Cliff Gardner

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Larry Miller and homophobia

Larry Miller, the owner of the Utah Jazz, died recently after a horrific battle with Diabetes that resulted in both of his legs being amputated. It's important to recognize that he was a very good NBA owner. The Jazz had something like 13 fifty-plus win seasons during his tenure. Stockton to Malone, and now Williams to Boozer, made basketball great in Utah for a quarter-century.

However, it's also important to note Larry Miller's role in something else--a gay teen suicide epidemic. While I was typing that, a gay kid killed himself somewhere in the United States because he was persecuted by homophobic bigots. Suicide is the leading cause of death among gay teens. Consider this, from Larry Miller's Wikipedia page:

"On January 6, 2006, the film Brokeback Mountain was pulled from Miller's Megaplex 17 theater at the last minute after Miller learned from a radio reporter that the film featured a gay romance. Other R-rated films, such as the comedy Grandma's Boy and the violent horror film Hostel were still allowed to be shown. As a result, the business was accused of exhibiting bias against homosexuality. The cancellation brought international attention to the theater. The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Utah and other gay rights groups urged its members to avoid patronizing Miller's various businesses. Miller later explained the cancellation, saying that he was concerned about "getting away from the traditional families", what he called "a very dangerous thing." Miller noted that several individuals purchased automobiles from his dealerships as a form of support for the decision."

Clearly, Larry Miller is both powerful and not-okay with gay folks. In fact, his decision not to show "Brokeback Mountain" in his theatres clearly made him a leader in the fight to persecute homosexuals. It's not that gay and lesbian teens are just naturally more depressed and prone to taking their own lives--they're teased and harassed every day at schools, in locker rooms and at churches. Violence, and the threat of violence, are common. It's a terrible thing to live in fear every day of your life for who you are and for many kids, suicide seems like the only way out.

In the state of Utah, which I imagine isn't the most accepting for GLBT kids to begin with, hosting the movie "Brokeback Mountain" was a beautiful opportunity to show the straight community what it feels like to be gay, and to live with that fear. More importantly, though, it could have demonstrated to those terrified gay kids I mentioned that there's nothing wrong with who they are--that they're not sick, or broken, and that there are other people like them out there going through the exact same things. This would have saved lives.

Instead, Larry Miller chose to react like a cafeteria room full of 6th graders instead of a smart, civic-minded, "moral leader" that he claimed to be. I have no problem with people praising his ownership of the Utah Jazz. However, most articles haven't stopped there, instead choosing to trumpet his moral leadership and claim that he was a great man for the state of Utah. Larry Miller wasn't a great man. You're not a great man if you, as a pillar of your community, pursue a policy that causes teenagers to kill themselves.

I hope Out Magazine buys the Jazz.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No News in Good News?

This week began with me exhausted, walking into my room after a long weekend at the OSU tournament, to find Jessica sitting on my bed reading. She had flown across the country to surprise me by moving in, and it was one of the best moments of my life. YAY!

Anyway, we went to the Blazer game last night against the Grizzlies and Rip City improved to 4-0 in games that I watch in person, although operation "give Thomas a heart attack" was in full force as we almost blew a home game to an inferior team, again. So far I've seen the Blazers KILL the Heat with David, eek out wins against the Bucks and Grizz with Jess, and pull away late against the Wizards with Rebecca. Maybe one of these days I'll go see the boys play against a contender.

The big news is no news--Kevin Pritchard didn't make a move at the trade deadline beyond a salary cap/trade exception move for Michael Ruffin (WHO?) which will likely just result in us getting another pick in what's looking like a pretty solid 2009 draft class. I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was really hoping for a deal--by all accounts, the Blazers could have gotten Richard Jefferson, Caron Butler or Gerald Wallace (not to mention Vince Carter, who would have MURDERED our chemistry, more below) without touching anyone in our big three. All three of those guys would have been upgrades at the small forward position and would have potentially pushed us to the 2nd round or better this year.

However, there are several reasons why I'm behind this "no-move" move:

First, there's reason to think that with the current economic conditions in the league, if this many teams are this desperate to unload their guys now, it will probably get even better (or worse, depending on your perspective) this Summer. That means the Blazers can get better guys, or at least the same guys for less (imagine Butler but without touching anyone in our top SIX? It could happen.), if we just wait a few months and then unleash Holy hell on the league next year, regardless of how the rest of the season plays out.

