Thursday, May 31, 2007

The 76ers Are Comedy Gold

Actual email header title from the team:

Where Will You Watch The Sixers Draft Their Future? Draft Day Party 2007
You know what that means, my children. List Time!

1. Under a bridge with Mike Gminski

2. Hanging out with Mr. Katz at the Methadone Clinic

3. In a one-star motel, while doing something that reminds us of the Iverson trade

4. At a Chuck E. Cheese with 5-year-olds, who are the only people we can find who are enthused about the team right now. Or maybe that's cake.

5. Who are the Sixers again?

Greetings, Wall Street Journal Readers

Today, FTT continued its long ascent to Ruling Antarctica by getting linked and mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. (No, seriously.)

We'd like to welcome our WSJ visitors by pointing out some features that Readers Like You tend to enjoy.

> The Journal piece that you were reading encouraged going to different baseball stadiums. Enjoy our ongoing series of visits to places that you can't go to anymore, Crap Holes We Have Known. It's filled with juicy travel tidbits that you just can't find anywhere else!

> Seeing how the WSJ demographic tends toward NYC readers, you might also enjoy our series of Yankees posts almost as much as we've enjoyed the 2007 season. Dig in!

> Finally, since we have first-hand knowledge of what white-color types like you really want, and will spend up to $20 for in a restroom, there's this. Read it until you go blind!

Now, who wants to give us some venture capital?

Pipe Dream

Mark Cuban announced on his blog Blog Maverick that he and a few other “smart people” are investigating the idea of creating another professional football league, the UFL. He points out his feeling that demand outweighs supply for this product and there is room for another professional football league. My first reaction was he’s probably right. Until I kept reading to discover that he wants to compete against the NFL.

Here’s a quick recap of how he sees it:

1. The NFL needs competition so regulators don’t look at them as a monopoly. Nice try Mark. I’m sure the NFL will agree that they want/need competition and not try to crush your league. Just ask the World Football League, the USFL and the XFL.

2. Wants to fill the league with players picked in lower rounds and older players who have been cut for salary cap reasons. Wow – sounds like some pretty good talent to go watch. I guess he wants the UFL to be the Wal-Mart of sports leagues – “Everyday low prices at the UFL!”

3. There are large markets in the U.S. that currently do not have NFL teams that would love a professional team. There are also a lot of people who would love to date Jessica Alba. But setting them up with her sister is nice, but it’s still not Jessica Alba. And looking at the top 25 cities that currently don’t have football teams you get – LA, San Antonio, Columbus, Austin, Memphis and El Paso. So those would be your top 6 markets to start the UFL. And where would these teams play? Sun Bowl Stadium? The Citrus Bowl? A bunch of old, crappy stadiums because an owner of a team isn’t going to build a new stadium for the UFL.

4. Play games in the fall on Friday nights. Reading this makes me wonder if he’s been sitting around with Ricky Williams brainstorming ideas on how the UFL will work. Big problem here on many levels:
  • You’re going to try to compete directly with the NFL during their season. You don’t have the marketing dollars to do this.

  • Friday night in the fall for 75% of the country revolves around high school football. It’s big. Probably too big, but it’s big. Have you not heard of this? You live in Texas for God’s sake. There is a book and TV show with the same name, “Friday Night Lights” about high school football on Friday nights. Get a clue Cuban.

  • Guys would rather hook on with an NFL team, even if it’s the practice squad with the hope of working their way into the lineup, then go play for the Memphis Federal Express or the Old El Paso Zesty Fiestas. You move this to the spring and you have a better chance.

The craziest part of this is Cuban wanting to create a league to compete with/rival the NFL. That just isn’t going to happen. Creating a minor league (and really that is what the UFL is) that doesn't try and go head to head with the NFL gives you a much stronger chance. Create a partnership with the NFL where you work together instead of against them is a clearer path.

But in the meantime Mark, continue the brainstorming with Ricky. Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Game Five, The Spurs Coronation

A few quick thoughts on the NBA's B Story, behind As The Kobe Turns...

> 30-11 start. Nice of the Spurs to let everyone on the East Coast turn in early.

> Wow, no one saw the Spurs winning tonight by 25. Oh, wait, actually, everyone outside of Salt Lake City did. And frankly, most of them, too.

> Any minute now, Mehmet Okur is going to start playing. And when he does, STEPHEN A. SMITH WILL LET YOU KNOW.

> There is no truth to the rumor that Bob Horry hard fouled Derek Fisher's daughter, causing him to miss the first half. But still, you can see how this kind of rumor gets started.

> Tony Parker's getting married to Eva Longoria? Why hasn't the media told us this before? Dammit, we want details!

> The Jazz have the fifth youngest roster in the NBA. And yet, I still can't help but think this will be their high-water mark. They are a nice story, but they're not the Spurs, they are not the Suns, and they have to have serious doubts about Kirilenko and Okur after this series. (Oh, and also this: they really, really need a 2 with size that can take over a game. They're not going to get one anytime soon.)

> People talk about the Spurs being old, but it's not the parts that really matter -- Duncan, Parker, Ginobili. Their team player bigs (Oberto and Elson) have few miles on the odometer. So long as Duncan is healthy, they have to be the favorite.

> Tonight's game set new records for Most Garbage Time Ever in a playoff game. To give you an idea, Rafael Arajuo played 12 minutes tonight. His entire playoff before that: 13 minutes. (FTT is proud to be the only sports blog in 2007 to mention Rafe. Print this page out for your scrapbook, Big Man!)

> A sincere congratulations to Michael Finley for finally making it to the Finals. So nice that someone on Mark Cuban's payroll will finally get a ring.

> And finally, this final note... Kobe has the most seasons with the same team of any team in the league, with 12. Duncan and KG are second, with 11.

Third? Adonal Foyle, with 10. Seriously. Adonal Foyle. We should all find opportunities so abundant.

We're Just Disgusted By This

From today's Wall Street Journal...

The changes to Bud.TV will include a variety of new features, such as a social-networking component and shorter videos -- about one minute each -- rather than the longer programs (usually about six minutes) that now dominate the site. Even the much-hyped "The Joe Buck Show," which shows the sports commentator interviewing celebrities in New York City cabs, will likely come to an end soon.
For all of us still holding out a candle in the window for the safe return of QUITE FRANKLY STEPHEN A. SMITH MAY HAVE A HEARING PROBLEM, this would be too much to bear.

Reconsider, Corporate Beer Barons -- or Randy Moss is going to drop trou. PATRIOT TROU.

Duly Noted

On this morning, no team in Major League Baseball is farther out of first place than the New York Yankees.

Chauncey Billups Is Losing Money, And Nine Other Cavs-Pistons Points

What we think we know after tonight’s surprising Game Four, in which Cleveland pulled away from Detroit late to tie the series at 2-2…

1. Chauncey Billups entered this series with an impeccable pedigree as Detroit’s MC, a point guard who kept control of the ball early, scored big buckets late, and killed you at the line. He was also going into possible free agency.

In this series, he’s been stymied by the ghost of Larry Hughes, a second round rookie (Daniel Gibson), and even the remains of Eric Snow. What should have been Detroit’s clear advantage has been anything but, and his clutch time turnovers, fouls, and forced missed threes took the Pistons out of any chance to steal this game.

Regardless of what happens in Games 5 and 6, The Chaunce has been exposed as not quite as quick as he used to be, and not infallible when it comes to decision making.

2. What on earth does Larry Hughes have to do to not play in a game?

He’s hurt. He’s terrible. His replacement is a revelation. When he’s on the floor, the Cavs do badly. He’s about 30 seconds away from pulling off his uni to reveal a secret Pistons gamer on underneath, followed by dastardly chair shots to Cav role players.

And yet Mike “Special Needs” Brown, the coach of the Cavs, decided to start his problematic third quarter with a very special episode of Hello, Larry. Three misses later as the other Cavs decided to run away from the ball and make Hughes shoot so that they could get him off the floor faster, a 10-point lead was gone. Luckily for the Cavs, Gibson came in and scored enough points to keep the third quarter from being fatal.

3. Rasheed Wallace says he plays better after getting a technical.

Rasheed Wallace is full of crap.

After Sheed’s fifth tech of the playoffs – two more until suspension! – he airballed a forced three immediately afterward, and didn’t score again for the rest of the game. Later on, as he was walking back in the tunnel, he whipped off his jersey and wound up throwing it in the face of some poor random schmuck. TNT only ran this 300 times. Admirable restraint, really.

Oh, Sheed. The world will never understand your genius.

4. If Gibson and Gooden show up in Game 5, Cleveland wins in 6… but I still like Detroit, because most young players don’t show up on the road.

Realistically, the Cavs were closer in the road losses than the Pistons have been, and LeBron is starting to make those Unfair Shots that says he might be ready to carry them to a road win.

