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Behind The Bar: All I Want for Xmas is a 2 for 1

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The Christmas Gift List, Random Thoughts and Backstage Passes Edition

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Christmas Wish-List:

The holiday’s are fast approaching and no matter how much or little your religious views allow you to participate, the good people in marketing have ensured that you will at least have to buy some sort of gift for someone. In keeping with the commercialized and consumer-driven version of the Christmas holiday I grew up with, I’ve made a gift list for every member of the pelicans staff/roster. Can someone lob these up, so I can stuff them down hard in some stockings like our League Pass MVP on a break posterizing a yule log?

Dell Demps:

I’m giving Dell another protected 1st round pick that he can use to get us another solid young veteran like Wilson Chandler or Gerald Green – putting the bow on our starting five.

Monty Williams:

This season Monty gets the gift of an extra possession at the end of every quarter. It’s kind of a crappy gift because he already has these possessions, but he hasn’t realized it yet. It’s cool though, I polished them off, bought some really nice muted brown wrapping paper to match his wardrobe, so it will seem like something completely new, appealing and exciting without being too flashy. It’s like when you found out that those little paper ketchup cups spread out into wider little dipping trays. Sorry Christmas didn’t fall until after that ESPN Dallas game when Jeff Van Gundy spotted Monty’s inability to see the extra possession sitting right in front of his face to close out the fourth with a 2-for-1 and said what I was saying on my couch without all of the curse words and hatred in his heart.

Randy Ayers:

Randy gets to be the guy who saves post-Christmas by bringing the team over every day to play on his new Atomic Double Shootout (http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/product/index.jsp?productId=20392756), which drastically improves our team free throw percentage while improving chemistry. No longer do we have to send AD and his most reliable 78% FT percentage to the line to shoot technicals because we can’t trust our guards to hit them.

Bryan Gates:

Coach Gates gets his own animated Adult Swim show where he and Droopy Dog are super sleuths hot on the trail of the evil Joey Crawford and his twin (the turtle from the Robin Hood cartoon). One day Gates and Droopy will save basketball from this showboating, game-tainting mad man and his whistle of terror.

Dave Hanners:

I’m giving him a Maury DNA test so he can prove he isn’t Jimmer’s dad, or actually Jimmer from the future who has come back to try to save his own failing basketball career.

Fred Vinson:

Vinson gets a time machine that only brings him back to the first week of the season so he can relive all of the love he got for fixing Austin and Tyreke’s jumpers.

Duane Brooks:

I’m going to steal a misdiagnosis from Jon Ishop and send it to Dr. Brooks so that we can get the disabled player exception money for Eric Gordon to help Dell make that trade for Chandler or Green. I know stealing is wrong, but Ishop has so many misdiagnoses that he won’t even notice it’s gone.

Jrue Holiday:

The Anonymous Donor gets some respect. It’s time the media starts talking about Holiday like they talk about Conley. If a point guard makes noise on Fox Sports 1, does ESPN or TNT even hear it?

Tyreke Evans:

Evans gets my Rosetta Stone DVDs from my year of studying abroad in Finland, so he can improve his Finnish.

Luke Babbitt:

He’d be into a gift certificate to Hot Topic, right? Or maybe the Mushroom?

Anthony Davis:

What do you get the guy who has everything? It’s nitpicking, but I’m going to give him a dribble-drive variety pack. The only hole in his game is the inability to create off the dribble. Once he learns this he can create his own shot and be the unquestioned best player in the league. Right now he creates his own shot by stepping back and creating space for an open, yet longer jumper. I’d love to be able to see him put it on the floor and use his speed to blow by his cover.

Omer Asik:

I’m going to use the face-swapping technology from the film, "Face-Off" to give Asik, Luke Babbitt’s quick pump fake and release to speed up them put-backs. Because he’s been sooooo nice, I’m also throwing in Lynn Swann’s hands or even Roman Harper’s hands…..

Ryan Anderson:

I hired some old school Nintendo programmers to create a Legend of Zelda knockoff where an elf-like Ryno is on a quest to find his lost jumper. I’m also sending him the cheat codes so he finds it real fast.

