February 16, 2008

American Idol Top 24 Preview

Alright ECB fans. So I'm the designated blogger on American Idol this season. If you don't watch this show, don't bother reading the post. If you watch the show, come to this spot regularly each week for snarky comments, predictions, and other miscellaneous thoughts.

Unable to watch AI either evening this week, I had set my DVR to record AI regularly. However, for the first time ever, my DVR failed me for the results show Wednesday night. So I'm limited to my impressions from watching Tuesday auditions and from seeing who made it to the Top 24 on Fox's website. Here are a few thoughts on some of the contestants:

Amanda Overmyer - She would be awesome as the frontwoman for a Janis Joplin cover band. But she screams no range. I can't wait for the contestants to have to cover Motown or R&B or something other than late 60s/early 70s rock. Great voice, not an American Idol. Plus, look at her. According to her bio, she's 23. I haven't disbelieved an age like that since Danny Almonte played in the Little League World Series. Or since I took a look at Miguel Tejada. She looks like she's mid-40s at best.

Carly Smithson - Let's see how the producers come up with creative ways to cover up her entirely tattoed right side of her body. Incredible voice, but as we know already, has been signed professionally in the past. Still, she's gotta be a favorite. Big time favorite. Plus I like the little Irish lilt in her voice. Tremendous range.

Syesha Mercado - Gutsy, gutsy auditions busting out with the voice that she brought despite barely having any speaking voice due to illness. She's definitely a favorite and brings a great personality to the table.

Ramiele Mulabay - After her initial audition, I thought she just got through because the producers thought the short little girl who sang Aretha was cute. I'm still not convinced she'll really do anything. She's got a powerful voice, but it's light years behind Syesha or Carly.

Kady Malloy - Please, please, please have Antonella Barba-esque pictures out there somewhere.

Kristy Lee Cook - Let's see how many more times you can sing Amazing Grace. That seems to be the only song that gets you by.

Danny Noriega - Wow dude... I just have the urge to punch you. Seriously. You aren't as good as you think. You're obnoxious. You're not fantastic. You will go only so far as the vote of the older teenage girls who find flamboyantly gay guys adorable will take you. Also you win the vote for most likely to be this year's Sanjaya.

David Archuleta - Apparently this kid's parents have been videotaping him singing for years and he's all over Youtube. This kid will go very far on his cute and nonthreatening factor with all the younger girls. I also have the urge to punch you, David.

David Hernandez - I wish we saw your initial audition. You snuck up on us. And you have ridiculous talent. This guy is a one-way ticket for top-10.

Michael Johns - You're a little older at 29. But your voice is insane. It takes a hell of a voice to take Bohemian Rhapsody by storm. You did it. You've got incredible range and you know how to keep your voice in control. If you can get a good following, you could make the finals. Another one-way ticket for top-10.

Robbie Carrico - This year's designated rocker alongside Amanda. Except Robbie has way more talent. And way more range.

Other Thoughts from Hollywood Week... nicely done dance captain and abstinence girl's parents - hire your daughter a vocal coach who couldn't even make it to Top 24 on American Idol; thank goodness the kid who lives in his car didn't make it to the top 24 - if I saw him cry one more time, I was going to go nuts; thank goodness Pageant Girl missd the top 24 - she was trying so hard to be Kellie Pickler and that's not the route to my heart; is the Hispanic casanova guy related in any way to Greivis Vasquez - I hope not; I miss the dynamic of the group performance - that was always fun to watch the girls catfight; to the guy who auditioned with a drum set - dumbest decision ever; I think I'd throw myself out the window if I was staying at the same hotel as all those stuck on themselves, overindulged Hollywood Week finalists; it's amazing to me how people make the Top 24 with so little visibility during the tryouts - see Melinda Doolittle from last year.

So ECB readers, let the Top 24 begin!

Northern Illinois, VT Tragedies - Why Do We Turn to Sports?

ESPN.com currently has an article featured that quotes the Athletic Director at NIU as saying "We're going to get stronger." That offended me, of course, because they just as easily could have written the headline "Indiana AD: 'We're going to get stronger'" and I wouldn't have even blinked. Luckily, the article itself discusses how NIU and the athletic department implemented its emergency plan, one that was created in the wake of last spring's VT shootings, in order to attempt to protect the students and student-athletes.

I was pleased to read that an NIU offensive lineman helped a student to safety, but the university did not hyperbolize the player's efforts, saying the student had been hit by some shotgun pellets, but was not seriously injured. Often in the aftermath of these cases we read of amazing heroes (I'm thinking Jessica Lynch in Iraq), only to learn that the story has been turned into a propaganda piece. In this case, I guess it would have been a recruiting and image piece. The university did the honorable thing and reported the facts.

