Monday, December 07, 2009
Tim McKernan, otherwise known as Barrel Man, died last Saturday at the age of 69 from lung failure.
I've never been the face-painting, body-painting, wig-wearing, costume-donning type of fan. Never did it once, even in college. It's not my style. And those types of fans may be few and far between, but we've all seen them. They could be an airplane mechanic, like Barrel Man, or lawyers, or teachers, or plumbers. But when game time rolled around, these ultrafans would take it to the next level. You might roll your eyes at their getups, or their insane dedication to grown men playing games, but deep down, from somewhere in your sports-loving soul, you admired them, respected them. Maybe even wanted to be them, just for one day.
Part of the fun of going to Broncos games was either seeing Barrel Man in person or on the JumboTron or spotting him in the stands; it wasn't really an "official" game until then. And it didn't matter if it was a 97-degree preseason tilt in August or a snow-blown blizzard of an icebox day in December or January - Barrel Man would be in the stands, shirtless, cheering on the Broncos. He may have hung up the barrel in 2007, but there was still a presence.
Is standing around in near-freezing temperatures for hours on end, a mile above sea level, wearing nothing but a barrel, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat good for a person's body? Probably not. But that's why we loved him. And that's why he'll be missed.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
We'll address the first issue much later on in the season, when it becomes an even more glaring problem. But now it's on to the lack of focus and so-called "killer instinct." Denver has blown out a few teams so far this year on their way to a 10-4 record, but just about all of them have been second-half runs. This could allude to the fact that the coaching staff is making necessary adjustments at halftime, but I'm of the mind to believe that most of the time the players are just deciding to play defense more than every third possession or so.
Take last night's game against New Jersey, for example. Three weeks ago, with the year in its infancy, the Nuggets beat the Nets 122-94 on the road. That 28-point cushion has stood up as the Nuggets' biggest margin of victory of the year ... however, Denver actually trailed by one at halftime; it took a 44-point explosion in the third to make it a cakewalk. And even though they led by dozen at the break last night, the Nets had a 10-0 run at one point in the second. The highlights will likely show the Nets turning it over again and again in a montage befitting an 0-14 team. Yet they barely lost the turnover battle to the Nuggets, 23-22. If you're the only winless team in the league, your miscues define you. If you're a division leader, your sloppy play gets glossed over all too easily.
This may seem like nitpicking, since the Nuggets won by 14 anyway, but here's the thing: Chauncey Billups was 1-8 from the field. He actually airballed a 3 from the right wing at one point, which I don't think I've ever seen him do. He played "only" 27 minutes, but if the Nuggets effectively put this one out of reach early, Billups can take most of, if not all, the 2nd half off. They can get Ty Lawson even more involved in the offense, and J.R. Smith has shown - albeit sporadically - that he can also play the point. Chauncey is 33 years old. Those minutes, especially at altitude, are going to take their toll. The quicker you break a shitty team's will, the quicker you can sit your starters and get them rest they'll need in April. This team's good enough to look that far ahead. And they should start.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Sometimes, it's weird to think that the Celtics won't have a Marreese Speights, a Brandon Jennings, a J.J. Hickson or a Jared Dudley that will surprise me this year. Rajon Rondo is nice and all, don't get me wrong, but he's reached that all-too-important (and amazing) pinnacle of next-level for me. This is not a complaint about an 8-1 team that just destroyed the Jazz (note: 8-3 after losses to the Hawks and, uh, Pacers-- yikes) and showcased exactly why Deron Williams has trouble with elite point guards despite being a damned good one.
I happen to think the difference in elite and damned good might just be personnel. Chris Paul is the only elite point guard without good personnel. Deron and Rajon have good personnel (when Boozer shows up to play), so they look like elite points. I'm wondering what would happen to Deron without the cast he has and Jerry's ever-vigilant eye. I wonder, also, what will happen to Rajon once his cast begins to depart. So here's the math problem then: If R is a better passer/user of space than D and D is a better shooter/creator than R, which variable stabilizes as a point guard without a better cast? I'm afraid it might be D.
Back to the present though: went to see the C's play in Jersey in a particularly uninspired contest. Rajon and Ray were great, Garnett is a step slower and (my) reports of Marquis Daniels being a pointless acquisition are a bit premature. Perkins was a rebounding machine at the end-- he sealed the Nets fate in the last couple of minutes. The Nets are a bad team, only, I don't think they are 0-8 bad. Terrence Williams was a certified scorer when he got some space, B. Lopez played big and actually hit some 15-footers after struggling early and once Devin Harris comes back, they'll have a nice rotation on their hands. They aren't gonna be good by any stretch, but they aren't this bad. That said, they were inspired and worked extremely hard and scored 76 points. Yikes.
Some of that goes to how the Celts played them. When they ran a basic 2-1-2 zone the game and doubled anyone-- ANYONE-- who got below the elbow, it was nice change from the man-to-man they use. Perkins got into foul trouble trying to cheat off of his man early (in the man-to-man), so the zone saved Garnett from having to protect him. Smart move there. Once they established that Ray-Ray was on, Rondo actually sat a long time in the fourth and they went with House and Allen bringing up the ball. Strange move. Ray doesn't need to play 35+ minutes against the Nets. Bad coaching move. So, more of the same from early-season Doc: make the right moves and the wrong moves and the players pretty much sort it out. I can live with this but it makes me nervous.
Let's get to the scorecard. We're 8-1 (pre-Hawks and Pacers, I know) and playing excellent defense minus the Suns abomination. When the Suns are on point, you can only hope to outscore them and we aren't that team. The first unit has been good but not great and the second unit has been playing above their level. Somewhere in the middle is the truth (pun not intended) and all of this while being witness to a laid-back sense of the Truth (pun intended). Thus far, I'd say the team is playing right into my expectations. Thing is? Cleveland and LA have been playing above theirs (at least Cleveland has since they played Orlando). So, it may take another level-- Rondo may need to have some Chris Paul or Deron Williams rub off on him (that didn't come out right) and where Garnett raises a level he may not have any more. They may need a calmer Sheed (not gonna happen) and Pierce may need to replicate that 2008 run (uh, maybe?).
But that's in May. Right now, it's a Sheldon Williams November and I will take 8-1 all damned day. (Again, 8-3... I've been busy these last few days.)
Thursday, November 05, 2009
When we drank some scotch and right on the spot decided a wager was due.
"My favorite team will win more than yours," I said about 2009,
He looked on in awe, let out a guffaw, and quickly said "That's fine."
So this is the start of the lengthy rhyme I write with some defiance,
Concerning the winning exploits of the San Francisco Giants.
Despite missing out on the post-season and finishing just in third,
They were 13 games ahead of the Pads, rendering this bet absurd.
We begin at a ballyard north of the park on the island of Manhattan,
Where a nickel gets you the Gothams and a chance to smuggle your cat in.
Soon the name was changed to the Giants, a powerhouse world renown,
At least until the end of '11 when their third ballpark burned down.
But at this time they were run by a legend, the fiery John McGraw,
And Christy Fucking Mathewson, the handsomest ace you ever saw.
In Aught 4 they told the Series and Boston to suck on their pole,
Then turned around the next year and won the whole damn rigmarole.
Matty ruled the mound back then, so too Iron Joe the loner,
But none of their excellent pitching could atone for Merkle's Boner.
The next few decades saw some titles but they also saw some trouble,
For all the best hitters alive, that is, getting K'd by King Carl Hubbell.
There was a sweet-swinging first-sacker, too, his skills were many and scary,
The last National League player to bat .400's name was Big Bill Terry.
A shot to center at the Polo Grounds back then was all for naught,
But a drive down the short lines was very sublime, so hello, Mr. Mel Ott.
The war years proved futile for Giants fans, but it seemingly was just a blip,
Because the Say Hey Kid was coming to town, as was Leo the Lip.
