Saturday, June 7, 2008

52 52 52 Week #16: Oklahoma

In which I examine crappy local sports journalism on a state-by-state basis, progressing through the states in terms of an alphabetical ordering of the heights of their tallest points. Because I can.

After a lot of (possibly unfair) hating on West Virginia, I'm feeling pretty well-disposed towards our next state, the wondrous state of Oklahoma. If nothing else, Oklahoma played the all-important role of "overdog" (not a word, I know) to Boise State back in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, which is still pretty much my favorite football game ever. So let's get right down to business with Oklahoma's highpoint, the Black Mesa. Here are three quick facts...

1. It partially extends into New Mexico, where it reaches 5,239 feet.

2. There's also a little bit of it in Colorado, where its elevation is over 5,700 feet.

3. The part in Oklahoma is 4,973 feet. So if you're keeping score, the highest point in Oklahoma is smaller than other parts of that same rock formation that can be found in two other states. And people call Oklahoma flat for some reason.

As a special treat for this week's post, we'll be going with a video from, the online wing of The Oklahoman. The Oklahoman, which Wikipedia claims is "the only daily newspaper that covers the Oklahoma City area." I think they left out "the only daily newspaper with the courage to cover the Oklahoma City area." Let's put it like this - Bobby Petrino isn't working the OKC beat anytime soon.

Also from Wikipedia:

Charles George Werner, a rookie political cartoonist at the newspaper, won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for editorial art. The winning cartoon, Nomination for 1938, depicted the Nobel Peace Prize resting on a grave marked Grave of Czecho-Slovakia, 1919-1938. Published on Oct. 6, 1938, the cartoon bit at the recently concluded Munich Agreement, which transferred the Sudetenland (a strategically important part of Czechoslovakia) to Nazi Germany.

That's...that's pretty badass, in the way that only opposing the Nazis can be badass. Finally, the paper is owned by the Gaylord family, which is a surname that I will never, ever get tired of. Their current CEO is Christy Gaylord Everest, which might just be the most awesome name trifecta ever. So yeah, I'm a fan of The Oklahoman, even if this video is about to undo some of the good will.

I have to say, there's nothing quite as brilliantly inane as a non-telegenic writer reading his column off a teleprompter. I mean...what the hell is the point? Well, other than to amuse me, but I'm not quite self-absorbed enough to think that's the main reason. Well, not the main main reason.

In the name of helpfulness, I'll provide a transcript, just in case any of my readers in the year 2653 (hello far future overlords!) are getting to this post after the video has become unavailable.

I’m Berry Tramel with The Oklahoman.

Kind of a neat trick, talking in italics like that. Also, Berry Tramel? BERRY!? Add "casually insane names" to my list of reasons why I love the Midwest. I think that brings me up to two whole reasons (the other is Will Leitch).

Sorry if I don’t join the euphoria over a Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals. Nothing against the Lakers, nothing against the Celtics.

Based on this premise, doesn't the rest of his video-column (volumn?) have to develop which teams he would have liked to have seen in the Finals? I mean, if there's seriously nothing against either of them, then it really should just be a matter of a preferable match-up. Frankly, I'm not sure what that would have been (although, if I can be really revisionist and alternate-universey, I could see a Hornets-Magic series kicking all manner of ass).

But do we have to have them both? I mean, I wouldn’t be thrilled by Yankees-Dodgers in the World Series, why should I get excited about a Lakers-Celtics?

One reason why you might not be thrilled by Yankees-Dodgers this year is that neither team is especially good, what with being a combined 58-61 and all. Of course, if both teams were the best teams in their respective leagues, would it maybe be a little more exciting? It's not like the Lakers and Celtics were a couple of four-seeds that barely scraped their way into the Finals. Well, the Celtics were a one-seed that barely scraped their way into the Finals, but still. These were the two best teams this year, crammed with great players and fascinating storylines; the history aspect is really just the icing on the cake.

Also, even if Yankees-Dodgers is the most common World Series match-up, I'm not sure I buy it as a fair comparison to Lakers-Celtics. When all is said and done, those two teams will own half of all NBA titles. That is, in a word, fucking ridiculous (OK...two words). 32 combined World Series championships is nothing to sneeze at, but when you consider Major League Baseball is twice as old as the NBA? There really isn't a comparison.

So anyway, there are two obvious reasons to be excited by Lakers-Celtics. One is that this is legitimately the best and most exciting match-up for this year, even if these particular rosters happened to play for, say, the Grizzlies and Bobcats. The other is that there really isn't a rivalry in American sports quite like Lakers-Celtics. Maybe the latter does nothing for you, but the former really still should be good enough.

The Lakers are always good and, if they’re not, someone in the league makes sure the Lakers get good.

That someone would probably be Mitch Kupchak. You know, their GM. Seems like that'd be his job.

The Lakers got Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a trade from Milwaukee, Kobe Bryant in a trade with the Hornets, and Pau Gasol in a trade with the Grizzlies.

One of those is not like the others. Actually, none of those are like any of the others. Going one at a time...

It seems weird including the Kareem trade with those far more contemporary deals - what, no room to include plucking George Mikan from the dispersal of the Chicago American Gears? - but whatever, I'll roll with it. For what it's worth, a 3.5-second search of Wikipedia turned up this info:

Although Abdul-Jabbar always spoke well of Milwaukee and its fans, he said that being in the Midwest did not fit his cultural needs and requested a trade to either New York or Los Angeles in October, 1974.

