Friday, February 17, 2012

2/17 (Gary Carter) Quickie

Having one great memory about any individual sports star isn't a bad way to feel a connection. For millions of Mets fans, their connection to Gary Carter was -- at the very least -- through Game 6. For Expos fans, the team's first Hall of Famer.

For me -- who is a fan of neither team -- my connection to Gary Carter was that he was the starting catcher on a Strat-O-Matic team I played with consistently from 6th through 9th grade. I only had the 1985 edition (1984 season) set, and so that was the version of Carter I had in my lineup: .294/.366/.487, with 27 HR and 106 RBI. He was, as in real life, solid.

When you read through the thoughtful reflections on Carter's life and his contribution to baseball, the stand-out characteristic is his boyish enthusiasm for a game. If that rubbed off on you in your fandom or your life, that's a pretty good legacy.


*Linsanity resumes tonight: No Carmelo Anthony, but maybe a JR Smith sighting? It's the Hornets, so Jeremy Lin could play 20 minutes at half-speed and the Knicks will still win by double-digits.

*Lin added to the NBA All-Star Rookie-Soph game: I believe I predicted this on February 7, three days into Linsanity.

*Tim Wakefield retires from baseball: If my kids want to play baseball, I'm having them become knuckleball specialists, because there will always be a place for them on the youth-league teams.

*CBB: You could do a lot worse than picking Michigan State to make the Final Four. Performances like wins over Wisconsin help.

*What to watch this weekend: Don't miss "The Street Stops Here" on Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

-- D.S.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

02/16 (Pushing 40) Quickie

Today is my birthday. Two years ago today, I was flying to Seattle to see a billionaire about a company I wanted to found. A year ago today, I was up to my ears trying to get that company off the ground (no billionaires included). This year, I’m still hammering away.

One year from today, I will turn 40. That means today is less about me turning 39 than me launching a year-long countdown to exiting my 30s. The 30s have been good to me. I married my wife, became a parent to two kids (three, as of two weeks from today), bought a house and had a satisfying (if jagged) career path.

But I feel like I need to look ahead. If anything has marked the past year, it has been that the “founder” lifestyle has led to physical atrophy -- I’m in the worst shape of my life, both weight and fitness. My goal for the next year, then, is pretty simple: On my 40th birthday, I want to fit into the suit I got married in.

It’s not just that I have to lose 30 pounds -- I also have to get back into some semblance of physical shape, particularly when you account for a metabolism that has come to a screeching halt over the past few years.

The “fit into the wedding suit” thing is a gimmick. The real reason wakes me up every day and brings me such an overwhelming amount of joy I can barely articulate it: My two little boys, plus -- any day now -- their little sister.

I want the energy to keep up with them. And to be the best possible partner for my astonishingly patient wife. And to feel as good about myself as I did back then when I was a year from turning 30. And -- in something you think about a lot as a parent -- I don’t want to keel over any more prematurely than I have to.

There are a lot of ways to get there. I am a pretty big fan of Weight Watchers For Guys (high five up top, Charles Barkley!) and had a successful run with it last summer, until the move from NYC to DC just obliterated my diet and fitness habits. I have taken up playing basketball one night a week with some other old guys, but I mainly lumber up the court and sit around the outside winging up bad shots. Maybe I need to try yoga or swimming or something more ass-kicking, like P90X. Maybe that new Nike wristband exercise-counter (or some other kind of technology) will help. Maybe it takes leaving New York City for me to finally run the New York Marathon -- which would be the ultimate gift to myself heading into 40. Maybe I can just stop eating Cheez-Its by the box and ice cream by the pint; hey, there’s a start.

I’m not going to bore you with updates by blog or through my @danshanoff Twitter feed. I have set up a special Twitter handle (@danshanoff40) to keep track of how it’s going (with a bit of inspiration from the New York Times’ Brian Stelter, who created a similar campaign as he was heading into age 25.) Maybe I’ll do some writing about it elsewhere; maybe I’ll earn a sponsorship from Weight Watchers (or Chipotle! No, wait....)

Ironically, I have found that birthdays lose a lot of meaning as you hit your 30s -- certainly as you have kids. It’s usually a good excuse to get your friends together at a bar -- that’s more than enough reason to celebrate. But maybe this year I can channel it into something a little more productive (if still appropriately narcissistic).

Tonight my birthday dinner is a kid-friendly trip to the local Five Guys with my family, followed by inhaling at least a quarter (OK: half) of a Carvel ice cream cake. I’ll make it a celebration send-off into an effort to really change how I look and feel, so that I can enter my 40s with all of the verve I had when I entered my 30s.

Back then, it was about finishing my MBA and newly dating this amazing woman and figuring out how I was going to turn this idea I had into an awesome daily national column for Now, it’s suburbs and soccer practice and having a third kid and making the next 10 years of my career the best yet.

I’ll need all the verve I can get.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

02/15 (Linsanity, Cont'd) Quickie

"Its crazy! I'm watching Linsanity hoping every shot goes in. Hope I never grow up."

That is Steve Nash last night, tweeting out a sentiment that I think we can all relate to.

Yes, Linsanity is about Jeremy Lin, obviously -- his backstory, his success.

