Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top 10 Fantasy Football Auction Dirty Tricks

Look, your auction league is a nightmare. It's filled with hyper nerds who spend their every waking hour listening to podcasts, reading premium Web sites of insider information, and divining the average draft position of every possible sleeper. It's maddening. And it's time to level the playing field. It's time to bring the dirt.

10) Starting the early bidding for Adrian Peterson... of Chicago. This long-standing switcheroo can absolutely ruin your relationship with the poor schnook that isn't paying enough attention, and on some level, it's a defensible play. That level would be the 8th level of Hell, where liars such as yourself reside in Bolgia Seven, where your soul will be eternally tormented by vengeful reptiles, at least if Mr. Dante has anything to say about it. But on the plus side, you've sucked money out of the pool. Carpe diem, baby!

9) Wifi blocker. A fairly common device at your local spy shop, this little beauty can put your Net-addled (or even better, teleconferencing) opponents on tilt by simply taking them back to the stone age of non-connectivity. They should have printed out those spreadsheets anyway, right? As these can be pricey, it's best to pick it up the date of your draft, then return it later. And keep it well hidden, for heaven's sake.

8) Plumbing problems. A dangerous ploy, but a surprisingly effective one, especially if the host has put in a fine supply of tasty beverages for the draft. Just camel up and drink nothing, while sabotaging the plumbing sometime in the first hour. Then, when the sleepers and keepers are coming off the board, refuse to let the draft slow down while the authorities deal with the backup. We're drafting here, dammit. Cross your legs and buck up. You'd be surprised how poorly the thought process can become when a man's only thought is of fertilizing the plants.

7) Zach Miller, Jacksonville. What, you though the Peterson play was your only move in the realm of mistaken identity? Even the small moments are tasty, really. My apologies in advance if Miller the Other winds up out-pointing his Raider counterpart.

6) Porn For The Win. You'd think this wouldn't work over the years, but you'd be wrong. The best way to play this is to either let a few mainstream skin mags skip loose throughout the draft room -- hell no, those aren't mine -- or go very direct and find the most dramatically awful stuff imaginable and ask your league mates if they think it's faked. I mean, even if it is, you have to admire the attention to detail, don't you? And good luck trying to get your head back on to the bidding now. It's basically malware for minds.

5) The Steve Smith Ploy. In general, insulting another owner's picks isn't a dirty trick. But adding some confusion to the mix, by repeatedly asking if he means the *other* Steve Smith, and/or insisting that the other Steve Smith is already owned? That's just good annoyance, especially if you actually get the guy checking to see if he has, in fact, named the wrong guy. It's even better if one of the Smiths gets hurt or suspended before your draft.

4) Live Porn. If magazines work like gangbusters, you don't want to know how well a real live pro works. Or even more to the point of nuclear winter, two. Just have them, you know, give each other backrubs during your picks. I guarantee that there will be any number of owners that forget to bid. Or close their mouths.

3) The Adonal Foyle Method. The longtime Golden State scrub hacked out a decade-long career through two unique attributes. The first was that Foyle was erudite and a great interview off the court. The second was that on it, he emitted a powerful stench that made opponents give him a wide berth on any rebound that wasn't necessary for a win. That first attribute won't win you a thing in a league... but the second one? Especially if you decide to raise your arm for full ventilation on each bid? Men have failed for less.

2) Speak and Spell. An auction is a lot like a poker game, in that giving out false information is frequently a winning play. So if you make people spell Houshmanzadeh, ask what team Terrell Owens is on now, and talk about how you were sure that Brett Favre fellow was really going to retire this time.... well, it will make your big raise for Arian Foster mighty surprising. Enjoy.

1) Collude. If you know that you don't have the chops to win your league, why not just ensure that someone else won't, and hire yourself out to a rival? You could wind up negotiating a freeroll on the league while creating a lifelong enemy, or at the very least, make someone impressively paranoid. (Hi, Al!) You'd be surprised just how much enjoyment you can get out of a league that you aren't going to win.

Add your own in the comments, of course. And enjoy those Dante circles of Hell. (Here's the one I'm booked for...)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Top 10 reasons why Troy Polamalu has insured his hair

No, seriously; the Steeler safety has a million dollar policy with Lloyds of London on his locks, through his shampoo deal with Head and Shoulders. As always, FTT has the real reasons why.

10) It's the only way to protect against repeat Larry Johnson attacks

9) Given the man's strong faith, you'd have to expect a certain Samson and Delilah motif

8) Considering the level of risk involved in him losing it, and the PR generated from the policy, it's a clear win for the advertiser

7) When you've got that much salad on your skull, the cost of product alone can go into six figures

6) When you share a locker room with Ben Roethlisberger, it's best to just insure everything

5) The high payoff is necessary in case his hair is held hostage

4) It's a tribute to his Samoan and USC heritage of making serious coin

3) The three feet of hair helps to hide the fact that he's actually not all that big

2) Since he's been on a Madden cover, the million will come in handy when he spontaneously combusts

1) It's the only way for him to stop having the recurring nightmare about sock puppets harvesting his hair

One Ball, No Hype

No, this isn't a post defending the wit and wisdom of John Kruk. It's a quick note to my fellow Blogfricans, aka the folks who own and operate spots blogs... It appears that Ballhype, the site that launched a few years ago to give us all something more to obsess about in regards to site links and our overall middle-school girl like need to be popular, is no more. They got bought out two years ago and are displaying a Don't Come Back note today, so, um, well, that's that.

Marketing Pilgrim and Barn Burner Sports have four day old postings about this, mostly to cover the other sites that were affected, none of which ever looked like you've heard of them, either. So it's not like I'm delivering urgent news about an unrequited site. And I suppose it's all to the good, really, though the timing is sort of odd, what with Ballhype having gone through a site redesign in the past few weeks that pushed MMA stuff much higher in the mix. My guess is that the traffic just wasn't going in any good direction, that places like YardBarker (all hail the mighty YardBarker, fine patron of the FTT Lists and overall Good People) stole all of their thunder, and that the lords of Blogfrica somehow found other ways to learn which of their posts were getting links. Such as, well, checking your traffic logs. I run a relentlessly unpopular blog with minimal commentary that isn't about my level of overall suckitude, plus I've got the tech savvy of your average over-the-hill failed nerd, and even I knew enough to cover that.

Anyway, I suppose I need to go light a candle in the window for it, or at the very least, appreciate the fact that a site that listed this place as something like the 666th best in the world at what we do is no more. Proof, not that you needed it, that the vengeance of the Tool is a dish best served, um, well, not at all. Moving on.

This week's top 10 MLB takeaways

10) CC Sabathia became the major's first 18-game winner, despite the fact that sabermetric nerds have conclusively proven that pitching wins don't matter

9) The Phillies lost four in a row to the godawful Astros, then pounded the division leading Padres, just to prove that the games are random

8) The ChiSox brought Manny Ramirez to Chicago for a $4 million rental, mostly to see how much crazier they could make Ozzie Guillen

7) Trevor Hoffman's long national nightmare to 600 saves, retirement and euthanasia is nearly over

6) With 31 games left to play and down 6.5 in the division and wild card, we can start planning the party arrangements for Red Sox Elimination Day

5) The Mets were a .500 team 10 games ago, are a .500 team right now, and are incredibly likely to be that way in a month, too

4) Cincy has quietly opened up a 5 game lead on the Cardinals, mostly to make sure that we don't have a single division race that will be more compelling than watching paint dry

3) No team in the National League but Pittsburgh, assuming Pittsburgh is still in the National League, is "hotter" than winning 6 out of the last 10 games, or "colder" than 4 out of 10

2) Ivan Nova, a rookie starting pitcher for the Yankees, shook off the crushing and unprecedented organizational shame that is allegations of PED cheating to earn his first win

1) If you are still paying attention to MLB, it's either because you hate football, have a contending fantasy team, or refuse to admit that non-steroidal pitching-tastic division-race free baseball is mind-boggingly dull

Sunday, August 29, 2010

King, Jack, Yahtzee

Poker Diary Time. Big time today. You can either swim with the jargon or take a pass, but at this point, you are expecting this kind of thing from me, right?

