Tuesday, February 28, 2006

5 Things that Would Be Different in the Sports World if the South Had Won the Civil War

= President Gordon Throwing Out the First Pitch?

What if Bill Buckner wouldn't have let the ball trickle between his legs in 1986? Would the Red Sox have gone on to score in the top of the 11th, ultimately breaking the Curse of the Bambino? Would Buckner have been celebrated instead of villified, earning more than 2% of the vote in his first time on the Hall of Fame ballot? Or would Keith Hernandez have hit a game winning home run in the 11th, thus vaulting him in many people's minds above Tom Selleck on the "Best Mustache of the 1980s" list?

CSA: The Confederate States of America, Kevin Willmott's new thought-provoking mockumentary, asks a similar what-if question: What if the South had won the Civil War? Scenes of Abraham Lincoln escaping via the Underground Railroad and the CSA clashing with "Red Canada" are inspired, to say the least. But Willmott's adventure in conjecture makes me wonder: How would the sports world be different if the South had won the Civil War?

Ostensibly, there wouldn't be too much change. Texas would have still won the BCS Football Championship and College World Series last year, University of North Carolina would still have won the NCAA basketball championship in 2005 and Baylor would have won the women's tourney. But dig deeper, and you will find that the American sports landscape as we know it would be turned on its head. Below I venture to examine 5 Things that Would Be Different in the Sports World if the South Had Won the Civil War:

1. NASCAR Would Be America's Pastime:

If there's one thing Southerners like as much as a lynching (<-obvious satire), it's NASCAR. There's nothing they like more than watching a bunch of grown men in jumpsuits making five hundred left turns on a Sunday. Monday Night Football would effectively be replaced by Monday Night Racing. Cooperstown would be replaced by Daytona. Darrell Waltrip would be bigger (figuratively) than John Madden. And Jefferson Gordon would be President of the Confederate States of America...and shooting your hunting partner with birdshot would be legalized.

2. Denny's Wouldn't Just Sponsor the Pro Bowler's Association...They'd Sponsor Every Sport!

Athletic companies are inherently Northern...Nike=Oregon, Reebok=Massachusetts, adidas=Germany. Restaurant chains that lead to obesity are inherently Southern...Denny's=South Carolina, Hooters=Georgia, Popeye's Chicken=Georgia. It's safe to say sponsorship as we know it would be turned upside down if the South had won the great war. "Welcome to the US Track & Field Championships, presented by White Castle."

3. Tiger Woods Would Be Known as the Greatest Golfer Never to Play in a PGA Event.

I think it's safe to say that if the South won the Civil War, African-Americans would still be banned from the golf links to this day. Hootie Johnson would be OK with having an African-American as his caddie, but if someone without lilly white skin were to pick up a club, chaos would ensue. Eldrick Woods (nobody would bother to call him "Tiger") would still bang the ball 300 yards, but not on the PGA Tour. He would probably be relegated to the NPGA tour (you can surmise what the "N" stands for), and be nicknamed "Cool Papa" Woods. Fuzzy Zoeller, of course, would still be just as racist as ever.

4. Nobody Would Watch Ice Hockey

Guess no change there.

5. NBA Would Be a Bunch of 5'9 White Guys

Have you ever wanted to watch a starting lineup consisting of Luke Ridnour, Jason Williams, Troy Murphy, Wally Szczerbiak and Chris Mihm? Neither have I. But if the North had not defeated the South, you can bet there would be no emancipated slaves, and hence just a bunch of chumps tossing the round ball into peach baskets.

All-Star Dunk Contest? Forget about it. Coach Carter? Would be portrayed by Tom Hanks. Short-shorts? All the rage. Air Jordans? More like Ground Murphys. NBA franchises in Canada? Not a chance. Washington Wizards? Try Washington Grand Wizards. Philadelphia 76ers? Philadelphia Antebellums. Golden State Warriors? Golden State Subjugates. And Spike Lee...no seats closer than fifth row.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Whatever Happened to #1 Draft Pick Brien Taylor?

= Would You Make DJ Jazzy Jeff Your #1 Draft Pick?

Spring is in the air...the birds are chirping, tax filing season is rapidly approaching and Roger Clemens is pretending to still be relevant (note to Roger---please see Chris Chelios re: aging with dignity). Spring is also the time for debutante balls, a period where women make their formal "debut" in front of bourgeois society. Spring Training acts as a pseudo debutante ball for players selected the previous June during the MLB Draft, allowing up-and-coming players the opportunity to justify their ever-increasing signing bonuses.

In 2004, due to some arcane rule, the San Diego Padres selected first over the far inferior Detroit Tigers. Their pick: a local high school product by the name of Matt Bush. Though it's still too early to render a final verdict, Bush has been a complete bust, particularly when compared with Detroit's pick, pitcher Justin Verlander. Besides the obligatory trouble with the law, Bush was also described by Scout.com in this less-than-flattering manner: "A shortstop who doesn't hit, doesn't walk, is a singles hitter and was terrible in the clutch."

A look back on former #1 overall picks is less than encouraging: some household names (Darryl Strawberry, Harold Baines, Shawon Dunston), but certainly no first-ballot Hall of Famers (A-Rod will change that once he retires). In the last 20 years, on that list of #1 picks, one name stands out above the rest: Brien Taylor. Who? The Yankees' #1 pick in 1991, and my nominee for "Biggest MLB Draft Bust Ever."

