Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Most Known Unknown Interview Series: Matt Ufford

Today's interview requires some introduction. On May 10 at 7:00 EST, I will be co-hosting a three-hour program on my student radio station devoted to my favorite thing ever: shitty music videos from the eighties featuring football teams rapping. You want an example? You know damn well you do:

It'll stream over the Internet and I'll try to post the show afterwards, but I thought I might give you a taste by posting one of the interviews I've conducted uncut and unedited. Specifically, With Leather's Matt Ufford, alias Kissing Suzy Kolber's Captain Caveman. With Leather has accounted for at least half of the songs I'll be playing thanks to its many posts on precisely that topic, and as such Mr. Ufford has to be considered the preeminent expert in the field of shitty sports rap songs. If you've been waiting all your life for a half-hour discussion of that particular topic, you're in luck. Also, I managed to Lead him into The Big question, if you know what I mean. Wait, let me restate that: I managed to Lead him into The Big question. Am I not just deliciously subtle? Without further ado...

Play them classics!

[Note: I just realized that this whole thing is totally proof that bloggers and mainstream media types CAN in fact get along. They can even discuss issues and stuff. As long as you define "mainstream media" as "random dude at a college radio station" and "issues" as "hilarious YouTube videos." Sounds about right.]

You know what they say

Opinions are like assholes...Buzz Bissinger eats them everybody's got one.

As you might guess from that opener, this post is:

A. About the Costas/Leitch/Bissinger/Braylon Edwards (mostly Braylon Edwards) debacle
B. Judging by the forced gay joke, likely to play into every stereotype imaginable about bloggers

I almost feel duty-bound to write this post, as though we wouldn't be a legitimate sports blog if we didn't chime in with our two cents (I mean, we're not a legitimate sports blog anyway, but it's nice to have a dream). I've read a handful of posts on other blogs about this. Some I agreed with, others I heartily disagreed with. Some made me think, some made me laugh, some made me scratch my head. According to the formula, I think it's here where I say, "You know...just like blogs in general." But eh, that's not really my point.

I should probably stop here quickly and say, whatever else my feelings might be, I'm totally and horribly biased about all of this. On pretty much any issue, I will side with Will Leitch. I've met the guy (briefly), I've interviewed him (as you can see on the sidebar), and he once linked to a post I wrote, which remains easily the biggest (and almost only) exposure this blog has gotten. So as far as I'm concerned, Will Leitch is totally and utterly the shit. Just wanted to spell that out.

Since I'm being totally honest, I'll admit right now I haven't watched the various YouTube clips of all this. That's right folks - I am embodying the bad blogger stereotype to the motherfucking T by writing about something I haven't even bothered to research. Look, I watched all of season two of Extras over a couple days a month or so ago, so I think I've reached my "excruciating awkwardness" quota for a good long while. So, um, yeah. I have no business saying anything about anything.

BUT...and this may not be much of a but...I can't really figure out what the big deal is. I mean, sure, if you enjoy watching the video, more power to you. I'm certainly not going to make the slightest judgment for enjoying the occasional (or even not so occasional) embedded video:

And I certainly can't be accused of having good taste. More on the above video (and others like it) in an upcoming post, though.

Anyway, I appreciate that the whole brouhaha (KSK already took "hullabaloo") has made for its own brand of surreal entertainment, but what I don't get is why so many bloggers have felt the need to address the issues raised by the likes of Bissinger. There probably was a time awhile ago where it was worth actually responding to the arguments put forth by the mainstream media (and yes, occasionally they were arguments, not just random frothing), but the debate hasn't moved on one inch in the intervening time. So really, what's the point?

Because really, I'm far from convinced the MSM and the blogs are in direct competition anyway. Blogs remain fairly niche entities; even a site with robust traffic like Deadspin pales in comparison to what ESPN gets. I certainly wouldn't object if Deadspin (or if I can be openly delusional, this little blog) enjoyed the same kind of traffic ESPN gets - Mr. Leitch certainly deserves it, assuming he even would want the attendant pressure - but that isn't happening anytime soon, I don't think. Bissinger's job, whatever he might think, is safe. It isn't threatened by the likes of us, and there's no need to ambush Will Leitch in some half-baked attempt to stop the demise of old media. And honestly, I'm pretty happy with the current situation.

I suppose there could be something "elitist" about what I'm arguing - and I'm aware what I'm arguing is maybe tangential to the whole Bissinger issue, but if you've got nothing better to do (and if you're reading this blog, I suspect you don't) stay with me here - but I'm pretty sure it's not. Elitist, that is. (Sorry, got a little lost in that sentence.) And not just because I like to reserve the word "elitist" for condescending generalizations about Pennsylvanians. You know, like "Pennsylvanians start reading Buzz Bissinger columns because they're bitter and poor and assholes."

Anyway, I don't think the fact that I like blogs having a smaller audience is elitist, at least not necessarily. The cool thing is that blogs lack a built-in audience; they have to sink or swim on their own merits in a way that, say, a Gene Wojciechowski column doesn't. Because Mr. Wojciechowski's column has the ESPN brand on it, people will read it. Lots of people. Some will like it, some will hate it, and some will waste hours of their dwindling lives making fun of it (hey, that reminds me...). But the readership it gets isn't really a reflection of its own quality. It's a reflection of the ESPN brand.

And yes, this exists with blogs to a certain extent. Robert Weintraub is proof enough of that. You can argue that for lots of little blogs (like this one), the only realistic way they'll get traffic these days is to score a link from a bigger blog. But there's a reason the likes of Awful Announcing, Every Day Should Be Saturday, and Fire Joe Morgan keep getting linked and I don't, and that's because they're, well, better. I'm OK with that. I love reading a Ken Tremendous post and not even being able to work out how someone could come up with something that creative. It's written magic, I guess, and it's riveting to read. Also, it's funny and has swearing, which I'm a fucking fan of.

So I think there's a sorting mechanism, an imperfect but fairly robust meritocracy at work among the blogs. Blogs are a niche thing that appeals to a certain subset of sports fans - the adjective I think I'll choose is "irreverent", although "fucking awesome" is good too - and come in all shapes and sizes. They'll never replace the mainstream media because they're fundamentally different things. And I have to say, thank goodness on both counts. And I can't help but draw the conclusion from all that that it really doesn't matter what Rick Reilly, Bob Costas, or Buzz Bissinger think. Unless a funny post can be made of making fun of them, of course. But to treat their criticisms seriously? Eh, I'll pass.

And yet...I just did. That's some tasty hypocrisy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Empty Journalism currently has a 2009 NFL Mock Draft as the lead item on their website. And you know it's getting 12 Million hits, because idiots like me will read anything that says "mock draft". But good lord, I cannot think of a dumber premise (2010, 2011 etc. mock drafts notwithstanding). For fun/reference, last year's attempt:

1. D-Mac, Oakland (excellent, excellent call)
2. Jake Long, Houston (good call on the player)
3. Brohm, Vikings (swingandamiss)
4. Calais Campbell, Lions (no)
5. Sam Baker, Bucs (no)
6. Chad Henne, Dolphins (weird)

And on and on and on. Dorsey went at 14, the Saints were in the Super Bowl, one of the projections entered the supplemental draft, at least two weren't drafted at all, there was one junior that didn't come out, and in total he pegged only 12 guys correctly as first rounders (never mind position in the first round or team or selection order).

I don't even know what I'm complaining about; I think it's just the fact that they put guesswork of the most futile kind up as the first thing any visitor would see.

Edit: Also, in this year's version, he's projecting a trade. This is so meaningless I just had multiple organ failure.

Editty Edit: I guess I should explain myself. I don't mind the "watch out for these prospects" articles. I just think it's fucking ridiculous to make an article out of pinpointing their exact order and destined team.

Monday, April 28, 2008


So there's a solid article on the Canucks' website about 2006 first-round draft pick Michael Grabner. The headline on the main page is

A Career Changer for Grabner

From there we get:

Manitoba rookie forward Michael Grabner wanted a hobby in the middle of the season. Well, maybe “wanted” is over-stating it. He really needed it.

Hmm. Bored in Winnipeg. Shocker.

He had a lot of free time since Moose coach Scott Arniel was cutting into his minutes. He had to find something to stimulate some growth, since he had wasted down to 171 pounds from his normal weight of 185.

Uh huh. Mesmerizing.

This is the part of the tale where your typical hotshot prospect invests in a good video game system, or maybe buys a new car.

I guess.

Grabner took a different route. He joined a gym near his Winnipeg residence. After all, what could be better after a regular practice and lifting session than doing a couple more hours of cardio and weights?

Oh. Wait. mean he joined a...a gym? Like...a place to work out? Yes? And Michael Grabner is an inspirational 12-year-old boy who had his arm amputated after a lawn tractor accident? No? He's a professional goddamn athlete whose only real job is to maintain his physical fitness? That merited an article? That's the first thing visitor's to the site will see? For a team that just hired a new GM? Really?

Amateur Hour's currently claiming the NFL has 30 teams.

