I love soccer, and I'm fully aware that 90% of Americans don't care about it, but how's about FIFA grant the ability to the referee, in consultation with the linesmen, to award a goal when an opposing defender (say, Uruguay's Luis Suarez) commits an intentional handball within the six-yard box, and said infraction is the last line of defense between the ball and a certain goal?
Heck, limit it to within the lateral limits of the goal mouth if you want. But it's pretty clear to all involved that what Suarez did was a (legal, under the current rules) deal with the devil that cost Ghana the match. If that goal is awarded, Gyan doesn't miss a penalty, and Uruguay is forced to score in the last few seconds of the game. Suarez himself said the red card and automatic one-match suspension were "worth it", and no one would argue otherwise -- without that handball, the match for which Suarez would earn his suspension would be some meaningless international six months down the road with Uruguay out of the World Cup.
Life isn't fair, but sport is man's attempt to construct a framework of fair competition. Awarding only a penalty as compensation after a defender has illegally prevented a certain goal is, well, unfair. Memo to FIFA: fix it.
WWMT again, this time with a mystery headline:
Go on, read the story. I'll wait.
While I'm waiting, I'll sit here repeating "who what when where why how" as a mantra.
OK, you're back? Great.
Who? Brandon West.
What? Set an NCAA record.
The obvious follow-up question, one that I'm sure all the readers want to know the answer to, is, "What record did Brandon West break?"
Is that in the story anywhere? Of course not.
Pretty much everyone covering the NHL for any media outlet appears genuinely shocked that Marian Hossa, the star forward acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Atlanta Thrashers at last year's trade deadline to fuel the Penguins' Stanley Cup playoff run, has signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Red Wings. These pundits are in nearly universal agreement that Hossa is giving up "a lifetime of security" for a chance to win the Cup.
First, isn't every hockey player's dream to win the Stanley Cup? You don't hear Nick Lidstrom saying, "Oh, yeah, ever since I was a boy, I always wanted to win six Norris Trophies", and you don't hear Henrik Zetterberg saying, "I've always dreamed of winning the Conn Smythe Trophy". Almost to a man, the Wings said winning the Cup was their dream. Why should Hossa be any different? And what do you have left to prove in the league after winning a Cup? How many more you can win? The Stanley Cup is, and always has been, the reason for playing NHL hockey, and the bottom line is this: Marian Hossa doesn't have his name on the Cup, and he wants it there. A one-year deal with the Wings is the best chance he has to achieve that.
Second, since when is $7 million not enough money for a "lifetime of security"? I'm certain beyond all doubt that, if you gave me $7 million next year, minus taxes, that I would be more than comfortable for the rest of my life, as would my parents, any future family, and most of my extended family. What happened to our society that we don't think top professional athletes can possibly get by on less than $8-10 million per year, and need to have at least 5-10 years at that pay level to be "secure"? No, a million dollars isn't what it used to be, but it'll still buy you a nice house anywhere in the United States and leave more change than most people make in salary in a year. Anything more than that is just icing on the cake.
I'm getting very tired of people -- largely ignorant citizens interviewed on TV or radio, or idiots posting in online forums, but also some members of the so-called media -- claiming that Michael Vick should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
He is being treated as innocent until proven guilty. That's why he's not in jail right now.
Whether Nike and Reebok choose to suspend endorsement deals and pull his merchandise from their store shelves, or whether the commissioner of the NFL chooses to tell Vick to stay the hell away from a league that is already fighting for its public image due to many other off-field incidents of a similar nature has nothing whatsoever to do with the American legal doctrine of "innocent until proven guilty".
The same argument was put forth several months ago when Adam "Pacman" Jones of the Tennessee Titans was suspended from the NFL for the 2007-8 season for his involvement with several high-profile off-field incidents, and the same counter applies now as it did then: what happens between the NFL and its players, or between Major League Baseball and its players, or between the NBA and its players (or referees) is entirely independent of the legal system unless contracts are broken and the injured party brings the case to court.
Pete Rose was banned for life from all aspects of Major League Baseball -- and deservedly so -- for betting on the game (a sin which Rose himself has confessed) and, in particular, betting on games in which he was directly involved as a manager (though not against the team he managed, Rose maintains). Rose has never been convicted of any crime, nor found liable in any civil suit, with regards to this heinous breach of professional ethics. But what he did was, indeed, heinously unethical, and Major League Baseball is perfectly free to hand down a punishment of its choosing without Rose being put on trial in front of a judge and jury.
Similarly, Pacman Jones and Michael Vick may not be criminally or civilly liable for the transgressions of which they stand formally accused, but for them to be associated with such riffraff reflects poorly on the National Football League and the sport of football in general.
The NFL has no legal mandate to convene a jury and hold a trial in order to punish a player. If you hang out with thugs and your thug friends get you into trouble, and your conduct reflects poorly on your employer -- keep in mind that playing a game once a week for five months is the employment for which these men are paid millions upon millions of dollars each year -- you should not be the least bit surprised if your employer disciplines you accordingly.
