Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Mavs Take The Fork

In the last of a 4-game marathon session today, the Hornets took a hammerlock on their series with the Mavs in a game that, finally, should make it clear to even Dallas Fan that their team is a lot closer to the lottery than a serious playoff run.

With 4.5 seconds left in the third quarter, Jason Kidd was able to get in front of Chris Paul just enough to help him roll an ankle, for his first foul of the game. It's telling when your point guard who is getting killed isn't even picking up fouls; either he's too slow to get there, or just doesn't give a damn. And from watching this game, I'd say both.

The Hornets won this game on more than Paul, though. They won on Peja Stojakovic hitting the wide open shots that Paul got for him. They won on David West being able to go 1 on 1 on Irk Nowitzki (the D was non-existent), and eating the lunch of every Dallas big man who tried to guard him. And they won on Byron Scott outcoaching Avery Johnson, simply because Avery Johnson might be the biggest over-coacher in the Association. The Bugs just made the Mavs look slow and old all over the floor, and it isn't just Paul; it's also useful bench guy Jannero Pargo and livebody Julian Wright. In what passed for crunch time tonight, the Hornets didn't have a bad matchup anywhere on the floor.

For the Mavs, hope is not looking strong, as noted pot enthusiast Josh Howard was horrible, Jason Terry didn't give them the same boost that he did in Game 3, and I couldn't tell you who their best player was, because they didn't really have one. Dallas has also lost 8 straight road playoff games -- so the chance of this one going longer than 5 isn't looking too great. A pity, too, since the Hornets lack playoff experience. It's clearly killing them. (And no, I don't give them a chance in hell against the Spurs.)

Also noteworthy late -- Jason Kidd's picked up a flagrant 2 on a Pargo drive, earning him an ejection. It was deserved: he put the left hand around Pargo's neck and yanked, and if there was a greater exclamation point on how that trade hasn't worked out for the Mavs, I can't imagine it. The Mavs would have been better off with Devin Harris (not that Harris locked down Paul, either) on both ends of the floor right now, because Jason Kidd is simply a terrible basketball player now. (Also, after Kidd's assault, the refs forgot about giving the Mavs' anything close to a call.) This series is over.

Two final points: Kudos to TNT for breaking out the Matt Geiger tape of the last time the Bug Franchise won in Dallas. I can't get enough Matt Geiger footage, really. And what the hell has happened to Mark Cuban's hair? Either the dude is pulling it out over this series, or just losing it from worrying about bloggers. Either way, it couldn't happen to a nicer freak... and man alive, as I'm writing this and wrapping things up, a Dallas fan gets ejected from jawing at the team and Cuban in particular. It's a shame, Cubes. Watching you cry at the end of a first round loss was becoming such a nice little annual tradition.

Epic Drop: Top 10 Things We Did Not Know Before Watching The NBA Playoffs This Weekend

Your list is here, and believe it or not, there may be content or jokes in it that didn't make it into any of the other NBA recaps this weekend. Honest.

And still one last game to go before we sleep...

Consider the Switch Turned On

Tonight in Philly, the Pistons slept through another half before showing up, but since they were only down 10 from the first, it didn't hurt them.

The critical play was a Sheed technical late in the first after a successful Reggie Evans flop. Wallace looked close to being tossed, but as usually happens with Sheed, he used the T to come back with better play, including a trio of triples in the third, when the Pistons swung the game with a 19-point bulge.

All the credit will go to Sheed, but Chauncey Billups deserves more, as he got the better of his battle with Andre Miller.

For the Sixers, it was a simple matter of getting turnovers early, and not enough late. They also didn't do nearly enough on the defensive boards, as the Pistons just wore them out in the second half with second chances. The Sixers also had nothing in the half court that worked, and didn't take enough care of the ball to give them any kind of chance. Also, bad free throw shooting -- a problem that has to be fixed for this young team to get any better, especially in close games -- was a serious problem.

It also didn't help that the refs started making sure a run wouldn't happen for the home team in the fourth. On consecutive possessions, brutal no-calls on Willie Green and Andre Iguodala helped suck the energy out of the building. But that happens to young teams, especially at home. (See the Cavs win in Philly after the buzzer, which ensured that the Sixers got Detroit in the first round anyway.)

Assuming Detroit takes care of business at home in Game 5, the question is whether or not the 2 seed will close in 6, or whether they'll sleep for another game. In any event, they've given their opponents in future rounds a lot to work with, especially if the opponent has a point guard with size. It was a nice story, but if Philly really wanted to get past the 2 seed, they couldn't lose this game; they were going to need multiple chances to close.

(Oh, and just for new FTT poster Tracer Bullet, here's the second choice of image for this wrap-up, in honor of the Pistons: Big Daddy Dick Cheney. Just like the Veep, the Pistons are old, tired, unwatchable, hated, hateful, and going to screw you. And just to add to your Nightmare Fuel -- Spurs-Pistons is still very much on the table. Enjoy.)

Take a few deep, cleansing breaths

So, after months of speculation, countless mocks, gallons of petrochemicals sacrificed on the altar of Mel Kiper's hair and about 12 hours of the actual NFL Draft, what have we learned?

Not a damned thing.

Chances are, if your favorite team sucked Friday, it still sucks today. Or maybe they don't. Maybe they've picked up some unholy combination of Deacon Jones and Darryl Green who can run like the wind, bench press Cadillacs, eat iron and crap high-grade steel.

The fact is, nobody knows what, if anything, this weekend will mean for any team. Not yet, anyway. Any honest commentator will tell you a draft can't be judged for at least three years.

So all those "Grade the Draft" columns you're going to see this week? The insights of my cats are about as useful. You're better off downloading porn instead of worrying about what Peter King thinks about the draft.

Actually, that's probably always true. At least porn will get you off and King can't say that. (I hope. What kind of sick freaks are you people?)

Quiet as kept, most of the guys drafted this weekend will never be anything more than camp bodies who never get into an NFL stadium without a ticket. There is as much chance the highly-touted rookie you're so excited about will become an All-Pro as there is he'll become a bust so horrible his name is only mentioned as a cautionary tale or a sick joke.

So for those of you who think that first-rounder is just the guy to put your team over the top? Relax. He probably won't start this year and there is, at best, a 50-50 proposition he ever becomes a regular starter. Courtney Brown was once a can't-miss prospect.

For those of you who are convinced your team's entire front office is composed entirely of knuckle-dragging sub-morons who've doomed the franchise for years to come (i.e. Eagles fans every single year)? Relax. It's entirely possible that men who've watched so much college game tape in the past few months that they scream "Whoo, pig sooey" upon orgasm might know a bit more about football than you've been able to glean from the local sports radio meathead.

The draft is a crapshoot and the odds are terrible. Accept this now, and you'll live a much happier life.

Unless you're in Detroit. You should probably just become a hockey fan.

The Spurs Decide To Clinch At Home

Today in Phoenix, the Suns got out early and often, building a 22 point lead at the half. They did it with activity and aggressive-
ness on the defensive end, as both Shaquille O'Neal and the previously defense-free Amare Stoudamire were physical and involved.

On the offensive end, they got a lot out of the previously MIA Raja Bell, and even some utility out of Boris Diaw, who was really the best player on the floor today. By the midway point of the third quarter, the Suns were up 30, and even the Suns defense isn't porous enough to give that back.

And... where the hell was this in the first three games, when this still could have been a series?

Kudos to the Suns for finally putting Grant Hill out of their misery, and for letting Diaw -- the only Sun with a chance in hell of staying in front of Tony Parker -- take a bigger role. If the Frenchman can play this way on the road (and of course he can't), the series could still go long.