Chuck Barkley on TNT tonight, in his role as Outrageous Guy, said the Cavs could have swept this series. That is, of course, nonsense, because finishing a team late is not something that should be assumed from a young team on the road… but there is a kernel of truth in that bucket of bombast.

5. Cavs Coach Mike Brown makes Isiah Thomas look like Red Auerbach.

It’s the last minute of the game, so make sure to bring in a guy (Eric Snow) who hasn’t played all night for Defensive Purposes. Because this *always* works.

Look, I love Eric Snow. He was the PG for the AI 2000 Sixers, and he’s done more in the league than a guy with absolutely no jump shot should ever have been able to do. But to roll him out on the floor at a point in his life that he should probably just be coaching, and put two of the biggest free throws in the game on his shoulders…

Well, Brown got away with it tonight. But I think if I were a Cavs fan, I’d have taken out a contract on him by now.

6. Antonio McDyess looks dominant… when Donyell Marshall is defending him. What a coincidence!

7. Doug Collins actually said something to this effect: “If toughness counts for anything, Eric Snow’s going to make these free throws.” Clang on the first, make on the second. So it you are scoring at home, or even if you’re alone, you now know just how much toughness counts for. A 1-for-2 from the line in crunch time.

8. When LeBron James is on, no one in the league can stop him – because no one who is as fast, big and tall as he is can be guarded while he’s making step-back fallaway 3s from 25+ feet away. He Is, Simply, Ridiculous.

9. Does anyone else look at Lindsay Hunter and think his in-game dialogue while pressuring the ball consists of “Nassstttyyyy hobbit! It has stolen the Precioussss! We wants it back, we wants it back!”

10. If Dwight Gooden fouls Tay Prince the way he fouled Sheed Wallace, it’s a flagrant. And if he had hit Steve Nash like that, a national tragedy in two countries.

BONUS! Everyone knows that Anderson Varaejo looks like Sideshow Bob. But has anyone else noticed Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s resemblance to Homer Simpson, or how Dwight Gooden has Krusty The Klown’s hair spike in on the top of his neck? This series is made for caricaturists, or any other form of art where the models can’t move very much...

And an update... here's the Sheed Facial. A great moment for TNT.

Nice Personality

For the benefit of any visiting athlete who might have stumbled across this blog during their daily Google search for HOT YOUNG CHEERLEADERS, FTT would like to issue the following public service.

If you, or any member of your posse, Mensa enclave or marketing team find yourself described with the following adjectives, DO NOT TAKE IT AS A COMPLIMENT.

> “He knows the System” (especially in regards to Quarterbacks)
> Bulldog (see Pitcher)
> “A good guy in the clubhouse”
> “A coach on the floor”
> Team leader
> Active in his community
> Heisman Trophy Winner
> Bosworth (or Mamula)-esque
> Physical specimen (as in, a turd)
> A workout demon
> A student of the game
> Just a naturally gifted athlete
> Colorful
> “His teammates just love him”

And, finally, inevitably...

> A Five Tool Player

Good luck, and we hope you find those WET SEXY TEENS you were looking for.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

To Section 425 At Monday’s Phils’ Game

My brothers and sisters,

I know he was asking for it.

You don’t wear Mets gear, in Philadelphia, to a game with 40K Phillies Only fans at it.

You save that kind of stupidity, if you must, for a Mets game where you’ve got some backup. (The Arizona Diamondbacks, with Doug Davis as the starting pitcher, is just not packing in a big crowd.)

I know that $1 hot dogs and the end of a holiday weekend can make people forget themselves. I’ve seen it happen many times.

I also know that the home team was coming off a Snowing in May weekend sweep in Atlanta, bringing them all the way over .500, despite a putrid April start.

So you were more, shall we say enthused, than usual.

You were also correct in your observation that he was fat.

You were also keen in your observations that he probably could have refrained from having the large ice cream cone. Positively trenchant. Something the Algonquin Round Table would have been proud of.

Giving him and his entire group a geographical precise suggestion can be seen as right neighborly.

He might, after all, have been lost.

Offering to send him to the lower levels the fast way may sound like a juvenile violent threat, but I know that you were kidding.

Or that you just wanted them to have a better view.

When he called for security, who clearly had no greater threat than pointing in your general direction – well, I’m going to agree with you again.

That’s a pussy move. You wear the hat, you take the ride.

Finally, I share in your distaste for his wife, girlfriend or relative that decided to stand, turn, and give you the look of condescension.

As if you were naughty schoolchildren that would be cowed by her look of disapproval. The nerve.

However, having said all of that – having given you every possible consideration… and knowing that if I were also liquored up and in my early ‘20s, perhaps, just maybe, I’d also say and do things that I’d regret later…

I’m still pretty sure that I wouldn’t have chanted


In front of a guy with his seven-year-old daughter.

And another guy with his five-year-old daughter.

Made us all want to become Phillies fans, it did.

From Far, Far Away.

The final, most telling thing I can say about the matter…

This never happened to us in… Oakland.

Moving on.

Baseball Players Say The Darndest Things

From the Associated Press:

The day after RHP Kirk Saarloos failed to retire any of the seven batters he faced in Cincinnati's 14-10 loss to Pittsburgh, the Reds optioned him to Triple-A Louisville and recalled LHP Bobby Livingston. "I don't feel like I'm the problem," said Saarloos, 0-4 with a 7.04 ERA.
From the right perspective -- i.e., the hitter -- a 7-run ERA really isn't a problem.

And Managers, too!
AP: Boston Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis hit a stand-up, inside-the-park home run Monday, May 28, against the Cleveland Indians. "He runs right out of the batter's box every time," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Sometimes you get rewarded for that, not with a triple but with a home run."
Gosh, what if *everyone* did that? I think I just blew my mind.

Our Gift To Patriot Haters

That, folks, is Tom Brady. And no, he's not auditioning for the part of Spaulding, the Judge's son, in the new remake of "Caddyshack." (Hat tip:, via Deadspin.)

Crap Holes We Have Known: Pittsburgh, Three Rivers Stadium, and Cincinnati, Riverfront Stadium

Ed. Note: Part of a continuing series where FTT throws dirt on the graves of dead stadiums to show that yes, we are freaking old. Enjoy!

Every generation goes through waves of nostalgia, and as the speed of media increases, the cycle gets faster.

In the late 1970s of my childhood, the country yearned for the more innocent ‘50s of the Fonz and “Grease.” In the 80s, there were Doors revivals and hippie moments until AIDS made everyone stop having casual sex for, like, ever. (At least, that is what the women kept telling me.) In the 90s, we so wanted a new ‘70s Watergate so much, we had one when the President lied about blow jobs.

In the Aughts, we’ve paid actual U.S. money to see movies about TV shows from the ‘80s, and insisted on getting and watching new “Star Wars” movies, no matter how bad they were. Keep an eye out for the coming Grunge Revival, especially if it means that Frances Bean Cobain is finally ready to take her rightful place as the world’s angriest rock and roll bandleader. (Just to make you feel really old, Wikipedia says she’s 14 now. Though if she really wanted to get back at both of them, she’d become an actuary.)

Nostalgia like this also has its place in the construction of baseball stadiums… with the notable exception of the ‘60s/’70s era of multi-purpose places.

Let me, then, be the only person in the history of North America to express longing for the simple civic virtue of one place that covers the needs of 89 (81 baseball, 8 football) regular season games a year, plus pre-season and playoffs. The idea that football teams need their own yard for 8 out of 365 days a year is just kind of baffling – along with the idea that people will pay 2x to 3x more to see the same game in a newer and/or ritzier yard, especially because it has nicer facilities for corporate types.

So long as I’m not in that group, screw those people.

When I was a kid, the only thing I wanted more than a local championship team was the ability to have my own seat for *all* of the games that happened in that most magical of places, those hallowed grounds of triumph and pain – Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium and Spectrum. In these state of the art facilities, there was a 5 to 10-year run of constant title contention for all four teams (yes, I even cared about hockey then). Only the Phillies and Sixers broke through, but no team was without its giddy joys. Eventually, a local cable channel (“Prism”) took root, giving suburban kids like me a pipeline into everything that happened in those buildings. Oh, if only the walls could talk.

They were, I am sure, crap holes. But they were *my* crapholes. Yours sucked much worse.

So it was that on a low rent baseball road trip in the late ‘80s, I found myself, on back to back nights, in Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium and Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium – the carbon-copy cutouts, along with Busch Stadium in St. Louis and the Coliseum in Oakland, from the time of civic virtues and shared resources.

Pittsburgh was a spooky ghost town that was a logistical nightmare. First, there is the simple and painful ride through Pennsylvania – so small on the map, so long in the car. It takes about seven hours to make it from Philadelphia, with big rigs and pickups taking turns in shaking you down, on a state turnpike that’s lump-riffic.

