With great fanfare, the organizers of the new MLS Soccer Franchise for Philadelphia unveiled their team logo on Monday of this week, an event which was duly reported in the various sports pages of the local newspapers.

The organization which is promoting the new soccer franchise appears to be a group of overweight, entirely male surburban white men, who have absolutely nothing to do, and who have organized themselves into an organization for the promotion of professional soccer in the Delaware Valley/Philadelphia/South Jersey area, known as the “Sons of Ben.”

I only mention this parenthetically, because as it well known, most people who attend soccer games are world/ethnic—they are Latino, Italian, Greek, Caribe’, whatever—anything but white suburbanites.

If these fat white suburban guys driving SUVs buy season tickets to professional soccer, I’d be greatly surprised—and if they do show up, they’ll find a league composed almost entirely of foreign players, for the most part, with a few Americans sprinkled in for show.

Not to mention a stadium full of ethnic segments waving various flags of different countries for their favorite players from those countries, whether it’s Brazil, Germany, Greece, Holland or wherever.

It won’t be the U.S. Flag, I know that.

The Beckham experiment in LA is pretty much par for the course, except that it proved that MLS soccer is so far below the standards of English Premier League, that a guy like Beckham isn’t worth having on your team—it’s like playing Alex Rodriguez in sandlot ball. He doesn’t really help you because people just pitch around him, since all your other players are awful.

Let’s get to the awful LATIN. The logo for the new team is as follows:

PHILADELPHIA UNION
(Picture of Snake)
Jungite aut Perite

see also, the team’s new website,

http://www.philadelphiaunion.com/

which also displays the mistaken latin phrase “Jungite et Perite.”

The organizers assured the press conference that the snake and the latin phrase “Jungite aut Perite” were taken directly from the Newspapers of Benjamin Franklin, and that the phrase means “Join or Die,” and the snake represents the Join or Die emblem employed during the times of the American Revolution.

Ok, except for one huge problem. As Henry Beard, author of “Latin for Even More Occasions” (Villard Books, NY, 1991), states at p. 111 of his very humorous book,

“CONSONANTS….”

“J, W AND Y don’t exist in Latin.”

Beard, Id. at p. 111.

There is no letter “J” in the Latin language.

I believe what the Sons of Ben meant to say was the following:

“IUNGITE AUT PERITE.”

Latin for All Occasions by Henry Beard

Latin for All Occasions by Henry Beard

As is well known to those of us who have either studied the arcana of the Latin language for several years (I won the Latin Prize at Haverford School) (twice, actually) (now I’m just showing off) (thanks to Steve Dall, by the way, a great Latin teacher), or have gone to Catholic School and been forced to take Latin,

THERE IS NO J W OR Y in the Latin alphabet.

The letter J is approximated by the vowel combination “IU” as in “Iuno,” “Iuvenal,” and so forth.

Thus, there actually was no “Julius Caesar.” His name was “Caius Iulius Caii filius Caii nepos Caesar Imperator” (see wikipedia article on “Julius Caesar”) meaning “Gaius Julius Caesar, son of Gaius, grandson of Gaius, Imperator”. See? No “J”.

Gaius Iuilius Caesar

Gaius Iuilius Caesar

Thus, in Latin, there would be no “Dr. J”, only a Dr. “Iulius”

And you couldn’t jam the ball, you could only “iuam” the ball.

anyway, I think you get the fundamental point–there is no “j” in latin, either in the alphabet or in the everyday usage of the language. All of the “J”s you see in modern day latin (as when you see “Julius Caesar”) are added as approximations to the ancient lation usage of “Iu” for “J” which is the proper latin.

Now let’s see if the “Sons of Ben” (none of whom claim any actual lineage from Ben Franklin) actually know their Latin:

Iungite, “Join!”, is the plural imperative form of iungo, with principal parts iungere, iunxi, iunctum, “I join” (from which we get many english cognate words such as “conjunction” or “injunction”). The imperatives are “iunge”, join!, singular, addressed to one person, and “iungite”, join!, addressed to two or more persons. (See J. Wohlberb, 201 Latin Verbs, Barrons, NY, 1964, at pp. 94 & 63, the verbs “iungo” and “eo”) (see infra).

See? No “J” in “Iungite”. “Jungite” is just plain WRONG. The proper word is “IUNGITE”. That would be RIGHT.

Are these guys morons or what? Maybe they should try speaking latin in a Latin American soccer league! (I shudder to think what their spanish or italian is like).

Clearly, no matter how much money the Sons of Ben spent on their advertising, logo and presentation budget, it wasn’t enough.

I, along with numerous others like Victor Davis Hanson, have been lamenting the deconstruction and utter loss of the classics, e.g. the loss of the required learning of Latin and Greek for many years now; here is a pertinent example of WHY everyone should known Latin and Greek.

End of Sparta by Victor Davis Hanson

End of Sparta by Victor Davis Hanson

It is completely embarrassing that a major sports team should hold a press conference, insert a logo on their press team that draws from the Latin language, and then GET IT WRONG, when simple fact checking with a high school latin teacher could have straightened them out.

Here was an opportunity to show lots of schoolchildren that latin still matters–but the growups get it wrong. how embarassing.

On the rest of the slogan, they’re ok—aut means “or,” and “perite” is the plural imperative of “per-eo”—I kill—the root verb being “eo, ire, ii or ivi, itum,” with imperatives “I and ite” singular and plural—you just add per- in front of those to get “per-ite.” (201 Latin Verbs, id., cited supra, p. 63).

I guess I conclude here with a translation of the title of this piece, which was supplied by Mr. Beard—”avaritia bona est” can roughly be translated as “greed is good.” (The slogan from “Wall Street”, 1980s, Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas). (see Beard, id. at p. 14).

Here some other great latin sayings from Beard (id. at p. 24):

Tu, rattus turpis! –
You dirty rat! (Jimmy Cagney)

Ei fer condicionem quam non potest repudiare –
Make him an offer he can’t refuse – Vito Corleone, the Godfather (Marlon Brando)

Age. Fac ut gaudeam. –
Go ahead. Make my day. Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood).

Fuit mulier quae me potare egit. Nunquam steti gradum ad ei gratias agendas. –
It was a woman who drove me to drink. I never stopped to thank her. (W.C. Fields).

Fasciculum nicotianum fumificum meum quoque amo, sed aliquando eum de ore extraho. –
I like my cigar too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while. (Groucho Marx).

See you all in remedial Latin class!

Art Kyriazis, philly/south jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

The Sixers announced this week that Tony DiLeo will not return to coach the Seventy-Sixers next season. Let’s examine that for a moment. With the firings of Jim O’Brien, Maurice Cheeks, and now Tony DiLeo, the Sixers have now fired three coaches in the last five years who have taken the Sixers to a playoff spot, and a decent showing in the playoffs.

This past season, DiLeo inherited a losing record and a completely injured Elton Brand from his predecessor Maurice Cheeks, along with instructions to start and play Brand, even though Brand was completely hurt and ineffective.

After a month of losing games with Brand, Brand finally went on the disabled list and the Sixers went on a tear, finishing the season 32-27 overall under DiLeo.

It’s true they slumped at the end of the season, but they won two games in the playoffs against Orlando, and more importantly, Andre Iguodala established playoff highs in PPG at 21.5 and looked dominant for the first time EVER in a playoff series.

Also the team lacked any kind of three point game, general manager Ed Stefanski having traded away lock and load three point shooter Kyle Korver to Utah for nothing, and also lacked any tall defensive guards who could shoot and score, the prior GM having traded away John Salmons in the foolish Chris Webber trade (Webber was also injured and never played effectively).

Salmons only scored 35 points in Chicago’s key triple overtime playoff win over Boston, the most exciting game of the playoffs.

You think Salmons and Korver might have helped this year’s Sixers’ roster?

The Sixers, as a sidenote, seem obsessed with a big man, in a league and with league rules, that no longer value big men.

They traded away Alan Iverson, the best small man in the league, and instead have wasted valuable resources and money and players pursuing big men like Chris Webber, Elton Brand, to name but a few, in the mistaken believe that big men win in the NBA.

The fact is, if they currently had Allen Iverson, Kyle Korver and John Salmons to go with Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala, this would not only be a winning squad, it would be in the top tier of the NBA’s eastern division, and better than any other team other than Cleveland, assuming Garnett was injured for Boston.

Note that Garnett, by himself, won nothing in Minnesota–he had to be paired up with Pierce and Allen, fast, swift small men who could shoot and play the running game and shoot the three, before Garnett could win in the current NBA.

Look again at Boston—they’re playing with Ray Allen, a player similar to Iverson, and Paul Pierce, a player similar to Iguodala.

