NBA Season Longer than a lot of Marriages

Credit to the cartoonist for nailing it!


The National Basketball Association is now the second most-popular sport in the United States and the favorite North American pastime abroad. That’s not as good as it sounds. Increasing numbers of fans complain it has become unwatchable because of poor lower-level coaching, too much showboating, and too many marginal players. The two-minute warning has sounded, and many disgruntled fans say that’s the only part of the game worth watching.


The NBA should:


·      First and foremost, SHORTEN THE BLOODY SEASON! The finals didn’t end until July 20, for heaven’s sake.  

·      Open the new season in mid-October, keep the Covid-induced 72-game season, and stop coddling millionaires. Other people work more than 2-3 times a week! End the regular season in March and accelerate the playoff schedule so that the championship round is settled in late April or the first week of May.

·       As with the NHL, no NBA players in the Olympics. That whole Dream Team thing is a Cold War relic. Plus, it damages the league’s reputation when an NBA squad loses, which it does with increasing frequency.

·      Make 21 (or college graduation) the minimum age for playing in the NBA. Sure, LeBron and Kobe played right out high school, but can you say “outliers?” What could possibly go wrong with handing 19-year-olds millions of bucks when they can’t legally drink?

·      Make college ball and the NBADL where fundamentals are taught. There are too many players who get drafted simply because they have “NBA bodies.” A lot of them wouldn’t know a zone defense from AutoZone. Is the NBA a “professional” league, or a pickup game at the playground?

·      Trash the three-point basket. Wouldn’t it be nice to see some ball movement for high-percentage shots rather than gunners firing away and missing 65% of the time?  Make assists sexier than poor shooting. Do you really think a sport with a 24-second shot clock should end with scores in the 80s?

·      Dunking has become boring, given that even point guards are so tall they can jam without jumping any higher than you can.

·      An alternative to abolishing the dunk is widening the lanes and creating a forbidden zone in front of the basket.

·      Still another idea—stolen from a friend–is to make the dunk a one-point play. It’s the least challenging play in basketball.

·      Bring back technical fouls for hanging on the rim. Enough with mugging for the camera.

·      While I’m on the subject of violations, I think it was sometime in the 1970s the last time a ref called a traveling violation. If you take more than two while not dribbling, you are traveling!

·      Reduce the foul limit from 6 to 5. Good coaches can exploit that, plus it means every team has to have a deeper bench of NBA-ready players.

·      Do not allow more than one designated player to “rest” by sitting out a game. How about better conditioning?

·      Reduce the timeout limit from seven to five to speed the game along. A 48-minute game shouldn’t take more than 2 hours to complete.

·      Enough with thugs posing as ballers. Insert moral turpitude clauses in every contract. These can be restricted to serious offenses. Smoking pot isn’t one, but gunplay in nightclubs and domestic violence are. Any player who violates the clause can be released from his contract and forfeits his pay. He also forfeits free agency for the length of his original contract, cannot be resigned–for a negotiated lower contract– until one year after his first suspension (assuming he’s not in jail) runs out, and is then on a three-year probation. Two strikes and you’re out. Punishment is meted out by an independent board, not the club, league, agent, or players association.


Random Thoughts:


­–– Luka Doncic is the likely MVP for this season, but let’s be honest: Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in the NBA by a wide margin. LeBron’s star has faded and the “Greek Freak” rises.


––I seldom take management’s side, but there’s a decided imbalance right now. Players are fond of justifying everything they do as, “It’s just business,” but management is excoriated when it unloads broken-down point guards–looking at you Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker. Why is it okay for players to “demand” trades? A lot of them have cash compensation clauses if they are traded during a long-term contract. How about this? If a player demands a trade, he has to shell out dough to the team trading him. Otherwise, just STFU and play out the contract. That’s what free agency is all about.


––African American players should bolt voter suppression states when they become free agents and sign for teams in places where their suffrage is protected. Drafted college players should also force the issue. I’m betting FL, GA, IN, NC, TX, and UT won’t be able to cobble together a competitive team of white boys.


