The Story of The Scheme: SI’s Wahl on the (Not Really) Memphis Offense

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts, Sports Journalism at 4:25 pm by

It didn’t make much of an impression on me last month when Pepperdine’s head coach, Vance Wahlberg, a former junior college coach with some renown as an offensive technician, resigned as the Waves coach just a couple of games into the WCC conference season. If I think of Pepperdine at all, it’s as the place that throws professorships at dubious conservative intellectual lights from Ken Starr to Ben Stein. But apparently it was bigger news than I thought.

That’s because the offense that Walberg (above) invented — he called it “Attack Attack Skip Attack Attack,” which John Calipari shortened to “Dribble-Drive Motion” when he adopted it at Memphis several years ago — is currently in use all over basketball. Memphis, which you might’ve heard is undefeated and will face #2 Tennessee tomorrow night, runs it. St. Anthony’s of Jersey City, currently the top-ranked prep team in the US, runs it. The Boston Celtics even run a variation on it. All this while Vance sits home and fends off prank calls asking how Donnie is doing.

I wouldn’t know about any of this if it weren’t for Benjamin Polk mentioning the existence of a Sports Illustrated article about Walberg and his nutty offense on the Minneapolis CityPages’ Balls! Blog. Anyone who knows Ben knows that he’s seldom if ever wrong — except, I think, about how good Animal Collective is — and I think he’s right on when he writes of said piece, “The article is pretty good, for Sports Illustrated (not too much about what John Calipari’s Mom taught him about commitment or whatever, more about basketball) and the discussion of the offense is really interesting if you like that kind of stuff.”

I do, and I also like this article, which touches not only on the nuts and bolts of Walberg’s offense — which gives unprecedented leeway to players to create, and is part of the reason why it seems like Memphis is always taking layups — but on the weird networks through which things like offenses travel from coach to coach. I’m going to clip from two parts of the fairly long piece, but I’d say the whole piece is worth reading, if you like this kind of thing. Grant Wahl writes:

In California’s Central Valley, where Walberg, 51, coached for 13 seasons at Clovis West High and four at Fresno City College, his high-pressure offense and defense have changed the way an entire region plays basketball. “It totally blew up here,” says Fresno Central High coach Loren LeBeau, one of Walberg’s former assistants. “We’re in the top league in Fresno, and four of the six teams are running this style.” Under coach Tom Gonsalves, the girls’ team at St. Mary’s High in Stockton has gone 25-0 and risen to No. 9 in the nation using DDM. Another practitioner, coach Jeff Klein at Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga, describes the system this way: “It’s almost like Vance invented a new language.”

The Denver Nuggets are running elements of DDM, and so are the Boston Celtics. “[Calipari] and I fax each other,” says Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Meanwhile, one vocal DDM skeptic has changed his mind. “If I were fortunate enough to get back into coaching, I’d seek Vance’s help in a minute,” says Brown, who joined Calipari and Walberg last September at a clinic in Mississippi attended by more than 400 high school coaches. “When I was coaching UCLA, everybody ran the high-post offense and the 2-2-1 press because of Coach [John] Wooden. He won 10 national titles, so you could understand that. But to see all these people who are incorporating what Vance does is mind-boggling…”

Why change? It may seem obvious now that they’re coaching the nation’s top-ranked teams in college and high school basketball, but Calipari and Hurley didn’t need to overhaul their systems. Calipari, 49, had won 336 games in college and the NBA and had reached three Sweet 16s, two Elite Eights and a Final Four when he and Walberg sat down for dinner that night at Cal’s Championship Steakhouse. During his first three seasons at Memphis, however, Calipari had coached in only one NCAA tournament game. “It’s like you’re a teacher, and you’re teaching for 15 years, and your lesson plan never changed,” he says. “This has been invigorating for me because it’s gotten me to think, to study the game again.”

(Bob) Hurley, 60, had won 22 state championships, nearly 900 games and two mythical national titles as head coach at St. Anthony when he adopted dribble-drive in the fall of 2005. “I’ve had very few original thoughts in my life,” Hurley says, “but I’m smart enough to take from people who are successful and seem to have a greater view of the game. We got to a point where kids spent more time in the weight room than out on the court working on skills. [Dribble-drive] gets you working on skills. You can move your center around. It doesn’t have to be mud-wrestling where just the stronger, more physical, more athletic kids win.”

I understand Ben’s suspicion about SI pieces in general — that magazine did make Rick Reilly rich, after all — but between this and the very good profile of Rick Majerus from last month, I’ll admit to being impressed. Who knew a well-reported and decently written article about sports could be so enjoyable?

NewsCorp’s Bearded Conscience Weeps For The Victim, Chris Berman

Posted in Blogged Down, Sports Journalism, Sports TV at 2:41 pm by

The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick takes a dim view of the sports blogosphere exulting in the laff riot that is Chris Berman’s YouTube bloopers. “These recordings made their way out of ESPN and then to the Internet,” rages Mushnick, “the new favorite stomping grounds for eavesdroppers, vandals, voyeurs and naughty little boys and girls of all ages.” Hey, he forgot “shitheads”.

