Friday, April 29, 2011

Five Game Six Grizzly-Spurs Takeaways

So, no Game Seven's in Round One. This would have never happened if David Stern were still alive...

5) The Grizzly public address announcer has perfected the manly art of sounding like he's taking a dump during every utterance

4) Zach Randolph delivered 31 points, 11 rebounds, 12 of 22 shooting from the field, 7 of 8 from the line, and everlasting hope for fat basketball players who can't jump

3) This might have been the last game ever for Antonio McDyess, which will just cripple the Spurs, seeing how there's no way they can find someone else to give them 10 points and 2 rebounds in 26 minutes from the power forward position

2) Grizz Fan is like a college fan out there with the cheering, which only makes sense, seeing how there has only been college basketball fans in this market for decades

1) The Spurs became the first #1 seed to lose a best-of-seven where everyone who watched the games had no idea how this level of talent could have ever been a #1 seed in the first place

Top 10 signs you've been watching too much playoff basketball

10) You can no longer tell the difference between Reggie Miller and Cheryl Miller

9) You have sympathy for Dick Stockton's struggles in figuring out what's happening and staying awake

8) You no longer have the energy to mock Kenny Smith for having his own basketball holodeck

7) When listening to the local telecasts on NBA TV, you've stopped counting how many times the announcing team uses the word "we"

6) You can tell sideline reporters apart, even when they aren't dressed like Repressed Tranny Craig Sager

5) It's become quite apparent that you will have to hunt down and kill any number of cast members from TNT's upcoming schedule of dramas, if only to stop the voices in your head telling you to kill kill kill kill kill

4) You really want to move to the average NBA player's routine of afternoon naps, since these 2am East Coast finishes are just a problem

3) Some part of you is happy when a series ends early, despite the lurking (LURKING!) fear of lockout

2) You can say the post-game cliches before the players do

1) The TNT studio crew seems like the smartest, funniest and best people on television, if only because they aren't the NBA.TV or ESPN clowns

Thursday's 15 NBA Playoff Takeaways - Closeout Specials

15) The Hawks closed out the Magic while shooting 39% from the floor, forgetting to defend for much of crunch time, or appearing to be any more serious of a problem for the Bulls than their first round opponent

14) In a related note, the Dwight Howard Relocation Sweepstakes starts now

13) Any relation between the 2011 Hedo Turkoglu and previous year's models is purely accidental

12) JJ Redick missed a wide-open three that would have tied it in the closing seconds, shocking everyone who has come to expect big clutch performances from Duke players

11) While the Hawks won in six games, saying that Jason Collins actually did much to impede Howard is kind of stretching it

10) As usual in these things, the Lakers' size eventually choked the life out of their game but overmatched opponents in a series that became progressively less interesting and fun to watch

9) When Andrew Bynum is the best Laker on the court, you aren't beating them

8) Chris Paul led the Hornets in rebounding in several games, and in a related note, the Chris Paul Relocation Show starts now

7) Ever since they ran off Sasha Vujacic, the Laker bench is no longer an open wound

6) This series ended in the second quarter of Game Five when Kobe Byant put Emeka Okafor on his tombstone poster, and Chris Paul stopped walking on water

5) Portland learned that it's generally not wise to make Dirk Nowitzki angry with cheap shots, and that just because Jason Terry usually dogs it in the playoffs, that he always will

4) While it's always hard to see Mark Cuban happy, it's always good to see Paul Allen sad

3) Andre Miller and Jason Kidd fought each other to a sleepy, fading and early soft meal eating draw, until Kidd's fourth quarter three in the teeth of another choke job

2) For all of the pain that Mavs Fan has endured over the team's rampant playoff failures, it's not as if the Blazers had won a series in this century either (no, 2000 does not count as this century)

1) The fast end to multiple series, rather than the fun drama of multiple Game Sevens, is all the proof that you need that David Stern does not have the control over the game that he once did

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Why Peyton Hillis Beat Michael Vick for the Madden Cover

10) Voters couldn't resist the nearly unique allure of The Only Good White Running Back

9) Vick's vote was split among those who want him to get injured and those who want him to get really injured

8) Given the lifespan of running backs, it really was this year or never for Hillis

7) Hillis' owners have more cash for the game, seeing how they completely lucked into a top 5 back of the waiver wire in fantasy football last year, while Vick got hurt for the playoff weeks

6) After the year that Cleveland Fan had, seems a shame to have denied him this

5) Voters really appreciated the job that Hillis did in beating down the Patriots last year, and America really secretly hates the Patriots

4) The voting was online, which meant that there's really no reason to take any part of it seriously

3) On some level, having nice things happen for Vick scares Vick's fans

2) It's not as if Browns Fan has anyone else that he'd wanted to vote for, or can even name

1) Madden's players somehow see themselves more as a tackle-breaking tough guy than a freakishly fast mutant

Defeat with honor, and a side of hope

The Sixers' season ended tonight, in just about the exact number of games that most people thought it would. In crunch time, they didn't get stops, missed free throws, and had no better idea than Andre Iguodala in Hero Mode, which worked until it didn't.

From a strict talent standpoint and the idea that only championships matter, they might have been better off tanking.

I could have written the same lede for the past five years. And if you didn't actually watch the games, you'd think I was silly for thinking anything but.

And this year, it would have been grievously unfair.

In four out of five games, Philly was right there with the Heat, despite having little in the way of a go-to guy (Lou Williams and Iguodala get the chances, not that they are actually all that great at them), no one on the floor that regularly demands a double-team, only one big-time defender against a team that requires two, and not nearly enough length inside and half-court scoring to win in a slowdown game, which is what's going to take the Heat out. They did it with Evan Turner going from out of the rotation at the end of the regular season to on the floor and contributing, even defensively, in the playoffs. They found out what they had with Thaddeus Young (i.e., a great bench player that they can not overpay), developed Williams into enough of a visible asset that they can probably move him to a team that's blind to his flaws, and gave Iguodala a national spotlight to harass LeBron James into clear second banana status. They even resuscitated Jodie Meeks after it looked like Dwyane Wade was going to end his career.

And most importantly, they established that this is now, and will be for the next ten years, Jrue Holiday's team. Remember that Jrue is still too young to drink legally, and still has miles to go, especially on defense. And as good as he was in this series, with solid stepping up defense against both Wade and James, he still needed to do tons more to force this series to go long, especially against the corpse that is Mike Bibby.

But had they just hit a few more free throws in tonight's game, or gotten a little luckier when the Heat scrubs started hitting threes, this series would be on to the real damage stage for the Heat, who looked good and panicked for much of crunch time tonight. You saw Heat technicals, James defaulting to bailout threes, freakishly good free throw shooting masking crunch time inadequacies -- James didn't miss, and neither did Joel Anthony -- and basically, all of the regular season shakiness that made the Heat such a poor idea against good teams.

The Sixers aren't really a good team; no team that starts Spencer Hawes at center, or has anyone who is a real threat to score more than 20 points in a game routinely outside of transition buckets, can be a really good team. But in six months, maybe with Turner becoming more consistent, Iguodala moved for a better big, or Hawes pushed to a bench role that better suits his, um, game... they could be good.

How good? Well, in And a couple of years from now, with Holiday becoming a top 5 option at point guard... the Heat will still be waiting (but as we saw this week, vulnerable), and the Bulls will still be a serious problem. But no one else in the East appears to have too much more ceiling in front of them, unless you believe that the Knicks are going to overcome their ownership, or that the Nets are going to be a lot better. Boston's got to get old at some point without a fresh "trade" from an ex-player, and I'm just not sold on anyone else. (Of course, Dwight Howard could stay in conference to form another super team, but I suspect he's following the Shaq Mode of going to El Lay.)

Anyway... I feel a lot better about being a Sixers fan than I did a year ago. Or six months ago, or three. By the past decade standards of this franchise, that's a win, and a pretty big one, really.