Second, there's no reason to believe this team can't get home-court and advance a round this season, as currently assembled. The Blazers haven't had their best guys on the court a whole lot this year. Oden's missed a lot of games, Blake went down for an extended stretch, and B-Roy even was out for a handful, not to mention that our best perimeter defender and reliable three-point threat, Martell Webster, has played about 2 games this year. If we get everyone healthy at the same time, and if Nate figures out how to use Bayliss well off the bench, the Blazers are a good team. Add to that the fact that our schedule is slightly better than the rest of the West, and the recent stumbles of New Orleans (trying to unload TC), Houston (T-Mac out for the year) and San Antonio (Manu's out for 2-3 weeks), and there's no reason to think that the future can't be now.

Third, everyone just needs to trust that Kevin Pritchard knows what he's doing. Like, seriously. I remember when everyone hated on our front office when we made all those deals in the 2006 NBA draft. Bill Simmons compared KP to a drunken college kid trying to assemble an NBA Live team a 2 in the morning. BUT, look at how it's turned out: we got Roy and Aldridge out of that draft and we're the 4 seed in the West at the all-star break three years later. He's a good GM. This will be ok. Everyone just needs to relax.

Fourth, chemistry can't be over-rated. This really matters in the NBA, more than in any other sport (with possible exception of QB to WR in football). Last night when Darius Miles was introduced, I was booing so loudly that my tonsils hit him in the face. You know what? He deserved it, but really what I, what WE--the whole crowd was with me on this--were really booing was a concept. AND IDEA. The idea that we can just overpay for selfish assholes and everything will be ok. It won't. Rider, Z-Bo, even Damon Stoudamire, were right there with Miles on the Blazers' wall of shame, and I'm glad to be done with them--I think we all are. Teams that don't have guys like that tend to over-achieve. Look at those Magic and Rockets teams from the mid-90's, or even Dikembe Mutumbo's Denver team. It's worth it to cheer for the nice guys because they'll do better, and even if they don't, you still feel better about yourself in the morning. We have one of those rosters now, and I want to see how far we can go without throwing in another dude after we've spent the last three years learning how to play together.

Bottom line: I'm trusting KP on this one, and I think the rest of Portland should to.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blazer trade rumor

It looks like the Blazers are making a strong push for Amare Stoudemire, offering LaMarcus Aldridge, Jerryd Bayliss and Raef's dead body/expiring contract. Setting aside for the moment the loss of Bayliss (a promising rookie who frankly we won't miss much when Blake comes back), I have so thoughts on the LaMarcus/Amare swap.

Reasons why this is a good move:

1) On paper, we're a better team. LaMarcus' ceiling is Amare's basement, statistically speaking. Stoudemire can defend (a HUGE problem for the Blazers), rebound (one of LaMarcus' big issues), and score almost at will. He's good enough to win multiple titles and MVP awards, and everyone has their own "OMG did you see Amare destroy the Spurs/Mavs/Rockets BY HIMSELF" story?! Portland can win a title if Amare is their 1st or 2nd best guy, and even the Lakers would have to be concerned about a possible post-season matchup with us.

2) He brings experience to a team that desperately needs it. Amare has loads of playoff games (or at least a lot more than anyone on our current roster) under his belt, even making the West Finals once (I'm not counting the season where his biggest contribution to the Suns was being a walking "What Not To Wear" episode on TLC for a team that also made the final four). For a team that apparently wants to win now, this is a good thing.

3) Greg Oden, this is Amare. Have fun. Oden's defense has been great (seriously, 6 freaking blocks against NY?!), but his offense, while improving, is still terrible when he's not dunking. Amare's ability to move around the basket and create his own quality shot 9/10 times down the floor would probably be a good thing for GO to watch every night.

Reasons why this could be a disaster:

1) Amare is an emotional infant and locker room cancer. I just finished reading "7 Seconds or Less" chronicling the Suns' season that Amare' missed after knee surgery (more on that in a second). In it, there were about 75 examples of how Stoudemire's constant need to be the "alpha dog" in the locker room, EVEN WHEN HE WASN'T PLAYING, caused the team headaches. I don't think he'd be willing to defer to Brandon Roy and certainly not to Greg Oden. Our chemistry (which has been one of our strengths) could be seriously messed with if this happens.

