Days of Our Lives for Dudes

It was a new low point of the many in this inane life I chose watching grown men play games.

Short on sleep and long on methamphetamines coffee, my eyes and attention were one with Adrian Wojnarowski’s Twitter account as I waited in suspense for another adult to choose his place of work .

With each mounting clue of Lebron James’ return to Cleveland, I, who had firmly believed he would return to Miami for at least one more season, sunk deeper and deeper into this warped dopamine drip I had entered.

I was no better than a junkie waiting in a back alley to see if his dealer would come through or not. Is Woj gonna get me the stuff? Maybe I should try Marc Stein? What about Brian Windhorst?

I wasn’t even any better than every girl I’ve ever mocked for watching any asinine reality TV series. This was The Bachelorette and I was waiting to see which team would get the final rose.

In between asking Google how much caffeine would kill a 200-pound man and misplacing my frustration onto my poor friends and poorer mother, I removed myself from the insanity to allow for some scarce self-reflection.

This is goddamn ridiculous. How did this become to be?

In only a couple of days, I had spent more time and received more enjoyment from monitoring NBA reporters’ timelines for tweets about exotic car transportation trucks and people pilgrimaging to a man’s house than I had watching the first and second rounds of the NBA playoffs.

None of it nearly resembled the sports stories my grandpa passed onto me of Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse at home plate in the 1970 All-Star game.

What I had only recently and reluctantly began to accept had become hugely evident in that moment: the transaction of sports had superseded the action.

Fans, myself included, have grown to care more about “what team is acquiring which player” than the actual game action in which those moves will make any difference.

For all the conversation about transactions this past week, only one move warranted this level of intrigue and significantly changed the power structure of the league —  LaMarcus Aldridge signing with the San Antonio Death Star.

Okay, Demare Carrol (who I like, actually) signed with the Raptors. Cool. They have a 22% better chance of advancing to the second round.

Okay, Greg Monroe signed with the Bucks? Milwaukee’s 2015-16 ceiling shot way up from 47 wins to 52.

The inconsequence of these signings only augments my curiosity for this shift, the explanation for which I believe is two-fold:

1. The simulated roster construction of fantasy sports has made an increasing number of fans attracted to transactions from belief that they could manage a roster better than many general managers.

After all, coaches and front office executives make for much easier, relatable targets of downward social comparison than professional athletes.

Fan X sitting at home with Doritos crumbs falling from his face knows he can’t run a pick-and-roll in the NBA, but he has played enough NBA 2K franchise mode to know that giving Reggie Jackson 80 million dollars isn’t smart.

And more importantly…

2. If the core purpose of sports’ existence is to entertain, then let’s call the majority of free agency for what it truly is: male soap opera.

Reports about Player X leaving Team Y because he didn’t get enough attention from Player Z is every Kardashian episode and Star Magazine cover cloaked in the masculinity of sports and served to fans as episodes of a TV show I like to call “Days of Our Lives for Dudes.” (Yes, I know many women enjoy sports as well. Sorry ladies.)

The show’s latest and greatest episode bestowed us with the most spectacular story plot since KG said Melo’s wife tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios and then they almost fake fought.

For those who missed it here’s a synopsis of the DOOLFD episode:

DeAndre Jordan is an underappreciated housewife living in the shadow of her husband, who regularly lets DeAndre know when she doesn’t meet his standards by overcooking the roast or forgetting a signature on their tax-exempt forms.

Overcome with frustration, Mrs. Jordan eventually decides to leave her husband and kids in search of the validation her husband refuses to give her.

Lo and behold, Mrs. Jordan meets mistress Mark Cuban and his $80 million dollars at a bar, where he tells her that she is the prettiest girl there (and also that he thinks she can be a Shaq-esque centerpiece of the Dallas offense..what?).

Cuban and Jordan have a week-long bedroom escapade until her husband(s) Blake Griffin and  Chris Paul suddenly realize how much they need their wife and proceed to go crazy trying to win her back.

The episode climaxes as grenades of banana emojis are slung between her husbands and mistresses, whereupon Doc Rivers hops in a wagon which is tied to and lugged by Big Baby Davis from California to Texas, where they meet up with Chris Paul who paddled in on a banana boat.

