who trudges into work five days a week for 40 years just to keep the utilities on and some connection to the middle class, Peterson’s comments sound like pouty, million-dollar-athlete syndrome.  Oh yeah, it’s torturous to throw some weights around daily, casually run mock football plays in shorts and spend a little time with coaches in the film room.  Poor Adrian Peterson.  How does he survive the toil?  He’s a working man’s hero. 

Pausing the sail down the river of sarcasm, a fair consideration of Peterson’s soundbite must acknowledge two points.  First, while Peterson might not be the best mentor for fathers, he is among the NFL’s hardest workers, having once rushed for 2,000 yards less than a year after reconstructive knee surgery.  He is a symbol of the year-round commitment to fitness the game requires and the death of the pot-bellied era of Sonny Jurgensen.  Second, and more significantly, football, as compared to other sports, demands arduous preparation.  Offseason programs begin in April.  Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are in May.  Training camps start in July.  Preseason games are played in August.  The regular season runs from September through December and includes obsessive strategizing between games.  And for what?  Sixteen games at three hours apiece - 48 hours of glory.  And the best of the best only play half (offense or defense).  That’s a lot of work for very little playtime and a far cry from the 162 MLB games and 82 NBA and NHL games per year.  No wonder there’s so much exuberance and passion on Sundays – it’s playtime!

In that context, Peterson’s point is understandable.  Football demands a lot of squeezing for very little juice.  Looking to real life for comps, I suppose it’s similar to the maturation of a complex weapon system, a process that takes years and climaxes with a few test events.  Or a presentation that takes weeks to develop, research and practice for a single, two-hour delivery.  Or maybe it’s even like writing, a process the great Red Smith described in these terms: “Writing is easy.  Just sit in front of a typewriter, open up a vein and bleed.” 


Heading into his tenth NFL season, I get Peterson’s boredom with the grind.  Am I sympathetic?  What with a metaphorical vein open and an early morning alarm for another 20 years?  No, not hardly.  Pro football’s still a comparatively good gig, even if gamedays are rare treats.  

Hating LeBron James

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Four games into The NBA Finals, Player A has averaged 21.5 points, five rebounds, 4.8 assists and one steal per game.  Player B has averaged 24.8 points, 11 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 2.3 steals.  Player A is reigning MVP Stephen Curry.  Player B is LeBron James.  Since Curry’s Golden State Warriors are up 3-1, he’s so likeable and his daughter is so darn cute, his mediocrity is getting a pass.  With the Cleveland Cavaliers on the brink of elimination, James is being eviscerated, again.  See when James’s teams lose, The King gets blamed, fairness and objectivity be damned.     

In her song “32 Flavors”, Ani DiFranco sings, “Everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room.”  James personifies this lyric, in part: He’s often the prettiest player on the court, but the hatred of him is no secret.     

James is inarguably one of the greatest athletes of all time.  He’s in the company of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Jim Brown and Jim Thorpe.  At 6’8”, 250lbs of chiseled granite, James is a tank on the court.  He jumps like Jordan, runs like Bo Jackson, dribbles like a point guard and has the quickness of an NFL cornerback.    

This confluence of athletic gifts anointed James “The Chosen One” before he could legally drink.  Twelve years into his NBA career, it would seem James has done little to disappoint.  His accomplishments include 12 All-Star selections, four league MVP awards, two Finals MVP awards, 10 appearances on the All-NBA First Team, five appearances on the NBA All-Defensive Team, seven trips to The Finals and two NBA championships. 

But that’s just James’s basketball resume; his personal resume is comparably impressive.  Despite arriving in the NBA as a teenager with more expectations than any basketball player ever, James has navigated the fish bowl remarkably well.  He is a gentleman on the court, respectful of the media and a willing criticism-absorber for un-King-like teammates.  And unlike so many professional athletes, James’s name isn’t associated with late-night club incidents, DUIs, assaults on women, drug use or gun-related debauchery. 

