Kings owner Ranadive spins another fantasy

The most offensive display put on yesterday as the Sacramento Kings opened the new season against the Golden State Warriors was Kings owner Vivek Ranadive bragging about an NBA championship that will come to “one of the most iconic structures on earth” — a downtown arena that is “going to put Sacramento on the world map.”

Ranadive touted his nonsense at a ceremonial groundbreaking at the arena site and reiterated his championship pretensions during a television interview while his team was putting on an embarrassing display of  “me-first” basketball with little offense at all.  

I suppose Ranadive is so accustomed to promoting fantasy — such as preposterous economic benefits to accrue from the new arena — that he thinks he can change what people see with their own eyes.  It’s hard to imagine anyone other than an arena promoter envisioning the Kings as a championship team in the making.

As realist coach Michael Malone said after the Kings 95-77 loss to the Warriors: “I thought we played very selfishly, did not move the ball, pounded the ball. We looked very similar to the Sacramento Kings of last season.” That would be the team with a won-loss record of 28-54.

 One fellow who fit Malone’s description was the team’s would-be leader, DeMarcus Cousins, who looked hellbent to score in the first few minutes regardless of how many defenders were around him. Early in the game, he had made only one basket in eight attempts. He finished 4 for 14. Equally bad were his six turnovers and mere one assist.

 Ranadive has hooked the team’s fortunes to Cousins, giving him a four-year contract extension worth $62 million last year, the most he was eligible for over four years under NBA salary rules. Along with this hefty disincentive, Ranadive seems to think coddling the  6-11, 270-pound Cousins is an effective way to turn him into a team player.

Rudy Gay, who along with Cousins is supposed to supply a winning mentality, showed a preference last night for dribbling until he could get his shot off. He shot 33 percent and had no assists to go with his three turnovers. Maybe that shows what a salary of $19.3 million can do.

The Kings shot a woeful 30.8 percent, including three for 18 from three-point range. They committed 27 turnovers and amassed a paltry 13 assists – eight of them by Darren Collison, who evidently hasn’t read the me-first memo posted in the team’s locker room.

The Kings have the talent to improve considerably on last year’s dismal performance, but they seem to lack the heart, mind and guidance needed to become winners – except in Ranadive’s fantasies.

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Restrictive stereotypes fall when someone dares to challenge them


Alysia Montaño competes in the U.S. Track and Field championships in June.

Alysia Montaño competes in the U.S. Track and Field championships in June.

When I came across a picture of a very pregnant Alysia Montaño, a 2012 Olympian from Southern California, competing in the U.S. Track and Field Championships June 26 while eight months pregnant, I did a double take. It was hard to believe that she could be running against some of the country’s best female athletes in that condition. And what about her developing baby? Wasn’t she endangering its health with an all-out effort on the track? And how had I missed that story, given that Montaño was competing in Sacramento?

Well, as to that last question, although Montaño’s feat drew a lot of media attention and intense public scrutiny, the Sacramento Bee evidently wasn’t impressed. All I found in the paper’s archives was one post-race photo of Montaño in an online roundup of the day’s activities.

I happened upon Montaño’s story while reading a Sunday New York Times article focusing on female marathoners and pregnancy. The article noted that a number of stereotypes have been shaken up since Paula Radcliffe won the New York City Marathon in 2007, nine months after giving birth to a daughter. At the time Radcliffe was an anomaly and her intense training through her pregnancy, which included twice-a-day sessions and grueling hill workouts, was examined and criticized.

Now, the Times story said, maintaining a top running career and a family has become relatively common. About a third of the women in the professional field of 31 for this Sunday’s New York City Marathon have children.

Back in June, Montaño told reporters that said she consulted her doctor and midwife, who encouraged her to race 34 weeks into her pregnancy.

“That took away any fear of what the outside world might think about a woman running in pregnancy or exercise in general,” she said. “What I found out mostly was that exercising and maintaining during pregnancy is actually much better for the mom and the baby.”

Although Montaño finished last in her 800-meter heat and was 35 seconds off her personal best, she turned in a time of 2 minutes, 32.13 seconds. Let me say humbly that I wouldn’t have matched that time in my best days.  

Montaño gave birth to a healthy 7-pound, 15-ounce daughter August 15.

