Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 "Must Haves" For Curt Schilling's Next Team

The list is here, and if I can be serious in talking about Curt Schilling's favorite subject for a second here...

I can not, for the life of me, see why he wants another year. He's 216-146 for his career; he's not going to get to any kind of meaningful milestone in 2008. Given his post-season success and major media market work, he's going to Cooperstown already -- and my distaste for his mouth and politics notwithstanding, deservedly so. He compares very favorably to Don Drysdale who is in, plus he's got the 10-2 lifetime postseason record and the three championship rings. Some people think he's the best post-season starting pitcher of all time, which seems to me to be forgetting about Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, but what the hey, it's all about the modern era.

If he walks away today -- and if he, of course, had the sense of saying he was going to do that before the World Series starts -- he's the Red Sox starting pitcher equivalent of Ted Williams. He comes back for another year, he risks the last memory of going out while stumbling around like the late-era Steve Carlton. (To be fair, I'm pretty sure that if he gets smacked around, an injury will crop up.) Besides, what's $10 million when you've already made over $100 million, and you can retire and become the dominant regional endorsement presence?

The answer, of course, is that athletes play, and it's the rare one that leaves while there is still the hint of anything left in the tank. Also, it's hard to see how retirement would really appeal to Schill; the media would be around a heck of a lot less.

The Patriot Threat

As the world starts to slowly awaken to what we in the blogosphere have been saying for weeks, if not months -- namely, that the Patriots have been running up the score, and that someone, you would think, will eventually take physical umbrage at it...

Well, a nasty thought came to me. Namely, that the other teams in the NFL don't really care if they are on the other end of a Patriot de-pantsing.

It is, of course, a truism that fans hate other teams much more than the actual players do. Even in the NFL, where contracts are not guaranteed and violence is part of the job description, the players have the same agents, pray together after the game, mix freely at All Star Games and offseason events, and know that it's a business. If you lose by 35 or you lose by 21, it's the same thing; no reason to risk injury in garbage time.

So while the fans of the teams that the Patriots throw confetti on get incensed, and wonder why someone doesn't just put three people on Moss at the line and jam him into next week, then follow up with the straight up safety blitz with a disposable special teamer with the soul mission of hitting high, hitting late and seeing how Matt Cassel looks in extended duty...

Well, it's not something you could tell a player to do, realistically, as a coach. And it may not be something that a player will do, or even think about doing, because they are all thinking more about the long term and staying in business. Even though it gives you your best (only?) chance to win, and early in the game, not late.

This is, of course, has more than a little of the crazy talk to it. If everyone played football like this, teams would go through a half dozen quarterbacks a year and the games would be more or less unwatchable. One of the reasons why the XFL failed (along with, well, that it was the XFL) is that they didn't protect the QB, and when you don't do that, you get a pretty unwatchable game, pretty fast.

But here's the rub: true, dominating greatness is *not* good for ratings, or the health of the league. The NFL has a unique benefit that other leagues do not have, in that most people truly believe that every game is important and that the players and teams deliver maximum effort to win every game. When you watch playoff baseball, you know that the closer will come in for the 8th inning and the ace starting pitcher may go on short rest, because the games are managed differently. In the NBA, you know that benches will tighten up and defensive intensity will pick up, because the game is different. With the exception of the level of hype and the weather, there really isn't that much difference between it, and a meaningful regular season game.

There is also, well, this... an NFL game that does *not* have that level of meaning isn't terribly entertaining. Consider Week 17 games between teams that are out of it; if you are a diehard fan of that team, you watch it like a pre-season game, or with an eye on something else while you are doing it. A few weeks ago, a bad MNF match-up (Falcons-Giants) got a third of the ratings of the marquee game (Patriots-Cowboys).

Now, what happens to our collective story of the NFL: that it is the most hotly contested league, that anything can happen, that teams really do care about winning and losing, even beyond their own physical safety. If the Patriots continue to blow out teams without even the hint of doubt or retribution, can anyone really think this anymore?

What you would have is the same thing that would happen if the world had paid more attention to CheaterGate: one team that creates a threat to the viability of the entire league. Maybe not right away, and realistically, no team in the NFL is likely to stay this dominant (and, frankly, this dickish) for a very long time.

But I do know this: if you believe in referees getting the occasional nudge from their league, you will expect the Colts getting the benefit of more than a few calls this week. Because even if the Colts win decisively, they won't appear to be so dominant as to make the games not worth watching. After all, you can run on them, and Peyton Manning does not have (or at least, not yet) the aura of invincibility in a playoff that Brady and the Patriots have had.

And if the Patriots win in a blowout? Not so much. And with each succeeding week that the blowout happens and no one does anything about it, the erosion of what we believed the NFL to be will continue.

Epic Drop: Top 10 NBA Questions That Won't Get Asked, But Should

Your list is here, and it comes complete with just the kind of titty shot that we just don't cotton to here on the mighty and virtuous Tool. And here's your bonus question.... 11. Is the sex with Jeannie Buss so good that Phil Jackson is not regretting his decision to come back to the Lakers?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NBA Predictions and Fantasy League Picks

The bad tooth writer (and if you don't know who that is, I'm not telling) posted last week that if you pick against the Spurs this year, you're just doing it because they won last year, and you're going for a shock pick. Not the case here. While I give the Spurs all props, the simple fact of it is that I don't see Parker, Duncan and Ginobili (especially the last two) staying healthy, and the Spurs don't get out of the West without all three, because without all of those guys, they become defensible.

That's really all there is to it. The NBA is decided, on a very large part, by the ability of its star players to stay healthy and motivated, in large part because injuries on a team are highly, highly contagious. One guy gets hurt, another guy tries to do too much to become the man, the team starts to lose and the guys with questionable character start to see the playoffs slip away, and suddenly those day-to-day ankles become 15 to 30. And if you don't believe that, ask anyone who had the misfortune of watching Warriors Basketball for every year in the past 15, save the last one.

The other big thing that happened in the NBA this off-season is that now that the draft is over and David Stern has given the smackdown to end all smackdowns by fixing the draft for the non-tankers, the bottom half of the East is going to try again. (It also helps that there will be no Oden/Durant hype this year.) So, without further ado, your top to bottom rankings for next year...

Eastern Conference (by record)

1. Detroit - Sheed's lighter, they signed Billups, and the bench is better than it has been in years

2. Chicago - Will wear teams out in waves of athleticism, and low-post scoring doesn't matter so much when you defend better than everyone else

3. Miami - Shaq won't go out with a whimper, and Ricky Davis will help them tons

4. Boston - Will win the Atlantic, but will put too many minutes on their Big 3 to do it; vulnerable in the playoff due to possible injury risks

5. Toronto - Will not go away unless Chris Bosh gets hurt; one of the few teams in the East that will go up-tempo

6. New Jersey - Kidd and Carter won't let them slip much farther than this, but the key to this team is whether or not Krstic and Jefferson can come back from injury

7. Cleveland - Severe regression here unless Larry Hughes can channel his pre-contract ankles

8. Washington - Agent Zero in a contract year will drag them into the playoffs, but last year's team had everything go right until he got hurt, and they were still a .500 team

9. Orlando - Some people like the Lewis signing in the short term, but I'm not one of them... and the bench is terrible, and Jameer Nelson isn't the answer at PG

10. Milwaukee - Will challenge all year, but the front court will keep them from the post-season

11. Atlanta - Too young to make The Leap yet, but they're coming, especially if Acie Law can finally give them a point guard

12. Charlotte - The best team in their history, but it's hard to imagine J-Rich, Okafor and Wallace all staying healthy

13. New York - A train wreck defensively with wildly unrealistic expectations; Eddy Curry will be able to go into the witness protection program by the time Zach Randolph is done dominating the ball

14. Philadelphia - They'll try, but scoring in the half-court just isn't going to happen, and the conference just got a heck of a lot better

15. Indiana - The over/under on games until Jermaine O'Neal quits on the team and/or demands a trade is 25

Western Conference (by record)

1. Phoenix - Does anyone really think they are going to miss Kurt Thomas? Boris Diaw not being fat helps them a ton, and 60 games of Grant Hill will fit them like a glove

2. Houston - They'll care about the record enough to have the Dallas year of last year, with Ming and McGrady finally healthy and working with a point guard (or six)

3. Denver - No one remembers that they went 10-1 in April before running into the Spurs buzzsaw; this year, they'll have a healthy Nene and some useful minutes out of Kenyon Martin

4. San Antonio - 55 wins on auto pilot and while trying to get healthy for the playoffs

5. Dallas - Just not right that a team with that shocking of a collapse didn't shake things up in the off-season; this will be the first year in his career that Dirk doesn't get better

6. Utah - Deron Williams won't let them slide, but the playoffs last year exposed Okur and Kirilenko; it helps that their division has two good teams and three that aren't ready

7. Lakers - Kobe gets all the headlines, but this team will only go if Lamar Odom can recover from his nightmarish personal year, and if Andrew Bynum doesn't get frozen out by the guards

8. New Orleans - Could move up this list if they get a significant portion of the old Peja Stojakovic back, but I'm not counting on that, and neither should they

