Friday, August 29, 2008

Pickup Blues

I could blog about Batson v. Kentucky or pickup basketball, so I chose the latter.

They closed the gym I played at last year on campus. Budget cuts, apparently. I just hope I actually get a diploma before they padlock the entire place or simply implode it.

So now my Friday afternoon fix requires a trip to the Rec Center. Little background on The Wreck, there was a line today of muscled dudes to get into the weight room. I am not joking. A fellow muscled dude with a badge was holding people up until someone came out. It was like the world's worst nightclub.

The basketball courts are pretty good though, and normally you don't have to wait too long. But today cemented my status as an old man who may be losing what little magic he had. I've been using the "up and under" a lot lately and other energy-conserving moves. I'm also staying back on defense a lot and not even running to the offensive end because either a turnover will send me scrambling back anyway or I'm too tired. I think soon the other players are going to start calling me "Pops."

Let me be clear: I don't think basketball has passed me by. I just think the subtly different form of "pickup basketball" has passed me by. Let me note a few examples simply from today.

1) I got my hand caught in a dude's hair! Yes, I went up for a rebound and nearly lost a finger because some guy wanted to both play basketball and look like Peter Tosh. That was a little traumatic for both of us.

2) I believe a bit too much in fairness. This manifests itself in many forms. Little enrages me more (in a very quiet manner) than calls based on the score. Calling your own fouls does not mean you have the right to deal with bumps at the beginning and then call a foul if someone breathes on you at the end. My rule is I don't call fouls by anyone on me. If they foul me hard enough for it to actually affect me, everyone will know it and will stop. As a result, this can hurt my effectiveness.

Secondly, on the matter of fairness, I won't stand for irregularities in "who got next." If two girls and a dude in a World B. Free throwback have been waiting, they get to play. There is no discussion. Today, a girl had been waiting game after game, so I told her she could play with me. When our turn came up, she got to play and run the point guard. Full disclosure, we got slaughtered, but I was happier with that outcome than if we had won and she had not gotten to play. I will not sit idly by while such tyranny is allowed to propagate unchecked!

3) I just want to play the way I play, but too many times guys on my team are telling me what to do. Today, I played my first game and we destroyed this other team. Then, those losing team's point guard joined our team because one of our guys left. In this next game, I was being guarded by a guy who probably could bench press around 400 pounds. As such, he played like a guy who can bench press 400 pounds (LeBron excepted, of course). Namely, he was a bit "mechanistic" and preferred brute force to wisdom or body control. But despite his obvious strength advantage, the fact that I was taller than Mr. Muscles by about three inches caused the new point guard to adamantly implore me to "post him up." My rule is I don't really post anything up (and that includes actual posts). Rather than take the advice, I just got the ball on the wing, drove around Mr. Universe and laid the ball in. This only angered The Hulk, who proceeded to bury me under the hoop repeatedly and call for the ball. I don't know if he ever scored, though.

Here's the point: let's just all play smart and make the intelligent play. Square pegs, round holes, make the extra pass, take what the defense gives us, cliche, well-worn mantra, etc.

4) I don't care as much as these guys anymore. Win or lose, I'm just glad to get to run around and clear my head. Basically, I just don't want to get hurt (and that includes any hair-related injuries), get a sweat going and then go home. That's the beauty of what we call "Law School Basketball." Everyone who plays agrees with those tenets and thus most problems are solved. We are still hoping to have Law School Basketball again this year, so I hope we can find enough people.

I admit that I sound like Walter Sobchak, but I don't think my suggestions are too much to ask. I do love pickup basketball and can think of few things that are more fun or easier to get involved in (you just show up and play, that's why basketball is great), but as I age I might be getting a little crotchety. Oh well, I guess it's my right.

Last things:

Gustav go away!

Cancer go away! (Some kind of harsh language on that link, but I think it's funny)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Late Night Texts

A transcript of the text messages between Lloyd and I during the Team USA-Spain gold-medal game in the middle of the night:

Me: Are you still awake for this game?
Lloyd: Yeah barely
Me: Me too ill wake up when they start playing
Lloyd: Yeah
Me: A little scary but at least wade is rolling
Lloyd: Yeah, were in such a hurry to try to pressure that they blow by us or we foul them were fine though
Me: Still pretty scary but kobe and lebron Should be fresh
Lloyd: Yeah, i dont like this cuz pau should be fresh too and they're outplaying us
Me: Still pretty scary well see what happens
Lloyd: Im getting upset with our guards defense. Irate may be a better word.
Me: Not good
Lloyd: Yeah. This is trouble
Me: This is nuts
Lloyd: Yeah. Glad i decided to wake up for this.

