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ChabDog Interviews Travis Mace: Cyclist and Runner for Amputee Blade Runners

3-15-15 Travis Mace

ChabDog interviewed Travis Mace of Hendersonville, TN to learn more about his experience as a cyclist and runner with Amputee Blade Runners:

ChabDog: Hello Travis, thanks very much for talking with ChabDog Sports Blog™ about your affiliation with Amputee Blade Runners. How long have you been riding with this group, and before that how long have you been a cyclist? How did you get started, and what is it about cycling that you enjoy most? Any favorite riding experiences you’d like to tell us briefly about?

Travis: I’ve been involved with the Amputee Blade Runners for almost 2 years. I got affiliated with them after meeting a cyclist named Ron Fitzsimmons. He noticed I wasn’t clipped in with cycling shoes when he saw me riding one day, and after telling him I didn’t have a good enough fit with my prosthetic leg, he said his son was an equipment designer and could make me a cycling leg. He had me meet with the designer/fabricator and apply for their grant (to help make the equipment affordable), and I was approved in 4 days. Then, his son Aaron went to great lengths to measure and fit me until I had the perfect fitting. After that, he made a special pylon that has a clip for the pedal on it and replaces my prosthetic foot when riding. He also made me a running leg and gave me a shoe sponsorship.
By way of background, I’ve been into cycling most of my life, but only got interested in road bikes after I lost my leg in an accident.  To sum up why I like cycling, it is the ultimate release for me; a release from care and worry and from the everyday grind. It takes me all over the state of Tennessee, and the nearby region. In fact, some of my rides cover 3 counties, and I’ve left the state on a couple of occasions.

ChabDog: Tell us more about what your training regimen is like – how many days per week do you ride, how far do you go, and how does this compare with other types of cardio workouts such as running, ellipticals, stationary bikes? Any special challenges for you due to where you live (e.g. the unpredictable weather in Tennessee)? And maybe you could give our readers a sense for how you prepare for your rides (what things to you have to bring along when you go on your rides)?

Travis: I typically train about 5 days a week, with at least 2 rides that are about 3 hours long, and during the spring, summer, and fall I will get in a 50 to 80 mile training ride almost every week. I also run, but don’t do this as much as I ride because it’s easier on my stump (where my leg is amputated). Yes, Tennessee can have some challenging weather, to say the least, so I do some of my work on an indoor bike that is direct drive, as well as doing weight training and spin classes. In fact, I think I train harder than I need to because I get such an endorphin rush from the extreme exercise, and afterwards like to reward myself for the effort expended by indulging in my favorite meal … eating a good steak. In terms of preparation, I make sure I’m getting the appropriate nutritional intake, and I generally pack some energy bars and water for my rides. On the longer rides, I will stop along the way at stores for additional food and drink, as necessary.

ChabDog: What kind of events do you compete in? Are you always competing as part of a team, and if so, how many other team members are typically involved? Is it structured like a relay race? Is prize money involved? Who are you racing against?

Travis: The cycling events are called “Grand Fondos” and they are 62 miles long (which is also known as a “metric century”). This is generally run as a very well organized event, with roads blocked off and numerous rest stops along the course, with water, Gatorade, bananas, etc. Since we are all amateurs, there is no prize money. There are between 200 and 600 riders at any particular event, with a mixture of some organized teams and individuals. Just to give you an example, one pretty major event called is sponsored by Nissan and usually has over 1000 participants.

ChabDog: Tell us a bit more about Amputee Blade Runners (ABR). Is this a national organization with clubs or chapters across the US? Any idea how many members we are talking about? Have you met a lot of other cyclists and athletes through this group? What is involved with the sponsorship relationship; more specifically, what exactly do they pay for?

Travis: I’m not sure how many people we have in the group nationally. We were invited to participate in an event called the Ragnar Relay that was a relay race run from Chattanooga to Nashville (about 196 miles), and some of our racers/members were from Arkansas and Mississippi. Another member of the group is younger than most – he’s now attending a local high school –, and he also plays quarterback for his high school football team. We have about 2 or 3 team members here in Nashville, and I’m the only cyclist on our local team. Under my sponsorship arrangement, ABR pays for anything involved with my prosthetic leg, and it also includes a related shoe sponsorship with Fleet Feet. Also, I receive free entry into most cycling and running events held across the US.

ChabDog: What are your goals going forward? Are there individual time goals that you have and/or national or international competitions that you are looking to participate in? What about triathlons?

Travis: My goals are to ride/run longer and faster every year. I want to run in an ultra-marathon (50 miles), and would like to compete in some stage races that cover several days and several hundred miles. Some of the guys I ride with have tried to encourage me to try out for the Paralympics, but I’m not sure I’m willing to make all the necessary sacrifices. But I do want to keep pushing the envelope because I’m not willing to let age or lack of lower left leg hold me back. Aaron Fitzsimmons’ (he runs the ABRs) belief is that we amputees can do anything a normal person can do and maybe sometimes even better. I share that belief because when I ride with local cycling clubs, I’m usually the fastest guy in the pack. I work very hard at staying competitive even though we are not talking about the Pro Peloton/pro cycling … it’s just a bunch of weekend warriors, but I’ll always strive to be the best.  I also want my cycling and racing to serve as an example, and as encouragement and inspiration, for anyone who losses a limb, by showing them that they can live a fulfilling life and achieve their goal, without feeling limited or held back by their circumstances or previous injuries.