On October the 3rd, 1951, the world stopped for a moment in time,
Because a Brooklyn pitcher by the name of Ralph Branca tried to commit a crime.
Bobby Thomson hit a heater way up and in, and of it he left no remnant,
And as he joyously circled the bases thus did the Giants win the pennant.
With such a blast Thomson turned fast to a celebrity to rival the Pope,
Nevermind he may have received the sign from a 'mate holding a scope.
We move ahead to 1954, and to an Indians fan, this hurts,
Remembering the mighty blast deep to center off the bat of Vic Wertz.
Willie Mays turned to run, shot out of a gun, and it seemed like he could fly,
But like a dead dove, the ball fell in his glove, which is where triples went to die.
As the country expanded, and more and more planes landed, the NL looked to the West,
And the hilly burg of San Fran was the spot that Horace Stoneham liked best.
This killed the Golden Age of baseball to the dismay of New York codgers,
Still the Giants' exit lacked the oomph and merit of their bitter rival's, the Dodgers.
But '62 brought a chance at redemption to make their new home come alive,
Alas the Yanks won again, in this, Game Seven, on Willie McCovey's line drive.
And although Juan Marichal was superb on the bump, darker days lay ahead,
Specifically when he, in a fit of non-glee, took his bat to J. Roseboro's head.
We'll skip the 70s and first half of the 80s for it appears the Giants did too,
And move on in to the end of the decade to check on the Humm Baby crew.
There was fat Rick Reuschel, Garrelts, Dravecky, and Candy Maldonado,
Plus Jeffrey Leonard, Matt Williams, Chili Davis, and a hitting aficionado.
Will the Thrill they called this man with a smooth swing made of pure love,
And Kevin Mitchell tracking down long fly balls without the use of a glove.
The 1989 NLCS brought the dysfunctional Cubs into town,
Where the red-hot Giants in just five games performed an immortal beat-down.
But a long-lost pennant and half the bay's fans would not a championship make,
As the Giants were squashed by the crosstown A's and an untimely earthquake.
Now it's '93 and the Giants and Braves are involved in the "last" pennant race,
With a giant named Barry Bonds, who, back then, had a normal-sized face.
Needing to win on the last day of the year the team started Salomon Torres,
It's unclear how many pitches he threw, but they were surely all of 'em horrid.
After some decent teams and a new park the Giants made it back to the series,
But 2002 against the Anaheim Angels only brought up several new queries.
Was Dusty Baker the right man to lead? Did the rotation need a new face?
The questions were met like a lost 3-2 lead, with changes all over the place.
Now the Giants are without Mr. Bonds and the offense is just barely so-so,
But the rotation's so stacked the fourth-best starter can rattle off a no-no.
With Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain at the top, San Fran has quite the pair,
Of aces it seems, the stuff made from dreams, and stuff to match the flair.
And let's not forget the hot corner man whose moniker is Kung Fu Panda,
Pablo Sandoval is pretty good, y'all, and if you don't know I'll reprimand ya.
So that's the short story of this proud franchise, from one coast to the next.
No need to write any of this shit down, for I doubt there will be a test.
Hope you liked it, Stan, for I believe it encompasses all I can say,
Since I really hate the fucking Giants, but at least they're not L.A.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
I won’t lie to you…I am tired of Kobe too. I’m tired of Stuart Scott confusing Kobe with his street patter. I’m tired of Lakers fans who use tags like BlackMambaCreatedTheWorldin7Days and refuse to countenance the suggestion that Kobe might wake up with bad breath. I’m tired of dicking around with the Kobe vs. Lebron question (Lebron), or Kobe vs. Shaq (Kobe). I’m tired of wondering whether he’s capable of a sincere human interaction that doesn’t involve anyone named Mrs. Kobe Bryant or Kobe Bryant’s Daughters. I’m even tired of hearing about Kobe’s Quest for Another Ring. Mostly, though, I’m tired of apologizing for Kobe.
Who cares, right? Why whine about it when we got the trophy last year? But when the best member of your squad is the American Civil War of the NBA (the motherfucker pits brother against brother), it grates on you. Because he plays basketball the way you wish the shooting guard on your team would play. Well, unless you are a Miami Heat fan; in that case go put on a white shirt and thank Avery Johnson every night before you go to bed. For the rest of you: let’s all agree that the media talking points suck, Kobe the person is not likable or adept in the spotlight, there’s an accusation of rape that David Stern has somehow declared Will Never Be Mentioned Again, and just for kicks his wife may be a psycho hose beast of Barbara Bush proportions. And let’s agree you would take him in your backcourt.
To keep things obvious, the Lakers NEED him in their backcourt. We have a Slovenian who supposedly improved his game this summer by cutting his hair. We have Shannon Brown, an unknown quantity of freakish speed and chaotic athleticism that may translate into more turnovers than points. We have a young point guard in his contract year who believes he should have been a starter three years ago but whose best defensive move may be hoping one of his ears clotheslines Aaron Brooks as he flies by for the -nth time of the game. Fish has been canonized at this point…in 2001 we guessed he was more Devean George than Norm Nixon, but he has proved his value with numerous integral plays over the years. So let me not seem ungrateful when I point out his legs will barely make it through another 100-game season; his shots still rainbow with that obscene arc, but now tend to go in fewer than 4 out of every 10 attempts. If it’s unclear why that’s a bad thing, I bet Daryl Morey has an ingenious algorithm to explain it.
What I’m clumsily implying is the Lakers’ chance at repeating as champions lies in its frontcourt. You’ve heard about the length, you’ve heard about the boy wonder Bynum and his injuries and large contract, you know Lamar has handled his role as sixth man without fault. There’s nothing revolutionary here, just a team built around size while most of the league went small. The Artest-for-Ariza swap? Your guess is as good as mine. Trevor was well-loved, as any young player would be if he makes the Leap on your team, especially on the way to winning a ring. Artest has been a long-time favorite in the same way I’ve enjoyed the speeches of Michelle Malkin…pure entertainment value, but please stay way the fuck over there. The only thing I can be sure of is Crazy Pills’ barber had better be sending royalty checks to Anthony Mason.
The one reason I’m not letting any of that ruin this season for me, or my hopes for another championship banner in our so-close-it-hurts attempt to outnumber those seventeen dusty green-and-white flags hanging in Boston: Pau Gasol. He yowls, he grows a beard that looks like it belongs in an underfunded Museum of Natural History, and he makes the whole damn roster click. He could pass to you across a Brooklyn-bound F-train car on a Friday afternoon. He can guard your center or your power forward, and might be able to move faster than both. He plays within any offense. He is the perfect number 2. He is the reason we were the last team standing in June, and he will be the reason if we do it again.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Editor's Note: The idea of team love is something that gets a lot of support throughout sportswriting. There's ESPN Philly and Boston and Chicago and all that shit. But there is seldom a writer that gets to expose their bias as completely as they want to (mostly because fans of other teams have no interest in hearing from us for too long). This got us to thinking. And thinking hard. So, throughout the NBA season, Pretzeltown is going to be an experiment: four contending teams (Boston, Denver, LAL and Cleveland) will be represented by four different writers sharing their thoughts on the process and progress. Now some Nuggets, uh, nuggets from Mr. Phony.
What is the idea of perfection? Some may a snowflake, or a circle, or a sunrise. Others may say Akira Kurosawa's oeuvre, a Jeff Tweedy lyric, or a rocking chair handcrafted in a backyard shed over many months, reeking of sweat and passion and love. Others - namely most NBA writers - would also add the Denver Nuggets' 2008-2009 season.
There's only one problem: they didn't fucking win anything.
Sure, they won the NW (but only via tiebreaker with the younger and not-quite-as-talented Trailblazers). They made the conference finals for the first time since 1985 (but beat two banged-up teams, the Hornets and Mavericks, to get there). They played the Lakers well in said conference finals (but posted an unforgivable no-show at home in Game 6). Call me crazy, but this sequence of but-fueled events doesn't sound "perfect" to me.