Harrah's has opened a new poker room in Chester, PA, a much easier ride than Atlantic City for me, and right next to a state correctional facility, so they've got plenty of entertainment options for the Serious Player. So one of the regulars at my home game and I decided to make a ride of it. It's a nice place -- lots of land, a horse race track attached that adds to the ambiance when people start hyperventilating over the ends of races, free parking and more daylight than the usual sucker house. It really feels more like a new mall than a casino. You can also make a nice clean vault over the guard rails and hurt yourself nicely on your trip back to the parking lot if the cards run bad. Helpful, really.

Anyway... you can pretty much stick a fork in our runs to AC from this, if for no other reason than the 90 minutes of saved driving is just all to the good. They need to expand the room before they start offering tournaments, sadly, and there won't be that much reason to go there when they open up table games in Bensalem, but that's all gravy for players. Plus, it gives me the bonus of stopping at Tony's Place in NEast Philly, a fantastic tomato pie place that once burned to the ground as I tried to tip the waitress. They still make a fine pie, and hey, I didn't die in the event, so we're all good.

I buy in for $200 at a $1/$2 NL game. My very first hand at the table is King-Jack suited in late position, so I call a pre-flop raise and make top pair on the flop. I minimum bet the flop and get one caller. The turn appears to change nothing, so I fire again. Another call. I'm putting him on a draw that I'm not pricing him out of, King with a weak kicker, or less happily, Ace-King and I'm making him far too happy by betting his hand for him. The river comes and I decide to fire one last time, hoping the draw missed him. He calls -- boo! -- but then shows King-Ten, and my Jack outkicks him. Phew. In two minutes, I'm up over $100. This game is... not easy. But fun when you win.

So I'm free rolling nice and easy from the start, the table is giving me serious props for the play, and I chip up over the next few hours to a stack that's twice my buy-in. Continuation bet/bluffs are working, I'm getting playable cards, the table isn't too maniacal despite some very deep stacks, and there is no very big hand that hurts me. Life is good. I get up to $420 at one point, then drop $50 when the guy to my left and my ride take me off two pair with a flush and straight draw on the board. Ah well. You have to fold the best hand sometimes, right?

As it's getting late in the day, and as I'm an hour from home and want to put my kids to bed, I give my ride the 15 minutes signal. I'll cash out for a nice little profit, we'll think highly of this new non-AC option, and that will be that.

So on what will be, and is planned to be, my last hand of the night, I'm dealt K-J again, this time off-suited, on the button. Not really what I wanted to see, but the Gods of Poker do not smile kindly on outside forces dictating your decisions, young Jedi, so let's at least try to limp with it. Limps and low-priced family pots have been happening with some frequency for most of the last two hours... but not recently.

The guy to my left, who has made most of the pre-flop raises and bluffed me out of the two-pair pot with air, makes it $17 total. Gahhh. He gets one other caller at the full price, and the blinds fold. It's $15 to see a flop. Well, what the hell. If I miss, it won't kill me, and $350 is still a nice cash. Call.

The flop comes out King, Jack, Jack. Full freaking house. Yahtzee.

Normally in a moment like this, having flopped a stone cold monster, I'll think hard about checking, especially if I've got a Mr. Aggro to the left of me. But my read is that the guy has a pair of something, and that he's going to read any bet I make as theft. Besides, there's $50 in the pot, and a pot-sized bet is a nice raise that might still look like stealing. So let's look like a thief. $50.

He sees the $50 and makes it $50 more. Mission one accomplished.

If I re-raise small, does it look like the nuts or just small minded thievery? There's one hand in the entire deck that can beat me, and that hand is a pair of kings, which I can't put him on. Nothing else. He can't have quad jacks, since I've got one of those.

Does he have the pair of kings? No... because he would have just called my raise and let me try to make a bigger hand. Even if he's put me on trip jacks, letting me see one or two more cards for the chance at the rest of my chips is the right play.

So let's not get too tricky. I'll shove. Make it look like I'm just going for the jittery overbet. The raise comes to a nice round $200 to him. I'm just a stone cold thief, sir. Prove my ballsy but reckless play wrong. But to be honest, I can't be that good of an actor, and he can't make that bad of a misread. Right?

He's surprised by the move, but unable to get off his initial read of weakness on me. After only about 30 seconds of thinking about it, he calls and flips over his pocket aces. I more or less forget all decorum and throw down my boat like it's thunder from Olympus. He's got two outs, and two outs only... and the turn and river don't improve anyone.

I find two empty chip trays -- two chip trays! -- and nearly sprint to the window, which is, I suppose, another crushing failure of poker decorum. I cash for $749 total, and four hours later as I write this, I'm still kind of stunned.

First off, that he didn't turn over kings. Second off, that he'd call with just a pair of aces there; even trip jacks would have had him crushed. Third, that I'd hit a miracle flop in perfect position, against a player that had the stack to double me, and the perfect misread at the perfect time. I've played live poker something like 50 times in the last 20 months, and this kind of thing has never -- never -- happened. At least, not for those kinds of stakes, and with that kind of drama. Finally, that I was able to hit the hand and run. That's just bad form. And something I've always kind of felt like doing whenever I win a monster pot...

Anyway, I think I have a new favorite hand. And, for the moment at least, a more lucrative hobby than blogging.

This weekend's top 10 NFL Preseason Takeaways

10) After three fake games, the revolutionarily different Kevin Kolb Era looks like an Eagles team that will go .500 and fail in the red zone

9) Thanks to the loss of special teams coach Bobby April, even that part of the Bills will suck this year

8) Dallas will score a ton of points this year, right up until the part where the offensive line gets QB Tony Romo killed

7) Philip Rivers is showing no sign at all of missing Vincent Jackson, and Vincent Jackson is showing no sign at all of having any grasp of reality

6) After seeing the Saints long snapper crush Darren Sproles, we can officially give up on the idea that Sproles is either worth the money or elusive

5) Pat White might make the Dolphins' final roster after all, partly because he looked OK against the Falcons, and mostly because when you whiff on a second round pick, it stings less when you cut the guy after two years, rather than one

4) This Drew Brees guy might be a useful person to have on your fantasy team

3) The Cardinals decided that they'd rather hate to watch Derek Anderson than hate to watch Matt Leinart

2) Brian Dawkins wants no part of an 18 game season, which probably won't be a big problem, seeing how one won't occur until 2011 at the earliest

1) Shockingly, the Jets appear to be better when Mark Sanchez isn't responsible for the majority of the offense

Friday, August 27, 2010

The FTT Book Review: Take Me To The River

As part of the continuing series of sports books found in my local library, because, well, I'm cheap and indebted and there anyway for the family...

Like other books in this vein that I've read in the past year or so for the blog (Big Time, Positively 5th Street, etc.), River is the first person account of the writer's attempt to take down the big prize at the 2005 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas (aka, the Joe Hachem year). Peter Alson is a NY poker sharp in his early '50s who remembers, alas, when poker was a sordid affair best. He also remembers the decades of failed relationships, and the sole one that has promise, in that he's just popped the question to the one that has outlasted all of the others.

Alson's a fairly solid writer, and he's got a good ear for dialogue and/or fast transcription fingers. He's also very solid at getting in touch with the intermittent stars of the game -- Greg Raymer and others appear in the pages -- without making it all about them. I won't spoil the ending for you, but the river takes on a new dimension, and it's not a bad way to spend a few hundred pages.

Finally, there's this. Every writer who goes to the WSOP complains about the ambience. For the Main Event, you are playing in the equivalent of an airplane hangar, with the days split over multiple points to keep everything moving. Alson is also playing with his own money, admittedly the book advance, but still... so there's tension there that isn't quite so present when the writer is connected or sponsored. But while everyone seems to be very aware that the game is crazy odds, that the casino is nickel and diming them for every chance they can get, and that the play is filled with maniacs who drag the level of play down from what one might expect... well, no one ever leaves this tournament with the promise that they aren't going to return. Instead, the day they bust is the most depressing day of the year, because there's so long until the next WSOP.

I'm not sure I get why that is, really. Sure, the payout here is unmatched, and so is the instant fame that only the ESPN cameras can deliver. But it's not like there isn't *always* a game.

In about two hours, 15 guys will come into my basement Man Space, hand me cash for chips, bust my chops for something or other, and get down to it. In the subsequent one to four hours, I'll do everything I can to take their chips, and they mine. I'll have light butterflies in my stomach, the same way I have every time cards are dealt. If I play well, I'll be pleased with myself no matter what; if I play badly, the reverse is true. And while I do go to casinos a few times a year and feel the same thing but multiplied due to the size of the buy in, the simple fact of the matter is that I really do anticipate hosting this home game for as long as people come to it.

