Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top 10 reasons why MLB is adding more playoff teams

10) Too many people still pay attention to the regular season

9) Want to ensure that, no matter what, we never have to endure a Yankee-free playoff

8) With more playoff games, we ensure that the tyranny of old players holding records will end

7) By giving each division winner a bye, we help to make sure the never-tiresome momentum or rest debate that sports media just can't get enough of

6) Two more teams means at least six to ten more clueless franchises that stay in the hunt in August for a fake playoff "hunt"

5) Gives us all more chances for a sub-.500 team to make the playoffs, which is, after all, the dream of every major league

4) Extra playoff games means more innings on vulnerable young arms, which means more injuries and fewer big contracts

3) No one who is still watching games remembers a real pennant race anyway

2) The wild card is Bud Selig's legacy, so if we expand it, maybe he'll go away

1) Necessary stage to that magical day when the season ends in a one-game elimination tournament with 32 teams

Top 10 reasons why Plaxico Burress wants to be a Philadelphia Eagle

"Nothing else would make me happier," says the WR. What are the real reasons why he wants to come here?

10) Some how thinks he can beat the high bar set by the last ex-Giants WR who came here, Steve Smith

9) Knows that if he plays badly, Andy Reid will still service him with a vengeance

8) With Michael Vick on the team, it's not as if the roster could get any more unlikable, and he'd have someone to share jail stories with

7) Might, just might, be better than Jason Avant or Riley Cooper, in that he's actually been good at some point in his career

6) It's rare that a guy with 45 catches for 612 yards can name his own team

5) Really, really hates Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy, as well as all of their fantasy owners

4) Talks once or twice a week with Vick right now, and never really gets enough time in the conversation to delve into the more esoteric points and facets of astrophysics, neurosciences, and Eastern philosophy

3) As a guy who actually runs precise routes, mostly because he no longer has any real foot speed, would be unique to the roster

2) After watching what the Eagles paid Smith last year, we can pretty much count on every high-priced past his prime WR wanting to come sit with the softest marks in the league

1) Pretty sure that Eagle Fan would never, ever boo him, hold his past against him, or make unkind remarks, since we have no memory and a blind love for all of Coach For Life Reid's decisions

Lucy Holds The Basketball

So I'm working out at the gym tonight, catching the only NBA game on the treadmill; it's Mavs-Nets from Dallas. And it's your classic NBA script, in that the road underdogs start off hot and have an early lead, then piss it away under pressure from the cagey veterans, and suffer one of those feel even worse, but think they can build from this, kind of losses. Dallas didn't score for something like the first half of the fourth quarter, led for the first time in the third quarter and never got any real lead. And Brook Lopez was having the game of his injury-riddled year, and Dirk Nowitzki was looking all kinds of old... but still. When I left the treadmill with three minutes left, the Nets led by 8. When I looked up again after my rack of free weights, they were down by 1 in the final minute. Same old Nets.

But then Lopez got to the line and gave them the lead again. And Jason Kidd missed from distance, giving the Nets a chance to put the dagger in. They didn't, of course, because they are the Nets... but on the game's final possession, Nowitzki couldn't get free for a shot, Kidd nearly mishandled, and it ended with a 30-foot heave that missed. Ball game to the visitors, the kind of 1-point game that the young road club never wins, the kind of home loss the defending champions never suffer. Interesting. Very interesting. The hoop equivalent of Lucy van Pelt holding the football, and Charlie Brown putting it through the uprights. Worth a comment, really.

Firstly, because it says something about the Nets. This isn't a playoff team, not close due to the loss of Lopez for nearly half of the sprint season, but the idea that they need to sell off all assets for Dwight Howard to have a competent team in Brooklyn next year might be a whiff. If, and it's a huge if, you can keep the center healthy and pair him with point guard Deron Williams, that's a very reasonable start to things. Kris Humphries may be a a reality TV punchline and dead from the neck up, but he's also an athletic 4 who has a feel for rebounding and decent enough hands to finish down low. Anthony Morrow is a pure shooter who would be a fine thing off a bench. Marshon Brooks has been the rookie of hope this year; he's got handle, skills, and some hope for a bench role. Avery Johnson may have the most irritating voice in the NBA, but his teams try hard and play defense, which is more than half of the battle when you are trying to show competence. In the last couple of weeks, they have road wins over Philly, the Linsanity Knicks and the defending champions, all of whom are likely playoff teams with real home court advantages. If all things shake out, it's in the 35 to 45 win range of mediocre; if you sell everything for Howard, it's probably still in the same area code, absent any other talent imports. I've seen worse teams. Hell, Boston might be a worse team.

Finally, the Mavs. The world is not teeming with respect for last year's champion; as a matter of fact, I think we're all still trying to figure out just how they did it. But man alive, did this team lose some defensive teeth in Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson, and it's generally not a win for one of the oldest teams in the league to lose all of their plus athletes on defense. Time after time, Lopez and Humphries were able to attack the rim and get second chance opportunities, and if you knew nothing else about these teams other than this game, you'd be hard-pressed to peg Dallas as the better club.

They could, of course, be playing possum (or Boston, as the NBA goes)... but at home, first night back from the All-Star break, hardly seems like the time for it. And sure, they were hot before the layoff, so maybe this was just an off night for them. It happens.

But rarely against a team like the Nets, and rarely in a way that would make you question who and what they were, moving forward. And yet another reason why I'm loving this odd little year in the Association...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Small Question For Cablevision's Free NBA League Pass Preview

I went to this part of my caa....

bbbbblllleeee channel coverage tonight to watch some of the free


view and I I I I I I I I I I I was wonder wonder wonder wondering...

Just how many people do you ex


pect to pay for the rest of the sea sea sea sea sea son

when your product is so inter inter intermittent with the audio

and the picture looks like some some some some something I might see

on a cell cell cell phone from 2003

in a tunnel?

(The lesson, as always: Cablevision sucks. But it's still better than DirecTV, who have been trying to steal money from me for five and a half years and counting.)

Top 12 reasons why Jason Varitek is retiring

12) Like everyone else involved in the 2011 Red Sox, just a big fat quitter

11) Got well and truly tired of correcting all of those people who thought he retired years ago

10) Could no longer justify drafting himself in his own fantasy league

9) Now that the Wakefield Terror is gone, there's just no more challenge to it

8) Sounds better than "no one will give him a job"

7) His body is turning 40, and his knees are turning 80

6) Catchers, even in the American League, have to throw to second base on occasion

5) With the Red Sox signing the immortal Kelly Shoppach, knew that there was no way he was going to beat out that competition

4) Knew that if he heard "Sweet Caroline" one more time, he was going to go postal

3) Was only active for the past two years to outlast Jorge Posada

2) Somehow didn't think he'd get the last 107 HRs he needs to get to 300 and Cooperstown

1) No beer in the clubhouse, no 'Tek in the dugout

Monday, February 27, 2012

The FTT Movie Review: Moneyball

This sat in my house for a month before I played it.

Understand this: nothing stays in my house for a month. I'm a cheap son of a bitch when it comes to rented DVDs, and they don't stay in my house for a couple of weeks at a time.

The reason why it sat was that I'm incredibly conflicted about the subject matter.

Know this: the A's made me a baseball fan again. In 2000, I hadn't really cared about baseball for five years. My Phillies tore my heart out by the roots in 1993 when they lost to Toronto, and even worse, they stopped trying very soon afterwards, puling that the 5th largest media market in the country -- and the second largest with only one team -- wasn't enough to try until they got a new stadium. Between those two factors and the strike, I couldn't have been more disgusted with a sport. I didn't have a blog, didn't have a fantasy league, didn't have a team. The Yankees could win as many championships as they wanted, and I didn't give a damn. I don't think I watched a game for four or five years.

Then I had a kid. And the A's were a few miles away from where I lived, and it was a nice night out, and on a whim, I asked my wife if she wanted to go to a game. Night out, baby in a car seat, didn't cost much, what the hell.

They sucked me right in. Hard. It became the thing I did with the youngest when she needed to get out of the house, an easy ride on the BART train, ply her with concessions and amusement in the kid's zone, packed snacks and coloring books and all of that. I became an expert in how to take an infant to a game, and took her to something like 20 games a year. I did this for years, got my heart torn out at multiple playoff games and got more emotionally invested in them than even my childhood club.

