Monday, June 30, 2008

Countdown to Letdown

So the Wizards make the first splash in the NBA free agent season by... signing their own guy, Antawn Jamison, to a deal. As a SIxers fan, I'm supposed to care about this, because the Sixers were intersted in going after the one-time Tarheel and Warrior... and, um, yeesh. I realize that the Sixers need more scoring from their bigs, and Jamison can do that... but they do realize that he's primarly a garbage scorer and three-point shooter that, at age 32, isn't going to be getting better, right?

Antwan works hard and that's a tolerable contract as NBA contracts go, but he's also a defensive sieve and black hole. He's never been a part of any team that's gone deep into the playoffs... and maybe I'm just a big lover of young potential, but I'd much rather see Thaddeus Young get major minutes, rather than watch the known quantity of Jamison.

So, is there a free agent on the market that I'd like to see on the Sixers, seeing how they are one of the few teams with cap money to spend? Sure. If they can take the very useful James Posey away from Boston, that helps them and hurts their rival. Mikael Pietrus could be a useful part of the rotation, especially if you think you can work on the holes in his game (and he's still kind of young, I guess). Maybe Shaun Livingston is worth a gamble, depending on where his rehab is; he might also come relatively cheap. Corey Magette could finally give them a 3-point threat, and he's opted out of his deal with the Clips.

But all of that pales beyond the sheer dream that would be Elton Brand, who opted out of his deal with the Clips tonight. Get him, and you can go with Young, Brand and Dalembert up front, with Miller and Iguodala in the backcourt; it's still turnover-prone, but it can score from everywhere inside the three-point line, and it defends and runs. More than that, it lets everyone in the area know that the Sixers are actually serious about getting better and becoming more than just a low seed and first round exit.

Not that I'm, you know, getting my hopes up... and as I'm writing this, Baron Davis has announced that he's opting out of the Warriors, too. Last one out of Oaktown, please turn out the lights...

Flushing Najeh

Bad times for bloggers and other cheap joke lovers... Pittsburgh released Najeh Davenport, whose tombstone will almost certainly include the word "hamper" and "sordid." The writing was clearly on the wall with the team's first round pick of Rashard Mendenhall, as well as the free- agent pick-up of another source of low comedy, Medwelde Moore. (Moore, for the record, was on the Vikings Sex Boat, but if you wondering if Moore was the guy with the Whizzinator, not the case -- that was Onterrio Smith.)

Davenport's load was likely dumped in the playoffs, when he managed only 25 yards on 16 carries in the Steeler playoff loss to the Jaguars, though he did reach paydirt twice. You'd think that a guy with a 4.7 career yards per carry average, with a reasonable ability catch the ball in the flat (50 career catches, 9.7 average), could keep from circling the drain... but seeing how he's 29 already, the Steelers were not able to swing a trade for his rights.

My guess is that he'll surface somewhere as a back-up, and have fantasy league relevance once or twice more, because he's got plus size and the ability to break a tackle or two. Which would be his third team and an NFL career that's twice the NFL average... and a very real question of whether or not his extra curricular activities actually kept him in the league longer, because they gave him name recognition. (Is there another back in the league that has this resume that you're as familiar with? I'm thinking, well, no.)

Halfway to a Miracle

Forty nine wins and thirty two losses after 81 games gives you a 98 win pace (I'm good at math), and right now, an AL East crown. The team on that pace is your Tampa Bay Rays.

Here's how good the Rays are right now -- they are making Andy Sonnastine, a guy with a 4.6 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP, have a very real chance at 20 wins. He's even 6-0 after a loss. They're getting big RBI games from their backup catcher. They have the most wins in the first 81 games ever for a team that had the worst record in MLB the year before. Thanks to Boston losing to the Astros in Houston, they're in first, just in time for a 3-game set against the defending champions.

Can it continue? Well, since we're already into the unknown with their won-loss record, there's really no way to know. It might be hard to imagine Evan Longoria continuing his .875 OPS all year, but all the scouts saw this guy as a Rookie of the Year candidate, there's no reason why he can't. If anything, the offense might even get better, since Carlos Pena isn't likely to struggle all year.

Meanwhile on the pitching side, they've got a 3.69 team ERA, with Scott Kazmir's 2.28 ERA and 1.04 WHIP putting him heavily in the running for the AL Cy Young. James Shields and Matt Garza are both providing good innings and lots of them, and either would be the #2 starter in the Bronx right now. The back end of the rotation (Sonnastine and Edwin Jackson) isn't exactly dominant, but they've both managed to stay healthy and throw a significant amount of innings, which is keeping the bullpen fresh. There's even talk of them adding payroll -- yes, the Rays, adding payroll -- to get the extra arm or two they'd need to get over the hump.

There's also this: if karma and the rooting interest of non-affiliated fans have anything to do with it, the Rays are going to win this division in a walk. With the departure of Elijah Dukes, there isn't a genuine bad guy on the roster, and the fever dream of a playoff season without the Red Sox or the Yankees... would Fox even put the games on? Would MLB even count the results, or would there have to be a strike?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Best Night Of My Month

Six months ago, I started a monthly poker night in my Man Space Basement, partly to make more friends in the area, and mostly just to play some low-stakes poker. Back in my penniless musician days, we used to play for nickels, dimes and quarters, with the biggest pots going around $10 to $15. We'd play all night for less than $20, with the kind of back-and-forth repartee that had everything to do with wasting time together, and little if anything to do with actual poker. So it was basically a nostalgia thing for me, and had next to nothing to do with the big national mania for hold'em.

The game now has taken on an every four weeks quality to it, with a slow core of local regulars starting to develop, buttressed by the occasional out-of-towner from Philly or New York. (I live about halfway between the two, with Philly roots and family, and a New York desk job.) The stakes have grown, not to the point where anyone is really getting hurt (we tend to have maximum buy-ins under the idea that no one is going to leave my home very mad), but enough where a sizable payday could mean you can fill your gas tank. And while I won't bore you to tears with the details of any specific game (though getting pocket kings the other night, and having two more show up on the flop, really was one of the highlights of my year)... well, I will say this.

If you aren't in a game, get in. And if you don't have a game, start one.

There's a reason why in-person cards is even better than online or against a machine, and that's simple -- in-person cards involves the spectacular disapora of trash talk, work stories, women stories, drunk stories... just stories, really. Running gags that teeter between exceptional irritation and utter hilarity. The actual attempts to play poker, balanced off your growing book of every player, mitigated against the fact that most of us are drinking, which doesn't do much for your book or your analysis skills. (How I know that I've been more lucky than good so far... the fact that drink seems to help. Woo hoo! Two great vices that go great together!) The knowledge that, in a low-limit game with guys that are more interested in having a good time than amassing career winnings and going on to the Pro Tour, that what you might see on television or read in a how-to book has nearly no use in what's going on here.

It's fantastic. It's the best day of my month. It's a vice that's even shared by the guy that might be our next President. (Yes, Obama plays, at least according to the New Yorker. They say he likes to see a lot of flops. I tell you, other than the intellect and the people and speaking skills and skin color, I'm so like this guy. In that I like poker and basketball, and breathe oxygen.)

And it's a great way to have, more or less, the same experience that your uncles and great-uncles and men for generations before you have known... that wasting time, with cards and with your friends, is one of the best ways to waste time that there is. (By the way, if you are local, we usually have a space or two open. Email me at dmt shooter at gmail dot com for an invite.)

Now, what are the blinds again?

Epic Drop: Top 10 Reasons Why Kerry Wood Flashed The Old Double Hi Sign

Your link is here, and really, it was fantastic timing on the part of Fox.. but I thought that all telecasts had a seven second delay now, to prevent this kind of thing? I smell a highly lucrative class-action lawsuit from everyone who had their children's development eternally scarred by this. Gimme gimme!

The Most Exciting Player In Baseball

Today in Shea, Jose Reyes continued his very special weekend (yesterday's getting picked off second base being also very special) by nonchalantly throwing wide to first base with two outs in the seventh. Carlos Delgado didn't make a play that he probably could have, and as Melky Cabrera rounded first and made it second on the error, Reyes threw his glove to the ground like, oh, a spoiled Little League player.

He executed it with a full turn, which let the sunglasses and glove both fall in different directions. Fairly artistic, especially in the slow-motion HD that you'll be seeing it in, oh, the 2,000+ replays that the Lemur will probably be favoring you with.

Oliver Perez then continued his inexplicable mastery of the Yankees by getting Jose Molina to fly out to center, ending the inning. The YES cameras then spent the rest of the game looking inside the Mets' clubhouse to see if Delgado was going to take Reyes' head off. In the ninth, Billy Wagner gave up a leadoff hit to Derek Jeter, then wild pitched him to second, but kept A-Rod in the park on a fly ball to right. After a Posada groundout, Wagner froze Wilson Betemit with a called third strike, and the Mets won 3-1 to get to .500, and salvaged a split in their 4-game Subway Series.

(Oh, and nice Pravda Moment from the SNY postgame, which failed to show the hissy fit. Way to cover your assets, gentlemen.)

The Reyes Incident, of course, led the telecast team to spend the rest of the game talking about Reyes' immaturity, and whether or not Willie Randolph misses having a job, and all of the usual points that you'd make, including a snide jab as to how no one was comparing the Mets' left side of the infield to the Yankees' left side now. But as always, I'd like to see some numbers.