The question that came to mind immediately is: Why do we automatically turn to sports when these campus tragedies strike? The answer came to me quickly. That's all we know about most schools across the country. Set aside the Ivy League, Stanford, Duke and some others and if you ask someone in Colorado to tell you one thing about the University of Maryland and they'll probably have something to say about basketball or football. Most people can't tell you about Maryland's excellent academic rankings, especially in journalism, engineering and computer science.

All I know about NIU is that they used to have Michael "The Burner" Turner, and you don't want to schedule your season opener on the road there. A little research tells me that NIU also has produced Ryan Diem, Sam Hurd, Hollis Thomas and Justin McCareins, all solid NFL players. I have to look hard to see that the school also lists as alumni former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, actors Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons/Tracy Ullman), brothers Steve (The Practice) and Wood Harris (Avon on The Wire), producer Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future and a billion other movies you love) and Smashing Pumpkins' main drummer Jimmy Chamberlain (arguably their Yoko, but we'll count him nonetheless).

So, while it is offensive to see the NIU and VT tragedies boiled down to jersey patches and football handicapping, you almost have to forgive the media for quickly turning that direction. They recognize that these schools are colors and jerseys to most of America, and that's the quickest way they know to humanize it. It's no different from how they turned the focus of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the Saints 2006 run instead of continually highlighting that very little, if anything, had changed in the city (Anderson Cooper aside and much thanks to him). It's definitely much easier than trying to figure out how to prevent disturbed post-adolescents from hurting their classmates or how to rebuild a major city.

If you still have mixed feelings about immediately linking sports to the VT and NIU tragedies, consider this: Rank the following factors in order from most important to least important to explain why the VT tragedy captured the nation's attention for weeks and the similar NIU tragedy has barely registered a blip:

1) Recency of VT tragedy
2) Identity and appearance of the gunman
3) Number of fatalities
4) Desensitization to school shootings
5) Presidential election distraction
6) National familiarity with the school due to athletic achievements

I think most reasonable people would accept that 6) is the biggest factor.

February 14, 2008

ACC Bubble Watch

Bubble teams are losing left and right, and the ACC bubble hopes are fading quickly as the top teams continue to win. Six teams are officially out barring a miracle (at best, no more than one more loss to have a chance).

IN: Duke, North Carolina

OUT: Virginia (11-12, 1-9), Georgia Tech (11-12, 4-5), Wake Forest (15-8, 5-5), Florida State (14-11, 3-7), Boston College (13-10, 4-6), Virginia Tech (14-10, 5-5)

Clemson (18-6, 6-4, RPI: 24, SOS: 25): The Tigers have survived the toughest part of their schedule, and should be able to coast on in. A 9-7 finish in the ACC should make them a lock, and that would be a disappointing finish given their remaining schedule.

Maryland (16-9, 6-4, RPI: 51, SOS: 13): One of the hottest teams in the country, two losses to Duke are the only recent blemishes. The Terps are capable of winning out and claiming a decent seed, but a couple losses could leave them squarely on the bubble. 10-6 is still the necessary conference record to feel comfortable.

NC State (15-9, 4-6, RPI: 47, SOS: 44): Fading fast, the Wolfpack has the computer numbers to make it, but the schedule looks rough. They need to beat at least one of Clemson, Duke, or UNC at home, and sweep the rest to get to 8-8 in conference. Even that may not be enough because some of the teams that are out may finish in front of them in the conference standings, which won't help.

Miami (15-7, 3-6, RPI: 40, SOS: 38): In a free-fall but their victory on the road at the Hokies could be a turning point. The Canes probably need to finish 5-2 over the last 7 to get in, and it's possible given their schedule. The question is which team will show up. The way they've played most of the conference schedule, they'll finish 6-10 and decidedly out.

More losses by teams on the bubble to help these ACC teams: Cal, UMass

Stage Set for Hendrick vs. Gibbs at Daytona

Get used to this sight (Photo: Reuters)

After today's duels, there shouldn't be any more questions about the Hendrick engine problems, or the similar Toyota problems, or if Gibbs can win with Toyota engines. Dale Jr. has won both races he's been in so far. Jimmie Johnson is on the pole. Denny Hamlin won the second duel for Gibbs, with Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon in hot pursuit. Casey Mears was 4th in his duel. In what may be a preview of the season to come, the two teams have won every possible event from the Shootout on, and now only the actual race remains. It's hard to imagine two teams that you would have to favor more than these two at any given race. It may be a long year for fans of other drivers.

February 13, 2008

Bubble Struggles

Rejoice Maryland fans, following a tough but fruitless effort at Duke, we did not lose a whole lot of ground. Obviously a win would have been great, but a 12 point loss on the road to #2 is no embarrassment. Here are some other teams that wish they had the Terps' result tonight.

Syracuse - Ouch. Does anything say NIT quite like an 11 point loss at USF, previously 1-10 in the Big East? The Orange were one of the "last four in" according to the latest Bracketology. This is a very, very damaging loss.