In a showdown reminiscent of that in Anchorman, they confront a deranged Mark Cuban, who is carrying a trident for some reason, and a near-nude Chandler Parsons, who only seems to wear underwear when he’s not playing basketball.

Finally feeling the affection she longed from her husband, Jordan comes running back into his welcoming arms and 88 million dollars.

And of course the episode ended with Chris Broussard getting scorched for being bad at his job because that’s the way all these things should end.

Sports are entertainment; the less seriously they are taken, the more they can be enjoyed.

The more sports can resemble professional wrestling and the less I have to hear some graybeard bemoan a baseball player pimping his homerun trot, the better.

Nothing has made this clearer for me than Wednesday’s spectacular shit show.

Sometimes it’s okay to be more entertained by some soap opera than a Nets-Raptors first round playoff series.

DeAndre Jordan spurning the Mavericks and speculation about exotic car transportation trucks leaving LeBron’s house provided more  “what the fuck is about to happen next?!” moments than almost any game ever could.

Wednesday night reminded me that I want with my sports more banana emojis and and drunk Mark Cuban stories and Paul Pierce’s terrible old person Twitter ineptness (YOU’RE A GOD DAMN RED BLOODED AMERICAN LEARN HOW TO TWEET AN EMOJI) and ridiculous hot sports radio takes and more ridiculous freakout videos from (un)masked fans and NBA players quoting Edgar Allen Poe and banana emojis.

(Really I just wanted JR Smith to jump in with an eggplant emoji but WHATEVER JR I didn’t want the pipe anyway.)

None of this nearly resembles the stories our grandfathers proudly recounted.

And that’s okay.

Sometimes the best sports stories have nothing to do with sports.

[100 emoji]

UConn Dining Jumps on the Food Truck Bandwagon

The University of Connecticut’s Dining Services are taking on a long-awaited project that is anticipated to create quite a stir on campus – university food trucks.

Dining Services Executive Director Dennis Pierce said the idea has been in discussion for the past three years, and everything is finally in order to move forward with the process.

University-run food trucks have been popping up at college campuses across the nation, according to thelance.net.

“We’re probably one of the last major schools without a vending truck,” Pierce said.

Two food trucks will be introduced, employed with student labor; the first one serving just ice cream, as an extension of the Blue Cow shop located in the Student Union. All ice cream served will be products of UConn’s own Dairy Bar. Pierce anticipates the truck to have different routes for day and night, depending on the season.

“The ice cream truck was specifically an idea that came from President Herbst,” Pierce said.

The location of The Dairy Bar is also a long hike for many students, so Pierce hopes the ice cream truck will make up for the limited access.

The second truck will just serve meals, and the menu is sure to be anything but ordinary.

“A food truck is literally a kitchen on wheels,” Pierce said. “It will first start off as a taco truck, but not Mexican food…more like off-the-wall tacos.”

Dining staff recently sat down to taste test about 14 different kinds of tacos, with a variety of meat, vegetable, vegetarian and gluten free options, Pierce said.

Many of the menu options will change with popularity and with the time of year. Dining Services plans to utilize UConn’s Spring Valley Student Farm in order to incorporate locally grown in-season produce in the recipes. There’s even talk of “meals in a field,” a spinoff of Dining Services annual Pop-Up Dinners, where the trucks would park in the field and set up tables for students.

A couple of different ideas are going around about where the food truck will make regular stops. Dining Services is looking at different schedules, as well as a possible permanent lunch location on Fairfield Way, but that would include some type of construction, Pierce said.

“The questions that cannot be answered right now are ‘where’ and ‘when.’ But I see both trucks having multi-schedules,” Pierce said.

There’s no telling where the best location and when the best time will be as far as scheduling the trucks, so that part will take a bit of experimentation. Dining Services plans to use various social media to promote the schedules, and will decide upon the best scheduling option based on popularity.

Pierce said he anticipates that the trucks will be in high demand, and expects a positive turnout. Dining Services is also planning to book the trucks for events around campus, possibly including events such as Family Weekend and Spring Weekend. As far as off campus events go, though, Dining Services is making UConn’s students and staff its main priority.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we were asked to do off campus,” Pierce said. “But first and foremost we want to serve the university community.”