And I really do hope that's still the case later, if I do manage to play the WSOP. Because it's out there, you see... Anyway, read the book. It's a nice piece of work. And maybe one day, I'll write my own.

Before you draft... Five Fantasy Football Commandments for 2010

Thanks to my league starting late this year (stupid people with their Labor Day dreams of actual vacations), I haven't been as prolific in the actual fantasy knowledge as in past years. There is also the fact that my league mates routinely check out FTT, so I'm blowing my draft prep here for the sake of being a helpful blogger. But so be it. Having been to the mountaintop of forty days and forty nights pondering the vagaries of the fake game, here's what I decree will change for 2010.

1) Know, and fear, Wide Receiver By Committee.

Take a look at some of the teams with a very pronounced #1 WR. Specifically, Detroit with Calvin Johnson, Atlanta with Roddy White, Arizona with Larry Fitzgerald, Houston with Andre Johnson, and Miami with Brandon Marshall. Notice a pattern here? With the exception of Johnson, all of these guys are on teams with middling passing attacks, or with QBs that aren't cracking the top six on the board.

The simple fact of the matter is that when you are building a team, you don't want all of your eggs in a star WR basket. The guy can flake out, a la Marshall in Denver. Or he can get hurt, the way Johnson did in Detroit last year. Or he's working with a meh QB, a la Fitzy in Arizona this year (and meh might be charitable, given the recent resume of Mssrs. Anderson and Leinart). You are much better off with a roster where the #2 is credible, the #3 is pressing the #2 for star power, and there's a RB or TE adding value as well.

So what's happening more or less reflects what's been going on in the RB game for years now -- a democratization of the star system. So your #1 in a committee (DeSean Jackson in Philly, Greg Jennings in Green Bay, Randy Moss in New England, Marques Colston in New Orleans, Miles Austin in Dallas if Dez Bryant breaks out) really might not be a #1 anymore. Which leads to...

2) Honor thy QB.

The rule of thumb about QBs in fantasy is that, unless you get the breakout guy, you are better off with two tolerable starters, and just surf the matchups. But is that really the case? Especially in 6-point touchdown leagues or situations where bonus metrics come into play, it's hard to see how you were going to win last year without Drew Brees or similar, even if you had a stud RB situation.

Of course, knowing who the stud QB is prior to play starting? That's the tricky part.

3) Covet not thy neighbor's tight end (hey now).

Assuming that San Diego doesn't go into the tank and that Peyton Manning remains upright, your best two TEs in the league will be Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark. (What, no Vernon Davis? No, because TEs do not have back to back years with double-digit TDs, and the league will take that throw away from QB Alex Smith this year, and make him win on throws to the wide out. But I digress.)

But after that? Good grief. Davis, Jermichael Finley, Brent Celek, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez... half of a standard league is going to have a reasonable shot at an every-week play at TE. Add in reasonable gambles like Zach Miller, John Carlson, Dustin Keller, Vincente Schiancoe and Heath Miller, and it's clear... this is no longer a problem position to staff. Outside of QB, it might be the deepest, since you only have to take one...

4) Thou Shalt Not Handcuff.

Handcuff players, for those who aren't up on all of the nerd jargon, are where you draft the star player's backup, in case of injury. I always hated handcuffs; they tie up roster spots and have all of the buying pleasure of a life insurance policy. But in the age of relentless timeshares, they become indefensible. Let's say you draft Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, with the clear Toby Gerhart handcuff. But when it comes time to make that move, and you've got a choice of the only use in case of emergency player or a much more intriguing gamble like Tashard Choice of Dallas?

Well, Choice is actually the best RB in Dallas. He just doesn't have Felix Jones' 1st round pedigree, or Marion Barber's past history of pancake goodness. But if either of those guys go down -- and chances are very good that one or both will -- Choice is going to be the feature back in a high scoring situation. It's really not hard for me to see Choice being a quality #1 RB by the end of the year, giving you incredible value and potency. Whereas Gerhart will be your go-to move when the year is more or less shot to hell, since there's no way the Vikes will use him the way they use AP. Give me Choice, every time.

5) Thou Shalt Grind, And Grind Well.

Last year, Tom Brady was the only QB in the NFL to face Darelle Revis twice, assuming you don't count Matt Sanchez crying in practice. He also lived with a malingering Randy Moss, surprisingly tough pass defenses in Buffalo, a third WR situation that frequently involved the dessicated remains of Joey Galloway or the special teams worthy Sam Hurd. In the first year since a knee injury, in bad weather. You might expect better from him this year. I certainly do. According to the geek numbers, he faced one of the hardest pass defense schedules in recent years.

And you know who also got jobbed by the schedule? Matt Ryan of the Falcons. Who works all of his games in a dome, in a division where the other teams are either putrid (Tampa), rebuilding (Carolina), or shootout-y (New Orleans). He's also in his third year, healthy again, and gets back a RB (Michael Turner) that makes every play-action fake credible. He killed you last year, and it's a run-first offense, so expecting monster numbers is silly... but all in all, I like his chances better than, say, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, and maybe even Donovan McNabb. (Heresy! But D-Mac's line sucks, his backs are ancient, and his best targets are TEs. Also, he was walking in a protective boot last week, and plays in a brutal division. But I digress.)

Here's the point: if the only thing you are doing is looking at last year's numbers and tweaking up and down based on age and gut feeling, you aren't doing enough due diligence. Schedules matter, especially in playoff weeks for head to head matchups; you don't particularly want a #1 WR going against Revis, assuming he signs, in those weeks, or a RB facing the Vikings. Indoor QBs matter, especially with the season starting later this year. So does the likelihood of injury and/or limited use, because owning the RB on a club that's always behind is a sure way to low points. It all matters.

And when your draft prep reflects all of those factors? Well, you probably still wind up losing to Barbara from Accounting, because she picked this year's Miles Austin on the Cute Factor pick, and the game is increasingly about random chance. But your bad beat story will be better. I think.

Freedom's Just Another Word For We Hate You

Leading the charge at Yahoo Sports this evening is a long form piece from Adrian Wojnarowski on how the Denver Nuggets' best player, Carmelo Anthony, has told the team that he wants out and isn't interested in signing with them once his contract is up, at the end of the 2010-11 season.

It also tells you all that you really need to know that this perfectly straight-forward declaration of intent from Anthony and his representation is described as "threats and ultimatums and a swagger suggesting that the sport belongs to them."

Now, to be fair, I'm kind of in the tank for 'Melo. He went to my school and won them a championship. He's a four-time member of the national team, has continually built on his game to be a plus defensive player, has an increasingly all-around game and, the occasional personal peccadillo aside (ganja, the "Stop Snitching" video, the Knicks brawl), has more or less kept his nose clean. He's endured years of George Karl without demanding a trade or going psycho, played hard even in lost cause playoffs, and is one of the more watchable players in the Association, especially in crunch time. He does his charity work, and hasn't inflicted an obnoxious ad on the world. By the modern standards of the Association, he's a borderline saint.

(I suspect he's kind of overrated, in the way that high scoring players generally are, and his rebounding rates aren't up to the same standard as the rest of his game. If he's the best player on your team, you probably aren't winning a championship, but by that standard, there are only three to five players in the league that are worth watching.)

But with the media so clearly in the tank for teams over players, there's just no winning for Anthony, short of performing a Boxer from Animal Farm routine in Denver for the rest of his life. And honestly, if I were him, I'm not sure I'd go in any other direction. Staying in Denver means hitching your wagon to an ailing Karl, an aging Chauncey Billups, the decrepit Kenyon Martin, the insane J.R. Smith, the unstable Chris Anderson, the cursed Nene Hilario... well, honestly. It's not going to take much to send this team back to the 35-win level, especially in the stacked West.

There's also this. Anthony is married to Alani Vazquez, who the Web tells me works in the business of show. He's got a child with her, and Denver can't be the best place for her career. He also grew up in Baltimore and went to school in upstate New York. Moving back East means that his family sees his kid more often and more easily, and even if you are independently wealthy, that makes your life better. He might also want to avoid so much time in planes, given that every road game in Denver involves the airport.

Finally, there's this. There's no way, short of a wildly improbable Finals run, that Anthony can get any bigger as a star. He plays many of his games after the East goes to bed. His scoring average isn't going to go to the 40-point per-game range. The regular season has been shown to mean nothing.

