Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mission: Cut The Cheese

SCENE opens in RAY BOCCHINO's restaurant. NICO BELLIC enters.

BOCCHINO: Nico, come in. How the hell are you?

BELLIC: I am a soulless killing machine. I am carrying enough guns and ammunition to take down an army battalion. I have slaughtered thousands, committed scores of atrocities, and can barely operate a motor vehicle without putting my fellow man in grave peril. I also carry hundreds of thousands of dollars on my person at all times. I am Death, the destroyer of worlds.

Despite all of these things, I am here to do your peculiar and difficult task.

BOCCHINO: Sorry, I stopped paying attention, because I was snorting cocaine and arguing with a junkie stereotype.

STEREOTYPE: Give me more drugs!

BOCCHINO: No, you whore! (To Nico) Would you like some cocaine?

BELLIC: No, because even though I've killed more people than I can count, I wouldn't want to set a bad example by using drugs.

BOCCHINO: Ha Ha! You know what, I like you, Nico, despite the fact that you're overwhelmingly likely to kill me fairly soon. That's why I'm going to give you a peculiar and difficult task. Are you familiar with American football?

BELLIC: Is that the game where grown men reach into each other's ass crack and slap each other violently? Because I haven't made a remark relating to homophobia or gay sex for over five minutes now, and I'm starting to feel out of sorts.

BOCCHINO: Ha Ha! Yes, yes, very good. I have this friend Ted, and he has little problem with one of his players, a quarterback named Brett. He wants him dealt with.

BELLIC: Forgive me, but is this really a job for an indiscriminate killer? It sounds more like a tickle fight at the Triangle Lounge to me.

BOCCHINO: It's not that simple. You see, Brett has pull with many of the team's fans, and Ted wants him gone. But it can't look like an inside job, or Ted will take the fall. So I need you to go to the Modo clothing store in Algonquin and get yourself some new threads. Call me when you're ready.

BELLIC: Wait. Before I go perform what is sure to be multiple killings and a high speed chase with countless police officers, how much money will I make?

BOCCHINO: Teddy just tried to give Brett $20 million to stay away from the team, and he didn't take it. So we can give you $50,000 to just kill him.

BELLIC: It's a deal.

(End cut scene)

DRIVE to clothing store and purchase the right outfit.

BELLIC (on cell phone): OK, I got the stuff.

BOCCHINO: Great. Ted tells me that Brett's holed up in his shack in the Liberty City Bayou. Go there and take him -- and anyone that's with him -- out. We can't have any witnesses.

BELLIC: Wait, if I'm to leave no witnesses, why am I wearing this shirt?

BOCCHINO: Shut up! You knew the job was peculiar and difficult!

BELLIC: Fine, fine... I'm on it.

BOCCHINO: Oh, and if you fail or get caught, you're dead to me until the next time you see me, at which point we'll act as if this never happened, and you can do this all over again.

BELLIC: Of course.

DRIVE to Brett's hideout. KILL dozens of obese BRETT fans. Invade the cabin and execute BRETT.

(Five minutes and dozens of dead obese guys with shotguns later)

BRETT: Please don't kill me! I've got so much to live for! Or not! I just changed my mind! Go ahead and shoot me! Only, not right now. I'll call you when I'm ready to die, but first, let me call the media. I can't do anything without them!

(Gunshot, End Cut Scene, Autosave and Sting Music happens)

BELLIC (on phone): Bocchino? It's done. Thank for the $50,000 that has suddenly appeared in my wallet.

BOCCHINO: Excellent, Nicky. Man, you wonder why Teddy didn't think of this sooner, it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble, and Brett's fans would still be alive. Anyway, call me later -- there's another quarterback that Teddy wants to spring out of prison. You'll get to use helicopters and rocket launchers and do an incredible amount of damage.

BELLIC: Sounds fun. But first, I have to go eat something, so that I can stop bleeding and being near death.

Apocalypse Manny

Let's see... the Sox trade an aging RH OF with a .926 OPS and a bad attitude for a 30-year-old RH OF with an .894 OPS. (Given that Fenway's more of a hitter's park, you could make the argument that Boston just got better in every aspect, actually.)

Also, to make sure it happened, Boston had to pick up $7 million of the contract, because actual baseball evaluators think Jason Bay is (shh!) better. Seeing how he's not, you know, an idiotic distraction.

But, well, it's Boston. Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth commence!

In My Time Of Wanking

I am convinced that, at some point, the Lemur will just drop the pretense and stop covering actual games entirely in the weeks before a Trade Deadline. Because, really, who wants to cover what actually happened when we could speculate about what might happen instead?

On the off chance that you are smarter than me and haven't been paying attention, the latest athlete who feels that we need to be informed 24/7/365 of their relative happiness at drawing a paycheck at his current address is Manny Ramirez.

Since this happened in Boston and the little dears just get all verklempt if you don't pay attention to their every burp, hiccup and bowel movement, the non-stop speculation on where he's going (Florida? The Mets? Hell?) and what the Red Sox might get in return and could they ever live without him oh my god oh my god oh my god click on another link to see what some other talking out of his anus Boston feeb has to say about it.

Look, chowds. I know your world is coming to an end, because your world is always coming to an end, but the whole Manny Experience... really isn't all that important to the rest of us, and probably not even to you. He's just not that great anymore, and he's not going to get any better. The Yankees had this exact situation last year in whether or not to sign Bobby Abreu, which is to say, a reasonably good player who's expensive and not getting any better. They bit the bullet and signed him. It wasn't really a story.

The Sox are dangerous if (and only if) David Ortiz is one of the ten best hitters in the American League in the last two months of the season, and if the pitching holds up. They're also a lot better defensively on the road when ManRam isn't in left wandering around like an ADD kid, so losing him isn't exactly the end of the world.

Besides, even with the Yankees taking on passengers for the stretch run (nice of the Tigers to give them a fairly useful Ivan Rodriguez for the eternally doomed Kyle Farnsworth, especially since the deal with Pittsburgh for Damaso Marte, and the emergence of Jose Veras, made him more of a 6th inning option than the 8th), the Sawx are a better than even-money bet to make the post-season, since no one really expects the Rays to be left standing in a three-way dance with the charter members of MLB+.

(A small moment on the Tigers. Kyle Farnsworth? WTF? Why not take Brian Bruney instead, who's the same pitcher for a tenth of the money? This isn't the NBA, when you're hoping to take expiring contracts against the cap. Idiots. Anyway...)

Back to ManRam. But instead of, I don't know, reporting on things that matter, or restraining themselves to a contained rumor segment for all of the fast twitch fantasy honks who have skin in the Manny game, the Lemur has gone into full Missing White Girl panic over this. They've also got to take the idiot's bait when he holds up a Brett Favre sign, because there's nothing they like more than when the meal makes its own sauce.

Oh, and Manny? Kudos to you for making what is an absolutely ordinary baseball transaction about race. As if the Red Sox would have been better off with a broken-down Pedro Martinez or Nomar Garciaparra. As if Sox Fan won't happily cheer anyone who gets them wins. Hell, they tolerate JD Drew, and he strangles puppies with the entrails of hobo children. (Allegedly.) As if a man who is getting paid what you are getting paid -- i.e., somewhere along the lines of, oh, the second most money in baseball -- has the grounds to cry foul when his employer doesn't sign up for the tail end of your career, you know, when you get fat and lazy and defensively deficient, with eroding offensive numbers. (Oh, wait, that's already...)

No, Manny, by all means, cry race in a town that's got long-standing problems in that regard. Make the pie higher for the Mass-Wide Lemur. Elevate Kevin Youkilis to the status of Jeff Kent -- heck, go all the way and claim that since he's a Jew, Youk is controlling the media coverage of this to, you know, make you look like an utter jackass.

Meanwhile, the fans of the other MLB teams -- even the non MLB+ ones! Gosh, we still exist! Isn't that, you know, quaint? -- will wait and be thankful when it (Manny, the Lemur's existence, our waning interest in baseball) is all over. One more month until football, folks...

Politically Correct Fantasy Football Team Names

Normally I don't go for PC bashing, because you wind up giving aid and comfort to people who really don't need, want, or deserve it... but let's face it, the guys that are playing fantasy football could care less about offending anyone, and to not serve their naming needs would be, well, offensive.

Besides, one of these might get that overly serious progressive in your league to crack a smile, assuming his granola girlfriend lets him enter the league at all. (And yes, I do have one specific person in my life in mind...)

