So I'm talking to the Shooter Mom tonight, and she's been keeping track of the possible Eagles free agent signings... and yes, she's heard the Larry Fitzpatrick and Assante Samuel rumors, and she's pumped. And all I can think is... with the massive and wonderful exception of the Owens/Kearse year (which you have to admit, worked well in the very short term), that's just not how they operate.
But, um, Andy? It'd be OK with us all if, for once, you take that lovely cap space that you are so proud of having and, you know, USE IT TO MAKE YOUR TEAM BETTER. Even if it doesn't work out, we'll still feel better knowing that you are, like, TRYING. Even if it's true that the teams that make the big free agent signings (hello, Little Danny Snyder! What shiny new toy did you buy for yourself this year, you saucy little boy!) rarely hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. Even if the Patriots didn't benefit from having Randy Moss in the end. We'll still feel like, you know, we haven't seen how the movie ends before it begins.
We now return you to the real world of the Eagles, where they have just... wait for it... I hope you are sitting down... made offers to.... Joselio Hanson and JR Reed! Woo Freaking Hoo!
Master of the Jerk Out, indeed. (And for anyone who is reading this and thinking that I'm pulling off a Masstermind-level double reverse jinx move? Well, this denial of that level of mental gyrations makes your double reverse move zero times infinity, and I do hope I just BLEW YOUR MIND.)
Friday, February 29, 2008
Maybe this is just something that I missed in the 7 years that I spent on the West Coast, where you live in your car and don't really have as much contact with people in the population-dense trains, stations and streets... but, um, since when did the world decide there was no such thing as public space?
Yesterday on the train, as the commuters enjoy the peace and quiet that you find on the newer double-deckers.. and yup, it's a cell phone conversation that we all got to listen to, as the frankly bitchy manager-commuter expressed her disappointment as her subordinate called in sick. I'm pretty sure that I speak for all of the other people on the train when I fervently hoped that the person on the other end of the line was interviewing somewhere else, and reaming her manager. Actually, I'm pretty sure we were all rooting for in that job interview. Or for that person to not Mind The Gap while getting off the train later...
And then again in the evening, listening to a douchebag recount every single detail in his life and his commute and his financial transactions... well, in a few years when you read how a short bitter sports blogger went haywrire and left a string of corpses on the train, you'll know why. But I'm so glad that your house closing went well, Ferret Faced Princeton Junction Guy. And the entire 40 minute conversation was riveting, especially the five to ten lulls where you said, "Uhhh.... anything else..." That was magical.
(The obvious solution, of course, is just to whip out my own cell phone and have a loud and imaginary conversation where I talk about how I'm surrounded by jerks on the train, and that I'll have to call that person back, because I'm in a public space and don't want my fellow passengers to think I'm a complete asswipe... but in this as in many things, I don't have the stones.)
I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the plight of the person taking an urgent call. I've been that person, usually for consulting gigs. But, um, when that happens, you cup your hand over the receiver, you hunker down to block the sound, and you try to end the call, you know, quickly.
Or, even better yet, train your contacts to IM you, and text them back. Either is vastly preferable to treating the rest of us to your sad little life, of which We Don't Care. Since when did casual rudeness become acceptable, just because you've got technology and an inflated sense of your own self-importance?
The good Don over at our favorite Pacific Rim sports blog (With Malice) asked who we thought was going to win the NBA Finals, so we spent some brain cells on the question. You can see the results here, but the short answer is that I'm glad I didn't pick the Rockets, even though it was pre-Ming Tragedy...
Your list is here, and yes, it is a little gift to longtime FTT contributor The Truth. Though I'm not sure that I'd call viewing this video a gift...
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Which brings me to the latest “fall on the ground and kick and scream like a little girl” moment from Cubs nation. The possibility that the naming rights to Wrigley Field might be sold this season. Heaven forbid you call Wrigley Field anything other than that. I think they should go for a descriptive name like “Old Urinal Cake Excuse For A Ballpark Where College Kids Will Ultimately Get Drunk And Puke Next To You Field While Paying $50 For A Bleacher Seat Field.”
Instead of pointing out to Cubs fans why this is a non-topic and nothing to get excited about, I’d like to propose 4 companies the Cubs should target for naming rights. Let the voting begin!
Viagra Field – it’s about time the Cubs had something to get excited about. Nothing pumps up Cubs fan like Viagra Field. Promotional giveaway night – hookers in right field (which would only be different from any other game because they moved them from left field).
Nati Light Field – Old Style doesn’t have the coin to pay $25 million for twenty years, so AB steps to the plate with a beer that is fitting of Wrigley – smells like piss and leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you’re done. Promotional tie in - Larry Eustacy sings Take Me Out to the Ballgame with Mizzou coeds.
Preparation H Field – If you’re going to a ballpark that feels like a giant hemorrhoid, you might as well name the cure after it. Promotional tie in – Cubs Wallet Schedule. Being a Cubs fan is like having hemorrhoids. You don’t want anybody to know and it hurts like hell. So hide that schedule in your wallet so nobody knows.
Drinkin’ Mate Field – Not sure if these guys can come up with the cash for this, but they are a perfect tie in. Going out for a night of heavy drinking? Take Drinkin’ Mate before you start drinking to ward off any potential hangover. Potential tie in – 2 tickets for every fan to a White Sox game. Prevent that Cubs hangover by going to see a team that has actually won a World Series in the past 100 years.
H/t to With Leather -- the news is that yes, SLAMBALL IS COMING BACK. Pat Croce's going to fulfill his lifelong destiny to be the commish. The fact that no one's died while playing this game is, to my eyes, something of an upset.
Sean Salisbury and his famous member are leaving ESPN after 12 years. (Yes, 12 years. It's kind of like Bush being President for the past 7 years, only, like, 5 more.) Let's hear straight from the horse's cell phone camera's trouser snake...
"I'd grown tired of being punished for not being an NFL superstar. Analysts who don't work as hard as me, don't prepare as hard as me, and don't have my resume were making more than me just because of their ability to throw or catch a football. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the opportunity ESPN gave me, but they had capped my ceiling. There was only so far I could go there. I'd done nothing wrong, and if you hear otherwise, it's not true. I did everything that was asked of me. I have created a brand and it's time to expand into other opportunities in TV, radio, Internet, publishing, movies and public speaking, among others. My resume speaks for itself."Now, far be it for me to drop a Davenport on a guy's efforts at Establishing His Brand... but he does know that he'll be remembered as much for this...
as he will for his staged yammer-fests, right?
Your link is here, and yes, I did use to play Strat-O, but more hockey than baseball. I had a totally bitching half-elven fighter-thief with a +4 vorpal blade that completely rocked the 20-sider and hit for power in platoon situations. (And yes, I have had sex. With girls.)
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Twenty years ago, I'm pretty sure that I was reading the Bill James Baseball Abstract in preparation for a fantasy draft, devouring as much of his faintly patronizing but obviously persuasive arguments with zeal. And just like any number of baseball geeks, I was convinced I was in on the first whispers of a Revolution.
While the game was obviously still stuck in hidebound traditions with bonehead management, eventually the free market of better offensive and defensive players would win out, and the sabermetric virtues -- patient hitting for power, with a studied indifference, if not contempt for little-ball sacrifice strategies, and avoiding defensive errors while having provably good range -- would prevail. We'd enter a glorious new age where swing at anything meatheads would be recognized for the production holes they were, and the game would make more sense on every level.
