Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jeff Selis here with my main man, Spike Lee

I shook hands with Spike Lee the other day. It wasn't the first time, but Spike wouldn't know that. He's Spike Lee. I'm merely Jeff Selis.

He was visiting the offices of Wieden +Kennedy at the ivitation of Bill Davenport and Jim Riswold. Bill and Jim have a long, legendary relationship with Spike. The three of them, along with some cat named Michael Jordan revolutionized advertising. As Spike pointed out, it was the first time corporate America had the guts to present a black man as the face of their company. Spike praised Bill and Jim, Dan Wieden and David Kennedy, and Phil Knight as the visionaries willing to just do it. It was a nice moment for everyone. Bill and Jim sitting in the atrium next to Spike. Dan and David next to each other in a front row seat. The rest of the agency enveloped around them. It was a reminder of our roots. A reminder of why we are all there in the first place. A reminder, personally, of why I dreamt of one day working with such an unordinary, extraordinary group.

Bill and Jim retold the story of how they came to discover Spike in the first place. Without retelling it here, it's one of those tales that makes you realize how random life really is, yet how wonderfully opportunistic it can be if your mind is open and at the ready. The marriage of Bill and Jim to Spike was basically a happy accident. But what they accomplished together was no accident at all.

After the retelling of their collective story, Spike took a few questions. One question focused on the difference between sports of today versus sports of years past, and if Spike thought that sports were as great now as they seemed to be then...in this case, all the way back in the 90s! Spike's answer was thoughtful, as all of his answers were. With regards to sports of today, he believed that sports exhibit what they always have, a winner and a loser, oftentimes with classic match ups and sometimes with surprising outcomes. He cited the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl as an example of what sports can mean to a community. He mentioned the dramatic NCAA basketball final, and how even though he hates Duke, it was an amazing game to witness.

Then he went on a tangent. He wanted to make a point of why sports are better than art.

"Sports," he declared, "has a true winner. Art, doesn't."

And then you quickly realized where Spike was going, and how his heart is somewhat wounded.

"In 1989," he said, "Driving Miss Daisy won the Oscar...Driving Miss Daisy."

A long, dramatic pause was followed by nervous giggles from all of us. He didn't mention that his groundbreaking film Do The Right Thing wasn't even nominated.

He continued.

"In 1992, Al Pacino won the Oscar for Scent Of A Woman."

Another pause.

"Scent Of A Woman," he exclaimed.

More nervous giggles.

He went on to mention how the academy overlooked Pacino for Godfather 1 and 2, and for roles like Serpico only to later make up for it and give it to him for Scent Of A Woman, which, much to Spike's chagrin, happened to be the same year Denzel Washington was up for his role in Malcolm X.

Another pause, maybe a little more awkward.

"Then..." he continued, "Denzel later wins an Oscar for Training Day."

He had us in his hands now. It was inspiring, to be honest.

"He didn't win it for Malcolm X, but they gave it to him for TRAINING DAY!"

We all let out a big laugh.

"And in 1980, Ordinary People...ORDINARY PEOPLE won the Oscar over Raging Bull. And the academy chose Robert Redford as best director over Martin Scorcese. MARTIN SCORCESE!"

That last point was interesting to me. I didn't see the relation it had to Spike and his work, other than it must be some consolation for him to be in the company of the maestro Martin Scorcese.

But his point was taken. It was a popularity contest. I couldn't help but feel for him. Here he was, one of America's most respected voices, but you could tell he felt somehow slighted in a way that his New York Yankees or his New York Knickerbockers never could.

Upon learning that he would be attending the Blazers playoff game that evening, I asked him if he'd be rooting for the home team.

"I just want to see a good ballgame," he replied.

Unfortunately, the Blazers never showed up. But irony of ironies, look who did...

TIMOTHY HUTTON - star of Ordinary People! What a funny, funny world.

*Disclaimer: Spike's quotes are based on memory from the day. They may not be word for word accurate, but the truth lies within. You gotta believe me. Please baby, please baby, please.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cancer Sucks And So Do I

Well, I made a New Years Resolution that this would be the year that I overcame my delusional belief that I control the destiny of my favorite sports teams and athletes. It was my hope to bring the joy that watching sports gives me back into my life. So far, 3.5 months in, it just ain't working.

