Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Greatest TV Moment Ever

Shaq

D'Antoni

Mike D'Antoni would make a great fit as the coach up in Toronto. Of course, he needs to be fired from Phoenix first and Sam Mitchell needs to be fired by the Raptors first. But think about it, it's a young, athletic team that could use some real philosophy behind their offense. The Colangelos run the team, as they did in Phoenix when D'Antoni was hired. Also, Toronto is a really cosmopolitan and international city, a great place to bring in the kind of guys to run the system that he plugged into Phoenix.


ps - This is our 100th post!

Buzz Bissinger is an Asshole

There isn't enough room for me to write everything I think about this subject and this moron, Bissinger, so let me just ask this question. How can Bissinger rant and rave about the dumbing down of society in regards to comments on Deadspin posts and use that as an indictment on the entire blogging/new media universe and not think about what happened at the Chicago Sun Times? Jay Mariotti's columns were opened up to comment earlier this year. Instead of commenting on his articles most of the comments were about how Mariotti is himself an asshole, among many other things. Mariotti got pissed about it and demanded the feature be taken down (and it was). Afterwards, the Trib openend up a page on its website specifically so that people who wanted to comment about what a dick Mariotti is could do so without fear of being shut down. Does Bissinger have a problem with the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune? I doubt it, because they're estabished media and above all this blog riff raff. But it's the exact same thing Bissinger thinks is the scourge of the earth. What an incompetent idiot.

ps - Just a suggestion Buzz, just because it's HBO doesn't mean you have to use every curse word out there. Makes your arguments about the vile nature of blogs seem quite hypocritical.

Marquee in the Making

Last night's San Antonio victory honestly left me with mixed emotions. I picked the Suns to win it all, so naturally I'd like to see them manage better than a 1-win effort. Also, this season seemed like a "last hurrah" in many respects, considering the trade of Shawn Marion, the panic-signing of a washed-up Shaquille O'Neal, and the aging of Steve Nash; add the new reports of Mike D's departure, and it appears as though the Suns we've come to admire will be resigned to the history books alongside the turn-of-the-century Kings and Mavs--talented teams that consistently ran into better opposition. (Notice the irony here: It was, for the most part, Shaq who derailed both Sacramento and Dallas's title hopes; now, he's on the losing end of the spectrum.)

Yes, I was sad to see the Suns fall... but...

IS IT POSSIBLE TO OVEREXAGGERATE JUST HOW INSANE A TONY PARKER vs. CHRIS PAUL MATCHUP IS GOING TO BE??!!??!!

First, there's Parker. While his diminutive teammate was receiving 6th-man honors, and his more prominent pal was draining a helluva "first 3 of the year," Tony Parker not-so-quietly tore apart the Suns, averaging 30 points and 7 assists on 52% shooting during the five game series, including a 41-and-12 gem in Game 3.

Then, there's CP3. Although aided by a surprising dunk-a-beast who's finally showing his upside, a guy whose shots never seem to touch the rim, and a sometimes-forgotten former NPOTY, it's Paul who anchors the New Orleans ship. In five games against the overmatched Mavs, Paul averaged 25 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds; in game 2 he posted 32 and 17, and in the series clincher he notched a gawky triple-double, just for effect.

I've witnessed lots of series in which great players squared off: like this one, this one, and this one. (RIP, Shaq.)

But in my eyes, it's wholly unique and exciting to be treated to a series in which two point guards, capable of firing off 30 points and 15 assists on any given night, go toe-to-toe.

Will it be CP3 or TP9?

Will they be partying it up in France, or the French Quarter?

I, for one, can't wait to watch.

A Beef with David Stern, Rod Thorn or Whoever

In Monday night's upset win, the Atlanta Hawks got physical with Kevin Garnett, which is a good thing. Zaza Pachulia was giving him a little more than he could handle and Garnett gave him a good solid forearm. Ok, no problem there. Good, hard fought game has both teams kind of feisty, I've got no issues there. What happened next though, really bothers me.

As Pachulia got in Garnett's face, teammates and refs stepped in to break up the potential fight. In the process, referee Ed Rush grabbed Garnett to pull him away from trouble. In response, Garnett clearly shoves Rush and pulls away, heading back toward the tussle. Somehow, the NBA has deemed this action not worthy of a suspension. If there has ever been a sign that the league, and Stern in particular, want to guarantee certain teams move forward in the playoffs, this is it. Boston falling to the lowly (and under .500) Hawks in the first round? Can't happen, the league needs the Celtics in the Finals or at least in an Eastern Conference Final with the Pistons.

The rules clearly dictate that any intentional and aggressive contact with an official is automatic grounds for suspension. How can the league give this leeway but not have been flexible last year with the Suns/Spurs situation? It just seems wrong to be so inconsistent, especially when this case is so cut and dry.

Someone please explain this.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Perez: Tony or Neifi?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yet Another Stop

Peter Vecsey has called him "Next Town" Larry Brown which I think is very appropriate as Larry Brown has now taken the Charlotte Bobcats job. To recap:

1972-74 Carolina Cougars
1974-79 Denver Nuggets
1979-81 UCLA
1981-83 New Jersey Nets
1983-88 University of Kansas
1988-92 San Antonio Spurs
1992-93 Los Angeles Clippers
1993-97 Indiana Pacers
1997-2003 Philadelphia 76ers
2003-05 Detroit Pistons
2005-06 New York Knicks
2008-present Charlotte Bobcats

Hyper Dunks - Coming Soon to a Store Near You

Check out the new Kenny Smith shoes!

Extra Helping of Hane

Haner Name for a Sports Agent: "He is an" Athole Still (Sven-Goran Eriksson) or Roberto Assis "Grass" (Ronaldinho) ?

Helping of Hane

Haner Jan: Kiely or Vennegoor of Hesselink ?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Scottish Alex: Ferguson or McLeish?

Monday, April 28, 2008

I Can't Think of a Title That's Clever Enough...

... and I don't really know how to preface this story.

The Hawks??!!

When did this happen? For most of the season the Hawks wallowed in mediocrity. For the first two games of the series they hung around in the first half and fell apart in the second. Thirty-eight percent shooting and 18 turns a game does not tend to build up a great deal of momentum. I don't know if Mike Woodson suddenly channeled John Wooden or if it was Al Horford's screening of the Rumble in the Jungle. The fans, however, definitely got the message and basketball has suddenly taken center stage in Atlanta. This couldn't have come at a better time. The Falcons just dubiously staked their future to (please don't be the next Trent Dilfer) Matt Ryan, then scrambled through the rest of the draft in an attempt to put pieces around him (Joe Baker even had himself going in the second round. And why address the void at DT when Grady Jackson might be available). The Braves have already been saddled with the dark-horse mantle and are depending on a couple of 40+ pitchers. College football is still a bit far away, not that you would know it from the sports page here. I forgot the hockey team's name. The Hawks, shockingly, have stepped into the void. And I am pleasantly dumbfounded.

With the exception of the thoroughly average Marvin Williams, all the Hawks pieces are suddenly operating as envisioned by basketball's (sport's?) most inept front office. Mike Bibby is guiding the team and hitting some shots. Josh Smith is changing the flow of the game with his athleticism on both ends, not to mention hitting some key outside shots, making clutch free throws, and flashing a bit of a post up game. Al Horford is a beast in the interior, even if the offense still comes and goes. Joe Johnson hit huge shots under pressure tonight and executed the very interesting pick and roll with Bibby as the screener beautifully. Off the bench, Josh Childress grabbed nine boards, was able to bring the ball up against the press at times, and threw down what might have been the nastiest dunk of the post-season were it not for the hammer Smith dropped in game three. Even the underutilized Solomon Jones made a contribution off the bench, pinning a Boston shot against the glass and generally being disruptive on the defensive end. This was fantastic stuff and the fans actually appeared to acknowledge it.

