Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Can't Imagine Forcing Anyone To Wear A Dodger Jersey

Though I apologize in advance for delving into TMZ-territory, this story is just sports-related enough to make the cut here.

I had a tentative plan of what I was going to write today but I threw the whole thing out the window when I heard on Pardon The Interruption that Alyssa Milano revealed in a new book that when she and Brad Penny first began dating, he insisted that she wear a Dodgers jersey to bed.

I am pretty much just dumbfounded about this and cannot think of anything else to write about except wondering what the hell is wrong with Penny.

If Samantha Micelli comes to me and says, "I will wear anything to bed that you want, so what do you pick?", I think the answer is pretty obviously, "nothing."

Monday, March 30, 2009

At Least I Get To Enjoy The Final Four With No Money On The Line

I haven't checked the message board on the Tourney pool in which I am now assured of losing to my wife and 5-year-old nephew, because I already know what it likely says. And while I am fully aware that what I am about to write is just a smokescreen for the deep, possibly unquenchable shame for my placement in this bracket contest, I feel I deserve some of the credit for my bride having three of the Final Four and both Finals teams left. It seems I am better at giving advice than listening to it myself.

I had planned on doing it this year, and perhaps I still will, but I did not actually compile and write out my rules for picking the NCAA Tournament. Certainly "Never pick Gonzaga" is up there. "Always pick Syracuse to win at least one game further than their seed." "Rely on teams with power over teams that rely on speed and shooting." "No center, no Sweet 16." "Pick at least one win for each senior starter on a power conference team, and senior point guards are worth two."

But there are some new rules I am considering now as well: "Never think a toe injury will actually cause any problems." "Seriously, never pick Gonzaga." "Pick straight chalk at least to the Sweet 16 and stick with the 1-seeds at least to the Elite 8." "Never pick the 'How could they have gotten in; the selection committee is corrupt'-team to lose in the first round." "Any coach who has won a National Championship is worth at least one win that that team should not have won."

The following is a rundown of the questions my wife asks when making her picks. She does this for every game and always in this order. I include this because perhaps there are nuggets of genius buried in it for you to use in your picks next year.

First she will go by the seeds. Unless it is a 6-11 game or closer, she won't even look at an upset. She also has a fair knowledge of who the really good teams are, so this isn't just blind picking on seeds.

Next she determines if she knows anyone who went to either school, if she's ever been to that campus or state, and which is a more desirable vacation spot. Ex-boyfriend went to school in Missouri? Sorry Mizzou...it's an early exit for you. Not interested in going to Minnesota? Good night, Gophers!

If either school has an odd name, or if she'd never heard of them before, that will make her lean heavily the other way, but is not a deal-breaker. Except Farleigh Dickinson, which would probably do it.

Next she will ask if either school is a private school. She will always go with private schools over public schools if she can't otherwise decide. Catholic schools are tops among private schools, of course.

If she still has not made her pick, she will go with the mascots. Cougars trump all mascots because of Ricky Bobby yelling "How can I control my emotions? There's a cougar in the car!" in Talladega Nights. Other than that I am not clear on if she picks which mascot she likes better, which is less weird (sorry Zips, Tide, Governors, Banana Slugs, Anteaters, Blue Hens, Vandals, Golden Flashes...), or which would kill the other in a fight to the death.

And if even the examination of the mascots proves inconclusive, she goes with colors. I am pretty sure the hierarchy here goes blue-red-yellow-green-other, but I am not positive.

And if that still doesn't work, she just goes with my pick. Luckily for her, she did not do that much after the Sweet 16.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Befuddling Baker's Dozen

I was in a fantasy baseball draft Yesterday afternoon and there were a lot of things I found completely baffling about the standard player rankings that are provided to help you pick your team. Most notably, Matt Kemp is considered the 33rd best non-pitcher (16th best outfielder) in baseball. This is only taking batting average, runs, home runs, RBI and steals into account. The guy is a "power hitting" outfielder who hit 18 home runs and had 76 RBI last year. He stole 35 bases, and I can only assume that is why his rating jumped, because other than that, his numbers are decent...for a second baseman. Of course I was gone for part of the draft and my team auto-selected the bum. I offered him in a trade the moment the draft ended, so we'll see how that goes.

But Kemp's high ranking is one of many things in sports that have utterly baffled me of late. For instance, if a 2-seed beats a 7-seed, do you say that the "higher" seed won or the "lower" seed? This is like how the expressions, "sub-par performance," or "above par" mean exactly the opposite of their meanings in golf, which is where they were borrowed from. Or how about when there is a "jump ball" called in college basketball, there is no subsequent jump ball. They just take it out of bounds. Not to mention the Big Ten having eleven schools, as I mentioned last week.

Andruw Jones hit 3 home runs and batted .158 in a 2008 season shortened by injuries and Joe Torre having both mercy and good sense. So now he is on the Rangers and has been playing Spring Training games in their minor league system. He could have opted for free agency last week but instead decided to stay with the Rangers in the hopes of making their Major League squad as a bench player or part-time DH. Perhaps it got lost in translation, but someone should have told Andruw that the "H" there stands for "hitter" and his chances of getting that job is around 16%*. Incidentally, with regard to Jones making the team, the Rangers basically told him to not hold his breath. Is it more embarrassing that the Netherlands passed on Jones or the last place Rangers?