I accepted an invitation to the Blazer game last night, half figuring they'd already made the playoffs and a loss wouldn't affect them one way or the other, and half figuring it was time we turned the jinx tide. It was a good game, full of intensity and desire on both sides. It looked like the Blazers would pull it out, but then about midway through the final quarter I kinda got that jinxy feeling throughout my body and suddenly I just knew that the crazy-talented rookie Stephen Curry and his Warriors were going to pull it out. Sure enough, they did. It was still a joy to be there and it was easy not to take the loss too hard, especially seeing the smiling faces of the Blazer players as they handed out their jerseys for fan appreciation night, but I decided right then and there that I would be looking away come this first playoff series against the Phoenix Suns.

Screw my resolution.

Furthermore, I got an up-close peek at Blazers owner Paul Allen and he didn't look so hot. That's him in the picture up above. Cancer has obviously taken a toll. This is a crazy thing to say out loud, but wouldn't it be great if the entire world was as non-discrimate as cancer? Here he is, one of the very richest men in the world, but all the money in the world can't keep that damn cancer at bay.

Anyway, I'm going to assume that Mr. Allen is going to kick ol cancer's butt, but I'm going to do the guy a favor anyway and stay the hell away from his team so that they may optimize their chances of advancing in these playoffs for him.

Speaking of things money can't stave off, ol' Tiger Woods ain't immune to the wrath of the world OR me, either.

I tried watching him at The Masters figuring my delusional jinx was a thing of the past, but then he went and bogeyed 3 of the first 6 holes before I turned it off and went for a walk. And what did he do when I looked away? He simply holed out an eagle and went birdie-birdie before I returned to cool him off again. Maybe Tiger had it comin' though. Maybe the karma of the world was just too much. Let's figure it was and I had nothin' to do with it. Still, I figure I'm gonna have to avoid watching the British Open if I'm indeed to pull for him to win.

But maybe I just shouldn't give a crap. Maybe I just shouldn't have any favorite team or athletes. Maybe I should just watch to watch. Not to root. But is that even possible?

I'll think about it. And in the meantime, I'll send Mr. Allen my positive thoughts for a full-recovery, hoping my jinx doesn't apply to matters of health and well-being, morbid as that sounds.

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009: Golf's Greatest Year

2009 will go down in history as the game of golf's greatest year, no doubt about it.

The year began with typical early season wins by Phil Mickelson, but the real foreshadowing began when veteran Kenny Perry held off a number of up-and-comers to win the FBR Open at TPC Scottsdale.

Tiger Woods, of course, rounded his game into shape by winning his annual warm up tournament to the Masters - the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The oddsmakers liked Woods or Mickelson for the first major of the year, but an electric Sunday charge by the dream pairing came up just short when Kenny Perry made a routine par at the 18th, becoming the oldest player to ever win The Masters, as well as the oldest to win any of the game's four major championships.

Asked the key to victory, the 48-year-old green jacket wearing Perry beamed, "I really think it was when I put the driver back in my bag on 18 and went with my trusty 3-wood off the tee."

His ball landed in the middle of the fairway, comfortably short of the infamous bunker that might have prevented Perry from joining the illustrious group of former champions. Instead, he pured a 6-iron to the middle of the green for an easy two-putt and an historic victory.

The year's worst news came shortly thereafter when it was announced that Mickelson's popular wife, Amy, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Mickelson, however, expressed optimism about his wife's cancer, saying that doctors believed they had diagnosed the condition early. "We have a wonderful team of doctors helping us and it is believed that we caught this early," the 38-year-old said. "We are anxiously waiting for a number of test results that will help guide us in the best possible direction."

With this encouraging news, Mickelson announced to fans that he would indeed be in the field for the U.S. Open at Bethpage, New York.

Fighting swelling emotions and galleries, Mickelson managed to hold it together for his first two rounds, comfortably making the cut. Tiger Woods, having once again won his warm up tournament to the US Open, opened with a disappointing 74 before bouncing back with a 2nd round 69. But both golfers found themselves well back of the leaders after Saturday's third round.