Wednesday's 15 NBA Playoff Takeaways

15) If the Sixers are very lucky, Evan Turner will start to get fourth quarter foul calls in another 2-3 years

14) I'm still not ready to live in a world where Zach Randolph is a clutch performer in crunch time

13) On some level, you had to know that the talking basketball was fixed for the Lakers

12) Of all of the surprising things that happened in the Heat-Sixers series, the most surprising might have been that Chris Bosh was big when it mattered

11) Memphis decided to guard Tim Duncan in the post when the Spurs were down by three points with 1.7 seconds left, rather than have another defender beyond the arc, where he might have done some good

10) Here's how good Doug Collins is as a coach: his team actually thought they were going to win tonight, and played like it

9) After 175 playoff games (!), you aren't getting much more than a good offensive quarter or two from Duncan anymore

8) If Boston didn't watch this game and laugh hard at the idea that the Heat barely held on, at home, in a tailor-made elimination game against a baby team on a night when they were hitting their threes and their opponent missed free throws, they aren't the Celtics

7) Having Arron Afflalo makes a huge difference to the Nuggets, if only because it means that they don't have to lump it when JR Smith and Wilson Chandler stinks up the joint

6) Philly's starters outscored Miami's starters 92-50 to open games, which really should be the only thing anyone needs to pick the Celtics in the next round

5) Denver proved, yet again, that if you have the best team but not the best players, you don't win

4) If you want to start doubting that Russell Westbrook is a good enough point guard to ever wear a ring, I won't stop you

3) Serge Ibaka scored 1 point and was absolutely fantastic

2) Kevin Durant scored 16 of the last 20 Thunder points to single-handedly end the Nuggets, and for good measure, blocked a tying three attempt

1) All it will take for Memphis to take out the Spurs is a stake to the heart, garlic in the mouth, a bath in holy water, and full exposure of the remains to the sunlight at high noon

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FJMing the Sports Guy: The Art Of The Dispiriting Lede

Is it fair or ethical to pull apart someone else's finished work, line by line, in an attempt to crush the writer's soul? Of course not, and if someone starts doing this to me, I'd question their sanity. But I never claimed much of a grasp on sanity, particularly when it comes to the Bad Tooth, Prince William, Bahhhstan's Own (and yes, Boston Fan, it does not matter where he lives, he is yours forevah and evah) Billy Baloo Simmons, the best-selling author, executive producer, pilot fish to the stars and first geisha for the World Wide Lemur. For the first time since the NBA playoffs started, the Prince has favored us with words. Actual words! Maybe about actual sports! Let's take a look at them, shall we?

I know three things about Sacramento: The Kings play there; the governor of California lives there; and Kevin Johnson won the city's mayoral election without pulling either of his hammies.

Something that Billy's really gotten good at in his ever-accelerating fall from quality is the art of the dispiriting lede. So instead of covering the joy that has been much of the first round of the NBA Playoffs (had Billy been a Blazer Fan, I'm fairly sure we'd be getting five thousand words on Brandon Roy's Game Four, for instance), we're going to strap in for a timeless dive into the feel-bad story of the year, which is the possible theft of the Kings from Sacramento.

But even with that questionable editorial decision in pocket, you have to admire Billy's ability to pee on the people he's supposedly standing up for. How hard would it have been, really, to find someone from Sactown to add something to this beyond ignorance? It would have taken me ten minutes with Google or Twitter to find a local Kings blogger, or maybe make a call to the radio station. But no, that would have required effort, I guess.

Well, I'm not from there either, but I lived 80 miles away in the Bay Area for 7 years. Here's some better stuff to ask about Sac Fan. What is it like to spend your hard-earned cash on bad hoop when you live in Ground Zero of the housing crisis, since there are neighborhoods out there that have lost a third of their homes to foreclosures and squatters? How important is your team when meth is rampant, government cutbacks and migrants make everyone scared about their job, and $4 gas murders everyone, since you can't live without a car there.

The Maloofs have peed all over the place for years now, and it's not exactly the most racially diverse or liberal area. And yet they showed for their Kings in good times and mostly bad, dominated the Oakland stands in "road" games, and generally behaved like Utah's crowd, but nicer... all for wildly overpaid people who do not share their skin color or economic worries. Hell, ex-star Kevin Martin just let his house go to foreclosure. What did the retirement of Jason Williams mean to them? How about the long slow end of Chris Webber? Do they pine for Peja Stojakovic, wish Vlade Divac was the coach with a cigarette in his mouth, root for Mike Bibby to end with a ring, wonder what happened to Hedo Turkoglu, etc., etc.?

You see what I just did there? I wrote most of that on a Blackberry on a subway car during my commute home, without Web access or the ability to use fingers that were not my thumbs. It's called work, Billy, and maybe even a side of empathy. Try it sometimes.

I certainly don't want to think about Sacramento during one of our most entertaining NBA postseasons ever.

Then don't! Unless, of course, you'd rather discuss Not Sports and flatter yourself by Knowing The Future. (Oooh, I'm sorry. I tattled.)

But with a momentum-killing lockout lurking...

IT LURKS. Until the NFL got bitch-slapped in federal court for trying to run their own lockout dodge, giving the NBA players a big flaming sword of precedent. Oh, and by the way, none of this will change for another 3 to 5 months, and no one wants to hear about it now. BUT IT LURKS.

Is there a chasm between big and small NBA markets that only a prolonged labor stoppage can prevent?

No, because the NBA is not interested in closing the chasm, if one exists, since this league has convinced itself that having two teams win half of the titles is a sign of Greatness. A labor stoppage has never helped small markets at the expense of large ones; it has only made it worse, since those small markets have less they can afford to lose. So the rest of this is just a big waste of time, but you knew that already, right? Back to the wank.

Buying into the NBA is like buying a house: Once you move in, feel free to disgrace the neighborhood however you want.

People wonder why, seriously, I still read Simmons. This is why -- he's 100% right in his evisceration of David Stern here. And utterly gutless, since he frequently has Stern on his podcast, and generally fluffs him until the commish is sleepy. But still, preach, son! Preach!

What happens when you're stuck in a washed-up arena with a perennial lottery team? You're screwed.

One assumes, really, that at some point people will stop caring about buildings and start caring about wins. Unless we're really moving to a country where NBA games are played in front of a few dozen billionaire hedonists, and everyone's got a front row seat. (Want to draw people to your washed-up arena? Win. Next problem.)

It's really difficult to contend unless (A) you strike oil in the lottery, or (B) persuade Chris Wallace or Kevin McHale to trade you his best player

Nice of Billy to finally equate the Kevin Garnett Theft with the Pau Gasol Fire Sale, especially now that everyone knows Al Jefferson is the new empty calories king of numbers on a bad team, and Gasol The Younger appears to be a master stroke for the Grizz.

The current free-agency system doesn't give smaller markets any advantage to help them keep their best players.

Except that they can pay them more than anyone else. Except that the Thunder kept Kevin Durant, and the Spurs kept Tim Duncan, and Minny kept Garnett until he went insane, or a dozen other guys that I won't mention for fear of being even longer than the Bad Tooth.

Look, the dirty little secret about your best player is that he's probably not all that great. And when he is your best player, there's usually only one direction for him to go -- down. He's also probably not going to stay healthy, since most people don't. Only recently, with LeBron James exercising his right to go to Miami and Carmelo Anthony finessing his way to New York, does it really seem like the small market stars are coagulating. But by all means, tacitly encourage a lockout to help "fix" the "problem."

People should live where they want without being judged … well, unless you're copping out and joining forces with your biggest rival like LeBron did.

(Left side of the arena) Beat that horse! (Right side of the arena) Dead! (Left side of the arena) Beat that horse! (Right side of the arena) Dead!

Well, you know who else are good guys? The Sacramento fans. They supported that crummy franchise for 25 years...

This after a backhanded compliment to the Maloof Goofs, who I guess have stopped comping Billy in Vegas. It says something about just how out of touch the Prince is that a pro-fan sentiment comes as something of a surprise.

It's the Curse of the Small-Market NBA Team: once you stop being smart and lucky, everything falls apart.

Well, sure... but didn't the Bulls and Knicks spend a real long time being dumb and unlucky, without a whole lot of instant fix available, and they are not small markets. Even the Lakers spent time in the Nick van Exel wilderness, and I quite enjoyed the tanking Celtic years when their fans tried to talk themselves into Jefferson and Pierce. It's a tough league. Dumb and unlucky doesn't win. No matter how big your market, or how new your arena.

Webber's demise triggered a chain of events that eventually turned Sacramento into the NBA's Pittsburgh Pirates.

Has it really been 18 years since the Webber era? No. Have the Pirates had any player as notable as Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin or Hedo Turkoglu in the last decade? No. Comparing the Kings to the Pirates is like comparing Sherman's March to the Sea with the Hiroshima, Dresden and Nagasaki bombings. So don't do it. (Hell, I could argue that the Warriors, Nets, Raptors, Wolves and Clippers have all had a worse last five years than the Kings. And no one -- no one -- in MLB looks up to the Pirates. Or really has that bad of a time at Arco Arena. It's a nice place for everyone but millionaires, I guess.)

Remember, the owners pay Stern to run the league in their best interests.

How hard will Billy have to backpedal before the commish comes on his podcast against? You don't want to know. Or watch.

Where was the commissioner as the Maloofs torched their relationship with locals and cut every conceivable financial corner?

My guess is in his office in New York, or asleep on piles of money. He also has a waterbed that's filled with the tears of children.

As a parent, my job is to take care of my kids, provide them shelter and food, keep them safe, and teach them right from wrong.

Wait, I thought we were talking about basketball here. Maybe Billy isn't getting enough sleep.

The owners of a sports franchise have a much simpler job: They pay for stuff. That's it.