I don't know if that game should have been that close, but it was definitely great to watch. If they replay it, drop whatever you are doing - even if it is a patient in the ER - and watch because you'll enjoy it immensely. Also, keep watching until the interview Saigs has with Wade and Kobe after the game. For celebrities and professional athletes, it is an ironclad rule that honesty is the worst policy. For someone like Kobe, being himself isn't even worthwhile because half the people hate him and the other half believe that every second of his life is calculated, orchestrated and stage-managed. I reside seemingly with one foot in both camps. But I will say this with certainty: the dude is ultra-clutch and he seemed genuinely elated with winning a gold medal.

Wade was a joy to watch and LeBron did what he does, but when it came down to the end, since Team USA had Kobe there was no question who should take the big shots and handle the big possessions. Kobe will never be Jordan because he isn't that popular and Jordan came first. But Kobe is the only real qualified heir to the throne as being a Jordan-esque killer when the game is on the line.

Kobe may have been happy because he succeeded in China (where he is beloved even more than Hasselhoff in Germany), because he was the hero or because it will mean more endorsements, but in watching that interview and the way he hugged Wade (not to get any more homoerotic than this post already has been), it just seemed that he was sincerely thrilled. I'm sure the interview will be on Youtube for at least a brief time (NBC's minions are apparently quite efficient at getting things taken down) and I encourage you to find it. It made me happy to see other people that happy. It might do the same for you.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

(Maybe) How Keith and Shaleah Think

I just finished Dr. Jerome Groopman's How Doctors Think, a thought-about-thought-provoking look at the puzzle doctors face in trying to make correct diagnoses. I enjoyed the book - it read like a mundane version of House, minus all the insults and clear ethical violations. Mainly, the book is a catalog of cognitive errors that doctors can make - availability error, search satisfaction, overreliance on Occam's (Groopman spells it Ockham's) razor, etc. The book offers lots of handy doctorish sayings for dinner parties - "when you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras" - but often Groopman shows why these saying can be dangerous, since maybe the doctor is looking at one zebra in a hundred horses. But as Groopman recounts tales of misdiagnosis, it shows the art, rather than science, of being a doctor - a point Keith has made to me many a time. While the book may lead the lay reader (which is its target audience) to believe doctors are just flailing away in the dark, Groopman seems simply to be advocating for openmindedness on every case and the courage (or maybe just the time!) to question initial assumptions.

While legal issues are a small part of the book, one always is aware that any misdiagnosis can lead to a malpractice suit. But Groopman isn't crucifying doctors for being wrong. He is simply taking them to task for thinking they can't be wrong or not being willing to change course when it becomes clear that they are. Nothing in this book is ground-breaking. None of the wisdom or warnings about cognitive errors would be news to doctors, but Groopman shows how the current medical system - predicated on speed of appointments, avoiding expensive tests or (horror!) redoing those tests, and the constant marketing of drugs and surgical devices - can make avoiding cognitive errors almost impossible.

Having said all that, I don't think I could cut it as a doctor. There is too much that is unknown, too many things that could be happening unseen and consequences that are too serious if things go wrong. I've come to believe that almost everything - including, in many cases, the law - is a game (the book How Lawyers Think would be boring, incomprehensible, focused on winning verdicts rather than justice, and ultimately pointless), but being a doctor is not a game. It is very important work. Throughout my reading of the book, I could not help but compare the analysis that Groopman was doing with what I would think in the same situation. (On the first day of law school they say they are going to change the way you think, and I have to admit that they are right.) But I'm not sure if the way I think is helping anyone particularly (or ever will), but I know that the way Keith and Shaleah think is helping some thankful Nebraskans.

Sometimes thinking about thinking can leave one wrapped in a confusing puzzle of meta-ness, but it is a worthwhile exercise. I know I took some things from Groopman's book that will help me make better decisions. I'm expecting that those decisions won't involve life and death, but for those who do make such decisions, remember, zebras do exist!