Required reading: Three very good ones

On this cold Friday, I provide three very good reads for

1. Jeff Pearlman is a sportswriter/author. He and I know lots of people in common. We’re about the same age. I read his blog on a fairly regular basis. But I don’t know him.

He wrote about tracking down a couple of his online haters. The piece about online civility — or the lack of such a concept — kind of hit home for me. I love the internet. I can’t lie about that. But the abilility for people to just crush somebody over an anonymous email or on a message board or on Twitter of Facebook really frustrates/frustrated me. There’s just so much mean-spirited venom out there.

I had good newspaper jobs and got tons of hate email. I can only imagine the amount of nasty filth that Pearlman gets. It can’t be good. It was one of the worst parts of my job. But it was always kind of funny how if you emailed somebody back, they often were shocked that you sent something back. They would often apologize and be really nice.

2. Last November, I worked on a story with my job about injured University of Denver hockey player Jesse Martin. Long story short: He broke a vertebra in his neck during a game, came to our hospital, had a great surgery and is making a great recovery. The Denver Post has video of him speaking recently and an update on his recovery. It’s both amazing and inspiring. I realize I’m kind of close to this story having worked with his dad and having seen Jesse with the halo on his head, but it’s worth a read.

3. Tom Scheck from Minnesota Public Radio puts together a piece on Michelle Bachmann\’s trail of misstatements. It is worth a read regardless of your political affiliation. But if you lean left, you’ll probably like it a little more.

My new favorite bad team

I am something of a contrarian when it comes to sports teams. I don’t like the overdog or the heavily exposed. I hate that national networks seem to show one of about six or seven teams in every broadcast.

I don’t get too excited about watching the Yankees, the Red Sox or the Phillies. A NBA game with the Celtics or Heat or Spurs has me at least considering an immediate channel change.

If it wasn’t clear previously, I have the NBA League Pass for the third consecutive year. I’ve grown into a NBA fan/junkie, something that wasn’t the case or an option when I was covering college hoops. I have a far greater appreciation for the NBA than I ever have. The players are huge and can do crazy athletic things. Everybody can make open shots. And there no bad teams. I’ll take a bad NBA game over a college game between a good team and some hyphenated or directional school.

Maybe it was because I covered the Big Ten for so long — you know, a league where too many games are 62-58 — but I love offense. I want to see points scored. I like watching teams get up and down the floor. I also tend to watch more NBA games from the Central, Mountain or Pacific time zones, it’s just the way it has worked out. It has started to change a little bit as I enjoy watching the Knicks, but that is probably another post for another day.

So who do I watch? I started watching more Phoenix than anybody else, but the Suns aren’t what they were before D’Antoni left. I like watching Oklahoma City, though I enjoyed watching the Thunder last year a little bit more as they weren’t quite as popular. I’ve been known to watch Portland, but the Blazers play awfully slow.

So where does that leave me? For much of the past two years, I have been a sucker for the Golden State Warriors. Let’s be honest, the Warriors aren’t very good. They don’t really defend and didn’t have much in the middle before signing David Lee. But I love watching Monte Ellis play. He is so fast, he’s fearless, he plays so hard. And he’s good. Steph Curry is very fun to watch because he’s such an interesting complement to Ellis. While Ellis plays pedal-to-the-metal, Curry is much more calculated. He changes speeds, he understands how to get open, he can get his shot off in a hurry.

And I love the Warriors new uniforms. I’m convinced they are among the very best in the NBA.

But of late, I have a new favorite team to watch. I am now part of Clipper Nation, and this move happened long before the Clipps toyed with the Wolves on Wednesday night.

I didn’t really know what to think of Blake Griffin heading into this season. He was obviously good, but I wasn’t sure where he would play. Could he play center if he had to? Was he big enough? I had some of the same questions about him that I had with Kevin Love.

I thought he would be solid, but not like this. Dude has been just incredible. He plays super hard, he’s athletic, he overpowers defenders. He has become one of the NBA’s must-watch players. And I’ve been watching. I love how he doesn’t back down and mixed it up a little bit with the Lakers earlier this week.

He’s also really helped the Clippers get better. With the amount of attention he draws inside, he’s given Eric Gordon more room to operate on the perimeter. He’s also helped to somehow keep Baron Davis interested in this season. I realize they are the Clippers and things always go south with the Clippers, but they’ve been winning games like crazy. Wednesday’s win was the 11th in 15 game games for the Clipps.

I’m kind of worried that I’m too late to this party. And instead of being ahead of trend, I’ve become a bandwagon jumper. I’m going to try not to think about that for now and just watch the craziness.

The guys on the Wolves broadcast tonight said that Griffin has become the most-searched athlete on YouTube. Don’t know the parameters of that (there has to be some), but I’ll leave you with some Blake Griffin internet goodness.

 

 

Limiting stress and (kind of) liking it

It snowed last night. Again.

It wasn’t a shut-down-the-town dumping of snow. I would have actually preferred that. It was another annoying two inches of greasy white stuff. That is my absolute least favorite kind of snowfall. It turns my knuckles white.

When we get more than, say, three inches of snow, the roads turn into gridlock. Everybody goes slow. When we get only a little bit of snow, there are drivers of all kinds on the road. There are too slow drivers and there are cautious drivers. There are tough guys who go too fast and the crazy guys who go way too fast.

I’ve never loved driving in the winter and after being rear-ended in the Lowry Tunnel a little more than a year ago, I have a bit more unease when the conditions aren’t great. I’m quite confident with my ability, but I don’t want to have some knucklehead sliding into me.