First off, the number 25. That's how old Reyes is, on the off chance that you want to just chalk this up to Oh, That Impetuous Youth. Secondly, the number 675 -- which is the number of games that Reyes has played in the major leagues. I'm thinking that this is the Jose Reyes that's the real guy, folks. Immaturity be damned.

Next, 840 -- which is the Reyes OPS for the year, with a little more slugging than his career norms. The on-base is at .355 -- still not great for a leadoff hitter, but more or less what he's done in the past three years, and with his steals and extra-base power, he gets himself into position to score a lot of runs. Delgado's .725 OPS is the lowest of his life as a regular baseball player. So on the grand scale of things, perhaps you give your talented young player a little leeway, especially on a hot day.

But there's also this. Delgado had 9 RBIs in the first of Friday's doubleheader, and the go-ahead home run in today's game. He's also the closest thing this Mets team has to a veteran leader, especially with Moises Alou more or less done; no one is expecting this kind of thing from, say, Carlos Beltran. The first baseman can more or less kill a shortstop if he's really got a mind to, not that I'm really expecting Delgado to spend his time exacting a grudge; right now, he's doing everything he can to just stay in the majors.

And finally, um, he does know that he plays in New York, right? How badly did he want to be on the back page of the tabloids, looking like this?

Not Exactly An Ace

Yesterday in the thunder storm soup that was New York, Andy Petitte outdueled Johan Santana in a game that wasn't really a duel. Pettite's 8 baserunners in six innings added up to 2 earned runs, while Santana's same numbers added up to three earned runs. Combine this with an absolutely boneheaded Jose Reyes baserunning mistake, and after a rain delay and effective Yankee relief work -- yes, that was Kyle Farnsworth with a 1-2-3 eighth inning -- and the Mets missed another chance to get to .500.

What I really wanted to address, though, was Santana. The loss dropped him to 7-7, and while the other numbers aren't really bad (3.01 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.33 K/BB with 103 strikeouts in 113 innings), he's been the classic ace on a not quite .500 team -- good, but not good enough. The go-ahead run came after an intentional walk to Jorge Posada to face Robinson Cano, and despite the lefty-lefty matchup, Santana gave up the solid single to right.

Santana's had eight unearned runs this year, which is one of those small but telling points... that he hasn't really picked up the team when they've really needed him. His last start involved a grand slam given up to Felix Hernandez, all of which were unearned, but when you give up the big fly to the opposing pitching from the AL, I'm thinking that should count as an earned run. Heck, maybe as double earned runs.

The lack of production has, of course, been noted by Mets Fan in the time-honored tradition of booing the talented Hessian. No matter what the team or situation, the fact remains that if you pay for a star and he doesn't deliver, he'll be booed harder than any struggling farmhand. You'd have thought that this kind of thing would have gone out of style by now, seeing how as baseball has been treating the MLB+ teams to this kind of behavior for decades, but nope...

There is also this: Santana was as close to a lead-pipe cinch to dominate this year. He was moving to the weaker league, a better pitcher's park, presumably more run support from the Mets than the Twins, and got to pitch to pitchers, rather than designated hitters. He went for an unholy amount of money in my auction league, and had to be no worse than a top 3 pick among SPs in any league. (This is also why, in general, you're crazy to pay too much for pitching in a fantasy league.)

So when he ranks 17th among SPs in the Yahoo game (not a perfect ranking, but so be it), that really doesn't cut it... especially for a team that's been .500 for a really long time, with really overinflated expectations.

Johan has been a second half monster for a long time now. The Mets are just four games out of the NL East, thanks to the recent stumbles of the Phillies. No team in the NL looks extraordinarily dominant, with the possible exception of the Cubs. If you're playing in a fantasy league with a guy who's failing with Santana on the roster, I can think of no better second half target.

But there he is, just another guy, rather than the best pitcher on one of the best teams. Maybe he's just not that special after all.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Credit When Due

Will Leitch's roast over at Deadspin had a very nice turn from, of all people, the Bad Tooth. Go check it out; he even gets to curse and seem to enjoy himself. It's like he went back in time. Maybe it is all the Lemur editors fault?

Sideshow Robin and the Jersey Tank Job

I was going to take a full miss on the NBA Draft this year, but then the sports blogosphere alerts came and made this image available, and who am I to turn a gift Sideshow in the mouth?

This is Robin Lopez, who has definite Juwanna Mann potential, and as that's my third WNBA reference in the past five days, I will now check to see if my nuts are still on my body.


But only just.

For anyone who doubts the power of the Association as a top 3 league, I give you this fact... between Anderson Varaejo, Yannick Noah and Lopez, you have over a 10% chance in any NBA game of seeing a live-action Simpsons villain getting rotation minutes. What more could you want, really?

(Why a miss on the Draft? Because it honestly seemed like there's not much here this time. Color me unimpressed when the world thinks that several of the players in the lottery will be career back-ups. Even the top 2 picks of Rose and Beasley have obvious and startling holes. Rose can't shoot threes or free throws, which makes him Rajon Rondo, who was drafted in the 20s a few years ago. Beasley has the ever popular character issues, was listed three inches taller than reality, and will be a defensive sieve. Yum! I should have definitely written another 1500 words on this to make the site's long-suffering non-Association fans scroll furiously. Or, well, not.)

There is also this... I hate, hate, hate it when a team announces to its fans that it is tanking the year before the year even begins. And that is the only way that you can spin New Jersey trading a genuinely good player (Richard Jefferson, who admittedly will never put up his Playing With Jason Kidd numbers again) for two guys (Yi Jianlin and Bobby Simmons) who can't play, won't stay healthy, and will both be out of the Association in 3 years or less.

It's clear that the Nets are just clearing cap space to go after LeBron James, not that this ever works -- seriously, Nets fans, you do know that you're just getting suckered into a multiple year wait for a free agent signing that isn't going to happen. When a fan base is told, before the year even starts, that there is no hope for the year, and that assets are being sold off just to have cap space, that's reprehensible. It's fraud to charge full price for the tickets. As a Sixers fan, I feel very strongly about this: every fan base deserves to have the potential for hope before a season begins. What is your hope if you are a Nets fan -- that Devin Harris is somehow going to become Chris Paul? That Jianlin will somehow not be horrible? That Nenad Krstic will come again to exact Gandhi II-like justice?

Maybe I'm overstating the case here, and that Marcus and Sean Williams will emerge to give the team an exciting young nucleus, or that Vince Carter will decide to care and be the elder leader of the team. (Chance of this happening: Zero.) But in the meantime, the Nets should cut ticket prices. (Chance of this happening: Zero.)

Epic Drop: Top 11 Plans For When I Win The Mike And Mike Auction

Your link is here, and the astute reader will notice that there is no actual content here that betrays any specific knowledge of either Mike.

That's for one simple reason: I don't listen to their show. And normally, I'd feel bad about not doing the research, but let's face it... the blogging doesn't pay enough for that kind of ritualistic self-abuse. WNBA research is pleasant by comparison...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Unanswered Questions in the Javon Walker Case

Your link is here, and that bump and run joke is one that people will be making at Walker's expense for the rest of his time in the League. I'm thinking the over/under on that is two years, and that you might want to take the under...

Itch and Scratch

In this week's New Yorker is a long piece on the mechanics and treatment of itchiness. It's actually pretty fascinating. Among a lot of stuff about phantom limbs and mirror therapy, there was this: a fair amount of what we think is just a natural reaction to skin conditions is mental, and that you can, provided you are exposed to the right mental weather, make yourself itchy.

Here, I'll prove it. I want you to imagine a mosquito walking up the back of your right leg, just above the ankle, then slowly lowering its head towards the skin. Now it's opening it's jaws, and moving closer... and now it plunges its teeth into your skin, engorging itself with your blood. Really concentrate now, and see the mosquito on your defenseless skin. Clear your mind of everything but the mosquito on your leg.

Now, imagine a second mosquito landing next to the first one.

Seeing how as I've made some of you as bothered as you've been on this blog since the WNBA post, now try this. Visualize a soft terrycloth bathrobe coming out of a dryer, which you fold with your hands. It's warm, smells good, and feels expensive and luxuriant. You can even bring it to your cheek if you like; no one's watching.

In studies with not just my plodding words but also full sound and video, test subjects in a theater were observed to scratch more to the first scenario, and to be clearly soothed and made more calm and still by the second. Unlike, say, tickling, itch/scratch has no social component; you can make yourself itchy whenever you want to, and, perhaps, also stop it. (Hell, I'm scratching more just from the self-edit.)

I'm in the sixth paragraph now, which means I have to bring this back to sports, right? (In earlier drafts, this kind of mosquito dithering went on for a lot longer, just to prove some sadistic meta-point. Anyway, moving on.) Well, it's pretty obvious to me -- sports radio, sports bloggers, sports writers and sports networks all exist on an itch/scratch continuum. SportsCenter soothes more than it irritates; when it does so, with Braying Jackassery, the powers that be think it's a good thing, because an active audience is better than a reactive one. They'd see it as a spice to the main meal.

It is the nature of Art to mete out Itch with Scratch, Carrot with Stick, Pleasure and Pain. (Hey now. My image search for this post just got a lot more interesting.) But that's not what sports coverage is usually about. Sports coverage is pure Scratch; it's an arena where we pay to see events that don't really matter, so that we can avoid thinking about things that really do matter. (And if you don't believe that, consider the existence of the Post-Game Gloatathon that every NFL team telecast provides to its local market. Scratch, scratch, scratch.)

