Sunday, August 31, 2008

Epic Drops: Giants and Packers Previews

A couple of previews (for the Packers and Giants, respectively) today over at the Carnival, especially valuable for all of your hard-core fantasy football honks. In another 24 hours or so, I'll be posting extensive sleeper and bust lists... which is when the last of my drafts are put to bed. Hurry back.

Department of "Ooops!"

What's eight miles in the grand scheme of things anyway?

The real historical significance, of course, is that we now have a recorded instance of someone mistaking Wallace Wade for a college football stadium.

Friday, August 29, 2008

NCAA Winning Picks

New Season. New chance to make some extra coin. And with the current momentum of B.O., some of us will probably be paying a lot more in taxes next year. So get a head start and make some easy money. Nothing you can do about paying your unfair share of taxes, but you can control the extra cash flow from The Truth's NCAA Winning Picks. Sorry, I digress.

As usual I'll give you a few picks each week that are worth laying one credit, and the Lock of the Week worth 2 credits.

Tennessee -7.5 at UCLA. To be safe buy an extra .5 point to get that spread to 7. Probably won't need it as I think the Vols will run all over UCLA.

Texas -24 at home versus Florida Atlantic. I'd take this pick all the way up to -40.

Clemson -4.5 at home versus Alabama. I also like to over of 46 here if that makes you feel any better.

USC at Virginia OVER 42.5. I can only assume they forgot this was a four quarter game and not a halftime spread. This one will be ugly. Easy money, so lay three credits instead of the usual 2 credits. You'll thank me on Sunday.

My pride for the sports blogosphere knows no bounds

In hours, my companions find the cheesecake photo of McCain's new VP pick.

Forget everything I just wrote, vote for titty!

Politics Is Not Sport

Last night, I took the night off from staring daggers at my fantasy football draft prep and the non-hitting Yankees on my fantasy baseball team to watch Barack Obama take the Democratic nomination. (This is the big cue for those of you who don't share my politics to either dig in and suffer or scroll down. You've been warned.)

Over 70,000 people braved what must have been the security detail from hell (according to the reports I've read, waits of five hours were common) to watch a black man get closer to the Presidency than any black man has ever been.

Even if you are a Republican, you've got to be OK with that, at least out loud. And then he spoke for 40+ minutes, in a speech that he more or less wrote himself (hey, a literate President! Me likee!), and gave me about everything I could ask for.

Today, in response, the Republicans announced that their nominee to be vice-president would also make history, in that they chose a woman for the first time in their history. The partisan in me wants to note that she's a creationist with 18 months of experience being a governor (of Alaska), and that it smells a little desperate to me, given that no one imagines she would have gotten the job if Hillary Clinton were the Democratic nominee...

But I'll leave all that aside and focus on the positive. Sarah Palin is the kind of pro-life person that I respect... in that when the money was on the table, she didn't have her fetus at 44 years old tested or aborted, and consequently will be raising a child with Down's syndrome. She's also an ex-athlete and beauty pageant contestant who has made her reputation by fighting against corruption in her own party. Quite a resume, really.

What does get my goat, in watching the coverage of these things, is the wild glee that the cable channels have over this whole thing. We might cover politics like they were sports in this country, but they aren't. If your team beats mine, it has no real consequences to my life; we don't go fight a war over it or change the tax codes.

So, um, no... a close election and wild poll swings and smackdown debate moments and crafty negative ads are not panaceas and just good clean fun. No matter how much they may make you feel like they are.

They are sideshow distractions, carnival nonsense, designed to distract you and me from the things that matter when it comes to making a decision.

In a better world, you wouldn't need to speak as well as Barack Obama to be a Presidential nominee. You wouldn't need to be as ready with a quip and press-friendly as John McCain, either.

But that's not the world we live in, or the media we have.

Which doesn't mean that it's got to be that way, or for you.

So in the months to come, when the inevitable nonsense comes up about who is running the better campaign or what it all means when there is some gaffe, etc., etc...

Well, vote for a better reason. Please.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cub Fan Logic

A lot of talk out there about a certain Presidential hopeful's experience and whether he has the credentials for the job. A few days ago, Stuart Scott of ESPN asked a Barack Obama who he would root for in a Cubs-White Sox World Series. His response?

"Oh, that's easy. White Sox. I'm not one of these fair weather fans. You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there. People aren't watching the game. It's not serious. White Sox, that's baseball. Southside.”

This has caused quite a stir in Chicago with Cubs fan. I've read quotes in the Trib by these fans that Obama made a mistake in insulting Cubdom and now they wouldn't vote for him and would cast their vote for the other guy. I was shocked by this. Who knew that Cubs fans knew how to vote. At least they don't have to worry about asking off work early to go vote.

Touchy, Touchy

In the very real chance that you missed it yesterday, I'd like to direct you to the uproar that yesterday's list caused over at the Carnival. For those of you who would rather not click, it was my list of cursed NFL positions, including such luminaries as Chicago QB, Eagles Coach and Cardinals Owner. For the most part, fans from the tweaked fan bases look it in stride, added fuel to the fire (I did not know that the last time Lion QB made a Pro Bowl was in 1972), or pointed out my occasional mistakes (I should have said Eagles outside linebacker, rather than slight reasonable players like Jeremiah Trotter, and, um, Jeremiah Trotter).

Like any good list piece, it was a reasonable bar argument kind of piece, and it got some fairly significant Web attention, thanks to a link from Sports Illustrated.

And then J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Fan saw it, and then all hell broke loose.

And yes, it upset me, and the other Carnival writers, all the way to the bank.

You see, it turns out that taking a comedic dump on Joe Willie Namath's Legacy is roughly akin to telling a Catholic that the Pope was a Hitler Youth. Or telling a Packer Fan that they might not have lost all of those playoff games in this millennium with a different, less interception-happy, quarterback. Or telling a Yankees Fan that Derek Jeter gives women communicable diseases while being the second-best shortstop on his team. Or finding a Packer/Yankee Catholic and telling him all of these things at once, possibly with a side order of how their mom fares between the sheets when she's working the night shift.

Because oh, my, J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Fan does not like it even one little bit when you tweak Joe Willie.

Frankly, I don't get it, but maybe it's just a generational thing. If someone wanted to crack on my franchise's beloved quarterback from before I was born, I'd entertain the argument that Norm Van Brocklin might not have been all that great. The numbers really don't measure up against that argument, in that the 1960 Eagles really didn't run the ball all that well, but what the hey. It was 48 years ago. Have at it.

But you see, what we have to really assess Namath isn't terribly compelling. You've got a less than .500 record, with a 50.1% completion percentage, 47 more picks than touchdowns, who threw a lot when he was young and healthy and the Jets were mediocre, threw less when they were good, and then couldn't stay on the field. He made the Pro Bowl five times in twelve years, and didn't do it again after age 29. He was a first-team All-Pro just once. He won, as far as I can tell from the research, two playoff games in his entire career. (The Raiders and Colts, in the Super Bowl III year.)

As good as his leadership might have been in Super Bowl III, the Jets won that game on their defense and ground game. I get that winning the big game as a big underdog set him up for life in New York, but if that's all you have to do to cement your legacy, he should have retired at age 25 and been the football equivalent of James Dean. The '70s counted as well, and for the most part, those weren't very kind to him on the field.

This isn't meant to denigrate his importance as a cultural icon... but, um, isn't the game played between the lines? J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Fan felt compelled to tell me about Namath's womanizing, his media impact, his swagger. Um, great.

In the modern game, this makes him Matt Leinart.

A better argument would have been to point out that he was well regarded as a player by his contemporaries, that he struggled with injuries that would have been dealt with much better with today's knee surgeons, and that he must have been one hell of a leader, given the way that his teams seem to perform better when he was in the lineup. There's a case to be made. The Sporting News, after all, named him 96th in their Top 100 Players Ever list in 1999, and he made the Hall of Fame very soon after retirement.

