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May 31, 2006

Memorial Day at Brian Head

Jeremy and both boys went with me to Brian Head this weekend and it was the first time he has seen the place without snow since he was not around during fall last year. The grass is coming in green and the Aspens are starting to grow leaves.

The place had more people than my last trip up, but it was still largely dead. We ate at the Bump and Grind and hung out a decent amount. We took US-89 up and back and the ride was mellow and relaxing as we avoided Hoover Dam over a holiday weekend.

Summer is just kicking off in Phoenix and the 110 degree temps are only days away. As we drove in on Saturday, it was SNOWING! It got down into the low 20's and while it didn't snow much, it certainly snowed some. Foggy and snowing. What a contrast.

I had some business at the Condo to take care of and missed game 3. We watched on the tv in the condo. But I ran into the former owner of my condo and invited him up to have a look. He didn't know what to say. Not even the same place. You would think he had never lived there. Amazed.

I am heading up again after the playoffs are over. This season's playoffs have been a marathon of emotions, but certainly enjoyable. It was nice to relax a bit and breathe the fresh air at Brian Head.

Posted by Justin at 11:35 AM | Comments (1)

It's Official--This Year's Suns Better than Last's

Last year, I was preparing for a Game 5 showdown with the Spurs knowing that the season was about to end on our court in Phoenix. One playoff win allowed the Suns to salvage some respect and not get swept out of the playoffs. Last night was the first Suns home Western Conference Finals win since 1993. And going into game 5 this year, it's a best of three series.

Last night Jeremy and I arrived our usual 30 minutes early to watch warm-ups. And as we watched the tunnel, Raja Bell was not in a suit. We kepted counting players and watching him take layups and shots, undeterred by his partially torn calf muscle. And then Jesse came out. A little trumpet to get the night started and some introductions for the Mavs. Dim the lights and bam, starting at 2 guard, Raja Bell.

Like I said, we sit next to the "Bell Tower" in section 211. We were all in disbelief. Mike D'Antoni said it best--to keep Raja out of game 4 he would have to shoot him. 30 minutes and 9 points later, the Suns showed what has gotten an undersized and outmanned team within 6 wins of a title--guts and heart. And Raja brings both of those every single night. Whether it is guarding Kobe or hitting a big 3 against the Clippers to save the season, you better bring more than an elbow or two to stop him.

So now here it is. An emotional roller coaster of a season in which Amare was lost before training camp, Joe Johnson and Q departed, an opening loss to the Mavs in double OT, losing streaks, winning streaks, Bryan Colangelo leaving, Amare's return, Kurt Thomas's fracture, Amare's departure for the rest of the season, two game 7's, 82 regular season games, and 18 playoff games later, this team stands 6 wins from a title.

And last night they responded knowing that their season was over if they lost. But hey, they did the same for three straight against the Lakers. They did the same in games 5 and 7 against the Clippers. As we were walking out last night, there was a new energy. A team going somewhere they had not been since 1993. A team that will not lose. There is something special about this Suns team. I don't know if last night was a "bloody sock" type moment yet, but seeing Raja and Kurt Thomas come back and the Suns look like the unstoppable force they were at times this year makes me believe. It is possible. It can be done. And to all the doubters that said this team could not win without Amare, that Nash is not the MVP, that this style cannot win in the playoffs--it is a best of 3 series. Two wins then four more. Something special is happening.

Posted by Justin at 09:34 AM

May 27, 2006

Memorial Day

A three day weekend in May. Time to go out on the boat or barbeque in the back yard. Get ready for the kids being out of school. We lose touch with what the holiday is about and I thought I would take a quick moment to remind you that while many disagree with the current administration, Memorial Day is not a day to protest Wars, but rather to remember those that fought and died in them.

I was in a restaurant last week and ran into a "boot" Navy kid and his two recruiters. He is headed to Japan in a week. I went over and talked to them for a few and let them know that I am a former Corpsman who worked with the Marines at MCAS Yuma and Camp Pendleton. Thanked them for their service. I remember working 80 hour weeks and living in crappy barracks in the desert. Making $1500 a month including clothing, food and housing allowances.

I now have a job where I make good money, am starting a business (in addition to the two I already own), and get to ski 30 days a year. It isn't because America just randomly came into existence. WWII, WWI, the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and dozens of other incidents have occurred where America has responded including Somalia, Gulf War I, Bosnia-Serbia, and dozens of other peacekeeping and humanitarian missions as well as protecting Japan and Germany for a half a century and then some.

It has happened because kids like me and my buddy Jake and my shipmates and the Marines I worked with, and others like Pat Tillman and my grandfather, and so on have made the sacrifice to protect us. It isn't glamorous or fun most of the time, but I believe our country and our freedoms are worth it. As an ASU Alum and Cardinal fan, PT was my favorite player going back to him winning the defensive player of the year award in the Pac-10 and to the 1996 Rose Bowl. He represents part of what this weekend is about.

So barbeque and take the boat out and enjoy the extra day off. But take a moment if you see a Veteran or Active Duty Sailor, Soldier, Marine, or Knee-Deep Coasty or Air Force Flyboy, to thank them. They appreciate it. And we all should appreciate what they do to keep us safe.

Posted by Justin at 03:57 PM

May 25, 2006

Suns Win Game 1, but May Lose Raja for Game 2

Toughness, both mental and physical, is what Raja has brought to the Suns this year. No knock on Q, who played exceptionally well last year in stretches until disappearing in the playoffs, but Raja was a huge upgrade. Especially at the defensive end.

So now the Suns face another big road game without their defensive stopper after a ginormous victory in Game 1 at Dallas. The Suns' bench did not help a lot and LB had an awful game, yet the regulars--Thomas, Marion, Nash, and Boris Diaw--came up big. But no one came up bigger than Boris shooting a ten foot fallaway jumper over a doubleteam with his team down 1 and .5 seconds left. His 34 points were a career high.

Nash and Marion had their usual double doubles and Nash hit several huge shots down the stretch when the Suns were down 9 with a little over 3 minutes to play. Marion still is not the same Matrix with his injured ankle, but his play on Dirk was exceptional.

