Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bringing The Rock With MLB Previews: NL East.

1. Sonic Youth (New York Mets) - youthful, inventive heart (David Wright, Jose Reyes), but dependent upon an older, wise core of veterans for their success (Tom Glavine, Carlos Delgado, Moises Alou.) They'll make it back to the playoffs and take the division again; unlike the Giants and like their rocking avatars, these guys seem to be ageless right now.

2. Burning Brides (Philadelphia Phillies) - another team and band that should win a division, should make a run for it every year, should sell out arenas and millions of copies, but never is quite able to get over the top. The Phillies will finish second to the Mets, even with the nasty array of pitching in Randy Wolf and Cole Hamels, plus the fact that Jimmy Rollins, and of course, Ryan Howard are anchoring that line-up yet again. Jimmy Rollins must be kicking himself for being in the division he's in -- if Jose Reyes wasn't in Queens, people would talk about Rollins more.

3. OutKast (Atlanta Braves) - the streak of constant division titles was snapped last year, and it's clear the Braves are trying to rebuild by adding in an influx of new elements (Kelly Johnson at 2B, really?) hope that John Smoltz is his usual self, and that Tim Hudson revives his arm. They may have a bit of a time staying out of the cellar if either of the Joneses gets hurt.

4. Rick Ross (Florida Marlins) - the Marlins keep Dontrelle and Miggy Cabrera and then load with the latest youth: flashy, nice to think of for a late run at a WC spot, looks like some really good pitching, but the problem is that this is more of a pitching team in a hitting division, and I don't see where they can slug with the Mets and Phillies (like Rick Ross can't hang with say, Jay-Z, Nas, or most any other rapper with a semblance of talent.)

5. Government Issue (Washington Nationals) - too much turnover from the basic lineup with promising elements that under-perform to be anything but bottom-feeders (although talented at times). Leaving Montreal didn't change their basic function as a great tune-up stage/team for those who go on to better things (J. Robbins played bass for GI before going on to Jawbox and Burning Airlines).

AL previews tomorrow (if I'm sober enough.)

Previously: NL Central, NL West.

Bringing The Rock With MLB Previews: NL Central

Crack open your six-pack and break out the lighter for these six teams:

1. Son Volt (St. Louis Cardinals) - again, a team that puts out work that's always good enough to win (or dominate your playlist), although very few people realize it at the time or expect it. Despite the Cardinals' taking chances with moving bullpen guys into the rotation, I think it will work, and I drafted Adam Wainwright for one of my fantasy teams, I believe it that much. (Yes, I know half of Son Volt was based in the Twin Cities; Jay Farrar was in St. Louis during the time, and that works for me.)

2. Local H (Chicago Cubs) - been banging their heads against the wall to make it big and grab that championship for what seems like forever, and most years or albums, you'd think they'd have what it takes, but they always come up short, no matter how much they spend (whether free agent contracts or major-label budget). Still, you root for guys like this, whether out of appreciation for their failure to give up or out of sheer loyalty.

3. The Promise Ring (Milwaukee Brewers) - pop-punk upstarts with youth and talent getting a lot of talk about making the division theirs. Let's see if they can follow through and not cringe with the spotlight on them.

4. Geto Boys (Houston Astros) - there was a point where this team could do no wrong, even when they couldn't get an offense around Biggio, Bagwell, and Berkman, they had pitching come in and save them. Now, the team may be just a good memory like the rise of the Boys, although if Jason Jennings pitches well (and He Who Shall Not Be Named returns), they could have a Scarface-style renaissance.

5. Afghan Whigs (Cincinnati Reds) - something always works against this team, whether it's injuries (the constant case of Ken Griffey, Jr.), offense slowing down, or pitching (where are they going to get it beyond Harang and Arroyo?), much like the great band from their city that melded alt-rock and R&B.

6. Rusted Root (Pittsburgh Pirates) - I've forgotten what this band even sounds like; I just needed a band from the Pittsburgh area. The name suggests the rot in the Pitt front office, though. Another last place finish (creative stagnation) and it doesn't matter, so long as they save money.

Previously: NL West.

Bringing The Rock With MLB Previews: NL West.

Everyone else is doing MLB previews, so I'm going to do them my own way as well. I kind of got this started by doing a joke "favorite bands, operating or defunct, in place of teams" list for the NL West in Deadspin's preview thread, and decided, "Why not flesh it out?"

Let's start with the first five I'd already identified. NL Central and East posts will come later today; AL posts will be tomorrow.

1. Rage Against the Machine (Los Angeles Dodgers) -- think of the instrumental section as the solid pitching and good defense, and de la Rocha as the hitting. You wonder where the runs are coming from, but you get enough good stuff to win, and then either Lowe, Schmidt, or the rest of the staff can go Morello upside your head with Ks.

2. Jimmy Eat World (Arizona Diamondbacks) -- the Mesa emo heroes' niche lies with the kids, and so does the D-backs future. If Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, and the rest of the youth movement kicks in, they could win the division behind Brandon Webb's arm. I'm just not ready to buy in yet.

3. Rocket From The Crypt (San Diego Padres) - steady, reliable, and consistent in the rock (or in the Padres' case, pitching in Petco.) You know what you get with every Padres team. I always discount the Padres by putting them lower than third and then they win divisions or take Wild Card spots.

4. Jawbreaker (San Francisco Giants) - the Giants made their last great run at the brass ring in 2002, and while they may do decent work and look good on paper, it won't make much of an impact when most of the elements are older. You can only be ahead of your time so much before it starts to catch up with you.

5. Planes Mistaken For Stars (Colorado Rockies) - again, young team, loud, brash, but never makes a lot of noise in the overall marketplace. Great players you'll see on other teams down the line plus MLB castoffs (and Todd Helton, who deserves better.)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Go Ahead, You Can Laugh All You Want, But I've Got My Philosophy.

Bill Simmons occasionally issues a really idiotic column or blog entry from time to time, and the most recent on the hate for the supposed upcoming "O.J. Mayo Era" is pretty stupid (if not outright repellent). He's right about one thing: with Mayo headed to USC and talented big man Kevin Love headed to UCLA, next year's games between the schools will be an awesome rivalry to watch (and will keep me and my UCLA alum co-worker jabbering at each other all season.) Thanks for jumping on the bandwagon, after ignoring it while living in L.A. for so long.

The problem is, Simmons has to drop this stuff:

The bigger picture: With Mayo joining a loaded USC team and Love playing 20 minutes away for a Final Four team, that's looming as a dynamite rivalry and the most intriguing media subplot for the 2007-08 season. After all, Love represents everything good about basketball (unselfishness, teamwork, professionalism) and Mayo represents everything we've come to despise (showboating, selfishness, over-hype). If Love were black, this would be a much easier topic to discuss. But he's white. So even though there's a natural inclination to embrace Love's game and disparage Mayo's game -- you know, assuming you give a crap about basketball and care about where it's headed as a sport -- there's also a natural inclination to hold back because nobody wants to sound like the white media guy supporting the Great White Hope over the Black Superstar Du Jour.

But you just did, Bill. Either cop to it or shut up; don't just brush it off as a philosophical difference. We have a few selective elements about both Mayo and Love, both filtered through news media, with its own series of professional biases about what is good and what is bad, and sports media, often, is no different. Simmons goes on to say that Mayo's style is neither good or bad, but just what it is, even though he doesn't like it much. Did he ever consider that Mayo may have tossed the halfcourt alley-oop to himself because he was having fun? Or that Mayo got T-ed up by an official who had it in for him? Does he remember that the McDonald's All-America game is a FREAKING EXHIBITION and doesn't mean jack?