*-like his batting average

In other baffling news, reports are floating around that the Giants have made offers to trade for Braylon Edwards, who had more dropped passes than Terrell Owens last year. They make offers for this guy and not Anquan Boldin or T.J. Houshmandzadeh?

Two powerhouse European soccer teams are making a 6-city U.S. tour coming up. U2 will likely outsell these games 4-1 in each of those six cities. Are they still trying to tell us that soccer is up-and-coming? I know the stat that more kids in America are playing soccer than any other sport, but that has been the case for some time now...what impact has it had on the American sports scene? Did you know the MLS is expanding? Do people go to these games? They get less national interest than the World Baseball Classic, which no one cares about because the U.S. team is fielded mostly by the 3rd or 4th best Americans at many positions, all of whom are out of shape because it is Spring Training.

I don't know why this one surprised me, but Terrell Owens was a no-show at the Bills voluntary training camp opening Monday. It is only voluntary so it isn't a big deal, but shouldn't he be trying to fix the image that he is an asshole? Or is it too far-gone? Last week his new coach Dick Jauron said, "I hope that he's here. He knows how important it is for us, particularly in his first year with us." T.O. allegedly replied, "Who's Dick Jauron?"**

**-I may or may not have made this quotation up.

The NFL released some scheduling information for this upcoming season. The Raiders were given prominent games on the opening Monday Night game and also as a Thanksgiving game. How does it make advertising-dollar sense to give a team that bad that kind of stage? Are there that many Raiders fans? Or is it that a lot of people will watch to see the Raiders lose? Because if multiple people are watching the same TV, that doesn't help ratings. And being that each individual Raider fan doesn't have his own TV in his own personal cell, that means they will all watch the same set in the common area, so that is bad for ratings. And they also don't count stolen TVs piled up in the garage either.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said last week that "A building never won a game in a tourney." I get the point he was trying to make: despite the expected home-court advantage that fans would give Carolina in Greensboro for the NCAA's 1st and 2nd rounds, the players still needed to go out and make shots and make stops and win the game. But really? The building never won a game. I know it is kinda weak to defeat an argument with one, extraordinary example, but does the Miracle on Ice ring a bell? Do you think if that game had been played in Moscow, or London, or Tokyo, or at Amundsen-Scott, the results wouldn't have been the same?

There is a new professional football league called the United Football League that will start next year with four teams. The league's site says that they chose their franchise homes so that they could cater to large markets that do not currently have representation in the NFL. So they picked San Francisco, New York and Orlando because those areas only have two NFL teams each.

And the final thing that completely baffles me is how the hell they decided to make a Donnie Darko sequel. When a story has a truly perfect ending, what kind of moron decides to tell what happened seven years later? What a cop-out of creativity. Write a new story for God's sake! And really, his little sister starts getting apocalyptic visions (including Frank the Bunny, of course) while stopped in a spooky small town during a wacky, cross-country road trip with...wait for it...Elizabeth Berkeley. How do you smear the legacy of one of the most beloved, well performed, intricately crafted movies of all time? Rub Jessie Spano all over it. Coming to a theater near you soon (and then a Blockbuster very, very shortly after that).

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Wish I Could Pick The Tourney Like An 8-Year-Old Girl.

I am currently sitting in last place in two bracket pools against friends, family (including my 4-8-year-old niece and nephews) and my wife. Sure, someone has to be in last place, but considering my profession involves me knowing something about sports, let's just say this is lower than I'd like to be placed.

I am confident that I will beat my nephews though because they already lost their Champs in USC and UCLA (apparently my brother and brother-in-law haven't explained that you can't just bet on your favorite team regardless of logic or odds). My niece could be trouble though. She has Louisville and Pitt with me in common, but she has UConn and UNC while I have Memphis and the Zags. She actually picked straight chalk all the way, except UCLA to the Elite 8, upsetting Duke and Nova (I had that pick too, actually).

If Connecticut goes further than Louisville, I will lose to my wife as well and that will probably not go well around my home and with my friends. So seriously, for the good of my marriage, root for Louisville and Gonzaga to beat UConn and Oklahoma. If the scenario from the video game photo above plays out, I am screwed.

I can still win the whole thing as I have six of my Elite Eight alive and all Final Four teams. As a runner, I always counted on my finishing kick to overwhelm people and kinda disregarded the starts of races (all driven by adrenaline anyway). So that's my plan in the tourney...pick some upsets early and then chalk late. Besides Gonzaga. I broke my #1 rule of Tourney Picking (Don't ever pick Gonzaga), and have them beating Carolina and The Blake Griffins.

Speaking of Griffin, is it possible that Donald Sterling had some sort of four year plan to get Al Thornton, Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin on the court together?

