31 January 2007

Welcome To February


As we are now into the second month of the year, the NFL season has a mere four days left of its season (excluding the Pro Bowl). The NBA and NHL playoff races begin heating up and NCAA basketball teams jockey for Conference position and better RPI ratings ahead of March's selection sunday. The PGA Tour continues its West Coast swing stopping at famous links such as Pebble and Riviera as Tiger continues his sickness. Fans of NASCAR will be happy to know that the Daytona 500 kicks off another season of 30+ races of only left turns, crashes, and crazy pit crews screwing on tires with air hoses. In Europe, the premier soccer competition resumes its winter break as the Champions League commences its round of 16 matches when 2006 winners Barcelona take on 2005 winners Liverpool. Four time winner Bayern Munich takes on a Beckham on the bench Real Madrid a time who has lifted the trophy 9 times since its inception in 1955.

Despite all these exciting sports and the compelling story lines they all bring, in 19 days players will begin to report to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training. We will read that Aubrey Huff began a new training regimen to avoid his notorious slow starts and that Bartolo Colon's and CC Sabathia's weight is not an issue. Other's will have shed 15 pounds at the same time their team mates bulked up by adding 20 pounds. I was building my arm strength and not throwing breaking balls is all too familiar for the fantasy junkie whose pitcher has a 5.24 ERA come late May.

One would be naive to believe that all these claims will transform a mediocre player into a real gem, but we all wish it could happen. As for me, I can't wait for February 20th to roll around so that I can hear the names of places like Kissimmee, Vero Beach, Jupiter, Ft Myers, and Port St Lucie, names that baseball fans know and love. Until then, I wonder which of my future fantasy baseball players will break their bones or get Tommy John surgery like last year (Derrek Lee, Hideki, and Rich Harden).

Why America Loved Barbaro

If Barbaro is buried at Churchill Downs, as he should be, fans of the fallen hero will finally have a place for positive reflection for their grief. Floral tributes will dot his gravesite, cards marked with the crooked handwriting of youth, photographs of the colt trouncing his overmatched peers. They will mourn, but they will also know that Barbaro rests at the site of his greatest triumph, his dominating victory in the 132nd Kentucky Derby. Hopefully, this allows some to forget all that came after he stood in the Winners' Circle with the rose garland across his back, seemingly unbeatable. Hopefully, when his name is mentioned, most will remember the Derby, not the wildly depressing sequence of events that followed it

But my sense is that this will simply not be possible. His gruesome injury on the third Saturday of last May, and the very public struggle to keep him alive in the eight months after have left an indelible mark on the public consciousness. His name will never fit in with the other Derby winners on the collectors' glasses, as a Triple Crown winner, or a horse who faded into mediocrity, or a horse who never seemed to generate enough interest for anyone to remember him. No, instead Barbaro will serve as a martyr, a sad reminder of the ugly intersection between mortality and sport that we would rather not visit. It is bad news for horse racing, a fledgling industry whose mad scientist-like obsession with potential and bloodlines often hijacks the careers of its greatest stars. There is a troubling irony in the notion that when this philosophy of eschewing the present for the future is finally reversed, when a promising thoroughbred sits on the cusp of legend, that potential is unrealized because of something far worse than greed. At least an owner's decision to whisk a horse to the breeding shed in his prime is self-inflicted and, as we have seen with the case of Barbaro, sickly self-aware of equine fragility. At least most of horse racing's bad breaks involve a career-ending injury, or a failed Triple Crown bid where the media darling loses to a better horse. In this instance, only cruel fate is responsible.

It is this cruel fate that lies at the heart of the public fascination with Barbaro. In a society where tragedy is often romanticized after it is mourned, Barbaro's death in action, "with his boots on," as the old westerns say, grabs attention because it is so utterly inconceivable in most other sports. His disturbing breakdown in front of millions is not something we can ever envision in anything other than NASCAR, and that sport has showered itself in polarizing, red-state righteousness to the point of box office parody. Horse racing deals with a disconnect that is truly unique in that its stars are not human; they are majestic but vulnerable creatures, bearing their half-ton bodies on little more than skeletal toothpicks. That the horses ultimately control the outcome is absurd to some, beautiful to others. But their lack of profundity is paradoxically appealing, for horses do not have the despicable qualities of humans that seem to manifest themselves in sports all too often: greed, corruption, violence, sexual assault. The Duke lacrosse and Genarlow Jones cases are compelling human interest stories at best, examples of legal injustice and ballyhooed media mistreatment at worst. At their core, however, are moral issues, questions of accountability, tinges of the decadence that can sometimes define human nature. Media coverage of Barbaro hinged on the survival of the pure, egoless animal itself, thus his fight was a welcome diversion from the normal sports world. The end result, of course, was sad, and reverence will now follow. Will the reverence be too much? It all depends on who you ask, whether or not the sport’s disconnect leaves you thrilled or confused. No one can argue, though, that he was an extraordinary talent, then an extraordinary tragedy, and these two traits have assured him eternal fame.

And now the Derby Trail begins again, and the class of 2007 is faced with the unenviable burden of trying to distract fans from Barbaro’s death, and despair and pessimism reign where there is normally excitement. Here’s hoping that this is the year that the Triple Crown drought finally ends. If I visit Barbaro’s grave site this summer in an obligatory pilgrimage to the track, I want to remember him as one of the most talented horses of his generation, not as a symbol of a sport confined by unfulfilled expectations and defined by heartbreak.

A consistent and persistent lack of appreciation

Tonight, the University of Wisconsin (#2 in the nation) faces off against Indiana (#25 in the nation) in a must-see Big Ten matchup. However, those of us residing on the Eastern Coast must make do without the benefit of television coverage. Instead, we can watch North Carolina (#3 in the nation) against Miami (owner of a 9-12 record) OR digest Ohio State (#4 in the nation) against an unranked, extremely mediocre Purdue team. As an alumnus of UW and a rabid college basketball fan, this is simply outrageous. How is the game between two top-25 conference opponents not televised while TWO games with teams ranked worse than Wisconsin are? This is the most blatant and egregious demonstration of a consistent and persistent lack of appreciation for Wisconsin sports.
If that other team in the Big Ten, (see Michigan), were 21-1, there is little question that they would dominate television coverage. Undoubtedly, Ohio State, who I have seen play 4 times as opposed to Wisconsin's two national television appearances, is benefiting from their recent success in football (though the national championship game leaves one to wonder...). Yet, Wisconsin football finished fifth in the nation this past fall. Why only two national television appearances?
If Florida loses to Vanderbilt tonight (they are down by three with 16:35 left to go in the 2nd half) and Wisconsin is victorious against Indiana, Wisconsin should be the #1 team in the United States. But I wouldn't hold my breath... As my "cultured" friends from the East and West Coasts like to say, "Where the hell is Wisconsin?"

30 January 2007

Slammin' Sammy, or Strike Three?


ESPN and the rest of the baseball world reported Sammy Sosa's contract agreement with the Texas Rangers today. His signing to a minor league deal will easily become one of the top stories of the upcoming spring training (which can't come quick enough).

The Rangers risked little to sign him, may in fact have little room for him. Frank Catalonotto, Kenny Lofton, and Nelson Cruz will be roaming the outfield for the team this season, with Brad Wilkerson serving as backup. This is at best an average foursome, and there is a place for Sammy should he be worthy.

I see the Sosa signing as the ultimate unmasking of the sham the steroid sluggers created. Looking into the crystal ball, I think Sammy's spring training will be a truncated version. Come February it will have been nearly two years since Sammy saw a major league pitch. Will he be able to catch up to a fastball? At age 38 will he be able to run down a ball in the outfield, or will he be nothing more than another Matt Stairs? Unless he's ditched the juice for the fountain of youth, I highly doubt it.

Sammy could have taken the quiet route like Big Mac, and dropped out of the baseball world. But his pride got in the way with the Orioles in 2005, and it's bitten him once again. With all of the cameras watching it will be Sosa who comes to be the epitome of the steroid era. Now clean of steroids, it will be piles of strikeouts and defensive mistakes where homerun trots once existed instead. Without the steroids, without his youth, it will be a quick stint as a Texas Ranger for Sammy Sosa. But it will also be the lasting, final image of the final chapter of Baseball's Steroid Era.

The Crazy Bride and her Athlete Friends



Some of the ladies at work were huddled around a computer screen this morning laughing, and I decided to wander over there and see just what the ruckus was. Believe it or not, they were watching the Crazy Bride video, and it was INSANE. It's a must watch for everyone. It will be perhaps the best 5:22 of your day. I love how they keep cutting to one of the brides-maids (or whatever she was), and she kept laughing! What kind of friend/bridesmaid is she? A GREAT ONE!