Football statistics are heavily dependent on context; for all we know, Sammy Baugh might have been the best guy to ever play the position. It's like comparing apples to venison. When you look at the film, Namath does throw a beautiful ball with a quick release. It's just what happens to it in the air that's the problem.

And if you want to limit to just his contemporaries... I'm sorry, but I'm going with Kenny Stabler. And Len Dawson. Aesthetics aside, Bob Griese won a ton of games and committed very few mistakes. Sonny Jurgenson put up huge numbers in an impossible era for quarterbacks, and also did it with terrible teams. Bart Starr might have been the best of the '60s. Roger Staubach won more Super Bowls, Fran Tarkenton more playoff games, and Johnny Unitas is Johnny Unitas. People can make a case for Terry Bradshaw, not that I would be thrilled to do so. I think I'm taking Namath over Bert Jones. And that's just from his era.

And, moving beyond Namath, not that J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Fan was really very interested in doing that... um, guys? Richard Todd threw 30 picks in a year. Pat Ryan still gives me Kotite-esque nightmares. Glenn Foley was your Bobby Hoying. Kellen Clemens made them give Brad Smith snaps. Chad Pennington longs for Koy Detmer's arm strength. And so on, and so on.

Now, is Jets Quarterback really the most cursed position in pro football? No, of course not. Namath gave them an identity. Vinny Testaverde gave them a forgotten great year, and Pennington was a decent game manager and leader before injuries robbed him of, well, the ability to throw a football.

I could have gone with other picks, like Buccaneer QB or Offensive Lineman, or maybe smacked another coach or owner around. But, well, I didn't... and now we know just how touchy you are about your history. Enjoy your delusions.

Welcome Back, Warriors

This is Monta Ellis, one of the best guards in the world, who provided the Golden State Warriors with 20, 5 and 4 , along with a 53% (!) shooting percentage and a steal and a half a game in 2007-08. He also gave the team the sense that they really were on a different path, in that five years ago when a second round pick paid off like gangbusters, they watched it walk away to Washington and become Gilbert Arenas.

He's also going to miss the next three months with a high ankle sprain. I should say, at least the next three months. The Warriors will also be without Baron Davis, of course.

So they're going to go to battle next year with a roster that counts Stephen Jackson as its best player, the defensive sieve that is ex-Clipper Corey Maggette, and back ups where they had stars. Add it up, and you can start the clock on Don Nelson making real the ever-present retirement threat... and the Warriors going back to their comfortable cocoon back at the bottom of the West.

Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

Don't Worry, Yankee Fan, It Will All Be Over Soon

After tonight's thoroughly expected beatdown (Sidney Ponson was starting, after all, and he's now 3-13 against Boston for his career, with a 6.95 ERA), the worst team that money can buy is seven games out of the wild-card with thirty games left to play. Oh, and tomorrow for the sweep, the Sox run their best pitcher this year, Jon Lester, against the suddenly very hittable Mike Mussina.

This is also the last series in Yankee Stadium history against the Red Sox, and the hated invaders have outscored them by 18-6 in the first two games. Tonight was close until the 8th inning, when a 7-run eighth inning was punctuated by a Dustin Pedroia grand slam.

Let the history show that when the Yankees desperately needed outs in the eight inning, with a $200 million payroll, they didn't hand the ball to a John Wetteland, or a Mariano Rivera, or a Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson, or even a Kyle Farnsworth. Instead, it was Jose Veras (heroic most of the year, out of gas tonight) and David Robertson (in the 21st and worst game of his career), in a game where the once-vaunted Yankee offense had mustered all of two runs in seven innings against Paul Byrd and Manny Delcarmen, who came into the night with a high 4-run ERA against the rest of the world.

Huge changes will be coming for this franchise, and the fan base is going to welcome it in a big way. If nothing else, the building deserved better than the utter walkover that the current tenants have provided.

Oh, and on the off chance that you have any moment of pity for the Steinbrenner Nazis, read what happens if you need to move during "God Bless America." George? Please die already.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Reasons Why Shawne Merriman Is Going To Play With Torn Ligaments

Here's the link that will make you think... that someone in Shawne Merriman's life needs to get him to breathe a towel or six of ether and get cut on before the big idiot wakes the hell up.

In researching this piece, I checked out Merriman's web site, which is as Extremely Manly as you might imagine. Guess what? It doesn't mention his wife or kids, and I couldn't find anything on the Web confirming or denying the existence of anyone taking up dependent status on his 1040. There does seem to be some women in his past, but nothing too serious.

Say what you will about the effect that a wife and kids might have on a man's liveliness, but I guarantee you that if there were an equal partner in the future Merriman earning potential, there would be no way in hell that he wouldn't already be under the knife. Good luck, Charger Fan (and anyone that already drafted the Chargers as their defense in a fantasy league...)

Free At Last, Free At Last, Thank God Almighty...

H/t to Awful Announcing, who had the courage to read the Wall Street Journal so that I didn't have to...

For the past six years, the company has been running a well-received series of ads for its "Chunky" soup that feature National Football League greats and their mothers calling them inside for dinner and serving them soup.

But starting with this NFL season, those moms will be riding the bench. The reason for the change? Campbell Soup says its new research has revealed that the company's target consumers -- men in their 30s -- are finally achieving soup independence.

The new campaign, dubbed "Working Day," features San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson. In one of the series of five ads, which debut when the NFL season kicks off on Sept. 4, Mr. Tomlinson is shown in action on the field as a voice-over describes his job in blue-collar terms.

"Another grueling day on the job," the ad begins. "You're dying to get out of those work clothes. You're hungry. You take a can of Chunky soup. You think about your day. Was I productive? Did I do right by my boss?"
The size of Eagle Fan's heart for Number Five grew three sizes on this day; yes, we did all hate those ads that much, especially in close correlation to Don's tendency to actually blow Chunky chunks in big games. (And yes, you are right to want to throw all marketing people into the tenth circle of Hell for phrases like "soup independence.")

New York Baseball Fan Is Ready For Football

So last night I'm in a midtown Manhattan bar, making nice with all of the other cool blogger kids (and yes, dear God, they are all kids -- I've got a decade at least on most of 'em) as the finest teams that money could buy proceeded to soil the bedclothes in the Bronx and Philadelphia, respectively.

We'll start with the Yankees, who got two Johnny Damon right field foul pole home runs and did next to nothing with the rest of a mess of baserunners against the Red Sox in a have to not have it 7-3 loss. The line will look like Andy Pettite was less than clutch, but in watching the game, it was all bloop hits and infield trouble, rather than anything particularly well hit.

Meanwhile, the Yanks at the plate were doing what an old team does -- wait for a long ball that never came, despite the presence of ancient Tim Wakefield and his ever more ancient knuckleball. In a game of this importance, you'd expect the home team to be handing out batons at first base to push matters and avoid the crippling double play balls. You'd also be watching a team that isn't the 2008 Yankees.

In Philadelphia, the Mets were penning their own, far more tragic, same old story: a big early lead, the starter being left in too long because the bullpen isn't trustworthy, the offense gripping the bats into sawdust during the opposing team's This Can't Be Happening AGAIN comeback, and some relief goat du jour taking the fall late. The names to fill in for the Mad Libs game of How Can Met Fan Tear Out His Hair (surprising, given last year's El Foldo, that there would be any left to yank) were Pedro Martinez and Benny Ayala.

It astonishes the mind that a team with this kind of payroll and farm system couldn't make a move to get bullpen help. Hell, the Diamondbacks added Jon Rauch and the Rays added Chad Bradford and the Twins got Eddie Guardado; fungible relief help is what gets moved at the deadline. Billy Beane would have probably packed Huston Street's bags for him in Oakland, or you could have gotten what you really needed (Brad Ziegler) for some collection of Matt Murton-esque talent on the cheap. No team should ever gag away a pennant from the unbelievably unpredictable event of Billy Wagner being injury prone, or Pedro not being able to hold an early lead.