Both trucks should be up and running by the time the upcoming school year begins. The trucks are currently being wired with wireless transaction systems, so that they are able to take credit and debit cards. Neither truck will take UConn meal plan points.

While Pierce said he understands the inconvenience of not being able to use points, the value of one point is not equal to the value of one dollar. After reviewing the expenses, Dining Services just wouldn’t be able to pay the trucks back on points.

“I know it’s not going to go over well, but this is a business,” Pierce said.

If the trucks go over well and it becomes financially feasible, Pierce said the university would consider introducing more food trucks, though he noted that he wanted to be careful in competing with different eating options around campus.

“We’re really excited about it; it’s definitely going to be a learning experience for us,” Pierce said.

State Funding Drops To Lowest In University History

With the new fiscal year set to begin midnight Wednesday, UConn is facing a minimum $28.2 million reduction in state funding from the previous year, dropping the rate of funding the state lends to its flagship university to an all-time low.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has the power to additionally reduce the amount appropriated to UConn by 5 percent before midnight tonight, which could become 6.5 percent depending on a vote by the legislature, which  is currently in special session.

Any further reductions would force the University’s Board of Trustees to revise the new fiscal year’s spending plan, which was finalized on June 24 and divvied up a total of $1.3 billion – $243.2 million from the state – for UConn Storrs and its branch campuses.

“We are waiting and watching and hoping,” UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said.

The state will now fund only 30 percent of the university’s budget, an appreciable decrease from 43 percent in 2000, and roughly 50 percent in the early 90’s, Reitz said.

State lawmakers originally proposed to cut UConn’s funding by $40 million, but later scaled that back to $28.2 million upon hearing pleas from those who would be most impacted.

”I think it was helpful for legislators to hear student voices (in February). It had an impact in how law makers made their cuts and I believe and I hope it will continue to,” Retiz said.

UConn is not alone in receiving less state higher-education funding.

From 2003 to 2012 the national average for public university funding from their respective state dropped from 32 to 23 percent, according to a report to the Chairman, Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, United States Senate in 2014.

“We are grateful for what we receive,” Reitz said. “We are in better shape than other universities.”

The state’s support is not only being used to fund the day-to-day operations of the school, but infrastructure for the future as well.

Nineteen million of the $243.2 million grant is designated for the Next Generation Connecticut project, which Reitz said the university is obligated to put towards NextGren as a part of an agreement made in spring 2013.

The state funding reductions resulted in $14.6 million less than requested specifically for Next Generations, making UConn unable to proceed with all of the hiring and student scholarships that were planned for this year. The school’s employment of 50 faculty members across all campuses reaches only half of their original goal for this year.

“The hardest thing will now be to get the student to faculty ratio to the 15:1 that we have been striving for,” Reitz said. “We were at 16:1 last year, but it is going to increase now.”

UConn has already enrolled 250 additional freshman in the class of 2019, and despite funding cuts to basic operations and Next Gen – which has resulted in a significant slowing of the planned faculty hiring – the University will continue to increase class sizes each year, Reitz said.

“We are committed to bringing in more (students) because of the dorms under construction and the promise to the state,” Reitz said. “The Next Gen building projects will not be affected. The money for them comes from a capitol bond. The STEM and honors dorms are coming along fine and will finish on schedule.”

The growing student to faculty ratio will force current professors to teach more sections, as well as faculty who have completed research projects to take on more undergraduate classes, Reitz said.

Although faculty will be increasing at UConn, staff and mid-level administrative positions will be seeing rounds of layoffs in order to compensate for the decreased funding.

For example, the Bursar’s offices at all branches have been merged into a single office based in Storrs. The maintenance crews – which used to be separated into residential and non-residential departments – will now merge as one department.

“A lot of empty positions will just be eliminated instead of refilled,” Reitz said. “When people leave throughout the whole year (2015-2016) there will not be a new hire in their place. There is no guarantee that any position that comes open will be filled.”

 

International Entrepreneurship Program Seeks to Form Connections Between Future World Leaders

For the sixth year in a row, the University of Connecticut will host an international leadership exchange program for North and Sub-Saharan African students, which includes a weekend homestay with an American family; and program coordinators are looking for interested participants.