The Crazy Bride video made me think of all the nutjobs that are in sports. And, as an excuse to post this amazing YouTube find, this will segue into the craziest players in sports. Crazier than Kobe Bryant being suspended for tonight's game. I've divided the insanity into three categories: On the field Crazy, Altogether crazy, and 'Don't Fuck With These Guys' Crazy.

On The Field Crazy
-Kevin Garnett
Can you find a more intense looking person on the court? You have to give it to him, as he's always the most fired up person on the court. But take his fired up nature, and add it with his goattee, and you've got the look of an angry animal about to charge. But he's supposedly a good guy, so he stays in this category. (Side note: I was shocked to learn last night that he's only scored more than 40 points four times in his career. FOUR! How is that possible? Kobe drops 40 as often as he has to take a piss when he wakes up in the morning.)

-Joe Namath
His desire to kiss Suzy Kolber took place on the field, and it was the highlight of that ESPN broadcast. It also spawned an amazing sports blog, Kissing Suzy Kolber.

-Just about any European Basketball Player
Don't they always just look insane? Radmanovic, Vujacic, Nocioni, Vlade Divac, Slava, the list goes on. They look like they're out of control, and they play out of control. One minute you could be praising their insane play, and the next minute you could just as easily be cursing them.

Altogether Crazy
-Gilbert Arenas
What do you do with a guy who is unpredictable and has absolutely no filter when it comes to what he may say? Give him a blog! Here's a little blurb from the Hibachi:

I wouldn’t pass the ball.

I wouldn’t even think about passing it. It would be like a NBA Live or an NBA 2K7 game, you just shoot with one person.


His latest Duke rant must be acknowledged. Before the NBA.com editors could get their hands on it, this is probably what it looked like:
I'd spit on Wojo, Trangdan, Shane, Duhon, Hill, Laettner, Deng and all the Dookies, making Cherokee Parks my new butler. Then I'll light the hot onion choo choo train on my hibachi at midcourt


He's bound to say anything, shoot from anywhere, and just threw a million dollar birthday party. He's crazy.

-Ron Artest
He could be put in any of these categories. The Brawl, the rap album, the mohawk. Enough said.

Don't Fuck With These Guys
-Tank Johnson
A SWAT team invaded his house, and turned up two assault rifles, four other guns and ammunition. He was charged with 10 felony counts of illegal firearm possession. He's been allowed to play in the Super Bowl. Just what was he planning on doing with this?

-Ray Lewis
I think people have forgotten that this dude was accused of murder, and now he appears on the cover of video games?!

And the winner is:
Rae Carruth!
Rae murdered his girlfriend who was pregnant with his child. He was found hiding in the trunk of his friend's car. That, my friends, is Wild Card crazy!

29 January 2007

The False Myth of Barbaro

Barbaro: April 29, 2003 - January 29, 2007

So it happened. Barbaro was put out to the proverbial pasture. As everyone knows, Barbaro produced an immense reaction among the American public. Donations poured in (something on the order of $1.2 million) to cover his medical care. News tickers brought us constant updates about his status. Letters of sympathy, get well cards, prayer vigils -- he had it all. His personal physician even gave press conferences.

If there are cynical overtones in my post, I apologize. I love animals -- I've had many pets in my life -- but I don't understand the Barbaro reaction. I just don't. Earlier today, Outside the Lines had some sort of tribute to him, which I was unable to watch. Newspapers and sports web sites are overflowing with words about the Glory of Barbaro. But again, I don't understand.

Barbaro may have captured the public's attention and affection, but unlike Seabiscuit, he did not represent the hopes of the American people beyond the universal will to keep on living found in all animals. Nor did he somehow provide a beacon of sunlight in a time of darkness; this may be a rough time for America's position in the world, but that pales in comparison to the troubles experienced by nearly every American during the Great Depression. Instead, he was an exciting horse, who if he had lost the Preakness rather than getting injured would have faded from public memory in short order. He would also have been quite literally put out to pasture, eventually becoming a stud once his racing career came to a more natural and less unsettling end.

What bothers me most is not that the public reaction to Barbaro was so postive -- it's that it was frustratingly misapplied. Why must it be Barbaro, a wonderful horse who is still but a horse, when numerous other stories both tragic and heroic deserve equal attention? Forget politics and current events; even within the realm of sports we can find many instances where athletes and fans are worthy of an equal amount of adulation and support. ESPN the Magazine recently featured a piece on Genarlow Jones, a young man and athlete who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year old girl when he was 17. That case has generated much deserved attention (and condemnation of Mr. Jones' sentence) all over the country. But where is the Barbaro-like reaction for athletes like Albert Pujols, Warrick Dunn, and Dikembe Mutombo, who have done tremendous charity work? Yes, Mutombo was featured at the State of the Union address, but it would probably take more than breaking his leg during a game against the Knicks to earn $1.2 million in donations for his foundation, which has built hospitals in Africa.

It is this kind of useless fervor that turned the Duke lacrosse scandal into a despicable circus of speculation and guilt-before-innocence. When combined with prosecutorial ineptitude and political greed, surely egged on (but by no means excused) by our collective magnifying glass and its distorting powers, the results were devastating. The lives of several young men are permanently altered, and a troubled young woman has been put through such a torrent and so manipulated by the prosecution, one wonders if she knows which way is up.

Is my own frustration misapplied? In any case, you need only go so far as CNN.com to see how misdirected this nation's collective attention frequently is. As of this writing, the web site of the nation's leading news outfit features stories on a model claiming slander by E! television, a window washer hanging by his toes, and Peter O'Toole declaring he's "still in the bloody game." And this appears to be a slow day for that sort of "news."

But perhaps we can learn from this. Perhaps next time an athlete tests positive for steroids and is named to the Pro Bowl and gloats about it, our outrage will be genuine. Perhaps next time Warrick Dunn builds a house for a family in need, we'll not only applaud but stand up and say, "Where do I send my donation?"

Or maybe not. Maybe what we want is just another distraction, something to gossip about in the office snack room. We may not have long to wait: the Kentucky Derby is just a few months away.

28 January 2007

What's The Deal With Barbaro?

There's a new story on ESPN.COM about Barbaro, and the more I think about him and his situation, the more I'm baffled by the whole thing. The first thing that comes to mind is - why does anybody care about Barbaro? My answer is, you shouldn't...he's a horse! But for whatever reason he's bonded with the American public, and that question is really a moot point.

The next question is: why is Barbaro being kept alive? It really seems as if the owners of the horse are putting their interests ahead of his. Barbaro was a great horse, and won at least a few races. But the main value a race horse accrues is when they are put to stud. Is he being kept alive because his owners hope to one day profit off his sperm?

The owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, are saying all the right things. They don't want him to suffer, they don't want him to go through any misery.

But upon reading the article, doesn't it seem that he IS suffering, and he IS in pain?

Barbaro likely will have to bear more weight on his front feet because of his two ailing back legs, making him more susceptible to laminitis, a painful and often fatal disease caused by uneven weight distribution. Laminitis already struck Barbaro's left rear foot in July, and 80 percent of the hoof was removed.


Now I'm no Horse Whisperer. I'll leave that to Robert Redford. But I can imagine that Barbaro is in plenty of pain. He shattered his leg, he's gone through numerous surgeries and treatments, and now doctors are about to try a risky approach.

Animals are luckier than humans in that they are allowed to be put out of their misery, and put to sleep. They're able to avoid long, painful deaths, and die in a dignified way. If Barbaro's owners really cared about his well-being, wouldn't they have done that long ago? Aren't all of their efforts to save him really about recouping their investment and profiting off of him? I'm not sure I know the answer, but it does seem fishy. I do know that it's time for the American public to move on from Barbaro. For god sakes Wilbur, he's just a horse!

Miscellany.

A quiet weekend around these parts, though plenty of good sports on TV. Here are some thoughts for the weekend that was.

