Monday, April 30, 2012

I Think I Need To Microwave Some Wine

Of course, you might also choose indoor fireworks, or fireworks on the birthday cake. Oddly mesmerizing.

Why Basketball Matters: Clippers-Grizzlies Game One

So tonight, I had Clippers-Grizzlies on, since it's the only live game at midnight EST, and I Love Hoop.

The Grizz came out with a huge first half, the Clips kept turning the ball over, and it looked for all the world like Lob City was just checking out for Game 2. Memphis led by 27 in the second half, had everything going for them, and it was just another in a series of blah opening games.

I had my hack joke list filed, I was moving on to Other Things. Then the fourth quarter came around, and things changed. Two hours of play went sideways in a way that hardly seemed possible, especially given that this is a playoff series between two franchises that have been, well, arguments for relegation for years.

The Clips kept their starters in. They lost Caron Butler to a hand injury, and Caron Butler has been secretly terrible for a while now. Chris Paul never stopped trying, Reggie Evans gave them outstanding bench effort and defense, and just when you thought that the Clips weren't going to score enough to do more than feel good about What Might Have Been... Well, Nick Young -- Nick Young! The ex-Wizard who spent this entire year making me regret drafting him in my roto league, the guy who redefines Black Hole Shooter more than any other guy in the Association -- caught fire on three straight three balls, and the crowd suddenly had that Oh Dear God No We're Gonna Lose heart in their throat moment.

Blake Griffin, of all people, hit back to back free throws to bring it to one.

Evans erased Zach Randolph as Zebo went for Hero Mode.

Paul made a great drive and dish to Evans, who finished as if he was capable of such things, and the Clips had a 26-to-1 run to take their first lead of the night. Randolph failed to foul Evans, which would be inexplicable if it weren't for the fact that Zebo is Brain Challenged.

Rudy Gay changed that, taking advantage of Paul not getting any help against the bigger man, to take the lead back. Just a classic mid-range post move from a player that's not afraid of The Moment.

Paul worked a foul on Tony Allen, sent to guard Paul in Crunch Time; the guard makes both for the Clippers' second lead of the night, with 23.7 seconds left.

With the arena quiet and dreading, the Clips gave up their last foul before the bonus with 9.8 seconds left. Gay drove, rose, and left it front rim after taking too much time for a rebound or foul, in yet another moment of the Grizz working this game with their brains in a box, and that was that.

The biggest damned comeback you've ever seen, the sense that 18,000 people just watched a theft, or murder, or both. For a fanbase that's probably still seeing Kevin Durant in their nightmares, this is going to leave a fresh new taste of hell.

In the post-game, Paul gave the credit to Evans and Young, sounded angry over how badly they played earlier in the game, busted Craig Sager's chops over dressing like an assclown, and left like the beast that he is. It's hard to see how Memphis recovers from this, and even if they do, it's hard to see how they beat Paul in four games out of six.

Was this one of the best games you've ever seen? No, not hardly; it was a two-way avalanche, one slower than the other. But it tells you just how good Game can be, how it can crop up at any moment, and why I Love Hoop. Hope you caught it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Top 11 Takeaways From The NBA Playoffs

11) Iman Shumpert's injury means that Dwyane Wade will have to roast some other Knick for the next three games

10) Rajon Rondo's ref bump to non-suspension is about to give us the best example yet of how the Association favors the Celtics

9) Dallas continues to believe that if Dirk Nowitzki isn't the best player in basketball, the refs should make him so

8) Derrick Rose's injury now means that the title is now the Heat's to choke, choke, choke, CHOKE away

7) Zach Randolph did three push-ups after getting decked, because the Memphis crowd has miraculous healing powers

6) Jeremy Lin says he's going to come back during the Heat series, just to remind everyone that he's still on the Knicks, and in the league

5) Kobe Bryant has been teaching Andrew Bynum how to back-door people from Colorado

4) Not that anyone is noticing, but the Spurs are the #1 seed in the West and winning without much effort at all

3) Orlando showed that the post-Dwight Howard Era doesn't necessarily have to be devoid of sunshine, air and puppies

2) On the off chance that you were starting to wane in your hatred of James, he flopped like a pro wrestler from the '50s and had his Nike designer gloat about Rose's injury

1) Memphis hasn't been this depressed since Elvis died on his toilet and was buried like a hamster in his backyard

10 Questions About The Sign And Retire Contract

This weekend in Philadelphia, the most beloved football player of his generation, the Canton-bound safety Brian Dawkins, signed a one-day contract to retire as an Eagle. All of this is, of course, well and proper and to be applauded, in that Weapon X was basically adorable on every level, and the fact that no one will ever wear #20 again is a win on every level. But it does make me wonder...

> Does the guy get paid for one day of service?

> Will his single day be on his plaque in Canton?

> At every job I've ever started, I had to spend the morning with HR people, handing off ID forms, signing out health benefit stuff, and the like. Does this happen, and if so, can it (please) be filmed?

> Once the guy retires, do they then have to go through the paperwork termination formalities?

> What if, after signing the guy, he goes home sick and can't attend the press conference -- does it become a multiple day contract?

> Couldn't you draw this out for a week or so, and maybe give yourself the chance to impress the coaches with your workouts or physical shape in the interim?

> If you were the guy on the one-day deal, wouldn't you be just a little bit tempted to spend a few hours doing things that no other employee could do? (I'm thinking the dress code, most generally involving the presence of pants, just became highly optional.)

> How much promo swag, office supplies and break room snacks would you grab? I'm filling the trunk, myself.

> Since most players that do this move generally are coming back to a team that let them go at some point, isn't there just a small chance of a passionate beatdown toward some front office type?

> Is the fact that I've drawn a paycheck from (gulp) well over a dozen companies as an adult any kind of surprise from anyone reading this post?

Top 10 takeaways from the Derrick Rose Injury

10) It's all Tom Thibodeau's fault, since he's the only coach in the NBA who plays injury prone starters in blowouts

9) The Sixers totally wanted to play the Bulls instead of the Heat, so they could get a better view of a gruesome injury

8) Rose now becomes the youngest reigning NBA MVP to ever become totally irrelevant

7) Michael Wilbon thinks that the NBA is blame for this from the sprint season, because that's what an idiot thinks

6) Chicago is totally different without Rose, despite the fact that they were without him for most of the year, went 18-9 without him, and probably weren't going to beat the Heat with or without him

5) Chicago Fan is absolutely despondent over this injury, and will remain so for the next 2-3 playoff series

4) The fact that this totally opens the door for Boston yet again is proof that God really has it in for NBA Fans

3) Everyone in America should feel bad about this, since it means Rose won't play in the Olympics, and we all care so much about that

2) Anyone who thinks that this means the Sixers will actually give the Bulls a challenge now hasn't been watching the Sixers for the past three months

1) Somewhere in Oregon, a shadowy figure in a Nike executive office is watching the footage of Rose getting hurt and laughing like a Bond supervillain

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Truly Worthless NBA Playoff Predictions

We finish the Sprint Season with the Regression to the Mean playoffs, where the NBA grinds the joy out of things with their best of seven, lesser teams rarely if ever win elimination series, and I have to tell you folks... there's really even less than usual riding behind these. I'm exhausted and can't imagine the teams are any better, but it's time to put that all aside for 40-odd days of hoop. So let's all just sack up and pick, OK?

Philadelphia(8) at Chicago (1) - Chicago in five

The Sixers actually match up a little with this Bulls' team, who might be vulnerable with Derrick Rose having an injury hell year, Carlos Boozer too preoccupied with his spray on hair, and Rip Hamilton being older than dirt. Too bad the Sixers shot their load in the first 30 games, and have been a borderline lottery team ever since. These games will be close until Chicago throttles the life out of the Sixer offense, which is to say, a little more each game, and a little sooner each one, too.

New York (7) at Miami (2) - Miami in five

Foolish people are going to talk themselves into the Knicks here, who have one stud to Miami's three, and who have a deep bench of guys that can only play offense or defense. Look for Carmelo Anthony to play out of his mind and get no help, and for him to end the series with that practiced pout that he used to show in Denver during their first round exits.

Orlando (6) at Indiana (3) - Indiana in six

Indiana is basically Chicago Lite -- a defensive minded young team with intensity, but lacking options in crunch time. They'll get a nothing to lose Magic club without Dwight Howard that could easily bomb enough threes to make things scary, but eventually, the Magic will need to do more than win the game when the shots are falling early. Cinderella does usually go home.