Let's hold off on judging Mayo's game until he's in the cardinal red and Love's until he suits up in powder blue. The problem with assessing how exceedingly talented players like Mayo and Love play in high school is that high talents are playing above the rest of their competition by leaps and bounds, and that isn't always reflective of what we see in the college and pro arenas.

In the next paragraph, Simmons says that players coming in want to be Kobe, Vince Carter, or Agent Zero rather than Steve Nash, using LeBron as an example:

Just look at what happened to LeBron's all-around game when he reached the pros -- blessed with an innate passing gene that gave him a choice between becoming the next Magic or the next MJ, he said "Screw it, I'm going for my points" and went the MJ route. I will always be disappointed about that choice.

Bill, be disappointed in LeBron's teammates and the Cleveland front office -- the reason James has had to play to the MJ role of scorer is because no one else on that team can score on a consistent basis. Management and the coach expect him to do it all. However, it's not a Bill Simmons column without a Celtics mention, and in saying that this has been one of the worst regular seasons in recent memory and tying that in to the era of NBA AAU ball, he says the Celtics were lifeless and unconcerned about their losses, as if they didn't matter.

During their 18-game losing streak, nobody ever got kicked out of a game, knocked someone into a basket support, threw a frustrated punch ... hell, even the coach didn't get kicked out of a game. There was a passive, pathetic, indifferent response to everything that was happening. Not a single person stepped up. As somebody who travels with the team told me, "If you were with these guys every night and saw how little these losses affected them, you'd never want to follow sports again ... the losses just bounce right off these guys."

There's no winning with most sports observers -- if you don't show passion, you don't care, but if any of those Celtics kids got angry, got caught up in the heat of the moment, like knocking someone into a basket support, that player would be a pariah, suspended, and viewed as everything that's wrong with the sport of basketball. Part of being a pro athlete is trying to shake off the losses like they don't affect your game, so you can go back and do better in the next one.

It's not a white thing or a black thing ... it's a basketball thing.

Right. If you have to say that in the first place, then the truth really lies somewhere in between. The problem is that Simmons writes that there's room for both of them, which there ought to be -- flashy guys like Mayo do things that make me say, "WTF; that was awesome!" and get me tuning in; folks like Love make me appreciate every little thing about the game (i.e., Tim Duncan). I'm going to love watching both of them in Pac-10 play next year. Don't implicitly lionize one and demean the other. Both games have a place in the college hoops landscape, and eventually, in the Association.

Well, I've Been Wrong The Rest Of The Dance, So Why Stop Now?

Georgetown beats Ohio State -- color me impressed with the way Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, and Co. have absolutely proven their superiority over teams, and especially with UNC last week. That's a team that has played together for a while, and despite the raw talent in Mike Conley, Jr. and Greg Oden (plus the steady hand of Ron Lewis), I like to place my odds on older leadership than freshman talent.

UCLA over Florida -- Lorenzo Mata will win the Ugly-Off between him and Joakim Noah, but this is a better, stronger UCLA team defensively than what Florida saw last year, and I sense Arron Afflalo has shaken off the cobwebs that kept him from showing up in big games. The big factor that Florida hasn't seen that will determine the game is Darren Collison -- despite all the shit people talk about UCLA having no offense, he distributes beautifully, and much better than Jordan Farmar (whom I want to see do well with the Lakers) did in his two years at Westwood. I think Mata and Aboya will be able to stay out of foul trouble, and if they can give some defensive oomph against Noah and Al Horford, this game belongs to the Bruins.

I'll make a championship game pick on Sunday.

Tracking Just How I Will Finish Last.

I signed up for two fantasy baseball leagues this season (any more and I won't be able to keep track):

I run the Pine Tar Junkies in Seal Clubbers' "Show and Tell With Sean Salisbury" and manage the Signal Jammers in Sooze's "Babes Love Baseball" league. The drafts were last week, and I suspect that while I have a decent roster for both, the Pine Tar Junkies would have been better off if I had been forced to miss the draft like I had with the Babes league -- I mean, here are my lineups for each team (counting releases and trades), when I drafted with the Junkies, I tried to get a fair amount of players who could double in positions.

The Junkies:
C: Joe Mauer, Jason Kendall
1B: Ryan Howard, Kevin Youkilis
2B: Julio Lugo, Mark DeRosa
SS: Orlando Cabrera, Omar Vizquel, Lugo
3B: Eric Chavez, Aubrey Huff, DeRosa, Lugo, Youkilis
LF: Barry Bonds, Garret Anderson, Youkilis
CF: Andruw Jones (drafted Juan Encarnacion and Mark Kotsay for backups, but both are hurt)
RF: J.D. Drew, Milton Bradley, DeRosa, Huff
Pitchers: Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, Derek Lowe, Jason Schmidt*, Mariano Rivera, Joel Zumaya, Scot Shields, Adam Wainwright, Jose Contreras, Chad Qualls, Jamie Moyer, John Maine, Pedro Feliciano.

(*Schmidt is in the process of being dealt to WBRS Sports Blog for J.J. Putz because I like having two closers.)

The Jammers:
C: Brian McCann
1B: Sean Casey, Jeff Kent
2B: Kent, Ray Durham
SS: Jose Reyes, Derek Jeter (I am considering dealing one of them)
3B: Eric Chavez, B.J. Upton
OF: Matt Holliday, Johnny Damon, Jacque Jones (dropped Willy Taveras), Dave Roberts
SP: Chris Young, Ian Snell, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, Vicente Padilla
RP: Trevor Hoffman, Brad Lidge, Jorge Julio (ditched Mark Prior), Octavio Dotel

(Oh, and Sooze, I will send my money soon, as soon as I get over my hate of PayPal.)

Cheap Shots #9, Plus Extra Meta.

Since I have weekends off now and the advantage of living in the Pacific time zone, I'm thinking of doing live blogging here (if I can get Blogger to accept the damn code for a "read more" type of deal; what they have in the help section just turns up an error). Would anyone even be remotely interested in a regular Sunday night live-blog? I can't imagine doing it for baseball (but maybe), but probably for basketball, hockey playoffs, and definitely come baseball season. Let me know in comments.

1) MJD finds an interesting piece on Baron Davis trying to up black enrollment at his alma mater, UCLA.
2) Paulsen at Sports Media Watch revamps announcing teams.
3) Marco has your non-sports funny video of the week over at JCMJ.
4) Sanchez is trying to make sense of the Dolphin QB rumor mill over at Shot to Nothing.
5) The Head Chick feels let down over the new Nike college hoops unis.
6) Scrap shows us that colleges will give you credit for anything, even attending the Final Four.
7) Our friend Eric at Seal Clubbers shows us the hard-luck jeans have hit the Cornhusker football team.
8) If you have not read it already, go take a look at Complete Sports' compilation of possible Jim Nantz cliches for the Final Four.
9) BD is trying something new -- running his MLB picks against a video game.
10) Awful Announcing just continues to stoke my Erin Andrews fix.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pure, Unfiltered Nightmare Fuel.

That is, Karl Rove, spitting rhymes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last night after cracking a joke about tearing the heads off small animals:

As the Rude Pundit eloquently puts it, this is a video that will make you want to down three Klonopin with a bottle of tequila after watching it.

This Fairy Tale Has An Ambiguous Ending.

There is no Cinderella story this year in the Final Four of this year's NCAA tournament, so Josh Peter over at Yahoo decided to catch up with the three seniors that powered last year's improbable George Mason team to the Final Four, and it's not exactly the prettiest of pictures. Forward Jai Lewis, point guard Tony Skinn, and guard Lamar Butler are all playing overseas (Skinn with a girlfriend and a child) after their university raked in money from the appearance and they had visions of the NBA (not stardom, but at least a shot.) For every player that turns himself into a lottery pick during the tournament, there are probably many more Skinns, Butlers, and Lewises out there: trying to make a living doing what they love and know best, yet finding the reality is so much harder than the dream they all chased one year ago.

