Friday, April 30, 2010

Top 11 reasons why Jeff Feagles is retiring

Today, Giants punter and 23-year veteran Jeff Feagles is expected to announce his retirement. What caused the record-setting special teams ace to call it quits?

11) Expects to take Tiki Barber's NBC job and intern mistress

10) Moving the Pro Bowl from Hawaii to Florida gave him the opportunity to really see, for the first time, just how nice Florida is for seniors

9) Wanted to be the first punter in league history to choose the time to go, rather than the other way around

8) Could no longer relate to those whippersnapper coaches, or actual football players

7) His 36.0 yard net punting average from last year, the second-lowest of his career, so deeply shamed him that he could no longer sleep at night

6) Only way to prove that he wasn't just sticking around to reach that magic 500 punts downed inside the 20 record

5) Finally giving up on his dream of completing a pass (he retires 0 for 8)

4) Wants more time with the grandkids

3) Can no longer stand the personal afffront that is the lack of punting in fantasy football

2) Just couldn't see how he could compete with the newly acquired Jim Sorgi, who would have been his competition for holding on kicks

1) Doesn't actually want to retire, but does want media attention, and to get out of training camp

Top 10 NBA Playoff Takeaways

Milwaukee Bucks Mascot

10) If LeBron James' elbow injury leads to the Celtics going to the Eastern Conference Finals, leading to his exit from the city, Cleveland Fan would be completely justified in giving up watching sports entirely

9) Now that George Karl is away from the Nuggets, people are noticing that they are erratic and unpredictable

8) Mark Cuban thinks Paul Allen is dumb money, and vice versa

7) Despite taking a 3-2 lead against the higher seeded Hawks, the only Buck to achieve national prominence is the dunking deer mascot

6) Orlando is going to make the third round of the playoffs without actually playing against a good team

5) The Lakers enjoy looking vulnerable early in the first round, just to give Laker Haters a Charlie Brown With The Football level of pathetic hope

4) Regardless of whether or not you like the Spurs, or were rooting for them in the first round against the Mavs, it's just enjoyable to watch Cuban fail in the first round

3) It was totally worth the gamble that Brandon Roy would ruin his career by coming back too fast from surgery, so the Blazers could... lose in the first round

2) If David Stern just sticks his fingers in his ears long and far enough, no one will notice the continuing complaints and conspiracy theories about the referees

1) TNT's studio crew is so much fun to watch, you actually like the network despite the fact that the high rotation commercials for their shows make you want to murder everyone involved in their original programming lineup

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On The Inability Of Some To Stay In Their Shoes

By this point, the casual reader of the blog knows that I run a poker game. Whether or not you care, of course, is another matter. But since I have nothing of particular importance to say about the NBA playoffs this morning...

(Other than, in re Hawks-Bucks, being utterly amazed that a team with John Salmons as its best player could be up 3-2 in a series with home court for Game 6 against any opponent. In re Nuggets-Jazz, I'm waiting for Denver to show up on the road and realize that they are playing a team that they outclassed on talent *before* the Jazz lost two starters to injury before getting fooled into thinking they have stones. Moving on.)

Well, this.

For my home game, ideally, I want just under 20 players at the start of the night. That gives us two full tables for the tournament, fills the room to the point where it's still comfortable, and creates equity for the players, since the odds are more even that you'll be playing at a table with enough hands. It also makes for a meaningful pot. For the uninitiated, poker generally needs at least four players to be playable, and works better with 9 per table. You also are trying to avoid having 11 players, since that's too many for one table, and really not enough for two. After the tournament is over, if you started with enough people, then you've got enough for a long cash game.

The reality is that home games are all over the place, if you care to look and aren't a douchebag (and if you are a bad player, most folks will overlook that for your money). Also, people take vacations, drift out of the game, decide they'd rather play online or in a casino, etc., etc. While you may generate a core of regular players over time, you are always going to be looking for new guys to take over for worn out people. It's true of just about any regular social event, but especially so for poker.

This has led me to work different sources for players -- referrals from my current group (best), going to other games to try to recruit for your table (generally doesn't work), joining online poker groups on MeetUp (not bad) and advertising on Facebook or Craigs List (once OK, now increasingly terrible, mostly because you get a flood of spam). From this, you generate an email list of players that say they want in, but will cancel, flake out, etc. It is what it is. Frankly, there's not much difference between this and, in my past life, trying to get people to come to my rock band's gigs, or getting people to join my fantasy league.

So last night, I sent out the latest RSVP for my event, and got back a profanely negative response... from a guy who has never, to my knowledge, actually made it to the table. He has, of course, told me he was going to come several times. I suppose he's just having a day, or has bad wiring in his head, and I'm glad, for the sake of my regulars, that he won't be in any danger of coming... but it stuck in my craw a bit. And so, this post.

In New York, the Mets completed a strong homestand with a seven game winning streak that moved them to first place in the NL East. They now come to Philadelphia to battle the two-time defending league champion Phillies. Before the winning streak, they were a team with one reliable starting pitcher (Johan Santana), a middle of the order that was performing so badly that they decided to move their leadoff hitter to the #3 slot and sacrifice his stolen bases to give the cleanup hitter more of a chance to see a fastball, a bullpen that was fairly shaky and a defense that wasn't particularly stellar.

And now... well, they have a young first baseman that heals all ills, and it's a different team, how they've got the big Mo Men Tum, and that they can't wait to show the big bullies how Things Have Changed. Despite, you know, still employing Oliver Perez, and John Maine, and all of the other guys that were such a problem two weeks ago.

Um, OK then.

In Pittsburgh, in the past two weeks, the two-time Super Bowl winning QB has become a massive pariah, an embattled figure just trying to get better, a symbol of a corporation (Nike) who seems to just want to antagonize women by remaining in his corner (and Tiger Woods, of course), and much, much more. If the Steelers keep the guy, they are betraying their ideals. If they trade him, they'll get a king's ransom for a guy with a nine figure contract who is just one more slip-up away from hard time, let alone league suspension. The league, by the way, conspired to have the easy part of the schedule for when he was out. And so on, and on, and on, and on.

In the nation as a whole, the economy may have finally turned the corner. A massive treaty was signed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. Financial reform that gives us the hope of preventing the next "Too Big To Fail" swindle is in the works. Electric cars are nearing the marketplace, I see hybrids all over the place now (well, we bought one, so now we notice all of the others), my tax refund was more than expected, and I haven't noticed too many frogs in the gutters from the Biblical plague that was supposed to result from passing a health care reform act. We haven't been hit by a major terrorist attack.

Meanwhile, of course, I have older relatives that actually think the world is coming to an end, and that the President is the Antichrist. (By the way, this isn't a reason for you to post your political views in the comments. I'm really more about proving a point about freakouts, rather than turning this blog into something it ain't.)

And all I can think of is... why is getting so hard for people to remain in their freaking shoes?

Is it because the Internet allows every crackpot theorist to find a community of people that believe the same thing? Is it because the Baby Boomers are getting closer and closer to the end of the mortal coil, and they are all bugging out? And finally, is it because white people are that wiped out by the presence of browns and blacks on the television screens and in their neighborhoods?

I don't, of course, know the answer to any of this, and I'm not even sure that the percentage of freakout has actually changed; again, the Internets might just make it easier to notice each and every spazzification.

But I will say this. Can we all, please, try to calm the hell down? I'm just trying to run a poker game here.

And the rules of the house are that you must wear shoes. On your feet.

(Ed Note: Nice of the ad feed to give me an anti-Fed message this morning after that. Those Google bots, they've got some stones.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Top 10 changes for local teams from the Arizona Immigration Bill

No matter where you stand on this debate, there's one thing for certain; giving police the job of making any brown person prove their citizenship at any time is going to really change things in the state that just says no to Daylight Savings and Martin Luther King. Such as the following...

10) Arizona Cardinals no longer welcome in Mexico City, which after watching Matt Leinart this year, will make that city more like Phoenix

9) Diamondback Juan Gutierrez no longer allowed to take the closer job away from Chad Qualls

8) If Cardinal Beanie Wells goes airborne to get into the end zone, it must be referred to as a leap or plunge, and there will be no mention of a nationality or legumes

7) The knee sprain that sent Diamnondback catcher Miguel Montero to the disabled list is now under suspicion

6) Just to show how mad he is about this, and that he's got the back of Latino players, David Stern is going to put not one, but two WNBA teams in the state

5) The NHL Phoenix Coyotes and their fans will be shockingly unaffected

4) Diamondback Rodrigo Lopez to change his name to Roger Lopat

3) Cardinal Aussie punter Ben Graham now claiming he's from Canada, rather than any place that is, you know, southern

2) Fiesta Bowl to change its name to the Festivus Bowl

1) Phoenix may lose the MLB All Star Game, which would just be a shame, seeing how It Counts and the world just needs more July baseball games in the desert

Top 10 next occupations for JaMarcus Russell

With the recent acquisition of QB Jason Campbell, it looks like we're about to see the end of the JaMarcus Russell Era in Oakland... and given his remarkably bad statistics and worse intangibles, along with the fact that the man has made enough bank that he really doesn't have to strain himself to play football anymore if he doesn't want to, he probably won't resurface anywhere else, either. But 50 years is a long time to be retired, and when you've got as much to offer the world as JaRuss does, it would be a shame for him to not re-enter the workplace. Here, then, are ten possibilities for the man's future employment.