If there is one thing that this Tourney has taught me so far, it is that the Midwest blows. I had that as my upset-bracket. I had BC beating USC and upsetting Michigan State. I had West Virginia beating Dayton, upsetting Kansas and beating BC to the Elite 8. And what happened? The 10, 11, 12, and 13 seeds all win in the first round, destroying my whole bracket.

And then what did all of those darlings do in the second round to follow up their masterful upset performances of Thursday and Friday? 10-USC played well but lost. 11-Dayton scored 43 points and got crushed. 12-Arizona wound up being the only Pac-10 team to advance to the S16. 13-Cleveland State scored 57 and got crushed. And in the East, the other upset that screwed me, 12-Wisconsin came back and scored 49 points and got crushed in the second round. Thanks a lot jerks. The least you could have done is win one more game and screw everyone else too.

My nominee for the moment of the first two rounds was the at the end of the Missouri-Marquette game on Sunday. In a tie game with 5.5 second left, the star player gets fouled in the act and gets two free throws. But he is injured and cannot shoot, so they get to bring in a shooter from the bench. Before you start shouting that this was a soccer-type cheap move, the injured kid is a 76% shooter, so I don't think it was gamesmanship. So who is the new shooter? A freshman playing for the first time all night. No warm up. No rhythm. The kid knocks down both shots without touching the rim. Ballgame.

Too bad Derek Jeter isn't that cool under pressure (seriously, what's he ever done?). I almost cheered for him last night at the WBC semifinals but when he airmailed an inning-ending throw to first and the Japanese went on to put the game out of reach, Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Brian McCann and basically everyone on the U.S. team but David Wright and J.J. Putz, returned to the list of guys I hate.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fantastic Sports Names List, Vol. I

During the NCAA Tournament, we are introduced to players, mascots and sometimes even schools that we have never heard of before. This is a list of the some of my personal favorite unusal names, interesting modifications and combinations, and creative spellings of names we're all familiar with. Not all are people in the Tourney, and are just others I have noticed during my years following sports.

They are listed in alphabetical order, with my personal favorites in italics.

Alderius Anfernee Carmello D’Angelo DeAngelo DaJuan Damier Da'Sean Dashawn DeAndre De'Jon Dejuan DeMar Demarre Demetric Demonte Derwin Dionte Doneal D'Qwell Dwyane E'Twaun Gartrell JaJuan Jamarcus Jamon J'Cory Jhavid J'Nathan Jrue Keyshawn Knoshawn Kore LaDainian Lamarcus Laron LeKendric LeSean L'Ron Markell Roburt Santonio Santwon Shonn Steffphon Tajuan Tremaine Trumaine Tyreke Tywain

Clearly I am partial to the ones where it is a completely made up word or when a random letter is thrown in front of an otherwise ordinary name.

The wife and I have long been considering names for our kids and some of the leaders at this point are V'Scott, Firlamdinian, Trapezius, L'Corduroy and of course Seven, as a nod to George Costanza.

Did I miss any of your favorites? Comment below.

Stick To Calling Play-By-Play And Leave The Jokes To The Professionals, Kevin Harlan

Now fully embroiled in the NCAA Tournament, it is a little hard to focus on anything else in the world of sports. I got tickets to the see the Team USA in the World Baseball Classic semifinals on Sunday and finals on Monday, but of course my first thought was, "which tourney games will I miss?"

Without delving too deeply into all the things I noticed and wrote down to write about in yesterday's March Madness games, there are a few key ones, with the Kevin Harlan story being the punctuation mark on this one:

It was nice to not have the threat of hearing Billy Raftery hanging over my head all day. Or Brent Musberger, for that matter. Raftery will be in Dayton today, which is where Musberger was on Tuesday for the Play-In game. When I first saw that game on ESPN, my first thought was that it was a pretty sloppy for a big time high school game. Then I realized that it was an NCAA Tournament game and I couldn't figure out which was more horrible to have to sit through: Musberger trying to figure out how to work "Buckeeeeeeyes" into his call of the game, with Steve Lavin just kinda being confused the whole time, the staggeringly bad play from Alabama State and Morehead State, or the nearly vertical angle from which you have to watch the games from in Dayton. Do they film from the moon there? It's like a sports-themed Rogaine commercial.

Do we really need a play-in game? Is there good justification to have the two worst teams in the field play against each other. Imagine this: UConn and Carolina beat their 16-seeds by a combined 4000 points yesterday, and those 16-seeds were better than Moreheads State, who plays Louisville today. Adding the 65th team is a waste of time. Does the 7th or 8th best team from the Pac-10, ACC, Big East, or Big Televen really deserve an at-large bid to the Dance?

During commercial breaks on Thursday, I was switching to ESPN's Tourney coverage which was funny. They aren't allowed to show game footage because the games were still live and that's a TV contract standard. So they just sat there and talked about the games. It was like watching a radio show. But I did see on their ticker that Bobby Bowden had a great quote about the NCAA's ruling to erase wins from many Florida State sports over the last few years because of a massive cheating scandal that the school did nothing about. They announced that Bowden had come forward to defend the Athletic Dept. like it is a surprise...he's gonna lose 14 wins and now be way too far behind Paterno to ever catch up. Anyway, Bowden's quote was, "It's like killing a flee with a hammer." Actually, it is like handing down a measured penalty against an athletic department for having no institutional control. Which is like hitting a nail with a hammer, I guess.

