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Fitness Videos: Not all about Fitness…

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Fitness videos are as old as videos themselves–although the early videos were less about fitness than, ahem, sex. They showed scantily clad ladies during basic moves, and shot them from provocative angles. Folks watching them may have been sweating and burning calories, but it wasn’t from doing those same moves…just sayin’

Through the years, many artists and filmmakers have built upon that legacy and created sexy videos in the name of fitness. Some succeeded. Some didn’t.

I’m not mad at any of them.

 

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Use Your New You for Others

Being self-centered isn’t a good thing.

But being self-focused can certainly be. Indeed it’s at the heart of what motivates those among us who are passionate about leading fit healthy lives.  It’s why we workout regularly, and why we try to eat well, to get our sleep (Ahem, not so good with that myself).

It’s about taking care of us.

We feel better. We look better. And, God willing, we stave off the maladies that arise when we neglect ourselves–our bodies and minds.

But being self-focused on staying fit also helps us to be better able to focus on others–our loved ones, our families, our friends. Anyone we encounter in our lives.

Being fit is great, but it’s a waste if we just train and sweat to only help ourselves.

Giving is one of the pervasive themes of this time of year–no matter your faith or even your political leanings.

We are all blessed in some way and it is incumbent upon each of us to share those blessings with someone-most often (and best) in small ways.

Share your focus with someone who can use it most.

Challenge yourself!

Who Wins this NBA Season? Everyone! (Hopefully)

Who benefits most from the 66-game, lockout-shortended ’11-12 NBA season?

Everyone.

The Players: Losing 12 games of physical and mental wear-and-team is nothing to scoff at. Sure, “mature” teams like Boston, Los Angeles and even Dallas will have a chance to be spry for the long, arduous playoffs, which should help them a tad more. But this morning, the knees of every player are screaming, yeah!

The Owners: This really becomes a guinea-pig season that will determine just how well the new CBA works. Big market owners will do well enough financially, while small-market teams will “lose” less $, if they lose at all.

Fans: The 66-game season essentially becomes a “sprint” to the playoffs–okay maybe a 400-meter run. Either way every game becomes more meaningful, more compelling, more critical. That had been one of the knocks NBA critics like to trot out. At least for this season, keep that one in your pocket.

Season-ticket holders: I’m not crying over having to pay for 16 fewer games at the newly-renovated Madison Square Garden. Jim Dolan jacked-up prices an average of 10 percent for this season.

NBA workers: On this one, my fingers are crossed. I’m hoping that after all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted, once the players and owners have ratified the agreement – that both parties will do their best to make the working-class segment of the NBA “family” whole – paying them for an entire 88-game season rather than a shortened one.

A Delusional Suh Must Finally Slow It Down

“I was with him until the stomp.”
Howie Long, Fox Sports analyst

“Maybe I could believe him if there was not a history.”
Sterling Sharpe, CBS Sports analyst

“He doesn’t get it.”
Bill Cowher, CBS Sports analyst

I love Ndamukong Suh. Loved watching him play from the moment I first saw him dominate a football game from all fours–as a defensive lineman, something I could not recall ever seeing in my entire life.

That was when he was in college, at Nebraska, where he looked like the huge kid in Pop Warner who caused parents of opposing players to rail that he should not be on the field.

Ndamukong Suh could hurt somebody!

He still can. He’s the most dominant defensive player in the NFL not named Derrell Reavis.

Reavis Island? How about Mount Suh. Or a Suh-valanche, a mass of humanity that rolls through offensive linemen and buries anything unfortunate enough to be carrying a football.

And yet. He’s got to reign it in.

He’s got to reign in the fury that prompted so many penalties and fines that he requested a meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell about what he was and was not allowed to do in the NFL.

He’s got to reign in the fury has now caused him to receive two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties this season – the latest on the national stage on the day in which we are asked to give thanks.

With the Lions hanging in against undefeated Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day, Suh shoved the head of Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith into the ground then stomped on his arm as Suh was rising and players were being separated for what was a minor scuffle. He was ejected. Green Bay, which was at the time leading only 10-0, began to pull away, soon taking a 21-0 lead. The Packers ultimately won 27-15.

Afterward Suh was only what just about everyone described as delusional. He claimed to be trying to regain his balance and added that “the man upstairs knows what I did.”

Yeah, dude, the man upstairs knows you shoved Dietrich-Smith’s head into the ground and stomped him!

Now, it is clear and unequivocal: Suh must reign in his fury before he becomes a simple of what we all don’t want our kids to see. Rather than being an icon, he’ll soon become an idiot.

