Spaceman's Pancakes

Subscribing to the Cosmic Snowball Theory: A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won't matter if I write this blog


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Celtics lose the Isaiah Thomas/ Kyrie Irving Trade By Every Measure


last night, the Boston Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick for Kyrie Irving and in doing so they not only broke my heart, they also got further from their dream of another championship. It is a strange result to come out of an obvious go-big trade but there is no way to really come to any other conclusion.

In discussing the utter nihilism of this terrible deal in my more personal reaction, I wrote this after enumerating the  joys of Isaiah Thomas’ 2016-17 season-

“You don’t trade that easily. You certainly don’t trade that for a minor upgrade with an extra year of control.”

And that is certainly true. It is hard to imagine Red Auerbach looking at Larry Bird’s 1985-86 season and thinking, “hey that was a great season Bird just had, maybe we can deal him for Wilkens.” But what you really, really, never do is trade the kind of player who brings that one-of-a-kind-history-in-the-making-season to the table along with another chip-on-his-shoulder grinder, an international prospect and a projected top-5 pick for a guy who isn’t happy on a team that contends for the title every season, the very team that you can’t get passed in your conference and who now has that insanely-driven King-in-the-Fourth guy your fans love so much playing next to the best player in the game. When you do that, you lose in every possible way there is to lose.

The fan thing I wrote about in my first piece on this deal is fickle. I get that. Sure, Isaiah Thomas, IT4, King in the Fourth, titles, titles, titles… was a fan favorite, but fans don’t stick with guys who don’t perform and he was beaten to a pulp in the playoffs and too close to thirty to be worth the max deal it would take to keep him a year from now. We are all adults here. But while most of the basketball world* believes that Kyrie is superior, the cold hard numbers are not so sure. Win Shares prefers IT’s best seasons over Kyrie’s. By Box Plus-Minus, Thomas has been slightly better than Kyrie over the past three seasons. Irving hits three’s at a slightly higher percentage and has a serious advantage in assists, but Thomas is actually better per-100 possessions and has played a bigger role on worse teams without the advantage of Lebron James as a possible assist target. I’ll buy that Irving is slightly better and that being younger, he is a better bet long term, but the deal is just two years for one. With that reality in mind, it is impossible to see how Thomas-plus-Crowder doesn’t far out value Irving alone. Add in Zizic and the 2018 Nets pick and the math becomes unwinnable for Boston.

*Including Danny Ainge, apparently

The losing math on the trade might matter less if the deal wasn’t being made with the team that stands directly between the Celtics and any chance at the right to lose to the Warriors in the Finals. Adding IT to Cleveland is just about the worst thing Boston could do right now. As things stood, Boston was entering the season with a new star, a top draft pick and all the trade-deadline-buying power on earth. The Cavs were dealing with a team that wasn’t on speaking terms, had a star demanding a trade, no cap space and no tradable assets. Now they have replaced a malcontent with an equivalent player who runs on disrespect and just got his BALCO-grade B12 shot of the stuff, added a tough three-and-D guy, a rookie big and an asset they can trade at the deadline for just about anything available. I’m really going to enjoy watching Isaiah go for 40 on the Celtics for four games in the Eastern Conference finals while Crowder shuts down Hayward and LeBron just laughs at Kyrie and “his own team as they get swept.” Good stuff. Well worth it.

There is a theory I have that I call the Pujols-Pedroia Principle. It is basically this: when you are a star player and you can choose between leaving for a huge payday or staying with the team that you became a star with for a slightly smaller payday, it is usually correct to stay where you are. Doing this has two major advantages. First, you keep all the good will you have earned over the years on your way up and second, your deal is recognized as a sacrifice, making you seem more noble in your decline and earning you the kind of slack that money just can’t buy. This Celtics deal necessitates the inverse of this theory. Let’s call it the IT-Irving Imperative. This rule says that if you are choosing between a player that you have, that you know and that your fans love and revere, and a similar player worth slightly more (be that value in contract, age, etc), you must pick the player you have because failing with him is righteous while only extreme success can justify going against your own guy.

We are familiar with the consequences of violating the Pedroia-Pujols Principle. It is easy to imagine what Alex Rodriguez’s narrative might have been if he stayed in Seattle for less money or how much more grace would have been given to Pablo Sandoval in the Bay Area instead of the Back Bay. Teams don’t do what Danny Ainge has done that often. For one thing, there aren’t that many chances to do so. But really, it is because the calculus of front offices includes the IT-Irving Imperative. The best GMs know they are better betting on the devil they know. Danny Ainge has forsaken that convention and gone to an extreme with this deal. Only winning big will justify it. He doesn’t have the numbers on his side here, which makes this deal particularly hard to swallow in light of how much IT4 meant to Boston these past three seasons.

It is possible that the Celtics will win this deal, but it isn’t likely. For a GM who has been so patient and calculating, this move is a shock. For a fan, it is mostly just a slap in the face.


