Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Shooter Brother Turns

The Shooter Brother celebrated his birthday this weekend, and just as before, he's an unconscionable 7 years and 3 months older than me, which means he's well and truly ancient. But since it's his birthday, and I was reminded of him for a good reason today, let's get into it.

I take after the Shooter Mom, which means I'm a Shetland Human and a gambler. The SB, on the other hand, is positively moose-like for our family, and was always a good athlete. Even today, working on bad knees and with other ailments, he's a plus hockey goalie in a San Diego area rec league, playing against guys half his age. When he was a teenager, he was a star QB before having his leg broken, and in his brief time in college before deciding that the Marine Corps was more to his liking, he was a borderline minor league hockey prospect. Had he been single-minded in his purposes, I suspect he could have had a cup of coffee at higher levels; the man had wheels and was a good teammate. (Though maybe it's just asking too much of a not really all that large guy from the Philly suburbs breaking into the league in the early 80s.)

The SB was always a jock, and he was always eager to get a game going. He was also the only male in my life after age five, thanks to family issues, and that's a lot to ask at age 12-13, really. So he (had to? probably) take me along to pick'up games with him and his friends for years, despite me being less than interested or good at things, really.

I had moments, I suppose, of non-suckiness, or perhaps the SB was just good enough to make his friends put up with me for his presence. But more important to him was the idea that I'd be a good sport. He'd insist on everyone on his team shaking hands with the opponent after the game was over, no matter how things ended, or how convinced he was that the other team were dirty or unworthy. And a decade later, I found myself playing the same pick-up games for fun, and thanking people for playing in the same way.

Tonight as the Shooter Eldest groused over losing at Wii Golf, the words of the SB came back to me, thirty years later -- and helped, as I (a) gave her a good talking to, and (b) remembered that I, well, probably needed this talk myself a few dozen times, too.

So happy birthday, sir. You've made life better for any number of people, which is the only real measure of things, really. But you are still really, truly, brutally old. Sorry about that.

Top 12 consolations for the silver medal US hockey team

12) They've tarnished Martin Brodeur's legacy for good

11) Ryan Kesler still allowed to play for the Canucks

10) Unlike the victorious Canadians, they don't have to stay in Canada

9) Would have felt guilty after the mass suicides

8) You can always blame this on the 4-on-4 overtime rules

7) J.P. Parise (i.e., Zack's Canadian dad) doesn't have to be deported

6) Ryan Miller joins the pantheon of close-but-not-quite Buffalo sports heroe

5) At least the winning goal wasn't scored by some nobody

4) If the Habs mouth off too much, we can always invade

3) The team they lost to didn't have that many Frenchies on it

2) Silver goes better with that blue uniform anyway

1) Everyone in the U.S. can go back to not caring about hockey

(Oh, and puckheads? If you want to blame anyone for the loss, blame me. I finally tuned in to the Winter Games for the first time when it went to overtime.)

Back on my feet again

Two weeks ago today was one of the worst days in a decade for me. (You have to put these things pre- and post- Shooter Wife marriage and the birth of my kids, really. My worst day after those three events doesn't hold a candle to what happened before.) I woke up to find a quarter-plus inch of standing water in my beloved Man Cave. The carpet tiles were a total loss, and while I was lucky in retrospect to avoid damage to the furnace, the hot water heater, the washer, the dryer and a whole litany of other things, it didn't feel like luck at the time, and really still doesn't.

That feeling of non-luck extended to when my homeowner's policy decided that a blizzard that freezes your gutters, leading to a thaw/melt that finds holes in a bilco door, is a foundation flood, rather than a snow occurrence. (Travelers, by the way. We're appealing, and they aren't, if you catch my drift. Also, yes, yes, I know, all homeowner insurance companies are thieves, and I was an idiot to not immediately call an independent claims adjuster, seeing as those are the only people who have ever gotten money out an insurance company. Live, learn, hate. The whole thing fills me with bile.)

Anyway, the last two weeks have been spent more or less Man Space-less, and moving piles of crap from one place to the other, since everything had to vacate the Cave, or at least the part of it where new carpet was coming down. I'm a fussy little control freak under the best of circumstances, so you can imagine how much fun I've been to live with for the past two weeks.

Anyway... today the carpet came, and we reset the room, and I feel like I can finally start to breathe again, really.

It's not just the fact that I like the new look of the place. (Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of the old stuff; the padding was pretty meager, being carpet tiles, and while the light color helped make the room look bright, I'm much more a fan of the dark green. Eagles and poker felt color, don't you know.)

It's really that when the place was stripped of the carpet and all possessions, it just looked a lot like, well, what it looked like when we moved in 3.5 years ago, and the place wasn't finished. So not only was I deprived of the place where I feel the most comfortable (most of FTT is written in the Cave, all of the sports viewing is done there, my auction live drafts happen there, and it's also where the poker gets played)... it also stripped away a key feeling that's necessary for sanity and happiness.

That is, that you are making progress, and that today will be better than yesterday. And today was better than yesterday. I liked this room before the damage. I love this room now.

When I was an original musician, I had the opportunity early in my career to record at a top-tier studio. It's my worst record by leaps and bounds, because when you are in a place like that, everything sounds good... even when it, well, doesn't. There is a real danger, frankly, in going to good gear; it can fool you, and make it extremely unlikely that you can settle for anything less later. The latter is the much bigger problem, really.

The last two weeks have been living with bad gear. And man alive, am I glad that's over.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Top 12 lessons learned (so far) from the Winter Olympics

12) You don't have to watch a minute of coverage to still get the gist of it, and quite possibly see more sports than NBC will televise

11) Despite decades of mockery and bewildered looks from everyone who isn't a participant, they still do that biathlon thing

10) Canadians are not so good at hockey that they can win with a dead man in goal, even with home ice advantage

9) Inexperienced and/or incompetent lugers stop being funny when they die

8) America is still the best in the world at doing goofy aerial tricks that can get you killed

7) NBC can provide the most infuriating coverage imaginable and still get ratings

6) When a plucky bands of American upstarts has success, the American public will even put up with watching hockey

5) Just like bowling, if you watch curling (aka shuffleboard on ice) long enough, you will think about having slummy sex with the players

4) Despite the fact that Vancouver was more or less balmy while the eastern U.S. had its most severe winter ever, Al Gore remains fat

3) Even people who like figure skating are OK with mocking ice dancing

2) Sports bloggers will find new Spank Bank accounts from literally any group of women's athletes

1) When underaged women win in hockey and drink beer in public, causing a pointless scandal, they must go to the box for two minutes, by themselves, and feel shame

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Top 12 reasons why Nike is standing by Tiger Woods

Can't say I'm surprised by this news, but the timing is a bit odd, really. Why now, when there's really no reason to bring it up again?

12) Have decided that Thursday was the one day where they found room in their hearts to believe in him again

11) The apology to his sponsors was the most sincere thing he's said in years

10) He's just about the only pro golfer that ever used their clubs, whether they paid him or not

9) Long history of staying with dominant philanderers and adulterers

8) Appreciative of how he's made "Just Do It" a fresh marketing slogan, and given hope to, shall we say, women who might not have thought themselves attractive

7) Unlike every other pro golfer, he's actually in shape

6) Nike is secretly in thrall to Big Buddhism

5) Steve Williams would take away their cameras and get very very angry if they ended the relationship

4) Do not want to anger Elin out of self-preservation, as well as the fact that she could open up a new market for non-traditional use of the clubs

3) Have a "Mars Blackmon" / "He's Gotta Have It" line of ads all planned out for the return

2) Now that they know how low his standards are, hoping that he'll be, um, frisky the next time he visits the campus

1) Like most of the people who wear their attire, he doesn't play sports now either

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Top 10 reasons why figure skaters cry

10) Required to avoid 10% deduction in scores from abusive judges (which is to say, all judges)

9) The Kiss And Cry Corral is routinely sprayed with pepper spray and ice dancer musk

8) Someone's mom died recently, and you're just an awful, potentially biploar person for getting a list out of it

7) Everyone involved has watched NBC's coverage at some point

6) Binge drinkers and recovering meth addicts, one and all

5) Can't deal with a future without crushing stage fright, pre-dawn wake up calls and borderline anorexia

4) Finally saw themselves on camera and realized the depths of the joke that is that outfit

3) These are so totally the wrong flowers

2) Side effect when steroids mixes with Botox

1) The knowledge that the rest of your life isn't going to match up to this, and this wasn't very good, either

Nine Plays That Defined Brian Westbrook

In case you've somehow missed it....