And now they suck, and they have sucked for years, and will suck for a few more years. And the really awful part about all of this is that Billy Beane hasn't helped matters for years, has been coasting on his moves from earlier in the decade, and has been the architect of terrible drafts and worse offenses.

Well, back to the movie.

Brad Pitt's pretty great, Jonah Hill's pretty great, Philip Seymour Hoffman's aces, and any movie that lets me listen to Bill King (the A's beloved and deceased play-by-play man) wins on every level. The movie spends it's time on Beane, and to a lesser extent Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford, aka the poster children of the book... when the 2002 A's won games due to Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Billy Koch. Which is to say, no one that gets more than a line or two of dialogue, or a scene or two of actual game play.

It doesn't help, of course, that I know how Fat Jeremy Brown's career ends (quits the game without making the majors, could have been had five rounds after Oakland force fed him in the first). It also doesn't help to know how much of the stars fed the 2002 team. The movie works anyway, and the extra features are also solid. If you like baseball, you'll like this movie.

I like baseball. I liked the movie.

But dammit, I didn't want to.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

40 Yards And A Pile Of What

So I watched more of this, um, event this year than any point in my life -- ten minutes while on a treadmill at my gym on Saturday, and there was literally not another thing on. In that time, I saw:

1) Jeff Saturday say nothing of any real consequence as the panel discussed Peyton Manning's 2012 plans, which might have been illuminating had one of the panel been, well, Peyton Manning or someone from the Colts management, and had sodium pentathol been administered

2) Offensive lineman run in a straight line for 40 yards, which is to say, something they might get to do a few times a game for no real purpose, unless you like running them out there on special teams

3) Civilians run in a straight line for 40 yards, cause that's, um, fun, at least in comparison with the rest of the programming

4) Tight ends run in a straight line for 40 yards, which is a little more helpful, unless you'd like to see how fast they'd do it in pads, with someone trying to impede their progress, or with a rudimentary concept of route-running or hands, and

5) A long discussion of which tight ends ran which speed in past years, all of which was more or less eradicated from relevance by the fact that Rob Gronkowski didn't, well, work out at the damn thing due to injury.

I get that some folks miss football, need football, can't stand that it goes away for 6+ months a year.

But you are watching men run in a straight line for 40 yards. Which is about as far away from football, as well, basketball. Or spring training baseball. Or watching paint dry. All for the joy of being able to say that you saw that guy at the Combine, and you knew, oh yes you did, that he was going to be The One.

From running 40 yards in a straight line.


People watch this?

Top 10 NBA All Star Game Takeaways

10) It was good that Orlando didn't deal Dwight Howard before this game, because that would have somehow ruined something that doesn't matter enough to ruin

9) There is no doubt now that shooting three pointers is officially cooler than dunking, at least to the NBA's real stars

8) TNT's on-court microphones picked up Howard actually caring about defense, which is just kind of odd, really

7) Even in games that don't matter, Blake Griffin can't shoot free throws

6) If you are wondering why the West had a big lead until late, you need look no further than the idea that the East had 2 guys from the below .500 Celtics make the team and combine to shoot 2 for 11 (yes, seriously, 2 for 11 in an All-Star Game)

5) The teams combined to set a new All-Star Game record for three pointers made, and the fewest number of them defended

4) The sooner the game was over, the faster we got to stop looking at those god-awful uniforms

3) As always, the last five minutes were mildly interesting and resembled an actual game

2) Actual timeouts were called in the final minute, like it mattered who won and lost

1) Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James all choked in the final seconds, so everyone went home happy

A Small And Obvious Point About The Slam Dunk Contest

I watch an awful lot of NBA basketball.

I am the commish in an NBA fantasy league. Have been for 10 years.

I watch, on average, over a dozen games a week.

I listen to NBA podcasts, read NBA feeds on Twitter, and in short, love the Association.

The NBA's new Slam Dunk champion is Jeremy Evans.

Evans plays for the Utah Jazz. For less than six minutes a game.

The Jazz are a .500 club, and I've watched a lot of their games, seeing how I own Al Jefferson on my team.

Getitng playing time on Utah should not be that difficult, honestly.

I've never seen Evans play before tonight. I've never even heard of Evans before tonight.

His dunks didn't exactly make me want to go find out more about him, though I suppose they were fine.

Um, NBA? You *might* want to encourage some of your, you know, real players to join this event again.

Or just freaking end it already...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Top 10 reasons why Ryan Braun won his drug suspension appeal

10) The urine sample in question ws not absolutely, positively delivered overnight

9) Law of averages says that eventually there has to be an MLB MVP that isn't dirty

8) Matching the local clothing, music and food, steroids have not yet actually made it to Milwaukee

7) As is usual when MLB's process is shown to an outside observer, the outside observer rejected MLB utterly

6) The prayers of the nation's fantasy baseball players were answered

5) For once, a leaked report actually hurt management

4) Since Prince Fielder is gone, arbitrator decided that Milwaukee has already suffered enough

3) Braun completely broke the profile of explosive offensive growth, recurring injuries and lawyering up

2) Getting off on a technicality is, after all, the new American dream

1) As Manny Ramirez is sure to note any minute now, Braun has the wrong skin color for suspensions

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Heat Are Not Interested In Compelling Stories

So tonight in Miami, the Heat did something no one in the NBA has been able to do for the better part of a month: they made Jeremy Lin look ordinary. At best.

Like many games involving the Heat when they seem to care, this was the kind of game where you kept looking at the score and wondering why the margin wasn't twice as big as it currently was. By focusing their defensive intensity on Lin with the superior athleticism that is their hallmark, Miami was able to limit penetration, make ballstop Carmelo Anthony the focus of the offense, and more or less dial back the clock a month to when New York was a sub-.500 team and Lin was nothing more than a cognoscenti curiosity.

It was, of course, nothing what the national television audience wanted, especially with a small slate of games on the last night before the All-Star Weekend, aka the weekend that watchaable sports does not really exist. How bad was Lin, really? The Knicks actually looked better for stretches with Baron Davis on the floor, and Davis on his third team in a year. Yes, so is Lin, but you get the point. The Knick PGs went 1 for their first 14 from the floor, had more turns than assists, and never seemed to belong on the same floor as the Heat.

It is, of course, unfair to judge the Knicks too much on a single mid-week game, on the road, against the team with the best record in the NBA. But that's the mean fact of life in the NBA: the gap between the best teams (Miami, OKC) and the next tier is just substantial, to the point where you just can't see outcomes other than a 1 seed vs. 1 seed finale. As encouraging and refreshing as the Lin story has been, as much as it has seemed to open the possibility that anything can happen in the NBA... well, um, no. Not in a best of seven series, not when your coach is Mike D'Antoni, aka a coach who has always found himself behind the bench for entertaining pretenders, and not when three of your five starters are ordinary, at best, defensive players. Sorry about that.

I Appreciate This, If Only Because It Seems To Be Mocking Kobe Bryant

Lots of naughty words, so you've been warned.

Top 10 reasons why Jeremy Lin is turning down endorsements

The point guard's agent, Roger Mont- gomery, reports that the newest star in the New York sky has received over 1,000 emails from organizations wanting to link his celebrity with their product... but to date, he's been hesitant to strike agreement. What's causing his reluctance?

10) Hasn't been getting enough feedback from the Almighty on which deals are the right ones to go for

9) Afraid of upsetting Carmelo and Amar'e, since they clearly should have first dibs on any of this

8) Insists on equal deals for Landry Fields and Steve Novak

7) Keeps meaning to sign a contract, but can't stop turning them over to get it done

6) Knows that between Harvard and his church affiliations, any endorsement deals would just be auto-tithed anyway

5) Still trapped in the irony loop of his merchandise being made in Chinese and Taiwanese sweatshops

4) Now that he's got a place to stay and everything, doesn't understand just what he'd do with more money anyway

3) The deal that he signed to give up his soul for basketball success excluded monetary rewards in the fine print

2) Every time he tries to sign a deal, Mike D'Antoni puts him back into the game

1) Baron Davis keeps telling him this is all a fad, and he doesn't want to disappoint any potential sponsors

Youth Will Be Served

So I caught a bit of Celtics-Thunder tonight, which wound up being a thoroughly expected 15-point win for the home team, their 11th in a row in OK City. It's also the fifth straight loss for my least favorite laundry in the Association, who is looking more and more like a fringe playoff team and first round out for the Bulls/Heat machines... and if it goes anything like the middle sections of tonight's game, it will be positively speed-bumpish. OKC was up 27 in the third before the Cs had enough pride to make it respectable, with the cornerstone being a 30-3 (!) run that ran for the better part of a quarter.

