Saturday, December 22, 2012

What Christmas Means To Me....At The Moment

The past few years, I've had a few friends note to me that they feel "blah" around Christmas time.  As someone who has gone through it lately, I can understand why.  Christmas is commercialized and the media bombardment makes it feel like "everyone is happy" around this time.  

The reality is that not everyone is thrilled around Christmas.  Christmas is about commercialism, gift buying and families.  However, for those of us (including me) who aren't married, gift buying isn't done as much.  Much of my adult friends have agreed that we don't need to buy presents for each other anymore.  If we do buy anything, it should be for the kids.  My opinion is that many parents (and their families) buy enough presents for the kids.  I have chosen to take a hands off approach to buying presents for the kids.  Of course, that means, I'm not out as much buying things.  That can make someone feel like "something is wrong".

On the other hand, I'm blogging to put a positive spin on things.  This year, I actually had to shop a bit more than I did in the past.  I had a few gift exchanges to go to and actually trying to buy something for parents and my cousin's kids.   But that itself doesn't make me happy.

I realized that just because it's Christmas doesn't mean anything has changed.  I can still do my usual things and be content with it.  For example, in the course of 8 hours, I officiated a few basketball games, went to a lunch party and played some basketball.

One thing I realize is that ANY holiday is a time to renew friendships.  The lunch party and playing basketball was less about the activity and more about just seeing some of my friends.

The same is for my family.  One of my cousins and I talked last year.  Our family is just not big on everyone getting together.  Last year, my cousin decided to invite my family over to dinner on Christmas.  We went over in the evening and just hung out for a few hours.  We are doing this again in a few days as well.

For anyone who feels like Christmas is blah, it's fine.  I understand why.  But there are others who may feel the same way.  However, there is no need to dwell on it.   Just take a deep breath and remember how blessed you are with everything you have.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Friendship Quote And Thought

“Some come and leave, fulfilling a single purpose; others, for a time or a season to teach us by sharing their experiences; and last, a select few who participate forever with relationships that endure through eternity.”

Around the time of my senior year in high school, I made the acquaintance of an unlikely person in one of my classes.   This particular person, by all accounts, was one of the (if not THE) smartest person in our small 625+ student high school.  On the other hand, you had me.  I actually was a pretty good student during my senior year  (above 3.20 GPA throughout) and even becoming the student of the month at one point.  Yet, I saw myself as more of a jock.  After all, I did garner four athletic awards through my high school career. 

This acquaintance would be my "best friend" for many years.  I would call this friend to talk about anything and everything.  Even I had some local friends I hung out with as well, I always returned to my "best friend" from high school even though the friend resided in Massachusetts.  

This all changed about eight years or so ago.  I felt my needs weren't being met and a rift developed.  Without getting into the gory details, the long standing friendship broke.  I was pretty bitter and upset over it.  

However, as the years have gone on, I have realized the split was probably the best for both my friend and I.  My friend had done a lot for me and it was our time to move on to bigger and better things.  I was a little too young to realize it. 

But now that it's a few years later, I fully realize the split was good for me as well.  Instead of focusing on someone thousands of miles away, I have cultivated many local friends, many of whom I have known for years. 

I've got a few friends I can talk to regularly and things are much better  While I would like to say my current friends will be my friends in the years to come, I fully understand that changes will come.   In fact, a funny story I want to share. 

One of my old friends from college recently had a baby.  We used to talk semi-regularly but with the baby, things have been difficult.  Then all of a sudden, an old online friend from years back popped back into my life.  We talked last weekend for a little while.  

To me, I realized that friendships can last a long time but you'll have to ride through different things throughout the years.  Sometimes when a person steps away, another person will step right in.  

It took me years to realize this but it has made me understand that there is always people there for you.  You just have to be open to them.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sending Out Positive Vibes

It is definitely a bit of a dark day today.  Without writing a multi-page blog, I want to encourage people to love everyone that is around them.  It could be family, friends, co-workers or just a stranger.  In a moment of crisis, what people need is to know that people out there are supporting them.

I normally would blog and analyze today's happenings.  I don't feel it is the right time or place.   I feel that by loving my friends and others, it will be more beneficial than purely blogging.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Just Another Game

My Monday Night Basketball League concluded it's season with a consolation game and then my team followed up by playing in the league championship game.  Unfortunately, we played a pretty good team and ultimately lost 76-64.  My team came out a little flat to start and fell behind right away.  We spent the rest of the game trying to catch up.

On a personal basis, I played some limited minutes and didn't score in the championship game.  I did the best I could in the few minutes I had on the court.  On a team with a lot of perimeter players,  my offensive skills didn't fit into the team that well this season.    I'm also not a great rebounder or defender but helped out where I could.  I think one little thing people don't notice is that I am a help defender.   I felt I could have helped out a little more as our team played man to man the entire evening.

Regardless, one thing I noticed about my team was they may have been tense.   The starters came out a bit flat and didn't have as much energy as they normally did.   That led to a bit of frustration as we fell behind and struggled to come back.

I say that because I have been there before.   In years past when I played in championship games, I remember thinking about the game constantly, worrying about how I would do and generally just fretting about how "important" this game was.   That led to a lot of struggles and my play in championship games has been spotty.

However, part of the struggles is that I'm not a "star player".  My game depends on teamwork and when some players feel the pressure they put it on themselves to win the game.   I've noticed that either I don't play much in championship games or I don't get as much opportunity to participate on offense.

The one exception was during the Summer of 2011.  We had a solid and balanced team and everyone touched the ball.  We won a hard fought 73-72 game in overtime.  I scored 24 points but we had three other guys (19 points, 15 points and 10 points) in double figures.  I just happened to have a good game in the championship but I was also the one who only scored 2 points in the playoff game the week before.

I remember the Summer 2011 championship game very clearly.  I showed up to the gym early to warm up a bit.  I remember being focused but very relaxed.  A teammate joked that I might get the ball early as I "had been here before".   While I just laughed, it turned out to be true.  I scored 9 of my teams 18 points in the first quarter.

I understand everyone wants to win and get the title of "champion".  I'm fortunate to have six of these "championships".  However,  my experience from the 2011 championship is that you need to let your game come to you.  When you are relaxed, you will definitely play better.

So I'm sure my teammates are disappointed with the loss but they are still young.  They will definitely get the opportunity to play in championship games again.  I hope they will take the experience and learn from it when the next opportunity comes along.

As for me, I get the rare opportunity for a quick turnaround.  I'll be playing on Thursday in another league championship game.   My Thursday team is definitely the underdog and we will have to play well to win.  Unlike my Monday team, my Thursday team doesn't really have a superstar scorer. We all have to pitch in to do well.  Our Thursday team came out hot last week and I am confident we can do the same this week as well!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Championship Double Header

It was playoff week for my Monday (Open Division) and Thursday (Friendship Division) basketball leagues.  Entering the playoffs, both of my teams were probably considered underdogs.  My Monday team was pretty good but faced a distinct size disadvantage against our opponents.  My Thursday team had beaten our playoff opponent the week before but our overall record wasn't that great.  We tended to run hot and cold.

However, both teams came through with some extremely good basketball.  My Monday team played patient, got good shots, and raced out to an early lead.  We eventually would win 77-63.  My Thursday team did one better.  We jumped out to a 16-0 lead, led 33-11 at halftime and ultimately won 53-39.

Thus, somewhat surprisingly, both my teams are in the championship games next week.  In both games, my teams will probably be considered underdogs once again.   Both opponents have a ton of firepower and we will have to work hard to stay competitive.

This will be my first time playing in two championship games in less than a week.  My best season was in 2008 when I played in championship games in a Easter Tournament, Summer Basketball League and a Fall Basketball League (won one, lost two).   As a side note, I will not be the ONLY player playing in both championship games.  A couple of guys who play both teams will be opposing me next week.

As far as importance of these championship games, they are not particular important.  Don't get me wrong.  I definitely would love to win both games.  There is something unique if my teams could come through.  However, by my unofficial count, next week's championship games will be the 13th and 14th I have played in over the 20+ years that I played in adult league basketball.

In my younger days, I was high strung and nervous prior to playoffs and championships.  It got so bad that I didn't do particularly well.  However, I've played in so many playoff and championship games over the years that I realize that it's just another game.  My approach is to treat these games just like any other.  No need to make it more important than it really is.  After all, we don't win trophies or money.  It's all about for a positive memory and pride.

