Thursday, July 31, 2008

I guess that's one way to put it

Terry Ryan's talking 'bout being a GM at the trade deadline. Terry Ryan gets to talking about different management styles. Terry Ryan mentions Steve Phillips. Someone call an ambulance for Terry Ryan, because I think he just had a stroke:
Steve was one guy who was always very aggressive. He knew what he wanted, he knew what he was willing to give up -- he was very good.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fuckin' ESPN...

In the midst of dealing with a hard-on the size of a house at the possibility of Manny Ramirez coming to Miami to play for the Marlins, I noticed something fishy about The World Wide Leader's reporting on the story. Early in the afternoon, the only place this rumor/story(?) was being reported was at Baseball Prospectus and, later, Sports Illustrated. Now I know we're generally pretty hard on SI in general and Jon Heyman in particular, (and by "we" I basically mean Passive Voice) but to their credit SI/Heyman had the professionalism and decency to mention BP's breaking of the story.

Jon Heyman, you are frequently a dumbass and/or unfunny, but today you're a righteous dude.

You do see where this is going, don't you?

ESPN reported the story on their website (or at least "updated" it, whatever that means) at 8:47 PM. They cited "sources" that told "Buster Olney." No mention of SI. No mention of BP. Nothing.

On behalf of BP, and I think, most of the blogosphere-- Fuck you, ESPN, you unprofessional bunch of cunts.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The fuck, Deadspin?

Journalism commentary, non-SI.com Dpt:

This was originally going to be about JP Ricciardi and his weird anti-Adam-Dunn, keep-AJ-Burnett-despite-being-all-but-done-playoff-wise rhetoric, but then I realized I didn't know what else I was going to say. I just thought he should have blown that whole team up before this season. Whatever.

Anyway, the topic I settled on for this post is: What the hell happened to the Deadspin commentariat? Take this quote from commenter mfdoom on the dick-to-the-face-nike-ads post:
they get like 5 comments in before the fags bring the heat. shit, they just need to go back to their gaybies and quit taking themselves so seriously.

I know this is pot-kettle-black territory, coming from a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time drearily parsing Peter King's manchildish ramblings, but where's the funny? And it's not so much that it turned out unfunny as that it had absolutely no chance of ever being the tiniest bit funny at all. It's just an guy saying a thing. Which (ahem, again with the kitchenware) I realize is part of the democratic, or whatever, appeal of the blogosphere. It's just that the space below Deadspin posts, not long ago, was a place where merit prevailed. Now...the comments really aren't worth reading. I can (and do) get all the stupid I want at SI.com or any other MSM site. At least I'm on the lookout for it there.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

52 52 52 Week #23: Ohio

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.

Well, I'm still in Central America, my computer died (I mean completely and utterly) earlier this week, and we didn't have running water for most of this week. On the plus side, I got to wield an honest-to-goodness machete. That more than makes up for it.

So, with my computer dead and gone, comes the first ever 52 52 52 written on a Mac. I have no idea whether or not it'll be the last, but if you detect slightly more self-loathing in this post than usual (hard to notice, I admit), that'd be why.

But first, something awesome...



Ah, holy shit. Do I really have to do the rest of the post? I mean, it's only Ohio, right? And unless Matt Sussman still reads (and I think it's pretty clear that he does by all the comments he doesn't leave), I'm somehow doubting anyone will care. Seriously, what's Ohio got? A couple halls of fame and a kickass amusement park? Actually, that reminds me...



Oh yeah, I've ridden that bad boy. I've also wielded a machete. All from the safety and security of my mother's basement, of course.

In any event, Ohio makes the list this week thanks to its 1550-feet high Campbell Hill. Three things potentially worth knowing...

1. It was "the former home of the Bellefontaine Air Force Station, where the 664th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron maintained a Cold War early warning radar." Hey, as long as it helped beat the commies, I'm on board with whatever.

2. Apparently the hard rock of Campbell Hill helped it resist the glaciers during the ice age. Must have been commie glaciers.

3. The land used to be owned by the brewer of Augustiner and Gambrinus beers. I don't have much to add here, but those are some fucking awesome brand names.

Speaking of fucking awesome (this post is just full of the stuff, even if I'm just compiling it for you nice people), this week's newspaper is The Toledo Blade. You might remember I tried to do an article from The Washington Blade, but sadly the gay newspaper of record for our nation's capital had no sports section. The Toledo Blade, however, is not only awesomely named after the swordsmithing industry of Toledo, Spain, but it also has a sports section. And that's more than enough for me to do a quickie article and throw in some clips from the Blade movies. You're welcome.

Today's article has the headline, "Bucks expect expectations." A headline that asinine just has to be worth making fun of. Matt Markey?

The specter is everywhere.

And thus a pulpy fifties detective novel began.

You are reminded of it by the girl from Circleville who sits behind you in sociology class, then by the guy in the produce aisle at Krogers, and again at the family reunion, and when you meet with a couple former players who stopped by campus to visit.

Booooring. Time for a Blade clip.



I'd like to see the girl from Circleville remind you of that.

And even here, surrounded by the swirl of humanity in the heart of downtown in the Windy City, just beyond the shadow of the Sears Tower and a short walk from Navy Pier or the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, you can't elude the aura of Ohio State football.

And to think I used to like Chicago...

Sorry! U of M fandom rearing its head here a bit. I'll try harder.

"It is all around you, and it is everywhere," Buckeyes linebacker James Laurinaitis said yesterday morning as the Big Ten wrapped up its two days of preseason meetings that signal the informal start of the 2008 college football season.

"It is all around you, and it is everywhere"? That may be the most profound-sounding-and-yet-utterly-not-profound thing I've ever heard. And I've heard Martin Heidegger.

Philosophy BURN!!!

"Ohio State football has such a position of prominence in the minds of so many people. But with all of that history and tradition come the constant expectations, and you quickly learn to accept it and really embrace it. You gotta love a place where every year, you are expected to be great."

Its position of prominence? Woefully underrated team that gets blown out when it actually counts. (Admittedly, Michigan loses when it doesn't count, so I maybe shouldn't talk).

Let's cleanse the palate with some more Blade...



That scene (and any other Blade scene with Donal Logue) is so much more funnier if you've seen (or just barely remember) early 00's Fox sitcom Grounded for Life. That might actually be the only contribution Grounded for Life made to the world of humor. Not an utterly terrible show, actually, as far as sitcoms go, but still...

Boeckman, a fifth-year senior who played behind Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith for two seasons before assuming the starting role for 2007, was first-team All-Big Ten last year, when he threw for 2,379 yards and 35 touchdowns. Boeckman said he won't ignore the Buckeyes being ranked in the top five nationally in all the preseason magazines, and Ohio State being the overwhelming choice of the media to win the Big Ten.

I guess it's sort of refreshing that a player admits he is actually aware of his team's gaudy rankings. I'm not sure; I'm kind of blinded by rage here. That and all the blood from that last clip. Damn messy vampires!

"When things get hyped up, you can't let yourself get distracted by that kind of thing, but you also can't deny it exists," he said. "I think the best approach is for us to just make sure we are ready to face what comes with all of those expectations. At Ohio State, we feel like we always get everyone's best game, and that should definitely be the case again this season."

Yes...the best games of soft, outmatched teams that are scheduled merely to rack up rings. I mean, I'm no "SEC is the best and should always be champs" guy, but seriously. Northern Indiana's best game is still a pretty shitty game.

Jenkins has twice been named first-team All-Big Ten, and was a second team All-American last year when he helped Ohio State lead the nation in pass defense. He said the Buckeyes, who have played in the last two national championship games, have the depth and talent to challenge for another conference crown and make a case for returning to a third title game. Jenkins said the expectations of the fans and the media won't be higher than those the team will set for itself.

I'm pretty sure OSU fans expect the team to fix the economy, cure most known diseases, and land a man on the Sun by 2025. I dunno...they're expectations still might be a little bigger.

"We do have a lot of guys back - a lot of very good players - and on paper this could be a championship team," he said. "We have that potential, but until you turn potential into product, it doesn't mean anything."

I'm guessing the words "potential" and "product" were the two words he took away from the one econ class he went to last year before he was told a special assistant would take care of it. Man, I'm an ass. Feels good though.

You know what even OSU and U of M fans (not to mention all you nice normal people out there) can agree on? Blade. Just...Blade.



Tressel, who starts an eighth season as coach at Ohio State, said he was comfortable that the leadership on his team would handle any issues with keeping the hype and expectations in perspective.

"The Buckeye Nation is out there and we see it everywhere we go. Our fans are very loyal and very passionate, and they don't make it a secret that they want us to succeed," Tressel said. "Our players know that and they understand that. It goes with the territory, and I'm comfortable they won't let it affect their preparation or performance."


You know, OSU fans and players are so unique and interesting. Oregon fans only secretly want their team to win, and Boston College routinely shits itself because they're terrified of upsetting the fans (OK...that might be kinda true).

