12.31.06

Your Final Instructions For 2006

Posted in Internal Affairs at 8:12 pm by

(making sure the Portaloos were set up, earlier this afternoon)

I’m on my way to Trailer Space, so Da Bears and Brett Favre will have to play out the string without me. As for the MPC Computers Bowl, that’s OK. I’m sure everything will be a ghastly blue color in about 6 hours.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re up to, have a terrific night. And thanks for a fun year.

Gopher Bawl : Minnesota Fires Mason

Posted in Gridiron at 6:18 pm by

Apparently, 7 bowl appearances in 8 seasons (after a 12 year drought) wasn’t good enough for University Of Minnesota head coach Glen Mason to keep his job. Of course, there’s the small matter of blowing a 31 point 3rd quarter lead to Michael Lewis Texas Tech, but all if coaches were held responsible for their teams’ utter lack of poise, Tom Coughlin would’ve been fired weeks ago.

It took a pair of INT-tossing Jays to make Walt Harris’ day in Denver, and the Broncos’ red zone woes are hard to fathom. There’s at least one New York Post columnist who’d like to blame it on Carmelo Anthony’s tattoos, but I’ll let him write his own column.

With nothing to play for except a paycheck pride in Philly, the Falcons have sat Michael Vick in favor of Matt “Stump The” Schaub, as the host Iggles cling to a 24-17 lead with 4:41 remaining. As such, I feel very safe in congratulating Jon Solomon for his decisive championship win in the Don’t Worry, It’s Only A Bruise league. Jon, I’ll need your shipping address. There’s a particularly cruddy trophy with your name on it.

NFL Week 17 : How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?

Posted in Gridiron at 3:53 pm by

Detroit 39, Dallas 31

All season long, I’ve been mocking Motown’s Roy Williams for his insistence that nobody knew how close the Lions came to hanging 40 points on the Seahawks in Week 1 (they lost, 9-6). So it would kind of figure that the 2-13 Lions would come into Irving and light up Dallas for 39. The Cowboys will limp into the playoffs having lost their last 3 home games, and while I didn’t stick around to watch the post-game wrap, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still trying to scrape Tony Romo off the carpet after his failed QB draw in the final seconds.

Williams and teammate Mike Furrey made John Kitna look super impressive — which isn’t easy if you’ve ever seen Kitna with his helmet off.

As the Patriots put an end to Tennessee’s slim playoff chances, I’m hopeful that a) Vince Young beats out a ridiculously strong Rookie Of The Year field and b) we’ve seen Vinny Testaverde throw his final TD pass.

A missed FG at the death knell by Cincy’s Shane Graham spared the defending champs the blushes of a losing season, along with shutting the door on the hosts’ postseason hopes. Biker Ben and Santonio Holmes hooked up for a 67 yard TD pass in OT to give Pittsburgh a 23-16 win, possibly the last time we’ll see Bill Cowher celebrating a Steelers victory.

When the season began, I’ll admit I was super skeptical about the Jets’ chances. They’d lost Curtis Martin for the year, Chad Pennington was coming back from injury, and while rookie coach Eric Mangini (above) was terrific in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”, who knew if he was ready for such a huge challenge? So with all that in mind, congrats to Gang Green on punching their playoff ticket with today’s 23-3 defeat of Oakland, thus ensuring some incredibly anguished sounds eminating from Joe Benigno Gazingo’s microphone a week from tomorrow.

Cuban On The Disgruntled Owner Frat’s Dwindling Membership

Posted in Basketball at 2:36 pm by

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Dwain Price.

Mark Cuban has a kinship with Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley because both received their ownership papers April 11, 2000.

Thus, when Heisley recently announced that he was selling the Grizzlies, it affected Cuban. On Saturday night, the Mavs owner responded in usual fashion.

“At David Stern University, we learn that it’s not about individual jobs,” Cuban said. “It’s about a 50-year-plus tradition.

“We’re setting a history of getting it right, and sometimes sacrifices are made. Pau [Gasol, who had a foot injury earlier this season] gives up his foot, Michael gives up his franchise, [recently fired coach Mike] Fratello gives up his job, but NBC gets great ratings at the Olympics.

“What more can you ask for? That’s what we learn at David Stern University.”

The Explicit Video Footage American Television Stations Are Afraid To Show

Posted in The Internet, The Woah, Total Fucking Terror at 2:22 pm by

…particularly, broadcasters in the Dallas /Ft. Worth Area.

Tom Landry Face, indeed.

Smith Pines For The Good Old National Beat ‘Em Up Association

Posted in Basketball at 1:10 pm by

While tossing a few barbs in the direction of Miami’s James Posey (“he mostly hits guys from behind, so it’s not like he has toughened up. More likely he has watched Bill Laimbeer tapes,”), the Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith wonders what happened to the NBA’s old style of physical play.

The fact is, there aren’t many dirty players in the NBA anymore because it’s too costly to be dirty.

Heck, guys used to be proud of being dirty players. The Pistons’ Laimbeer especially, though he was the face of NBA evil and well beyond being respectably dirty, like Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland, known as McFilthy and McNasty when they played for the Washington Bullets and opponents finished layups on their back.