No one put up a fuss when Lisa Nowak was fired from NASA for conduct grossly unbecoming to a scientist, astronaut, and naval officer. Disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy resigned before the allegations of match-fixing surfaced, but would anyone honestly argue that, had Donaghy not resigned, he should not have been fired until found guilty in a court of law? I don't see a whole lot of people feeling sorry for Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or Paris Hilton (although I don't see a lot of Hollywood types blackballing them either). So why is Michael Vick any different?
You do not have the right to a job in the United States (with California being the singular exception to the general rule of at-will employment), and you should not be the least bit surprised that your conduct outside of work, so disgraceful that you make national headlines for days on end, gets you fired -- or at least suspended -- from your job. And thank goodness that job is not "lawyer".
The Detroit Free Press:
The Lions are just hapless and unlucky enough that such a headline might make sense -- and perfectly demonstrate the inability of the Fords and Matt Millen to run a football franchise -- were it only late December.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock made a terrible choice in the wee hours of April 29th, choosing to get into his SUV and drive after becoming thoroughly intoxicated. He could have easily hired a cab -- or limo -- to take him wherever he wished to go, but Hancock insisted upon driving himself drunkenly down the highway, where he crashed into the back of a tow truck that was assisting a stalled car on I-64. His blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit, he was not wearing a seatbelt, he was speeding, and he was talking on his cell phone at the time of the crash.
Hancock's father, the executor of his estate, was not content to let his son's violent and unnecessary death be a lesson to the world. Rather than channeling his grief for a cause -- say, speaking out against the dangers of drunk driving -- Dean Hancock has chosen to file suit in some perverted hope of spreading the burden of responsibility to others.
The owner and manager of the restaurant where Josh Hancock imbibed before his fatal drive, the tow truck company, the tow truck driver, and most incredibly, the driver of the stalled car have all been named as defendants in Dean Hancock's lawsuit, which alleges negligence on the part of the restaurant that served him drinks, negligence on the part of the tow truck driver in parking his vehicle behind the stalled car, and negligence on the part of the driver (!) for "allowing the vehicle to reach the point where it stalled on the highway, and for failing to move it out of the way of oncoming traffic". The elder Hancock said in a statement that he has "an obligation to represent the family on all issues, 'including any legal actions necessary against those who contributed to the untimely and unnecessary death.'"
Dean, I'm terribly sorry that your son is dead. You're going to have to endure that for the rest of your life. I do not believe any parent should ever have to bury a child, and it's tragic that you've had to suffer through this. Bearing that in mind:
Dean Hancock, you are a pathetic excuse for a father and for a man. Sack up and admit to yourself that your son made a terrible and fatal choice, and that no one held a gun to his head and said, "Drink this alcohol." No one held a gun to his head and said, "Drive this car." If your son hadn't been blitzed out of his mind, perhaps he would have noticed the disabled vehicle and the tow truck behind it with its flashing lights. Perhaps he would have worn a seatbelt. Your son -- not the restaurant owner, not the restaurant manager, not the tow truck driver, and certainly not the driver of the disabled vehicle -- made those choices. Now you have to live with them. No one asked you to be happy about it, but your attempt to shift responsibility for this terrible tragedy is misguided, morally wrong, and utterly reprehensible. You owe an apology to all the defendants, and you should drop your lawsuit immediately before a judge laughs you out of court.
Detroit Tigers first baseman Sean Casey:
Turning around and seeing 80,000 people in Ford Field was definitely an experience.
...and one that's not likely to be shared by any players from the Lions this year. Fake wrestling is a bigger fan draw than the local NFL franchise. That's just sad.
Paging Captain Obvious. Obvious? Is there a Captain Obvious in the house?
Bob Grim, Harris Poll voter and former NFL wide receiver, on why he voted Florida ahead of Michigan:
If they have a rematch and Michigan wins, then who's the national champion?
Well, according to this ridiculous system you're actively participating in there, Bob, the national champion would be the one who wins the so-called national championship game. Nothing more, nothing less.
The BCS is a crock of shit, and now everyone knows it. Since being instituted in 2002, it has resulted in exactly one "championship" game and three you-gotta-be-kidding-me farces.
Any system that relies largely on human polls -- and, despite the computer rankings, the BCS hinges on human voters by any reasonable measure -- is going to be irreparably flawed until a playoff system is instituted to iron out the -- and I'm being gracious here -- "aberrations" in human voting. Case in point:
I just finished looking at the final Harris Poll individual rankings, and 4 voters had Michigan ranked 4th, of the 4 that put U-M 4th, one voter (from Las Vegas) had USC 3rd, another (from Pittsburgh) had Louisville 2nd (Florida 3rd), another (from Baton Rouge) had LSU 3rd, and another (from Birmingham, AL) had Louisville 3rd.
That's from a poster on the Freep's message boards, who is undoubtedly (like me) a fan of the Maize and Blue, but you can't deny he has a point. No sane person, when asked solely to rank this year's crop of college football teams, would place Louisville -- who lost at now-No. 15 Rutgers -- or USC -- who lost two games to unranked opponents! -- above either Florida or Michigan. (A side note: USC's two losses came against Oregon State, who finished the year ranked 24th in the AP poll and tied for 25th in the coaches' poll, and UCLA, who received two votes -- yes, two -- in the AP poll and zero in the coaches' poll.)