Obviously that’s a good combo. Pierce-Allen or Pierce-Allen-Garnett is a lot like Iguodala-Iverson or Iguodala-Iverson-Brand.

If we added Salmons and Korver to that mix, we’d have an ideal team—and Chicago picked up Salmons for a song in midseason.

My point is, it’s not bad luck or bad coaching dogging the sixers, its their bad management of talent.

Many other ex-sixers torch the league, and the sixers every night—I need not remind you of Larry Hughes, or the long career of Jerry Stackhouse, and so on and so forth. Tim Thomas, Keith Van Horn, Clarence Weatherspoon, Shawn Bradley, Larry Hughes, Kyle Korver, John Salmons, Jerry Stackhouse are all examples of players the Sixers drafted, or kept around for 2-4 years, and then let go once their salaries got bigger–and those players went on to very productive NBA careers.

Don’t fool yourselves–salary is driving force for the Sixers in getting rid of some of this talent. John Salmons was making about $750,000 as a third year player–he’s now making several millions as an experienced guard. Kyle Korver, the same. Larry Hughes commands much more on the open market these days. Bradley evolved into a very fine defensive center and was making as much as 8 million dollars a year during his peak years with the Mavs, compared to his rookie deal of 2.5 million and 3.5 million with the Sixers.

Jerry Stackhouse was making between seven and nine million dollars a year at his peak with the Pistons and Mavs–compare that to the one to two million dollars a year the Sixers paid him.

The point is, the Sixers have always had the TALENT, but never have been willing to pony up the MONEY to keep the TALENT HERE.

They make a lot of excuses, but in the end, they keep wasting money on useless immobile or injured big men like Elton Brand, Chris Webber and so on.

The sixers have a chance to get Iverson back this offseason, and the sixers should jump at it, because Iverson is a good fit if Andre Miller is the point guard.

Clearly, the guards other than Miller are a lot less efficient than Iverson and are much more streaky shooters than Iverson—Iverson is steady, can play 40 minutes a night, and can shoot the three.

With Iverson in the 2 guard, the remaining guards can play off the bench, in limited minutes, and they can actually go against bench players and guys like Lou Williams will actually play better against other bench players.

Let’s get back to coaches.

The Sixers fired Jimmy O’Brien after O’Brien went 43-39 and made the playoffs in 2004-05. Why? He won, he made the playoffs, and Iverson had a good year. That made no sense, no sense at all.

Then came Maurice Cheeks. The Sixers fired Cheeks after what was Cheeks’ arguably best year as Sixers coach—last year, 2007-08, Cheeks coached the Sixers to a 40-42 record (the same overall record as they had this year), the sixth seed, Cheeks did it without Iverson, got plenty out of Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala, did very well the second half, got the sixth seed, and won two games against Detroit, which got to the finals of the NBA East before submitting to Boston.

Cheeks was fired even though Elton Brand was forced on him, Brand was injured, and it was obvious to everyone that Brand didn’t fit with the other players on the team. And, as soon as Brand was off the court, the team started winning. It didn’t have much to do with Tony DiLeo, did it?

In fact, whey don’t they just bring back Maurice Cheeks? He can win with this squad, he’s proven he can.

What did Cheeks, O’Brien or DiLeo do wrong? They won, they got to the playoffs, and they even won in the playoffs.

Also, I would argue, all three played an uptempo, exciting brand of basketball that was worth watching—O’Brien stressed shooting the three, early and often, while Cheeks and DiLeo stressed defense and the running game and scoring off fast breaks.

Even though Cheeks and DiLeo lacked Iverson, the NBA’s most exciting player, they STILL won and got to the playoffs without Iverson, which is actually quite an accomplishment.

I don’t understand the revolving door on the Sixer’s coaching situation.

They had Larry Brown here for five years, and every year was exciting, and there was stability. I don’t think a Doug Collins, who is superannuated, or a retread like Eddie Jordan, is the answer here.

What is needed first and foremost is a commitment from the OWNER and the GM to get players, small players, who can play the running game, and second, a coach who can coach shooting the three ball, running the running game, and playing in the European style that has taken over the NBA game the last five years.

San Antonio and Tim Duncan aren’t winning like they used to because of the changes in the league and the rules.

The Sixers badly need to get a Two Guard, such as Allen Iverson, and a Three Shooter, such as Kyle Korver or Rasheed Wallace. Wallace would be good because he can rebound and play defense as well as shoot the three, and he’s from Philly.

Iverson would also probably want to come back to Philly.

With the existing nucleus, those two players would be good additions.

Getting back Korver and Salmons, along with obtaining Iverson and Wallace, would be ideal.

Then the Sixers could let go some of the less talented guards they’re holding onto and keep just one or two reserve guards, and play Korver, Salmons, Miller, Iverson and maybe one or two other guards as a rotation.

At power forward and center, assuming Brand ever comes back, you’d have Wallace, possibly Korver as swing man, Iguodala, Dalembert, Speights, Young and others. That’s a good front line, offensively and defensively.

Also, at that point, you could trade Brand for something you really needed. Like Josh Smith or Jim Bibby or John Salmons.

Now you have a team—then get a coach. Once you have a good team, finding a coach will be the easy part, and that team will win, by the way, it will win fifty games going away.

–Art Kyriazis, Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

Two men are having lunch at Adriano’s, an expensive Bel-Air restaurant. While they are eating, Frank Sinatra and his entourage enter the restaurant and are seated at a large table in the corner. Seeing this, one man says to the other, “I’ll bet you fifty bucks that I know Frank Sinatra.” (He doesn’t.) His friend, thinking the bet would be easy money, smugly agrees. The man gets up and walks across the restaurant to Sinatra’s table. He puts one hand on Sinatra’s shoulder and offers the other for a warm shaking. “Frank!” he exclaims. “How you doing? Good to see you again.”

Sinatra rises, shakes the man’s hand heartily, and asks how he is doing. He and the man spend a few more moments in cheerful conversation before the man comes back to his table to collect his winnings from the awestruck friend.

This is a true story, and the diner’s skillful manipulation of Frank Sinatra is a classic example of the value of shmoozing. Shmoozing is the most important skill there is for a Hollywood nobody (and let’s face it — that’s what we are, those of us who fantasize about seeing our name on the credits or our faces on the screen).

In Hollywood, a résumé or a degree mean nothing. Some argue that skills and talent mean nothing. Deals do not get made because X has an MFA in screenwriting and got an A+ on her thesis, or because Y starred in I Hate Hamlet at the Winesburg Playhouse and his performance was lauded by the local papers.

Deals get made because Z is a friend of Michael Eisner. It was through his friendship with Robert De Niro that Joe Pesci secured his first film role, in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull. Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) attended college with Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer, and was asked by Singer to write the script.

It was Quiz Show screenwriter Paul Attanasio’s friendship with director Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Sleepers and the Attanasio-scripted Disclosure) that got him into the industry.

But what about the rest of us? Those who have high Industry ambitions but lack high Industry friends? Are we without hope?

Perhaps not. Perhaps there are ways to make Industry friends and influence Industry people — the skill which the man in Adriano’s had perfected. You have to strike up a conversation, make a solid impression, be straightforward. And above all, you have to talk to your subject (the shmoozee) in a way that will put the two of you on friendly terms. The key lies in the shmoozing.

Last summer, I had the good fortune to come across tickets to the MTV Movie Awards. Kevin Spacey, fresh from his Oscar for The Usual Suspects, was there and won the MTV award Best Villain for Seven. Let’s say you are in attendance, and after the ceremony you have a chance to talk to him. Spacey, now that he is rather famous, is serious player in Hollywood and can do wonders for your career, if he wants to. So what do you say to him? How do you act?

Don’t panic. Just remember these items:

— Hollywood does not make bad movies. Despite what the box office grosses were, despite what the critics said, despite even what you think of a particular film, you must always sing its praises. You never know what film your shmoozee might have been involved with. As far as you’re concerned, Spacey’s film The Ref is, in some ways (though you needn’t be specific about what those are), on the same level as Citizen Kane.

— Your shmoozee has no last name. When congratulating Kevin Spacey on his award and his performance, never say, “Congratulations, Mr. Spacey. Very well deserved.” There is no greater heresy. You always say, “Congratulations, Kevin. Very well deserved.” (Note: It doesn’t matter whether or not Kevin actually deserves his award. As far as you’re concerned, he deserves the award he got, as well as the ones he didn’t.)

