April 7, 2007

At least it's not 0-21 ...

This is not a good way to start the season. Chris Ray was supposed to be one of the bright spots this season, and he blows his second save opportunity? Ouch. And to add insult to injury, he gave up a game winning grand slam to A-Rod, the least clutch (what did we decide was the opposite of clutch?) player in baseball. The terrible ending overshadowed a decent outing by Steve Trachsel and a good day for Markakis. Looks like this season is going to be ugly.

April 6, 2007

Congrats to the Orioles

The Orioles got off the schneid, beating Mike Mussina and the Yankmes in Yankme Stadium thanks in part to a strong pitching performance from Adam Loewen and clutch hitting by Nick Markakis. But you could have read that anywhere, or even watched the game live. Here's a little educational feature:

To be "on the schneid" means to be on a losing streak, racking up a series of losing, and especially scoreless, games. "Schneid" is actually short for "schneider," a term originally used in the card game of gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring any points. "Schneider" entered the vocabulary of gin from German (probably via Yiddish), where it means "tailor." Apparently the original sense was that if you were "schneidered" in gin you were "cut" (as if by a tailor) from contention in the game. "Schneider" first appeared in the literature of card-playing about 1886, but the shortened form "schneid" used in other sports is probably of fairly recent vintage. [From Word Detective]

Redskins Want Springs Out in a Bad Way

If you were too naive, or too flat-out dumb, to know Shawn Springs was the leak in the Tom Friend article last November, just look at the Skins' overtures this offseason:

1) Signed CB Fred Smoot.

2) Made every effort in the world to trade for CB Dre Bly.

3) Signed Cardinals CB David Macklin.

4) Contacted the Patriots about trading for CB Asante Samuel.

Macklin sucks, of course, but these moves tell us one of two things. Either Shawn Springs is on the fast train out of Redskins Park or Carlos Rogers is below at least Smoot and Springs, and possibly below even Jimoh and Macklin, on the depth chart. Personally, I think Carlos Rogers should maybe get tossed into the Lance Briggs trade. That would at least offset some of the salary cap signing Briggs would consume.

F1 in Singapore?

I was watching practice for the Malaysian GP (yes, I DVRed F1 practice, I'm a loser) and was thinking about how much I like the Sepang circuit. It's one of my favorite tracks, though Monaco is miles ahead of the rest of the pack. I've often wished that there were more true street courses in F1. A few minutes later, the announcing crew mentioned that on Monday, Bernie Ecclestone is supposed to announce whether or not Singapore will get an F1 race. The current thought is that they would use a city street circuit and run it as a night race. I just about had to change my pants. How cool would that be? It would be like something out of Gran Turismo.

There's a map of the course available here. Make sure you click satellite to see all the buildings around the track. I'm sure Formula 1 will find a way to screw this up, but it would really be awesome if they pull it off.

I'll have a wrap-up of the Malaysian GP sometime early next week, with the race on Easter, I'm not sure when I'll be able to watch it.

Photo credits: IGN, F1fanatic

Bold NFL Draft Prediction

"Who will be this year's Marques Colston?" will be the ubiquitous website/sports radio pointless question this month, just as "Who will be this year's George Mason?" was last month. I suspect the answer will also be the same.

April 5, 2007

More of The Curse of Les Boulez

So this hasn't been posted yet, but as we all know by now, Agent Zero is out for the remainder of the season after tearing the meniscus in his knee. Which means that the 'Zards will be in the playoffs without Gilbert or Caron. And the remainder of the season we'll be relying on the strong hands of Antawn Jamison, Darius Songaila, and Roger Mason, Jr., to guide us into and through the playoffs.

Maybe we should check out what Rafael Vidaurreta, Jason Collier, Terence Morris, William Avery, Will Solomon, Damon Thornton, and Delvon Arrington are up to these days. We could bring Bobby Cremins out to coach. Then the Wizards could field an all late-'90s mid-talent ACC team. $10 says we still beat the Hawks.

Dan Snyder meets The Aviator

Kissing Suzy Kolber has a great post on Dan Snyder as a movie producer. He comes across as a sort of Howard Hughes meets Mr. Burns idiot. Our Snyder coverage here has a ways to go before it's that good.

While on the Topic of Political Correctness

So with all the Tim Hardaways, ABA Coaches, Shavlik Randolphs, and Billy Packers out there putting their feet in their mouths recently, I thought that this little bit from South Park is a pretty damn funny illustration of that.

Florida vs. Kentucky: Tale of the Tape

As J-Red noted in his last post, conflicting reports about where Billy Donovan is headed are coming out. At the moment, it looks like he's staying at Florida, but that's far from certain. In case he's reading this blog while making his decision, here's a breakdown of his options, Nick Bakay style.

SalaryTons of MoneyAssloads of MoneyPush
LocationEast Coast (but Florida, so it barely counts)AppalachiaFL
Recent HistoryBack-to-back championshipsNo Final Fours since 1998FL
Distant HistoryA Final Four some time in the 1990sOne of the winningest programs everKY
NCAA ProblemsNone in basketball, yetProbation in 1989FL
FL (seriously, some of these Wildcats schools need to come up with a more creative nickname)
Famous AlumniErin Andrews
Ashley JuddPush (in a shocker! I thought this would be KY's best category)

Final Tally
Florida: 4
Kentucky: 1
Push: 3

Not surprisingly, Florida wins this in a rout. Feel free to add other categories in the comments (I was going to add cheerleaders, but didn't want to be surfing for those pictures at work).