We have all the time in the world...

So Atlanta has just stricken another blow against the tyranny of Boston sports douchiosity by evening their series with the Celtics. Sic Semper Douchianis! But that's not what this post or blog are about. This blog is about idiots like Mike Fratello.

With 4.3 seconds left, Celtics trailing by three, and the Hawks have the basketball. Neither team has any timeouts and Mike Fratello drops this nugget of wisdom on us (and I paraphrase):

Four and a half seconds remaining. Plenty of time here. No more timeouts left for either team.


This is why Erik Spoelstra is coaching the Miami Heat today and Mike Fratello is calling the Boston-Atlanta series on TNT. Those who can, coach. Those who can't, color commentate.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

52 52 52 Week #10: Delaware

In which I examine crappy local sports journalism on a state-by-state basis, progressing through the states in terms of an alphabetical ordering of the heights of their tallest points. Because I can.

I think it's fair to say that Delaware has a reputation for being a bit, you know, boring. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that reputation is pretty much completely deserved. I mean, I live pretty near the state, and damned if I could ever work out anything fun to do there. Of course, I'm not a beach person, and I guess Delaware has beaches. I guess.

Of course, there's always the chance Delaware's highpoint will redeem the boring lower elevations of the state. It's all up to you and your 448 feet, Ebright Azimuth. Hey, that sounds like a pretty interesting name, right? Kinda mystical and otherworldly, I'd say. I think we're onto something here. Let's check the fast facts:

1. It's the second lowest highpoint of any state. Huh. Second lowest isn't really that interesting, is it? Maybe if it were the lowest, but, well, it isn't. Let's try again.

2. The exact elevation is 447.35 feet. There's actually a trailer park a couple miles away that is about 450 feet, but those extra couple of feet are the result of man-made construction, so surveyors don't count them. No, that's way too pedantic to be interesting. Look, what about the thing's name? That has got to be interesting.

3. The "Ebright" is actually named after the road that the highpoint is near, which in turn is named after a local family. "Azimuth" is actually just the horizontal component of direction. Damn it, Delaware, "Azimuth" should have been a demon or some shit. Or maybe a slurred mispronunciation of my favorite science fiction author. You know what, Delaware? I'm just going to assume that is where the name came from. So you're off the hook as far as my fevered imagination goes.

This week's entry comes from The Wilmington News Journal, which is pretty much the only newspaper in Delaware that actually has a sports section. So yeah, it's got that going for it. The writer in question is one Joe Levine, who has some thoughts on the NFL Draft, which as you may or may not have heard went down this weekend. You might think Joe would be pretty pumped, considering Delaware's stud quarterback Joe Flacco got taken in the first round by a reasonably local team. Of course, if you do think that, you don't know Joe Levine. Shame on you, reader, for not knowing that. Shame on you.

That sonic boom you felt Saturday afternoon was the first round of the NFL draft flying by. In case you missed it, literally, teams in the first round this year had a mere 10 minutes, instead of the usual 15, to make their individual selections.

Ha ha! Sonic boom! That's ridiculously fast, which means Joe is mocking the NFL draft for barely improving the speed of the draft! Brilliant!

Of course, the NFL couldn't be totally sensible. The draft didn't start until 3 p.m. There is nothing more peaceful than going to sleep to the sounds of Mel Kiper Jr.

Of course, it did end by like 9:30. Unless you live in Suriname (UTC-3 peeps represent!), that really shouldn't be late enough to put you to sleep, especially when it's your, you know, job to stay awake and cover this thing. Or can we take it from this that you, Joe Levine, are hideously, hideously old? We better be able to, because that's what I'm doing.

If I was commissioner for a day -- scratch that; I need just 10 minutes --

It'd take you only ten minutes to suspend all the black players? That's pretty fast. No, wait, sorry, you're not Roger Goodell. My mistake. Carry on.

here's how I'd make the draft more fun:

Please say bikini cheerleaders, please say bikini cheerleaders, please say bikini cheerleaders...

(By the way, you're welcome. Consider that my apology for not posting lately.)

1. Two minutes per pick for every round, with three five-minute "timeouts" per team for trade talk. Simply put, if you're a general manager you have three choices -- trade your pick, fill a need or take the best talent on the board. There is no Plan D.

Look, I'm all for speeding things up a bit, I guess, but let's not trivialize this. I mean, this is the future of the franchise (and, by extension, the jobs of the people who make the draft decisions) we're talking about here. Not really sure you should be rushing things.

Yes, the draft is a pile of dominoes, but if Yahoo can figure out how to automate a fantasy baseball draft for hacks like me, you can figure what to do when the guy you wanted as your backup weakside linebacker goes to Detroit instead.

And those automated drafts pretty consistently generate shitty teams. That's especially true in the draft, where you need to draft for specific needs while not reaching too badly if there isn't a clear answer at the position you want. Also, I like how "weakside linebacker" is being used with the same old school derision for technicalities usually reserved for the likes of "VORP." You know what a weakside linebacker is? Fucking egghead!

(Good tip -- if Detroit takes him, you may have been wrong about the guy, anyway.)

That's a fucking burn right there. But at least no one can take Matt Millen's amazing rapping prowess away from him:

That's the real legacy Chris Long has inherited: the coveted title of Whitest Rapper Ever.

2. No draft signings before draft day. The suspense of the first pick is fun, but even more fun is when the team you hate has the first pick but can't sign him.

And wanted the draft to go quicker? Because theoretically you could require teams that have already signed their players to immediately announce their pick. Question of priorities, I guess. Let me see if I've got these straight:

Joe Levine's Official Draft Priorities
1. Schadenfreude
2. Keeping it short
3. Keeping it real

Not a bad board. But where oh where are the bikini cheerleaders?

3. At this point, there is no college football player at any level in any hemisphere that Kiper hasn't heard of. Let's put Kiper on the clock. From now on, he gets two months to do his scouting. We'll send him to a Caribbean island for the other 10 months, but it won't have Internet, cell phone or cable TV service. Just once, I want to hear Kiper react to a selection by saying, "I have no idea who this guy is."

At first, I thought he wanted Kiper to draft all the players for all the teams, which I'm pretty sure a quick analysis of Kiper's mock draft history would reveal to be a laughably bad idea (maybe not any more laughably bad than letting the likes of Matt Millen pick, but still). But instead he's just proposing Mel Kiper disappear for most of the year. Which is actually a kind of novel way of restating the hacky "You think they just freeze Mel Kiper until the draft?" joke that always gets, well, unfrozen right before the draft. You know, to keep it fresh.

4. Retire Chris Berman, hire a wardrobe consultant for Keyshawn Johnson and let Dick Vitale participate.

Let's diagram this plan...

1. Get rid of an incredibly insufferable idiot who kind of knows the NFL
2. Work on Keyshawn Johnson's aesthetics while ignoring the shit spewing out of his mouth
3. Hire the most incredibly insufferable idiot imaginable who barely knows anything about his chosen sport of college basketball, let alone the NFL

Strategic brilliance, yes sir. If they were doing it today, I'm guessing they'd call the Marshall Plan the Joe Levine Plan. It would involve dropping Mel Kiper over East Berlin. I would approve.

5. Require any prospective picks who are present at the draft to let TV viewers listen in on their cell phone conversations.

Don't you think the FCC has enough to worry about already? You never know when Bono might go back to the Golden Globes, after all...

6. The team with the first pick hosts the draft each year. Combined with suggestion No. 2, this is sure to produce a ton of boos, no matter whom the team picks.

I'll one-up you, Mr. Joe Levine. Let's just give all the first round picks to the New York Jets. Somehow, they will manage to screw up every single pick, and a great city will burn before the night is out. Colt Brennan with the second pick? Kevin Smith at number five? Adrian Arrington at thirteen? Don't mind if I do!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Marty Burns oughta probably stop

The Bears filled one of their big needs already with the selection of offensive tackle Chris Williams at No. 14. It looks as if they might be able to fill another at WR with the No. 44 pick. Several receivers projected to go in the first round have slipped into the second, meaning a value pick should be available when Chicago gets to select again.

Oops again!

Update: Marty's forgiven:

With their only pick of the second round the Bears select ... Matt Forte of Tulane? First a tackle from Vanderbilt. Now a running back from Tulane. What are they trying to do, raise the team GPA?

Forte's pick has to be considered a surprise considering all the receivers on the board, as well as quarterbacks Chad Henne and Brian Brohm. Bears fans are going to have to be sold on this one. Angelo must be trying to light a fire under Cedric Benson. --Marty Burns

Seriously, I don't want to make this into my own person draft analysis, but Matt Ryan's good enough for the #3 overall pick, and Brohm and Henne have lasted into the 50s?

Hard to really rip him for it

Seeing as he mostly covers the NBA, I think, but we get this solid prediction from Marty Burns:

The Bears' big decision on whether to go for help on the offensive line, or at the skill positions, has been made easy. It looks as if they might have their choice of top-10 graded Branden Albert or Jeff Otah. Incredible.