— If you are fortunate enough to actually be employed by a firm with some involvement in the industry, then, as the shmoozer, your last name is extended to include your company’s name. Having worked for Premiere magazine for a time, I had the luxury of introducing myself to Kevin Spacey in the following way: “Kevin. Good to meet you. Alex Lewinpremieremagazine.” (You may wish to rehearse this in front of a mirror, as it can be quite a mouthful, particularly if you work for Bresler, Kelly, Kipperman or Donner/Shuler-Donner.) This informed Kevin that I was almost somebody — and therefore worth talking to — without my having to say so.

— Never underestimate the importance of the word “over,” as in, “I’ve been over at Premiere for two months now.” It may sound trivial, but it helps to convince Kevin that, despite the geographical largesse of Los Angeles, every company remotely involved with Hollywood is located on the same happy block, and you’re all the best of neighbors.

— If you are acquainted with person A, who is nobody, and person A is acquainted with person B, who is somebody, you are, by default, a good friend of person B. A woman I worked with at Premiere, for example, told me one day that she knew screenwriter Paul Attanasio. An admirer of his work, I eagerly asked if there was any way she might introduce the two of us. At this point, she buckled, and explained that she, in fact, did not know Paul Attanasio — she knew his brother.

“Who’s his brother?” I asked. “Anybody?”

“No, he’s nobody. But I did meet Paul once.”

A more skillful shmoozer would not have admitted so quickly that her connection to Paul was a shmoozer’s connection and not a real one. For example, when I was chatting with Kevin Spacey and the topic of Seven director David Fincher came up, I was free to say, “David did a great job with the mood of that film.” I don’t know David Fincher, but I have a friend who does. I could conceivably get in touch with Fincher if I absolutely had to, and that is what’s important. (It also helps, in talking with your shmoozee about a particular film, to refer to some vague aspect like “mood” or “tone” — terms which make you sound intellectual, but really don’t mean anything.)

I met Kevin Spacey because my good friend, Wall Street Journal film critic John Lippman, had tickets to the MTV Movie Awards and wasn’t using them. (Lippman’s actually a friend of a friend and I’ve never met him, but that’s not important.) At the party afterwards, Kevin stood at a crowded blackjack table, waiting for a space to open up. I saw my opportunity, took a deep breath, and went in for the kill.
“Kevin [offering my hand]. Alex Lewinpremieremagazine. Good to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Kevin, shaking my hand.

“Congratulations on the award. Very well deserved.”

“Thank you.”

“I enjoyed Seven a lot. Great film. Did you have a good time working on it?” (For the record, I find Seven a rather depressing and self-indulgent film, but Kevin didn’t need to know that.)

“Well,” Kevin told me, “I didn’t have a lot of screen time, so they didn’t need me around much for shooting.
Not as much as Brad or Morgan, anyway. So that was easy to fit into my schedule.”

And just like that we were having a conversation. Not the type of conversation that a gushy and excited fan typically has with his film idol, but a real conversation. Of course, one has to ask, “what is real?” if everything that came out of my mouth was based on strategy and a level of honesty that was tenuous at best. It’s all part of Hollywood. If you want to make it — if you want friends in high places — you’ve got to fit in. Just ask Kevin; he’ll tell you the same thing. Oh, and when you talk to him, be sure to mention that you’re a friend of mine.

[this was a GREAT article by Alex Lewin posted to the net a few years back. Paul Attanasio is actually a harvard classmate of mine, and we actually have the same name, I’m Athanasios Kyriazis, he’s Paul Attanasio, we’re named for the same saint, St. Athanasius….however, I’ve never been nominated for an emmy or an academy award. Disclosure was a rocking good movie, to name only one of Paul’s great screenplays, he’s a prolific, brilliant writer/producer. –art kyriazis, philly/south jersey, home of the world champion phillies]

It probably isn’t news to anyone currently breathing that every newspaper owning corporation in the United States is currently in bankruptcy Chapter 11 proceedings. Here in Philadelphia, after sinking more that 500 million bucks to take the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philly Daily News off the hands of the guys who bought them from Knight Ridder, the purchasing group headed by Brian Tierney et al. ended more than eleven months of negotiations with creditors by filing for Chapter 11 protection with the United States Bankruptcy Court, meaning reorganization and possible liquidation. There are serious rumors that only one of the two newspapers will survive, probably the Inquirer.

In a way, this is strange, because there was a time in Philadelphia, and I don’t mean going back to Ben Franklin, when it was obvious that the Inquirer was the worst and most pitiful newspaper in town. The Philadelphia Public Ledger was the newspaper of record (its building still stands at 6th & Chestnut) for many decades, while the Philadelphia Bulletin was clearly the better of the two papers while the Bulletin and Inquirer were the two main papers in the second half of the 20th century.

Of course, the Public Ledger went under in the Great Depression; it died in a court-ordered liquidation in 1941 or 1942. This may just be history repeating itself. The Public Ledger was owned jointly by the owners of the NY Times, incidentally.

For a complete list of ALL newspapers ever printed in Philadelphia, go to this website pdf of newspapers held by the free library of philadelphia;

http://libwww.freelibrary.org/faq/guides/FLP-NEWSPAPER-HOLDINGS-BY-DECADE.pdf

you’ll be shocked and amazed how many newspapers there have been and how many small ones there still are other than the inquirer and daily news even now.

But then again, the Philadelphia Athletics won five world series and too many pennants to count between 1901 and 1953, and were the main baseball team in Philadelphia for more than fifty years. No one gave a fig about the Phillies. It was only after Connie Mack died and the A’s moved away that the Phillies finally developed a fan base, and even then not really until the 1964 pennant run with Dick Allen and Jim Bunning did they really draw any fans. But who remembers the A’s today in Philly? Where are they today? No one in Philadelphia remembers them at all.

There’s a small museum in one of the counties, and a small bronze plaque at the new ballpark. That’s about it for the team that in the first half of the 20th century was the second best ballclub in the American League, and by far the best professional sports team in Philadelphia.

Getting back to newspapers, the point is that you can’t understand history by looking at it now. If you looked around now and saw humans, you’d never know that dinosaurs once ruled the earth. Likewise, looking around and seeing the Inquirer being the main newspaper, you’d never know that once there was a Public Ledger, a Bulletin, and probably a dozen other papers. Even the Saturday Evening Post, the nation’s number one women’s magazine, was published right here in Philadelphia, but it died too. That building is still around also. We have seen the end of magazines like Life, the Saturday Evening Post, and most recently, U.S. News & World Report, in the past forty years. Now newspapers are dying as well.

There were a lot of great movies about newspapers. The best movie of all time is about newspapers. Here I refer to Citizen Kane (1941), which is a thinly veiled biopic of William Randolph Hearst and his media empire.

There’s also Meet John Doe (1936) and let’s not forget All the President’s Men (1974).

I’d throw in Broadcast News (1980s) as well, even though it’s really a TV movie, just because it’s flat out hysterically funny and not at all dated, and because Brooks is one of my favorite comics in the world other than Mike Reiss. Just looking at Brooks makes you laugh.

But history does repeat itself. The Hearst media empire was bankrupted by the Great Depression—so much so that Hearst himself, so rich that he could build the Heart mansion—the famous “Xanadu” in the Kane movie—in San Simeon, California—now a famous museum—actually lost all his money to his creditors in bankruptcy proceedings and lost control of his newspaper holdings. No one today has heard of the New York newspapers that Hearst made his fortune from.

Now, we are going through another serious economic dislocation which is again severely affecting media badly. As badly as Hearst was affected by the Depression and War years, that’s how badly newspapers and old media will be affected this time around. Add to that the free news which is available on the internet, and on every persons’ telephone, and one would be silly to expend money for a newspaper.

It’s quite obvious that within another twenty years, there will be no more magazines or newspapers in print at all, that everything will be delivered right to your computer, tv or phone via internet. Maybe (and I often futurize about this) the convergence of nanotechnology and biotechnology will eventuate in a chip being implanted in your brain or neural net, so that you can visualize the images yourself without a machine mediating at all. Perhaps we’ll all be connected to the internet and to each other one day in such a fashion. It’s difficult to make radical predictions, but then again, in 1910, no one could have predicted that baseball, then a deadball sport based on bunting, stealing and pitching, would in the 1920s and thereafter become a sport of sitting around waiting for someone to hit a three run home run.

I will miss the Philadelphia Daily News. For the last forty years, it’s been the best sports paper in the country, and I’ve read all the other papers around, including the Boston Globe, the Chicago, the LA, the NY and SF papers. NY has tabloids basically and no good writing at all; the Boston Globe for a long time had great writers, but they’ve all gone to ESPN or national outlets where the money really is; and no other city really had good sports writing. Philly might be the last town in which there’s been good beat writing and sports writing for a long time now.

