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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Peter Homann

Since October 25th, when the NBA season began, a few things have changed. Some are minute; perhaps you switched from white wine to red, took up yoga or bought a new pair of dress shoes that you’ll save for just the proper occasion. Others, less so, but you can read about that in the oblique, unchecked vacuum that convinced you the world was one way when, in fact, it’s the other, at least to a large enough plurality for that to matter.

Much of what we presumed to be true is shaken, even stirred, while the rest is magnified to such an extent as to be distorted beyond reasonable comprehension. What we face now, in basketball as in life, is adjustment to the new normal.

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Let’s say, for instance, you were at the forefront of popular culture in the free world, soon to be deposed and cast to a life of relative reality. If you were to host a party celebrating, commemorating and memorializing the occasion in the United States of America, who would you invite? With a good head on your shoulders, and among your own personal favorites, you would attempt to speak to the populace, who have chosen against you in the years ahead, allocating goodwill while bracing for the impact of an unforeseen, unpredictable regime.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama bestowed what will presumably be the final twenty Presidential Medals of Freedom of his record-setting Presidency, in which he dispensed more than any other in history. The man knows how best to leave a party, it seems. In returning to that question, who would play your societal funeral?

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Has anyone else noticed that something seems a little off with professional football, lately? Sure, the NFL is still showing up to work on time, and credit is due, it now even shows up on three days a week instead of just two. Technically, it is still doing its job just fine, and it is definitely not disrupting anyone else’s job either. Hell, it even cracked a smile a few times last week, but… there is just something missing.

This league used to be so passionate about its job. Now it seems to be punching the clock and waiting until the end of the year to really put in the real effort. There is some noticeable sloppiness too: more penalties, a drop in primetime ratings and two ties in one year. That is just not the league everyone has learned to count on for so many years. That’s not the real NFL. Without prying too much, is it time to ask the league some tough questions about its performance?

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mcgregor_conor

On Saturday, November 12th, combat sports make its return to the floor of Madison Square Garden, although this time in an octagon, not a ring. It has been 9 years, 5 months, and 3 days since the last (sanctioned) punch was thrown in the historic venue, and Saturday’s UFC 205 will be the first legal Mixed Martial Arts event in New York since a state ban in 1997.

The fight for legalization is an incredible story in its own right, full of drama, political corruption, casino employees, culinary unions and Las Vegas business quarrels. On paper, the card is quite possibly the best one ever assembled in the history of the UFC. Sporting three championship bouts, and sixteen of the twenty fighters on the main and preliminary cards are ranked in the top ten of their respective weight classes. UFC 205 is all but guaranteed to be one of the best displays of MMA the world has ever seen.

However, one man at the top of the fight card is, has been and seemingly always will be commanding the attention of the fans, fighters and media. That man is “The Notorious” Conor McGregor.

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Chicago History Museum

If sports are meant to be a reprieve from reality, an excuse not to talk about the infinite ills and endless hatred which plague society, then they have rarely been more important than in 2016. This calendar year has contained some of the worst displays of what mankind has ever had to offer, with more undoubtedly in store as we roll into 2017. Humanity has collectively pulled at threads, undoing the sweater before lighting it on fire. And yet – Leicester City staged the most improbable run at a championship in the history of the world’s biggest sport[1]. Villanova hit a last-second buzzer-beater in the national championship game. The Cleveland Cavaliers, well – you know.

A tricky roller along the third base line, fielded perfectly, followed by a dart to first base, all while Kris Bryant was sporting a grin as wide as the Chicago River. With that, a bitter impossibility became an undeniable reality. After all of that – “that,” of course, encompassing 108 years of the most intense and self-hating misery in North American professional sports – the Chicago Cubs are the World Series champions.

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid/20th Century Fox

“Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” – Butch Cassidy

When the final whistle sounded on Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in May, a certain feeling of deflation accompanied the confetti which fell from the rafters of Oracle Arena in Oakland. After having been up three games to one in the series, the Oklahoma City Thunder squandered their lead to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the 96-88 final score of Game 7 being the most painful exclamation mark of any during the Durant-Westbrook Thunder era. Even with Kevin Durant lined up to be a free agent in the offseason, it still stood to reason that he had more to lose by leaving Oklahoma City than by giving it at least one more go with his explosive comrade in arms.

Already, the rest is history, albeit of the continually developing nature that calls for perpetual scrolling lines of text alerting the viewer to the absolute latest hard truths, highlighted in red and bolded beyond reason. Durant left to sign with the Warriors, the very team that had beaten his own before going on to put together an even more spectacular collapse in the NBA Finals. Westbrook re-signed with the Thunder, finally and definitively taking the wheel after years as Durant’s foil. Tonight, back in Oracle Arena, the erstwhile brothers meet as opponents for the first time.

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