The first game of the day showed why we love this Tournament. How many people in Kansas City had probably ever heard of Cal State Northridge before yesterday? I'd say the 100 Northridge fans in attendance plus 10, tops. But the entire crowd galvanized and was roaring for CSUN as their upset bid against Memphis progressed. Villanova was the rare big-conference school to be in upset-danger, but still have the crowd on their side.

During the lull between games, ESPN did a Major League Baseball bracket and had some of the Baseball Tonight guys pick a baseball bracket. Peter Gammons said, and no one batted an eye, that the Dodgers have the best offense in the National League. What? Who? There's Manny, and a few guys who used to be pretty good, and some guys that are supposed to be pretty good, and Dodger Stadium, which does not exactly help a mediocre hitter become a great one. Am I this biased against the Dodgers or is this as insane as I think it is? Furcal, Hudson, Loney, Manny, Ethier, Blake, Kemp, Martin - it is a good line-up for sure. But considering that they will be pitched to by pitchers who are leading all the time because the Dodgers forgot to hire any pitchers, and considering that there are three, maybe four, potential .300 hitters and four, maybe five, potential .225 hitters, this is not a daunting line-up to me. Everyone is waiting for these young Dodger phenoms to take over. After two average years in the Bigs, when do you stop waiting and and start looking for their replacements?

A big thank you goes out to Jeremy Pargo for his dunk and that thug from Morgan State that supluxxed Blake Griffin or there would have been utterly no highlights from Thursday. See the :40 mark of this video for the Griffin play and watch this one of the Pargo play. Sorry if those links get taken down...both are probably breaking copyright laws.

Later today I will post a list of my favorite first names from sports. I have been recording the greatest and most oddly spelled names in sports for a while and have determined that about 15-30 years ago, people naming their kids were really, really stupid. Or at least they had very high opinions of themselves and wanted their kids to have names that no one had ever had before. Like Steffphon, Jrue or D'Qwell.

And finally, Kevin Harlan was telling the story of how "Humpty" Hitchens got his nickname as a child. He loved the song "The Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground (and who didn't besides my parents?). So Harlan went on to say , "That [song] brings back memories of my wedding night." Now I don't think I need to explain what the "humpty dance" is a euphemism for. So after Harlan just went on national television talking about having sex with his wife on their wedding night, he quickly tried to backpedal it down to a clumsy joke about that being his and his wife's first dance song. The damage was done. That poor bastard should probably also be called "Humpty" now. "This is Humpty Harlan and Dan Bonner with you here in Portland for tonight's second round match up between the 4th seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Cinderella Hilltoppers from Western Kentucky." There should be a list of really embarrassing things said by sports announcers, and if I can find some other really good ones, there probably will be next week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What To Root For/Against This Week

So you are trying to figure out who to root for this week as the NCAA Tournament looms. That is part of the problem with betting on sports and playing fantasy sports - you wind up having to root for people like Bob Huggins to win Tourney games, and Chipper Jones to have good seasons. The trick of course, is to only bet/play with teams and players that you already like, or have reason to.

Louisville will be easy to root for because they were the forgotten little sisters, still not unanimously considered a 1-seed even after beating UConn and Pitt in the regular season and outlasting them and winning the Big East Tournament. Though they were eventually rewarded with the benefit of playing within two-and-a-half hours of home for the first four rounds, and having the weakest 2, 3, and 4 seeds in the Tourney.

West Virginia will be easy to root against because, again, Bob Huggins is a sleazeball. I have them beating Dayton in the first round but losing to Kansas, which will be nice considering that Kansas is another team that's easy to root for.

Need a villain? How about Cal State Northridge? I know it seems weird to root against Cinderella, but they are terrible and won't get out of the first round unless Memphis actually fails to appear anyway. More importantly, the Matadors have the lowest graduation rate among all 65 competitors - 8%. Of the 12 guys on the team, one will graduate within six years. And it isn't as though they are losing these kids to the NBA. But just wait till Huggins has been at WVU long enough to be counted in this stat. 8%...ha!

I am not sure if Florida State is a hero or villain. They are a decent pick to knock off 1-seed Pitt in the Sweet 16 and would be a fun story, but they are also an athletic department plagued with academic dishonesty and administrative neglect. The jury is still out on the 'Noles.

Switching gears, someone to root against is an 89-year-old Ohio woman, Edna Jester (who ironically has little or no sense of humor). When Mrs. Jester's neighbors' kids' ball went into her yard one too many times, she kept it and refused to give it back. The kids' parents (who are also not to be rooted for) sued her for the ball. The case was thrown out and she counter-sued for emotional distress...which was also thrown out. But at least our taxes paid for all of this.

