Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/31

Apparently, the Bobcats can no longer beat anyone unless the opponent is missing at least two of its best players. We dealt with Chicago (Gordon, Deng out) and the Clippers (Kaman, Maggette, Brand out), but alas, Philly and Sacramento had the nerve to play all their guys—no fair! I forget whether ESPN.com’s John Hollinger’s Playoff Predictor system accounts for injuries or not (it either does, it pisses everyone off, and he has to spend a week afterward explaining/apologizing; or it doesn’t, it pisses everyone off, and he has to spend a week explaining/apologizing—I forget which), but I’m imagining our postseason outlook isn’t good regardless. In fact, after last night’s somnambulant effort in Sac-Town, I don’t even want to look at the odds; I keep picturing one of those “######” thingies you get in an Excel spreadsheet when the cell isn’t big enough for the number.

And really, why should they be under triple-digits at this point? The Bobcats needed a (frankly) miraculous 2-minute sequence in the third quarter against the Clips in which Wallace, Richardson, and Felton—twice in a row!—hit three-pointers just to get us a seven-point win. They also needed the Clippers to go 0-for-8 from long-range themselves. Jeez, no Kaman or Maggette, all those 3’s for us and none for them, Al Thornton fouling out in just 19 minutes…I’d say we racked up quite a tab with the basketball gods in this one. I half-expected to see Coach Sam Vincent genuflecting on his knees during the game. Instead, he…just sat there with his index finger on his temple and stared blankly, like always.

Against the Kings last night, it was time to pay the bill. On paper, the Kings actually have a pretty decent roster, as long as they’re not asking to be traded (Mike Bibby), not pretending they’re Peja Stojakovic (Brad Miller), not pouting with dubious injuries (Bibby again), and not totally insane (Ron Artest). They’ve even got lots of depth on the bench with Udrih, Salmons, and Garcia. And then there’s Kevin Martin, easily the unlikeliest-looking superstar since…ever, possibly. This would make for a great online poll, actually. Has anyone ever looked more out of place as a premier NBA athlete? Even Damon Wayans in Celtic Pride was more believable. I’m trying to come up with a comparison. Imagine if Clay Aiken was a Hollywood action-movie star. Actually, I know it’s awhile ago now, but at the time it was really weird to hear the news that Michael Keaton was going to be playing Batman in the blockbuster 1989 remake—anyone old enough to remember that one will recall a national collective head-scratching. There’s your Kevin Martin-as-playmaking-god analogy, feel free to toss it out to your friends at work (Martin and Keaton even have the same natural jheri-curl going).

So anyway, the awe-inspiring majesty of the Kings marquee roster aside, other than Gerald Wallace, we had nothing going in this one. Maybe the news that California had failed to pass health care coverage legislation bummed us out. Perhaps we were expecting the Fed to cut 75 basis-points off the overnight interest rate instead of a mere half-percent. I don’t know, but the 41% FG shooting was awful, and unless Gerald Wallace finds out he’s one of the Cylon models and starts bringing duplicates of himself to games, we’re in for a rough second half.

The Charlotte Observer charitably wrote that the Kings needed a “late run” for the win, but we were never within 6-points during the second-half and were frequently trailing by double-digits. And even the first-half had all the characteristics of a stock market bubble about to burst, considering we shot 58% and were still trailing by 3 at the break. And of course, there were the second-chances—13 offensive boards allowed to a team that’s 25th in the league in that category—that have become the calling card of our suckage. At least Sam Vincent picked up a tech, thereby showing some signs of life. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nash has got more technicals at this point.

We also have a new villain, ladies and gentlemen: Mikki Moore. Not only did he grab 3 of those O-boards, he also decided to play his one decent game of the year. That’s not why we should hate him, though. We should hate him because Sacramento stupidly forked over $5.35 mil for him. At 32, Moore should have been preparing for a second-career as a kung-fu movie villain (he’s got the hair and the flops down; I’m picturing something in which he leads a group of evil Manu Ginobli clones that attack one-at-a-time and bounce and dive off Jackie Chan or whoever). Instead, he’s Exhibit A in Emeka Okafor’s case for a huge raise.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/28

The Bobcats turned in two stomach-churning performances over the weekend, thereby splitting a pair of games that were both highly winnable. The disappointments in both games were varied in type, size, and scope, but their common let-down has been a sickening fixture all season. Against the Bulls and—more detrimentally—the Sixers, Charlotte ceded a deplorable 14 and 17 offensive boards, respectively. If the Bobcats, currently 25th in the league in offensive rebounds allowed per game, don’t start denying teams second chance points ASAP, do you realize what will happen? I’ll tell you what: announcers are going to take their abuse of the prefix "out-" to unsustainable levels. It started innocently enough with “out-hustled,” but now we’ve got “out-physicaled” and “out-quicked,” the latter I’ve seen not just spoken but WRITTEN (good stuff, Rick B!). Folks, this has got to stop. We’re about one solid Chris Kaman game away from hearing “out-swifted,” “out-speeded,” and “out-efforted.”

The Bulls game was a win, but that’s about it. You know how I wrote awhile back about moral victories? This was like the opposite—it was either a moral loss or an immoral victory, I’m not sure which. The Bulls, playing without Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, fielded a starting lineup that was utterly ridiculous: Nocioni, Smith, Wallace, Sefolosha, and Hinrich. You know what, though? Given a choice, I think I would’ve preferred Gordon or Deng healthy if it meant I could have had announcer Red Kerr too injured to make the game. Anyway, ESPN.com wrote in the recap that “Charlotte held the Bulls to 37 percent shooting.” That’s actually erroneous. The sentence should have read: “The Bulls held the Bulls to 37 percent shooting.” They had plenty of open shots, particularly for Nocioni (9-of-23 from the field, 3-of-9 on 3-pointers) and Hinrich (6-of-16, 0-of-4), but they make couldn’t enough of them. Their accuracy woes were equal opportunity: 30-of-81 from the field, 4-of-18 on 3’s, and 13-of-22 on free-throws. "I think it's a culmination of frustration,” Hinrich said after the game. He then added that his first inclination was to become a monk and leave the situation.

