August 1, 2008

In Honor of the late great Estelle Getty

Some of you may have noted that last week, the late great Estelle Getty passed away. You may remember her as the comic foil on Golden Girls who drew laughs with such lines as, "My hearing aid is turned up so high, I can hear a pigeon fart in Fort Lauderdale."

"It's funny because she's senile and we dressed her up in a pirate hat. It can't miss!" - Golden Girls writers

Well some of our more loyal readers may remember that last year we had an ECB mascot contest where each of our posters picked our college football mascot with an unbeatable name. For instance, Brien chose Navy Quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada.

We have an early clubhouse leader in this year's ECB mascot contest. And we didn't have to look far to find him. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, from The University of Maryland Terrapins...

standing six feet, six inches tall, weighing in at 350 pounds, a redshirt freshman from Hoboken, New Jersey, #71, offensive lineman...

Bearthur Johnson

Some of you may remember that also on The Golden Girls, Bea Arthur played the role of Estelle Getty's daughter, Dorothy. Now, the only saving grace for Mr. Johnson that keeps him out of our mascot hall of fame and makes us think that his mother and father are not the cruelest people alive is the fact that we now believe his paternal grandmother and grandfather are the cruelest people alive. For, you see, Bearthur Johnson of the Terps is the son of Bearthur Johnson Sr.

Still... pops... I get that you want to keep the family tradition alive, but come on. Why do that to your son?

But Terp fans, grab a slice of cheesecake, pull up a chair, watch Bearthur protect Steffy/Turner/Portis, and thank you for being a friend.

Look how they massacred my team

Well, at least my Washington Nationals are relevant. Relevant in the sense that we are now officially the butt of everyone's jokes in Major League Baseball.

Exhibit A, from this week's Onion:

Yes, in case you can't read, coming in a close third place is that 19% of Americans are pissing away their summers "playing for the Washington Nationals."

Exhibit B: This little nugget from today's Dallas Star-Telegram sports blog about a prank the Texas Rangers pulled on pitcher Eddie Guardado:

For a change, joke is on Guardado
Master prankster Eddie Guardado knew his time was overdue after the practical jokes he has pulled on his Texas Rangers teammates and the club's front-office personnel so far this season.

Payback came Thursday afternoon as the trade deadline was approaching.

The story -- as told by Guardado, manager Ron Washington and general manager Jon Daniels -- is pretty dang good.

Guardado's pregame routine starts with some time in the steam room to help the process of getting his 37-year-old body loose.

"I called down to Wash and said, 'We're going to take this chance to get back at Eddie,' " Daniels said. "Wash kept a straight face."

Guardado's steam is usually time that goes without interruption. That's why he just knew he had been traded when Washington came in and said Daniels needed to see him upstairs.

"As soon as I walked out, I said, 'Where am I going, bro?' " Guardado recalled. "Wash had his head down and goes, 'I think it's the Washington Nationals.' "

As in the last-place, worst-in-baseball Nationals. Washington directed him to go to the Rangers' fourth-floor offices to hear the news from Daniels.

Guardado continued: "I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' Are you kidding me?" So, I went and got dressed, and I turned around and said, 'Wash, are you serious? The Nationals?' "

"So, I'm thinking, 'I'm going to kill somebody.' I'm was hot. I was hot. I was hot. I can't lie to you, I was hot.' "

So I get up there, and [front-office members] Jay Robertson, Thad Levine, Scott Servais, John Hart, all of those guys were in there. So, JD comes and gets me, and as soon as I see him, I say, 'The Washington Nationals?'

"I guess he saw it in my eyes. He goes, 'Man, I can't hold it in. You're a Ranger.'

"There was a cake there with a knife in it. I told him, 'You're lucky, bro,' because I was about to stick him.' You thought [former Astros pitcher Shawn] Chacon did something bad to a GM."

After it was over, Guardado admitted it was a good prank.

"It's been awhile since I've been got," he said. "I deserved it."

So the Nationals are truly this bad. A nine-game losing streak. Worst record in the majors at 38-70, a full 21 games out of the NL East lead. And so bad that even the friggin' Texas Rangers are horrified at the thought of having to play for us. A lineup for tonight's game that will likely read Jesus Flores (C), Odalis Perez (P), Kory Casto (1B), Emilio Bonifacio (2B), Alberto Gonzalez (SS), Ryan Zimmerman (3B, but possibly out with a hand injury leading to possibly Ronnie Belliard playing out of position there), Austin Kearns (RF - hitting a monster .212), Lastings Milledge (CF), Elijah Dukes (LF).

Seriously Nationals? This is your "plan" that you've been hyping so much? I'm disgusted and embarrassed. Thank goodness this series against the Reds is on a weekend so we can at least maybe flirt with 30,000 tickets sold. But we can all be glad Felipe Lopez is off the team. Not even DFA'ed. Outright released.