UPDATE: Cheerleaders added (after work).

Billy Donovan - What's Wrong with this Picture?

Breaking news from CNNSI: Florida has given Kentucky permission to speak to Billy Donovan.

Breaking news from ESPN: Sources say Donovan has decided to stay with Florida and will not speak with Kentucky.

The ESPN article is backed by Andy Katz and looks more reliable. I'm sticking with my tried-and-true rule: If Chris Mortensen didn't say it, you can't bank on it.

Added 1:03p: The Baltimore Sun has now posted an AP article confirming that Donovan is staying at Florida.

The Price is Wrong (totally wrong)

So a tragic day is forthcoming in June, when Bob Barker hands over the oddly phallic shaped microphone and retires from The Price is Right. So who will replace him? Entertainment Weekly has some insider info:

Showcase Showdown
George Hamilton, Mario Lopez, and John O'Hurley -- but not Rosie -- have been tested as possible replacements for Bob Barker on ''The Price Is Right''

Fans of Bob Barker may think he's irreplaceable on The Price Is Right, but CBS is in the midst of finding a new host for the successful game show once the 84-year-old host retires in June. Several Hollywood vets have already tested for the high-profile job — in fact, studio audiences were invited via CBS' website to attend test tapings featuring several potential hosts: Dancing With the Stars alums George Hamilton, Mario Lopez, and John O' Hurley, as well as Game Show Marathon host Todd Newton and The Early Show's weatherman Dave Price. Not invited to try out? The View's Rosie O'Donnell, who recently told the audience at her ABC yakker that she'd love to fill Barker's very big shoes. An announcement about Barker's replacement is unlikely to be made until after the venerable host leaves in June.

Holy crap, this is horrid. Horrid. But at least Rosie has been nixed. I would've had to have watched the show on mute. Seriously, when Bob retires, this will mean that one of my greatest dreams in life will have been shattered... to get out to CBS Television City in Hollywood and make it out of contestant's row for a game. The past seven years of grocery shopping would be clutch. I mean, I am like the greatest armchair TPIR contestant ever. Who doesn't know how much a pack of Hot Pockets costs? ($2.49 at Shoppers, $2.99 at Giant)

But for serious? Mario Lopez? Really? Really? What's next? Replacing the Rod Roddy wannabe announcer with Dustin Diamond so that his house can avoid getting repossessed? And they are digging the dregs of reality TV to find replacements? Wow.

Bob Barker and your sexual harrassment... you will be missed.

April 4, 2007

Brien, How Could You?

From The Baltimore Sun:

A pregnant woman and her husband have been charged with prostitution after advertising on a popular Web site sex with the mother-to-be for $300, Anne Arundel County police said Wednesday.

[REDACTED] had posted an ad on Craigslist that described the woman as pregnant, said Cpl. Sara Schriver, a police spokeswoman. An undercover officer arrested the couple Monday after [REDACTED] welcomed him into their Pasadena home.

I redacted the names to protect Brien and his wife. Ok, so it isn't Brien, but I did have to read the article just to make sure.

Congratulations Washington Nationals!!!

So first win on the season, first win in the managerial career of Manny Acta. So we're on pace to go 54-108 on the season. At least we didn't start off 0-22 to break the record, which given the last two days, I thought was imminently possible.

I love that Dmitri Young, major league castaway, hit the game winner, and that none other than my former neighbor (I lived on 14th floor, he lived on 12th floor of 11 South Eutaw Street), Jorge Julio, choked the game away. My buddy lived next door to him and said he'd come home from Camden Yards and scream in Spanish into his cell phone deep into the morning. Just what you want to deal with during first year of law school.

But tangent complete, congratulations Nats!!! And I don't want J-Red to try to get us to discuss attendance today, for a 1:05 weekday first pitch, with weather in the low 50s and damp clouds hanging around all game long. There are only about two stadiums in the majors that would not have had trouble with weather like today: Wrigley and Fenway.

Adios Gina Glockenspiel!

If there's anyone from the Central, Mountain or West time zones reading this, you should remember the title of the blog. Gina's gone, thank God. Looks like the boys are holding their own better than predicted, with Sanjaya, Phil, Chris, Blake moving on for the boys, even if Sanjaya is being propped up by VotefortheWorst.com.

Jeremy, as soon as I find the YouTube highlight video for Gina, I'll post it. Ooh, found one already.

Proof of God

Ben Franklin said it was beer. I say it is this clip in which Billy Packer declines Charlie Rose's invitation to be a "runner" for Packer at the Final Four. Packer says to Rose, "You always fag out on me", and he says it with the enunciation and clarity you'd expect from a veteran broadcaster.

My first thought is that I've never heard "fag out" used to mean "flake out". That's not even part of the gay stereotype. I think we're all the big winners here, because if Jimmy Kimmel can spread the word to sports radio this should blow up into a pretty big controversy. They'll have a hard time sweeping it under the rug after Hardaway's comments.

Also, I think this means Packer has to stop referring to Jim Nantz as Nantzyboy.

Keith Richards finally gets Satisfaction

Alright, so this might not be the typical sports and pop culture item, but I saw this quote and I absolutely had to put it on here. Keith Richards (of the Rolling Stones for those of you who have had your head under a rock for 40-something odd years) recently gave an interview to a British magazine and they asked him about the strangest drug he ever ingested:

"He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared. . . . It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."