Still, the Bulls were in this for most of the game, because they “out-worked,” “out-scrambled,” “out-strengthed,” and “out-energied” us. Had Jason Richardson given even a middling performance, this one would have been over pretty early, and we could have rested for the back-to-back. Instead, he “out-sourced” his performance to Gerald Wallace, who put in his typical, full-bodied 21-5-5 night. Emeka Okafor was also stalwart down low with 21 points, 16 boards, and 4 blocks. Mek finished with 5 fouls, but he didn’t get his first until well into the second-half (and then he must have realized he was running behind schedule). Thanks to Nazr Mohammed and Matt Carroll, I guess we also “out-benched” the Bulls.

We didn’t out-anything Philadelphia the next night, except maybe “out-controversied.” Philadelphia’s starting lineup of Iguodala, Green, Dalembert, Young, and Miller, was as ridiculous as Chicago’s, except in this case there were no injuries—these five really are the Sixers’ best players. The main takeaway from this game was how much we suffer without Raymond Felton, who didn’t play due to an ankle injury. Not that we needed Felton to miss the game to prove this, because I’ve been muttering it to myself like a crazy person ever since we released Brevin Knight: we need a true backup point-guard, because Jeff McInnis is totally useless.

Coach Vincent actually put it on blast ever the game. “They (Philadelphia) were really sagging off Jeff (McInnis). That makes it hard, because then (the Sixers are guarding) five on four.” OUCH. Coaches tend to talk about players a lot like performance reports describe employees in regular jobs: everyone’s either “good,” “excellent,” or “outstanding.” Unless they fail a drug test or kill someone while drunk-driving, hardly anyone’s ever rated “poor.” Even if they squander billions of dollars in bad investments, they merely “need improvement.” The net effect is that all the performance reviews are inflated. But unless you know this, you’ll think “good” really means “good,” when in fact it means “sub-par” or even “do not promote this clown.” It’s like that with Coaches when they talk about players—usually the worst thing a player does is “try to do too much.” Listening to them, you tend to have to read-between-the-lines and locate the criticism beneath the subterfuge.

And that’s precisely why it’s so jarring to hear such naked condemnation coming from a coach. “Five-on-four?” Wow. I’m trying to think of something more damning than telling a player you’d be no worse off if you were short-handed, and I can’t. I must admit, I’ve got mixed feelings. On the one hand, I couldn’t agree more with Vincent (in fact, I’ve actually written pretty much the same thing he said…repeatedly). On the other hand, this kind of sentiment should be kept in-house. But on the third hand (I happen to be a mutant cyborg from the future with three arms), maybe a public spat like this will facilitate McInnis’ and possibly Vincent’s departures, which would be good. We’ll see how it goes.

This fact remains: without Felton, Philadelphia was less afraid of penetration than Jenna Jameson. They were free to blanket the perimeter, daring us to try to beat them on jump shots and/or getting the rock to Okafor; no one had to worry much about sliding or rotating. It didn’t help that Gerald Wallace took the bait completely, going 4-for-17 (mostly on mid- to long-range jumpers) and 0-for-5 on 3’s. Of course, anytime Crash tried to take it the hole, it usually worked or at least got him to the foul line. Richardson, meanwhile, hoisted up 24 shots, but as usual, he was even more reluctant to drive to the hoop than Wallace. The end result was a humiliating loss, and with those hideous all-black outfits, they even looked like a prison team mugging a bunch of pretty-boys.

And to top it all off, as if he hadn’t caused enough controversy by openly denigrating McInnis, Vincent questioned the team’s collective heart. “I stand over there and scream and yell the whole time, motivate guys to play,” Vincent said after the game. “I need to see that from the guys on the floor.” First of all, I don’t think our team’s short on effort. Talent, yes; effort, no. Second, what’s Vincent talking about with the screaming and yelling? The guy’s the most passive-looking coach I’ve seen since Art Shell. Vincent’s rarely even standing, let alone screaming and yelling. The only coach who sits less than Vincent is Phil Jackson, and Jackson technically has no hips. Put a Darth Vader helmet on Vincent and he’d be LaDanian Tomlinson. How long is Michael Jordan and/or Bob Johnson going to let this go on before they straighten this circus out? If management doesn't step in soon, the we're going to be "out-Knicksing" the other teams.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/24

Don’t call it a comeback!! Umm, because it wasn’t one. Neither of them was, actually. Charlotte hosted two-thirds of the Texas Triangle this week, and although we threatened to win at times in both games, our efforts slowly deteriorated—much like Tom Coughlin’s face in the NFC Championship Game. That we didn’t win either game is kind of sad, but hardly surprising—like hearing Ike Turner’s cause of death was a cocaine overdose. There are some reasons to be optimistic, though.

First, Gerald Wallace—our 6’7” can of Red Bull—doesn’t appear to be injured (at least, anymore than he usually is) after he pulled up lame against Memphis and San Antonio. As an added bonus, Crash also seems to have ditched that ill-fated attempt at cornrows and gone back to his traditional, mid-sized econo-'fro.

Second, neither announcer in either game used the silly, superfluous phrase, “He can do that.” I’ve started to hate that phrase, and I’m sorry to say that I first noticed it coming from the mouth of one of our own: the late, great Matt Devlin. Yes, yes, I know he’s a legend, but Matt had the unfortunate tendency to say, “He can do that” a lot. And then a lot of announcers began invoking the “he can do that” tendency. What’s the problem with “he can do that?” Well, it’s right uttered after the player did, in fact, do that. It doesn’t matter what the “that” was—in Matt’s case, for example, the “that” was often Brevin Knight pulling up and hitting a 15-foot jumper, followed inevitably by Matt saying, “He can do that.” This in turn would cause me, sitting at home, to say aloud, “Yes, Matt, obviously he can do that, because we all just watched it.” And now it’s everywhere; it had a bizarre viral spread to all the announcers. Now it seems everyone loves to note unnecessarily that a player "can do that"...except in these last two games, and for that I’m optimistic. Speaking of Brevin, I’m happy to see he’s been suiting up for most of the season with the Clips. Be wary, though, Clippers fans, this tends to be the time of year when his groin goes on a 2-month sabbatical.

Third—and I’ll admit this one’s connection to actual basketball is even less significant than the first two—my office building survived the attack from the Cloverfield monster. I didn’t see the movie, but check out that poster that shows a decapitated Statue of Liberty and most of the entire south end of Manhattan in flames. See that building on the far left, the one with the dome? That’s us—still standing, baby!