Oh, and a special shout out -- HEY! -- to noted soothsayer Jimmy Rollins, who called Philly Fan a front-runner and a punk last week in what can only be imagined as a Get Out Of Town Already move, only to back up his talk with a huge 5 for 7 night, including a 2-run homer to start the comeback from a touchdown down. He also had three of the Phillies six steals. (Yankee Fan, take note -- this is what an offense, at home in a must win game, does. It also helps to not have all of your offensive players, with the possible exception of Robinson Cano, on the downside of their careers.)

Rollins continues to be a living nightmare for Mets Fan, which you think would be all that would be required to earn him the ever-loving love of Philly Fan, but one suspects that the fan base is happier to root for Jamie Moyer (adorable, even while highly ineffective last night), Chase Utley (OK, in that he's just a better player than J-Roll) and Shane Victorino (hmm, I'm starting to detect a, shall we say, Boston-esque pattern here). The night's events pushed the Mets out of first, though they've got this Johan Santana guy pitching for them tonight, so it might not be a long stay out of the penthouse. (For now.)

Add it all up, and you have a late August in the city... and yes, you can mostly wear any hat you want (my blogging companion last night was wearing a Phillies cap), since the home town teams have more or less lost the audience already, and no one who is anyone is still in town and working in the week before Labor Day. New York, my friends, is ready for some football, rather than the continued sobfest that is the final season for both stadiums.

Here's a fun fact: the Mets' pen has blown ten (10!) leads in the ninth inning this year, and 22 saves overall. Good grief. Which means that in about 8% of their games, they've been less than three outs away from sealing the deal, and that's got to just have them walking like zombies by now. Last night's euthanasia finally came when Chad Coste singled home Victorino, making a winner of Rudy Seanez in the 13th. (Say this for the Phils: they don't quit. They may not be very good either, in that they never are, but in a short series with Cole Hamels, the resurrected Brett Myers, and the mostly strikes of Moyer and Cupcakes Blanton... oh, who am I kidding, they're also going nowhere fast. But at least their bullpen is, well, a bullpen.)

The Mets will be losing meaningful games longer than the Yanks will, but when your team can't close or hold touchdown leads in baseball, you'd be staring hard at Mssrs. Manning and Favre, too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Cursed Pro Football Positions

Here's today's link, which required more research than usual, and has perhaps the single best moment that I can imagine to summarize the whole of the existence of the Detroit Lions, in that Scott Mitchell is a Legendary Lion. No, I'm not kidding. Go, by all means, and wonder.

Parents Ruin Everything

A quick h/t to longtime friend of the blog CMJ Dad for this one... a story of Jericho Scott. That's him to the right. He's nine years old and throws too hard for Little League, so the league is going to fold his team, rather than let him pitch. No, seriously.

You see, facing some other kid's 40 mph heat when you are a beginning player is too scary for beginners. And yes, there's conspiracy theories afloat that he's being blackballed for not joining the league champions. This is a libertarian wet dream of a movie deal right here.

So the other teams, rather than, um, play and try to hit the kid, just quit. It's the safe thing to do, and much more accommodating to the long-term goal of having the kids enjoy themselves while playing ball.

The obvious knee-jerk response to this is to commence the face and head slapping (yours, then with more luck, theirs), but I'm going the other way on this. I played one year of Little League, stunk on ice, and was afraid that some kid was going to kill me pretty routinely.

The lessons that I learned from that experience were priceless, and those were that I sucked at baseball, and that it would be better for all concerned if I found something better to do with my time. (Namely, hockey, the sport for people who have no vertical leap, depth perception, or fondness for one's shins.)

Look, as a parent, I can understand the desire to shield your kids from crushing failure, but the parents for this place need to embrace the opportunity. By getting shamed and stoned at age nine, they stand to save years of Little League fees, and help to break little Chase and Aston of their unrealistic dreams early. Goodbye, private college. Hello, plumbing school. Scott's parents should farm him out as a service...

The Giants Love Their Fans

"We have 130,000 people on our waiting list. We could charge anything and still fill the stadium." - Giants owner John Mara, as quoted in the NYTimes today, on WFAN
This link is worth the firewall, if only for the shadenfraude you'll feel at New York Fan's considerable and escalating expense (the Mets, Yankees, Giants and Jets are all getting new pleasure palaces soon). Everyone get on board with their love for New Stadiums!

Really, folks... at some point, when does the sporting public say uncle? Even the swells who have gone to these games historically have mortgages, pay for gas and groceries, get nicked for health care and college tuition and have seen their houses become worth a lot less than they used to be. I can see going to a game here and there as a special event, but the idea of passing up vacations and retirement so I can have a season ticket to games I can see at home seems a bit, you know, much...

Blogger's Night Out

Tonight, I'm going to a confab of sports bloggers in an NYC watering hole. It'll be my second event in four days (third in five, if you count poker) where I'm face to face with people who also contribute to my online life as a sports blogger. When I'm there, I'll do what I always do in a quasi-work environment: put on my best fake smile and slowly convince myself that Networking Is Enjoyable, that I've got something in common with other people who write for fun, and that, gosh darn it, there's at least ten other things that I should be doing for this here blog to make it more successful, in addition to, well, filling the wordhole.

Realistically, the best of those things would be to find a previously untapped video of a skateboarder lighting themselves on fire, particularly if they have nice breasts.

What's going on out here in Blogfrica, for those of you that care about such things (which is to say, well, the people I've seen three times in the last five days), is that we're slowly taking over for offline print media types. Hey, we might as well... it's not like the press boxes are going to be torn down at all of these stadiums, and with your local newspaper reacting to a declining market share by giving you less and/or charging you more, it's not like those people are going to be coming back with a vengeance. The CPMs (that's advertising talk for the rate that we make from the number of eyeballs that we display to) keep creeping up, and the demographics favor us, in that no one who is settling down at a college dorm right now is finding five new media sources by flipping through the periodicals at the library.

So what's next? Well, it'll consolidate. Anonymity will be replaced by named writers. Coarse opinions and naughty words will fade into the lesser known sites, or be confined to a few notable exceptions. Bloggers will be slowly corrupted by the soft touch of public relations and insider access. How, after all, can you savage the team when it might cost you the private box and one-on-one interview that set your site apart from the great unvetted? And within three to five years (remember, Net time is faster than real time), we'll be reading more and more like what's always been out there, for good and for ill, only with no editors and for less money. It's not like the World Wide Lemur holds the copyright on compromising for a bigger market.

So why go, especially when the siren call of someone else paying for the liquor isn't that big of a deal for me? (I'm remarkably stupid that way.) Well, hell, they asked me. They seem nice and all. Hanging out with sports bloggers is, by definition, hanging out with opinionated sports fans with more than a touch of wit about them. Maybe I'll get some ideas to fill the bloghole (hey, like this!), people for my poker table, or my upcoming NBA auction fantasy league. All in all, possible goals.

You may note the absence of one very real and tangible goal from this that list that many other people have: making a living from blogging. I don't have that one, because I gave up unrealistic dreams of employment when I stopped having a rock band. (Oh, and also because I actually do write for fun.)

Besides, if you do this for a living, you either have to find fiery skateboarders or go to lots of private boxes and hold your tongue. Neither of which I'm very good at, really.

Which means that life at the Tool will continue as it has to know, with the fake name, the access that anyone with cable can duplicate, and the audience that is dwarfed by titty and death. Game on!

Going Out On Bottom

Something is troubling me, folks, in regards to the recent rash of Favre and Strahan and Clemens (i.e., the end of career issue player), and that is this: at what point did Going Out On Top become the be-all and end-all of every well-publicized athletic career?

Being a nerd from way back, the first that I remember reading about this was the legendary Browns of Otto Graham's era, the ones from the first great threat to the NFL in terms of a rival league. Graham was the best quarterback of his era, and he retired at the end of a great run of Browns championships. (You see, there is value in pre-Lombardi NFL history: by knowing it, you can write phrases like "great run of Browns championships" without flinching or giggling.) Ever since, we get this from any number of quasi-important players.