Old school, they called it then, and there was a difference, as in all sports today. Players weren’t as big and strong, and they didn’t work out like they do now, so the collisions weren’t as violent. Take a look at some of the old game films. Even most of the strong guys were skinny by today’s standards.

But the money became obscene, at least to us, and image became a concern to the NBA, so draconian measures were put in place. Hit someone, fight, you could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars and your career.

So no one is truly that Laimbeer-dirty anymore.

There was a transition to this era through Karl Malone, John Stockton and Charles Oakley, some of the names you heard players complain about most often in the 1990s. Pat Riley, the current Heat coach, also came in for some blame”he had Oakley, John Starks and Anthony Mason wreaking havoc in New York. Many say Riley’s demands create an atmosphere for such mayhem and cite Posey, though I disagree. It’s like blaming Chuck Daly for the Bad Boys.

Or Gregg Popovich for Bruce Bowen. Bowen generally pops up on today’s dirty list after an early-season debate with Isiah Thomas and previous episodes with Vince Carter, Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton. Lakers coach Phil Jackson agreed, though Bowen always seemed to me more like Stockton.

Kobe Bryant’s 58 points in a triple OT loss to Charlotte Friday night might’ve caught your eye, but the New York Post’s Peter Vescey is quick to remind that whoever Kobe’s supposed to be guarding might be putting up gaudy numbers, too.

Gilbert Arenas scorched him up for the majority of his 60. Michael Redd scalded him for 45, Dwyane Wade fricasseed him for 40. Vince Carter barbecued him for 31 in three quarters before Maurice Evans came to his rescue. And Gerald Wallace and Matt Carroll (career high 27) combined to pan-sear him for 55.

I know, I know, Kobe’s surgically-repaired knee restricts his mobility, especially lateral movement. Then again, it didn’t seem to inhibit him from uncorking 45 field-goal attempts.

Jay Williams’ brief tenure with the D-League’s Austin Toros has come to an end.  Williams was waived yesterday as Austin picked up BC’s Troy Bell (above), the 16th overall pick in the ’03 NBA Draft, and a guard whose resume includes cups of coffee with the Grizzlies and Hornets.

Don’t Call It A Commitee : Cafardo On Boston’s Closing Candidates

Posted in Baseball at 12:38 pm by

Reminding one and all the Red Sox failed to acquire Mike Gonzalez, Chad Cordero or Brad Lidge this offseason (nor Eric Gagne), the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo addresses a glaring hole in the Fenway bullpen.

Barring a closer falling from the sky, there exists a tremendous opportunity for someone on the current staff to be on the ground floor of a profitable career. If this sounds like the 2003 season, when the pertinent phrase was “closer by committee,” that’s true, but this time there appear to be more options.

More than one executive at the winter meetings wondered whether Boston would turn back to Papelbon if he shows that, with a healed shoulder, he can take the up-and-down and pitching three or four times a week.

Short of that, the candidates are Julian Tavarez, Brendan Donnelly, Mike Timlin, Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Devern Hansack, Runelvys Hernandez, and Edgar Martinez. And Reliever X thrown into the mix.

Who will graduate from Fort Myers to Boston and pitch the ninth inning?

If there were ever a time for Hansen to assume the role of “closer of the future,” it would be now. If there were a time and a place for Delcarmen to seize the moment, it would be now as well. Or if there were a time for Hansack to defy all odds and give the Sox a find of all finds, it is the present.

It appears that Tavarez (above, left) will get the greatest opportunity to take the job. Throughout his career, his stuff has been at times unhittable. Yet last season he was relegated to mop-up duty before the Sox used him in the rotation late in the season. Tavarez seemed to have a ball as a starter. He was happy again, thriving. Would he be the same if he’s given the closer job? He does, after all, thrive on adrenaline. He seems to get up for situations in which the team needs him. Let’s see.

“Of all the guys they have, I would think it would be Tavarez,” said one AL executive. “He’s got the mind-set for it. He’s actually done it in Pittsburgh [11 saves in 2003].”

The New York Daily News’ Bill Madden and Anthony McCarron report the proposed return of Randy Johnson to Arizona might hinge on the Snakes’ willingness to grant the Unit a contract extension.

The Diamondbacks, who already owe Johnson about $40 million in deferred money, apparently are looking for a way to factor some of that cash into the extension, the source said. Arizona also is trying to convince the Yankees to kick in some of Johnson’s $16 million salary for next season.

But if the Yankees are going to include money in the trade, they want at least three players back – either all bona fide prospects or two top prospects and a major leaguer who would help them this year, another baseball official said.

The Yankees have targeted three young pitchers in Arizona’s talent-filled system – Dustin Nippert, Micah Owings and Ross Ohlendorf, all righthanders. Some published reports have them also liking righty reliever Brandon Medders, who has gone 9-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 87 games over the last two seasons.


Faith & Fear In Flushing’s Greg Prince has picked his Top 500 Songs Of All Time, and with apologies to Ronald Thomas Clonte, this might be the ultimate argument starter. Where’s Bobby Soxx’s “Learn To Hate (In The 80′s)”?