Now, there were extenuating circumstances, of course. Rajon Rondo missed the game thanks to his propensity to throw the ball at the refs, and no one is really coming close to the Thunder at home. For a dominant team, the Thunder are a wee bit thin on scoring, and have no dependable low-post presence on offense; they also turn the ball over just enough to keep games from being total rollovers. But their defensive intensity, length and athleticism is up in the Miami/Chicago realm, and in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, they have the two best creators in the game in the half court, and guys that really do run in the LeBron James / Dwyane Wade circles in the open. When they are clicking, this team is scary.

But that's not really what I came here to post about tonight. Rather, it's this: basketball isn't usually a sport in which crushes are compelling. Normally a game gets out of hand due to the combination of good play and bad, and then the clock takes over and the garbage guys come in and it's apparent to all concerned that this one's over, and the garbage minutes hit with a vengeance. Getting to garbage is, in fact, a common trait of really good teams, since it leads to more team harmony (deep bench players getting minutes), greater depth in case of injury, and less wear and tear on your top players -- especially critical in situations like this sprint season.

And there's also this. Basketball is like boxing, in that there's no way to sugarcoat it when you are too old and not dextrous enough to compete... and that 30-3 run was all of that and a bag of hurt for Boston Fan. Paul Pierce used to be able to lock down anyone you threw him at; he had no answers at all for Durant, mostly because no answers really do exist for that man. And yes, yes, yes, the Cs made a run and could still be good in a playoff series or four, Dracula-style, the same way they always are... but five-game losing streaks and 7 of 8, with dropped games to Detroit (twice!) and Toronto don't exactly inspire confidence.

And neither do 30-3 runs on national television, when the opponent is whipping up highlights and basically making you look like the other in a Globetrotter game. I get that OKC can do that to people, but if you see a panic trade or two come from the Cs soon, remember that stretch. And a team that looked old, slow, and hardly at all in the way, really...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Honeymoon Closer

With camps opening in Florida and Arizona, it's time for the by the numbers puff pieces in MLB. For Philly, that's all about Roy Halladay saving some dudes from an anaconda (um, yeesh)... and Jonathan Papelbon greeting the media and talking about the last time he took the mound, with the Red Sox's playoff lives on the line and a dome half-full of people who wanted to see him fail. Which he more or less did.

There's no doubt that going from the AL to the NL is going to agree with the right-hander, in that it agrees with nearly every pitcher, really. Closers rarely thrive against the same guys they've seen a million times, and after half a decade in the AL East meat grinder, I'm reasonably sure that there are some Yankees he's spent more time with than your average married couple. While the Bank isn't exactly a pitcher's haven, it's not going to be much worse than Fenway, and while Philly Fan isn't anyone's idea of warm and cuddly, again, new is probably better.

But there's also this... I'm not sure anyone is giving the guy an incredibly long leash. Many of the region's fans are savvy enough to think that his contract was an awful lot to spend for a closer on the downside of his career, and those that aren't are just going to go for resentment of the new rich guy. Papelbon has been prickly with the media before, and Philly's is one of the worst in the country when it comes to inventing their own hullabaloos, especially now that local media is in the end-game of print media's death. On a club with a potentially average offense, with aging stars all over the place, in a division where the doormats both spent money like water in the off-season to stop being doormats...

Well, let's just say this. I don't think his jersey is going to sell a lot. Or that you should buy it.

Oh, and one final point... between the revolving injury door of Brad Lidge, Jose Contreras, Antonio Bastardo (love that name) and Ryan Madson, the Philly closers were damn near infallible in 2011.

So the best that little lord rich bucks is going to be... is status quo. For a lot more money. That's a fun role.

Welcome to town, Paps!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Lakers Meet On The Ledge

Play us in, Richard. Love this tune.

So anyway... the Lakers called a players-only meeting, just after a blowout win over Portland, to clear the air about trade rumors.

No, seriously.

No one has been traded (yet; the team just seems desperate to move Pau Gasol for nickles on the dollar, and the idea that anyone wants Metta World Peace to play basketball for them in this country is kind of charming, really), and none of the players -- no, not even Kobe -- has the ability to make or block trades. So what, exactly, were they meeting about? Their sterling .500-ish record? The fact that no one in La La Land seems to prefer watching them play over the nouveau dunking Clippers? The idea that after his summer and fall of microphones, Derek Fisher just can't get through his day without a pointless meeting or six?

No, no, no, you see, it's all about getting focus and pushing past distractions and holding true to team leaders (Fisher, Gasol, Bryant)... and, um, just what the hell are they drinking out there, anyway?

The Lakers are ugly this year; the bench isn't very good due to the ruinous sell-off of Lamar Odom, and they are getting long in the tooth anyway, with the exception of Andrew Bynum. But that's a pretty big damned exception, really, and the West is wide open if the Thunder aren't dominant, because there really isn't a second dominant team. Sure, the Spurs have won an awful lot of games, but it's mostly the same outfit that got curb stomped by the Grizzlies last year; they don't really scare anyone. Portland is a charming fraud as always, Dallas is older than the Lakers and somehow had en even worse off-season, and then you are down to the guys that haven't done it before (Clips, Nuggets). All things being even, the only really sure thing the Lakers should be doing for the next 30-odd games is playing the hand thaat they've been dealt, trusting in the idea that in the playofffs, size matters and benches generally don't, so they could *easily* go on a good deep run.

Unless, of course, the *real*story behind this meeting is that Mike Brown has (already?) lost the team, which isn't hard to imagine, given how little control Phil Jackson had over them at the end. I've seen a half dozen or more Laker games this year; as usual, they are better when Kobe moves the ball, unless he's in Beast Mode, and the defense is intermittent but deadly in spurts. I like their chances to win the crown better than, well, anyone in the West but OKC, and anyone in the East but Miami and Chicago.

So... that's really worth blowing the club up in Gasolocide? Why not just save yourselves the trouble and run Brown already, since you are going to do that in another 10 months as is?

Billy, We're Done

So Manny Ramirez has agreed to a deal with my A's. Which is to say that my team has hired Manny Ramirez.

They say it's zero risk. If he doesn't hit or becomes a distraction, they release him and eat $500K, which is nothing, even to Oakland. If he hits, they sit on him until June, then play him until they can get two shiny nickels at the trade deadline, and woo. What a smart team those Oakland fellers are.

You see, the team has a hard time drawing good offensive players in Oakland. People don't like to go to that park, or play for a team that's going to be a punching bag to Texas and Anaheim. It's all about loading up for 2015 or so. Trust the plan. Billy Beane is very, very smart. Just ask him. Or the media that's been giving him a free pass, Andy Reid-like, for most of the past decade.

Here's the problem with that plan. BILLY BEANE HAS BEEN DRAFTING GUYS FOR THIS TEAM FOR 10 FREAKING YEARS. Many times with reasonably high picks.

Cliff Pennington doesn't hit, and isn't about to start. Jeremy Brown didn't hit enough to even make the majors and not hit there. Daric Barton hit as many home runs in 2010 as you and I, in 280 fewer at bats, WHILE PLAYING FIRST BASE. None of the outfielders they've kept -- which means all of them except Andre Ethier and Carlos Gonzalez -- have hit. Kurt Suzuki hits OK for a catcher, which means they hit him third here. No, seriously.

But Manny's changed, says the mouth breathers at ESPN. He's ecstatic! Thrilled to be making $500K playing baseball! Not going to be a distraction at all!

And for once, I agree with him. Distractions involve guys on the good side of 40, with a defensive position, who still have an actual role in baseball. Not pond scum, two-time (convicted) steroid abusers, with an off the field rap sheet the size of many, many heads...

I don't care if Manny has anything left in the tank. I don't care if he can be flipped like a 1-bedroom teardown with fire damage with two months of care and a fresh coat or six of paint. I don't care if he brings in 20-30K more rubberneckers to the Mausoleum in their faded Red Sox and Dodger Mannywear. Because even if they do get something out of him, then trade him... BILLY BEANE IS GOING TO BE THE GUY NAMING THE PROSPECTS.