Austin Rivers:

Austin gets a laptop with GarageBand and every auto-tuning plug-in on the market (he just looks like an auto-tuned record waiting to happen). I’m also giving him a week with Diplo, Mannie Fresh and the RZA so he can make all new player specific bumper tunes (mostly so we don’t have to hear his French Montana cut anymore). I’m also buying up all of his unsold jersey’s so we can get him in the number 15 – birthing the "AR-15" era. Austin, make me your brand manager.

Dante Cunningham:

I’m giving him either 3 inches of height or 6’ of added range so he can get out of that dreaded tweener-zone. I’ll let him pick his position. I know, nola.com already changed his height for him, but I think they kept the receipt.

Gal Mekel:

I’m giving him some hair dye so I don’t have a panic attack every time he’s at the scorer’s table because I thought he was Jimmer at first glance.

Alexis Ajinca:

He’s French, he probably loves foreign films and he fouls. He gets the shoes from the great Kids in the Hall sketches, "Mr. Heavyfoot." http://youtu.be/R9d2Y1We-d0 I know what you’re thinking, "He’s already so slow." True. But these cement filled shoes are meant to prevent him from jumping at every pump fake.

Jeff Withey:

I could give him more minutes. He’s earned them, but I’m going to give him a selfish gift. It’s a GPS to guide his sister and her friends to their seats. Every game they stand in front of me for a good 15 seconds of game time trying to figure out where they sit and how to best maneuver through 10s of occupied seats to get to theirs. This sometimes happens more than once a game. You could blindfold me and I’d find my seats. I just need to follow the smell of medium rare pizzas, make a right walk down 7 steps, spin and collapse into my aisle seat. This is kind of like when my friend’s terrible ex-girlfriend gave him a light cover for his birthday because the glare from the light fixture in his living room hurt her eyes. It’s ok, all of his friends can talk about how terrible I am — I get my sight line less cluttered.

Jimmer Fredette:

I’m giving him a one-way ticket to Utah and a restraining order that makes sure he is at least 500’ away from the Pelicans at all times.

John Salmons:

He gets his number taken by Austin Rivers, but he gets Anthony Morrow’s Instagram account so that there is at least one thing I like about him.

Russ Smith:

To prevent whiplash from being slung back-and-forth to and from the D-League he’s getting a neck brace and Southwest mileage points.

Eric Gordon:

Redemption, cheers and champagne toasts. Eric can be the Grinch that saved Christmas by opting out of his final year. If you not only gave us Anthony Davis, but also a year off of your terrible contract — you will surely earn yourself a customized Christmas carol and a statue at the arena in which your heart is removed to pair with a statue of your heart that will reside in Phoenix.

The Writing is on the Airwaves: Are Print and Radio Sadly Dead?

My friend Mike is kind of like what Luke Babbitt is to Ryan Anderson of legendary punk icons. He’s not HR, Ian MacKaye or maybe even a Sam McPheeters, but he has a done a lot of cool things, made a lot of solid records and people in that scene know and respect him. Weirdly, while he still plays a key role in the punk music scene, he now tours with the stage production of a super popular children’s show. Like me, we think our punk rock roots are strong enough to be comfortable with publicly admitting our mutual love for basketball. He’s from the Bay Area so he’s a huge Warriors fan, but also a real student of the game. So whenever he’s in town I take him to a game. He happened to be in New Orleans for the return of Kevin Durant.

My season ticket agent is so incredibly amazing that she sensed I was about to call her for an extra ticket and beat me to the punch. I was seriously scrolling through my contacts looking for her name as she called me. She asked if a guest and I would join Sean Kelley and John DeShazier in the broadcast booth for the entire 2nd quarter. I really didn’t understand what it meant at the time, but I agreed. My agent also informed me that there wasn’t any open seats close to me, so she moved Mike, my partner in season tickets and myself to center court club level for free, with a free ticket for Mike and she even let me keep our regular seats that we then gave to other friends. The moral of this segment of the story is that it really pays to have season tickets (and an amazing agent). Make that your New Years’ Resolution and don’t give up things like drinking. You have 50 games to watch Monty not call timeouts until it’s a 12-0 run and not go for 2-for-1s after the already-been-popped champagne poppers get sprayed with hoses into the roadside drains. You’ll need a few drinks from time-to-time. Plus, bartenders can’t tip themselves.