Manny Ramirez is another one to root against. Not only is he on the Dodgers, which automatically makes him hate-able, but he has now officially staked claim on a lingering hamstring injury that can't really be fixed or medically disproved. So he has his built-in excuse for lagging for the remainder of the year. Enjoy, Dodger fans. The fantasy value of every player on your team and the potential division championship just flew out the window as Troy Tulowitski's liner flew down into the left field corner, forcing Manny to take 10-15 running steps before "re-injuring" himself. But at least it was determined that Jason Schmidt does not have the arm-strength to be a starter.

Looking for a true American hero? How about Jenyne Butterfly, winner of the 2009 U.S. Pole Dance Championships, hosted by the U.S. Pole Dance Federation. Really, no more needs to be said here...except that this makes it possible for women everywhere to dream big. Way to go Jenyne.

Hmm, Jay Cutler or the Broncos. I tend to want to side with players in messes like this, and I kinda like Cutler because Philip Rivers is such a huge a-hole. But seriously Jay. You are a professional athlete and you do not have a lifetime contract with the team. If they were contacted about a trade for you and said no, isn't that all you need to know about them wanting you around? If they allegedly looked at the market and realized that you were their guy, shouldn't you be happy for now and work hard to make sure that stays the case? Instead, you whine that they have turned their back on you (despite that they turned down the freaking trade!) and now you pull your house on the market and reportedly demand a trade. You sir, will be have whiny brat stamped on your player bio for the rest of your career.

Sergio Escudero. Never heard of him? He is a soccer player, so clearly he is someone to root against, but he is perfect example of why soccer players are to be disliked. Watch the video to see why. And keep in mind that a foul cannot be called on a referee. Perhaps he is a method actor and cannot "turn it off." Somewhere Vlade Divac is smiling. Clearly this guy sucks anyway because he is Brazilian and doesn't go by just one name.

I got distracted...back to the Tourney. You have to root against Big Ten schools, partially because there are eleven schools in the Big Ten. It should be the Big Televen...and so it shall be on this site. Anyway, Purdue was the conference's preseason favorite and was the best team all season till they stumbled at the end of the season. They went on to win the Big Televen tournament however. So it is fair to say that they are the best team in the conference if not second best. And they got a 5-seed. But somehow the Selection Committee (also to be jeered for having hosed small conferences, and also for this) thought that there were six other schools in this league good enough to be among the field. If you're counting, that means you root against Michigan State, Illinois, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan as well. If you have a hard time remembering all of them, just look for the teams scoring in the 40's...that'll be the Big Televen.

Obviously that also means Arizona must be jeered as well for being in undeservedly, but more importantly, the mid-majors that did get in need extra support since there were only four selected this year. So be sure to get behind Xavier and Dayton (Atlantic 10), Butler (Horizon) and BYU (Mountain West). Temple, Gonzaga, Utah, Western Kentucky, American, Portland State, Northern Iowa and Siena are all mid-major/small conference automatic bid winners who have good shots to make some early round noise as well, with the Zags being the flag bearers, of course.

I will also be rooting for certain match ups to occur, even if it means rooting for teams I don't like. UCLA-Duke, UNC-Gonzaga, and Memphis-Missouri would make for great Sweet 16 games, and Duke/UCLA-UNC would make for a fantastic Final Four game as well.

The fans in Kansas City and Miami could use some support this week as well. Not only did they not get any local teams to root for, they only got one game that anyone cares about (Maryland-Cal). Memphis-CSUN, Oklahoma-Morgan St., Clemson-Michigan, ASU-Temple, Syracuse-S. F. Austin, Utah-Arizona and Wake Forest-Cleveland St. Ouch. Those people are paying just as much as the people in Greensboro who get to see Duke and UNC play home games, and a potentially awesome 8-9 game (LSU-Butler).

And finally, we should all root against any of the Dayton games being any good, so CBS will air as little of Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery as possible. Of course, they also air every game free on their website, so maybe this last one doesn't matter as much. In related news, hurray for CBS broadcasting every single game for free despite that they could obviously charge ridiculous amounts of money for this, like Major League Baseball and the NFL do.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bubbles Burst But BCS Still Blows More

I suppose that the bubble teams looking for a bit of a blessing from above in order to get them into the NCAA Tournament should have had a sense that it wasn't in the stars considering that selection Sunday was on the ides of March. I mean, look how well it worked out for Julius Caesar. Actually, that may have been the world's first March Madness, with Brutus and Octavius as 1-seeds on one side of the bracket, and Marc Antony and Cassius on the other side. Of course Antony won it all and got to hook up with one of the cheerleaders (Cleopatra).

San Diego State and St. Mary's were probably the two teams that didn't make the Dance that had the best resumes, but they're from California, so they should have known they were gonna get hosed. If they were both from North Carolina, they'd both be in. But while we do get screwed on respect and national coverage out here in California, we also get the benefit of getting to watch all the games we want. That Syracuse-UConn game last week ended at 1:30 A.M. in New York City on a Thursday. How many people east of the Rockies probably saw the end? I did. Then I watched a 30 Rock and went to bed early. Then I woke up the next morning and put shorts on because it wasn't snowing. So maybe living in California is not so bad.

After all, there were not many places in the U.S. this weekend where Phil Mickelson could have suffered from heat exhaustion after a round of March golf. Side note: Phil, maybe mix in a salad every now and then.

