The offer Santos Perez couldn’t refuse

A great friend, Santos Perez, was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame a month ago. The achievement was recognized in a Miami Herald article by Greg Auman which noted that Santos “has written for the Herald since 1995 and spent another 15 years before that writing on boxing for the Miami News and the Associated Press.”

The history between Santos and I dates back from our Citrus Grove Elementary days and stretches through Miami Senior High, a bizarre early morning post-McDuffie verdict drive through Downtown Miami after a night out, a mutual ‘come to Jesus’ moment on the receiving end of a pointed .22 caliber gun [either of us would have earned the distinction of being the 1st person shot during a discussion of Gilligan’s Island trivia], Catholic schooling our kids, and Duffy’s Tavern [not the chain dammit]  discussions. I hope and trust we are all lucky enough to have at least one friend who could accurately be described as the ‘nicest person you could ever meet.’ The only negative I associate with Santos is that he has so many friends that many Miamians could answer that affirmatively and yet only be referring to one person.

Photo_120508_002[1]In the introduction to his characteristically humble induction speech [see below], fellow HOF’er Bob Alexander noted that “[Santos] sitting ringside with his laptop has virtually been a guarantee at any South Florida boxing show.” The photo to the right indicates that Bob is a reliable source.

I took that picture on my Palm back in 2008 [as the incredibly useful date stamp¹ indicates]. I had pestered Santos enough to allow me to tag along not just to the actual boxing matches, but to the weekday promotion held at a local restaurant. It was great fun as I blogged about the press conference and then the actual boxing matches at Miccosukee.

I made new friends with people I had much in common with, people like Jerry del Castillo and Jose [El Chamby] Campos who continue their work on the Spanish language sports scene. I met the promoter who was also inducted in the HOF with Santos, Tuto Zabal Jr. Hanging with Santos was like being granted an ‘he’s OK cloak,’ which means that I got to sit in on their wide-ranging and often hilarious discussions as though I was one of them. What more could an outsider ask more? Spreadsheets did not beckon that day. Gee I wonder whatever happened to that skinny red-headed Mexican kid?

In his speech, Santos gave a special mention to one of his mentors. In the attached link, I copy his 2008 article in remembrance of Hank Kaplan.

Santos Perez induction speech, June 22, 2014:

Please use scroll bar to scan through playlist — was #17 during July 2014 – will be further down list

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Dear Cleveland fans, #sorryifwetookthebest4

IMG_0362Who would have thunk it. The Miami Heat’s dynastic run was ultimately doomed by well meaning Abuelitas. Oh they look innocent enough, I know.

But we must approach the LeBron James departure autopsy with the cold-bloodlessness of an NBA executive deciding the fate of white Mid-American conference players on 10-day contracts right before they are guaranteed for remainder of the season. Emotion and sentimentality, like James now, are not our friends.

What were we thinking? We Miami Heat fans allowed the most talented NBA player of his generation, a player with obvious separation anxiety disorder issues, to wander freely in our city teeming with voluntary and involuntary transplants from Caribbean islands to major ¹continents, from upper Northeast America to the southern-most tip of South America, all speaking in one accented voice, on a worn-out string if you will, with one eventual message, ‘ay Lebroncito, if shoo c’only see my contree.’

imageIn effect, we brought a homesick guy riddled with guilt into a community where everybody’s seemingly from somewhere else and are downright enthusiastic to inform all that their former homesteads are much superior to our community, save for their particular circumstances. Then we get blind-sided by his desire to return home. That’s some flat circle shit right there.

haslemAt first, I will admit that the news of his departure kinda blew me away. The Bosh signing was like a revitalizing [from a non-pet] chicken soup. By the time I watched Maria Bamford’s impression of Bosh [see below], I was almost ready to move on. Almost. I started having thoughts like, why can’t Jeffrey Loria get homesick? What will Pepe Billete do now? Eventually, the thoughts turned trivial.

LeBron Cleveland kitI certainly wish the great LeBron James all the best. Especially that he continue his remarkable streak of avoiding major injuries given all the minutes logged that come with 4 straight NBA Finals appearances and his other conglomerate responsibilities [said to be terribly taxing]. While no one should wish injury [e.g., ACL tear to left knee, takeoff leg] on an opponent, but neither should getting opposing fans to focus on morbid facts be considered beyond the pale. Unless of course, the people offended actually believe that the mere mention can cause the injury. I elegua not to believe in such things.