Well, that's more or less what happened. The Red Sox hired James, and he's been in their organizations for both championships. The Yankees signed Jason Giambi to a monstrous deal for his hyperactive on base percentage, and at the time, no one thought that was a bad idea. Guys like Matt Starks and Scott Hatteberg have managed to have long careers, despite not looking like the kind of people that would keep finding at-bats in their old age. People think Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu are worthy of big contracts, rather than cowards who were too selfish to swing the bat in a clutch situation. When a flashy player with questionable strike zone judgment (I'm looking at you, Jeff Francouer) comes up, people talk about how he needs to work on that, and shy away from really embracing him as a new star. Bad on base percentage, which was ignored by people who voted for Andre Dawson as an MVP in the '80s, is cited as the main reason why he's not in the Hall of Fame now. By the glacial standards of baseball -- a sport that after thirty five years, still hasn't figured out how to resolve the fact that it's two leagues play a fundamentally different game with the DH -- that's positively breakneck.
And yet, I can't help but feel that when we get to our final destination, the game is going to be, well, tough on the eyes and buttocks. Imagine if every hitter were judged on the telling statistic of how many pitches he used per at-bat... and that his compensation was directly linked to it. Somehow, I'm not thinking that his every at-bat will be captivating. For a game that's still the worse for wear thanks to the one-batter late-inning strategies of Tony LaRussa, this is not good. (And don't get me started on the death of casual base stealing. The days of heady but not fast players swiping 10 to 15 bags a year, just because that's what base runners should do, rather than just standing there and waiting for a home run? Gone baby gone. Welcome to Lardass City.)
There is, actually, something to the idea of what the scout's eyes tell him about a player. The name of this site aside, five tool players are actually fun to watch, and fun to watch is a player that's memorable... and given that only fans of MLB+ teams seem to be enjoying this era, it's kind of important to find enjoyment anywhere we can.
Which brings me to a late and lamented farewell to Jeremy Brown, the unexpected star of Michael Lewis's "Moneyball." Brown was, for those who haven't had the pleasure of reading the book, a college catcher who was the A's ideal of an undervalued talent -- cheap to sign, but a percentage monster with power and plate discipline. Like the vast majority of first round picks, he didn't set the world on fire, and he announced his surprising retirement a few weeks ago, a footnote to a good book, but nothing much as a player. (I also can't help but think that he's the end note to the Billy Beane Era of genius, too. I love the man and what he has accomplished in Oakland, but when you punt on a year before it even begins, you make me wonder why I'm rooting for the team at all.)
So give me wild-eyed Vlad Guerrero wannabees, and rifle-armed shortstops who try to make every play, no matter how many balls wind up in the stands. Give me relief pitchers with quirky deliveries who actually get a little bent when the manager comes to take them out after one hitter. In short, give me baseball, a game played by emotional and short-sighted man-childs, rather than an exercise in percentages played by guys who seem to have been cross-bred with chartered accountants. Or robots.
Because the five tool player can be honed and taught to play the percentages, but the percentage player will never be anything but a percentage player. And if the game matters to you beyond the numbers, how the player plays it is actually kind of important. (And who knows, maybe if that catches on, enough MLB+ teams will go back to making bad personnel decisions and free agent signing based on tools, and we'll regain some semblance of competitive balance. Also, while I'm wishing, I'd like a pony that craps money.)
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
GMGM gets going! Action for Les Capitaux at the trade deadline!
Picked up Cristobal Huet from the Canadiens for a second-round pick in '09. Huet was the #1 but is a free agent at the end of the season; it looks like the Habs decided that 20-year-old Carey Price is the future, and the future is now. Kolzig was in net tonight and saved 34/35 in a win over the Wild, but the future for Olie the Goalie now looks to be out of town.
Also traded the rights to Notre Dame freshman Ted Ruth (Our Lady has hockey? Who knew?) for Sergei Fedorov (He was playing in Columbus--who knew?!). The hope is that Fedorov will strengthen the second line; at any rate, he adds veteran experience and can talk to Ovechkin in his native tongue.
And in the Disappointing Matt Exchange department, they sent Pettinger to Vancouver for Cooke.
Carolina pulled out an OT win over the Devils keeping the Caps five points out of the Southeast division lead and three seed, though the Canes have played two more games. Three points and two teams still sit between the Caps and the eight seed; the division is likely the easier target.
(H/t Deadspin.) With each passing day, more of your brain -- and the brains of younger people -- knows Isiah Thomas for one thing, and one thing alone: he coaches this team.
At some point, if you are him, don't you just want to, you know, get as far away from this as possible, and have any sense of decency?
"It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." -- Lewis Carroll, "(Alice) Through the Looking Glass"Red Queen Effect comes from evolutionary genetics, and it uses the Lewis Carroll quote above to describe the phenomenon of maintenance in the face of an unrelenting enemy -- mostly about parasitic diseases versus the organism that host them.
In it, everything is done simply to maintain the status quo; even a positive mutation will simply gain you a leg up, as it were, for a small amount of time, before the parasite adapts as well. (In a fun aside, this also explains why, evolutionarily, we have sex and genders -- it's all to thwart parasites. Evolutionary geneticists are sexy, sexy beasts.)
If you are like me, as always, you have my apologies. But you've faced Red Queen Effect in the business end of a bench press, on a bicycle, at work and, in this off-season at least and most likely many more, in your football team. Especially if you are an Eagles fan.
Speculation around my part of the world and blogosphere has been fixated on who (or, since this is football and the pre-draft speculation makes us all combine-ish surveyors of meat, what) the Eagles will draft with the 19th pick.
Since the team has proven itself incapable of drafting a WR high since the Tragedy of Freddie Mitchell, despite the fact that, well, they seem to have good years when they have a plus wideout and bad years when they don't... well, let's just move on from that, shall we.
The only positions that we're (pretty sure) they won't draft are RB, QB, TE, PK and P. Everything else, given the stopgap nature of last year's frustrating 8-8 team, is up for grabs.
(Note: They'd certainly be welcome to draft a top-drawer TE, but after slapping the franchise tag on LJ Smith and being reasonably encouraged by Brent Celek last year, they won't. Besides, a top-drawer TE is too close to a WR for comfort. As the Owens Debacle proved, we just can't have them. Bad things happen.)
Offensive line is probably not likely, even though Job Runyon is getting old in the tooth, and the little that the world saw of Winston Justice made us all, Justice included, assume the fetal position. Some would note that putting a de facto rookie against the NFC's best DE in 2007 on an island in a MNF game was, um, Remarkably Stupid Coaching, too.
But it's not like the Reid Era to cut bait that quickly, and given Justice's pedigree (USC) and draft position (2nd round in 2006), he probably gets another year to show if he's learned anything. The team likes Jamal Jackson at center, and so do I; he's athletic and nasty. But even if he wasn't, drafting an interior lineman in the first round just isn't something they would do. You'd take a tackle and move him in if he couldn't handle the most meaningful role, kind of how they rarely draft a safety very high, preferring to go for the higher upside at corner.
On the defensive side of the ball, the CB class is said to be good, while the safeties are weak. Again, this plays right into the general school of thought anyway, which is you can always slide a slow corner to safety, but you can't do anything with a safety that's having trouble, other than cut him. Unfortunately, drafting at the 19 spot probably means reaching for a corner, so this isn't where they are going to go, either.