10) Commemorative doorstop. What Raider Hater wouldn't love to have the former #1 pick serving the home as an inanimate object? I'm also relatively sure that JaRuss would be able to master both plays -- door open and door closed. Just so long as you keep the terminology consistent.

9) Food critic. What, you think you can get to over three hundred pounds while playing professional football without a deep and abiding commitment to stuffing your piehole? JaRuss could provide a unique perspective to the gourmet community, who generally do not eat with garden tools. Earthy!

8) Pitchman. No one has ever really been able to fill the shoes of the late great Billy Mays, but I'm thinking JaRuss has the right stuff. And with the right catch phrase -- might I suggest "It's Like Getting Paid To Eat!" -- he'll be money in the bank. His bank, naturally.

7) Celebrity cadaver. Any number of police procedural shows -- your CSIs, your NCISs, your Gossip Girls -- needs a big old stiff body at the start of the show to add gravity to the crime. Who better to serve that role than JaRuss?

6) TSA officer. Would you feel more secure knowing that JaRuss is keeping the airways safe from terrorists, containers of liquid and Swiss Army Knives? Well, I know I wouldn't. But at least I'd get the momentary amusement of wondering if the lazy lump that's wanding my nethers knows what it's like to beat Josh McDaniels on the road.

5) Road crewman. JaRuss has a lot of experience, especially in the last year, of standing around, wearing protective gear, and watching other people work. That would make him perfectly suited to highway road work, at least in the crews that I always see by the side of the road, staring at something only they can see. I bet JaRuss can do that great!

4) Grave digger. Who has more experience of standing in a hole and thinking about death than JR? Of course, this might not be the best role for him, since it involves actual work.

3) Teamster. As anyone who watched the 2009 Raiders can attest, JaRuss has the ability to stand around, watch other people work, and still seem sullen about it. He's the perfect Teamster!

2) Cable installer. As a professional, JaRuss showed the ability to make people wait for years for a payoff that never came, all the while making them feel like they were trapped into buying what he was selling. If that's not your Cable Guy, I'm amazed.

1) Lab subject. It's a rare gift to just lie back and take what's happening to you, with seemingly no interest in making any change. Let JR's unique disregard for life work to benefit science!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Top 12 reasons the Phillies signed Ryan Howard to a $125 milllion+ contract

12) Seemed like a bargain when translated as a per pound price

11) Howard and GM Ruben Amaro shook hands at the start of negotiations, then Howard wouldn't let go

10) Signing a heavy slugger for the second-most money in baseball, with the contract not ending until he's 36, always works out

9) Howard threatened to start eating again if the contract wasn't taken care of

8) Effectively ruins the Cardinals and Brewers chances to keep Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder

7) Could afford him thanks to Roy Halladay taking less to be here, and agreeing to hold offseason telethons

6) With the financial security, Howard will finally be able to afford to learn how to hit left-handed pitching

5) The front office really enjoys it when sabermetric nerds freak out

4) Overcompensating for being called cheap for the Cliff Lee trade

3) Still feel bad for the way they treated Dick Allen

2) Club is certain that the economy and real estate market will not only recover, but leave everyone in America up to their nethers in ice cream

1) It's all an elaborate motivational ploy to get Jimmy Rollins to get off the DL faster

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brown Out

Yahoo has the rumor today that Larry Brown is getting out of his deal in Charlotte and returning to Philadelphia to be the coach and president of the Sixers. It's a classic Brown move, in that it undermines his current team (Charlotte) even while they were trying to prolong their season in a playoff against Orlando, and it gets him out of a situation where he had (a) turned over the roster for short term gain, and (b) created mild success out of utter despair. The Bobcats have never been to the second season before Brown came to town, and while getting swept is never encouraging, when your best player is either Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson, the simple fact of the matter is that you probably shouldn't be winning a playoff series, even in the East.

A small note about the Magic: do not be fooled by the sweep. Dwight Howard was a non-factor offensively in this series, with nearly historic levels of incompetence at the free throw line. Vince Carter didn't look that great, and the outmanned Bobcats were in most of these games. But the Magic do play defense much better than they used to, and against a Bobcat team who played a collection of big men that would be outgunned in the D-League, they had no chance of putting up enough points against a team that can hit some three pointers. Mikael Pietrus in particular looked good for Orlando, but I can't see them making it out of the East, and I keep expecting them to snap and beat hyper annoying coach Stan van Gundy to death with a rake.

Getting back to the Bobcats and Brown... you can see why the guy would want to get out from under Michael Jordan. It's not as if the Charlotte franchise looks particularly hale and hearty, with super deep pokcets and a vibrant local community that's enamoured with pro hoop. Even with a committed Jordan, you can't help but think this is an NBA backwater, and once Brown's gone, they'll remember that they aren't particularly talanted or terribly interested in sacrificing their numbers for the good of the team. When Brown leaves, it's rarely a good thing for the team he bails on, unless you're the Pistons.

As for what he'll do in Philadelphia, assuming he comes here again... well, he certainly fits in with the current roster more than the Princeton Offense Abomination that they tried to inject last year. He'll either get defensive intensity out of Sam Dalembert or Elton Brand, or he'll play kids. The team won't be afraid to gamble defensively and play for steals / open court offense, which is exactly what a backcourt of Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holliday should be doing. And yet, it could be a wipeout of epic proportions.

Holliday was the youngest player in the NBA this year, and he plays the position that Brown played back in the day (Larry was a pretty damned good player, actually). If he can actually make Larry happy with his play there, he might be the first in Larry's long sad history of crushing your players at the point. Personally, I'm scared that This Way Lies Larry Hughes, but at least when Brown wasted that resource, he had the excuse of placating Allen Iverson.

Which isn't to diminish the scope of what Brown has accomplished, what with the taking of eight different teams to the playoffs. But the bigger issue is where this all ends, seeing how Larry is 70 now, and redefines nomad in our time... well, I suppose it'd be good news for the franchise. But it isn't going to end with more than 45 wins and a second round playoff loss, more or less the same way it worked out before. There's a reason why you bring Larry in, but there's also a reason why he never sticks around.

The Eagles Draft, And Draft, And Draft

I realize I'm late to this, and far from your best choice for such analysis, since I don't know college football more than college lacrosse. But what the hey, not knowing too much about a subject hasn't kept members of the fully paid sports media from weighing in, so let's have at it.

First off, here are the picks.

1 (13) Brandon Graham, de, Michigan.
2 (37) Nate Allen, db, South Florida.
3 (86) Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, de, Washington.
4 (105) Trevard Lindley, db, Kentucky.
4 (121) Keenan Clayton, lb, Oklahoma.
4 (122) Mike Kafka, qb, Northwestern.
4 (125) Clay Harbor, te, Missouri State.
5 (134) Ricky Sapp, de, Clemson.
5 (159) Riley Cooper, wr, Florida.
6 (200) Charles Scott, rb, LSU.
7 (220) Jamar Chaney, lb, Mississippi State.
7 (243) Jeff Owens, dt, Georgia.
7 (244) Kurt Coleman, db, Ohio State.

Most observers are giving them fairly high grades for getting extra fourth round picks in a deep draft, and loading up on the defense in a time of need. I suppose, but...

1) I'm really not sold that Graham was the right pick at 13. Earl Thomas, the safety that the Seahawks took with the next pick, seemed to be the better value there. Some have speculated that the move was to prevent the Giants from getting Graham at 15, and if it winds up that Graham's an impact player and Jason Pierre-Paul is a bust for Big Blue, well, maybe. There's also something to be said for the idea that if you can't cover, you better get to the passer. It's not really the traditional Andy Reid way of running a defense, but given the way that the refs call defensive pass interference these days, maybe it's the better way to go.

2) Doubling up on speed rushers, assuming that Graham is a DE and not an LB, is always curious, especially for a team with multiple needs. It's also something this team has historically done under Reid, most notably with defensive backs. But it rarely inspires faith in the front office, since it just seems like a hedged bet.

