larry and isiah

Editor's Note: Originally, I was going to publish a single entry listing the players I hate most. However, I apparently can't write anything short, so it's going to be a series of posts.

As most of you already know, there are plenty of reasons to hate Isiah Thomas, from his one-man decimation of the CBA to how he mismanaged the Knicks into a hilarious running joke.

Oh, wait, that last feat almost made me like him again.

Still, my enmity for the so-called "Baby Faced Assassin" goes all the way back to May 30, 1987 when, after the Celtics had eliminated the Pistons in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Isiah responded to rookie teammate Dennis Rodman's claim that Larry Bird was overrated because of his skin color by uttering the following very unfortunate statement:

"I think Larry is a very, very good basketball player. An exceptional talent, but I have to agree with Rodman. If he were black, he'd be just another good guy."

His dumbass statement ignited an instant firestorm. As dumbass statements often do.

Now, looking back, the adult me can understand why Isiah jammed a sweaty foot in his mouth and proceeded to choke on it. After all, his team had just lost to a hated rival in a brutal playoff series during which a teammate was punched in full view of an official without the offending player getting ejected or even called for a foul, and he himself had probably cost his team the series by throwing one of the most ill-advised inbounds passes of all time.

I can feel the crackling frustration even through the mists of time.

That said, 12-year-old me wasn't nearly as forgiving. As far as I was concerned, Isiah had committed an unforgivable blasphemy. To the adolescent me, Larry Bird was the Basketball God. And nobody takes a whiz on Basketball God without an instant and immediate death by lightning strike. Nobody.

Of course, Isiah didn't help matters by not just saying, "I was frustrated and made a verbal poop," and leaving it at that. He claimed the remark was made "sarcastically and humorously."

Said Isiah: "In print, you don't get the laughter. In print, you don't get the sarcasm. In print, you get what you get."

In print you don't get the laughter. Or complete double rainbows. You only get pure, unfiltered, undiluted honesty (read that: idiocy).

"My mistake was in joking in a manner and with someone who did not fully understand that I was joking. I'm really hurting about this."

Poor Isiah. Sad face for him, everybody.

Zeke's comments were so clearly bullshit that he then went on to make a clumsy commentary on racism and stereotypes in sports:

"The big controversy isn't about my saying professional athletes are stereotyped. The controversy is that I said Larry Bird, if he was black, would be just another good guy. But I think you would all agree that the stereotypes do exist.

"Larry definitely had to work hard to get where he is at, but so many times it's been said about black athletes that their talent is 'God-given' or that it's 'natural ability.' I had to work just as hard to get where I am. It's not God-given or instinctive. Basketball is a game where you do things over and over again. When someone makes a great play it's not a matter of instinct, but how quickly you can recall."

If only he had stopped there. But, of course, he didn't:

"What I was referring to was not so much Larry Bird, but the perception of stereotypes about blacks. When Bird makes a great play, it's due to his thinking, and his work habits. It's all planned out by him. It's not the case for blacks. All we do is run and jump. We never practice or give a thought to how we play. Magic and Michael Jordan and me, for example, we're playing only on God-given talent, like we're animals, lions and tigers, who run around wild in the jungle, while Larry's success is due to intelligence and hard work."

Lions and tigers. Running wild in the jungle. Rawr.

Isiah still wasn't finished:

"Blacks have been fighting that stereotype about playing on pure instinct for so long, and basically it still exists -- regardless of whether people want to believe it or not. Maybe I was more sensitive to it because Boston has more white players than any other pro team, and maybe because it's so hard to win in Boston Garden. I feel that it's not so much the fouls the referees call there, but the ones they don't call.

"Like the punches that Parish hit Laimbeer with. I guarantee you that if it was in Atlanta, and Tree Rollins did that to Laimbeer, Rollins is thrown out of the game so fast you wouldn't believe it."

So the Celtics had too many whites and therefore Parish, a black player, was allowed to pummel Laimbeer, a white player, with no penalty. Such was the amazing Bizarro logic of Isiah Thomas.

Hey, again, adult me can understand what he was getting at. But 12-year-old me -- and most people following basketball at the time -- construed Isiah's comments as whining at best and racist (or reverse racist) at worst. Beaten by a better team, unable to go down with dignity and respect, he blindly attacked a man who was, at the time, considered the best and most beloved player in the league. Then flopped all over himself trying to talk his way out of it.

Somewhat ironically, Bird himself could have cared less about Isiah's comments. To help diffuse the situation, Bird appeared with Isiah at a press conference and basically gave the press a big "whatever."

Said Bird: "If what he said doesn't bother me, it shouldn't bother anybody. He's my friend and if he said he was joking around, I believe him."

Even after Larry's presidential-style pardon, Isiah couldn't stop whining:

"It was definitely one of the worst days of my life. I lost a game, was accused of being a racist and I'm a bad guy now."

That woe-is-me, it's-not-my-fault attitude has followed Isiah the rest of his life. Mismanage the Raptors? Not my fault. Destroy the CBA? Not my fault. Fired as coach of the Pacers? Larry was getting back at me. Accused of sexual harassment? Not guilty. Mismanage the Knicks into NBA oblivion? I actually did a pretty good job there. Accidental drug overdose? It was my daughter.

The saddest (or, depending on your outlook, funniest) part of all this? Isiah is still taking swipes at Larry all these years later:

"I have no problem saying this at all. [Larry and Magic were] 6-(feet)-9 and Jordan was 6-6 and a half. If they were all 6-1, it wouldn't even be a question. They wouldn't even fucking rate. If they were all my size, shit, they wouldn't even be talked about.

"I beat the shit out of them when they were that big. If we were all the same size, fuck. Make them 6-1 and let's go on the court."

It's actually the ultimate irony that, decades after complaining the accomplishments of black athletes were overlooked due to their physical attributes, Isiah completely minimized Bird's (not to mention Magic's and MJ's) accomplishments...because of their physical attributes.

And that's why I hate the guy.

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I'm not trying to copy MJ's swagger. It's just that I've been out of action for a while and now I'm back.

Hi, everybody.

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to be posting a series of personal Worst Ofs. The top ten players I hate, the top ten teams I hate, the top ten playoff series I hated. On Friday, assuming people are interested, I'm going to run a mail bag-type post. So leave your questions here and I'll have 'em answered on Friday.


Royal Ivey. Not to be confused with the ivy that grows on royalty.

Thanks to the complete and total lack of NBA-related news, this is one of the few chances for a lacktion ledger regular like Royal Ivey to be interviewed by Jonathan Abrams for an article on Grantland. He's going back to school like Rodney Dangerfield! (Except he's, you know, still alive.)

Some highlights:
“I actually just signed papers to become an undergraduate-student coach, so I’ll be helping out this year.”
Huzzah! He's teaching the next generation of players how to effectively fill out an NBA roster by having a career average of 3.5 points per game. That's important. Someone's gotta be that guy who plays for five teams in six years. (Well, assuming we ever see another NBA game played in our lifetimes.)
Grantland:Do you get any double takes from students or teacher by being in class again?
"Seriously? You think people recognize me? Even I don't know what I look like! I always have to carry around this GQ article Profile in Obscurity about me!"