The Global Training and Development Institute (GTDI) is able to conduct this Summer Institute for Student Leaders in Social Entrepreneurship through U.S. Department of State grant funds. African student leaders from 40 universities are selected by a rigorous application process, and attend the five–week program that consists of classes and workshops centered on entrepreneurship, business, finance and marketing in order to help make a difference in their homeland communities. The international students live in on-campus apartments during the program, with the exception of the weekend homestay, according to UConn’s Daily Digest.

UConn’s weekend homestay program will run from July 24th to July 26th, benefitting both African students and American families due to the exposure of differing cultures. Host families are sought out throughout Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, GTDI Director Roy Pietro, said.

“Over 200 American families have hosted in the past five years, and the consensus opinion is that (it) can be an extremely rewarding cross–cultural experience,” Pietro said.

Interested families are interviewed ahead of time and provide references for the U.S. Department of State. UConn staff also visit their homes to inspect the bedroom and living spaces to ensure that they meet the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) guidelines.

“This experience provides our visiting international students a glimpse into the everyday life of an American family, as they attend community events, meet with other Americans and have meals with family members and friends,” Pietro said.

The two – way cultural connections obtained through this experience also allows Americans to learn about life in Africa, from local policies, to socioeconomic hardship. This learning process builds understanding and relationships between the United States and countries throughout Africa, Pietro said.

In a UConn Today article about the program run in 2014, Pietro said making an impact on African societies starts with just a few people. He stated that even if a portion of the 40 international student leaders take productive measures back home, an impact has been established.

UConn is the only institution in the state that offers this kind of international partnership. Due to the success of the program, the U.S. Department of State recently granted the GTDI the privilege to replicate this program for 40 student leaders from 10 countries in Southeast Asia. The program will aim to enhance future leader relations with the United States and Southeast Asia. UConn will host the program in the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters, allowing interested families another opportunity to provide weekend homestays for the visiting students, Pietro said.

To participate or ask questions about becoming a host family for one or two visiting students, contact Program Coordinator Danielle DeRosa at: danielle.derosa@uconn.edu or 860-486-6305.

The Holy Trinity: How the Warriors redefined championship basketball

In my NBA Finals preview, I focused on Golden State’s lack of past postseason hardships as the reason why a faction of the public was reluctant to give them the respect the empirical data indicated they deserved.

At the time, however, I knew public doubt stemmed from a confluence of their inexperience as well as their many novel qualities.

NBA Champions, let alone possible dynasties, are not supposed to look like this.

A champion’s best player isn’t supposed to be a 6’3, 190 lb. point guard best known for perimeter shooting. That’s supposed to be a dominant big or historically great wing – Duncan, Jordan.

A champion’s second best player is not supposed to be a 6’7, 230 lb. power forward who actually plays center and is best known for defensive versatility and arrogance. That’s supposed to be an established compliment with a Hall of Fame pedigree – Pippen, Wade, Parker.

A champion’s coach isn’t supposed to be in his first year and readily admit to relying on a 28-year-old video coordinator  for a series-saving lineup move. That’s supposed to be an all-wise, grizzled pillar of stoicism – Auerbach, Jackson, Popovich.

A champion’s Finals MVP is not supposed to be yesteryear’s consolation free agency acquisition coming off the bench to occasionally slow down the series’ actual MVP – that’s a Hall of Famer as well.

Most sacrilegious of all, an NBA Champion isn’t supposed to pave their way by bombing more three’s than any other team in the postseason, often passing up open layups for the possibility of an extra point.

Golden State averaged 30.5 three-point attempts in 21 games this postseason. No other NBA champion in the last 10 years shot more than 22 per postseason game (2011 Dallas), and the same past ten champions shot a composite average of 19.6 three’s per game, 35 percent less than the Warriors.

It’s no secret that many people in and around the league turned their nose up at the idea of a Warriors championship contradicting the “old way of doing things” and becoming a large milestone in the league’s analytic-optimization.

You can hear anti-analytics crusaders like Charles Barkley say it now, “live by the three, die by the three,” while bemoaning the perimeter-focused Warriors’ lack of inside scoring and toughness.