As always, all names should fit in the Yahoo space limit.

Low Penalty Footprint

Pacifism Challenged

W/Cruelty Free Leather

Plus Sized Receivers

Fast Defense Advance

Uniquely Able Teams

Place Kick Hims

Male Gland Control

Time Of Non-Sharing

Washington Just Skins

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Sports Uses For A Time Machine

Today's list defines pain on a lot of levels. Come wallow with me... and contribute your own fix moments in the comments.

Houston's New Problem

FTT's favorite team cancer and wildly overrated NBA player is getting some new laundry. The Houston Rockets become the dumb pick to become an actual title contender by giving up a fairly worthless draft pick, an expiring contract (attached to the spent Bobby Jackson) and another player (reputed to be rookie forward Donte Greene) for the knucklehead. The Rockets are also expected to take some human ballast that goes by the name of Patrick Ewing Jr. and Sean Singletary to make the deal work.

If you want to look on the bright side of life, Testy is going to perhaps the only coach he's ever loved. Rick Adelman had him for the last half of the 05-06' Honeymoon Period in Sactown, and he milked him for 17, 5 and 4, along with a first-team NBA All-Defense selection. If he has his head on straight, the theory goes, he'll give the Rockets an imposing defensive lineup, with your crunch time five consisting of two stoppers (him and Shane Batier), two sieves (Rafer Alston and Yao Ming), and one situational (Tracy McGrady, who has the Kobe Ability to be good defensively when he chooses to expend the energy).

If you're the Rockets, I guess you had to do this deal. It's not like you're going to get this collection of talents for this rock-bottom price (seriously, Green should be the only thing that matters from the Kings side, and it's not as if he's a lock to make it, especially for a Kings franchise that's looking like it's packing light for the Las Vegas or Seattle moving vans). But what people don't get about Testy is that he's actually a pretty terrible basketball player. His muscles are for show, as the eternally bad rebounding numbers show -- we're talking about a 6'-7", 248=pound specimen (read: probable juicer) that plays major minutes, and gets just over a rebound a quarter. He's also one of those guys who shouldn't be allowed to touch the ball outside of the three point arc, and he likes to jack it up from there a lot.

This, of course, doesn't even get into the sideshow mainshow that is Testy. If your team's losing, he gets bored and bails. If your team's winning, he's still a ticking time bomb with the refs, coaches, opposing fans, and life. He's also, not to put to fine a point on it, a genuinely bad human being, even by infamous athlete standards: witness the dog abuse stuff that went on in Sactown, let alone the pull the pin and toss the grenade routine that single-handedly destroyed the Pacers. This is just a guess, but I'm thinking that he's responsible for Jermaine O'Neal becoming useless, too.

Well, let the pretending begin, Houston Fan. Maybe this is the year that brittle big man Yao Ming finally stays healthy. Or that Rafer Alston isn't really a deluxe backup masquerading as a starter. Or that two guys with ineffective offensive games (Battier and Testy) can trade off the wing positions and not chafe each other -- heck, just having a franchise with eventual presidential candidate Battier with eventual convicted felon Testy makes the Rockets the sports blogosphere's go-to team. Oh, and that Rick Adelman, of all people, can crack the whip and make them all stay in line. Me, I'll put money down under the Tracy McGrady Loses In The First Round prop bet. That's worked out swimmingly for me for years.

What would I have done? Signed the surprising and effective Carl Landry, given him the starting minutes, saved yourself the heartache, and worked on the glaring Achilles' heels that are really going to doom this franchise over the next few years: the fact that they don't have a point guard on the roster that can stay with Chris Paul or Deron Williams, and that Yao is a terrible on-the-ball defender and a guy who's longing for Ziggy Ilgauskas's durability. But now, all of that gets forgotten about, because the circus has come to town.

And if you think I'm wrong, find a Kings fan -- I'm sure there still are some, it's not like those cow tippers have anything else to watch -- that tells you he's really going to miss Testy, and that he'll fondly look back on his tenure in the capital for all of the wins and winning play. Good luck finding that guy. (OTOH, I was the guy who thought the Celtics would never get Garnett, and that when they did get him, he wasn't going to be enough to get them a ring. So start printing up Finals tickets.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

C is for Cubs... and Class

This summer, I've been taking the Shooter Eldest to a handful of different stadiums. First it was Yankee, then Shea, and then Camden Yards, just to give her a sense of how things were in other places, and to give the wife a break. (Like all 8-year-olds, she is a great and tireless being.) Because I try to keep her from any potentially ugly crowd scene, this involves a lot of planning, buying tickets in alcohol-free sections when possible, avoiding strong rivalry games, and the like.

Sometimes, I think I overdo the protectiveness, but I'm not a big guy, and they are only small once, you know? It's not as if we need to go to games so badly as to risk something stupid, on top of the expense.

And then something like this comes over the wires, and you wonder if, perhaps, exposing your kids to sports isn't just out and out child abuse.


McHenry County authorities say three Chicago Cubs fans face felony battery charges after allegedly beating a Chicago White Sox fan so badly he lost his right eye. The men are accused of beating 32-year-old Robert Steele of Gurnee during a 2-year-old girl's Sesame Street-themed birthday party. Police said Monday the men were drinking alcohol at the July 19th party and taunting Steele.
(H/t, Chicago Tribune, via Deadspin.)

Normally, I'd react with the usual snarkiness to such things, and the Deadspin commenters did their usual fine work, with profane Sesame Street songs, William Ligue references and the like. But I'm more interested, for the moment, with wondering what this all means, when three men in their '30s feel that sudden and horrific violence is what's called for in the case of finding an Enemy Fan.

Does the quick dissemination of news, especially novel and stupid and bad news like this story, just mean that we hear about all of the dumb as dirt violent morons that we might not have heard about before? Or is it that stories like this help to encourage the sub-humans out there towards greater creativity in their violence... or that the Web helps these geniuses to be exposed to each other, and therefore, to hate each other more?

I'm not sure on any of it. What I am sure of is that grown men decided to throw down at a 2-year-old's birthday party, and used sports as their pathetic excuse for it.

There's a phenomenon where, when idiots enjoy something, it ruins it for you. I play Grand Theft Auto and like it a lot; I'd rather watch Fox News then play it online with a nation of fast-twitchers. It's just not something that I'm thinking I need company for, and I'm sure that if I got into a lot of conversations with other players about it, I'd like it less.

The same goes, one suspects, for sports with people who identify with it so much as to be moved towards violence... and not even violence against a referee or player, which while totally unjustifiable, at least has a glimmer of reason in the madness. No, they are ready to maim someone who, at most, irritated them with his allegiance and/or trash talk. In front of kids. Little kids.

And some part of me would be OK with their team ceasing to exist now, just because it seems like it would be the only thing that would get through their little reptilian brains, that maybe committing unjustifiable acts of violence (and no, I'm not much caring if there was liquor involved; the liquor got in the mouth without coercion, one suspects) isn't just something that gets you arrested and sued, but with any kind of civic responsibility, shunned from all human contact for, oh, most of the rest of your life.

Now, back to the puppets.

Epic Drop: Top 10 Unanswered Olympic Questions

Your link is here, and Gentle Reader, trust me that the image search was not fun.

Also, don't look too closely at the image. You won't like it.

Now, if y'all will excuse me... it's home for an utter lack of dinner!

Yes, Quite

From the special needs PR people who write the Sixers e-mails (I do love them -- they're an excellent source of unintentional comedy)...

76ers President and GM Ed Stefanski announced this week that the team has signed free agent guards Kareem Rush and Royal Ivey. Both add solid defense and a threatening long-range shot, while Ivey provides an additional option at point guard.
Emphasis mine.

Now, I don't much care who the Sixers sign to cut in training camp; it makes no difference to me, the NBA, or anyone outside of the eight people in the world who care about summer league records. But, um, why bother putting them into a press release, and why call their outside shots "threatening"? What, exactly, is being threatened? The backboards? The rims? The eyesight of casual onlookers?

If Ivey or Rush could shoot at an NBA level, they wouldn't be the basketball equivalent of Kelly Girl Temps. If either plays more than 200 minutes of regular season play this year for the Sixers, it means that Andre Miller has gotten hurt, Kevin Ollie has been put down for humane reasons, and the team has ceased to resemble an NBA franchise or, well, basketball. That, my dear Stefanski, is the threat. (Or, if you prefer, the threatening.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Reasons Why You Won't Win Your Fantasy Football League

A real heart-warmer of a list today over at the Carnival, containing brief clue and holes as who this Shooter guy is, really. And isn't that really what you're here for?