It's educational in the sense that we all ought to witness how a game you love can turn into just another dreary, depressing job, when the other options are limited and the dream still exists. And if you don't hate the NCAA enough already for allowing schools to make millions off the backs of these kids, yet deny them most ways of making their own cash while in school, then this will probably help stoke the fire a bit more.

These things even happen to national champions -- an NYT article on Jim Harrick, otherwise unremarkable except for the oddity that is his career, becomes compelling when you realize that two of Harrick's players on the D-League's Bakersfield Jam are former national champs: namely, MSU's Mateen Cleaves and Syracuse's Gerry McNamara.

Yankee Family Matters.

George Steinbrenner, the leader of the team we all love to hate, will be looking for a new heir apparent to run the Yankees when he shuffles off this mortal coil. Back in 2005, he said son-in-law and partial owner Steve Swindal (married to daughter Jennifer) would probably take over, but that's off the books, because Steve and Jennifer are on the bus to Splitsville after 23 years.

Those irreconcilable differences may have something to do with Swindal's recent DUI arrest in St. Petersburg, Florida, last month. And despite probably not running the Yankees, he'll probably come out okay from the whole thing. It's just hard to imagine the Yanks without George -- he's such a convenient and good target for all the hate, with his obnoxious, arrogant self. Any public face of the front office for the Yankees after him won't quite measure up to the high expectations.

Never Going Back To Indian Wells.

Neither Serena nor Venus Williams have played at the Indian Wells WTA tour event in California since 2001, when Venus was roundly booed by the crowd there before pulling out prior to a semi-final match between the two, and Serena maintains she isn't headed back this year either. Their father Richard claimed the episode was racially motivated; although I'm sure crowd disappointment had something to do with it, at the time, I couldn't imagine that race had nothing to do with it, because at that time, Richard was, for all intents and purposes, a pariah in tennis. He dared to act as coach, manager, and protector to his daughters rather than submit to an established name as a coach and handler. A slightly boorish man, probably, but no worse than any manner of tennis parent (please see Mary Pierce's father for one of your more egregious examples.)

The problem is that the tournament will be mandatory come 2009, as the Women's Tennis Association has recently decided that Indian Wells is one of four compulsory events. Players who do not participate can expect either fines or suspensions, and while Serena has enough money to make that a non-issue, it's telling that the WTA response to her complaints is rather tin-eared:

It's always way too easy to say the Williams family is still playing the race card, but all of that has been colored by past coverage of the sisters and their father. Furthermore, this only adds to the recent incident of a spectator dropping the "nigger" on Serena at the Ericsson Open for a reminder of what D-Wil has titled "Serena Williams' Burden": you can take the sport out of the country club, but sometimes you can't take the country club out of the sport without kicking and screaming first.

(Errata Alert: Anyone else notice AOL filed this story under "NCAA Basketball"? Weird.)

Living Through Your Kids A Bit Too Much.

I've long thought that the best thing for parents with children involved in sports at most levels (particularly those with decent to good athletic talent) is to stay the fuck away. Attend, cheer, but sit back and relax. We get incidents in youth leagues all the time, and it's always even more problematic when it's for your country and the parent happens to be coaching.

Ukranian team official Mihail Zubkov has been banned from coaching or participating in events after getting into a fight with his daughter Kateryna Zubkova (age 20) after she missed making the finals of the 50-meter backstroke at the World Championships in Australia. MJD got the video for the FanHouse, and it's a doozy:

Zubkov can't go within 200 feet of Kateryna, and has a court date today. Sometimes, you just gotta stop living through your kids, or things like this can happen.

"There Are Very Few Problems That Money Can't Fix."

The title is a favorite saying of my dad's, and I'd bet Broncos CB Dre Bly agrees, especially since Shanny just broke him off big large for a five year contract extension here in Denver -- $33 million total, but we always know that total is complete bullshit, so the important number is the $16 million that's guaranteed.

Rumor has it Bly was not particularly happy when he got dealt to Denver, mostly because he wanted to head to D.C. (for what reason, I could not tell you), and there were rumors after the trade was completed that he would be dealt again. Those are quashed for now.

He may not be here five years, but for at least three, that's damn good guaranteed cash, especially when you know your stats are gonna get jacked up because your teammate covering on the other side is one Roland "Champ" Bailey.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Jeff Van Gundy Doesn't Like The Lottery System.

Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy's mouth has gotten him in trouble with the Association before (anyone else remember him getting fined for a little tirade about selective officiating on Yao Ming?), and he has a way of making statements that don't disappoint. He's now saying the NBA should scrap the lottery system as it stands right now and give all teams an equal chance of getting the top pick, rather than the better chance going to the team with the worst record.

Gargamel's argument would be convincing if the NBA handed the first pick to the team with the worst record automatically, but having the most losses only ensures you get a better shot. After accusations of teams like the Rockets and the Knicks tanking to get top picks, David Stern took his iron fist and revamped the system where the worst team gets a 25% chance of getting the top pick. Ask Boston Celtics fans how that worked out when Tim Duncan was up as #1 and they had the most losses.

Yelling Louder suspects Van Gundy is espousing un-American ideals, but it's utterly egalitarian, and if we want to be really, truly capitalist, not only should the chances of the pick be open to every team (giving the best chance to the worst-off is pure welfare), but bring in soccer-style relegation: swap the Grizzlies, Celtics, and the Bobcats for the top D-League teams while we're at it.

Next, We'll Be Reporting When The Rocket Drops a Deuce.

Anyone remember that the Associated Press, a couple months ago, wanted to declare a blackout on Paris Hilton updates, but kind of gave up on that idea? I have a new one for them. Let's try that for Roger Clemens until he actually signs with a team.

The headline's bad enough: "No Word Yet From Clemens On Pitching in '07." OK, then, why are we here? We also have these choice nuggets of info: Clemens says his agents will tell him when can't put off the decision any longer, he's looking for the team best equipped to win a ring, and he'll set no timetable for his return.

This is all shit we knew last month. So, Associated Press, do us a favor: stop enabling this. Put a blackout to good use.

Clearly Being Part of VH1's Celebreality Was Not Enough.

Larry Brown Sports tips me off to a dandy little item about your old friend and mine, Jose Canseco, whose stock has clearly gone down (if it were possible for it to fall any lower, to put it in financial terms, he was already at junk status) ever since he testified in Congress about his book and became the semi-sane person on the Surreal Life. (Yes, I watched a couple episodes with him on. Shut up.)

Desperate for more attention, Canseco is trying to create his own show, "A Day With Jose." Some info gleaned from the press release over at Larry's place:

a pool of contestants, initially chosen from their on-line applications submitted to, will appear before a panel of judges, and compete to become one of six finalists who will spend their fantasy day with Jose. They’ll surprise Jose at his Los Angeles home, explain their planned day of activities as approved by the judges, and have Jose to themselves for the entire day. ….

My only question: when did a professional fuck-up become a Make-A-Wish kid?

That Red Blazer Looks Like Blood.

And you thought Andy Reid had enough trouble with his kids a couple months back after auto accidents. Well, NC State men's hoops coach Sidney Lowe has his own family issues, as his son Sidney II is currently facing over 20 charges ranging from armed robbery to drug possession.

If that's not bad enough, they're all in connection with a shooting on the NC State campus over the weekend, and despite the great run Lowe led the Wolfpack to over the weekend, you have to think that this will kind of hamper him there, whether or not his son is actually found guilty of any or all of those crimes.

Correction: I have to stop writing this stuff after waking up. It happened on the UNC Greensboro campus. Thanks, Business or Leisure.

Gaming The System Is Easy When You Make The Rules.