When we do bring in things that matter into sports, we have to do so carefully, and we lose a portion of the audience. If you are, say, a Yankee fan, you'd much rather watch Alex Rodriguez hit than hear about his contract, but since his contract defines other aspects of the team (say, their inability to have mid-salary performers on the bench, or the chance to bring in other big-salaried free agents), most people will go along under the feeling that it's something that they have to know. But no one, with the possible exception of Hank Steinbrenner, wants to see the full cost-benefit analysis of Rodriguez with the Yankees to see if he's bringing in more than he costs. That level of reality / itch is not welcome.

This also gets to the crux of why The Lemur bothers me so much and so often; it is a mosquito. It is an ever-increasing amount of Itch. It is Commerce masquerading as Art, a slow pollution of the purity of our drugs, a bastard child that decent men and women should not accept nor easily tolerate. In a better world, there would be competition that delivers nothing but Scratch Goodness, so that we don't have to endure all of the mistakes they foist on us.

Some might read this as simply a cranky old man rant, since the mosquito is something the young'uns are just used to by now. But, um, no. In the end, the Lemur likes to make us itch, just as many other players in the space do.

And yes, that makes them reprehensible, at least intermittently... and it means that most of the people who do this hobby of mine have reprehensible moments.

But it also means that I'm culpable for letting them get to me, and I can get them to stop whenever I like, by just thinking hard about a nice soft cloth. Maybe being held over various mouths...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Today's Small Moment of Hate

Don Imus says he's being misunderstood, not racist, when he asks what color Adam "Mr." Jones is, after hearing of his various arrests and lack of Pac-Mania.

Adam "Mr." Jones then says he's praying for Imus.

No, seriously.

A quick question for all of the readers who consider themselves religious... isn't "I'm praying for you" one of the nicest ways to insult someone, or is that just my jaded ears working? (In a way, oddly, that "You're in our prayers" is not.)

In any event... this Small Moment of Hate is brought to you by Vengeful Jebus, who smites those that drag him into Grade-Z celebrity dustups. Beware the wrath of Vengeful Jebus!

Epic Drop: Top 10 PGA Tour Changes Since The Loss of Tiger Woods

Your list is here, and I, for one, would heartily endorse the return of Jack Nicklaus in a powered exo-skeleton. But really, who wouldn't?

A Small Note On The Lemur's Coverage Of Len Bias's Death Anniversary

Dear Mice,

You might not be aware of this, but other teams, in towns other than Boston, have suffered tragedies in sports.

I will be expecting -- nay, demanding! -- similar coverage of the Jerome Brown Memorial, the Pelle Lindbergh Tragedy, the Hank Gathers Experience, the Korey Stringer Surprise, the Derrick Thomas Self Sack, the Continuing Ghostlike Presence of Sean Taylor, the 12 to 6 Knee Bending Loss of Darryl Kile, the Most Valuable Loss of Ken Caminiti, the Unfortunate Commute of Cory Lidle...

Because, if you fail to cover them with the same sloppy mouthjob that you give your only media market (that would be, in case anyone was wondering, Boston) in your approach for Len Bias... well, we will all know that the Worldwide Lemur just has a giant hand up its collective ass for its home base of operations, won't we? (Again.)

And that while this kind of thing is tolerable, one supposes, when covering actual sporting events giving the strong performance of the Boston teams, it's quite another to equate your one unfortunate experience as the Death of All Innocence.

You see, that's the funny thing about innocence. It's dying all around you, in lives that don't get examined to, well, death.

Finally, just one last time, since I know you don't really believe this. It's a message from all of the sports fans of America that don't live in New England, and/or don't root for New England teams.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Welcoming our new Cowboy Overlords

My enthusiasm over the not so Giant honeymoon has, sadly, been tempered by the knowledge that the Dallas Cowboys are constructing the best team in the history of life, the universe, and everything. It's as if my Eagles, with some exceptional free agent pickups, a stable coaching and ownership situation with less child drug felony distractions, and any amount of health and/or luck... nah. Not against the gods among men in Dallas.

I mean, have you looked at this roster? There will be fourteen Pro Bowlers -- fourteen! -- once they finish the Adam Jones transformation. There is the tested experience of a franchise that does not have a playoff win in this millennium, and the sheer managerial brilliance of Jerry Jones, who took an emerging roster filled with Bill Parcells guys (in other words, people who are not exceptionally likely to get arrested) and added Mr. Jones, Tank Johnson, and some secret "Island of Dr. Moreau" half-man half-animals to the practice squad. (What, that's not common knowledge yet? Damm. I guess it's time for another trip to the team's secret orientation complex in Mexico...)

Everywhere you look, everything is turning up Cowboys. Terrell Owens got a big new contract and extra attention from the league office for missing a drug test. Jones had an ex-associate die. Roy Williams gets to go to the bench like a good little soldier so that the team can slide in a rusty, demonikered Jones. Maybe he'll work up some new penalty for the NFL to invent on his behalf!

Terry Glenn threw a fit over a contract, leading the #2 WR slot firmly in the hands of Patrick Crayton, who didn't have any consistency or drop issues last season. Tony Romo continued his commitment to celebrity poon, which can't possible have PR repercussions in light of his past playoff performances. Tank Johnson is said to be getting comfortable and ready to take on a leadership role, presumably by force. Marian Barber gets all the touches now that Julius Jones is in Seattle, so he won't wear down at all. They start the season on the road in Cleveland and at home against the Eagles, which is just an easy-peasy way to go, really.

Oh, and it's also Year Two of the Wade Phillips Era, where he can really show his skills.

Nope, it's their year, all right. No way they are being set up for a massive disappointment-fest. I'm not looking forward to this season at all...

The Short Honeymoon

So here's your check list of things that have happened since the Giant Snatch that made the Eli Manning Giants your NFL champions.

1) Michael Strahan retired, turning the club's biggest defensive strength -- a pass rush that could change the way the game was played -- into something much less fearsome.

2) Plaxico Burress became unhappy about his contract, and unhappy wideouts are always conducive to winning. It's OK, though, because the Giants are just loaded with WRs on the roster who are, um, in no way as good as Burress. (Oh, and nice work from the other Giants to stand up for the teammate who carried you last year on a bad ankle, and caught the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. That's some good loyalty there, and I'm sure he's going to remember that the next time he's dinged up and has to play when he's not really feeling his best.)

3) Marshall's own Ahmad Bradshaw, the rookie backup RB that gave them such a lift when Brandon Jacobs succumbed to being Brandon Jacobs, was arrested. Now, it's not like he Carruthed anyone, but as Jamal Lewis proved in the past in Baltimore, time in the hole just does wonders for your burst. (Oh, and nice work on the Web site, G-Men. Under Off-Field Activity, Bradshaw wisely has "No Information Available." They can't prove you were accomplices to whatever it is that he did in southwest Virginia to violate his parole...)

4) Jeremy Shockey wasn't traded, and has become the distraction that we all know and love. Maybe he can hang out with Burress and see if they can infect David Tyree, while they are at it. This also means less of Kevin Boss, which as an Eagles fan, I can happily support.

5) Backup QB Jared Lorenzon was released, mostly to cut the team's carbon footprint. Who will come in for the Monster Sneak play now?

I can see why they'd want to lose the Hefty Lefty, though. It's not every day that you get the opportunity to watch David Carr and Anthony Wright compete to be your backup QB, unless, of course, you are watching Arena ball.

6) Everybody seemed OK with all of this, because they're Super Bowl Champs. and once a quarterback breaks through and wins one of these things, he becomes imbued with special Jedi Super Bowl Winning Powers. (Just like Trent Dilfer!)

Here's your first four weeks for the Giants.

1) Washington

2) At St. Louis

3) Cincinnati

4) Bye

Hoo boy. It looks easy, but you really don't want the bye early in the season, and I'd bet that they cough up at least one of them. Probably not the home opener against rookie coach Zorn and those always entertaining Redskins, but maybe that road dome game in St. Louis against a Rams team that might even still have healthy skill position players, and an upright Orlando Pace.

But it's completely OK if the Giants start from the block slow. After all, their last four games -- Philly, at Dallas, Carolina and at Minnesota -- just look like a complete cakewalk, and we all know that Road Warrior performance doesn't fade over the years, just as no one in New York boos a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Phil Simms was a god to those people. Infallible, really.

But just in case, it'd be nice if someone told Strahan to throw the team under the bus with a tell-all book halfway through the year, and if someone else has Shockey kneecapped. Why mess with a good formula?

Today's Worst Petty Controversey

What, more than Shaq-Fu? It's Team USA's odd insistence on having three point guards (including the utterly spent Jason Kidd) on the 2008 Olympic team, and how the team is going to lack bigs, because they didn't get Duncan, Garnett or even Tyson Chandler. (Because when you have Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh, you have no bigs, you see.)

Is this the best possible 12-man roster? Of course not; Kidd's there and Michael Redd is the only drop dead shooter. On the other hand, they could play a spectacular defensive team with Deron Williams at the 1, Kobe and LeBron on the wings, Tayshaun Prince at the 4 and Bosh at the 5; you pressure all over and live on transition.