The only way this is ever going to get solved is with a four-team (or possibly eight-team) playoff. And by Harris Interactive revoking the credentials of the four idiots who took Urban Meyer's money in exchange for voting Michigan out of the title game. To be fair, Harris should also kick out Jim Walden, who inexplicably ranked Florida #1; Larry Keech, who ranked Boise State #2 (unless he did it strictly because they're the last remaining undefeated team besides Ohio State); and Robert Lawless, who decided both Louisville and Wisconsin (Wisconsin? Seriously?) were better than Florida.
Oh, and Urban: You're coaching at Florida now. That's a fairly big football school in a pretty good football conference, your Division I-AA opponents notwithstanding. It makes you look completely classless when you campaign for your boys like you were still at Utah. Let them settle it on the field, and when the pollsters want your opinion, they'll give it to you. You're a disgrace to college football, keeping with the long, proud, disgraceful tradition of Florida coaches.
Michael Rosenberg on the Lions' latest struggles:
Pretty soon, even Matt Millen will be holding a "Fire Millen" sign. And the Fords, impressed with his wit, will give him a contract extension.
Oh, if only he were kidding. The only thing left worth speculating about for Lions fans this season is whether Millen will pick a) a second-rounder-at-best with the first pick of the draft or b) another Charles Rogers-level headcase.
My money's on A this year. In five years, mark my words, Lions fans will be calling for Brady Quinn's head just as they were calling for Joey's last year.
From Freep sportswriter and funnyman Michael Rosenberg's game summary:
Of course, you cané─˘t win with pitching alone. The Tigers kept getting offense from unlikely sources. Omar Infante had a walk, a single and a stolen base in his postseason debut, despite the pressure of replacing future Hall of Famer Alexis Gomez.
Leyland can't go wrong. After all, this is the same guy who, "for his next trick, will train his dog to hit a slider, then pencil him in to bat leadoff."
Kenny Rogers, he of the infamous late-season and post-season collapse, pitched the Tigers to another solid victory over the A's tonight in Detroit, giving the Tigs a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. Let's take a moment to reflect on this performance.
Rogers is 41 years old. When he came to Detroit, everyone said he was washed up, couldn't control his temper, and didn't win games after the All-Star break, much less in the postseason.
In two postseason starts this year, Rogers has pitched 15 innings and allowed all of seven hits and zero earned runs. Not particularly known as a strikeout pitcher (averaging just under one strikeout every two innings this season), he has fanned 14 batters in those 15 innings.
In his first start, against what pundits widely described as a "modern-day Murderers' Row" Yankees lineup, Rogers worked 7-2/3 innings, giving up five hits and striking out eight. In his second start, against an Oakland A's lineup that thoroughly obliterated what was arguably baseball's second-best pitching staff (the Minnesota Twins) in a three-game sweep, he worked 7-1/3 innings, giving up just two hits and allowing only one runner past first base. He also tacked on six more strikeouts, including two of Milton Bradley and another of Frank Thomas, who is now 0-for-forever against the Tigers in the ALCS.
Barring an epic collapse (see "2004 New York Yankees"), the Tigers are on their way to the World Series for the first time since 1984, and the way they're playing now, have a decent shot at winning it in a sweep. Should they win tomorrow, they won't have to travel again for almost two weeks and will have nearly a week off before Game 1 of the Series, which is a huge advantage to their already killer pitching staff and would allow Jim Leyland to set up whatever rotation he wished for the Series.
Nate Robertson pitched a solid game tonight, and the Tigers' bullpen -- by far the best in the major leagues this season -- did a bang-up job in four innings of relief. The Tigers' bats generated enough offense to take a 1-0 lead, but the real story isn't so much the Tigers winning it. The A's managed to make baseball history by tying two records they surely wanted no part of. They tied the record for most double plays in a championship series by hitting into four, and very nearly hit into a fifth but for a conservative (and smart) play by Placido Polanco in the bottom of the ninth. Worse, the A's continued their terrible batting with runners in scoring position -- they're batting just .086 (3-for-35) in the playoffs this year -- and tied an all-time playoff record by going an astounding 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position tonight. The Tigers are going to have to do a better job of keeping the A's off the basepaths in Game 2, however, as the A's stranded nine runners, and six of those were on two at a time with none or one out. Credit Robertson for pitching himself out of those jams with some key strikeouts.
Fun trivia note: the last time a team turned four double plays in an LCS game was when the Giants did it exactly 19 years ago, which was also the last year the Tigers made the playoffs.
For those of you hiding under a rock, the Tigers extended their streak of holding the Yankees scoreless to a full 20 innings before Jeremy Bonderman finally surrendered a run in the seventh, after pitching five perfect innings to start today's Game 4. Steinbrenner's $200 million men are headed home early for the third straight postseason after an 8-3 Tigers' victory.
The roar has been restored, baby. Next stop: Oakland.
The Detroit Lions, according to safety Terrence Holt, are "close to winning" an NFL game.
In other news, Lions president Matt Millen is almost competent to run an NFL franchise, and Millen's biggest draft bust, former Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers, is close to signing a five-year deal as a waterboy for the Berlin Thunder, where he is anticipated to be marginally more successful than as a wide receiver in the real NFL. Current Lions wide receiver (and legendary draft bust in the making) Mike Williams has one foot nearly out the door of head coach Rod Marinelli's doghouse, and could play as many as two snaps in next week's game against the Rams in St. Louis.