As for the games, let’s start with the Spurs. For whatever reason, we always tend to play them hard—we’re like the Devil Rays to their Yankees. Early on, we led by as many as 8, and we stayed within 4 points late in the third. But then San Antonio clamped down on defense (they can do that), blocking a total of 10 shots, notching 11 steals, holding us to only 39 second-half points, and limiting us to just 4 fast-break points. We also made an abysmal two total 3-pointers, while Michael Finley—who resembles a younger Greg Oden (ha!)—went 3-for-3 from downtown by himself.

Speaking of 3-pointers, we’re going through a sort of 3-point stagflation right now. On the heels of 2-for-14 long-range shooting against San Antonio, we went 3-for-18 in the next game against Dallas. Let's see...we’re currently 14th in the league in 3-point percentage and 16th in attempts. So basically, we take an average amount and make an average amount…And that kills everything I was planning to say, because I was hoping to discover something profound like we’re dead last in 3-point shooting but take the most shots—dammit, so much for that hypothesis. Still, here’s how we closed out the last 2:30 of the 3rd quarter against the Mavs: Richardson missed a 3, Felton missed a 3, Wallace missed a 3, Carroll missed a 3. Too bad Nazr Mohammed didn’t attempt a three, otherwise we could have had a complete set.

The Dallas game in general was an opportunity lost in the swamp of a stagnant offense. We failed to capitalize on a 5-minute, 32-second Maverick scoring drought in the fourth quarter by only cutting their lead from 12 points to 7. Besides all the missed treys, there was way too much standing around. It was so bad that even the Dallas announcers began to sound frustrated with our lack of motion. We didn’t get the ball to Mohammed nearly enough (nor did he demand it—7 points on just 3 FG attempts in 27 minutes), and basically just hoped for either Richardson or Wallace to engineer something on their own. There also wasn’t enough sliding on the defensive end, which is unfathomable because Devin Harris, Jason Terry, and JJ Barea don’t do much other than get to the hoop quickly—thus the opposition has got to be ready to help. Harris alone torched us for 23 points, most of which were unassisted drives and pull-ups.

And in both games, we saw how limited Okafor is against the benchmark big guys, Duncan and Nowitzki. They do everything Okafor does, plus they do it better, plus they do more. If they’re Transformers, he’s a Gobot. For instance, both are capable of playing much farther out on the perimeter, and as they made painfully obvious: if you pull Okafor too far from the basket on defense, he’s lost. His offense was solid, but just a block and ten rebounds in each game just isn’t enough.

Oh, well. Perhaps I should just “Accept Roster Reality,” as the Observer’s Rick Bonnell urges. Apparently, our lineup dilemmas, like playing Okafor at the 5 and Wallace at the 4, and playing McInnis at all, are “unavoidable.” I fail to see how he arrived at this conclusion (as do the string of hilarious responses posted afterward), but perhaps that's the very point he’s trying to make: it doesn’t make sense, just accept it. I can do that, I guess…

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/20

The Bobcats went 1-for-2 against the West this weekend, as well as 1-for-2 in uniforms. Saturday night was “NASCAR Night” at Bobcats Arena, a promotion that makes no more sense to me now than it did last year. It’s pretty hard to come up with a smaller cross-section than “Bobcats/NASCAR” fans—it’d be like Mike Huckabee suddenly trying to appeal to his “Hispanic/Jewish” contingent—yet not only do we hold a NASCAR Night, we even unleash some ridiculous “checkered flag”-style uniforms. Unbelievable. I’m assuming NASCAR doesn’t have a “Bobcats 400” race, so I have no idea what’s in this for us. The ultimate irony is that NASCAR drivers famously dress in nothing but corporate logos, and we’re, like, the ONLY team who can’t sell their arena’s naming rights to any businesses. Perhaps we could be the “NASCAR Arena”?

Regardless, the team ran cold-and-then-hot in the back-to-back games. New Orleans crushed us on Friday—it seemed like we were out of this from the time the plane touched down. Other than the plane landing, the second quarter was the turning point, as the Hornets shot 65% and we shot…well, let’s just say it was less than or equal to 65%. The ending of the half was particularly gory, as we went 1-for-8 to fall behind by 19. The domination was so thorough that after the game Hornets coach Byron Scott sounded like a Third World dictator who’d just squashed a coup attempt by leftist rebels. “When you have your foot on their neck,” Scott told reporters, “don't let them up. Smash them down. It might sound kind of cruel but you've got to have that.” Scott then announced that he was temporarily suspending the Hornets’ team constitution and imposing martial law.

Gee, why can’t our coach sound like that? Did you hear Coach Vincent after the Pistons’ game with the bogus offensive basket interference? “I'm sure we're going to contact the league,” Vincent said. “We'd like to do what Miami did and play the last minute over again, also. I believe it would be justified.” C’mon, coach, get aggressive! You think Winston Churchill would have “liked” for the Brits to never surrender in WWII? Was Martin Luther King “pretty sure” he had a dream? Did Public Enemy “believe it would be justified” to fight the power? Where’s the rage?!

Anyway, the only other thing remotely interesting about this lopsided blowout was former Bobcat Melvin Ely, who was sporting a protective mask straight out of V For Vendetta—either that or he was headed to an Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy party afterward. Otherwise, it was Tyson Chandler and David West making our front court look stupid. Chandler needs to come up with a nickname for himself, because he’s long and strikes out of nowhere—how about “the Mamba,” or is that already taken? The same could be said for West, who has no moves to speak of, but just sticks it in the hole (how about the “Inexperienced Male Prostitute” as a nickname then?). And then there’s Chris Paul, who only needed to play 30 minutes and still finished with 13 assists. Add that up with Peja Stojakovic going 5-for-7 from long range and it was a 3-quarter game for both teams’ starters.

Saturday against Memphis was considerably better. We shot 81% in the third quarter, which apparently broke the team record...Hmmm, does that mean the existing record was 80%? When the hell did we ever shoot 80% in a quarter before? I'd have thought just shooting 61% in a quarter would be an all-time high. Anyway, Jason Richardson knew when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, scoring 38 and going 6-for-10 from downtown and grabbing a completely-out-of-character 14 rebounds.

