Thursday, December 13, 2007

Take This Lei and...


Wow. Go to http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/index today and look at the map associated with the poll about whether you'd vote Roger Clemens into the Hall of Fame. Maybe it's early in the day, but there are five states that vote "no": New Hampshire, West Virginia, Utah, Nebraska, and Hawaii (Wyoming is split 50-50). What an odd assortment of states. Hawaii voted 100% no (as of the time of this posting). What did Roger ever do to the Hawaiians?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fly, Eagles, Fly



After playing the Patriots closer than any other team this year (I think the Colts lost by four), there's a quarterback controversy in Philly! No, not really. Here's the thing, though. The Eagles seem to have a tendency to light up and do well when McNabb is on the bench. Would anyone say that A.J. Feeley is a better QB? Or Jeff Garcia even? Taken by themselves, no. On this Eagles team, well, um... I'm gonna have to go with 'maybe.'

What it feels like to me is that McNabb is so talented that when he's in the game, two things happen. First of all, he feels like he has to carry the team, like he has to be the guy who delivers the win. Second of all, the coaches feel like they have this major talent out on the field, and they have to let him play his game. When you've got A.J. or Garcia out there, the coaches run a good mix of plays, the defense usually steps up, everybody chips in. It actually looks, at times like that, as though the Eagles have a good team and a good coaching staff.

So the QB controversy that should be brewing in Philly is not whether to start Donovan or not. The controversy should be whether to give Donovan the same mix of plays you give Feeley and Garcia, or that you'd give any QB if you didn't think they had Awesome Talent. Because I think McNabb could've played that game last night as wel as Feeley did, plus maybe he doesn't throw that last interception into the end zone (which I think was when Feeley tried to Make Something Happen as opposed to just taking what the defense gave him, or maybe it was the coaches hoping to take New England by surprise, in which case they are idiots because everyone knows you cannot surprise Bill Belichick, who has a Gray's Sports Almanac from the year 2015 locked in a safe in his office in Gillette Field, and he's just waiting for the day when a kid or a crazy old man comes to ask him about it...).

All that aside: great game, Eagles. If there is such a thing as a moral victory in football, going into the 2007 Patriots' house and having a chance to win with a minute left in the game certainly counts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BSPN

"Welcome to SportsCenter. I'm Rich Eisen with Steve Levy. Tonight we'll take a look at the Boston Celtics. Just how good can they be? Could they be the best team in basketball? Maybe the best team of the last twenty years?"

"And we'll look back on the World Champion Boston Red Sox and what each of the players on that team is up to. Could they win five more championships before all is said and done? Or is it more likely eight?"

"But we start with a look at the New England Patriots. Here, just look at some photos. My God, they're manly. Oh, sorry, Steve, I'm drooling on the desk."

"That's okay, Rich. I was lost in admiring Tom Brady's throwing motion and didn't notice."

"It is gorgeous, isn't it?"

"And just look at Randy Moss jump."

*silence*

"Wow."

"I don't think there is any question, this could be the greatest team in the history of organized athletics."

"Steve, I wouldn't be surprised to see them challenge UCLA's record 88 consecutive wins."

"I agree, Rich."

"In other news, there are some teams outside the Boston area playing, as we can see from the shot of the scoreboard behind Kevin Garnett's head. We'll freeze the frame for a second so you can look at the scores, then we'll have ten more minutes of Celtics coverage followed by Lee Corso asking whether Boston College can get back in the BCS race."

*commercial for some mobile phone featuring Peyton Manning*

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's Not Easy Seeing Green


In 1996, Freelancer and I went to a Target store somewhere way off the beaten path to see Kevin Garnett in person. The line stretched halfway around the store by the time we got there, which was fairly late, but we got our stuff signed (a photo for Freelancer, media guide for me--I still have it). We'd seen the Wolves earlier that year, and Freelancer, who has forgotten more about basketball than I know, said, "That kid can play." Seeing him in person, up close, was weird in the same way it's weird to see any professional basketball player up close. They just seem to be built on a different scale (I once saw David Robinson in an airport--same deal. You never ask "is that a basketball player?" You ask "which basketball player is that?").

Garnett was huge, not only in person but for the state of Minnesota. He became, like Kirby Puckett, the face of a franchise. When he went silent the summer of the salary negotiation that would soon change the collective bargaining agreement, the state held its breath. He wasn't committing to staying, but he wasn't signaling his departure, either. It felt difficult to get at the truth: he was a 21-year-old kid, still, who was doing the best thing a kid can do in that situation. He was letting the professional he'd hired to represent him do just that.

The huge contract he signed was worth it. I was living in Minnesota when Kirby Puckett entered free agency for the last time, and the suspense was similar, the relief even more pronounced this time, because while Puckett was just sliding off the edge of his prime, Garnett had yet to reach his, and this was a guarantee that it would be spent in Minnesota.

Sadly, it became clear after several years that "wasted" might be a better word than "spent." Apart from one run to the Western Conference Finals, the Wolves got to the level of "first-round playoff team" and stayed there. Things deteriorated, but Garnett was always the face of the Timberwolves. I don't think it's possible for anyone who hasn't lived in Minnesota to realize how much he represented that franchise. He carried them for years, overcoming McHale and Taylor's borderline-incompetent management until recently.

I discovered about a month ago that I can't watch him in Celtics green. It's a painful reminder of what the Wolves could have been, what they gave up, what they are now. Maybe I'll get over it later this year, but right now, it just seems wrong, like the hue is wonky, and I need to adjust a dial on my set to get that uniform back to blue or black. It's not that I hate the Celtics or anything; just seeing Garnett in a different uniform hurts. I don't begrudge him the chance to go somewhere where he has a chance to be winning a title, nor to start over with new management. I'll be rooting for him to get that ring someday, somewhere. But I won't be watching.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Four and Out




You may have heard something about an unlikely team winning the NL pennant and electrifying a city. I can't add a lot from the baseball side, but a couple of us did have the good fortune to attend last night's NL pennant-clinching game, so I thought I'd recount a bit of the experience.

When we got the tickets to the fourth game, it was more because Monday worked better in our schedule than Sunday did--driving out from California to see family, the trip planned well in advance of the playoffs, we only started thinking toward the end of the season, "You know...if the Rockies beat the Phillies...nah, don't say it." And when it turned out there'd be a game coinciding with our visit, we grabbed some tickets online from a long-suffering Cubs fan who'd succumbed to a rare bout of optimism (thanks, Gus!).

After the Rockies' first win in Arizona, we thought, "you know, we might...don't say it, don't say it!" Then on the way out, we sat in a bar in Vail watching them win in extra innings in Arizona. Sunday night in Colorado Springs we were glad we weren't in the freezing rain, even though Torrealba's homer would have been an amazing moment to see. By the time Monday rolled around, it seemed almost inevitable that we would see the pennant-clinching game, the Rockies' first World Series appearance just 27 outs away against a team that had managed only four runs in three games.

We arrived in downtown Denver to see people selling brooms on every corner. Our non-sports-following friends who'd met us for dinner thought, because of this, that the Arizona team was called the "Dust Devils." We explained that they were the "Diamondbacks" and the brooms were because you kill snakes with brooms. Then we actually explained the "sweep" thing. They liked the snake-killing explanation better, and frankly, so did we. Not wanting to jinx the team, we opted not to buy a broom, amusing our friends with the power we felt we had over the team's fate.

After dinner, as we got closer to the stadium, we found people distinguishing their brooms by painting them in Rockies colors. The atmosphere was crazy, people hooting and cheering before the game even started. We found Mark's sister, brother-in-law, and friend, rounding out our group, and proceeded into the stadium.

We'd visited Coors Field in June, when the Rockies were struggling along toward what looked like another .500-ish season, flirting with the wild card. The upper decks in June were sparsely populated, especially with the light rain falling. Last night, of course, every section was packed. Our seats (sec. 303) were in the very top row behind right center field, but the weather this night was perfect October baseball weather: cool, clear, crisp, with a light breeze.