You know, the guy who just approved signing Manny Ramirez, when 29 other MLB franchises said no freaking way.

What I do care about is supporting an organization that would *take* the at bats they are going to squander on this sideshow and give them to a player that, I don't know, doesn't make decent people spit and make the organization that plays him look like the Bingo Longo Traveling All-Stars and Freak Show. And after ten years of Beane running the show, drafting the players, having complete control on every trade...

They don't have a single guy they'd prefer to give ABs to over Manny Freaking Ramirez. A guy who wasn't any good in his age-38 season in Chicago, which is to say, a good park to hit in. A guy who was downright awful in spring training and before he got caught taking roids in his age-39 season in Tampa, which is to say, a neutral park to hit in. He's supposed to be good at 40, in the biggest pitcher's park in the league, presumably without help from the needle?

This isn't Moneyball anymore. This isn't a smart $1/$2 player working with bad cards at the $50/$100 table. This isn't the littlest smartest team that could.

This is just a con game, and I'm tired of getting conned. And anyone still rooting for this laundry is doing the same.

Today, I'm an ex-A's fan. Assuming there is anyone left, I hope you enjoy the Manny Era.

And every other con after it...

Monday, February 20, 2012 Misses The Demographic

I realize that we live in an age of Photoshop, when faking things is very quick and easy.

This isn't faked.

It is, instead, an actual promotional email that I got in my box today, because I am on's list for such things.

And I guess there are portions of the email list -- female parts? Mets fans who long to watch something with more testosterone in it than the last 5+ years of effort? -- that might respond to the offer...

And since I live within range of a Broadway visit (and have, in fact, gone to more than a few shows -- American Idiot and Macbeth and Cyrano de Bergerac and The 39 Steps and Avenue Q and Speed-The-Plow and Venus In Furs among them, which is to say, stuff that profiles out as pretty masculine, and not particularly transgendered, not that there's anything wrong or right with that).... well, I guess the co-promotional marketing spam makes some *tiny* amount of sense.

But, um, still. Really?

Top 12 ways the Red Sox are going to win back their fans' trust

Josh Beckett says that "lapses in judgment" were made by last year's historically collapsing team, and that they've got to win back the fans' trust. How are they planning on doing that?

12) Keep Andrew Bailey healthy, Mark Melancon experienced in games that matter, and Bobby Jenks thin

11) Make Carl Crawford try much, much harder for his nearly $15 million a year in platoon outfield play

10) Keep telling anyone with a mic how Boston Fan is really and truly the bestus fan in the whole wide world

9) Promises to personally not get any fatter, more drunk or stupider

8) Run the only manager and general manager who has won a championship for this laundry in the last 95 years

7) If they have another huge lead in September, not just assume that Tampa is going to quit like last year

6) Personally guarantee that the team's best offensive players won't get hurt

5) Sing along to "Sweet Caroline" without any discernible lack of enthusiasm or trace of irony

4) Adopt Major Quimby-esque accents

3) Throw at Yankee hitters whenever possible, since that sort of thing never seems bush-league or backfires

2) Trade off anyone who can stay healthy and be tolerable defensively while playing shortstop

1) Win some games or something

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nothing Left To Prove

Today on the biggest stage the NBA can muster in February -- Sunday game, national broadcast, Madison Square Garden stage, defending champion Mavericks on a season-high winning streak and fully healthy -- Jeremy Lin and the Knicks did it again.

Now, he's *not* the best point guard in the league: a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio (and yes, the turnovers are overblown considering how much he's got to handle it in this offense, and the minutes he's racking up, but still), and the assumption that Derrick Rose is going to get healthy and be Derrick Rose again prevents that. He's also likely to break down under the workload at some point, since the Knicks are running him out there for 40+ minutes a game right now, mostly because they fall apart without him.

And I don't think that just because they've got JR Smith on the bench now, and Carmelo Anthony back any day now, that they are guaranteed to be better for the change. Both of those guys can shoot you out of a game, and aren't immune to the kind of decisions that keep teammates from hustling. Finally, even under the best of assumptions, they are defensively challenged with the guys who are likely to get the most floor time.

But Lin, his own damn self? There isn't anything more that this guy could have done in the last two weeks and counting to make his team better. The Knicks matter now, seem very likely to make a run at winning the division, and could be hosting a first-round division series.

So if you sick of him now, or sick of hearing about the Knicks, or wonder just how much hype you are going to have to endure to get your sports on... well, I'm sorry.

Fire, Aim, Ready

Are you, like me, wondering just how low we'll go in the throwback fad? Having seen the Memphis Tams abomination, as well as the recent Clippers and Spurs eyesores, I know I am... but the fun part of the thing, really, is the idea that you will get the exact same outfit as what they wore back in the day. Fans of the Houston Astros baseball team -- yes, I was as surprised as you were that not only was Houston still in the league after the Ed Wade Era, but also had fans -- were going to have the opportunity to get their hands on the original Colt 45s gamers.

Missing, of course, the smoking revolver that is more or less the whole point of the outfit in the first place.

You see, the gun is just too, um, well, on the point for modern eyes. Perhaps it would be picked up by the Wrong Type Of People (young criminals, as if they cared enough to buy American), rather than ironic hipsters or old fans. Maybe they thought they would get picketed by anti-gun activists, as if they actually have them in Texas. And perhaps, just maybe, that the whole kerfluffle has been designed to get this laundry the extra PR juice that, well, I'm giving it right now.

But that's not really the point I'd like to make, simply because the gear isn't interesting enough to make real coin in any market. Rather, it's this peculiar desire among fans -- because, well, they are the ones that are buying this stuff -- to mark themselves with the past, the past that can never disappoint, discourage, or humiliate the wearer. A throwback jersey is one that won't show up on Deadspin, TMZ or the Smoking Gun, and they also can't suddenly go to another franchise or become otherwise unwearable. I get the appeal, I really do.

But you can't go changing the look, losing the logo, or otherwise white-washing the era. The Houston Colt 45s were an expansion team with a couple of truly great players, the best known of whom were Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn. They played in a stadium were grass could not grow because it was indoors, so they invented Astroturf. They never won a World Series, not even once, and have racked up quite a history of lowly publicized angst. They changed their name and identity to the Astros.

And their original jersey had a smoking gun on it. So should the throwback, if a throwback should be allowed to exist. Fire me out.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Top 10 reasons why Tim Wakefield is retiring

10) No one takes him seriously when he says he wants to go back to playing first base

9) Many players that he broke in with are, well, dying of old age

8) Just not certain he can bring the mid-50s heat anymore

7) Satan has let him know that honestly, the jig is up

6) Aaron Boone threatening a comeback

5) Just can't bring himself to work without Tito Francona, Theo Epstein, and the bubbly effervescence that is J.D. Drew

4) Someone finally showed him what the Internet is, and that there have been mean people saying things about him there

3) Doesn't want to ever seem as silly as that rag arm Jamie Moyer

2) Knows that by the ever-dropping standards of wins and the ever-shrinking number of guys who didn't use steroids, 200 wins is enough to get him into Cooperstown eventually

1) Just really, really enjoys being, like everyone else on the 2011 Red Sox, a big fat quitter

Friday, February 17, 2012

3am Friday Quickies (With Music!)

So we are officially into the part of the sports year where, short of writing about the obvious thing over and over aglin (oh, the typos are punny), or devolving into the site traffic and withering scorn from the audience that is pure NBA play... well, here's where the timesuck on this little hobby gets strong. You have to think hard and think long, carve out some time to get something original out there, or it's obvious to all that you are going through the motions.

Maybe with video clips. Shameless video clips.

Anyway. There's also the fact that my day job has gone to triple shifts this week. Something's gotta give, folks, and it's the long-form, actually edited and reconsidered treatments of the following three posts. So you get them, instead, Twitter Steroid Size. Eat, eat, eat.

1) 2012 is not a make or break year for Coach For Life Reid, because short of 10 losses with a healthy roster and no excuses (mutually exclusive sets), he's going to be here in 2013. Why? Because the stadium will still sell and the ratings will still be fine, and to actually cut him loose would require a fundamentally arrogant and out of touch organization to do the one thing that fundamentally arrogant and out of touch people can't do -- admit that they are not, in fact, the smartest people in the room.

So snuggle up and stick a sock in the Make Or Break Year talk, people. That was 2011; he broke and made. All over, in the potty training vibe, and we put him back in a fresh nappy and asked him to please don't do it again. Yes, that's a disgusting image. It suits them.