Oops. To be fair, he got the position right.

In other news, is claiming to have 13 writers in 10 cities. The tally:

Los Angeles
New York (x4)
"Arizona" (sic, I guess--Arash Markazi never was that good at geography)
Tampa Bay (not a city)
and....Long Island and New Jersey. Forgetting the questionable city status of those two ( 60% of what we say are cities actually are!) seem a bit of a stretch to differentiate those from New York. They should have taken credit for the four different chairs the New York writers are sitting in.

They've added a guy in Kansas City, so it's 14 and 11 now. In hindsight, wouldn't it have made sense to have a guy there in the first place, what with 2 top-20 picks and all? Whatever, SI.

Anyway, how many people think the post-draft "grades" will give the Chiefs an A+++ and the Jags a B-? Oooooo, Derrick Harvey, that's a reach!

Ah, Grand. That's the PK I know.

Or is it? I keep getting tripped up with this draft liveblog. I mean, it includes the line

He'll take a shot in the face and get back up.

...and it's Peter King talking about a white QB? Not the other way around?** ¿Que? Anyway, some of these writers are pretty good; no word yet from the Kingette, but the Giants have to pick some time.

Oop, update. From his 4:23 post, Peter has this to say:

It's amazing to me that the Jags saved their second-round pick in the deal, surrendering two third-round picks and a fourth- in the deal.

And if that makes grammatical sense to you, you're a smarter person than I.

**Fine, he's quoting a third party...but still. Nutsonhischin, is all I'm saying.

Holy Eff

Djmmm and I just had the same damn idea. I like where this is going.

Anyway, guess where they put Peter King for this one. No, not quite Dildo, Newfoundland. But a close second. He's in Flowery Branch, GA, because making "Peter King is gay" jokes wasn't quite easy enough for people like me. He hasn't said anything stupid yet, but I think he might have forgotten how the language works:

There's a multiple-TV-truck draft-day buzz here 53 minutes before the draft, and thanks to heavens for sending extra second-round picks for DeAngelo Hall (34th overall) and Matt Schaub (48th) and an extra, compensator third-rounder (98th, for Patrick Kerney, who the former regime should never let leave, by the way). Four picks in the top 48, seven in the top 103. They want to come away with four starters, at least.

Quick league stuff from a cauliflower-eared phone night, and less this morning:..

Whatever dude.


I just tuned in and already we've got a couple of doozies. Kirk Herbstreit referred to Matt Ryan as having intangibles that are "off the chart." Really? We can chart intangibles now?!? Like in Excel?!?


Okay I'm done. Diane Long, Chris's mom, was asked by Suzy Kolber what Chris inherited from his mom. In what I hope was tongue in cheek, she said something about energy and "motor." God, the draft rules.

Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and liveblog this thing, cos I mean if Bill Simmons can do this stuff, so can I. Passive Voice and Archie Micklewhite MAY be joining us, but who knows. Enjoy the draft!

2:35 PM Berman keeps telling everyone "Happy Draft!" Does he think that this is an actual holiday? Certainly feels like it to me...


I think I might liveblog a liveblog. I feel like this could be some sort pathetic thing folks like me will do all the time in the future! Get on the bandwagon while there are seats left, people.

Elizabeth McGarr is thinking a Kingesque "5 things" on her way to the Giants' headquarters. Two are informative, one is not, one is this:

3. How late did Reese stay up last night?

and one is this:

5. For people who aren't from New York, driving through -- heck, even merging into -- the Lincoln Tunnel can be a harrowing experience. If only the subway went out to the Meadowlands...

Good God. Making lame jokes that end up sounding like weird intrusions into people's personal lives, bitching about traveling, thinking about a lot of generally stupid shit that has no bearing on football...Whatever Peter King's selling, this bitch is buying wholesale.

Don Banks is Good at Math, or alternatively, NITPICK NITPICK NITPICK

Don "Donnie Brisco lulz rowlflflf hahahah good one Peter" Banks is in Crazytown (remember that band? The "butterfly" one?) USA to cover the Cowboys' draft for the liveblog. He has this to say:

They need a running back to pair with Marion Barber, another cornerback (even if Jones gets to play this year), and a receiver who can both get open and lower the median age at a position populated by Class of 1996 draft picks Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn.

The Cowboys' current roster lists WRs aged 34, 33, 29, 25, 23, 23, 23, for a median of 25. Bringing in a 21ish rookie would lower that to....24.

Supposing he's just counting TO and Glenn, bringing in the rookie would lower THAT median from 33.5 all the way to 33.

Anyway, do we all know what he's talking about (average, or mean)? Yes. Is he allowed to throw around words in an incorrect manner? Probably yeah, actually. I mean, I've gotta be the only person in the world with the time on his hands to write a blog post like this. Whatever, the draft's here and I'm feeling good because someone is going to spend $10 trillion on Vernon Gholston's "potential" and that one drive Matt Ryan did at Virginia Tech.

Additional Weirdness from the liveblog:

Every mock draft east of Bhopal, India seems to have the Cowboys taking Arkansas running back Felix Jones at No. 22, and then going cornerback at No. 28

Not like those idiots in Vadodara, am I right? They don't know shit!

And also this:

Draft weekend for me started about 41 hours ago when Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck shared their fondness for butt

I got to about here, and I quickly thought "Oh, Peter King" and prepared myself for the words "hole stimulation by means of a sportswriter's tongue". So imagine my surprise at seeing:
pads with a room full of corporate bigwigs.

Needless to say, I was devastated. The good news is that the writer, one Dominic Bonvissuto, doesn't seem like a complete chump.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Late Great Bill Walsh

Bill Walsh is still dead. Let the record show that I have thought for some time that he was the most overrated coach in the history of overrated coaches. His "innovative" West Coast offense? Yeah, the '72 Dolphins that everyone loves to hate now was running that offense under Don Shula and Howard Schnellenberger.

In any case, now that Sports Illustrated has opened its digital archive, we can go back and see exactly what was written ten years ago. Remember back when people were wondering if the Colts should take Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf with the first overall pick in 1998? Peter King asked Bill Walsh who he would take and Bill Walsh's answer was "NEITHER!"

"I don't see Favre or Elway," Walsh says. "I see those guys on the next level. But Manning seems to be more pro-ready than Leaf."

The oft-quirky Walsh was the only one of the six experts who said he wouldn't take Manning with the first choice. "I'd pick another top player," he says, "and then I'd take [Michigan quarterback] Brian Griese in the second round. I think he could have the tools to be special."

I hate to kick a guy when he's dead, but considering the bright ol' halo glowing around Walsh's head, I think it's always good to put these things in perspective. Hang on let me go to all caps here:


The point isn't just that Bill Walsh wasn't the genius that people thought he was. The point is, and this is particularly important to remember this weekend, that nobody really knows what's what until a long time after the draft is done.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Frank Deford = Andy Rooney

I've never seen the two of them in the same room at the same time, so I'm going to go ahead and assume that they are, in fact, the same person. This piece over at seems to support this half-baked idea.

Possibly because I'm scared of technology, I'm not always pleased by what are called "advances" in our society. Sometimes I think we were better off in more innocent times -- which is, to say, back when I could understand stuff better.

This is really like shooting fish in a barrel. At least Frank's being honest.

Actually, I consider myself secular Amish.

Really? So you don't accept any government insurance, Social Security benefits, or use electricity? Oh I see what you did. You just pigeon-holed a whole culture into a tired stereotype. Man, it's a good thing for SI that William Donohue isn't Amish.

Synthetic rackets pretty much ruined the beauty of tennis. Children have no business swinging lethal aluminum baseball bats. Now there's even talk that a new bathing suit made by Speedo, in which all sorts of swimmers are setting world records, constitutes "technological doping."

I don't know enough about tennis to say whether synthetic rackets "ruined" it. And I'm not going to comment on swimming, even though, this seems kind of silly. But, if Penn & Teller ever start running out of ideas for Bullshit!, they should do a show on the "aluminum bat scare." This idea that aluminum bats are "lethal" is crap from an ass. If I was so inclined, I'd take on this story from the New York Fucking Times, but I'm not. I'll just say that it's emotionally manipulative and relies completely on anecdotal evidence in spite of the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that aluminum bats are less safe than wood.

You know what's even worse? Technology has made it so there are so few surprises left in the world. Is that really an advance? Parents know whether their baby is a boy or girl long before it's born. You can tell who's calling you on the phone before you answer. The real joy in taking photographs was that you didn't know how they turned out 'til you got them back from the Photo Zip a few days later. Of course, some of the pictures were awful, but what's the fun of taking only safe shots instead of snap shots?

Jesus H. Christ, Frank is hearkening back to a time long gone. I am in my mid-twenties and I cannot recall a time when 1-hour photo was readily available. In any case, I'm not sure what's wrong with efficiency and better, more satisfying results. My hypothesis: Frank Deford is a Communist.

Maybe that's why sport gets more popular all the time. It's about the last thing we have that still has some suspense to it.