As an Eagles fan, I dream of a championship. If it should happen this year, should Brian Dawkins retire? Well, of course; he's close to the end anyway, and last year was borderline ugly at times, with him really not performing to his level. Fine, then, B-Dawk gets to go out on top. How about Donovan McNabb? Well, no... in that if there is an Eagles championship, you'd have to think that he was a main cause of it, and you'd like to see the team be as good the next year. Or Brian Westbrook? He'd be 30 then, and wouldn't it be better if he could... You see the point. At some level, going out on top just means a much nastier word, a word that no one wants to embrace. Quitting.

Consider your own career for a second, in relation to the anointed. Are you going to be able to retire on top? My guess is, well, no. You'll retire somewhere in the great uncharted middle that is most cubicle life, assuming that the whole endeavour isn't farmed out to Bangladesh, and it will be. After that, you'll consult and cobble until you can manage something else. That's because for us, our career is very closely tuned to our lives, unlike professional athletes.

Everyone is, on some level, what they do and what they think. Pro athlete is attractive as a career profession and as a role model, because (for the most part) what they think is positive; if you don't think you are going to succeed and win, you aren't going to make it to the top level, even as a loser.

This is also why it smacks of artifice (at best) when an athlete picks their time to go, rather than just, you know, do the work and let someone else make that determination. No one else in our society makes their own determination to quit: the most celebrated entertainers never bail out despite innumerable threats, and it's rare that you see a celebrated CEO leave on anything but his shield. Media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone cling to the jobs until they are no more; so do, for the most part, Supreme Court justices.

There's really only two classes of people that try to game the system and be above every other monkey with a tax bill to pay... athletes and lottery winners.

And this is yet another reason why it's OK to hate on both.

(Ed. Note: Strahan, probably in the absence of what he'd consider to be meaningful cash, decides to stay in a Grecian beach and/or the Fox television studios in LA. Hey, maybe the Giants can coax Tiki Barber back to rush the passer instead...)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Levarage Gap

So the Lemur is all a twitter about the possible return of Michael Strahan to the Giants with the loss of Osi Umenyiora. I'm not going to weigh in on the inevitable will he or won't he or should he or shouldn't he; that's what the Lemur does, after all, and I'd hate to step on the toes of longtime athletes in mid-bray.

But I will note this... only in New York, and for this situation, does this story get such obvious play. The Giants say they are just going to move Mathias Kiwanuka back to the down position, away from linebacking duties, and start something called Gerris Wilkinson in the newly available linebacking slot. If they are really going to back up the bank truck and pay Strahan the money they weren't willing to pay him last year, they've got a funny way of showing it.

As an Eagles fan, I'm all for Strahan continuing to be retired, in that the Giants with fewer pass rushers are a lot more fun to deal with. But it's also hard to imagine that a man who had checked out can come back and still provide the same performance.

There's also this: Umenyiora was a beast last year, but he was also an overrated one, thanks to his career day against Winston "Turnstile" Justice in the win over the Eagles on MNF. Take away that night, and Umenyiora is just another good pass rusher, rather than an utterly dominant one... and even if he and Strahan had both returned, they weren't likely to do so at the same level.

Combine this with the loss of Gibril Wilson to the Riaders (OK, admittely for a comically overinflated contract, as is The Raider Way), and you've got a lot going wrong for the defending champions before the season has even started.

There is one saving grace, however. The Giants have a cupcake schedule (Skins at home, Rams on the road, Bengals at home, then the fourth week bye) for the first month, when Strahan is presumably losing his Greecian beach flab, or when they're still teaching Wilkinson how to play the position. If you're going to have injuries, better early than late.

(Oh, and there is also the nice idea of Strahan coming back, eating their salary, providing no value, and staying off my television. A man can dream.)

The Frenchies Are In There Like Swimwear

Sad news from the Continent tonight, as blogosphere darling and marginal NBA big man Rod Benson is taking the Euros and running to France.

This isn't really a case of the exchange rate costing the Association another talent; I have no idea if the Boom Man is actually good enough to play in the Association; he hasn't really gotten the chance. But on some level, you'd like to see him in the big leagues, if only to encourage a fellow blogger... and for heaven's sake, the man can rebound and has a sense of humor. It's a national disgrace that he didn't get a job at the top level.

Epic Drop: Top 10 Reasons Why The Cardinals Are Choosing Kurt Warner Over Matt Leinart

Your link is here, and I've got to say that the more time that I spend considering this trustafarian bag of douche, the more I truly dislike him... and I'm not even a Cardinals fan. We're talking about a guy with more opportunities than any of us are ever likely to see, and what does he do with the opportunity? Drink with underaged co-eds. Fail to rehab from injury. Shown no evidence towards game planning or professional development.

Sure, sure, sure... he's just in his third year. There are plenty of quarterbacks that failed early that turned out to be more than acceptable -- Jim Plunkett, Steve Young, Tony Romo, etc., etc. But the difference is that each of the other guys were in impossible situations, with terrible skill players, and usually in ferociously competitive divisions. Leinart plays in an NFL West that's basically the WAC of the NFL.

If I were a Cardinals fan, I think I'd well and truly hate this guy. There really isn't anyone on the Earth who is squandering their potential and looking good while doing it. We've had more than enough trustarians in this country, thank you.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Reasons To Be Thankful The Olympics Are Over

Here's today's link, and yes, consider me among the many that was well and truly ready for this stuff to move to the side. Especially after my Eagles took the Patriots apart (albeit in pre-season), with some actual special teams explosiveness.

But don't worry, Olympics. I'm sure that we'll care again in four years, when the Brits try to have as secure of an event without having a docile populace and police state powers...

Our Eight Year National Nightmare Is Over

No, this isn't a political post. But thanks for thinking it...

Today in Beijing, the US Olympic squad put order back to the universe with a close but not absolutely terrifying win over the Spaniards. The Games served as a coming back party for Dwayne Wade, who led the way today with 27 points and seems to be ready to end that single-year futility in Miami.

Perhaps the close game in the Final will convince some folks that Olympic basketball is now an even keel kind of thing, and that the US should not just be expected to roll over the world. But the simpler fact of the matter is that as long as there is an athletic gap between us and the rest of the world -- i.e., when the nasty dunks and alley oops are all coming from guys wearing the US laundry -- the public expectation will remain that we should just wipe the floor with these guys. Despite the fact that, well, basketball is about more than jumping well, and the NCAA tournament proves that every year.

For now and the future, we should think of the US Men as a #1 seed in a single elimination tournament, in a game that the world is increasingly interested in playing. Within my lifetime, we might not even be the #!1 seed any more.

(Oh, and for anyone that really feels relief and pride and amazement over this, um, get a grip. It's just hoop.)

Minor Amusements

Tonight in Trenton, the Shooter Family went to its first minor league baseball game, a walkover from the first-place Trenton (a Yankee outfit) over the last-place Reading Phillies.

I'd tell you more about it, but short of the forgotten Victor Zambrano shutting down the feeble Phils, there wasn't much of the game that made an impact on me. Instead, it was more the surroundings (I was in a luxury box thanks to a blogging companion who shall remain one of the guys from Hugging Harold Reynolds), the nice little place that is Trenton's Waterfront Park, the inflatable kids' play area, and the post-game fireworks.

Everyone had a good time, and Trenton's got a very nice honor role of past alumni, and you can't help but be charmed by the simple pleasures of minor league baseball. A half hour before the first pitch, we were taking a service elevator up to the luxury box, and the elevator operator told us to listen for him during the game, in that he was doing color for the first three innings, play by play in the fourth through sixth, and color through the close.

I also have T-shirts older than him.

You can see why people like this, and it's not a good idea to underestimate the economics. Two dollar parking is a smile-inducing moment in comparison to the MLB gouging, ten dollar tickets are even better, and all of the merch was cheap, too. Concessions were similar in price to MLB, and the kid area set me back a bit, but in terms of a 3.5 hour night out with the family, you couldn't do much better.