Anyway, Mike and I were ushered to the broadcast booth for the start of the second quarter. I really didn’t know what to expect from the experience, but I know I left it with a lot of respect for the profession and a sadness that these types of broadcast are perhaps dying out. I know a thing or two about dying media formats — when I’m not writing for The Bird Writes, I’m art directing and writing for an underground music and culture print magazine. Print is a fossil format, and I know as I type each letter of this I’m in a super tiny freckle of a paramecium kind of way contributing to print’s demise, or at minimum — repression. While I already know this deep inside it weighed on me after leaving the booth.

While in the booth, we were given headsets so we could hear Sean and John call the game live. It was really kind of discombobulating for several sensory reasons. It made me feel a little drunk. First off, for this game I had been sitting in new seats, seats that were on the opposite side of the court from my normal area which took adjustment. However, for the 2nd quarter I was back on my regular side watching from the booth so it felt like the teams switched baskets. Then, I’m not sure if it was the excess of equipment, the bright lights or just a lack of vents, but it was insanely hot and I was dressed for the normal polar exhibition temperatures of the arena. Sweat was rolling down my back. My face was surely flushed red. Finally, having the broadcast tinny, yet crisp frequency being thrown inside of my head while I stood behind the people actually saying the words had a very strange ventriloquist show-like effect on how I processed the information.

I was watching two people watch a game and play off of each other seamlessly, which sounds like what you would expect is happening, but when you watch them do it, it just seems impossible. When you watch games on TV or just listen to a broadcast you don’t see the entire court and action on it at the same time you are seeing the people’s whose voices you hear describing the game watch the game. By removing that element your brain dismisses the unscripted effort and the amazing ability it takes to describe a live event to an audience in rhythm with someone else — knowing when not to step over the other’s commentary while being able to bridge backstory, stats and opinions all at once without even sneezing or yawning. Sometimes I’d remove my headset to hear their non-mic’ed up and transmitted voices so it would feel more real and less distant. I also had to restrain myself from cursing, clapping loudly and making snide remarks as I also watched the action.

Radio is certifiably harder than television because you have to describe everything as it unfolds. The television crew gets the crutch of the visual combined with scripted replays to fill time. Radio is the freestyle battle of broadcasting. It could end up looking something like this (WARNING: NSFW — especially, if your workplace doesn’t approve of terrible typography, video effects and questionible use of picture-in-picture): http://youtu.be/bHpw6CzprNY when it goes bad, or it could flow like liquid gold as in the time Tribe Called Quest freestyled over Heltah Skeltah’s, "Operation Lockdown" on Rap City in ‘96.

Sean Kelley may never be confused for Q-Tip, but he’s no Eli (watch the provided Youtube clip to get this reference) either. He and John DeShazier are really good at their craft. They are also very gracious gentlemen (In fact, I ran into Sean at the Knicks game on my way to get coffee and walked over to shake my hand and ask how I’ve been). They also dropped Mike and I’s names a few times during the broadcast, which my mom’s book club got to hear all about.

As positive as the experience was, it did make me sad when I thought about how many people weren’t listening to these two guys do their thing. I have no data in front of me, but I can’t think of anyone I know that listens to an entire game on the radio. New Orleans is a football town and no matter how terrible the Saints are, the majority of the city doesn’t start paying attention to the Pelicans until the end of Saints’ season — if they ever do at all — so that already cuts a huge portion of the possible listening audience out.

Broadcast television has made it nearly impossible to listen to a game on the radio. When I was a kid, my grandfather would, "turn down the sound" and listen to Jim Henderson and Archie Manning call the game, but those were the days before 7 second delays. If you tried that now, you’d know about every TD or turnover before they, "happened." TVs are everywhere.