Syracuse didn't jump high enough (Photo: ESPN)

Florida - Not really on the bubble yet, but sliding in that direction with a double digit home loss to lowly LSU. Losers of 3 of the last 4, they have some tough games remaining. With a young team, Donovan needs to hold things together down the stretch.

Ole Miss - A nine point loss at Alabama leaves the Rebels with 0 wins on the road in the SEC and losers of 5 of their last 6 conference games. Their undefeated record out of conference will only go so far to cover up a poor conference record (3-6 so far).

Houston - Had a lead on #1 Memphis at the half, but couldn't hold on. A marquis win would have done a lot for a team with a really weak schedule.

Dayton - Currently in free fall due to injuries (I think), a loss to Duquesne doesn't help. Strong computer numbers are good, but 4-6 in the A-10 gives you a 10 seed and falling.

Baylor - Started 16-2, but the tough part of the Big 12 schedule is taking its toll. Now losers of 4 of the past 5, Baylor could easily lose the next 3 in a row as well (TEX, @OKLA, KSU). Welcome to the bubble, Baylor. On the positive side, they have 0 losses outside the RPI top 50.

For the Terps, the Duke game wasn't critical. Wins at home against Virginia Tech and Florida State are. We need to put this loss behind us and focus on the task at hand.

Clemens Can't Be Convicted of Perjury - Even if He Lied

Twice this month Roger Clemens has provided testimony under oath regarding the statements made by his former trainer Brian McNamee to the people who created the Mitchell Report. Each time he has done so, every legal expert from CNN to ESPN has made the point that he was testifying at the risk of being charged with perjury if it can be proven that he has lied. In fact, some have used this fact as an indicator that he must be telling the truth.

This displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the Federal perjury statutes, found at Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Sections 1001, 1621 and 1623. All three sections basically punish lying (among other means of deception) under oath about a "material" fact before federal authorities punishable by up top five years in prison.

In addition, the United States Supreme Court has added some other guidelines. First, a perjury conviction (like treason) requires at least two witnesses establishing the falsity of the defendant's statement. Second, a literally true answer cannot be perjurious, no matter how misleading. Third, an answer to an ambiguous question cannot be perjurious, no matter how obvious the intended meaning of the question is.

We know that false sworn testimony and depositions before a House Committee (Oversight and Government Reform in this case) can constitute perjury because the statutes clearly say so. If we assume that either Clemens or McNamee lied today, and we pretend for the sake of argument that there are two witnesses who can testify as to one of them lying, the last barrier is whether the facts lied about were "material."

What is the definition of "material" for the purposes of this statute? Why not look at the U.S. Attorney's Manual, Section 1748 for guidance?

"A false statement is material if it has a natural tendency to influence, or is capable of influencing, the decision of the decision-making body to which it was addressed." (Citations omitted).

Photo: New York Times

There's the rub. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held this hearing (and the earlier one) to determine the validity of the Mitchell Report and to hear criticisms of it, as drug abuse falls under their purview and steroids are considered to be drugs. Under the broadest of interpretations, the Committee sought to determine the prevalence of steroid use in baseball (much like the famous 2005 McGwire/Palmeiro/Sosa hearing). Using that level of abstraction, nothing Clemens could have said would be material to their decision. He is but one player.

Under a more narrow level of abstraction, the Committee sought to determine, vis a vis Clemens, whether the Mitchell Report was accurate. Again, nothing Clemens could say, true or false, is material to that decision. The Mitchell Report did not state that Clemens used steroids and/or HGH. It stated that Brian McNamee TOLD THEM that Clemens used steroids and/or HGH.

One could argue that the determination of whether it is McNamee, Clemens or both who are lying goes towards determining whether the Mitchell Report sufficiently investigated the allegations made and reported. Even under that view, no one denies that the MLBPA categorically told the Mitchell Report that no player would speak about the allegations, which Clemens and his attorney repeated today. According to Clemens, and again this is not disputed, no player actually was permitted to talk to Mitchell, which is providing a wonderful layer of plausible deniability to the named players now. Thus, even if Clemens lied his ass off today before Congress, it is not material to deciding whether the Mitchell Report is accurate. Even if McNamee lied his ass off today, it is not material to determining whether the Mitchell Report is accurate.

One also could argue that there was no decision to be made, and thus there could not be perjury no matter what was said in response to any question.

Any way you slice it, using the evidence presently known, it would be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either Clemens or McNamee lied today. Adding that the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any lies were material to the hearing raises the bar so high that I cannot imagine perjury charges being filed under any circumstances. This was not Barry Bonds lying before a grand jury, but rather two men restating their months-old positions before a Congressional body with no decision before it.
This post was written by an attorney licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Indiana, Sampson Accused of Major Violations

ESPN is reporting that the NCAA has accused Indiana of five major violations, centering around impermissible phone calls made by Kelvin Sampson while he was already under sanctions as a result of previous violations. Potential penalties include postseason ineligibility, and one would think that Sampson's job would be in jeopardy. The primary wrath of the NCAA appears to focus on the fact that Sampson knowingly and repeatedly violated the NCAA recruiting rules on phone calls in spite of having been previously caught in the same offense. His calls exceeded the normal restriction, well beyond the number allowed under his sanction resulting from violations while at Oklahoma.