So in case you're wondering, the "he" refers to Keith Richards' deceased father. Yes, Keith Richards combined cocaine with the ashes of his late father, and snorted it. And this did not happen back in the crazy 60s, 70s, or 80s. It happened in 2002.

I don't even know how to offer my take on this, except to put it up here for your consideration.

April 3, 2007

Rick Dempsey

BUY A SUIT THAT FITS RICK. You're 45-goddamned-years-old. Daddy probably needs his suit back.

Of course, tonight (4/4/07) when I set everything up to grab a snapshot, he had a suit that fit him properly.
Stay with ECB for commentator fashion details as they develop...

O's and Nats

Ummm, well, the O's average score over two games is 3-5, and the Nats' average score is 2.5 to 9. Plus, the Nats are at "home" and the O's are on the road. This might well be the last time I post about baseball this year.

I will say this. At least the O's broadcast team (Buck Martinez and Gary Thorne) and post-game team (Rick Dempsey) beats the hell out of the Nats broadcast team, Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton. What, you couldn't get Ivan Calderon and Gary Carter? Perhaps they had "visa issues", like MASN's first choice Elliot Price. For a Canadian, getting a visa to work in America is REALLY hard.

Symbolic of my feelings about baseball.

American Idol Round of Nine

Jeremy's out watching minor league baseball in D.C., so I'm on Idol duty tonight.

To begin with, Ryan went with the gray suit and matching gray tie with a black shirt. Looked a little Regis to me from the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire era. Jeremy got pretty far in that contestant process by the way.

In order of the singers:

1) Blake - Mack the Knife

Blake varied from very poor enunciation to overenunciation, but he was otherwise quite good. He moved extremely well within the rhythm of the song. It was probably his best performance since the Keane song he did the first week. The song has a tough beat and he stayed on it perfectly.

2) Phil - Night and Day

Phil's in some trouble. At the time I thought it had a dull beginning. Phil should ALWAYS wear a hat because he looks a bit Alien Nation without one. He built up his vocal strength throughout the song and ended strongly, but overall his performance was extremely forgettable.

3) Melinda Doolittle - I've Got Rhythm

The saxophone stepped on her a bit early on, but calmed down after a few bars. It almost seems like Idol contestants are trained to start slow and then build as they go; that's not a bad strategy. She did a great job making the song jazzy and slowing it down 3/4 of the way through. Her stage movements fit the song very well. I still am not enthused by her week-in week-out demeanor. It comes off fake whether it is or not.

4) Chris Richardson - Mr. Saturday Dance - Duke Ellington

I hated it live. I think Chris' snapping actually threw him off early. He struggled at times to feel the rhythm of the song and rushed through the ending. All the judges pimped him hard though, and in the end-of-show playback I had a much better feeling about it. I think I might have just caught something early that spoiled the whole thing for me. The lady seemed to really enjoy it too.

5) Jordin Sparks - On a Clear Day

She was technically perfect, never missing a note. That being said it sounded "cabaret". I'm allowed to say that because Simon didn't. She used her deadly little smirk, and did a good job playing the crowd. She also ended on a very strong note. I'm worried that this wasn't stand-out tonight though.

6) Gina Glockenspiel - Smile

I hate myself for not doing something productive during this time, like my taxes. She wore some kind of braids in the front of her hair. Think Missy Elliott. Her tongue ring is somehow off-center. She was very off-rhythm early, perhaps half a beat at times. She really sucked. It occured to me while watching it that it would have been a scenery change song in a Broadway play. Something to distract you while they take out one set of fake trees and put in another. Randy and Paula were both happy at first while Simon called her crappiness out. Then Paula said in a follow-up question "Aim for your personal best." She sucked.

7) Sanjaya - Cheek-to-Cheek

Sanjaya played Paula a bit during the song as other underage boys have before. He wore a white suit with white shoes and a black open-collared shirt. The judges have given up. Randy said "I'm not even going to say anything. He's an entertainer now." Paula agreed, saying she wasn't sure that she wasn't watching "Dancing with the Stars." Simon said "Let's try a different tactic this week. Incredible." He'll live on.

8) Haley Slutnato - Ain't Misbehavin' (except when I am)

Ok, Haley had a seizure on stage. I hope brain damage didn't result. Trust me, I seriously, really, definitely don't mind a girl slutting it up on stage. With every trumpet burst Haley developed a new neurological ailment. I haven't seen an average-bodied pretty-faced girl make that many stripper moves since I got laid over in Birmingham. Hmmm....I mean....since I was forced off a plane and took a layover in Birmingham. Simon gave the very constructive criticism, "I think you've got great legs." Someone, I think Simon, said she was "paegantly."

9) LaKisha - Stormy Weather

She ruled. She moved very well but could have made the song a little jazzier. By FAR the best outfit she's worn. Print up top, corsetted in the "waist" and print hips down.

So coming into tonight I think the default bottom three were Phil, Haley and Gina. I don't see it being any different tomorrow night except that Jordin might be in some trouble too. Her outfit was not "flattering".

If I had to guess I'd say either Phil or Gina is going home. I'll officially vote for Gina because she's the reason I still don't want dinner tonight.

This never gets old...

