No Sleep Til Vancouver

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the USA run at the Women’s World Cup happening in Canada right now, you’re an idiot. All of your would-be excuses relating to conflicts have run out. No other sport takes precedent throughout the next week. Believe me, I checked. There is more drama in these matches than what’s on Netflix. Seriously, yellow cards galore.

TODAY live on Fox at 7PM ET/4PM PT, USA will take on Germany in the semifinal round in Montreal.

Here’s a cheat sheet to get you up to speed–

•Germany is currently ranked #1 in the world.

•USA is the only country ever to have made it to 7 semifinal appearances in the WWC. You can say it. Total bosses.

•Friday’s win against China had 2 USA players benched due to yellow cards. They will be back and looking for vindication.

•We win, we go to Vancouver for the final match on Sunday. That’s right, the World Cup Final. One of the most highly touted sports trophies of all time.

FURTHERMORE, who can forget the men’s tenuous 0-1 Pool of Death loss to Germany last year in Brazil during the rainstorm? If this game and all that’s riding on it doesn’t spell redemption, I don’t know what does.

Today is your chance to catch up and stay up. Turn on that communal TV at work, stream it online or grab your friends and head to a watch party. We all did it last year, this is no different. These dames have game and you don’t want to miss out.

Now say it with us: “I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN.”

Kids These Days: Part I

I’m convinced my dad would be ranked number one in the world if there was a category for Masterful Parental Manipulation With a Sports Emphasis.

I think about him every time I walk past a parent going off on some little kid because he isn’t performing. Then I fight the urge to stop and scream “Amateur!” at the top of my lungs. [At the parent, not the kid. Kids are supposed to be amateur, for anyone who’s forgotten.]

There are certainly lots of complexities and nuances to parenting in general and parenting a potential sports superstar in particular today and no one knows everything. Even so, the notion that the only way to get results is by verbally whipping them after each and every failure from the minute they are born onward is completely erroneous. That is just one motivational approach out of hundreds that have historically been used to motivate professionals across industry. There’s never only one way to execute a goal. CEOs know that.

I feel it’s my responsibility as a former player, sometimes coach and current fan (of most sports) to debunk this philosophy, considering I was raised and mentored by someone who “got it right.”

Let’s say that, hypothetically, this is us:

griffins-playing-basketball

Twenty-five years ago my dad used to arrive home in his old pickup truck after an epic commute in rush hour to Fort Worth and begin the excruciating process of taping up both of his knees (I swear the man has kept Mueller in business), throwing on his Russell sweatpants, lacing up his Reebok high tops, wrangling his three kids and walking (yes, walking) over to the local high school for a game of pickup.

There weren’t any recreation centers on that side of town until we started leaving for college so we were stuck with the poor man’s version and that suited us just fine. The walk was followed by games during which he fought tirelessly to get at least one or two of his fun-size athletes into the mix for a chance to run with the high schoolers and adults who always seemed to arrive with something to prove.

He’s old school so just imagine the kinds of calls he made throughout the game. Foul. Travel. Carry. Three seconds. That’s just during the game; he had another set of rules to get to tipoff. My kids play on my team. (He wasn’t into trades, not that the other team was looking.) If that one got rejected due to the minimum height requirement, he’d invoke his “substitution rule” which enabled him to swap kids on a made bucket. Substitution during pickup? Who is this guy? Sometimes he’d make us go over and call next, just to build character. And let’s not get into swearing regulations and penalties. The man’s rules had rules.

So far it’s sounding pretty on par with lots of kids’ experiences growing up with a sports-centric dad in the U.S. during the 90s, right? Here’s the difference. [WARNING: This is a secret of the universe.]

Everything he did in relation to sports, every action, reaction and interaction, flowed from the same anchor point: Enthusiasm. He had unmatched personal enthusiasm for the game. He still does. He just loves basketball. He’d love basketball in a vacuum. He’d sit in that vacuum talking about it for hours, baffling the world’s greatest scientists. Because of this enthusiasm, I wanted to be a part of it. We all did. It was unintentionally artful. He made it look like so much fun.

In this way, he incubated our love of the game for years until we were ready to address the hard questions. Am I good enough to play in college? Even if I’m good enough, will I be given the opportunity? If not, how am I going to pay for school? Around this same age he also made us aware of the financial commitments of summer leagues and tournaments. Driving to Louisiana or Oklahoma was a big decision for our family of five. He told us to take it seriously. The takeaway here is that in his mind “taking it seriously” always translated to “maximum effort” and not performance specifics.

