Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There's Something (Weird) About A Man In Uniform

Watching the Dodgers-Marlins game yesterday, I saw a few shots of the Dodgers' coaching staff in the dugout and two thoughts kept popping into my head: these men need to eat better, and these men need to wear less tight-fitting pants.

Why do baseball coaches wear uniforms? No other sport does this. NBA and NHL coaches wear suits. College coaches are the same. In some sports, you will see coaches in polo shirts. At the most casual is the NFL coach, who wears whatever he wants as long as it is branded with the NFL logo - this generally equates to team warm-ups, jackets or sweatshirts, and Bill Belichick certainly tests the "whatever he wants" portion of this rule. But none of them wear a uniform!

So why baseball coaches? They are not players on the teams. So why do these fat, droopy men all wear unis? There are the Ozzie Guillen/Willie Randolph types who look like they could still play; there is Dusty Baker and his wrist bands who looks like he thinks he does still play, but then there are the Tommy Lasorda/Don Zimmer types who really need to just put on some slacks and a sweater and save us all from looking at things that would be cruel and unusual even at Guantanamo.

Baseball prides itself on being glacially slow to change so it must root back into the game's past. Perhaps it is from the turn of the 20th century when the team captain was essentially the manager, so they obviously would need uniforms on. Later, when teams started hiring non-player managers and coaches, those guys were likely former ballplayers and likely had a hard time giving up the they wore the uniform.

That is perfectly reasonable, but don't coaches in every sport probably still want to play? Why doesn't Byron Scott hang desperately onto his playing days and wear sneakers, short shorts and a jersey? Football coaches in pads and hockey coaches in sweaters and skates would be a little silly, so it makes sense that those coaches wear something else.

So over 100 years later, Tony LaRussa still wears a jersey because some former ballplayer in 1908 had a midlife crisis? Connie Mack thumbed his nose at tradition and wore a suit. Why did others not follow his lead? Are the cleats, long socks, tightish pants and jersey that comfortable?

I get that it is tradition and I get where is originated from, but Major League Baseball eventually went so far as to make a rule that coaches on the field must be in uniform. No other sport invites coaches onto the field during a game, so maybe that is why other sports never adopted a similar rule. But again, why did baseball?

Would a coach waving a runner home from the box behind third tarnish the game if he was in a suit? Last August, MLB executive Bob Watson approached Red Sox manager Terry Francona before a game and reminded him that it was a league rule that he wear a jersey at games, and that a team jacket was not sufficient. Then during the game that day, Watson sent a security official to check under Francona's jacket to make sure he was wearing it...during an inning when the Yankees had a runner on base, not in between!

I get the desire to keep to tradition, but this is all a little bit weird. These are grown (often overgrown) men, and they look almost as silly as Josh Childress trying to pull off Buckwheat's afro (Josh, it's 2008 and you are not a teenager anymore, plus Ben Wallace already pulled this off far better). What does the bench coach need cleats for? Managers choosing to follow a tradition is nice and quaint and as baseball-ish as pitchers jumping over the foul line. But the league mandating tradition takes all the tradition out of it!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kobe Is a Chucker, But It's Better Than Being A Statutory Rapist

Newsflash: Roger Clemens is a scumbag and a liar. If all of the years of throwing at people's heads, taking steroids and lying about both, and negotiating into contracts that he not travel with his teams weren't enough to convince you, now it appears that when he was 28, he began sleeping with a 15-year-old girl. He was married and the affair lasted 10-years. He denies every word of the story; she says every word is true. Does anyone buy his good 'ole country boy honesty in his steroid/lying to Congress story now - it's like Cush's dad saying his word is stronger than oak and then signing a contract with Bob Sugar the night before the draft.

Speaking of adulterers, I had to watch the Lakers-Nuggets game last night as the profanity censor for KCAL again and Kobe Bryant has not changed his one-man show at all. It is a popular thing to say he has grown up and sees he needs teammates now. Not even close. Before the game, Lamar Odom said in an interview that things in the clubhouse are better because they're winning. That's it.

The Lakers held a solid lead for basically the whole game. About mid-way through the third, the Lakers had an in bounds play, up by 6. They stacked up right in front of the ball and Kenyon Martin walked in and shoved his way in the middle of it. Kobe was obviously pissed and they did a close-up of his little "I am gonna make you pay" smile. Here is the succession of the his 5 plays:

Fall-away three pointer missed
Turnover (drove in and jumped up with no shot and no one to pass to, threw it out of bounds)
Fouls J.R. Smith shooting a 3 (Smith makes all three free throws and the game is tied)
Missed three pointer
Turnover (stolen while dribbling at the top of the key)

Yes, he went nuts and put together a 7-0 run that wound up winning the game, but all three shots in that run were early in the clock on isolation plays. He stops running the offense and takes over. If the shots fall like they did late in the game, he is a hero. But for the entire third and beginning of the fourth, the same ill-advised shots did not fall and the Nuggets climbed into the lead. This won't work against a good team.

Carmelo Anthony is now in league with the worst post-season performing superstars of all time. He fouled out of yet another playoff game. He made almost no contribution while he was in there besides a few big dunks (and one missed dunks that may have swung the entire fourth quarter). His career post-season record is 4-20 with five straight first-round exits. But at least he seems like a good guy off the court.

And when talking about epic chokes, how can I not mention that Barry Zito, the $126 Million Dollar Man, is now a middle reliever for the worst team in the league? Apparently the Giants are not happy with his 7.53 ERA, 0-6 record, 81 MPH fastball or the fact that opponents are hitting .338 off of him. When I think that the Mets went after him and lost out, then signed Johan Santana a year later with that money, I feel all warm inside. To his credit, Zito said all the right things after the move and I think he really is a good guy. I do hope he finds his stuff again.

Great Moments In Announcing: April 28, 2008 - Stu Lantz took about five minutes to explain to all the kids out there watching that if you jump into a person's chest, you will foul them. Instead you want to jump to one side or the other when you are running at a jump-shooter. He also explained that the key to the playoffs is getting out of the first round. Some would say it is defense, or foul shooting, or winning the championship, but modest, patently obvious goals are important too.

I try to do the right thing and serve my community, and I was really tempted to just hold down the mute button for the entire Laker game to spare Los Angeles from Stu's arrogance, stuttering and insanity. I would do that for the Dodger game tonight, but if Charlie Steiner is announcing, no one would notice anyway. No one allows more dead-air between sentences than Steiner. But at least when he does speak, he shows a deft grasp on not knowing anything about baseball.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Vacation From Obsession

This past weekend I went to Death Valley to see the sights, which to the surprise of apparently many people, there are many. We camped at the aptly named Furnace Creek. It is always an interesting perspective-builder to do trips like this right in the middle of what you would normally consider a really important time at home.

