Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Living Large

I awoke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain’t it funny how the night moves
When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in

"Night Moves" by Bob Seger

I'm sure it has a lot to do with my father's passing, but it seems that everything this year seems a little more precious, not unlike the way the taste of food livens after one ends thirty years of smoking.

Last night was one of those sensations―a hot, sultry July night with storms all around but magically never here. Windows open, I drove home after golf league, replete with the lingering, juicy goodness of a Philly cheese steak sandwich and a couple of tall Sam Adams's. I had the Cubs game on low, just loud enough to catch the occasional excitations, but not so loud that I couldn't drift away and the voice might have been any of the classics soft-crackling across the prairie from "the day"; Bob Elston doin' the Sox, Brickhouse and the Cubs, or the incomparable Harry Carey―before the alcohol took its toll―comin' in from St. Louis. Had the Cubs game been out of hand I might have turned, as I often do, to the Brewers and Bob Uecker, sadly though a Pavarotti singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb".

Flying up Rte.12 with the warm, protoplasmic rush of 99% humidity flowing across my face I did find myself remembering the old days, those Mellencamp days of Tastee Freezes and wiping the steam from the inside of an old Chevy's window to see if it was a sheriff's deputy bangin' on it or some buddy gettin' in the way of a good thing. It wasn't simple nostalgia I felt, though. Quite the opposite of time passing, the feeling was one of timelessness.

And enormity. On these nights everything is about the vastness of the prairie sky. The heat and humidity and wind and the energy of the lightning are an organism that one is contained within. I am at one with my corner of the universe on such nights, and realize that it has always been so.

And I know that these nights have been around for a long, long time and that I am part of them.

And that's good enough for me.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Wheels Go 'Round

Today, while most Americans are sleeping in, avoiding a day when the thermometer will reach 100° in much of this country that cannot afford not to pollute, Lance Armstrong will complete what is undoubtedly the most unbelievable, determined, disciplined and what I believe to be the single greatest achievement in the history of athletics, a seven fold masterpiece of human endurance that leaves even the most sophisticated Frenchman slack-jawed. In Wisconsin, where bicycling is widespread and well supported (at least from a recreational standpoint), and which is the home of TREK, the makers of Armstrong's and the team's bikes, this event will pass with little fanfare.

Bicycle racing isn't much of a spectator sport, it's true, but then to a majority of people either is golf, yet try to imagine the buzz that would surround a Tiger Woods run at a seventh straight Master's having announced it to be the swan song of his career! Millions who had never seen a single shot of golf would be gathered around sets at family gatherings taking in the spectacle.

No, such indifference can't be a result of the sport being boring, and so perhaps indifference is the wrong word. It is more likely that our utter dismissal of this greatest of all American triumphs in world sport is intentional. Is this a snub of the Tour de France? Certainly anything French is up against a stone wall in our culture, which is imbecilic in it's fervor not to understand why anybody disagrees with us. This is wind that fans the flame, but the story of Greg LeMond, from the days when French baiting was just your usual everyday ethnic slur and not essential to the very survival of the American race, went just about the same.

Is this about Armstrong? There are always rumors about steroids, apparently unfounded. He has defended the French, his biggest fan base, but one would have to read about this in papers, as Sports Center is unlikely to give much time to such stories after the usual half a show devoted to New York and Boston pro teams. It's unlikely any great number of people in America have been been exposed to anything Lance might have offered to the press as SC and sports radio have about done in the last bit of reading most American males have ever done. Males and females may be aware that he's hanging around with Sheryl Crow, one cool-ass singer if there ever was one. That the wife is history and Crow is in can only score points overall with males and, let's face it, this is about sports interest and therefore primarily about males.

It's not Armstrong pushing adulation away.

It's the bicycles.

As I said before, Wisconsin has supported recreational bicycling by building a great number of trails. In fact, if one googles state bicycle trails today five of the first six links point to Wisconsin. A minority of citizens make great use of these, a distinct minority. Despite this relative popularity bicyclists remain the shepherds competing for turf with the cowboys in this version of the American West. For good old boys, fun just ain't fun unless there's an internal combustion engine involved. I live along a gateway to "up north" and the stream of RV's, overpowered fishing boats, ATV's, and snowmobiles is endless, as are the oversized, overpowered rigs yanking them 300 miles each way one weekend after another. The secondary roads roar with thousands of Harley's going nowhere, just going.

