Friday, December 21, 2007

The NBA: This is Where "I'm Done With You" Happens

First of all, a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays and all that good stuff. I am very excited to be celebrating a very traditional and non-politically-correct Christmas. It's my favorite time of year.

Anyways as you may have noticed I haven't blogged much at all about the Vikings (you've probably also noticed I haven't blogged much at all about anything- thought I'd beat you to that joke, but feel free to make it none the less. It's a gooder!), and it hasn't been because of a lack of interest. I just haven't been able to see that many Vikings games living out here, so it's hard to comment on something I haven't seen. But after watching them on Monday night, as well as a Sunday nighter coming against the Redskins, well I'm breaking my silence soon. I'm working on a "getting to know Brad Childress/Tavaris Jackson is not, and never will be, an NFL quarterback" post, but I'm actually going to do crazy stuff like research for it. Yup I'm going to attempt to make a logical argument. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

The NBA on the other hand? I have not blogged about the NBA specifically because of a lack of interest. I've been the biggest NBA fan I know as long as I've known about the NBA. It's always one of those things where I give reasons why I shouldn't be interested in it, and yet I always am. This year? Really couldn't care less. Part of it is living in Canada where we only get Raptors games- they're 3000 miles away but it's Canada's team without one single Canadian player on the team! Canada’s team everybody! Love Toronto! Love Canada! A-holes- and part of it is also that the team I grew up loving, the Seattle Suuuuuuuuuuuuper Sonics, have a once-in-a-generation talent (even if his lack of rebounding so far should be a major concern) and a GM who knows what the hell he's doing, and yet they're moving from a top 12 national market that has supported the team for 40+ years to Okla-f'ing-homa. Oklahoma. From Seattle to Oklahoma. Think about that. And what is the league doing about it? What is the great Don Stern doing about it? Nothing. Less than nothing actually, he's openly ENCOURAGING it!!! What business in their right mind moves from Seattle to Oklahoma and thinks they'll be better off in the long run? Anyone?

For years, sporting leagues have played the "if you don't build us a new stadium, we're moving" card. And it's worked really, really well. While I understand this is why Stern supports his owners, shouldn't common sense take over at some point? Shouldn't the ego get set aside to say that although in the short term a team would come out ahead moving to a city with a free arena instead of using $500+ million of their own money to build a new one in their current city, that in the long run it's a really bad idea? You'd think so, but it won't happen. The NHL is a perfect example of this: they haven't made one move as a league in their time under Gary Bettman, not one, with long term goals in mind. Not one! Every single thing they've done is to make a quick buck, and as a result, the league is a joke. Canadians love it because they have to, kind of like although college football is completely dysfunctional right now Americans still love it, because they almost HAVE to.

As logical as we can be as people, there's nothing logical or rational about being a sports fan. As fans we have been getting screwed more and more with every move every league makes, and yet we keep coming back for more. We love to love sports, and yet we couldn't be getting treated worse. Billionaire owners fighting with millionaire players over billions of dollars while both sides publicly cry about getting screwed while raising ticket prices, holding out, demanding trades, or moving franchises.

But you know what? We have no one to blame but ourselves. We pay owners and players and make them all rich by buying tickets, watching games, and buying merchandise. Baseball, and this whole ridiculous steroid thing is a perfect example. How many blogs/websites/papers/TV shows/media outlets have you seen screaming about how steroids and HGH are ruining "the sanctity and purity" of the sport? All of them right? And yet baseball has never been richer. They've had the highest attendance, and TV deals in the history of the sport. They'll gladly let you bitch about anything you want as long as you keep paying for it. Because until you stop paying, and stop paying attention, sports will keep taking and taking and taking.

My favorite ESPN baseball writer, Keith Law, just laughs at anyone who gets upset about steroids and how it's ruining the game, and he's absolutely right: if people are so upset about it WHY ARE THEY STILL WATCHING THE GAMES?!?!? In 1994 baseball was at an all-time popularity high, and then they went on strike. When they came back, the fans didn't. And it scared the bejeezus out baseball. People were actually making a statement with their wallets, the ONLY thing owners pay attention to, that they were fed up and had enough. And so baseball turned a blind eye on roids, and McGwire and Sosa happened, and everybody came back. And everybody, despite everything that's happened, has stayed back.