The Hoosiers have been highly ranked all year, in spite of a soft schedule. Freshman Eric Gordon may find these violations to be a good excuse to leave for the NBA after only one year, and DJ White will graduate after this season. With the potential for serious penalties hanging over the program, this will likely affect the next two recruiting classes. A serious embarrassment for one of the traditional basketball powers, the Indiana administration has no one but themselves to blame for hiring a coach who was already known to have violated NCAA rules. If the NCAA can prove that Sampson knowingly and intentionally violated the same rule repeatedly, their penalty will be harsh. Rumors about this have been swirling, but the official statement by the NCAA detailing the five supposed major violations takes this to a whole new level.

PDF of the NCAA letter
"Sampson failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standard of honesty..."

Five Steps to Sounding Smart About NASCAR

Football's over. Baseball hasn't started yet. The NBA, NHL, and college basketball are going through the paces until the playoffs/tournament. What's a sports fan supposed to do on a cold late-winter weekend? Don't worry, NASCAR returns on Sunday!

If you're new to NASCAR, if you haven't been following the off-season news, or if you only watch the Daytona 500, here are 5 things to watch for during the race.

Toyota Rising

Last year, Toyota the first foreign car manufacturer to participate in NASCAR's highest division (now called the Sprint Cup, I've already expressed my thoughts on the name change). NASCAR actually has rules to limit participation to American cars, but since Toyota manufactures the Camry in Kentucky, it qualifies.

Toyota's rookie season in the Sprint Cup was a bit of a disappointment. The Camry's best finish was a third place in Talladega by Dave Blaney. This year, Joe Gibbs Racing is making the switch from Chevy to Toyota, so expect better results from the Camry this year.

It will be interesting to see how Toyota's entry and success will change NASCAR. Will we see more manufacturers enter the series? Will Honda let Toyota monopolize the "import" side of NASCAR? Will Toyota draw more fans to NASCAR from the Northeast? Will there be a backlash from traditional NASCAR fans who might resent the idea of a Japanese stock car (think Hank's dad from "King of the Hill)?

New Faces

Last year, we saw Formula 1's Juan Pablo Montoya make the switch to NASCAR. This year, Jacques Villeneuve (also from F1), Sam Hornish Jr., Dario Franchitti, and Patrick Carpentier join him. This is another area that could see some backlash from traditional NASCAR fans who have always resented the (often snobby) open wheel fans and the drivers they support. On the flip side, these drivers are beginning to show open wheel fans that NASCAR is good racing, not just a bunch of heavy, ugly cars turning left.


Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart will start the year on a six-race probation following a crash and fight in practice last week. Giving the drivers only probation and not fining them or docking points is part of an attempt by NASCAR this season to allow the drivers to "vent in proper ways." Cynics would claim that NASCAR finally realized that driver feuds draw fans, so they shouldn't crack down too hard.

Busch and Stewart have a history of conflicts. Last year, Busch thought Stewart had intentionally wrecked him. After the incident, Busch flew into Stewart's pit stall, almost injuring a crew member. Will things heat up this year, or will NASCAR's probation force the drivers to settle down?

This fracas is more interesting because Kurt's brother Kyle is Tony Stewart's teammate. If things start to get out of hand on the track, who is Kyle going to side with? His big brother or his new teammate?


Dale Earnhardt Jr. no longer drives for the team that bears his father's name. This off-season, he moved from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports, where he joins new teammates Jeff Gordon and two time defending champ Jimmy Johnson.

How will Earnhard's fans react to the move? They've spent years hating Jeff Gordon, how he's Junior's teammate. Also, has Hendrick finally crossed the line of having too many egos on the same team? I'm not sure how three title contenders can all share the team resources and get along, but maybe they'll find a way to work it out.

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd's husband Dario Franchitti moved from IRL to NASCAR this season, bringing Ashley with him. Expect to see many many shots of Ms. Judd on the pit wall Sunday, especially if she dresses the way she did at qualifying on Sunday. Most NASCAR wives dress fairly causally and wear pants at the racetrack. Or, in the case of Delana Harvick, the most annoying wife in any sport, they wear fire suits and pretend they're part of the crew. Ashely Judd turned that all on its head Sunday. And with Kentucky basketball in the dumps this year, we can expect to see her at a lot of races.