All week long they look forward to getting up the lake, so they can cross it in record time. All week long they await the wild splendor of the pine forest, only to streak through it so fast that it blurs. All week long they anticipate the escape from the hustle and bustle of the burbs, only to shatter the serenity of the American wilderness with the whine of their Asian built and Saudi fed male vibrators.

It's all about the adrenaline, and precious little about the soul.

And when their massive SUV's come upon a bicyclist the most unimaginable thing occurs, a thing they hate to the bottom of their soulless existence. They are forced by one person on five puny pounds of machine to SLOW DOWN!

It the bicycles―they hate 'em.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Babbling Brooks

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Moral relativism is the position that moral propositions do not reflect absolute or universal truths. It not only holds that ethical judgments emerge from social customs and personal preferences, but also that there is no single standard by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth.

Perhaps the biggest lesson one can learn from the cultural spin of events is that it's critically important not to take anyone very seriously. Pundits come in all shapes and sizes, but they have one thing in common. They are all standing over you like parental units, shoving you the old "Do as I say, not as I do!". Elites in the biz, like David Brooks, are no less guilty of this than the lowest echelon of bloggers, like myself.

When Brooks can take his time and prepare his life lessons for us he is consistent on this subject of relativism.

Moral Relativism

The central weakness of the liberal case is that it is morally thin. Once you say that it is up to individuals or families to draw their own lines separating life from existence, and reasonable people will differ, then you are taking a fundamental issue out of the realm of morality and into the realm of relativism and mere taste . . .

What begins as an appealing notion -- that life and death are joined by a continuum -- becomes vapid mush, because we are all invited to punt when it comes time to do the hard job of standing up for common principles, arguing right and wrong, and judging those who make bad decisions.

David Brooks

Morality and Reality

March 26, 2005

Ah, but get Mr. Brooks up early in the morning to make an appearance on Imus, ask that he judge a complex situation that effects him where he eats, and it seems that the moral high ground is prone to fault, leaving him scrambling with us ethical lightweights for a position that makes sense of a situation. There is no general transcript of the Imus show I can find, so I will have to summarize what Brooks came up with.

Imus asked Brooks what he thought about the Judith Miller case, what he would do in the face of the law regarding offering up the identity of a source. The response was that if someone revealed to him the identity of a "real spook", he would "burn him". He maintained that the case of Valerie was "not the same thing". Really? Where do you draw the dashed yellow line of safety along the scale of "spookiness"? Aren't we being a little "mushy" here? Is it up to a David Brooks to decide who really needs to be protected at the CIA and who doesn't?

It appears that Brooks has found no single standard by which to assess the ethical proposition that it is essential to report an outing of a covert operative. That's fine, welcome to the club.

But to get in the door you'll have to get down off your high horse.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Road Takes It's Toll on Me, But It Doesn't Register

I don't know about you, but nothing makes me madder than when I see something coming and, like any dumb-ass Wisconsin deer, I let it roll right on over me anyway. It's like standing over a four foot putt, knowing I don't have a feel for it, knowing I should back off from it, hitting it horribly and missing the hole by six inches. All around this world there are expensive putters in the bottoms of ponds directly as a result of such a process.

So I'm down there in the flatlands (Illinois), plying my wares on a Saturday and I find myself with a ten o'clock appointment in Des Plaines (strangely pronounced dĕs plānz) and a twelve o'clock in Antioch. Forty miles apart but, no problem, I'll just jump on the Tri-State Tollway and zip, zip, I'm there.

I don't like the Illinois Tollway Authority. I'm not yet like all those Cheeseheads who hate everything about Chicago and brag about their freeways that bring millions of flatlanders north to pay too much for their crappy bratwurst and Leinenkugel beer while the former brag about all those fish out there they never seem to be able to find when you pay them to.

But I'm getting there.

This Ill (sorry) will began one of those many times I found myself driving my son to an airport, this time to O'Hare International. Easy as pie, really, you just head down the Tri and take the exit and come around the bend and...EXACT CHANGE ONLY or I PASS, no attendant on duty. The busiest freaking airport in the world; thousands and thousands of unfamiliar people coming down this ramp and they better start fumbling for change, cuz Enterprise ain't gonna bring 'em back to feed the machine, sorry. Enterprise is going to get the notice and take the fine right out of their credit cards, read the fine print.