“I wanted to help clear up the stigma around women exercising during pregnancy, which baffled me,” Montaño told the Times. “People sometimes act like being pregnant is a nine-month death sentence, like you should lie in bed all day. I wanted to be an example for women starting a family while continuing a career, whatever that might be.”

The understanding of women’s physical resilience during and after pregnancy has developed in recent years, the Times story said.

“We still don’t have good science to guide us,” said Dr. Aaron Baggish, associate director of the cardiovascular performance program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, which counsels elite athletes through pregnancy. “But unequivocally I think women should exercise through pregnancy, both for their baby and their own health. The body has evolved that way. Your baseline fitness level is the best guideline: Elite athletes start out with a higher threshold, so they can do more.”

Stereotypes about athletic capability, whether regarding pregnant women or senior athletes, often seem reasonable until people like Montaño and Radcliffe dare to challenge them. It was only 30 years ago that women proved they weren’t too “fragile” to run in Olympic marathons.



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Have an addiction? Here’s the word on the street

I parked my black Mustang yesterday in a parking lot across from the Capital Athletic Club. The club in downtown Sacramento is just a few blocks from the state Capitol. There are many state office buildings nearby, along with a light rail station. It’s a nice enough area during the day, but as the workers depart in the evening, homeless people emerge from the shadows. Several sleep on the sidewalk across from the club, alongside vents that I assume give off heat.

I opened my trunk and took out an athletic bag filled with racquetball gear. Then I walked through the parking lot and checked the Lexuses, Mercedes and BMWs. My six-cylinder 2014 Mustang, despite its flash and style, suffers from an inferiority complex in this lot. As I neared the sidewalk, I saw a thin woman, perhaps in her late 20s, with a handful of leaflets. An old bike loaded with bags was by her side.

My first impulse was to avoid her. I assumed she would be pitching something or looking for a handout, and I would probably be negative, brush past with a curt response and feel mildly guilty. Why bother? I could easily walk to the corner and wait for the light instead of jaywalking across Eighth Street as I regularly do.

Instead, a more polite feeling took hold, and I stopped to look at the sheet of paper the woman extended toward me.  The masthead read: “The Street Post of Sacramento/ Grassroots Solutions to Homelessness.” Not having my reading glasses, I couldn’t read beyond the large type.

“Is there a charge for this?” I asked.

“There’s not charge for the paper because I think the information is important,” she said. “I do accept donations for myself.”

“Did you write this?”

“I did. I have a theory about addiction.”

The woman was polite and well-spoken. Her clothes were a bit frayed. I took out my wallet and gave her a dollar.

“Will reading this make me a better person?”

She smiled and nodded.

 I crossed the street and went into my upscale athletic club. I lifted weights and played two games of racquetball. Then I returned to my nice middle-class Land Park home and had dinner. As I was sipping my coffee, I perused the single-sheet Street Post, which had short items on both sides.

The “Post’s Purpose” was stated this way:

I’ve seen firsthand how many devastating social problems could be better corrected. I welcome you to help build grassroots momentum for more progressive solutions. Constructive debate is welcome. Psychologically abusive comments are not. – Writer/editor Irene Cardenas.

In other articles, the writer contends counseling approaches to treating addictions, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, are woefully inadequate and suggests the drug-medical industry that funds politicians “profits when people stay addicted for life.” The solution, she says, is something called Brain State Technologies, a treatment program that emphasizes getting brain activity balanced and synchronized.  It’s successful in 90 percent of the cases, Cardenas says, who insists “I’m not paid to plug it!”

Well, far be it from me to utter any psychologically abusive comments about the program. I’m impressed that Cardenas is enough of a believer to labor on a newsletter and pedal her bicycle to a place where she can get the word out to folks addicted to exercise and expensive cars.


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In terms of fitness, how old are you?

When guys at my athletic club ask me how old I am, I tend to joke that I’m 39 in basketball years. That subtracts almost 30 years from my chronological age. I’d rather they look at what they see on the court than filter their perception through some stereotype. I’m not eager to be told, as I was at 14, that I’m good – for my age.

Now I discover, thanks to an easy-to-take online test, that I’m not terribly far off the mark. I supposedly have the fitness of the average 47-year-old male. That seems pretty good, but I’m already wondering whether I can knock off a few more years.

The concept of fitness age has been developed by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, who have studied fitness and how it relates to wellness for years, according to an Oct. 15 New York Times article.