“There’s this supposed war between the purity of basketball and the 3-point line,” Celtics GM Danny Ainge told ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh recently.

“The old-time coaches want to control everything, and the three just doesn’t fit into that philosophy,” Mike D’Antoni, one of the league’s first three-point advocates, added.

(Old dudes wanting to keep status quo because that’s the way things have always been done.. doesn’t sound familiar.)

The notion that the Warriors needed to win a championship to validate the application of analytics in basketball is inherently ridiculous, as both the Heat and Spurs were also firm believers in analytics and constructed their championship rosters accordingly.

Keep in mind that when anybody refers to “analytics,” it usually doesn’t encompass anything more complicated than an elementary math lesson. If Player A shoots 100 three’s at a league average 35 percent, and Player B shoots 100 two’s at league average 45 percent, Player A wins by 15 points.

This is not to say that hoisting as many three’s as possible is suddenly the only or best way to win a championship, as clearly every team doesn’t has comparable backcourt shooting and talent.

However, I think Golden State’s jump from 54 wins to 83 wins upon Steve Kerr taking over for Mark Jackson (who tried to mold an offense that mirrored one from the mid-90’s) is yet another case study in how transformative the 3-point shot has become.

From the start, Kerr became hellbent on maximizing his team’s success at the 3-point line, while doing everything possible to take the same away from opponents.

After refusing to relinquish Thompson in a trade to acquire Kevin Love (dissenting from consensus opinion at the time), Kerr quickly abandoned Jackson’s larger, more traditional starting lineup of Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Lee-Bogut, and opted to start smaller Green in place of Lee, and Barnes, a better perimeter shooter, in place of Iguodala.

The smaller lineup provided more spacing and shooting offensively while also allowing them to switch on most pick-and-rolls defensively with three versatile wing-defenders on the floor, thus allowing opposing shooters less space coming off screens.

The five-man unit (Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Green-Bogut) dominated on both ends, leading all of Golden State’s lineups in regular season plus/minus (+329 in 813 minutes).

Here’s the kicker: Marc Jackson did not play those five players together for a single minute during the 2013-14 regular season.

So much for stubbornly keeping bigger lineups.

The Finals match-up we just witnessed embodied much of the contrast between the old-school ideal that one great player quarterbacks his team come hell or high water, and a analytically-optimized, multi-pronged attack.

While Golden State used ball movement and a fast pace to maximize their open three’s,  Cleveland, to much success, essentially turned into Stanford football playing Oregon and grinded the pace down to take away Golden State’s extra offensive possessions, while creating their own by playing big and pounding the hell out of the offensive boards.

Of course, the two teams’ talent and health disparity nulled any potential evidence of the effectiveness of either, as Golden State would have beaten the broken Cavs playing any style once Kyrie Irving exited.

But if nothing else, the match-up provided a distinct before-and-after of how successful NBA offenses have evolved to function.

It’s become near impossible to win four Finals games by walking the ball up, getting tough inside the paint and hoping one guy can create in isolation.

The Warriors are the future and what nearly every NBA general manager is trying to build: a team that kicks ass on both ends of the floor.. generates additional possessions by playing at a fast pace.. is offensively predicated on ball movement and creating efficient layups and open three’s.. and is defensively predicated on an abundance of athletic wings that can guard multiple positions and switch almost any pick-and-roll.

Unconventional is the new conventional.

“Live by the three, die by the three.”

It’s June, and the Warriors are not only still living, they have breathed life into basketball’s future.   

Live by the three or die.

UConn to Hire Nurses Specifically for Sexual Assault

The University of Connecticut will receive permission and means to hire nurses specialized in the treatment of sexual assault, thanks to legislation signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy on Tuesday. UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said the bill will go into effect July 1 and “the services will be in place and available for the start of the new academic year.”

Proponents of the legislation, which the state senate passed unanimously in April, say having these services on campus will soften the trauma of sexual assault by making specialized treatment more accessible, reducing the number of times victims must relate their experience to medical staff and allowing them to stay on campus while being treated.

Connecticut currently has nurses trained as Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (SAFE) in six hospitals throughout the state. The one nearest to the Storrs campus is Windham Hospital, 8 miles away in Willimantic. This requires the many students without access to a car on campus to take an ambulance in order to receive the fullest treatment.

