Jury service shakes up daily routine

In my imagination, I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. When the unexpected happens, I quickly adapt. I admire adventurers and undercover operatives who throw themselves into dangerous, uncharted situations and find a way to improvise new game plans. One of my heroes is the 19th century explorer Richard Burton, who passed himself off as a Muslim and risked his life to see what Mecca looked like. Later, he endured incredible hardship in Africa as he sought to uncover the source of the Nile River.

In real life, I am rather the opposite of my idealized self. I’m not keen on change. I devise elaborate routines and find security in anticipating exactly what may lie around the bend. When I decide to travel, I do so with full knowledge that I’ll be on edge for days in advance. I try to anticipate whatever I imagine might happen. I carry peanut butter with me on all occasions, because one never knows what the foreign food supply will be like.

In the five years of my retirement, I have developed a fixed daily routine. I like knowing what I’ll be doing from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. I take an early afternoon nap, something I started 35 years ago when I became a swing-shift worker in the newspaper business.

Now, my routine and nap have been thrown into disarray by a call to civic duty. Since last Thursday, I have had to drag myself down to the Sacramento County Courthouse and sit through jury-selection process. The past two days, I’ve had to get to the courthouse by 9 a.m. and wasn’t released until 4:30 p.m. Today, I start at 9:30 a.m.

After 18 hours of court proceedings, a jury still hasn’t been selected. Late yesterday afternoon, the original pool of about 70 potential jurors ran dry. Eleven of us were left sitting in the jury box. New recruits are coming this morning. The two defense lawyers and an assistant district attorney have been playing mysterious mind games as they exercise their peremptory challenges.

In my working days, I was deselected as soon as I said I was a journalist. Years of professional objectivity and a commitment to fairness, balance and facts were deeply suspect. I wasn’t picked for a jury until I retired. Maybe that says something about the state of the news business. My former occupation doesn’t seem to set off alarm bells.

Unfortunately, this is not the case at the entrance to the courthouse. Every morning and afternoon, my replaced left hip sets off the metal detector, and sheriff’s deputies eye me with suspicion.

“Keys, wallet?” they ask.

“Hip,” I say, patting my left side.

Sometimes the deputies pull me aside to let the court crowd continue on its merry way. Other times, they keep me standing in the narrow passageway while they wave their magic wand over my body, front and back. I can feel the eyes of anxious defendants who are presumed innocent, their lawyers and dozens of prospective jurors upon me. They are not thrilled by the delay.  

After that, I go to the conveyor belt and pick up my backpack, which is crammed full of survival items. These include peanut butter sandwiches, snack crackers, water, coffee, hand sanitizer, magazines, a Kindle, reading glasses and pens. I am in uncharted territory and must be ready for whatever lies ahead.

 Stay calm and carry on, I tell myself, perhaps echoing the very words of Sir Richard Burton.

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Self-acceptance helps when painting a room

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This paintbrush has stayed in the game for 34 years.

 

Age has brought a touch of patience. I took the cabinet door off before I started painting the small upstairs bathroom. In my first two houses, I painted over hinges, telling myself the overall new look would far outweigh cabinets that didn’t open smoothly. Besides, I was in a hurry and had a lot of painting to do. If I did everything to perfection, I’d never finish. I was an amateur. I should get credit for doing my own work.

The rationalizations were many in the old days. Now, I compromise and don’t tackle more than I think I can do in a reasonable time. Do a small job decently and leave the major work to professionals. I can afford it. My sanity is worth something.

I bought my first house in Sacramento in 1981, three years after hitting town with an old car, $200 in my bank account and a lingering countercultural outlook on life. I thought when I took the copy editing job at the Sacramento Bee that I would work two years, replenish my bank account and hit the road again. In my first eight years after college, I had served time in five outposts of journalism, from Red Bluff, California, to Bremerton, Washington.

It was not to be. I caught the last train to the middle class at age 31 and stayed at the Bee for 32 years. I bought a three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot-home in the “Land Park area,” as the real estate people called a buffer zone dividing upscale Land Park from the projects to the west. My mortgage rate in that era of soaring inflation was 15 percent – 15 percent – and the down payment tapped me out.

That’s when I took up house painting. A friend from my Berkeley days who had acquired admirable handyman skills as he fought off the straight life offered to get me started. He insisted Sears paint and brushes were top of the line. He introduced me to TSP for cleaning walls, sandpaper and spackle. He was religious about cleaning the paintbrushes, shaking them dry and wrapping them in paper towels.

