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Friend-of-Friejose Cedric to continues with his incisive and thought-provoking analysis and commentary on the NBA playoffs, in French:

Oh Ronny Turiaf! Too bad you're not playing in the playoffs anymore.

De retour avec une nouvelle analyse de la NBA a la francaise. Que dire des playoffs en general maintenant que la competition a atteint les phases de finales de conference? En gros pas grand chose. Les favoris sont passes et il n’y a eu que tres peu de surprises… et de batailles dignes de ce nom. Les Lakers, Orlando et les Celtics sont passes sans problemes en balayant leurs adversaires, les reduisant ainsi a des simples spectateurs, a de simples joueurs de playground. Parce que c’est cela en verite la difference. Les equipes qui ont fait face aux quatres dernieres equipes en liste n’ont pas reussit a jouer au basket. Ils ont tous utilise la meme tactique qui consiste a donner la balle au meilleur joueur de l’equipe (par example, Lebron a Cleveland ou Smith a Atlanta) et a attendre qu’ils fassent des miracles. Mais les dieux du basket ont preferre donner la victoire aux equipes, c’est a dire un groupe de joueurs jouant ensemble, se faisant des passes et defendant. La statistique de ces playoffs sera donc la perte de balle. A vouloir jouer seul, on en fait trop et le ballon nous glisse des mains. Donc Cleveland, Atlanta, Spurs (peut-etre une petite exception a la regle) et Utah dehors et a l’anne prochaine.

Maintenant que reste-t-il? De bonnes equipes. Serieuses et avec des entraineurs qui connaissent leur metier et les phases finales. Bien que j’aurais aime voir en finale les Suns de Phoenix qui ont brille par leur support contre la loi discriminatoire passes par l’etat de l’Arizona en changeant le nom de leur equipe pour “Los Suns”. Mais qui ont aussi brille par le coeur qu’ils on mis a l’ouvrage en battant les Spurs. Ils meritent une finale (la premiere depuis 1993 et le depart de Charles Barkley). Mais les Lakers de Kobe sont forts, tres forts. Et demain soir se joue le match decisif qui donnera peut-etre l’avantage a Los Angeles ou nourrira l’espoir des fans de Phoenix.

A l’est la bataille semble deja perdue (au grand bonheur de Josh) car les Celtics ont encore creuse leur avance sur une quipe d’Orlando jeune et decevante. 3-0 pour Boston et c’est l’espoir des Floridiens qui s’envole. D. Howard (tres irregulier en attaque mais brillant en defence) et ses coequipiers vont devoir mettre les bouchees triples pour battre Boston qui se dirige vers sa dizieme confrontation en finale avec les Lakers en 30 ans. Autant dire un classique. Le ballon dore reviendra-t-il a l’est? Phil Jackson gagnera-t-il son 11eme titre? Pas facile a predire. Une chose est sure: faites durer le plaisir. il y en a marre des victoire 4-0 cette annee qui ont du faire perdre pas mal d’argent aux chaines de tele et a la NBA.

As usual, translation of Cedric’s post courtesy of Google Translate, not one word has been changed, as you will believe when you read it:

Back with a new analysis of the NBA has the French. What about the playoffs in general now that the competition has reached the final stages of conference? Basically not much. Favorites are passes and there was very little that surprises … and battles worthy of the name. The Lakers, Celtics and Orlando passes without problems by sweeping their opponents, reducing them to mere spectators, just players playground. Because that is what in truth the difference. The teams that have faced the last four teams in list have not succeeded to play basketball. They all use the same tactic to give the ball to the best player of the team (eg, Lebron in Cleveland or Atlanta Smith) and expect them to do miracles. But the basketball gods are preferable to give victory to the teams, ie a group of players playing together, making passes and defending. The statistics of these playoffs will be the loss of ball. Wanting to play alone, it makes us too much and the ball slipped from his hands. So Cleveland, Atlanta, Spurs (maybe a small exception to the rule) and outside Utah and the next year.

Now that he is? Good teams. With serious personal and coaches who know their profession and the final rounds. Although I would like to see in the final of the Phoenix Suns that shine by their support against discriminatory legislation passes by the state of Arizona by changing their team name to “Los Suns”. But that also shines by the heart they put it in a book by beating the Spurs. They deserve a final (the first since 1993 and the departure of Charles Barkley,). But the Lakers are Kobe’s strong, very strong. And tomorrow night is played the decisive match that will perhaps benefit in Los Angeles or nourish the hope of the fans in Phoenix.

