Paul Shirley article - Plus, chat wrap


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Oct 3, 2002
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Updated: Nov. 10, 2005, 11:19 AM ET
Journal No. 5: Larry Bird and a girl in a band

By Paul Shirley

I grew up idolizing Larry Bird. Given the chance, though, I am not sure I would want to meet him.

A couple of nights ago, my brother Matt and I left the Shirley compound to see a band called Stellastarr*. (The asterisk implies no footnoting. The band adds it to their name, and I am not one to question their artistic intentions.) Stellastarr* is really, really good. They have written perhaps the best song I have heard this year, a little ditty called "Sweet Troubled Soul," which to me sounds like a song The Cult would have written if they could put together lyrics with their riffs. Additionally, their debut album, which came out two years ago, would probably crack my Top 50 albums list. The problem with the night was that Stellastarr* opened for The Bloodhound Gang.

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"Fresh, imaginative and breathlessly great" is Drowned in Sound's take on the debut album from Stellastarr*.

It seems like a little thing, but I think the order of operation conceived for that one show exemplifies what is wrong with the culture of our entire society. Stellastarr* is an innovative, interesting band from New York. The Bloodhound Gang, while talented, could hardly be described using either of the adjectives in the preceding sentence. It is not for me to question their musical chops; I could never do what they do. But, in essence, they are a joke band And, although that might be entertaining once every 1,000 songs on one's iPod, it is not really noteworthy.

I wish I knew how this happened. But I don't, so I'll quit worrying about the future of our country and discuss the mundane events of one night and how it relates to my reluctance to ever meet Larry Bird.

The truly disappointing aspect of the evening was that Stellastarr*'s set was marked by audio difficulties. (Perhaps that should have been, "the set played by Stellastarr*." It would seem that asterisks and apostrophes do not cohabitate well.) Because the sound was distorted and generally off-kilter, those in attendance were not given a good impression of the band. Since they do not have access to the same amount of free time as someone like, say, me, the members of the crowd are unlikely to spend much time seeking out new music, so it is unlikely that they will ever give a band like Stellastarr* a second thought. They came for a good time hosted by The Bloodhound Gang and are perfectly happy to lose themselves in some semi-funny rap/rock by some guys from Philadelphia.

After watching the Stellastarr*, my brother and I gave The Bloodhound Gang three songs' worth of time before making a judgment regarding our immediate plans for the evening. The fact that their first tune was perhaps the worst song I have ever seen performed live did not help their case. Their fate was sealed when, between songs, one of the members of the band had the tank top he was wearing torn off by the lead singer in order that we in the paying audience could be treated to a viewing of his naked torso. The now-shirtless troubadour played along, in that staged-funny way, and acted as if he were surprised by the action. He then gathered up his shirt, rubbed it into his already-sweaty armpit and faked a toss into the crowd -- which probably would have been enough to convince my brother and me to leave the scene. But he took it to another level. Seeing the madness in the eyes of the crowd, he jammed the shirt down the front of his pants and pulled it, through his crotch, out the back. And then threw it into the crowd, where people actively clamored to catch it. If I had been in possession of a hand grenade at the time, I would be writing this from prison.

My brother Matt and I left the scene. Although what we had just observed had been plenty, we actually had further impetus to find our way toward the bar that was hosting the event.

Prior to the appearance of Stellastarr*, we had spent some of our waiting time coming up with a new looks-rating scale for the girls we saw milling about. After some discussion, we discovered that a five-point system is, in fact, superior to our previous incarnation, a simple 1-10 method that now seems archaic.

(Yes, we are some real bastards. Fortunately for me, the exact ins and outs of our scale cannot be discussed here. Perhaps I will return to it at a later date.)

Just when we had settled on our criteria and pledged to follow it to the letter, we found a six. Our new scalebreaker is the bassist for Stellastarr*. Matt contended that, given the opportunity, he would propose on the spot. I pretty much agreed. I noted that she was a disclaimer girl, in that she was the type of person for whom one would write a disclaimer in a prenuptial agreement (e.g. "I will be faithful unless given the opportunity to perform certain actions with Rachel McAdams, Jennifer Garner or the bassist for Stellastarr*.").

At any rate, drawn by curiosity and a newfound hatred of The Bloodhound Gang (or, more accurately, a newfound hatred for those enthralled by them), Matt and I set off into the bar with the vague hope that we would perhaps meet our new six.

As we stood in an area between the actual bar and the parking lot where the concert had gone on, we considered our next move. Matt went to the outdoor serving area in order to secure us some liquid refreshment. While I waited, a girl I recognized as being a DJ for the local radio station that was throwing the show (96.5, the only decent station in Kansas City, I might add), sidled up. She asked if my brother and I were interested in joining them in their VIP lounge. The perks included free drinks and food and the requirements were minimal, namly only me saying yes and donning a VIP badge. I felt I could make the sacrifice.