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Top ten things David Stern is doing instead of working on a new CBA:

Number 10: Getting offended by Chinese jokes on Basketbawful

Number 9: Counting money

Number 8: Calling Larry and Magic to inquire about a 17th reunion tour. Getting a dismissive dial tone from both.

Number 7: Calling Disneyworld's animatronic imagination engineers (or "animagineers") about hand-waving wax versions of Larry and Magic to appear with him at all public appearances.

Number 6: Calling Disneyworld's cryogenic department to determine if Larry and Magic's actual corpses could be used.

Number 5: Calling a hitman to inquire if he could "make his Larry / Magic fantasy happen sooner rather than later."

Number 4: Answering questions asked of him by the FBI agents at his door.

Number 3: Calling hitman to see if he "does Feds." Hit man asks if he means Kevin Federline, quickly says he will do it for free, and hangs up. Kevin Federline found dead next day.

Number 2: Playing golf with Kyrie Irving and Jimmer Fredette. Asking them if they feel up to being the "new faces of the NBA." Giving each a copy of When the Game was Ours, signed by him.

And the number one thing David Stern is doing instead of working on a new CBA:


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Top ten things overheard in the stands of the Georgetown / Chinese brawl:

Number 10: “They do realize that ‘Break a Leg’ is a figure of speech, right?”

Number 9: “All these Chinese, and none of them is using Kung Fu?”

Number 8: “Oh my God, there are, like, a Billion of them!”

Number 7: “I can’t wait to see what fortune cookies say after this.”

Number 6: “That reminds me – I want to rent Braveheart when we get home.”

Number 5: “This is the goodwill tour? Who organized it? Chow Yun-Fat and Bill Laimbeer?”

Number 4: “Get my broker on the phone. Chinese cotton is about to get a whole lot pricier!”

Number 3: “I haven’t seen this much violence since the Kuomintang clashed with the CPC.”

Number 2: “After you brawl Chinese, you just want to brawl again an hour later.”

And the Number One thing overheard in the stands of the Georgetown / Chinese Brawl:


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By now, if you haven't seen it, you're under a rock. Let's face it, there's nothing more fun in today's society than pooping all over LeBron James. In this case, he's given us tons to poop on, as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would say.

Let's give the poor guy some credit. He's going around the world on a "goodwill" tour to entertain people in foreign lands. Very nice of him. And yet, given the large percentage of the U.S. population waiting to pounce on him at any misstep (does he deserve to be called basketball's Tiger Woods?), he's in one of those situations he just can't win. If he plays at full speed and effort against the Taiwanese players, he's a bully. If he plays them at half-speed, as he was, he risks getting jammed on by one of the amped-up little dudes, which is exactly what happened.

In defense of LeBron, he was fine up to a point. Yeah, he probably shouldn't have done the slow, repetitive, metronome dribble that allowed his defender to time a steal, but maybe he underestimated his opponent (sound familiar, 2011 Finals?).

And yeah, maybe he should have run harder to chase down the fast break, so he could give himself a better chance to block the shot, but maybe he was still underestimating his opponent (hello again, 2011 Finals).

Maybe he shouldn't have done those things, but honestly, that's all more than exusable, and perhaps even expected. He's in a foreign country trying to give some folks a thrill, and dominating their little team all night wouldn't be the most gracious behavior. So he relaxes here and there, and lets them have their fun.

But not TOO much fun.

The most revealing part of this video is not what happens before this dunk, but what happens after it. Not sure if LeBron expected to get dunked on, but after it happened, and the crowd went berzerk, LeBron went into...not sure what to call it...maybe we can have a contest to name it...for now, let's call it "LeBron mode." This is what LeBron does in response to big moments. Oh sure, he put on a 38-point clinic when he made that regular season return to Cleveland and got booed incessantly, but he was playing a LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers team, and he had a long time to emotionally prepare himself for that game.

But in big moments, when something happens and you instantly need to react, LeBron shrinks. Take the simple few seconds after the dunk in this video. LeBron goes through the seven deadly sins in one trip down the floor (ok, maybe just five - not sure lust and gluttony were involved):

1.) (:19) Envy - "That little man just dunked on me. The crowd is going wild. I think they may like him better than I do. I wish I was him."

2.) (:22) Greed - "Give me that ball."

3.) (:25) Pride - "Watch me go behind my back, little man."

4.) (:27) Sloth - "Ok, kinda lost control of the ball, so, ah hell, I'll just travel with it and..."

5.) (:29) Wrath - "...toss it out bounds just to show you people I'm not really trying."

It is the reaction that damns LeBron in this video. It smacks of panic, an inability to process and handle the moment, and ego over logic (there you are again, 2011 Finals. Hi, how you been?).

And finally, to show that he is definitely, officially not trying, LeBron gives up an uncontested three after the turnover. So, even the Taiwanese version of LeBron quits when the going gets tough. Was the player shooting that three named Dirk?

P.S.: Notice how they put all the teeny, tiniest guys on LeBron's team to try to even things out. Don't the Taiwanese know that LeBron doesn't want to have to shoulder the load for the team? Where's D Wade?

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For those of us old fogies who were teens in the 80's, we remember Dennis Rodman vividly. He played basketball with reckless abandon - hardly an offensive force, but when it came to rebounding, defense, diving for loose balls, and psychological warfare, he was as good as they come.

It has, at times, been quite difficult to determine whether D-Rod's antics, both on and off the court, helped or hurt his legacy. The distractions included things like the various eye-catching hair color changes, dating Modonna, promoting his book Bad as I Wanna Be by declaring himself bi-sexual, donning a wedding dress, and marrying himself, and a brief marriage to Carmen Electra.

Did these antics that called so much attention to him outside of basketball demean his talents as a player, and render them less relevant? Or were his accomplishments on the court so impressive that the sideshow was less relevant? Chicken vs. egg.

Well, the NBA has had its say: Rodman is in the Hall of Fame, and his induction speech was perhaps more shocking than anything Dennis did in his playing days.

I remember hints of the "real" Dennis, from a time before he became the "show," when he had been known to cry when discussing the important people in his life. But this speech, this was more than that. This was a man far removed from the bigger-than-life, egotistical, unhinged spectacle he made of himself for so long. Oh sure, he had a glittery name and number 10 on his suit coat and all, but the man who spoke at this ceremony had something Dennis almost never allowed us to see - perspective, humility, and remorse. Impressive stuff from someone who has always been defined as a "role player," albeit one of the greatest role players of all time. Wouldn't it have been nice if Jordan had behaved like that for his ceremony?