I don't know about that, Frank. I can think of a few pretty surprising things from the last few years that weren't necessarily very pleasant. Surprising stuff happens all the time. Surprises are neither inherently good nor bad.

And that's why I can't stand the National Football League and National Basketball Association drafts. What disappoints me so about these protracted selections is that fans don't want surprises in the draft. Really, they don't. They want to look into the camera and see the picture before it's taken.

Not sure about that. People want to know what their team is going to do with a high pick and they want to talk about it. It's a parlor game.

For weeks now, leading up to the real NFL draft this weekend, all sorts of self-appointed experts have been creating so-called mock drafts, and basically, they're all the same. Oh, some bloviator might have this linebacker going third and that one pegs him fourth, but it's pretty much the same names at the top. The fans get brainwashed, and so if their team should dare take somebody who wasn't touted by the echo chorus, they have a fit. Mock drafts become the reality that reality must accommodate itself to. It's like in school now, where children study how to take tests rather than study how to learn something.

Actually, and I'm not going to cite this, but various mock drafts this year had the Dolphins taking Matt Ryan, Jake Long, Chris Long, Glenn Dorsey, Vernon Gholston, Darren McFadden, or trading down. The whole point of mock drafts IS that it's all guess work. Nobody really knew what the Dolphins would do until they signed Jake Long yesterday, and that trickles down the draft. If Miami were to take Matt Ryan, wouldn't that make a big difference in what, say, Atlanta does at number three?

And yeah, if a team takes some wide receiver and his whole family with their first round pick instead of the best quarterback available when the team badly needs a quarterback, then their fans SHOULD be upset. Dammit.

It's also terribly ironic. Football fans always want their team to go for it on fourth down instead of punting, to take risks on the field, but when draft day comes they're all conditioned by now to be completely conservative ... lemmings.

Because watching your team go for it on fourth and short is exciting. And watching your team draft a Ryan Leaf or a Ki-Jana Carter or an Akili Smith is decidedly less fun and/or exciting.

And, of course, draft mistakes are legion. But draft-guessing has become a cottage industry, and essentially these seers are graded on how they assess the draft, not how their top selections actually play football after they are drafted. It would be as if you judged your stock broker on how well he picked the most popular stocks, not how well he chose stocks that actually went up in value.

Frank, you pillack. Mel Kiper's job isn't to tell me who the best players are. His job is to tell me who he thinks the Ravens might take at number eight and to tell me who these guys are when they DO get drafted. We grade the coaches and general managers on how the players play. Also, you communist, stock value is related to supply and demand. Popularity is directly related to demand.

I sometimes have the feeling that the more film we have of these players, the more sophisticated technology to study them, the less we know, both about the players being chosen and the professionals who choose them. Football people have guts. I think, though, that too few of them any longer dare possess gut instinct.

That's right. We shouldn't look at film or educate ourselves about college players. Just go with your gut, football personnel people. Less is more! Up is down! Black is white! Why do I have to press the start key to shut down this computer??

Whoo! 100th Post! (Let's make it a disappointing one...)

Yes indeed, folks, bolstered by our proud reliance on insubstantial filler, onanistic meta-posts, and the occasional semi-coherent ramble, we have somehow reached our 100th post. I'd describe the experience as something like this:

Except, you know, thirteen more than that.

So who to skewer with the century post? Well, we've already referenced masturbation, aimless rambling, and self-absorbed meta-referencing, so who else could I choose? Gregg Easterbrook, Mr. TMQ himself, take it away...

Atlanta and Oakland flipped a coin to determine which would receive the third selection in Saturday's draft. Atlanta won, and will go third. As winners of the toss, the Falcons should have been allowed to go fourth! This year, the fourth choice in the NFL draft is worth more in practical terms than the third choice. Only in America!

I'm going to hold off on his latest crazy argument and just focus on his Don King reference at the end. Can I get a ruling on how dated that is? Ten years? Fifteen?

Recently many football pundits have begun to say that because the gentlemen chosen at the very top of the draft demand huge guaranteed payments that befoul the salary cap, teams that want to trade down from the initial picks cannot do so because few want to trade up.

I will guarantee you no football pundits use the words "gentlemen" or "befoul" in conversation. Unless of course they're saying something like, "Gentlemen, I totally befouled that bitch last night," in which case it is customary to add the "I shit you not" modifier to the end of the sentence. You know, just to keep things real.

Since Tuesday Morning Quarterback is nothing if not self-referential -- hmmm, have I said that before?

Dude, yes, of course you have. You've fucking quoted yourself. You know, because you're an ass.

let me note that seven years ago, my very first mocking of mock drafts began by demonstrating that picks at the top of the draft are actually less desirable than picks that closely follow.

OK, OK. I'll give. His arguments here are mostly economic and, although they continue to show TMQ's trademark lack of understanding of the most fundamental aspects of football, they are essentially sound. Which doesn't mean I couldn't nitpick them, it just means that any deconstruction of them would be pretty dry and techical, and this post is supposed to be a celebration! So I'm just going to skip ahead to the parts where he's random and weird, so that I can respond in my trademark random and weird style. Although, first a little TMQ at his finest:

In this regard, rumors are circulating of a proposed new trade value chart that makes the first few picks less pricey. Supposedly the new chart is being circulated by teams that hope to trade up into the first five. TMQ thinks the chart is being circulated by the Dolphins, Rams and Falcons, which hold the initial choices and want to trade down. They want to devalue their own choices so someone will make an offer for them. Only in America!

Classic TMQ right here. Let's check the list:
1. Simultaneously reference and disregard something that might actually be factual through the dismissive "rumors are circulating" and "supposedly"
2. Propose the exact opposite is true, hence implying a vast, improbable conspiracy theory to hide the truth about NFL trade value charts that only TMQ sees through
3. Move from proposing said theory to basically outright accusing the supposed teams that "want to devalue their own choices" of doing something wrong
4. Reused the same tired, cliched reference that we saw before
Man, that's fucking vintage.

In other NFL news, see below for my annual fearless projection of the draft's seventh round. But first -- everyone's got a mock draft, only Tuesday Morning Quarterback annually mocks the draft:

Here we go, weird and random. I'll be utterly shocked if he even has one clearly identifiable joke in the whole thing.

1. Miami Dolphins: Uno the beagle, winner, Westminster Dog Show. The woeful Dolphins need some lovin' -- who doesn't love a cute, cuddly beagle?

Hi-fucking-larious. Any chance we can get this guy a job writing for Jimmy Kimmel?

2. St. Louis Rams: Terrelle Pryor, quarterback, Jeannette (Pa.) High School. Unless Pryor is admitted directly to the Hall of Fame in Canton without ever actually appearing in a game.

I actually will applaud Easterbrook for resisting the clearly overwhelming urge to break into an open "our high-profile recruiting of high school players is destroying America" rant. If only all of the next few jokes could show such restraint.

3. Atlanta Falcons: Eliot Spitzer, former governor, New York. Falcons owner Arthur Blank explains: "Compared to Bobby Petrino, this guy is a class act."

Considering this is supposed to be a mock draft of, you know, players, doesn't that joke make a whole hell of a lot more sense if you're comparing Spitzer to Michael Vick?

4. Oakland Raiders: Karen Erickson, guidance counselor, Jefferson High School (Bloomington, Minn.). Barely-out-of-high-school Raiders' coach Lane Kiffin needs someone to enforce the hall-pass and snap-quiz systems he has instituted for Oakland training camp. (Jefferson was Kiffin's high school.)

The insane thing is that Karen Erickson is the actual guidance counselor at Jefferson. TMQ didn't make her up. Even by my standards of arcane research, I find that a little creepy.

5. Kansas City Chiefs: Mario Chalmers, guard, University of Kansas men's basketball. He Da Man in the Midwest! Kansas steak must make Chalmers miss the halibut he dined on growing up in Alaska. Best dinner I have ever had: Cajun-style crab-stuffed halibut at the Double Musky Inn of Girdwood, Alaska. Hey Mario: Stay in school! Stay in school!

This is the most half-assed attempt at a joke I've ever seen. Actually, maybe third-assed, considering that he's apparently trying to:
1. Mock the Midwest's legendary obsession with Mario Chalmers. Stupid Middle America!
2. Allude to his cultured (and, I have no doubt, wildly expensive) eating habits that are way more refined and interesting than yours or mine.
3. Throw in a completely tangential mini-rant about college players leaving for the NBA too early.
Easterbrook is clearly a student of the "choose three utterly unrelated things, then make no effort to weave them together into anything even slightly cohesive" school of comedy. Frankly, I'm a fan.

7. New England Patriots (from San Francisco): Michael Hayden, director, Central Intelligence Agency. A perfect fit for the Patriots' program.

This is close to a joke, but it's pretty damn hackneyed. Care to try again?

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Marc Dann, attorney general of Ohio. At this point, might as well have him on the sideline.