I find that staying relaxed is the best approach.  My goal for next week is to help my teams win both championships.  If we don't win, it's ok.  It takes work to just get to the championship game and that effort should be appreciated.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Per my usual routine, I have usually done a "Things To Be Thankful For" around Thanksgiving.  Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 2012 edition:

"My Twin" -  I don't have any brothers or sisters in the biological sense but I am lucky to be blessed with a friend who is, in all intensive purposes, my "twin".   We share something that is unusual but has become a unifying thing and a source of humor.  Beyond the laughs lie two good friends who look out for each other.  We talk frequently to share our ups / downs but also just to check in on the other person.   Can't ask much more from a good friend.

"Basketball" - As always, I'm thankful for basketball.  But not just the game but the people involved, especially the two basketball leagues I play in and the group of guys I play with on Saturday.  It's great to get exercise but to also hang out with the guys as well.

"San Francisco" - You never know what you miss until you get it back.  I worked in downtown SF from around 1999 until 2002.  After 2002,  I've worked in various cities but never got back to downtown SF.  Just last week, I returned to downtown SF and I am loving it.  I've got friends who I can meet up with constantly and plenty of food, activities around that I can do.

"The Visitor" -   I'm going to keep this one brief.  But I want to acknowledge a person that I met recently.   Thanks for everything and I look forward to seeing what the future brings.

"Sales / Speaking Skills" - Once a upon a time, I was a tech support engineer who was trying to learn to become a Sales Engineer.  I went through quite a few difficult situations and have grown up faster than I expected.  These days, speaking in front of customers, large crowds or other things don't bother me.

"Ricardo / iMovie / Movie Editing" - Special thanks to a guy named Ricardo who plays in my basketball league.  It was due to his idea of capturing videos that spurred me to pick up the basics of movie editing.  Thanks to iMovie for making the process easy and editing movies a fun task.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"You Seem To Run Into People You Know Everywhere"

Yesterday night, I was thinking about something a friend of mine said to me a few years ago.  She had commented to me:  "You Seem To Run Into People You Know Everywhere".   I had decided I was going to blog about this topic tonight.

Well, before I even get started on the topic, my friend's comment was proven true once again tonight.  I went to a birthday dinner with some friends.  As I arrived at the restaurant, I ran into a former grammar school classmate who was also waiting at the restaurant with her friends.  We caught up a bit before I had to go to get seated.

As the dinner with my friends concluded, I was suddenly greeted by not one, but TWO young ladies.  These two were former basketball players of mine who are now in the working world.  The two ladies were just having a night out and we caught up a bit.  I hadn't seen the gals too often since I coached them but it was good to see and talk to them.

Back to the original point of the post now!  My friend had made the comment to me because it seemed like every time I was out with her and our friends, I would inevitably run into someone I knew.  To be fair, I don't think it was "EVERY TIME" but it happened often enough (and at different locations) that my friends did notice.

The question people may ask is why do I know so many people?  There's actually a pretty easy explanation.   The major reason is that I have participated in various aspects of basketball over the years.

I served as a assistant and head basketball coach for my old grammar school for the better part of 12 years.   In that time, I worked with 6 different teams.  Additionally, I was a spectator at games for other teams in the program.  So not only did I know my own players, I knew the coaches and players from the others teams.

I have worked as a basketball official for about 20 years (20 years in youth, 10+ years in high school and adult).  Officiating introduces you to a ton of different people.  I've probably worked with hundreds of different referee partners over the years.   I've probably talked to tons of coaches and gym directors along the way.  Plus, don't forget the players.  I am surprised that some players actually REMEMBER that I officiated them was they were younger.   Plus, with the adult leagues I officiate, I tend to see some of the same players over and over so you get to know them over time.

Lastly, I've played in adult basketball leagues for the better part of 20 years.  I've played with dozens of teams and hundreds of different players.  Of course,  I've played against of ton of teams and players as well.

From this, you can see why I do have a tendency to run into a lot of people.  I may not know all these people well, but I do have a shared experience with them in one way or another.  To be fair, it's not all basketball people.  I do see former co-workers, classmates and other folks too.

I guess I'm just that popular.  Seriously, I just LIKE people and most people do seem to remember me too.  I am curious about people, love to talk and so it's natural I would easily catch up with people I haven't seen in a long time.

I'll leave on this note.  I have about 700+ Facebook friends.  I'm proud to say that most (if not all) are people I know in person (in one way, shape or form).  I don't randomly add Facebook friends for the heck of it.  Most of the 700+ Facebook friends would fit into the basketball, co-workers, classmates or just friends category!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Reach Out And Touch Someone

In 2012, there are some many ways to communicate with people.  You have the old standbys like the telephone / cellphone or even meeting face to face.  But you could throw in the multitude of electronic options such as email, instant messaging, Facebook / Social Media and text messaging. 

Electronic communications are great in short bursts but can feel awfully impersonal.  If faced with a choice of NO communication or electronic communication, I'm sure most people would prefer to communicate electronically versus not communicating at all. 

Personally, I find that talking to someone over the phone or in person is much better than strictly exchanging electronic communications.  I do my share of emails, instant messages, and texting but just talking to another person has a lot of benefits than just doing electronic communications.  Talking to someone makes you feel like you're understood.  Plus, hearing the laughs and other things associated with talking is a part of the human experience.  Having electronic communications should supplement this AND NOT REPLACE talking on the phone or meeting your friends. 

Additionally, as the holiday seasons approach, it's always good to reach out to friends.  One friend commented to me last year:  "TV shows and commercials make it seem like everyone is happy".  I definitely understood his point.  During holidays, it seems like "everyone" is happy getting together with friends and family. 

But in reality, there are many people who are going through struggles.  The obvious people are the people without jobs, families or other basic necessities.  But even regular people go through some down times as well.  

If you recognize this in someone you know, do a favor and reach out.  To borrow the phrase from the old AT&T commercials back in the 1980's:  "REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE".  Give someone a call and say hi.  Meet someone up for dinner.  I am sure your friends will appreciate it!  

One of my friends definitely did that for me last year.  I had been going through some worries and the friend would call to check up on me.  At the end of the day, that's what friends are for.  

Sunday, November 04, 2012

To Move Forward, Sometimes You Have To Venture Into The Unknown

I had some deep conversations this past week.  Those conversations led me to think about how many people get to a point in their lives (work, family, etc) where they feel stagnant.    Things seem routine and maybe even a little boring.   For some this feeling is ok, but for others, they yearn to break out of the routine into something new.

Yet, many people don't even know where to begin to change.  I definitely was like this.  There were a few things in my life in the years past where I felt things had gotten stagnant.  I liked what I did but it felt like the "same old thing".   I was semi-aware of this but did not know how to get out of it.

Fortunately, for a couple of situations in my life, I found a way to break out of the routine into something newer and fresher.

Basketball Officiating

I started officiating youth basketball around 1993.  I had served as a volunteer coach for my old catholic grammar school since 1988.  The school's athletic director needed an official at another school he ran and he asked me to help out.

I signed up and started officiating in addition to my coaching duties.  The early years were rough as I had no idea what I was doing.  Over time, my experience grew and I gained confidence in my capabilities.  However, the youth league was limited in training the officials.   I knew a lot of about the youth league but not about the "actual" rules of basketball.

As time went on, I realized I was getting bored of officiating the youth league.  I didn't really know what to do so I just kept doing the routine for a few years until a chance opportunity appeared.  I had referred a couple of friends to come officiate in the youth league with me.

They joined the youth league but took a chance to join a basketball officiating group to work high school and adult basketball games around 2002.  I had tried to join this group a few years before but had not been accepted.  With a second opportunity, I went along with my friends to training and was finally accepted into the group.

Though I wouldn't realize it at the time, this situation was a great thing for me.  Joining the group was tough initially but the knowledge and experience I gained were great for me.  I was able to apply it to youth basketball as well and get my interest back.

While my high school officiating hasn't gone as well as I would like due to multiple issues (mainly work), I have enjoyed the past 10 years working with the officiating group.

Sales Engineering

Fresh out of college, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my career.  For the first year, I stayed with a part time administrative job I had.  I had worked with the company toward the end of my college days and they were willing to keep me around.

About a year after I graduated from college, I saw a posting for a "Technical Analyst" position at my college Career Center and immediately applied.  After screening with the folks at the Career Center, I interviewed with a manager at the company.   The interview was pretty uneventful and I was told a few days later that I had gotten the position.

From those humble beginnings, I spent seven years at the company (1999 to 2006).  For about 5 1/2 years, I was a technical support representative (the other 1 1/2 years were spent as a process manager).

By 2006, I had gotten a little tired of doing technical support and was looking for a change.   An opportunity presented itself with a smaller company which I ultimately decided to pursue.   With the smaller company, I ended up doing a mix of work including technical support, sales engineering, manual writing, QA Testing and project management.    The overall experience was good but I got laid off as the company had not been doing well.