Boston (4) at Atlanta (5) - Boston in six

Oh, as if the undead Celtics will ever lose a series that they aren't overwhelmed in. Atlanta Fan doesn't go to the games, either, which means the hone-court edge isn't all that meaningful, either. A shame that since Howard's hurt, this one will wind up missing the NBA.TV ghetto.

Utah (8) at San Antonio (1) - San Antonio in seven

The Spurs come in on a roll, and this Jazz team doesn't seem all tht scary, with a 3-1 record that might have been 4-0 had they actually needed the April 9 game, too. But Utah is a tough place to play with the fans and altitude, and the Spurs strike me as having too many rotation guys unsettled to just be good without stress in the playoffs. They'll win, but not without drama.

Dallas (7) at Oklahoma City (2) - OKC in five

The Thunder were 3-1 against the defending champions this year, have an overwhelmingly great home court, and employ the best young talent in the Association. Against a Dallas team that's going to remember this year more for Lamar Odom than anything actually basketball related, it will be more than enough.

Denver (6) at Los Angeles Lakers (3) - Denver in six

My lone upset pick of note comes in Denver, where the Nuggets have a great home court, comes in waves, catch a Laker team that's missing Metta World Peace, and can do the one thing that makes the Lakers look bad in a hurry -- exploit the point guard match up, both in the starter and reserve roles. Besides, Mke Brown under playoff pressure with guys that will rebel at his Ground and Rebound scheme will fold against the more experience playoff buffonery of George Karl.

Los Angeles Clippers (5) at Memphis (4) - Clippers in seven

The best first round series will, in time, be won by Chris Paul, who has certainly done more with less than he has here in Clipper Land. Memphis does it the right way, with coaching and hustle and ball movement, and Marc Gasol is a tower of efficient basketball big man goodness. But stars win series, and Paul is just better than anything Memphis brings to the table.

Your own picks are, of course, welcome in the comments. Show me how much smarter you are...

Friday, April 27, 2012

This Can't Be Said Enough: Michael Jordan Is The Worst GM In NBA History

So the Bobcats gagged up another home game tonight, their 23rd in a row, as they managed to make 2006 happen all over again by making Mike Bibby (Mike Bibby!) and Amar'e Stoudamire look competent. New York won by 20 despite resting three starters and missing another due to injury, and these Knicks are about a week away from folding like a pup tent in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The 7-59 mark and .110 winning percentage is the lowest in NBA history. Let's give this some time to digest. No NBA team has ever been worse than these Bobcats. And no NBA team has ever been as good as the Bobcats have been bad. Charlotte's coach, Paul Silas, is a respected man. He's won some games in the Association, and he had this team playing hard, or at least as hard as they were able to, in the last 10 games.

This really should not have been the year to set a new low winning percentage record; the sprint season meant there were any number of games where Charlotte had an edge in rest against a back-to-back opponent. That factor made the rest of the league all sag to the middle; even the woebegone Wizards managed 20 wins this year. So why were these Bobcats the worst team ever? Well, it's not just the talent, though that cupboard was pretty bare; the top players here are lucky to be drawing a paycheck, and the bench guys soon won't be.

And there is, of course, only one man that brought that talent in. Michael Jordan. You know, the guy that made Kwame Brown a #1 pick. The guy that so loves undersized shoot-all-the-time guards that he has to double up on him. The guy that, for all of his fabled competitiveness, couldn't keep Boris Diaw from blimping up and losing any interest in going inside for anything. The guy that is more likely to be seen at a game in Chicago than here.

 Oh, and the guy who burned more bridges with players than any other owner in the lockout, ensuring that his Bobcats were never going to get the kind of snooze button game that they needed to just be bad, rather than historically so.

When you look back at this Bobcat year, the amazing part isn't the 59 losses: it's the seven wins. Opening night against Milwaukee, when Diaw actually seemed to care; three days later, they nearly beat the Heat. (No, seriously.) Game six, when they won in New York to right the ship to 2-4. Game 13, when Golden State became the only Western team, besides the Bobcats, to not have a winning record in Charlotte this year. Game 30, where they shook off the 16-game losing streak to win on the road in Toronto. Game 36, when they contributed to the Dwight Howard Farewell Tour with a 16-point (!) home win. Game 40, when they beat the Bugs in New Orleans, 73-71, in what might be the worst game ever played in the Association. Game 43, when they handled the Raptors yet again. And that, well, was that.

Some will say that the Hornets are right to have tanked more than any other team has tanked; that only by getting this bad can they ever hope to be good again. This is, of course, bullsquat: every high pick will be blown by Jordan, no free agent of note will come to the home of the lockout king, and going to a market where the pro team will also be fifth fiddle to numerous ACC teams does not help matters. It's a market that probably shouldn't have a franchise, and a GM that should never be left near a phone.

So, put this squarely where it belongs: not on Silas, DJ Augustin, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Bismarck Biyombo or any of the other handful of cursed men who will, now and forever, be attached to this record. But nowhere near as much as his boss.

Eat it, MJ. Eat it up nice.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Top 10 takeaways fron Round 1 of the NFL Draft

10) Just ten minutes between picks decreased the ESPN yammering by 33%, which makes life 33% better

9) Miami proved that they could overpay for a QB that didn't come from Philadelphia first

8) Dallas got a good CB, which by the rules of NFL hype means that Dallas got the best CB in the history of the universe

7) Eagle Fan is so happy to get Fletcher Cox, they're going to be really pissed off at me for giving him the nickname Chubby

6) By drafting Michael Floyd, the Cardinals will give Kevin Kolb great WRs to miss all over the field

5) Romeo Crennel stuck his neck way out for Dontari Poe, which is very impressive given that he actually has no neck

4) Roger Goodell really enjoys the draft, since it's the only time in an NFL player's career when anyone even pretends to be happy to see him

4) The Giants got a fumble-prone RB to replace their fumble-prone RB, but since the new one is small enough to be expected to go down on first contact, it's OK

3) The Vikings are very excited to get two immediate starters, as if you have to be a first-round pick to crack the lineup for this juggernaut

2) Dre Kirkpatrick said he had a feeling that the Bengals would draft him, in that he's got a lot of crimes on his to do list

1) This drat was the most epic, amazing and talent-rich one in the last 12 months

Top 10 takeaways from the Capitals eliminating the Bruins

10) Calling this the closest best of seven series is accurate, but that would involve knowing the second closest

9) As the finale showed, home ice advantage is very, um, important or something

8) Tim Thomas went from world-beating to old in an awful hurry

7) Boston Fan showed their class, intelligence and appreciation for a great season and playoff series by showering the ice with garbage

6) For the 15th straight year, the Stanley Cup won't have a repeat champion which isn't in any way indicative of how hockey is more or less random

5) The loss is clearly Thomas' fault, since it's the first Game Seven where he gave up a goal

4) The game-winner was a garbage goal scored by some guy you've never heard of, which is to say, it was won in the same way that every overtime is won

3) The game was so exciting, ESPN even covered it a little

2) Braden Holtby might be the best goalie in Capitals history, which isn't exactly a breathtaking standard

1) Boston Fan will tell you, at excruciating length, of just how heart-breaking it is to lose a close first round series, no matter how hard you try not to listen

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yu Darvish Changes The Game... and the math

So I had the very fine pleasure of watching Yu Darvish turn a very good Yankee lineup, in a very good hitters' park, into absolute meek hamburger last night, as the Rangers beat the Yankees 2-0.

Darvish went 8.1 innings, giving way only to the one double play pitch of Joe Nathan to finish things off, and never looked like he was doing anything difficult. And sure, it's April and a home game, but the Yanks came in swinging hot bats, and Arlington is never an easy place to pitch, and this is your first Ranger shutout of the Bombers in a dog's age. And how Darvish did it was, well, striking.

This isn't a per se crafty guy, the way so many Japanese pitchers have been, with quirks in the delivery or better breaking stuff than pure heat. Darvish isn't killing the radar gun, but he's throwing in the mid 90s without any seeming effort, and everything's got a tail on it, or at least did last night.

You can really see why so many teams were willing to pony up the big bucks for him; he's an obvious #1 arm, and while every pitcher is always on his way to his next injury, there's nothing violent or forced about his motion. He's long to the plate, and looks like he might beat himself by not being able to repeat his motion all the time, but that's all good -- because if he didn't have flaws, he'd be damn near unhittable, and smart to boot.

