Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thinking positive! For our varsity teams.

When I was living in New Jersey, I would often walk down the road from where I lived in Glen Mawr Drive in Ewing, NJ to buy the New York Times, the NY Post, and the New Jersey Star Ledger. The walk down the road was like from the AHS all the way to Blue Eagle Gym. And you can imagine what a horrible walk it was during winter. All for newspapers. Hahahaha! Even when I came home, I'd read the online versions. If I was abroad I'd purchase the NY Times. Last Sunday night, I was bummed out after the losses by the football teams and I did some reading. After I saw this, I forwarded it to the respective teams. I think it makes an interesting point about leadership and sports.

Vince Carter's upbeat attitude keeps New Jersey Nets thinking positive

by Dave D'Alessandro/The Star-Ledger
Saturday January 24, 2009, 8:49 PM

Bill Kostroun/Associated PressVince Carter's natural ebullience affects everyone in the Nets' locker room.
MEMPHIS -- The vibe is often more telling than the result, so as they packed up and evacuated San Antonio Friday night, the Nets didn't exactly resemble a team that had lost for the fifth straight time.
The mood was strange -- not buoyant or upbeat, exactly. But not downcast, either.

Lawrence Frank detected it on the 90-minute plane ride: "There was some disappointment, yet it wasn't morgue-like," he said. "We knew we gave a hell of an effort, and that we lost by one play."
One play, against a championship-caliber team.
But that's not all of it.

Yes, the Nets were relieved to discover that Devin Harris was back in good form, scoring 27 points against Spurs. They were inspired by Vince Carter's performance. And they appreciated that Brook Lopez experienced an essential rite of passage, even holding his own for long stretches against Tim Duncan.

But that's not all of it, either.

"Our guys are upbeat kind of people, for the most part, particularly our better players," team president Rod Thorn observed. "I got the feeling that they were like, 'Hey, we're ready to turn this around.' And that goes back to your leadership."

As in locker room leadership.

And the personality of the fellow who occupies the captaincy.

All you have to do is compare that with last season, when this was -- to use Richard Jefferson's famous phrase -- a "dead team walking" by late December.

"Oh, Jason was in a major funk," Thorn recalled, referring to Jason Kidd. "Our best player and leader was in a funk for reasons other than basketball most of the time. And it was hard for that not to carry over to other people.

"Your leader's attitude is very important. And I don't care what happens, Vince is an upbeat kind of guy. That's just his personality. Maybe inside the losses get to him, but publicly, he's very upbeat, and that's a major part of the team's attitude."

Indeed, in the postgame locker room at San Antonio, Carter was the most positive guy in the building, and his confidence showed throughout the game. It made a difference, his teammates say.

"Obviously between the three veterans -- I mean Vince, Devin and Keyon, who's the most vocal of all -- if they don't lose faith, there's no reason for us to," center Josh Boone said.

"We've experienced it before, when our top guys have kind of lost it and things went south. With this team, it's completely different. It's like night and day."

The obvious reason being, he admits, is that Carter's natural ebullience reaches every corner of the locker room.

As Frank put it, "Your best player sets the tone to how you react to virtually everything -- both good and bad."

"One thing that was extremely important to all of us -- from ownership on down -- was to get really good character guys," GM Kiki Vandeweghe said. "And it's times like these when character comes across. Look, when you're winning it's easy. And even though we're losing, we're proud of these guys. Their holding their heads up, encouraging each other."

There's no way of knowing whether they can maintain their optimism. But it doesn't normally happen for teams that are 8-16 over seven weeks, either.

The difference is that all it takes -- with this group, anyway -- is just one positive development to hold onto against the tide. That's why the Nets arrived here with a renewed sense of optimism, even though the Grizzlies were even more desperate for a victory than they were.

"Keep in mind, Vince and Devin had good games (at San Antonio), so everyone feels better, and the effort and energy go up," Eduardo Najera explained. "That's just the way it is. We've struggled the last couple weeks, and we've played really good teams. But (the Spurs game) was much better.

"It should give us confidence going into Memphis. If we play the same way, we should win. That's what you have to do -- take the best things out of this game and use it in the next one."

"We've had moments we're not proud of, but in terms of an everyday approach, our guys work," Frank said. "That's the character of this group. We fall off a little bit sometimes. But by and large, this group has been very consistent. And we knew in order to have a chance this year we'd need a unity. We have that.

"It's not that we don't have enough talent, but we can't rely on talent alone. We've gotten great leadership from Vince, and we have solid veterans who have seen both sides -- winning and losing -- and don't want to be part of the latter. And the young guys may not really know, but they're looking for positive role models, and they have that here."

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