Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Are There Still Oriole Fans?

Last night, reliever David Hernandez won a game for Baltimore. He entered a tie game against the Royals, pitched two scoreless innings, then watched the O's push across a run on Ty Wigginton's sacrifice fly in the 11th. Closer Alfred Simon took over from there, and Hernandez moved to a 5-7 record to go with his 4.21 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.

Now, you are probably wondering why I'm interrupting your blog of snarky lists and not enough fantasy football team names to tell you game news from an MLB- team, and to put the spotlight on a guy that probably would not be among the first 1,000 names that you'd give me if I asked you to rattle off names of current MLB players. And here's why.

Hernandez now leads the team in wins.

With five.

No, seriously.

The O's are 32-70 (!) in the AL East. They just traded away their second best hitter on batting average, Miguel Tejada. That's actually OK, because Miggy was hitting his usually pedestrian .269. The "ace" of their rotation is Jeremy Guthrie, who has a 4.23 ERA and 4 wins. Their second best starter is Brian Matusz, who has a 5.46 ERA, and leads the teams in strikeouts (91); he is the case study on how young guys with stuff are not terribly useful if your goal is to win games. Their third best starter is the historically fantasy relevant Kevin Millwood, who sports a 5.96 ERA and probably pines for Arlington summers. Keep in mind that this is the Year of the Pitcher, where career fodder like Bruce Chen and Armando Galarrage flirt with perfection, and Dallas Braden actually achieved it. Jake Arrieta (5.40 ERA) and Brad Bergesen (6.95 ERA) round out the Not Ready For MLB Rotation.

Let's turn to the offense, where the O's were thought to have some intriguing young talent at the start of the year, when the world looked at all of those high draft picks and thought, well, it finally happened for the Rays, maybe it will finally happen here, too. Your team leader in OPS is Luke Scott, a 32-year-old who has never managed to break 500 at-bats in a season, and won't this year, either. He's got power (126 HRs in 1852 ABs) and is prone to hot streaks like the one he's currently on, so that's why he's got the team lead. Second is Nick Markakis, who should be emerging in his fifth year. Instead, he's becoming increasingly irrelevant, since he doesn't hit home runs (7 in 386 ABs), steal bases (4 for 5 for the year), or score or drive in runs (43 and 34, respectively). But if you need to feel good about something, his .293 BA and .378 OBA might eventually get him to an organization where he might be useful. I'm not counting on it, though.

Still looking for encouragement? Adam Jones had highly regarded talent coming into the year, with power, speed and a Gold Glove in center field. He's also shown a pulse lately. Unfortunately for him, the first 300 ABs of the year count the same as the second, and getting on base 3 out of 10 times isn't, well, good. My hatred of Matt Wieters is well known to regular readers of this blog. After his most recent trip to the DL, Johnny Bench II had a 2-homer day, leading to a flurry of pickups from everyone who became freshly convinced of the inevitability of the post-hype sleeper. That give him 8 for the year. Woo. I'm sure he calls a great game for all of these bombed-out pitchers. I'd go deeper into the farm system, but you get the point. Baltimore is where highly regarded young talent goes to die. A long, slow death of potential, potential, potential.

The really terrifying thing about the O's this year is that, with the exception of the Brian Roberts injury, they've actually been pretty lucky. Wigginton has been better than anyone had any right to believe. Corey Patterson has come up from the minors to give them the more than occasional spark. Scott has solved a spot when he really wasn't expected to. Simon has solidified the closer spot (15 of 17 saves) despite meh numbers (3.41 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, weak strikeout numbers for a closer). And yet, they have the worst record in the majors, do not draw fans to their park unless they are coming for the other team, and take a back seat in the toxic baseball waste dump that is the greater DC area to the Nationals, at least on any day where Stephen Strasburg might pitch. Of all the circling the drain MLB- franchises (Kansas City, Cleveland, Seattle, DC, Pittsburgh, Houston and Arizona), its either them or Pittsburgh as the most soul-killing, and Pirate Fan at least has recent rings in football and hockey to distract himself with.

A huge part of this, of course, is that they are in a murderous division. If the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays were all in different divisions, they'd probably all be division champions, and with them out of the division, the Jays would be a fine candidate for the AL wild-card. But the context of the division isn't the only thing that's going on here. There's a Clipper-esque stench of losing here that pervades and pollutes. Guys go on the DL for extended stretches due to trainer malpractice, general malfeasance, or cursed luck. Free agent signings are few and far between, and always from the remainder and closeout rack. And as anyone who claims to be a fan of this team (i.e., people who are at least 30 years of age or older, and remember when the O's were competitive, if not actually feisty and the occasional champion; the Orioles have made no new fans in the last dozen years) will tell you, the fish stinks from the head down. That head, of course, is owner Peter Angelos.

(Ready for the really funny part? They still draw fans, or at least, much more than you might expect. Baltimore ranks 23rd out of 30 teams in MLB in average attendance as I write this, with 22,261 for every game. They beat out Tampa, KC, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Oakland, Florida and Cleveland. No idea, of course, what they'd be like without the big weekends against the commuter AL East rivals.)

In the modern world, with our increasing acceptance of player fandom over team fandom, plus the ever-increasing amount of things that compete for our time, along with the ever-fractioning media control... well, I'm not sure why *anyone*, even the lifers, is still an Orioles fan. This isn't a matter of defending bandwagon jumpers, or telling people to abandon the club in a down year; I'm still a Sixers and Athletics fan, albeit increasingly disinterested in both. (Someone, please, tell Billy Beane that if he's really that interested in soccer, that he should stop pretending to be a GM, and trading away outfielders like Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez for Milton Bradley and three months of Matt Holliday. Thanks.) But at least my teams have given me moments of joy in this century, and their ownership is mostly skinflints that I can ignore. Angelos? Not so much.

So, O's Fan? Feel free to shut it down on this club. Find something else to do with your time. Even if no one goes to the games, they are not likely to move; there's no obvious place to go, the park is still a jewel, and Coke and Pepsi (err, I mean the Yankees and Red Sox) would never allow their de facto Washington Generals to go. Just like Florida, the club can still be profitable enough with next to no gate receipts, thanks to revenue sharing from clubs that actually try to win. In a decade or two, after Angelos goes to the hell that he so richly deserves and some upstart finally hits on a few draft picks, they'll be watchable again, and you can claim that you never lost faith.

But for now, turn the page. After all, everyone else involved in this sorry mess has.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Top 10 reasons why Roy Oswalt accepted a trade to Philadelphia

10) Wants to watch Jonathan Broxton's playoff implosion from close up

9) Interested in seeing what it's like when people show up at the yard on nights other than Bobblehead promotions

8) Knew that if Ed Wade was trading him, it was going to work out for the other team

7) He wants to see what it's like to play for a team that occasionally has players touch all four bases in the same inning

6) With Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels on the roster, he won't have to face another good starter... and with Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton, that he's not going to get skipped in the playoffs

5) Has been reassured that he won't be booed, even if he doesn't pitch all that well

4) Appreciates that, as part of the deal, he's still going to be getting cash from the Astros

3) Can't wait to hear how positive and supportive Philadelphia sports talk radio will be of his efforts

2) Certain that he's going to make everyone forget last year's rookie of the year (J.A. Happ) and World Series hero (Cliff Lee)

1) Intrigued by the idea of playing games in September and October that matter

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top 10 reasons why ESPN spiked the LeBron James Story

In case you missed the latest cause celebre in Blogfrica today, the World Wide Lemur goofed by putting a lurid tale of the Miami King enjoying himself in Las Vegas, then took it down... but not fast enough to avoid the denizens of the Internets. You can see it here, and the particularly weak sauce from the Mouse is here. But what's their real motivation?

10) Would hate for people to start disliking or resenting James

9) Feels that the world is not ready for the amazing true story of a 25-year-old wealthy male enjoying himself in Vegas

8) Couldn't run the story until they arranged for the ads to be for the Boys and Girls Club

7) The ombudsman is on vacation, which means that they are helpless against James' wiles

6) They know that by spiking the story, they are much more likely to get it noticed

5) Afraid that people will get the wrong impression of him with that giant LJ style crucifix

4) Reporting that Lamar Odom lost a dance-off is just too traumatizing

3) Can't take the chance of young women thinking that getting tattoos will make boys like you

2) Decided that, in the long run, Cleveland had suffered enough, and wasn't ready to start down that path with New Orleans and Chris Paul

1) Do not want to take the chance of giving kids the wrong idea about hedonism, or Chap Stick

Of course, major props to Deadspin on this one, which lives to torment the Lemur...

