Ducks Basketball! (and the UConn Huskies)

March 29, 2017 Leave a comment

This week was an exciting one for University of Oregon basketball. It was the first time the men’s team and women’s team made it at least to the Elite Eight in the same year (and the first time the women made it that far at all). The men upset top-seeded Kansas to make it to their first Final Four since 1939, the year of the first NCAA Tournament, and the year they won it all. The women were completely overmatched by the juggernaut that is the UConn Huskies.

First, a few thoughts on the men’s team:

• I watched the Ducks’ last three games of the tournament, and I wondered if there has ever been a better threesome than Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey, and Dillon Brooks. There’s been a lot of terrific players in the recent past (Luke Jackson, Luke Ridnour, Freddie Jones, Aaron Brooks, Malik Hairston, Bryce Taylor, and Tajuan Porter, to name a few), but you can say with certainty that no other group of three has been more successful than this current one.

• Tyler “Mr. March” Dorsey loves the pressure, and he wants the ball in his hands at the end of the game. The best part for the Ducks? He’s been hitting the huge shots. He had the game-winning three-pointer against Rhode Island in the second round, the go-ahead basket against Michigan in the Sweet 16, and the dagger three against Kansas. He’s scored more than 20 points in each of the tournament’s four games, and is the second-leading scorer of players who have played four games. He has such a sweet shooting motion, and he’ll make it to the NBA, whenever he plans to declare. (He’s only a sophomore, so we’re hoping he’ll come back to Eugene next season!)

• Jordan “Bulldozer” Bell has been an absolute rock this tournament. He was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and was the Most Outstanding Player of the Ducks’ section of the NCAA Tournament. With a stat line of 11 points, 13 rebounds, 8 blocks, 4 assists against Kansas, it’s not hard to understand why. (And in my opinion, Dorsey was deserving of the award as well.) Bell is such a strong presence on defense, and he is so good at blocking shots and rebounding, both on the offensive and defensive ends. People were worried about the Ducks when one of their top big guys, Chris Boucher, went out with an injury in the Pac-12 Tournament, but Bell has filled in admirably. He played so hard against Kansas, it was clear he was completely exhausted by the end of the game, but the Ducks were ahead by just enough to withstand the late rally.

• The game against Kansas was iced when the Ducks were up by 6 with about 2:30 to go, the shot clock was about to expire, and Dorsey threw up a prayer at the last second. The ball bounced hard off the backboard and rim and right into the hands of Oregon, with a new shot clock. Dorsey’s three put Oregon up 9, and that was it. As Dorsey said after the game, they left it all out on the floor. They deserve a nice rest after that one.

 

Next, the women. This was the first women’s college basketball game I watched this season, and it went exactly how I thought it would go–with a UConn rout. The Huskies have won a preposterous 111 straight games (!), and judging by the performance against the Ducks in the Elite Eight (90-52), they won’t be losing anytime soon. It wasn’t that UConn had bigger players, it was that their players were stronger, faster, and in better shape. Of course it didn’t hurt that they shot the lights out and rarely missed. But they also almost always had open looks. How? That part wasn’t so obvious to me, but their ball movement, and off-ball movement were precise, and the players’ fundamentals were so sound. Everyone boxed out, passed the ball crisply, and shot with excellent form. On defense, they pressured the ball, went for steals, and forced turnover after turnover. And they rarely committed a foul! To do that speaks volumes to their fitness and strength. It’s frustrating to see such consistent domination, and I always root for the upset, but it’s also nice to watch basketball being played at such a high level.

UConn is always great, but that it’s been so excellent this season came as a little bit of a surprise. They lost three players to graduation who were taken as the top three picks in the WNBA draft, including the player who had won the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four the last four years (Breanna Stewart). With so much turnover, the Huskies weren’t even the top-ranked team at the start of the season. But there’s an obvious reason why they’ve been able to stay so outstanding, even with losing top players–it’s the head coach, Geno Auriemma. He makes good players great, and great players superstars. He knows what to say to bring the best out of them, and he just flat-out knows how to coach. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say he’s the best coach in any sport. And not just right now, but best coach ever. (The other team he coaches, the U.S. Women’s national team, doesn’t lose either.) Consider some of these records he owns: most NCAA tournament wins, men’s or women’s (113), most NCAA championships, men’s or women’s (11), most Final Four appearances, men’s or women’s (18), and longest win streak, men’s or women’s. Some people have taken a guess at when UConn will next lose a game. One commentator said the streak would get up to 200 games. I’ll take it one step further and say that they won’t lose as long as Auriemma is the coach. So Geno, we get it. You’re the best. Now let someone else have a chance! At least a little?