––The sooner the Brooklyn Nets unload “I’ll-bail-whenever-I-feel-like-it” Kyrie Irving, the sooner they will win a championship. Kyrie is gifted, but he’s a prima donna who doesn’t back his swagger. Send him somewhere nobody cares, like Sacramento or Orlando.


––Not sure about Brad Stevens as the new GM of the Celtics. I am sure, though, that that franchise has work to do before it raises another banner–like learning those fundamentals I mentioned above. Too much isolation ball.  



Rob Weir


Mystic Seaport Captured by Bean Counters

Tom Leiws

 Have you heard the expression, “He knows the cost everything but the value of nothing?” That's the theme of this post. First, a small digression.


One of the most magical days of my life was spent on an outcrop on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. There, I visited Louisbourg Fortress, one of the final outposts of French Canada before the English took over in 1759. Louisbourg has the distinction of being the very best reenactment of history I have ever experienced. Visitors can't even drive to the site; they must park in remote lots and are dropped off at the gates. Once inside, the reenactors take visitors back in time by staying in character so well that they feign ignorance of all events that occurred after 1758, including vocabulary and expressions that postdate the lives of those who lived there in the 1750s. I learned a lot about 18th century soldier life beyond military regimens, including laboratory habits, foodways, the isolation of being many thousands of miles from France, and lingering fears of invasion. It was magical in ways that no static museum can touch.


Louisbourg’s the gold standard, but perhaps some of you have been to Plimouth Plantation, Old Sturbridge Village, or Hancock Shaker Village. I’ll stay in the Northeast, though I’ve seen other wonderful sites. Let's be blunt:  Without the talents of researchers and staff with the skills to jumpstart our historical imaginations, here's what we have at Louisbourg, Plimouth, Old Sturbridge, and Hancock: a pile of gray, moss-covered stones in a fog-shrouded part of Nova Scotia no one would visit; a reconstructed wooden fort and faux cabins on the southeastern shore of Massachusetts; a bunch of old buildings that never actually stood in 19th century Sturbridge; and an assemblage of meaning-deprived farm houses and structures that Berkshires developers would have long-ago leveled.


This brings me to the villains of this piece: the administration of Mystic Seaport and its sanctimonious, money-driven president Pete Armstrong. Mystic recently fired its living history interpreters, canceled its renowned sea music gathering, and told festival organizers that in the future they can have no access to museum funds or staff. In Armstrong's words, “Sea music and sea chanteys are not a priority for this museum at this time and continued requests made by social media and telephone will not alter that fact.” He went on to mention that director of development Chris Freeman is looking to get "the best bang for… limited bucks.” 


Endangered activity at Mystic



Whose bucks, one wonders?  It costs $27 per person to visit Mystic Seaport and I'm not seeing much bang. Here’s what used to happen at Mystic. You could find costumed guides in character aboard its wooden ships like the Charles W. Morgan, where people like Stan Hugill, Tom Lewis, Cliff Haslam, and Louis Killen* sang from the rigging and told tales Armstrong or Freeman surely cannot. I doubt either of them know about being a mate on the last wooden ship to round Cape Horn. Somehow, though, Armstrong thinks car shows and destination weddings are bigger bucks for a seaport museum. Perhaps they do generate more revenue, but what's being sold here is Yuppy indulgence, not maritime history.


I should confess that I am no sailor either. I grew up in farm country and used to know my way around an old tractor and cows, but until I moved to New England, I thought a capstan was where you hung hats and a schooner was just a beer glass. Then again, I was not the president of a museum devoted to seafaring. What I know, I learned from places like Mystic and whaling museums in New Bedford and on Nantucket.


