“Fred & Jeff’s Baseball Hut” Has Quite A Ring To It

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace at 9:04 pm by

Shitty times for the U.S. economy and Citibank in particular have put a $400 million naming rights deal for the New York Mets’ glittering monument to avarice & greed new stadium in jeopardy, writes the New York Post’s Kate Sheehy.

Mets rep Jay Horwitz yesterday insisted, “There is no change in regard to Citi’s commitment to the new ballpark.” But David Howard, the team’s vice president of business affairs and main spokesman on the deal, for the first time deflected all questions back to Citigroup.

And the future doesn’t look good for the financial giant.

Citigroup’s stock woes are making it ripe for a takeover, and Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, HSBC and State Street Bank are already being talked about as potential buyers or merger partners.

The onetime banking titan closed at $3.77 yesterday, down 89 percent in the past year.

If Citigroup is bought out, at least the stadium name would presumably change. Still, mega-bucks would in all likelihood be shelled out by the new company for the naming rights because of the prestige and recognition that such a high-profile stadium will bring, experts said. Think “Goldman Sachs Diamond,” “Morgan Stanley Stadium” or “HSBC Field.”

Bleacher Report’s Tab Bamford is less concerned about the ballpark’s name compared to the fiscal insanity of a struggling firm dropping $20 million on a marketing exercise, pleading with the Wilpons to “perform their own bailout package.”

Citicorp recently announced that, because of sagging profits, they will be relieving approximately 53,000 of their jobs. And yet their name will stay on a stadium that only seats 45,000. Does anyone else see the irony in that statement? A brand new major league baseball stadium seats fewer people than the sponsor plans to fire because the company can’t afford their salaries any more?

Citi is contracted to pay $20 million annually for the next 20 years to have their pretty logo on the marquee of the stadium.

My question: Could that $20 million save some, if not all, of those 53,000 jobs?

My response: I am calling on the New York Mets to provide ethics by force to Citicorp. Do not take their $20 million. Hand them their check back and implore them to do the right thing by keeping as many of those 53,000 people on board as they can. I am sure that there are dozens of companies that are financially sound enough to afford that size a contract to have their logo on the only corporately sponsored major stadium in New York.

Suddenly, “Mayne Street” Doesn’t Seem That Awful : The Comedy Stylings Of Alexi Lalas

Posted in Fitness, Football at 9:02 pm by

Some of us liked this guy better when he was playing the part of Stephen Bishop to Non-Metallic KO’s John Belushi. And that said, I didn’t like him very much then, either.

Don’t Ask Stephon Marbury To Relinquish The Best Seat In The House

Posted in Basketball at 7:24 pm by

It was suggested in this space yesterday the Knicks’ LeBron-motivated salary dump of Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph left the current New York squad at a competitive disadvantage.  That short term forecast wasn’t even taking into account Tim Thomas, Cutino Mobley and Al Harrington all being unavailable for last night’s 104-87 loss at Milwaukee. If you thought the spectre of dressing a mere 7 players would be enough to coax coach Mike D’Antoni into finally giving Stephon Marbury serious playing time, you were right. Trouble is, the NBA’s former no. 1 point guard (self-proclaimed) was reportedly in no mood to change his current (no-show) job description.  From the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola :

“I’m going to tell you the truth, and this is it,” said a visibly upset D’Antoni. “This is the last time I’m answering this question. Obviously at the start of the season I told him the direction we were going and I didn’t have minutes for him. I didn’t want to embarrass him with spot minutes. It was both of our decision that he goes on the inactive (list). Instead of sitting at the end of the bench playing spot minutes he wanted to go on the inactive. I agreed with him. I did not want to embarrass him.” D’Antoni added that once Crawford was traded, he told Marbury, “There are 30, 35 minutes out there and they are yours if you want them. He said the team is going in a different direction. He wasn’t comfortable with the situation and he did not want to play. I said, ‘Okay, that’s your decision and that’s fine.’ That’s the story. Write it any way you want to.”

