Friday, March 30, 2012

Youth Will Be Buttressed, And Served

Tonight in Los Angeles, in front of a national audience, the Lakers looked good early. They led at the half against the best in the West Thunder, scored 30 points in the first quarter despite not really getting too far away from their usual slow pace, and had the Staples crowd rocking. Kevin Durant was off his game, Russell Westbrook wasn't lighting them up the way he usually does, and it was looking for all the world like the drama graybeards where going to keep their home roll going and keep moving towards that ritualistic Pacific Division title and decent seed in the West. (A small note: the Pacific isn't exactly a murderer's row this year. Still, a division crown helps.)

And then Derek Fisher came in, wearing his jarringly inappropriate Thunder gear, and gave the road team a little spark, just enough to get to the half without feeling too badly about themselves. And then the second half started, and the Thunder brushed the old frauds aside like dirt off their shoulders.

How total was it? OKC shot 45% from the floor and won easily, on the road. The Lakers needed two three-pointers from The Artist Currently Known As Metta to just get in hailing distance late. Westbrook scored 17 in the third to take control of the game, Durant threw down one of his bolts from heaven dunks on the befuddled Pau Gasol, and the LA crowd got to see what a real contender looks like -- young, athletic, long, complete. The only way to beat this team is to force turnovers, and that's just not what a team with all of its major components on the wrong side of 30 is going to do... even when the playoffs start.

There really is nothing not to like about this Thunder club. They block shots like mad, with Serge Ibaka doing the off the ball thing, and Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed taking care of internal work. They make their free throws, with Durant and Westbrook icing games late. Nick Collison gives them smart bench minutes and all kinds of useful energy; tonight's 8 boards in 19 minutes is kind of par for the course. James Harden has been unstoppable this year, and Thabo Sefolosha might be the best defensive 2 guard that no one talks about; he utterly destroyed Kobe Bryant (7 for 25, yeesh) tonight, and that's generally hard to do in LA.

As for the Lakers, man alive, do they look bad when they lose. Andrew Bynum had 25 and 13 tonight with 4 blocks, and yet his game is just profoundly unsatisfying. He's just a black hole on offense, with the ball always going up when he gets it (0 assists and 4 turns in his 41 minutes), and the 1 to 2 assist to turnover ratio isn't getting it done, even for a big. He still hasn't really meshed with Gasol the way that Lamar Odom did, and when the game gets down to grind it out, he's just ungainly. And this, of course, is Bynum at his best, when he's hale and healthy and not even causing distractions or pouting. Laker Fan does not love him the way you think that they might, and they've seen an awful lot of winning basketball out there. They might be right.

Having said all that, the trade deadline is passed and Dwight Howard isn't walking through that door, so they are going to play the hand they've got. But you get the sense that they *know* they are frauds, and that every time the Thunder show up and demonstrate the talent gap, the sense of unease grows.

Because, well, the Thunder are still getting better. The Lakers aren't. And the Thunder are a lot better than the Lakers right now...

Top 12 reasons why Steve Nash wants to play in Miami next year

12) Needs to have his own jersey with that sweet sweet ABA Floridian retro wear

11) Is a bit too Canadian to really enjoy life in Arizona

10) Thinks he just might be able to beat out Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole for playing time

9) Florida, like Arizona, is a nice play to go when you are old

8) Has never lost in the Finals before, and there's no better place to do that than on LeBron's team

7) Wants to combine with Dwyane Wade for the best on paper, but not actually healthy enough to play together, backcourt in NBA history

6) Since the Heat all wore hoodies, it's time for their Heel to Face redemption, and for that, they are going to need a likable white sidekick

5) A man can only prop up Channing Frye and Marcin Gortat for so long before something snaps

4) Grant Hill smells like onions and old feet, even more than he does

3) He's made $120 million in his career without a ring, so maybe the mid-level pittance cash next year for one makes a certain amount of sense

2) Knows that this might be the only playoff team where having a defensive sieve at point guard really might not be a problem

1) Selling your soul for a ring is a time-honored tradition in the NBA

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finally?

According to Bloomberg News, the Augusta National Golf Club may actually induct someone with ovaries. It's Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, and more importantly, it's happening 10 years after there were protests about it. Just on the off chance that you might forget that these are some of the more obstinate men on the planet.

Whether or not a fantastically wealthy woman gets to be a member at Augusta does not, of course, matter at all to the greater cause of equality and equity between genders. At least, not directly; no one will think any differently of Martha Burk now, or pick up clubs because of this.

But what it does say is more true now, in 2012, than it was in 2002; women are far more likely to be corporate overlords of the highest level, and, um, yay for that, I guess. I understand that Augusta holds a thrall to many players and fans, and as a 30 handicap muni weekend hack with delusions of a short game myself, I can't say I'd turn down a round there on morals. It's golf; it's basically no better than gambling in a casino in terms of spending your money on people who deserve it. The ecological concerns alone are outrageous, really; you don't get pristine courses without healthy and aggressive doses of chemicals, and lots of them. Augusta's just a darker shade of dark to my eyes, and there's nothing here that wasn't done for decades to blacks, Jews, and anyone else that might put the hoi polloi off their feed. And, in all likelihood, still do.

Rather, it's this: we've progressed as a country where excluding women actually costs real dollars, and not just the penny-ante sponsorship and commercial time bucks. Augusta was only able to avoid this little truth for as long as it did because it had so much, so very, very much, and it might still, for a little while longer, if it so chooses.

But eventually, it won't. Maybe soon.

Progress?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Top 12 reasons why the NFL went to automatic replay on turnovers

12) We're just not seeing enough refs doing peep show work

11) Natural middle step to the end-game of instant replay for every first down, yardage mark and fantasy football point

10) Just not enough opportunities for commercial messages in your average 3.5+ hour football game

9) Want to ensure double commercial time for any pick 6

8) If they don't come up with something new to emasculate the on the field zebras every year, their nuts might grow back

7) Will guarantee that Andy Reid's useless challenges will become, somehow, even more useless

6) Buffalo Fan was complaining that they didn't have enough time to appreciate Ryan Fitzpatrick

5) Teams used to get all of that unseemly momentum from turnovers, and we can't be having that

4) Eagle Fan needs more time to rethink this whole Michael Vick idea

3) Gives more opportunities to older fans to note how the game is going to hell in a handbasket, and also to nap

2) Since nearly every game is decided by a handful of turnovers anyway, we should really enjoy them

1) More in-game stoppages means more in-game concession sales, and the NFL just isn't making enough money yet

Well, Of Course

So the news hits today that Dennis Rodman, having achieved the improbable age of 51 and having that post-athletic winning life that you just knew he would, owes more than $800K in back child support for two kids with his third wife, along with another $51K in spousal support. He's also looking at jail time for not paying, serious health issues, and a possible serious issue in dealing with reality, in that his ex's attorney feels that this is all a big chunk of BS.

And, well, along with the usual ill ease of getting into the personal life of ex-athletes, which is to say getting into the personal life of people who should be seen briefly and then never again...

Well, is anyone really surprised by this?

Basketball players are unique and different from any other major athlete experience in North America, because their careers frequently last a really long time (consider that Kobe Bryant has spent more than half of his 33 years on the planet as a Los Angeles Laker), they were no concealing equipment to distract from their body language or general attitude, and they spend an awful lot of minutes under surveillance. Dennis Rodman has spent the equivalent of over 20 24-hour days playing NBA hoop in front of tens of thousands of people, some of it under the glare of worldwide attention. A football player can take off the pads and go be an entirely different person. A baseball player spends the majority of his career inside a dugout, waiting to perform, and when he's not there he's usually waiting to perform anyway. You don't really get to see when either of those guys play when they are angry, or bored, or happy or discouraged or tired or fresh. It's all pretty much the same. Basketball's different.

And well, you don't get more different than Rodman. In a game of guys who got to this level due to their scoring prowess and then either kept doing that or adapted, Rodman was an outlier; any points he scored seemed like an accident. He existed to play defense with a physicality that never seemed to make sense with his image, in that a guy who was a walking technical foul (212 in his career, ye gads) also seemed to get away with more hand-checking and shoves than anyone else in the Association. And for all of his defensive accolades and relentless hustle -- and give the devil his due, the man had a work rate that defined the term "energy player" - the only thing he really seemed to do well was rebound. Over and over and over again. The one unalloyed positive contribution; no coach, fan or teammate ever complained about being on the floor with a guy who rebounded too much.