3) I kind of hate that a team with Kevin Kolb would go for a QB in the fourth; it's just too early, IMHO, for a team with more desperate needs, specifically at center, where Jamal Jackson's recovery is far too important. And while I get that Harbor might be a fullback in a power set with Leonard Weaver taking the HB role, I also kind of hate that they'd spend a fourth round pick on a TE when they've got Brent Celek and the rehabbing Cornelius Ingram, who they liked last year in training camp before he got hurt. Where are the spare DBs and RBs that usually provide value on special teams early in their career? And can you really trust any QB that you can describe as Kafka-esque?

4) Finally, note how all of these picks are from pretty big name schools, which has kind of been the way for this team in recent years. Let other teams find gems from small schools; the Eagles will fish from the top tier factories, which just seems limited to my eyes. Or maybe I'm just jealous of the Cowboys, with Miles Austin (Monmouth), DeMarcus Ware (Troy) and Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois). Especially in a draft where you've got extra bullets in the chamber, in a year where everyone knows that you are playing for 2011 and beyond.

Hoop Hate

Today as I watched the Mavs, Spurs, Jazz and Nuggets, I was struck by the fact that despite the fact that all of these teams play well, play up tempo, and are very athletic... I just don't like them very much. And here's why.

Jazz... Probably the most red-statish and distasteful fans in the Association, starting with the no Sunday night game nonsense, and continuing with the overwhelming whiteness of the fan base, and ending with the overreaction to any foul call that goes against them... the fact that Carlos Boozer is a huge part of the team, and that he's only here after stabbing a blind man in the back on his free agency... that Jerry Sloan has been here for decades while seemingly never enjoying a minute of it... that they employ Kyle Korver and the unspeakable horror that is Kyrylo Fesenko...

Nuggets... Prone to more bug-eyed looks at the refs than any team in the league... employ Kenyon Martin, who has a lipstick tatoo on his neck and is a walking foul... perpetuate the myth that Chauncy Billups is a good option for big shots... don't get enough out of Carmelo Anthony, who should be one of the five best players in the league but usually isn't... will lose their first round series while talking about the loss of George Karl, as if he would have done a damn thing differently or better than interim coach Adrian Dantley...

Mavs... There's just something unlikable about Dirk Nowitzki... for all that people talk about Jason Kidd as some kind of aesthetically wonderful point guard, um, he can't shoot, has a terrible track record for off-the-court stuff, and is a definite coach killer... they could employ twelve wonderful human beings and I'd still want them to lose, just to see Mark Cuban pule... rooting for any team from Dallas is kind of anathema...

Spurs... The guy wearing Tim Duncan's jersey right now should be ashamed of the deception... Tony Parker is French and married to a person who thinks that the world needs to hear about her life... Manu Ginobili might flop more than any other very good player in the Association's history... The team has the ability to make even young and athletic players seem like they've been there forever, running the same plays... They manage to luck into ridiculously helpful players like Georg Hill and DeJuan Blair with low picks, which mock the idea that your terrible team can't ever get better...

And then it struck me... there's really no such thing as a team that you can't hate. Even the Thunder, who are young enough to be wildly entertaining and mostly unspoiled, had the lingering distaste of being a stolen team that's owned by a repulsive liar. The team that I actually root for (Philadelphia) is owned by a guy (Ed Snider) with decades of mismanagement to his credit, who contributes to new right wing news networks, and play in yet another unnecessary pleasure park to the rich that was a money grab from the taxpayers. And so on, and so on.

And yet the games are still great, even between teams that are kind of difficult to root for, because the game's the thing, really. Tonight's Nuggets-Jazz game was hopelessly choppy and foul-driven, not really close -- the Nugs couldn't draw to fewer than three possessions in the fourth, and the Jazz never looked shaky enough to really make it more interesting than that, despite Anthony getting hot -- and yet still in enough doubt to play the starters until the last minute, and watchable all the way through.

You just don't get the full push of likable teams and likable games. I'd rather have the latter anyway.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Top 10 MLB Week 3 Takeawys

10) The White Sox have the third-worst offense in the AL despite the found money that is Andruw Jones

9) If David Price wants to be the best left-handed starting pitcher in MLB, the Rays are definitely a playoff team

8) Those constant Adrian Gonzalez trade rumors don't make a ton of sense when the Padres are in first in their division

7) The Cardinals look like they are going to enjoy a challenge-free summer

6) Since the Mets were able to get back to .500 once he entered the lineup, first baseman Ike Davis isn't just the rookie of the year, but also the MVP

5) The Orioles are 11 games out of first after playing 19 games, and have been outscored by 36 runs, which means they have already been mathematically eliminated

4) In each of the first four innings of the Jays-Rays game on Sunday, catcher Jose Molina threw out a runner trying to steal second base, which tells you more about the Rays than it does Molina

3) Minnesota isn't just the best team in the AL Central, but quite possibly the only team in the AL Central

2) Pittsburgh has lost six in a row and has the worst record and run differential in the National League, which would really depress Pirate Fan if they were not kind of used to this after the last 15 years

1) Roy Halladay is on pace to start and win 32 games, and anyone that has watched his first four starts is kind of thinking that he'll get there

Friday, April 23, 2010

Top 10 takeaways from Thursday Night's NBA Playoff Games

10) When Kevin Durant is much better than Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter, the Lakers are pretty danged beatable

9) If Portland wants to avoid getting run out of their own gym, they might want to try defending Jason Richardson

8) While I still like the Cavs to win the East, there's something downright disturbing about any loss to the Bulls

7) If you don't like Serge Ibaka, I don't want to know what happened to you, but I'm sorry anyway

6) Every year, people talk about how old and useless Derek Fisher is, and yet he's still a starter on the favorites

5) The fact that LeBron James didn't have the ball in his hands for the last chance to send a game into overtime tells you all you need to know about how well-coached the Cavs are

4) Any night when there are more Western playoffs on than Eastern playoffs is a win

3) The fact that Bryant did not shoot any free throws in Game 3 will be corrected with an absolute vengeance in Game 4

2) The fact that the Lakers shot 10 for 31 from three point land will be corrected with an... well, you know

1) On some level, any Thunder win is a great thing, because it means the world gets to watch another Thunder game

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Top 10 NFL First Round Takeaways

10) One more sign of the Mayan Apocalypse is the fact that, for once, it's not obvious that Detroit boned their picks

9) With the eighth pick in the first, Oakland made real progress by drafting a guy (Rolando McClain) that was actually projected as a first round pick

8) Kyle Orton really shouldn't be surprised that Denver and Josh McDaniels would make a terrible personnel decision about the QB

7) Pittsburgh looks like freaking genuises for just staying in their shoes and drafting center Maukice Pouncey

6) Jimmy Claussen was the best available player on Mel Kiper's board for so long, it seemed more like a hostage negotiation than a draft

5) When three out of the first four picks were from one school, and that school didn't win the national championship, doesn't that make the coach suspect?

4) If San Diego had reached any harder for a RB, they might have hyperextended something

3) Shockingly, the Cowboys drafted the talented WR with the highly questionable character

2) If DE Jason Pierre-Paul struggles for the Giants, the Frenchiness of his name will be cited in all derogatory mentions of his game

1) It's not true that Brandon Graham, Philadelphia's first round pick that required a trade and a mortgaging of third round picks, is an anagram for "Mike Mamula", "Jon Harris" or "Jerome McDougle"

Top 10 takeaways from the Ben Roethlisberger Suspension

10) Buying and/or wearing his jersey isn't going to be quite the Chick Magnet that it used to be

9) Sets the going rate of abusing women as 3X worse than abusing dogs

8) The QB now has to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation, just to see if it comes back as Inexcusable Jerkoff

7) Roethlisberger's trade value just went down for every team but Oakland

6) Proves to Roethlisberger that he should never, ever, sexually abuse women without wearing a protective helmet

5) Gives sportscasters an unbelievably awkward "working through adversity" meme to credit the QB with when he comes back from the suspension

4) Cripples the Steelers, who will never be able to win games against the easy part of their schedule with an aging, erratic and poor decision-making QB, instead of a game manager

3) Roethlisberger to stop watching David Lynch movies for pick-up tips

2) Opens the floodgates for that civil case in Nevada, and anyone else who wants a shot a Roethlisberger's $102 million contract

1) Gives Michael Vick fans someone to feel superior to

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Top 11 reasons why the Cubs are moving Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen

11) Best way to undermine Carlos Marmol

10) Keeps him from obsessing about, and getting injured while, hitting

9) Z hasn't stopped shaking since Jason Heyward destroyed him on Opening Day

8) Spending $17.75 million for a set-up man is what makes the Cubs special

7) It's not like Z has pitched a no hitter, is 36 games over .500, and has not finished a year with an ERA above 4 since his rookie year in 2001

6) When you've got Tom Gorzelanny *and* Carlos Silva, there's clearly no room in the rotation

5) If Z is in the bullpen, he can't destroy the Gatorade machine in the dugout when he has one of his temper tantrums

4) The Cubs have the ability to void Z's contract if he's committed to an institution, so they're trying to push the issue

3) After nearly a decade, the Cubs have decided to start worrying about Z's pitch counts

2) Whenever you can turn a 200+ IP a year pitcher who routinely works better than league average into someone who works a third as often while also becoming a clubhouse nightmare, you've got to pull the trigger

1) Cubs manager Lou Pinella might just be, you know, senile

Top 10 takeaways from the Edinson Volquez PED Suspension

Former All-Star Edinson Volquez, a pitcher for the Cincinatti Reds that hasn't pitched since last June, was suspended for 50 games today after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug. It's the highest profile suspension since the Manny Ramirez Experience, but there are bigger things to know than that. Such as...