9. Golden State - Teams with Stephen Jackson as a captain, who are counting on health from Baron Davis, are not exactly setting their foundation on rock

10. Memphis - Friskier than expected with a motivated Gasol and better point guard play, but they're not very good defensively

11. Seattle - Best of the worst, with Green giving them a boost along with Durant; they need to cut bait with a lot of their 7-foot stiffs and decide on a point guard already

12. Portland - Aldridge and Roy will look good, but no Oden means way too much Joel Pryzbilla; they are two years away but coming

13. Clippers - Just a disaster until Brand comes back, and even after that; need a point guard that isn't 65 (Cassels), injury prone (Knight) or legally dead (Livingston)

14. Minnesota - I think they'll try, but Al Jefferson is not going to enjoy playing against big men that are as big and fast as he is (especially on defense)

15. Sacramento - Were going to be the worst team in the league *before* Mike Bibby got hurt; over/under on Ron Artest, possibly the most overrated player in the NBA, going insane is at 30 games

NBA Finals - Phoenix over Chicago

10 Undervalued (i.e., Sleepers)

1) Pau Gasol - Not usually considered a sleeper, but he's finally going to get big minutes, in an up-tempo situation, with a point guard that isn't horrible; he could post the best numbers in the game this year at 4/5

2) Andre Iguodala - Flying under the radar on a terrible Sixers team, he'll give you 20/5/5 and never get off the floor

3) Deron Williams - Took a step in the playoffs last year, and with Okur and Kirilenko looking exposed, his role will expand

4) Dwight Howard - He kills you in FT%, but with an actual outside threat in Lewis, he has to get a little more room to operate underneath

5) Ricky Davis - If Shaq can rehabilitate White Chocolate and Antoine Davis, what can he do with someone who actually has basketball skills?

6) Danny Granger - On an absolutely terrible Pacers team, he will be the ray of hope and the only player that they'll want to keep in the long term

7) Monta Ellis - Hyper-quick, just coming into his game, will be good before the inevitable Baron Davis injury and great after it

8) Andrew Bogut - I just have the feeling that he has more to show us, and the Bucks are actually going to try this year. Does need to get better at the line

9) Luke Walton - The poor man's Shane Battier; you'll be able to get him late and get good numbers all over the board from him

10) John Salmons - Will pick up the pieces in Sacramento and get a lot of minutes; do not confuse this with actually being worth a damn as a real player

10 Overvalued / Busts

1) Shawn Marion - Will continue to be phased out with Barbosa, Hill and Diaw having more to do; is becoming a high-rent energy player with decreasing hops

2) Ray Allen - Won't play as big of a role with Pierce and Garnett dominating the ball, and 32-year-old SGs are not a growth stock

3. Rashard Lewis - Big contract will come with big expectations, and he just doesn't have the game to get it done

4) Al Jefferson - Won't have a point guard to get him the ball, an outside threat to draw the double team, a conference full of weak defensive players at his position or a coach or organization that can stop eating paste

5) Chauncey Billups - Started to slip in last year's playoffs, and that was while he was playing for a contract. Pistons won't need him to be great to win in the regular season, but the playoffs are another story

6) Mo Williams - Post contract year on a team with a good back-up, and while he's very fast, he's not actually that good

7) Antwan Jamison - Just a hunch, but something's got to slip in DC with Agent Zero going for the monster contract year, and I think he's the odd man out

8) Ron Artest - As you can tell from the Sacramento comment, I'm not a fan, and even if I was, no Bibby is going to make everyone's life miserable, in that it will free him up to try even more Bad Idea 3's

9) Jason Terry - Never have liked his game, and he's on the wrong side of 30; won't take a lot of erosion to make his numbers pretty ordinary

10) Ben Wallace - On a per minute basis, he'll be the same old guy... but with his FT woes, you can't play him late, and as they just drafted the same guy (Joakim Noah) but younger, you have to think that he's going to start fading

Your chance to tell me just how out of it I am is in the comments. Go for it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 Sports-Related Halloween Costumes

Here's your list. It's a fun one, in that it involves Pac Man Jones, and anything that involves Pac Man equals Sports Blog Fun. He's the gift that just keeps on giving, really.

And with that, um, I just watched Brett Favre end the MNF game, and um, wow. Just wow.

Disrespecting the Game

In the 8th inning of last night's World Series game (I feel compelled to tell you this since, by the numbers, you probably were not watching, and who could really blame you?), Fox reported on what Sports Illustrated reported on what most everyone already knew, or would have probably guessed... that Alex Rodrigruez had opted out of his deal with the Yankees, and was going to hit the free agent market.

This seemed to perturb the sports media both in the booth (Buck and McCarver, the syphilis and gonorrhea of post-season baseball) as well as the post-game post-coital Bristol Brigade, and if my in box and sports blog headlines have anything to say about it, many of my brethren in Blogfrica. The gist of it is that A-Rod disrespected the World Series by announcing this during Game Four, that he demonstrated a lack of class by attempting to distract attention from the championship. Also, that Scott Boras is the Antichrist.

At which point the following two things came to mind:

1) Um, he's Alex Rodriguez. What else were you expecting? I don't look to Manny Ramirez for outfield defense, I don't look to Curt Schilling for modesty and tact, and I don't look to Alex Rodriguez for anything but what's right for Alex Rodriguez. This is a guy for whom the old SNL Al Franken routine would seem like, well, the simple and unadorned truth. Not only does the sun rise and set on his ass, it asks permission first. (And if you think that your favorite baseball star would behave any differently following a year in which he was the best player in his league, you're smoking something, and really should share.)

2) Why is Disrespecting the Game OK for our sports media 99.9% of the time -- witness the entire existence of Tony Kornheiser, not to mention the routine, um, "work" of Mssrs. Michaels, Madden, Stills, Nash and Young in the NBC Cavalcade of NFL Sunday Night Has Something Tangentially To Do With Football Night -- but wrong for A-Rod?

To wit, the Yankees have not named their new manager for over 300 hours now, with media hostage negotations threatening to continue until well after the free agent signing period, for A-Rod's presumed old team. I'm sure that Mike Lupica hasn't seen his family for weeks now, which is the bright side of the story for them, but still. Yet, no one (well, outside of l'il ol' me) has felt compelled to call the Yankees out for this, let alone the sports media.

Here's a wild thought for the people with the microphones: if A-Rod's Disrespect of the World Series bothers them so much, don't cover it. Focus instead on Game Four of a series that will be almost as magical and memorable as the 2004 one (quick, non Red Sox or Cardinals Fan -- name anything about it other than Mientkiewicz keeping the ball).

But no, wait, that's unpossible! It's censorship and discretionary reporting and A-Rod not signing with the Yankees is, after all, A Big Story because (and here's the dirty little secret here) the game isn't all that interesting to you most of the time anymore now, is it? (Or, given the utter inevitability of it all after about three innings of Game One, the rest of us.)

Save for someone slapping someone (ah, there's A-Rod Disrespecting the Game again), we all don't *really* care, unless you've got money or fantasy players (i.e., money) or your local rooting interest going on. That's because baseball is a predominantly local operation that's trying to pretend to be a national one. Tommy Lasorda in the MLB commercials admits it freely; if your team doesn't win (and, let's face it, unless you like a large market team and/or get very, very lucky, they won't), you are going to turn the page to football... where, ahem, the New York Jets don't get to fix their quarterback situation by just going out and buying one on the open market in Japan or elsewhere, because there really isn't an open market that has the best quarterbacks. Unlike, say, starting pitcher or third base. But no, we can't imagine why people would rather talk about What's Next in MLB, rather than how wonderful everything we just saw was.

Oh, and there's also this... that irritation that Peter Gammons and others expressed last night when the A-Hype crapped all over their Sawx game? It's what the rest of us feel, um, the rest of the freaking year, when you take your eyes off the game and go into Pontification Land. (So there are these apples, and they are not likable.)

So please, spare us the obvious and tired point of how A-Rod has Disrespected the Game. He's just the latest in a long line to not leave too much on the nightstand, or to make change from what was left before. (You know, by the people who are in bed with MLB on a habitual basis.)

Epic Drop: Top 10 Conclusions From The Red Sox Sweep

Your list is here, and yes, it was written well in advance of the final out. Let's just say that I did not have a lot of faith in the Rockies coming back...

On Hating Fans, Not Teams

So as I watched the Red Sox wrap up their World Series championship tonight, and having watched some of the Pats 52-7 dismantling of the Redskins earlier today... a thought came to me.

It's really not so much that I hate the teams. Or even the players on those teams. Watching both games didn't cause me any great wailing or gnashing of teeth.

Seriously, who is the most regrettable Red Sox? JD Drew, probably, especially if you are a fan of one of the teams that he's let done or left behind. (Philly Fan, especially, hates this guy, and while the organization was incompetent, lo, did he gave them reasons.) Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling are awfully full of themselves, but probably no more than any other staff ace; no one ever accused Jack Morris or Bob Gibson of being modest souls, either. Julio Lugo was a terrible baseball player this year, but he's been good before, and it's not like he's a known child abuser. ManRam is a savant; it's hard to really dislike him, if only because it's hard to hate a guy who seems so oblivious to your attention. Eric Gagne may be one of the least deserving players ever to get a ring, but given his injury history, it's hard to feel that bad for him. Even with my Red Sox Hate, I can't help but like Ortiz, Papelbon, Lester, Wakefield, etc.