Part of the beauty of my new job is that three days a week, I work at an office that is right next to a light rail stop. And when I say right next to, I mean right next to.

So when it is bad out, I’ve become a transit guy. I drive to the park and ride and hop on a bus downtown. From there, I walk a block or two (depending on the bus) and get on the Hiawatha light rail line.

I’ve never been a regular transit rider. But I’ve grown to like it far more than I would have ever thought. I get out of a warm car and onto a warm bus. Sometimes there’s a little wait to get on the train, but when it finally arrives, it’s usually warm. Because I’m going against the traditional commute, I can usually get a seat without an issue.

And it is unbelievably stress free. Instead of fighting traffic on 100 and 494, I don’t pay any attention to what is going on. I read my Nook Color (which will be a blog topic, I swear) and I read. I’m currently getting both the Star Tribune and the New York Time on there and I can read like crazy.

By the time I step off of the train, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the world and I have a great foundation for the day. I also don’t have any stress. I’m totally relaxed and ready to dominate the morning.

It certainly comes with a little bit of a price — and I’m not talking about the fare. From the park and ride to my office is a process that takes about an hour. On an average morning with decent roads, it probably takes me 30-35 minutes to get to the office. On the way home, I’m much more dependent on the bus schedule from downtown back to the park and ride and there isn’t as much flexibility.

Is it a fair trade off? It certainly is when the weather is bad. Bad roads can make my commute take nearly as long as the bus/train combo. In addition, I do like the time I get to spend with the newspaper.

I’m not sure that I could be an every day transit rider. I would like to say that once a week could be a goal, but that might be difficult to keep up when the weather is good and there’s post-work golf to be played. Can I do it 25-30 times in 2011? That certain seems like an option.

Turn on your television

Just received an email that everyone should know about.

NBA League Pass. Free. Until Jan. 23.

So watch.

What should you watch? While there are 30 teams, let me give you four that I love to watch: Knicks, Thunder, Clippers, Warriors. You can get more than enough Heat, Lakers, Magic, Celtics and Spurs on regular TV, so go watch the funnest teams in the league to watch.

Things I like: Fantasy golf

This evening, there will be a portion of the population fixated on the Golden Globes. Others will be breaking down today’s two NFL games and looking forward to the AFC and NFC championship games.

Me? I’ll be watching golf. After all, there are fantasy golf implications.

I have reached the point where I’ve become bored with fantasy football. I always say I’m really going to follow baseball closely enough to be effective in fantasy baseball, but it never happens. I do care about my fantasy NBA team.

But I have reached the point where I care more about my three (yes, three) fantasy golf teams. I like trying to find a mix of who is playing well at the time, what golfers are better suited for certain courses, who are the below-the-radar guys who are playing well.

My fantasy golf breakdown is that I’m in two Yahoo leagues where players are broken down by categories and you can only use each player 10 times over the course of the season. You can also change your lineup between rounds so you have to pay attention.

The other league, which doesn’t start for two more weeks, is in some ways more interesting. You pick one golfer a week and you can use each golfer only once during the course of the year. For majors, you pick two golfers.

The key in this league is not missing cuts. You don’t have to have guys win, but they have to play the weekend.

I know I’m a little crazy, a little sick. But while I’ll be pulling for The Social Network to win in the Golden Globes, I’ll be watching and hoping for Justin Rose, Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly and Rory Sabbatini to make lots of birdies.

And I’m not going to lie, I’m probably going to blog about my fantasy golf successes. Sorry.

A thumbs up for RichRod **UPDATED**

I never really had a strong opinion of now former Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez. I was surprised that he didn’t have more success at Michigan, but that’s another story for another day.

But I will give him credit for what he did this week. Fired from his job, he made a difference. Coaches get a lot of gear. Rodriguez was no different. And what do you do with that stuff after you get fired? I can’t imagine him wearing more maize and blue.

Well the folks at annarbor.com have a nice story about RichRod donating about 400 items to the Salvation Army. He even autographed some hats.

The Salvation Army then held an auction and raised a bunch of money. I’m not usually a defender of football coaches, but this was nice. And instead of just leaving town, Rodriguez did some good.

UPDATE: annarbor.com had an update on the money raised.  It turns out that the RichRod donations raised $16,200 for the Salvation Army.

The list of items included: 23 pairs of shorts, 23 pairs of pants, 139 T-shirts, 15 long-sleeved pullovers, 30 windbreakers, 31 buttoned down shirts, six jackets, seven new shirts, two tank tops, 26 baseball caps, six hats as well as other items

Required Reading: January 15

Here are two stories — one somber and one quite lighthearted — for this Saturday.

The first comes from the New York times on the scene in the trauma center after last week\’s shooting. The piece features wonderful detail and is a very good narrative of what things were really like there.

I liked it in part because of my new job in health care and I do some work with our Level I trauma center, but I think is an interesting read.

Second is a goofy story from Yahoo’s college hoops blog, The Dagger. It is a story of how a North Carolina fan buys a ticket from a scalper for a game at Virginia and gets booted from the seat because he’s wearing a Tar Heels sweatshirt. The whole idea is pretty ridiculous, in my opinion. The idea of how much many schools want to control everything — often to avoid upsetting a coach that has much power — is crazy to me.

Anyway, a couple of good reads.

A big day

It is always a big day for me when I’ve actually played the hole featured on my Page-A-Day golf hole calendar.

Today: No. 18 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club (Ghost Creek). The public course in Pumpkin Ridge’s public-private 36-hole duo is very solid. It is probably the best public course in the Portland (Ore.) metro area.

Played there a couple of years ago on a solo weekend golf outing. Burned miles and played there and at The Reserve. A very solid weekend.