Truly Intimidating Fantasy Football Team Names

Looking to inspire fear among your fellow fantasy football nerdlings? Then just use one of our handy-dady names from this here list of violence, mayhem and hate. You might not win, but someone else will certainly lose! (As always, all names fit in the standard Yahoo spacing.)

I've Killed Before

Burning Flesh Fresh

Gun and Tower Fun

End Times Ballers

Vig Collectors

Baby Eaters

Eye Contacts Fist

Special Turk Visit

Drink And Get Stabby

OJ Is My Hero

Oakland Raider Fan

Organ Harvesters

You Will Become Ill

Money or Thumbs

League Commissioner

Legacy, Schmegacy: 24/7/365/4

For the formative years of my life as a sports fan, Steve Carlton was the single constant on the mound for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was cold, precise, mostly implacable, and spent his days in dismissive dominance of opposing hitters, with a sailing high fastball that set up a biting slider. The vast majority of his strikeouts -- and there were more of those than just about anyone before him, especially lefties -- consisted of feeble swings in the dirt, with the hitter seemingly on his way back to the dugout before the ball even reached the catcher. When he was on his game, it's as if the hitter wasn't even involved. Visually, he was incredibly striking, and I memorized everything about his motion, just because you always expected him to do something special when he was on the mound.

He also spent his last years as a pitcher, after having reached 300 wins while still relatively effective, shuffling around like an itinerant salesman among the competitive backwaters of the American League. For the most part, Philly Fan tried not to watch; it was too painful, like watching an older relative succumb to a crippling disease.

In a very long heyday rivaled by, depending on your tastes and analysis, no one who had ever held the position, Willie Mays patrolled center field like he invented it. Arriving at a ridiculously early age, he put together years where he was simply the best offensive and defensive player of his league, and while he never quite caught the public adoration of the San Francisco Giants fans in the same way that he did in New York, he was still respected and feared for his prowess late into his '30s.

In his last years as a player, he famously had problems keeping his feet in a World Series for the Mets, creating a soul-crushing buzzkill that people still talk about today, partly because of the relatively limited national awareness of baseball players due to limited country-wide television coverage (at the time). If you were to stop baseball fans of a certain age on the street and ask them their most vivid memory of Mays, far too many would remember the old man helpless on the ground for the You Gotta Believe Mets.

One more. Reggie White was the dominant defensive end of his age, a remarkably quick and powerful force that got to the quarterback with consistency and force. On the dominant defensive unit of their (and given the weakness of their offense, potentially any other) era, he was the biggest star, and someone who usually commanded a double team and a constant one-on-one camera. The man had years of well over a sack a game, and whenever he got heat early, you could count on other members of the defense picking up sacks like less accomplished members of the pride, as Mufasa White doled out the spoils to his lieutenants.

After leaving Philadelphia in a remarkably ham-fisted contract negotiation that did him and the odious Norman Braman no favors, White got his Super Bowl title with the Brett Favre Packers. You could make the argument that he had more to do with the title than Number Four. (You'd also be wrong, but in the current climate of 24/7/365/4, no one would blame you.)

After a retirement that didn't take, White returned for an utterly forgettable Panthers team. In his last year as a professional, he recorded 5.5 of his career 198 sacks, or roughly 40% of his output in a typical year. When he finally did retire, most fans either shrugged with the reminder that he had still played football in the first place, or sighed in relief that he wasn't going to disgrace his legacy any more.

And that, if you'll forgive the overly long set-up, is the crux of today's biscuit: your legacy.

For most of us workaday clock watchers, the legacy isn't really what we're doing to put food on the table. No one, it is seriously hoped, will have their manager reworking the highlights of past performance evaluations for the eulogy; that will be determined by our children, be they creative or physical or both.

So none of us will have the curious experience of having to think about that aspect of our postmortem existence... unless you are a professional athlete.

Is there any wonder that they screw it up so badly?

Brett Favre will be known to an entire generation of fans not for his strong arm, occasionally startling accuracy, creativity while scrambling, durability, iconic joie de vive or any of his other laudable characteristics. He won't even be known for the picks, the dome field weirdness, or the wild high early negative points.

Instead, he'll be known for the shambling mess that will be the next uniform he wears, the remarkable trainwreck that was the end of his time in Wisconsin, and the narcissistic wankfest that he's conducted over his cosmically insignificant career plans.

Whenever an athlete does what Favre is doing right now in the future -- and there will be many, given the ever-increasing lack of perspective past one's navel -- he'll be pulling a Favre. (By the way, the only thing keeping this from staying with its rightful inventor and owner -- Roger Clemens -- is the fact that steroid investigations have overwhelmed that story.) Maybe he'll also be known for the relentless media mouthjobs while the general public soured of the act long before the media caught wind; that, too, seems to be a telling characteristic of the age.

But here's the next and ugliest piece of the story for Packer Fan, who has to feel like the pig on the spit at an eternal luau over this... Favre doesn't give a rat's ass about his legacy, and probably thinks, in his heart of hearts, that anyone who does is an idiot.

We know that athletes don't really have rivalry hate, for the most part. All that we ask is that they pretend a little, or maybe just not rub it in our noses quite so much. But this disregard for how one is perceived later is new, and speaks to the essential hubris of the age, in that they all think they're going to become part of the media and fix things later. (Witness how Michael Irvin is no longer a desperate drug fiend, Deion Sanders is no longer a relentless money-hungry mercenary, and Emmit Smith is no longer intelligent.)

We accept this from people who aren't household names, or from anyone with a clear need for the money, especially if they haven't achieved much in the way of off-field endorsements. But Number Four was supposed to be above that, given the team that he played for, the endorsement dollars that he made (is he still hawking Prilosec heartburn pills? Give him credit for irony), and the constant media mouth jobs he's received.

At the end, herein lies the lesson, once again: athletes only care about the money, and think anyone that talks about this other stuff is at best naive, and at worst, disingenuous.

Because, really, who among us is ready to rest on our laurels in their mid to late 30s, under the idea that we aren't any good at it any more?

So by the time you read this, maybe Favre will be on his way to some place where the laundry will look garish and stupid -- I'd send him to Baltimore, myself, or maybe Al Davis, who still remembers fondly his own Jerry Rice years in Oakland, will make the move.

He'll play for a while there, and find that fewer and fewer people will care about his exploits or his career plans. In five to ten years, he'll have his jersey retired in Green Bay from people who, though the media will never admit this in a month of Sundays, weren't all that into him, given the number of back-breaking and season-ending picks he threw over the years.

And maybe, just maybe, people will start to remember how he played, rather than how he ended.

But I'm thinking the Willie Mays route is more likely.

Fantasy Football Team Names That Could Get You Laid

Judging by the site traffic these days, many of you are looking for a fantasy football team name, and as always, we're here to help... and we're setting the bar high, dammit.

Use these names to overwhelm your Dungeons & Dragons-esque social handicap. Just remember to thank us when you get some, preferably in the throes of passion, and post it on YouTube. We don't ask for much. As always, they all fit in the Yahoo limit.

High Flex Position

Punt, Pass and Cuddle

My Only Diversion

Cash I Win For You

Handcuffs Optional

Colt 45 Defense

Jason Taylor Dancers

I Also Cook And Clean

Monogamy Insurance

Required For Work

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Sports Stories You Can Safely Ignore

Here's today's link, and how many times do people need to go down the Will The Sawx Trade Manny rabbit hole? Seriously, people... they aren't, they won't, and even if they wanted to, he makes an ungodly amount of money, and there's only a half dozen teams in the league that could take him... and most of them don't want him. He'll finish his contract in Boston, and then they'll let him walk. After that happens, he'll discover his true market value (i.e., half of his current salary), and wind up signing back with Boston for a significant pay cut... and as soon as he's not above league replacement, they'll cut him.

So, really, can we just not go here, again?

Oh, and lots more after the click. Go, enjoy.

27 Innings, And No Run In One

Today in Oakland, in a 6-5 win over the Rangers, Oakland rookie reliever Brad Ziegler got six outs in two innings of work, including three strikeouts. He then gave way to Huston Street, who got the save, but that's not important. (Indeed, after the Harden Sale, nothing Oakland does for the rest of the year will be important, but let's move on.)

