Today, as we survey the wreckage of the first and second rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament, 2010 version, which has destroyed nearly everyone’s brackets, including mine, it is wise to remember the words of one of the seven sages of Ancient Greece, Heraclitus, who noted that “everything is in flux,” or more modernly, “everything changes constantly.”

HERACLITUS ONE OF SEVEN SAGES OF ANCIENT GREECE "ALL IS FLUX"

Since today is GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY, everything I write today will really be about GREECE and the incredible influence GREECE and GREEK THOUGHT has had upon modern life. Specifically, I will show you how GREECE & GREEK THOUGHT have had a major influence on MARCH MADNESS AND THE NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT. You won’t even believe it, but it’s so.

BETTER ONE HOUR OF FREEDOM THAN FORTY YEARS OF SLAVERY & JAIL

Today marks the 189th anniversary of the birth of the modern Greek nation-state and the uprising against the Ottoman Empire by the ethnic Greeks and Greek-speaking majority of Roumeli against their Ottoman overlords on March 25, 1821. After nine long years, that struggle resulted in the creation of the modern Greek state. And of course, we who are Greek-American have to celebrate it, since the actual Greeks in Greece are temporarily on strike against government austerity measures. Hey, I wish I could retire at 41 with a full salary and benefits too, but as one of my Harvard economics professors once noted, TANSTAAFL “THERE AINT NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH.” (actually, that phrase was coined by sci fi giant Robert A Heinlein, 1907-1988, if you grok me). Frackin’ great line, though.

ROBERT A HEINLEIN & ISAAC ASIMOV AT PHILLY NAVAL SHIPYARD 1944

Many, many effects of that revolution can be seen here in America.

1) The very idea of athletic competitions and tournaments is Greek in origin. The Greeks invented the Olympics in 776 BC. They had them on a four year rotation, along with three other games, the Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian Games, the four being known as the “Pan-Hellenic Games.” The point is the Ancient Greeks had an athletic competition to determine a winner in each event every year. This is exactly what the modern NCAA does. The logos of the NCAA even use Olympic/ancient Greek style laurel wreaths on some of their publicity and trophies, and even up to the present day, the concept of AMATEURISM, the notion that an athlete should not be paid for participating in sports, is uniquely and completely ancient Greek in origin, as the Romans customarily paid their Olympic and other athletes, or compelled them to compete through slavery. It was the Ancient Greeks who prided themselves that competition should be amateur and free of payment, and participated in by free citizens of city-states only for the glory of the competition. This very concept is what animates the entire notion of the NCAA and of college sports; its entire spirit and animus are Ancient Greek in conception and thought. The Ancient Romans had no such distinction; to them, athletes were paid the same as anyone else. Moreover, the concept of colleges today relate closely to the concept of ancient Greek city-states. There are many more parallels, but you get the idea. Winning at sports was the sine qua non of excellence in Greek culture. Note that Christianity for many years discouraged athletic competition—it was a modern development with the rediscovery of humanist thought, and the rediscovery of Greek thought, that athletics made a comeback in modern society. The Greek notion of athletic competition heavily influenced the Romans, who made stadiums, chariot races and gladiatorial combat part of their culture. Consequently, it is very clear that the very notion of having an NCAA tournament every year is nothing if not Greek in origin.

ANCIENT OLYMPIA AT ELIS GREECE SITE OF THE ANCIENT OLYMPIC GAMES 776BC-495 AD

2) Many colleges and college nicknames are Greek in origin. For example, Michigan State is in the Sweet Sixteen. Their nickname is the “Spartans.” They were nicknamed, largely, in tribute to the Greeks of the Greek Revolution of the 1820s, largely due to Philhellenic (Greek-loving) feeling. Most Americans were sympathetic with the Greeks, 1) because the Greeks were struggling for democracy against autocracy 2) because the Founders were largely influenced by Ancient Greece in their models for what a democracy like America should look like and 3) because the Greeks were Christians struggling against the Turkish Infidels, which is what we used to call Muslims in the 19th Century before PC discourse deconstructed plain language and speech sometime in the past 20 years. In fact, Turks used to be called “the Terrible Turk” by people like no less than Prime Minister Gladstone, and the Ottoman Empire, after the Greeks won, used to be called the “Sick Man of Europe,” and the question of how to carve up the fading Ottoman Empire was called the “Eastern Question.” It wasn’t settled finally until World War I, and not really finally until 1923. But that’s another story. So I like Michigan State. Didn’t you watch “300”? “We are SPARTANS!!!”

KING LEONIDAS & 300 LEGENDARILY HEROIC SPARTANS OF THERMOPYLAE BRILLIANTLY DRAMATIZED IN MOVIE "300" (2006) STARRING GERARD BUTLER

3) U. Tennessee remains in the Sweet Sixteen. Vanderbilt is in Nashville, Tennessee, where they have an actual full-scale replica of the Parthenon built which you can go see today. It is complete and accurate to the last detail. In fact, throughout the South, there is more Greek Revival and neo-classical architecture than almost anywhere in the US, especially on college campuses. This is certainly true at Vanderbilt, at Duke, at Kentucky, at U. Tennessee, at U.Va certainly, and many of the other schools left in the Sweet Sixteen.

PARTHENON REPLICA WHICH STANDS IN NASHVILLE, TN TODAY EXACT DUPLICATE OF PARTHENON OF ANCIENT ATHENS, GREECE BUILT BY PERICLES IN 5TH CENTURY B.C.

About the Parthenon

The Parthenon stands proudly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, Nashville’s premier urban park. The re-creation of the 42-foot statue Athena is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Greece. The building and the Athena statue are both full-scale replicas of the Athenian originals.

Originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, this replica of the original Parthenon in Athens serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. The plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles found in the Naos are direct casts of the original sculptures which adorned the pediments of the Athenian Parthenon, dating back to 438 B.C. The originals of these powerful fragments are housed in the British Museum in London.

The Parthenon also serves as the city of Nashville’s art museum. The focus of the Parthenon’s permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists donated by James M. Cowan. Additional gallery spaces provide a venue for a variety of temporary shows and exhibits.

The Parthenon is open year round Tuesday – Saturday, 9:00 – 4:30. Additional hours during June, July & August: Sundays, 12:30 – 4:30 p.m. The Parthenon will be closed on July 4, Labor Day, the Thursday & Friday of Thanksgiving week, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission: Members free; Adults – $6.00; Children 4-17 – $3.50 (under 4 free); Seniors 62+ – $3.50. Phone number 615-862-8431.

http://www.nashville.org/parthenon/

See? And you thought you had to travel to GREECE to see the Parthenon? Nope, you can go to NASHVILLE, TENNESEE AND SEE IT! AND THIS PARTHENON ISN’T IN RUINS!!! (No Turks or Venetians to blow it up in a meaningless war in the 17th century). Oh–and they have some pretty darn good music there, too–and hey, Vandy and U. Tennessee are pretty darn good schools.

4) Many of you have probably watched the show “GREEK” on TV, which details “GREEK” or fraternity/sorority life on campuses around the country. What you probably don’t know is that fraternities and sororities have their origins with the Greek War of Independence. So many college students were in sympathy with the Greeks and their War of Liberation from the Turks during the 1821-1830 period, that many of the campuses and universities founded societies named after Greek letters such as “Phi Beta Kappa” or “Alpha Chi Rho” to celebrate their “fraternity” and “solidarity” with the Greek cause of independence, liberty and freedom. So, if you’ve ever been a fraternity or sorority member, you actually have pledged fraternity, sorority, brotherhood and sisterhood, to the nation of Greece and its sacred causes for liberty, democracy, Christianity, and its ongoing fight against the Turks. Thus the “GREEK” show really is, in actually, about Greece. It even takes place at fictional “CYPRUS-RHODES UNIVERSITY.” Hey, I’ve been to Rhodes, that island rocks, every single hotel opens out to a private beach, and every bar is open all nite long. And Cyprus, even though only half of it is open (the other half is still occupied by a muslim country from the north starting with “T” and ending with “Y”) is the hottest tourist and banking destination in the Middle East. Plus, Garo Ypremian is from Cyprus, and he once kicked a touchdown! He told me so 18 holes in a row at a pro-am golf tournament. “where else but in america could a 5 foot 7 cypriot find work in the NFL as a professional kicker?” he said. To his credit, he was a great golfer.

The very origins of sorority and fraternity life are from the Greek Revolution and Greek War of Independence, and Philhellenism among American college students. In fact, many of those students went to Greece and fought for the Greek cause. In the NCAA tournament, it’s obvious that frat and sorority and Greeks are the main hoops fans. Thank you Greece and Greek culture, again. And here’s to our favorie fraternities, Kappa Tau Gamma (ΚΤΓ), Omega Chi Delta (ΩΧΔ), and our favorite sorority, Zeta Beta Zeta (ΖΒZ). May we all be Greeks forever!

EVERYONE'S IDEA OF COLLEGE FUN IS SUMMARIZED IN THE SHOW "GREEK"

5) Syracuse is a heavy favorite to get to the final four. Syracuse University and Syracuse, NY are named for the ancient Greek city-state of Syracuse. Syracuse was the richest and most famous Greek city-state of the ancient world. Situated on one of the three corners of Sicily, Syracuse was as powerful in its heyday as Rome, Carthage, Athens or Persia, and made a play for hegemony against Rome and Carthage during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Unfortunately for Syracuse, despite being neutral in the 2d Punic War between Carthage and Rome, Rome decided to lay siege to Syracuse in order to plunder its enormous stores of gold. Rome simply needed the money. Archimedes, the most brilliant mathematician and scientist of ancient times, was a native of Syracuse. He famously designed siege defense machines which pulled Roman ships out of the water and crashed them against the rocks, other machines which focused the light of the sun on Roman ships and set them on fire, etc. You get the picture. The Romans were kept out of Syracuse for years by the high walls of Syracuse and Archimedes brilliance. When they finally breached the walls, the Romans were instructed to bring Archimedes alive to the Roman commander, but of course they got it wrong and killed Archimedes by mistake. The Romans plundered billions of dollars in gold, silver and other treasures from Syracuse. P.S. Italy owes that money back to Greece, today, with interest, under international law, in my view. Syracuse was neutral at the time. Also, indemnity for Archimedes’ death is independently owed by Italy to Greece. One supposes that would sort of cancel out any debts owed by Greece to the EU. In fact, one might suppose that Italy should just hand over the deed to, well, Italy, since the interest has been piling up for 2,400 years or so on that loan. Or have I just lost my Elgin Marbles? (many thanks to my good friend the brilliant Mike Reiss on that line).

ANCIENT SICILY WAS MAINLY GREEK CITY STATES WITH SYRACUSE THE LARGEST RICHEST AND MOST FAMOUS GREEK CITY STATE OF ANTIQUITY

THE WAR FOR SYRACUSE AND THE DEATH OF ARCHIMEDES

source: http://www.livius.org/sh-si/sicily/sicily_t17.html

The philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea (46-c.122) is the author of a series of double biographies in which he compared Greeks and Romans, and tried to explore the nature of some type of man. They contain much historical information. The following text is taken from his Life of Marcellus, and describes how this Roman general captured Syracuse during the war between the Romans and the Carthaginian general Hannibal. During the siege the famous scientist Archimedes (287-212), was killed. The translation was made by Walter Charlton and appeared in the Dryden series.