(Note: This was not a case of any sort of recognition by her. I think I was just wearing a flattering shirt.)

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Mandy, the artist also known as Amanda Tannen, is Paul's perfect six.

The small lounge area was filled with radio types, some well-stocked coolers, a buffet line, and most of Stellastarr*, including the gorgeous bassist. We were set. But then I started to think about the situation. What if we did talk to her? Is there any way she could live up to our expectations? We had just amended our ratings scale on her behalf. It would be nearly impossible for her to be as wonderful as the theoretical version we had created in our minds.

At least, that was my excuse. My brother, on the other hand, had nothing. I was doing a fine job of screening the DJ, waiting for him to make his move, but it never came to be.

And so, we will never know. On one hand, I am glad we did not get to speak to her. I have a strange view of musicians. I don't want to see them as the flawed humans that they are. I prefer to hold on to the idea that they are geniuses who are above the petty concerns the rest of us have.

I feel the same way about Larry Bird. I spent my entire childhood idolizing the man. I watched as many of his basketball games as was humanly possible because I admired so much how he played the game. He seemed to be slightly above it all, as though the rest of the participants were mere mortals with whom he was toying while he navigated his Celtics to win after win. What if he turned out to be a boring jackass? Improbable, to be sure. But it is hard to imagine that his personality could merit the pedestal on which he stands in my mind.

So it goes with musicians. I make no secret of the fact that I have something of an addiction to music in general. I use music as a ticket to relaxation, inspiration, and catharsis. My love of music is caused in no small part by the fact that I have no ability to do, with my voice or an instrument, what some of my favorite artists can do. To me, they are geniuses. I don't want to be convinced otherwise -- it would destroy my illusion of their godlike nature. I have no need to think of them as human.

But then again, a girl in a band? With apologies to someone in particular ... I think I might have to rethink this pedestal issue and make an exception for the bassist of Stellastarr*.

Paul Shirley has played for 11 pro basketball teams, including three NBA teams -- the Chicago Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks and the Phoenix Suns. His journal will appear regularly at To e-mail Paul, click here.

Chat with Paul Shirley

Welcome to The Show!
On Thursday, basketball veteran Paul Shirley, who submits a regular diary, ''My So-Called Career'', will stop by to chat. Shirley has played for 11 professional basketball teams in the four years since he graduated from Iowa State University. He most recently was a member of the Phoenix Suns last season and spent part of the 2004 season with the Chicago Bulls. Shirley has also played in Greece, Spain and Russia, and has spent time in both the CBA and ABA.

Shirley burst onto the web scene when he started writing ''Paul Shirley's Road Ramblings" for the Phoenix Suns website last season. The ensuing attention led to a book deal with Random House. Currently, he continues to work out and look for opportunities to return to the NBA or another league.

Send your questions now and join Paul in The Show on Thursday at 4 p.m. ET!

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Paul Shirley: Today's goal: to see if I can get myself irrevocably blackballed from the NBA. Let's get to it.

Colm, Belfast: Enjoy the diary. However, I sort of think the Stellastar* anecdote was only told in an attempt to get the attention of the bassist. Not that I'm criticising this. I would do the same thing given the platform. Questions 1) Your top three female musicians (I'm talking aesthetics here) of all time? 2) Have you heard "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" by the Arctic Monkeys? It may be the best song of our young century

Paul Shirley: Best name so far. Best home city so far. I should just stop now...You caught me, Colm. They call girls who go after athletes "jersey chasers". We have to come up with a name for people like me. Hmmm...they use guitar picks, so how about "pick suckers"?

Craphonso, Kansas City, MO: Do you have any options to play for a team and if so when will you make a decision?

Paul Shirley: No options right now, which is why I have time to answer questions from dudes named Craphonso. I never know until about 24 hours prior as to my future plans. I live in a perpetual state of confusion.

Andy (New York): You talked about getting annoying "tall" questions at bars. How do you respond to "can you dunk?" That's a classic when asked of someone 6'10"

Paul Shirley: I especially love going to speak to kids about reading or some other inane thing. They love to ask the dunking question, and then always want a demonstration--as if I'm going to whip out some kind of white Vince Carter impression in some khakis and Steve Maddens.

Craig (PA): So, do your brothers get your "sloppy seconds" when it comes to women? And do they get pissed when someone asks that?

Paul Shirley: My brothers are both better-looking than I, so I have to settle for theirs. Plus, I'm unemployed, which doesn't help.

Callie (LA, CA): So what is the real story here: True or false - Guys like a girl who is into sports. Guys always complain when their girlfriends get mad when the watch/go to the game, but then when we show interest we are either cutting in on "boys time" or a lesbian. Either way it's a catch-22. What's the deal?