With the sad but expected news, I thought I'd look back on the best work that the man did in the laundry. I don't want to get into the merits of the move from the team or player perspective... or how cold the personnel side of things are... or how I'm not treating Dub anywhere near as callously as I did LaDanian Tomlinson... or whether the team is going to get pilloried in the press or shunned by free agents for their willingness to cut ties now, rather than later.

There are plenty of other blogs for that, run by people who aren't unabashed fans of Dub. So go look at them.

The thing about Westbrook as a player is that, due to his relatively small stature and constant battling of injuries, we *always* knew that this was a finite resource, only to be used judiciously. When he got the ball too much -- rare as that was in the Reid Pass And Pass Some More Offense -- we worried. When he got the ball too little, which was also fairly rare, given how much they loved to screen with him, for good reason -- we groused. When the injuries mounted, and then finally the concussions, there was never a backlash against the player for being injury-prone or spent.

He was just Dub, the kid from Villanova who turned out to be the next best thing to Marshall Faulk, the injury prone shifty speed guy who was also somehow a great blocker, a good route runner, and never made meaningful waves with an off-color remark or celebration. We are very likely to spend the rest of our lives measuring other backs against him, and finding them wanting. All while never *really* knowing how good he was, since the era had changed so dramatically under Reid, and there's really no good way to know how he stacks up to the all-timers.

So this list is for those of us who had the pleasure to watch him, and just want to hold on to the last eight years for a little bit longer. He was, in my opinion, the best to ever play the position for this team, and if there's justice, he'll go to Canton for it. And since he played in the Internet Age, we'll always have these moments to look back on.

9) Skinned.
November 2007 in Washington, DC. With the club down late in yet another sloppy game to their southern rivals, facing a sixth loss and likely playoff elimination, Dub takes a screen pass and saves the season. If there's ever been a better RB on a screen pass, I haven't seen him.

Note the patience before the throw and when he sets up the first line of blocks, then the burst through the hole, and finally, how the man was rarely, if ever, denied when he got close to paydirt. The Eagle OL always seemed to come alive when it had the chance to hurt people on a Dub screen; on this play, Jon Runyan and Shawn Andrews do the honors with particular relish.

8) Last dance in Dallas.
A bittersweet memory in real time, as Dub goes for 27 yards to end the third quarter with a semblance of pride, and the drive ends in a touchdown that cut the lead to 20. It was his last play as an Eagle, and I think we all knew it as it was happening.

7) Saintly leap. In Dub's outstanding 2006-7, when he more or less carried the team and Jeff Garcia to three straight road division wins for a playoff berth, then owned the Giants in the first round, they even used him at the goal line to gain a first half lead in New Orleans. Conservation had its limits.

Was the man a solid goal line back that had his lifetime touchdown totals and Hall of Fame case chipped away by his coach? I'd say yes. But then again, we did have the man for 8 years, or twice the lifespan of the average RB.

6) Viking Him. For 53 minutes in a 2008 road playoff game against the Vikings, Dub had done little, as the always tough Vikings run defense had keyed on him and had their way with the offensive line. Then this happened.

That's another thing about the man. You could keep him down all day, then still have him beat you. Dub never let the opponent take him out of the game mentally, even if he had fumbled earlier. The man he was a clean slate from play to play. (And if you want to get morbid, it might have been his last really big play, seeing how he didn't do much in the Arizona loss the following week, and 2009-10 was pretty much a washout.)

5) Saving Private Jackson. I think we all remember this play.

What people forget is that one play later, Dub cleaned up DeSean Jackson's mess and took it in from the one.

Now, imagine how much worse it would have been for the rook had the drive been stalled there, or if a turnover had happened. He'd have been blamed for the eventual loss, the media would have gone 24/7 on him for a week, and I'm not entirely sure he would have recovered... let alone gone on to have one of the best years in franchise history as a sophomore in 2009. When you watch DJ for the rest of his career, remember the solid that Dub did for him, on national television, when he needed it most.

4) Fantasy Nightmare. Millions of nerds will never forget, or forgive, Dub for this moment of putting reality before fantasy. This is why no one but you cares about your fantasy football team.

Personally, it made me smile all over, because it was one more time that the man stuck it to the Cowboys, and we got to see Jerruh Jones stomp around the sideline like the whiny little punk he is. Good times, Dub.

3) Super Dub. In the one Super Bowl appearance of Westbrook's career as an Eagle, Dub picks up 104 yards from scrimmage, including the tying touchdown near the end of the third quarter on a 10-yard screen. He only gains 44 yards on 15 carries as Reid calls 51 passes to 17 runs, and the team falls to the Spygate Patriots, 24-21. But at least he's got the poster.

2) Antonio Gets Pierced. One of my favorite plays in Dub's career happens as he comes out of the backfield and finds himself with one on one coverage from Giants MLB Antonio Pierce. That didn't last long, and more or less ended the Giants season, while sparking the Eagles to another NFC championship. Once again, Dub came through at the end of a long day of ugly.

Sorry that the whole thing isn't handy on the Internets. But I'm pretty sure that Dub is saying "Meep meep" to Pierce in the rear view there.

1) Miracle at the Meadowlands II, Electric Westbrook Boogaloo. October 19, 2003. This was the moment, really, when we all knew we had something special. Dub's rookie year wasn't all that much, with just 55 total touches for less than three hundred yards, with one passing touchdown and two fumbles. The 2002 team relied on Duce Staley and Dorsey Levens to get things done, with the backs combining for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage, despite the "best" wideout being Todd Pinkston (no, seriously). With a 12-4 team that made it to the conference championship, there wasn't much reason to force feed the rookie.

2003 was a different story, with Reid starting to get him routine touches, using him in the return game, and watching him score on the ground in three straight games leading into the game in New York. Coming off a loss in Dallas, the team was 2-3 and playing the equally desperate Giants in a battle to avoid being last in the NFC East. Had they lost that game, it's very likely that the season would have gone into the toilet as well...

And, well, they were horrible.

The Giants absolutely had their way with the offense, earning 25 first downs to the Eagles 9. New York had 339 yards to the Eagles 134, and McNabb would finish the game with one of his worst efforts as a pro (9 of 23 for 64 yards with a pick, and no rushing yards either).

Thanks to Kerry Collins and the Giant running attack not being able to do much in the red zone, the game was still in theoretical reach, but when I was watching it, I had absolutely no faith in the offense to win this game. The 2003 season, after two straight championship game appearances and losses, looked done, and perhaps the whole Reid era with it. New York took a knee three times to use up all of Philly's timeouts, then punted it deep with 76 seconds left.

So Westbrook took it inside his 20 and returned it for a touchdown and the win.

I've watched football for 35 years now. It remains the biggest theft of a game that I've ever seen. (I'm sure you can see it on the following Hulu link, but I don't have Flash 10 right now, so I can't point you to the time.)

On this day, thanks to his return yardage and the passing game being useless, Westbrook accounted for 76% of the Eagle offense, all of their non-kicker points, and lit the spark for a nine-game wining streak and third straight NFC championship game appearance. He'd end the year with just under 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns, setting the stage for his breakout 2004, and 2007, when he was the best RB in football. (Yes, really.)

Now, is it overstating the case that this return saved the season, established his entire future career, kept the town from tearing apart McNabb (who, after this game, had the worst QB rating in the league after six games), and also bought Reid freedom from worry?

