Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Long And Not Straight Road

The tight end with the tight issue
Former Colorado tight end Nick Kasa says that NFL teams at the combine asked him a series of questions that touched on his sexual orientation, leading to what the 6'-6" 260 pound senior called "a pretty weird experience altogether." He then backed away (slowly?) in later interviews, but the bigger point has already been made. The NFL is said to be launching a probe.

Mostly, that NFL teams can, and will, ask any possible question, fair or foul, to try to eliminate any variable from the pursuit of talent. And given the money involved, this really isn't all that surprising.

(Also, that very easy comedy can be made out of this, in that words like "probe", "tight end" and "pretty weird experience" just lend themselves to all kinds of Beavisian snorts. But I'll leave that to the rest of the Internets.)

And yet...

Um, how much are we, as a society, willing to overlook just because it's The National Football League? Especially when the questions are plainly illegal, and would be flagged by any HR department with a pulse?

I've been employed by a couple of dozen companies in my life, and interviewed at a bunch more. I've never heard a question about my sexuality, because, well, it's (a) illegal, and (b) utterly pointless, since there's no correlation between that and productivity, innovation or dedication. But then again, I've never interviewed for a job where I had to make a lifetime of money in 5 to 10 years of health-threatening work, and my hire would become a matter of public debate.

There's also something to be said, of course, about The Fear Of The Gay that's so plainly being shown here. Most people under 35 don't give much of a damn, since they grew up in a world and social setting where there were role models, and the people who demonized the other were more or less shown to be ignorant boobs, rather than paragons of the community... but that applies only to members of the general public, and also on the coasts, rather than the heartland. Football players are a different breed and come from, for the most part, different parts of the country. And their coaches are much older than that, of course.

But the historical pattern of sports is that people from different walks of life bond over it. What, after all, is a different race or creed or orientation when faced with the need to work together to win... and denigrating a teammate is rarely kosher.

Lastly, this. The NFL is still the sport where players are at the most at risk for intentional injury. Rolling into a guy from behind, "falling" at the wrong moment to cause trouble and trash, and the basic car crash that is special teams play or fumble recovery give opportunities for haters, and the fact that it doesn't happen more often (seriously, if the Patriots were so hated, why doesn't every game with them end with mysterious injuries?) is a testament to the unspoken brotherhood of players, and the hidden excellence of officials and coaches.

Could there be, well, carte blanche given to target a gay icon or pioneer? Especially if said gay icon or pioneer was outspoken, militant, or well-compensated by niche advertisers?

It's possible. And certainly not a circus that any NFL team is going to want to put up with from a bench player. (Which is why, well, bench players are rarely pioneers.)

Personally, I think you'll see an out player within five to ten years. There's too many football players, too much money, and too much modern sensibility to share your life while being proud of your background. But I live in a blue state, have known people on the other team for decades, and tend to overestimate the speed of change in society. Your mileage may vary.

But rest assured, this train isn't slowing down. Or leaving the world of sports unaffected.

Top 10 takeaways from Sausage Gate

Atsa Spicy Criminal
The $3,000 Italian Sausage costume that is used for races at Brewers games is missing and presumed stolen, given that the sausage was seen barhopping around town. As always, FTT has the rest of the story...

10) Three grand is nearly the annual budget for a Wisconsin man's sausage intake

9) Shockingly, booze, theft and social media might not combine for a great life choice

8) No one would steal the Hot Dog costume, since the amount of pig anus in that one is just too much to ignore

7) It's probably safe to think that the thief did the deed to better his chances with Wisconsin women, and that the tactic will work

6) Vegas is 8 to 5 on this leading to an act of cannibalism

5) Police are narrowing down the list of suspects to less than 5% of the population, in that you can't be morbidly obese and fit in the costume

4) The scary thing about this little escapade is that the costume is going to somehow smell even worse when they recover it

3) It's an open question as to whether or not this is racist

2) No one knows who is inside the sausage, which makes sense, in that no one knows what's inside sausage

1) By having the word "sausage" in a blog post six times, I'm going to generate a frankly awesome amount of confused foreign Web traffic

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Top 10 reasons why Nnamdi Asomugha ate lunch in his car during practices, instead of with his Eagle teammates

Come back and have lunch with me
10) Wanted to limit the smell of burnt toast while dining to just his own stench

9) As was proven during the 2012 season, prolonged exposure to Kurt Coleman produces rage

8) Communication among the secondary was already so good, didn't want to jinx it

7) Fewer witnesses for when he fell down and let his lunch get behind him

6) Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie smells like onions and old people, and never washes his hands after going to the bathroom

5) Wanted some "me time" during the season, which is important when you are the highest paid player on a shockingly terrible defense

4) More free to check his LinkedIn page, surf Craig's List, and talk to headhunters for his next job

3) Only place where he could eat foie gras, caviar and macrobiotic greens without having to share

2) Considerate move for local media and club for when they wanted to spread dirt on him pre-release

1) Eating with losers is even more depressing than eating alone

The Five Stages of Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep Procrastination

Also, a funny caption
Stage 1: Denial

It's still freaking February, for God's sake. There's no reason to do rankings a month (ok, four weeks) before your draft. You don't know how many guys the WBC will kill, or if JA Happ will destroy another season or six, or how many guys will get hurt from sleeping on their eye or eating a burrito with the flesh-eating bacteria. WAIT, DAMMIT, WAIT.

Stage 2: Bargaining

Don't I know all of this stuff from last year's draft prep? The only way to win these things is to get lucky anyway. Remember how when you went all-in on Dan Haren, the most bankable and trustworthy strikeout to walk hammer in baseball not named Cliff Lee, and then Haren more or less turned into Boom Boom Tommy Hume? It's all luck, luck I tell you.

Stage 3: Depression

Good God in Heaven, Mike Trout was a cheap protect last year. He's going to be a cheap protect for the next 10 years. And he's not on my team. I'm going to spend the next decade sucking the tail pipe of the guy who has Trout. And if Trout ever gets hurt (he won't), there's no way I'm catching the guy who makes a million trades. I remember when I was young, and had time and energy and interest enough to get the guys like Trout. 1987 Jose Canseco in the 16th round. I was so young then. Jose, too. Now, it's all so dark and sad and I just can't...

Stage 4: Anger

The million trades guy made me ANOTHER freaking offer? Only marginally better than the last crappy offer? DOESN'T HE KNOW I HAVE NO TIME? And that all of my players are better than his? Well, that's it. HE'S AWAKENED THE BEAST. I'm going to spend the next three weeks massaging these rankings, going into fake drafts and auctions, spreading false rumors about other people's protects (BREAKING: Mike Trout has feline HIV and pregnancy, which is why he's gained so much weight -- he's carrying a litter of diseased kittens in his thighs. There goes the speed) and BRINGING NERDY BACK. What, you don't have 60 catchers ranked by pro-rated VORP? I MUST BREAK YOU.

Step 5: Acceptance

You know, ranking more than 25 to 30 catchers is pretty pointless in a 2-catcher, 12-team league. These Yahoo default rankings seem a lot better than I remember.  And Mr. Tradey didn't win last year, and he's getting married this spring, so there's no chance that he's going to be as well prepared this time. (I really need to send his fiancee a gift. Say, the overpriced rights to Billy Hamilton. Which would eat up his bench, rather than mine.) And there's really only so much regular season basketball I can watch, given how my Sixers are unwatchable...

So, draft's in four weeks, huh? Plenty of time. Plenty of time...

FTT Off-Topic: A Brief Public Service Announcement To The Gravitationally Challenged People Walking On The YMCA Running Track

Two lanes. Two Freaking Lanes.
(As always, FTT O-T is not about sports and not sorry.)

First off, let me congrat- ulate you on your commitment to fitness. Looking at the size of many of you, this is an overdue commitment, but there you are, on a Monday night in late February, well past the wipeout time for New Year's Resolutions, trudging up and down the track. Good on you.

Secondly, I'm sorry to have to intrude, periodically, on your important conversations with my running. Good conversations are precious, even if they are just with yourself, and far be it for me to spoil your philosophical treatise during your meandering waddle.

Third and lastly, please believe me when I tell you that the only reason I'm on this track with you is that each and every treadmill downstairs has been taken. Which gives me the option of waiting during the very limited time window that I have to get my miles done, before I have to go pick up my daughter from gymnastics, or just hitting this track with you. That's also probably why I didn't look so happy, even before my workout started.

Now, having said all that? I'd like to direct your attention to the sign on the wall. The one that says Slower Runners -- and that's you, honest and for true, in that you could conceivably break into some kind of shambling fall or ooze with enhanced velocity -- should stay in the inside lane. (And hey, no habla anglais? Maybe you could just look at the majority of slow walkers, and do what they do.)