Back to the near past. I come up the ramp from Golf Road, another EXACT CHANGE (or more is OK) ONLY or I PASS entrance, but I know better and have my change ready. I have lots of it ready because I know the Illinois Tollway Authority has recently doubled the tolls for cash customers. I sidle up and toss it in. As I creep ahead I really do know better. I shouldn't in any way trust those ancient machines to count my dimes and nickels properly, but I crawl ahead like some Don Prudhomme waiting for the green light in his 16 valve funny car Focus, but really just awaiting that wonderful little moment when that green light lets me know my money is just as good as anyone else's and...

Nothing! DAMN DAMN DAMN. Can I back up? Nope, too late. DAMN DAMN DAMN! Go through? Ah, but since all this I PASS stuff started they've installed high power lights and new cameras and they will send a bill. They've installed all kinds of things except for new machines to count the change of cash customers who, as you recall, have to pay DOUBLE! I KNEW this would happen!

So I grab a small fistful of change, mostly pennies and nickels left in my little drawer where the ashtrays used to be, and get out of the car, walk back to the oldest robot in the star fleet and toss half in...nothing. Toss the other half...nothing. I look at the line of cars waiting at this point, shrug, put my hand down by my rear plates and make a certain gesture, get in the car and drive off. Fine, I'll get one of those envelopes for slackers at the next booth and send in a toll just in case. Not many people know about these, so much revenue is produced from all the fines generated in these unattended and often inoperative zones that the Authority is not likely to publicize this corrective procedure.

Away we go for about a mile and a half and CRAP, It's Saturday morning and about thirty thousand people are all headed up this road to Six Flags. Is there a dedicated exit to Six Flags, whose customers are also the prime market for this highway on weekends? Of course not! All these people, and those going to a huge mall called Gurnee Mills on the same exit, block two lanes of the Toll Road and back it up for 30 miles as they wait to dump onto a suburban street, wait for a light, turn right and head into the lots they went by 30 minutes earlier. These people have all kinds of time to look for change, but this ramp is strangely free.

Not so for me, as an hour and a half later I pull up to the booth not more than five miles north of Six Flags and hand an attendant double toll to leave Illinois. I tell 'im, "I need one of those envelopes cuz I didn't have change where I got on."

"Oh, I haven't seen any of those for some time."

"Do you still use them?" I hopelessly ask.

"I don't know. I think so. But I don't have any."

I see a tech up ahead and a thought occurs to me, "What's that guy doing?"

"He's working on a camera."

I KNEW it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Part V: Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

Drivin' that train
High on cocaine
Casey Jones you better watch your speed
Trouble ahead
Trouble behind
And you know that notion just crossed my mind

The waves of dissent that drove the counterculture of the 60's were generated on one hand by the drums of war, and on the other by the coming of age of a huge young population, raised in unprecedented (and missed) economically democratic times, educated, optimistic and linked by media. Obstacles would stand in the course of these waves however, and complexity would be inevitable.

The ground war in Vietnam was winding down, somewhat from the movement but largely as a result of sheer numbers. The domino theory of communist progression was a bit too abstract in the end for mothers across America to be losing their sons at 15,000 a year. Still the point needed to be made, as with this hit of 1970 by Edwin Starr:

War means tears
To thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go to fight
And lose their lives

I said, war, huh
Good God, y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

Say it again

That this was still top 40 stuff might tell you that these times were still contentious to a degree unseen in today's supposed red/blue battleground. And then, as with so much that was inexplicable about Nixon, the bombing of Cambodia was exposed, and student unrest over this unexpected expansion of the war led to Kent State, where four ordinary white students were gunned down by a bunch of rednecks with uniforms. This really was the last straw for middle aged farts still fighting "the big one". Their wives had listened to them and their mantra of discipline and patriotism for long enough. Now, even undrafted sons and daughters in a vanilla-as-it-gets regional land grant university (such as the sister school to Kent State, the NIU I would transfer to in DeKalb, IL) were not safe from the war. The mothers and caring fathers of America would end the war in Vietnam, which would, of course, descend into the hell of tourist destination.