Marbury, however, denied D’Antoni’s version of Friday’s events. Following the Knicks’ third straight loss, Marbury said: “The only thing I’m at liberty to say is that I was told they are moving forward and I wasn’t in the plans. I’m not the person who chooses who plays and doesn’t.”

It was an odd sight as the Knicks’ bench included four coaches and three players. Even the traveling beat writers outnumbered the Knicks reserves, five to three. In the fourth quarter, the crowd began chanting, “Mar-berry, Mar-berry.”

“It could have been a chance for Marbury to showcase himself for other teams and, perhaps, prove Mike D’Antoni wrong for benching him all this time” wrote Newsday’s Alan Hahn, a reasonable enough observation.  Regardless of how humiliating Steph must consider his treatment at the hands of D’Antoni and Walsh, the above tale has to give other teams pause…yet it might give the Knicks an outside chance of getting out from under Marbury’s monster paycheck.  Until now, we’ve been reminded more than once that Marbury’s “done everything that’s been asked of him”.  Refusing to play when the roster’s this depleted, however, isn’t merely selfish, it might be grounds for voiding a contract.

Hold The Mustard : OKC Fires Peege

Posted in Basketball at 2:54 pm by

OK, I plead guilty to using the above headline at least one time too many. But “Carlesimo Loses Stranglehold On Thunder Gig” would’ve been far, far worse. As alluded to above, Oklahoma City fired P.J. Carlesimo (above, right) after last night’s blowout loss to the Hornets left the Thunder with an Association-worst 1-12 mark.  Scotty Brooks has been named interim coach, a development Thunderguru‘s Joe (or if you prefer, Joe The Blogger) is quick to applaud :

It doesn™t surprise me at all that Scotty is the new œinterim coach. I love the interim coach thing by the way. You get the opportunity to see what he can do, without locking him into a long contract. Jeff Van Gundy was an interim coach, Lawrence Frank was an interim coach, Michael Cooper was an interim coach¦The first two were successful, the third is coaching in the WNBA.

Maybe you™ve noticed, but the backup, journeyman, non-star type of players usually seem to make the best coaches, out of the group of former players that get into coaching. Just off the top of my head I think of Rick Carlisle, Phil Jackson, George Karl, Avery Johnson, Nate McMillan etc. They had to work much harder for everything they got. These guys weren™t the guys that got the max contracts, or in some cases even a guaranteed contract at all. Avery Johnson was a third string backup on the Sonics, plucked from the CBA and then later cut, before finding a home in San Antonio. Certainly there have  been exceptions to the rule. Larry Bird had some success as a coach, so did Isaiah Thomas, but in general, I like the scrapper for a coach.

What™s great about this, is that the Thunder brain trust had the Cajones to pull the trigger and do this before the season was hopelessly lost, so they can get a look at Brooks, and see if he can breathe life into the lifeless. Not that we are going to turn this thing around and make the playoffs, but just seeing progress should be the goal. If Scotty doesn™t work out, there are plenty of acceptable alternatives, both experienced and not (Avery Johnson is out there. Flip Saunders is out there. Paul Silas is out there, Jeff Van Gundy, etc.)

Brand On Football’s Friendly Bannermania

Posted in Football at 2:18 pm by

(AOF’s Vic Bondi, resisting the urge to have lawyers contact a prominent comedian/soccer enthusiast)

Still dominaning many of the UK headlines weeks after using the public airwaves to boast of fucking Manuel from “Fawlty Towers”‘s granddaughter, the Guardian’s Russell Brand — author of the newly released ‘Articles Of Faith’ (“unless you are a football obsessive, it’s scarcely comprehensible” sniffed Private Eye’s uncredited reviewer) reflects on England’s 2-1 exhibition victory in Berlin earlier this week. “The cliche of baiting the Germans persists – with me it bloody well does – but there exists now a degree of easy complicity as if our collective intelligence has processed the relationship and its troubles and sensibly contextualised them as mockable,” which is easy enough to claim after winning a match that doesn’t count.

