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Sunday, December 8, 2013
Purple State of Craig
Because the conversation continues….
It is so rare for a NBA Championship Series to go to seven games. Yet, such a high stakes scenario is a player’s dream. Images of making the game winning shot seemed to hover over the entire deciding game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Yet, such overwhelming desire sabotaged Kobe Bryant’s efforts. He forced shots and missed free throws almost all night.
While NBA commissioner David Stern rushed to declare the Lakers seventh game victory ‘a classic,’ it was winning ugly. This championship series between storied franchises was loaded with frustration for both cities’ fans.
Half of the games were uncompetitive, lopsided victories. The Lakers blew out the Celtics in game one. Pau Gasol vanished for the Lakers in game five. The Celtics lost their edge in game six when starting center Kendrick Perkins sprained his knee. The NBA got what it wanted, a TV ratings bonanza in a decisive seventh game, because both teams were so maddeningly inconsistent. The Celtics demonstrated that age can catch up to you. Drive and determination isn’t always enough. The Lakers sank into their pushover routine, with Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum alternating as designated marshmellow. At times, I wondered if either team had enough wherewithal and consistency to win.
The key to the Lakers ugly 83-79 victory? Defense. While Ray Allen was shutting down Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest was blanketing Paul Pierce. Kevin Garnett didn’t muster much against Pau Gasol. Rajon Rondo had flashes of offensive imagination, but Derek Fisher showed his usual hustle when necessary.
Perhaps the secret of Laker coach Phil Jackson’s success is patience. How else could he endure so many missed opportunities? The Lakers pressed the ball into the paint, but missed way too many free throws. The bench of Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown and Luke Walton got almost no chance to contribute. Sasha Vujacic didn’t register until he sank two key free throws at the end.
While Kobe Bryant makes the headlines, it was the determined efforts of Pau Gasol and Ron Artest which put the trophy into their hands. Gasol was that secondary threat that the Lakers lacked since Kobe muscled Shaq out of LA. Michael Jordan couldn’t have won for the Bulls without Scottie Pippen. Same with Kobe sans Pau. I balked when the Lakers let rising star Trevor Ariza sign with the Houston Rockets. But free agent Ron Artest understood his role with the Lakers. This was his shot at a championship, at redemption, at reversing the tarnished image of the Pacers/Pistons brawl. He stepped up in surprising ways. Phil Jackson knew Artest could serve as a defensive stopper. But his scrappy rebounds and shocking three pointers brought another championship to LA.
Some victories are smooth, others are ugly. But at the end of a long, draining season, a championship is always sweet. Congrats Lakers! Let’s go for a three-peat, repeat!
Are you still watching LOST? If so, you recognize what a huge week lies ahead–only two key episodes remaining. Will Lost actually tackle the nature of humanity? Will it try to solve the ancient struggle of good versus evil? Plenty of dedicated “Losties” complained about the recent revelations regarding the origins of the island. Are Jacob and the Man in Black stand ins for the ancient biblical struggle of Jacob versus Esau? What does it mean to protect the light emanating from the Golden Cave? I’m eager to find out!
Yet, after so many supernatural twists and turns across six seasons, Lost left plenty of devoted viewers behind. The Onion noted how annoying rabid Lost fans can be to those who never started watching. But if you’ve had seasons you followed (one and two) and seasons you avoided (the third one, anyone?), then perhaps you need a quick series recap before finale week. Time Magazine’s James Poniewozik crammed more than 100 episodes into a 108 second video summary. Die-hard “Losties” will note the significance of that number. Others may want to read the slightly slower print version of the summary. The two-and-a-half hour grand finale will take place on Sunday night, May 23rd. Will you be watching?
Perhaps American Idol’s fading star is attributable to the musical polish of GLEE. On this week’s episode, the poignant melodies of Burt Bacharach fueled some of the most memorable television I’ve seen in years. The late Luther Vandross turned “A House is Not a Home” into a powerhouse, show stopping production. But Glee added another layer of heartbreak when Kurt sang it as a tribute to Finn. Now, the ‘chair’ is much more than a chair. It is a symbol of the loss of a parent, the loss of innocence, the unrequited love of a male cheerleader for the class jock. That’s a lotta drama packed into one scene and song.
On the other side of the Cheerios cheerleading squad, body image became a highly charged issue. With Sue Sylvester pressuring the team to lose ten pounds, Mercedes Jones faced an internal (and external) crisis. Teaching at Pepperdine University, I’ve been reintroduced to the pressures faced by teen girls to conform to unrealistic beauty standards and body sizes. It is a significant issue on our campus. So I was thrilled to see Mercedes belt out Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” as a protest anthem for plus sized women everywhere. Her background chorus of those who never quite fit in made for a rousing renunciation of Sue Sylvester.
Perhaps the reappearance of Amber (played by the remarkable Kristen Chenoweth) elevated everybody’s game this week. Will (Matthew Morrison) seemed genuinely moved to see her spunky energy emanating from a roller rink. Amber is so frank and unapologetic about her alcoholism and weaknesses. Their reunion at the rink brought real “Fire” to Bruce Springsteen’s pop song. It is so encouraging to see classic tunes ‘released’ by their publishers (and songwriters) to be rediscovered in primetime. The record companies are finally desperate enough to make the songs available to a new generation of performers, shows, and fans. Their losses have resulted in our gain.
Amber and Will also provided my favorite TV moment of the year, their stirring duet on “One Less Bell to Answer.” Kudos to Glee’s director, Paris Barclay, for creating such a cinematic moment for the small screen. And how captivating to bring “A House is Not a Home” in for a reprise. The creators of Glee seem to have gotten inside the songs, recognizing the genuine pathos behind our finest, seemingly disposable pop songs. I can’t remember when I was so moved by such simple staging and unadorned singing. It generated sheer Glee. Anybody agree?
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