J-Rich's performance was topped only by Gerald Wallace’s 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 steals. One of the many annoyances of never getting broadcasts called by our announcers is that I always have to listen to other teams’ commentators bringing their viewers up-to-date on the Bobcats. It’s good that they do that for their audience and all, but considering the season we’ve had, it’s painful to be told most of this stuff again and again as if I’m hearing it for the first time. For instance, at some point the camera will inevitably show Sean May and Adam Morrison in street clothes, so of course they’ll talk about their “devastating injuries” and how they’re now out for the season. Or I’ll have to hear about how we recently acquired Nazr Mohammed, who at least one of the commentators usually feels is probably over-priced, etc. etc. This must be how all of the characters in the movie Memento felt as Leonard told them things he thought he was saying for the first time, only it was like the hundredth time. But anyway, the one sequence I never mind rehashing is Wallace dunking, stealing the opposing team’s pass, and dunking again, followed by one of the announcers saying, “Wallace is all over the court tonight, (Jim, Dave, Red, Tommy).”

Even Coach Vincent had no shortage of praise for Richardson and Wallace. “I think they've gotten to the point,” he said afterward, “where they're comfortable in their coexistence. They know they're both scorers and they're both going to get shots. I think our nucleus is starting to feel comfortable around them as well." Actually, Coach Vincent had a surplus of praise. His comments really make me want to get out the red marker. Oh, what the heck, I have tomorrow off:

"I think they've gotten to the point where t (delete) They're comfortable in their coexistence. They know t (delete) They're both scorers and they're both going to get shots. I think o (delete) Our nucleus is starting to (delete) feels comfortable around them as well."

Ah, that felt good! My thanks to the aforementioned King!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/18

BREAKING NEWS: Nazr Mohammed is good! I have proof! Because we seem to be living in a sort of “postmodern” statistical era, in which all of the traditional stats are deemed completely worthless and it turns out that Wilt Chamberlain was in fact one of the WORST players ever*, I ventured over to the blog site 82games.com to check out what some of their number-crunching has crunched out. And lo and behold, they show undeniable proof that Nazr Mohammed is actually competent. Two things jumped out at me. First, of every guy on the team, Nazr is one of the few with a positive +/- number (+7), meaning we’ve scored 7 more points than we’ve allowed total with him on the floor. Second, our top 5-man-unit in terms of +/- consists of Felton, Carroll, Richardson, Wallace, and…Melvin Ely. No, just kidding, it’s Mohammed again! This crew’s got a net +/- score of +38. Incidentally, the group with the WORST +/- is…the one that currently starts, McInnis-Felton-Okafor-Wallace-Richardson, coming in at an Antarctican -69.

Of course, I’m well aware that these stats are skewed because our starters are playing more of their minutes against the OTHER team’s starters, who are almost always better. But here’s an important analytical point: it is what it is. Does it mean we should replace Okafor in the starting lineup with Mohammed? Not necessarily. Does it mean we should replace McInnis with Carroll? Yes necessarily! A thousand times yes! We should replace McInnis with a Cub Cadet lawnmower, for all I care, because it’s probably faster and can make “cuts” (ha!).

So anyway, I insist that Nazr’s pretty good, but you know who’s really bad? Denver. I haven’t looked at their 5-man units or anything, but I imagine there are only about three combinations of them anyway; the entire team’s beat up. Denver is exactly why people were skeptical about the Celtics’ off-season deals working out, because even though they have marquee names, and even if they can get their chemistry straight, they still have more problems showing up than Britney to a courthouse. Against us, none of their starters played fewer than 30 minutes and only three dudes came off the bench. No Nene, no Najera. The heavily tattooed JR Smith (dude’s arms look like a pair of Air Jordan 20’s) must be in some serious hot water with George Karl if he can’t get more than 19 minutes of PT. There’s also some guy named Yakhouba Diawara, who I only know played for “France” prior to the NBA—not sure if that was the University of France or France State. Meanwhile, watching Anthony Carter covering McInnis is like watching a preview for The Bucket List. These guys are going to struggle.

Oh, and Kenyon Martin just doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a punk. Really, he’s got to be one of the more underrated punks in the NBA, possibly in all of sports, and it’s time we give him his due. With that obnoxious throw-down slam and the way he punches and/or kicks the ball afterward, plus his run-ins with management, plus it seems like he’s always got some sort of injury, when are people going to RECOGNIZE?! I bet he’s jealous of Shawne Merriman. Granted, if Denver were in the East, they’d be challenging for a division crown, but out in the West, they’re barely holding on—and they’re $27 million over the cap. That’s one sick team; maybe Ben Bernanke can hook them up with some sort of economic stimulus package (assuming he has no hard feelings over losing the beard-growing contest to Smith and Drew Gooden).

So we took the win against Denver, but it was sort of unsatisfying, given the way the Nuggets bumbled around in the final six seconds. This led us to…uh-oh, it’s Magic. You didn’t have to be Ric Ocasek to know that this game would be a problem. Beatdowns by the Magic are starting to feel like a weekly-scheduled event. Orlando makes me feel like “Flick” from A Christmas Story: I just want to say “Uncle,” get the loss over quickly, and move on with my life.

And early on, that’s exactly what it looked like would happen, as Dwight “Scut Farcus” Howard seemed to be turning the game into his own personal Slam-Dunk Contest. Meanwhile, Hedo Turkoglu unleashed his devastating array of “drive slowly to the left without faking or changing speeds or doing anything really and bank it in off the boards” moves that are apparently unstoppable. He did this repeatedly—to the tune of 16 points—and the only thing that varied was the amount of hair I pulled out watching. Also, it turns out Carlos Arroyo is pretty good when you don’t bother to guard him. He still flings his passes around with the accuracy of those t-shirt-launching guns, but with no one within pissing distance of him, he put up 17 points.

Fortunately, Gerald Wallace pulled a "Ralphie" and went off. 36 points, 14 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals, 0—zero!!—turnovers! 11-14 from the foul line!! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! Gerald was all over the court. He was astonishing. He was captivating. He was stoned when they took his publicity photo—check out his picture atop ESPN.com’s “Daily Leaders” board. He still gets a little greedy from the three-point line (sometimes he stands there for almost a couple of seconds, and you can practically see a little “Angel Gerald” on one shoulder telling him to pass or penetrate and a little “Devil Gerald” telling him to shoot), but who cares? He’s our heart-and-soul.