I've been to a few playoff games in baseball and basketball: the Timberwolves' second playoff game in history (loss to the Rockets), and a Twins playoff game in Oakland (their only loss of the series). The energy in a playoff game crowd is a level above a regular game--it's not unusual for chants to go on through the whole game. This one was even more enthusiastic than the Oakland game, because the crowd knew that the pennant was possible. Chants of "Let's go Rockies" came up at least once an inning, late in the game one side of the stadium started to chant, "GO!" and our side responded, "ROCKIES!" Matt Holliday got "M.V.P.!" chants every time he came up. Being a Phillies fan (yes, rooting for the Rockies--besides the family connections, my credo is, if you beat my team, you damn well better win it all so I can say we got beaten by the best), I couldn't let down Jimmy Rollins by joining in to that one--until Holliday popped that homer to dead center in the fourth. After that, I just told myself, "Well, it's for M.V.P. of the series..." Fan favorite rookie SS Troy Tulowitzki got the British football clap, with "TU-LO!" at the end. And of course, every time Eric "we've outplayed them" Byrnes came to the plate, he was greeted by loud and lusty boos (we were saying "Boo-urns").

The fourth inning was incredible. We were a little surprised that Hurdle pulled the pitcher so early, but Morales had been struggling and the priority at that point was clearly to keep the rally going. Seth Smith delivered, in spades. His bloop seemed to hang in the air forever, the crowd trying to help gravity with screams of "DROP! DROP! DROP!" And drop it did, just inside the foul line. And if we thought that was exciting, three batters later, Matt Holliday smacked a ball that was by no means a no-doubt-about-it from our angle. It hung in the air over center field while we jumped and yelled, opposing gravity this time, and then dropped out of our sight toward the center field fence. A second later, even people down in Colorado Springs heard the cheers as it landed 452 feet from home plate, scoring three more runs that would prove to be the difference in the game.

The energy subsided a bit after that, but being in the top row, we didn't sit down for the whole game. One man came backing up the stairs, eyes riveted on the field as he tried not to spill his beer and cup of fries. In the mid-to-late innings of a regular season game, people get tired, the stadium quiets down, and we usually take that time to do a walk around the stadium. Not last night. Top of the sixth, we started counting down the outs. 12...11...10. 9...8...7. Every strike cheered as though it were an out, every out cheered like a regular-season win. 6...5...4...4...4... Even when it got dicey in the eighth, a three-run home run almost equaling Arizona's entire offensive output in the first three games that brought the game back within reach for them, we kept faith. We knew intellectually that Arizona could come back, could take this game and maybe the next, but emotionally we felt it: there was no way. Fuentes went out, Corpas came in, and there were three outs to go.

Then two. Then a double, just to make things interesting. Then one. How fitting it was that Eric "they're just lucky" Byrnes should make the final out, a grounder to Tulo, who rifled it to Rockies legend Todd Helton. Pandemonium. We knew it was going to happen, and yet the actual moment still exploded in the stadium like the fireworks that seemed to go on forever, the "National League Champions" graphic repeating over and over on the screen as though it couldn't quite believe itself either. We kept yelling, cheering, trying to express the incredible elation of the moment.

Yes, I'm not a die-hard Rockies fan (note the dorky look in the above picture). I don't have years following the team. This victory probably meant more to just about everyone else in the stadium. But it's impossible to be in that crowd and not soak up some of the dizzying joy of it all, the giddy heights of we did it! Because no matter who you are, you're welcome to be a part of it. I high-fived more drunk people last night than I have since college. Several times, walking through the stadium after the celebration (which was full of awesome as well, seeing the stand set up and the trophy actually right there on the field), I met someone's eye and we'd both just grin for a moment and shake our heads, thinking the same thing: I can't believe this, how great is this moment.

I can't say enough about the city and its fans. Rockies banners on the state capital building. "Go Rockies" on every other LCD sign along the highway. The only thing I've seen comparable to it was the love for the Pacers, back in the 90s when I visited Indianapolis during the NBA playoffs. Whether they win the Series or not, these fans deserve their NL pennant, and, what's more, they appreciate it.

As we walked around after the game, there seemed to be a fan stationed on every corner getting cars to honk. Security guards drifted discreetly through the streets, but there was no need for them. No rioting for their first World Series here in Denver, just screaming, honking, cheering, more high-fiving. We walked around for a while soaking it in, and when we finally stopped in a bar to warm up, the bartender gave me my non-alcoholic drink on the house. "Go Rockies," he said, indicating our brand-new "NL Champions" hats. "You know we're goin' to the World Series??"

We grinned back. "Yeah," we said, "We think we mighta heard something about that."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An Idea


Okay, this might not be 100% appropriate for this blog, but I dunno where else to put it. I don't really follow the ever-changing world of MMOs all that much, but I was intrigued recently when I read about a Flight Simulator community that has grown up around allowing people to play at being air traffic controllers for all the people flying simulated planes. In other words, there are people who voluntarily simulate what is supposed to be one of the top five jobs that comes up when you cross-index "tedious" and "stressful." (I assume that part of the attraction is that the virtual plane crashes are much less stressful than the real ones.)

On the heels of that comes today's Penny Arcade article in which a noted game designer imagines an MMO based on industrial construction, and does a pretty darn good job of it. Which got me to thinking that people are probably willing to do virtually (ha) anything they would do in the real world as an MMO.

So why not play sports? Not just the current incarnation where you take your teams and design plays and control a couple key players, but really...get into the world of sports. Be a player, control your exercise and diet, learn your plays, and get ready for the big game. Be a coach, plan strategies and develop a playbook with signals that you have to teach your players. Be a GM, be an owner, and instead of buying Alex Rodriguez or Randy Moss, go get the services of actual people. Join some friends to run a team, band some teams together to form a league, and let there be as many leagues as necessary. Games take place whenever teams can schedule them conveniently. You could even be a referee or an ump!

I mean, come on. If you're going to take a real-world activity and make it virtual, at least make it something fun, hm?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Being a Fan

The blogs have been ringing with the demise of the Yankees--between that and the late-season collapse of the Mets (which I have to bring up as often as possible), it's like heaven for everyone outside the NYC orbital cloud. While it's moderately annoying to have more attention devoted to a team that lost than to all four teams that are moving on (combined), it has sparked some interesting conversations, and one dialogue in particular about what it means to be a fan that interests me specifically.

It started with Joe Posnanski, a recent addition to my blogroll, talking about the "irrational fan":

[...]somewhere along the way, I did lose some of that irrational fan I had been as a boy, the one who believed that Rick Waits would win 20, the fan who sat in bed and stared at walls for hours when the Browns lost, the fan who screamed “Get a damn rebound, one damn rebound, just one,” over and over at the television when the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing. I guess I believe that most people outgrow that fan much in the same way that most people at some age stop going to keggers and stop pretending they get today’s music.


We talked about being irrational fans. There are some people I know who have not yet outgrown that phase, and some who have. But that's all tied up with love of the team and how much influence sports has over your life. The important part of that that I took away was that the team for these people was like family. When they succeeded, you felt like a part of that success, and their failures were your failures. Growing up, for many of us, the family we grew up with becomes less important and the family we create ourselves takes precedence. The sports team, at this time, drifts back to a second tier of importance. We'll cheer their victories and lament their failures, but we don't feel them as our own. But still, that bond is there. Win or lose, we love our team.

Unless that team happens to be the Yankees. Jeff Pearlman, on ESPN's Page 2, chimes in with this interesting observation:


Like the Yankees, [Marion] Jones had invested heavily in the modern American way of thinking -- that nothing but first place can be considered a success. That's why Barry Bonds allegedly broke the rules to snap the single-season and career home run records, why Floyd Landis and dozens of others apparently wouldn't mind winning the Tour de France with cheater's gold flowing through their veins, why Shawne Merriman can be suspended for using steroids and named a Pro Bowler in the same season and we're not shocked. It's why, whenever I pass a Little League ball field or a Pop Warner scrimmage or a gymnastics meet for 7-year-olds, there is inevitably a parent (or 10) chewing out his/her kid, not for a lack of effort, but for a lack of results.