Fitness age is determined primarily by your VO2max, which is a measure of your body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen. VO2max indicates your current cardiovascular endurance. If your VO2max is below average for your age group, then your fitness age is older than your actual age. But if you compare well, you can actually turn back the clock to a younger fitness age. The fitness test showed I have a VO2max of 45; the average 68-year-old male registers 37.

Precise measurement of aerobic capacity requires high-tech treadmill testing, the story said. To develop an easy method for estimating VO2max, the scientists recruited almost 5,000 Norwegians between the ages of 20 and 90, measured their aerobic capacity with treadmill testing and also checked a variety of health parameters, including waist circumference, heart rate and exercise habits. They then determined that those parameters could, if plugged into an algorithm, provide a very close approximation of someone’s VO2max.

Fitness age could be a solid predictor of longevity. The results of a recent Norwegian study showed that people whose calculated VO2max was 85 percent or more below the average for their age — meaning that their fitness age was significantly above their chronological years — had an 82 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those whose fitness age was the same as or more youthful than their actual age. According to the study’s authors, the results suggest that fitness age may predict a person’s risk of early death better than some traditional risk factors like being overweight, having high cholesterol levels or blood pressure, and smoking.

Do I believe I have the fitness of the average 47-year-old guy? Yes, I do. In the age 40-and-over basketball games at my athletic club, I do well competing against physically active guys well below my age. I can keep my self-respect in the open-age B league at my club, and I have the good sense to steer clear of the high-testosterone A league.

Measuring myself against my peak basketball years, time has taken its toll. I weigh the same as I did as a high school senior, but I seem to have lost about 2 inches in height and  added 3 inches to my waistline. My strength, speed and jumping levels have diminished considerably. Competitors at the club would be shocked to learn that I, as a 6-foot-1-inch senior, could dunk a basketball – at least in warmups.

The fitness test gives me incentive to see if I can knock off a few pounds and reduce my waistline a bit. I doubt I’ll be growing any taller in this lifetime.

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Forget strong-mayor theory — follow the money

My fair-minded self suggests that I take the high road on Measure L, the plan to enhance the powers of the mayor of Sacramento. I should focus solely on whether a strong mayor is preferable to one who is first among equals on the City Council. I should not descend into the cesspool of conspiracy theories, power grabs and money-driven political manipulation.

“This decision should not be about Mayor Johnson,” a high-minded Sacramento Bee editorial said. “Whether you love him or hate him, Measure L will be good for Sacramento.”

Passage of the measure would make our city government more nimble and more accountable, the Bee says, and we would have this infusion of good government for the remainder of Johnson’s second term and all of a potential third term before voters decide in 2020 whether to make the changes permanent.

Alas, my more skeptical side has trouble getting past the image of Kevin Johnson as a power-grabbing politician eager to curry favor with the rich at the expense of the humble taxpayers of Sacramento. I say this in light of his manipulations that bestowed  $300 million or so on the already wealthy owners of the Kings, and the eagerness that moneyed guys like developer Angelo Tsakopoulos and Sacramento Republic FC lead investor Kevin Nagle have shown in giving $100,000 apiece to the Measure L campaign.

Perhaps the high-minded Bee’s editorial writers would say the two men are selfless advocates of improving city government. My skeptical side tells me a big developer and a guy hoping to land a Major League Soccer franchise might see their donations as a way of gaining easy access to a mayor with enhanced clout.

Nagle, who is a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings, has already seen the wonders Johnson can work in subsidizing a sports team and sidestepping a public vote on the issue. Might he think a strong mayor could twist arms to get a subsidy for a soccer stadium in downtown Sacramento? Is it a coincidence that a dozen Kings investors have signed on with Republic FC, according to the Bee?

I know – our good mayor in August said he didn’t have an appetite to provide tax dollars to build a soccer stadium and the Bee chimed in with a similar view because of the city’s heavy commitment to the new Kings arena.

But imagine this scenario: Republic FC, pumped up by its new Kings investors, is awarded an MLS franchise. The team says it needs the city’s help for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and insists the city will reap thousands of new jobs and a building boom at the old downtown railyard. Does anyone think the mayor and the newspaper would resist this siren song, or really want to?

Measure L isn’t about  theories of city government structure; it’s about the real world of local politics. Follow the money and see who benefits.

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