No, the people you hate on the Red Sox are... their fans. People who seem more involved with chanting how some other team (and let's face it, at this point, the Yankees are just some other team) sucks at any location or opportunity. Or who feel compelled to delight in your misery (notice the sing-song chanting of opposing team player names, or the behavior of their fans on the road), more than just being happy for their success. And this whole Red Sox Nation thing -- good grief. They took a contrived marketing play and went absolutely nuts for it. They took their breakthrough World Series win and used it as backdrop for a chick flick.

Now, let's consider the Patriots. Again, who on this team, as an individual player, really arises your anger? Tom Brady may have curious ideas about fidelity, and Junior Seau is an attention diva, and Randy Moss has quit on his team before... and that's about it, really. No Joey Porter, Ray Lewis, Terrell Owens, Jerramy Stevens... they don't really hire complete scum.

OK, their coaching is doing everything short of calling for the bucket of confetti to be thrown at the ref right now in their desire to run up the score. Watching Brady go all mental over a false start penalty while up 38-0 isn't terribly endearing. And even the World Wide Lemur is starting to talk about the running up issue, albeit for about a minute before the 7-day Hype Fest that will be our existence as NFL fans this week. (On the plus side, as an Eagles fan, it's kind of nice to have TO RETURNS TO PHILADELPHIA get less attention.)

I'm certain that, on some level, the Internet makes all of this worse. It's a heck of a lot harder to ignore a team's fan base when you don't have instant access to it. But it's also completely true that they've got the pedigree for this kind of behavior with the celtics historical dominance in their DNA. And that while I'm an optimist, I'm really not expecting much in the way of taste or restraint from their fans right about now.

So anyway, congrats to the Red Sox, and to The Truth and Joeski, who won our MLB Playoff Game challenge. Joeski, please email me at with your address and Garment of Greatness size (M, L and XL are the choices). As for what The Truth has won, and more importantly, what the Ninja and I have lost... well, watch this space. It's gonna hurt. A lot.

PS - Is there a more ridiculous trend in sports than the athlete that wears protective eyewear to a champagne celebration? Live a little, people. Or if it's so dangerous, have someone from your entourage enter the fray for you.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 Signs The Sixers Won't Contend Again This Year

Your list is here... and no, even I'm not enthused by the hopes and dreams of the current crop of laundry down at Broad and Pattison. Their best hope is that the Knicks explode, the Celtics get old and hurt, and that the ex-Mrs. Kidd goes after her hubby with a bone whip to the tendons. Even then, the Sixers still don't win the division, because the Raptors will just run them into the ground, but hey... a man can dream. Of .500.

NFL Picks, Week 8: Deep Hurting

This week's picks are brought to you by Deep Hurting, who is sponsoring not only the Eagles season, but also the Red Sox run, the Patriots dominance, the continued US occupation of Iraq, and our new dog's struggles with housebreaking. (And if you aren't a MST3K fan, and haven't seen Hercules vs. the Moon Men, I'm sorry. YouTube didn't have it.)

Usually by this point in the NFL season, you have some idea what your team is; what they are good at, what they are bad at, whether or not they protect their home turf, and whether or not they fold on the road. You've got a reasonable amount of numbers to go on and some trends. If they're good, you know it; if they are bad, you know that, too. And when they are bad, you know who and why, and what they are going to have to do in the draft next year.

I've been an Eagles fan for 30 years now, because I am old and my family believed in the form of child abuse known as Philadelphia sports fandom. And I've never, at this point in the season, known less about my team than this year. And neither does anyone else, really, and it's driving us all insane.

They are 2-4 and miles back in their division, and have scored and given up the least amount of points. Despite the bad record, they are 8th in the NFL in yards per game on offense, and 11th on defense, and the Lions blowout can only skew those so far. Nine out of 10 plays that you watch them, they seem fine. Maybe not dominant, but certainly not buried in the division.

So your brain tells you that you can chalk it up to bad luck. The Packers game was a special teams gift; the Bears game was in the bag until Brian Griese, of all people, went crazy Broadway style. Even in the two games where they've been more or less handled (Redskins, Giants), they were in the game late.

If they can right things on the road against a Vikings team that has the 26th ranked defense and the 23rd ranked offense, they go to 3-4 and have the chance, if not the strong chance, to play meaningful football games in the second half of the year.

And yet... your record is what it is. As weird losses go, neither the Bear or Packer game is anywhere close to watching Matt Bryant hitting a 63-yarder in Tampa last year, in an game where both Buc touchdowns came on defense. And then you watch the actual games, and try to wrap your head around the incomprehensible reluctance to call running plays, and the perverse need to blitz on just about every third down even if the defensive line is getting pressure and the opponent seems to know what's coming... and you are led to the same reptilian, reactionary "ideas" as everyone else. Move McNabb, fire Reid, back up the trucks and start over.

For the record, I think that's a mistake. I think they're going to beat the Vikings this week, and then they get Dallas at home, Washington on the road then the Dolphins at home. Despite all of their efforts to make the year unwatchable, the year isn't over. But if they barf it up in Minny this week, they'll be 2-5 at home against Owens and the Cowboys under the SNF lights, and Reid's kids will be the least of his worries.

Now, with all of that cheeriness out of the way... on to the picks!

* * * * *

CHICAGO covering 5 at home against Detroit. Two weeks ago, after a big road win, the Bears came home with a chance to reassert their dominance at home against a division rival. Adrian Peterson, the Purple Jesus, then showed up and that was that. This time, I think the Bears defense shows up, if only because Jon Kitna is a lot easier to tackle, and the Lions think that running the ball is for heathens.

Pittsburgh covering 3.5 on the road against the BENGALS. If you're still trying to figure out how the Steelers lost to the Broncos last week, you are not alone... but it has led to this thoroughly appetizing small line against the Bengals, who only have a pulse due to the largesse of the weak-armed Jets. Oh, and if Willie Parker wants to do anything more this year than get the Fred Taylor Fantasy Award for Empty Yard Calories, this would be a fine week to, you know, show the hell up.

Indianapolis covering 6.5 on the road against the PANTHERS. This is where we are contractually obligated as an NFL Picks column to talk about Trap Games... which, if you look at the numbers, don't really exist. The Colts are better than the Panthers, and the Panthers are starting David Carr (instead of Vinny Testaverde). I am very confidently laying the points.

TENNESSEE covering 7.5 against Oakland. Not a great bargain of a number here, but I'm seeing a bounce-back game for the Titans defense, who got caught up in a bizarro world shootout game against the Titans last week. The fact that the Titans still won that game with Kerry Collins somehow getting it done (or, at least, getting it done enough so that Rob Bironas could have one of the best games ever for a kicker) says something exciting for the Titan prospects this year.

ST. LOUIS as a 3-point home dog. Yes, I am going to be the only writer in America who is actually expecting the Rams to break their winless mark this week, and the reason is based entirely on the return of Stephen Jackson. With an actual running back in the backfield, Marc Bulger will have signs of competency, and the Browns will choke the biscuit. Perfection, even anti-perfection, is just too hard to achieve in the NFL.

Giants covering 9.5 in London against the "home team" Dolphins. Finally, America has its revenge on the nation that gave us Ricky Gervais, Absolutely Fabulous and Tony Blair. I'm in favor of exporting the worst games of the week, and if the NFL wants to keep the Dolphins away from US soil, who are we to argue? Expect the Giants to do what they do now; rush the QB, get a few big plays from Plex Burress, and look better than they actually are. Bonus moment here is that Dolphin Fan(s?) will get to see juw out of it coach Cam Cameron was when he wanted to platoon Reggie Brown with Jesse Chatman.

Eagles as a 1-point favorite in MINNESOTA. We touched upon this in the open, but my big hope is that the Vikings have a long enough home dome crowd so that Reid actually calls running plays. While the Vikings usually stuff the run, they'll have watched enough film of the Eagles to know that they aren't *really* going to run; by the time they realize that the world has changed, the Eagles will have an early lead, and the Vikings will still have Tavaris Jackson. So long as this doesn't come down to relying on Sean "Root Of All Evil" Considine to tackle the Purple Jesus, I see this one working out for the men in green.

Buffalo as a 3-point road dog at the JETS. Frankly, the Pennington situation in New York seems more like a Stockholm Syndrome situation to me than your usual pigheaded coach standing with his QB. It's plain for all to see; Pennington does not have an NFL-caliber arm, which is kind of a big deal for a guy with his role. Meanwhile on the other side of the field, the Bills have moved off their bad starting QB (JP Losman) for their clearly better back-up (Trent Edwards); it will continue to pay off here.

SAN DIEGO (no line) over Houston. This one is up in the air due to no one knowing where the game will be played, due to the wildfires plaguing the region. If the Chargers go to Arizona, as they have in the past when this situation has occurred (and, um, the fact that this situation has happened in the past should and does boggle the mind), their home field advantage will be significantly cut... but I don't think that is going to matter too much, given the talent gaps of these teams. Of course, there is always the chance that the Chargers come out very distracted for this game, but given their record and the chance to move into a first-place tie with the bye week Chiefs, I think the Chargers come through with the win.