If you don't like what's happening in baseball, if you're disgusted by what's happening in that sport or any other, then do something about: stop watching it, stop paying for it, stop caring. It's hard but it's the only way. Otherwise, shut up, stop bitching, and watch the games.

Me personally? I'm not willing to give up baseball, and so that's why I haven't been up in arms about the Mitchell Report and steroids and all the rest. Honestly, the Mitchell Report is a joke. It's all rumors and zero hard evidence. It's all opinions and people blaming other people. None of that would hold up if somebody dared to take it to court. But it's credible exactly because nobody has dared to take it to court. Want to know if a public person is innocent? They sue. I've used this example before, but I'll do it again: at the height of his career in St Louis, running back Marshall Faulk had a women falsely accuse him of having her baby, hoping to blackmail him to get money. I don't know Faulk and have no idea what he's like as a human being or behind closed-doors, but his public persona is one of a class act and good guy. The woman threatened to take her story public unless Faulk gave her money. You know what he did? Sued her. Took her to court. He decided that although this accusation was false, and he could easily by this woman off with hush money, that it could tarnish the image and reputation he had worked so hard to build, that it was worth it. Because if he let this woman blackmail him, what was to stop any other woman from doing the same? So he sued, she immediately backed off, and the story died. She had zero hard evidence, Faulk knew it, believed the short-term credibility loss he'd suffer was worth the long-term peace-of-mind he'd get knowing he was innocent, and he won. It would be that easy for any of these baseball players to do the exact thing to prove they didn't take steroids: and yet curiously, they're not.

As much as I hate frivolous lawsuits, or just lawsuits in general (it's pretty much the epitome of the whiny, always-playing-the-victim, "woe is me" "THAT'S NOT FAIR!!!" culture we live in), if your good name is being dragged unfairly or unjustly through the mud, the easiest way to clear it up is to sue. And as I said, you couldn't find a bigger pile of unsubstantiated dog crap than the Mitchell Report. But nobody's suing. In fact, players like Andy Pettite and Brian Roberts are already coming out saying the reports are true! To me, this just shows how guilty the rest of the guys in that report are. If you're being slandered, do something about it...unless of course the rumors are true. Jose Canseco's book seemed like a total joke...until nobody in it sued him. Now Canseco is actually a credible voice in all of this. The guys from the San Francisco Chronicle who published the testimony that Bonds used roids were willing to go to jail to stand by their story. Bonds? Just sent out denials. Why would he not sue them if they were lying? Why would Roger Clemens not sue the pants off his former trainer if the guy was lying? I believe Bonds, Clemens, and everybody in that report used roids or HGH. And I think there's a ton more guys that used too.

I realize what I'm dealing with here, and I'm willing to put up with it. I'm willing to accept that most baseball players are dirty cheaters. I accept it and move on because being a baseball fan is worth that to me. I cheer for a team with a payroll that will push $120 million this season, that just signed Carlos Silva to a $44 million contract (hang on I need to go throw up after typing that), and will be lucky to finish at .500 this year. And yet I press on.

The NBA? I've been surprised how little I've missed it. Oh sure, I'd love to support the Sonics if they were staying, love to cheer for Kevin Durant (and cheer for him to start grabbing some f**&ing rebounds!) the way I did for Payton, Kemp, Detlef, Perkins, McMillan etc. in the days of my youth. That group of Sonics in the early-mid 1990's was my favorite team I've cheered for. And yet I've decided I've as an NBA fan that I've had enough, and I'm walking away. I haven't missed it as much as I thought, and I don't think NBA fans in Seattle will either. So thanks to David Stern for pushing me away from something I loved, because I've realized life carries on just fine without it. Now if only more sports fans would realize the same, maybe sports in general would get better.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Steve Nash and Bill Smith: Two Guys I Like

Heyo! I'm on vacation! Sorry I haven't posted more frequently, but school finished up on Tuesday, and I've been doing a LOT of nothing since then. In spectacular fashion none the less. Am I too old to be sitting on my buddy's couch playing video games for three straight days? Good, I didn't think so. Just checking. Here's a couple of things from the past couple of weeks I thought I'd point out.