You don’t need to huddle around a radio on the corner or in the warehouse or in the toll booth because there’s a sports bar on the corner (there’s even TVs in several Popeye’s with the screen facing the workers), a computer in every office and a smartphone or pad device on every person under eighty-five. If you want to watch the game, you can pay for apps or use illegal means to stream video of games. You can set your DVR to record it and throw your smartphone in the river and stay away from bars (or Popeye’s) with TVs and water coolers so you can watch it like it’s live later. If you don’t have a radio on you, but can stream the radio station broadcasting the game live on your computer or phone, it’s blocked by the league so that they can sell you a subscription. However, it only costs a few dollars more to have the video so everyone is going to choose the video option.

Sadly, these guys are filling the time you need to pop off to the corner store for more beer or a 8" hot sausage with some Cajun Crawtators and get back to the flashing lights and moving pictures. It’s no knock to their craft, because they are very good at, it’s just another art that we will likely lose as screens find their way more and more into our daily lives. While I’m sure most of you will never listen to a full game broadcast on the radio, you should savor those moments in the car in-between whatever screen-infused device you are watching the game on and appreciate all of the work and craft that is keeping you connected in spurts on whatever quick errands you are running. Today 10,000 copies of the new issue of my magazine arrived from the printers. I loaded up my trunk and then I read a bunch a blogs…...

Pelican Production Crew Insider — The Dance Cam Winner Algorithm:

While I was being shown the inner-workings of a radio broadcast, the Pelicans’ production team also pulled back the curtain and gave me a glimpse into the complicated set of equations and hi-tech gear that scientifically chooses each Dance Cam winner. I stared mouth-agape at an intricate web of high-tech cameras and sensory recorders that were hidden all over the arena. These devices were hidden so expertly — like the Pels had hired the set dresser from, "Utopia" or something.

Each device was broken down for me. I watched random clips of dancing audience members being projected for the audience to view. Each category of measurement was clearly explained as I watched number scores being arranged in tables that contained a complex set of equations. A reverse turbine collector funnels in the air to record the wind speed produced by a dancer’s arm flails. Infrared cells (that are actually made from plant matter. It’s crazy how advanced this technology is.) measure heat, which is used to calculate calories burned in dancing motion. A macro-pupil measuring lens determines the amount of endorphins produced in the brains of each dancer’s viewers.

All of this data is immediately recorded into spreadsheets and is calculated into a number score. The next step is to see if there is an elderly person performing an air-sex maneuver. If no such elderly person exists, they ironically seek a child playing air guitar in a way that no guitar could possibly be played. Once that gets ruled out, the focus shifts to any obese people that are manipulating their breasts in a 360 spiral in complete opposite directions independent of hand manipulation. Each of these types are given bonus points. If no such person exists, they seek out the most "doable" person or duo of people. The cameras record face-symmetry, factor in personality through another complex set of weights and values and skin exposure of outfit. These are then averaged with years of research of each audience member’s porn search history to provide a number score. All number scores are added together to calculate a winner. Or sometimes the cameraman just zooms in on his cousin, neighbor, insurance salesman or an ex-classmate. It’s fascinating.

Random Thoughts:

• Is, "The Brick of Mormon" Jimmer’s new nickname or do you actually need meaningful minutes to earn a new nickname?

• That long and narrow window in the Smoothie King Arena that faces Champion Square looks really nice with that blue and gold Pelicans’ logo banner hanging in it. However, how amazing would it be if it was a giant image of AD’s wingspan?

• The hot nut vendors in the arena need to tone that act down. Sell your product and move on, I don’t need a one-man show filled with monologues and soliloquies that invade my sight lines for what seems like an eternity and doesn’t, "put a smile on my face," roasted almonds in my mouth or money in their pocket. All I’m saying is be the MC, not the hype man. Don’t be Sen Dog, B-Real. Or even better, watch what D’Angelo does with "the Pit Crew" in season one of, "The Wire" and send people around the corner to get their nuts.

• More drumline battles please.