At this point, I still yearned for a change.  While I had gotten an opportunity to diversify my skills, I still spent a good amount of time on the phone with customers doing technical support.   I wanted to get away from that type of work if it was possible. I looked around for jobs online.  However, most of what I was qualified for was still technical support positions.

Then a chance opportunity occurred one day.  I was out one day when my cell phone rang.  I answered the call as I was expecting a call back from a company regarding a job I had applied for.  It turned out to be a recruiter instead.

This particular recruiter had saw my resume and inquired if I would be interested in a "Sales Engineer" position with a local company.   He had noticed that I had some sales engineer experience with my last job.

We talked a lot about my background, the job, and the requirements.  After the discussion, the recruiter stated he was impressed and wanted to submit my resume to the hiring manager.  I was a little less sure and asked the recruiter to send me information on the position so I could think about it.

After a few days, I had emailed the recruiter to decline the position.  The reasons were simple.  I did not know much about Sales and I did not know much of the about the technology that was required for the position.   The recruiter emailed me back almost immediately and stated that I should reconsider.

I thought about this for a short while and called the recruiter back about 30 minutes later.  I told him that he could submit my resume.  The reason for the change of heart?  I had finally seen that this job would be a natural evolution from my technical support position.

After one interview with my manager (who is now a Vice President), I got the position and remain there today (after 4 years +/- some layoffs....another story hahaha).


As you can see from my stories, I was a little stagnant in some aspects of my life.  Yet, I was fortunate enough to have some opportunities come up to break out of the routine.  That is really my main point.

Many people feel they have to "find something" to break out of their routine.  In reality, I have found that opportunities COME TO YOU.  You just have to learn to be aware and take advantage.  Have courage to venture into the unknown even if you're not sure it's the right thing.

Good luck!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Moving Time / Changing TIme

For my current job, I currently work at a remote sales office a few miles outside of San Francisco.  I've been at this office since I was first hired back in 2008.   My company's headquarters is based out of Virginia.

In about four days, the majority of the staff (including me) at this remote office will make a move to Downtown San Francisco.   There will be a few others who have chosen to move to another office near Silicon Valley.

Anytime you move anywhere (work or house), there will be changes.  My co-workers and I will face a host of new changes to deal with a host of new changes.  For me personally, here's what I will have to adjust to:

Getting back to taking PUBLIC TRANSIT to work.  It was been a decade or more since I last took public transit to work.  Fortunately, it's close to home and not that big of a deal.

Getting used to no free parking.  I do a lot of things after work and will likely need a car.  Alas, I will be forced to pay for parking if I drive to work which is not fun.

The commute from my house to the current office is very easy.  Commuting to downtown SF in public transit will be relatively smooth.  Driving to downtown SF is a different story.

On the days, I don't drive to downtown SF, I will leave my car at home.  Alas, I will need to invest in a residential parking permit.  Otherwise, I may get a parking ticket if I leave my car at home all day.  Some parts of SF do this as otherwise out of town folks will just park their cars in some parts of the city all day.

The current offices have a small workout facility but the new offices will not.  I will likely have to make some trips to a nearby 24 hour fitness instead.   A friend has already said I should take some workout classes with him so that will be interesting.

However, while all of this sounds "negative", it's really just adjusting to the changes.  The positives for the move are:

I will be close to a lot of friends who also work downtown.  I can meet up with lunch / dinner and go workout really close by.

Being downtown, there will be plenty of shopping I can do before heading home.  From my current office, I would have to drive to the local mall.

It may take a while to adjusted but once I get used to things, it will be a great thing to be back working in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Striking A Pose

Yesterday, I made a day trip to my company's offices in San Diego.  I flew down in the early morning before returning yesterday evening.

The purpose of the trip was TO GET MY PHOTOS TAKEN!  To clarify,  my team's Vice-President has asked me (along with several other members of our team) to participate in a marketing campaign to promote and showcase our team.

I landed in San Diego at around 9 AM and arrived at the office around 10 AM.  I said hi to a few folks, did a little work, got some make up on (I'm NOT KIDDING) and went through my first photo shoot at 11 AM or so.  I didn't really know what to expect but it was actually quite fun.  I was a little tired / jet lagged but somehow managed to keep a smile throughout.  

The entire team did a group photo shoot at around 12 PM.  Afterward, we all grabbed some lunch before getting back to the office.  I did a little bit of work before going through my last photo shoot around 2:30 PM.   I hung around the office for a while before departing for the airport at 4:15 PM.  I got on my flight at 6:45 PM and arrived back home around 8:15 PM.

It was great to see the professional photographer work.  I like doing some photography but have never done this portrait type work.  I can see it's a lot of work involving a lot of technical (camera, lighting) and personal skills (keeping the subject / model involved).

From my perspective, I felt extremely comfortable IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA as the subject.   If you're doing candid photos, it's easier to relax.  You don't feel pressure to look a certain way.  In a professional environment, I see why it can be tough to look and act a certain way.

I'll give the photographer credit for guiding me along and I just acted as natural as I could.  In fact, the photographer and his assistant told me that I was the easier guy to work with.  They thought I was just a natural in front on a camera.   I thought they may have been exaggerating a bit but one of the salesperson from the San Diego office repeated that statement to me again today.

It was a fun experience even though flying a plane twice in a day isn't ideal.  I even joked to the photographer that I might have to look into being a model as a back up career.  :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Athlete Of The Year: Then And Now

If someone were to ask you, what does the words "Athlete Of The Year" mean to you, what would you say?   I am sure that MOST people would imagine that an athlete of the year would be a star athlete of some kind:  Michael Jordan, Dwayne Wade, or someone along those lines.

If I were asked, I would have probably thought the same thing.  Yet, 20+ years ago, I was awarded the "Athlete Of The Year" award by my high school.  It was a great way to cap my athletic career and senior year in high school.  

For quite a time after receiving the award, I remember telling a friend that I didn't feel like I deserved the award.  After all, from the standpoint of athletic accomplishments, I was not a stand out athlete in either of the sports I participated in.  It took my friend sometime to convince me that I was deserving of the award.  After all, there were some reason it was given to me.

Recently, with the 20th Anniversary of my high school graduation passing, I thought about the Athlete Of The Year award and what it meant to me.   I am quite proud of the award as it not only represented my time athletically in high school but also the great senior year I had.  I became friends with someone I would grow close to and I had a great academic year as well.

Additionally, I decided to look up what criteria is used to determine an "Athlete Of The Year".  Interestingly, unlike Most Valuable Player awards, athletic accomplishments isn't necessarily a requirement.  Some of the criteria included leadership, commitment to the team and academic performance.

Looking back, I see WHY I was given the award:

I was captain for one my teams and a three year vet on my other team.

I showed complete dedication to both my teams and provided a good example.  This is just not me bragging as both my teams gave me the "Coaches Award" during my senior year.

I was NOT a good student throughout my high school career and yet I had a 3.2 or above GPA throughout my senior year.

I was a volunteer basketball coach for my old grammar school.

It's funny how someone's perspective changes over the years.  I don't talk much about an award I got 20 years ago.  However, besides my high school and college diplomas, I put my Athlete Of The Year award as one of the items I am most proud of.

I also see a trend in all of my awards.  Besides my Most Improved Player award, all my other awards involved me being a good example to others (Two Coaches Awards, Four Most Inspirational Player awards).   I definitely try (and don't always succeed) in being a good example to people young and old.

It is good that I have been recognized for it, though I have never asked for it.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Things Happen For A Reason

A few days ago, I decided to look through an old photo album.  The album contained photos of old get togethers with friends dating back around five to seven years ago.   The get togethers included a couple of weddings, a white water rafting trip and visits to Yosemite / Las Vegas.

I had gone to Las Vegas (late 2004 or 2005, not sure these days) and met up with an old high school friend.  The friend had moved to the East Coast for college.  After she had graduated, she remained in the East Coast.  Despite the time differences, we had remained in touch via letter / phone immediately after high school (remember this was the early 1990's).  As I went to a four-year university in 1995, things transitioned to more electronic communications (email, instant messages) all the way through until the 2000's.

For this particular trip, my friend was traveling to Las Vegas for work.  Since I was close by, I decided to take some time off to see her as I had not seen her in quite some time.  However, I had actually forgotten about this particular trip to Las Vegas.  There is a very good reason for this.  Sometime between 2003 and 2005, our friendship hit a rough patch.  We had patched things up a bit but the Las Vegas trip would end up being the LAST TIME I would hang out with my high school friend.