What makes Ziegler's innings noteworthy is the fact that this now gives him 27 scoreless to start the career... which breaks a 100-year-old record by a Phillies right-hander (the immortal George McQuillan).

Now, the record means nothing, but the interesting part to me is how the A's managed to get something useful out of this career ham-and-egger, by teaching him the extreme side-armed motion that have given him new life. The useful bullpen work is one of the ways in which the organization manages to remain upright, if not, you know, a threat.

Anyway, kudos to Ziegler, who, if he's able to do this kind of thing for another year or two, will get dealt to some team where he can actually make above the league minimum. Keep chasing that dream, sidewinder...

Slippery When Meaningless

From today's AP re-post on the Lemur... a list of minor sports champions since the 1983 Sixers team, under the idea that the past 25 years, under the idea that indoor soccer, Arena Football, lacrosse, minor league hockey and world team tennis somehow compensate.

Um, Lemur? Screw you. If I'm going to read about the Philadelphia Soul winning the ArenaBowl today, I know I'm slumming, and I don't really need to have my nose rubbed into it with freaking team tennis.

Anyway, Jon Bob Jovi and Ron Jaworski are your winners tonight, because no one knows anyone on the Soul, or ever will. Now, if they get a parade and tens of thousands of people show up? Then, the Lemur can rub our noses in it, and we'll deserve it. (Even more than our Wing Bowl fetish. Gah.)

Chamberlain, Without Appeasement

I had the Yankees-Red Sox game on during the monthly poker game on Friday night, since some of my crew are Yankee fans, and I try to be a good host. So we caught the latest Joba Chamberlain throwing at Kevin Youkilis dustup, which made Yankee Fan in attendance happier than pocket aces.

The quick details, for those of you who missed this, not that I'm sure the Lemur allows you to... Chamberlain, in the midst of his best start in the majors, is pitching in the seventh with a 1-0 lead. On a 2-0 count to Youkilis, he comes up and in and nearly kills the guy. Tempers flare, Youkilis barks, and Chamberlain goes on to strike him out. All of which wouldn't be that big of a deal, if it weren't the fourth -- fourth! -- time that Chamberlain has gotten up and in on Youkilis.

Now, I'm not going to defend the actions of the pitcher or the hitter. I've owned both of these guys in my roto leagues, but don't now, and so, I'm not terribly interested in defending either. Nor am I very interested in choosing sides in the Coke vs. Pepsi war. But what did interest me is the reaction of Yankee Fan, who couldn't love Chamberlain more now, and probably never will appreciate the player more than they do today.

Here's the thing about Joba that Yankee Fan loves -- he's young. Too young to know better about rivalries being mostly for the amusement of fans. Too young to care that a suspension could come, or that he'll be ostracized at the All-Star Game or in the off-season and off-time bars where players from other teams are hanging out. Too young to notice that the older veterans on the team, particularly the ones with hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank and off-field worries (Mr. Rodriguez, your alimony lawyer is on line two), don't really appreciate it when the young pitchers on both teams start ramping up the Hatfield-McCoy stuff.

So when the Sawx's Craig Hansen hits A-Rod in the midst of what wound up as a 10-3 pants-wetting panic loss for Boston Fan yesterday, bringing the Yankees even in the loss column and the latest in their 8-game post All-Star winning streak, the Yankees didn't rush the field, or glower at the young pitcher, or provide anything but measured responses in the clubhouse afterward. They won't, because with the handful of exceptions, they are old enough to know better, and haven't been together for long enough (especially, say, in the minor leagues) to have that kind of team dynamic.

Yankee Fan, like all fans, hates that. Yankee Fan, like most fans, would rather be watching football, and anytime baseball is more like football, they're liking it a little bit more, even if it does come at the cost of having a stray baserunner or two. It's also a reason (albeit a small one) why Yankee Fan is frequently an angry fan, despite the success and the Stadium and the limitless resources; when you have no attachment to the players, because they've all been bought and all know better, you are, well... spoiled brats, bullies, and apologists for the same. But I still like you lots more than I do Sox Fan, because at least you aren't expecting me to be happy for you after your team rapes mine.

Today, it's John Lester for the Sox, and Fat Sidney Ponson for the Yanks, in the required by law Sunday Night Game on the Lemur. If Ponson wants to extend his unlikely popularity in the Bronx, he'll hit a guy. If he wants to actually remain employed, he'll pitch well. And that is the difference between fans and management, young and old, and guys who sell jerseys and guys that do not.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Achievement

Sad news today, as Randy Pausch (the "Last Lecture" guy, who I've linked to before on this blog) has passed away at age 47.

Which makes the title of this blog a little callous sounding, but only if you haven't watched the lecture.

I don't have much to add to this, other than to say that if you haven't played the video, you really need to. It's that good, and it would be that good independent of any other event. It's 75 minutes, and you couldn't spend them in any better of a way... especially if you're a father.



It will remind you of a central and amazing truth about life... it's as good as you want to make it. Mine's good, and getting better. Hope you're doing as well or better.

In the future, trends happen faster

A week ago, I wrote about the Euro Menace of foreign teams poaching the NBA for players thanks to the exchange rate. At the time, the biggest name that went was Carlos Delfino, which is to say, not a very big name at all. But since then, ever-increasing quality has shown up in the Euro signings, starting with Bostjan Nachbar (decent rotation player for last year's Nets), moving to Josh Childress (borderline sixth man of the year candidate for last year's Hawks), and now, possibly, Lakers sixth man and Finals flopper enfant terrible Sasha Vujacic.

Now, it's quite possible that Vujacic is just using the Euro Threat to get a bigger deal out of the Lakers, since no other NBA team is going to make him a big offer, seeing how the Lakers can just match it. It's also possible that if he does go, it's not really that big of a deal; while he's emerging as a good three-point threat, he's still a guy that's not likely to get to double-digit scoring averages any time soon, especially given how many low-post threats the Lakers have.

But, well, this is getting serious. The Lakers are a worse team without Vujacic, and the Association is a little worse without Childress, Nachbar and Delfino. I'm also not sure there is any answer available to stop the bleeding. It's not like the Association is immune to the laws of currency valuations.

Who's next? Well, Yahoo spent a lot of pixels on Jason Kidd (a perfect candidate, really, given that he'd dominate there and get increasingly exposed here). Every foreign-born player is an obvious target. Any player with a 4-year degree is also someone that's likely to be intrigued by the idea of a year or two abroad. Any player that isn't super-competitive is also in the wheelhouse,.

But at the end of the day, athletes are here to get paid, and Euro teams have the ability to pay more. We haven't heard the last of this, not by a long shot.

Epic Drop: Top 10 Sports Opinions That You Will Not Hear On Television



Your link is here
, and nothing makes me feel older or more crotchety than the ever-falling standards of the media. There are two new stadiums that are going up in New York that will further limit the ability of people of moderate income to go to a game -- no one cares. Athletes are co-opted into shilling for the very networks that cover them. There actually was a blog post the other day where the writer had set up a trivia contest about the ESPN anchors.

At some point, I'm sure, a payola-level scandal will erupt, and younger fans will co-opt of the process with direct access and/or just not caring about sports. So it's not just a matter of being irritated with the Lemur... it's being irritated, along with the sense that they are helping to destroy something I love.

Anyway, go click and make with the funny.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tonight, We Dine In Scarcity

When Tom Glavine staggered over the 300 game mark just over a year ago, there was much hullabaloo over how he was The Last, to which I cried bull over at the Carnival. Seeing Mike Mussina throw his best game of the year (8 shutout innings against the Twins to bring his record to 13-6) made me want to see how things had progressed since then.

The closest is Randy Johnson, who, after a truly impressive pitcher's duel win over Rich Harden and the Cubs last weekend, stands only nine wins away from the mark at 291. As he's 7-7 with a 4.89 ERA this year, and probably only has 13 starts to get those nine wins, it probably won't happen this year, but it's not impossible. If he's close in the last starts of the year, that will dominate the MLB pre-playoff coverage.

I also can't imagine that he doesn't come back in 2009 to get the mark, even if he doesn't hang around for very much longer after that, assuming his back doesn't blow up on him. With the Unit, it's been much more about his health than his effectiveness; even in his dotage, he's someone that would be starting for just about every team in baseball, since he's left-handed with plus stuff.