Does all this add up to a potential first round upset? Without a doubt, picking up a win at the Garden will be ferociously difficult. The Hawks, however, finally seem to have an identity. They are an up tempo team, capable of running with anyone in the league. Smith makes moves that are straight out of NBA Jam, Johnson has broken through as a legit late game go to guy in the half court, and Horford has the makings of a stud post player with the requisite mean streak. After games three and four, I can actually say the words "Hawks Highlight Factory" with a straight face, or better yet, an irony-free smile . And, at least for tonight, Atlanta sports fans have something new and promising to cheer about.

Wonderlic Scores

There are those who say the Wonderlic Test doesn't matter or doesn't test for anything that counts in football. That may be. But check out the disparities in some of these scores and tell me you don't think the score tells you at least something:

Jerome Felton - Furman FB - 41
Chris Long - Virginia DE - 45
Brian Brohm - Louisville QB - 45
Gosder Cherilus - Boston College OT - 50

Keith Rivers - Southern Cal LB - 16
Ali Highsmith - LSU LB - 13
Kenny Phillips - Miami S - 16
Ryan Clady - Boise State OT - 13

Tell me who you really want on your team.

In an NFL Draft Related Note...

Go Furman!

THE NFL DRAFT IS OVER

Words cannot describe how glad I am that I did not spend one minute watching the most boring telecast on earth.

The only bad part about the draft being over is that there will immediately be 2009 NFL draft projections unleashed on the internet. Does it ever end?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Rainman: Dustin Hoffman or Pacman Jones?

This of course excludes the Reignman Shawn Kemp.

*Contributed by B. Orr

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hane Follow-up

Anyone who answered "Evan" to the previous question is an idiot, and should be transported to a leper-like colony in Australia, reserved for people who say things like, "It's a shame that Karl Malone didn't win an NBA title. He deserved one.", or "Cal Ripken singlehandedly saved baseball."

Let it be known that these are also the kind of people who complain when you (wisely) kick a 27-yard field goal on 1st and 10 in overtime to win a deadlocked Gamebreaker matchup--because it's "lame." Fumbling on a meaningless running play is also lame, and sound strategical football is always commendable, even in the virtual world.


DS = DBAG

Helping of Hane

Haner E. Longoria: Eva or Evan ?

Bonus Better...

Better Castro: Ramon or Fidel?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Cabrera: Miguel or Francisco?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

The King Stands Alone

It took a while, but the Celtics finally got the memo, masterfully signing KG and Ray Allen to play alongside Paul Pierce.

It took a while, but the Lakers woke up and smelled the coffee, pulling a mindboggling coup to shove Pao Gasol into the lineup with Kobe Bryant.

The Suns juiced up their already-stacked roster with Shaq; the Mavs similarly sought out All-World point guard Jason Kidd; a while back, the Nuggets gave Carmelo Anthony his very own Iverson.

Teams in the NBA, especially those with superstars, seem committed to winning these days, as indicated by their willingness to spend money for quality help. That is--every team except one: Cleveland.

The Cavaliers feature a once-in-a-lifetime star in Lebron James, a 30/8/8 machine who defies all physical laws. Put simply, Lebron is a monster.

How, then, does one explain the Cavs' supporting cast? Consider:
  • Big Z makes over $10 million.
  • Wally Zurbeeak makes over $12 million.
  • Ben Wallace makes over $15 million.

All tolled, that's almost $40 million this year that Cleveland will spend on a 32-year-old lumbering center, a 31-year-old Kyle Korver model, and a 33-year-old has-been. Hmm.

The Lakers nearly lost Kobe Bryant before they realized they needed to surround him with players. The Suns traded one of their cornerstones (Shawn Marion) to acquire Shaq and (hopefully) contend for a title. When will the Cavaliers show some bravado and sign a marquee name to play alongside LBJ?

Think about it:

  • Wade had Shaq.
  • Chauncey/Rip/'Sheed have each other.
  • Paul Pierce now has KG and Ray Ray.
  • Kobe has Pao.
  • Duncan/Parker/Bowen/Ginobli have each other.
  • Yao has T-Mac.
  • Dirk has Kidd.

Even Jordan had Scottie.

No matter how great a player is, he can't win an NBA title alone. Sure, Daniel Gibson is a strong player and had a great postseason last year. Otherwise, what're the Cavs to do--hang their hopes on aging, overrated stars? Ride Anderson Varejao to a title?

AI wandered the wilderness in Philly, winning an MVP but being hosed in the Finals. Hosed in the Finals--sound familiar? It happened to Lebron last year.

Until Cleveland commits to winning... the King stands alone.

Helping of Hane

Haner Yakubu: Ayegbeni or Abubakari ?

White/Yellow/Orange/Red/Black Out

What is the deal with all the 'Outs' these days, especially in the pros? I can't remember what was the first one I saw though I think it was the Miami Heat White Out in the 2006 NBA Finals. Shortly thereafter Penn State used a series of White Outs in games against Ohio State and I'm pretty sure Notre Dame (though I think they do it for every single home game now).

Last year, UGA used a Black Out in a game against Auburn and also wore black unis for the first time. Last basketball season, Louisville used a White Out against UConn and even coach Rick Pitino got in on the act.

None of those are particularly annoying or egregious by themsevles, but as the collective whole is growing, it's starting to change. Just in the past week the Philadelphia Flyers had an Orange Out for their Game 6 (loss) against the Washinton Capitals. The Caps then returned the favor by hosting a Red Out for their Game 7 (loss). The Cleveland Cavaliers then hosted the Washington Wizards in Game 1 of their first round series and held a Yellow Out, as barely seen behind the Wizards in this photo, which makes it even stranger since the Wiz wore gold. Not to be outdone, upon returning home for Game 3 last night, the Wizards held a White Out of their own. Also last night, the Utah Jazz had a White Out in a Game 3 loss against the Rockets and the Toronto Raports held a Red Out in their Game 3 win over the Magic.

'Outs' are now reaching the status of rushing the floor/field after a win in basketball or football and other stupid trends like tights or tube socks in the NBA. That is trends that are completely pointless but for some reason have lasted far longer than they ever should have. 'Outs' have completely jumped the shark, so can we please stop having them?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Rodney: Rogers or Fernando?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Height

Really tall, funny-looking athletes:

Helping of Hane

Haner French Collapse: Jean Van de Velde or WW2 ?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Felix: Pie or "the Cat" Potvin?

N... B... A-OK...

For as long as I can remember, I've been a vociferous, often irrational critic of the NBA. I've dismissed it as an unwatchable "Me First" league, an unworthy counterpart to the melodic team-driven orchestra that is college hoops. No one passes, nobody plays defense, and everyone is driven by $$$... or so my argument used to go.

Recently, something funny happened. I moved to NOLA and witnessed firsthand the CP3 renaissance; I watched a Western Conference playoff race that saw a 48-win team--a team that would've been the East's #4--miss the playoffs; I saw point guards playing like points guards, and big men playing like big men. Suddenly--and out of nowhere--I became... gasp... an NBA fan.

Now, I am the first to admit that this revelation has left me in a state of shock. Me--liking the NBA? Me supporting the league that made Juwan Howard a gillionaire and paid Keith Van Horn several million dollars just to be a paper-element of a trade? Geez. What's come over me?

In order to explain this strange development (and mostly for my own peace of mind), I've thought a lot about my newfound fandom. The following points, which serve to explain my own transformation, will perhaps also say a bit about the current (exciting) state of the Association.

1. Having a "hometown" team

When I lived in South Carolina, the two nearest NBA franchises were the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks. That's right: an expansion team made up of college superstars with tenuous pro potential, and a franchise known for its... how to say it?... utter suckitude. Sure, I'd grown up idolizing the Zo/LJ/Mugsy Hornets, but they were long gone, transferred to New Orleans, then OKC, then back again.