The banner at the match which read “Thank you for the beautiful game” has received as much attention as the selection of Gabriel Agbonlahor and is a jarringly delicious symbol of the distinction between English and German football fans. It’s so polite and also correctly employs a very specific piece of nomenclature; it is a deliberate and charming attempt to communicate with us as a people. I can imagine no circumstances where English fans would manufacture an un-ironic banner to thank Germany – “Cheers for Fritz Lang, his films are wunderbar” – and if they did the German fans would have to hastily daub a bed sheet with the riposte: “Well actually Lang was Austrian but did belong to the cinematic expressionism movement that originated from Germany so thanks at least for acknowledging that. Besides, even if your praise was inaccurate it was clearly well-intentioned and for that we are truly grateful.” There surely can’t be duvets of that size lying about in Berlin unless Helmut Kohl remains as tubby as I recall him.

There was a banner present at Hampden Park too for the visit of Maradona’s Argentina. It read, “Thanks for 86″ – you could argue that this was a general thank you for the way Diego lit up the World Cup that year but given that the banner was written by a Scot it is far more likely gratitude for Diego’s destruction of England in the quarter-final. This is a far more typical banner, amusing, vaguely acerbic and disparaging of a rival nation.

Perhaps we can use this old forum for self-expression for increasingly novel ends, banners could demand “world peace” or “more flirting” or revolution or personal objectives could be fulfilled – “I want a cuddle” or “I like my dog” – either way the reporting of the direct views of the people is a heartening development from the media, it’s certainly more constructive than whipping up a confectionary of disdain and dissatisfaction to sell papers – it might even make print journalism relevant for a few more years.

Corgan : Blame Vedder For The Cubs’ Playoff Exit

Posted in Baseball, Rock Und Roll at 10:14 am by

It would only be appropriate (though not accurate) at this juncture for a surviving member of Candlebox to hold Mr. Corgan accountable for the demise of ECW.  From Home Run Derby‘s Richie Rich:

Thursday night during a break at the Smashing Pumpkins show at the Chicago Theater, lead singer and Cub fan Billy Corgan waxed poetic about the Bears winning the Super Bowl in 2012, Mike Ditka coming out of retirement, and his beloved Cubs, while getting in some digs at White Sox fans – telling them to stay the F*ck out of his Cubs Fan conversations.

Then Corgan said that he might write a song about the Cubs ¦

“God Bless Steve Goodman, but I think I can do better than ˜Go Cubs Go™

Really – I™ve been called a lot of things, arrogant is one of them.  I don™t think this is arrogance.  I think I can top ˜Go Cubs Go™”

Still on the subject of Cub-themed songs ¦ Corgan did what someone should have done a long time ago ¦ he blamed Eddie Vedder for the Cubs™ 2008 playoff collapse.

“If ¦ If ¦ IF ¦ the Cubs did have a chance this last year that just passed ¦  Fuckin™ Eddie Vedder killed that shit dead.  Last I checked Eddie ain™t living here,  Okay?

Eddie ain™t living here to write a song about my fuckin™ team.”

Ya listening, Ben Schwartz?  There’s a clearly defined residency requirement for supporting Billy Corgan’s Chicago Cubs.

Revenge Of The Birmingham Bricklayer

Posted in Football at 7:44 am by

From Thursday’s Express & Star. Good thing Hank Steinbrenner’s not in charge at Wolverhampton or they might’ve nuked their own parking lot.

It started as a builder™s cheeky dig at Wolves fans making their way to Molineux.

But if looked at closely the block paving just 30ft from the turnstiles of the Billy Wright stand at the stadium could be seen “ spelling the name of Birmingham rivals Blues.