Don’t get me wrong; I had my fair share of car rides home with him from terrible games where we re-hashed every play, every shot and every decision I made on the floor. Those were excruciating but they happened at 16, 17, 18. I played for aggressive, militant coaches in high school and college. There’s nothing wrong with a high bar and relentless standards and being pushed. That’s to be expected, most times, when you compete at a high level. That’s a different conversation, though.

Looking back, my dad had two things going for him. He had the right approach (win them over with my enthusiasm) and he had the right goal (time spent together doing something we all love). He always cared more about whether we were good people than good athletes. That formula can be pretty powerful in life. It can produce results. It can produce kids who end up being both.

Turns out Peter Berg (click here) and John McEnroe agree with me.

In Part II of this article we’ll discuss their thoughts on the current sports parenting climate and why it’s something that’s worth getting worked up about.

written by – A.M. Boidock

LA’s Finest, Corgi-Con!

01

This event isn’t actually called CorgiCon, but it should be. Last Saturday, 634 Welsh Corgis signed the guestbook at Huntington Beach for “So Cal Corgi Beach Day” – and that’s just Corgis on the record. Off the record, I’m sure a few slipped in.

02 03 04

I arrived curious, Corgi-less, feeling “so LA”– and was immediately overwhelmed by the absurdity of it all. It started off with a Corgi named Waffles pattering up to me and it only got better from there. Throughout the afternoon, I had more strangers walk over and strike up conversations with me than I have in the past year around town. I heard more interesting stories and anecdotes— and laughed more— as well. All day, I was hard-pressed to find someone not wearing an uncontrollable grin.

05 06

These folks are true enthusiasts. I’ve never been to a friendlier gathering in my life. Whatever they’re collectively on, trust me, you want a hit. Try to pop by the next one. The heart + soul boost you’ll get will be well worth the trip.

Rock on, LA.

-written by A.M Boidock

Havoc in Austin: The Shaka Smart Era

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It’s official. This past weekend, Texans all over the country were rejoicing in light of the news that VCU coach Shaka Smart is headed to Austin to become the next head basketball coach at the University of Texas. I know this because I’m a Texan and I’m rejoicing. Also my text alerts from locals in Austin haven’t stopped pinging since the rumors started last weekend.

It’s nothing personal, Rick Barnes, but as fans we weren’t able to take much ownership of stats like our “high number of NCAA tournament appearances” [16 out of 17 years under Barnes] because we saw the games and we knew we didn’t deserve them based on the performances. There’s nothing like feeling like you’re getting away with NCAA bids you haven’t earned and trying to defend it in public.

Apparently UT Athletics Director Steve Patterson felt it was time to shake things up, too. Smart has been tough to lure away from VCU despite past poaching attempts but Patterson knew Texas was on his short list.

Shaka-Smart

It isn’t that surprising or “mysterious” (frankly, I don’t know why the Internet is so shocked at the move) to discover that Smart has strategic precision and foresight on and off the court. He wasn’t going to move his family for anything less than the prospect of having it all: legacy, longevity and resources. This trifecta, plus timing, plus the fact that the state of Texas boasts some of the best recruiting real estate in the country, along with the Longhorns having the largest athletic budget of any school around, must have done the trick.

Whatever the next chapter is for the Longhorns, it’s bound to be thrilling. Smart is known for being one of the hottest young coaches in the sport (possibly the hottest this weekend in Indianapolis) because his presence guarantees his school and the surrounding community a kinetic combination of wins, on the ball pressure and heart. It’s great basketball and great theater – what more could you ask for?

To be clear, I’m not expecting Final Four repeats and National Championship trophies to happen overnight. No one who knows the game well is expecting that. Blending two coaching systems and two sets of recruits is no small task. We’re just hoping he starts off strong and sticks around for the next 30 years.

shaka_smart_hands_yelling

If you’re thinking of making a move to Austin, I’d do it quick. Property taxes are high enough, and Shaka Smart is coming.

-written by A.M. Boidock-

TOP 13 INDICATORS THAT YOU’RE CRAZY FOR MARCH MADNESS

If you’re a college basketball fan, March arrived and you woke up and raced to your nearest device to link the March Madness theme song to everyone on your group thread. If you’re hardcore, you might have even linked it to everyone in your phone. Go on with your bad self.