In the summer of 2007, as fate would have it, I relocated to the Big Easy with the hopes of helping to rebuild the city's education system. I assumed I'd be caught up in Saints fever, what with the recent NFC title game run and all. Little did I realize, however, that the now-New Orleans Hornets had gone and built themselves a lil' basketball team. Armed with Byron Scott (Finals-tested coach), Chris Paul (a college stud I knew of), David West (the guy who beat out Dwyane Wade for NPOTY honors), and Peja (the streakiest jump-shooter this side of Ray Allen), the Hornets have quite a nucleus. But who--honestly--expected this kind of season?

From the get-go, the Hornets seemed destine for success, and it took me little time to fall in love with their story. CP3 looks like he could be better than Zeke. David West is a legit All Star. Tyson Chandler is showing the promise that the Bulls saw in him at an early age. Peja's shots never seem to touch the rim. Were it not for a few slip-ups at the end of the season, NO would've earned the #1 seed in the most heated conference race I've ever seen. Indeed, here in NOLA, I feel connected to an NBA franchise for the first time in my life.

2. New faces at the table

For most of my lifetime, NBA seasons were foregone conclusions. When #23/45 was around, you could pretty much guarantee a Windy City title; once Shaq and Kobe teamed up, Tinseltown was rife with gold. In fact, since I was born (long ago, in 1983!), there have been 3 3peats, 3 repeats, and a 3-out-of-5. Amazingly, every champion since 1983-84, with the exception of the Miami Heat, has one more than one title in the past 25 years. Sure, the NFL has had the Cowboys and the 49ers, and baseball has known the Yankees; but, of the 3 major U.S. sports leagues, the NBA has been the home of dynasties.

This season, due to a broad array of circumstances, things really are "up in the air."
  • As eloquently stated on this here humble blog, the Pistons' are getting older. Their stretch of Eastern dominance may be coming to an end.
  • The Celtics, in a MAJOR coup, ended up with a roster featuring KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. Suddenly, the guys in green are a force to be reckoned with.
  • The Spurs are on the once-great/now-questionable border.
  • The Suns have Shaq, and a beastly Amare.
  • The Mavs are inconsistent but still loaded with talent.
  • The Jazz are ruthless at home.
  • The Rockets won like 383,393 straight games.
  • The Hornets are for real.
  • So are the new-look Lakers.

Especially in the ridiculous Western Conference, outcomes this season are not definitively predictable. Every 1st-round matchup--even the #1-#8--is not only competitive, but entertaining. Now, instead of complaining that the playoffs should be trimmed to 4 teams from each conference, I want to watch every single game of every single series. At least in the West. (Pistons/76ers is a yawner. And Raptors/Magic is so-so... but even that one features the inhuman Dwight Howard.)

3. Young players with loads of talent

More than any time I can remember, these days are chock full of NBA talent. Consider these NBA seeds, listed by star player(s) rather than teams:

West: #1 Kobe Bryant, #2 Chris Paul/David West, #3 Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobli, #4 Deron Williams/Carloz Boozer, #5 Tracy McGrady/Yao Ming, #6 Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire/Shaq, #7 Dirk Nowitzki/Jason Kidd, #8 Allen Iverson/Carmelo Anthony

East: #1 Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen/Paul Pierce, #2 Rasheed Wallace/Chauncey Billups/Richard Hamilton, #3 Dwight Howard, #4 Lebron James, #5 Gilbert Arenas, #6 Chris Bosh, #7 Andre Iguodala, #8 Al Horford

Except for the laggers in the East, each team features legitimate stars who are fun to watch.

4. A variety of stars

I used to think that the NBA was personified by the Knicks--that every team featured tons of guys who play no D and stand around watching the guy with the ball. Nowadays, however, I see people playing their positions... a virtual constellation of players and roles, all delivering eyepopping action.

Guys like Steve Nash and Chris Paul have rejuvenated the speed game, playing the "pure" point at times, and caring more about assists than points.

Players like Kevin Durant and David West reside somewhere between guard and forward--athletic dudes who can cause trouble no matter where you put them.

Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard are huge, but not in the monolithic way of older Shaq and mid-career Ewing. They're more like athletic forwards who can guard your team's big man.

...

I never foresaw myself becoming an NBA fan. But, due to a fortunate set of circumstances, the Association is now a part of my sports consciousness. With so many young stars making the potential for parity a reality, I may be on NBAndwagon for a while...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Has the sun stopped shining on the Pistons' ass?

Since overreaction is one of the pillars of sports writing, now seems like a good time to discuss blowing up the Pistons. Sure, these guys have won 284 regular season games with the same core (Billups, Hamilton, Prince, Sheed) over the last five years. They've even managed to acquire some solid younger talent like Maxiell and Stuckey, despite the Darko debacle. Every year they are a title favorite due to things like savvy, chemistry, and experience. Unfortunately, they always seem a little complacent, leaving us all waiting for them to turn it on. And the truth is, I'm not sure it's ever coming on. Last year, what was supposed to be the ultimate team unit, conserving energy through a relatively average regular season, was eliminated by the ultimate one man show. Now, they've come out completely flat and lost to an inexperienced 76ers team that finished the season with a losing record.

Sheed is now 33, Billups is 31, and Hamilton is 30. The present may well belong to the Celtics, and few would doubt that LeBron is the future. Where does this leave the Pistons? All of sudden, missing the boat by taking Darko looks a lot more serious. Rather than reloading around Chris Bosh, Prince, Stuckey, and Maxiell, the Pistons are left with an aging core of semi-stars in danger of becoming underachievers and limited cap flexibility. Of course, observers of this article, if there were any, might wonder if I had any solutions to the situation. Nope.

By the way, I haven't seen the Sixers play for more than ten minutes all season. What happened to make them good? Seriously, if anybody knows, please tell me. Is it talented young players, a good coach, and a veteran point guard? Ed Stefanski? Positive energy radiating off of Kevin Ollie's stache? Opponents busy protecting their nuts from Reggie Evans?

Bonus Better...

Better Tiny: Archibald or Tim?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Maddox: Tommy or Garry?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Helping of Hane

Haner Governmental Alias: The Mayor or El Presidente ?

A Rare Duke Post

I just read a story about Quin Snyder which reminded me that Duke went to the Final Four in 1988 and 1989. I started thinking about it and it's pretty remarkable. Especially 1986-1994. Asterisks denote playing in the title game.

1986*
1988
1989
1990*
1991*
1992*
1994*
1999*
2001*
2004

In 1987 Duke lost in the Sweet Sixteen to eventual champion Indiana and in 1993 Duke was stunned by Jason Kidd and Cal in the second round.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better KJ: Choi or Kevin Johnson?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

NBA Playoff Picks - Where Incorrect Happens - Volume 3 - MAO

West:

LA over Denver
Utah over Houston
Phoenix over San Antonio
New Orleans over Dallas

LA over Utah
Phoenix over New Orleans

LA over Phoenix

East:

Boston over Atlanta
Washington over Cleveland
Orlando over Toronto
Detroit over Philadelphia

Boston over Washington
Detroit over Orlando

Boston over Detroit

Finals:

Celtics over Lakers

NBA Playoff Picks - Where Incorrect Happens - Volume 2 - Mr. Lee

West:

Lakers over Nuggets
Hornets over Mavericks
Suns over Spurs
Jazz over Rockets

Suns over Hornets
Jazz over Lakers

Suns over Jazz

East:

Celtics over Hawks
Pistons over 76ers
Magic over Raptors
Cavaliers over Wizards

Celtics over Cavaliers
Pistons over Magic

Pistons over Celtics

Finals:

Suns over Pistons

NBA Playoff Pics - Where Incorrect Happens - Volume 1 - Prizz

West:

LA over Denver
Utah over Houston
Phoenix over SA
Dallas over NO

Utah over LA in 7
Phoenix over Dallas

Utah over Phoenix

East:

Boston over ATL
Wiz over Cleveland
Orlando over Toronto
Detroit over Philly

Boston over Wiz

Detroit over Orlando

Boston over Detroit

Finals:

Boston over Utah 4-2

Stadia

Coming to you live from Starbucks on Gervais Street in downtown Columbia...