The logic was this: Denver was able to get rid of one thing they didn't need (A.I., a me-first shooter who didn't really make his teammates better) and get the thing they did need (Chauncey Billups, a floor general who would preach punchless George Karl's defensive mindset whilst simultaneously knocking down clutch shots; also, he's from Denver!). That this happened without a gigantic blow to their limited cap room was seen as quite the haul. The problem with this is that they were unable to persuade former Nugget Antonio McDyess to come with Billups, thus adding another veteran frontcourt body who could alleviate the rebounding-and-low-post-defending-the-pick-and-roll burden on Nene and Kenyon Martin. But, still, perfect, right?
Speaking of K-Mart and The Brazilian Hilarious one, that was the other part of the equation: Martin's knees didn't blow up like a suicide bomber in a crowded cafe, and Nene still has one testicle (that we're aware of). Apparently these two being healthy for two years straight is an unlikely scenario, but the Spurs staying healthy and possibly winning a title, with an average age of just under 47, is not.
And that's why nobody likes the Nuggets. Whenever prognosticators talk about who's going to win the title, it's always the same five teams: Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, LAL, and San Antonio. It's the whole "lightning can't strike twice" theory. But what is lightning? An athletic, talented team playing a bit of defense for the first time in forever, gelling at the right time in a down-year for the conference? And what is striking? That they started beating the teams they were supposed to beat, and eventually lost to a team that was superior to them?
It's true that the Nuggets didn't make any MAJOR moves in the off-season; signing Aaron Afflalo and letting Linas Kleiza and Dahntay Jones walk aren't big moves by any stretch of the imagination. It's true that they failed to land what they really need: a true center, like former Nugget Marcus Camby, or maybe Chris Kaman, aka someone who could allow Nene to move to PF, where he truly belongs and would likely dominate.
But it's true that they added something they lacked: a speedster guard (Ty Lawson) who would take crucial minutes away from the abonimable Anthony Carter, while at the same time saving Chauncey's aging legs. This made up for not taking DeJuan Blair in the second round. Almost.
Are the Nuggets the best team in the Western Conference? No. Are they the second-best? Probably not. Will they finish anywhere from 3-5, and again have a chance to reach the conference finals? You bet your signed Fat Lever rookie card. Sure, certain things have to happen - they avoid big injuries, Melo plays at a near-MVP level, JR Smith continues to mature and even show those playmaking skills he awesomely broke out in the playoffs, Birdman continues to be a defensive presence off the bench, Karl doesn't majorly jack shit up - but that is every team. This is the NBA, son - a marathon, a grind, a beast of a bitch with a mind to smack your whiny ass DOWN.
Lightning does strike twice. Mother Nature fucks Father Time without protection everywhere, around the clock. And Denver has a damn good team that is playoff-bound again. If you're a Nuggets fan, that's as close to perfect as you're ever gonna get.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Editor's Note: The idea of team love is something that gets a lot of support throughout sportswriting. There's ESPN Philly and Boston and Chicago and all that shit. But there is seldom a writer that gets to expose their bias as completely as they want to (mostly because fans of other teams have no interest in hearing from us for too long). This got us to thinking. And thinking hard. So, throughout the NBA season, Pretzeltown is going to be an experiment: four contending teams (Boston, Denver, LAL and Cleveland)will be represented by four different writers sharing their thoughts on the process and progress. Now some Celtics musings from BoL.
The idea of Rasheed Wallace is one that cannot be fathomed by humanity. He is a singular vision in frustration wrapped in blissful basketball pageantry. In beckoning his brilliance, the Celtics have signed themselves up to be the loudest, most inane group of assholes since Degeneration X plagued the WWF. (Garnett being HHH, Rondo being X-Pac, Paul Pierce being Shawn Michaels, Ray Allen being "Bad Ass" Billy Gunn and Perkins being "Road Dogg" Jesse James-- meanwhile, Sheed is left out of this entire process and I know, the tag team between Ray and Perk makes no sense, but Road Dogg and Perk remind me of each other, OK?). This is classic heel work and classic Boston Celtics material.
Only, I don't buy it. I know I should-- the ref-baiting, shit-talking and mean-mugging will be there, yes-- but will this team be any more reviled than any other championship-level "bad boy" team? Think about it-- people hated Bird and McHale way more than they hate KG, Ray and Paul Pierce. People hated Antoine Walker more than Perkins because Walker pretended to matter more than anyone on the court. Sheed draws ire, but more than McHale after the clothesline?
I mean, we're not discussing Detroit under Daly , here. We're not talking about a team that really looks hateable. They are a bunch of vets looking for one last shot together. They are too old to be hated, really. Shaq, who has weaseled his way out of another franchise with pity on his side somehow, or Kobe, or a team that still employs Vajucic, or Hedo Turkoglu, or Vince Carter--maybe they draw ire. But KG and a sixth man Sheed? Pierce? I just don't see it. Fans would be better suited to waste their time hating their spouses or kids for not being perfect than hating a team that will be "too focused." Hate the Spurs, hate the Lakers, Hate Shaq but it doesn't seem worthwhile to hate the Celtics for being the old team that refuses to go away, becuase when they do, you will have seen three years. That's it: three seasons, maybe four before they're gone.
As the year progresses, I'm sure everyone will find reasons to hate this team despite my pleas. Just don't waste my time with it. It's not often you get this much focus from a team so apt to break down, so I am just going to enjoy it while it lasts (at least most of it-- Doc loves getting under my skin with stupid lineups and I can't wait for Marquis Daniels to be the first player to play four positions and be overrated at all of them). I suggest everyone do the same. Don't Vince MacMahon my good time.
Editor's Note: The idea of team love is something that gets a lot of support throughout sportswriting. There's ESPN Philly and Boston and Chicago and all that shit. But there is seldom a writer that gets to expose their bias as completely as they want to (mostly because fans of other teams have no interest in hearing from us for too long). This got us to thinking. And thinking hard. So, throughout the NBA season, Pretzeltown is going to be an experiment: four contending teams (Boston, Denver, LAL and Cleveland)will be represented by four different writers sharing their thoughts on the process and progress. First up is Ryan Dee-- a man amongst Gods and an all-things Cleveland fanatic.
The Great North Coast Volume1:
With the 20th pick in the 1996 NBA draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected a center from Lithuania named Zydrunas Ilgauskus. A practical and talented scorer, with a wealth of size (7’3”) who had already played professionally in Europe but was a virtual unknown in America, he was part of a growing philosophy amongst General Managers and coaches. Experienced players in the European style could contribute to the American game. The selection was met with little fanfare, and when drafted in tandem with Vitaly Potapenko, Cavs fans were discouraged to consider that Michael Jordan’s ghost had exhausted the organization and the time had come to rebuild.
The rebuilding did not go well. The roster that Z joined boasted the likes of (teenager) Bobby Sura, (slightly more follicled pre-GM) Danny Ferry, (fat) Shawn Kemp, (not the novelist) Henry James and (not the quarterback) Derek Anderson. Ilgauskus spent the better part of three years disabled and going through painful foot surgeries that have basically replaced his once human Lituanian feet with some kind of early James Cameron-science-fiction-scrap metal set of feet certain to withstand the perils of nuclear holocaust but less likely to extend a career in professional American basketball.
Still, Z worked his ass off on awful teams where he was often the best offensive weapon. He became an All-Star and earned his 71-million-dollar contract by establishing a smooth 17 foot jumper that is difficult for Big Men to defend and also saves his body and METAL FEET from banging around under the basket.
In 2003, the Cavaliers were smart enough to be bad enough to draft something from Akron called a LEBRON JAMES (not a car made by Chrysler). And God was in Heaven and all was right with the World.