If you really want to call it a MOBY, you're going to have to stop watching their games and stop going to their stadium. Then convince another 3 million people for the former, and 30,000 for the latter, to do the same. Which isn't going to happen. Reid will have the job until his sense of shame makes him resign. Which, judging from his gut and kids... will not happen anytime soon. Snuggle snuggle, Coach For Life! Have another binkie. Or six.

2) I'm looking to fundamentally change everything about how I play poker, because after five years of bookwork and mixed experiences, it's time to Take Steps that I simply haven't felt that I had to do before, in that the steps are time-consuming and not very fun at all, but neither is the way I've been playing for, well, way too long.

This is where, if you play in my game, you wonder what the hell I've got in mind. And the answer is... not forthcoming. Next hand.

3) Anyone who looks at the 2012 Phils and thinks that an NL East win is the bare minimum is living in more than a little bit of dreamland. The starting 8 are almost entirely on the downside, and the right side of the infield could be up on blocks for more than a little period of time. This isn't a very good offense any more, and the best the bullpen will do is status quo. Miami got better, Washington got better, Atlanta wasn't bad until the end of year collapse, and New York... well, they are New York. But you get the point.

Anyway, would write more, but have to be up in four hours to do all of this again. Bob Mould and Sugar, play me out so that I can collect back some of those guy points I spent on Buffy?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Let's Make One Thing Very Clear: Jeremy Lin Is Not Tim Tebow

I'm starting to see these, in the Facebook and Twitter feeds of people who should know better but don't, and in the inevitable backlash that should let ESPN know that, well, people hate them in the way that only the company in a company town can be hated.

It's the Jeremy Lin backlash.

Too much coverage, you see. Too many religious references. He must be overrated, artificial, too good to be true, proof of some greater media or race-based or marketing conspiracy...

and oh, please, people, STOP.

Tim Tebow won games when the rest of his team played out of their minds, and his opponents fell apart late from not being built to match up against a ground attack. He could only ever win games one way, and there was little statistical proof to support the idea that he was truly a plus player. The benefits that he gave to his team required interpretation and understanding, and you could watch him and understand, without any other knowledge of who or what he was, why men and women of good conscience might not think he was good enough to play at this level.

Now, Lin. It is not hard to watch him play; it is hard to watch the Knicks without him. The team has won when he was been the big scorer, and tonight, when he was a big passer. They've won with him hitting threes and running from ahead, and they've won when he struggled early and had to come from behind. Short of both being open about their faith -- and oh, by the way, that's something they share with a probable majority of pro athletes, in that trusting your body and athletic skills to stay with you for the decade of sluice that is adolescent to adult athletic training requires a busload of faith at the minimum -- and over six feet tall and bipeds, they really don't have that much in common. (Um, Harvard vs. the University of Florida. Really, you think these two grads have a ton in common?)

I'm not saying you have to love the guy. Rooting for a New York team to win is right up there with rooting for the house, and while I get that Knick Fan has suffered much, they also haven't taken the thoroughly defensible action of a 100% picket and/or walkout of Madison Square Dolan at any point in his tenure. They pay for this and pay for this and pay for this; on some level, you can only feel bad for the rubes for so long before you also take their money.

But blaming Lin for the sins of ESPN isn't right, either. Painting him with the Tebow brush cheapens what he's done, and reduces a far more interesting story to rerun. And veering into backlash by instinct because you are tired of hearing about a guy too much in the media means that, well, you are watching too much media and not enough game.

And who's fault is that, really?

Top 10 reasons why Ron Jaworski won't be on MNF this fall

10) ESPN somehow figured out how to lose rating points while broadcasting NFL games

9) New NFL concussion rules also apply to media boxes with oxygen-deprivation issues

8) Network can no longer afford royalty payments from 50 full pronouncements of National Foot Ball League per game

7) Jaworski forced the league to give the network the Rams and Jaguars on multiple occasions, as he was sure there were going to be fascinating teams to watch

6) Footage of him being swallowed by Lawrence Taylor has lost its humor value after the first 5,000 plays

5) Against strict network orders, and on repeat occasions, told the audience something they did not already know

4) Trifled with the unbridled power and rage of Merrill Hoge one too many times

3) ESPN had the valid concern that any more exposure to the MNF franchise would turn him into a bitter right-wing and reference-heavy ex-comedian

2) Now that Hank Williams Jr. is no longer with them, MNF does not have sufficient rowdiness to cover a 3-man booth

1) There is a God, and his next move of infinite mercy and peace will be to gut Jon Gruden like a trout

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Roddy White Is Going To Get A Lot Less PI Calls

The Atlanta WR made the thoroughly reasonable point that the NFL's commissioner, Roger Goodell, might not be worth $20 million a year by the end of his contract.

Now, the fun part of this is how many people are going to bend over backwards and say that nope, no sir, no how, there's no way that you can find anyone else on the planet that could run the NFL for less and do it worth a damn... or that the NFL isn't going to remain the top five leagues in the country even if there were an absolute assclown running things.

Which, um, I'm really not prepared to admit that Goodell, well, isn't.

Remember, this is the guy that, more than anyone else, almost gave us a lockout this year, and severely diminished the quality of ball that you saw last year. (Not that you cared, of course. More offense equals more ratings, and if you don't like that you must be, like, old or something.) He's also the guy that was in charge when the league decided to neuter kickoffs, turn overtime into a two-minute playoff-only speech, kept ball out of Los Angeles so that every other franchise could use it for blackmail purposes, kept force-feeding foreign games into London, doesn't do away with the utter sham that is preseason games, monkeys with the Pro Bowl, spreads games out all over the week regardless of competitive imbalance, still hasn't done a damn thing to mitigate the Dallas Thanksgiving advantage...

So, um, what *exactly* has Goodell done that you can't live without? What, exactly, has been his idea, his signature accomplishment, his shining moment that requires eight figures of salary for a job that might take, oh, maybe half of your time and half of your year?

Proximity to success does not mean you caused it. America in this era is absolutely predetermined to like football, love football, *need* football; it combines violence with art, casual gambling with real gambling, in a program that can't be time-shifted and reaches premium demographics. The very *worst* commissioner you could imagine -- I don't know, someone like Goodell? -- would be on top of the same money pile right now.

What would a truly great commish have done by now? Created more leagues in more lands for the truly addicted. Broadened the talent sluice so that the best athletes on six continents, rather than one, wanted to grow up and play this game. Democratized the sport so that major franchises had farm systems to develop talent over years, rather than just trot out so many strangers every July. Figured out a way to limit stoppages, so that you'd never feel so bloated and sick as you do when you watch back to back elongated games. Worked to ensure that the same game is played for games with prime media coverage as for those in second tier markets. Somehow fixed the California stadium problem. And so on, and so on.

If Roger Goodell is worth $20 million a year... well, um, so are an awful lot of people walking the planet. He isn't. He's getting paid that anyway. White's a fool to point it out in public, but he's not, um, wrong.

Top 10 Takeaways From Tonight's Bout Of Linsanity

In case you someone missed it, the Knicks' point guard did it again tonight, adding a game winner with less than a second left. New York remains undefeated during the Lin Era, but here's what you really need to know...

10) There's absolutely no way in hell that Carmelo Anthony doesn't get blamed if and when the Knicks' winning streak ends

9) Amar'e Stoudamire hasn't looked this happy in years

8) Not to be a party pooper, but he doesn't need to crush the game-winner if he doesn't let Jose Calderon go off for a career night

7) It's going to seem like a bleak All-Star Game without him

6) Toronto drew over 20,000 people tonight, several of whom were rooting for the home team

5) Raptor coach Dwane Casey is steamed that his team didn't hold a fourth quarter lead, and that he got to be tonight's Red Klotz

4) Even as you read this, Asiatic slave labor is racing to meet the demand for Lin's jersey, which is, I don't know, kind of ironic or something

3) This is the first and last time you've read the words "Toronto Raptors" in a sports story this year

2) In utterly irrelevant news that will eventually matter, Lin did have eight turnovers tonight

1) Lin has more points in his first five NBA starts than anyone since the freaking ABA-NBA merger, which is somewhere on the scale between batcrap loco and utterly freaking linsane

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Small And Obvious Point About Terrell Owens Blaming The Media For His Image

Um, Terrible?