  • The Suns are nearly unstoppable. The only things that can stop them are injury, Steve Nash's minutes (which are reasonable at 35 a game and should not rise above that if the Suns want to keep him fresh through the playoffs), and the Dallas Mavericks. The Spurs are a potentially dominant team, especially with Duncan playing better this year, but they don't run nearly as deep as the Suns. Ironically, I think the Stoudemire injury may have helped them, though I wouldn't wish injury upon anyone. Even so, Shawn Marion, who's not underrated but rather underappreciated, reportedly has in the past felt insecure about his role with the team and the amount of attention paid to Stoudemire. Stoudemire's injury and gradual comeback have perhaps -- and again, this is simply speculation -- allowed the Suns to rebuild in a way. This time, it was Stoudemire who was the outsider of sorts, and it's taken some time to reintegrate him into the team's offense, but he's back, averaging 20 and 10 in January. In the meantime, Marion and Nash were the rocks of the team, and perhaps Marion feels a bit more secure in his role. (Does this make sense?) Also, it has to be a morale boost that Stoudemire has essentially been the only NBA player to have microfracture surgery and return to his former level of play. It's a testament to his determination and what a freakishly good athlete he is.
  • Todd Helton might be traded to the Red Sox for Julian Tavarez, Mike Lowell, and prospects. Whether this is a good deal for the Rockies depends in part on the prospects, so it's too soon to comment. Still, they're looking for financial flexibility but may end up paying half of the 6 years/$90.1 million left on Helton's deal? I don't like it. Helton's decline over the last few years has been saddening, even for this Dodgers fan, but he still has significant value. His average, OBP, and defense are all still there, even if his power's not. Is Helton's back that bad that the Rockies are willing to pay to get rid of him? Last season, Helton had a calf injury and some sort of intestinal problem where he lost weight and was weakened for much of the season, so it's hard to hold that against him. The point is that this isn't a Mike Hampton situation -- Helton has given the Rockies some incredible seasons and hasn't complained about the various permutations and experiments that Rockies' management has tried (to little effect). Now that the Rockies finally have some great young talent and the humidor is working (sort of), they're ready to get rid of him? Strange, especially given that they traded Ryan Shealy (Ryan Howard-lite) to KC last season, and he could've played first and given them 30+ HR a year for 1/20 of the price. And if that's not enough, Helton is a guy who once came out into the field with a Fu Manchu, only to shave it between innings! He takes chances with facial hair. I respect that. Moving on..
  • UCLA lost to Stanford. Get it together, guys.
  • Federer won the Australian Open without dropping a set. I am in awe.
  • Tiger Woods won his 7th consecutive tournament. I am again in awe, and I am baffled at any talk that having a child could "distract" him from winning. He's married to a gorgeous Swedish woman, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, does numerous endorsements and commercials, has singlehandedly changed the complexion and demographic of his sport, and he STILL is the most dominant player. Tiger could be changing the baby's diapers on the 17th green at Augusta and still eagle the hole. Don't worry about it.
  • The worst thing that could happen to Kevin Garnett is that his team is now in playoff contention. They may be a 7th or 8th seed at the end of the year, but they're not going past the first round, and the promise of "We're making the playoffs!!" will encourage management to keep him around. PLEASE trade him. Bill Simmons begged you. Now I'm begging you.
  • You haven't lived until you've heard Delonte West talk.
  • I want Grady Little to perform stand up comedy at my wedding. Or my funeral.
  • I want Barbaro to live. I really do. If he makes it, he'll spend the rest of his life impregnating females. It's like what Shawn Kemp does, only it's encouraged and doesn't carry child support.
  • I still don't care about the NFL.
  • Is anyone given the benefit of the doubt more than Shaquille O'Neal?
That's all for now. Thanks for reading. Drive safely. Tell your friends.

27 January 2007

An Economic Analysis of Gluttony

Earlier this month the Dodgers announced that for the coming year the Right Field Pavilion would become the "All You Can Eat" Pavilion. For $35 in advance, or $40 the day of, you can eat like a pig for 3.5 hours (1.5 hours before game time through two hours into the game). I thought I'd take a look at this promotion, and see if it's really all that it's cracked up to be.

So let's say that you and your friends looked ahead, and bought tickets ahead of time. Parking last year cost $10, so let's say you split that between you and a friend. You've now spent $40 on the ticket and parking. A ticket in the left field pavilion costs $6, so in order to break even you've got to eat $34 worth of food. I hope you're hungry!

I've listed the menu below with my estimated prices (what I remember them costing last year).

All-You-Can-Eat Pavilion Menu:

• Dodger Dogs - $5
• Nachos - $4
• Peanuts - $3
• Popcorn - $3
• Coca-Cola products - $4
• Water - $4

Menu items available for purchase:
Beer, Ice Cream, and Candy.


In order to eat your way to the magic number, you'd need to eat something similar to the following combination
3 Dodger Dogs, 2 Sodas, 1 Nachos, 1 Peanuts, 1 Cotton Candy,


So, who is this a good deal for? Probably not the fans. The average fan is unlikely to be able to eat that much. Combined with the fact that they'll be sitting in the worst seats in the stadium, it seems like a foolish venture for most fans. Unless you're ad admirer of Kobayashi. In that case, bon appetit! That being said, there is a novelty aspect to it, and for that reason I could easily see the Lion In Oil writers taking a field trip there at some point (it should be noted that this is an even worse deal for the Kaiserman).

The real winner in all of this are the Dodgers. They'll likely make a killing on the tickets sold, while finding a way to put a new spin on the least desirable seats in the stadium. They also wont have to close down a pavilion for the lesser attended games, avoiding an embarrassing sight on TV. The real lesson here is - if you're hungry this summer, head down to Chavez Ravine.
______________________________________________

In other Dodger news, the team has announced their promotional schedule for the coming season. The promotions are for the most part the same as usual (rally towels, blankets, etc). But they have added one awesome feature to this year's schedule - the Fans Vote Bobblehead! The fans will be able to vote on which player they'd like to have on the last bobblehead giveaway of the year. I think this is a genius idea, and it really makes the team look good. For the record, Fun Sheriff voted for the Derek Lowe bobblehead, complete with his authentic stench of liquor, and holding a photo of Carolyn Hughes. The contest ends in early April.

26 January 2007

"But he is like my grandmother. You love the person, but they are stuck in their old-school ways."


This will be my first post at "Lion in Oil," my proverbial popping of sports blog cherries. I'll spare our readers any meaningful biographical detail or background, unless of course, you are a 22-30 year-old female and a cut a unique resemblance to Scarlett Johansson. But I get the feeling most of our "vast" readership will physically, emotionally and mentally identify more with the Kich. On to my post.

On Monday, Bill Parcells retired from coaching the Dallas Cowboys, and, if we are to believe, the National Football League as well. While many football fans, Cowboy die-hards or not, anxiously awaited the inevitable off-season chess match between Parcells and Dallas Cowboys wide-receiver Terrell Owens, I'm surprised it happened so quickly. I am not surprised, however, by Owens' thoughtless and classless statements a day later.

In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Owens candidly expressed his stupidity. Discussing his displeasure with the outcome of the Cowboy's seasons, Owen's said, “I am just hoping his retirement brings promise to what the team has to offer. This past year was a big letdown. On paper we were as good as anybody we played against every week. The end result didn’t show that. Our play was not indicative of what we could have done. What we should have done. Hopefully, the owner will hire a coach to take the team to the next level.”

Owens continued, “Coming into this season and this situation, I wanted to be positive,” Owens said. “When I talked to him for the first time we left an impression on each other. I still think he is a great guy. But he is like my grandmother. You love the person, but they are stuck in their old-school ways. You can’t move them from their way of thought.”

While there is no doubt that Owens is one of the NFL's finest receivers, he is the embodiment of the modern-day athlete: selfish, narcisstic and deranged. While we see more of this behavior in the National Basketball Association and the destruction it can cause, Terrell Owens effectively ran one of the greatest coaches in NFL history out of town. While Terrell can boast of a 25-million dollar contract and numerous professional accolades, I've got one question:

How many rings does he have?

Last time I checked, two less than Parcells.

Here's to Owens receiving the Mark McGwire treatment when his time comes for consideration into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. And here's to Parcells receving his rightful induction as a first balloter, if and when he chooses to retire.

25 January 2007

League of Extraordinarily Horrible Commissioner



Gary Bettman is the worst commissioner of the four major sports. If he remains commissioner of the NHL for any longer, it may become the four major sports with Nascar as #4. The way things have been going since he took over in 1993, this seems increasingly likely, as he seems to have Stalinesque staying power. How can this man be in charge, having overseen two work stoppages during his tenure?

My main contention with Buttman is that neither he nor the owners in his league ever seem to think logically and get things right. I must give him credit though for the new rule changes enacted after the lockout that have made the game faster and more exciting to watch. Here is a list of grievances that highlight the idiocy of the league that must be altered for the league to continue to exist.

1) Lack of a decent television contract. The league will have a difficulty getting a contract because of its abysmal ratings, but at least get it on ESPN2, or USA, anything but Versus which many people do not even get with their cable packages.