As for the Spurs, you got the feeling that they were throwing this game for some reason. Michael Finley tried to defend Amare Stoudamire one on one. They didn't run the pick and roll that has absolutely murdered Phoenix all series. They spent a good part of the first half trying to get Robert Horry involved. They never ran a press, and didn't even flop or complain with their usual vehemence. The third quarter saw a lot of Jacques Vaughn and Ime Udoka. They didn't even Hack Shaq very much... and if there was ever a game in which Shaq should have punished a guy for doing that, it was today.

I'm pretty sure I even saw Tim Duncan accept that he fouled a guy today (along with sit most of the second half). The Spurs had no interest in winning this game; the only question is whether or not the Suns decide this defense thing is worth trying again, and if the refs continue to give them the benefit of most of the whistles. I'm not saying the game was fixed, but Tony Parker was smacked in the face twice today for no calls... and I posted this at the end of the third quarter. That's how done this game was, and how much the Spurs mailed this one in.

Oh, and big ups to ABC/ESPN for having their fingers on the pulse of the culture, with musical interludes from Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. Well done, Mouse Minions.

Zero Fork

Today in Washington, the Cavs went for the cheap sugar water of three point shooting... and thanks to the efforts of Delonte West and Boobie Gibson, got just enough to take a 3-1 lead in their series with the Wiz. Credit the Cavs for good rebounding and making shots, but to these eyes, they don't look like a threat to get past the second round.

Cleveland led for almost the entire game, with the Wiz having at least a half dozen possessions where they neeed a hoop to draw even, but didn't get it. The Wiz also got very little, yet again, from Agent Zero. Gilbert hit a prayer to make the game even, but West answered with a rock solid 3, then gave Arenas no openings on his desperate 3 heave near the buzzer.

Kudos to the Wiz for continuing to live up to their reputation as the stupidest team on the planet with a flagrant foul from DeShawn Stevenson in a one-point game in the second. That woke Bron up quite nicely, and he wound up with 34, 12 and 7... but according to the knowledgable DC fans, he's still overrated. Maybe the fans are matching the intellect of the team? You also have to love a team that goes to Brendan Haywood in crunch time. There's dumb, and there's hyperdumb... and then there's the Wiz.

And the award for NFL Draft Hyperbole goes to...

The World Wide Lemur, who just said that "If you blinked, you missed the first round!"

It's nice that this was the fastest since 1990, but if you blink for 3.5 hours, you also probably think Chris Berman's cultural references are, as the kids say, Fly. You may also be, well, dead.

Three Out Of Four Forks

Let's start with the Raptors, who had a big advantage at point guard in their series against the Magic, right? Um, er, nope. Jameer Nelson has been fine for the Magic, and Jose Calderon has eliminated any idea that he's better than TJ Ford, all while Ford has confirmed the reality that he's not very good, either. Despite Chris Bosh going for 39 and 15, the Dinos are a game away from elimination now, thanks mostly to a 2 for 15 performance from beyond the arc.

If Andrea Bargnani isn't out of the Association within five years, it will only be because someone is desperate for a 7' three-point specialist for their bench. If there's been a worse second season from a #1 pick that seemed OK as a rookie, I've never seen it.

Who's under the bus that's leaving Denver faster -- George Karl or Carmelo Anthony? The former played scrubs for most of the fourth quarter, while the latter went 5 for 22 in their must have Game 3 spankdown against the Lakers. Melo is now 4-18 in the playoffs, which is the third-worst playoff record in NBA history for players with over 20 games of experience. (Mike Miller's 2-18 leads the pack, Shane Battier is now 4-19, and Grant Hill is tied with Melo's lack of happy times. Something I wish I'd have known before picking the Suns to beat the Spurs.)

Denver's body language in this one spoke volumes, and that volume is entitled "Back the Truck Up And Blow Up This Team." To be fair to Drunken Master Melo, no Nugget of note was worth a damn; AI went 5 for 16, Marcus Camby took 2 shots in 28 minutes and missed 'em both, and Linas Kleiza only had 15. (Yes, that's good for Kleiza, but what the hell, anyone wearing a Nugget uni is damned today.) Post game, there was lots of quitter talk from Kenyon Martin, Karl, and even Coach Phillip, so you might just see the evidence of a spine in Game 4... but I wouldn't bet on it. The Lake Show just won a game where Luke Walton was their second biggest scorer. That's the very definition of Cruise Control.

In Utah, the home team finally won a playoff game, as the Jazz got balanced scoring and the Rockets didn't. A key moment was Luis Scola picking up his fifth and hitting the bench with 6:45 left, depriving the Rockets of a glue guy when they needed one. The Jazz won despite going 0 for 14 from the three point line, which kept the Rockets in the game late: there were any number of missed kill shots in the fourth quarter before this finally was put to bed with Deron Williams throwing down a hellish dunk at 2:40. If Williams wants to the best point guard in the Association in the next round, maybe they will give the Lake Show a series after all... though missing two free throws with 5.5 seconds left was kind of awful. Kudos to Mehmet Okur for the O-board and makes to clinch things.

This one will probably go 6, since the Jazz have been a terrible road team all year, but it's hard to see how Houston is going to win three in a row with, well, one player. But Yao Ming looked good in his suit on the bench. Oh, and nice work from the Jazz faithful in crunch time. "Over-rated" never gets old, and the fans with the sign "Where T-Mac Can't Ever Advance Happens" is also showing some good homework. Your T-Mac Can't Finish Update: 1 FG attempt in the fourth quarter.

Surprisingly, the Hawks were the only trailing team to avoid Fork City tonight with a convincing win over the Celtics; the 9-point final margin included some closing garbage points that made things look closer than they seemed. Al Horford gets the props for a spicy 17, 14 and 6 assist night from the center slot, though Josh Smith's five dunks were also tasty. Mike Bibby shook off his trash talk of the Celtics fans to outplay Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell, and the C's got little outside of KG.

If Paul Pierce really is slowed by a bad back, their John McCain-esque easy road to the Finals just got harder... but I suspect the "road" team will reassert itself in Game 4. Still, the C's picked a curious time in their season-long evisceration of the Hawks to take their foot off the gas.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Your Anti-Draft Rant

It actually hurts me to not be able to watch this. I value my football knowledge; I read a lot about it, watch as much as I can, usually do pretty well in my roto pursuits. And yet, every year the draft comes around, and I feel like I'm watching a telethon for the Get A Life Foundation.

Here's the thing. When I'm watching a game, I can affect the outcome with the sheer power of my mind. You can, too, of course -- otherwise, why would we all yell at the television so much, or develop our bizarre little secret totem moves when the team needs a good outcome? Like you're the only person who has a special place to sit, or an activity that needs to be done to change the luck. And no, I'm not going to tell which of you need to stop watching the games entirely, because when you watch, they always lose. You know who you are.

But with the draft, no one has any clue which of these guys will be good, in many cases for years. You can pretend, of course, and make good sneering derisive comments based on the relative lack of intellect the organization has shown in the past. It wasn't going out on a limb for anyone, say, to bury the Dolphins for Ted Ginn Jr. last year; the first round is not the place for overrated college WRs with bad routes and bodies, unless, of course, you are Matt Millen. So all of those affect the event with your mind and attention things? Gone.

Plus, um, no actual ball being played, at a time when actual ball is being played. Important ball, even. People who only watch and like football are like people who only like and drink beer. I can admire your devotion, but when there's no beer left, I'm still getting drunk on wine and liquor, while you are waiting six months for another beer. Sucks to be you, guy. Why don't you drink some of this NBA wine or this MLB liquor?

But getting back to the NFL Draft Day viewing investment... if you root for a specific guy to be picked by your team, doesn't it even suck worse when he tanks?

Other teams have blown picks. Eagle Fans have Mike Mamula. The reason why he's so memorable? Because so many of us were excited about him back before we realized what a homeless man's Charles Haley he was. You think all of those jerseys were sold from game action or racism? Well, sure on the latter, but we don't get there without hearing about his freakish workouts.