It's not just Yankees fans, of course, but they are the most glaring example, and on an individual level, being a fan of winning has started to supplant being a fan of the game. We were taught growing up that "it's not whether you win or lose; it's how you play the game," and jokingly we would change it to "it's not whether you win or lose; it's whether you win," or, if we were feeling more lofty, quote Vince Lombardi (himself quoting Red Sanders of UCLA) in response: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." Somewhere along the way, the easier, more personally rewarding and selfish phrase morphed from a twist or a joke into a real credo.

Being a fan isn't supposed to be about the results. It's supposed to be about supporting your team, when they screw up (let me run down the last ten years as a fan of Minnesota sports in a nutshell, shall I? Clem Haskins, Gary Anderson, 41-0, Joe Smith, Fred Smoot's boat, contraction), and rejoicing with them when they win. You're not a stockholder in the team, to demand results or else; you're family. You don't give up on family.

Again, lest you think that all columnists are stereotypers who don't know how the real fans think, here is a portion of a comment from a Yankees fan on Will Leitch's NYT column of 10/9:

To root for the most successful franchise in the history of professional sports is not a difficult thing. In fact, if you divide up the years by the 26 WS titles the Yankees have won somewhere in between 1 out of 4 and 1 out of 5. Our time is coming. We will be champions again.

I just wonder how you can be an Astros fan, or a Mariners fan. And I’m not sure what is worse, never winning, or winning once, like the Angels.


The extent to which this person doesn't get it is breathtaking. Of course it's not "difficult" to be a Yankees fan--that's why they make it difficult by demanding more and more of their team. How can you be an Astros fan, or a Mariners fan? You grow up with the team. You learn the players, you watch the game. You appreciate the small successes. You never forget that Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson were Mariners once, that epic NLCS game against the Phils in 1980, Joe Neikro (or was it Phil?) and Luis Sojo and Craig Biggio and Ken Griffey, Jr. Every moment doesn't have to be a championship; every playoff victory is a gift, not a right. That's how you're a fan of any team--including some for the Yankees. Just not many.

Because when you come down to it, sports teams really are a family. Love them, hate them, but always come back to them, win or lose. Which makes me wonder if those of us with less idyllic childhoods might be more prone to "picking up" new teams to root for, or why moving to certain cities might or might not inspire you to root for that city's teams, but that's another post for another time. They will never be that perfect family you remember from childhood, but they will always be there for you.

Unless they move to L.A. That's where it all breaks down, of course.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Replay It! (So I can have my heart broken in slo-mo)

I'm not sure why so many people are up in arms about the end of the Rockies/Padres game on Monday. Sports talk radio (especially sports talk radio here in Southern California) was abuzz about how this game was proof that baseball needs instant replay just like football and basketball.

Except it's not proof at all.

This wasn't a game lost because of the lack of replay like the Jets/Seahawks 9 years ago when Vinny Testeverde was awarded a touchdown even though replays showed the ball was a good 6 inches short of the goal line. And it wasn't like the Rams/Bucs playoff game a couple years later when a Bert Emanuel catch was overturned because technically the ball had touched the ground even though Emanuel appeared to have it in his control. These were plays that justifiably led to the instatement of replay and the tweaking of the rules.

Monday night's game, however, would not have been changed by replay. Neither controversial call in the game (Colorado's maybe-home-run and Matt Holiday's swipe-or-no-swipe of home plate) would have been overturned had replay been used in that game. Both were too close to call, with no visual evidence that the ball did or didn't clear the fence and no clear evidence that Holiday did or didn't tag. And lest this sound like a pro-Colorado stance, I'll state the had Holiday been called out there is no way the call would have been overturned. It would have ended much the way the UConn/Temple football game ended earlier this season where Temple appeared to score a go-ahead touchdown in the waning seconds of the game, but the call was out of bounds and there was no visual evidence to overturn it other than some body-language cues that he probably did catch the ball.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fired Up


Okay, maybe it's just bitterness from getting dropped out of the survivor league (I wasn't the only one), but I find myself in the rare position of arguing for a mid-season coaching change. How do you lose a home game to a team as woeful as Kansas City with the level of talent Norv has in San Diego? At this point, their season is over. I won't say you're going to need a particularly good record to win the AFC West, but Denver clearly has the inside track on that now, and Oakland has been playing well enough that you can't count on either of those games as a gimme (and clearly, you can't count on a KC game either, especially when you're going to Arrowhead). Not to mention that they have to play the Colts, at Tennessee, and at Jacksonville. Heck, even Houston coming to SD is not a cert right now. Coupled with the Bears loss at Detroit, it now looks like the Chargers' win in the first week of the season was a product of a lousy Bears team more than a talented Chargers team.

So what to do? Usually I am more cautious about calling for mid-season coaching changes, but Norv has got to know he was on a short leash to begin with, given his prior record. Getting blown out at New England was bad. Losing at Green Bay was bad. Losing at home to the Chiefs--sorry, that's strike three. Write this season off and bring in a new coaching staff, let them get used to the players and vice versa, and load up for next season.

Postscript: I wrote this before seeing the consensus across blogdom. (Google "fire norv" for more. It's astounding, really. I should buy stock in rakes and Frankenstein torches.)

Best line courtesy of Deadspin: "Chargers 16, Chiefs 6 -- Taking a lead in the first half, Norv Turner solemnly made halftime adjustments in the hopes of making the lead smaller or non-existent."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The "Real Deal"


Overheard during the New England-San Diego game Sunday night on the radio: "Shawne Merriman had 16 sacks in only twelve games last season. He is the real deal."

Except, of course, that he only played in twelve games because he was serving a suspension for steroid use in the other four. Have we forgotten already? Really? Did you have to use the phrase "the real deal" in the same breath in which you mentioned his suspension for using artificial performance enhancing drugs?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Perhaps He Is Speaking In Some Kind Of Code


Here at Three and Out, we like to dig up stories that are under the radar because they are unsurprising or unimportant, but at least are connected to our favorite teams. You might have heard of a little deal two of our teams made a little while back, in which Sebastian Telfair was sent to his third NBA team at the ripe old age of 22. He struck the right note in his new city, telling the Minneapolis press that he accepts responsibility for his previous problems and is taking steps to correct them. Well, that sounds promising! What kind of steps?

"I've taken myself out of New York City and moved to Vegas so I can concentrate on basketball."

Wait, what?

I mean, come on. I realize he's bounced around a lot, but if he'd picked a city with an NBA team, at least he'd have a 1 in 30 shot at landing there from year to year...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fun With Neurotic Red Sox Fans


As previously reported right here in this blog, John Henry, owner of the Red Sox, actually did buy half the NASCAR Roush Racing team this winter, and now the partnership is coming to fruition. The target? None other than 2005 Nextel Cup 2nd place finisher Carl Edwards. Carl got a full makeover last week, his car and helmet repainted in Red Sox team colors, complete with a Red Sox logo on the hood and doors and the 9's redone in the font that Ted Williams wore on his jersey. Carl even got to drive his car into Fenway Park and threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Saturday's game vs. the Rangers.

As you might have heard, the Red Sox are doing pretty well this year. Best record in the majors, even. Carl's also having a pretty good year after missing the Chase last year - 7th place, pretty solidly in the running this year, and completely dominating the Busch Series by an astounding 784 points. It's far too tempting to draw comparisons between the two, as if Carl was an avatar for the Red Sox's season. Same ownership, right? Similar situations. As you can guess, this only served to further prove that Red Sox fans' psyches are about as formidable as Glass Joe.