2) Promote your stars. Yes the league has been marketing a lot with Ovechkin and Crosby, which is warranted. But the league also has players like Jagr, Kovalchuk, Thornton, Brodeur, Sakic, Hossa, and Heatley. They must also display these players and attempt to market them to fans. In addition to this, the All Star game did not include Jagr and Kovalchuk, when players who did not deserve to make it such as Rick Nash and Yanick Perrault were there because of the idiotic one player per team rule. Many players were not even on the All Star ballot, when it could have been changed online (there were no paper ballots).

3) The schedule is just abysmal and the league did nothing about it this past week. You play divisional opponents 8 times a season. It becomes boring and redundant and does nothing to create or promote rivalries. The Canadian teams rarely play each other, which are some of the fiercest rivalries in the sport. It also does little to help Western teams which need all the help they can get. The Eastern stars need to be in Western arenas more than once every 3 years to put people in the seats. After the initial excitement from the return from the lockout, leaguewide attendance is down this year. Something must be changed so that teams play each other at least once a year, yet the league remains reluctant to do anything despite much outcry from the fans.

4) He has taken fighting out of the game. Enough said.

5) He expanded too quickly and into bad markets. Raleigh, Nashville, and Columbus do not have teams in professional sports for a reason, yet they exist in the NHL. Please explain this one to me.

6) This is not such a big deal, but it just demonstrates the incompetency of the league as a whole. The league is building a store in New York similar to the NBA store that will sell tickets and team products that plans to open late in 2007. The NBA store is on 5th Avenue which is the ultimate shopping and tourist destination. Yet the NHl store is on 6th Avenue in a primarily financial and office district with little tourist pedestrian traffic.

I truly believe that someone with more common sense and some fresh thinking could do wonders for the league. Unfortunately, commissioners never seem to leave as evidenced by Bud Selig's present 18 year term and Bettman's 13 year term.

My three entries are all quite bitter. Perhaps something over the weekend will inspire me to have a more positive 4th post.

"This is not what you do when someone's dominating you"


From 4 AM to 6 AM EST today, Roger Federer was out of his mind.

"I was unbeatable," Federer said. "I was playing out of my mind. I am shocked myself."

That's right -- even Federer had to admit that he was playing on another level when he beat Andy Roddick today in the Australian Open semifinals.

If you read about Roger Federer or watch him play, writers and announcers frequently use the term "art" when referring to the best player in the world. His complete skill set, his precision of movement, his unbelievable vision and ability to make seemingly impossible shots -- together these qualities make the best player in the world. But for Federer these are merely different hues of paint to be spread liberally and with staggering grace across a wide canvas. By all accounts, this morning's match against Andy Roddick -- who beat Federer in an exhibition match less than two weeks ago and seemed to be doing well under Coach Jimmy Connors -- was a masterpiece.

But what else can we say? Hyperbole and language now fail us. Last August, David Foster Wallace wrote an excellent essay called "Federer as Religious Experience." Religion, art, grace: we are rapidly approaching a coronation, and it will not be long until Federer wins the 5 grand slams he needs to tie Pete Sampras for the most all-time. Then, and that day will be soon, we will have no choice but to call him the best tennis player of all time.

"I've played good matches here, but never really almost destroyed somebody," Federer said. "I've done it at the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, French Open. Maybe not so much here because I didn't get so many chances yet. For me, that's a highlight of my career. I'm very, very happy about it."

He almost destroyed a man! And if you don't know Federer, these remarks come from an exceedingly humble man, one known for his understated demeanor and kindness. But even Federer can no longer resist the siren call of his own greatness.

Roddick was hard on himself after the match.

"It was frustrating. You know, it was miserable. ... terrible," Roddick said. "I was playing well coming in. I didn't foresee it."

Roddick was playing some of the best tennis of his career entering the match, but it didn't matter. He may not have forseen this, but we now know that nothing is impossible for Federer. He has yet to drop a set in the Australian Open. For Roddick, there's no cause for embarrassment. He simply must acknowledge that there's little he can do, and the less he thinks about this, the better. No one will blame him. No one will say he underachieved or didn't work hard enough.

It's simply not fair -- unless you're a sports fan, in which case, who could ask for more?


Some other thoughts on Greatness:

In this post-modern age, it's easy and perhaps forgivable to feel cynical about the state of professional sports. Commercialism, poor behavior, criminal records, and performance enhancing drugs can discourage the casual fan, especially when looked at under the mighty magnifying glass of ESPN, sports radio, and the endless streams of armchair analysts (this blog included). But if you look beyond all of that -- read: forget about them, us, this blog -- there is an incredible crop of young athletes in professional sports today. Forget about their characters, though many of them are fine people. Just observe the names, watch them play, and realize that this is a great time to be a sports fan.

Many of the following athletes, all 26 years old or younger, could one day go down among the best to ever play their respective games.
  • MLB: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer, Carl Crawford, Justin Verlander, Carlos Zambrano, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Mark Teixeira, Howie Kendrick (the one speculative pick I'll allow myself)
  • NBA: Gilbert Arenas, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Paul, Yao Ming
  • NHL: Sydney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Dion Phaneuf, Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, Dany Heatley

Fantasy Hockey Madness, Part 1


The NHL All-Star Game went down last night in Dallas. The game wasn't very exciting, but the overall experience of watching it in HD was certainly worthwhile. First of all, to see these players in all their glory (without their helmets on) is a spectacle in itself. Also, the absurd line combinations, the new rail-cam (which glides across the top of the glass and gives an ice-level closeup view of the action and a great sense of how fast everything is during the game), and the in-game interviews made for a fun presentation of skill and personalities. Marty Turco was mic'd up during the entire 3rd period, and was cracking jokes WHILE playing the puck, not just after whistles. It was absolutely hilarious.

While we still have a couple of days before regular-season games resume, it is time to take a look at some amazing men, amazing men who are clowning it up, clowns who are pretending to be amazing, and clowns who are clowning. Any bias I may have towards certain players is entirely reflective either of their presence or absence on my fantasy team's roster in the "Borat Bonanza On Ice" yahoo league, or of a man crush I just can't seem to hide. (Note: when discussing the value of fantasy hockey players, penalty minutes will be IGNORED- it might be a default stat for Yahoo, but it is horsecrap. Ian Laperriere, as much as I love his smashed nose, should not be valuable in any league.) I will begin with the good. These are not the best overall players; this is a list of a few guys who are awesome and should be respected for what they are doing this season. Obviously, I am leaving many stars off the list. Here goes:

[G = goals, A = assists, P = total points, PPP = power-play points, SHP = shorthanded points, GWG = game-winning goals]


Stud Muffins

Sidney Crosby: 24 G 48 A, 72 points, +13, 31 PPP, 0 SHP, 4 GWG. This is a no-brainer, as obvious as it gets, but I feel obligated to mention him. He isn't just very good, he isn't just one of the best players in hockey, he is THE best player in the game today. The statistics do not tell the whole story (he leads the NHL in scoring)...you really must watch him play. He makes plays that nobody else is capable of making. He consistently executes behind-the-back, no look passes, perfectly on the tape! He's not bad at scoring goals either. If there is a "next Gretzky", he is the one. People of the US and A: I know you like NFL and Nascar and President Bush (even if you now deny it), but please pay attention to one of the few young superstars that make sports something worth living and dying for. P.S. He's 19.

Martin St. Louis: 30 G 36 A, 66 P, +3, 21 PPP, 6 SHP, 5 GWG. He's back, and better than ever! Many people forget, but in 03-04, the final season before the lockout, St. Louis won the Hart Trophy (MVP) when he scored 94 points, including 11 SHP, and was +35. He seemed like a perfect candidate to thrive in the new NHL 2 years later, with his speed and skill, but he blew it and only scored 66 points. Call it a transition season for him, because he is dominating right now with a linemate by the name of Vincent Lecavalier, who has 65 points so far this season (good for 3rd in NHL scoring) and almost the exact same stats as St. Louis across the board. Welcome back, little man, and thank you Vinny (#1 overall draft pick) for finally breaking out.