Me, I never watched the draft. So I was able to turn on Mamula faster, without a hint of remorse. I also wasn't out the hours of draft day coverage, months of pre-training camp hope, or scratch for his cursed jersey. (And yes, yes, I know that he wasn't that bad, and that the Eagles have made much worse boneheaded first round picks; I remember Keith Allen and Bernard Williams, when the organization decided that the best way to use a first round picks were on rapists and pot smokers. Good times.)

Last point: I get why draft lovers are here. It's the only thing that's even tangentially related to football for six long months. You know what would fix that? A professional league, in this country, playing by the same rules, in the spring. But I've already written the USFL posts before, so click on that tag if you want to read how nostalgic and old I am....

One Toke Over The Line

Big win tonight in the have-to-have Game 3 for the Mavs, who shook off Josh Howard's marijuana admissions to more or less handle the Hornets. New Orleans has never won in Dallas. While the Bugs don't have to for advancement, it'd help loads, especially seeing how the Spurs will be clearing things out any minute now in their series.

A quick word about Howard's wacky weed admission. I'm frankly more concerned about his level of judgment in admitting the use in public, rather than any effect from the drug. Robert Parish was pulled over with pot in his '40s. Did it really hurt his longevity? Of course not. But if Howard is dumb enough to talk about it on the freaking radio, he's dumb enough to do other things, really.

It'll also be highly curious as to see the length and timing of his eventual Stern-mandated suspension. You know, for distracting the sporting public from the glory of the playoffs. Unlike Stern's No Vaseline job on Seattle.

Getting back to the court... despite the level of comfort in the win -- seriously, when your best player is Jannero Pargo, it's really not your night -- I still like the Hornets' chances in this one. They got very little out of Chris Paul tonight, and not much more out of David West or Peja Stojakovic. And yet, they were still in it for crunch time, because while the Mavs do have a fully engaged Dirk Nowitzki, they really don't have much more than that.

The game was also notable for the only highlight that most people will see of it, which had Dallas center and big-time contract year hero Erick Dampier picking up a flagrant on Paul late. As hard fouls go, it really wasn't all that intense, but when a guy is a foot and 100 pounds heavier than the other guy, hard shoves do tend to get exaggerated.

And in a sure sign of the Apocalypse, I actually have to give it up to Stephen A. Smith for a line he had about the incident. Jalen Rose defended the play as saying "No layups!" Smith replied, "What about the rest of his career -- he's going to start enforcing that now?" Stephen, anyone who remember the Damp Era in the Bay Area is giving you the Nod of Approval right about now...

Stick A Fork In The Suns

Well, so much for what was supposed to be the best first round playoff series ever. The Suns never led tonight in a must-win Game 3 at home, and are now dead and buried at 0-3. No NBA team has ever come back from 0-3.

In watching the Spurs utterly dismantle the Suns, the temptation is to think that the Spurs really are this good. After all, they are the defending champions, and just a handful of plays away from having even more than their four rings.

But it's more than the brilliance of the Spurs. This is also the end of the line for the Suns.

If you watched the first quarter of this game, you watched the whole game. The Spurs scored easily off pick and roll. The Suns didn't. When the Suns started to get any hint of rhythm, the Spurs fouled Shaq. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The two most important positions in basketball are point guard and center. In both of these positions, the Suns start a superstar and ex-MVP -- Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal. And both of these guys are on the wrong side of 30 (in Shaq's case, 35), and almost completely incapable of stopping their opposite number on the Spurs. If it hadn't been San Antonio, it would have been the Jazz with Williams and Boozer, or the Hornets with Paul and West, or the Celtics with Pierce and Garnett.

This isn't to excuse Amare Stoudemire, who might be the worst defensive power forward in the Association that isn't named Zach Randolph. It's also not to excuse the rest of the Suns players and general manager; only the Suns would consider Grant Hill a defensive player who can somehow stay in front of Tony Parker. But if you want to have any chance of beating the Spurs, you have to take away 2 of their 3 big guns. And with Nash and O'Neal, that's just never going to happen.

It's been a fun run, and I'm still of the mind that if Horrygate didn't happen, the Suns would have gotten a ring last year. But like the Webber/Bibby Kings, the Dirk/Howard Mavs, the Kemp/Payton Sonics, or the KJ/Barkley Suns, they'll end their run of prominence without a championship. They are just one more pleasant team that was fun to watch, but just not good enough.

Oh, and one other thing: when Shaq's teams lose in the playoffs, they lose badly. Expect the Spurs to seal the deal with a sweep. It happens a lot to Shaq's teams. This one ends on Sunday.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hack Your Eyes

In tonight's Game 3 of Spurs-Suns, San Antonio continued their tactic from the first two games, where they deliberately fouled Shaquille O'Neal at the end of the quarter, to gain additional possessions. This led to a debate between analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff van Gundy, where Jackson opined that the rules shouldn't be changed to protect a bad free throw shooter, and Jackson wondering why the Spurs just didn't do this for the entire game.

Both men, of course, are missing four critical points:

1) It's terrible to watch. Basketball is a spectator sport that needs to attract casual fans. One team benefiting from what seems like, not to put too fine a point on it, cheating... is bad television. Along with the inherent bad visuals of Shaq doing this, and the game getting all herky-jerky sloppy.

2) If it's not acceptable in the last two minutes of the game, it shouldn't be acceptable in the first 46 minutes, either. This is like not having a DH until the 9th inning -- illogical on its face.

3) Eventually, one of the intentionally fouled players is going to, um, not like it very much.

If I were Shaq, especially in a game that didn't mean much, I'd do something when a player intentionally fouled me. I'd make him, you know, earn it. Perhaps even send a message to the next coach or player who gets sent out to do the deed. And just that quickly, the tactic gets a heck of a lot less enjoyable.

4) Fourth and finally, we don't really want to watch guys hugging each other. It's kinda, you know, not really high on our sports fan priority list.

My guess is that the Association changes this in the off-season, because they are usually pretty good about making the product more watchable... and there's more than a few pretty horrible free throw shooters in the league, and the trend has been for that to get more common, not less. If you don't like Hack A Shaq, you also won't like Hack Duncan, Hack Wallace, Hack Howard, Hack Chandler, Hack Maxiell...

Old, Tired, Disinterested... and down 2-1 to a 7 Seed

Here's how much I believed in the Sixers taking a 2-1 lead in their series against the Pistons tonight.

(A) I didn't buy tickets.

(B) I scheduled a poker game, rather than commit to watching the game fully.

So yes, the level of commitment was going to be a simple matter of having it on in the background.

And the Sixers repaid that faith with... an absolute rout. Tonight, we saw:

> Reggie Evans, hearing the first chants of "Reggie, Reggie!" in his life

> Detroit playing at their pace, but just not seeming to care

> No Pistons, other than Prince and Hamilton, seeming to give half of a damn, let alone a full one

> Rasheed Wallace being thoroughly outplayed by Samuel Dalembert, on both ends

> The Pistons shooting at one point in the fourth quarter, before all of the starters were removed, 15%

> Detroit not seeming to be able or interested in running a trap, even when down and running out of time

> Chauncey Billups looking as bad as he has ever looked

> The Sixers going to a whitewash victory lineup with Shavlik Randolph -- Shavlik Randolph! -- Jason Smith and Kevin Ollie at the close (Ollie's not white, but he should be... and, for that matter, unemployed)

> Detroit committing five defensive fouls in the first 2:30 of the fourth quarter, more or less ensuring that there was no chance of a comeback

> And all of this with Andre Iguodala, the Sixers best player, giving them very little.

So now we're back in the same place that we were before Game 2: waiting for the Real Pistons to show up, and wondering if it might be too late when they do. And well, the Sixers only need to win two out of the next four, and playing with nothing but house money.

What's this emotion welling up inside me? Could it be... hope?