Once you do get to Pittsburgh, you go through something like six bridges and tunnels, have your ears pop from sudden elevation changes, and then answer three riddles from a troll (it’s OK – all of the answers are ‘The Steelers’). Once you’ve become convinced that there is no way there’s a stadium here, and you might actually be in West Virginia, you’d find your final destination… a large concrete ashtray.

A hot, sticky ashtray where the only people showing any kind of enthusiasm were hawking credit cards with the Pirates logo on it. (I’ve always wondered if those would work at high-end establishments. A Yankees card, that probably gets accepted anywhere, but a Pirates card… you might also want to bring cash, as a backup.)

The game wasn’t competitive, the crowd didn’t care or notice, and it was a lot like Montreal, only with a view of the sky. We hurried on to our next destination and felt a great sense of accomplishment at no longer being in Pennsylvania.

Cincinnati, the next night, was better... but only because the mid-‘80s Reds teams had exciting players like Eric Davis, Kal Daniels and Barry Larkin, along with some hard throwers in the pen. The actual park seemed worse – filled with a hog-rendering stench, and in an area that seemed like it was all highways and pedestrian death.

Here’s a fun fact about the Queen City – it was known, back in the day, as Porkopolis. The fact that you are within spitting distance, and yes, there will be spitting, of Kentucky, which is where the natives go for fun… well, it did achieve a feeling of difference from the previous stadium. We’ll give it that.

But if you shut off the crowd noise and looked about, it was clearly the exact same park, just decked out in different colors. Good sight lines, tons of room for foul ground, same concrete metal pipe fencing that always managed to be in the way for something you wanted to see.

All things run in cycles. We are sure that, in our lifetime, there will be a contracting of interest in sports, a backlash against the bubble economies that fuel stadium construction and pricing, a drop in attendance, an end to the civic insecurities and next town bargaining power that creates the modern pleasure palace. It’s all going to UFC, and a dystopian leathers-and-feathers MadMax world where fantasy league nerds congregate in secret safe rooms to hunch over Excel spreadsheets and diecast figurines. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

But when that day of austerity comes, we doubt anyone’s going to go all the way back to Astroturf, front row seats that are 100 feet from the game, and the creepy sense of déjà vu that can only come from being in a place that could easily be some other place.

As always on Crap Holes We Have Known, if you’ve got a different view, we’re eager to hear it, so that we can get what people in pro wrestling call Cheap Heat. Post your impassioned defense, or pile on the corpse, in the comments below.

Coming Up Next Time on Crap Holes We Have Known: Milwaukee!

Hancock Family Sues the Entire City of St. Louis

At least that’s what it feels like. This is the only fitting end to a tragic story – make it worse.

Josh Hancock’s family has sued Mike Shannon and his daughter who own/run the restaurant where Hancock was drinking before he died. Stating it was their fault that their son was drunk. They are also suing the tow truck driver (which Hancock ran into), the tow truck owner and the driver of the wrecked car the tow truck was assisting.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote a great article on how embarrassing and frivolous this lawsuit is for the Hancock family.

Let’s blame everyone other than Hancock who:
1) Made the decision to have that many drinks;
2) Was not wearing his seat belt;
3) Was speeding;
4) Was talking on his cell phone;
5) Also had marijuana in the car with him; and
6) Didn’t even brake before hitting the truck.

How about this idea Hancock family – Josh got really drunk and made a tragic mistake. But if you must continue with this ridiculous lawsuit don’t forget to include the following person’s in the suit:

1) Ford - the manufacturer of the car Josh was driving for not making it indestructible to 85 mph collisions.
2) The rental agency where Hancock rented the Ford Explorer.
3) Tony LaRussa’s late inning pitching substitutions that would drive anyone to drink.
4) Bud Selig and MLB’s schedule makers. If the Cardinals would have been on the road that day, Josh would not have been driving.
5) Jacque Jones – he knocked in a run against Hancock in the game before his death.
6) Verizon – they did distract him by allowing him to have cell phone coverage.

Get the point? Ridiculous.

My Gambling Problem: I Keep Losing

This week's baseball picks...

Cleveland over BOSTON with a 10.5 run OVER. Yes, it's the return of the parlay bet that never works, but with both teams swinging the bats well and Boston escaping the ninth tonight (translation: less Papelbon tomorrow), I like the chances for the Tribe to win in a slugfest. Sowers v. Beckett, and the latter has a bad track record vs. Cleveland. 2,500 to win 2,600 on a 10.5 run over, and 2,000 to win 3,300 on Cleveland.

Braves over BREWERS. Smoltz vs. Sheets in an ace matchup, and Smoltz is going for that big win #201. I think he'll celebrate by going "Woo Hoo." 2,500 to win 2,675 on Atlanta.


In the words of my mother, well, that was unfortunate. Nothing to do but blow the rest of the week's hopes on a couple of road dogs.

Giants over METS. Zito vs. Glavine as the Giants try to avoid the sweep. Zito's numbers are bad for the year, but it's mostly come in a few starts, and I think he'll shine under the NYC spotlight. He'll also be motivated to avoid giving the game to Armando Blownitez. 2,500 to win 3,475.

Mariners over ANGELS. Seattle's been playing well and has King Felix going. Last time out, he got hammered against this team; today, he'll deal. Jered Weaver goes for the Halos, and has been a little shaky recently. 2,500 to win 2,875.


An even day with a slight bump for the money. Down big, running out of days, have to bet it all on road dogs. Do not try this at home.

Giants over METS. Once more into the Shea, with Matt Cain facing Orlando Hernandez. The moneyline is too good for a pitcher of Cain's standing, and El Duque has been battling health issues since the Truman Administration. 3,475 to win 4,240.

White Sox over JAYS. Buerhle vs. Halladay gives the moneyline big to the home team, but Halladay's coming off an injury, Buerhle has a history of success against the Jays, and the ChiSox usually respond to Ozzie going off his meds. 3,500 to win 4,970.

Friday - No mas! 1-6 so far this week. We're going to go on a three-day binge of drinking Scotch and try to move on. Late.

30 to 14, Or How The NBA Can't Take Off The Tin Foil Hats

From Urban

Tin Foil Hat, also tinfoil hat, or tfh, a general term for a piece of headgear made from one or more sheets of tin foil, aluminium foil, or other similar material. Some people wear the hats in the belief that they act to shield the brain from such influences as electromagnetic fields, or against mind control and/or mind reading. The concept has become a popular stereotype and term of derision; in Internet culture, the phrase serves as a byword for paranoia.
Now what, you may ask, does this have to do with Game 4 of the Western Conference Playoffs, which FTT so perfectly called with the Wile Coyote image below?

Simple. Here's the free throw numbers for Game 4, in Utah.

San Antonio: 30 for 41, 73.2%
Utah: 14 for 20, 70%.

And here are the technical fouls...

Utah 3, San Antonio 0.

And the ejections...

Utah 3 (Okur, Fisher, Sloan), San Antonio 0

And Utah coach Jerry Sloan's post-game quote.
"I don't want to talk about those because all that does is give me more trouble."
Prior to Sunsgate, you could wash this one away as sour grapes from a team watching its hopes go down the drain, and what happens when a playoff tested team that relies on penetration faces a team of jump shooters.

After Sunsgate, you can wonder, especially since noted thug Derek Fisher (?) became the latest guy to be driven to Unsound Play in the presence of Manu Ginobili. It's amazing, just how many people that happens to. Quite a coincidence.

From my vantage point, the Spurs just executed in the fourth while the Jazz unraveled. No crime was committed, no referee's wallet had a Texas-sized bulge, and Deron Williams wasn't being poisoned during the game by sunglass-wearing NBA agents.


And for Spurs Fans (and we know it's just you now, because even ESPN, who televised this, bumped your game in their coverage for something called "hockey", and if Duke Lacrosse team had won, you'd be on Page Four with Eli Manning coverage) who think we hate their team... no, not really. You're going to the Finals, you've got the best player in the game, and you've made Mehmet Okur soil himself in this series so much that even STEPHEN A. SMITH MIGHT STOP YELLING ABOUT IT.

But just admit one thing: if these guys weren't wearing your laundry, you'd pretty much hate them too, right?

There. Was that so hard?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Leave Town

As part of the Sports Atheism post, the commenter Tracer Bullet posted this:

...I didn't realize how insufferable my fellow Eagles fans are until I moved to Philadelphia
(I'm going to leave aside the relative insufferability of the Eagles fanbase -- because, truth be told, I'm pretty sure that everyone's fan base is insufferable. We'll save the rankings for another day.)

I'm from Philadelphia originally, and moved around after getting old enough to fear death. In the moving around, I ventured far and wide from my Eagles... and started enjoying them more. How is that?

Simple. Being far away from Philadelphia means being far away from Howard Eskin, whose image befouls this post.

If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to this cyst before, this will give you the gist. Though, frankly, it's far too kind.