February 12, 2008

The Wrath of the Commodores

"Uh-oh, that's another turnover..." (Photo: ESPN)

The lesson I learned tonight is that Vanderbilt is really good when they're mad. After being slighted with a 10 seed in the latest Bracketology and after losing to UK in 2 OT's in Lexington in January, the Commodores got their revenge tonight. In a staggering, unrelenting decimation of the Wildcats, the Commodores maintained a 30+ point lead most of the game and all of the second half. Kentucky was held to 11 points in the first half (the program's lowest in a half in the shot clock era), and lost by 41 (largest margin of defeat ever in SEC play). Clearly, Vandy's pretty good, and all talk of Kentucky and their 6 game winning streak and being on the bubble can end riiiight... NOW. That's the biggest statement victory I've seen in a long time.

Other notes:
UNC is not a top ten team without Lawson. Since Lawson's injury, UNC has a loss to Duke, a 2 OT victory at home, and a 1 point win over the worst team in the ACC.

Purdue is legit, and they might run the table in the Big Ten to go 17-1 in conference. At Indiana in a week is the toughest test remaining.

Terps Vasquez, Gist Earn National Player of the Week Honors

Photo from SI

A little something for all you Terps fans out there. Greivis Vasquez headlined Andy Katz's Weekly Watch after an outstanding week. The Terps as a team were also #2 on the teams to watch outside the top 25 list. Joe Lunardi has the Terps as a 10 seed. The Terps just need to keep doing what they're doing and this year will turn out alright after all. 10-6 or even 11-5 in conference are not hard to imagine any more, even if we lose at Duke. If UNC continues to have point guard problems, there's a chance Maryland could finish second in the ACC this year (very slim). The two home games coming up against FSU and VT will be critical to cement our place in the tournament.

blahblablahhblahblahblah Photo from Washington Post

In addition, The Sporting News has named Terps F James Gist their National Player of the Week. Gist scored 23 with 7 boards against Boston College and added 30 points, 9 boards and 4 blocks against NC State. He had previously been named ACC Player of Week after the Terps beat then #1 UNC.

February 11, 2008

Villanova Jobbed? Not So Much

At the end of the Villanova - Georgetown game tonight in DC, a questionable foul was called which led to game-winning free throws by the Hoyas. The relevant sequence is shown below.

ESPN would have you believe that the official should have "swallowed" his whistle for this one so the teams could decide it in overtime. I disagree. The Villanova player's decision to challenge Wallace's path up the court was poor. Even if there were two more seconds on the clock, Wallace could not have advanced the ball past half court or gotten off a good shot. The Wildcat clearly bumped Wallace, forcing him to carry the ball and almost knocking him out of bounds. He lost momentum and was, by definition, pushed. A foul is a foul, regardless of the time remaining on the clock, and we should be talking about the Villanova player's decision, not the ref's.

Rule 4, Section 29 of the NCAA Rules for College Basketball state "A personal foul...involves illegal contact with an opponent while the ball is live." Incidental contact is defined in part as "Contact that does not hinder the opponent from participating in normal offensive or defensive movements..." When the offensive player (Wallace) is forced to carry the ball and hop on one foot to avoid going out of bounds, I consider that to be contact hindering him from dribbling up the court.

The Wildcats should consider shooting over 20% in the second half or running a better offensive possession leading up to that point, and not bemoan one "bad" call. Many questionable calls are made over the course of the game, and this one should not be overly scrutinized and criticized just because it occurred as time expired.

If we want to talk about getting jobbed by the refs, let's talk about the clock snafu leading to the Lady Vols' victory over Rutgers. Now that's getting shafted.

No article about Villanova - Georgetown is complete without a mention of arguably the best college basketball game ever played. You know the one.

Clemens' Saga - Past, Present and Congressional Future

Roger Clemens has provided sworn deposition testimony to a Congressional committee, and will testify under oath publicly on Wednesday. Here's a look at what has transpired thus far, the public relations battle between Clemens' crew and former trainer Brian McNamee's crew, and what we can expect Wednesday.


1997 - Brian McNamee, a former NYPD officer, begins working with Roger Clemens as his strength and conditioning coach when Roger joined the Toronto Blue Jays. Clemens won two Cy Young awards with Toronto before joining the Yankees in 1999, taking McNamee with him. Jason Grimsley and Andy Pettitte were also on those Yankees teams for two years.

Aug. 2005 - Jose Canseco alleges that Roger Clemens possessed "expert knowledge" of steroids. Clemens denied the allegations, stating that he only took prescription Vioxx (a joint pain reliever) before it was withdrawn from the market.
Oct. 1, 2006 - Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Brian McNamee are all "named" in the leaked Jason Grimsley affidavit. The leaked copy is eventually discredited, and the correct copy did not include the names. While Pettitte and Clemens denied the Grimsley accusations, McNamee took much of the heat, denying the accusations to CNNSI's Jon Heyman.

Dec. 2007 - All players named in the Mitchell Report, according to Mitchell, are given an opportunity to respond prior to the release of his findings.