Flying with the NFL Network

NFL commis-
sioner Roger Goodell is reaff-
irming the league's commit-
ment to the NFL Network after a tough run on the distribution side that has had the net battling cable companies for carriage. "We will make the NFL Network a success," Goodell says.
-- The Hollywood Reporter
And if you believe that, I've got some WLAF merch to sell you...

That sound you just heard was George Karl checking his locks

So Larry Brown has resigned in his barely-there VP role with the Sixers, because he wants another crack at coaching.

And the Nuggets will soon find themselves swept out of the playoffs due to their utter lack of defense, with a veteran team that did win 50 games in the hyper-competitive West, with a still frisky Allen Iverson, and a freshly chastened Carmelo Anthony...

Well, if you are the Nuggets, what other options do you have, other than to toss the Asking To Be Killed Karl, and bring in a proven winner / defense guy? Sure, Brown and Anthony didn't get along at all in the USA Basketball team, and Iverson, even while older and wiser, is a soap opera waiting to happen. Brown, even with all of the faculties that he brings to the table, can't disguise the fact that his top scorers are defensive sieves even when motivated. AI's always been small, and Melo's always saved it for offense and had bad technique. He got away with it thanks to the Syracuse zone and Hakim Warrick being a great college shot blocker. In the pros, he scores 25 to 30 a game, and gives up 18 to 22. You live with it, but only just.

At least with Larry, you get the chance in hell that JR Smith learns some defense, Nene getting run off for some Theo Ratliff-esque retread, Anthony Carter getting told to play more like Eric Snow, and a disastrous personnel move or three. Heck, Dikembe Mutumbo's got roots in the area, along with actual roots coming out of his shoes... and Camby needs a backup, right?

So no, this won't work, but short of finding a GM that's willing to give up Pau Gasol for turds and tears, what else are you going to do? It'll sell tickets...

Epic Drop: The Seahawks Release Shaun Alexander

Over at the Carnival today, I took a pretty long and involved swipe at Shaun Alexander; you are, of course, more than invited to go check it out, and when you're done with that and this, click on the Alexander tag to see what's been said about him before. But I'd like to go into more depth -- and hey, it's a blog, I can do that -- on his situation.

When Alexander was booed last year, no one in the media or the Hawk management wanted to acknowledge what was plainly obvious to anyone watching the games: he was spent, done, fork time, and it had nothing to do with an arm that was going to get better. He had no burst, few good carries, and had the Duce Staley Steeler Problem of First Contact always being Last Contact.

Look, it's not hard to tell when a RB is spent. It might be the easiest personnel decision for any coach or fan. He gets caught from behind by bigger men who aren't freakishly talented. He never breaks a tackle. He can't get outside before the pursuit. The yards per carry numbers, especially in comparison to other backs on the team, tell you all you need to know, assuming he is not getting every single carry, and no NFL team does that anymore.

So last year in Seattle, it was obvious to anyone who had eyes that Alexander couldn't help them anymore, and that the Hawks were an infinitely more dangerous team with him out of the lineup, even if that meant throwing on every down. (Lest you forget in the aftermath of the Packer playoff loss, Matt Hasselbeck had a fine year.)

So where was the media to, you know, report on what was actually news? Alexander wasn't doing anything on the field to merit playing time. The paying public was supporting his efforts in a positively East Coastian manner. (Give it up for Seahawk Fan: he knows his ball, cheers hard, and has suffered. I'm impressed.) And the media... talked about how the line wasn't doing the job. Or how Alexander was gamely running with a bad arm. Or that Hasselbeck was great.

Seriously, guys, call the game in front of you. Tell the truth, especially when it's obvious. People don't like it when you lie to them, even about things as trivial as who is going to run the ball for a middling playoff team from a terrible division. And it undermines their faith and respect in anyone that calls themselves a journalist. (For the record, that doesn't include me. I'm just a guy with a blog that, you know, has no skin in the game on whether Shaun Alexander is a nice guy and good interview. Which means that I can notice in public when he's spent...)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Epic Drop:Top 10 Benefits of Pac Man Jones Going To the Cowboys

Your list is here, and all kidding aside, it seems like a decent enough gamble to me... but I'm not sure I'd be bringing in another world-class head case when Owens and Johnson are still on the roster. Too many of these chuckleheads, you're just asking for a circus. (And as an Eagles fan, I am so rooting for circus...)

Clinton and the Spurs

As I was switching between Suns-Spurs and news coverage of the Pennsylvania primary last night (and yes, you may openly accuse me now of everything mentioned in the last Top 10 list), it all seemed to blur together: Hillary Clinton is the Spurs. If you're a fan, that makes her relentless, unkillable, likable, a winner... and if you are not, unwatchable, annoying, willing to go low, and ultimately destructive to everything but her own cause.

The Spurs in the Finals have been, to put it bluntly, ratings death. Even if you are a Spurs loyalist, you can't argue with the fact that last year's series with the Cavs last year was watched by 26 people outside of Cleveland and San Antonio. When the Spurs played Detroit, it was rivaled only by Heat-Knicks in the '90s for sheer unrelenting ugliness. And basketball is unlike any other major team sport in one key criterion: how it is played is often more important to the casual viewer than who wins. (Or, to put it in terms that even the most rabid NFL fan can understand -- having the Spurs in the Finals so often would be like the Trent Dilfer Ravens being a Super Bowl dynasty team. Spurs Fan, I'm just telling you what the rest of the world already believes, and has believed for a long time.)

And as I was Duncan, Parker and Ginobili systematically dismantle the Suns last night with pick and roll, Hack a Shaq, pick and roll, Hack a Shaq, pick and roll... well, they're just a perfect playoff series beast. They have no young players to make young player mistakes. Their crowd senses the kill and gives them what they need to get there. They don't care that what they are doing seems dull to watch, or in the case of deliberate fouling, contrary to good sportsmanship and flow. They are just here to win, to make you play their game, and since they are a sports team, there is nothing wrong with that at all.

(A small aside on the announcing: Has anyone ever gotten more credit from an announcing team for fouling out quickly than the Spurs' Kurt Thomas? OK, we get it, he was a cagey signing, he's a good team guy for coming in and playing defense only, he wants vengeance on the Suns for letting him go to the Seattle wasteland, rather than pay luxury tax. And, um, he's a guy that fouled out quickly and didn't really make that big of a difference for them last night. Please, just watch the game before you staple your storyline to it. Sheesh.)

And their opponent, the Obama Suns, who used to inspire with their style of play and herald a new and more exciting age by not doing things the same old way as everyone else? Well, they went slow and negative with Shaq and responding to negative campaigning, in a realpolitick effort to just show that they, too, could win this tougher, more intense kind of contest. It seems like Frankensteinian surgery to these eyes, and diminishes the enthusiasm from their supporters, but it's What You Have To Do, so it gets done.

Just not as well. Meanwhile, the casual viewer tunes out, thinking it's More Of The Same, and the magic thing about cynicism is that when you think something it more of the same, it becomes it. Yay!

There is, of course, one big difference between Clinton and the Spurs. The former doesn't have the math the nomination, and hasn't for some time. In the only count that really matters last night, she picked up no more than 10 delegates, which is to say, less than the superdelegate count that has defected to the other side in the past few weeks. If Obama can keep from shooting himself in the foot in the next two weeks, the clock will run out on primaries, and the math will become irrevocable, failing some truly historic screw job of the Obama voters. (You'd think that a party that ceded control of the White House on a media-abbeted vote count screw job might, you know, not want to repeat the mistake in their own primary. But given that we're now more or less absolutely locked in to President McSame, it's probably not that important.)

In the NBA, the Spurs are up 2-0 in a best of 7 against an opponent that they've owned, for the right to move on to a next round series against New Orleans or (not likely) Dallas, a team that's nearly guaranteed to give them an easier time than this round. And judging by last night's game, the ill-timed injury to Grant Hill, the crunch time disappearance of Amare Stoudemire, the failure to step up from Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa, and the always critical problem that Steve Nash can't guard Tony Parker more than Tony Parker can't guard Steve Nash... well, I still expect the series to go long.