I still have a sturdy three-inch Sears brush I bought at that time. I’ve used it on every painting project, inside and outside, for 34 years. The four-inch brush my friend wielded with authority proved too manly for my level of competence. Smaller brushes have fallen by the wayside. The three-inch one seems to have eternal life.

I don’t love this paintbrush. It’s been a witness to my incompetence, my search for shortcuts, my impatience with detail work. In its presence, I have rejected the adage that I embrace in other areas of my life: “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Instead, I settle for mediocrity and tell myself I’ve saved a few bucks.

Age, however, has brought me more self-acceptance. So what if I’m a mediocre painter? So what if I’m not doing the best I possible can? I was unforgiving of my mistakes in my work life. I’m still far too self-critical on the basketball court. I don’t need to be that way about everything. Painting is a form of self-acceptance. Maybe I should get going on the whole house.

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Cousins has little to gain from game plan of new Kings coach

DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins

“He might be our best passer.”

That’s what George Karl, the new coach of the Sacramento Kings,  said about DeMarcus Cousins, according to this morning’s Sacramento Bee.  Karl was talking about his plan to experiment to see how to best use all his players.

I read that and figured Cousins must have gone ballistic. He probably rejiggered his recent rant about Karl and God’s plan. It might have sounded like this:

“The crazy thing about it is, I’ve just got a question for y’all: How you gonna stop Karl’s plan? How you gonna do that? How you gonna do that? That’s all I want to know. How you gonna stop Karl’s plan?”

The Kings’ star center is averaging 23.8 points per game this season. That’s higher than his season average in any of his four previous seasons.  Those points made him an All-Star this season. If his average keeps improving, he’ll be getting a $100 million contract in a few years. The NBA pays its stars for scoring, not passing.

In his full statement about Cousins, Karl pushed his budding makeover plan even further and said:

“I think everyone’s hung up on DeMarcus being a big man. DeMarcus is a basketball player. He plays basketball very well, and he can play a lot of different ways. He can play a lot of places. I don’t want to offend anybody on the team, but from what I see, he might be our best passer.”

Cousins, who stands 6 foot 11 and weighs 270 pounds (when he’s in shape), has carved out a niche as a powerful post player with the foot speed to go past plodding defenders. He’s become one of the league’s dominant centers this season. But his dominance depends on a set offense that gives him time to establish his position.

Now we have a new coach coming in and throwing out public hints that Cousins will have to sacrifice the things that have made him a star and buy into Karl’s theories about team play and offensive flow.

What’s in it for Cousins? Some wild-eyed sportswriters tell us that Cousins desperately wants to shed his loser image and will eagerly embrace the theories of a coach who is a proven winner.

That’s doubtful. Cousins knows the score. Big scorers earn top dollars regardless of their team’s performance. Cousins is a 24-year-old guy heading toward the prime of his career and his biggest paydays. Why should he let winning get in his way? He can burnish his reputation as a winner down the road. Coaches are the ones who have to win right away.

Cousins has no reason to trust anyone in the Kings’ organization. The big guys kicked aside coach Michael Malone, who catered to Cousins’ style and showed signs he could win with it. They went back on their word keep Tyrone Corbin for the rest of the season. They’ve told him he’s their man while pushing an uptempo style that doesn’t suit him. Now they’ve gone and hired a coach who hails Cousins as a passer.

Let the fireworks begin and hear the cowbells fall silent.

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Competition, equality and riding the bench

At Braddock Park, the playground in Queens where I learned so many life lessons, you had to earn your way onto the big-guys court. The rule was that winners stayed on the court. No one wanted to be saddled with weak players. If you didn’t like it, tough luck, kid. Go play on the lousy courts.

I bought into that competitive ethic and took it with me to the 5,000-student Van Buren High School. I made the varsity basketball team as a sophomore but felt like a loser sitting on the bench most of the season. In my junior and senior years, I was the star who played pretty much every minute of every game. Second-rate players warmed the bench. Who cared? Winning was the point of the game.

Well, that was then. Now, at age 69, I play pickup and league basketball at the Capital Athletic Club in Sacramento. I skip the club’s high-testosterone A league in favor of the mildly competitive B league play. Teams are limited to seven players, which in theory gives everyone an opportunity to get a decent amount of playing time in our 40-minute games. A club rules sets a paltry minimum playing time of 10 minutes for every player.