I know you don't actually listen to anything that doesn't come out of your own mouth, but hope springs eternal. Christian charity, and all that.

The media didn't stick a gun in your mouth and make you do sit ups in your driveway.

The media didn't kidnap your family so that you would bury every QB you ever worked with.

The media didn't cause you to crap the bed in Philadelphia, a town that would have utterly kissed your ass in a media job for decades after the Super Bowl performance, had you just shut your piehole and played.

The media, in short, does not change your utter inability to work with coworkers, put up with a little crap to get along, give the media a cliche instead of your hyperbolic crying fits every time something did not go your way.

In short... we, the people who actually watched the games and lived through the era, aren't buying your ridiculous self-delusionary account of life.

And the fact that this locker room cancer is going to keep him out of Canton, despite numbers that clearly belong there, and that he's never, ever going to understand why...

Or why he's going to spend the next three to five years of his life in a Cansecoian spiral of chasing small beer paychecks for the football equivalent of VFW wrestling shows...

Well, I'm going to enjoy that.

Not enough to buy a ticket or watch a game, of course.

Enjoy ArenaBall, Terrible...

I Have No Idea If I Should Still Be An A's Fan

It was pretty obvious a week ago; they had done their usual trade away anyone who is competent for prospects that won't work out, lose 100-110 games in a bad empty building, and basically be the punching bag for the Angels and Rangers. They were certain to play no meaningful games, have no relevant fantasy talent, and spend another year checking the EPL scores and the not going to happen move to San Jose. It had gotten to the point where I had talked with friends about which new team to root for, given that my rooting interests are somewhat toxic, and that I don't really want to end the best era in Phillies' history by finally getting on the bandwagon.

And then there's this. An actually coveted free agent, albeit an international guy of indeterminate age and almost certain short-term rental properties. And the announcement that faded wunderkind GM Billy Beane, he of the Carlos Gonzalez and Andre Ethier trades for Milton Bradley and three indifferent months of Matt Holliday, he of the 280-HR-free ABs from utter failure 1B Daric Barton, will be with the club for the long-term now. Which is supposed to have some idea of hope.

I have no idea if Yoenis Cespedes is going to be anything to write home about, and even if he's a 30-30 guy and All-Star talent, he's not dragging this collection of Quad-A's to .500. (Seriously, Kila Ka'aihue is the current front-runner at 1B. When your best idea is something that can't get ABs in Kansas City, you are not running an MLB franchise.)

But he *is* going to be drafted in fantasy leagues, assuming he doesn't fall off a cliff in spring training, despite a bad home park and weak lineup around him. I probably won't get him, but that's besides the point. The fact is that, for one tiny shining moment, the organization actually did something that could be considered competitive, or in the pursuit of winning baseball games. It might not be enough to keep me as a fan, but at least it doesn't suck.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Brief and Obvious Point About Allen Iverson Returning To The NBA

No NBA team really wants him.

Because, well, he's an undersized shooting guard who gets murdered in the post, doesn't shoot for a high enough percentage, hasn't been a part of a winning team in years and years, doesn't sell tickets anymore, and doesn't make his teams win.

Jerry Stackhouse has an NBA contact. (In Atlanta.) Tracy McGrady has an NBA contract. (Also in Atlanta. Fascinating bench, that.) Marquis Daniels and Jordan Farmer and Mike Bibby and Jamaal Tinsley and Jonny Flynn and TJ Ford and Anthony Parker and Damien Wilkins and Martell Webster and Chris Duhon and Von Wafer and Sebastian Telfair have NBA contracts. It's not the hardest thing in the world to acquire.

So, um, stories over how he's returning to the Association, or where Gilbert Arenas will land... are just silly at best, and sad at worst. If he had worth to a team, he'd be employed by one by now. Moving on.

Carlos Boozer Is Fooling No One

There are some guys who, when you watch them play, you just don't like them. Maybe it's the way they get their numbers, maybe it's the way they work the refs, and maybe it's the way they flop for calls.... but there's just something about them that sets your teeth on edge. No matter who they are playing for.

For me, Carlos Boozer of the Chicago Bulls is that kind of player.

Today in Boston, the Bulls had one of those Hang Around games where they had an opportunity to steal a game against one of my least favorite teams on the planet. This, despite sorely missing Derrick Rose at the point. So Booze must have been a big reason why they were in the game, right?

Well, sure... he had 22 and 7 on 9 of 16 shooting and was 4 of 4 from the line, as the Bulls' co-leader in points scored. He played just under 35 minutes, with five fouls committed to show effort, if not efficiency, on defense. No one who looked at this game called out Boozer as the reason why the Bulls lost, and expecting them to win the last game of a ridiculously long road trip without Rose is expecting too much anyway.

But from actually watching the game? Man alive, I hate this guy. The effort is soft. The passing is telegraphed. The defensive lack of intensity is glaring, especially on a team like Chicago. The points come in garbage time and moments, not in need to have situations. For a guy with good hands and touch, there just doesn't seem to be an ounce of clutch or toughness or snarl to him, unless you are a ref.

And since he starts for the Bulls, and is one of their bigger point producers, it's pretty hard to take them seriously as a contender, either. Beyond, well, the plainly silly ideas about hair...

Top 10 reasons the Eagles are franchising DeSean Jackson

10) Believe that the only way to get Steve Smith levels of production out of him is to pay him that way

9) Can't wait to see how much drama is created after 2011

8) As the Juan Castillo resigning shows, just dying to play 2011 in 2012

7) Ensures that the focus will remain away from the linebackers, turnovers and poor clock management

6) Can't get enough time with Drew Rosenhaus

5) Wouldn't have the opportunity to suspend him for full games against huge underdogs that turn out to be season-ending losses without making him an offer

4) After four year of not extending or signing him to a deal, feel completely comfortable with paying him $9.5 million

3) Feel that this will show any other players in the locker room that they are very, very serious about paying for performance

2) There were no incidents over the last four weeks of the season, which are the only games in the 2011 season that management cares to think about

1) No Jackson means an inordinate amount of snaps for Riley Cooper, Jason Avant and Chad Hall, which is to say, Replacement Level Or Worse NFL Wideout

Friday, February 10, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Paying Your Employees May Be Against Your Religious Beliefs

As always with FTT O-T, if this sort of thing offends you, there's a big wide Internet to go enjoy. Scroll or split to your heart's content; these little missives are just for me to clear myself and amuse those of you who read everything. Moving on.

So there's a political kerfluffle over how religious organizations are being "bullied" by the federal government into providing contraceptive health benefits to their female employees, and how this is a great problem, because it's against their beliefs.

And there is, of course, any number of people who want to tell us how this means the Obama Administration is forcing a secular belief system with socialism and demon-humping and abortions for funsies for all. No, seriously.

And I get that the first rule of politics is to remain elected, and how appeasing people who vote is how you do that, so there will likely be some compromises made and it's all best left not looked on, nor commented about...

But, um, ya know what, religious organizations?

Law trumps belief. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Someone important said that last part once -- some Mexican guy, I think. Hay Zeus.

In that I can believe any damned fool thing I want (If I hire a female employee and she's cute, it's in my religious beliefs that I get to show her mah Little Elvis!), but if it's against the law, I don't get to act on those beliefs.

A real shame, this. Mah Little Elvis feels slighted.

There's also this.

If you really feel that paying for contraceptives for your employees is anathema, you should probably stop paying your employees at all. Or get them to agree to live their lives under 24/7 surveillance. No, just the women.

Because, um, once you pay the little dears actual cash money and let them out of your proud patriarchal sight? THOSE SHAMELESS HUSSIES MIGHT USE THAT MONEY TO BUY CONTRACEPTIVES. The horror!

You see, it's not really about The Man bullying you into doing things you don't want to do. It's about you treating your employees the same as other organizations. Like they were, I don't know, fully formed adults that were capable of making their own decisions, answering to their own Maker, and living their own lives, with the free will that is supposed to be the arbiter of their eternal fate.

Or is all of that stuff just for the marks in the crowd, gentlemen?

Fixing The Safety

Let's face it, folks: it mostly sucks to play defense in the Inter Continental Football Association. And the NFL, too. You can only hurt RBs and OLs, you need a signed warrant to touch a non-running white QB, you get national attention when you screw up, you don't make the money of the offensive guys, and if you don't have difficulty walking in your '40s and severe head trauma in your '50s, it generally means that you were a wuss. You do get to celebrate a lot and make good coin, but for the most part, you are the bassist and drummer in the band to the offense's singer and guitarist; necessary, but lacking in the post-gig sexual service.

