And it Took Five

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Today I sat out a game and watched the guys run full court. As I watched them run back and forth, I couldn’t help but think about why Naismith decided to pick five as the number of people on a team.

It could very well be that the Dr. himself didn’t really give much thought to the number five and the number of players was arbitrary and based solely on the physical size of the playing area. However, the more I thought about it, the more I began to see correlations between five player teams in basketball and five player teams found in work, social, and family settings.

In many areas of my life, I see fives. I have five good friends, five work relationships that take precedence over the others, and five family bonds that together construct the foundation of my life. I probably live by five major principles, find five different types of jokes funny, have five different beers, like five things about women, and hate five things about people.

Okay, maybe that’s overkill. But seriously, I can see where there are roles filled in my life in groups of five. Let’s run through ‘em.

point guard

The point guard is a handler. They are involved in everything, handling many issues over short periods of time. The distribute, communicate, lead, and assist others. A strong point guard is an important part of progress because they improve everyone around them on the offensive end, which is symbolic of the future.

Point guards are not without weakness. In fact, despite being able to process so many things at once and having such a strong influence on those around them, they are very vulnerable at times because they often overcommit and can overexert themselves on the offensive end. What makes them good at establishing the future makes them weak on defense, which I see as symbolic of security.

shooting guard

The shooting guard is often the star of the show. They thrive on attention, love the thrill of danger, and they live for taking the last shot. They aren’t afraid of failure, and will dive into battle against even the most powerful of enemies. In their greatest moments, they far exceed anyone’s expectations and can reach levels higher than any other team member. The shooting guard is important because it can inspire through its flashes of brilliance.

The ephemeral nature of the shooting guard’s brilliance provides balance. Life is up and down for a shooting guard. Where there can be such high peaks, there can also be deep valleys — shooting slumps — or depression — where things don’t go right, and that same killer instinct and fealesses can be easily transformed into doubt. Shooting guards depend heavily on the rest of their team for encouragement, support, and friendship (defense).

small forward

The small forward is there when you need them, and they do what you need them to do. They are about timing, placement, and balance. In all circles, the small forward is the utility person. They fill the gaps by providing encouragement, listening, leading, or producing where needed.

There aren’t any true peaks for the small forward. They would not be able to do any one thing very well, but the small forward is above average at everything. For this reason, they depend on the greatness of others, and feel more comfortable in a secondary role.

power forward

The power forward is about strength. They are the strongest team member, and that makes them good at getting great position (symbolic of determination and discipline). They can power through obstacles (other team’s defense) and also play great defense against people bigger than them. To me this correlates to being able to provide support during hard times.

The power forward lacks speed and quickness. While they are extremely powerful when on task, they cannot multi-task efficiently or keep tabs on everything without letting things fall through the cracks. They are focused on the present and generally do not see too far ahead (not visionary). They rely on shooting guards and point guards for that kind of contribution (outside shooting).

center

The center is a mountain. Mountains are always there. They are consistent, and you know what you’ll get from them. They perform day in and day out and don’t complain, mouth out, or try to extend past limits they are well aware of. The center excels at blocking shots (nullifying insults with reason), getting rebounds (helping the team regain composure), and helping on defense (providing support when others fail). The center is a passive leader, and leads through its example of loyalty, discipline, strength, and consistency.

The center is not the most offensive-minded player. Because of their lack of speed, they do not create their own shots, they get in position and do their thing when called upon. They are soldiers in the paint, but simple-minded soldiers. They rely upon their faster teammates to create offense (form ideas for the future).

putting it all together

Each team member has a strength and a weakness. Typically where one excels, another does not and vice versa. Through teamwork, weaknesses can be nullified and the team can accomplish things they could never do on their own. Naturally these roles bleed into each other — for example you could have a well balanced shooting guard and a “star-of-the-show” small forward. It’s all the same difference, though — somehow everyone sucks, and when they suck, they need someone else’s strength to pick up the team and maintain progress.

Despite the possibility that Naismith just chose 5 for the hell of it, I do believe that the number 5 is significant here. Coincidentally, Confucianism is founded upon 5 principles, the 5th planet is the solar system is the largest, we have 5 fingers on each hand, 5 toes on each foot, the human interpretation of stars has 5 points, and the Torah has five books. The list goes on and on — read more about five here.

Ultimately, what basketball has taught me is that nobody is perfect, and because of that it makes the relationships in our lives the deciding factors in the journey of life. If we cooperate with our teammates, we can accomplish things we never thought we could. If we try to do everything ourselves we will undoubtedly fail. Naismith may not have been preaching that, but I’m sure he wouldn’t be disappointed with the message I got:

Love others; without them you would lose.