So put yourself in Melo's shoes. You tell your team that you'd like to go. This makes you a threatening prima donna. You don't tell your team that you'd like to go, which means that everyone is going to spend the year speculating about it, or accusing you of being a liar. And in the post-LeBron age, we're just dying to bury these guys are soon as we can.

For just a moment, let's consider the Nugget culpability here. They are the club that can't get their personnel together, or follow the time-old dictate of only one loon per locker room. They are the folks who have tied their worth to Karl, otherwise known as the coach who couldn't win the big one, and who could throw his team under the bus with a quickness for being, well, just like him, in that they are talented knuckleheads. These are the guys who can't tie up enough money in injury and suspension prone big men. They are the guys with the more or less forgettable drafts, the constant battles with the refs, the inability to staff a bench well enough to keep Anthony's minutes down in the regular season.

Now, Melo's not perfect. But he's a hell of a lot better than this franchise, and he's given them many solid years of service to get to the point where he has earned the ability to name his address. So why, exactly, does anyone short of Nugget Fan want to bury him for that?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top 12 consequences of the MLB financial statements leak

In case you've somehow missed Deadspin's outstanding bit of provocation, they've managed to get their pesky little fingers on the financial records of several MLB- franchises. And surprise, surprise, surprise... it turns out that all of these cash-poor sad sisters are making money hand over fist, and generally defrauding the public by refusing to play the game to win. I know, good thing we were all sitting down for the news, but now that what was known forever is out in the open, there are, of course, consequences...

12) MLB had to reset its workplace "Days Since A PR Debacle" poster

11) Shockingly, the nation's media is giving this less play than when an athlete shoots steroids into his butt

10) The 29 remaining Pirate fans who actually thought the team was trying to win for all of those years had to have their medication increased

9) The government officials of the greater Miami area are suddenly much less interested in paying for the Marlins' parking garage

8) As a whole, MLB+ teams now seem comparatively less evil

7) Bud Selig's Secret Police is going into Exploding Cigar Mode to find out a way to kill all of those pesky bloggers who let the money cat out of the money bag

6) Cub Fan is even more irate over how the Gods of Karma have gifted the Marlins with two World Championships in the last 15 years, seeing as they were barely even trying *and* running a massive economic con game

5) The miserable contrarians who mainstream media always pays to take the other side on these things get to argue how all of the MLB- teams are right to run this swindle, seeing how they weren't smart enough to spend money and win anyway

4) Billy Beane's ability to keep a straight face during the press conference for the next fire sale trade of a plus starting pitcher (Brett Anderson, 2012) is going to put to its greatest test yet

3) Somehow, this stunning example of the worst kind of welfare fraud will be missed by your local right-wing radio blowhard, seeing how the fraudsters in question aren't poor minority members

2) If this leak had simply happened a decade ago, we could have prevented several dozen pointless stadium construction projects

1) Finally, the world knows just how much money teams make off mascot appearances, Jumbotron birthday announcements, and the wildly "creative" accounting practice of amortizing personnel costs, aka basic tax fraud

Top ten reasons the Dodgers are going to waive Manny Ramirez

10) He hasn't been the same since taking the pregnant lady roids

9) Somehow don't want to pay nearly $19 million a year for a part-time, defense-free clubhouse cancer

8) Now that Joe Torre has destroyed Jonathan Broxton's value, he needed to up the ante

7) If you aren't going to the playoffs, might as well not go as cheaply as possible

6) The team really needs to figure out exactly what they have in Scott Podsednik

5) They are under the mistaken impression that this will somehow result in less money for Scott Boras

4) Since the ChiSox are rumored to be putting in a claim for him, can't resist the joy of seeing Ozzie Guillen and Planet Manny co-exist, especially since Oz is on Twitter

3) They know that since they aren't a new team, Manny isn't going to try

2) It's a time-honored tactic to threaten him with deportation to get some actual production

1) At his age, he's a fantastically expensive pain in the ass who doesn't actually help a team win

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Top ten threats to fantasy football

It seems hard to imagine that the game that tens of millions of people play, and seems to get bigger and bigger every year, could actually become less popular. But all that goes up must come down, and there are actually reasons to think that the current obsession could actually become less popular, and soon.

10) Age. It's true; the older you get, the less time that you have for hobbies, especially when the hobby starts to irritate you. Fantasy sports are, of course, prone to relentless amounts of irritation, especially if you are playing for cash that you don't particularly want to part with, or on a draft date that causes family friction (say, Labor Day weekend). This is less tricky for online leagues, of course, but that still won't keep you from spending way too much time and money in draft prep, and to wonder why you are still doing it later.

9) Owning the numbers. One hopes and dreams that the NFL will never be as stupid as MLB is, where the actual numbers are a bone of contention -- Czar Bud Selig thinks that MLB statistics should be the paid-for-property of MLB -- but trying to squeeze more money out of the audience is an eternal temptation. If the leagues ever get that kind of traction, and decide to put up a pay gate, that's got to start draining the pond.

8) Labor unrest. Stating that an NFL lockout or strike would ruin fantasy football is somewhat akin to saying that nuclear war would play hell with your lawn, in that it's true but kind of besides the point. And make no mistake about it, all signs point to serious problems in 2011. The NFL is having the same small market versus large market versus the players three-way dance that caused the nuclear winter baseball strike that canceled a World Series and destroyed baseball in Montreal, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and more.

To be honest, I don't really see the NFL's owners and players opting for mutually assured destruction. The league has always had its way with the players in ways that MLB's owners can only dream of, and the large market owners, with the possible exception of Jerry Jones, don't seem crazy enough to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. But people have a way of getting stupid when hundreds of millions of dollars are on the table.

7) Monopolization. The last few years haven't been particularly grand for Yahoo. A merger with Microsoft didn't happen, Google and Apple took the lead in countless ways, and the global economic downturn caused problems in online display advertising, sapping the company's revenues and making them a target for takeover. But more importantly for our little part of the world, ESPN finally got its act together in fantasy games.

The World Wide Lemur has overcome some disastrous missteps to get to equilibrium in the fake game. They've been better at moving to auction drafts, aggressive about advertising, and getting in bed with the NBA to take the lead in that sport. And if they can keep the momentum up, and Yahoo sells out... well, CBS Sportsline would still be around, I suppose, as would others. But monopolies rarely make for innovation and growing times, especially if the Lemur decides to start enforcing morality (i.e., banning users due to comments) or monetization.

6) Casinos everywhere. In the very near future, there will be casinos with poker rooms very close to where I live, as part of the overall casinozation of America. And once you've got that, well, you need something more to set yourself apart from the other rooms, don't you? Something along the lines of a fully functioning sportsbook that lets me make three-team parlays while in a luxury setting with bad for me food and drink?

Well, I doubt that I'd just cancel my involvement in roto leagues. But they might not have the same importance, if you catch my drift.

5) Women and children. A friend of mine sent an invite to a league this week. It's for no money, and the gimmick is that it's for kids -- and, of course, their parents. It's so adorable, I just want to... well, not join the league. Because how am I supposed to talk trash and cash out a kid, unless there's actually cash on the line?

I keed, I keed... but only just. Because fantasy sports, no matter how much you may want to sugarcoat it, are a vice. And those tend to go away when exposed to the bright light of women and children. For good reasons.

4) Barbara from accounting. With each succeeding year, it gets frankly easier to draft well, avoid obvious blown picks, find out about deep sleepers and draft like, well, someone who knows what they are doing. And with teams going to committee work at running back and, shh, wideout (notice how the Saints won last year by spreading the wealth, and it's a copycat league)...

Well, the plain and ugly truth of it is that it's getting harder to get past the random chance of injuries and hot weeks, especially in head to head leagues. And if you can win a league by random chance, then it becomes just like your NCAA basketball bracket, which is inevitably won by someone who picks like they are filling out a bingo board.

3) Nerds. To many people in the audience, this is a pot kettle moment, since you've got to have the nerd in you to do this game in the first place. But fantasy football's vagaries of numbers (the fact that passing touchdowns can go for four or six points, turnovers count differently, some leagues go for bonus points over threshold numbers, etc., etc.) lends itself to abuse in the pursuit of "fairness."

Within the next few years, I guarantee you that there will be "Expert" leagues that go for Football Outsider-y Nerd Plus stats like value over replacement player, contextually adjusted yards from scrimmage, and so on. So you'll be caught between the rock of random chance leagues, dominated by Barbara from Accounting, or leagues where advanced trig is required to compete. Either way, you'll feel played.