My point is that Cleveland fans will naturally fear injury more than any opponent. That are right to do so given the increasing likelihood of at least one major injury occurring in the career of a player who has logged as many minutes as James has. As opposing fans, it is our duty to promote their discomfort.

My favorite line after Brazil was routed in the World Cup rout was the observation, ‘I wish there were a German word for Schadenfreude.’ Pleasure in the failures of opponents is a big part of my sports enjoyment. From a practical point of view, such failures are a much more reliable source of pleasure than the success of your own team, unless you were a Miami Heat fan between 2010 and 2014.

So what represents the most responsible stance of opposing fans towards the good people of Cleveland. To begin preparing them now, or to allow their hopes to grow and be dashed yet again. I choose not to merely witness. Please join me in my twitter campaign, #sorryifwetookthebest4

¹- For those who asked, Asia is one of the continents I am referring to. While actual Asians are typically too busy studying or working to engage in nostalgia, that’s what I keep hearing from my Asian sources, i.e., people close to them, in their camp, with reason to know, people I don’t think would lie to me, people I hope are right so I can write this.

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LeBron’s Kidd play

Part of the hagiography that comes with star NBA players is the notion that every off-season they attempt to improve a part of their game. I think LeBron James decided to focus on his General Manager skills this summer. Except that the brand conscious player-mogul was smart enough to not to want to appear to be as power hungry as Jason Kidd, who fellow narcissists now resent for damaging their image.

James likely gave Pat Riley an ultimatum in their year-end meeting. Major changes, including coaching, would be required for him to come back. The Corleone Godfather would have given James his answer right then and there, perhaps ominously repositioning the Haslem bobblehead. The Heat’s Godfather opted for a more public response.

In effect James had threatened Riley and Mickey Arison, two individuals who have experienced great success, wealth — multi-generational in the former and unable to recall what it’s like to worry about money in the latter — and the respect of their peers. Difficult, but not impossible James assumed.

The next day Riley delivered his unambiguous response in a nationally televised press conference about how it was time to show some guts and stick around, not shop around. The media were thrilled with the quotes but perplexed over the strategy, given that he was dealing with a player who had all the leverage. They overlooked Riley’s real target, James the budding GM, not James the player.  Just as James had overlooked the difference between Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert vs Pat Riley and Mickey Arison.

Yesterday Terry Pluto, a Cleveland-based writer, had an article with an interesting perspective. Pluto notes that during James last 4 seasons in Cleveland, the Cavs had paid more in salaries and luxury taxes then the Heat did in his 4 seasons in Miami. Pluto’s point is that the Cavs were willing to do whatever James asked of them, unlike the Heat, as best illustrated by their handling of Mike Miller.

I took away something different than Pluto intended. The Cavs problem was their inability to say no to James, as opposed to not doing enough. As a Cav, James the player could not overcome the moves dictated by James the pseudo-GM.

At least back then James had an established coach to contend with in Cleveland in Mike Brown. If James goes back now, with a rookie coach and new GM, he will own it all. That’s Riley’s cautionary tale to James, along with the FU press conference reminder about the futility of threatening those who have already experienced great success.

At the end of yesterday’s reported meeting meeting between Riley and James, I hope that Riley left a max contract on the table and dispassionately added as he walked away, “If that thing is signed in the morning, I’ll know I have a partner. If not, you need to learn the difference between hiring Moe Greene and Mo Williams. Only one is dangerous, but both can be deadly. But you already knew that.”

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Unlike Cain and Abel

CementaryI visited my father Adolfo’s gravesite on Fathers Day with his grown grandkids whom he never met. Our next stop was to visit his 92-year-old younger brother and my dear uncle, Ramiro, who is in a Hialeah rehabilitation facility. He is not well and speaks in a whisper, but thankfully is coherent. It’s emotional to see him now, more so on the occasion.

We parked ourselves in front of a large screen TV and hijacked the remote control, exchanging an infomercial for the Spanish language telecast of the World Cup. The announcers persistent excitement highlighted the stillness on our end, as other patients and staff look on unaffected.

As we all sat I commit the most forgivable of conversational transgressions, the lazy “como estas?” What is the man supposed to say? Up until that moment, I could have scripted the visit without having been there. The quiet, the underlying sadness of the facility and my consciously subdued emotions towards a loved one who has been a source of constant goodness throughout my life. Not to mention my hopes that the visit be seared into the psyche of my kids.