Jacksonville as a 4-point road dog in TAMPA BAY. Two teams going in the wrong direction here. The Bucs spent last week making the Lions look good. The Jags spent the week getting the stuffing knocked out of them by the Colts, and losing their starting QB (David Garrard) for the next four weeks to a high ankle sprain. While the Jags looked absolutely helpless with Quinn Gray at the helm, a week of practice will help him look less pathetic, and the Bucs are also banged up. In a tight game, expect the Jags to make one more play, maybe in special teams, to get the win.

SAN FRANCISCO as a 3-point home dog against New Orleans. Are the Saints really all better, and am I really going to take the Niners again after they looked so bad in New York *and* have star RB Frank Gore call out rookie offensive coordinator Jim Hostler? Yes, if only because the Saints defense has to come too, and San Francisco can be a tough place to play for a turf team.

NEW ENGLAND covering 16.5 against the Redskins. Yet another classic Trap Game where the trap doesn't really exist; the number looks positively light to me, and I actually like this Skins team. But Jason Campbell was held to under 100 yards last week at home by the Cardinals, which really doesn't bode well for the Skins' chances to pull the upset, and the visitors are sill banged up on the offensive line. I think the Pats will by three touchdowns here, and for the first time this year, don't run it up a lot more than that, just because even Belicheck won't want to smack around Old Man Gibbs.

Green Bay as a 3-point dog in DENVER. The MNF game has to be a dog by special rule, and with the thwarted vengeance of Javon Walker should be an interesting sub-plot to this game, as Al Harris and Charles Woodson take turns roughing him up at the line of scrimmage. (Oh, and if you want a big sleeper fantasy pick, take whoever the Packers RB will wind up being in this game; some nobody -- heck, maybe even Vernand Morency -- will wind up with 100 yards and a touch from running draw after draw).

Last week: 5-9
Season: 40-55-8

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Today's least surprising sports headlines

Hall rips Falcons over move

Right on the heels of the Grady Jackson cut, Falcons "star" CB DeAngelo Hall is less than pleased. I agree with him on one point, though: "They need to cut all 53 of us. Nobody is playing the way they should be playing right now, obviously. I mean, we're 1-6." I think he's overstating the case, though. Jerious Norwood seems OK, and Michael Koenen has been punting the ball pretty well. The other 51 can go.

Bonds bitter over departure from Giants

According to Baseball Almanac, Bonds has been paid over $165 million dollars by the Giants during his 15 years there, with over $105 million of that coming in the last six years. How much, do you suspect, would they have had to pay for him not to be bitter?

Yankees could hire manager this week

Especially if there's a chance, you know, that it could get them some media coverage. You know, by coincidence.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 Reasons Eric Mangini Is Sticking With Chad Pennington

Your list is here, and because I have nothing more that can be said about the Jets, let me just add that I'm watching the World Series right now... and this whole "God Bless America" thing in the seventh inning? Needs. To. Stop. Please. For the children.

You Can't Be On Our 1-6 Team

Interesting story on the wire this morning, as the Falcons have started the purging process with... nope, not Alge Crumpler, who called out the coaches and then dropped a few more balls... not Warrick Dunn, who is still getting more touches than Jerious Norwood for reasons no one can fathom... not DeAngelo Hall, who freaked out earlier this year in one of the more spectacular in-game meltdowns you will ever see from any player, let alone a "star" cornerback...

Nope, the culprit is... Grady Jackson, the well-regarded run stopping nose tackle?

It's not like he's one of the best in the world at what he does, and he is on his fourth team in a 12-year career... but really, this is the guy that overwhelmed new coach Bobby Petrino is going to make his stand on. Not any of the wideouts, who remain the sorriest group I've ever seen (and I survived Thrash-Pinkston)... and not the other "veteran stars" that, frankly, are barely worthy of a roster space, let alone deference.

Well, OK then -- it's not like 1-6 is going to get all that much better -- but this leaves the middle in the hands of Trey Lewis, a rookie 6th round pick. I think I have an idea what the opposing team's playbook for future Falcons games is going to look like (i.e., call whatever you want, really, they don't do anything well.)

But nobody touch Petrino's strawberries!

Top 10 Signs That Colts-Pats Hype Is Gonna Get A Little Thick

10. Gregg Easterbrook is foaming at the mouth, eating paste and soiling himself -- and the game isn't for another week and a half (and no, I'm not giving that wanker a link)

9. On the MNF post-game, Steve Young on ESPN was double-penetrated by Emmit Smith and Stuart Scott for daring to express the opinion that Pats-Colts is not the biggest game in the history of life, the universe, and everything

8. Carolina and Washington have already gotten memos from the league offices letting them know that showing up for Week 8 will not be tolerated

7. As you read this, graphic designers are already working feverishly on a package, complete with explosions, fireworks and a live human sacrifice

6. Inter-office memos being circulated at CBS as to the protocol for which coach to suck off more in the event of a tie

5. Patriots Fan is planning to take the entire week off from demanding that their team get more respect, so that they can go for that underdog role (after all, the game *is* in Indy)

4. Some tasteless blogger will wonder if Tony Dungy's family troubles have proven less distracting than Andy Reid's, only to be relentlessly rebuked for their bad taste

3. Colts Fan will respond to the inevitable "Count the rings" taunt by putting theirs on the middle finger

2. The Seattle, Cleveland, Houston and Oakland markets will also get the Pats-Colts game, rather than their home team

1. 11 days away, I wrote this... and you read it

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 Fantasy Basketball Owner Types

Your list is here, and you should be aware that I went longer than usual for an EC post. (Go on, it won't hurt you.) After drafting Willie Parker and Cedric Benson in two different football leagues, and watching the Eagles piss away several wins on mental mistakes that no veteran team should make... let's just say I'm ready for some hoop. Even if I think the Sixers are going to go 30-52.

Pay No Attention To Reality

There's an AP story today about Shaun Alexander getting booed in Seattle, and expressing frustration in their blowout win over the abysmal Rams.

The story is, of course, nothing you didn't know if you had been paying attention to the Seahawks-Saints SNF game two weeks ago -- unlike, say, Al Michaels, John Madden, Cris Collingsworth, Bob Costas, Peter King, Sterling Sharpe, Tiki Barber, Keith Olbermann, Kate Hudson, Eddie Albert, Charles Nelson Reilly, Marv Albert, Adam West, and the Dancing Sideline Reporter Furries in the NBC broadcasting blimp... but here's the really fun part about it.

Watching Mike Holmgren stand up on his walrus flippers and defend the player that, um, he replaced with a back-up in the short yardage carries.

Shaun Alexander seems to be the lightning rod and I am here to tell that there are times that there is nothing there. ... He has been a little unfairly criticized in my opinion.
Nothing, as in nothing left to the burst of this 30 year old RB? Nothing, as in nothing to recommend him getting the ball instead of Maurice Morris (3.9 ypc) or Leonard Weaver (5.7 ypc), both of whom beat out Alexander's robust 3.4 yards per carry average?

Hang on, the lying gets better. Someone in the press gaggle must have thrown him a mackerel.
We are not blocking very well at this particular point. That must improve. We've been forced to analyze it because of people -- you guys, our families, everybody -- what they say is 'What's going on with Shaun?' because Shaun is the MVP, Shaun's a great running back. I'm here to say for Shaun, there is not a lot (of room) there. And we have to be better at that. We have to fix that.
Um, your MVP, if a .500 team can be said to have an MVP, much in the same way that a terrible division still has to has a champion, is Matt Hasselbeck. The AP piece also mentions, but does not quote, Hasselbeck saying that the running game is stalled even in practice, when no one is tackling. Think about that for a little while. It's the football equivalent of a Zen koan.

Now, the Seahawks have a bye week, and after that, they've got the fairly generous Browns at home, who won't have a bye. If you own Alexander in your roto league, you're probably going to want to ride out the bye and probably cash in on the Browns not being able to tackle a half-speed broken down old runner. Hell, they did sign Jamal Lewis in the off-season.

But if The MVP comes up small again, it might be time to invest in Morris or Weaver, though with Mack Strong being done, maybe this team just doesn't run the ball worth a damn at any point. Or, if you don't like being told that what you are seeing and hearing in the games is real, ear plugs and salt water for any Holmgren press conference...

Epic Drop: Top 10 World Series Stories That Will Start At Insufferable And Get Worse

Your list is here, and I'm sure we could add a dozen more without too much of a sweat, really...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Once More, Dear Friends: WS Picks and Update


Here's your updated MLB Playoff scoreboard. Remember, the losers in the Tool Division suffer Abject Humiliation TBD, while the winner in the Non-Tool Division gets a FREE Garment of Greatness. In this as in many things, it's good to not be a Tool.