But Linsanity is also about us -- about fans. It's about those rare moments when a story is so special -- "magic," the great Bruce Arthur called it after last night's finish (the wildest one yet) -- that it goes to the very core of why we love sports and why sports can be so amazing.

Linsanity is Jeremy Lin taking the league by storm.
Linsanity is the mania gripping fans right now.

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about the veritable perfect storm of circumstances that makes this what it is -- the "Asian-American Harvard grad" part is big, obviously. That he was undrafted (and cut multiple times) is huge. That he is personally humble, at least in the media (yet wildly demonstrative on the court). That he plays in New York. That he got to take over a star-less team (at first). That the Knicks had a manageable schedule (leading up to the Lakers and national TV). That it is a system (and coach) that is perfectly suited for him.

I wondered if there was a way to find the "next Jeremy Lin" -- it doesn't have to be a national sensation, but merely a massively undervalued player who becomes a key contributor -- but the fact is that when you stack up the factors, you realize just how unique this moment is. It makes for an even greater appreciation.

There's one other tweet that stood out for me last night, from PTI's Erik Rydholm:

Jeremy Lin is adorable. But on the final shot, he called for an iso, his team backed off, and he delivered. That's cold-bleepin'-blooded."

That is the last element of this that makes me marvel -- Lin isn't just a role player making the most of an opportunity; Lin is the center of the team (a team with two mega-stars). Lin is the star -- not "star" like "celebrity," but "star" like "most valuable player." And he plays like it.

Last night's buzzer-beating game-winner was added to the most reserved space in the Lin canon not just because he made the shot... but because he took the shot. He wanted to take the shot. He demanded to take the shot. As fans, we are attracted to that kind of alpha attitude. That he is so endearingly other-focused off the court (or in post-game interviews) makes it all the more awesome. But make no mistake: Lin knows who he is and what he can do.

It is impossible -- no matter which team you root for or even if you don't follow basketball -- not to keep cheering for him to keep it going, for the mania to continue.

Hope we never grow up.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

02/14 (Valentine's Day) Quickie

Lot of love going around today. I will say this: One of the most remarkable things since last year's Valentine's Day is watching my kids' die-hard love for sports emerge.

My 5-year-old is an NFL nut (thank you, NFL Red Zone Channel). My 3-year-old is obsessed with hockey. They both sit there watching highlights in the morning and are happy to watch basketball, hockey or whatever on weekends.

Do they get Linsanity? Not really. Do they appreciate it more when I explain it to them -- about underdogs and trying your hardest and being a team player? Definitely more. Both kids have become Wizards fans (I know), but they were born in New York City -- an affinity for New York teams is natural.

I love that they love sports. I don't love it because I love sports -- I love it because I love seeing their reaction to sports, something unadulterated and just about as pure as you'll find. They don't necessarily "get" it yet, but they get it enough to love it. What could be better than that?

Linsanity continues tonight in Toronto -- Amare joins Lin for the first time -- and Lin is featured on the cover of SI's non-swimsuit issue this week. But the real gem in the mag this week -- probably the best piece of sportswriting I've read this year -- is this story by Thomas Lake about Wes Leonard, the Michigan high school basketball player who tragically died on the court a year ago. Take the time to read it at some point this week. It's remarkable.

Happy Valentine's Day. Take a minute to think about what (and who) you love.

-- D.S.

Monday, February 13, 2012

02/13 (Now With Even More Linsanity) Quickie

Really: If you like the Jeremy Lin phenomenon, please check out Quickish's Jeremy Lin stream, which I think has the best collection of Lin-related commentary and analysis out there. Not too much, just enough.


*NBA: You mean there's more than Lin? Kobe's still got it. And, if you caught that Celtics-Bulls game yesterday, Rondo never didn't have it.

*Oh, OK, more Lin: I had wondered about his free agency situation. Not only do the Knicks have the right to match any offer, but the vagaries of the CBA mean that Lin can't accept an offer higher than $5 million a year -- league average for a PG -- even if, say, the Brooklyn Nets wanted to break the bank for him after they lose Deron Williams. So looks like he'll be a Knick for a while. Next challenge: How do things go when Amare and Carmelo return?

*MLB: The A's won the bidding for Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who is the biggest mystery talent in the league. It's interesting At 4 years, their risk is capped; at $36 million, their financial risk is capped, too. If he turns out to be spectacular (or even just pretty good), the A's can flip him for a lot more value than they're going to pay for him -- the essence of Moneyball.

*NFL: Is Randy Moss coming back to the NFL? If his head is screwed on right and he's with the right team (cough - Pats - cough), is there any doubt he has the talent to contribute? I'd go right back to the Pats, and if I was the Pats, I'd bring him back. The Pats were devastating enough when it was Welker-Moss. Imagine Welker-Gronk-Hernandez-Moss?

*College Hoops: My new obsession for the bracket is Wichita State. Short of the Shockers playing Kentucky in the first weekend, I think it's clear I'm taking them to the Sweet 16 -- maybe even further. This isn't exactly bold thinking -- as the best "mid-major," they will be a very hot pick to be a Cinderella into the Sweet 16 and beyond.

*CFB: They're all still abandoning the Maryland program. But, hey, at least they got super-recruit Stefon Diggs.

Go do that last-minute Valentine's Day shopping -- fwiw, the card selection sucks today.

-- D.S.