Travis — Thanks very much for sharing your experience with the ChabDog readers, and best of luck with your road racing going forward.

ChabDog sits down with Ray LeBov of Basketball Intelligence website for a mid-year NBA “State of the Union” —

ChabDog1-2-15 ChabDog

ChabDog sat down with Ray LeBov, founder and creator of the Basketball Intelligence website for a discussion about the “State of the Union” of the NBA, now that we’re nearly at the All-Star break.

ChabDog:  Ray, thanks for giving ChabDog some more of your time, now that we’re approaching the mid-way point in the 2014-2015 NBA season.   Let’s get your thoughts on a few things that I think my readers may be interest in.

ChabDog Q1:  First, do you think things are pretty much established in the East in terms of who’s on top?  Atlanta seems like it can’t be stopped, Toronto has certainly been an impressive surprise and Washington is still playing great ball.  What do you think?  And how about those Detroit Pistons?  Do you see them as moving up into the top 4 in the conference by year’s end?

BI: Of course, injuries and overall team health will play a big role as always.  The Hawks are certainly impressive: Their offensive balance and outstanding defense (and excellent coaching) make them the clear favorite. Toronto has faded some and it remains to be seen whether DeRozan’s return can get them fully back on track.  Top four might be a little too ambitious for the Pistons.  A top six finish is a more realistic goal. 

ChabDog Q2:  In the West, can anyone stop Golden State?  Portland still looks pretty tough, and they have arguably the best big man-guard combo in the league with Aldridge and Lillard.  Are Houston and Memphis real threats, or just pretenders?  And what about Dallas … do they have enough talent now that they picked up Rondo to seriously challenge.  Finally, what exactly is going on with San Antonio?  My sense is that they are playing “possum” until they make it into the playoffs (e.g. we don’t care where we finish, as long as we get in).

BI: Once again, injuries and health are major influences.  For example, the Blazers have been missing Robin Lopez and his backup Joel Freeland for some time and yesterday LaMarcus Aldridge hurt his thumb. The Warriors are solid at both ends of the floor and barring major injuries, should win the West.  Each of the teams that you mention should be taken seriously.  As far as the Spurs, once again team health has an impact. Kawhi Leonard has just returned and they are already playing much better, particularly defensively. What makes the West so powerful is not just outstanding players but tremendous coaches as well, led by Popovich, Kerr and Carlisle.

ChabDog Q3:  Cleveland’s been a clear disappointment.  Do you think they’ll turn things around … at least in terms of making some noise in the playoffs (or even getting to the playoffs?).

BI: The “disappointment” with the Cavs is somewhat overblown.  Remember that their best players are new as is the coach and injuries have taken a toll (LBJ and others have missed time and Varejao went down for the season.)  They have addressed some of their problem areas with recent trades (e.g., better interior defense with Mozgov, and Shumpert should help on the perimeter.) They will be serious contenders by playoff time.

ChabDog Q4:  Who has been the most improved team/biggest surprise story on the positive side this year, and what young player or players (1st, 2nd and 3rd year guys) have made the biggest impact?

BI: No real surprises.  However, before the season started, there were some unknowns that have turned out to have a major effect.  For example, Al Horford played only 29 games for the Hawks last season; his return to health has been huge.  In the West, Warriors’ first-year leader Steve Kerr is the Coach of the Year so far. As for impactful younger players, Andrew Wiggins, Rudy Gobert, Nikola Mirotic, Elfrid Payton, Dennis Schroder, Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Giorgui Dieng, Victor Oladlipo, Alex Len and Robert Covington are some who have really impressed me.  I also should mention the play of Nerlins Noel (in particular, for his defense). 

ChabDog Q5:  Do you think certain teams have definitely mailed it in for this year, and are now trying to lose their way toward a good position in the lottery?  New York? LA?

BI: It isn’t so much a matter of losing to enhance lottery position – that rarely works. Rather, some teams have chosen to avoid being stuck in the middle of the standings for years without end in favor of rebuilding, even if that means essentially starting over.  And again, for some teams, injuries have played a major role (e.g., the Knicks who have been forced to play with D-League level personnel at times and the Lakers who have been without Bryant, Randle and others.)

ChabDog Q6:  What do you think was the most important/impactful trade that was done so far this season, and why?

BI: The most important was Kevin Love from the Timberwolves to the Cavs for Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young and a trade exception.  It is too soon to know how that is going to work out for each of those teams.   Others worth noting include the 76ers sending the draft rights for the tenth pick ( Elfrid Payton) to the Magic for rights to the 12th pick (Dario Saric) and a future 1st and a future 2nd round pick.; John Salmons and a 2015 2nd round pick from the Hawks to the Raptors for Louis Williams and  the rights to Lucas Noguiera.   Rondo from Boston to Dallas and Mozgov from Denver to Cleveland also have potential major impact.