Well, there's no way to know for sure, of course. But I'm thinking yes. And that, more than anything, is what makes it sad that they couldn't retire him in the jersey, even though he's probably got 1-2 years and $2-4M to earn, especially if he's used by a good team in the right way. He's earned the right, of course.

Anyway... good bye, Dub. You were loved, and there isn't a fan in town that doesn't wish you well. Or an opponent that isn't happy to see you go.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why blog?

As we finish up the blog's most visited month ever (and thank you again, big traffic sites, for the support) and I stare out at the ever decaying dirt snow in the commute that I've been doing now for 3.5 years, and I look at the site stats that note over 2,500 posts written in those three years... well, you'd have to be a more focused and talented writer than me not to wonder, exactly, why keep doing this?

There are no traffic spikes coming that are going to fundamentally change the economics of this. For it to meet my usual, even discounted, rate as a consultant, the traffic would have to increase something like fifty to a hundred fold. Even when the permanent ad placements come in, as they do from time to time, that isn't a real game-changer. As a hobby, I suppose it keeps me out of trouble better than poker and less than fantasy sports. As something to take real pride in ownership over, it's less than the books and music, but better in some ways too, since neither of those things is terribly conducive to the small spaces that the bloghole fills. It's just not possible for me to write books 30 minutes at a time, and songs require space and a greater suspension of disbelief about the audience.

So let's list this out and see where we are.

Reasons for:

1) Scratch is scratch. The hobby does bring in more than a few bucks in the annual aggregate, and it's unlikely that the time I spend doing it can be monetized in any better way.

2) The journo thing. I went to school for journalism before turning to pursuits that came with actual business models, so FTT feels more pure and easy than other writing.

3) The audience matters. FTT's readers include my poker regulars, some of my best friends, fellow bloggers whose work I enjoy, family members, cranks and fans. It's not exactly filling Carnegie Hall, but If I can make pages that are worth their time, it feels better than just not doing it.

4) The audience includes me. Every blogger who sticks at it has to be a fan of their work to keep coming back to work. When I go back through the FTT archives and find something I've forgotten about (ah, the horror / joy of age; my memory over copy used to be much tighter), there's a nice little burst.

Reasons against:

1) The scratch distracts. The time I spend on FTT is time that hungrier men in my career spend networking and finding the next salary bump. I'd say more about this, but it's not as if people from the current Day Job don't ever stop by these pages.

2) The documents matter. Not to be morbid, but the, ahem, joy of moving to the south side of 40 and picking up persistent health issues that don't resolve (and I'd say more about this, but it's pointless) is that you realize that things might not go on as long as you think. A blog with thousands of lists is not as satisfying on the wall as books, and it's been way too long since one of those happened.

3) It could sabotage. I try to keep my name out of this blog, but it's not as if that's an airtight thing, and the next job might find this and think better of hiring someone with such an antisocial view of the bipolar. Or they just might be Massholes. Either way, not good.

4) The time. Even now that I'm only free-lancing at one other blog on a weekly basis, and not killing myself to turn over the front page every 2-3 days, it's a pretty major time commitment. I have kids and a wife and a job and fantasy leagues and poker tables; the blog time has to come from somewhere, and too often, it comes from sleep.

The verdict:

Oh, like you had any real doubt? If I weren't going to quit the place when I turned 40, or hit some big fat post number, or wanted to never think about the Eagles in print again after that Dallas loss... well, no. There's still a fire. It's just February, right? That's got to be it...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Eagle Dreaming: Five Free Agents That Would Work, But (Probably) Won't Come

With word on the Internets today of two lovely but implausible NFL big names being potentially available, I let myself dream a little dream of them in my laundry. None of them are likely to happen in Philadelphia, but what the hey. Late February is the perfect time to dream a little dream, isn't it?

1) Vince Wilfork, 6-2, 325, 28, DT, New England Patriots. This good and big earth mover has been making the Patriot middle linebackers look less cadaverous for years, which means that he's something of a miracle worker, really. He's also one of those guys that gets enough push to play every down, which means that he's a rare value among internal players. He's also just been franchised by the team, which means he's good and bent, which isn't the worst condition for your nose tackle to be, really.

Reasons why he'd work: Until the Eagles do something drastic to stop Dallas from getting five easy yards a carry on that damned sprint draw, they aren't winning those games, and from that, the division. Unless you win the division, you can't get a bye for Wild Card Weekend, and without that, the Super Bowl is pretty much of a pipe dream. Because if we've learned anything from the Reid Era, it's that a road game in the NFC Championship does not work. (For the record, home games are also no picnic. Sigh.)

Reasons why he won't be here: The Patriots are going to hold on to him for one more bone-crackling contract drive year, or deal him for a king's ransom in picks -- and after years and years of stockpiling high picks that don't really pan out, one suspects that they are going to take a miss on that second strategy. The Eagles under Reid just don't go for the older defensive stud player; the last time they did, it was Jevon Kearse, and that was a half dozen years ago. So we've got a team that isn't going to let him go and another team that isn't going to go get him. Sigh. (Though, to be fair, the Eagles have shown a recent proclivity to go after ex-Pats -- Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbbs, Kyle Eckels. A man can dream.)

Prognosis: Personally, I can't see Wilfork anywhere but in New England in 2010. The Patriots have too many holes as is, especially after letting Ricard Seymour go to Oakland, to risk becoming a sieve against the run, especially in a division where they have to get past the Jets' offensive line for any real postseason hopes. If any team wants Wilfork, they'll back the truck up for him in 2011. Just in time for him to enter the steep decline phase of his career.

2) Darren Sharper, 6-2, 210, 34, S, New Orleans Saints. Sharper's year in NoLA couldn't have gone any better. He got a ring, raised his nationwide reputation to borderline Hall of Fame status, got a huge mess of credit for a not quite defensive turnaround, and set himself up for a nice payday now that he's an unrestricted free agent. His knack for turning turnovers into touchdowns is pronounced, and his leadership skills are unquestioned. He can also still cover and hit.

Reasons why he'd work: As last year's steadily deteriorating defensive secondary showed, there's something to be said for leadership. It's hard to imagine the Eagles with Brian Dawkins, or Sharper for that matter, laying over and playing dead the way they did in the Dallas travesties. Sharper may not be as quick as he once was, but he wasn't exposed on the fast Superdome track either, and he could buy them time to evaluate Macho Harris, and someone to push Quintin Mickell and Quintin Demps.

Reasons why he won't be here: If you aren't going to sign Dawkins in 2009, why would you sign Sharper in 2010? Sure, he's probably a better player, if only for being younger, but I just can't see the team, especially with second year defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, bringing in a strong presence like Sharper into the locker room. We also have Dawk 2008 to remind us that when a safety no longer has closing speed, he's no longer an asset, no matter what he might do in the locker room or in practice.

Prognosis: I can see why the Saints are going to be cold-hearted enough to let Sharper go. He was always a rental to them, and that organization is too smart to let sentiment rule over pragmatics. I can also see a half dozen teams sniffing him hard, and he makes a ton of sense in Atlanta. But Philly won't be among his suitors.

3) Anquan Boldin, 6'-1, 217, 29, WR, Arizona Cardinals. The longest divorce in the league might finally be coming to a head, and with the Ravens inking problem child Donte Stallworth over the weekend, maybe Q's remaining musical chairs comes down to Philly.

Reasons why he'd work: When healthy, Boldin is one of the best red zone threats in the NFL, with his physicality being a major asset on bubble screens and middle zone patterns. That's a huge win for the Eagles, who seem incapable of pounding it in from in close.

He's probably too tough for his own good, and while his hands are occasionally an issue (he's prone to fumbling more than the average WR), he doesn't drop that many passes. Boldin also is more than a sticks-moving plowhorse, as his big play ability is nearly that of a #1 WR. If he didn't have to share the spotlight with Larry Fitzgerald, he'd be more universally regarded as a top tier talent. He'd also give the team another Wildcat option, and Reid seemingly can't get enough of that timewaste.