Laurinaitis, who was chosen as the Big Ten's preseason defensive player of the year for the second straight year, said the sense of obligation to honor the winning heritage at Ohio State is likely on his mind more than any stress over living up to what appears in polls or what fans expect of the team.

"There's a saying we have at Ohio State that says 'with tradition comes responsibility,' and we've got great tradition at Ohio State, so we've got a responsibility to keep it up," Laurinaitis said. "That's something I think about every day."


"With tradition comes responsibility"? That's what happens when you take a cliched Spider-Man quote and up the suck. It sucks, that's what.

Eh, let's just watch Blade fight Dracula.



Man, I wish I could fight Dracula. I'd even bring my machete! Speaking of which...



You're all fucking welcome. Make checks in appreciation payable to the Archie Micklewhite Foundation. It's money...for me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

52 52 52 Week #22: New Jersey

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.

You know what's delicious? Irony, that's what. As I may or may not have let slip over the course of my writings here, I happen to hail from the great state of New Jersey. This week's post should have been my magnum opus, a self-indulgent celebration of myself and the state I happen to reside in. It would have been grand. It would have been opulent. It would have been unreadable. I mean like James Joyce unreadable. Late period Joyce.

But, as it happens, I'm in central America, I'm actually doing shit during the day (there aren't even basements here, my mother's or otherwise), and the internet is spotty. Hence this post will be an utter cop-out. I mean utter. Oh, and I'm also probably suspending the other two weekly features until I get back. I don't have the material for Comics & Sports, and I don't really have time to develop ideas well enough for the Column Thingy. Hopefully Passive and Djmmm will be able to step up.

So yeah, let's get this shit-show on the road. New Jersey's highpoint is, well, High Point, a 1,803 foot highpoint that's, you know, high and shit. Here are your requisite three facts:

1. It's the highest peak in the Kittatinny mountains. I live in the fucking state and I've never heard of this particular range. It clearly needs a better publicist.

2. It's a state park with a 200-foot monument at the summit that memorializes those killed in war. Which is very, very laudable. Of course, since this is Jersey...

3. ...the governor wants to shut the park down. Always knew that guy was a commie.

Our article this week comes from The Star Ledger. It's a fun little paper, I guess, and I've proudly never read it. Since this is New Jersey, there's only one thing it could be about - the Yankees, and the fucking awesomeness thereof. Or, in this case, Kyle Farnsworth. Dan Graziano has the floor.

NEW YORK -- They didn't boo Kyle Farnsworth at Joyce Kilmer Elementary School. Second-graders generally aren't the booing kind, and anyway Farnsworth wasn't there to pitch.

Not there to pitch? Ba-ZING!

This was back on May 21, when Farnsworth couldn't so much as warm up in the Yankee Stadium bullpen without getting booed. So the trip out to Mahwah to talk to the kids about a couple of his favorite topics was a pleasant respite.

May 21st? Even I wouldn't touch something that old. Well, other than that one time I did. But that was to do with Michael Tunison! Sweet, beautiful, resplendent Michael Tunison.

"Kids that age are little sponges," Farnsworth said. "They take in everything they can."

Other ways in which kids are like sponges...

1. They're both eukaryotes.
2. You can use both to clean yourself. Although only one doesn't usually involve a visit by the authorities.
3. They're also called "poriferans."

Farnsworth wasn't there to talk about the Yankees, or about life as a big-league relief pitcher. Sure, some of that came up, but his real purpose for being there was to educate the youngsters on fitness and nutrition.

I'd like to think the questions the second graders did ask about the Yankees were of the following variety...

"Hey, Farnsworth? Fuck you!"

OK...that's only kinda a question. But hey, it's Jersey.

"This is something I care about," Farnsworth said. "So I can tell them a little bit of what I know. Fitness, working out, but also nutrition. That's the most important thing. You can work out all you want, but if you eat bad food, it's not going to do you any good."

Oh...so that's what I've been doing wrong. Also, I don't work out.

Who'd have thought it? Kyle Farnsworth -- man with a message. And a worthy one at that. It may not be enough to make the guy a fan favorite, but it's at least something to think about the next time you boo him.

Kyle Farnsworth thinks fitness is good. This alone should earn him your veneration. After all, A-Rod spends weekends force-feeding chocolate sundaes to already full children.

In three years as a Yankee, Farnsworth has built a poor reputation with the fans. He's seen as a weak link -- a blower of late-inning leads, an unreliable performer whose balky back occasionally renders him useless when they need him most.

But...because he was once a Cub plus some other random reason, my brother fucking loves Kyle Farnsworth. Like he's probably reading this post right now without pants on.

But slowly, as this year has progressed, Farnsworth has begun to rehabilitate himself. He has taken over the eighth-inning setup role, flourishing as the man in front of Mariano Rivera since Joba Chamberlain moved to the starting rotation. He received a huge vote of confidence from his new manager, who also happens to be one of his former catchers, and he has so far justified it.

Let's assume I just made a really juvenile gay joke. You know, because the word "catcher" was used. Goodness, I'm mailing this shit in big time.

Farnsworth acknowledges having had a tough time his first couple of years in New York, but he says the fans' booing isn't anything that's bothered him.

"Nothing I can do about it," he said. "The important thing is that I never lost confidence in myself and what I can do."


That may be the most cliched thing I've ever heard. I'm just saying is all.

Farnsworth is as fit as any player in the major leagues. He works out five days a week in the offseason, a little less during the season. His typical lunch is grilled chicken and rice. His typical breakfast is eggs and/or oatmeal. He'll mix in a steak here and there for dinner, or a baked sweet potato. He'll even have a cheeseburger every now and then. He has no sweet tooth, so he's able to lay off the desserts -- you're far more likely to find him sipping on a protein shake than dipping into the clubhouse's ice cream freezer -- but most of his nutrition program is sensible.

So, he talks to second graders, and "most of his nutrition program is sensible"? Wow, this was really worth writing a column about, wasn't it?

I feel pretty much the same way about this post. Let me make it up to you with a YouTube clip that is guaranteed to cause infinite happiness...



Come on...wasn't that awesome?

Rick Reilly sucks balls at Sportswriting AND Poetry

True Story: A number of years ago, while at WPCR (Pretentious College Radio) at Ivy League U, I interviewed a member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins (not Mercury Morris). We talked a bit about that season, and at one point the player mentioned that every year they celebrate their accomplishment when the last undefeated team loses. This was long before the Patriots made their run, but every year, some sportswriter someplace would write a column about how the '72 Dolphins are grumpy old men who need to shut the fuck up and go away. Rick Reilly had relatively recently written one such column.

"Well," I asked, "what do you say to someone like Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated who writes that the '72 Dolphins are basically grumpy old men reveling in the short coming of current players?"

"Rick Reilly is a horse's ass."

Truer words were never spoken.

This is all a lead-in to this poem that Reilly "wrote"(?) for ESPN. Seriously, don't click that link. I'm about to break it down for you, and the poem is awful enough without seeing Reilly's douchey face with his douchey voice reading it to you. Here it is, shitty couplet after shitty couplet:

I love the Open from its A's to its Z's
But Most of all, I love it for thee


Seriously? Rhyming "A's to it's Z's" with "thee"? This is sign number one that this will be bad. Also "zed" and "thee" don't even remotely rhyme...


Bangers, Pasties and good stout beer

Roughs so high you can lose Mike Weir


Mike Weir is the ranked 35th in the world. He has not won a major since 2003 and he hasn't won anything at all since October 2007. I tell you this because I asked myself, since when is Mike Weir at all relevant. Then I realized his name happens to rhyme with beer. Silly me.


Wee winding burns and half grown flag sticks

Teeing off and it's only half past six!


I have no idea what the first half of this couplet means. Archie, you Limey bastard you, does this make ANY sense? And yay, they tee off... early... in the morning? Yay?


Funny lies and your still on the tee

Oceans you smell but never see


... I'm seriously starting to lose my motivation guys.


Holes that seem like they're more than a mile

Fairways so narrow you walk single file


Worth noting that that second line was accompanied by a golfer and his caddy walking shoulder to shoulder down a fairway.


Fish and chips and biscuits and tea

Heather and gorse and greens like high seas,


What does that bit about the greens even mean? The greens are wet? The Kraaken lives in the 17th hole at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club? Tiger Woods is Davy Jones? Is this all a lead in to a Monkees embed? Yep!



Okay that's enough fake Beatles for today...


Blokes and chaps and "good shot laddy!"

Drives hit lower than a '56 Caddy


Okay, this is just starting to not make sense at all. Was the '56 Cadillac particularly low? Did Rick mean a "5'6" caddy?" I guess that'd be a pretty low drive but don't we usually describe such people as "short" rather than "low"? And if the reference is to the car, then fuck you, Rick Reilly, for making such an indecipherable reference to a car manufactured 52 years ago.


Rain and cold and gusts that stagger

And Bunkers with lips as big as Mick Jagger's


...