Credit where credit is due - that one's not completely terrible. But why are you linking to Dann's official website when you could link to Wikipedia like a real web denizen (webizen?). How else would you find out about the time he "faced criticism from the Mansfield News Journal and others for telling Warren Tribune-Chronicle reporter Steve Oravecz to perform an anatomically impossible act"? There's just no other way.

10. New Orleans Saints: Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, governor, Louisiana. New York now has a legally blind governor, California's governor is a former bodybuilder and former citizen of Austria, Alaska's governor is a woman who was the point guard for a high school state championship basketball team, and America's youngest governor is the 36-year-old Jindal, who was raised as a Hindu by Indian parents. (Jindal is a U.S. citizen who converted to Catholicism as an adult.) Much of the innovation in American politics is happening at the state level, and one reason is the governorship guild is no longer dominated by WASP males.

First of all, there is not a joke here, which might be a teensy problem considering he's billing this as mocking the draft. Still, he's totally right though; if there's one thing true about presidential politics, it's that it's totally dominated by WASP males. Yep, that's definitely true right this second and will remain true for the rest of time. Incidentally, who do you think will win in November, John Edwards or Fred Thompson? As long as it's a white guy*, I guess.

*who was born within the contiginous United State, which technically still allows me to count John McCain (born in the Canal Zone!) as a historic candidate.

11. Buffalo Bills: Peter Berg, producer, "Friday Night Lights." Berg has kept this fabulous series alive against all odds -- maybe he is the man to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

I'm just amazed by Easterbrook's blatant disregard for his premise that this is a mock draft of some sort. I mean, at this point, it seems like he's drafting potential executives and front office people or something. At least the fucking beagle was arguably an athlete. Wait, no, I'm being told you cannot, in fact, argue that. But at least there's Terrelle Pryor, right?

13. New Jersey Jets (from Carolina): Ashley Alexandra Dupre ("Kristen"), aspiring singer. She's a Jersey girl, and the Jets need to add some star power to their game-day experience. Whether true consensual prostitution should be a crime is a matter for debate. Regardless of the answer, TMQ hopes Dupre is never prosecuted. Anyone who has had sex with Spitzer has already been punished enough!

I'm sure that $80,000 he paid goes some ways to redressing the supposed punishment of sleeping with him. Also, for the record, no, true consensual prostitution should not be a crime, and in fact legalizing and mildly regulating it would probably vastly improve some troubled areas (Atlantic City, for instance). For more, please check out Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, now out on DVD. I may or may not have just made Djmmm's day.

17. Minnesota Vikings: Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City and Servant of the Servants of God. At age 81, Benedict doesn't have much burst, but divine intervention seems the best hope for the Vikings' passing game.

Actually, this one might make sense. After all, they've already got Purple Jesus. Come to think of it, is Easterbrook making a veiled reference to blog nomenclature (blogenclature?) by adding the Pope to a team with the most religiously nicknamed running back around? Maybe. Or hell, maybe he's plagiarizing blogs by mixing the Vikings with Christian terminology!

Um...have I started a controversy yet? Because I'm really, really trying to.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jeremiah Wright, retired pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ. He can deliver just the kind of halftime tirades that Jon Gruden likes.

But does Reverend Wright love the Buccaneers as much as Coach Gruden does? (Thanks, George Stephanopoulos!)

21. Washington Redskins: Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Joe Biden, Ron Paul, Chris Dodd, Fred Thompson. Like 20 minutes ago, these dudes were treated as incredibly important by the media. Like now, would you recognize one if he sat on your lap?

I think I'd be more concerned by the fact that any old white dude had uninvitedly decided to sit on my lap. Although, I've got to admit, if it was Romney, I might be OK with it. Sure, he might be a soulless creep, but that doesn't mean you can't get lost in his eyes. His beautiful, soulless eyes.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jacob Beam, 18th-century Kentucky distiller who formulated the recipe for the bourbon now called Jim Beam. Steely McBeam will do endorsements for Jim Beam! (Here is the whiskey's Russian Web site.)

If that was meant to be a reference to Steely's DUI...yeah, way to completely whiff on that one, Gregg. Although points back for linking to a Russian whiskey site. You're learning, Gregg, you're learning.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Sue Payton, undersecretary, United States Air Force. She made the decision to award a multibillion-dollar aerial tanker contract to France-based Airbus rather than America's Boeing. And you know why? Airbus did a better job with its proposal! In a globalized economy, not even defense contractors can take their customers for granted. In the second round, Seahawks hope to tab Clay Bennett, owner, Seattle SuperSonics. OK, Oklahoma City is his hometown. But Bennett desperately wants his team to leave Seattle, the most beautiful city on Earth. Something does not add up here.

Dear (Gregg's decidedly Christian) lord, that's a whole heap of crazy right there. Ignoring his utterly random and totally strident rant at the start, I love that he clearly believes he is the first person to ever realize Clay Bennett might be moving the Sonics for dubious reasons. Although I must admit, no one has yet come up with anything as gleefully pointless as, "Clay Bennett must be up to something because Seattle is just too beautiful!"

31. New England Patriots. (Despite forfeiting this choice in the Spygate scandal, the Patriots select a player anyway. Bill Belichick is seen backstage at Radio City Music Hall swinging a gold watch in front of Roger Goodell while repeating, "You are getting sleepy … you are getting very sleepy … you will walk to the podium and announce a draft selection by the New England Patriots … you are getting very sleepy …")

So, um...shouldn't there be a, you know, pick here? Like some sort of player? Isn't that what you so tediously set up? Gregg? Gregg?

Well, we've lost him, but not before having plenty of fun. That's 100 folks, and here's to 10,000 more. On a logarithmic scale, we're already halfway there!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fuck the Heck?

It is rare to come across a statement that makes absolutely no sense, even when silly people get together to talk about grown men playing baseball. For instance, when someone says that "Frank Thomas clogs up the basepaths" it's wrong and stupid, but still sorta makes sense. That is, the reader can understand the point conveyed; Frank Thomas is a cow, so his walks are worth less than a faster player's walks (at least that's what I think is meant by this nonsense; someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Similarly, when someone utters a malapropism, it's usually easy to discern what is meant. Archie Bunker, for example, was hilarious because we knew what he was trying to say, but he screwed it up.

Sidenote: Notice anything KIND OF shocking in that video? Could anyone get away with that stuff now? The South Park guys don't count-- I mean with live action actors.

Anyway, the Fire Joe Morgan guys already posted this and I'm genuinely confused.

Encarnacion's homer kick-started the Reds' rally against Eric Gagne. Encarnacion is the most volatile player in the Reds' lineup - his early season defensive woes and his slump at the plate have been counter-balanced by a few clutch homers, often in the same game.

Fortunately for him, Reds manager Dusty Baker seems to be more patient with Encarnacion than previous manager Jerry Narron. "I'm happy for him because this guy bleeds internally, big-time," Baker said.

What the hell is Dusty trying to say here? That's not a rhetorical question. Please enlighten me in the comments.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bill Simmons, and damned if I'm not gonna get on a soapbox.

I've had a hard time finding hate in my heart for Bill Simmons. It might be because I'm a Red Sox fan, but I've never found his shtick as vile as a lot of other people. I don't deny that he talks ad nauseam about Boston teams; it's just that that's his deal. He's not a national writer. He's a lame, local writer on a national site. You know what you're likely to get from him every week--just don't read it.

Allllllllll that's column is horrible. He is openly and proudly declaring his bandwagon fan status, which I don't hate in and of itself. The bothersome part is that he tries to pass it off as a protest, and he just comes off as stupid. Here we go:

It starts with a sob story about how growing up a Brooooooooons fan was tough, what with Les Habs toying with them year-in, year-out. Then this:

So that's what I grew up with: The Canadiens beating the Bruins. We were the nail and they were the hammer. Nothing ever changed. When I graduated college and realized I had spent two solid decades of my life rooting for a franchise that cared about making a profit more than winning a Stanley Cup, that's the only way I was able to dump the Canadiens from my life -- by not following the sport as diligently. Once the Devils unveiled their hideous zone trap and Gary Bettman tried to turn a blue-collar sport into "NBA 2.0," it was an easy decision to cut the cord entirely. The Bruins would always be like family to me, but I wasn't interested in following them again until the team was sold. Honestly, I didn't feel like I was missing much.

Uh-huh. Also, the Bruins won 2 playoff series and 3 division titles between 1992 and this year. That didn't factor in at all? I mean, yeah, the Devils play "boring" hockey. The thing is, that's the fucking Devils. You were explaining why you got bored of the Bruins. The one valid reason he gives is that he wanted the team to be sold. My general impression is that Jeremy Jacobs is a terrible owner, and this sorta backs that up. So as a weird sort of protest against a bad owner, I guess ignoring the team miiiiiiiiiiight be valid. The thing is, the damn team hasn't been sold. It's still Jacobs running the show. The difference this year is, um, playoff success. Witness:

and even though I couldn't have named five Bruins, I found myself flicking over to Versus for Game 1 just because I enjoyed seeing the uniforms so much...But it wasn't until Game 3 that I found myself getting hooked -- not for the excitement of the games as much as the ignominy of Montreal fans infiltrating Whatever-The-Hell-The-Garden-Is-Called-Now and cheering on the visiting Habs.