The story of Brien Taylor is nothing if not interesting. The son of a mason and a crab processor, hard throwing southpaw Taylor was selected by the Yankees with great expectations. Contract negotiations did not go smoothly though, as uber-agent Scott Boras (acting as an "advisor" because of certain MLB rules) demanded Taylor receive Van Poppel money (a reference to the $1.5 million Todd Van Poppel had received the prior year by the pre-Moneyball A's). Taylor threatened to spend the year at a local Community College, rendering him ineligible for the MLB season, if he didn't receive the money he thought he was owed. George Steinbrenner ultimately opened up his pocketbook to the tune of $1.55 million, and the Yankees had their man.

There's two certainties in baseball: 1. If there is a game, Pete Rose is probably betting on it. 2. Strong armed left-handed hurlers, though a rare commodity, are incredibly unpredictable. Brien did his best Rick Ankiel impersonation during a couple of years bouncing between minor league teams, ultimately rendering any possibility of a major league career void when he tore his labrum in a bar fight. Brien attempted a number of comebacks with other major league teams, ultimately retiring with the same number of major league wins as yours truly. He was only the second #1 draft pick since the inception of the draft not to reach the majors (Steve Chilcott being the other).

So where is the prodigal pick these days? Investing in no-name Summer League teams like Van Poppel? Hitting the speaking circuit with freakish looking mascots, a la fellow #1er Andy Benes? Singing duets on a Bronx street corner with Kevin Maas? Wondering how the heck he got picked ahead of Manny Ramirez, Shawn Green and Cliff Floyd in the `91 draft? Or getting writer's cramp from signing as many autographs as humanly possible? (current value: $4 each)

The answer to that question I do not know. He retired in 2000 after pitching three innings of minor league baseball that season. I suspect he probably returned to his North Carolina roots, where he was a boyhood superhero, putting the town of Beaufort on the map (also the seen of his career ending barfight). If someone is willing to underwrite a journey, I would be interested in trying to track him down and find out how much of that $1.55 million he still has (and how much went towards Scott Boras' mansion).

When originally drafted in '91, Taylor told the media, "In high school nobody ever got on base so I've got some adjusting to do." It's safe to say that adjustment didn't go so smoothly. Taylor is still referred to as a cautionary example of why: 1. You shouldn't negotiate with Scott Boras 2. You shouldn't trust a lefty known for his strong arm and 3. You shouldn't draft players too stupid to qualify for even one college scholarship (Billy Beane wouldn't have touched this guy with a 10 foot pole). The story of Brien Taylor is sad, interesting and all-too-common in baseball. My advice to parents: while all the other little boys are playing baseball, steer your son towards physics.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Top 4 Rivalries at the 2006 Winter Olympics

= World's Largest Banned Substance?

With the Olympics coming to an end this weekend, we look back fondly on the 50+ plus hours we spent with Bob Costas. Heck, most of us spent more time with Bob these last two weeks than with our significant others. But what we reflect on most is not the amazing triumphs or the spirit of athletic endeavor, but rather the wonderful rivalries that developed during two crazy weeks in the Italian Alps. There sadly was no “Dan vs. Dave” (kinda like in the 1992 Olympics) or "Tonya Harding vs. Shoelace” this year, but what we did have was the following “Top 4 Rivalries at the 2006 Winter Olympics”:

Johnny Weir vs. Stereotypes: Weir broke into the national collective conscious by showing that not all male figure skaters are slightly built, effeminate divas. He earned our admiration by going shot-for-shot with Bode Miller in an Olympic village bar, by going out shopping for what can only be considered the most rugged of clothes, and by blaming solely himself for his poor showing at the Olympics. We salute you Johnny Weir…you have surpassed Mike Weir as our favorite 5'9 Weir. To answer the question offered up by South Park’s Kyle, “What would Brian Boitano do?” Probably get his ass kicked by you.

Shani Davis. vs. Melissa Stark: Shani Davis proved this Olympics that while there is no “I” in team, there is somehow an “I” in the name “Shani”. Davis’ reluctance to race in the team speed skating event supposedly cost Chad Hedrick his opportunity to win five gold medals. In reality, Hedrick’s slow skating cost him the opportunity to win five golds. And honestly, isn’t three medals enough? Bruce Jenner only won one gold medal (1976 Decathalon), and he's doing fabulous.

But the Hedrick v Davis feud doesn’t even make this writer’s top 4 list. What does make the list though is Davis' complete stonewalling of NBC's Melissa Stark during their post-race interview. Did she really even have to ask, "Are you angry, Shani?" We know that if Joe Namath would have won the 1,000 meters, things would have been a little different.

Bode Miller vs. Apathy: I love Bode Miller…not in the way Johnny Weir probably does, but in a “I want to hang out with that guy” sort of way. I love that he injured has ankle playing pick up hoops. I love that he refuses to wear a ridiculous looking USA beanie. But I love most that he doesn’t care about winning the gold.

Some people cry when they fail to win a medal. Some blame the bus system (see Johnny Weir). Bode…he just takes another shot of Jager. Whatever. He’s just glad to be there…on Nike’s dime.