With the Eagles, linebacker is to the defense as wide receiver is to the offense -- an absolutely critical position that they just have a blind spot about. The perfect Eagles LB for the Reid Era is a guy that's good in coverage and... that's about it. It's one of the biggest problems of the regime, in that the fan base years (pines, really) for the next Seth Joyner, otherwise known as the linebacker from a little place called Rage. But the team winds up going for Big Thinkers like Dhani Jones and Mark Simoneau. It's maddening, but it is what it is.
So that leaves us with a defensive lineman, and specifically a defensive end, to replace the cursed Jevon Kearse and to buttress the team's best defensive player last year, Trent Cole. Now, the Giants showed that two plus pass rushers on the defensive line can do a lot of damage... but excuse me for just thinking that the draft pick, if and when it goes here, is just chasing the ineffecive free agent signings of Kearse and Darren Howard.
Meanwhile, of course, the secondary is a serious problem with the ghost of Brian Dawkins, the erratic play of Lito Sheppard, and nickel back Will James (nee Peterson) playing so badly that most Eagle fans were happier to see street meat like Joselio Hanson and JR Reed in coverage. (At least they seemed interested in hitting someone.) And that's where Re(i)d Queen Effect comes in, because if either the Howard or Kearse signings had worked out, you could spend this pick in the defensive backfield and addressed your most glaring need.
You know, that you can actually draft, given that only Pinkos and Hottentots draft or sign game-breaking wide receivers.
And with that, I think it's Drink Me Time...
Your link is here, and the video clip at the end of the post is from one of my great joys in life, an incredible little ball of cheese movie called "InfraMan." Princess Dragon Mom, the head villainess, is a cute Asian chick with blonde hair (sure, it's probably a wig), a whip, and the ability to turn into a flying rubber monster. She leads her army of weirdly swaying dudes in rubber suits, along with hundreds of remarkably disposable guys in black unitards, against Our Hero, who Science has given a super suit complete with on board nuclear reactor.
And it all makes more sense -- much more, really -- than Barry Bonds going to play baseball over there...
Monday, February 25, 2008
I can not support the mission of the Stephen A. Smith Society of Heckling Gentlemen enough, really. (And if you don't know what the story is with this... I can't begin to do it justice, really. Just play the clip. I post YouTube videos when I'm stressed. And yes, it's disgraceful.)
Your list is here, and he does know that he's allowed to lose every once in a while, right? Seriously, the guy towers over his sport more than any athlete ever has. It's a surprise now when he loses, which has never been the case in golf for the proceeding 100 years. It's absolutely absurd.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired former defensive player of the year Ben Wallace and swingman Joe Smith from the Chicago Bulls in an 11-player, three-team blockbuster deal on Thursday.In any Monster Deal, there's an awful lot of dross to sort through. The remarkable thing about this deal is that almost all of it left one team -- the Cavs.
Cleveland also got forward Wally Szczerbiak and guard Delonte West from the Seattle SuperSonics, general manager Danny Ferry announced Thursday.
In exchange, the Cavaliers sent Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons and Shannon Brown to the Bulls and Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall to Seattle.
Cleveland also received Chicago's 2009 second round draft selection and Seattle acquired Adrian Griffin from the Bulls.
When the dust settled, Cleveland now gets to start Wallace, Ilgauskas, Sczerbiak and West with LeBron, and bring Gibson, Varaejo and Smith off the bench. (And the starters may be wrong and all, but that's their top eight, and all will get time.)
Here's what that does for them. It means that they won't be wondering where Hughes and Gooden are when the chips are down. It means they won't have a 37% shooter who isn't a point guard... playing point guard. It should mean a whole lot less of Eric Snow, since with Wallace on the floor, you can only have one guy who absolutely can't score playing. It gives them a very good spot-up shooter in the Zerb, and a reasonable defensive presence in Wallace that can cover for the fact that Wally can't defend anyone. It also makes them, IMO, a much more dangerous team in the East, and might make them the favorites over the big three of Detroit, Boston and Orlando in a second-round playoff matchup... because it gives LeBron all of the proof he needs that his GM is watching the same games he's been playing in.
Now, that doesn't mean the Cavs are a shoo-in to make it back to the Finals as the Team That Should Lose, because they've only got 30 games to figure out how to play with each other, and that's probably not enough time. But it sure makes them a hell of a lot more interesting than they were on Wednesday, and for next year as well.
Seattle, on the other hand, cleared cap space from a guy that did them no good (Wally) and a reasonable guard that was in a logjam for minutes with Ridnour and Watson (West). It also probably gives them some nice wiggle room with expiring contracts, since no one in their right mind wants Donyell Marshall for the long run on their roster. The only problem with this plan is that freeing up cap space for a team that's moving to Oklahoma City is kind of like putting in a really nice wet bar in a bomb shelter; you're still not going to be attracting the really high-class snatch. But on principle at least, it's the right move, and it gives Seattle's front office personnel something nice to put on their resumes later, when they want to go to a real NBA franchise.
Now, what did Chicago get, other than clearing minutes for Ty Thomas and Yannick Noah? The previously mentioned 37% non-point point guard in Hughes. A power forward that has been part of every trade rumor for the past five years in the league -- I'm guessing there are reasons for that behind the boneheaded play on the court. (This assumes, of course, that they are actually going to play the guys they dealt for, rather than just bench them and completely poison the atmosphere around this team.)
How exactly does this fix the Bulls' problems -- which is to say, questionable low post presence and point guard play on offense, and worrisome team chemistry? Gooden and Hughes have been on a million teams in their time in the league. Those are the guys that you want to bring into a team of young and previously unselfish hustle players? I know that Big Ben wasn't working out for you, but was this really the price you had to pay to get rid of him?
For many years, the Bulls appeared to have A Plan. They were going to stockpile hustle guys, pressure teams into mistakes, and hope that one of their young players -- Deng or Gordon, primarily -- became the kind of guy that could carry them in crunch time in a playoff. It might not have been the most feasible way to a championship, but at least it made for entertaining ball, and made them the constant source of speculation whenever a team had a game-changing superstar that was thinking of forcing a trade.
Now? I have no idea what they are, or what they are trying to accomplish. And neither do they.
Two of three teams won this trade, and one of them did so by a lot. The last destroyed the team to rid themselves of one player and contract. But that's life in the NBA -- the bad signings destroy you.
A story in the New York Times last week has been slowly making the rounds in the blogosphere, and I thought I'd add in my two cents. It concerns how the rate of people playing golf has been dropping steadily since the turn of the century, and efforts on the part of course owners and the like to reverse that tide.
The trend, of course, goes a bit against the grain of The Greatness of the Tiger... but I'm wondering if golf is going to see the same thing with Woods as the NBA did with Jordan, which is to say that the public's fascination with the individual is going to wind up making the sport seem anti-climactic once He is gone.
(The NBA is, pound for pound, the most competitive professional league in the world, with a global talent base, relentless competitiveness, spectacular talents, and yet, the public seems to just be blase about it. Maybe it's just that people don't want to watch hoop in the wake of 24/7/365 football, or the Unlikeable Stars Era did long-term damage that the general public isn't coming back from, but hell... it's not like MLB or NFL have a bunch of people you want to drink beers with. Anyway, golf.)