But this isn't about M.J., or about trying to make him humble. You could more easily rip a ham bone out of a pit bull's mouth than humble M.J. This is about Dennis Rodman, and about marveling at something OTHER than his appearance or his staged theatre. Sure, he's covered in earrings and nose rings, and wearing a pimped up outfit. You've seen that side of him before, and it is hardly shocking or over-the-top these days (thanks to pop-culture precedents that he himself has set). What makes this speech shocking is a man willing to stand in front of his peers and the press and say things like: "I wish I had been a better father" or looking down at his mother and saying things like "Me and my mother have never gotten along" and "She kicked me out" and "I resented her" and "my mother rarely ever hugged me or my siblings....she didn't know how" and yet still make everything he's saying sound like a remorseful, respectful tribute to her.

My attempts to reconstruct it don't do it justice, so just watch. It is enough to simply say: D-Rod, even today, can still shock us. Good job, man. You may not be the most talented public speaker, but nobody can doubt your heart.

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I live in a town home in the suburbs of Chicago. It's somewhat difficult and even a little embarrassing to admit this because, by this stage of my life, I always thought I'd be living in a secret volcano lair or a fabulous underground bunker with nuclear capability.

Clearly I have failed at life.

Still, there are some advantages to living in a townhome. During the spring and summer months, I never have to mow or do any landscaping. During the winter months, people shovel my driveway and sidewalk for me. Once a year, the exterior wood on my house is repainted and the driveway is coated with sealant. And if the roof or aluminum siding needs to be replaced, it just happens, like magic.

There are also downsides. One might even call them "dark sides." The biggest downside is that my neighborhood is populated with a bunch of crotchety, joyless, late-middle-aged white people who haven't had fun in so long they've actually forgotten it exists. Either that or they think it's the work of Satan. This leads to fun little situations such as:

1. A few years ago, I was building a screen-accurate Ghostbusters proton pack in my garage. Usually, I did my work with the garage door closed, but one day I had the garage door open because I was painting and had recently given up inhaling toxic chemicals in enclosed spaces. I also had music playing on my car stereo for entertainment. As I was bent over my work, a neighbor from across the shared driveway strolled over with a big old smile on her face. By this point, I had lived in my town home for a couple years but hadn't met this neighbor, so I assumed she was taking the opportunity to introduce herself.

Au contraire, mon frère!

I said, "Hi there, I'm..."

But she cut me off, saying, "Excuse me, but I really need you to turn your music down."

"...Matt McH...huh, oh, uhm, what?" I stammered.

"Your music," she repeated, "I need you to turn it down. I'm trying to sleep."

"What? It's only," I checked my watch, "6:25 p.m."

Without missing a beat, she said, "Well, I get up early. And I can only sleep with my window open, and my window faces your house, and I really need you to turn your music down."

"Uhm, okay," I said. "I guess I'll do that."

"And I don't mean just right now," she continued. "Your music is always too loud."


"When you come home from work, you're playing your music too loud. In fact, any time you come into the driveway, your music is too loud."

I grimaced.

"Oh," she said, sounding genuinely saddened, "you're mad at me."

"Well," I said, "I've been living here for years and the only time you've ever bothered to come over here is when you're upset about how loud my music is. You didn't even say 'hello' or introduce yourself."

"Oh, right, I'm [whatever he name is]."

"Kind if late for that now," I replied.

"You don't understand," she said, "I'm a really nice person. I can loan you some tools if you need them, and I could even share some recipes with you."


"Do you need any tools?"

"I'll turn my music down," I said. "Nice to meet you."

2. There's an older man in my neighborhood who hates it when people speed. I mean, he really, really hates it. So much so that he posted a "Slow Down" sign in his side yard near the street and he regularly patrols the sidewalk while walking his miniature poodle. He uses his eyesight to determine whether people are speeding -- apparently his mind was replaced by a highly calibrated radar gun -- and then actually steps out into the street in front of moving traffic, raises the hand not holding his poodle's leash in a stopping gesture, and yells, "SLOOOOW DOOOWN!!"

And it gets better. He has actually laid speed traps in the road. Sticks, or debris, and one time he actually laid a board of old wood, all to slow people down. The free community newspaper has a police blotter, and an unnamed resident of my neighborhood is often listed as having called police about speeding motorists on his street. And one time there was a town meeting, and an unnamed resident of my neighborhood requested an increased police presence in the area to catch speeding motorists. I'm sure it was him. I'm also sure that every time there's a damn cop sitting in my neighborhood -- which is often -- he's the reason they're there.

So this is the garbage I have to deal with in suburbia. But wait. There's more. A few months back, I made the serious mistake of attending a town home association meeting. Supposedly, they were going to discuss the replacement of the deck / balcony structures attached to each home, which is something residents have to pay for themselves, so I wanted to find out how much I was going to have to pay and how soon. Not only did they not talk about the deck replacement -- it had been shelved until another meeting -- the entire meeting was spent discussing the "misuse" of a large grassy area in the neighborhood.

Here's the deal. There's a large grassy field in my neighborhood. For years, this area has been used by local kids as a soccer field. However, from the association's standpoint, there were two problems with this: 1) "local" did not mean "from the neighborhood" and 2) these children were Hispanic.

There was a lot of bullshit talk about how the kids were causing problems by leaving trash and "recklessly" kicking their soccer ball around. One woman said, "I was pushing my baby stroller, and their soccer ball almost hit me! They didn't even apologize!"

At this point, some guy stood up and said, "How would we know if they did apologize? A lot of those kids don't even speak English."

Note that he said "A lot of those kids don't even speak English" in the same way someone would say "That man supports the dark art of necromancy by eating babies! Live babies!"

This statement was followed up by someone grumbling, "If they're going to come to our country, they should be speaking our language." This idiot comment was met with murmurs of agreement.

All I could do was sit there in amazement at the ignorance of these people. We are in the 21st century, right? I didn't accidentally hop into a time machine and go back to the 1960s did I?

Eventually, the discussion moved into how to stop these Hispanic desperados from using our valuable resource, and I got up and walked out. I wanted no part of that. Within a week or so, signs went up all along the road next to this grassy field stating that it was for the use of town home association residents only. And these signs were combined with police enforcement. By month's end, that nice, lush, grassy field was being used by...

...absolutely nobody.

You know what? I liked seeing those kids playing soccer. There was a sense of community and real joy among them. Unfortunately, there were no white kids, and that apparently became a problem for the mostly white residents of my neighborhood. Now we have an empty field and a bunch of kids had to find another place to play. I wonder if they found one. I also wonder how long before somebody kicks them out of their new play space.

When I moved to this area, another apparent benefit was an outdoor basketball court nestled in a little park that has a playground and drinking fountain. I could walk three minutes and be playing basketball. Now, admittedly, I didn't play there very often. Obviously, it was only useful from late spring to early autumn, and I do prefer to play indoors at my gym or pickup league. But still, I went there occasionally.

The court was almost always full of kids playing basketball. Those kids were usually all black. And although that never mattered to me, it must have mattered to somebody. While driving by the court several times on my way here or there, I was surprised to see nobody playing pickup. One afternoon, I was going for a run and I stopped by to use the drinking fountain when I noticed...