College basketball is plagued by some of the same B.S. that made it so that the NCAA does not actually have a champion in football (Florida is the "BCS Champion" while Kansas is the "NCAA Champion" like in every other sport in all three divisions but Division I football). Why did St. Mary's or SDSU not get in? Because traditional power Arizona has an historical Tourney-appearance streak going. Actually speaking of streaks, did you know that U of A has lost 5 of 6 down the stretch?

The selection committee likes to say that they don't look at conferences, they reward teams for tough schedules, and they look at the whole season, not the last few weeks. In order to get games against good teams, small schools are forced to go on the road (like Gonzaga does or Fresno State in football). So St. Mary's went on the road a lot this year. They won 13 road games on the way to a 26-6 season (without their Olympic team leading, All-American, Player-of-the-Year candidate point guard for much of the year). Their RPI was 48 and they're 33rd in the final regular season AP rankings released the day after the selections. Arizona was 19-13 with an RPI of 65 and was not among the top 40 in the new AP rankings. 13 losses? If St. Mary's played Arizona right now at Arizona, SMC would likely be favored by 5 or more. Isn't the job of the selection committee to pick the next best 34 teams? And if they don't look at conferences, why is it that the "Power Conferences" happened to get 30 of those 34 spots, while all the teams complaining that they were left out in the cold unfairly are in "non-Power Conferences?"

Clearly the answer is for the selection committee to not be given information as to what the schools or conferences are (since they allegedly don't look at it anyway). Give them the entire resume with no names. Don't tip it off that School A was in the Pac-10 by revealing their opponents...just give the scores and the RPI of the opponent. Let the numbers decide.

All that said, was St. Mary's or SDSU really going to compete for the National Title? Is the end result going to be tainted because the 30th or 40th best team in the country got left out? Of course not, and that is why the BCS is a joke. Fans and writers will complain about certain teams getting screwed no matter what the system, no matter how many teams qualify for the playoffs. But with basketball we complain and complain and then no one doubts the legitimacy of the Champion. In football, there is no possible way that we will ever accept that there weren't one or two or five schools that should have had a shot at it, year in and year out. They can keep claiming that they have the best regular season in sports (debatable). Because when it comes down to it, they have the worst post-season and isn't that what matters?

Looking for a tourney pool to join? http://scottbergen.blogspot.com/2009/03/play-this-ncaa-tourney-bracket.html

Friday, March 13, 2009

Play This NCAA Tourney Bracket Contest...Go To Heaven

The following email was written by a good friend of mine, Mike Milligan. If you are planning on putting money down for the NCAA tournament, do it here. You might win money and you will definately help a good cause.

I lost a very close friend, Bill Bresnahan on 11/22/08. He left behind a wife of 20 years, a 12 year old son and an 11 year old daughter. He loved March Madness and loved the Kansas Jayhawks. In an attempt to help the kids, we are having a March Madness Pool in his honor. 50% of the proceeds will go to the winners, 50% will go to the Bresnahan College Fund. The entry fee is $50.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS. We expect to have several hundred participants. The top 10 finishers will get the following prizes:

1st place-70% of pool
2nd place-15% of pool
3rd place-10% of pool
4th place-5% of pool
5th place-4 Padres tickets to 2009 home game
6th place- Guitar Hero World Tour for XBox
7th place-2 Padres tickets to 2009 home game
8th place-$100 gift certificate to Nordstrom
9th place-$75 gift certificate to Nordstrom
10th place-$50 gift certificate to Trophy’s

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Group Name: Bresnahan College Fund
Password: barney

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Please make checks payable to Mike Milligan. The Bresnahan College Fund cannot issue checks to the winners. The other alternative would be to complete 2 checks, one to the Bresnahan College Fund and the other to Mike Milligan. All checks will be held by our CFO, Hal Dunning.

Send the $50 checks to:
Hal Dunning
Barney & Barney
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Ultimate Power Rankings, March 10

Every sports site and channel seems to publish a constant stream of power rankings (I am guilty considering I have a weekly California Division I college basketball power ranking on CBS2.com), so I have decided to add the Ultimate Power Rankings here occasionally. This week's top 10 are as follows, in no particular order, and there are only 9:

Oklahoma Women's Basketball player Courtney Paris took the microphone at Senior Night and declared that if the Sooners do not win the national championship this season, she will return her scholarship to the university. It has been reported that this is worth about $64,000. My head is spinning with follow up comments on this one: "Suck on that, Jim Calhoun!" $64,000 for room, board, books, fees and meals at OU? How much does this girl eat (a lot, by the way)? Oklahoma lost by 30 to the undefeated Connecticut early in the season, so I hope Paris has a good job lined up after graduation (does the WNBA even pay $64,000 year?).

Gonzaga led the WCC men's final game against St. Mary's 1-0 with 20 minutes to go in the first half. How? Apparently a St. Mary's player dunked a ball in warm up and was assessed a technical foul and the Zags made the shot before the tip-off. Imagine if St. Mary's had lost by 1. Fortunately they doused that fire early and went out and lost by 100 (approximately).