Meanwhile in the Bronx, the 39-year-old Mike Mussina continued his under-the-radar assault on Mount 300, in a bounceback year that no one saw coming, really. With 263 wins for the career, and a 3.26 ERA, he's even an undeserving Cy Young candidate. However, even though he's made exceptional progress this year, and has probably bought himself more time in good run-supported pinstripes to get to the finish line, I still think he'll need to go to the National League and trick his way over the threshold. As he's pitched for his entire career in the AL, this really shouldn't be a problem.

So we've got two better than even money candidates to eclipse Glavine as the Last 300. How about the rest of the list?

David Wells was just about done when I visited this topic a year ago, and he's extraordinarily done now. One does wonder if Boomer would have gotten here had he taken better care of himself during his career; even though his injury history is surprisingly stout, carrying all that extra weight and running through so many teams couldn't have helped matters. I'm also certain that he couldn't care less, and that he's probably drunk when you are reading this. 239 wins is where he'll stay.

Jamie Moyer also has 239 wins, and continues to hold down a productive role with a 3.76 ERA for the Phillies (and if his teammates could have done anything with Oliver Perez today, he'd have 240). As with all guys who don't throw hard, several months of true ineffectiveness might make him unemployed, and he's at the stage where a new team might not happen. But there he is, and if you look at the numbers, he actually seems to be picking up velocity now.

It's also very apparent that he doesn't mind spending his middle aged years hanging around baseball players, and he's been healthy for a long time. If he somehow gets to 300 wins, which seems possible in five more years of taking the ball, he's going to make the people who hated to see Don Sutton get in positively apoplectic. As is, he's just six wins from getting into the top 50 all-time in wins.

And then we get into Big Name Flush Zone, consisting of Curt Schilling, Kenny Rogers, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. Eight of Rogers' 218 wins have come this year, but his 4.48 ERA and 43-year-old age aren't helping, and he's toiling for a surprisingly mediocre Tigers team. I can't really see him getting to 250, let alone 300. Schilling is hovering on the periphery of baseball at this point, having not thrown a pitch in the bigs this year, and he's 41 and 84 wins away. Once again, I can't see him getting to 250, let alone 300.

Both Andy Pettite and Pedro Martinez are at 212 right now. Pedro might be the best pitcher on this list (it's either him or the Unit), but he's also the most injury prone, and has only 15 wins over the last 3 years as a big contract expense for the Mets. At 36, he's younger than most, and I'd love to see him get there to put the Small Pitchers Ain't Got No Reason To Live crowd in their place, but it's not looking good.

As for Pettite, he might be the best candidate among the non-Unit/Mussina group. He's 36, reasonably effective, doesn't have a terrible injury history, and pitches for the pinstripes. After a very hot start to the year, he's cooled down to an 11-7 record and a 3.86 ERA. I don't give him a huge chance -- maybe 10 to 15% -- and it won't happen unless he pitches into his mid 40s, but when you start getting close, you don't let it go. It's also going to be hard for the Yankees to let him go again, and for him to walk away from the money.

If John Smoltz pitches again in the majors, I'll be surprised, and I suspect Smoltz will be, too. It will also be in relief, which won't get him the 90 wins that he needs for 300, not unless he's planning on doing that for the next 50 years. If he had never been a reliever, maybe he'd have gotten closer, but if he had never been a reliever, I suspect he'd have been out of baseball a long time ago.

There's no real reason to talk about Bartolo Colon, Aaron Sele or Tim Wakefield. Which gets us to Tim Hudson, whose last win gave him 146, and puts him in the Pedro class of guys I'm rooting for. Roy Halladay is rolling, but 123 wins at age 31 is a long way to go. Roy Oswalt has had the first bad year in a long while, which makes his 119 wins look fairly paltry. CC Sabathia is still fat, but he's also still lights out. At 110 wins, it's way too soon to think about. And finally, we have Johan Santana at 101, and he's great and all, but we're still talking about 14 years at his current pace to get there, which would make him 43.

So, to sum up... Unit, Moose, and unless Jamie Moyer continues to surprise or Andy Pettite gets there, no one likely until the year 2020, if at all. At which point the cybernetic robot arms will be standard, which will change everything all over again, especially for Greg Maddux and his quest to pass Cy Young...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Reasons Why Devin Hester Is Holding Out

Here's your link, and for the love of Pete... Bear Fan has to be completely off his gourd over this. Your top wideout is Marty Booker. Hester might be the only guy on the roster with a chance to actually be a serious plus offensive player. And he's going to spend his summer holding out for money, rather than learning the playbook. (Not that his quarterback will be able to get him the ball anyway, but still.)

Your Dystopia Is Now

Here's your off-topic rant of the week. This time, it's nearly free of politics!

When I'm not wallowing in blogger bucks, I make my bread in online advertising, and have for this whole damn century. (Translation: I'm 150 years old.) During that time, I've seen, and occasionally done, dumb things. It's what direct marketers do. Innovate, execute, test, lather, rinse, repeat. I love what I do.

What I can complain about, however, is how it's perceived. And that's as follows: we're all unethical greedheads who want to rule the world (muhahahahee! Standards, as Doctor Horrible would say) with our creepy crawly methods that allow us to cyberstalk you (Yes, YOU) into an Orwellian dystopia.

Now, rolling this back for a brief moment into sports... let's imagine, for a moment, that you do what I do (advertising, that is, and not that other, profoundly disturbing, thing), and you have advertise an at-home beer making product. (Insert a Homer Simpson noise here.)

You think you want to reach me, in that I'm a Guy With A House In A Decent Zip Code Of A Certain Age And Income Who Entertains, because my demographic indexes are off the charts to match the kinds of people who buy your stuff.

You might, if you had the means, cold-call me at home, fill my mailbox with flyers, and buy time on my television set, perhaps during NFL football games. You could easily spend your entire marketing budget to try to reach me and others like me.

Except for one tiny little problem.

I don't like the taste of beer very much, so I drink other stuff. So I'm never going to buy your product.

The problem is that cyberstalking doesn't actually work. It rankles and distracts, rather than creating a positive experience for your mind to associate with the product that's trying to be sold. (You can and should create a different message to audiences that are targeted, but that's a whole 'nother story.)

However, if you can simply show your ads to an audience base where all of the non-buyers have been screened out, um, that works. Like gangbusters.

Now, step back from that hypothetical and think, for just a moment, about the stuff that you see ads for. I'm betting that most of the people reading this can recite several tampon manufacturers, despite not having the plumbing to ever purchase that product. Others that can't really imagine themselves taking penis pills can also rattle off several brands. Still more that wouldn't ever take a cruise vacation. Or drive a Hummer, even if gas wasn't $5 a gallon.

Non-targeted, irrelevant, annoying and pointless advertising makes up so much of what we see, we spend money to avoid it (DVRs), keep ourselves out of phone books, change land lines to cell phones, maintain multiple e-mail addresses, and use Internet browsers that block and filter and focus to try to keep our minds on relevant tracks.

Meanwhile, the advertising that drives a lot of the economy (for good or ill) get increasingly "out of the box" to try to reach us anyway, with stunt PR stuff, content that's much more about how clever the ad is than any reason why you'd actually buy the product, and increasingly obvious and noxious product placement moves during content.

Oh, and they also bring more of all of that, because when something doesn't work as well as it used to, you have to do more of it. (And we're back to the penis pills.)

So when a company -- someone you haven't heard of before, because their business model is a business to business play, rather than a business to consumer one -- tries to put together the pieces that would make advertising more relevant, that's somehow Going Too Far.

The idea that my clickstream or my past keyword searches could be used not to make the current dystopia even worse, but to actually find a way to fix an increasingly inefficient and broken system... well, dear God in heaven, that's something we can't have.

That's a "Minority Report" intrusion on our precious, precious privacy (the sames ones, by the way, that we're more than willing to toss into a dumpster when the fear media tells us to, but that's another story).

And that is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit.

What we live in, in regards to the current amount of ads that we see, is not sustainable. And things that are not sustainable have a way of changing. Maybe with great grumbling and heartache, and maybe with less than you'd imagine. But the change comes anyway.

Oh, and one final thing... everything that an overly paranoid consumer would find objectionable from a behaviorally marketing company is already being done, but not by people who are straightforward enough to admit it's their core business.

(Who? Um, the companies who use register tape information at the supermarkets, data from car toll transponders, GPS and DVR providers, and Google, who also accesses e-mails, blog posts and much, much more. Google, by the way, hosts this site. Here's hoping that I didn't just get on their deny service list again...)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 11 Causes for the WNBA Brawl

Hey, when the ladies of the hardwood throw down, and ex-Piston, Bullet and Sixer Thug Rick Mahorn is in the thick of it, you know I'm there, people. Along with the rest of the sports blogosphere, in all likelihood...