Dec. 13, 2007 - The Mitchell Report is released, naming Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and trainer Brian McNamee.

Dec. 14, 2007 - Clemens' attorney Rusty Hardin issues a denial on Clemens' behalf, claiming he has never used any steroids or improper substances. Hardin tries to discredit McNamee and bemoans the destruction of Clemens' reputation.

Dec. 15, 2007 - Andy Pettitte admits to using HGH twice in 2002 to assist his healing.

Dec. 19, 2007 - Roger Clemens forcefully denies having ever used any banned substances.
Dec. 21, 2007 - Clemens' attorney Rusty Hardin threatens to sue anyone who alleges that Roger Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs, leading nearly every blogger on the face of the Earth to definitively state that Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs. To our knowledge, Hardin has not sued any of us yet.
Dec. 23, 2007 - Clemens releases a video to YouTube denying allegations of steroids use.

Jan. 6, 2008 - Clemens appears on 60 Minutes with Mike Wallace to deny the allegations. Clemens states that he was only injected with lidocaine and B-12, neither of which make any sense. I don't feel like linking it, but Google "clemens lidocaine b12 bullshit" and check out some of the results.

Jan. 6, 2008 - Clemens' attorneys file a defamation suit against Brian McNamee (on a Sunday). The bulk of the complaint serves to recount Clemens' resume. Whether that suit has actually been served upon McNamee, and whether McNamee has filed a countersuit, is not yet known.

Jan. 7, 2008 - Jon Heyman of CNNSI scores an exclusive interview with Brian McNamee, in which McNamee sticks to his guns.

Jan. 7, 2008 - Clemens' group holds press conference in which they play a tape of a Jan. 5 phone call between Clemens and McNamee that was recorded without McNamee's knowledge or consent. The whole ordeal makes Clemens look like an ass, and McNamee doesn't say anything to indicate that he's not being truthful.

Jan. 10, 2008 - Clemens' attorneys claim that McNamee is dodging Clemens' attempts to serve McNamee with the filed defamation suit. This is odd, because McNamee is not exactly in hiding.
Jan. 14, 2008 - Clemens' attorneys hedged about whether Clemens would testify under oath before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, claiming that it could interfere with his defamation lawsuit against McNamee. People with a brain wonder what Clemens could say under oath that would hurt his case alleging that McNamee is a liar.

Jan. 24, 2008 - Congress establishes hearings on Feb. 13, 2008, with Clemens, Pettitte, McNamee, Kirk Radomski and Chuck Knoblauch scheduled to appear.

Jan. 28, 2008 - Clemens' agent releases a statistical report which supposedly shows that mathematically there is no evidence of steroids. Everyone laughs.

Jan. 29 to Feb. 5, 2008 - All parties scheduled to appear before Congress on Feb. 13, 2008, are deposed under oath in advance of their testimony.

Feb. 4, 2008 - The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee schedules a hearing entitled "Myths and Facts about Human Growth Hormone, B12, and Other Substances." for Feb. 12, 2008, the day before Clemens' testimony. Apparently they want to be fully educated about the differences between vitamin B12, lidocaine and HGH before Clemens lies to them.

Feb. 7, 2008 - News breaks that McNamee turned syringes, bloody gauze and other physical evidence over to the Feds. Clemens makes a tour of Capitol Hill, meeting with Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Tom Davis (R-VA) and others.

Feb. 8, 2008 - McNamee alleges that he also injected Clemens' wife, Debbie, with HGH in advance of a 2003 couples Sports Illustrated shoot.

Feb. 10, 2008 - Economists and statisticians at the motherf-ing Wharton School of Business at Penn refute Clemens' statistical analysis and claim it actually DOES show a sudden improvement.

Feb. 10, 2008 - House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) sends a nasty letter to Rusty Hardin admonishing him for comments made about FBI agent Jeff Novitzky. Best quote:
[A]s a witness in our independent investigation, it is not your client's prerogative to dictate who attends or does not attend the hearing. Given your long service as both a prosecutor and a private attorney, I trust you did not intend your comments to be a signal that there could be adverse repercussions to a federal law enforcement official for attending the hearing or taking other official actions.
Feb. 13, 2008 - All parties will testify publicly before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee beginning at 10 a.m. in the Rayburn Building. Notable Committee members include Republicans Tom Davis, Chris Shays (CT), and Darrell Issa (CA), and Democrats Waxman, Dennis Kucinich (OH), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) and Marylanders Cummings, Chris Van Hollen and John Sarbanes.


Rusty Hardin and Roger Clemens had one strategy from the outset: paint McNamee as a government snitch who would throw anyone under the bus to save his own ass. Their entire strategy relied on a few key points:

1) Roger Clemens is believable
2) Roger would refrain from saying anything stupid (B12 and lidocaine for example)
3) McNamee would not be believable
4) Andy Pettitte would not corroroborate McNamee's story
5) McNamee was not holding onto to physical evidence that tends to support his story

Well, Roger and Rusty are oh-fer. Now we get to the sticky part. Since important parties Pettitte, McNamee and Roger Clemens have given SWORN deposition testimony, and will give SWORN Congressional testimony, they are all extremely vulnerable to perjury and contempt of Congress charges if any are shown to be liars.