Being a big sports fan, I definitely thought twice about missing the Mets-Braves series, the NFL draft (not to watch it, but just to know where USD's Josh Johnson went), the NBA and NHL playoffs, regular season finales in college lacrosse, my college baseball team is in the midst of a 16 game win-streak, and the epic battle to find who has the worst contract in baseball (Andruw Jones or Barry Zito). [Update: Andruw Jones]

Being out in the desert with basically no radio, definitely no TV or internet, no cell phones (besides in this one parking space in front of the general store, according to one local), no electricity and not even a shower (except one for $5 at the "hotel" down the road), it did not take long for my sports-related concerns to just melt away (perhaps because it was freaking hot). It was nice to get out there and realize that while I would like to watch, what the Mets do against the Braves in April isn't going to make or break them, let alone me.

Now, I am not saying I would do this during the Super Bowl, but it always seems that every weekend is the biggest weekend in sports in ages. Going out and doing something else I liked to do makes it easy to see that rarely is a game really that important. However, if we were doing something my wife wanted us to do and I didn't, then these games this weekend would have been life-alteringly important!

I must admit I did cheat once. We had just gotten back from the "Racetrack" and it was over 100 degrees at about 5 p.m. on Saturday. At this point, whatever cold drinks we had had in the cooler since Thursday were no longer cold, so we went to the saloon and sat in the AC...and I watched a little of the Celtics' game. Surprise: an NBA playoff game was boring!

If you too were out of the loop this weekend, here's what you missed: NFL Draft occurred, but nothing interesting actually happened besides Mel Kiper's hair making thousands of children scream in terror. The Suns salvaged a win against the Spurs but will lose in game 5. Jason Kidd got really, really lucky that no one socked him in the face after a very dirty foul and will likely not be very lucky in game 5 when he is eliminated and will likely spend a lot of time on the ground. Zito took the lead in the worst contract race (ERA of 7.53 and 0-6 vs. Jones who is now up to .159 with 1 HR and 4 RBI in 25 games). If you like boxing, don't miss the Flyers-Habs Game 3 tonight.

As soon as it is ready, I will post a photo slide show of some of the highlights from our trip. And finally, a post I wrote last week (on baseball not punishing steroid users) was featured on Please go there and leave a message so I can get paid million and millions of dollars.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Baseball To Ban All Player Punishments

How much money was spent compiling the Mitchell Report? How much time? How many hours were spent interviewing people, being denied interviews with people, researching phone and email and credit card records, searching through dumpsters, and finally writing the 409-page report?

Last week the players' union boss and the commissioner of baseball did exactly what the report recommended: they totally disregarded it and decided they will not and will never punish anyone named in the report who was found to have cheated.

Why did they make this report? Why was it news? Was the only intent to ruin the names of players and former players, without actually formally punishing anyone? Do you know what I would do if I was caught red-handed doing something that was illegal but had made me millions of dollars, but then was told I would not be punished? I would probably find a way to keep doing it. Even if I get caught again, the union will probably get me off, and even if not, I will make millions in the meantime.

The LA Times' Bill Dwyre wrote a column yesterday about this and he used Marion Jones as one example who was actually punished for cheating. Yes, she lied to Congress, but that had nothing to do with her being stripped of her Olympic medals and records. She was stripped of her medals because she cheated. But not a single baseball player will be stripped of a single single!

Cycling is mocked and discredited for being saturated with cheaters, but the governors of the sport are leading the way (along with the Olympics) in showing how to clean up a sport - they enforce rules. Cycling tests riders constantly, goes into their hotels during races and does searches for drug paraphernalia and bans riders for two years for a single positive test. Do you know who won the Tour de France, his sport's most glorious crown, last year? Probably not, but you know he was clean (2004 brain surgery survivor Alberto Cantador, by the way). Do you know who won the home run crown, baseball's most glorious individual crown? Probably, but you aren't sure if he's clean or not. So which sport is in trouble?

Not that Cycling has it perfect either. Last year, two American cyclists were banned for a year each because they failed to appear for random tests at an event that they were not competing in! The bans on Cale Redpath and Alice Pennington were later lifted of course, but at least the US and World Anti-Drug Administrations actually act in their sports and will admit if they are wrong.

Baseball players did not get what was coming to them. They just signed bigger deals, raised my ticket and hot dog prices and laughed their way to the bank (and in the near future the hospital, no doubt). How many World Series rings are resting on the inflated fingers of cheaters? How many innocent guys should be stripped of theirs because their teammates were cheaters. But that is messy - you can't go back and take away awards and titles, right? Tell that to Marion Jones' Olympic Gold medal winning, world record setting teammates.

Selig made this grand move to have the Great Senator George Mitchell, the Man Who Saved Ireland, come in and clean up his sport. And in the end, he found out the who, what, when, where, and how (we knew the "why") of baseball's cheating ways and promptly brushed it under the rug. But I am sure the players' consciences are killing them and they won't cheat again, even knowing there are no repercussions.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why Does Brian Cashman Have A Job And I Don't?

While I think it is awesome that Brian Cashman basically neutered Hank Steinbrenner on Tuesday, I still don't get why Cashman still has a job. Steinbrenner finished last season by saying that Joba Chamberlain would be a starter this year. Then yesterday, he said that he doesn't understand why he is not. He said he will be a starter immediately and anyone who thinks otherwise is an "idiot."

Now clearly, Hank has less of a filter on his bullying and insanity than his pops did, but how dumb must he feel when his subordinate then came out to the media within hour and said, "yeah, that's not going to happen." I like that Cashman stuck to his guns and said that they have a plan and it is working. But honestly, how is Cashman still employed? I would take half of his salary and could easily spend his budget into an ALDS loss every year too

This guy's job is to hire players and coaches. All he has to do is make sure that the team on the field is as good as it can be. He is given a budget that is literally more than 10 times some of his competition, and at least 3 times most of his competition. And they haven't won anything in almost a decade. And his boss is notorious for having one of the quickest triggers since Henry VIII. Cashman must be blackmailing the Steinbrenners or one of those fat, surly bastards would have certainly choked the life out of him by now.

Speaking of choking: nice fourth quarter by Tracy McGrady. The "superstar" scored 1 fourth quarter point and is now down two games, and they now head out on the road for three games in the hardest place to win in sports. Does anything think Utah (37-4 at home) won't win at least two out of the next three home games? Next up for the Jazz is the Lakers, which is a very, very bad match up for the top seeded Kobes.

(Side story: I was looking in Google Images for a photo of the Jazz for this post and one came up of their dance team. Normally dance team photos look like the photos of strippers you get handed to you in Vegas or across the street from Staples Center. The Jazz girls have polo shirts on. Crazy Mormons.)

The Flyers and Bruins also had monumental playoff chokes last night. Philly was up three games to two, playing at home and jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Then Alexander the Great scored two goals as Washington scored four straight to win and send it to game 7 in Washington. Good night. And the 8th seeded Bruins had a game seven chance against the top seeded Canadiens but threw up a goose egg against a rookie goalie.

Another nice postseason choke by a Boston area team in 2008...are you paying attention Kevin Garnett?