I was planning to go on a Cruise to the Western Carribean over the week of June 11-18 with my wife and several friends. It also happens to be my wife and my 10th Wedding Anniversary. I love her and all, but we have an Anniversary every year, how often do the Suns have a chance to play in the NBA Finals?

The good news here is this--I have missed two post-season games so far this year, both game 5's. One involved Raja knocking Kobe to the floor and the other involved Raja knocking down a three to send it to Double OT. I hate watching on TV, but the ship better have me hooked up.

Posted by Justin at 10:46 AM

May 24, 2006

Let's Get the Western Conference Finals Started

Pick your plot line. Maybe it is Steve Nash and Raja Bell playing against their old team. Perhaps it is this year's Coach of the Year (The Little General) versus the Runner-up and last year's Coach of the Year (Mike D'Antoni). Maybe it is the Mavs versus the team that beat them in 6 last year. The Suns against the team that injured Joe Johnson and cost them a chance at the Finals. Or how about the two time MVP versus his best friend. But my favorite is the over the hill point guard who was gonna break down and not worth a long term deal versus the owner who let him go.

The MC for Suns games is Ced Ceballos, himself a former Sun and former Mav. It used to be when Michael Finley, Ced, and Nash played for the Mavs, they were our JV team. Not anymore.

But my absolute favorite part of the entire series is getting to see one of my favorite basketball players for an entire series. I know, he is injury prone. I know, he has played for more teams than I can keep track of. The guy that went number two overall in the draft behind Tim Duncan. Socks pulled up to the knees and all. Keith Van Horn.

Since I live in Utah, you have to swear an allegiance to one of two Utah teams. Either you like the Utes or the Cougars. Now, I know there are other teams, but generally, you can like other teams too, but at the end of the day, you better have a side in the Utah-BYU rivalry. Well, I have one up on that. I am FROM Wyoming. And there is nothing a Cowboy hates worse than BYU. So naturally, I root for the Utes. And KVH was such an awesome ballplayer in college. Fundamentals. Shooting touch. Leadership.

Then I had my gangly, awkward, tall, thin, red headed son. I will post pictures, but my son Jake looks like the before picture of Keith from grade school. We relentlessly give him crap every time we see the Mavs. I call him Keith. Ask him to pull the socks up. I think it is a compliment, but he just thinks I am mean. And I am.

So bring on the Mavs. Bring on Mark Cuban. Bring on Dirk. Bring on Jason Terry and a shot in the nads. Bring on Keith Van Horn. Finally a team not from LA.

Posted by Justin at 12:30 PM

May 23, 2006

Suns Back in Western Conference Finals

Without the hated Lakers, game 7 against the Clippers did not have the hype of the previous round. The Suns simply stepped on the court and dominated. Nash looked like an MVP. Matrix came up big. And all of it added up to a blowout.

Elton Brand is a star. But he is posting huge numbers against a Suns team with no interior defense. Sam Cassell is free to refer to Steve Nash as "the Rook", but he looked like the rookie tonight. The Suns looked two steps quicker than the Clippers. As if a day or two off cures all wounds.

Jeremy and I went to the game and missed the last 6 minutes of the Dallas-San Antonio game. We kept waiting for updates and they didn't come until mid-second quarter. And Dallas is waiting for us. Mark Cuban is waiting for another dose of humility after letting Nash go. Dirk gets to see his friend. And perhaps we can close Dallas out for the second straight year.

So on to the next round. The Suns are planning to beat the Dodgers in seven games next. Then perhaps the Kings. For that matter, the Suns would take on the Raiders and Rams if LA weren't such a hopeless town and had an NFL team. Just to hear the chants of "BEAT LA!" again. Two seven game series against LA. Two lopsided game seven victories. Two humiliating losses for my least favorite city.

Have a nice offseason. Say hi to Kobe.

Posted by Justin at 02:22 AM

May 20, 2006

Another Game 7

So there it is. Back and forth. Suns win games 1, 3, and 5. Clippers win the even ones. Now, a best of seven is down to a best of one. One game at US Airways decides who goes to the Western Conference Finals and whose season ends. Whether Sam Cassell or "the rook" continues marching towards a championship.

Gotta wear the Orange Jerseys and the Suns hat that my migraine during the last game 7 had me crying into. I spent most of the second half of game 7 against the Lakers with my head pounding and my brother had to drive me home. The noise. The screaming at the top of your lungs in rabid hatred of Kobe. The ringing in my ears of the "Bell Tower".

This time, LA has no Kobe. No one to hate. No one to taunt. No one for Raja's mom to offer to hug. This time, it is not the hated Lakers, but the doormat Clippers. There is no rivalry here. This series has been a constant struggle to retain interest in due to the elation of the Lakers series and the anticipation of getting either San Antonio (and a chance to beat the champs) or Dallas (and a chance to send Mark Cuban packing again and chant MVP at the man that gave Phoenix back a basketball team). Now, it is interesting. Now the Suns will play with the same desperation they had in games 5, 6, and 7 against the Lakers, knowing their backs are against the wall.

Jeremy and I will be heading to Game 7 again. Same routine. Arrive early. Eat some pizza at Pizanos at Arizona Center. Soak up the experience. Watch warmups. And then hope that the Suns take care of business.

The worst part is missing the Spurs and the Mavericks playing in game 7 right before. Who do you root for? I should not admit this publicly, but I am still a fan of Michael Finley. I hate U of A, but have always had a soft spot for Jason Terry. I love the "Big Fundamental". Enjoy watching the French and Germans go at it. Half of me wants to sit on the couch and do nothing but watch basketball Monday night. The other half isn't saying much and is saving his voice for now. I think I will take the latter.

Posted by Justin at 11:36 AM

Diamondbacks beat Braves 10-9

What a game last night between the Braves and D-backs. I caught it late, but got all the drama I needed in just the 8th and 9th. Braves take a 9-8 lead in the top of the 9th only to have Gonzo, Green, and Counsell come up with huge hits and plate two on Counsell's walk-off single with two outs.