But let's not, please, get into The Horror of thinking that they can't win because they don't have enough bigs. Or, if you are going to go that way, please do me the small favor of calling out the player who you think was a mistake to put on the roster. I'm doing that with Kidd, who can't shoot, is old, doesn't help you in half court and can't defend quick points anymore. Other than that, he's just great. Assuming you don't mind the fact that he hits women and kills coaches. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Finally, people in the US need to understand that Olympic / International hoop is not the same as NBA hoop. The foul calls that you get in the NBA don't exist. Mid-range and three-point shooting is almost to a college level of importance. The larger paint area means that passing big men are spectacularly useful, and penetrating guards aren't as big of an edge. So the traditional US strengths -- taking your man off the dribble, shot blocking athleticism, and on-the-ball pressure -- are all disregarded. Add in the curious choice of Duke's Coach K to lead them, and it's a horse designed by a committee, which is a camel... and not really suited for the task.

(Plus, there's also this -- they have to go to China and try to win in the most partisan Olympic environment since Los Angeles 1984, or Munich 1972, or Berlin 1936. Let's just say that I'm not counting on impartial refereeing, or giving much of a damn...)

Because I don't hate Fox enough

Yes, Fox has added Michael Strahan to their braying jackass studio show, and I know that shouldn't matter, because that's why remotes have mute buttons, and I have hands to stick over my eyes and in my ears.

However, I'm really not that mad. After all, with Tiki Barber going to some third-rate cable show to discuss omelettes, I'm pretty sure that this is just Strahan's way station until he's off to some cooking show, reality wankathon or porno...

A small, unfortunate answer

Um, I'm betting that Shaq's ass taste likes ass.

And yes, this is a legal requirement to be on every sports blog on the Internet today, but I have a simple rule. When an NBA MVP and dominant offensive force issues a battle rap in which he talks about his vasectomy, it goes on the blog. Period.

Let Us Now Show How Clever We Are

The Lemur wasted my time and yours tonight with trade rumors for Jason Taylor, and guess what they called the possible destination teams? Yes... wait for it... sit down because here comes the funny...


Get it? Because Taylor spent his off-season dancing on a reality show! And that means that for the rest of his life, no matter what he might do on a football field or off, including but not limited to an OJ Simpson-style freakout... he's going to be known for his wacky dancing!

Just like Emmit Smith, right? Oh, wait, Smith was on that show. Funny, I forgot.

Next, the Lemur then ran through the list of guys who rushed the quarterback who got run off once Parcells came to town. Without, of course, the context that NFL players are incredibly fungible, and that any list of pass rushers is going to include a lot of guys who are not there any more.

Now, will Taylor leave Miami? I don't know, and the Lemur doesn't, and if it actually has an impact on a team making the playoffs this year, I'll be legitimately surprised. But on the plus side, hey, dance jokes. I feel smarter now.

Epic Drop: Top 11 MLB Players That Should Be Traded

Your list is here, and it required research and everything. Two A's appear on this list, and it hurt to include them, but so be it...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 10 Stone Cold Lock Predictions For This Week's NBA Draft

And if you think this is just an excuse to run the image that has haunted The Truth's dreams for nearly a year now... yes. I dare you to look directly into its eyes, really....

Crazy Like A Not Crazy Person

I caught the Sunday Night Baseball game on the Lemur last night, as the Cubs completed their sweep of the White Sox at Wrigley in the battle of first place Chicago baseball teams. (Which is, really, a post in itself, given that the series had absolutely no out-of-market hype before it happened, and a similar first place matchup between the Mets and Yankees, or even perhaps the Angels and Dodgers, would have gotten a lot more run. It's funny, isn't it, how pennant races and championships in + Media Markets mean more, doesn't it? Our readers in San Antonio are now nodding their heads so vigorously, it's working as air conditioning.)

Anyhoo... given that the Cubs were proceeding to complete their sweep and Ozzie Guillen wasn't foaming at the mouth, the Lemurcast went and dredged up the early June "meltdown" from the Wizard when he threw all of his hitters under the bus. The team, for all of you who aren't paying game to game attention to the ChiSox, then went on an offensive tear for a week or two, and remain atop the AL Central, mostly because the Tribe and Tigers have been a lot worse than anyone has expected so far this year. I suspect they are still just holding the seat warm for whichever club gets hot, or would be an easy out in the ALDS, but hey, that's why they play the games.

Joe Morgan then performed his self-appointed role of stating the obvious in a way that anyone with a functioning cerebellum would disavow; namely, that Guillen was crazy like a fox! You see, he motivates his team that way, and his team knows how to handle such things, and veterans like Jim Thome, AJ Pyrzinski and Jermaine Dye just took such things to heart and moved on. (Side note: does Morgan even listen to Morgan anymore?)

Which made me wonder... if the team are veterans and know to disregard it when Ozzie is pretending to be off his meds, why pretend in the first place?

The answer, of course, is that Guillen's got too much of an ego (not surprising, given that he's an ex-player who had a long career and even flirted with some All-Star teams in a time before highly regarded on base sabermetrics) to just sit there and lose, without thinking that he can bully his players into doing better.

It may even be true that he can get short-term results out of his players this way, much like a jockey with a whip in the homestretch. And while it's easy for a Dye or Thome to roll up his eyes, maybe it gets some rookie reliever all hot and bothered.

But if that's the case, why do this in June, when you have a big lead in the division? Wouldn't it make more sense to save that kind of negative fuel for August and September?

In this as in many things, Occam's Razor -- the ancient philosophical practice of believing the simplest and most likely explanation, rather than a self-serving conspiracy -- helps. Guillen orchestrates occasional meltdowns because they make him feel important and necessary, and they get him attention in a media market that the Cubs dominate, regardless of the on-field performance of both franchises.

He doesn't have a master plan to motivate his team, and he isn't crazy for the sake of crazy. He just is what he is: a media whore with a lower sense of shame than most.

Also, and this is the interesting part... he's the manager of a team that, as of this Monday morning, isn't pitching, fielding, or hitting very well, and just got its asses swept by their biggest rival. Anyone want to start the pool for his next blowup?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Once again, FTT predicts the future

Noted today: Adam Jones no longer wants to be known by that oh-so-disagreeable "Pac Man" moniker, just as we pointed out in our 12-step Pac Man Plan, published three full weeks ago. Proving, yet again, that when you read FTT today, you don't have to read the mainstream media in a few weeks. (Unless, of course, you want to make sure you don't look like a total idiot.)

"My mom is going to call me 'Pacman.' That is what it is. I can't change that," Jones said. "I'm not saying that my teammates won't call 'Pacman' on the field. But for the most part, I want to be Adam or Mr. Jones."
Personally, I'm all for the change, but I've always been a big Dylan fan, and even the Counting Crows song is kinda good. Perhaps NFL fans can serenade him after his inevitable Jerry Jones-arranged reinstatement...

When everybody loves you, you can never be lonely... or when you've got loose bills in the strip club. That works, too.

This one's nearly six minutes long and doesn't have any visuals, but I'm including it anyway because Bob just works for me. You've been warned.

Overwhelming my capacity for outrage

So here it is, mid June -- the time-honored middle of the WNBA season. I've got nothing left to watch in terms of hoops, not unless you count that Olympic nonsense. And while the regular season has huge drama already -- will the Atlanta Dream ever win a game? Are the Connecticut Suns for real? Why aren't the Sacramento Monarchs better? -- I can't help but feel that something is missing.

Namely, where is the fantasy sports support?

Go to -- I know, you're there all the time, but go now anyway. What you won't find, amidst all of the thrilling video, breathtaking photography and gripping game accounts, is support for my fantasy sports jones. You won't find it on Yahoo or ESPN, either.

What's the meaning of this? If I weren't still outraged by the league's inevitable screw job of Seattle out of its beloved Storm -- especially heartbreaking given that team's encouraging 8-6 record after years in the wilderness -- my gast would be flabbered by this. Don't the powers that be know that despite the incredible teamwork of the world's best distaff ballers, statistics still matter... and that it's damned deadly difficult for all of us out here with our WNBA fantasy leagues to do this all by hand?

(I know it's bad blogger form to talk about your roto teams, but I have to just share here for a moment, and tell you just how much Cappie Poindexter of the Phoenix Mercury has meant to my team this year. The Rutgers guard has always been an all-around performer, but this year's 25.7 points a game, albeit only in the first 10 games of the season, is a huge reason why I'm just dominating my leauge. She's really combined with Diana Taurasi to make the Phoenix team fun to watch, and while they might not have the bigs to compete in the West, they have just been fantasy gold. Anyway, moving on.)

For the very few of you out there who aren't already in an WNBA fantasy league that someone's running by hand, let me give you a few pointers. First off, don't target assists. In the WNBA, since everyone moves the ball and isolation plays are rare, the difference in assists per game isn't as great as in the men's game. Even a Ticha Penicheiro won't give you more than one or two more dimes a game than a less accomplished point guard.

Second, since the games have eight less minutes than the men, you have to ratchet your statistical expectations down a little, and pro-rate players accordingly. Lisa Leslie's good for nearly 10 boards a game even in the smaller time, so you can see what kind of monster she's be with the full 48. (You've really got to give it up to Double L, coming back from pregnancy to dominate like this.)

Third, blocked shots are at an incredible premium, with only four players currently racking up more than 2 a game. You can see why so many people who play this game insist on an auction draft, so that the team with Lisa Leslie really has to make do with a short bench. It's just not a good league for a serpentine draft.