Monday, April 21, 2008

NBA Playoff Weekend Roundup And Salma Hayek

Perhaps the biggest tragedy in sports this year will be that either the Spurs or Suns will not make the second round of the playoffs, but either the Magic or Raptors will. I suppose the NBA and the involved TV networks like the idea of having such intriguing first round match ups as the Spurs vs. Suns and having the Pistons lose game 1 at home, but at the same time they must be scared out of their minds.

When you look at it, there is not much to get excited about in in the first round. The Lakers-Nuggets series is a train wreck and will probably be a sweep or 5-gamer. Celtics might win in 3, with Atlanta just conceding. New Orleans vs. Dallas...yawn. There are some interesting subplots, but ultimately does anyone outside of New Orleans or Dallas care? Detroit - Philly is only interesting if Philly wins game 2. Otherwise, Detroit will probably just win it in 5. Utah vs. Houston could be the most boring and anonymous match up of 54-win teams in league history. FYI: Orlando and Toronto both have NBA franchises and are actually meeting in the playoffs. Cleveland vs. Washington is only interesting to see if LeBron will topple under the pressure of playing 12 against 1 every night. Even Ben Wallace's possible hairdo spectacles aren't interesting anymore. And of course, San Antonio vs. Phoenix is one of the best first round playoff match ups in any sport of my lifetime.

So one series is watchable, and it lived up to that title in Game 1 - not that I watched. I did not see any of the games this weekend because I still don't really care yet - or I don't care enough to waste two hours of my life watching the first three quarters of a game yet.

I did watch the Mets vs. Phillies Sunday night and that 6th inning rally made me really, really happy. I also think that Chase Utley would look very good hitting second between Jose Reyes and David Wright. When is his contract up in Philly? The Mets are on TV again tonight, but I get to work at the Dodgers game censoring profanity for the live telecast. This will be like knowing that Salma Hayek is standing next to me naked, but I have to watch Diane Keaton undress instead. I hate Diane Keaton.

In 2006, I was in Boston for Patriots Day. I was at a bar watching the Red Sox, and Mark Loretta hit a game-winning homer and then we ran outside to watch the winners of the Boston Marathon finish - the closest finish in history at the time. It was a pretty spectacular 5 minutes in sports-fandom. Is there a more painful/glorious ending to a sporting even that what happened this morning though? A woman out-leaned an opponent to win the marathon by 2-seconds, gaining the advantage win 100-yards left. Can you imagine dedicating your whole life to training, getting perfectly primed for the biggest event in the sport, going out and being the leader through 99.8% of a 26.2-mile race and then losing it in the last .05 miles? Spectacular.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Three Points For Honesty

Thomas Jefferson once said, "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." But Guster sang, "Fiction is where genius lies." Regardless, these three folks are are either really, really wise, or total geniuses.

Miguel Tejada must be a really honest guy. Sure, he was OK misleading his other teams throughout his career about his age (and apparently his real name), but it was just eating him up inside that he was lying to the Astros about it, so he decided to come clean and get it off of his chest. He said he wanted to be a man, and that he feels so much better. Well I just think that's great. And I know you cynics out there will say that he only came clean yesterday because ESPN was airing an interview in which they confronted him with the lie and he angrily stormed out of the room. But I am sure it came from the goodness in his heart.

That kind of integrity is to be commended. Like when Jason Kidd said earlier this season that he wanted to be traded from the spiraling Nets because his absence and the players they receive in return could help the Nets franchise. Never mind that he had a no trade clause and would only go to a contender. He loved his team so much, he wanted to see them succeed with or without him. I am sure he checks in with his old teammates and fans regularly.

And then there's the case of good 'ole boy Clay Bennett who loved Oklahoma so much that when he left his home and businesses behind to go to Seattle to buy the Sonics, he only pretended that he would work in good faith to keep the team there, when in reality he apparently always had it in mind to pick them up and deliver them back to the Sooner State. His lie wasn't a lie. It didn't count because he was being true to himself. Never mind that people have come out of the woodwork to purchase the Sonics in order to keep them in Seattle. Never mind that Oklahoma City is next on the NBA's expansion list and Bennett would almost certainly be the owner of the new franchise. Clay has to be honest to his own personal dream of dragging a bad team to his old home, no matter how many untruths (but not lies) he has to tell, and no matter how many fans' hearts he has to break. I think you have to respect that.

In an era when people will seem to do anything to make a buck, it is nice to see these bastions of honesty, integrity and honor shining like beacons in the night to show us all the way to conduct ourselves. They don't fire guns in fights outside of nightclubs, or get arrested for DUI, or use steroids (well...except for Tejada). They don't get embroiled in gambling scandals, or get busted for drug possession, or beat their wives (well...except for Kidd).

Thank you for showing us the way Miguel, Jason and Clay.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

NBA First Round Preview

The NBA Playoff match ups are finally ready for consumption. If I, or anyone else, cared about the Eastern Conference until the Pistons-Celtics series, I would discuss those series as well. But I don't, and neither does anyone but the family members of the players. So here is my flawless prognostication of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs:

1 Lakers vs. 8 Nuggets: I mentioned yesterday that this is the only match up in the West that stinks. The Lakers won't roll over the Nuggets, but the Nuggets will just find ways to lose. Traveling to Denver is tough because of the altitude and that will give them an advantage at home, but considering that the only Los Angeles basketball team to win a playoff series since Shaq emigrated was the Clippers, Kobe Bryant will make sure the Lakers win this one. And Denver can't play defense, so they can't stop the one-man Bryant show. Lakers in 6 (and that is being charitable to the Nuggets).

2 Hornets vs. 7 Mavericks: This is a tricky series because the Hornets have been front-runners for a long time this year and deserve the easy first round series, but there is no easy first round series, and they have absolutely zero playoff experience anyway. On the other side, you have Jason Kidd who may or may not be really good and Dirk Nowitski who is the same, but being a European, he will fold under pressure (born too close to France). If the Mavs can get the ball out of Chris Paul's hands like they did Wednesday night, the Hornets are screwed. And that is all the series comes down to. Defend Paul, Mavs win. If not, Hornets win. No way they can keep him down for four straight. Hornets in 7. Wouldn't it be great if Byron Scott then went and reminded Jason Kidd that it was Kidd who got Scott fired from New Jersey?

3 Spurs vs. 6 Suns: Is this the best first round match up in history? No question this series goes 7 games. Shaq and the Suns have been playing better and better as their season progressed, and the Spurs have been slowed a bit in the last weeks with Manu Ginobili hurt. However, I think if you give Tim Duncan seven times to find a way to beat someone, he will do it at least four of those seven times, every time, every opponent. I do not understand why Tony Parker is not subject to the European=soft equation, but somehow he escaped. Maybe Eva's Latin fire rubbed off on him. Spurs in 7 in a spectacular series. How sad that Shaq won't go further than Kobe again.