Now, I don't want to go into too much detail on Howie, because he's just not worth the typing. Like ESPN's Bill Simmons, he's a bad tooth, but unlike Simmons, he has no good moments or past redeeming value, so I find it pretty easy to ignore him. Friends of mine in the area, not so much. (Frankly, I'm just not enough of a sado-masochist to go there too often.)

If your favorite team has any kind of a fan base, I bet you've got someone just like Howie in your area -- or will eventually. Why? Because being a rotting tooth is a ratings grabber. Because there's always going to be people dumb enough to pay five bucks for three balls to throw at the loudmouth in the dunk tank. Because some people find this kind of thing to be entertaining, or because it's easier to parrot some douchebag's opinion than think of your own.

(For the record, parroting opinions from FTT is Nothing Like That, No Sir, because we're Tools, not Douchebags. Says so right in the header.)

It's also why being far away from your team, especially in the age of the Internet and satellite television, is such a winning play.

Many of my brethren in Eagles fandom will never, I suspect, be able to get over the team losing the Super Bowl to the Patriots. I share that pain, but probably not to the same degree... because at the time, I was halfway around the world on vacation. It was a lovely Monday afternoon, and there was no chance to wallow. My wife and daughter were sad for me, they left me alone for a while, and after an hour or so, I had gone through all five stages of grieving and went about my day. I still have the bad memories, but at least I didn't drag my family down with me. (It's also much harder to pout about your team losing in front of a small kid, at least if you are making any kind of effort as a parent.)

But a chanchre like Eskin? Without the five stages, they'd have no show. Without the questionable decision of others to poke the bad tooth, to keep on feeling bad about something that will stay the same regardless of your emotions about it, without the profitable business of selling salt for wounds, or hair-trigger and brained judgments on which individual was most responsible for the loss, and how his immediate dismissal was the only logical response to the solution...

Well, hell, they'd have to get out of town.

Somehow, we think that the town -- any town -- would be better off.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Game Four

Whoopee! The Cavs and the Jazz both got off the deck in their series. Tonight, the Cavs got a near triple double and 30 points from King LeBron, while Billups and Hamilton gave the Pistons nothing until the fourth. The Cavs also got solid production out of Ilgauskas and Gooden, along with some big shots and tough defense from rookie Daniel Gibson, who also let Larry Hughes find his most effective role in the series. He and Donyell Marshall both provide quality chest bumps during timeouts.

Add it all up and you get... a close win at home, only clinched in the last 30 seconds. We're thinking gravity lessons may come in handy soon.

As for the Jazz, at least they had the good courtesy to take their bounce-back game with a touch of blowout, but with Deron Williams fighting through some stomach illness now (I thought that sort of thing was only supposed to happen to Kobe Bryant in Sacramento), the stage is set for the Spurs to take Game Four.

By the way, this makes for an exceptional subplot to the raging Spurs Paranoia that would be surging through the public, provided anyone was still paying attention to the playoffs.

First they got the NBA to suspend every Suns starter -- and I heard they also had Raja Bell's wife and kids held hostage. Now, the NBA is POISONING THE JAZZ. It's true. David Stern has black helicopters. I can say no more, as they know my location, but with this brand-new rocket I ordered online from Acme, I'm sure I can get away safely...

Number One In Our Draft, Number Two In Our Numbers

Dear Albert,

Congrats on raising your season average over .300 with today's 3 for 4 against the Nationals. The ten game hitting streak has brought you up from .239, and my fantasy team up from cutting ourselves like attention-starved 12-year-old girls.

But before we start quoting the Wolf in Pulp Fiction...

8 home runs is fine... if you are Dan Uggla. Actually, he's got nine.

24 RBIs is lovely... if you are Michael Barrett. Since he doesn't, you know, PLAY EVERY DAY. OR HIT THIRD.

Going 1-7 in your matchup at first base? I could have got that out of Nick Swisher. Who was drafted 89th.

Go back on the good roids already. Pretty please?


Your Owners at FTT

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Few Questions for the Orlando Magic

Just what were you expecting to happen in the playoffs, and how many more times are you planning to fire Brian Hill? (For those keeping track at home, this makes two, though we can't imagine anyone really is keeping track of this.)

Let's see, our go-to guy (Dwight Howard) is an interior player with no real offensive game, we're highly dependent on people like Hedo Turkoglu, who was so tough in the playoffs that *Sacramento* let him go, and we're still holding out hope that Grant Hill will be healthy some day.

Shocking, utterly shocking, that the dominant playoff team of our era treated us like children in the playoffs.

Quick, fire the only coach in our history who has ever had success -- especially since we have no clear alternative to replace him with. That'll fix everything!

Crap Holes We Have Known: Old Tiger Stadium, Detroit

Ed. Note: Part of a continuing series where FTT throws dirt on the graves of dead stadiums to show that yes, we are freaking old. Enjoy!

Old baseball stadiums. Ah, the memories. The history. The knowledge that, why, in this very field, on that very spot right over there, Ty Cobb once attacked a guy in a wheelchair for calling him a racial slur, and his teammates were behind him. Or to be able to look up and say, my Lord, Reggie Jackson sure hit the ball a long way.

Of course, it’s easier to say these things when you can actually see the field. Many times in Ye Olde Tiger Stadium, that wasn’t going to happen for you.

Your enemy in that place was The Pillar, silent bane to baseball fans for untold decades, just waiting to ensnare out of town fans who come to your yard just to knock another field off the list of Ones We’ve Been To. Tiger Stadium had, basically, one for every three fans, at least in our experience, which left us picking innings for who got to see what.

Who won? Who lost? Who remembers? All I can see when I close my eyes and think of Tiger Stadium is a giant steel phallus, laughing at me. Admittedly, this occurs most nights, especially since The Incident, but that’s a whole ‘nother meeting.

Why didn’t, you may ask, we get up and go somewhere else? Because, well, we were more or less Afraid For Our Lives. While the quality of our asses may not be rock hard, they certainly aren’t completely confectionary, either – we’ve lived in some bad neighborhoods and gotten through some rough nights. But in the mid-80s, with the natives having a rough year and the Stadium being located in America’s third-finger answer to Beirut, we were not, how shall we say, looking to annoy a native. Or stay late.

Old stadiums are wonderful. We love Fenway, despite our Simmons-fueled hate for the Sox. Wrigley is almost 20% as nice as Cubs Fans claim it is. Yankee Stadium is one of our favorite places to see a game, once again, despite the general antipathy towards the home team.

But not all old stadiums are wonderful, and you don’t hear too many Tiger Fans pining for the good old days in the old yard. Rest in an obstructed view plot, you hole.

As always on Crap Holes We Have Known, if you’ve got a different view, we’re eager to hear it, so that we can get what people in pro wrestling call Cheap Heat. Post your impassioned defense, or pile on the corpse, in the comments below.

Coming Up Next Time on Crap Holes We Have Known: Pittsburgh! Or Cincinnati! See if you can tell the difference!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Kwick Kav Kvetch

Regardless of whether or not LeBron was fouled on his final shot in Game 2, what is Larry Hughes's excuse for missing a wide-open 8-footer on the offensive rebound?

(Oh, and Larry? Heckuva fourth quarter. Vegas just upped the over/under on the number of teams you're going to play for in your career to eight. Soon, you'll be more than halfway there!)

Or Mike Brown's excuse for not ordering a shot earlier in the clock, so that you can extend the game in the event of a miss?

We're not Pistons fans, but jeez... win the game yourselves. Don't expect the refs to hand it to you. Because, well, it ain't going to happen. Accept your fate...

The Rules Have Changed

Dear Young Athletes,

We’re going to make this short and to the point, because we know that you can’t read anything that’s too long.

Your MySpace page? Delete it.

Your sex video? Burn it.

Your friends with cameras cell phones who drink with you?

Destroy their phones.

And in the future, drink only in an unlit cave.

Unfair? Sure.

Paranoid? Yes indeedy.

A stinging rebuke to the freedoms and dreams that you have spent most of your waking life hoping to achieve? Who writes your inner monologues, anyway?

From now on, just do what any number of scared straight fundie kids have done – commit yourself to the belief that A VENGEFUL GOD IS WATCHING YOU EVERY WAKING MINUTE OF THE DAY, AND IS JUST LOOKING FOR AN EXCUSE TO SEND YOUR SORRY ASS STRAIGHT TO HELL.


Then, and only then, will you have the chance – just the chance – of getting through your public years with a trace amount of dignity.

Failing that, you could always wear a mask. Sunglasses. And a big hat.


Your Friends at FTT

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sports Theism vs. Sports Atheism

In the back and forth in the comments over the McNabb post, something came up that sparked a thought.

Here’s the pertinent point for non-clickers:

... only to see the championship window now fully shut... The time to win a title is over, so IMO it's time to begin looking towards the future.
Note the introduction of a narrative – McNabb and the Eagles have had their window of opportunity shut, so the team has to make changes and move on. If they don’t, they’ll lose.