But I'm not really counting on Phoenix winning 4 out of the next 5, or a Game 7 in San Antonio. (Though for the conspiracy theorists, that Kobe vs. Shaq plot in the later round 3 may still be too impossible to resist.)

More importantly, by getting past the Suns (presumably) in Round 1, the Spurs will be able to bring back the exact same cast for another run next year.

Just as, by poisoning the well in the primary, Clinton will be able to run again in 2012, since her party won't have the White House. And as a bonus, she'll also still have a full-scale occupation of Iraq -- and who knows, maybe Iran too -- to run against.

Winners all around!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Signs You Are (Stupidly) Mixing Sports With Politics

Your link is here, and the bonus reason is that you think a thoughtful treatise on what kind of NFL player might come out of the closet might get any traffic at all...

And for the record, the presidential candidates shilling for the WWE? I can't stop wincing. Really.

You Won't Like Him When He's Angry, Or When You Are Stupid Enough To Make Him Angry

Charles Barkley has called the Wiz "the dumbest team in the history of the universe" for their general play, but I think he was especially going for their, um, strategy of claiming LeBron James was overrated. James had 30 last night, which was also the margin of victory for the Cavs, and it really wasn't even that close. (Put it this way -- LeBron had 30, 9 and 12, and didn't play the last half of the fourth quarter. That's how little he thinks of you, Wiz Boys... he didn't even want to get the triple double. Harsh.)

For the Wiz, Gilbert Arenas is in popularity free fall. Agent Zero really should have just forgotten the entire year, because while in theory a few good minutes of him off the bench is a matchup nightmare, he's forgetting the good part (2 of 10, 4 personals, 3 turnovers). They are also going to be without the services of starting fouler Brendan Haywood, who decided to try to change the mood with assault with a flagrant foul and ejection in the third quarter.

Can the Wiz get back in this on their home court? Sure. It's not like the Cavs are, you know, all that good -- heck, some people have even called them very beatable and overrated. (Those people, of course, play for the Wiz, and have spent the last two games playing basketball with LeBron's shoes up their ass.) That assessment is correct: the Cavs are not world beaters. But the Wiz won't get them, for the third straight year... and maybe that will finally shut 'em up. (Or, more likely, prompt their management to ship some of the bigger idiots out of the District.)

You'd think he'd be used to this by now

This would be Tracy McGrady, who has never won a playoff series in his whole danged NBA career, in last night's game against the Jazz.

Utah came into the series as a terrible, terrible road team, and despite being the 4 seed, had a worse record, so they didn't get home court.

Do I really need to tell you that the Jazz punked the Rockets again on their home court, and are now up 2-0 in the best of seven?

No, I didn't. T-Mac did it for me. By existing, before the playoffs even began.(And yes, he had 23, 13 and 9 in the loss, and when your second best teammate was 35-year-old Bobby Jackson and you're actually starting the withered spirit of Dikembe Mutumbo... well, I'm just kicking myself for not picking Utah in a sweep.)

And to think, Raptors Fan was bent when this guy took Orlando's money and ran, soon to be followed by the similarly heartless Vinsanity Carter. Two steps back, three steps forward, Dino Fan...

Presented, Mercifully, Without Image

This is the most popular link in Yahoo today.

So, a word of advice for any teen or pre-teen who gets caught rubbing one out, or for anyone who has gone for that mid-day quickie in the bathroom at work? I admire your commitment to good prostate health. But no, I'm not going to shake your hand over it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Profiles of the First Openly Gay Active NFL Player

I went long over at the Carnival today, and managed to get through it without a single center/quarterback joke.

Then again, that's what the comments page is for, really...

On Second Thought, I Don't Really Need to Take My Kid to Yankee Stadium

Hey, Yankee Fan -- the next time this happens, and we all know there will be a next time -- can you do me a favor and chant "E-C-W!" instead of "Boston Sucks"? It would have more of an old-school charm, really. (Ht Deadspin and Busted Coverage, and you can more or less skip the rest after the first 20 seconds)

Can this really happen?

If you had told me the Sixers were going to steal Game 1 in Detroit, I could have given you a half-dozen ways how it would have happened.

None of them would have involved huge performances from Reggie Evans and Willie Green.

A big night from the Andres? Sure. Iggy had 16 points, 9 boards and 8 assists. Miller went for 20, 3 and 6. That gave them 9 more points, 5 more boards and 6 more assists than Hamilton and Billups. (To be fair, in 17 more minutes.)

Sam Dalembert coming up huge? Well, only sporadically. Dalembert had 10 boards and 4 blocks, but he was also 2 of 10 from the floor, and limited to 33 minutes from foul trouble.

Louie Williams doing a light 'em up job? Not so much. 9 points on 4 of 12 in 22 minutes. No, he's not shy.

Maybe a huge playoff debut for hot stuff rookie Thaddeus Young? Nope, though 10 in 22 minutes for a guy with zero playoff experience isn't bad.

Uncharacteristic proficiency from behind the arc or the free throw line? Nope. They were 1 of 5 from the former, and 19 of 27 (70.4%) from the later.

OK, well... maybe Detroit just couldn't keep their hands on the ball, and the Sixers were able to get out and run. Nope, turnovers were even at 12.

So, um... how the hell did they do it, and can they do it 3 more times in the next 6 games?

Any reasonable judge of the NBA says no; there is a reason why Detroit is a dark horse champion pick, and they've got an ungodly amount of playoff experience without being too dreadfully old. We are talking about a 2 seed playing a below .500 team here, after all.

And yet... the Sixers have been above a .500 team for a while now, at least if you just consider the last 3 months of the season. Experience is great, but wins are better. No one believes in the Sixers -- seriously, I haven't received a single email or mention about the team being in the playoffs from my local friends, let alone any interest in going to see a playoff game. You can go buy tickets to Game 3 or 4 right now... and we're not talking bad seats, either. (Heck, I just might.)

Detroit never loses a Game 1. They're great at establishing order and tempo early. And yet, here are the 7 seed Sixers, coming from 15 down in the third quarter, getting huge buckets from the extremely offensively-challenged Reggie Evans...

Well, I still don't really believe. But if they can somehow steal Game 2 as well? Well... I'm sure those tickets won't still be available.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Evaluation Nation

On one side, you have Big Hurt Frank Thomas, the team leader for Toronto last year in HRs and RBIs, and one of only four players in MLB history with a .300 average, 500 home runs, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 runs and 1,500 walks. (Bonds hit .298, the slacker.) He's pissed off that he's grabbing bench for the immortal Matt Stairs, and thinks it's all about his contract. If Thomas gets to 376 plate appearances in 2008, the Jays are on the hook for a $10 million option.

On the other, you have the Jays, looking at a guy who is 4 for his last 35, and hitting .167 for the year. At 8-9, the Jays are 2 games back from the wild card and 2.5 out from the division, so this is the part of the season that counts as critical for them. As soon as the Yankees do their usual warm weather rush, they'll be toast. (See the last 10 years of MLB+ for an example.)

Now, you and I have no idea if the Jays are screwing Thomas over the contract, or just trying to win games. But we do know that by making his payday such an obvious clock strategy, they are setting themselves up for misery. Why not make things more involved and accurate using more advanced statistics -- per se, he's got to achieve a certain OPS to qualify? Or rank in the top X% of offensive players in the AL?

That way, the player isn't afraid of the occasional day off, and the team isn't afraid of getting suckered into a big bad deal.

But then again, this is an organization that traded for Scott Rolen, signed AJ Burnett to big dollars, and was last relevant back when Kurt Cobain drew breath, so maybe I'm just asking too much...

Update -- And just that quickly, the Jays up and released him. Here's your up-to-the-minute Epic Drop that covers it in further detail.