According to Rusty Hardin, Clemens will not invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination when he testifies on Wednesday. That goes against the advice of noted legal genius Alan Dershowitz. McNamee has nothing to lose in his testimony, as he has vowed to fully cooperate with the Feds. Plus, McNamee just saw that Mets clubhouse supplier Kirk Radomski received only probation for his major involvement in steroids trafficking. Andy Pettitte must not have given any interesting deposition testimony, as he, along with Knoblauch and Radomski, have been removed from the witness list for tomorrow, though Reps. Waxman and Davis pointed out that they cooperated fully.

As noted here, the physical evidence produced by McNamee is not enough alone to convict Roger of perjury beyond a reasonable doubt, no matter what he says. The evidence is old and has always been in the possession of McNamee, which poses the O.J. Simpson/Mark Fuhrman problem: McNamee could have done anything to that evidence over the past half-decade and he had access to Clemens' blood. Old evidence can still be damning (ask Bill Clinton about blue dresses and errant "shots"), but by itself it will not rise to the level of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Roger told a material lie under oath.

However, the combination of McNamee's physical evidence, his testimony, and any other evidence that might come to light could be enough to get Roger into hot water criminally. Plus, the lawsuit Clemens' "filed" (but apparently has not served) alleging defamation by McNamee is looking more and more like a liability. McNamee would likely win a countersuit based on what we now know. Though less likely, if Roger flakes and refuses to show up or testify at all he would be at risk of being found in contempt of Congress, a rarely used mechanism intended to punish those who obstruct Congressional investigations.

While we know that the hearing on Wednesday will begin at 10 a.m., the actual order of witnesses has not been revealed. This is important, because if Roger is scheduled to testify first (as I assume he will be), he won't know what McNamee will say later in the day. His demeanor and appearance will tell volumes before the other witnesses ever say a word. In fact, Roger may have already perjured himself in his sworn deposition testimony. He has no idea what McNamee and Pettitte told the staff attorneys who deposed the group, and if he gave false deposition testimony, no matter what he says in the public hearing, he can be charged. Barry Bonds would be quick to tell you that you don't have to lie in open court to face federal perjury charges. A ton of federal "guests" will tell you that, Wesley Snipes aside, the Feds don't bring losing cases.

Then again, Roger could be telling the truth. I just added that in case Hardin gets around to filing all those defamation lawsuits. I've been to Houston, and I don't want to go back just to wipe the floor with his showboating ass.

Ugliest Suits Worn by Coaches

The following is a pictorial catalog of the lengths to which coaches will go to ingratiate themselves with their boosters. This countdown goes from least offensive to most offensive, and I do not even pretend that this is a comprehensive listing. If you thought Maryland's gold uniforms were bad, wait til you get to the bottom of this list.

5. Roy Williams - UNC. Being a classy guy and with a good color to work with, Roy pulls off the matching blazer and tie without too much effort.

"I know I look good!"

4. Sidney Lowe - NC State. The bright red is a little much, looks like something you could get at a thrift store.

"I'm applauding myself, because no one else will."

3. Rick Pitino - Louisville. Pitino's white suit Saturday night for the whiteout game against G'Town washed him out so badly that his team couldn't concentrate. The change to a traditional black suit at halftime energized his team for a second half comeback. Little Ricky should stick to the pinstripes.

Pitino (right) couldn't even get support from his team, leaving him quite mad.

2. Bruce Pearl - Tennessee. In an ordinary year, the man who painted his body orange for a women's basketball game would be #1. The orange blazer and tie combo is blindingly garish and totally awful. Conveniently, he blends into the Vols' bright orange court from other angles, lessening the effect. You have to think he would glow in the dark and serve as an emergency exit light if the power went out during a game.

"Hey! Look at me!"

1. Bob Huggins - West Virginia. Putting the others on this list to shame, the coach known for anger is putting his style foot forward. You have to acknowledge his commitment, going with a full suit instead of just the blazer. While the color isn't as bright, the gold shoes put him over the top for #1. Even the assistant has to hang his head in shame for this fashion faux-pas.

"Don't I look great in my pimp suit?"

Feel free to suggest your own candidates.

Rep. Lantos Passes Away -- Was Part of Oversight Committee

U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) passed away today at the age of 80 due to complications of cancer to the esophagus. Lantos was the second ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but due to his health it is not known what role, if any, he would have played in Wednesday's hearings.

Lantos is the only Holocaust survivor to ever be elected to Congress.

Skins Coach Zorn Cannot Wait to Coach Maroon and Black

Somehow this slipped through the cracks over the weekend.