Which meant that he was only really safe in society when he was in that cocoon, and everyone watching kind of knew that. Or that when he'd show up in a Madonna video, or a pro wrestling sideshow, it was never a surprise, or something that was going to work... because there was nothing there that he could do that was as simple and useful as Get The Board. The idea that he's in the Basketball Hall of Fame is ridiculous on its face, but rings do matter, and he was fortunate enough to be on some teams. So.

Anyway, he's 51 now, the same train wreck as always, but without any kind of mitigating factor. I'd like to feel bad for the ex or the kids (especially the kids), but it's hard too, really; he is exactly what we thought he was. A plumber in search of a camera, a marketing plan in search of a buyer, a force of nature that never, ever, worked outside of a court.

And the next 5 to 10 years of calculated color, before he puts himself into the ground?

Don't watch.

Top 10 reasons why the Dodgers are selling to Magic Johnson's group

10) Frank McCourt wants to make sure the team stays in adulterous hands

9) Team really wants to sell burgers and show movies

8) Bud Selig knows that making McCourt sell to a black guy is one last fun kick in the teeth

7) Thinks that if they sell to a celebrity, it's more likely to get approved by a bankruptcy court

6) Part of the deal includes Magic hosting the post-game show with Sheila E on drums

5) The other finalists just seem a little too, how shall we say, interested in strolling across the Red Sea

4) WIth Magic's group, you also get Stan Kasten, the mastermind behind the Washington Nationals

3) Magic's group also includes Peter Guber of Mandalay Entertainment, because MLB has never had a problem with gambling money being involved

2) Want to prove to Dodger Fan that there is, in fact, a kind and merciful God

1) Believe that this group has the quality and character required to join the illustrious ownership history of Rupert Murdoch, Peter O'Malley and the McCourts

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top 10 signs that Vinny Del Negro is getting fired

10) Somehow not winning with the mid-season infusion of happy campers Kenyon Martin and Nick Young

9) People are starting to notice that when he's not dunking people into next week, Blake Griffin isn't actually that good

8) Still pining over the loss of Chauncey Billups, mostly for his coaching skills

7) Chris Paul's last Hornets' club was better than this, and most of those guys are now on milk cartons

6) Clipper Fan, with his long history of demanding excellence, will not settle for anything less than a parade

5) Donald Sterling's prostitutes don't like him very much

4) Have to someone convince Paul to re-up after next season, as if that's going to happen

3) The Clippers haven't gotten his complex defensive scheme of actually trying a little

2) Caron Butler hasn't actually broken a sweat in his last 20 games, and still gets minutes

1) Um, he's Vinny del Negro

Monday, March 26, 2012

Top 10 takeaways from Tim Tebow's Jets press conference

10) Like his new coach, he's also a fan of washing the feet of dirty, dirty sinners

9) Tebow would have also been happy to be a Jaguar, since that's probably where he'll be in a couple of years anyway

8) He's looking to expand his role, which is nice, seeing how the Jets have no good RBs

7) If he can make Jet Fan forget all about Brad Smith, he'll know the trade was a success

6) He liked the Jets' appearance on "Hard Knocks", because it taught him all new words that he's never heard before

5) Tebow is certain that if he gets another crack at those Patriots, he won't lose by more than four or five touchdowns

4) Is looking forward to introducing New Yorkers to this Jesus fellow, who clearly hasn't gotten a whole lot of attention locally

3) Will sacrifice his morals to the extent that he will try an egg cream, despite the fact that it has neither egg nor cream in it

2) Feels that he and Mark Sanchez are going to have a great relationship, since they both struggle with accuracy, are mind-boggingly overrated, and enjoy converting the underaged

1) Likes what he's seen so far of the Jets, since they must give every new player their own press conference if he's getting one

A Short Comment About Tiger Woods Winning A Tournament For The First Time In 2.5 Years

I know this is the be-all and end-all for the World Wide Lemur, in that it might make people care about golf again, but...

Um.... not to put too fine a point on this, but...

He's just another guy now.

He doesn't change the game with his length, his race, his seeming invicibility, his red shirt making all of the anonymous pudgy white guys paler than usual. Now, he's older than many of them, not dramatically fitter, doesn't hit it further, doesn't always hit the pressure putts, and, most importantly...

The casual golf fan that used to watch to see if he'd win has stopped watching, since he became, well, a loathsome figure and tabloid talk show level adulterer, along with a clearly bad husband and father. (And yes, if you cheat on your wife with as many people as Woods did, I don't care what else you might do for your kids. You're a bad father. Moving on.)

The tens of millions of people who used to watch golf, the little kids who went to munis and driving ranges, the people who bought questionable Nike gear because it made them more like this guy?

They aren't coming back.

Even if he does win another major, even if he does become the world's best again (neither a very sure bet at his age and obviously questionable focus)...

Because, well, the public doesn't really care what ESPN thinks. Just as if the Heat win the NBA title this year, that won't mean that we're all going to go back to feeling good about LeBron James, just as if the Eagles somehow win a Super Bowl with Mike Vick, that's not going to take the legions of haters away. Or how, five rings later, the world still doesn't look at Kobe Bryant with a fairly high amount of jaundice for skating through the Colorado penal system.

Your reputation is clean once. It doesn't get completely clean ever again.

And as for making everyone care about golf again? That toothpaste is long gone from the tube. But do enjoy watching the media try to stuff it back in...

Poker Diary: Multiple Street Closures

So I've been playing poker for, well, five years now. A few thousand hours. And have never, ever, had a tournament play out like this last one. Dive into the pain with me, will you?

Holding $16K in the second hour of tournament, I've outlasted about a third of the field, and catch pocket 7s, my biggest pair of the tournament to date. The short stack shoves for about a third of my stack, and it's all folds to me. I call it, and immediately regret it when the big blind, who is also the big stack with about 3X of my chips, calls. The flop gives me the top end of a double gutshot straight, and isn't making me too worried that someone else has the nuts... but it's a tournament, I'll check it down to the river and hope.

Which is when the big stack throws another thousand into it. Bloody irritating. And I can't imagine he's actually hit anything here, or doing anything other than being a chip bully. So I shove. And he, misreading my move as betting on air, calls. And when he flips it over, I've made the correct read, and lookie lookie, I've gotten it all in for the good money.

For funsies, here are my odds now. Not looking so bad, is it?

Now, if you've read enough poker stories by now, you know that the 60% to hold and win both pots (and go from $16K to just under $38K, also known as a better than average chip stack) isn't going to work. No sir, not one bit. Here's the turn...

Which means the short stack now has my $5K, but I could still get it back with a 3, 7 or 8; 10 outs is relatively thin, but not the most insane thing you've ever seen. And I'm still in really good shape to get $22K or so out of it, and be ahead of when the hand started if not terribly happy... and that, of course, is when the king hits on the river.

So, um, yay poker? Actually yes: the cash game went well enough. And there's the happy little knowledge that no matter what else happens to me in this game, I've already had the drawn out on multiple streets experience taken care of. Whatever doesn't kill you... hurts like hell. And tastes worse...

Top 12 reasons the Eagles are trying to move Asante Samuel

12) In general, they seem to do much better in trades than free agent signings

11) In theory, they still have more guys who are actually qualified to play corner than to play linebacker

10) Somehow not thrilled about the idea of spending $8.5 million for an aging cover guy with no shot at moving to safety

9) Two years of him with Dominique Rodgers Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha would just be too much high-level CB play to be fair to the rest of the league

8) Since they actually traded for a linebacker, kind of interested in having money to pay them

7) Want to make sure that after signing DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis, Samuel is especially motivated to have a fantastic end career

6) Paying a cornerback who doesn't like to tackle very much isn't terribly satisfying

5) After six months of hearing how they had to move him after the Asomugha signing, there's something of a movement to it

4) He took a long time to come around on how much of a super genius Juan Castillo is

3) Since he only had three INTs last year, as opposed to 9 in 2009 and 7 in 2010, he must not be good any more

2) As they are clearly all-in on Asomugha, having a CB on the roster that might be better than him is a little awkward

1) Every five years, his team has to let him go and live to regret it

Friday, March 23, 2012

Great Television?

So 24 hours after Six Months Of Tebow Coverage begins (what, you honestly think that the media is going to start actually covering games?), I'm struck by one particular comment, repeated, in the threads of people who are, how shall we say, a little more casual about their football viewing than me.

Namely, that the Jets may be good, they may be bad, but oh my, what a circus! What an undeniable exercise in watchability!

Folks, let me clue you in to something that I already knew, but learned all over again with the 2011 Eagles.

