sacramento kings

Exit 184. Doing nothing.

I just spent an entire three-day weekend doing nothing.

And it was great.

The world went on without me.  There were lots of opinions over politics and political figures.  One of my teams kept finding new ways to lose.  There was another death of a celebrity whom I associate with my coming-of-age years.

And I did nothing.

I didn’t leave the house much this weekend.  I went to church, I went to one of the places where I used to go dancing regularly, I met a friend for lunch, I went for a 27-mile bike ride, and I walked around the big park in my neighborhood catching Pokémon.  And that’s it.  The rest of the time I was home, sleeping, reading, or playing retro video games.

It was the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.  I should do nothing more often.  Yay for taking care of myself.

Have a great week, friends.

 

Exit 98. I have learned that I was wrong.

I am ready to recant a position that I held in my childhood and teen years.  I have learned that I was wrong.  I was misled by a desire for attention and a lack of knowledge of the history involved, and for many years I betrayed my roots.  But I have seen the error of my ways.

I don’t do The Wave anymore at sporting events.

For those of you non-sports people, The Wave is a cheer where people stand up and scream for a few seconds, then sit down.  Fans are supposed to stand up and cheer when the fans next to them start doing it, so the cheer ends up progressing like a wave around the stadium.  When I first saw this on TV at some point as a kid, I thought it was fascinating, and it looked like a lot of fun.  I started trying to get The Wave going at my brother’s Little League games.  It usually didn’t work, and my mother would always tell me to quiet down and stop making a scene.  I’m not sure why she was always so against me being loud and having fun – you’re supposed to be loud at sporting events, after all, right?  Maybe because she grew up in the kind of family where children were seen and not heard when in public, and that was all she knew.  (Mom, I know you read this.  No hard feelings.  I’m not holding a grudge.)

During my senior year of high school, I went to every football game, both home and away.  At away games, I always sat with the group of students from my school who made the trip (much of this group consisted of the girlfriends of football players).  A few times, I got them to help me start The Wave, and it actually succeeded.  It felt good to have people actually pay attention to me being passionate and not discourage me from making a scene.

I never really tried to start The Wave on my own after that, but occasionally I would be at a sporting event where The Wave got started, and I would enthusiastically participate.  About a decade ago or so, though, I started hearing more and more people point out that Giants fans (this is San Francisco Giants baseball) don’t do The Wave.  I never knew why, and I never really gave much thought to it, although since then I had noticed people at Giants games being discouraged from doing The Wave.  But I also had a memory from childhood of a Giants game where The Wave actually happened.

A few years ago, I was at a math teachers’ conference, attending a session about, um, I don’t remember the topic now, but the presenter was modeling how to get students to think in an open-ended way about math problems.  She presented a scenario involving The Wave, and some questions about the speed of The Wave and the number of participants.  She began the presentation asking for volunteers to ask any questions we might be able to think of about The Wave.  Most of the questions were mathematical in nature (“How fast does The Wave travel?”  “How many people are needed to successfully start The Wave?”).  I took a different approach and suggested the question, “Why don’t Giants fans do The Wave?”  Another teacher in the presentation answered my question, saying that Giants fans don’t do The Wave because it started at an Oakland Athletics game.

I did the research when I got home, and although the origin of The Wave is disputed and unclear, one of the earliest documented performances of The Wave was indeed at an Oakland Athletics game, during the 1981 playoffs.  Another early performance of The Wave was in Los Angeles, during soccer at the 1984 Olympics.  An origin in Oakland or Los Angeles would each be unacceptable to Giants fans, with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers being the Giants’ primary rivals.