Update: Now with more video footage than 90% of my audience has ever watched of the WNBA. Lookie lookie, girl fight!

Crown Our Ass

To get the full impact of the following, please start the YouTube clip, then speak the following copy in your best SERIOUS MOVIE TRAILER VOICEOVER GUY VOICE, and time the breaks accordingly. Thank you.



In just a few pixels, you will get your first look at the logo for my new fantasy football league, the Leather Crown Cult.

Please remain calm.

Persons with heart conditions are advised to use extreme care before beholding this image. Families with small children are advised to view this as a group, so that your kids don't run away from home to make their way to my house and serve as my unholy army of the night. (I'm flattered and do deserve it, but the positions have been already filled.)

Now, if you are truly ready to know the meaning of Total Awesomenosity... BEHOLD!



Gaze deeply into its details. Spot the hidden, Satanic-level pigskin iconography. Absent-mindedly carve it into your desk at homeroom after your wake 'n bake. Know, in your heart of hearts, that yours must also be that big if you are to Rule.

But, most importantly, demand -- demand, I say -- your opportunity to possess the single artifact in the world that will have this on it. (Um, there are still a few spots left open in the league. First come, first serve. Email me at dmt shooter at gmail dot com for details.)

The Leather Crown Cult. Starts August 30, 2008. Rated A for Total World-Ending Awesomeness. Coming to a fantasy league near me.

Oh, and in a few more weeks, you shall also see the Leather Crown itself. You lucky, lucky people.

Reign of Piss

I didn't get into the specifics of the A's trading Joe Blanton last week to the Phillies, but here goes. I'm not nearly as crestfallen that my team moved on another guy who was coming up on his arbitration years. Blanton puts the ball in play, keeps you in the game, fields his position fairly well and takes the ball every fifth day.

Notice that I didn't say gets a lot of people out without damage. Cupcakes is very hittable, and one suspects that even though he's going to the weaker league, he's going to have a rough ride from the Phillies having a bandbox park and a worse defense. What Blanton does is worth a lot of money on the open market, but only to organizations that don't stockpile tolerable arms at the minor league level. For the Phils, he gets Adam Eaton off the mound, so that's a plus.

On the individual player standpoint, at least he might get some run support and win some games now and again, and perhaps meet teammates that can afford picking up a check now and again, not to mention having an interest in going out to a place that they didn't go to during college. For the A's, aka the Peter Pan Team of Cheap Boys Who Are Not Allowed To Grow Up, not so much. The prospects they got back all seem reasonable, and Gio Gonzalez is ready to start his clock towards serving somewhere else any moment now, so it's all good, right?

Actually, no.

Here's the reason why... Rich Harden has been just as good as you'd imagine for the Cubs since they sold him off. The offense doesn't score runs. Since the offense hasn't scored runs for years, I'm starting to wonder if it ever will again. I'm also starting to wonder if this team is worth my fandom.

This isn't entirely Harden related, though he may be the straw that breaks my back. The simple fact of the matter is that the A's teams of the past 3-4 years have been, to put it lightly, No Fun To Watch At All. Every player that's any good is on a clock to be moved. The team is designed to win 85 to 90 games a year, and either squeak into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth or miss while driving ticket sales, especially to the MLB+ teams. The new stadium seems to be on shaky ground, and if they could find anyone to take Eric Chavez and his contract off their hands, the entire payroll could be picked up by A-Rod even with alimony payments.

I like offense. I like players that can hit, steal bases, and develop in ways that allow me, as a fan, to feel like there's a point to watching this. I'm not very interested in watching a random collection of economically advantageous talent win a few more, or a few less, games than it loses.

I like baseball that's exciting. I don't like the A's. And I haven't for a while.

So what, exactly, is the point of rooting for this laundry anymore?

Billy Beane defended the Harden trade as being standard operating procedure for the franchise, and not indicative of a salary dump or anything but the building of the next great generation of A's baseball. Um, Billy? You know what else has been standard operating procedure for your franchise? Not getting to the playoffs very often. Not winning in the playoffs when you get there. Having an offensive player -- when your best is Frank Thomas having his last good year, that's not good enough -- that truly puts some fear into the opposing club. Having a fan base that isn't dwarfed by a terrible Giants franchise or any of the plus market teams that come to town. Watching every good young player walk, because you are a de facto farm team, rather than an actual MLB entity. Being the Angels' bitch.

Beane knows more about getting value out of a market than anyone in baseball. He's managed to keep the team from being uncompetitive. Many of the prospects that they've received in the constant churn of players seem good. He's stockpiled reasonable pitching as far as the eye can see, and when an everyday player gets hurt, his AAA call-up is much more likely to be tolerable in the job than, say, what the Yankees recall.

But championships -- and hell, even divisions -- are not won by the Jack Custs and Matt Murtons of the world. Championships are won by star players performing at the peak of their abilities, carrying their teams to victory. Watchable offensive teams are not constructed from every player being patient and making the pitcher work; someone actually needs to hit the damn ball, preferably with a line-drive or better amount of anger. And championships are not won, at least not anymore, by a team refusing to spend money, despite lining up at the revenue sharing trough every year like a trustafarian. Because the good MLB+ organizations are also smart, and unlike the A's, they do spend money, and are interested in winning.

So, Billy, please... don't piss on my back and tell me its raining. Don't tell me that the A's are buyers and sellers every year at the trade deadline, when all you've done for the past five years is sell. And especially, don't pat yourself on the freaking back for dealing the Harden black chip for a handful of whites while telling me what a great deal you've made, and how this is business as usual.

Because your offense sucks. Your high draft picks haven't been worthwhile (Jeremy Brown, anyone? Cliff Pennington, any takers?). Every trade hasn't worked out (Dan Meyer and, at least to date, Daric Barton, though I suspect he's eventually going to have his Carlos Pena breakout). Because, in your entire tenure, you've won a single playoff series, and haven't had an offense that can cover for anyone's mistakes since the early 2000 Roid Crew of Giambi and Tejada.

Because "Moneyball" was a long time ago, and teams that teach their fans to spot market inefficiencies... should probably go root for teams that don't have them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Developments From The Jeremy Shockey Trade

Here's your list, with over 30% new content.

For the record, I am glad to see Shockey out of the division, because the Eagles really have no coverage answer for a big and talented tight end. Besides, when Shockey out-muscles Brian Dawkins for a big catch, some large part of me dies. And, one suspects, you too...

Score one for the Lemur

As a proud tribesman of Blogfrica, I usually stand up for my brothers and sisters. Sure, we go for the cheap laugh, the hacky list... um, forget I said anything. But our hearts are in the right place, and so long as the Lemur is doing things like comparing college towns to major metropolises in some twerp-tastic pursuit to see who has more titles, I figure we're doing fine.

And then I see the images posted here, which I also found in way too many other places to count, and realize that we're all 12 years old. (Yes, it's an actual product, no, I don't know where you can get it, and yes, Dr. Dre is probably pissed off that he's not getting paid a royalty. I believe this exhausts all possible discussion on the topic.)

To be fair, the Lemur image from today is also wank fuel for self-hating closet types. But at least it's got something to do with, well, sports. (Though I suspect that both purveyors provide employment for people who think about touching themselves too much...)

New York Joins The Hate Shockey Bandwagon

The most overrated tight end in football got moved today, as Jeremy Shockey goes from the Giants to the Saints for a second and a fifth in 2009.

That sounds about right to me, given that Shockey is 28 and injury-prone, but a major upgrade over Eric Johnson, in that he has broken a tackle in his life. There is the small matter of key drops on third down, badly timed penalties and turnovers, and throwing the team under the bus in the post-game media session, but those are all workable, right? Heck, there probably isn't even any media left in New Orleans, seeing how Kyle Turley and Aaron Brooks both made money there for a while.

Kudos to the Giants for getting a good return on their investment, and realizing that Kevin Boss was better, younger, and cheaper. Now, if and when the Giants struggle this year, wait for meatheads from North Jersey (your humble blogger is from Philadelphia, and merely lives in Central Jersey, thereby giving me innate superiority) to claim it's all because they moved on this motormouth.

Wait, screw that, I'm an Eagles fan. Giants Fan, you're doomed without Shockey's leadership!

Crap, even I can't pretend on this one.