Sen. Mae Flexer, a primary supporter of the bill from Danielson, said these measures would “slightly reduce the trauma that survivors of sexual assault experience.”

The Campus Sexual Assault Study, conducted in 2007 for the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice, found that one in five of female college seniors surveyed had been sexually assaulted during their college years.

The legislation comes after UConn has received media attention in recent years concerning sexual assaults on campus. Last year, UConn agreed to a $1.3 million dollar out of court settlement in a federal lawsuit brought by five students who said the university had mishandled their claims of sexual assault and harassment. UConn admitted no fault as part of the settlement.

The university was not required to make any institutional changes as a result of the settlement, but has since created a new assistant dean of students for victim support services, a Special Victims Unit in the UConn Police Department, and two staff investigator positions.

“This is an issue that is dear to President Herbst and all of us at UConn,” Dean of Students Elly Daugherty said of the recent law, “and we’re grateful that legislators heard our students’ concerns and acted quickly and decisively to give us more tools to help them.”

Students spoken to about the legislation appear to come to the general consensus that it’s a positive change but is by no means a definitive solution to what are perceived as broader inadequacies in how sexual assault is treated at universities.

“It makes me a little uncomfortable that there are enough rapes on campus for a specialized nurse to be cost effective,” said Kimberly Armstrong, 5th-semester journalism and environmental studies major (and staff writer for the Daily Campus), “but I assume that would only be part of their job. Paired with preventative measures this will definitely make a difference on campus.”

“I think that having a nurse at UConn that is specifically trained to help victims of sexual assault is a step in the right direction,” said Lauren Colburn, 5th-semester biology and psychology double major, “there is still a lot that needs to be done but I’m happy to see advances like this.” Colburn is also chief financial officer of on campus activist group Revolution Against Rape.

Zoë Esponda, 5th-semester environmental science major, expressed more general concern about current costs of medical treatments for students. “I know friends that avoid the Health Center when they are sick because they get ninety dollar copays with their insurance,” she said, “I hope this won’t be the case with the new staff.”

The Health Center, as stated on its website, “uses a fee-for-service model… for office visits, laboratory services, x-rays, pharmacy items, as well as specialty clinics.” Fees for office visits alone range from “$25 to $250, depending on the type and complexity of the visit.” The fees are added to the student fee bill, sometimes weeks after the appointment.

Still, the move can be viewed, at the very least, as part of a broadening concern for victims of sexual assault and efforts on the part of the state government to alleviate the problems.

“I’m really glad that this is happening,” said Allie Prince, 5th-semester Allied Health Sciences major and secretary of RAR, “and I think that it definitely should have been sooner but I’m glad that they’re really taking action now.”

“I really hope that other colleges and universities follow in UConn’s footsteps,” Prince continued, “I also think that there’s a lot more that needs to be done but for now this is a good step.”

Sterling Gibbs commits to UConn

Sterling Gibbs announced on Saturday via his Twitter account that he will be joining the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team next season. Gibbs is a graduate transfer and will be eligible immediately.

Gibbs had an on-campus visit to UConn on Thursday.

The transfer marks the second of Gibbs’ career. After playing his freshman at Texas under former Longhorns coach Rick Barnes, the Scotch Plains, New Jersey native played sparingly at Texas and transferred to Seton Hall after his freshman year.

He played two seasons with the Pirates after sitting out in 2012-13 due to NCAA transfer rules.

As a member of Seton Hall last season, Gibbs was a second team All-Big East selection. The 6-foot-2-inch dynamic scoring guard led the Pirates in points per game (16.3), assists per game (3.8) and 3-point shooting percentage (.436).

Gibbs is the fifth notable transfer player brought into the program under coach Kevin Ollie. He joins Rodney Purvis and Sam Cassell Jr, both still in the program. Gibbs is also the fourth graduate transfer to commit to UConn in the Kevin Ollie era and will suit up this season alongside fellow graduate transfer Shonn Miller, who spent his previous four years at Cornell.

Gibbs also considered Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Baylor, NC State and VCU.

Associate Sports Editor Dan Madigan contributed to this report.