Kudos also to the reemerging long-range skills of Jason Richardson and Matt Carroll, who went a combined 7-for-12 from downtown. And Felton is the point guard, whether it’s his assigned position or not. One of the Orlando television announcers cracked me up when he said, “There seems to be some confusion here in Charlotte, as a lot of people think Felton should be the point guard.” Actually, there’s no confusion here in Charlotte, except maybe with the head coach.

*I made that up. It was actually Oscar Robertson.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/14

The last two games—both of which were consecutive heartbreakers—have left me strangely un-discouraged. I’m not sure why; perhaps it’s because the level of pain technically decreased from the first one (a 2-OT defeat in Cleveland that featured one of our best players being carried off the court in agony) to the second (a mere single-overtime loss with no devastating injuries). But I think the more prevalent reason is this: unlike (apparently) every other sports commentator, I DO believe in moral victories. Have you heard these jokers on ESPN and other media outlets lately? It’s become trendy to say, “I don’t believe in moral victories”—like moral victories are Santa Claus or UFOs something. Sean Salisbury’s a big proponent of this phrase, almost as much as he likes saying that equally unintelligent line about certain quarterbacks, “He’s got that ‘It’ factor.” Meanwhile, I think Jeremy Green has reiterated his moral victory atheism on every single podcast for the past 3 months.

You know what’s even more stupid than piously parroting this trite phrase? Just about every time they say it, these guys immediately contradict themselves. For example, they’ll say something like, “I don’t believe in moral victories, but the Giants put forth a great effort against the Patriots, and it’s something they can build on in the playoffs.” Well, then you DO believe in moral victories, right? Isn’t that what a moral victory is? I don’t get it at all.

And apparently, this problem is more pervasive than I thought. I googled the phrase and found it being tossed around in all sports in all societies. It’s not just commentators either; coaches and players love it. Check out the Auburn swimming-and-diving coach’s comments after his team lost to Texas A&M: "I don't believe in moral victories, but I am proud of our growth here today." In India, the coach of the national men’s cricket team even declared moral victories to be “crazy:” “It’s really crazy,” he said, “I don’t know why people talk about moral victories. When you struggle to pick up five wickets in both innings, that’s no moral victory to me.”

Um, actually I can’t really comment on this one, because I have no idea what a wicket even is, let alone its relative worth in cricket—is picking up five wickets a lot? a little? average? How many points-per-game would 5 wickets equate to? So okay, perhaps in this case there is no moral victory in picking up just 5 wickets. And yet, if I had to guess, I would bet that lots of southeast Asian journalists predicted beforehand that this particular Indian team wouldn’t pick up ANY wickets (or maybe just one or two). And maybe they needed to pick up, like, 10 wickets to win. So yes, they lost, but they hustled hard and still picked up more wickets than people expected (maybe they even covered the “wicket-spread,” if there is such a thing). So when India plays its next game against New Zealand (or wherever), they’ll be able to have a little bit more confidence in their wicket-pick-up skills. So I change my mind, it was a moral victory, darn it, whether their coach believes in it or not!

Sorry for the digression, but I’m trying to fire us up, because I imagine there are a lot of sad faces in Bobcats land right now. And I agree, it was calamitous. We played brilliantly in the Cleveland game, and we should have had it. In the post-mortem, the Charlotte Observer actually left out the worst part. See if you notice what’s missing from this summary:

“They could have put this away in the first overtime by scoring off either of their last two possessions, but Matt Carroll missed a 3-pointer and Felton air-balled a long jumper off a screen-and-roll with Okafor.”

Here’s the part they left out: before all of this happened, Carroll hit a trey to put us up 100-97, Damon Jones missed a 3-pointer of his own, and Gerald Wallace got the defensive board but STEPPED OUT OF BOUNDS. And given the extra possession, this time the loathsome Jones made his stupid 3-pointer and sent it to double-OT. Because we’re talking about a horrible turnover leading to a crippling shot by Damon Jones, a sequence of events that would make even a neutral observer cringe, I imagine Rick Bonnell simply blocked these events from his memory. So instead of having a 3-point lead and the ball with a minute to play, we were tied and headed toward another OT.

That’s when LeBron, or, the “L-Train,” as that avuncular FSN-Ohio color commentator calls him (which I find weird. After all, it’s not like LeBron is hurting for nicknames—why can’t he just go with “King James” or “Bron-Bron” or “LBJ” or one of the many others? Is this how it usually works? Back in the day, were there guys covering Wilt Chamberlain who passed on “The Big Dipper” and “Wilt the Stilt” and just made up their own, like “Sweet Chamber-music” or something?), decided he’d had enough. First he launched a 3-pointer from approximately Dayton, then he blatantly (and smartly) began ignoring teammates like Drew Gooden (the only man with the ability to shave his ducktail and actually manage to look weirder—what’s with that beard, is he supporting the Hollywood writers’ strike?), Larry Hughes, et al, and took matters into his own hands. The L-Train made a stop along the Foul Line and parked at 22-Foot Jumper station, after which you could stick a fork in us…except that on top of everything else, Felton sprained his ankle after the game had gone meaningless. And to think, if only he hadn’t hit that 3-pointer at the end of regulation, none of this would have happened—thanks a lot, Raymond…

At least Felton was in a suit the next night against the Pistons. Judging by the way he was carted off in Cleveland, I was halfway expecting to see footage of him wrapped up and being lowered into a pool via cables, Barbaro-style. I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that we didn’t have Jeff McInnis either against Detroit, not that he was particularly missed. Let’s face it, he’s essentially been playing only because we're required to put five guys out there, not because he’s vital (if McInnis were a body part, he’d be an appendix). Because Derek Anderson was also injured, however, we didn’t even have a nominal point guard.

So things could have hardly looked worse, but if there was an upside, it’s that Nazr Mohammed would finally crack the starting lineup, right? Right? Wrong! Coach Sam Vincent shifted Okafor to center, threw Jared Dudley out there, and started Carroll at the one. Huh? Not only was Mohammed coming off a 21-point, 15-rebound performance, he was also presumably extra-motivated to play against the team that openly and inexplicably despised him when he was with them. Combine this move with early appearances by Ryan Hollins and Jermareo Davidson, and Coach Vincent seemed to be saying, “What the heck, let’s just have some fun with this one.” And in fact, it actually DID become fun, and kinda zany. It was like if Hollywood announced they were doing a new version of Othello starring Ice Cube: it would almost certainly not work, but it would certainly be interesting and there’d probably be some laughs along the way.