NBC vs. Crappy Reality Shows: Did you see the ratings the Olympics pulled down these last two weeks? Probably not, because you were too busy watching American Idol or Dancing With the Stars. We’d apparently prefer Jerry Rice doing his best Huggy Bear impersonation over Sasha Cohen eating ice. NBC counters that more people were following the Olympics via the Web…yeah 8 hours before the events happened on tv, so we wouldn’t have to miss a single minute of some prematurely greying AI contestant fall back to his stock Ray Charles impersonation.

But honestly, the problems with NBC's coverage were threefold: 1. Not enough Dick Button. Can we clone this guy and have him cover every single event? 2. Not enough human interest stories…I care more about the last 3 years and 363 days of training than I do about this one 45 second run down a mountain. 3. Not enough scandal. The banned Austrian coach sneaking back in with the team (a la Bobby Valentine in a 1999 interleague game) was good, but is that the best we could do? And when there is a good potential scandal (ie skeleton's Tim Nardiello), the USOC quashes it. If you want us to turn the dial away from a Mad About You rerun, you gotta give us something good...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Whatever Happened to...Todd Marinovich?

= ?

For this week's edition of "Whatever Happened to...", we examine a tragic figure of Oedipean proportions, a wunderkind whose father pushed him just a little too far, a man with a once flowing mane...the incomparable, incorrigible Todd Marinovich.

Marinovich is the epitome of the term "groomed for success." His father, Marv Marinovich, is a former NFL lineman now famous for his innovative workout technique, Proper Body Exercise. The elder Marinovich still trains the likes of Troy Polamalu, but it was twenty years ago he coached his brightest protege, a then hirsute Todd Marinovich. Todd garnered national attention at Capistrano Valley High by shattering national passing records, making him one of the most prized recruits of 1987 (which, incidentally, is probably the best year in I Love the 80s). He followed in his father's footsteps (without much say) by going to every UC Berkeley students' favorite safety school, USC. He led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl in his freshman year, but ultimately left school early to join the Oakland Raiders as a first round draft pick.

The rest of this cautionary tale is known by every schoolboy who dreams of playing in the NFL as a quarterback: he left the NFL within a year amid drug scandals, played briefly in the Canadian Football League & Arena Football League (he's still on the record books in the AFL for 2nd most passing yards in a game), followed by rape charges, and recently, more drug charges.

The question we must address is this: how could the Golden Child fall so far from grace, going from record holder to roach holder? How could Todd Marinovich morph into Todd Bridges? And what was up with that hair?

To say Marv had high hopes (honestly, no pun intended) for his son is an understatement. Anything less than perfection was ordinary in Marv's mind. And up until his first year in the NFL, Marinovich really did do no wrong...sure, he got into some trouble regarding drugs at $C, but he still got drafted in the first round, receiving a healthy $2.27 million deal with the Raiders. But most NFL players will tell you the leap from college to the NFL is like going from a tricycle to a Harley Davidson. And Marinovich was ill-equipped for a hog...he was slow, he was inaccurate, and he just didn't "get it."

Todd's father was, in a word, dominating. Explaining how he raised Todd, Marv stated, "I told him when to eat, what to eat, when to go to bed, when to get up, when to work out, how to work out." The strings were held Gepetto Marinovich. With that kind of pressure put upon his shoulders, Todd struggled. Everyone else's expectations (including an SI Cover Article with the ominous headline "Wither Todd Marinovich?") didn't help either. I am not a licensed therapist, but it is pretty easy to surmise that Todd turned to drugs to escape this pressure.

The old adage goes "there's no such thing as bad press." But when it's your first year in the NFL, and you're on one of the most visible teams in the league, bad press will ruin you. So with sub-par numbers and rumors of drug use swirling, Marinovich headed to greener pastures: Canada. But within the friendly confines of the CFL, and later the Arena Football League, Marinovich never found his groove. So it is not surprising that in his latest arrest in May of 2005, he listed his occupation as "unemployed artist" (kind of like Kevin Federline). The arrest really epitomized his career: he tried to escape by bicycle, but police caught up with him 15 blocks away. He never could escape from the defense in the NFL either.

The story of Todd Marinovich is a cautionary tale. You don't end up on ESPN's Top 25 Flops list by accident...Michael Jordan didn't wake up one morning wondering how he ended up on a minor league baseball team. No, Todd's story is one of unmitigated expectations, an overly controlling parental figure and a lack of self-worth outside that conferred by others (that last statement might be self-evident...let me think about it).

Towards the end of my favorite sports movie, Hoop Dreams, William Gates explains, "They ask me, 'Will you remember me when you're in the NBA?' I should ask them, 'Will you remember me if I'm not in the NBA?'" Perhaps Todd should have asked those around him a similar question...

Monday, February 20, 2006

What Do My Favorite Winter Olympics Events Have in Common?

= Short Track Skating in Milwaukee

With the NFL season finally over, the NBA on a short hiatus for the All-Star Break, the second season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia still in production and Dick Cheney not shooting anyone this week...there's not a lot to talk about around the ol' water cooler. So inevitably, the Winter Olympics must be discussed.