After the game, Tera and I kicked back and watched "The Ringer" and hung out. The kids were in bed and Jeremy and Paul were down on Mill Ave. For a chaotic month long stretch, I have been going 100 miles per hour. It was nice to just chill last night.

Posted by Justin at 10:52 AM

May 17, 2006

Gotta Give Raja Two Pictures for that Shot

Ouch. Look at the Clippers bench watching Raja take the shot. Right in front of the bench.

Posted by Justin at 09:49 PM

The Bell Tower Rings in Games 5

Two weeks ago, which seems like eternity, the Suns were fighting for their lives down 3-1 against the Lakers. And the series turned when Raja Bell clothesline Kobe and sent a message to the league--we are not soft. We are not finesse. We can get Physical.

Last night Raja didn't have Kobe to knockdown, so he did the next best thing, KNOCKED DOWN THE BEST SHOT SINCE... Tim Thomas did it in Game 6 against the Lakers. Thomas had an open look. Raja shot over a defender who was draped all over him. From the Arizona Republic:

"I'm not one of those guys to ask for the ball or anything," Bell said. "But when (coach Mike D'Antoni) drew up the play, I was pretty excited."

Just like that, the Suns have a new go-to guy.

"He's made big shots before," D'Antoni said. "It just seemed like he was the one we should go to."

I have my cousin in town and decided that he and my brother could take my tickets in section 211. Section 210's front three rows are affectionately known as "The Bell Tower" because they all have bells for Raja. He has signed almost all of them and they even had Bell Tower t-shirts made up. So I was at home when with 3.6 seconds left and the Suns down by 3, the Suns called timeout. All I kept saying to my wife was "Get it Raja, Get it to Raja". The Suns did and Raja nailed the money shot to send the game to a second overtime.

The Clippers should not have even gone back on the court after Raja's shot. They were deflated. Defeated. Done. Over. Ballgame. Probably Series. Raja stuck a dagger in Sam Cassell. Elton Brand said it best:

For the Clippers, "That's the most disappointing game I've been a part of," Elton Brand said. "We had it."

Yep. LA now has a support group for you and Sam, Elton. "Hi, my name is Kobe, and I got my heart ripped out by Raja." Hi, Kobe.

Posted by Justin at 03:58 PM

May 13, 2006

Nash hits Money Shot to Take 2-1 Series Lead

Tonight was ugly for the Suns. Shoot less than 40% and shoot 26% from three, score only 94 points, and these things usually add up to a loss. But hey, they gave up 123 in game one and won. Why not win ugly? I sat at the condo and watched the Suns take care of some business tonight and the Matrix look like he took the Red Pill for once.

Nash had an awful night, but when it really counted, hit a fallaway jumper over a defender with 3.6 seconds left as the shot clock expired to take a 3 point lead. The story of the night was on the boards. The Suns led the rebounding battle most of the night and finished the game at -2. Slightly better than game two's -31. Game 5 is on Tuesday in Phoenix and I am hoping that after game four the Suns will be looking to close it out. This is a series the Suns should be trailing 3-0, but found gritty ways to win. The team is small, and that is an understatement, but showing some serious heart.

Posted by Justin at 12:25 AM

Brian Head in May

Dropped the two oldest kids off this week and my wife and I headed north to the condo to relax and check out what is happening at Brian Head in the off months. The Answer--nothing. Less than nothing. I mean the entire place is empty. Ghost town like.

I ran over to the new condo site for the Lofts at Brian Head. They are ripping out trees and going to town. I am seriously happy about ponying up the money to buy one. Great investment and we are not sure about what we are going to do when it comes time to upgrade, but regardless, either this place after the remodel or the new place will surely sell for a healthy profit. I hung out with my friend and real estate agent Chris at High Country for a few today and looks like people are buying and selling up here again. If you want a place located within 6-7 hours of San Diego, LA, Las Vegas, and Phoenix with great snow and a family atmosphere, Brian Head is the place.

Posted by Justin at 12:20 AM

May 10, 2006

From ESPN - On Kobe

Kobe Bryant is a lot of things (and most I cannot say here or around the ears of my young children). This was one of my favorite moments from Game 7. This was mid 3rd Quarter when Kobe's team was down 25 and the crowd was chanting "KOBE SUCKS". Uh, check scoreboard dude. ESPN sums it up:

He's been trying so hard to be someone else -- or someone else's version of who he should be -- that he isn't really anybody. From the outside, his words seem hollow and his actions seem borrowed.

When he got clotheslined by Raja Bell, he couldn't simply go to the line and make his free throws. He had to perform a little dust-off on his jersey and a finger-wag to let everyone know the attack was mere lint on a great man's lapel. It was so obviously staged you could almost see the gears turning. OK, I have to do something here …

It's probably crazy to call Kobe's act sad, but it comes off that way. His abilities should be able to stand alone. He's a better pure scorer -- a shotmaker, if that's a word -- than Jordan ever was, and I'd make that case to anybody willing to listen.

The problem is, he's not satisfied with that. He keeps trying to summon the charisma and integrity he doesn't possess, and the result is a guy who can't get out of his own way. He keeps trying to transcend the sport, when he should be content to dominate it.

I would make the argument that Kobe is the best player in the NBA. That is easy to make. Maybe Lebron approaches that level, but Kobe plays D and can score on anyone. But he lacks charisma and it is apparent in the locker room and with his teammates on the floor. His entire act is contrived, as if his entire personality is dictated by an agent or a sponsor or is built around trying to be marketable. He wants to be a tough guy for his imagemakers this year. Check. Likeable guy next year. Check. He is posing for the camera and trying to sell something.

We could be watching greatness and a guy who scores 81. A guy that can make shot after shot over two and three defenders. And he is all those things. What he is not is an endearing personality or a guy that people root for. Maybe Lakers fans do, but most Lakers fans still love Shaq. If Kobe left, would they love Kobe? Phoenix fans still love Chuck despite him heading to Houston and his fued with Jerry Colangelo. Bulls fans love Michael, despite him heading to Washington.