The wind-up went unnoticed for 10 years, until just a few days ago when club officials hastily rearranged the brickwork.It was the handiwork of a Birmingham City fan builder and has been there since 1998 according to a video posted on the YouTube.

It has not been revealed which building firm was responsible. Wolves bosses today said they rearranged paving close to the car park by the Billy Wright stand, saying it cost nothing to put right, about five days ago.

They played down the stunt and said that the colours of the paving were not that noticeable and may have been enhanced for the video. Wolves spokesman Matt Grayson said today: œIt won™t be a big surprise to our fans that on occasion we™ve walked over the opposition at Molineux. However, for the sake of a few minutes™ work we™ve changed the offending 10 or so stones around.”


Whitlock : Who Dares Question Donovan McNabb’s Football IQ?

Posted in Gridiron, Sports Journalism, Sports TV at 10:08 pm by

“Trust me,” writes Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock,  “(Donovan) McNabb forgot more about football last night than most of his critics have learned in a lifetime of pretending to cover.”  And while the Iggles QB continues to ridiculed for his confession last Sunday afternoon that he didn’t know an NFL game could end in a tie, Big Sexy — putting on his Reasonable Sweatpants for a change — protests, “the phony, manufactured controversy says far more about us (the media) than it does McNabb.”

Had McNabb failed to launch a last-gasp Hail Mary pass against the Bengals, I would then understand all the fuss and bluster.

And we damn sure know had McNabb’s Hail Mary fallen safely into a Philadelphia hand and secured victory, no one would care that McNabb was unaware NFL games could end in a tie.

This focus on McNabb’s football intelligence is absolutely ridiculous. If McNabb is anything, he’s bright. His understanding of the game and the position he plays is exceptionally high.

That’s why he toned down his running game and accentuated his ability to play from the pocket. Rather than listen to the misguided idiots who wanted him to “revolutionize” the position by being a playground quarterback, McNabb chose the path that made Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Terry Bradshaw multiple Super Bowl winners.

NFL players do dumb (spit) on a weekly basis. They take penalties for excessive or orchestrated celebrations. They blow assignments. They lose their cool and hit opponents after the play.

I find the fraudulent indignation about the “mistake” embarrassing. My industry is so lacking in original thought and imagination that we think it’s a big deal when we discover we know some insignificant detail about the game that a millionaire player doesn’t.

Z-Bo’s Time To Go : Knicks Shed Themselves Of Huge Contracts, Most Of Their Scoring

Posted in Basketball at 8:55 pm by

Spare a thought tonight for anyone so dazzled by the New York Knicks’ early signs of respectability, they shelled out for full or partial ’08-’09 season tickets.  Following the earlier trade of Jamal “Never Met A Shot He Didn’t Like” Crawford for Golden State’s embattled Al Harrington, Donnie Walsh unloaded the previously unmoveable Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins on the Clippers in exhange for Cutino Mobley and Tim Thomas.

That the Knicks need to free up cap room to make a run at LeBron in 2010 is obvious enough, and I don’t think anyone believed the roster as it was constituted Thursday evening was good enough for anything better than a first-round loss to a no. 1 seed. If that.  But I do wonder if there’s any obligation on the part of ownership to put a semi-competitive team on the floor over the next two seasons — they’ve not managed in ages, granted, but this time they’ll be sucking on purpose.

On the matter of brilliant management, however, let’s hear it for the Clippers who for one day, anyway, now have Marcus Camby, Chris Kamen and Zach Randolph in the fold. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s some redundancy here, Randolph can stop playing defense at any moment if he puts his mind to it.

Short People Got No Reason To Live

Posted in Baseball at 6:34 pm by

With apologies to Randy Newman, Nick Stevens’ tribute to Boston’s pint-sized MVP while up to the usual Fitzy standards, has strong echoes of “The Best Show On WFMU”‘s Timmy Von Trimble.