Chanukah Smurf (real name protected by Smurf Name Generator) brought up today that his girlfriend would prefer to see two bobsledding teams compete at the same time. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Chanukah Smurf also admitted today that he is a self-hating Smurf who would prefer the name Cujo Smurf...but that's another issue altogether. So anyway, the thought of two bobsledders on one track at first sounds ludicrous...they might bump into each other, one team might flip off the track, something interesting might happen, etc.

But what are my favorite Winter Olympic sports to watch? Not curling, not the slalom, not even the luge. I like snowboard cross and short track skating and hockey and cross country skiing. What do all these sports have in common? The athletes are competing against each other and not the clock. I don't care if Bode Miller is .15 ahead of the pace, .15 behind the pace or .15 over the legal limit...I want to see pushing, hair pulling and spectacular crashes. And the only way for that to happen is for all the competitors to start at the same time.

When you were young, did you ever race someone down a water slide? Did your parents time you to see who won? No, you both jumped in the chute at the same time and whoever ended up in the water first won. Why can't we do that in the skeleton...only have two racers start at the same time on the same course? The person who gets off to a quick start obviously has an advantage, but the trailing person can be more technically sound, draft in a similar manner to those sneaky Italian cross country skiiers, and then punch the leader in the face and pass them.

What would short track skating be without Apollo Yoko Ono cutting off one of the Koreans and a formal protest being launched? Or a snowboard cross event without at least one competitor not finishing after getting pushed off the course? Or how about a women's hockey match-up without checking...oh wait, there is no checking allowed in women's hockey (a ridiculous rule).

So clearly, if we're adding ridiculous events like the halfpipe where Carrot Top can win a gold medal, we can also add more events where there is some sort of physical contact. Or at the very least, more than one competitor going at a time. All this "clock watching" during the Olympics reminds me of my days when I used to work in the admissions mailroom in college...

The best job in sports has to be the guy at the top of the ski mountain who gets the American skiers pumped up. He's really a one trick pony...his formula is say "C'mon" and then insert their first name (in the case of Bode Miller) or their knickname (in the case of Daron Rahlves) or their full name if they have a pretty boring name (Scott Macartney). A quick Google search finds that the deep voiced provocateur is none other than this guy.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Peter King

= Can you guess who is Peter King in this comic book?

The Wikipedia definies Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as "an all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), the need for excessive admiration or adulation, and a distinct lack of empathy." For those who watch professional basketball, you might recognize these characteristics in announcer Bill Walton. For those living in Boston, a clear victim of this devastating disease is the The CHB (Curly Haired Bastard), Dan Shaughnessy. But one sufferer of NPD has been given a free pass for way too long, coasting on the heels of a sub-par weekly column that has kept him rich and fat (well, a little slimmer in recent years). It's time for us to stand up and finally tell the emperor he has no clothes: Peter King, your column sucks.

One wonders why Peter King gets a proverbial free pass? The only thing I can come up with is that Monday sucks. The weekend being over sucks, traffic sucks, television sucks when it isn't football season. Hence, I've actually heard people say they look forward to Monday Morning Quarterback, Peter King's column. If you work in an office with an internet connection, and want to take a break from putting together another useless PowerPoint presentation, I guess I can see the appeal. But you could read Salon.com or the New York Times Online or the clock tick down on your bid for a Mary Kate and Ashley wall clock...anything but MMQB.

Five Things I Think I Think:

1. I think Peter King's excessive mentioning of his daughter Mary Beth King and her Montclair field hockey team within MMQB was nauseating. King definitely jumped the shark when he started interviewing her teammates to fill space in the column. If I wanted to read what Montclair High School kids think of Justin Timberlake, I'd read their student paper. If I wanted to know who was their field hockey player of the week...wait a second, that would never happen. Thank God his oldest daughter, Laura, didn't play sports at Tufts.

2. I think if I wanted to watch an ad for Starbucks, I would watch it on Google Video. It seems King can't go a week without mentioning something Starbucks-related. Note to King: the core audience at SI.com would probably rather read about Daddy Warbucks than Starbucks.

3. I think Peter King's man crush on Tom Brady is ridiculously obvious. He can point to Brady's win percentage as a reason to like the guy...but let's face it, quotations like "Readers of this column know what I think of Tom Brady" and "Tom Brady is as cool as a man can be" make you wonder if King also might like Mike Brady. My early pick for SI Sportsman of the Year 2006: Tom Brady. Please, Rick Reilly, explain to King what happened to Tara Reid after Brady dumped her...

4. I think Tuesday Morning Quarterback writer, Gregg Easterbrook, is considerably more talented than King. Easterbrook just gets the shaft because his article comes out on a less hated day. Witness the recent cancellation of Tom Cavanagh's series, Love Monkey. Perhaps if CBS would have put the show in its Monday lineup, it wouldn't have suffered from NHL-esque ratings.

5. I think it's amusing that Peter King has a namesake in the Republican party, a representative from New York named Peter A. King. Congressman Pete King's best quote to date occurred immediately after the 2004 election, when he said "It is all over but the counting...and we'll take care of the counting." Of course, SI's Peter King also has a number of great quotes, my favorite being "Who is Tony Shalhoub, and what is Monk?" The answer to the first question is a great actor on a USA Network series, and the answer to the second question is what I wish you would become, so you would take a vow of silence.