Tool Division

Ninja - 60
Truth - 35
Shooter - 20


Joeski - 80
DC Scrap - 75
Zach - 45
Shorty - 40
BD - 35
Andrew - 35
Klondike - 30
Vegas - 25
Original DJ - 20
SDuck - 10
JCobra - 0
Suzy - 0

Third and final round, the points double once again... so if you pick the team and the number of games correctly, you're looking at 80 points. (One game off, 60.) Please post your pick in the comments before Game 1.

"I'm Not Hubie Brown" and Other Weekend Observations

Brian Baldinger is not Hubie Brown, at least according to Baldinger. Coming back from a commercial break during the Bears-Eagles game, Baldinger was heard muttering "I'm not Hubie Brown." To what that was a reference to, one can only imagine. The way he said it was very creepy.

Andy Behrens of Yahoo! Sports summed it up best:
The comment had a "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" quality. Like Baldinger was about to assault Dick Stockton.
All in all a great weekend of sports for The Truth. Here's a synopsis:


A great Saturday all around. The Kansas Jayhawks (my undergraduate Alma Mater) continued their unbelievable drive to stay undefeated by winning a huge road game against Colorado. I'm hoping they can stay undefeated for a final game showdown against Mizzou. That of course would lead to a drubbing in the Big 12 Championship against either OU or Texas who they don't play in the regular season.

And how about Vanderbilt (My grad school Alma Mater)? The Dores took it to Spurrier and the Gamecocks at South Carolina. It was the biggest victory for Vandy in 70 years. Two more wins and they are bowl elligible and they have Miami of Ohio up next.

Michigan (my adopted team since my wife went to school there and frankly, I needed a better team than KU and Vandy to root for during the college football season) stayed undefeated in the Big Ten by winning at Illinois. Let's hope they can continue this run in the Big Ten and end the season by beating Ohio State.


I'm a Bears fan, and there hasn't been much to root for all year. The team has major problems on both sides of the ball. The game Sunday against the Eagles was a snooze fest until the last 6 minutes of the game. Some observations:

1) How can an NFL team (the Eagles) have a field in that poor of condition? And it's not even the midway point of the season. That was basically dirt painted green. When they had turf, it was the worst in the NFL. Glad to see they have continued the tradition now that they have grass. Embarrassing.

2) What was that "false snap" rule we saw when Kruentz put the ball 20 yards down the field? That isn't a live ball? But after seeing that field, it's a good rule. They should have allowed tees for the centers to put the ball on.

3) Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Gould's final FG bounced off the left bar and in for 3. A huge break for the Bears.

4) Not only was it shocking that Brian Griese led the Bears on a 97 yard drive with no timeouts and under 2 minutes to win the game, but he did it calling all the plays himself. His headset in his helmet went out and he couldn't hear the plays. Maybe he should permanently remove the speaker.

5) I was somewhat surprised to see McNabb jumping around like he won the SuperBowl after the Eagles scored their touchdown in the 4th quarter. I assumed he had scored a touchdown before. But okay I get it, big play of the game to that point. But later when he scrambled for a first down he was thumping his chest like he was king of the world. Dude, relax. It was one play, and it wasn't one that sealed the game. That more than anything made the Chicago win even sweeter.

6) Finally, why have teams given up on running the ball. The Bears have been notorious for it this year. But why did the Eagles stop giving the ball to Westbrook? He should have ended up with 35-40 carries.

Maximum Possible Error

At the end of today in sports, I've been able to:

a) Watch my Eagles gag away a win by letting Brian Griese go 97 yards in less than two minutes with no timeouts

b) Watch the Red Sox complete a 3-1 comeback to go to the World Series

c) Watch the Redkins, Cowboys and Giants all win

d) Watch my main fantasy team put up a riveting 40 points and lose (we now have the lowest in the league)

e) Went 4-9 in my NFL picks

And yeah, I'm bent... but I also had friends over, the weather was great, the kids had fun. It's not like this is a great Eagles team that I was expecting a ton from before today's game. It's not as if the Red Sox have won the World Series (yet). It's not like I'm losing actual money on the NFL picks, or that either of my fantasy teams are completely dead (yet). I'm also old enough to not get too wiped out by bitter sports moments, really.

But having said all of that... GAHHHHHHH. Must. Find. Liquor. NOW.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kiss Your World Series Chances Goodbye Rockies

What are the Rockies thinking? Nothing like taunting the Baseball gods. The Rockies are trying to trademark the term "Rocktober" so nobody, except them, can commercialize the term. So instead of focusing on winning their first World Series, they are focusing on expanding the bottom line.

I haven't seen such a blatant tempting of fate since the 2002 World Series when Dusty Baker called Russ Ortiz back to the mound to present him with the ball in Game 6. Usually, you want to do this after you have won the game and the Series. Oh yeah, the Angels rallied that game and went on to win the Series.

You can check out the full story on the Rockies at ESPN.

Epic Drop: Top 10 Yankee Headlines That Will Distract Viewers From The World Series

Your list is here; your meta commentary that encourages the very condition that it decries is all around us, really. (And this meta meta commentary in the meta commentary? So post-modern that it exists outside of the current space-time continuum. Take another bong hit, and it all makes perfect sense.)

Finally, there is this: by posting this picture on the blog, I've made Fellow Tool Dirty Davey spit up all over his corn flakes this morning, and maybe provoked a comment or post in response. Anything to get the other Tools out of the box, says I.

NFL Picks, Week 7: Bye Bye Birdie

One of the small but telling ways in which the NFL has sought to expand its dominance in American sports culture is through the use of bye weeks. (This week, Cleveland, Green Bay, San Diego and Carolina are on the sidelines.)

Now, it's unlikely that anyone reading this is terribly upset about the bye; it's the kind of modern innovation, like the wild card or instant replay, that most people like, and there's no chance that we're going back to the old way of doing things.

But it's still telling that what the bye week does is prolong the season, extend the amount of time we talk and care about NFL football, and all of it without any real PR backlash, especially among the players, who never complain about time off during the season. It also greatly increases the chance that you'll be watching a dog game in the 1pm or 4pm Sunday slots, though the Sunday / Monday / Thursday / Saturday diffusion of games throughout the year is a much bigger factor.

Less said but also still true about the bye... it makes one of the least fair things about the NFL, which is to say the schedule, even more random. Teams that have the bye later in the year tend to have an edge, since early byes don't find as many nagging injuries to heal. In a league where every game is over 6% of your season's total, and hence no game is truly unimportant, this kind of edge is substantial.

Finally and least importantly in everything but the context in which you are reading this story, bye weeks play hell with gambling. Last week, one of my most confident picks, despite not having any kind of feel for them yet this year, was the Eagles on the road against the Jets. This wasn't because I was totally sold on the quality of the Eagles, the return of Brian Westbrook, or the incompetence of the Jets... but for the simple fact that the Jets didn't have a bye the week before, and the Eagles did. That, combined with Andy Reid's now 9-0 regular season record after the bye, made that game about as loaded a home game as the Jets could easily imagine.

Now, how common was the knowledge that Reid's perfect after a bye? Clearly, not well known enough. So to all of those people who picked against the Eagles last week, all I can say is...


(Nope, that's still not getting old for me.)

Now, on to the picks!

* * * * *

Tennessee covering 1.5 at HOUSTON. Don't you love when the slate of games starts with a pick that you would have to be insane to make before seeing the pre-game injury report? I do, which is why I'm going with the Titans on the road regardless of the condition of Vince Young, knocked out last week against the Bucs. If the Wunderlic Wunderkid can't go, the Titans will go with (gulp) Kerry Collins... but this team beat Atlanta two weeks ago when the offense and special teams tried everything imaginable to lose, so it's not like even Kerry is that big of a difference. Besides, I just don't see Ahman Green doing enough here. (Oh, and here's one more name for the injury watch -- stud Texans WR Andre Johnson. More proof, not that you need it, that betting on NFL games is a Bad Idea.)

Tampa Bay as a 2 point underdog in DETROIT. When does the statute of limitations on Mike Martz being a genius run out? The clock keeps ticking this week at home, as the year's first MILLEN MUST GO chants are heard. Count on a monster day for Joey Galloway against the laughable Lions defense, no running room for the Lions RBs, and enough Kitna mistakes (because, let's face it, there's only so much God can do to help him) to make this one a bit of a runaway. Watch for the incredibly short-term boost that Michael Bennett gives the Bucs; this match up, on the speedy kind of turf that he loved in Minnesota, is made for him.

New England covering 16.5 on the road in MIAMI. A bit of a trap game in the Florida heat for America's Most Hated Team, which, combined with the remarkable yards from scrimmage totals from Reggie Brown and the general random behavior of the NFL towards oversized home underdogs... creates the argument for, if not the actual pick, for a reasonable cover bet. Having said all of that, this is a putrid Dolphin team that's winless for cause, and the Patriots are going to run up the score again, especially against a division rival. I'm convinced that we will see over 21 points given to the Pats soon probably at home.

San Francisco on the road as a 9-point underdog to cover against the GIANTS. Could it be that I just can't accept that this Giants team has righted the ship and found itself after a horrible start? That should be the case, and yet I'm having a hard time in dismissing the upset possibilities of Alex Smith on the road with absolutely no pressure, coming as he is off an injury. The Niners defense has had some frisky moments, and Frank Gore, is, well, Frank Gore. I like the cover here, and even a chance for the win, since Eli in a close game is, well, Eli in a close game.