Fuck this, man. I'm going with the Stones embed here.



Holy shit, I didn't even recognize Keith Richards.


Huge chilly crowds with red rosy mugs

Millionaires lusting for one little jug,


I'm out of energy, man...


And the only way to make them all skittish

Is simply to call their Open the British.


Oh ho ho! I see what you did their Rick Reilly! Everyone else refers to it as the British and they just call it the Open! Ha! No not really all that funny. In fact, it's not funny at all. If there's one thing this world needs less of it's bad poetry. Well, I suppose we could do with less religious intolerance and violence, war, disease, famine, shitty themed restaurants, and child-molesting clergy, but bad poetry ain't too far behind.

ESPN, THIS is what you're paying $2 million a year for? Jesus Christ, this is worse than that time you gave Stephen A. Smith his own show... oh man... ANOTHER embed to close? YAY!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Comics & Sports #4: A 52ian Interlude

As all geeks (looking at you, anyone who realizes the phrase "Neon Genesis Evangelion" isn't just a random assortment of nonsense words) know, every Wednesday (or, in this case, Thursday because I'm still in Central America and my computer actually died on me for like six hours before staging a comeback worthy of Lazarus himself) is that most hallowed of days, new comic book day. In the spirit of that most beautiful of days, I present a feature spotlighting the potentially awesome confluence of sports and comics.

For a whole bunch of reasons (at least two of which were mentioned in the standard intro), this week's post will be a bit abbreviated. To be honest, I'm not sure whether I can guarantee three weekly posts in my present state, but I'll do my very best. Whatever happens, I'll keep you posted.

We're going to take a break from the psychotic fun that is Centaur Comics (we've got at least one absolute doozy in reserve, so it'll definitely be worth the wait) and instead take a look at one of the most obscure corners of the DC universe. And when I say "obscure", I am not even remotely kidding.

A couple years back, DC had a weekly series called 52. It was a series featuring on lesser-known characters told in a real-time during a year without, for various reasons, most of the big guns of the DC universe. It was, all things considered, fucking awesome (although the less said about its technical follow-up Countdown, the better), and it also later served as the namesake for my other weekly feature, which most scholars agree is still its most lasting contribution.

As part of the construction of this larger universe, DC created a tie-in website that was supposedly the online Daily Planet (Clark and Lois's newspaper, for the uninitiated), complete with articles that, to varying degrees, directly described events that could be found in the comics themselves. I say "to varying degrees" because among the vast majority of articles that clearly describe events in the 52 comic there were, for some unfathomable reason, a couple of utterly horrendous fake sports articles. This is one of them.

Bring on The Thunder!

by Ajax McGilicutty, Daily Planet Contributing Sports Reporter

Before we begin, I'd just like to acknowledge that some might consider this week's entry something of a cop-out, an unacceptable deviation from the established format. Well, at the risk of being overly defensive, I would like to defend myself. The most obvious way to do that is to point out someone was, in all probability, paid to write a fake sports article to tie in with a weekly comic book series that had absolutely nothing to do with sports, especially not the story in question. And, as the ultimate "fuck you" to struggling bloggers everywhere, this probably-monetarily-compensated fellow named his fictional sportswriter "Ajax McGilicutty." The inanity of that is almost beyond comprehension. Needless to say, I fucking love it, but I feel my point has been made. I did originally intend to make a point, right?

Fawcett City, May 3 — As a former semi-pro ball player and full-time sports commentator for both the Daily Planet and WHIZ Syndicated Sports Radio I think it's safe to say that I know good basketball when I see it.

Might as well prove my geek stripes and walk you through the comic references as we see them...

1. Fawcett City is the hometown of Captain Marvel; you know, the one who's really a 10-year-old (or thereabouts) boy who turns into Captain Marvel by shouting "Shazam!" It's worth pointing out that "Shazam!" is perhaps the single most hilarious thing somebody could yell during a moment of *AHEM* ultimate passion (although certain Klingon proverbs run a close second). Of course, anybody amused by that is unlikely to find themselves engaged in coitus anytime soon.

2. The Daily Planet is, as previously mentioned, the employer of Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White. I'm fairly sure it's currently owned by Bruce Wayne, although this doesn't come up particularly often. I think it's more of an all-purpose excuse trotted out to explain why Lex Luthor (or, much worse, Rupert Murdoch) never bought the damn thing. Incidentally, while we're on the subject of the Planet, it might be worth wondering why the article's "author" isn't just its resident sportswriter in the comics, seventies meathead Steve Lombard, which would make a hell of a lot more sense that the unbelievably silly moniker that is "Ajax McGilicutty." Maybe they didn't have the rights to use Steve Lombard? Of course, if a random, little-read part of DC's website couldn't use one of its own company's ultra-obscure, little-used bit characters for something as passing as a damn byline...well, I might just weep a little. Also, this article references the Grizzlies later on, which would put them just below Steve fucking Lombard in terms of ease of legal use. Actually, that might make sense.

3. WHIZ Radio is the employer of Billy Batson in a number of incarnations of the character, going right back to his 1940's appearances in Fawcett Comics. Speaking of which, I probably should have mentioned Fawcett City takes its names from the original publisher of Captain Marvel, before the forerunner of DC drove them out of business on the (somewhat dubious) grounds Captain Marvel was a ripoff of Superman.

Anyway, back to sports. What incredibly point does Ajax McGilicutty have to make about basketball?

It's with those qualifiers, not that I'm a long time Fawcett City native, that I say that the Fawcett City Thunder are bringing the noise and look tough to beat in this year's basketball finals.

Holy shit. This is perhaps the most perfect distillation of bad sportswriting I've ever seen. Everything is in place...

1. The utterly spurious, unsubstantiated support ("I know good basketball when I see it")
2. The unbelievably blatant homerism ("not that I'm a long time Fawcett City native...")
3. The lame slang that may - may - have been vaguely cool in the early nineties ("bringing the noise")
4. The vague, Joe-Morgan-esque description of their qualities ("look tough to beat")

The best part is I can't even be sure what this article wants to be. Is it knowing parody written by some bored FJM fan? Is it a sincere imitation written by some bored intern who desperately wants to pitch his Vigilante revival to Geoff Johns but hasn't yet worked out how to approach Johns during lunch in a way that shows him he's cool? I have no idea, and that's what makes this so precious. It's like finding an original copy of the Declaration of Independence at a garage sale, but then discovering a DVD of National Treasure is taped to the back, complete with possibly stoned Nicolas Cage commentary.

With that all said, let's press on.

Solomon Williams' seemingly unstoppable defense has been solid all season and looks to be just as impenetrable in the post-season, with a whopping ten steals in last week's game alone.

Is defense really "unstoppable"? Sure, it's definitely impenetrable, no doubt about that, but unstoppable? I mean, if we're talking immovable object and irresistible force here, defense is obviously the immovable object. C'mon, Ajax McGilicutty, get your head in the game!

Oh, and ten steals would tie this Solomon Williams with eleven other people for second-most all-time, behind only Kendall Gill's eleven back in 1999. So "whopping" might almost be underplaying it.

Coupled with the aptly named Johnny Hooper's offensive leadership and the Thunder look flawless.

Not a sentence. That was so self-referential my mind now actually hurts a little bit. Oh, and who wants to bet the article's ghostwriter decided he had "nailed it" when he called the team's best scorer "Johnny Hooper"? That thought is simultaneously hilarious and strangely moving, like an Onion article that makes you slowly realize most people's lives really are that tragically mundane.

It's no surprise that they've already clinched their position in the next round with a 4-0 sweep over the Memphis Grizzlies.

It's nice to know that, even in the fictional DC Universe where they're the only real NBA team name-checked, the Grizzlies are still a perfectly acceptable punching bag. Some things really should be constant in all universes.

Sure you could argue that it's early in the post and you can't rule out the traditional powerhouses like the Gotham Guardsmen, or the rising newcomers like the Opal City Gems, but if you ask this reporter's opinion, something magical is happening in Fawcett City this year. Go Thunder!

And that's the end of the fake article. Weird use of "post" instead of "postseason", a couple vague allusions to two other teams that makes a mockery of the very definition of "analysis", and then a moment of total cheerleading in an article that claimed the author's opinions were based on rational analysis. Like I said, this is the perfect imitation of bad sportswriting I've ever seen.

And I still like it better than a Plaschke article. But then, you knew that joke was coming.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hot steaming feature.

This week in SI.com Truth and Rumors message board commentary: Brett Favre.

"He's had a great career but it's all about Brent. He just doesn't know when to let go."
"Hear we go again, week 2, same ish!"
"i used to like and respect favre. he just needs a little bit of STFU and sit down now."
"Since Bret "will always be a Packer", he should accept the "different role" of player-coach..."
"Maybe he should go back to ATL finish where he really started or not."