I wonder how a Colts fan, reading that, might feel. Because Peyton Manning’s window of opportunity has looked like it has been closing for years now.

Or how a Broncos fan that recalls all the years that Elway couldn’t win a ring, and had to constantly hear Marino comparisons, would think about that.

Or a Steelers fan that watched Cowher fail to seal the deal through multiple championship games at home, and a quarterback carousel that included the names Stewart, O’Donnell and Maddox.

Which is not to say that the writer is wrong, that every stay the course move works out, or that McNabb and Reid are the same as Manning, Elway and Cowher.

They might be Jim Kelly, or Dan Marino, or Marty Schottenheimer.

As Kent Brockman says, only time will tell.

But the opinion shows a certain faith in a narrative, that the games are not just random events of probability, but stories with an arc. (This, despite an era in which NFL champions have mostly appeared out of the blue, but that’s OK – any title creates its own backstory, and with speed. If the story is bad, we just don’t tell it very often, or for very long, which is why you don’t hear so much about the genius of Jon Gruden or Brian Billick any more.)

There is no logical reason to believe in a Window of Opportunity – and yet, nearly everyone does, and will argue more about whether it’s open or shut, rather than if it exists.

It is the same kind of magical thinking that would lead you to believe that certain uniforms have power – a belief that no one would admit to in public, but still, look at those Bengals uniforms.

Super Bowl winners can't look like that, can they?

That the roar of the crowd can turn a season around. That the players can feel and benefit from the fan’s excitement.

That there is a Madden Curse, or an SI Cover Jinx.

That the personal character of highly flawed individual corporate entities (i.e., the modern player, with his posse/executive staff, his PR needs, and his trash talk / branding mission statements) is as important as talent when it comes to determine winners and losers.

Extend this to the stands, and it gets frightening or silly to people who do not believe what you believe. We’re all wearing the modern-day ghost shirts , many of us are dressing up like it’s Halloween or Mardi Gras, and an astonishing number of people will pay more for the rainments if they’ve been worn in a game, or autographed. (Speaking of magic...)

You may not be fit to touch the hem of an athlete's garment, but you can buy your own replica garment in the gift shop.

But if you go completely against this kind of thing, into the realm of sports atheism, you strip the contest down to bare and ugly meat and bone. You see it, with too much clarity, as a purely commercial event, determined by mostly random chance, that has no meaning, and no good reason to care about.

Timewaste. Vice. Bread and circuses. For kids. Soap opera with a live crowd.

Everyone, whether or not they are sports fans, lives with some stories, illusions, and narrative. Even if you’re aware of doing it. (And if you think fantasy sports erode this traditional faith, not so -- it is more a transfer or a competing faith, rather than a true embrace of sports atheism. In a related matter, I know that I am going to be in my baseball league’s playoffs this year, despite the fact that my team hits less than a senior citizen in a casino. I have Faith.)

This may also be why sports seems so much more invasive and prominent now – the world is becoming more secular and fragmented, so in our need to congregate and find community, we go to the One True Church of Ball. I remember, back in my childhood, hearing priests rail against the false church of sports as being a vice (and yes, it still is).

Now, the Vatican thinks about having its own soccer team. If you can’t beat ‘em, have a God and Country Night.

FTT, for the record, espouses a kind of middle of the road / progressive sports agnosticism – we are not sure quite what to believe, but we are pretty sure that there is all some greater meaning that will become clear later. However, with that being said, we do welcome sports theists into the congregation. Testify to your Window of Opportunity.

Especially when the collection plate is passed around. (And as soon as we can find a sponsor for that collection plate, you will all bear witness to its glory.)

Now, can I get an amen?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Crap Holes We Have Known: Stade Olympique

Ed. Note: Part of a continuing series where FTT throws dirt on the graves of dead stadiums to show that yes, we are freaking old. Enjoy!

Here’s a fun fact. Montreal lead the National League in attendance in 1980. Over 2.5 million came through the turnstiles. You can, as Yogi Berra says, look it up, before I rip your nosehairs out with my bare hands, because I’m not as lovable as people think I am.

Ok, the Mets were terrible that year, and it was a down year for the Dodgers and Reds, the usual attendance powerhouses. The Phillies had exhausted their fan base with playoff failures in ’76, ’77 and ’78, and then crapped the bed entirely in the Pirate’s "We Are Family" year.

But there it is, in black and white, the fact that baseball did work in Quebec, for a good long while. It might not have been the most prosperous market, but it worked well enough until the strike and Expos owner/despot Jeffrey Loria poisoned the well.

After that, Loria put barbed wire around the well, and land mines around the barbed wire, and then released wild dogs that were also carrying land mines, just to be sure. For this, Bud Selig gave him the Commissioner’s Medal of Freedom award, the Florida Marlins, and the 2003 World Series Championship over the Cubs and Yankees, further cementing my belief in the Beavis God.

So by the spring of 1999, that hard 1980 ticket was not, really, much of a problem for a younger DMtShooter (ah, we were all so much younger then) and the patient and kind Mrs. Shooter. We were on our honeymoon in Montreal, also known as The Much More Reasonable And Easier To Get To Quasi-Europe. I highly recommend it.

For seven strong and true days, we wandered the streets loose and unencumbered. We ate succulent meals of aged beef and chateaubriand, filled our goblets (oh, yes, we had goblets) with port and icewine, and engaged in pre-kid honeymoon rutting. We ordered Vietnamese food in French, took to the subways like natives, hit the Napoleon Museum and the ancient cathedrals, rode horse-drawn carriages and tandem bicycles while singing (well, OK, just me), and were, in short, people you’d really want to smack.

We had no cares. It was bliss.

And then a baseball game broke out.

It was a fine Tuesday, about halfway through our trip. We were walking through Montreal’s Botanical Gardens, sampling the full spring fury of late May blooms, as the sun started to set. Slowly, we headed back towards the subway, and a trip back to the hotel area, where dinner at a restaurant to be determined awaited.

That’s when I noticed the Big O. It turned out to be our subway stop. And hey, there’s a baseball game starting. Hey, hon, wanna go? Mrs. Shooter, who was probably drunk on icewine, said sure. I walked up to the counter – wow, no line! -- and asked for their best. After all, what the hell, we're on our honeymoon!

We wound up in the front row for $40 Canadian, or about $8 US at the time. The game turned out to be the Phillies vs. the Expos, the town team that I no longer cared about, against the team that no one cared about. The crowd, counting players, ushers, umpires, clubhouse attendants, broadcast personnel and us, might have been about 2,000 people, though the box score claimed 4,400. The box score is full of crap. I’ve been on planes with more people.

It was spooky and unpleasant. Despite the choice seats, we were still a considerable distance from the field, and the utter lack of crowd noise or outside light made it seem like a baseball snuff film.

Seeing as we were High Rollers, we had the more or less constant attention of a comely waitperson who was clearly just dying for something to do. If this was a Penthouse Forum blog, we’d have given her something to do. But since it’s not, we just kept asking her to bring us Smoked Meat sandwiches (hey now).

The game was notable for the plaintive honking of bored children in the upper decks sounding their plastic Expo horns. Everything was broadcast in both French and English. Sounds echoed for minutes. Even the home plate umpire sounded depressed in his ball and strike calls.

My only strong memory of the actual game was reacting to a blown call at first by starting to yell at the umpire. With decades of training of yelling at tiny specks that were hundreds of feet away in a loud stadium, I started with the time-honored observation about his weight. Mr. Umpire then stared me down, and started heading my way. Mrs. Shooter thoughtfully used the international hand motions of "Hey, it was him, not me," and I hid under the seats until the mean man went away.

What can I tell you – heckling is a whole different ball game in a vacuum. Also, I'm a wuss.

For the record, the Expos won 7-4, as part of their magical 68-94 campaign (the Phils would finish 77-85). I can say that I’ve watched the Phillies lose in two countries and three languages (South Philadelphia Italian is something I love, but it is not English).

We walked out into the perfect Montreal night, never to return.

As always on Crap Holes We Have Known, if you’ve got a different view, we’re eager to hear it, so that we can get what people in pro wrestling call Cheap Heat. Post your impassioned defense, or pile on the corpse, in the comments below.

Coming Up Next Time on Crap Holes We Have Known: Detroit!

FTT Can Not Stop Touching The Rotting Tooth That Is Bill Simmons

Shorter Simmons, just now:

Everyone feel sorry for me and my team, because we didn't win the lottery, and we're really, really, really unlucky.

* * * * *

Actual Simmons (and after this, I'm taking this car straight to Rant Country):

Everyone believes Celtics fans get a free pass with this stuff because we won 16 titles in 30 years. Actually, it's the opposite. Long-suffering fans of perennial losers don't know what they're missing. After all, how would they know? You can't miss steak if you've never eaten steak, right?