We Apologize For This Dream Sequence

"Tickets please."

"The delayed 6:22 passenger ticket pre-sentation to Trenton is operating ten minutes late due to wire problems. We apologize for the inconvenience."

"What wire problems?"

"Oh, you know. Wire problems. Problems. With the wires. I thought Season 2 spent too much time with the dockworkers."


"We understand that reply made no sense, and apologize for the inconvenience."

"Sir, do you realize that you are inconveniencing the rest of these passengers?"

"Yes. And we are very sorry for the fifteen minute delay."

"Hold on. You just said ten."

"The delayed 6:22 passenger ticket presentation to Trenton has just left Penn Station."

"Sir, we are on the train. We just passed the airport."

"Yes, but the presentation has just heard about police activity five miles away. There are several conductors in front of you."

"There are no conductors in front of me. This is ridiculous."

"We apologize for the inconvenience."

"FINE. So if I come back in fifteen minutes, you'll show me your ticket. Will that make you happy?"

"Please, sir, there's no reason to be upset. We are doing everything we can to present the ticket to you, but as I said, wire problems, police activity, and the existence of Amtrak has us operating under twenty minute delays."

"So it's 20 now?"

"Possibly. We'll keep you posted. (Waits ten seconds) The 6:22 passenger ticket presentation to Trenton has been moved to Track 4."

"Sir, we're on the train now, not a track. I need to see your ticket."

"This just in... due to the police activity, the 6:22 passenger ticket presentation to Trenton has been canceled. We apologize for the inconvenience."

"Fine. Whatever. Forget it. I don't need to see your ticket. You look like a regular anyway."

"Excellent, sir. That will be $300."

"$300? For what?"

"Exactly, sir. Exactly."

Top 14 things I've learned from New Jersey Transit

Excuse the non-sports list, but sometimes a man's just got to share, you know? Last night, my ride home took 2.5 hours (it should take 40 minutes), and required the Shooter Wife to drive an hour, rather than five minutes. But as always, when life gives me lemons, I make projectiles. With little bits of broken glass and rocks in them...

14) There is, in fact, a much worse mass transit system than Philly's SEPTA, NYC's MTA, DC's Metro, BART in the Bay Area and the River Styx Express in Hades

13) "Signal problems" can be announced to the passengers as the cause for any conceivable problem

12) If you buy a house near a station as part of a plan to sacrifice time for more money and space for your family while keeping your environmental damage down, you are a first-class chump who will be taken for all that he's worth

11) Raising the parking rates in a down economy is just good business

10) When someone commits suicide by train, you have to stop service for stations that are miles and miles away from the event, so that tens of thousands of strangers have the chance to reflect, for hours and hours, on just what has been lost

9) The best way to handle a cut in service is to raise prices by 25%

8) New trains will be less reliable in high heat than old trains as a "safety feature"

7) You can't expect the service to operate on time in difficult weather, such as any form of precipitation or temperature variance

6) Track ties that are supposed to last for 30 years will wear out in 10, and require delay-causing repairs

5) No matter what happens, it's all Amtrak's fault

4) If 95% of the overall trains are on time, it doesn't matter how many people actually get to where they are going on time, because the rush hour commuters can content themselves with knowing that the 2am local is extremely reliable

3) When a service interruption happens, shuttle bus service to cover the shortfall is plainly impossible, but telling you to take a taxi can happen

2) If it's not Amtrak's fault, it's the Port Authority or New York City's fault, since they haven't built more tunnels

1) If you do not like it, you have the very real option of lumping it, or placing it into an orifice that does not usually receive deliveries

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Top 10 reasons why the Bengals signed Terrell Owens

10) They liked his reality show better than Chad Ochocinco's

9) Owens told QB Carson Palmer that, no matter what happens, he won't throw him under the bus like he's done to all of those other QBs

8) Terrell's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, once saved coach Marvin Lewis's life in 'Nam

7) The NFL has secretly decreed that Cincy is a holding pen for all of the league's problem children

6) Shockingly, the fifth team to acquire Antonio Bryant hasn't been any happier about it than the previous four

5) They feel that he can provide the same kind of good decision-making and clear-headedness as the late Chris Henry

4) Unlike Matt Jones, Terrell isn't extremely prone to getting arrested

3) Were really afraid that they would lose him to the Rams, Raiders, or CFL

2) Wanted to make sure that, in the light of Ben Roethlisberger's off-season, that they still had the most hateable team in the division

1) Certain that they are just a drop-prone aging team cancer away from the Super Bowl

Top 10 reasons why the NFL won't discipline Michael Vick

10) Boys will be dog-killers, potential conspirators to murder, and liars

9) In all seriousness, Vick cried, which made it all better

8) The NFL, as any objective Philly Fan will tell you at length, really hates the Eagles, so they want to make sure they are exposed to as much Vick as possible

7) The NFL feels that if Vick just spends more time in the warm parental embrace of Andy Reid, everything will work out fine

6) In a similar vein, anyone that is exposed to a lot of time with the life-affirming Christian conservative world of Tony Dungy will wind up healthy, well-adjusted, and in no way suicidal

5) If we suspend everyone in the NFL who had people killed for his 30th birthday, we won't have anyone left to own a team

4) Vick now knows that he's on his fifth last chance, which means he'll be extra special good

3) Philadelphia talk radio really needed Vick on the roster, so that they can pule for him as soon as Kevin Kolb isn't perfect

2) All part of the vast NFL conspiracy to deny QB jobs to the white man

1) Goodell really just didn't want to get on Vick's bad side

Monday, July 26, 2010

Top 13 Running On The Field Moves

Oh, Baltimore. I knew from watching "The Wire" that your city was a bleak and desolate urban hellscape from which few can escape. But are you so downhearted that you can't even summon up the energy to chase down field crashers?

I'm pretty sure that guy ran around longer than the team had playoff hopes.

Anyway, since the O's are now clearly giving more time to transients than you might get at an open mic, with a slightly larger audience, it got me to thinking. What could you do before you receive your bored beatdown or tasing that wasn't, well, as tired as the security guards chasing that kid?

Note: For the record, we do not condone of people running onto the field. But there's lot of things in MLB that we do not condone, and they happen anyway. So have at it!

13) Hostage Drama. Drag a confederate out on the field with you, point something phallic at his or her head, and start bellowing out demands for all that you are worth. The hard part here is smuggling in anything that looks like a real weapon and having a confederate to act out the part of your victim, but this could make for a fascinating moment of seeing if any of the Oriole players have enough interest to even look up. My money is on no.

As for how the management would handle this, it would give us a valuable insight into whether they will, in fact, negotiate with terrorists. Their historic dealings with Scott Boras clients says that it wouldn't be an entirely new situation for them.

12) The Full Lou. Throw a cap! Toss a base! Kick some dirt! It's all in honor of soon to be retiring Cubs manager Lou Pinella, who won't be around much longer and needs to see your heartfelt tribute to his Rassin' Frassin' legacy. He's given to all of us so much over the years, don't we owe him this? Perhaps as a concentrated, Flash mob style event, with dozens of stadiums hit at once? Lou would have wanted it that way.

11) Join the Ligue. The Ligues, for ye of little memory, were those ChiSox dirtbags who came after Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa in September 2002. Why Gamboa, at that time, has never really been answered, but the joy of the Internets is that you can probably find some reason to try to whale on any guy on the field. This also sets up your insanity defense for later. Plan ahead. (Fun fact: the Ligues didn't even serve prison time for this assault, but would go to the big house later for unrelated crimes. Ah, Chicago justice!)

10) Your Number Two. Just assume the dog on a leash position, perhaps with a circling motion or two, and give the only editorial judgment worthy of the Pirate, Oriole, Met or any number of other team's seasons. For added cleverness, bring a rally towel for the hated enemy, and for lifelong Internet immortality, actually pinch off a loaf. (And if you can do that, under the pressure of eyes and what would have to be some security people with more quickness than usual, you are a better man than I.)

If someone ran out on the field and pretended to drop a deuce on a Yankee flag, I'm pretty sure he'd have a sports radio gig by the end of the week. And if he actually did it, a book tour.