And my favourite (of the first 80 or so comments. There are 650.):

"Where are some of your heads? You call yourself Fans! This is the Packers head brass fault! Yeah, Brett retired regretting it! But, that doesn't mean he can't come back! And for the Packers Brass out there this is a simple problem for ya. You either want him to play for ya or you don't. The most evident issues of all this coming out. Is the Brass knows Brett can play better then Aaron any day of the week. As far as legacy goes Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy's are going down real fast. They will be a blip on the history of the Packers. No matter what happens here. Brett will have his legacy intact. Sometimes a team not Brett need to know when to let go. Unless you come to terms that you want the most arguably best QB ever to play the game. Who can that be? Oh, Brett Favre. Well, look at this way the Vikings will take hiim any day. Come on over Brett we have a opening waiting for ya. I know this won't happen but you Cheese Heads that don't won't Brett Favre back need to get your heads out of the clouds! We are talking about a person who already is a Legend!"

Bread and Butter

I'd estimate 90% of my posts are about things seen on SI.com, and there're two guys in particular. One showed his butterball face yesterday, and the other had some thoughts today. It's Jon Heyman, and I actually only have two quibbles today. One was:

A Barry bad way to go out

Not acceptable. The other was:
Josh Hamilton ... wow. That's all I'll say about that. OK, maybe one more thing: How does Justin Morneau go home with the Home Run Derby trophy if everyone knows that Hamilton outdid him by about a mile (in home-run distances)?

Even though Justin Morneau is from New Westminster and wears Canucks shirts at batting practice...yeah, it's silly. But, uh, shit gets silly when slates get wiped clean and "champions" are decided based on a tiny sample size. Where was your outrage then, Heyman? Let me have my small, British Columbian fun.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Out of the wilderness.

Not literally. I'm still, physically, in the wilderness of northern Canada, where the Home Run Derby is strangely delayed for two hours so that we can watch Don Taylor and Dave Pratt talk about which is the best summer song. Yay, televised sports radio!

No, I'm talking about my month of gloom and darkness, brought on by the inconsiderate, vacation-taking Peter King. But he's back, and he's got Favre on his mind and vacation stories to tell. A warning: this is rough. Pete isn't funny and neither am I. This is a slough. The Favre stuff is eh whatever, except for two little things. First, a controversial thesis statement:
Here's the question in the Brett Favre saga as we wade through his request to be released and the Packers' denial and the firestorm it's created in Wisconsin: How will the endgame play out?
Uh...yeah. You're gonna get hit hard for insinuating that where Favre ends up is what's of interest (as opposed to what?), but stick to your guns, man. There was this too:
[Pack GM Ted Thompson] said Favre's return to the Green Bay locker room "theoretically could be awkward. But football players usually figure out a way to make things work.''

Maybe. I don't know how you possibly could make this work -- one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, coming off one of his three or four best seasons ever, returning to the team to back up a guy who's never started an NFL game. It's absolutely absurd.

Not, uh, not that absurd if the OOTGQbOAT guy is pretty old and said he was leaving for good, allowing the team to give the former back-up an offseason of support and first-team reps and stuff, only to have the OOTGQbOAT guy show up a few weeks before training camp saying "I want back in." I dunno. I don't like going up against PK on actual football stuff, because the gap between his fuhbawwwww knowledge and mine is similar to that between mine and my dog's...but I think he's seeing through Favrejuice-tinted glasses a bit here.

Anyway, Peter was back in the non-football swing of things pretty quickly, with a travel note about a bicyclist attacking a motorist in Oregon. He finished with this hard-hitting commentary:
Not sure what the moral of the story is, but it's not good.
Whatevs, PK. Let's get on with the summer vacation:
June 14, Athens, Ohio: I do not fret for our future. After 28 hours on campus for graduation, I drove away thinking how serious and dedicated so many of these kids are, more than I remembered my class being. Not just brown-nosing nerdy serious. The summer editor of the student paper I used to work for, The Post, is going to law school in the fall. When I met with a bunch of the Posties, there was no talk of drunken nights waking up in some strange dorm. Internships, ethics, cultivating sources. That was the talk. I was also surprised there wasn't a lot of job fear. These kids think they'll find their way, maybe not in traditional media but in some form of info-gathering.
I love that PK's worries about the future are completely placated by the fact that a couple college kids didn't tell him about drinking. King follows it up with a story about his softball team raising money for people in Iowa, and finishes it with:
Goosebumpy stuff.
Peter King's a horrible writer.
June 25, Clifton, N.J.: My wife had been on me for weeks -- months, really -- to get the burgeoning freckle/mole on my right forearm taken off, and so I saw a dermatologist who agreed it must go. I never would have gone on my own. Too busy. But I went. Mole removed. Size of an Atomic Fireball. Routine. Six stitches. Doc, Jonathan Gold, said I'm fine. Gave me 55 and 70 SPF sunscreen and told me to wear it. Life goes on.
That's, um, gross, Pete. Really. There are people out there like me who read your softball stories because we have no social life and have nothing better to do and are petty. There are people out there who probably skip the softball stories. There are (theoretically) people who read your softball stories because they enjoy them. You know what all these people have in common? None of them care about your disgusting skin.

And "Life goes on."? Peter King's writing just makes my skin crawl. It screams "I am an incredibly boring man!". He's still the champ of short sentences, though. 36 words. 9 sentences. Ama. zing.
[There's a softball player I coach] who's not as fast but just as gritty and competes like Dustin Pedroia.
Is Pedroia really that gritty and compete-y, even? By the way, if this is somehow an allusion to Eckstein, I...I hate you, Peter.
July 1, Clifton, N.J.: "I need you to come in today or tomorrow,'' Dr. Gold said on the phone. Oh? What for?'' "Your mole came back with a melanoma.'' Cancer. I think he said after that he thought it was contained within the original mole and tissue he cut out, but all I could think of is, What is this guy talking about? Isn't melanoma something for old people in the sun too long?

I go in the next day. The protocol for such things, I see on WebMD.com, is to cut out an area three-quarters of an inch in all directions to make sure the melanoma has not spread into the lymph nodes or bloodstream. The procedure was longer, and the smell of burning skin more intense as he burned and cut the innocent tissue away. "You'll always have a little dent in your forearm now,'' he said as he sewed up the gulf with 25 stitches, then looked down at his handiwork. "Looks like the laces on a football."

Fire Peter King's editor.

Anyway, King's dog didn't handle fireworks very well, Mary Beth bailed for the west coast (Peter, you must be a millionaire. How could any millionaire's month off be this damn boring), and:
I stopped for the afternoon in Chicago, lathered on the 55 SPF sunscreen, and sat in the seventh row of the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field for Cubs 3, Giants 1. The guy a few seats away asked me, "What's your favorite ballpark?'' And I told him the story of taking my late mother to Wrigley for the first time, maybe eight or 10 years ago, and how she'd been used to Fenway Park and didn't think any place could every be better, and in the seventh-inning stretch, she leaned over to me and said, "Peter, I think this is better than Fenway.''
I'm willing to lay decent money that Peter King answers every simple question with an elaborate story about his family. So, that was Peter's vacation. Again, and to nobody's surprise, fucking boring.
In the mortal words of Mike Greenberg, "We're back and better than ever.''
Google hits for "in the mortal words of": 289 (That's 17^2!). Google hits for "in the immortal words of": 345,000. Typo? Joke I don't get? Joke that's just unimaginably unfunny? Or just crushing stupidity from everyone involved?
If there's something more stupid in sports than allowing fans to vote thousands of times for the baseball all-star game, I don't know what it is. It became a matter of civic pride to get Evan Longoria (who deserved it, I might add) into the summer classic, and so the good people of Tampa Bay were asked to vote over and over for Longoria online so he could be the final member of the AL team. In the National League, one guy estimated he voted 70,000 times for Pat Burrell. Fix the sham-mockery, Bud.
I'll see that and raise you, I dunno, half of all Olympic sports. Or every program on the WWL. Or, closer to the topic, everything about baseball year-end award and HOF voting. Or, closer still, players voting for all-star team members. What exactly is the problem with letting fans see who they want?
I ask all of you out there who have whatever agendas you have to please allow the presidential race to be decided on the issues, not on the myriad other phony things (like the silly Obama's-a-Muslim stuff) starting to crop up.
I am so fucking inspired.

Anyway, there you have it. PK's back, and the time off really seems to have helped him, as he was pretty aggravating this week.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

52 52 52 Week #21: Canada

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

I know I've been a bit tardy on deadlines this week, but you can bet I'm being extra-punctual with this week's 52 52 52. Since I'm spending all of Sunday traveling to an undisclosed location in Central America (I shit you not), I'm going to have to make this entry a bit brief. So sorry to our neighbor to the North, which makes the cut as the 52nd state right ahead of Puerto Rico. After all, they had the Expos way longer. If that doesn't make them deserving of this bizarre weekly series of mine, I can't imagine what would.

Canada boasts the second tallest peak in North America, with its 19,551-foot Mount Logan beating everyone except Alaska's Mount McKinley. So fuck yeah for America and its 1860s territorial purchases from the Russians! It's a catchy refrain, you've got to admit.