Earlier this year, the WNBA was giving a very cheap handjob kind of fantasy game, with single player head to heads, but dammit... my league goes 8 teams with 12 players, which means we're really going deep into the talent pool. I'd hate to see the level of play diluted by expansion, but it really would make a difference in having a better league.

Finally, I'd like to really thank site contributor The Truth for getting me into the WNBA fantasy league. His insistence that watching the WNBA would be just like rooting for the Lakers (especially Radmanovic and Gasol) in our NBA picks game, the payment of which is posting something spectacularly humiliating... well, it's given me a brand-new fantasy love, just in time for the summer dead season. Expect Great!

Apologizing for happy endings

One of the things that I like to do on the weekends is watch rented DVDs with my kids. The eldest tends to drive the itinerary, and since she's eight years old and female, she's into horses. Today's was a DreamWorks production ("Dreamer"), in which Dakota Fanning and Kurt Russell manage a broken down horse into a Breeder's Cup win. It's not bad, as these things go, and while I was taking care of the laundry, I fired up the director's commentary. In it, the guy more or less apologized for giving the film its by the numbers happy ending, like a kids movie about a horse isn't going to end with a win.

And it made me think, on some level, that this must be what it's like to be a thoughtful Boston fan.

We will likely never see a single city win as much and as often as Boston has in this decade. To start with, there's only a handful of cities with the ability to not only win the major sports leagues, but with the kind of owners that are actually willing to try for it. So that cuts the list down to maybe a dozen areas, and then you balance that against the dozen to two dozen to one odds for each league. There is, of course, no real synergy in a city when a team wins; we only think there is because every time it happens, we as sports fan notice.

In the Philadelphia of my youth, there was a similar run, though not nearly as potent. The Phillies broke through in 1980 for the franchise's lone championship, and then the Eagles rode the crest of the Vermeil Era wave to a Super Bowl appearance. The Sixers, who had been knocking on the door since they bought Julius Erving in 1976, eventually broke through against the Lakers. The USFL Stars, a team that meant much to me, were also champions, and the city more or less claimed the Villanova miracle team as their own. Add in the region's eternal taste for Penn State football, and I grew up more or less convinced that Philadelphia, of all places, was a town of champions.

The Eagles faded first, with Vermeil burning out. The Phiillies were old when they won, and got even older for the 1983 team that snuck their way into a World Series where the Orioles handled them with ease for Cal Ripken's only championship. The Sixers hit the wall when Moses Malone stopped being the best player in the game, and soon imploded with bad deals and the crippling Andrew Toney injury. And while the franchises have aligned at times in the 2000s to all be competitive, and indeed, even all be playoff-level, none have won a championship since. It takes a lot to get one, even if it doesn't seem that way when one city gets six and counting.

Which Boston franchise will fall first? Well, you can make the argument that the Patriots are already on the downside, with the argument that Spygate and 18 and One Very Big One means that they are primed for further disasters now. It also doesn't speak much for Tom Brady that the last three quarterbacks to beat him in a playoff game are Eli Manning, Peyton Manning and Jake Plummer. But if you had the ability to change your franchise for theirs on personnel and coaching, I'm not sure there's a fanbase in the NFL that wouldn't make the switch. You've still got no worse than top 5 talent at the skill positions, a high draft pick from the Niners, and a front office that finds players even in bad draft positions. They're not going away, especially in a division that's as bad as the AFC East currently is.

The Red Sox may be the best long-term bet for Boston Fan moving forward. The stacked deck nature of MLB+ means that they really won't have as much competition for that crown as you might think, and their tactical advantage over many other organizations -- starting with the willing embrace of sabermetrics and continuing through vastly superior medical practices, including the benchmarking and hoarding of pitching -- is almost as great. Look at what happens when Boston has an injury; for the most part, they bring up a player who is above the league median, and they gain valuable experience, for both future use and trade value. Meanwhile, other teams bring up retreads and try to patch. The Sox play in a murderous division in a game where success and failure is pretty close, but if I had to choose one team to win in MLB just about every year, it's them.

Which leaves us, finally and most fitfully, to the Celtics. This may be just my blind hatred talking here, but I can not see this team creating a new era of championship banners in the new Garden rafters. The first thing that happens to championship teams is that they don't try as hard again the next year, especially on defense. This Celtics team won, of course, on that defense. The Big Three of Garnett, Allen and Pierce are all on the downside of their career, with Allen especially looking like he wasn't a top tier player until late in the playoff season. With another 80+ games in front of them, he's not going to be getting any better.

They have, of course, a quality bench, and if and when Rajon Rondo can master his road fears and shoot free throws, he's got a chance to be a top 10 point guard in the Association. Garnett could teach Kendrick Perkins more of an offensive game, too. But the rest of the East will get better in the offseason (look for Chicago to bounce a long way back with a high pick, Orlando to get a year better and meaner with Dwight Howard, the Sixers to start making some trouble with a developing Thaddeus Young, and even the Knicks to make life difficult, by no longer being an auto-win). In the West, Laker Fan dreams of a triumphant return from Andrew Bynum, which would allow for the even more triumphant departure of Vladimir Radmanovic; if the West thought that the Lakers were a tough matchup with Gasol and Odom and 5 and 4, they're an absolute nightmare at 4 and 3. The Spurs will be back to their odd year championship pattern, with a presumably healthy Manu Ginobili bringing more to the table. If you were handicapping the 2008-09 NBA winner right now, Boston is probably not the favorite. It's the way of these things.

And, of course, there is always the possibility that the Boston luck will just run out, as it did in Philadelphia 25 years ago. It doesn't really take much -- a coach ejection, an ownership shake-up, a dead draft pick -- to put you back into the wilderness.

Because, in the end, you should always bet on entropy and decay and unhappy endings, regardless of what the audience expects, or even demands. (Just don't expect someone else's unhappy ending to be your happy one. I was, after all, born and raised as a Philly Fan...)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hello, my name is DMtShooter, and I'm a Contraholic

Today in Chicago, the Cubs continued their magical mystery year with an 11-7 mudkick of their crosstown rivals. And you wouldn't be hearing about this here if it weren't for the continued hell that is my life with Jose Contreras.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of close witness to JC, he's a big maddening pitcher with incredible streaks in both directions. When he's good, he's a borderline All-Star with a lot of movement. When he's bad, he nibbles, falls behind, then gets taken deep. These streaks have a remarkable ability to change, usually for the worse, when I make the fateful decision to roll the dice with him... and every time it happens, I convince myself that I'm not going to do it again, only to know that I probably will.

Today's fourth inning: 10 hitters faced, 1 hitter retired, 8 earned runs, 3 long balls. Not only did this significantly impact my roto team, despite the previous 600+ innings, but it really does speak to something about the ChiSox manager, Ozzie Guillen. I'm not sure who leaves in a pitcher to take that kind of a beating. A week or so ago, Contreras was well under 3 with the ERA; now, he's just under 4. It's not like Oz was really hoping to save his bullpen, either -- he still wound up using three other guys. The Sox still have a significant lead in the AL Central.

And yet, Guillen still left in his starter to more or less get crushed. Which tells you something about the ChiSox manager. And, hopefully, something else about the wisdom of owning Contrearas, even in a 2-start week that looks good before he, you know, actually takes the hill and gets his head kicked in...

Welcome to the Silly Season

Every June, once the NBA Finals are over, comes a six-week period where, if you are not seriously into baseball, you've got nothing... and instead of being OK with the nothing, you're going to have an ungodly amount of nonsense trying to pass itself as sport.

This year, the big crux of that will be the Olympics, the presidential election, hot dog eating and wing eating contests, Arena Football... and, of course, golf, which ceased to exist for 50% of the possible audience when Tiger Woods' knee would not cooperate.

I'm not sure why, in fact, we're no longer OK with simply not having sports for a little while, or why a competitive baseball season (note that many MLB+ teams are having real issues, and make your own judgment about older players losing effectiveness in the post-steroid era). Maybe it's what you're reading right now; you really don't lose the habit of going to your favorite blogs just because it's the time of the year that's less involved. Or it's the ever-pernicious influence of the World Wide Lemur, with it's constant news hole demanding something, anything, to cover.

FTT will, however, just go to a lot of MLB, NBA Draft and NFL pre-season coverage, along with our usual small doses of silliness. Because, well, eating isn't a sport, I don't much care about the Olympics, and politics is also, well, not sport. And so it goes.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Epic Drop: Top 15 Reasons The Cubs Won't Win This Year

Here's today's link, and the bonus coverage... the thing that Cub Fan really has to be scared of is that their time as an MLB+ team may be on loan. Sam Zell, their repugnant owner, picked a curious at best time to get involved in a dying medium when he bought the Tribune, and while this mostly just means that he's a very good candidate to turn the franchise over to some other billionaire for a marked-up profit sooner rather than later, there's no guarantee that the next ownership group is going to have incredible pockets, either -- and right now, the Cubs spend like the Yankees, only without the same media empire to help pay for it.

There is no really good reason to spend a lot on the Cubs payroll. They've got a decent enough farm system to be a .500 team, and you're not selling any more seats or having a huge jump in advertising revenue from a winner. The team isn't trying to get a new stadium from the locals by going into a Win Or We Move run. And the more they spend, the more they pay into revenue sharing. Unless you're really just committed to a championship, it's not defensible... and the people who own them next might not have that commitment. (Which is why Cub Fan is really, really hoping for Mark Cuban, and will hold his nose for all that entails to get him. Boy, if you think they're unlikable now...)