At some point, when the coin is flipped and the men take the field and the circus goes away...

For a team to be very, very watchable...

They have to win enough games to matter.

And this Jets team, well, won't.

Let's look at the schedule, shall we?

Jets vs. Patriots, home and away
Jets vs. Dolphins, home and away
Jets vs. Bills, home and away
Texans at Jets
Colts at Jets
Niners at Jets
Seahawks at Jets
Chargers at Jets
Jets at Jaguars
Jets at Titans
Jets at Cardinals
Jets at Rams
Jets at Steelers

I'm thinking 2-4 in the division (splits against the Bills and Dolphins, swept by the Patriots), 3-2 in the non-division home games (beat the Colts, Seahawks and Chargers), and 3-2 in the non-division road games (Jaguars, Rams, and either the Titans or Cardinals). That's an 8-8 team, and the potential for 10 losses looks a lot more likely than 10 wins, seeing how the Seahawks might be a lot better with Matt Flynn, the Chargers might have a bit of a dead cat bounce to them, and if they get off to a bad start, it could get very ugly, very fast.

Now, that's 8-8 independent of the QB... because this Jets team has issues that QBs don't solve. Like a distinct lack of RBs that really help matters, WRs that aren't overrated, an OL that is starting to break down on health issues. Along with the aging defense and middling special teams, along with the doubts about game-day planning and locker-room cohesion. If you are telling me that a wild-card team is coming out of the AFC East this year, I'm thinking Buffalo before I'm thinking these guys. On the merits, Tebow's Bronco team was better than the Jets this year, which they showed by, well, beating them and going to the second round of the playoffs.

So this *isn't* going to be a playoff team. They aren't going to contend for the division. They aren't going to be very entertaining on defense, seeing how the hidden bummer of last year's team is that they really fell back to the pack last year, and aren't getting any younger on that side of the ball. The historic pattern of coaches like Rex Ryan (and yes, there have been coaches like Rex Ryan before) is that they don't get a lot better with experience. If you are a GM and bringing in a novelty act like Tebow, it also doesn't say much for your confidence in long-term employment, and you have to think that, with the hair-trigger that has been their historical purview, another season without January will bring about serious job changes.

So yes, the Jets will be very, very watchable this year. To viewers in New England, Miami, and Buffalo, and to everyone who has decided to root against them.

Woo, Corruption

So my college laundry, Syracuse, survived to the Elite Eight tonight by playing old-school basketball, in which you give up contested long jump shots for controlling the boards. Since college hoop is no longer about that, and Wisconsin made 14 three point attempts, it nearly killed them, but a one-point win later, everyone's least favorite #1 seed is through the fourth game for the first time since Carmelo Anthony.

And yes, I'm poaching on a sport that I have no interest in, and for a school that I don't donate to, buy merch for, or even hang up the diploma... because, well, I enjoy the narrative of an obviously corrupt program, ran by a doddering and annoying old man, being Clutch. Clutch, of course, is pretty silly and random, and had Wisconsin gotten any offensive rebounds (which, no matter how overmatched you are in the front court, does not usually fall as hard for one team as it did for SU tonight), this may be a very different story. But if you shoot 55% from the floor in a game slow pace against a team that tries three times as many threes as you do, and don't lose on turnovers... you should win. Even if it's only by a point.

Next up is an Ohio State team that's the #2 seed, and if my laundry wins, I might finally watch some of this. No promises. Woo, corruption!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Saints Take The Bountiful Pipe

So the NFL leveled the biggest hit you'll see today on the Saints, seeing how big hits are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. For the crime of failing to cover up a program that probably exists in a dozen other locker rooms, the Saints lost their head coach for a year, their GM for half a year, their linebacker coach for six games, $500 grr and their second round picks this year and in 2013. And hell, there might even be more later for individual players.

Let's examine each of these losses in turn.

> Payton is the first coach to get this level of punishment, and it makes me wonder if he's long for the job. The Saints were already having a disastrous off-season by pissing off Drew Brees, and they can't keep their running backs healthy. The defense is going to get a lot worse, and it also wouldn't surprise me if they get a massive uptick in ref flags this year. There's only so much motivation you can take to go up against the world.

> The GM and coaching losses are high, and not because either man is some kind of defensive genius -- if a bounty system were all that the NFL is cracking it up to be, the Saints would be a lot better on defense than they are -- but because defense is about continuity. The Saints always had an erratic defense, but it's now about to get very consistent. Consistently bad.

> The picks are no small problem. Second round picks might be the best investment you can make, on a pound for pound basis. You frequently get real stars on the relative cheap here, because you get a motivated star that's fighting through a slight, or a guy who boomerangs from a previous injury. And if the pick busts, you aren't out that much money.

> The cash does not matter, because in the NFL, half a million bucks is a rounding error. Even in a small market like New Orleans.

A final point about this... if you are able to get an NFL player away from a mic or media and ask him what they really think about this, outside of team loyalties or dislike for a specific franchise or coach... they'll tell you this is bullsquat. There's no way to make a strong tackle with the possibility of causing a fumble or making an interception without the possibility of injury. Hell, grown men get seriously hurt in fake confrontations (aka, pro wrestling); how are they going to avoid injury with real violence?

The simple point is this: football is an indefensible act of violence. If we wanted it safer, we'd remove pads and helmets, since you don't see the monstrous injury record in rugby, sumo or Aussie football. If we wanted it safer, we'd outlaw kickoffs and punts. If we wanted it safer, we'd call blows to the head on every position on the field, rather than just the glory boys.

But we don't want it safe. We just don't want to have our noses rubbed in the hypocrisy. Which, of course, is why the Saints just took the pipe so bad...

Top 10 takeaways from Tim Tebow going to New York

10) Between him and Jeremy Lin, it's clear that born-again Christians are gravitating to that hotbed of religion, Manhattan

9) Finally, the Jets have a halfway decent running back

8) Just in case you were wondering whether or not John Elway and the Broncos had personal antipathy towards him, think about whether or not he'd do better here or Jacksonville

7)The deal helps the Jets win the biggest prize in their world: back page coverage

6) Somehow, the idea that this franchise is supposed to compete with the Bills, let alone the Patriots, is starting to seem kind of silly

5) If this doesn't get Santonio Holmes cozying up to Mark Sanchez, nothing will

4) The fact that the Jets gave up picks and cash to get a guy that might have been released in a few weeks is, well, Jet-esque

3) There may never have been a worse week for the jersey sales of one particular athlete who used to move major units

2) Joe Namath thinks this is a publicity stunt, and well, he should know

1) While the Jets might not be any good last year, at least there will be interesting. if you find double-digit loss teams interesting

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Marlins Are Spending Millions To Reach A New Crowd, Not That There's Anything Wrong With That



Um, wow.

And it's not fair, Internet, to slag gay people over this thing. Just because it's making everyone who views it remember Liberace, just because it brings together all of the understated class and taste of a John Waters film shot in a trailer park, and just because guys in the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans and the Mummers parade in Philadelphia think it's over the top, that doesn't make it gay.

It does, however, make it camp. And a fine reason to remember that the Marlins owner, Jeff Loria, is one of the most regrettable human beings on the planet...

Update -- oh, man, it gets better. There's a song, too. As in... It Gets Better. We are coming out to you! Let's make a date!



Go Fish? Hello, sailor...

Top 12 reasons why Alex Smith came back to San Francisco

12) Thinks that with a just a bit more seasoning and better weapons at wideout, he can make everyone forget Jim Drucken- miller

11) Like everyone else who plays for the Niners, is secretly... fond of the uniform's color scheme and logo

10) Miami would rather sign David Garrard, which just isn't one of those sentences that you expect to read in English

9) Can't wait to kill all of the fantasy twerps who draft Randy Moss anyway

8) He could have gone to Cleveland, but that would have involved going to Cleveland

7) After everything he's been through in this laundry, a few more weeks of ridicule and embarrassment is barely noticeable

6) Making $8 million a year to not be a QB very often really isn't that bad of a gig

5) Thinks he can hold off Colin Kaepernick for at least another month or two

4) Jim Harbaugh made nice over the Peyton Manning thing by actually buying Smith lunch at Applebee's

3) Accepts the idea that as soon as he beats Drew Brees in another playoff shootout, they'll totally renegotiate his contract

2) With Manning going to Denver instead of Arizona, the division should remain cottony-soft

1) Niner Fan has promised to never chant for David Carr again

Wait, We're Actually Allowed To Trade For Linebackers?