Still, the world loves to hate on LeBron James; admittedly, he has obliged critics with legitimate material to fuel the skewering.  James’s game and persona have warts.  Despite generational physical gifts, James is a reluctant bully (unlike some presidential candidates).  When the spotlight is brightest, James often chooses to defer to teammates instead of dictating play.  For many players, this would be called “unselfishness”; for James, it’s considered a chronic weakness.  James also struggles in his own head.  His talent is obvious to the viewer’s eye, but James’s confidence, on occasion, inexplicably wavers.  Further, he’s failed to submit himself to an established coach (like Jordan, Magic Johnson).  And he rarely does himself any favors on Twitter.  Ultimately, though, there is this haunting statistic: The King’s a very un-regal 2-4 in The Finals.  Down 3-1 to the Warriors, the sharks are circling again.

So he isn’t Jordan or Bill Russell.  But we knew this five years ago – at least.  The Decision – James’s ill-fated televised announcement of his signing with the Miami Heat - and disastrous pep rally that followed happened six years ago.  Shouldn’t we have gotten our pound of The King’s flesh and accepted his place in NBA history as “one of the best”, not “the best”?    

I can’t think of another athlete like James.  He’s had missteps, but I’ve never seen an athlete whose accomplishments are so disrespected and one so disliked for no meaningful reason.  Do his critics consider him a failure?  Do they believe they would have done better if blessed with his skills?  Both are laughable suggestions and disrespectful of elite competition and the great teams James has battled. 


Here’s a worse thought: The tired trolling of James is indicative of a non-specific, destructive habit.  Whether buoyed by social media, a pervasive inferiority complex or a decline in civility, fault-finders are a swelling mob.  Damn the good in anyone if an ounce of fault can be found.  Through that lens, the vitriol criticism of James says a lot more about his critics than it does about the constantly embattled player.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Parsing Opportunity’s Knock

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The NBA’s Western Conference finals, an epic showdown between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder, was stuffed with intrigue and oozing sex appeal. 

Golden State entered seeking a second consecutive championship and, after a record-setting 73-win regular season, an impressive closing argument for their case as the best team, like, ever.  Within the context of the Warriors’ team, Stephen Curry, the unanimous MVP, looked to add to his burgeoning resume and Klay Thompson, his criminally underrated backcourt mate, was seeking his own spot on a star-studded stage.   

In the other corner, the Thunder, having suffered season-sabotaging injuries to stars Russell Westbrook, Prince George’s County native Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka in recent years, was finally healthy - and it showed.  Westbrook, a breathtaking athlete, solidified his place among the game’s elite and Durant’s desperation for his first title was a tribute to competitive athletics.  Collectively, the Thunder, after being relegated to second-class Western Conference citizenry behind the regal San Antonio Spurs and champion Warriors, played like an insulted bunch starved for appropriate acclaim.

As of the due date for this piece, six games had been played to a 3-3 stalemate.  Every affair was a non-stop high-wire act.  Three-point shots rained from the heavens.  The pace was relentless.  Westbrook sliced to the basket with video game speed and abandon.  Warriors forward Draymond Green let his raw emotions roam – for good or ill.  The teams were two heavyweight fighters throwing haymakers in the middle of the ring.  Blood and sweat was everywhere.  There were epic collisions at the rim, kicks to the groin (literally) and bodies were all over the floor – all while the scoreboard registered with pinball machine glee.  It was just…exhilarating.

With that introduction, it would be ridiculous to suggest that the series’ most compelling storyline had nothing to do with the basketball played between the lines, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  Unless LeBron James, Michael Jordan or athletes of similar ilk lay eyes on this article, it’s unlikely any reader can relate to the unconscious shooting of Curry and Thompson, the silky-smooth, 6’11” Durant or dunking over seven-footers in traffic like Westbrook.  What is transferrable to the average-sized, modestly athletic mass of humanity is the journey that landed the two suits – Golden State head coach Steve Kerr and his Oklahoma City counterpart, Billy Donovan – on their respective sidelines.     

A career playbook for the ambitious would undoubtedly include the following entries: be dedicated and trustworthy; work hard; develop a diverse skill-set; exude a positive attitude; establish a strong reputation; create opportunities for advancement and seize them.  It would difficult to argue against any of these bedrocks of success; however, Kerr and Donovan’s pilgrimage to the NBA head coaching ranks adds an interesting caveat to the eager acceptance of opportunities.