Alexander Frolov: 23 G 24 A, 47 P, -9, 20 PPP, 3 SHP, 4 GWG. Frolov may not be in the top 25 in scoring, but he is in the top 30! That is a remarkable achievement considering that he plays for the worst team in the Western Conference, a team whose name need not be mentioned. This is a breakout season for Frolov, and it can not even be attributed to the presence of rookie phenom Anze Kopitar in the lineup -they are rarely on the ice at the same time! (Marc Crawford, what on earth are you thinking?!) Just imagine what Fro would be capable of if he had some decent linemates...
-----------------------------------------------------------

Clowns


Mark Bell: 6 G 3 A, 9 P, -9, 3 PPP, 0 SHP, 1 GWG. This is the biggest example of a blown opportunity in the NHL this season. Bell showed great potential on a horrible Chicago Blackhawks team last season (25 goals) and received the greatest gift a player like him could get at the start of this one: a spot on a line with Thornton and Cheechoo. Many a clown have found ways to thrive with a guy like Big Joe (see: Nils Ekman last season, Anson Carter with the Sedin twins, anyone who plays with Ovechkin, etc.). Not Mark Bell. He was off that top line in a flash, and hasn't even been motivated enough by his demotion to the 3rd and 4th lines to recapture his potential and earn a second chance. Pathetic.

Milan Hejduk: 15 G 15 A, 30 P, +2, 8 PPP, 0 SHP, 1 GWG. What has happened to this man? Maybe I'm wrong about his abilities, but I watched several games during the 2002-2003 season, during which he scored 50 goals and 98 points, and I can say with confidence he wasn't just a lucky beneficiary of Forsberg's gifted passing skills. In fact, I considered Hejduk to be the best pure goal scorer in hockey. He had a way of finding the back of the net, not just finishing plays, but shooting through traffic or from insane angles. He had the touch. The new NHL rules should have meant great things for Hejduk, but he has disappeared. He is not even mentioned among the leading goal scorers anymore, and Forsberg's absence is NO excuse...he still has Sakic! I am baffled by this Shawn Green-esque decline.

Markus Naslund: 15 G 21 A, 36 P, +3, 15 PPP, 0 SHP, 2 GWG. I know, there's no way Naslund is a clown. Hejduk isn't really either. The reason I chose these guys is because they used to be ELITE players, and now they are closer to mediocrity than elite. Naslund was among my favorite players in the NHL. Last season, in what I considered to be a let down year given the new rules, he still managed about a point per game (79 points, including 42 PPP, despite the minus 19 rating). This year, without Bertuzzi, he is on pace for 70 points. He should be scoring near 100 every season, or more! I really don't understand. Bertuzzi was no passing wizard, and the Sedin twins are both excellent playmakers. Come back to me, Markus!
-----------------------------------------------------------


That's all for now. I will return with a list of players who should improve in the 2nd half of the season, as well as a few players whose production will likely drop off. Until next time...

I Love You, Mr. Sunshine

I blew my load too early last night and made a Facebook group, which we'll try to keep on the DL for now. But, the group did produce a fruit of our labor, in an amazing message I recieved from a potential group member. We'll call him Mr. Sunshine...

-----------------------


I was invited to join your "Lion In Oil" Group. Before I sign up, what is this about? You have said it is NOT a sports blog. Does it have anything to do with the surrealist painting by Ed Ruscha currently on display with the Magritte exhibit in Los Angeles? Anyway, best wishes. You say this is too early for whatever revolution you are starting (as it says in the discussion). Just remember, often we have greatness thrust upon us before we are ready. I am sure you will do fine. Good luck! -Mr. Sunshine

------------------------

About the Tatis thing, I see it as minor. I wouldn't worry about him, and I doubt he ever makes the big club. Maybe they're just looking for a reverse double Grand Slam when Chan Ho and the Padres come to town.

That's all from me. Look for a new post tonight.

Ned, What Are You Doing?

Using the Sherrif's insider password that somehow still works on my computer, I browsed Buster's blog this morning and encountered this:

http://www.dailynews.com/dodgers/ci_5073245

What is the purpose of such a move? We have solid 3B's both in Wilson Betemit and Andy LaRoche who may be in the majors before June. We also signed Rudy Seanez for the bullpen and a Korean player. I don't mind those moves because they give depth to our weak bullpen. But Tatis?? COME ON!! I think the team should really go after what they need and acquire a legitimate power threat for the middle of the lineup because you cannot rely on Kent and Nomar with their ages and injury history. You also have to figure that Luis and Juan will combine for less than 20 HR's. Sorry, but I just had to vent to someone and Lioninoil is the only one i could find. Hopefully Ethier will pick up some of the slack, or else the team will have to rely even more on their pitching and it could be a repeat of the 2003 season.

24 January 2007

*Official Warning*

Sheriff. Guess what. This is not a celebrity gossip blog. Tom Cruise is a clown (and not the good kind, nor this kind). We all know that. If you wish to have the sort of blog that ponders these topics, try the "My Super Sweet 16 Blog." They're next door. This blog may be called "This is not a sports blog" but that's BECAUSE WE ARE A SPORTS BLOG. Occasional, legitimate digressions and tangential discussions are allowed.

Oh, and only Jesus Colome is the one true Jesus.

Bow Down Before Your Savior

As if things couldn't get any weirder in the world of Tom Cruise, they've found a way. According to The Sun of London, Tom has been anointed the "Christ" of Scientology.

Leader David Miscavige believes that in future, Cruise, 44, will be worshipped like Jesus for his work to raise awareness of the religion.

A source close to the actor, who has risen to one of the church’s top levels, said: “Tom has been told he is Scientology’s Christ-like figure.

“Like Christ, he’s been criticised for his views. But future generations will realise he was right.”


How strange. Tom and his crazies over on E. Sunset Blvd. can do whatever they want, obviously. But we're also entitled to laugh. The only question remains: who gets to crucify him?

23 January 2007

I'm Oscar...Dot Com


Here's my take on the Oscar nominations: NAH BRA!! Best Picture nominees:

Babel--- I'm convinced that the critics love this movie because none of them ever saw Amores Perros or 21 Grams, Alejandro Iñárritu's previous two films that are both vastly superior to Babel. Amores is one of the best films of all time. Babel features 3 storylines which "connect" in ridiculous ways, and the drawn out melodramatic scenes feel very forced, rather than developing organically as in Amores and 21 Grams. The subplot about the Japanese girl is the most compelling, and it really doesn't have anything to do with the others. This is my vote for most overrated movie of the year. It doesn't belong in a top 10 list.

The Queen--- There's no doubt about it; The Queen is a good movie. However, it's a stretch to call it great. There's really nothing remarkable about it other than the tremendous performance by Helen Mirren.

Little Miss Sunshine--- I loved this movie. It was quirky, hilarious, and very refreshing in that I believe there should be more movies like it. Steve Carrell may have gotten many people to the theaters for this one, but Alan Arkin and 10-year old Abigail Breslin steal the show. Still, this is not Best Picture material.

The Departed--- Almost everything about this movie is awesome. Ignoring a couple plot flaws, the story is great, the acting is perfection, and Scorcese is brilliant as usual. I made the mistake of watching the original (yes, it's a remake), the Chinese Infernal Affairs- watching it, my reaction was "this could be a great movie if done properly" and Scorcese was the right man for the job. I would be satisfied if The Departed won the Oscar.

Letters From Iwo Jima--- This, ladies and gentlemen, is the best film of the year. Will it win? I'm not sure. But it should. I've already given you my piece about Clint Eastwood, but this is no fan-boy decision. Seeing war through the enemy's eyes is a unique and moving experience. Letters makes its mark more with its ideas about humanity than with the usual flare and special effects (though there is some of that). The acting performance by Ken Watanabe is pretty impressive as well. Go see it.

_____________________________________

I'm not going to go through each category, but I will make some other notes...

*I haven't seen Last King of Scotland yet, but judging by the trailer and everything I've heard and read about it, this might be Forest Whitaker's year for the Best Actor award. DiCaprio was great in Blood Diamond though.

EDIT: I just saw Last King. Whitaker's performance was among the best of all time. What an incredible human being.

*Penelope Cruz was fabulous (and gorgeous) in Volver, but something tells me the only person who might prevent Helen Mirren from winning Best Actress is Judi Dench (who coincidentally turns 200 years old on the night of the awards presentation). She just scares me.

*Mark Wahlberg was hilariously awesome in The Departed, and I've already given praise to Alan Arkin, but I think the winner for Best Supporting Actor should be either Djimon Hounsou for Blood Diamond or Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children (both are great movies, by the way).

*My vote for Best Supporting Actress goes to Rinko Kikuchi for Babel.

Best Director - What we've all been waiting for...will Martin Scorcese finally win? Does he deserve to? Here's my take: Scorcese should have won long ago, and for that reason alone he should win this year even though The Departed is nowhere near as good (or as impressive from a directing standpoint) as his greatest works (see: Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas to name a few). That said, I'm not convinced that he deserves to win if we were to ignore his past. Clint Eastwood did a masterful job with Letters. Wait a second...wtf! How was Alfonso Cuarón not nominated for Children of Men?!?!?! Now there's one movie that showcases wonderful directing more than any other this year. The Academy has no idea what they're doing. Shameful.