With Woods out of the picture, Mickelson looked to be going nowhere before he birdied the 9th hole on Sunday. Still, he began the final nine holes four strokes behind surprise leader, Lucas Glover.

After a birdie at 12 and an eagle at 13, suddenly Lefty had a share of the lead and destiny in his bag.

At 15, he dropped in a slippery downhill 3-footer as thousands of fans let out a collective sigh of relief.

After a poor chip to 8-feet on 17, Mickelson rammed the back of the cup with his putt and it dropped in for par.

On 18, Mickelson was figuring on two putts from 30 feet, but as fate would have it, the putt never left its perfect line and it disappeared into the hole one more time as the crowd went wild.

Some twenty minutes later, standing over his 3-foot putt for par on 18, Glover knew he'd done nothing to lose the tournament.

"I just looked at the scoreboard to make sure this was really happening," Glover said.

He sunk the putt to finish one back of Mickelson, tied for 2nd with David Duval, whose 5-foot putt on the 17th went 360 degrees around the cup before dropping in, giving him one last chance to catch Mickelson.

But this was Mickelson's day, and there was nothing anyone else could do about it.

Basking in the afterglow of his first US Open Championship, Mickelson announced, "The best news so far is that the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, which improves our chances of beating this in the short and long term."

As if the golf year could get any more remarkable, The Open Championship was returning to the site of the epic 1977 battle between a young Tom Watson, and the golden bear he brought down, Jack Nicklaus. Turnberry held a special place in Watson's heart and he had a feeling a special week was in store.

Of course, 32 years having passed, everyone knew this was more a walk down memory lane than any real threat to the likes of Tiger Woods, who once again won his warm up tournament at the AT+T three weeks prior.

But golf is a funny game, and the gods couldn't have been surprised when Watson opened with the low round of 65, and Woods went 71-74 to miss the cut by a stroke.

Everyone must have been surprised, however, when Watson stood in the middle of the 18th fairway with a one stroke lead and an 8-iron in his hand. Standing over his ball for one final approach, Watson paused. As if the divine had intervened, he stepped away from his ball and asked his caddy for his 9-iron.

Watson readdressed and flushed it. The ball landed gently in front of the green and bounded toward the flag, stopping 10-feet short of the hole. The crowd roared as the 59-year-old holder of five Open Championships took the mystical walk toward his 6th. Two putts later he was handed the Claret Jug and the mantle of oldest man to ever win a major, knocking off 48-year-old Kenny Perry, who held the record for three months and a week!

Afterwards, Watson quipped, "Makes for a heck of a story, huh?"

Elementary, Watson. Soon after, a poll among sportswriters found it to be the greatest story in the history of sports.

As the year wound down to its final major, the one glaring omission from the previous three was Tiger Woods. Once again, Mr. Woods won his final warm up leading to the championship, thus giving him a Grand Slam of warm up tournaments - later coined "The Warm-Up Slam" - which is no small feat.

Woods came out firing on all cylinders this time, playing well for three rounds and taking a two stroke lead over Y.E. Yang into the final day. Woods, as it had widely been mentioned, had never lost a major tournament he'd led after 54-holes.

And this day would be no different. Yang gave it a noble effort, but Woods had an answer for every charge.

"I played well enough to win the championship," Woods said, adding "It feels good to get my 15th major out of the way, and I'm really looking forward to taking it to Kenny, Phil and Tom in Bermuda later this year."

Woods was referring to the year end match between major winners, but first he'd need to take care of some business at the President's Cup.

The President's Cup turned into a rout for the Americans, due in no small part to the play of Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink - the gracious runners-up in the U.S Open and The Open Championship. Paired together the entire week, they never lost a match. After clinching their singles matches on Sunday, they had a combined record of 10-0.

Tiger Woods would have joined in the perfection had it not been for the revenge Y.E. Yang took on him in a meaningless Sunday match, leaving Woods 4-1 for the week.