2) Over-fishing. Here's the real dirty little secret about leagues: they live on the misery of the guys that never win. Some of my best friends have been paying out for years and years without making bank... and in a tough economy, you have to think that there would be a little bit of realization here.

The situation will look awfully familiar to poker players; the game's gotten harder, and the guys that used to just play for fun have decided that they are no longer having fun. When the room is all sharks, it's just not that much fun to swim.

1) Itself. Right now, there are high roller guys spending a fortune to draft in opulence in Vegas. There are highly regrettable situation comedies about leagues. Podcasts, cable shows, columns, logs... there's no end to it. And there's no sign of stopping or slowing down, especially since the fake game allows us to stretch out football season for an extra month or two.

We do this, of course, because there really isn't enough NFL football to satisfy us. If there were a real second league in the spring, in good markets with similar rules and comparable talent, we'd watch it. Then, we'd start fantasy leagues for it.

It's all got to end some day, or at the very least, slow down. Either that, or just accept the idea that we're more or less powerless to resist this, and that fantasy football is the end of the world. So, well, coin flip.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top 10 reasons why Johnny Damon won't go back to Boston

The Tigers outfielder and designated hitter used his no-trade clause to refuse a waiver claim by the Red Sox. As always, this blog -- and this blog alone -- has the real reasons why.

10) Desperate to get to 100 career triples (he has 97), and thinks he's got a better chance to get there while playing half of his games in Comerica

9) Really can't stand "Sweet Caroline"

8) Does not ever want to be in a position where he could take at bats away from all-time beloved Red Sox J.D. Drew

7) Detroit's proximity to Canada feeds his secret obsessions of hockey, curling, thick bacon and bilingualism

6) Out of the 2,243 career games and five uniforms that he's played in, the 113 in Detroit have just meant the most to him

5) For some unfathomable reason, he'd rather not play in front of people who utterly and completely detest him

4) Getting to 3,000 career hits (he has, as I write this, 2,538) will get easier if he doesn't have to work in October

3) Suspects that the Tigers and Red Sox will play the exact same number of playoff games this year

2) Wants to make sure that when he goes to the Hall of Fame, the emblem on his cap will be a dollar sign

1) His real estate dollar goes further in Detroit, in that Damon now owns the entire city

Top 12 reasons why Rajon Rondo quit Team USA

12) Celtic Fan will stick their fingers in their ears over this, but there's a real good chance that he's actually the fourth best point guard for international play on the roster

11) Has family issues that just happened, through incredible coincidence, to correspond with going from first to third string

10) To echo the great Garry Templeton, if he ain't startin', he is departin'

9) Not comfortable with increasing the number of continents that are aware of his lack of a jump shot

8) Like so many college foreign exchange students before him, he was irrevocably exposed by Lithuania

7) Point guards that don't make free throws generally aren't, well, point guards

6) Didn't get a good feeling about being one of the better team rebounders

5) Just remembered that he plays for a team of dinosaurs, that his season didn't end until mid-June, and that he'll be getting 40+ minutes a game just to clinch a home playoff series next year

4) It was coming down to him or Chauncey Billups for the last roster spot, which is to say, against a guy who actually can shoot

3) If you had to listen to Mike Krzyewski, you'd most likely quit, too

2) Now realizes that there's no pot of endorsement gold at the end of a FIBA championship rainbow

1) He's the last man in the NBA to really hate his opponents, which means that co-habitation with Lamar Odom is just a deal breaker

Top 10 takeaways from the Tiger Woods Divorce

10) Now when Tiger sleeps around, it's just going to be seem sad and pathetic

9) Thousands of gravy training slacker dudes now think Elin is the total package

8) Woods now gets to only be pestered by sports reporters who want him to stop sucking, rather than tabloid reporters who want him to keep sucking

7) Finally, Tiger can sleep with other women and actually enjoy it

6) Since the hearing only lasted ten minutes, Woods had to rise to the challenge of finding another random waitress with which to commit the ceremonial going-away act of adultery

5) By arranging the divorce during the August Dead Zone of No Sports, Tiger has masterfully curried the favor of the nation's blowhard sports columnists by giving them a phone-it-in column when they most needed it

4) Now that the divorce is finalized, Woods can become the absent and negligent father that he always wanted when he was a child

3) As a condition of the divorce, Nordegren goes back to her maiden name and prior career as a nanny

2) Terms of the divorce were not announced, because everything else has been kept so confidential and private up to now

1) Now that this has been put behind him, Accenture, AT&T and Gatorade are sure to start paying Woods tens of millions of dollars to endorse their products, since everyone still clearly wants to be more like him

Monday, August 23, 2010

Top 5 Ways To Drive Your Fantasy Football Commissioner Insane

I've ran leagues for longer than some of you have been alive, which means that when God was handing out the stupid pills, I got seconds, then figured out a way to make sure that everyone got their fair share of pills, because you wouldn't want the distribution of stupid pills to be just random. So in the course of my life, I've been subjected to all of the following. Multiple times. Use them in ill health.

5) Rule Pule. Are you the kind of person that can't leave well enough alone, especially when it could create some infinitesimal advantage? Then it's time to make life miserable for everyone in the general area, but especially the schmuck that's decided to try to lead the thing, by either continually whining about the same problem, or by endlessly agitating for some new wrinkle. If you are really good at this, you can keep bringing up the same rule change for years and years, to the point that your Commish wants nothing more than what you don't want. Then, you can pull the old reverse psychology move and send him completely round the bend. Enjoy!

4) Compulsive Trading. This one's especially great for people in keeper leagues, where the Commish is the poor slob who has to keep track of who owns who, and for how much against their salary cap. This is the guy who wants to trade picks in the middle of the draft, thinks about playing a monster year-long league where he can trade baseball players for football players and vice versa, and doesn't seem to notice when you delete the first five hundred trade propsals without comment.

The sad thing about this guy is that he doesn't carry it out in the rest of his life. I'd enjoy this guy a lot more if his life was just a constant stream of dealt lunches, switching subway seats, free-flowing pens and the like. Or wife swapping. That'd be amusing to watch, too.

3) Welchie. Playing for money is kind of necessary to keep things interesting for most of us, and collecting it is nothing bit misery for the Commish, who winds up sweating over whether or not he's got the right count, especially if it's a live draft with a pizza or beer run to complicate things. And if your commish is also the kind of guy that's sweating out his own draft, it's way too easy to sleaze your way out of things.

Of course, if you are actually playing in a league with owners who are welching on their bets this way, the Commish is somewhat to blame, since they misread the people involved in the first place. So they'll blame themselves. Bonus!

2) Bitchie McBitchFest. Say, isn't the draft room warm? Don't you have any better beer than this? I can't eat B-B-Q any more -- too heavy. And this stuff isn't, you know, good. Couldn't you order some salad? And the draft board just isn't very legible, my seat is all wrong, my laptop cord won't reach the power strip, the Wi-Fi is slow and my very existence makes every decent human being spit nails and go on killing sprees.

By the way, my fellow commishes, if you have any of these guys in your league, feel free to murder them in the most gruesome way possible. No jury will convict. Actually, there's a reasonable chance that they'll take up arms and murder the relatives of the deceased.

1) Change Agent. In my league, I start negotiating for the Draft Date 2-3 months away from the actual event. I then get "why so early" pules from the owners, who have the long-term memory of infants, and a lack of response. I then contact again, and again, and with about two months before the draft, we all agree on a date, but only after two or three people either threaten to drop out or actually bail.

Is the fun over yet? Hell no. In the next two months, we'll have at least two or three more sudden freakouts over the date as people suddenly realize that they've booked an overseas flight, have theater tickets, are expecting a child or some other moment of I'm Going To Have To Get Over The Urge To Kill Everyone Now. And hey, I know it's a pain in the ass, but can you find someone to draft for me, wipe my nether regions and otherwise drive up your blood pressure?

Add your own move in the comments. Then, speaking for all of the commissioners of the world, go gargle with Drain-O. Please...

Top Five Fantasy Football Sleeper Busts

As we get closer and closer to when the majority of you people make your fantasy football draft picks, the quest for sexy picks -- you know, the ones that will provoke those all-important curses of jealousy from your league mates -- will cost any number of owners their buy-in. Here are the guys that will smart you all the way out of the money.

5) Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Disliking Leinart comes easily: just watch him play. Tentative with the ball, wooden with his scout blessed NFL size, and a telegraphing machine, there's a reason -- many of them, really -- why he's spent the last few years watching Kurt Warner cement his status as a Canton immortal. Now that he's finally been given the keys to the Cardinal offense and full visitation privileges to all-world WR Larry Fitzgerald, the canny thought is that six games a year against the NFC West has to make him worth a late-round flyer. But, um, well... no.

The thing about Leinart is that he's a front-runner. When he's got time and space, he can make a throw, and with the weapons that are at his disposal, you can see why the dreams of 300 yards and 2 touchdowns a game for very low money exist. But the problem is that in those front runnner games this year, Big Red management is going to be trying to establish the team's new identity as a power-running football team, especially with new OLer Alan Faneca in town. Faneca's work in pass blocking last year contributed mightily to Jets QB Matt Sanchez having happy feet, but he's still worth the price of admission in the running game.

So in the games where the throwing is easy, Leinart won't be. In the games were it isn't, he's going to be turnover city from being, well, himself, and also from an inadequate offensive line. Add it up, and you get a guy that you are never going to be all that confident to start. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

4) Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Either Brown and traditional starting RB Joseph Addai are both slugs, the Colts' offensive line are incapable of opening a hole even with all-world QB Peyton Manning, or opponents of the Colts decided the best way to win was to take away the run... because, well, neither of these guys did very much with the rock last year at all. Brown gets continuation bet points here, seeing how everyone and his brother has owned Addai and hated him for years now, but all signs continue to point to a timeshare that won't cut any real ice, because the Colts' OL is, shh, really that bad. It's amazing what a QB with preternatural pre-snap reading ability, a lightning-fast release, and some of the best wideout options in the league can do to make the uglies look pretty.

3) Chester Taylor, RB, Chicago Bears

Yes, I know -- Matt Forte broke your heart so badly last year that you need to show him how much you hate hate hate him now, and Chester The Arrester has got System RB written all over him, especially with that fat contract. But wait just a moment here... why were the Vikings ready to let Chester go, especially to a division rival? Maybe the sub-par numbers last year, combined with his advancing age -- remember, RBs age like dogs, and Taylor is on his third organization -- might be a clue. Along with the fact that the Bears really haven't crushed the world recently when it comes to signing people. Taylor will have his uses this year, to be sure, but more as a flex play, rather than a full-time option.

2) Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions

The thinking here isn't bad -- the Lions are going to throw it a ton, and Calvin Johnson can't get all of the looks -- but to go here means that you have to hitch your wagon to QB Matthew Stafford, and there's no good reason to do that just yet. Between the Lions' pass protection problems and Stafford's inaccuracy last year, you've got to project a quantum leap in productivity... and if that happens, it's going to go to safer throw options like RB Jahvid Best in the flat, and TEs Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew. Burleson is a long way from his useful fantasy years, and isn't going to be more than a flash in the pan here.

1) Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

There was a lot to dislike here before the injuries, actually. Dallas has too many weapons for even the biggest rookie breakout to get to every week status, and now that his development has been set back, he's going to stay in scattershot mode. Add in the injury and off-the-field issues -- karmic debt for failing to carry Roy Williams' pads? -- and the fact that the team is going to use him on special teams, further sapping his energy and attention, and you've got a guy that's just not going to be worth his draft position in many leagues.

The simple fact of the matter is that, unless the player in question is so take it to the house special that special teams work can result in a few more touchdowns a year, you want no part of a guy who has that job in addition to a role in the offense. It's kind of like when the fireballing prospect in baseball gets the long reliever job; you scout and tab the guy, but until he moves to closer or starter, you generally can live without him. If you are in a keeper league, Bryant's worth targeting, because Williams isn't long for this team. But in 2010, he's going to be the centerpiece of a lot of clubs that aren't going to make the money.

This Week's Top 12 NFL Pre-Season Takeaways

12) Byron Leftwich left Giants DL first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul in the dust, which doesn't exactly speak volumes for the Frenchie's chances at eluding the Draft Bust label

11) This Aaron Rodgers guy in Green Bay might be pretty good

10) While Chad Henne looked much better in the Dolphins' second preseason game, it should be noted that it was against the Jags' team that made Mike Vick look competent

9) Minnesota gave Brett Fave four plays agains the Niners, or one more after he actually got hit

8) The Jets are going to make center Nick Mangold the highest-paid player in the NFL at his position, then move him to corner, just to mess with Darrelle Revis's head

7) A.J. Feeley's thumb injury opens the door for highy touted pick Sam Bradford to get hurt months earlier than expected

6) Albert Haynesworth was disclosed as having a rare skeletal muscle condition, which surprised Redskins Fans who were pretty sure that he didn't have a backbone or muscles

5) Jamaal Charles continues to outplay Thomas Jones, surprising no one with the possible exception of Chiefs coach Todd Haley

4) Ike Taylor and Hakeem Nicks were ejecting for fighting, allowing them to both look like they gave a damn about the fake game without actually having to play it

3) The Ravens gave up over 400 yards in passing to the Redskins, split almost equally between Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman, proving that without a healthy Ed Reed, they really are that vulnerable

2) Jake Delhomme continued to play well, proving that (a) the games don't matter, and (b) he could be the second coming of Dan Fouts for the next month and still go undrafted in your fantasy league

1) The Mike Martz fantasy football nerd love train took a slight derailment when those world-beating Oakland Raiders laid a multi-sack beatdown on Jay Cutler, who seems likely to learn just why so many of Mad Mike's QBs get concussed

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This Week's Top 10 MLB Takeaways

10) Derrek Lee was the only thing keeping Lou Pinella even marginally interested in the Cubs

9) As the Stephen Strasburg injury showed, the Nationals just can't have nice things

8) Vin Scully shocked the baseball world by announcing that after 61 years in broadcasting, he will come back for his 62nd

7) Matt Stairs set the all-time record for pinch hit home runs, which means that he has officially punched his ticket to Cooperstown

6) In related news, Jonathon Broxton entered a rehab clinic for treatment for symptoms of chronic depression

5) Mike Hampton signed a minor-league deal with the DiamondBacks, mostly for the medical benefits

4) The Yankees put Alex Rodriguez on the Disabled List, crushing their hopes of high attendance for his historic chase to career home run whatever

3) The Pirates lost nine out of ten, proving that the only thing holding the team together was Octavio Dotel

2) Rumors swirled around the idea that the Dodgers would waive Manny Ramirez, because they'd much rather give at bats to, seriously, Scott Podsednik

1) The Reds got a special one day out of infamy card for some guy named Pete Rose, so they can honor him for the 25th anniversary of the day when his Bataan-like death march to out-single Ty Cobb mercifully ended

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Top 10 pre-season NFL telecast time killers

Ah, preseason football. It's the best time of the year, provided you are dying of a dread disease, and you are hoping to slow time to a crawl. So why not sit back, pop open a cold one and snooze your night away with these time-honored ways of getting through it?

10) Sad pre-game hype efforts. Do these teams have a history? No, of course not, otherwise they wouldn't be playing each other in the pre-season; there's a reason why division opponents don't get to usually go against each other. Instead, you get inter-conference games between total strangers, except for the odd free agent who used to wear the laundry, or the ex-coach who now plies his trade for the other side and aches for vengeance. Honestly, you've seen better plots in pro wrestling. On the indie circuit.

9) Over-dramatics about the first quarter. The starters are in! People are actually watching! It resembles football after six months of not football! So let's all lose our fudge over whether the starting defense plays well in its 25 plays, despite not really using any blitzes, or whether the offense can convert in the red zone while using a scheme that's so vanilla, you might lose your ability to dance on the 1 from watching it. Feel the importance!

8) Puling about injuries. Gosh, it's terrible that football players get hurt, isn't it? It's almost as if they are performing an inherently dangerous profession in which powerful men are constantly hitting each other, and many of them are doing so with particular desperation, because they don't want to go back to the loading dock. And if we talk about them long enough, maybe the league will actually stop committing fraud by playing these games in the first place. Whoops, that last part never gets out, because we must not bite the hand that feeds...

7) Sideline interviews with starters. Hey, why should you watch the game, when the teammates of the guys who are on the field don't? It's much better to stick a mic in the face of some prima donna wideout -- gosh, can you somehow get one of those guys to talk to you? -- and let them tell you about their new nickname and/or elaborate handshake rituals. Because we care so much about the players as human beings!