...the basketball goals were gone. The court was still there, but the poles and baskets had been removed. At first I wondered if they were being replaced, until I noticed that the holes where the posts had been were filled in with concrete.

I did some calling around and found out that there had been so many complaints about the kids playing in that area -- they were loud and left too much litter around the court -- that the goals were removed. This was done, of course, to remove the kids.

Would the basketball goals had been removed if those noisy, littering kids had been white? There's no way to know, but I highly doubt it. This isn't the first time I've encountered something like this. When I first moved to the Chicago area, I got an apartment in Oak Park on the advice of Evil Ted. We discovered, to our dismay, that there were no outdoor courts in Oak Park, and that this was had been a conscious choice by the village government to keep out urban youths. And, as well all know, "urban youths" really meant "black youths."

I hate that fear and prejudice is slowly creating a world in which children aren't allowed or encouraged to play.

Well, of course, the lockout continues, and the most almost-intriguing thing that happened this summer is not Kobe maybe going to Turkey or Noah to France or Luol Deng to Britain. (Question: Luol Deng goes to Britain, and all of the sudden there's endless rioting in the streets - coincidence? I think not. I always knew that dude was up to no good.)

Yes, the most semi-interesting thing to happen this summer is Ron Artest changing his name to Metta World Peace. Leave it to Ron Ron to put a new spin on changing your name. He probably would have kept it simple, like changing his name to Ron Treinta y Siete, to reflect last year's jersey number (lucky for him Michael Jackson's Thriller didn't top the charts for 24-straight weeks. Woo-hah, that woulda been a tussle), or Ron Quince, to reflect his new-slash-old jersey number, but of course, Chad Johnson (now Chad Ochocinco) beat him to that idea. So Ron had to come up with something to make himself look like even more of a diva-slash-wacko than an NFL wide receiver.

Not an easy task.

But before I get all revved up about this supposed name change, I decided to determine if this new moniker goes beyond Ron just looking to fill his day with something other than XBox and weed by mumbling to a random reporter, "Hey, my name is Metta World Peace now."

So when I go to, I would assume I should be automatically redirected to, right? Nope. And It's still out there, waiting to be purchased. Give Google your money and you can have it. Go on. I dare ya. It'll be the best money you ever flushed down the toilet. I can just see you trying to call Ron's "people" on the phone:

You: "Guess what? I own the rights to, my friend. You want it? It's yours for 10 grand."

(whichever of Ron's posse you've managed to reach on the phone): "Yeah, um, Ron is now going by the name Lemonjello Fruitalicious. He had some lemon Jello today that he thought was, in his words, 'fruitalicious,' so that's his name now. You got the rights to"

You: (in a defeated stammer): "No."

(whichever of Ron's posse you've managed to reach on the phone): "Well I'm online right now and I just bought it. So kiss off, loser. Oh, and remember to visit for all your latest Ron Artest news, k?"

You: (whimper)


A word of advice to Ron: If you're going to do this, do it for real. Chad Ochocinco is, naturally, to be found at, and of course, he's got his wallpaper updated to read "WIDE RECEIVER NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS." (I'm surprised it doesn't also say "No longer with those f***ing Bengals" in fine print below that). Now, THAT'S a dude managing his brand, taking charge of his identity shifts with the gusto of Madonna and the Artist Formerly known as Prince.

But with you, Ron, this Metta World Peace thing just seems flung together, bro. Where's my official Web site? Where's my T-shirt? Where's my breakfast cereal?


Alas, all we have is, and I'm tempted to say this isn't actually Ron Ron's official site, given his curious musings page, which calls attention to the war in Afghanistan, water conservation policy, and deep sea oil drilling. Does Ron Artest really think about these things? I mean, I suppose it's possible. He clearly has a conscience, given his selfless decision to sell his Laker ring for charity.

But for some reason (or many reasons), I have this notion that Ron Artest isn't putting us on, and is actually this peculiar in private. I imagine him wandering around like the Tracy Jordan character in 30 Rock, saying stuff like "What is this, Horseville? Because I’m surrounded by naysayers. Wordplay!" and "I love this cornbread so much, I wanna take it behind a middle school and get it pregnant."

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Ron is actually a socially-conscious preppy boy who's just playing a role and pretending to be a little slow, just like Jessica Simpson (she's just pretending to be that way, right?). But I hope he's not. I hope he's 100% this nutty through and through. Why? Because we all know that a world without a trippy, wild-eyed Ron Artest would be a boring one indeed. If I can't look forward to Ron Ron next deciding to change his name to Mike Brown just to screw with his new coach, then what else do I have to look forward to?

Best future post-game press conference line ever:

"That was Mike Brown. Thank you, Coach. Coming up next, we have...uh...Mike Brown."

So heed my words, Basketball Player Formerly known as Ron Artest....

Listen to me now and believe me later, Lemonjello Fruitalicious....

Don't put it in your mouth if you're not prepared to swallow it, Mike Brown.... be as bat s*** crazy as you want to be, number 3715, because I have a Dinner for Schmucks to attend and still haven't found my and-one (just watched that movie - God it was great. I mean, not 10-bucks-at-the-movie-theater great, but happened-upon-it-by-accident-on-HBO-On-Demand great for sure).

Metta Peace out.


Here's a final Ron Artest nugget of fun for you, courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel. If you haven't seen it, you're in for a treat:

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Hey all, I didn't know if Bawful was going to get a chance to give a how-you-doin, so I thought I'd give y'all a quick post-Traveling nugget of enjoyment today. Can't go wrong with Onion sports. Well, you can, but not usually.

Today's "Lockout Positive" feature highlights a good thing that will result from the current NBA lockout. Hmmm, I smell a series here that could mesh well with my fiction sensibilities...

Anyway, Lockout Positive #234 (I'm sure we could do an entire countdown to #1 with plenty of time to spare, given how much confidence I have in David Stern to compromise) is that Timmy Duncan will have tons more time to develop and nurture platonic relationships with women.

Wilt, eat your heart out.

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Shannon and Bill guide me slowly into the house, my hand and face wrapped in ice packs.

“I still think we should go to the hospital,” Shannon says.

“I’m fine,” I say through my tightened jaw. “The other team’s third baseman checked me out. He said I’m ok.”

“But he’s a veterinarian,” she says.

“Humans…animals…we all have…bones and stuff,” I say, and look to Bill. “I think I might be able to pitch next week. They’re gonna need me.”

Bill eyes me like I’m crazy.

“Tell me something, Doug,” he says. “Have you ever had the bacon, egg and cheese biscuit at McDonald’s?”

I nod.

“Greatest breakfast sandwich ever, right?” he says.

“I guess,” I say.

“You ever take it apart to see what that rolled up piece of processed egg tastes like on its own?”

“Hasn’t everyone?” I say.

“How’d it taste?” he says.

I make a sour face.

“That’s right,” he says. “Doug, you’re a good egg…you might even be a good egg substitute made from a mass-produced powder, but you need that bacon, you need that biscuit, you need that cheese to be something great.”

“I don’t understand what that means,” I say.