Mushnick Shoots First, Does The Research Later (If At All)

Posted in Sports Journalism at 11:04 am by

It’s nice that the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick is the last man in the sports media biz with a conscience. But it might be equally useful if he actually paid attention every now and then.

One of 2006′s most remarkable happenstances was that the sports media, for the most part, wasn’t particularly shocked by gun stories.

That a starting NFL lineman – the Bears’ Tank Johnson – was arrested for a second time with an assortment of assault rifles, and that his bodyguard and close friend, a man with felony convictions for drugs and guns, was shot dead by a reputed gang member – with Johnson nearby during an early morning nightclub hassle – should have made huge news outside of Chicago.

But it didn’t.

Could it be that the media have become numb to such news? Or is it that we lack the stomach for it?

Or could it be that the story in question did receive major coverage —- in print, online, on television and yack radio — and Phil would have us believe otherwise in order to promote his tired “the world is going to hell” spiel?

Likewise, Mushnick claims that Carmelo Anthony’s cameo in the infamous Baltimore “Stop Snitching” DVD (“a homemade rap video”, according to Phil) was “an under-played story.”

Simply googling “Tank Johnson guns” or “Carmelo Anthony Stop Snitching” will reveal that neither story has escaped the notice of the news media. Johnson’s case, in particular, was sports radio fodder for days.

Playing 20/20 Hindsight With Newsday’s Arthur Staple

Posted in Gridiron at 10:17 am by

No Strahan, no Petitgout and the complete meltdown last week have finally convinced me. The young guys are worn out, the older guys either don’t care or are also worn out, and the rest… Some are hurt, some are retiring. And some aren’t that good, I guess.

Redskins 27, Giants 17. Then the real fun begins. – Arthur Staple, Newsday, December 30

Though Staple was hardly alone in making such a gloomy prediction, he failed, like so many others, to remember just how much the Giants can accomplish when Tiki Barber puts the team on his back.

And with that, I have to full credit to Colonel Coughlin for making the bold move in demoting offensive coordinator Jim Huffnagel and putting Kevin Gillbridge in charge of play calling earlier in the week. Clearly, the only way to restore Eli Manning’s confidence was to make sure he handed the ball to Tiki 25 times.

Fans in Atlanta, St. Louis and Carolina no longer have any reason to watch football this Sunday, but should be thrilled to learn the following classic is on Lifetime at 1pm :

Murder On Pleasant Drive : Based on a true story. When Fran Smith mysteriously disappears, her daughter Deanna and her sister Sherrie will stop at nothing to find her. Suspicion begins to fall on Fran’s husband John, and the two women are convinced he murdered their loved one, yet, without a body, there is no evidence a crime has been committed. With Sherrie’s assistance, Deanna embarks upon a tireless, 11-year quest, relentlessly investigating John’s past. But when they uncover a 25 year-old missing person’s case involving John’s first wife who also disappeared under mysterious circumstances, the case against him takes an unexpected turn. Starring: Adam Arkin, Kelli Williams, Amy Madigan.

(who needs football when you can bask in the thespian chops of Adam Arkin?)

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette’s Ed Bouchette lists the various reasons why Bill Cowher might be coaching his last game for the Steelers later today.  I’m not sure which fact is more outrageous — that Cowher is paid half of what Mike Holmgren earns, or that The Chin’s salary next season is dwarfed by that of Aubrey Huff.

Nancy Spungen Pleads : No More Mid-Game Interviews With Tom O’Brien

Posted in Gridiron at 1:06 am by

Boston College 25, Navy 24 (Meinke Car Care Bowl)

(the filth, the fury, the walk-on foot of Sid Vicious)

While stuck in traffic during the commute to San Antonio, I had to settle for the radio call of Matt Ryan and Steve Aponavicius’ late heroics. However, I did managed to stay glued to the CSTB couch long enough to pry my jaw off the floor as ESPN saw fit to give former B.C. coach Tom O’Brien a chance to explain his decision to bolt for N.C. State.

Apparently, the sideways move to another ACC school represented “a huge opportunity” for O’Brien, who was “knocked out” by the facilities in Raleigh during B.C.’s visits.

Even Judith Regan thought this was a huge turn-off.

Much as I enjoyed the traffic jam and all the projectile vomiting I witnessed in downtown San Antonio today, Georgia’s come from behind win over Virginia Tech was a close second on the thrill-o-meter. I liked it better when it was called the Peach Bowl, mostly because I have a problem with Chick-fil-A being closed on Sundays. G-d can’t stop me from buying a Peach on Sunday, but apparently he can prevent me from chewing on a breaded chicken sandwich. It doesn’t seem right.

Anyhow, if Frank Beamer is feeling bad this morning, it could be worse. He could be Glen Mason.