Those who have been reading the blog since the beginning may remember a post linking to the Nation of Islam Sports Blog. The NOI post was pretty funny in its own right, but the comments after it were hilarious. I can't remember who said it, but I agree completely: "People taking satire seriously on the Internet never gets old."

Today Deadspin linked to an article in the Duke Basketball Report (which confusingly has a section titled "Duke Football") about Duke hatred. I was pleased to see that Maryland gets credit for starting the trend of truly hating Duke (although the article goes on to cite examples of Duke hatred that predate the peak of Maryland's vitriol by a decade).

The whole article (manifesto? tirade?) is unbearably long (7 parts!!!), repetitive, and typically self-indulgent. It reads like someone got carried away writing a term paper.

It's all worthwhile, though, when you get to "Part III. Race" (yes, each part is numbered and has a title, like this is some fucking Ken Burns documentary). The main exhibit in the race section (which is supposed to be the big revelation of the article) is the Nation of Islam Sports Blog post mentioned above. I kept waiting for the DBR to acknowledge that the NOI blog is supposed to be satire and then claim that racial humor like that isn't funny. But then I saw this:

We should point out too that it’s not clear that the site is officially sanctioned by the Nation of Islam. Then again, there’s no evidence to suggest the NOI opposes it, either.

What?!?! Those DBR simpletons took the NOI blog so seriously that they felt they had a journalistic responsibility to point out that there was no obvious official connection to the real Nation of Islam! I thought that the whole Myra Piggie thing was an aberration, but maybe Duke students just aren't that smart (or are just criminally gullible). The DBR article even goes on to suggest that Coach K should sue the NOI blog for libel. I'll let the lawyers on this blog comment on the merits of the case, but I seem to remember something from my high school civics class that satire qualifies as protected speech (no matter, apparently the NOISb has Jackie Chiles on retainer).

Almost as funny as their misinterpretation of the NOI blog is the prescription for how to make all that Duke hate go away: "quite frankly, Duke could stand to throw a charm offensive at the press." That has to be the worst possible solution to this non-problem. The Duke hatred has a few origins, but the media glorification of Duke played no small part. I'll assume if you're reading this blog you understand the media's pre-2001 Duke bias (which continues to some extent today, although the Duke haters in the media have come out of the closet) and don't need me to go point-by-point on how annoying stories about Duke's "clean program" and "good kids" used to be.

Predictably, the NOISb skewers the DBR article in a fabulous retort.

Photo credit: Truth About Duke

Bears Reject Briggs Deal

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports is reporting that Bears' GM Jerry Angelo called the Redskins today, asked to speak to the GM, and ended up being transferred through the phone system for a few hours. Eventually he got fed up and told a secretary they were rejecting the Redskins offer to swap first round picks in exchange for OLB Lance Briggs.

This does not rule out the possibility that the Bears would accept a "sweetener" from the Skins in addition to the 6th pick.

And so the dream apparently dies. Now the Skins will have to focus on their real priority: finding a way to draft JeMarcus Russell so they don't have to rely on Jason Campbell next year.

Chicago Tribune - Trade Briggs to Sucker Skins NOW

In an article published last week, Chicago Tribune writer Don Pierson came out strongly in favor of trading Briggs to Skins and swapping the 31st and 6th picks. Remember, this article came out before Bears' GM Angelo demanded a player in return for Briggs as welll. Here are some good quotes:

Why the Redskins would want to give up the sixth pick and pay Briggs untold millions is their problem. Until this week, they had kept a relatively low profile in the free-gent scramble. Usually they like to make a splash and buy all the stars billionaire owner Daniel Snyder can afford.

Instead of resenting Rosenhaus, Angelo should thank him for finding a willing sucker in the Redskins to overpay for an overrated, disgruntled player.

What's puzzling is the Redskins need Briggs less than the Bears do. Besides Fletcher-Baker in the middle, they have ex-Colt Washington on one side and last year's second-round pick, Rocky McIntosh, on the other. They also still have ex-Bear Warrick Holdman, another former Urlacher sidekick once thought invaluable.

Remember this too: The Redskins are so inept they didn't know what to do with Archuleta once they overpaid him, and now the Bears have him anyway. Who knows? In another year, the Bears could end up having Briggs back too.

Early America's Cup Preview

I'm probably not the typical America's Cup fan. I've never been on a yacht. I don't vacation in Martha's Vineyard. I don't wear sweater vests. But for some reason, I love America's Cup. I've been following the series since 1992 (the last American victory). My plan is to provide some coverage of the Louis Vuitton Cup (to pick who challenges the defending champion, Alinghi) and the America's Cup itself from the perspective of the casual fan. I don't know most of the sailing terminology, I don't necessarily understand a lot of the strategy, so when I learn something interesting about the boats or the races, I'll let you know.

Today is the start of Louis Vuitton Act 13, essentially the final preseason game before the Louis Vuitton Cup. There are four teams expected to be competitive in this regatta and for the America's Cup.

Luna Rossa: One of the three Italian entries. That's all I know about Luna Rossa. Of the "Big Four," they're a distant fourth.

BMW Oracle: The lone American entry in the cup races, and the only chance for America to regain the trophy it held for 132 years (the longest winning streak ever in sports). If we're making predictions based on hull paint scheme, I don't like the Americans' chances.

Emirates Team New Zealand: New Zealand lost the cup in 2003 (the last America's Cup) after holding it since 1995. Definitely the best looking boat design, if that counts for anything.