“Aquí, pasando las de Caín” was my uncle’s response. I didn’t get it at first, had to ask him to repeat or explain. “Caín y Abel, de la Biblia,” he said with a quick ironic half-smile, momentarily looking right at me to ensure it registered properly. Oh … ohhh. The Spanish saying is meant to convey those having an especially hard time, reflecting the fate of Cain in Genesis:

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

With that look, real life trumped my unimaginative expectations. I felt what the two men traveling to Emmaus with Jesus experienced at the breaking of the bread, recognition. The moment before the look I would have told you that my uncle Ramiro was humble, funny, quick to laugh. His Caín reference and look changed the ‘was’ to an ‘is.’

With it another layer of sympathy. He and his brother lived through much. The death of their father at a young age, boarding schools operated by Salesians, a printing business partnership, an almost decade-long separation due to exile,  the physical and emotional separation from their two sisters due to political upheaval, age and illness being the last two major obstacles. A degree of good fortune is required to even get to the last two, where the ‘wandering’ meets the road.

dante_paradiso_The families of these two brothers have watched it unfold with gratitude for the lives well led. Along with my belief that there will be more to their story. The rehabilitation facility is but a footnote, regardless of what happens there. I pray for their eventual reunion. At that I would be joyous, but unsurprised, imagination finally kicking in on a ‘real life’ subject.

Knowing my uncle, if I get to see him again in one of Dante’s sphere’s, the conversation’s opening is already scripted. I will be compelled to inquire, “como estas?” His response, barely getting the words out before we come together in laughter, “Aquí, pasando las de Gabriel.”


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From Dazed and Confused to bemused then infused

Dazed-Wallpaper-dazed-and-confused-7939906-1024-768Inexplicably, I only watched the movie Dazed and Confused recently on the recommendation of my brother. Inexplicably, because I love movies and my appreciation for goofiness rivals that of France, birthplace of that flopping dog, Tony Parker.

Right away I was hooked in that the movie takes place on my birthday and the last day of high school in 1976, my relatability was off the charts. The Gilligan’s Island episode quiz in the 1st scene was, even by then, merely icing.

On the actual day before that fictionalized movie day, I was a junior at the glorious Miami Senior High and had a day as close as I would ever come to the Dazed and Confused crowd. The day began normally, until I was asked to join some friends and girls going to Crandon Park, so I skipped classes that day…. Wait, I need to set this up.

falling downA little background. During my junior high school years, I was bused to my 7th and 9th grade schools, I lived near the 8th. Attending 9th grade at Booker T. Washington, I once skipped my late classes and the Dade County sponsored bus trip home. Leaving early meant about a 3 mile solo walk home from Overtown. That was the 1st time I ever skipped school.

When I set out I imagined myself facing possible danger [think Michael Douglas in Falling Down], but it turned out to be uneventful. I did so because it was MLB’s opening day and I wanted to be home to see if Hank Aaron would tie Babe Ruth’s record. I made it just in time to see the historic home run at Cincinnati.

So May 27, 1976 was the 2nd, and last time, I ever cut classes. That makes me a rather tepid male teenager for 1976, or ’66 or ’86. Did I mention I’ve never smoked … anything. So I watch portrayals of wild teenagers much as I would the Discovery channel. The main difference being that I have no memories of growing up with warthogs.

As I settled into the haze of the Dazed and Confused movie, a familiar voice and questions settled their way into my thoughts; Why hadn’t I been more adventuresome? What was missing?

The voice in my head was unfair I thought. Doubt and insecurity can’t take a goofball comedy off? What, I’ve been assigned a real go-getter demon? Fortunately, like LeBron picking apart the Spurs, I’d heard them before and have settled on some answers along the way. Some deep, some obvious. As in, not even Mel Brooks could produced a watchable comedy about 99% of actual high school experiences. Give the writer/director Richard Linklater’s imagination some credit.

flanneryoconnorFor the deep, I must outsource to Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor, courtesy of the Brain Pickings blog, as she discusses her spirituality in relation to her work in a letter:

I won’t ever be able entirely to understand my own work or even my own motivations. It is first of all a gift, but the direction it has taken has been because of the Church in me or the effect of the Church’s teaching, not because of a personal perception or love of God. For you to think this would be possible because of your ignorance of me; for me to think it would be sinful in a high degree. I am not a mystic and I do not lead a holy life.