While not normally moved to defend ESPN’s Chris Berman, he’s no less a sympathetic figure than any other victim of a theft.

And while Berman, who by now should have grown to fully respected status among American sportscasters, instead chooses to play the circus clown who shoots himself out of a cannon, he doesn’t deserve this kind of grief.

For starters, these recordings were stolen from ESPN.

Perhaps they were stolen by some young, male wise guy, someone from the demographic ESPN encourages to watch ESPN. But theft is theft. And unless Berman is legally being investigated, perhaps as a threat to national security, the distribution of his purloined workplace conversations make him the victim of a crime.

In Berman’s case, he was mugged not by himself but by an insider or insiders, a person or persons once and perhaps still with ESPN. Berman’s a crime victim. And there’s no better place for the unaccountable to do dirt to the accountable than the ‘net.

I guess we can only presume Phil wasn’t a big Negativland fan back in the day, either. I’ll tell you what’s really criminal, though. This story is so done and dusted, had Mushnick weighed in on the subject last Friday, he’d still be hopelessly behind the times. What’s worse, “stealing” a dusty videoclip from the ESPN archives, or Phil collecting a paycheck by editorializing on a subject the eavesdroppers, vandals and voyeurs have already covered to death?

While we’re on the matter of voyeurs, let’s not forget it was just last week Mushnick’s paper decided the sex life of a private citizen (neither charged nor suspected of a crime) was worthy of the front page. It’s a shame there’s not a major tabloid journalist wiling to defend Richard Benjamin‘s privacy, but perhaps we’ll have to wait for the photos of Boomer in a dog collar before the Post’s sports media maven is sufficiently outraged.

London Mayor Rescinds Olympic Torch Invite To Drug Cheat

Posted in olympics, Track & Field at 2:13 pm by

The Independent’s Damon Wake reports retired sprinter Linford Christie will not participate in a relay carrying the Olympic torch through London.

Christie (above, left) received a letter from London Mayor Ken Livingstone inviting him to take part in April’s torch procession, but a spokesman for the Mayor said it had been sent by mistake.

The 47-year-old has a lifetime Olympic ban after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone in 1999, and international Olympic officials condemned the decision to invite him to the torch event.

The Mayor’s spokesman said: “The decision to invite Linford Christie to be a torchbearer was not taken by the Mayor.

“The decision to invite Linford Christie was taken by officials and was a mistake.”

Christie, who won gold in the 100m at the 1992 Barcelona games and has always denied taking the banned drug, was sent the letter “as a formality”, the spokesman said.

Yesterday Emmanuelle Moreau, from the International Olympic Committee, said: “We would have certainly strongly recommended not to give an invitation to an athlete who has an Olympic ban.”

There’s still plenty of time, by the way, for the Astros to tell Roger Clemens they’d rather not have him throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day.

Not Even Close To The Greatest Indignity Suffered By Bernie Taupin

Posted in Basketball at 2:00 pm by

Watch your back, Kuff & The Butt Heads. The Seattle Weekly’s Damon Agnos might be hot on your trail (if he ever adds vocals to the musical accompaniment).

Nails : I Shoulda Called H&R Block

Posted in Baseball, The Law at 10:04 am by

With all due respect to the New York Daily News’ scoop about Roger Clemens being photographed at that wild Jose Canseco party he swore to Congress he’d not attended, the following item from the New York Post’s Kati Cornell is the frontrunner for Friday’s story of the day.

Former Mets sparkplug Lenny Dykstra sounded ready to charge the mound yesterday after finding out he’s being sued by a Midtown accounting firm that says he took a walk on a $111,000 tab.

“These are the guys that charged a hundred grand to try to do my taxes. What does that tell you?” an incredulous Dykstra said in a phone interview yesterday.

The suit filed in Manhattan federal court by DDK & Company claims Dykstra and his wife, Terry, refused to pay for services provided between February and June of 2007 – racking up a bill that has since grown to nearly $139,000 with penalties.

The former All-Star said he felt personally betrayed by the lawsuit because the accountant who worked on his return, Jeffrey Feinman, is someone he considered a good friend.

“He stayed at my house. He supposedly was my buddy. I took him to 50 dinners – steak and lobster,” said the star outfielder, who now lives in Southern California. “The dinners were OK . . . but I didn’t know I was going to pay for them twice.”

Not to cast aspersions on Ms. Cornell’s journalistic chops, but something seems fishy here. We’re supposed to believe she spoke with Lenny Dykstra for more than 30 seconds and not once did he utter the word, “dude”?