Or Albert Haynesworth. Why Albert? Remember when he stomped an opponent in the head in 2006? In that instance, criminal charges were discussed but not filed. Haynesworth was suspended five games without pay.

I love Ndamukong Suh. But he needs to reign it in.

This time, Roger Goddell is calling him.

Monday (11/28/11) appears to be a day of repentance, at least for recalcitrant NFLers. On the same day Buffalo wideout Stevie Johnson apologized for his histrionics, Suh reportedly called Goodell and apologized for his Turkey Day Stomp. Suh will still likely be suspended at least two games.

Mike Patterson’s Toughest Choice?

If the Eagles defensive tackle has AVM, should he play?

Mike Patterson might be the luckiest man alive. Emphasis on alive.

He’s certainly the luckiest NFL player.

He’s lucky because now he knows. At just 28 years old, the Philadelphia Eagles’ 6-foot-1, 300-pound defensive tackle — who collapsed and suffered a seizure at practice last week in front of frightened and concerned teammates and coaches — knows now that there’s something untoward going on inside his skull.

He also knows it might be treatable.

Many NFL players aren’t so lucky. Too many.

Too many of them suffer unknowingly. Or at least without a definitive diagnosis. They endure symptoms — memory loss, mood changes, irritability. In many cases, their lives spiral downward because of the debilitating effects of their condition. But it is typically too late before they learn they are suffering from a brain disorder.

The NFL is growing into one giant petri dish for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease. At least 20 deceased NFL players were diagnosed with it. In fact, the disease is becoming so pervasive among athletes in high-collision sports that in 2008 it spawned the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy in Boston, a place that houses at least 75 brains of deceased athletes, most of them former NFL players.

The late Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson famously called the center “the NFL’s brain bank.” That, obviously, was before he shot himself in the chest in February because he could no longer endure the suffering he believed was caused by CTE. He wanted his brain sent to Boston for a definitive diagnosis, which proved to be positive for CTE.

I am not suggesting at all that Mike Patterson has CTE, only that he is lucky enough know he has something.

In the ensuing chaos after Patterson’s seizure, the Eagles announced (perhaps a tad prematurely) that he had been diagnosed with a cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM), an abnormal bundle of arteries and veins in the brain that is typically congenital, forming before birth.

The announcement enraged Patterson’s agent, JR Rickert, as well as the player’s family, who sought other opinions and have yet to reveal what they have learned. (Calls to Rickert were not returned.)

One leading neurological surgeon, Dr. Bennie W. Chiles III, M.D., an assistant professor of neurosurgery at New York University Medical Center, offers an insight into what Patterson likely endured in the hours after he collapsed, along with his prospects.

“It’s not a hard diagnosis to make at all,” Chiles says.

Chiles’ comments come with his caveat that it is “impossible to say anything definitively without specific knowledge of [Patterson’s] case,” which he doesn’t have. But in all likelihood, he says, Patterson underwent a CT scan (which initially likely revealed the possibility of AVM), then an MRI for a more definitive view. He also probably underwent a cerebral angiogram, then likely was put on anti-seizure medication.

The seizure itself, as frightening as it might have looked to those nearby, was probably not physically traumatic, Chiles says. Call it more of a flare signifying trouble.

“A seizure is uncomfortable but not dangerous,” he says. “The worst thing that can happen with AVM is a hemorrhage. If that happens, you can develop a very significant neurological deficit that could be permanent. But you can have a seizure; and, if you’re in very good shape like it seems Patterson was, it is possible to experience no neurological deficit and come out intact and even well, if it can be treated.”

Indeed, Patterson was released from the hospital after just two days and almost immediately rejoined his teammates at training camp at Lehigh University. He has not been cleared to return to practice, and the Eagles are reportedly (and not surprisingly) taking a cautious approach, no matter the ultimate diagnosis.

AVMs range from small to “hard and complex,” Chiles says. The former are “simple and easy” to treat, while the latter are “impossible.”

A simple AVM can be treated in numerous ways, including surgery to remove it or by inserting a catheter and releasing all or part of it, and with radiation.

“To treat it perfectly, you want to obliterate the whole thing,” Chiles says. “If you can, that’s the cure. If not, then you may perhaps improve the patient’s overall situation [with various treatments], but you haven’t cured the risk.”

Ah, the risk.

No matter the ultimate diagnosis, that’s the real question: How great the risk?

What do the Eagles do if Patterson is cleared to play?

For that matter, what does Patterson do?

What should he do?

That’s the question both the Eagles and Patterson will have to answer for themselves — and without any clear, definitive data to guide them.