And now for some fast facts regarding everybody's favorite highpoint in the Yukon Territory that may or may not be named after Wolverine...

1. OK, OK, it was really named after Sir William Edmond Logan, who didn't even have the decency to have an adamantium skeleton. Nah, he was just a geologist. And not even a geologist with retractable claws.

2. It's pretty fucking cold up at the summit. On May 26, 1991, it got as low as -108 degrees (and of course I mean Fahren-fucking-heit) up there, which is the coldest natural temperature ever recorded outside Antarctica. So, um, pack a jacket.

3. Apparently former Prime Minister Jean Chretien once wanted to rename it after the even more former Prime Minister Pierre Troudeau, who is most famous for this one time his wife ran off to have sex with the Rolling Stones for two weeks (not that there's anything wrong with that). However, the name change failed due to opposition from, and I'm quoting here, "Yukoners, mountaineers, geologists, Trudeau's political critics, and many other Canadians." I really think they could have just said "everybody in Canada except for maybe a couple of Quebecois jerkoffs", but what do I know? I'm not Wikipedia...not yet, anyway.

Speaking of Quebecois jerkoffs - and I should stress I have nothing personal against Quebec, except that as a proud France-hating Brit I really do have to hate France's bastard offspring on principle - this week's article comes from the Montreal Gazette. Sure, I maybe should have gone with a newspaper from the Yukon Territory, but the only articles I could find were all about me striking it rich in the Gold Rush of 1898. Man, I miss The Yukon Trail, another exciting game from MECC! Not that I'm advertising, you understand.

Anyway, Pat Hickey has the floor on something or other NHL-related. No, please, stick with me. This might just be worth reading anyway.

You would think that a couple of U.S. lawyers would have a firm understanding of freedom of speech, but National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman and his right-hand man, Bill Daly, trampled all over the First Amendment to the United States Constitution this week.

Conversely, you'd think that a random Canadian sports columnist would have a piss-poor grip on the Constitution. *SPOILER ALERT* This article is going to prove just that.

The folks in the NHL front office brought an end to the most entertaining hockey story of the offseason when they ordered Anaheim general manager Brian Burke and his Edmonton counterpart, Kevin Lowe, to stop sniping at each other.

The who and the what now?

In case you came in late, Burke accused Lowe of driving up the price of business in the NHL by giving offer sheets last year to restricted free agents Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner.

Huh...that sounds...potentially...maybe...ever so slightly...no, sorry, I can't really go ahead and call that "interesting." I tried though.

Lowe countered by calling Burke a "moron" and suggested that Burke had little to do with Anaheim's Stanley Cup victory in 2007.

OK...now we might be getting somewhere. I must admit I like that Lowe merely said Burke had "little" to do with it instead of nothing. As far as insults are concerned, you've always got to concede a little if you want to gain a lot. That's just basic insult theory.

You couldn't make this stuff up.

And who would want to?

(Admittedly, if Arli$$ was still on and I was about 20% more hackneyed than I actually am, I might just have made an "other than the writers of Arli$$?" joke there. But thank goodness we don't live in this hellish alternate existence.)

Daly said the feud was bad for business, but he missed the essential point - people were talking about the NHL and the buzz around the water cooler was more interesting than waiting for Mats Sundin to make a decision on his future.

Who was talking about this? I mean, I don't want to underestimate the importance of hockey in Canada, but this made absolutely zero impact in the United States. Now, I'm not trying to be an American supremacist here, I'm just pointing out that this supposed business-boosting brouhaha (how you like my alliteration now?) made nary a dent in the country where a good 75% of NHL franchises are located.

Also, wasn't this supposed to be about free speech in some way? Eh, I'll just point out that private organizations such as the NHL have the right to moderate the speech of its employees within certain limits. If our resident law student wants to expand, he's more than welcome, but at its most basic - this is in no sense a free speech issue. Which, judging by the fact that Pat Hickey completely forgot about it after the first sentence, might be something he realized as well.

Wrigley on ice: The NHL seems determined to make an outdoor game as much a part of the annual landscape as season-opening games in Europe.

And why not? It's easily the best idea they've had in years. Well except for that awesome gap year the NHL took a few years back. Really made fans appreciate what they had for so long taken for granted.

It shouldn't come as a surprise because NBC, the U.S. television rightsholder that doesn't pay for the rights, wants an encore for the successful game this year in Buffalo.

The fact that NBC wants anything to do with regular season hockey is an immensely good sign, and yet somehow I get the sense Pat Hickey is not pleased.

The next edition of the game will be played at Wrigley Field and will feature the Chicago Blackhawks against the Detroit Red Wings. There's no word yet on how the NHL will deal with those fans who watch games from the roofs of neighbouring buildings.

Wait...is that his objection?

Tale of two countries: You might recall that Oren Koules and Len Barrie, the new owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had trouble finding someone to finance their purchase of the team. They came up with one-quarter of the $200-million purchase price and former owner Bill Davidson was so anxious to cash out that he's holding an IOU for the balance.

An IOU? It's really true - in every single way, billionaires are like seven-year-olds. Or characters if fifties sitcoms. Kind of a mix really.

The situation is quite different here in Canada, where Darryl Katz was able to secure a $100-million loan to complete his purchase of the Edmonton Oilers. The 6.37-per-cent interest rate is considered high for this type of purchase, but it's hardly usurious.

Ooh, somebody's got a vocabulary. What an insufferably portentous auctorial fellow! I say, wot?

Huh...I broke into a British accent for a second there. Weird.

Katz was able to find money because the strong loonie - it's actually a weak U.S. dollar - has made Canadian NHL teams more viable and the resource-based economy in Edmonton is booming.

I'm sorry, but when your country's favorable economy can really be described in terms of "the strong loonie", how the fuck do you expect anybody to take you seriously? I mean, sure, your economy might not collapse in the next ten years, but at least nobody laughs when they hear the word "dollar." Well, at least not in terms of how it sounds.

Salary cap update: It's a tossup which team is in the worst position vis-a-vis the salary cap in the NHL, the Los Angeles Kings or the Anaheim Ducks.

For fuck's sake - is Los Angeles just incapable of supporting a sports team? I mean, we all know the Lakers are going to fold within six months of Jack Nicholson kicking the bucket.

The Kings are $12 million below the $40-million floor and they have been non-players in the free-agent market. They do have some restricted free agents like Jarret Stoll and Patrick

O'Sullivan to sign, but they might be forced to overpay just to meet the minimum.


Nice formatting. And shouldn't there be more than two sentences of vague "analysis"?

The Ducks are one of four teams that are currently above the $56.3-million cap. They have overspent by $2.4 million and it can't all be Kevin Lowe's fault.

Oh, I'm sure this Burke guy would beg to differ. I cannot wait to talk about this at those Central American water coolers!

There's another sentence, but it's boring. Fine, you asked for it...

Other teams over the cap are the Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and the Calgary Flames.

See?

I think this article needed more discussion of dating Madonna. I mean in a theoretical sense. Do you think it would help or hurt to like her music? Wait, what am I thinking? Got to save shit this profound for the next column...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Column Thingy #3: Dr. (rooting for the) Story-love OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bandwagon

I realized I wasn't a true fan on September 1, 2007. For those who don't immediately recognize the significance of that date - and hell, I had to look it up to know the precise day, so no worries if you don't - we might as well run through my team allegiances, which might make things a bit clearer...

MLB: Cubs
NBA: Bulls
NFL: Bears
College football, not-my-own-college division*: Michigan

*That division is otherwise known as Division I-A. And no, I didn't forget about the name change. I just don't care.

Now, as much as the Cubs' 4-3 victory over the Astros on September 1 was traumatic in its own way (it was a Jason Marquis start, after all), that isn't what I'm talking about. I am of course referring to Appalachian State's 34-32 upset of Michigan, which, if I was any sort of real sports fan, should have been the most embarrassing moment in my real sports fan life. But really, my only reaction (beyond a distinct lack of surprise) was, "Wow...that's pretty cool." I was actually happy - or, if you prefer antiquated nineties slang, stoked - that some I-AA upstart had beaten my supposed favorite college team. Sure, I wished it had happened to some other team, but I was just glad it had happened at all.

I think the seeds of this had been sown in October 2004, back when I was a regular Simmons reader and a true believer in the gospel of grit and intangibles. (It's a dark part of my past, but I won't run from it - Djmmm can vouch for the fact that our first ever meeting in fall 2006 was me arguing A-Rod was crap because he wasn't clutch and the Cubs were somehow jinxed because of bad fielding in one inning in 2003. Now that, my friends, is full motherfucking disclosure.) It's hard to remember now, but back in 2004 Boston was a city of underdogs that the whole nation could root for. I know, hard to believe, but still. And really, by any standard, the 2004 ALCS was just about the most insane thing that ever happened. I can't remember if I was rooting for the Sox because I considered myself a Yankees anti-fan, because I saw the Sox as a decent substitute for my even more woebegone Cubs, or just because I was a gorram adolescent frontrunner. Maybe the last one. I'm trying to be hard on myself, after all.