Paul Shirley: Finally, some estrogen in the room (?)...We just don't want you to pretend to be something you're not. Of course, if you watch softball, you might be a lesbian.

Lafester Rhodes: Paul, I was the guy at the Bloodhound Gang concert that drunkenly said, "I love your Blog man." Being a Iowa State fan as well, my man-crush level on you has almost reached the same level as the Sports Guy. Please stray away from the Other Place the night of the ISU-Iowa hoops game as I may never leave your side.

Paul Shirley: Some might be scared by this. Not me. He's just a potential book-buyer.

Zach (Boulder, CO): While the Arctic Monkeys are certainly talented, the Libertines produced some of the best music of this century before they broke up. What are your thoughts on the new wave of British music? Who do you prefer out of Bloc Party, Kasabian, Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo, Arctic Monkeys, Libertines, Babyshambles, Zutons, and Franz Ferdinand? If you don't know most of these bands, then you should spend less time with ESPN and more time honing up on contemporary British music...

Paul Shirley: It's a tie between Kasabian and the Kaiser Chiefs. And by honing, I think you meant, boning. (I can write it when it is grammar-correction, right?)

Charles D (Buffalo, NY): Do you play NBA Videogames? If so, do you edit yourself to put you on par with Tim and Shaq?

Paul Shirley: There was only one decent basketball video game, and it was NBA Jam. Alas, I was neither old enough, nor would I have been in anyone's starting five, so I was not in it. So, no.

Homestar Runner (Tire): Paul, a lot of us love your writing - who/what are some of your favorite writers/books?

Paul Shirley: Starting with a compliment...always a good plan. I may have answered this before, but anyway...John Irving, Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Wolfe, Alex Garland, and Nick Hornby. Also, Bill Peet.

AJ: (McLean, VA): Someone needs to tell Homestar Runner to put a lid on it. Favorite writers/books???? Hippie.

Paul Shirley: Oh, no, now I'm not cool because I know how to read. Damn. Well, it was fun while it lasted...

Nick (Springfield): I recall you writing about poker on the Phoenix team plane...should we look for you on the WSOP soon?

Paul Shirley: I, like most everyone I know, am decidedly mediocre at poker. So probably not.

Tom in KC (KC, MO): Hey Paul, Favorite KC hangout?

Paul Shirley: Charlie Hooper's. (One would think I am somehow getting paid for all these endorsements. Sadly, I am not. Not that I am above the concept.)

Rachel (Phoenix): Hi Paul, you crack me up! I work for the official NBA action figure company here in Phoenix, if we made your figure, what pose would you see yourself in?

Paul Shirley: Is wide-eyed befuddlement an option?

pete (ny): Stop answering questions, get into the gym and start practicing. Maybe then you'll get some burn in the D-League, if not, have fun in Turkey

Paul Shirley: Thanks, Pete, for the buzz-kill.

Guy (Detroit): Does anyone ever recognize you as the guy who cried in the NCAA tourney? Dont worry, Jabari Smith cried too, and he's a lot tougher looking. Besides, anyone would cry after watching Eustachy destroy Iowa States integrity on a national stage.

Paul Shirley: The really fun aspect of that experience was how long it all lasted. We were ousted from the tournament (vs. Michigan State in the Elite Eight) on a Thursday or Friday, so by the end of the weekend I was finally over the whole thing. Then, I wake up Monday morning, head to class and, on my way, pick up a copy of the Iowa State Daily only to find that the ENTIRE FRONT PAGE was a ginormous picture of me breaking down at the end of the bench. Good times. Some girl in the library that day even had the gall to ask me to sign it.

Zach (Boulder, CO): Should someone start a campaign to get you back into the NBA? Wouldn't a team consider picking you up if they were barraged with angry emails asking why you weren't on their team?

Paul Shirley: My friends, this is high-level thinking. Let's get that started.

Mike (Philly): Going back in time, in what year would your current skills translate into a starter in the NBA?

Paul Shirley: What year did they start the league?

Jeff (ny, ny): do you keep uniforms of all the teams you've been on? how does that work? do you swipe one, ask the equipment guy, do they mail you one after you're waived? what's the deal.

Paul Shirley: I have a collection that is entirely too extensive. The one team that would not let me take my jersey was the Lakers (where I went to camp my first year out of school). The equipment guy, when I inquired, said, "We're not a club that does that." I wondered then, as I do now, what they possibly could have done with a used, #45 Lakers with a girl's name on the back.

Jordan (Phoenix): What do you think of Scottsdale girls?

Paul Shirley: Thoughtful and quick-witted.

Dave (Boston): How many times have you heard, "Shirley, you can't be serious?"?