BUFFALO as a 3-point underdog to the Ravens. Kyle Boller gets the start against Trent Edwards in this back-up battle. While I like Boller more than McNair at this point, that doesn't mean I have to love him on the road when the crowd is highly motivated to cheer for the prodigal nightmare Willis McGahee's death. A late Ravens score gets them the win, but not the cover.

WASHINGTON covering 8.5 at home against the Cardinals. More of a point spread than Jason Campbell should ever cover at home at this stage in his career, but the Cardinals are just a mess on offense right now. The Skins defense makes a sneaky good play in roto ball this week; Tim Rattay is like Chad Pennington without the, um, good decision making process right now.

OAKLAND covering 2.5 against Kansas City. By talent, this Chiefs team should have no problem... but that's why they play the games. Plus, it's hard to imagine the Chiefs not turning the ball over on the road, and this Raiders team has shown an ability to score on defense this year.

CINCINNATI covering 6.5 at home against the Jets. New York is still, amazingly, starting Pennington in this game, and the gambling Bengals D has to love that move. On offense, the Bengals haven't really been up to their press clippings for a while now, which is what happens when you start 1-4. Rudi Johnson especially has been struggling, but the Jets are a nice pick me up. Assuming he's healthy, Chad Johnson gets some limelight in this game, too.

PHILADELPHIA covering 5.5 at home against Chicago. Lost in the malaise of the Eagles this year is this little nugget of joy; the defense has been terrific, albeit not quite as dominant as you might hope for with takeaways. Against a Bears team that tends to lost patience in the run even when it's working, that's going to pay off handsomely for the Birds. Finally, the Bears' defense continues to disappoint, and won't get well on the road.

St. Louis as an 8.5 road underdog in SEATTLE. The Seabags are a terrible front-runner of a team, with a RB (Shaun Alexander) that seems to be hated in his home town, if what I was hearing during the SNF game had any basis in reality. (And once again, the SNF team fails to watch the game that's in front of us to report on what could be going on. Sigh.) The Rams are going to lose this game late, after getting some encouraging return to health contributions from Marc Bulger and others... but I just don't see it being enough to cover the full number.

Minnesota as a 9.5 point road dog in DALLAS. Purple Jesus Adrian Peterson got the Vikes one shocking road win last week in Chicago, and he now goes to the Texas Stadium turf to see if he can keep it going outside of the division. He probably can't get the Vikes a win, but I'm willing to believe he can get them a cover, especially against a Dallas offense that seems to have lost its way by not getting Marion Barber involved in the red zone offense enough.

Pittsburgh covering 3.5 points in DENVER. Here's one of those bye week conundrums that I mentioned before; both team are coming off one, and the weather is probably going to be bad. I like Pittsburgh here because Denver hasn't shown an ability or interest in stopping the run, and under the SNF lights, Fast Willie Parker is going to make his bid for stardom. Finally, there is this: Denver might be a truly terrible team this year. That pre-bye Charger game certainly didn't do them any favors.

Indianapolis covering 3 in JACKSONVILLE. The Jags have righted the ship by smacking around some lesser teams, and they always play the Colts tough. But it's hard to pick a team that's starting David Garrard, even in front of the home folks. He's due for some truly big mistakes that give the opponent a short field, and Peyton Manning knows what to do with short fields. Besides, it's a MNF game, which means it can't be close or entertaining. In a blowout, the Colts are much more likely to be on the happy side of things.

Last week: 4-7-2
Season to date: 35-46-8

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Four Bases Is More Than One. Honest.

"You would think that a leadoff walk would lead to more big innings than a leadoff home run. But we've done the research and it turns out that more big innings have come from leadoff home runs than leadoff walks." - Tim McCarver, during last night's Fox ALCS telecast
Now, we won't get into the sheer idiocy of the statement, because that's already been discussed at length in the sports blogosphere, and I try to give FTT Nation something more than the obvious.

No, what I'd really like to examine here is the all-powerful denial of reality and inability to rein in "talent" that's at play. This isn't the first time that McCarver has shared this knowledge with the world at large, amazingly enough. He's that obsessed with the idea that Leadoff Walks are a Communist Plot that will undermine all life as we know it, and that since everyone watching a Tim McCarver game thinks what Tim McCarver thinks, the research is *fascinating*.

A sane network, or a play-by-play partner or producer that cares about whether the telecast has any kind of veracity or quality, would have taken McCarver aside after the first time he went down this path. He'd have then dumped Deion Sanders' bucket of ice water on the old catcher's head, or at the very least, told him that he was making the broadcast look ridiculous, and that he shouldn't do this again.

Instead, look what happened. McCarver went down the primrose path of his own special idiocy, and Fox went with him by association.

Now, for all of you folks who read this site along with a mix of other blogs, including those of a political nature... might be tempted to compare McCarver to some other, particularly myopian, employees of Unkie Rupert's Empire.

As for us, we'll pass from such things, in the hopes that our check from Unkie Rupert is still in the mail. (But seriously, Fox. Retire Buck and McCarver. Let's face it, they want no part of a Tribe-Rockies series anyway. Bring in someone new, who doesn't think leadoff walks are here to steal our jobs, pollute our lands, and make global warmiing worse. You'll be glad you did.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Epic Drop: Top 10 Ways To Celebrate Red Sox Elimination Day

I'm like a kid at Christmas for this, really. Your list is here... and the best YouTube approximation of the South Park monologue that I want to mark the occasion with is at:

Go Tribe!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Where's My Money?

Olympic athletes in low-wattage sports like badminton, kayaking, fencing and water polo are to appear in a series of ads for Bank of America--including posters in bank branches and online spots--before the Beijing Games in August. The perceived purity of smaller sports plays a big role in BOA's choices, says bank spokesman Joseph Goode. Many major sports have been beset by scandal.

Home Depot also has had a policy of hiring lesser-known Olympic hopefuls with full pay and benefits, while requiring them to work 20-hour weeks with schedules that allow flexibility for training. And Visa has made it a point to sponsor athletes in new medal sports, including women's pole vault and women's bobsled.

A bonus for marketers backing new or lesser-known sports is that athletes come cheaply. BOA says it pays them low five-figure sums. Paul Swangard, managing director of the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, calls BOAs approach "almost like a mutual-fund strategy"--picking a larger group of lesser-known athletes, which can yield a few stories that capture fans' attention.

The Wall Street Journal
A small note to anyone serious marketing types reading this (and there are some, if only for the fact that's what I do for a living)... if you are looking for a lesser-known Olympic hopeful who can keep his nose clean for that critical endorsement season, I'm your man. Besides, you can call me a badminton champion. Like anyone's going to know?

Why Running Up The Score Isn't Just Wrong, It's Stupid

In today's Bad Tooth moment for me, I read Simmons' latest mouth job for the Patriots. It turns out that running up the score and being irredeemable douchebags is OK, because people said mean thing about the Patriots about CheaterGate FOR TWO WHOLE WEEKS.

I mean, really, people, what were we thinking? The marquee team of the league threatens the entire viability of the NFL by compromising its integrity in a particularly blatant way, right in front of the league's commissioner, and we went *on and on* about it. WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

Ow. Impacted. Owwww. Yeah, I think it's cracked. Let me touch it with my tongue some more. OWWWW.... Hmm. Maybe some mouthwash would help. OWWWWWWWWW....

Anyway, after the self-loathing was over, it got me to thinking -- what, beyond the sense of reeking obnoxiousness, is really all that bad about running up the score? The opposing team are professionals, not little kids; it's not like we expect them to cry over it. The fans who are rooting against the Patriots aren't going to hate them any more or less from an extra score or six. You're either all in or all out with this team - they are the football equivalent of a Karl Rove campaign, only without the subtlety, and with ten times the competence.

And yet, here is the reason why it's a bad idea... I'm convinced, on some level, that it will eventually get the refs to turn on you. And it's also going to get the team that's taking it without lube to forget the Unwritten Rules of Football.

While it hasn't manifested itself enough to turn into action yet (or, for that matter, a workable labor union), the NFL is a fraternity. On any given play, at any given moment, your career can end. And it can happen at more or less the mercy of individual players on the opposing team.

A dive at the back of the knee. A roll into the pile, with a grab and yank that isn't about getting the ball. A flat out late hit on a high throw, or a quarterback, punter or kicker taking a shot with malice when they are vulnerable. If you want someone hurt badly enough in an NFL game, and have a small but actionable group that's willing to go beyond the pale to Make A Statement... well, we know it could happen, so at some point, maybe it will happen. We're talking about some of the biggest, fastest and most powerful athletes on the planet. And most of them are pretty good at violence.

It's still not terribly likely; if nothing else, no one wants to pay the fine, face the suspension, or deal with the resulting public fallout and possible revenge ploy from an unhinged Patriots fan. But you have to think that eventually, someone is going to Cross The Line.... and that line gets easier to cross when the team that's giving you the beatdown are being complete douchebags about it.

And that, by the way is why

1) You don't crown the title of Best Team Ever before Halloween, and

2) You don't run up the score, week in and week out, on large and violent men who have access to your extremities.