12.30.06

Covered Up On The Line : Iowa’s 21-3 Lead That Wasn’t

Posted in Gridiron at 8:56 pm by

Alamo Bowl : Texas 26, Iowa 24

While I won’t make too much of Texas’ ability to hand Iowa their 6th loss in their last 7 games, it can safely be said that any worries about Colt McCoy’s physical condition were unfounded. And while this was largely a lost season for Drew Tate, he came awfully close to winning the Alamo Bowl for the Hawkeyes…and if you ask Kirk Ferentz, he was robbed.

With Iowa up, 14-3, A 2nd quarter TD pass from Tate to Scott Chandler was nullified when the latter was ruled an ineligble receiver. It shouldn’t be necessary for me to describe how bad my eyesight is (too many art films when I was young) but even I could read Ferentz’ lips from section 336. On the ensuing play, Tate was picked off in the end zone by Texas’ Aaron Ross (above).

Trailing 26-24 with about 3 minutes to play and taking possesion at midfield, the Hawkeyes merely needed to move the ball another 15-20 yards to set up a game winning field goal. Instead, what was probably meant to be a pass downfield by Dominque Douglas turned into a 9 yard loss when the Iowa WR was pulled down by Marcus Griffin.

Not to add too much insult to injury, but if this was Ferentz’ audition for the New York Giants gig, I think he flunked.

And on that note, with the Giants leading the Redskins, 20-7 at intermission, it certainly looks as though the New York media will have Tiki Barber (2 TD’s, 143 yards on 14 carries) to kick around some more, at least for another week.

Reusse : Zito Deal Is Bad News For The Twins

Posted in Baseball at 1:06 pm by

Just the other day, a wise man pondered, “if (Barry) Zito can command a contract of such size and length, what™s Johan Santana going to be worth on the open market?”

OK, that’s not exactly what I asked. But either way, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Patrick Reusse can read the writing on the wall.

Johan Santana became a full-time starter halfway through the 2003 season and has been baseball’s best since then. He will turn 28 in March. If he continues that excellence through 2008 and then becomes a free agent, he will be the first $200 million pitcher.

Goodbye, Twins. Hello, New York City.

There will be two options for General Manager Terry Ryan: A) Trade Torii Hunter this summer, no matter where the Twins are in the standings; or B) keep him for a potential pennant race, then allow Torii to leave as a free agent.

If Ryan goes with B, that would create an anguished scene for Twins followers during the next offseason. Hunter would be signing elsewhere at the same time Ryan was taking offers for Santana.

You can let Hunter leave as a free agent and get away with it. You can’t possibly do the same with Santana, perhaps the most valuable individual commodity in the game at the moment.

Johan will be dealt before the Twins report to spring training in 2008. That became a given when the Giants presented $18 million per year to Zito.

Darren Dreifort just muttered something about today’s starters being wildly overpaid.

Higsons’ Revenge : Stupor Hoops In Free Fall

Posted in Football at 12:37 pm by

(since there were no Rangers highlights worth showing, you’ll have to settle for this classic moment in recent Norwich history, instead)

Norwich 1, QPR 0

If QPR’s visit to Norwich could be characterized as the Higsons vs. Pigbag, it’s fair to say the porridge eaters (with apologies to R. Hitchcock) came out on the better end.  The Canaries captured the 3 points courtesy of Dion Dublin’s clinical finishing in the 69th minute, and with that, the R’s have now lost 7 of their last 8 and seem to be looking forward to trips to picturesque locales like Carlise and Yeovil Town next season.

Weirdly, Dublin’s goal came from a cross by Robbie Earnshaw, whose disappearing act while playing for Cardiff City against QPR  in the 2003 playoff final led to an appearance by that match’s eventual hero, Andy Campbell.

A pair of goals by Cristano Ronaldo in Manchester United’s 3-2 defeat of Reading, coupled with a late equalizer by Fulham’s Carlos Bocanegra in the West London Derby combined to extended Manchester United’s Premiership lead over Chelsea to 6 points.

At the other end of the spectrum, a terrific header by Bryan Hughes in extra time gave Charlton Athletic a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa, Allen Pardew’s first win since taking the reigns at the Valley.

In Saturday’s late game, a 41st minute strike by Christian Nade, his first in the English top flight, has provided Sheffield United with a 1-0 advantage over Arsenal.  I can’t say my enjoyment of FSC’s telecast has been helped one bit by the halftime advertisements for the Midwest Center For Stress & Anxiety Inc. I truly feel as though Lucinda Bassett is looking right through me.

Giants, Colonel Coughlin On The Brink Of History

Posted in Gridiron at 9:52 am by

The New York Futile Giants could become the first team to finish the season 2-6 (or 1-7) and make the playoffs, a situation the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz describes as “either shameful or fortuitous or perhaps a little bit of both.” With tonight’s visit to DC marking Tiki Barber’s regular season finale and Big Blue’s last shot at redemption, save for backing in, the New York Daily News’ Ralph Vacchiano thinks Tom Coughlin’s a goner.

“You think the fans don’t like him?” one player said this week. “The players don’t like him, either. We’re tired of listening to him.”

After tonight, they may not have to listen to him much longer.

According to multiple sources in the organization, the Giants’ management team – headed by co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch – has grown increasingly frustrated with both the play of Coughlin’s team and the seemingly constant chaos that swirls around it. Mara and Tisch haven’t returned calls.