Well, knock me over with a feather: after only a decade or so of treating the position like it was something to be found on the dock or carnie circuit, my football laundry actually went out and got themselves an honest to goodness linebacker, trading a fourth and swapping thirds with the Texans for 27-year-old DeMeco Ryans. Or a one-time second round pick from Alabama with a bit of size (6'-1" 247) and reputation for Not Sucking. You'll excuse Eagle Fan for dreaming of MLBs that don't suck.

It's clearly a bit of a sunk cost dump by the Texans, who also weren't overly thrilled with Ryans' work in the 3-4 last year, which caused him to leave the field for over 40% of the defense's snaps. For a guy who was due to make significant bank this year, that's not defensible, but in Philly, he'll be lucky to ever leave the field. So the cash isn't really that big of a concern.

On the merits, considering that we were all trying to get ourselves excited by the idea of an overpriced free agent -- and such was the quality of that group last year that I would still welcome it, if only to have no eggs in the Brian Rolle / Casey Matthews Pile Of Meh -- this is just about the best news to hit town since the DeSean Jackson signing. (And yes, that was good news: they didn't let talent walk for nothing, and they didn't break the bank for him.) It's especially good news since the team routinely bones the kinds of pick they just moved to get a borderline sure thing. I'd much rather have a 28-year-old with 2-3 decent years ahead of him than a 22-year-old never-will-be (Moises Fokou, you make me want to mispronounce your last name), which more than adequately describes just about every LB drafted in the Reid Era.

Before we get too excited here, keep in mind that like most MLBs, there's no absolute rule that Ryans is going to do more than help the defense resemble a professional outfit. He's got all of 8.5 sacks in his career, 2 picks and 6 forced fumbles, which says more professional than explosive. If you were looking for the new Bart Scott or Ray Lewis, look away. But it's not as if there are a lot of MLBs who get more than that. It's just nice to know that, barring injury, we actually know who is going to start at that position for once, for more than a few games at a time.

As for Ryans, it all comes down to health, but can't we say that about everyone in the NFL? He gets to be a true MLB here, won't make more than $6.5 million in non-guaranteed money, and immediately becomes the best LB on the roster, which is a nicer way of saying he might be the only LB on the roster. He might even, be still my trembling heart, give them someone who can defend a pass-catching TE. WOW.

It's unlikely that he'll be a total savior, but it's also unlikely that he'll stink on ice, either. And while they still need 1-2 more guys for that unit and/or a lot of luck and development from the holdover scrubs, at least they might lose in a slightly less maddening way next year.

And at this point on the Reid Era, can we really hope for anything more?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Well, This Went Well



The Warriors retired Chris Mullion's jersey last night, and Warrior Fan decided to show their appreciation for the current owner... um, not at all. Bad Warrior Fans! Just because the franchise has peed all over you for decades and called it rain, just because they ran off a guy you really liked (Monta Ellis) for 40 cents on the dollar in the form of a broken-down center (Andrew Bogut) which means that they are pulling yet another tank job, and just because the new coach is only popular among his ex-ESPN co-workers and people who get turned on by Cookie Monster... wait, where were we again?

Oh, right. Chris Mullin was having his night. And you people ruined it by treating Warrior owner Joe Lacob as if he were a WWE heel, when he is in fact so much worse. You were so mean that Mullin and Rick Barry (who, just in case you were wondering, has spent the past few decades being a professional asshat in Bay Area sports talk, and might be booed on the merits for that) felt they had to take up for him and also get tarred by association.

Having said all that... I'm not going to defend Warrior Fan's right to trash Lacob. Oh, wait, actually I would. Lacob's moves haven't worked out to date, and the honeymoon is officially over after the Ellis sell-off. Meet the new Chris Cohen. Same as the old Chris Cohen. The Bay Area remains a massive and wonderful market for NBA hoop, served badly by a single franchise. They'd sell out the building just for the fans of the opposition; these are people who pay to watch Nate Robinson, for pity's sake. That doesn't mean they need to be *happy* about it.

No, rather, I'd like to address Lacob, who could have *easily* avoided making Mullin's night a front-page spectacle by just doing what parasitic rich men should know to do by now: keep well, and I do mean well, hidden. Just because everyone you meet in you day to day life licks the wing tips does not mean that you've got carte blanche from the lumpenproletariat. This is America in 2012, six months after a movement with no money and no leaders managed to make a couldn't be ignored nuisance of itself from coast to coast, 18 months since poor white men with guns took over the political party of rich white men with security staffs, two years after banksters got away with the theft of this or any other century. If you are fabulously wealthy right now, you are guilty until proven innocent anywhere outside of the increasingly irrelevant news media. And amen to that, since that's the way it always should have been, since that is, well, reality.

You can buy a team. It's a free country. But you can't buy the love, acceptance, or even tolerance of the customers. And if you want to address stadium filled with your adoring public... pay them all for the privilege. Rather than the other way around. Until then, accept the high third finger and full-throated disapproval for exactly what it is...

A brutal, degrading, but ultimately accurate assessment of your worth as a human being.

Shame you can't buy truth, isn't it?

The Very Rich Are Not Like You And Me: They Walk When They Steal

So huzzah, Mets Fan! Your team's owners / destroyers of worlds, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, walked out of a Noo Yawk courtroom today not in ankle locks and Lechter masks for their role in the Bernie Madoff Pyramid Scheme, but with smiles as they skated past a civil trial, limited their exposure to further claims, and acquired the knowledge that in four years, or significantly less time than the average American who declares personal bankruptcy after a ruinous health situation in which they got no gain, they'll be clear of everything. Isn't it nice to be obscenely wealthy and serve no greater purpose than feeding your maw?

And the good news just keeps on coming for these scions of men; they also have managed to find 12 lesser parasites to pony up $20 million a piece for minority stakes, while leaving them with control of the team. With the team dropping payroll from $142 to $95 million this year (see ya, Jose, K-Rod and Carlos!), and experienced small-market genius Sandy Anderson at the reins, everything's coming up Milhouse for the NY JV. Soon, they'll be able to fulfill their historic destiny as the 75-win team that no one needs to think very much about, but this isn't about baseball.

Rather, I'd like to talk about Wilpon and Katz here. They aren't going to pay anywhere near what's owed here. Instead of the eight years that Madoff spent milking the gullible, they'll only count the two. They can only be part of the gravy train for a four year period, much of which will probably go through the leaden wheels of the same justice system that rolled over for the Metmen. And sure, they might still lose a ton of money at Citi Field for years to come, since they look like the fifth-worst team in the NL East now, and rebuilding years play about as well in the town that never stops spending as a rolling blackout or a bridge and tunnel closing, but probably not, since MLB shares revenues and there's always another sponsor or six or chump to play minority owner. (And why, oh why, is everyone so interested in buying into the Mets? Because New York could easily support 3 or 4 baseball teams, but MLB has no interest in upsetting the apple cart. Why, when you can just keep propping up Wilpon and Katz?)

And here's the really awful thing... Mets Fan is going to like the Hunger Teams much more than the Go For Break Omar Minaya era. Alderson actually knows how to build a farm system and make decent draft picks, and he's also smart enough to play cheap replacement-level young guys over older, established replacement-level guys in the low-leverage parts of the team. With Citi lowering the credit ratings of the pitchers by making the park play lower and smaller this year, they'll get more of a boost from home town hitters who are no longer sullen and withdrawn at the idea of a homestand. If one of the overpaid East teams falters, they'll even avoid the gutter, which will give everyone involved a warm and unique feeling of watching their plucksters compete against the spendthrifts. It's almost alarming how well this is all going for them, especially since in any decent courtroom, the Madoff investigation would have been buttressed by Oliver Perez's crimes against humanity, giving Tim McCarver a profession, or their fair share of the blame for letting Bobby Valentine loose on the world, but no. Alas.

Not the least of which is kind of galling because, well, it's really hard to see how the Mets *didn't* benefit - a lot -- from being near the top of Bernie's Billions. There is a benefit, however fleeting, from holding the money; it's why pyramid schemes work, at least in the short run, and continue to fleece the foolish.

Which would make them, well, accessories to fraud.

Along with, well, themselves.

Seriously, why aren't these guys -- or anyone else involved in the mortgage cratering that ruined the economy, or any number of lobbyists for same -- in jail? And is there anyone in New York that would seriously object to seeing them take the perp walk?