WSC On Arsenal’s Sinking Captain

Posted in Football at 3:51 pm by

After questioning the courage of his younger Arsenal teammates, French international William Gallas found himself stripped of his captaincy this afternoon. When Saturday Comes‘ Dan Bryant probably won’t mourn the demotion, calling Gallas “the antithesis of a captain. Self-centered, unpredictable and not exactly leading from the front either. Perhaps imploding from within would be a more valid description.”

It is clear Arsenal have some serious problems, and they go a lot deeper than Gallas™s temper tantrums, but it would be hard to find a better place to start. Since that fateful trip to St Andrew™s last February, which saw Gallas stage a bizarre sit-down protest as Arsenal dropped two points in the last seconds and meekly faded from the title race, the Gunners™ captain has become more and more volatile. While his comments may be born out of a strong desire to win, his repeated failure to keep his emotions in check means this team is without a leader when they need it most.

œI have to win something this year, Gallas complained in the press today. “Arsenal has to win something. Another season without a trophy would be a kind of failure. Something tells me that an ultimatum is the last thing that the Frenchman should be issuing to this fractured squad. Arsène Wenger faces one of his toughest challenges yet. Not only does he have to drag these squabbling kids back into line, he has to make a decision on Gallas™s position within the team. And a vote of no confidence from the boss could just be the thing to set off this temperamental ticking time-bomb. As part of his rant, Gallas claimed one of the most experienced members of the squad was being a disruptive influence œon and off the pitch. Was he referring to himself?

Brown On MLB’s Burgeoning Blackout Booshit

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Sports TV at 1:24 pm by

Maury Brown of Biz Of Baseball reports that while the start of the MLB Network might be good news for Hazel Mae’s creditors, depending on where you live, your favorite team’s televised games might become even harder to watch.

MLB owners, yet again, tabled restructuring the local and regional television territories for the league at today’s quarterly owners meetings in New York, and in doing so, leaves an arcane and convoluted system in place just before the MLB Network launches on January 1.|

The commissioner™s office has proposed an adjustment that will involve clubs losing a territory or market if they do not broadcast within it. Currently, markets such as Las Vegas sees six clubs claiming the television territory, including the A™s, Giants, Padres, Angels, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks.

Unless the league makes a provision, the ranks of those that will be faced with the œblackout blues will grow exponentially as the new television network for the league reaches 50 million homes next season. MLB Network plans on broadcasting 26 games each season.

In waiting on addressing the issue, the club owners are surely pushing to retain television market space as the possibility of local revenue decline looms on the horizon of the 2009 season based on an ever-gloomy economic forecast.

The blackout policy, one of continued consumer frustration since MLB Extra Innings was hatched, has been pushed back year after year, despite a chorus of angry phone calls, letters, and emails to the league asking how, for example, the Seattle Mariners consider all of Montana their œlocal broadcast territory.

Now, the chorus will surely raise to an ear-splitting cacophony of confusing calls and aggravated viewers. The old adage, you can pay me now, or pay me later, seems to ring true for the moment based on the owners™ in-action on the blackout issue.

Michigan’s Upset Of UCLA : Is There Really No Way Rich Rodriguez Can Take Credit For This?

Posted in Basketball at 11:24 am by

“When, EVER, has a Michigan basketball game upstaged the UM-OSU football game?” asks Straight Banging‘s Joey.  The answer of course, came last night at the World’s Most Dysfunctional Arena.  All of a sudden, my ticket for the Bruins’ December 4 visit to Austin seems just a bit less attractive as StubHub fodder.

Knicks Land Harrington

Posted in Basketball at 6:58 am by

The New York Post’s Peter Vecsey is reporting the New York Knicks will announce the acquisition of F Al Harrington from Golden State later Friday in exchange for Malik Rose.

A product of St. Patrick’s in Elizabeth, N.J., Harrington has played in just five games this season. He was grounded by coach Don Nelson soon after stating publicly he wanted to be traded.

