Back in the late 1980s I stumbled across my first bottle of stout ale, an event that sparked decades of fascination. That may seem like a long time (particularly to the many adults born thereafter), but more than a decade before beer, my first two loves were basketball and politics. I was drawn into both around 1976, the first by Kareem and Dr. J, the latter by stories my mom told me of a peanut farmer who might win the Democratic nomination. I know this is a beer blog, but (wo)man can not live in malt alone--and this is an absolutely banner moment for my first two preciouses.
Let's start with politics, it being so timely and all. Last night the first woman in US history sealed up a presidential nomination for a major party. At one point last evening, MSNBC posted a graphic of the number of votes for all female candidates for president not named Hillary in US history: 800k and change. Hillary has in her two runs earned more than 30 million.
Of course, barely anyone noticed that because the GOP primary is the most florid and bizarre in living memory. (Old-timers may cite 1964, but come on, Goldwater had been a sitting US senator for 12 years before he ran.) Without leveling any particular judgments about candidates, I think it's safe to say that the events of the GOP primary--a billionaire and reality-show host beating a slate of senators and governors--were so implausible you couldn't have used them in fiction. No matter what happens in November, the selection of Donald Trump will remain a point of head-shaking amazement for decades. It's the campaign that will launch a thousand poly-sci studies. It's been such good entertainment that come November, I won't know what to read in the morning without my daily Trump campaign news.
Meanwhile, in basketball we're witnessing not only the best season any team has had (the Golden State Warriors are two NBA championship wins from wresting the all-time record from the Jordan-Pippin Bulls), but seeing the Warriors permanently change the game. For the whole of basketball's run, it has been a sport dominated by giants. Plant an oak tree under the basket and give him a couple maples on the wings, and you can compete in any game. High-scoring teams have made runs in the past, but the shooters who do so well in the regular season enter the playoffs and find themselves in the middle of wrestling matches they inevitably lose.
But the Warriors have switched the script. They use a lineup of small sharp-shooters who are so fast the wrestlers can't get a hold of them. They regularly use a lineup in which their "tree," the center, is Draymond Green, a 6' 7" forward who gives up five inches to other teams' centers. They win because the movement of their offense, and particularly of their two guards, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, is so fast and fluid the bigs can't keep up. Now teams who want to beat the Warriors bench their big men and put in the speedsters. The Warriors are illustrating that you can win more easily if you score in intervals of three than two, and when plodding teams put their large lineups in, they get blown out. Because math. Those Bulls-era teams of the 90s put up 10-13 three-pointers per game. Golden State averaged thirty-one this year.
Back in the late 90s, when the Ewing-led Knicks were at their prime, the game was a dismal mess. Each possession ended up with a clear-out and one guy backing down to the rim to fire up a brick or get fouled. The Knicks would win games and only score 70 points. The game is more elegant and beautiful now, and teams almost always pass 70 points in the third quarter. The rest of the league has taken notice, and the Thunder almost beat the Warriors playing Warriorball, while the Blazers, a team everyone thought would be one of the league's worst, used it to get into the second round of the playoffs.
There's every reason to expect it to continue. Guys who are 6' 3" like Curry are a dime a dozen. And all those short 15-year-olds are now shooting day and night to be the next Steph, knowing they don't have to wait for divine (or rather genomic) intervention to make them giants. It's rare to witness a revolution--even one so trivial as to happen in basketball--and I'm enjoying every minute. Tip-off to game three of the NBA finals is tonight at 6pm West Coast time.
Amazing times. Oh, right, this is a beer blog--I've got to do my duty and somehow tie IPAs into this whole thing. Easy peasy: nothing is so pleasant as drinking one while watching the Warriors or as necessary while watching politics. See how I did that? Now it's a proper beer blog post.
(Oh, and I didn't even get to the heroics of Big Papi and my Red Sox--that's the kind of year we're having.)