One source suggested the only thing that could save Coughlin is a very unlikely run to the NFC Championship Game. Another indicated it was possible that just one postseason win might do the job.

Vacchiano was on ESPN Radio late last night, picking the Redskins to prevail, sagely noting it’s 5-10 Washington who’ve played with the urgency of a club fighting for a playoff spot more recently than the Giants.

Rebuilding Year’s Josh Rosen may or may not be relieved to know that Coughlin is very much alive.

Easily Rattled Eli — already trying to make do without Armani Toomer, will have to get it done tonight sans the services of TE Jeremy Shockey. Whether or not an injured ankle will be enough to prevent Shockey from announcing Joe Gibbs outcoached Colonel Coughlin after the game, remains to be seen.

For The Dice Man, It’s Time To Make The Doughnuts

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace at 9:03 am by

The Boston Globe’s Neil Reed reports that while newly acquired P Daisuke Matzusaka is already hawking Ashai Super Dry beer, dressed in Red Sox gear, he might be in line for an endorsement with a well-known New England firm.

Tom Manchester , director of sports marketing for Dunkin’ Donuts, said the company hasn’t officially negotiated for a Dice-K sponsorship, but would like to do an ad similar to those it did with Red Sox Curt Schilling , who in 2004 was cast by Dunkin’ listening to a book on tape to learn how to speak with a New England accent.

“The win for us would really be to introduce Dice-K to what New England runs on, and that’s Dunkin’ Donuts,” Manchester said. Dunkin’s sister company, Baskin-Robbins Inc., has more than 800 ice cream shops in Japan, so Matsuzaka could be a marketing asset to the company overseas. too.

I can only assume Manchester has seen the footage below, and he’s not troubled.

Howard Poised To Cash In

Posted in Baseball at 8:22 am by

Perhaps in response to being dubbed “the best thing (baseball) has seen in a long time” by Scoop Jackson, the Phillies’ Ryan Howard is expecting a substantial raise writes the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Marcus Hayes.

In what could be a significant move in the pursuit of a big payday, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has dismissed agent Larry Reynolds.

According to the Phillies, Howard, who won the 2006 National League MVP in his first full season, is looking for new representation. He has not informed the club who that will be, though he might be fortifying his camp with a higher-powered entity than Reynolds.

Whomever Howard chooses, the new agent can expect to deal with the Phillies relatively quickly, even though Howard will not be eligible for arbitration until after the 2007 season. Maybe he can get some of the cash the Phillies earmarked for the righthanded power hitter they failed to sign as his protection in the lineup.

Howard made $355,000 last season.

Though Reynolds’ website appears to be down, you can check out a cached version here.

According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, the only thing holding up Randy Johnson’s return to Arizona is the matter of how much, if any, of the Unit’s salary the Yankees will be expected to eat.

The two sides have discussed more than 10 permutations, depending on the finances. The Yanks may budge on the money to continue their recent quest to inflate their farm system. Among Arizona’s most advanced pitching prospects, the Yanks favor Micah Owings, and also Dustin Nippert and Ross Ohlendorf.

Fisk : Soccer & Violence Go Together…

Posted in Football at 1:10 am by

…like pretentious broadsheet editorials and sweeping generalizations.  Armed with a copy of Franklin Foer’s “How Soccer Explain The World”, the Independent’s Robert Fisk declares football and violence to be “mutually interchangable.”

Foer wades in at the deep end with a visit to Belgrade’s top- scoring Red Star, a team nurtured by Serbia’s equally top war criminal Arkan, who took his well-armed footballers down the Drina Valley in 1992 on an orgy of killing, plunder and mass rape. Arkan (above, right) drove a pink Cadillac and sported a football wife – the gorgeous retro singer Ceca (above, left) – whom he married in full Serb uniform. Red Star’s pre-war match against the Croatian Partizans – beloved of its fascist president Franjo Tudjman who had adorned the team he once led with wartime Ustashe icons – ended in a pitched battle.

It was Margaret Thatcher who famously described football hooligans as “a disgrace to civilised society” – the very words we later used about the murderers of Serbia. In Glasgow, Protestant supporters of Rangers would sit in separate stands – “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood,” they would roar in unison – from fans of the Catholic Celtic football club.

Vandalism, assault and murder have now become so much a part of European football that it has become a habit. “Football fan shot dead after racist mob attack,” read a headline as I passed through Paris the other day. Typically, the story – of an off-duty French cop who killed a white supporter of the Paris Saint-Germain team as he screamed anti-Semitic insults while trying to murder a French Jewish fan of Israel’s Tel-Aviv’s Hapoel – was printed on page 27. It is quite normal, you see, for racist football fans to try to kill their opponents – and for the police to open fire.

I remember a more disturbing moment in the Middle East when I was investigating one of the many – and all too true – incidents of brutality by British soldiers against Iraqi prisoners. In a Basra hospital, I listened to a badly wounded ex-prisoner of the British Army as he described how his tormentors had entered the room in which he and his friends were being held.