“The problem is once you know someone has AVM, it becomes very difficult to allow that person to engage in an activity that involves brain trauma,” Chiles says. “There’s no clear association between having AVM, head trauma and increased risk. But it just doesn’t sound right.”

No, it doesn’t, which is why the Eagles are being cautious about allowing Patterson to return to practice, no matter what the doctors say.

Patterson, understandably, apparently wants to play. He’s played more games (95) than any other current Eagle and wants to return to the most comfortable cocoon he’s ever known.

But at what cost? Or potential cost?

There is no easy answer to either question. No sound-bite solution.

It’s life.

Yet Patterson is lucky to be in position to make the decision about his future — about his life — rather than having it made for him. Tragically, perhaps.

Overseas Reality Check

The plethora of NBA stars considering taking their talents overseas to locals such as Turkey, Russia and Asia should the lockout slice into the 2011-12 regular season might want to reach out to fellow superstar Diana Taurasi for some been-there, done-that advice.
Taurasi, probably the best female basketball player on the planet, played for Turkish club Fenerbahce last winter (before a screwed-up positive drug test, of which she was quickly absolved, cut the season short). She previously played five years in Russia, and has signed to return to Turkey following the current WNBA season.
Her message to the Derons, Dwights, Kobes et al who are pondering playing on other shores? “It’s a culture shock, a different world,” she told me this week. “If you’re used to doing things one way, living a certain lifestyle and jumping on and off charters, you’ll be in for a shock. Sometimes you’ll take a three-hour flight then a three-hour bus ride to some of the smaller cities not because the teams are cheap but because it’s he only way to get there… You cannot [join an overseas team] and say, ‘This is how we do at, say, UConn or in the NBA.’ They don’t care.”
Some players will likely negotiate better-than-typical accomodations, but they’ll still be nothing like the Ritz or other five-star venues teams and the league typical use when traveling-domestic or especially internationally.
And if they think they’ll only have to sweat through one practice a day, as is done here, forget it. “There’s standard two-hour morning and afternoon practices. And that’s for women’s basketball, men’s basketball, volleyball, handball, whatever.. It’s just the European way of doing things, and there’s no [collective-bargaining agreement] to help.”
Earlier this month, Josh Childress of the Phoenix Suns, who played two seasons in Greece said his experience was no day on the beaches of Mykonos. “No, I wouldn’t,’ he told ESPN’s Rich Bucher when asked if he’d play overseas should games be cut by the lockout. “And I don’t know why guys would. I understand that guys really want to play. But you sometimes have to look at what you have and treat this as a business. The only way I could see it making sense is if you’re a player from a particular country going back. But for an American player with a good-sized guaranteed deal here, I can’t see why you’d do it.”
Taurasi says the difficulties and differences for Americans aren’t limited to life off the court. The former WNBA MVP and four-time scoring leader also led the Turkish league in scoring (24.6 points per game) but says the way the game is played overseas is different and requires outsiders to adjust. “They have a different mindset,” Taurasi said. “All their philosophies about offensive and defensive basketball are completely different. They have their own style of play, more team-oriented. The coaching style is different; they don’t want you to average 30. They want you to fit into their rotation and scheme. You have to adjust.”
Now, Taurasi wasn’t being discouraging, just offering a bounce-pass of advice. “First, really educate yourself about where you’re going to play. See what kind of resources they’ll have for you–like a translator, people who can help you off court. Check to see if there’s an American coach and a trainer that can work out with you separately.
“Most of all, keep an open mind and enjoy it.”
And yet: “They’re paying you the big bucks, so you just do what they say.”

A Tragedy Beyond…

Josh Hamilton didn’t deserve this. Then again, no one does. Not this. Not especially the 6-year-old boy who witnessed his father tumbling over the railing in search of a ball–tossed by Hamilton.
It ended tragically, as you probably know. The father died–with his son in the ambulance, and before the game ended.
Game. And it is just that. Until something like this happens.
Then it’s–what can we do? Can we prevent? Can we fix? Can we…?
No, we can’t.
Life happens.
Games happen.
Tragedy happens.
Pray for the young boy.
And for Josh.