Reasons why he wouldn't: He's 29 already, and with the way he plays, it's an old 29. He's also been grousing about his paycheck long enough to qualify as a questionable character, and one suspects that what you are really getting here is what Jason Avant will provide, seeing how Avant is still getting better, and Boldin can't help but be worse. Beyond QB, the area on this team with the most depth right now might be WR, so it makes no sense to spend money on him here.

Prognosis: If Q was ever going to be here, it was 2-3 years ago, when the need was greatest, and DeSean Jackson did not rule the roost, with Jeremy Maclin, Avant and TE Brent Celek providing more than ample backup. I'd love to have a reliable veteran in the mix here, preferably to avoid ever having to think about Reggie Brown ever again. But that's not the contract and role that Boldin will sign for in his last chance for a big payday.

4) Julius Peppers, 30, 6'7, 283, DE, Carolina Panthers. Perhaps the most intriguing possibility on the board, in that it gives the team a drool-worthy DE tandem with Trent Cole, aka the only guy on the defense that didn't embarrass himself in the last two games of the year. Peppers, when motivated and healthy, is clearly a top five talent in the league at his position, and there's something to be said for emulating the Colt mindset of having two ends that can wreck havoc on the QB. One suspects that there would also be a multiplier effect here, with DTs Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patteson seeing more single coverage and making more plays, as teams scheme to stop Peppers first. Give me a front four of Peppers, Bunk, Patterson and Cole, and I start thinking happy comparison thoughts to Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Andy Harmon and the rest of the good time Ryan Defense Eagles. (And for the record, that line would still be better, but at least it'd be in the ballpark.)

Reasons why he'd work: Like Wilfork, he'd fill a crying need, and he's more to their scheme's liking than Wilfork, since they don't really believe in run stopping as a priority. He's also been putting up numbers for years in Carolina as something of a solo act, which points to him being able to do it here -- and could even see a spike as part of a more varied defensive scheme.

Reasons why he wouldn't: At 30, his best days and contracts are behind him, and as the single biggest name on the board in what could be the last year of football (those lockout rumors for 2011 are serious, and it's not just an owner v. player thing; it's more like what happened in baseball, where it's owners vs. other owners vs. players), he's going to have an overwhelming number of suitors.

Prognosis: As great as Peppers is, he's very streaky and prone to missing the running game while chasing the QB, and your best hope here is 2 or 3 really good years, without playing him for 4 to 5. But still, if they did land him, it'd be a massive coup. I'm not holding my breath.

5) Elvis Dumervil, 26, 5'-11, 260, OLB, Denver Broncos. A real nice speed bookend on QB rushes with Cole. Dumervil has racked up a ton of sacks (43 in 61 career games), and he's young enough that he could get better. Given the bad juju coming out of Denver and his unrestricted status, he's probably not long for Colorado. Once you start running off talent (Jay Cutler a year ago, Brandon Marshall this year), the other holdovers tend to get real nervous.

Reasons why he'd work: The Eagles have shown themselves to be all about getting after the passer, and Dumervil can do that. He's also fast enough and young enough that you suspect that, with good coaching, he could get better in coverage, as he's certainly got the tools and instincts to have more impact in that part of the game. I actually think he could become good in coverage.

Reasons why he wouldn't: It's not as if he hasn't picked up any bad habits from those terrible defenses in Denver, and like everyone else in that laundry, he hasn't exactly finished seasons strong. Another undersized guy that can't show up in January is not exactly welcome. There's also the suspicion that Dumervil is just the same kind of player that current LB Chris Clemons is, just with more playing time and a free rein to rack up sack numbers that don't really matter.

Prognosis: Possible and maybe even something you'd want, since he just might have a skill set that isn't on the roster, and could be a fixture for years to come. But this team has never given deep burn to pass rushing from the linebacker, and you have to wonder if Dumervil would sign on for that.

Top 11 reasons why the Chargers released LaDanian Tomlinson

11) Heard the cries of thirty million fantasy football players from coast to coast

10) Tomlinson had blocked the sure-fire Hall of Fame career of Jacob Hester long enough

9) Spoon-feeding him toothless touchdown runs just seemed really, really sad

8) It was very difficult for the team to go through airports last year, what with the fork in LdT's back setting off the metal detector

7) It's time to see how long they can use Darren Sproles before he gets broken in half

6) Tired of having to bring that damned stationary bike to games

5) Suspect that if they scout and evaluate their talent very hard, they can find someone else to get 3.3 yards per carry

4) The LED in his palm just went from green to red

3) Helps to distract fans from the fact that Norv Turner is still the coach

2) The sad hope that this will make Michael Turner change his mind and come home

1) Wanted him to go upstate to a farm with lots of room to run around and play

Top 10 developments of the US hockey team beating Canada

10) Martin Brodeur deemed no longer any good, eh

9) Ryan Miller to drape himself in flag, look for father

8) NHL to keep its players in future Olympics, since it's the only time that casual fans seems to care about hockey

7) US armed forces to invade and seize prime areas and oil rights, seeing how Canada will be too depressed to offer resistance

6) Older US stars like Mike Modano and Keith Tkachuk, who were not chosen for this team, to be deported

5) Snarky sports bloggers and people in your office to talk about hockey for the first time, like, ever

4) Brian Rafalski becomes this generation's Mike Eruzione, with all of the good will hockey skank poon that entails

3) Sidney Crosby to cry like a little Penguin

2) In future, NBC to give active consideration, but not actual execution, to televising the game in HD

1) Hockey to experience same lifetime surge in popularity in this country, just like the 1980 win, the 1996 World Cup win, the 2002 silver medal, and the 1999 Women's Soccer World Cup

Sunday, February 21, 2010

NESW Drop: The Enemies List Presents: Top 5 Zombie Sports Franchises

This week's work for NESW solves a very big mystery for Sixer Fans like myself; what does Willie Green have to do to stop being on the team? And the answer is much more complicated than his meager statistics, the fact that he's clearly not going to get any better, or the idea that the team would be much better off in the long run seeing what they had with big minutes for Jrue Holliday.

No, it's much easier to understand when you get the fact that Green is actually a remarkably effective zombie, who has managed to infect the organization and coaching staff with his slow intellect and lurching madness. Now, if they could only embrace Green's nature and tailor their marketing to him, perhaps they'd attract a hipster element to the low camp quality of the team. Imagine the home court advantage of hundreds of moaning faux Zombies, maybe even in make up, gnawing on Ren Faire-ish meat on sticks during the game? That would have to intimidate someone, right? Or at least give them a chance to stop the Cavs, since the team would be distracted from Shaquille O'Neal trying to take advantage of the available protein? I don't ask for much, really. Just someone showing some evidence of BRRRRAAAIIINNNNSSSS....

Top 10 reasons why Randy Moss thinks this is his last year with the Patriots

The controversial wideout said recently that he expects the team to let him walk after 2010. What are the real reasons why he thinks this?

10) At age 33, knows that he only has 4-5 years of occasionally trying left

9) Suspects that the team is following the Red Sox example with Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez

8) Knows that there's no way he'll be able to compete with the off-the-charts Caucasian Grittiness of a rehabbing Wes Welker

7) Can't get over his feeling that all Boston teams are too bipolar to commit (oh no he didn't say that, please Shooter, for the love of humanity, take it back take it back take it back)

6) It's getting harder and harder to resist the urge to moon the Patriot coaching staff

5) With Dreamboat Brady's contract also up, knows that there isn't going to be enough to go around

4) Fears the Tremendous Hasidic Upside of Julian Edelman in an All Grit Wideout Attack

3) Wants to relieve those glory days of getting paid to do next to nothing as a Raider

2) Realizes that the only way to be a washed-up player on the Patriots is to play linebacker

1) Is buying into 2011 Lockout Paranoia


Friday night: Having played poker tight and, presumably, predictably for the past few months, I come out swinging in the tournament, but run into walls hard and crash badly. The cash game goes a little better, as I catch trips for the first time in a dog's age and get paid, and my regulars take pity on the condition of the basement (we had water damage last week, which is a big damn deal in terms of time, expense and inconvenience, plus I get to fast from all food and liquid starting at 10pm for Saturday morning's festivities) and leave some cash in the tip jar. My regulars are good people, and one of the best things about living where I do. It's certainly not the weather, the commute, or the schools.