Top 10 reasons why Peyton Manning chose Denver

10) Has decided to devote the rest of his playing days to ending Skip Bayless' Tebow service

9) The murderer's row of Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders reminded him a lot of the candy-corn division he just left

8) Wants to change his weak record in starts in games that are below 40 degrees

7) Knows that if Eric Decker and DeMaryius Thomas looked good with Tebow, they must be borderline Pro Bowlers

6) Staying in the AFC doubles the chance of a Manning in the Super Bowl, which is vital for their commercial endorsements

5) Really wanted to join the legacy of outstanding Bronco QBs like Bubby Brister, Jake Plummer and Kyle Orton

4) Denver fulfills his need to ply his trade in a town where he can easily recognize his African-American teammates around town

3) Wanted to join a team where he wasn't the biggest... ok, I can't even finish the joke, really

2) He secretly hates John Elway so much that he wants to own all of his club records, too

1) Thought hard about going to San Francisco, but felt there was no way to live up to Alex Smith's legacy

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Top 10 reasons why the Nationals are sending Bryce Harper to AAA

10) Just because he might be the best player in their everyday lineup doesn't make him old enough to buy beer

9) Team can't keep the fan base down with him out there on Opening Day

8) If you start his "clock" too soon, he becomes a Yankee before the full extent of his powers are shown

7) Have hate in their heart for fantasy baseball reachers who just have to have the shiniest new toy

6) Want him a little older and thicker before the inevitable beanballs come his way

5) Feel that the good people of Syracuse just haven't had enough exposure to cocksure athletic prodigies

4) Need him to get playing time in center field, so he can live up to the high defensive standards of Nyjer Morgan, Roger Bernadina, Rick Ankiel and Jayson Werth

3) If he was in the lineup, too many disgusting newbies would buy Harper jerseys

2) Feel that the team is already going to win more than enough games

1) Believe that if he just gets a bit more seasoning, someone might start to take notice of his talents and write some hyperbole about him

Top 10 takeaways from PeytonPalooza

10) You will excuse Dolphin Fan if he throws up a lot over losing out on Peyton and Matt Flynn for... Alex Smith

9) Somehow, this whole thing made you think about Chad Henne, and for that, the NFL sincerely apologizes

8) David Garrard is also in the mix for Miami, which means that we're now in the non-QB part of the process, and will get Dolphin Fan right into the drinking Drano part of the program

7) The only people more irritated with the Cardinals dropping out of the running to stay with Kevin Kolb than Cardinal Fans... are Larry Fitzgerald's fantasy owners

6) Flynn went to Seattle in a move that, amazingly, won't attract an awful lot of national attention, unlike everything else that goes on in Seattle

5) Just in case Dolphin Fan has pulled his head out of the oven, he can always wind up sticking with Matt Moore

4) If Peyton winds up signing with Denver, it's proof that Jebus has totally fallen out of love with Tim Tebow

3) Somehow in all of this, Colt McCoy still has a starting job

2) If Peyton goes to Tennessee and comes back to haunt the Colts for years and years to come, it will be the first time that bitter old Baltimore Colt fans will be on his side

1) The NFL's salary cap penalty on the Redskins really was the only thing that kept Daniel Snyder from signing him in to mentor Robert Griffin III

The Timewaste Portion Of Our Program

So, Dear Reader, are you like me... in that you play fantasy sports, and have done so for years... and find yourself counting down the days before your fantasy draft, and doing the research to get your list up to par...

Only to find yourself, well, working really, really badly on it?

I feel compelled -- and yes, it's compelled -- to read *way* too much around this time of the year. Take, for instance, the whereabouts of one Jorge Cantu. Cantu is a corner infielder who was fantasy relevant around 2-3 years ago, when he was in Florida and hitting cleanup for a club that had Hanley Ramirez always on base. He didn't hit for enough power or average to be all that great, but he played every day and was cheap production late, so he helped me in a late round kind of way.

In the interim, he's bounced around the league, and completely washed out in San Diego last year. He was never really very good, and now that he's on the south side of his prime, will never, ever be fantasy relevant again...

BUT HE'S IN COLORADO NOW! EXCITEMENT EXCITEMENT EXCITEMENT! INCREDIBLE SLEEPER KNOWLEDGE BASED ON MY PAINSTAKING RESEARCH!

And, um, that doesn't really matter either. He's Jorge Freaking Cantu. He's not going to start the year in the majors. If he does start the year in the majors, it will be on the wrong side of playing time from Todd Helton, who the Rockies are still paying big money to, and who is now, and has always been, better than Jorge Cantu. The benefit of this research will only come into play if I join I league with more teams in it, and deeper rosters than, actual MLB. Either that, or I join a Pacific Coast League fantasy hootenanny. That would also validate my Cantu knowledge.

And of course, it does not stop there. I've read all about the Yankee farmhands. (You know, the ones that never reach the majors without a veteran or six dying of some dread disease.) I can tell you who will be the starting catcher in Houston, as if that has ever mattered to anyone outside of the principals. Need to know Cliff Pennington's worth? I'm your man, and the answer is -- non-existent. Care about the progress of Joe Savery (he's a Phillie farmhand, pitcher, and isn't really up to his name)? Or whether Casey McGehee will beat out Pedro Alvarez for the right to be the Pirate third baseman that no one will draft? I've thought hard about these things. Oh, and Henry Blanco's prospects to be irrelevant for, well, the 12th or 15th or however many years he's played in the majors. They are... very, very good. Airtight.

And yet, because I have to be complete and inefficient and as stupid stupid stupid as the day is long, this will continue. And I will get a few nuggets, many of which I will overplay, all in the name of "this is how it's always done."

When, well, I could just get an untold number of hours of my life back by just cutting to the chase of the end game rankings and sortings, which will happen... on deadline, because I am stupid stupid stupid as the day is long, and have never gotten over the teenaged girl need of cramming for the test on deadline.

So... back to the research! Oooh, look, Jamey Carroll's with the Twins now, and bound to take over the shortstop position while hitting low in the order for a terrible lineup. FILE IT AWAY....

Friday, March 16, 2012

Heel It Up

So there was a minor kerfluffle -- and with that use of that word, I now take the league in all of Blogfrica for its use, a win that will go my tombstone -- about Brad Lidge's fluffery of the Nationals' talent this week. Philly Fan who said that they would always buy the man's drinks for his perfect 2008 championship year now are starting to wonder if they need to spring for top shelf, or if it's OK to spit in it on the way to the table. All because the man didn't miss the bait in a hook question, or want to hear it from his new fan base over how he's not loyal to the colors.

It is, of course, pointles to discuss such things: athletes should be seen and not heard, and the fact that kerfluffles like this exist gets us right back to that soap opera over ball problem that is slowly ruining sports and, well, America. (No, seriously. But that's a whole 'nother diatribe.)

Rather, I want to encourage -- nay, beg -- the next athlete who gets the softball question over what things are like for them now that they are soaking in the local wonderfulness to shoot over the top. Basically, I'm looking for such a slagging of their old haunts as to make everyone, even the dimmest bulb sports reporter (which is to say, a man who has not gotten out of print media by 2012, mostly because he's far too interested in eating "free" food and dressing like a homeless man), realize that they are getting played. So say the following:

> The quality of sunlight is entirely different here, unlike your old town, where God Himself has poisoned the light with his disapproval

> The fact that all of the women in your new area possess superior skin, hair, eyes, teeth and cartilage to the old town

> How franchise fast food just tastes better now, because the workers here possess that championship spirit

> Your utter relief in finding yourself in a city devoid of your old town's accent, which was so thick and dispiriting that you worried about your children's educational development

> That you would never, ever, consider going back to that old hellmouth town, to the point where you are going to refund the portion of your salary that's used for road games in your old city, and take unpaid leave

And, well, so on. Don't let yourself be limited by taste, reality, or decorum. Basically, let these American Heroes be your guide. "That's also not a hair question." Yes, indeed.

Why You Shouldn't Feel Sorry For Blazer Fan Over The Greg Oden Release

So Portland waived Greg Oden today, the one-time first pick in the draft and this generation's Sam Bowie to Kevin Durant's Michael Jordan, and we are, of course, asked to feel badly about all of this. Oden's a nice guy and Portland Fan has suffered much, and no franchise should have a fan base that has to endure the two most monumental draft whiffs in NBA history.

But, well, I'm going to go the other way on this.

This is, after all, the same franchise that has lived high off the hog as the only game in town for 35-plus years, and has monopolized the sports dollars of an area that has grown unmistakably prosperous. Portland really could have had an MLB or NFL team by now; it hasn't, and you have to wonder if the Blazers have had something to do about that.