Marcellus now was a third time created consul, and sailed to Sicily. For the success of Hannibal had excited the Carthaginians to lay claim to that whole island; chiefly because, after the murder of the tyrant Hieronymus, all things had been in tumult and confusion at Syracuse. Therefore, the Romans also had sent before to that city a force under the conduct of Appius, as praetor. […]

At this time Marcellus, first incensed by injuries done him by Hippocrates, commander of the Syracusans (who, to give proof of his good affection to the Carthaginians, and to acquire the tyranny to himself, had killed a number of Romans at Leontini), besieged and took by force the city of Leontini; yet violated none of the townsmen; only deserters, as many as he took, he subjected to the punishment of the rods and axe.

But Hippocrates, sending a report to Syracuse that Marcellus had put all the adult population to the sword, and then coming upon the Syracusans, who had risen in tumult upon that false report, made himself master of the city. Upon this Marcellus moved with his whole army to Syracuse, and encamping near the wall, sent ambassadors into the city to relate to the Syracusans the truth of what had been done in Leontini. When these could not prevail by treaty, the whole power being now in the hands of Hippocrates, he proceeded to attack the city both by land and by sea.

The land forces were conducted by Appius: Marcellus, with sixty galleys, each with five rows of oars, furnished with all sorts of arms and missiles, and a huge bridge of planks laid upon eight ships chained together, upon which was carried the engine to cast stones and darts, assaulted the walls, relying on the abundance and magnificence of his preparations, and on his own previous glory; all which, however, were, it would seem, but trifles for Archimedes and his machines.

These machines he had designed and contrived, not as matters of any importance, but as mere amusements in geometry; in compliance with King Hiero’s desire and request, some little time before, that he should reduce to practice some part of his admirable speculation in science, and by accommodating the theoretic truth to sensation and ordinary use, bring it more within the appreciation of the people in general.
Eudoxus and Archytas had been the first originators of this far-famed and highly-prized art of mechanics, which they employed as an elegant illustration of geometrical truths, and as means of sustaining experimentally, to the satisfaction of the senses, conclusions too intricate for proof by words and diagrams. As, for example, to solve the problem, so often required in constructing geometrical figures, given the two extremes, to find the two mean lines of a proportion, both these mathematicians had recourse to the aid of instruments, adapting to their purpose certain curves and sections of lines.

But what with Plato’s indignation at it, and his invectives against it as the mere corruption and annihilation of the one good of geometry, which was thus shamefully turning its back upon the unembodied objects of pure intelligence to recur to sensation, and to ask help (not to be obtained without base supervisions and depravation) from matter; so it was that mechanics came to be separated from geometry, and, repudiated and neglected by philosophers, took its place as a military art.

Archimedes, however, in writing to King Hiero, whose friend and near relation he was, had stated that given the force, any given weight might be moved, and even boasted, we are told, relying on the strength of demonstration, that if there were another earth, by going into it he could remove this. Hiero being struck with amazement at this, and entreating him to make good this problem by actual experiment, and show some great weight moved by a small engine, he fixed accordingly upon a ship of burden out of the king’s arsenal, which could not be drawn out of the dock without great labor and many men; and, loading her with many passengers and a full freight, sitting himself the while far off, with no great endeavor, but only holding the head of the pulley in his hand and drawing the cords by degrees, he drew the ship in a straight line, as smoothly and evenly as if she had been in the sea. The king, astonished at this, and convinced of the power of the art, prevailed upon Archimedes to make him engines accommodated to all the purposes, offensive and defensive, of a siege. These the king himself never made use of, because he spent almost all his life in a profound quiet and the highest affluence. But the apparatus was, in most opportune time, ready at hand for the Syracusans, and with it also the engineer himself.

When, therefore, the Romans assaulted the walls in two places at once, fear and consternation stupefied the Syracusans, believing that nothing was able to resist that violence and those forces. But when Archimedes began to ply his engines, he at once shot against the land forces all sorts of missile weapons, and immense masses of stone that came down with incredible noise and violence; against which no man could stand; for they knocked down those upon whom they fell in heaps, breaking all their ranks and files. In the meantime huge poles thrust out from the walls over the ships sunk some by the great weights which they let down from on high upon them; others they lifted up into the air by an iron hand or beak like a crane’s beak and, when they had drawn them up by the prow, and set them on end upon the poop, they plunged them to the bottom of the sea; or else the ships, drawn by engines within, and whirled about, were dashed against steep rocks that stood jutting out under the walls, with great destruction of the soldiers that were aboard them. A ship was frequently lifted up to a great height in the air (a dreadful thing to behold), and was rolled to and fro, and kept swinging, until the mariners were all thrown out, when at length it was dashed against the rocks, or let fall. At the engine that Marcellus brought upon the bridge of ships, which was called Sambuca, from some resemblance it had to an instrument of music, while it was as yet approaching the wall, there was discharged a piece of rock of ten talents weight, then a second and a third, which, striking upon it with immense force and a noise like thunder, broke all its foundation to pieces, shook out all its fastenings, and completely dislodged it from the bridge.