“Before they assaulted us, your soldiers gave us all names – the names of world-famous footballers,” he said. “Then they started beating and kicking us until we screamed and begged for mercy. Why would they do that?”

12.29.06

Knicks Scorched Early In Phoenix

Posted in Basketball at 9:24 pm by

Suns 56, Knicks 39 (halftime)

Wednesday’s triple OT defeat of the Pistons seems like a very distant memory for the Knicks this evening, as Steve Nash is running rings around Stephon Marbury, while noted Steph-sparring partner Kurt Thomas (above) has 10 points against his former club.

From the backhanded compliment file, the New York Post’s Peter Vescey pays tribute to Isiah Thomas’ shorthanded Knicks winning 4 of 5.

Thomas’ coaching noticeably improved the moment his rotation got shortened by suspensions and injuries, meaning fewer genius thoughts and fewer chances to cause substitution and situational slip-ups. That translates into happier and less inhibited (as well as lengthier) players. Their fear factor of being yanked has been greatly diminished. Minutes and roles are more consistent and clearer.

Thomas wasn’t the only one rooting against the fog ever lifting on the Baltimore tarmac. Surely that explains why Quentin Richardson’s therapy for back spasms is extended “Limbo” lessons. And some of you dared to believe Nate Robinson’s warning label states he’s an anti-coagulant.

Alas, the flaming five-game western swing to wring out the old and ring in the new begins tonight in Phoenix. If I’m Thomas, I’m twitching in apprehension; fans and the free media may expect more nights like Wednesday. This tends to be the case when your payroll hovers around the national debt and your team is wont to perform like a national disgrace.

The Daily News’ Frank Isola, while not printing playoff tickets just yet, prefers criticism of the more constructive variety.

The one thing Isiah Thomas learned in the aftermath of the brawl is that less is more. Marbury and Crawford should be the starting backcourt and Thomas should find a veteran backup “- an Anthony Johnson type “- who can play either position. The Knicks don™t need Steve Francis and he doesn™t want to be here anyway.

You have to wonder about where Nate Robinson fits in. I™ve never big on undersized guards and I™ve always felt that Earl Boykins is one of the most overrated players in the league. As a 12th man, Nate would give Isiah some insurance in the backcourt. Otherwise I would drop him from the rotation.

Since Isiah seems committed to using David Lee off the bench, Lee should be used to play all front court positions. His rebounding and hustle are the same intangibles that Charles Oakley and Marcus Camby once gave the Knicks.

Lee has been the team™s most important player to date, followed by Eddy Curry, Crawford and Marbury. Not surprisingly, those players have logged the most minutes this season.

The Nets received strong contributions from their big 3 of Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson (above) and Jason Kidd in tonight’s 91-81 defeat of the Heat, playing sans D-Wade and the suspended James Posey.

Stu Jackson can do whatever he wants to the latter, just so long as he doesn’t interfere with the cinematic career of James’ sister Parker.

Speaking of Flash, I suppose we’re all very lucky neither he nor members of his family were recruited to make a late season cameo on the Miami-based “Nip/Tuck”.

Basketbawful did a nice job of chronicling Al Harrington’s mohwak-mania, but neglects to mention that Al might’ve well been inspired by the early hair styles of his former Hawks coach, Terry “Richie” Stotts.

Your Year-End Dose Of The Klap

Posted in Baseball at 7:51 pm by

While “Pedro Martinez and Zito and even Jeff Suppan, (the Plan B who shocked everyone by signing with the Brewers) are just vapor in the Mets’ once-lofty plans,” the Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch wonders just what sort of starting rotation the Mets’ Omar Minaya will cobble together.

The options are limited, unless you’re intrigued by free agent Jeff Weaver, who already failed once in New York, or a trade for Javier Vazquez (ditto) or think it’s worth being fleeced by Billy Beane just to pry Rich Harden away from the A’s.

Minaya has been sweet-talking Beane in recent weeks. Give him credit for at least trying. The two spoke 10 days ago, when Minaya again tried to persuade the A’s to take Aaron Heilman and Lastings Milledge for Harden. Beane wouldn’t budge. By telephone Thursday, the GM said, “We have some personnel here that would be difficult for us to consider moving.” In not so many words, Beane told the Mets it would take Milledge, Philip Humber (above) or Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Gomez, a 20-year-old can’t-miss prospect, to complete a deal for Harden or even Dan Haren.

The Mets knew there was no competing with the Giants’ cash, not at $18 million a year. The Wilpon family and Minaya decided Zito simply wasn’t worth that much. One GM said, “This is one time Omar realized something we all try to remember in this business, there’s always another star who’ll be available. It’s never about one guy.”

But will that restraint mean anything next summer, when half the rotation is decomposing, and the bullpen is burned out by July? The Mets have every right to feel good about the money they saved Thursday, but in the heat of a pennant race, cash is no substitute for wins. The scouting report for the ’07 Mets is already in: They had better hit.

Always Amazin’s Ryan McConnell is pretty satisfied that long-term, the Mets have dodged a bullet.