Anyway, without laboring the point, as much as the 2004 ALCS was arguably the apex of my sports viewership at the time, reading the Simmons columns and watching the SportsCenter highlights made me realize something that really should have been obvious: the Red Sox players and the Red Sox fans were two different groups. As much as Simmons used "we" to discuss the team's accomplishments, that just wasn't the case. I think the crystallizing moment was when I saw the clip of the Sox players celebrating at home plate after Game 4 or 5, with the fans at Fenway in the darkness far behind them. These players had actually done something, whereas those behind had just watched something. And it was then that the slow process that was my ruination as a sports fan truly began. Shit, that last sentence was tortured. Ah well.

In any event, it was then that I realized the Cubs might someday win a World Series, but I never would. The best I could ever hope for was a vicarious thrill, a championship by association. Anyone able to realize this current band of Cubbies has absolutely nothing to do with all the past losing incarnations really should be able to make the next logical steps: the fans don't even have anything to do with the current team, let alone the 1908 crew. So what, exactly, was the point of my blind devotion? What did I really want out of sports? The answer is relatively obvious - I wanted entertainment, pure and simple. Hell, it's the standard line of bloggers everywhere, and with good reason. But I don't think that's what I always wanted.

My teams have reached their respective finals four times in my memory - the Bulls from 1996 to 1998 and the Bears in 2007. I can't imagine more different fan experiences. As an 8-to-10-year-old rooting for those Bulls teams, it really did seem like this was a matter of life and death; I remember Game 6 of 1997 was basically three hours of adrenaline overdose. But the Bears? Well, I guess I was rooting for them...I guess. It was just my luck - and again, Djmmm can confirm this - that I arrived at the (very lame*) Super Bowl party I had chosen to attend about ten seconds after the game started. Which means, as anyone who actually remembers the Super Bowl can attest, I missed the only ten seconds that went well for the Bears, what with Devin Hester scoring a touchdown and all.

*Although really, is there any other kind of Super Bowl party? Frankly, based on prior experience, I'm dubious.

On some level, I was glad the Bears hadn't won. If nothing else, Peyton Manning could never again be considered a choker (or at least that's what I thought), and that had to count for something. It moved the NFL's ongoing story along in a way the Bears winning wouldn't have. I'm not sure, to be honest; maybe it was just that I had already conceded the game midway through the third quarter and spent the rest of the time crafting the perfect Barbaro-related Deadspin comment. Needless to say, I failed. (This was back before I scammed Harper Collins as part of my Machiavellian scheme to get a commenting account, of course.)

But maybe it was just because I didn't feel anything towards this Bears team. Their inconsistency was vaguely cute back when it produced epic comebacks against the juggernaut that is the Arizona Cardinals and resultant Dennis Green rants. As much as I was over the concept of "destiny", I was rather amused by the notion that the Bears might luck their way into a Super Bowl in the most ass-backwards way possible, sort of like the end of Slapshot or "Homer at the Bat" or something like that. I don't want to go too far with such revisionism - I certainly wasn't consciously transforming the 2006 Bears from epic drama to slobs vs. snobs comedy, but by Week 8 I didn't seem to have many other options. By the Super Bowl, it was clear that to root for the Bears was to root for the worst Super Bowl champion in history, sparkly 13-3 record be damned. And as a lover of the great story, I was against that.

And that's really the point. Since I'm now unable to figure out why I should irrationally root for the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, and Wolverines, I've just started rooting for the best story. After all, if sports is about entertainment, shouldn't I root for the most entertaining thing to happen? Boise State, Hawaii, George Mason, the Golden State Warriors, the Atlanta Hawks, and, yes, Appalachian State. These are the teams I've rooted for, if only temporarily. Some actually came through (Boise State, George Mason, the Warriors, Appalachian State), some didn't quite make it (Hawaii), and some probably did us all a favor by merely teasing us (much as a Hawks upset would have been awesome, I dread to think how boring the East might have gotten without the Celtics involved). All of that is easy enough to understand - I love me some underdogs, just like pretty much everybody else, with the possible exception of everyone involved in ESPN. Of course, when you're the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader, I guess it makes sense to root against the little guy. But I digress.

There are three teams I've recently rooted for that I should probably discuss: the Patriots, the Giants, and the Lakers. Obviously, the Patriots and the Giants are intertwined. During the season, I was more interested in seeing the unprecedented (14 wins is less than 16, Djmmm, and that's all that I mean by that) happen, despite the fact that rooting for that Patriots team seemed even worse than rooting for those early millennium Yankee teams that I so righteously despised. I wasn't really rooting for the Patriots; I was rooting to be an observer of history. But by the time they had reached the Super Bowl, I felt as though the point had already been made. I'll never quite understand why people took the Patriots' loss as evidence that it was somehow impossible to go completely undefeated. All the loss proved was what we already knew to be the case - it is really, really hard to go 19-0 (and don't get me started on 20-0). But the Patriots getting it that far put it squarely in the realm of possibility, however remote. In all probability, by 2040, another team will have made a very serious run at a perfect season. Sure, that's a hell of a long time to wait, but it's awesome to know that it really can happen. Hell, maybe even my Bears will be the team to do it. Well, OK, not really "my" Bears. Da Bears. Yeah, that's what they all say. They all say "Da. "

But what of the Lakers? What of those soft, disappointing, oh-so-European scamps? Entering this year's playoffs, I had no obvious rooting interest, so I just went ahead and hoped for Lakers-Celtics. You know, for history's sake, both of the historic and instant variety. (Yes, I know I just referred to "historic history." I humbly request that you motherfucking deal with it. Oh, and I also rooted for the Hornets.) Even so, for the first three rounds of the playoffs, I wasn't all that bothered by who won as long as the Spurs and Pistons ultimately went down. And then, as the Finals started, for whatever reason, my rooting interest snapped into place - for whatever reason, I wanted the Lakers to win.

I honestly have no idea why. Certainly, I don't consider myself a bandwagon fan. I had no intention of rubbing a Lakers victory in anybody's face (of course, you'll just have to take my word on that), and under no circumstances did I intend to claim anything more than a passing fling with the team. (And, if worst came to worst, I'd just do what Shaq does and pay his women the team off.) As a Bulls fan, I still feel very favorably towards Phil Jackson, but that wasn't enough to make me root for him when I almost gave a shit back in 2004. I dunno.

I guess my point, if I have a point, is that there are thirty or so teams in each of the three (OK, Passive, four) leagues. Only about half of those teams even make the playoffs in a given year (even less in baseball, of course), and of those half are, by definition, gone by the end of the first round. At least 75% of the teams in a given league end their seasons in unequivocal disappointment, and that figure is probably up to 95% these days, seeing how even making the Conference Finals isn't always enough to guarantee continued employment. Unless you're rooting for the handful of teams that have been good for decades, more often than not the season is going to end on a sour note. And for a country that so seems to love happy endings (Casablanca notwithstanding), that seems like an odd arrangement for something that's supposed to be entertainment. That seems all too depressingly realistic to me.

And so that's why I just root for the best and most entertaining story, and why I've made peace with the fact that that puts me on the bandwagon more often than not. I've always got someone to root for come championship time, and with so little emotional investment it's fairly easy to quietly spin a loss and move on. (I belive the words "Well, at least KG finally has a ring" were uttered as I switched over to The Daily Show midway through Game 6.) But there's an obvious downside. The Cubs look to have as good a chance as any to win the World Series this year, and since I no long believe in stupid fucking bullshit like jinxes I've got no problem openly saying they've got a great shot. But, as much as they were obviously not nearly as good a team in 2003 as they are in 2008, I sorta wish the Dusty Baker/Sammy Sosa/Mark Prior brigade had come through (or, if I'm really pushing my luck, that 1998 Wild Card crew). I suspect, as much as the Cubs winning the World Series will entertain me, it won't affect me nearly as much as it could once have. At least back in 1998 and 2003 I was stupid enough to think sports actually meant something.

And I'm still not sure whether losing that feeling is a bad thing or not. Eh, at least I've got Deadspin...

Friday, July 11, 2008

This may end poorly.

I'm going to try to dabble in basketball, which, based on demographics, seems like a horrible idea. But I think this might have enough general silliness for me to stagger through. It's a Steve Aschburner article about how the Eastern Conference of the NBA is maybe starting to catch up to the West. Keep in mind that like 3 months ago a regular season ended that saw, as Mr. Aschburner himself notes, the ninth-place Western team finish with a better record than the fourth-place Eastern team. East teams won a stellar 42.7% of the interconference games, and that's including Boston's 25-5 record. (By my count, the Knickerbockers went 3-27 against the West. How the fuck is that even possible?) So, it'll be hard for the East to get worse, but....well, let's just get started:

For years now, the NBA's balance of power -- East to West and vice versa -- has drawn all sorts of inexplicable and undue attention. As if it's wrong for things to tilt one way or the other in sports as opposed to, y'know, our daily lives and relationships....[clever examples of one-sided relationships in life, like "pizza-dieter"]...Yet with the NBA, we pull out micrometers and slide rules every year to gauge the gap at any given moment between the [two conferences]. It offends, I dunno, our sense of fair play if too many good teams seem to be stacked up on one side of the league compared to the other.