So Marcellus, doubtful what counsel to pursue, drew off his ships to a safer distance, and sounded a retreat to his forces on land. They then took a resolution of coming up under the walls, if it were possible, in the night; thinking that as Archimedes used ropes stretched at length in playing his engines, the soldiers would now be under the shot, and the darts would, for want of sufficient distance to throw them, fly over their heads without effect. But he, it appeared, had long before framed for such occasions engines accommodated to any distance, and shorter weapons; and had made numerous small openings in the walls, through which, with engines of a shorter range, unexpected blows were inflicted on the assailants. Thus, when they who thought to deceive the defenders came close up to the walls, instantly a shower of darts and other missile weapons was again cast upon them. And when stones came tumbling down perpendicularly upon their heads, and, as it were, the whole wall shot out arrows at them, they retired. And now, again, as they were going off, arrows and darts of a longer range inflicted a great slaughter among them, and their ships were driven one against another; while they themselves were not able to retaliate in any way. For Archimedes had provided and fixed most of his engines immediately under the wall; whence the Romans, seeing that indefinite mischief overwhelmed them from no visible means, began to think they were fighting with the gods.

Yet Marcellus escaped unhurt, and deriding his own artificers and engineers, “What,” said he, “must we give up fighting with this geometrical Briareus, who plays pitch-and-toss with our ships, and, with the multitude of darts which he showers at a single moment upon us, really outdoes the hundred-handed giants of mythology?”

And, doubtless, the rest of the Syracusans were but the body of Archimedes’ designs, one soul moving and governing all; for, laying aside all other arms, with this alone they infested the Romans and protected themselves. In fine, when such terror had seized upon the Romans that, if they did but see a little rope or a piece of wood from the wall, instantly crying out, that there it was again, Archimedes was about to let fly some engine at them, they turned their backs and fled, Marcellus desisted from conflicts and assaults, putting all his hope in a long siege.

Yet Archimedes possessed so high a spirit, so profound a soul, and such treasures of scientific knowledge, that though these inventions had now obtained him the renown of more than human sagacity, he yet would not deign to leave behind him any commentary or writing on such subjects; but, repudiating as sordid and ignoble the whole trade of engineering, and every sort of art that lends itself to mere use and profit, he placed his whole affection and ambition in those purer speculations where there can be no reference to the vulgar needs of life; studies, the superiority of which to all others is unquestioned, and in which the only doubt can be whether the beauty and grandeur of the subjects examined, of the precision and cogency of the methods and means of proof, most deserve our admiration. It is not possible to find in all geometry more difficult and intricate questions, or more simple and lucid explanations. Some ascribe this to his natural genius; while others think that incredible effort and toil produced these, to all appearances, easy and unlabored results. No amount of investigation of yours would succeed in attaining the proof, and yet, once seen, you immediately believe you would have discovered it; by so smooth and so rapid a path he leads you to the conclusion required. And thus it ceases to be incredible that (as is commonly told of him) the charm of his familiar and domestic Siren made him forget his food and neglect his person, to that degree that when he was occasionally carried by absolute violence to bathe or have his body anointed, he used to trace geometrical figures in the ashes of the fire, and diagrams in the oil on his body, being in a state of entire preoccupation, and, in the truest sense, divine possession with his love and delight in science. His discoveries were numerous and admirable; but he is said to have requested his friends and relations that, when he was dead, they would place over his tomb a sphere containing a cylinder, inscribing it with the ratio which the containing solid bears to the contained. Such was Archimedes, who now showed himself, and so far as lay in him the city also, invincible.

While the siege continued, Marcellus took Megara, one of the earliest founded of the Greek cities in Sicily, and capturing also the camp of Hippocrates at Acilae, killed above 8,000 men, having attacked them whilst they were engaged in forming their fortifications. He overran a great part of Sicily; gained over many towns from the Carthaginians, and overcame all that dared to encounter him.

As the siege went on, one Damippus, a Spartan, putting to sea in a ship from Syracuse, was taken. When the Syracusans much desired to redeem this man, and there were many meetings and treaties about the matter betwixt them and Marcellus, he had opportunity to notice a tower into which a body of men might be secretly introduced, as the wall near to it was not difficult to surmount, and it was itself carelessly guarded. Coming often thither, and entertaining conferences about the release of Damippus, he had pretty well calculated the height of the tower, and got ladders prepared.

The Syracusans celebrated a feast to Artemis; this juncture of time, when they were given up entirely to wine and sport, Marcellus laid hold of, and before the citizens perceived it, not only possessed himself of the tower, but, before the break of day, filled the wall around with soldiers, and made his way into the Hexapylum. The Syracusans now beginning to stir, and to be alarmed at the tumult, he ordered the trumpets everywhere to sound, and thus frightened them all into flight, as if all parts of the city were already won, though the most fortified, and the fairest, and most ample quarter was still ungained. It is called Achradina, and was divided by a wall from the outer city, one part of which they call Neapolis, the other Tycha.

Possessing himself of these, Marcellus, about break of day, entered through the Hexapylum, all his officers congratulating him. But looking down from the higher places upon the beautiful and spacious city below, he is said to have wept much, commiserating the calamity that hung over it, when his thoughts represented to him how dismal and foul the face of the city would be in a few hours, when plundered and sacked by the soldiers. For among the officers of his army there was not one man that durst deny the plunder of the city to the soldiers’ demands; nay, many were instant that it should be set on fire and laid level to the ground: but this Marcellus would not listen to.

Yet he granted, but with great unwillingness and reluctance, that the money and slaves should be made prey; giving orders, at the same time, that none should violate any free person, nor kill, misuse, or make a slave of any of the Syracusans. Though he had used this moderation, he still esteemed the condition of that city to be pitiable, and, even amidst the congratulations and joy, showed his strong feelings of sympathy and commiseration at seeing all the riches accumulated during a long felicity now dissipated in an hour. For it is related that no less prey and plunder was taken here than afterward in Carthage. For not long after they obtained also the plunder of the other parts of the city, which were taken by treachery; leaving nothing untouched but the king’s money, which was brought into the public treasury.

But nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus; which he declining to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration, the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through. Others write that a Roman soldier, running upon him with a drawn sword, offered to kill him; and that Archimedes, looking back, earnestly besought him to hold his hand a little while, that he might not leave what he was then at work upon inconclusive and imperfect; but the soldier, nothing moved by his entreaty, instantly killed him. Others again relate that, as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus mathematical instruments, dials, spheres, and angles, by which the magnitude of the sun might be measured to the sight, some soldiers seeing him, and thinking that he carried gold in a vessel, slew him. Certain it is that his death was very afflicting to Marcellus; and that Marcellus ever after regarded him that killed him as a murderer; and that he sought for his kindred and honored them with signal favors.

http://www.livius.org/sh-si/sicily/sicily_t17.html

Q.E.D. Archimedes was brilliant, the Romans stole all the Greeks’ money, and Syracuse was a neutral city whose neutrality was blatantly violated by the Romans in the 2d Punic War. And the Romans did it for the money. Plutarch is pretty much a reliable source.

PLUTARCH - ANCIENT GREEK HISTORIAN - A RELIABLE SOURCE ON THE FALL OF SYRACUSE AND THE DEATH OF ARCHIMEDES

ARCHIMEDES OF SYRACUSE - THE GREATEST MATHEMATICIAN OF ANCIENT TIMES AND DEFENDER OF SYRACUSE VS. THE ROMAN SIEGE

ARCHIMEDES – THE GREATEST MATHEMATICIAN OF ANCIENT TIMES AND DEFENDER OF SYRACUSE AGAINST THE ROMAN SIEGE

MY PICKS THEN AND NOW

Of 32 first-round picks, I only got 19 right, for barely a 59% percentage. That looks good until you realize by flipping a coin I’d get 50%, so basically that’s a 9% winning percentage. Not very impressive. The only two brackets I have reasonably correct are the East, where I have Kentucky meeting West Virginia in the Regional Final, which can still happen, and the South, where I had Duke meeting Baylor in the Regional Final. Of those, I had West Virginia upsetting Kentucky in my original bracket and going to the final four, and Duke beating Baylor to get to the Final Four. In the East bracket, I was totally busted as I had Kansas hitting Georgetown in the regional. Oops! Can you say University of Northern Iowa? In the West, I had Syracuse hitting Pitt. From there I had Kansas and Pitt in the final four, and Pitt v. West Va in the finals, with West Va winning. Well, that clearly was wrong. I did pick Villanova to lose in the second round, although it was to Richmond, and not to St. Mary’s, but I’ve never thought much of Jay Wright as a tournament coach, much less an NCAA coach. He had a good run last year, but usually ‘Nova has done poorly in both the Big East and the NCAA tournaments. Temple, by contrast, has usually done well in A-10 and NCAA tournaments, and Fran Dunphy has coached many fine teams not only at Temple, but at Penn and LaSalle before that.

In light of the first two rounds, I’d have to revise all that. In the East, I think Kentucky-West Virginia, first of all, is sort of the championship within the championship. Second, I believe Kentucky will win. I am also assuming that Kentucky will beat Cornell. West Virginia will beat Washington. In the South, Duke will handle Purdue, while St. Mary’s dance will end at the hands of Baylor, although that’s a bit more of a flip. It doesn’t really matter, since Duke will beat the winner of that game and advance to the final four. So it will be Duke v. Kentucky in that bracket. At this point, Kentucky will beat Duke in a good game, but John Wall is simply better. Also Calipari is a match for coach K.

The Midwest is tougher. Of course, I love the Spartans, and they will beat UNI. Ohio State is still a #2 seed, and they should handle Tennessee. That leaves an interesting Big Ten match up of Mich State v. Ohio State in the Regional Final, which I have to like Ohio State, but then again, Tom Izzo is a terrific coach, so really, it’s a flip. I have to favor Ohio State, but Michigan State has the coaching. Then again, the Spartans will be without one of their key players due to injury. Finally, in the West regional, I like Syracuse to beat Butler, although Butler is good and playing well. I also like Kansas State to beat Xavier, although again, Xavier is good and playing well. Neither will be easy games. That leaves Syracuse against Kansas State in the regional final. Here you have a #1 against a #2, and a real dogfight. I like Syracuse, but both teams are talented and well-coached. I like Syracuse to go to the final four. Out of that bracket, then, I like Ohio State v. Syracuse, and in that match up, I actually think Syracuse has an easier game against either Ohio State/Michigan State than they did against Kansas State, and Syracuse advanced to the final Round.

The final round therefore will be Syracuse against Kentucky, and this will be a terrific game. I like Kentucky here, but it will be a terrific game.

After notes: I was stunned to see Cornell beat an outstanding Temple team, but Cornell is legit—they have a 7-footer with hands who can pass, rebound and shoot, and they’ve surrounded him with a good point guard and several excellent three point shooters who can bomb it from way downtown. So you can play inside-outside all day long, and Temple was stuck double-teaming low or pressing on the perimeter, and getting burned on both ends. Cornell put up 78 points on Temple—and Temple allowed no more than 50 something in the A-10 against great teams like URI and Richmond, and shut down Xavier defensively in the regular season. And Cornell then went out and destroyed Wisconsin for good measure. No wonder Cornell has been on the front page of the WSJ for like a week straight.