“It means that you could be a very good contributor on a talented team,” he says. “But you’re not anyone’s savior.”

I stare back him with resentment.

“I’m a flimsy, tasteless piece of processed egg,” I say.

Shannon giggles. “An egg,” she says.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Bill says. “Without the egg, there’s no sandwich.”

“So you’re calling me a…” I spit out the term in disgust, “a role player.”

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being a Danny Ainge,” he says. “You’re a white guy with some pretty good game, but you need a Larry, you need a Kevin, you need a Chief.”

Bill and Shannon lower me into a chair at the kitchen table. I pull the ice pack off my head.

“You need any more ice, honey?” Shannon says.

“I’m good,” I say.

Shannon tells to Edwin and Fiona to get into their pajamas. The conga line heads upstairs.

I have that melancholy look. Bill sits down across from me.

“Hey, man, I know,” he says. “You want to be bacon. I want to be bacon. Everyone can’t be bacon. If everyone were bacon, you know what you’d have?”

“What,” I say.

“The Atkins diet,” Bill says. “And I’ll tell you what – that’s an unpleasant existence. I tried that diet for a week. By day 5, I was dreaming about doughnuts, bagels and bread, and eventually bacon didn’t even taste good anymore. The world needs eggs like you and bread like me. We make the bacon taste good.”

“Why do you get to be bread?” I say.

“Because I’m often toasted,” he says.

I grin and as Bill stands.

“Good one to finish on,” he says. “Tip your waitress. Try the veal.”

Devlin comes into the kitchen. Bill looks to Dev and points to me. “Good egg, your dad,” he says, then to me. “Alright, later.”

“Thanks,” I say. “Later.”

Devlin takes the same seat across from me.

“So,” I say, adjusting the icepack on my hand. “What did you think? Embarrassing, huh?”

“Kind of,” Devlin says, “but I was kinda proud too.”

“Really? Why?” I say.

Dev thinks. “Well, we spend a lot of time on sports,” he says. “We play, we coach, we cheer, we watch Sportscenter all day long. If we didn’t try hard, if we didn’t care a lot, what would be the point? It wouldn’t make sense. It would be a waste. Tonight, I could tell how much you cared. It was a little embarrassing, but it was…who you are. Who we are.”

“You think I should quit?” I say.

“Yes,” he says. “But you won’t.”

“Do you want me to quit?” I say.

“No,” he says. “It’s not you.”

“We’ll see,” I say. “You and Bill might be right.”

“I just don’t like seeing you get hurt,” Dev says. “As for Bill, he just wants you to spend more time on the couch watching games.”

“How’d you get so smart?” I say.

“Mom,” he says.

Dev stands and circles the table. On his way past me, he pats me on the shoulder.

“You’re bacon to me, Dad,” he says.

He bounds upstairs, oblivious to the impact he’s just made. My chest swells with pride.

In spite of the evening’s humiliating events, I feel like I’ve just…I don’t know...



Two weeks later, I call out Larry Bird’s name during an intimate moment in bed with Shannon. I have no idea why. To this day, if you listen closely on a quiet summer night in Chicago, you can hear the distant echo of her reaction in the breeze.


Well there you have it, folks – my over-the-top therapy-session-slash-response to the Celtics’ gut-wrenching loss in the 2010 Finals. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please comment, even anonymously, to let me know.

And if you really enjoyed it…

You can buy the book. Yup, that’s right, you can buy Traveling, the novel.

Now I know what you’re asking yourself: “Why should I bother to purchase what I just received for free?” Well, that’s a pretty damn good question, actually, so I guess I better come up with something. Ok, here it goes – each book contains:

- A special Author’s Note enjoyed only by those who have made this special purchase.
- The official text version of Traveling on actual, physical pages that you can turn, like a real book.
- A version that allows you to enjoy Traveling without a WiFi connection, or even a computer.
- An item you can use as your virtual Wonka golden ticket, entitling you to meet me, Evil Ted, if you are ever in the downtown Chicago area. You will receive:
o One face-to-face meeting, during which I will talk to you as if you are a person I care about for a period of at least five minutes.
o My signature on your copy of the book (or of any other copies of my books you may have purchased). I will be happy to give you either a personalized signing (as in, “Hi Joe, glad you liked my book…”) or an I-want-to-sell-this-on-eBay-version-someday-when-you’re-famous signing (just my signature and nothing else).
o Special mention in our Basketbawful “Fan of the Day” segment, which will include a photo of the glorious meeting and a special ET write-up of the encounter.
- For purchasers of three or more books, I will wear special accoutrements, such as the Larry Bird wig and stache made famous in my Larry Bird Theme Park video.
- For buyers of six or more books, I will basically debase myself in whatever way you choose. If you are a Laker fan, bring a Laker jersey and I will wear it in said Larry Bird hair and stache, prance around like a drunken fairy, and scream “Lakers rule!” at the top of my lungs in a public place.

Now much would you pay? But wait… there’s more!

Purchases of any of my books (even the much more thrifty downloads) will contribute to the make-Traveling-a-movie fund. You’ve already seen what kind of magic I can create on a budget of virtually zero. Imagine if I can sell a whole ton of books and stockpile some cash for a better camera and lunch money for a few good actors….

And finally, if you have trouble parting with your hard-earned cash for a narrative you’ve already read online, consider my other works. There’s The Art of Reprisal, a cool, dark psychological thriller that took me about fifteen years to complete… and oh yeah… I do have a couple of books that…. let’s see…. hmmm…. how to describe them….. ok…. imagine, if you will, the easily digested humor of Traveling, but as a hilarious, disgustingly filthy, dystopian male satire that would burst into flame if you brought it anywhere near a church, or even near, like, an optimistic person. That’s Modern Man. Now imagine I’ve cast aside my conscience and decided not to only have gut-bustingly funny filth, but also decided to eliminate any redeeming qualities from my characters whatsoever. That would be Hot Mess.

Piqued your interest? Thought so. Perverts.

I know what you’re saying: “How sad to debase this great and pure literary experience with a tawdry money-making scheme, ET.” To that, I say – money making? HA! Given that I’ve been writing for 20 plus years, adding up the profit of the books I’ve sold would give me approximately…10 bucks a year – hardly something on which to make a living. I do it because I love it. Of course, if I could be successful enough to do it full time someday, awesome. But if not, the Clark Kent job continues.

Again, I hope you enjoyed reading Traveling as much as I enjoyed writing it. I was thrilled to be able to share it with you in this way.

If you have any questions, comments, or inquiries for me directly, contact me at:


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I look over my right shoulder. At third base is Tooth. Next to him at shortstop is a wrinkled man in red suit shorts, penny loafers, compression socks up to his knees, and a pink Polo shirt. He leans heavily on his black shillelagh. How he could possibly catch a grounder and throw it to first base is a genuine mystery.

I look over my left shoulder. At second base, a woman wearing corrective sneakers whose everything is sagging picks at the webbing of her glove like an ape grooming flies. At first base is Annie, pounding a fist into her freshly purchased softball glove and glaring toward home plate with staunch determination.