Actually, I would have been satisfied with just seeing Primoz Brezec come in and bobble the ball out of bounds for old time’s sake (ahhhh, Primoz, you finally made me happy, when you walked out that door). Instead, we got a great game, a spirited effort, and a screw-job call at the end with the phantom interference to help us defer responsibility. And once again, the Observer omitted a crucial, painful detail in their wrap-up: Carroll got fouled on a drive that put us up 91-88 with 1:45 left in regulation, and then he MISSED the free-throw that would have made it a 4-point game. If Carroll, a career 85% shooter from the foul line, sinks that free-throw, Chauncey Billups’ ensuing 3-pointer would have still left Detroit trailing by 1. And because that was the last time anyone scored in regulation, we could have arguably won (I’m sorry, I’m like Bubbles’ counselor in The Wire; I want to bring all this pain to light, it’s the only way we’ll heal).

Oh well, good thing I believe in moral victories…

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/10

Ahhhhhh…Ummmmmmmm…Huh. I’m speechless. I need to go on autopilot and throw out a bunch of random sports clich├ęs while I try to recover from my shock: “At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, the last time I checked, that’s why you play the game, it is what it is, I don’t believe in moral victories, TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO!”

Phew! Okay, I’m back.

Last night’s victory over Boston in Boston was the equivalent of Barack Obama losing the New Hampshire primary…to Dennis Kucinich. Where to start? How about Paul Pierce’s comment afterward: “It was one of Charlotte's best games.” Yes it was, Paul, in the same way that “Come On Eileen” was “one of” Dexys Midnight Runners’ best songs. In fact, I might be going out on a limb here, but I’d argue that it was the best game we've played this year (narrowly edging out that victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in November).

It’s sad and petty of me, but you know what made it even better? Listening to Tommy Heinsohn descend into madness. In the span of 2 hours or so, he turned into Colonel Kurtz. It’s almost mean-spirited, because when the Celtics get creamed, Heinsohn becomes something of a sympathetic monster—you almost feel like you’re laughing at a handicapped guy. Tommy blamed the refs (specifically Ken Mauer), Ray Allen’s injury, Glen “Big Baby” Davis’s injury, and—laughably—the Celtics’ three off-days for their loss. Pretty much everything but Jessica Simpson was responsible for this one, according to poor Tommy. The only credit he’d give to the other side went to Nazr Mohammed, of all people, although even this was delivered in classic Heinsohnian fashion: he actually had to ask play-by-play Mike Gorman who this “kid” was, despite the fact that Mohammed is 30 and playing in his tenth season. Tommy also capped off a memorable night with the gem, “Jeff McInnis hasn’t played an inch of defense!” Um, is that like the "inch of respect" we all apparently owe Roger Clemens? I said a few days ago that unlike Red Kerr, Tommy at least uses words in his commentary—but I didn’t go so far as to say those words made any sense.

Anyway, as much fun as it is poking fun at Tommy, it’s even more fun to bask in the glow of two straight victories. And on that note, let’s not underestimate the significance of crushing the Nets just one night prior. As much as the Bobcats drive me crazy, I would still rather root for them over teams like the Nets. As crappy as they are, I’ve never, EVER seen our Bobcats put forth a garbage effort like the Nets did on Tuesday. By far the most interested looking guy for New Jersey was poor Lawrence Frank. Even scarier for NJ? The second-most energetic guy was Josh Boone. Hey, what happened to Nenad Kristic? Has anyone heard from him? And what about Marcus Williams? He didn’t get caught stealing computers out of the Nets' HR department or something, did he? As for those on the court, Vince Carter was at his sulkiest, and even better for us, he shot about as well as that kid bursting from the kitchen in Pulp Fiction: Carter made an abhorrent 5-of-15 field goals.

Still, given the way we’ve played, the Nets victory was impossible to enjoy until the very end. I kept waiting for the Wile E. Coyote moment, which I was pretty sure had happened with about 4 minutes to go in the third. Gerald Wallace drove home an alley-oop to put us up by 19, New Jersey called a timeout, and right on schedule, there it was: McInnis doing a playful little pirouette by the bench right before they cut to commercial. That’s it, I thought, there’s the smile, we’re screwed. Sure enough, right off the timeout, Richard Jefferson made an unopposed dunk, Mohammed turned it over, and Bostjan Nachbar drilled a 3-pointer. But that was it. After Jason Collins hit a free throw, we pretty much traded baskets from there on out.

“We hadn't had a chance to have one of those kind (sic) of games all year long, really,” Coach Sam Vincent said after the game. I’m not quite sure what he meant by that—isn’t every game a chance to have one of those kinds of games? Also, in a perfect world, I really wish that Michael Jordan having any sort of contact with the players—as he apparently did prior to this game—wouldn’t be so newsworthy. I mean, seriously, isn’t this what he’s supposed to be doing? It reminds me of that headline from The Onion a few weeks back, that one that went something like, “George Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Work.” But whatever, I’m really in no mood to complain…

Onto Boston, and man, that crowd was rocking. Is this how they normally sound? Maybe I’ve just gotten used to all those ghost-town home games we’ve had, but they were like the Soviet crowd at the Balboa-Drago fight. Once again, there was no way I was stupid enough to start get excited—no matter how long we stayed in this one. Paul Pierce was capable of beating us all by himself last year, forget about having KG and Jesus S. by his side. Plus, Rajon Rondo is a walking optical illusion. He’s listed as 6’-1”, 171, but I swear that’s +/- six inches depending on the camera angle. And even when we’re able to contain a team’s stars, we have this tremendous knack for allowing journeymen to put up legendary numbers. That’s why, in the second quarter, I was not in the least bit surprised to see a lineup of Eddie House, Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen, James Posey and Scott Pollard (who, in a remarkably short period of time, went from looking like a gutter punk to one of my uncles) giving us all we could handle, stretching out a 4-point lead to 9.