Here's my individual take on it. For a 3 to 4 year period in the late '90s, I was the target consumer that the golf industry dreams of -- low 30s, a weekend hacker who also got in some rounds for work. I'd play alone or with friends, and got good enough to enjoy myself, but not much more than that.
Once the Shooter Wife produced the Shooter Kid, golf took a back seat... and shortly after that, there was a lot of job movement, because I'm in online advertising and it was the dot-com bust. When you're not entirely sure how certain your paychecks are going to be, greens fees are not high on the priority list against groceries. I had also moved to a part of the world (Northern California) that routinely charged 2x what I was used to paying in other parts of the world.
Eighteen months ago, we moved back to the East Coast and bought our first home. We've since spent our money on home improvements. Between commute and office hours, my Monday to Friday is spent, which means that any time for golf would come on the weekend, and
So I've gone from playing 15 to 20 times a year to not playing at all in the past... five years. And the next time I pick them up is going to be ugly. The dirty little secret of golf is the same as any other recreational sport: if you go away from it long enough, you don't really want to start from near zero to shake all the rust off. It took me years to shave those first 20 to 30 strokes off my game; going out and having them all be back would be like playing a video game without saving your progress.
My clubs are in the garage, in a travel case. I've resisted the urge to sell or give them away, because they don't take up that much room, and who knows -- I might need them someday. Who knows, once the kids are bigger and convinced that time spent with Dad is time spent losing any sense of style.
So it's not a matter of four hours for a round being too much time spent away from my family (heck, I'm a writer -- hours spent away from my family is an occupational hazard), or not wanting to do things outside, which are the two points the golf industry keeps bringing up.
(And I am sure that, like any other addict, I'm one good hit away from being right back in it.)
Oh, and a quick little aside to everyone out there who wants to get their politics in by hating on golf and golfers... yes, yes, by all means, what a horrible thing for people to do, to actually devote some space to a fairly earth-friendly endeavor, to dress in a goofy way, and to take their essentially meaningless pastime seriously. I can see how this causes immense problems in your life, as they go to some place that you never go, and perform some activity that you don't.
Now that you've established your bona fides as a politically aware person, please go back to your television and computer that's almost certainly constructed by Chinese slave labor, and put on the game that's played by people who will make more in a year than most of us will in a lifetime. Oh, and the games and the stadia are also being supported by corporate welfare, and many of the top players have political stances that start at glibertarian or worse, and the owners make them look like tree huggers.
In other words, he who is without sin can go find my ball in the woods. The rest of us will play golf, or increasingly, not. (For now.) Or just go for something that's really more fun, and also just Wrong Wrong Wrong...
"It's almost as if what we would fight against as a country -- the Soviets spying -- it's almost like that's what everyone is doing. What's said in the huddle, which is what I did, should be in the huddle. I'm disappointed people would think I'm not really good with the people I work with, which couldn't be further from the truth. Do I wish I didn't say a few things nine years ago? Yes. But if that's the worst thing I ever did, I can live with it." - Chris Berman, on the videos that have been unearthed recentlyUm, Chris? You read scripts off a teleprompter about sports. You are, honestly, not analogous to the fate of the Free World versus a repressive regime in any way, shape, or form. Honest.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Say this for the Andy Reid Era... they've never done this. Or allowed the kicker to rap. It's four minutes that only seem like 90! (And I'd hat tip this, but the people who spread the word on this should not be thanked. I want my childhood back.)
As I was scurrying home last night from the Sports Blogger Semi-Circle Jerk, my commute took me through the World TradeCenter PATH station. It was the first time I'd been there in well over a decade, and the place has had some renovations. You might have heard about them, I think the President has mentioned them once or twice.
Anyway... it's a big temporary feeling place, bare concrete and constant construction sounds and, for last night at least, cold as the morgue because, well, it is one. Outside of the station, you can see workmen pushing dirt around for some unknown purpose, and the crush of commuters on their way to Hoboken and Newark all have the look and feel of people, well, on their way to those places -- which is to say, not the most inviting or interesting places that you've ever been to. You more or less put your head down and find your train.
But there's this otherworldly creepiness about the place, like it's a big movie set with the cameras missing, and it stays with you. The only feeling that I've ever had that was remotely like it was waiting for a train in Frankfurt, Germany, knowing that something similarly awful happened here before, and that I was standing in the space of murder. The flight instinct takes hold, and you feel like prey, like a gazelle at a watering hole, even when there's no one near you.
Oh, and a word for the powers-that-be that haven't quite figured out what to do with the place, well over 2000 days later... congratulations. It still feels, to me, like an open wound. You must be very proud.
A year ago, my relatives came to Manhattan for a day, and I took them out to lunch. Guiding them through the crowds, my sister remarked how I had picked it all up so fast, like being in the city was such a daunting and impossible task. I thought at the time that she just needed to get out of her part of the world more often, but now I'm starting to realize that people become New Yorkers through the casual repetition of things that people from other parts of the country find remarkable.
The speed in a shop, the crush in a subway, the disarming candor of people in a hurry, the single-minded pursuits of things that don't seem important or necessary, but happen nonetheless, because they are part of your routine -- well, you pick them up pretty quickly, and within a week or a month or so, you no longer have that tourist look of staring up at big buildings and not knowing where the subways go.
But walking through a place where thousands were horribly killed as part of your mundane commute? That's taking it up a notch, really. And the fact that people do it, and still (for the most part) don't vote for 9uli11ani any more, or for the party that speaks to that fear as a security blanket... well, it makes for a little sense of pride. Or awe, or fearful respect. From one gazelle to another, to the one that just walks though, drinks and leaves. Either something is wrong with them, or you, but in the meantime...
And try, very hard, not to wonder what it was like for the other gazelles.
So last night was spent in 90+ minutes of pretty good conver- sation about sports, that just happened to be filmed for a Web site. You'll see it linked here as soon as it's available, and I'm going to try to steer clear from the navel-gazing about my own performance to talk to something that might be more interesting.
The actual experience was strangely comfortable, for a situation where you are being filmed in a professional 3-camera shoot, and pretending like you've known the people you are talking with for more than five minutes. We sat in a semi-circle at a table, the host (Jeff Johnson) went through some topics he'd prepared in advance, and boom goes the dynamite. Nerves went away pretty quickly, really.
It's a common thing in the sports blogosphere to rail against ESPN, aka the World Wide Leader, known in these here parts as the World Wide Lemur, because I'm just kind of obsessed with those creatures, and just like the sound of the word. (Whenever the word "leader" or "believer" comes up in popular music, my mind substitutes "Lemur" and "Big Lemur." Try it for yourself. "Then I saw her face / Now I'm a Big Lemur..." See? Yes, I have issues. Moving on...)
The Lemur films their talking head shows, and it's all braying jackassery, lowest common denominator dumbness, frat boys with the fake laughter, and if you are anything like me, you get The Cringing, and then the Spinal Issues, because your body is in open revolt at having anything in common with these lemurs. They're clearly mammals, bipeds, vertebrates and most likely chordates, and all of that is far more in common with your own damn self for comfort.
But since all of the stuff on the tee vee is like that, there just seems to be an inevitability to it, really. That must be what people like, since that's what's served up. You must really be an outlier, freak, weird monkey, to think this is all horrific and banal and terrible, and long for something better. Please stop thinking so much about whatever it is that you were thinking about -- sports and politics for me, but I'm sure many people feel the same way about cooking shows or women's issues or movie reviews or whatever else gets chatted over, on camera, at length.