You would think that basking in the BENEVOLENT EVERLASTING LIGHT of BRON for the past five years would have shone a light on the big man-- who has consistently averaged 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds (and again named an All Star)-- but he is still included in the “when is LeBron gonna get some help” and “the cavs have LeBron and a bunch of stiffs” categories.
This year, the Cavs will not have that excuse.
Again, Z will concede to a Great Charismatic Athletic Monolith in Shaquille O’Neal, (I think he was the guy who broke backboards in the 90’s) the last great artifact of the attitude of Basketball in the last generation. Pre-tweet and Pro-Kazaam. And, it may just extend his career again. With Shaq taking a lot of the blows from the first teamers, Z is going to get favorable match ups against bench players which will allow him to easily spread the floor and bring slower centers closer to the perimeter allowing Cleveland’s back court and swing men James, Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to slash and score, which me likey very much.
It has been rumored that if they win it this year, Z will retire. It is also rumored that if the Cavs need to make a move (specifically concerning the Delonte West situation) that it may again, be Z (and his tempting, firm, luscious expiring contract) who is asked to make room for yet another star to improve Cleveland’s chances of licking David Stern’s GREAT BRASS RING, and having an excuse to make a parade in Cleveland.
This season, there will be an uncomfortable amount of references to the greatness of and possible departure of LeBron James and his relationship to the City of Cleveland, the City of Akron and the City of New York. Every Cavs fan will have to confront this possibility again and again via national broadcasts (I’m looking at you, Reggie Miller). This will be the storyline.
But there is another storyline coming to a conclusion: Zydrunas. The European experiment has been a success and we will get the opportunity to see Z reinvent himself again this year as a sixth man, complimenting and improving the dynamic of Cleveland’s second team, even if it is only until the trade deadline. And while there will be much written about the Native Prodigal, let’s take this year to enjoy watching the big, strange Lithuanian who has chosen to make Cleveland his home and who has enriched our basketball experience as Cavs fans with his loyalty and consistency over the last decade.
The locker room has changed a lot since 1996 and for four years now the Cavaliers have been, and their fans have been able to enjoy, a legitimate contender. So, if this is the last year of their dominance and if this is the last year of LeBron allowing his GOLDEN GOD DUST TO SPRINKLE DELICATELY OVER THE ROOFTOPS OF CLEVELAND’S ECONOMY AND SPORTS HOPES AND FUTURES then so be it. I’m just glad I’m not rooting for Fat Shawn Kemp and fuckin’ Bobby Sura this year.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
But when I did the NL West, little did I know that I would accurately - and by that, I mean PERFECTLY - predict both the record and place finish of my Padres. Did I really think they'd win 75 games? No. They were supposed to be terrible. And they were, offensively. I would've been happy had they avoided 100 losses like 2008.
Yet they had decent starting pitching, a good bullpen, a fantastic year from Heath Bell, and some timely hits here and there. They were one of the best teams for the last 3 or so months of the year. Kyle Blanks and Will Venable emerged as possible slugging stars to bookend Adrian Gonzalez, the most unheralded star in the game. Everth Cabrera and Tony Gwynn Jr. proved that speed up the middle is a good thing, especially in a park slightly smaller than Yellowstone.
So thank you, Padres, for a completely-not-terrible year. Yes, I was proud of 75 wins. Damn proud.
(But not too proud of picking the Rockies to finish dead last. You've made a powerful enemy today, Jim Tracy!)
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Lost in the din and glamor of the beginning of football's seasons, the playoff chases in baseball and the general loss of words we have for the lack of summer in NYC this year is an amazing feat: the greatest player in basketball history paying homage to his primogenitor.
Lost in the amazing 80s-early 90s run in the NBA is the man who brought the game above the rim. A forgotten name amongst the greats of the game; a name that gets props from some of the 50 greatest names in basketball history, including Charles Barkley, but can't get his name in a headline on ESPN. David Thompson began the principles of swagger. He wasn't allowed to dunk in college-- he of the 44" vert-- so he would literally play above the rim by placing the ball over it. He was an unstoppable force that helped stop an unstoppable force when N.C. State beat UCLA in the 1974 NCAA tournament during an undefeated championship run. He was a number one pick in TWO leagues and chose against the NBA-- against it.
Lost in the 70s and early 80s, since his career didn't amount to the greatness it should have, Michael Jordan is putting David Thompson on a stage of the elite when he had hall-of-fame teammates, coaches, and an alma mater full of greatness. Jordan has made his point: this is about basketball and nothing more-- not friendship, nepotism, heroism or a belief that he owes something to anyone other than his inspiration. This is a chance to show why Michael Jordan became Michael Jordan. No lore of his high-school failure or recanting of the old days in college or even talk from an old battle partner on the greatness of the man. Nope, this is going to be basketball, pure and simple, from one man who knew what it was like to be the most explosive man on a court at any given time to another.
Lost in the surprise: Jordan lifting the curtain to reveal his respect for Thompson's game probably surprised many people. It did me at first. But doesn't it make perfect sense? After all, for all the shoe jockeying, movie making and commercialization, isn't the intention of Jordan to promote basketball first? And North Carolina basketball at that? (See: Gerald Henderson, Brandon Wright, Sean May, Raymond Felton.) Thompson was from Shelby, North Carolina and played in Raleigh. He was North Carolina basketball's first shining example during and after the ABA-NBA merger. He was one of the first real above the rim players to rep the ACC during the Dr. J years. Or, to sum it all up, there's this:
Thompson rocks his NC State credentials on his chest and Mike just awes over the legend of one of his heroes.
Found: a legend before the legend. They are the culmination of North Carolina basketball through Everett Case and Dean Smith and Coach K and the rest: the ultimate prize of presenting the greatest baller in history lies in the hands of a man whose legend goes unremembered. ESPN and NBA.com both herald Jordan's hero as an "ex-NC State star." Not a basketball hall-of-famer, not David Thompson, not even former great. Just an ex-NC baller. For Jordan, that's perfect. Here's hoping people listen to the speech and listen well. The beginnings and culmination of the modern era of basketball are to be witnessed to the land via North Carolina pride.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
I'm going to drink heavily and type some shit in here.
7:05 - Ralphie comes out in one of the more tired traditions in collegiate sports. It's only interesting because buffalo are likely to be extinct soon. Way to go, frontiersmen.
7:12 - CSU gets the ball to start. Our QB is named Grant Stucker. That sounds like an asshole's name. He better not play like an asshole. First play from scrimmage is a dump-off for a first down. All right, then.
7:15 - I should also mention that our running back is white and wears #7. Only at CSU. But after a long bomb (that should've been a TD if Stucker didn't underthrow it), the Great White Hope scores. Ok, then.
7:23 - A few sips into beer #2 and the Rammies force a 3-and-out. I don't want to get optimistic or anything, but this is a good start.
7:35 - Just realized former CU QB Joel Klatt is one of the guys in the booth. I'd make a joke here, but he's got a job. I don't. Advantage: Shitty Quarterback.
7:37 - On 3rd-and-15, CSU tips the pass and picks it off, and gets a facemask on the return, not to mention a horsecollar that was declined. You know what that deserves? PBR CHUG. I'm going to time it: O/U is 27 seconds.
7:39 - 25.77 seconds. I win! The prize is a bottle of White Horse scotch my friend Hannah got me for getting ceremoniously fired. Thanks, Hannah. Boo, says my liver.
7:43 - As Dion Morton goes in motion, the snap hits him, bounces right up to him, and he races to the sideline to get a first on 2nd-and-1. A good sign? I hope so. A sign of a QB not knowing what the fuck's going on? Definitely.
7:49 - Long pass over the middle, Stucker hits a diving John Mosure (honky RB) for a score. 14-0, Rams. CSU wraps the first quarter up, fittingly, with a good wrap-up on an open-field tackle. We may not have athletes, but we usually tackle well. We're the Patriots of college football, except we don't win. And our fans aren't douchemops.