The situation in the outfield is almost as bad. In left is stringy pastor Jeb. In right is an ashen, lumbering woman who appears to have been hijacked from a George Romero production. In center is a Thurston Howell-type dressed in white slacks, navy jacket, and a sailor captain’s hat.

As I approach the pitcher’s rubber, I feel like a genuine God. On this team, everything I do will spawn adoring awe. Even in defeat, I personally will win by virtue of just being so dominant in comparison to my teammates. Selfish? Yes. But foolproof.

Or so it would seem.

Patch comes up to me before the first pitch.

“Gotta warn you,” he says. “This first batter hits it hard right up the middle, so be ready for something right back at you.”

“No problem,” I say.

“No, really,” Patch says, his voice laced with meaning. “He hits it hard.”

I put out my arms. “Look at the team around me,” I say. “We want this guy to hit the ball up the middle.”

Patch thinks about it. “Good point,” he concedes, and returns to the plate.

A large man in a tank top, backward baseball cap, and basketball shorts comes to bat. Readying myself, I give a confident nod to Shannon and the kids sitting in the stands. Shannon and Dev each offer me a thumbs up signal while Edwin and Fiona bicker over a sandwich bag full of goldfish crackers. Bill is there too. When I told him about the team and its problems, he said he had to “watch this train wreck.”

I do a little Elvis-inspired hip wiggle before my first pitch. I’m not sure why. Probably because it will make me look like an even bigger jackass after what happens next.

With a smooth upward motion, I float the first offering into the air. It’s a beauty, rising like the moon against the evening sky. It spins ever so slightly. I admire the high arc of the ball for what feels like an eternity. My slow motion appreciation of myself allows me to completely forget about Patch’s scouting report.

Right up the middle….right back at you.

I hear only the dry crack of the aluminum bat vibrating the night air. A split-second later, the ball pounds my chin like a sledgehammer, the force cantilevering my full jaw back into my throat, sending an electric pulse through my ears, both of which pop.

Everyone watching looks stunned. Even the batter cringes and fails to move.

For a moment, time stands still.

When the batter realizes I’m not dead, he begins sprinting to first.

Now deaf, I cannot hear the people around me telling me to pick up the ball, but I see them pointing to the ground at my feet. I find the ball, pick it up, and raise it behind my head to throw to first.

I have plenty of time to make the play. I can see the hope and amazement in everyone’s eyes – my ability to perform in the face of such brutal physical punishment astounds them. I can feel the effect of my own virility pulsing across the field. I am the Golden Child – the first of many building blocks to make this team what it can someday be.

And then it hits me.

The true damage of the impact to my chin comes on me all at once – my vision dims, my head spins, my jaw wobbles, and my ears make a noise submarines make in the movies just before they implode at crush depth.

The ball drops from my hand and I topple like the AT-AT walker Luke took out with a grenade in Empire.

My face collides with the dusty earth, sending up a cloud that hazes my vision further, obscuring the appearance of the ethereal figure before me. He glows, and despite the blur and dust, I think I can make out that he’s wearing his home whites. He might even have wings, but I’m not sure.

“You alright, Doug?”

That Indiana drawl is unmistakable.

“Larry?” I say.

“I’d prefer Mr. Bird,” he says.

“Yes, Mr. Bird,” I say.

“Just kidding,” he says. “Larry’s fine.”

“What are you doing here?” I say.

“You idolize me, remember?” he says. “Who else would you see when you’re near death?”

Death?” I say, coughing into the dry infield dirt.

“I know. Tough break,” Larry says, “but don’t quit.”

“Don’t quit?” I say. “I can’t feel my face, I can hardly see, and I think the only reason I can even hear you right now is because you’re a…” I try to remember the word. “Phantasm.”

“Doppelganger is a more compelling term,” Larry says. Apparently in my imagination, Larry Bird possesses book knowledge.

“Did I quit when Dennis Rodman blocked my shot with 5 seconds left in ’87?” Larry says.

“No Larry.”

“What did I do?”

“You stole the ball,” I say.

“What? I didn’t hear you,” he says.

“You stole the ball,” I say a little louder. Or maybe I just think it a little louder.

“That’s right I did,” Larry says. “Did I quit against the Pacers in 1991 when my face slammed into the parquet floor?”

“No Larry.”

“What did I do?”

“You scored 32 points on 12 for 19 shooting.”

“That’s right,” he says. “Now get up, Doug. It’s your destiny.”

When Larry Bird tells you to get up, you do it, even if you think doing so may cause your head to explode. I rise slowly by my own power. Tooth, Patch, and Annie all stand around me.

“You ok, Doug?” Tooth says. His voice is muffled, like he’s speaking to me from a distance.

I nod, opening and closing my mouth to get my ears working again.

“You sure?” Patch says, holding tight to my wrists like a trainer trying to assess the condition of his boxer.

“I’m fine,” I say, pulling my hands away. “I can keep going.”

As I pick up the ball and return to the rubber, I look over at the stands. Shannon is pressed up against the chain-link fence, her hands clenched to the metal links. Devlin stands next to her in the same pose. Edwin and Fiona continue to bicker over goldfish crackers.

With the man-woman rotation, a female batter is next to the plate. As if out of mercy, she taps a timid grounder to my feet on the first pitch. I throw her out. Despite the runner on first reaching second, the play shows a hint of Doug promise.

As the next batter steps to the plate, the ancient second base woman with corrective shoes steps to my side. She has a bewildered, urgent look on her face.

“Hey. We played this team last year,” she says. “You need to be careful. This guy hits it hard up the middle too.”

I recall what Tooth told me about her.

“Don’t you have…like… memory loss?” I say. “How would you even know that?”

Her expression remains unchanged.

“Hey. We played this team last year,” she says. “You need to be careful. This guy hits it hard up the middle too.”

She wanders back to her position.

“You just…told me that,” I grumble.

This time, I don’t admire my pitch. This time, I am ready.

The bat cracks and the ball screams at me – toward my bare hand. Without the time to extend my glove, I try to catch the screamer with the gloveless hand. My fingers crunch and contort on impact, and again I am on the ground, squirming.

Larry returns instantly. This time he’s on all fours, his head the directly in line with mine.

“That looked painful,” he says.

I check my fingers. They’re swollen, turning purple, and stuck at curious angles.

Larry winces at the sight. “You know what?” he says. “I’m going to give you some advice I’ve never given anyone before,” he says. “Quit.”

I lift my head slightly off the dirt, shocked.

“Et tu, Larry?” I say. “Et tu?”

“I know,” Larry says. “Look, quitting was never my style. But I think for you it might be a good fit.”

“I can still move my fingers,” I say, showing Larry the bulbous collection of uncooked sausages loosely attached to my palm. I move them forward and back as far as I can, about an inch. “I can still pitch.”

“Look,” Larry says. “If you need someone to encourage you to keep playing beyond all logic and reason, then you need to hallucinate Brett Favre.”

I can’t let this statement go.