Last week, I was at a Sacramento Kings (basketball) game, and The Wave got started at one point.  For possibly the first time ever, I didn’t participate.  Now that I know the full history behind why Giants fans don’t do The Wave, I have to stay true to that, even though this was an entirely different sport.  More importantly, though, The Wave is often a distraction for fans who are bored with the game itself.  I was trying to watch the game.  Five minutes were left on the clock, and the Kings were losing, as is usually the case these days.  One of the few positive things I noticed about the game, however, was that the Kings had not missed a single free throw for the entire game.  During the time that The Wave was going, a Kings player (I think it was Rudy Gay) was shooting a free throw.  The Wave passed by behind the basket just as Rudy was shooting the free throw… and it missed.  The Wave ruined our perfect free throw shooting night.

So I’m through with The Wave.

Exit 92. Unfortunately, I can’t change him. But…

(This appears to be about sports, but if you’re one of those sportsball haters, I hope you still read it, because there’s more to this than sports.)

I just got back from the Sacramento Kings basketball game.  This team has been driving me crazy the last few weeks.  They won five games in a row, which put them in position to make the playoffs, which has not happened this late in the season since a decade ago.  Then they lost four games in a row, removing them from playoff contention for now.  Then they won tonight, even though they were without their top scorer, center DeMarcus Cousins, due to a sprained ankle.

DeMarcus Cousins was recently named to the All-Star team for the second consecutive year; last year was the first time the Kings had had an All-Star since 2004.  In one recent game (the last of the five consecutive wins), Cousins scored a career-high 48 points, then two nights later he topped that, scoring 56 points in a double-overtime loss and tying the Sacramento-era record (this is the team’s 31st season since moving to Sacramento).  Many sports writers are calling him the most talented center in the league right now.

However, there is a down side behind all that raw talent.  Cousins is known for being short-tempered.  He often is among the league leaders in technical fouls received for arguing with the officials.  He has been known to lash out in frustration, not only at officials, but sometimes at his own coaches.  Usually, however, such behavior is accompanied by an eventual apology.  Some say he is not a good team player.  Some say that he is lazy, not playing as hard as he could, and he has let himself get a little out of shape.

I feel a certain sort of camaraderie with DeMarcus Cousins, because I can be the same way sometimes.  I am also short-tempered, in a way that affects my ability to express my talents.  I have often acted in frustration and subsequently apologized.  And I have been known to start unnecessary arguments when things don’t go my way.  I don’t necessarily believe in this, but my mom would probably say that Cousins and I are so similar because we are both Leos.

I want to see Cousins succeed.  I want to see him grow up and calm down, so he can focus on being one of the world’s elite basketball players.  I want to see him play hard and shake the reputation for being lazy.  I want to see him take bad calls in stride and not lose his cool, so he can help the Kings bounce back and be a better team.

Unfortunately, I can’t change him.

But I can change myself.

I can work on my own temper.  I can avoid unnecessary arguments when I’m angry.  I can work hard at my goals and not let myself get distracted.  I’ve never met DeMarcus Cousins, and I may never meet him, and working on all these things in myself will probably not affect his play or his personal growth in any way.  But working on these things myself might help someone else, a younger friend or one of the kids I work with, before it’s too late for them.

Exit 79. You have to admire that kind of loyalty.

Sometimes, I have to acknowledge that people I don’t like, or people who support a cause I don’t support, have qualities that I admire.

Last night I watched the Sacramento Kings play the Los Angeles Lakers (that’s basketball, for you non-sports people).  The Kings won.  They led by 31 points at one point, and ended up winning by 18.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  Northern California sports fans, like me, do not like Los Angeles teams.  That’s just the way things work.  Also, these two teams in particular have a very tense history beyond the typical North vs. South rivalry.  The Lakers are one of the most successful franchises in the histoy of the NBA, having won 16 league championships in their history.  The Kings have only won one championship in franchise history, in 1951, long before they moved to Sacramento, and when the league only had 11 teams instead of today’s 30.  Los Angeles, of course, gets much more attention from the media than Sacramento.  And the Kings’ best chance to win a championship in Sacramento, in 2002, was cut short in a playoff game against the Lakers that featured so many biased calls from the referees, including no foul on Kobe Bryant after elbowing Mike Bibby in the face and knocking him bleeding to the floor, that it has spawned conspiracy theories about being fixed.