6) The all-important film! Yes, this fourth quarter is almost entirely composed of guys that will be lucky to be in the UFL next month. But every play is on tape, dammit! If Player X can't stick with this team, there are dozens of others of teams that might need someone to play almost exactly like their own guys to cut. And these tapes go on their Permanent Record, you see...

5) Sad fantasy football advice. Oh, nerds. Aren't you sad that the world knows about your game? Becuase now that means that out of touch ex-jocks in the booth, the kind who secretly think you are a first-class rube for caring so much about the league without getting a pay stub, feel compelled to say how some fourth-string back that lines up in four positions is your perfect sleeper. Just go back to talking about hustle, or Brett Favre, or what you ate, OK?

4) Coach wash. It's preseason for the announcers as well, which means that they need to set up a season filled with inside info and cliche quotes by saying what they want, about who they want. Just in case you weren't aware that you are listening to media with the integrity of Pravda...

3) Local yokels. If you hate network talent, there's nothing like seeing just how much worse it gets in the sticks. Especially when the blow-dried head from your local Action News affiliate has to show that he or she is right for the big time, because they are just so gosh-darned enthusiastic and LOVE FOOTBALL SO, SO MUCH. Go team go!

2) Alumni sadness. Ready to stare into the abyss of your own encroaching mortality? Then it's high time that you see Beloved Superstar From Your Youth as he shambles his way through what preseason games were like in his day, how much kra-zee money they make now, and how it's just a blast to hang out with all of the guys who are wondering who the old dude is. Where are my pills again?

1) The training camp battle that even the announcers can't pretend to care about. These usually come down to a back up punter or some fourth quarter kick returner, and after a number of other over-hyped life-and-death moves. There's a reason why you need to watch the fourth quarter, really.

Feel free, as always, to add yours in the comments...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Top 11 Takeaways from the Clemens Indictment

Six counts of perjury before Congress isn't exactly an easy rap to skate away from. Here's what you need to know about the latest in L'Affaire Clemens.

11) Thousands of crusty old sports writers will have to do a search and replace before filing their boilerplate Hell In A Handbasket column

10) The Rocket officially gets to be dirtier, on some level, than Jose Canseco

9) If you think Red Sox Fan didn't do a fairly elaborate fist pump and/or high five over the news, you really don't know the man well enough

8) We can offically declare Greg Maddux the winner in the Best Pitcher Of His Generation battle

7) If only Mike Piazza had fought back, we might have avoided all of this

6) You can safely sell off those minor league baseball cards of his kids now

5) A steadily decreasing number of people seem to care that Clemens is sticking to the usual Liar's Stonewell tactic of denying everything

4) Just because that there's no chance in hell that he'll actually do the 30 years in prison doesn't mean that it isn't fun to think about

3) Brian McNamee has got nearly as much chance of getting inducted in Cooperstown as Clemens right about now

2) The Rocket is said to be saddened that his 25 years in public life hasn't given him the benefit of the doubt, notwithstanding the fact that much of that time has been spent behaving like a loon

1) Today, the world of Barry Bonds got just a little bit brighter

Top 6 Sword of Damocles Fantasy Football Calls

For all of you who didn't geek out on comparative mythology back in school, the Sword of Damocles is said to hang over the heads of those in power. Choose wisely, the sword stays where it is, and you prosper. Choose badly, and there is sudden but problematic weight loss.

Every year when you choose your fantasy football squad, there are knife-edge decisions between seemingly equal talent that will decide the fate of your squad. Currently, these are the top six hanging over me.

6) Darren McFadden or Michael Bush. The Oakland speed back should be just a change-of-pace Reggie Bush type player, and no threat to power back / actually healthy person Michael Bush, especially on the goal line. But that misses the point that McFadden is a one-time high draft pick and a highlight film kind of guy, which is to say that he's catnip to Emperor Palpatine -- err, Al Davis. Count on McHurt to cuckold Bush, but only if you draft Bush. If your draft goes the other way, he'll remain hurt. And if you get both, you will have spent two picks on the Raiders, and you're still doomed.

5) Jason Witten or Brent Celek. Your classic established veteran vs. the potential emerging stud decision here. Witten is frustrating because for some reason Tony Romo and the Cowboys routinely forget about him in the red zone, but one of these days, even these Mensa members are going to have to give up on the idea of force-feeding Roy Williams to try to convince us that he's worth it, and actually throw the ball to the guy with the best hands in traffic. Marion Barber isn't the red zone threat that he used to be, and Martellus Bennett has never really worked out. It's not hard to imagine double the touchdowns in 2010 from Witten, along with the usual plus yardage.

But then there's Celek, the BFF of new QB Kevin Kolb. He's young. He's downright funny -- his Twitter account is a win. He's a security blanket for a young passer in an offense that sometimes throws it 2 out of every 3 plays. There's every possibility that he could be the #1 tight end in fantasy this year -- and no matter what, that won't be Wittten. Or he could crumble under added attention, get cuckolded by Kolb feeding the speedy wideouts, suffer at the hands of sneaky big and good possession wideout Jason Avant, or lose looks to credible looking back up tight end Cornelius Ingram. Championships aren't won by the timid, or by the people who get blinded by their favorite laundry.

4) Reggie Wayne or Calvin Johnson. Your second round wideout pick comes down to two guys who didn't help anyone win last year. On the one hand, you have last year's news Wayne, who seems primed to give up attention to new kids like Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and maybe even the perpetually injured Anthony Gonzalez. So the floor is there, but the ceiling is not, and in the second round, drafting guys with no ceiling is simply No Fun. Megatron has got ceiling to spare, with perhaps the best talent in the league and the chance to be all that and a bag of touchdowns. But he also still has an inaccurate QB, a team that can't protect the inaccurate QB, and the immortal Nate Burleson on the other side to (try to) keep the opposing defense from quadruple-teaming him again, like last year.

3) Brandon Jacobs or Ahmad Bradshaw. Big Blue looks like they will get back to running the football and punching people in the mouth this year, especially if the defense actually tries and they have a lead to protect. So that points you to Jacobs, who should get a ton of chances from in close... except that he's fumble and injury prone, rarely does anything in the passing game, and might not have as good of a power running offensive line as advertised.

Door number two is Bradshaw, who has the Derrick Ward role of looking better than he probably is in comparison with the plowhorse... but his ankles were a mess last year as well, and you've got a history of off-the-field issues as well. The single most likely experience is a fairly equivalent timeshare, which also means that if/when either gets hurt, you either win the lottery or the flush.

2) Johnny Knox or Devin Aromashodu. The role of Favored Wideout for Jay Cutler is supposed to be a good one this year, seeing as Mike Martz is supposed to make everything all better. With Knox, you get the speed; with Aromashodu, you get better hands and more effectiveness in traffic. The latter seems like a better bet in fantasy, since touchdowns are a big damn deal... but even in a Martz offense, given the talent that is here, you have to think there will be some looks for tight ends Desmond Clark and (especially) Greg Olsen, and it's not as if Matt Forte and Chester Taylor won't get some balls, too. Realistically, whoever you pick here is going to be an inconsistent play. Toss your dart and hope.

1) Kevin Kolb or Donovan McNabb. And here's the granddaddy of 'em all. As an Eagles fan, this one should be easy for me: go with the hometown laundry, live with his mistakes, and know that you'll likely die a noble death. Wait, that's not actually easy, is it? Kolb's got 4000 yards, but also 15 to 20 picks, written all over him. There will also be some clearly tough days coming on road games in a murderous division, and the spectre of Once Again Quick Vick to cuckold him at the goal line.

But the ceiling is Aaron Rodgers. That needs to count for something, right?

Going near his position in average drafts, just near enough to make things interesting? Why, it's our old friend Five McNabb, clearly motivated like no one's business, and playing for a team who is going to want to goose his numbers up to make sure that he's happy enough to sign a contract extension, rather than test the market. If only he had an offensive line, wideouts, or the wheels he had, oh, five to ten years ago. Or the certain knowledge that his ire at showing Andy Reid who's muy macho will overcome the fact that he's aging and injury prone. There's also no chance of a Vickectomy, of course. Or a breakout.

If you'd like to add your own in the comments, feel free. Or just ignore the sword.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Defending the Indefensible

Tonight in Houston, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) did something they had to do, which will wind up getting them significant grief over the next few days. They defended Francisco Rodriguez, aka K-Rod, aka Grandpa's Worst Nightmare.