Not that I can claim any interesting or pleasurable sins (my sense of the devil is strong) but I know all about the garden variety, pride, gluttony, envy and sloth, and what is more to the point, my virtues are as timid as my vices. I think sin occasionally brings one closer to God, but not habitual sin and not this petty kind that blocks every small good. A working knowledge of the devil can be very well had from resisting him.

To read how someone like Ms. O’Connor accepted limitations on what she could hope to understand, is a powerful reminder about avoiding intellectual vanities on subjects, both large and small, that do not serve a higher purpose. Not coming to a self-help bookshelf near you. “What is that to thee, follow me.”

Like St. Paul, Ms. O’Connor reads like someone who has put away childish things.

OK voice, I got my team. Here we go, to eleven, no 2’s, win by 2, everything back.

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Heat fans need more eFG less OMG

In the upcoming NBA Finals game 4, the Spurs ‘effective field goal percentage’ [*eFG%] will very likely be at .500 or less. The Spurs have only beaten Miami once, last year’s game 1, when their eFG% was under .500. However, the Heat was under .500 as well in that game.

Since their game 3 loss in last year’s Finals, the Heat appear to have consistently solved San Antonio’s defense, although the Spurs have been more spectacular in their ‘good’ games. Here’s a comparison of their eFG%’s in the 10 Finals games; Heat first / then Spurs:

  • Game 3-2014 – .597 / .664 – Spurs won by 19
  • Game 2-2014 – .586 / .512 – Heat won by 2
  • Game 1-2014  – .551 / .684 – Spurs won by 15
  • Game 7-2013  – .512 / .415 – Heat won by 7
  • Game 6-2013  – .537 / .465 – Heat won by 3
  • Game 5-2013  – .494 / .664 – Spurs won by 10
  • Game 4-2013  – .553 / .500 – Heat won by 16
  • Game 3-2013  – .461 / .580 – Spurs won by 36
  • Game 2-2013  – .554 / .474 – Heat won by 19
  • Game 1-2013  – .487 / .458 – Spurs won by 4

Notice the Spurs consistent drop off following their great shooting games. Only the Miami Heat has recorded an eFG% over .520 — an average eFG% exceeded only by these 2 teams in this year’s playoffs — for consecutive games. The Heat has done so for all 3 games in this year’s NBA Finals. Then again, only the Spurs have ever shot way over .600, doing it 3 times, twice in the last 3 games, but never in consecutive games.

The point is that the Heat have been more consistent than the Spurs offensively, with the caveat that when the Spurs are good, they are spectacular. In game 3 on the road, Leonard and Green had career nights, while LeBron set a record for turnovers. The odds of any of those factors repeating are slim.

Now game 5 at San Antonio is a scarier prospect for us Heat fans.

While watching last night’s game, I thought that Danny Green’s 2nd steal against an incredibly nonchalant Dwyane Wade, when the Heat were already down 20, constituted grounds for having Wade’s existing NBA contract and endorsements voided, with the possible except of his Chinese footwear, since they could provide refuge pending deportation hearings.

* – Effective Field Goal Percentage = eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 x 3PTM)) / FGA

A metric used in NBA basketball that is similar to Field Goal Percentage, but adjusts for the fact that 3-point field goals are worth 50 percent more than 2-point field goals.

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Miami Heat fans and the dynastic cycle

bosh-james-wade-heat-062910jpg-5c0242b13811a4f4_largeSo this is what it feels like to be in the middle of a dynastic cycle. If I were shown the nearby picture of the 2008 USA Olympic basketball team, I would have seen a relaxed bench at the end of a blowout. Pat Riley saw a dynasty.

As fans of a major American sports team in our hometown, this is a moment afforded to few other communities, ever. With the basketball world’s attention about to be focused on our team and city over the next week, it will not get better than this for us Miamians and Heat fans.

