Thursday, April 9, 2009

Baseball Is Here, College Hoops Is Gone, And Other News

It is a big week in sports and I have been pretty lax in writing anything, so here's what I would have written about if I had not been busy watching baseball all the time.

This just in: Lance Armstrong passed a doping-test on his hair, urine and blood but the French think he cheated. You'd think that by now they'd be used to losing and would take it better than this. Though Armstrong won on French soil seven times and there are only 30-40 countries that can say the same thing.

Also hot off the presses: According to the New York Daily News, 23-year-old Olympic legend Michael Phelps was spotted drinking alcohol and dancing with his girlfriend at a bar in New York City. So that's "news" now-a-days.

Of the 20 starters on the Final Four teams in the NCAA Tournament, there was one freshman, one sophomore, eight juniors and 10 seniors. Is it a coincidence that the last four teams standing were some of the most experienced? That's why having seniors, particularly a senior point guard, is on my Rules to Picking the Tourney (that I have not actually made yet).

I did not pick North Carolina because Roy Williams lied to me through my television about Ty Lawson's toe, but in retrospect, has there ever been a more obvious pick to win it all? They're like an all-star team with a USC-football-like draft class. That said, Carolina has 17 guys on their roster. 8-9 played regularly and all of them will be gone next year. By my count, they will lose 12 guys to graduation or the draft. Williams had better be the recruiter everyone says he is or Kansas' mediocre post-championship run this year after losing their stars will look like a dream come true in Carolina.

During a broadcast of the Mets first ever game at Citi Field (preseason against Boston last Saturday), the announcers kept calling the park "Shea." So at one point Gary Cohen said that they should pledge $10 for every time they inadvertently call it "Shea." Then at the end of the year they will donate it all to charity, and Keith Hernandez broke in after Cohen suggested this and said, "no, let's all go out to dinner!" Now having typed that, it isn't very funny and makes Hernandez seem like a bum, but it was funny as hell at the time. In related news, I am calling the park "New Shea" and there is not a damned thing anyone can do about it.

New Shea does not look like home to me. It was hard to watch the game and know this was in the Mets' stadium, even though everything looked like all the other new stadiums. I miss the barred-off boxes in the lower bowl when foul balls go into the stands. The place is spectacular, but it isn't home. This is gonna take a while.

Pete Carroll, who is apparently incapable of referring to himself in the singular, has recently come out wildly supporting his former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. Carroll now says Sanchez is a great QB, a great guy, he'll make a great pro, and he gives him his highest recommendation. This is what a coach should do for one of his kids, but the problem is that when Sanchez announced he was leaving USC, Carroll acted like a 5-year-old (which is on par with his typical behavior). So how does Carroll explain the change from, "he's not ready and we think it is a mistake that he's leaving, so now we am going to storm off stage and make him face the media alone," to "Mark's number 1! Mark's number 1!"? Carroll actually said, "We were testing his resolve." Screw you Pete Carroll, and as much as I love my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, screw all things-USC because of you (and by "you," I mean the singular "you," not the plural. As in "You are an ass", not "You are asses").

Plaxico Burress is mercifully gone from the Giants. He'll soon be a Bengal since they only sign felons (enter Tank Johnson). And in case you missed it, Burress actually shot himself in the leg when he went to a nightclub with a handgun tucked into his sweatpants' waistband. The gun slipped down his pants, Burress reached for it, and hit the trigger. Why sweats at a club? Why a gun in a bar? Why a gun at all? How sweatpants were expected to keep the gun up? Why was there no safety on? Why did he not have a permit? How this incident is protected by the Constitution? Your answers are as good as mine. Good riddance.

Gary Sheffield is a Met. Apparently there was not a high enough asshole quotient on the team. If that's the case, success! I do keep hearing that Sheff is actually a good guy and his teammates always like him but he is just bad at breakups (he's left all seven of his teams in ugly ways, including, of course, calling Joe Torre a racist after leaving the Yanks). My only experience with him was when he was a Dodger, he used to put his batting gloves in his back pocket in such a way that the middle finger stuck up. An accident? 9 straight innings, his batted glove flipped off his own home crowd at a game I went to and sat in the bleachers for. And yes, he did use that glove when he batted and then replaced it purposefully. And I noticed it at multiple games. Strange sense of humor or huge a-hole? You make the call. I haven't decided if I will boo him when I see the Mets play this year. Probably will. (Update: Sheffield struck out, taking five straight fastballs in his first at bat as a Met, to lead off the ninth with the top of the lineup coming up behind him, trailing by more vote in the "boo him" column.)

Hal Steinbrenner said last week that he thought the Yankees' tickets may be a little overpriced. Guess what, you're the boss. Lower them. I think he is exaggerating though. $2625 for a single ticket to a single game that includes food but not alcohol doesn't seem high to me. So what that your average ticket price nearly doubled this year ($41.40 to $72.97). So what that your average price is $22 higher than the next highest team, twice what the Mets charge across town, and triple the league average ($26.24). So what that the standardized "Fan Cost Index" says that a night at the ballpark for a family of four at Yankee stadium is $410.88. So what that a Pabst Blue Ribbon costs $9 and foreign beers cost the GNP of the countries they come from. As Steinbrenner said, it is the Yankees and people expect to pay a little more for the best (or third best, based on last year's AL East Standings). And they can always get the cheap seats for $5...and only have a partial view because they are set behind a restaurant that blocks nearly 1/3 of the field.

Baseball is back of course and the Mets cannot be stopped. (Update: apparently they can be.) Frankie Rodriguez has two saves and Aaron Heilman and Scott Shoenweis are far, far away. Does being 2-0 matter with 160 games remaining? No. Am I getting ready to buy my Mets-Dodgers first round playoff tickets? Yes.

It is Masters Week, so you can't go 5 minutes without hearing about Tiger Woods. And while I do think he is a brat and I don't really like him, I am glad I am around right now to watch him. That dude was told his ACL was torn and his leg was broken and he obviously couldn't play the U.S. Open. So he replied that he was going to win the U.S. Open and then take 8 months off to get back in time for the Masters. And he did. Best competitor ever? I'd take him or Lance in a heartbeat on that one. Also, check out this video of Vijay Singh skipping a shot across a pond at the Masters Par 3 competition on Wednesday...and getting a hole-in-one.

Update: Courtney Paris said that if Oklahoma did not win the national championship in women's hoops, she'd return her scholarship worth $64,000. Apparently in the month since then, she hit the all-you-can-eat cafeteria pretty hard to make sure she'd get her money's worth and wound up getting run into the ground in her Final Four game. The only question now is if she, statistically one of the best players in women's college history, or Tyler Hansbrough, statistically one of the best players in men's college history, will have a shorter pro career.

Finally, Mythbusters had perhaps their best episode of all time last night: "Demolition Derby Special." During the course of the show, they wrecked a bus, two semis, a trailer, a pickup truck, and 10 cars, including dropping one from a helicopter at 3000 feet, dropping three from the highest crane in California, and crashing a rocket-powered sled into one at the speed of sound. Is the science in this show questionable much of the time? Yes. Do I care? Absolutely not.

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