9) Gymnastics. Cartwheels and tumbling show that you've got mad cheerleader game. These work even better if you are hammered, which you probably are, and fail utterly to stick the landing. Don't you want to be on Tosh 2.0? Fame Awaits!

8) Cardio. As noted in the fine feature "Zombieland", cardio is a very important aspect of surviving the coming Zombie Apocalypse, and has the benefit of showing the home crowd that being slow and out of shape extends beyond the on-field talent. Plus, it has the benefit of taking some of the legs out of the guards for the post-run beatdown.

7) Wannabe mascotry. Get your Dancin' Homer on, or show that you know your San Diego Chicken history. The added bonus here is that everyone just can't do the wave enough. That's fresh!

6) Dance craze. Are you the kind of guy who can dance to your own, presumably unheard, melody? Well, there's no better way to show the world that the Batusi needs a revival, or that Saturday Night Fever never goes away, no matter how much ointment you put on it.

Just don't do the macarena. Many fans have good arms, and access to batteries.

5) Batting stance mimicry. For reasons that mostly escape me, there's a guy on the Internets that gets serious traffic for mocking the batting stance of various major leaguers. Steal his gimmick! Or the fake laugh that the players give him.

4) Accost a player. Sure, baseball players are about as social and easy to approach as camels or recovering addicts, but that doesn't mean that Star Home Team Player isn't dying to meet you. Make a beeline for him, and see if he'll return your request for an elaborate high five, just like he does with teammates after a home run. You are part of the team now!

3) Throw swag. Your little trip is going to cost you some serious coin, what with the hospital bills, legal fees and fines. So why not spend the extra $40 on a six pack of balls at the souvenir stand and make friends with the spectators? You'll also have the special legal bonus round of potential lawsuits from beaned bystanders. Now, your story has what we in the media call "legs." Nice work!

2) Slide, DiMaggio, slide! Like moths to a flame, the infield dirt beckons, and your best chance of making an even longer timewaste by causing the infield crew to have to come out and rake. Unfortunately, the security lards know this, so you will not have the element of surprise, but if you've got the quicks and/or the cardio, maybe you can get your pants dirty. You know, before they take you into the tunnel.

1) Tase yourself. Don't wait for security to apply the voltage to you. Instead, spaz out for all that you are worth as soon as they get within ten feet of you. To the fans in the cheap seats, you'll look like the victim of a massive case of brutality, and a PR-adverse club might just drop the charges in the hope that you'll go away, or even cut a check. Success!

Top 10 reasons why you should care about Team USA in the World Basketball Championships

10) It's a great way to see Kevin Durant, aka the only superstar that everyone is still allowed to like

9) Kind of fascinating to see what Andre Iguodala looks like with teammates, and when people care about the outcome of the game

8) Since many of the players are young, short and/or second-tier, you can talk yourself into thinking that the U.S. are plucky underdogs against those French and Tunisian bullies

7) Reminds you just why Gerald Wallace doesn't do anything for anyone but fantasy league nerds

6) It's fun to speculate if Tyreke Evans is really hurt, or just afraid that the other, better guards on the roster will show him up

5) Watching Rajon Rondo be just another player will add valuable fuel to the cause of Celtic Hate

4) Gives us all an interesting look into a Bizzaro World where the best American big (Lamar Odom) doesn't even start for his own team

3) Allows Durant to say things like "We're going to be a blue-collar team" with something close to a straight face

2) If and when they lose, we can pretend it's all Mike Krzyzewski's fault

1) Everyone knows that real basketball excitement only happens with a bigger lane, constant three pointers, wildly inconsistent officiating and more or less complete American indifference

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Top 10 ways to pad the page count of a fantasy football annual

10) Write an introduction. This one's easy. Just cut and paste some other blowhard's observations on how big fantasy football has gotten, add in an aside over how your clueless old relative now has a team, then finish with a ton of thanks to people on the masthead. These practically write themselves!

9) Sniff a jock. Call any young running back or non-star wideout, ask him the same ten questions that everyone always asks, and voila... instant five page spread with photos. You're already deep into the page count!

8) Big photos. What do fantasy sport neds and number junkies need more than anything? Right -- big, big color photos. And lots of them! Preferably cut together in a way that shows your graphics designer uses drugs!

7) Have an "expert" draft. As there are over five million fantasy sports Web sites, and no one can be sure who is legit and who isn't, it's easy to crank up a dozen fake names and URLs and go to work. Make sure to have lots of bizarre and indefensible decisions to show the world just how expert they are!

6) Add some wildly over-enthusiastic rookie profiles. The only people who fluff these guys more are their agents or the mouth jobbers that host the draft show. Just remember, if only half of the guys hyped make it, the NFL will have to expand by a half dozen teams.

5) Pull some strength of schedule predictions out of your... For sheer Ouija board work, little beats the concept that you can ensure that your team isn't just going to qualify for the playoffs, but be set up to win once you get there. And since there's just enough in this to affect a decision, it's absolute catnip to players. Catnip made from bull product.

4) Repeat your themes. Did you know that wideouts in their third year tend to have their crossroads year -- either breaking through to production or fizzling out to irrelevance? Well, now you do, which means that you should have it pointed out to you for every third year receiver in the league, no matter how trivial or meaningless the distinction might be. (Yes, by all means, DeSean Jackson is just primed to do good this year, because it's his third year. Ye gads.)

3) Dream up some survivor league tips. Want a tip on how to win a survivor league? Don't play, or arrange to have everyone else who joined the league killed. Otherwise, this is the fantasy football equivalent of playing Powerball, and subject to the same need for "tips."

2) Talk to the Big Money League Winner. This one just screams out paid placement from a sportsbook, as there is just no other reason to imagine why anyone, with the possible exception of the winner and his immediate family, wants to hear how some random guy took down a pot. Nothing quite says useless like hearing how some fat pantload won five figures last year with Sidney Rice, and how it is life-changing money for him and his spawn, in that they can now afford the double-wide. This helps my draft lots!

1) Take kickers seriously. Nothing quite says thorough like a paragraph or two on the interchangeable last-round fodder that is the kicker position. Make sure to forecast how many over 50 yard field attempts will happen, too. That's quality padding!

This week's top 10 MLB takeaways

10) Matt Wieters came off the disabled list, just in time to remind all of his fantasy owners that he sucks

9) The Marlins had four walk-off wins in the week, delighting the dozens of Marlins fans in attendance

8) The Angels traded for Dan Haren, because the way to make up a half dozen games in the division is to bring in a big money pitcher with a 4.60 ERA from the weaker league

7) Andre Dawson was inducted into the Hall of Fame, because you can not tell the history of baseball without the extensive use of the Montreal Expos

6) The A's won eight of ten to pop over the .500 mark, proving that you can win more games than you lose even if you don't have a single outfielder that should be an everyday player in the major leagues

5) The Mets scheduled their usual September collapse early

4) The Phillies lost Jamie Moyer to injury, demoted Kyle Kendrick, didn't make a trade for Roy Oswalt, and... brought Kendrick back up to help rattle off a 4-game winning streak

3) Chone Figgins took a swing and miss at his manager, with the latter action surprising none of his current fantasy league owners

2) The Padres continued to not get the memo that they shouldn't be leading their division

1) Blake Wood, a relief pitcher for the Royals, earned the eternal gratitude of millions by hitting Alex Rodriguez, rather than giving him a shot at his 600th home run at home

A small non-sports aside

Does anyone out there in the reading public know how to make a new consumer packaged good? I'd like to make a mint with the following campaign...

Shampoo for Actually Straight Men.

Our product will promise to just clean your hair. We'll also pledge to not make it smell like a Eurotrash guy, someone who enjoys rubbing fruit extract into their scalp, or someone who is just using their wife or girlfriend's product and hoping no one notices.

It will not stregthen fine or damaged hair, or give you additional volume, whatever the hell that is. The product will not protect your dye job, because as an Actually Straight Man, you won't be doing that. It also won't control flyaway hair, because as an Actually Straight Man, you could not give less of a crap about those.