Uhhhhhhh-huh. Also, that was the first game of the series the Bruins won. I repeat, That didn't factor in at all?

It was an exceptionally well-played game, and when you remember that five of the best Bruins are 22 or younger, it seemed like the team was coming together.

Wait. can't name 5 guys on the team, I thought. But you know their ages?

At some point during all of this, I found myself getting attached to one of the young Bruins -- Milan Lucic, a 19-year-old winger out of the Cam Neely mold who skates around with one of those threatening, wild-eyed "You looking at me? Did you just look at me? DON'T F------ LOOK AT ME!" glares.

Oh I see. You're making the world's easiest comparison, made by probably 130000000 people before you, to try to reinforce the fact that "hey guys, I really did like them once, for real!" and you're trying to get in touch with the current team to not appear like an uninformed ass. But it's not working. Bill, we get it. You didn't like the team when they were bad. You like them now that they appear to be good. Leave it at that.

Quick story: Only a few months ago, an L.A. friend e-mailed a couple of us asking if we wanted to hit the Bruins-Kings game with him that night. Apparently, he had fantastic seats right on the boards. I remember e-mailing him back and joking that the seats could have been on the Bruins' bench and I wouldn't have gone. They were dead to me. They were. Flash-forward to the moment right after Game 6 ended -- I called my father and he answered the phone, "I knew it, you're back on the bandwagon!" Needless to say, he's one of the few who never really left. We babbled excitedly about the game for a few minutes, talked some hockey and hung up, just like old times.

Oh. Well, at least he seems self-aware.

In conclusion...I don't really care about "bandwagon" fans. As a fairly long-time Sox fan (sorry to reference them twice) at school in Boston, I've seen a ridiculous influx of new fans, especially following last year. And, in all honesty, not a single one of their pink-hatted, Papelbon-jigging, Ellsbury-lusting appearances on the "bandwagon" has precluded me from liking a Sox win. Nor are "bandwagon" people somehow less deserving of being happy about a win (though I do think fans who deal with shitty lows probably end up happier when their team wins). They actually might be more rational than "true" fans, because they only get the ups. So no, I don't really mind that Bill Simmons is hopping back on the B's train. But:

a)He tries to come off as informed, and ends up sounding like me talking about Premiership soccer/football (this guy Ronaldo...he seems pretty good!).
b)He tries to justify his previous lack-of-caring by saying he was protesting until the team was sold...but the team wasn't sold, and yet he cares again. He's lying.
c)He seems like the type of guy who would sneer at someone for writing this same column about the Celtics or Red Sox. Admittedly, this is complete and total guessing on my part. But I don't think I'm completely being unfair.

For these reasons, the article sucks shit.

Update: In bold like it's crucial late-breaking news or something. I already put this in the comments, but whatever. Anyway, I was feeling sorta bad about point c) at the end there--what with it being all speculative and all--until Master Doubt-Queller djmmm reminded me of Simmons' "rules for being a true real born-and-bred chest-thumping sports fan" column thing. And sho'nuf:

Also, you can't start rooting for a team, back off when they're in a down cycle, then renew the relationship once the team starts winning again. All those Cowboys fans who jumped off the bandwagon in the late-'80s, jumped back on during the Emmitt/Aikman Era, then jumped back off in the late-'90s ... you know who you are. You shouldn't even be allowed out in public.

(There's nothing worse than a Bandwagon Jumper. If sports were a prison and sports fans made up all the prisoners, the Bandwagon Jumpers would be like the child molesters -- everyone else would pick on them, take turns beating them up and force them to toss more salads than Emeril Lagasse.)

Well, Bill, if you want to make that connection...your readership's collective asshole ain't gonna lick itself.

Ugh, one last update: Same good fan article thing, Bill says this:

Once you choose a team, you're stuck with that team for the rest of your life ... unless one of the following conditions applies:
The owner of your favorite team treated his fans so egregiously over the years that you couldn't take it anymore -- you would rather not follow them at all then support a franchise with this owner in charge. Just for the record, I reached this point with the Boston Bruins about six years ago. When it happens, you have two options: You can either renounce that team and pick someone else, or you can pretend they're dead, like you're a grieving widow. That's what I do. I'm an NHL widow. I don't even want to date another team.

So to his credit (I guess?), he'd voiced the owner-complaint thing earlier, which as I said seems sorta valid. The issue still is, though, that the team hasn't been sold; he's a "widow" only as long as the team sucks.

Anyway, this is by far enough of this business.

Peter King and his thinks

Peter's talking draft today. As I've said, I think PK is, in general, a pretty good football writer. Of course, once draft time rolls around everybody loses their shit and I don't think Peter's entirely immune from that. I'll get to that. First, an anecdote that I find impossibly believable:

My buddy Don "Donnie Brasco'' Banks is always telling me how gullible I am. Brasco likes baseball, and I called him a couple of years ago after seeing Juan Acevedo pitch in a spring-training game and told him, "Juan Acevedo's gonna win 15 games this year.'' He didn't come close.

First, Peter can't let go of the "Donnie Brasco" thing. Seems like once a month he slips that funny in there. More importantly, this perfectly reinforces my impression of Peter's baseball knowledge. Anyway, on to the fuhbawww:

The one thing that would stun me is a cornerback. Bill Belichick, in Cleveland and in New England, has had 14 first-round picks, and only once did he take a cornerback -- Antonio Langham, the just-OK DB from Alabama in 1994, picked way too high at No. 9 overall.

This is my least-favourite bit of draft thinking anywhere, ever. First of all, there are 22 positions; even if you want to eliminate "doubles" (ie. two guards on the field at once) there are at least 14 unique positions. So actually, Bill Belichick has drafted corners at the exact rate one would expect. In any case, it's way more instructive to look at a team's needs and draft strengths; given the Pats need some CB help and McKelvin and Rodgers-Cromartie are expected to go somewhere around their pick, would it really be stunning?

23. Pittsburgh. G/T Branden Albert, Virginia. Might have gotten overrated in the predraft media mayhem; I saw him as high as five in one mock draft. The Steelers have to draft two or three offensive lineman to address a position group that lost its best two players (Jeff Hartings, Alan Faneca) the last two offseasons and isn't as good as its reputation right now.

I don't want to argue too much with all his mock picks, because I don't claim to know anything about the draft. But as Peter says himself...he's at 5 in some mock drafts, including that of ESPN's Todd McShay. Peter, is it, um, possible, that you're behind the times and that teams are legitimately warming to the guy?

And the disappointingly-level-headed thinkathinks:

a. Thank you, writers of The Office, for regaining your sanity and your edge in a great show last week. You realize, of course, that we all want to see Jim and Pam get hitched now. If there's a better character actor on TV than Kevin (Brian Baumgartner), I don't know who he is.

Yeah...I still like last week's better. And I'd take Creed over Kevin. But at least he's not still backing Dwight.

The Draft is this weekend! Yay!

Every year around this time, someone somewhere decides that it is time to write up an article about past NFL busts. Today the spotlight turns to Charles Bricker of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, who decided to write about quarterbacks being drafted too early.

It has been 10 years since the San Diego Chargers made an $11 million mistake by using the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft to select quarterback Ryan Leaf.

Eleven million dollars in signing bonus money. Plus his salary. Plus the unforgivable waste of a very high first-round selection, which so badly stalled the Chargers' progress that it would be six years before the club would have a season with more wins than losses.

Teams that are picking second overall usually really, really, really suck. That's why they're picking second overall. Even if Ryan Leaf has turned out to be a decent quarterback, it stands to reason that they might still continue to suck for six years. Furthermore, this is total cherry picking. The Chargers were so set back by the Ryan Leaf pick that in 1999, one year after making this franchise devastating pick... that they went 8-8. One of those eight losses was a 3-point loss to the Chicago Bears at home. So basically, Charlie, if the Chargers had barely beaten the Bears in that game, and had been 9-7 and in contention for a playoff spot/division crown (the Chiefs and Seahawks each won 9 games), suddenly the Ryan Leaf pick isn't so bad.

If Leaf was the only quarterback upon whom a small fortune had been squandered, San Diego's embarrassing misjudgment could be excused as an aberration.

In fact, year after year NFL clubs throw away millions, and high draft picks, in gambles on the most important position in football.

Year after year, NFL clubs throw away millions, and high draft picks, in gambles on ALL the positions in football. More on this later.

In all, 28 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round since 1998. Four have been abject failures — David Carr (Houston, 2002), Tim Couch (Cleveland, 1999), Akili Smith (Cincinnati, 1999) and Leaf (1998).

Yeah, man, all these dudes were terrible, though Carr's offensive line was putrid and there's a legitimate argument that that ruined him. But whatever. Yeah, they all sucked donkey balls.

Another nine have been less than mediocre, though they, too, have become multimillionaires because of their teams' desperate draft choices.