In looking at the the photos now,   I realized the trip to Las Vegas actually symbolized the ending of our friendship.   Planning the trip had been difficult though once we got to Las Vegas, things went ok with one exception.  My friend had been tied up all day with some personal business.  We had planned to go to some places but did not leave our rooms until around 3 PM.  I was pretty pissed about it though later I would put things aside.

Though my friend and I left Las Vegas on decent terms,  we have not reconnected since.  I can't remember what happened but I do remember getting angry about something a few weeks after the trip.    I tried calling and emailing but my friend never responded.  I remained pretty angry about this for a while.

However, in recent years, I realized that losing my friend was a necessary step for me.  My old high school friend had been great for me for many years.  But all things change and I had to accept it.  In fact, without this happening, I wouldn't have some of the friends that I have now.

I am also fortunate to have a "new friend" that I can talk to quite regularly.  This "new friend" is everything I had wished my old high school friend had been at the end:  Responsive and generally available.

All things happen for a reason.  It just took me a few years to realize!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Saturday Hoops

As most people know, I'm a basketball junkie.  Not only do I watch my share of basketball (high school and NBA), I also play, coach and officiate.

A few years ago (can't remember exactly when), I was talking to an old college friend of mine.   She knew I liked basketball and mentioned that her current boyfriend (now husband) frequently played basketball with his friends on Saturdays. At the time I talked to my friend, the only basketball I played was through my various leagues.  I did not play a lot of pickup basketball.  

In fact, most of my time Saturdays at the time (especially during the winter / spring months) was spent officiating basketball.  But during the summer and fall, I did not officiate as frequently.   I got some info from my friend / her boyfriend and I began to join in with the group on Saturday to play basketball.  

Initially, my appearances were sporadic.    At the time, playing on Saturdays weren't a high priority.  Officiating basketball was something I wanted to do.  If I had to choose between officiating and playing, I went with officiating.  Also, since I didn't know the people that well, I didn't always show up even when I was free. 

As time went on, things began to change.  I realized that my officiating on Saturday had become a bit of a routine.  Officiating is a nice way to exercise and earn some money.  But it is still WORK.  The other part was that I was realizing that I enjoyed PLAYING basketball more than officiating.  

I decided to try and balance BOTH officiating and basketball.  I would only work games at a certain time so I could make time to play with the Saturday group.   I went through this for several years.  But it was getting hard on my legs.  I'd officiate several AM games and then try to play basketball for several more hours after that. 

In recent years, my priorities have shifted away from officiating and toward just playing basketball on Saturday.  I've gotten to know quite a few of the guys I play with on Saturday and enjoy hanging out with them every week.   Whenever possible, I make time to play with the Saturday group.  I don't officiate on Saturdays as much as I did before.  But sometimes I do work some games to change up the routine and also to help out in emergencies. 

I also have to give props to all the guys that I play with on Saturday.   A good number of the guys went to high school together and have been playing together for years.  Throw me and some other guys and we have a rotating core of 12 to 14 guys that play on Saturdays.  We usually have somewhere between 6 to 8 guys each week with some days getting a lot more.  The good thing is all of us are around the same age and around the same skill level.  Always great to get in some competitive games and get some exercise.  

Lastly, I'd note that this group of guys are very dedicated.  Out of the 52 Saturdays in a year, I'd estimate that the group gets together to play 80% to 85% of the time.   I appreciate the time I get to play with these guys.  It's definitely something I look forward to every weekend and I think its the same for some of the other guys as well. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Reunion Weekend (or so it felt like it was.......)

This weekend was fairly quiet.  The youth volleyball season started and I put in some work over four youth games.   I played my usual Saturday pick up basketball with my friends and did some shopping both on Saturday and Sunday.   Got a chance to watch plenty of baseball and football as well!

The trend of this weekend was talking to people that I hadn't seen or talked to in a while.  After playing basketball Saturday, I went to the mall to look at a few things.  I had a gift card for a local sports store so I stopped by to see if there was anything I wanted to buy.  It was at the sports store where a former high school classmate was there with his family.  He actually saw me first and we chatted for a while.  Turns out this former classmate lives in a complex where one of my close friends live.  What a small world!

After chatting with the classmate, I wandered around the store a bit longer.  As I prepared to leave the store, I ran into young lady I knew.  The young lady, along with her two older brothers, had gone to the same grammar school I did.  I had coached the young lady's oldest brother in basketball and watched both the other brother and her play during their time at the grammar school.   Even though we were connected on Facebook, it had been years since I had seen her.  We chatted for a little while and then we went on our way.

Then today, out of the blue, I received an email a bit of out of the blue from a married lady friend in Canada.  This friend and I have a very interesting history.   We actually "met virtually" when I was in college in the 1990s.  We had emailed, chatted online and even sent some letters / photos.  However, after I graduated from college, we lost touch.   Several years ago (according my old emails, it was 2008),  this friend crossed my mind.  I still had an email address for her and decided to email her.  Fortunately, she was still using the email address and we corresponded a few times

From my old emails that I have, after our talk in 2008, we didn't talk again until 2009.   Of course, my friend decided to email me today.  We exchanged a couple of emails today and I made sure I got her IM and phone number for future communication..   I feel blessed that we have managed to stay in touch despite the geographical distance between us.   I'm quite thankful this friend decided to reach back out as I had done a poor job in doing so.  However, like anything in life, you go through peaks and valleys.  Perhaps today was a sign that it's time to renew this old friendship that I had.  I'm a believer in having MORE friends than less.

In any case, the weekend wasn't the most exciting in terms of activity but connecting with people was a blast.  Thanks to all the old friends I ran into this weekend.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'll Pray For You

(NOTE:  This isn't meant to offend, just a thought that came up recently)

A couple of days ago, I was up late cruising around on Facebook.   With some 700+ friends on Facebook, there's a lot of noise on my Facebook newsfeed.  Some of the posts are interesting and some of the posts are not.  This night, I saw something that caught my attention.

A person had posted that they had some issues they had been dealing with.  Without disclosing all the details, this person indicated they were doing to tackle the issues on their own.  I know this person but not particularly well so I was a little concerned when I saw this.   I immediately responded and asked if the person was ok. The person did not respond to my post (or others) that were there.

The next morning, after I had taken care of some morning business, I gave the person a call.  I think the person was surprised but we did talk for a while.  I got their perspective on what was going on, lent an ear and offered advice when needed.

One thing that I thought was interesting was that some others had offered encouragement but also said that "I'll pray for you".   I noted that whenever people have struggles and you're talking to someone of the Christian faith, most of the time, they will say "I'll pray for you".

I'm not questioning the sincerity of the statement.  The majority of people say it with the best of intentions.  They are asking God to provide you the means / resources / whatever is needed to work through the situation you are in.

I hope that people don't overuse this statement in place of providing some actual assistance.   For this particular person, I felt it was better to call them instead of just hoping they would answer my Facebook post.  I don't know if any others called this person besides offering encouragement on Facebook.  It seems an awfully passive way of doing things to just post on Facebook and say "I'll Pray For You".
God can and will provide for those in need but perhaps YOU are the person that God wants to provide the assistance!  Don't forget about that.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Influence Of Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee passed away in 1973 but yet his influence is still felt around the world.  In fact there were one event and two videos that celebrated Bruce Lee:

  1. The San Francisco Giants hosted a "Bruce Lee Tribute Night" at AT&T Park.  Fans purchasing special event tickets picked up a Bruce Lee bobblehead doll and there were appearances by Bruce Lee's widow Linda Lee Cadwell and Bruce Lee's daughter Shannon Lee sung the national anthem.
  2. Additionally, to promote the event, the San Francisco Giants created this incredible video:  Bruce Lee Bobblehead vs SF Giants
  3. Lastly, a musician / remixer took part of a 1971 interview Bruce Lee did and made it into a video (song / mp3 also available for free download):  Be Water My Friend! Bruce Lee Remix
All of these Bruce Lee events got me thinking of Bruce Lee so much that I watched the 1971 interview with Pierre Berton.  By all accounts, this is the only interview Bruce Lee did that was preserved: 

In listening to Bruce Lee speak with Berton, I realized that Bruce Lee was not only a positive role model for Asian Americans (then and now) but he was also a spokesperson for Asian Americans.  

When Bruce Lee passed away, most people focused on the fact that Asian-Americans lost a visible icon, role model and the best known Asian-American film star.   While representation is important, I feel that losing Bruce Lee as a voice and/or spokesperson for Asian-Americans was probably greater than any movies that he may have done if he lived.  