I’m appreciative that Omar Minaya isn’t Steve Phillips. Much like Bobby Bonilla’s deal with the Mets in ’92, Zito’s deal with the Giants is astoundingly bad; it’s the type of contract that not only throws the market completely out of whack, but cripples a team’s financial flexibility for years to come. While Zito’s a solid pitcher and I’m disappointed he won’t be playing for the Mets, I have little doubt that passing on him will be the right decision for the future of the franchise. Resisting the “win now” mentality isn’t easy, especially in New York. But it’s these kinds of decisions that make a decade-long dynasty more possible.

Much as it pains me to write the following, the notion of bring Steve Traschel back to the Mets is not only inoffensive in light of recent events, it might even be downright prudent (assuming Traschel isn’t looking for Jeff Suppan money, and if he was, we’d have probably heard about it by now). The single/seperated life led to a career year in ’06 for Paul Lo Duca, so perhaps Traschel and Captain Red Ass can room together?

SI.com’s Jon Heyman casts an obstinate no way (Jose) vote against Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame candidacy (“With eight years to learn and reflect, there’s almost no doubt in my mind McGwire was not only artificially enhanced but that he was more enhanced than just about anyone else,”), and I for one, am completely stunned. How did Heyman get a ballot?

I don’t know when or if the former Pride Of Peabody, MA, Jeff Allison will be making his Yard Work debut. But he’ll have to try pretty hard to live up to the standard set by Shea Hillenbrand.

Requiem For A Sham Marriage

Posted in Basketball, History's Great Hook-Ups at 6:28 pm by

Michael Jordan and his wife of 17 years, Juanita, filed for divorce today.

Deadspin’s A.J. Daulerio, showing all the charm and panache of A.J. Benza, marked the occasion by observing, “those rustling noises you hear are the sounds of millions of opportunistic vaginas twitching simultaneously.”

A pop psychologist could have a field day with that particular statement. But if Daulerio can fashion a vocation out of pandering to a readership that actually believes there’s such thing as an opportunistic vagina, best of fucking luck to him.

And best of luck to Michael Jordan. Presumably, putting this chapter behind him was the only thing preventing MJ from making the Bobcats every bit as successful as he made the Wizards.

The World Cup Is Over, But For Seething Wells, The Horror Lives On

Posted in Football, Sports Journalism, Sports TV, We Aren't The World at 6:09 pm by

(finally, some year-end accolades for these two hard working broadcasters)

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from “‘Tits Out Teenage Terror Totty” author / Philly exile Steven Wells, and his final column of 2006 for the Guardian tackles a subject near and dear to many of our hearts (even if it’s been rehashed a thousand times) : ABC and ESPN’s painful coverage of the 2006 World Cup.

The Best We’re Not-in-Islington-Now-Toto Moment Award goes to … ABC/ESPN for explaining that “Ecuador are the Denver Broncos of world soccer.” This beat out literally hundreds of other entries, including: “If this was basketball, it’d be like Shaq vs. Kobe”; “Trinidad & Tobago – The George Mason of the World Cup”; “Is he going to use the driver or the pitching wedge?”; “Wayne Rooney is a little bit like an American linebacker”; “Nakata is the Terrell Owens of this Japanese team”; and “Australia don’t have many men on the end line”.

The Worstest Soccer Commentator Ever Award … goes to ABC/ESPN’s Marcelo Balboa for starting every single freaking sentence with “You know what?” and his relentless excusing of every single bit of diving, cheating and time-wasting as “part of the game”. Never has the Wells TV screen come so close to being booted in so many times.

The First Ever Ian St John Award for the Most Improved Commentator of the World Cup 2006 goes to … (hushed silence) … former play-by-play announcer for baseball’s Florida Marlins and New York Mets – ABC/ESPN’s David O’Brien (ecstatic applause). Dave started the tournament defending ABC/ESPN’ s deliberate dumbing-down policy and alienating every single soccer fan in America by calling them an “antsy mean-spirited … petulant little clique”. But after receiving an avalanche of antsy, mean-spirited and petulant criticism, (“When the US team boards a plane to head home in disgrace, O’Brien should be handing out the peanuts on the flight” – Tom Hoffarth, LA Daily News), O’Brien relented, easing up on the “volume of items” (the non-stop barrage of “facts” of the sort used to fill the long aching gaps between adverts in televised baseball) in favour of more “foot-to-foot action”. Well done that man.

Don’t Believe The Hyphy

Posted in Automobiles, Hip Hop, Hot Fads at 5:43 pm by

From the San Diego Union Tribune’s Garance Burke.

Ghost riding the whip “ a stunt in which a driver gets out of his car and dances around and on top of the slowly moving vehicle to a thumping hip-hop beat “ has gotten at least two people killed, led to numerous injuries and alarmed police on the West Coast and beyond.

A fad among devotees of a West Coast strain of hip-hop music called œhyphy, the stunt has been celebrated in song and performed in numerous homemade videos posted on YouTube.

œIt did not take Einstein to look at this thing and say this was a recipe for disaster, said Pete Smith, a police spokesman in Stockton. œWe could see the potential for great injury or death.