If the Daily News goes, that will probably be the end of it, though it may survive on line since there’s an online edition of the daily news that’s pretty good, and even better, available nationally to all former philly residents who follow their teams. So when they throw the last daily news into the fire and you see the sled burning with the name “rosebud,” remember you read it here—this was all a story about Charley Foster Kane, who wanted to be the world’s greatest newspaperman, and succeeded all too well.

By the way, I mentioned in a prior post that GE was way off about Jimmy Fallon? GE stock is now trading at five dollars a share. That’s right, five dollars a share. they made a big deal about this on one of the network news shows while i was working out on the elliptical at the gym. whoa nellie! The stock apparently has completely crashed.

Jack and Suzy Welch, would you buy this company’s stock? It was trading at $40 just last year. And now it’s down to $5 a share and dropping like a rock. Pretty soon it will be worth, say, 1923 German deutsche marks, which is to say, nothing.

Oh yes I would says the Wizard of OZ. You can get a thousand shares in this company now for the price of a song. Heck, the only place the stock can go is a little down, or a lot up.

I said they should have bumped Leno three years ago. While I recognize most of their problems are with GE Capital, entertainment is the division that’s always recession proof.

If you’re not sure about that, check out the fact that 1930s and 1970s are the greatest eras of film history.

Jimmy Fallon had another great show–Jon Bon Jovi did a duet with one of his fans, while Tina Fey sat and rooted the two of them on. I think it was the girls’ dream moment of her life, all caught on camera. You can bet that will be on youtube.

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
You can

IS THIS THE END FOR AI?

March 4, 2009

John Smallwood in yesterday’s Philly Daily News (tuesday march 3 2009) p. 62 writes in his column “Firing on Fewer Pistons: Aging Iverson Becoming Shell of His Former Dynamic Self”, basically, that Allen Iverson, the Answer, AI, is done and should retire and get on with his life.

In support of this thesis Smallwood cites three basic arguments:

1) Detroit has been 22-28 with Iverson, 3-1 when Iverson doesn’t start and 6-0 when AI doesn’t play.

2) Denver and Philly got the better of the last two Iverson trades.

3) AI is posting the worst numbers of his career this year, below 20 ppg and only 5.1 assists per game.

As you know, here at the Sophist, we think there are two sides to every question, and so we’re going to examine the other side of this argument. Is AI really done? Should we put a fork in him? Is he old? Should we start mailing the NBA pension checks to his mansion?

Well, we don’t think so, and here’s why.

Let me start by addressing the last argument first. It’s true that Allen Iverson is posting the worst numbers of Allen Iverson’s career. Allen Iverson, career, is a 27.1 ppg scorer, and career has averaged 6.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 3.6 turnovers. This year with Detroit, he has averaged 18.0 points, 5.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.5 turnovers.

This is where we point out something that Bill James and all the other statheads in the world have been saying for years. THE DECLINE PHASE OF A GREAT PLAYERS CAREER WILL BE GREATER THAN THE DECLINE PHASE OF AN AVERAGE PLAYER’S CAREER. Allen Iverson, even in decline, is still a great NBA player.

Let’s look at the 76ers. Andre Iguodala, who is in his prime as a player, is averaging only 18.0 ppg. Iguodala is 25 years old. Iverson is 34 years old, and averaging also 18 ppg. What is a terrible season for Iverson, is the very best that Iguodala can do.

Think about that for a second. Why did Wilt Chamberlain play until he was 40? Why did Elgin Baylor play until he was 40? Why did Jerry West play until he was 40? Why did Hal Greer play so many years?

It’s because great scorers like Allen Iverson, like Hal Greer, like Elgin Baylor, like Dr. J, even in their decline phase of their careers, are still more effective than the very best players in the NBA who are very gifted.

Looking at win shares, Iverson has 2.7 win shares this year for Detroit, but last year he had 12.6 win shares for Denver. The top two guys for the Sixers, Iguodala and Miller, have 6.5 and 7.1 win shares each, and that’s about as good as they get. Neither of them will get 12 win shares in a good year. On the Pistons, no one has more than 4.3 win shares, and that’s Tayshoun Prince. the win shares on Detroit are very evenly distributed because Prince, Wallace, Hamilton, McDyess, AI, Stuckey, Maxiell and Johnson all have 2 or more win shares, and they all score, rebound, hand out assists or play a lot of defense. They have a team concept in Detroit.

AI’s numbers in Detroit, therefore, reflect an ADAPTATION to the game as played in Detroit, which is a defensive game, low offensive production, a much slower pace and team play.

Next, AI has played by far the most minutes of any of the Pistons, except for Tayshoun Prince; Prince has played 2214 minutes, while Iverson has played 1913 minutes; Wallace has played 1831 minutes, while Stuckey has played 1785 minutes, and Hamilton 1702 minutes.

It’s obvious that the coach in Detroit has not played his players evenly. He’s taken two hundred minutes away from Stuckey and Hamilton and given them to Iverson, even though Stuckey is younger and Hamilton is taller and can play better defense.

Part of the problem here is that Iverson, Stuckey and Hamilton all play the 2 guard; Stuckey can play the point, and should play the point, but even then Hamilton and Iverson both play the 2 guard.

If I was coaching the team, I’d start Hamilton and bring Iverson in with the second unit, because Iverson against the second unit of the other team would cause chaos and destruction, and also the three guard set up with Stuckey, Hamilton and Iverson can run with some opposing lineups and wear them down.

But clearly, the detroit coach has run Iverson into the ground by playing him too many minutes.

The result has been injuries to Iverson, and at 34, he is no longer indestructible, which is why he is being evaluated for back injuries this late in the season.

If I had an Iverson, I’d have played him less in the regular season and saved him for the playoffs, where we know he excels.

Furthermore, if Iverson has been hurt, and we know he plays hurt quite often, that would explain some of the decline in his numbers. He’s had some dreadful nites this year–and perhaps he’s been tired, hurt and not able to be AI. When he’s been rested, ready and healthy, he’s had some great nights this year for Detroit. He’s dropped 25 or more points on the Lakers and on many other qualify opponents in key wins during this year. And frankly, he’s looked at times much like the AI of old.

I’d say, rest him, keep his minutes down, and you’ll have AI of old always.

Per 36 minutes, Iverson is scoring 17.2 points, which is very productive. But Hamilton is scoring 18.9 points per 36 minutes, which suggest that Hamilton is the more efficient two guard.

Detroit needs to move one of them, and since Iverson’s contract is up, AI probably should go.

The Sixers should pick up AI (and Rasheed Wallace if possible) and make their run at the Eastern Division Crown, and dump Elton Brand. AI is the short term Answer to the Sixers 3 point and scoring issues in close games.

Also, in close games, AI can be the go-to guy with under a minute left. Finally, if AI teamed up with Andre Miller, they’d be fantastic. Andre Miller would be the best point guard AI ever played with, and Andre would get AI the ball where he could work with it, especially out on the break. I think Iguodala and AI would both be scorers in this system, while Dalembert, Young and Speights would all play defense and work the boards.

If Wallace could be added, he could play defence, work the board, and shoot the three. Then I think the Sixers could even keep Elton Brand and see if they had a monster team.

Turning to whether Denver got the better of the Billups-Iverson deal, at the time the deal was made, it looked even steven.

In 2007-08, Iverson earned 12.6 win shares for Denver, and had a monster season for them. Billups led the Pistons in 2007-08 with 12.8 win shares, while Hamilton Wallace and Prince each had 7.3, 7.2 and 7.1 win shares each. But there’s one other issue here, and that’s Billups salary–he was earning like 60 million over several years, while AI was only getting about 15-20 million for one more season.

So basically, the trade was even in terms of talent and win shares, but Detroit unloaded a boatload of cap room.

Let’s say hypothetically that Detroit wants to sign a big free agent in 2009-2010 or thereabouts–they would want AI and/or Wallace got–older players, along with Billups, who is also an older player–and want the cap room gone.

In that event, they could sign a LeBron James, a Kobe Bryant, or whoever is a big free agent to turn the franchise into a premier franchise for the long haul.

While it looks as if currently denver is getting the long end of the stick, Detroit will eventually get the better of this trade.

Some side points on Denver: Carmelo Anthony isn’t what he’s cracked up to be. Billups is leading the team with 7.7 win shares. Nene is second with 7.3 win shares. Then comes Chris Anderson with 3.6 WS, and Kenyon Martin with 3.5 WS, and guess who’s 5th most valuable player with only 3.1 win shares?

That’s right, Carmelo Anthony. By the way, AI got .2 win shares for Denver while he was there, so adding that to the 2.7 he has for Detroit, AI has 2.9 win shares for the season.