They failed to hit it off almost immediately after the Pacers sent him to Golden State along with Stephen Jackson in a multi-player trade (Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy went to Indiana) on Jan. 16, 2007. Once their conflict became news (Harrington felt Nelson cramped his style) Al got sent to a time out chair – shortly after he complained of back problems and underwent a MRI.

At that point Walsh intensified his effort to acquire the devalued forward, who asked to be traded in June. The Knicks reached out to executive VP of basketball operations Chris Mullin on several occasions, but were rebuffed for lack of equal compensation. The open conflict made it much easier to make a deal.

Posting & Toasting‘s Seth mulled over a mooted Harrington for David Lee swap and concluded, “If we’re shopping why not snatch someone who’s tall and can block a shot, and may very well eat less payroll than Harrington? Why not Chong Williams? Why not Treebeard, dammit? This rumor stinks like Isiah Thomas’ dirty laundry, and I hope it’s nothing more than passing fancy on the part of the media. The Knicks have needs, and Al Harrington most certainly fits zero of these needs. Am I missing the point?” Not quite, though full credit to Walsh for giving up far less than Lee, who oughta yield much greater dividends whether he’s traded or not.

(UPDATE :Looks as though Vecsey was incorrect,  as Jamal Crawford is being shipped to Oakland rather than Rose. Newsday’s Allan Hahn claimed New York would also receive Cutino Mobley and Tim Thomas’ expiring contracts , with Zach Randolph going the Clippers.   Quite a seachange for the Knicks, essentially giving up on the 2008-09 season while creating more cap room for 2010.)


Sousa : Stuporhoops’ Answer To The Special One Or Flavio’s New Puppet?

Posted in Football at 8:38 pm by

While the Seattle Mariners hired their 5th manager since the departure of Lou Piniella yesterday in the person of the very handsome Don Watamatsu, Queens Park Rangers named their 6th manager in less than 12 months Wednesday. œHe is going to be the new José Mourinho with all his flair, charm and talent, gushed an unnamed Loftus Road source to the Times’ Kaveh Solhekol, speaking of none other than former Juve/Inter midfielder Paulo Sousa, who most recently toiled as Carlos Quieroz’s assistant for the Portugal national side. The Mirror’s John Cross warns that chairman Flavio Briatore is likely to continue his recent interfence in team selection, an opinion echoed by the not-so-impartial Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan, who scoffed, “‘I think it’s brilliant that a guy who knows nothing about the Championship has been appointed. The terminolgy is important. Isn’t Briatore the manager?”

The Daily Mail’s Neil Ashton, however, comes up with the scariest possible propsect short of waking up alongside Ian Dowie ;  Briatore considered naming himself the new R’s manager.   Ted Turner, while not unavailable for comment, probably wouldn’t want to talk about this.

Cleveland GM Apologizes For Acting Like A Normal Person

Posted in Gridiron at 8:05 pm by

Browns General Manager Phil Savage has been something less than the toast of the blogosphere after it was revealed he’d told an email critic “go root for Buffalo, fuck you”  minutes after Cleveland’s 29-27 win at Orchard Park. The Plain Dealer’s Tony Grossi reports Savage has apologized to his shadowy e-heckler, though the question remains what sort of alleged adult goes out their way to bait a public figure and allows others to feign outrage when they get the response they wanted?

Browns general manager Phil Savage has acknowledged that he included a profanity in an e-mail response to an angry fan.

“True, it happened,” Savage said in an email to The Plain Dealer. “We have both apologized to each other since. The Browns’ fans have overwhelmingly been positive towards me since 2005 and I appreciate that greatly.”

The fan, who appeared on WKNR radio on the “Tony Rizzo Show” without giving his real name, said he had been badgering Savage during the course of the evening.

Savage sent the e-mail 23 minutes after the game ended.

In an email to the Associated Press, Savage said, “There had been previous e-mails from him over the months and enough was enough. We have both apologized to each other since.”

