Bread City Basketball


I. American troops play basketball in Saddam Hussein’s occupied Birthday Palace. Tikrit, Iraq, 2004.

Iraq Saddam's Palace Tikrit Basketball
original photo by Paolo Woods

II. The 1948 Summer Games in London was the first and only time that Iraq fielded an Olympic basketball team. They sustained five of the tournament’s worst defeats. Iraq lost to China, Korea, the Philippines, and Chile by an average of 86 points per game. The United States won gold.

Iraqi Olympic Basketball Team

III. “The next week, back in Baghdad, I had a whiskey one evening with the Time bureau manager and a pair of reporters and told them about the killings at the basketball game… The bureau manager lit another cigarette as we sat in silence for a moment. ‘And especially, basketball being a pro-Western sport was nonsense,’ he said. ‘Iraqis have been playing basketball for fifty years, since long before all this. They love it.'”
– From The End of Major Combat Operations, by Nick McDonnell

Richard Mosse's Iraq
photo by Richard Mosse


Woody Allen on Earl Monroe

“What makes Monroe different is the indescribable heat of genius that burns deep inside him. Some kind of diabolical intensity comes across his face when he has the ball. One is suddenly transported to a more primitive place…It’s amazing, because the audience’s “high” originates inside Monroe and seems to emerge over his exterior.
– Woody Allen, Sport Magazine, Nov. 1977.

Allen is sent by the once-great Sport to interview Earl Monroe for a cover story. But Pearl never shows and Allen is left to make small talk with “Earl’s lady.” A true fan, Woody swallows the snub and writes a great profile of the arthritic Knicks captain anyway, full of signature wit and basketball wisdom.

I read a transcript of the article once before, but never saw the original scans until yesterday, thanks to the excellent Oakley & Allen. True holy grail status! Check it out.

Earl Monroe photographed by Jim Cummins


All the carny game barkers have headset microphones; some are saying “Testing” and reciting their pitch lines in tentative warm-up ways. A lot of the pitches seem frankly sexual: You got to get it up to get it in. Take it out and lay ‘er down, only a dollar. Make it stand up. Two dollars, five chances. Make it stand up. Rows of stuffed animals hang by their feet in the booths like game put out to cure. It smells like machine grease and hair tonic down here…
David Foster Wallace, Harpers Magazine, 09/94

David Foster Wallace's essay on the Illinois State Fair
photo by Sam Quinn


The Norman Einsteins is a new monthly online sports magazine that launched yesterday, and looks like it could be the start of something awesome. It also features an article I wrote about the Orlando Magic, Lebron James, and French Renaissance painting. Act like you know.


You couldn’t talk to a player until he was finished getting dressed. That was one of the locker room’s unspoken rules. So for fifteen minutes after every game, the crowd of writers just milled around, pretending not to watch Stephon Marbury moisturize, waiting like vultures for the moment when we could swoop in for pull quotes. First interview dibs usually went to TV, then local beat journalists on deadline, then everyone else. As the youngest and most inexperienced writer there, I got the scraps. If I was lucky…

It’s 2007. I’m angling for a good spot by David Lee’s locker when I hear an unmistakable baritone voice. I turn around, and who struts into the room? None other than the great Walt Frazier.

Yes, Clyde the Glide himself, the smoothest cat to ever don a Knicks uniform, microphone in hand and remote broadcast crew in tow. He is rocking an incandescent blue suit with a yellow tie like it’s easy, and I can’t help but stare. I’m half star struck, half simply blinded by fashion. As he passes, he smiles like we’re friends from back in the day and says, what’s happenin’ man?

Then Cylde walks right up to David Lee, who is still only half dressed. He turns to the camera, and begins the interview. The unwritten rules don’t apply to the cool.

Walt Cylde Frazier: Most Stylish Knick

February 11, 2008, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Bread City, Football, Journalism | Tags: ,

I used to have a football blog, but I gave up on it after last season. It’s just been sitting there, catching crazy page hits and comments on two-year-old gambling picks, so I decided today to shut it down. But there is one thing I had to salvage, an interview with the guy who claims to have invented the D-FENCE sign. This was originally published in September, 2006.

sea-fence sign

Click Here For The Interview

October 18, 2007, 11:23 am
Filed under: Basketball, Bread City, Journalism | Tags: ,

I was working for a little while as an assistant editor at a small basketball magazine. The magazine got a lot of crazy mail, mostly from people in prison, for some reason. When a letter was especially whacked, it would filter down throughout the office, and then I would take it and put in a special folder in my desk. When I left my job, the folder came with me. This is my favorite. Shown here is just one of four pages.

crazy letter