So what you have, right here and right now, is a good old-fashioned sprint from the general manager, not that I can blame him for such things. Ted Lilly's contract is actually a bargain under those conditions, but that doesn't mean he's really going to be very good, and Jason Marquis is a poor man's Ted Lilly. What they really needed was for Carlos Zambrano to be a Cy Young candidate and Rich Hill to be a dominant #2 starter. Z hasn't been that and now he's hurt, and Hill's utterly lost in the minors. The offense and bullpen have better than imagined, but the offense is doing it on Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot -- in other words, a catcher who probably will wear down with workload, and a second basemen playing shortstop who is very likely hitting over his head. (Also, if Edmonds continues to give them a stick, he'll be overcoming years of decay and injury build-up. Let's just say that if you have him in a fantasy league, you're including him in every possible trade package right now.)

They aren't going to turn into a bad team. Lee, Soriano, Ramirez and Fukudome ensure that they'll continue to hit above the average. But right now, they're playing +.600 baseball with a rotation that just doesn't seem to be more than .500, and a defense that is (significantly) less than that. They may be able to win the division by just playing .500 ball the rest of the way (especially if Poo Holes is out for a long time for the Cards), but if this is a top 5 MLB team... well, I'm just not seeing it.

And the fun thing about Cub Fan is that he's not seeing it, either.


The other day, I was listening to Bad Tooth podcasts (what can I tell you -- in the wake of the Celtics Onslaught, I wanted to wallow), and he was moved to discuss the lack of his kid in his work. It was, of course, complete bullshit, but it sparked something for me, so here I go.

The Bad Tooth was asked why, considering he's plumbed his wife, father, mother and friends for material, why he (mostly) refrains from writing about parenting stuff. He replied that there's two reasons why. First, that he's suffered from other people becoming kid pod people (i.e., overbearing about the experience), and second, that it just wasn't an experience that enough of his audience can relate to. (As if this has stopped him from pushing MTV reality show coverage which is when reading him goes from Bad Tooth to a Prostate Exam.)

Anyway, this leads me to the following point, which also is true of lists, diaries and picks... if you like the writer, and if that writer is on your wavelength or a good enough listener to keep things to a dull roar, you can talk about your kids. No one will complain any more than they might about your other output. If it sucks, they'll let you know. If it's good, it might even move you.

So what's the real reason? Probably because he's a bad father. Seriously. (No, I keed.) Or that he hates women. Yeah, that's it. (Oh, fine. I'll stop.)

No, here's the real reason... because it's harder (in my opinion, in most cases) to draw your daughter into spectator sports than it is to draw a son. Plus, the major league lords have done all they can to make sure that your little kid doesn't want to watch sports with you, because they take forever, you won't feel good about them seeing the ads, and if it's hard to explain a fan affiliation to your kid, it's crazy difficult to explain fantasy teams.

But over the years, it gets easier, and if and when the Shooter Kids say or do something that works in conjunction with my blog output, I'll use it. And, I'll bet, so will he.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Today's Small Moment of Hate

Opening in November... Shrek the Musical.

On some level, I'd like Mike Myers to be killed.

It's nothing personal, really. It's just that if he continues to live, he's going to keep making craptainment that media conglomerates and quoting meatheads will make difficult to ignore.

This has been another Small Moment of Hate.

Epic Drop: Top 10 Additional Signs That You Are Old, Old, Old Sports Blogger

Today's list is here, and I'll throw a fresh one on the fire for the site loyalists... you sit down to fill your bloghole and can't stay awake. That's not good.

And for the record, not that anyone should care, but from the other people I've met in the sports blogosphere, there's basically three groups. The first are ambitious college kids who are trying to rule the world with their blogging. The second are guys in their late 20s trying to make a buck or get a full-paying gig. And the last are people with good jobs who just do this on the side for shits and giggles. All of us, eventually, realize the same thing... that if you want long-term, sustainable traffic, you either need hundreds of commenters who effectively give the site a chance to make its own sauce, or you need a lot of good poon, so that people with site blocking software consider you a go-to site.

Anyway... that's a longer tangent from the point of the post than usual. I must be getting old.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lakers-Celtics, Game Six, Fourth Quarter: Well, At Least That's Over

Odom to the line and misses the first; it's 28. Rondo, easily, to the rim, yet again. Ariza gets hammered inside, because the Celtics actually give a damn about defense. He makes one, and an actual Laker o-board is converted with a hoop by Vujacic. A miss is turned into a bad Vujacic turnover, and Farmer makes a terribly weak flagrant one foul on Rondo at the rim. Jordan Farmer was clearly in the idea that he shouldn't give up the layup, but also that he didn't care enough to exert effort on the foul. That was special - gutless and cowardly. A new level!

Rondo makes one of the two flagrants, and the Celtics bring in Garnett. I wonder if he goes headhunting now. Baby Davis goes hard to the rim, and Odom fouls him hard, too -- but again, not with enough effort to be meaningful. It's like passive-aggressive thuggery right now. Davis makes the second, and it's 30 again. Farmer makes a long 3. I kind of want this to stay really far apart, to make sure that everyone knows this wasn't a game. Allen is left alone for an easy three. Laker turn, followed by an Allen turn. Does Bryant even bother to come back in to this game? Turiaf makes from distance. Nice to know that everyone on this team is allergic to contact. Allen with another 3, and for some reason -- maybe it's contractually obligated? -- Jackson calls another timeout. The lead is 31, the diary is only being read by Laker masochists and Celtic gloaters, and my only consolation is that the number of people watching this at this point is probably equivalent to Cavs-Spurs...

Kobe's back! Um, whatever. A Laker miss is followed by another Allen 3; it's 104-70. Bryant drives -- now, that's a shock -- and it's knocked out of bounds. He then misses a 25 foot three over Garnett, who lays it up on the other end. Odom drives and scores. The largest margin of victory in a Finals is 32 -- come on, Green! Rondo misses, and I don't know what the Lakers are doing anymore; both teams seem interested in throwing the ball out of bounds now. Rondo leaves with 21, 8 and 6 steals. Egads. Farmer turns. Allen misses, KG boards and scores. Ariza misses, Bryant boards, a Farmer 3. The Celts have the most steals in Finals history. A Posey layup, and KG blocks Odom. The game gets ragged, with even more Allen threes, and he's just going for records now as well. Odom still seems to care and drives, and Garnett hammers him. Allen has tied a Finals record with 7 threes, and on some level, I don't want Odom to be remembered as the goat of the Finals for the Lakers, not when there are so many other choices, but he's going to get it nonetheless. 5:07 to go.

Odom makes both, and it's just 34! Celtics Fan sings, and Pierce hits another 3. I think we know why the Lakers haven't trapped; they just suck at that, too. Odom slams off a Walton feed. Garnett misses, Odom boards, and no one cares. Celtics finally pull starters with 4:01 left, and that should end the wait for the return flagrant foul... Walton hits a 3. Powe misses, Davis boards, gets the return pass and goes to the line. Jackson should pull his starters soon, but maybe he doesn't want to set the record. Celtic scrubs play volleyball and score. Powe fouls Odom, who is racking up garbage time points in an attempt to avoid goat horns. It'd help if he could hit free throws; it's still 35 with 3:10 left.

Powe dunk off weak full court pressure. Bryant misses a three. Posey hits a three, and the Laker starters get to endure all of this. Odom to the line again. Bryant is 7 of 22 with one assist. I suppose that's better than the Suns Game Seven, but if anyone ever -- EVER -- wants to tell me how good Bryant is, well, they might want to look at how big he comes up when his team is facing elimination. Somehow, it doesn't quite jibe with his reputation.

Odom hits one after the break, and I think Garnett is going to pee himself. Jackson finally goes to the bench, I guess that he's lost his taste in rubbing their nose in it. Powe is fouled by Turiaf, and the audio on my HD starts cutting out -- thank you, technical failures. 125-86 after the makes. Mark Jackson is now praising Brian Scalabrine, so I guess we no longer have real basketball players to talk about. Walton misses, Baby Davis dunks. Ariza misses. House oops to Tony Allen, and it's nice to see the Celtics playing with class and the lead. Farmer 3 makes it 40. We're two points away from the largest margin in a Finals game, and House with the makes to get us there. 1:04 left. Vujacic 3 to be a killjoy. House runs clock, misses a 3, and Powe is called for pushoff, so maybe that record is safe. Rivers takes the Gatorade, which is kind of a mess on a basketball court, and will further delay this to midnight. Thanks, Celtics!

Walton makes one. I'm morosely thinking how we're just a David Tyree miracle away from the total Boston sweep of all major sports in one year, and how inconceivable that seems to anyone who doesn't live in Boston. And that's your final, Celtics 131, Lakers 92.

Congrats, Beantown. It's your world. We all just live in it. (Oh, and thank you for booing Stuart Scott and David Stern. That was appreciated.)