What’s decent playing time? Well, that can be a contentious issue, as everyone who has played team sports all any level knows full well. In the B league, team captains decide. Some are egalitarian, others favor their buddies and a few want to win so much they play their stars all 40 minutes.

I’m not a star in the league, I’m too old to be a buddy with the younger captains, and egalitarians are scarce. I’m an average B league player and eager for more playing time than I usually get. Most players in the league are in my boat. Why should we, the majority, be subject to the whims of a few captains when an equal distribution of playing time can be made so easily?

Ever eager to seek fair play – or maybe just being self-serving – I decided to make a pitch to the CAC’s basketball czar, Bruce Coolidge. He is a stoic who deals patiently with all manner of suggestions, complaints, ego trips, whining and emotional outbursts. Here’s my letter:

Dear Bruce,

After talking with you, my team captain and some league players, I suggest that you reconsider the rule covering the minimum playing time per game for all players. The current 10 minutes per 40-minute game is guaranteed to induce a constant stream of complaints from many players, myself included, who feel excluded from a reasonable level of play.

And why shouldn’t we gripe? We are dues-paying members of an equal-opportunity athletic club. We want more competitive basketball than pickup games. We pay extra to participate in the league. We want a good workout. Why should we sit long and hard on the bench of a seven-member team while a few players feel entitled to play 40 minutes?

There’s no reason, except selfishness, favoritism and an ultra-competitive type of basketball whose advocates preach the message that “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” Hey, this is B league basketball, not the National Football League or the NBA.

I suggest you consider a rule that gives all players equal playing time. That would give more than 28 minutes of playing time for everyone. With all teams applying the same formula, the competitive intensity would remain high and spread out among all the players. Team play would be enhanced and the excesses of star play diminished. Team captains, instead of relying on a few individuals, would have more opportunity to display their leadership skills to bring out the best in all their players.

This simple rule change, I think, would be an easy way to improve morale, reduce complaints and encourage team play in the popular B league while better reflecting the upbeat, supportive spirit of the CAC.

Sincerely,

Paul Clegg

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Kings coach Corbin shows more class than his bosses

 

Tyrone Corbin

Tyrone Corbin

If you can keep your dignity and decency while those around you are acting like jerks and low-lifes, then you’re  – Tyrone Corbin, the coach of the Sacramento Kings.

Corbin has shown class under fire while Kings primary owner Vivek Ranadive and his palace guard let him twist slowly in the wind as they connive to get rid of him. Corbin was thrust into a mess after his bosses fired coach Michael Malone in mid-December. He has tried to make the best of the troubled team he inherited and shoulders the burden of the team’s 7-20 record under his command without complaint.

“My job is to coach the team,” he said as the Kings, 18-33 overall, head to Milwaukee for tonight’s game. “We’ve got to make sure we got our minds wrapped around the last game before the All-Star break, give a good effort and see what happens.”

Speculation has been rampant that Corbin will be fired by this weekend and longtime coach George Karl hired. Karl has a 1,131-756 NBA coaching record and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2013 with Denver.

Corbin, who had been Malone’s assistant, endured the indignity of being named “interim” head coach in mid-December while Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro publicly said he was unable to commit to Corbin for the rest of the season.  Such an action quickly undercut Corbin’s clout with the players, most of whom were angry about Malone’s ouster. On top of that, Ranadive and his henchmen pushed Corbin to play an uptempo game ill-suited to star Demarcus Cousins’ talents.

Two weeks later, a story appeared in the Sacramento Bee saying that the Kings had signed Corbin to be coach for the rest of the season and would be given the rest of the season to see if he can implement the faster-paced offense the front office and ownership want.

Amazingly, neither Ranadive nor his executives had called a press conference to announce this seeming vote of confidence. In fact, the story emerged a week after the change; Corbin was the source; and the players, including Cousins, were taken by surprise.

Now, we have the cheap public spectacle of the Kings’ executives apparently going back on their commitment to Corbin and courting Karl, the team’s star center making bizarre comments about God’s plan,   and Cousins’ agents trying to undermine the deal.

Why a winner like Karl even entertains the idea of working with the dysfunctional Kings’ executive team is a mystery.

Through it all, Corbin has taken the high road. In today’s Bee sports section, he said: “I can’t feel sorry for myself and allow these guys to feel sorry for themselves. We’re going to try and do our jobs to the best of our ability. That’s all anybody can ask.”

Sacramentans should hold a Tyrone Corbin appreciation day and let him know we respect his dignity, class and grace under pressure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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