ChabDog: Thanks very much for your insights Ray.  We look forward to staying in touch, and on your end, keep up the great work with keeping us informed about the latest things going on in the NBA.  By the way, ChabDog readers should definitely check out, and subscribe to, the Basketball Intelligence website by going to:  You’ll be glad you visited!


ChabDog Sports Blog Reader Newsletter No. 1 (Jan 2015)


1. NFL Playoff Prognosis
Divisional Playoff Matchups –
Arizona (5) at Carolina (4) –
Carolina has the extreme good fortune of hosting a playoff game after stumbling through a 7-8-1 regular season, which was a good enough mark to take the woeful NFC South Division. And now, their opponent in round 1 is a vulnerable Arizona squad, which has a third stringer, Ryan Lindley, as QB. As a result, they are a 6.5 pt favorite to advance to the next round. To look at this matchup more closely, it appears Vegas is swayed by the recently effective performance of the Carolina secondary, which as limited opposing passers to a 64.6 rating the last 4 weeks; this, combined with Lindley’s 1-5 record as a starter and his streak of 229 pass attempts without a TD (a record). This reality, combined with Carolina’s superior rushing attack, indicate there is good reason to favor Carolina. Despite Arizona’s superior overall defense and excellent coaching, look for the Panthers to move on with a victory margin that should probably be less than a touchdown; however, the Panthers should be stopped dead in their tracks in the next round.
Detroit (6) vs. Dallas (3) — Dallas is 6.5 pt favorite to prevail over the Lions in the other NFC divisional playoff game. Although run stopper extraordinaire and bad boy Ndamukong Suh will suit up, don’t count on the Lions to do the unexpected and stand up to the high octane Cowboy attack. The fact is that Dallas has the most balanced offense in the NFC and should be able to ride the home crowd and their superior talent to a 7 point plus victory. The Lions certainly have offensive firepower, but Stafford has been inconsistent in the big games/against the good teams and should not be trusted to do anything different in this contest. Unlike Carolina, Dallas does have a chance to move on … but their defense and Romo’s health are lingering uncertainties.
Ravens (6) vs. Steelers (3) —
If you go by historical trends, Pittsburgh has nothing to worry about … the three postseason matchups between these teams have all gone to the Steelers. Like those prior games, this one will be in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers are 6-2 this year. But this should be another close, hard hitting game. With Le’Veon Bell out with a hyperextended knee, the Steelers are unlikely to have much in the way of rushing options against the very tough Ravens’ defense. As a consequence, Big Ben will have to focus on the passing attack, and this is indeed Baltimore’s Achilles heel. Meanwhile, Flacco has both a 1,000+ rusher in Justin Forsett, as well as the fleet footed Smiths, which should keep the Steeler defenders off balance. The Steelers should have just enough to move on, but it will probably be another classic showdown and a must-see game for sure. Catch the ChabDog blogcast of the 2nd half on Blog Talk Radio. And looking forward, the Steelers do have prospects for moving on after this (possibly to the Super Bowl).
Bengals (5) vs. Colts (4) –
The Bengals have only themselves to blame for their current predicament. If they had been able to handle the Steelers in the last game of the NFL season, they could have avoided having to play the Colts in Indy, and instead could have been hosting the Ravens (whom they beat two times this year). Now, they have to go back to Lucas Oil Stadium, where they were taken apart 27-0 earlier in the year. Cincy does have a good running game, but Indy’s run defense is relatively good, and don’t count on Andy Dalton to take full advantage of the questionable Colt secondary. A better bet is to bank on Andrew Luck having his way with a defense that’s ranked 20th in the league … and after a string of less than stellar performances, combined with a Reggie Wayne who is now 100%, the Indy QB is due for a good game. Go with Indy in a somewhat close game (within 7 points). However, don’t count on the Colts moving on after this one; they still have not solved their defensive deficiencies or established a consistent running game.

2. NBA State of the Union:

Eastern Conference –
At the start of the year, many experts and pundits were trumpeting the vast talent divide between the loaded Western Conference and the weak sister Eastern Conference. However, as things have played out, four pretty strong teams appear to be coming out of the East (Toronto, Atlanta, Washington and Chicago), and Milwaukee has been a pleasant surprise as well (despite the injury to Jabari Parker). Meanwhile, Cleveland has been a big disappointment and downside surprise … largely due to a lack of depth, a lack of team chemistry, failure to properly utilize the talents of Kevin Love, and the players’ failure to respond positively to the direction of head coach David Blatt.

Going forward, the top four just mentioned will probably not change – these are all solid, deep teams with good leadership and coaching. Cleveland may limp into the playoffs, but even that is by no means certain. Look for Milwaukee and Brooklyn to continue to make progress, and other teams with possible post season futures include Boston, Indiana and yes, even Charlotte and Detroit.

Western Conference –
When you look at the West, you do see a ton of talented, competitive squads (definitely deeper than the East). Despite this depth, the top seven positions in terms of playoff positioning look relatively secure, with of course some possibility for reshuffling. Golden State, Portland, Memphis, Houston, Dallas and the Clippers are all bunched pretty close together, so by the end of the year No. 6 could realistically end up No. 1. And at No. 7, the Spurs may not have much chance of moving to the top, but they loom as a threat to move up into the top 4 and to do serious damage in the playoffs. However, they have some significant problems in terms of an aging line up, and don’t seem to have the power up front and/or the defensive prowess that they’ll need to deal with the top teams.