Oh, and the Shoooter Youngest likes fireworks, and yelling. "Baseball!" a lot. So, there's that.

(Oh, and for the record, I remain opposed to the idea of baseball games where the wins and losses don't matter very much, and dream of a world where there are no minor league affiliations, and relegation for teams that tank to AAA. Moving on...)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Top 10 Vegetarian- Friendly Ballparks

From PETA, who as the photo to the right shows, just might be finally getting the hang of this whole PR thing...

1. Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies)

2. AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants)

3. Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners)

4. PETCO Park (San Diego Padres)

5. U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox)

6. Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals)

7. Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers)

8. Coors Field (Colorado Rockies)

9. Turner Field (Atlanta Braves)

10. (tie) Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)

(tie) Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Really, Philadelphia is the most vegetarian-friendly? I'd have thought that it would be Milwaukee, now that their fat load of a first baseman went off meat, while ours still grazes... but then again, they did bring in CC Sabathia. And lust after racing meat.

Ernest Borgnine Explains It All

Want to live to be 91, be an Oscar-award winner, appear on The Simpsons and make huge coin? Do what Ernie does! (Admittedly, probably from the inspiration of some other web site.)

Good PR Move, Nike

In my Ad Age today (sorry if the link gives you a firewall), this tidbit... Nike is getting into bed with murderer, thief, and George Bush enthusiast Don King to promote the upcoming foregone conclusion Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal match.

Um, tennis, Nike? You do realize that the guy you just hired is one of the biggest balls of filth on the planet, right? That he's taken the Fifth Amendment about his connections to the Gotti crime family? That rumors of jury tampering, realities of dozens of lawsuits from ex-clients, and the blood of at least two men is on his hands?

Oh, I know, all PR is good PR. Hey, you got this link, didn't you? And maybe you'll really hit the jackpot and have Federer or Nadel found over the body of a young boy, both naked except for their Nikes, and using the blood of the slain to paint a swoosh.

Then again, that probably won't be new to anyone who has been to your Third World factories.

Yay, PR!

The Awful New World In Which You Live In

So in prepping for the NFL season, I keep coming back to the situation in Arizona, where the Perpetual Cardinals Could Surprise Story is being undermined by Anquan Boldin demanding a trade, and coach Ken Whisenhunt starting Kurt Warner in a preseason game ahead of the supposed future of the franchise, Matt Leinart.

In case you don't follow the more off-field sports blogs, Leinart was photographed at an underaged keg party in the off-season, helping some fine young things like a helpful freshman pledge, rather than like a guy making tens of millions of dollars to play in the NFL. He also found time for the absolutely necessary hot tub trip, which shows that his ideas of debauchery aren't exactly original.

This lead to many athletes (as well as a celebrated Buzz Bissinger meltdown on the HBO Costas show) to decry the sudden paparazzi-like influence of One Nation With A Cell Phone Camera, and the Evil, Evil Blogs That Publish Those Pictures.

You see, we in Blogfrica had crossed a line that should not have been crossed. Leinart was perpetuating no crime, said the glibertarians, and it didn't seem right to splash his face all over the Internets for some harmless fun. We're very, very bad people to show you images like this one, and to make money from the ad impressions that they generate. He's not a celebrity; he just plays football for a living.

Never mind the fact that underaged drinking isn't harmless, especially if you were the parents of one of the sweet young things. Or the fact that Leinart has fathered a kid out of wedlock before. (While one might suspects that it would have happened from an experience similar to the one photographed, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say the relationship just went wrong. Oh, and that he was forced to engage in unsafe sex.)

Or that at the time of Beer Bong Gate, he was supposed to be in rehab from a season-ending collarbone injury, and hence, you know, working.

Um, people? It's not coming to come as any great surprise to you where I'm going with this, right? Yup... I Cry Bullshit. (Or, at the very least, Shenanigans.)

You see, it *does* matter what these guys do off the field, and here's why -- coaches have this thing about trusting guys with bad judgment. If Leinart had kept his nose clean and stayed under the radar, he'd have been showing good judgment -- the same good judgment that he's generally lacked in not leading the Cardinals to a winning record in his time there, despite a piss-poor division, a steadily improving talent base (especially at the skill positions), and the bump that the new home stadium should have given that team.

The same good judgment that would have his quarterback rating up above the Detmer level. He's not that much far above it now, other than some good moments in games against pretty weak defenses.

While we're talking about judgment, maybe it would have been better for him to declare early, especially since he was all of one class short for his last year in sunny California. So instead of going first overall, he went lower the next year, as scouts started to whisper about his commitment to the game and the fact that USC QBs tend to be system washouts in the pros (Rob Johnson, anyone?).

It might have also helped if he not had a lengthy holdout that opened the door for Warner, who for all of his fumbling and holding on to the ball flaws, does know the system and prepares for an opponent..

Is anyone else seeing a pattern here?

It matters because all of this has led Whisenhunt, correctly in my opinion, to dally with Warner as his quarterback instead of The Franchise. In your roto league, Warner, despite no assurance that he's going to get the majority of the snaps, is going ahead of Leinart. (Not that either is going very high, mind you... and if Arizona had a clear #1, he'd be a top 10 pick.) That's because roto guys remember numbers, and when Warner gets the snaps, he produces. Leinart, not so much.

In the world we used to live in, we as fans (and fantasy players, which, admittedly, is a big reason why anyone cares who about the quarterback situation in) would have much less information on what's leading Whisenhunt to mess around with The Future like this.

We'd be pillorying the coach for his stubborn refusal to live with the necessary growing pains are breaking in a young quarterback.

We'd be convinced that, just like always, the Cardinals were succumbing to their franchise DNA and squandering young talent.

We'd also be wrong. The problem with Matt Leinart is Matt Leinart. Blogfrica just exposed the truth, which is what journalism should do, and made everyone aware of the depths of Leinart's commitment to being a winning player.

And that, my friends, is not awful, though it may very well be new.

Today's tasteless Gene Upshaw comment

Yes, yes, yes, wrong to speak ill of the dead and all that... but, um, now that Gene's dead, are we sure that he's not going to be a more effective presence at the bargaining table?

Amidst all of the eulogizing, isn't anyone going to point out that he got treated like a sock puppet during the strike, and that the health and pension plans for the older players were revolting. The Lemur is talking him up with the usual hagiography, but I'm not buying what they're selling here. If the NFL had a truly good union, contracts would be guaranteed, just as they are for every other major sport. (Especially for the NFL, given the very real chance of injury on every single play.)

Epic Drop Top 10 Greatest Yankees for Yankee Haters

Your link is here, and some of these names, I guarantee, will make you smile. The top slot may surprise you... or, well, might have, had I not included the small give away in the image choice. Anyway, go check it out...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gordo, We Hardly Knew Ye

Gordon Giricek, the semi-warm body that the Sixers got in the Kyle Korver salary dump who was last seen providing bad bench minutes for Phoenix in their first round loss to the Spurs, goes to Fenerbahce, the top team in Turkey. He'll make twice what the Spurs were looking to pay him to warm their bench.

Unlike many of the Euro exports, I'm not going to decry the loss of Gordon; he flat out stinks on ice. He's one of those classic oversized Euro swingmen that look good when they line up an open three, who you can take off the dribble simply by caring about it. The fact that he was passed around by teams faster than a Japanese condom tells you all you need to know; he won't be missed. (Though, of course, he may be back.)

The Lemur Wants In

So the Olympics are getting better ratings than anticipated, and driving a tidy little payday for NBC in what, if not for the rush of political ad spending, would be a historically brutal year for advertising. (It's what happens in an economy where everyone takes it without lube from Big Oil, and the housing bubble pops -- but as the President says, it's very important that we give more time for those stimulus checks to work. Vote for the guy that's most like him!)