Happy 50th

Today in Japan, noted wank aid Danica Patrick won her first race in her 50th start, in an event where she took advantage of the leaders miscalculating their fuel needs.

There are 2 obvious but fun points that I'd like to make here. Along with posting a photo that's going to get the site a lot of clicks from people who aren't aware that there are other sites on the Web that work more effectively for That Sort of Thing. (The quest for porn, she is endless.)

1) Since women as a general rule weigh less than men, auto racing is an event where they have a physical advantage. Patrick's competitors, and those who like to denigrate her accomplishments, are fond of pointing this out... without the corollary of belittling every male athlete in every other sport for just being physically advantaged over women. (An aside for anyone who might actually know the answer to this question... are there Patricks in horse racing? I remember Julie Krone in the 80s, but that was a long time ago.)

2) Does Patrick's win further hasten the Apocalypse for NASCAR fan? I'm looking for the day when that circuit is overrun by rail-thin minority women drivers that make the fan base all stand as one and find some new cocoon of White Male Sports Purity. (Say, for instance, MLB, now that blacks are down to 6% of the workforce, but with the Hispanic and Asian influence, maybe that won't cut it. Bowling, anyone?)

Friday, April 18, 2008

And the Association Sticks the Landing!

How can you tell when a sports league has jumped the shark?

It lands in Oklahoma City.

Epic Drop: Top 11 Signs That Miguel Tejada Was Older Than Advertised

Your list is here, and it hurts this old A's fan's soul, really. Even when Miggy took the money and left, we didn't hold a grudge. It didn't hurt that the Orioles were no threat, and we'd never have to worry about seeing him in a playoff. In his last year, and especially during the 20-game Streak, Miggy was everywhere and everything; he was the A's David Ortiz that year.

Now, of course, he's guilty until never proven innocent, his power a probable bottle product, his joy at playing the game long gone, his worth quickly ebbing. No one will look back on his career and think Hall of Fame; no one will remember just how wonderful the left side of the A's infield was with him and a healthy Eric Chavez. (How good were they? I grew up with Schmidt and Bowa; Tejada and Chavez were better.)

Anyway, the fact that he's 33 instead of 31 is just the latest indignity. It's 10 pounds of sad in a 5 pound bag, and one more tale of warning that Free Agent Riches don't always work out...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Macbethketball: The 2008 NBA Playoff Preview

Recently, I took the Shooter Wife to see Patrick Stewart (yes, Star Trek's Captain Jean-Luc Picard -- shut up, he's actually a fantastic Shakespearean actor) in Macbeth, which is playing on Broadway as a straight drama. It was freaking awesome. The show has gotten great reviews, and Macbeth was always one of my favorites in high school and college. Hamlet's OK and all, but for sheer blood and guts, you aren't getting better than the guy with the wife with the hand problem. Spoiler alert: the play ends with Macbeth's enemies parading around with his bloody, decapitated head. It's hard to mess that up, and they don't.

Anyway, I figure if people can milk crappy movies and worse reality shows for blog grist, far be it from me to look a gift witch in the mouth. So without further toil or trouble, here's your Scottish Playoff Preview for a season in which there will be blood.

Chance may crown me: The (L)Eastern Conference

False face must hide what the false heart doth know: Celtics (1) vs. Hawks (8)

Now that the Pacers have managed to just miss getting that coveted 8th seed evisceration at the hands of the latest New England overlords (and no, I'm not going to notice how the Bruins are also in the playoffs, because that would involve watching hockey)... well, can Kevin McHale and Larry Bird just drop the act and admit that they are still on the Celtics payroll? Admittedly, it's far more obvious with McHale, but after giving away Kevin Garnett for less than what he could have gotten from Western Conference teams, it should be obvious -- no trades allowed for GMs with strong ties to a team from their playing days. Or, even better yet,no GMs allowed who used to be players. (And before you rub my nose with Joe Dumars, imagine that Pistons team with Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh. Instead, you got Darko. Gahhh.)

Astute readers will notice that I've said nothing about the Hawks so far. Or since. (But on the plus side, it's 4 more games than you've had for what, decades?) Celtics in 4.

Blood Will Have Blood: Detroit (2) vs. Philadelphia (7)

Here's a little-realized fact: the Pistons have ended the Sixers last two playoff appearances, first in 2002-03, and again in 2004-05. As both of those teams were in the waning days of AI1 and involved copious amounts of Larry Brown Hangover, it really does seem like a long time ago, but they really aren't... because those Pistons teams and this one do pretty similar things. The first being half-court defense, the second being taking care of the ball, and third being hitting their free throws when they need to ice the game late.

Philly actually matches up reasonably well with this Pistons team, since Sam Dalembert and Reggie Evans give them reasonable big man defense, and the backcourt duel between Miller/Iguodala vs. Hamilton/Billips is just old-school pleasure. But when the Pistons go to the bench, the Sixers can't match the energy. Also, sadly, Mo Cheeks just isn't that great of an in-game coach, and the percentages (i.e., the Sixers are bad from 3 and the line) will just cost them 5 to 7 points a game that they won't be able to get back. Pistons in 6.

Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under 't: Magic (3) vs. Raptors (6)

Orlando won 52 games for the first time since Shaq was young and frisky and working with Dwayne Wade 1.0 (aka Penny Hardaway), and Dwight Howard is Superman and all. But the Dinos can come closer than most to neutralizing him with Chris Bosh, seriously exploit the Magic at point guard, and sic Jamario Moon on the phenomenally overpaid Rashard Lewis.

The Magic will need good play from Hedo Turkoglu, and while he's been gret this year, the track record of ex-Kings in the playoffs (see Peja, Airball) isn't a good one. There's also this: Toronto has a sneaky great home court advantage, and Jose Calderon is playing out of his mind right now. They might even get something out of Rasho Nesterovic (epic contract run) and Andrea Bargani (who is a terrible rebounder for a 7-footer, but a pretty good rebounder for someone named Andrea). Raptors in 6.

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Cleveland (4) vs. Washington (5)

Ever since the Tim Donaghy Spurs/Suns abomination, conspiracy theorists have been able to do anything they want with the NBA, because it's all on the table now. This year's fuel for the suspicious will be the return engagement of LeBron James and raising a supporting cast that, while better than nearly all of the teams in the D-League, would still have a fight on its hands to win the championship there. How bad are the Cavs without Lebron? Well, Joe Smith is probably your go-to guy in crunch time. No, really.

They get the same Wizards team that they've ran through before, in a repeat of an oddly entertaining match-up that saw pre-surgery Agent Zero nearly match King James in a no-defense dance dance revolution. The Wiz are a more balanced team now, since they've had to live without Arenas all year, and Caron Butler and Antwan Jamison are under-the-radar great. But even if I didn't believe in conspiracies, I do believe that James is the best player in the Association. Cavs in 6.

Fair is foul, and foul is fair: The West

Is This A Dagger I See Before Me: Lakers (1) vs. Nuggets (8)

Nothing is quite so fun for this little blogger than choosing a preference for the good teammate who has won a playoff series recently without doing the trade-me keep-me trade-me do se do over, you know, Alleged Rapist Kobe Bryant. I have people still blasting me out of the blue for thinking LeBron is more valuable for winning 45 games with Boobies, Smiths and the dessicated remains of Ben Wallace, rather than winning 57 with what was frequently the best front court in the West.

Yes, Kobe Lovers, I am feeling the burn. And so is your man, scrubbing his hands raw trying to look like a good teammate and decent human being. Sorry. We're not buying it. And in two years, when Lamar Odom has smoked his third strike, Andrew Bynum still isn't the guy you thought he'd be and the Lake Show are back on that 6th seed, one and done treadmill? The spot will still be there, Lady 8.

Anyway... the Nuggets might be the best offensive team ever to have an 8 seed, and if they were in the East, they might do damage. But they can't stop the Lake Show big men, Carmelo Anthony's DUI is really not well timed, and 9 times out of 10, when Kobe wants to put the clamps on Iverson late in the game, he succeeds. Lakers in 5.