Most of your intelligent college football and basketball fans are entirely cognizant of the hypocrisy necessary at the highest levels of the NCAA in order to perpetuate the belief in "amateurism" in its two most lucrative sports. Now, lawyers for all D-I college football and basketball players want to challenge that practiced hypocrisy in an L.A. courtroom come June. As Lester Munson writes for SI, the question is whether the NCAA has illegally fixed that cost of a scholarship beneath the actual cost of a college education.

Lawyers representing all Division I football and basketball players (there are 11,500 of them) claim that the athletes are shortchanged an average of $2,500 a year because of an arbitrary NCAA limit on scholarships.

If they're right, the athletes are entitled under anti-trust laws to triple damages, a potential liability for the NCAA of more than $86 million for a single year. If the trial includes four years of scholarships, as the players' lawyers suggest, the damage multiplies to $344 million. The NCAA's annual budget is $465 million.

That is a staggering amount of money to be considering as an ultimate payout in damages, and even if limited by a judge afterwards, it would still be a sizable amount out of the NCAA's budget, never mind profits. The haggling point is what is called a "grant-in-aid," or GIA -- to sum up what it actually consists of, think of everything you ever bought while at school that was not included as tuition or room and board: laundry, travel expenses, incidental expenses, and as most college graduates remember least fondly when it comes to the wallet, text books.

The NCAA's Elsa Cole defends the GIA limit like this: in essence, removing the cap provides another recruitment tool for schools to use in attracting players -- by offering to pay their expenses, supplies, and books, we remove the "amateur" from the ideal of student-athlete, since better-off schools will offer to pay that ENTIRE way as another carrot to attract the top blue-chippers.

The problem for the NCAA is that even president Myles Brand has admitted the cap should go, and a former head addresses it in even starker terms:

The NCAA's reliance on the protection of amateurism is a familiar riff. Walter Byers, the former executive director of the NCAA, dismissed it: "Collegiate amateurism is not a moral issue. It is an economic camouflage for monopoly practice."

Ultimately, this monopolistic practice, like most others given to sporting organizations, is based on the appearance of providing a public service of sorts, in its own way. The problem for the NCAA, regardless of how the lawsuit pans out, is that the school presidents and the athletic directors are well trained to repeat the mantra and myth of the "student-athlete" in these two money sports while shoveling the cash in their pockets. Now, if there is any sort of karma, they will have to share.

The NCAA is the reason why I have never blamed players or coaches who bend or flex the arcana that the organization calls "rules." They are forced to fight for their jobs, their starting spots, and their basic livelihoods in a world they had no part in creating.

What I Imagine The Ninth Circle Of Hell Is Like.

And that would be having to listen to Joe Theismann teamed up with Brent Musburger on Saturday nights for college football season.

These two jackasses together would make Pam Ward and Mike Gottfried sound sane. Yet the rumor going around the blogs is that this might actually happen -- as if ESPN/ABC would willfully ruin Saturday night college football games by putting these two together.

Viewers already have to watch Musburger's games drunk because that's obviously the way he calls them, and with his blatant favoritism towards certain programs (Notre Dame, for example), he'll be an absolutely perfect match in hell for another Golden Domer legend. It's the announcing team from the Ninth Circle of Hell, the one the Devil tortures all right-thinking and loving college football fans to for eternity to be tortured by Brent's mindless cliches and Theeeesman's insistence on making points that are completely blown apart by what is actually happening on the field.

Would the WWL do something that insane, that incredibly stupid? Oh, wait -- they would. The only way it could conceivably be worse if it happened is something that has already been discussed -- pairing the two with this dumbass below:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Old Lie.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Pat Tillman believed it, enough to give up millions to serve after 9/11. Now his family has to question it.

They are still looking for answers after being lied to by Army bureaucracy about his death, and a Pentagon investigator has said that nine officers made "errors" (understatement, isn't it?) in reporting the friendly fire that killed him in Afghanistan. His parents want a Congressional investigation, and after being jerked around for nearly three years, it's hard not to say they deserve one. The Army has declined to press charges, and it's not easy to say that pressing them would have been the proper decision -- we don't really know what happened there, but what these nine officers are accused of as far as mistakes go, is an absolute disgrace, and for every case like Tillman's we actually hear about, there are probably hundreds more that we don't.

The sad reality is that we only hear of cases like Tillman's is because he sacrificed an NFL career, wound up making the ultimate sacrifice, and the Army sought to make him an exemplar of what it meant to serve while lying to his family about how that sacrifice was made, and his family has every right to scream until a proper explanation is given. It's the least we can do for the people who give themselves to the armed forces.

Cheap Shots, #8: Double Shift Edition.

Because I'm lazy, tired, and about to go to work again after being there from 2:30 PM yesterday until 7:30 this morning. Enjoy the links.

1) Our friend Extra P. gets himself published someplace respectable. [Extrapolater]
2) Joe Lunardi takes Marco's questions. [Just Call Me Juice]
3) Greg Oden lists some obvious goals. [One More Dying Quail]
4) Friends don't let celebrities drive their million dollar sports cars. [Run Up The Score!]
5) God, my crush on Erin Andrews is really sickening. Oh well, here's a quickie interview with her done by the CSTV guys. That smile is worth dying for. [Awful Announcing]
6) Speaking of EA, she takes on Melissa Stark in the Final Four of the Would You Do tourney. [The Big Picture]
7) Reggie, my man: Kim Kardashian is not an upgrade from Ciara. [Leave the Man Alone]
8) A female ump is going to call a spring training game. [Babes Love Baseball]
9) A paean to Al McGuire. [Stiles Points]
10) Last night's Sheed 70-foot shot = a dagger in my heart, and video still makes it hurt. [Girls Gone Sports]

Monday, March 26, 2007

How Deep Is Your Love?

While commenting on Deadspin's Up! All Night thread for Sunday, I noted PQ Crash's labeling of sports in terms of serious relationships. I figured it wasn't a bad idea to flesh out.

Football is my soul mate, best friend, and everything I could ever want. We were childhood sweethearts from the day my dad introduced us, despite his preference for baseball. My eyes and my affection could stray, but I always come back, and it became true love when I was a teenager in Denver, and realized everything it could be by watching the Broncos build to win and finally pull a couple of championships (never mind that I could actually play it somewhat well in high school.)

Baseball and I have had a side thing going on for years. I never liked her current parents, but when pitchers and catchers report, I take notice, and I get excited, because we've got six or seven months, plus three of them all to ourselves. I blame myself sometimes for not being more interested, because I never really attached myself to a team except for hate reasons.

Basketball is the first real love, the first sport I grew up playing seriously -- but I guess I stopped paying attention when football took over, and basketball's regular season seemed to be less important before February. Her younger, college-going sister gets my attention back every year, and then she has me until that last game of the finals.

Hockey and I have had tough times. Again, we met when I was a teenager, and I was infatuated really quickly (she came down to Denver, whirling in from Canada). It was puppy love, but her folks bug me. They do everything in their power to keep us apart -- unnecessary additions to the family, even moving away for an entire year when I'd left for college. She's the crazy ex I never stopped loving, and always check on as often as I can, usually for the winding down of the regular season and the playoffs.

Mom thought soccer and I would hit it off, and we did when I was younger; she was fun, but she never captivated me, and I stuck with her for a while because the parents approved. But I moved on, and while I still find her attractive, we only go out when she comes for a visit every couple of years (World Cup, Olympics) or if I can make time to see her (trying to watch the Premiership on Saturdays, for example.)

How has your relationship with the sports you love watching gone?

Spring Street's Downward Spiral.