New Redskins Head Coach and prior Seahawks QBs Coach Jim Zorn expressed his excitement at coaching the "maroon and black." (Though some reports have him saying "maroon, black and gold", getting at least one color right.) Does Zorn know he isn't coaching Texas Tech or the Orlando Predators of the AFL?

He also apparently raved about the idea of starting with only 10 players on defense against Buffalo a week and a half after Sean Taylor was murdered, calling it "pretty awesome". That was, of course, a Gregg Williams idea that was never communicated to Gibbs. Many believe that cost Williams his shot at being head coach.

blahblahblahblah Look out league! The Seahawks have PhotoShop.

He also apparently let it slip that he was first contacted about the head coaching gig THREE DAYS before he was hired, after months of day-long (if not longer) interviews by Snyder.

Oh, and in case you didn't think Jim Fassel is bitter:

“Someone told me that Jim Zorn has three jobs he hasn’t done now,” Jim Fassel told CBSSports.com. “He’s a head coach, and he’s never done it. He’s an offensive coordinator, and he’s never done it. And he’s calling the plays, and he’s never done it.”

John McGrath of The (Tacoma, WA) News Tribune tells us that isn't entirely accurate, as he was offensive coordinator at Utah State (1992 to 1994, so at least more recent than the Skins' last Super Bowl) and also probably called some of the plays for those great 1976 to 1984 Seahawks squads he quarterbacked.

But have no fear Redskins fans -- Zorn is ready. Upon seeing the three Lombardi trophies (only two won in strike years), Zorn said "I look at these three trophies and it is quite intimidating." Regarding his reaction to Snyder offering him the job, Zorn said to Snyder, "Certainly, I'd like to do that," adding, "It was a bit shocking. After that I got my game face on and tried to get after it."

Many older Seahawks fans (they exist) will remember that line fondly. At halftime during the 1983 AFC Championship Game, after deciding to bench starting quarterback Dave Krieg, Seattle head coach Chuck Knox asked Jim Zorn if he was ready to lead the Wild Card Hawks to the Super Bowl. Zorn looked deeply into Knox's eyes and delivered his inspired reply, "Certainly, I'd like to do that." The Seahawks narrowly missed coming back from the 20-0 halftime deficit to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders, losing by the respectable score of 30-14. The Raiders went on to humiliate the Maroon and Black in Super Bowl XVIII by the score of 38-9, behind Marcus Allen's then-record rushing performance.
Steve Largent, now a Congressman familiar with Washington, had this advice for Zorn, "[Seattle fans] don't turn negative on you like they do here. Jim'll have to adjust and know that."

And please, don't be silly. It's just a coincidence that no player has publicly said anything either way about the signing. They don't know anything about him either.

February 10, 2008

Congress to Clemens' Attorney Hardin - Shut Up or We'll Charge You, Too!

Roger Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, fears that IRS agent Jeff Novitzky, a key steroid investigator, will attend Wednesday's public hearing on steroids before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Hardin reported stated "I can tell you this: If he ever messes with Roger, Roger will eat his lunch."

Well, Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) took some offense to those comments. You can see a PDF version of the letter he sent to Hardin here, but since it's public record, let me reproduce it here. Please save laughter and applause until the end.

blahblahblahblahb For the love of God, STOP F-ING WITH THE FEDS PEOPLE!
Dear Mr. Hardin:
I read with some concern your comments in the New York Times today. According to the New York Times, you said it would be "unbelievable" and "brazen" if a federal agent, Jeff Novitzky, attended a Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, February 13.
The article also reported that you said: "I can tell you this: If he ever messes with Roger, Roger will eat his lunch."
Some of the previous comments by both you and the attorneys representing Mr. McNamee in recent weeks have struck me as inadvisable but I have refrained from making any comment. If today's quotation is accurate, however, it goes beyond any personal enmity that exists between Roger Clemens and Mr. McNamee. I do not know your intent in making this statement, but under one interpretation it can be seen an attempt to intimidate a federal law enforcement official in the performance of his official duties.
I have never met with or spoken to Mr. Novitzky and have no information whether he intends to attend the hearing. As an independent branch of government, our inquiry operates independently of the executive branch.
And as a witness in our independent investigation, it is not your client's prerogative to dictate who attends or does not attend the hearing. Given your long service as both a prosecutor and a private attorney, I trust you did not intend your comments to be a signal that there could be adverse repercussions to a federal law enforcement official for attending the hearing or taking other official actions.
I would urge you to clarify the record at your earliest convenience.

I could never overstate how much damage Rusty Hardin has done to Roger Clemens from the outset. He put all his eggs in Clemens' basket, and now he's pissed off the very Committee that is going to grill Roger Wednesday. Can you be disbarred for being stupid?
(Since posting, ESPN, CNNSI and other outlets have picked up on the letter.)