As much as the unnecessary comma at the end there rips into my soul (in fact, I've already taken the liberty of editing it out), that pretty much explains how the Lakers magically lucked into the third- or fourth-best center of all-time. As always, it's comes down to location, location, location. Unless anyone would like to suggest David Stern used a time machine to invent Islam so that ultimately Lew Alcindor would broaden his horizons to the point that he didn't want to play in a relatively small town like Milwaukee, allowing Stern to enjoy awesome ratings when he took over the NBA in 1984. Anyone? Seriously, don't make me embed the Nazi Gold clip again to prove Kareem's awesomeness. You all know I will if I have to.

Oh, and as far as Kobe is concerned, he made it clear he would play for no one other than the Lakers, so the Hornets were just making a savvy business move in drafting him in the first place. (Although they also could have gone with Steve Nash or Jermaine O'Neal, both of which are rather interesting what-ifs. Oh, or Tony Delk. Could have gone with him.)

The Pau Gasol trade was unusual, I admit, but that was ultimately a salary dump. To think it was anything more sinister than that is to engage in Nixon-level paranoia. OK, that might be hyperbole, but that's only because Nixon probably thought his dog was out to get him. I mean, have you seen Checkers?

Those eyes are pure evil! The dog's, I mean.

The Celtics, who haven’t been good since the eighties,

Can we please not completely write off the Antoine Walker/Paul Pierce era? They made a conference finals and everything! Admittedly, they did it in a horrendously weak 2001-02 East and lost to the New Jersey fucking Nets, but c'mon! That at least counts as good, right?

finally wised up to the Lakers’ way and traded for Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett and Seattle’s Ray Allen. This notion of trading superstars is all very strange.

Ray Allen isn't really a superstar anymore, but either way, I don't really get his confusion. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to trade a superstar, including:

1. Massive chemistry issues: Shaq to the Heat is a perfect example.

2. A need to clear house and rebuild: KG and Ray Allen to the Celtics, AI to the Nuggets, and Shaq to the Suns, if only so I can reference Shaq multiple times (if only he'd been traded from the Magic to the Lakers). The corollary to this is the notion of "rewarding" a player who has given his all for years and should have an opportunity to compete elsewhere, which was very much the situation with Garnett and Iverson.

3. Change in team philosophy: Jason Kidd to the Mavericks is sort of an example of this, considering the Nets wanted to go younger, although this was also a pretty big heaping of massive chemistry issues as well. Actually, it was mostly chemistry issues, but I was straining for an example. Maybe AI to some degree? The 76ers were sort of competitive after the trade.

4. Superstar demanding to be traded: Vince Carter to the Nets goes a little beyond "demanding" a trade, but you get the point.

5. Money considerations: I'm blanking on a good example, but I guess the hypothetical would be if the Cavs traded Lebron to get back some value on him, assuming he's going to bolt for New York at the end of his contract.

Anyway, that's at least five legitimate reasons to trade a superstar. Sure, you generally want to hang onto them, but sometimes circumstance forces your hand.

Isn’t acquiring players like Jabbar and Garnett the whole notion behind having a basketball team?

Dude, his name is Abdul-Jabbar. I'm sure he'd take the time to learn your name (I mean, who wouldn't take the opportunity to call someone "Berry"?), so please return the hypothetical favor.

Why discover oil, then sign away the mineral rights?

Thank you, Berry Tramel, thank you so fucking much, because you have just given me an almost legitimate excuse to throw in a There Will Be Blood clip into this post. (I assume this is what Djmmm was hoping for/half-expecting to have to edit into the post the second he read the above line.) Since I already embedded the milkshake scene in a previous post, I'll go with another scene. It's sort of The Revenge of the Sith to the milkshake scene's Star Wars, if you think about it, in the sense that it totally sets up the milkshake scene and is almost as badass in its own way. You know what? Maybe you shouldn't think about it.

Can we require that all columns we deal with have to include a bizarre oil metaphor? It's six months later and I'm still obsessed with There Will Be Blood.

Oh well – Laker gold versus Celtic green will make David Stern happy because the TV folks will be happy with such a ratings bonanza.

And thank you again, Berry my boy, for an excuse to follow the There Will Be Blood clip with its only equal in hardcore depictions of the American west. I speak of course of...Bonanza!

I'm not really convinced this country has had any true heroes after Lorne Greene died. Where's the Bonanza reimagining, Ronald D. Moore!?

The whole country will watch, including the good fans in Memphis and Minneapolis and Charlotte, knowing they were in a small way part of these title teams.

Technically, I'm pretty sure Charlotte has washed their hands of the Hornets. So maybe New Orleans (or even Oklahoma City...hey, wait a minute...) should feel bad about Kobe? Eh, whatever, it's not like Charlotte got screwed out of Kobe or anything. They just figured they could use him as a trade chip, which is why the Hornets got to enjoy the Vlade Divac era, which is really the best kind of era.

Honestly, people, I think we're past the expiration date on mindless Boston hatred. You know, I may need to start writing a column (well, another column, assuming you count this weekly post thing-a-ma-jig as one as well) to discuss random points of sports philosophy like that. Consider yourselves teased. My track record suggests that post will now never happen, but hey...always a first time.

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