So as long as you continue to monopolize Mondays, a few suggestions: no more Mary Beth references, no mentions of Starbucks and take down the Tom Brady poster in your bedroom.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Chad Pennington, Ryan Leaf, Stanford Tree

= "They thought saying 'please' would make a difference. Ha ha ha ha ha..."

It appears that Chad Pennington has rejected the New York Jets' offer to lower his contract by $8 million. You can file that one under "good decision." Perhaps Pennington saw Carson Palmer renegotiate his contract to the tune of nine years and $119 million, and realized you're supposed to try to get more money.

The Jets offered some seemingly good reasons for Pennington to alter his contract. First of all, they say he could easily earn all that money back through incentives. But you can't really hit your bonuses when you're dressed like this. You normally have to don a helmet and shoulder pads, and Miss Cleo sees in Pennington's future a third rotator cuff surgery and eight missed games in 2006.

Secondly, the Jets say Pennington should do it for the good of the team. Unfortunately, they are $20 million over the salary cap, and on the cusp of losing one of their better players, Ty Law. And oh by the way, the early line has the Jets at 100-1 to even make the Super Bowl. At least when Roger Clemens renegotiated his contract, he got to live in Houston. Something stinks in New Jersey...and its the Jets.

Ultimately, the Jets will probably cut Pennington because of his refusal to give up $8 million in guaranteed salary. So to recap, here are the repercussions of not signing a new contract:
-You get $9 million
-You get to leave the Jets for a team more likely to win the Super Bowl (also known as "any other team besides the Jets")
-You get to leave New Jersey for a different state (the only chance of this being a negative is if Detroit picks him up, which I don't see happening)

All in all, a great day for Mr. Pennington and his uber-agent, Tom Condon...

Ryan Leaf has left the golf cart for the gridiron, joining the coaching staff at D2 West Texas A&M University. It's safe to say Leaf will be more of a distraction at West Texas A&M than a proverbial 12th man. Somewhere, someone is readjusting the definition of "irony" in the Wikipedia to include Ryan Leaf being named a quarterbacks coach. Leaf was actually quoted as saying "I thoroughly enjoyed my time there (in Texas) with the Cowboys." Excuse me? Leaf went 0-3 as a starter with the Cowboys, had 1 touchdown & 3 interceptions, and was cut to make room for the consummate journeyman Chad Hutchinson. That sounds like a real vacation to me. The Buffaloes were the top passing team in Division II last year, so let's hope they recruited a star running back this year...

It seems that the UC Berkeley police took a piss on the Stanford Tree, ratting out 5th year biology student/Stanford Tree mascot Erin Lashnits for drinking on the job. What's a fifth year gotta do to have some fun around here? Notoriously liberal Berkeley seems a bit Cheney-esque in their treatment of a non-situation. The police took a closer look at the Tree after she was dancing at center court during the game instead of under the basket, which is customary during road games at Cal. A blood alcohol test yielded a .15, not quite qualifying Lashnits to coach the Oklahoma State Sooners, but getting her kicked out off the sidelines and cited for public drunkeness. Leaders of the Stanford Band, who "manage" the Tree, have distanced themselves from the controversy. Of course, this is the same band that performed outside the courthouse during the OJ Simpson hearings, mocked the potato famine during a game against Notre Dame and joked about polygamy during a tilt with BYU. I know at least one guy who shed a tear over the recent news.

Editorial Note

Due to phrases like "confusing layout" and "non sequitur" being bandied about in conjunction with Wood On Sports, I am changing the layout...again. The following changes will be enacted immediately:

-Titles are being reinstalled. The titles will be more like tags, explaining what topics will be covered

-Picture & caption will continue, but will have some correlation to the topics covered. This should eliminate questions such as "why is there a picture of Andre Agassi and nothing else on him?"

-There will be only one main story, with a couple of mini stories as well (for the sake of delineation, I will refer to them as "chubs")

Any suggestions are appreciated...

The Management

Monday, February 13, 2006

= When will denim shorts make their comeback in professional sports?
Welcome to the first (and last) annual NCAA college basketball edition of Wood on Sports. Perhaps I am the exception and not the rule, but I don't find college ball that interesting. You're just as likely to find me watching the WNBA or Joey as watching Duke challenge Maryland. Sit back and enjoy, because this year's NCAA basketball edition also falls on this year's list edition of Wood On Sports.

There are a number of reasons why I hate college basketball:

1. Parity. There is way too much parity in college basketball...West Virginia could beat UCLA at Pauley, and then turn around and lose to the sub-.500 Marshall Thundering Hurd. The parity really serves to devalue victories...nobody tears down the basketball hoop after a victory over a Top-10 opponent.

2. The season is too long. Every single major conference in the country now has a season-ending tournament (with the exception of the Ivy League), which follows the 28+ games they play in the regular season. Must we really watch Eastern Michigan play Western Michigan twice in the regular season.

3. Didn't we fight the Civil War so we wouldn't have to watch all southern teams on ESPN? Look at some of the teams in the Top 10: Duke, Memphis, Texas, Tennessee, Florida. Sherman should have torched all the basketball courts in his way so we wouldn't have to watch the same cookie-cutter style of basketball night in and night out.