Just a few thoughts and grades of the state of stadia in baseball this year:

Really love to see the new Nationals stadium open. Of course I wish I hadn't spent two years watching the Nats play in RFK instead of the gem they have now, but I digress. Even though the Nats clearly suck and are in a very competitive division for whenever they are able to play closer to .500 ball, having a gleaming new stadium makes a huge difference in overall perception. A good example of this is the Pirates new stadium, PNC Park. When PNC opened, fans came by the thousands to check out the new park, despite the fact that the Pirates were horrible. The general view of the franchise was uplifted as analysts, players and general fans saw the new stadium as an impetus for change within the organization. Of course, that hasn't proven to be true over the longer-term, but that initial push for several years can make a big difference if handled correctly.

Washington Nationals Park gets an A in my book, at least for now.

Moving on to New York where two shite ballparks will be closed out this year. Starting with the Mets, I'm pretty happy to see Shea close it's doors. Having been to one game there, it was not a place that made me feel better about myself. And I was there with some of my best friends in the world. But there was a certain charm to it as well mostly contained in the attitudes and fervor of the fans. It wasn't like going to a Dodgers or Braves game where the fans were really not that interested in what happened on the field. Rather, the Mets fans were passionate both in support of the Mets and against whomever they played. The new Mets park will be a beautiful throwback and will draw capacity crowds for years to come. Sadly though, it will go by the name of Citi Field. Whereas Shea was named for the man who made baseball in Queens possible, this new stadium will be named after a stupid financial services company. It's not like the Mets are short on cash. Just makes me sad.

Citi Field gets a C - great layout, terrible name

In that respect, the Yankees (or Yinkees, to quote a great, old Kornheiser line) are getting it right. The new Yankee Stadium is being created out of the mold of the original structure, before the terrible "improvements" undertaken during the early Steinbrener years. It will be called Yankee Stadium and will ensure that kids going to their first game will remember basically the exact same view as generations of fans have since the 1920s. I really like the idea of building a new stadium that mimics a classic, instead of trying to recreate a fictionally "classic" layout. I love the throwback parks, but the routine is getting a little tired now that half the league play on such fields.

NEW Yankee Stadium gets an A, provided it doesn't do like NEW Comiskey Park that eventually became US Cellular Field. Yuck.

Finally, a wee note on the sad state of sports in Cleveland. Apparently drawing from the Cavaliers precedent in taking Gund Arena (named after blind owner Gordon Gund) and turning it into Quicken Loans Arena, the Indians have spun Jacobs Field, named after the owner that helped turn the franchise around, into Progressive Field. Just weak. Maybe they don't make as much cash as the Mets, but were the Indians really struggling over the past fourteen years when they've been in that stadium?

Jacobs Field (I refuse to call it Progressive, kind of like I always refer to the Washington Bullets and LA Rams, though those are less purposeful than my going-out-of-the-way disdain for Progressive) gets a C - still a great place to watch a ballgame but the name just sucks the life out of it.

Lee's List: 5 Reasons the Lakers Will NOT Win the NBA Title

5. Shaq will relish the opportunity to prevent Kobe Bryant from winning his "own" title.

4. Amare Stoudemire is a stud, and the combination of him/Nash/Shaq is enough to contend against any team--East or West.

3. The Spurs are like the Patriots (before 18-1); they have a solid regular season, then they quietly show their gravitas when the postseason rolls around. Hence, 3 NBA titles in 5 years--and 2 near misses.

2. The Pistons could easily come out of the East... and they've beaten the Lakers in the Finals before--when the Lakers had Kobe... and Shaq.

1. The Pistons probably won't come out of the East (despite my own predictions). The Celtics, who are stacked, likely will. People are ready to hand LA the title... while overlooking the team with the (clear cut) best record in the Association.


(Interesting thought: Would Kevin McHale be happy to see KG win a title for his former team? Quite the mix of connections.)

Tejada Age Spat a Non-Issue

Quick Thought: Anyone who makes a huge deal about the revelation that Miguel Tejada is actually 33 (and not 31) should calm the **** down. When he was 19, the guy was desperately trying to escape the poverty of his Dominican Republic home; so he told people he was 17, which added to his baseball appeal.

Big whoop.

I'd have done the same thing.

Helping of Hane

Haner Beaver Claim: SI's Oregon St. gamble or Wilt's 25k ?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Jack: Sikma or Morris?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jordan's Reach

Think, for a moment, about the good (perhaps great) teams who would've likely won NBA titles had Michael Jordan not been born.

  • Phoenix Suns with Barkley/KJ/Thunder Dan
  • New York Knicks with Ewing/Starks
  • Seattle Sonics with Kemp/Payton/Schrempf
  • Utah Jazz with Mailman/Stockton/Horny

Pretty incredible. These teams were stacked with talent.

(That's all. Just a random thought.)

SOS Ignored

Usually when an S.O.S. is sent, it is expected to fall on the ears of one interested in helping the distressed. But these days, when the cry is heard from the Seattle community regarding their SuperSonics (one of the greatest regionally affiliated team names ever, up there with the Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Steelers), those in best position to help have turned a deaf ear. Namely, David Stern.

Most people on the east coast don't really care about the Sonics. But there is good reason to keep this team in the city of it's founding. Most teams that have moved, especially in the NBA, have found limited succes afterwards. For example, the Buffalo Braves (San Diego/LA Clippers), Vancouver Grizzlies (Memphis), Rochester/Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City/Omaha Kings (Sacramento) and until this season, Charlotte Hornets (New Orleans). But that is not the major reason for keeping a team at home. How many people realize that the Sonics have won an NBA title? 1979 over the Washington Bullets, led by Dennis Johnson and coached by Lenny Wilkens. The Wizards still exist yet their last title team was a year earlier against the same Sonics. The Sonics also made it to the finals in 1996 before losing in six games to a team that many consider the greatest of all-time (and at the very least earned the best ever record at 72-10) in the Chicago Bulls. It just seems wrong that a team with such great success, even if it wasn't last year, would be moved to a place that has no history of professional athletics, let alone basketball.

Now, I have no issue with a team being located in Oklahoma City, I just wish it wasn't going to be the Sonics. I was a big fan of Seattle growing up in the prime years of the Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf, Nate McMillan, Dalle Ellis teams (not to mention Hersey Hawkins or Sam Perkins). I had over 50 individual Shawn Kemp basketball cards, and despite his ballooned weight, multiple illegitimate children and money woes, I still generally think fondly of him. His dunks were ferocious and despite his limited intellect, he was able to play all over the court.

Maybe I shouldn't be so biased in my opinion, or maybe I should. I think it's a joke what David Stern is doing with Seattle. He's giving Clay Bennett a free ride out of town. I wish there was someone higher to appeal to in order to keep the Sonics where they belong, in Seattle.

Helping of Hane

Haner Japanese Bomb: Hideki Irabu or Pearl Harbor ?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Lew Alcindor or Karim Abdul-Jabbar?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tiger...Greatest Athlete Ever?

Why is it that whenever people talk about the greatest athletes of all-time and they mention Tiger Woods, they miss a crucial piece of his story? Those kind of lists usually include people like Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali, Wayne Gretzky and Jack Nicklaus. Admittedly, Tiger is amazingly good and has put up numbers that are unrivaled. But what he doesn't have that all the others do is a comeback that matters. Sure, Tiger has won thirteen majors and ocassionally dominated them, but he has never come from behind on a Sunday to win in a major.

Tiger is known not just for his successes but for his intensity. No one plays harder and focuses more than Tiger, it is often said. But that seems to disappear when he's not atop the leaderboard. It's almost like that killer instinct that he seems to possess on Sundays when he's in the lead just isn't there when he's not winning. It's been said that it's impossible to catch Tiger when he's ahead of you, but if you're ahead of him, it simply takes steady play and a sound game plan.