And then Jeff Johnson comes along, with his VBS crew, and invites four (five if you count me, not that I'm saying you should) smart and snarky and well-read bloggers to go through the points he's selected in advance, and it's not like that at all, really. I found myself laughing genuinely, and so did the crew, at a lot of stuff. The time passed quickly, so much so that after Jeff's cards were up, we all just pretty much kept going, both on and off camera. No one felt the need to scream, pick a transparent fight, plug their site or selves or pull any other kind of dick move. None of us were even morbidly obese, constantly referencing our own days back when we were athletes (as if), or wearing a bad rug on our head. It went against all the rules, really.
Whether or not it was entertaining for other people is for other people to judge, of course... but it sure felt like a good product to me, like something I'd set the DVR for. And more importantly, it gave me hope that not only might there be an audience for people who think about sports, but that there are others who actually do it. That the braying jackasses aren't inevitable. That the Lemur and Fox and all of the other mouth jobs don't have a monopoly any more, not with the web, and that entering that form of media doesn't have to mean checking your brain and integrity at the door.
So thanks, Jeff and VBS, for inviting me, and thanks to my fellow panelists for being, well, really good. I'd gladly do it again, and only hope I was up to your standards. (And if not, well, I'm just glad that I had one more platform to crack on Kevin Everett and Sean Taylor's Ghost. A man's got to stand up for what he believes in.)
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The link is here, and the real number one way would, of course, be the systematic eradication of every man, woman and child on the earth, because as Mr. Smith in the Matrix says, we are a virus with shoes. Damn good shoes, too!
Oh, and a special shout out to my man CMJ Dad, who has probably already commented on this one to tell me that global warming is, I don't know, brought to us by the Easter Rabbit or something. I think he blames the whole thing on Al Gore, and I'm with him on that, since the son of a bitch didn't win. Have at it, Earth Hater!
Because, well, it's time to enter Flavor Country. Population: Dead People. (H/t KSK)
Oh, and on the off chance that anyone reading this doesn't think that Washington Redskins is a breathtakingly awful name for a team? Watch the promo again.
Your link is here, and reason number eleven is that it makes people who watch college football feel like they haven't wasted their lives. Screw those people.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Hey folks, it's just been ages since I sat back on my chucklebutt and let you people do the work. Let's open up the good old mail bag!
Dear FTT -- I've been without a fantasy sports team for nearly two months now, and baseball doesn't start for another six weeks. How do I keep from feeling a vague sense of dread that I may be getting a life? -- A. Builder, Chester PA
Dear Builder -- You see, this is why you need the NBA in your life. Did you know that right now, three teams in the Western Conference -- Phoenix, Los Angeles and Dallas -- have all pulled off ridiculously big trades (for Pau Gasol, Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Kidd, respectively), and that the game has never been better for a fantasy player... because very few teams are really tanking, so there are not too many places where the minutes are incredibly up in the air, and...
Oh, what the hell. You're probably already ranking players for your fantasy baseball draft.
Dear FTT -- Who do you like as sleepers in your fantasy draft? -- Gangsta Mook, Berkeley, CA
Dear G-Mook -- Normally I'd avoid identifying these players until after my own draft was over, for fear of tipping my hand. But since the only league I'm likely to be in right now is an auction with not enough people in it, I'll let 'em loose in a classic double-bluff. Go hard for Francisco Liriano in the classic Rich Harden tease role. While you're at it, go for Rich Harden, too. Brett Myers might be a cheap source of strikeouts and abject stupidity, and Matt Cain has to be better now that the Giants aren't playing ancient monoliths in their outfield.
As for who I'm shying away from, Josh Beckett is a historic injury risk, threw a ton of innings last year, and came to spring training wearing David Wells' stomach. Avoid. CC Sabathia is also fat and overworked, which is rarely a good combination (and it's killing me not to make any number of catty celebrity jokes here, but it's not that kind of blog). Johan Santana will cost the world and probably be the best SP in MLB, but you rarely win with that; you win with the guy that overdelivers on value. This year in New York, that's Pedro Martinez.
On offense, Daric Barton will take the first step towards a lucrative non-A's contract, Grady Sizemore may yet have another gear to access, and Melky Cabrera will be as quiet of a bargain as you can get in the Bronx. I also think Andruw Jones is the kind of guy who does better with no pressure, and there's something about Khalil Greene that makes me keep thinking he'll make a push.
Avoid post-contract Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki, don't overpay for the potentially roid-empty David Ortiz, and there's no way that Jimmy Rollins can do that again.
More later, as we get closer to the season.
Dear FTT -- Do you still have T-Shirts to sell, and if so, in what size? -- A. Shill, Philadelphia, PA
Dear Shill -- The Garment of Greatness is available in Medium, Large, Extra Large and Why Won't You People Buy These, My Children Need Shoes. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Makes a great gift!
Dear FTT -- Why don't you ever comment on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? It's not like there is anything else going on at this time of year. - A. Wanker, Dayton, OH
Dear Wanker -- Seriously, this is still a story? I'll admit that I used to look forward to getting the only home-delivered porn that you didn't have to explain away as a teenager, but that was pre-Internet, when your options were extraordinarily limited, assuming you didn't have the ability to just say screw it and go give a bored magazine seller cash and see what would happen. Now, with 24-7-365 people doing all kinds of things to all kinds of things, am I really supposed to get hot and bothered by airbrushed supermodels wearing dental floss? Come back when there's fluids involved. On second thought, don't, because wankery and sports already are way too mixed together -- witness 98% of the World Wide Lemur's non-live event programming.
Dear FTT -- What random link of causality is rattling inside your head today, that I'm going to have to put up with when you get home? - A. Wife, Hamilton, NJ
Dear Wife -- Glad you asked! There's a story in the NY Times today (I'd link to it, but I don't want to be indirectly responsible for a tragedy) about an epidemic of mid-life suicides. It seems that people in their 40s and 50s are offing themselves in dramatically increasing numbers, for reasons that, of course, no one can really talk about, since the people who are doing it are dead and all.
Now, you can wonder if this has something to do with economic stress, or the shaking stress that a society goes through as it transitions from one that depends on religion for all of the answers, to a more secular state where fewer and fewer people face their demise with the knowledge that it's all going to be paradise so long as they don't commit the naughty move of checking out early. You might even position it to technology creating a distance among those of a certain age, who have never cottoned to, say, expressing themselves meaningfully in an e-mail or IM window, and hence, feel left behind from the clicking crowds.
Or, like me, you can wonder if there's some way to blame the World Wide Lemur for the whole thing, because honestly, if you are beyond the age of 30, watching "Who's Next" and not wanting to go Lewinsky on a .38... well, I'm inclined to think that maybe you *should* go Lewsinsky on a .38.
Thanks for reading, writing, and helping me fill the bloghole for yet another day. Remember, all FTT letter writers receive a Garment of Greatness! (Note: We said nothing about free.)
A week after Mike Bibby and his overrated but still competent self was sent out of town for a big pile of nothing...
Ron Artest has gone back on his claim from earlier this month that the Kings "would be better if I wasn't on the team."
Testy is making $7.4 million a year, which seems like a bargain -- hell, that's Bobby Sura money. Unfortunately, he's wildly overrated, a bad percentage shooter, a below-average rebounder despite his (likely roid-addled) physique and a team poison that could murder everyone on the team in their sleep, with no one in the media or NBA fandom doing much more than saying "Damn, I had April in the pool."