This, in a nutshell, is why the *WORLD* hates the Red Sox even more than the Yankees right now (and for that matter, the Patriots more than the Colts) -- you won your World Series, and you are *still* crying for Lovable Underdog Status.

It's also why no one -- NO ONE -- feels bad that the Celtics are Clippers East now.

You know who would trade their Sports Misery with Boston's in a freaking heartbeat? Just about every town in America. You get a great old baseball park. You get the most successful franchise in NBA history. You get a championship - MULTIPLE - in this century, in two sports. You get a fan base that fills the seats and cares all the time, and if you move away from there, you can always find a bar filled with them.

You want a miserable sports fan experience? Settle back with some Kansas City Royal action, six months in a funeral home. Grab a paper bag and join the suicide watch in Detroit Lion Land. Suck on the poisoned crack pipe that has a Philadelphia 76er logo on it. My team has traded the best players in franchise history away so much, Julius Erving checks the newspaper every day, just to make sure it still isn't going to happen to him, too.

Believe it or not, We Poor Peons Who Rarely Eat Steak like it, too. The Royals fans remember 1985 like it's a child lost in a war. Lions fans close their eyes and think of Barry Sanders. In Philadelphia, we can still see Doc rising over Michael Cooper.

It's the way sports is for everyone. Or, at least, everyone but you, you spoiled child, you insufferable douche bag, you puling twerp. (Boy, it's hard to keep this under the Disney filter.)

Your tears are like sweet wine. Please cry some more for us. Please. Or, failing that, GROW THE HELL UP.

And if you don't believe me, spin around the sports blogosphere and check out the reactions of everyone but you and your boyfriends. It's a freaking national holiday out here.

Crap Holes We Have Known: Cleveland Municipal

Ed. Note: This is the first in a continuing series of episodes in which FTT throws dirt on the graves of old ballparks, and shows the world just how freaking old we are.

Cleveland Municipal

It might have been OK for football, because frankly, you can endure a lot for football. Eight games a year, four hours a game, you are just not there that much.

For baseball? Oh dear God.

The old Mistake By The Lake was a giant round toilet, built in 1948, for two expressed purposes:

1) Match and mirror the dimensions of the dominant franchise (New York Yankees), of the age, because clearly, it was these dimensions that made them great, not the players in the uniforms, and

2) Make sure that the home team could take advantage of their strong, year-in and year-out winning ways by fitting up to 60,000 people in the park.

Then the American League stepped in and told them that the dimensions were not going to be that way. At which point the team decided to throw a 50-year hissy fit and have 80 to 100 feet of dead space in the outfield, between the fences and the bleachers. They parked cars there. No, seriously.

Next, the team stopped winning, following the monumentally bad ‘50s trade of Colavito for Kuenn. It was the kind of deal you would expect from a team that made stadium dimensions without checking to see if the league would allow them first. Or from people who would turn their best outfield seat locations into parking spaces.

Next, the people in the outfield decided that they had better things to do then watch a terrible franchise from very far away, while being eaten alive by the tens of thousands of insects that liked living next to a big damn lake. (There was a game that was called there due to insects once. We shit you not.) This was soon followed suit by the people who were watching the team from closer in.

In July 1990 the Tribe faced the dominant Bash Brothers Oakland A’s. A group of friends and I went across the country for a two week baseball road trip. Our pitching matchup was NBX’s own Dave Stewart vs. Al Nipper, a 103-win A’s team vs. a 85-loss collection of aimless Tribesmen, and about as much of a lead-pipe lock of a contest as you can get outside of a homecoming game in college football.

Nipper, for those of you who did not have the pleasure of first hand experience, was a “bulldog” kind of pitcher, which meant that he was ugly, drooled, and smelled of urine. He’d mix, match, and get mauled whenever he fell behind in a count to a good hitter. Originally with the Red Sox, he had bounced to the Cubs and Tribe. By 1990, he was completely spent, and the night we saw him, he was in his last week in the majors. (The Tribe, in their finite wisdom, gave him *five* starts.

Here’s the box score, if you have no life.

The A’s went up early. Stewart treated the Tribe like disobedient children. The 30,000 people in attendance, in a stadium that fit 60,000, still made it feel empty, except when they decided to make Jose Canseco, then the best player in baseball, mad with Super Roiding Power.

The Tribe yanked Nipper and brought in Tom Candiotti. Jose responded with an absolute moon shot to left that almost made it to the seats, clearing the parked cars and open spaces that had been lying fallow since 1948. The ball went about 480 feet, and took about 10 seconds to land. It was if someone shut off the gravity.

The crowd shut up. The A’s won in a game that should have been stopped on cuts. We ate at a Subway after the game, because there was not anything better near the park, and got out of town as fast as we could.

I’m certain that someone reading this blog has something good to say about that place, in that this is the Internet, and you can find someone with something good to say about furries and toad lickers.

If you are that person, please post in the comments.

And also, get some help.

Next up: Montreal!

Carlos Boozer Makes Us Tripucka

The Spurs beat the Jazz last night for the 5,127th straight time in San Antonio last night, taking a 2-0 lead in their Best Of What’s Left To Watch series. Coverage of the game consisted of conversations about the draft (well, OK, not really, but why not?).

The Spurs won despite big nights from Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, and the happy story, if you are a Jazz fan, is that the home team only won because they were lights-out from the three point line, and your team has been money at home in the post-season.

(If you are a Jazz fan, I’m also contractually obligated to ask you about your four wives as I drink forbidden nectar that has caffeine in it. Later on this weekend, we’re hoping to ask you about praying to convert your dead ex-players, make some Brokeback Mountain censorship jokes, and mock your freakish devotion to the underwear. Please take it personally and post hate-filled replies that assume I’m a Spurs fan, so that you and other Spurs Fans can get into a big flame war in the Comments section. We’re not asking for much, really.)

To this observer, Boozer’s points were Tripucka-esque, and since I just dropped a 25-year old NBA reference because I Am Freaking Old, we got some ‘splaining to do. Why don’t you sit a spell, and put your feet up on a wife, while I whittle up some knowledge?

Kelly Tripucka was a 6’-6” small forward in the Kiki Vandeweghe / Peja Stojakovic / Adam Morrison mold, with a 10-year career from 1981 to 1991. He was a mildly athletic scoring white guy with a good stroke, who could carry you during his hot stretches, and shoot you out of the game when he wasn’t on. He was also notable for playing little defense, whining to the refs in an era when it wasn’t expected, looking like the prehistoric Will Ferrell, and for having a last name that gives frat boys the giggles even today (Tre-PUKE-ah).

Now that the world is filled with armchair GMs and fantasy sports players who value the numbers produced by all-around players, Empty Calories guys like Tripucka aren’t highly valued. But back in the day, Stopping Tripucka, and his 20 points a night, was a major point of discussion on how to beat the Pistons.

The Pistons rival in the Tripucka Era was Don Nelson’s Milwaukee Bucks, who had the best defensive off guard in the game in Sidney Moncrief. Moncrief was, basically, 90% of the defensive player that Kobe or MJ was, but maybe a quarter of the offensive player, so everybody knew he was a defensive hammer. He’d get mongoose-quick steals on the ball, rather than from gambling. Had he been on teams where he wasn’t also the offensive go-to guy, would have probably got himself a ring or two.

You’d think that Nelson would just throw Moncrief at Tripucka and move on to other matters, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, he gave Tripucka his lead, and would watch as he’s pour in 20 to 25 points in the first three quarters. Moncrief would give him some attention, but it wasn’t constant, and the Bucks would rotate various people at him, and keep things in single coverage.

Then the fourth quarter would start, and with the Pistons fat and happy in the trap, Nelson would deploy Moncrief, and Moncrief would shut the door. No one else on the Pistons, having spent three quarters relying on Tripucka for offense, would be ready to step up. The Bucks would win, and the game coverage would be how the Bucks overcame a great game from Tripucka.

It was an incredibly simple trap, but one that the Pistons seemed to fall for consistently, especially in games that mattered.

Now, how does that relate to Jazz-Spurs? Simple. Carlos Boozer is the Jazz Tripucka.

If he scores 30, the story is that he’s having a great game against today’s big man Moncrief, aka Tim Duncan. If only the rest of the Jazz could hold up their part of the bargain, this would be a series...

But the Spurs are winning *because* Boozer is scoring this much. He doesn’t open up the floor for other players. If he’s your early option on offense, the other guys on the team aren’t getting their looks – and NBA players rarely play well on defense when they are not getting some points on the offensive end. He also isn’t going to deliver when they need it against Duncan.

And the player that they really need to score, Mehmet Okur, is getting outplayed by Francisco Oberto. (No, seriously. Francisco Oberto. And you wondered how Nazr Muhammad got paid.)

If I’m Jerry Sloan, I’m doing everything I can to get Mehmet into the series in Game 3. I’m running double and triple screens in the first quarter to get him a clean look from distance. I’m running guards at Oberto and Duncan and having them pop blood capsules for the full Nash Effect.