See, Kerr and Donovan, neither of whom had previous NBA coaching experience, actually rejected other first-time NBA gigs before accepting their current jobs.  In May 2014, Kerr reneged on an alleged verbal commitment to coach the New York Knicks and reunite with Phil Jackson, his former head coach and current Knicks President, when Golden State offered up its head coaching position. 

Donovan took an even more methodical path to the NBA.  After winning back-to-back national championships as head coach at the University of Florida, Donovan accepted the head coaching position with the Orlando Magic in 2007.  He backed out days later and returned to Florida where he coached until accepting the Oklahoma City job last spring. 

The interesting point is neither Kerr nor Donovan blindly jumped on their first chance to ascend their profession’s summit – just to say they made it.  Instead, they critiqued all aspects of the opportunity – the timing, pay, organization, home city and roster talent – and rebuffed would-be suitors, confident that other doors would open and at peace if they didn’t. 


Their gamble paid off.  It is impossible to know what the Knicks job would have meant for Kerr’s career or the Magic job for Donovan’s, but suffice to say, both have found NBA success.  And isn’t success - more than pay, fancy titles and speed to goal achievement – the point?  

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Camera’s Always Rolling

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

There is no precedent for the start of Laremy Tunsil’s professional football career.  Tunsil, the 6’5”, 310-lb offensive tackle from the University of Mississippi was a consensus top-five selection entering this spring’s NFL Draft.  Even after the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles made trades to secure the two top overall picks – and quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively – Tunsil’s wait to hear his name called and realize his NFL dream would be brief.

But before Tunsil had a chance to don an NFL team cap and hug Commissioner Roger Goodell, his life was sabotaged.  As the draft began, Tunsil’s hacked twitter account promulgated a video depicting a young man resembling Tunsil smoking marijuana while wearing a smoke-filled gas mask.  It looked like Cheech and Chong movie clip.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the work of famous stoners; it was Tunsil, the blue chip prospect, goofing off amidst a weed-cloud.  Terrible look.  Horrible timing. 

With no context to the imagery and no time for research, the reaction by NFL executives was predictable and understandable: Tunsil plummeted to the Miami Dolphins at the thirteenth overall pick.  Frankly, only his prodigious talent prevented a greater fall.  Still, Tunsil’s tumble down the draft board cost him millions and was indicative of ultra-brand-conscious NFL front offices that would rather secure a low-drama/high character contributor than gamble on a potential All-Pro who once toked on a joint while wearing a gas mask.   

Was it fair?  Well, fair doesn’t matter in the high-stakes game of the NFL Draft.  It is a weekend where the course of franchises, the careers of executives and coaches and millions of dollars are on the line.  The NFL Draft builds or ruins reputations – period.  That said, put yourself in the position of NFL wonks: Would you hire a guy who you just saw smoking pot?  The answer is probably not.  Maybe “h-ll no.”  At pick 13, Miami could justify taking Tunsil because of the value.  But make no mistake about it, they invited a circus to South Florida for training camp this summer.  Take a seat.  Enjoy the show.

And then there’s the kid, Laremy Tunsil.  Not the athlete clad in a helmet and shoulder pads.  Not the massive human capable of physical domination on the gridiron.  Laremy Tunsil, the person.  Laremy Tunsil, the 21-year-old from Lake City, Florida.  He made a bad decision in his past to smoke marijuana.  He compounded the mistake by letting someone record it.  For that, what should have been the best night of his life was ruined and his professional reputation was eviscerated.  And for what?  For using a drug that is increasingly legal at the state level?  A drug that many former NFL players are advocating for pain management?  A drug that several current NFL players – including Le’Veon Bell, Trent Williams and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller - have used in the past and still scored huge contracts?

Is it fair, then, that Tunsil became the draft’s tragic hero? 

