Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – LeBron Breaks Bad

As the final episode of one of the best shows in the history of television, Breaking Bad, gets set to begin, it got me thinking about the origins of the Miami Heat on the eve of what could be their final year together.  The Heat are a dynasty – any team that gets to the finals three consecutive years and is a pretty big threat to take a three peat –  definitely one of the best teams of all time. 

Yet when they came together, it was under very different circumstances.  People hated them; and more specifically, people hated LeBron.  He was clearly the best player in the world and instead of fighting to bring Cleveland a title, he tried to take the easy way out by teaming up with Wade and Bosh and creating a super team in Miami.  What has become lost now that the Heat are two time champions is the fact that LeBron needed that move to Miami in order to win the title and get into contention for the GOAT.  Like Walter White, it is now clear that he needed to break bad.

Come back with me now, to the origins of Breaking Bad, and the central concept that we have partially ignored for most of the show’s run (warning: major spoilers to follow, obviously!)

At the outset of the series, Walter White was a middle aged man who was toiling away far below his immense potential.  He was locked in debt and had no way of truly providing for his family.  Then the cancer, no chance of survival and the radical decision to actually use his prodigious and dormant chemistry skills to make meth and build an ambitious criminal empire.  Walter White then, did not become all that could be and reach his full potential until he made the seemingly shocking decision to break bad.  Some people struggle to find themselves, but what the show is truly telling us is that few of us have the guts to find our best self – even if the best person we could be is truly evil.  The moment when Walt finally and irreconcilably turns is very startling and stark in its brutality and in many ways we literally see it crashing down upon his for the rest of the series (both literally and figuratively).  He is a man who will do whatever it takes to be the best, and as he makes clear: “I am not in the drug business, I am in the empire business”.  The performance of Bryan Cranston as Walter White is the pinnacle of television acting, he has won as many Emmy’s as LBJ has MVP trophies. 

LeBron, on the other hand had to break bad by getting away from his image as the savior of Cleveland sports.  All his career we believed that he was one thing, a good guy, and then in one, startling moment he showed us he was not.  He made “the decision” and at the end of his first season in Miami it all came crashing down upon him when he collapsed in the finals.  The team was reviled and every game they played became a playoff like atmosphere.  LeBron played angry, and in the season’s most thorough domination, handedly destroyed MVP Derrick Rose (at times being the primary defender responsible for shutting him down in the last couple of minutes).  In order to become the player we all expected him to be, the man who needed to find out exactly what it takes to win a title the hard way, the unstoppable player who can do anything on the court – he had to go to Miami.  Everything that has followed: the two titles, the MVP’s, the 27 game winning streak and two of the greatest performances of all time (Game 6 Boston and Game 7 San Antonio; ironically both described as “serial killer” like performances) was an extension of one moment spiraling outwards.   

LeBron had to break bad to reach his full potential and as with Walter White we are seeing the effects of his empire building first hand. 

 

My Life as a Chelsea Fan – September 21, 2013

The fickle nature of football was never more on display for me than this Saturday morning when Chelsea played a West London derby with Fulham.  Both teams have struggled out of the gate during this young season, and are working desperately to try and get back on the winning track.  For Chelsea the main problem has been that of scoring goals, a particular ongoing theme for the Blues no matter who they sign. 

Chelsea’s lack of scoring punch perfectly illustrates the fickleness of fans and managers alike – literally week to week you never seem to know who is hot and who is not.  The questions around Chelsea strikers have been a saga, punctuated by massive transfer signings who can seemingly never live up to expectations (Fernando Torres), in season transfers never really given a fair shot (Demba Ba) and astonishing reaches pulled from the depths of football despondency (Samuel E’Eto). 

This week with both teams struggling, the story quickly became about the rise of youthful Chelsea midfielder Oscar, at the expense of one of the best players in the world, Juan Mata.  If MVP awards were given for each team last season there is no doubt that Mata would have handily won Chelsea’s.  He was easily the most dangerous and hard working player on the pitch for them, and he was a pivotal part of their Champions League winning squad.  Now, today, he was languishing on the bench behind the bench!  Mata was not even included in the eighteen players dressed for the match and it quickly became apparent from Jose Mourinho’s comments that Oscar was now his chosen “number ten” and that Mata would have readjust his game to play on the wings.  Interesting, very interesting.  I know that a team like Chelsea has a ridiculous depth of talent, an obvious by product of bringing in a large number of transfers each and every year many of whom play similar positions.  It does beg the question though about playing your best eleven.  Surely there has to be a way of keeping both Oscar and Mata on the field at the same time does there not? 

After many long years of playing striker roulette, it now appears Chelsea is content to do the same with their star midfielders.  Part of it may be explained away as Mourinho wanting to make his mark on a squad that has failed to live up to lofty expectations, and it is clear the coach wants to make his mark.  More surprising than the benching of Mata though was the lack of inclusion of one of Chelsea’s best defenders, David Luis. 