Each of the past two Masters tournaments are perfect examples. In 2007, Zach Johnson stuck to his conservative plan to lay up on par 5's and not try to do too much. The result was that his lead was not challenged by a trailing Tiger. This year, Trevor Immelman shot +3 on Sunday yet Tiger could do no better than par for the day and though he finished second for the second straight year, really did not challenge for the green jacket.

Chasing Jack Nicklaus' record of eighteen majors is of course an amazing accomplishment and if/when he breaks the record it will be celebrated the world over. But consider for a moment the 19 second place finishes (to Tiger's five), 46 top three finishes (to Tiger's 21) and 73 top tens (to Tiger's 28) achieved by the Golden Bear. Granted, Nicklaus played in majors every year from 1960-2000 while Tiger has only been playing in majors sine 1995. But the point is, Nicklaus routinely finished in the top 10 and higher in majors and once had a streak of 13 consecutive in the top 10. Tiger has finished in the top 10 five times in a row, twice.

This is not to slam Tiger or to say he's not as good as Nicklaus - some insult! It's just to point out that while Tiger wins a lot in majors, he seems to conceed the titles when he's not already out in front. A very curious way of playing in tournaments. Eventually, one must assume, he will come from several shots back with an amazing final round and win a major in climactic fashion. But until then, I think we need to hold off on the greatest ever athlete conversations.

Separated at Birth?

Helping of Hane

Haner John: John Rocker or Eugene Robinson ?

Poll Question

Due to the overwhelming weekend response to the inaugural poll question, The AD Hall has decided to narrow the field from all possible choices to the following nine. Let us know which of these choices you think is the best team you've ever seen:

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Pena: Alejandro or Tony?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

The First AD Hall Poll


This is the first AD Hall poll question. You don't have to leave your real name if you don't want, but in the comments section, answer the following question. On Monday we'll reveal The AD Hall's answers.

Q: What is the greatest team you've ever seen play? This can be any sport and it doesn't have to have been in person, but it does have to have been a team you legitimately saw while they were at their peak.


T. Boone Pickens University at Stillwater

Is Oklahoma State trying to become the Chelsea of college athletics? Ever since T. Boone Pickens (and shouldn't his name just be T. Bone Pickens anyway?) started throwing around his private equity firm money, OSU has spent outrageously to try to give the Cowboy athletic programs an edge. From renovating and renaming the football stadium (now aptly Boone Pickens Stadium) to throwing around NBA-like numbers trying to lure Bill Self away from Kansas, this money is being used to advertise the school as a top notch destination for athletes and coaches alike.

There are several problems with this, not the least of which is the degree to which the athletics department is now handcuffed to the man himself. Can the AD really choose which coach he'd like next, or does the will of Mr. Pickens control the decisions that are made? This seems like a terrible arrangement, not just for the AD personally, but just in general for the whole school. Really rich guys trying to help make day-to-day decisions in areas for which they have no expertise has proven to be a disaster in many instances (see Angelos, Peter).

The other major issue with this kind of operation is the fact that no matter how nice the stadium, training facilities, locker rooms, paychecks for coaches, etc., Oklahoma State University is still located in Stillwater, OK. Let me repeat, Stillwater, Oklahoma. No matter how much money you pour into the school, Stillwater will never be a place that is attractive.

Now, I think it's a good thing for a patron to dump tons of money into the educational side of a college institution, as Mr. Pickens has done with the Geology Department in particular. Great benefits arise from an influx of money in the form of additional scholarship money, revamped buildings and lab spaces and extending the usually limited budgets of collegiate academic departments. But let's not pretend that those types of benefits translate to the playing fields.

Mr. Pickens should be more constructive with his funds and try to turn Oklahoma State into a premier academic institution. We love sports at the AD Hall but also realize that an unlimited budget is not what makes athletic programs better, at least not that alone. Allowing family succession in one major sport and allowing this guy to ever speak in public in another are canceling out the benefits of additional funding in the public sphere anyway.

AD Hall Glossary

An attempt to explain some of the AD Hall lingo:

Hane - originally short for heinous; often used with a negative connotation but not prohibited from use as a positive or exclamation.

Use as exclamation: Did you see Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS where the Yankees beat the Red Sox 19-8? That was hane!

Use as positive: Check out this YouTube video of a Shawn Kemp dunk from 1991, it is hane.

Use as negative: Did you see that completely hane girl that just walked by? Gross.

Helping of Hane

Haner Bust: Ryan Leaf or Bill Parcells ?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Gay: Rudy or John Amaechi?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Felt Like We Needed More Pictures

NBA MVP IMHO (Mr. Lee)

As the NBA regular season grinds to a halt, one of the more heated MVP debates of recent memory will surely ensue, with 2 players from each conference dominating the discussion. Ask any Joe Schmoe who knows even a little about basketball, and you're likely to hear a heated opinion on the matter.

How, though, does one choose from this year's top-notch pack? There's the big man who brought basketball back to Beantown; there's the King, with his otherworldly numbers; there's Jordan 2.0; and there's the wunderkind who's overseen a Renaissance in a city that could use one.

While no single argument can be made against any of the 4 leading MVP candidates, what follows is my best effort to present the case as I see it--not the flawless opinion, but my sort-of-well-reasoned, perhaps partially inconsistent, thoughts. (In hindsight, I am fairly sure that my analysis could never hold up under the scrutiny of true basketball pundits... or the confines of conventional logic. Poo!)

4th Place: Lebron James
I know... I know. Proponents are clamoring about the fact that Lebron is averaging a Jordanesque 30-8-7 for the season. He's a monster. A man-child.

Detractors are pointing to the Cavs' 43-35 record, insisting that 4th place (19 games back) in the little-brother conference simply isn't good enough.

I subscribe to neither the pro argument (after all, his stats are mindboggling, but not recordbreaking), nor the anti argument (team success should never be the sole determinant for MVP, which is why I supported A-Rod's win with the last-placed Rangers).

Sure, if you took LJ away from the Cavs, they would plummet--30 wins would probably be a far stretch. He's as "valuable"--and most probably more valuable--to his team than any player in the NBA. Still, only one person can be the MVP... and there are 3 other players who have, by dint of circumstance, performed ever so slightly better than King James this season.

3rd Place: Kevin Garnett
Enter the 20-10 machine (alongside the sweetest shot in the league), and the Celtics have the league's best record--with 5 games to spare. If ever there were a truth surrounding the idea of "presence," this is it. KG is a veteran, and his steady production/dependability have lent the Celtics a swagger that they haven't known since the days of #33.

Some will argue that Pierce scores slightly more--and some will argue that Ray Allen's presence somewhat clouds our ability to gauge KG's singular impact.

I say: "Bah."

2nd Place: Kobe Bryant
"He's never won one. He deserves it."

"29-6-5. Contending for 1st place in the West. Best player on the planet. Today's Jordan."

These are all valid comments--the latter more so than the former--and I couldn't complain much (or justifiably) if Kobe won the MVP.

(In fact, I think he'll take home the trophy.)

1st Place: Chris Paul
1st place in the insanely stacked Western Conference.

21 points and 12 assists per game.

1st place in the insanely stacked Western Conference.

26 points and 14 assists per game against the Lakers.

1st place in the insanely stacked Western Conference.

8 games of 30+ points and 10+ assists.

1st place in the insanely stacked Western Conference.

Other games of 43-9, 40-9, and 42-9 (a 132-130 win in Phoenix).

1st place in the insanely stacked Western Conference...

... and arguably the best season ever for a point guard.

CP3 4 MVP !!!

Helping of Hane

Haner Heat Stroke: Shawn Marion or Corey Stringer ?


Ouch.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Felipe: Alou or Lopez?