4 Jazz vs. 5 Rockets: The Rockets avoid a nightmarish road series in Utah because of an unusual rule change from a few years ago. Despite the Jazz being the higher seed, Houston has a better record by 1 game, and thus is awarded home court for the series. Utah was 37-4 at home this year, one of the losses was to Houston (opening night - doesn't really count). However, the only reason the paper-thin Rockets are in this situation is a freakish 22-game win streak. Without the streak, they are barely over .500. Put plainly, they won't win a game on Utah, so the question is: Can the Rockets go 4-0 at home? The answer is no. Utah in 5.

For posterity's sake, I will call the Spurs over the Jazz in the West Finals and the Celts over the Spurs in the Finals.

Yesterday I experienced the worst fantasy baseball day of all time. I had five starting pitchers, but only four spots for them so I had to bench on of them or a closer (Wagner, Papelbon and Rivera). I figured the Mets would blow out the Nats, so I benched Wagner, thus assuring a save between the other two who played each other. My starters' lines: Chien-Ming Wang 4 IP-8 earned runs, Tim Hudson 3 IP-4 earned runs, C.C. Sabathia 4 IP-9 earned runs, James Shields 5 IP-6 earned runs, and John Maine 6.2 IP-2 earned runs and a win. My closers: 0 IP. And Wagner, who I benched, got a perfect inning save with 1 K. This is why I do not pay for these leagues.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NFL Schedules Released, And Other Boring Stories

Tuesday's top stories were the Lakers winning the West, Pacman Jones continuing to be a jackass and the NFL schedule being released (yawn). Needless to say, I was not glued to the set for SportsCenter last night. Although the Sharks' come-from-behind win with 9-seconds to go in Calgary, David's Wright's single-handed demolition of the Nationals and the Ducks coming back to life did make me want to watch a little.

Ordinarily the team that wins a conference gains a gigantic advantage: they play a patsy in the first round and the get home court advantage. This year there is no real patsy, except maybe the Nuggets. The Lakers have wound up facing the Nuggets. In the regular season, the Lakers blew them out twice at Staples and won a close one at McNichols Arena (I know the Nuggets no longer play at McNichols Arena but I have always loved the name and am sticking with it). The Nuggets are the only team that has any a-hole power close to what Kobe Bryant brings to the court, so this series will basically be unwatchable. Kenyon Martin will definitely punch someone, Carmelo Anthony will foul out of at least three games and hide booze in his Gatorade bottles, Kobe Bryant will throw his hands out and make the "I-did-not-rape-that-girl" face no less than 8 times per game, Derek Fisher will win the series for the Lakers but not get noticed. Lakers in six because winning in Denver is tough, but the Nuggets are an implosion waiting to happen and can't beat a crappy 1-seed even if that team actually relies on Sasha Vujacic and Vladimir Radmanovich.

The Dallas Cowboys have apparently decided to abandon their "America's Team" moniker and are going after the "America's Slimiest Team" title instead. Perhaps they finally realized that everyone hates them. As if Jerry Jones existence was not gross enough, they signed Terrell Owens even after the incident at midfield at Texas Stadium. They then let Tony Romo fry for the totally innocent mistake of dropping a snap and losing a playoff game. Then again Romo crumbled down the stretch and got blamed for their losing this year. Then Romo went to Mexico with his girlfriend during the playoff by-week and took entirely too much flack for it...then they lost the following week (I had intended to show Romo was not at fault and gets blamed unfairly, but I think I proved myself wrong). Now they are going to trade half of the team in order to sign Pacman Jones, who isn't even allowed to play in the NFL because he keeps getting arrested.

Don't teams with white helmets all look like Jack's kid running around in those Jack-In-The-Box commercials? I love when the Titans play the Chargers.

The NFL released the schedules for 2008 and I can't remember if ESPN always makes this such a big deal or not - maybe it is just because they air Monday Night Football now. There was a live blog written as the schedules were released on the wires. There were bottom-line updates during programming. There was a whole prime time show dedicated to talking about it with reporters, columnists, coaches and players weighing in. Who cares? We have no clue what any of it means yet. They all say that the Giants' title defense depends on how they do in October based on the schedule. If I am not mistaken, the Super Bowl champion Giants were 0-2 and had been outscored 146 to -5 after the first two games last year. I'd say it is December and January that matters more. What is interesting is that because the AFC East was so incredibly bad last year, the Patriots' strength of schedule is by far the easiest in the NFL, and Jacksonville will play four games in 18 days in December. Actually, now that I think of it, that isn't really all that interesting. News is not news until it happens. The draft is not news because it takes a year or 5 for it all to shake out. The schedules are not news because who cares what your opponents were like last year? This is not an important story until about week 4 this upcoming season.

The Ducks and Sharks put the all-California Western Conference Final back in line yesterday with impressive wins. No Canadian team has won the Cup since Toronto was a fur-trading outpost, and if two California teams play one another for the chance to go to the Stanley Cup and then one of them wins it all for the second year in a row, I honestly think Canada might declare war on the United States.

David Wright was three-for-four with a homer and 5 RBI, and Jose Reyes was a homer shy of the Cycle. If I am not mistaken, the Mets questionable pitching staff has allowed the fewest runs in the league, and the "unreliable" Mike Pelfrey is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA. Seven players are averaging at least one hit per game. Screw the Phillies.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Holding Out For An Anti-Hero

Being that it is tax day, it seems appropriate to write about things that pretty much everyone hates. Like Barry Bonds. There have been rumblings that it is only a matter of time before some team signs him - that they have all waited long enough and wouldn't have to pay top dollar anymore.

So how is it that no struggling team (read: Detroit Tigers) has signed him? So he is a clubhouse poison. So he comes out of the box like Billy Crystal in his MLB debut this spring. So he could never win anything when he was doped up like it was the All-Drug Olympics. So he will double any team's food budget (besides the Dodgers who already have Andruw Jones eating anything that sits still for a moment). Who cares?

Last year he hit a home run every 11 times at bat. He puts butts in the seats and the reporters in the press box - both of which put advertising dollars in your bank account. He can play DH and never run out a double. He doesn't need to carry the team, just scare the hell out of pitchers enough to make them pitch to the rest of the guys.

But the reasons that no one will sign him this year (or ever again) have nothing to do with his on base percentage or home run total. Signing him is a sign of panic and tells your players you don't think they can do it, which is a bad move even for the Tigers who supposedly have one of the most prolific offenses in history but are in last place and are averaging three runs per game. If your clubhouse is happy and friendly, he will make it tense and uncomfortable. If your clubhouse is tense and uncomfortable, he will cause it to explode and will likely eat someone.

As for the on-the-field performance questions, it isn't his inability to leg out and infield hit that makes him unhirable, it is that he could be thrown out at first from left field. As all of the cool-aid drinking San Franciscans whined, 'roids wouldn't make him see the ball better or improve his hand-eye coordination. But as everyone else argued, if you are 15 percent stronger because of drugs, a 350-foot gapper is now a 400-foot dinger. Bonds cannot be dumb enough to still be juicing (right?), and he is now 44-years-old, so that 350-foot gapper is now about a 300-foot flyout. He'd never get an intentional walk again and would never be pitched around.