Dwyane Wade is pretty good, whether he knows how to spell "Dwayne" properly or not. Monday's finish was one of the great endings to an NBA game in a long, long time, and it was one of three buzzer beating 3-three pointers for Wade in this game alone! How good is that LeBron vs. Wade second round series going to be?

There is nothing better than blind homer announcers. On AM710 yesterday (ESPN radio in L.A.), they had three local NBA "experts" talking about the Lakers and Andrew Bynum's return. One guy said that having him get hurt and not return till the playoffs have already begun is a blessing in disguise because he will have to come back and play with the second team until he shows he is ready to start (if ever). So this guy said that this is all a good thing because of what a boon he'll be to the Lakers' second team. Now that is how you find some silver lining.

My ultimate frisbee team, Slow Children at Play, won the L.A. Winter league title this weekend after last year going 0-the season, including being beaten 15-0 in one game. But that's not the best part. In the final game, we were down 14-7 (game to 15, win by 2) and we came back to win 18-16 in easily the most dramatic sporting event I have ever been a part of. I kid you not, people rushed the field.

I absolutely love all of the "bubble watch" conjecture that is all over everywhere right now. This is funny because of how much I can't stand mock drafts, which are essentially the same thing. I think the difference is that the NCAA tourney talk starts in earnest about two weeks before selection Sunday and by that time the guesses are fairly accurate and informed. While the mock drafts will start 4-5 months before, when the guesses are like a monkey throwing poo at a draft board and then measuring which players got more crap on their faces.

The Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic despite having Sidney Ponson as their only Major League star, with the term "star" used extraordinarily loosely. The Dominican team has 23 Major Leaguers. That's a 2008-sized upset and perhaps the first really good one of 2009. They play a rematch-elimination game against one another today. Best of all, the Netherlands dropped Andruw Jones from their team since the last WBC. How far have you fallen if the Netherlands would rather not have you on their team and you are a former Major League Baseball Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and 10-time consecutive Gold Glove winner?

March Madness is here. Yesterday I watched five college basketball games, four of which were tournament finals with the winners going to the Big Dance. Today around 10 a.m. when I first went to check on who was playing today and when, there were already two conference tournament games underway. Spectacular.

The New York Jets were supposedly a team that "needed" to sign Terrell Owens. And when you consider that they haven't won a Super Bowl in 40 years, maybe the risk of a little controversy in the clubhouse would be worth signing a top-line talent. After all, they did dump their franchise quarterback and send him off to a division rival in order to sign Brett Favre just a year ago, so they're not afraid of making a splash. But despite decades of losing and frustration and embarrassment, a Jets official came out last week and said, "What message are we sending to the team if it signed Owens?” That's how big of an a-hole Terrell Owens is. After allowing star receiver Laveranues Coles to leave via free agency, essentially they said they'd rather not have any wide receivers than have have T.O. on their team. How can you not love the Jets after this?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Huge Personnel Moves Resulting In Very Little

This has been a big week for new contract for big stars so here is a look at some of the big names, what they signed and the expected outcome of the deals.

Manny Ramirez - 1 year, $25M with and player option for a second year at $20M with the Dodgers. Manny will sandbag for 3-4 months, angered that there was no market for him, that the Dodgers never upped their offer, and that he wound up taking less than half of his goal-contract. Then he will go nuts in August and September and bolt for a better deal elsewhere when the economy is improved. He will be pitched around a lot and the Dodgers will struggle with no protection for their new $25M marketing campaign.

Kurt Warner - 2 years, $23M with the Cardinals. Warner's "shopping around" routine was more convincing than Manny's and wound up winning him $3M extra on top of the Cards' original deal, so that's nice. And he is supposedly a great guy and is going to heaven and stuff, so that's cool. But also like Manny, he's not going back to the playoffs under this deal. His age is a problem. Anquan Boldin being gone is a problem. And trying to repeat as the "magical story-team" is a problem.

Terrell Owens - released by the Cowboys. Sometimes clubhouse issues get hyped in the press. We kinda throw around the old "clubhouse cancer" moniker pretty freely because it makes us sound like we really know what the hell is going on. But if you are among the best 2-3 players at your position in your generation and you keep getting released, I think it is safe to say that you are a clubhouse cancer. Where does he go next? Minnesota lost out on T.J. Houshmandzadeh but their coach was T.O.'s offensive coordinator in Phily previously. The Giants need a star at wide receiver but they're too character-happy to go for a slug (again). Miami is like a circus and could throw him into the mix, but Bill Parcells has worked with T.O. before and hated him. Oakland? San Diego? Cincinnati? Which team values character the least? Probably Cincy. But can they pony up the dough? Of course, with just better than average numbers last year, the dough may not be all that tough to pony up? Will there really be a bidding war for this toad?

Ray Lewis - 3 years, $22M with the Ravens. Lewis had one of his best season last year and hasn't killed anyone in nearly a decade (as far as we know), so he was rewarded with a potentially career-ending contract with the only team he's ever been on. Will Lewis' recent admission that he would love to play for the Cowboys hurt his "devotion to the team" quotient this season? Probably not because if anyone doubts him, he might kill them. Lewis' dominance will slowly fade as he gets fatter. The Ravens will miss the playoffs this year and he just won't be a serious threat for too much longer after that.