Alinghi: The defending champs from Switzerland. A recurring theme in these blog entries will be my disbelief that a land locked country currently holds the America's Cup. At least when New Zealand or Australia won, you could respect it. Both of those countries have great sailing traditions (naturally, because they're freaking islands). But Switzerland?!?! Ugh, it's been four years and I'm still bitter. But because of the unique format of the America's Cup, Alinghi will challenge the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup, so essentially they get a bye to the finals.
I'll follow up with a more detailed preview when the Louis Vuitton Cup starts.

For more detailed coverage, check out Valencia Sailing's Act 13 Preview.

Photo credit: CupInfo

April 2, 2007

Nice Announcing Surprise

So I turn on MASN to catch the score in the O's-Twins game, and I hear the sweet, sweet sound of Gary Thorne calling the game. I don't know if I had missed an announcement saying he was the new O's play-by-play guy, and I didn't watch Spring Training, so he was probably on during March and I'm late arriving on the train. But what a great pickup. That sweet, smooth call with just the perfect tone of excitement was an incredible sound in the Stanley Cup playoffs on ESPN. Actually, when I played NHL Hockey on Nintendo (you know, the game with the skinny guys, average guys, and fat guys), I would sometimes pretend to call the game and I would always try to imitate Gary Thorne. Glad to hear his voice again.

I Hate MASN Commercials

The new MASN ad campaign focuses on an Oriole or National and then ends with a shot at another team's player. For example, "Miguel Tejada is the best power hitting shortstop in baseball. Better play him deep Grady Sizemore." Or for Corey Patterson, "You're about to be robbed A-Rod." I am pretty sure the Chad Cordero ad took a crack at Miguel Cabrera.

We get it Angelos. It seems like you're pimping one of our players when you're really putting in subtle reminders about players on opposing teams that we have the opportunity to see play live. Seeing the Nationals box score this afternoon, let's hope all the players called out don't take offense and have particularly good games against the Orioles.

Of course, the campaign obviously isn't working anyway, unless the Nationals' midday TV ratings are better than their actual stadium attendance. Being 5,000 tickets short of a sellout on Opening Day on a perfect 80-degree spring day in your third season in existence certainly makes the anti-baseball crowd in D.C. look a lot smarter. As they pointed out on the John Riggins Show today, it sure makes you wonder if a few loud pro-baseball drunks in a bar got enough attention to make people think baseball would actually work in a transplant town.

My Opening Day Post

Alright, so leave was approved, and in about 40 minutes I'll be heading out in the 79-degree, mostly sunny weather, to enjoy my 500-level seats at RFK stadium and take in the Nats vs. the Marlins on Opening Day 2007.

Rather than address all the crap that's been flying around here about O's vs. Nats (but just compare the franchises' records 1998-2006 and get back to me), let's just talk about Opening Day. Having gone to both Opening Days last year, Orioles and Nationals, I do have to say that the scene around the Orioles Opening Day is ten times that of the Nats. Last year, it turned into a day-long party outside Pickles and Sliders, and then everyone stumbled into the stadium. We all know there's nothing around RFK except for the Anacostia River, the D.C. Armory, and some dilapidated neighborhoods. Let's just say I won't be rolling up to RFK four hours before first pitch like I did to Camden Yards last year.

But nevertheless, there is something so special and exciting about Opening Day in baseball. I think it's different than the opening game of any other sport. Yeah, we're all excited to see these seasons begin. But Opening Day in baseball is fueled with such optimism... such excitement... such hope. It's the start of six months of great weather. It's the start of a really long season when, for a team like the Nats, realistically about 150 of the 162 games won't matter except if we are on the brink of the 100-loss plateau and trying to stay above it (which I doubt will happen, I see us going 67-95). But Opening Day, especially when it's an Opening Day at home... you've got two #1 starters going head-to-head, you get the formal introductions of all the teams, the stadium is clean, the grass is green, the uniforms are crisp, the ballpark food tastes better, the crowd is way more into it, and it's just a great, great day to be at the ballpark.

I read the article in the Baltimore Sun about Baltimore losing their perennial true "Opening Day" this year and the article in the Post about the president not throwing out the first pitch this year. Well, Opening Day is still Opening Day. The people in Baltimore are really only losing that #1 vs. #1 pitching matchup. The optimism and excitement will still be there. As for Bush not thowing out the first pitch... having sat there amazed at the total abuse Cheney took last year at RFK from the moment he stepped out of the dugout to the moment he disappeared from view, it's not exactly surprising that Bush is otherwise consumed by meetings today.

But Opening Day... HUZZAH!! Go Nats!!!

ESPN and Conflicts of Interest

Jeremy's post on the AFL brought up ESPN's newly found interest in Arena football. This is just the latest (and most egregious) example of ESPN coincidentally becoming interested in a particular sport right when it lands the coverage rights. We saw this happen with NASCAR and (in reverse) with the NHL.

It goes right to the heart of ESPN's credibility when it places more emphasis in its news programs on sports that it broadcasts. At least they haven't gone so far as to show bowling highlights on Sportscenter.

I thought there was a general consensus regarding Arena football that it was a poor product that was only interesting to people who play NFL Blitz and think there's not enough scoring in the NFL. Most real football fans would have rather watched an NFL Europe or CFL game than the Arena League.