Former Lions quarterback and fellow Millen-era draft bust Joey Harrington, now the tenth-string quarterback for the Miami Swimming Mammals, was quoted as saying, "I'm close to caring."
Film at 11. Or close to it, anyway.
I know that a sports agent's job is to be an advocate for his clients, and to present his clients in the best light possible so as to maximise the payoff they receive for their services, but there's a fine line between promotion and Iraqi Information Minister-level hyperbole.
Charles Rogers, the number two overall draft pick in the 2003 NFL draft, was cut today by the Detroit Lions. His agent, Kevin Poston, told the Associated Press, "I'm sure teams will be contacting us. [Rogers is] a 25-year-old receiver with a lot of talent."
So much talent, in fact, that he was cut by a team that, by any measure, has been one of the worst teams in professional football over the last 10 years. As they say, "We find these assertions to be incompatible with reality."
Best of luck in NFL Europe, Chuck.
UPDATE: The Freep's Drew Sharp agrees with me.
Today's doubleheader between the Tigers and Yankees was the first time since 1961 that the teams met both having records of 25 games or more over .500.
Yes, it's been 45 years since the Tigs and Yanks were both that good this late in the year.
Apparently Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey needs a refresher. Quoted in today's Freep:
Pro-Tigers people say the more apt comparison would be the 1991 Braves. You know, the Braves of Glavine, Smoltz and Avery. What do you say we let Bonderman and Verlander, both 23, finish being burped before we enshrine them in the Hall of Fame? You have to go through some fire first, and the Tigers haven't.
Would that be the then-21-year-old Steve Avery, the then-24-year-old John Smoltz, and the then-25-year-old Tom Glavine? The same Avery, Smoltz, and Glavine who had combined for a 27-34 record in 1990 and put up an unspectacular 4.35 combined ERA?
Because I was thinking it sure sounded like you meant the Avery, Smoltz, and Glavine who hadn't, up until that point, been incredibly mediocre. (You know, like the Tigers' pitching staff for the last decade.) Except for the fact that that trio -- the non-mediocre Avery, Smoltz, and Glavine -- didn't exist until 1991.
But then, what do I know?
Minnesota Timberwolves center Eddie Griffin is the target of a lawsuit filed Thursday alleging that Griffin was drunk, watching porn, and masturbating when he crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a parked vehicle outside a store in Minneapolis.
Despite multiple 911 callers' insistence that Griffin was intoxicated, the two officers who responded to the scene did not test him for alcohol, and to add insult to injury, gave him a ride -- leaving the city limits against department policy -- to his home in St. Paul!
Does anyone think, even for a second, that Joe Citizen would get remotely similar treatment?
The Cleveland Cavaliers' defense lived up to the adjectival definition of their nickname last night against the Detroit Pistons, getting utterly shellacked by a score of 113-86. At one point, the Pistons led by 37. At another point, the Pistons were shooting 60-plus percent from the field, 92 percent from the free throw line, and a stunning 92 percent from three-point range.
Mitch Albom normally wields the golden pen over at the Detroit Free Press, but for this matchup, the quote of the day goes to Michael Rosenberg:
Cleveland coach Mike Brown can stay up all night watching film, drawing up plays and holding a séance with James Naismith. Unless he convinces Ben Wallace to retire, his team can't win this series.
I had to read the headline twice when it ran by my RSS reader tonight, but it's absolutely not a typo:
According to Google Calculator, 45 litres is a hair under 12 US gallons. Water weighs about eight pounds per gallon, so we're talking a 100-lb backpack when it's full.
Isn't this taking the Camelbak idea a wee bit too far? Does anyone really want to carry around nearly a half-barrel of beer on his back?
Oh wait. I think I just found the market for this ridiculous contraption.
The Tigers remain the American League's only unbeaten team following tonight's 5-to-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Followed closely by:
Detroit's Chris Shelton pushed his major league-leading home run total to five with a two-run drive.
I know it's April and all, but still. Four-and-oh ain't a bad start for a team that hasn't seen four games above .500 in something like 10 years.
The Tigers knocked off Texas again tonight, this time by a 7-0 score. The aforementioned Chris Shelton is now batting .700, and the Tigers are 5-0 for the first time in 21 years. Dare we hope?
The Detroit Lions have kicked the quarterback revolving door into high gear once again. For the team that has won exactly one playoff game since 1957, change is basically an annual event, and as usual, Mitch Albom sums it up nicely.
Looks like another long season for the Lions and their remaining fan base.
Shaun, good luck with that whole Sasha Cohen thing. She's pretty and all, but she's a little...tiny for me. Funny article, though.
If I hear NBC say "Il Pomadero Volante" one more time, I'm going to shoot Bob Costas*.
*If Bob Costas turns up dead of gunshot wounds in Italy, it wasn't actually me. Geesh.
Michelle Kwan and Janne Ahonen, according to various talking heads on TV, have "a big hole in [their] résumé[s]". Why? Because both have five World Championships in their respective sports, but neither has ever won gold at the Olympic Games.