“Larry, I worship you and everything, but those last couple of seasons after you threw out your back-”

Really?” Larry says, his voice low and fierce. “With all the joy my career has given you, you want to go there?

“Favre could say the same thing, right?” I ask. “You’re the one who brought him up, so I figured-”

“My cameo’s over,” Larry says, and evaporates.

I feel people lifting me by the arms. Patch is on one side of me, Tooth on the other. I look up at them.

“I can still go,” I say in a weak, shaky voice. “Larry’s wrong. He’s totally wrong.”

Tooth and Patch escort me from the field, my legs dragging and my head slumped.

The crowd noise fades as they take me to a quiet area of grass. They drop me onto my belly, lifeless and spent.

“Well, back to the drawing board,” I hear Tooth say.

“Yup,” Patch replies.

They walk away, planning future moves.

“Who else is there?” Tooth says.

“Maybe that guy from the tailgate we met last week,” Patch says.

“Did you know there’s adult kick ball on Thursday nights?” Tooth says.

“Really?” Patch says.

“Let’s think about switching to that next year,” Tooth says. “Less dangerous.”

Their voices trail off.

I realize I’m not alone. I am staring into the eyes of another man lying next to me. Like me, he is spread eagled on his stomach. Half his face his concealed by grass. The half I can see is blackened with bruises.

“You the pitcher?” he says in a gravelly voice.

I nod.

“I pitched last week,” he says. “Those line drives are a bitch, aren’t they?”

Disturbed, I gather all my strength to turn my head in other direction. In my line of vision lies another man, his nose twisted and bleeding.

“I pitched for two weeks last month,” he says. “They dumped me here after I took a few shots to the face.”

What is this? I think to myself. The Island of Misfit Pitchers?

My body starts sliding, in increments, away from them.

“Hey, where you going?” one says.

“Come back!” say the other. “Don’t leave us!”

“The last thing I ate was a worm!” the first adds. “Help me!”

I look around. Pulling at my right leg is Brett Favre. He’s in a Jets uniform. I spin my head to the other side. Holding my left foot is Michael Jordan. He’s in a Wizards uniform. I turn again to my right. Favre is a Viking.

“He can keep playing,” Jordan says.

“Of course he can,” Favre says.

Every instinct I’ve ever had contradicts the one I’m having right now. Holding on to each leg is a solemn reminder of the perils of holding on too long.

I claw at the grass with my good hand, trying to resist.

“No!” I scream. “Larry warned me about you! He was right!”

“Get back in there,” Favre says, angrier.

“Show them you’re the best, and always will be,” Jordan barks.

“I can’t play anymore!” I say.

“Then why are you resisting?” Patch says.

I look around. Patch is now where Favre used to be. Tooth has replaced Jordan. Instead of grass, I’m clawing at the pitcher’s rubber. I’m still on the field.

Bill makes a stay-here wave to Shannon and strolls out to the mound. Halting next to me, he drops down on one knee and leans forward.

“How ya doin there, buddy?” he says.

I give a sausage-up signal with my injured hand, keeping the fingertips of my healthy hand clutched tightly to the half-inch thickness of rubber like I’m a mountain climber hanging onto a sliver of rock for dear life.

“You know, when I said I wanted to come and watch the train wreck, I wasn’t really expecting it to be you,” he says. “Is this because of the Celtics?”

I can feel my eyeballs flex at the question.

“Take it easy, Doug,” Bill says, showing me his open hands in a calming gesture. “I think we all want the same thing here. Let’s get you off the field.”

Delirious, I lock my gaze on Bill. “But I don’t want to tarnish my legacy,” I say.

“What legacy, Doug?” Bill says. “What are you trying to save?”

“My…dignity?” I say. I don’t even know what that means.

Bill assesses my crumpled mass.

“I hate to break it to you, pal,” he says, “but I think that boat has sailed.”

I look to Bill with a sad, weary gaze. “So is this it? Should I retire?” I say.

“Well,” Bill says, looking around the field. “I feel strange saying this given your team’s average age is 60, but yeah, I think you should retire.” Bill looks at my hand, still clenched to the pitcher’s rubber. “You’re holding on too tight, Doug. Time to let go.”

The sanity of Bill’s words washes over me, and my body unclenches. As my muscles relax and my hand drops away from the pitching rubber, I feel like something profound has taken place.

I am not, however, afforded much time to consider what that something is.

Bill immediately nods back at Tooth and Patch like a SWAT commander giving the go signal. They gather up my legs wheelbarrow style and drag me from the field. Completely spent, I have no more energy to resist.

As I slide across the ground, my eyes are naturally aimed toward the stands. Shannon and Devlin are again attached to the chain link fence in rapt attention. Even Edwin and Fiona have abandoned their fight over goldfish crackers to watch me get hauled off the field.

This is how you know you have achieved complete humiliation – when a child would rather focus on your disgrace than on a struggle to claim a bag of goldfish crackers.

Against the stunned silence of all onlookers, the sound of my body dragging across earth dominates the air. It is, in all likelihood, the final time I will ever consume the collective consciousness of an entire crowd at an athletic event.

It feels, somehow…


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Annie sits next to me. I address her softly, scanning the room like a spy in enemy territory.

“You started coming to this group after I did,” I say. “Tell me you’re not in on this.”

Annie shrugs. “I barely even understand what’s going on,” she says.

“Well, I think you might be Princess Leia,” I say, handing her the papers, “and these may be the Empire’s plans to rule the galaxy.”

“That’s my only copy,” Tooth says. “I need those back.”

I take Annie’s arm, and nod to the bucket. “Grab R2-D2.”

“Don’t be a fool,” Tooth says, standing. “Join me. It’s your destiny, Doug. Search your feelings.”

“Pull up your hood,” I say, pointing at Tooth’s black hoodie.

“Why?’ Tooth says.

“Humor me,” I say.

Tooth lifts the hood, draping it over his eyes. His gnarly tooth gives him a distinct look.

“The Emperor,” I say under my breath.

Patch pulls a futuristic looking gun out of a duffle bag by his chair. Maybe he’s just a stormtrooper. That would make sense – he’s no Vader.

“When are we going to get back to my paintball stories?” Patch says. He appears stunned as the gun starts rapid-fire shooting red paint balls into the cafeteria wall. The recoil causes the gun to jerk uncontrollably in Patch’s hand. It’s turning toward me and Annie when I reach for Plunger’s plunger. Pushing Annie behind me, I raise it before me like a light saber. As paint balls zip toward us, I wield the plunger with calm, precise strokes.

Apparently, the Force is not strong with me.

I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s a plunger, for God’s sake. Paint balls hammer and welt my chest until I can barely breathe. Whining like a sick puppy, I drop the plunger and grab Annie’s hand.

“RUN!” I say.

The paintball gun continues to blast pellets as we race out of the cafeteria. I can hear Patch apologizing behind us.

“I’m so sorry!” he’s yelling. “Don’t go! The trigger’s stuck. It does this sometimes!”

We speed down the hallway. Patch is close behind, still firing, with Tooth marching up the rear.