Saturday morning: I'm having blood drawn at the local hospital in connection with a continuing medical condition that's been a significant drain for, oh, the last four months. My weakness with needles is complete and total; I can't watch them being inserted on anyone, let alone me, which made watching "The Wire" very difficult, but let's not get too off track here. Seven vials need to be filled, which is to say, we're going to be here for a long time.

And then longer still, as the vein gives up the ghost on vial number five, and we have to go find another vein. The phlebotomist does this well, but it's still pretty brutal, and I leave knowing that my left arm isn't going to work very well for the next 2-3 days. Yes, I am that bad with needles.

Saturday night: Having bailed on a movie night with friends (too far, the condition means I should not eat late at night, which will make post-movie diner just awkward, I'm just not into scary movies), I've put the kids to bed at a leisurely pace. Faced with several more hours of the same kind of basement tedium work that I've now been doing for a week, something in me snaps a little, and I decide to go play in a local poker game instead, held by one of the sometime regulars in my crowd. I've missed the tournament, but what the hell, there's a cash game, and the people there play every hand to the river regardless of your betting pattern. If I just stay patient, maybe I can catch a hand and win back the grocery money.

Besides, it's better than moving more piles of crap back and forth. Right now, if you showed up outside my house with a truck, I'd put a ton of crap into it, just to be rid of the moving of piles.

So I go. I get pocket queens early and lose with them, something like the fourth time in a row that's happened in the last week, and then the game gets big, with 11 at the table until some are bounced. Drawing low, I go all in and get paid off six times the bet when my straight hits the river, so I'm up 50% on the night despite getting very few cards and hitting no flops. It's 2:30am now, four plus hours into the game, when I finally catch cards and position: Ace-King, unsuited, on the button. For the first time in hours, I raise pre-flop, and the family pot draws down to four. The flop is J-J-10, which gives me overs, the gutshot, and a little hope that maybe my pre-flop raise kept some J-4 or 10-2 hand out of the mix. I make the continuation bet, and no one flinches, because what the hell, I've played four hands in four hours, I must not have anything now. I love these guys.

The turn is an Ace, so now I've got top pair, top kicker, and two-thirds of my original stack left. There's only three hands that really scare me now: Js, 10s, or J-10. There's no flush on the board. I'm really hoping that someone's got A-Q and thinks I'm weak. There's also something like 300% of my buy-in in the pot. I go all-in.

And the guy that follows every hand to the river, the guy that pays every player in the world except me, it seems, calls. The two others agonize over their cards for a few minutes, then fold. And my A-K is drawing dead to J-10, and has been since the flop.

I'm having a year, folks. Having a year. Actual sports content later; sorry for the emo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Awful Topical Fantasy Baseball Team Names

Yes, kids, it's the return of the annual February favorite for the creative and/or time challenged. As always, all of these fit in the usual Yahoo character limit.

Food Tramp Stampers

iPad Statters

Drive-By Lugers

Death Panelists

Trailer Park Tigers

Phillie Busters

Tea Four Baggers

Pine Avatar Bats

Turning Tweets

Fightin' Bailouts

Top 10 takeaways from the NBA trade deadline

10) The Knicks' plan to land LeBron James in 2010 is to have him be the only player under contract, then let him find his own teammates off the street

9) NBA nerds have a mad hard-on for Rockets GM Darryl Morey, for reasons that average NBA fans just aren't intelligent enough to know

8) The final piece in the puzzle for the Celtics was a shoot first, second and third no-defense midget guard with a 43% career shooting percentage who wasn't good enough to get minutes on a team that's 15 games under .500

7) The Amar'e Stoudemire Trade Watch is now entering Year Four, with seemingly no end in sight

6) The Sixers like to make particularly pointless and minor deals at the deadline that don't even show up on the NBA ticker, just to irritate the 14 remaining Sixer fans

5) Timothy McVeigh was only slightly more interested in blowing stuff up than the Wizard management was in the aftermath of Gunning Gilbert

4) Houston got a lot better and is sure to advance in the playoffs, now that they've managed to bring in a no-defense shooting guard that's shooting less than 40% from the field

3) The afternoon deadline might be the biggest crock in American sports, since new last-minute deals get announced hours and hours after it has supposedly passed

2) Even the people who own John Salmons in their NBA fantasy team don't give a damn about him going to Milwaukee

1) No trade can be made by two teams for basketball purposes, since in the NBA, the salary cap and luxury tax are more important than winning games

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The FTT Theatre (What?) Review: Venus In Fur

Today, I'm going to go way off topic to post a review of a play that I took the Shooter Wife to last week, just because (a) it stuck with me, and (b) what, you think it's easy to fill the bloghole in mid-February? Ah, but there is a mighty bring-back, my 90%+ male friends... and that is the fetching creature adorning this post, aka Nina Arianda. But more about her later.

"Venus In Fur" is a two-person play, with the plot concerning the casting decision of a worn-out playwright and first-time director who is doing an adaptation of "Venus in Furs." The plural is a fairly infamous 19th century work and Velvet Underground sound that let popular culture become aware of sado-masochism. So you know the play is going to be kinky. But what you don't know is that it's also going to be really, really smart.

At the end of his day, after having seen way too many of the wrong actress, the writer is set upon by a seeming disaster of an actress, a blonde who enters, late and unscheduled, like a bus accident from the rain. Over the next 90 minutes, she entices, infuriates and intrigues the writer, who is convinced to read with her for the part, and becoming increasingly aware that there may be a lot more to her than what she seems.

VIF is not perfect; the ending is a bit overwrought and overly long, and at 100 minutes or more without an intermission, it does start to wear out its welcome. Wes Bentley's performance as the writer is challenging, in that he's clearly a skilled actor who is playing a character who is not, and thus difficult to evaluate. But he's not why you go; you go for Arianda, and that's independent of the fact that she looks mighty fine in her underwear and thigh high boots. (What, you thought you were going to go to a play about the psychological underpinnings of S&M without getting a little eye candy?)

Her part and performance is the kind of thing that makes you feel, oddly, like a baseball fan watching a teenaged phenom crush minor league pitching. She's simply a lot better than everything that's around her, and because of that, you really give her your full attention. It will even make you look her up to find out online to find out what else she's been in, and according to the Internets, it's not much. She's 25, a recent graduate of NYU, and in her first major role. It won't be her last.

But again, it's not just her, really; the play is also catnip to writers, in that it speaks to a central reality of our existence. When we act alone, without editing or collaboration, we have the illusion of complete control over things... but that is never really the case, since we're always writing for the audience, or at least, our perception of what the audience is.

If we ignore that and just write for itself, the chances of writing something that won't work for anyone else go through the roof... but when we compromise further and allow a second writer or editor to change our work, we potentially increase its appeal and limit the potential for bad choices, but we also take away its singularity, its uniqueness. We give up power to someone else. And all writers are or were, on some level, people who need that power, need that control, need to know what happens.

In VIF, you really don't know what's going to happen, and you feel it all starting to slip away from the writer. For good or ill. And that's what makes the sexual underpinning of the thing the best kind of theater -- because it sticks with you for a while, and makes you avoid pat answers and easy choices.

The signature moment of the play for me is this. After a brisk opening pace with David Mamet-style rapid fire dialogue, the writer is asking the actress about where she has gotten various bits of costuming, which is constantly being pulled out of an oversized bag. After cheerfully giving the details for the various finds, he asks about the studded dog collar around her neck. For the first time in the play, there's silence -- lots of it. And then she says, "I got that from when I was a prostitute."

And after one of the most charged silences you can imagine -- will she talk more about that, is she still one, what caused her to do it, all whipping through the mind -- she says, "Joking."