Kobe cupping his ear was if to say, I cannot hear the entire world unless they are telling me how great I am. Tune out everyone. Tune out your teammates. Tune out Phil. Buy your way out of everything.

I want to marvel at the greatest player in the NBA, but his personality is such that no one but the Laker fans could stand this guy. Lebron is a guy I root for. Shaq. Tim Duncan. I love Tim Duncan, even as a Suns fan. He exudes class. Kobe exudes "fake". He is a made for TV Movie. He lived a charmed life, yet has nothing on the inside. There is no heart of a champion. There is no soul. He is completely empty.

Posted by Justin at 03:44 PM

Letdown Game Still Equals Victory

The Suns have won five straight games, counting Game 4 against the Lakers. And Monday nights Game 1 against the Clippers may have been the best offensive performance of the season, and certainly was the best of the post-season. After experiencing a Game 7 against the hated Lakers, how can you even compare Game 1 against the Clippers. This was a letdown game but a victory nonetheless. So that is the good news, here is the bad:

  • Elton Brand scored 40 and dominated inside
  • The Clippers shot 59%
  • Cassell and Maggette chipped in another 48 points
  • The Clippers scored 123 points
  • The Suns got in early foul trouble inside with Thomas and Matrix

If I told you the Clippers were going to do all of the above before the game, anyone in the right mind would call it a Suns loss. But it wasn't. The Suns had a 74 point second half.

There were some real positives on display. Leandro Barbosa is becoming a star. Nash was... well, Nash. On the night David Stern was on hand to present Nash with his second straight MVP Award, Nash was unbelievable. But it was another "average" performance for him. You take it for granted. Raja played well. Matrix got it going.

So on to Game 2. Both teams have to make adjustments. You cannot give up 123 every night. And the Clippers won't give up 130 every night either. Brand will not go 18 of 22 all series, but the Suns have to make sure he doesn't.

I called in to "Suns Talk" on KTAR 620 after the game. I made the following analogy:

Game 7 against the Lakers was like going to your best friend's bachelor party on your 21st birthday in Las Vegas. And for the first half of Game 1, it felt like going to work the Monday after. The crowd had a hangover. US Airways sounded like a regular season Clippers game, not a Second Round game.

But it was still a win. And a big win. And the Suns dictated the tempo. For the Clippers to win, they have to keep the Suns under 100. That is no small task. The depth of the Suns became apparent. When Brand took a break with 7:22 left, the Suns took control and went on a 9-2 run. It will take balanced scoring and some defense to end this series early. The last thing the Suns need right now is another long series.

Posted by Justin at 01:43 PM | Comments (1)

May 08, 2006

So Let's Talk Some Skiing

It is approaching the middle of May and the season ended almost a month ago. The snow is melting. Temperatures are rising. But 2006-07 is really not that far awy. Pretty soon, we will have that first snowfall, if just a dusting. Then the snowmaking. Then it will be upon us. Just because the season is over, does not mean I can't think snow.

So I wanted to compile a list of "have done's" and "to do's" of the places that I have skied in the west and want to next season. You like some places or they are close, so when you go, they are just where you go. I only skied two places this year, Alta and Brian Head. I had my condo. It was comfortable. It was where I went. Not the best skiing, but the easiest, simplest, cheapest. Season Pass. Condo paid for.

You will see a lot about me based on the skiing decisions I make. Price is a huge factor. Take 30 days times two people times $75 per lift ticket and you are approaching $5k in lift tickets. At $40 a ticket, I can ski either twice as much or twice as cheap. And I dig skiing with folks that wear their work coveralls or the 20 year old skis, believe it or not. I mean, not that they are what I want everyone to be like, but the fact that they are there means that the rich elitists aren't. I want affordable and friendly, not exclusive and uppity.

Feel free to chime in about any and all of the above. What do you look for? Big resort versus small? Value versus heated gondolas? Caviar versus a $4 hotdog with canned nacho cheese? Realize that for me, pow is pow, a mountain is a mountain. I want great snow, mellow folks, good prices, decent lifts, and other people that are like me--they want to ski a ton on a budget not drop $10k for a week in Aspen

Here are the resorts I have skied in the last three years:

  • Big Sky, Montana
  • Red Lodge, Montana
  • Discovery Basin, Montana
  • A-basin, Colorado
  • Loveland, Colorado
  • Wolf Creek, Colorado
  • Alta, Utah
  • Brian Head, Utah
  • Snowbowl, Arizona
  • Sunrise, Arizona

Now for next year, my to-do list:

  • Sunlight, Colorado (gotta meet up with John)
  • Steamboat, Colorado (because I can mooch off of Wil from 120 Days, oh, and Steam Boat is as fat of a resort as it gets)
  • Brighton, Solitude, Park City, Deer Valley, the Canyons, Utah (not all at once and maybe not all of them, but at least a couple)
  • Telluride, Colorado
  • Durango, Colorado
  • Copper, Vail, Aspen, Keystone, Breck or one of the other Summit Area resorts (not all, but try one or two that I haven't hit)
  • Tahoe... any and or all.
  • Mammoth

Problem is that when I got to Summit, I go to A-basin or Loveland. I just like the feel, the prices, the damned hitch-hiking kids on the pass. Why pay more to go hang with Richie Rich?

I go to SLC, and it is Alta and only Alta. It is Mecca. Why deny it and go somewhere else? Again prices, convenience, experience. Alta is so close to perfection, why tempt fate. The Snow. The price. The fact that it is Alta.

Southern Colorado, and it is the Wolf. No lift lines. Trees and glades. The price. The feel of the resort. The fact that you can lose yourself doing lap after lap on Alberta all day. Telluride is absolutely awesome by all accounts, but double the money and further.

I will start reviewing each individual resort I have been to in more detail during the offseason.

Posted by Justin at 02:27 PM

May 07, 2006

Mark Cuban Knows Talent When He Sees It

The Gift from Dallas that keeps on giving:

"Steve's a leader," Suns owner Robert Sarver said. "He's the face of our team, he's the face of the organization. He's a role model for a lot of people, including me, who look up to him for his ability to constantly motivate the people around him with positive encouragement, even in the face of adversity and when things aren't going well."