Woods did indeed go on to edge "Kenny, Phil and Tom" in Bermuda, but the biggest news of the year came shortly after a quiet Thanksgiving when Woods stated on his website that he would be taking an indefinite leave from golf. Having just been awarded with both the 2009 Player of the Year Award, as well as the Athlete Of The Decade, Woods surprised the golf world by declaring his intention to run for governor of Florida and California.

"I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding. After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf," Woods wrote on his website.

It was a shock to everyone in golf, but one man it would have been no surprise to was his father. It was Earl Woods, after all, who infamously stated back in 1996 before Woods had won even one professional event, "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity."

Golf's loss will obviously be the world's gain.

2010 could have never lived up to 2009 anyway.'


Monday, November 30, 2009

The World We STILL Live In...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hang In There, Paul

With news of Paul Allen's latest cancer fight, I have decided to back off my quest for a contract to NOT watch the Blazers. That said, I am 6 - 1 in my last seven games when I either watch or don't watch them. Meaning, when I watch, they lose, when I don't they have much better luck. My one loss was the fifth game of their road trip in which they lost in overtime to the Atlanta Hawks. I stayed away from all five games of the road trip, but in the last one, they couldn't pull it off. (I've never claimed that they win every game I avoid. I only claim that they tend to lose when I watch, especially if it's a game of any type of magnitude. I've never said I could go to a Blazer game and watch the team with the worst record in the league take it to them, although I bet they would certainly give them a fight!)

Anyway, I digress. I'm letting Mr. Allen go. He's got bigger fish to fry. I will do due diligence to help the team in any way I can. I will turn away when it's time to turn away. And I will get my fixes when the opportunity presents - say courtside seats against the lowly Knicks. AND, I thought, maybe I will take this curse to Vegas, lay some big cash down for or against the Blazers, depending on whether I choose to watch the game or not, and then collect my winnings three predictable hours later.

But I digress again. The REAL REASON I am writing today is to further prove a point that I am not normal. That forces conspire for and against me time and time again. This time it is in the form of STREET CLEANING DAY. I contend that on the ONE DAY OF THE YEAR that the city sweeps down my street, some mysterious ASSHOLE will park their car right in front of my house just before the city shows up to do their work. It happens every single year. Seriously, I have the dirtiest parking strip in NE Portland. And my wife will attest because ever since she has been around(three years running) she has been witness.

This year it seems one of the neighbors decided to have a bridge game or a book club because FIVE F'ING CARS all showed up at once and parked under the three biggest, messiest trees on the block. Thankfully, the city made its first pass down my street before the cars arrived and I at least had the luxury of them whisking the pile of leaves from my neighbors tree away from my strip. But the three houses east of me didn't have the luxury, which means eventually the waste will make it's way into my gutter.

Yes, I know, it's not THAT BIG OF DEAL. But christ all mighty, it certainly is predictable. I swear to God, in the last 365 days, I have not once, ever, seen the car that is presently parked in front of my house. WTF?!!!

Who's car are you? Argh!



Friday, November 6, 2009

Dear Paul, I'm Back

Two games. Two losses.

My brothers took me to the Eastbank Saloon the night the Blazers hosted the Nuggets. They convinced me it was time to bust this curse. Actually, to be honest, it was born out of their belief that I don't hold any power over the Blazers fate. Even my own brothers, who have witnessed loss after loss after loss with me watching games, still don't believe me.

So we sat there, ordered some whiskey and beer, and watched. With two or three minutes remaining in a tight game, I offered to leave the premises. They said no and told me to fight through it. A handful of missed free throws later, the Blazers had their first home loss of the season, which came much earlier than last years first home loss, which was the first home game I watched last year, if you'll remember.

Amazingly, my brothers still tried to convince me it wasn't about me. Of course, logically, they make an obvious case. There is absolutely no way for me to prove it is true. I can't prove that if I'd got up with two or three minutes to go and left that Brandon Roy or Greg Oden would have made any of the crucial free throws they missed, but in my heart of hearts, I think they would have.

For good measure, I tuned into the end of the home game against the Atlanta Hawks. Coming off a home loss to the Nuggets, I was pretty certain that victory was inevitable. But no. A late rally fell short. I couldn't help but feel I'd thwarted it.