Carl finished 2nd in Saturday's Busch race in Loudon, NH. Not so bad, right? Except for the fact that his car failed post-race inspections, and was fined and docked 25 points. Things seemed bright for Edwards in the Sunday Nextel race as well, racing towards the front of the pack and leading a few laps. Towards the home stretch of the race, Edwards pitted. As his tires were being changed, his car slipped and fell off the jack, taking up valuable time - 47 seconds worth, over twice as long as the average pit stop. He got back on the track a lap down and his day was over, finishing 13th.

Cars rarely fall off the jacks in NASCAR. It's a pretty rare flub for a team to have to go through. To make an analogy, it's almost like a routine grounder dribbling through an infielder's legs. It just doesn't happen very often.

I'm sure the Red Sox will be just fine this year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Do You Believe In Hyperbole?


Last year, we happened to be working out at the gym on July 4th when Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Competition was being televised on the four-letter. If you have missed it in the past, I highly recommend it. From the "has eaten" list that stretches the imagination ("one tenth of her body weight in cheesecake ... 97 Krystal burgers in eight minutes ... 8.6 pounds of deep-fried asparagus spears in ten minutes ..."--see the full list of records if you really want to boggle your mind) to the quirky competitors, including a vegetarian who only eats meat at "sanctioned competitive events," it's a spectacle unlike any other. “Nothing represents summer and the Fourth of July like the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest,” said Wayne Norbitz, president and COO of Nathan’s Famous, and notorious barbecue and fireworks hater. “This year our nation has new hope for glory.” Wait, what?

See, this year's tilt had the added bonus of a challenger worthy of six-time champ and Japanese national Takeru Kobayashi: San Jose's own Joey Chestnut, who broke Kobayashi's overall record for hot dogs eaten and seemed poised to unseat the champ and bring the "mustard belt" back to the good ol' U.S. of A. He did so in record style as both he and Kobayashi surpassed his previous record of 59.5, when thanks to an unfortunate "reversal," Kobayashi ended up three dogs short of Chestnut's winning 66.

The announcers are just as insane as the contestants. Bringing the championship back to America, the hysterical announcer exclaimed, was "the greatest moment in American sports history." Upon hearing that, an indignant Jim Craig immediately signed up for next year's contest.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Choking Hazard


Found this little gem off a comment from the Deadspin Post of the Year, 2007: The Chris Benoit "Deluxe Aggression" action figure! Get it while it's hot! The best part of it? The little "Choking Hazard" warning in the bottom left. Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all night.

Once again, proving that most of our (okay, my) content usually originates on Deadspin, here is the winning comment from all the hubbub about this tragedy:

"Why didn't his wife and kid just tap out?"

Who's The Next Steroid User To Murder Their Family?

Friday, June 29, 2007

The "NFL Europe" Never Really Existed


The most startling thing about this piece of news is not that the league that began life as "the Waffle" is going away, but that its actual name was "NFL Europa." Europa? Seriously? I guess if you consider the NFL to be Jupiter, then "NFL Europa" accurately describes the difference in scale between the two. Also, then we could call University of Phoenix Stadium the Great Red Spot.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rotoworld Gets Their Sarcasm On

Rotoworld is a very interesting site. Like many people (but unlike most of my fellow contributors, as far as I can tell), I have a fantasy baseball team or five, and it's indispensable for news on my current players and pretty open about sharing information. There's a sidebar on Boston Dirt Dogs for Rotoworld information about the Sox, and occasionally they put out a really funny blurb. I think that's why I like them more than other knockoffs like Rotowire, KFFL, Stats Inc, etc. Plus they've got a nicer website. Anyway, some faithful Rotoworld readers compiled a list of really funny ones themselves, so instead of blatantly steal like I usually do, I'll just link. I particularly like the David Terrell and Taco Wallace ones. The reason for this post, of course, is because I came across a particularly cutting and amusing one tonight:
Kason Gabbard - BOS
Kason Gabbard issued two of his six walks with the bases loaded in the first and gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings Tuesday against the Mariners.
It should have been worse, but Manny Delcarmen bailed him out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth. The Red Sox just butchered this one tonight. The first mistake was going to Gabbard against a team that is quite a bit better against lefties. They watched him almost completely blow the game in the first. Besides the walk, there was also a bases-loaded HBP in the frame. Then the Red Sox trotted out their worst relievers one-by-one. Perhaps the most incredible moment of the season so far came in the sixth. Lefty specialist Javier Lopez, in his second inning of work having already given up a two-run homer to Richie Sexson, intentionally walked the only left-handed hitter in Seattle's lineup (Ichiro) before being removed from the game. That it worked out hardly made it any less bizarre. Judging from Lopez's presence in the contest in the first place, we can only assume that Joel Pineiro passed away last week and no one bothered to alert the media.

This, of course, is quickly followed by:
Joel Pineiro - BOS
Joel Pineiro has been unavailable the last two days because he rolled an ankle working out on Monday.
So it wasn't his time after all.
Source: Boston Herald

Classic.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Joys of Sox


It's 3 months into the baseball season, right? And this is a sports blog, right? And I am a massive Red Sox fan, right? And the Red Sox are currently leading the AL East by 10.5 games, right? Right. So why hasn't there been any Red Sox-related posts from the most rabid Red Sox fan on this site?

Well, for one, pretty much every news site/blog/major television network just keeps talking about the Red Sox/Yankees ALL THE TIME. Give it a rest, guys, or else this old lady is totally going to gently ask you to tone it down.. after she gives you some of her home-made brownies, of course.

For two.. Sox fans are big believers in karma, which is amusing considering Yankees fans, as a general rule, are complete akarmaists. Gloating about a big lead is just simply bad karma, and I don't want to tempt fate. I like our team a lot, and think we're going to win the AL East this year. (Gasp!) And yes, every Red Sox win and every Yankees loss makes me happy - not because I like to see the Yankees suffer, but because it means our lead is more and more secure. The most gung-ho about it that I'll get is my response to someone teasing me about whether I'm scared now - "Ask me that again when the Yankees are closer to 1st place in their division than Washington is."

I went to two Boston games at OaklandMcAfee Coliseum a few weeks back just so I could say I actually attended a game or two in this hopefully historic season. We lost both games pretty easily. (Yes, we lost the first one in extra innings, but we all knew Terry Francona wasn't too interested in winning when he paraded out Joel Piniero, J.C. Romero, and Kyle Snyder in order in a close game.) In fact, Schilling had to pitch an entire game himself just to keep us from getting swept. I should have felt upset at their performances, but I just can't. They're too lovable.

They're a great team to watch, especially since they have so much fun playing the game. They have a ton of chemistry, unlike another certain unnamed team that is pretty much a collection of All-Stars. It starts from the top, with Manny Ramirez selling pretty much anything he can get his hands on and grooming his teammate in the dugout and David Ortiz hugging the other teams' players, on down to Mike Lowell wanting to start up Manny's blog and Julian Tavarez.. well, where to start? Wearing a "Manny Being Manny" T-shirt? Dreaming of being a porn star? Even long-time announcer Jerry Remy is getting into the act, pulling a little air guitar on the air with predictable results and playing Zapruder in the case of the flying pizza. This clip is just about the funniest Red Sox-related thing I've seen all year. Enjoy. I know I am.

Part 1:


Part 2:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

If Corporations Were Allowed To Vote On All-Stars


My office drinks a fair amount of Diet Pepsi, and in the latest batch, I noticed that one can had a baseball player on it, as part of an All Star Game tie-in. A few names sprang to mind: A-Rod, Griffey, Ordonez, Ichiro, Fielder, Bonds... not all of them leading in votes, but at least close. But no, upon closer inspection, the name of the player on the can is...Johnny Damon.
In fact, of the three cases of Diet Pepsi we got in this week, the number of cans with a baseball player other than Johnny Damon on them is: zero. I mean...really? Johnny "ninth in All Star voting even though he's on the Yankees" Damon? Johnny "one place above J.D. Drew" Damon?
When we go to the MLB site listed on the can, all is revealed: "Check out Pepsi's new MLB-themed commercial featuring Johnny Damon and Joe Mauer," a caption under a completely different video entreats us. I guess I can figure out who else is on the other Limited Edition cans.
Meanwhile, if this Damon can ever becomes valuable, we've got like a hundred of 'em here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kobe Bryant is a Spoiled Rich Girl

I had a dream the other day... Okay, it was after lunch this afternoon as I was daydreaming about things I could be doing if I wasn't where I was, which was in the office.