2) Seriously, another one of these guys? I feel like we just got clear of the last of these stupid "bad character guys" in Miles. Why is everyone so willing to wade back into the murky waters with this Amare jerk who only cares about himself/his stats? It's like we just got released from prison and we're back home 3 hours later and someone is offering us cocaine. DON'T DO IT! REMEMBER HOW THAT ENDED LAST TIME! I think everyone who is strongly behind this trade should watch game video's of Isaiah Rider going 1 on 4 in front of an empty Rose Garden.

3) Do you really want our top three guys to have histories of serious knee problems? Seriously, HOW DOES THIS SOUND? Do we really want our front court to be dubbed "the micro fracture twins" and to hold our breath every time we hear a balloon pop thinking that it might be Brandon's knee? The upside is tremendous, I get that...but the downside is pretty much the worst thing to happen to the northwest since Damon Stoudamire decided to wrap his weed in aluminum foil and stroll through airport security at PDX.

Bottom line: I think the Blazers have to make this trade for two reasons.

1) We can't let Raef's contract expire and NOT take advantage of it. The Blazers don't sign overrated jerks (no offense, Raef) to big deals anymore. We're not going to get an opportunity like this again. Considering that Bosh and Wade probably aren't leaving their current teams and Lebron is headed to NY (if he's leaving Cleveland at all), the 2010 free agent market is fool's gold, and our best shot at getting another quality player is by trade. That means Amare. I love this Blazer team--LaMarcus especially, who's always been my favorite--but we have to admit that the team we have now isn't going to win a title, even if we wait 4 years for everyone to mature and keep improving. We can win a title if B-Roy is our 2nd best guy, but not if he's expected to do everything like he is now. If we wait, we'll end up sinking max money into LaMarcus, Roy and Oden and be a 6-8 seed in the west for a decade. We need to make a move now if our goal is to win an NBA title, which I assume it is.

2) LaMarcus is gone anyway so we might as well get someone in return. A few weeks ago, ESPN the Magazine has a big article that explained how emotional LA is. In one example, he didn't really talk to Brandon for six months because he thought he has been snubbed for a dinner invitation. My point is, he's not going to take these, "Aldridge at the center of trade talks" stories very well, and come 2010, he's gone. Kevin Pritchard has burned this bridge for us by letting it leak that we're willing to trade him (as opposed to Oden and Roy, who are untouchable), and that slight won't go unnoticed. That, coupled with the fact that we won't offer him as much as, say, Minnesota or Memphis, means that he's gone next Summer whether we like it or not. The only difference is if we replace him with an All-Star. I say we pull the trigger on this one, as much as it kills me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I know my stance on reality shows that make fun of people/characteristics that I hate is pretty clear. I've been tuning in to "The Tool Academy" ever since it came on a few weeks ago, and with only four tools left, I want to make something clear: the remaining tools are still assholes. Everyone one of them. They're only "winning" this "competition" because other people were somehow more obviously toolish, so it's like the producers have faced a Sophie's Choice for tools. I can't wait to see how this is going to shake out.

That said, MTV might just have one-uped VH1, because last night I watched "The Girls of Hedsor Hall." It's basically a female-tool academy, only in England. I don't know what it is about the United Kingdom that makes most Americans assume it's citizens are automatically more dignified, but clearly that's what the creators of these shows are going for. Even TA's therapist is British. Last night on the season premiere of TGOHH, a British "Lord" called told one drunken American girl that she looked like a horse. Naturally, hilarity/fits ensued. Obviously, I'll be tuning in every week.

In other news, I've spend a large portion of my time lately thinking about potential trades the Blazers could make between now and the February 19th deadline. Personally I'd rather just stand-pat this year and see where we're at, especially once we get Martell Webster back to spruce up our perimiter defense and three-point shooting. There's only one problem--Raef's expiring contract that we can't afford to not take advantage of. I'm really glad Kevin Pritchard is our GM because I have no clue what I would do in this situation.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Happy birthday to me!

I turn 26 today. *High-Five!* Wow. I'm fighting the urge to not sound like that guy from "Garden State" who's all, "I'm only 26, it's not like I have to figure out my whole life right now." Actually, things are going really well over here at camp T-Mac. I'm coaching not one but TWO squads that I love, and I'm dating an amazing woman who loves me loves me loves me, which is always good. Plus, I've got one of THESE and it's totally changing how I run, which is good because I can afford to lose some weight (I've gone from "healthily filled-out to "dangerously overweight" in the two and a half months since I've been back). The next few months are going to be really exciting, so I'll try to keep the 2 of you who read this blog updated.