The L.A. Times has faced enough trouble as a newspaper with a vacillating reader/subscriber base and an ownership group in the Tribune company that regularly wants to gut the staff The battles over the cuts have cost them an editor-in-chief and a publisher so far, and if that hasn't been bad enough, the latest morass in their downtown L.A. offices is the scuttling of a Sunday op-ed section and the subsequent resignation of the editorial page editor who put it together.

L.A. Observed dubbed it Grazergate, as the guest editor was scheduled to be Hollywood big shot producer Brian Grazer -- what happened is that said editorial page editor Andres Martinez was apparently involved with a PR agent at a company who represents Grazer, and publisher David Hiller at first decided to run the section with a note disclosing the relationship, but after it picked up steam, the section got scuttled and Martinez resigned in protest, spouting off.

It wound up being a perfect storm of news, op-ed, and management fighting each other, with news jockeying for new ownership and editorial to take more notice of them, editorial having no clue what kind of opinion section Los Angeles' newspaper ought to have out of some sort of misguided notion of a wall between news and editorial (the real wall should be between both and advertising), and again, clueless management. (Publisher David Hiller actually set up the next Current section to be edited by Donald Rumsfeld, and I suspect that idea has died a very quick death, as the outcry would have been ten times worse.)

This is all part of a paper having a hell of a time deciding whether it wants to or should be a national newspaper, yet being subpar in covering aspects of its home base -- the NYT beats them often to Hollywood scandal, which is embarrassing on its face, but news people there probably feel covering it is beneath them at times. It's amusing to watch as the situation continues to implode.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Theismann Takes Another Sack.

Via Off Wing Opinion, I find a Washington Post tidbit that seems to confirm reports at Deadspin, the Fanhouse, and Awful Announcing that Joe Theismann will be gone from Monday Night Football next year (the original rumor came from Pro Football Talk).

So much of last year's suck surrounding Monday Night Football isn't necessarily due to Theismann, as I'm sure having unrelated celebrity guests in the booth wasn't his bright idea; he just went along to get along and earn a paycheck. However, it didn't help that he and Tony Kornheiser (who ought to be next) had absolutely no chemistry as far as broadcasting went, and was less likely to talk about or explain what was actually going on with the game than a semi-irrelevant tangent.

This won't fix much, though -- it's treating the symptoms rather than curing the disease.

ESPN's management of Monday Night Football so far has been a joke -- mostly due to the apparent premise by producers and the network that it ought to be an entertainment spectacle first and a football game second. If you're trying to attract viewers to a broadcast channel, I get that a bit more. But this is ESPN, specialized and oriented towards the sports-addicted -- if anything, this would have demanded more specialization, more analysis, not less, and the proof provided in the first week, where Brad Nessler, Dick Vermeil, and Ron Jaworski (Theismann's rumored replacement) outdid the so-called A team was enough validation.

We Got The Hoya Paranoia Goin' On.

G-Town 96, UNC 84 -- After two full halves with the refs and Billy Packer in the tank for the Tar Heels, something changed within the last few minutes of the half, as the Hoyas brought it back with Roy Hibbert blocking shots, the team playing lockdown D, Jeff Green ensuring himself a big payday if he goes to the draft, and Jonathan Wallace nailing the 3 that sent it to overtime (also, the Tar Heels shooting like there was a lid on the basket did not hurt, either). Then, an overtime period of utter, absolute domination by Georgetown, as UNC only scored a 3 in OT garbage time -- giving us yet another classic Roy Williams choke job.

Florida 85, U. of Nike 77 - the Ducks were in foul trouble early and got screwed from there on out, more or less, despite Aaron Brooks' and Malik Hairston's best efforts to keep it close. Lee Humphrey is a nasty, nasty shooter, nailing threes when Florida needed to keep the Ducks away from making it close.

This makes your Final Four matchups go like this:

UCLA vs. Florida -- re-match of last year's national championship game and the Ugly-Off between Lorenzo Mata and Joakim Noah.
Georgetown vs. Ohio State - HULK SMASH THROWDOWN between Roy Hibbert and Greg Oden.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ghost Ridin' All The Way To The ATL.

UCLA 68, Kansas 55 - Arron Afflalo and Darren Collison have effectively punched their lottery tickets for next year's NBA draft, if they choose to redeem them after the season is over -- Afflalo in particular, who had a habit of not playing up to his skills in big games, had a big game when the Bruins needed it, and UCLA needs to make sure to lock up Ben Howland with an extension, because any coach that gets a team to back to back Final Four appearances is one who will win a championship, and needs to be shown the money. Tons of steals in this game, most of them from Kansas' Mario Chalmers.

Ohio State 92, Memphis 76 - Guess Joey Dorsey's smack talking about Greg Oden's lack of skills was hot air. Dorsey didn't score, and Oden put in 17 and 9 (not dominating, but needed) to contribute to OSU winning the South Regional. I'm still convinced that Thad Matta went down to the crossroads and got down on his knees, but it's working.

Predictions for tomorrow:
Georgetown over UNC. I'd love to see a Hibbert vs. Oden matchup, wouldn't you?
Oregon over Florida. Despite most of my predictions biting the dust post Sweet 16, I'm going to stick with this one and take the U. of Nike.

Another Day, Another 50 Point Game.

Damn, I make this look easy. Snooch to the NOOCH!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Nothing From Nothing Means Nothing.

And that's what the Texans will get for David Carr, as NFL Live's analysts are saying Carr just got his outright release from Houston (link will come later, when it actually pops up on the WWL's web site -- ahhh, here we go). I thought he was going on the trading block -- you could have gotten at least a second or third-rounder for him, but far be it for me to give the Texan front office any credit for intelligence.

Vikings, Dolphins, Chiefs -- GET ON YOUR PHONES NOW (especially the Vikes; you fuck this one up at your own peril.)

Again, how disastrous is the Houston Texans' management? They draft Carr, don't develop an O-line to help him, fail to draft either Reggie Bush to help him or go another direction with Vince Young, and now admit they maybe made a mistake, but compound that mistake by essentially giving up two second-round picks in consecutive years and paying $7 mil guaranteed to a QB who's never started only started twice?*

(*Thank you, randjamal. Don't know how I passed those two starts over, since everyone on ESPN was reminding us Schaub had gone 0-2 in those games.)

Oh right. They inked Schaub to that guaranteed money, proclaimed him the starter, and tipped their fucking hand right there.

Matt Millen is laughing at you, Houston.

Cheap Shots, #7.

1) Crimson Tide fans, some of your ilk are just giving Auburn die-hards more material. [EDSBS]
2) I got a term for what happened to my bracket last night due to Calipari. [Why Don't We Get Drunk and Blog?]
3) Safe bet that Michigan is looking into SIU coach Chris Lowery, but probably not for these reasons. [The Feed]
4) Comparing the Washington Nationals to sitcoms is an entertaining exercise in masochism. [Gheorghe: The Blog]
5) Which countries would you draft? Can't believe they passed on Spain. [Kissing Suzy Kolber]
6) Sanchez watched the figure skating championships so you didn't have to, and notes the winner is a douchebag. [Shot to Nothing]
7) Sooze reduces the Mets and others to haiku previews. [Babes Love Baseball]
8) The Chiefs are looking to start Brodie Croyle? Seriously? [Journalism is for Rockstars]
9) A Georgetown alum taps out an essay to the Hoyas' run. [A Price Above Bip Roberts]
10) In my eyes, this gives Tony Dungy a little bit of the "dickish" label. [AOL FanHouse].
11) Hey, leave Ron Mexico alone -- he was just talking about his hemp necklace. [Deadspin]
12) Texas Gal looks at the really important aspect of the Matt Schaub trade. [Ladies...]

Give Me The Goddamn Ball.