Add Steve Nash's Name to this list of players to win back to back MVP's:

  • Tim Duncan
  • Michael Jordan
  • Magic Johnson
  • Larry Bird
  • Moses Malone
  • Kareem-Abdul Jabbar
  • Wilt Chamberlain
  • Bill Russell
  • **Karl Malone and Bob Pettit also won two awards, but not consecutive
"I guess part of me just tries to find the comedy in it," Nash said with his usual self-effacing humor. "It's thrilling and it's comedic and it's unbelievable. I just feel extremely honored to be recognized. I just love playing and I love working at it, trying to get better and challenging myself. I'm really lucky to have a place to do that in my life. I've come a long way, and I've enjoyed it."

"I have to pinch myself," Nash said. "I can't believe that I'm standing here today. I couldn't believe it last year, and to do it again is even more difficult to understand -- but I'm not going to give it back."

That is some company to be in. That is being mentioned in the same breath as Ruth, Mays, Cobb, etc., in baseball. It does not sink in until you put it in historical perspective. And just like RJ winning four consecutive Cy Youngs, we may not appreciate the greatness we have witnessed until well after it is gone.

And to think that he could have been receiving this award after Kobe and the Lakers stole our heart last night and won Game 7. Imagine Kobe pumping his fist after hitting the game winning shot like in Game 4. Visualize his smugness.

Notice that Kobe is not on that list above. And that makes it that much better. Lebron might be soon though.

Posted by Justin at 03:48 PM | Comments (2)

Willisms Invitation to the "Pundit Roundtable"

I don't mix business with pleasure, unless it is creating a business around blogging about skiing. I don't bring up religion. Spend too much time talking about my condo and Phoenix Sports. So sue me. And if you are grossed out by politics, be forewarned--I am linking to my favorite blog on Economics and Politics on the Internet since they asked me to participate in their Pundit's Roundtable.

The questions posed:

  • Topic 1: What do you think are the biggest failings of the Bush administration? Is there time enough to correct them before President Bush leaves office?
  • Topic 2: Porter Goss, Andrew Card and Scott McClellan are gone, and Karl Rove has been demoted. Are recent personnel changes going to reinvigorate the Bush administration, or is this merely a rearrangement of the deck chairs?
  • Topic 3: Who is the most overrated artist, thinker or personality of all time?

.

I will only touch on one part of my answer since it is so a-political, but does involve a little bit of religion. And this is only the second half of my answer.

3. I will add a simple tidbit on personalities and other overrated people—Tom Cruise. How the hell did this guy go from Risky Business to being the world’s preeminent expert on Mental Disorders and Psychiatric treatment simply by joining a cult and reading some science fiction? Put on your sunglasses, slide across the wood floor in your socks, and shut the hell up. MI-3 should have been about the Impossible Mission of him coming out of the closet and fathering a child. I believe that about as much as Michael Jackson and Debbie Roe.

Like Will Franklin or hate him, he is meticulous about his research and extremely intelligent. We almost came to FLAMING BLOG BLOWS over Vince Young last year, but other than that, I just love reading his posts. And he has some great commentators. So stop by and Flame about hating Bush, or about loving Bush, or about the Economy, or about the merits of Vince Young. But the site is a great read

Posted by Justin at 12:36 PM

May 06, 2006

A Game for the Ages

I could not sleep last night. I played high school football and wrestled in three state tournaments and remember preparing for a big game or to face a difficult opponent. And for the last two days, I was just jacked about Game 7. Butterflies, knowing how loud US Airways was going to be. Preparing. Favorite Jersey--check. Suns hat--check. Tickets--check.

We went down almost three hours early to soak in the experience. This was not a game to show up at tip time, but rather a Game 7 against one of the three teams that I despise with every fiber of my being: the Lakers, the Yankees, and the Dallas Cowboys. This was Kobe having a chance to rip my heart out and leave the other 12 games of playoff tickets unused in a drawer somewhere. Ironically, I ran into my high school quarterback at the game while we were wandering around an hour before tip time. Caught up, exchanged business cards.

And then it was here. Wil from 120 Days can tell you what it feels like to hear the National Anthem played on the trumpet. There is only one guy that does it at big games. I closed my eyes and could hear the crowd from those two games in 2001 against the St. Louis Cardinals that Schilling brought the illest stuff not involving a bloody sock. I remember the trumpet from Game 7 against the Yankees when JC said, "Forget some National Star, we have our own guy." Images of Tony Womack came rushing back.

Then to the game. And it was over before it even started. 16-6, Timeout Lakers. "What are we doing? What just happened?" Down by 17. Another timeout. 15 at halftime. And then Kobe was the Kobe of old. Shot after shot. Kobe and four guys to rebound. That was their offense. Kobe had ONE POINT in the Second Half.

I kept hoping the game would be like Game 7 of the World Series with the ball in Mariano Rivera's hands and we could beat the best player in the NBA (and Kobe is unbelievably good) like we beat the most dominant closer in post-season history. But the Lakers didn't even put up a fight. This was Game 6. This was Randy Johnson versus Pettitte. This was a blowout. And they didn't have a "next game" to shoot for.

But the moment of the game was one most people not there might have missed. The game was over and we had in the guys at the end of the Bench. The Lakers were done, but they wanted to show some fight. Maybe close the gap to a respectable margin. And Pat Burke hit a 30 foot 3 point shot followed by Eddie House hitting back to back shots to push the lead to 31.

It was humiliating. It was demoralizing. I can imagine Jack and all the stars in Hollywood shutting off their TV's in disgust, just like we did in Game 4. I had a migraine (and still do) from yelling at the top of my lungs. From the noise level in US Airways. From standing and flailing and screaming. My hands still sting from high-fives.

Posted by Justin at 11:16 PM | Comments (2)

May 05, 2006

Game 7 Tomorrow

The OLD KOBE returned. You know--the one that likes to drop 50 on folks. Here is your 50 Kobe. See you on Saturday and you are welcome to get 50 more.