Gazza’s Trip To A Hotel Where They Don’t Leave Mints By The Pillow

Posted in Football at 1:10 am by

While the above headline is swiped from the prohibitive Republican presidential nominee, this week’s incident involving former England international Paul Gascoigne recalls Bobby Robson’s early claim that Gazza was “as daft as a brush”. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Edmund Tadros has some of the unsavory details.

Former football star Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne was reportedly wandering around a hotel with three battery operated plastic parrots squawking “Give us a kiss”.

The former Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United player was arrested at the Hilton Hotel in Gateshead and detained under the British Mental Health Act.

Gascoigne, 40, was recovering from a hip operation at the Malmaison Hotel when the fire alarms were set off on Thursday morning, London’s Telegraph reports.

He refused to evacuate when police were called and had an exchange with the night porter.

A source told the Telegraph that Gascoigne had been walking around the building with three battery operated plastic parrots.

With the possible exception of Mike Tyson, it’s hard to come up with a global sporting icon whose fall from grace has been nearly as dramatic (sorry, Kevin Stevens). Had the former Newcastle/Spurs midfielder moved to the U.S. a few years ago, Gascoigne would at the very least have a shot at the 2nd season of VH-1′s “Celebrity Rehab”, if not a spot in the starting XI for Hollywood United.

Never Has The Term “Reliable Source” Been Used So Loosely

Posted in Baseball, non-sporting journalism, politics at 12:19 am by

Believe it or not, this is one occasion where I’ll not be burying Will Leitch. On the matter of his one-time sparring partner Gregg Doyel, however, perhaps Sen. Charles Palantine ought to give the CBS Sports columnist a very wide berth.


The Eddie Kranepool Society’s Steve Keane Is A Lover, Not A Fighter

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down at 10:22 pm by

Plagiarism is a pretty harsh accusation to toss around. But enough about Hillary’s desperation, Jimmy Rollins (above) would have you believe he invented the phrase “team to beat”. And with the somewhat contrived banter between Carlos Beltran and J-Ro managing to pump up fans in both Flushing and Philly, you’d probably figure The Eddie Kranepool Society‘s venerable Steve Keane to be smack in the middle of the trash talk. And he is….sort of.

I’m smitten by Ms. Brooke White, who reminds me of girls I chased around during high school. I wish they had a pic of her with the curley hair Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. If she gets bounced out early then I™m done with the show.

By the way Paula needs to get back on the happy pills and Randy needs to sue the doctor who performed his gastric bypass and Simon, well he just needs to go fuck himself.

Chris Russo, Political Kingmaker

Posted in Baseball, politics, Sports Radio at 8:40 pm by

WFAN’s Chris Russo has been all over the case of U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4) after the latter’s contrasting tone toward Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens (ie., kinda smoochy towards the Rocket, busting out the Bad Cop rhetoric with the former trainer). The Greenwich Post’s Ken Borsuk considers the amazing circumstances that have the Mad Dog throwing his weight around in an bona fide congressional race (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory).

After the hearing, Mr. Shays came under heavy criticism on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show, particularly from Mr. Russo, a New Canaan resident and registered Republican. Mr. Russo said he voted for Mr. Shays in the past but vowed last week to not only never vote for him again but campaign for Democrat Jim Himes instead because he was œembarrassed by the congressman™s hearing performance.

œGet Shays out. Get Himes in there, Mr. Russo declared on the air in his distinctive, excited style.

He also said Mr. Shays was œas bad as it gets and referred to him as a œblowhard because of what Mr. Russo believed to be grandstanding and a lack of knowledge about the issue.

Mr. Russo later added on the air, œHimes is the man. The two or three times that we™ve seen Shays speaking on issues that affect Mike and me and our sports fans, he™s been atrocious.

In an interview Tuesday with the Post, Mr. Russo said he stood by his statements, but didn™t seem quite ready to hit the campaign trail for Mr. Himes just yet.

œI™ve been getting a hard time from all my Republican buddies in New Canaan, Mr. Russo said. œThey all went up to me and were like ˜What are you doing?™ Shays is the only Republican left in the region and it would be terrible if we lost him.™ They all told me he™s a good guy and works very hard, but for me, his baseball acumen is a disgrace.

Mr. Russo said he felt Mr. Shays was œpatting himself on the back in the hearing and giving Mr. McNamee a hard time while giving Mr. Clemens a free pass.

œIf McNamee is a drug dealer, then what is Clemens? Mr. Russo said. œHe™s a drug user. Shays went way over the line.

Mr. Russo™s ribs are not the first time Mr. Shays has come under criticism by baseball fans for his comments in hearings on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Earlier this year, at a hearing where baseball Commissioner Bud Selig appeared, Mr. Shays mispronounced the name of former Baltimore Orioles first basemen and steroid user Rafael Palmeiro; incorrectly stated that Mr. Palmeiro had reached the 300-hit level in the major leagues when it was 3,000, and referred to the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox team that lost the World Series on purpose as the Blackhawks when they are, in fact, known as the œBlack Sox.