The Lakers have fallen on hard times in recent years, however.  Last year, they had two games left, and they needed one more win to avoid having the worst winning percentage in franchise history.  They finished their season with two games against the Kings, one in Sacramento (which I attended) and one in Los Angeles, and the Kings won both.  Games in Sacramento against the Lakers are always tense, not only because of that history, but because there are a lot of Laker fans up here.  Most fans of visiting teams who show up to watch their team play the Kings are pretty decent.  They’re just there to see their favorite teams and players and see a good game.  Most Laker fans, though, make a point of being the biggest thuggish foul-mouthed jerks possible.  They boo the Kings and their star players.  They act annoyed when Kings fans cheer for the home team, as if we have no right to be there in our own arena.  And they keep rubbing 2002 in our faces.  (Of course, I do know a few decent and well-behaved Laker fans.  The next paragraph does not apply to them.)

As I said, the Lakers looked absolutely pathetic last night through the whole first half, trailing by 24 at halftime.  They started to chip away at the lead later in the game, but the Kings led by at least 15 for the entire second half.  The Lakers have not won yet this season (although they, like the Kings, had only played one game before Friday night’s game).  You can’t spell LAst pLAce without LA.  And yet Laker fans were just as loud and dirty as ever, putting down the Kings and cheering on their team that was getting embarrassed on the court.  There was one two seats over from me, and, had the Lakers actually gone ahead in the fourth quarter, I probably would have had to ask my friend to restrain me physically from punching this guy in the face.

The point I’m trying to make here: You have to admire that kind of loyalty.  Not that kind of behavior or attitude, but loyalty.

I don’t really see that kind of loyalty in a lot of Kings fans, at least not as a group.  The building is rarely packed these days like it was in 2002.  I know a lot of people who gave up on the Kings when the team started to fall apart in 2006, and who refuse to go to any more games because of the way the owners behaved in 2006-13, despite the fact that those owners are gone and have nothing to do with the team anymore.  A few years ago, when it looked like the team was going to be moving, I knew people who called themselves Kings fans who said that they wished the team would hurry up and move just so the drama would be over.  As Inigo Montoya might say, you keep using that word “fan.”  I do not think it means what you think it means.  This all makes me sad.

Real fans don’t give up on their team when the team is doing badly.  And for as much as I don’t like the Lakers, and I don’t like obnoxious trolling fans who show up at the other team’s venue and act like jerks, I can’t deny that I admire them for sticking with their team even when they do badly.

Exit 45. Who is this guy, and why am I taking my picture with him?

I recently attended the Sacramento Kings Team Breakfast, an event for season ticket holders.  In addition to the free food that gave the event its name, there was a raffle, face painting for the kids, and locker room tours.  Fans also had the opportunity to line up in several spots to take pictures with one or two players and a team dancer, and kids had the opportunity to line up and shoot baskets with players and coaches.  The event ended with radio announcer Gary Gerould hosting a question-and-answer session with new coach George Karl and most of the players.

The players involved in the photo opportunities rotated every few minutes, probably to avoid a situation where everyone would line up at the same spot to take their picture with the big names, but that had the side effect that fans didn’t know who they would get to meet when they lined up.  I stood in line for about 20-30 minutes, and when I first got far enough in line to see who was posing for pictures on the court, it was Nik Stauskas and Derrick Williams.  Then after a few minutes, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum rotated in for pictures.  They were both draft picks from the year I became a season ticket holder, I’ve been watching them for their whole careers, so I was excited about that opportunity.  They rotated out before I got to the front of the line, but Rudy Gay took their spot.  I was excited about that; he is one of the team’s big scoring threats, and he is a two-time FIBA World Cup gold medalist with Team USA.  I was next in line to get my picture taken with Rudy Gay when something happened.