In New Orleans, Shockey is reunited with Sean Payton, who remembers him as a rookie that was, well, good enough to make people overrate him in the first place. He also gets Drew Brees, who certainly showed that he'll feed a tight end when he was in San Diego with Antonio Gates. Of course, Gates is three times the player that Shockey is, but you figure that he's going to have one good Screw You Coughlin year in him down in the Bayou.

Shockey moving on is also an excellent acid test of the New York homer in your roto league (and we all have one of each). Shockey's value should be higher now, assuming that the people in your league pay attention to the Saints at all. Boss might be a better real player, but in the fake leagues, Shockey is the ones with the heavy catch years, and his QB plays half of his games in a happy time dome -- so Shockey should be higher in anything but a keeper league. (I also think Brees is a lot better than Eli Manning, but since Eli won a Super Bowl, no one can say anything mean about him ever again. That includes you, Giant Fan.)

But now that he's not wearing the right laundry... maybe not. Plus, we -- and by we, I mean Philly Fan and Giant Fan, who exist in an uneasy truce in my part of the world -- can all come together. It's unanimous. Shockey's an ass!

Finally, this... FTT Contributor the Five Tool Ninja notes that the G-Men have 13 players with four letter last names, and seven of them end in a double consonant. So if you are like me, and like to throw four letter words at the Giants, you're rate over 25% of the time. Which is, well, one in four. We're through the looking glass here, people...

Kerry Wood Fulfills His Injury Destiny

Word from the Chicago Tribune that Kerry Wood is about to make his -- get this -- twelfth trip to the disabled list, thanks to a blister problem. (Speaking of which, can someone explain how this happens? Baseball pitchers depend on their fingers for their professional existence, and have more or less unlimited access to medical personnel in a setting where hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line. How is it that each team doesn't have a skin regimen, and if need be, some dedicated traveling practitioner to just keep finger tips from cracking? I don't get it. Anyway, moving on...)

Carlos Marmol gets the job, presumably, and despite his good stuff and history of success as a set-up man, this should move Cubs Nation to Defcon 3... because Marmol's been quite hittable this year, and it's not as if the team doesn't have a history of shaky closers causing them any amount of heart failure. If you want to see them start shaking uncontrollably, just recite their recent closer list.

Anyway, this shouldn't be a big deal, considering the Cubs' good record... but you never know. Besides, Wood might try to rehab in a hot tub.

The New York Knicks In Microcosm

Actual true story -- Nate Robinson, the undersized back-up non-point guard for the Isiah Thomas Knicks, and the worst slam dunk champion in this or any other era, had his jersey retired.

In a summer league. The mind boggles.

I'm trying to figure out an equivalent moment to this in any other sport, and, well, failing. Anyone want to work out a Preseason Football Hall of Fame? The Hasselbeck Wing needs to happen. A Spring Training Ring of Honor? The Temp Employee Of The Off-Season Awards at Tim Horton's for the NHL?

(Yes, Canadian Reader, I know all about your shameful morning secret. I also know that you are a Bacon Donut away from being as obese as my fellow Americans. Feel free to respond with polite outrage with incorrect vowel usages in the comments.)

But getting back to Nate the Late... I can't think of a better single person to denote the Isiah Era. He's flashy, physically gifted, has no clue how to play, doesn't help you unless his shot is falling and a car wreck defensively. Oh, and he makes his teammates worse, since his 1 on the World forays make any big man think twice about running or covering for his man when he blows by him on defense.

But thanks to his extraordinary focus on piling up numbers in minutes (games, and as this fire alarm accented moment of honor shows, leagues) that don't matter, Nate's a fan favorite among the truly clueless. Thanks to the worst contract in professional sports (Stephon Marbury, the poster child for talent that doesn't win games), he's also a more intriguing option than the "starter." (I put that in quotes, because after last year's experience, I can't imagine any NBA team wants to give the Starchild the keys to the car ever again.)

And, most importantly, no one will ever wear the number four in that summer league ever again. That's Knick-tastic!

Today's Small Moment of Hate: Greg Norman

Consider me shocked, shocked, to see Greg Norman fail in the stretch of a major. (Hey, just wondering, why is this guy an endorsement winner? Does golf's demographic identify with old guys who are most famous for falling apart when it matters, or is it just we like Australian accents?)

Epic Drop: Top 10 Reasons Why The Eagles Are Doomed

Today's link is a cunning encapsulation of all of the reasons why I'm enthused about he Eagles' chances this year, along with the fact that all of the pre-season prediction magazines seem to think that their off-season moves were crap... mostly, one suspects, because they didn't help to produce the sure thing wide receiver that will ensure fantasy league success, and because, absent injury, there is no growth stock among the Eagles' skill players. (Yes, Bryan Westbrook is now a top 5 play, but he's also one that jangles the nerves, since he's injury-prone, getting up there in years, and just had the best season of his life.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Euro Menace

A while back in a list for Epic Carnival, I wondered what the US economic picture might mean to sports, including notes that leagues in other countries were going to be able to start making competitive runs at free agents. It's already happening now in hoop, though more from currency evaluation than anything else.

Carlos Delfino is a reasonable back end of the rotation option, a point with size who can defend well enough to get minutes in Detroit a few years ago. He doesn't score well enough to be anyone's idea of a great starting option, and he's too old to have breakout potential, but he's still someone who could play 15 to 20 minutes a night for a playoff team.

He's also someone that's going to make the equivalent of nine million dollars to play basketball next year... in Russia, for Khimki BC.

Part of it is being paid in Euros. Another part is missing some taxes. And Delfino is merely the start of the trend. Juan Carlos Navarro is returning to Barcelona after a year in Memphis for similar reasons. Jorge Garbajosa won't be in the Association either, having last played for the Raptors. More guys that you haven't heard of (not that you've probably heard of Delfino, Navarro or Garbajosa) are in the wings.

Now, this really won't affect the level of play next year; these guys were replacement level players. But it doesn't take an awful lot of imagination to think about a Euro team who is really looking to make a splash upping the ante in a few years to bring an international player home. Your Nowitzkis, Gasols, Mings et al -- they'd be missed. And then, it really wouldn't be straining the imagination to see someone really go full throttle for a money-hungry American.

What better way, say, for Kobe Bryant to end his career than by going back to the Italy of his childhood, where he can be the reverse Beckham?

Update... Welcome, Deadspin Hordes. You can also add Bostjan Nachbar to the list above, who just inked a 3-year, $41 million (equivalent) deal to toil for Dynamo Moscow, rather than the Nets.

He was actually OK for them last year, with nearly 10 points a game in 22 minutes, but after the Nets dealt Richard Jefferson to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, I guess he wasn't seeing the floor time... and he certainly wasn't seeing nearly $14 million a year. Add the boom times in Russian oil production to the Euro Menace factor, really.

And an even further Update... Josh Childress signs for monster dollars to play in Greece. Childress is a definite plus bench player as a shooting guard / small forward, with good ratio numbers and all-around performance, that has failed in previous attempts at a starter. He's the first guy to go who has been ownable in a deeper roto league.

A Stanford kid, he's also someone that probably doesn't quake with terror at the idea of living without the usual creature comforts and familiarity... and he's going to be making an absurd amount, even in NBA dollars, to be in Greece. He also has an opt-out after every year, so if he completely rules the world over there, he might be making more. Here's the final point of terror for Stern and the NBA teams: the team that he signed with has, of course, no salary cap. Fans of non-American hegemony, this is your day!

Dumbness in Microcosm

Tuesday in the All Sta Game, oft-injured Brewers starting pitcher Ben Sheets started for the National League and threw 42 pitches. Today in San Francisco, he started again, on three days rest, and had his manager, Ned Yost, say that he should be able to work his normal workload.

Well, not so much. Sheets went five innings, giving up nine hits and four runs (two of them were unearned), in what would eventually prove to be an 8-5 Brewers win. He could have picked up the win, but the bullpen gave it up. And independent of what happened in the here and now, I'm left to wonder if the Brewers really have any clue as to who Sheets is, and what he represents -- i.e., their ace, their property in the bigs for the past eight years, perhaps the best they've had since Teddy Higuera in the '80s, and someone who hasn't made it through a year without missing substantial time since 2004.

You'd think that they'd have a little more care with that resource, but then again, that's right there with the guy being only six wins over .500, despite having a good ERA and WHIP for nearly all of those years.