There is, of course, one other moment of hope for the Rangers' enemies, and that is the rather long leash that the Rangers have him on might trip him up. Last night was his second straight game in the 120 pitch neighborhood, as Nolan Ryan continues to put his stamp on the organization as the No Babies Allowed team. But it's very hard to see how that's hurting them, seeing how the Rangers have gone to two straight World Series without massive pitching injuries, and many of their young arms have thrived.

Personally, I look at Darvish and see a guy that redefines the landscape. Everyone knew he was going to be good; he's that perfect combination of skills plus performance. No one really thinks that Japanese pitchers can't transfer competence here; it's the same as taking a guy from Cuba, college, or high school and for every Kei Igawa, there's been a Hideo Nomo and Hideki Kuroda (who pitched fine in a losing effort for the Yanks last night as well).

 Rather, there's this. The Yankees' $180 million payroll, in that the new Stadium has ceased to bring in dramatic infusions of cash (note how those close seats are still empty, two years later? telling), and the YES Network has matured. Instead, it is other teams like Texas, Anaheim, and maybe soon the Dodgers and Astros, that are bringing their regional networks online, and getting in the $150 range.

And well, $30 million isn't *that* big of an edge, especially when you are already locked down on guys like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derk Jeter... None of whom, well, looked anything as exciting as Darvish last night.

 Now, if we can just someone get every team up to spending $150 million on player salaries, we'll fix baseball for all, rather than just 10 markets.

But until then, Darvish pitches again in four days...

Top 10 reasons why Metta World Peace got a 7-game suspension

10) It's five for elbowing James Harden, and two for elbowing James Harden's Beard

9) Harden got concussed, so by the standing rules of the age, the penalty must be tripled

8) Metta failed to tear off his shirt, hold his hand up to his ear to hear the crowd, or hit the prone Harden with a steel chair

7) The NBA wants to ensure that the large-market Lakers see Round Two

6) This sets up Metta to be nice and rested for that inevitable cheap theater second round match up against the Thunder

5) The NBA really needs his $348K in docked salary, as the lockout totally decimated the league office's donut and pastry budget

4) His therapist said seven was the right amount of games

3) The elbow was early a little less than 1/12th as bad as the Malice in the Palace incident

2) One stupid elbow is the same as a no-contest plea on a domestic violence charge

1) The NBA is well and truly worried about what happens if he's away from a coach and managed living situation for longer than that

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chris Christie enjoys sound bites more than money

Many people across the country, more than who actually live in this state, seem to think that the current governor of my state is some kind of hero or something. This is, of course, because he enjoys baiting the media (well, no one can be all bad), and will speak plainly about things. And heaven knows that there's really no love lost between most of the state's residents and it's cursed little ex-basketball team, who just played its last in the state, and are on their way to Brooklyn for, one presumes, some sort of boost to their fortunes, if only because there really is no where for them to go but up. In case you missed it, here's what the big sack said. Now, a few points. 1) There will never be, not ever, an NBA team coming to New Jersey ever again. Newark is not that exciting, no NBA stars want to live in North Jersey, and the state will never foster an attractive enough business environment to get a new tenant for that building, well, ever again. 2) The fact that the building will be empty for 41 more nights a year, and that Christie seems to be cavalier about that... tells you all that you really need to know about his stewardship of the state, now, doesn't it?

And the hit isn't just from the lack of crowds, given that Net crowds weren't ever all that intense; it's also from the property taxes, income taxes and ancillary spending done by the gaggle of millionaires that the Nets bring in for six to nine months a year. Basketball players are mini corporation in and of themselves, and they spend. Oh, dear me, how they spend.

There was probably nothing that Christie could have done, or should have done, to keep the Nets in New Jersey. Brooklyn has more money, more people, better transit (though the Pru Arena is awfully easy to get to via regional rail), and the cachet born from a decade plus of hipster gentrification; a million things, really, that New Jersey does not have and never will.

 But there are ways to say goodbye (you know, perhaps with a small moment of class or grace?), and then there's playing for the cameras like a shoot wrestler.

Guess which one is more, well, done by grown ups?

Top 10 things Mickey Loomis learned from eavesdropping on the Saints' opponents

10) They really worried a lot about that Drew Brees guy

9) In terms of thwarting the opposition, you really didn't get much better than Hurricanes and tranny hookers

8) They were surprisingly uninterested in "Treme"

7) The Saints' bounty program wasn't exactly unique

6) The NFL was totally out to get them for not moving the team to Los Angeles

5) Andy Reid sounds even worse than he looks when he eats

4) When you listened to the Patriots' coaching staff, it was always in the original Latin and Aramaic

3) It might have been a hint when people walked through the area loudly proclaiming how unauthorized wiretapping is a federal crime

2) You really, absolutely, could not tell Jim Haslett anything

1) Super secret football stuff, since football games are only won by super secret genius coach moves

Monday, April 23, 2012

Top 10 reasons why the Atlanta Falcons turned down HBO's "Hard Knocks"

10) Afraid that the network would find out about the QB's shameful secret criminal activities

9) Roddy White and a live mic isn't exactly a recipe for team harmony

 8) Just not able to match Rex Ryan's standard for HBO-ready dialogue

7) Worried that if they appear on the show, people would start noticing how they never actually win any playoff games

6) Don't want the world to know just what's involved in keeping Tony Gonzalez and John Abraham upright

5) Need to keep Matt Bryant's collection of children's teeth as far from the media as possible

4) Know that, if they did this, Brent Grimes would spawn off with 25 different women in an attempt to raise the bar for CBs on the show

 3) Would feel bad after telling Michael Turner that he was going to be a big part of the show, only to see his role reduced

2) Mike Smith was given the final decision to kick away the opportunity or go for it, and he's not really the guy you want to make that decision

 1) HBO might be total jerks and point out the uncomfortable truth about how Atlanta Fan is the worst fanbase in sports

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wee Wee

If you write about sports, there's a two letter word that should never, ever, appear in your writing, outside of a quote.

That word is "we."

If it does appear in your writing, it really does not matter what you write about, or how you write it. Your statistics may be revelatory, your prose might sing, your timing may be impeccable and your passion may be immaculate. It won't matter; your words will read like turds in my cereal, and you will force me to think of you in the following groups.

1) Willfully ignorant, like a child that refuses to be corrected, and seems to be more interested in a confrontation than anything else. Sports are a business, and we pay either to watch the game in money, time and patience. If you believe you are part of the team because you cheered real hard or stared at the television for a very long time... um, no. You paid; they got paid. You are not them. Grow the hell up.

2) Cynically exploitative, as if you were getting paid by the network or team to hype the game beyond the simple pleasure that is, well, a game to watch. I'll agree that some teams are more fun to root for than others; those generally involve teams with young and emerging players, grateful but limited veterans who are being managed to their full proficiency, and the occasional mix of funny/goofy/unique that endears. There's also very little, in the way of reporting, that's going to make me decide that a player is that way: those are judgments that I come to all of my lonesome, thank you. So telling me you we're all a swell bunch of guys is just going to make my Bullspit Meter go through the roof, and make me regard you as, well, a carnival barker.

3) Phenomenally conceited, since your words and views are so clearly In The Right For All that you don't just speak for yourself, but for a large group of other, obviously correct thinking, individuals. Who are we, the humble readers, to disagree with the Nation of We?

4) Uselessly biased, since the We must involve a fan base that the reader isn't (hopefully) part of. You can go very far in life by just remembering the sage advice of Groucho Marx, who said that he would never be part of a club that would have him as a member.

5) Spectacularly lazy and inconsiderate, since We isn't exactly taught in journalism schools (you know, where standards might actually be upheld), appreciated by the non mouth-breathing members of the general public, or applauded by, well, anyone.

So if you find yourself, in a moment of weakness or self-loathing, reading a piece in which the writer goes We all over you?

Don't give them the opportunity to do it again.

Standards, people. Standards.