Next, please direct your view towards the ground. No, not the ground directly in front of you; that's purely theoretical, given your ample portions of shade. Rather, further along, the one that neatly bisects the available running space on this here track.

That inner lane is really sweet, by the way. You want to be there. It's got a handrail near the banister, is technically a shorter distance (hey, you're already, um, exercising -- why overdo it?) around the track, and here's the best thing of all -- it's a nice piece of distance away from those people who, I don't know, want to actually run on a running track.

And when you are in that inner lane, guess what else happens? I, The Runner, don't have to perform the Morbidly Obese Slalom some three to four hundred times in the 25+ minutes that I'm going to spend to get my miles done. I also won't wind up having my laps compromised by the constant worry that I'm going to fall into your gravitational well. And you don't have to worry about being startled, and possibly spooked into falling down and causing structural damage to the facility, by (comparatively very) little old me with my unnatural rate of speed.

So, to recap?

The inner lane is your friend!

Walking two and three abreast, like human cholesterol, is actually, um, really freaking rude.

Much more so than the people who keep ducking past you.

So... know your place. Move into it. Stay there. We'll all be happier in the long run. And short stagger.

Thank you, and good health!

Monday Counts, Too

Yell Louder
Yesterday in the Asso- ciation, the Lakers went into Dallas and took care of the suddenly hot home team. With Utah having a tough schedule down the stretch and Houston little regarded, it looked for all the world like everything was setting up for the Laker stretch drive, the one where Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant sing kumbaya and shake off the first 55 games of indifferent defense and intermittent effort. All they had to do was stay hot, stay healthy with this Pau Gasol-free (probably a plus, given how Mike D'Antoni offenses don't really have a great use for guys with his skill set) 8-man lineup, and start showing their bona fides. Or maybe just have Bryant use Twitter for more post-game smack talk.

But the funny thing about the Association is how games on Monday night, without national television exposure, count the same as the ones on Sunday... and in Denver tonight, against a deeper, better and fresher Nugget team, the Lakers took the pipe again, and fell back under .500, at 28-30.

I'd argue that they should have lost the Dallas game, too. In the fourth quarter of that one, the game devolved into Kobe Hero Ball, and with fresh legs after the All Star Break and Mark Cuban haterade filling his veins, he was able to deliver. But the nasty little fact about Bryant is that he's really not up to the hero role night in and night out anymore, mostly because the Lakers, well, don't really stop anyone on perimeter defense and don't have any shot blocking if Howard is in foul trouble, or off the floor because he's in bricklaying mode at the line, or just not possessing the conditioning or the effort.

Howard, by the way, is the lone Laker of note under 30, and the one that might force the franchise to amnesty Bryant to stay, because, well, he probably can. (And also can't really like playing with him, given that Bryant has more or less called his integrity into question this year for taking time off with injury.)

Anyway, the situation really isn't all that different, from day to day, because Utah lost a winnable game against Boston at home tonight, and still looks like a team that's one starting back court shy of a playoff spot. But the greater point is this: for the Lakers, the struggle will be the regular season, because they are not deep, not committed unless there's an audience, and not able to recover on back to backs. If they make it to the playoffs, they can certainly win any series; all you really need is a hot Bryant for four of seven games, and Steve Nash can certainly wake up the echoes for brief periods of time. I still don't like them, since Howard in crunch time defies liability, Metta World Peace is all kinds of terrible, and D'Antoni hasn't exactly coated himself in greatness with this roster.

But that's not the question now. That is, and remains, whether they can even get there. The jury's still out. (And the dream if a playoff season without these morose old pukes? Still alive.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Save Golf From Itself

Gah, That Looks Horrible
I don't golf nearly as much as I used to. You get to a plateau in that game, then realize that getting over that is going to get really expensive in both time and money, and there's only so much of either that I've got to give right now. But if you've played, you get to have an opinion, and here's mine.

I think the belly putter looks like crap.

And, well, looks matter a lot to a game where white guys feel inspired to dress like repressed trannies.

However... I've also usually been good at putting the usual way, having spent much of my addled childhood with a putter in my hand, hustling guys at my local Putt-Putt for money. So I've never been desperate enough to change up the short stick for an oar that you nuzzle.

I don't know, and no one else does either, if the body stick is a real advantage. I suspect that anyone who has gone to it is only there due to desperation, kind of like sidearmed pitchers in baseball, or underhanded free throw shooters in basketball. And there's something to be said for equipment that makes the game fun, especially if bad putting has taken all of the fun out of it for you.

But, well, screw that. Golf's not supposed to be fun; golf is supposed to be maddeningly inconsistent, theoretically even since it's the same course and relative gear for everyone, and mind-numbingly addictive because those brief moments of competence are rare and memorable. And there's been nothing but equipment making things easier for the past 20 years especially, with titanium drivers with massive hitting surfaces, robot-enhanced woods, low irons that are tremendously forgiving, balls that slice yards and auto-correct slices and much, much more. The greens have been the final frontier of difficulty, and on some level, it just offends.

Now, as to whether or not it goes, I think it will all come down to money versus inertia, and in most sports, you bet on money with speed... but this is a sport where Augusta resisted women forever just to be spiteful, and belly putting doesn't help much in terms of marketing the game to younger demos. My guess is that they'll kill it, but that you'll see it again in a decade, because anything that makes people less freaked out about putting will eventually make enough money to overwhelm inertia.

But for now, it will likely go, after a lot of back and forth. And the game will go back to looking bad, rather than wrong and bad. Joy!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Manti Te'o Saves The World

Our Hero
Of sports writing. Because otherwise, you're writing about UFC today, and who the hell wants to do that?

So the story today coming out of the NFL combine is the inevitable redemption of how Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o showed maturity in standing up to the media throng for 15 harrowing minutes.

You see, there's no better way to feed the narrative of how you are different, thoughtful, and changed for the better by your self-inflicted media meltdown... than by, well, standing in front of a podium and subjecting yourself to the very necessary step of helping the nation's sports writers fill their desperately empty newshole in late February.

Now, I don't really have anything for, or against, Te'o. The idea that a college football player could be an easy mark does not surprise me, because I am old enough to know that college football players spend most of their dwindling number of brain cells on football. (And that athletes should always be seen and not heard.)

But here's the thing... I also don't much give a damn whether Te'o is closeted (seriously, still the best explanation as to how a player would have wound up in a situation like this), gullible, or needing an off the field reason to make his public brand more noticeable...

Because, well, the biggest question about him is why, when faced with pro-level competition in the national championship game against Alabama, he looked slow, sickly, and thoroughly outclassed. (Along with most of the rest of his Irish teammates. But I digress.)

Personally, I think the guy should have probably always been a late first / early second round kind of pick, because it doesn't really matter how good you are on the field... when you stay all four years for Indentured Servant ball, you are inherently more suspect than the guy who left early.  And sure, Te'o could have came out after his junior season and gotten drafted in that position, but he chose to stay for the final season at a level where he excelled, and to give himself a chance to play for a national championship, even at the risk of suffering a severe injury before that first professional payday.

He cared more about his college experience than his professional future. Which makes him more well-rounded, better off in the long run in life, and nearly the winner of a much bigger payday, in that people used to talk about him as a top pick before the hoax girlfriend mess...

But he's also 6'1" and 255 pounds, with a 40-yard dash time that looks pretty pedestrian. And that whole four year college thing.

So if you want to be mean, you compare him to Rolando McClain, the 8th overall pick in the 2010 draft that the Raiders released. If you want to be charitable, you compare him to Ray Lewis, even if a Notre Dame graduate with a high GPA, and a Mormon, makes any comparison to Lewis seem all kinds of insane.

Except for, well, on the field. Which is the only thing that will matter in the long run.

Personally, I think the guy will struggle with oversize tight ends and breakaway scat backs. I don't know if he's a three-down linebacker, because very few linebackers in the NFL are anymore. I also think he's a tweener who can be managed in the right situation, with the right coaching.

And that means that, like most NFL picks, coaching and situation will dictate his potential.

Regardless of his ability to fill the newshole...