Fuck, we're gonna lose to these Memphis bastards? Oh, hell no. Not if I have anything to say about it. Give me the goddamn ball, Lamar. I gotta do this shit and save your asses for the third damn game in a row? Fine. I'm gonna posterize these assholes right here.

I gotta do this to remind you people, cause you all just keep forgetting, wandering off. Everyone loves talking about Gilbert all the damn time. Let me tell you bastards: Agent Zero got exactly that on me: ZERO. Dude can't put up 50 on Portland? The Mamba does that before breakfast. I got your Hibachi right here.

When does the German put up 50+ on anyone for consecutive games? You mean he doesn't have to? Nah, that just means he can't. Dwyane was right for talkin' ish on that one. King James, my ass. Bron-Bron clangs those last second shots like he's shooting from the high school three line. You want me with that ball; you need me with that ball with five seconds to go, and you know it. Nash for MVP again? What do I have to do to get a bone here, pull 50 a game for the rest of the season? OK, then.

I wish Phil would stop looking at me all pissed off like that. It isn't my fault I keep having to do this shit. Big Chief Triangle knows that when we're down against Minnesota, I gotta pull the tricks out of my back pocket. We haven't had Luke, he's either been hurt or working on his acting skills (and I use that term very loosely), and you know Lamar gets hurt at least once a year, never mind Half Pipe falling on his ass and missing time.

Ever since Fatty McDiesel got all pissy and bailed, everyone's been telling me, "Man, Kobe, you gotta get the boys involved, move that ball around if you want to win." Every time I do that, we hit some rough patch, losing four, five, seven in a row. Hell if I'm gonna let it be eight. No chance, especially if they're not even gonna bother putting a body on me.

Shit, open lane again? Gimme the ball! Elevator, going up!

BOOM! Ahhh, that felt good. Rudy, don't shake your head. Stop standing to the side like that. Man, I'm fucking going off again, and y'all are all watching some college motherfuckers over this display of sheer athletic superiority? If Greg Oden were here, I'd dunk on his head too, just to let him know who's boss. No way that old man's 19. Yo, Lamar -- right here, dude! I'm coming! Damn, he looks like he wants to dish to Smush. That's Rudy-level gay, man. All right, we have liftoff!

Damn, I love Memphis -- some nice lookin' ladies hiding in those stands. Did I stash a few mil in the Vanessa apology jewelry fund? Better check after the game. Fuck, I can't believe we're letting Mike Miller and his floppy, hippie hair-banded ass hit threes like that. OK, 43 through 3 isn't enough. This is why I put on the #24; it's crunch time and I'm ready to go all Jack Bauer on your ass. When the world needs saving (especially when it comes to making sure we get into the playoffs), I'm the cat you can count on.

"It's a blessing to be on the court with him," Odom said.

You know it, Lamar. Just let me know if I gotta take it to the NOOCH on Friday like that, OK?

(Apologies to Big Daddy Drew at KSK.)

The Luck of the Buckeyes.

After watching the score of the Tennessee-Ohio State game for most of the evening at work (gee, thanks, CBS, UCLA is up by a ton and you decide to stay on the game instead of switching over), and it's something about the Vols being up by 20+, 17 at the half, and OSU comes back and wins the game by one point (which I was actually able to watch).

What kind of deal did Thad Matta make with the devil at the crossroads before the tournament began? Did he go to the river Styx and send a message to Hades that he would be his as soon as the national championship trophy was in his arms? Did he hand his soul over before the Big Ten tournament, or was it before the season even started? Or did he have to do it to get Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. in the first place? Regardless, something or someone is looking out for OSU. They should have lost this game, just like they should have lost the game before.

(No, I don't want to talk about the Texas A&M game. I'm just going to forget that I ever picked them. You hear me? IT NEVER HAPPENED. I'll just be rooting for all the Pac-10 teams to get into the Final Four now.)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Control Freak Bosses, TV News Division.

If you work for the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, then you are working for one. Via L.A. Observed, we get the latest nugget from news director Nancy Bauer Gonzales on the rules for desks for the stations' new digs in Studio City (they are currently in the Sunset/Gower complex in Hollywood):

3. If you have an office, or sit with others in an office, it is to remain clean and streamlined. I need to approve anything you hang on your walls, but I also want that to be kept to a minimum. I need to approve all plants and living things. Do not let junk sit on your floor near the windows. When you leave for the night or the weekend, please open your blinds all the way to the top so that the sun comes in for the folks in the newsroom.


Has anyone informed Ms. Gonzales that newsrooms don't operate or function without sugar and caffeine everywhere at all times?

Two Minutes, Hooking!

The Rangers' Colton Orr nails the right hook to end all right hooks on the Flyers' Todd Fedoruk:

That's some cold-cockin' right there.

To Die For.

I know, not my usual speed, but after reading the Newspaper Hack's bit on femme teachers and their male students, this caught my eye while doing the morning MSNBC viewing: Matt Lauer interviewing Eric McLean, a man who's confessed to killing the 18-year old student his student-teacher wife was having an affair with.

The McLeans had married 11 years earlier, when she was 19 and he 20. In recent years, he had put his hopes of earning a bachelor’s degree and becoming a band director at a school on hold to put his wife through college and graduate school. He worked delivering pizzas and played in a local rock band.

Plus, they have two sons, aged 11 and 7 -- if you have that much invested in that relationship at that age, would you be surprised if it fucked with your head if your spouse was cheating?

I don't have a lot of sympathy for McLean -- he shot and killed somebody -- but this is the first time that we've had one of these "hot for teacher" affairs turn into something violent, and at least it means a suspension in the "look at the hottie" approach, for now.

Bark Like the Dog You Are, McRoberts!

I bring this video montage from the Big Lead, because no picture really encapsulates the suck that Josh McRoberts encapsulated for Duke this year after playing well his freshman year, and now, he wants to go to the NBA and mix it up with the big guns?

"Young bones groan, and the rocks below say, 'Throw your skinny body down, son.'" - the Smiths

My Bracket Will Fall Apart Over the Next Few Days.

Not the online one -- that one I don't care about as much as the one that's in the office pool, because that's real-life bragging rights and an extra hundred or two in the pocket. I'm ahead of the sports anchor (and pool commish) by one point, and I was ahead before the Sweet 16 last year too, when George Mason took out my national champ (UConn).

I'm a little bit wiser now (although if I was really that wise, I wouldn't have picked Texas); all my Final Four teams are still in. So, let's recap the picks for the Sweet 16 games:

SIU vs. Kansas -- knock-down, drag out defensive war #1. If you're betting, place a bunch on SIU to cover. Kansas will move on.
Texas A&M vs. Memphis - still going with Billy and the long arm of the Law. Memphis usually manages to cough it before reaching the Four, and despite being able to hit free throws last round, I'm not sure they can do it again.
Pitt vs. UCLA - defensive war #2. Aaron Gray has to play out of his mind for Pitt to win, and I don't see that happening.
Tennessee vs. Ohio State - Bet on the Vols to cover, and if you're feeling really brave, this is not a bad game to pick an upset on. I think OSU survives.

Butler vs. Florida - Probably closer than any of us thinks, but Florida moves on.
Vandy vs. G-Town - Sorry, not close (and the line is a liar). Too much in the post for the Hoyas with Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert.
UNLV vs. Oregon - The Rebs' ride ends here unless Aaron Brooks has a horrific shooting night. Gotta stick with the Ducks; they're my winner in the Midwest region.
USC vs. UNC - Since I have nothing bracket-wise riding on this (see my stupid Texas decision, and I have G-Town winning the East region), I'm calling USC here, and with an 8.5 spread, taking the points too.

Giving Up Without Even Trying.

That is pretty much all you can say about the trade that will send Atlanta's backup QB Matt Schaub to Houston, and basically end David Carr's career in Houston before it even got a chance to develop.