In the dream Kobe Bryant was being chased by Scooby and the gang, who were dead set on finding the reasons behind his abnormal behavior.

'I want to be traded!'

'Well, maybe not!'

'Bring back Jerry West and I'll be Happy!'

'Never mind! I hate you all! Trade me! Trade me! Trade me!'

When Scooby and company finally caught up with Kobe, Fred reached out and pulled on Kobe's face. SCHLOOP! The mask came off!

Underneath it was Paris Hilton.

Yes, Kobe is a spoiled, rich girl whose never known what it's like to go through a down time. I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone who already has 9 All Star appearances and 3 championship rings before he hit the age of 30. And now! Oh no! He may have to suffer the indignity of playing through a REBUILDING PROCESS! Poor, poor Kobe! Let's all feel sorry for him now!

I have some sympathy--SOME--for the great players who ask to be traded in the twilight of their careers to get one last shot at that ring. Guys like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Ray Bourque, or Cris Carter. Guys who never got that ring (though I have more respect for guys like Marino, Reggie Miller, or John Stockton who stick it out with their teams without crying about never getting their chances).

If I were Mitch Kupchak I would trade Kobe.

To the Mnnesota Timberwolves, for Kevin Garnett.

They could make a Simple Life-like reality show out of it where Kobe would find out what it's like to REALLY have to rebuild and play for a team that REALLY has incompetent management.

Monday, June 18, 2007

And This Is Why He's Playing Basketball

I have to admit that the idea of the 11-foot rims in basketball intrigues me. But that in itself is not enough to justify a Three and Out post (you may have noticed that very little sports news meets our exacting standards recently). Making fun of a minor league athlete? Hey, we can't fire up Blogger fast enough.

One of the players who came in for the exhibition game with 11-foot rims (and how were they selected, anyway? Volunteers? picked out of a hat? Happened to be wandering by? Kidnapped by Tom Newell and forced to play along with his dastardly scheme?) was an IBL player, who made an incisive observation on how the game changes when you raise the rim by a foot:

Dontay Harris, a 6-8 former Drake player now with the Tacoma Thunder of the International Basketball League, noticed an immediate difference in inside play.

"You can't just get the ball and turn around and drop it in," he said. "Now there's another eight inches to go. It's definitely a challenge."


It's no use asking whether he graduated from Drake, really, is it? (Just as it's no use asking whether I can dunk on a six-foot rim, let alone ten or eleven.) But really, we should be thanking Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times for selecting that particular quote. You just know he was sitting in the gym thinking, "I can't believe I have to cover this...wait, did he really say 'eight inches'? Oh, I am so using that."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

They Put The WTF in the FTW

Following up Friday's post about the Allen Park Cabrini softball team, a short note. Not only did they go out and win the championship, team stud Katie Osburn pitched another shutout, sealing the record for fewest runs allowed in a season (one). Oh, and she pitched a no-hitter, too. Her 12th of the year. Take that, Nolan Ryan! (Seriously, check out the "Cabrini by the numbers" section of the linked article--26 straight shutouts? a .730 average for their leading hitter? Crazy.)

But even though Cabrini went 35-0, it was only Osburn's 32nd shutout of the year. So counting the one game where she allowed a run (her ERA was 0.0435), there were two games where I guess she got the win but didn't finish. Well, she's coming back next year, so she'll have a chance to improve on those numbers. But Allen Park Cabrini is moving up to Division 3. I'm not sure whether to say "watch out, Monarchs" or "watch out, Division 3!" Maybe some of the players on the field behind Katie will actually have to shake themselves awake next year.

Friday, June 15, 2007

This Is Not Your Mother's Softball League


When I was growin' up, softball was the game you played when you wanted to let the girls have fun too. The games were always low-key and high-scoring on account of the ball is huge and the pitches underhanded. Let us just say that defense and pitching did not figure highly into the team choosing. The pitcher, in fact, was anyone who could at least 75% of the time get the ball near enough the plate that someone could hit it.

That's not how they roll in Michigan, where up Battle Creek way, the Allen Park Cabrini high school softball team is advancing to the finals on the arm of Katie Osburn, who not only drove in the winning run in their 1-0 semifinal victory, but also pitched a one-hitter.

The only game of softball I ever played that ended 1-0 ended in the first inning after the second batter hit the ball and it rolled into the street and a truck flattened it.

But hey, lest you think this Katie Osburn is a one-game wonder, here's another stat for you. The Monarchs have allowed one run all season. That's 34 games. They've won 73 straight, and are (obviously) 34-0 this year. And what do you think Osburn's record is? If she were the Steve Carlton of her team (Carlton won 27 of the Phillies' 59 victories back in 1972), she'd be something like 15-0. But no, she's better than that. Her record is the same as the team's, 34-0.

Which means, for those of you keeping score at home, that over 34 games, Katie Osburn has started every game and surrendered exactly one run. That is some serious softball. I mean, I can't even imagine. I wonder if Katie would be willing to come out to Cali and pose as my daughter for the office softball game. That'd show those jerks over in Sales.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Ride The Horse That Got You There

I'm done with NBA basketball. I've had a few friends ask me about what I thought about the Spurs or the Cavs-Pistons series, and my answer has been "Don't know, don't care." Yes, yes, I'm a Celtics fan, but falling to 5th in the draft was just the last straw; it's been brewing for a while. The game simply isn't fun to watch anymore. I don't know if it's the coaches or the fact that the players are uncoachable, but the Suns are the only team that are even vaguely pleasant to watch play. How can you win basketball games without a game plan? When your opponent doesn't have one either!

Last night me and a couple of friends happened to catch the end game 5 at a grinder place. The game was definitely compelling, but my logic kept guilting me about how terrible the spectacle was. LeBron, with two hands in his face, raining 20 footers.. wow, he nailed another one!.. wait, why is he having to force all these shots? Where are his teammates? I didn't see anyone on either team manage to take an open shot the whole 2OTs! This is the game of basketball now? I can appreciate LeBron's feats as impressive while still hating the game I see. I blame this on Simmons for pointing out the Cavs' game plan or lack thereof.

Anyway, Spurs will get another championship, and I'll be done. I've got my Red Sox. I've got my Patriots. Since pro seasons are 6 months long these days, I'll be pretty much set.

Regardless, I couldn't help modifying the "headline" photo on Deadspin this morning with a line from commenter Weed Against Speed. It's just too perfect, considering my love of cat image macros. And since I can't finagle a commenter account there, I'll just have to actually update our dying blog.

Monday, May 14, 2007

How Many Digits Does Eckstein Have Again?


Flipping channels on Saturday afternoon, I happened across Fox's Phillies-Cubs broadcast just in time for this gem from our old buddy Tim McCarver: "I'll tell ya, Soriano's got a body as hard as high school algebra." Wait, what? Run that by me again? That's wrong on so many different levels; I'd rather not have to think about McCarver enjoying Soriano's hard body or likewise enjoying anything involving high school. Strikes me as a little ####. And really, was high school algebra really that hard? I mean, I didn't start having trouble 'til that calculus shit came along. He obviously had trouble in English class at least - just ask Brandon Arroyo or Bill Wakefield. He's got an amazing grasp of the English language and the game of baseball. Thankfully, the internets have graced us with videographic evidence on the youtubes. Watch how Darren Daulton uses his mitt like a glove!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sometimes you just need another point of view

So, "Rich" (see photo caption) Carlisle is out of a job now, probably for reasons that are largely not his fault (see: Artest, Ron; Jackson, Stephen; trade, bad and desperate). However, team president and master trade architect Larry Bird wants him to know that hey, it's not you, it's us: "He had a lot of ups and downs," Bird said. "With some of the problems we've had over the past few years, it's been tough on everyone. He's been awfully good for this franchise." Bird also said that Carlisle has the option to return to the team in another capacity.

