Carmelo Anthony is One Big Piece of Interpretive Art

They’re not tattoos, they’re skin illustrations! Don’t you EVER call them tattoos! – Rod Steiger, The Illustrated Man

For any of you who watch the New York Knicks with the same level of voracity as I do—or if you’re planning on watching their opening round series against the Celtics— you are bound to be fascinated by what Carmelo Anthony has peeking out from behind his #7 jersey.  From lurid flames, to rubbery basketballs, to macabre spiderwebs, his skin illustrations seem to be everywhere.  I have done some digging, and, as far as I can tell, what follows is the world’s first critical analysis of the mercurial Knicks’ swingman’s body art.  Just don’t call them tattoos.

“I Shall Fear No Man” (Back)

The largest of Melo’s illustrations– one he shares with former teammate Kenyon Martin– this phrase is embedded on a large gothic cross, which covers the majority of his back.  The origin of this mantra can be traced to the late Tupac Shakur’s “So Many Tears”, an ode to his fallen colleagues.  Some say that Shakur himself was inspired by a biblical verse from Hebrews, Chapter 13.  Wherever he got it from, Anthony seems to derive strength from it, especially when deriding an opposing bench or not playing defense.

“No Struggle No Progress” (Neck)

This one is worn like a collar and is visible, from certain angles, on the court.  A theme that will continue to crop up in this analysis is Anthony’s insistence on not using punctuation.  Personally, I think this one would be a lot more powerful with a comma in the middle.  And maybe a period at the end would lend an air of finality to it?  As it reads, though, we can all commiserate with the “Struggle” here.  Whether it’s his Struggle to lose those last 15 pounds, the Struggle to finish a baseline drive in traffic, or simply the Struggle of dealing with all the Haters, I feel you, Melo.  I do.

“WB” (left shoulder)

Ah, yes, the most famous of all the illustrations.  Most readers might find it, at the very least, amusing that a superstar athlete has the Warner Brothers logo drawn just inside of his left shoulder.  Melo maintains (he does!) that the “WB” in question represents his roots in West Baltimore.  But wait, I thought he was was New York City? How can you call two cities “home”? Melo, you’ve got some explaining to do.

“Who Can I Trust” (right biceps)

This one is just downright confusing.  Is he asking a question or making a statement here?  It can’t be a question, again, because of the lack of proper punctuation.  So he must be announcing who he can trust.  Possibly, this is an unfinished work, and he will soon add a list of the people who he can trust.  Like: former Denver teammate Chris Anderson, new wife LaLa Vazquez, president Barack Obama, and, possibly, media conglomerate Oprah Winfrey.

“Live Now Die Later” (right elbow)

This is either an aphorism by which Anthony lives each day like it might be his last, or a nod to Dr. Patterson Stark, a cancer survivor whose book, “Live Now, Die Later”, (StarkHealth Publishing) recounts a life-threatening battle with cancer and how the fight changed his outlook on living.  My guess is the former.  The latter, after all, has a comma.

A Large, Flaming Basketball with the initials “CA” protruding (right shoulder)

The most prominent of the game-visible illustrations, this one seems to announce that Carmelo Anthony’s mere initial have the strange ability to cause normally stable basketballs to combust.  Variations of this theme are echoed in some common sports vernacular, like “He’s on fire!” Can I also just mention here how tired I am with athletes and their body flames?  It’s time for someone to man up and try something new, like some mean-looking snow or a menacing gust of wind.

A bulldog backed by playing cards (Left arm)

Your guess is as good as mine!  I know—hilarious!  Is he claiming to be a bulldog, the traditional western embodiment of persistence, perseverance, fortitude?  Is he?!  Where would these traits would show themselves on the court for Melo?  On defense, where he’s always willing to body up the opposition’s leading scorer?  Uh, no.  So maybe he’s a bulldog in the tirelessness manner with which he hoists shots at the goal?  That’s sounds about right.  Now the cards; those are definitely for cross-country flights and Booray!, the fickle game responsible for many a young cager’s demise.

