Monday, August 30, 2004

Jeff-I'm Back, BABY!!!

I have no such stories of visiting scantily-clad cheerleaders, or meeting "The Sheriff" on the high-road. Nope, no such fun for me. Instead I got to drive 7 hours roundtrip to Dickinson to watch Valley City get it's a$$ (can we say ass on the internet?) handed to them. Saturday and Sunday were spent watching the newly purchased NBATV of NBA games from the '80's when players could actually hit a jump shot. Both teams routinely scored 120 points in a regulation game--and I don't mean combined points!! Kind of ironic that, really, the '80's were the golden age of basketball, with probably the best collection of talent ever assembled in the league. And yet ratings didn't really pick up until the end of the decade. Now? Ratings are better than ever and yet the basketball has never been worse.

I'm not going to lament about the US Olympic team because I've done that already. THe only thing I will say on the topic is that to the Jer, the reason I personally was rooting against the US was because I feel like it's the only way David Stern and the suits in the NBA offices will realize that people would rather see the best TEAM and not the best collection of PLAYERS. What bothers me is Stern and others knew exactly what they were doing by putting the 12 best available names on this team, rather than 12 guys who would make a good international team. They were more interested in selling jerseys than winning a gold medal. Well congratulations, David Stern--mission accomplished.

I did love the column on tho, saying how we're all racist for cheering against them. Good to know. Glad to know what I am. Thanks for informing me. The nerve of some people.

At this point not much else to add, other than, as Jer stated earlier, yes, I do have my own show now, yes, it is a lot of fun, and yes, it's a lot of work. Unfortunealty I don't have as much time as I used to, but I will try to help Jer carry the burden of the website. So if you're driving through Valley City between 5:30-700pm Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, tune in!! Otherwise, well yeah don't worry about it.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Jeremy: Cheering for... chicken?

In case the readers (and I have no doubt there is a veritable throng of you out there) weren't aware of it, our young Jeffrey has his very own radio show in the thriving metropolis known as Valley City, ND. Yes, that's right, he is officially famous. He has officially left me behind. I have faith that he will still grace us with his presence on this very website (hold you applause please), but it appears that you will be subjected to my demented takes a little more often (no booing please). Yes, it appears that I will have to carry Midwest Sports Rubes while Jeff gets used to his more busy schedule "on air."

It happened a fortnight ago. An evening that I will not soon forget. That's correct, just two weeks ago I was given the "work" (and I use the term loosely in this situation) task of delivering food to the Metrodome before a Vikings pre-season football game against the Arizona Cardinals. Doesn't sound too exciting does it? Perhaps it gains a bit of luster when I further explain to you that my charge was to deliver pre-game food to the Vikings Cheerleaders?
I had The Dan put on a shirt donning the logo of my company and I forced him to join me in the endeavor. Driving to the Metrodome 2 1/2 hours before the game we were giddy with anticipation. It was a forgone conclusion that the ladies would be overjoyed to see us, but just how would they show their admiration for us? Our imaginations ran wild. We just could not get our simple male brains around it.
Trying to explain who we were, what was in the aluminum pans (grilled chicken and salad) and where we were going to the security folks was a task in itself. But we were undeterred. We forged ahead, through the under-belly of the Metrodome. Past dome staff, security, vendors, ball boys, etc. We finally made our way to the lower level and were directed down the hall to the baseball visitors locker room, where the cheerleaders make their home before each Vikings home game.
One of the cheerleaders coaches (Cheer coach? Coach of cheer? Leader of cheerleaders?) was outside. I explained, in a calm, unhurried manner, who we were. She walked into the locker room, turned a corner and yelled words that I will never forget. "MEN COMING IN, GIRLS! EVERYBODY DECENT?" This was followed by the screeching "NO!!!" of several women. A couple of minutes later we were escorted into the locker room where around 40 women in purple felt mini-skirts and tops with tall white leather boots were standing like they had been anticipating our arrival. Our task at this point was simple: put the chicken and salad out on the table, don't sweat, keep our eyes to the ground, and try not to look... um... aroused. For what seemed like an eternity, but was literally no more than 4 minutes, we were surrounded by beautiful scantily clad women. Normally a man would have to pay premium dollars to be in such a situation. The Dan claims that one of them touched his arm, I got a pat on the back. All of the women said thank you as we left their locker room. Were they thanking us for the food or for leaving? We may never know. Their thanks was not the reward that we sought, however. Just being in the presence of such beauty, such talent, such incredible amounts of purple felt, that, my friends, that was thanks enough.
As we walked out of the locker room and back through the seedy bowels of the Metrodome, we felt slightly saddened, but nonetheless confident. As we walked past the Cardinals locker room, a plump, arrogant man stood with one foot on the ground, one on a chair, leaning with his elbow on his knee. This was the unmistakable stance of former Vikings head coach Dennis Green. Little did Denny know just seconds prior I had just been in the presence of greatness and his stature as an NFL head coach meant little to me at the time. Unfazed, I walked right up to him, offered my hand, and gave a confident, "How ya doin'?" He was surprised, but he shook my hand, and offered a "Fine, thanks. And you?" I simply replied "great," but I was already on my way.
I will admit, I lead somewhat of a charmed life. A couple of my friends have referred to me as Forrest Gump. They say I'm everywhere. I just say I'm lucky. I believe, for a brief few moments on an August Saturday afternoon, some purple felt-clad ladies felt lucky as well. Unfortunately, that's all they felt.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Jeremy: My Big Olympic Basketball Picture