"I asked him if he wanted to trade jobs," Carlisle said. "And that didn’t interest him."

Maybe Bird was thinking about something more like this.

Hey, we hear there's a job opening in Sacramento. Though in Carlisle's place, we'd be afraid to ask Ron Artest to "bury the hatchet."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

I have to say up front that I like Mark Madsen. He went to school at Stanford, and plays for my favorite team. What's not to like?

He is joining the ranks of pro athlete/bloggers with a well-written blog that is an enjoyable look at life as a pro basketball player. The funny thing about the blog, though, is that it has Google ads on it.

I'm sure Mark didn't set up the site himself--he probably just posts. But there's very little traffic to the site (and not likely to be more as a result of this post), so the revenue he's getting from Google can probably be measured in dollars over months. Considering he made over $2 million this year, does he really need the extra ad revenue? Maybe he's just jealous at all the endorsements those other athletes are getting.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

NCAA Evolution

I was watching some rebroadcast of the 1990 UConn-Duke game from the Regional finals, which was coincidentally the first year I really started watching the NCAA tournament at the urging of my then-roommate. We picked teams (alternating choices, and giving the other person the first-round opponent, meaning each of us only picked 16 teams), and I picked UConn, I think because they had sent me an application to grad school once upon a time. Well, in the semifinal game against Clemson that preceded this one, UConn was down one with a second to go when Scott Burrell launched a full court pass to Tate George, who caught it on the opposite baseline, spun, and buried a jumper to win the game. That moment made me an NCAA Tournament fan.

The UConn-Duke game was similarly thrilling, going to overtime before being decided on Christian Laettner's buzzer-beater (his less famous one). What I noticed in watching this game over again was that both teams ran a very simple offense: get the ball to Laettner/Bobby Hurley/Tate George.

Compare that to the Ohio State-Florida game Monday night, which could have been an NBA game for the style of play. Even though OSU featured an NBA-caliber center, they spread the ball around a lot. Florida has five guys who can all score. Both teams ran a balanced offense that allowed them to score inside or out, and involved everyone. Has the game changed that much from 17 years ago? I think so, considering that the Duke team that beat UConn in a thriller ran into UNLV in the finals and lost to what was unquestionably the most talented roster in college basketball at the time. That kind of disparity doesn't really exist any more at the top tiers, not because of talent fleeing to the NBA, but because there is (I think) so much more talent at the college level. A school like Florida wasn't considered elite until their run last year; they will be now, because they'll continue to attract new talent. The explosion of media attention beyond just sports nuts has increased the pool of talented players, despite the most talented ones jumping to the pros as soon as they're allowed.

Note that all of this hasn't made the college game more interesting to watch, but then, I have trouble focusing through an entire NBA game as well.

And for your amusement, a mis-captioned ESPN.com photo (from DJ Gallo's Masters Preview, now corrected).

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Apathetic All-Stars

I recall, a few weeks earlier, when we had reached the regionals of the NCAA tournament, that if Florida and Ohio State ended up playing one another for yet another championship I would lose faith in humanity.

Despair 1, Humanity 0.

After watching the terrible end-of-game effort from Georgetown and UCLA sabotaging, for the second year in a row, a legitimate chance to beat, what I believe to be, an inferior team, left me sitting like a startled owl mumbling, "Ya Rly?" to myself over and over again.

And lo, a light from the heavens shone upon me and said, "Ya Srsly." Yes, we have EXACTLY the same final in basketball as we did in football. Does anyone else out there find that just the LEAST bit boring, if not suspicious? What are these two schools offering behind the scenes to potential recruits to get them to sign? What are the chances that this sort of matchup will ever happen again? Has it ever happened before? I'll admit, I'm so unenthused about the final matchup that I can't even bring myself to do a google search and find out. Someone else do it for me.

This has been the absolute worst NCAA tournament on record. Granted, I've only tasted oxygen for a quarter of a century myself, but there couldn't have been anything more boring than the highest seed in the regionals being, what, a 7? L-A-M-E.

Oh, and Mr. Noah? Cut your fricking hair. It looks like an Afro-Koosh doll threw up on your head.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Retro-inactive

While scanning the details of the latest tilt between a couple of T&O's favorite teams, I ran across one of the first of many items we'll see a lot this year: "The Red Sox placed right-handers Matt Clement and Mike Timlin and left-hander Jon Lester on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 23." No, I don't mean to say anything about the durability of Mike Timlin (though I remember him being part of the Blue Jays' championship teams some 14-15 years ago) or Matt "more durable than Kerry Wood and Mark Prior" Clement, but rather about the amusing practice of placing players on the disabled list and getting around the 15-day restriction by claiming that you actually placed them on the list a week ago, you just, what, forgot to tell people? "Geez, guys, I don't know what to say. Bob, the guy who does the lists, well, let's just say we're all thinking of getting him a PDA for his birthday. Sorry, we'll try to be more organized in the future."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

They Fixed His Arms In The 2007 Version


Finally, an NFL trade to get excited about! Philly sends DT Darwin Walker and a draft pick to Buffalo for former Bengal Takeo Spikes and former Brown Kelly Holcomb, who don't need position designators for me to know what they play.

Holcomb, remember, challenged Tim Couch (in Cleveland) and then J.P. Losman (in Buffalo) for starting position at QB--just the kind of experienced backup the Eagles need behind Donovan McGlass. And Takeo Spikes is a Pro Bowl linebacker who will only improve the Eagles' already-good defense, assuming he's recovered from the Achilles injury (he said "When next year comes it'll be that much better. I look forward to next year, I really do.") and oddly dislocated arms he apparently sported a couple years ago. What I'm not sure about is how much the loss of Walker will hurt them, but I feel like the Eagles got the better of this one, and the number of times I can say that about a trade one of my teams was involved in is rare enough to warrant a posting.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Let's Have Us A Good Time



Gilbert Arenas has become this season one of the fan favorites in the NBA. If you want to know why, read this post. If you've ever wanted to know what a pro athlete thinks while playing, or how he reacts to the bizarre world of pro sports, read this post. If you hate Skip Bayless, read this post.

Gilbert is probably the first of many pro athletes to really embrace the internet, to reach out to his fans and the world at large and let them into his world. It helps that he's articulate, funny, and insightful, and that's a rare combination in or out of pro sports. For the last few years, I've wondered why more athletes don't keep a blog/journal. I don't because I can't imagine many people being interested in my life. But these people regularly perform in front of tens of thousands of people, who buy merchandise with their name on it and know more details of their career than they do the careers of close friends or family members. How can their private lives not be interesting to some people? I love reading awkward draft diaries with lines like "I went golfing a couple of times and saw some a bunch of movies. Daddy's Little Girls is a good one to check out." But Gilbert's blog is not just interesting, it's fun. And I think there have to be more funny, articulate, insightful athletes out there who are going to see his success and say, "hey, hang on, I can do that."

If Robert Smith were playing today, he would have a blog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Please, Get All Up In Manny's Grill


Manny Ramirez is apparently selling his AMAZING grill on eBay. =] I don't know about you, but I've always wanted to purchase a $4,000 game-used grill from a future Hall of Famer. I do have some concerns before I put in my bid though: will it only half-cook my burgers? If I have a big barbecue coming up, can I be sure it won't arrive a week late? Will it still work in October? I can see it now: serving half-cooked hot dogs and burnt burgers to my friends, I will have no other defense than to say, "Eh, my grill is being my grill."