Top 10 reasons why the Knicks signed Kenyon Martin

The cast of "Cocoon" or the Knicks
10) At 35, has the youthful enthusiasm that the rest of the roster lacks

9) Richard Jefferson was not available, in that the Warriors are surprisingly still employing him

8) Jason Kidd says good things about him, along with hard candy, thick socks and soft food

7) He gave the Clippers the edge they needed to lose in the second round last year

6) The fact that every other NBA team has failed to employ him all year just means that he's hungry, or some such stuff

5) He loves winning even more than he loves thuggish fouls and wince-inducing tats

4) Since he's been around forever and is something of a transient at this point in his career, has already played with half of the roster

3) Finally gives them a guy that will let the refs know when he feels he has been wronged

2) Necessary hire to make that inevitable Celtics playoff series just about the ugliest thing you've ever seen

1) He makes fully half of their active roster over 35, which has to set some kind of perverse record

Saturday, February 23, 2013

For Heaven's Sake, Don't Make Me Defend Mark Cuban

For once, Do NOT fine him
So the lead story on the World Wide Lemur this fine Saturday morning (what can I tell you, I just finished cleaning up my space after poker, and I'm not ready to sleep just yet) is how INAPPROPRIATE! the Lakers are finding Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban's public speculation over how they should amnesty Kobe Bryant next year, rather than fork over $30+ million from their $100 million and heavily luxury taxed roster.

Cubes, of course, was saying all of this stuff for the only reason that Cubes says anything: to try to convince the listening public of how special, smart and wonderful he is, because this is a lifelong case that Cubes just can't get away from. (Did you know that the Mavericks are a business unlike any other, and Cubes is a genius for cashing out before the dot-com boom ended, and that Google and YouTube is doomed, Doomed, DOOMED I TELL YOU? Well, by all means, spend more time listening to Cuban. Either that, or stick knitting needles in your ears. Much the same sensation. But I digress.)

Anyway, I'm not going to get into whether or not the Lakers should use the owners' hard-won save us from ourselves contract out from the latest bloodletting of the fans and players union. I can see both sides of it, which is more or less summed up as (a) No defense-free, turnover-prone, low percentage rapidly aging perpetual hard-ass 2-guard could be worth that much cheese in the last year of his contract, and (b) for God's sake, he's the best player in the history of a ridiculously good franchise, and seeing him end his career in anyone else's colors may be the last straw in the locale's exodus to the Clippers. Again, not going to weigh in on that.

Rather, this.

The NBA is said to be considering whether or not to fine Cuban for offering this opinion.

No, seriously.

Now, I'm really not going to lose a whole lot of sleep over the idea of Cuban ponying up some Don't Do It Again hush money. He spends well over six figures a year for his need to scream obscenities at the refs, during and after games. Another stingy little check isn't going to bother him every much.

But still... you can get fined, as an owner, just for daring to answer a question or venturing an opinion about some other team?

That's wrong on a lot of levels.

Not the least of which is that it's going to make me actually feel sorry for Cubes when it happens, and no one in America should ever have to feel sorry for Cubes...

Friday, February 22, 2013

FTT Off-Topic: Spend The Next 45+ Minutes And Understand Me All Too Well



Best episode ever...

The Pretend Clip Show

Like the real guys, two dimensional
So I tuned in the late NBA game tonight, hoping to see a good battle with the West's #1 seed on the road against the third-ranked Clippers. It was the Clip Show's first game after the all star break,with their ridiculously loaded roster at full strength, in a national game against an opponent that swept them when they were hurt in last year's playoffs.

And then the ball went up, and the Spurs were up 13 by the end of the first, 15 at the half, and 28 after three. Whoops. Spurs win 116-90, and it honestly was not that close.

Start, and end, with the point guards. Tony Parker went for 31 and 7 tonight against Chris Paul's 4 (!) and 3 (!), and honestly, nothing more needs to be said than that. San Antonio and Parker is like Kryptonite to the Clipper star, but that reduces things unfairly. San Antonio moved so well without the ball tonight, and distributed so effectively -- 30 assists on 43 makes -- that shooting 59% from the floor was in no way surprising, because so many of the makes were uncontested dunks and lay ups. And when they spotted up from behind the arc, five different guys connected to keep it over 50% from there, too. It was a clinic.

As for the Clips, this was one of those nights that make you wonder if Vinny del Negro is ever going to be more than a caretaker coach. His rotations had no answer, his timeouts did nothing to stop the momentum, and he pretty much coached this game as if he was going against a team that he could just win with talent. Now, I get that when you are faced with a better player, you just go A-B-C and try not to embarrass yourself... but the simple fact of the Clips is that they don't win games when they only have one blocked shot, because that's a game where their bigs just aren't involved, and the opponent is getting them into the parachuter club. And I'm still convinced that until Blake Griffin carries his team with more than high percentage dunks, and doesn't get his shot blocked four times, they are just a front-running club that can't go past the first round in a playoff push.

The bigger question is whether this is just another mid-season Spurs mirage, a situation where they win one and done games, but the magic fades in a series against a team that can prepare for the back cuts and big man passing. It also doesn't help that in the playoffs, the TV timeouts kill the value of the deep bench, and you wind up just running the Spur greybeards out there until they fail. Either that, or you just fail on the merits of not having the best player on the court.

Normally when teams play the Clippers, that's Paul... but not against Parker, and not against this team. Agianst Russell Westbrook's absurd athleticism, it's a different story, but Paul's game is equal parts cerebral, and nobody's game is craftier than the Frenchman's.

So that's the conundrum for the Clips: good enough to be the clear #3 in the West, but looking like night and day against the Spurs and Lightning. The lower lights in the West aren't dynamic enough to do the Clips' dirty work for them (although Denver is always a little intriguing, and maybe the Warriors could rain down enough threes to repeat the Baron Davis against the Mavericks Experience), and the team's not getting better unless Griffin and Paul carry them.

So far, not so much. And that's fine, really: only one team gets to win a year.

But can't you at least stay in the picture, at home, on national TV, and give us a game?

Top 10 takeaways from the NBA trade deadline

Fun For Everyone
10) Everyone is impressed by the Rockets dropping salary while adding a top 5 pick in his rookie year, as if fleecing the Maloof Goofs is hard

9) Milwaukee got JJ Redick to help with their playoff one and done

8) The Thunder dealt away a non-starting guard, which means Eric Maynor now has to become a top 20 player

7) Washington traded for expiring contracts of injured players, because quality free agents are just dying to come to a moribund franchise that sends away assets to cut payroll

6) Atlanta decided to keep Josh Smith despite his upcoming unrestricted free agent status, because letting your best player walk without getting anything in return worked out so well for Cleveland

5) Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap are both still with the Jazz, because no one has told Utah's management that unrestricted free agents do not willingly hang out with Mormons unless you wildly overpay them

4) The Sixers traded for Golden State's third-string point guard (Charles Jenkins), who will team up with Jannero Pargo and Royal Ivey to make the team the first in NBA history with three third-string point guards and  no second-stringer

3) If you didn't recognize any of the names involved in these trades, that's fine, neither did the players involved in these trades

2) The Lakers held tight with a roster entirely composed of aging and ineffective on the ball defenders, but that's OK, because Kobe Bryant guaranteed they'd make the playoffs anyway, knowing how the NBA works

1) This was the biggest game of Pass The Trash you've seen outside of a loose home poker game

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Top 10 ways wrestlers are planning to protest the IOC's decision to drop wrestling from the Olympics

Typical Crowd
10) Moment of silence on the mat, lifetime of silence in the media

9) Inserting horrific smelling singlets into the personal laundry of IOC members

8) Thoroughly unrealistic televised threat speeches that magically never resort to profanity

7) Interminably long women's match that leaves all spectators feeling more than a little dirty

6) Promise to start their own Olympics with totally cooler opening ceremonies, music and medals

5) Simple point that if they don't change their minds, Iran and the United States would team up for the wackiest buddy movie ever

4) Application of submission holds to IOC members with a studious indifference to tapping out

3) Replace all overcoats at IOC HQ with rubber reduction suits, then seal up the building and turn on the heat

2) Provide the IOC with all of the spectacularly bored, petulant and unhappy cheerleaders that have been forced to come to their meets

1) Continued media attention on the utterly ridiculous surviving sports that the IOC kept in favor of something with an actual history, clear winners and losers, and a wide range of countries that compete for medals

Stick A Fork In Andrew Bynum, Please

Just Make It Stop
The Sixers have now played 52 games out of an 82 game schedule. They are 22-30, 4 games out of the 8th seed in the East that will be road kill for the Heat. They aren't even that good, really, given that they've played 6 games more at home then on the road. The offense is stagnated by the lack of a second quality option behind Jrue Holiday. They shoot the second lowest number of free throws in the Association, don't shoot a good percentage from the field, and have the sixth worst percentage from the line.

They are, basically, a star level player away from being watchable. You know, the star they traded their best player for before the season began.