10) Seeing as Volquez can serve the suspension while on injury rehab, the only people who should care about this are the folks collecting the $133K+ fine

9) Dusty Baker deserves an apology; he doesn't kill young pitchers, he kills cheaters

8) Luckily, Josh Hamilton is hitting .205 with zero home runs, so Texas might not win that trade after all

7) The Baseball Prospectus guys that put Volquez on the cover must feel so embarrased right now

6) Volquez claims that the violation happened due to a desire to start a family, which shows an admirable if misguided commitment to equal parenting

5) Gave baseball fans a delightful morning of Twitter-fueled witch hunt speculation as to who was going to get nabbed

4) Puts Volquez under the same kind of permanent stain as Sergio Mitre and J.C. Romero, both of whom have never recovered from the shame, oh, the shame

3) Delivers an effective detriment against any player that thinks about cheating to get ahead

2) Proves that, by the numbers, the minor leagues are 16 times more dirty than the majors

1) Proves that, for the 15th straight year according to All Father Selig, there is no PED problem in baseball

Get on the Bus: Plotting out the 2010 Eagles Schedule

First things first; there is nothing better, when it comes to watching an NFL game, then to be Road Fan. So long as you go incognito (assuming that your team isn't overwhelming the home crowd) or in a protective cocoon, it's not particularly hazardous to your health, and if you are fortunate enough to be from a high-priced market, it's a comparative bargain to get out of town and get your NFL tickets.

And if your laundry loses, it's really not that heartbreaking, since losing on the road is kind of expected, and if the home crowd isn't too obnoxious, seeing them celebrate isn't that terrible. This year for my laundry (the Philadelphia Eagles, naturally), here are your schedule options. Note also that, like last year, the schedule starts well after Labor Day, and that with the exception of the San Fran trip (a nice enough place to just get on a plane anyway), most of these are thoroughly in the range of an alcohol-fueled bus.

Week 2: Detroit, Sunday 1pm
Week 3: Jacksonville, Sunday, 4pm
Week 5: San Fran, Sunday, 8pm
Week 7: Nashville, Sunday, 1pm
Week 10: DC, Monday, 8:30pm
Week 12: Chicago, Sunday, 1pm
Week 14: Dallas, Sunday, 8:20pm
Week 15: NY Giants, Sunday, 1pm

Of these, Jacksonville should be the easiest ticket, seeing how there are no actual Jaguar fans, followed by San Fran or Nashville, depending on whether either team gets off to a slow start. The second half of the year is going to be harder, especially with the Cowboys and Giants likely to be in a playoff hunt and with new stadiums, but why should your plight as a road fan be any different than that of the team?

Of course, Road Fan cuts both ways: there is always the chance that the stadium gets overrun by hordes of out of towners, especially if the season goes south, as this one might. Here's the docket for that:

Week 1: Green Bay, Sunday, 4:15pm
Week 4: Washington, Sunday, 4:15pm
Week 6: Atlanta, Sunday, 1:00pm
Week 9: Indianapolis, Sunday, 4:15pm
Week 11: NY Giants, Sunday, 8:20pm
Week 13: Houston, Thursday, 8:20pm
Week 16: Minnesota, Sunday, 1:00pm
Week 17: Dallas, Sunday, 1:00pm

Realistically, this comes down to Dallas Fan possibly rubbing it in if the season is already decided. Neither the Texans nor the Vikings have very large or mobile fan bases. Note also that the club is in prime time five times in 2010, and not terribly likely to be flexed out by NBC, since the games are in Weeks 11 and 14.

Oh, and if you are asking for a won-loss prediction? 7-9. And I'm not sure that number would be any different if Donovan McNabb were still in town. Embrace rebuilding, Philly Fan. And that September road trip to Detroit or Jacksonville, when the team still has hope.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Top 10 reasons why Donovan McNabb wants the Skins to sign Terrell Owens

At least according to Web rumors, which is reason #8006 as to why you should not pay attention to NFL rumors. Except for this one!

10) Wants that feeling of playing for the Raiders, without actually playing for the Raiders

9) Already hates Mike Shanahan and wants him to suffer, even if it means he has to as well

8) Without Owens, McNabb feels that his games against the Eagles are just going to hold no interest

7) By bringing him in, you get the 2-for-1 benefit of more Drew Rosenhaus in your life

6) Thinks that by bringing him in, he'll get a DeSean Jackson level rook soon after

5) Knows that when the sideshow comes to town, fewer people would be on his nuts for failing to turn this collection of 2005 All Stars into a playoff team

4) Sees this as the only way to get a highly watched reality show of his own

3) In a devious but brilliant maneuver, is secretly still on the Eagles' payroll

2) As the past 11 years of living with Philly Fan proves, he's something of a masochist

1) It's all part of the most elaborate and satisfying practical joke in years

The Jazz Make It A Series

Tonight in Denver, in a wildly entertaining and super choppy game, the road Jazz shook off the injuries and talent gap to pull off an improbable win, with point guard Deron Williams owning the floor with 31 points and 14 dimes (and 16 of 18 from the line), and Carlos Boozer providing critical support with 20 and 14. The really amazing part of the game was just how the Jazz were better in crunch time, with Carmelo Anthony fouling out in the final minute with a 32/5/4 line, Kyle Korver making critical free throws wih six seconds left, and Chauncey Billups missed two tying three point attempts.

Despite the valiant effort, I don't see the Jazz really capitalizing to pull off the series, even though they now hold the home court advantage and have some of the meanest fans in the Association. The Nugs won't always shoot 4 for 18 from the three point arc, Anthony isn't likely to shoot 9 for 25 and foul out of a game -- really, the worst part of this game were the refs, who seemingly could not resist making a charge call in the last five minutes -- and every Nugget starter finished the game with five fouls, which is the kind of thing you don't see in a triple overtime game, let alone regulation.

Utah is a two man team right now, and once the Nugs get the bright idea of taking one of those two players away, the game will fall to one of the not ready for prime time players (Korver, rookie Wesley Matthews, sixth man Paul Millsap) to make a shot. And while some will fault interim coach Adrian Dantley for failing to get his Nugs to adjust, it's not as if they always adjust for their regular coach, either.

At the end of the day here, it's going to come down to which team has the best player, Williams or Anthony, and if Utah coach Jerry Sloan can continue to get good enough work from deep bench players, so that Boozer and Millsap aren't on total fumes in the clutch. I'm not seeing it, but that's not to say it won't happen, and in any event, this series is going to go long and good. Especially if the refs can let the game go without a stop every five seconds.

This James Fellow Is Good

As is fairly typical in the playoffs, the top seeded Cavs took the very best punch that the road Bulls had to offer tonight in Game Two. Chicago only turned it over 4 times against a very good defensive team, fought the Cavs to a draw on the boards, had no one in foul trouble, and even got 25 points from Joakim Noah, who averaged 10.7 per game this year. They traded the lead, were right with them down the stretch, hustled and passed and generally looked very much like the team that pushed the Celtics to the limit last year.

Unfortunately, the Cavs have LeBron James.

The best player in the world merely went for 40/8/8 last night, with 16 for 23 shooting, a steal and two blocks. With some critical support from bench player Jamario Moon (4 for 5 on three pointers) and just enough work from Antwan Jamison and Mo Williams, it was enough for a 10 point win over a Bulls team that had three starters with over 20 points.