But don't forget... the Nats are now relevant. I think I'd rather we be irrelevant.

Stadium Review: Phog Allen Fieldhouse

Last week I was in Kansas visiting family and got a chance to see Phog Allen Fieldhouse. I should probably disclose my allegiances right up front: I'm a Maryland fan, but my grandparents live in Kansas so I've always liked the Jayhawks.

The Campus and Lawrence
One thing that always surprises me when I visit Kansas is how it's not really flat. Eastern Kansas has a lot of hills, and the KU campus is very hilly. It's a really nice campus, though. Some of the buildings look a little dated, and it doesn't have the consistent look for all the buildings that schools like Maryland, UVA, and Georgetown go for. But there's lots of open space and it looks like a great place to go to school.

Lawrence is an awesome college town. The main drag (Massachusetts Street) is lined with shops and restaurants and bars, with a real Small Town USA feel to it. We were only there for a few hours during the day (and it's Summer) but I could imagine how it would be on a Saturday night or after a basketball game.

The Facade

When we pulled up to Allen Fieldhouse, we parked in a garage right next to the building. We didn't even realize how close we were to the arena until we looked at the map. From the outside, it doesn't look like much. I don't know if we just approached from the wrong side of the building, but I wasn't too impressed with the outside.

After walking through the building, I stepped outside and got a picture of the entrance to the Booth Family Hall of Athletics (more on that later) with a statue of Phog Allen. If this is the main entrance to the fieldhouse, it looks nice, but nothing too special. Fortunately, what Allen Fieldhouse lacks in external charm, it more than makes up for once you step inside.

The Floor
After a friendly athletic department employee helped us find one of the unlocked doors into the building, we were able to step right out onto the floor of the arena (ignoring the small sign saying the floor was not open to the public).

In this picture, Allen Fieldhouse looks almost like an NBA arena, but in person that's definitely not the case. It reminded me a lot of Cole Fieldhouse (the old Maryland arena). The building is a huge barn or aircraft hangar. The scoreboard looks very new, but that's about the only modern amenity in the whole building.

The Stands
Other than the tan seats in the upper left of the photo above, all of the seats are bleachers. I think sitting on bleachers would be annoying, but I can see how it would let you pack in more people closer together, which should make the building very loud on gamedays (plus, who sits down at college basketball games?).

The concourses are all hidden under the stands and there are no luxury boxes. It didn't look like there has been a lot of upgrades done to the concourses since the arena was built, but the facilities are nice enough. I'm not big on buying food at sports events anyway, so it doesn't bother me to have only a few concession stands without much selection.

What is most striking about walking into the stands is the history you can feel in the building. There have been so many great players who've stepped on that floor over the years, and you really get a sense that it's a very special place for college basketball.

The Museum

Without a doubt, the coolest thing about Allen Fieldhouse is the KU Athletics museum attached to it (called the Booth Family Hall of Athletics). All of the history you feel inside Phog is presented in artifacts and exhibits on the entire history of sports at KU. Everything from James Naismith to Dean Smith to Wilt Chamberlain to the 2008 NCAA Championship trophy (and a bunch of stuff from other sports) is covered there.

Hey, we have one of those, too!

When it comes to basketball history, there's nothing older than James Naismith

The original floor from Allen Fieldhouse

Final Thoughts
I came in expecting to like Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but I left loving it. I definitely want to get back and see a Jayhawks game there. I can only imagine how loud and rocking the atmosphere is during a game. In fact, we enjoyed the visit so much that we even bought my son a KU shirt.

I don't really know how to give Allen Fieldhouse an overall rating, except to say that it's definitely one of the shrines of college hoops and visiting it made me wish that Maryland had kept Cole Fieldhouse around instead of replacing it.

I've looked a few times for good Maryland-related desktop wallpapers, so I thought KU fans might like this wallpaper I made from one of the pictures I took during the visit.

July 31, 2008

Other Things Bill Belichick Tapes

A disgruntled Patriots beat reporter leaked news today of a possible Bill Belichick sex tape. Leave aside the awfulness of that thought for a second. Now we know Belichick likes taping opponents' signals and his own adulterous liasons. We here at ECB wondered what else Belichick like taping?

Tom Brady in the Locker Room

When in the presence of an Adonis like Tom The Golden Boy, how can you resist sneaking a peek? Hidden cameras are a lot less conspicuous than staring and gawking. Plus, if the players caught you checking out Brady's babymaker, it might compromise your hard-ass reputation.

Celebrity Family Feud

Bill just can't get enough of that Al Roker. He's so funny!

The Office Cookie Jar

Bill's legendary paranoia extends to the team's snack food supply also. Who the hell ate the last cookie!