So can't we, just for funsies, throw these guys a few bones with one exciting and thoroughly reasonable rule changes?

Just make the safety minus two points, rather than 2 positive ones, and make the opponent take the free kick from their goal line.

Right away, I make defenses want these things even more, since there will be a race to be the first team to not just get a shutout, but make the opposition go negative. And since defenses are ranked by points against, the negative score helps in the ranking they care about. (I'd argue the same thing for defensive touchdowns, but let's take this one step at a time.) You also make punting from midfield a little exciting, and anything that makes punting more exciting is a win. Heck, the whole thing might even make for more offense, since teams will be even more likely to gamble for the score and open themselves up for the big 95+ yard score.

So let's go negative, NFL. Throw the defense a bone for once. Reward the most entertaining rare play in football -- the not so humble safety. It's only right.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Top 10 takeaways from the Oil Can Boyd cocaine revelations

10) Against all odds, he's still alive at age 52

9) That freakout game at Yankee Stadium, where Lou Pinella got him off his game by making him take off his necklaces, makes a lot more sense now

8) Shockingly, a guy named Oil Can turned out to have substance abuse issues

7) The only difference between his era and this one is that the older guys took drugs that didn't help their performance

6) Boyd says he never took a drug test, which is either BS or an absurd whiff by MLB, given his shenanigans

5) While it might sound like an excuse for Boyd to talk about bigotry shortening his career, he was a black athlete in Boston in the '80s, so you never know

4) Dennis retired with an over .500 record, so despite the obvious problems of rampant drug abuse, he was a winner, dammit

3) It's a shame he didn't pitch nowadays, because he would have had a lot more money to spend on drugs

2) Boyd claims that he pitched under the influence at every ballpark during his 10-year career, so if nothing else, you have to admire his diligence

1) You will be shocked, just shocked, to learn that he's got a book coming out

Top 10 Reasons Why Chad Ochocinco Is Changing His Name Back To Chad Johnson

10) Now that Ron Artest became Metta World Peace, kind of understands how this sort of thing is just a bit, well, nuts

9) Secret bet lost with ex-Giant William James

8) Ochocinco just doesn't hyphenate well, and now that Those Sorts Of Marriage are becoming more legal, it's a consideration

7) Worried that, for some reason, his jersey just isn't selling the way it used to

6) The move ends the awful 96-hour news blackout that America has suffered through since his last public act

5) Coach Belichick tells him to do something or get cut five times a week, just for funsies

4) Convinced that Canton won't induct him with two names, and that this would be the only thing to stop his candidacy

3) Needed to do something to feed the Twitter beast, and as a blogger, I respect that need

2) Thinks that if he retires the name, won't have to retire the career

1) It's hard as hell to get people to talk about you when you catch 15 balls for 276 yards for the entire damned year

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Embrace the Linsanity

OK folks... it's time to accept the fact that we've got a brand-new phenom that will polarize the populace, Tebow-style, since talking about your religious beliefs is a sure fire way to get marginalized now, and he might be the biggest flash in the pan, well, ever. But there's a *far* better story going on here.

To call Jeremy Lin's story unreal is to, well, insult reality. We're talking about any number of utter improbabilities all coming together in a single week to make for the following.

1) The first prominent small Asian-American to play well in the NBA

2) An undrafted fringe guy, on his third team in two years, becoming the undisputed star of the biggest team in the biggest media market in three games

3) An Ivy League guy -- and not just any Ivy League, but freaking Harvard, no less, the place with twice as many Presidents (8) as NBA players -- supplying the talent

4) Oh, and he's utterly transformed the team to an unselfish bunch of careful ball movers. New York had 8 turnovers tonight, on the road.

To say that they are better without their two highest paid players is... correct. At least this week.

Tonight in the District, Lin more or less destroyed last year's rookie of the year and #1 overall pick, John Wall. Wall plays the exact same position as Lin. With Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony both out with injuries, the Knicks aren't even clearly the better team than the 5-20 Wizards, especially at home. Wall had 29-1-6 with a turnover and was -6.

His line tonight was 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting, with 10 assists and 2 turnovers. Oh, and 7 boards as well; had this game been close, he might have gotten a triple double. Was +18, the second best mark on the floor. And that says nothing about what the game was actually like. There was never a doubt that they were losing this, that Lin wasn't going to do well, and that his numbers. He distributed the ball early, scored later, and more or less looked as if he'd been doing this for a decade, rather than a week. For the third straight game, the Knicks moved the ball and won, and Lin set a new career high in assists. It's straight out out of a Disney movie. One that has no basis in reality. They chanted his name at the end of the game.

Can it continue? Well, in that it should have never started, why not? Lin has benefited from playing a few terrible defensive teams, and the Wiz can make anyone look good. But if it continues on Friday night, in New York, against the Lakers, with the whole world watching... well, that'll be something. We'll know he's for real if Kobe Bryant decides to take him on defense. This week, I'm not sure Kobe wins that match up. Utter insanity.

Oh, and then there's this -- guys do not want to be on his poster. Stay tuned.

A Brief And Obvious Point About The Clippers Being Cursed

When you hire a 35-year-old guard with around 37,500 career minutes in the NBA, between 1,002 regular season games and 140 playoff games, plus international play...

Who was amnestied by a team with no other credible option at point guard...

And then you play him 30-plus minutes per game in a sprint schedule lockout year where players are dropping like flies, for a team that needed him to play big minutes in the playoffs much more than the regular season...

And watch him get hurt...

That's not cursed.

That's going all-in with non-suited, non-paint connectors against four tight players raising before the flop.

That's buying stock at a 5-year-high after the original employees start to rest and vest.

That's buying an English sports car with high mileage after the transmissions been swapped out.

In other words, that's getting more or less what you deserve for putting your money into a questionable bet, and why Chaunce was so available in the first place. (In case you haven't heard, he's done for the year now due to a serious injury, and talking about how this doesn't mean he's going to retire, which means he's probably going to wish later that he just retired.)

But if you really want to live in a world of superstition where Good Must Win and Evil Must Be Punished, but only when the narrative suits you...

Um, you do realize that having Donald "Racist Abusive Slumlord NBA Welfare Case" Sterling as your owner more or less kills any chance for long-term success, right?

Top 10 reasons why Ricky Williams is retiring

(And seriously? For a flake, he always ran hard. For a diva, he took the grunt jobs. For a druggie, he didn't miss that many games. And but for Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff, he might have even left with a ring. Admit it, you'd rather he got one than watched Eli Manning get two, amirite?)

10) Thinks that his career numbers are good enough to make it to Canton, but only if he can disappear so hard that everyone forgets the off the field stuff

9) Ever since he left the Argonauts, his heart really hasn't been in it

8) Wants to spend more time not supporting his five kids by three women

7) This will finally give him the time he needs to take the Phillies up on their offer of a minor-league outfielder job

6) By retiring, he'll have enough time to find Master P, aka his career earning's real killers

5) Wants to see if he can entrap Joe Theismann's kid into a drug bust, and that kind of thing takes time

4) Being shy, depressed, vegan and a Hindu yoga instructor doesn't prevent you from playing in the NFL, but maybe it should

3) Mike Ditka wont return his calls any more, in that Mike Ditka has never been able to adjust to mobile phones

2) Saw that ESPN documentary of himself and hated the idea that they'd have to update it before he died

1) This best positions him for a Barkley-esque post-playing career that would rival Emmit Smith for unintentional comedy potential

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top 10 Consolations for Giant Haters

Patriot Elimination Day should always be joyous, but many people are having a hard time enjoying the holiday due to the presence of Blue Fan celebrating yet another Gotham championship. As always, FTT is here to alleviate suffering without undue side effect. So let's get straight into why this is all going to be OK, OK?

10) Tom Coughlin will now be employed well into his drooling years. The NFL's answer to Yosemite Sam will get at least 5 to 10 more years after this one, and with rings on both claws now, they'll have to pry this job from his cold, dead hands. So we can all hope for a long slow shuffle into age-related inadequacies and inattention to detail. It's as good a hope as any other, right?