The 8th playoff spot is anyone’s best guess. New Orleans is clearly up and coming, with Anthony Davis emerging as a real monster star, and OKC coming on strong. It looks like that may go down to the wire, with those two teams chasing Phoenix in a tight race. If Durant can stay healthy, he should be able to impose his will and get the Thunder into the last spot (at least). And the extreme depth of the West makes picking a winner that would emerge from the West a real impossibility. At this point, Portland and Golden State look like the favorites.

3. NHL State of the Union:
Eastern Conference –
Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, the Islanders and Montreal have emerged as the cream of the crop, with Detroit close on their heels. The big surprise here seems to be the Islanders, who’ve found more offense than anyone expected. In terms of goal differential, the Penguins and the Devil Rays clearly stand out and seem to be the strongest teams going forward. A big surprise is Boston, a traditional power and recent Stanley Cup finalist and winner, which is currently just on the outside looking in if the playoffs were to start today. Look for the Bruins to get their act together in the second half; their core of talented, hard-working grinders remain in place. Toronto is also a pretty imposing squad and will likely move up in the standings.

Western Conference –
Like the NBA, the NHL’s Western Conference is deeper, more loaded than the East. The top teams appear to be Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis in terms of goal differential. Anaheim actually has the most points (54), but their goal differential is a mere +3. Vancouver, San Jose, Calgary and LA also loom as threats. However, if the playoffs were to start today, the defending champion Kings would be left out. Despite a +9 goal differential (better than top team Anaheim), the Kings have struggled through the 1st half of the season with much inconsistency … particularly in terms of offensive output (16th overall) and penalty killing (15th overall). Look for the Kings to turn things around by the end of the year. And keep an eye on Nashville, which has been surprising everyone with their toughness and ability to compete with the big boys.

4. NCAA Football – New Year’s Day saw an exciting semi-final round to the Bowl Championship Series, with Oregon destroying Florida State in a stunning display of fast-paced offense and opportunistic defense, while Ohio State wore down Alabama in a tight game that went down to the wire. Despite OSU’s looking like the team of destiny (what other team has gotten this far with their third string QB), go with the favored Ducks to win it all in the final showdown. Speed kills, and the Ducks clearly have the edge in this department … as well as having the best QB in the nation in Mariota. In addition, it is notable that Oregon has been the best team in what is undeniably the better conference (as compared with the Big 10). Just look at the following won-loss statistics for the major conferences during this year’s bowl season (as of the end of the day on 1-1-15):
Wins       Losses
SEC             5              6
PAC-12        4              1
Big-10          5              4
Big-12          1              3
ACC             5              6

Take the Ducks to win by more than 7.

5. NCAA Basketball — The top 15 or so teams look very strong, with the strongest teams being Kentucky, Duke, Virginia, Louisville and Villanova. Kentucky has a huge line up and is the clear favorite at this point to win it all (with all 65 first place votes in the AP standings). They have won each game (other than the Louisville contest) by double digits, including demolitions of KU (32 points), North Carolina (14 points) and UCLA (39 points). Judging from their shooting and assists stats, they aren’t even playing up to their potential … so at this point it is hard to imagine anyone giving them a serious challenge. The rest of the Top 25 seems pretty deserving, so it will be exciting to see which teams emerge with real possibilities for advancement in the tournament.

1-2-15 ChabDog

ChabDog Chats With Trey Quinn — Starting Freshman Wide Receiver For LSU

10-31 Trey Quinn


ChabDog sits down for a conversation with Trey Quinn, pictured above surfing with the crowd after LSU’s exciting 10-7 win over highly ranked Ole Miss.  Quinn had an amazing career as wide out in high school, setting the national career record for receiving yards with 6,566, which eclipsed the previous national career receiving yards record by more than 200 yards.  He also finished as the career leader for Louisiana state high school football players with 357 receptions.  As discussed below, even considering his impressive talent and previous accomplishments, Quinn approaches his play as a member of the LSU Tigers with a unique focus and dedication that seems to set him apart from the crowd.

ChabDog: Has playing football for the powerhouse LSU Tigers been your greatest challenge? Talk a little about what it’s like going from high school competition into the fire of the SEC. Playing in Death Valley before 100,000 plus fans! What’s that like?

Trey: Playing college football, and in the SEC in particular,  has been very challenging.  Everybody is big, strong, and fast.  Since you cannot just run by people in the SEC, technique is very important.  It was a big transition right out of high school,  but I practice against a very talented defense that is full of first round NFL picks every day,  and that helps me and my teammates prepare.  

ChabDog:  You’ve had a great start to your career, now with 16 catches and 2nd most on the team to date. Anything in particular that you attribute to this success? Hard work, good coaching, new training habits? Talk about how you focus your preparations during the week to help you succeed on Saturday.