Did I mention that Cornell is in ITHACA, NY? You remember Ithaca–that’s the place ODYSSEUS or as he’s known in latin, ULYSSES was from. He was a pretty famous king who went to TROY (another city in NY and also a famous kingdom in ASIA MINOR) to fight the TROJAN WAR, then got lost on the way back.

ULYSSES story of how he gets back to ITHACA is told in the screenplay and movie, “O WHERE ART THOU BROTHER?”, which of course is based upon the novel ULYSSES by James Joyce, which of course is based upon a famous old poem in decapentasyllabic metred Homeric Ancient Greek by an old blind goat named HOMER, called the ODYSSEY.

In ancient times, everyone was required to not only read this book but to memorize and recite it. ALEXANDER THE GREAT so loved the book, he kept a copy of it under his bed, along with the ILIAD.

So yes, even CORNELL has ties to ancient greece, in fact, their very town is the embodiment of all things greek–didn’t they read the poem by Cavafy about returning to Ithaca at Jackie O’s funeral???? Isn’t that in the last collection of poems by her daughter??? Everyone knows what HOME is–it’s ITHACA.

ITHACA LEGENDARY HOME OF ODYSSEUS AKA ULYSSES IN THE ODYSSEY GREEK ISLAND OFF THE IONIAN COAST OF SOUTHERN GREECE

And right across from Cornell is ITHACA COLLEGE–alma mater of my cousin–and of course, the setting for ROAD TRIP, one of the ten greatest films ever made about college life. And yes, everyone has been with a girl like Amy Smart once in their lives. Not. But if you’re Odysseus, you can spend five years with a hot siren, and chalk it up to mental defect or the effect of some goddess like nectar, and still plead the fifth to your wife, who remains faithful for yeah, 20 years.

Cornell is the best basketball team I’ve seen with four white guys on the floor since maybe the Boston Celtics of Bird-McHale-Ainge-Rick Robey-Parrish of the early 80s. Those Celtics had four white guys and they could flat out play. Of course, they got better, NBA championship better, when they got rid of Robey and got Dennis Johnson, who could flat out PLAY, plus he could shut down Andrew Toney, the Boston Strangler and ever-underrate Sixers sharpshooter, as Simmons points out in his recent fantastic book.

–art kyriazis, Philly hoops guy
March 25, 2010

LARRY BIRD OF FRENCH LICK, INDIANA & INDIANA STATE ON COVER OF SI 1977 WITH TWO CHEERLEADERS WHO ARE NOW YOUR MOTHERS OR GRANDMOTHERS

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

The Sixers stood pat at the trade deadline and promptly came out of the all-star break looking awful, dropping five of six. Meanwhile, Miami, which is in a position to catch Atlanta for the #4 see in the NBA east playoffs (the Sixers are 6th, Miami is 5th, and Atlanta is 4th), made a major move, obtaining Jermaine O’Neal from Toronto, though they had to give up some talent to get him. O’Neal always give the Sixers problems because he’s a good big man who’s mobile and can outplay Dalembert one on one. He will likely give Atlanta problems as well in the playoffs, incidentally.

In the meantime, looking from a distance, the Sixers have not really capitalized on the big event of the season, which is the decline and fall of the Detroit Pistons. While Orlando has risen up to join Cleveland and Boston as division leaders, the Pistons now have a worse record than the Sixers, and this was a Detroit team that last year was the #2 seed playing the Sixers and defeating them at the #7 seed. Right now
Detroit is the #7 seed BEHIND philly and fading out of the playoffs.

When a major team like this is out of the playoff picture, your GM should be approaching them about obtaining one of their players at the trade deadline, like a Rasheed Wallace, who can hit the three and rebound, and doesn’t have that much time left on his contract. He could have helped the Sixers. Or even Allen Iverson, who while obviously in the decline phase of his career, could have helped the Sixers coming off the bench, or playing the two guard, a position that has been a problem for the Sixers this year. Iverson could have helped the Sixers playing alongside Andre Miller, with Iguodala up front and Dalembert and either Young or Speights playing the power forward.

Even if AI only played 20 minutes a game, he’d help.

But the Sixers have done nothing. They instead committed everything to a gigantic blunder by signing Elton Brand, who is hurt, injured and will never be better, I predict. Even if he comes back, this is starting to look like the Jeff Ruland situation all over again. A hurt player who will never play like he did pre-injury. Or Glenn Robinson. Or Chris Webber. Or any of ten other guys that have come to this ballclub hurt and making a bundle. The guys who can play and never get hurt, like Barkeley and AI, we seem to give away for nothing.

Or Brad Doughery or Moses Malone.

How about this team?

Brad Dougherty, Moses Malone, AI, Charles Barkeley, Wilt Chamberlain.

You think you could win a few championships with that team?

That’s the five greatest sixers in history traded for virtually nothing.

For those five NBA hall of famers, the Sixers received; Roy Hinson, Jeff Ruland, Andre Miller, Jeff Hornacek, Darrell Imhoff and some other throw in players.

Those are five ok players, but not hall of famers.

Malone, Barkley and Chamberlain are 3 of the top 10 all time NBA rebounders of all time, incidentally, while if you add AI, you’ve got four of the top 25 scorers in NBA history as well. Dougherty, though he was finished early by his back, was a stud every year he was in the league, 20 ppg and 10 rebounds or more. The Sixers could have had Dougherty AND Barkeley for ten years straight. They would have won five championships in all likelihood with that combination. Even against Michael Jordan that combo wins.