Next, the fan base. Yes, these folks pack the building and care way too much while giving the Blazers a home court advantage that extends beyond the travel and isolation... but that also means that they've come out for the Ruben Pattersons of the world, as well as the Brandon Roys. Only after the degenerates had run the asylum for years did Blazer Fan object enough to stop coming, and that, of course, let them to where they are today.

Which is the exact other direction, where you bring in a guy like Oden over Durant, as if the latter had any real character issues.

Finally, there's this. The Blazers' owner is Paul Allen. Allen made his fortune as the co-founder of Microsoft, and every mean thing you ever wanted to say about Bill Gates... goes for him, in spades. His vetunre capital fund, Vulcan Ventures, has managed to spread cash like paper all over the hemisphere, and after a few years of it, they cut off the companies that they worked with at the knees, all so Allen can go fund his next little toy. Whether that toy is the Blazers, the Seattle Seahawks, the Jimi Hendrix Museum, it doesn't really matter. The plain and short of it is that while Gates has gone full-bore into effective charitable causes, Allen has continued to chase dollars like a 12-year-old halfwit.

So what, I hear you say; a fool and his money should be parted, and Allen's doing all he can to do the manual lifting. What does it matter, really?

Except for this. In 2000, I joined one of Allen's start ups in Northern California. I really liked the job, the people I worked with, and our mission statement. We were going to free the world from Guitar Center, and if you know anything about the way that place works, and its fundamentalist wet dream mail order gear sidebar business, you'd know that this would be an unimpeachable good thing. We got our funding from Allen, executed the strategy perfectly, burned through the start-up money the way we said we would... and went from 2 full-time employees to 50, and back to 2, in the span of nine months. Because Allen decided that bridge funding for a second round just was not going to happen. For the simple reason that some of Allen's people decided he had enough toys, and this one had to go away.

Which meant that, thanks to believing the lies that Allen and his cronies told us, I had moved my wife and unborn first child to a part of the world where we knew no one. Then had the unspeakable fun of finding a new job in 2 weeks or less, in the teeth of the dot-com bust, because the man who was worth more than most nations could not direct his flunkies to provide for any kind of notice or severance pay while they went off to go spank their monkeys over a Hendrix museum. Just what a man with a six-month old baby and a single income family needs, really.

So, Portland Fan? I'd like to feel bad for you. I'd like to tell you that the fates have conspired you to watch broken-down centers (and, God help you now, Joel Pryzbilla for a second and even less mobile time) while Chicago and Oklahoma City get an inevitable two decades of thrills, playoff wins and championships from the men you passed up. I'd like to tell you that your situation isn't hopeless, that your ownership can change (whoops, just ran off another not to blame coach), and that your division could be had later on, if your young talent develops and stays healthy.

But I'd be lying.

Because you are basically the old-school Clippers, with maybe 5 to 15 more wins a year mixed in, and none of them meaningful. With a guy at the helm who does as much damage to the world as Donald Sterling, only with better press. Your young guys get hurt all the time, because karma exists.

And for as long as you have Johnny Venture Capital at the helm, that's all you deserve.

Lose, Blazers, lose. (And also, folks? Don't buy anything from Guitar Center or Musician's Friend. Moving on.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Center Of Attention

You will excuse Magic Fan if he's not real happy with how this is going down. But it might be -- might be -- a good thing.

Dwight Howard, the defensive hammer and recognized best center in the Association (and thus, the world) is the focus of the whirlwind that is the NBA trade deadline. If Orlando were New York, LA or Boston, this would have reached Lin-Tebow levels of media coverage, but still, it is an awful lot of words about something that hasn't happened. But that's what happens in these situations now, since we like to watch soap opera much more than we like to watch ball.

Predicting the situation is pointless, but the sensible thing to do for Orlando is move him. Everyone thinks he's going to New Jersey with a new stadium to fill, with side plays for rent-to-own teams like Portland, Houston and Boston (yes, this is the Rajon Rondo move that won't die) cropping up. The Knicks, Clippers and Lakers have always been in consideration. But what no one really seems to be discussing is whether Howard *really* matters, because while he might be the best center in the game, I'm not sure that you win with him as the best player on your team. (Oh, and one other thing about anyone who thinks that Brook Lopez is a decent consolation prize? He can't stay healthy and doesn't rebound worth a damn. Kind of a problem for a guy playing center.)

The whole thing seems unreal and astounding, that a young center in the prime of his career might not be relevant to a championship conversation. But, well, no. The free throw problems aren't going away, so if he's your horse, you've got to be ahead late and/or avoid close games, and no one does that while winning a championship. You can get him in foul trouble without too much trouble; he also tends to take technicals that lead to more calls. His offensive game is much better than when he started, but still, not really all that great; he's best served by cleaning up garbage and finishing what a point guard starts. The defensive reputation is stronger than the reality, since the blocks don't stay in bounds. He does get away with a lot of goaltending, though.

And the really naughty thing that we're not allowed to say, because LeBron James hasn't won a title and Kobe Bryant has always tied his rings to having Shaq or Gasol inside to defer attention, and the Spurs won with Duncan and the Celtics won with Garnett and both of those guys had credible sidekick 5s when they weren't doing the job themselves... is that a stud center is merely the finisher in an NBA world where close and late also requires you to be the igniter. The game has changed, and more importantly, big men don't get bailout foul calls, or hit enough of them, to make them the preferred option in close and late.

So that's where the Magic are: more or less forced to make a move, which hardly seems like a good bargaining position... but also moving a guy who is more than a little overrated, in an era where, like the "importance" of a baseball closer, the true value of a dominant center is probably wildly out of line with the actual value. (Especially when, like Howard, his value is problematic.) All I know is that if I was starting a franchise and trying to win a championship in 2012, here are the guys that I'd rather have than him, without even a lot of thinking about it... Kevin Durant. LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Kobe Bryant. Derrick Rose. Russell Westbrook. Chris Paul. Kevin Love. LaMarcus Aldridge.

Then, maybe, Dwight. But only because Pau Gasol seems messed up in the head.

And there has never been, in the history of the Association, a time when you could rattle off 10 guys to answer that question before you got to a center...

DJ's Deal, and the Eagles become the Phillies

So the football laundry did the deal with WR DeSean Jackson today, with a thoroughly sensible 5 year deal for $51 million that doesn't tie the club down too badly in event of injury or ineffectiveness, and gets him in under the gun. You can't argue that he's overpaid, given the insane cash thrown at Calvin Johnson, the better money thrown at Vincent Jackson, and the comparable cash to get Pierre Garcon to DC. And while some diehards in the Eagle world were dreaming of upgrading to Dwyane Bowe to have a more consistent physical presence from your ostensible top guy, or the DJ with Better Attytood from Pittsburgh (Mike Wallace), or even the dumb bunny fun of Randy Moss or Plexico Burress, it's hard not to see how this isn't the "right" move. (They could, of course, still sign Plax. He's not likely to be that expensive.)

DJ knows the system, has produced here in the past, and hasn't gotten so much money that the locker room is going to want to follow his 2011 example of being distracting and distractable. In the realm of diva wideouts, his offenses have been mostly minor; 15-yard flags for dubious touchdown celebrations and inconsistent play is more of the rule, rather than the exception, for the position.

Rather, I'm more interested in what the signing means, especially when you combine it with the Trent Cole and Todd Herremans deals. Across the street, the Phillies have had the best era in their history (by a large margin) by locking down nearly all the windows and doors from core performers. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino are all going to grow old and wealthier in the colors, and one suspects that when the window of opportunity closes, it's going to be with a creaky, ordinary or worse offense and a defense that erodes like a cave formation. But the team has also enjoyed wild success, division dominance, incredible attendance and a ring -- all of which, of course, is more than what the Ship 'Em Out Birds have seen, especially in the seven-plus years of Coach For Life Andy being at the slowly sinking helm.

Maybe the Cole and DJ signings are a new day (though Winston Justice, Juqua Parker and, any minute now, Asante Samuel would argue otherwise). Perhaps the front office, stung by the low batting average of last year's free agent shopping spree, is more interested in taking care of its own men of record. And whether or not that's actually a good thing, since it's a reasonable bet to assume that Cole, DJ and Herremans have all played their best ball already, and will provide diminishing returns over the course of their deals and starting playing time. The fact that this is football, and teams can walk away from commitments with speed (Peyton Manning Colts jersey, anyone?), mitigates the stasis claim, but still, telling.