You’re Not My Hero

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Every once in a while someone comes along and inspires me. Kobe Bryant is not that person.

Between the adultery, the empty tattooed gesture, a $7 million diamond apology and the inexplicable strutting he does on the (basketball) court — I start to wonder why people idolize this man we see on tv who wears purple and yellow on gameday but should really be wearing a shirt with a scarlet A on its front.

I don’t know what happened in Eagle — and honestly I’m beginning to not care anymore. I’m joining just about everyone else who is jaded with the hype, the constant buzz about another fallen media angel in the world of overpaid sports icons. Psychoanalysts could have a field day with this. Maybe Kobe is a target, a victim. Could be that the woman is making it up — or maybe he actually did assault her and rape her — or maybe a little bit of both?

Fact is, whatever happens, the larger problem will still be there. People seem to be “okay” with the adultery part. Oh, so all he did was cheat on his wife — no big deal. Yea yea, he’s forgiven, it was the hotel clerk’s fault for coming on to him.

What are you, nuts? Come on — this is another item on a long list of things that are constantly pissing me off. It’s like nothing is ever anybody’s fault anymore, and even if it is, they still get off easy if they say the right things, or know the right people, or just plain have too much money for their own good.

Fifty years ago, Kobe would have had his ass kicked by that girls’ father and there wouldn’t have been a trial about it. Just go straight for the shotgun. His money and his blanket of lawyers give him a shield against any real consequences. Ask OJ — you can plain just kill your wife and get away with it if you distort the truth enough to confuse the shit out of 12 people.

Meanwhile, in DC our idiotic president is laughing his ass off. Sports, the great diversion for the masses has once again won our attention and we continue to ignore political issues that affect us all. Just about the only time we are exposed to the truth is when we fill our gas tanks — and in Oregon we are even deprived of that — we have attendents do it so we can keep listening to our radios in our oversized inefficient SUVs.

So the president, basketball stars, gas station attendents — none of them deserve to be my hero. I look at the honest teacher who makes shitty pay but doesn’t care because they love the kids — or the nurse who takes extra time to talk to her patients in an attempt to take away their pain — or the programmers who work for free everyday in an effort to make the world a better place. They are my heroes. I can salute them — they are way more badass — and I haven’t even seen them in Sprite commercials.

Kobe’s good at basketball — but he gets an F for fatherhood, husbandry, leadership by example, and responsibility. You too, OJ and W. You guys suck ass.

Manufactured Love

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One day I’ll wake up and read a headline in the paper, shrug it off, and keep scanning for something important. The headline will read that at 3 P.M. Eastern Time, Hallmark was awarded an official patent by the United States Government for inventing love.

Love and appreciation now have retail prices. Ask anybody at DeBeers and they’ll tell you that a diamond is forever. What about love? I think most people see it as ephemeral because it’s not really worth any money.

Indeed, the best things in life are free. It’s the accidental fart on a first date, your friend spilling root beer all over the place, running into a sliding glass door in front of all of your friends, and knowing that you’d die for the ones you love and vice versa.

Problem is, the best things in America cost lots and lots of money. On a daily basis we are bombarded with greed, vanity and many other values that try to pry us away from the right path.

Holidays like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day are signs of a deeper problem. Americans have this need to justify their ignorance by overglorifying relatively unimportant things. Sports, expensive jewelry, ridiculous cars (like the H2) are just a few of the things we occupy ourselves with.

Not to say that having nice things and driving a nice car or watching sports is bad. I’d be a hypocritical asshole if I condemned all that completely — what I mean is that those things should be ancillary, not paramount. You can drive a nice car, etc., but don’t lose touch with those free things in life that are infinitely more important — like your friends, like your family, or what you believe in.

Much like other distractions, Hallmark holidays really hit me as a band-aid for a massive head wound. America has a huge gaping hole in the middle of itself, and it’s bleeding. We declare holidays, but don’t understand what they really mean. We invent new technology, but don’t know how to use it wisely. We have power and luxury but don’t know how to be responsible with it.

Maybe we need to slow down. Back to basics with America. How about loving our mothers everyday before feeling obligated to declare a holiday for them? Surely 365 is greater than 1. How about learning how to say meaningful words before buying devices that allow us to say whatever we want to whoever we want anytime we want? And diamonds? More often than not they are just another item to quantify during divorce proceedings.

Hallmark will never be able to patent anything in my life that a person can’t hold or place a price on. For that, I am grateful. I hope that 2 Sundays from now everybody will love their mothers just as much as they do tomorrow. Sometimes it’s fun to show how much you care on non-holidays too.