I suppose someone will sign him. It will probably be Texas as another season withers away and they need something to make it interesting (plus they got 21 homers and 92 RBI out of Sosa last year). But he won't be nearly as hate-able as he once was, being a needle-scarred shell of his former self. So who are we to hate now? Sheffield? The poor bastard is stuck in Detroit and has to make wild racism claims just to make the national papers. It is weird to not have any great villains on the field. There are jerks (Manny, Larry Jones, Jeff Kent, Arod) but no proper villains.

Where have you gone Roger Clemens?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

NBA Season End Awards

This week Sports Illustrated gave out their choices for the NBA's big awards.

Executive of the Year went to Danny Ainge of the Celtics for pulling off the greatest off-season in sports history. I am OK with that choice. Although Elgin Baylor would be a close second for not making really any useful moves. A lot of G.M.'s would have tried to find players to replace the injured Elton Brand and Sean Livingston, but Baylor did the brave thing and brought in chumps, writing off the season.

SI's Coach of the Year is Byron Scott, which I also cannot argue with. And at this point, I would like to point out that Jason Kidd is a huge ass.

Most Improved goes to Hedo Turkoglu, but really who cares?

Sixth Man goes to Manu Ginobili, which is not fair since he would start on every team (including his own) if the coaches wanted him to. Actually, he would start on every National Team.

As I write all this and consider the remaining awards, I realize how truly little I care about the NBA and will skip the other awards except the following point:

SI gives the MVP to Kobe Bryant. I could not agree less. The writer writes, "Bryant gets the nod for being the league's top two-way player." But I always thought "MVP" stood for "Most Valuable Player," not "Top Two-Way Player." The guy is a basketball freak. He is incredible and besides his inability to dribble properly or complete a layup or dunk without traveling there is nothing he cannot do on a basketball court.

Actually there is. Bryant can't win without a big man. In game 1 this year, they were basically the same team that they were in game 82 last year - although they added Derrick Fisher. They came out strong with Andrew Bynum suddenly reborn thanks to Fisher's play. This created more openings for Bryant, since Bynum drew so much attention. The team was winning and suddenly Bryant had matured and was a team player.

Then Bynum went down and by absolutely everyone's account, the season was lost until management yanked Pau Gasol out of Memphis. The season was thus saved and Lakers raced to the top of the Conference. When Gasol got hurt, they slipped and regained ground after he came back.

Bryant is the best player in the league, but he is not the most valuable player on his team. In fact I think it could easily be argued that this year Kevin Garnett was the most valuable player in the history of the league. Possibly in the history of all of the Big Three sports (though I am not one for hyperbole)...has any other team ever won nearly 3 times their total from the previous season?

Finally, the fact that Selena Roberts' column now resides on Rick Reilly's hallowed back page every two weeks may be the greatest tragedy in the history of the written English language (no hyperbole here either).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hello, Goodbye

The business of sports is baffling to me sometimes. Who in the Dodger's organization looked at Andruw Jones, getting fatter and fatter, slower and slower, and hitting worse and worse and thought, "that is the power-hitting center fielder we need to sure up the middle of our lineup. The guy hit .222 in a contact year hitting with Larry Jones and Mark Tiexiera. Thus far this year he has played 10 games. He's getting $18.2 million a year, or $1.2 million over these first 11 games so far. That's $308,950 per hit (4). $1.2 million per RBI (1). Infinity per run (0). Infinity per home run (0). $11 per pound gained since January 1 (approximately). But only $112,345 per strikeout (11), which is a steal!

But at least his defense is slipping and they only have $71.7 million left to pay for him.

But what really confuses me is why a city will lose a franchise because no one goes to the games, and then will immediately start begging for a new franchise. A lot of people in L.A. want an NFL franchise here. What they don't seem to remember is that we used to have two and wouldn't pay for them to stick around. So now they think some crappy expansion team, or an established team bad enough to lose their own home fan base, would sell here?

More importantly, they forget that TV coverage blows when you have a home team. We are stuck watching the Chargers play, but at least they are good. If we had a team in L.A. they would basically be the only team that we'd get to watch here. My wife's family is from the Bay Area and when we visit for Thanksgiving or Christmas, it is like football purgatory because the only games on TV are the 49ers and Raiders. No one deserves that, not even San Franciscans.

When the Charlotte fans gave up on the Hornets and the team left for New Orleans, it was not even a full season later that the NBA decided to put a new expansion team back in Charlotte. Really?

The MLS' San Jose Earthquakes were a perennial contender and they jumped ship for Houston when they couldn't get a stadium deal. Now the MLS, which apparently is booming (news to me) is placing a new expansion team back in San Jose (guess what they're called?...the Earthquakes).

I get it in a situation like when the Ravens bolted from Cleveland, or the Giants and Dodgers bolted from New York. I get it when Washington DC hadn't had a team in a long, long time and the Expos were dying in Montreal. But if the reason the original team just left was support, why will a new expansion (which is French for "terrible") team do better business?

Speaking of that Houston soccer team, their mascot is the Dynamo. Singular. The Houston Dynamo. Worst mascot in all of sports, without question. Why is it this crappy name? When they moved to Houston, they offered fans the chance to vote from among 13 choices for the new name. The fans chose Houston 1836, which is considered by some to be the year the city was founded. So the fans chose a name that hearkened back to Texas' historical richness. It was a crappy mascot, but a cool name for a team. And after all, it has worked for the 49ers and 76ers.

Apparently the name offended people of Mexican descent because besides it being the year of Houston's founding, it also happens to be the year that Texas won independence from Mexico ("Remember the Alamo", Battle of San Jacinto). So an American sports franchise had to change its patriotic name because people who used to live in another country that lost that war didn't like it. It is like making the Patriots change their name because Americans of British descent are mad about losing the Colonies still.

And "Dynamo" wasn't even one of the original 13 choices that fans voted on! So they just made it up rather than going with the #2 name. OK, so Houston had previously had two other pro soccer teams named the Dynamos. That name makes sense. I understand collective nouns being used as team names without the "s". But not a singular! And why are the Marlins not just the "Marlin"?

Why do I know or care about any of this?

Friday, April 11, 2008

15 Reasons Not To Go Outside This Weekend

Before we all allow ESPN to distract us from what is important this weekend, I want to remind the American people that the Red Sox and Yankees series is not the only great one worth watching this weekend. The Reds are heading to the Steel City to take on the Pirates as well!

I suppose if you have nothing better to watch during the weekend (besides hunting for Saved by the Bell episodes), you could always squeeze in the Frozen Four (BC over North Dakota, Michigan over ND; Michigan wins it all Saturday at 4 p.m.). Or the Padres vs. Dodgers might be interesting. Or watch the Ducks further implode. ESPN Classic always has the original American Gladiators or World's Strongest Man on, and that is always a half-hour well spent, not to mention that the Kansas-Memphis game is no doubt on a loop there these days. ESPNU has the NCAA women's bowling championship (Saturday 5 p.m.).