In the final final on this, I can't help but be happy that DJ got paid, and that I'll continue to be able to root for him. Of course, if he plays badly or gets blown up, or if his otherworldly speed and moves regresses to the level of his questionable hands, route-running and effort, it'll be one more nail in the coffin of Coach For Life. But after the first 200, who's counting?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Top 10 reasons why Mike D'Antoni "resigned"

10) It's worth a wee bit more of him to quit than be fired

9) Somehow wasn't able to win games with a roster of one-dimensional losers

8) There's only so much magic in Jeremy Lin, really

7) Taking money to get away from this mess isn't exactly hard

6) Didn't think much of his chances to hold off the Bucks and Cavs for his chance to get rolled by the Heat in the first round

5) Wanted to make sure that Carmelo Anthony took every ounce of blame for this season

4) Easier for him to get run than the large number of well-paid mediocrities with toxic contracts

3) Greases the skids for the inevitable return of Isiah Thomas, and in that moment, I just made Knick Fan lose his lunch

2) Just didn't have the same, um, magic without Steve Nash

1) For the exact same reason why he took the job in the first place -- a big payday without any kind of actual expectation to win games, or any real threat to his reputation, since no one really expects any coach to win for the Dolan

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Bucks Go All In, The Warriors Go All Out

Tonight in the Association, you get to see that rarest of trades: the one where one team goes into the tank, and the other will soon join them. Fun!

Milwaukee moved Andrew Bogut, Stephen Jackson and a barely contained sense of glee to the Bay Area for shoot-constantly guard Monta Ellis, energy tweener and Scrabble bailout Ekpe Udoh, and the eternal ballast that is Kwame Brown. And while this looks like nothing more than a load up move for the Bucks, I'm not sure this really gets it done, even in the bottom rungs of the Eastern Conference... because the Bucks already had Ellis in undersized "point" guard Brandon Jennings, and the Bucks are, in all likelihood, going to think that they can get away with putting them both on the floor. Which would work if either of them rebounded, but, well, they don't... and even reigning Player of the Week Ersan Ilysasova can't get enough boards to get this moving. They might get to the playoffs now with the Knicks in free fall and the Cavs not quite ready yet, but I'm not sure that's a real benefit, when the Heat await.

Still, I see the Bucks' thinking here: Ellis and Udoh are at least somewhat useful, especially if you can move Jennings to a team that hasn't realized he's a low-percentage use guy rather than someone on the rise, and Udoh's fun to play with. And they gave up, well, nothing. Let's look at that side of things now, shall we?

The centerpiece for the Warriors is Bogut, the onetime first pick in the draft, and the first guy to wear the laundry and play center that won't be an active embarrassment in, well, decades. (Seriously. This franchise now looks fondly back to Erick Dampier.) But that assumes that the burly Aussie can actually stay healthy -- which, as the fact that the Bucks just moved him, is pretty much a guarantee that he can't -- and even when he is on the floor, his value is limited by weak free throw shooting and a shaky handle. He's not bad for a true 5, but the plain and simple fact of the matter is that true 5s are few and far between, and can be taken out of the game entirely by a good up-tempo small lineup.

As for the artist formerly known as Captain Jacks, he might have half a tank of gas and a season of spite towards Scott Skiles to provide some nice moments for the Dubs... but they don't want nice moments. They want losses, and lots of them, to get a very high draft pick to go with the rest of the lineup. And they'll get them... but there's also this.

In Ellis and Stephen Curry, the Dubs basically had similar guys -- shoot first point guards, high volume, with defense issues. Curry is the clearly superior player, since he shoots for great percentages... but he's also made of glass. (Ellis, iron. It's really his best virtue.) By moving the roster to him at 1 and Bogut at 5, the franchise has more or less committed to questions at the most important defensive positions -- and that's just not going to work.

But then again, it's Golden State: they are used to that, right?

Top 10 takeaways from the Brandon Marshall trade

10) Now that Jay Cutler has a guy like Marshall to throw to, the Bears will be as unstoppable as his Bronco teams

9) There is no truth to the rumor that Miami did this just to impress Peyton Manning, unless, of course, it does

8) Marshall's departure means that Miami is going to have to force incomplete end zone lobs to someone else

7) There's absolutely no red flags in sending Marshall, a recovering depressive with a rap sheet as long as your arm, to a hard-nosed city that cares way too much about football

6) This move is really going to help Cutler, especially if Marshall learns how to play on the offensive line

5) Now that Cutler has his old WR, quarterback coach and more influence on play-calling, they just need to provide discreet binkies that look like mouthguards

4) Dolphin Fan will get over this as soon as they realize that they don't need to watch Marshall anymore

3) If the Dolphin roster still looks like this in September, you will have to excuse Darrell Revis from literally falling asleep during the game

2) It's going to be a lot of fun to watch Cutler forcing the ball to Earl Bennett anyway

1) Trading for a franchise wideout is guaranteed to make the Bears a playoff team, even more than trading for a franchise quarterback and signing a franchise defensive end

In Sports Blogging, This Is What We Call A Lay Up

No, I didn't use Photoshop to make this. It actually exists.

And if you somehow haven't gotten the joke yet, look harder at the author.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

Clipper Fan Clipped

So all we've heard this year in the Association is how things in ClipperLand have changed. The sexiest team in the league! Lob City! Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, and gosh, aren't they more fun than the old sad Lakers. Tickets are hot! It's the new new thing in the town that cares more about new and sexy tha any other market in the country.

And what happened tonight in the Staples Center, with the Clips in the middle of a six game homestand, in the thick of the Pacific Division race? It was a home game for Boston, with loud and proud Green fans being plainly heard all throughout the building for most of the night, and especially in crunch time. And I'm not saying that this had any impact in the eventual Clipper loss, where the home team was down 10 in the fourth, took a four point lead, then got worked like a brown belt.

How bad was it? Clipper players were jeered for airballs. The place erupted when Ray Allen returned from an injury late. You could hear Griffin getting heckled at the line. All for a Celtics team that looks DOA, that gave up a late lead on this very floor to lose the Lakers.

I get that Boston Fan is everywhere; after all, leaving Boston is a time-honored tradition among people who have to tell you how wonderful the place is. I also get that they have money, seeing as how they were able to get the hell out of Boston. But dammit, Clipper Fan, you had a clear opportunity tonight, on national television (yest, the Lemur counts). I also get that you don't really exist, since your franchise has been a sad exploitative joke, ran by the most venal man in the history of NBA ownership (a high standard, that), and that the temptation to scalp this ticket had to be a new and unique experience for you.

But, um, still. It's Boston. The team that every decent NBA fan should hate. And you have them a de facto home game when they needed it most, and got the result you deserve.

And one more reason, not that they are going to be lacking for them, when Paul and Griffin can think about a free agent escape elsewhere...

Top 12 reasons why the Niners signed Randy Moss

12) His track record in Oakland just speaks for itself

11) With the Bay Area's strict laws against the improper use of medicinal marijuana, his former usage won't be any kind of an issue

10) Didn't exactly learn their lesson from the Braylon Edwards Experience

9) Michael Crabtree is just crying out for a mentor, really

8) 35-year-old speed wideouts with attitude problems always get better with age

7) Unlike his previous stints for the Vikings, Raiders, Patriots, Vikings and Titans, he's promised to try this time

6) Haven't done anything to undermine Alex Smith in months

5) Believe that, with him, they can double or even triple their WR output from the NFC Championship game (1 catch, 3 yards)

4) If they can get him just one touchdown, he passes Terrell Owens for second on the NFL career list, which is just a special little moment, really

3) Think he's the best fit for their needs, because there are no other WRs of note available in free agency

2) Jim Harbaugh thought last year's team was far too easy to manage

1) Certain that a QB who doesn't throw deep, when paired with a WR who doesn't run hard, is sure to stretch the field and make everything easier for the rest of the offense

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Top Ten Ways To Avoid Talking About The NCAA Tournament

Are you like me, Dear Reader, and have no actual rooting interest in March Madness, but are surrounded by a world of people who want to talk about it? Here are my ten simple tricks for avoiding the conversation, honed over two decades of weaning myself away from this timewaste. Share and enjoy!

10) Homer The Brave. I went to Syracuse a lifetime ago, and cared about the game when I was there. So when someone wants to ask me about my bracket, I get into the minutiae of the Orange (it's easy: just talk about the matchup zone), and how you just can't pick a bracket, because it feels like you're betraying your team. And the truly joyous thing about my particular laundry is that more than half of the time, you get to be done in a weekend. Just like 95% of the people who pick a bracket!