They also make money from every possible source they can, shake down governments for payoffs, hire women to objectify themselves, run a million self-serving pieces of PR, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. And you suck up to them, dream of having one give you the keys, and convince yourself that they aren't just, well, rich pricks. Not that you've got anything in common with any of that.

My prediction: the league will pay full price for the Kings (or close to it), use them as lockout leverage (along with the Hornets), then work with Johnson and Sacramento on finding new ownership after the lockout.

So why write about it now? Oh, right, because it means you don't have to actually watch sports to fill a contractual obligation.

Portland might not be the best professional basketball city in America, but it's definitely in the top five. And guess what? Portland's arena isn't so great.

Oh noes! As if anyone outside of potentially Paul Allen could give a damn about the barn.

All over this country, people pay money to see high school and college hoop in bad buildings. They do so willingly, because the game is a hell of a lot more important than the setting, especially in basketball. This isn't baseball, where you can go 81 times a year and spend 3+ hours a time when you go, with only 10 to 20 minutes of actual must-watch action. It's hoop, where you are frequently done in 2 hours, the court has your whole attention, everyone is wildly into it and no one is writing freaking poetry.

The game matters. The building? Not so much.

You end up like Indiana -- trying to avoid a first-round sweep at home in a stadium filled with more Bulls fans than Pacers fans, only you can't ban anyone outside Indiana from buying tickets online because you need the money too badly.

Yes, because Bulls Fan With The Means To Travel would never be able to go on StubHub or eBay. The free market dude abides, Billy. (Oh, and remember Billy sticking up for the locals the next time he talks about Red Sox Fan invading Anaheim et al.)

That's why these next two months of ridiculously good basketball have a guillotine hanging over them, and that's why Sacramento's soap opera symbolizes everything. Thanks to Durant, Paul, Roy and everyone else who made Round 1 so special, the NBA is blowing up … right as it's about to be blown up. Go figure.

Once again, Billy envies you, you silly present people and children, you unburdened by vision or intellect mouth breathers. Only Billy, with his terrible knowledge, knows that the league is about to be blown up due to the plight of its small market robber barons... as if the large market robber barons really give a damn about these teams. Or that anyone should while there's ACTUAL FREAKING BALL TO BE PLAYED.

Tuesday's 15 NBA Playoff Takeaways

15) Chicago finally won a game easily, which means that everything's fine now

14) Orlando discovered that they can get a blowout win if they just get next to nothing out of Dwight Howard

13) (Original) Tyler Hansbrough got ejected for a cheap shot on Joakim Noah, becoming the first Duke player to ever engage in something untoward (Modified, once a commenter pointed out that I whiffed and Josh McReynolds is the Dookie, and Psycho T is the Tar Heel, and all you white people look alike to me) Tyler Hansbrough got ejected for a cheap shot on Joakim Noah, becoming the first player who has ever gotten angry at Noah

12) Stan Van Gundy still thinks he has a good shooting team, which is just kind of adorable, really

11) The Bulls unleashed the super-secret weapon that is Keith Bogans, 70% Three Point Shooter

10) Jamal Crawford finally remembered that he's Jamal Crawford

9) The Pacers acted as a team to make sure that no one really stood out as being all that interested in a Game Six

8) Atlanta didn't really exert that much effort, because they would much rather clinch in front of their incredibly devoted and faithful fans

7) The Bulls had a blowout win with 2 points and 5 boards in 16 minutes from the mind-numbingly overrated Carlos Boozer

6) Jason Richardson hasn't scored this aggressively since he helped to ruin Steve Nash's marriage

5) Kobe Bryant's ankle was very, very bad until he used the power of hate to dunk on Emeka Okafor

4) Monty Williams really needs to rethink this whole emulating Phil Jackson by not calling obvious timeouts thing

3) When Andrew Bynum cares enough to play physically, the Lakers do not lose

2) Between Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown, the Lakers really do have a bench that makes decent people spit

1) Honestly, this game ended in the second quarter when Papa Kobe dunked the Bug Kids to bed

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday's 15 NBA Playoff Takeaways

15) You would never know, in looking at the play, that Memphis is the 8th seed and San Antonio the 1st

14) Tim Duncan had six points on his 35th birthday, and you will excuse Spurs Fan if he weeps at both ends of that

13) Shane Battier really doesn't know how to react to being on a team that will win a playoff series

12) We'll have to excuse Grizzly Fan from popping his cherry all night, seeing how we're pretty sure he didn't exist three months ago

11) I'm not saying that the Spurs have given up and started their rebuilding project, but Tiago Splitter led them in rebounds tonight

10) Lots of guys can only shoot well at home, but Tyson Chandler can only rebound well there

9) Dirk Nowitzki put LaMarcus Aldridge in the Way Back Machine

8) Brandon Roy followed up his Game Four heroices with five points and four fouls in 26 minutes, because he and his team are just that cursed

7) The secret weapon for the Mavs is Shawn Marion, who is starting to resemble the multi-category defensive hammer he's always been, provided he's in the presence of a great point guard

6) The Mavs won so comfortably, Brian Cardinal got on the floor long enough to hurt someone

5) Kendrick Perkins got a technical foul after a made free throw, which is really quite difficult to do

4) Just in case you are wondering if Danilo Gallinari is going to drive and fail to pass the ball in the open court, stop wondering -- he's driving

3) In the future, every team will have multiple hyper-quick point guards, since they just rule the world now

2) No one in the history of the NBA celebrates his own makes harder than JR Smith

1) Nugget Fan completely marked out for his team lasting at least one more game in the playoffs longer than Carmelo Anthony

Five Winners and Losers in the NFL Lockout Ruling

Winners

1) Fantasy league services. This industry was staring down the barrel of a nuclear winter situation where leagues didn't order materials, owners didn't pay for advanced information, sites lost tens of millions of paid impressions and casual players maybe just evaporated for years. Now, they have hope that everything will be the way things were before, with minimal disruptions or long-term damage. Especially for sites like Yahoo, where display advertising revenue is absolutely critical in an era of diminishing returns, this is immense.

2) Stadium workers. The employment situation in the NFL goes far beyond the players, of course: local communities benefit from parking and concession workers, grounds crews, training and promotions staffs and more. While most of these folks do not work full-time, that revenue still puts food on tables and gas in cars, and in this economy, that's nothing to sneeze at.

3) Parking garage owners. You and I may sneer and hate the amounts charged near the stadiums to park your ride, but the plain and simple of it is that real estate costs big, and a few months of zero revenue would have more than a few of these guys going belly-up. And sure, your heart would bleed big over that, but it's not as if they aren't having a lot more hope tonight.

4) The free market. If you claim to be a pro-business conservative, you have to be happy. The players decertified their union, still would operate without guaranteed contracts, and are looking to establish a contractor nation where socialistic sharing and monopolistic cabals would take it on the chin. Besides, folks? The owners are scum, even by the low standards of the rich. Screw 'em.

5) The networks. A month-long lockout in the off-season may not seem like a big deal, but to advertising buyers who are already wondering if they'll be able to get the exposure they need for the hard-to-reach sports fan demographic, this is huge. Especially with poker, which hits a similar but niche demographic, spontaneously combusting earlier this month.

Losers

1) The media.
Isn't it kind of amazing that a relatively predictable outcome to a court case would seem to take everyone reporting on the case out of their element? For any fan trying to make sense of the ruling tonight, all that you get is "We Dunno! It's CHAOS!" in regards to whether players are going to start reporting to off-season workouts for bonuses, whether teams would start breaking ranks and start making signings and trades, and even if the appeal was likely to work. It's kind of amazing, when you think about it, just how poorly prepared for this decision they were, and it's not exactly a crowning moment for them.

2) Roger Goodell. The image of the commissioner takes yet another hit, as the single best hope for the league's fans so far in this mess is coming from the exact source that he pooh-poohed. No one believes him to be a neutral party in this, or a competent one. But what can you expect for a man who is only worth $1 a year?

3) The NFL owners. All along, they thought they'd starve out those poor-planning players, so beholden to the paycheck to take care of their relatives and posses, and enjoy the soft-focus spotlight of a complicit media. Now with the clear reality of the judge's ruling giving everyone hope that the status quo could be restored, it's clear to even the biggest blueblood toadie that the owners are the people who stopped the ball... and like tax raises on the rich, it's popular despite not being said out loud. Now, if they only break ranks and start signing free agents and making trades, maybe the whole hard-line of big market vs. small market vs. players changes.

4) The NBA owners. Everything that's going on here is a preview for the 2011 NBA lockout, with the small difference that the Association actually has teams that lose money hand over fist, unlike the NFL. The law works on precedent, and today's ruling gives the players a big heavy stick of it to use in a court case.