Our ads will have an ordinary looking guy asking the viewer why they want their head to smell like a fruit plate. And if they do want their head to smell like that, that there is something wrong with them. The ads will end with a woman dropping to her knees in front of the man, saying that since she is also straight, she enjoys it when her man does not smell like her. The ads will last 15 seconds at most, and run during poker telecasts, stand-up comedy shows, and non-Super Bowl sporting events. We will also pay to put up posters in any men's only barber shop.

So long as we note that our product does not try to grow hair or get rid of dandruff, I'm not certain that there is a competing product in the market. Or, at least, not at my local Rite-Aide...

Friday, July 23, 2010

One Milt Over The Line

In the wake of today's news that the Phillies have fired hitting coach Milt Thompson for failing to make Raul Ibanez young, Chase Utley healthy, and the collection of minor-league flotsam world-beaters, please enjoy this classic (in that it's old) FTT moment. From way back in 2007...

A college roommate was the kid of an ex-MLB manager, which meant that he got unused player's wife tickets. In the summer of 1988, he invited me to take in a Phillies game in late July, with the team mostly out of the pennant race. It was my first experience, ever, in very good seats.

The Phillies had (have?) a moronic fan that we'll refer to here as Mr. Hoo Hoo! Mr. Hoo Hoo! is so named because of an odd habit he has, where he shouts out some odd statistical note of encouragement to a Phillies player, then punctuates it with a high-pitched "Hoo Hoo!" that echoes throughout the mostly quiet stadium. During slow points in games, you could clearly hear him on telecasts.

(Note: the Phillies had, at this point, not made the playoffs for 5 years, and not really been in a race for that long, either. It was the era of Steve Jeltz, Jeff Stone and Rich Schu, which is to say, very much like a lot of eras in Phillies history.)

So we're settling in for the bottom of the first. Milt Thompson had gotten the start for the Phils that night, mostly out of a lack of any more interesting ideas. Hitting second against a lefthander, he was a mostly power-free outfielder hitting from the wrong side of the plate.

He also had, at that point, one home run for the year (and would finish with 2). Milt hit 47 home runs for his entire career. (Which makes him the perfect current candidate to coach Ryan Howard. Anyway, I digress.)

In short, Milt was no threat to go deep. At all.

As I soon discover, Mr. Hoo Hoo! is sitting no less than 20 feet away. Which, while annoying at the time, warms my black heart now -- the idea that the fat cats in the good seats had to suffer with this clown, game after game. He opens up.


Turning to my friend, I said, "Yeah, maybe in his life against a left-hander."

Not loud, not drunk, not even all that derisive. It was the first inning. All was calm.

At which point Mrs. Milt Thompson (presumably), who was sitting right behind us, proceeded to loudly suck all of the air out of the stadium in a classically understated display of Spurned Woman Fury.

Mrs. Thompson also, probably, outweighed me by a good 50 pounds, and was surrounded by similarly enhanced people, all of them performing variations of the "Oh no, he didn't" face.

Milt might have been the pro athlete, but he wasn't the power hitter in the family.

Thompson hits a pop up and is retired. The Phillies lose quietly. My friend and I do much the same. Mrs. Thompson's glare gives the back of my neck a third-degree burn. I would have had a better time in the bleachers.

On the off chance that Milt reads this... by all means, say hello to the missus for me.

Assuming she's still, you know, on the streets.

Top 10 Destinations for Chris Paul

The superstar point guard is the latest NBA player who wants to arrange for his next team, but unlike some people, he doesn't have the contract status to just go to where he chooses. It's a darn shame. But on the plus side, it means that we finally, after days and days, have a guy where we can speculate on his next address. Thank heavens. Let the rampant rumor mongering begin!

10) Cleveland. Dan Gilbert's serious about winning a championship before LeBron! Oh, wait, actually he isn't, and Cleveland doesn't have a team anymore. But if they somehow got him, they'd give him the best rebound love you could imagine, and the survivors from the LeBron Era wouldn't look so 30-win awful next year.

9) New Orleans. If David Stern were still alive, he'd get in touch with Paul and Hornets owner George Shinn, and tell both parties to make the marriage work, rather than crush the spirit of those hardy New Orleans fans. But screw those people. They won an NFL championship, so that means their sporting needs are satisfied, no matter how many levees break and how many people avoid the BP-ruined coast as the Death of Tourism.

8) New Jersey. Is Net Fan still excited about the Mikhail Prokhorov Era? Considering it ties into the Billy King Era, I'd say no... and any Paul trade would have to involve Devin Harris, who has to be going at fire sale prices right now. It's hard to see that they have enough to move for him, but if the Bugs are just dumping salary, he could go here.

7) Portland. Possibly the best hope for Bug Fan, assuming this person actually exists, for actual value, since the Blazers ran off a decent GM for no good reason, and there's talent on the roster that meddling owner Paul Allen will undervalue. Oregon would adore Paul, and if Greg Oden would ever get health... well, right, forget it, that will never happen.

6) Boston. Would the Celtics really run Rajon Rondo off, and dismantle a team that flicked the switch so effectively in the playoffs, just to upgrade to a point guard that can hit a jump shot? You'd have to think no, but maybe Danny Ainge remembers the team that looked so bad for much of the second half, and Paul could give the team some much-needed juice and a crunch time player. It's not likely, but since no off-season speculation can avoid 'em, here they are...

5) Clippers. Stop me if you've heard this one before: the Clips bring in a brittle but exciting point guard to completely change the culture of the team. Hell, maybe they can ship out Baron Davis in the package for CP3, and have him do funny Web videos with Steve Nash. There's a reason why the Clips are the NBA's version of Groundhog Day.

4) San Antonio. Are they ready to move on from Tony Parker, and reload like mad for the sunset years of Tim Duncan? If they are, count on the Spurs to get a great deal for him, and for the Hornets to take back young talent that was drafted late and will never look as good away from Gregg Popovich. But at least Parker would get to speak a little French, and put up the cheap Fantasy numbers and heavy minutes that are his destiny.

3) Dallas. Does Mark Cuban really want to watch Jason Kidd age, or put the entire franchise in the hands of some untested Frenchie? They do have $20 million in expiring contracts, young talent to send back to the Bugs, and the past history that shows that they'll roll the dice. Plus, CP3 will enjoy being a high seed that always loses in the first round, and if he hangs out with Dirk Nowitzki long enough, maybe he can have his own criminal mistress. Good times!

2) Orlando. The rumor here is that the Hornets would package poison pill contract Emeka Okafor with Paul to the Magic for the can't get him out of here fast enough Vince Carter, Martin Gortat (paid too much for bench work, and really quite capable of being a starter), and poor man's CP3 Jameer Nelson. The trade actually works on a basketball level for the Hornets, until you are actually in a game that the other team wants to win, and you are relying on Carter. As for the Magic, Paul would make Dwight Howard look like he's got an actual offensive game -- remember when CP3 made Tyson Chandler look good? -- and the Heat-Magic games would be downright intriguing. There are worse ideas.

1) New York. The plan is for Paul to join Amar'e Stoudamire and the year away from free agency Carmelo Anthony in New York, where they'd form the latest Power Trio to rival the Celtics and Heat. In Manhattan, they'd all get paid, have the fervent devotion of a city that actually cares about hoop, and have an offense-only coach that believes in up-tempo, Phoenix-style stat pumping. And if it happens, the NBA can contract to four teams in each conference, so we can finally have the league of super groups that we were promised. Or something.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top 10 Awful Topical Fantasy Football Team Names

Ah yes, it's that time again... when your worth as a human being is judged entirely by the quality of your fantasy football team name. So as the annual service for the time-stressed, let us give you what the search engine traffic says you have been looking for... names for your fantasy football team that will not age well. At all. As always, these should all fit in the standard Yahoo size template. And I'm sorry, Brandon Gibson, but you should never have said those things to your ex.

Beyond Production

Fantasy Stimulus

Despicable Team

Brandon Gibson Tapes

Wing T Party Offense

Vuvuzela Blowers

South Beach Talents

Reggie Bush's Trophy

Survive Jimmy's Johnson

The Cyber Police

And in case you don't know where the Cyber Police reference comes from, here's a fine recap. Consequences Will Never Be The Same!

And the inevitable reaction from Hitler...