Top 10 takeaways from the Flyers taking out the Penguins

10) Now that Sidney Crosby has been told what's wrong with him, he's sure to learn from the error of his ways

9) Now that he's been good for much of the past two games and gotten out of the first round, Ilya Bryzgalov is totally back in the fan's confidence and worth the $51 million

8) Claude Giroux is pretty physical for a goal-scoring elf

7) When your defense blocks 40 shots, you can make even the shakiest goalie look good

6) Game Six showed the incredible importance of taking a lead

5) The idea that this series ended with only eight penalties in Game Six after the earlier festivities is all kinds of disappointing to way too many fans

4) One of the more printable things chanted by Flyer Fan as "We don't like you", which had to come as all sorts of shocking to Crosby

3) Pittsburgh was the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup, which tells you everything you need to know about betting on hockey

2) Dan Bylsma didn't wish the Flyers luck in the second round, which really surprised and disappointed, well, no one

1) The deciding game was more or less ended in the first 32 seconds of play, which always happens in playoff-enders

Please, Oh Please, Let The Red Sox Stink

So tonight in Boston, a day after getting punked by the Yankees on their 100th anniver- sary, the Red Sox had vengeance working for them. Freddy Garcia got fingered by the second inning, the home town team was up nine in the sixth inning, and any sensible observer was starting to think about the Sunday game to see who would win the series.

But, well, baseball has no clock, and these Red Sox have not been good for the last two months of baseball -- last September and this April -- especially in the bullpen. Mark Teixeira took advantage by going deep twice, Nick Swisher had the big go-ahead double, and "closer" Alfredo Aceves had given up five runs without recording an out.

Add it up, and you get Bobby Valentine getting booed by the hometown crowd in one of the shortest honeymoons you have ever seen, and Boston falling to 4-10, 4.5 games out in the AL East.Andrew Bailey is out for at least half of the year. Mark Melancon stunk so bad, he's in AAA. Aceves hasn't been unfailingly awful, but tonight's game was, and they needed this one a lot. Which is all dressing them back to putting Daniel Bard in the bullpen, as if that will really solve anything, reverse the crumbling Kevin Youkilis career path, make people think that Valentine isn't a spineless piece of garbage, or that the whole team isn't, well...

Tremendously overrated and more or less doomed to getting curbstomped all year in the best division in baseball?

Toronto is, secretly, not bad. Tampa could be really good if Carlos Pena keeps having a renaissance, and the young pitching stays healthy. The Yankees are actually more vulnerable than you think, but can still hit the ball all over the lineup, and at least their bullpen isn't looking like a sieve. Baltimore has had some encouraging starting pitching so far this year, and they've drafted high enough long enough that, like Tampa a few years ago, is going to luck into a few arms at some point.

And Boston?Well, they've lost their GM, their manager, their close, and after last September... maybe even their confidence. And in a few more days, 10% of the season will be gone, and if the remaining 90% of the year is anything like these...

Well, the Sox will lose over 100 games, Fenway will be half-empty by August, Road Sox Fan will turtle up and make any number of stadiums habitable again, and ESPN will alternate between a Valentine death watch and serving up heaping helpings of sweet Sox Fan Whine Tears.

But hey, it's only April.

Friday, April 20, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Please Stop Photographing My Child

I don't know how many of you folks are parents, and how many of you have school-aged children, but here's a fun fact for the people who run our public schools:

I own a camera.

Cameras are, in fact, ubiquitous. There's one on my presence at nearly every waking hour of the day.

I don't really need you to photograph my kid any more.

I *really* do not need you turn school hours into a for-profit forced participation photography experience, as if the children are celebrities and you are paparazzi.

And I really, really do not need you to then send the photos to my house in an opt-out direct marketing ploy.

And 3X really for doing this multiple times a year.

You see, I'd like the kids to learn venality, desperation and coercion where children have always learned such things: from their classmates, teachers, and eventually, coworkers.

From you people, I kind of need her to learn math, science, language, social studies, work habits, organization and the like.

And if you could just take one suggestion?

Rather than try to nickel and dime me every freaking week with candy drives, program ads, the yearbook, picture taking, school store, PTA and every other little fever dream for spare change...

Can you just give me the STFU option and let me scratch you one check at the start of the year for some lump sum, so we can, you know...

Avoid all of this nonsense and, you know, actually focus on education?

Top 10 takeaways from Dwight Howard's season-ending injury

10) We know it's totally legit because Howard will also miss the Olympics, and no one ever wants to do that

9) This is totally Ryan Anderson's chance to make an awful lot of money

8) Stan van Gundy is thrilled to learn that Howard is going to be totally healthy for the next coach of the Magic

7) The fact that Howard issued various reasons as to why the injury is legit isn't in any way suspicious

6) Finally, Glen Davis is a go-to guy

5) Hedo Turkoglu is totally convinced that Howard timed this to steal his injury spotlight

4) If this doesn't stop his string of Defensive Player of the Year awards, nothing will

3) There's something very wrong in an NBA season in which Dwight Howard gets hurt and Andrew Bynum is healthy

2) Finishing second in the East and drawing the resurgent Knicks doesn't seem like such an accomplishment over finishing third and playing the Dwight-less Magic now

1) Orlando is totally OK with not trading him now, since big men with back issues always come back completely

Top 10 reasons why Donovan McNabb thinks he should be in the Hall of Fame

10) Made multiple NFC title games with, no, seriously, Todd Pinkston as his deep threat

9) Certain that as time goes by, career numbers for QBs aren't going to inflate at all

8) Nothing done under Daniel Snyder or Brad Childress actually counts as being in the NFL

7) Being the best QB in the history of the Eagles should matter on some level

6) Paves the way for Jeff Garcia and Kevin Kolb

5) It's not as if anyone else could get Andy Reid to a Super Bowl

4) Didn't kill Terrell Owens, despite ample opportunity and countless motives

3) Won a whole lot of games to be able to lose the games that people actually remember

2) His stats totally compare to guys that did more in playoff games

1) Would finally be able to put to rest the doubts that the Eagles really should have drafted Ricky Williams instead

Thursday, April 19, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Documentaries About Hideous People

Going way off the boards today, people. Buckle up for some of the worst search engine traffic in the history of the blog.

Following last week's vacation, the Shooter Wife has been catching up on her sleep in the evenings while I catch up to the second and third shift needs of The Day Job. Mostly, that means staying awake to grind through work that stops interesting me in mid-task, so I fire up Netflix Instant, and plow through the stuff that would upset the wife, to provide distraction background fodder while I work and blog.

Anyway, with the Sixers' season falling into its most dispiriting conclusion since the tail end of the Iverson Era, and baseball only providing so much in the way of interest just yet, I've been watching documentaries. Two, in particular, that shouldn't be viewed back to back if you'd like to keep any kind of hope about the human condition. The first is called "Fall From Grace", and it stars the lovely Phelps Clan (or is it Klan?), and the second is "The Goebbels Experiment," where the actor Kenneth Branagh reads the Third Reich's Minister of Propaganda's diaries from a 25-year period, from his start as a gloomy literary doctoral student to his grim immolated murder-suicide finale in Hitler's bunker.

Let's start with the people who are alive. "Grace" does a lovely job of getting the Phelpses to open up without hostility or artifice, and you are struck by the following six points.

1) These are not stupid people. They are experts at provoking a crowd, able to think on their feet, and articulate. If you are looking for frothing at the mouth hate-mongers, these aren't your people.

2) Censoring them, and destroying the First Amendment in the process, is not an option, not if you truly love what this country stands for. (And not, of course, what the Phelpses want to return us to.)

3) They know this, and are exceptionally skilled in their ability to exploit this fact.

4) If you want to pick and choose what you want from the Bible (Old Testament strictures against homosexuals that were undoubtedly meant to protect minors, rather than legislate against consenting adults, a wrathful God who seems to delight in the torment of the damned) and modern life (the Internet, modern medicine, media coverage of your cause)... that is a hollow faith. I'd cut these people more of a break if they also told us God Hates Shrimp, or lived like the Amish. But that misses the cynicism, and creates doubt, the most misunderstood of God's gifts.

5) Ignoring them, and hoping they will go away, might be the only way to starve the fire. But that's not going to happen when they delight in the death of U.S. military personnel, which is all kinds of disturbing in and of itself. Making a Hate Circus of a gay person's funeral was fine, but not a Marine? Interesting.

6) Their entire existence would not be terribly interesting, or all that poignant, if it weren't for the presence of untold numbers of children who are being raised in a permanently warping situation. Some of the Phelpses have escaped from this life, and are heard from in the film, and it's, well, haunting. The only thing that seems to be keeping these folks from the Waco Moment is that they are bright enough to not wave guns around. But if you wanted to give me a bet on how this ends, I'd bet on violence.

Now, on to the 20th century's most lasting legacy of death, the Nazis.