It's a laugh line, of course, and a really good one. But you don't know if the first part was the lie, or the second, and Arianda isn't giving anything away.

Anyway, here's the show's preview video. Joe Bob says check it out, either now if you are in NYC, or later, when this thing hits Broadway and indie film land. It's selling out every night, and it should.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Top 10 (Now 15) unasked questions for Tiger Woods

Honest and for true, I had no inclination to revisit the Tiger Well anytime soon. But according to the Internets, everyone's favorite golfing adulterer "will make a public statement Friday at 11 a.m. There will be no question and answer session." Emphasis mine.

Now, if the press had any stones at all, they'd refuse to show up for this thing. Public statements without question and answer are not public statements; they are press releases, and if Eldrick wants to make another of those, you as a journalist do not need to hold Little Tiger for him while he tinkles. (Ah, my advertisers! How they love the highbrow potty talk!) Have some pride, people. Stop enabling him.

Besides, it's just a darn shame, really (DARN SHAME!) that the world will never get to hear the answers to small points of interest like...

10) "What part did constantly wearing Nike apparel with the 'Just Do It' slogan play in your current situation?"

9) "When your wife attacks you with a golf club for infidelity, did she prefer a low iron for power, or a high iron for control?"

8) "Was there a minimum threshold of woman that you wouldn't bang? Man? Animal? Inanimate object?"

7) "Will you be weeping on Oprah, and if so, how often?"

6) "How do you answer to the charges that because of your actions, dozens of young black males may now turn their backs on golf?"

5) "Was there some other, previously undisclosed, record of Jack Nicklaus that motivated you?"

4) "Did all of this start once your father wasn't around to make sure you weren't being a dammed fool?"

3) "Are you pleased that the infidelity scandal seems to have overwhelmed the HGH allegations?"

2) "How are you planning on screwing up in public next?"

1) "Is this still a private matter?"

Ed. Note -- And now that it's actually happened, a few more...

11) Who are you, and what have you done to the life form that was Tiger Woods?

12) Are anti-Buddhist groups paying you to profess that you are that faith?

13) When the golf beat writers boycotted your little stage production, did you even notice?

14) Was the crying analyst on Golf TV on your payroll?

15) When Rick Reilly fellates you, do you pretend he's a Country Buffet waitress?

Top 12 reasons why Marcus Camby is upset about being dealt to Portland

12) Finally annoyed with trades now that he's on Team Number Five for his career

11) Scared that by moving to a colder and wetter climate, his rickets will return

10) Knows that he can't compete with Greg Oden, um, where it matters (image search mercifully skipped)

9) Had money in Vulcan Ventures. or anything else post-Microsoft that Trail Blazer owner and incredible fish Paul Allen has touched

8) Tired of following the Bill Walton career arc, since the next stop is UCLA

7) Liked having his Aprils guaranteed free of basketball

6) Was the last man in the NBA to think highly of Baron Davis' game

5) Had a special bond with Clipper owner Donald Sterling, in that he too wishes one day to be a racist slumlord

4) Might have to sacrifice his geeky basketball numbers for winning

3) Will miss the unintentional comedy of Chris Kaman, and the fact that the Clips were the only team in hoop to think he was a power forward

2) Has been a Clipper for 17 months, and you just can't say goodbye to those kinds of memories quickly

1) Hates the idea of being on a team where other people also play defense

Reason #8,209,783 Not To Take The Winter Olympics Seriously: The Women's Ski Jumping Issue

Caught this from a progressive blog... ever wonder why you (and I do mean you: I'm on the record as not watching this at all) see men ski jumping at the Olympics, but not the women?

Well, it's because they apparently do it better, and the men don't want to be embarrassed.

No, seriously.

It speaks, of course, to a larger point: that there are plenty of sports (auto racing, acrobatics, distance running, maybe motocross, etc.) where simply having less body mass is a good thing, and in those sports, the women are going to get good enough over time to make the Shetland Men pissy.

And speaking as a pissy Shetland Man, um, good. Get over yourself, my fellow halflings, and face the fact that sports should be done by the people who are best at them. If that's a female, so be it. Hard to imagine that in 2010, this is actually a discussion...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Top 10 reasons why the Raiders signed Sebastian Janikowski for 4 years and $16 million

In case you missed it, no, it's true... the highest paid kicker in NFL history just got a big raise. (And, um, $9 million of it is in guaranteed bonus money. My Gast Is Flabbered.) Because the Raiders had no other holes on the roster, ya see. Anyway, I stopped shaking my head in amazement long enough to write this list, so stop shaking yours long enough to read it. Deal?

10) When the offense is this bad, having a guy who can hit from 60 yards is the only thing that stands between you and morale-sapping shutouts

9) At 6'-2" and 250, he helps to make JaMarcus Russell seem less morbidly obese

8) He's arguably the best first round pick the Raiders have made in the past 10 years

7) The team just can't imagine life without their all-time leading scorer, or how when a kicker has that record, it really doesn't mean very much

6) As with most things in Oakland, performance art and/or rampant punking of the fan base is always an option

5) By giving him this much money, it helps to limit how much they'll grossly overpay for Richard Seymour

4) They want to make sure that everyone in town knows who rules the roost -- kickers and punters

3) It's not like they are going to pay any of these wide receivers to stick around

2) SeaBass needs the scratch, because roofies and bribes to police officers aren't as cheap as they used to be

1) They are utterly and completely out of their minds

Top 10 comments that have never been made on a sports blog

Ah, the aftermath of a big traffic day on the blog (the psychosis piece got picked up by SI, leading to offended bipolar Red Sox Fans, while others cried foul over the Winter Games slam), when your cheap, mean, unfair, tasteless and biased sports blogging gets read by people who, well, don't read the blog normally.

It inspires a man -- well, OK, this one -- to list! And after over three years and nearly 2,500 posts of this stuff, I can say that I've never seen the following on this or any other board...

10) "I found a small error in this, but it seemed really petty to point it out, seeing how the post wasn't really about that."

9) "I I started to take offense at what you wrote, but then I realized I was taking life too seriously."

8) "I'm glad that you got linked from a high traffic site, even though I also write for a sports blog."

7) "Even though you took a shot at my favorite laundry, I'm not going to assume that you are a fan of our biggest rival, because the odds are actually pretty good that you aren't."

6) "Once you read this angry comment, you will be so filled with remorse that you will immediately cease writing forever and ever. I will not return to read your response."

5) "Filling my reply to your post with profanities and CAPS LOCK SCREAMING is a productive use of both of our time."

4) "In no way am I seeking your attention or acknowledgment. I'm just writing for the illumination of others."

3) "I'd like to characterize you as emotionally stunted, overweight and living in your mother's basement, but then I realized that I was resorting to a pointless and inaccurate cliche about bloggers that said much more about me than you."

2) "I was tempted to add a pointless spam link here, but then I realized that no one ever clicks on those."

1) "Last."