In order to get through the line more quickly, they opened up a second spot to take photos on the court, with people alternating between the two.  An arena staff member pushed me to the second photo station to get my picture taken with some other guy I didn’t recognize.  The person waiting behind me got to meet Rudy Gay instead.  Who is this guy, and why am I taking my picture with him?

“How are you doing?” the guy said.  “Good,” I replied, but I was so stunned at what happened that he could probably feel the disappointment in my voice.  I asked three staff members who he was once I was out of earshot, and none of them knew either.

I found out later, during the question-and-answer session when they introduced all the players participating, that the guy I was photographed with was Eric Moreland.  Eric Moreland is an undrafted rookie who the Kings signed this year.  He had gone back and forth several times between the Kings active roster and their D-League team, the Reno Bighorns (for you who don’t follow basketball, that’s basically the minor league team for players who are still developing their skills), until he got hurt a couple months into the season.  He had surgery in January and will miss the rest of the season.

Once my mind finished processing everything that had happened, I realized that I had acted like kind of a jerk.  I felt bad for not recognizing Eric Moreland, and I felt bad for not being more excited at the chance to take my picture with him.  Being an undrafted rookie dealing with an injury, he probably doesn’t get many opportunities like this to be in the spotlight.  I was the first fan in that line who got to meet him, and I acted disappointed.  How would I feel if I were in his situation?  I finally get to take pictures with fans, and the first one to come along acts like he wants to be photographed with the other guy instead.  I sure wouldn’t like that.  If I ever again get the chance to meet Eric Moreland, I’m going to apologize.  And if he heals from this injury and plays for the Kings again, I’m going to cheer for him like crazy.

I’ve also learned that if they ever do this event again, if I want to be photographed with players, I should get in that line early, so I have time to get more than one picture with a player.  In fact, I’ll skip the food entirely and eat what’s left on the way out.

Exit 35. It’s been nice knowing you, 2014.

It’s that time of the year when everyone is compiling the events of the year.  Everyone seems inundated with lists of the top songs of the year, the top movies of the year, and those questionable automatically generated Facebook year in review posts.  And for as much as that stuff gets kind of old sometimes, I think there can be a lot of value in reflecting on the year, or on any time period for that matter.

However, it seems like these days, reflecting on the end of the year is just depressing for me.  That is why I haven’t really written much on the end-of-year reflection topic at the end of the last few years.  I’ve felt like I don’t have much to reflect on.  Had I taken the time to reflect on 2012 or 2013, it would have sounded something like this:  I’m still living in the same place.  Still not married, still no kids.  Still at the same job that barely pays enough to pay the bills with no room for advancement.  That’s why I’ve just kept all this to myself.  This may also be part of the reason I haven’t done Christmas card letters in recent years.

I’m going to try to be more positive this year.  And what I just said isn’t all true this year.  I’m still living in the same place, I’m still not married, and I still don’t have kids.  But I have a new job.  It was a positive career move for me, and I’m making more money than I’ve ever made before.  I’m not trying to suggest that these two statements necessarily go together, of course.  Money was not the only motivator in this career change.  But I was no longer happy where I was, and it seemed like the right time to return to public school.  So far it has been a positive change.