But now that ESPN has a financial interest in the league, we see the Worldwide Leader trying to give some legitimacy to the league by showing highlights, cross promoting the league using ESPN Radio hosts, and using NFL analysts as the announcing crew. Something is not quite right about that. Last year the only thing ESPN cared about was that Jon Bon Jovi owned an Arena team, this year we get highlights and scores on Sportscenter?

George Solomon addressed some of these concerns in his ombudsman columns, but I'd like to see the new ESPN obmudswoman (I don't think that's a word) attack the conflict of interest concerns head on. ESPN needs to do a much better job of separating its news function from its broadcast and entertainment functions.

Opening Day

I haven't followed the Orioles very closely since High School, when I read the newspaper every morning (and the Orioles were actually pretty good). I've often questioned whether that makes me a fair weather fan. With baseball, more than football or basketball, I think it's very hard to get excited about your team in a season that they have little to no chance of making the playoffs. As we saw with the Jets last year, any team in the NFL can make a run at the playoffs, no matter what the preseason predictions say. And if your team starts out really bad, at least you can follow the games with interest to see where they'll end up in the draft order.

With baseball, by the All Star Break, half of the league is looking at an 80 game death march through the rest of the summer. How can a casual fan get excited for that? Is everyone who stops checking the box score every morning after their team gets more than 15 games out of the wildcard a fair weather fan? I sure hope not.

No one seems very optimistic about the Orioles' chances this year (or in the foreseeable future), but I'm still holding out hope that our young starting pitching (especially Bedard and Cabrerra) is going to develop and provide the foundation for a run of successful years. Maybe this year I'll still be checking the scores in September.

Lance Briggs Trade Not Dead

ProFootballTalk and The Washington Post are reporting that the Bears have made a counteroffer to the Redskins offer for Lance Briggs. Apparently Bears GM Jerry Angelo is now asking for a defensive player in addition to the 6th for 31st swap in the first round. The Post speculates that the Bears want either Lemar Marshall or Rocky McIntosh.

I am not lucky enough for the Redskins to trade Rocky McIntosh. They spent two picks last year to take him in the second round, hardly played him at all despite suffering through a rocky season on D where the linebackers were often to blame, and then could possibly use him to get another player? I don't think I could script this stuff.

Bush Skipping Nats Opening Day

The Washington Post is reporting that Bush will not throw out the ceremonial first pitch for Opening Day at RFK this year, the second year in a row he's bailed. Apparently he's too busy to take the time to make the five-minute trip along the Southeast-Southwest Freeway. More likely, he's like many other Washingtonians. The Nats are SOOO 2005.

Is Overtime Fair in the NFL?

The NFL owners' meetings at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona just wrapped up, and again the sudden-death overtime situation in the NFL has not been remedied. Don't get me wrong, I'm actually not a fan of an NCAA-style overtime in the NFL.

Without rehashing the billions of words that have been written in favor of a two-plus-possession overtime in the NFL, I'm against it because it will dilute every record in the NFL. While the NFL is not as stats-dependent as baseball, it still derives much of its popularity from standards. The TD scoring stats, which already have been diluted recently, would be especially damaged by games that last two or more scoring drives.

So I am strongly opposed to any overtime system that could inflate stats. However, I'm not at all opposed to an overtime system that only stands to dilute special teams stats. Name a special teams record. If you came up with anything that doesn't include Devin Hester, you're either a liar, a Googler, or a very sick man.

This year's proposal involved moving OT kickoffs from the 30 to the 35. The obvious result, ignoring the impact of the NFL's 1994 rule change that moved the kickoff for regulation kicks to the 30 to reduce touchbacks, which very well might have put "evolutionary pressure" on more accurate, though less powerful, kickers, is more touchbacks and fewer opportunities for a KR to score, or otherwise get the coin toss-winning team into a great scoring position. [Yeah, that was one sentence and I'm not re-wording it.] The proposal was shot down, with owners arguing with a straight face that it "would essentially negate special-teams play in overtime".

Let me go off on a tangent briefly by pointing out that NFL owners are obscenely rich. I'd like to think that means they are obscenely smart. The following demonstrates that is not the case.

According to Ivars Peterson's 2004 study, 33% of the games from 1994-2004 were won by the team that elected to receive the OT kickoff. Prior to the 1994 rule change, 25% of OT games were won by the team that elected to receive the extra-time kickoff. What does that mean in terms of special teams involvement?

Well, in 100% of NFL OT games special teams play a role. There is a kickoff, which can be run back unless it goes through the back of the end zone. With the 30-yard-line kickoff, the KR has an opportunity to return x% percent of kicks. With the 35-yard-line kickoff the kicker takes a return opportunity away y% of the time. How does this cheapen special teams? Any benefit gained by one aspect of special teams is at the detriment of another aspect of special teams. If you truly wanted to limit special teams, you'd adopt the NCAA system where only the FG kicking crew matters.

If anything, the proposed 30-yard-line to 35-yard-line change BENEFITS special teams. It makes a power kicker more valuable, which may make more teams willing to carry a place kicker and a KOS. The additional touchbacks make it significantly less likely that the kickoff-receiving team wins on the first possession (33% of the time v. 25% of the time). If the kickoff-receiving team does not win on the first possession, it either punts, misses a field goal, has a field goal blocked, botches a snap (which often overlaps with blocked FGs), suffers a safety, turns the ball over on downs, or commits a turnover. Most of those outcomes involve special teams, both in terms of number of variables and actual occurrences. The other half are no less likely because the kickoff moved. If anything, missed field goals are made more likely by the five-yard move while turnovers on downs are made less likely since the offense is, on average, farther from scoring range and thus less likely to press their luck.