I suppose I'm a product of the American sports attitude. Several weeks ago Jeff asked me if I was starting to get excited for the upcoming Olympics. My response? "There's Olympics going on this summer?"
It's true, I just don't get excited for the Olympics. In the entire games, summer & winter, there's only a few events that I enjoy watching. Basketball, volleyball, snowboarding, skiing, hockey, track & field. All the other ones I mostly get bored with. Out of the ones I like, I would say that basketball is the closest to my heart, and maybe that's why I wasn't excited for the games this summer... the athletes weren't either. Several members of the USA basketball team have admitted that winning an NBA Championship was more important to them than winning a gold medal. In a game that has turned into a competition for how much recognition, money and attention you can get, I'm not sure I can blame them. Besides that the deck was stacked against them from the beginning.
But I'm done talking about how this team was poorly assembled. I'm tired of hearing about how players like KG, Kidd & Shaq shouldn't have said no to playing. And I beg of you, please nobody else tell me that the NBA is full of terrible shooters. I agree with most of it. The team should have several players that aren't there. Some of those guys should have said yes. I couldn't agree more, the NBA game is watered down, the talent is getting worse, the shooting is horrible, and the team-play is non-existent.
But here's the bottom line: these are still our guys. This is still Team USA. We still have the most talented players in the world. (Note: I didn't say most talented "team," I said most talented "players." There IS a difference.)
True, no other US Olympic men's basketball team has lost an Olympic game, this team has lost two. But the team that lost to Puerto Rico was absolutely embarrassing. The team that lost to Lithuania is dangerously close to being good. Their outside shooting is not getting better, but they are finally coming together as a team. Rebounding has been a strength the entire games, they are playing with enthusiasm, they are starting to play great swarming man-on-man defense, they are moving the ball around almost too well. There were a few times against Lithuania where you almost felt as if they made one too many passes. They still have work to do, but they have gotten better every game they've played, and we know how important having momentum at the right time is in sports.
I'm still skeptical that they can win the gold. If Lithuania can keep shooting the lights out like they have been it's theirs to lose. But Team USA is the only team that is talented enough to beat them even when Lithuania is shooting well.
These are our guys. It's time to stop complaining about how poor the team was put together. It's not their fault. They are starting to get behind each other. It's time we start getting behind them.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Jeff: Piling On...

I'm not here to call out Lebron and Melo and Coach Larry Brown. I'm not here to call out Shaq and KG and Kidd and all the others who skipped the Olympics. I'm calling out David Stern.