This belief is not dependent on whether the Heat beat the Spurs again this year. I literally mean right now, with the NBA Finals series 1-1. Here’s why:

  • Even the slightest doubt by the most irrational of fans, makes the eventual outcome of this series sweeter or more bitter, or what the Dan LeBatard Show refers to as ‘the dirty pants.’
  • My opinion is that what matters most to us fans is that our team be competitive, with real prospects of winning a championship. To actually win is so dependent on random variables [officiating, injuries etc], it isn’t the main enjoyment of following a team.
  • The best illustration of my point is the Marlins franchise.
  • The 1997 Marlins were never in 1st place in their own division beyond April. The team had 2 All-Star reserves and no dominant players. They made the playoffs as the wild-card and were almost immediately disbanded following the World Series. The Marlins microwaved fan joy. The Heat slow-roast.
  • As of today, the Miami Heat team formed by Pat Riley in July 2010 has really only failed to provide one thing to its fans in four years. Forcing a game 7 in the 2011 NBA Finals. The lyric “regrets … too few to mention” comes to mind.
  • The Heat have been a title favorite in each of their four years, feature four likely future Hall of Famers, have role players nearing the end of accomplished NBA careers and the NBA’s best player.
  • The stability throughout the franchise, combined with this year’s playoff run would seem to guarantee that James, Wade and Bosh will return for at least one more year, likely more.

Even the decline portion of this dynastic cycle promises to be interesting. That’s why for Miami Heat fans, especially Miamians, right now is as good as it gets, eschatological concerns aside.

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D-Day Inspiration, Lt. Robert Patrick Mathias

mathias_rp_2ltLacking any direct connection to those who served in WWII, my appreciation of them has over time come to be symbolized in one hero — described in historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1994 book, D-Day, June 6, 1944 — the impressive Lt. Robert Patrick Mathias.

Another way to think of him, is to imagine that the most competent soldier from Band of Brothers, another Ambrose book, Richard Winters, had been killed on D-Day.

The 25-year-old paratrooper was a devout Catholic from an Irish family, an amateur welterweight boxing champion in his youth, and would later be documented as the first American officer killed on D-Day.

I would not attempt to summarize Ambrose’s moving description of Lt. Mathias’ integrity and heroism, but you can read it here. However, the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s website does provide a brief description of his death, largely drawn from the Ambrose book:

At 2am, on June 6, 1944, 1st Lt. Robert Mathias and 16 men in his command were riding in the darkness of a C-47.

Lt. Mathias was the leader of the Second Platoon, E Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Mathias saw the red light go on. “Stand up and hook up!”, Mathias called out. With machine gun bullets tearing through the aircraft as it lurched about attempting to evade flak, the men behind Mathias kept calling out, “Let’s go, damn it, jump!” But it was Mathias’ duty to wait, to keep his hands on the outside of the doorway, ready to propel himself into the night the instant the green light went on.

Then suddenly, a shell went off beside him. Red-hot flack ripped into his reserve chute and into his chest. It knocked him off his feet. With all his strength, he began to pull himself back up. Then the green light went on.

With blood streaming from his body, Mathias raised his right arm and called out, “Follow me!” and leaped into the night.

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How the Pacers differ from Barbarian Tribes in Germania

conan 1A friend, on the eve of a religious Retreat, once shared a moving philosophical exchange from a surprising movie source. The movie was based on the work of Robert E. Howard, a pioneer in the field of pulp fiction:

Mongol General: Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good, but what is best in life?

Mongol: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.

Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?

Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Last night, as I obsessively refreshed my NBA related twitter feeds following the Miami Heat’s emasculation of the Indianapolis Pacers, I thought of that quote as the aforementioned lamentations were chronicled.

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Traditional marriage and the concept of ‘pilita’

20140504-222712.jpgPilita – Spanish slang for piling on.

If you plan on supporting the concept of traditional marriage — members of the opposite sex with a bare minimum of common ancestors¹ — in the public square debate, for God’s sake be careful [looking around as I type]. Please keep the following in mind:

  • Defeat is assured in this particular battle of the culture wars. Defeat not being the same as a lost cause, as defined by T.S. Eliot.
  • The defeat itself will be a drawn out affair, as our opponents keep us marginally alive for the sake of vengeance, not unlike how how certain species of ants keep flocks of plant lice as slaves to milk them for droplets of sugar. [See above and @ 4 minute mark of Werner Herzog’s wonderful documentary, Encounters at the End of the World].²
  • Unique opportunity to hone your debating skills in a zero expectations environment.
  • Experience will look good on your resume, but poorly in your NSA file.
  • Brendan Eich might be out, but Reihan Salam points out how his integrity is in.

So, how did we get here? Well as you can imagine, we came up against a powerful opponent: heterosexuals. Stay with me, or better said, stay with me as I attempt to stay with the columnist Ross Douthat and Ramesh Ponnuru from National Review.

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