It is evident from his interview with Berton that Bruce Lee was a thoughtful and well spoken man.  He knew there was some stereotyping or racism in Hollywood.  Bruce Lee knew some projects might not happen because of his "Asian" (or "Oriental") face.  Bruce Lee didn't openly argue against it but he was going to try and break through those barriers regardless.  

Had Bruce Lee lived, he may have been able to change Hollywood for the better for Asian-Americans.  Even nearly 30 years since his passing, there has been no Asian-American film star that has completely replaced Bruce Lee.   Asian stars like Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat came to the United States and did some films but they were foreign born.   No Asian-American actor has fully replace Lee. 

But beyond movies, the Asian-American community has also lacked a visible spokesperson like Jesse Jackson and others for the African-American community.  If Bruce Lee had lived, I could see him BEING that type of spokesperson for Asian-Americans. Bruce Lee spoke his mind and I would be curious to hear his thoughts on the current state of affairs for Asian-Americans.  

There is a small glimmer of hope.  Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets suddenly became a household name this past year.  While Jeremy Lin is dramatically different than Bruce Lee in personality and temperament,  Jeremy Lin has given Asian-Americans a VOICE like Bruce Lee did so many years ago.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Summer Basketball Season Is A Wrap

Been a while but I'm back!  Tonight, my summer basketball league season wrapped after about three months worth of games.  From early June until tonight, I squeezed in 15 league basketball games between my Monday and Tuesday night leagues.  Unfortunately, from a team standpoint, neither one of my teams did exceptionally well and missed the playoffs.

My Monday night team finished a disappointing 1-7 overall.  We had good players but the team chemistry was never quite there.  We did managed to get it together enough for our only win (and I scored 26 points).

My Tuesday night team actually played well throughout the season but finished with a 3-4 record.  We had our chances to win a couple of games against young teams but fell short.  However, the team played fairly well as a whole.  Despite my somewhat advanced age, I managed to lead the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game.

While the teams didn't do well, all the players had their individual moments to shine.  I scored in double figures more often than I remembered in years past.  I guess there is a fountain of youth for guys even if we are in the upper 30's!

So while my Monday night team is done playing, we will help out with scorekeeping and officiating in the next couple of weeks.  So I will remain involved.  I might take some time off from playing too much basketball except for my weekly Saturday runs.  I'll plan to get my exercise via other means (gym, badminton, walking).

But there is no rest for basketball players.  The fall league will start in about a month!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Coaching Is About Making The Tough Decisions

During the summer, I've been playing in two basketball leagues.  On my Monday night league, I was just a player on the team.  The Captain of the team has played in the league for a while but has never been captain or coach before.

After a slow start (zero wins in four games), I told the Captain, I'd help out with the lineups and subs.  Two Mondays ago, I didn't need to interject too much.  The team had only six guys and we all played well enough to win our first game.

This past Monday was an entirely different story.  Unexpectedly, our ENTIRE roster (9 players) all showed up.   I told the Captain I would figure out the lineup before the game.  I made a decision to go with a certain lineup and had the subs planned out.  Alas, neither the starters or the bench lineups worked particularly well and we were down by about 25 points at halftime.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  With nothing to lose, I inserted the starting lineup from two Mondays ago.  I told the guys that we needed to make a run early or the bench was probably going to play the rest of the game.   This group had been successful and I thought we could do better than we did in the first half.

It ended up working pretty well.  The rotation went from nine players to about only six (with a 7th playing briefly) throughout the second.  The large deficit hurt us pretty bad as ultimately lost by about 7 points (79-72 or something like that).  However, we made the other team sweat quite a bit.

On one hand, it was good that we came back.  It's never fun to lose in a blowout fashion.  On the other hand, I felt bad for the guys who sat on the bench in the second half.  After all, it's an adult league and you pay to play.  You don't get PAID to play.   I've been through that kind of situation personally and I try to avoid this when I am coaching.

Safe to say, it was a bit of a weird night and I apologized to the guys who didn't play.  The Captain didn't really have much to say and I think he was ok with my decision to ride the starters.  It is definitely a delicate balance between trying to win and giving out playing time, especially in adult league.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

LeBron Wins First NBA Title

I'm not a fan of LeBron James but also don't hate him.  So having James and the Miami Heat winning this season's NBA championship is no big deal.  Congratulations to the Heat for a good season and they will definitely enjoy the championship experience.

LeBron winning the title reminded me of my adult league championship during the summer of 2011.   Some of the guys on my team had never won any type of championship while playing in various leagues.  I was fortunate to have been part of five different teams.  The experience probably helped me to do well last summer as my team won the championship 73-72 in overtime.

That feeling of winning last summer still resonates even a year later.  The game itself was one of the best I played on as it was a nail bitter.  Some of my teammates from that team still see each other every now and then.  We still talk about that game when we see each other.

So as LeBron celebrates his first NBA title, I am reminded of my team's reaction to winning our title last summer.  Even though the NBA title means more than our adult league championship, it was a great experience to be cherished.  For LeBron, I hope he enjoys this one.  While he will do his best to win more, there is never a guarantee for another one.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

20th Anniversary High School Redux

A few days ago, it occurred to me that it had been 20 years since I graduated from high school.   In celebration of this event, let me share some of my favorite memories from high school:

  1. During my freshmen year, my high school did not have an athletics program.  Due to demand, the school eventually started a program in my sophomore year.    I chose to run cross country in the fall and was among the first set of athletes to participate in official practices and events for the school. 
  2. Along the lines of athletics, my cross country team's first event was a memorable one.   I had run my race as a sophomore and was watching the rest of our team run in the varsity race.  One of my fellow sophomore friend & classmate was running in the varsity race.  At the sound of the gun, my friend took off SPRINTING.  He had run track in middle school but not distance running and he treated this face like a track meet.  Thus he led the 3.1 mile race for about 30 seconds before he faded and the rest of the pack caught up and passed him.    Even though my friend finished pretty far back, it is still a funny memory to remember.  
  3. October 17th, 1989.  That date will be memorable for those of us who lived in the Bay Area.  That was the date of the Loma Prieta Earthquake that struck at 5:04 PM.  The earthquake interrupted Game 3 of the Bay Bridge World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.  It is also memorable to me and my cross country teammates as our team was participating in a race at Golden Gate Park that day.  I had completed my race and was waiting for the varsity runners to finish as well.  At 5:00 PM, I remember looking at my watch and hoping that my mom remembered to record the World Series game on TV.  A few minutes later, I remember feeling something shaking.  I thought someone was shaking the bench I was standing on until I realized the benches were bolted to the ground.  It was then that I (and the others around) that an earthquake had hit.  The rest of the time was a blur.  Many of my teammates lived close to me across town and it was a long few hours getting home.  We had some bonding time though and that was a positive in light of the effects of the earthquake. 
  4. I chose to participate in the sport of fencing in the spring.  Unfortunately, while trying to run through the hallway to get some snacks, I tripped and fractured my wrist and my fencing season ended abruptly.  I still hung around at practice and did some drills though never participated in any matches. 
  5. While my first fencing season was a lost one, my second season went a lot better.  To be honest, most of the season was a BLUR.  I remember winning at least one match though don't remember much else.  HOWEVER, whatever I did, I did enough to be named an alternative fencer for the All-City tournament.  When one of the three fencers in the tournament was hurt prior to the All-City, I got a chance to participate in my first and only All-City tournament.  I was eliminated pretty quickly but was named Most Improved Fencer during our Spring Sports Awards night. 
  6. It may surprise people, but I was not much of a student during high school.  My freshmen year went decently as I remember getting something along the lines of a 2.80 GPA.  My sophomore and junior years were less successful as I barely stayed about 2.0 GPA to stay eligible to play sports.  Yet, my senior year was a revelation.  I stayed about a 3.2 GPA (hitting 3.4 a few times) during my while senior year.  I did well enough to garner Student of the Month as well.  
  7. During my senior year, I had one of my best teachers ever.  That same teacher got me into reading a genre of books that I still read today.  The teacher taught english and she did something interesting.  She had the students fill out a form which inquired about things we liked to watch or read (I think).  After filling out the form, she recommended a book for us to read and write a report on.  The book that I was assigned?  The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton.  Even after 20 years, The Andromeda Strain is still easily the BEST book I have ever read.  That might explain why I still like to read sci-fi / thriller books to this day.  
  8. My senior year was a successful one academically but also athletically.  I didn't do great on the field but off the field, I had a good year.  I was named the Coaches Award winner for both cross-country in the fall and fencing in the spring.  During the spring awards dinner, I was also named the Athlete of the Year for the 1991-1992 season.  
  9. Not being a star athlete, I don't think I fully grasped what the award meant.  To me, the award meant you were "good" at your chosen sports.  But in reality, that was the "Most Valuable Player" award was for.  It took me a long time to realize that the Athlete of the Year was given as I was doing well academically, always gave a good effort athletically and overall was a good role model to other students. 
  10. Lastly, I made quite a few friendships during my time in high school, many of whom I still maintain.  There was a long standing one that has faded due to time / distance but was still a valuable one during the time it lasted.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Importance Of Role Players In Basketball

In basketball, star players are usually admired and idolized (if you're an NBA player).  However, what most people forget is that role players also contribute to the success of basketball teams well.

While Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and other stars get the lion's share of the credit for their team's success, role players make a big difference between a good team and a great team.  If you think of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, he had a Scottie Pippen as the second star, Luc Longley and others at center, Dennis Bodman to get rebounds and John Paxson and + other guys were the spot up shooters.  Without all of these guys, Jordan couldn't have won his six NBA championships.

The problem is some players don't know their roles or don't want to play their roles.   For me, when I was younger, I was purely a spot up shooter.  I was just put up a ton of shots.  As I got into my mid 20's, I turned into a rebounder.  As I have gotten older, I am going back to shooting but hitting my 12 to 15 foot mid range jump shot.   When I was younger, I didn't focus on defense or rebounding.  I just thought shooting equaled to playing basketball.  It took me years to realize that there was more to basketball.

To be fair, just having role players doesn't guarantee success.  If you have five shooters / scorers but no one plays defense or rebounds, that will prove to be bit of a problem.  Even if flip it around and have five defenders with no offense, that will also be a problem.  

The solution is to have a good mix of stars and role players that complement each other.   Each team will have a different mix and it's up to the team / coaches to determine which mix works the best.

I found this out when I was coaching youth basketball in my younger days.  I never had superstar players with my teams.  However, I had some good players with differing skill sets.  For whatever reason, I naturally knew how to find the best mixes for my teams.  Due to participating rules, I couldn't keep my best mixes in the game all the time.  However,  whenever I could, I would put the best mix in there to give my teams a competitive chance.

It's a little harder with adult leagues, but I've had some success in putting solid teams together.   The reason some of my teams were successful was that people were playing to their strengths and didn't try to do too much.  If players are forced to play outside of their strengths, the team sometimes will not do as well.

As a player, identify your strengths and play to them.  Identify your weaknesses as well and work to improve them OR minimize them.  As a coach, your job is put the best team out there.  Not necessarily the best five shooters, best five defenders, or even your five "best players".  The job is put together the "best team" out there that knows how to work and play well with each other.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

There is such a thing as playing too much basketball.......

As I blogged previously, my 2012 spring basketball season with my two teams has been an exercise in frustration in one sense.  However, to be more positive, I have unexpectedly played a LOT more basketball than I would have reasonably expected.

For some reason,  both my Monday and Thursday basketball teams have been playing short handed the past three weeks.  In the past three Mondays, we have had 5, 5, and 6 players.  In the past three Thursdays, we have had 5, 4, and 5 players (yes, we played 4-on-5).  As our leagues playing a running 12 minutes / 4 quarters system, I've played a full 48 minutes quite a bit recently.

I actually don't have any issue playing so many minutes.  I'm in pretty good shape and find ways to get some breaths or rest in to conserve energy.  But what I am realizing is that our league season is long (9 regular season games then playoffs).

Physically, I am doing alright but I am a little mentally tired.  It's tough to get yourself up every week to put a 100% effort in when you're short handed.   Fortunately, the season is almost done and I'm going to put it all out there.

However, playing all these minutes shows me how tough NBA players are.   In most normal circumstances, NBA players play 4 games in 5 nights.  This season, there are 3 games in 3 nights.  Yes, they are professionals and they are paid to perform well.  However, these NBA players are elite athletes while the rest of us are just mere mortals.

All in all, if you ever thought to yourself that you could play HUGE minutes night after night, try it out.  You might change your tune.....

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Origin of Coach41

I go by all sorts of nicknames but one identity I have throughly adopted as been "coach41".  I use it for this blog among other things.  While my closest friends know I use this identity, I don't think anyone really knows the ORIGINS of how coach41 came about. 

Back over in 1998, I had graduated from college and working.   Even though I had graduated, my primary email address was the one I still had from college since 1995.  However, in time, the school informed me that my email address was going to be terminated.  I had to find an alternative email account / address. 

Fortunately, with the rise of the Internet around that time, there were plenty of providers of free email so I went to sign up for an account.  The problem was to decided on an appropriate username.   I'm not sure why I didn't select the username I had from school (maybe it wasn't available).  

After thinking about things, I finally settled on "coach41".  Why coach41?   Two reasons:

Around 1998-1999, I was still coaching basketball at my old grammar school.  I felt the "coach" moniker still fit me well.  

Around 1998-1999, cell phones and instant messaging weren't used as much as they are today.  The biggest technology in use this time were pagers.   My friends and I had pagers.  For people who don't know about pagers, people would call the pager and send a number to the pager for people to call them (i.e., 415-210-2121) .   However, someone came up with the idea to use numbers as letters and thus was born the first version of texting.  Some of the more popular messages are below:  

43110 = HELLO
143 = I LOVE YOU 
6000 171647 = GOOD NIGHT

Unlike today, where your phone number is attached to your text messages, there was no easy way to identify you if you texted the random numbers above.  So, to identify yourself, you would put your BIRTHDAY at the end of the message.   As my birthday was April 1st, I could go with 401 or 41.  I decided to go with 41. 

Combine #1 and #2 and that's how coach41 was born.  

Even though I haven't officially coached a team in about 6 years, I have retained the "coach41" identity  It doesn't seem to be frequently used on the Internet and uniquely mine.  I'm fortunate to be able to register the domain name as well.  

Hope you enjoyed the history lesson!  

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Old Man Still Got A Little Game

Over the weekend, I inched a little closer to being a middle aged man (aka celebrating my birthday!).  I had a pretty relaxed weekend.  I watched a basketball tournament and caught up with a young person I have been mentoring a bit.  I played a little basketball myself and had a nice dinner with some folks.

Today, it was back to work and after a busy day, I went to play in my Monday nigh basketball league.  My team's been struggling a bit but we finally broke through with an exciting 83-82 win.  I contributed heavily with 18 points (7-17 FG, 4-6 FT's).

Though most professional players don't played into their late 30's / early 40's, there are plenty of amateur athletes who are able to play at a pretty good level for many years.  When I got hurt back in 1999-2000 during the prime of my athletic life, I thought I would never get back to level.  These days, while I am little slower and less athletic, I still can pick my spots and do well (like tonight!).

Playing like this into your 40's require both mental and physical preparation.  Mentally, you can't subscribe to the fact that you are "too old".  You have to say to yourself that you can do it.   Physically, you just have to keep playing and stay in shape in general.  I've been fortunate to be abel to do both.

A guy in our league is 53 and is still playing pretty well.  He's a little slow and not mobile but can hit a shot.  I would be happy to be playing well into his age and beyond!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Basketball from a different perspective

A couple of days ago, I blogged that in my twenty years of adult league basketball experience, I had seen just about everything.   Today, I learned something about basketball that I didn't realize or understand.

A couple of weeks ago, I had planned some activities with my friends.  Alas, the plans had to get adjusted to later due to logistical issues.   With my original plans changed, I made new plans.

As I was suddenly free this morning, I made plans to visit a young high school basketball player I knew.  Even though I had officiated her games quite a bit, I had actually never just watched her play as a spectator.  As it turned out, she was playing in a tournament this morning at a gym close by to my house.

For some backstory on why I was visiting this player, read this blog entry:

Behind The Whistle:  Encouraging Players As An Official

The main plan was just to watch her play.  However, I wasn't going to just watch and leaveI.  Knowing the tournament structure, I knew there was some down time between her team's games.  I figured we would have some time to talk as well.  I wanted to know more about her struggles during the high school basketball season as we had not discussed in detail the last time.

So after the young lady's first game, we took a few minutes to talk a bit.  In sharing her story, she opened my eyes to her experience as the last player on the bench of a high school basketball team.    It definitely WASN'T what I was expecting.

While I have played years of adult league basketball, I never played high school basketball.  I just never really good enough to make my school team.  I've known plenty of people who have played high school basketball but only really talked to one person about their experience.  That one person was a guy friend who played one year of JV ball and was a bench warmer throughout.