9) Crazy dark horse. This is also known as the Gonzaga Gambit, where you just pick some 12 seed or higher at random and loudly claim them as your own. The only downside is that if they actually win through for a week, you'll have any number of people asking you for tips moving forward. For the most part, ten seconds of wide-eyed blathering about New Mexico State will get your day back.

8) Bitter Man. Pick a team, any team, that was on the bubble, and just rant away about how badly they were screwed. For locals to my usual laundry, this would be the Drexel Dragons, who lost in their conference championship game and were denied an at-large berth. So what if they were going to be rolled by some 4 seed, and forgotten almost immediately? Their exclusion ruins the whole tournament for you.

7) Downtown snob. This one's actually close to how I actually feel about the college game, in that the three point line is so close that it more or less ruins it for you. Rewarding the offense for settling for long jumpers is, well, anathema to how basketball should be played, and part of the reason why the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Hell in a handbasket, I tell you!

6) High school hijinks. Why limit yourself to the 68 teams (don't get me started) in NCAA Division I ball, when you can delve into the rich loam of the hundreds (nay, thousands) of even pimplier slave labor? Just start going off on how Oak Hill Academy really has heart and kids caring about the game and coaches teaching the right way, and turn every tedious college vs. pro argument against your tournament enthusiast. Plus, you can probably play the better athletes card. That's always fun.

5) Go Euro.
Why endure the machinations of some big conference, when you can just talk about how much you are enjoying Barcelona's year? Just because the other person doesn't know anything about your team -- and doesn't care -- doesn't mean you can't waste their time. For added fun, draw up your own bracket with made up team names, and see if you can get someone to pick a pool. So what if Dusseldorf doesn't have a team?

4) Uber Geek. Let's face it; most people aren't picking their bracket with more than hour or two of thought behind it. So instead of naming your Final Four, just go off on how the RPI index is flawed, the usage rate of teams who play zone against man to man, and how every tournament since 1998 can be predicted by VORP from the starting backcourt, or assist to turnover to technical ratio. The only drawback is if you run into another Uber Geek, at which point you'll need to employ a hose to get them off your leg.

3) Alice from Accounting. Everyone who has ever picked a pool has been here: beaten by some office halfwit who picks her bracket by which of her friends' kids went to which school, who has the nicest uniforms, and which ones are, like her, Jesuit. So why not become this person and drive them screaming from your midst? It's fun and frequently profitable, and has the added benefit of causing brain damage and alcoholism. That makes you look better at work by comparison!

2) Super Stitious. I can't tell you my bracket, because that jinxes it. Every year, I fill it out, put it in the same locked fire safe, then look at it only after the championsiop game. And I've won for five straight years, so I'm not starting now. So no, I can't talk to ANYONE about my bracket, or anyone else's. (Put fingers in ears, says NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH BOO BOO, repeat until left alone. You're welcome.)

1) Gamblers Anonymous. In the core of every casual better is a fear that the practice will become a problem, and they'll really get hurt over some bets. So when someone asks you who you like, just give a flinch or twitch, clutch some imaginary time coin in your pocket, and talk about how you hit bottom but got help, and maybe your questioner wants to take in a meeting with you. Short of asking someone to talk to you about eternal salvation, there's really no faster way to peace and quiet. Just be sure you didn't really want this guy at your poker night, or in your fantasy league...

Woo, Williams

One more very good time watching the Sixers v. Knicks game today, with my road laundry sending the Manhattan Frauds to their fifth straight loss, and driving one more spike home to winning the division. The final was 106-94, and honestly, it shouldn't have been that close. Fun stuff included:

> The continuing blossoming of Evan Turner, who went 24-15-2, put further rest to the idea that he can't play with Andre Iguodala, and might be the best rebounding guard in the league (15 is his new career high)

> JR Smith, who somehow got on the floor for 23 minutes of 4 for 13 backbreaking misses and general malaise -- still like your bench of many bad options, Knick Fan?

> Iguodala battling the refs and Carmelo Anthony for a 19/7/8 game with 4 steals, or in other words, the classic AI2 game

> Elton Brand celebrating his 33rd birthday with a tidy 13-8-2-2-2 line (assists, steals, blocks) despite, once again, the refs

> Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak looking like the 15 minutes of fame are ending; Lin went 14-3-7 with 5 of 18 shooting and 6 turnovers, and Novak not doing much that was special, either

> Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Baron Davis combining to go -44 in their court time

But the real story was Lou Williams, the team's leading scorer despite being, correctly, a bench player. Lou's a hit or miss guy who didn't miss much at all today, going 10 of 19 from the floor and 3 for 5 from the arc. Fourteen of those points came in the third, when the Sixers drove the Knicks' stars out of the game, and turned Knick Fan into all kinds of booing upset. Good times.

The sad fact about New York is that they only look good when the money is off the floor. With 8 minutes left and the Sixers looking to add to their NBA-leading total of 20-point wins, Mike D'Antoni finally went with the Lin- Landry Fields - Tyson Chandler - Novak foursome that best approximates the February magic (the fifth member was Smith, who honestly, I have no idea why he was on the floor, other than D'Antoni wanting to teach his moneyed men some kind of lesson). The Knicks trapped and scrambled to add mild drama, but Smith did his tragic magic late, and while the Sixers can look weak at moments against a press, it doesn't work for long, because everyone moves the ball, and they usually have two good ball handlers on the floor at all times. It's not easy to trap any team in the NBA for long, let alone the one that leads the league in fewest turnovers committed.

(Another thing: the refs in this game were rank. There were at least a half-dozen shaky and late calls, multiple technicals that seemed gratuitous, and a choppy feel that put a number of guys in foul trouble without feeling like they earned it. I get that the Knicks are the most T'd up team in the league, and will drive men to distraction, but still. Jrue Holiday fouled out of this game, and I'm still trying to figure out how. Honestly, it felt as if the refs were trying to keep this close.)

One last point about New York, and the continuing doom that Anthony is walking into... for much of this game, when the Knicks' starters were in, Anthony and Fields were the only guys giving my laundry problems, and in the third quarter, that was Anthony only. You can say that he doesn't make his teammates better, or that his poor attitude rubs off on other guys, but the Knicks shot 26 free throws today, and Anthony had 12 of those. 22-9-3 with one turnover should not get you blamed, but it will. The real problem for New York is that if Lin isn't special, neither are they. And the phenom hasn't been for weeks now.

But all of that shouldn't take away from the fact that the Sixers played well, and are just a better team, really. They shot over 50% from the floor on a day where Jrue Holiday couldn't put it in the ocean. They limited the Knicks to 16 assists on 16 tunovers, matched them on the boards, and had more than a little to do with NY going 41% from the floor. They are going to win the Atlantic for the first time in a decade, host a playoff series against a team they should beat, and... probably end right after that. But for this franchise, Final 8 tastes like cream. And anything that takes New York and Boston down a peg is to be encouraged. Hard.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Top 10 reasons why the Jets signed Mark Sanchez

10) Confident that if they pay him like a top QB, he'll magically become one

9) Best way to save face from the inevitable Peyton Manning rejection

8) Were bidding against themselves, and the Jets have very deep pockets

7) Think this is the way to really send a message to Santonio Holmes

6) He was their only effective running back in the red zone last year

5) Believe that paying nearly $15 million per playoff win is entirely justifiable

4) Really think he can be the best QB in the franchise's history, which says a lot more about the franchise than it does Sanchez

3) Secretly really excited to see what boneheaded thing he does next, as they own a stake in Deadspin and TMZ

2) By the incredibly poor standards of USC quarterbacks, he's doing great

1) Didn't want to scrap everything they had into a new offensive system that might, you know, actually work one of these years

Top 10 reasons why the Redkins traded for the #2 pick in the draft

10) After multiple years of watching Rex Grossman and John Beck, you'd be prone to desperate and rash actions as well

9) Robert Griffin III is so fast he doesn't need an offensive line, or wideouts

8) Winning the headlines in March is the only real goal for this franchise

7) It's not as if the Redskins picks could possibly be very very high in subsequent drafts

6) Just got tired of never having their quarterback drafted in fantasy leagues

5) Needed to remind everyone that they were still in the league

4) Totally convinced they can turn the pick around and trade it for even better picks from some even stupider team

3) Completely impressed by the quality and severity of this year's hype about the available QBs, which is totally unlike any other year's hype about the available QBs

2) Really didn't want to be mocked for mortgaging the future for a broken-down has-been QB when they could do it for an unproven never-was

1) It takes increasingly drastic moves to make Redskins Fan remember that the ownership has not changed, and that they are, in fact, doomed

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