Because the only way – failing Deron Williams turning into 2000-era Allen Iverson, and even 2000 AI got stopped by superior big men – that the Jazz are going to win this series is if Okur is such a force that he can draw the Spurs big men away from the basket -- and give the Jazz a shot at a fourth quarter where Duncan doesn't do his Moncrief routine on Boozer.

If and when that happens, we might have a series. Williams is making people forget Chris Paul, any team can go cold from the arc, the Jazz do have a solid home court, and Jerry Sloan can walk and chew gum at the same time. I don’t think he’s got the cards to win this hand, but he shouldn’t get swept, and his teams don’t quit.

But if you see Boozer as the leading scorer on the Jazz in the third quarter in a more or less even Game Three, it’s probably safe to shut off the game and go clean your gutters.

They’ve probably got a lot of Tripucka in them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Take A Dive. You Get Five.

And that’s how it ended up for the Boston Flopping Celtics. As I wrote yesterday, they tanked their way to the second worst record in the NBA in hopes of securing the first or second pick in the draft. The worst pick they could end up with was the 5th pick. And that is exactly what they got.

Bill Simmons blogged today about his definition of karma, the Celtics “bad luck” and why they were due. How does a team who purposely tries to lose games have this sense of entitlement of deserving the top pick? And I’ll save you some time reading his next blog about how unbearable it is, how even his buddy Hench couldn’t cheer him up and why the number 5 pick isn’t that bad. (You can look forward to 6 weeks of why Yi Jianlian is more polished than Greg Oden or how Mike Conley is the best PG coming out of the draft since AI)

Reading the Celtics message boards, their fans share this same sentiment. A lot of “It’s not fair, we had the second worst record. We deserve at least the second pick.” I think the Celtics got exactly what they deserved – you don’t play hard and try to win, get in the back of the line.

The next shoe to drop is the inevitable “Stern rigged this lottery to punish the Celtics.” I’m actually going to encourage the spreading of this conspiracy theory. I like the idea of Stern dropping the hammer on a team that doesn’t have the moral integrity to play hard. Why should an organization that has made terrible moves be rewarded for trying to take the easy way out to rebuild?

Danny Ainge is currently on step 1 of the 5 steps of grieving – DENIAL. "We've been saying all along that we think this is a good draft, and it's more than a two-player draft," Ainge said just moments after the results were revealed on ESPN. "I still believe that we're going to get a player who has a chance to be an All-Star caliber player." Step 2 is anger. I’m sure that came as soon as the reporters had left the room.

This is an organization in disarray. From the GM to the coach to even the marketing department. Need proof? Check out the photo at the top of this post. This came directly from the homepage of the Boston Celtics. It shows the worst possible outcome of tonight’s draft for them – the 5th pick. And right below the picture of the number 5 ball is a button to get season tickets. Now you tell me the Celtics didn’t get exactly what they deserved.

Thank you NBA for an outstanding evening.

We Read Bill Simmons, So You Don't Have To

I feel bad for ESPN's Sports Guy. It's sad that, after his new contract, they can't afford to get him an editor anymore. So in that light, here's three points (I could have gone for more, but my hands keep wanting to put salt in my eyes) from today's, um, exercise, that could have used another look.

After the Celtics failed to get Duncan, I dumped the blonde a few weeks later, mostly because I never forgave myself for watching the lottery with her. (Don't worry, we wouldn't have lasted -- sorta-girlfriends never do.) -- ESPN Bill Simmons, today
Thanks for telling us, Bill. I'm not sure I'd have gotten to sleep tonight over that one.
Name me a team that suffered more trauma since the mid-'80s: Lenny Bias and Reggie Lewis, the demolition of the Boston Garden, the M.L. Carr era, the Duncan lottery, the Pitino era, the Paul Pierce stabbing, the Vin Baker trade, Red Auerbach's death, Doc Rivers' second life. ... After 16 titles in 30 years, it's been a preposterously brutal stretch of bad luck.
Not since Alanis Morrisette (see, Bill, a pop music reference! You can keep reading!) sang the song "Ironic" has a public figure missed the point of a word before.

Bill, the Garden, Carr, Duncan, Pitino, Baker, and Rivers were not bad luck. They were bad decisions. Bad luck is what losers cry when they can't handle the scoreboard. Auerbach was what happens when people get old. Read up on it.

And even if we did believe in luck, some among us might think you've *just* started to pay for the 16 titles in 30 years. Please go to and read up on the word "insufferable."
Please tell me we're due. For the love of God, TELL ME WE'RE DUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I wasn't going to for three exclamation points, but since you went to 18, I guess you're due.

Oh, and Bill? You're not on the team. Change your freaking pronouns.

Update and Editor's Note: Thank you, God and David Stern, for giving the Celtics the fifth and worst possible pick in the draft. Now, we too can die in peace.

The President *Is* From Texas

Normally, I don’t respond to comments in posts, and I try to keep the Not Sports tag count low. But then you have moments like this one.

STOP SAYING THE PRESIDENT IS FROM TEXAS!!! Yes he WAS governor of Texas but he is NOT from Texas. he was born in New Haven, Connecticut; lived a while in Midland,TX(football powerhouse) but went to private school in Massachusetts(Andover). Besides that he was educated at Harvard AND Yale. The only reason he had interest in Texas is cause he had ownership in the Texas Rangers baseball team and his father had oil investments in Texas. Ya'll wanna blame someone for Bush blame Vermont and Harvard/Yale! - Anonymous
With all due respect, commenter who felt so strongly about this that they could not leave a name, stop repeating a lie that makes you feel better about life. It’s still a lie.

The ex-governor of a state, who owned a baseball team in that state, who ran companies in that state, who owns a (bullshit ranch) house in that state, whose family has lived in that state for longer than most of the people who are reading this have been alive… is not from that state. Some other state has to talk the fall for it.

Look, I *enjoy* Texas – or, at least, the Not Dallas Or Houston parts of it. (I’m an Eagles fan – you expect me to like Dallas? And as for Houston, there’s that whole Enron/DeLay/Bush thing going on there. I’m sorry, you folks have much to atone for.)

Austin is one of the five best places on the planet. I’ve got friends from Lubbock. I’ve driven through the whole shooting match (and yes, shooting is the word – I’ve seen what you people do to speed limit signs) from end to end on multiple occasions. West Texas is stark and beautiful. It’s the only place to really eat BBQ. Drive-through margaritas fill my heart with blood. You got Joe Bob Briggs, Kinky Friedman and Molly Ivins. There are many, many worse states.

But for y’all (note the appropriate usage) to claim Bush isn’t from Texas is like New Yorkers claiming that Hillary Clinton isn’t from there.

They picked her. So she is.

Or like me claiming Bush isn’t from America, because I’m from there, and, um, ick.

(Frankly, I feel the same way about people on reality shows also being mammals. Maybe it’s time to research my options there.)

We all get to own this.

You, double.

Moving on.

Marshall, Marshall, Marshall

So let’s get this straight... LeBron James and the Cavs are a three-pointer away from having the chance to steal Game One on the road in Detroit. LeBron drives the lane, draws two defenders, and kicks to (arguably) the team’s best three-point shooter, Donyell Marshall. Marshall clangs it, the Pistons run down the rebound, Billups makes the free throws (of course), and the story is...

James criticized for passing to a wide-open teammate.

Excuse me for a minute here. Who missed the freaking shot? Whose entire offensive game more or less consists of "Hitting Open Threes"? Who would be getting the Robert Horry Hand Job if the Cavs had won?

Yeah. The same guy who isn’t answering any questions today.

Does anyone in the NBA realize just how badly this makes the game look to the casual fan, who is just catching the highlights before their daily twenty minute update on the condition of Joe Torre? (Joe had some bran yesterday and the Yankees won, so things are looking up. Check back again tomorrow.) A star player is criticized for trusting his teammate to do the job he is paid to do – and it’s not like the Cavs employ Marshall for his defense, or his winning personality.

Jordan passed to John Paxson and Craig Hodges. They hit, the Bulls win, Jordan’s a winner, best teammate ever, yada yada yada.

James passes to Marshall, Marshall whiffs, James doesn’t have the killer instinct. He’s not Carmelo Anthony in a close game. (And we all see how Melo’s clutch ability has helped the Nuggets to extraordinary playoff glory. Oh, wait.)

Here’s what should happen in Game Two. James will come out more assertive on offense. The refs, stung by the transparently ridiculous fact that LeBron didn’t shoot a single free throw in 45 minutes of court time in the first game, will send him on the line a dozen times.

(Oh, and a special shout-out – HEY! -- to Zombie Coach Mike Brown, who draws a paycheck from the Cavs despite the palpable stench of rotting flesh… you really should study Phil Jackson’s videotapes of gaming the refs for your star player more. No one could catch the sarcasm in your voice when you said, "I guess LeBron needs to drive to the basket harder" in that press conference. If, in the real chance that you don’t know who Phil Jackson is, just rent a David Spade movie. It’s the same thing.)

