For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest these: it might have been. What might have been yesterday, had St John’s beaten the sixteenth ranked Arizona State Sun Devils at the Staples Center Friday night – instead of losing 82-70, which is what they did – is that St John’s would’ve probably gotten a few votes in next week’s AP poll. That doesn’t seem like a lot, a few votes in December, but considering where they were this time last December – at 5-6, just having lost to LIU – or god forbid the year before – on the cusp of a 17 game losing streak – that would have been a real sign of progress. Instead they lost a game they might have won had not Justin Simon, having previously tried to throw the CSU game away with a boneheaded pass at half court, and having previously tried to give the Grand Canyon game away with three or four ill-advised in-bounds passes, finally achieved his goal: with St John’s having rallied from a 15 point first half deficit to within one point with about three minutes left Simon threw a pointless pass that sailed over Ponds head into the third row, from which pointless pass SJU never recovered: ASU scored the next 12 points, to SJU’s none. The picture tells the tale.
The bright spot I suppose is that despite how poorly they played on offense – they shot 40 percent from the floor, 30 percent from three and missed nine of 22 free throws – they got back into the game on the defensive end. Considering how porous the defense was last year that’s pretty remarkable, and bodes well for the future, especially when the back court shoots nine for 38, like they did last night … There’s no point rehashing the Grand Canyon State game except to note that St John’s has now held seven opponents to under 61 points – last year they gave up nearly 80, and this year they’re 35th in the country at 64 ppg. I frankly don’t remember too much about the game and my notes look like they were transcribed by Michael J Fox during an earthquake – it started at 11 PM, so I might have had a cocktail – except that Dan Majerle looked like an egg plant … All in all they acquitted themselves pretty well on the trip, playing in a different time zone in front of hostile crowds and without Marcus Lovett. The next two games are at home and presumably Lovett’ll be back. With St Joe’s and Iona having a combined record of 7-8 it’s possible that St John’s can start league play with 10 wins and a top 30 ish RPI. It’s a shame they don’t have a legit big man, because they might turn out to be a pretty good team.
PLAYERS: I don’t want to say anything bad about Shamorie Ponds, but I’m constrained to point out that he’s currently shooting 21 percent from three, which is worse than Alibeowitz. I know that won’t continue – he shot nearly 40 percent last year – but it is worrisome, sophomore slumps being a thing. The good news is that it doesn’t affect the other aspects of his play – last night he had 7 rebounds and assists and three steals – and doesn’t seem to be in his head either … As bad as Tariq Owens was against GCSU – and he was so awful that I remember it – he came back nicely against ASU, scoring a career high 17 points … Marvin Clark had 18 points and seven rebounds and is currently shooting 52 percent from three … Not to be outdone Goat of the game Justin Simon is shooting 66 percent from three. But Jesus the turnovers. It’s unbelievable he was touted as a point guard, he can barely dribble and maybe it’s rust, but again, worrisome … Ahmed did not have a stellar west coast trip – he shot 4 for 20 and committed nine fouls – but he did have 18 rebounds in those two games. The bad news is that he’s essentially the same player he was last year, which means you have to take the bad with the good … Trimble didn’t embarrass himself in Lovett’s absence … Yawke played a mere 16 minutes in two games and Alibeoqitz played 11. Yakwe looked to have turned a corner a couple of games ago, this trip not so much.