Top 11 reasons why Lou Pinella is retiring

11) The last time he tried to kick his hat while berating an umpire, he nearly blew out his hip

10) Sure that as soon as the Cub players stop being distracted by who will manage next year, they'll win

9) Knows that if he doesn't get the hell away from Carlos Zambrano soon, he's gonna die

8) Wants to give the know-it-all announcers an opportunity to manage the Cubs and show how smart they are

7) Just can't match the same arm-killing legacy of Dusty Baker

6) Can't stop pining for Milton Bradley

5) Watching this much Cub baseball is no way for a 67-year-old man to live

4) After spending much of the last years of his career managing the Rays and Cubs, a fourth-place team of wildly overpaid mediocrities counts as going out on top

3) Now that George Steinbrenner is dead, no longer has the spiteful need to have a manager's job

2) Wants to be inducted in Cooperstown for his managerial record while alive

1) Has done the math, and really can't see himself catching Connie Mack, so screw it

Top 10 Summer NFL Stories That No One Needs To Read

10) How inspiring Wes Welker's comeback from injury is

9) Anything involving JaMarcus Russell, since he no longer has anything to do with the NFL, and hasn't for years

8) Any advance speculation, usually agent-driven, on where Terrell Owens is going to play

7) First round pick negotiations, assuming that they don't involve lengthy holdouts for fantasy relevant players

6) Lockout speculation, which exists only to convince us that the future will suck

5) How Star Player X really bonded with his teammates thanks to his special grueling voluntary workout

4) That workouts in summer heat are unpleasant

3) That Team X is really excited to have Star Player Y or New Coach Z, despite the fact that the player and coach in question were only available because they were cut loose by some other club

2) How some old player is signing with his old team so he can have some overwhelmingly meaningful retire in the colors moment

1) Anything, with the possible exception of news concerning a murder-suicide, about Brett Favre

Top 12 reasons why no one cares that A-Rod is about to hit his 600th homer

12) That would involve being happy for him, which no one has been since Seattle

11) MLB's fans are too wrapped up in Trevor Hoffman's attempt to reach 600 saves

10) Now that he's got a World Series ring, it's much harder to belittle him

9) Between the steroids, the boom box stadiums that he's played in, and the massive number of dingers that have come in blowouts, really doesn't seem like very much

8) Unlike Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, Jorge Posada and a half dozen other guys who are having a better year, he's not a True Yankee

7) Once Dallas Braden threw a perfect game, everyone had to admit that A-Rod was kind of a douche about that whole walking on the mound thing

6) Yankee Fan is too sophisticated to care about whole numbers, preferring only primes

5) Unfortunately for A-Rod, his only fan isn't able to clap at homers, since that guy is usually holding a bat when he hits one

4) Failed to get the memo that this is the Year of the Pitcher, and that home runs are now considered gauche and declasse

3) Once Evan Longoria beat him out in the All-Star balloting, all of his other accomplishments failed to matter

2) Six hundred home runs might be enough to impress a lesser franchise, but Yankee Fan only gets stiff for threepeats and all-time records

1) Timed his home run record to be right in the middle of Old Men Dying Month

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Top 10 reasons why the Devils signed Ilya Kovalchuk for 17 years and $102 million

10) Hockey players all last until age 44 now

9) Ensures that, no matter what happens to America and her currency, the Devils will keep him away from those bastards in St. Petersburg

8) Being the centerpiece of a team that loses in the first round to a #7 seed always means long-term job security

7) It's not exactly cheap to lock up the best years of a man's life to work in Newark when he's got the option to go, well, anywhere else

6) It allows the Devils salary cap flexibility until after the NHL goes out of business

5) By the time the contract is up, parking attendants will be making millions

4) It would have been 12 years and $82 million, but the club refused to rename itself to the New Jersey Kovalchuks

3) Had to break $100 million and 15 years to secure a front page off-season notice on ESPN

2) Kovalchuk extorted an extra $10 million from the club to avoid announcing his decision on a one hour special on Versus

1) Um, Lou Lamoriello is 67 years old, and might not be making really good decisions anymore

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Foolproof Plan For Winning Poker: Flop Quads

So as regular readers of the blog know, I play poker fairly often -- about 25 to 30 times a year. It's always in real life, as online is a Pandora's Box of time and moneysuck that I dare not venture down, and my favorite games are house games with no rake. The payouts aren't as good, but so long as you choose your people well, it's almost a guaranteed good time, win or lose. And life is too short to play cards with Eh, Holes. (Ah, the lengths I go to prevent my pristine search engine ranking, and the delicate sensisibilities of the blog's advertisers.)

Anyhoo, I got to play twice last weekend, and It Went Very Well. How well? Well, when you have a 10-minute tournament stretch when you flop quads and get bet into, then get a pair of aces before the flop against an all-in pair of queens bet (and yes, the aces didn't crack)... well, you are running very hot indeed. I chopped for first, held my own in the subsequent play until 5am in the BS and cash session, and breathed a small note of relief, because the bankbook is really tight enough that a two-table tournament win makes a big difference right about now.

The next night, one of my regular players was running his own game, about a 45-minute drive away. He's a solid friend from way back, so two of us made the drive. He had a bunch of guys from his office who are relatively new to the game, and they are looking at the experienced players as if we were televised pros. When I got to the final table, one of them had some terrible plays paid off in all-out bets, and of course the immense stack is to my right. I wind up surviving a couple of races, then won a 40-60 flop agains the 3rd highest stack to get to the final two. It was a battle, but for once, I had more experience than the other guy, which was a pretty novel experience. As a 2-to-1 dog, I took a chop, then treaded water in the cash game and headed home.

So the weekend was a double win, with payouts of 3X and 4X of my buy-in, and my family is eating freeroll groceries for the week... and there's no more boring or irritating poker post possible, is there? I played well and got lucky and it happened twice in a row, which means that the next time I sit down at a table, it's going to go as well as rectal surgery without anesthesia. Because the Poker Gods are an awful lot like the Golf Gods, which is to say that their sense of humor is redundant, predictable, and you fall for the joke every time anyway. This game is easy! I'm getting better at it!

In a couple more weeks, I'll try a casino tournament again (so far, I'm 0 for 7 to cash, but have been slowly but surely getting a little more comfortable), and see if I can finally pop that cherry. My guess is that I'll be card dead for the entire time, or go out with cracked aces, since the luck has been with me this last weekend. And if not? Well, I've never had an interest in playing a World Series of Poker event before, but now, I'm starting to wonder. Especially if I keep flopping quads.

A Small Question To Those Who Say LeBron James Will Never Be Michael Jordan

Um, why should he?

Let's imagine a world in which the Miami Heat become the next great NBA team. They win something like four out of the next five NBA championships. James averages a triple-double. He overcomes an injury, either to himself or to one of his superstar teammates (and, well, that would be Dwayne Wade). He throws down a dominant playoff performance or six, and maybe chips in a 70-point game, or a 40-point per game playoff run, with sweeps of teams that other people think are good. He's an All-Star Game MVP, an Olympic gold medalist, yada yada yada. He's the best player of his generation, and it's not even close.

Will we still be killing him over the PR debacle of leaving Cleveland, or the "cowardice" of needing to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh?

No, of course not. We'll go back to fellating him for his canny choice, delighting in the way that the Heat play ball, talking about how they revolutionized the game away from Celtic/Laker inside game thuggery, or how, for the first time in the history of the game, a smallball-style approach really worked. We'll be talking about how the Thunder and Bulls and Team TBD might be the ones to dethrone them, and whether James has logged too many minutes or how Role Player X deserves more credit for hitting the wide-open three pointers that came his way in the Heat's latest win.

Because what seems to be dawning on everyone, as the dust starts to settle and the Heat fill out the roster with useful pieces like Mike Miller, is that he's put himself in a very good position. And that no team's fans in the Eastern Conference seem to be real thrilled about it. Celtics Fan, Bulls Fan, Magic Fan... none of them are thinking, "Wow, I'm sure a lot more comfortable about my team's chances to make the Finals now that LeBron is out of Cleveland."

And oh, by the way, when Jordan talks about how he would have never called up Larry Bird or Magic Johnson to collude to be on the same team?

Jordan, Bird and Magic didn't enter the league at the same time. They never had the opportunity to play together until 1992, eight years into Jordan's NBA life, when both Bird and Magic were well past their peak, and Jordan was still on the ascent, and a multiple NBA champion. (That time to play together being the Barcelona Dream Team. Note that LeBron plays with Wade and Bosh in 2008 in Beijing; if Cavs Fan really wants to find a villain for this thing beyond the usual suspects, blame John Thompson for picking a boneheaded team in 1988, leading to NBA players in the game in the first place.)