Trey: I feel like I am coached by two of the best in the business in Coach Henry (my WR coach) and Coach Cameron (offensive coordinator).   Our receiver group as a unit is very talented, and we compete every day!   If I slack off even for a little bit,  there is somebody wanting to take my spot, so I am motivated to do my very best and that is what I try to do every practice and game.  

ChabDog:  Any other teams really impress you in SEC? Talk a little about your impressions of the competition. Who is LSU’s biggest rival?

Trey:  I think any team in the SEC is a very strong opponent.  The SEC West — in particular this year– has been very competitive.  Currently, I think four of the top five ranked teams in the NCAA are from the SEC West.   I am honored to play and compete against some of the best athletes week in and week out.  I know that I have to prepare myself to the best of my ability each and every day just to have a chance at success against some very quality opponents on our schedule.  

ChabDog:  Is your life as a football player completely different than that for most of your non-football player friends? Do you have any free time? Saturday nights on campus must be great … maybe discuss a little what kind of events occur on campus on home game weekends.

Trey:  My schedule is very busy this fall between school and football, so there is really not a lot of free time.   I pretty much hang out with my girlfriend after games.  My family is always waiting for me outside of the locker room after each game, as well as friends and fans, and it is important for me to give back as much as I can to those that support not only myself but my teammates. 

ChabDog:  Trey, thanks very much for talking with ChabDog.  Sounds like you have a great football future in front of you at LSU, and best of luck during the rest of the season.

Meet ChabDog’s “Desperate Housedogs” (Owen, Greta, Andre and Mickey)

Brandon-and-Chabdogs Brandon-and-Owen


Episode One- Desperately Seeking the Missing Whiffle Ball

Open with the song “My Generation” in the background.  Shots of the two main stars of the show- Owen and Greta, two cute as can be blond American Cocker Spaniels. Under their pictures show their nicknames. Owen’s nicknames are “Slowen” and “Licky Owen”.  Greta Ginger’s names are “Greta Ginger”, “Greeter”, “Tufty” and “Greta the Gremlin”. Show some of their favorite daily activities such as begging for food, stealing food, being carried around like babies, sleeping on the bed of the house owners, Mimi and Popi, barking at the Fed Ex delivery man and staring at the dogs outside the glass partition. Shot of guest stars “Mikey” and “Andre” the bulldogs in the backyard. Show some of their favorite daily activities such as barking at house guests using the pool that is next to the backyard, Andre eating massive quantities of roast beef and ramming his head into the plastic barricade that keeps him from getting into the house, Andre looking like a lumbering linebacker as he chases a ball, and Mikey tunneling under the barricade. Mikey’s nicknames are “Blue Jean Baby” and “L’il Mike” and Andre’s nicknames are “Meathead” “Andre the Giant Head” and “Jowls”. End intro with introductions of child and adult TV stars, including “Ben Chabner” “Gus Thomson” “Luisa Thompson” “Bebe Thompson” “Amare Steward” “Davi-EIIen Chabner” “Sol Thompson”, and “Bruce Chabner.”

These are the stories of two Desperate Housedogs, Owen and Greta, and two other dogs, Andre and L’il Mikey, who are
desperate to be “housedogs”. Owen and Greta have plenty of love, food, and a nice roof over their heads. So why are they desperate? They say one year for a person is like 7 years for a dog. Perhaps dogs know how precious each second of their life is, how limited their time here on earth really is? Maybe this is what drives them to experience each moment to the fullest, so urgently. All we know is that they are desperate to be with their masters … to be in the house with us. They are, our Desperate Housedogs.


Scene 1

Voice of narrator:
“It was one of those beautiful blue Nantucket days, and Owen and Greta were up bright and early.” Show Owen and Greta curled up in bed next to Mimi and Popi (Owen at Mimi’s feet and Greta at Popi’s). The Rooster crows and Popi and Mimi stagger out of bed and over to the kitchen, with Owen and Greta dutifully following.

N: “Owen and Greta make their daily pilgrimage to the kitchen in Mimi’s heaven, where everything happens. It is here that opportunity knocks and life is lived to the fullest for these Desperate Housedogs.”

N: “Owen is the elder statesman … 7 years old and still as cuddly as ever (show Gus cuddling with him on the couch and telling him they will be married) but with his share of health issues. Among other things, he has had numerous ear operations and is now recovering from a knee operation to repair a torn ligament. Nobody (except Greta) knows how he hurt himself but we think he jumped for one too many sandwich tops …. in effect, he overextended himself.” “Now Owen focuses on catching anything that falls under the table (or is accidentally? given to him from the table) (show Gus funneling bread and pasta to him under the table at dinner) but he can still surprise you with spurts of athleticism as he makes sure no crumb is left behind (show Owen stealing a sandwich top from Brandon as Brandon gets up from the table and leaves his sandwich unattended).”

N: “Owen’s brother, Mimi’s son Brandon, has made it his mission to bring Owen’s left hind leg back to life, with some physical therapy, in the form of doggie paddling in the backyard pool. Every day this week, Brandon works with Owen to make sure he gives that leg a good workout. We don’t think Owen likes it very much, and despite coming from a waterdog breed, he resembles more of a buoy with legs, rather than a duck hunting canine, but he is making progress every day, and getting rewarded with biscuits for his efforts.” (show Owen shaking his ample belly after getting wet when he comes out of the pool … with water going through the fence and hitting Andre in the process, all as Andre continues to bark at the scene).