* Just when I thought my man crush on Steve Nash couldn't get any bigger, he goes and gives the "Chipped Tooth Interview". If you haven't seen it, it's well worth your time. He takes an elbow to the face, keeps playing through it, and then gives a hilarious interview at the half. Does it get any better than that? You're right, only if he had a mustache. That's really all Nash is missing to become the greatest human being ever: sweet/ugly facial hair. That's really it.

I'd like to think it's because he's Canadian, but he's just so tough. Watch this play from last year's playoffs vs. San Antonio when he and Tony Parker collide. Parker drops to the floor like he was shot, whereas Nash just stands there and then walks away like nothing happened. Turns out Parker (who, if you couldn't tell from the flop, is French) had a little bump on the head, where Nash broke his nose had a gash so bad they couldn't close it. Just that reaction shows it all for me.

* Tony Parker flopping like a soccer player reminded me of something: go to, type in "French military victories" and then click the "I'm feeling lucky" button and see what happens. You'll enjoy it, I promise...well unless you're French.

* I like new Minnesota Twins GM Bill Smith. I do. So far so good on his moves this offseason. He didn't panic and vastly overpay a declining Torii Hunter to appease the fan base, and he made a good trade to pick up a potential 5-tool allstar outfielder in Delmon Young. The Adam Everett signing was also a really, really good one. Everett's one of the worst hitters in the majors, but he's also one of the best defensive players at any position at THE most important defensive position in the game. Stick him in the 9 slot in the order and let his glove and arm go to work. You'll lose a bit with the bat when comparing him to Bartlett, but he'll make up for it with his D. Can you tell I love that signing?

I also like that Smith's being patient with the Johan Santana talks. I haven't loved any of the proposed deals, which shows that teams are getting smarter: they're just not willing to sell the farm AND pay $100+ million, even for someone as good as Johan. Smith does face a tough dilemma here, and the teams he's dealing with know it. Billy Beane out in Oakland figured out before anybody else that letting your superstars walk and getting two 1st round draft picks is usually better than what you can get by trading them. This has certainly been true of the dealings with Santana so far: the Twins are having trouble getting ONE prospect from New York or Boston that's worth a first round pick, let alone two. The smart thing, as far as value goes, would be to keep Johan for next year and let him walk in 2008, giving the Twinkies the two picks. The problem is that screws up their current plan, which is, I'm guessing, to get a good haul of young MLB-ready prospects for him now, let the young guys play and gel together, and be ready for World Series contention in two years. If the Twins let Santana walk, the two #1 picks, no matter how good they are, won't be ready to contribute by 2010. And probably not by 2011 either. Their potential will certainly be better than what they're being offered for Santana right now, but they can't help you right away either.

What would I do? Keep Santana, and wait till the market gets hot in mid-July. Everybody is way, way too logical right now because there's no pressure on anybody to make the playoffs. By mid summer, with the playoff race in full swing, a bidding war would be much more likely. And if it's not, you bite the bullet and take the two picks. Oh, and for those worried about infuriating the fan base by trading Santana during a playoff chase, I hate to break it to you, but you're not going to be in the playoff chase next year. You're just not. People much smarter than me, like the guys over at ussmariner blog, use all that new-school smart math and believe that you're going to have to win at least 90 games to win the AL wildcard in 2008. 90 GAMES! Minimum! No matter how well the Twins play next year, they're just not a 90 win team. With the Tiggers and Tribe in their division, and then having to compete with one of those teams, plus one of the Red Sox and Yankees for the wild card, their playoff chances are somewhere between slim and none.