Too Full O' The Milk of Human Kindness: Hornets (2) vs. Mavs (7)

It's been a great year for the Hornets, who rode MVP candidate Chris Paul to an 56-26 record and a 2nd seed in the West. David West is the best player in the Association that no one knows about, Tyson Chandler has completely blossomed now that he has a real honest to goodness point guard, and even cranky 'ol Peja Stojakovic has looked frisky.

And I was so sure it was going to end early. But then they went and got the perfect draw -- Dallas.

Let us say this plainly: Jason Kidd can't stay in front of Chris Paul. The Mavs would be better off sending Josh Howard -- or Curly Howard -- at CP3. So while The Hornets do not have the kind of home court or playoff experience that translates to a long run, especially when your grizzled playoff vet (Peja) has a lot of playoff experience in which he self-Heimliched, I can't pick against them. Even with Dirk Nowitzki looking MVPish lately.

It'll be close and grueling and you are crazy if you bet it, and that's amazing for a 2-7 matchup. But not so amazing when only 5 games separate them in the loss column. It also won't really matter who wins, because they are going down in the second round anyway. But for the record, Hornets in 7.

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? / Out, damned spot! out, I say! All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand: Spurs (3) vs. Suns (6)

Here's how crazy the West is: the difference in the won-loss column between the 3 and 6 seeds is a game. One freaking game. We are also, of course, revisiting the scene of last year's crime, with the Tim Donaghy / David Stern experience. I suppose that, after the Sonic Screw Job, the Donaghy Series is no longer Stern's Greatest Atrocity, but the stain is still there...

The Suns seem to have gelled just in time, and getting the Spurs in the first round helps loads, because Mike D'Antoni seems to be actively trying to prove that benches are for Communists. The Spurs, of course, have Manu Ginobili to get all of the back-breaking late points, and their usual killer defense.

There is also the feeling, that in all of the hullabaloo of the West's upping the ante trades -- Gasol to the Lakers! Shaq to the Suns! Kidd to the Mavs! -- there's still the Spurs, sitting back and watching everyone do their little dance, knowing that they can not be killed by any man borne of a woman. Is there a C-section superstar out there?

The answer is yes, because they win every other year, not every year -- and the Association is going to give Phoenix that nowhere near equal make-up call here. Besides, you were expecting a Macbeth-themed preview to go well for Duncan? Suns in 6.

Double, Double toil and Trouble: Utah (4) vs. Houston (5)

Ah, Tracy McGrady in a winnable first round series. I'd say more, but why?

OK, fine... Deron Williams will treat Rafer Alston like the Macbeths treat their house guests, and while Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur are just waiting to kill Jerry Sloan with DNP-Choke Decisions in a playoff series, it won't be in the first round. But really, once Yao went down, I've been waiting for the Rockets to die; team play and good defense are great, but the playoffs are about stars, and T-Mac's just not that guy. Williams, on the other hand, is. Jazz in 6.

Bonus Quotes for the Bard Enthusiast...

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased / Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow / Raze out the written troubles of the brain / And with some sweet oblivious antidote / Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff / Which weighs upon the heart?

Macbeth's pathetic plea to a doctor to fix his wife from her guilt-crazed wanderings goes to the Mavs, and that was before they had Kidd with his marital woes.

I have almost forgot the taste of fears. -- The Spurs. Yup, I'm just not feeling a repeat.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...

The first round, assuming one of these exceptional series goes the full 7 games, concludes in a lightning-fast 17 days from now. If you've ever wondered why NBA teams don't really work on developing their bench the way they used to, it's simple: the playoff scheduling in the modern cable era has meant that it's really not important.

And finally, jumping ahead to the begetting of the new king...

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The finest speech in the history of nihilism goes for... everyone except the (sigh) Celtics. Short of LeBron playing the finest basketball of his life in a Round 2 matchup, or Detroit rolling back the clock in the same third round where they completely ran out of gas last year, they won't really be tested until the Finals. Once they are there, they will get a team/survivor that has been through the meat grinder for two months.

Combine that with their suffocating defense and sneakily tolerable bench, and you've got something that even Doc Rivers can't screw up.

(And if you are seeing this as another Masstermind-level ploy to help break the hearts of Massholes... well, false heart and all that.)

Waaahhh, Or Portraying Any Group That I May Be A Part Of In Any Negative Fashion Will Make Me Cry Like A Little Boy

Here's a column from Ad Age that casts doubt on the advertising practice of showing men in a negative light. The "Man as idiot" gist of many pieces is said to rankle 4 out of 5 men as being inaccurate, and many women as being demeaning to them as well, since they tend to, you know, get involved with guys. (Yet another reason, ladies, that y'all should go Sexy Dyke on us. I'm just trying to help.)

Your usual suspects of Glibertarian Until Aggrieved people (Bill Maher, Laura Schlessigner, Glenn Reynolds and Charles Osgood are mentioned) have criticized what they refer to as "anti-male ads." The writer then goes on to mention how men make up the majority of homeless, imprisoned, suicides and people dying young, and how the naughty, naughty ads are contributing to a devaluation of the role of fathers, leaving us awash in a world of fatherless-ness. The Horror! (Full disclosure: I was raised by a single mom, who rocks.)

Now, far be it from me to defend most ads that use the cheap humor crutch of Idiot Male. (Which would be, well, nearly every ad shown during every sports telecast.) Frankly, if you are going to sell me something, giving me your 25-second attempt at Com Oh Dee has always seemed like a waste of everyone's time and money.

But... since when did we, and I'm talking to the mostly male readers of this here blog, give a crap about the media's portrayal of us? Going all squishy about how you are portrayed isn't, well, really a terribly masculine value, in my experience. (For good or ill.)

Secondly, can we all, as a species, go back to the good old days when we were, you know, just in the slightest bit responsible for our own damn lives? I'm all for leveling the playing field for obvious inefficiencies -- class, race, gender. But when we have to also protect idiocy by coddling people who can't get along in the world without living in a cocoon of false positives? Sorry, we don't all get to grow up as trustafarians or legacy babies. (Thank the heavens. A nation of Bushes would have any sentient being with taste praying for meteors.)

Oh, and while we're fixing the media's inaccurate portrayals, can we get anyone on the television that opposed the Iraq War from the beginning? Or thinks that ESPN is on a mission to destroy everything that was ever good about it?

Epic Drop: Top 11 Reasons Why The Olympics Actually Crave Controversy

Your link is here, and I'll add this following 12th reason as the bonus track... the Olympics are actually just a massive plot to help sports bloggers fill their content hole. From firing rockets into the sky in a Dr. Evil-esque plot to control the weather, to the downright Keystone Cops-ish performance of the French to safeguard the torch, to the super-sneaky end-around by the San Francisco authorities, it's all been solid gold, baby!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Think I'll Buy Me A Football Team

Astute viewers may notice the addition of a PayPal Donate button on the right hand task bar, and wonder where we get the nerve to ask for donations, seeing how we have ads.

Well, it's threefold.

1) I run some fantasy leagues, and the owners in those leagues have requested a way to pay remotely. So, voila.

2) Some T-shirt buyers would rather use credit. Now, they can.

3) Just because I sell myself to advertisers and other blogs doesn't mean I can't also hock myself to some FTT readin' sugar daddy. And for just a $75 pledge, you get a tote bag!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, written while enjoying a nice tall frosty Budweiser. Ahh!!! (Have we also mentioned that product placement contracts are A-OK in our books?)


There is nor flying hence nor tarrying here.
I gin to be aweary of the sun,
And wish the estate o' the world were now undone.
Ring the alarum-bell! Blow, wind! come, wrack!
At least we'll die with harness on our back.

-- Macbeth, Act Five, Minutes Before Decapitation

Only, you know, without the harness.