Okay since Charlie doesn't say who he's talking about, I can't even guess at who he means here, though I suppose I COULD look it up. *sigh* Okay, more on THIS in a moment.

Only Eli Manning (New York Giants, 2004), Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh, 2004) and Peyton Manning (Indianapolis, 1998) have reached elite status — all Super Bowl winners. Now, five days before the draft, a number of teams must ponder whether Boston College's Matt Ryan is the next first-round quarterback mistake.

Holy shit. God, I AM gonna have to look that up aren't I. Stay here, and watch this while I do my research...

Okay, I'm back. Here are the guys who, since the 1998 Draft have been taken as first round quarterbacks. Feel free to skip the list, as I'll summarize at the end. OR you could read the list with comments!
  1. Peyton Manning IND, 1998 (Maybe the best QB ever to play the game)
  2. Ryan Leaf SD, 1998 (Terrible)
  3. Tim Couch CLE, 1999 (Actually led the Browns to a playoff berth, but then sucked due to injury)
  4. Donovan McNabb PHI, 1999 (Damned good, maybe an "elite QB")
  5. Akili Smith CIN, 1999 (Jesus Christ, I can't believe this guy was a first round pick)
  6. Daunte Culpepper MIN, 1999 (How much of his success was due to Randy Moss? I dunno. But Culpepper was a legitimate MVP candidate that year that Peyton threw 49 TD passes)
  7. Cade McNown CHI, 1999 (Another terrible Bears QB)
  8. Chad Pennington NYJ, 2000 (As much as I hate the Jets as a Dolphins fan, even I have to admit Pennington hasn't been that bad. He's been injured alot, and that contributes to him maybe being a bust, but he had a pretty damn good year in 2002.)
  9. Michael Vick ATL, 2001 (Uhm... Vick was pretty good for a while before that whole pound puppy thing. I'd say NOT a bust.)
  10. David Carr HOU, 2002 (Bust)
  11. Joey Harrington DET, 2002 (Bust)
  12. Patrick Ramsey WAS, 2002 (Bust)
  13. Carson Palmer CIN, 2003 (I'd say Carson's been pretty damned good)
  14. Byron Leftwich JAX, 2003 (Mediocre? Certainly not an out and out bust. Also really was injured alot.)
  15. Kyle Boller BAL, 2003 (Bust)
  16. Sex Cannon CHI, 2003 (I'm leery of calling him a bust, even though Archie will probably want to kill me for this. But they did get to the Super Bowl with him in 2006, so by Charlie's logic, if the Bears had somehow won that ONE game, Sexy Rexy would be an elite quarterback and Peyton wouldn't be?)
  17. Eli Manning NYG, 2004 (Pretty good, but elite? Weren't they calling for his head in New York around midseason last year?)
  18. Philip Rivers SD, 2004 (Yeah, I know the Giants picked him, and the Chargers picked Eli, but I'm ignoring that. Still kind of soon to tell, but Rivers has been at least decent to pretty good, no? Certainly not a bust.)
  19. Ben Roethlisberger PIT, 2004 (Very good)
  20. JP Losman BUF, 2004 (Maybe a bust)
  21. Alex Smith SF, 2005 (Still too soon to tell)
  22. Aaron Rodgers GB, 2005 (Still too soon to tell)
  23. Jason Campbell WAS, 2005 (Still too soon to tell. I'm copying and pasting at this point.)
  24. Vince Young TEN, 2006 (Pretty damned good so far...)
  25. Jay Cutler DEN, 2006 (Still too soon to tell)
  26. Matt Leinart ARI, 2006 (Still too soon to tell)
  27. JaMarcus Russell OAK, 2007 (Still too soon to tell)
  28. Brady Quinn CLE, 2007 (Still too soon to tell)
So if we knock out everyone from Smith onward (which maybe unfairly excludes Vince Young), we're down to 20. Of those twenty, 8 have been good or very good, and two have been serviceable or better than mediocre. The other ten have been out and out mediocre. So essentially, we're looking at a fifty-fifty proposition. Not great, but not terrible.

The point is that Charles Bricker thinks that Eli Manning is better than Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer, and Daunte Culpepper in their respective primes. Furthmore, Charles Bricker thinks that if the Bears had managed to beat the Colts in the Super Bowl last year, Rex Grossman would be an "elite quarterback" while Peyton Manning would not. Charles Bricker is a stupid person.

By all estimates, he'll be taken among the top 10 players. Kansas City at No. 5 must upgrade at quarterback. Baltimore at No. 8, which in 2003 wasted a first-rounder on Kyle Boller, is in position to blow off another top pick. Carolina, at No. 13, might strike a deal with New England for the No. 7 spot.

Ryan, 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds, is sturdy enough to endure a few hits in the pocket, but an impressive scramble against Virginia Tech notwithstanding, he's no runner and, while he threw 56 touchdown passes, he also threw 37 interceptions.

Okay so he might be good or he might suck.

Scouts have praised his poise and leadership, but there's nothing unusual about those qualities in leading college quarterbacks, and none of that has much meaning when the QB is facing an NFL pass rush. The Dolphins' John Beck is a good example of a "poised" collegian who looked panicked in his rookie NFL season.

Jesus, dude. John Beck played in a grand total of five games, starting four of those, on maybe the worst team in NFL history. You really want to use "'poised'" in "sarcastic" quotation "marks" like that based on five "games"?

That said, there is a lot to recommend Ryan. Downfield passing isn't his forte, which is essentially an arm strength issue, but neither was it Joe Montana's stock in trade. Ryan was a successful quarterback on a team that didn't have a strong running game or great receivers.

More to the point, however, in a year that is not rich with quarterback prospects, Ryan is the best of the bunch.

And next year is probably going to be even worse. Seriously, who's good that's going to be draft eligible next year? You really think Tim Tebow is going to be a great NFL quarterback? Point is if you need a quarterback, Matt Ryan might not be a bad way to go. I mean there are few great throwers and the position is pretty important.

Why do teams over-draft quarterbacks? Because there are few great throwers and because the position is so important. For many clubs, that justifies the expense, even knowing that far more first-rounders fail than achieve.

Plagiarist. Anyway, this isn't even true. It's about even money.

Of course first-round quarterbacks succeed. There were six first-rounders running the 12 playoff offenses last season and one of them, Eli Manning, won the Super Bowl. But the runner-up, Tom Brady, was a sixth-round pick and two other playoff quarterbacks, Tony Romo of Dallas and Jeff Garcia of Tampa Bay, were undrafted.

AHEM. The New York Giants won the Super Bowl. Eli Manning didn't complete that pass to Eli Manning. Eli Manning didn't sack Tom Brady. Isn't using Super Bowl wins as the standard for an "elite" quarterback even dumber than using wins to measure pitchers?

Romo is now earning the sort of money given first-round quarterbacks. But there is a difference. He's a proven commodity. If sanity prevails this year, Ryan might be the only first-round quarterback this year, though how many desperate clubs will leap at Joe Flacco of Delaware or Chad Henne of Michigan?

Another thing: Why do people like to point out all the late round picks like Brady or guys like Romo who didn't get drafted at all without pointing out the vast number of guys drafted late or not at all that don't do a thing in the NFL? I'd say that first round pick quarterbacks pan out at a greater rate than late round picks. In fact, I've already shown this to be true. Anyone want to bet their life that quarterbacks drafted later than the third round pan out at a better rate than 50%? Didn't think so.

Two quarterbacks were taken in 2007's first round, though it's too early to judge if they've been a waste of cash and picks.

Most (only?) reasonable thing said so far.

JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 pick, signed a six-year deal with Oakland, though he's already missed the first year because he signed so late he missed training camp, was handed only one start, threw 66 passes, pitched four interceptions and fumbled four times.

No one is complaining too hard … yet. Without a training camp, he wasn't ready to play, even for a bad team. He'll have his camp this year and the Raiders will soon know whether he's worth the $37.5 million in guaranteed money he's being paid.

The only time an NFL player will have guaranteed leverage over a team is when he's drafted in the first round. Why are we faulting guys for getting theirs when the team can cut the guy on virtually a moment's notice? Did anyone expect Russell to come in, holdout or not, and light it up this year? Why does this post have so many rhetorical questions?

Furthermore, the Raiders also took Robert Gallery with a first rounder a few years back. Teams take terrible players with first round picks all the time. Not just quarterbacks. But that's for another post.

Brady Quinn, the No. 22 pick by Cleveland, missed 11 days of training camp before signing a five-year deal that paid him a $7.75 million signing bonus.

He threw three passes and spent his rookie year watching Derek Anderson rejuvenate the Browns and give rise to predictions that Cleveland could be back in the playoffs for the first time in six years.

Who is Derek Anderson? He was draft guru Mel Kiper's 14th-best quarterback in 2005, right after the eminently forgettable No. 13 Gino Guidugli.

Baltimore drafted Anderson in the sixth round and paid him a pittance, by NFL standards, before waiving him Sept. 20. He was claimed by Cleveland, where he was 10-5 as a starter last season.