Pan's Labyrinth was amazing and worthy of Best Picture more than most of the nominees, although it qualifies instead as Best Foreign Film. A must see.

Borat-- Some might interpret this as an abandoning of all credibility established above, but I have to say it...this was my "favorite" film of the year (favorite does not = best) and one of the funniest comedies of all time.

Inland Empire-- David Lynch is a complete madman. Inland Empire makes Mulholland Drive seem like The Straight Story. I suggest reading the theories on messageboards before seeing this one, not afterwards. Trust me. If you're a big time Lynch fan, I recommend it. It's a trip.

Other-- Inside Man and Apocalypto were both very good. I recommend both (but don't pay for Apocalypto). I'm forgetting others, but if I remember something, I'll post again. I'll leave you with this fun fact: in 1998, Shakespeare In Love won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. Goodnight.

And the award goes to...

Early this morning the Academy Awards nominations were announced. Many lives were changed with these, and a lifetime worth of free DVD screeners has been bestowed upon those lucky enough to win. Someone like Meryl Streep will probably cast them aside like yesterday's paper. But believe me, Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine kid) will be the coolest for the rest of her schooling days - assuming she still goes to school.

In honor of today's nominations, and with the help of my work buddy "Danny A." I have come up with a new category: Movies that I cannot believe existed, but thank god that they do. And without further interruption, here are the nominees:

-Crank
Largely nominated because of the Amy Smart factor. Simply said, Amy is a sure bet - to get naked. Say what you will, but she isn't afraid to take her shirt off. With the help of Google, I was able to identify at least seven films in which she's done so: Starsky and Hutch, Smith, Varsity Blues, and Crank. You may recall the whip cream scene from Varsity Blues, and a smile is sure to come to mind.

Along with Amy Smart, Crank has another thing going for it: an insane plot. It goes a little something like this. Jason Stratham is injected with some drug that will kill him...unless he keeps his adrenaline going. So the whole movie consists of him constantly doing stuff to get himself pumped up - blowing things up, having sex with Amy Smart, etc. All in all, it's an amazing plot. With this I will christen the "Paper Napkin Theory," in which we wonder whether the whole idea for this movie was plotted on a bar napkin. Crank certainly could have.

Crank Money Quote:
Chev Chelios: Do you think I've got 'cunt' written on my forehead?
["Cunt" appears on his forehead as he asks]

Amy Smart Money Quote:
Eve: Ohh, you are so big!

-Talladega Nights
Talladega gets nominated solely for the dinner table scene. The grandfather named Chip, and his getting bitch-slapped by his grandkids is just the beginning. "Chip, I'm going to come at you like a Spider Monkey" was great, but then the "Greatest generation my ass! Tom Brokaw's a punk" was even better. Ricky's baby jesus grace really stole the whole scene and the entire movie. The Paper Napkin Theory is all over this scene, and the movie. The scene in its entirety can be found right below.


Bonus points must go to Sacha Baron Cohen, and what was really the first taste most of America got of him.

-V For Vendetta
Remember, remember, the 5th of November. This movie just kicked ass. Written by the Wachowski Brothers (or siblings), and directed by one of their buddies, this reminded everyone who saw it about how great the first Matrix was, and how good the last two could have been. Sadly, this great actioner never caught on with the public, and it only made $25 mil at the box office.

Those who did choose to see it sure got a treat. The action, the visual effects, and the suspense were all top notch. Put on top of that the scary thought that the story isn't all that far-fetched took it to another level. Danny A. points out that in the trailer one of the critics quoted said something like this - V For Vendetta plays by its own rules. Wouldn't you like to go around saying that about yourself?

Bonus points go to the casting of one of the guys from the British version of Coupling. Most would only remember the American version that was the failed savior to take over after Friends...but the British version was darn good.

-MI:3
Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise. Watching a Tom Cruise movie will never be the same again. Every time he had a scene with his girlfriend, the audience I saw it with laughed. It didn't matter what he said. He'd simply lost credibility. I imagine it's sort of what watching Snakes of a Plane would have been like. For those who saw MI3, the moment of all moments had to be when he asked his girlfriend to electrocute him in order to save his life. He's got something in his mouth so we wont bite off his tounge. But he takes it out, and says wait! I love you! Then she shocks him. I couldn't stop laughing. Hilarious. Rent the DVD just for that.

-The Guardian
Ashton Kutcher, Keven Costner. TOP GUN...In the Water! Calling it Top Water Gun would have drawn more fans, I'd have to bet. I never realized how much I wanted a Kutcher Costner tag team. Try saying Kutcher and Costner five times in a row real quick.
Can't do it.

In a side note, my mom saw this movie on a plane a while back, and didn't even know who Ashton was, let alone that he was in the movie. But she did like the movie.
These are the nominees. Now, to the envelope...

Save us, left coast

We have entered the doldrums of sport, ladies and gentlemen, the final days of January. The NBA trudges along listlessly, featuring an entire conference incapable of generating any interest, much less a title contender. The NFL awaits a Super Bowl with an obvious outcome, provided Peytona doesn’t pull one of his trademark playoff spin-outs. The NHL’s best player can’t buy booze, and its chances for retaining casual fans shrink as the league’s games are broadcast on the periphery of cable television. Major League Baseball is faced with the prospect of having one of the most high-profile charlatans in sports history own the game’s most sacred record. I ask you, lions of the refinery: have we nothing to cheer for? Have our professional sports leagues watered themselves down to the point where news from the regular season stems only from new and improved uniforms, or a Carmelo sucker-punch?

For the sake of morale, I will not answer this question; rather, I will provide you with a spirit-raising alternative, that of college basketball. Even though most college basketball experts would probably deem this a “down” year for the game, citing a dearth of talented individuals and teams, we do have storylines. Can the Florida Gators, a team few expected to finagle their way to the center of the bracket last Spring, repeat, with all parts returned? Can the talented crop of freshmen, including Texas forward Kevin Durant, and Ohio State center Greg Oden, carry their teams into March before shaking David Stern’s hand at the podium in June? Can Dick Vitale possibly stomach the notion of Duke being a second-tier team? Can the Pac-10 remain the premier conference, much to the chagrin of Eastern Time Zone elitists? Okay, so maybe storylines and All-American lineups have been better in years past. The Gators could not hold a candle to most championship teams of the past decade. Durant does not have a lot around him at Texas, while Oden will probably not be 100 percent healthy the entire year. Dick Vitale will still slurp Duke’s young talent and how Coach K “brings them together,” even if they do teeter-totter through a mediocre ACC. That, my west coast brethren, leaves us with the story of the Pac-10 as top dog. And make no mistake about it, this is the best headline. Not only is the best conference’s best team a title contender, they are also the most entertaining team in the country. And no, I don’t mean UCLA. Stay tuned for more?

Ring of Honor material.


In case you didn't watch it, by far the best moment from the State of the Union address (besides Cheney's creepy smirks) was when Bush was talking about American philanthropy in the world and pointed up at someone in the galley who happened to be.. DIKEMBE MUTOMBO! Mutombo actually came to the U.S. to study at Georgetown on an academic scholarship. He didn't play basketball until his sophomore year. I only wish I were president so I could point and Mutombo would appear. What a life. Mutombo's a great man, definite Lion in Oil Ring of Honor material. By the way, he's 40 years old and averaging 13.8 rebounds in the month of January, filling in for Yao Ming. Absolutely ridiculous.

22 January 2007

It is designed to break your heart.

And now for some baseball talk. CNNSI has released part 4 in their 5 part list of the top 75 prospects in MLB. The Dodgers, who had James Loney listed at #37, had 3 prospects in this list: Scott Elbert (#20), Andy LaRoche (#18), and Clayton Kershaw (#16). Billingsley and Kemp probably would be in the top 15, if not for accumulated playing time, and I suspect that Joel Guzman, now with the Devil Rays, will be in the top 15 The Dodgers also had a fellow named Josh Bell as an honorable mention.