The Blackhawks is the name of the city™s hockey team. Mr. Shays was roundly criticized by sports writers after that hearing and Mr. Russo said the congressman also performed badly at a similar hearing in 2005.

Mr. Francesa, a New York state resident, agreed with Mr. Russo™s assessment of Mr. Shays, calling him œawful. The two read Mr. Himes™ biography on the air, bringing free publicity to the campaign at a time when Mr. Himes is still introducing himself to voters around the district.

œObviously this was all done in fun, but there™s a serious issue here, too, and even on a show that™s dedicated to sports it was clear to them that Chris Shays™ priorities are out of place, Mr. Himes said. œThe economy is in a nose dive and we continue to be engaged in Iraq, and Chris Shays™ focus is on steroids in baseball. I don™t condone cheating in sports, but there are bigger fish to fry.

Mr. Himes clarified that his criticism wasn™t about Mr. Shays taking part in the hearing, but rather that he œremained mute on issues such as the war, Blackwater, Jack Abramoff, Halliburton and missing money in Iraq, and instead œhurled invective at an athlete and his trainer.

œThis is about where his priorities are when it comes to oversight, Mr. Himes said.

Topeka Prep School To Aspiring Violet Palmers : Fuck Off

Posted in Basketball, Lower Education, non-sporting journalism at 8:09 pm by

Last week, Topeka, KS’s St. Mary’s Academy excused a female ref from working a boy’s varsity basketball game on the dubious grounds allowing Michelle Campbell (above) to officiate the game “would be putting a woman in a position of authority over boys.”  Salon.com’s Carol Lloyd wonders “wasn’t this a little Taliban-like, especially for an institution named after a woman?”  (link courtesy Melissa Bryan)

For several days, St. Mary’s Academy offered no further explanation. Then Tuesday the headmaster issued a press release presumably intended to calm the sanctified shit storm blowing over the Kansas plains. “It was falsely alleged and widely reported that the decision of St. Mary’s Academy not to allow a woman referee to officiate at a basketball game was based upon the idea that women can never have authority over men,” stated the press release. The school pointed out that the faculty includes many “honorable ladies of talent and erudition” and that as “a Catholic institution,” the academy “adheres in spirit and discipline to Divine Law” — which includes “due honor to father and mother.”The distinction was not about women’s authority over men but about Catholic directives on coeducation that recommend that boys and girls be educated separately during their adolescent years, especially in P.E. The press release then referred to the titles, publish dates and page numbers of the relevant texts.

The male officiator who reported the comment about not allowing women authority over men has stood by his story. But it strikes me as almost more insane and disturbing that St. Mary’s assumed this weirdly worded, citation-riddled press release would in any way justify its decision. It’s not about female authority in all settings, just ones involving adolescent boys. Well in that case, you’re off the hook!

What seems closer to the truth is that the school simply feared that the team of boys being raised in its china shop of Victorian values might lose when faced with seeing a woman calling their plays. As the headmaster put it: “Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we cannot place them in an aggressive athletic competition where they are forced to play inhibited by their concern about running into a female referee.” One wonders what will happen if any of these kids go on to join a police force, the military, a corporation or any number other potentially aggressive work settings where women might be their bosses.

Danny Ferry’s Desperation Heave At The Buzzer : Big Ben To The Cavs In A 3-Team, 11 Player Swap

Posted in Basketball at 7:34 pm by

By about 2:50pm today, I figured Bonzi Wells would be the biggest name to change teams today (Von Wafer excepted), and needless to say, I was wrong. Whether Cleveland’s bold acquisition of Ben Wallace is a result of LeBron’s lobbying/grousing or just another case of Dan Gilbert’s Detroit fixation, I can’t say for certain.  But I do know Cleveland have relinquished Larry Hughes in favor of the truculent Big Ben, with the latter playing like he lost interest from the moment he arrived in Chicago. The Sun-Times’ Greg Couch can hardly believe it, writing that Bulls GM John Paxson “has done the impossible, he has dumped Wallace on a poor sucker.”

I like the trade. It involves three teams, but the bulk of it, the Bulls part, is this: Joe Smith _ not an alias, but his real name ” and Wallace went to Cleveland. The Bulls get power forward Drew Gooden and shooting shooting guard Larry Hughes.

That “shooting shooting” thing was no mistake. Hughes likes to shoot shoot so much that saying it once doesn™t feel as if it covers it.

Gooden can help with post offense ” yes, there is such a thing ” though he will block Tyrus Thomas™ playing time. Hughes and Ben Gordon are the same player. And without Smith, no one can cover any other team™s center.

So it™s not perfect. But it is a sign that Paxson is finally feeling the desperation we™ve been wanting him to feel for over a year now. Ever since the Bulls signed Wallace, in fact.

Wallace goes down as one of the biggest busts in Bulls history. And the Bulls are still a long and unfathomable distance from being any good.