Anyhow, this has led the World Wide Lemur -- and for those of you that are new to the site's peculiar nomenclature, that's also known as the home of the Mouse, the covert destroyer of all things good, the murderer and corpse-raper of what used to be known as Monday Night Football, and the people whom I will not will not ever write for, no matter how many commenters think I'd cave for the cash (ESPN) -- to announce that they're going to get into the mix for the rights to televise London 2012.

Now, I don't much care who is going to televise things that I'm not going to watch, and I suspect, neither do you. (Witness our mutual lack of interest in the news that Emeril is switching networks, or that Oxygen is going to produce an all-nude version of "The View" to help turn more men gay.) But what the Lemur said about their decision to do so was telling... that sports is in their blood and what they do, dammit, and that they couldn't imagine televising all of the events via tape delay and packaging them the way that NBC is doing.

On my train this morning were two people who I couldn't imagine coming to this site in a month of Sundays. They were a man and a woman in their mid 40s to mid 50s, wearing the slightly graying hair, slightly padded clothing, and slightly spotted hands that await us all. For the first ten minutes of our trip towards NYC, they talked about Olympic beach volleyball. They both liked it, with the man filling the woman in on the parts of the match that she missed, in that she turned in before the game was over.

Now, this -- honestly -- is the Olympic demographic. People sucked in to watch a little sporting drama with an easy enough storyline, with no fear of seeming dramatically out of their element, because for heaven's sake, who is an expert on beach volleyball? My 8-year-old can understand it in five minutes, there's precious little in the way of Judging, and no one is going to make you feel unqualified to watch it in a blizzard of Volleyball Outsider-style arcane statistics. (If there is a Volleyball Outsiders, I'm sorry... not for insulting them, but for the general health and well-being of the species.)

Are these people going to care that beach volleyball in London will be LIVE? Probably not. In fact, they're probably going to hate it if it is, since that means that games will be on at 10am, just like Wimbeldon, but on a weekday. Will they care that the telecast will be with more ESPNish commentators, or perhaps more innovative / nausea-inducing camerawork? (A small note to the beach volleyball people: get a camera on the ball. If you can combine a scantily clad athletic woman with an arm motion that indicates violence in a tight high definition close-up, I guarantee Monstrous Web Traffic.) Probably not. They'll watch, or not, if it's on and if it's convenient and if it's compelling.

Not because it's live or because it's a Lemur Production. (And oh, this just in... there's no guarantee that the world will find the Olympics as compelling in 2012 as they did in 2008. And if you don't believe that, go ask the people that telecast the Athens Olympics in 2004, the ones that did so well in the ratings that the Beijing Games flew right under the radar. You can find them down at the methadone clinic, muttering bitterly at the television.)

Epic Drop: Top 10 Next Career Moves For Michael Phelps

Here's your link, and seriously... there's nowhere else to go but down for this guy.

I'm also loads of fun at parties, what with the sunny outlook on life...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Your Last Best List Of Fantasy Football Team Names

The following fit no theme and serve no purpose other than to satisfy the hordes of you who still seem stuck for a name, but hey... if you are this far into the process without a name, you're probably hosed anyway. Take a name and get back to your draft prep, rook. (Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes -- all of these should fit in the standard Yahoo! team space.)

Pop Up Blockers

Jon Gruden's Offenses

The Back In Motion

Manning Family Secret

No Coast Offense

Wacky Wiccan Wyches

US Olympic Football

Lorenzon Food Bankers

Post Game Spreaders

Joe Gibbs Forgets

The Hate Starts Now

The Cardinals' Year

Jobbing For Pay

Covering Her Spread

Fred Death Train Lane

Unintentional Ground

Special Team Holding

The Hoying Position

Very Long Snappers

Fearing The Turk

Song For An Unwanted Afternoon

This link was forwarded to me by the Five Tool Ninja, and it's kind of astounding. Resist the urge to close it out until you get through at least some of the opera soprano hip-hop.

The Eternal Dream For A #1 Wideout

Memo to Andy Reid, Jeffrey Lurie and the rest of the Eagles' brain trust... look, this sad and constant mewling sound from the fan base for a big-name wideout? It's never going to go away until you, well, get another one. You've given #5 just one guy that anyone would consider this in his time here, and I understand he went crazy traitor loco and ruined you forever about stars at the position and all, but it's time to turn the page.

Oh, and growing your own isn't going to work, at least not in this media market. The way to grow a #1 is to have one in the first place, and then have the #2 learn and compete and grow from him, a la Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison.

It's completely OK to import one. The Giants did with Plax Burress. The Patriots did with Randy Moss. And yes, I know, you tried to get the latter and he didn't take your money, but that doesn't mean you can just pack your tent and hope that Don can do for Reggie Brown what he did with James Thrash and Todd Pinkston in the day. (In case anyone has any doubt that Don is the best QB in the history of the franchise and a worthy HOF QB, please consider that he got to multiple NFC championship games with... *that* as his starting wideouts. Chad Lewis was the best pass catcher on those teams. Scary.) The conference was weaker then, Don was more of a threat to run, and the world was different, in that teams didn't run so many plays from shotgun, making your WRs mission critical.

So, there's this Boldin fellow in Arizona. He's unhappy. He wants a trade. The Cardinals say they won't trade him, but we all know that an unhappy WR can move mountains.

We also know that while the Eagles don't absolutely need him to win their division, he'd make things a hell of a lot easier, in that he'd actually provide the team some small amount of, you know, margin for error. Look at the picture again: Boldin is catching a ball that he shouldn't have any business catching. When is the last time any of your current WRs did that? (Answer: about the last time that Eagles fans weren't puling for a #1 WR.)

So... why not just get us what we want and shut us up?

Ed. Note and Update... Kevin Curtis, the ostensible #1, has a sports hernia and will miss at least the opener. Having had one of these myself, I wouldn't count on him for at least a month.

With Curtis out, Reid said the team would not pursue a trade for another receiver. Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett will split time in Curtis' absence opposite the team's other starting receiver -- Reggie Brown. -- AP report

Um, yay. Really, yay. Because the guys that weren't good enough to start can definitely step up to 1/2 status. GAHHHH....

One More Kick To The Head For Yankee Fan

On top of the latest dominated loss to the Blue Jays and AJ Burnett, who has made a year out of his starts against the worst offense that a ridiculous amount of money can buy...

There's this small nugget of joy from Osaka: Hideki "Fat Toad" Irabu, the sloppy uncle to Kei Igawa among tragic Yankee pitching imports from Japan, arrested for being drunk and disorderly in a restaurant. (There was a problem with his credit card. One suspects that the problem was that the card had the name "Hideki Irabu" on it.)

In a classic case of burying the lede, it turns out that Irabu still lives with his mommy. No, I'm not making that up. Dude is 39 and made (according to Baseball Almanac) over $15 million in his 6-year MLB career with the Yankees, Expos and Rangers (and that's not even counting later days money in Nippon Ball), and he's still eating from the high chair and sleeping with his stuffed animals. (Trust me, the other places I could go to in that last sentence were much, much worse.)

I realize that His Toadship also pitched for two other teams, Yankee Fan, but no one remembers anything about that. In the words of the Wu Tang Clan, It's Yours... and it's the icing on the cake of what's turning out to be a delightful year for Yankee Haters. Now, all we need is for the Rays to hang on in the East, and the Sawx to lose the wild-card, and MLB will enter a golden age of light, reason, and utter irrelevance to ESPN. And, alas, A's fans. Paradise Not.

Anyway, getting back to the Toad... the husky sized Hat Tip to H/t, With Malice, the go-to blog for all things Pan-Asiatic.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering what finally caused the Yankees to miss the post-season this year? It's me. I've got three of their hitters on my roto team. America, you're welcome.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 12 Ways To Tell If You Are A Whipped Sports Fan

Here's your link for the day, and for the record, no, I'm not. (How do I know? Well, the Shooter Wife ran the Leather Crown to the trophy shop today to get the plate happening. That's love, dammit. Very helpful love...)

Oh, and don't miss the link, because it's a good one, and you'll be able to forward it to at least three people you know. (Hi, Truth!)