In any reasonable situation, we'd be sticking a fork in them, especially since the seeds in front of them (Boston and Milwaukee) have been better in head to head, and are far more likely to make a move. So what's going to happen instead?

Well, Andrew Bynum might decide that his widdle knee doesn't hurt so much any more, and that he can try for five or ten games, or just long enough to get a max contract from some NBA team that decides that owning one of the five to ten 7-foot tall men in the world who can be useful at both ends of  a basketball court is worth the risk.

Can I tell you, now, just how much I've come to hate this utter and complete assclown?

I get, still, why the Sixers did the deal. Getting off the Andre Iguodala Train was the right thing to do, especially given how much he's struggled with his shot in Denver. Finding a quality big is always the holy grail in the NBA, the way to punch a playoff ticket for a decade or more.

But man alive, after 52 games and counting of theft, that guy is clearly not Bynum.

Does he train? Maybe his hair dressers. Is the injury legitimate? Not enough to keep him from bowling, practicing or making it to the dinner table. Does he have any interest in playing here? No more than he does in playing getting paid anywhere.

You see, Bynum is all about making the most amount of bank for the least amount of effort. He's the same sack of garbage that tried to end JJ Barea for the crime of being the best bench player on a Mavericks team that was ending his Lakers with prejudice, and went off the court like he was some kind of ultimate fighting twerp. He's smart enough -- barely -- to see that even Greg Freaking Oden is going to get another contract, so an entire year of ruining a franchise is no problem at all. If he ever wins anything of importance, it will be as the third or fourth option on a team, and with some veteran hard-ass (Kobe Bryant, basically) kicking his sorry can all the way across the finish line.

Are we being too hard on a guy with an injury? No. Bynum's job is to play basketball. He doesn't keep in decent enough shape to do that. Are we letting his utter and complete lack of sophistication with the media, who he seems to want to delight with some fresh hair idea every two weeks, color our thinking? No. He's a grown man, for God's sake, not a rook. And are we just calling out his manhood in an effort finally goad him into, you know, showing up and doing his damned job?

No. There's no manhood to call out. He's just a thief, and a waste of talent, and the biggest tease in the NBA.

And if the Sixers go and re-sign him after this exercise in fraud...

Well, then we know that this stopped being a basketball franchise, and has become some kind of ethics-free exercise in psychiatry. And one that they'll feel is impossible to avoid, given the, well, reason they made the deal in the first place.

So, Andrew?

Come back right away. Blow out that ball of fat and gristle that you call a knee.

And prove to us that you, and the Sixers, are cursed by condition, rather than character.

Since this would be the best possible outcome, in that it will get your chapter of Sixer history over faster...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Michael Jordan Is Not Fitting Through That Door

Comeback... to the buffet
Age isn't fun. Personally, I increase the number of miles and weight that I run and lift every month, watch what I eat, try not to eat at night... and I still dread the onset of the gray hair, hearing loss, creaks and pains and etc. Father Time is coming for us all, and while you can do an awful lot to remain immature and sharp, the biggest thing is knowing when it's time to move on, either from misguided ideas or outdated concepts.

Which leads us, of course, to multiple people asking What It All Means to the iconic basketball player of his generation, Michael Jordan, on his 50th birthday. Like, well, His Airness doesn't age, or can rail against the fading of the light just because he is who he is.

Or, well, was.

I was nearly clear of this when I heard that on drive time radio, Jordan's trainer claimed that the man would average 20 points a game.. if he came back today, at age 50. And that's when the bullspit just overwhelmed me, y'know?

Let's ignore the fact that, at age 39, he averaged 20.0 per game, his career low, on a game that was earthbound and down. Or that the only players who were ever effective at an advanced age in the NBA were lumbering big men who more or less played a static game. Or that Jordan is anywhere near NBA shape after a decade away from the court and several years in the owner's box.

Look, I get it. He was the hero to many, despite being the biggest red-ass of his generation. He was a six-time champion, the most telegenic athlete, possibly ever. He sold an awful lot of shoes, and undewear, and fast food and more. He still does that.

But what we aren't asking, and haven't seemed to ever want to bring up, is why he's so god-awful at being an NBA general manager or owner. His Charlotte Bobcats are borderline unwatchable, have little in the way of intriguing talent, don't sell out their building and haven't been relevant in any way since Larry Brown fled the premises. In the Kwame Brown draft that defined his time in Washington, he took a historically stone-handed high school head case over Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol. In 2011, in his first draft with the Bobcats, he took tweener Kemba Walker while Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, Iman Shumper and Kenneth Faried are on the board. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from this year's draft isn't a lock loser (yet), but there's no one in the Association that's trading him for Bradley Beal, Dion Walters or Damian Lillard right now, and Harrison Barnes is also looking all kinds of useful (not to mention, for Charlotte's purposes, local). There hasn't been much here that's worked at all, and it's not like he's managed to make malcontents like Stephen Jackson or Boris Diaw play their best ball when they were in his presence.

And in 2011, he nearly cost us an entire season, such was the size of his beef with the players as soon as he wasn't one.

Here, I'll up the ante even more for the Jordan lovers. Post-playing career, Isiah Thomas cleans his clock. In that Isiah, while an embarrassment on many levels, at least has made a decent draft pick or two in his life, and didn't wreck his non-media legacy for the sake of a few dollars more at the bargaining table.

Post-40 Jordan isn't, of course, the one that anyone wants to remember or memorialize now. For the sake of his playing career, it ends with the push win on the Jazz and Byron Russell, while still in a Bulls uniform, while still a champion. For the sake of his post-playing career, Charlotte is barely in the NBA, and easy to forget. And for the sake of the continued good feelings of graying America, he can come back any time he likes and be just as good as ever.

But that's the sad thing about age, and the inevitable white-washing of history that sentiment, and a media that wants to sniff the Air Jock, creates. Today's shooting guards and small forwards are bigger, stronger, faster, and craftiness and competition will only help so much. As a player, Jordan left just in time (note: his scoring average is still just over 30 a game, and he's not giving that up). As a basketball talent evaluator, he's a historically bad joke. And as an owner, he's one of the worst half dozen in the game. And this game contains Ted Dolan, Donald Sterling, Glen Taylor, Clay Bennett and the Maloof Goofs.

So can we, please. stop celebrating him for getting old?

What Can Brown Inject In You

The Scrap Of Scraps
Tonight, the big story in MLB is another dose of who got connected to the infamous Biogenesis clinic, and this will lead to a fresh round of tedious Hell In A Handbasket / Legalize It posts... but that's not where I'm going here. Instead, I'd like to roll out the list of guys who have been implicated to date:

Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego
Jordan Norberto, LHP, Oakland
Fernando Martinez, OF, Houston
Fautino De Los Santos, RP, San Diego
Cesar Puello, OF, New York Mets
Melky Cabrera, OF, Toronto
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees
Nelson Cruz, OF, Texas
Francisco Cervelli, C, New York Yankees
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee
Ysmani Grandal, C, San Diego
Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Washington

You don't have to be much of a linguistics expert to see what these guys have in common, do you?

There were 856 players on the opening day rosters in 2012... and just over 28%, or 243, were born outside of the United States. Once you pull out the Canadians, Japanese, Australians, Italians (seriously?), South Koreans and Taiwainese, you whittle that down to 207, or just over 24%.

And yet every single one of these guys is either brown or Braun (and Braun is linked due to his time at the University of Miami as a collegian).

Which leads me to the following mean and cynical questions.

Do we believe that there is something endemic to the character of Hispanic players that makes them more desperate, more ambitious, more willing to take the risk and long-term health problems involved with PED abuse, or

Are these guys simply using a PED pusher that isn't as good, discrete or un-dectable as the ones the white players are using?

My money is on the latter. But I'm a suspicious person by nature when it comes to the universality of cheating.

But if you'd like to start whistling past the graveyard of why white PED abusers don't get found out until after they are out of the game, while Hispanics get pinched in their 20s...

Well, it's not as if MLB has built a sterling reputation on all things PED, have they?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

God Bless CM Punk

When these people hate you, it's a win
Punk, for those of you who don't watch crap, is a bad guy (or, in the trade, "heel") wrestler with the WWE. Which probably made all of you just roll your eyes and wonder about my sanity, given that I am not 12 or afflicted, but hang with me anyway. The man did me a major solid tonight.

See, folks, it's the pure dead time of sports. Not quite as bad as the All Star Break around the MLB game, but close. And no, I'm not going to talk about Jerry Buss, because the day that I eulogize a franchise owner is the day that a franchise has paid me an absurd amount of money, and no, that day is not today.