“It’s not me, it’s the gun!” Patch screams.

People from my Yellowstone trip appear in various classroom doorways as we pass. First it’s the boy scouts from Devil’s Tower.

“Ewoks!” I say, “or maybe Jawas.”

Then comes Stuart, the grotesquely ancient Laker fan who challenged me at Mastermind.

“Yoda!” I pronounce.

Next is Frank, his elephantine mass lying motionless on the floor as paramedics give him CPR.

“Jabba the Hutt!”

Then a woman in khaki shorts and a tank top.

“Who’s that?” Annie says.

“I had to do her laundry to watch game 2,” I say.

“No, I mean what Star Wars character is she?” Annie says.

“No idea,” I say.

“What about Natalie Portman?”

Amidala?” I say, scoffing. “Don’t get me started on the prequels.”

In the middle of the hallway is an adult grizzly bear. It rises onto its hind legs, towering over us. Annie and I scream and clutch each other, waiting for something horrible to happen. It does not. The bear drops back down onto all fours and begins to sway, his eyes half open.

“This must be Chewbacca,” I say. “He’s on our side. Let’s go.”

I try to pull Annie forward, but she resists.

“Trust me,” I say.

As we pass with methodical slow motion baby steps, the bear sniffs us and paws at us gently.

“Are you sure this is Chewbacca?” Annie says, her arms clutched tightly to her chest.

“Could be a rancor, I guess,” I say, “but it would have eaten us by now.”

We get past the bear and it looses interest in us.

“Ha! I knew a rancor was too obscure,” I say as we pick up speed.

We reach the end of the hallway. All of the doors around us are locked.

“Dead end,” I say.

“What now?” Annie says.

Nothing’s coming to me.

“What would Larry Bird do?” I say aloud to myself.

“Screw that,” Annie says. “What would Princess Leia do?”

Annie tosses the softball plans into the bucket and drops her face into it.

“Tell me,” she says.

“Tell you what,” I say.

“Tell me about my daughter,” she says.

“Really?” I say. “You want to Brundlefly all over the plans? I’m not sure that’s what Princess Leia would do.”

“You’re wrong,” Annie says. “Leia would go to whatever lengths necessary to keep the plans from the Empire. Do it!”

I look down the hall. Patch and Tooth have made their way past the bear.

“Your daughter came in second!” I say. “She wasn’t good enough! She lost!

Annie drops her face deep into the bucket. Retching noises echo in the plastic container as Patch and Tooth approach.

“Too late, boys,” I say. “Your plans are ruined, covered in gelatinous chunks of-” I turn to Annie. “What did you eat for dinner?”

“Chicken marsala and rice,” she says.

“Eeew, chicken marsala and rice,” I say. “Too bad. So sad. Buh-bye.”

Tooth reaches into the bucket and pulls out the papers. They are clean and dry.

“Wha-?” I look into the empty bucket, then at Annie. She smiles like victory itself.

“Are you on the Dark Side too?” I say.

“No,” Annie says, beaming. “I’m cured.”

“Well, perfect time for that,” I say.

“Enough,” Tooth says, stuffing the plans into his pant pocket. “What’s it gonna be, Doug? Will you join us?”

“You know, you’ve never even asked if I’m any good at softball,” I say.

Lowering his hood, Tooth steps toward me and places a hand on my shoulder.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like trying to assemble a team from a church congregation?” he says.

I shake my head.

“My shortstop is 72 years old,” Tooth says. “He uses a cane…while he’s out in the field. My second basewoman has short term memory loss. If by some miracle she catches a grounder, she doesn’t remember what to do with it. My catcher has one eye.”

“Easy now,” Patch says. “I’m your best player.”

“Precisely,” Tooth says. “Doug, I never asked you if you played softball because it doesn’t matter. I can use you. Trust me.”

I ponder, then look at Annie, who hasn’t stopped grinning. She’s still thrilled she didn’t vomit.

“What do you think?” I say.

“Depends on who you wanna be,” she says. “Luke or Anakin. Hey, wasn’t Anakin’s nickname Annie?

“Again with the prequels,” I say. “Yes, his nickname was Annie.” I look to Tooth. “Who comes up with that? Darth Vader being Annie? Did they call Hannibal Lecter Hannie?

Patch chimes in. “I think Leia called Han Solo that once, didn’t she?”

Tooth raises a calm hand at Patch – very Emperor-like. The sudden silence is palpable.

“Enough. No more stalling, Doug,” Tooth says. “Will you join us?”

I gaze back down the long hallway. The bear is sleeping. Frank is on a gurney flanked by paramedics, but is sitting up waiting for my answer. Stuart is there, inexplicably eating Scrabble tiles. The boy scouts are each holding pieces of rope and making knots – must be a badge day. Jeb is there, looking on. He kneels and folds his hands in prayer.

Tooth gives it one last try.

“Think about it, Doug,” he says, gravelly seduction in his voice. “You’ll be the most talented player on a team of misfits.”

Hey,” Patch says.

Tooth revises his statement. “You’ll be the most talented two-eyed player on a team of misfits,” he says. “When you speak, people will listen – assuming they can actually hear you. When you make a great play, it will be that much more amazing against the backdrop of widespread incompetence. You’ll be a star, Doug. As much as a man can shine in the face of difficult circumstances, you will.”

Impressed, Annie looks at me.

“Damn, now I wanna play,” she says.


Travelling: Intro / Book Jacket, Chapter 1: Cribbagegate, Chapter 2: Two e-mails, Chapter 3: Pattern, Chapter 4: Shattered, Chapter 5: Hilarious Pee, Chapter 6: Suicide, Chapter 7/8: Coaching High school, Shark attacks and appetizers, Chapter 9: June, Chapter 10: 18 and oh no, Chapter 11: DNA, Chapter 12: Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Chapter 13: Tom Brady and the McGuffin, Chapter 14: Game 1, Chapter 15: Who the H is John Havlicek?, Chapters 16 - 17, Chapter 18: Game 2: Great White, Chapter 19: Pickle, Chapter 20: Marty McFly, Chapter 21 / 22: standard deviation, all the pretty flowers, Chapter 23: Game 3: Black Hills, Chapter 24: Twister, Chapter 25: Game 4, Chapter 26: Patriotic Agony, Chapter 27: Locusts, Chapter 28: skype, Chapter 29: Click, Chapter 30: Superman, Chapter 30: Ass Brunch Chapter 32: Mammoth, Chapter 33: Pathetic, Chapter 34: Purple and Gold, Chapter 35: Chowdah, Chapter 36: Mastermind, Chapter 37: m&m cookie dough, Chapter 38: taste, Chapter 39: Dance with the Devil, Chapter 40: Game 7, Chapter 41: 17 to 11, Chapter 42: One Mold, Chapter 43: Stink Smell, Chapter 44: Yarthies, Chapter 45: Oops baby, Chapter 46: Winnah, Chapter 47: Green Pool, Chapter 48: Jesus Christ, Chapter 49: Prequels

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