Such is the nature of playoff hoop, where one player can just will a team to victory, provided they are ridiculously talanted and/or driven. James is, of course, both, plus on the most famous contract drive in history. TNT's Charles Barkley made the very sound point that this isn't the best way for the Cavs to beat a low seed, since it required a ton of effort and didn't do much to inspire confidence in the likes of Williams and Jamison. Me, I think a win is a win is a win in the playoffs, and that half of the time that James plays, you can get a night like this one. So how are you supposed to keep them down in Cleveland when the rest of the league is a hazmat zone from the drool of getting him for your own?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Top 11 facts about new Eagles LB Ernie Sims

The Eagles moved a fifth round pick in a three team deal with Detroit and Denver today, acquiring ex-Lions OLB Ernie Sims for a fifth round pick. What should Philly Fan know about the newest Eagle?

11) Survived that 0-16 year, which means he might be able to endure WIP

10) Has pledged to bathe in tomato juice until that Lions stink comes off

9) Is already the best Eagle earned Ernie in years

8) At 25, may be the oldest player on the team by the time training camp rolls around

7) Thanks to his immense exotic pet collection, will double the area population of snakes and other reptiles, assuming that Howard Eskin and Ed Snider remain in town

6) Stands 6 feet tall and weighs 230 pounds with 2.5 sacks and one pick in three years as a starter, which doesn't exactly scream out confidence

5) Was once ranked as the #1 high school player in the country, ahead of Reggie Bush, which doesn't exactly scream out confidence

4) Was highly regarded and drafted with the ninth overall pick by Matt Millen, which doesn't... um, I think you get the gist here

3) So far, seems to have peaked as a college sophomore

2) Was once compared to ex-Bucs standout and Hall of Fame candidate Derrick Brooks by Rod Marinelli, which helped ensure that Marinelli wasn't turned away at the sanitarium

1) Becomes the subject in the fifth trade the team has made this off-season, not that anyone is going to remember anything but that last one

Small Unspoken Moments Of Passive Aggression

Dear Gillette... Has anyone ever taken out a class-action suit for the insane way in which you show your product being used in your ads -- namely, the Glory Samurai Swipe that starts at the sideburns and ends in the middle of the chin? If I were to try that, I'd be bleeding in three places -- the bottom of my jaw line after the stupid turn, the chin as the blade, clotted with hair from the start of the swipe, jumps the track and runs aground, and my junk as I drop the damn thing in my haste to staunch the wounds. Every time I see one of your ads, I imagine some fatherless 15-year-old boy ripping his face into shreds, but since he's just trying to be like Derek Jeter, I'm strangely OK with it.

In a related note, just how much profit are you making from pricing your product at $25+ a pop for a replacement 10-pack, and how much of that goes to the athletes that probably have high-priced prostitutes shave them after taking care of the morning wood?

Dear Youngest Child, who I love unconditionally... In reference to your favorite question this month of "What time is it?" Time to go to bed. Time to go to your room. Time for Timer. Time to make the donuts. Time to go hide in the Man Cave and fill the bloghole. Time to go to work, because Daddy never looked forward to an hour and a half train and subway commute where I put in my headphones and do not hear a single word of dialog than right freaking now. Time for you to start reading clocks for yourself. Time for me to traumatize you for life about time by smashing a clock into my skull as you ask me for the fourteenth time today what time it is. Time for me to stop being a father of young children, and time to swap in the fresh hell of moody teenaged girls. Time, time, time, time, time.

Dear Poker Player Who Raises Each And Every Hand Pre-Flop While Complaining About A Lack Of Action... You do know that Atlantic City, and games with high-rolling Super Aggro Manly Testosterone Hurt Patrol Boys such as yourself, is just 90 to 120 minutes away? And that everyone at the table kind of hates you for turning the $1/$2 no limit game into a de facto $5/$10/All-In Kamikaze Wipeout Game, and that if The Poker God (and honestly, like there is any doubts as to *His* identity) were just and merciful, He would not oblige us with a low pair to trips trapping hand that not only takes back all of your stolen blinds, but your whole damn roll as you curse your terrible luck?

Oh, you do know all of these things, and actually cultivate all of that hate so as to cause me to go all-in with my unsuited Ace-10, and watch you hit two pair with unsuited and unconnected hole cards... because you are not actually playing Poker, but a private game called Prove My Run? Poker would be such a wonderful game if it weren't filled with poker players.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog about sports.

Top 10 NBA First Round Weekend Takeaways

10) All it took to make Quentin Richardson sympathetic after all these years was a punk elbow from Kevin Garnett

9) Brandon Jennings is such a defense-free ballhog that he can even make Mike Bibby's corpse look relevant

8) Even when Derrick Rose is the best player on the floor, the Bulls don't belong in the same building as the Cavs

7) LeBron James would be a plus player even if he was only good at defense

6) All it takes to make Nuggets interim coach Adrian Dantley look smart is to give Carmelo Anthony the ball on a clear out

5) The Jazz are going to run out of playable big men at about the same time as they run out of games to play

4) In the time it took you to read this, Dwight Howard blocked another shot

3) Shockingly, the Thunder may be too young to take out the Lakers

2) When the Mavs score a big hoop, TNT feels that it's important to remind you that Mark Cuban owns the team, is at the game, and is happy

1) According to Phil "The Playoffs Haven't Started Until The Home Team Loses" Jackson, only the Blazer-Sun series has started

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Top 10 MLB Two Week Takeaways

Hey, did you know that nearly 7.5% of the MLB season has already been played, and that Mets Fans are already ready to kill themselves? Maybe not on the first, and definitely on the second. But there's more -- and what a coincidink, the number is ten -- to know. Such as...

10) The A's are off to their best start since 1992 and lead the AL West by 2.5 games, and absolutely no one believes they'll keep it up

9) The Orioles are holding players only meetings, which means they are holding unattended meetings

8) After three straight losses at home to Tampa, the fourth place Red Sox are 4-8 with David Ortiz doing his feeble old man impersonation again, which means the always calm and drama-free Red Sox Nation is readying up their Web cams and nooses

7) The Houston Astros might be the worst organization in America, rather than just MLB

6) It's not true that Ubaldo Jimenez's no-hitter was the first complete game in Rockies history

5) The only thing more predictable than Mark Teixeira's slow start is that it will have no impact on the Yankee year

4) The Phillies look a lot less world-beaterish with Jimmy Rollins on the shelf and a good pitcher facing them

3) Pittsburgh is still above .500, which means that it's too early to pay attention to the standings

2) There is a very real chance that the White Sox are not only trying to make Ozzie Guillen's head explode, but that they will succeed

1) With the exception of the Astros and Mets, no one in the NL is really bad, which means that no one is really good, either

Friday, April 16, 2010

Top 10 takeaways from the Intentionally Puking Philly Phan

By now you have probably heard about the worst story of the year, but you know what you make out of the worst story of the year? The worst list. Um, enjoy?

10) This should retire that tired "They threw snowballs at Santa" meme

9) On some level, you almost have to admire the commitment to being not just a douchebag, but The Biggest Douchebag

8) Thank heavens that the Phillies won it all in 2008, or this guy would have gotten really disgusting

7) Sixer Fan has been puking for years, and can't get any media coverage

6) At stadium prices, this attack is not only disgusting, it's also quite expensive

5) As the perp is white, it's somehow all Obama's fault

4) You have to wonder if he considered another attack and just found himself, um, out of fuel

3) On the glass half full side of things, many other Philly Fans beat the hell out of the perp

2) There is no truth to the rumor that the perp prepared for his moment by thinking hard about Chris Wheeler naked

1) I'm starting to feel a lot better about the fact that my daughters do not care about sports

NBA First Round Playoff Predictions

Well folks, it's time for the very best time in the NBA season -- the first round of the playoffs. We won't get into the ugliness of how the second, third and fourth round are just less fun, at least not now, when the entire Western Conference has can't miss matchups and I spend the next six weeks not getting enough East Coast sleep. I miss living out West, kids. So, um, anyway... on to the picks!

Eastern Conference

Cleveland (1, 61-21) vs. Chicago (8, 41-41)

The best team in the league, with the best player, against a Chicago club that needed to win seven of its last ten games to finish at .500 and squeak in over a Toronto team that lost its best player (power forward Chris Bosh) with a week to go. The Bulls are also in some turmoil, with club operations chief John Paxson taking a swing at the coach last week (that can't be good, though honestly, who hasn't wanted to take a swing at Vinny del Negro?), but none of that really matters now.

This would be an easy pick for the top seed, if it weren't for the fact that the Bulls are playing their best ball of the year and scared the blue hell out of the similarly fat and happy Celtics last year in this round. Guard Derrick Rose is a prime time player, center Yannick Noah can match Anderson Vareajo flop for flop, and if Kirk Heinrich is hitting his threes, the Bulls are going to... win a game. But not more than that. Cavs Fan is about to lose those painful memories of Jordan over Ehlo.