Nice sportsmanship

I'm not much for the Olympics, but I always love me some bird flipping. Nice work from NESW on the more true version.

Remembrance of Stiffs Past

The Sixers have signed 35-year-old contract punchline Theo Ratliff to a one-year deal. When last seen, the Rattler was providing deep bench minutes for the Pistons in their playoff with Boston, and he's not, you know, good. Plus, at 35, he's not getting better, or less brittle. But at least he does something (weak side shot blocking -- note, not on the ball defense) well, and from your back-up center, that's better than nothing.

The biggest bonus from having Theo around is that he provides a warm fuzzy nostalgic feeling from the 2000-01 era, when he led the charge for a while before getting hurt and turning into Dikembe Mutumbo.

(And you would have won a nice chunk of change taking the parlay pick that both heads of that hydra would still be in the Association eight years later. Nothing on this Earth can kill Mutumbo, because everything on this Earth is just waiting for it's chance to Sex Mutumbo.)

Way To Go, Marvin

Oh, this is just too funny... four months after getting religion, drafting wideouts early, and having last straws pulled, guess who's come crawling back to wayward wideout Chris Henry?

Why, it's the Cincinnati Enablers, er, Bengals, fresh off injuries to their big two of TJ Houshmanzadimjiad and Ocho "Poor Man's Terrell Owens" Stinko. What's the over-under on Henry's next arrest following his celebration on rejoining the team? (I'm thinking... Friday. But it's always hard to judge how Vegas is going to go on prop bets.)

I'd like to take a small moment here to thank the Bengals for making the life of the sports blogosphere easier. Our hordes will soon be cranking up tons of "Brokeback Mountain" style "I can't quit yew!" Photoshops of both men. Me, I was going to go for a more film noir treatment, with Henry as the Barbara Stanwyck-style femme fatale, but that's why this is a relentless unpopular blog. Henry just doesn't have the hips to pull it off, sadly, though Lewis as a doughy patsy pantload is just dead on. Anyway...

When Marvin Lewis has his obituary written on his Bengal Bungling -- and feel free to start on that now, and avoid the Thanksgiving rush -- Henry's fingerprints will be all over it. (Don't worry, he knows the procedure.)

What's telling here is that in the four months that Henry has been loose (on the streets! hide the kids!), no other team has swooped in to take the talented and troubled playmaker away. The reasons why are simple: in addition to being Locker Room Poison and an Active Embarrassment, he's also just not that good. As a #3, he can make plays; ask him to do more than that, and it won't happen. He'll also block about as well as he gives back to the community.

Here's how good Henry isn't... you'd think that the Bengals' division rivals would have stowed him on a practice squad, just to make sure he couldn't come back and haunt them again. But no. As a matter of fact, no team -- not even the Raiders, who would seem required by law to show interest -- wanted him. The Browns, Ravens and Steelers *want* him back on the Queen City Convicts. It does foster a certain air of, you know, Not Winning.

This, despite Henry's public statements that he'd like to play for the Saints or Cowboys. Jerry Jones may be batshit loco, but he's not that batshit loco. As for the Saints, that team knows disasters when they see them, and felt no need to import. (What, too soon?)

Oh, and BTW... Henry doesn't even help them for the first month of the season, which is when you'd really need the guy with the injuries... because he's been suspended Yet Again.

And just to add to the (Very) High Comedy, here's the money quote from Starvin' Marvin, just a few short weeks ago, when someone asked him if the Bengals would sully themselves with First and Ten To Life...

"I'm not interested in bringing him back. I don't think (it would be) productive for our football team. You have to be a productive part to be an NFL player, and there's responsibilities to being an NFL player. It's a privilege. It's not a right. There's a lot that comes with being an NFL football player."
One wonders just what the responsibilities to being an NFL football coach are... and just how much longer Lewis will know them. Buy your tickets now, Bengal Fans!


Fantasy football season, as you might have read on this blog or elsewhere, starts in earnest in the next couple of weeks, and as I start the hundreds of hours of draft prep (never too early to start intimidating my fellow league mates), something struck me -- the inclination to draft (or should I say, re-draft) players from past years.

Part of this is simple intellectual laziness. I know, or at least I think I know, a lot about these guys already. I've developed some fondness for them. Take, for instance, Hines Ward, the possession guy in Pittsburgh's scheme who has always distinguished himself from the rest of his wideout brethren by being an incredible team player and blocking presence. (He's also distinguished for having mixed ancestry and other football blogs that think that's somehow funny. Sad.)

You know what you're getting from Hines -- 5 catches a game for 70 yards and the touchdown every other game. End of the year, you're looking at 70 catches, 1000 yards, 6 to 8 touchdowns, minimal headache, a reasonable WR3 in any offense. For the most part, you can start him every week with confidence.

Or can you?

Ward's getting older, and spent a lot of last season hurt -- more or less a first for him. He lost a lot of the red zone attention to Heath Miller. The deep balls now all go to Santonio Holmes or some other burner off the bench. The Pittsburgh running game will be (shh) much better this year, despite the loss of Alan Faneca, because Faneca didn't actually play all that well in his walk-off year, and because Rashard Mendenhall is a hell of a lot better than Najeh Davenport. He's probably better than Willie Parker, too, and if he is, Parker can go back to the change-of-pace back that he was when he was really exceptional. Ward could easily play as well as in previous years and have fewer yards and touchdowns, and that's assuming he stays healthy, which is rarely a given for players who are as physical as he is. Fantasy leagues are lost every year on over-reliance on known quantities like Ward.

The point, and trouble, in fantasy football is that the lifespans of players can be over in an instant, and that's independent of even catastrophic knee injuries. There are no sure things at any level, just lesser amounts of risk. Ward's attraction as a player has been his relative lack of risk in a boom or bust position; even in his worst games, he usually gives you a few points, and sometimes he gets touchdowns in bunches.

Owners in fantasy leagues fall somewhere on the callous/sentimental scale in regards to comfort picks. The folks who draft more towards their home team obviously fall towards comfort, whereas the any port in a storm crowd goes to callous. This also leads to the disgust shown by non-players, who can't understand how you'd root for a guy on the hated Other Laundry, especially the Most Hated Laundry. (Me, I tend to shy away from Most Hated Laundry myself, though not entirely -- if you get Role Player / Emerging Star from Most Hated Laundry, you can mitigate the guilt by thinking that he'll only get numbers in the event of injury to Most Hated Star. Call it the No TO, Yes Patrick Crayton rule.)

As in all things, moderation is important. A team full of guys and laundry you hate, or have never owned before, is also not likely to be optimal; you're drafting from a dogma there, rather than for value. Plus, you'll hate your team. I also tend to try to stay away from the One Basket approach, where you have the QB/WR tandem, or the RB and his handcuff. The simple fact is that handcuffs are comfort food as well, a seemingly no-cost insurance policy that prevents you from throwing up your hands in despair if Star Player goes down. But what most people don't realize is that if/when Star Player goes down, you're still screwed even if you have the handcuff... because you've been sitting on the sidelines with that roster spot while others have been taking advantage of the increased flexibility to take more chances on waiver wire finds before the handcuff became useful.

Plus, there's the simple matter of the handcuff itself. Most of the time, they don't perform at Star Player's level; if they did, they would have had the job in the first place. We remember all of the guys that took advantage of the opportunity, while forgetting all of the guys that were roster space killers. It's the insurance policy that insures losing.

So, as you prep for your own league, or (because it's more or less the same thing) think about any bets that you might lay down this season, consider the importance that comfort plays in your decisions, and whether or not you're doing the smart thing, as opposed to the comfortable one. Chances are, the harder path might be the better one.

Oh, and if you can get Ward as a WR3, he's probably still worthwhile. Besides, you'll smile, as always, when he lays some mouthy cornerback out on a sweep.