Actually, it's probably a legitimate piss-off to Golden State fans when their 48-34 (20-10 against the East) team has to sit out from May until the following February (Playoffs-are-long joke! So fresh!) while the Atlanta Hawks (37-45, 13-17 against the West) get to take part. (***See below!***)

Let's sift through the evidence:
• Exhibit A: Elton Brand agrees to a five-year, $80 million contract with the 76ers. [He gives a long explanation.]

Okay.

Exhibit B: Jermaine O'Neal goes to Toronto, while T.J. Ford gets swapped to Indiana. On paper, this seems like a wash for the East. Not if both teams end up stronger than they were...


Less of a sure thing than Brand, but okay.
Exhibit C: Washington re-signs Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.

Nope. Those players are staying on the same team, and have been there for multiple seasons. Does not count. He also weirdly includes this in the explanation:
If losing three consecutive first-round series to Cleveland doesn't qualify under the NBA tradition of knocking at the door of contender status, nothing does. Except maybe for the fact that the Cavaliers keep getting through that door first.

Whatever, dude.
Exhibit D: Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry is pursuing his master's degree in capology...[Cavs need to win now and build for future to entice The Bron to stay]...So it is no accident that the Cavs' roster has more than $27 million in expiring contracts for the coming season and only James' $15.8 million player option for 2009-10 on the books beyond that. One way or the other -- around James or without James -- Ferry will be building a new team. Urgency suggests it will add to the East's collective strength.

Does urgency suggest that? Why? This may be where my utter lack of understanding re: NBA crops up, but who's to say that Mr. Ferry will restock the team well just because it's urgent? Also, aren't expiring contracts usually sort-of-shitty players?
Exhibits E and F: Chicago nabs the No. 1 player in the draft, Miami takes No. 2.

Makes sense, but here's the first part of the explanation:
The murmur that went through the NBA in June 2007 -- when Greg Oden and Kevin Durant went 1-2 to Portland and Seattle, respectively, leaving everyone else with, well, everyone else -- didn't quite play out, with Oden hurt all season and Durant shooting and scoring for a lousy team in its lame-duck year.
So, the East looks to be adding two big-impact rookies. But...the West is adding last year's big-impact draftee, plus should see improvement from a no-longer-lame-duck Formerly-the-Sonics team. Is it a wash? Last year also showed that sure-thing rookies aren't necessarily sure things. I'm, um, not convinced of anything right now.
Exhibits G and H: Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Kidd still are (yawn) in the West.

Yeah, they're still in the West. That hasn't changed the balance any from last year. Not hugely convincing.
Exhibits I and J: Orlando and Atlanta are about ready for their close-ups.

Sure, whatever. I guess you could counter that Portland and OKC both look like they're going to be pretty good, pretty soon. But sure.
Exhibit K and L: Larry Brown and Donnie Walsh have rolled up their sleeves again.

Sure, but we all know Brown'll bail in like six months. Whatever. Anyway, he gives himself credit for 12 bits of evidence. I'll give him six, and a C- overall. Which is roughly how well I think I handled this article. Passing grades all around!

***The CFL has a crossover rule, you know. And there's "free" health care here too!. Blah blah blah I'm going to masturbate with maple syrup.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Comics & Sports #3: Mighty Man and the College Football Squad of Doom

As all geeks (looking at you, Futurama writing staff) know, every Wednesday (or, in this case, Thursday because of July 4th and my own damn laziness) is that most hallowed of days, new comic book day. In the spirit of that most beautiful of days, I present a feature spotlighting the potentially awesome confluence of sports and comics.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty much completely and utterly the Dash Dartwell show. Which is all well and good, but the creative minds at Centaur Comics had more than just Dash Dartwell up their sleeve. For today we will prove once again they knew far more about satirizing future sports issues than giving 1940s comics readers what they want; after all, if they'd understood the latter, Robert Downey Jr. would be gearing up for Dash Dartwell 2: Dash Boogaloo as we speak. But ah well. A few fuzzy black & white comic panels are way more fun than some Robert Downey Jr. improv any day of the week. I'll just keep telling myself that, shall I?

Today's featured hero is Mighty Man, and once again the comics themselves will do a way more coherent job explaining the character than I could...

The Mighty Man is a twelve foot super-giant who was found in a hidden valley in California. He leaves the valley to wage a war on criminals. To date very few people have heard of the Mighty Man - for reasons of his own he needs to be kept in the background.

Good to know he's not just a giant - it's really super-giants that get the job done, crimefighting-wise. So he's our hero. But behind every superhero is a creator, a writer of unmatched genius with the verve and the wit necessary to make such outrageous characters truly come to life. Or, in this particular case, a journeyman halfback/quarterback named Frank Filchock who was notable for roughly five things:

1. He was Sammy Baugh's partner in a thunder and lightning package with the early forties Redskins; seriously, he was the Flingin' Frank to Baugh's Slingin' Sammy. He even managed to beat out Baugh for most touchdown passes once. So no offensive slouch was old Filchock.

2. He was the first person to throw a 99-yard touchdown pass, which means everyone else is living in his Filchockian shadow when it comes to long passes. Well, until the Germans offhandedly mention they'd really like to see a soccer-size field and Goddell expands the field to 130 yards.

3. He was embroiled in a massive gambling scandal that got him banned from the NFL for four years and ultimately exiled him to Canada. Wikipedia has the scoop, but basically someone tried to offer him a bribe to fix a game, the NFL got wind of it before the game was played, he denied he'd ever been offered one, played his absolute hardest in the game, got acquitted of any wrongdoing, and then got banned. He may have been a victim of circumstance or he may just have realized the best way to look innocent after getting caught redhanded was to play lights out. Hard to say really. Probably would make a good movie though. And yes, Hollywood executives, I'm very much available to write and direct.

4. He was the proud owner of a deeply silly name. Seriously, Frank Filchock. I still can't spell his name correctly without looking it up first. I just so desperately want his name to be all the way dirty instead of maddeningly close. Honestly, drop that "h" and we're on a one-way train trip to hilarity junction. I'm just saying.

5. Finally, and most importantly for our purposes, he had a brother by the name of Martin Filchock. Martin was a comic book artist with Centaur Comics, and, while I know nothing of the circumstances of the following story's creation, almost certainly asked his famous football playing brother whether he could think of a superhero story that involved playing football. At the very least, Martin illustrated his brother's idea, and in the absence of a credited writer, probably wrote most of it.

But still, let us never forget - the following comic was the brainchild of a real NFL player. For the Redskins, no less, proving Washington really has always had the most interesting athletes. I'm sure 40s-era D.C. blogger Silas Mottram would readily agree.

And now, to the comic itself...



Sports media has really come a long way in sixty years, hasn't it? Seriously, that looks like nothing more than the information necessary to understand what is going on. Where's the snarky rejoinder, the contrarian undercutting, the random if totally justified Hitler reference? Truly, it was a living hell of nothing more than bare bones information.

Interesting that Filchock's villains would be a bunch of men too evil to need substitutes. Sounds like somebody's advocating one-way players. Pfft. Wuss.



Look, a twelve foot giant - sorry, super-giant - is one thing, but now I know this is utter fantasy. The blue-chip recruit of the century (I can only imagine what ESPN analysts would make of his wingspan) and they're worried about him passing tests and enrolling? Not in my universe, pal.



Who does Mighty Man think he is, leading one team on by playing its fears of a rival snatching him up while all the while plotting his betrayal...Terrelle Pryor?

Sorry, sorry, the homerism alarm has just gone off. Won't happen again. Wasn't even a fair comparison anyway. Well, mostly.

Anyway, Mighty Man presents himself to the coach of the Western College team and the team's Doctor, a man with the unbelievably appropriate name of Doc Bigger. His tryout goes rather well, all things considered...



What I really love about these panels is the Coach's exclamation, "What an end he'll make!" As though that's specifically the position where a super-strong twelve foot man would be effective. I mean, I know the trend these days is towards specialization, but seriously...



Again, this isn't like any kinda college football I've ever heard of. For all the fact that these two are obviously supervillains - I mean, they're in a comic book, and one of them has got a monocle - they seem to have better recruiting scruples than any school in the SEC. Or the Pac-10. Or the Big 10. Or...well, you get the idea.

As the final part of the tryout, for some reason the coach makes the rest of the team try to tackle Mighty Man. Afterwards, our hero has some questions...



Hey, Mighty Man, maybe the quarterback was confused because you tackled him during practice. Forties or not, I'm sure that's a no-no. Of course, it could be because he's a zombie controlled by the team's doctor. On second thought, that's probably it.