N: “And if Andre happens to get wet, so be it …. Or will there be a day or night of reckoning?”.


Scene 2

N: “Everyone gets carried away with Greta Ginger. And how can you not be. She is always there to greet you, morning, noon, and night.” (show Luisa carrying Greta in her arms like a baby, talking baby talk) (show Amare holding her by her front paws, proposing marriage).

N: “So it wasn’t surprising when Amare, Gus’ best friend, made Greta his wife that Summer day. He had talked about it before, but never followed through. Now he made it official, with Popi doing the honors.” (show Popi saying- “I now pronounce you “Boy and Dog… Greta you may lick Amare) (show Greta licking Amare).

N: “But was there something more here? We also know that Gus is Amare’s best friend, and we know that Gus had previously tied the knot with Greta’s bunk mate Owen {show Gus and Owen). Was this just a case of Amare letting Greta get her licks in, so she (and he) would be left out”

N: “Whatever the reasons, both dogs loved the attention …. on the kitchen floor, on the couch …. And particularly under the dinner table.” (show Gus shoveling food to Owen, while Gus’ mom, and Greta’s mom are not looking).

Brandon: “Gus, I’ve heard of love at first bite, but this is ridiculous. If this keeps up, Owen will not be able to get through the doggie door. I guess it’s true that you love to watch the ones you love eat. Just like my grandma throwing chocolate cake and hamburgers at me when I walked through the door.”


Scene 3

Show the sun shining in through the glass of the main floor of Mimi’s Heaven. Owen is lying on the floor near the fridge, in the cool part of the room. Couldn’t be more comfortable. Greta is sitting in Louisa’s lap, as she plays cards with Ben. Mimi is on the phone. Meanwhile looking in on the tranquil scene … from outside on the porch … stare the sad faces of Andre and Mikey, the bulldogs.

N: “Poor Andre and Mikey. They look so sad. So disconnected. Banished forever from the warmth of Mimi’s heaven. All because they
are so intimidating, so scary (Brandon, Mimi’s son, calls them the “Scarsdale Scaries”), and of course they have no place inside, after the scene a few months earlier, when Andre barged in unnoticed, ate from Owen’s bowl, and then proceeded to nip Greta on the leg and take Owen down for the count (show scene from past fracas). After that misstep, both Andre and his sidekick Mickey, family dogs for Mimi’s grandchildren (the Thompsons) were forever barred from the house.

N: “But the specter of their presence, lurking in the shadows of the huge background of the back yard, cannot be ignored.” Show everyone inside at night, eating and laughing. Then we hear the wild howling of Mikey and Andre, barking at the moon. It comes and goes and goes in fits and spurts, and when they hear it, Owen and Greta look scared and then start barking, a fearful barking at that. And there is the scratching and digging sound as well. Mimi remarks that she thinks Andre is doing this, but the Thompson kids dismiss it, saying she blames Andre from everything. And there is growing speculation that Little Mickey has in fact figured out how to evade Popi’s barricade and make his way into the house through the doggie door. No proof yet, but speculation.

N: “And where is that whiffle ball? The one nobody could find after Solly’s foul ball disappeared over the fence and into the bushes in the backyard …. where Andre was getting relief from the sun. Noonie (Mimi’s daughter and Andre’s mommy wonders whether Andre’s recent upset stomach is due to his ingestion of this ball, which no one can find, or perhaps has resulted from Andre’s overindulgence of his huge appetite for roast beef, or god forbid, new fertilizer that has been laid in the yard the day before.”

Cut to scene in the backyard, with Popi explaining to Ben that there is nothing to worry about” “the backyard enclosure is totally secure. He points to the barricade and the wire fence that keeps the bullies from being able to exit the enclosure and get in to the house through the housedogs’ doggie door. “Ben, don’t worry, it’s totally secure!”.

N: “Whatever the truth is, things come to a head one night when it is raining hard …. we’d like to say raining cats and dogs.” Popi says to Mimi- “The dogs need to go out. He leads Owen and Greta downstairs to their room, where we see them exit out the doggie
door to go to the bathroom.

N: “The kids are huddled around the TV, watching a scary movie “Jaws”, when there is heard a loud clatter of thunder, and a horrible
screech coming from the doggie room down stairs.” Show Greta sprinting up the stairs, all wet and slipping frantically to get a grip on
the family room floor as she scrambles to make a beeline for Mimi’s bedroom and proceeds to disappear under the bed. This is immediately followed by Owen, who somehow seems to regained the use of his left hind leg, as he rockets in the same direction (with his tail sticking straight up in the air), and similarly disappears under the bed as well.

With the shark approach music of Jaws in the background, the children stare in disbelief as the lights in the house go out from the storm, and then there is a bolt of lightning, showing a dripping wet, muddy image of Andre, who has somehow made his way through the doggie door and is standing at the top of the stairs, all dripping with water and face completely black with mud, but holding a punctured white whiffle ball in his mouth …. And his sidekick Mickey, standing next to him, panting and smiling. Play the song Wanderers by Dion.