Since (we think) it’s the most wonderful time of the year with the tournament only days away, I put together a list of indicators to potentially help you come to terms with the obsessive nature of your reality. Naturally, “obsessive” is intended as a compliment.

  1. You’re willing to burn some of your vacation PTO to sit on your couch instead of saving it for that exotic vacation you’ve been planning.
  1. Every year your bracket has more bells and whistles than the last. Seeing this, your wife confronts you because she has finally put together where your “discretionary budget” dollars go every year and she’s not having it.
  1. You constantly send yourself calendar invites so you don’t forget to find the nearest TV before tip-off.
  1. You show your little kids (babies, really) photos of every team mascot in the tourney by holding up 2 at a time so they can make “picks” and be a part of the family tradition at birth.
  1. AT&T calls you in April to see if you want to upgrade to a larger data plan because you went WAY over last month trading trash-talking texts about the matchups.
  1. You find yourself lying more to your loved ones by making outlandish excuses for your limited availability…all so you can avoid making social plans and stay home to watch everything live.
  1. You have more contempt for strangers trying to small talk you in public about anything else because they JUST DON’T GET IT.
  1. You set your work preference for the entire month of March as MIDNIGHT SHIFT to get off your manufacturing job by 8AM, crash for an hour and be available to watch games all day.
  1. You realize that you’re mathematically eliminated by Round Three because of how far back you are in the family bracket and the fact that the 2-3 leaders are alternating round-by-round picks to gain leverage.
  1. You find yourself bartering all kinds of things in trade to anyone who will agree to text you play-by-play updates during any stretches of time that you’re in meetings or away from TV/CBS NCAA App reception.
  1. While home schooling, you convince your mom to let you watch the entire tournament IF you write an essay on each game.
  1. For your nephew’s first Christmas you give him a toddler’s Final Four basketball hoop so that as he grows up he has an affinity for March Madness even though he may not remember why. Because he’s too small to use it yet, you retrofit it onto a plastic bin so it’s more attainable:

mini hoop

  1. You update your ESPN Live app at your own rehearsal dinner so you can watch games during your wedding ceremony the next day because it happens to fall on the first weekend of games.

Note: These indicators are all true occurrences and came from real life college basketball fans. None of them have entered themselves into a March Madness Anonymous program with meetings in their local area to date.

Remember, this month, depending on your inner circle, you may find yourself feeling alone. I assure you, you are not. You’re in great company. Just give into it. Embrace the madness.

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written by: A.M. Boidock

A.M. Boidock is a CoLA Contributor

Reason #106 Why Steph Curry Is the Best Thing about the NBA Right Now

This submission is from Arjun. He wrote it about his favorite person, Steph Curry.

Steph Curry scan

He’s in fourth grade. His hometown is Carrollton, Texas. Somehow despite his geography he has the foresight to be a Golden State fan.

Arjun profArjun, I agree with you.

Also, call me in 12 years when you’re out of school. You’re going places.

 It’s nice to have good role models in the NBA again, isn’t it?

Nights With Leon Bridges

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I’ve had the privilege of going coast to coast this February to see Leon Bridges’ first solo show in New York City at the Mercury Lounge followed by his first Los Angeles show last Tuesday night at Hotel Café. I say privilege because that is the most honest way I could verbalize what it feels like to bear witness to a live performance of his. Listening live all I could think was, “I feel like this is going to be important later on.”

What started six months ago for me as a homegrown fascination caused by my brother turning me onto two tracks from “an unrepped kid out of Fort Worth, Texas” has rapidly evolved into an almost unanimous love affair between the hippest music blogs on the Internet and their latest darling. At this pace, he’s on track to be the music industry’s latest darling by summer and walk away with the Grammy for Best New Artist by this time next year.

  •  Considering that he still has yet to drop his first album, the fact that he has already developed a broad, unyielding fan base is quite impressive. Especially since, until recently, his beautifully crafted yet sparse online presence tended to leave you with more questions than answers. Despite this, on every level, the Leon Bridges fan club feels like it is standing room only. Maybe because, for once, there’s no need for spin? The person, the brand and the music are all interchangeable because they’re all classically genuine.