7:59 - Stucker hits a long completion inside the 10, and at the tail end of the play the "Flag" graphic goes up on the screen under the score ... only the color guys don't acknowledge it and explain it, they just talk about the play. HEY ASSHOLES, WHAT THE FUCK WAS THE FLAG FOR? It appears to be taunting on CSU at the end of the play, but they don't say. Fucking amateurs.
8:03 - Speaking of amateurs, it's Joe Morgan and Steve Phillips on ESPN2 for SD-LA. Has anyone in the history of sports broadcasting been unluckier than Jon Miller? It's like instead of Costello, Abbott got stuck with Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia.
8:06 - Picture-in-picture is one of the greatest things ever. Aside from owning 2 big-ass TVs. And blowjobs. Can't forget blowjobs.
8:09 - My man Tony Gwynn Jr. went from a potential top-5 leadoff guy to hitting 8th on possibly the worst offense in the majors, in a span of about 3 months. That's not ... that's not good. Oh, and the Buffs have to punt again. Cue the Nelson laugh.
8:13 - Re: 8:06 - add "leftover shrimp lo mein" to that list. Oh, and O-dog boots little Davey Eckstein's grounder. San Diego - we score runs only if you fuck up!
8:15 - Adrian Gonzalez doubles to right-center. Two RISP, one out. Vegas odds are 10/1 the Pads don't score here. Oh, and the Rams' best receiver just dropped a perfect long bomb that hit him right on the hands.
8:17 - Well, shit. Grounder to Furcal at short, he goes home, and Lil' Ecky makes a nice slide. The Pads lead! The Pads lead!
8:26 - The Buffs convert a 4th-and-5, minutes after a bad pick by Stucker. I mean, Cody Hawkins is the coach's kid. That's lame, right? Right? The drive ends with a 55-yard FG that would've been good from at least 60. 17-3, CSU.
8:37 - With 10 seconds left in the half, the Rams line up to try a 45-yarder. All the extra points have been low, so I'm not optimistic. And ... it's absolutely drop-dead perfect. 20-3 CSU. With one second left, and with all 3 timeouts, the Buffs kneel. HAHAHAHAHAHA.
8:50 - I just got rebuked on a potential phone conversation by my boy Berg, whose argument via text is apparently "cell phones don't work in Minnesota." YOU'RE FULL OF SHIT, YOU BIG BLONDE FUCK. I hope Brett Favre fucks up the Vikings worse than McDaniels screwed the pooch with the Broncos.
8:55 - Kevin Kouzmanoff is up with the bases juiced and nobody out. And he ... singles up the middle! My man Kouz ain't the best hot corner man with the bat (although he's been a STUD with the leather), but he could be a shit-load worse. 3-0 Pads going into the bottom of the 3rd.
9:05 - Hawkins completes a deep pass over the middle inside the 10. The good feelings of the first half are gone as Colorado scores on the next play, one minute into the first drive of the 2nd half. 20-10 CSU. Uh-oh.
9:12 - CSU goes 3-and-out. Well, that was fun while it lasted. Am I inherently negative? Of course. It's got me this far.
9:17 - CU's Darrell Scott makes a one-handed grab on a floater screen and gets a first. Is that the first-half equivalent of CSU's snap-hits-the-guy-in-motion? Probably. Meanwhile, a Russell Martin single drives in Manny to cut the Dodgers' deficit to 3-1. Oh, it was a check-swing single. Good to know. I HATE THE DODGERS.
9:22 - After a review, a CU catch and helmet-to-helmet hit by the CSU safety causes a fumble that is awarded to the Rams. Do I care? Fuck no. Give us the ball. We need a break. These games are always in Folsom Field in Boulder or at Invesco, the neutral site in Denver. This shit is never at Hughes. Either way, we suddenly have no offense, and Stucker looks like a guy named Grant Stucker. Shit.
9:27 - Note to self: stop picking at your healing blister wound on your index finger with a pair of nail clippers while you're drunk. Things won't end well there, chief. Next note to self: refresh your scotch on the rocks.
9:28 - Gonzo goes yard to left. He's one of the top 3 opposite-field power hitters in baseball, bar fucking none. Goddamn that man can play the fucking game. 4-1 Padres, top 5.
9:31 - On 4th-and-1 on their own side of the field, the Buffs gets stuffed on a run to the left. If the Rams don't get at least a field goal on the ensuing drive, we will lose. I have no doubts about that. Also, a CU linebacker's name is Beatty. I wonder if he's seen Ishtar. Or Bulworth.
9:35 - On 4th-and-1, Stucker barely gets across on a QB sneak. Why not call a bootleg, or a play-action on that shit? GROW A PAIR, DAMMIT. And as soon as I type that, Stucker has not one but TWO guys WIDE FUCKING OPEN and hits the man in black between them both. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh. Me no rikey this game now. Time to get scotch.
9:41 - There's not much better than seeing "Shawne Merriman arrested" on your ESPN scrawl. Fuck that guy. Let's hope the lights don't go out in jail, bitch.
9:45 - On the first play of the 4th quarter, Stucker holds on a late blitz and takes the sack. Luckily the Rams have great punt coverage, and the Buffs start inside their own 10. Still ... GODDAMMIT. Absolutely NO fucking offense in this second half.
9:47 - I haven't had a cigarette in 6 1/2 months, but holy shit does one sound good right now.
9:52 - After talking about how the Padres have a chance to play spoiler in the last 3 weeks, Joe Morgan says "Well the Dodgers have the best record..." and I change the channel. I imagine that sentence ending with "in the NL West," as the other two guys in the booth think of something to say that's not "You're a fucking idiot, chocolate midget." And after converting on 3rd-and-short deep in their own end, the Buffs get called for illegal motion, and fail on 3rd-and-long. Good field position, CSU. PUT IT AWAY FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK.
9:56 - Mark Sanchez is on the CU sidelines, resplendent in black CU gear. He's apparently a very good friend of the Buffs' Scotty McKnight, who got his bell rung earlier when he fumbled. Get ready, Jets fans.
10:00 - I wish I had some weed. Holy fuck.
10:03 - 3rd-and-goal, the Rams try to run and can't punch it in. HAVE SOME FAITH WITH THE ASSHOLE QB. For fuck's sake. The kicker shanks it just inside the left upright. 23-10, CSU, less than 10 minutes to go. They should've punched that shit in. I AM NOT IMPRESSED.
10:07 - Is there anything worse than peeing on yourself? I was just busting a freestyle-Rush-type solo and looked down to notice I had somehow dripped a few drops onto my green Starter basketball shorts. I mean, other than shitting yourself, pissing on yourself is the birds.
10:09 - I'm officially drunj.
10:11 - After a dead-ball foul, the Buffs convert on 3rd-and-15, CU's first third-down conversion of the night. I mean, what the shit. BRING THE THUNDER, KERR.
10:17 - The Rams get their fourth sack of the night on 3rd-and-long. For a team that had a college-worst - and, for the record, there's about 120 schools playing in FBS - a COLLEGE-WORST 9 sacks last season, that's a good thing to hear.
10:21 - The Buffs get a great punt return with about 4 minutes to play, but it's called back for an illegal block. A few minutes later the Buffs convert on 4th-and-1, and they get a sizable gain on the next play. If they get in the end zone they're going to onside kick and I don't like that.
10:25 - In one fell swoop, there's a deep pass interference on the Rams and a two-run base hit by the Dodgers, cutting the Pads' lead to 4-3. Everything is crashing down. CRASHING DOWN AND I'M DRUNJ!!!