This is the Kobe that has his manhood challenged. Whether by Shaq's presence or by Raja's hard foul, Kobe is not a team player. He has to take over because it proves he is a man.

While I have a tough time after 'Bron's shot over three Wizards on Wednesday saying this, but Kobe is the most unstoppable player on the planet. When having a theoretical discussion about how to defend Kobe successfully, my only response was "By challenging the credibility of the victim and making it about Race." The only ones that can defend Kobe are Defense Lawyers.

So now it comes down to the Octagon. Down to a winner take all Game 7 in Phoenix. And Timmy Thomas dropping the three with 6 seconds to go as Kwame Brown flew by to tie it was almost as good as the 21 points the Suns scored in the 5 minute overtime to put it away and bring the series back to Phoenix.

I am running to buy a dozen bells for Game 7 and passing them around my section. You wanna punk Raja? You want an octagon? Start training Kobe. We will be preparing for the Clippers while you get ready for the cage fight. Kobe has an advantage because he came much closer to being in a cage than Raja ever has. Raja and Leandro are the Kobe Defense team this time. Kobe will be the only victim of Game 7. Maybe he will buy his wife a $10M diamond ring. After the elbows, maybe he should offer Raja an out of court settlement for assault.

Posted by Justin at 11:10 AM

May 04, 2006

Raja Takes Day Off--Game 6 Tonight

I didn't even post about Game 5 yesterday, but trust me, I almost woke the neighborhood when Raja gave Kobe the MVP trophy seen above. The Eagle (Colorado) has landed.

I make no bold predictions about Game 6. Raja will be a huge loss. Not as big of a loss as Kurt Thomas. Certainly not as big of a loss as Amare. And the Suns have overcome all of these things before. And won 54 Games.

I am sitting here just hoping that my Game 7 Ticket does not end up in my unused ticket drawer for playoff tickets next to the 2005 NBA Finals tickets that the Spurs made useless.

You won't hear conspiracy theories about how the NBA wants Kobe for ratings or how Luke Walton was out of bounds when he tied Nash up and fouled him in Game 4. You won't hear how the NBA should not have suspended Raja. Simply that I don't want this series to end and if the Suns bring their best game which they have only done once in the Series, the Lakers do not stand a chance.

The key is simple. Score 100 points and get out and run. Kobe and the Lakers can do whatever they want, but the series comes down to whether the Suns can get the offense going. And get the Matrix going. And get open looks. And make the solid pass.

I Believe and BEAT LA!

Posted by Justin at 11:48 AM

Over the Top Rhetoric

The last two days, I probably went over the top. I attacked the WMA Tribe, the Navajo Tribe's President, and the Sierra Club with their own words and actions. And I pointed out the hypocrisy of the comparisons they are making to inflame the lingering hatred and racial tension problems we have.

Let me say that if Skiing is anything, it is not a way of committing genocide. Skiing is not blankets with smallpox. Skiing is the sport that I love. Skiing is one of my own spiritual reconnections with nature. Skiing is how I reconnect with my father and my sons. Skiing is how I get out of the cubicle and the big city and the smog and the job and the stress and find my inner peace. I build relationships with friends and family on the slopes. It is a huge part of what defines me.

The folks involved in this lawsuit, despite the lawsuit focusing on snowmaking only, really want to shut down skiing completely in Flag. If you are a skier or boarder, they want to stop your sport for their own agenda. Each has a different agenda, but they are hidden agendas behind the mask of "religious freedom" and "protecting the sacred peaks".

I have an agenda too. It is to have a consistent snowbase at a resort less than two and a half hours from my home. To have additional lift capacity so that I can enjoy the experience, not the lines. To ensure that 4M people can enjoy this recreational activity.

To equate my agenda to rape, genocide, flushing a Koran, and the variety of other things Joe Shirley and by extension since he is the lawsuit's primary spokesman, the Sierra Club and WMA Tribe, are saying is wrong. And to make continued hate filled statements about simple businessmen who run and operate the resort, the Forest Service that did the best they could to make a fair decision, and the US Government who ultimately will decide this in the courts is wrong.

I have gotten to interview and correspond with Dave Smith who is Snowbowl's spokesman to get his comments. He is a good man. The owners are good men. They do not have a hidden genocidal agenda. They do not hate the environment or hate the Navajos. They just have a different perspective.

I want anyone and everyone that reads my site to think about how each side has approached this difficult controversy. One side has approached it with class and dignity. The other has pulled out all the stops and equated their opposition with genocide and rapists. They have smeared. And it is because every time they have gotten to a court of law, they have lost. They know they have a losing cause. But they continue to preach hatred and intolerance and prolong lawsuits using Casino money and money of the donors that send it to the Sierra Club. And they are wasting Snowbowl's time and money to the tune of several years and over $3M.

I appeal to all of you to call this situation what it is and call the people who are prolonging it for what they are. If you disagree with the Snowbowl decision, fine, but don't hinge your hopes to stopping it to "genocide" and "rape". Accept your losses in Federal Court. Accept that we have a system to adjudicate these situations. And realize that other people have a different view and different wants and desires for the Peaks. Sacred or not, they have value to me and the other skiers and people that enjoy them too.

Posted by Justin at 11:19 AM

May 03, 2006

The Sierra Club's Snowbowl Hypocrisy--Do They Support Rape and Genocide?

Yesterday, I wrote that I am a proponent of rape and genocide according to Joe Shirley, Jr., the President of the Navajo Nation who used this rhetoric to fight against a ski resort expansion at Snowbowl in Arizona. I also wrote about the uneasy coalition of entities that formed to fight the resort. I want to compare and contrast Joe Shirley's statements to these and see how consistent the Sierra Club is with their stands in opposition to rape and genocide. Joe Shirley invoked the Snowbowl is like the War in Iraq analogy with this statement, so let's finish the analogy and look at the hypocrisy:

Shirley and other Native American leaders from cultures as diverse as the Navajos, Hopis and the various Pai tribes have been united on at least one thing: Not only should there not be snowmaking and other changes at the ski area, they would like to see the ski area go away. They say the peaks should return to their natural state in keeping with their federal wilderness designation.