NOTES: I watched the game on something called FUBU and was treated to the mellifluous tones of Steve Lavin. Those of you hoping that I’m going to rip him will be disappointed, because he’s not a bad color guy, the requirements of the job – babbling on inanely without saying anything of importance – playing as they do to his strengths. Last night was no exception: he talked about tickling the twine and sharing the sugar and “having the hot hand like a microwave” which Earth to Lavin, microwaves don’t have hands … Before the basketball season started I went back and read my recaps from the previous two years and came away thinking that what I’d read was the best NY sports commentary since Damon Runyon. That might sound a wee egotistical, and maybe it is, but not that egotistical, because it’s not a very high bar: most sport writing sucks. In fact as a general rule the more well known a sports writer is the more likely he is to be a completely talentless hack. Tony Kornheiser for example, sucks. Jowly Bob Ryan, spending his golden years waxing eloquent about the majesty of Tom Brady, he sucks. Balloon headed abomination Mitch Albom: sucks. And just to show that I’m neither a racist nor a misogynist, Jemele Hill sucks too. And so on down the list. Mostly they all suck. There’s probably a bunch of reasons why this is but mostly it boils down to one thing: sports are stupid, and if you spend all your time thinking about stupid things you’ll become stupid too. The fact is that the average sports writer has no greater insight into sports than any vaguely informed mook on the street – imagine if your doctor knew as much about medicine as the average bus driver – and because many of them majored in journalism, they’re shit writers to boot.
I might be a little biased towards my home town, but NY sport writers are the worst. I remember exactly where I was when the appalling Dick Young died: I was in a bar day drinking and high fived the stranger next to me. I remember hate
fucking reading Steve Serby’s stupid columns over and over, the ones where he’d repeat a stupid catch phrase every couple of paragraphs – blah blah blah blah CATCH PHRASE blah blah blah blah CATCH PHRASE – which he probably thought of as literary style, which it is, in the same way that if you put shit on tuna fish sandwich it’s mayonnaise. And I defy you to name a worse writer or human being than tortured dwarf Mike Lupica – worse than Steve Lavin even – who I could watch get the Dominick Santoro treatment while eating a shrimp cocktail and not spill a morsel. (Because he’s a dwarf and shrimp is small, geddit?) Not content with being the worst sport writer in America, Lupica has parleyed his Sunday column of vapid thoughts …. about Derek Jeter … separated by ellipses …. from inane musings …. about Bill Parcells …. into a career as – wait for it – a writer of children’s books, books about little runts like himself turning the tables on the big strong bullies and winning the big game. Hooray! Which is fitting, because he sucks and children’s books are perhaps the one literary form that’s lower than sports writing.
Kid’s books used to be written by pedophiles as a form of twisted Victorian pornography – see also JM Barrie and Lewis Caroll – but nowadays mostly are churned out by vapid celebrities as a way of
making a cheap buck imparting the important life lessons they’ve learned on the road to fame and fortune. Everyone of them it seems has written a kid’s book, from Madonna ( How to Fellate a Hispanic Producer The English Rose), to Keith Richard (The Story of My First Guitar); Hillary Clinton (It Takes a Village to Raise a Village Idiot), her horse faced daughter Chelsea, Bruce Springsteen, Terrell Owens, Spike Lee, George Foreman, Brooke Shields, Sharon Osborne, Billy Joel, Tina Louise, Jamie Lee Curtis. Everyone. When bloated drunken murderer Ted Kennedy wasn’t raping waitresses even he wrote a children’s book (My Senator and Me). In fact I defy you to name a celebrity who hasn’t written a children’s book. Pro tip, you can’t.
Can you imagine being so desperate for intellectual affirmation that you’d sit down at your computer and pump out 200 words a day about a giant talking cucumber that makes friends with a lesbian walrus and saves a turtle from drowning while learning a valuable lesson about tolerance. I’d blow my fucking brains out first. Which is why – like sports writing – most children’s books are shit. Sports writing sucks because the people doing the writing are idiots writing for idiots. Children’s books suck because they’re full of romanticized lies and nonsense and written for idiots by people who wouldn’t know real life if real life crawled up into their colons and died there.