Lakers-Celtics, Game Six, Third Quarter: Let The Car-Tipping Begin

Here is the only stat that you need to know from the first half... the Lakers have no offensive rebounds, None. Zero. As in heart. The ESPN announcers are throwing Gasol and Odom under the bus, but if they actually like Bryant's game -- the referees are clearly giving the road team calls, and they clearly aren't interested in driving anyway -- they have to be smoking crack. Jon Barry comes closest to speaking truth by saying that the Lakers are going out by getting punked. Michael Wilbon advocates going super-small and shooting threes, because they suck. Phil Jackson gets taped asking his team to not give it away. Um, a little late for that advice, really.

The first five minutes of the third quarter will decide whether or not this will be pure garbage time. Allen feeds Rondo, who hits, and it's 25. Odom actually drives -- novel idea, that -- and gets a call on Perkins, his third. Missing a free throw doesn't really help; it's 24. Pierce misses, and Perkins takes his fourth in a dumb way; Rivers leaves him in, which is a little odd. Bryant misses a -- surprise! -- jumper. Rondo feeds Allen for a 3, and it's 27, and the forecast calls for garbage, which is what Radmanovic delivers with the worst three point attempt this side of Manute Bol. Good grief. Rondo turns on a travel call. Fisher misses, Garnett boards, and will it be 30? Not this trip, as Rondo misses. Fisher shows actual heart with a drive and make, and that's Perkins fifth foul. If Gasol decides to dominate from here on out, that could be telling. Of course, that would involve giving a damn. Fisher's make cuts it - hah - to 24.

Actual ball pressure is done badly, and Brown gets to the line. He makes both, and it's 26. Gasol slams off a nice pass. Pierce drives and gets that right back. Radmanovic makes an actual basketball move for the 3, but Kobe can't be bothered to stop Rondo on the other end, and they get all of the points right back. He hits, and we can safely say that the Lakers don't care, even if they are making some shots. Fisher makes to cut it to 24. Allen misses, but no Laker bothers to pursue the board. Rondo misses. Odom turns on Rondo's fifth steal, and Allen runs clock before shooting the wide-open three. This is just sad. The lead is 27, and honestly, I've never seen a team care less than the Lakers. The Hawks put up more of a fight.

Bryant finally scores of an inbounds. The Lakers are actually scoring this quarter, and still losing ground. Garnett to the line, makes both, playing with less pressure than he'd feel in a preseason game. It's 27, and the announcers are talking about this game in the past tense. They're right. Bryant settles for another bad long jumper miss. Garnett again to the line, the call on Gasol. Mark Jackson starts the Danny Ainge mouth job. Hey, if another franchise wants to make a terrible trade, your team can make the Finals, too!

Another turn, and the Celtics are running All-Star Game plays now. Rondo is outrebounding every Lakers big man, because none of them give a damn. If I were Jackson, I think I'd play the bench now, just to make a point for training camp, assuming he wants to come back to this. I guess the money's good.

We come back from break with Bryant talking to Odom. Maybe they're making dinner plans. Brown with two makes stretches it to 31. Bryant misses... wait for it... a jumper. Garnett misses, Odom boards, and Garnett forces a jump ball and high fives most of Massachusetts. Radmanovic 3 makes it 79-51. Garnett drives, Odom doesn't take a charge, and Rondo follows. Gut. Less. Bryant hits on the other end, and Rondo has more o boards -- many -- than the entire Lakers team. After one Garnett make, it's back to 29, with 16 minutes left. I don't really know why I'm still watching.

Odom turns, the 13th Laker turnover, and if you think all of them have been after a player leaves his feet for no reason, you're not wrong. Pierce to the line, makes two, it's 31. 16 minutes left to the Celtics championship.

Gasol gets Brown's third foul. Radmanovic misses. No one setting screens for Bryant; I can't blame them, really. Allen misses, and Gasol grabs the flat-footed board (hey, why jump?); he gets a loose ball foul and makes one, so it's 30. Garnett misses, and Radmanovic gets the board, brings it up, and misses the 3. The Lakers have officially become the Isiah Thomas Knicks. Do we really have to play the rest of this game? Can't we just cut to the car-tipping?

Gasol turns on the pulled chair play by Brown. Pierce misses, and Rondo gets his sixth steal of the game. Six. No, seriously. Kobe Bryant is the best player in the Association. Really. Honest and for true. All of you Chris Paul and LeBron James are just wrong, wrong, wrong. Really. Anyway, Rondo makes one, it's 31. Bryant actually drives and scores, it's 29. Brown misses, Gasol boards. Bryant drives, Garnett flops for no call, and Bryant gets to the line. Hey, maybe this driving and giving a damn thing might be a good idea! The Most Valuable Fraud hits both, so he's got 22, just enough to make everyone think that it's all his teammates fault. Bravo!

Rondo misses at end of clock. Gasol answers to make it 25, but the Lakers make sure that the gutlessness continues with an easy drive for Rondo to the hoop. Brown eats Bryant with a block on his drive. More Globetrotter passing for Brown with the make. Bryant ends the third with a miss and a no call, and at the end of three, it's all Celtics.

Lakers-Celtics, Game Six, Second Quarter: Warm Up The Bus

Jackson, in the interview with Tafoya, basically says he hates his team and that Bryant's got to do it all. Good thing we're watching the same game, Coach. A Green turn as we go to scrubs; Bryant misses on exceptional defense from Posey, but Turiaf hustles to a loose ball call. Until Kobe wants to drive, this isn't going to get better. Rivers bring in Big Baby Davis for the first time in the Finals, and he should hack like mad, really. Bryant draws a handcheck from Powe and an after-whistle Bowen-esque hit from Posey. Vujacic loses his man and hits, and that's encouraging for the Lake Show. House responds for the Celtics, and the continuing mystery of why the Lakers won't pressure the point guard will not end. Bryant feeds Odom, who draws from Davis, and the Celtics could be in the penalty quickly in this quarter.

Odom has been good so far tonight, but he misses the second; 26-23 Green. Rivers draws a technical from Joey Crawford, and we're officially on Conspiracy Alert. Bryant makes on the other end, and it's 26-24. If Rivers is really expecting Bryant to pick up cheap calls on fighting off Eddie House screens, he's smoking crack. A Pierce 3 suddenly makes it five. Vujacic misses early, and that's a bad possession, really. Celtics draw a foul, but Powe misses, and Odom gets the blocking call from Odom, who the announcers praise for his driving ability. I'd praise it too, if it didn't usually result in a charge. Odom makes both, and the Celtic bigs are starting to pick up whistles. 29-26, Green.

Pierce misses from distance, but Odom makes a terrible long turn, and Powe scores coming back on him. Bryant misses a three, and the Lakers just aren't interested in driving, despite the fact that they are getting whistles. The Celtics are killing the Lakers in the paint and on turnovers, and if they could shoot, this would be a runaway. Ray Allen hasn't returned, and that's more grist for conspiracy. Maybe his kids are in there. After the ads, Pierce draws on Fisher, and after one make, it's the Celtics biggest lead, 32-26, with 8:08 left in the half.

Gasol has four inches on Davis, and finally seems to notice with a drive. An illegal defense call is made before that, and Kobe makes it; the Lakers are having an edge there. Gasol drives and scores on Davis to cut it to 3. Turiaf gives a dumb foul on Posey. Both teams in the penalty already. Celtics play volleyball on the o boards again; it results in a backbreaking Posey 3. O-boards are now 7 to Gutless, and Vujacic turns. Celtics pass well and often, and House hits from the corner for the home team's biggest lead to date, 9. The scoreboard is starting to reflect reality.

Bryant is zero for his last four, after starting four for five. Not surprising, really. He settles for another jumper and misses. Ray Allen is getting eye doctor support, and now he's running from the locker room like Willis Reed! Celtics recover a tip with Fisher nearly killing himself; the crowd chants for House, and the Celtics bring the ball up comfortably, while Fisher collects his third foul. This might not be a game much longer. House makes both, and the lead is 11. Bryant with another bad turn. Posey's three makes it 14. Jackson calls another timeout to try to stop the 11-0 run, but unless he suddenly finds some offense in that huddle, he's hosed. This is a coronation so far.

Gasol draws a Posey foul, but it's sharks versus chum right now, with the Celtics playing the role of defensive shark. Gasol makes both to stop the bleeding for a little while. Farmer actually pressures House, but not Well. Garnett misses over Bryant, and the fact that he doesn't drive should be damning, but isn't. Allen returns. Gasol makes a hook over Davis, and he's starting to find the range a little. Garnett makes from a very open baseline, and Radmanovic misses badly; he compounds it with his third foul, sending Pierce to the line. There is no way that you can tell me that Radmanovic wants to play in this game. If he's on the team next year, I'll be amazed. Pierce makes both, and the lead is back to 14... despite Pierce shooting just 2 for 9 in the first half. Wow. Celtics Fan chants MVP. Yes, in this series.

Another Celtics illegal defense technical, and Bryant makes. If the refs want to keep this close, they're going to have to do more. Gasol finds Perkins harder to handle, and Rondo answers with a lack of roll. Walton makes a good move to get free, but can't make. Unlike Radmanovic, he looks like a basketball player; just not a very good one. Time for more ads, so that we can have a three hour telecast.