Out of boredom in my car I tune into the local yokels of sports talk radio. Caller after caller wants to talk about lack of team chemistry and who should be starting and who should be coming off the bench and who's to blame for this and who's to blame for that, but obviously none of them have ever read my blog.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Mother's Day


"Hi, mom."

"It's the bad one. Grade 4 Glioblastoma."

There's absolutely nothing that can prepare you for the words, "Grade
4 Glioblastoma." I can remember exactly where I was when my otherwise healthy 55-year-old mother called to tell me her diagnosis. I was on a job in Los Angeles, but I have no recollection of how I made my way back home to Portland to be with my mom and family. It all just went foggy. I remember crying so hard I couldn't compose myself. Good people comforted me but they had no idea why. They hadn't been in the hospital room a month earlier when the doctors were explaining all the things the shadowy markings on the CAT scan might be. The best hope was simply damage from a stroke. The more realistic possibility was that it wasn't a stroke at all, but that the shadowy mark might be a brain tumor that had caused a seizure. When you're in the room with the doctor you can pretty much sense what he thinks it is. He doesn't have to say anything to tell you. So you hope that if it's a tumor it's the best kind of tumor—the grade 1 variety that buys you the most time and gives you the most hope.

It was just before Christmas when my mom's world went black. She was vacuuming her living room preparing for the weekly Sunday night family dinner. She later journaled: “The next thing I knew I was surrounded by handsome young men—some firefighters and the others from the ambulance company. First they gave me oxygen. Then I answered some questions to their satisfaction before they carried me by grabbing under my arms and knees. Out the front door we went to put me on the stretcher. The rug looked so freshly clean, they said, that they didn’t want to bring the wheeling bed into the house. The scented candle in the dining room must have overshadowed the odor left from the dog pee episode the prior day. They asked if everything in the kitchen was turned off, but everyone missed the candle. Ronnie found it burning later when he stopped by, and, since there was no sign of human life in the place, he blew it out and wondered where we were.”

Doctors gave her the option of a more conclusive biopsy, but she decided she'd rather wait til after the holidays just in case the news would dampen her favorite time of year. So in January I received her call. I guess the room spun around a bit. Or maybe it felt like when you’re on a plane descending through thick cloud cover. There was a sense of weightlessness. Helplessness. Nothingness. That feeling lasted until I found myself stuck three feet from the arrival gate in Portland, as freezing rain had locked everything up. I sat there for what seemed an eternity. All I could think was that as soon as I stepped off the plane, nothing would be the same again.

A few days later I accompanied my mom to the hospital that bared the name where we’d both been born. We sat there and listened to the brain surgeon tell us straight up what we were looking at. I wanted to punch him in the face for his bluntness, but I would later learn to appreciate him for it.

"You've got 3 to 18 months, Pam. We're going to operate immediately to relieve some pressure and buy you as much time as possible. But there won't be any miracles here."

Nor would there be any answers to our questions: How did this happen? Where did this come from? All he could really say was that the brain is very complicated.

Again, she journaled: “I am fully aware that this thing that intruded my brain in November has dramatically numbered my days. I have been in a process of letting go since December. Letting go is not the same as giving up. I am not giving up life. I am working to make each day I have a good one. But I am not trying to lengthen the number of those days. Now is my time. I have come into my own. Don’t let me forget how it feels to be kind, to be thankful, to be wise and to share the wisdom. Let the small miracles come. Let’s use every bit of time to the advantage of those I love.”

At the time of my mother's operation, my wife was three months pregnant and now all I wanted was my mom to be around long enough to hold the baby. Maybe, I thought, she could hand down some of her greatness. He was born in late June. She died three months later, having successfully passed the torch. A small miracle, indeed.

I ran into her surgeon a few months on. I thanked him for his brutal honesty in the room that day. In a strange way, he had given us the gift of life. His timeline made us cherish everyday together. My divorced parents remarried each other. They invited everyone they’d befriended throughout life. It was a party to end all parties. My mom wanted to celebrate everyone and everything while she still could. She tied up all loose ends. She made peace with those it might have been in question with. Everyday became sort of a living wake. Facing death, her goal was to die well, and that she did. But I'll never forget that phone call, and those goddamned words.