I don't know about you, but I've always been kind of mystified as to how these thieves and hate mongers ever got into power. When you see excerpts of the rallies, it's always the party leaders (and generally, it's Hitler) ranting and raving, and this would go on for hours. How does that work, even in an era before television, even in an era before cynicism about media?

Well, when you watch the full footage, you start to actually see it. There's stagecraft here, religious level crowd manipulation, and utter... well, there's no way to get around this: integrity. Goebbels comes across as petulant, melodramatic, manipulative, industrious... in other words, human. Whether his diaries avoided the most virulent anti-Semitism or the film makers simply omit it to keep the awful momentum on track, there's really not so much that's Monster with a capital M here.

Let's just say it this way: if Goebbels were alive today and American, he'd have no shortage of work. Probably in AM radio, but maybe without any fame at all.

Finally, and here's where this dovetails, there's how the movie ends... with the Allied forces exhuming the roasted corpses of Goebbels and his wife, and laying them next to the poisoned bodies of the man's children. You see these kids all throughout the movie, in propaganda movies and private films, and...

Well, they could be anyone's children. And they died, as did so many others, murdered by some of the worst people that ever lived, and the crime still echoes. You can't un-see this, it still nauseates three generations later, and the fact that so many others were killed doesn't enter into it.

There are just the children, as if asleep, lying next to this grotesque, all dead, dead, dead.

And as the Phelps show... it won't be the last time it happens.


How about them sports, huh?

One of the better jokes you'll see in your spam email folder this year

And no, I didn't Photoshop any of it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Eagles 2012 Season Ended Today

The NFL schedule was announced today, and my laundry got boned. Hard. How? Well, let's dig into it, shall we?

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Arizona, 4:05 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, NY Giants, 8:20 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Monday, Nov. 5, at New Orleans, 8:30 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, Dallas, 4:15 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Monday, Nov. 26, Carolina, 8:30 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Dallas, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 13, Cincinnati, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at NY Giants, 1:00 PM

Doesn't look that bad, does it? Well, that's because you are missing the Hidden Bummer Factors here.

In week five, they face a Steelers team at home, off their bye. That's pretty much an automatic loss right there, even if Pitt wasn't a better team (and, well, they are).

In week six, they get a home game against a very explosive Lions team that is -- stop me if you see this one coming -- playing the game after a bye. Just what you'd want after getting hammered by Yinzers. Yeesh.

Week 8, where Coach For Life Andy Reid puts his vaunted If Only I Had Weeks To Prepare For Every Game I'd Always Win record? The Falcons are coming off the bye, too. Just in case you think these things would even out.

Week 11, Robert Griffin III regroups off his bye to lead the Redskins in that game. Not that it should matter, but hey.

So, 0-3 in terms of having a bye advantage. But wait, there's more.

That Week 13 game against Dallas is... the week after Thanksgiving. Which means Dallas will have their annual half-game edge of NFL reacharound, and you should also note that the Eagles will be coming off a MNF game in New Orleans, which is to say, another auto-loss. It's also the second time that they face Dallas on a short week. (They also get the Giants after that team plays on Thursday for even more Extra Green Day goodness.)

So in seven -- seven! -- out of 16 games, Philly faces a team with more prep time, with a QB that's always hurt, with an OL that just lost its best player, with a coach who is too fat and lazy to prep adequately on normal time.

Feeling good about the year yet?

The best hope I can have for this year is to be .500 at the bye, then win four out of five to make the division sweat. If they can get to the final four weeks in striking range, the closing schedule isn't terrible. But 2-4 at the break seems more likely, and never really getting over .500 for the whole damn year after that Cleveland opener, seems much more likely.

Which is to say... just like 2011, the most frustrating year to ever be a fan of this laundry. Whoopie!

Declining the Playoffs

Tonight, in their last home game of the regular season, the DOA Sixers lost to the Pacers, falling to eighth in the East with five games left to play. They are 1.5 games ahead of the Bucks, who actually seem to want to play in the playoffs, and certainly have more interest in playing the Bulls in a few weeks, since the building will sell out with Bulls fans. And maybe if they completely miss the playoffs, we can blow up the franchise (again), with the new owners finally getting Andre Iguodala sold for 40 cents on the dollar, with Doug Collins limping back to the broadcast booth so that they can lose in a more traditional way, and so that the very few people in town that believed in them, at any point during the year, can forget. As soon as possible, really.

Tomorrow, they go to Cleveland, then Indiana, New Jersey, Milwaukee and Detroit. I suspect they will win two of those five games (Cleveland and New Jersey), which will get them to 33-33 -- feeling the excitement yet? Milwaukee is currently 29-31, with six games to play, and they will likely win three of those games -- Washington tomorrow, New Jersey on Saturday, and Philadelphia next Wednesday. Which will get them to 32-34, safely out despite actually going for this by trading for Monta Ellis and not giving up in the last quarter of the season, but to no benefit. (And yes, playing Chicago is a benefit; any team that relies on Carlos Boozer and the broken-down melodrama that is 2012 Derrick Rose is vulnerable. But not to this collection of dead men walking.

You see, Milwaukee actually wants to be in the playoffs. They aren't convinced that they are going to lose, that their coach is too old, that their best players aren't good enough, that they can only win with bench players and a lack of scouting or preparation, that they only got here by pounding crud teams at the start of the season. All of which is not true of the Sixers. And the really hateful thing is that if they had played the same in the second half of the season the way they played in the first, it wouldn't have mattered that the schedule got harder. Defense, not turning the ball over, and moving the ball for easy open shots that are high percentage does not just work against bad teams; it works against everyone. And it was absolutely joyous to watch.

What we have with this team, what is unique and so proudly dispiriting, is that you have a team that walked halfway across the water on faith, then looked down and drowned. Watching them play any more ball is just morbid on every level. And watching a team that's profoundly not this (Miami) blow them out of the water on sheer talent, or a team that does this but with more size, athleticism and (sigh) better coaching (Chicago), isn't the last image you want to remember of them.

Rather, you want to forget them, as soon as possible, as much as possible, just to keep the dream in your mind alive that a team can win in the NBA without just having The Best Bailout Player, or the Best Two Man Game, or at most, the best starters. That all 48 minutes matter, that there's more than lottery luck involved in building a team, that there's another way to do this rather than being a plus market and attracting your own cabal.

In short, that there's hope.

Because this team gave me that, then mocked me for having it.

And I'd rather have the mockery end in a week, not two.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Big Easy Gets One Game To Watch

So the NBA, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to show its staying power in New Orleans by giving the 2014 All Star Game to the Crescent City. And all I can think of is... wow, what an obvious sop to the Expo -- err, I mean Hornets.

And sure, the Bugs are going to get new owners before then, with Saints owner Tom Benson looking to take things over from the extraordinarily hateful George Shinn. And sure, it doesn't take *that* much to get a tolerable team in town; all you need, really, is a once in a decade level player, kind of like, well, Chris Paul.

And that's the problem, isn't it? The Bugs had their once in a decade guy, just like they once had Baron Davis. And they moved them both for pennies on the dollar, and there's just something that spits in the eye of karma to imagine that a third transformative point guard is coming their way any time soon.

The last truly good Sixers point guard, a clear top 10 guy, was Mo Cheeks when I was a child. Johnny Dawkins and Eric Snow had moments, and Jrue Holliday or Evan Turner might finally end the drought. Allen Iverson wasn't a point, whether he lined up there or not, and Andre Miller's got heart to spare, but doesn't really transform anything.

The Bugs, of course, had the best in the business in Paul, a guy that's dragging the Clippers to a high berth, who is making DeAndre Jordan look miles better than he is, who gives the Clips hope that they really do not deserve. And the Bugs moved him, despite the fact that he never quit on them, because they knew they had more than a fair chance to get nothing if they kept him. And nothing is what Eric Gordon looks to be amounting to, and no one is thinking that kindly of Chris Freaking Kamen.

Once more, the fundamental inequality of cities comes into play here. Had Paul been drafted as a Knick, he'd be there for as long as the franchise wanted him. Same if he went to LA, New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas or Boston, the most favored nations in a league that subverts its salary cap with subterfuge.

So, sure, enjoy what some call the black Superbowl. It's a city that knows how to host, and should be in the mix for any marquee event like this one. Maybe they'll even fix the dunk contest by then, or figured out a way to make defense happen in the first 44 minutes.