Cavs in five.

Orlando (2, 59-23) vs. Charlotte (7, 44-38)

Larry Brown in a playoff round, with a junkyard tough defensive team of players that can defend on the perimeter (especially Gerald Wallace and Action Captain Stephen Jackson), and an actual home court? The Bugs were, lest we forget, 31-10 at home. Sign me up for a series that goes a wee bit longer than expected, especially since the Magic will get sabotaged by Vince Carter in crunch time, and Charlotte will sic Jackson on him all over the floor. Brown's also on one of his annual steal a playoff game or two salary drive to impress his new owners. You have to admire Larry's commitment to chase jobs until he dies.

Unfortunately, Dwight Howard exists, and Charlotte's only counter is 18 to 24 fouls of Theo Ratliff, Nazr Mohammed, Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw. If you need 44 wins out of a relentlessly limited lineup, Brown is so your man.

Magic in six.

Atlanta (3, 53-29) vs. Milwaukee (6, 46-36)

Fear The Deer had much more impact a couple of week ago, when Andrew Bogut was playing and John Salmons was putting up multi-category numbers under the radar. (A brief note on Salmons: What the hell? You were utterly terrible in Philly, tolerable in Sactown, oddly awesome for Chicago, then so terrible that they moved you in division... only to become oddly awesome ago. If there's a more erratic guy in the modern era, I haven't seen him.)

Salmons will still get his numbers, but the best player on the floor will be Hawk guard Joe Johnson, who the underdogs just have no answer for. I'm also of the opinion that rookie guard Brandon Jennings will be long past his expiration date for the year, and that any team that gives run in 2010 to Kurt Thomas and Jerry Stackhouse can't possibly make it to Round Two. Or past the 4pm buffet dinner.

Hawks in five.

Boston (4, 50-32) vs. Miami (5, 47-35)

In the last ten games of the year, the Heat won nine out of ten to secure this prime "upset" position, while the Celtics stumbled to a 3-7 close and won 50 games in an Atlantic division where the majority of teams played with toe tags, and was 112 games below .500. (The Raps were 40-42, and the combined record for the Knicks, Sixers and Nets: 68-178. Tasty!)

Everyone in Boston is convinced that this aging and gutless Celtics team can't possibly flip the switch and go on a deep run. Coach Doc Rivers is out the door, bigs Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett don't get to much, guard Ray Allen is streaky...

and yet, Paul Pierce is capable of shutting down Dwayne Wade in four out of seven games, the home crowd can make them care for brief periods of time, and the Heat can fall apart with the best of them. The Celts are also a very odd bunch, in that they spent much of the year running up big leads, then blowing them. They can still play defense when the mind suits them, particularly at center and point guard, and the bench has scoring options. And if Wallace actually breaks a sweat, his teammates will probably react like he just rose from the dead.

But picking them to win is still kind of nauseating, and the Heat have Wade. Also Michael Beasley, who just might have a 20-10 game or three to throw at these old and slow men.

Heat in six.

Western Conference

Los Angeles (1, 57-25) vs. Oklahoma City (8, 50-32)

Note how the eight seed here is just seven wins worse in the win column than the one, which might be some kind of record. While the Lakers enjoyed dining on the bottom feeders of the West in the Pacific Division (just like the Celtics, really -- the Clips, Warriors and Kings combined to go 80-166), the Thunder were knocking heads in the Northwest, where everyone but the DOA Wolves won 50 games. Swap their divisions, and maybe it's OK City with the home court.

Besides, the Lakers have real flaws. Kobe Bryant hasn't shot over 30% in a game in April, and hasn't gone for 30 points in forever. Point guard Derek Fisher dreams of the days when he was washed up, rather than whatever he is now. Coach Phil Jackson might be out the door, and center Andrew Bynum is doing his usual injury disappearing act. They are also facing the youngest scoring champion in NBA history in Kevin Durant, an extremely tight young defensive team that plays with real fire, a club with a real college crowd style home court advantage... and the karmic edge of having absolutely nothing to lose. It's not like anyone think the Durantula is ready to take out the Mamba.

How threatening is the Thunder? Enough so that Coach Philip was fined for $35K for gaming the refs on Durant getting to the line, probably as his Stage 1 mission to keep Ron Artest from being completely overrun. Lots of luck with that one, Coach. When Durant is on his game, he might be (shh!) the best player in the game, and certainly the most watchable. It's no wonder the refs give him calls; they want to see him play as much as the rest of us. The Lake Show has a similar mismatch problem at the point, where Russell Westbrook might deserve the Most Improved Player Award. He will, of course, eat Fisher, not that Laker Fan hasn't gotten used to seeing the opposing team's point guard do that by now.

It's just about the perfect scenario for an 8 seed to win, really; it's certainly the outcome I'll be rooting for. And yet, I just can't pull the trigger, because the Thunder are in the eight spot precisely because they didn't win enough games against cagey older opponents, and you don't get cagier than the defending NBA champions. The Lake Show is also just devastating inside when Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are dealing, which is the Thunder's biggest problem, and they'll do that enough in this series to win. But it'll be one hell of a ride, and might even go seven.

Lakers in six.

Dallas (2, 55-27) vs. San Antonio (7, 50-32)

What a terrible prize for a second seed. Dallas had a huge year with perhaps the last great performance of Jason Kidd's life, a monstrous year from Dirk Nowitzki, a solid deal for Caron Butler and more, more, more. And for that, they get a seven seed matchup against the relentlessly dangerous Spurs, who turned their year around late with a star turn from Manu Ginobili and just welcomed back point guard Tony Parker, who could absolutely torture Kidd in this series if he's right. It's the basketball equivalent of playing solid and tight in a poker tournament all night, then going all-in with a high pair on the bubble and having the bigger stacks call you. You might like your chances, but the Spurs have live cards and draws and the smile on their faces that might be pointing you to the parking lot.

For the Mavs are to hold on and win, it will be from Nowitzki destroying Tim Duncan... and there's a very real chance that this could happen. Duncan gets by on guile and fundamentals now, but there will come a playoff where he just gets crushed, and I think it's this one. The Spurs are extremely dangerous, but they are also rely on Richard Jefferson, who really isn't what they need him to be. Especially in a seven game series.

Mavs in seven.

Phoenix (3, 54-28) vs. Portland (6, 50-32)

Possibly the most visually satisfying of the first round series, with the up-tempo Suns battling the resilient Blazers. Portland survived a hopeless run of injuries, especially to their bigs, and a potential train wreck at point guard, where veteran Andre Miller was brought in with an odd free agent signing, then fought with coach Nate McMillan. Kudos to Coach Nate for keeping his team after that, but just to add injury to injury, they just lost star guard and secret killer closer Brandon Roy to knee surgery for the first round. Just unfair, on some level.

Unfortunately for Portland, they can't be expected to overcome the loss of Roy, and the Suns are just too good in the open court to be denied. Besides, this Steve Nash fellow? He's really good. And Miller isn't going to be able to defend him, or do enough to punish Phoenix on the other end, because the up tempo will take away what Miller does best, which is torture opposing point guards in the post. Phoenix is going to hit enough threes to get leads, and once it starts, it won't stop. This isn't going to be as close as people imagine.

Phoenix in five.

Denver (4, 53-29) vs. Utah (5, 53-29)

Alas, poor Utah. Every year in the playoffs, the Jazz run against a team that takes them to task athletically, and just wears them down in a long series. Utah is so well-coached that it's actually a detriment when it comes to the second season, in that they are like a horse in the home stretch that's been getting the whip for the whole track, against fresh thoroughbreds. The perils of being Jerry Sloan.

On the other side of the ball is Denver, bereft of cancer-recovering coach George Karl, and curiously unwilling to get the ball to Carmelo Anthony in crunch time. One suspects that they'll stop making that mistake in this series, if only because Melo will demand it... and if last year's playoff run is any indication, he'll come through for them on both ends of the court. Melo is 25 now, a sneaky MVP pick with his 28.2 / 6.6 / 3.2 year, and a plus defensive player when he's motivated, which is what happens in the playoffs.

He's also got to think that this season is the time, seeing how the Lakers look vulnerable, the Mavs could be out in the first round, and he has to measure himself against LeBron James... who I think he's going to meet in the finals. Especially since (shh!) Karl's not on the sideline right now. (Not to speak ill of the ill, but Furious George's track record in playoffs isn't exactly life affirming. Win one for and without the monkey, Nuggets!)