Thank goodness they put Garnett and Pierce back in! Otherwise, we probably would have lost. Instead, Nazr was illmatic under the hoop, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 boards (of course, in the twisted mind of Coach Vincent, this probably means he’s now destined to spend the next two weeks on the bench). Meanwhile, Gerald Wallace lately seems as confused about how to score as he is about how to wear his hair. Fortunately, everything he tries seems to be falling: drives, mid-range jumpers, 3-pointers. But the man of the night (and of the past several) was J-Rich, who can miss all the free throws he wants as long as he keeps putting up 34, 9, and 64%. I don’t want to go overboard, but if we keep this up, 15 wins for the year won’t seem like such a pipe dream…

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/07

The headline in today’s Charlotte Observer read “2nd-Half Meltdown Gives Familiar Look to 7th Loss in 8 Games.” Actually, whoever wrote that was not being entirely accurate, unless they meant the “2nd-half of the last half of the fourth quarter.” We had a 7-point lead with three minutes to go and the ball. As Mike once strategized in Dazed and Confused, all we had to do was "get one or two shots in there, play defense, and wait." The Bucks didn’t have Michael Redd, neither of these teams is going anywhere, and I’m sure everyone wanted to get to the locker room to find out what happened with NFL Wild Card games. This sucker was done!

Instead, Okafor made an incredibly stupid foul on the lumbering-but-really-slow Andrew Bogut, who made both the field goal and the foul shot. Then Gerald Wallace began cranking out turnovers like they were Police Academy movies. Wallace lost the ball in just thirteen seconds for a breakaway Mo Williams layup, then did it again a minute later, and yet again a minute later. If only he’d stopped at Turnover 4: Citizens on Patrol, but instead he continued it all the way out to Turnover 8 (Mission to Moscow?)!! We ended up making only one more field goal in that last three minutes to complete a loss so terrible I really thought one of my apartment neighbors was going to call the cops—so pronounced was my screaming.

This latest string of collapses has something of a Wile E. Coyote feel to it. Remember poor Wile? He would always come up with some contraption, usually involving some sort of rocket pack. He’d get on the thing, launch off, and there’d be an adjustment period in which he’d struggle to get control of it. Then, once he got it down, he’d get a kind of confident look on his face, and then he would always, ALWAYS look right at the camera and sort of smile like, “hey, I think I’m finally on the right track,” and that’s EXACTLY when you knew he was about to smash right into the side of a cliff. This is how it’s been with us during this streak of blown leads. Whether it’s the second, third, or fourth quarter, we get off to a shaky start, and then pull even, and then take a nice lead, usually into the double-digits. And then either us or the opponents call for a timeout, and as the telecast goes to commercial, the last thing you see is one of our guys (Hollins, McInnis, etc.), looking into the camera and sort of smiling…

If there was any consolation to these latest two symphonies of destruction, it’s that the Nets and Bucks announcers were pleasantly vanilla. The Bucks announcers were also of the ludicrously optimistic sort. Early on one of them actually said something about this game being crucial for both teams’ playoff chances (ha!), and later on the other said—and this was great—“Some nights, two struggling teams can put on a great show. This is one of those nights.” I damned near fell out of my chair laughing at this bit of poetry, because at the time it was midway through the 4th quarter and the score was only 78-74, not to mention the Arena was so empty it was some stray dogs and barbed wire fences away from resembling a Cold War-era, East European ghetto.

More bittersweetness: after the loss to the Nets on Friday, I flipped over to the Hornets-Warriors game. In sharp contrast to our finishes, you should have seen Chris Paul close this thing out. He was Mo Rivera. With eight minutes to go, the Hornets clinging to a six-point lead, and on the road at the deadly Oracle, CP3 just took control. Commanding every possession, he hit two runners in a row, assisted Chandler on a FG-and-one, assisted Mo-Pete on two treys in a row, then hit two jumpers in a row, and capped it off by dropping in a layup-and-one. Even though the Warriors answered on just about every one of their possessions, Paul had stretched the lead out to 18 at that point, with just a minute to play. 11 points, 3 assists, no turnovers, drive home safely. I go from that to watching Jeff McInnis bringing it up for us in crucial spots last night...Jay's right: when you're used to filet mignon, it's kinda hard going back to Hamburger Helper.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/04

How many times are we going to see the Bobcats take a large 3rd quarter lead and then fail miserably down the stretch? At least one more time, apparently, because they did it again against the Bulls on Wednesday. Do you realize that with that loss, we now account for a quarter of Chicago’s wins this season? Suffering through a 3rd straight Cats-Bulls game with that crack Chicago announce team just made it all the better. Here’s a sampling of Red Kerr’s “commentary”: “Ohhh! Awww, that’s a foul, ref! C’mon, (Andres) Noc(ioni)! Oh, that was traveling! Awww!” I’m not exaggerating this at all—this is how he sounds, like he’s actually playing the game rather than analyzing it. At least the horrible Tommy Heinsohn uses mostly words; Kerr spends the whole time grunting. I really don’t have anything else to say about Kerr—it’s like criticizing Jeff McInnis or Britney Spears. He’s absolutely terrible and it’s not even funny anymore. I’m tapping out, NBA League Pass, until you guys make it a rule that the telecasts split up the announce crews evenly, like home and away games for teams. If (god forbid) we have to play the Bulls another three times this year, we should get our announce crews all three times to even it out.

What in the world is Sam Vincent thinking? Jeff McInnis starting at the 1? No Nazr at center? Why?! I can only guess that Vincent read that ESPN.com article by Lake and McKitish and decided he better bench Mohammed before he starts to suck. Coach, you have to wait for him to play poorly first. Haven’t we learned the dangers of preemptive strikes in this country?

Apparently not, because why else would we go small against Chicago when it’s been well documented that they have no big-time low-post presence?!? This whole thing played out like Airplane!, when they ask that guy, “Shouldn’t we turn on the runway lights?” and he goes, “No, that’s just what they’d be expecting us to do.” Of course Joakim Noah’s going to look like Moses Malone when the biggest guy out there is Okafor.