4. Dick Vitale. Listening to him is a Maalox Moment, baby...

I think SportsPickle.com said it best: J.J. Redick Sucks. Not being an avid fan of college basketball, I have a couple theories on why this is the case:

1. Duke sucks. J.J. plays for Duke. By the transitive property, J.J. sucks.

2. Let's review famous people with initials for a first name: OJ Simpson (sucks), DJ Jazzy Jeff (sucks), DJ Tanner (sucks)

3. He's got a bit of an attitude. In the holy trinity of cocky bastards, JJ is part of the triumvirate that also includes Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens. But unlike the latter two, J.J. is a skinny white kid who might not even succeed in the pros.

It is tough to say what the annals of history will say about Redick, but I am assuming they will not include the word "beloved"...

And finally, Gonzaga students were reprimanded for yelling "Brokeback Mountain", Georgetown students chided a certain Duke guard with "J.J.'s gay!" and Virginia Tech faithful chanted "B----" at that same Blue Devil. What does all this signal?

1. Gregorians are back in vogue.

2. Students have precipitously increased their vocabulary.

3. J.J. must know every possible insult by now.

At the end of the day, I find such chants base, tawdry and reprehensible. Something that would come out of the mouth of that little "b----", J.J. Redick...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

= Durex Works in Product Placement at Opening Ceremony

Before we get started, can we clarify one thing: Is it "Opening Ceremony" or "Opening Ceremonies"?

There will be a familiar sight on the sidelines at Raiders games next season...and no, I'm not talking about a dejected Randy Moss. Art Shell has relinquished his cush job as the NFL's Senior VP of Football Operations & Development to rejoin the Raiders as head coach. Being asked to coach the Raiders is a bit like having Star Jones propose to you: the money is good, but the gig sucks.

Some of the other interesting candidates approached for the head coaching position include Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Martz and James Lofton. I was hoping Dick Vermeil might be considered, to no avail. But the nefarious, bespectacled man in a white jumpsuit (hereafter referred to as "Al Davis") made a good choice. Shell was fired by the Raiders in 1994, but Davis is certainly not averse to changing his mind (see: Oakland Raiders' return to Oakland in 1995). And Shell was no slouch as a coach during his first go-round with the Silver & Black, finishing 56-41 in 5 seasons.

Here's the personnel Shell gets to play with: a strong-armed dim-witted quarterback (Kerry Collins), an incredibly athletic dim-witted receiver (Randy Moss) and a physically strong dim-witted defense (always one of the most penalized in the NFL). If the Raiders are The Bad News Bears, consider Shell their Walter Matthau (or Billy Bob Thornton, for this second go round). But I wish Shell the best of luck and congratulate Al Davis on being the first and only owner to hire a minority as a head coach this offseason. Shell was actually the first minority head coach in the modern era of the NFL (1989), and it looks like after only 17 years, we've run out of other possible candidates...

Bode Miller is stirring up controversy again, though it isn't because of something he said. At the Opening Ceremony in Turin, Miller chose to bring up the rear of the American contingent, coat unzipped and head uncovered. Was this to express his displeasure with Nick being kicked off Project Runway this week? Was it a protest of skeletoner Zach Lund's Olympic ban for Alopecia? Or was it just Bode trying to stay relevant? When your sport is only in the spotlight every four years, and sponsor dollars allow you to maintain a certain type of lifestyle, it is imperative to remain relevant and on people's minds. So as long as Miller continues to exercise civil disobedience, and doesn't have to go in front of a civil jury (see: Kobe Bryant), he should continue to be respected and rich...

You gotta love the Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey's article on Michelle Kwan that incorporates into its first sentence the following three components: Liberce, Thomas Kinkade, Jessica Simpson. I myself was actually thinking about incorporating into today's edition Elton John, Kunta Kinte and OJ Simpson. It seems a bit redundant now, though...

So Michelle Kwan is thinking about dropping out of the Olympics, huh? At 25 years old, she's way over the hill anyway. I mean, she is less than half the age of the oldest Olympian this year, 54 year old curler Scott Baird. But curling isn't really a sport, and in figure skating you're usually through by the time you're old enough to legally drink a glass of victory champagne. So it's only fitting that the penultimate figure skater to get bumped from a rightful spot in the Olympics (Kwan, allowing Nancy Kerrigan to compete), may cede her spot to the most recently bumped skater (Emily Hughes). Kwan may never win the gold medal, but she'll win a gold star in our hearts if she cedes to the younger, more prepared Hughes. Or she can be an obstinate...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

= Miss Newfoundland & Canada's Mick Jagger?

I know where I will be at 8pm PST tomorrow night...sprawled out on the couch watching the final four episodes of Arrested Development on Fox. But much of the country and world will be riveted by the majestic beauty known as the Olympic Opening Ceremony. An estimated 2 billion people will watch as athletes from 80 nations file into Olympic Stadium, serenaded by Luciano Pavarotti, thanks in part to a 2.3 billion euro investment by the Italian government. By comparison, the Super Bowl attracted 90 million viewers, a celebrity singer that nearly carried as much weight, and went on in spite of a $100k "investment" by Mrs. Wayne Gretzky.