So now we would have rebelliousness all dressed up with nowhere to go. A large chunk of this energy would go into a back to the land movement, a Thoreau-like transcendental tangent born of acid induced skirting of the constructs of an incredibly wasteful and damaging suburban lifestyle. Things got more organic, more acoustic. Simon and Garfunkel returned with the monster Bridge over Troubled Water LP and James Taylor was the troubadour in "Sweet Baby James". Cat Stevens in his pre-Islamic extremist days had this contribution in "Where do the Children Play?" from the smash Tea for the Tillerman album:

Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass
For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas
And you make them long, and you make them tough
But they just go on and on, and it seems you can't get off

Oh, I know we've come a long way
We're changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?

As we celebrated our first Earth Day (of Wisconsinite design) this connection between drugs and ecological awareness was being made in such songs as "Nature's Way", from Spirit's Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, a must-have in any college collection:

It's nature's way of telling you, summer breeze
It's nature's way of telling you, dying trees
It's nature's way of receiving you
It's nature's way of retrieving you
It's nature's way of telling you
Something's wrong

Something's wrong

Of course all wasn't just getting a little high or trippy, the ripples of unrest would combine with the enthusiasm, perceived invulnerability and plain stupidity of youth to have some lethal effects. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix would both die at 27 of overdoses, and on campuses amphetamines were taking their toll.

Here's my 1970 fave list, in no particular order:

artistLPfavorite cuts
John LennonJohn Lennon/Plastic Ono BandWorking Class Hero
Neil YoungAfter the Gold RushSouthern Man
Van MorrisonMoondanceInto the Mystic
Led ZeppelinLed Zeppilin IIIThat's the Way; Gallows Pole
The WhoLive at LeedsMagic Bus
Black SabbathParanoidParanoid
George HarrisonAll Things Must PassMy Sweet Lord
The BeatlesLet It BeI've Got a Feeling; Across the Universe
James TaylorSweet Baby JamesCountry Road
David BowieThe Man Who Sold the WorldThe Man Who Sold the World
Jethro TullBenefitTo Cry You a Song
Pink FloydAtom Heart MotherAtom Heart Mother
ChicagoChicago IIFancy Colors; 25 or 6 to 4
The Moody BluesA Question Of BalanceQuestion; It's Up to You
James GangRides AgainFunk 49
Emerson, Lake & PalmerEmerson, Lake & PalmerTake a Pebble; Lucky Man
Paul McCartneyMcCartneyEvery Night; Maybe I'm Amazed; Singalong Junk
The Firesign TheatreDon't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers(it's not that simple)
Paul Kantner / Jefferson StarshipBlows Against The EmpireHave You Seen the Stars Tonight?
Canned HeatFuture BluesLet's Work Together
Elton JohnElton JohnYour Song; Take Me to the Pilot; Border Song
Joe CockerMad Dogs And EnglishmenFeelin' Alright
T. RexT. RexThe Children of Rarn
Rod StewartGasoline AlleyGasoline Alley; Country Comforts; It's All Over Now
Various ArtistsWoodstockStar Spangled Banner/Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix; Wooden Ships - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; "Fish" Cheer I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin-To-Die-Rag - Country Joe McDonald
Elton JohnTumbleweed CollectionWhere to Now, St Peter?; Country Comfort; Love Song
Van MorrisonHis Band and the Street ChoirBlue Money; Domino
Creedence Clearwater RevivalCosmo's FactoryLookin' Out My Back Door; Who'll Stop the Rain
Black SabbathBlack SabbathBlack Sabbath
Crosby, Stills, Nash & YoungDéjà VuCarry On; Déjà Vu
SantanaAbraxasSamba Pa Ti
Simon and GarfunkelBridge Over Troubled WaterThe Boxer; Cecelia
Grateful DeadAmerican BeautyFriend of the Devil; Brokedown Palace; Candy Man
Derek & the DominosLayla & Other Assorted Love SongsLayla
SpiritTwelve Dreams of Dr. SardonicusNature's Way; Love Has Found A Way
Cat StevensTea for the TillermanFather and Son; Miles From Nowhere
Grateful DeadWorkingman's DeadCumberland Blues; Easy Wind
The KinksLola Versus Powerman and the Money-Go-RoundGet Back in the Line; Lola: Apeman
TrafficJohn Barleycorn Must DieGlad; Freedom Rider

There's a lot more acoustic guitar and piano in these songs, the ivories are tickled in neo-classical ELP, honky tonk Joe Cocker, Elton John, jazzy Traffic and Van Morrison. A lot of these releases represented third or fourth efforts by acts that were maturing, a trend that would continue for this established elite for a few more years. This was becoming the finest hour musically for many bands.