So AI has 2.9 win shares, while Carmelo has 3.1. Carmelo is 25 years old averaging about 21 ppg (last year it was 25 ppg) and yet he’s having about the same season, statistically, as Allen Iverson, 34 years old, who Smallwood of the Daily News says is washed up.

But last year, playing with AI, Carmelo had 8.9 win shares, and the Denver Nuggets played a beautiful uptempo offense, where AI and Carmelo played really well together–and Carmelo had a great season, averaging nearly 26 ppg and more than 7 rebounds a game, and more than 3 assists a game.

the fact is that Carmelo doesn’t fit with Chauncey Billups at all, whereas Iverson and Carmelo were a match made in heaven. Together, Carmelo and Iverson had 12.6 and 8.9, or 21.5 win shares together.

this year, Billups and Carmelo have 7.7 and 3.1 win shares together, or 10.4. The real reason Denver is winning is 1) Billups is scoring a lot 19 ppg and 2) Nene is scoring 14 ppg and 3) nene is playing defense and rebounding inside. Also, Smith, Martin and Kleiza are all scoring because Billups is getting them the ball.

Now let’s look at the last issue, did the Sixers get better by getting Andre Miller?

The Sixers had Allen Iverson ten years, from 1996-2006. During that time, AI was the #1 road draw in the NBA, had the world’s most popular sneaker, led the NBA in scoring four times, and the Sixers made the playoffs six of the ten years that he was here. Moreover, the Sixers advanced past the first round of the playoffs three of those years, and got to the NBA finals one of those years.

You’d have to say, that was pretty darn good for a guy that was 5 foot 9 dripping wet.

Oh, and he scored about 20,000 points or so while he was here.

AI was MVP of the league, All Star MVP twice, led the league in minutes played twice, and kept the stands filled in Philly.

He led the league in free throw attempts twice, and is on the career list there. He’s on the career list for a lot of things, including minutes played, free throws attempted, and points scored, and he’s third alltime in ppg during the playoffs.

we sat and watched him drop 50 ppg more than once during the playoffs. Spike Lee would have given anything to see this guy play for the Knicks, right?

I know that the other day was the 100th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points at Hershey, PA in March of 1962 against the New York Knicks. The Big Dipper averaged 50 points, 25 rebounds and more than 48 points a game that year for the Philadelphia Warriors and Eddie Gotlieb.

I met Wilt in LA at the Bar Marmont in LA with some friends in the VIP section. There were a lot of important types there like Rick Rubin and some SNL actors, but I only wanted to meet Wilt. My mom had been a teacher of his back in the 50s at Overbrook HS as a trainee when she first started in the school system, and always told me how tall he was, and how nice he was.

Well, Wilt was extremely nice. He was much taller than 7 foot 1, more like 7 foot 5, and he had two girls with him and a couple of lawyer types. I’m sure he really did sleep with 20,000 women, and that circular house of his is famous, it was in a brian dipalma film once. Wilt lived the life of riley, he hung out at the playboy mansion, slept with any girl he wanted, and was noted for being a conservative and careful stock investor. He was very wealthy when he died, a bachelor to the end. He was frugal, intelligent and careful with his money.

I mention Wilt because we never thought we’d see a scorer like Wilt again, and then there was AI, who dazzled this town for ten years with his exploits. On any given night, AI could put up 50, 60 points. He wasn’t Wilt, but he had Wilt’s attitude that no one could stop him, and he ATTACKED the basket like Wilt used to do. AI was a lot like Wit–he existed to score, and scoring was his reason for existence.

I thought for a while that AI might score a hundred points in a game. On February 12, 2005, he lit up Orlando for 60 points. I mention this because that was barely four years ago. And he only made two three pointers in that game. 17 field goals and 24 free throws–Wilt made 28 free throws and 36 field goals in the 100 point game. It’s hard to believe that the Sixers could have traded AI just a year and a half after this incredible performance–the greatest single game performance by a 30+ athlete in the NBA in my humble opinion, and I remember watching the game on cable–but there you go.

So Smallwood thinks the Sixers did better getting Andre Miller? Well, let’s see. Since the trade, the Sixers have made the playoffs once in three years. they missed the year they traded Iverson, 06-07, they made it the next year, 07-08, and they may make it this year.

Iverson, on the other hand, made the playoffs immediately with Denver his first year there, 2006-07, made it the next year 2007-8, while having a spectacular comeback season (as did Carmelo Anthony, see above), and this year, even having an offyear with Detroit, will probably make the playoffs with the Pistons as the #7 or #8 seed. The way the Sixers are going the second half, the Pistons will probably pass them and reach the #6 or #5 seed, actually, so the Sixers are not even a lock for the playoffs.

On December 5, 2007, playing for Denver, Iverson dropped 51 on the Lakers. Iverson was now 32 years old. What a performance. It was on national TV, of course.

On December 23, 2005, Iverson dropped 53 on Atlanta in Atlanta, surely pleasing all the rappers in attendance down there. He was 30 years old.

None of this, of course, sounds like a guy who was, is or will be washed up at age 34, 35 or whatever.

Let’s look at AI this year.

On December 19, 2008, AI dropped 38 on Utah at home in Detroit for the Pistons.

On February 19, 2009, not a week ago, AI dropped 31 on the San Antonio Spurs, his second best game of the year.

On November 11, 2008, AI dropped 30 on the Sacramento Kings.

AI has had 17 games of 20 or more points for the Pistons this year. In only five games did he fail to score in double figures. He is now 33 years of age.

Getting back to Andre Miller, Miller’s win shares for Denver had declined from 9.1 to 7.2 to 6.4 in the three seasons leading up to the Miller for Iverson trade. In short, Miller looked to be declining in an age-related fashion.

AI had gone 9.4, 10.9, 6.5 Win Shares the same three seasons. It was not clear that he was in age-related decline at all. What we do know about Iverson is that his win shares and seasons follow no predictable pattern, that he has off years followed by great ones;

1996-97 4.3 WS
1997-98 9.0 WS
1998-99 7.2 WS
2000-01 6.9 WS
2001-02 11.7 WS (MVP)
2002-03 6.8 WS
2003-04 9.2 WS
2004-05 2.7 WS (injured, played 48 G)
2005-06 10.6 WS
2006-07 6.5 WS (Phila, Denver)
2007-08 12.6 WS
2008-09 2.9 WS (Denver, Detroit)
Total 100.1 WS

What you see here is a great player, because seasons over ten win shares are MVP seasons. Iverson has had several of these, and the MVP voting has reflected this.

Also, you can see he needs a season to adjust to a new team before he can come back. His second season in Denver, he was brilliant. If he has a second season in Detroit, he should be better. When he was injured in Philly, he came back and had a monster year.

Also, we see that the Sixers must be idiots, because they traded him the year after he had a monster year, 2005-06, 10.6 win shares. So there was no logic in trading him, he was not only a good player, but a great one.

Basically, the sixers were looking to clear salary cap room, and that’s all.

The next season, after the trade, 2007-08, AI had 12.6 win shares, as we know from above.

Miller has had 8.1 and 7.1 win shares with the Sixers the last two season, so he’ll probably end up with around 8 win shares this year. He’s by far the most valuable Sixer. And yet the Sixers have not signed a contract with Miller and seem to want to let him leave.

As for the salary cap room, the Sixers wasted it on Elton Brand.

Elton Brand is 30 years old. He had 10.3, 15 and 11.4 win shares for the Clippers in 2004-05, 05-06 and 06-07, but the last two years, he’s played 8 games and 29 games due to injury, last year with an ACL and this year with a torn labrum and bad shoulder.

The last time Elton Brand scored 30 or more more points in a game was April 12, 2007 for the Clippers.

The last time Elton Brand scored 40 or more points in a game was February 10, 2006 for the Clippers.

The guy who’s become a “shell of his former dynamic self” is not Allen Iverson, but Elton Brand.

After earning 11.4 win shares in 2006-2007, Brand earned .4 win shares in 2007-2008, and then the Sixers paid him all of the cap room they had (a gazillion dollars) even though he was hurt and damaged goods, and old and shot, and no evidence he could come back from injury (i’d have given him a one year deal), and he promptly came out, played badly, got hurt and is back on the shelf.

Brand earned 1.1 win share this year.

AI is 300% better than that this year, and AI is having a bad year for AI. Last year, we know that AI had 12.6 win shares, while Brand had hardly any.

So did the Sixers make out better with the Miller for AI trade? I think not. While Miller fits the team better because they needed a point guard, the Sixers could have found a point guard other than Miller.

First, they should never have traded Eric Snow so early.

Second, they could have worked out a deal for Delonte West, who is making money feeding the ball to LeBron James.

Third, Bibby was on the market and Atlanta got him.