But I've never been particularly interested in the Opening Ceremony. Why? For one thing, you can't bet on the Opening Ceremony (though I did win a $5 spot when the archer succesfully connected with the torch in `92). Secondly, no one loses in the Opening Ceremony. I mean it's kind of pointless to route against the Russians showing up at the ceremony. And finally, it is a total myth that the Olympics bring countries closer together, that it makes our world more peaceful. Remember Munich (the Games, not the excessively long Spielberg movie)? Remember Berlin in `36 ? OK, I'm having trouble thinking of examples that didn't involve Games in Germany. But my point is that the Olympics beget hate, hate and more hate. If you wanna watch something peaceful, watch these ...

The ridiculous news stories are already pouring out of Turin. As if 418 total hours of television coverage were not enough, every newspaper has a reporter "embedded" at the Olympics, lending itself to every single possible angle being covered. Example: this extremely short, extremely worthless Reuters article about 25 year old Brad Gushue, Canada's youngest skip.

A skip, for those not familiar with frozen shuffleboard, is the captain of the curling team. Gushue (pictured above) is a bit of sex symbol , attracting throngs of pasty white Canadian admirers. According to Gushue, "I did once have bras and underwear thrown at me, but not in the last 6-8 weeks." Apparently, Gushue studies at the William Shakespeare school of language. Anyway, the approximately 100 word Reuters article compares Gushue to the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger. There are some obvious differences (age, drug use) and some very obvious differences (one probably gets laid all the time, the other is likely a virgin).

But what does this say about Canada? This is the country that brought us the Naked News, the Sex Party (the only pro-sex political party I know of) and some of the best strip clubs this side of Amsterdam. Have our friends to the North gone soft? No offense to Gushue, but he's no Mick Jagger. He's not even Elvis Costello. The guy is basically a glorified janitor. But Canada has gone ga-ga over Gushue. I think it's safe to say that he will be participating in an abstinence pact prior to the Games, though not necessarily by choice.

What are today's take-home lessons? Fox didn't kill Arrested Development, America's complete ineptitude and desire for fluff like Desperate Housewives killed AR. Watching the Opening Ceremony is great for people that hate to see people lose...or people that hate to see people win. And finally, in Canada you don't have to be good looking, muscular or athletic to get chicks...you just have to do your best Cinderella impersonation.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

= Slow news day at the BBC

Perhaps Antonio Davis, shooting 40% from the field this season, could take some advice from his wife. Kendra Davis is 100% at throwing cups of hot coffee through driver's side windows. In a bit of life imitating art (this time Kendra imitating Woody Harrelson's character in Kingpin), the charming wife of the Raptors' Davis threw coffee on one Kathleen Besser following a traffic dispute last fall. It is a bit of ironic timing that Besser finally decided to press charges this week, and there is no word yet if Besser will also be suing the business where Davis purchased the coffee for brewing it too hot.

In other Davis news (and there's plenty of it!)...Antonio finally showed up to Raptors practice, four days late. He apparently needed some time to clear up his thoughts...which beckons the question, what thoughts? This is the guy who demanded to be traded from the Raptors during his first stint with the team in part because of concerns that his twin children would not receive a good education in Canada. HUH??? Canada beats the US at EVERYTHING, including education. One can only surmise that Davis was worried his children might grow up in a safe, healthy, progressive environment. To quote Kendra Davis: "Antonio would have me pack a bag and go on every road trip if he could. I've often said to him, 'I don't have an NBA contract. My job is here with the kids.’" Paging Mrs. Doug Christie...

Wife Story #2: Gambling and sports, as Paul McCartney put it, "live together in perfect harmony." The latest person caught up in a gambling scandal is none other than Janet Jones, Mrs. Wayne Gretzky. Not to be confused with her polar opposite on the looks scale, Paula Jones, Janet Jones is an actress and housewife. And she's apparently "desperate" to gamble. But who are we kidding? The fact that the 45 year old hottie is parlaying and going for trifectas late into the night makes her even more attractive. Do the dishes...check. Tuck the kids in...check. Put a Benjamin on St. Joe's over Nova with the spread...check.

Why is this a sports scandal? It involves an assistant coach in a league that no one watches (thank you Outdoor Life!) and a total amount changing hands ($1.7 million) that is so small even Pete Rose didn't bother to get involved. Seriously, what the NHL should be worried about is that people in the betting league weren't putting money on NHL games. Or worse yet, that ESPN was pulling better ratings for Poker reruns than for hockey. And if I watch that stupid hand where Cyndy Viollette walks away from the table after an amateur pulls a straight on the river on her in the WSOP...

And finally, what ever happened to that VH1 reality show planned around the lives of Doug and Jackie Christie? I'd honestly rather watch Celebrity Fit Club in 3D than be forced to watch Doug and Jackie doing their hand signals all day. And a programming note to Time Warner: please remove VH1 from my cable lineup, and add BBC America so I can watch Footballer Wives. And while you're at it, please remove any channel that has Flip This House and Flip That House and any channel featuring something with "House" in the title that isn't House Party 1, 2 or 3.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

= Tonya Harding or Jan Brady?