Does anyone really think there are any hiring managers out there who would say, "Gosh, you won five world championships in ski jumping, but our qualifications for this job specifically said 'Olympic champion'. Sorry, Janne, but we can't hire you"?
As in Larry Brown, head coach of the New York Knicks. In the immortal words of Will Hunting, "How do ya like them apples?"
ESPN is running an article saying that Carson Palmer's knee injury suffered in Saturday's game against the Steelers has the potential to end his career. The descriptions of the damage are pretty gruesome. It's amazing that his knee blew up as badly as it did, especially considering a) the hit didn't look that bad and b) he was wearing a brace.
Congress is going to be holding hearings about the BCS. For the second time.
Did anyone else see "investigate the workings of collegiate athletics" in Congress's job description? I think I missed that memo.
The Detroit Lions canned head coach Steve Mariucci today after getting 3/4 of the way through another dismal season.
Now if they could just dispose of Joey Blueskies and that incompetent GM Matt Millen, they might have a halfway decent team in five years.
Oh, and here's hoping I don't have to suffer through any more of those awful Ford/Mercury/Lincoln commercials. Sorry, Mooch, but acting's not your thing either.
UPDATE: MSNBC, of all places, is running the best article I've seen yet on the disaster that is the Detroit Lions. It particularly takes Millen and the rest of the front office (including the Ford family) to task for figuring out various and sundry new and creative ways to keep an NFL team from doing anything notable (notwithstanding the NFL's longest-ever road losing streak).
Today was a great day for college football. Michigan and Penn State woke up after halftime to fight out a doozy of a game in Ann Arbor (go Blue!). Ohio State served notice to Michigan State that football games last 60 minutes, not 30 (maybe next time, Sparty). And USC held on to a last-second lead on Matt Leinart's one-yard touchdown run to down the pesky Fighting Irish in South Bend.
But mostly, I just really wanted to use that headline. (Thanks, Eric.)
"An Open Letter to William Clay Ford, Jr., If I Were a Lions Season Ticket Holder"
Dear Mr. Ford,
I want you to think back for a moment. Back to 1992. Back to when Barry Sanders was still shakin' and bakin' opponents all over the field. Back to when I was in fifth grade. Back to the last time the Lions won a playoff game, the only playoff contest in which this franchise has emerged victorious since the 1957 NFC Championship.
Think about that for a moment.
The Detroit Lions have won one playoff game in the Super Bowl era. One. Uno. Ein. Un. One single victory.
Of course, winning a playoff game involves getting to the playoffs in the first place, an occurrence which, if not annual, was at least more likely than not during the tenures of much-maligned Lions head coaches Wayne Fontes and Bobby Ross.
How I long for those days now. Would that we had Scott Mitchell, Erik Kramer, or even Charlie Batch to throw to this crop of oh-so-talented-on-paper receivers that your front office has put together.
The front office.
Matt Millen has to go. The man has produced an overall 17-49 record during his long-since worn-out welcome in Detroit, the worst record -- as the talking heads on TV seem to enjoy reminding everyone each Sunday -- in the NFL over that period of time. His time in this fine town includes an NFL-worst 24-game road losing streak spanning some four years.
"But he's put together such a great staff," I hear you protest.
If it were such a great staff, Mr. Ford, you wouldn't be getting this letter. That he managed to sign the three top receivers -- on paper -- in the league means nothing. That he managed to bring in one of the most respected coaches -- on paper -- in the league means nothing.
The Lions are a great team -- on paper.
Which is funny, because calling them the "Detroit Paper Tigers" wouldn't be far off.
Mr. Ford, you need to sit down with Bill Davidson and Joe Dumars, and you need to listen to what they say. They have put together one of the best teams -- and I mean that in the truest sense of the word "team" -- in NBA history, and they have won. They haven't always won pretty, and they haven't always won by a lot, but they've won. They've brought a championship to Detroit, and they managed to turn around a team that wasn't even remotely contending for the playoffs inside of five years.
This team hasn't been a playoff contender in a decade.
What has to happen for the Lions to make a name for themselves?
First, you need to ditch your front-office staff. Millen is incompetent. C'mon, Morning-wood? What was he thinking?
Next, you need to ditch Mooch. I respect what the guy did at San Francisco, but the Lions aren't the Niners, and Mooch has proven, by virtue of his atrocious record, that he cannot coach what the management is giving him. The Lions survived the Packers last week thanks to a virtuoso performance by the defense, and in spite of Mooch's dangerously conservative play-calling in the second half.
Finally, Harrington. Three strikes -- three atrocious seasons -- is plenty. This is strike four. In three seasons plus, Harrington has thrown 51 TDs and 55 picks. His career passer rating is an anemic 67.8. His best year for completion percentage was a weak 56 percent.
Fifty-six percent is fine for a running quarterback like Michael Vick in an offense that doesn't depend on its receivers for productivity. Fifty-six percent in a West Coast offense that demands production is utterly worthless.
I bought my season tickets to see a professional football team play football. Professionally.
I want my money back.
Bleeding Honolulu Blue,
Section 106, Row 35, Seat 12
CNN has served up a real gem this week with Chris Isidore's "Star-Free Finals Are Hurting NBA."