How devoid of sports? So devoid that I,well, turned on wrestling this evening. And admitted to it in public. And found myself, well, entertained... but not by anything that goes on in the ring. Just for the mic work.

You see, I've been writing professionally for 25+ years now, and I gotta tell you... villains are where the money is made. Being able to craft a character that an audience finds to be believable, threatening and truly hissable... that's work, dammit. And if you can get it right, you are pretty much punching your meal ticket forever and ever, because it's a knack, and absolutely essential to the long-term health of the hero franchise. (Besides, heroes are comparatively easy.)

And I am loving the heel work of CM Punk.

Here's the situation that the villain finds himself in. He's lost his title to a second-tier movie star (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) who hasn't been involved in day to day wrestling work in forever, and still isn't, since he's in a half dozen movies a year. The big event in a month and a half will be with Johnson going against the other big "face", John Cena, a painfully thick and white guy who seems to appeal to servicemen and children. Punk has lost his last two matches against Johnson, so he's more or less gone insane with resentment and chicanery, and has to feud with Cena to try to steal his shot.

Which makes him, well, the only reason to watch, since he's the only thing that's new or unpredictable here (Johnson and Cena did this whole thing a year ago), and the only guy who is saying anything different. (He's also at least 50 pounds smaller than either of those meat bags, which makes you wonder how anyone let him hold the belt in the first place. Probably, well, due to the mic skills, and unlike everyone else involved in this post, he actually seems to have a bunch of moves. Anyway.)

How good is Punk on the mic? So much so that he can spit in a guy's face and have half of the crowd (i.e,, the people who think they are too smart to watch wrestling, and yet watch anyway) cheer for him. So good that when he insults the locale of the venue, the same half of the crowd goes with it, like it's a roast on Comedy Central. So good that you can hear the crowd's hatred for him wane and rise, depending on how much of his latent humor he lets seep through the mic (like everyone with a shelf life, he used to be a face). So good that I watched enough of this to write a post about it, because I was actually, well, entertained.

Just like "Justified" is carried by Wilton Goggins, or Breaking Bad was by Giancarlo Esposito, Punk carries this. Which doesn't make it all that watchable, really; it's not like one guy ad-libbing off a motivation in a wildly limited situation is worth your time.

But here's the magic thing about Punk. He got me through a night without sports, gave me enough to write a post about it, and kept me from watching Bill Simmons fellate Bill Russell on NBA TV.

Can we give him Sportsman of the Year yet?

The Rose Conundrum

The hardest work there is
Today in Chicago, one-time MVP and Chicago Bull Derrick Rose practiced in a 5 on 5 scrimmage... for the first time since last April's disastrous knee injury in the team's first-round playoff against the Sixers. And while this news would always lead to questions and speculation, given how Chicago is one of the few teams in the East that can stay in the frame with the defending champion Heat... well, there's more to it than that. Something tragic, and inevitable.

Rose has, to all accounts, crushed his rehab, and pushed himself as much as physically possible... just as he did, over and over again, in coming back from a half dozen different injuries in the 2011-12 season. Because that's the thing that people don't want to deal with in Rose's rehab; that he might, well, never be able to stay healthy for a full season again. Since the last injury wasn't, well, the first.

It's not like this story hasn't happened before. Allen Iverson never got back to his 2000-2001 MVP level, in large part due to his inability to stay intact and fully charged. Brandon Roy's career is done after a festival of pain. Pete Maravich still makes old guys wistful, despite a stat line that doesn't seem to be up to the legend. Eric Gordon's career is a mess. Steph Curry has been great this year, but every ankle tweak makes Warrior fans go into the fetal position. Terrell Brandon, Penny Hardaway, Kevin Johnson... NBA history is just littered with great small guards that didn't fulfill their potential due to injury.

And honestly, there's no reason to think Rose won't be any different. Especially with the way he played the game.

Start with his athleticism. Rose dunked as a 6'-3" 190 pound point, and it wasn't ever a rim scratcher. He took contact to supplement a sometimes shaky outside and three-point shot, and increased his blocks per game every year he was in the NBA, along with the assists. When he was at his best, he was no worse than the second or third best player at his position in the game, and that's only because I've got an unrealistic love of Chris Paul and, when he's on his game, Russell Westbrook.

But now?

Well, Chicago needs him to be what he was, but better. There's no getting beyond LeBron James unless he's all that and more. (Oh, and at this point, they'd be thrilled if he's just able to keep Kyrie Irving down.)

And with each succeeding day when he's been away, and each moment of assurance that he's not dunking yet, ready to sit out the year if he has to, to get back to 110%...

Well, there's no guarantee, is there, that a comeback has to succeed. Or that a player like Rose was ever going to hold up to the long-term pounding, even in a league where some of the physicality has gone away with flagrant foul calls.

Finally, there's this.

As good as Rose was before he got hurt, was it realistic to expect him to stay at that level, let alone get better? After all, he was better in 2010 than he was in 2011...

Personally, I'm rooting for him. He's fun to watch, you can never have enough good point guards, and rooting for injury is never good for the soul.

But if you had to bet on it... well, no.

Because even if he had stayed healthy, he's five inches shorter than LeBron, and, well, not LeBron.

Which isn't going to keep us all from rooting for him anyway, right?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Top 10 takeaways from President Obama playing golf with Tiger Woods

Reminder: The President Is Half White
10) When you don't have to worry about getting re-elected ever again, hanging out with an infamous adulterer isn't that big of a problem

9) Given Woods' income tax bracket, the news item here isn't that he played with the President, it's that he accepted the invite

8) It's probably for the best that they didn't leave together, and that Woods didn't get to meet the President's daughters

7) The fact that the President played golf on a Saturday during a three-day weekend will, we are relatively sure, cause many to pule about his work ethic

6) The foursome included the owners of the Houston Astros, which is a probably as close as that team is getting to a front-page story on ESPN this year

5) Obama also spent eight hours with Woods' former swing coach, so we're reasonably certain that he's serious about this golf habit

4) There's no truth to the rumor that Obama made the invite just so he could get Woods on his email list and hit him up for contributions, but you will be forgiven for suspecting otherwise

3) This is further proof, not that you needed, that all of the half-black power guys know and hang out together

2) If this is news to the First Lady, it's probably not a good sign for many countries in the Middle East that are hoping for less drone attention

1) It's somewhat telling to Woods' still radioactive PR problem that Obama let himself be photographed shooting a gun, but not hanging out with him

FTT Off-Topic: Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

As always with FTT Off-Topic, Not Sports and Not Apologizing; ignore or not.



I don't know how many of you are, or were, Mystery Science Theater 3K fans... but I pretty much adore them. And the latter episodes, with Mike Nelson taking over for Joel Hodgson and Bill Corbett for Trace Beaulieu, are some of their best work. After MST3K moved on, Nelson, Corbett and long-time Tom Servo voice Kevin Murphy reformed as RiffTrax and kept at things... and found this particular piece of incredible insanity.

The only way to explain SATICB is that some third-rate amusement park in Florida must have had a  petting zoo, and access to a fairly terrible "Thumbelina" story that they made at some previous date. So to pad out the time to make a "movie", they more or less added 25 minutes of grade-Z incomprehensible gibberish based around Santa stalling out his sled on a Florida beach. I don't want to give anything else away, because writing sentences like "Santa only gets out of the sled to make obscene remarks about a sheep, and yes, this was supposed to be a kid's movie" just shouldn't happen in English.

Also, um, the Ice Cream Bunny will haunt your dreams like, well, Torgo from "Manos: The Hands Of Fate", but possibly more so. HURRR, HURRR. HURRR.