Top 10 reasons why I'm still not watching the Winter Olympics

10) After the biggest snowfall in the history of the place where I live, watching more snow on TV just doesn't cut it

9) Don't want to expose my children to soft-core pornography (aka, figure skating) at an impressionable age

8) Hockey teams based on where your parents schtupped makes even less sense to me than hockey teams based on the free market

7) Now that we've found out that someone can die from luge, all of the mystery is gone

6) Flashback memories of my time in the Russian Army fighting the Finns ruins the biathlon

5) Can't shake the feeling that ski jumping is just how Nords commute

4) Get enough sweeping on my own without needing to watch curling

3) Too busy preparing for my fantasy baseball draft to get all-important Nerdier Than Thou points

2) Won't watch short track racing until roller derby is also a Summer Olympic sport

1) Even once every four years is too often to watch this

Monday, February 15, 2010

Top 10 signs your MLB team won't contend in 2010

10) Pitchers are getting hurt while shooting freaking TV commercials (Brad Bergesen, Orioles)

9) Your hopes hinge on whether a leadoff hitter with perpetually injured hamstrings can stay healthy (Jose Reyes, Mets)

8) Your big $8 million off-season acquisition was a power pitcher who can never stay healthy, and didn't even throw a pitch in 2009 (Ben Sheets, A's)

7) The team's star players are begging Johnny Damon to grace them with his old, park-inflated and defense-free self (Chipper Jones, Braves)

6) The team is located south of Philadelphia and north of Atlanta in the Eastern Seaboard, aka The MLB Dead Zone

5) After a year of throwing millions at a Ranger reject that turned out to be a complete disaster, they brought in another one (Marlon Byrd, Cubs)

4) Your offensive lineup strikes fear in the hearts of the opposition, provided that opposition likes to play 2006 Strat-O-Matic games (Tigers)

3) The plan for 2010 mostly revolves around hoping that Brandon Webb comes back healthy, and can change the standings by 20 to 25 games, without Mark Reynolds losing anything from his career year (DiamondBacks)

2) Your team was never in a real pennant race despite Cy Young seasons from your #1 starting pitcher, who was also nice and overworked during his big year (Giants, Royals)

1) You root for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Sunday, February 14, 2010

NESW Drop: Top 10 Next Muppet Videos

Ah, now you see my image search working for the MLB post below, don't you, smart Internet user you. Enjoy the following list of puppety goodness, or just delight in the limitless wrongness that is Sad Kermit. (And yes, "Creep" isn't his best work, but I've got to give you some reason to click.)

Top 10 MLB Fan Psychosis

In This Week In Crazy, doctors are working on the new version of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Why should you care, beyond a general curiosity about how the human mind works? Well, the DSM provides kind of the owner's manual for mental health professionals all over the world, and if there's anything that Americans are particularly good at, it's defining mental illness in a kind of subtle cultural hegemony. A changed DSM means that kids might not be diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome (a form of mild and functional autism that, due to its generally anti-social and proud/helpless about it nature, is commonly referred to among skeptics and endurers/enablers as Assholer's Syndrome). Binge eating disorder and hypersexuality could become everyday words, rather than Freshman Year for Drama majors, and lead to new magic pills to save us from our demons. And so on.

Which is at least five bigger words than you really want in your snarky sports blog list, but I don't bring the unpopularity by chance, my peoples. But here comes the bring back.

When you look over the most commonly diagnosed (note: most common, not most famous) mental disorders in the US, it becomes really easy to pin particular sports fandoms on each... though, of course, some laundry lovers double and triple up. Major metro areas also seem more prone to this kind of thing, since it takes critical mass to achieve public awareness of a condition (and, of course, create more of it). It also helps to compensate from my hypochondria that has me convinced that I'm all of these things for, well, everything, depending on the stakes and situation. And with that, let's get on to the untrained and irresponsible diagnoses!

10) Major Depressive Disorder - Pittsburgh Pirates. A little while ago on another list, I fired up a top 10 of beat down fan bases and neglected to include the Pirates, mostly on the theory that (a) there are no Pirate fans anymore, and (b) those that do exist had been extremely well served by the Penguins and Steelers, who had both produced championships in the past year. Heck, hockey doesn't even end until June, so if you include preseason football, the town had 11 months of championship level play covered. Plus, Pittsburgh has undergone a major renaissance in the past decade, with new fields, an influx of clean economy (computers, colleges), affordable housing and more. I'd live there if I had the right gig.

Pirate fans descended en masse, mostly in the Eeyore-like fashion of becoming even more depressed at having lost even the thing that they were sure to win. Suddenly, the board was overrun with people who read Sylvia Plath and Nietzsche for a pick me up. They didn't even have the energy to be annoyed by the exclusion.

So here it is, you miserable people, you 15 years of losing records with few and far between watchable players, you certain to be six to 10 games out before the end of freaking April Buccos. You've earned it.

9) Bipolar Disorder - Boston Red Sox. I don't know if you've hung out with bipolar people, Dear Reader, but it's an absolutely exhausting condition to endure as a spectator. The bipolar person is basically someone who is in a constant stage of LookitMe, with the highs being so high that they just want you to absorb all of their spare happiness, and the lows being so low that you should be hiding the sharp objects and locking the medicine cabinet. It's just a 24/7/365 festival of making sure that Person X isn't going to kill themselves out of fool stupidity.

Sox Fan has the ever-diminishing weight of childhood trauma and the constant fear of the New Yankee Millennium to add to the condition, but honestly, even when this team didn't win championships, it was never boring or unwatchable. Which leads to the single biggest problem that non-sufferers have with bipolar people... the sense that it's not so much of a real condition as it is an overwhelming sense of narcissism, combined with an utter and complete lack of personal boundaries. Sympathy gets burned up quick.

8) Anxiety - New York Mets. When the Mets play, win or lose, there's this sense of exactly *how* they are going to blow it. Will it be via a big lead that evaporates in the clutch, or through a string of never-ending injuries, each one more questionable than the last? And how much aid and comfort is all of this providing to Yankee and Phillie Fan, who live to either antagonistically ignore or revel in the new humiliation that your team will provide?

Met Fan is an anxious fan, as befits people who generally live near, but not in, New York Proper (aka Manhattan), and who have a continuing sense of insecurity about that, along with many other things. (Ed. Note: There's also the constant economic insecurity at living in a relentlessly expensive part of the world, especially in a recession.) Small wonder that they are anxious. And if your season hung on whether or not a perpetually injured shortstop's hamstrings were right (shame about the recent news that they aren't -- hah, Mets Fan, made you look!), you'd be too.

7) OCD - Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - Chicago Cubs. Wrigley Field is one of the oldest working stadiums in North America. People who love it really love it, and have made a comfortable little cocoon neighborhood around it in which they while away the summer months in a happy drunken slumber of not winning, all the while convinced that something beyond persistently awful front office decisions and mediocre farm system output is the fault of the last 100+ years of championship-free baseball.

Changing Wrigley, or even considering the possibility that this urine-soaked living museum to ineptitude might be part of the problem, gets you branded as a heathen, a Visigoth, a rank corporate shill looking for some new luxury box or worse. It doesn't matter that the people who are currently at Wrigley are first class trustafarians and frat boys; any change to it is just wrong, wrong, wrong. It has to be just so, don't you realize, or all of the magic is gone. Can't you folks at least turn your rally cap a half dozen times before each pitch while you are at it?

6) PTSD - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - San Francisco Giants. Listening to Giant Fan on Bay Area radio is a real treat, in that none of them were ever Barry Bonds fans. They all knew he was dirtier than dirt, and they never got sucked in to those sold-out days when baseball more or less stopped to watch the Massive Head's every at bat. It's all about Kung Fu Panda Sandoval now, or the mound mastery of Tim Lincecum, and how if GM Brian Sabean ever got his head out of his mediocre veteran free agents and developed an outfielder or three, they'd be sure to do more than challenge the Dodgers for mastery of the West. They are all so past Barry Ball, you see.

But if you probe just a little, and ask if they were at the games when Bonds hit # Whatever, and what the crowds were like when it happened, or how close they came to Bonds dragging them to a title against the Thunder Sticking Angels... well, the facade starts to crumble a bit. Because while everyone in MLB got taken for a bad ride by the Clear and the Crooked, Giant Fan took the hardest and worst of all of them. And if Barry somehow fit his skull through the clubhouse doors and added a few more homers to his totals? They would be right back on it.

5) Social Phobia - Anaheim Angels. Speaking of the Angels, how else can you explain the overwhelming lack of self here? Despite owning the AL West for most of a decade and breaking through for their first world championship, Angel Fan gets routinely punked in crosstown rivalry games against the Dodgers, and can't keep Yankee or Red Sox Fan out of the stadium when they play. Perhaps they have problems dealing with crowds, which would explain the whole Thunderstick and Rally Monkey issue, since both of those things helped to keep others far, far away from them. Boundary issues, Halo Nation?