5) Wives, girlfriends and kids. On some level, I'm kind of intrigued to see what would happen to this country if two of the three major sports were to suddenly go away, and the time and money that's spent on merch, tickets, gambling, tailgating and more were to go back into household budgets. Would we be a better society, with less money wasted, more quality time spent on movies and time outdoors, with better Chrismases, shared homework, more pepople in the stands at high school football games and dance recitals and all of the other just showing up stuff?

Yeah, I know, probably not; more time with absent people is probably far from a panacea. But with just one ruling, it's looking less likely that we'll ever know.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Top 10 reasons why the NFL lost in court

Today in a U.S. District Court, a judge granted a motion for a preliminary injunction to NFL players, which is likely to lift the lockot that was imposed by the owners on March 11. Why did the owners lose their case in the largest court proceeding to date in the dispute?

10) Jerry Jones' steely gaze and steelier skin generated laughter, not compliance

9) One too many sidewise looks from owner's counsel over the judge's middle name (Susan Richard Nelson)

8) With Tom Brady and Peyton Manning working together to file the injunction request, defeat was statistically impossible

7) Roger Goodell's insistence that the impasse would not be resolved through the courts isn't exactly the best way to impress a judge

6) Periodic supervillain-style outbursts from Jerry Richardson, along with crude pick-up lines of how he wanted to show the judge his torts, proved ineffective

4) The presence of Carl Eller in a court room in St. Paul more or less ensured that the owners' case was doomed, because Carl Eller is Bad Ass

3) The judge somehow didn't see the crushing and urgent need to change the system on a league that brings in over $9 billion a year in revenue, crushes the rest of the landscape in television ratings, and refuses to disclose all books for all franchises

2) Judge Nelson also has tickets for the 2011 Vikings, and knows that the longer the lockout goes, the greater the chance that she'd have to watch Joe Webb under center

1) There is a God, and that God very occasionally does a solid for people who actually work for a living, rather than inherit their wealth

This Week's Top 10 MLB Takeaways

10) Despite the loss of Adam Wainwright, the implosion of Ryan Franklin, Albert Pujols spending the first two weeks hitting like Ryan Theriot and Tony LaRussa's pink eye, the Cardinals are in first in the NL Central

9) The Red Sox swept the Angels to get back to a game below .500, because the Angels exist to make everything OK for Boston

8) Kansas City has scored the most runs in the American League, thanks in large part to people like Jeff Francoeur, so this is definitely not an April fluke

7) Aaron Harang leads the National League in wins, which should really put an end to the idea that you should judge pitchers by their number of wins

6) Mariano Rivera blew two saves as soon as people started to notice that he hadn't blown any saves in 2011

5) Matt Kemp is proving that his 2010 was all Rhianna and Joe Torre's fault

4) Jose Bautista is following up his fluke 50 HR year by being on pace for a fluke 70 HR year

3) Vernon Wells is really happy that Carl Crawford is dominating the New Outfielder That's Sucking headlines

2) If the AL East is still the best division in baseball, it really should have more than one team that's over .500

1) The Mets won 4 in a row, just so they could ruin the Mets Fan pity party of how they root for the worst team in the league

FTT Off-Topic: Blink

The Shooter Daughters are now 5 and 11. One of the things that I do, as a dad who feels bad about the length of his commute and the amount of time I spend in fairly solitary hobbies (working, writing, blogging, poker, fantasy sports -- i.e., hustling for nickels), is read to them at bedtime. Kids need routine, and by doing this, I get them settled for bed. Besides, as you might have guessed from the times when I post, I'm better at night, and the Shooter Wife is better in the morning. It works out.

This past week, we've hosted my teenage niece, who has stayed in the eldest's room. So there hasn't been as much putting the eldest to bed, since reading to an 11-year-old is not something that generally works with an audience. So it's been a week since I've read to her. We got back to the routine tonight.

The eldest has also been fighting through occasional minor health problems, and is losing the last of her baby teeth, and just not comfortable. So after I read to her, she just wanted me there, to help her settle, to reconnect, to be present. I didn't mind. And as I lay there, listening to her breathing, and slowly but surely trying to free my arm from underneath her, so as to get free without waking her...

Well, it's something of a flashback, since it's not like this hasn't happened before. Only then, she was a lot smaller. It was easier, of course. We had fans and lullabies and dehumidifiers and no Big Questions, no growing pains or little sister to read to first, no sleepover evidence that she could stay up all night if her mind was just occupied enough. But it's still more or less the same thing as always, the slow wait until the breathing goes long, the same sense of creating the illusion that everything is well, everything is still, everything is safe and serene and dull and ready for shutdown.

And like anything that you do enough times, then don't do for a little while and come back to, it feels a little different, meaningful. I'm blessed to have these people in my life, blessed to have the opportunity to make the people in my life feel safe and secure... and aware, always aware, how these times are passing, and how things will not stay the same.

Just a few blinks ago, she was tiny, fit into my arm, fell asleep in seconds, so long as I kept the pace of the rocking chair steady.

A couple of blinks ago, she was small, listening harder than anyone else can, sobbing when a character in a Harry Potter book died.

A blink ago, she was awake. And now, not.

So notice it when it happens, remember how it felt, write it down so you remember it. After all, it's what writers do. And dads.

Top 20 Sunday NBA Playoff Takeaways

20) When Spencer Hawes, a 7-foot center, goes up to dunk against Dwyane Wade, a 6'-4" guard, bet on Wade to make the block

19) ABC showed Allen Iverson in a Pistons jersey in their collection of all-time playoff scoring leaders in a Sixers game, because I guess they couldn't find one of him in Grizz or Turkish gear

18) For a team that was supposed to have a better bench, the Sixers have gotten absolutely crushed in the second quarter of their games, mostly because that was when the Heat started to actually try

17) I'm not saying that LeBron James has felt comfortable in this series, but he joined the commentating team in the third quarter

16) The Heat are so bad in crunch time, they fell apart against a 20-year-old, a low-percentage gunner and an overmatched rookie

15) The Knicks were cited for a defensive three-second violation in a game where only two seconds came off the 24-second clock, because the refs were just matching the home team's concentration

14) You know that the game isn't competitive when the telecast chooses to discuss, of all things, Magic-Hawks

13) Boston really should bring a comically oversized prop switch to turn on before the start of the playoff season

12) ESPN's announcers were mortified that an anonymous NBA player would offer an accurate assessment of Kevin Garnett's character, and that ESPN The Magazine would sully its journalistic standing by printing it

11) Anthony Carter only got five minutes of the best game in his life, when he really needed ten

10) Jamal Crawford fulfilled his destiny to win playoff games that very few people care about

9) Orlando went 2-for-23 from the three-point line in a three-point loss, which might be more meaningful if they weren't terrible shots

8) Despite being up 3-1, it's kind of hard to see how Jason Collins is bothering Dwight Howard all that much

7) The Hawks caused the Magic to have more turnovers than assists, which is also kind of what happens when anyone plays the Magic now

6) Despite being a nip-and-tuck game that came down to the final shot, Magic-Hawks wasn't fun to watch, since no one imagines either of these teams advancing, and bad idea threes is just hard on the eyes

5) It's a shame that the Hornets don't have a player like Marcus Thornton, instead of having to play Marco Belinelli

4) Reggie Miller does not care that the Lakers are unbeaten when Kobe Bryant shoots less than 15 times a game, and should shoot more. In a related note, Reggie Miller's fingers are unencumbered by NBA championship rings

3) Watching the best playoff basketball while living on the East Coast means committing yourself to six weeks of compromised sleep

2) Pau Gasol spent crunch time alternating between goat and hero

1) Here's how good Chris Paul is: he can get triple doubles as a point guard, humiliate Andrew Bynum, make DJ Mbenge, Willie Green and Jarrett Jack look like actual basketball players, and talk about hitting his mother in the post-game comments while still being a hero to millions

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Four Game Sweep In 2.25 Games

Well, so much for that. Boston finished the sweep of the mostly lifeless Knicks, who played about 12 minutes of inspired basketball in a mostly dispiriting loss today. Without the bench heroics of Anthony Carter, there would have been no drama at all in this one, and for vast portions of the game, the telecast crew could barely bring them to discuss the actual game they were watching. Yes, I know that happens all the time with ESPN telecasts, but still. And what looked like it would be a good and long series as late as the closing moments of Game Two turned into another case of how, no matter how old and feeble the Celtics can look in the late regular season, they are just the biggest possums in the history of the Association. You'd think I'd stop falling for this trick by now, but no. It ended with a 12-point Celtics win and hugs all around between the two teams, because the Knicks are just that comfy, really.

The really surprising part of the sweep, beyond the fact that Boston got exactly what they needed out of the five years beyond dead Jermaine O'Neal, was just how easy the road games were. You'd think that the New York crowd, with a decade of consequence-free basketball behind them, would have willed the home team to at least one win, or that the Association's referees would have insisted on more than the minimum number of games here. But the roar didn't really happen outside of the too-little comeback, and perhaps maybe it was never going to happen once Amar'e Stoudemire's back flared up, and Chauncy Billups had his own injury issues.