So what's he saying now? Hold on to your hats. Sactown, despite being clearly lottery-bound, is getting a parade!
"I am anxious to see what my future holds, [but] I like Sac," Artest wrote in an e-mail. "My entire focus is with Sac and winning a championship this year."Well, far be it from me to cast aspersions on the Tru Warier's commitment. He's given up rap, disappointing thousands of fans of unintentional comedy. He hasn't beaten his chest like King Kong, prompting an ejection, for, like, days. He's got the back of his coach, former sitcom star Reggie Theus, who calls him the go-to guy on the team. (That sound you just heard was Kevin Martin calling his agent, looking for a trade.) Everything is coming up Testy!
Except for the fact that... the Kings are 23-28, 5 games under .500, and 8.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the West. That's currently a 3-way dance between the 32-20 Warriors, Rockets and Nuggets -- three teams with vastly superior talent, coaches and fan bases, given that Testy in Sactown is a Fish Out of Water script that Disney would reject as being too unrealistic to grunt out a movie from. That massive home-court advantage the Kings used to enjoy? Not so much now.
They'd also have to finish above Portland, who actually have team chemistry, let alone talented young players. And, well... Sactown just traded their starting point guard in an obvious give-up move for the future, and they've made no indication that they want more of Testy after this year. Given that the team has made no real move forward since he came there, you can hardly blame the Maloofs for not exactly rolling out the Chris Webber contract for the Warier.
If this were any NBA player other than Testy, I'd think he was just saying the right thing to help grease the wheels for the next trade. But this is the biggest heel in the Association we're talking about here, a guy who Dennis Rodman thinks is unhinged. You aren't going to deal for him under the idea that he's turned over a new leaf. You'd pull the trigger for him if you are getting killed defensively at small forward, have nothing to lose, and have a tried-and-true clubhouse that might stand a chance of keeping him in line. You know, the way the Bulls (and not the Mavs or Spurs) won with Rodman. Under those criteria, maybe the Spurs go for him in the Stephen Jackson Memorial Role, but only if they think Bruce Bowen is ready for the glue farm. Maybe the Pistons could also pull him off, except for the fact that Tayshaun Prince is the same player, but better.
The point is that no one is buying the Nice Testy act. He might as well keep his rep alive and show up to practice with a suicide bomb belt and a timer clock until the trade deadline.
Besides, at the end of the day, we all know there is only one place for Testy to be -- the same place that was rumored last March. New York, for David Lee, so that both teams could have More of the Same.
The Incredibly Irrelevant New York Knicks would become Must Destroy Your TV watching with Testy. Watching him try to take shots away from the rest of these me-first maniacs, seeing his reactions to Isiah's bizarro-land coaching decisions, having him get in the grill of no-defense big men like Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph in his occasional bouts of caring about winning and losing...
Well, it'd be entertaining, in the way that a train wreck becomes infinitely more captivating when, after the bodies have stopped twitching and the moaning has subsided, smoke and fire start to appear, and you know Big Explosions are going to happen. One of the few always-true points about life is that so long as it's present, it can get worse... and Testy in his hometown, with that roster, fan base and coach, is almost like a science experiment of awful. Come on Isiah, ignore Testy's not-completely bloated salary and the sense of self-preservation that fills most people when they are in the presence of homicidal nutbags. Get it done!
H/t Deadspin for finding the You Been Blinded story... Vin and Tonic is having his restaurant foreclosed, which is also going to put his parents on the hook for 400 large.
Now, I don't much care what happens to Baker, and I'm sure that his folks have had more than a few opportunities to squirrel away some cash over the years. According to his page on Baseball Reference, his lifetime salary data gets you to over $112 million; if you someone go broke on that, including five straight years of going from $10.1 to $13.5 million (and yes, Isiah Thomas *did* bring him to New York!)... well, far be it from me to shed a tear for him.
But that's exactly the point to make here. The true Vinsanity has now been to six different teams, and the Celtics and Rockets have even brought him back more than once. He hasn't made an All-Star Game since he was 26; that was a decade ago. He hasn't broken ten points a game since 2003-04 with the Celtics.
He's been a pretty terrible player for a long time now, and yet, he still keeps getting work. I have no idea how, and you probably don't either, other than maybe being really impressed by his agent.
If I were running an NBA team, Vin Baker would be the last guy I'd want on my roster, and that's even with the idea that the only wat you bring him in at all is if your previous half dozen big men have hit the shelf. It's an even money bet as to who the strike hit worse -- him or Shawn Kemp.
Oh, and then there's this. He seems to like not only being drunk, but driving that way as well. Is the appeal of having Eddie Griffin II on your roster really worth it?
Monday, February 18, 2008
By the numbers, there are well over 1,000 professional athletes in the three major US sporting leagues -- MLB, NBA and NFL.
If you believe the old adage of 1 in 10, or even a dramatically smaller idea of 1 in 100... well, that makes anywhere from 10 to 100 men who are, not to put too fine a point on it, gay.
It also strains the point of credibility to imagine that of all of the people who have played in the past, there has only been a handful -- John Amaechi is the only one that comes to mind -- that have had That Persuasion in the past.
Clearly, the last great closet in the US is sports. And it's going to go away, not just in our lifetimes, but probably in the next 5 to 10 years.
1) Same-sex marriage is an idea whose acceptance is growing rapidly, if you look at the polling numbers and the states that are becoming more accepting of it. What looked like a 20-year slam dunk for conservatives to run against just a few years back has lost a lot of steam.
2) Once it's accepted, you will have an athlete's spouse that will want the security of a long-term relationship -- both from a commitment standpoint, as well as from a financial one. To wit, alimony is a powerful force.
3) Independent of the likelihood of a state-sanctioned relationship for a gay athlete, there's also this -- endorsement dollars. For gay-friendly businesses, a player will be a natural choice for their courage in being the first out. Jackie Robinson may have put up with a lot, but so did Monte Irvin -- and Robinson, if such a role was happening today, would have had a much better deal from the sponsors.
4) The book deal. If Amaechi can get paid for being an unknown NBA center, what are the dynamics for a player who's active, known, and dare we say it, promiscuous?
Now, having said that, there are roles that won't work for a pioneer. (Note that I'm not saying that they can't do it, I'm just saying it's not the role for the first over the breech.)
1) Line play. Way too many opportunities for sudden and exceptional violence from a homophobe.
2) Quarterback or Running Back. Too much scrutiny and screening in earlier levels. Plus, the dirty little secret of both roles is that, unless you've got really exceptional physical gifts, you're pretty replaceable... and if your fullback doesn't want you to live, you won't.
3) Closer. A job in a fishbowl gets even more intense... and once again, it's a very replaceable job.
4) Power forward. Kind of the basketball equivalent of line play, and adding to the fun is that the point guard can freeze you out. They'd stay quiet.
5) Shortstop or Center Field. Usually the best athlete coming up in high school and college, and the role that's most likely to interact strongly with teammates -- second base for the former, the other outfielders for the latter. This position has had eyes on the money prize for a long time, and would do little to jeopardize the payday.
Now, the five roles were I could see a pioneer breaking out of the closet...
1) Punter or kicker. More or less on an island already, and while they might know they are disposable, they also have a certain amount of job security from just having numbers.
2) Wide receiver. The role already has a wide latitude in behavior, and if you've got numbers, you'll keep the gig.