Yes, David Luis, remember him?  The player Chelsea had to work frantically to keep away from Barca during the transfer period because he was a major building block for the club going forwards?  Same guy who was not included in the eighteen players dressed.  Sometimes there is a need to rotate the squad, and with a midweek game (a dispirited loss) that is always a good idea – except Luis and Mata did not play in the disappointing loss. 

Again the fickle wheel of football turns, and how much longer before the squad begins to fracture and star players begin to ask for transfers?  When new players are brought in year in and year out, it is vital the squad gels quickly to have a shot at the Premier League crown and Champions League glory (remember again this is a Chelsea squad that barely lost in shootout to Champs Bayern Munich).  Would it not make sense to keep established player in the loop and on the field? 

Hopefully Jose has a plan, because as we all know, Abramovich is not always a patient man. 

NFL Quick Hits – September 16, 2013

What a week!  Most of the morning games end up going down to the wire and then…well, weather related delays continue to be a problem for the NFL. 

Some thoughts

The Pats wide outs are…bad – Coming in to the season many (including Peter King) anticipated an eff you year from Brady where he simply turned it on and made everyone on the team Welker level.  They picked up Danny Amendola and hoped he could avoid injury.  He could not.  Against the Jets the Pats looked awful…and they won.  They won because when gut check time came the Jets simply did not have the players in place to beat them; the final throw from Geno Smith was not good.  Winning ugly feels just the same as winning pretty.

 

The Colts…err Broncos look great – If you were forcing yourself to choose an MVP of the first two weeks (yes, too soon) then you would have to take a pretty hard look at one Manning, Peyton.  In two games he has thoroughly destroyed both of the past two Super Bowl champs (one could even use the word “annihilate” if one felt) and has proven his value again.  Could he be fully and completely back now?  A scary thought for the rest of the league.

 

Seattle wins – It happened, ugly all around for 9ers fans. 

 

Philip Rivers proves himself – As the game came down to the last few ticks of the clock, my brother Just Ross, made several comments about Rivers being the worst QB in the league and how he would promptly throw an interception and give the game to the Eagles.  Except he did not.  Rivers threw the heck out of the ball and managed to pull out a win, proving once and again his value.  I maintain the following: no one has had worse luck than Rivers (even in this game the Chargers gave away two potential touchdowns due to fumbles by Antonio Gates and Ryan Matthews), and if even a few breaks went his way he could easily have a championship banner.  In any event: fantastic close out by Rivers on a day full of plenty (including Arrian Foster and his great two point conversion).

 

NFL Quick Hits – Sept 10, 2013

Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season is in the books, and already things are getting pretty crazy…here are some of the reasons:

 

Kap is for real – You read that right, Colin Kapernick is actually for real and for us 49ers fans this is a very, very good thing.  Over the off season Kap was slightly overexposed, landing on the cover of everything from GQ, to Sports Illustrated to Cosmo (probably – I would not know as I am not a reader).  It almost seemed like it was too much too fast, until you remember he took us all the way to the Super Bowl and then nearly won the whole thing.  His physical skills were never in doubt but his ability to be a star in the league definitely has been.  On Sunday that all went away: he threw for 412 yards and beat up on the Packers for the second time in as many games.  His arm looked sharp, strong and accurate and for fans going forward he still looks like the future.  The 49ers should win the Super Bowl this season if all goes well.

Reggie Bush is back! – My beautiful wife (and I) have always loved Reggie; he was easily the best college football player I have ever seen in person (DISCLAIMER: I am a huge USC fan) and it always seemed like he never got a really fair shake in the NFL.  This commercial is also one of my favorites:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JLruHYJvJw

On Sunday it was nice to see him finally get utilized in the right way.  Although, to be fair he has come on in the last couple of years and become one of the most underrated (and sneaky good) running backs in the NFL.  For him to have a game like he did on Sunday – and let’s be clear, he won the game for the Lions – really means a lot to all the people who feel “Reggah Bush” never got a real chance.  Finally he seems to have a real chance to become the player we all thought he was when he came out of College and for the NFL, this is a great thing.

 

Give Philip Rivers a break – Rivers has been one of the most maligned QB’s in the league and it has been a very unfair assessment.  He is still one of the ten best players at the position in the league.  With the right cast around him he could win a title, and yet the Chargers have spent most of his career tearing down the teams that seem to be in contention.  Hopefully this season plays out for one of the league’s classiest players.

 

RG3…interceptions – Now we shift over to a player who did not have the best of days; RG3.  He looked bad.  Plain and simple he was hesitant and tentative and his throws were off all night.  We have heard so much about how quickly players recover from knee injuries now, when in truth, each case is vastly different.  Take Derrick Rose who made what may have been the best decision any athlete recovering from a devastating injury ever has: he took the year off.  Now he can come back and be the player we all expect because he gave his body the right amount of time to properly recover.  How much is linked to promotional campaigns?  ALLINFORWEEK1 became a slogan Washington fans rallied behind when perhaps they should have consider the more important factor of 100%RG3.