10:29 - Sanchez bee-yotch McKnight grabs a semi-fade in the end zone. 23-17 CSU, onside kick to come. A weird onside kick ensues, but the Rams recover. They've got 1:55 left to kill and run this shit out. I am not holding my breath. And out of the blue, on the first play, Leonard Mason busts a long run down to the 2. Since the Buffs have no more timeouts, that seals it. The Rams will kneel and sew it up. FUCK AND YES. YOUR FOLSOM CURSE IS NO MORE, YOU PARTYING TRUSTAFARIAN SHITHEADS. BOW TO THE SUPERIOR GREEN AND GOLD.
10:40 - Clare just got home, and she's messing around with her new iPhone. Now, we all know people with iPhones. A good number of you have them, and if you don't, you've grabbed your friends' just to fuck around with it. So, basically, it's like a new pet. I'm super stoked to have it around, and I want it to myself. Is that creepy? Probably. But I don't care.
10:43 - I'm sorry, but "The Informant!" looks awesome.
10:46 - Re: 10:25 - I'm an idiot. Apparently the PIP isn't as cool as I thought. The Padres still lead 4-1, and the Dodgers never scored 2 to make it 4-3. It's still 4-1 Padres. Could CSU and the Padres win on the same night? GOD BLESS BOOZE.
10:50 - Gwynn Jr. races into the gap in right-center to take away a hit from Juan Pierre. If there's one thing Jr. didn't inherit from his old man, it's the ability to ingest turkeys telepathically.
10:53 - Re: 10:46 presumptually re: 10:25 - Shit. Andre Ethier strokes one into the LF corner to score 2, and NOW it's 4-3 Padres. Well, you can't get both ends of a doubleheader. At least not when you have no job, and you're drinking shitty scotch at 11 pm on a Sunday. There are rules, you know.
11:04 - Heath Bell comes in to close it out for the Padres. The ESPN guys in the booth are praising his nutsack, which means it probably won't end well. Clare is going through the ringtones on the iPhone. There are MANY good choices. God damn you, AT&T.
11:10 - Bell throws a slider on 2-0 to Jim Thome. He needs a double play ball here. He also needs to cut down on the bacon, you fat fuck. Thome hits a routine fly ball to left, 2 out. Ethier coming up, tying run on first. Ethier is the walk-off king. He's got curly hair, like a Jew. If we all know anything, it's that Jews never succeed. LET'S GO HEATH! LET'S GO HEATH! LET'S GO HEATH! You all should know I'm German.
11:15 - Ethier flies out to left, and even though the Padres don't sweep the series they take 2 of 3 of the set. And on FUCKING CUE, Joe Morgan praises the Dodgers for "showing a lot of character by winning the last 2 games in Colorado ... and let's see what happens." HOLY FUCKING BALLS. THE WORST TEAM IN THE NL WEST JUST WON 2 OF 3 IN THE HOME OF THE BEST TEAM IN NL WEST.
Ways in which Joe Morgan should die:
- Sharks eat his testicles, and replace them with grenades
- Michael Lewis writes his death in a Stephen King-style post-apocalyptic-ish story, and Billy Beane carries it out, with a hockey stick and a Duane Reade basket full of razor blades
- Jon Miller electrocutes him in the booth via Burrito Supreme
- Derek Jeter beats him over the head with a bat, and glove, and cleats, and the lifeless corpse of a 13-year-old cancer patient from Mott Haven whose only goal in life was to meet Joe Morgan and Derek Jeter
- Pete Rose shows up and just says "Jesus Tap-dancing Christ you're pathetic." Then he signs his autograph on Morgan's forehead in arsenic ink, which slowly seeps into Morgan's skull and slowly convinces him that he once hosted the Ed Sullivan show, which drives him to insatiable craziness since he looks to his right and sees Steve Phillips
- Steve Phillips beats the fuck out of him with a microphone and a ham sandwich
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Hello? Who's that?
We're the Boos. We're Bronco fans.
Wh- where ... where are you? I can hear you, but I can't see you.
We're in your inner ear.
How'd you get in there? Bronco fans are people. They're normal size!
Not since Jay Cutler said we were a 6 compared to Chicago's 9. Because of the altitude, we shrunk even more. It had an adverse effect. That chubby, no-chin, cookie-eating bastard didn't know what he was doing. Particle physics are no place for a Vanderbilt grad.
Man. I ... I had no idea. Hey, what's that buzzing sound?
What? Oh, that? Nothing. We're just getting Chris Simms's initials tattooed on our legs.
Holy fuck I'm drunk.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
We, the Proprietors of the Pretzel Factory, Make Jokes About the NBA Draft, and People About to be Far Richer than Ourselves
(Note: So you can tell your friends and, in 37 years, grandchildren, which of us said what monumental thing, they will be prefaced accordingly: PG for Phony Gwynn, and BoL for Business or Leisure?. See? You learned something. Fantastic!)
PG: I am awaiting the presence of BoL, so let me say this: I am an unabashed fan of I Survived a Japanese Game Show, and ... it may have seeped into the first few graphs there. Just so nobody asks me where I got the killer peyote.
And...they're here! (Note: We have a guest speaker, Carlos, who gets a plain old "C." Simplistic? You bet! Sexy? Not really.)
BoL: David Stern could read my favorite book, or a Penthouse Forum letter, and I would [rolls head over, closes eyes, makes loud, obnoxious snoring sound.]
[Griffin is picked by the Clippers] BoL: He's kissing dudes? You're not even in L.A. yet!
By the way, we both agree that this was beyond excellent.
BoL: Ted and I decided the other night that the drunkest thing you could say, even if you're stone-cold sober, is Colorado Rockies. No matter how you say it, you sound drunk as shit. C: Rrrrryyyannnn Spppillllbbbborrrrrggghhhhssss for the Cccccolllllllorrrrrradddddo Rrrrroccckkkkiesssss.
[Mike Dunleavy is shown on screen] PG: Oh no, it's Steven Seagal's ugly, bald cousin!
[The Thunder take James Harden 3rd] BoL, PG: OH NO! NOOOOO! WHY? WHY?!?!?
[New T-Wolves GM David Kahn's credentials are shown, including working as a consultant on NBA Showtime] PG: What is that, Summer Sanders's resume?
PG: When the T-Wolves picked Ricky Rubio, all the ESPN sound guys heard an audible 'thump' and were confused. Turns out it was Mark Jackson's erection smacking the underside of the desk.
[Graphic says Jonny Flynn hasn't grown since the 8th grade] C: I'm surprised they put that. "Real small..."
[The Warriors take Stephen Curry right ahead of the Knicks] BoL: Yes! Fuck you Yankee-cap wearing mother-fuckers! (Not sure if this is what was said - the audible groaning of Knicks fans in attendance was drowning it out.)
BoL: Oops. We skipped the DeMar DeRozan pick, much like the Raptors should have.
Terrence Williams: "I learned great under Coach P, I can learn great in the NBA." C, PG: Well, apparently he didn't "learn great" in college. C: English 101 was a problem, there.
[At this point, many of the compelling points in the draft - Rubio, Curry, etc. - had subsided. So we ordered Chinese food. We shall resume shortly, presumably with the poking of fun at Tyler Hansbrough.]
Before the Pacers pick, BoL says: This is it. Who do they have? C: Troy Murphy, Travis Diener ... PG: Mike Dunleavy Jr. BoL: They could do it. C: Can we call them White Flight? PG: I like White Night. Kind of ironic.
[The Pacers pick ... Tyler Hansbrough] C, PG, BoL in unison: YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! [High-fives abound.] BoL: THE GREATEST WHITE TEAM OF ALL-TIME!
Pacers nicknames: Vanilla Thunder, The Whitewash, The Opaque Floor Generals, Clear and Present Danger, The Awkward Brigade, Definitely Your Father's Pacers, White Team's Guilt, The White Stripes (only for pinstriped away jerseys), Duke: Midwest, I See White People, New Mother Russia, The Indianapolis White-Hundred.