So there it is.  Now, when you watch the Knicks and Celtics wage war, you’ll have more of an idea of the thoughtfulness, depth, and, yes, even pain with which New York’s gladiator approaches his battlefield.

view from the TD Banknorth Garden courtesy of @AaronGallagher

View from Spring Training: 2011 New York Yankees

2011 New York Yankees

NFL Equivalent – New England Patriots: Like a surly, disoriented amnesiac, I find myself wondering aloud, “How the heck did I get here?”  At the risk of ceding some of my objectivity, I happen to despise both of these teams.  Beautiful new state-of-the-art stadiums, angry little Napoleonic coaches, rabid fan bases, and poised, dashing gentlemen leaders all link these two uber-successful franchises.  Yeah, that and the billions of dollars of Midwestern shipping and Northeastern foodstuffs money with which the Steinbrenners and Krafts start the fires that burn up their luxury tax bills.  But I’m not bitter.

Google Search: This winter, the Yanks signed SP Cliff—wait, no they didn’t!  They landed 1B Adrian—nope!  New York was able to trade for SP Zack—wait, what?!  For once, the Yankees seemed to miss the boat on all of the available big names that were available this off-season.  The one move they did execute was to lure away RP Rafael Soriano from the Rays, for whom he closed brilliantly in 2010.  He will move to the 8th Inning for New York, and act as a very expensive insurance policy for closer Mariano Rivera, who seems to be channeling his inner Benjamin Button.  On offense, the names remain the same.  SS Derek Jeter signed a contract and built a big house.  3B Alex Rodriguez ate some popcorn.

Famous Movie Quote: I’ll be back. – Princess Leia, The Empire Strikes Back.

Before Schwarzenegger made the line famous, the cruller-braided Carrie Fisher used the eponym to let everyone know that they hadn’t quite seen the last of her.  Fans and analysts that are writing the Evil Empire of the AL East off might want to keep that in mind.  Their bats are ridiculous, highlighted by the best 3-4-5 in all the land in 1B Mark Teixeira, Rodriguez, and 2B Robinson Cano.  Rodriguez, incidentally, has had an absolutely torrential Spring.  Maybe there actually is something about Mary!  The bullpen will be great, especially in the late innings… as usual.  The only question marks that linger are behind the plate and behind SP C.C. Sabathia’s still-sizeable frame.  I get the sense that the Pinstripers will be involved in quite a few barnburners this summer.  But will it be enough to hang with the Red Sox?  As Yoda would say, “See, we shall.” 2011 record: 95 – 67; 2nd Place AL East

view from Steinbrenner Field courtesy of @John_Padgett

View from Spring Training: 2011 Philadelphia Phillies

2011 Philadelphia Phillies

NFL Equivalent – Baltimore Ravens: And the Mid-Atlantic is alive and well!  The Ravens made a name for themselves during the last decade with a lights-out defense that put the fear of god in opponents.  To me, nothing was more terrifying on a Sunday night than hearing Fabolous open the broadcast, Mike Patrick crowing about “guys flying around the field”, and seeing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed wearing all black.  That fear returned this past season, and, with a possibly historic starting rotation in Philly for 2011, the NL East is already a bit a quiver.  Both sides have home run hitters in the Ravens’ RB Ray Rice and the Phillies’ 1B Ryan Howard.  With strong fan bases and relatively new stadiums, this comparison—for once—actually makes some sense.

Google Search: The Phillies very much held ground this offseason, with one rather notable exception.  P Cliff Lee is here to firm up a starting rotation that already featured three All-Stars….. and Joe Blanton.  OF Jason Werth is gone, replaced by the handy Ben Francisco, who is actually a typical “Skoal Guy”: great in a pinch, but rather unpleasant when left in for too long. The Fightin’ Phaithful can also exhale, after the announcement that 2B Chase Utley’s opening day replacement will be IF Wilson Valdez, and not, after all, Luis Castillo.

Famous Movie Quote: Forget everything you’ve seen on television and in the movies. – Denzel Washington from Philadelphia.