But the best part about this deal is that Trader John didn™t seem frozen for once.

By contrast, Brian Windhorst gives the trade a qualified thumbs-up.

One of the things being talked about within the Cavs front office over the last few days was the need to get someone in here to deal with potential matchups with the Celtics in the playoffs. Wallace could be that guy. He also gives them an edge in dealing with the Pistons as well. Wally Szczerbiak is guy who is the type of player that works well with LeBron, he™s a shooter, although he™s had injury problems. Cavs are taking on some huge salary here, but they are not really extending their commitments. Wallace is signed for two more years (like Hughes) and Smith and Szczerbiak will have expiring contracts next season. West will be a restricted free agent.

To me the key here is just what Wallace brings. He™s not the player he was in Detroit, I think most people agree with that. But can he be a major defensive presence, especially come the playoffs. To me that will define this deal.

While Da Bulls have acted decisively (today, anyway) to try and repair an absolute mess, you’ll note the trade deadline came and went this afternoon without Eddy Curry or Zach Randolph being traded. And incredibly, Isiah Thomas couldn’t find a taker for Stephon Marbury’s expiring 2008-09 contract.

On the other hand, perhaps it was only a cellular phone outage that prevented Zeke from trading all three players plus a succession of draft picks for Vince Carter.

However Many Times A-Rod Was Tested, It Sure Sounds Like A Lot

Posted in Baseball at 4:51 pm by

While the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez already seems to be in mid-season form when it comes to confusing public statements, perhaps it might be time for the Bombers to take a tip from James Dolan’s Knicks — no more interviews without a club representative standing by to intimidate clarify matters. From the New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt :

During his first interview with reporters at the Yankees™ spring training complex on Wednesday, third baseman Alex Rodriguez was peppered with questions about Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and the scrutiny he expects as he pursues baseball™s career home run record.

In defending the sport™s drug-testing program, he ended up raising questions about himself.

œLast year, I got tested 9 to 10 times, he said. œWe have a very, very strict policy, and I think the game is making tremendous strides.

The number of tests he cited is substantially higher than those mandated by baseball™s collective-bargaining agreement.

When asked later Wednesday whether he had ever tested positive for amphetamines, Rodriguez said: œThat™s not true. It couldn™t be more false ” 100 percent false.

He also adjusted the number of tests, saying it had been 7 to 10 instead of 9 to 10.

On Wednesday night, Jason Zillo, the Yankees™ media relations director, issued a statement on behalf of Rodriguez to further clarify his original comment.

œMy quote from earlier today was taken literally, the statement said. œI was not tested 9 or 10 times last year. I was just using exaggeration to make a point. My intent was simply to shed light on the fact that the current program being implemented is working, and a reason for that is through frequent testing. I apologize for any confusion I may have caused.

How many tests was Rodriguez given?

œI have no idea, Zillo said.

Baseball does not discuss the testing of individual players unless they are suspended. In a telephone interview, Richard Levin, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, said œtheoretically it is possible for a player to be tested as many as seven times. œThere is no limit on the number of times a player can be tested, he said.

Rodriguez said it was just chance that he had been tested so frequently.

œIt™s random, he said. œYou could have 20 or 30 or one. But a minimum of one. That™s the way it works.

If Rodriguez had been tested seven times last year, five of them would have been random. A player has a one in 4,200 chance of being selected five times for a random drug test in a given year.

A Battle Between Two Widely Beloved Public Figures

Posted in Baseball at 12:27 pm by

Surely one of both of these men cannot possibly suffer the first-ever blow to their reputations? From the Detroit News’ Tom Gage :

Still embroiled in a lawsuit with his former agent, Scott Boras, Tigers designated hitter Gary Sheffield verbally launched into Boras on Thursday before the team’s spring-training workout.

Prompting the outburst is the fact that Sheffield will miss one of the Tigers’ early exhibition games because of matters involved in the suit that dates back to 2004.

“If you need money that bad, all you have to do is say, ‘Can I please have it? I need it.’ I’ll give you some,” Sheffield said of Boras, who told the Associated Press, “I’m not going to comment on Gary Sheffield.”

“It’s probably personal with him, but when it’s done, it’s going to be personal with me,” Sheffield said. “It’s going to be the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen.

“Certain people you don’t mess with and I guarantee you, I’m one of them.”

Sheffield stopped short of saying he would advise young players not to sign with Boras, who also represented Alex Rodriguez before Rodriguez negotiated his own contract with the Yankees this winter.

“I’m not going to get into that,” said Sheffield. “You have to do whatever you feel is best for you. But my experience was total hell. I should never have introduced myself to him. He’s a bad person.”

Mirrors/Styrenes/Ubu Guitarist Jim Jones, RIP

Posted in Rock Und Roll at 9:32 am by

Cleveland guitarist Jim Jones, a member of Pere Ubu from 1987-2002, and a featured player with bands including Home & Garden, The Mirrors, the Styrenes, and the Easter Monkeys, passed away on Monday evening. Jones was 57.