If Michael really wanted to make the corollary correct, he'd have mentioned others from his draft class, including Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. But he didn't want to do that, because then he'd be degrading his legacy by talking about the Chuckster, or the Dream that never won when he was in Chicago. Jordan also, of course, had the best second banana in the history of the league in Scottie Pippen, the best coach in the history of the league in Phil Jackson, and a roster filled with people who knew their roles and lived with Jordan's obsessive nature.

Now, would Jordan have left Chicago at age 25? Of course not. Unlike James, he had a taskmaster and present father to push him in different directions, a college experience where Dean Smith kept him under 20 points a game (the only person ever to do that, really), and, well, just different wiring from anyone to ever play the game, with the possible exception of Kobe Bryant.

But, and this is the far more important point... did James actually make the wrong decision? The relentless fluffing of the Noah-Rose Bulls seems be dying down. (And one has to wonder just how much Jordan's scorn has to do with the fact that James didn't go to his old stomping grounds.) The growing realization that the Heat might be the best team in the East, especially now that the roster is filling out despite undue cap concerns, is starting to take some of the sting of the ESPN wankathon away. James just might be, and this is the really terrible thought.... really, freaking smart. Tone-deaf on the PR, sure. But correct on the court. And that's beyond the Delonte West rumors.

Will that make him the best to every play the game? Well, probably not. But he wasn't ever going to be that guy, because that player hasn't been born yet. The best player in the history of the game will win without any teammates at all, perhaps by his use of telekinesis, or telescoping 40 foot arms, or by being a perfect stealth cyborg. There will always be a best player ever, and he will always be on the horizon. It's the nature of the beast.

But until that player enters the league, we'll live with what we've got. Which is the most intriguing team in years, and an organization that we're supposed to hate.

Until, of course, they win.

And win, and win, and win... and change the dominant NBA narrative that there has to be a Clear Alpha Dog to win (oh, like the 2008 Celtics, who won on defense, and would give the last shot to whoever was open?), or that you have to win with defense (like the Showtime Lakers, with lockdown defense from... well, guys who didn't start), or that teams can only win with continuity and cohesion (like, again, the 2008 Celtics, who threw their Big 3 together in training camp. or the 2009-10 Lakers, who changed from Trevor Ariza to Ron Artest), or that only teams with good karma win (like, oh... I give up, every NBA championship team is composed of players filled with sweetness and light, and Kobe Bryant is not an *alleged* rich anal rapist).

But until they actually play some game (in approximately 3.5 more months), we'll get to hear more from the Curmudgeon Brigade over how James Es No Macho. Whatever.

Top 12 reasons why Tiger Woods hasn't won in 2010

12) In the new Phil Mickelson age, you can only win if you have a picture postcard family life

11) Men who curse never win

10) His Nike putter has been in too many hands

9) Just isn't motivated now that his paychecks are getting cut in two

8) Jack Nicklaus finally found a voodoo doll that works

7) Can't stand it when the airplanes fly over to say mean things, or the journalists ask actual questions

6) Hasn't "taken his talents to South Beach" in days

5) Like John Belushi, Eva Braun, Chris Farley, Eva Peron and Jesus Christ, just wasn't meant to see age 34

4) Really distracted about ranking high enough to qualify for the Ryder Cup, Fedex Cup and avoiding Q-School

3) Spending too much time with his kids, and not even time with his PED supplier

2) Um, it's hard to win these things

1) It's the absolute mother of all karmic paybacks

Top 10 MLB Takeaways of the Week

10) Omar Infante and Evan Meek proved, once again, that you can be an All-Star without being relevant to most fantasy leagues

9) Texas traded for Cliff Lee, just to see how much going from a pitcher's park and good defense to a hitter's park and weak defense can will ruin a man's numbers

8) Ken Macha complained that his players are getting hit too often, which stands to reason, seeing how everyone is desperate to single out a team that's nine games under .500 and going nowhere

7) Jonathan Broxton saved the win for the National League in the All-Star Game, then worked very hard to make sure the Dodgers don't benefit from that work later

6) Carlos Zambrano and Brian Roberts made strides towards returning to the majors, just in time to further insult their dead in the water fantasy league owners

5) The Yankees said goodbye to George Steinbrenner with some of the most spectacular sidewise compliments ever spoken

4) Kerry Wood went on the disabled list for the 14th time in his career, surprising, um, absolutely no one

3) Jose Reyes avoided going on the disabled list by showing that his oblique was getting better, and that Midol was helping with his cramps

2) Roy Oswalt continued to pine for a trade, his lost youth, and working ankles

1) Mat Latos went on the disabled list with a strained muscle that was supposedly produced by sneezing, which is all that you need to know about how pitchers aren't athletes

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Top 12 Shaq Destinations

12) China. They've got money, they'd worship him as a deity, and he'd probably spend six months laughing like mad and selling merch. If he wants to really get one last payday, he's either going here or...

11) Italy/Greece, where he'd be a de facto mascot, since his game really does not translate to the wider lane, not that it ever did. Still, you could see him getting paid, gaining weight, and more or less drifting off into retirement while learning how to smoke cigarettes and flop.

10) New Jersey. By hiring Billy King, they've shown themselves to be more than capable of paying big money for broken down centers, and he'd be a relatively cheap way to grab headlines from the Knicks. By teaming him with Brook Lopez, the Nets would actually have an effective tandem in the middle, and say this for Shaqalicious; he generally makes the playoffs. Which for the Nets would be something akin to the Promised Land.

9) Miami. What, you don't think he wouldn't relish the chance to be a sideshow on the NBA's version of the New World Order? Unfortunately, the hidden little bummer subtext to the man's career is that he always burns his bridges on the way out of town, and it's hard to see how Pat Riley and Dwayne Wade would let him into the circus.

8) New York. All of the same benefits of the Nets, but without having to go to Newark. The only trouble is that it's a proven fact that pairing him with Amar'e Stoudamire and Mike D'Antoni doesn't really work. At all.

7) Boston. This made a lot more sense before the Celtics decided to go for the similarly spent force that is Jermaine O'Neal, but with Rasheed Wallace retiring and Kendrick Perkins on the shelf for six months, there is still a need. Besides, it's not like they mind old guys...

6) Chicago. They lost Brad Miller to free agency, and might be in the market for a low-post scorer off the bench to spell Carlos Boozer. It's a place he's never been, and a decent media market; one has to think that the big fellow would be a nice quote machine for a young team that might have a use for someone to take the limelight off Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. But it's hard to see how they would disrupt chemistry for him.

5) Philadelphia. GM Ed Stefanski probably isn't long for his job, and a Shaq move is the kind of desperation push that a man at the end of his rope tends to go for. He might even teach new center Spencer Hawes something, and give the team their first non-Iverson player in a decade that the casual fan would recognize. They've made worse moves.

4) Dallas. Mark Cuban has dallied with this idea for years, and it's not as if the Mavs are scared of another big name or paycheck. Of course, if you play him at the same time as the ancient Jason Kidd, you might have the worst pick and roll defense in the history of the Association.

3) Portland. What, do you really think that Greg Oden is going to ever be healthy? Or that out of control owner Paul Allen isn't prone to a spectacularly bad move that would cause Marcus Camby to question his involvement? I've worked for the man's start-up companies. He's not exactly smart, folks. And the Shaqman has conned smarter people than this.

2) Golden State. Is there any better way for a new owner in a market that would sell out the stadium for any hint of hope? He wouldn't work well with Don Nelson, of course, but it's not as if the new owners are beholden to that old fraud, either. I want this to happen just so we could see Shaq in the Tenderloin over in San Francisco. Because...

1) Lakers. ... Kobe shouldn't be the only one who shows him how his ass tastes? Well, of course, but it's not as if he doesn't know how to co-exist with Phil Jackson, or that they are guaranteed health out of Andrew Bynum. It's not the worst way to go out, and it's his best chance to get one more ring. And no, there's no chance. But it'd be fun.