Something else significant that happened in 2014 was that I drank Pepsi a couple times, and I ate at Jack in the Box a couple times.  This seems frivolous, not to mention unrelated since JITB restaurants serve Coca-Cola products.  But those of you who know me well may know that I have carried out rather ridiculous boycotts of these two organizations for decades, all based on ridiculous reasons.  I’ve been anti-Pepsi since around 1989 (I should add that I didn’t discover that I liked cola-flavored drinks at all until a year or two later), when I noticed that they always seemed to have the most obnoxious celebrities and athletes in their commercials.  And while I grew up in a family that spent a lot of time eating fast food, Jack in the Box was never one of our regular choices.  I did eat Jack in the Box a few times as a young adult while with friends who wanted to go there, and Jack in the Box always seemed to get my order wrong, and that annoyed me.  (These were isolated incidents, not necessarily the same restaurant.)  But really, it’s time to grow up.  I still prefer Coca-Cola to Pepsi, and Jack in the Box still isn’t my favorite fast food.  But if someone brings a 2-liter of Pepsi to a party at my house, it’s okay to drink it instead of letting it go to waste, and if I’m out with someone and she offers me a sip of her Pepsi, it’s okay to drink it instead of making a big fuss about it.  And if I’m hungry, and there’s a Jack in the Box nearby, and I have a coupon (all people in attendance get 2 free tacos from JITB when the Sacramento Kings win), it’s okay to eat there.  I actually quite enjoyed my Sourdough Jack burger last week.  And if any of you are going to reply with some wisecrack about whether Coca-Cola or Pepsi makes a better toilet bowl cleaner, shut it.  I get it, but I’m not sharing my big moments in personal growth just so you can criticize my unhealthy life choices.

I went on an adventure in 2014, the likes of which I hadn’t been on since my four months of traveling in 2005.  This adventure was very much scaled down compared to 2005, and I was with family part of the time and staying in hotels most of the time, but it was still the biggest adventure I’ve had in a while.  I saw friends and relatives that I don’t get to see often, and I saw parts of California I’d never seen before, including a large chunk of the coast, and the Owens Valley and Mono Basin in far eastern California.  I’ve been wanting to do both of those drives for a long time, and it was good to finally take the leap and go for it.

A lot of other important things happened to me in 2014.  I started this blog.  I saw the Kings play the Lakers for the first time.  And the second time.  And the Kings won both of those games.  The San Francisco Giants won the World Series again, their third in the last five years.  I made new friends.  I reconnected with old friends.  And I made a serious attempt to reconnect with a friend from my early college years, whom I had not heard from since early 1996, only to find that she didn’t remember me; that was not the ending I was hoping for, but at least I don’t have to wonder anymore.

I’m considering making a list of goals for 2015… kind of like New Year’s resolutions, but I don’t like calling them resolutions.  If I have a list, it’ll be easier to talk myself into actually doing some of these things.  I remember posting something at the beginning of 2009 (those of you who are my friends on Facebook can probably go back and find it) where I made a list of goals for 2009.  One of them I chose not to say explicitly, but at the end of the year I said that it was accomplished.  I’ve only told a few people about this, but the goal in question was to ask a complete stranger on a date.  That is something totally out of my comfort zone, and even though it goes completely against the “lessons” I learned about dating from church groups in my early 20s, it’s not something I think is inherently wrong or a bad idea per se.  The opportunity presented itself out of nowhere later that year, one summer day, when I was on a bike ride, and I passed, and said hi to, the same girl on a walk three times.  I took her to dinner a few days later; we saw some friends of mine there who were all excited for me the next time I saw them that I had been on a date.  It didn’t go anywhere in the end, she told me on the second date that she wasn’t really feeling that way, but everything was handled well and we’re still on Facebooking terms five and a half years later.  The important part, though, is that I really do believe that having written that goal helped me make up my mind to take action, rather than just saying hi again and riding off.

I tried making the same goal for 2010, and even though that was the year of Mimosa and two other dates, none of those experiences fit into that description of asking a complete stranger on a date.  I attempted to ask a stranger on a date the last week of the year, so I wouldn’t feel like I left a goal unaccomplished, but that was a disaster.  But I at least made an attempt.  I need to take some time to figure out what I would like to accomplish in 2015.  It doesn’t make logical sense, but it does seem that I’m more motivated to do something if it gives me something to check off on a list of some sort.  I haven’t made my list yet, but that can be something to work on in the upcoming week.

I hope that all of you find some meaningful time to reflect on this last year.  It’s been nice knowing you, 2014.