Anyway, assuming you like Big Funny -- seriously, I damn near threw up while laughing at it. You can get the video on demand at http://www.rifftrax.com/ondemand/santa-and-ice-cream-bunny, and no, I'm not making a dime from it. HURR, HURR, HURR...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Top 10 takeaways from the NBA All Star Game

The First Clipper All Star Game MVP
10) For reasons best related to comedy, Chris Bosh was in this one, and the West and the nation's video editors took full advantage

9) Kevin Hart's appearance during the halftime highlights convinced White America that this was not, in fact, the program for them

8) There were a lot of lead changes in this one, mostly because neither team was very interested in such pedestrian matters like the score

7) Kevin Durant kept dunking like he cared who won, probably because there were Heat players on the other side

6) Kyrie Irving had a fine weekend and all, but you get the feeling that all he wound up doing was get Chris Paul to make an example of him

5) Kobe Bryant might have a future as a defensive stopper, assuming he can get a trade away from that terrible Lakers franchise

4) Chris Paul was clearly the MVP in this game, and if he's healthy in this year's playoffs, you have to like the Clipeprs' chances to lose in the Finals

3) Watching Joakim Noah try to guard Paul on the perimeter was kind of like watching a pro wrestling heel before he gets the chair shot in the face

2) LeBron James forgot that Kobe isn't going to the playoffs this year, so he had a little more energy for this than usual

1) I didn't actually fall asleep during this one, so it's one of the best All Star Games in years

The Poker Diaries: Drunk Bobby Clarke Sucks

No longer welcome in my home
So it's Friday night at Delaware Park, the casino where I've had the most success, and it's time to take a shot at doubling my number of tournament wins. The 7pm goes reasonably well, and I make it to the second half of the field despite rarely catching cards or a flop, but the luck and blinds eventually get me down to 6X big blinds. I get it in good with my first pair in hours and lead pre and post-flop with two callers, but the triple up fails after I can't dodge the turn, and that's that: no complaints. I played better in this event then when I did when I won in this house two months ago. Twenty minutes in the cash room costs me $25 to see low pairs miss on the flop, and it's back down for the 10pm, a turbo game (15 minute rounds, no antes, big blind jumps) that I like a lot. The cards and flops change for me, and I get through the first two hours with a lot of action and wins, some of the best play and reads I've ever made in a casino tournament, to the point of pulling off value-bet bluffs against guys who I had absolutely cold on my reads. I'm as on my game as I've ever been, and after A-K off holds up against two short stack dominated aces, I'm looking at 70K in chips from a starting stack of 20K. There's still a few tables to clear, but I'm dreaming the dream of a final table run.

And then the world changes in a way that shouldn't happen, in a way that isn't cool and isn't poker, and as soon as it happened, I knew, on some level, that I was sunk.

When I sat down for the 10 o'clock, one of the guys from the 7pm got busted out. (He was wearing a Bobby Clarke Flyers jersey, and I'm sorry, Flyers Fans... I now hate Bobby Clarke.) He also wasn't real happy about it; this was obvious to people in neighboring states. Nor was he sober, or possessing an odor that should be allowed in public, and he's someone who I was expecting would get a visit from security at any moment. And everyone involved in busting him out seemed to be taking the event as the opportunity to stick the needle in big. After dozens of slurred repeats of "I ain't scared of these guys", he decides to join the 10pm, for the only reason poker drunks every need... Vengeance!

Now, normally drunk guys like this in a casino don't really bother me, because, well, they are almost always donkeying off their chips to anyone with patience, since the booze makes them loose calling stations. But this guy had a bad, bad vibe to him, like he had a lifetime of bad choices and was just looking to swing on someone, despite being in a casino. Just a lot of mind trash that you don't need, and honestly, something that you just don't have to worry about very often, since it's not exactly something a good room puts up with. But anyhoo, he got seated at another table, and I breathed a sigh of relief, since I certainly wasn't expecting to see him at a deeper table...

But then, well, I did. Right on my freaking hip, with $25K, at seat 10, next to the dealer, on my left. And he then decides, since I'm small and have a big stack, that I'm going to be his pet. And someone he stares down, even when we've both folded. I go card dead, and Drunkie Clarke decides to fold like mad just so he can spend more time staring at me.

If this were a cash game, I would have left; poker just isn't lucrative enough, honestly, for me to put up with this kind of nonsense for money. But it's a tournament, and I need to be better at getting past trash like this, so I do everything I can to not engage, encourage or provoke... and 45 minutes of game time and one break later, he's done. It only cost me 10K when he called my raise with the his last 10K, and the other caller and I check it down, with the river giving the third man the win. (And, not surprisingly, hitting a three-outer on Drunkie on the river. Poker Gods, thank you.) But the 45 minutes of nothing has taken me down to average stack, and a couple of missed draws gets me to 6X big blinds with 25 players left. The table limps to two callers to my big blind of 8-6 offsuit. I catch middle pair with my 6 on a 2-spade board of middle. I think I'm a little ahead on a flush draw, so I shove with my last $30K into the 15K pot, and get the single call. He has exactly what I thought, but catches the flush on the turn, and that's that. I left feeling good about my game, bad about my luck, and ready to compete again at some point... but with questions.

Namely, why a room would keep serving a game like that. And if my run would have kept going if I didn't have that to deal with that, especially at the move or lose stage...

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Clips End The Lakers, And All Doubts

Notice The Team On Top
The Clippers played last night, getting a win against a game but undermanned Rockets team. Then they turned around and played tonight against the Lakers, in what was presumed to be a home game for the Lake Show, though whether that means anything in a shared gym is another story.

The Lakers are on the outside looking in to the playoff race. They are missing one of their best big men in Pau Gasol, and in terms of Needing The Game, had to have the edge in terms of motivation. So you might have expected this to have been a spirited affair, back and forth, and maybe one of those roar back the echoes games from Kobe Bryant.

Well, Bryant did his part, leading the team in scoring and assists. Their bench even played well, I guess, in that they scored about as much as the Clips. The celebs all showed up.

And the game had about as much suspense as a Globetrotter game.

How bad was it? The Clips never trailed. They were up 15 before the Lakers actually scored a point. They closed late in the first half before the Clips just decided, well, no. They outshot the Lakers from the floor while still out-rebounding them by a ton. They hit over half of their three pointers, with Chauncey Billups calling back the memories of the Finals early in the century when he eviscerated the last Shaq and Kobe club. They blocked four times as many shots, and even had the best center on the floor (DeAndre Jordan, who got his 11/12 in 30 minutes while taking 8 shots, as opposed to Dwight Howard's 18/8 in 32 on 10 shots, with more turnovers and fewer blocks). Chris Paul utterly owned his matchup with poor Steve Nash, who doesn't even look like the best white point guard on the roster named Steve, now that Blake is back. The margin was double digits for 35 of 48 minutes, and the lone Laker moment of fire that I saw in this entire game was when Bryant ripped a ref and got a technical over a blown call.

Ye Gads.

Your final was Clips 125, Lakers 101, and honestly, was not nearly that close.

How odd is this, historically? Well, the Clips have never won the Pacific Division. They've certainly never been the clearly best team in town. They have the best guard, the best center, the best power forward, the best bench, and even, believe it or not the best coach, given that Laker HC Mike D'Antoni looks to be the roundest peg in the squarest hole.

Oh, and if the Staples Center management had decided to change gears in the fourth quarter and given away taco coupons, I think everyone in the building would have been OK with it. The Clips are just that much more fun to watch.

Enjoy the lottery, Lake Show. And congrats, once more, to the Clippers for finally trading away the cursed hurt young guy (Eric Gordon, the pretty grenade in the Paul deal) for the real deal, rather than lose the same way they always used to...

Top 12 Eternal Spring Training Stories

AZ and FL Tourism Supports
12) Guy On Expiring Contract Knows This Is His Year And Going To Make Everyone Pay For Doubting Him

11) Guy Who Just Signed Immense New Contract Welcomes New Leadership Role And Is In No Way Going To Let Up Now That He's Rich Beyond His Wildest Dreams

10) Aging Injury-Prone Overpaid Star Is Totally Healthy And Going To Make Everyone Pay For Doubting Him

9) New Foreign Guy With Little Command Of English Language Or American Customs Is Adorable To All

8) Suspected Head Case In New Location Is Going To Make Everyone Pay For Doubting Him

7) Grinding Old Guy Focus Is Totally Better And Different Than Grinding Young Guy Focus

6) Faded Prospect Who Hasn't Received Regular Playing Time Going To Make Everyone Pay For Doubting Him

5) Routinely Scheduled Event In Mid-February Is Miraculous And Necessary Harbinger Of Spring, And The Only Thing That Will Save Us From Winter's Deathly Embrace

4) Small Florida Towns That Treat Pasty Northern Sportswriters Like High Rollers Reaffirm Nation's Faith In The Beneficial Nature Of Man

3) Aging Minor League Guy Who Finally Had A Big Year In The Sticks Is Going To Make Everyone Pay For Doubting Him

2) Current State Of Contracts And Team Payroll Disparity Is Proof Of How Everything Sucks Now

1) Former Drug And/Or Steroid User Is Totally Clean Now And Going To Make Everyone Pay For Doubting Him

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Fairly Obvious Point To The Nick Foles Fans

Also Shave, That's Just Sad
I really need to stop listening to the radio, reading comments sections, and in general, exposing myself to Eagles Nation. It was so much easier being a fan of this franchise when I lived 3K miles away.

