Days when the sky is too big

I visited Oklahoma last week. It was overcast and raining when I landed at the airport, something I was grateful for. A wide blue sky would only have amplified the gnawing homesickness I felt for my immediate surroundings.

Driving under a cloudless sky is particularly oppressive. With that vast blue expanse above, everything down here feels tiny. I’m driving a tiny car to a tiny destination to do some tiny thing, and all the while, an endless blue pool stares down apathetically. A sky wide open makes me feel like one of the rare clouds that dares to puncture the monotony – isolated, small, and fleeting. These feelings are true, in a way. They’re just not great for a return to a place where everything used to feel important. Continue reading “Days when the sky is too big”

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It’s Still Real To Me

I never got to live in a world where wrestling was real.

It was the first prerequisite to be able to watch wrestling with my dad. Before I even saw one match, I was let in on the secret that most kids have to figure out on their own, or the thing that ruins their ability to love wrestling entirely. It was fake. The people in the ring knew how to do moves without hurting each other, everything was predetermined. The person with their hand raised didn’t get there by some triumph of the human spirit, by being the best in their craft, by having the most devastating finishing move, but rather because it was how the script went. I was in on the joke of wrestling and I loved it anyway.

None of my other friends were into wrestling, save for when we’d play WWF games on my Nintendo 64. I’d always chuckle to myself as they picked wrestlers that were clearly inferior to my favorites. They just didn’t know any better.  I took the advantage and smiled. I wasn’t the kid who ran around in branded merch talking about wrestling with anyone who would listen. It was something for just me and my dad

My dad and I spent every Monday night watching these larger-than-life characters throwing themselves at each other as if the fate of the world depended on it. We never ordered a single pay-per-view, but I’d wait with baited breath for my dad to come home the next day with a stack of printouts with the results from the show the previous night, trying to piece together what it must have looked like for one of my guys to win the title after working so hard.

My hero was Stone Cold Steve Austin, the surly redneck stand-in for every working man who hated his boss. When the bad guys would try to rig the story to go their way, I would almost shake with anticipation knowing that at any minute the sound of glass shattering would burst in through the sound system and Stone Cold would be on his way to the ring to dispense with some comeuppance. He wasn’t afraid to stand up to anyone and he never backed down from a fight. As a goody-goody, I was drawn to the way that Stone Cold Steve Austin was a BAD DUDE without being a bad guy. I may or may not have been grounded once or twice because I thought a friend needed a Stone Cold Stunner at a sleepover. I would get so mad when things didn’t go Austin’s way, even though I knew it was in the script. Even though I knew that everything would eventually end with my hero’s hand raised high and a title belt around his waist. Without fail, those moments came, and glass would shatter, and there he’d be. The winner and the champion. Dad and I would celebrate wildly. Well, mostly me, but Dad was never sad to see me enjoying myself. And in those moments, maybe wrestling had been real.

beat the champ

I write all of these old memories because one new song by my favorite band in the world just brought them all rushing back. The Mountain Goats just released “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” from their upcoming pro wrestling themed album Beat The Champ. John Darnielle tells the story of his childhood hero Chavo Classic, and most importantly, of himself watching Chavo bring justice into a world of uncertainty. Chavo, for Darnielle, was someone who would never let him down, even though others always did. In a triumphant 3 minutes that I’ve listened to probably 40 times since it was released this morning, Darnielle weaves a story of the importance of heroes, of hating everything that stands in their way, of the anticipation of triumph when you see someone you love ascend to the top rope, ready to win in spite of everything that says they shouldn’t.

Darnielle says that he wrote Beat the Champ  “…to re-immerse myself in the blood and fire of the visions that spoke to me as a child, and to see what more there might be in them now that I’m grown.” If this one song can take me back to jumping on my parents’ bed watching grown men in underwear pretend to beat the hell out of each other, I can’t wait to hear the rest of it. You can listen to “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” below and you can get Beat the Champ when it releases April 7th.

Fantasy Fantasy Camps

With the close of the NBA season, it’s getting to be that time of year when NBA players start hosting basketball camps. I recently saw shameless plugs on Twitter for Grizzlies guard Tony Allen’s “Grit and Grind Basketball Camp.” I had two thoughts upon discovering this. The first was a lament that this camp didn’t exist in my brief days as an offensively challenged defensive specialist. If I could have learned from the Grindfather himself, maybe I wouldn’t have been cut so early .The second was a thought that Tony Allen isn’t the kind of NBA superstar that most kids would want to go to a camp that they hosted. So I  got to thinking (partially inspired by this) about what other camps could (or should) be out there for aspiring ballers. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

J.R. Smith’s Volume Shooting Academy: Schedules for days 1-5: Shootaround. That’s it. The philosophy of this camp (as espoused in this video which will be the camp’s national anthem) is that to score, you need to shoot. To score MORE, you need to SHOOT MORE. HOOPS GALORE! If you don’t have what most people would consider a “fundamentally sound shooting form,” fear not! With this high level of shooting, you’ll eventually learn to get buckets with any kind of shot! Guest instructors include Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. Camp activities may overlap with the Tyson Chandler Rebounding and Putback Dunks Camp. 