Top 12 reasons why the Warriors sold for a record price of $450 million

12) They are very big fans of the new/old Bay Bridge logo

11) The Warrior Girls are, how shall we say, full service

10) Owner Chris Cohan decided that even though Oracle's Larry Ellison offered more for it, he'd like to go out with the same idiotic strategies that he followed all of those years

9) When you've got a franchise with the kind of storied history as Clippers North, you just have to pay a premium

8) It would have been just $400 million, but Guber insisted on throwing in a last-minute Cleveland Steamer on Chris Cohan as payback for all he's done to Bay Area fans

7) The higher price includes a bribe to the commissioner's office to not make a big deal over how Lacob, a minority partner in the Celtics, will help the Warriors take over the Kevin McHale T-Wolves role as the unofficial farm team

6) The price includes a full case of Don Nelson's wine, and a firm promise from the coach that he'll care until at least January this time

5) It would have been more, but Lacob lost money by financing the, gulp, American Basketball League (aka, the league that wasn't good enough to compete with the WNBA)

4) When you've got a mascot that's this butch, you have to expect to pay top dollar

3) Seeing how Cohan bought the team for $1119 million, owned them for 15 years, and made the playoffs once (!), he really deserves the big return on investment

2) Lacob and Guber also get the thrill of firing all of Cohan's minions

1) Rich dumb people like to buy things from other rich dumb people

The FTT Movie Review: The Grand

This is an improvised comedy based around a big-money winner-takes-all poker tournament, with a surprisingly potent cast that includes Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, David Cross, Dennis Farina, Woody Harrelson, Chris Parnell, Michael McKean, Richard Kind and more... but well, Werner Herzog kills it with a monologue that only Werner Herzog could deliver. I can't tell you how much I love this man, really.

It's really broad, of course, but you'll see enough of the stereotypes in people that you've played with... and the film has the additional fun point that the actors actually played the hands for real once they got to the final table. Cross, in particular, is wonderful as a Hellmuth-esque jerk, and Parnell is always great. It slows down a bit in an attempt to gain some heart and the actual drama of the tournament, but you get to quote insane monologues at your next table, and honestly, Herzog is just a joy. If you play the game, you'll enjoy it, and if you have Netflix Instnat Queue, it doesn't even require a DVD rental. Give it a look.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Top 10 reasons why the Nets hired Billy King as their next GM

10) When he signed Kenny Thomas to a plainly insane 6-year, $63 million deal, he was but a callow youth

9) Has extensive experience dealing with a coach who says "I want I want I want I want!" in his ear for four hours a day

8) Giving $60 million to Samuel Dalembert was done while huffing

7) New owner Mikhail Prohkorov doesn't know that Duke guys always fail in the pros, or the exchange rate of dollars to rubles

6) Needed to pay Dikembe Mutubmo $68 million so that someone would sex him

5) Only survivor of the dreaded "Five Minutes In An Elevator Listening To Avery Johnson" torture test

4) Greg Buckner's $18 million deal was done at knifepoint

3) Of all of the guys doing analysis on NBA TV, he seemed the best

2) $25 million for Brian Skinner seems like a lot, but only if you fail to understand the economics of performance art

1) Since the job was being done by Kiki Vandeweghe and Rod Thorn, it's not like they needed someone smart

Top 10 Destinations for George Steinbrenner's Soul

10) Downward reincarnation. After 80 years of winning at any cost on the wheel of samsara, George's soul can only be moving its way down with a quickness. I doubt that he's going all the way to insect, but perhaps a perfectionist's dog, or the over-handled cat of a little girl. And they will hug him and squeeze him and...

9) Cryogenic freeze. For someone with George's control needs and cling for every moment life pattern, you'd have to think the potential for life after death through technology would be a win. The only problem is that Ted Williams kind of ruined the practice for Yankee Kind. Oh, and that it doesn't work.

8) Valhalla. A fine place for Big Stein's warrior spirit, though it's not as if he'd fit in well with the Norse warriors who actually get their hands dirty. But on some level -- that level being the inherent geekiness and unrelenting whiteness of the place -- you'd have to think it would work for him.

7) Hades. As a traditionalist, Big Stein would do well with the Grecian underworld, and should rise quickly in the service of Pluto. We also suspect he'd have the three-headed dog Cererbrus with neat and trim sideburns in a matter of days.

6) (Yankee) Heaven. It's a special place, where there are no Red Sox fans, poor people, anyone who complains about stadium welfare, and you can hear the lamentations of the damned -- i.e., failed free agent signings -- for all eternity. The only problem is that the announcers suck, with the exception of your entrance via Bob Sheppard. There's also the fact that after a while, you really start to wonder if it can be Heaven to spend eternity with Yankee Fans, even if you are one.

5) Jahannam. Islamic Hell is reserved for those who have failed in the test of Life to be kind to others. Let's just say they've been keeping a seat warm for Big Stein for decades. No word on whether he'd have to keep to a fundamentalist diet down there, or if they'll stuff him full of pork as a matter of eh, what the hey, it's not like he's leaving. (Note: If a Muslim is reading this and finds this to be in any way offensive or blasphemous, please understand that I FIND THE WORD OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD TO BE THE ONE TRUE WORD OF GOD, PEACE BE UPON HIM. (Backs away from the keyboard slowly...)

4) Ghost. It'd be just like George to overstay his welcome and haunt the living from beyond the grave, but with old Yankee Stadium coming down and new Yankee Stadium generally missing his presence, it's not like he's got a logical place to haunt. Personally, I'd be hoping for someplace directly between the destinations of the Bronx and Scranton Wilkes-Barre, also known as the Yankee Triple A club for many years, and the place where many a young player haunted as the Boss tried to Win Now. Lots of good highway overpasses to choose from...

3) Limbo. With so many world religions to choose from and the Ironic Punishment division of karmic retribution howling for payback, George could do worse than to float in the void of neutrality for an eon or two. Plus, hey, there's lot of unbaptized babies up there, many of whom he can probably bully into doing his bidding. Considering the alternatives, this is a pretty cushy place for him.

2) Purgatory. In the modern era, with deep-seated theological and moral concerns for many over the existence of Hell given the need for the supreme deity to be all-good, and the eternal prospect of forgiveness and redemption, it just seems like a better place for George to learn his lessons in re being a Watergate felon, firing 22 managers in 35 years, and hiring organized crime family members to find dirt on Dave Winfield. I could, of course, go on. But since the man wasn't entirely without merit -- he did give to charity, had a sense of humor about himself, and did more to force other baseball owners to actually spend money, rather than just hoard it -- it just seems proper. Besides, he was a tough old dude. A few thousand years of torment (say an eon for every Yankee championship) just might cleanse him. With fire.

1) Actual, Full-On, Screaming Terror Hell. Let's see, we've got someone who was always a rich man (strike one against passage upward, assuming he doesn't have camel and needle powers), actively bragged about giving others heart attacks (Ironic Punishment Alert! Ironic Punishment Alert!), and did more to ruin baseball's competitive balance than any other man in the 21st century. Burn, baby, burn. Besides, he'll know a lot of the people there already...

The FTT Movie Review: The Blind Side

I will, of course, convince no one in the review of a movie that's extremely well known, and has been out for years, just because it finally made it to the top of my Netflix queue. And the reason it took so long to make it that high is that I was afraid that a truly great book -- which is what Michael Lewis did and wrote -- would disappear into a cookie-cutter Hollywood sports movie script.

That's because "The Blind Side" is really two books in one. It's a treatment and history of football, along with the personal story of Michael Oher, the mammoth homeless kid from the Memphis projects who found his way into an upper-class family, and eventually winds up as a first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens. And the movie, of course, is only half of those things, since a doctrinaire history of football wouldn't exactly play in cineplexes across the country, or bring in a multi-part demographic.

"The Blind Side", of course, isn't really about football. It's a well-acted soap opera that's saved from treacle by the performances and chemistry generated by leads Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron, and they do their work well enough so that you can almost completely ignore the icky racial overtones of Rich White People Solving Everything, or the small but telling point that we can only find the human worth of a homeless kid if he's 6'6+, 350 pounds, and fast. The football scenes are rudimentary, and playing offensive tackle is more or less reduced to pancaking people or giving up sacks. Oher's uncovered relationship to his teammates, how he interacts with the other offensive linemen (there are other offensive linemen?), or the plainly ridiculous notion that he needs Bullock's help to turn from a marshmallow to a terror in the span of three minutes, in the middle of practice... well, what the hell. You knew what you were getting into here. Come in with the proper expectations, and this thing will even seem to have slight indie film sensibilities. Very slight. Or just might be the only movie with football in it that you can watch with a spouse or kid that doesn't care about the game.