(an obituary from the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s John Petkovic)

I Could Puke Dept : Mr. Ott (Jake) Whipps Iginla…

Posted in Hockey at 1:55 am by

…..but said beating had no bearing on the final result. You might even say it meant Doodley Squat.

Clemens : I’m Not Going To Disney World

Posted in Baseball, Sports TV at 1:25 am by

The Orlando Sentinel’s Beth Kassab reports Roger Clemens has bailed on his co-hosting duties for ESPN The Weekend alongside Donovan McNabb.  Fear not, vacationing families, the Christ-hating Dana Jacobsen might still attend!

Alluding to the steroids allegations controversy surrounding him as a likely distraction, superstar Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens has bowed out of Walt Disney World™s ESPN The Weekend festivities next week.

In a written statement released by ESPN, Clemens did not specifically mention the steroids abuse allegations that have clouded him for months — allegations he has vehemently denied.

œI had been looking forward to ESPN The Weekend. Given some strong feelings in some circles today, I believe my current participation could be a distraction, Clemens stated. œThe event should be an occasion for fun by all and I want that to be the case for everyone involved. So I will not be coming at this point in time but I look forward to participating in some future event.

In all seriousness, if the Rocket is still adamant that he’s never taken steroids or HGH, how could his presence be a distraction? As long as he leaves his HGH-abusing better half at home, who’s gonna complain?


Marchman : M’s Will Regret The Bedard Trade

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism, Sports Radio at 6:32 pm by

“Baseball’s winter has taught us two things,” observes the New York Sun’s Tim Marchman. “One is that you do, in fact, get fleas when you lie down with dogs. The other is that the only thing teams value more than an ace is a second one.” I’m sorry, but that’s no way to talk about Debbie Clemens.

No one questions the Mets for trading for Johan Santana, and it made similarly good sense for Arizona to send off their slew of prospects. Dan Haren, for one thing, will also be worth tens of millions more than he’s paid over the next few years, as he’s signed to an almost punitive deal that will pay him $21.75 million over the next three years, less than half what he’d earn as a free agent. This is also a team that came a few games away from the World Series last year while fielding a number of young players that have the same or greater potential than outfield prospects Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham and first baseman Chris Carter, whom they sent to Oakland. By trading for Haren, the Diamondbacks were turning future value into present value, at little cost to their chances now or in the near future.

What makes sense for one team, though, rarely makes sense for another. Arizona is a very good team facing a tight pennant race with San Diego and Los Angeles; Seattle is a mediocre team with little plausible chance of making the playoffs. (Baseball Prospectus, for instance, projects they’ll lose 89 this year.) With Eric Bedard (above) and Felix Hernandez, they have an intimidating front two, but they have too many players who can’t hit in the lineup, their bullpen is weak, and the expensive back end of their rotation is surpassingly sketchy. Trading the future for the present doesn’t make as much sense when the present is looking grim.

In addition to all this, and making it all the worse, Bedard is nowhere near as valuable as Haren, simply because of his contract. He’ll be paid $7 million this year, likely $12 million or more next year, and then he’ll be eligible for free agency. He’ll be worth more than he’s paid, but not as much as Haren, nor for as long, and the wins probably won’t do the Mariners all that much good. Meanwhile, Jones will be in Baltimore, providing broadly comparable value for not 5% the money, and Seattle still won’t have a decent right fielder.

The Mariners, one suspects, fell prey to one of the great delusions of baseball: the belief in twin aces. Mets general Omar Minaya once did the same when he traded Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips with visions of a Bartolo Colon/Javier Vazquez axis laying waste to the National League. This theory holds that there is nothing so valuable as a one-two punch atop the rotation, and that it can by itself cure any number of structural weaknesses a team may have, in addition to assuring good odds in the postseason, should the team get there.

In truth, though, the best teams rarely have two aces. Since the 1994 strike, only three World Series champions (the 1995 Braves, the 2001 Diamondbacks, and the 2004 Red Sox) have featured a classic, devastating pair atop the rotation. And even aside from Seattle, some of the better duos in the sport, such as Atlanta’s John Smoltz and Tim Hudson and Toronto’s Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett, play for teams that are hardly locks for contention.

In far more pleasant news for Mariners fans, veteran broadcaster Dave Niehaus was named the 2008 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award. Apparently, Baseball’s Hall Of Fame isn’t quite ready to enshrine pioneering video bloggers.

The Semi-Private Urinal

Posted in Sad Toilets, Technical Difficulties at 4:28 pm by

Apparently, fallout from the Larry Craig case has reached Spain.

Former Stupor Hoop Bircham’s Wife Is An Anti-Social Networker

Posted in Football, Racism Corner at 2:31 pm by

Perhaps Marc Bircham’s poisonous blue hair dye spilled into his wife’s cornflakes? Other than her being, well, as dumb as Will Leitch, there’s not much other explanation for the following item from the Mirror’s Laurie Hanna.