New York

In Manhattan I watched the show. I got swept up in the moment like everyone else instantly. I fought to take in each detail, every nuance, in case I find myself in a position to retell the story at a dinner party someday. Even under scrutiny, there doesn’t seem to be any duality in his stage presence and his real life presence. In the extra lingering seconds it took to tune the guitar before beginning their first song, his boyish glances and apologetic smiles only made the audience love him more. He announced the title of each song before playing it. He thanked us for listening after each song finished. He set up his two background singers in the foreground right beside him. Like everything else, this felt like a conscious decision to value everyone equally. In terms of style, every member of the band seemed to be of the same vintage. Except the saxophone player. He seemed to be the only one bebopping to his own tune. And yet, it worked. His talents and goofy on-stage presence only gave the entire experience more personality.

 Set list:

 Better Man

Brown Skin Girl

Flowers

Pull Away

Smooth Sailing

There She Goes

In My Arms

Coming Home

Daisy Mae

Twistin & Groovin

Lisa Sawyer

Shine

[Encore]

River

Los Angeles

By showtime in Los Angeles I had one extra ticket. A friend had dropped out at the eleventh hour and I made a snap decision to give it away for free to one of the hopefuls roped off outside the venue. I thought briefly about selling it but it just didn’t feel right. Somehow, bringing the experience of Leon into a stranger’s life made me feel good inside.

In LA I watched the crowd. I watched new faces experience him for the first time, which was an entirely different, equally thrilling experience. I saw couples tap each other on the shoulder and mouth, “He is incredible.” Then I watched the partner mouth back, “I told you.” I watched the grin on one friend’s face a few paces away continue to spread, song after song, until he was chuckling at his own bemusement. He couldn’t believe his ears.

  • There was a moment halfway through each performance when the melody transitioned from peppy doo-wop to soulful ballad and the audience transitioned from a sway to a standstill. Enthrallment to awe. In New York it was during “In My Arms”, in LA it was during “Daisy Mae.” Both times we melted together into a puddle on the floor. Both times everyone else seemed to realize what I had, too. That this was all going to be important later on.

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Everything about Leon Bridges seems like it pre-dates the concept of branding, so I won’t bother exploring it. Besides, I’m not sure you can call it branding when you’re just walking around being who you are. Anyone who hasn’t already should check out his talented photo ally, Erin Rambo [@theerinmargaret on Instagram], who is responsible for the stark black & whites on his site. She is an artist and a future visionary in her own right.

Looking forward, he might be known for having one of the least polarizing voices set in front of a microphone. So far I haven’t met anyone who has heard his sound and decided they weren’t into it afterward. The only thing that seems to be prohibitive is if you can’t get to his music. The breadth of his appeal might be limited by the technology he relies on for people to hear his music. He’s already positioned to bridge the generational gap because of his nostalgic Sam Cooke vocals (and because he is unassuming instead of egoistical and we’re starved for humility in our performers these days).

If you’re a woman, there is only one potential downside that’s worth considering before stepping into a Leon Bridges’ show. If you go through with it, he might ruin you for all other men. If you’re a man, you must consider the same ripple effects of this reality before taking your newest snuggle. You could be going home alone if you don’t because she’s been reminded that men with classic values and follow through still exist.

  •  Eighteen months ago Leon Bridges was a dishwasher who didn’t think singing was for him. Today he’s an up-and-coming Columbia artist playing to small sold out shows. Right now everyone who has seen him live feels like they are in on the same secret. All of us know it won’t be a secret for long.

written by A. M. Boidock

-A.M. Boidock is a Contributor to TheCoLA-

Klay All Day

Steve Kerr has it right when he describes Klay Thompson’s record-setting shooting performance last night as “otherworldly.” Thompson’s hot streak was paired with a kind of enigmatic sync with the universe that even the player development guys couldn’t explain.

http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/recap?gameId=400578943

Pretty much every shooter out there, myself included, can relate to this feeling when they think back on a night where they found themselves hitting shots with uncanny fluidity and thought: I’m good but am I that good? Then you snap out of it and just hold on for dear life, praying it doesn’t end before the clock does.

Klay just put all of us and all of those feelings to shame times infinity.

Last night against Sacramento he set the league record for most points ever scored in one quarter (37 in the 3rd), the majority of which came in a continuous onslaught during the final 6 minutes. He also set the league record for highest 3-point percentage (11 for 15, 73.3%) for any player shooting 15 or more in a game. People were falling out of their chairs at the arena on Friday and today NBA fans are still in a frenzy re-watching the tape. Everyone seems to be gushing except Thompson, who seems to be sticking to his patented humility.

This morning every shooting coach and skills trainer in America re-printed their business cards and walked out of the house with a spring in their step because their stock just went up.

  • A.M. Boidock is a contributor to TheCoLA