Earlier this month, Davender Gulley, a ghost-riding 18-year-old, died after his head slammed into a parked car while he was hanging out the window of an SUV in Stockton, police said. In October, a 36-year-old man dancing on top of a moving car fell off, hit his head and died in what authorities said was Canada’s first ghost riding fatality.

Hyphy was born in the San Francisco Bay cities of Oakland, Richmond and Vallejo in the late 1990s, and devotees often hold late-night car rallies called œsideshows where crowds perform risky stunts, including ghost riding.

œGhost riding refers to the absence of a driver. œThe whip is urban slang for your car. Typically, the driver drops the car into neutral and dances around and on top of the vehicle while it inches forward.

Sometimes it is a solo act; sometimes a half-dozen or more passengers get out and dance, too. The stunt is usually performed late at night, on a deserted road or in a parking lot.

The Vallejo-bred rapper E-40 introduced mainstream listeners to ghost riding with the single œTell Me When to Go, whose lyrics describe how to pull it off. Another single, œGhostride It, by Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B., offers a step-by-step guide: œPull up. Hop out, all in one motion. Dancing on the hood, while the car still rollin’.

Alan Vega, unavailable for comment?

Former Bush League Owner Condemned For Condiment Switcheroo

Posted in Baseball, Food, The Law at 4:19 pm by

From the AP (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory) :

The former owner of the Hagerstown Suns has acknowledged that the minor-league baseball club was at fault when two patrons were served french fries doused with oven cleaner.

(not so bad with a dash of paprika, by the way)

Still to be determined in a lawsuit against the owner is whether the ballpark visitors were injured from eating the fries, as they claim, and whether they are due compensation.

Big Game Maryland LLC admitted in a stipulated agreement filed in Washington County Circuit Court Dec. 19 that it breached a duty owed to plaintiffs Stephen Parrotte and Brian L. Marquiss, both of Hagerstown.

The plaintiffs claim they ordered vinegar on their fries at a game in Municipal Stadium on April 24, 2003, and instead were served fries inadvertently doused with oven cleaner from an unmarked plastic jug. They claim to have suffered serious, permanent injuries from eating the fries.

I’m not sure which part of this story is more surprising, that someone in Maryland wants vinegar on their fries or that the Suns ever cleaned their ovens.

The Dallas Morning News’ Tim Colishaw insists “Texas fans should embrace the Giants’ decision to lure Zito across the Bay Bridge with a seven-year, $126-million contract. The Rangers have a better chance of becoming the best team on paper in the West (they are close right now) without Zito at $18 million per year than with him.”

By that logic, it seems only fair the Rangers should pay some portion of Zito’s salary.

On The Bright Side, He Didn’t Send Us A Target Gift Card

Posted in Merry Fucking Christmas, Religion, We Aren't The World at 2:05 pm by

Christmas greetings from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedineja (link swiped from Boing Boing)

Frankly, if Jesus Christ “ the Messiah (peace be upon Him) was present today, how would He react? And whom would He stand with and against?

If Jesus Christ (peace be upon Him) was present today, he would order an encounter against those who would propagate corruption, obscenity and perversion, and try to nullify and exterminate the merits and the rights of women and diminish their position “ a position that virgin Mary (peace be upon Her) “ is their role model and sample.

Considering that Peter Davis once sent me an Xmas card of Santa shooting up, this might not be the worst holiday greeting of all time.

Phil Mushnick : Running The 100 Yard Dash In 25 Seconds

Posted in Blogged Down, Gridiron, Sports Journalism, Sports TV at 12:31 pm by

It’s well established that the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick is an veteran ambulance chaser. These days, however, he’s following the meat wagon in a Rascal.

Later in the second quarter (during Monday’s Jets/Dolphins game), ESPN’s Steve Young, this week’s special in-booth guest/needless distraction, was asked to assess Miami’s QB situation. He suggested injured Dolphins QB Daunte Culpepper lacks dedication. “I see where he’s been missing meetings,” said Young.

In the fourth quarter, after Culpepper, who heard Young’s comment, confronted Young off-air to tell him that he doesn’t know what he’s talking (to a national audience) about – he had not missed any team meetings other than when he had knee surgery – Theismann issued a clarification on Young’s behalf.
That, too, is typical of the new ESPN, where ex-star players are hired by the ton, then thrown on national TV to say anything about anyone, no accountability needed, as if it’s one big blog. Last year, Young declared that Chris Simms was disadvantaged by his soft upbringing, which not only enraged Chris’s dad, Phil, it was a terrible guess presented as insight.

Actually, Phil, if it was one big blog, there might’ve been a note about said incident (or a reference to Young’s earlier remarks), within, say, 24 hours of the shit going down. And if it were one big blog, chances are, the reporter or news organization that first brought the Culpepper/Young confrontation to light would’ve been credited

But that’s our Phil — always quick to bash the fuck out of the Worldwide Leader when they take credit for a story someone else broke, but loathe to acknowledge he’s commenting on “news” that’s all but done and dusted for anyone with an internet connection.