The T-Wolves take Ty Lawson at 18, and we are summarily ... slack-jawed. One team - ONE TEAM - has now taken three point guards with their first three picks. AMAZING. BoL: I'm befuddled. PG: Well, aren't we all.
[UPDATE: Apparently, the Nuggets have traded for Ty Lawson. A young, solid backup for Chauncey Billups? PG IS A HAPPY MAN!]
[Shaq gives the "great" Stanley Roberts a shout-out during a phone interview] BoL: He just HAD to bust on Stanley Roberts. Stanley Roberts is probably watching Cars right now. What an ass.
[Fran Fraschilla on the Kings taking Israel's Omri Casspi: "They better have some good falafel in Sacramento."] PG: Really? Headline: Fran Fraschilla Flubs Falafel Flap.
BoL: Hi. I'm James Harden. I'm the 3rd pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. The next time you'll hear about me will be in 3 years when I commit suicide.
C: With the first pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers select ... Luke Harangody. [This was incredibly, incredibly funny to us.]
[The Bulls' Gar Forman is interviewed] PG: Gar Forman definitely sounds like a NASCAR crew chief. [BoL and C proceed to speak in Southern voices and talk about restrictor plates. Justice cannot be done in print.]
ESPN goes to commercial with the Nuggets on the clock, and BoL correctly predicts that they wouldn't even show the pick. They come back, announce a trade, announce the Pistons' pick at 35, then ... talk about the trade. FUCK YOU ESPN. DIE IN A HUNTING ACCIDENT.
The scrawl reveals the Nuggets picked (please be DeJuan Blair, please be DeJuan Blair) ... some guard named Sergio Llull from Spain. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK. Denver, I have a feeling Llull regret this pick.
[UPDATE: The Nuggets trade the rights of the Llull pick to the Rockets for cash. NOT A BIG, SCORING, OFFENSIVE-REBOUNDING MACHINE. As far as I know, dollar bills can't get 5 offensive boards a game. But the Nuggets are cash-strapped, so ... whatever.]
BoL: The Detroit Pistons select ... Jeff Laughlin, from the University of ... FAT!
So, the T-Wolves are 5-for-5 in picking guards, even if Calathes won't play for them (and they're moving Lawson to the Nuggets). Either way, that's batting 1.000. Look out, Joe Mauer - the Wolves are on your ass!
And the Pacers pick ... A.J. Price. A black guy? What? NOOOOO!!!
C: Acie Law and Speedy Claxton sound like a TV cop duo.
We're late in the 2nd round, and we don't recognize any of these fucking guys, and we've had a few beers, so ... the updates are few and far between. PG: I did realize that David Kahn of the T-Wolves looks like the guy who plays Alby on HBO's Big Love.
And so the night comes to a close with a reference to a Mormon drama. The 2nd round petered out a bit, but the first round was wildly entertaining, with plenty of surprises and twists and turns. An enjoyable evening. And one that provided plenty of jokes.
No joking on this, though: RIP Jacko. You were ... strange, and bizarre, and sometimes downright creepy. But holy good lord were you talented.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Peter King tells us how it happened.
I could go on and on about the rude woman who took up two seats on the LIRR the other day, or the fact that the new Dunkin' Donuts sandwich should be served with a circular saw and an air sickness bag. But I won't. I'd like to discuss the unprecedented move the Denver Broncos made recently.
No, I'm not talking about the trade of Jay Cutler to the Bears. And no, I'm not talking about their acquiescing to Brandon Marshall's trade demands. Pat Bowlen and his two-time Super Bowl-winning organization backed up so fast on that one you half expected to hear a "beep-beep-beep" sound.
Instead, I'd like to start with the two chats I had with Adam Sivits. Haven't heard of him? Of course you haven't. He's a pawn in this game.
"It's really frustrating," Sivits said via Gmail Gchat instant message. "I've actually worked for this franchise. I raised the north field-goal nets. I hand-painted the horse's eyes in the end zones. And what they've done lately is just ... surreal."
Sivits says that he sent a text message to new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels expressing his dissatisfaction with the way the off-season has gone. McDaniels told me in an email that he received no such text. "We take the feelings of our fans very seriously," McDaniels wrote. "If he's truly upset, I'd like to talk with him."
After a phone call between Sivits and McDaniels early yesterday morning, Sivits blogged that he told McDaniels he wanted a conference call with McDaniels and Bowlen. McDaniels then posted a message on his Twitter feed that "[t]he Broncos organization has not received any requests for a conference call from Mr. Sivits."
Which was news to, of all people, Mr. Sivits.
"The way this organization has been run since the firing of Mike Shanahan has been a deplorable and ghastly joke," Sivits wrote on his Facebook page. "As of right now, I no longer wish to be a fan of the Denver Broncos. I hope Mr. Bowlen and Mr. McDaniels can see my side of things and do what's right."
After paging new Broncos GM Brian Xanders, I received an overnight FedEx package containing a stone tablet engraved with the following: "When determining whether or not to trade Adam, we must determine his overall worth. He is a tall guy with good reach, and he has amazing commitment. He treks to the same bar near Union Square in Manhattan every weekend to watch us. Sometimes he stands for the whole game, by himself, with no other Denver fans in sight. The thing is, can we get equal value in return? Since we don't pay him, it's a very, very tough question."
A source revealed to me that Al Davis and the Raiders sent up a smoke signal, offering the Broncos a dual-speed ceiling fan and $1 million. The Broncos simply wrote back "No" in Morse code.
Some members of the team have gone out on a limb with their views.
"We need Adam Sivits on our side," new safety Brian Dawkins wrote on his Tumblr account. "The dude is a real fan. You can't give that up."
After reading that information on InDenverTimes.com, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported "Sivits safe as Bronco fan" in a sky-writing message high above the Denver skyline.
Minutes later, I received word that Sivits had indeed been traded to the Buccaneers for John Burkhardt, a 28-year-old electrical engineer originally from Tampa now living in Brooklyn, as well as a fan to be named later. I released the carrier pigeon and boarded the Metro North, Dunkin' Donuts bag in hand.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
As if that's not enough, we can now do all this on our phones. Wherever there's a strong enough signal we can look up the name of that guy in that one movie, or Juan Pierre's career caught stealing numbers. In the car you can listen to some blowhard and Mike from Queens debate Joe Girardi's use of the bullpen. And if we happen to be at home, we have hundreds of channels filled with scrolling tickers, pop-up graphics, and exquisitely coifed talking heads all pumping us full of juicy, gravy-covered tidbits of knowledge.
We are swimming in a sea of data, and we are drowning.
Exhibit A: Adrian Gonzalez is 5th in the All-Star balloting for National League first basemen.
That's right ... fifth. Fif!
Aside from being a little thing called, oh, the major league's leading home-run hitter, Gonzo has gone gonzo and put up these numbers, just a tad over two months into the year:
.289 avg, 22 HR, 43 RBI, 39 R, .412 OBP, .663 SLG, 1.075 OPS.
Here are the same numbers for the 3 guys immediately ahead of him in the balloting.
Prince Fielder: .276 avg, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 30 R, .412 OBP, .530 SLG, .942 OPS.
Ryan Howard: .266 avg, 16 HR, 45 RBI, 36 R, .348 OBP, .591 SLG, .939 OPS.
Joey Votto (recently placed on the DL): .357 avg, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 23 R, .464 OBP, .627 SLG, 1.091 OPS.
Albert Pujols leads the balloting by a wide margin, and rightly so. Even if the game wasn't in his home city, Pujols is having yet another monster year and is the best all-around player in his sport, let alone his position.
But while all 3 of those guys are having very good years, they: A) all play in hitter's parks; B) all have very good hitters both in front of and behind them; and C) are not in Gonzalez's class in the field.