What does all this mean? Nothing new -- we knew the Dodgers had a great farm system. The question is, of course, can they use it? The Dodgers managed to hold on to their babies in the off-season (so far), but Colletti's shown no ability to make quality trades with these guys. As one Dodger fan wrote into the LA Times, Guzman may end up hitting 500 home runs for another team. Few big bats are out there -- we'll take Adam Dunn -- but I would also rather see Kemp and Loney occasionally stumbling in the outfield than the certain mediocrity that is Juan Pierre and Gonzo. I, and every Dodgers fan, can only hope that Gonzo is hitting .220 on May 20, and he and the team are smart enough to know that "veteran presence" does not equal run production. Juan Pierre, on the other hand, may be tougher to get rid of. Barring major injury, his disgusting 5-year deal will make it impossible to bench him, even if he does spend most of his time on the pine, having returned there quickly after grounding weakly to short because he is, after all, a speed guy. That's what it's there for. But if the Angels can release Kevin Appier and swallow all that money -- what was it? 15 million? -- then we can do it with this guy when Colletti comes to his senses in mid-2009.

Other thoughts:

  • Does anyone else besides Peter Gammons realize that Grady Sizemore was one of the top 5 players in baseball last year? He led the AL in extra base hits by the way.
  • I like the Adam LaRoche for Mike Gonzalez trade for both teams. LaRoche is going to a park that's great for lefties, and for Jason Bay, marooned in the purgatory of Pittsburgh, this is the best he could hope for. Atlanta fans were already a bit tired of LaRoche, who was a GIDP machine and sometimes (quite literally) forgot when he was in the field. Gonzalez plus Rafael Soriano, whom the Braves stole from the Mariners (who have no clue these days), make for a sickeningly good bullpen. But if the Braves' right side of the infield is Aybar, Scott Thorman, and Kelly Johnson, where's the offense? Schuerholz knows what he's doing, and I won't be surprised if at least one of these guys comes up with a .280/.365/.480 season, which is enough given what's expected. Chipper must stay healthy, and Andruw will be mashing, smiling up at Scott Boras (looking down from the Death Star) every time he crosses home plate.
  • We love Chase Utley. He's a top 20 player and deserves the money.
  • J.D. Drew and Barry Bonds still have not signed their contracts, and we're happy for both of them.
Later in the week: "The Inexplicable Decline of Shawn Green"

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21 January 2007

THIS JUST IN! RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE REUNION!


The LA TIMES reports that Rage Against The Machine will re-unite for the Coachella Festival this coming April! The Chili Peppers will also be there. Tickets are steep, at $250 for the three day fest, but it could well be worth it. Who's in?

Sean Burke Story


Reading the Kaiserman's post made me think about Sean Burke, and my encounter with him in the summer of '04. So sit back, make yourself some sleepy time tea, and read about this great time.

Way back in the summer of 2004 the Fun Sheriff was enforcing the law on a Teen Tour through the East Coast of the US and Canada. The Sheriff rode his beat, the law was upheld, and fun was had by all.

The tour rolled into Toronto, which is where we meet Sean. Being in Toronto, and having some spare time, Fun Sheriff decided to take his charges to the only place that made sense: Bloor Street, and Niketown Toronto. Let me set the scene by saying that Niketown Toronto is a terrific Niketown. Way bigger than our paltry Beverly Hills edition. It's definitely on par with those in Chicago and NYC, perhaps close to the pantheon of San Fran.

With that in mind, we were browsing this mecca of Phil Knight when one of Sheriff's kids pointed out this tall, athletic looking man who was getting free stuff from an employee. Someone said, "does he play in the NHL?" Just because we're in Canada, it doesn't mean that every person plays hockey, I laughed. Just so you know, these were the same kids who were upset we didn't get to see fireworks when we spent July 4th in Montreal...

The kids always listened to the Sheriff, and took his word as gospel. So camper Baby Glush (yes, sister of the bigger Glush who is rocking Emory Besebol) went over to the man and asked about his occupation. It turned out this man did play hockey, and he even did it for a living. He said his name was Sean Burke, and that he played goalie for some team I can't remember anymore. None of us even recognized his name, but we were all polite, and went along with it. Sean was amazingly cool, and talked to us for a long time.

At some point in our conversation a precocious kid asked him if he knew Jeremy Roenick. Here I'm guessing that he played for the Kings at the time, and it was the only player the kid could think of... But believe it or not they DID know each other, and before we know it Sean has taken his cell phone out, and is CALLING Jeremy. Jeremy was taking a break from filming Best Damn Sports Show, and for the next ten minutes the phone was passed along, with us each getting a chance to talk to him. It was an amazing experience, and considering how most athletes are portrayed, it was refreshing. The Sheriff, to show his gratitude proceeded to let Sean perform a citizens arrest on some unsuspecting stranger.

We bid Sean adieu, and went on our way. It would have been enough, Dayenu.

The group went along to some ice cream place that was very well known. We're in line ordering, when lo and behold Sean walks right in! He came over, said hello again, and then decided to buy ice cream for our entire group! To show his gratitude for this act of kindness, the Sheriff let Sean use his taser on the unsuspecting worker behind the counter. That was messy....

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my Sean Burke story. He's a great man, and I'll always be rooting for him. Enjoy the sleepy time tea.

FUK'd



As was previously mentioned, last night the LA Kings retired the #20 sweater of Luc Robitaille. The ceremony lasted nearly an hour and featured many former teammates of Robitaille including Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky. It was a better than expected event for the player who turned out better than expected. Drafted in the 9th round, he retired as the highest scoring left winger in the history of the NHL.

For my beloved Kings, the ceremony was the best moment so far this season. As far as I'm concerned the team should pay people to go to the games, as they are abysmal to watch. Earlier in the day yesterday I phoned Goran and complained to him how much more fun hockey is to watch when one of the teams is not the Kings. As far as the game after the ceremony, the Kings did not fail to disappoint.

They turned in a great two periods which saw Alex Frolov and Anze Kopitar score two of the prettiest goals the team has seen all year. In what is all too familiar for King's fans, goaltending led to the team's demise. Newly claimed off waivers and the AARP list, 40 year old Sean Burke made the start and performed admirably until 3 minutes into the third, when he suddenly fell over on the ice with an apparent injury. He left the ice with what everyone thought was a hand injury.

Into the game came Yutaka Fukufji, the first ever Japanese born player in NHL history. For the first 8 minutes of the game he made the saves he needed to and then allowed two easily saveable goals in the last 7 minutes as the Kings lost their 7th in a row and 28th of the year.

One might ask how a team has a Japanese player even in the system and how he even gets into an NHL game. To be fair FUKUsan is the 6th goalie on the King's depth chart and the fact that he plays represents both the lack of luck and the terrible mangement of the franchise. Here is a list of the King's goalies and their story this season:

1) Dan Cloutier- injured nearly all of last year, and signed to a 2-yr contract extension before the season began. Once the season began he was horrible, having the worst save percentage in the NHL. Now he is inured for the rest of the season which may or may not have been forced by the front office.
2) Mathieu Garon- He has been slightly below average this season but is on the injured list for the second time this season.
3) Jason Labarbera-He started the season in the AHL and remains there as he will not be able to clear waivers if he is recalled by the Kings.
4) Sean Burke-recently claimed off waivers from Tampa and did not even make it into an NHL game this season.
5) Barry Brust-The backup for the King's minor league affiliate, he has played a few subpar NHL games and was recently sent down.
6) This is our boy Yutaka. Clearly he should not be in the NHL at this point, as he started the season in the ECHL which is between AA and A ball. Thus one cannot blame him for his performance.

All of this along with the play of the rest of the team explains why the Kings sit in 29th in the league and hopefully will get a lottery pick. Enough of the moaning.


BRING ON SPRING TRAINING!

Just To Be Fair

HAK, you also knew it was her quote. And you went one step further by mentioning her name. Maybe you should get off TMZ.

I'm loyal to Defamer.

Sheesh

That's it! Last straw!

Now you're "quoting" Lindsay Lohan! Sheriff, I am THIS CLOSE to the edge! You are hereby barred from reading TMZ, Perez Hilton, celeb-gossip-mcgee, and whatever else is polluting your once fine brain. Come back to us!

Paula Abdul, Continued

Just one more thing. A comment by an unnamed writer whose work will at some point grace this site:

Dude

She looks like Michael J Fox

She can't stop moving

HAHA, I wish I had thought of that first.

I'm not going to rehab. Instead, I've been admitted to the hospital for "exhaustion" and an "apendicitis". RIGHT. I will try to "Be Aqequite" while I'm there.

Just so you know:

That will be the last American Idol reference ever made on this blog. Fun Sheriff will be disciplined and will likely enter Lion in Oil's drug treatment program. Let's wish him well during this most difficult of times.

Paula Abdul, On Something

Hey all,

In case you haven't seen this, it's hilarious. It even warranted an article in today's NYT. If I were to watch American Idol, which I wont, it would be to see what kind of gibberish would come out of her mouth.

Things that we could do without.