Nick Collison’s FUNdamentals Camp: Campers will not touch a ball until day three. The first day will be spent on footwork, conditioning, and hustle plays. Day 2 consists of proper screen technique with guest instruction from Coach Kendrick Perkins on disguising your moving picks and getting in that extra shove. We finally get to Day Three: We’re shooting today, right? WRONG. Rebounding and outlet passes. Get to work! You might never make a basket, but you’re setting yourself up to be in the league for a LONG time. 

The Zach Randolph Basketball Camp for the Gravitationally Impaired: Look, jumping in basketball is highly overrated. Why would you need to leave your feet when you can plant like Ann Veal, get a good center of gravity, and bowl over the competition? At The ZRBCftGI, kids will learn to rebound, shoot, and block without ever clearing a flat sheet of paper. How will they develop this crucial skill? I’m glad you asked. Each child will be issued a weight vest equal to 3/4 of their body weight. That’ll take the spring out of their step just fine. 

Boogie Cousin’s Media Relations Seminar: Not even a real camp. Just a day long film study where you see what DeMarcus did, and know to do the opposite of that thing. Sample breakout sessions include “Don’t try to fight a color commentator” and “Don’t tell the press that your off-season diet is funnel cakes.” Special guests may include Dwight Howard and Lebron James leading a session on making “Decisions.” 

Do you have any ideas for new camps? Leave suggestions in the comments!

 

 

Cloud Coverage: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

As I’m sure you’ve all seen at this point, Russell Westbrook is having surgery today to repair a torn meniscus suffered in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game against the Rockets. This is, of course, bad news. I went full Michael Scott walking down the Boulevard at SMU when I saw the news on Twitter.

Westbrook embodies the Kellen Winslow ideal. He’s a soldier. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen in the NBA to an Iron Man, both Tony Stark and Cal Ripken. He is, until tipoff tomorrow night, the active leader in consecutive games played at 439. He never missed a game at UCLA, and while it’s not documented, he says he never missed a game in high school. It is a big dang deal that he isn’t playing.

That being said: He might not be out for long. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the injury is a minimal tear and that Westbrook could return in a matter of weeks, not months. Recently, Metta World Artest came back from a meniscus tear in 13 days. It’s foggy, but when he was at OU Blake Griffin came back from one in something like a week. We can rebuild him. We have the technology.

What do the Thunder do in the meantime, though? Hopefully the answer is win games and give Russ some time to rest. Reggie Jackson will probably (hopefully) get the keys to the offense and I’m excited to see how he works with the first team. He’s made a few plays recently that has me dreaming about him being a beard away from a Sixth Man trophy. The Thunder will definitely miss Westbrook’s production, but we may get to see a rare Kevin Durant performance in his absence. Much like his doppleganger Jamie Foxx, we may see KD go full Django on the Rockets these next few games. Unfortunately we also get more Derek Fisher. My beef with him is well documented on this site. I wonder how much “veteran leadership” translates into buckets nowadays.

So we’ve got a heartbreaker on our hands. We’ll see if the Thunder rise to the occassion or if the Rockets and that guy with the beard who flops a ton have an opportunity to steal one. I think Jackson is going to slot in well, and maybe Scott Brooks brings in Jeremy Lamb as a sharpshooter rather than giving DFish 20 minutes. But I’m an optimist, not a basketball player. So away we go.

Cloud Coverage: In Praise of Second Best

You don’t need me to tell you this, but Kevin Durant just turned in one of the most transcendent offensive seasons in NBA history. He becomes only the sixth member of the 50/40/90 club, reserved for players that shoot 50% from the floor, 40% on 3-pointers and 90% from the free throw line. (He’s the eighth if you count the seasons had by Steve Kerr and Jose Calderon in which they hit the percentages but didn’t make enough shots in a category to qualify for the “league leaders” list.) Durant is also the youngest player to make it into the club and his 28.15 points per game is the second highest scoring average for a 50/40/90 season behind Larry Bird’s 29 PPG in the 1987-88 season. So yeah, this was pretty good. Continue reading “Cloud Coverage: In Praise of Second Best”

Cloud Coverage: Gone Fishin’

Cloud Coverage (tentative name, please suggest better ones in the comments) is a new, hopefully weekly, column in which I try my hand at OKC Thunder beat writing. Let’s see how this goes.