This isn't to say you should be upset as a Twins fan though, or depressed about your team for 2008. Quite the contrary actually. As a Mariners fan I'm jealous of the Twins franchise right now. Yes, you're not going to win the 2008 World Series, and maybe not in 2009 either, but there are few teams in the game with a brighter future than Minnesota's. You've got a good, young, exciting team with tons of potential and cost-controlled talent (well other than Morneau, but let's not talk about him today), a good manager in Gardy, and a GM who knows what the hell he's doing. They're in great shape right now. Hey you could be a M's fan like me, whose team has a bloated payroll and a GM who's trying to save his job, which means gutting the farm system for more overpriced talent in a dillusional effort to win now even though there are no series of moves possible to make the M's a World Series contender next year.

So yes, short of a typhoon wiping out New York and Boston, and then moving down the St Lawrence to wash out Cleveland and Detroit too, the Twins aren't a contender in 2008. But you're in good hands with Bill Smith, and the future is bright.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Monday Musings

Hope your weekend was as swell as mine, because mine was pretty freaking swell. Onto it then...

* Hey they got a Heisman vote right! Congrats to all the people who vote for sports' most overrated and overhyped award. I do not like how voters and pundits get all worked up about tradition and not voting for sophomores, and wanting to uphold the image of the award by voting for players that will make good pros because guys like Jason White, Gino Torretta, Danny Wuerfell...holy crap there's been a lot of great college players who were craptastic in the NFL...and the rest "tarnished" the Heisman because they sucked in the pros. First of all, was that the longest run-on sentence I've ever typed? Quite possibly was. But more importantly, last time I checked, and for the sake of accuracy let me just check again here...hang on...yup- the Heisman is still an award for the most outstanding COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYER. Not the best pro prospect, not the best quarterback on the best team, but the best player from that year. Tim Tebow was the best college player this year. His 22 rushing TD's broke the SEC's single-season record for rushing TD's by any player at any position. Pretty sure the SEC has had a couple of good players over the years, especially running backs, so that's pretty impressive. As a passer, he had the second best QB rating in the country, his 3132 passing yds were third in the SEC, and his 29 TD's tied for second. As one college football scribe said before the vote (I think it was E!SPN's Bruce Feldman, but I can't remember and I'm not going back to look right now), just the rushing TD's are incredibly impressive, and his passing totals by themselves are also Heisman worthy. Put them together, and it's a no-brainer.

* By the way, how are you feeling about the bowl games? Good? Bad? Indifferent? I'm personally excited for Georgia-Hawaii. Georgia's been one of the best teams in the country since Tennessee took them out to the woodshed in October, and I really want to see how good Colt Brennan and the Warriors are against a real team. That'll be a fun one. USC/Illinois? Good gawd almighty, I love the Pac 10/Big 10 Rose Bowl tradition, but Illinois? Really? I thought the incentive for WINNING the Big 10 was to go to the Rose Bowl? Now apparently you finish second, lose three games, and hey "you're Rose Bowl material". At this point, what would be wrong with everybody playing everybody in the Big 10 and only having 2 non conference games a year? Would anybody be against this? Oh right, the school presidents would. Just like how they're against a playoff system. They're against these things, but they're for adding a 12th game against a 1-AA school to pad their team's stats. I love that almost as much as I love the mediocrity and parity that's running roughshod over this game right now like Tebow ran over defenses this year. We're just a few years away from handing out bowl invitations to every school that fields a D-1 team. That's probably Notre Dame's best hope for a bowl right now. ZING!

* Did you ever think there'd be a time when I'd need to get my dominance/Evil Empire fix from the NFL? Me neither. Didn't see that one coming. Damn did the Pats ever look good again. Um, hey Andy Smith or Adam Smith? Aaron Smith? Anthony Smith? A-hole Smith? Whoever the Smith guy is for the Steelers who decided it'd be a good idea to "guarantee" a victory over the Pats really should have talked to me before he went ahead and lost the game for Pittsburgh before it even started. It's bad enough I'd never heard of you before you made your genius guarantee (trust me, if I haven't heard of you, neither has 99.9% of NFL fans), but is that not the one thing the Pats were hoping for? This is a team that's been using the fact they got caught cheating as motivation as a "slight" against them. So you thought it'd be a good idea to give them a legitimate slight by guaranteeing a victory? How'd that work out for you? 34-13, that's how. Nice move. You should have to play for the 49ers the rest of the year as punishment.

