A Mess of a Winning Time Episode

Winning Time

Any carry over from last week’s excellent episode of Winning Time quickly dissipated with this mess of an episode. No focus, no central theme, back to unnecessary salacious content, lots of fourth wall breaking, and just a general hodgepodge of an episode.

I honestly find it difficult to believe the people who put together Pieces of a Man also released Momento Mori. Same director, largely the same writers, and yet a completely different result. I find it unfathomable.

What went wrong with this episode of Winning Time? Let’s discuss.

Lack of Central Theme

I’ve discussed before how a central theme holds an episode together and allows other, smaller stories to swirl around it with an anchor to bring them home. The theme was readily available, the catastrophic injury to Coach McKinney. The necessity for assistant coach Westhead to grab the team and take over.

The episode certainly showed us the blood covered McKinney often enough but the other story line of Magic Johnson and his endorsement deals shared the spotlight. Frankly, both made good thematic elements but by splitting the episode back and forth between them with a cursory look at dementia inflicted Momma Buss only diluted the impact of everything.

The added theme of the financial troubles for Dr. Buss took up another big section of the episode. Each vied for supremacy and nothing really emerged. We just jumped from one scene to the next along all three plot lines. It ended up being largely confusing and unimpactful.

Too Fast

The various story lines just went too quickly. Magic’s relationship with his girlfriend and father came out of the nowhere. It seemed like a vehicle for the fourth wall breaking punch line of the Nike rep at the end. I’m not a big fan of an entire storyline dedicated to setting up a zinger at the end, even if the zinger is a good one.

Coach McKinney’s injuries and the team responding to them all happened so fast. It was just a whole bunch of scenes tenuously strung together. The emergence of Michael Cooper as a premier defender is an interesting story but you’d only get what was happening if you already knew the outcome. It wasn’t cohesive storytelling.

The loan situation was really interesting as well but it came in short snippets interspersed with the other stories. Everything just raced along toward zinger conclusions. The episode completely lacked the deliberate and intense pacing of Pieces of a Man.

Fourth Wall in Winning Time

Not surprisingly, this episode of Winning Time broke the fourth wall almost continuously from beginning to end. The previous episode resorted to this tactic only once or twice and briefly at that. This time we found ourselves listening to long monologs as characters explained their motivations and plans. I found it irritating, pointless and detracted from the interesting stories.


It’s a real shame of an episode following the brilliance of its predecessor. The show is still largely entertaining and worth watching but I hope we get more of the good stuff and less of the mess.

Tom Liberman

PAC Money – Chris Hansen and Corruption

Chris HansenWhen the Supreme Court ruled that Political Action Committees could collect unlimited amounts of money from anyone to support political campaigns most people thought it corrupted politics. The same thing is destroying business in the United States turning us, some would say has already turned us, away from capitalism and onto Crony Capitalism. Perhaps even past Crony Capitalism to what’s called commercial bribery.

In a recent case a fellow named Chris Hansen attempted to purchase the Sacramento Kings NBA team and move them to Seattle. This deal did not succeed for a number of reasons but that’s not the point of my blog today.

The Sacramento Kings were instead sold to another bidder but there was a timetable laid out by the NBA that the Kings had to have a new arena in time for the 2016 season. The new owners immediately began to seek funding for this new stadium. There were some opposed to building this stadium and Hansen realized that if they succeeded in blocking funding he might again have a chance to purchase the team.

His interest in the stadium case is clearly a conflict of interest. Hansen stands to gain by stopping the stadium purchase. Therefore he should stay out of contact with those parties. This would be fair business practice. This is something honorable business owners did quite regularly in the past.

Hansen knew that it was a conflict of interest and so gave money to a third-party who then donated it to the PAC responsible for spending money to try to stop the stadium. The state of California has strict rules about disclosure when it comes to a PAC. Those organizations must reveal donor names. In this case the time frame for disclosure passed and his name was not revealed.

A watchdog group insisted on seeing the records and Hansen’s role was revealed. Only after this did he suddenly regret his decision and apologize. His third-party donation could be illegal and the courts will eventually determine that, but my point is that this sort of thing goes on all the time.

This is the way a business succeeds in the modern-day United States. If you don’t sabotage your competition through commercial bribery or crony capitalistic government intervention they will destroy you first. A business succeed not by providing a better product but by being better at destroying rivals through underhanded methods.

Thus the company that is most unscrupulous wins. That’s not a good formula for consumers and it’s dangerous to our freedom. This trickles up to politicians and community leaders who side with the “winning” business in order to maintain their own position.

We live in the information age. Donations to a PAC can be almost instantly revealed via something as simple as a tweet. I’m not saying people don’t have the right to give to a cause of their choice I’m just saying this donation must be transparent and that conflict of interest laws must be enforced.

Do you think Hansen would have made that “mistake” if the law mandated that the amount and origin of money received must be posted immediately to some online forum?