So anyway, if you've been like me and afraid to watch this thing for the weepy girl-movie aspects of it, give it a spin anyway. It moves, has some nice scenes and dialog, and it's not as if you are ever going to see another movie starring an offensive lineman in this world. Plus, there's lot of Joe Theismann's leg being snapped like a twig. And that just keeps getting funnier...

Top 10 reasons why Terrell Owens is being blacklisted

10) NFL teams keep focusing on what he did earlier in his career, when he was, you know, a self-promoting egotist and team cancer

9) Way too much being made of the 1 pass in 3 that he drops, rather than the 2 in 3 that he doesn't

8) Many clubs insist on veteran players who have been on the winning side in a playoff game in this century

7) Unique to NFL WRs, he's black y'all

6) NFL teams have a hatred of the First Amendment, and the right of players to yell fire in a crowded locker room

5) Somehow think they can manage without his 55 catches, 829 yards and 5 touchdowns

4) They are totally jealous of his reality show on VH-1, which is watched by dozens

3) Everyone is in the tank for Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Isaac Bruce to preserve their records

2) Not enough is being made of the fact that he hasn't been arrested

1) Something minor about how he's a three-ring circus who never won anything, throws every QB he plays with under the bus, and runs to a microphone at any sign of adversity doesn't appeal to people

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NFL Futures: Because it's never too early to get your money down

Something I like to do in the Dead Zone Time during the MLB All-Star break is to mull over NFL betting wagers for the upcoming NFL season. Especially now that my Philadelphia Eagles are almost entirely assured of being one of the weaker teams in their division, and a possible bargain price. Forty fifth time's the charm, and in Dallas to boot. Easy money. And if you really want to get hardcore about this, here's the upcoming schedule, and the rosters, in case you missed any transactions. (And yes, this does mean that I've started working on the fantasy football rankings.)

Besides, I picked the Saints in the 2009 pre-season to go to the Super Bowl last year. So I'm a genius! Where I had them losing to the Patriots. So not exactly a super-genius.

NFC East

Dallas - 9 to 1
New York - 16 to 1
Philadelphia - 28 to 1
Washington - 29 to 1

Shocking lack of regard for Donovan McNabb here, right? Well, probably not, given that his weapons are terrible, his line is worse, and Albert Haynesworth is trying to execute the biggest heel turn in the District since John Edwards. I suspect Dallas is overpriced here, but heaven knows that in an era where the Lakers and Celtics win in the NBA, and the Yankees win in MLB, a Cowboys win at home has a certain air of utter and complete fatality.

NFC North

Chicago - 29 to 1
Detroit - 100 to 1
Green Bay - 10 to 1
Minnesota - 11 to 1

I suspect the Vikings had their highwater year last time, and that Chicago could be frisky with Brian Urlacher coming back and Jay Cutler teaming with Mike Martz. But there's a long way between frisky and an actual threat to do more than make for an intriguing bounce-back fantasy QB.

NFC South

Atlanta - 23 to 1
Carolina - 55 to 1
New Orleans - 8 to 1
Tampa - 100 to 1

The defending champions are the low team in the NFC, despite the presumably corrosive influence of big money going to Dallas from their national fanbase of coke dealers, nuisance lawyers, oil profiteers and child slavers. (Welcome, Dallas fans! Have a seat over there, next to the Patriot fans who have ruined sports for the last decade for so many. You've got a lot in common!) The reason why is that, even with Giving Person Jake Delhomme out of the division, this looks like an auto-win start of five to six wins and home field in the playoffs, unless Atlanta can surprise. And I don't think they can. But going back to back with that defense is asking a lot.

NFC West

Arizona -- 55 to 1
San Francisco - 37 to 1
Seattle - 50 to 1
St. Louis - 140 to 1

Your best longshot money comes in the NFC West, where a competent team can run the table, get home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and set themselves up to recreate the Ram and Cardinal runs to January glory. This year, I think that's the Niners, with an emerging Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis doing their very best to make everyone forget that Alex Smith is under center. It will work for a while, especially in a division where the other QBs are a raw rookie (Sam Bradford in St. Louis), a useless trustafarian (Matt Leinart, Arizona) and a fossil with back problems (Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle) backing up a wildly overpaid third-stringer (Charlie Whitehurst). You might see better QBs in the UFL.

AFC East

Buffalo - 120 to 1
Miami - 28 to 1
New England - 9.5 to 1
New York - 12 to 1

The only division with two low odds teams at this time, the AFC East promises to be a full-on bloodbath that prevents its survivors from getting to the promised land. New York has spent crazy money on marginal talent, while Bill Belichick and Co. are in Year Two (and a contract year to boot) of Dreamboat Brady coming back from his knee injury, with a running attack that actually looks OK for once. New York counters with the best CB in the business in Darelle Revis, but he's holding out for all the money he can count, and the de facto free agent trade of Thomas Jones for LaDanian Tomlinson should please no one but Shonn Greene's fantasy owners. I fear the return of the Empire... and if Miami were in the West, would like their chances a lot. (Oh, and Buffalo should just give up and move to LA already. These games in Toronto are just a cry for help.)

AFC North

Baltimore - 12 to 1
Cincinnati - 27 to 1
Cleveland - 85 to 1
Pittsburgh - 18 to 1

A lot of love for the Ravens, who picked up WR Anquan Boldin to give QB Joe Flacco someone to play with, and have the emerging mighty mouse that is RB Ray Rice. One suspects this is as much a Steeler Void wager, since Ben Roethlisberger's off-season of white trash bar skeet shooting has put the team at a severe disadvantage, but there might be some touch coming out of Porkopolis, where QB Carson Palmer is also another year removed from Severe Knee Trauma, and actually has a second WR now in Antonio Bryant. Baltimore's still the clear favorite, but S Ed Reed and MLB Ray Lewis are really starting to show tread on the tires. In any event, I'm not seeing the SB champion coming from here.

AFC South

Houston - 30 to 1
Indianapolis - 6.5 to 1
Jacksonville -- 55 to 1
Tennessee -- 27 to 1

Your top favorite is the always-popular Colts, who might get S Bob Sanders back for the few games that he'll play before getting hurt again, and WR Anthony Gonzalez, who's due to play more than a game a year. But so long as they've got QB Peyton Manning, they have to be the odds-on favorite to win the division, host a home playoff game and have a strong chance to go to Dallas. And od all of the traditional favorites, they might have the easiest time in their division, assuming that Houston still doesn't have a defense and Tennessee still doesn't have an offense. (Oh, and that Chris Johnson holdout and Vince Young flakiness ain't helping, either.)

AFC West

Denver - 50 to 1
Kansas City - 100 to 1
Oakland - 100 to 1
San Diego - 8.5 to 1

The only well-regarded team in either Western division is always a low-odds favorite, because the roster is so well-regarded, and the rest of the division is composed of train wrecks. But with WR Vincent Jackson holding out, LB Shawne Merriman a shell of his former self, and the team highly dependent on might have been a reach pick (rookie RB Ryan Mathews), it's not looking like a complete picnic. And some part of me wonders if Oakland, which has had a fine off-season of making actual football moves and ridding itself of a pathetic albatross for a QB, just might challenge. The answer is, of course, no. But the Chargers might not have their usual walk.

So... who do I like? In the NFC low odd options, the Packers are appealing, in that the defense can't be worse than last year, the offense is loaded, and the offensive line has to be healthier. I also suspect the Vikings won't be as tough, the Bears won't be ready to pass .500, and the Lions are still a year away. Which would give them home field in the playoffs, and you don't generally win in Lambeau, especially in the playoffs. In the high odds listings, give me the Niners, who might be the only team in the NFC West worth a damn.

For the AFC, I'll take New England under the idea that the Jets messed up everything with the Tomlinson move, and the Texans under the idea that the Colts have to have a down year eventually. And if I have to go into crazy odds, I honestly think the Raiders could make some noise, because the other teams in this division are horrible, and there are only so many years of Norv Turner that a team can take before it just quits. Besides, you can't make high picks every year without eventually getting some players, right?

Anyway, go see what you like. It's certainly more fun than, well, Home Run Derby. Or anything else you'll watch this week...

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