* Wow the Niners are awesome right now, eh? Beyond words, really. The Sports Guy couldn't have been more wrong about his super sleeper (Atlanta), but he was bang on again in predicting that the fashionable sleeper would go down in flames big time this year. As he accurately pointed out, there's a "sleeper" every year that the public and media just love, and every year that team sucks. I gotta admit, although I didn't love the Niners as much as some, I sure didn't see this coming. It's like they decided "hey remember the '89 49ers? Let's be just like them- except the exact opposite!!" The only thing they're good at is throwing to defensive tackles. The Vikes set an NFL record with three different DT's getting picks today. So they've got that going for them, which is nice.

* Hahaha oh Lovie Smith, you're such a character! Looks like the Chicago Bears head coach pulled a fast one on ol' Vikes coach Brad Childress by sneaking the Bears' Adrian Peterson into the lineup in place of the Vikes Adrian Peterson. Because there's no way in hell the REAL AP would have 14 carries for three yards against a team as bad as San Francisco. Wait what? He did? That was him? No freaking way.

* Call me cynical, and some have, but I still don't trust this Vikes team. Now, please keep in mind that I didn't get to see the game today, so I'm just going by highlights and stats. There's the little tidbit about the Niners OUTGAINING the Vikes 284 to 280, most of that done with something called Sean Hill at quarterback. Hill also had as many rushing yards as AP. 84 of Minny's 280 came on one Chester Taylor TD run in the second quarter. Against a good team that's not going to turn the ball over five times, do the Vikes win today? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they won, but I still don't trust them.

* Fine, since you're probably wondering, here's who I do trust: Pats, Colts, Cowboys. Kinda trust: Pack, Steelers, Jags, and...yup that's it. Everybody else has major holes. The Chargers? Not with Phil Rivers. The Browns? They're the Browns. It never works out for them. It's a 4.5 team league right now.

* Finally, good to have the Colts back. You wonder if tonight's woodshed-style beatdown of the Ravens (um how does Brian Billick still have a job? Anyone? Look at that team and tell me how they're just 4-9? Anyone?) wasn't a message to the nation that the Colts are still going to be a force in the playoffs, and that we should all be getting ready for Colts/Pats II in the AFC Championship game. Giddyup I say!

Alrighty then, that's all for now. If you need me, I'll be tis'ing the season. Tis'ing the crap out of it, to be exact. You tis that season and you tis it good!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Football Musings

A whole bunch of football-related thoughts bouncing around my red-headed noggin...

* First and foremost, I was biased and wrong about Sean Taylor of the Redskins. Coming from the "U" of Miami where they've had more than their share of players arrested for gun-related incidents, and with Taylor's handgun incident in 2005, when I heard last week that he was shot in his home and was listed in critical condition, I was not at all surprised. I figured he had gotten caught up in something bad, and it came back to get him. After his death, the investigation, and the arrest of four young suspects, it turns out he did absolutely nothing wrong, and did nothing to deserve this. So even though I didn't share my bias against Taylor in this space, I was still thinking it, and I'm sorry. I was wrong. Peter King has an excellent piece on Taylor in his MMQB column.

* If you haven't watched the Adrian Peterson highlights from the Vikings win over Detroit last Sunday, do yourself a favor. He had some impressive runs throughout that package, but washis second TD run not a Barry Sanders-type move? That poor Detwah LB was waiting in the hole flat-footed for AP, and Peterson goes by him like he's not even there. HE DIDN"T EVEN TOUCH HIM!! I knew AP was fast and powerful, but I did not know he had that kind of agility. I'm not going to say anymore since he'll probably get injured again next week. But for right now, loving Adrian Peterson.