TV WAGs Boutique star Jadene Bircham is a member of a vile racist Facebook group.

The blonde mum-of-three – married to former Queen’s Park Rangers footballer Marc Bircham – has signed up to “If you don’t like England then f**k off back to where you came from!” Its homepage features a picture of hooded Ku Klux Klan members.

Spewing hate, the site discusses such “topics” as “Does anyone find Muslim females attractive?”, “Hands up if you believe Enoch Powell was right,” “Black ethnic groups are more likely to be criminal” and “Does Islam have anything to offer British society?” It boasts 50,000 members.

A Facebook source said yesterday: “It is a disgusting group to be associated with. If she had any brains, she would keep her repulsive political opinion to herself.

Jadene, 33, admitted: “I did sign up to it but I wasn’t aware that it was like that at all. I didn’t even like it. “I’m not going to lie to you, I read it and thought it would be quite funny but I didn’t even bother having a good look at it. I do agree that if you come to this country and you don’t like it, then fair enough, you shouldn’t be here. I’m going to be leaving the group, I didn’t realise what was on there.”

Zach Randolph : Incapable Of Picking On Someone His Own Size

Posted in Basketball at 2:17 pm by

Perhaps Isiah Thomas has become so immune to the chaos around him that he figured the unrest on the Knicks bench was simply another day at the office. In two games this season, Thomas and Richardson went back-and-forth on the bench with Herb Williams once having to restrain the head coach from going after Quentin. Earlier this season, Randolph, upset over being pulled from a game, refused Thomas™ request to sit next to him.

You would think that after being off four days the Knicks would be cordial to one another for at least a few games. Instead, they are already sick of one another and just about everyone wouldn™t mind if Thomas could include them in some trade. And we can™t even blame the unrest on Stephon Marbury, who even has a better gig than Keith Van Horn.Frank Isola, NY Daily News

Bondy : Thorn, Nets Mishandled Kidd’s Exit

Posted in Basketball, Blogged Down at 11:23 am by

Despite citing Jason Kidd’s half-hearted recent efforts in a Nets jersey and confidently stating “there were only a few other teams that wanted to take on Kidd’s totalitarian nature and his remaining contract,”, the New York Daily News’ Filip Bondy takes the Nets organization to task for their timing and return on the long-negotiated megadeal.

What Rod Thorn (above) did was get an injured young point guard from Dallas in Devin Harris, three role players, a couple of meaningless, low draft picks, two salary-cap exceptions and a walking, talking zombie in Keith Van Horn. The moment that Thorn pulled the trigger on this wrong-sided deal, he surrendered the last reason why any free agent or basketball fan would ever want to fight his way through the metal briar patch called Xanadu and arrive fully dazed at the Meadowlands.

We can blame Thorn a bit for not trading Kidd earlier, during the last two years, when the Nets’ arrow was clearly pointing down and the team might have received fairer compensation. We can blame Kidd, who always wants more and seems to believe a contending team is guaranteed along with the contract.

We can blame Lawrence Frank, who has not done wonders with this team and who has now lost his kingmaker and primary supporter. We can blame Vince Carter, who slows down the offense with his half-court mandate and may never be much more than a very high-priced, balletic scorer.

Most of all, we can blame the owner, Bruce Ratner, who has sentenced this franchise to limbo, facing untold years in a swamp that has become more a metaphor than a home.

Ratner should be very thankful these days for James Dolan, who has stolen all of the owner’s bad thunder. Without the Knicks to kick around, area fans might notice that Ratner’s plans for Brooklyn continue to stall, that he has turned his back on Newark and that he has locked himself into a morgue-like location where no self-respecting superstar would ever want to dunk basketballs for long.

Stop Mike Lupica, while not overly concerned with Harris’ injury, is underwhelmed with the Nets’ return on the deal, or at least the most important component :

I’m not sold yet on Devin Harris. He may turn out to be a really good, special, young player. But I was never that fond of him, and I wouldn’t put him in the top half of starting point guards in the NBA right now. That doesn’t mean he can’t improve, but despite being surrounded by mountains of talents – MVP Dirk, All-Star Josh Howard, former All-Star Jerry Stackhouse, and Jason Terry (underrated star) – Devin couldn’t really do better than 14 ppg and 5 apg.

Dallas is currently 25th, out of 30 teams, in assists per game. They are barely ahead of three teams that played without point guards for long stretches of the season – Sacramento (Bibby was out most of the season), NY Knicks (Marbury), Washington (Arenas), and two teams that really don’t have NBA-quality point guards and know it – the Cavs and the T-Wolves. That’s it. Considering that the Mavs are a jump-shooting team, they should be among the leaders in assists. Devin Harris’ career high in assists is 12. Kidd averages about one less than that per game. And that is why they had to get Kidd.