The First Two Weeks

February 3, 2017 Leave a comment

We’ve had two weeks of President* Trump (I will add the asterisk because he was elected unfairly and illegitimately), and it’s hard to keep up with everything he and his administration has said and done in that time, but here are some of the big ones: He ordered the contract freeze and media blackout on the Environmental Protection Agency (that’s tyrannical); he went ahead with his proposal to build a wall along the US/Mexico border, saying Mexico would be paying for it with a 20% tax on imported goods (but actually the US would end up mostly paying for that, despite what he says); Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” (which are not facts—they’re lies); Steve Bannon’s bashing of the news media; the promotion of Bannon (an ultra-conservative proponent of the “alt-right”) to chief strategist and senior advisor, despite not going through the proper channels; and the immigration ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries (but unsurprisingly none where Trump has businesses). All these things are infuriating, and it makes me want to tune all of it out, but it’s important to keep informed and know what’s going on. Most people in this country do not support these things the President* is doing (he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes), and his actions are not what America is about, or what it stands for. All he wants to do is win win win, but by insulting people and burning bridges, that’s not what he’s doing at all. The United States is better than this, and I’ll try to do my part to make sure it stays a great country.

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Electing Trump a Huge Failure

January 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Electing Trump was a huge failure. I hope everyone, including people who voted for him, realize that.

Here’s an opinion article from the NY Times, called The America We Lost When Trump Won.

The last two paragraphs say it best:

“Today’s passive, unhappy Americans sat on their couches and chose a strutting TV clown to save us.

What they have done is a desecration, a foolish and vindictive act of vandalism, by which they betrayed all the best and most valiant labors of our ancestors. We don’t want to accept this, because we cannot accept that the people, at least in the long run of things, can be wrong in our American democracy. But they can be wrong, just like any people, anywhere. And until we do accept this abject failure of both our system and ourselves, there is no hope for our redemption.”

Categories: Politics

Women’s March

January 22, 2017 Leave a comment

The Women’s March happened yesterday, and it was very inspiring and a terrific success. An estimated 2.9 million people marched, making it the biggest protest in US history. Here is a breakdown of how many people marched in each city.

I marched (in NYC) because I oppose racism, bigotry, misogyny, and bullying. I also marched because I support public education, women’s right to choose, preserving the environment, gay marriage, affordable health care, and fair elections.

The best signs from the March, from New York Magazine.

The marches that happened throughout the world, from the New York Times.

To keep up the momentum, here are 10 Actions to do in 100 Days.

And here is one picture I took in NYC.

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Golden Globes, Streep, and Trump

January 12, 2017 Leave a comment

At the Golden Globes the other day, Meryl Streep was presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and in her acceptance speech, she called out the President-elect on his deplorable behavior of mocking a disabled reporter, saying “Disrespect incites disrespect. Violence incites violence.” He’s a bully (among other things), but just because he was voted in, does not make that behavior OK. He’s not a role model, and should not be emulated.

It’s troubling and alarming that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee and released emails, and spread fake news to influence the election toward Trump. Make no mistake–that was a direct attack on our democracy. He kept saying the election was rigged when he was projected to lose in the polls. It turns out the election was rigged–against his opponent. With new, unsubstantiated revelations about Russia having comprising information about Trump’s personal and financial life, it’s clear why pushed him to victory. Putin will be calling the shots, and that is a very scary prospect.

Now is not the time to sit back and watch the President-elect run the country (and maybe the world) into the ground. Support journalism. Support the arts. Donate to organizations doing important work. Call your representatives. Stand up to hate. Get involved.

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My top movies of 2016

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

I didn’t see all the movies this year, but I did see a lot. Here’s my top few, with the 1-10 rating in parentheses. (I still haven’t seen La La Land, which has received extremely mixed reviews. Some people I talked to have loved it, while others loathed it.)

Moonlight (9)
Zootopia (8.5)
Everybody Wants Some!! (8.5)
Manchester by the Sea (8)
Arrival (8)
Don’t Think Twice (8)
Captain America: Civil War (8)
Sing Street (8)
Moana (8)
Indignation (8)
The Jungle Book (8)
Captain Fantastic (8)

Categories: Movies

How?

November 9, 2016 Leave a comment

I’m baffled. This morning I was feeling very confident that Hillary Clinton would win. And win big. Fivethirtyeight.com had her at around 76% chance of winning earlier today. NY Times had her above 80%. Obviously, I’m out of touch with the majority of this country, and I’m also highly disappointed. I don’t think people understand how dangerous and damaging Trump can be not just for the United States, but for the world. Here’s what he brings: racism, misogyny, negativity, and bullying. He divides and insults. This is upsetting and sad on so many levels.

Paul Krugman of the NY Times wrote a story tonight called Our Unknown Country.

We still don’t know who will win the electoral college, although as I write this it looks — incredibly, horribly — as if the odds now favor Donald J. Trump. What we do know is that people like me, and probably like most readers of The New York Times, truly didn’t understand the country we live in. We thought that our fellow citizens would not, in the end, vote for a candidate so manifestly unqualified for high office, so temperamentally unsound, so scary yet ludicrous.

We thought that the nation, while far from having transcended racial prejudice and misogyny, had become vastly more open and tolerant over time.

We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law.

It turns out that we were wrong. There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy. And there were many other people who might not share those anti-democratic values, but who nonetheless were willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican label.

I don’t know how we go forward from here. Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible. I guess we have to pick ourselves up and try to find a way forward, but this has been a night of terrible revelations, and I don’t think it’s self-indulgent to feel quite a lot of despair.”