Absolutely not.  Tunsil wasn’t hitting a woman, driving drunk or brandishing a gun in the video.  He was sitting on a coach smoking pot.  Poor decision?  Without a doubt.  But whom among us hasn’t made a comparably dubious choice?  Not many, if we’re being honest.  Even our last three presidents did a little marijuana (Obama, Clinton) or drank too much at times (Bush).  That doesn’t excuse Tunsil, but it does make the penance he’s paying seem egregious. 


Three merciful weeks have passed since Tunsil’s public humiliation.  He’s done well to own his mistake and has begun to move forward with his career.  I hope he succeeds; regardless, he’ll likely never outrun the draft night controversy.  Maybe that’s his cross to bear for all of us sinners (as The Big Lebowski’s narrator might say).  In a world filled with smartphones and social media accounts, Tunsil-gate shouldn’t be forgotten - not by those job shopping, not by kids navigating adolescence, not by anyone who values their reputation.  Technology has created an unforgiving environment where revenge or just innocent indiscretion can cause anyone’s mistakes to be broadcast for a lifetime.  The unfortunate proof is Laremy Tunsil.

A Man in Purple, A Man in Red

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”

That’s the opening line to Prince’s classic song “Let’s Go Crazy”, a you-can’t-sit-still-to-this, guitar-drenched pep talk about taking life’s punches and returning a defiant and overwhelming flurry in return. 

Last year, the Nationals could have used The Purple One’s encouragement - regularly. 
Even by D.C. sports standards, the Nats’ 2015 season was a disaster.  The dead favorite to win the World Series, they failed to make the playoffs.  The campaign ended, essentially, with Jonathan Papelbon choking teammate Bryce Harper.  Officially, the Nats finished second in the NL East, but the meltdown was so disgusting that it cost skipper Matt Williams, the 2014 NL Manager of the Year, his job. 

The Nationals tapped Dusty Baker, a 20-year managerial veteran, to replace Williams. Forensic evidence indicates he wasn’t the first choice - that honor likely goes to Bud Black, former San Diego Padres manager.  But after reportedly offending Black with a low-ball contract offer and subsequently failing to come to terms, the Nats turned to Baker, the new top candidate, all baseball and financial factors considered.

Procedurally and politically, the selection was awkward, but nearly a month into the 2016 season, Baker’s on his the way toward changing the label on Nationals’ brass from “cheap and dysfunction” to “shrewd and brilliant.”  While April series’ against Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami and Minnesota haven’t represented the stiffest competition, Baker nonetheless has Washington in first place in the NL East with a 14-4 record through last Sunday.

A team’s record is, of course, its ultimate judgment, but there’s more going on in Washington than just wins and losses.  Williams won 96 games in 2014, his first as a major league manager.  But after losing in the first round of the playoffs that year and facing massive expectations in 2015, Williams lost his way and, ultimately, the team.  As the 2015 season disintegrated, Williams remained poised, professional and supportive of his players (all positive traits), but his inability to emotionally connect with players and build strong relationships – the kind that will survive a 162-game schedule and inevitable adversity – was apparent.  Despite obvious baseball acumen, Williams was a sterile leader, a man far more like Mr. Spock than Captain Kirk.  Simply put, baseball in D.C. wasn’t what baseball should be: fun.

Enter Dusty Baker, a master communicator with a natural way with people – the anti-Matt Williams. 

He wasted no time getting to work.

At his introductory press conference, Baker donned a Nationals jersey and struck a few playful model-on-the-runway poses.  When asked about his age, he offered this gem: “I don’t know how old I am sometimes – and it really doesn’t matter.  Not to sound cocky or nothing but I don’t see a whole bunch of dudes that look better than me now.”  Somewhere a perplexed Williams must have raised a curious brow. 

With the “endearing humor” block checked, Baker got more substantive.

When asked about his approach to winning, Baker cited advice he received from Bill Russell and Bill Walsh.  “They told me a team has to be close.  I can bring X’s and O’s…they said love was the key. I want to get this team together as soon as possible, top to bottom.  The great teams that I have been on and organizations I’ve been in…everybody had a positive attitude.”  It was a nameless acknowledgement of Williams’s greatest fault and exactly what Nats fans wanted to hear.