The Gillette Stadium Press Box

You thought the opposing sideline was the only thing at Gillette Stadium under surveillance? Think again! Bill reviews in-game tapes of the press box to see if anyone says something nasty about him or questions one of his decisions. That's how he decides who to be really rude to in the post-game press conference. Everyone else just gets impudence.

Bridget Moynahan

Bill keeps 24-7 coverage on Moynahan just in case that ungrateful, gold-digging hussy tries to spring any more "surprise" babies on Tom.

July 30, 2008

Shameless Begging

Hugging Harold Reynolds is holding the fifth round of their ongoing Iron Ref competition. Three blogs go head to head using a secret ingredient (topic) and readers vote on their favorites. This week, we're locked in a brutal deathmatch with two other presumably inferior opponents.

Go here. Vote in the comments. For your vote to be valid, it must include the words "East Coast Bias" or ECB. After you submit your vote, hold Ctrl-F4 to lock it in.

Put Skateboarding in the Olympics

The 14th (can you believe it?) installment of the X Games kicks off tomorrow, and it will be followed next weekend by the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics. While the Winter Olympics have borrowed heavily from the Winter X Games, the summer versions of the events haven't had much overlap so far. That needs to change - it's time to put skateboarding in the Olympics.

Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have snowboarding in the Olympics. Skiing was a respectable sport, but snowboarding was just an excuse for punk kids to terrorize your nice family outing on the slopes. Now snowboarding is just as much a part of the Olympics as skiing. Parallel giant slalom, superpipe and snowboard cross are Olympic events, and the last two were lifted directly from the Winter X Games. The snowboard cross event in particular was completely stolen from Winter X. All Olympic skiing events are raced against the clock, but the X Games puts snowboarders and skiers all on the same course at the same time. This makes for much more interesting racing, and it's a credit to the International Olympic Committee that it took note and adopted one of the best innovations of the X Games.

Unlike its hibernal sister, the Summer Olympics have resisted adopting anything that might be considered "extreme." Sure, every year there are exhibition sports that show some crappy sport that's popular wherever the Olympics are being held, but it's time for the Olympics to grow and welcome in a little piece of the X Games: skateboarding.

Fourteen years of the X Games (and about 20 years of skateboarding before that) have led to a sport that is mature but still exciting and growing all the time. The most obvious candidate for adoption as an Olympic sport would be the halfpipe. Halfpipe (or "vert" as it is called in the X Games) is the most recognizeable skateboarding discipline. It would also have natural parallels with the Winter Olympics snowboarding superpipe.

Some purists and Luddites will undoubtedly resist such a change, but these same people probably resisted adding baseball in 1992 and beach volleyball in 1996. The Olympics has always added events (albeit slowly) for sports that become popular. Skateboarding has clearly reached the point where it's ready for inclusion in the biggest sports event in the world.

Plus, who doesn't want to see more of this guy?

OK, maybe it's not such a good idea after all.

July 27, 2008

Final Tour de France Thoughts

Carlos Sastre won the Tour de France today, making good on my pre-race prediction and securing the third straight yellow jersey for Spain. Sastre capitalized on an amazing breakaway up the Alpe-d'Huez and locked up the win with a strong showing in the final time trial. My quick-hit thoughts below:

  • Cadel Evans is quickly earning permanent bridesmaid status. This is two years running that he's had a chance to win the Tour headng into the final time trial (his speciality). Second place is great, but it's not a win.
  • Between Euro 2008, Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon, and now this, Spain is having quite a good summer so far. Bodog has Spain at 7/2 to win the Olympic gold in basketball. Just a thought.
  • Even with the Riccardo Ricco incident, the Tour managed to avoid the catastrophic doping scandals this year. Hopefully this is a sign that the sport has turned a corner, finally.
  • For all the jokes about how having the NHL on Versus meant that no one could watch it, I thought that most cable systems carry Versus. Apparently not in Kansas. I'm visiting family outside of Topeka this week, and I couldn't find a way to watch any of the last few stages (including Alpe-d'Huez). Either Versus needs to start talking to cable companies, or Kansas needs to get its shit together.
  • Here's hoping we see Astana back in the Tour next year. That was way too many big (clean) names excluded from a race that's hurting for star appeal.
  • Early 2009 Tour predictions:
    • Yellow Jersey: Alberto Contador - assuming Astana is allowed back in, I think he'll be riding with a lot to prove.
    • Green Jersey: Mark Cavendish - the Team Columbia rider was a revelation this year, and I think next year will be the first of several points jerseys won by the Brit
    • Polka Dot Jersey: Andy Shleck - his older brother Frank took most of the headlines this year, but Andy (who won the white jersey for the best young rider) never looked tired in the mountains. I think we'll see him win a yellow jersey before his career is over
    • White Jersey: Roman Kreuziger - he fell just short this year, but he's only 22, so he has a few more years to try.
That's it for this year, I hope some of you actually tuned in to the Tour and came to enjoy it. If not, there's always next year.