Also, check out the really weak editing job on the Alou card, nicely done with the hat.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Game for a Rainy Day (or long car ride)

We all love games like Monopoly or Parcheesi, and who doesn't Madden appeal to? But sometimes when it's a rainy day or if you're in the car (one without video screens on the backs of seats) for a long drive, it's fun to play the sports name game. 'How does one play?' you ask? We're very glad you asked. The rules go as follows:

First person lists any player from any sport, past or present (sorry, no future). For example, Pele. Pele famously played soccer, of course, so for the next person, the athlete they name cannot be a soccer player. Easy enough, right?

But here's the interesting part (if this wasn't part of it, you could just name all the athelets you'd ever heard of which would just be a contest of who has the best memory, which would be kind of fun for a little while but eventually you'd probably rather be out in the rain): the next athlete's first name must start with the last letter of the previous athlete's last name. So, in the conveniently aforementioned example (see sentence two, above) Pele was the athlete and his name ends in 'e.' So, person two must reply with, for example, Edgerrin James. Edgerrin James starts with 'e' and is not a soccer player, making him one of thousands of perfect matches for this example. The game continues as such until a person can no longer name any players fitting these criteria. Additionally, no names may ever be reused (well, at least not in the same game. I guess you could reuse Pele the next time you play...if you weren't very good at it).

One fun way to more easily knock out your eager opponents is to use as many names like Claude Lemieux or Harold "the show" Arceneaux. Why? They end in 'x,' that's why. How many names have you ever heard of that start with 'x'? I'll cheat for you and give you a few (Xavier McDaniel, who by the way went to AC Flora high school here in Columbia, and Xavi Alsonso). Names such as Exree Hipp do not count, even though they sound like they might start with an 'x.'

Finally, names that cannot be used include nicknames of players. For example, one cannot use 'Pudge' Rodriguez, even though 'z' is another really good letter to end with. Ivan Rodriguez is of course very appropriate, but not if the last letter of the previous last name ends in 'p.' This is also useful when considering using Carlton Fisk and slightly less useful but still good to know when considering Pork Chop Womack (aka, Floyd).

So there you have it, completely free of charge (until we can start charging for access to this site) a game to play that will enhance your sports name knowledge while simultaneously wasting countless hours. Please play responsibly.

Why We Love Mike Krzyzewski

Why we love Mike Krzyzewski:

1. Nevermind

Helping of Hane

Like MAO's servings of betterment, but with a more AD-ish twist.

Hanest Burning of Atlanta: Jim Leyritz, Kent Hrbek, Eric Gregg, Michael Vick, Lon Kruger, or General Sherman (literal) ?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Artis: Gilmore or Wallace?

"Nobody eats Gummy Bears more than him"

The sour straw induced gastrointestinal distress that silenced Derrick Rose leading up to the NCAA title game joins Felix Pie's twisted testicle, Kaz Matsui's anal fissure, and Mikhail Youzhny's self administered head wound in a parade of bizarre spring time injuries. Rather than revisit other unusual mishaps of the past, the AD Hall will peer into the crystal ball and boldly forecast the ten oddest ailments of the future. Prepare to be amazed at a later date.

May 2008 - Having failed to take seriously the dangers of partying with underage girls, Matt Leinert misses whatever the hell those spring practices are called with a dislocated shoulder suffered while attempting to reach new heights whilst holding a beer bong for his 17 year old date. Conspiracies theorists, however, insist that the lost practice time was actually due to a bruised uvula suffered during a Nick Lachey-related incident.

July 2008 - While doing a bit of trail running as part of his off-season conditioning program, Carmelo Anthony veers off course, resulting in a severe case of poison oak. As a silver lining, however, Melo becomes the spokesman for a multi-million dollar Benadryl ad campaing: Stop Fuckin' Itchin'.

November 2008 - During the home opener for the Oklahoma City Prairie Dogs, OKC owner Clay Bennett is brutally assaulted by an intoxicated and morbidly obese Shawn Kemp, who bellows that Bennett has squashed his dream of a triumphant comeback in the city where he became a star. The situation is complicated when women from various corners of the arena join in the fight, attacking Kemp and demanding child support payments. The donnybrook spills onto the court, where Kevin Durant suffers a high ankle sprain.

December 2008 - Following yet another early season home loss, Sunderland boss Roy Keane suffers a scratched cornea when he is hit by a missile as he leaves the pitch. Shockingly, the object turns out to a half eaten prawn sandwich, launched by a disgruntled, but still passionate, fan in the luxury boxes.

February 2009 - As part of his annual off-season competition with Tiger Woods, Braves pitcher John Smoltz proposes a game of one-on-one basketball. Smoltz, a high school star in Michigan, forgets that he is forty-one years old and attempts a ferocious dunk over a stunned Woods. Sadly, the hurler is rejected by the underside of the rim, crashing to the ground and experience a bruised tail bone and class three sprained ego.

May 2009 - Looking to crash the energy drink party, and put his soft serving experience to use, Mavs owner Mark Cuban launches an exciting new product: Xtreme Ice Kream. Cuban enlists his team for product testing, only to have Dirk Nowitzki miss that evening's game with a taurine/ice cream headache.

October 2009 - In yet another post-season flop, Alex Rodriguez goes 0-17 as the Yankees are eliminated in the ALDS. Baseball insiders attribute this performance to a scrotal abrasion suffered by A-Rod when he was forced to zip up in a hurry and flee when Jose Conseco arrived home early.

June 2010 - Completing a stunning two year turn around, a healthy Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley lead the Miami Heat to the NBA championship. Shawn Marion, incensed at once more being relegated to "under-appreciated third option and defensive specialist," skips the locker room celebration to drink alone at the bar in the team hotel. He later suffers a broken rib, vomiting in the lobby bathroom.

September 2010 - As part of their penance for bringing shame to the sport, the NBA sends the New York Knicks to Mongolia as part of the NBA Cares program. Ron Artest, entering his third season in New York, is somehow separated from the team and lost to the wilds of the Gobi. He is found months later, seemingly living happily with a pair of snow leopards. Artest receives treatment for scurvy and mild exposure, but is otherwise unharmed.

January 2012 - At a lavish party celebrating his 30th birthday, Gilbert Arenas suffers bruises and a mild concussion when he is thrown from the rented elephant he rode in on and crashes threw a larger than life ice sculpture of himself. On his blog, Gil admits that the experience was painful, but "not nearly as bad as that time my rookie year when I shaved my taint."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nicknames that Will Probably Never Make it on Sports Center

In honor of the now age-old process by which Chris Berman (at least in his younger, less jaded days) created nicknames for ballplayers of all sorts, we've compiled a list of nicknames that despite their worthiness, will never reach the mainstream air. So to remedy this situation, we bestow upon you some of the less sensitive, less PC and less tasteful nicknames out there:

  • Brad 'Cerebral' Halsey
  • Keith 'Queer as' Foulke
  • Bowie 'Dead' Kuhn
  • Ted 'Batan Death' March-ibroda
  • Robert 'FEMA' Traylor
  • Jeremy 'If She Were Younger I'd Have' Bonderman
  • Bartolo 'Cancer of the' Colon
  • Jon 'Love Her and' Lieber
  • Grady 'Women Really Do Care About' Sizemore
  • CJ 'Who the Fuck' Ah You
  • Larry 'Club' Foote
  • Randall 'Is' Gay
  • Ronnie 'The War of 1812 was Officially ended with the Treaty of' Ghent
  • Jerry 'Pubic' Hariston
  • Torii 'MILF' Hunter
  • Ed 'Can't' Reed
  • David 'Uncle' Toms
  • Dwyane 'Roe v.' Wade
  • Junior 'My Uncle Made Me' Seau
  • Amanti 'Malignant' Toomer

Overtime?

During last night's NCAA title game between Memphis and Kansas, Billy Packer mentioned that Kansas would be fine going into overtime because they'd been in that position before, IN THE 1957 TITLE GAME. That game went to three overtimes before Lennie Rosenbluth and North Carolina defeated Wilt Chamberlain, Dean Smith and Kansas.