Ziggy Ilgauskas, who had 20+ points in Game One from James setting up his teammates, will be notable by his absence. Detroit’s big men will provide more help on defense, because they won’t have to contend with Ziggy down low. The Pistons will win, because they are the (much) better team. Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall, Larry Hughes and the rest of the Cavaliers who do not have JAMES stitched on the back of their uniform will shower, dress, and get on the plane in relative isolation and comfort. And James will get to answer questions about what he is going to do differently in Game Three.

Answer: Hope like hell that his teammates show up for a home game. Dream of what life would be like with one of the six remaining point guards left in the world.

And start thinking about where he’s not going to watch the Finals.

In Praise Of Number Five

The recent drafting of quarterback Kevin Kolb could mean that Donovan McNabb will be traded before the 2007 season. A few observers have opined that McNabb will be moved after the coming season. But here's a scenario that has him moving before September. The Bears are ready to win the Super Bowl. This scenario obviously depends on two things. One, that McNabb is physically ready to play on Week 1 of the 2007 season. Two, that Chicago is convinced McNabb is their best available QB option.
-- Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/20/07

For the moment, do not consider the relative logical merits of moving a 30-year-old injury-prone quarterback with a high salary cap number, and a fair amount of trade value, who used to be mobile but probably won’t be much anymore, who has always struggled with accuracy in the short passing game.

Instead, consider this: which franchise, in the midst of the best run in their history, would make this move?

For the smattering of Eagle fans out there who would argue that the mid ‘40s teams of Steve Van Buren or the 1960 team of Norm Van Brocklin were a better era because the team held a trophy at the end of the season, WE WILL NOW INCREASE THE FONT SIZE SO THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SQUINT. HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY? ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH PILLS?

Possibly the San Francisco 49ers of Bill Walsh, who maneuvered Young for Montana and prolonged the dynasty.

Maybe a grind-it-out defensive team like Baltimore or Tampa Bay, where the quarterback’s biggest job is to not shit the bed.

That’s about it.

Here is what every Eagles fan that has any idea of what they are talking about when they are watching pro football should think, or say, to Don McNabb – thank you.

Thank you for the Tecmo Bowl MNF throw against the Cowboys.

Thank you for 4th-and-forever to FredEx to take out the Packers.

Thank you for making the Washington Redskins suffer through the worst years of their lives – an era so bad, their owner went out and disgraced the memory of Joe Gibbs, too.

Thank you for never doing anything more personally destructive than a Chunky soup ad, or a chunky vomit experience. (Ask the would-be fans of Yachtsman Culpepper, Dog Lover Vick and Evel Rothlisberger how that compares.).

Thank you for making this the most entertaining, most satisfying, most fun era to be an Eagles fan ever.

Let us review, shall we, some of the gods among men that have manned Don’s position here recently.

Bobby Hoying
Rodney Peete
Doug Pederson
Koy Detmer
Ty Detmer
Pat Ryan
Jeff Goebel
Mike McMahon
AJ Feeley
Jeff Garcia

I know I’m missing some others, too. Now, tell me who you’d rather have. (Yes, I know Garcia did a great job, but half a season does not a viable choice make.)

You want to tell me Don has not won The Big One? Fine. Guilty. He also did a terrible job of tackling Corey Dillon in that Super Bowl, too. Amazing how, in so many big games, Don forgot to line up on defense and stop the run. But so be it.

But you also have to give him this -- he’s won a ton of Little Ones. And a lot of Medium Ones, and Bigger Ones that led to the Big One. Honestly, that counts for something.

Ask a Redskins fan, or a Giants fan, or a Cowboys fan, how much they have enjoyed the McNabb Era.

See who much they would smile if you took Randall Cunningham, or Ron Jaworski, as your QB instead in an all-time game of Madden. (There's been, um, a lot of weak years at QB here.)

Ask a Bears fan how fast they would do that deal. (They’d answer, but they are too busy pressing the ACCEPT button. Oh, and they’d be happy to send the Rex Cannon back this way, too.)

See how much fun the Feeley/Holcomb half of the season would be, followed up by the vanilla-riffic rookie year for Kolb, with the season in the crapper and the region calling for Andy Reid to spend more quality time with his kids.

Finally, see Don lead the conference’s best team in Chicago, as half of Philadelphia roots for a shadenfraude knee injury and the other half wonders why good things never happen to us. (And if you think he can’t win a Super Bowl there, assuming he’s healthy, you’ve got a strange idea of what a Super Bowl winning QB on a dominant defensive team looks like. Dilfer-esque.)

All the while forgetting that the last few years have been really, really good.

For the record, I think the rumor is bullshit. I don’t think Reid would dare to make the best team in the conference much better, even if it does mean he’d finally get a quality LB. I think Reid is allergic to quality LBs.

I also cannot imagine that he really wants to run the ball that much, which is what he would do with the quarterback spot in transition. That’s not his idea of fun.

Lastly, I do not think the Eagles would move McNabb off an injury. I think they would much rather roll the dice and see if they could get a full and healthy year out of him, and take their time with Kolb. A transition would happen in one to three years, depending on health and performance. Don is 30, after all, and increasingly fragile.

But I do know this: for the rest of his time in Eagle green, McNabb has to know that the clock is ticking loudly.

I just hope that when his time comes, we show some class, and say thanks. The Eagles will be very fortunate if their next quarterback is anywhere near as good.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Best Wishes, Danny

I don’t usually get excited about the NBA Draft Lottery. But I have to admit, I’ll be watching tomorrow. And not to see who gets Oden or Durant. Although, they are two of the best prospects the draft has seen in years.

Instead I’ll be tuning in to root against Danny Ainge and the Celtics getting one of the first two picks. Not only would it be sweet justice for a team who tanked their way through the season, the look on the Celtics’ representative at the draft (and please, please, please let it be Ainge) would be priceless. I picture a scene similar to the old Simpsons’ episode where Lisa tells Ralph she doesn’t like him on TV during a Krusty anniversary show. Ralph’s face instantly turns to horror - and like Bart, I will rewind and replay in slow motion over and over again if the Celtics get anything but the first two picks in the draft.

Look, I don’t have anything against the Celtics or their fans (well I am tired of Bill Simons whining about how they “have to get one of the first two picks” and that damn book he’s been peddling on his site for 2+ years). In fact I feel badly for their fans that they’ve had to endure poor decisions by Ainge and a pretty lousy product for years now. What I do have a problem with is rewarding a team for bad decisions and worse, in the case of the 2006-07 season, throwing games. Of course, Doc Rivers didn’t tell his players to let the other team score or miss shots on purpose. No, the Celtics decided to keep their best players on the bench during key parts (usually the second half) of games and not even play their key guys due to “injury.”

The most egregious part of this is that the Boston fans have paid good money to come to the games only to see their team try to lose. And for this, the NBA awards them with one of the best chances at getting Oden and Durant. It’s a welfare system for pro-sports. So let me make sure I get this right – your organization has made bad trades and poor free agent signings…. Last year you drafted and traded a prospect with a bright future for Sebastian Telfair and a firearm to be named later…. You screwed your fan base by making them pay full price for tickets to see games you had no intention of winning… Yes, yes, for that we (the NBA) will give you the second best chance in the league for this year’s top pick. Nice job, you’ve earned it.

That work ethic and poor results wouldn’t even fly in France (that goes out to our one French reader). I’ve read many different alternatives the NBA could adopt for their draft: Throw all the teams in and have a truly random drawing, split the season into halves and have some type of ratio that you are awarded more points for wins in the second half of the year to prevent tanking, adopting an English Premier League system of sending the bottom teams each year to the minor leagues (in this case the NBDL). But I propose one that could make teams try to win and prevent tanking – the bottom line.

Here’s how it could work. Lottery teams are chosen by attendance levels. Or I should say lack of attendance. Teams averaging the lowest attendance (it would have to be a ratio of their total seating capacity) would be placed into a lottery drawing. Owners would have to really pay if they wanted to tank because a bad product on the floor would lead to lower attendance levels. And maybe it’s a ratio that is compared to last year’s attendance. I don’t know. What I do know is this – you tie a financial figure to all of this and you’ll see owners less likely to let incompetent GMs screw the team and the fans, but more importantly to them, lose out on more money in their pocket, in order to get a better chance at a top prospect.

So tomorrow, please join me in wishing Danny Ainge and the Celtics the worst of luck. Danny, here’s to the number 13, black cats, broken mirrors, and walking under ladders.

And in case you were curious about the odds for the Celtics tomorrow, here they are with the percentage chance of receiving their spot in the top 5:

1st pick: 19.9%
2nd pick: 18.8%
3rd pick: 17.1%
4th pick: 31.9%
5th pick: 12.4%

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