* Tavaris Jackson's play of late is another example of how little patience myself, and sports fans in general, have anymore. For the first nine games of the year Jackson was awful, and it was looking like Brad Kick Ass OFfense Childress made a huge mistake thinking Jackson was ready to play QB in the NFL. Through patience, stubborness and/or arrogance, as well as the ineffective play of Kelly Holcumb and Brooks Bollinger, Chilly stuck with Jackson. Sure he had not other options, but since reinserting him as a starter three weeks ago in the win against Oakland, Jackson has actually looked like an NFL quarterback. While three games aren't a large sample size, he's 45-58 (77.5 comp.%) for 504 yds for 3 TD's and 2 picks in the Vikes last three games, all wins. Hall of Fame numbers they're not, but if this continues the rest of the season, the Vikings could be just a couple of receivers away from being a contender in 2008.

* Speaking of the rest of the season, with four games remaining (at SF, home Bears and Skinnies, at Bronch) it's very possible the Vikes could win out and finish at 10-6. Of course it's also very possible that AP gets hurt again, pre-3-game-win-streak T-Jack resurfaces and the Vikes lose two, three or all four of their remaining games. You'd have to be insane to bet either way on the Vikings, or anybody else for that matter. Well except for maybe the Patriots.

* OK, I'll admit it: I was rooting for the Pats to win last night. I'm also rooting for them to go undefeated in the regular season. I don't care if they win the Super Bowl or not, but it's infinitely more interesting if New England is undefeated going into January.

* Last Patriots-related thought: are you prepared for the 2008 Patriots with Darren McFadden or Glenn Dorsey? The Pats hold the Niners #1 pick, which at this point looks all but guaranteed to be in the top 3. With at least three good quarterbacks available in this spring's draft (Andre Woodson of Kentucky, Matt Ryan of BC and Brian Brohm of Louisville), it's also almost guaranteed that the Patriots will have their choice of the best two talents in the draft: the amazing Arkansas RB or the bull-dozing LSU DT. I personally think the Pats should take McFadden, solidifying their offense as the best in history. But since everybody undervalues RB's in the draft now (and for good reason), they could also take the second biggest impact guy in Dorsey. Either way, the rich are about to get a lot richer. I thought that wasn't supposed to happen in this age of parity?

* Finally, one college football note: Josh Elliott, who I think is now an anchor for Sportscenter (I say "I think" because in Canada we get TSN's Sportscentre, which is infinitely worse than ESPN's Sportscenter. I know, I know, you didn't think it was possible, but trust me, it is). He was trying to make one of those fun controversial statements that ESPN just loves. This one was about how unjust the BCS system is. While that's not controversial at all, his big point of emphasis was, if only because it's so insane and made absolutely no sense: Elliott's big point on why the BCS is so wrong this season is, and I'm paraphrasing here, "it would be like if the NFL had the BCS instead of a playoff this season, and decided Tennessee and Green Bay would play for the Super Bowl, leaving New England and Dallas out!"

Um Josh? No it's not. It's not like that at all. The flaw in the BCS System is not that it doesn't reward the powerful marquee "BCS Conference" teams who go undefeated: the flaw in the BCS System is that it has no way of fairly determining who should play for the title if there's not two clear-cut marquee teams. It's flawed because you can only determine this if you have a playoff, and the BCS is not a playoff.

Therefore, if the NFL had a BCS system, New England and Dallas would be selected for the Super Bowl. They are both marquee teams (ie a "BCS Conference" team) with the two best records in the league. What I think Elliott was trying to argue is that it's unfair somebody like Hawaii (who went undefeated against a JV schedule) or Kansas (one loss against an equally pitiful sched) should be in the BCS title game. First of all, that's just wrong. Neither are more deserving than Ohio State or LSU. Second, the NFL example he gave is, as I've stated, just plain wrong. The NFL equivalent of what happened in college football this season would be if Arizona and Tennessee had the two best records, but did so playing only teams from the NFC West, NFC South, and the CFL, while the Pats and Cowboys did so against a real NFL schedule. THAT'S an accurate comparison of what college football looked like this year. Is the BCS flawed? Obviously and yet still it doesn't prove that the BCS got their selections wrong this year.