Yeah some of those guys will turn out to not suck.

Unless he has a startling reversal of form, he could be more than just an alternate to the Pro Bowl this season.

Please. There have been tons of guys who've had one or two great years and then flamed out quickly. It happens in sports (not just football) all the time. It would not be "startling" for Anderson to return to his previous suckitude.

And Quinn? Carrying a clipboard and collecting his prodigious salary? The Browns will want to see if Anderson can continue with his elevated play before deciding to deal Quinn for a draft pick or proven player.

It's arguable that Quinn isn't ready to play yet anyway. How many quarterbacks have been good as rookies or second year players? I can just think of two or three-- Dan Marino, Big Ben, and maybe Peyton Manning, the latter of whom benefited from playing with Marshall Faulk and then Edgerrin James in his backfield.

In either case, they're stuck for his signing bonus, like so many other teams who have drafted a first-round QB, and, even if they dump him, they're also responsible for his salary cap figure.

Again, dude. Still too soon to tell. Brady Quinn could turn out to be really damned good. And then I'll point and laugh at you. Again.

There are Peyton Mannings out there. And Roethlisbergers.

But every one of them there are four Joey Harringtons or Byron Leftwiches. And the wasted dollars keep piling up — a mountain of money mocking most of the teams that can't resist drafting a quarterback in the first round.

LIES. Again with this crap. There are not four Joey Harringtons or Byron Leftwiches. It's more like for every Peyton, there's a Joey. As a beleaguered Dolphin fan, if you gave me a quarterback and said this guy could be Peyton Manning or Joey Harrington, with a 50% chance, I'll take that bet every time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

52 52 52 Week #9: Maine

In which I examine crappy local sports journalism on a state-by-state basis, progressing through the states in terms of an alphabetical ordering of the heights of their tallest points. Because I can.

We've been experimenting a little bit this week, and I'm thinking this is only the beginning. Djmmm talked about expanding our horizons, and I've got to say, I'm a fan. So yeah, as soon as I have a single creative idea, I'll strike out in bold new directions. Until then? Let's keep doing that weekly series that you know and/or love. 52 52 52 it is!

Maine's Mount Katahdin is next on the docket at a stately 5,267 feet. Here's what you need to know:

1. The Abenaki believed that the mountain was the home of Pamola, a storm god who, according to Wikipedia had "the head of a moose, the body of a man and the wings and feet of an eagle." Why the hell aren't the forces of cryptozoology converging on Mount Katahdin? We've got a Pamola to catch!

2. Also according to Wikipedia, "In the 1840s Henry David Thoreau climbed Katahdin and his ascent is recorded in a well known chapter of The Maine Woods." This is another example of Wikipedia being inaccurate, as it implies there is such a thing as a well-known chapter of The Maine Woods.

3. Katahdin means "Great Mountain" in the Penobscot langauge, which means the official name is Mount Great Mountain, which is sort of, you know, really dumb. Of course, it's got nothing on Britain's Torpenhow Hill, which due to the various local languages literally translates to "Hill Hill Hill Hill." Considering I called my series 52 52 52, I guess mindless repetition is really something I should get behind.

This week's entry comes from The Bangor Daily News, whose website won the New England Newspaper Association's coveted "New England's best newspaper Web Site 2007" [sic] award, which is one of the few legitimate New England newspaper website awards left out there, so that's cool. Our chosen writer is Larry Mahoney, who has some thoughts on a whole bunch of crazy stuff.

Hey, is that sunshine and spring-like temperatures we’re experiencing? Or did I fall asleep listening to the Doors’ "Riders on the Storm?"

Wait, what? How do those equate, exactly? Let's take a look at a random verse from "Riders on the Storm":

There's a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin' like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet family will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Uh...yeah. I can totally see how that equates to nice weather. That's not fucking crazy at all.

Let’s touch base on a variety of topics, shall we.

Oh god yes.

Owning an auto racetrack is a difficult challenge, especially nowadays with the skyrocketing fuel costs. No matter what you do, there will always be a handful of people who will make your life miserable.

Isn't that just sort of always true? I mean, aren't there always assholes in pretty much all walks of life who will make things unnecessarily tough? Oh, I'm sorry Larry, you've got more?

They will cry "favoritism" if you penalize their favorite driver (usually a family member or close personal friend) for taking out another driver or driving recklessly.

Yes, those drunken screams of "FAVORITISM!!!" will echo from the stands. That's totally what they'll be yelling. Also, what kind of business are you operating when most of the audience is composed of the driver's family and friends? Seems like that model might need a little work.

Race fans are passionate about their sport and it doesn’t take much to set them off.

We're dancing into Mike Seate territory here, aren't we? Awesome.

Most racetrack owners have family members working at the track and the only thing worse than getting an earful from an irate fan is having a family member absorb an earful.

Is this even going anywhere? What's your point here?

I have a lot of respect for track owners.

This is basically Larry Mahoney's riff on "Leave race track owners alone!", isn't it? Because dude, that meme was played out ages ago. At least a month or so ago.

Yes, it is a business and they have to make money or the business won’t survive.

I dunno, I imagine they could use their family as effective slave labor. That would keep operating costs down.

But they are also supplying their respective communities with a valuable source of reasonably-priced family entertainment.

These are all individual paragraphs, by the way. That bears pointing out. The other thing is that if I ever escape my subterranean cavern and discover the fabled other gender (they're called wimin, right?) and start a family, you can bet I'd never take my children to a race track. After all, you've got angry fans yelling horrific curses like, "Favoritism!" when their racer doesn't do well. That could really scar a kid.

And they have to funnel some of the profits back into the facility to improve it or create better racing conditions.

Right, like earplugs for their family members. You know, so they don't have to listen to the losing driver's family members complaining. It's the circle of symbiosis or some shit.

The advice I would give track owners is to make sure you have a reliable staff that enforces the rules consistently without a hint of favoritism and have the rules on paper. And be good to them.

Little known fact: this was also the advice Larry Mahoney's ancestor, FitzMorris Mahoney, gave James Madison when he convened the Constitutional Convention back in 1787. The "And be good to them" guideline really came in handy when Alexander Hamilton proposed his controversial "Let's kill the poor!" proposal. Say what you will about Hamilton, but the man did understand his laissez-faire economics.

I might also recommend that you appoint a group of well-respected drivers and you meet with them on a monthly basis to discuss track operations and possible improvements.

I'm sorry, does Larry Mahoney believe he's been asked by a consortium of race track owners to write a report on improving owner-driver relations? Because I'm having trouble imagining in what other context this could even possibly be interesting.

Last, but not least, develop a thick skin.

I think Larry Mahoney may have just solved all race track owner problems for all time. You just saw some history get fucking made.

Just for fun, Larry totally shifts gear from bizarre race track philosophy to inane baseball advice. Let's see some highlights...

Jon Lester is an enigma.

Is it that difficult to throw strikes?

Really, Larry? You're going to question the difficulty of playing major league baseball? Really? That's the way you're going to phrase that one? I mean...really?

Because, I mean, yeah, it is that difficult to throw strikes. A tiny micro-percentage of the population is actually able to do it at that sort of level. It's phenomenally difficult by any sane standard. I mean, I know what he means, but still, there have to be about a hundred better ways to phrase that sentiment.

The problem with a pitcher who is wild is you can’t really banish him to the bullpen because the last thing you need is someone coming out of the pen who can’t throw strikes.

Someone has clearly never heard of Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn. I'm just saying is all. (And yes, I'm aware his control and resultant effectiveness improved dramatically after getting glasses, so don't bother pointing that out).

Baseball/softball openers are about to begin in the state so let’s pass along a few tips to high school coaches.

Larry Mahoney apparently fancies himself an advice god to the people of Maine. I'm not going to correct him if you're not.

First of all, insist that your everyday players throw overhand not three-quarter arm or sidearm.

Advice to Bangor Daily News editors: insist your writers learn how to punctuate, not just how to string random thoughts together.

I would also recommend it for pitchers, especially youngsters, but I’ve always felt pitchers who occasionally alter their arm angle (i.e. Bronson Arroyo) can freeze a hitter by dropping down (three-quarter arm).

Well, if you've always felt it, it must be true. I mean, who's going to argue with the pitching brilliance that is Bronson Arroyo? Or his musical acumen, for that matter:

Hitters, by relaxing your hands and lining up the top knuckles near your fingernails (it will feel awkward at first), you can generate more bat speed enabling you to catch up with that live fastball.

Wait, I thought these tips were for high school coaches? Larry Mahoney clearly doesn't think about the advice he gives...he just feels who in this universe needs his guidance and provides. It's sort of a Zen thing, in the sense that Larry Mahoney has no idea how it works.

And if you are facing a pitcher with a live fastball, stand as far back in the batter’s box so you can to get an extra split-second to hit it.

What's funny, of course, is that I'm pretty sure this is exactly what Joe Morgan assumes Moneyball is like.