For the young lady I visited today, her experience sounded like a combination of politics and poor communication.  I won't share her whole experience as that is for her to share.  However, it really opened my eyes to the high school players WHO DON'T get to play a lot.

There are kids who are good enough to make teams but aren't good enough to play regularly.  In this young lady's case, she is a talented and skilled player but yet somehow got buried on the bench for reasons not entirely clear.  In many ways, this is almost the same problem Jeremy Lin had, except the young lady didn't get much of a chance to show she could play this past high school season.

As someone who didn't play basketball in high school, I always wondered how that experience would be.  I did play other sports but none were as high profile as basketball (or football or baseball).  This young lady's experience shows that just being on the team isn't always glamourous and can be a frustrating experience rather than a rewarding one.   

It is unfortunate that the young lady had to go through the experience she did.  However, she has a good head on her shoulders, has great parents and goes to a good school overall.  She has a lot of support and other basketball activities (via her club teams) to fall back on so she will be fine.

However, I did tell her that if she never needed anything, she could always reach out to me.   I know that I lean on friends quite a bit and having extra support is never a bad thing.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Basketball can be a humbling and frustrating experience

I've played organized league basketball for over 20 years and have seen just about everything.   I've been on both ends of the spectrum and everything in between.  I've been on winless teams that lost every game by 15 points or more.  I've been on championship teams that went undefeated.   I've been on teams that won some / lost some.  So you can say I have some perspective.   Winning is nice but temporary.  Losing sucks but also temporary.

Yet, this spring season has been surprisingly frustrating for my Monday and Thursday basketball leagues.    Combined my teams are 2-11 (0-6 Monday, 2-5 Thursday).   The record doesn't particularly concern me as all teams make the playoffs.

My Monday team has grown since the early part of the season but we have fallen into a pattern of bad 2nd halves.  We compete and play hard but when the going gets tough, some guys start going one-on-one and the game goes downhill.

My Thursday team is just undersized.  The past two or three weeks, we have basically played with 4 guards and 2 forwards.   Offensively, we don't have enough role players.  We have 4 to 5 guys on the floor who want to shoot.  Unfortunately, I include myself in this group and probably get frustrated when the ball doesn't come my way.

The issues I see with both my teams is chemistry.  Most of the guys have never played with each other before and some guys feel they need to carry the load to get the respective teams on track.   This is fine at times but sometimes result in the majority of shots going to certain guys.

On a personal note,  I admit to being concerned with playing with two teams of guys I have NEVER played with.  In the past few years, I've played with teams that had some new guys but some other guys I have played with.   This proves tough as the new guys don't know my favorite spots.

I've had some decent games but also some games where I feel I didn't really get the ball enough.  Last Thursday, I believed I scored 11 points.  I shot 1 of 2 from the free throw line and shot 5 of 6 from the field.   Making 5 of 6 shots is a good percentage but why I didn't shoot more?  I didn't my usual energy and was content to shoot when I got the ball and not force shots.

Unfortunately,  I was semi frustrated that the ball didn't come my way enough.  Even the opposing team commented after the game that I was hitting my shots but wondered why I didn't shoot more.  The answer is I play within the flow and sometimes that flow just doesn't come my way.

All in all, basketball is fun but sometimes can humble and frustrate you.   I was openly frustrated tonight but will get over it.  I'll play with some friends on Saturday and then get ready for the final weeks of league games before the playoffs in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Happens When Linsanity Ends?

Actually Linsanity ended when Carmelo Anthony returned from injury.   However, any chance of Linsanity returning when out the door when New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni resigned today.

The Knicks blew out the Portland Trail Blazers as Jeremy Lin had 6 points, 6 assists, and 6 turnovers in 24 minutes of play.  What might raise eyebrows is that Baron Davis had 10 assists in 18 minutes of action.  The scary thing for Jeremy Lin fans is that the new interim coach (Mike Woodson) may not favor Jeremy Lin as much as D'Antoni.

What happens next to Jeremy Lin remains to be seen.  However, as I wrote on a message board yesterday, Jeremy Lin has learned more about the BUSINESS of NBA in the past few months (being waived by the Warriors, Rockets and now the coach quits).   Also, big money players like Carmelo hold a lot of sway over how basketball should be played than just the coach.

Best wishes to Jeremy Lin as he navigates another challenge in his career.  I do have confidence he will be fine.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Guard / Forward / Center

For those who are familiar with basketball, the three positions in a game of basketball are guard, forward and center.  The guard and forward positions had sub positions (point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward).  If you're playing high level basketball (NBA, college, top high school teams) your position generally reflects the skill set you bring to the game of basketball.

However, in most adult basketball leagues, your position if sometimes determined by height / weight as much as skill.  If you're a big and tall guy, you're usually going to be a center or power forward.  If you're a decent shooter / ball handler / reasonably tall, you'll probably be a shooting guard / small forward.  If you're a guy who can dribble and pretty short, you'll be the point guard.

Drilling down even further, Asian adult basketball leagues are a little more different.  There aren't any Yao Ming's running around though you'll get a few 6'3" or taller guys ever now and then.  But the reality is that most player fall between 5'6" and 6'1".

For me, I happen to stand around 5'10" and generally an shooting guard / small forward on offense.  I usually defend point guards, shooting guards and small forwards on defense.  For our Thursday night basketball league this sping, I am probably the tallest guy on my team.  With the other teams having tough post players, I end up guarding the perimeter AND the post players.

Last night, my team played my friend's team in our league.  My friend is 6'1" 180 pounds.  He can post and has some guard skills.   Seeing I was guarding him, my friend tried to post me and I had to battle just to keep him away from the basket.  Alas, I got into foul trouble and later switched to guarding the point guard.

It was definitely a rough night on the court as my team lost 78-72.  I scored 14 points but was somewhat beat up banging with the big boys inside and chasing the guards outside.  I don't mind the challenge but being an older guy, I can't bang like I used to.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good Learning Lesson For Jeremy Lin

By now, everyone knows that the Miami Heat beat the New York Knicks 102-88 tonight.  Jeremy Lin was harassed the whole night and played his worst game since became a starter two weeks ago.

As I write this though, I am not particularly disappointed or upset by this performance.  Like many fans, I have been glad that Jeremy Lin has shown Asian-Americans can compete at the NBA level.  It would have been good to do well against a championship contender such as the Heat.

However, I think this bodes well for Jeremy Lin's future.  As it's well documented, he was a small guy entering high school and grew to 6'3".  I'm pretty sure it took a little while for Jeremy to adjust to this.  At Harvard, he didn't start until his sophomore year and he didn't really break out until his junior year.

Jeremy Lin has shown that he is able to adjust and adapt his game over time.  Tonight will be a blip and he will be much better off the next time the Heat and Knicks meet.   Not many players (even highly drafted ones) can simply get on the court and do well.  Jeremy Lin has done pretty good over two weeks.

After playing in the rookie-sophomore game tomorrow, Jeremy Lin will get a break from playing and prepare for the second half of the season.  He'll have a chance to practice with his teammates, work on improving his game and be ready to help the Knicks for their playoff run.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Asian-Americans Love Jeremy Lin because........

Asian Americans are loving Jeremy Lin / Linsanity as evidenced by the tweets, Facebook posts, blogs and memorabilia being purchased at huge rates.

While the major media outlets are taking the angle that Asians love Jeremy Lin because he is breaking stereotypes (true), there is another angle that hasn't been covered as much.   Asian-Americans also LOVE basketball just as much as other people.  In fact, China and the Philippines love basketball just as much as any other country so there are probably more Asian basketball fans than any other ethnicity around the world.  Having Jeremy Lin be Asian and playing basketball is a dream come true for many Asian-Americans.

Focusing on Asian-Americans though, the love of basketball is evidenced by the various leagues, tournaments and Asian-American teams that exist up and down throughout California (and also in some other states).

Up in Northern California, there are at least a dozen organizations that host upwards of 8 to 12 youth basketball teams for boys and girls from 2nd to 12th grade.  These organizations host a tournament circuit year round that sometime include teams from Southern California.  The Southern California teams also do the same thing.

For adults, there are various leagues that have been around for years and years.  The longest standing leagues is the Nisei Athletic Union (NAU) that originated back in 1931.  Originally catering to Japanese-Americans, the league is now open to both Chinese and Japanese Americans.  Another long standing league in the Chinese Christian Union (CCU) Summer Basketball League.   The CCU Summer League has been around since the 60's or 70's and had it's start in Chinatown.  The league featured primarily Chinatown churches but began to expand in the 1990's.  This past summer, the league had over 70 teams from churches around SF and the Peninsula.  These are the long standing examples but other leagues such as the Dream League (SF Bay Area - 10 years) and others give Asian-Americans opportunities to play in a competitive basketball environment.