Of course, not only were none of the current Kansas players alive for that game, it's quite possible that very few of their parents were either. I'm not exactly sure how that experience would have helped KU in the overtime period (not that they needed it).

Barca Woes

In an apparent attempt to continue my string of jinxes (Are you aware that I singlehandedly ended the Warriors' span of 35+ 100-point games?), uncertainty continues to rise from the Nou Camp, with suggestions running rampant over the futures of both Ronaldinho and unsettled striker Thierry Henry. (Champions League pick--bye bye!)

  • Speculation has long surrounded Ronaldinho, who has played only 1/3 of his teams games this year and is oft-cited as Roman Abramovich's next big target.
  • Now, however, it appears that Thierry Henry deeply misses his daughter, who still lives in London; thus, the French international is reportedly mulling a move back to the EPL, with Barca insisting that they would be willing to entertain offers (15-million pounds plus) for the disgruntled former Arsenal man.

Two points of note here:

  1. It speaks to Barcelona's depth that they could afford to lose 2 of the top 10 players in the world and still manage to compete--and, to be sure, they can. With Leo Messi and Samuel Eto'o, both of whom could also arguably be placed in the world top 10, the Catalans should be OK. With the money they'd make for Ronaldinho and Henry, they could surely afford to buy some first-rate young talent. (They always do.)
  2. Henry's departure from Arsenal epitomizes the tendency for stars to underappreciate their situations. Why couldn't Henry have stayed at Arsenal, where he could play under the world's finest manager and become a one-team legend (like Ryan Giggs at ManU and Alan Shearer at Toon)? To leave a top-10-in-the-world club for another is a precarious decision--because, in reality, things can only go downhill. Now it appears that Henry could head to Man. City, Newcastle, or West Ham--all of which would be a far cry from the Nou Camp or the Emirates.

Lesson learned.

Koln!!



So Heidi Klum's kid loves Koln. Look who else loves Koln!

Dominique Wilkins!
This (NFL Europe) Centurions Cheerleader!
Alex!
Dr. Chengfei Liu!
Oliver Kahn!

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Kelly: Gruber or Tripuka?

No votes may be cast for Tom Kelly.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Who Can Resist?

Nothing better than the original with Billy Donovan, Rony Seiklay, Derrick Coleman and Steve Alford featured prominently.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Geronimo: Pena or Berroa?

Not to mention, of course, Geronimo.

Peculiar Premies...

Prizz's reference to the characteristically close EPL title race has put me in a football mood. In thinking about the 4 perennial powerhouses that dominate England's top flight (ManU, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool) I am struck by numerous noteworthy things: the fact that these clubs have lost a mere combined 2 home matches all season; the argument (which could certainly be made) that Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, and Rafa Benitez are the 3 best managers in all the world; and the possibility that Liverpool, a now-perennial Champions League threat, lay in danger of falling outside the coveted "Top 4" echelon, with Everton nipping heatedly at their heels.

It's this last point that piques my interest, because it brings to light a peculiar puzzle surrounding the EPL's superclubs: between league play and UEFA competition, they are often wildly and confusingly inconsistent.

Starting from the top...

Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson's men are perhaps the most consistent of the 4 Premies in terms of EPL-UEFA equality. Over the past 3 CL campaigns, the Red Devils have been booted from knockout stages twice by eventual Finals entrants AC Milan; in the 2005-2006 campaign, however, United failed to advance past the group stage, trailing both up-and-comers Villareal and Portuguese side Benfica in total points earned.

Perhaps United's best chance to carry UEFA gold came in the 2003-2004 campaign, when they were narrowly defeated in the first knockout stage by a plucky FC Porto side--which, oddly enough, was led by future Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, and went on to hoist the championship trophy.

More than any of the other 3 squads, ManU have maintained a fairly strong balance between European contention and Premiereship consistency. Perhaps this season will see them return to their 1999 heyday.

Chelsea
No team better personifies the chasm between domestic domination and UEFA stagnation. For the past 4-5 seasons, Chelsea have been a wrecking ball in the EPL, having seemingly played 3,563 consecutive unbeaten games at Stamford Bridge. After falling 6 points shy of ManU in the league last year, the Blues appear primed for a late-season push, with their eyes set on a third EPL title in 4 seasons.

The Blues' domestic success can be owed largely to the fact that, more than any of their peers, Chelsea beat the teams they are supposed to beat. They never lose at home, and they never lose stupid games. (See United's early 1-0 loss to Bolton. Wanderers. Yes, that's right. Bolton.)

Strangely, though, the dominant Mourinho-led Chelsea teams were never able to translate their EPL brilliance into Champions League success. Liverpool (!) snipped them in last year's semifinals, and eventual winners Barcelona dispatched them in the opening knockout stage the year prior. It was, perhaps in part, this elusive European glory that led to the souring of relations between Golden God Mourinho and Chelsea's equivalent of George Steinbrenner, Russian oil magnate Roman Abramovich.

Much like Manchester United, Chelsea are still very much alive in both domestic and foreign competition this year--and how ironic would it be for Avram Grant, the much-booed replacement for fan-favorite Mourinho, to take the Blues over the proverbial hump?

Arsenal
Consider these results from a single 2-month stretch of Arsenal's '07-'08 campaign (listed chronologically):
  • Loss: 5-1, Tottenham, Carling Cup
  • Loss, 4-0, Manchester United, FA Cup
  • Draw, 0-0, AC Milan (holders), UEFA Champions League
  • Draw, 2-2, Birmingham, EPL
  • Draw, 1-1, Aston Villa, EPL
  • Win, 2-0, AC Milan (holders), UEFA Champions League
  • Draw, 0-0, Wigan, EPL
  • Draw, 1-1, Middlesbrough, EPL
...

The Gunners of several years ago resembled Chelsea--able to complete an inconceivable unbeaten season in the EPL, yet relatively unimportant in the larger European scheme. Lately, however, Arsene Wenger's side seem to have become Liverpool 2.0. Only a couple of years ago, Arsenal, despite being a man down on Jens Lehmann's inexcusable early red card, were on the brink of greatness. For 75 minutes they held Barcelona's otherworldly strike force of Eto'o, Ronaldinho, and Larsson at bay. A quarter-hour from time, however, Eto'o netted an equalizer--and the effects could be felt by everyone watching at home. Catalan spirits were immediately inspired, and a mere 5 minutes later Larsonn fed substitute Belletti for the go-ahead goal that would prevent a second successive CL title for the EPL.

This season, however, Arsenal exhibit a Liverpudlian perplexity, clearly displaying the moxie required to dispatch perennial CL giants AC Milan, yet lacking the consistency (and age? and experience?) to dispense with even their mid-table domestic competition.

With a recent 1-1 home draw to Liverpool, Arsenal's domestic ambitions, at least for this season, appear stifled. Will this hurt their focus in the Champions League, or will it simply motivate them even more?

Liverpool
Liverpool are, in essence, the polar opposite of Chelsea. They are the only team among the Big 4 not to have captured an EPL crown over the past 4 seasons, and, despite losing only 4 Premiereship contests this season, the Reds boast a woeful 12 draws. On the home front, they lose to their rivals and they draw against sub-par opponents. In a league where points are at a premium (see 2003-2004: Arsenal, despite completing a 38-game unbeaten season, finished only 11 points clear of Chelsea), such mediocrity simply will not do. (18 goals in 16 road games is nothing to write home about--no pun intended. Or was there?)

Somehow--and here's the kicker--despite this relatively unimpressive string of EPL seasons, Liverpool have become UEFA monsters. They've made the knockout round in each of the past 4 seasons (including this one), highlighted by 2 finals appearances and a miraculous victory over European heavyweights AC Milan in the '05 finals.

