July 24, 2008

Those Who Forget the Past Are Doomed to Be Rutgers

Apparently, Rutgers does not read the Washington Post, now or in 1972.

Rutgers President Richard McCormick admitted, somewhat sheepishly, that football coach (and guido savior) Greg Schiano is receiving an additional $250,000 a year on top of his disclosed contract. The funds are being funnelled through the university's sports marketing firm.

blahblablahblahblahblahblahblah Coming soon to Morgantown?

Hmm, public funds diverted through a slush fund for the personal benefit of the most powerful man on campus? Schiano is not a crook. Actually, the marketing firm claims that no public funds were used and that the payment came from money generated by the firm. Still, it looks bad.

But that's not the biggest blunder. At least the funds were already tabbed for sports purposes (Thelma and Ray Rice Particle Accelerator still on schedule). Rutgers' monumental f-up is that they granted Schiano an opt-out provision in his ten-year contract. Normally, Schiano would owe $500,000 if he were to pull a RichRod. Under a secret addendum to the contract, Schiano owes nothing if additions to Rutgers' stadium are not completed on time. Expansion is scheduled to be complete prior to the 2009 season.

Flash back to April of this year. Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner revealed that he was seeking a $100,000 per day penalty against the District of Columbia for failing to have the stadium "substantially complete" prior to Opening Day. If you watched ESPN, the stadium sure looked complete. Apparently some office space was not, and still is not, totally finished. He's also withholding rent.

If Rutgers reads the news at all, I hope they had the sense to really define "complete" before granting Schiano a get out of Jersey free card (cash value = eleventy billion dollars).

July 22, 2008

Caption Contest!

This time there's no prize. And we're doing it in the comments, so don't send any emails.

Extra points for Big Lebowski references.

Photo from Jezebel via Mr. Irrelevant

July 21, 2008

Jeremy Shockey > Jason Taylor?!?!

The Redskins indirectly embarrassed the New Orleans Saints, who reportedly have sent second and fifth round draft picks to the Giants for cancerous TE Jeremy Shockey. The Redskins yesterday traded a second and sixth to acquire Jason Taylor.

Can anyone say with a straight face that Jeremy Shockey, the loud-mouthed, oft-injured malcontent is MORE VALUABLE to the Saints than Jason Taylor is to the Redskins? When Philip Daniels went down with a torn ACL on the first day of camp, the Redskins were left with no quality DEs and an already shaky secondary. Jeremy Shockey really adds more value than that?

To make matters worse, something feels wrong about the Saints this season despite their weak division. I suspect their second round pick might be higher than the Redskins', and I'm not expecting better than 8-8 for the Skins.

Oh, and Jeremy Shockey + New Orleans = death and destruction. Talk about a guy and a city that should not mix under ANY circumstances.

Tour de France Rest Day Report #2

Now the Tour really starts. After two weeks of cat-and-mouse games in the flat stages and the Pyrenees, we're down to 6 riders with a shot at the yellow jersey. The time in between the rest days was mostly for the sprinters, but yesterday's first Alpine stage set the tone for the week to come.

I think everyone expected to see the field separate a little bit after Stage 15 yesterday, with a few of the contenders dropping off. Instead, we're left with 6 riders within a minute of new leader Frank Schleck. Here's a look at how close the standings are at the top of the leaderboard:

Rider Team Gaps
2. KOHL Bernhard GEROLSTEINER + 00' 07"
3. EVANS Cadel SILENCE - LOTTO + 00' 08"
4. MENCHOV Denis RABOBANK + 00' 38"
6. SASTRE Carlos TEAM CSC SAXO BANK + 00' 49"

That's really close. Any of those six have a shot at winning it all, and the next two stages will thin down that field even further. Tuesday and Wednesday are both grueling mountain stages in the Alps, with the climax being Wednesday's finish atop L'Alpe-d'Huez.

If you're going to watch one stage of the Tour de France this year, it should be Wednesday. There are 3 "HC" category climbs in the stage. HC means hors categorie, French for "The f-ing thing is too big to categorize." The finish line is at the top of L'Alpe-d'Huez, the Tour's most famous mountain. It will be packed with fans lining its famed switchbacks and you'll see some of the best athletes in the world reach the point where they can't keep up with their rivals. There aren't many sports events where athletes with unbelievable conditioning are forced to say "You know what, I can't do this anymore, you guys go on ahead without me."

The two stages in the Alps will set the stage for Saturday's final time trial. It's unlikely that anyone will have a big enough lead coming into the time trial to coast, so this is the stage that will really determine the winner. No teams, no slip-streaming, just each individual rider pushing himself to try to gain every second possible. It's going to be a great finish.