These sorts of laws don’t erode our freedom, they enhance it. If a politician succeeds because of ideas, if a business succeeds because it is properly run, then we all win.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 at Amazon)
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Flopping for Fouls

FloppingI wrote the other day about a situation in baseball where the players actively deceived the umpire and one of the big questions that is plaguing the NBA playoffs this year is a related issued called flopping. It’s not only basketball that suffers from this “strategy” as soccer players routinely hit the ground as if they’ve been brutalized and even in the tough-guy NFL I frequently see the instigator of a little scuffle suddenly fall down from a light tap in order to get a personal foul penalty called on the other team.

To pretend in this manner is called flopping. Flopping is not good for the sport, the fans, the officials, or the players. It is deceit. It is trying to gain an unfair advantage by lying to the officials. The NBA and EUFA (European soccer’s ruling body) are trying to cut down on this practice by calling penalties on the person faking and also fining said individuals. I think this is the correct policy to pursue.

Flopping, embellishing, working the refs; all these things are cheating. It is certainly an acceptable form of cheating. It is certainly practiced far and wide in virtually every professional sport, but it is cheating, plain and simple and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it when the player for the team for which I am barracking (that’s the Australian word for rooting and I like it) does it and it infuriates me when an opposing player does it. It’s out of hand and it should stop.

The question becomes how do we get it to stop? One way is the current system wherein officials call a penalty of some sort on the person flopping. Another is for the league to review video after the game and issue fines for flopping. I wouldn’t even mind some shaming by posting mandatory pictures in the locker rooms around the league of the most egregious violation. All these methods are legitimate. I’m on record as being for methods of officiating games that remove the human element and these tools will reduce flopping also. The reality is that flopping would stop almost instantly if the players themselves would stop doing it, if they would stop cheating and try to win through their legitimate talents.

Mike Golic of ESPN radio’s Mike and Mike in the morning often says that he doesn’t blame the players for doing whatever it takes to win. He played the game himself and his opinion has enormous sway. I disagree with him. I think this winning at all costs mentality is damaging to sports and dangerous for our country as a whole. One of the things that made the United States great was the work ethic of its people. Work hard, play hard. Work fair, play fair.

I would ask Golic if he taught his sons and daughters to lie to get a better grade? To lie to beat out an opponent? That’s all flopping is, lying to get a favorable outcome.

Flopping is an embarrassment to the player, to the team, to the league and there was a time in the United States where integrity in defeat was admired more than winning at all costs. If we don’t think that by allowing floppers to influence the outcome of events we aren’t teaching people that they should flop in non-sporting venues then we are fooling ourselves. We are raising generations of floppers. They will flop at school to get a better grade, flop at home to get out of doing the dishes, flop at work to get a co-worker fired. Do we want floppers running this country or do we want the best and brightest? Would you promote a flopper at work over a hard worker? Have you witnessed floppers getting ahead at work? Flopping isn’t just for the NBA, it’s epidemic and it’s hurting our country.

It starts with personal integrity and setting an example. Explain why it’s wrong even if your team gains an advantage. Boo, particularly when it’s a player for your team doing the flopping. Most of all, don’t ever flop yourself! Give it your all and shake the other person’s hand if you are defeated. That’s what being an American is all about, that’s what builds friendship, that’s what builds admiration, that’s what builds a nation.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (300+ pages of flashing blades)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Kobe Bryant Facebook Rant

Kobe BryantOn Saturday night a fellow by the name of Kobe Bryant likely tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the remainder of the NBA season, including the playoffs, and it might mean the end of his long career.

Early in the morning, unable to sleep, on pain-killers, he made a lengthy post on his Facebook page which is getting some notice. I’m not a Lakers fan although I’ve admired Bryant as a basketball player for many years. I tend to root against the Lakers and Kobe has made some mistakes in his life, as have we all. When I read his “rant” I was immediately struck by the heartfelt honesty that comes starkly through. I’m not sure if he’s going to face abuse for a few misspellings and some raw words or praise for the post but I wanted my opinion on record before the world judges.

It was a great post. Kobe told us exactly what he was thinking. Maybe it was the drugs that allowed him to be brutally honest rather than guard his emotions but, either way, this post places directly in front of us a glimpse of what it takes to be a champion.

For those of you who are not sports fans I’ll go over Kobe’s career quickly. Kobe went to the NBA directly from high-school and faced much criticism for skipping college. He was a good student with a 1000+ SAT score and had his pick of colleges clamoring to give him a scholarship. He was drafted by the Lakers in a trade with Charlotte and at seventeen had to have his parents co-sign his contract.

In his seventeen year career he has so far won five NBA championships and garnered a lot of critical attention for his desire to be the star player alienating Shaquille O’Neal and, for a time, his coach Phil Jackson. There were also some personal life issues with marital infidelity and a sexual assault charge. Suffice it to say there are those who don’t like him.

In Bryant’s post he shows remarkable courage and self-awareness in admitting that at 35 this injury might end his career and how frustrating that thought is to him. He wonders aloud how he will continue his basketball career. He recognizes that it is early in the morning, that he is on pain-killers, that perhaps he will face rehabilitation with a better attitude in the morning. He mentions that he will have to act as a coach for the remainder of the season and expresses confidence in his teammates to battle and win in the end. He recognizes that his post is raw and filled with emotion and might garner criticism but reflects that he just wants to be honest with his fans via social media. His misspells a word or two but largely does better than a certain sober and well-rested blogger and author who shall remain nameless.