Fourth, Jason Kidd was on the market, and is now at Dallas. He’s still on the market.

Fifth, there’s always point guards of quality available. The key is, AI is not a point guard, he’s a two guard.

So this is not the end for AI.

I know one team that would covet AI, and that’s the Knicks. They need an exciting presence there.

If they signed Andre Miller and AI, they’d have a team right away with the young players they’ve developed this past year.

The sixers have to be careful. The people they don’t sign will go to their competition in the NBA East, and they will regret their non-moves.

AI should retire in a Sixers Jersey. It’s appropriate to bring him home.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion philadelphia phillies

Indifference to death is the supreme claim of a successful moral theory. Mortality, the biblical threescore and ten years we are given on this earth, is and was the human condition for the ancients and the moderns. Transcendence of mortality therefore becomes a categorical imperative for any moral theory to attain success.

At a recent alumni dinner where there were a number of attorneys, i asked some of my colleagues around the table if they had given any thought to the afterlife. Most of the people at the table looked at me as if I had landed from another planet. I pressed the point, and asked, you get ready for trials, but what about the ultimate trial, the final trial, the final judgment in the life to come? Don’t you want to be ready for that? Again, blank faces and almost no thought given to the concept in the slightest. I found this interesting, and wanted to give it some thought. This essay was the result.

Maybe this is what is wrong with the legal profession today. Lots of ethics courses, but no courses as to the essence of ethical thought–the soul and its salvation. And yet Plato and Aristotle, especially Plato, write about the soul, about lawyers and the salvation of the soul in the life to come, and about ethics, almost to the exclusion of all else. And of course, Christianity absorbs Plato through neo-Platonism, and a lot of Aristotle too. So have we forgotten everything we learned back at the dawn of Western thought? Have we forgotten that you can’t take it with you, to paraphrase a famous play we used to read in prep school? That a rich man will find it harder to get into heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle? That Lazarus will be by God’s side while the rich man will be burning from thirst in hell? Have we forgotten all of this in our search for worldly rewards?

I assume we all agree here that Bernie Madoff is definitely going to hell, but we’re not sure what level of Dante’s Inferno he’s being assigned at present.

So here are a few comments on four ethical systems that have given plenty of thought on this matter, and incidentally, most every lawyer in the greco-roman world was at the very least, a stoic or a christian.

Characteristically convergent in the three moral systems of Stoicism, Spartanism and Samurai/Bushido is the conquest of death through roughly parallel means. Christianity in its neo-platonic formulation through the Hellenistic church fathers, starting with Clement of Alexandria and running through the Greek Church Fathers, St. Basil of Caesarea, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. John Chrystostomos, and finding its eventual final expression in St. Augustine, a much later Latin church father, also conquers death as well.

As St. John Chrystostomos so memorably puts it, “Death, Where is Thy Sting?” However, Christian eschatology and cosmology sharply distinguish it from the Stoic, Spartan and Samurai traditions. There will be a second coming, and a second judgment, a final judgment, but so long as the Christian adheres to the seven sacraments and worships through the Church, his salvation is ordained, and he or she will be saved in the life to come. Here, we are speaking of the early Eastern Christian church, 100 AD – 1000 AD, as opposed to the later Western church, 1000 AD – present, which was split by the east-west schism, the Albigensian Crusade, the 4th Crusade, the Crusades in general, the Protestant movements, and so on. The early Church, by contrast, was relatively unified (setting aside the Arian, Manichean and Nestorian and other heresies, which are not material here) and was constituted by its seven ecumenical councils as a unified and generic whole. Even as to the schismatic churches of the Near East, the churches of Nestorianism and so forth, which had millions of adherents up through around 1400 AD in Syria, Iran, China and many other areas where the majority religion was either Muslim or other, the message was the same, that death could be overcome by salvation through the Church.

By Stoicism we refer to the ancient Greek philosophy which emerged in Athens at the stoa, which is best known by the work of greek philosophers such as Epictetus, and follow it to its most perfect expression in the Roman philosophies of such writers as Cicero and Marcus Aurelius. The Roman/Latin followers of stoicism, of whom there were many, were comfortable with stoicism, since it was perfectly suited to a milititaristic society ruled by capricious and arbitrary imperial factions which could change suddenly and without warning, often with drastic policy implications. Because conditions were constantly volatile at the micro level, even though there was an overall “pax Romana,” stoicism was an ideal philophy.

We note in this introduction the essentially dual character of stoicism, as both a military and an ethical philosophy, one ideally suited to the greek or roman warrior or pacific citizen alike. The warrior at peace in stoic tranquility could perform his military assignments with a minimum of moral concern either for his enemy’s or his own death; likewise the citizen going about his tasks was also able to work hard, indifferent to illness, suffering or the exigencies of mortality, and to the machinations of politics and the state.

Turning to the Spartan way of life, which was essentially a philosophy and ethical system, again we see a military and ethical system in place. First, we define the Spartan system as that system in place in Ancient Sparta from roughly 700 BC to approximately 350 BC, when the Spartan State began to lose its military supremacy to Thebes, and lost its martial character and started to blend shortly thereafter into the larger Hellenistic World created by Alexander the Great and his Successors.

During their time of glory, the Spartan method of training and educating their men and women was legendary throughout the ancient world, and it has come down to us even in the present day. The very word “spartan” connotes sparse, spare, lean and other similar adjectival synonyms. That a spartan soldier would fight to the death was a given; that he was happier to die gloriously in battle than to die and old man in his village was well-known. Thus even Pericles was known to quote the Spartans in saying that a good death in battle could wipe out a lifetime of evil deeds. But the Spartans virtue was a sort of corporate virtue, not the individual Achaean virtue or heroism of Achilles or Ajax; Spartans fought as a team. Their methods were legendary; their morality their code.

Finally we have the samurai, who lived by the code of bushido. In this moral code, elaborated on many occasions by learned samurai, the samurai warrior, who was always a learned man fluent in poetry, calligraphy and the arts, as well as the martial arts and the sword, was to consider himself at all times as if he was already dead. This core, bedrock principle of bushido, along with the zen Buddhist principles of “no mind” or “empty mind”, encapsulate bushido’s essential qualities—the clear-minded warrior, ready to strike, unafraid of death because in his mind, he has already died, and thus is already prepared for death. Such an adversary must have been dangerous indeed.

That there are parallels between these three systems with regards to their attitudes towards death and mortality is self-evident from our brief discussion. A longer exegesis would examine all of these systems in greater detail, but this brief review suffices to carry across the general motive and ethical points.

Art Kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

Time Magazine just did a cover story on stem cell research, which is commendable. They also entitled the story “The Quest Resumes,” which is commendable, focusing on the fact that the Federal Government, under the Obama Administration, may finally allow (this may already have been approved by executive order) federal funds for stem-cell research at federally funded research institutions.

However, the subtitle of the article is “After eight years of political ostracism, stem-cell scientists like Harvard’s Douglas Melton are coming back into the light—and making discoveries that may soon bring lifesaving breakthroughs.” Time Feb 9, 2009 at p. 36.

Now, let’s examine that for a second—In Massachusetts, where Prof. Melton plies his craft, the Commonwealth and State of Massachusetts, like the State of California, has voted state support of stem-cell research at institutions of higher education. Therefore in Massachusetts, like California a bastion of biotechnology, the biotech lobby was able to secure state support for stem-cell research during the eight-year long federal ban on such research. So compared to the other 48 states, Prof. Melton was actually at an advantage because his lab was in Massachusetts.

Because of the federal funds ban, a great deal of stem cell-research has begun to spring up in places like Southeast Asia, as the Time Magazine article correctly notes, and as it well-known in the biotech industry. But a lot of it is also staying put in Cali and Mass due to those states putting up seed money for biotech research that is stem cell oriented.

Next, Prof. Melton works as co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), which Harvard has committed substantial resources to supporting over the past eight years and well into the future. According to their 2008 report, their annual spending has grown in the past two years from just over $5 million to over $16 million in fiscal year 2008, most of that culled from private and corporate donations. HSCI currently has no less than eight ongoing challenge grant research projects sponsored for $75,000 each, all of them stem cell oriented.

Now I am a powerful supporter of stem-cell research, and I strongly advocate that the federal government support stem cell research. The question I have for Time Magazine is, and maybe perhaps for the Federal Government, is HSCI the most needy recipient for federal funds for stem cell research? The article omits that HSCI is well-funded by private donors, and omits that Massachusetts provides state support (it is not clear if HSCI accepts Massachusetts money) and therefore the article in Time is somewhat misleading.