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Celtics trade Isaiah Thomas to Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving and Nihilism wins the day


Danny, you broke my heart. You broke my heart!

If you are looking for a case against being a sports fan in 2017, Celtics GM Danny Ainge has served it up for you with his latest mega-deal, the trade that will send Isaiah Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick for Kyrie Irving. It is a bad deal for the Celtics in several ways, but it is a horrible deal for Celtic fans to an almost absurd degree. It is not just “sports are a business,” and this is business as usual. It is championship-chasing nihilism- the belief that there is nothing about the sports-fan experience that means anything except getting a fucking piece of jewelry. Maybe most fans really do just root for laundry and would trade their soul for a few duck boats on parade, but I’m not there yet. I still care a little who wears the jerseys I’m watching, who rides in those boats.

Being a fan is not a rational thing. There is no earthly reason why anyone should sacrifice their time, their emotional energy and their joy and heartache to a group of strangers playing a game. The modern sports world has been forced to confront rationality on all fronts. The gut-feelings of old men that once ruled these games have been banished in favor of precision calculations, data sets and probability tables. And that is a good thing. Reason should win out over superstition and the end of superstitions has improved performance, pushed boundaries and created an era that has seen some of the greatest performances for both teams and individuals. If you are the GM of a major sports franchise, it is vital that you divorce yourself from sentimentality and build a winner at any cost. But if fandom is an inherently irrational thing, maybe the cold rationality of the modern front office can go too far?

That is what happened today.

Nevermid all the rational, calculated reasons this was a bad deal. I’ll get to those. Isaiah Thomas’ 2016-2017 season was special. It was historic in several ways, but it was not the record-setting numbers that made it such a joy to watch. Everyone loves David-and-Goliath stories and, at 5’9, Thomas will forever be cast as David, but his 2016-17 season wasn’t that either. David might beat Goliath but he usually doesn’t burn three Goliath’s in the paint at will with the Kingdom on the line. The season that spawned the King in the Forth meme was the kind of magical occurrence that makes it worth watching sports. Here was this guy- too small for his sport of choice- who bounced around the court with the kind of ease that only comes with a tortuous commitment to making difficult things look easy. He scored at will. He beat double-teams and triple-teams. He buried wild step-backs and crazy-deep threes. He did it without the obvious athleticism of Westbrook, the length of Kawhi, or the flashy moves of Harden. He did it all with a smile that fell just short of hiding the Everest-sized chip on his shoulder*. He did it when it mattered most and when everyone was trying to stop him.

*A chip that just got bigger, BTWs.

That King-in-the-Fourth thing would have been enough to make 2016-17 a season Celtics fans held dear, but when tragedy struck on April 15, 2017, Isaiah Thomas’ season became something else entirely. After losing his sister in a car accident, Isaiah Thomas didn’t step away from the court- a choice that would have been completely understood by anyone with a functioning soul. Instead, he returned to the game he had given up so much for and gave it something that will ring out as long as there are fans who can remember watching it. On the day his sister would have turned 23, Thomas played the greatest game of basketball I have ever seen. It might be irrational to care about sports, but when you watch a game like that, it makes sense in some deep way that we can’t get at with words and numbers.

You don’t trade that easily. You certainly don’t trade that for a minor upgrade with an extra year of control.

But that is what Danny Ainge has done. Because this is what GMs do when they forget that irrational thing at the heart of the game. Without that, ther are too eager to make the headline-grabbing deals, even when they are wrong. They chase rings and only rings and think of nothing else. They forsake all the reasons we watch the games to make sure they can win those games, under the theory that winning will bring the fans.  But what if it doesn’t work? What if they are wrong? What if I don’t what to watch the Kyrie-Celtics for some irrational reason. It was irrational to watch in the first place, right? The NBA might be selling games, but they are really selling stories. How disposable can characters be before we are out on the story itself?

Even Game of Thrones, a show built on brutally punishing our expectations of loyalty to its characters has not been able to do what Danny Ainge just did. There is a part of me that keeps expecting Isaiah to crawl out on to the ice and catch a horse back to Boston. But it isn’t going to happen. And that only leaves the question, why am I watching this anyway?


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What We Are Drinking: Chateau Cornut 2016 Rose


I do not truck with those who would disparage men for drinking pink wine. Look, we aren’t talking about strawberry frozen margaritas here or some drink inspired by a character from Sex and the City. This is wine, and wine is good. Color be damned.

If you are one of the timid men out there, dodging roses for fear of its supposed emasculating effects, searching for your courage, or just someone with a taste for something not quite white and not quite red, I would suggest Chateau Cornut’s 2016 Rose from the Costieres De Nimes region of France’s Rhone Valley. This wine is made from eighty percent Grenache and twenty percent Syrah and over-delivers at around $16 a bottle.