And boy has Baker delivered to date.  Nearly 20 games into the season, the Nats are playing loose, cheering teammates and routinely hugging Baker in the dugout (yes…hugging).  They are together.  They are positive.  They are winning.  In six months on the job, one man – Dusty Baker – has flipped an organization’s mood.  He’s human serotonin.  


Every now and then life intersects with an individual who shines a little brighter than the rest.  They break down barriers, bring people together and generally make any situation more fun.  Prince’s music had that effect.  He wore purple.  Dusty Baker has the magic too, and right now, he looks fabulous in red.       

Snow Days and Time Travel

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls have long held the NBA record with 72 regular season wins. As of last Sunday, they have company now: the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors.  With one game remaining on Wednesday night, we’ll know by the time this piece reaches print whether Golden State settled for a tie with the Bulls or re-wrote basketball history.

Golden State’s historical assault didn’t sneak up on anyone.  The defending NBA Champions started the season 24-0, an unbelievable streak that immediately and naturally prompted speculation as to whether these Warriors could surpass the mark set by those hallowed, Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen/Dennis Rodman/Phil Jackson-led Bulls.   

As the Warriors have assaulted the record in recent weeks, just how to interpret, historically speaking, a 72-or-more-win season has triggered a passionate debate.  Simplistically, wins are an objective, unemotional measure of performance.  So, with 72 in the “W” column, the Warriors should be considered the Bulls’ equal; a 73-win Warriors team would be better.  Right?  Well…

Yeah, it’s not that easy, not when human emotion, pride and tangible differences in eras are involved.  To many, the 2016 Warriors will never be the equivalent of those 1996 Bulls, no matter the final win tally.  The dissenters, a group that tends to be a little older and includes aged icons Oscar Robertson and Pippen (who predicted a Bulls sweep of the Warriors in a seven-game series), offer valid points.  The game was more physical in the nineties.  Defensive hand-checking was prevalent.  The pace was slower.  Big men still dominated from the post.  Players now, arguably, don’t have the same competitive fire.  These high-flying, three-point shooting, defensively-challenged Warriors would be roughed up, choked out and, ultimately, defeated.  That’s how the critique by players and fans of prior NBA generations goes, anyway.

Are Pippen and Robertson proud, grumpy former players incapable of acknowledging the Warriors’ revolutionary style; or, is the criticism accurate?  Yes.  Wait.  No.  I mean…

It’s a classic debate between romantic antiquity and a contemporary threat.  And it should sound familiar, like the running generational debate regarding the general difficulty of youth.  For generations, parents have lamented how life is so much easier for the “kids these days.”   I heard the same stuff (crap?).  Now a father of nearly 13 years and two times over, I shamelessly dish the woe-was-me dribble to my children. 

Snow days are a common trigger.  Today, it seems schools are called at the mere hint of more than a dusting, a perception that causes proud Generation-X parents to wax nostalgic about slipping and sliding through a few inches of snow to get to school.  Meanwhile, Baby Boomer grandparents scoff that they never missed school for snow, even walking when roads were impassable.  This, of course, sounds heroic until one recalls similar tales of great-grandparents from The Greatest Generation who claimed to have walked to school in blizzards wearing newspaper on their feet to protect the only dress shoes they owned from the elements.  I suppose with ten toes and but one pair of shoes, the former get sacrificed for the latter.    

What generation had the toughest childhood?  That debate is best left to simmer within individual families.  I do hope it’s getting easier; that should be every parent’s goal.  It is in some ways, but I’m not entirely convinced.  Kids today are afforded many conveniences, but they are growing up faster and navigate an exponentially more complicated world.  Social media and smart phones haven’t done childhood any favors.


As for that raging 1996 Bulls vs. 2016 Warriors debate, a definitive answer isn’t attainable, not unless Doc Brown’s flux capacitor-equipped DeLorean drops out of the sky to traverse the two decades between these great teams.  Who would I take in a seven game series between the two?  The Bulls, but it’s closer than vintage folks like myself would like to admit.  The difference, in my mind, is Jordan.  I’ve never seen a competitor like him in any sport.  Jordan would find a way to win.  He probably would have found a way to school too, no matter the conditions, even if it meant walking with his feet wrapped in newspaper.