9) No matter how sad you are today, Massholes have it worse. The only real problem, of course, is that they are going to be compelled to tell you about how special this single win over a team with a winning record club was, how it was the very pinnacle of the Belicheat's art of turning ego-free pieces into killing machines, and yada yada yada yada. I'm sure we'll all see this in book form very soon, but drink deep of their tears.

8) The Giants will get every team's "A" game next year. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, especially when they won just 9 games in the regular season and have no unit, with the possible exception of the WRs or the DL, that strike an undue amount of fear into the opponent. No team really has a great chance to repeat in this era, and the Giants are no exception.

7) There is no guarantee that they will get this lucky on injuries again. Sure, they were decimated -- early in the season, in the games that it turned out didn't matter, especially in the secondary. But health is a skill in football, and hurt guys today tend to be hurt guys tomorrow. If the injuries come at the tail end of the year rather than at the beginning, we'll go back to talking about Giant Swoons.

6) Antrel Rolle is *really* going to talk now. The mouthiest safety in the land has already been talking about repeating, as if he wasn't a quasi-weak link already. You're going to enjoy seeing the NFL's ever-growing list of top-tier TEs ruin his reputation next year.

5) The continuing evisceration of Tiki Barber is getting really, really good. Tomorrow, the biggest leper in the history of the franchise gets to shine his disgraced head, plaster on his best fake smile, put on the monkey suit and go pretend to be happy to be covering another parade that happened without his locker room cancer. It couldn't happen to a nicer adulterer.

4) DanceGate is going to make Patriots Fan's head explode. Take a look at the picture on top of this entry; it's of Rob Gronkowski and Matt Light *AFTER* losing the Super Bowl. No, seriously. And while I get that young guys are going to go to places like this, and aren't going to take the outcome of the game as seriously as the marks in the audience... um, go look at it again. Now, consider the fact that Patriot Fan has got a solid 6-to-8 weeks in front of him before the Sawx play, or the Celtics are in the playoffs, or the Bruins are chasing the Stanley Cup. They're gonna go nuts. (And oh, by the way? Feel free to fan the flames of that. It's the least they deserve, if for no other reason then their team let you down.)

3) Pity poon. You are looking live at Maria Menounos doing the best thing she can do in front of a camera -- wearing few clothes and keeping quiet. That's not the worst side effect of this game, now is it?

2) GiseleGate is going to be all kinds of fun. Patriot Fan has long suspected Tom Brady's arm candy as being the karmic equivalent of Yoko Ono hanging out with John Lennon, and her thoroughly understandable defense and frustration at the way that the Super Bowl ended is going to open them up to *all kinds* of misogynistic rantings. For a fan base that prides itself on including snooty Blue State types with money, it's going to be an especially upsetting time. DRINK IT IN, PEOPLE. DRINK IT IN.

1) The Giants won't be allowed to defend their title. No team does, of course. But Mario Manningham is going to get way too much money to drop passes and misjudge the sideline somewhere else. Jonathan Goff started 16 games at LB and is a free agent; Chase Blackburn made the pick that turned the game around and could also be moving along. Terrel Thomas was the starting CB at the start of the year and might have played his last game for the team. Brandon Jacobs might be addition by subtraction, and it might not. They'll come back to a division that's ripe for the plucking, but with a far more difficult (AFC North) schedule that's going to make a top seed hard to come by. And they've routinely struggled to rack up a ton of wins in the division; this is a team that went 1-3 against Washington and Philadelphia this year, with the three losses coming to teams headed by Rex Grossman and Vince Young. (No, seriously. The Super Bowl champions were beaten at home by Vince Young.)

So my fellow haters, give them their six months of gloat. Try not to engage in the clear sour grapes that the NFL is effectively a game of random chance now, and that any team's title doesn't mean nearly as much as it used to. And watch, and enjoy, as they draft Eli far too early in fantasy drafts next year, and fall apart as the pressure of repeating turns them into a drama-fest of mess. Hell, maybe it will even make them the second-best team in town again. You gotta have hope, after all.

Kobe Gets The History, Sixers Get The Win

Tonight in Philly, it was looking like another case of Old And Lots Of Money Established Talent pulling rank on the most adorable NBA team on the planet, your Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia's least-favorite son, Kobe Bean Bryant, had 24 points at the half in front of a sellout crowd to move past Shaq in the record books of all-time scorers. Lots of people came wearing Laker gear, the road bigs were playing 2-to-1 rebound volleyball, and LA's very senior varsity looked like they had their road legs and snarl to them.

But then a funny thing happened. The Sixers... just wouldn't go away. Like a pro version of a classic John Cheyney Temple team, they just refused to turn the ball over (4 in 48 minutes, unreal), and kept generating their own (16 for the Lakers, or just about what usually happens). So despite the 55-30 rebound problem, they took the same number of shots -- 81. They defended without fouling, with only Spencer Hawes having more than two on the night, so the usual LA advantage at the line wasn't there. Which meant that the team's startling transformation into effective three-point shooting could be a defining factor.

And then in the fourth quarter, with the greatest closer in the game getting increasingly frustrated by the fly on Kobe man-to-man job of Andre Iguodala, it was the Sixers' own Lou Williams with the daggers. The Sixers' back-up unconscionable gunner had 14 of his team-high 24 in the fourth, and when it was all over, it was a 95-90 win for the now 17-8 Sixers. Just another night at the office for the Littlest Team That Does.

Watching this team is unlike any NBA team you've ever seen. They move the ball like a dream without turning it over. No one plays selfishly. They routinely turn teams into powder when they go to the bench. The defense is downright infectious, and when the clock runs down, they don't panic and go for Hero Moments. Williams is the leading scorer at 15.1, and he doesn't even start or play more than 26 minutes a game. At this writing, six men average double figures, with two more (Evan Turner and Jodie Meeks) within a big night of joining the party. They are fourth in the league in steals, and no one gets even 2 a game of them; it's just up and down the entire roster. They make the most field goals in the league, because they just don't turn it over. It's like watching some kind of freaky college team, honestly.

And so long as they aren't playing Miami, they just keep on winning. I have no idea how much longer it's going to last, but tonight was awesome on every level. From the full house screaming Beat LA to Bryant forcing shots in the clutch as his teammates sagged, from Williams dusting Derek Fisher to Hawes finally stepping up and getting boards late, and coach Doug Collins grinning like a proud grandfather at all of it. Just special.

Now let's see if the ride continues this Wednesday against the similarly old money Spurs. That game won't have history, a sellout crowd, or any road fans in the building. It'll also probably be a harder game to win. But at this point, with this team, I fear no opponent. (Except, of course, Miami. Dammit.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Top 20 Super Bowl Commercial Questions

20) Is Will Arnett no longer funny because of the Hulu ad?

19) Do the Droid's makers know that isn't how you paint things?

18) How much did Old Navy spend to not show us their clothes?

17) Why is Budweiser trying to pretend they are a premium brand?

16) Aren't we all OK with vampire acoustic guitarists getting dusted?

15) Seeing how they've had the ability to do this for years, why hasn't Pepsi locked Elton John and Flava Flav in a dungeon before?

14) Has there been a need for America to eat naked chocolate, or is this some new form of perversion?

13) Can the Facebook twin twerps just go away now?

12) Is global warming killing the polar bears faster than Type II diabetes?

11) Are Chevy Silverado owners all going to have sex with each other in the post-apocalyptic hellscape, now that no one will make them feel bad about their homosexual tendencies?

10) Can the Bridgestone guys just run Deion Sanders over?

9) How drunk did you need to be to think that when Prohibition was outlawed, that cities and pubs were not segregated?

8) Will doing my taxes with TaxAct cause the IRS to pee on me?

7) Are Doritos eaters prone to child endangerment, or is this just a side effect of the chemicals involved?

6) If I use E*Trade, will I engage in toddler casual sex?

5) Are Chevy drivers the only thing keeping America one nation, and if so, can't they find a spokesman who isn't so close to death and prone to political views that include failing to help, well, Chevy?

4) Will Acura only sell NSX supercars to aging comedians who are no longer funny?

3) Why does Bridgestone only test basketballs with ancient players?

2) If you use monkeys to sell your product or service, aren't you pretty much admitting you have no other ideas?

1) And the final and most important question of all... wouldn't an advertiser get more PR notice for just giving away a million bucks in a contest, rather than spending over $3 million to place them during this telecast?

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