N: “At least we know now, where the whiffle ball is, and we can see that Owen’s leg is in working order. Thank you, backyard bullies.”

Camera moves back down the stairs, as Popi takes Andre and Mike back outside. Focus in showing Mikey’s backside, which looks like Mikey’s wearing blue jeans. Play Neil Diamond’s “Forever in Blue jeans”.

ChabDog sits down for an interview with David Thompson from the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team — Euroleague champions for 2014

Earlier this year, Maccabi won the Euroleague Championship in an exciting upset over the Moscow Euroleague team.

Q:  David, thanks for agreeing to talk to ChabDog about the latest developments in Euroleague Basketball, and your Maccabi team.  First, let’s talk a bit about Euroleague, in comparison with NBA … are there any fundamental differences between the two that ChabDog readers should be aware of (e.g. are the games the same length, same number of fouls, does the style of play differ, any other key differences in terms of what the game looks like?)

A: The biggest differences in my mind are:

(a) Euroleague emphasizes more of a team game vs. individual talents.  You rarely see an “isolation” based offense (think Knicks with Carmelo) like you see sometimes in the NBA.  If people think of how the Spurs tend to play, that’s probably a good image of Euroleague; and

(b) the Euroleague season is much shorter, and games are only 40 minutes.  This leads to more upsets, and also more intense games – as teams are only playing 1-2x per week … so each game “counts” that much more.

The feel of the Euroleague games tends to be a bit more akin to international soccer than US pro sports.  Many of the teams have a national following, so you get a lot of the chants, etc. that you’ll see in international soccer.  Maccabi Tel Aviv (Maccabi for short) in particular has the most loyal fan base I have ever seen – bar none – of any team in my life.  We play our home games at Nokia arena in Tel Aviv, and the fans there are intense.  There are a lot of stories of big games played in Nokia where the fans carried the team to victory.  One needs to attend a game there to get a feel for it.

Another very cool feature of the Euroleague that leads to this intensity is how the season is structured.  24 teams are in the top division.  The season starts with the teams divided (fairly randomly) into 4 groups of 6.  You play each team in your group twice (10 games total).  And then the top 4 teams from each division (16 teams total) advance to the second round (so one can see already that the first 10 games of the regular season carry a huge significance – if you don’t come out of the gate strong, you are eliminated).  Then the 16 remaining teams are put into 2 groups of 8.  You play each team in your group twice (14 games total), and the top 4 teams in each group advance to the quarter-finals.  The quarterfinals are a best of 5 (2-2-1) format similar to US playoffs.  But then the Final 4 gets interesting.  The 4 teams go to a pre-determined site (last year was Milan,) and they play single elimination tournament over the weekend just like the NCAAs.  This format, combined with a 40 minute game, means that games are fast, intense, and hugely upset prone.  There is a very physical style of play.

Back to Maccabi fan base for a moment: in the Final 4 this year, one might expect each of the teams to bring an equal fan contingent.  There were 2 teams from Spain, one from Moscow, and Maccabi Tel Aviv.  Maccabi fans dominated.  For example, before the final, the crowd was packed 85% yellow (Maccabi Tel Aviv colors) 90 minutes before tipoff, and the crowd chanted and shook the stadium pretty much non-stop until the final whistle 3 1/2 hours later.  It’s hard to explain the intensity unless you were there to see and hear it in person.

Q: How would you compare Euroleague with the NBA, in terms of the quality of play and player talent level?  Is it similar to major league baseball vs. say the Japanese league or is more like an AAA minor league team?  And how do Euroleague payrolls typically compare with the NBA (e.g. are we talking something like a factor of 10X difference?).

A: In terms of talent, if we think of rating NCAA college basketball as a 50, and NBA as 100, one should think of the Euroleague as somewhere in the range of 85-90.  Most Euroleague starters are guys who could at least hold their own at the end of an NBA bench.  Often they have one weakness that keeps them from being an NBA contributor.  But there are many Euroleague players that could contribute in the NBA.  Over history, when Euroleague teams play NBA teams, the NBA wins 70-80% of the time, so that gives one a sense of the talent gap.

Money / salaries of course play a large role.  As a general rule, NBA salaries are probably 7-10 times higher than Euroleague.  But the top Euroleague players can make money analogous to what they’d make in the NBA (particularly on an after tax basis).  A big difference appears at the end of the bench.  The 10th-12th man on the Euroleague team might be making, say, $150,000, whereas the last guys on an NBA team are often still making 7 figures.

Q: It looks like the Euroleague teams are from all over Europe (including of course Israel).  Does this present any special challenges, such as language issues, cultural differences (particularly for new players on Maccabi who do not speak Israeli)?  When Maccabi is on the road, are any venues/cities more difficult for a team that is from Israel and/or with Jewish/Israeli players?  In particular, how have places with large Muslim populations reacted to visits from your team, and vice versa when Maccabi hosts teams from Turkey and other Muslim areas?