3) Left field. Historically, the position with some of the greatest iconoclasts in the game, as well as the place where you'll find some of the biggest numbers. To wit, if Manny Ramirez came out tomorrow for the Red Sox, they'd probably think that was a win, because it wouldn't be another trade request.
4) Point guard. If you're good, your teammates love you no matter what... and if they don't, you can freeze them out and directly destroy their numbers. If you're a pass-first type in today's NBA, your big man will stand up for you if you were Al-Qaeda, let alone gay.
5) Left-handed reliever. Heck, you don't even have to be good to keep the gig. You get people out, the world will beat a path to your door -- even if that door's in a certain part of town.
Add your wild speculation in the comments...
The list is here, and far be it for me to not point out that while Clemens deserves anything he gets, that doesn't make Pettitte any less of a slime for ratting him out. A pending post will get more into this, albeit obliquely, if you catch my drift...
Your link is here, and the astute reader will notice that I'm treading on Truth's turf in smacking around Mark Prior, but let's face it... the man will spend the rest of his time in MLB answering questions about his physical condition, no matter what else went on that day. He could strike out 20 guys in a Series win, and the question will be how the elbow feels...
Sunday, February 17, 2008
As a further sign of the Apocalyse, I've been invited to a sports blogger round-robin session next week in New York. This will give you all a chance to see just how short and old I am (and yes, there's shortness and oldness a plenty here).
My only regret prior to the taping is that I still have hair, and am not hopelessly overweight. Because if television is any indication, punditry is a fat bald man's game. (At least I've got the White Male thing happening.)
The proceedings will be taped and later shown on the Internets. I'll be sure to link and/or post it here, because I'm assuming that it goes something like this, only with more mentions of the World Wide Lemur.
WHY? BECAUSE I'M NOT GOING TO LEAVE YOU ALONE.
It'll all be worth it if it gets me some of that old-time Faye Dunaway snatch. Mmm, moral-free '70s cynicism snatch...
Sacramento has thrown in the towel for this year, and the Hawks have locked up that first-round playoff loss (because, um, he's not getting them out of a first-round matchup against Boston, Detroit, or even Orlando)... because here's the dirty little not-so-secret about this 29-year-old "point guard."
He hasn't had more than 6.8 assists per game since he was a Vancouver Grizzly.
He hasn't shot 45% from the floor since 2003-04.
He gives you a little more than 3 boards a game, despite logging pretty heavy minutes. And it's not like there hasn't been a lot of loose balls to be had in King Land the last few years, or a dominant big man that's been grabbing up all the boards.
He makes, gulp, $12.5 million a year, is coming off a serious injury...
and is, um, a defensive sieve who hasn't won a playoff series since, again, 2003.
If I had to list a top 10 most overrated players in the NBA, he's the point guard, really.
Now, he can shoot some 3's, has been hot in the playoffs in the past, and is the first player in a Hawks uniform that has actually been through some meaningful games. They didn't give up anything all that meaningful to get him, assuming the deal goes through as originally reported.
But he's just, well, not that good... and that's today, at 29. In the long term in the Eastern Conference, this does nothing to swing the world down Atlanta way.
(Why 8 and not 10? Cause when I don't give 10 to the Carnival, Scrap beats me with his bad hand, the one with the scars. He's a mean, mean, mean pimp.)
Dwight Howard won the dunk contest tonight shortly after donning a Superman cape. In the post-event interview, the talking head asked him if he'd defend his title, and the Orlando man-child greased his exit by saying that he didn't think he'd have any more dunks to do. (Instead of the real answer, that he's going to be be too big of a star to do this nonsense again.)
Now, I'm fine with Howard if he just doesn't want to do this anymore. That's fine. But that there is no more dunks to do? Please. You are 6'-10" and can jump through the ceiling. Try any of these, if you are feeling blocked.
1) Break the ball. Breaking the backboard is old hat. How about bursting the ball as you throw it down?
2) Shoe Fu. Anybody in the NBA can dunk in sneakers. But can you dunk in heels? Fabulous!
3) Electric Boogaloo. If you can do the Worm or a 360 head spin on your way to the rim, I think that's got to wow the judges. Pop and lock, Big Man, pop and lock!
4) The OG. In this one, the dunker pours a 40 at the half court ground for the dunkers that ain't around, then throws down a one-hand dunk while downing a shot. It might not win you the contest, but it's going to do wonders for your jersey sales.
5) Crazy Ass Dunk. Throw down while wearing a straight jacket by cradling the ball between your neck and chest. You won't just fly over the cuckoo's nest, you'll also serve it a facial!
6) Fab Five. A natural tie-in with the current cell phone marketing. Just video yourself in your off hand with a cell phone. If you can upload it to YouTube before your next dunk, you win an endorsement deal from your ISP.
7) The Euro. On this one, the dunker smokes a clove cigarette while chatting up women in the first row, and looks annoyed to be disturbed before throwing down. The actual dunk is soft, but wildly overrated by NBA experts.
8) D-League Tribute. Here, the dunker turns off the television cameras and lights, and throws down for a mostly theoretical audience. It's in there like swimwear, ready like spaghetti, and my transparent opportunity to give Too Much Rod Benson some love.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Your list is here, and hey, who doesn't love robots? Especially more than pitchers? Me, I'm waiting on pitchers to join together and form an even bigger robot...
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
CINCINNATI — Police in southwest Ohio said three members of a freshman high school boys basketball team are expected to be charged Monday with gross sexual imposition after an alleged assault on a teammate.Damn, Marty Moon is going to have a field day with this!
Miami Township Police Chief Steven Bailey said the alleged attack took place Thursday afternoon at Milford High School.
A police officer wrote in a report that the alleged victim said a teammate made him have sexual contact with another teammate.
Bailey would not discuss the exact nature of the alleged attack.
He said the three juveniles are facing at least three criminal charges apiece in Clermont County Juvenile Court on Monday.
This is probably fake, but it's fun anyway.
When everyone loves something, I get twitchy.
This usually pops most in movies and television. I've never seen "Titanic", missed "Forest Gump" in the theaters, took a big miss on "Indiana Jones", "Jaws", "E.T.", most of the recent "Star Wars" movies, etc., etc. I've never watched "American Idol" or "Survivor" or "Everybody Loves Raymond" or "CSI", "Law and Order", and all of those other Must See Shows.
If something reaches a certain critical weight of acceptance, I get uncomfortable with the idea of liking it Just Like Everybody Else.
In politics, I'm one of the 10% that always opposed the current President, even when he was riding high after 9/11. I never liked or trusted the guy, always wondered how a guy in a cave could really have pulled it off without help or breathtaking incompetence, and knew that in the long run, we were probably in greater danger from oil companies than we were from suicidal extremists. The oil companies just seemed, you know, more persistent and professional about the whole thing. I always opposed the war in Iraq, and even questioned how effective a war with Afghanistan would be. It seemed like we were escalating criminals to martyrs, creating the next batch with our presence, and turning what could have been a police matter into an excuse for Eternal War, rather then getting the hell off oil so that we could wash our hands of the whole cursed area.
Clearly, I am not a Patriot.
So when Patriot Fan, in his never-ending quest to make everything in the NFL be about His Struggle, pulls out the You Liked Us In 2002 And You Only Hate Us Now Because You're Jealous card...
Um, well, Sadly No.