First of all, what the hell is a writer for CNN/Money doing writing about sports? You don't know anything about basketball, buddy. And now I'm going to prove it to you.
Isidore places the entire blame for the NBA's ratings and merchandise sales slide on the so-called "star-free" finals.
For starters, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili pretty much count as stars. Ben Wallace, who has won three of the last four Defensive Player of the Year awards, damn well counts as a star. And compared to some two-bit economist hack, even Darko "The Human Victory Cigar" Milicic is a star. I'm lookin' at you, Isidore.
The NBA can place the blame wherever it wants, but the problem isn't the brand of basketball the Pistons and Spurs play. They're the two best teams -- with emphasis on the word "team" -- in the NBA, and possibly in the world.
The Pistons utterly destroyed the most star-studded team in recent memory, the 2004 Lakers, whose starting roster consisted of no fewer than four future Hall-of-Famers, a team that was widely expected to sweep the Pistons under the rug and ask for more. As everyone knows, the Pistons rolled into L.A. out for blood, and but for a very lucky shot by Kobe Bryant in Game 2, just flat-out obliterated the hapless Lakers.
The Spurs were NBA champs two years ago, and led the NBA in defense this season. (The Pistons were second.) They steamrolled through the Western Conference playoffs, knocking off the "fun-n-gun" teams of the NBA with ease. Averaging over 100 points a game? Not when San Antone is in town. See if you can score 80.
No, the NBA's problem isn't with the two teams in the finals.
The NBA's problem is largely the result of Team USA's shellacking in the 2004 Olympics.
Which occurred for precisely the same reason that the 2004 Lakers struggled to win one game -- at home, no less! -- against the supposedly inferior Pistons. It all comes down to one very tired and overused cliché:
There is no "I" in "team."
The 2004 Lakers had five individuals on the court, and a couple more on the bench.
Team USA 2004 had 12 individuals. Calling it a "team" would be like calling Microsoft and Apple "strategic partners." Everyone involved knows it's a freakin' joke.
The NBA needs to wake up. Until something else comes along, the Olympics are the World Cup of basketball, the premiere international stage for showing off talent and building "buzz" around individual stars. It's awfully hard to build buzz when your haphazard collection of individuals gets shown up by a team, led by Manu Ginobili, wearing baby-blue uniforms from some country in South America.
That team wouldn't have beaten -- much less beaten up on -- Larry Brown's Pistons, and it wouldn't stand a chance against the 2005 Spurs, either (lack of a duplicate Ginobili notwithstanding).
There's another old saying in the sports biz that Isidore forgot about: "Offense wins games; defense wins championships."
Viva la defense!
Congratulations to my friend Ricky Shilts and the Calvin College basketball team. Ricky led all scorers with 27 as Calvin defeated York for third place in NCAA D-III men's basketball. Good job, buddy, even if you did go to one of our conference rivals instead!
Oh man. Last night's Game 3 of the ALCS between the Yankees and the Red Sox was quite possibly the best baseball game I've ever watched on TV.
Let me explain something. I hate watching baseball on TV. I think it's terribly boring, because most of what you see is a guy standing around waiting for a ball to be thrown his way.
Not last night.
Last night was a hitfest of epic proportions. The two teams combined for 37 hits and 27 runs over a time of 4:20, all three postseason records. Matsui went 5-for-6 with two homers, two doubles, and five RBI, and Sheffield went 4-for-5 with a homer, a double, and four RBI. The Yankees had 13 extra-base hits, and the two teams combined for 20, both also (I think) records.
I feel sorry for the two teams' pitching staffs. But only a little bit. That was way too fun to watch.
The Detroit Lions are no longer adding to their NFL-record streak of 24 consecutive road losses. They defeated the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field today by a score of 20-16.
Three cheers for Mooch! That's the first road win for the Lions since Bill Clinton was President.
Oh, and to all you Bears fans: Heh heh heh heh heh heh. Suckers.
Has anyone else noticed the sole non-American in NBC's Olympics intro trailer? I'm referring to the approximately 60-second clip they show at the beginning of their primetime coverage and occasionally throughout with all the athletes running, swimming, jumping, carrying the torch, etc. and sort of "melting" from scene to scene. Every athlete that I can identify in that intro is an American, with notables being Michael Johnson (running in his signature erect form), Muhammad Ali (holding the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Games), and then there's...Cathy Freeman of Australia, holding the torch on her way to lighting the flame at the 2000 Sydney Games.
I like Cathy Freeman, I love Australia, but I can't figure out why NBC stuck her into a trailer that's only being shown to Americans, most of whom probably have absolutely no idea who she is.
On a side note, I'm getting very tired of NBC's coverage. If I hear Bob Costas say one more sappy thing, I'm going to throw a brick through the television. Someone get that goon off the air. Also, stop showing random highlights of beach volleyball without saying they're highlights. It's really annoying and confusing when you're watching a game and all of a sudden the score jumps from 5-4 to 12-8 without any warning from the commentators. I know the American public has a terribly short attention span, but stop insulting my intelligence, you morons. At least show one whole consecutive game in the match, or, if you're going to show highlights, just show the friggin' highlights, and say so!