Epic Drop: Top 12 Reasons Why The Bears Went WIth Orton Over Grossman

Your list is here, and as a blogger and a football fan, I'm kind of pissed off about it. We don't need another low margin, low talent, low excitement game manager. If you're going to lose -- and dear God, Bears Fan, you are going to lose, in double figures and more -- why not go down with someone who is clearly the cause of all of your woes, rather than a guy who is just going to be a passenger on that bus?

It's kind of like how the NFL has evolved away from wacky coaches like Jerry Glanville and Sam Wyche. Dammit, I demand my losing teams to be more entertaining than this!

And finally, this. By dooming Rex to the ashcan of history, we dishonor the memory of ex-Dolphins quarterback David Woodley, who (and this is true, at least according to Wikipedia) died from complications of liver and kidney failure following a history of alcohol abuse. Dammit, Lovie Smith, why are you denying Woodley his due as the worst quarterback in the history of the Super Bowl? He needed that!

Monday, August 18, 2008

To The 48 People Who Care About Chris Kaman Playing For Team Germany

Shouldn't you be more worried about getting your car off the blocks in front of your trailer, whether you'll still be able to afford corn for the moonshine still now that the prices have gone up, or whether Luanne is gonna have the baby?

(Seriously, if Chris Kaman -- Chris Kaman! -- is the difference between gold and failure for the Redeem Team, you all can come shoot tin cans in my backyard. Failing that, um, STFU...)

Update... the US pulled off a 106-57 squeaker against the Huns. Kaman came off the bench to give the Kaiser 6 points, 4 boards, 4 turnovers and 2 personal fouls. Germany is 1-4, and not liable to get a medal of any sort. And the number of people who cared about Kaman playing for the Hessians just dropped to... well, the Kaman Family, I'm thinking. Moving on...

Fear of female

Here's a spittake moment of cowardice for you this morning... according to Seattle coach and marine mammal Mike Holmgren, his daughter Calla was recently booted from her fantasy football league for having "inside information." (I'd link you to the Lemur, but it's all of a three paragraph AP story, and AP Hates Bloggers, so screw 'em both.)

Now, I've been in a lot of fantasy leagues; I even commish three of them. And you know what you do with people who have "inside information"? You take their money and try not to laugh. Because "inside information" usually means "wrong information"... or, at the very least, information that tends to be wildly exaggerated in its importance.

What, exactly, was Ms. Holmgren alleged to have known that gave her team the edge? That Shawn Alexander was more worked over than gum that's been left on the bed post over night? That Matt Hasselbeck was going to have a bounce-back year because his line was better and his schedule was worse? Or that the Seahawks can only show up at home? Gosh, I knew all of that stuff, and I didn't even win either of my leagues last year. Calla must be playing with utter idiots.

Let's call a spade a spade here, because that is what we do: Calla's league mates are scared of losing to a, you know, GURL. The Internets tell me this would be called Eurotophobia, or fear of female genitalia (booga booga!), which is a fine word for us all to remember, especially now that the college football season is starting up again, and the blog's readership is rapidly approaching the Stalker Townie demographic...

But for heaven's sake, you Calla-tossing morons, if you can't beat someone who has half of her DNA given to her by a guy who could only get one Super Bowl win out of a prime era Brett Favre and Reggie White, you're probably too stupid to be reading this, anyway. All of the inside information in the world about DJ Hackett's injury status (this just in -- he's hurt!) shouldn't really, you know, sway a league.

No, if you want True Fear of Fantasy Football Cuckoldom, you can roll down my predicament. Yes, the Shooter Mom is now in my league, which either means I get to be the Bad Son and beat her, or get taken to the woodshed for old times' sake. Either way, I'm pretty sure the trash talk will be impressive. (Hi, Mom!)

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Tonight in Texas, your Tampa Bay Rays were ahead 7-3 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. At the plate was Josh Hamilton, 2 for 4 in the game, the tying run, hitting .302 with 28 home runs and 112 RBIs; perhaps, this year, the most dangerous hitter in baseball.

The Rays walked him. Intentionally. To force in a run, and put the tying run on first base, and the winning run at the plate... in the form of ex-Phillies OF Marlon Byrd (.290, 8 and 34).

Unfortunately for the Rangers, Hamilton didn't pull the Kelly Leak trick (Bad News Bears, original) of swinging at the intentional pitch. Because the Rays' closer of the moment with Troy Percival out again, Dan Wheeler, got Byrd swinging, and that was the ball game. Tampa stays 4 up of Boston in the East, with the second-best record in the AL and the third-best record in all of baseball.

Plus, they get major cojones points for their ability to do, well, anything to get a win... including adapt to the bandbox environment of Texas, and insult Marlon Byrd in a way that he probably hasn't felt since he was in Philly...

With Age Comes Ending

The bad year for legendary Braves starting pitchers from the 1990s continued this weekend, as Tom Glavine seems to have torn ligaments. Combine this with his less than encouraging numbers before the snap (2-4, 5.54 ERA), and you've got the ingredients for Later Stew.

One hopes that he really is done, is only for the nice numerical poetry that is 304-203 (career won-loss record), and the idea that he could go into the HOF in the same year as stablemate John Smoltz. That'd be sure to get all 38 Atlanta Braves fans nice and pleased... but if anyone is thinking that they are going to be joined by the third horse in the dynasty, Greg Maddux has other ideas.

For the year, the man is 6-9 with a 3.99 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP, which is to say, he's still a very reasonable back end of the rotation starter. You also get the feeling that when he goes into the HOF, he'll want to do it all by himself, as the greatest right-handed pitcher of his half century... at least, now that we know that Roger Clemens was a low down dirty cheater. 353 up, 223 down, and he's still got an outside shot at 400...

Axis of Evil, Denied

Hamed Haddadi, the star center for Iran who has been enjoying a strong Olympics so far, has said he'd like to play in the NBA. Given that he's 7'-2", 254 pounds, and has been averaging a double-double with some blocked shots against the world's best players, one suspects that more than a few clubs could use him. (The team that has come up most is Memphis, who obviously has fond memories of Pau Gasol going through their heads when they see Haddadi run the floor.)

There is, however, one problem. U.S. law.

A federal statue prohibits a person or organization in the United States from engaging in business dealings with Iranian nationals. To get around this, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control must grant a license. (This would seem to give the Toronto Raptors a heck of an edge if they were interested.)

Now, is US foreign policy really depriving US hoop fans of a chance to watch top-drawer talent? In all likelihood, no. The Olympic game is just too different, and while Haddadi has been the only real threat on his team in the tournament to date, it's far more likely that he's a small sample size flash in the pan. Big Euros have this nasty wake0up call when it comes to the rough and tumble of the Association, especially in that uppity American types really seem to love dunking on them.

But really, wouldn't it be better for all concerned if he were able to ply his trade over here? The Grizz would have a player worth checking out, the league would stretch its impact into the Middle East, and fundamental reactionary type who tune in via satellite would get an eyeful of the Great Satan's Whores, aka the talent on the sidelines during breaks. It's a win for all concerned!

Epic Drop: Top 12 Signs That Phillies Fan Is Losing It

Your link is here, and for the record, this really was inspired by the Rollins interview and the subsequent blogger reaction to try to arrange blind, annoying optimism and support for all Phillies events, known as Campaign Cheer.

Um, guys? Trust me on this... baseball players wouldn't get the joke. Your meta comedy would be completely lost on them. It's not something they're going to engage in, really. Sorry to disappoint.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Russians Get The Pargo Virus

Jannero Pargo, last seen as the Hornet taking all the crunch time shots in an elimination game against the Spurs, becomes the latest valued NBA talent to take the Russian petro-dollar. He joins Moscow Dynamo, where he'll team up with Bostjan Nachbar in pining for groupies that don't outweigh him, but $4 million a year can make a man put up with such indignities.

This isn't just a case of Pargo chasing the bucks; the Hornets went too hard after Celtic James Posey to have the bucks to take care of him. But the drip-drip-drip that is the rest of the world tapping into the US talent pipe is getting louder...

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