David Carr has been royally screwed in several years with the Texans, bearing the brunt of the front office's inability to build an actual offensive line to give him some decent time to throw the ball instead of getting pounded and placed on his ass for at least 30 something times per season with the ball still in his hands. He had to continue to tolerate bad offensive lines and the Houston fanbase's screaming for Reggie Bush and Vince Young instead of Houston's drafting of Mario Williams (when your second round pick at LB outplays your first round DE when it comes to getting in the backfield and making plays, then maybe you might consider that you made a bad call there.)

Either way, some NFL team with an O-line will be happy to have Carr when, not if, he's put on the trade market. Pacifist Viking is probably still dying for the Minny front office to get on this like white on rice.

Schaub will get the chance he has long deserved after sitting behind Michael Vick as an insurance policy if the erratic quarterback ever fell completely out of favor in Atlanta, but Bobby Perino wants to put it all on Vick (rightfully so) and to do that, you have to stop the QB controversy for the time being. However, Schaub has no wins as a starter, and if Houston does nothing with their O-line again, he'll be looking for a while until he gets that win.

UPDATE: Schaub just got PAID IN FULL, people -- $48 big large over six years from his new team, and ESPNews is saying that Carr will be on the way out in the next couple of days. Brad Childress, please have your GM pick up the goddamn telephone!)

Due Process.

Based on every published report and track record, Titans CB Adam "Pac-Man" Jones is likely a jackass and probably has some issues to deal with (when your drug dealer is concerned about your focus on your career, that's a bad sign). But this is less about Pac-Man and more about the NFL.

Do you think Roger Goodell has the right to make an example out of someone whom the judicial system has decided is a free man, who has not been arrested nor convicted of anything related to the incident that happened in a strip club at the NBA All-Star Weekend, without even waiting to see if he is charged by a county DA in Nevada or given a trial by jury?

I think not. And if Goodell actually follows through on his "consideration" of suspending Jones for an entire season, then the players ought to realize that Gene Upshaw is an absolutely useless piece of shit and replace him immediately. At some point, "go along to get along" has to go out the window -- and that's when it's used to convict someone based on public opinion regardless of what the legal process produces. I understand Jones was supposed to report arrests in his contract, and he didn't with a couple in Georgia, but if Jones is suspended for all of the 2007 season, that's an overreach. Quarter to a half season -- maybe.

(Hat tip: FanHouse.)

A Long Way Down.

Remember when everyone and their mother could swear that Indiana was going to hire Steve Alford away from Iowa when Mike Davis got out of Bloomington, that it was going to happen for sure? Well, it didn't, and Alford has dealt with another subpar season in Iowa City, where the Hawkeyes didn't even make the NIT.

If ESPN's reports are even half-accurate, he's probably out the door and headed to the Lobos of New Mexico.

Sources said Alford was looking for a school that is passionate about basketball first and foremost after being at a football-first school. UNM athletic director Paul Krebs has pledged to make the Lobos a national program, bumping up the coach's salary more than $500,000 in an attempt to get it closer to Alford's nearly $1 million deal with Iowa.

Nice thought, but before you shell out for a coach like that, you'd better know what you're getting -- Alford has a problem with getting past the second round of the NCAAs regularly, and Iowa lost tourney games they should have rightfully had. The Pierre Pierce issues may have drained it out of him, but it's odd to see him go from shooting star to crawling out of Iowa City.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Does Tim Floyd Know What He's Getting Into?

Far be it for me to question Tim Floyd as a college coach right now, especially after the Trojans just dominated the Texas Longhorns and Kevin Durant in ways I didn't think were possible as an SC fan, based on how Oregon just decimated them in the Pac-10 final. Next season, he has a legitimate shot at making the SC-UCLA rivalry competitive in basketball, which is not something those of us who root for the Trojans have expected in recent years. However, as everyone knows, those hopes for next season lie on a recruit who is most likely one-and-done, and already has a propensity for troubling behavior, as well as bizarre ways of being recruited.

I won't cut and paste the first half of the article here; go read it for yourself (if you haven't already) and just read the oddities throughout. O.J. Mayo essentially recruited USC to host him; not the standard way it's done in college basketball. Floyd didn't have to do any work, he just had to say "Yes." Now, Floyd may be one of those Pete Carroll types who just do better in college than the pros, but it's really hard for me to think he's just hoping this doesn't blow up in his face.

(Also interesting: in the article, it says Mayo's second choice outside of USC would have been an historically black college or university. Now, as the Head Chick noted, the schools probably don't do a heck of a lot with their basketball programs, but imagine if say, Howard had actually made a pitch for O.J. -- the guy would bring the ESPN cameras to you.)

Update: Please note that D-Wil has probably just handed me my ass on a plate on this with his interpretation.

Michael Still Gets All the Calls In Retirement.

Dan Wetzel and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports have written a lengthy piece on complaints from other general managers that Charlotte minority owner Michael Jordan is getting to slide by on NBA regulations prohibiting contact with high school athletes by running his Jordan Brand high school game and Flight Camps.

As the article states, the basic problem is that Jordan is playing multiple roles: even though he has retired from the game, as the greatest to ever play it, he is still a valuable name in marketing and in branding; rightly or wrongly, he is the face that many observers of the NBA wish were still the dominant face of the game -- able to be everything to everyone, in every demographic.

And any complaints about this are entirely justified: although Jordan got slapped with a fine for talking about Kevin Durant recently, he ought to at least divest himself from day-to-day associations and special appearances at events for his companies with high school players, so long as he is an executive for an NBA team. However, I'm not sure those anonymous executives ought to worry too much about what he makes of it -- considering MJ's track record with the Wizards in the late 90s as president and player, where he again tried to be everything to all parties -- he's just as capable of screwing up whatever advantage is granted to him by virtue of his playing days. If the Charlotte Bobcats don't make marked improvements in the next few seasons, then we'll be talking about him in the same sentence as Isiah Thomas, Danny Ainge, and Billy King -- and this is not a category Jordan would like to be in.

Make Sure That Door Leaves a Mark, OK?

This appears to be the case with Long Beach State University men's basketball coach Larry Reynolds, who will not be offered a new contract after a 24-8 season that was great by all Big West standards. It's probably not the 20-something point loss to the Tennessee Volunteers in the first round of the NCAAs that did it either.

What I've been told recently is that his firing (the university may phrase it any way it likes, but that's essentially what this is) was the worst kept secret in Anaheim during the Big West tournament, and one bit in this ESPN piece jives a little with what my friend heard down there:

Assistant coach Reggie Howard did not accompany the team to Columbus and was put on indefinite leave as the NCAA investigates recruiting violations at the school. The team's recruiting coordinator, Howard was credited with assembling much of the squad.

Reading the school's released statement again, I note the Golden Rule of Press Releases: the less information provided in the statement or release, the more questionable and seedy the circumstances surrounding the subject. A fundamental difference with an athletic director who came in during his contract is also likely, outside of anything recruiting related, and unless the NCAA actually turns up something with Howard in terms of actual violations, I'll say it's more likely that Reynolds and AD Vic Cegles did not work well together and Cegles pulled rank.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Tree Will Keep Growing in Palo Alto.

Stanford forward Brook Lopez (the one on the right in the picture, looking on as his team gets shellacked by Louisville last week) has made a decision to stay in Palo Alto for another year with his brother and skip the NBA draft. That's not really newsworthy, as anyone who watched Stanford down the end of the Pac-10 regular season and in the tournament knew neither of the Lopez twins were quite ready for the big time (and that's probably an understatement.)

What makes me laugh is this:

According to's Andy Katz, the 7-foot, 240-pound Lopez would have been a likely lottery pick.