Moving on to '71 we can see this continue:

artistLPfavorite cuts
Marvin GayeWhat's Going On?What's Going On?; Mercy, Mercy Me
Led ZeppelinIVBattle of Evermore; Stairway to Heaven
Joni MitchellBlueThis Flight Tonight
The WhoWho's NextWon't Get Fooled Again; Blue Eyes
The Rolling StonesSticky FingersWild Horses; Can't You Hear Me Knocking?; Dead Flowers
Sly and the Family StoneThere's a Riot Goin' OnFamily Affair
Carole KingTapestrySo Far Away; You've Got a Friend
John LennonImagineImagine
The Allman Brothers BandAt Fillmore EastStormy Monday; You don't love me
Rod StewartEvery Picture Tells a StoryMaggie May; Mandolin Wind; (I Know) I'm Losing You
The DoorsL.A. WomanL.A. Woman; Riders On the Storm
Janis JoplinPearlHalf Moon; Me and Bobby McGee; Mercedes Benz
T. RexElectric WarriorBang a Gong (Get it On)
Jethro TullAqualungAqualung; Locomotive Breath; My God
Alice CooperLove It to DeathI'm Eighteen
YesThe Yes AlbumYours Is No Disgace
The FacesA Nod Is as Good as a a Blind HorseStay With Me
Van MorrisonTupelo HoneyWild Night; Tupelo Honey
NilssonNilsson SchmilssonCoconut (he wrote it)
Alice CooperKillerKiller; Under My Wheels
Cat StevensTeaser and the FirecatMoonshadow; Morning has Broken; Peace Train
The KinksMuswell Hillbillies20th Century Man; Muswell Hillbilly; Skin and Bone
TrafficThe Low Spark of High Heeled BoysLow Spark; Many a Mile to Freedom
WarAll Day MusicAll Day Music; Slippin' Into Darkness
Pink FloydMeddleOne of ThoseDays
Various ArtistsThe Concert for BangladeshBlowin' in the Wind
Paul and Linda McCartneyRamToo Many People; Smile Away; Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
The FacesLong PlayerI Feel So Good; Had Me a Real Good Time
Jimi HendrixCry of LoveEzy Rider
BadfingerStraight UpBaby Blue; Day after Day

The list shows thinning as the frenetic pace of releases slows, partly as a result of the maturing of the concert business, which by now was bringing halfway decent sound to larger and larger venues. Touring to support record sales was less a reality while scheduling record releases to promote lengthy tours became the norm for the big guys.

Some of the best activism was saved for last, as in Marvin Gaye's "Mercy, Mercy Me":

Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas
Fish full of mercury
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain't what they used to be

No, no

Radiation in the ground and in the sky
Animals and birds who live nearby are dying
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain't what they used to be

And the incomparable "Imagine":
Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

And Who's:
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a vow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Get on my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

Don't get fooled again, no, no


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

As the ripples of discontent played themselves out the music took a more personal turn. Carol King's Tapestry album began its incredible six year run on the charts, McCartney began his string of silly love songs and Van Morrison and Rod Stewart were crooning to the ladies. In two years we had seen Kent State, the Pentagon Papers, The Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the trial of William McCalley (My Lai Massacre), and at last the withdrawal of 145,000 troops from Vietnam announced by Nixon. It was time to settle down and go to work, unfortunately for many of us with a less than organized preparation resulting from such turbulent times.

A sure sign of things to come was the marriage on July 7th, 1971 of two Swedish pop stars, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog (ABBA) near Skane in Sweden.

Still, in part VI, the rockers of the vinyl heyday wouldn't go quietly just yet.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hoops, There it Is


That's the sound of a basketball raining down through a playground chain type net as I shoot my lunch at a park in Grayslake. I love that sound! It's far better than the swish! of nylon nets.

...takes it down to the right corner, behind the back and heads out, no, spins back to the corner and launches a turnaround three. As momentum carries him out of bounds his hand remains in the classic follow through. It looks good, feels good, drifting ever so slightly in the wind...rritcha! it rattles through the chains.

No better game has ever been invented. One can play; or two, three, four. All you need is someone with a decent ball and a park district (well, a gym comes in handy in this climate, to be sure).