In the case of the ’11 Phillies, this may actually be apt.  With a staff anchored by two horses in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and buffeted by Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels—two righties and two southpaws, if you’re scoring—and a battle-tested clubhouse, this team could make a run at the record books.  They are, nearly, to a man, the same team that won the NL East easily last year.  They have an American League lineup with speed at the top, thunder in the middle, and a bunch of pests at the bottom.  OF Shane Victorino is a guy that just about everyone would kill for to have in their team’s lineup, and might STILL be the most underrated player in the game.  Lots of pundits are predicting that the Phillies’ weakness lies at the back of their bullpen, where closer Brad Lidge will be set up by RP Ryan Madson and RP Jose Contreras. 2011 record: 102 – 60; 1st Place NL East

view from Citizens Bank Park courtesy of @EveryDe

View from Spring Training: 2011 Tampa Bay Rays

2011 Tampa Bay Rays

NFL Equivalent – San Diego Chargers: These two teams are both young, yet still quite accomplished.  Despite the success, though, their championship window barely remains ajar.  Led by superstars 3B Evan Longoria and QB Phil Rivers, respectively, these teams have recently tasted greatness, only to be left with a shell of their rosters moving ahead.  Included in the departures are, arguably, the most interesting parts of their franchises: their names. Tampa has turned toward the light by dropping the ‘Devil’, while San Diego, inexplicably, has rendered one of the best cheers in football obsolete by ditching the ‘Super’.

Google Search: The downside of being a small market rabble-rouser is the reality of balancing the books.  The venture capitalists-cum-Tampa front office were forced to say goodbye to a strong corps of players: 1B Carlos Pena, LF Carl Crawford, SS Jason Bartlett, SP Matt Garza, and RP Rafael Soriano.  All have been All-Stars at one time in their careers with Tampa Bay.  Moving into their lockers are DH Manny Ramirez, OF Johnny Damon, and—gulp—RP Kyle Farnsworth.  While the former two are merely past the 7th Inning Stretches of their illustrious careers, the latter is a straight-throwing, irascible goon, who has failed triumphantly on every mound in baseball.  Not a good offseason for the Rays.

Famous Movie Quote: This is the AK-47 assault rifle, the preferred weapon of your enemy, and it makes a very distinctive sound when fired at you, so remember it. – Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway, Heartbreak Ridge.

As a non-baseball related side note, and possibly a portend of how the summer looks to play out in Tampa, Evan Longoria had possibly an even worse winter than his near namesake Eva Longoria.  The actress lost an oily French husband, while the 3B, in a recent spring training robbery, was relieved of a pile of cash, a cache of jewels, and, yes, an AK-47 assault rifle.  Seriously—Evan Longoria has been disarmed.  Despite the larceny and the exodus, though, there is still a nucleus here to be optimistic about.  Longoria is a perennial All-Star and SP David Price was the AL Cy Young runner-up in 2010.  Flamethrowing lefty RP J.P. Howell will slide into the closer spot vacated by Soriano, and, most likely, will not miss a beat. 2011 record: 80 – 82; 4th Place AL Central

view from City of Palms Park courtesy of @jamescarbary

Bracketscapes: Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio – Quicken Loans Arena (March 18 & 20 – Rounds 2,3)

Why your dad likes Cleveland: Cause your dad sure does love him some Rock ‘n’ Roll music.  On the banks of Lake Erie, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has been memorializing things like leather pants, sequined jumpers, and Keith Richards since doors opened in 1995.  This years inductees included Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond, which would make for a heck of a duet.

Signature Food/Drink: Cleveland is home to a few fairly well-known chefs, most notably The Food Network’s “Iron Chef” Michael Symon.  His specialty?  Offal.  That’s right: there’s another guy in Cleveland dishing up “nasty bits” besides Dan Gilbert.  If you do find yourself in Cleveland, in need of some elbow-bending to get the taste of sheep diaphragm out of your mouth, make sure to try the local microbrews, like those offered from Buckeye Brewing and The Great Lakes Brewing Company.  The Forest City is known for it craft beer, and you can find them all at any of The Winking Lizard Tavern outposts, all over metro Cleveland.  (NB: There’s a chance that the name of that bar is gross.)

College Basketball History: College hoops in Cleveland starts and ends with Cleveland State, and an unknown history of March upsets.   In 1986, the Vikings upended Bob Knight’s 3rd-seeded Indiana Hoosiers, on their way to their first and only Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history. In 2009, the Vikes knocked off 4th-seeded Wake Forest, before bowing out in the second round.  Also, the 6th-leading scorer in CSU history is James Madison – the guard, not the president.

Bracket Predictions: March 18th: (1)Ohio State over (16) Texas-San Antonio, (9)Villanova over (8)George Mason, (6)Xavier over (11)Marquette, (3)Syracuse over (14)Indiana State; March 20th: (1)Ohio State over (9)Villanova, (6)Xavier over (3)Syracuse

view from Quicken Loans Arena courtesy of @kevinkugler