Thursday, March 15, 2012

Andrew Bogut

Only Rhonda Byrne knows why certain people have targets on their backs, while others sail through life ignorant of what band-aids are for. But Andrew Bogut is certainly one of the former.

A basketball player first saddled by the label ‘number-one draft pick’, and secondly by ‘injury-prone’, Bogut has faced more than his share of obstacles in his NBA career.

The pro game didn’t come easily to him. But Bogut never pouted when stardom didn't prove microwaveable. He never carped about playing for a mediocre franchise in a small, Midwestern market. The affable Australian merely set about sharpening and refining his skills.

By his third season, Bogut was showing signs of becoming the talented center first envisioned by NBA scouts. By his sixth, he was leading the league in blocked shots.

Having become by this time a high-percentage shooter, excellent passer and a potent rebounder, Bogut was rightly viewed as one of the league’s emerging talents. The hare of expectations had been passed by the tortoise of Bogut’s diligence. This was a feel-good story you could feel good about.

Then came the injuries.

No one paid much mind when his second season was cut short due to a severe sprain in his left foot. He’s a big man, jumping up and down in a small space occupied by other large men. You aren’t always able to see where you’re going to land. Chalk it up to occupational hazards. They happen.

His fourth was reduced to thirty-six games because of lower back problems. Potentially serious, but Bogut recovered. During his fifth (a breakout year for both he and the team), a horrific injury to Bogut’s right arm sidelined him just as the Bucks were on the verge of clinching their first playoff appearance in years.

With their MVP on the bench, the Bucks were eliminated in the first round.

His sixth season was marred by a recurrence of back, leg and arm problems, and his seventh never really began, owing to a fractured ankle just twelve games in. Now Tuesday’s trade to the Golden State Warriors, a hapless franchise in perpetual disarray.

When it rains, it pours.

Bogut reclaimed a talent the NBA threatened to invalidate. Bogut then endured multiple lonely and painful rehabilitations that would have sidelined a lesser man. To date, he’s been knocked down five times and made it back to his feet four.

But it will be exponentially harder to escape the tag ‘injury-prone’. Once so-labeled, you become a financial risk. A virus no one wants to catch. Ammunition for talk show callers demanding the head of the GM who signed you. There may as well be a sex offender-styled web site.

Even Wolfgang Puck doesn’t offer a pressure cooker that can compare.

Despite the cushy lifestyles provided by otherworldly salaries, basketball is brutal. The list of players with promising careers snuffed out by injury is a long one. Penny Hardaway. Larry Johnson. Grant Hill. Gilbert Arenas. Brandon Roy. Even David Robinson qualifies.

No one knows why one athlete has a career rupture like an ACL while another doesn’t. Life isn’t fair. Unfortunately, it’s a lesson only some of us have to learn.

In the end, it might be fitting that Bogut is now a Warrior not just in outlook, but in name. Maybe he's the guy who can put the warrior back in Warriors.

Best of luck in the Golden State, Mr. Bogut.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Record Collecting Nightmare

There is a monster lurking in my basement. It is an evil, insidious, sprawling, clutching thing. To those fortunate-enough not to have glimpsed its contents, it appears completely benign. Innocent, even.

But to those who have, it is a wretched and heinous beast; a honey-do list ignored until it rages, sullen and violent. It is the mouth of hell itself. In this context, ignorance isn’t just bliss. It's a cornucopia of rapture.

I am the owner of a vast music collection. One gone out of control. I have boxes and boxes containing thousands of CDs and cassettes and records. They occupy an entire corner of the cellar and only fitfully yield their contents.

Their mass exceeds the available space on my cranial hard drive, requiring that I catalog it/them. However much of an ordeal it is, I am optimistic this will prevent a fourth copy of Tom Verlaine’s Dreamtime from finding its way into my collection.

To ensure the results are letter perfect, I have refreshed myself in the fine art of alphabetizing. The basics are easy: drop the articles ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. Bands that assume the name of an fictitious individual (i.e. Alice Cooper) are filed under the first name, and not the surname.

Conversely, solo artists employing a made-up name (i.e. Bob Dylan) are filed under the assumed surname, and not the first name. And band names which incorporate a member’s name into that of the band’s (i.e. the Alan Parsons Project) are filed under the surname. Simple.

But musical entities rarely acquire their names in consultations with Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Which is the reason we encounter grammatical pretzels like Booker T. & the M.G.s. Or …And You Will Know Us by the Trail Of Dead…. Or T. Rex.

So. What’s the standard for band names that contain a member’s entire name except for the surname? Do I pretend it’s there and file Booker T. & the M.G.s under J for Jones? Or pretend that Booker is a stage name and file them under B?

Is D for damn good an option?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether I can find my cherished copy of Melting Pot or not. I mean, who among us can enjoy music while suffering the ravages of a pounding headache?

Moving on, could you point me to the rule for bands whose name begins and ends with ellipsis? Does the article still get deleted, even if it’s part of a quote? Or does the integrity of the quote matter? And what of the integrity of the band?

Or, for that matter, this project?

Maybe I should ignore a decade of being tobacco-free and fire up a Marlboro. Or ponder what happens when a band is known by one name in one place and another name in another place. I mean, the aspirin’s paid for. Right?

And what of Elvis Costello & the Attractions, who invariably end up under E instead of C?

Shout “Hey People! That’s not his real name!” everywhere I go?

I can tell you, nine out of ten people tend to dial 911 soon afterwards—especially in enclosed spaces.

Memories.

You’d think my record collection would be done tormenting me by now. Or at least showing signs of tiring. After all, have I not lovingly cared for it over several decades? Kept it dry and away from extreme heat and sunlight?

Does it have even a wisp of an idea how difficult that was in the southwest?

Not a chance.

This can mean only one thing: Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yes. Them.

The band which gifted Western civilization with the phrase hub cap diamond star halo is in cahoots with the record collection monster, hell-bent on twisting and mangling my sense of organization into something grotesque and unrecognizable.

I desperately search the Internet. Front to back. Side to side. And top to bottom. Where oh where is the protocol for bands who are officially known by a contraction of their original name that appears to be an individual’s name—but isn’t?

Does a rule even exist? A theory? How about a guesstimate from Bush number-two?

Was Marc Bolan so consumed by career and chart position that he gave no thought whatsoever to the alphabetizing woes of poor, besieged record collectors who want only to efficiently locate the fruits of his musical labor?

This conundrum wrapped in an enigma is further complicated by the fact their name is sometimes hyphenated (T-Rex) and sometimes includes a period (T. Rex).

I ask you: in a mass-produced, standardized world where even our fruit is genetically engineered for uniformity, can we not agree on one, single, best-practice spelling for these grammatical terrorists?

I won’t even consider the trauma Alice Cooper solo albums could provoke.