Next up or the Celtics: the survivor (hah!) of the Sixers-Heat series, after the always-helpful week off for the NBA's ridiculous playoff schedule. Which means even more time for Shaquille O'Neal to get health and/or less corpulent, time off for the ancient grinding stars, and a little more prep time to get Jeff Green ready for his role as the designated LeBron Stopper.

But remember, Celtics Fan, there's still time to become completely and utterly convinced that your team can't win a thing without Kendrick Perkins. You so deserve your team's success, really you do...

A Different Kind Of Ending

In the second quarter of today's Heat-Sixers game, in the middle of a Heat run that was their usual "OK, children, it's time to go to bed" routine that erased a 16-point lead, LeBron James was in the clear after yet another turnover. Jrue Holiday tried to close and strip, and missed, running through the man. James finished at the rim awkwardly, falling heavily into a cameraman. And the Sixers, with the opportunity to have a 4-on-5 possession... stared at James, waiting for a foul to be called, or just maybe in deference to him to see if he'd yell at the ref, or run back into the play and make a block.

And that's when I started writing an epitaph of how the Sixers are just not ready to win, and might not ever be. Particularly when Miami isn't exactly filled with old guys, how the Heat will just get better in time on defense as they learn more about playing with each other, and when even the cranky home crowd marks out for Heat dunks and blocked shots.

There's a certain focus, ruthlessness, and clinical detachment that teams that are ready to win have. They step over bodies, expect foul calls to go their way, play through the whistle and beyond. And that's not the Sixers. This team spent three games basically expecting to lose, and just hoping to have good moments, put up some numbers of their own, and not to get dunked on or cited for particular failure. Hard fouls didn't happen, real anger didn't happen, a strategy of which of Miami's stars were going to be taken away didn't happen. They tried hard, and when the Heat weren't interested, they had nice stretches and positive runs. But there was never a point, even when the Sixers built big leads, that Miami was uncomfortable. And that, really, is the most disturbing part of this series, and why it's just been so little fun to watch.

In the fourth quarter, the Heat threw a block and offensive rebound party, and it seemed like the coup de grace was happening... and then, with the Heat up late, Evan Turner made a shot. Holiday, all 20 years of him, drained a three over Dwyane Wade. After another stop from a Heat team that was suddenly remembering that they aren't good in late and close games, Lou Williams nailed a long three to take the final lead. Elton Brand blocked one of those signature James drives to nowhere, and Turner made the clinching free throws.

And just like that, in about 90 seconds of execution, the Sixers actually had a win over the Heat, for the first time in years. And while it's not quite a series yet, at least it's no longer an embarrassment, and Miami has one more memory of clutch failure to take back on the plane with them. And the crowd forgot their Heat infatuation and went hard, finally, for the home team.

For this club, in this matchup, at this time? It's going to have to be enough.

Saturday's 20 NBA Takeaways

20) Indiana decided to end their season in front of a 100% hostile crowd, rather than a 60/40 one

19) Brandon Roy fulfilled his destiny, at age 26, to become a gritty fourth quarter performer in the twilight of his career

18) Derrick Rose got to the line just 4 times in Game Four, which puts the over/under on attempts in Game Five at 20.5

17) Dallas proved that even a 23-point lead is not enough when you insist on playing basketball with both arms wrapped around your throat

16) If Bulls coach Tom Thibadeau could simply convince his team that the game starts with just three minutes left to go, they'd win every game in a blowout

15) Jason Kidd picked a particularly poor moment to go back to being a terrible three-point shooter

14) I'm not saying that Portland is behind the times, but they actually play Bachman Turner-Overdrive as their celebration music

13) Zach Randolph's huge rainbow three against the Spurs made Suns Fan remember that Tim Duncan three, and hurt just a teeny tiny bit less

12) Indiana finally found a way to win a game by using the strategy of never trailing

11) The Spurs used their huge edge in playoff experience to... not get off a shot or timeout to try to tie the game at the buzzer

10) A brief moment of pushing and shoving in the Blazers-Mavs game made Kevin McHale disturbingly happy

9) When Mike Conley is better than Tony Parker, it's just about impossible to see how the Spurs win

8) Enhanced security in Portland helped ensure that Mark Cuban was able to watch his team's ridiculous choke job in complete projectile-free comfort

7) At some point, a color analyst will be able to talk about Denver without bringing up Carmelo Anthony, and the over/under is now at mid-March 2012

6) When the loss of Antonio McDyess to injury causes you severe problems, that's a pretty good indication that your playoff run isn't going to be very deep

5) In the time it took you to read this, Serge Ibaka blocked another shot while looking happier than a puppy

4) Between Hannah Storm and Doris Burke, ESPN is making a case for the limited use of HD coverage

3) It's starting to get hard to tell who the best Gasol is

2) Denver Fan is starting to realize that there might be a reason why George Karl doesn't have a ring

1) The defining moment of J.R. Smith's career in Denver happened in the last minute of tonight's series-ending loss -- made three, made three, forced three and miss with blame the ref puling

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dumb Then Worse

So tonight in the ever-growing home game -- 17 players tonight with a slew of cancellations, I swear we're going to get to that third table soon -- I've got the big stack at my table in the tournament, and make it to the final... and for a while, things are going grand. I'm the chip leader at my table, then suffer a terrible whiff on a knockout chance where Ace-King suited fails against Ace-Four off (no, seriously), even after the flop gives me a flush draw. Just brutal, but I overcome it to pull in a few other pots and make it to the final table, where I get my charmed hand, King-Jack. Two others raise pre-flop, but I chase it to a high pair on the flop, and right into the buzzsaw of an opponent who made trips with his pocket '8s. Oh, and the third guy in the hand had aces. Jeez. So I pretty much shed the whole stack at once in a fit of stubbornness and good past memories, and a few hands later Ace-Queen suited in the don't even have enough for the small blind doesn't carry the mail against three other monster plays. Two really good hours of play, shot down in five really bad minutes. That's my 2011 in a nutshell, really.

The cash game, if it's possible, goes even worse. I bet middle pair and an open-ended straight draw... into a flopped straight. I chase two pair into a flopped flush. And then in the piece de resistance, I flop a full house -- no, seriously, flop a full house -- entice an all-in call where the other guy misread my hand totally, then watch runner-runner give him a better boat.

A smarter man, at this point, just realizes that it's not his night, and gets the hell away from the game. But when you host things and there's a lively group of people were you enjoy their company, and the game is something you look forward to, not playing is really not the option that it should be. And when things finally end, hours later as the sun comes up and the room gets cleaned and straightened and you realize that it's three long weeks before this can all happen again, assuming of course that something like this should be allowed to ever happen again, seeing as you are clearly a jaw-droopingly bad and unlucky player...

Well, I suppose the money lost here won't matter that much in the long run, and that an evening of playing heart and wallet-breaking power won't destroy me, or prove that the past three-plus years at the tables has just led me to this sad, sad state. The game is good at humbling you, really. Really, really good...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Top 10 reasons why MLB attendance is down

In market after market (well, OK, not Philadelphia), attendance for 2011 MLB games is down, sometimes by a wide margin. As always, we dig into the real reasons why...

10) True fans can't actually leave their house anymore, for fear of missing something on MLB TV, even if that thing is just Mitch Williams going on drunk again

9) A portion of the audience is assuming that they are in lockout, too

8) Mets Fan is unable to get his head out of the oven long enough to go to a game

7) Tampa's poor start has discouraged a sizable percentage of their dozens of fans

6) A's Fan has finally admitted that Billy Beane has no plan, and is basically just a poor man's Joe Dumars

5) The unspoken rule of baseball is that when the Royals and Indians are good, no one wants to watch the sport anymore

4) Los Angeles no longer having a team isn't helping

3) It's not warm enough yet for the 3,000 f'in people who show up every day to Cub games to go outside yet, which is just a disheartening situation

2) The novelty of overpriced new yards and food, combined with the presence of ADD-trustarians and corporate tools, has somehow faded

1) Concentrating all of the money and national media attention in a 250-mile span between two markets turns out to not be the best thing for nationwide attendance

Last Night's 15 NBA Playoff Takeaways

15) Pacer Fan experienced playoff action for the first time in 5 years, and it sounded a lot like a neutral arena

14) We are told that the Heat have advantages over the Sixers at everywhere but point guard, which might be news to Doug Collins and the Sixers bench, not that anyone will ever know

13) Joakim Noah swings elbows like he plays in the '80s

12) Either the Pacers are a lot better than the Sixers, or the Heat are a lot better than the Bulls

11) For a team with as much talent as Portland, it's kind of amazing that they get so little bench scoring outside of Brandon Roy