Tiger Woods > Rory McIlroy

Rory is special, but he has a long way to go before he becomes golf's Tiger

Sorry folks, Rory McIlroy is no Tiger Woods. I love the kid. Was rooting for him as he treated Congressional like it was a weak muni course.
But he’s no Tiger Woods.
And not just because he’s not American (though that’s part of it).
He’s no Tiger because, well, he’s simply no Tiger. By the time Woods won his first major–the ’97 Masters, at the age of 21–he was already a national phenomenon. Even a global one.
We’d known him since he was a tyke appearing on the Mike Douglas Show. We watched him make us care about the national amateurs (name someone who’s won it since).
Then we watched him. And watched him. We watched him live up to the hype at every level. We watched him chase a bar set so high (Jacks’s 18 majors) it seemed ludicrous–except it was Tiger. So we got on board. We bought into the ludicrous and thought it possible.
We watched him become the next Michael Jordan–a straight-up global icon who attracted fans, TV ratings and corporate dollars as if they were lollipops at the reception desk.
We watched him hit shots we still remember. We watched him become the first jacked golfer.
We watched him change the game.
Of course, we also watched him fall. Perhaps the most precipitous fall we’ve ever seen among sports icons.
That’s why so many have been so quick to anoint Rory as the next…
I get it. The sport needs him. Badly.
Since Woods’ fall, golf has become, well, just golf again. Not even part of the discussion when it comes to games that capture those who care little about the game itself, but are captivated by the likes of Woods and…maybe Rory.
And maybe even soon.
But not yet.

Best Supporting: Chauncey B!

Billups experience, leadership and man-up mindset were overlooked by many

Raymond who? I’ll confess I was among the observers who wondered if James Dolan, Donnie Walsh & Co were just a bit too eager to land Carmelo Anthony, and that they may have paid too much in sending three of their top six players (plus a few million in Macy’s gift cards) to Denver for the high-scoring superstar and … oh yeah, Chauncey Billups.

Consider me no longer among them. Not only did the deal have to be done in order to keep pace with the current trend of aligning stars, but …oh yeah, Chauncey Billups.

As I watched what was rightly billed as the dawn of the Amar’e-‘Melo Era in New York, I could help but watch…the other guy in the trade: Billups.

And in the end, he might as vital to the deal as Anthony.

I love what Raymond Felton brought to the Knicks. Few expected he would be as impactful as he was as Stoudemire’s concierge. He averaged 9.0 assists and 17-plus points and, perhaps most significantly, doused the embers calling for Steve Nash. Moreover he’s just 25 years old, while Billups is 34 – a nine-year gap!

But in watching Billups last night, I noticed this: He didn’t make me cringe. At times, Felton would drive wildly through traffic like a drunken sailor on leave. Or he’d jack up a trey early during the possession when the more prudent move might have been to swing the ball in search of a higher-percentage shot. Or, in other words, be a point guard!

To his credit, many of those prayers found their mark and Felton did far more good than not as a Knick.

But Billups. He’s a grown-ass point guard, an old-school play maker who not only still orchestrates with the bst of them but still has the ability to be Big Shot Billups.
Most Kicks fans celebrated ‘Melo’s 27 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks 114-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

But I marveled a Billups “supporting” line: 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals in 33 minutes! And this from a guy who didn’t know a single play, who was having them literally explained to him by Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni as he dribbled up the floor.

Not one single time did I cringe.

Ultimately, though, Billups’ greatest value to the Knicks may be his commitment to defense. Remember now, he’s the only Knick with a ring. He’s been to the mountain top. And in the post-game press conference when asked what it take to get there he said, among other things, defense. He talked about embracing the “principles” of defense and getting to the point where the team can get stops for “three or four minutes” in a stretch.

Talk about an unlikely mix: D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-of-less philosophy (which, in all fairness, has been down-shifted this season) and Billups man-up mindset.

But in the end it just might make D’Antoni a better coach than he’s ever been.

And for now, it makes the Knicks look like they got themselves two steals.

Shaq: The Next Walton?

n “I’m sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity. And my hope is that it happens.”

When President Barack Obama spoke those words a couple of weeks ago, he was referring to New York Congressman Charles Rangel, whose decades of public service and political leadership are in danger of being sullied by allegations of ethical improprieties. The POTUS might as well have been talking about Shaquille O’Neal, who was also in dire need of a dignified way to end his own illustrious (but stumbling) career.

[+] EnlargeShaq
Steve Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesShaquille O’Neal could finish with a flourish in Boston.

Looks like he found it by signing last week with the Boston Celtics.

Doing so, for close to the league’s veteran minimum salary, gives O’Neal a chance to make us forget about his season and a half of disruption in Phoenix and his year of irrelevance in Cleveland.

It gives him a chance to make us forget that high-mileage giants are usually not a pretty sight, especially in a high-speed sport. Instead of being ominous and dominant, they are ponderous and often detrimental.

Two years ago with the Suns, Shaq was a gigantic peg with no hole in which to fit. His on-court presence hogged spaces normally occupied by Amare Stoudemire, and he wasn’t able to keep up with Phoenix’s “seven seconds or less” offense.