Look, if Sam Vincent was a well-established coach with some cache to burn, that’d be one thing. It’s why we forgive Radiohead when they put out Kid A, Jay-Z when he does Kingdom Come, or HBO with John From Cincinnati. These are credible geniuses who have the right to stray from the formula every now and then (sometimes it even works too—I challenge you to find a more potently beautiful song than G’N’R’s “November Rain,” and look where it is on that album: just two songs removed from “Back Off Bitch.”) But if those artists had STARTED with those albums, they’d never have gotten work in the first place. Jay-Z would still be slinging crack in Bed-Stuy, and Radiohead would be panhandling in the subway with acoustic versions of “Creep” and “Paranoid Android.”

Anyway, 17 offensive boards for the Bulls. I repeat: seventeen. That's the worst use of the number "17" since that Winger song. How about Gerald Wallace out-assisting Jeff McInnis 8-to-5? Andres Nocioni and Aaron Gray in a race to see whose haircut could most resemble Anton Chigurh’s? Kerr’s grunting? Noah’s screaming practically every time he jumps? I can only imagine him in the gym lifting weights (here’s a scary thought: what if he had a baby with Monica Seles? Would cutting the umbilical chord alone shatter the hospital window glass?). These are among the many stats and images that will haunt me from Wednesday’s loss. And to think, we were actually leading for a good portion of this game. In fact, we had a 72-64 edge with 5:35 to go in the 3rd. But then the Bulls went on such a frenetic tear, that instead of Johhny Kerr, the play-by-play should have been done by Ghostface Killah. We only scored 22 point in the final 17 minutes. Oh yeah, it was that bad.

Next up: the NJ Nets. Oh dear lord. The Izod Center. Vince Carter. I may be paranoid, but not an android, and this could be brutal. In fact, I’m already sobbing softly to myself just thinking about it. The panic, the vomit, the panic, the vomit. God loves his children, god loves his children…

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 1/02

Whew! Sorry it’s been so long since I wasted your time with yet another pointless column, but I’ve been busier than Digital Underground rappers in a Burger King bathroom. First it was entertaining the in-laws, who were visiting the Big Apple for the very first time. We showed them around all the usual places, and you just can’t imagine how much fun we had. It was so much fun that I enjoyed those precious few minutes I wasn’t stuck in some mobbed tourist trap by holding a gun to my head and talking myself out of pulling the trigger. Once we finally got them on a flight back home with “I (heart) New York” merchandise bursting merrily out of their luggage, I then had to prepare my wife for her first day of working for PETA, where she’s about to start a rewarding career bombing fur farms and setting fire to Wilson’s Leather outlets. All of this yule-tide activity has left me with no time to write and stretched thinner than Johnny Depp’s singing voice in Sweeney Todd.

Or maybe I should say “thinner than the Bobcats’ bench.” My oh my, since the Knicks victory, we’ve gone one-and-five, and once promising guys like Jared Dudley and Ryan Hollins are now distant memories, like the movie Lions for Lambs. The only notable sub recently has been Matt Carroll, and only in the sense that he’s been terrible. Even the Nazr Mohammed parade has been thoroughly peed on. In their “Are You For Real?” column on ESPN.com, Guy Lake and Brian McKitish both took turns bashing him—it was like the final scene in Death Proof. Darn it, I’d been so pleased with Nazr too. I mean, no one’s going to confuse him with Hakeem Olajuwon, but no one’s going to confuse him Primoz Brezec either—and that was the whole point. Apparently, though, Mohammed has a history of starting fast with new teams before regressing severely, at least according to Lake and McKitish. And all I can do on that one is tip my cap to them, because quite honestly I haven’t followed Nazr’s career that closely. And if they’re right, I appreciate the warning.

If there’s been any bright spot, it’s Jason Richardson, who’s finally been playing up to his contract. In the last 5 games, he’s put up 28.8 points on 51% shooting. But even with him it’s not all rosy and cheerful little Juno-style acoustic songs: the dude’s only hitting 66% of his free-throws this year. And worse: his career free-throw percentage is just 69%. You know what? I somehow feel personally responsible for this, because I had no idea the dude couldn’t shoot foul shots. When I learned we were getting J-Rich, I knew that the guy was a gunner, and so I just naturally assumed he could both get to and score from the foul line. It didn’t even occur to me to look. I wish I had, because I would have said something. Now I feel like I bought some used car that I thought was good until I realized that it had no heater or air conditioning. Oh well, like Kanye said, everything he’s not makes him everything he is, right? And that would be an $11 million scorer who can’t shoot free throws. He’s basically the basketball equivalent of Pedro Cerrano.

Similarly, Ryan Hollins…oy vey. Do you realize the guy’s 7 feet tall and can’t rebound? How did this one slip through the cracks? Once again, this one's on me, because I didn’t notice it myself until the Hornets game, when I saw everyone from David West to Chris Paul jumping over, around, and through him to clean the boards. Often the ball would bounce directly to him and he STILL couldn’t come down with it. Even Primoz would at least get a hand on it and lose it out of bounds, but with Hollins it’s like his arms disappear entirely. Puzzled, I looked at the stats, and there it was: 2 rebounds per. And then I looked at John Hollinger’s profile of him, and sure enough: “non-factor on the boards.” Wasn’t there some highly scientific study done last year about how the one skill that transfers the most consistently from college to the NBA is rebounding? I’d pull up Hollins’ UCLA stats, but to tell you the truth, I’m too afraid. But the point is, did anyone on the staff bother to check this before we drafted him?

Add all this to Raymond Felton’s 5.5 assists-per-game and 39% shooting for the month of December, and you’re going to get exactly what we got: depressing beat downs by the likes of the Bucks, Magic, Hornets, etc. In the Magic game, I actually spent most of the game debating whether the correct phrase is "steamrolled" or "steamrolled over," as in, "Orlando steamrolled (over) us." I'm still not sure. But anyway, all of it’s made even more dreary when you consider these losses are mostly at home and with no significant injuries to our roster. Opponents are shooting 46.5% on us, fourth-worst in the league. And when they miss, they’re averaging 12 offensive boards a game—tied for 7th worst in the league. Forget playing us like a violin, they’re playing us like Guitar Legend by getting open shots and getting second chances.

At least we ended on a bright note by beating the Pacers…except it wasn’t on League Pass, which makes us 4-0 on games not televised in the NYC-area. Yay. I’m so bummed out I’m practically jealous of the Knicks right now: at least lots of people CARE that they suck. We’re like Kenya to their Pakistan. How could I feel any worse right now? Wait—honey, the in-laws are back home, right?