"To Native Americans, desecrating the San Francisco Peaks with wastewater is like flushing the Koran down the toilet. . . . The federal government is ignoring the pleas and wishes of the Native people," Shirley said.

Let's add these other quotes to give context:

Using reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks' Snowbowl amounts to desecration of a sacred Holy site of the Navajos, said Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. By allowing this desecration "the United States of America will commit genocide." ... Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. told a U.S. District Court on Wednesday that proposed development of the sacred Dook'o'sliid would be like having a child witness the brutal violation of its mother, leaving it emotionally and psychologically scared forever. According to Communications Director George Hardeen, the President testified, "It's like someone coming in and violating and raping our mother. It hurts me. She's already got scars."

In 2000, the United Nations Published the following report on Iraq. The information contained was provided and confirmed by Amnesty International regarding "rape":

  • Human rights organizations and opposition groups continued to receive reports of women who suffered from severe psychological trauma after being raped by Iraqi personnel while in custody.
  • Former Mukhabarat member Khalid Al-Janabi reported that a Mukhabarat unit, the Technical Operations Directorate, used rape and sexual assault in a systematic and institutionalized manner for political purposes. The unit reportedly also videotaped the rape of female relatives of suspected oppositionists and used the videotapes for blackmail purposes and to ensure their future cooperation.
  • In June 2000, a former Iraqi general reportedly received a videotape of security forces raping a female family member. He subsequently received a telephone call from an intelligence agent who stated that another female relative was being held and warned him to stop speaking out against the Iraqi Government.
  • Iraqi security forces allegedly raped women who were captured during the Anfal Campaign and during the occupation of Kuwait.
  • Iraqi security agents reportedly decapitated numerous women and men in front of their family members. According to Amnesty International, the victims’ heads were displayed in front of their homes for several days.

How about Genocide?

  • Former UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Max Van der Stoel’s report in April 1998 stated that Iraq had executed at least 1,500 people during the previous year for political reasons.
  • Iraq has conducted a systematic “Arabization” campaign of ethnic cleansing designed to harass and expel ethnic Kurds and Turkmen from government-controlled areas. Non-Arab citizens are forced to change their ethnicity or their identity documents and adopt Arab names, or they are deprived of their homes, property and food-ration cards, and expelled

So what was the Sierra Club doing to stop the "rape and genocide"? Here is their statement from their website about Iraq issued prior to the war:

We support our men and women in uniform. We hope and wish for their safe return, as we also hope for the safety of all innocent men, women and children in Iraq.

People of good conscience and good faith bring a range of concerns to this war. Expressing those concerns should not be grounds for challenges to one's patriotism. The Sierra Club believes that the best way to disarm Saddam Hussein would have been through the inspection process sanctioned by the United Nations. We still believe that the best way to support American troops, save the lives of innocent Iraqis, and prevent further environmental devastation, is to halt the fighting and proceed immediately with a peaceful, lawful, UN-sanctioned disarmament.

Disarmament and destruction of any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction through resumed rigorous United Nations inspections will accomplish the international community's goals without risking more lives, endangering the environment, or increasing anti-American sentiment among the Iraqi people and others throughout the world.

While honest people can disagree about the primary reasons for this conflict, no one can disagree that Iraq is strategically important to our country and the world because of its oil reserves. No matter how long the conflict lasts, we will find ourselves in a similar situation again unless the U.S. and other nations act decisively to cut our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.

The simplest step would be to require that we reduce our country's dependence on oil by using existing technology to make new cars and SUVs go farther on a gallon of gas. We can also invest in increasing our reliance on wind and solar power, using technologies that generate energy more effectively than ever before. We can implement solutions that will save oil and save lives.

Notice, no mention of religious freedom or of genocide or of rape. That is because the Sierra Club is not against rape and genocide and atrocities. They are against oil. They are against skiing. They mention if we inspect for WMD's and stop using so much oil, they don't have much problem with what their friends at Amnesty International are saying about Rape and Genocide.

Joe Shirley wants to invoke the Koran in the Toilet story. But guess what, that story was a fabrication. It did not happen. It was a false story used by Al Qaeda to ratchet up the propoganda war and inflame tensions over Iraq to increase their recruiting. And the Sierra Club jumps on board with Shirley because their agenda makes for strange bedfellows. Whether you support the war in Iraq or not, surely no one supports rape and genocide. Joe Shirley wants to equate my skiing to GITMO torture, and my skiing to rape and genocide. And the Sierra Club has shown their stand on rape and genocide. Rape and kill all you want, just don't ski or use oil and destroy the environment.

Posted by Justin at 01:44 PM | Comments (1)

May 02, 2006

Advocating for Genocide

Today, I added my name on the list next to those of Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and the other fine folks of the 20th Century that committed Mass Murder. We have a term for what they did--GENOCIDE. I am advocating for Genocide. No, I am not Hamas. Not Iran's President. Not Osama bin Laden. I am worse and Dave Smith and other's at Snowbowl may be worse according to the rhetoric from the Snowbowl Ski Debate:

Using reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks' Snowbowl amounts to desecration of a sacred Holy site of the Navajos, said Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. By allowing this desecration "the United States of America will commit genocide."

Sure, Snowbowl will probably use some bulldozers to move earth to build the snowmaking equipment and the resort. I don't think they plan to dig any open pits like Hitler or Mao for the dead bodies. I am not sure what Snowbowl's plans to commit genocide are, but there are no ovens. No gas chambers. Is this another holocaust? Auschwitz? Perhaps a smaller scale genocide like Darfur that is happening right now. Maybe another analogy would be more appropriate:

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. told a U.S. District Court on Wednesday that proposed development of the sacred Dook'o'sliid would be like having a child witness the brutal violation of its mother, leaving it emotionally and psychologically scared forever.

According to Communications Director George Hardeen, the President testified, "It's like someone coming in and violating and raping our mother. It hurts me. She's already got scars."