Anyway... if your guy really is the best choice to quarterback the Eagles... and Michael Vick really is a hopeless turnover machine, locker room cancer, mentally and morally deficient hooligan and all-around loser...

Then why, on God's green earth, are you in the least bit worried that your man isn't going to win the job in training camp, or in preseason?

The simple reason is, well, these folks are reaching. Despite having no evidence yet that new coach Chip Kelly is either a liar or seduced by Vick's physical talents, they are convinced that, well, Kelly is lying about the QB position being an open competition. Or after years of the Reid Experience, they think that Vick's got to play as long as he's healthy, results be damned.

So, let me get them off the ledge once more by pointing out the very, very obvious.

The Eagles would *love* it if Foles blew Vick out of the water in training camp. (Actually, they'd really love it if both guys played out of their minds, because then they'd have a trade chip, and I think the new regime is smart enough to know they are more than one happy year away from a trophy.) They'd sell more shirts, lock down the most important player without spending a future high draft pick or major free agent move, take care of the position (health permitting) for a decade or more, and go to the hard work of developing a defense, special teams and depth. They'd also save money if they wind up so comfortable with Foles that they wind up releasing Vick.

No, the only way that Vick is going to win this job is if he is, clearly and definitively, the best QB on the team.

And if he is, and if Kelly awards the job to him, while still holding him responsible for ball security, not taking sacks and avoiding reckless injuries?

Well, it would also prove to the rest of the locker room that he's about winning more than system, or making the front office look good, or getting the team on SportsCenter or prime-time football telecasts.

Also, that he's some kind of miracle educator. But anyway.

So, if you are rooting for Foles? Stop rooting against Vick. Make your guy earn it, rather than back into it.

Because if he doesn't... you'll be rooting against Foles really, really damn soon.

FTT Off-Topic: A Very Special Edition Of Old Guys You Meet At The Y

Kenyon Martin, Trend Setter
Part of a continuing series.

Folks, I thought this little trope of mine had run its course. I thought I had seen, then looked as far away and as quickly as humanly possible, all that there was to see. I haven't added a new guy for the collection in a while, and I've been going pretty much every other day in 2013. (Not bragging, just OCD. Anyway.)

And then, I saw him.

I'm going to give you the full experience here, because I think that just adds to The Funny, and well, it also explains me breaking a real miss here. In locker rooms, one generally looks at other people just long enough to ensure that you are not breaking any rules of proximity, and to make sure that your stuff is secure. Taking a second look at anyone or anything is not nice at the least, and downright wrong at the worst. Nothing good can come of it.

And yet, there he was. Sideways to my view, naked as the day he was born, a reasonably fit guy in his late 50s / early 60s, with the right leg up on the bench to spotlight his single, solitary tattoo.

On the upper back part of his right leg, more in the buttocks area.

Now, tats on old guys are not that unusual, though it's not like I'm really looking hard for them. But just one? That is. Usually, once you pop that cherry, you either fill the rest of the canvas, or you get it removed.

Not this guy.

And not this design.

Yup, the ol' Kenyon Martin lipstick kiss on the ass.

Which, given the context, the singularity, and the utter Really, You Have That There? nature of it, does the following.

1) Gives the viewer the damned near impossible to resist NEED to confirm that this is what you are seeing, rather than some vivid hallucination

2) Tempt you into informing the owner that this is on his person, since, well, it could have been some act of revenge that no one has told him about

3) Ask him what the nature of the lost bet was, and congratulate him on being man enough to take the consequenc

4) Find out just how many people have kissed that, and

5) Thank him for the rather charitable placement, since it was more on the leg, rather than a more central location.

So, to you, Unforgettably Tattooed Guy, I grant you the title of Most Memorable Old Guy at the Y yet.

And my fervent hope, nay, prayer, that no one takes the title from you any time soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Five Brief And Obvious Points About The IOC Dropping Wrestling From The Olympics

Ring This
1) I don't really care that much about this, but bullsquat is bullsquat, folks. Taking wresting out of the Olympics because you need to modernize them is silly on every level. It's an event that honors countries, kind of an old-school concept, and is only important because of that. You also have people honoring a bonfire and claiming to a tradition that goes back millennium. I call bullsquat. So does everyone else with eyes.

2) Unlike many events in the Olympics, wrestling does not require the audience to accept the word of a judge, or panel of judges, to tell us who won or lost. And unlike running or lifting or swimming or any number of other medal events, there's actually strategy involved, rather than Do That Thing Real Hard. So there's that.

3) The same countries do not win these events every year. That kind of matters, too. And if this is really out just due to Londoners not liking it very much, um, yeesh.

4) The Olympics will still gives medals out to things like horse ballet (or dressage; you might remember that Mitt Romney's wife was all over this), synchronized swimming (an event that will never, ever, get past the Saturday Night Live crush skit), modern pentathlon (a vanity gimmick five event thing that includes, and am I not making this up, laser pistols), badminton (good grief) and ping pong (a pale substitute for beer pong). Throwing wrestling out for any of these events seems absurd on every level.

5) If you believe anything the IOC tells you, given its ridiculous history of graft and more graft for site locations, I've got a bridge to sell you. With five rings and flames.

Personally, I'd like to see a competing event (X-Games? Sure, why not) take on all of the sports that the IOC forgets. That gets you softball, baseball and wrestling right off the bat. Then throw in stuff like team paintball (tell me this wouldn't be more watchable), bowling (eh, why not), lacrosse (give Native American tribes the chance to go in as their own nations, dammit) and what the hell, anything to give us more tackle football.

And if this somehow leads to the Olympics becoming not important at all, and the IOC becoming a sad little backwater of corruption that increasingly loses out on global advertising and support?

Well, what part of this is bad, really?

FTT Off-Topic: Drone On

Well, so long as he's friendly
As always with FTT Off-Topic, not politics and not sorry. Read or skip.

In the late 1940s, the US had a huge secret foreign policy win through the covert acts of the CIA. In it, we overthrew a democratically elected government and got a stooge of our own in a vital region. Said stooge would prove to be a bulwark for democracy and a key firewall against Communism for decades. What a win, eh? The ends justified the means. America knew best. Yay, CIA!

And then the Shah of Iran's health and regime failed, and we've spent the last 35 years with Iran as a massive trouble spot and agitator. Ends justified, not so much. (And yes, I could have said the same thing with Peru and Auguste Pinochet, and the Philippines with Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, and a bunch of other places that would show my poly sci chops and bore you big. Moving on.)

The point is obvious: what works in the short term is not necessarily what works in the long. And that leads us to the current American foreign policy of using remote controlled robotic drones to eliminate our enemies in the field.

I get why you do it, I really do. The War On Terror is hopeless in that it's a war on a tactic, rather than a thing, and it's basically a police action in a part of the world where you can't just walk a beat and put bad guys behind bars. Hell, putting them anywhere is an issue, since the President does not add noobs to Guantanamo and no one wants our dregs in a shadow deal any more. So sending in robots to deal death from the skies in quasi-surgical moves keeps the bad guys down and doesn't get our men and women killed: win-win.

The only problem is (a) it's not really all that surgical, in that nothing can be, which means we're creating more enemies with every strike, and (b) far more disturbingly, this isn't hard or expensive tech.

Unlike nuclear weapons, the source material (an unmanned rocket would do something similar) isn't impossible to get your hands on. The added tech is stuff you can literally find at a Radio Shack.

So there's going to be a day, honestly, where enemies of the US are able to use drone tech against us. And when they do, it's going to work, short of an impossibly expensive and unlikely nuclear shield.

Because that's the problem with short term solutions. When they stop being solutions, they don't stop being problems for a really, really long time...

(Ed. Note: Oh, and it exists as a toy for toddlers. The mind reels.)

Rockets and Warriors Make For A Fine Late Show

The Beard Sees All
NBA TV showed the Rockets in Golden State last night, and man alive, what a wonderful time it is to be a hoops fan.

First off, there's the technology. One of the small joys of living out in Bay Area for seven years was getting used to the upbeat but long-suffering Warrior play by play men, who are just like Warrior fans -- much more deserving of good hoop than what they have been getting all these years. Hearing Bob Fitzgerald and Jim Barnett tonight on the national pick up of the local telecast was like the aural equivalent a nice stiff drink; proper, potent and comforting.