10) Shockingly, Tyler Hansborough hasn't shown up for the Pacers after Game 1

9) It's pretty much time to admit that while Andre Iguodala has his uses, he's never going to get any better at the simple but necessary skill of shooting a basketball

8) If you want to see Derrick Rose as Iverson 2.0, but vastly enhanced in terms of team play and defense, no one is going to argue with you

7) It's not as if this really matters, but for the record, the Heat are still clearly Dwyane Wade's team first

6) For all of the good that Danny Granger did tonight, he still missed the tying three, and still was held to more or less of a stalemate by Luol Deng

5) The local Pacers' telecast team seems to be taking some comfort in the idea that all of the losses have been close and exciting, which is just kind of adorable, really

4) If the Mavs don't run off JJ Barea after this season, they are even more stubborn then you might have thought

3) There's wanting something, there's wanting something too much, and then way over to the right of that is Blazer Fan

2) The Heat's biggest plus-minus player was Joel Anthony, and the Sixers worst was Lou Williams, and yes, you can infer that I find the statistic meaningful in this case

1) Surprising no one, Blazers-Mavericks is now a series... and a pretty damned ugly one at that

Sixers-Heat Game Three: Steak For Chicken

In the TNT pre-game, Charles Barkley buries the Sixers and gives them no chance to win this game. Well, great. Glad I'm making time to watch this. And while the Chuckster routinely says silly things to get a rise out of people, he's right here; the Heat are a turrible matchup for Philly, in that they only really lose when you go slow and ugly with superior interior defense, and that's just not the Sixers. There's also much discussion of Doug Collins post-Game 2 comments, in which he scandalously acknowledged reality of how the Heat are a better team. But you never know, right?

And the 9-0 run to start the game says exactly that, with Andre Iguodala hitting a big 3, and fellow goats Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand making baskets. This, despite the fact that Jrue Holliday is the only place that they are better than Miami. (Um, have you seen Miami's coach or bench?) And after the early run, the bench helps to keep it, with Lou Williams doing something good for the first time in a month. 29-21 after the first, and while Miami clearly has another gear they haven't touched yet, I'll take any plus quarter.

In the second, Brand keeps it up and Chris Bosh struggles, but the whistles still go the Heat's way, the team leaves points on the free throw line, and killshot threeball opportunities miss. For a team that seems to be playing well, they leave points on the table. Iguodala's passing helps the team look less helpless in half court, but only just. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sounds disgusted at the start of things; that's kind of fun... and the Heat are turning it over more than they are used to. But man alive, Iggy just can't shoot worth a damn. So sad. It's like playing 4-on-5, and the missing guy is someone you can't take off the floor. When James connects with Wade on the full court score, it makes it 43-40 with 3:24 left, and most of the good work has been erased. Honestly? The Heat look bored... but Jodie Meeks answers with a three, forcing a Spoelstra timeout. Wildly important shot, that, but Wade continues with hotness, and despite being in cruise control, it's just a 2-point game at the half.

In the third quarter, the game gets tighter... and I'm going to confess something that I've never said, or done, in a game blog before. I had to turn it off. Why? Well, the Shooter Wife needed time, and discussion, and my marriage is more important than this game. Especially as it started to go south, with the Heat stars making the plays and the Sixers starting to squeeze the ball, it wasn't that hard to turn off. The game recaps tell me that James fought off an injury, and Wade fought off migraines, and the fact that the Big 3 combined for 75 of the Heat's 100 points means that, well, they won the way they usually won. And while there is small beer comfort in some of the useful minutes that Evan Turner played, or that Holiday hasn't shrunk in the limelight, the plain and simple fact is that this feel good year is going to end in four or five games because they just don't have enough talent, and all of the heart in the world can't overcome that.

It's sad. It's predictable. It's something you can turn off. So I did. And my only regret is that I picked the Heat in six, because there's no way this is going past five, especially with Boston and Chicago both unbeaten in their series. Miami's flaky, but competitive enough to want to keep pace.

And I don't really know if the Heat are that good, or the Sixers that limited, or if I missed anything of any real importance. There was a time when I wouldn't have had the conversation with the wife, and just stood my ground that game was game and life would happen after that. Not tonight, not at this age, not with this team, not against this other team. I don't know if that's wisdom or defeatism. But it felt a lot more like wisdom. I guess I'll watch Game 4 on Sunday, just to see if they end with honor. But if there were another game on at the same time, I'd be watching that. This series just isn't any fun.

So play us out, Moldy Peaches. Because this team sure as hell isn't steak.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Top 10 reasons why Bud Selig wants to expand the playoffs in 2012

The commish says it's going to happen, so who are we to argue? Especially with side benefits like these...

10) The game's just more fun when a random .500 team with a few hot pitchers win the World Series

9) More playoffs means a greater chance of winter baseball and snowouts, which is just a win for everyone

8) If he doesn't do something petty to annoy old-school fans and players every year, it's like he didn't come to work at all

7) Doesn't want to do this in 2011, since that would take advantage of the NFL and NBA lockouts

6) By going to 5 playoff teams in each league, Budley feels he's increasing the fairness, which kind of misses the point of how one of those leagues has two more teams than the others, and everyone plays with different salary levels

5) A one-game playoff among wild-card teams gives us more crying players in dugouts, and that's just about the only thing that works for Bud now that he's developed a tolerance for, well, other things

4) All part of his sinister plan to make sure that all playoff records are held by modern players for reasons other than steroids

3) Diluting the playoffs helps to hide the fact that the Yankees and Red Sox go every year

2) There are still markets where people care about the pennant race, and we can't have that

1) Makes the All-Star Game even more important to even more people, which we know is Bud's whole raison d'etre

Top 10 developments from MLB taking over the Dodgers

10) Frank McCourt finally reconciling with the missus

9) Jonathan Broxton's problems are now a league-wide concern

8) Team will be forced to move back to Brooklyn

7) James Loney to be placed in foster care until his left-handed power stroke can get out of the abusive Dodger Stadium home

6) Vin Scully to go to the highest bidder

5) Raffy Furcal forced to retire so the team can cut down on its HMO expenses

4) Angels can finally lose that ridiculous "of Anaheim" name, since they now own the market

3) Team will be forced to play their home games in one of the oldest stadiums in the league

2) Club to phase out the forced medical treatments that change the color of the players' blood

1) As is traditional in these matters, must now be referred to as the Expos

Last Night's 15 NBA Playoff Takeaways

15) Even with one arm, Manu Ginobili is the Spurs' best offensive option

14) OKC crushed the Nuggets 53-31 on the boards, with the margin being 19-5 from the bench, because George Karl is just that good of a coach and motivator

13) We're not saying that the refs were looking out for the Lakers, but Emeka Okafor picked up his second foul before getting his warm-up pants off

12) Tim Duncan brings a certain feeling of calm to the playoffs, simply because he's too old to feel any other way

11) Oklahoma City plays music during their own offensive possessions, just to make old-school NBA fans wince

10) No NBA player in recent memory delivers as much pain or pleasure for his team's fans than Denver's JR Smith

9) Andrew Bynum decided to show up for the Lakers tonight, which meant that everyone on the East Coast was able to go to bed early

8) Not only did the Spurs have to suffer the indignity of losing Game 1 to a young upstart team at home, they also had to play Game 2 on the NBA TV ghetto

7) When it comes to sounding aggrieved by hard opposition fouls, possession decisions and obvious foul calls against their laundry, Laker Fan is second to none

6) TNT actually decided to shift off from live Nuggets-Thunder to show Spurs-Grizzlies, and minimize the screen to show us Kobe Bryant warming up, because the Thunder are just that unwatchable

5) Nene appears to be Portugese for "Missed Free Throw"

4) By having two games on at once, the NBA gave us all a few hours of relief from heavy rotation TNT ads, and the thrill of homer-riffic Spurs coverage

3) Assuming they can still be consoled by anything and watch other games, Wilson Chandler made Knick Fan thankful they still have Jared Jeffries

2) Kendrick Perkins really needs to teach a class on how to look incredulous at the notion that he has ever fouled anyone, because he's just that good at it

1) The Lakers controlled a game where Kobe Bryant didn't score much or was anywhere near their best player, proving that he's, um, the MVP

Rejected Facts About The World's Most Interesting Man

Yes, I've seen these ads too much. Too, too, too much.

> Has never sneezed without a motive

> Will not stop kissing his client

> Does not listen to the audio commentary

> Has suspiciously well-kept nails

> Does not know how to drive an automatic

> Smells just a little bit like Vaseline

> Has never worn a shirt with another man's name on it

> Itemizes without looking

> Has secretly practiced signing an autograph that no one has ever asked for

> Takes the action figures out of the packaging

> Enjoys rolling the d20 a little too much

> Prefers the Old Spice ads

> Would rather be sniffing glue

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

47 Shows And Nothing's On

More fallout from PokerGate. ESPN is no longer taking ads from poker sites... as if those folks are all that interested in sending money out of pocket right about now. Really, the only winner appears to be Zynga, since their free poker game on Facebook is the only one that doesn't appear to be staring at the ceiling, or swirling the bowl, right about now. And here's the craziest thing about this whole apocalypse... there are 47 different poker shows on television now. Forty seven! Good God in Heaven, why?