But know this: unless Benson brings untold acumen and dollars to the table, or the Bugs get lucky in ways that stagger the imagination, there's not going to be a meaningful game played before that one. Or, well, anytime soon after...

Top 10 Takeaways from YoukilisGate

10) Bobby Valentine hasn't quite understood that he no longer works for ESPN

9) Only in Boston is your emotional commitment deemed as important as your physical commitment

8) April, and 10 games into the season, is the perfect time to make your team leaders question the manager's loyalty

7) Just in case you haven't realized it yet, Boston's gone back to Amateur Hour in the GM and managerial chairs

6) If you get hurt, Valentine clearly feels that you can be insulted back into health

5) After this incident, Youkilis may not be the only person in the clubhouse with a sore groin

4) Dustin Pedroia doesn't know what Valentine is trying to do, which means Pedroia has the good luck to have never worked for a bad boss

3) Boston's sports media is more than a little thrilled to bag a scalp this quickly

2) Give Nick Punto 50 to 100 at bats, and Valentine will, in all likelihood, never make this mistake again

1) There are only six more guys on the roster who make eight figures for management to alienate

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The season of hate

A couple of months ago, here's what we had in the NBA.

> My Sixers playing a kind of zero turnover, total team, massive defense and bench edge ball that qualifies as the most unique path to a division crown, well, ever

> Boston dead and buried, looking to trade their one good young player, and seemingly on the verge of either a first round beatdown by vastly more athletic teams, or out of the playoffs entirely

> New York slumbering before the Linsanity, with Carmelo Anthony being fitted for his bust in the Superstar Team Murderer Hall of Fame

> Denver looking for all the world like the most fun dark horse you've ever seen, with athleticism to spare and a 10-deep roster of quality options

> Dalls with the potential to not even defend their title with a playoff appearance, and Mark Cuban to pursue a class-action lawsuit against Lamar Odom for being the reason why birds no longer sing, flowers no longer bloom, and the sun no longer shines for the Mavs

> Portland to suck in another group of stat heads and fools who fail to recognize that Paul Allen backed entities almost always fail

> The Lakers gag their way out of their automatic Pacific Division crown to the vastly more fun to watch Clippers, and

> The Wolves sneak their way into the playoffs for the first time since the Kevin Garnett Abomination Trade, with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love giving them all kinds of chances at extending a first-round series into the Hmm Stage.

Here's what we have now.

> The Sixers stumbling a nearly identical record and result as last year's Miami speedbag year, with no sustained development from the young players that have to carry the mail for them in the future

> The Celtics' 666th rise from the dead, and a likely first round matchup they will win, just to give us another 10 to 12 games and 3 to 4 weeks of Boston Boston Boston Boston

> New York getting enough shots from Anthony to emerge as a complete sucker bet against Miami or Chicago, and at least 1-2 more years of hearing how wonderful it is to have meaningful games in the Garden again

> Denver selling Nene Hilario for pennies on the dollar while getting slammed by injuries, making them just anotehr first round tomato can

> Dallas winning just often enough to set up a likely first-round series with San Antonio, also known as the only opponent they have a reasonable chance to beat

> Portland falling apart and throwing in the towel

> The Lakers getting exactly what they needed -- an actual point guard (Ramon Sessions) for no price -- and then having Kobe Bryant get hurt so that they could finally get all of those low-percentage shots out of the offense

> Rubio and Love getting hurt and the Wolves utterly tanking

In other words... just about every fun thing, and just about every thing that I was rooting for, going to hell. Which isn't to say that the playoffs are going to be unwatchable -- we're still going to get the Thunder going deep, the Clippers trying to get past the Lakers in a wildly bitter series, and some second and third round blood wars -- but yeesh. I was looking forward to a new kind of ball, total team movement and defense, new names and forces at work. Instead, we're going to have more of the same.

Which, for a Sixers fan, is... what the Association has been serving up for a decade.

Fun, huh?

Top 10 reasons why the Penguins and Flyers do not like each other

10) Both teams resist the efforts of the other to punch them in the face

9) Claude Giroux totally doesn't say thank you when the Penguins set him up for goals

8) Philly Fan and Pittsburgh Fan don't check to see which fork they should use when stabbing each other

7) The Flyers keep forgetting to tell Sidney Crosby how worried they are about his concussion issues

6) Ilya Bryzgalov keeps letting in goals to everyone but Evgeni Malkin

5) Danny Briere keeps having multi-goal games, as if one goal isn't good enough

4) The Flyers keep giving up early leads and winning anyway

3) Each team's fans is convinced that the other city is the one that's more surrounded by rednecks and racists

2) Philadelphia keeps disagreeing with the idea that Marc-Andre Fleury is, well, any good at all

1) Have somehow let decades of dislike and regional animosities turn hockey into a violent game

On The Surface

The tri-weekly poker tournament, the first half hour... No cards. No cards. No cards, no cards, no cards, no cards, no cards. Multiply by three. Finally make a move when the board pairs and bet into the guy who has trips. Tasty. Rebuy. No cards, no cards, no cards.

Why do I even play this game? It's pointless. No one else has any cards either, they just aren't as stupid / cowardly / cheap as you, you moron. Everyone bluffs. All the time. Patience is for blinded out losers. Oh, except for that time you bet into trips. That was just bad luck. BET.

The second hour. Some cards. Hmmph. I'm not getting paid on them. Everyone reads me like a book -- a comic book. Patience never works when you have so many tells. I'm exhausted. No way I'm winning this thing.

What's my daughter doing down here? Oh, she can't sleep, and I'm Solo Parent this week, and no one at the tables has issues with language, so OK, let her stay.

Kid's bad luck. I'm card dead again. No way I'm winning this thing.

Well, that helped. Nice time for a double up... and wow, big paint. I'll call that guy's all-in and catch on the flop. No change on the turn and he's walking... GAHHHH. Freaking two outer on the river. And I dealt it. Don't freak out, the kid's right there, it was a coin flip at the start, that's how you have to consider it...


Well, lookie. Ace-9 and shoving going on in front of me. Hope no one else has an ace with a better kicker, because this is all of it.... and really? The nine's going to hold up and quadruple me up, like that two-outer never happened? That never happens. Don't gloat; the kids is watching. And being an ass isn't ever a really good idea.

Others knocking themselves out now, and I've got top pair with a straight and flush draw on the board. Put him on the flush... and oh hell, he's got both of those outs. And misses, and I'm scooping, and the kid is asking me questions and not now, you little card magnet, Dad is dreaming of money...

Grind, raise, grind, raise. When's this kid falling asleep? Never. Well, OK, just keep sending me cards. Catch, advance, scoop, chip lead and adding...

And before I know it, I'm heads up for one hand. Pair of jacks. He gets it all out there. I call, duck the Ace he needed to draw even or better, and try to look calm and collected when the kid starts asking me how much I won.

Oh, I won? Well, yes, that's nice. Had a good feeling about it all along, kiddo.

And I guess I'm excited, but you know, it's poker.

Can't get too up or down.

Top 10 MLB Takeaways After Nine Games

10) San Diego is already six games out of the West, which is going to really depress both of their fans

9) Minnesota is so excited about Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau hitting home runs, they haven't really noticed that the rest of the team is horrible

8) Justin Upton still doesn't have an RBI, not that his fantasy owners are bitter or anything

7) If you want to blame Brian Wilson's injury woes on his persona, beard, or Taco Bell commercials, I'll completely back that up

6) Todd Helton hit a walk-off home run, because nothing really has changed in a decade

5) Francisco Liriano should really be proud of the way he sucks in fantasy baseball players every spring

4) You will forgive Angel Fan for starting to wonder if 10 years of this Albert Pujols is going to be a very good idea

3) It might be the right time to sell high on Carlos Pena

2) Many of the worst-performing starting pitchers are owned in your fantasy league by increasingly bitter, bitter people

1) It's so early in the season, many fan bases haven't even resigned themselves to the fact that their teams are tanking yet

Thursday, April 12, 2012

About Sports Dramas on Broadway

In re "Magic / Bird", the new play on Broadway that deals with the relationship between the two signature stars of the 1980s NBA...

If you are watching a drama about something sports related, you are not, in fact, watching sports.

You are, in fact, watching something that has *nothing* to do with sports, in that the nature of drama is that the outcome is scripted, there is nothing random or unexpected that is likely to happen, and that it ends the same way every time.