The argument for funding HSCI federally has to be this; we, e.g. HSCI, made a good faith effort to get the ball rolling the past three years through private financing, we have already a lab in motion with research projects, so if you fund us, we will be three years closer to getting results than any other academic lab you choose to fun. Consequently, their NIH grant requests will carry a certain heft.

On the other hand, they are not as dramatically in need of the money as some other labs who don’t have any private funding at all.

A more useful article would have been to depict the overall situation in the rest of the United States, and some of the labs outside CA & MA.

This is an interesting issue and one on which arguments on both sides would and could be marshalled.

It should be pointed out that I strongly support the work of Prof. Melton and the work of HSCI. Those initiatives were put into place by then President Lawrence Summers, along with the Broad Institute initiative, a few years back, and clearly they have had the effect of putting Harvard back on the map in terms of genetics and molecular biology research.

The good news about the Time article is that the words “Stem Cells” made the cover, along with a nice bio-photo. If nothing else, Americans this week can forget about the economy and the war for a moment and realize that stem cell research is an answer to many of our problems that don’t involve boundaries and account balances and fumes spewing out of our cars.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

this is an actual case study I did at Wharton about fifteen years ago for Steve Sammut’s class on advanced patent portfolio management theory. This case is of interest because it concerns a biotech company, and because, re-reading it after a long time, it actually reads very well. Even before I had all the experience I do now, I actually had a good feel for what to do with the management of a biotech company even back then, so here it is. And yes, I did get an “A” in the class, of course. Dr. Sammut used to run the tech transfer office for Penn during the 1990s.

–art k

ps enjoy!

T-CELL SCIENCES, INC. CASE

by Arthur J. Kyriazis

MGMT 898 – PROF. SAMMUT

Wharton School (WEMBA)
University of Pennsylvania

April 22, 1994

Issues

T-Cell Sciences, Inc. (“T-Cell”) is a 1983 Cambridge, MA biotech/pharmaceutical startup sired by Patrick Kung, a “recognized pioneer in immunological research.” The main issue appears to be defining T-Cell’s ultimate market niche even as it undergoes the process of transition from a venture-funded start-up to a more mature publicly held corporation. Specifically, in the coming months and years, should T-Cell (1) concentrate upon basic across the board immunological R&D; (2) concentrate upon basic immunological R&D with a focus on diagnostic drugs and product(s); or (3) focus upon strategic alliances with large pharmaceutical companies with an eye cast towards the development and delivery of therapeutic pharmaceutical drugs?

It would appear that until the arrival of James D. Grant as CEO in November of 1986, the main issue might well have been a different one altogether, namely whether T-Cell would reorganize or liquidate. In early 1986, T-Cell was a company in trouble and one which was not being particularly well-run or well-managed, even though it had brilliant scientists and innovative technologies full of commercial promise. Even though startups might be expected to lose money at the outset, T-Cell’s losses in 1985 and 1986 totalled nearly $2 million, compared with $5.5 million capitalization from December of 1983 throught January of 1986. This apparently necessitated a public offering in May of 1986, which raised $11.1 million, followed by the hiring of Mr. Grant in November of 1986, and his hiring of a well-heeled financial CFO immediately thereafter.

In addition, up through Grant’s arrival, T-Cell had only developed two products of any consequence, ACT-T-SET, and CELLFREE, and only two joint venture/research alliances/R&D contracts of any consequence, the Syntex USA contract and the Pfizer contract, and had failed to show any revenue from product sales through 1986, and only $13 million in revenue from contracts in 1986.

In brief, one may surmise from the case study that a great deal of money was spent at T-Cell, until Grant’s arrival, on basic immunological research, without a very well defined sense of where the research was going, or how it would be profitable or generate a return to the company and to the investors. This might have been a result of Dr. Kung’s diffuse vision of the company’s market niche as somehow doing R&D better or faster, and perhaps a touch of the academic fondness for the intrinsic value of broad based academic research as opposed to targeted research and strategic alliances directed to product development and ultimate profit.

Grant’s arrival placed T-Cell on a radically different footing and he appears to have turned the company around. Losses were reduced by nearly a million dolars from 1986 to 1987, and for the year ending in April of 1987, T-Cell reported positive product sales revenue of nearly $400,000 together with contract revenues of nearly $2 million. In addition, Grant apparently negotiated the deal with Yamanouchi Parmaceutical, which as he characterizes it places T-Cell on a sound cash flow footing for the foreseeable future. In addition, Grant has introduced a sound line of command and professionalized the management of the company by hiring a financial officer and a regulatory affairs officer, paying attention to patent management issues, and spending time painting a sound, attractive picture to shareholders, potential investors and to regulators. Finally, Grant’s status an a former FDA head bodes well for the regulatory hurdles awaiting T-Cell’s products.

T-Cell’s Strengths

T-Cell’s strengths are many. First, it has a distinguished corps of researchers led off by Dr. Kung, who appears to be a leader in the field of T cell research. It is situated in Cambridge, MA, in the heart of the Harvard-MIT research community, and can be expected to easily draw upon an outstanding technical scientific staff for its research needs. Also, the scientific advisory board includes people like Dr. Mark Davis and others who are world-recognized scientific leaders.

Second, T-Cell has introduced two product lines in 1986, the ACT-T-SET and CELLFREE technologies, which assuming patent protection and FDA approval, are potentially product mainstays for the company. These two products are expected to have applicability in the diagnosis of various stages of immune system stimulation and white blood cell activity. Dr. Kung and Mr. Grant expect R&D to eventually identify other new products in the same T cell related vein with applicability in the diagnostic field.

Third, T-Cell has two joint ventures, with Syntex and Pfizer, and now a third, with Yamanouchi, which promise to focus on specific product development, with the obvious potential of delivering a drug to market which can be of wide therapeutic applicability and therefore be a cash mainstay for the company. The Syntex and Pfizer ventures aim to produce therapeutic drugs targeted at common medical ailments, including breast cancer, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cytomegalovirus. The Yamanouchi venture aims to develop products to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis and lung cancer. An added benefit is the global ability to develop and market products and drugs in Japan and the rest of the world while awaiting FDA approval for their sale in the United States.

Fourth, T-Cell now has James D. Grant, who must be reckoned as an important asset of the company at this juncture. His management skills have put T-Cell on a sound business footing; his contacts have resulted in new joint venture(s); and his FDA expertise should translate into FDA product approvals.

Which Fields or Options are Most Attractive for T-Cell?

The basic R&D approach is wrong for this size company. What the company needs to do is ultimately make a decision between developing diagnostic products/drugs on its own, or on developing them with partners. Grant appears to be committed to a strategy of hedging his bets by pursuing both options. He is willing to commit some money to R&D and to diagnostics, while courting and signing deals with large pharmaceuticals for strategic alliance(s) aimed at delivering specific types of therapeutic products/drugs. Grant also feels that the diagnostic(s) division, once profitable, should be spun off because of the competition in that field.

Recommendations

Grant probably has it right. The therapeutic emphasis is the best way for T-Cell to go right now. The joint venture/strategic alliance approach is a sound one. If successful, the development of even one drug marketed to a patient population as widespread as the breast cancer or lung cancer populations promises immediate payoff for T-Cell’s efforts and a handsome reward for its investors.

With diagnostic drugs on the other hand, even if approved and even if proprietary, it is hard to see how T-Cell will be able to exploit the discoveries, so that Grant is probably correct when he surmises that this division or these proprietary discoveries will ultimately be spun off. Of course, licensing and franchising are options we have discussed which absent from Grant’s discussion(s).

The best way for T-Cell to go would be to continue to solicity these contracts and joint ventures. T-Cell has recognized, proven scientific talent and recognized expertise in this very specific area of immunological research.

One specific recommendation is that the company hire a patent portfolio manager and begin to concentrate on patenting more of its discoveries, as well as concentrate on getting products to FDA submission stage. This manager must also concentrate on getting the researchers to recognize when a discovery may or might be patentable or commerciable in some respect. These two steps will make the company attractive to investors and a steady stream of patent application(s) and FDA approval applications are evidence that a company has been doing its homework.

These steps, if followed, should result in a successful new round of equity financing and/or an invitation to buy the company out altogether. In either event, the company will have attained a substantial goal. Finally, T-Cell should keep Grant around. Given the company’s history, investors could get extremely nervous if he were to depart suddenly or unexpectedly.

–Arthur J Kyriazis, 1994

THIS WAS AN ACTUAL CASE STUDY I WROTE FOR THE WHARTON SCHOOL IN THE SPRING OF 1994.

–art kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
Home of the Incredible Philadelphia Eagles
Home of the Arena Football League Champion Philadelphia Soul
Making the Playoffs in 2008: The Sixers, the Flyers, the Phillies and the Eagles!
Happy New Year 2009

The Philly Seventy-Sixers, deprived of the services of Elton Brand the last month, promptly re-adjusted almost all of their problems and went on a big winning streak recently, reclaiming the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of the NBA, and getting themselves back to .500.