It's been a tough year for Bay Area sports PR flaks. In June, 49ers PR impresario Kirk Reynolds was fired (technically, "resigned") following the release of a video he created that was deemed racist, sexist and only mildly amusing. The video was shown during training camp as part of diversity training ("paging Captain Irony"), to jokingly teach players how to better interact with the media. It lampooned Mayor Gavin Newsom, featured gratuitous female nudity, and a toothy performance by former 49ers trainer George Chung. And, surprisingly enough, over half the 49ers squad chose to skip the diversity training this past season.

This past week, the Bay Area was rocked by another sports scandal, this one involving a PR Assistant with the Golden State Warriors. Eric Govan, #3 in the media relations department, was apparently #1 when it came to racial insensitivity. Govan inadvertantly forwarded on an email titled "Ghetto Prom" to his media list, apologizing sixteen minutes later, getting fired hours later. While not exactly on par with the Vikings' "pleasure cruise" or the Mohammed cartoon strip debacle, forwarding of photos depicting minorities with accompanying disparaging remarks is a "no-no" in the NBA. Even Isiah Thomas took some time out from sexually harrassing female executives to reprimand Govan. But fear not for the young Govan, he has already lined up employment as a European soccer hooligan...

You know when the end of the Armstrong-Crow uber-celebrity romance tops your Google News page, that it is a slow news day. Thousands could die in a sinking vessel in the Red Sea, Iran could be testing nuclear weapons, and Grandpa Munster could pass on to the great coffin in the sky, but all of that pales in comparison to the ripple effect we shall feel from America's most annoying couple breaking up. Armstrong told her he had to get "out of this town & out of LA" (OK, a Beth Hart song, but pretend Crow sang it), and Crow told him where he can shove his little yellow wristband. I will assume being in the celebrity spotlight probably contributed to this breakup, because I doubt Crow would cite something such as "Armstrong was spending too much time with his kids." Anyone notice anything in common between Lance Armstrong's picture and Sammy Sosa's picture? No, I'm not implying anything. I don't need(le) to...

And finally, following in the footsteps of Nick & Jessica, Christopher Knight (aka Peter Brady) & Adrianne Curry and Flava Flav & His Oversized Clock...Barry Bonds is in negotiations to star in his own reality show on ESPN. The show, which is tentatively scheduled to air on Tuesdays, will be an all-access, fly-on-the-wall look at the Life of Bonds. The questions are already rolling in...will it show Barry applying cream/clear? Will it show Barry scuffling with teammates in the dugout? Will it show Barry evading paying taxes? Will there be interviews with Barry's alleged mistress? In all likelihood, the show will be a whole lotta this and not too much of this because ESPN is a total this when it comes to Barry coverage. What's next...a reality show for this guy?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

= Modern Day Clark Gable?

I apologize for the brevity of today's posting...I'm trying to catch HBO's 900th airing of "Million Dollar Baby" in the last two months.

It worked for the late Johnnie Cochrane, but will it work for Donovan McNabb? The Eagles' quarterback has decided that the time has come to play the race card, attacking Terrell Owens for his comments earlier this year. McNabb felt slighted when Owens said in an interview with ESPN that the team would be better off with Brett Favre at quarterback than the hobbled McNabb. While the comment brought much joy and a tear to John Madden's eye, McNabb was less than thrilled.

But rather than cry over spilled Campbell's condensed milk, McNabb is jabbing back with verbal barbs such as "It was like, it's unreal. That's like me going out and saying, `Hey, if we had Steve Largent. If we had Joe Jurevicius.'" Note to Donovan McNabb: Joe Jurvecius is about as similar to Brett Favre as Chris Chelios is to Manute Bol. Was this really a racial issue? McNabb points out that Owens could have chosen to mention Steve McNair or Byron Leftwich or Daunte Culpepper or Michael Vick in lieu of Brett Favre. But let's look at the scorecard: Brett Favre: 2 Super Bowls, 1 Super Bowl Victory, only 3-time NFL MVP in history of league. Vick + McNair + Leftwich + Culpepper= 1 Co-MVP (McNair), 1 Super Bowl appearance (McNair), 0 Super Bowl victories, 1 awesome Booze Cruise (Culpepper).

Owens recently met with the Denver Broncos, a team desperate to replace Rod Smith with some fresher legs. Owens was rumored to have been thinking about trying out for the Utah Jazz, until he realized there were in fact a handful of African-Americans on the team. But in all seriousness, Owens' comments don't reflect a hatred of African-Americans. Rather, they reflect a love of Native Americans, as Brett Favre is actually a quarter Choctaw Indian. I guess the only trail of tears this time is Donovan's...

A bit of sad news on the C-list celebrity front: ex-Full House star Jodie Sweetin (Stephanie) has admitted to a Meth Problem. And I'm not talking about a "Meth"od Acting Problem, because everyone knows she was by far the worst actor on the show. Before you say "how rude", consider that even Kimmy Gibler was less annoying than Stephanie. But I digress. There is some good news to the story, as an intervention for Sweetin involving Mary-Kate/Ashley Olson, Bob Saget and John Stamos was actually filmed for a holiday special. Next up on the Full House intervention front: one to prevent John Stamos from doing bodily harm to himself when Rebecca Romijn consummates her marriage with Jerry O'Connell.