By necessity Harris’s numbers will improve in NJ – say 17 and 6 – but I just don’t think the team will. He’s a decent player with loads of potential, but I don’t see how you couldn’t just describe him succinctly as “Marcus Williams, with 2 years more experience”.

Reyes : No More Handshakes

Posted in Baseball at 7:54 am by

(left to right, Baseball Fury, Fancy Dancer)

“People kept saying we got teams fired up when we did those handshakes,” declares Mets shortstop Jose Reyes (above, right) to Newsday’s Ken Davidoff. “So now I want to focus more on baseball.” Way to deny Wally Matthews valuable content, Jose.

The shocking collapse to last season, and Reyes’ prominent role in the club’s downfall, has prompted the All-Star shortstop to rethink his antics by the on-deck circle. In what proved to be the defining moment of that infamous weekend, Reyes’ hip-hop handshake with Lastings Milledge seemed to infuriate the Marlins, who later ignited a bench-clearing brawl that same afternoon and returned to rout the Mets on Sunday.

“Nobody said anything to me, but it’s because of what happened last year,” Reyes said. “That’s why I’m taking this year more seriously. In 2006, everybody loved [the handshakes], but now it’s different. I’m going to enjoy the game, but I’m not going to do the handshakes with the guys. I don’t want people to talk about that. I just want to play baseball. I want to take care of business on the field.”

In performing the autopsy on last year’s Mets, there was more than one cause of death, but there was plenty of finger pointing at Reyes, who was accused of violating baseball’s etiquette of not showing up the opposing team. Manager Willie Randolph tried to deflect that blame by downplaying the incident at the time, but there is some validity to that claim.

When told that Reyes was thinking of killing the handshake this season, Billy Wagner was surprised, but understood.

“All it does is bring more attention to yourself,” Wagner said. “You want Jose to be Jose. Having fun is what he’s about. You want him to get excited when he gets a big hit or steals a base. But sometimes too much of that blows it out of proportion and makes him a target. And that’s the thing. You don’t want to give the other team any reason to make it an issue. You want them to see you’re here for business. The only time you have fun playing this game is when you’re winning.”

Sheesh. Who’s the Mets’ new style guru, Frank Cashen? Can anyone connect the failures of the Mets’ bullpen last September to Reyes or Milledge behaving like they had a pulse?

The Abject Self-Hatred Of Jason Giambi

Posted in Baseball, Fashion at 3:34 am by

Not since David Wells wore a cap bearing the legend “WHITE BOY” have we seen the sort of truth in advertising displayed by Jason Giambi in Tampa, FL yesterday.

Wells On Philly’s Preparations For Another Sporting Disappointment

Posted in Football at 3:31 am by

Philadelphia doesn’t have an MLS franchise as of this writing, but the Guardian’s Philly-based Steven Wells considers an expansion franchise in the City Of Brotherly Abuse Of Donovan McNabb pretty much a done deal. Fans in DC and East Rutherford have already had to contend with what Wells describes as “a visiting crew who come to both abuse the locals and sing the merits of a team that doesn’t yet exist”.

These are the Sons of Ben. They are the hardcore supporters of Philadelphia’s Major League Soccer team. Possibly their best chant is: “We’ve won as many cups as you, Metro, Metro. We’ve won as many cups as you, and we don’t have a team.”

Philadelphia doesn’t have an MLS team yet. As the DC United fan website screaming-eagles.com puts it, the Sons of Ben have “banded together to twist the Field of Dreams mantra from ‘Build it and they will come’ to ‘They’re already here, just build it’.”

But if Philly does get a franchise – and it’s looking increasingly likely that it will – then it’ll be down in large part to these fans who have all but willed a team into existence. In the meantime they’ve been practicing, in the words of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “by attending MLS games in New Jersey and Washington in order to boo those teams.”

The Sons attended the 2007 MLS Cup final causing consternation and not a little anger among fans of the teams who were actually playing.

At the MLS draft in January, MLS commissioner Don Garber revealed that either Philadelphia or St Louis would be the 16th MLS team, and that Philadelphia are in the lead.

This prompted DC United fans present at the draft to chant: “Pick St. Louis! Pick St. Louis!” DC aren’t particularly fond of the SOB. And in New York Red Bull fan chatrooms, the Sons are routinely dissed as “scum”, “infected douches”, “fucking retards”, “Philthadelphia” and “the Daughters of Betsy”.

Congrats to the embattled Rafael Benitez on Liverpool’s 2-0 first leg win over Inter Milan — even Kelvin Sampson thought Rafa was gonna get fired any day now.


Wait A Minute, When Did “The Today Show” Get Rid Of Jane Pauley?

Posted in Baseball at 7:16 pm by

Seriously, if you’d told me Brett Myers was going to make his morning network TV debut, I would’ve figured he’d be sitting next to a psychologist or lawyer rather than Kyle Kendrick.