Oh, forties sensibilities, you so crazy!!! I'd say more, but I just sorta start to weep inside.

Anyway, a steel vault and some knockout gas later, Doc Bigger and the coach have captured Mighty Man, which of course means it's time for the good doctor to prattle on about his evil scheme...



He certainly is mad, Mighty Man. Anyone who thinks a tall dude like Erick Dampier is naturally more valuable than some little'un like Steve Nash is out of their mind. Or possibly Mark Cuban. That last part may have been redundant.

Sorry to go all circa-2004 on you nice people, but that seemed like the best joke available. Also, it gave me an excuse to unleash the phrase "go all circa-2004 on you nice people", which I predict will be the catchphrase of happening hipsters come 2009.

Anyway, because he's a superhero in a forties comic, Mighty Man easily breaks free and then kills Doc Bigger in the most darkly appropriate manner imaginable...



If Tom Brady ever rebels againt Bill Belicheck, I pray that this is how he does it.



Seriously, Mighty Man? "Some football coaches don't care how they get a winning team"? I dare any of you to name one coach who wouldn't do this. Seriously, give it your best shot.

That's what I thought.

Join us next Wednesday (no, seriously, I'll have it done by Wednesday) for our next Comics & Sports extravaganza!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Comics & Sports tomorrow...

Since new comic book day has been delayed by a day (thanks American independence, you big jerk - and to think I thought you were a good thing), I too will postpone Comics & Sports until tomorrow. Well, that and I'm feeling lazy. Not to mention tired as all get out. I must be getting old. Or something.

To make up for it, I give you what I know you all really want - random acts of violence and a seedy pitchman...



Anyone else feel like there's nothing happening in sports at the moment? Well, apart from those trades, but as a fan of one of the teams I'm recusing myself from such discussion.

Go on. Live a little.

I know the (original, but not at all original) purpose of this website was to try to dump on professional sports journalism, but...I love the comments on the "Truth and Rumors" part of SI.com. I'm addicted. They are almost flawless. And today came a gift from whichever God watches over my sports-related entertainment: an article about Dan Rooney. Cue 600 "The Rooney's are pure class. Their the best thing that ever hapened to the Steelers." comments, right? But this one has so much more. Go on. Try it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

52 52 52 Week #20: Vermont

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.

If there was ever a week when 52 52 52 wasn't going to happen, it was probably this one. (Well, other than the four weeks I'm about to spend out of the country, but let's burn that bridge when we get to it.) After all, it's still Independence Weekend (and if that isn't the term, it should be), and I still am under no obligation to do anything other than affirm my love of all things America in the most jingoistic way possible. Which, as far as I'm concerned, involves blowing up Spanish battleships in the name of payback, "Remember the Maine" style. Because that's how I roll.

For after all, as the state motto of Vermont says, "Live free or die!" And if you think of blogging as synonymous with living free and not blogging as much like death, well then...

Ah, I see. I'm being told that "Live free or die" is actually New Hampshire's motto. Honest mistake, that. What's Vermont's? "Freedom and Unity", eh? Well then, if freedom is blogging, and unity is not taking July 4th weekend off, I think you can see how...ah, fuck it.

Point is, we're on Vermont this week, and its stylish Mount Mansfield, clocking in at 4,393 feet. I'd like to think Mount Mansfield was the source of a bunch of really immature jokes by Vermont schoolboys in the 1950s, thanks to the popularity of the truly spectacularly-chested Jayne Mansfield. You know, a lot of stuff about wanting to "mount Mansfield" and other similarly hilarious repartee passed around during hiking excursions. A man can dream. And, because this is still America dammit, a man can supplement the following three facts with pictures of Jayne Mansfield. Because I am, like my last post said, a motherfucking hero.

1. From Wikipedia: "Mount Mansfield is one of the two spots in Vermont where true alpine tundra survives from the ice ages." At the risk of a very, very hackneyed joke that is sure to piss off Djmmm, I think there's a definite chance I may have to revise that joke by 2018. You know, because of global warming. Melting ice, people. Fuck, I probably should have spent more time phrasing that joke and less time apologizing for it. Ah well, no need to apologize for this...



King of the segue, yes sir.

2. Mount Mansfield is the home of the Stowe skiing resort. I'm sure it's a very nice place, but I'm guessing it was at a slightly warmer clime that this photo was snapped...



Not that I'd complain with more ski-appropriate attire. Those fifties gals sure knew how to stretch a sweater. And, by that, I mean they had almost cartoonish busts. Eh, no "almost" about it.

3. Also from Wikipedia: "The mountain has the appearance of a (quite elongated) human face when viewed from the east or west with distinct forehead, nose, lips, chin (the highest point) and an Adam's apple."



I imagine much of that might also be true about Jayne Mansfield, but I haven't quite bothered to check yet. Well, apart from the Adam's apple. Hopefully. Eh, with breasts (or, as us classy folks call them, "gazongas") like that, I won't quibble.

Now that I'm good and horny (which is my preferred writing style, not unlike Oscar Wilde, and we all know how he turned out...wait, he turned out how?), let's talk some Vermont sports journalism. Kenneth Wells of the Newport Daily Express steps up with a piece on a Canadian NASCAR driver. I had vowed to never discuss Canada and NASCAR, but such is the world in which we find ourselves. Also, when the grammar and mechanics are this atrocious, I just can't resist. It's the pedantic dick in me. Mr. Wells?

He’s young, good looking and has that quality personality that fans and friends alike can root for.

"Quality personality"? Not to sound like a stereotypical horny dude in a shitty comedy (too late, I know), but when has that ever not been used as a euphemism? What does this dude have? Genital warts? I'm going to go with genital warts.

For Joliette, Qué. native Patrick Carpentier a big step towards respectability in his chosen profession was taken.

Oh, he's from Quebec. Close enough. To genital warts, I mean.

Man, this is one hell of a dirty post. I guess this is what I get for talking about Canada so soon after the 4th of July. John Adams must be spinning in his XXL grave.

He emerged as the NASCAR Pole sitter in the Lennox Industrial Equipment 301 race this past weekend.

Just to finish off the utterly juvenile trifecta: heh, heh...pole.

The 37 year old turned the mile oval in 29.349 seconds and called it his,"biggest" accomplishment in a career dating back more than a decade. Carpentier said, "Its amazing." There is going to be busloads of people down here, and that’s what the objective is, to grow the fan base of NASCAR here and bring more people in. A lot of people in Canada are starting to be fans.”

Here's a fun game - let's play "Count the grammatical, mechanical, and formatting errors!" in that last mess of text. The game's so fun, it's totally sick! Well, sic, at the very least. This man isn't just the editor of the sports section like last week's Sara Mettlen; he's the fucking publisher of the entire newspaper. For goodness sake, I think I could dig up articles I wrote for my middle school newspaper that are better written than that. And hell, I'm always looking for a new gimmick...

Patrick is smiling, and genuinely appreciative of his feat which could make him the perfect Canadian ambassador for the sport. He continued," I am really happy, and hopefully this will help me stick around for a few years.”

Him winning the pole in a minor NASCAR race makes him the perfect Canadian ambassador for the sport? The sad thing is, I totally buy that.

Patrick Carpentier, who makes his home in Las Vegas now is a likable person and his story is somewhat a Cinderella version.

Seriously...was this originally written in English? I'm perfectly willing to redact this post if this was actually a French language article badly translated but, but...I doubt it, somehow.

Honestly, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. If there was one fish that completely filled the barrel. And the water was frozen. And the gun was glued to the fish. And the gun was set to auto-fire. And even if you missed, it still counted as a successful shooting of fish in a barrel. That's how easy mocking this article is. It's almost beneath me. Thank goodness I'm unbelievably petty.

He is easy to pull, for less than two years ago he came to Loudon during the Sylvania 300 weekend to basically introduce himself to potential sponsors.

He's easy to pull? What, one can, as Wiktionary so eloquently puts it, "persuade [him] to have sex with one"? He really is Quebecois...

It's obvious that Kenneth Wells is forcing his children to write articles for him. Here's the real question though: was it his twelve-year-old or five-year-old? Keep in mind, his twelve-year-old is going through a bit of a geek phase, so you'd think there'd be some random Gundam Wing reference crowbarred in there somewhere. You know, much like I did there. Overall, I'm going with five-year-old on the day he learned to use spell check. Because, atrocious as the usage might be, at least some of the words are spelled correctly.

Carpentier has never finished higher than 23rd, but, if he can ever hang close enough and long enough to capture the checkers, there may well be a new national holiday up north.

If he wins one obscure NASCAR race, Canada will designate a national holiday? Look, I know the Stephen Harper premiership has gotten people down, but let's not take things to completely radical extremes.

See! I even know the name of Canada's prime minister. Admittedly, I thought it was James Harper until I looked it up, but isn't it the effort that counts? So, um...yay America!