This is probably pointless, but I'm going to take a stab at predicting what will happen in the final week of the Tour. Either Tuesday or Wednesday (possibly both) we'll see Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre try to break away from the field to gain some time on the leaders. Menchov can do it (he almost did yesterday, but his wheel slipped out from under him as soon as he started to break away), and I think we'll see him wearing yellow into the time trial. Cadel Evans looked spent at the finish yesterday, and I don't think he'll be able to make up time on Schleck until the time trial, which may be too late. Kohl and Vandevelde are just happy to be in this position, and won't try to attack too much, which would risk them falling further down in the standings.

For Menchov to win, he'll have to stay on the bike

That leaves only Schleck, who has the best team around him of the overall contenders. He won't be alone in the climbs up the Alps, which will help him greatly. I think if Menchov can overtake him, Schleck will still manage to stay within striking distance going into the time trial. If that happens, it's anyone's guess whether Schleck or Menchov can pull out the victory in the time trial.

July 20, 2008

Impressive Accomplishment or Just Another Choke Job?

Watching Greg Norman's lead slip away in the final round of the British Open today, I couldn't help wondering how the headlines would treat the biggest sports story of the weekend. Would we see lots of "At Age 53, Norman Makes One Last Run at Greatness" or would the headlines read "Norman Chokes Away Another Major"? Which is the more interesting angle on the story? I wasn't sure, so here's a breakdown.

Greg Norman tries to commit Seppuku with a wedge.

The Case for Amazing
Seriously, the guy is 53 years old. No one expected to see him on the first page of the leaderboard at any point this weekend. He played a great tournament and still finished tied for third. Watching him play, it looked less like he was choking and more like his driver just started letting him down. If Freddy Couples played that Open, no one would call it a Choke. We'd be talking about how well his game has held up and how you don't have to hit monster drives to compete. Norman hadn't even made the cut in a PGA Tour event so far this year. Last year he didn't play in any tour events. It isn't like the guy was in his best form ever, so it's pretty impressive for him to compete in such difficult situations.

Also, we can't overlook the fact that Padraig Harrington shot a 69 in difficult conditions. On the back 9, he shot an otherworldly 32. It's not like Norman missed a gimmie put on 18 to give away the title. Harrington blew the rest of the field, including Norman, out of the water. He's a deserving 2-time Open Champion, and I'm not looking forward to seeing him in the Ryder Cup.

The Case for Choke Job
This is the 7th time Norman has lost a major after holding the 54 hole lead. The 7th time. If he had won all of those, he'd have 9 majors, putting him in a tie for 4th all time with Gary Player and Ben Hogan behind only Nicklaus, Tiger, and Walter Hagen. Basically, if he wasn't a choker he'd be considered one of the all-time greats. He came into a situation where he needed to shoot even par to all but guarantee himself the win. He tried too many risky shots and seemed to get a case of the yips on his long shots.

Everyone loves stories about the players or teams who can't ever quite seem to seal the deal when it matters. The Red Sox before they finally broke through, the Colts before they finally won the Super Bowl, Phil Mickelson before he won the Masters - they all captured the imagination of the country, but they were all pale imitations of Greg Norman. The fact that he came back from the grave to put in one more "close but no cigar" performance is clearly the story of the weekend.

So what do you think? Which is the more interesting angle on the story?

Redskins Trade for Jason Taylor

Adding a Pro Bowl DE will help the Skins this year, but not two years from now.

Very quickly after Daniels' torn ACL, the Redskins have acquired Jason Taylor from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a 2nd round 2009 draft pick and a 6th round 2010 pick. Given that the Dolphins were rumored to be asking for a 1st round pick, the Redskins probably got good value in this trade. The Dolphins seem happy to be rid of Taylor, after his relationship with Parcells became strained during "Dancing with the Stars".

The real question is whether this helps the Redskins. Obviously, it fills a need for the team at DE in the short term, with Daniels out for the year and Erasmus James unable to practice right now. However, Jason Taylor is not likely to play beyond 2010, already a 12 year veteran who will turn 34 before the season starts.

Parcells got tired of seeing dancing instead of wind sprints.

Last year, the Skins squeaked into the playoffs from 3rd place in the NFC East, and it's hard to see them improving on that result this year. Zorn is a first-year head coach, and the systems on both sides of the ball will be completely different. The team certainly has talent, but the division will be quite tough this year. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, and the Cowboys had the best record in the NFC last year. Meanwhile, Philly has made some interesting off-season moves and should not be overlooked.

I think Jason Taylor will definitely make the Redskins better this year, but I don't think they will make the playoffs with or without him. In order to build a team for the future, we should be using those draft picks on young players who can develop with the rest of the young nucleus that has been assembled in Washington. Instead, Taylor represents a high-priced free agent who can help the team in the short term, but will be taking dollars and plays away from others who could be valuable starters in a couple years. Yet another short-term decision by the worst management team in the NFL. Way to go Danny.