Grabs the ball under the basket, moves out to the right and tosses a left handed backward! To the other side for a right handed one, ba-rripp! off the board and in. Moves out eight feet for a! Other side with a lefty running push...rripp! Out to 12' on the right key... ba-rripp! Out to the free throw line right for an inside turn fall away straight up over the outstretched hand of some imaginary six-eight forward and ...rripp!

Once upon a time we would have been thrilled to have such a facility in our subdivision (development or tract in others' jargon). Even if we rode our bikes to a school we wouldn't find anything like this tennis court surface with 10' fences to contain the ball on three sides, the hoop level and fitted with a decent chain net. We would have been choosing a three or four man team to take winners and gone on like that for hours. On this coolish and calm July day with light overcast―perfect for outdoor hoops―there is no one here. I suppose they're all playing video games or being ferried around in SUVs to participate in that world-wide subversive!

Round the horn at the three point line...rripp!...rripp!...rritcha!...bang! Off the rim hard and to the free throw line extended right. Reaches the ball and puts it down, leaning hard into the left turn and for the hole. Charging down the baseline now picks it up for the layup, but passes it around the back while jumping under the hoop to the other side for the two handed!

Used to watch a lot of hoop. I remember well the NBA playoffs of the 70's; fantastic series with the Celtics and Suns, Celtics and Bucks (Jabbar days), the Lakers and the Knicks. And, of course, this Bulls fan didn't miss much of the Nineties dynasty of MJ et al. Spoiled by that success, it just doesn't hold my interest any more. I still follow the Illini, and there's been some excitement on that front, but I haven't seen an NBA game in ages. (that's not true, I went to a Bulls game at the UC last year. I sat a million miles away for $45.00. While there I remembered once sitting with my feet up on the rail of the second balcony of the venerable old Stadium, watching Orlando Woolridge and Julius Erving put on a show. For $7.00 that was ten times the value)

Bang! Off the rim and he runs into the corner to get it. Tosses it against the tennis fence and grabs it on the rebound, turns, takes aim and launches it from the corner. Off the fingertips it goes in perfect balance with just the right push from the legs. At about the top of the arc a sense takes over, the brain recalls this arc to be a true one, this vector to be within the tolerance of 4 inches to the left or right so as to miss the complication of the iron rim. At the same time a playful little corner of the mind still has time to extend the right hand in the air with one finger pointing skyward ala Larry the Legend...rripp!

Larry Bird. Last of (you should excuse my sentimentality) the old school. Michael was the best, but Larry was the coolest. Okay, maybe Pistol Pete was the coolest. Clyde was damn cool, too. Larry must have been the best of the cool. Anyway... he (Larry the Legend) averaged ten rebounds a game over his career and won the three point shooting contest three times. That's fundamentals, baby! He did that finger thing as he won of one of those contests, but that wasn't the coolest thing I saw him do. The famous duels with Dominique and Magic and the sixty from everywhere on the court against the Hawks were amazing, but...

Bang! Off the rim and toward half court (these double rims are solid, no cheapies) and he goes with the flow toward the other end. Picks it up at the free throw line and one...two.. stretches toward the rim and gives the slightest underhand push as his momentum carries the ball softly over the rim out ahead of the imaginary opponent's attempt to swat it away...rrish!

No, the coolest thing I saw Larry do was in a game I don't really remember exactly, it was one of the many playoff series clinchers from the Celtics/Lakers Eighties. The game was fairly competitive for a while, on the opponents court, but then the Cellics (as Cousy referred to them) and Bird took over, so that in the last minute the outcome was no longer in doubt. On the final possession the C's bring the ball down the court and standing in the corner is Larry, the corner toward the locker room. He gets the rock with about four seconds to go. He could have just held the ball, but he looked at the clock, took careful aim and fired. Just one more, what the heck. As the final horn sounded for the wannabe opponents and the disappointed fans, the shot rained through the net, and Larry, already headed down the aisle, turned ever so slightly to watch it through. It turned out to be quite a statement of dominance by the Celtics and the swordsmanship of one Larry Bird, but I think at the time he was just like any other gym rat who looks up to see that once again an unbelievable 45 minutes have passed by since one really had to get home. One more, once more around the horn.

Bang! Off the rim and picks it up left of the key and straight toward the base line. High up and off the wrong foot for a 10' running left-handed push...rripp! "Okay, I really, really should quit on that one," he thinks. Standing ob he lofts the ball over the corner of the board and...rripp. "Maybe just a few free throws while I cool down," and...bang! He chases it out to the elbow and...