Nuggets in six.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

If Rock Acts Were High School Football Teams

The other day, it was announced that Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame was putting the band (well, OK, himself) back together for the 30th anniversary tour of "The Wall." Which led me, inevitably, to remembering that my favorite band as an overly serious teenager was something of a gloomy joke, wondering just how much money Roger needed to leave with dignity, and why anyone would go to see this... but hey, whatever floats your boat, and it's not as if anyone's ever gone broke on geezer rock plays. Give Roger enough time, and maybe he'll be playing the Super Bowl; he's nearly old enough now.

But enough of the snarkiness about how another man pays his bills, seeing as I'll probably be blogging and riding the train to make ads until I die in the harness. (Yes, I'm cheery today. Blame Waters. You think it's easy to write when you've got "The Final Cut" playing in your mental jukebox?) Thinking of Waters led me to remember a fun little trope, which is to say what the high school football team in the world of Artist X does. Don't worry if you're not quite getting the concept. It'll become obvious soon enough.

UK North

1) The Rolling Stones (10-2):
Champions in a '70s Raiders style with high penalties, aggressive defense and breakout big plays. They win ugly, win often, and have constant off-the-field distractions that make old-school character matters types uncomfortable. Also, they sell a ton of merch, and the tailgate is a sea of free meat, both culinary and sexual. Just watch out for security.

2) The Beatles (8-4): Dazzling passing game in the manner of the Montana Niners, but without the same staying power late in the season to bring home the gold. They start the year 8-0 before the team is torn apart from the star QB and WR falling in love with the same mysterious Asian cheerleader, causing dissension in the locker room and the eventual loss of both players. Despite the turmoil, the stadium never fails to sell out, the weather is always crisp and sunny, and the fans can never stop talking about that 8-0 start.

3) Led Zeppelin (7-5): A thunderous ground game and physical defense that's undone by erratic QB play, along the lines of the Buddy Ryan Eagles. Big lapses in judgment prevent them from reaching their full potential, probably from the fact that the players frequently picked up contact highs from the clouds of pot smoke coming out of the stands. Despite the mediocre record, the team is beloved.

4) The Who (5-7): A hot start and promising talent is undermined by off-the-field fatalities and scandal, along with a too conservative attack that's easily scouted in rematches. More prominent than their record would warrant, for no good reason. Think of the weak Danny White Cowboys, or maybe the Ryan Leaf Era. Man, I miss those days.

5) Pink Floyd (4-8): A buckled-down private academy with strict discipline fields a high school team that undersized, slow, and unrelentingly white. They are frequently overwhelmed by superior athleticism and the cruel machinations of referee crews that seem to foil every comeback; limbs also snap with dispiriting regularity, and every game ends in a monumentally depressing rainstorm. Eventually, the losing gets too much, and the fans burn down the stadium. Good times!

6) Joy Division (2-10): It always rains, many of the cheerleaders have unwanted pregnancies, the stands are empty, the stadium is dilapidated, and the star QB killed himself after winning his first two games, for reasons that will haunt the area forever. But on the plus side, several kids from the school have promising film careers, and those cheerleaders were fun. For a while.

Solo Central

1) Rod Stewart (11-1
): The team never loses, the sun is always shining, the cheerleaders are never out of step, and the refs give them every call. Suspicions of rampant booster abuse and cheating are never investigated, and they play in a brand-new stadium that's surgically clean. Also, everyone hates them, and the fans are total bandwagoners who don't know a thing about the game.

2) Neil Young (9-3): Ferocious passing attack and a big play defense, undermined by dazzling mistakes (Neil and the Shocking Pinks?) that somehow make the team more lovable over time. Everyone roots for them to beat Stewart, but it doesn't happen, because the world is just like that.

3) Bruce Springsteen (7-5): Plucky underdogs that have the season ruined when the running back gets the cheerleader girlfriend of the QB pregnant, then DUIs into a fatality. The QB then drinks himself into irrelevance. And yet, the mood around the stadium is upbeat. Go figure.

4) Jimi Hendrix (5-7): Wildly erratic but talented team that fills up the highlight reel, both for and against. Leads are gained and blown, gadget plays go to the house or get turned into pick sixes, and defensive players either get kill shots or whiff. But some of the sets are truly innovative, and the footage is studied by everyone else in the league for clues.

5) Lou Reed (3-9): It's just hard to win football games when most of the team are heroin junkies, the coaching staff is trying to get involved in the art world, and its always raining. The defense keeps them in games, and everyone who coaches for the team, improbably, goes on to have a career.

6) Tom Waits (1-11): Turnovers, penalties, a cheerleading squad that consists of strange old men, organ grinder monkeys and other denizens of the freak show. Games are always played late at night, in a haze of diesel smoke, in a stadium near the railroad tracks to a smattering of fans and odd groans from the building. All of the beat writers wear battered hats and trenchcoats, and the concession stands sell nothing but bourbon and losing lottery scratch off tickets. Opposing teams win, but also suffer fluke injuries, and the same fans show up every week to watch the games in silence. Despite all of that, people have a good time.

Anyway, feel free to add your own in the comments, and maybe I'll add in some acts from this century in a future post...

Top 10 takeaways from the Allen Iverson documentary

10) Hampton, VA youths had a lot to learn about throwing chairs, which makes pro wrestling just important

9) People who are in a bowling alley at midnight on Valentine's Day may be many things, but innocent isn't the first thing that comes to mind

8) Losing eight friends to murder as a child is bad, but not enough for most people to stop giggling about the "practice" soundbite

7) Anyone who thinks Iverson couldn't hit a woman really should watch him step over Tyronn Lue again

6) It's probably not a great idea to go to a Nike basketball camp in the middle of a trial

5) Iverson's white teacher who pushed him to graduate after serving time as a child didn't look much like Sandra Bullock

4) AI's questionable decisions when it comes to friendship explains that Stephen A. Smith experience

3) If Iverson somehow doesn't go to jail again in this life, it's going to disappoint a large number of people

2) This thing would have been ten hours long had Iverson grown up in New Orleans

1) Just once, it would be nice to see a white athlete get into trouble with the law and have it be considered as a microcosm for his entire race

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Top 10 Reasons the Steelers Traded Santonio Holmes

10) Holmes kept getting in the way of the media mouth jobbing of Hines Ward

9) Unlike fellow Steel City miscreants Ben Roethlisburger and Jeff Reed, Holmes has been convicted

8) This upcoming draft is so good, 79 catches for 1,248 yards in 2009 from a 26-year-old WR can't bring home more than a fifth round pick

7) Steelers were eager to tip the Jets over the "One Too Many Knucklehead" ratio at WR by pairing him with Braylon Edwards

6) It's not like Holmes ever made an utterly amazing catch to win a Super Bowl or anything

5) Given his track record, Steeler management really didn't want to see what Holmes would do under the stress of a contract year

4) Just had to see if Holmes would adapt as well to NYC as Plax Burress did

3) Sends Roethlisburger an important message that if he continues to hang out with the wrong element, they'll just make the team worse to spite him

2) Holmes had a bad influence on the team's desire to be a run-first offense

1) It's only selling low when you've got something to sell

Monday, April 12, 2010

The wrong season for history

CC Sabathia left Saturday's nationally televised game in Tampa with a ten run lead, four outs to go, and 111 pitches on the scoreboard. Rays' catcher Kelly Shoppach was on first base with the Rays' first hit of the game, a clean single to left. And the fact that Shoppach was on first might have been the best thing for Sabathia's year, and the Yankee season.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi said afterwards that if his ace had kept the no-hitter, he wasn't coming out, regardless of the pitch count. Which on some level makes sense, as Sabathia is well-paid, remarkably durable (last three years: 241, 253 and 230 innings pitched), at the peak of his powers at age 29, and had never gotten this close to history before.

But the game wasn't close. It was also happening on April 10, on the road, in a game where the Yankees could have put Kei Igawa in and still won going away. The chance at history is always a little bit selfish, and in this time and place, it was more than that.

To be truly fair to Ceec, you can also blame home plate umpire Wally Bell, who started squeezing Sabathia in the late innings and added at least a dozen pitches to what was a nice and low pitch count into the middle innings. You could also point the finger at third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who saved the no-no with a diving stab, or the other Yankee fielders who kept the try alive. Finally, you can blame Ceec's catcher, Francisco Cervelli, and the rest of the Yankee hitters for making the big lefty wait for thirty minutes while they blew the game open in the top of the eighth, and probably messed up his rhythm.

So Shoppach's clean single to left saved a lot of trouble, really. It got him out of there on a reasonable pitch count, with full honor and no controversy. And when the big man takes the ball again later this week, it will be in a situation where no one is giving him any undue attention or press coverage, with no more wear and tear on his arm than what is normal for this time of year, and no one bringing up Johnny Vander Meer, aka the only guy to do the no-no in back to back games.

