Love the way you lie

livestrongI found out about Lance Armstrong being stripped of his Tour De France titles the way I find out about most things nowadays: I opened up Twitter to a bunch of lame jokes and half-baked vitriol. Given the positive effect he’d had on the world, it seemed to me like Armstrong deserved better, perhaps a bit more reverence during his inevitable moment of public disgrace, but why should he be any different than Tiger Woods or anyone else?

Several years ago, when I became convinced the day would come when Armstrong’s empire would eventually be torn down, I bristled at the thought of those who’ve used him as an inspiration during their battles with cancer thinking they’d been worshipping a false idol. I’d long suspected Armstrong hadn’t been on the level about doping; I just preferred if that inconvenient truth never surfaced for the benefit of those who truly needed to believe someone like him truly existed.

Besides, I had my own image of Armstrong to reconcile.

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Yeezy taught me

Temporarily mine

“Are you going to keep them or sell them?” Rob, the manager at House of Hoops on 34th Street, asked me back in June as I purchased my pair of Nike Air Yeezy IIs.

I hadn’t really thought about it. To that point, I’d sold one pair of sneakers ever.

“I’ll tell you what I think you should do,” said Rob, who I’ve bought sneakers from for years. “Unless you really need the money, I think you should keep them. I’m glad this fell into your lap. I know you love sneakers, you’re a good guy, you work hard, you deserve something like this.”

He paused for a second while I considered his logic. He was right – I do love sneakers, and it would be great to own a pair of Yeezys as the centerpiece of my collection. Perhaps I’d hold on to them, wear them for special occasions, a little instant credibility if I’m in an NBA locker room or something.

“But if you do decide to sell them? There are guys waiting outside right now offering $800 in cash. Don’t do that. Let me know instead. I guarantee I can get you $1,500 right now.”

Say what?

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Street dreams

One mic

I’ve always been fascinated how hearing a song can bring you directly back to how things were during a particular time in your life. When Nas performed “One Mic” to finish out his set at the MLB Fan Cave last Wednesday, I was brought back to January 2005: It was 11:30 at night, I had just woken up, and I was listening to Nas in the living room of my new apartment while mentally gearing up to get on the 12:30 a.m. bus from New Jersey to New York City.

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West of sunset


When I was a freshman at Duke, Alex Rodriguez showed up at a basketball game out of nowhere and sat a couple rows in front of me to watch Trajan Langdon, with whom he’d played Minor League ball. A-Rod had already had a couple of really good seasons for the Mariners, though nothing like the Bondsian numbers he’d put up a few years later. That day, he hung out with students, joked around with Dick Vitale and enjoyed the game like the rest of us.

Three years later, A-Rod signed a $250 million contract with the Rangers and steadily became warped by fame and money, destined to become an enormously talented and eccentric caricature of a superstar. Far gone were any vestiges of the kid who jumped up and down when Shane Battier took a charge.

I’ve long been fascinated by the change that takes place when someone reaches levels of fame and wealth that most people only dream about. Does Michael Jordan ever look at pictures of himself inexplicably brandishing an umbrella in his dorm room and become a bit overwhelmed by what he has become? Or is he simply too preoccupied with cursing his imaginary adversaries, getting drunk off expensive liquors, running a terrible basketball team and wearing hideous outfits?

Over the years, Kanye West has crossed over into that rarified air. It’s hard to imagine as recently as 2007, when he went head-to-head in record sales with a seemingly more popular 50 Cent and won, Kanye was actually something of an underdog. Last Friday night, during his solo show at Revel in Atlantic City, I marveled at the superstar Kanye West has become, at the expense of a decent chunk of his previous persona and humanity.

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When nothing else matters

Blue steel

The texts and tweets started rolling in around 8:30 on Friday night, as I stood next to a police officer looking at what was left of my Mustang. According to my phone, my alma mater, Duke, was behind No. 15 seed Lehigh late in their NCAA Tournament game.

I obviously didn’t particularly care very much in that moment. But as I watched my fiancée climb into an ambulance to be examined by EMTs, I couldn’t help wondering why I ever cared that much to begin with.

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Nostalgia, ultra

Hang ten

Right before Christmas, I flew down to North Carolina to visit Duke, something I’d previously done five times since I graduated in 2001. Though a lot remains unchanged in my life since my last trip three years ago – same job, same apartment, same obsessive sneaker collection – I’ve since met my future wife, which qualifies as a very significant positive change.

When we stopped for a snack at the general store adjacent to my freshman year dorm, a couple of wide-eyed freshmen, still shell-shocked from their first final exams, asked me what had changed about Duke in the thousand years since I’d been a student, and it got me to thinking.

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All of the lights

Every day is fireworks

Back on July 4, I stood on a balcony in Union City and watched the fireworks over the Hudson with my friend Sam Reiss. I had gotten engaged to a wonderful girl four days ago, the possibilities seemed endless, and life was good.

Five months later, I’m typing this while lying in bed with my fiancée, resting up before we ring in the New Year on our couch. On our bedroom television, the Real Housewives of Orange County are screeching at each other at decibel levels that could drown out a jet engine.

And I absolutely couldn’t be happier.

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The Afternoon After: Paint it black

As evidenced by my relative lack of activity here, November didn’t turn out to be as placid as I would have liked. I make my living in baseball, and it seems to never really shut down at this point between awards, transactions and the new CBA being announced. In addition, my fiancée has moved into my apartment, so a lot of my time has been spent making sure this place is inhabitable for someone other than me. I’d characterize all of this as the good kind of busy.

Scene of the crimes

After Thanksgiving dinner, my fiancée dozed off at around 10 p.m. while I watched episodes of The Walking Dead – pretty standard.

Amazingly, she still insists she intends to marry me after I woke her up at 11:30 to drag her to Wal-Mart.

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Watch the Throne an inspiration to be more

Game of Thrones

I can’t remember exactly when, but there was a point on Tuesday night while watching Jay-Z and Kanye West perform in Baltimore when I turned to my fiancée and said, “I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as cool as I do right now.” This despite wearing a Mets jacket.

This is what Jay-Z and Kanye elicit with their “luxury rap”: You don’t do the same things they do, you don’t have their money, you can’t really relate to the majority of how they describe their lives.

But you still can’t help but feel cool, and somewhat inspired, by association.

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