It is inexcusable that a statistically significant percentage of teams win on the first drive of overtime, when the possession in said drive is decided arbitrarily. There is no harm, to any aspect of the game, in moving the kickoff back five yards for the initial kickoff of a sudden death OT.

I wish the owners would come out and say what they really think. West coast owners fear that any potential extension in the duration of OT would potentially cut into the beginning of later games. If we estimate, liberally, that moving the kickoff five yards in overtime extends the session by 5-10 real minutes, that's 5-10 minutes that many advertisers lose, whether they be west coast specific TV advertisers, stadium advertisers, or uniform designers. If the average NFL game runs about 180 minutes, 5-10 minutes is 2.7 to 5.5% of the game. No west coast owner is accepting that competitive disadvantage.

So we're screwed. Get over it. I am surprised Peter King and Gregg Easterbrook have blindly fought as long as they have for an NCAA-style overtime.

Special thanks to Ivars Peterson's MathTrek article on this subject, which justified what I thought I already knew.

In Defense of the NL

Here is another guest post from Michael Prodanovich. He makes some very good points about the NL. Not enough to make me watch, but good points nonetheless. Oh, and "Jason" is J-Red. My cover is blown! Woe is me!

In a recent entry, Jason noted that ESPN columnist Bill Simmons, the "Sports Guy" has often referred to Major League Baseball's National League as "AAAA". Jason did not advocate nor oppose this point of view, but simply refer to it. Well, as a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers and NL baseball fan, I would like to address it.

Point: Simmons says that a lower quality of play drops NL baseball to that of "AAAA" baseball, and inferior to the AL.

Counterpoint: Simmons can lick my low left nut.

As he is a lifelong baseball fan as well, his point of view surprises me. You may say that the AL has superior talent, judged by an absurd run of All-Star game victories. But lets not forget the games that actually mean something, and in fact, mean the most. Since the Yankees won their third straight World Series and fourth in five years in 2000, the last six World Series have been split, with three won by the NL (Cardinals, Marlins, and D-Backs), and three won by the AL (Angels, Red Sox, and White Sox). Even including the Yankees run of dominance, and going back to 1995, it is only 7-5 in favor of the AL.

Now that I have established that the AL is not superior in terms of talent, I will go to why the NL is better. The NL is real baseball. None of this DH-pansy crap. Managers have to think, and make decisions. They have to decide whether or not to pinch-hit, whether to allow your pitcher to finish the inning, or to make a double-switch. The NL involves far more planning and strategy (or "strategery" for those Republicans out there) than the AL does. Baseball is not blessed with the raw excitement of football, or the fluidity of basketball. Baseball is a thinking (and yes, drinking) mans sport. So why take away such an integral part of that?

Yes, with the pitchers hitting, some AL fans say that there is an "automatic out" every time through the lineup. But thats not true. That it only the case the first two (and sometimes three) times through the lineup. But then that comes back to the strategy. Bunting, moving the runners over, playing "small ball." If you are down 2-1 in the 6th, but your pitcher has retired their last 12 guys in a row and thrown only 75 pitches, do you hit for him to get more offense, or let him get another 3 or 6 batters out? Strategy, decisions, and the possibility of being second guessed by armchair managers nationwide. That is what baseball is all about.

And in the ADD and channel flipping age, who gains from four hour games? Your average AL game lasts almost twenty minutes longer than your average NL game. And having lived most of my life in the Los Angeles TV market, I see this first hand. Dodgers and Angels games both start at 7:10pm. Most Dodgers games are over between 9:30 and 9:45, just in time to switch over to the Angels channel, and see the 7th inning stretch, and the last few innings of their game. This is a routine I have done literally many hundreds of times. We all love to see the long ball (after all, chicks dig it), but who gains from these 13-11 games that last four hours? These games have tons of pitching changes not because of strategy, but because nobody can get anyone out. In the AL, you expect home runs. In the NL, they are still something special. And that makes a Monday night in September of 2006 that much more special, when the Dodgers hit four consecutive home runs in the bottom of the 9th (on only 6 pitches, no less) off the Padres' ace set-up man and closer to tie the game...for Garciaparra to hit another in the 10th to win it. That, my friends, is baseball.

I love baseball, and I will watch almost any game. I even enjoy watching AL baseball most fo the time...but I couldn't disagree more that the NL is an inferior quality of play, and I couldn't disagree more that the AL is "real" baseball. I take the point of view that the NL is real baseball, and the AL is more like "arena baseball."

[J-Red: Also check out this somewhat sophisticated attempt by The Baseball Times at evaluating whether the AL is superior:

Scalpers Hurting at Final Four

Chuck Klosterman provided some man-on-the-street proof of what I already suspected. NCAA Championship Games tix are going for below face value.

Think about it. Of the four teams there on Saturday, two are disappointed and want to recoup some money after the depressing drubbings their teams took. I suspect the Georgia Dome is configured to seat about 35,000 this weekend. Of those, I estimate about 20,000 are allotted to schools with the remaining 15,000 falling into what I affectionately call the "corporate bucket".