Already this season he's had a stretch where he's homered 6 times in 5 days and 5 times in 6 days. The poor guy has slugged 39% of the Padres' ding-dongs. Think about that: if the Padres go deep, there's a 4 out of 10 chance Gonzalez stroked it. That is fucking insane.
Every game Padres pitchers pray that Gonzo will bail them out and, more times than not, he does. He did it last year, and he's doing an even better job of it this year.
And the fact that many baseball "fans" - either via TV, the internet, sports talk radio, or the papers - don't recognize it, just because he plays for a shitty team in a small market, is a sad, sad state of affairs.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Since LA and Orlando both make me angry, I'm gonna fast forward seven games to the offseason.
The idea that '09 is a weak class of NBA free agents is a ridiculous understatement. There is more chance for failure amongst the championship-caliber teams than there is success. Think about it: the Lakers are banking on Odom and Ariza, the Cavs ditto with Anderson Varejao if he opts out (sorry kids, I don't think that highly of him other than a scrapper), and the Celtics ditto Glen Davis (how long 'til he becomes the Varejao he is destined to be?) as their high priorities speaks to how much the GMs think about this class. That said, there are some "we got it for cheap volume '09" players worth pursuing this summer. Here goes.
Raja Bell. He can still defend for a contender, can hit open (read: OPEN) threes despite his 3% tanking a bit this year in Phoenix/Charlotte. He can rock a midlevel exception, maybe not even the whole thing. He's hungry from his recent fall from grace in Phoenix and can replace the tenacity a contender may have lost since he's entered the twilight of his career. I love him in Boston, Cleveland (Mo Williams being absent would not have mattered as much in the playoffs-- Raja would have made a huge difference, I bet), Atlanta. The Knicks aren't contenders, but he would go back to D'Antoni, I'd bet.
Kyle Korver (if he opts out). If you are defense heavy, maybe you need that dude to come in and just hit shots. Or, maybe, you just need those shots. Hard to imagine him in Boston or Cleveland with those coaches. Or LA with them having wasted money on "The Machine." Or Denver, seeing as how they have to give the ball to JR Smith one out of every three touches in clutch situations (my thoughts on JR soon to come). Still, a midway contender could really use a court-spreading spot-up guy right? I love him in San Antonio, Cleveland (despite the defense first attitude), and like him in Phoenix now that they are running again (a sleeper for next year since they wasted the first half of the season on the most subjective and thoughtless coach in the NBA). If Kerr were smart, he'd try to make amends.
Birdman. Oh man, Mike Brown and Doc Rivers. They have to think they can make a run at this guy. He's got a past and is too emotional at times, yes. But you don't think LeBron or Garnett can keep him in check like Chauncey kinda did? Man oh man. Sign him, please. Either of you. Cleveland-- Anderson Varejao has held out and is now going to opt out. Of a contract. Worth money. More than enough money. 6.4 million dollars worth of money. FUCK HIM. Birdman is everything he is plus some actual offense. You sign him and a real spot-shooter (sorry, Boobie. 2006 was so long ago and you been figured out). Do it. Boston, this is your chance to have the cheap asshole that will take you to the top again. He's Mikki Moore, only the exact opposite. He's the new, white, tattooed PJ Brown. Denver needs to operate on a "right now" policy, I'd say. I'd love him in Boston, love/hate him in Cleveland and watch a lot more Denver games in Denver. Also, shouldn't Philly make a short run? He and Brand splitting some time don't sound so bad, right?
Mike Bibby. More than Jason Kidd, the emergence of Bibby after his trade last year has been surprising. Not that I thought he was cooked, I just never saw a four-seed or second round appearance coming from him. A team with a jittery young PG could use him. Or a group of shitty ones. And he might come cheaper than expected in the no money era. This will kill me to say it, but wouldn't LA be unbeatable right now with a decent-to-good point guard? Ugh. Seriously. Kidd still bears himself as too good and expensive, so go with the real option: Bibby in '09. Love him with the Lakers*.
Brandon Bass. He's good. Seriously, I love watching him. He's worth it. Undersized forwards are the new undersized shooting guards. I mean Chuck Hayes played center this year. Center. Chuck Hayes. Do it. You might not be disappointed, people. Miami, you like how Beasley liked to do nothing with his "size"? How about a guy who knows how to use his? Love him over Glen in Boston (not gonna happen), Denver (Phony's gonna kill me on that one) and, most of all, Miami.
Von Wafer. He's got the unsung quality you want in a swingman. He can shoot, drive and his name his alternately cool/gay. Isn't that all you need to make a small difference on a team? Plus, we gotta forgive him sometime, right?
Love him in Philly, Golden State (I know, not a contender... I just love them, OK?), Phoenix.
Ricky Davis. (Just kidding.)
Dahntay Jones. It is decision time in Denver. I love him right where he is. Leave him be. Except, well, there are so many defense-hungry contenders who just watched him play the toughest guy on the court for long stretches... uh-oh, Denver. Personally, I think he flops everywhere else. Stay, Dahntay. Stay. Love him in Denver, he'd survive in Boston or Cleveland. Neither of them can afford to give away that much offense, though.
Jamal Crawford. He's not elite, but he can come in and get hot for a struggling club. For all the players on this list, can you see any of them coming in and hitting big shots without a pick or without being the third- or fourth-best player on a court? He is that player. He still thinks he's a leader, but put him with another alpha-male and see what happens. Yeah, he's sporadic, but if he knows his role early, he can score in bunches. I like him in Denver (Phony just shit himself and vowed to kill me twice). Otherwise, he'll go to a points-hungry non-contender (i.e. stay in Golden State). He may not be as cheap as the other guys on this list, though.
Luther Head. Who? I know. But I like his game in the right system in limited time. Plus he is really cheap right now. Let's see if he can thrive during second-unit time on a good team, you know? I like him spelling the guards in Philly, Atlanta (they need bench players everywhere), Utah, Phoenix (he can run and he has to play better defense than Nash. His 3% will increase too, says I), San Antonio, and I'm cool with him in Miami more than I am Chris Quinn.
Matt Barnes. God, let him end up on a contender. He's so underrated since he's been on running teams for so long. Barnes can make a huge difference on a second squad. Throw the game plan out the window when the second unit is on the floor, you know? Run 'em. Think in Boston: new PG, House (if he re-signs), Powe, Barnes and Davis. Sometimes Pierce/Ray for leadership. Wrecking crew, three-pointers and some slashing. Now, Cleveland: LBJ sits and you got Delonte, Barnes, Varejao (if he opts out/re-signs), and some shooters. That crew can score, right? And he is fearless. Denver could use him. He seems like the perfect "asshole" in LA's schemes. Gets after every ball. Emotional to nearly a fault. Cheaper than Ariza and willing to sign short term. I like him nearly everywhere: Boston, Cleveland, LA, Orlando, San Antonio (f'reals), Philly, Atlanta, Phoenix again, Miami. I bet he'd thrive in NYC, god forbid.
Jacques Vaughan. He can shoot a little, he's quick as hell, played for a contender and gores after every play like it's his last chance to prove himself. He's tiny, quick and worth the diminutive risk. I like him, still, in San Antonio. I like him in Boston. I really do. Also, as a backup in Dallas or Philly where he has the potential to step in for longer stretches and Houston with Aaron Brooks and his situation.
Trevor Ariza. Can they sign Ariza and Lamar Odom? Odds are, yes. They will both be Lakers again. Still, defensive minded teams? Think of San Antonio with Pop's system or on the Jazz under Sloan. Think of backcourts with Ariza and Rondo, CP3 and Ariza, LeBron and Ariza. Kinda nasty. So much fear in a ballhandler's eyes. I love him in Boston, LA, San Antonio, Atlanta (though he would jack up too many threes), Phoenix, Denver... just about anywhere unless he falls apart after signing a decent-sized contract.
It's more of an interesting offseason than I thought, I guess. There's value to be had, for certain.