Some hours later, Pierce with the instant foul draw and two makes, and the lead is now 15, the largest of the game. If you think the Lakers can come back from this, I'd like you to share your drugs. Laker turn is matched by overpassing Celtics turn, and Farmer goes to the line on early offense. He, at least, looks like he has a pulse, but he leaves a point on the table with a miss. Garnett tortures Gasol in the post, and has 14 on 7 for 10 shooting. Odom can't get the roll, and this might be 20 at the half. Rondo with an easy make, and the Celtics are whistling "Sweet Georgia Brown" right now. A careless turn by Kobe, the Celtics' ninth steal, and the signature play of the game is authored by Garnett, who scores while falling and getting fouled after yet another bad pick and roll coverage. If this was a fight, it'd be stopped. With the Garnett make, it's a 24-6 run for Green, and a 21-point lead. Gut. Less.

Perkins eats Odom alive with a block, then gets the Garnett pass at the rim to make it 58-35. Bryant with yet another bad three miss, and the half, and the Series, is over.

Seriously, Kobe might as well just pull another Suns Game Seven in the second half of this game. Make it official that you're never, ever going to win another championship. Go for it.

Lakers-Celtics, Game Six, First Quarter: Can't Shoot Vs. Can't Care

We are 48 minutes away from the first Celtics championship in 22 years. It's been a good 22 years, on one basic level; it has been the only 22-year era in NBA history in which my Sixers have matched the Celtics in championships. Tonight, unless I miss my guess, that won't be true anymore.

Gasol wins the tip and draws a foul on Perkins, who doesn't have flash colored bandages. Kobe then makes a tough one. Good start for the visitors. Rondo misses and the Celtics scramble for o-boards and extra shots, but Odom eventually collects. Fisher draws a flop block call on Pierce, and the first Bull Shit chant happens with one minute of game play down. Fisher makes both, and we're at 4-0. Hyper Celtics passing results in a Rondo miss and a Rondo miss. The point guard swipes from Gasol on the other end after the Odom board, and feeds Allen for a 3. Fisher responds on the other end with another drawn foul, this one on Garnett. A Laker miss by Radmanovic, and Allen draws a shooting foul on the other end. Right now, the Celtics have more energy, and after two Allen makes, the lead, at 5-4.

Bryant with a 3 changes that; he's looking relaxed. Rondo misses a push shot but gets the o-board and a call on Fisher. After two makes -- rare for Rondo -- it's tied at 7. Bryant nails another long 3, and it's Game Four First Wyarter all over again. Pierce doesn't get the lean in call on Radmanvic, but Gasol turns on the other end. A defensive three on the Lake Show at 8:18 results in an Allen make, so we're at 10-8. A Rondo miss isn't converted by Perkins on the o-board, but the Lakers miss on the other end, and Gasol's flop on Garnett isn't called. Despite a 2 for 10 start, it's tied. Wild possessions back and forth with Kobe not getting a call and the Lakers doing weird passing; Gasol doesn't post Pierce, but Garnett misses badly in traffic on Gasol, and it results in a Rondo foul. Wildly ragged play right now.

Bryant turns on another too-cute Laker turn, their fourth. Rondo takes another and finally makes one, and it's 12-10 Celtics. He's 1 for 5 from the floor, and they've all been open. Bryant hits a tough 3 at the buzzer, and that's three in five and a half minutes, all highly contested. Wow. Pierce draws the second on Radmanovic, and while Kobe has 11 of the Laker points, if I'm a Lake Fan, I'm uneasy... because they've all been from distance, and he can't do that all night. 13-12 into the first unconscionably long commercial timeout.

The Boston celeb roll for the first quarter is Bill Belicheat and Stephen Tyler. And we care... why?

Gasol with 3 turnovers and not much help. Odom has rebounded reasonably, though. Pierce misses a tough 3 and Gasol boards; Fisher misses the three. Allen scores off garbage but gets hurt, and Ray Allen becomes Celtic Number Five to suffer grievous harm, this one on a no-call eye poke from Odom. PJ Brown comes in, while on the other end, Odom shoots free throws on Perkins' second; he also leaves, for Posey. Odom fulfills Basketball Divine Justice by missing the free throw. Call for Pierce's Magic Wheelchair! Odom makes the second, and the game is tied again at 14.

Garnett shoots over Bryant and scores; it's chippy. Gasol feeds Walton out of the double team for an easy one. Rondo can't finish at the rim. Walton does the right thing and drives, getting a Brown foul. After two makes, it's 18-16 Lakers, with the pace picking up and the locals getting nervous about the refs. Garnett makes again, and that's encouraging for Green. Gasol misses what will be one of his easier looks, and Garnett is feeling it at the other end, with some nice post moves and a good looking jumper. With the home team up by two, Jackson calls time, in the hope that the Garnett that has played most of these Finals will come back. Time for More Ads!

ABC feels compelled to tell us about Garnett's predilection for team-wide peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And we care... why?

Rondo with his third steal, but Pierce can't finish. Neither can Kobe, and Pierce misses his fifth on the trip back. Another Laker turn is answered by a Garnett slam, and if it weren't for Bryant's threes, this would be a blowout. Farmer can't get the roll. Walton steals a bad entry pass while guarding Garnett, and Rondo picks up his second foul on Farmer. It's clearly Garnett's best game of the series to this point; he's got 10 and 3. Farmer makes both, and it's 22-20, Celtics, with less than 50 seconds left. Pierce finally gets a make on a very open drive and pop. Bryant shoots from forever, just a terrible decision, and misses. Pierce holds for the last, crosses Walton, and with 1.8 left, Walton makes the heady play of giving the foul. Nice minutes for Luke's kid tonight; he's certainly been better than Gasol. Can the Lakers get a stop on the inbounds? Yes, as Powe doesn't get it off in time. Celtics 24, Lakers 20, and we've got a game, even if it doesn't seem like we should.

Everyone in for the double jinx

So in my preparation -- yes, I do prepare -- for tonight's Game Six diary, I've been going all over the Interwebs, reading the game previews. And the only thing that everyone is sure of is that neither of these teams are very good, in a good situation, or can win.

Boston? No chance. They've played 107 games this year, traveled to Europe and back, been taken to the edge by Atlanta and Cleveland, and everyone's hurt. Kendrick Perkins is all kinds of messed up with the ankle, but dammit, he'll go. Paul Pierce has Tiger Woods' knees -- which guy has milked his condition more in the last week? -- but dammit, he'll go. Rajon Rondo has an ankle problem that would have euthanized a lesser man, but dammit, he'll go. Ray Allen's kid is being tortured by Eurotrash terrorists that look like members of Vladimir Radmanovic's extended family... but, dammit, he'll try. Try, I tell you. It's a miracle, that so many obscenely wealthy men could have so much to overcome, isn't it? And such a coincidence that all of the Good Character Guys play for a media market that mouth jobs its athletes with both lips and hands while wearing frilly little costumes, isn't it?

Meanwhile, the Lakers? No chance. There's no injury problems to deal with -- being from a warm-weather site, they get *all* the breaks -- but since they are Euros and gutless and have the world's worst MVP ever in Kobe The Unpalatable, no one in their right mind can imagine them coming up with a big win against a hostile crowd. (A crowd that's so hostile, they've got thousands of dollars to spend on basketball tickets. Dammit, why are obscenely rich people so angry?) I picked them to win this series in five, and even I want them to lose at this point, even though it's going to make me do something horrible as a matter of my wager with The Truth.

Of course, this being the NBA, we have the counter to the Lakers Can't Win Argument... mainly that the Vast Right Ratings Conspiracy will use their wiliest, most dastardly, most nefarious referees this side of Dangerous Danny Davis (yes, that geek reference is both check and mate) to make sure that the Lake Show forces a Game Seven on the world.

And well... all I can say is... Jesus Shuttleworth with a Rambis, can you all just please get over yourselves?

As a Sixers fan, I knew that both franchises and media hordes were going to make everything but the ball regrettable in the Finals; that's increasingly true of all championships in every sport, but especially one that rolls out over as long a time period as the NBA's brouhaha. You've got Coke vs. Pepsi here, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Patriots vs. Cowboys -- in other words, the most regrettable fan bases and teams, with the most time and space to blather. (And no, this is not a posthumous fever dream for Spurs-Pistons. Yet.)

But y'all have well and truly outdone yourselves.

Imagine, just for a moment, that we can focus on the game. If you're a Laker fan, you're hoping that Bryant can finally get untracked, as James did before him in the Cavs series; good defense can stop a great offensive player from exploding, but he'll eventually figure out a plan of attack and adapt in a way that the defense can't correct. If Perkins is hobbled, Gasol has a chance to be more effective on both ends. Phil Jackson has won some games and rings in his life; maybe he'll finally try the novel approach of pressuring the Celtics' ballhandlers, the way that the Sixers, of all people, crushed the C's on their home floor in March, back when everyone thought they were invincible.

If you're a Celtics fan, you've got the same thoughts about Kevin Garnett that Laker Fan has about Bryant. You also have two chances at home to get one game, and to date, a far more effective bench. The smart money is with you. You might have been considered the underdog coming into this series, but you've been the better team for most of the 240 minutes played so far. You're up 3-2 for a reason. You're good, especially on defense, and even more so because Paul Pierce has been the best player on the floor in four out of five games.

That, really, is All You Need To Know. The rest of it is just noise, and despite all of the poor mouthing and my most fervent prayer, one of you has to win tonight. It might even happen without a Conspiracy.

So, game on. And from the other NBA fans out there, noting that the series has fair to middling ratings despite being the Biggest Thing In The History Of The Association / Universe? Um, OK. Whatever you little dears need to get you excited...

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