It is always fun to watch the Spurs come to LA and embarrass the Lakers, so Sunday should be a good day also. And with Tiger only 4 shots back on Thursday, it will be interesting if he can stretch his winning margin to double digits or not on Sunday. I say no, but stranger things have happened.

Like Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels getting a pinch-hit bunt single in the 11th inning Thursday. Or the Mets' Jorge Sosa being the 7th Met pitcher in the game, and getting the win after throwing 1 pitch in the 12th inning. That's how you earn a day's pay.

Luckily for me, we have some college friends in town for the weekend. You would think this means I will miss a lot of the sports-bounty for the weekend. But no, I get to stay at home while the wife shows off L.A. to the gals. Rest assured, I won't miss the Duke-Virgina lacrosse game tomorrow.

Doesn't it seem like every weekend is full of can't miss events that are usually rendered insignificant by the next weekend? If it wasn't for that fact that no one will hire me because I have no discernible skills, life would be great.

West Hollywood is still hanging onto a huge lead in the visits to this site and in time spent here. In second place is South Pasadena and third is Huntington Park, but apparently folks in Tennessee are starting to like me. Frankly, I question their judgement, but the stats don't lie. This is weird to me because I don't know anyone who lives in any of those places. I am hoping this trend continues because someone needs to rescue Sports Illustrated from having to use Selena Roberts on the back page. I keep reading her articles and at the end, I always feel like I know so much less than I had when I'd started.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

2012 Olympic Torch To Be Lit At Drive-Through

A classmate of mine from college, Susie Erpelding, is quite deservedly being elected into the school's athletic Hall of Fame for her basketball exploits. I can only assume the letter sent to me outlining the important dates and events for my election has been lost in the mail. There's no way the selection committee forgot about my "Conference Most Improved" award in 1999 (which is the nicest backhanded compliment I ever received..."boy, you sucked last year, but this year you're decent.").

And while USD may not have won a national championship in any sport since Zuzana Lesenarova in women's tennis in 1999, our women's volleyball team will be represented at the Beach Volleyball Nationals. Only six schools are invited. Alright, so it is technically an exhibition and the NCAA does not recognize beach volleyball as a sport. We're still gonna win and I am totally gonna rub it in the face of my USC family members.

A number of potential US Olympians will play in the tournament, including USC's Taylor Carico. She and her younger sister Lane (Mira Costa High School) will likely compete as a team in beach volleyball in 2012, since Lane is only a senior in HS now. Hopefully the Torch relay for the 2012 Olympics will not be "run" in a van, since I don't think automobiles were part of the ancient games.

Doesn't the idea of the Olympic Torch being hidden kinda go against the entire point of the Olympic Torch? I understand that there were protesters and they were concerned for the runners' safety. So change the route, or go to another city. But the Torch is supposed to symbolize the fire given to mankind by Prometheus that made man closer to the gods. The flame is essentially the eternal flame of competition inside us that makes us achieve great feats. And you aren't supposed to hide that in a warehouse down by the docks (although tell that to Indy after the government guys did the same thing with the Arc of the Covenant!).

In totally unrelated news, the Mets beat the hell out of the Phillies on Wednesday. Hopefully now they will stop talking about how Mets players are "afraid" of the Phillies. They don't get scared of teams they have trouble with, athletes just lose their confidence and then bad things happen. Why aren't sports writers required to have at least been high school varsity athletes?

And finally, speaking of confidence: The Sharks lost their series opener against Calgary last night despite one of the greatest last minutes flurries I have ever seen. Miikka Kiprusoff was spectacular and Jerome Iginla was everywhere for the Flames. However, I think the Sharks were overconfident at the start, expecting their win streak to just carry them into the next round. Don't count on that again. Take away the Flames' first 5 minutes and Iginla's spectacular steal and breakaway goal (actually knocked in by Stephan Yelle), San Jose dominated the game. Joe Thornton will score twice tonight and the Sharks will win by 3 at least.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Stop The Presses: Manny Legged Out A Triple

Manny Ramirez had a triple and Red Sox fans gave Bill Buckner a standing ovation. Seriously. Both of those things happened on the same day. No joke.

I didn't think I would be able to find anything else to write about today after that, but then I read that the Chinese government asked the American government to prevent protesters from interfering with the Olympic torch relay as it passes through San Francisco today. This story is wonderful on a number of levels.

When China asked the U.S. government to prevent protests from occurring when the torch gets to San Francisco, there had already been people staging huge demonstrations in San Francisco (hanging monstrous signs off of the cables on the Golden Gate bridge, for instance). Apparently China thinks the U.S. government doesn't allow legal demonstrations. And best of all, they expect people in the biggest hippy-peacenik city in the country to not protest for Tibet when literally the entire sports and political world is watching? The relay could not go through a worse/better U.S. city (depending on your point-of-view). This is a city that annually holds the world's biggest pillow fight.

I hope the people of San Francisco hold such a spectacular protest that the Chinese are scared into ending the Torch relay and the U.S. pulls out of the Olympic Opening ceremony. And I LOVE the idea of the Torch relay (though I admittedly cannot stand the Opening Ceremony).

Last night I worked at KCAL and had to watch the Lakers game. What is worse: watching a Laker game or listening to a Laker game? Tough call. NBA referees should be ashamed of themselves for the calls they do not make. Kobe Bryant simply cannot dribble without carrying-over. No one can make a layup or dunk or take a first step on a drive without traveling. Every one of them could punch a guy and spin around in disbelief if a foul called. It is sickening.

But the Lakers lost and Brandon Roy torched Kobe Bryant time after time, so it wasn't a total waste of time for me.

Note to NBA teams: if you make a three-pointer, on the next possession whoever gets the ball first between Sasha Vujacic, Vlad Radmonovich, and Jordan Farmar, will shoot a three-pointer to answer. It happens every single time.

Dick Vitale came out with his top five for college basketball in 2009. The season was over for maybe an hour before he taped it. And who knows what players will leave for the NBA before then. Screw Dick Vitale and screw ESPN for airing him.

Finally, I used to not care about the Phillies. They were just another NL East team. I hate them now. And while Baseball Tonight may be my favorite show on television, I cannot watch a single other game's highlights on days when the Mets lose. Those smug jerks and their game-winning hits. I hate them.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Memphis Attempts To Rebuild The Alamo With Bricks

Why does everyone from Jim Rome to say that this NCAA Tournament was a boring letdown? Rome opened his show Tuesday by saying thank God the championship game was so good because this tournament stunk.

Perhaps I was watching a different Tournament. I seem to recall an opening round site in Tampa that saw two 12-seeds and two 13-seeds pull upsets. I am pretty sure a 10-seed was a very make-able shot away from knocking off the eventual champion in the Elite 8. Weren't there a good 5-10 buzzer-beaters in the first weekend alone? Yes, there were a lot of blowouts (a LOT of blowouts) in the second weekend, but wasn't this the first time in history that the top seeds all held serve and we got to see the absolute best of the best battle it out for the title? Didn't North Carolina come from 150 points down to take Kansas to the wire in the Final Four? Didn't Memphis shock everyone by not getting shocked out early like we all expected? Wasn't Stephen Curry's mom hot (not the mention the Texas, UCLA and Oregon cheerleaders).