Monday, March 19, 2007

See, This Is Why Some Teams Don't Advance


You're supposed to stop the other team's player from getting to the basket, not give him a boost up! Oh, Winthrop. Your humanity was your undoing. Though I can see how it would be hard to resist plucky li'l Aaron Brooks. You just want something to go right for that guy, what with the Raiders trying desperately to draft his replacement.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Continuing a Proud Ivy League Tradition


Having two schools on my resume means I'm rarely left out when it comes to tournament time.

Having one of them be an Ivy League school and the other a mediocre Big Ten school means I'm rarely left in when it comes to the second round. (Penn last won a first round game in 1994, when both of my schools made it to the second round. Bliss!)

Down 13 at the half of their opening round game against Texas A&M, Penn came back to take a 39-37 lead midway through the second half, an impressive enough achievement against the tough defense of Texas A&M. That was as good as it got, however; the Aggies went on a 10-0 run and Penn never got closer than 5 the rest of the way.

If you're going to be a fan of an Ivy League basketball team, Penn or Princeton is the horse to take. Since 1960, only four times has one of those two schools not been the champion (in 2002, they finished in a 3-way tie with Yale for the win; Penn ended up going to the tournament). Penn's best year was 1979, when they went to the Final Four and lost to then-Earvin Johnson's Michigan State Spartans (they also lost to DePaul in the consolation game, and for the record, Princeton also made the Final Four only once, in 1965, though they've had more tourney success and buzz recently).

You would think that my other school, being in the Big Ten, would have a shinier record, but largely what that gets them is a better seeding and therefore a chance to win the first round game before losing the second. Minnesota's best year was 1997 1990, when they went to the Final Four the Elite Eight as a six-seed.

But hey, I managed to slip out of work long enough to be watching the game when Penn took the lead. I have a nice little 2007 tournament memory, and considering my schools, not a bad one. Now I can just root for my bracket.

Friday, March 9, 2007

There's Insurance, And Then There's Desperate Sucking Chest Wound Staunching

I've been following NFL free agency moves with some bemusement, as none of my teams seem particularly interested in improving that way. Nothing worth commenting on really, until this morning. Not to steal Freelancer's thunder, but Dominic Rhodes going to the Raiders prompted this amusing line from ESPN:

The six-year veteran will serve as an insurance policy for the Raiders, in the event incumbent starter LaMont Jordan does not bounce back from the medial collateral ligament injury that limited him to nine games in 2006.


Bounce back? To what, exactly? That 2005 season looks more like a blip than a trend. And even if he doesn't bounce back, the history of successful Colts running backs continuing their success on teams with crappy running games is, well, less than inspiring.

And by the way, when did Dominic Rhodes become "Dom"? Has he always been that to Indy fans, and by stepping onto the wider stage, bumped up his intimacy level with the rest of us? Or is this a recent reinvention, a la "Mike" Vick, to show that he wants a starting job...you know, doesn't want to be a sub any more?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Don't You Trust Me Enough To Let Me Avoid You?

It's seemed rather pointless to weigh in on the whole Tim Hardaway thing, given that it's been, shall we say, adequately covered in the media. However, if you didn't catch Scoop Jackson's interview with Timmy over on ESPN Page 2, it provides an interesting coda. Tim echoes a sentiment first expressed by LeBron James in reaction to Amaechi's coming out: it's a "trust issue." "With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy," James said. Hardaway uses almost exactly the same language: "But if a guy, like they say, is in the closet and decides to come out of the closet years down the line, you feel that your friendship, him being a teammate, being a part of a team, which in a lot of ways is like being part of a family or fraternity, has been betrayed. You feel like you've been double-crossed. We were in battles together, we were in the trenches together, how could you not tell me?" (italics his).

LBJ's comment was given some scrutiny, Hardaway's somewhat less (apart from Deadspin's calling him a "gleefully unapologetic moron," which I think gets to the heart of the matter). Here's the thing that bugs me about that comment coming from Hardaway, LBJ somewhat less (but only because I don't know how LBJ really feels): they say that hiding that part of your life is a betrayal of trust, that a teammate should be honest with his teammates. By doing so, they're trying to deflect the blame onto the victim. See, if only he'd been open, there'd be no problem. It's his fault for keeping it a secret. That is, pardon my French, a load of crap. What that comment really means is, Holy shit, if I'm gonna be showering with these guys and going full-contact in practices, I want to know if any of them is thinking about my junk. That isn't a "trust issue." It's a homophobia issue. It's LBJ and Hardaway thinking that if they have a gay teammate and don't know it, that means they can't take some measure to "protect themselves" (perhaps thinking of Chris Kaman, below).



Hardaway mentions a friend who felt "violated" after a friend of his came out several years later. Violated? Because, what, this guy was gay near him and he didn't know? Get a clue, morons: your teammate's sexuality is nothing to do with you. I don't know how much plainer it can be than that. It's his decision to tell you or not. It's part of his private life. And the fact that John Amaechi didn't feel comfortable telling any of his teammates--even the ones who guessed--tells you that he didn't want to live with the awkwardness and the homophobia that would inevitably arise from his revelation. It tells you that he didn't trust his teammates to accept that part of his life, that even though they were "in the trenches" together, he didn't feel comfortable sharing his sexuality with them.

That, boys, is your trust issue. So quit blaming the gay teammates who know that coming out will only result in hard times from you and your friends. Understand that you're the ones standing in the way, be a man, and grow the hell up.

* To be fair to Hardaway, although he remains fairly homophobic, he does say that this experience taught him a lot about gay people, like that "they work hard, they do things in the community, they are responsible for building parks, rec centers, providing safe environments for kids, just things I had never associated with them before." Baby steps, Tim. Baby steps.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Jesus, I Just Had The Weirdest Dream



Whoa! Sorry, I must've dozed off for a minute there. Hey, you wanna hear something funny? You're gonna laugh. I dreamed the Chargers hired me to be their head coach.

I was talking to my wife last night about how disappointing it was to lose out on the Dallas job, and I said, You know, Nancy, if only San Diego had fired Marty, Wade would've gotten that job and I might've gotten another shot in big D. So I guess that's where the dream came from. Oh, hi, Nancy. You remember that conversation, right? You told me not to worry, I'd get my chance again. Well, did I ever!

So in my dream, okay, Dean Spanos calls me up and says, "Hey, Norv, we fired Marty and we want to interview you for the job." It's funny because we were talking on the phone, but it was like he was right in the next room, you know? So I walk out of my office and suddenly I'm in San Diego, and Dean's telling me how much he respects my coaching record and my ability to get along with anyone, even his prick of a GM, and what he really wants is just someone who won't run his team into the ground next year. Well, it's a dream, so I say, "Sure, I can promise you that." I mean, what the hell, right?

Then next thing I know I'm buying donuts at Winchell's on my way back up north, because they have kick-ass donuts, and Dean calls me on my jelly-filled donut and says, "Norv, you got the job." I know! I was so happy I didn't want to wake up. I told the guy at Winchell's that I was the new coach of the Chargers, only I wasn't in Winchell's any more, I was at that place in San Diego right outside the stadium, what's it, Gold Donuts or something, and the guy behind the counter was LaDainian Tomlinson. He shook my hand and said, "Don't worry, Coach, as long as you can keep the team together we'll be fine."

I really appreciate you all coming out to hear about my dream. Someday I will be up here talking about my new head coaching gig. You all have Norv Turner's word on that, and I deliver on my promises, at least 41.1% of the time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Offseason

Okay, it's officially the NFL offseason, NBA had a mini break for the All Star Game, and baseball hasn't fired things up yet. So that leaves us with... Golf? NASCAR? Hockey? Regular season college hoops?

I had to take this past week off simply because there wasn't much worth posting about. And I wasn't the only one struggling for things to talk about. These slow times can be among the most amusing to listen to sports radio because I get a chance to listen to the hosts--hosts collectively charged with filling up 24 hours of air time with interesting topics--struggle and struggle mightily.