The trade deadline came and went without much fanfare for Oklahoma City. Unrealistic dreams of a big move had filled my head for weeks leading up to that last day. Maybe Sacramento was ready to give up on Boogie Cousins (and maybe Presti and Brooks could beat some sense into him). What if Utah decided to skew younger with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter and let Paul Millsap slide over? These were the type of trades I wished would happen. What OKC got was Ronnie Brewer for a 2014 second round pick, and a trade exception for letting Eric Maynor play out his contract year in Portland. Not exactly the kind of splash you write home about. Continue reading “Cloud Coverage: Gone Fishin’”

Irrational Confidence PSA: Sooner Softball

Welcome back to another Irrational Confidence PSA in which we try to get you to love something as much as we do. This week it’s Sooner Softball  and a brief oral history of PPG, and if you didn’t expect me to write this, then I don’t know where you’ve been.

For the past four years, I’ve waited with anticipation through the winter for softball season to begin. My fascination with Sooner Softball started as a brief curiosity. Katie Norris, a friend of mine from high school, was on the team and I first came to Marita Hynes Field to support her. Us Stillwater Sooners have to stick together after all. What I found was a game I’d never really given a chance (my sister was a dancer rather than a ballplayer, and I was too focused with band and theater in high school to go out and watch that team.) and the perfect team to follow to come to love it. The game was elegant, the players phenomenal. Everything made sense. I was a fan and soon I would take it to a new level. Continue reading “Irrational Confidence PSA: Sooner Softball”

Irrational Confidence NFL Wrap-Up

Jeff: With the Ravens winning the Super Bowl, we’ve finally come to the end of the NFL season. Football is over and I’m sad about it. We’ve had a lot to discuss this season between comebacks, bounties, and the rise of the rookie QB. Offenses are starting to resemble the college game, but with even more incredibly talented players, and defenses are reworking themselves to adapt to the new looks. Chase, what’s the one thing you’ll take away from this year’s NFL season?

Chase: Since nothing specific comes to mind, other than my team’s heartbreaking loss in the final of the fantasy playoffs, my reflections on this season have been broad and unorganized. I’m glad you brought up the bounty situation; it makes me feel like I did the first time I realized how mail worked. I thought mailboxes were the coolest thing ever, your mail just appeared every day like magic and you went out and got it. But then I realized it was someone’s job to drive a smelly box-shaped truck along the same streets day after day to make sure the mailboxes did what they were supposed to, and once I’d realized how the inner machine worked mailboxes were never quite as magical. Continue reading “Irrational Confidence NFL Wrap-Up”

Irrational Confidence Field Report: Sooner Hoops

I recently found myself back in Norman for a weekend and had the pleasure of returning to the Lloyd Noble Center to watch the OU Men’s Basketball team take on hated archrival Texas. Armed with my expired student ID and a passion for most things Sooner Sports (YOU GUYS IT’S ALMOST SOFTBALL SEASON) I went to the game eager to check out the new-look Sooners. OU basketball in the post-Griffin era has been fluctuating on a scale between mediocre and outright terrible. This year’s team, however, is playing at a higher level (sitting at 13-4 overall with a 4-1 mark in conference play) and is generally enjoyable to watch. What follows is a series of observations in true Field Report style about a huge win for the team both on the court and in the mindshare of the student body.

  • The free giveaway for this particular game was shooter sleeves. Almost everyone in the student section had their sleeves on to go with the designated “Cheer Like a Champion” t-shirts. I still have no idea what the purpose of the shooter sleeve is, but you can be sure that I felt like I had much more basketball ability while I was wearing mine.  Continue reading “Irrational Confidence Field Report: Sooner Hoops”

Don’t Stop Believing: Fantasy Basketball Edition

We’re back with the ongoing series of guest posts from members of the Irrational Confidence Fantasy Basketball league! This one comes from friend of the site (yes, they’re all friends of the site. That’s how this is going to work.) Rebekah Spaulding who gets to the heart of the pain of dropping your favorite players. She also answers the question I’d been wondering, “I wonder if I could swing a deal for Ibaka?” Thanks for your insight, Beka!  -Jeff

It was inevitable that this day would come. This day being the unavoidable realization that not all players are created equal. It is also the day I fully accept that defense may win championships, but it doesn’t do squat in fantasy basketball. This is the day I accept the differences between college and professional basketball. This is the day I sadly cut ties with Thunder players in my line up.

I watch basketball with my heart. I am the girl that always picks Oklahoma State to win the National Championship, even if they have no business making it out of the second round. I am the girl that wanted to draft only players I knew from their college careers, including many OSU players who currently play at less than stellar levels. I drafted using my heart, not my head, ending up with four Thunder players, three of which barely contribute consistently. I picked them because I like them as players, not because I thought they were good. Recognizing that I have been emotionally compromised for the past three and a half weeks, it was time to cut my hometown players.

Yes, welcome to fantasy basketball, where the intangibles mean absolutely nothing. Continue reading “Don’t Stop Believing: Fantasy Basketball Edition”