The Lopez Sisters (oops, Lopez Brothers) were great. Augustine, Kevin Love's outlet passes and facial hair were epic, Memphis made their free throws right up until it mattered, three of the tallest four teams in history were in the Dance. Gonzaga vs. Davidson was spectacular. On the first Saturday morning, three games ended within 5 minutes of one another and all went down to the wire (thank God for the free viewing on CBS' website!). UConn choked (thank you USD!). Georgetown choked. Duke choked. Clemson and Vandy choked. OJ Mayo choked. Wisconsin almost shut out two teams. Marquette and Oregon battled it out for worst uniforms in Tourney history.

It was a fantastic Tournament punctuated with a wildly entertaining, though badly played Championship game. This could easily have been the worst final 2 minutes of a Championship game in history, which is exactly why it was so awesome.

For months, John Calipari has told us his kids would make their free throws when it counted. Texas tried to force them to make them, but the game was already 15 points by then. But with 2:12 to go in the Championship, Memphis held a 9-point lead, and Kansas went into hack-a-Tiger mode, and it worked to perfection. Memphis' best free throw shooters (and I use "best" liberally) missed shot after shot. Memphis should have lost it for missing so many free throws. Memphis should have lost it when Douglas-Roberts slammed the ball down, but no technical foul was called. Memphis should have lost it when they blew an inbounds play and Chalmers, channeling Jason Williams, stole it and threw it over his head as he flew out of bounds, then recovered and buried a 3. Memphis should have lost it when they let Kansas get a 3-point shot off at the end. Rose should have just tackled Chalmers before the shot and given two free throws. Memphis should have lost it when Calipari didn't call timeouts before Kansas last regulation possession or before Memphis'. Memphis should have lost it when Dorsey fouled out on a hand-check 30 feet from the hoop.

Kansas should have lost the game when they failed to box out and Memphis got a rebound on a missed free throw with a minute to go. Kansas should have lost the game when they got a rebound on a missed free throw and the kid sprinted down into double coverage and got a layup blocked, down two points with :20 to go. Kansas should have lost it for the karma of having Roy Williams wear a Kansas shirt (what was he thinking?). Kansas should have had to forfeit the game when Jim Nance said, "Rock chalk Championship," as time expired (that was the gem he had been sitting on?).

In the end Kansas won because they did less to blow it, and Chalmers made two spectacular plays in the last 30-seconds. But as sloppy as it was, it was awesome! And it proved one of the great maxims in sports is correct: You have to make your free throws.

James Worthy said after the game (and after "One Shining Moment") that this shows that you need to make 5 or 6 in a row before you can leave practice. 5 or 6!? I'd say 20 at least.

I generally block the memories of my NCAA Tourney picks because they generally don't go very well, but I am going on record as saying that I have now picked the last one consecutive champions. Between that streak and USD returning every member of this year's team and adding some Brazilian dude who supposedly is basically Jaime Chitwood, 2009 is my year, baby.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Key To Marital Bliss: Pink Sports Gear

From the Bowl Season to the NBA Finals, it is like a sports-hurricane. There is no time to rest or go on vacation without missing some seemingly monumental game.

First are the Bowls, which are generally overblown, annoying, corporation celebrations that include generally mediocre football since the teams haven't played in a month. But every year there is some miraculous play (or 3 if you are Boise State), upset (Boise State), or just well played, solid games, and those are what we remember in the long run anyway.

This leads directly into the NFL playoffs which are fantastic no matter who is playing. This of course brings the Super Bowl, which is always good for a party, even if the game is not up to this year's high calibre. Then there's the always amazing Pro Bowl. Just kidding.

As football's stranglehold over the American sports fans' attention gives way, the NBA decides to become interesting. The first 50 games of the NBA season are a complete waste, but the last 30 heat up as teams either start jockeying for either playoff positioning or Lottery balls. Either way, March and April are interesting for every team. Basketball is also good for dramatic story lines, like the fact that right now, the Lakers are the 3-seed and the Suns are the 6. Kobe vs. Shaq in the first round, and a rematch of the series that Kobe seemingly quit in to prove that they couldn't win without him. Nice.

Simultaneously on Versus, the NHL races heat up, but no one notices. Did you know the San Jose Sharks finished the season 18-0-2 in their last 20 games? It's not the 2007 Rockies, but that is how you go into the playoffs hot!

In the midst of the NBA and NHL stretch runs, Baseball opens its spring season and then the regular season with much fanfare (unless it happens in Japan: then no one notices). Baseball takes the driver's seat for about a week and half, just long enough for every city to get its home opener, then we all look back at hoops and hockey again.

Also overlapping with the NBA's, NHL's stretch runs, and MLB's opening is the NCAA tournament which is only the best sporting event in American sports. It doesn't involve only 8 or 16 of the 30 biggest markets in the country. Everyone is involved. Cities of less than 10,000 people see their hometown college play for it all. Games aren't just played in New York and LA (in fact, none were this year)...they're played in Spokane and Dayton. Sure, only 6-8 teams really have a chance to win it all, but in what other arena is "just being nominated" really an honor like it is for small programs who make the Dance?

The Tourney and Baseball's Opening Weekend end just in time for the NHL playoffs, which is the best sporting event in American sports that no one watches. I don't know if it is Gary Thorne's voice or just the incredible and ceaseless full speed hitting and skating, but there in nothing better than playoff hockey, when annually at least one goalie becomes superhuman and changes the sport.

The NBA playoffs are exciting too, but you get the sense that the first 3-quarters of every game are a warm-up for the fourth quarter. The series are too long, the gaps between games are too long, Bill Walton sucks, and the referees don't call the games fairly. But it is still must-see TV somehow. Damn you David Stern.

There is a little break for sports fans to go on vacation, but while on vacation, you realize that MLB is getting good, the College World Series is on, the Tour de France is on, Tennis and Golf are in Grand Slam/Major season, the Belmont Stakes may or may not mean something this year, the NFL is heading back to camp soon, and oh yeah, it's an Olympic year.

I think that Sports is a test from God to see how dedicated to staying married we all are. Fortunately, my bride has fallen in love with the Tourney and the NFL postseason, she was always a hockey fan, and I tricked her into liking baseball by buying her a pink Mets hat. Take that, God!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Andre Ethier Is A Potty-Mouth

Last night I worked as the censor for KCAL's Dodgers broadcast. Basically, I sit in a tiny closet off of the Master Control room that has four chairs, 12 computer screens and 6 TVs and wear headphones and listen to the game. I watch a live feed of the game and the one you see at home is on a five second delay. If I hear any bad language, I press the little gray button that mutes the feed (I like to call this the Larry Bowa button). If Justin Timberlake runs into the booth and pulls out Vin Scully's boob, or if Brad Penny does a Ned Braden and does a striptease on the pitcher's mound, then I press the giant, red, "no whammies-no whammies" button that cuts the video and audio feeds. I only had to hit the mute button once: Andre Ethier was a little upset after a terrible swing at a terrible pitch struck him out.