Vicks, Bonds, Jones are 2008 Longshots for Bush Pardons

Posted in Baseball, politics at 8:00 pm by


[Bonds, who never looked good in stripes, is a pardon possibility?]

Slate/Pro-Publica’s Dafna Linzer today handicaps the odds for final pardons to be given out by President Bush as he leaves office, and the list includes Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones, former SF Giant Barry Bonds, and former NFL player Michael Vicks.  You expect Bush flunkies like Scooter Libby to get a pass, as I would Roger Clemens if he were on the list.  But Bonds?  Will Bush pardon Mark Cuban by Thanksgiving to un-back burner his bid for the Cubs?  Not likely.  As Ms. Linzer opines:

Michael Vick
The Atlanta Falcons’ suspended quarterback is serving a 23-month sentence in Leavenworth, Kan., for criminal conspiracy relating to dog fighting. Yuck. There just isn’t much of a pro dog-fighting lobby to pull for Vick.

Likelihood: No chance.

The former San Francisco Giants superstar who holds the MLB all-time record for home runs was indicted in November 2007 for lying about his involvement in a steroids scandal. Bonds became a free agent last year but has been unable to find a team willing to sign him while under indictment. As a former baseball team owner, Bush may be sympathetic to Bonds. But let’s be honest — who in baseball likes Barry?

Likelihood: Unlikely

ESPN’s O’Neil: College Hoops Recruiting is Fucked. No, in a New Way.

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts, Sports Journalism at 6:40 pm by

I’ll admit to being embarrassingly psyched about the beginning of the college basketball season; I spent much of what should’ve been a work day earlier this week alternating between non-paying writing work (good for me) and college basketball games between Penn and Drexel and Centenary and Baylor (not really good for anyone but lovers of missed foul shots). But as with any sort of morally ambiguous material consumption — from Wendy’s to anything NFL-branded — there’s an element of guilt about it.

Caricatured liberal guilt maybe, to some, but for me it’s more just this painful awareness that something I love dearly and am probably not going to stop loving (note: I’m talking about sports, not Wendy’s, now) is pretty fucked in a lot of ways. And that continuing to consume it will entail continuing to overlook a bunch of really not-cool things about it. It’s not that hard, really, but it’s increasingly on my mind.

So, did reading Dana O’Neil’s full-spectrum, impressively sourced piece at ESPN.com on the bleeding edge of recruiting dodginess in college basketball recruiting make me feel good? Not really, Hannity: not all of us goony leftists are into picking psychic scabs. But it was, at least, interesting to see the way the corrupt-recruiting game has changed since I was a kid, and to see how weedy creeps like Kentucky’s Billy Gillespie — and whole program’s, like Kansas State’s — are gaming the system. In short, shoeboxes of cash are out, and well-paying taxpayer-funded jobs for players’ family members, coaches and fixers (sometimes one person is all three) are in. “Why break a rule and buy a kid a hamburger,” O’Neil writes, “when you can obey a rule and buy his coach?”

Glance down a college bench sometime. Count the number of people in uniform. And then count the number of men in suits. You’ll find less sartorial splendor on Wall Street.

Administrative assistants, video coordinators, director of recruiting, assistant director of recruiting — you need a job on a college staff, it can be created, titled and filled. And the job requirements are the same as they are worldwide: It’s all about who you know.

When Doug Overton left the Saint Joe’s bench for the NBA this year, (Coach Phil) Martelli (above)  found himself in the market for an assistant coach. “I had four or five guys call me and say, ‘Hey if you hire me, I can deliver this guy,’”  Martelli said. “It made my skin crawl.”

Coaches like to argue the chicken or the egg question — which came first, the recruit or his parent/handler/strength coach/travel team coach/Svengali? — but there’s no doubt so-called package deals smell like rotten eggs.