The 2002 Patriots got to the Super Bowl on a gift, a play that, regardless of the rule book, had never been called that way before, especially not in the final minutes of a playoff game. And if the play had been reversed, and if it were Rich Gannon shaking off the apparent fumble to lead the Raiders to a last-minute win, I'm pretty sure that it would have gone into the NFL history books for what it was -- as an epic screw job. But since the Patriots were a feel-good story and the Oakland Raiders are the closest thing the NFL has to a Designated Heel, no one really seemed to mind.
At the time of Tuckgate, I was living in Northern California, having been out there for a couple of years after a move from Philadelphia. I didn't know that many Raiders fans -- the area is full of transplants, so everyone you meet is originally from somewhere else -- but having moved out of the Philly area before the Iverson/McNabb Resurrection, I hadn't been in an area in Playoff Fever for a while. I was pulling for the Raiders, maybe only about 55-45, but after Tuckgate, it became more like 70-30.
The Pats then continued to pull off wins where they really weren't demonstrably better than their opponent, building a bandwagon of support. Meanwhile, one of the best teams of the era, the St. Louis Rams, a team that you could really enjoy just watching if you only ignored the existence of Brenda Warner and Georgia Frontiere, defeated my Eagles at home in a game where the Eagles played really well. Just like in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, the Eagles took away everything but the ground game, McNabb played at a high level, and afterwards, there was a feeling that while my team didn't win, at least I knew they had fallen to greatness.
And then the Super Bowl happened, and the Patriots won and the US invaded and my television was filled with Happy War and the Heroes of 9/11 and Those Oh So Wonderful Patriots Who Refused To Be Introduced As Individuals.
And all of it struck me as complete bullcrap then, and complete bullcrap now.
So no, Pats Fan, everyone didn't love you in 2002. But while we're continuing to talk about you, your favorite and only subject...
Look, here's a dirty little secret about sports fans that only fantasy sports and betting tends to alleviate; if my team doesn't win the championship, on some level, I don't really give a damn who does. I have no back-up team that I root for. I only have individuals that I root against, and if enough of them are on one team, that swells to critical mass level and we've got a whole team to hate.
In my life as a football fan, Pittsburgh, Denver, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington and the Giants have won multiple Super Bowls. The Cowboys employed showboats and druggies. The Giants come with Giants Fan, who's about as much fun to be near as root canal. Denver had John Elway, his never-ending teeth, and their leg-whipping offensive linemen. Washington's fans are likely employed by the government and hate on the three parts of the District that aren't safe and white.
I hated all of those teams, dully, because they were not My Team and they got to experience multiple years of joy, whereas my team always ended the year with a loss. (To be sure, I was always soft on the Niners for beating the Cowboys and just being fun to watch. But I digress.)
Only New England, sweet, precious, can't stop looking in its own navel and insisting that everyone else come look and confirm that it's an innie or an outie New England...
Only New England, with its constant puling that they've been oppressed while being, on any objective level, ridiculously blessed when it comes to Hall of Fame players and stadiums to watch them in...
Only this area, this cauldron of media wanking, this bastion of pants-wetting Lite Brite Phobes and spoiled children... only you, really, have reached This Level Of Ire. (And yes, I know, it's all because the Internet makes the eternal bleatings of New England Fan a click away at any moment. The sports blogosphere has become one huge bad tooth.)
And no, it doesn't stop just because you've spit the bit in this epic and wonderful fashion, and have become the Manning Family Bitch.
The Patriots could lose every game next year, and I wouldn't feel an ounce of sympathy for their fans.
They could have their Hall of Fame coach, cheat and adulterer gunned down in a lover's spat in a bar, and the only thing that would pass through my consciousness is a vague dread of hearing the week's worth of eulogies.
Their baseball team could go 80-plus years without a championship. and that'd be Just Peachy, really.
Their basketball team could have its first round picks die of drug overdoses while shooting each other, and I'd consider that all to be Karmic Payback.
And maybe then, just maybe, New England Fan would... drum roll, please...
SHUT THE HELL UP ABOUT THEIR COLLECTIVE FAN EXPERIENCE.
Because, um, the rest of us
DO NOT CARE, WILL NOT CARE, AND HAVE OUR OWN CRAP TO DEAL WITH, THANK YOU.
Thank you, and good night.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Even as the controversy surrounding Roger Clemens intensifies, the pitcher plans to attend an ESPN sponsored event at Disney World later this month. Representatives for Clemens late last week informed ESPN that he will stick to his scheduled promotional appearance over the weekend of Feb. 29-March 2.I have this image in my head of the Rocket going from ride to ride as people clear out of lines, rather than meet His Terrible Gaze. Finally, he goes to the carnival prize games and forlornly pumps fastball after fastball into the milk jug game, but his command is off, so he "pulls a hamstring" and limps off as that ominous music from "There Will Be Blood" plays in the background. The carnie apologizes frantically, sobbing, trying to give the Rocket the biggest prize, but he refuses to take it. A week later, four bodies are found.
Clemens was scheduled to serve as a top draw at "ESPN The Weekend" before the Mitchell Report was released in December that alleged he had used steroids multiple times--and the network began running an on-air spot promoting it. But the day the report came out, ESPN pulled the humorous ad, citing Clemens' role in a controversial news story. -- Media Post
Far be it for me to look this gift horse video in the mouth. But it could have gone so much farther. Where's the turn by Wade Philiips as Sergeant Schultz? The Goebbels-like big lies of ex-Cowboy announcers on Fox? The twisted experiments to get Jimmy Johnson's hair to look like that? The goose-step touchdown celebrations for Mssrs. Owens Et Al?
You know, folks, in the wake of Masshole Puling, we've forgotten all about the Cowboys year. 13-3, and yet all they will be remembered for is the following.
(This would be your cue to wave your lighter in the air, though I suspect it's all cell phones now. Sway a little, too.)
And forgetting the Cowboys epic choke job and loss at home would be... wait for it... wait for it... just not fair!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Nothing like starting the week off with a fresh load of hate, says I. Blame the Pro Bowl.
But on the bright side, at least I haven't resorted to covering American Gladiators... yet.
I feel great joy for them because I know in a lot of ways I helped a lot of guys on that team. I know Brandon (Jacobs) was someone who benefited from me being there; even criticizing someone is a way of getting them to think about themselves. -- Tiki Barber, on his reaction to the Giants winningNo, seriously.
Coming up next in the Greatest Sports Shadenfraude Story Ever Told... Tiki is fired from his vital omelette-making and NFL chuckle-dick work, then loses all of his other assets in divorce and child support payments. Turning to the public for help, he's pelted with rocks and garbage, then turns to drugs and the bottle.
Two years later, he's beaten to death in a bum fight with fellow hobo Jeremy Shockey. The team, after many months of consideration, puts a split number memorial on their jerseys, but pulls them off after the subsequent four-game losing streak. Giants Fan refuses to admit that he ever owned the jersey of either of them. Three years after that, his life story is depicted in a slapstick comedy starring Chris Tucker and Dane Cook, which furthers the legend of Football's Biggest Loser Ever by bombing. Ronde renounces his twinship, gets busted on a child predator hidden camera show, and dies in prison. "Pulling a Tiki" becomes cultural shorthand for any boneheaded and completely disastrous decision, and male haircutters all over the world refuse to identify themslves as "Barbers" anymore.
After that, it gets bad.