That makes me feel better. But after the mass graves and rape rooms that Arizona Snowbowl is building are done and we skiers finish the raping and murder and genocide, what do we do next?

We capitulate to the demands of the Sierra Club:

The San Francisco Peaks in Arizona have long been a site sacred to thirteen Native American tribes including the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. However, they have also been at the center of a growing debate over the intersection of recreational development, environmental protection, and religious freedom for native peoples. Recently, the future of the Peaks was put in jeopardy as the U.S. Forest Service released a management plan that would allow a ski resort in the area to introduce artificial snow made from reclaimed sewage water. However, there are several unresolved questions about the environmental impacts of increased tourism in the region along with unanswered questions about the safety of using reclaimed water to make artificial snow. In fact, the management plan includes a reference to harmful impacts on the tribes and fails to take into account several realistic, alternative options for the area. Now Sierra Club has joined a diverse coalition to appeal the plan on several grounds, including the severe impacts on wildlife and their habitats as well as the dangerous consequences for religious freedoms.

The Sierra Club has a vision for Arizona that makes sense. They are behind the proposal to Drain Lake Powell:

The Sierra Club, the country's oldest environmental group, has caused a stir even among some of its supporters by a proposal to drain Lake Powell, the second-largest artificial lake in the country, situated along the Utah-Arizona border.

David Brower, 84, a former executive director of the group, says that the influential group didn't fully realize what it was giving up when, in 1956, it agreed with Western water interests to let Glen Canyon Dam be built, creating Lake Powell, in exchange for no dams at Echo Park or Split Mountain in Dinosaur National Monument.

Only years later, reports the Los Angeles Times, did Mr. Brower and others see the damage of the deep sandstone canyons cut by the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Mr. Brower and the Sierra Club say a strong case can now be made for draining the lake and restoring the natural beauty of the site: One study shows that it loses enough water a year through evaporation and seepage into its sandstone banks to fill the needs of 400,000 people — an alarming amount in the arid West, where water is life.

Environmentalists and the Sierra Club in general want pristine natural surroundings, yet also want us to manipulate nature and not allow uncontrolled forest fires either. Pristine nature is not very fun. Pristine nature means people die in avalanches, earth quakes, fires, etc. Pristine nature means no cars or Internet or cell phones. It means no electricity, no running water, no sewage treatment plants. Rampant cholera and plagues. That is nature. So they think that the Sierra Club or Green Peace decides what constitutes good nature versus bad nature. Lake Powell bad. Nuclear power bad. Oil companies bad. But having running water and electricity is good. Having lumber to build homes is ok, just not cutting down trees to get it. The same idiots that are saying drain Lake Powell will be using the electricity from it and yet be too obtuse to understand how it really benefits them. Snowbowl has a huge impact on Flag. It draws kids to NAU. It gives the community a sense of identity.

But the other parties to the Lawsuit are even better. The White Mountain Apache Tribe is jumping on this bandwagon. Because skiing on Sacred Mountains transcends the centuries old issues. Skiing on Sacred Peaks and using reclaimed water to make snow would destroy their way of life. It hurts all Indians. That is why the WMA tribe would never ski on peaks such as these or use reclaimed water. But what is economic impact of having two resorts competeing for Phoenix's business? Despite being one fifth the size and offering no snowmaking, one could deduce the numbers for Sunrise by taking Arizona's total numbers minus Snowbowls since Sunrise does not release their numbers, in a good snow year Snowbowl draws as many people as Sunrise simply because of its proximity to Phoenix and Flagstaff. The WMA tribe has good reason to want Snowbowl shut down. They are their competition.

One more quick point. What are the Tribes so angry at the White Man about? We took their homes and their lives by offering trinkets and beads. It was wrong. There is little doubt. But that was a century ago. They are making up for it though with this:

Sitting in her own urine, the elderly woman continued to play the game. Observers concluded she had some sort of bladder disorder, but the real problem was actually staring the woman in the face: the slot machine. Her gambling addiction had reached the point where she ignored everything --even her own bodily functions -- simply so she could keep on playing. Seniors with a gambling problem are known to stop taking medications, steal money, gamble with credit card money, gamble with money earmarked for utility bills, or even skip meals, Lisa Rafferty, residential program specialist, said. When seniors rely too heavily on gambling for entertainment, it can lead to addiction, she said. "Then they do it (gambling) all the time, without any regard to their own basic needs."

Or this:

Senior citizens are the fastest-growing group of gamblers and, some say, the most vulnerable. Those older than 65 who have gambled jumped from 35 percent in 1975 to 80 percent in 1998. Casinos sprouting up from Las Vegas to Indian reservations to riverboats market to older people. One Iowa spot offered a 50 percent prescription drug discount to players who took out a club card. Foxwood offers handicapped-accessible blackjack tables. "Years ago, gambling was illegal," Bob Gardy said. "Now, you can't turn on the TV without seeing a commercial. It's all done by the state." Nearby, players with canes and oxygen tanks sit like turtles, necks craned to the screen. Gamblers 60 and older lost $2.4 billion in Atlantic City casinos in 1997, 65 percent of all the money casinos took in. Some players lose their retirement savings and homes. New York's problem gamblers aged 65 and older more than tripled, 1986 and 1996. In New Jersey, those aged 55 and older seeking help rose 6 to 15 percent (in one year) of all calls. "Some of our clients will sit there for 12 hours," "They will not eat. They will not drink. It begins as a social outlet, but they get hooked and they gamble their retirement money. We see a lot of older people become addicted to slot machines."

Drain Lake Powell. Ski on our sacred mountain, but not theirs. You are committing rape and genocide.

I am refusing to spend a dollar at Sunrise again out of principle. This misplaced hatred of the White Man for centuries old oppression and calling me a rapist and a genocidal killer do not sit well. I will not frequent Indian Casinos. And I will support Snowbowl and Lake Powell as much as I can. These folks have to be stopped. They are irrational and they do not want what is good for our country, state, Flagstaff, skiing, industry, recreation. They are a coalition of people that hate our government and hate our citizens. And I will not subsidize them with my money.

Posted by Justin at 11:28 AM | Comments (1)