Laveranues Coles - 4 years, $28M with the Bengals. The only way you will ever hear of Coles in the next four years is when he is invariably arrested.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh - 5 years, $40+M with the Seahawks. The only way you will ever hear of Housh in the next five years is when the story leaks that the quietly asked the team for a new quarterback (because he's a good guy and won't get arrested or demand a trade in the media when he sees how bad a decision it was signing with Seattle).

Matt Cassel - traded to Kansas City. 12 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, 6-10. And so ends the story of Matt Cassel.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Election Day For February's Biggest Sports Moron

It is time for the nominations to the February Edition of the award for the dumbest sports figure of the month. And today is election day, so don't forget to get out the vote (yes we're not done with elections even though Obama won).

Alex Rodriguez - In 2007, A-roid belittled everyone who had ever used performance enhancing drugs, saying he had never even been tempted because his talent was so great, but of course last month the story came out that he had actually taken steroids for three years. Within minutes of the time his admission of steroids went public, he was already being shot full of holes and he has basically lost all credibility. But the genius maneuver that gets him nominated came later. A-roid deflected the blame, saying that he had been injected with a mystery-drug by an unnamed cousin.  Of course, this cousin's identity was very soon discovered.  So you would think that, at least publicly, he would distance himself from this evil cousin who is such a bad influence.  You would think that A-roid would try to distance himself from shady trainers, shady doctors, shady cousins, etc.  Nope.  This moron-nominee had this same needle-pushing cousin pick him up from the first spring training game. Really? Couldn't afford a professional driver? Couldn't get yourself a freaking car to drive?

Daniel Snyder - The owner of the Washington Redskins has turned them into the Yankees of the NFL. "But the 'Skins haven't won anything in ages," you say. Neither have the Yankees. But they just keep spending and spending, damning any sense of team unity or chemistry. The thing is, chemistry is basically irrelevant in baseball so the Yankees don't need to care. But in football, chemistry is significant (ask the 2006 Giants and the 2007 Giants if there is a difference when your team comes together). So last week Snyder bought his latest really, really expensive toy - Albert Haynesworth - for a cool $100,000,000. Never mind that Haynesworth is grossly overweight, nor that he has an anger problem, and that the combination of the two will have him worth half his current value before this deal is halfway done.

Lane Kiffin - First he got hired at Tennessee and promptly accused conference rival Florida of recruiting violations for doing something that isn't illegal. Then he was nailed for recruiting violations of his own. Then he went around ripping high school administrators and other SEC schools for basically being a bunch of inbred, ignorant hicks. Last week he had his assistant coaches ripping off their shirts (Hulk Hogan-style apparently) to impress recruits. To put that another way, he had grown men tearing their clothes off for the entertainment of teenage boys. Enjoy this creative Photoshopping from the greatest moment of Patrick Swayze's career. I would have said it was gonna take a lot for Kiffin to lose all that public good will he carried after Al Davis had a press conference to read his Dear John letter to Kiffin. And within six months I am actually wondering if Kiffin had been in the wrong in Oakland after all.

Frank McCourt - Despite that he is one of the few owners in baseball who makes money every year, despite that Manny Ramirez was the only reason the Dodgers did not finish the season with a win total in the 70's, despite that Manny probably single-handedly sold more merchandise and filled more seats than any player for any team in the last decade in his brief stint in L.A., McCourt refuses to allow his general manager to go out and get Manny. The Dodgers' latest low-ball offer, which the Dodgers billed as their best offer yet, was actually for less per year than any of their previous three crappy offers because the money was to be spread out over five years. The McCourts continue to make comically low offers, knowing he will not accept, so they can then turn to the media and say, "see we're trying." So at this point, you have pissed off a very childish, impulsive, emotional player who also happens to be one of the best in the game. So if you do sign him somehow, you know he will tank on purpose, as he has done before. And if you don't, he'll make it his mission to crush you, as he has done before. It will be funny when the Dodgers give up on Manny (officially, though it is clear they already have privately) and go into the season as Orlando Hudson as their big star. Then by the end of April, someone will lose a left fielder or be 5 games out (or both) and they'll go sign Manny for 3 years, $65 million. I hope it is the DBacks, Padres, Giants or Rockies.

Brandon Marshall - Last season the Broncos star receiver had to sit out the season opener because of his involvement in seven incidents with his ex-girlfriend in which the police got involved. You would think after breaking it off with that girl, he would try to stay out of trouble and get his career back together. Last week, Marshall was arrested (fourth time in three years) for disorderly conduct (charges later dropped) for getting into a fight with his new girlfriend - including when they got into a punching and kicking match on the sidewalk in front of the cops after police arrived and broke them up from the initial fight.

Right now I am leaning towards A-roid or Marshall, but polls don't close for hours so I am going to think it all over first. Leave a comment with your vote or a write-in candidate.