In the process, Andre Iguodala has elevated his game immensely, scoring many more points per game, handing out assists, collecting rebounds, cutting down his turnovers, and also improving his three-point scoring percentage to 35%, which is much better than the 20% he was shooting earlier in the year.

Andre Miller also has been scoring, issuing assists, and shooting 35% or better from the three point line.

Some unsung heroes of the revival are Royal Ivey, who has played excellent defense and shot the three ball very well at guard; Reggie Evans, who continues this year to do what he did last year, namely play defense and rebound well; Theo Ratliff, who at nearly 40 can still block shots, play defense and rebound, and spell Sammy Dalembert to rest him or replace him when he’s in foul trouble; Sammy Dalembert, who’s improved immensely his defensive, blocking and rebound play; Mareese Speights, who has demonstrated outstanding defensive skills, blocking shots, rebounding and also offensive skills, good shooting percentage and very mobile in the open court–he shows promise of being an outstanding power forward in this league.

The fact is, the Sixers have played much, much better without Elton Brand in the lineup. They don’t need Elton Brand and when Elton Brand plays with them, he slows them down into a half-court game that they can’t and shouldn’t play. The only way this team can play and win is to go uptempo and run, run, run.

Elton Brand might be useful in the playoffs, where you need sometimes to play the half-court set, but he’s awfully expensive for such limited use.

The Sixers should simply deal Brand. He’s not a good fit and they should cut their losses now.

What the Sixers do need is not a power forward, but a tall three point shooter who can also play the low post, who is very, very mobile and can run. Vladimir Radmanovic of the Lakers or Peja Stojakovic of the Hornets both fit the bill, as do Kyle Korver and Mehmet Okur of Utah. Raja Bell of the Hornets also can shoot the three and plays good defense at guard.

A three team trade would trade Brand and bring two three point shooters the same cap room currently occupied by Brand to the Sixers. Ideally, the Sixers would move Lou Williams or Willie Green, one of their less productive guards, along with Brand, and get back Korver and Radmanovic, or Korver and Stojakovic, two good three point shooters, who can complement the inside driving and fast paced running game of the sixers current group.

Brand is slow, injury prone and given his medical history of an achilles tendon and this year’s injury, plus the fact that he’s somewhat overweight with a poor body-mass index for his age and height, is very much likely to spend the majority of the next few years on the disabled list. He’s not wafer thin like Iverson or Dr. J, players who played well into their 30s. Heavy guys don’t usually age well in the NBA. The pounding on their knees and ankles is just too much for them. Shaq is a perfect example of a guy whose weight has destroyed his game even though he’s just 35 years old. No matter how tall and talented he is, at 35 Shaq is just fat and slow now compared with the 20 year old kids around him like Howard of Orlando. Shaq can’t play them, and neither can Brand, to be honest.

Eddie Stefanski should end his infatuation with Elton Brand now and ship him out.

The impact that a superior three point shooter can have on a team is illustrated by the Atlanta Hawks, who are now a big winner and a playoff team in the NBA East, with Mike Bibby hammering home threes at a .450 clip and averaging 16 points a game. Even though Bibby seems to have been around forever, he’s just 30 years old (he’s turning 31 this year) and still have mileage left, plus he’s got loads of playoff and winning experience with the Kings.

There used to be a great TV show in the 1950s or 1960s called “Branded”. The link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKmJPnAGUJk. Chuck Connors was in it, and it starts with Connors being an army officer in some fort in the west in the 1800s, and his having all of his insignia ripped off, his being defrocked and his sword cutoff, while the theme song says, ‘what do you do when you’re branded”.

This is now the sixers’ problem–what do they do now that they’re “branded”? They need to move a good player and keep the chemistry that took them to the playoffs last year intact.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champions phillies
happy new year 2009

One of my beloved professors from college passed away recently, Professor Samuel P. Huntington, late of Harvard University. He was prolific, having written numerous books and articles, and was famous for his theories of political development. He wrote one of my most important letters of reference to graduate school and we had a good relationship. I liked him, he liked me, and I truly enjoyed the advanced graduate level seminar I took with him my senior year of college.

The paper I wrote for him in the seminar, the one which so impressed him that he wrote me a letter of reference for graduate school, Huntingon later used some of the ideas from in part for his famous paper published in 1993 in Foreign Affairs on the Clash of Civilizations; my original seminar paper had argued that older theories of political development emphasizing secularization as the main engine of modernization were now obsolete in light of the Iranian revolution and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and that new theories were needed to take account of modernizations which utilized traditional and charismatic authorities such as religion and ethnic identities to bind together national feelings.

That paper and that seminar were timely for Huntington; he had just come off the State Department desk that spring from the catastrophe of the botched helicopter rescue in the Carter-Vance State Department as Undersecretary of State, and he was in the mood for reflection on past ideas which no longer seemed to work in the modern revolutionary-terrorist world. Huntington’s long road to his new paradigms began in that seminar room that spring and he had invited comment from all of us on not merely Iran but a number of subjects which were established in the political science pantheon. He was in a rare mood for an established professor; he was actually listening to what his students had to say, which was a rare and precious commodity for an academic long established at Harvard.

Huntington, who had long advocated the secularist and praetorian schools of modernism and political development, slowly developed, articulated and adopted these new views with a vengeance, and as a consequence, his article on the “Clash of Civilizations” became the most cited article in Foreign Affairs since the publication of George F. Kennan’s containment article in 1947. It was the novelty and willingness to ascend new theoretical ground that gave Huntington’s article such oomph.

Huntington’s later followup books and articles were all celebrated by the media and by the academy. What is striking about Huntington’s work (as opposed to mine or anyone else’s) is the thoroughness of the academic references and the depth of research and academic work that went into the new theories. He essentially developed a new paradigm for looking at developmental theory in the Kuhnian sense of that word, and did so in a way that captured the imagination of many scholars and many popular thinkers. This was a substantive achievement, especially coming from someone so closely identified with the Cold War establishment.

But Huntington did not merely throw out a new theory, as so many academics do today in papers; he erected an edifice, complete with substructure, foundation and plenty of academic digging to support what he had built in his article. It was so complete once he showed it to the world, it was readily apparent he had been working on it for more than ten years. It rapidly became his life’s capping achievement.

Huntington’s willingness to change and be flexible with his core beliefs and his core dogmas at such a late date in his academic career marked him as a scholar of the first rank. Most scholars develop one or two ideas when they are young, and then are afraid or unwilling to deviate from them later in life. Huntington was willing to risk all, because he saw that his earlier theories and ideas might be wrong, and went about searching for a new theory, a new paradigm, which would better explain the facts in the world about him.

He was, in a world, an empirical scientist of the first magnitude. Like Galileo and Copernicus, when he saw the data that proved the earth was not the center of the universe, he was unafraid to change his point of view and advance theories in keeping with what he saw and what he heard, instead of repeating theories he had learned or that he had advanced decades earlier which might have applied to different circumstances.

Professor Huntington was of old New England stock and proud of his heritage. His namesake was once President of the United States in Congress Assembled and had presided over the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution during the very earliest years of American Independence. Huntington himself served several Presidents and administrations in various capacities and was noted for his acumen and wisdom.

He was a wonderful Professor, a good man, and I shall miss him. And most of all, he was a brilliant academic and a social scientist of the first order. In every way, and every day, he was a Harvard man. He was very much my notion of what a Harvard Professor should be, and for that reason too, I shall miss him also. It is doubtful that any like he shall pass this way again.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Phillies
Happy New Year 2009

PS

This is Professor Huntington’s official biography from the Harvard College website:

[cite to and cited from]

http://www.gov.harvard.edu/faculty/shuntington/

Samuel P. Huntington is the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor. He graduated with distinction from Yale at age 18, served in the Army, and then received his Ph.D. from Harvard and started teaching there when he was 23. He has been a member of Harvard’s Department of Government since 1950 (except for a brief period between 1959 and 1962 when he was associate professor of government at Columbia University). He has served as chairman of the Government Department and of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. His principal interests are: national security, strategy, and civil military relations; democratization and political and economic development of less-developed countries; cultural factors in world politics; and American national identity. During 1977 and 1978 he worked at the White House as coordinator of security planning for the National Security Council. He was a founder and coeditor for seven years of the journal Foreign Policy. His principal books include The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (1957); The Common Defense: Strategic Programs in National Politics (1961); Political Order in Changing Societies (1968); American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony (1981); The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (1991); The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order (1996); and Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity (2004).