ESPN is doing an hour-long show on the greatest chokes in sports tonight, and to go along with it, they're running a hilarious article about some of the big what-ifs of the last 20 years, along with a great editing/extension job on the classic poem Casey at the Bat.
Somehow, the Detroit Tigers manage to lose the most improbable games. Like last night, when they hit seven (7!) home runs off the Boston Red Sox, six off starter Tim Wakefield, and still managed to lose. Wakefield became the first pitcher in 72 years to allow six home runs in a game and still win.
The saddest thing, however, is that losing games like this is old hat for the Tigers. In the last 40 years, 40 teams have hit seven or more home runs in one game. All but two of those teams went on to victory. The other two?
Yep, the Tigers. It happened in 1995, when they lost to the White Sox 14-12 at home. Oh, and the Tigers also managed to lose a five-homer game last year at Cleveland, and a six-homer game at the White Sox in 2002.
Offense isn't working, so let's try some defense, hm? Oh, woops, that would require having a solid pitching staff first.
Maybe next year, right?
The first NFL Monday Night game is tomorrow.
Oh man. BRING IT ON! This summer has dragged on far too long.
ESPN has had Sunday Night Football for a while. No big deal, right? OK, how about some Sunday night college football?
This fall, ESPN is trying to get the University of Tennessee to move its season opener against UNLV from Saturday afternoon to Sunday night. Need I remind readers that Tennessee is in the so-called "Bible Belt?"
This is going to go over like a lead balloon, folks.
Not that you can't go to church on Sunday morning like normal people, but for the love of, well, Sunday, why on Earth would you put a college football game on a Sunday night? It's just unholy!
Man U thinks highly enough of Tim Howard to not only sign him to a four-year contract, but speculate that he has a very good shot at becoming the starting keeper at Old Trafford, ahead of longtime veteran (and French national team star) Fabien Barthez.
One for each of their 10-game losers. Get ready...
Hip, hip! Hooray! (Mike Maroth)
Hip, hip! Hooray! (Jeremy Bonderman)
Hip, hip! Hooray! (Adam Bernero)
Now, with the first pitching staff since the 1906 Boston Pilgrims (now the Atlanta Braves - what is it with Boston and pitching curses?) to have three 10-game losers before July, the question is: who - if any - is going to be the first to 20?
Back when the Pistons were going through a bit of a slump in the late 1990s, I made the comment to one of my friends that it was a good thing hockey didn't involve throwing anything other than punches, because professional athletes in Detroit who got paid to throw things were almost universally bad at it.
Other than Joey Harrington and the Pistons, the situation hasn't changed a whole lot.
Good thing he isn't a Freo Dockers fan. He'd be angry all the time. Nah, I shouldn't be so hard on them - the Dockers have come a long way since the 2000 season when I was there barracking (never "rooting") for them. (You folks who know Aussie slang will know why you never "root" for a sports team in Australia. Well, you could, but that would be kind of kinky.)
Coming at you from the I-don't-know-when-to-shut-the-hell-up-and-stop-talking department: Mike Tyson still hasn't figured that out.
I feel like, who says that? (Hi, Jessie!)
Seems as though baseball is in need of a rule change. How about pitchers who get blisters be allowed medical treatment with a league-approved substance - one that would offer no pitching advantage - under the supervision of an umpire. ("Hey, ump, can you check my finger?" "Sure, kid. Looks OK to me. Head on out.") I understand the guy was breaking the rules, so he had to be ejected, but c'mon - he clearly wasn't trying to put one over on anybody.
What a great name for a racing horse that would make, especially if that horse went on to win the Triple Crown, as Josè Santos has a chance to do on the back of Funny Cide at the Belmont Stakes on 07 June. I don't normally follow horse racing much, but all the overblown hype surrounding this year's Kentucky Derby perked up my ears a bit more than usual, so when I saw this Hartford Courant article, I just had to share it. It's easily the best article I've read on the whole controversy, and quite correctly chastises the Miami Herald and Derby steward for being irresponsible in their handling of the issue.
At least if you believe CNN, they did:
I'd love someone in the NBA's offices to explain how the Pistons could win four games in the series, most recently by a score of 93-89 in overtime, and have to play one more ;)
(Update: CNN fixed the goof about an hour later. I knew that screen shot would come in handy.)
Sheesh. I feel like Stuart Scott with that headline.
The Sixers had to Fear the Fro, of course, but what they didn't count on was Rick Carlisle having a conference with Alan Trammell on winning by committee. Bullpen by Committee(tm) worked for the Tigers, and with Chauncey Billups out, Pistons coach Rick Carlisle stole a page from the Tigers' book and used Point Guard by Committee to great success. Detroit won 104-97 in overtime after leading by as much as 14 during the first half.
Chucky Atkins and Rip Hamilton had 23 each, and rookie Tayshaun Prince had a career night, scoring two of his 20 points to send the game to overtime and scoring the first five points of overtime with ice in his veins, making tough shots over veteran defenders look easy.
Ben Wallace and Cliff Robinson, two veterans not known for their scoring, stepped up with key points throughout the game. Robinson hit his first five shots on his way to 14 points in the first quarter and helped the Pistons to get off to an amazing over-60 percent shooting in the same period. Jon Barry came off the bench in the fourth quarter and lit up the floor with 11 points - nine came from three-pointers - and two steals.