Boardius Maximus (Raleigh, NC): Has anyone ever used that line on you "Surely, you can't be serious"?

Paul Shirley: These were back-to-back, I swear.

Paul Shirley: Sorry, the next one was the very same question, but from a different person, thus answering the question. But now I can't find it. It's a one-man operation.

Jay (Scottsdale): What is your REAL opinion of Scottsdale girls? "THoughtful and quick-witted" is obviously your attempt to make nice.

Paul Shirley: Nice? No. That would be called "sarcasm"...Also, it seems I may have erred and written 'none' for 'known'. To all the geniuses out there who picked up on it, thank you. You are obviously much smarter than me.

Luke (Albany): Favorite cartoon?

Paul Shirley: The hard-hitting questions are the ones I enjoy the most. Thanks, Luke...Either He-Man or The Smurfs.

Ian (SF): seriously though... what is your favorite/least favorite arena song?

Paul Shirley: I love it when they break out something completely passe and old like, "Who let the dogs out". Or when every team in the NBA uses the same song (i.e. that Black-Eyed Peas ditty).

Paul (Indy): Do you think that vanity smurf was gay?

Paul Shirley: I don't think there is any doubt, really. Just a little joke they were playing on all of us 6-year-olds. I would note, too, that the girl Smurf, whose name eludes me, but will surely be given to me as soon as I post this, along with comments as to my relative IQ with the rest of humanity, must have been hammering down the birth control pills.

David Stern (NY): Should the NBA put a team in Las Vegas?

Paul Shirley: Does the pope poo in the woods? (27% pick-up rate on that one.)

Maynard (Arizona Bay): What about Cotton Eyed Joe? That gets the crowd fired up like no other.

Paul Shirley: Valid point.

Scott (Ankeny, IA): Who was Vanity Smurf gay with?

Paul Shirley: The one with the tattoo seemed like he was trying a bit hard. (Handy Smurf, maybe? Again, it's only been 20 years.) Also, Grumpy or Grouchy or whatever seemed a little pent-up.

JP (NY): The real surprise would be if Gargamel got with Smurfette.

Paul Shirley: That's gross. Think of the physiology, JP.

AJ: (McLean, VA): Can you guess how much of my company's money I have wasted while following this entire chat?

Paul Shirley: Is it...lots?

Eamon (Cleveland, OH): Paul, You are out of your element!

Paul Shirley: Thanks, Walter.

Barry Boston Ma: and...has no-one picked up on the obvious irony that a 6'10" mans favorite cartoon is the flipping smurfs..give me a break..this isnt real

Paul Shirley: I wasn't 6'10" when I was seven, Barry. Have a little faith here.

Jason ( Los Angeles): Paul, What exactly happens when you get waived? Is it like getting fired? Does the coach just walk in and say sorry Paul we have to let you go? Do you get unemployement?

Paul Shirley: It's always really, really awkward. Everyone knows what's happening--I'm not good enough that they want to pay me to play basketball for them. But, they have to bandy phrases like, "Numbers game," etc. about so that all can feel better about themselves. It has happened to me about five times, so I am becoming well-versed.

Josh (Pittsburgh): when joe johnson left the suns for the hawks, was he like "sorry guys, i just wanted to be on a contender"?

Paul Shirley: I don't know. I was busy having the option on my contract not exercised, so I was not around.

TIMDOGG (Indianapolis): Paul, who is the biggest name in the league that has dunked on you?

Paul Shirley: Shareef Abdur-Rahim once put one down on me in practice with the Hawks. To make matters worse, during the play he cut my chin with his elbow. I had to get stitches so I got to walk off the court both in shame and bloodied.

Clyde (Dallas, TX): Is Steve Nash's hair really that floppy in real life?

Paul Shirley: Are you under the impression that it is somehow simulated for your viewing pleasure?

Stanley Roberts (Unknown): In a number of sports you hear about guys who are not signed but still training, how long would it take you to get into "playing" shape? Are you at 50%, 85%?

Paul Shirley: This is actually a very good question. The toughest thing to maintain is timing as it is difficult to simulate an NBA level game in a gym by oneself. In the case that I do get signed, it takes a day or so before I remember that the game moves rather quickly.

DJ (Orem, UT): What's your take on Andrei Kirilenko?

Paul Shirley: I am continually amazed by the marketability (word?) of his jersey. I always wonder if he requested #47, or if the team realized his initials were AK and then told him to wear it. It almost gives me hope for humanity.

Michele (No. Hollywood): How would your career have been different if you came from Europe instead of the USA?

Paul Shirley: I would have much, much more money right now.

Paul Shirley: Okay, I'm done. Everybody go back to work. Feel free to e-mail at the little place at the end of my column. Have a fine evening.