An amazing post. An amazing fellow. He’s has flaws, sure, so what.

Mr. Bryant, thank you for an honest glimpse into your life, into your thoughts. I wish I had as much courage. I wish our politicians, our leaders could display such honesty. If we could all honestly share our fears without being attacked for weakness, for admitting fear, perhaps the world would be a better place.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Book: The Sword of Water (buy it, buy it!! It’s a great read, I promise)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

San Antonio Spurs – Sit Stars

Gregg PopovichThere was an interesting situation in the NBA this week as the San Antonio Spurs basketball team decided to give four of their starters a game off because the team was in a particularly grueling part of the schedule. The NBA commissioner decided that such an action deprived fans the opportunity to see those players and that a fine was in order.

I think it’s a pretty difficult situation for which to find a solution. I think the coach in question, Gregg Popovich, has a point in that three of the four players given the day off are older veterans with injury histories, and that giving them the road game off enhances their ability to last out the season. I also think the commissioner has a point in that fans paid a fairly hefty price for those tickets with the hopes of seeing the star players.

As a St. Louis Cardinals fan I’ve been to Busch Stadium many times when people in the stands around me were from fairly far away and in town for their once a year trip with children to see the team. When the manager gave Albert Pujols or one of the other stars the day off this was a major disappointment for these fans.

There is no doubt the commissioner has the right to impose fines on the coach or the team for this decision. It is well within the duties outlined for that position. The question I ask is whether the league has the right to punish game-day decisions? Should the NFL impose a penalty on the San Francisco 49ers when a I’m disappointed to not see Alex Smith play this week against my Rams? If Danny Amendola is available to play but the coach decides to sit him to prevent further injury does the commissioner step in with a fine?

I’m of the opinion that the league should not try to govern these sorts of decisions. If the Spurs sit some of their players then that’s their business. If it bothers enough fans then they will suffer in dropped attendance. Once the league starts getting involved in player-personnel decisions they are creating a dangerous precedent.

I don’t think it’s an easy line to draw for the commissioner and I see how people can argue that the integrity of the game is at stake. The reality to me is that every coach is out there making decisions in an attempt to win the championship. If that means sacrificing your chances in a particular game to enhance the chances of overall victory that’s a choice best left to the coach, not the commissioner.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water (Available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords soon)

Power Bracelet Scam – Mark Cuban

Mark CubanI haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been working on my new novel. There have been a number of juicy stories in the news but the NBA – Mark Cuban – Bracelet story is right in my wheelhouse and I couldn’t resist a quick blog.

Basically the NBA is now in a business arrangement with a company called Power Balance. They make bracelets for athletes that supposedly boost athletic performance. These types of bracelets have been around for a long time and I remember quite well the trend in the golf industry when many people started wearing copper bracelets for their supposed healing powers.

The company in question recently was forced to make a $57 million payment for false advertising and went into bankruptcy. They are now back and partnered with the NBA who is putting pressure on the teams to make them available to their athletes.

Here is where Cuban comes in. For those of you who are not big sports fans, Mark Cuban is the owner of the NBA team the Dallas Mavericks. It’s a good match. Cuban is known for his outspoken attitude and has been fined by the league to the tune of $1.6 million. He’s flamboyant and a bit of a jackass and not one of my favorite people in the world. But, today, sir, Mr. Cuban, I salute you!

A number of scientific studies showed exactly what everyone knows: Benefits of wearing the bracelet are at most a placebo effect. If people want to throw away $40 on the bracelets that’s their business. As a libertarian I think this sort of scam is so transparently phony that anyone taken in gets what they deserve. Even if the company is making false advertising claims people should know better.

That beings said, Mr. Cuban is absolutely right that an organization like the NBA, whose influence stretches far and wide, has no business partnering with such scam artists. It is when we give legitimacy to such endeavors, usually for money, that we allow evil to triumph in the world. When we see things like this we must stand up to our friends, our neighbors, our countrymen and tell them this is a scam. They don’t have to believe us but we, the rational, must speak up!

Nicely done Mr. Cuban. Nicely done indeed.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water (at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords soon)

Teaser – Linsanity versus Tebowmania

Jeremy LinTomorrow I’m going to examine the phenomenon of Jeremy Lin’s Linsanity and Tim Tebow’s Tebowmania. The two men have captured the attention of the sporting world in the last few months and one thing that struck me strongly was the passion and anger they engendered. In particular I noted the anger and apparent hate that Tebow has generated and that Lin has largely managed to avoid.

Both men are strongly religious and this is usually a recipe for public adulation in the United States. I’m going to try and examine why there was such a large negative reaction to Tebow, not withstanding his legion of fans.

Stay tuned!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

P.S. I got a “Like” from Tristan Nagler and Alternate Economy and his blog is well worth a perusal for those of you who are interested in the well being of the earth and the economic ways we can help. Take a look.