If that sort of thing appeals to you, please stop telling me how much of a sports fan you are. Since it's obvious to everyone but you that you are much more interested in drama, rather than game.

Game, you see, doesn't care about the personalities involved. Game does not have to be great, or epic, or spectacular, or life-changing, or any of the other labels you want to give to your leisure time viewing.

Game can happen at any time, at any place, for any stakes. It does not need to be plucky underdogs against arrogant pretty boys. It does not need to be aging superstar in his last chance for glory, or rookie phenom ascending to greatness. It just, well, has to be Game.

Game is what you catch as you stand by the stream of sport, casting your line in for a period of time, drinking deep of the moment, the present, the here and the now, the reason why sports are the only live event that requires appointment television.

(Though the fact that the Shooter Brother is watching 15+ hour old highlights of a playoff hockey game right now, and reacting as if real time, with the ref baiting and happiness that you'd expect from someone in the front row? Adorable, really. But besides the point.)

Game can be boring. Frequently is, actually. Game requires, nay demands, you to be humble, since you will get boring much more than exciting. Game will also create loss much more than win, especially if you want win at the end of the season, when it matters.

Game, in short, is everything that Drama is not. It's also why I love Game, and Drama people, well, do not.

So, no, "Magic/Bird" isn't something you need to know about. And it's also telling, so telling, that it comes from the poisoned well of the World Wide Lemur, really. And the fact that it will make money, just like all of the other moments of Drama over Game...

Is the single biggest reason why you should hate ESPN.

Because they are Drama people. And they are ruining our Game.

Top 10 reasons why Jason Kidd wants to play another year

10) Doesn't want to go out with anything less than an 82-game grind

9) Wants to become the first NBA player to ever score all of his points on three-pointers

8) Thinks that if he just plays one more year, Toni Braxton will take him back

7) 40-year-old point guards all over the world need encouragement, dammit

6) It's not as if he's going to get any slower, or more limited

5) Given his past record with women, having a job that requires a lot of travel is a win

4) Convinced that crippling groin injuries just get better with time

3) Given that Mark Cuban just paid for the Lamar Odom Experience, it's not as if this isn't an easy payday

2) Needs to put that Derek Fisher whippersnapper in his place

1) Wants to go out in a year when he's shooting 36% from the floor, not 34%

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Top 10 signs you aren't prepared for the Stanley Cup playoffs

Here you go, long suffering hockey fans (which is to say, hockey fans) who still read FTT... the annual hockey post! (Mostly to placate the Shooter Brother, who loves him some hockey.)

10) You really like Edmonton's chances

9) You think Philadelphia finally solved it's goalie problem

8) You look at Vancouver's uniforms and ask, "When did Hartford get a team again?"

7) You still think Sidney Crosby will stay healthy

6) Every time you hear the Kings' goalie called Quick, you wonder why they aren't telling you his real name

5) You wonder when the Rangers will ever be good again

4) You think Wayne Gretzky gives Phoenix the edge

3) You expect to see some of these highlights on ESPN

2) You think this Mike Keenan guy knows what he's talking about

1) You actually think you can make money while betting on this

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In Defense of Lamar Odom

Let's say that... I make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. I create a situation in which your work gets you paid beyond your ability to realistically spend, to the point where you can provide for you and yours. Let's put that net worth at, oh, say, $56 million.

Now, I take you from the place where you've chosen to live, the only place you really want to be. And I send you to the middle of Redneck Texas, where nothing is the way you like it.

I'm also going to do this to you at a time in your career when your physical condition is starting to go down, and your job isn't as much fun as it used to be. Finally, I'm going to have you married to a high-maintenance celebrity wife, and give you the ability to make money outside of your job through acting.

Now... why on earth would you keep doing the job in Redneck Texas?

What I've just described is, of course, the saga of Lamar Odom with the Dallas Mavericks, who have just parted ways in one of the least amicable ways imaginable. Odom never wanted to be in Dallas, never wanted to be part of a franchise that was defending the title won over his Lakers, and has spent the last six months wondering what he did to deserve Phil Jackson going away, his primo spot with the Lakers going away, and why he's good enough to play for Team USA in international games, but not good enough to get starter's minutes in LA or Dallas.

You know what I'd do if I were him?

Well, I'd probably grind out a role and play, because I'm very, very stupid like that, and I'm not worth at least $56 million, with a seaming taste for the weed, and the desire to bang a reality TV skank.

Your mileage, and Lamar's, may vary.

No one should be surprised that this came out the way it did, or think that slagging Odom is going to make a minute of difference to him.

(Oh, by the way? The next time you hear someone talk about how you need to have heart, courage, commitment and a raft of other sweet-smelling unreality to Be A Champion, remember that Lamar has rings. Several of them, actually.)

So, one final question, and I'll leave this 32-going-on-done big man with handle and versatility be...

Why is everyone harshing on Odom, rather than the Mavericks, who clearly did no homework whatsoever in trading for him?

Top 10 reasons why the Marlins suspended Ozzie Guillen for admitting that he likes Fidel Castro

10) By doing this one single action, will prevent Ozzie from ever saying anything awkward, ill-informed, misguided or controversial ever again

9) Would not want to offend the sensibilities of the ever-dwindling number of Cuban-Americans who actually remember Castro

8) Afraid that unless they nip this in the bud, Ozzie will continue to extol the virtues of all of the world's Communist dictators

7) Friendliness toward the Cuban government might lead to actually getting talent out of the island

6) Our American rights of free speech can only be protected by censoring our employees

5) Jeff Loria thinks that if he does this, he'll actually earn his first friend in the community

4) Heard that Castro was behind the Carlos Zambrano acquisition

3) Are actually owned by mobsters with interests in Havana's dormant casino industry

2) Worried that without stern counter-measures, more team personnel would fall like dominoes under Castro's spell

1) When you change your franchise's theme song to a festive salsa number, and your outfield celebration to something John Waters would find tacky, you have to butch it up somehow

Monday, April 9, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Walking Where The Others Don't Walk

As always with FTT O-T, it's a big bad Internet and you should go look at it if you need everything to be about sports. You can also, you know, scroll. But today with your indulgence, you get a soundtrack. Lucky you!

I'm on vacation this week in suburban San Diego visiting the Shooter Brother, and in my effort to keep the inevitable vacation weight gain from eating well off, I took a 3-mile hike yesterday around the area. It's one of those things I get to do, now that I'm in my 40s and want to remain my current shape. Anyway, not the point.

San Diego is, of course, one of the world's most desired places to live, and there's lots to recommend it; weather, views, lack of bugs and humidity. It also might be the single biggest place for overblown real estate, at least this side of Dubai. Which makes for a rather interesting walk.

First off, no one does it. The roads around here have no sidewalks, of course, because everyone drives everywhere. The closest you will see to sustainable transportation is a few bikes, loathed by the large vehicles that zoom around them. There are hybrids, of course: $4+ gasoline will take a bite out of anyone. But they seem like affectations, rather than actual transportation.

Next are the signs. Everywhere is a Neighborhood Watch, or Private Property, or Beware Of Dog or Electrified Fence or Residents Only or etc., etc. The least walkable neighborhoods you can imagine, and yet plenty of rusted over, neglected and unnecessary signs making sure that some solicitor or ne'er-do-well is told his proper place. It would be funny if it weren't, well, diagnosable.

Your next object of amusement are the RVs. Rather than build an addition to the homes that are already preposterously large in the first place, people park de facto buses on their property and beach them. You'd think that this wouldn't do much for the eye or property value, and you'd be right; it's like hoarding relatives from flyover land came to squat on the property. But there they are, nonetheless, a monument to more.

Finally, there's the critters. This place is alive with creatures that aren't paying the rent: lizards and hawks and squirrels, rabbits and more, more, more. Walk along the roads, and you can hear a constant scurrying in the underbrush, as beings that aren't used to being disturbed by the slow quiet approach of a walking person clear out with velocity. It's like walking around in a Jiffy-Pop griddle, and it's a fairly good thing, of course; it's one of the reasons why the place is more or less bug-free. But it is, well, interesting.

Oh, and one last thing about my little hike: I did it in daylight, of course, dressed in a collared shirt and clean office manager khakis, while being clean-shaven and, well, painfully white.

I felt reasonably safe.

But not as safe as I would, in say, a working-class neighborhood in New York City...