Last season with the Cavs, Shaq was a disaster. (Shaq-aster?) He wasn’t just 37 years old, he was old.

He missed 29 games to injury in the middle of the season, and when he returned, he was out of sync with his teammates and more looming cloud than leader. He averaged career lows in points (12.0), rebounds (6.7), blocks (1.2) and highlights. The drama, effort and adjustments required to integrate him into the lineup probably cost coach Mike Brown his job.

GM Danny Ferry’s, too.

Heck, it might even have cost Cleveland LeBron James (although I’m of the mind that he, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade had decided to “take their talents to South Beach” years ago).

Which cost owner Dan Gilbert his sanity.

It would have been a shame if that had been the last we saw of Shaq, the last back-to-the-basket behemoth. (He was all but already halfway to being the statue that surely will be erected in his honor one day … somewhere.)

But now he’s a Celtic.

That itself has already begun to freshen the faded, static image. Donning Celtics green can almost do that for a player (for previous success, see: Nate Robinson; for almost, see: Stephon Marbury).

[+] EnlargeShaq
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty ImagesShaquille O’Neal is no longer a dominant player, but he can fill a big space in the lane.

The green halo is even more effective when the team is a contender. Despite summer’s Southern Reconstruction in Miami, Boston remains pretty much the same team that, this past spring, was half a quarter away from another championship.

It’s the perfect place for Shaq-demption, an ideal opportunity for him to make an exit as grand as every entrance he has made in nearly two gregarious decades in the NBA.

It works because the Celts have as strong a leadership core as any team in sports. It starts with coach Doc Rivers and the respect that he has for his players and that he receives from them. It’s guarded and nurtured, however, by the teams’ stars: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and now Rajon Rondo.

They can absorb any new teammate, no matter how tainted his rep. And not only will the teammate not turn into a virus but he often becomes rehabilitated, shape-shifting (at least somewhat) to the “team” while still retaining some semblance of himself. (Will there ever be a better playoff postgame interview line than Glen “Big Baby” Davis describing himself and Robinson as “Shrek and Donkey”?)

Call them the AARP’s team, if you like (with Shaq and another veteran big named O’Neal, Jermaine, the 2010-11 Celts might have one of the oldest starting lineups ever). But Shaq will be playing primarily with his peers, not with kids who had his poster on their dorm walls.

Translation: He’ll be playing with guys he respects. No need to take a young star under his wing, as he did with young D-Wade and tried to do with LeBron. At long last, he’ll be just one of the (old) boys, and that should suit him fine.

That said, Shaq will still be these Celts’ biggest test. He’s no marginally talented player signed as a fill-in on the fringes, biding his time in a full-length warm-up. With starting center Kendrick Perkins recovering from a knee injury, likely until midseason, Shaq probably will be in the starting lineup on opening night. He won’t play 30-plus minutes every night, but as long as he’s able, he’ll come close.

He’s still slow and could muck up the Celts’ best-in-the-game “help” defense. And he hasn’t covered a pick-and-roll since, well, LeBron had his poster tacked to his wall. But on the other end of the court, Shaq can still make NBA defenders look like biddy-ballers and drop 20 on opponents on any night.

It would be easy to say that Shaq’ll blow it, that his ego has been too big for too long for him to subjugate himself to the Celtics’ whole at the twilight of his career.

But humility has a way of conquering even the biggest among us (see: Tiger). Shaq has never said it aloud, and his life’s-a-party vibe seems to say he’s as full-of-himself as always.

[+] EnlargeBill Walton
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesBill Walton finished his playing career with the Celtics, too.

But my sense is that, like Rangel, he would rather not go out like that. He must know this is not just an opportunity but the opportunity, the final one.

It’s reminiscent of the one latched onto once by another aging center in need of a boost. In 1985, Bill Walton teamed with another star-laden Celtics team — Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were the Hall of Fame frontcourt — near the end of a career also filled with highs (a championship) and lows (horrendously bad feet).

Walton played out his final NBA minutes waving a towel and smiling like a kid on Christmas. He helped the Celtics win the 1985-86 title and returned to the Finals the next year as Boston lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Between 1974 and 1987, Walton played just two seasons with Boston, but today he considers himself a Celtic.

I’m already giddy over the opening night arrival of the Heat in Boston, though that contest pales next to the prospect of Shaq playing a role in a Celtics-Heat playoff series against his former wingman, D-Wade (or was it the other way around?)

Then, should the Celts somehow reach the Finals against the Kobe-led Lakers … OK, I’ll stop.

Win or lose, it should be one Shaq of a way to go.