The Mets are taking the eminently sensible approach of trying to rid themselves of a loathsome contract and a loathsome individual. If you or I were running the team, we'd do the exact same thing, regardless of whether or not we thought the guy was scum. After all, a .500 team does not need a high-priced closer that isn't getting any better at his job. They especially don't need this guy in a pitcher's park, with any number of tolerable arms in the pen, with 40-odd games to go in a season that will end without drama. It's infinitely better for the team, honestly, to figure out if someone cheap (Bobby Parnell et al) can do the job in 2011, so they can go get the additional bat and/or starting pitcher that might actually get them off the .500 treadmill.

But that's not in the interest of a union.

K-Rod, of course, has paid his union dues. And whether or not he should lose his guaranteed contract during a time of injury -- even a self-inflicted one that happens as a result of him being a remarkably regrettable human being -- is actually an open question. After all, any number of rockheads over the years have hurt themselves, usually on water coolers or by punching walls or fans, and haven't lost their livelihood over it. Unions exist to protect all of their members, not just the ones that are more likable.

Imagine, for a second, that you were to find yourself in a similar situation to K-Rod. Just to make this more palatable, let's say, for the sake of argument, that you were framed or chemically altered. Would you be better off as part of a collective bargaining group, or on your own?

Well, I've worked for start ups for the past decade. All of which have been classified as "at will" employment. Which means that they can run me, and I can run them, without any legally mandated compunction. So I could be on the street in minutes, really.

I suspect that, eventually, the MLBPA will make a few points, the Mets will make a few more, and some point between No Cash and Full Salary will be reached. It will have a lot to do with how the Mets bullpen behaves itself in the last six weeks of the season, whether K-Rod's surgery goes well, whether there will be a glut of closers on the market, and whether or not the team looks close enough to contention that the relative luxury of a top-flight closer is a reasonable move. My guess is that he's thrown his last pitch as a Met, but this is a team that still employs Ollie Perez. Stranger things have happened.

What won't change, regardless of how this situation resolves, is that people will refuse to recognize that a union's job isn't to make PR points. It's to act in the interests of its members. No matter who likes it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Top 12 ways to establish your status as a Fantasy Football Nerd

Looking for that extra edge in your upcoming fantasy league draft or auction, but don't have the time or math skills to be a true poindexter? Just follow these ten easy steps for league intimidation without mental perspiration. Or something.

12) Invent your own index.

Why predict the traditional statistics of available players, when you can crunch all of those made-up numbers into one magic number... that also takes into account the relative value over mean per specific position, then keep crunching it until it makes all your dreams come true. You have bad dreams.

11) Site unseen.

Why get your camp updates, sleeper touts, injury news and more from the same Web sites that everyone else reads? Instead, get the exact same information with different adjectives from some site that no one has ever heard of. You're sure to win that way!

10) Speak entirely in acronyms.

Look, no one actually knows what most of these things mean, so that means your bluff is going to work. Just sprinkle in enough talk about regression to the mean, DVOA, VORP and then invent your own nonsense words. For bonus points, see if you can work in something vaguely scatalogical.

9) Put the playoff cart before the season horse.

If your league is head to head, talk about how loaded you are for the playoff weeks. If it's a points league, go for how your backups are perfectly lined up for the bye weeks. The great point is that since the playoffs are three months away and no one really knows who will be good in December, it doesn't matter if you actually managed for this. Claim it anyway!

8) Cite your preseason scouting chops.

Even if you draft nothing but established veterans, that doesn't mean that you didn't see something in training camp that totally changes your world view. The new technique, training regimen, etc., it all shows how your pick has got The Genius.

7) Go collegiate.

This one is right up there with the preseason move, but your knowing aside of how good Player X looked at State, that's sure to impress, intimidate, or just irritate. It helps if you actually get the school right, but if your league is filled with pro-only nerds, it won't matter that much.

6) Get injurious.

Sure, year to year injuries in the NFL probably have as much to do with random chance and can't be predicted -- witness how crackle brittle Matt Schaub played all 16 games last year, when he normally breaks by November -- but that doesn't mean you can't pontificate at will. It's also a win when you talk knowledgably about the effect of various training staffs. Geek hard!

5) Down syndrome.

It's not enough to know the yearly statistics of various players, or even if they finished the year strong. Instead, talk about how your guy got some random percent on third downs, and how this is a leading indicator for future star breakouts. If it sounds smart, it could even be true!

4) Line items.

Analyzing offensive line play is a task best left to people who actually watch film for a living, but that doesn't mean you can't go into agonizing detail over how some household name in his own household is going to create big holes for whoever you wind up with at running back. So long as you don't run into a fan of the specific team, or a relative of the lineman in question, you're safe with your BS.

3) Calendar girl.

Everybody knows that running backs are like Logan's Run -- once they break 30, the end is nigh -- but no one really knows when a player is going to get The Age, since every situation is different. But that doesn't mean you can't rain on the parade of others, especially if you aren't the guy on the hook for one last good year from some value pick. Get funky with your actuarial self.

2) My schedule is stronger than yours.

Once again, predicting the NFL season is such an easy task that tens of millions of people make big coin from just picking the games, so your call of which team is going to play nothing but defense-free shootouts is sure to be a win. Act with complete confidence!

1) Get pacey.

This actually makes a bit of sense if you are ranking basketball players, and maybe if you are absolutely dead solid stuck between two similar players. But honestly, if you can put a number on how many comparative plays an offense is going to run, you, my son, are the King of the No Lifers. Long live the King!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top 10 reasons the Cavs have changed uniforms

10) The sleek new threads are sure to attract free agents, provided those players don't mind upper management acting like plantation owners

9) It will make the eventual retirement of He Who Must Not Be Named's jersey, which will happen simply to get a full sellout of people to boo, even more awkward

8) When the good fans of Cleveland see a 25-win team in new threads, it's the sure fix for any possible attendance problem

7) The deeper wine color is, well, somehow appropriate now

6) Everyone in town needs a new jersey anyway, owing to a sudden outbreak of fires

5) As everything they've done in the last few months shows, they just want to be as much like fellow laundry switcher Golden State as possible

4) Allowed owner Dan Gilbert to make a truly high-larious joke about the font on the new unis being Comic Sans

3) New jerseys are coated with a trace levels of kryptonite, garlic and wolfs bane

2) The team is sensing a big uptick in sales to ironic hipsters and the homeless

1) The new threads are reminiscent of the early '70s, when the team's top draft pick stayed with the club, many fans were alive when a local team won a championship, and some people actually had jobs

Top 10 takeaways from the latest Favre A Go Go

10) The fact that he showed up almost a year to the day from the last time he did this nonsense doesn't make this year's sincere indecision any less valid

9) Unlike last year, Jared Allen didn't beg for him to come back, but rather just added money to the tip jar

8) In a major upset, Favre might be available to the media to discuss the situation, but only for as long as the camera or microphone has power

7) Tarvaris Jackson is getting very, very good at assuming the position

6) Fantasy nerds can go back to Preset Viking Player Draft Order Alpha

5) In what has to be considered a disappointment, he isn't going for the full Phil Hellmuth WSOP entrance

4) The Internet reaches its full potential as a revolution in communications via the use of Twitter for coverage of this event

3) Now, the Vikings have a much better chance to lose in the playoffs on a season-ending pick, rather than losing in the regular season on a season-ending pick

2) Brad Childress obviously still has the tongue and dedication for the job

1) The real shame of all of this is that the media, for some reason, refuses to give this the coverage it deserves

Monday, August 16, 2010

Top 10 takeaways from K-Rod FistGate

10) When you are striking the grandfather of your children, make sure to use your non-pitching hand

9) Season-ending surgery and the ire of all is a small price to pay to keep your father-in-law in line

8) The really sad thing for Met Fan is that this is far from the least painful recent fisting

7) The club might void the contract, which means this could be the best thing that happened to the team this year

6) If you've got any clue who is going to get saves now in this crapfest, you are one up on me

5) Mets manager Jerry Manuel said he isn't mad, by which we can infer that he's more than ready to be fired

4) Now that K-Rod's season is over, he can move right into fighting over 50 year olds in a very special new MMA division

3) K-Rod's agent didn't say whether he would lie about how his client got hurt later

2) K-Rod is owed another $17.5 million, assuming he gets surgery, makes another ridiculously fake apology, and the Mets brass remains too stupid to find their ass with both hands and a map

1) This is really going to hurt the Mets' stretch fail

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