A: There are instances of anti-Semitism that crop up around Maccabi.  Recent comments out of Spain after our semi-final win this year got some publicity in US papers (the New York Times covered it), but like any racism, it’s generally spouted by idiots, and I’d rather not give it much oxygen by speaking about it here.  But it does play a role in how certain things need to be done/how we conduct our basketball operations.

Q: When you are looking at bringing in new players, is there any special consideration to finding Israelis and Jewish players that might be able to assimilate better in the local culture, or are you pretty much focused on just getting the best players possible, wherever they come from?  And perhaps you could tell us a bit more about the scouting process and where Maccabi typically goes to look for new players?

A:  In terms of addressing that question, one point to appreciate is that most Euroleague teams are simultaneously playing in their domestic/home country league as well as in the Euroleague.  Maccabi plays in the domestic Israeli league; this year, we won the playoffs for this league in a ridiculously close, intense and convoluted home and away series that is much too complicated to describe here.

Since many domestic leagues have rules about needing to have a certain number of domestic players, this greatly impacts how each Euroleague teams builds its roster.  By way of example, Israeli Euroleague teams need to have at least 2 Israeli citizens on the court at all times when playing in the domestic league.  Note — there are no such restrictions for Euroleague games, where teams could play all Americans if they so desire.  So when building a 12 man roster that simultaneously needs to compete in the Euroleague and the domestic Israeli league, one needs to pay attention to more of a matrix of considerations than perhaps US pro teams do.

In addition, many of the top (non-US) players also play for their national teams (think Olympics, World Championships, etc).  This is a great honor so very few players turn down this chance.  But it means that some players are playing competitively at a top level virtually year round.

Euroleague teams (particularly low budget teams like Maccabi) tend to see a high degree of correlation between on court success one year and roster turn over the next year.  This year, for example, we lost the final four MVP (a great player and wonderful young man named Tyrese Rice), in addition to our coach David Blatt (who now coaches the Cleveland Cavaliers after a wonderful European coaching career).

What this means is that we need to constantly be turning over our roster and searching for new talent all over the world.  Our scouting department does a terrific job looking under every rock/leaving no stone unturned.

Q:  As previously noted on ChabDog, your team had the amazing experience of recently winning the 2014 Euroleague Championship in an upset victory over the Moscow team.  Has this had an immediate impact on the popularity of your team, and more generally, basketball in Israel and within Europe?  Are you making any significant changes to the team for next season or is your attitude more, let’s not deviate from what we know works?  Also, did this kind of phenomenal success shock you, or was winning it all something you saw as a realistic possibility when the season started.

A:  In terms of Maccabi winning last year, it was perhaps a bit of a surprise.  We perennially have one of the lower payrolls amongst the top Euroleague teams (there are complicated reasons for this), but we also have a long and storied history going back over 50 years.  I would urge any basketball fan (particularly if one is interested in the history of Jewish sports) to learn/read about Tal Brody (a top NBA draft pick from Illinois who was asked – and agreed – to forego a lucrative NBA career to play for Maccabi).  Tal led Maccabi to their first European championship and then gave a famous quote in Hebrew to the effect of “We just put Israel on the map.  And I’m not talking about sports.”   40+ years later, I’m happy to say Tal is still actively involved with Maccabi.

Q:  Let’s talk a bit about the upcoming exhibition games with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Brooklyn Nets this October.  Perhaps you can tell our readers a little more about how the idea for the games came about … e.g. particularly with regard to the exhibition with Cleveland, and Maccabi’s prior relationship with the new Cavs’ coach, David Blatt (who was previously coach of Maccabi).

A:  Maccabi is playing the Cavaliers on October 5 and the Nets on October 7.  Both these games were scheduled a while ago.  (It is pure coincidence that we are playing the Cavaliers with David Blatt now coaching LeBron and Co. after leading us to last year’s championship … but everybody asks me about that).  Maccabi has played exhibitions against NBA teams many times in the past, and it is nice to re-establish this tradition this year.  We have also considered doing something similar in China, as there is a growing basketball fan base there looking for top quality play.  But one needs to remember that the players pay quite a toll physically and emotionally every time we add exhibitions to an already heavy schedule.  The bottom line is that many of these guys spend almost an entire calendar year away from their families.

Q:  Lastly, do you see a logical time frame for formal NBA expansion into Europe?  Will it likely be done with 1-2 teams joining (like the Canada experience) or will we see blocks of 5-7 teams coming in all at once (like the ABA)…. and what do you think the implications of this type of expansion will be for the future of Euroleague?

A:  Looking at this issue from a long term perspective, it seems to me quite likely that the NBA (and for that matter the NFL) will eventually look to expand into Europe.  There are many logistical concerns, and I have not heard Commissioner Silver speak about this issue specifically, but with the strength of the European fan base, and the talent now consistently being produced in Europe (think about the Spurs for example and their various contributors from Europe), it seems like a very logical long term goal for the NBA.  The argument for this type of expansion seems all the more compelling when one takes into account the fact that there are some smaller market NBA cities/teams that are struggling to compete year after year (I’ll refrain from naming specifics).

Go Maccabi!

David — Thanks for much for your time, and good luck to Maccabi for the upcoming year and for your games against the Cavs and the Nets.

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