The 5,000 Georgetown and 5,000 UCLA fans felt guilty about how much money they spent to attend Saturday's game about 10 seconds after the buzzer. They immediately flooded the market with tickets, thinking they could recoup some of their investment. I can tell you from my experience at the ACC Tournament in 2001 that the Georgia Dome has an enormous number of horrible basketball seats. All football venues do.

To make matters worse, I doubt many people are coming tonight and tomorrow from Columbus and Gainesville. From an OSU point of view, the last thing you could stomach is seeing a bunch of Gators fans cheering the second national championship defeat of your team in the short span of three months. Further, OSU fans are tapped out from the trip to Tempe to see the BCS Championship Game, where they were heavily favored to win. Florida fans are tapped out from last year's Final Four and this year's BCS Championship win. Both are football schools.

Plus, had Georgetown or UCLA won they would not have sent a large contingent to Atlanta either. Georgetown has a tiny alumni base and UCLA fans are also tapped out from their appearance in the title game last year. In addition, UCLA had the furthest to travel. It's not like they could have hopped in their cars Saturday night and make the pilgrimage to Atlanta.

Anyone who bought a "book" of all three games prior to Saturday should not be making stock picks. You don't have to be Kasparov to see enough moves ahead to know that this will be the cheapest NCAA basketball championship game ever.

The Curse of Les Boulez Lives On...

So I'm not going to post any one story, but go to ESPN.com, CBSSportsline.com, or your favorite sports news site, and you'll see that Caron Butler shattered his hand in the Wizards win against the Bucks today. Butler is out for the remainder of the regular season, and most likely the playoffs, as well. Wow... just wow...

And on a totally unrelated note, I was talking to my sister's boyfriend about the 2002 National Champion Terp team when we were out watching the games. The fact that the games were in Atlanta brought up that whole conversation. Can you all imagine what the Terps would've been like in 2002-2003 if they had Blake, Nicholas, Holden, and Chris Wilcox had come back? Big time Final Four threat.

April 1, 2007

Anna Nicole's Beau Gets Attorney Bill Shock

TMZ is reporting that Anna Nicole's beau and likely baby-daddy Larry Birkhead just got his bill from his former loud-mouth under-talented attorney, Debra Opri.

The bill is for $620K, including such important attorney expenses as PR consulting, 4 trays of lobster, limo service, dry cleaning for Opri's husband, a ridiculously expensive grocery bill, a ridiculously high tip at an Outback dinner Birkhead didn't attend, and numerous other ridiculous charges.

Clearly, she's pissed about being fired. She's also doing a great job remedying the legal profession's reputation as a bunch of leeches.

AFL to Baltimore?

So it's been impossible not to catch some highlights of the Arena Football League (yes, that AFL, not the Samuel Gompers-founded American Federation of Labor) since the league sold their soul to ESPN and now they get more highlights on an average Sportscenter than the NHL. I will admit though that the highlight from last weekend where the fan in Orlando who leaned over the boards to try to catch the pass coming towards him and then got pancaked by the DB was pretty damn cool. But I digress...

Baltimore NEEDS an AFL team. Peter Angelos' reign of terror and Orioles losing seasons since 1998 have caused Baltimore to revert completely to a football town, like it was back in the early 60s. Going through the tollbooths at the Fort McHenry tunnel yesterday, two days before the first Orioles game of the season, and four months before the start of Ravens preseason, the various tollbooths were all decorated in Ravens stuff, and there was a big Ravens banner hanging over the center of the toll plaza.

You've got First Mariner Arena which sits largely vacant except for the Baltimore Blast, the tractor shows, the circus, and the odd country concert. It's rundown as hell, but maybe an AFL team would give them a reason to put some work into it. You've got a huge football fanbase that would definitely come out for 10 games a year, for tickets that are priced in the $10-$40 range. And you've got a city that is bereft of sports from January to August, because in reality, nobody gives two craps about the Orioles average home game anymore. Baltimore would be a perfect AFL city.

Nostalgia Post

Take 20 minutes out of your day and watch these two videos. Remember Hulk Hogan? Of course you do. This match is post-Wrestlemania VI. Hulk has lost some hair, he's lost some swagger, but Ultimate Warrior has not dethroned him yet. This match is his oeuvre.

Perhaps Vince McMahon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura as announcers would further pique your interest. Don't forget "Mean Gene" Okerlund. There's also a hilarious Stretch Armstrong ad.

Be Rocked

Holy shit this is awesome. Whenever I think I'm not like everyone else from the Eastern Shore I end up arguing with someone over Harry Gant (whose Mr. September run I am proud to have been a part of) and Cale Yarborough, or getting chills watching videos like this one.

And if Jeremy can name 10 wrestlers from this video without using any outside resources, I'll give him $50.

Sympathy for the Devil

Take heart Georgetown. It's not like you're going to lose Green and Hibbert to the NBA. Unless you do.

Well there's always football season. Oh, right, you don't really do football.

At least John Thompson III isn't going to bolt for Florida or Kentucky. Unless he does.

But you're one of the top universities in the nation, justifying the $40K price tag. Well, I mean top after you count the Ivy Leagues, Duke, Stanford, and probably some others.

But seriously, no matter what happens you can always fall back on the Catholic Church. There's no bad news there right? Oh, wait, I forgot about THAT bad news.

Hoya Saxa.