You know, when he was able to pitch in the first place.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Get Horrible


You are about to experience a Nerdgasm. (Hey, I told you this week was the Bullshit Factory. At least I'm giving you different stuff than the rest of the blogosphere, in my continuing doomed effort to avoid Titty Blogging.)

Earlier this week at the Carnival, I took a potshot at Joss Whedon, the truly great writer-director-et cetera of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly. I'm an unabashed fan of the man, because he (a) writes great dialogue, (b) lives in the barely lapsed nerd section of science fiction that's right in my wheelhouse, (c) casts smart and funny women that are flat-out fantastic. Even the biggest meatheads would like to ride Charisma Carpenter, Sarah Michelle Geller, Amy Acker, Julie Benz, Gina Torres and Summer Glau... and I'm just scratching the surface, really. So there's something for the whole family.

Anyway, Whedom has spent the last several years not making more stuff, thanks to pointless sideshows with the "Wonder Woman" movie, his lingering heartbreak over not being able to make a lot more of Firefly, and I don't know what else, because I don't stalk the man. However, he appears to be back on the rails with the following Web phenomenon, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." It's a musical -- no, wait, stop, come back -- from the point of view of a would-be supervillain as he battles a two-fisted hero and his professional ambitions versus his love for a kind-hearted woman.

It's completely great, and you can see it for free... but only for a limited time. Click on the banner to go to the site, where Whedon is hosting the free episodes this week only. His Mad Plan is to have fans evangelize this, then make a DVD that we'll all buy / rent / give. After that, I think we're supposed to show up at conventions dressed as the characters, which isn't as bad of a deal as you think, because you might get to say this phrase, "The Hammer Is My Penis."

Anyway, go, watch, you'll like or you don't have my tastes, at which point I get to impugn your worth as a human being. I'll be here when you get back.

Epic Drop: Top 11 Reasons Why My Fantasy Football League Is Better Than Yours

You are looking live at what is actually in my Man Space. It's not solid gold, but dammit, it feels like it should be, especially when you can use your off hand to bid during my upcoming fantasy football league draft. (Yes, there are still a few slots available, and no, I have no shame. E-mail me at dmt shooter at gmail dot com if you want to know more.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Genius.

Shame

Where there is no shame, there is no honor. - African proverb
This will, hopefully, be the last time I get political for a while here. The site's traffic can barely stand it. Y'all have been warned.

Last night, I finally got my hands on this week's New Yorker with Barack and Michelle Obama dressed in their right-wing Lie Show regalia. It's not really going to make me cancel my subscription (so long as they keep from hiring the inexplicably employed Gregg Easterbrook), but I'd like to address some of the kerfluffle that has ensued from it.

The cover has entered into a larger media narrative, namely that people are having a hard time making fun of this candidate. I'm not sure you were aware of this, but it seems that the job of the President is now to be the source of inexhaustible comedy fuel. If the Commander-in-Chief doesn't provide us with exceptional laughs (either through relentless character flaws, an intelligence gap that you could drive a Hummer through, possible senility, etc.), this makes he or she Unlikable.

(An aside -- I'm not sure where John McCain Is Old is exactly breaking great comedy ground. But far be it for me to be a hack throwing stones...)

One wonders, really, how much of this has been true of other post-catastrophic leaders in world political history. Were the Germans, Italians and Japanese in the late '40s annoyed with their governments for not being as easy to mock as their predecessors? Do the Cambodians sit back and reminisce about the chuckles they had with that wacky Pol Pot? Can we find some old-school Russians to talk about how funny the Stalin purges were?

I'm guessing... no.

Ah, but there I go again (Reagan voice off), living life outside of a media bubble that refuses to admit the following truths in print and in public.

To wit:

1) The mocked left-wing celebrity opposition to the war in Iraq was not only the correct public policy, but now the overwhelming majority viewpoint in America.

It was never a fringe view, despite the best efforts of the media to portray it as such; even in the most frenzied War Is Fun And Easy days, two out of five Americans didn't support this. It's now closer to 4 out of 5, which makes it right up there with dentists who prefer that their patients chew sugarless gum. And can someone, for the love of God, revoke the license of the fifth dentist? He's a sadist.

2) The only reason that Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, and the only Democrat who is in line to win a majority of votes in a Presidential election in 32 years, is because Hillary Clinton voted the wrong way on Iraq.

Which makes her, as far as I can tell, the first person in America to lose a job over this terrible decision. Of course, since she didn't have the job in the first place, you can probably argue the semantics.

3) The standard of living among average Americans -- you know, the folks for whom the actions of the President are more than a junior high school level game of Jocks, Nerds and Cool Kids -- has gone down dramatically under the Bush Administration. Mostly for the reason that they are paying two to three times more then they used to on transportation and heat, as a direct result of... the war in Iraq.

So no, it's not the case where people don't care about the war. They care about it because, despite no real amount of media linkage, they have gotten the wacky idea -- substantially less wacky that Iraq had no relation to 9/11 -- that one of the reasons why they're getting killed at the pump is because we destabilized the region that produces oil. They care about it because they can, actually, understand what happens to an economy that spends more than it takes in, because that describes their situation at home, too. Which is what we do every damn day of the year, as a government, and we all make up (or, at the very least, fund) that.

And that's why Obama is competitive in places like Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, Alaska, Idaho, Indiana -- i.e., places where a Democratic presidential contender hasn't won in so long, they haven't even tried. Despite the idea that Scary Screaming Black Men and Secret Muslims are coming to exchange Terrorist Fist Pumps after they take away your gun and set fire to the flag. (To all of my older relatives and their e-mail chains... now, really. How do they find the time to do all of that? You've got to give it up for their fiendish work ethic.)

But let's get back to the Shame.

Some of the people I work with like to tell me about the latest South Park episodes. It's something that appeals to them, and truth be told, it used to work for me, too. Good writing is good writing, and you put up with a lot for it. (Witness your tolerance of posts like this one.)

Me, I can't watch it anymore, because of what it represents -- which is to say, art without a conscience. Humor without shame. An antidote to honor. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Evil.

You see, Mssrs. Stone and Parker led the anti-war backlash with their noxious puppet movie, and the ethos that you are leaving some humor money on the table when you don't attack both sides. Besides, those uncool kids that opposed the war made for such better and easier targets. I mean, Janeane Garofalo is shrill and all, and well past the point (if she ever was there) of fuel for self-play. So have at it, gentlemen! Chant "No Blood For Oil" some more. That's good and funny! It might even be more high-larious at a soldier's funeral. Go nuts.

There's only one problem with this, and with the New Yorker "satire" cover... and that is this. Laughing at the victims of serious crime doesn't feel very good. It nags at the root of a healthy conscience.

Do it enough, and it eats away at any human instinct towards thinking that any single person among us -- even, say, brilliant scientific minds who must be concocting global warming tales for their great god Socialism, political leaders who actually see their occupation for more than Grand Theft Government, public health professionals who are genuinely motivated by a desire to ease human suffering, rather than ensure moral-free copulation and abortions for all, etc., etc. -- are not, at their core, base and craven.

It mocks hope, and tells us that anyone who speaks of such a mockable thing is humorless or naive at best, and a secret terrorist and more at worst. It demeans the listener and the teller. It causes real damage to the human spirit.

And if you don't believe me, please go find someone at a house fire, funeral home, or hospital emergency room, and give them a good Nelson Muntz-style "Ha Ha." See how that works out for you.

So in conclusion... no, the cover is not funny, ironic, or in any way worthwhile. Anyone that tells you that it is starts and ends at Wrong. It's also not important that the President should be easily mocked, someone you can imagine having a beer with, or Just Like You at your most petty and limited.

In fact, it's more than OK to want the person with an incredibly more difficult and demanding job than yours to be, well, better and smarter than you. In fact, we should probably demand it.

And if that makes for a world in which people who make us laugh for a living have to, you know, work a little harder to get it done, and maybe push the utterly delusional media into finding these better targets? That's no tragedy. Start with the oil company executives. Move on to the CEOs of the Fortune 500. Spend all day on actors and musicians and writers and performers. I can figure this out, and I'm just a guy with a blogging hobby.

In short, adapt. The same way that, well, the rest of the country has. Preferably without puling over how those pukey Obama kids are ruining your whole fun by realizing that who the President is does matter, and that when political -- and dare I dream it, media -- figures are wrong, they should lose their jobs.

Preferably, with speed. Even more preferably, with lasting historical scorn and whenever appropriate, prison time.

Where, one presumes, some small moment of Shame might happen. There I go, Hoping Again...

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