To the east the battle seems already lost (to the delight of Josh) because the Celtics are still digging their lead a team of young and Orlando disappointing. 3-0 for Boston and the hope of Floridians taking off. D. Howard (very irregular in attack but brilliant in defense) and his teammates will need to act swiftly to beat Boston triple headed toward its tenth in the final confrontation with the Lakers in 30 years. In other words, a classic. The golden ball does come back he is? Phil Jackson does win his 11th title? Not easy to predict. One thing is sure: make it last. he is fed up 4-0 this year who have to lose a lot of money on tv channels and the NBA.

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And now for something completely different, Friejose in TJ is teaming up with friend-of-Friejose Cedric to provide commentary on the impending NBA playoffs, and here’s the twist, in French on this blog.  Why?  Why the hell not?

That's "Lorsque se produit étonnant" to you.

For the French-impaired among us, like me, Google Translate will be used to translate every entry into English, and the translation will be posted immediately after the French version.  Cedric certainly could do a better job translating considering his English language fluency, but again, why not use a website for translation, just for the hell of it?

So, without further ado (adieu?), Cedric’s first NBA playoffs post en français:

Ca y est, finalement le moment que tout fan de basket qui se respecte attend: les phases finales du championnat NBA. Bien sur on connait les equipes qui y seront pour sur: les Lakers, Celtics, Cleveland et autres Dallas. Mais ce qui compte, ce sont les challengers, les “underdogs” comme les appellent nos amis americains. Nous, nous n’avons pas de mots pour ces equipes qui tentent de defier les statistiques et de creer la surprise.

Cette annee, les surprises sont de tailles: Oklahoma defie les champions en titres. Bien qu’ils aient perdu le premier match, les Thunder de Kevin Durant ont fait bonne impression malgre le retour fulgurant de Bynum. Et l’equipe de MJ alors? Les Bobcats de Charlotte n’ont pas reussit l’exploit de battre les finalistes de l’an passe, Orlando. Cela a peut-etre quelque chose a voir avec les neufs contres de D. Howard. Ils tenteront de franchir le mur mercredi ou se retrouveront a son pied.

Les autres? Pas de grande surprise si ce n’est la victoire de Portland sur un des grands favoris Phoenix. Cleveland, Celtics, Atlanta, Denver passent. Le duel des duels, finale de conference avant l’heure entre Dallas et San Antonio tourne pour cette fois a l’avantages des Mavericks. Parker et les siens ne laisseront surement pas Nowitzki marquer autant mercredi prochain.

Translation (courtesy of Google Translate):

Is it, finally, the moment that any basketball fan who respects himself awaits the final stages of the NBA championship. Of course we know the teams that will be there for about: Lakers, Celtics, Cleveland, Dallas and others. But what counts are the challengers, the “Underdog” as our American friends call them. We, we do not have words for those teams who try to defy the statistics and create the surprise.

This year, the surprises are sizes: Oklahoma defy the champions title. Despite losing the first game, the Thunder Kevin Durant made a good impression despite the return of Bynum dazzling. And while the team of MJ? The Charlotte Bobcats have not passed the feat of beating the finalists of the year passes, Orlando. That might be something to do with the new cons of D. Howard. They try to cross the wall will meet Wednesday or at its foot.

Other? No big surprise if this is the victory of Portland on one of the favorites Phoenix. Cleveland, Celtics, Atlanta, Denver pass. The duel of duels, the final conference before the hour between Dallas and San Antonio turns to this time has the advantages of the Mavericks. Parker and his family will leave Nowitzki probably not score as next Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of the NBA France Facebook page.  Become a fan, dammit.

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You’ve seen some action shots and a sepia toned homage to the doomed, saddled fighters against the Bolsheviks.  Now, some character studies of the buzkashi riders.

Serious and not-so-serious

On the ridge, amongst the spectators

Sauntering and smiling

Looking up at the crowd

Sure you can lose a tooth or two playing buzkashi, but it's worth it

And now, we say goodbye to Gharm and buzkashi, the match is over.

On the way home...

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The consort of the acting Swedish ambassador asked me at lunch what the deal was with all the posts about buzkashi. Did I have a thing for buzkashi?