Let me break it down for the obtuse and tone-deaf administration at Mystic. Take away the reenactors, singers, and actual sailors and here's what you've got: a collection of old ships for diehard aficionados and wealthy New York yachtsman who think they’re sailors when they turn a wheel while wearing topsiders. You've also got a bunch of rusty chains lying on docks, some outbuildings lacking enough staff to bring to life what those structures purport to represent, and text-heavy displays. How many pieces of scrimshaw will visitors take it before they think, “Yeah, yeah, more scratching on shark/whale teeth?” How many oil paintings will they take in of ships they've never heard of? How many faces of long-dead sea captains? Exhibits of whaling voyages without dynamic guides will simply remind of a lot of people of being forced to read Moby Dick in high school.


Another fiction: This section of the Long Island Sound shoreline is more associated with Coast Guard cutters and submarines than spermaceti and blubber. Mystic’s pride, the Charles W. Morgan sailed out of New Bedford; Mystic was never a center of the whaling trade. Without colorful guides, song, and stories to help us suspend disbelief, we are left with a repository of old boats­–Disneyland without the rides. Blubber has given way to bluster, and history is in the hands of those who know its cost but not its value. Is this worth $27 of your money? It’s not enough bang for me.


Rob Weir


* Hugill and Killen are now deceased. Before Killen died, he underwent reassignment surgery and was known as Louise.


Innocence a Gem Worth Resurrecting


INNOCENCE  (2000/01)

Directed by Paul Cox

Pranayam/MGM, 95 minutes, R (for absolutely no good reason!)





There are numerous films named Innocence, a title that’s usually an irony alert as they are seldom actually “innocent.” This one is and it's the one you want to see. The late, great Roger Ebert summed it with this remark: “Here is the most passionate and tender love story in many years because it is not about the story, not about stars, not about plot, not about sex, not about nudity, but about love itself.”


It's set up is deceptively simple. Two young people, Claire and Andreas, met in Belgium and fell passionately in love. (They are played by Kristine Van Pellicorn and Kenny Aernouts.) Theirs was a storybook kind of love, but because they were young, neither was able to recognize that it was supposed to be a tome, not a novella. They parted with sadness, but with the expectation that comes with youth – that they would eventually move on.


And so they did. Forty years later they unexpectedly meet again in Adelaide, Australia. Both had married and have adult children, though Andreas (Bud Tingwell) is now a widower. Claire (Julia Blake) remains married to John (Terry Norris), a no-nonsense stiff upper lip British type who is deeply practical and rather dull. What begins as an innocent round of coffee and gab between Claire and Andreas quickly evolves into coming to grips with the fact that neither really “moved on,” and they remained spiritually in love in ways their younger selves could not have understood. Call it a soulmate kind of understanding that goes beyond what John or most of their respective offspring can grasp. How does one explain destiny to those who see only the pragmatic? Or Claire's insistence that she's too old not to take a risk?


This is one of the finest looks at mature passion you will ever see. Paul Cox won several prizes abroad for sensitive direction on Innocence. Although he's not very well-known in North America, he is considered one of Australia’s premier directors. (His 1983 film Man of Flowers is another small gym.)


Ebert was correct to note that Innocence isn't about stars, but don't confuse that observation with an assumption that the actors are a bunch of nobodies. Julia Blake is highly regarded in both Australia and Britain and her turn in Innocence will show you why. Hers is a nuanced balance of vacillation and determination, a sort of quiet feminism that blossoms in time to save her from herself.


Bud Tingwell is also a veteran of the Australian screen, whom some North Americans may have seen an offbeat offerings such as Malcolm, Murder Most Foul, and The Castle. He has been one of Paul Cox’s go-to actors for many years because of his plasticity. In Innocence, he is a hangdog Everyman wracked by remorse that's leavened with desire to do the right thing.


Ah, the right thing. That's the crux of Innocence. What does “right” mean? For that matter, how do we define innocence? Is it an objective standard, or is it all a matter of perspective? Cox’s use of flashback interludes raises the bar on how we must consider such questions. But no matter how you resolve such conundrums, you will come away having experienced a love story likes of which Hollywood can't touch. Innocence is an intelligent, deeply moving film that, at the very least, will help you clarify the differences between lust, love, impetuousness, and deep reflection. Innocence does nothing less than dissect love’s connective tissues.


Rob Weir