The late Timmy Ling, my dear prep school classmate and friend, used to make fun of the Sixers’ drafts when we were in high school. During those years, the Sixers took some #1 draft picks as follows;

1969 – Bud Ogden
1970 – Al Henry
1971 – Dana Lewis
1972 – Freddie Boyd

Ling was relentless making fun of Ogden, Henry, Lewis and Boyd, and justifiably so. While other teams were drafting some of the greatest players in history in these years (Kareem Abdul Jabbar, for example) the Sixers basically decided, we aren’t going to get into a bidding war with the ABA, so we’ll just draft nobodies and pay nothing to no one. It was horrible, and got worse when Billy Cunningham walked to the ABA in 1973. The franchise hit bottom when they won only 9 games in the 73 season, still an NBA record for futility. Shortly thereafter, came George McGuiness and Dr. J and the big turnaround, but it was a bad stretch.

They got it right in 1973 with Doug Collins, but in 1974 the Sixers drafted Marvin Barnes, who I think is dead or in rehab now, but anyway, Barnes was about 7 foot, but had a drug and rap sheet as long as could be, and he ended up in the ABA and in jail much more than on the court. In 1975 the sixers drafted Darryl Dawkins #1 right out of high school.

Dawkins in today’s NBA would have been a star. In the condensed NBA of the 70s, he was only ok. He wasn’t as good as the best centers, and consequently was underrated at the time. Today, he’d be a star in the expanded NBA.

In 76 and 77 the Sixers drafted #1 Terry Furlow and Glenn Moseley, non-entities, but in 1978 they picked Mo Cheeks, a legend. 1979 was a miss, but 1980 got them Andrew Toney with the #1, and Andrew Toney became the Boston Strangler. Though his career was shortened by injury, Toney would have become a Hall of Famer with longevity.

And, of course, 1984, #1 pick was Charles Barkeley, who was the quintessential hall of famer and probably the Sixers’ best player since Wilt and before AI.

Even though Sir Charles is a DWI man, and spit on girls while he was here, and is overly fond of guns, we still like him because he’s a bit of a buffoon, and a bit of a thinking man’s man. Also, he lived to rebound and score, and he rebounded and scored because that’s what he lived for. 20 ppg and 10 rebounds pg were his calling card, and he punched those in every season like clockwork.

and no one his size (as short as he was) ever led the league in rebounding once, let alone several times.

When he played alongside moses malone, who was basically the same kind of player as Sir Charles, the two were an unstoppable force.

But the Sixers broke them up with trades, and also traded away Dougherty; Dougherty, Malone and Barkeley would have been the core of an unstoppable basketball team. You’re talking three guys who clocked 10-15 win shares every year routinely.

And we wonder why the Sixers never win championships or make the playoffs like they used to. For a while they wanted to trade Dr. J too.

Getting back to the now, Eddie Stefanski has watched and done nothing while Atlanta, a horrible team, passed the Sixers by this past year. He made noise about signing Josh Smith of Atlanta, but never got serious. Instead, Atlanta got him back, signed Bibby from Sacramento and added both a point guard and three point threat and made the playoffs last year; this year they are the fourth seed and playing much like the sixers, a young, running team, except that Atlanta are better at it than the Sixers because they can shoot the three. If I’m sitting down comparing Atlanta to the Sixers, I’m saying Atlanta has the better squad right now, up and down the lineup. It’s not close.

And because it’s not close, and because you want the 4th seed if you can’t have a LeBron, a Howard, a Garnett like Cleveland, Orlando or Boston, you have to compare what you do have to what the competition has, and try and get better at the trade deadline. Miami did this but Philly did not. I see this as weakness from the GM and a refusal to invest in the team. Furthermore, weakness caused by commitment to Elton Brand.

I had a lot of comments in the AI post, below, about what’s wrong with Elton Brand and why the salary cap dump of the AI trade was botched by the Brand sigining. In a word, the Sixers moved too quickly to lock up their salary cap room with the wrong guy. they should have waited for someone better and waited another year if necessary.

It wasn’t necessary to fire mo cheeks. Cheeks’ record was mainly due to Brand playing a poor brand of basketball; once he was pulled from the lineup, the team played better automatically. While Tony DiLeo gets some credit, the fact is the team played better because subtracting Brand was addition by subtraction.

Cheeks is the guy who got them to the playoffs last year. It remains to be seen if DiLeo has the necessary skills to get the Sixers to the playoffs and actually win two games if he gets there. I doubt that he does.

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

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

This is an oldie but a goodie from when I used to write for an underground bob dylan fanzine back in the 80s and 90s, a review of a classic bob dylan 3CD set from when it was originally released in 1991. Enjoy.

BOB DYLAN: THE BOOTLEG SERIES [RARE AND UNRELEASED] 1961-1991 COLUMBIA 47382 (THREE-CD SET)
Reviewed by Art Kyriazis
April 12, 1991

Bob Dylan turns fifty this year. Watching him nowadays, as a mumbling rocker at the Grammys, as an aging hippie touring with the Grateful Dead or as a semi-clowning “Traveling Wilbury,” it is difficult to explain or even to remember why this raspy-voiced college dropout from Hibbing, Minnesota was once officially awarded an honorary degree by Princeton University for being the voice of his generation or why he used to be such a favorite subject of countless english doctoral theses and late-night arguments.

Fortunately, Columbia, which issued the magnificent Biograph a few years ago, has issued additional compelling proof of the genius that was once Bob Dylan in its new 3-CD boxed set Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3. Import collectors for some years have had access to these tracks from sources known only to them. However, there is no comparision between the pristine, remastered sound quality on this official release and hissy secondary import sources. What’s more, this set only scratches the surface of the mountain of outstanding unreleased Dylan material from the 1960s and 1970s, and apparently Columbia promises to put out more in the future. For further research, consult Paul Cable’s excellent Bob Dylan: His Unreleased Recordings (Schirmer Books, New York, 1978) for an excellent review of all unreleased Dylan material.