It is decent work during baseball season. I have to listen pretty closely because Dodger fans are the same people who root for the Raiders, so the ambient crowd noise is generally pretty foul. But listening to Scully makes it OK, even when I have to watch an utterly uneventful game between a team I don't care about and one I can't stand...with an hour and fifteen minute rain delay. Just think if I had to listen to Charlie Steiner! I would have thrown myself off of the building by the second inning.

I have done this for the Lakers as well and it is awful. There is infinitely more swearing at basketball games, probably because there are more microphones closer to the players and fans. Plus I have to listen to Stu Lantz, who every year seems to be just getting the hang of English like he'd just learned it in the off-season. Plus, if I wanted to see that much whining, I wouldn't watch Kobe, I would just go home and talk to my [this joke was editing for my own well-being, I love you, honey].

Rapid fire on Wednesday's news:

-This site had way more hits in West Hollywood than anywhere else in the world. [Insert joke here] I will keep a running tally on this because I like stats and am a loser. West Hollywood, thank you. I am also 83 cents richer thank to you folks clicking the ads. Hawaii here I come!

-Elton Brand is back! Woohoo! He looked good and he fired them up when he was on the bench. Too bad this didn't happen at home, but a road win is a great thing for the Clips! Congratulations to one of the really good guys in sports! Welcome back.

-Dodger fans, enjoy Andruw Jones. Sure, he is only 2 for 10 on the season, but will improve. After all, he hit .222 in his contract year last year. And he made a few nice catches last night. He also blew a play, making Andre Ethier look like a doofus, allowed a run to score and possibly cost them the game. Oopsies!

-Screw Hung Chi Kuo for flipping his bat when he hit that home run off of John Maine last year. He should have been beaned.

-Kansas City is the best team in baseball. Detroit blows.

-MLB needs instant replay on homers, foul balls, and catches.

-The force-out is now legal in the NFL, but you can't pick a guy up and carry him out of bounds. This will make for some awesome highlight hits on sidelines. Well done NFL owners.

-Attendance at the Marlins' opener was 38,308 (105% of capacity but don't ask me how that's possible...I guess people were going piggyback or sitting on shoulders). Game 2: 15,117. Game 3: 13,720. Just move them to Portland and get it over with.

-Former Marquette men's hoops coach Tom Crean was hired by Indiana. Great for Crean! Strange by Indiana because he is neither a jerk, nor a crook.

-Considering the existence of the goal from the 1996 NCAA Tourney game between Michigan and Minnesota that is at 1:02 on this highlight reel, no hockey goal seems all that great, but Sidney Crosby's last night was pretty awesome (I can't find a SportsCenter, it will be the play of the week).

-Speaking of Canada (kinda), this is a great story about how angry Americans get when they thought their town was handed over as a Canadian territory.

-April 2 is the anniversary of the death of my dad's all-time favorite ballplayer, Gil Hodges. During last night's telecast, they came back from a break early so Vin Scully could mention the date and say, "Gil Hodges is the perfect role model of all the players I have ever met." And Scully has met a lot of players. Are you listening Cooperstown?

I'll be out of town through Sunday. Be strong without me.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Elton Brand Is Back...I Think

Being a Clipper fan is a strange experience. I certainly think I get to enjoy the good times more than most sports fans do, because they are few and far between. But rooting for this team has not been easy over the years.

Drafting Danny Manning should have changed the franchise. Then he blew out his knee. Signing Ron Harper should have changed the franchise. Then he blew out his knew. Sean Livingston should have changed the franchise. Then he blew out his knee. Elton Brand did change the franchise. Then he blew out his ankle.

Sure, a lot of the blame over the years has to fall on management and ownership. They have made some terrible moves, but every organization has. No organization has this kind of luck. So the Cubs haven't won in a while. How many times has their franchise savior suffered these types of injuries?

Now they are winding down another dismal season that had glimmers of what could be, or maybe what could have been. The light at the end of the tunnel is that Elton Brand is possibly going to make his season debut Thursday night. I would give you more information about it, but when I go to, it opens with a screen about the dance team, and I really just can't get past that. I think the normal Clippers' home page is still there somewhere, but it is hard to read the words on the screen, so I don't try.

Out of curiosity, I went to, just to see if this dance-team-on-the-home-page thing is league wide. Guess what the Spurs have on their team home page? Basketball news. Same with the Lakers, Rockets, Celtics, Jazz, Suns, Mavericks, etc. The Hornets, Warriors, Hawks and some of the other rare playoff qualifiers have playoff ticket pre-sale screens on their homepages.

But with all the bad luck and losing, there are some perks to being a Clipper fan (besides the dance team even!). Tickets and parking are cheaper than Laker games. Better seats are always available. Ralph Lawler is the best in the business (besides Marv Albert). As I said, the good times are so much sweeter. I am not disappointed with a 30-win season, because I remember three 17-win seasons, a 15-win season and a 12-win season. Who doesn't love hating Danny Ferry. Loy Vaught was awesome. And best of all is Clipper Darrell (and if you have not been to a Clipper home game in the last decade, yes he is real and yes he is really loud).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pedro, Landis, The Pasadena Marathon, And More

Opening Day of Major League Baseball went a lot better than day two for me. While it is hard to get too worked up over one loss for the Mets, especially since the bullpen pitched so well and the game was encouraging in that respect, losing Pedro Martinez is a bit worrisome.

Frankly, I thought he would wind up being the fourth best starter on the team and if you are going to lose a player to injury, better it be in April than in September, but still!

The women's Final Four field is set and guess what...Connecticut and Tennessee are in. In my lifetime, there has definitely never been as dominate a team, let alone a pair of teams, as these two for this long. Yes, the field is not as deep as the men's, or as other sports. But they are on the same level playing field as their competition and they have been consistently better than their competition for decades. Amazing.

Floyd Landis finished his appeal to the arbitration court of sports and their decision is expected in June. From what I know of his case, I don't think he did it. If they decide he is innocent, that will mean that two consecutive Tour de France winners will have been booted from the following tour for no reason. At a time when that sport needs a clean marquee name and team to carry them, they shoved one (probably two) out the door.

Is it possible that the San Francisco Giants will lose more games than score runs this year? Right now, it is 2 to 2.

Tomorrow I officially start training for the first annual Pasadena marathon this November. I am actually only doing the half-marathon, but it will be my first organized distance race since NCAA's in 1999. Why am I going to do this to myself? Not sure, but I think it has to do with beating my friend Josh's butt. Just in case, if you happen to be in Griffith Park Wednesday and see a really skinny body lying by the side of the road in blue and white running shoes and a Mets' hat on, call my wife.