Instead, Sabathia will be trying to win a game for his team, rather than make history for himself. And if that means no hitters happen less often, along with the usual feeling about how pitchers are so babied in the modern era, so be it. Because games in April really don't matter all that much, especially to the Yankees, no matter how historic they might become.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Five out of six tomato cans kicked

The Phillies have started the year with wins in five of their first six games after today's Roy Halladay gem in Houston, and the question is whether they really are as good as they've looked, or if they have just taken advantage of the schedule, which gave them the Nationals and Astros to start (and continues the largesse with the Nats at home in the next series).

First things first: Halladay is as good as advertised. In today's getaway win in Houston, he shook off late pressure to finish what he started for career win 150, and even more impressively in this day and age, his 50th complete game. Halladay's throws high heat with low effort like a scout's dream, changes speeds and levels, fields his position well, has even been feisty with the bat, and limits damage in trouble innings. There's nothing that he hasn't done well in his first two starts, especially when it comes to recovering after defensive lapses, and there's a calmness in the team behind him that's just palpable.

The rest of the rotation, of course, isn't to his level, but that's just the nature of the beast. Cole Hamels didn't quite look like his 2008 self in his first turn in DC, and Kyle Kendrick has the team's only loss. J.A. Happ, on the other hand, picked up where he left off, and Jamie Moyer's turn produced a superficially weak start, in that his one bad inning sullied the stats, but he still wound up with win #259 (by the way, his next makes him tied for 40th all-time, and if he gets to double figures this year, he'll crack the top 33). But the 2 through 5 rotation isn't what makes this team special right now.

Rather, it's the offense, which finally missed double digit hits today as Roy Oswalt kept them down, and put up 43 runs in their first 6 games. Jimmy Rollins is hitting .391, Placido Polanco .481, Chase Utley .348, Ryan Howard .357, and Jayson Werth .360. Only Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino have "struggled", with the RF hitting .250 and the CF at .185, but both have had their moments, and when the top six guys are just mashing the cover off the ball, that's how 5-1 road trips are made.

Are there problems? Of course. Brad Lidge is getting pounded in the minors, and while the bullpen has looked good -- especially Rule 5 guy David Herndon -- they could struggle later. But even if they do, the offense will give them chances, and the defense is (with the exception of Ibanez, who doesn't really have to be that great in LF) exemplary. The rest of the division has looked meh, with the Mets actally losing their series at home to Washington despite the return of Jose Reyes, the Marlins looking shaky in the pen, and Atlanta looking far too dependent on ancient Billy Wagner.

Of all of the first week division leaders (Toronto, Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis and San Francisco), they look the most legitimate to me, and they should get better when underrated #3 starter Joe Blanton gets off the shelf. And if you want to disparage them for pounding on patsies -- the Nats and Stros look like 200 combined losses to me -- great baseball teams pound the stuffing out of bad teams. The next week has the Nats and Fish at home, which means a very real chance of something like a 10-2 mark after the first two weeks... and a season with 1,000 runs scored and 100 wins.

Top 12 Masters Takeaways

12) When you have limited commercial interruptions, you might actually watch the ads that appear

11) For the amount of money that goes into this place, the fact that it's beautiful really isn't that impressive

10) In a White-Off, I'm not sure who wins among the CBS Masters broadcast team, the Masters board of directors, the spectators in the gallery, or once Tiger Woods fell out of contention, the home audience

9) While some might remember this tournament for Phil Mickelson's emotional win and post-game hug with his wife, I'm still going with Ian Poulter's purple plaid pants

8) Rooting against Tom Watson becomes a lot easier after you learn that he's a Rush Limbaugh lover

7) You've never heard announcers root for a player like CBS rooted for Woods to stay in contention, or a more snicker-inducing excuse than hearing about how much energy he's had to spend recently off the golf course

6) Since the tournament really begins on the back nine on Sunday, there's really no point in watching this thing until then

5) When Woods loses his tempter and curses now, it's very disappointing, because he's breaking his word

4) On some level, spending a glorious Sunday afternoon watching other people play golf, instead of doing it yourself, is just sad

3) Fred Couples is the rich man's John Daly, in that he hits it long, is utterly loved by the gallery, and doesn't win

2) Woods' fourth-place finish despite wildly erratic Sunday play, 24/7 tabloid coverage and acres of rust doesn't exactly smell like abject defeat

1) Mickleson's win proves that winning for your family also involves winning for your love handles, man boobs and hiding your blubber in all black clothing

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Play Poker Long Enough, And You'll See Everything... And Wish You Hadn't

So I'm playing poker at a house game just two miles from my place, a relentlessly upscale place that feels like a mini casino, only nicer. There's a 150 inch projection screen television on the far wall, a casino grade table, and dealers who are flashing a little cleavage and taking tips and a rake. It's $1/$2 no limit Texas hold'em, just like you'd see on television, save for the hole card cameras, and I'm pretty sure that the guy who runs the game is going to put them in next week. Side rooms have additional tables, and people start the night buying in for $100. It's a little outside my comfort region as a player -- I don't make enough to really put too much at risk, and when the stakes get too high, I'm not experienced enough to make my best decisions -- but what the hey, I'm here, let's make the best of it. Besides, maybe I can get some of these folks to come to my game, which is the excuse for playing in the first place.

I start off fairly card and/or flops dead, and I'm down to my last $35 when my two pair all-in bet holds up against two overs, and I triple up to near starting stack. A straight pays off nicely, as does low pairs that become trips for trapping hand payouts. I also make my best read of the night when I call with pocket 10s and the bettor had air. My stack gets to $370 at the high water mark, and I'm pleased with my play and starting to feel comfortable at the table...

When in walks an old guy -- has to be in his 70s or better. He buys in for $300, sits to my left and starts raising just about every hand, hard. He's joined by a younger player who clearly has some antagonistic history with him, and as the hour is getting late -- it's 1am now, after an 8pm-ish start time -- the dealers join in. And now I'm not just card dead, but I'm also watching $50 and $75 raises pre-flop. In other words, this is the time in the casino when I check my watch and move off... but as my ride is also in the game, I don't mean to presume. It's fold-fold-fold time, even with intriguing hands like pocket fives, and even when I do make a bet, everyone at the table comes over the top on me, sensing that I'm really not in my element, or ready to blow this whole nice stack against some kamikaze play from people who feel empowered by not having to make the drive to Atlantic City.

Which is when the craziest freaking hand I've ever seen comes off.

I'm under the gun with Ace-10 suited, the kind of hand you'd really like to see a flop on, so I limp. The raises go to $10 and I'm still inclined to see it, when two to my right in the small blind, against a mild (for this table and time) pre-flop raise, the dealer woman, in the small blind, raises to $50. One to my right, the player makes it $100. I fold and think hard about just walking home, and the old guy calls. For the last $50 the woman calls, looking like she's gotten her hand caught in the cookie jar. So with blinds and other bets that are out, there's three to the flop, and something like $300 in the pot. It comes out is 7-7-2, and the small blind checks. The big blind goes all-in, the old guy folds, and the dealer woman calls. She turns over... 7-2, to his pocket kings, then watches her hand improve to quad 7s on the river, and pulls in the largest pot of the night with the worst starting hand in hold'em.

Her post-hand reaction is priceless. "I meant it as a joke." So not only am I not playing the same game as these people, I don't even share what counts as humor.

It's a really nice room, it's only a couple of miles from my house, and they play every night. I wound up clearing $190 for the night after my buy in, even after the rake and tipping the dealers. And as soon as my testes swell to five times their normal size, I'll return. The room has, of course, invited me back.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Top 10 Things We've Learned This Week From Sports Blogs

10) Tiger Woods is incredibly courageous, focused and historic for having a good first round at a course that he historically dominates

9) Umpire Joe West is America's greatest living hero for trying to get the Yankees and Red Sox to play a game in less than four hours

8) Nike are incredible advertising and public relations geniuses, which is why their latest ad for Woods is being parodied all over the Web

7) Kenyon Martin might not be the easiest guy in the world to have as a teammate, but listening to a man get angry is high-larious

6) The WNBA had a draft, and since it consisted of people who will play in the WNBA, it wasn't very interesting

5) What Erin Andrews does in her free time profoundly affects every woman who works in sports media

4) Tim Tebow can only be the biggest star or bust of the 2010 Draft

3) When the Nationals sell out their stadium to fans from other markets, this is somehow more repugnant than starting Stephen Strasberg in the minors, Willie Harris in right field, Pudge Rodriguez at catcher, Jason Marquis on the mound or a bench spot for Willy Taveras

2) Guys who wrestle for a living sure do wind up dead a lot

1) Only unconnected outsiders can know the real story of Donovan McNabb's departure from Philadelphia

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