The set is arranged chronologically, and comes in a nicely packaged box supplemented by a long sixty-six page booklet containing rare photographs, outstanding liner notes and exhaustive session documentation. “Volume I” and the first 6 tracks of “Volume II” deal with Dylan’s “acoustic” period 1961-64, and represent the political and idealistic Dylan. There is an embarrassment of riches here. “He Was a Friend of Mine” and “Man on the Street” speak to Dylan’s early concern with the poor and the homeless. “No More Auction Block,” a rare early live track, reminds us of Dylan’s commitment to civil rights. “Talkin Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” “Let Me Die in My Footsteps,” “Talkin John Birch Paranoid Blues,” and “Who Killed Davy Moore,” all pulled off his second album and barred from the Ed Sullivan Show for political and censorship reasons, are all here officially for the first time. There are a number of other gems, including “Walls of Red Wing,” “Walkin’ Down the Line,” and “When the Ship Comes In.” Turning to Volume II, more acoustic treasures abound. “Seven Curses” and “Farewell Angelina” are excellent outtakes from the 1964 period, and there is a heretofore-unknown solo version of “Mama You Been on My Mind.”

The bulk of Volume II and the first few tracks of Volume III is taken up with outtakes from Highway 61 Revisited, Bringing It All Back Home, Blood on the Tracks and Desire, which by general consensus are Dylan’s finest albums. Basically, this material is indispensable to any modern rock collection. “She’s Your Lover Now” is the best song never released by Dylan and the Band, recorded at the famous 1965-1966 unfinished Band sessions cut short by Dylan’s world tour and motorcycle accident. The alternate autobiographical take of “Tangled Up in Blue” is here, along with the first recorded version of “Like a Rolling Stone,” and an alternate take of “Idiot Wind.”

The long-rumoured session with Dylan and the Beatles also shows up here, in the form of an outtake recorded with George Harrison on guitar, “If Not for You,” which is far superior to the released version. “Call Letter Blues,” a haunting Blood on the Tracks outtake, is outstanding. There are a number of other Highway 61 Revisited outtakes long known to collectors but now available for the first time officially, all of them featuring the backup sound that made Dylan famous as a rock star with “Like a Rolling Stone,” including the late Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and members of the Band. Turning to Volume III, an alternate take of “If You See Her Say Hello,” followed by an outstanding unreleased Desire outtake, “Golden Loom,” open the set. “Seven Days,” a live Rolling Thunder track, is likewise excellent.

The balance of Volume III is taken up with outtakes and unreleased materials from Dylan’s born-again period through to his 80s material. This later Dylan material, consisting largely of Slow Train, Infidels and Empire Burlesque outtakes, is less consistent and consequently less compelling than the earlier Dylan material in Volumes I and II, but there are interesting tracks, including “Angelina,” Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart” and “Blind Willie McTell.”

A brief rundown of material which is already available on European import which Columbia may consider releasing in future sets includes the famous Concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, 1966 with the Band; the 1964 Halloween Concert in New York with Joan Baez; Live with the Butterfield Blues Band at the Newport Folk Festival 1965; and a large amount of 1961-66 live acoustic material, some of which was released on Biograph. There is also plenty of Rolling Thunder material, including duet material with Joan Baez, which deserves to be released as well.

Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volumes I-III unleashes one instant classic after another, and the impression it leaves this reviewer with is a staggering, unpredictable virtuosity which reminds us of Dylan’s importance on musical, historical, literary and cultural grounds. This set is an indispensible addition to any popular music collection.

[historical note: the Royal Albert Hall 1996 concert, 1964 Halloween Live concert from NYC and Newport Folk Festival material were all eventually released. The film of the Newport Folk Festival appearance material from 1965 was part of the core of the Scorcese documentary on dylan that was released to PBS and DVD last year in 2008, which was released to critical acclaim. Bob Dylan is now 67 and still tours the world. You can check on his progress on http://www.bobdylan.com].

The clash between Eagles head coach Andy Reid and his former assistant coach (and now Minnesota Head Coach) and good friend Brad Childress in the playoffs yesterday highlights a new trend in the NFL—the Philadelphia Eagles family of coaches in the NFL. First, there are the Buddy Ryan assistant coaches—Jon Gruden, formerly of Oakland (where he went to the Super Bowl) and now of Tampa Bay (where he also went to the Super Bowl, and narrowly missed the playoffs this year) and Jeff Fischer of Tennessee, the NFL’s longest tenured coach, who is the AFC’s top seeded team this year, a regular playoff contender, and a former Super Bowl coach and AFC champion. Former Eagles head coach and Buddy Ryan assistant coach Ray Rhodes continues to work as an assistant coach in the league. Buddy Ryan’s two sons now are assistant coaches in the league. Second, there are the ex-Eagles—such as Herm Edwards of Kansas City, and former head coach Dick Vermeil, who used to coach at St. Louis, and won a Super Bowl there. Ex-Eagle John Bunting was a college head coach at North Carolina. And then you have the Andy Reid connections–Harbaugh at Baltimore, who used to coach special teams with the Eagles, and all the connections of Reid through Green Bay as well as Philly like Childress at Minnesota and Holmgren in Seattle.

There are probably many more connections to the Eagles that could be found, but it certainly is illuminating how many coaches and assistant coaches in the NFL (and in the college ranks) now have philly ties. And we used to think this was a college hoops town with a lot of college and pro hoops coaches everywhere. Who knew we were a spawning ground for college coaches. Guess it’s a spawning ground of football coaches as well for the NFL.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies
Happy New Year 2009