On the nose, I got aromas of strawberries, cranberries, roses and a bit chalkiness or limestone. The tart fruits come through strong on first sip with a bit of nectarine joining the more astringent berries. There is also a salinity to the wine and strong backbone of acidity that make for a complex wine that defies simplistic explanations.

That complexity also may make this a tough wine to pair with food. We had a typical cheese spread accompanying one tasting of this wine and nothing quite worked with it. Fattier fishes such as salmon or  cod would would seem to be a match but not every preparation is going work with the tart cranberry and subtle musk in this rose. It did a nice job cutting the sweetness of some strawberry-blueberry jam we had in the mix but it would be a strange choice with dessert. I preferred this just on its own as a refreshing and still interesting summer wine.

55/80, a solid role player with too many limitations to be an impact player with most meals.


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Introducing The Re-Animated Podcast


In the house I grew up in, there was a closet that held our movie library. This was no glorious collection of 35mm prints or pristine laserdiscs and this was long before DVD, in time when blue-ray could only have possibly been a reference to a species of fish. This closet held VHS tapes.

Even by the low standards of that humble medium, these were low-quality. Some strict, unspoken edict in our house demanded that every tape be filled to the eight-hour long-play maximum and each one was. Actual store bought VHS movies were the exception. This collection was built on dubs. Movies and tv shows were taped one after the other until the run-time was maxed.  No thought was given to the order of the contents or their connection to each other. I recall that The Empire Strikes Back was second a tape that contained some lesser works that have been forgot, leaving only the bitter memory of having to fast-forward through something else to get to the best of the Star Wars films.

But for all the poor quality and Empire-access issues, that closet of VHS tapes was a defining force in my life and in the life of my younger brother, Mike. It was the 1980’s and this technology was revolutionary. For the first time ever, the average person could play a movie in their home. And the average parent could put one on for their kids to get them to stop beating each other for a solid ninety minutes. For those kids, it shaped their lives.

We were those kids and now we are adults.

So we are going back. Opening that closet back up and looking inside at the films that passed our rainy days and bored childhood nights.

Every month, Mike and I are looking back at one iconic film- iconic for us, that is- watching it and reflecting on it.

In Episode 1, we look at the 1982 Rankin/Bass animated film The Last Unicorn. If you too were entranced, engrossed and traumatized by this film as a kid or if you just want to hear me destroy a tiny bit of Mike’s childhood, watch with us and enjoy Re-Animated: Episode 1- The Last Unicorn.


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Poem of the Day #19- 8/01/17


Outside a Bank of America branch,
A small plaque catches my eye
Here once was the Filmore East it proclaims

Walking through city streets
These memento mori abound
Telling tales of places now gone
And where people once danced and got high
Here they raged against the dying of the light
And there they wrote and there they drank and here they died.

And for this a plaque.

Here stood CBGB’s
This was once the Bell Labs, where once people watched quarks dance
Home of Janis and Dylan and Cohen
At this bar, George Washington drank the Brits under the table

After I’ve walked through half of Manhattan
And I’m worn down by these ghosts
I wonder what the plaques will say tomorrow
Will they boast of apps created,
Deposits made

A rage begins to grow in me
I want to find the last seedy street
In Alphabet City
Score a dime of shitty street weed
-No Botanists-choice-Cannibus-Cup-artisinal-kind-
a bag half dirt and seed

I’ll storm bank branches and mobile phones shops
I’ll fire a joint and dance

Dance to Jerry’s Guitar
Dance as Jimi wails
Dance to Janis’s blues
Dance to Yardbird’s sax

Just so one day
A plaque might read
This is where he danced until they dragged him away

 

 

 

 

 

 


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What We Are Drinking- Zorzal Eggo 2015 Tinto De Tiza


I am not the biggest Malbec fan but on a recent run to the wine shop, I was intrigued by this Argentinian red which boasted a 94-point rating from Robert Parker’s wine advocate and the very reasonable price tag of $25. At that price, it is hard to say that this wine failed to deliver in any way. Yet, the high rating probably raised my expectations a bit above what this red could deliver on. Along with the Malbec one expects from Mendoza, this wine has ten percent Cab Franc and five percent Cab Sauvignon. 

On the nose, I got some tobacco and leather tones mixed with blackberry and plum, That is an intriguing mix, but the aromas didn’t captivate as much as that description might suggest they would. The tart fruit tones dominated upfront with a hint of cedar adding some balance. This wines strength for me was in the silky tannins and brisk, slightly acidic finish. It is easy to image this wine standing out paired with a fatty cut of pork or a thick ribeye and just crushing it along side some nice smoky barbeque. 

Overall, on the 80/20 scale, I would put this wine in a 60-65 range, well above average, but a bit short of mind-blowing. It is a wine that needs a soulmate with some smoky and earth and can probably reach up into the 70 range in the right context. Well worth the money, but probably not something you need to track down this minute.