Fact: if you live in a NYC high rise with a monkey called George George is eventually going to get so curious that he rips your face off and eats your genitalia. Because he’s a fucking monkey and that’s what monkeys do. In real life that cute little waif Madeline, bravely wandering the streets of Paris? She’d end up raped by a Persian and her body thrown in the Seine. Am I supposed to believe that any self respecting evil witch with an army of flying monkeys and orcs is going to be done in by a pre-pubescent Kansas farm girl? I think not. In the children’s classic Mr Popper’s Penguins – along with Nausea a fun fave as a tad – Popper receives a penguin (don’t ask) that has so many penguin babies that Popper is forced to take the penguins on the vaudeville circuit to make ends meet except things go awry and he gets arrested and after being gang raped in prison, dies of AIDS. Okay, I made that last part up, but its much more realistic than the real ending, wherein he decides to set the penguins free and so is invited to go to on an expedition with Admiral Drake the North Pole. (The story does have a happy ending though, because the trip takes about two years, meaning Popper doesn’t have to see his insufferable wife and kids for that long.) And I’m not going to mention Harry Potter, the insipid brainchild of a UK welfare slag written in prose that makes Stephen King’s look like Cormac McCarthy: it’s utter garbage. The Little Engine That Could purports to teach children that if they want something bad enough – “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” – they can achieve it. Yeah, no they can’t. Most endeavors end in failure, degradation and despair. In real life the way you get ahead is to cheat and lie and steal and failing that you have to watch Harvey Weinstein shower and then after your tits start to sag you churn out some shitty kid lit.
My favorite children’s book story though is the story of Molly Bang. Molly is a real person, like Hillary Clinton a graduate of Wellesley who went on to get a a PhD in literature from Harvard. She wrote, in 1983, a children’s book called Ten, Nine, Eight, which is a countdown from ten to one by a little girl getting ready for bed. This book is considered a classic and is on the NY Public libraries list of 100 greatest children’s books: “Ten soft toes are washed and warm. Nine soft friends in a quiet room. Eight square window panes in the falling snow.” That’s as far as I got but I assume the next one is “seven Oxycontin chased with a gallon of vodka and a nice lie down in the bathtub” But that’s not the interesting part of the Molly Bang story. The interesting part is that Bang wrote in 1996 a book called Goose, which in 2016 won the Phoenix Picture Book Award: it was named by the Children’s Literature Association as the best English-language children’s book that had not previously won a book award. And so we come full circle: in a world where every little special snowflake gets a gold star for participation, the adults who encourage the children to remain forever children give themselves their own participation trophies. Hooray!
There is one children’s book that doesn’t suck, and that’s because it’s not a children’s book: Yertle the Turtle. Yertle tells the story of a turtle who acts like a cunt and gets his comeuppance, the moral being don’t act like a cunt. Which is all anybody really needs to know. I have my own idea for a great children’s book, one that imparts similar life lessons, because children are the future. Here it is. There’s this cute little Muslim bunny rabbit called
Allah Snuggles who befriends a talking Jewish carrot called Schlomupagus. Snuggles found Schlomo alive in a pile of rubble, the only survivor of a blast caused when Snuggles good friend Fluffy – an adorable jihadist puppet come to life – detonated an explosive vest in a Beirut marketplace. The two new friends set off on a long and arduous journey to bring peace to the middle east, but just when they reach Palestine things go awry and the two are separated: Snuggles gets lost in the desert and is raped and murdered by a tribe of Bedouins and Schlomo is deported to Auschwitz where he dies in the gas chambers. The working title is Kurds and Slay.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking fun, that was fascinating (and hilarious), but what does it have to do with basketball. And the answer is nothing. Because basketball is a sport and sports are stupid and you can write about them for so long before you become stupid too. What I’m trying to do here instead is explain what good writing is, and what it isn’t. And to that end I’m going to impart a very important rule to help you along the way. The rule is, when you write, don’t use too many commas. Because, when you use, too many commas, you sound like, a stuttering, fuck, with brain trauma, and reading your prose, is like watching, a three legged dog, try to climb the stairs: eventually you start rooting for the stairs. And rule two, try not to be too boring, and rule three, don’t go on too long, which last one I’m still working on.