Top 10 takeaways from the first half-week of baseball

10) Boston and the Yankees are on pace to both go 0-162, which is a neat trick, given how they play each other 206 times

9) Reports of the death of the Phillie offense may not be at all exaggerated

8) You will forgive Baltimore Fan for not believing in this 3-0 start, considering that last year also started this way

7) Red Sox Fan is totally ready to forgive Jonathan Papelbon for everything, so long as he just comes home

6) Making teams play in Japan two weeks before the season begins remains retarded on every single level

5) Minnesota is already looking to next year

4) We're about two weeks away from Hanley Ramirez deciding that he doesn't want to play third base anymore

3) The Mets are leading the NL East, as everyone knew they would, assuming you define everyone as the population of your local lunatic ward

2) Yoenis Cespedes is on pace to hit 122 home runs and strike out 284 times

1) If the season ended today, neither the Red Sox or Yankees would make the playoffs, which is the best reason ever to end the season today

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Worst Kind Of Year

If at the start of the year, you had told me that after 55 games of the regular season, that my Sixers would be 29-26, 2 games off the division lead from Boston and in the 7th seed in the East, I would have likely shrugged.

After all, that's more or less where they were last year, and more or less where people expected them to finish this year. The only real difference being that Boston is actually catchable, at least in theory. (Though after tonight's Starters Suck home court loss to the reeling Magic, you wonder if even that theory is plausible.)

Had you also spotted me the small moments of how Evan Turner would be showing signs of breakout, and Spencer Hawes would be giving them hope for the future at 5, I also would have been heartened.

Toss in the small moments that Nic Vucevic and Lavoy Allen would definitely seem like rotation-worthy big men, and that the team would have suffered no truly awful injuries, and I'd probably take the year as a further small building moment.

It's just how they've gotten here that's been so depressing. Hot start, slow fade, fools' gold feeling and the growing sense that Doug Collins isn't long for this world as an NBA coach. And that the ball movement, unselfish play, deep bench and solid defense are all just mirages of the short sprint season, and that the deeper story is that the treadmill here is forever, that Jrue Holiday and Turner are just not good enough to turn the corner and be top-tier talents, and that we will spend the next 5 to 10 years being the first round speed bag for the Heat and Bulls, once we choke off the division to whatever Boston and New York rolls out in the perpetually weak Atlantic Division.

Assuming that they don't fall behind New York behind them, and Milwaukee as well, the Sixers will spend their second straight postseason getting rolled by Miami, a team they've gone 0-4 against with about as much resistance as the Ethiopians offered against Mussolini. They'll do it with Little Engine That Can't depression, with Elton Brand trying his aging and not athletic enough heart out, with Lou Williams giving rays of hope from the bench on offense and sighs of resignation on defense, with Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala showing themselves to be nice things to have for better teams to add in future trades, with Collins getting to that back to you Marv moment where he realizes that the broadcast booth is a better place to spend his time.

And no one will note, nor remember, just how much fun it was to watch this team at the start of the year, when they truly were a joy to watch. Even if the only thing they were really doing was beating teams that were much worse than them.

Moving on...

A Small And Painful Point About Jamie Moyer and the Rockies

This doesn't give me any real joy to write, of course. It's basically the baseball equivalent of arguing for the euthanasia of a beloved pet.

But if a 49-year-old guy is your #2 starter, and he's a marginal at best candidate to keep the job for any real length of time between his own effectiveness and health concerns...

Well, that's not really a great thing to say about your organization, or the way you seek and find talent, is it?

Especially when it's April, when healthy pitchers should not be hard to find, and the games all matter a lot, because everyone is in the playoff hunt and setting the tone early is important.

Look, I get that Jamie Moyer is adorable on every level. I get that he gives hope to Middle Aged Men everywhere, that he's been getting guys out with smarts over stuff for decades, that he's overcome odds and realities that have ended the careers of tens of thousands of guys before him.

I even get that he might be one of Colorado's five best ideas to start a game right now, seeing how the organization is in a serious state of flux after the Ubaldo Jimenez trade last year, and that perhaps this April fling with the aged is just a way to delay the clock of a guy who will cost them a lot of money later.

I also get that reacting to one poor start against one poor team is unfair on every level, and that he's got a track record of following poor starts with good ones.

I get all of that. Really, I do.

But it all comes down to one thing: do you want a guy who has squeezed every last molecule of toothpaste in the tube on the mound for you...

Or would you rather have a guy who might actually have fresh product behind?

And if the Rockies released him right now, would he get another start from anyone else in the majors?

FTT Off-Topic: Traveling With Spawn

As always with FTT O-T, it's a big bad Internet and this isn't going to be about sports. Scroll, bail, or indulge.

Three months ago, the Shooter Wife came to me with a proposition: a big number birthday present in 15 months. She wanted a Significant Solo Vacation to Copenhagen, where she has friends and, well, I do not. Why 15 months? Because she felt it would take that long to be in the kind of physical shape she'd like to be in to make the trip comfortably. Why solo? Because Copenhagen is many things, but not really the place you think to bring kids in kindergarten and sixth grade, respectively. Besides, vacations with me are liked forced marches: just sitting around and actually relaxing makes me twitch. A lot. Not so much her.

Thinking quickly about how much I'd like to see the Shooter Wife in better shape, and how this might kill multiple birds with one stone (aka a trip of my own with the Shooter Kids, a little forced maturation for the youngest, and the creeping suspicion that a goal that was 15 months out would get corrupted by life or work or money or whatever)... I upped the ante and said hey, your birthday in 3 months is also a fun number, and plenty enough time to get in better shape. The Shooter Wife called, and with deadline and purpose, did an incredible job of changing her life, diet, and condition. She's dropped over 50 pounds since the start of the year, is well on course to ending a diabetes threat, and is, frankly, amazing everyone she knows. Best money we ever spent, and to quote Hannibal from the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.

But part of that plan was also to see if I could step up my own game to Solo Parent Mode. The Shooter Wife does this fairly routinely, between the all-hours start-up job, the quarterly trips to HQ in California, the lonely hours of writing or blogging or poker or yard work or God knows what else crops up as needing laser focus until it's dead, dead, dead. Time, high time really, to see if I could give of myself in the same way that she does most of the time. And staying home for the week that the kids were on spring break, especially after I came into a little cash that I was not counting on, just didn't seem sporting.

So I booked a flight to SoCal, where the kids have cousins they haven't seen in a really long time for kids, and I have a brother and sister in law that I haven't seen in years, either. As I write this, I'm on the last leg of the journey, somewhere in the sky over Colorado, thinking back on the day. It's been, you will be shocked to learn, challenging: from explaining the process of getting through an airport to the youngest almost as many times as I've taken her to the bathroom to not snapping at the eldest as she plays woe is me games, and the inevitable travel complications haven't helped.

You really want to hear them? Fine. The first: We (the eldest and I shared responsibility on this one) forgot a cell phone which was discovered 20 minutes after leaving the house, taking away the hour margin for error I always include in travelling. The second: I spaced on the directions to the house where I was dropping my car to avoid the airport parking expense. The third, after recovering with an expert swoop through security and an easy glide to the gate -- the plane leaving late, leading to that inevitable four hour worry moment of not making your connection. The fourth, after getting on the connection, was sitting for an extra half hour while it waited for other connectors. All of which does not matter at all in the long run, does not for a moment change the miracle of long distance transportation at a relatively affordable price, does not ever delete the mundane miracle that is flying 500 miles an hour and starting your day in Trenton and ending it in San Diego. But when you in the muck of it, man alive, is that easy to forget.

(Postscript: the airline also lost the Eldest's gate checked bag. Hard to do, really. At least we got it back the next day.)

My kids aren't perfect. They are prone to moments of short-sightedness, selfishness, and I'm sure that I'm going to lose my patience with them again at some point on this trip, allow my aching body and sleep-deprived mind to wallow in negativity, look for an out where they just go deal with their own problems rather than make them mine. But as I look over at them now, nestled like kittens in an elaborate collection of travel pillows, stuffed animals and my coat, with the youngest having given up her earned window seat so that the eldest has more room to sleep... well, I'm proud of them. They've put up with a lack of Mom, an overdose of stressed Dad, 12 hours and counting of travel and very little of it without stress. And they haven't melted down, haven't had accidents or real tantrums or anything else that an uncountable number of other kids have done in the airports and airplanes we've been in today.

I can't get enough of them.

I'm really, really proud of everyone in my family.

And this, really, is why Parent is the best job I've ever had, and the one that defines my existence more than any other...

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