Lopez, whose twin brother Robin also plays for the Cardinal, averaged 12.6 points, six rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game for the Cardinal this season. Stanford's season ended with a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Louisville.

Mostly because I would very much appreciate a bit of what Andy Katz is smoking in order to figure out how Lopez is a top ten pick to any NBA GM outside of considering size alone at this point. Sure, he gets his dozen, but it's a quiet one, and in a conference where the regular season champs (UCLA) have size issues and there's not exactly a dominant center on the good teams, he and Robin should have been able to tear motherfuckers up, and didn't.

(Tangent: Office bracket pool update -- I am currently in the lead at work by one point over our sports anchor, and we have a few points on the rest of the field. I was in the same spot last year too going into the Sweet 16, until George Mason tore my bracket apart by beating UConn and UCLA lost to Florida. So I expect Kansas and Memphis will fuck me over this year.)

Two Degrees of Pass Interference?

That's what Niners coach Mike Nolan thinks there ought to be, as a former defensive back himself. The FanHouse dug up this bit of Nolan saying there should be 15-yard infractions and spot fouls, much in the way face masks have degrees for intentional and unintentional.

Much like Michael David Smith, I am intrigued by Nolan's idea and wish to subscribe to his newsletter; however, I'm not sure how we would differentiate between the types of PI to make it worthwhile. However, I'm all for stopping the "throw deep and see if we can get a flag" strategy that occasionally happens to pop up in pro games. The spot foul is devastating, but it's not like 15 yards and a fresh set of downs is exactly a light sentence. If pushed, I'd probably side with the college rule for pass interference for 15 yards and a first down.

What confuses me more is the difference between O-holding and D-holding -- why make it 10 for the offense but five and an auto-first for the D?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Danny Ainge: Certified Moron.

In the dubious competition of NBA's Stupidest Executive, Danny Ainge is up there, filling Boston fans with consternation over idiot trades (how's that dealing the draft rights to Brandon Roy in exchange for Sebastian Telfair looking now, especially since the Celtics passed on Randy Foye too?) and wasting the best years of Paul Pierce.

Now, his team's been slapped for 30 large for him being caught at the Big 12 championship talking with Texas stud Kevin Durant's family. What good does this do you, Danny? It's not like you're guaranteed the #1 spot in the draft if the Celtics continue to tank -- the draft only assures you the best chance at it, and as of late, that hasn't helped a lot of the worst teams from season to season (Celtics fans remember having the worst season and missing out on Tim Duncan.) Basically, he's trying to convince the mother of a one-and-done to get her son to leave college (most likely) so he can have half a shot at drafting him, and gets caught on national television (yes, the ESPN announcing team caught him).

Even Isiah Thomas wouldn't be caught pulling that crap.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cinderella Classic.

In the current college basketball landscape where mid-majors like Southern Illinois are expected to do some damage come tournament time, it's hard to say that anyone particularly thought that UNLV, butt of many jokes regarding its graduation rates, the short reign of Rollie Massimino post-Tarkanian, and general fall from grace after 1991, would be headed to the Sweet 16 a couple of months ago. A favorable draw helped -- GT was basically Javaris Crittenton, and Wisconsin, was, well, Wisconsin, as the Big 10 appears to be the weakest of the major conferences.

UNLV is probably the Cindy Classic of the year in a tournament without a double digit seed in the Sweet 16, and the press will continue to lap up the story of Kevin Kruger transferring over from ASU via a rule that's not off the books to play his senior season for dad Lon. Many might argue Butler or SIU as Cinderella teams, but four and five seeds are not really Cinderellas; SIU is good enough where semi-knowledgeable viewers of college hoops expect them to make the 16. The Salukis are Custom Cindy: the Fairy Godmother sent them to the plastic surgeon for a nip, tuck, and unobtrusive boob job. They're just not household names.

Quick rundown of Sunday, as compared to prior declarations here and in other venues:

I'm a Genius: UNLV knocks off Wisconsin. Oregon beats lovable Winthrop (Cinderella for some of you). All Final Four teams still in. Lost no more than two teams per region after first round. Picked the West regional contingent of the 16 perfectly.

I'm a Fucking Moron: Texas gets dominated by USC, costing me an Elite Eight team (I'm not alone here, by far; I bet some of you had Texas in the Final Four). Close second: Memphis decides to hit free throws when beating Nevada. Oops. Butler heads to the Sweet 16. So does Tennessee.

Now Kevin Durant Is Really Going to the NBA: Credit Bill Simmons with only this, as a broken clock is right twice a day -- Durant is going to want out after scoring 30, yet the rest of his team can't put anything together (and really, it's the quietest 30 point game he's had.) He'd have had to be Kobe to win against a USC team firing on all cylinders, and Texas should ask why Rick Barnes can assemble talent-loaded teams but can't do much with them come tournament time. (However, the kitchen would like to offer Simmons our fresh crow for saying the Pac-10 sucks, as now 3 teams from the conference are in the 16.)

The Revival of Tim Floyd's Rep: Has anyone gotten a rep upgrade as quickly by going back to college as USC coach Tim Floyd? From whipping boy coaching the post-Jordan Bulls to developing a team that, if all the players return (and at this point, Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young are low-first rounders at best) and O.J. Mayo comes in, could probably challenge UCLA for Pac-10 superiority next year?

The OSU Death Watch: I have them losing to Texas A&M come 8 time, but this team could very well lose to Tennessee, who opened up on LBSU and came back on a choking Virginia team.

Sweet 16 Picks:
Florida over Butler
Oregon over UNLV (probably will need OT)
Kansas over SIU (couldn't blame you if you take the Salukis, though)
UCLA over Pitt (how far has Aaron Gray's draft status fallen from last year to this one?)
Texas A&M over Memphis (barely)
OSU over Tennessee (even more barely)
G-Town over Vanderbilt (no contest)
USC over UNC (the UConn '06 Principle of Slacking at Inopportune Times will get the Tar Heels, I believe. Besides, I've got to pick one upset.)

St. Patrick's Day At the Sports Bar.

Part of the secret of doing St. Patrick's Day Saturday properly is to set yourself up in a place where you can eat constantly while boozing, and the local sports bar/in-house brewery is as good a place as any after you started at various bars at 6:30 AM and were drinking pitchers solo by 9. I missed no action yesterday, despite the actual memory of it being hazy. So far, I've only lost one Sweet 16 team. Here's what I remember from yesterday's viewing.

Butler over Maryland - and this was it. I think the Terps got a cheapie charge call in the last minute that screwed them over, but a 5 over 4 isn't much, although I thought Butler was an overrated 5.

OSU over Xavier - boy, did I think OSU was done, especially when Oden fouled out on this hard foul right here, but they somehow get to OT, and Mike Conley Jr. takes over.

Pitt over VCU - thought VCU was going to take it, and it's pretty clear that UCLA will clear out Pitt next weekend, because the Panthers take inconsistency to a new level.

Vandy over Wazzu - favorite game of the day, with the previous a close second. 2 OT barnburner where WSU just got kind of hosed on the .06 seconds at the end of regulation there for Vandy.

UCLA over Indiana - the most fun to watch with, not because of the game itself (although UCLA tried to give the game away for most of the second half), but because two of my drinking partners were an Indiana alum and a UCLA alum -- bad enough to have opposing alums watching a game with you sober; try St. Patty's Day blitzed. UCLA is kind of coasting and putting all the pressure on its defense. Afflalo stepped up with the free throws, but he needs to hit more shots.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Liveblogapocalypse, Day 2.

I got UNLV-GA Tech and Long Beach State vs. Tenn in a double-donger, double-duty special over at Awful Announcing today. First game starts at 9:20 Pacific. Join me and my compatriots, won't you?

Picks for those games: UNLV, LBSU (GO BIG WEST!)