Last week I listened to ESPN Radio's LA affiliate fill the air with the following two topics (before they were graciously saved by the questionable hiring of new Chargers coach Norv Turner):

Andy Ried - Was he doing the right thing by taking just one month off? Or should he have taken an indefinite leave? One guy argued that he should stay out as long as it took to help reform his 20 and 21 year old kids. Never mind the implications of the Eagles having to wait 2, 3, or even 6 months not knowing if or when they'd get a coach back (though I'm guessing Ron Rivera would interview for the job if need be), or the fact that it's awful easy to make arguments like this when it's not your job, your money, or your family involved. Would he tell a minimum wage bartender that he should take an open-ended leave of absence to look over his adult children if they were arrested?

Tim Hardaway - What was there to say that hadn't already been said? Yes, Hardaway looked ridiculous. No, his apology didn't come across very sincere. So ESPN Radio's LA affiliate's take? Should African Americans, who have a long history of being prejudged and discriminated against, be more mindful of pre-judging and discriminating against others? Sounds like an interesting take, except... well, we've all been discriminated against at some point or another for being too tall, too short, too smart, too dumb, too ugly, too pretty, too gay, too straight, too black, too white, too Mexican, too Asian, too liberal, too conservative, too thin, too heavy, too rich, too poor, too this, and/or too that. Yet we all keep discriminating against, prejudging, and hating people for nit-picky and irrational reasons. So why should African Americans need to be 'more mindful' of making open states of hate when non-African Americans get off the hook?

Daytona

I suppose it wasn't a complete void of a week for real sports. The Daytona 500 was run this past Sunday and Kevin Harvick squeaked out a thrilling and controversial finish as several cars, two semis, and a Boeing 757 were involved in a giant crash behind them.

Good race.
Fun finish.
Wake me up in a couple months when the Nextel cup visits Bristol.

I used to follow NASCAR religiously, though that was back in the day when I had a driver whose fortunes I lived and died with. Mostly died. That's probably not the best choice of words, because he didn't die, he just doesn't do much racing anymore. It's a lot more interesting if you are pulling for one guy over the course of a season. Things changed a couple years ago for me when top teams went from picking drivers who'd earned their way to the top from years of driving lower-end equipment to picking them based on their fresh faced marketability. It's kind of like the trend that the NBA went to a few years ago with the addiction to high school phenoms over known commodities. At about the same time, NASCAR started going away from its roots, taking races away from unique and challenging courses like Darlington, Rockingham, and Martinsville, and giving them to achingly dull, cookie cutter tracks like Texas, Las Vegas, or the worst offender of them all, Fontana. Drivers like the tracks more, and why wouldn't they? They're wide, fast, and boring. Give me Talladega, Daytona, Watkins Glenn, Infinion, and Bristol. You can keep the rest.

Great Minds Think Alike

Or at least, almost alike. In his Monday Morning Quarterback column this week, Peter King's 'Factoid of the Week that May Interest Only Me' had to do with who would face Indianapolis when the NFL regular season kicked off on September 6th. Well Pete (if I can call you that), it doesn't just interest you, but it interests me as well! He listed the same 3 potential opponents I did, along with much of the same rationale behind his picks. His order was slightly different though (Me: Saints, Patriots, Broncos; Him: Saints, Broncos, Patriots).

Speaking of the Broncos...

The Rocky Mountain News is reporting a rumor that the Broncos may possibly send Jake Plummer, Tatum Bell, and their #1 to Houston for the eighth overall pick in the draft so they can draft Adrian Peterson. I am guessing that the source for this rumor is a 12 year old die-hard Broncos fan because it has all the earmarks of a trade that heavily favors the Broncos and doesn't make sense at the same time...

1) The Texans already have a running back who couldn't cut it with Denver. His name is Ron Dayne. Is Tatum Bell a big upgrade?
2) Can you tell me how Jake "Arm Like Cannon, Brain like Goldfish" Plummer is an upgrade over David Carr?
3) The Broncos have prided themselves over the past decade of finding diamonds in the rough at running back, making stars of undrafted free agents and late round draft picks. Why would they change that trend to go after Adrian Peterson? (well, I suppose they'd be okay with that if all they had to do was jettison two guys they were probably going to cut anyway)
4) Think the Texans fans, after passing on both Reggie Bush and Vince Young, are going to accept cast-offs from Denver for the privilege of moving down 13 spots in the draft?


Now Playing

The iPod Randomizer says: Everclear's "Blackjack" from Slow Motion Daydream. I still think Everclear's later stuff (SMD, Songs from An American Movie 1 & 2) are very underrated

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Stick it to 'em!

From the Deadspin recap, it looks like this All-Star game's festivities were a lot of fun (also see the dancing with Shaq segment and video. They failed, however, to provide video of the awesome Dwight Howard dunk they gush over, so we are here to help. It really is pretty amazing, not just the height, but the marketing gimmick. How many things with that sticker/image on it you think will sell this week?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Like Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship

So now Peter Forsberg has left Philadelphia-- a trade necessitated by his unwillingness to sign an extension, so it was get something now or get nothing later. I am fine with it; he is a great player and was amazingly fun to watch, but he wasn't going to sign and it isn't like the Flyers are going to the Cup with him this year anyway... and it does fit the "winter of our discontent" in some ways. Webber, Iverson, Forsberg...

It is hard not to compare it to the Allen Iverson trade, even though the whole situation is pretty different. AI had started here, been the "heart" of a gutless franchise (with one blip there at the start of the century), and was a high profile guy. Forsberg, for all the 'might-have-beens' and bizarro Lindros connection, was a big hockey figure, but came here with a quarter tank of gas and bad feet. He never made the leap to being a high-profile guy, despite the big C on the sweater. Might be because hockey isn't big nationally and on some level you can feel that millions of kids around the world own AI jerseys, and know the 76ers because of it, but Forsberg never felt like a world-class talent.

The other thing is Forsberg was never loved here. Respected, yes. It is probably the Philadelphia Fan requirement that players look like they are trying. It is hard for a smooth looking player to get any love in Philadelphia. I think Dr. J is the only one who ever pulled it off. It might be a defense mechanism, based on having losing franchises. You don't have a champion to root for, so you look for some other quality. It is easy to see if someone looks like they are trying.

"I don't care about the winning, it is the effort!" is actually a pretty admirable stance to take, and, arguably, what we are supposed to learn from sports: Effort pays off.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tournamemories


I've been a huge fan of college basketball since I was young. 10 years ago, John Calipari, Marcus Camby, Lou Roe, and UMass were having an amazing 6 year run on top of the college basketball world, and being a town or two over, I fell in love with the team. I remember being awed when my father, who cashiered at the Stop & Shop nearest the campus, told me he'd rung out Derek Kellogg's purchases one day. I mainly knew giddiness as I watched the highlights of wins roll up on SportsCenter and heartbreak as we never quite made it to the title game. I cried when George Washington broke up our undefeated season in 1996.

However, nowadays I realize that UMass won't likely be featured in national prominence for another decade or so. Thankfully, the NCAA tournament is always completely riveting. It started with me rooting on Old Dominion's 1995 triple-overtime win against Villanova, continued through being enthralled at Valparaiso's 1998 win over Mississippi, Gonzaga's Sweet 16 runs, Vermont's 2005 upset of Syracuse (Sorrentine nailing a 3 "from the parking lot"), and to today, where mid-majors are shaking things up. I love it. More parity, please!

Poking around YouTube, here are my favorites from the 2006 tournament:

Obviously, George Mason reaching the Final Four was massive. If I could get this game as a DVD I'd buy it; I'd love to watch it again. It was thrilling watching George Mason run their methodical half-court offense, take their time and chip away at UConn. Amazing, edge-of-your-seat basketball.



Another amazing finish was the West Virginia-Texas game. Two threes back-to-back? Just killer. What a buzzer-beater.



By far the greatest, though? Northwestern St. over Iowa. I've watched this clip at least 10 times and I still have no idea how the shot went in. There's just.. no reason for the shot, but it did, and it was awesome.



As you can tell.. I'm catching March Madness a little early. Can we just fast-forward a few weeks?