As Rip Hamilton noted after the game, the Pistons need to work on their free-throw shooting. They were a dismal 60 percent (21-35) from the line for the game, and only 20 percent for the first half. If it hadn't been for the terrible shooting from the line, the Sixers never would have had a chance. Now we head to Philly. Look out!
The Pistons are going to win the NBA championship this year for one chief reason: Chauncey... Chauncey and Rip...Rip and Chauncey...the two reasons are Rip and Chauncey, and Mehmet...the three reasons are Rip, Chauncey, Mehmet... and Chucky...the four...no...
Amongst the reasons are such players as...oh, bugger it.
Really, though, with names like Chauncey, Rip, Chucky, and Mehmet, you can't lose. Would you want to go up against a guy named "Rip" or "Chauncey?"
Someone better tell the Yankees to watch out. The Tigers overcame Bullpen by Committee, which managed - along with two costly errors in the eigth inning - to blow a 6-3 lead, on the back of Dmitri Young's flawless 5-for-5 performance. Young had two solo home runs, two triples, a single, and five RBIs to pace the Tigers in their third consecutive win, a streak unmatched since August 18th-20th, 2002.
He also selflessly legged out a triple in the top of the ninth, putting an insurance run at third base instead of second and missing his chance to become the first Tiger to hit for the cycle since Damion Easley did it against the Brewers in 2001. Young, whose performance tonight raised his batting average nearly 40 points, from .190 to .229, in one game, is batting .778 (7-9) against Baltimore pitching this series.
The 6-25 Tigers wrap up their three-game series with Baltimore tomorrow afternoon at Camden Yards.
Maybe having Nate Cornejo pitching on three days' rest is something Alan Trammel ought to consider doing more often. Cornejo, now 2-2 and the only starter on the Tigers' staff with a .500 record, scattered six hits and one run through seven and one-third innings tonight, leading the Tigers to a 6-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Steve Sparks pitched 1-2/3 scoreless innings in getting his first save of the season, while Jason Johnson took the loss for Baltimore.
The Tigers' four-run outburst with two outs in the third inning provided the victory as they batted around. Insurance runs came in the seventh with a Dmitri Young fielder's choice to second that scored Omar Infante, and from a Bobby Higginson single up the middle in the ninth that scored Andres Torres. Young also had two RBIs on the night on a third-inning, two-out double that Orioles LF Larry Bigbie lost in the lights, bringing his team-leading total to 11 on the season.
The win is Detroit's second in a row, the first time since August 2002 that the Tigers have managed back-to-back wins. Such an inspired streak might have something to do with their recently-discovered offense, which has managed 10 or more hits in four of its last five games and scored 19 runs in its last three.
Ah, the Tigers.
Not only did they lose both games of a doubleheader at home yesterday, but they lost the second game a) after carrying a 3-run lead into the 7th inning and b) after carrying a no-hitter into the 7th inning. This after losing the first game to an opposing "pitcher" who never actually threw a pitch in getting his victory.
Prize quote from the article, referring to the fewer than 1000 fans in attendance:
"What made the day worse was nobody was in the stands," Detroit's Dmitri Young said. "Nobody is behind us. These people don't care about us. I'd rather be on the road."
Gee, ya think? When you lose to your AAA farm team on a regular basis, of course the fans are going to quit caring.
I suppose the owners' association probably can't tell Mike Ilitch he has to sell the club to a new owner, can they? One who would actually spend money on talent, instead of trading all the talent away and watching it get to the All-Star game year after year. (*cough* Travis Fryman *cough*)
I miss having this stuff on TV all the time. Or seeing it in person at the WACA. Now if only I had the time to play and get good, maybe I could make the US National Team (yes, we do have one). I figure competition can't be that stiff :)
And incidentally, way to go Aussies!
Nike is running a new "Mars" spot in honour of MJ, and I just can't get those old Gatorade commercials out of my head:
"I wanna be/ I wanna be/ I wanna be ... like Mike..."
Seriously. Can this please stop?
At least he's been charged with a felony.
Side note: if you read the history of attacks in Chicago carefully, you'll notice the Tigers swept the Sox by forfeit in 1979.
Which was probably the last time the Tigs swept anybody.
I love 'em, but damn, they suck.
Paula Radcliffe shattered the women's marathon record in the London Marathon this weekend. With a time of 2:15:25, she averaged a 5:10 mile. For over two hours.
Hometown superstar Derek Jeter dislocated his left shoulder in the Yankees' opening game this evening. Hope everything goes well in your recovery, Derek. You're the only baseball player I bother following.
Oh, and George Steinbrenner: stuff it in your arse. Jeter's the best player you have, and easily your most reliable. He's never shown up for a perfect game drunk, that's for sure...
ESPN.com does this great Tournament Challenge thing for the NCAA men's basketball tournament every year, but they left out one very important feature: you can only be a member of one group at a time. Who's the moron who decided people only wanted to be in one group of friends to whom they could talk shit? C'mon. I have at least three different groups of friends who I have to talk shit to about the tournament. Don't make me create three entries like my best friend did.