4) Agoraphobia - Florida Marlins. Given the fire sale history and general leech-like nature of MLB's biggest carpetbaggers -- remember, this is the same ownership group that poisoned the wells and salted the earth in Montreal, only to suck out with two titles -- a fear of the outdoors could just be a sense of personal honor or good taste. But the Fish Fan, assuming he or she exists outside of the championship years, also has the horror that is the outdoor summer weather in the greater Miami area, which is to say a consistent and oppressive soup that is only tolerable if you are from far away and need to avoid your own weather. It can't just be the baseball that makes these people stay away, since the Fish are frequently .500 or better, and have some of the best young talent in baseball on display for a limited time, before they get old enough for an MLB+ franchise to come knocking. Then again, Fish Fan does have to deal with palmetto bugs, which are to cockroaches what Super AIDS is to a case of the clap.

3) ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - Tampa Bay Rays. As befitting a youngish expansion franchise who are so new that their most famous celebrity fan are pro wrestlers from the '80s, Ray Fan is easily distracted by shiny things, loud noises and sweet, sweet candy. How else do you explain how few of them came back for the Rays' attempt to defend their 2008 AL Championship year in 2009? It was as if the year had never happened, with Yankee and Red Sox Fan taking over their yard again, no one showing up despite very watchable players like Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena, and the national media being able to more or less forget about what had seen like a major new player in the AL East. Perhaps some Ritalin would help?

2) Alzheimer's - Baltimore Orioles. When you talk to an O's Fan, they inevitably bring up what the game was like back in Memorial Stadium, or when Earl Weaver shifted Cal Ripken from third base to shortstop, or when the '83 Orioles took out the Wheeze Kid Phillies, or how nice it was when Camden Yards opened and a few hours at the yard became a day in the Inner Harbor. That's because there hasn't been a new Orioles Fan made in the last 15 years, ever since Peter Angelos went on a campaign to commit genocide upon the populace with year after year of one-dimensional teams with pitching staffs that generally can't find the plate with binoculars and a map.

So it's understandable that a certain graying and willed senility has developed over the years, as younger people drift away to sports with less abject failure and more reward. Like, say, competitive eating. Or spiraling acts of physical sado-masochism. Same thing as Oriole Ball, really, but with more payoff. Now, where are your pills? MATLOCK!

1) Schizophrenia - Oakland A's. Let's see, we've got a gritty, street-smart urban fanbase that's more or less resigned itself to the fact that the team is trying like hell to leave town. They also have to embrace the idea that a one-time golden boy athlete turned media figure GM has the magic plan to win games and influence people, even though the book that was written about his team more or less showed all of his tricks, and they haven't really been good since then.

We've also got a nation of people that are said to worship at the feet of on-base percentage, despite the fact that most of the newer acquisitions don't do that very well. Finally, we've got the same sad split of fans that profited mightily from the Steroid Era, all the while rooting for the underdog... and the single most defining video moment of their lifetime as fans is underdoggie limping Jesus figure Kirk Gibson taking formerly untouchable closer Dennis Eckersley deep. All in a bastion of American liberalism and blue collar values, where the fan base simply and completely dreams of a day when they have the buying power of the rich Giant neighbors on the other side of the Bay. The ones who get 20X more for their games from their radio, television and gate receipts, despite usually not winning more games.

Yes, A's Fan, I'm calling you schizo, and I'd call you worse, but beating myself up over the performance of my laundry is almost as much fun as, well, watching it for the past few years. Not that it hasn't been really fascinating to see how Pitching And Defense Might Win Nearly Half Of Your Games, But Make Them All Unwatchable.

Still, it's nicer than saying what we really are: Billy Beane's Battered Spouses. At least that implies some level of offense.

(Ed. Note: After getting a lot of traffic on this piece and Sawx Fan puling about how mean mean mean I was to bipolar people, I'm struck by two things. First, that I didn't say that the condition didn't exist, just that it tried the patience of non-sufferers. Much like Sawx Fan. Second, that their concern over my mean mean meanness was only extended to the mean mean mean remarks about their laundry. Not a word for the cheap spousal abuse joke tied to the A's, or trivializing the horrors of Alzheimer's to Oriole Baseball. Once again, in proof by their actions, It's All About Sawx Fan. Moving on.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Winning Childhood

One of the things that has always stopped non-fans of the NBA is the aesthetic side of the game. It's really not always about if you win or lose, but how the game looks, as well, which leads beautiful but not quite complete teams like Phoenix or the early 2000 Sacramento Kings to be beloved, even though they were not good enough to seal the deal. I've also always thought kindly of the Mark Price / Ron Harper / Larry Nance / Brad Daugherty / Hot Rod Williams Cavs teams that went down to Michael Jordan's Bulls, in that they were a perfectly balanced team, but just without a high enough talent ceiling.

While some fans only care about championships, others go for some measure of worth in this fashion, and this is just alien to both camps, really. I've got friends who would, I think, cheer for a parade and team that won every NBA game 2-1, so long as the opposition had the one. It's more about avoiding the pain of defeat, and the shadenfreude of the fans of the other laundry. (A highly underrated benefit of the Internet age, that.)

But as I started to think about the upcoming baseball season, and my continuing lack of enthusiasm for the probable 2010 Oakland A's. They will be another in a seemingly interminable series of teams with a weak offense that leads to undue stress on a pitching and defense team. And it's not all about the home pitcher's park, either.

And then I started to see the same telltale signs of discontent in my other laundry. And maybe even outside of the big three leagues that I spend most of my bloghole thinking about.

The Philadelphia Eagles are a team that disdains the running game on both sides of the ball, going for a speed and finesse approach that is in keeping with the modern NFL. But you just get the feeling that this is the exact the kind of club that the Buddy Ryan Eagles would have punched in the mouth for four quarters and dominated. (Never mind that what would probably happen now is a flurry of penalty flags, and the Andy Reid team winning the majority of games due to the fact that Buddy's team treated game preparation as if it were not honorable.)

The Philadelphia 76ers are a team that seemingly has never properly valued 3-point shooting in today's NBA, either employing specialists that can hit that shot but little else, or athletic defensive players who take their share, but never make enough. So once again, what you have is a no margin team that's aesthetically challenged. Unlike, say, the Julius Erving led teams of my youth, who could score in any situation while achieving elegance. (And it wasn't just Doc, either. I could watch Andrew Toney shoot jumpers in an empty gym and call it art.)

So maybe it's not just the NBA that has this Win My Way vibe to it. Why did Mike Tyson retain his drawing power long beyond his days as a truly relevant fighter? Because he was exactly what the public wanted to see -- a knockout or knocked-out specialist who was never interested in outpointing his opponent. Why have the current crop of tennis champions (specifically, I'm thinking of Pete Sampras and Roger Federer) failed to capture the attention of a mass audience, the way that Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe did? Because the former were complete players without flaw (and a monstrously effective and dull serve ace game, rather than dramatic volleys), while the latter had definite holes in their game that they had to make up for through overcompensating struggle.

Sports is entertainment, and just winning isn't really that entertaining. That's going to happen half of the time in any contest.

And what, really, is my way of winning, but the manner in which a successful team was during your formative years as a fan? The early 2000 A's that brought me back into baseball fandom were a slugging collection of high margin steroid wonders, with Miggy Tejada, Jason Giambi and Eric Chavez (and yes, I know, Chavez has never been outed as a roider, but his career arc is the same as one) powering an offense that had to overcome weak back end of the rotation starters and questionable middle relief. There were my kind of fun. The Ryan Eagles, we've discussed, but suffice it to say that whenever the opposing team runs for any kind of positive yardage. The Erving Sixers make any poor offensive team in the laundry a sad relative.

Which, of course, is idiotic on some level; rooting for the same type of team for your whole life is dull and seems, well, childish. But so is watching sports, and enjoying the same kind of music or food or books or anything else that's a long term taste. It's kind of the way things are; we want what we want.

So, Billy Beane, Ed Stefanski and Andy Reid? Consider the DNA of the laundry. Stop giving us the same team. And if you are going to lose, and such is the nature of sports that you most likely are, lose in a way that gives us more pleasure to watch.

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