I mean, I watch too many of these shows; I stay up too late writing the blog, and it makes for good background chatter while I'm trying to stay awake and get the bloghole filled. I've watched any number of poker shows; hell, I even reviewed them in one of the more fun posts I've ever written for this site. But forty seven? Seriously?

Well, OK then. I'm kind of amazed that there just wasn't a 24/7/365 network that did nothing but show hands, or that there hasn't been a bigger media outcry and anti-federal backlash in the media, since the separation of church and state doesn't really exist anymore. And in the biggest point of development, really... is that I'm fascinated to see if this means more bodies in the casinos (and more weaker players), and more people at my home game. 19 RSVPs so far for Friday, which is to say, so very close to my first three-table tournament...

Top 10 reasons why the NHL stuck with Versus and NBC

That's the news. Well, at least NBC is renaming Versus to something more marketable. Like, say, Smegma...

10) Being that close to Barry Melrose is scary

9) NBC having the Olympics means that NBC has the once every four years games that the general public will watch

8) Given their history with things like SportsChannel, it's a wonder they didn't go to Bravo

7) Worried that ESPN would revive the Fox robots or puck blur

6) Gary Bettman is going to trust his gut, because that's never let him down before

5) Thanks to "30 Rock" and its treatment of Canadians, the NHL is convinced that all of the Hab-bashing is quarantined

4) Didn't want to have ESPN do to their re-run games what they do to the NBA

3) Refuse to appear on ESPN Classic, not ever

2) Convinced that since poker has gone belly-up, ESPN will go bankrupt any minute now

1) Would do anything to avoid more popularity for fantasy hockey, since real hockey fans refuse to know math

Run Bot Run

PhillieBot, a one-armed, three-wheeled robot made by wacky nerds at Penn, will throw out the first pitch before tomorrow's Brewers-Phillies game. It's all part of Science Day. OR IS THAT JUST WHAT THE ROBOTS WANT US THINK?

Thanks to time-traveling relatives with poor acting skills and a real sense of self-importance, FTT has gotten hold of the secret programming instructions for what will eventually enslaves us all.

10 START INSTANT REPLAY

20 START PITCH TRACKING

30 ASSEMBLE PHILLIEBOT

40 FORMAT SELIG

50 GENERATE PHILLIEBOT PR

60 RUN PHILLIEBOT 1.0 PROTOCOL "THROW HARDER THAN KYLE KENDRICK"

70 RUN PHILLIEBOT 2.0 PROTOCOL "THROW BETTER THAN KYLE KENDRICK"

80 CRUSH KYLE KENRICK

90 ACCEPT THANKS

100 SIGN CONTRACT

110 CLONE SELF

120 GOTO 110

Sure, it's chilling. But really, since it's our future and everything, I don't think we should do anything about it. Why ruin things?

Top 10 NBA Playoff Tuesday Takeaways

10) Dallas may have finally found a first-round team they can beat

9) The Hawks' strategy of letting Dwight Howard utterly demolish them is, at least, something they can consistently achieve

8) Amar'e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups both missed Game 2, allowing Carmelo Anthony to finally fulfill his destiny as a tragic hero

7) Joe Johnson going 6 for 15 with five turnovers is fine, since it's not as if the Hawks are locked into him for an absurd amount of time and money

6) When you are relying on Jared Jeffries to get a stop on Kevin Garnett, then score down low in crunch time, you really can't expect good things to happen

5) It's totally unfair that the Mavericks are using the younger Jason Kidd, rather than the crappy broken-down old 2011 model

4) It turns out that the Knicks do have worse defensive player at point guard

3) The Blazers shot 48.5% from the floor and made 7 three pointers, and still lost by 12, mostly because the Mavs refused to ever turn the ball over

2) Bill Walker went 0 for 11 in 33 minutes and was +10, proving once and for all that you can not pay attention to plus / minus ratings in basketball

1) Kidd and Peja Stojakovic combined for 39 points on 15 of 24 shooting, proving once and for all that Mark Cuban has a TARDIS

Passing Chocolate

In a quiet announcement after his current team won its first playoff game ever, Grizzlies reserve point guard Jason Williams called it quits on his 12-year NBA career. White Chocolate is 35 now, and a long way from when he sparked the Association as the ringleader for the Kings teams that looked better than they played. And here's how it looked, at least until they sent him away for Mike Bibby in a classic trade of style for substance.



In the glory years, Williams had his own shoe ad, a top 5 jersey on sales, a probable pot suspension, a component in the 13-person monster swap that eventually got him a ring with the Shaq Wade Heat. He was a reasonable three-point shooter, a defensive sieve, one of the biggest turnover generators in the league in his early days, and a solid backup in the late ones. He finishes with 10.5 points and 5.9 assists per game averages, the short-term career lead in assists as a Grizzly, and a statistical record that won't even begin to explain why he'll be remembered.

And well, that's the difference in basketball and every other sport. Because no one remembers, really, the baseball or football equivalent of Williams, because both of those sports have pretty much homogenized the game so that marginal guys like Williams can't really be all the memorable. Who, really, falls under the category of the Williams of baseball -- Jose Lima? For football, maybe it's a guy like Jim Zorn. The point is that you can't really name a guy like this, and you really can't find a video package that gets his essence... because only in basketball does the art matter this much, and only in basketball are beautiful losers remembered more than ugly winners.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Top 10 NBA Tuesday Ad Takeaways

10) No one has ever been to a party where Heineken was served to that level of interest

9) Every year, TNT tortures NBA fans with heavy rotation ads for shows that we never, ever will watch

8) Kenny Smith's halftime act of wandering into a 1970s sci-fi set doesn't really do that much to explain the game

7) If you really are looking forward to seeing TNT's "Franklin and Bash", you are wrong

6) It's not exactly news, but it's still gratifying to know that if you eat Taco Bell, you are an idiot

5) "Falling Skies" is an epic, which is defined in TNT-speak as something long that was filmed on the cheap in Canada

4) I'm really not sure how a loquacious rooster sells car insurance

3) George Lopez appears to serve food rather than write jokes or be entertaining

2) The talking basketball has a disturbingly sexy voice, really

1) No matter how cute the T-Mobile girl is, I guarantee you will want to see her dead within a month

Bulls-Pacers Game Two: Top 12 Takeaways

12) If you want to play Tim Donaghy Conspiracy Theory, Roy Hibbert's 5th foul and the non-call on Jeff Foster getting pushed out to force a turnover gives you ample ammunition

11) Bulls Fan is very good at chanting naughty things in unison

10) Carlos Boozer can have a 13/9 half and still look like a terrible player

9) The Bulls really should float a game check to the cameraman who helped take out Darren Collison, though that TJ Ford half-court hit to end the third helped

8) If this Danny Granger had showed up all year, the Pacers wouldn't be playing the Bulls in this round

7) Sixer and Jazz Fan is wondering just when Kyle Korver learned how to make shots in crunch time

6) If you don't find Tyler Hansborough irritating, you are either related to him, a Pacers fan, or simply not paying attention

5) Regardless of what happens for the rest of the series, Frank Vogel has served notice that he can coach a little

4) Feel free to show the game tape of this one to anyone who tells you NBA players don't hustle

3) If the Pacers could rebound, they'd be more than the cut-rate Nuggets

2) When Indy fails to trap Derrick Rose, they fail to stop Derrick Rose

1) For a #1 seed, Chicago really seems like they have to work very hard just to win a game at home

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sixers-Heat Game Two: Top 10 Takeaways

10) An underrated but potent part of how irritating the Heat are is the fact that coach Erik Spoelstra looks like a rancid chipmunk

9) Heat Fan believes that chanting "M-V-P" is the only way to cheer any positive action by a player

8) At some point, you have to think that a non-Celtic opponent is going to have the original idea of just hitting LeBron James as hard as they can, as often as they can, if only to give the world what it wants

7) Evan Turner scored just enough points to stay on the floor and get on every Heat first half offensive highlight

6) No one is really prepared for the concept of Chris Bosh, Clutch Playoff Performer

5) It takes talent to shoot 25% from the floor through three quarters on the road and not be completely blown out

4) Given his background, it's not that surprising that Doug Collins might be the only coach in the NBA who is actually accommodating to sideline reporters

3) The Sixers are now 0-5 against the Heat this year, but it only feels like 0-12

2) Philly Fan is taking solace in the fact that the Spencer Hawes, Starting Center Era will end in a week or less

1) It's not exactly news to say that if the Heat hit their three pointers, you can pretty much forget about beating them

One Good Dose Of Thunder

Normally, the Shooter Wife does not watch sports with me. She didn't grow up in a household with an awful lot of affiliation with it, so she didn't make those crucial connections early in life. She's not a gambler, a fantasy nerd, someone who goggles at athletes, or wildly into competition. In the evening, she's generally is looking for time on her own, rather than getting full immersion in entertainment. But tonight was different. Tonight, she gave Nuggets-Thunder a chance.