Next, the teams. I love up-tempo ball, with teams filled with guys that can put it on the floor or shoot from distance, and man alive, is that both of these teams. Golden State was desperate for a win, having dropped four in a row after a great start to the year. Houston was somehow 10-17 on the road despite having athletes all over the floor and the unstoppable force that is James Harden. Both of these teams are milling around the bottom slots in the West, push the ball relentlessly, and are looking over their shoulders at the Jazz, Blazers and Lakers, all of whom should be able to handle them inside. So you got playoff-level intensity for most of this one, but with 115+ point pace: catnip. And it didn't hurt at all that I've got Steph Curry and Chandler Parsons on my fantasy team, and that they combined for 48-13-15 with high percentages and 5 three-pointers. Tasty.

As for the game itself, Houston did that trick where they scored more easily, didn't miss their free throws, and didn't give up the back-breaking run that would have let doubt, and the crowd, get well and truly into the game. Parsons and Harden have the over 20-point games, with the former within sniffing distance of a triple double, but I also really loved Omer Asik in this game, who outclassed Andrew Bogut to the tune of 13-15-2 on 6 of 8 shooting. Having Harden to end possessions is also all kinds of useful. For the Warriors, Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack gave valiant effort, but David Lee needs to do a lot more than 12-12 and fouling out, and Andrew Bogut is very hit or miss right now. Even if they are playing at their best, Houston just looks like the worst kind of matchup for them.

The Warriors hit the break at 30-22, which is loads better than what they could have hoped for... but a lot less satisfying than 30-17. The All-Star Break couldn't have come at a better time for them. The Rockets look like the most entertaining fraud in the NBA, assuming, of course, that isn't the Warriors. And no one saw it, because it closed up around 1am, due to the time zone difference. The Association's most fun to watch games miss the masses way too often, really...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vick Makes A Deal, And Philly Fan Loses His Mind

More of this. No, seriously.
The shortest honeymoon on record continues here in Philly, where Eagles coach Chip Kelly just made a sizable percentage of Eagles Nation lose their damn minds by... seemingly persuading and presiding over QB Michael Vick taking a deal to stay in town for the next three years, or more likely, one, assuming things don't go well. (And, well, they probably won't. Always bet on fail, folks. Especially with a team that went 4-12 last year.)

The deal makes the nation's fantasy honks happy, since Vick is more intriguing than statutory Nick Foles under center, and even more happy since any honk worth his salt is going to steer clear of Vick as anything beyond a depth QB2 play, and watch some loser overdraft him. It's also made every Eagle Fan I know wonder if Kelly is trying to make us all hate him before a single snap. (Seriously, the Shooter Mom is willing to forgo our annual road trip to see the team. She's Not Happy, and sounds like she's ready to lead the drive to get the team to trade Kelly to Jacksonville for Gus Bradley. Anyhoo.)

Let's get back to the actual mechanics of this, and I'll try to talk my fellow fans off the ledge. There's one really good sentence for that. Here's what Kelly said at the press conference announcing the deal...

"There's open competition. Both of them are outstanding quarterbacks. Who the starting quarterback is will be decided on the practice field."

So, um, folks? Given that statement... I can almost talk myself into this. Since here's the other options that were available to the new coach...

1) Give Foles the job without him, well, actually earning it, or facing any real competition.

This was never going to happen for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that Foles isn't Kelly's draft pick, and the dude won all of one game last year, albeit with a threadbare offensive line, second-string skill players and a defense and special teams that found spectacular new ways to quit every week. Foles did some things well (full spectrum of throws, courage in the pocket, clock management), but in the not so grand panoply of Eagle QBs, bet on his career line being more like Bobby Hoying than Ron Jaworski. Also, he's glacial in the footspeed.

2) Give Vick the job without any real competition.

This is even crazier than giving the job straight out to Foles. Vick is 33, concussion-prone, two years removed from his last really good stretch of football, and about as polarizing a player as we've ever seen in an Eagles uniform. I get why Kelly wants to take a shot with him; there hasn't been a coach alive that's looked at Vick's better moments and hasn't thought he can make everything right. Also, when you look at the coach's upbringing, age and self-confidence, you can see why he doesn't give a damn about what people might want in regards to a fresh start. (And if he can actually get him making good decisions quickly and running an up-tempo offense, I'll be as amazed as if he stays healthy. But anyway, moving on.)

Kelly thinks a fresh start is winning games. The team is 12-20 in the last two years. Winning games is all the fresh start that anyone needs.

3) Draft Geno Smith, who is likely to be there with the 4th overall pick.

Gahhh. Independent of the myriad number of doubts that many people who watch a lot more indentured servant ball than I do have about Smith, the plain and simple fact is that no one thinks this is a great QB draft, and part of the fun of bringing in Kelly is that you give yourself a chance of replicating that Colin Kaepernick / Russell Wilson level magic of going deep in the playoffs with a lower-than-usual pick under center. And, well, this was a 4-win team last year with cause. They need help at at least five locations in front of QB.

4) Sign someone with a history with Kelly (Dennis Dixon is the one people keep bringing up) and go all Doug Pederson here.

Well, OK: it's a way to save your contract dollars for the rest of the roster, and personally, I think Dixon can win games in the NFL, He did beat Baltimore while with the Steelers, after all. But the dude can't stay healthy, and he's going to come cheap enough to be your #3 guy, so it's not really germane to the rest of the conversation. Besides, if the season comes down to the #3 guy, you aren't going anywhere. So don't sweat this, really.

5) Trade for, or sign, a guy.

Look at the available options. Alex Smith is going to cost more -- a lot more -- than he's worth. Seattle's probably keeping Matt Flynn to be safe. The Raiders are likely to release Carson Palmer, but Carson Palmer's secretly horrible, and would die in this town, behind this line. Ryan Fitzpatrick's 15 minutes of fame are likely up, and aren't going to start again here. There are six other names that I could rattle off that will make anyone who roots for the laundry cringe like they've bitten a lemon, then ground the pulp in their eyes.

Simply put, hell and no. Taking one last spin with Vick is as good a gamble or better than any of these other options.

* * * * *

So what this really comes down to is four points, three of them happy.

First, that Kelly did a fine job of selling himself on Vick, or that the QB doesn't think he was going to do well on the open market. I thought he'd go elsewhere, because there are four places (Jets, Cardinals, Chiefs, Bills) where I think he could start for good coin, and a dozen where he could be a back up on a likely playoff team. Kelly was able to convince Vick to stay with a train wreck for less money, with no guarantee of a starting role. That's not a bad indication that he's lost the recruiting touch, as it were, or that this team is going to be boots up when it comes to adding free agents. (And yes, I know, free agents are fighting words in town now. They'll still need to sign a bunch.)

Second, that making Foles earn the job really isn't a bad thing. Look at the kid, for heaven's sake; he telegraphs passes, cuts his hair by passing helicopter, and has to be able to do something in his early 20s to increase his foot speed, because no young guy should ever be that damned slow. He was a third round pick for a reason, folks. Make him sweat, make him work, make him spend every day of the next few years vowing to make every team pay and pay bitterly for passing him up. Just giving him the gig would have been the *worst* thing you could have done for him.

Third, this really kills any chance that the team is going to spend a high pick or big dollars on a QB this year. I was living in fear of a Ryan Nassib reach in the early second round; that's not going to happen now. When this team loads up on multiple plus defenders and linemen in the upcoming draft, remember that they were able to do that by locking down Vick for relatively low coin.

Fourth and final, no one -- and that includes Kelly -- really knows how this will work out. Vick has come back from professional oblivion twice now; a third time isn't impossible. They can cut him for relatively trivial cap cost in mid-season. Foles is still on a rookie deal for third round money, so his cost is trivial, at least for now. Both of these guys could wash out in 2013, and even that isn't a really big problem, since we're probably at the start of a 2 to 3 year ramp up back to prosperity. Hell, Kelly might really be secretly sold on Foles, and will use Vick to sop up punishment while the line gets rebuilt...

Or even, and here's the flat-out wackiest plan of all... the coach might be ready to truly throw tradition in the dumpster and play both QBs. (Wouldn't that destroy fantasy football honks? Yes, yes it would. And again, if it wins games, I wouldn't care at all.)

If you believe the college game is where innovation happens in football now (and if not, why is Kelly here?)... you also have to accept the idea that someone is going to win without Lone Hero QB being the be-all and end-all of football, or that there isn't going to soon be an explosion of plus athletes who can make plays from the position. If this is the new market inequity, make hay by devoting more of your resources to other needs.

So, in summation... the Eagles signed their old starting QB today.

But they didn't say he was (a) going to do the same stuff, and (b) that he was, well, the starter.

If they trot him out there, and he's a turnover machine, and they leave him out there anyway to do the same stuff over and over again...

Well, then you can boo. A lot. I'll be with you, in full throat.

But until then...why so mad?

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