The truth of the matter is that I took a whole of a lot of photos and many of them came out well, so I wanted to share.  Added to that is that I may never go to something quite as, uh, different as a buzkashi match again, so I wanted to memorialize it.  Plus, there are pictures like this:

Me playing with sepia tone, him looking like a happy basmachi

In case you’re wondering, a bit about the basmachi.  They fought the Red Army in Central Asia during the Bolshevik Revolution in the early 1920s, including in Tajikistan, what was then the eastern portion of the Emirate of Bukhara.  They fought on horseback.  They lost.

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From Yarkhap village about 12 km outside of Gharm, let me present the riders in a buzkashi match, the chapandoz, up close.

Battling to grab the goat, in the scrum

Whip in the mouth, angling to snatch away the goat

Slouching outside the scrum

Striving for the tire-goal, where the goat goes

More to come…

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Ever since I entered South Junior High in 1986, my school teams have always worn Red, and it was a big sports week for the Red teams.

Hingham High boys ice hockey won the Eastern Mass Super 8 tournament, and thereby essentially the Massachusetts state title, beating Catholic Memorial 1-0.  I watched HHS beat St. John’s Shrewsbury for the DII crown my senior year at the old Garden, but a victory in the Super 8 against the best other seven high school teams is even more than that.  It means going up against the private schools, the religious high school behemoths like CM and Archies, and the prep squads too.  It’s the big time, as much a schoolboy hockey can be big time, and it’s a heck of an achievement for a bunch of young guys from 02043.

Meanwhile, the Big Red, the jump shooters from Cornell continued their Cinderella run in March Madness beating the University of Wisconsin 87-69 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the Big Dance, the NCAA Tournament.  I saw the Red get licked in Anaheim two years ago by the Lopez brothers and a much stronger Stanford team.  Although this club has some of the same players, they are now seniors and seasoned and making their run.  Now if I can just find a way to watch the game against Kentucky on Thursday, I’d be stoked, though listening to it on ‘VBR isn’t half bad.

A great, great week for my teams, and even though I missed much of it — sumalak and Navruz vacation got in the way — I can’t wait for their next act.

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Buzkashi is a Persian word, Tajik being a Persian language, meaning approximately “goat grabbing“.  For those of you who have not seen Rambo III, let me paraphrase Wikipedia to describe the game:

People on horseback try to pick up a headless, disemboweled goat carcass off the ground, or away from the other riders, and throw it into a scoring circle (the “Circle of Justice”).  The riders will carry a whip, often in their teeth, to fend off opposing horses and riders.

This anodyne description cannot do justice to the violence, aggression, and oddity of a buzkashi match.

Battling for the goat in a dry riverbed outside of Gharm

In the scrum, whips flying, blood flowing

The setting for the two-day buzkashi match I saw was idyllic.  Not idyllic in the sense that I’d want to build a vacation home there, but perfect for hosting a seething mass of horsemen struggling to scoop a dead goat stuffed with sand off the ground and toss it into a truck tire so to win prizes like a garishly-colored comforter made in some nameless Chinese factory city that is home to 8 million people.

Mountains stood as sentinels on either side of the river Surhob, which itself shifted back and forth like an oversized snake covered in mud.  The river only occupied a small portion of the bed, leaving exposed a kaleidoscopic variety of mini-boulders half-wedged into gray grit masquerading as sand.

Three yards and a cloud of dust

With the mountains looking down . . .

The riders kicked up a cloud of dust wherever they went, even when they seemed to be barely moving, which was often.  In some way, buzkashi is a cross between polo and rugby, with frequent scrums, horsemen shoulder to shoulder, whacking each other, clawing and grabbing for the goat.  But every so often, a rider would break free, goat in hand or splayed across his saddle, players in furious pursuit.

The chase is on, though the goat seems not to notice

There are no boundaries in buzkashi, so the riders can and do go everywhere.  Several times they came up the gully and onto the ridge where the spectators were, galloping amongst people, cars, and whatever else was in the way.

Battling over the goat, up on the ridge

At the time, there was a lot of downtime and I felt like I took too many photos (465) of the same scene: guys on horseback with antiquated Soviet tanker helmets battling over a dead goat.  But looking back on it, with perhaps some early onset nostalgia thrown in, it was a real cultural experience and fascinating.

Over the next few days, I’ll put up some more Gharm and buzkashi photos and posts, which will hopefully give you a sense of what it was like to be at the back of beyond watching buzkashi.

Off in the distance

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