So... am I rooting for this blood lust?

When John Lennon sang the Beatles' song "Revolution," the lyric is

But when you talk about Destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out...

and then Lennon would say


Fairly quietly, so that most of the time, it was not noticed.

Eventually, an interviewer asked him about it, and Lennon said something to the effect that when violence and destruction went down, he hoped he'd have the strength and decency to keep out of it... but, well, he just wasn't sure. Maybe he gets caught up in it, he just didn't know.

And yes, that's increasingly where you are getting, if you are a football fan that is ambivalent or worse about the Pats. When the fall occurs, and it always does, there will be many enjoying the ride.

P.S. For another side on this, check out what the boys at My Brain Says Rage have to say. (They do use naughtier language than us, if such things offend your virgin eyes.)

Epic Drop: Top 10 Ways The Patriots Can Become Even More Hated

Your list is here, and it's a fairly involved thing, complete with YouTube goodness. The clip isn't nearly as funny if you haven't seen the original Britney Fan meltdown, but your mileage may vary. More on this soon.

H/t for the clip to Deadspin.

Epic Drop: Top 10 Bills That Congress Can Now Consider, Now That The Favre Motion Is Done

Your list is here, and the astute reader will notice that the whole thing is clearly inspired by the Earlier Cranky Pantsing, which is below.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Return Of My Cranky Pants

(H/t for Cranky Pants as a concept to the SFGate's Tim Goodman.)

1) Clemens retirement speculation. Did you know that Roger's not sure whether or not he's going to come back next year, and his wife thinks he shouldn't because he's been such a baseball workaholic but he thinks he might and that he thinks that the Yankees should keep Joe Torre and that reading the last sentence just caused your functional IQ to drop by 20 points? (Don't worry, it's temporary. Like pot.)

There is nothing...

> not the tendency of announcers to stop reporting the game they are covering

> not the production of rumors as fact

> not the cheerleading for athletes who are good interviews

> not even the cross-pollination of sports with entertainment or politics (hey, you got your chocolate in my axle grease! you got your rancid cotton candy in my chocolate! wait... they taste like crap together!)

No, not all of these things put together that sticks in the craw like the Retirement Speculation Story. It is the living embodiment of a media-athlete circle jerk, and that it's even the subject of freaking cell phone commercials right now is a sign that Something Is Very Wrong With Our World.

If I were the vengeful all-powerful deity to whom all human events were a puppet show that required simple, swift and wildly escalating justice... any athlete that engaged in such foolishness would have their tendons snap like kindling. Writers, something else.


2) Congressional resolutions about sports. I am not, for the record, anti-political; I do not spend my days fuming about what Those Bastards are doing with My Tax Dollars. I assume that, just like in the private sector with its CEO scandals and Enron-esque shenanigans, there will be some good, some bad, and a cottage industry made from pointing out the latter. (Though it is kind of remarkable how quickly complaints about corporations go away, really. Find me a radio station windbag who goes on about the S&L bailout, or the Iraq contractor thefts, the same way they go on about government waste. Perhaps there is a reason for this that involves six media conglomerates controlling over 95% of everything we read, see, and hear. Anyway, moving on.)

And then there's this:

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) commends Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre for establishing a National Football League record for most career touchdown passes;

(2) recognizes Brett Favre for his outstanding community service in Wisconsin and Mississippi and his 16 consecutive years of dedicated service with the Green Bay Packers, a community-owned organization; and

(3) directs the Clerk of the House of Representatives to transmit a copy of this resolution to Brett Favre, to the Green Bay Packers organization, and to the Commissioner of the National Football League.

Is it a small thing, really, in the course of the Republic? Yes. It probably took a junior staffer an hour to write, it got the Rep who read it (D-Steve Kagen, Appleton, WI) a little time on C-Span, and it made the reps from Wisconsin and Mississippi happy. It even made Republicans and Democrats agree on something, and after all Favre's done charitable things and hasn't gotten doped up on pain meds, as far as we know, in months.

But does it continue to cheapen the political discourse to resolve the equivalent of Puppies Are Fuzzy, Puppies Don't Hate, Puppies Are Cute, Puppies Are Great! into the public record?

Believe it or not, we actually pay these people to do things for us. Things that are more important than the all-important Favre Resolution or the all important Puppy Addendum. (For the record, FTT Just Says No To Puppy Burning, but we are soft on Gay Puppy Marriage.)

3) Jerry Buss says that, contrary to popular belief, Kobe Bryant plays for the Lakers and as such, is subject to the same realities (i.e., He Might Be Traded) as lesser mortals.

Really, what is stupider here -- the reporting of a bland pronouncement of How Sports Works as News, or the idea that it might actually *be* news? Trade speculation is a close second to Athlete

Retiring on the Insufferable Meter. Deal the loon or not. Otherwise, these cranky pants are getting matching shoes and jacket.

Burn, Naysayers, Burn

We came to Dallas and shut all the naysayers up. - New England Patriots WR Randy Moss, after the team's win in Dallas yesterday

I am offering a bright shiny US quarter, complete with postage, to anyone who can identify the naysayers in Randy Moss's world.

After all, we are six weeks into The Greatest Season Ever Performed By An NFL Team; we need to find whoever may be disparaging this achievement and violently assault them. As FTT's Bad Tooth Writer Bill Simmons has said in picking them before, YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. Remember that, Nation -- if you pick against the Patriots at any point this year, you are not only stupid but also have deep character flaws.

And if there is no one out there naysaying a team that was a 5.5 point favorite on the road against an undefeated team... then RANDY MOSS IS HEARING VOICES IN HIS HEAD, and should be relieved of football duties now, before his mental condition becomes worse.

Finally, a personal aside: short of a barnyard animal, have you ever actually met a Naysayer? Seems like an odd lifestyle choice to me, but hey, whatever floats your boat...

This Week's WTF Statement of the Week...

goes to noted myopian Joe Theismann. On being left home alone to exchange fake laughter with his coffee table during NFL telecasts...

I feel unchallenged but not bored. I have other business interests...
Those would be what now, Joe? Begging for pizza in preseason games? Shilling for life insurance in late-night infomercials? Or perhaps being the public face for Sudden Snapping Leg Syndrome?

The same quote notes that he also gives motivational speeches. (Filing under Future Top 10 list for a slow day...)

Finally, this opinion of the current line up of Monday Night Football.
Ron is a terrific football guy but he happens to work on Tony's show. It has become a three-hour Tony Kornheiser show. When I was let go, they explained they wanted more of an issue show and less about football. They've accomplished that.
Um, he may have the kernel of a point here... but MNF with Theismann wasn't a football show, either. It was a four-hour exercise in human suffering masquerading as a sports telecast, and you were Lead Reason why I wanted to stab my ears out watching it.

This year's MNF is still painful; the World Wide Lemur is so full of itself these days, between the gladhanding Bermanisms and the Pardon My Existence halftime shoehorn and the required Celebrity Moment and the fact that the game usually sucks... well, let's just say that in my dreams, football viewers with pitchforks and torches take back the telecast of the games, or we have the ability to switch out coverage to some other entity (live podcast from a football-centric team? radio broadcast from local analysts? maybe even just the Westwood One radio call from Marv Albert and Boomer Esison?).

But I don't know anyone, Joe Thees Man, who is pining for more you in their lives. Perhaps you could co-host Dennis Miller's new show on Versus, and go for the height of unwatchable?

H/t, With Leather...

Epic Drop: Top 10 Reasons The Rams Will Go Winless

Your list is here, and man... are they bad. When Gus Frerotte is your back up QB... well, I'm not sure there's anything else that needs to be said, really. It's hard to imagine, really, but there it is.

Friday, October 12, 2007

NCAA Football Winning Picks: Week 7

Time for this week's NCAA football picks. We got killed last weekend going 1-4. For the season we are 15-16 and down 131.90 units. So we aren’t giving any analysis this week – just picking games. And no lock of the week this time around. Why tempt fate? Lay 50 units on each game.

Michigan -5.5 at home vs. Purdue.

Miami -2.5 at home vs. Georgia Tech

Alabama -5.5 at Ole Miss

Georgia -7 at Vanderbilt

Tennessee -7 at Mississippi State

Nebraska -3.5 at home vs. Oklahoma State

Boston College -13.5 at Notre Dame

LSU -9.5 at Kentucky<

Epic Drop: Top 10 Signs The Rockies Are Just A Wee Bit Hot

Your list is here. I started watching the game when it was 5-1 in the seventh, and here's how hot the Rocks are right now... there was no suspense to me, even when the Diamondbacks had two on and no out in the 7th and Francis was starting to look a little shaky. It's absurd that a team with a relief corps of Matt Herges (nomad), Jeremy Affeldt (failed Royal), Brian Fuentes (mid-season arsonist) and Manny Corpas (no name second year reliever) should inspire that kind of feeling, especially on the road against a team that just swept their last series... and yet, they do.

And if they pull it off another 7 times, they'll go down in history as the best stretch run team ever. Right now, it's hard to think they won't do just that. (By the way, sorry for the lack of an image right now; Blogger's on the rag.)