Beyond leagues, there are various tournaments catering to Asian-Americans.  Rather than playing a 2 to 3 month "season", organizers host weekend tournaments in various locations around California and other cities.   WHile most of the SF Bay Area / Northern California tournaments usually feature local teams, there are some tournaments involving teams from other states.

Two of the longer standing tournaments are the Las Vegas Invitational which is primarily a Chinese/Japanese tournament which features some 15 divisions of 6 to 8 teams each.  Most of the teams are California based though some of state teams join the fun every now and then.

One large tournament (32nd year in 2012) that is organized in the East Coast is the North American Chinese Invitational Basketball tournament.   Held every Memorial Day Weekend, the tournament shifts locations every year.  In 2012, the tournament will be held in Canada.  The most interesting aspect of the tournament?  It features teams from all over North America, Canada and even from China.  The majority of the teams for this tournament come from the East Coast (Boston, New York, Philly) and Canada but West Coast teams (LA, SF, Arizona) have also made treks to compete in the tournament.

The point in all of this history is that Asian-Americans not only like Jeremy Lin but they like basketball.  Yes, there will be the bandwagon fans who only follow basketball because of Jeremy Lin.  But there are also basketball fans who liked basketball before Jeremy Lin and will continue to like it after the Jeremy Lin noise has died down.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Racial Awareness Thanks to Jeremy Lin

At the moment, there is a quite a bit of discussion of ESPN's decision to use the headline "Chink In The Armor" on their website.  The headline was describing the New York Knicks loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night and likely a reference to a big weakness in Jeremy Lin's basketball game:  Turnovers.

However, the term "Chink" has some negative connotations in the Chinese American community and that caused a minor uproar.  ESPN removed the headline and apologized for it today.

Personally, as a Chinese-American, I don't think the headline "Chink In The Armor" was meant to be offensive.  The headline (or phrase) is generally used to indicate weakness.  However, it just so happened to be describing Jeremy Lin and so I see why people would be offended.

Regardless of what you think of the ESPN uproar, I think that Jeremy Lin's sudden rise has sudden given Americans (and the entire world) to an inside look of what Asian-Americans have to deal with.  There have been quite a few national newspapers which have discussed this.

While Asian-Americans are a large part of the American culture and society,  many non-Asian Americans do not know the history of Asian-Americans and the stereotyping and racism that was faced by Asian-Americans over the years.

From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the Japanese Interment Camps to Vincent Chin, there is a history of Americans viewing Asian-Americans as foreigners or a threat to their society.  Yet, when racial politics are discussed in America, it is usually a Black or White affair.  Asians (and even Latinos) are not part of the discussion.

Jeremy Lin is bringing an awareness of the Asian-American community that should benefit everyone in the future.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Jeremy Lin means to Asian-Americans

As a long time Jeremy Lin fan since his senior year (2006) in high school, I am extremely happy that the outbreak of "Linsanity".  Even though I thought he could be a "decent" player in the NBA, I never thought he would do as well as he has.  Jeremy's break out has also galvanized the Asian-American community and I would like to talk about some of the reasons why.


Even though Bruce Lee has been dead since 1973, he is still one of the mostly widely recognized Asian-American celebrities in the world.  No Asian-American (or even Asian born) celebrity (actor / athlete) has completed filled Bruce Lee's shoes.  Well known Asian-American actors such as John Cho and Daniel Dae Kim currently have good followings but don't have Lee's star power.  Asian-born actors such as Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat and Jet Li also have their own following but their Asian life experiences don't resonate with the Asian-American population in the States.

The last Asian celebrity that rivaled Bruce Lee was Yao Ming.  The 7'6" giant was born in China but spoke solid English and showed a different side of Chinese cultural.  Despite Yao's ability to shift between the Chinese and American lifestyles, he was still an Asian born athlete who's life experience didn't reflect what Asian-Americans go through.

Enter Jeremy Lin.  The Palo Alto raised kid had to fight through many years of coaches and teams not recognizing his talent and ability.  He had to fight through racial taunts and stereotypes of what Asian-Americans males should be.  Lin is not as angry outwardly as Lee was, but you can see the fire in his eyes when things go well.

Jeremy Lin is not quite on the level of Bruce Lee just yet.  However, the impact in the past couple of weeks is similar and this impact could GROW as the months and years go by.


When the Golden State Warriors signed Jeremy Lin, it was thought to be a marketing ploy to cater to the large Asian-American population in the Bay Area.  When he didn't do well (and eventually got cut by the Warriors and the Rockets this year), the assertions seemed to be correct.

It is now Week 2 of "Linsanity" and we've got people from all walks of life following and supporting Jeremy Lin.  Is it NOT JUST an Asian-American fan base.  It includes Blacks, Whites, Latinos, other professional athletes and even some actors / actresses.

Jeremy Lin's rising star should be a sign to the American business and entertainment worlds that Americans will support of other ethnicities besides White / Caucasian.   In the music industry, it was only recently that an Asian-American group, Far East Movement broke through with their #1 Billboard  hit "Like A G6".  However, while their other songs received some attention, none have duplicated their success.  Prior to the Far East Movement, there have not been many mainstream Asian-American musicians.  There are a lot of underground singers and groups but not many are known to the general American public.

In the movie and TV industry, there are quite a few well known actors including the aforementioned Daniel Dae Kim and John Cho.  While Cho has had some lead roles with Harold and Kumar, none of the movies were huge multi-million dollar hits.  Kim and other American born actors have solid roles but are still not considered as the main lead actors.

However, Jeremy Lin's sudden emergence and the fan response shows the world that people will support anyone IF they have the talent.  I believe that Jeremy Lin's sudden rise to fame will open the eyes of other industries to consider looking at people's talent beyond the color of their skin.  It may take some time but Asian-American lead actors and mainstream musicians should eventually appear and became as normal as an Asian-American NBA player.


I've blogged about this before.  Jeremy Lin was a good student in high school and college.  Now he's playing in the NBA.  In many ways, he is living many Asian-American male's dreams. There are certain parents who rather their kids focus on their studies instead of sports.  I am the believer that both things can co-exist.  Now I have an example I can point to in Jeremy Lin.  If I ever have kids, I can say "if Jeremy Lin can do it, so can you".

There's probably more things I can write about, but I'll leave it for now.  Enjoy the Linsanity.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Jeremy Lin: WOW!

As I have blogged about Jeremy Lin before, it should come as no surprise that I am a fan of his career.  I remember reading about him during his high school days, followed him throughout his college career and was thrilled when the hometown Golden State Warriors signed him to a contract.   Alas, Jeremy's NBA career hadn't taken off as anyone expected and many people wondered if he would ever get a chance to show his skills. 

However, even the most die-hard of Jeremy Lin fans would have never expected Jeremy Lin to do what he did in the last two games.  He led his team to victories over the Nets and the Jazz.  He had career highs in points in both games (25 / 28), assists (7 / 8) and minutes (36 / 45).  

I don't think it's completely sunken in for Jeremy Lin OR his fans.  I think most of us fans would have been happy if he played 15 to 20 minutes and became a consistent bench player.  Instead, in two games, he has been the star, outshining his more heralded teammates. 

However, if you look at Jeremy's career in high school, college and even D-League, Jeremy has always been a leader of men (or teams).  In many ways, we shouldn't be surprised at what he did the last two nights.  He has done it before after all. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Basketball: Playing Defense (why it's hard for older guys)

For the past several months, in addition to my regimen of playing league (when in season) and pick up basketball, I have been working out at the gym pretty frequently.  In the past, I used to just do cardio exercise with some light weight work.   Since my office gym isn't all too crowded, I've spent more time on weight work, primarily focusing on arms, chest and shoulders.  However, I decided to do some leg muscle work as well.

The leg work seemed to have a bit of an unexpected effect on my basketball playing.   I seemed to get a little more bounce in my step playing DEFENSE.  I've never been the quickest guy in the world but in the past couple of months, I've noticed I'm able to stay in front of younger / quicker guys a little bit better.    My friends will laugh at this as I'm better known for my jump shooting than defense but I have been moving my feet a little better.

Alas, there is a flip side to this.  After playing several hours of pick up ball on Saturday (guarding a couple of quick guys), my knees were quite sore.  I think younger guys have more energy and recover faster.  If I was asked to play ball the next day, it would have been difficult.   Plus, if you focus on defense, your offense suffers a bit.    It is extremely hard to be a two way player.

Regardless, it's pretty fun to try to guard quick players at my age.  Who says old people can't play?