The "experts" had been saying ever since the US Olympic team was finalized that it was poorly constructed, and that despite the "big names" this team wouldn't be successful in the Olympics. Well after the Italy game everyone else SHOULD see that--everyone else, that is, except the man that counts: NBA Commissioner David Stern. Did you see Stern's comments a couple of days ago? He's excited about this young team and says this is the way the team will be put together from now on--with younger players. HUH?!?!?!? (Allow me to clear my throat so I can get my point across here...) the ENTIRE point of putting NBA players in the Olympics is so the USA would clean up. Period. Allow me to explain how we've gotten to this point, and why those comments from Stern means he doesn't care one bit about whether the US wins or loses. All he cares about is the bottom line and how much money he can rake in.

Let's go back to the 80's. Hair bands. Bad clothes. And probably the best era in NBA history. Problem was, the best players weren't playing in the Olympics. People were losing interest in Olympic basketball when the college kids started getting worked. Real American basketball fans were tired of seeing the team lose, knowing that with the best players in the world--aka NBA players--the losing would stop. Stern also knew that with NBA players involved, he and his cronies would be in line for some big-time $$ from TV dollars and jersey sales. Match made in heaven. Stern used his strong-armed tactics to get the pros in.

And 1992 went off better than anyone could have expected. I mentioned that in my last post too: out and out dominance from the best basketball squad ever assembled. Of course all of that dominance also set a standard; an impossibly high standard. A few problems with this: at the same time the Dream Team was demolishing opponents, the Berlin Wall had been demolished too, and suddenly all of these Eastern Block countries were being exposed to a whole new world. True, the rest of the world was being exposed to American basketball that year, but I think what REALLY happened was the rest of the world was being let out. The rest of the world always HAD talent--it just hadn't been exposed. Now with a "freer" world, the door was suddenly wide open. Again, yes, the rest of the world got closer to "American Basketball" in '92 thanks to the Dream Team, but to say it's been the influence and reason for all the success of these other countries is ignorant at best. Just look at that Italy game and the World Championships 2 years ago--these teams aren't playing the American style of basketball!!! They're playing a different game--AND THEY"RE WINNING!!!!!!

Maybe it's American basketball that should start taking some pointers from the rest of the world. I'm dead serious when I say this--the worst thing Michael Jordan did was dunk a basketball. Because now that's all any of the kids care about doing. Don't believe me? When basketball season starts up again, stick around for the commercials. Watch the basketball related commericals, and see how many jump shots you see. How many passes you see. Block outs. Screen and rolls. I can tell you already you'll be waiting a LONG time to see any of that in an American basketball commercial. All you'll see is dunking and one-on-one moves trying to dunk. "Streetball" is killing the game of basketball but nobody wants to talk about it. Gone is the idea of the team concept, passing, playing defense, and hitting an F'ing jump shot. "Schooling" your opponent is all they care about now.

Don't believe me? Look at the US team, heck look at the all-stars who didn't show up. How many NBA "SuperStar" guards can you name who are great shooters? How many? Kobe when he's REALLY on can knock down outside shots. T-Mac? Nope. Kidd? That's funny. Francis? Baron Davis? Not a ONE!!! Most of the best shooters in the league now aren't Americans. And the ones that ARE Americans, like Michael Redd, aren't going to sell enough jerseys to get on the team.

The blame for this has to fall on Stern. How else does Marbury make the team? How else are the 12 "best available names" making up this squad, and not the 12 best guys they could get that would have made the best TEAM? This team was put together with $$ in mind, not winning. Don't blame Larry Brown. It's not his fault he has a team that's not geared to win. No team, college or pro, that's built like this one has much of a chance to win. 3 point guards (none of which who can make an outside jumpshot), ZERO TWO GUARDS, 4 or 5 small forwards (again none who are consistent from the perimeter), and an utter lack of size in the post outside of The Big Fundamentals Timmy Duncan. This is not a recipe for success--but it is for David Stern's bank account, and that's all he cares about.