NFL Picks, Week 6: Read This Before Someone Tells You Not To

(The kick off to the picks this week really isn't about the current state of the NFL. If you're just about the football, skip to the asterisks.)

There's a new site on the Web (and no, I'm not linking to them, because as you'll soon be able to tell, I don't support their mission) that has decided, as its reason for being, to tell you how bad other blogs are. Why on earth anyone that doesn't have a blog and is waiting for their turn to get crapped on would read it, I have no idea. But since FTT gets linked in enough places, I'm pretty sure that our time will come, so...

The long-term FTT reader might, at this point, smile and nod at the long-delayed comeuppance for all those nasty things we've said about Bill Simmons -- so grow some skin and deal. Well, of course, and when people have taken shots at FTT before, I haven't really talked about them, because, well, that isn't sports, and giving fuel to that kind of things is a good way to continue to not be about sports. I go off-topic enough as is, and for the record, we haven't been referenced yet. So why care?

Here's why... one of the standing points of this chancre site is that no one wants to read pick columns. You see, this is all narcissism (gosh, blogging has narcissism in it -- who knew?), unless the writer is a pro gambler or has a 90% winning percentage or some such noise.

Anyway, the witlessness misses a main and telling point. It's not always about the subject matter. Sometimes (most?) it's about the style of the writer, and whether you're down with that style.

As a reader, either you like and come on back, or you bail. So a site that tries to get you to stop reading a particular site, or more dramatically, stop someone else from writing it, doesn't strike me as just offensive on a First Amendment level. It's also deeply contemptuous of anyone who read the targeted site. (This is also the big point of difference between our criticism of Simmons and what's being done here. I don't want Simmons to stop writing. I want him to do it better. These folks really do just seem to think that if they are insufferable to bloggers, they'll stop. Good luck with that, really.)

One of my rules of thumb as I've gotten older is to not tell people that their tastes are wrong, even if I don't share them. If an FTT reader likes disposable music and brain-damaging television and the teams I hate, I don't much care. It's your life, your time; I am honored when you spend any of it here, and will do my little dances to the best of my ability. If you don't like, there's plenty of other sites. If you do, please tell a friend, so that I don't feel quite so silly at the end of the set. (Oh, and buy a shirt. I'm required by law to mention that.)

And if you don't like, and don't like it so much that you want no one else to like, either? Go screw. And avoid mirrors, since the biggest waste of sperm and dignity in your life lives in them.

And with that bit of timewaste taken care of... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Tennessee as a 3-point dog in TAMPA BAY. Bet the under in this one, as both teams will have real problems on offense, since there's only one decent WR (the Bucs' Joey Galloway) on both rosters. I like the Titans because they won last week despite the offense and special teams doing all they could to throw it away. Meanwhile, the Bucs were never in the game in Indy, and they are down to their fourth-string running back (Ronde should call Tiki, really), which gives the Titans enough of an edge. Oh, and there's also this: Tennessee is from the better conference.

CHICAGO covering 5 against Minnesota. The Bear Renaissance began last week, with Brian Griese showing enough to get his team out of a road hole in Green Bay, albeit with a lot of help from the home team. Minnesota will play Kelly Holcomb or Tavaris Jackson on the road, and while they will stuff Ced Benson early and often, the Bears will slowly but surely open up a lead they won't lose. The Holcomb/Jackson combo at QB, combined with the Vikings WRs, makes for the worst collection of skill players that I've seen since the Hoying Era in Philly -- and despite the fact that the Bears aren't really right on defense yet, Minny is my pick to score the fewest points in the NFL this week.

Houston covering 6.5 in JACKSONVILLE. Sound the trumpets, Maurice Jones-Drew actually made a contribution last week. He'll probably get a little more love this week, and Houston on the road inspires no confidence against the physical Jacksonville defense... but this is just the kind of game and spread that the Jags always blow. I'm taking Houston to cover a game that shouldn't be close, but will be, despite the fact that the Texans nearly blew the game to the Dolphins last week. If there was such a thing as a No Confidence Pool, this would be my pick...

Miami covering 4.5 in CLEVELAND. Will the Dolphins go winless this year? They probably should on talent, but the simple fact is that it's hard to sink that low in the NFL, and the Fish do still have a few players with a pulse on the defensive side of the ball. Reggie Brown is also quietly having a wonderful middle finger of a fantasy football year to everyone who doubted him (yes, Reggie, we were among them). I see the road team taking advantage of some Derek Anderson INTs, a banged-up Browns running game, and some overdue good luck helping Miami to break into the win column. It won't happen very often.

BALTIMORE covering 9.5 at home against St. Louis. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Rams, who I really do think could get within sniffing distance of negative perfection. Maybe they catch fire on offense if and when Stephen Jackson and Marc Bulger come back, and Torry Holt is still dangerous, but the offensive line is just god-awful, and they're going against a Ravens team that's due for a feel-good stomping, especially at home. The Ravens aren't that good this year, but the Rams will help fool people into thinking they are.

GREEN BAY covering 3 against Washington. Both teams have good records and fill me with no confidence. The Skins are fairly frisky after a bye week and a dismantling of the same-old Lions; that's a recipe for overrated right there. The Packers have a craps roll at quarterback and a thin secondary (seriously, they are a hamstring pull to aged CBs Al Harris or Charles Woodson away from having serious problems against the pass). In the end, I'm going with the home team because I don't trust Skins QB Jason Campbell on the road yet, especially when his WRs (Santana Moss and Antwan Randle-El) are banged up.

Cincinnati covering 3 against KANSAS CITY. What we have here is a 1-3 team, on the road against a 2-3 team, and they are the favorite. The Chiefs were feeling good about themselves after rookie WR Dwayne Bowe destroyed the Chargers, but that all went away when those mean Jags treated 'em like crash test dummies last week. The Bengals bring in the league's worst defense after a bye week and the hopes to avoid a 4-game losing streak. They'll do that, because if for no other reason, Marvin Lewis is a much better coach than Herm Edwards... and in a battle where neither team can really play defense, take the better offense. Especially with Chad Johnson looking like he'll play, that's the Bengals.

Philadelphia covering 3 against the JETS. All hail the return of Brian Westbrook and the previously unquestioned power of Andy Reid (8-0) after a bye. If only we could schedule 8 games a year, and give Andy two weeks to prep for every game, the Eagles would be unstoppable. What swings me to the Birds this week is that even with Dawkins and Sheppard still hurting, the defense will be fresh off the rest, and I like the Birds' chances in obvious passing downs. The Jets WRs do cause some matchup problems, but not nearly as much as a healthy Westbrook will for the New Yorkers.

ARIZONA covering 4 against the Panthers. This one could be a little closer than most believe if the Panthers defense pulls off one of its periodic kill the QB games; on some level, it's hard to imagine the Reborn Yet Again Kurt Warner staying upright for the rest of the year. I'm trusting that rookie Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt will remember to run the ball and that he's got better talent. Failing that, the Panther QBs are David Carr and Vinny Testaverde. So, either the Cardinals win this game, or the Panters lose it, really.

SAN DIEGO covering 9.5 against Oakland. A big number that I'm really on the fence about covering, especially against a Raiders team that's been in every game this year. There's also this -- San Diego games are range wars with rowdy Raider Fan in the house, so the home field is a bit mitigated. What's making me go for the number here is the Chargers defense, which finally earned its advance notice last week in Denver. I think they add a defensive score late to cover. But if you want to go the other way here, you've got plenty of reasons to. After all, the Chargers coach *is* Norv Turner.

New England covering 5.5 against DALLAS in the battle of 5-0 teams that all right-thinking Americans want to see fail. Once again, we all should just know better than to pick against the Evil Empire, where even the defensive players are good at picking their spots to score and cover the spread. Dallas has the short week and an absolute escape after the MNF weirdness in Buffalo. Their secondary can and will be exploited by Moss and Stallworth, and the Dallas running game won't be effective enough to shorten the game. Besides, Tony Romo just had a game where he turned the ball over six times. I think he's still got a few more for the Pats.

SEATTLE covering 6.5 against the Saints. The league's most surprising winless team is New Orleans, who get to the most underrated home field in the NFL against a Seahawks team that stunk up the joint in Pittsburgh. Saints fans have to be encouraged by Stephen Alexander losing fullback Mack Strong before their matchup, and Deion Branch will also not be available... but the Saints D on the road needs more help than that. I'm looking for a good bounce-back game from Matt Hasselbeck here, but the real story will be how the Saints just aren't good on offense anymore, really. I'd be comfortable with Seattle at 10, let alone 6.5.

ATLANTA as a 3.5 home dog against the Giants. I like home dome teams on MNF, especially when the opponent seems overrated. The stories out of NY are how Eli Manning is looking better every week, but he seems like the same old guy to be -- wildly erratic from quarter to quarter, prone to bad decisions under pressure, and not terribly mobile. Expect Atlanta to show patience and effectiveness with the run against the Giants, with Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood taking pressure off embattled started Joey Harrington and eager back-up Byron Leftwich. They'll have to, because the Falcons OL is banged up and starting two new tackles. Even despite that, I think the Giants chunk this one.

Last week: 6-8
Season to date: 31-39-6

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