Lately, opposing scouts came to the Garden and declared the Knicks the hardest team in the league with which to file reports back to their teams. “They haven’t run any plays in over a month,” one NBA scout said.
But hey! Knicks Fan got free food last night!

Epic Drop: Top 10 Signs That LeBron James and the Cavs are getting some calls

What, you thought I was going to let the Sixers getting jobbed on Fan Appreciation Night (amazingly this year, the Fan is plural) by the NBA's Anointed One pass without a list? Not a chance. Not even the one that you might want to give the Wizards in their probable first-round playoff matchup with King James.

(For the record, I do think Sam Dalembert fouled the guy. I also think that if you can't get away with a call on your floor with 0.2 left on the clock in the fourth, you are officially hosed in any playoff series. Nice year, guys.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

One more place I can never go to ever again

DUNKIN' DONUTS HAS SIGNED FENWAY Sports Group (FSG), a Boston-based sports and entertainment marketing firm, as its sports marketing agency of record.

The greater Boston-based Dunkin' Donuts has had a number of ongoing marketing ventures with New England sports properties over the years. And the company's franchise footprint is mostly New England, followed in franchise density by Florida and parts of the upper Midwest.

The company has focused much of its sports marketing deals around the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Revolution and Breakers. In 2005, Dunkin' Donuts ran a $1 million ad push by Boston shop Hill Holliday featuring then-Sox GM Theo Epstein and player Johnny Damon.
I knew this wasn't going to end well once I saw Chris Berman pimping for them last year. Oh well, the pushcarts are cheaper anyway...

Oh, and DD is all over New York and Philadelphia, of course. Wonder how well the locals in those areas will cotton to this media buy...

Epic Drop: Top 11 Secret Stadium Curses

Your link is here, and your local NY news clip is here...

I, for one, would sleep more soundly knowing that the courts have weighed in on this matter. How else can Yankee and Sawx Fan ramp up the jerkishness?

He can do that?

This is Robinson Cano, Yankee second baseman and proud member of my fantasy team, scoring a run.

You'd think this kind of thing wouldn't be worthy of physical evidence, especially as he did this 93 times last year. He's also just 25 and presumably still getting better, plays for the loaded Yankee offense, etc., etc.

Tonight in Tampa, Cano did something unprecedented for 2008: he scored a run. Standing up, as a matter of fact, after providing what eventually proved to be the game-winning hit with his first home run of the season. (It came off noted taser enthusiast Al Reyes, who, it may be safely said, is not having a particularly good week.)

Such is my happiness for Cano's brief flash of competence, you are all getting to share in it. We Are Celebrating Good Times, Indeed!

Post #1000: What Have We Learned

Well, kids, this is a Big Number, and the post involving it is also a Big Post, as I've been working on it for a couple of weeks.

Fifteen months ago, I started FTT with the expressed purpose of (a) killing time at a job that didn't give me enough to do, and (b) writing about sports so that I didn't go crazy thinking that what the MSM was giving me wasn't, well, 99% horsecrap.

There were no readers that I didn't personally know already, no ads, and about five sports blogs that had any real traffic, as far as I could tell. Now, there's been well over 50,000 of you shuffling through at one time or another, though it's very much dependent on the links of bigger blogs. People have clicked from all over the world, and the ad checks have helped me feel a lot less silly about spending my time doing this. There are still five sports blogs with any real traffic, and FTT isn't one of them... but I do get to write for one that's getting closer to that.

And since a lot of what I've been shared has been in list form, here's one for this.

Top 12 Things I've Learned (Seriously) From Blogging About Sports

1. Sports blogs and writers that, for the most part, stop being about sports... are wanking.

Over time, the temptation to wank becomes overwhelming, especially if you commit to a steady and significant workload. But like Creeping Curmudgeonism (where all of the athletes of your youth were always better), it must be resisted.

If you really love the writer, you might want to watch them do this. Hell, you may even want to help, as an act of something approaching love. But it is what it is.

2. The only thing more played out and boring than an anonymous blogger pissing on your work is moaning about being pissed on.

I don't get a lot of this at FTT, but over at the Carnival there's usually a troll a month that gets his rocks off from telling everyone that they suck. Like hecklers to comics, you feel compelled to show your chops by replying, and sometimes, it's entertaining in that Good Wanking way. But not for long.

3. An audience that, for the most part, doesn't comment is not evidence of a lack of audience.

Try as we may, very few of us are going to grow up to be Deadspin or some other place with a very active community. I'd love to have that, of course, but at the end of the day, it's not what keeps me filling the bloghole. Respect from peers, and the compulsion to work things out for a historical record, is closer to the motivation.

4. The posts that you pour your heart and soul into will not, for the most part, get you traffic.

In a past life, I was an indie musician, and the songs that I wrote and performed were like this. The complex stuff where we were really original and clever flew over the audience's heads. The stuff where we dumbed down the instrumentation, hook and lyric got people waving their hands in the air.

Craftsmanship and care and attention to detail will only go so far, really. It's remarkably easy to spend that extra time putting in stuff that's not really necessary, or just getting in the way of the hook.

5. If someone invites you to write for their blog or appear in their pod or video cast, just say yes.

It's just good manners, and the person that's doing the asking is most likely more gregarious than you when it comes to making connections. Besides, you can always link to the piece to help fill your own bloghole, and that cross-linking is really the only way to get search engine success. Go and make friends already.

6. Jealousy towards someone else's traffic levels or link success is your lazy, lazy brain keeping you from honest work.

There have been studies, honestly, based around the relative link success of different sports blogs from other sports blogs. I suppose it served the purpose of getting me to click, but the rubbing one out ratio was just off the charts on that, and it made me feel dirty to even read it. I don't want to imagine the feeling the writer got from it.

7. Your team, blog, writing, favorite athlete, political candidate, personal tastes and religion sucks.

Assume this, and you'll keep from writing to the choir. Besides, in matters like this, Bill Simmons is a powerful negative example, kind of like how I don't drink very much from having a parent who had trouble with it.

8. Bloggers spend too much time writing about blogging, rather than, you know, blogging.


9. Whenever you write a list, your mind will invariably stall out with 1 or 2 left to go.

Because that's the very best way to waste time while blogging, of course.

10. 90% of the success of your post depends on your image or video search.

So have another pussy shot already.

11. Blogger fights make the rest of the time you spend doing this look like working in a soup kitchen for the homeless.

(And yes, I'd like to pledge that I'll never engage in one again, but I'm too smart in knowing the limitless nature of my stupidity.)

12. Just on the off chance that you were reading this hoping to get to the I Quit Moment... well, sorry, there is no end to it.

And even if there were, you'd have to check back on whether anyone said a eulogy.

And finally, let me leave you with the best and longest video that I'll ever send you to. It's got nothing to do with sports, other than inspiring me to work better and harder, because I -- and you -- could have more serious problems. Bookmark it, spend all 77 minutes on it, then send it to someone you love. It's really worth it, especially at the end.

Thank you for reading, and the blog continues any moment now, really...

Very Successful

Sad, sad news on the wire -- the very worst play by play man any of us has ever mostly not heard will be leaving us.

Bryant Gumbel, who served as the play-by-play announcer for the first two years of NFL Network’s in-house coverage of regular-season games, is leaving the position.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to call NFL Network games the past two years, which was a new experience for me,” Gumbel said in a release. “But we’ve agreed that we’d all be better served going in different directions. There are a lot of talented people at NFL Network. I thank them, I wish them well, and I have no doubt that they will be very successful going forward.”
Who will we rely on to mispronounce well-known player names? Consistently foul up down and distance calls? Sound as disinterested and emotionless as Joe Buck on life support? Be my go-to guy for how craptastic NFL coverage can be? Dammit, Emmit Smith can only carry so much of the load here!

All I can say for NFLN is this -- you have better not touch Deion Sanders. Or your network will be, you know, a laughingstock.

Ads In This Size Rule