Perhaps Rafa Benitez's style of management--and Liverpool's style of play--is more suited to the European theater. Rafa is a tactician, and given the ability to plan over the long term for once-a-fortnight ties often gives him a keen edge. As a team, Liverpool score fewer goals and play a less flashy brand of football than free-flowing Arsenal and star-studded Chelsea. This style situates them well in European competition, but perhaps falls short in the fast-paced everyday world of the EPL.

It'll be interesting to see the reception that follows Liverpool (and Benitez) if they are able to reach a 3rd CL final in 4 seasons. Will the usual logic hold true--that is, will fans be willing to overlook domestic failure so long as their team is flourishing on Europe's largest stage? Or, will success have the opposite effect, leading doubters to question with even more fervor the reasons for the Reds' continued English malaise? Interesting, to say the least.

...

Last year, 3 English teams made the Champions League semifinals, yet AC Milan hoisted the crown; this year, 4 teams remain in the CL's final 8, with another 75% English final foursome looking extremely likely. Maybe it's the inconsistency I've been writing about here--or maybe it's the fact that comeback-miracle Liverpool and historic-treble Manchester United have been the only English CL champs of my lifetime--but I am becoming ever more aware of Barcelona and Fenerbache lurking amid the last eight. Even with a potential 3 of 4 teams in the semifinals, I simply can't put any real weight behind the idea of an English champion.


Predictions: Barcelona def. ManU 1-0 to win a 2nd crown in 3 years. (Why--because it would be thoroughly typical for an out-of-whack domestic squad, which Barca have undeniably been as of late, to win the Champions League.)

Peculiar indeed.

Bickerstaff

Forget Kosar and Parms.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Bernie - Kosar or Parmalee?

Bad is the New Good

There may not be another point this season when we can say the following:

Orioles have a) won four straight games and b) are in first place in the AL East.
Royals lead AL Central
Tigers dead last in AL Central and winless.

As a side note, there is good news for the White Sox, who besides having just swept the Tigers, no longer have uniforms that look like this or this.

Items flying under the radar...

...Or at least not being paid attention to by me:

  • With ManU being held on smogside, Chelsea, lead by a man variously likened to a dinosaur, Baron von Greenback, and a reanimated corpse, are truly back in the race for the Premiership. The title race has shifted relatively quietly from an Arsenal/ManU affair to a run in between the the winners of the last three seasons, with an April 26th fixture between the two looming. Note the use of authentic European words such as smogside, fixture, and the upcoming table.
  • At the other end of the table (boom!), Newcastle seem to have accomplished what Bolton could not, that is to say shake off the Fat Sam Effect and move comfortably clear of the relegation zone. A poor stretch by Reading over the coming weeks could see them joining Fulham and Derby in the Championship next season, thus completing the purge of American influence (on the field at least) from the PL. I've actually been paying very close attention to the Newcastle situation, but I wanted to mention it anyways.
  • Grant Hill has never won a playoff series??! Is it on him if the Suns don't make it out of the first round this year?
  • The Memphis Tigers are quite the basketball team.
  • I'm still surprised no one ever mentions the NFL welfare system for team with morons in the front office.
  • It wasn't until today that it really sunk in that TBS now broadcasts regular season baseball games that aren't the Braves. My feelings on this development can be found here.


Final(ly)?

Heralded College Basketball Coaches with Exactly One (1) National Title:

Tom Izzo
Jim Boeheim
Roy Williams
Jim Valvano


If his three consecutive 30-win seasons and back-to-back #1 seeds aren't enough--not to mention his taking two different schools to the Final Four (UMass: 1996)--perhaps a victory over Kansas will finally earn John Calipari not only a national title, but the true title he deserves: Elite Basketball Coach.

Two points of note:
  • Calipari shouldn't be penalized for his poor stint with the Nets. Numerous high-caliber college coaches in various sports have failed miserably at the pro level (see: Rick Pitino, Lon Kruger, Pete Carroll, Lou Holtz). No one would deny Pete Carroll's abilities, for example, simply because he spent a few lackluster years in the ego-filled war game that is professional sports.
  • If Memphis beats KU (which I expect to happen), John Calipari will have exactly as many national titles as the legendary coaches mentioned above. They're all Hall-of-Famers. (As a side note, it may also be said that John C. managed to not be thoroughly outcoached in the Final Four. The same cannot be said for Roy Williams, who has no trouble gaining the plaudits that so frequently allude the Memphis coach.)

Get over the good looks and schmoozy smile, forget the Marcus Camby agent debacle, and give John Calipari credit for being one of the elite coaches--from any sport--in the country.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

KANSAS

What an interesting ballgame. Kansas led by as much as twenty-eight in the first half before Carolina made a ridiculous comeback to bring the game within four, before KU ultimately pulled back away with a late 13-0 run. I wouldn't say it's a surprise to see Kansas make the championship game, but the way in which they accomplished the feat was highly unusual.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure the game spoke to whether or not Kansas would be able to handle the outrageously strong Memphis attack. Clearly their size inside gave Carolina problems all night, but the Memphis strategy will be different. Rather than a focus on a strong inside player like Hansbrough, Memphis will try to push the tempo with their guard play. Kansas has a revolving door of big men but that advantage might be a hindrance rather than a help against Memphis.

It will definitely be a game to watch on Monday night as two extremely athletic and energetic teams will face off for the title. At this point I'd have to give the edge to Memphis, though I wouldn't be surprised if Kansas were able to bring the title back to Lawrence.

MEMPHIS

It's 9:15 in the east and I'm watching Kansas jump out to an early advantage over North Carolina. But I'm having trouble focusing on this game with the shock of what just happened still fresh in my mind.

It's been a long time since I've seen a team completely dominate really strong opponents like Memphis has over the past two weekends. After stumbling a bit early with a tough game against Mississippi State in the second round, Memphis has utterly destroyed Michigan State, Texas and most recently and surprisingly, UCLA. It's becoming apparent that smaller guards simply stand no chance against Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Antonio Anderson, the ridiculously big and strong Tiger backcourt. I was really disappointed to see how Texas was manhandled in the regional finals against Memphis but I now realize it had little to do with UT and everything to do with how unbelievably dominating Memphis can be.

Look at the names who have been neutralized in the past three games by the Memphis defense. Drew Neitzel, AJ Abrams, DJ Augustin, Kevin Love and Darren Collison. These are all-Americans and guys who we all know. These guys are finishing games with lines like 4-18 and 1-9 with tons of turnovers.

Not only did they destroy Darren Collison, who looked for the first time all year like he belonged on the JV squad, they made Kevin Love look human for one of the few times this season as well. Love scoring only two points in the second half would have been inconceivable if you'd told me that before the game. But sure enough, he barely could get his hands on the ball against the long arms of Joey Dorsey and Shawn Taggart and he looked really tired throughout the second half. Had no one really pushed him this season?

All in all, I'm not sure I've seen a better team this year than Memphis' efforts in the last two games in particular. Derrick Rose looks like the best guard in the country, with CDR coming in a close second.

Interestingly, Memphis' lack of competition all year has been confusing in terms of deciphering their comparative talent in two ways. The first is the direction that most have taken which is to say that since they didn't really play very many good teams, we don't really know how good they are and therefore have to assume that they probably aren't as good as their record indicates. It would appear that the opposite is in fact true, which is that since they didn't play very many good teams, we didn't get a chance to see how good they really are. I don't think their opponents are making that mistake, especially at this point in the tournament, but they sure are making a lot of analysts, not to mention morons like me, look like assholes.

As good as both Kansas and Carolina are (and Kansas is crushing Carolina right now), I just can't see either of them matching Memphis in the finals, assuming Memphis can keep up the play they've perfected over the past two weekends. If they want to win, they'll absolutely have to play some zone, as correctly  stated by Dick Vitale. Memphis' offensive size and abilities going to the hoop are just too good to be left to run rampant. Switching to a zone for even a minute or two, just to change the pace and make Memphis prove they can shoot from the outside, would go a long way toward giving the Tigers' opponent a fighting chance.