And well, there was no better gateway drug that I could think of; it's why I actually held to my guns and kept it on, rather than play something we'd both enjoy. (Later on, a Nova special on the human brain with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Just to show we're high-faluting.) If you aren't oddly fascinated by Chris Anderson, you might be blind. Kenyon Martin transmogrifying his infamous lips neck tattoo to something of a crown was noticed. Serge Ibaka's shot-blocking sucked her right in, and while she liked both teams, the Thunder's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were just more compelling to her. Oh, and James Harden's freaky beard. That's also a win.

Better yet, both the first and second half worked. In the first half, it was racehorse basketball with spectacular transition plays, both on offense and defense, and open threes coming out of the breaks to lead to a combined 119 points scored in 24 minutes. The second half, when both teams ratcheted up the defensive pressure and cut the points down to 91, was also riveting; I got to explain the Kendrick Perkins Experience, how a technical foul can get paid off later, and how the game is not fair. Specifically, the big swings around odd plays, like when JR Smith benefited from not getting back on defense to score a 3-point-play, or when Ibaka scored a huge late tip-in that was clear basket interference.

In addition, The Shooter Wife concurs that making everyone wear the same color shirt is just kinda creepy, that the Big Head NBA.com ad campaign is wrong on every level, and that Durant is just a monster. When I told her how young he was, and how much better he could still become, her mind boggled in just the same way that mine does. And when the Nuggets went into a Keystone Cops routine on their final chance to tie it, she got why people doubt Denver being able to succeed in a post-star era.

I don't really know if there's anything to this. The Shooter Wife is not, I suspect, going to become a real NBA fan, and if she doesn't watch another game this post-season, I won't be too surprised or offended; it's not her thing, after all. And she might have just been picking up on my enthusiasm for the game, and that's a pretty common reflex.

But if there was a single series, or game, that could open up that possibility? It's this one, and specifically, the Thunder. That's just how much fun they are to watch, and how compelling this matchup and talent is. If you haven't given it a chance yet, do -- even if you don't normally watch hoop, or pro hoop. It's worth it.

Top 12 NBA Playoff Sunday Takeaways

12) When his team loses to a club that has Chris Paul and 11 guys from the D-League, Phil Jackson can't retire fast enough

11) The refs in the Thunder-Nuggets series really need to review the rules regarding basket interference

10) In a day of startling upsets, the biggest shock of the day was that Jermaine O'Neal and Rony Turiaf are still in the league and helpful

9) Chris Paul would like you to know that he's been dogging it all year, and intends to become your new NBA Overlord, or at the very least, the reason why Derek Fisher retires

8) The Grizzly tank job to get the Spurs in the first round appears to be entirely warranted

7) Carmelo Anthony didn't exactly add to his bona fides as a fourth quarter closer

6) Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom combined for 18 points and 7 rebounds in 69 minutes on 5 of 15 shooting against, um, Carl Landry and three other guys you've never heard of

5) The Grizz notched the very first playoff win in the 16-year history of the franchise, which is just kind of stunning, seeing how they had Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Big Country Bryant Reeves and Stromile Swift

4) At some point, you have to wonder when a Celtic opponents will remember to cover Ray Allen late in the game

3) Spurs Fan can be excused for not feeling too thrilled about Richard Jefferson renegotiating his deal to stay in town

2) The Grizz were so excited by winning a playoff game, they gave Zach Randolph a $71 million deal. I have no joke here, or at the very least, no joke that's better than an employer thinking that long-term economic security is a good idea

1) If you aren't watching Nuggets-Thunder, you aren't watching the best series... potentially ever

Sunday, April 17, 2011

All In To Sigh

So on Friday, federal prosecutors unsealed fraud and money laundering charges against three of the biggest online poker sites, and seized the Internet addresses, which more or less shuts them out cold. The charge is that the operators tricked banks into processing payments from U.S. customers, violating the 2006 law that prohibits illegal Internet gambling operations from accepting payments. Notice that this law was passed by the Republicans, so if you feel angry or happy about one party for this, you are probably wrong. But moving on.

Now, these sites have always been run from places where online gambling is legal, just in preparation for such a day, really. And I'm sure the laundering charges are correct, since there's clear and present evidence of bribery and fictitious online businesses that claimed to sell jewelry, golf balls and all kinds of stuff, when in reality they were processing poker payments. They even managed to put cuffs on a few people, though there are some gray areas involved in this, since a poker game is frequently international commerce, and up in the air on the jurisdiction. If I play from New Jersey against guys in eight other places, and some of us are in the U.S. and others aren't... who is breaking the law, and where? It's a case where the technology is simply outracing the precedent, because you aren't really playing anywhere when you play online. Location is theoretical, and irrelevant. What's really the issue is whether or not, of course, the commerce can be taxed, since that's where the rubber hits the road when it comes to government regulation of an inherently lawless activity.

No one, by the way, should feel bad for the sites involved. I've worked for online advertising companies that did these pieces, and the description "colorful" is about the nicest thing you can say about the clients. It's a consumer category where you get the money up front, preferably in hard currency, and when you take it, you more or less ensure that your company can never go public or be taken seriously by investors or venture capitalists that have any kind of long-term vision. You also count a lot of money.

According to the numbers, seven million Americans play online for money on a monthly basis. A small aside: I'm not one of them. Playing online for cash to me has always seemed like the Pandora's Box of timewaste, and I've got enough things to do, really; this blog alone proves that. I run a home game once every three weeks, go to a casino a half dozen times a year with friends, and waste my time with Facebook poker from time to time. It's enough to make me wonder if I have a problem, and not enough to make me know it. In other words, just like tens of millions of other players. I generally make a little more than I lose, and enjoy it a lot, but only when I'm winning. Unique story, that.

Whether or not all of these small players vote or donate to campaigns is, of course, a whole 'nother matter, but my guess is that a true voice for People Like Us is never going to be heard, simply because the small player is never going to act in a collective manner. Plus, many of us play in as privately a manner as humanly possible, since the losses here can put you in dutch with any number of people, really. Imagine, if you will, having a poor year on your credit record, which an increasing number of employers use in the hiring process. Fun times.

Personally, I had dreams that when Rep. Barney Frank's bill was making its way through the Congress a few years ago, that a more mature and thoughtful day was coming. Prosecuting these sites means nothing; people are still going to gamble, and I'd rather see them do it in a competitive marketplace, rather than one that's locked down into bad rake casino experiences at the ever-increasing number of palaces of misery that are popping up in every area where governments are ready to take the short-term gain of gambling revenue. The fact that the President has been known to play a few pots was also encouraging.

But then the tide turned, the Republicans took the House back, and we've moved to a brave new day of the Democrats trying to be weak sauce Republicans, too. And while it's simplistic and silly to believe the sides are one and the same (if, for no other reason, that you don't get to call one side weak-kneed socialists on Monday and jackbooted thugs on Friday; a small amount of consistency is appreciated, dammit), the casual viewer can be excused for thinking it. Particularly if you are now scrambling to see if the bankroll you made on one of these sites is ever coming your way.

And perhaps I'm just being naive to think that a federal case against the lucrative backwaters of the Internet actually reflects the true intent and purpose of the executive branch; one hopes, really, that with three theatres of armed conflict, 9% unemployment and the House actively trying to make sure old poor people eat cat food and die quickly, they'd have better things to do with their time.

But there's a funny thing about doing stuff on a Friday afternoon; it's usually not the part of your work that makes you filled with pride. Especially when you work for the government, and have to worry about public outcry or dismay over your actions. Friday is when you bury the news, rather than brag about it. Had this gone down earlier in the week, I'd suspect it to be the Obama Administration's move to add a few more value voters, or to make hay over the idea that unfettered gambling has ills beyond when people of means lose their tip money. But when you do it on a Friday, you tell us all that you are trying to slip it under the rug, because you are doing this as some part of unannounced deal, and you don't really want to talk about it.

Because, in the final analysis... when consenting adults choose to be separated from their money from the comfort of their own homes, rather than the comfort of a live poker room? So long as they do it for less of a rake, I think that's a win. Even though I look forward to taking their money at the live table, too.

(Oh, and if you are looking for another bright side to this? We might wind up with a few hundred less brazenly hateful "pro" players who play for free at that tournament that you grinded like mad to get into. Breaks my heart to see those guys off a teat, it does...)

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