And getting back to Stern's comments about "this is the future of USA Olympic Basketball, the young guys"; well it just cements the fact the man does not care about winning. Granted, you can't put a gun to the head of NBA Superstars to make them play in the Olympics. Honestly, I think if these Olympic games were played in the good ol' US of A, most of the guys that backed out for "security reasons" would have found some other excuse not to play. It's sad but that's where were at. But you can still find a superstar or two (like Duncan and Iverson) who would be willing to play. And then if you simply follow the blueprint for building a good basketball team, whether it be the NBA or some Eurpean league. The US should STILL be the best team in the world. Get a couple of stars, a point guard that actually plays like a point guard (which would mean keeping Dwayne Wade on the floor and telling Stephon Marbury the Olympics are in Egypt or Siberia), extending invitations to guys who can hit an outside shot (they're called shooting guards, and have that name for a reason--or at least they used to), a small forward who can shoot, and some solid rebounders in the post. ROLE PLAYERS. Such an easy recipe and yet Stern refuses to see the writing on the wall.

And that's what makes Stern such a hypocrit. He pushed for NBA players so the fans could see the best of the best: now that the best don't want to come anymore, he's going to put "exciting young players" that will still sell merchandise, instead of trying get a couple of stars and round it out with role players so the team had a shot at winning. What's the next step? When they couldn't win, the USA got the pros. Now that the pros aren't winning, maybe they'll want to go back to the college kids? Oh wait, except our best high school kids don't want to play college ball anymore. Or shoot. Or pass. Or play defense. But boy they sure do make some great dunks. Welcome to the New World Order of American Basketball.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Jeremy: Has anyone seen my Spabble?

As it turns out, spabbling is just too much fun and it's just too perfect right now. Especially for me in the summer. I mean, there is a lot going on in sports right now, but none of it really trips my trigger to the point where I want to talk about it at length. Baseball still bores me, football isn't quite intriguing enough yet, I could care less about a hockey lock-out, and the Olympics are about to swing into action, but they don't exactly keep me up at night either. So, until football season starts I'm probably going to be doing a lot of spabbling.

*How about that Mike Tyson? He and Ricky Williams should form a club called "Potsmokers Denial Annonymous." It baffles me that people actually say things like: "I may have smoked too much weed, but I wasn't doing drugs or anything." Tyson actually said this. FANTASTIC!!! When people who admit to smoking a lot of pot say things like this do we really need to keep doing studies to see if marijuana has effects on the brain?

*Speaking of Ricky, he is officially retired now. What was your favorite Ricky Williams memory from his short career? Was it the first time he got busted for smoking geef? Was it when Ditka wore a dreadlock wig to Ricky's first press conference? Was it when Ricky was going to "save" the Dolphins? Maybe it was the time people were questioning his sexual orientation. Or maybe it was when he cut all his hair off? Oh wait, I know. I bet it was the second time he got busted smoking refer. Was that it? Truthfully, bI can't remember what my favorite was. Anybody have a Ho-Ho?

*So Nomar finally got his ticket out of Boston and all it cost him was his good name. It's funny to me how a player can be so loved by a city, and then completely turn his back on that city. In Nomah's defense, though, Boston turned its collective back on him too, making it easier for him to check out. On the bright side of things, Nomar still gets to go home to Mia Hamm. Mmmmm, Hamm!!

*As far as musical minstuments go, I contend that the banjo is vastly under-rated.

*Dougie Baseball is no longer a Minnesota Twin. I think the Twinkies are better off without him, but I'm still a bit sad to see him go. Doug used to be the heart and soul of this team, it's rallying cry, it's conscience. But during the early part of this season he was nothing more than a great glove at first who was steadily getting worse with the bat. I like Dougie. I like his high socks, his dirty batting helmet, his defense and his fearlessness to tell it like it is. But as a player, Morneau has to be the future. You like to see a bit of offensive power from your first baseman. Justin has it, Dougie was losing it.

*So, the current version of the Dream Team is turning into the current version of a U.S. Olympic nightmare. While the rest of the world's players focus on getting better at basketball, U.S. players only focus on money and recognition. Talent alone isn't going to win the gold. It takes dedication and teamwork. It is becoming painfully obvious that the world, while maybe not passing us by in the basketball arena, is very quickly gaining on us. We absolutely have better talent than any other national team in the world, unfortunately we just don't have a better team.

*Is anyone else in a better mood now that NFL Training Camps have started and football is officially back in our midst?