1) The NFL.
2) Nascar.
3) The BCS.
4) Sports web sites and newspapers crafting horrible puns for headlines, such as espn.com's current "Grin and Bear It" headline. Yes, we know the Bears are going to the Superbowl. Just tell us that, or you could with the story everyone really cares about: Shawn Marion pulling down 20 rebs for my fantasy team. SLAVAAAAAAAAAAAA!!

Now has anyone seen Donkey Kong?

NFL Wrap-Up

Considering that we almost named the blog "Anythingbutfootball.com" I suppose I will be the NFL expert. So here are my thoughts on the second biggest Sunday of the NFL year...

Bears 39, Saints 14
- To be fair, I didn't watch until late in the 4th Quarter when it was already wrapped up. It sure looked fun in the snow, though. The highlights showed Reggie Bush scoring on a long pass, and it really made me sad to see them fall short. Lots of people would go the route of - oh, they've been through so much, they deserve a Super Bowl. But rather than go through the route of sentimentality, I would rather the media have had an opportunity to shine a light on just how poorly the city of New Orleans is doing, and to what a degree Bush has failed in his promises to help re-build the city. Everyone seems to have forgotten the city, and this would have been a good chance to revisit it. As of the details of the game...go visit another blog.

Colts 38, Patriots 34
- Oh man, what a game! I hardly know where to begin. It was a game of runs, and then a slugging match. At first Peyton was blowing it, even busting out the Sports Guy Patented "Peyton Manning Face" a few times. 21-3 Pats. But then the Pats D took a page from the Slava Medvedenko Handbook (only a few words long: don't play any D), and did just that. I think the Colts had something like 4 or 5 straight possessions scoring.

The Pats battled with them, and I thought they'd pull it out at the end. But with his legacy on the line, Peyton pulled them through. It was really an amazing game. Two scored by linemen would have been enough, but there was way more. Even Donkey Kong (who has yet to post..) got into it. Wow.

This sets up the most undesireable matchup in the Super Bowl possible. It also brings about two weeks dominated by story lines I don't really care about. Blah. I can only utter one more thought:

BRING ON SPRING TRAINING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Luuuuuuuuuuuuuc

Last night, Luc Robitaille's jersey was retired by the Los Angeles Kings. Lucky Luc was the highest scoring left wing of all time and scored more goals than any other Kings player.

20 January 2007

What happened to you?

Gentlemen, you have some explaining to do:

Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Shawn Green (more on him soon), Peja Stojakovic, Mark Mulder, Mark Prior, Eric Chavez, Jose Theodore, Alexei Kovalev, "Lost," Todd Helton. That's all I have for now.

RE: Dirty Harry

Goran, I think you're right to say that Eastwood is on an amazing run. But while you're lying down, consider this: Clint Eastwood has had an INCREDIBLE comeback. Before Mystic River in 2003, Clint had been in a terrible slump, and was largely considered a has-been. In the 11 years in between Unforgiven and Mystic River, he made 7 films. These included The Bridges of Madison County, Space Cowboys, and the winner - Blood Work. Let's look to IMDB for a plot outline for this absurd film:

"Retired FBI profiler Terry McCaleb (Eastwood), who has recently had a heart transplant, is hired by Graciela Rivers (De Jesus), to investigate the death of her sister, Gloria, who happens to have given McCaleb his heart. On the case, he soon deducts that the killer, who staged the murder to look like a random robbery, may actually be a serial killer Terry was trailing for years in the FBI. Can the elderly and feeble McCaleb, who had intended to spend his retirement living on his boat in the Los Angeles harbor, and who can't drive, and has to nap regularly, muster up the endurance to find the killer?"

Ridiculous is the only word that comes to mind for me. I bet most people don't even remember this film being made. Clint's comeback looks all the more better realizing his body of work in the years leading up to things. And he did it the smart way - smaller budgeted, character driven films. Clint didn't fall back on doing Dirty Harry VI, he did it his own way.

Lazy Saturday.

Here are some Saturday tidbits:

Andrei Kirilenko, one of my favorite NBA players and the owner of the best nickname in basketball (AK47), is on "thin ice," according to Jazz owner Larry Miller. AK47's decline this year has been awful, and the excellent play of Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, and Carlos Boozer probably don't help his confidence. AK47: you are amazing, you are a wild man, you can do it all, and you're still young. Pick it up, buddy. When you're on, you're one of the most exciting players in the league. We need you.

The New York Times has a troubling article tying NFL players' concussions to brain damage and suicide. This is something the NFL has preferred to ignore over the years, but can they afford to for much longer? If it's not concussions and brain damage, consider the studies showing how many linemen die in their 40s and 50s from heart disease. The NFL has to do something.

Jeff Samardzija is skipping the NFL and signing with the Cubs. He definitely would have a future in the NFL, but given the Cubs' guaranteed money ($10 mill.) and the knowledge that he won't be crushed by people every Sunday (unless he's playing against Delmon Young -- watch out for flying bats), he probably made the right choice. And the NFL sucks. Can't forget that. Anyway, this man could play TWO sports professionally and I struggled in Little League. What is wrong with this world?

Oh, and in case you didn't know, we're all going to die.

19 January 2007

Dirty Harry


Clint Eastwood is an amazing man. I'm not saying he's a great person, but consider this: he is 76 years old, one of the biggest movie stars of all time, and yet his most impressive achievements have come in the last 5 years. With Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, Eastwood has created two of the best films of this Oscar season, the latter currently sitting atop my list, unlikely to be dethroned. In 2004, he won the Academy Award for directing Million Dollar Baby, which also won Best Picture. In 2003, he was nominated for Mystic River, which was a Best Picture nominee for that year. And way back when I was shooting underhand three-pointers in elementary school (I was the best in the playground, when I managed to get the shot off- pretty easy to block), Eastwood won Best Director for the Best Picture of 1992, Unforgiven. All of these movies are ridiculously good. As if this wasn't enough...he composed the music for Flags, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby!! Who is this guy?!?! These were brilliant film scores, and being a musical man myself, my mind is blown. Absolutely blown. I need to lie down.

Commercialism...Gone Right?


Simply said, commercialization has taken over the world. It is estimated that the average American is exposed to 2,500 advertising messages each day (http://www.nolo.com/product.cfm/objectID/5E5BFB9E-A33A-43DB-9D162A6460AA646A/sampleChapter/5/111/277/#summary). This commercialization has taken effect just as strongly in the world of sports. Sports venues are named after corporations, and even when they’re not, logos are plastered everywhere. Take our beloved Dodger Stadium for a quick example – where once on the outfield wall stood proud memories and photos of Dodger past now lies the advertisements for Budweiser and AAA (or something like that). Some of this commercialism is done well, but most of the time it isn’t. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl is just one example of many in the latter category (TCU 37, Northern Illinois 7, in case you were wondering). It’s rare to see commercialism done gracefully, let alone bring a smile to one’s face.

Uniwatchblog.com has a small story today about the Spanish soccer team Barcelona doing just that. European soccer is rife with advertisements – logos on the front of jerseys are commonplace. The team was in fact one of the few teams not to have such logos. That was until last year, when Barcelona teamed up with UNICEF, the UN Children’s fund. Now, during a time when companies are paying millions each year for the opportunity to advertise on a uniform, Barcelona did just the opposite. They are paying close to $2 million dollars a year to UNICEF! This is a truly incredible story that perhaps hasn’t gotten enough press. It really takes something to not only pass up millions, but also then dish it out to someone else. It also looks pretty good too.

Yes, it could be argued that the $2 mil is hardly a drop in the bucket for a top-flight team. In fact, they’ll probably easily recoup that amount in jersey sales for the year. But it’s a start, and it is certainly more than most others are doing. While I’m sure most teams have a charitable wing, putting the UNICEF logo right front and center is far and away a different animal. It provides a constant reminder of the organization, the need for charity, and of course, more importantly, how great Barcelona is for doing it. Simply said, it’s a great show of altruism, and a great P.R. move by the team.

The next question is – how long will it be before another team takes a page out of Barcelona’s book, particularly in the US? Setting aside the logos of Nike, RBK, etc, corporate logos currently aren’t on the jerseys of any of the four major sports. Heck, Adidas can’t even get their logo onto the NBA jerseys that they make (but they’re all over the warm-ups!). Whichever team chooses to break the barrier first would be well advised to go the route of Barcelona, as the press would be all over it. The lower tiered MLS does include corporate sponsorships on their jerseys like their European brethren. Speaking of MLS, it will sure be interesting to see which logo the LA Galaxy will align themselves with this spring. With the money they’re paying David Beckham, you can be sure it wont be a charity case!

It has begun.

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