Michael Beasley was supposed to go to Charlotte, and in fact, had given Bobby Lutz a verbal commitment. But when Beasley’s former DC Assault coach, Dalonte Hill, left Lutz’s bench for a similar assistant’s job at Kansas State, Beasley went with him. Beasley went on to become the player of the year and Hill the associate head coach at K-State, to the tune of $400,000 a year.

Now the nation’s capital to Little Apple train is chugging along smoothly. Three other former DC Assault players (Jamar Samuels, Dominique Sutton and Ron Anderson) are on the current roster. Two more (Wally Judge and Rodney McGruder) signed letters of intent last week and will join the Wildcats next season. And DC Assault point guard Daryl Trayhnam, a member of the Class of 2010, has K-State on his short list.

For more on the surpassingly lawless Big 12, some nicely salty quotes from Martelli, and a confirmation of your general creeping sense that nothing at all in college sports is aboveboard, read the whole thing. Thanks to Brendan Flynn for the link.

The Real Shaq Revealed: Dude Loves Food

Posted in Basketball, Blogged Down at 6:06 pm by

For most of us, being impersonated isn’t that big a risk. Well, outside of identity theft, but someone in Eastern Europe trying to buy a bunch of gaudy jewelry online using my credit card doesn’t really seem like impersonation. Also, the joke’s on you, Miroslav, because my credit limit’s like $400. So obviously enjoy not getting those anklets.

At any rate, yeah: there’s no one out there authoring similarly undisciplined but not-actually-by-me blog posts under my byline. At one point, I think someone impersonated Joel Hunt and/or Rog in the CSTB comments section (I might also be imagining this), but that’s about it. Not so for Shaquille O’Neal, the ball bearing-eyed giant currently winding down the pre-law enforcement portion of his life in Phoenix. A fake Shaq was maintaining a fraudulent Twitter account. The New York Times‘ Howard Beck details what happened next.

The faux Shaq account was discovered last week by Sports Media Challenge, a consulting firm that works with O™Neal. Kathleen Hessert, the firm™s owner, was initially thrilled. She had been pushing O™Neal to Twitter with fans. She found the oddball references to the Pythagorean theorem and the Big Cactus to be very Shaq-like. œIt was a very good impersonation, Hessert said.

A closer inspection revealed the forgery. The ersatz O™Neal, for example, claimed to be sending tweets from the bench during a game ” a virtual impossibility.

That was the point, said the man who created the account. Ward Andrews, the 33-year-old Suns fan behind ShaquilleONeal, said he included the occasional outlandish claim as a tip-off. œAll the longtime followers, over 500 followers, they know it™s a joke, said Andrews, who owns a Phoenix design and marketing agency. œI really didn™t have any intent to pull people™s leg. It was just to entertain.

In response to Hessert™s complaint, Twitter pulled the plug on ShaquilleONeal this week…Hessert said she was just trying to protect the O’Neal brand.

This brand? This one? Anyway, having Shaq fire up his own Twitter feed — it’s here — was probably a pretty sharp marketing idea, although it’s perhaps inevitable that his “tweets” (ugh – ed.) are a good deal less interesting than the fake ones. In the same fringe-y way in which so many Twitter feeds are interesting, though, Shaq’s updates work as a peek inside the mind of someone who really doesn’t think about much.

Yes, Twitter is kind of designed to make everyone seem like that, but Shaq’s da-da recitation of his lunchtime sandwich orders manages — like everyone else’s — to be both transcendently dull and weirdly hypnotic. With Shaq, though, it’s in part because of his typos and tendencies to spill over the Twitter character count. This update, which is a spillover from a previous one, is probably my favorite. As the tail-end of a goofy, Shaq-ian punchline, it’s not much. By itself: still kind of the same, but genius if you squint hard enough. Thanks to Sam Frank and Jim Laakso for finding this.

Heilman : Start Me Up

Posted in Baseball at 11:40 am by

Prior to a 2008 season that dramatically reduced his trade value and made Aaron Heilman something of a pariah to Mets fans, the notion of returning the Notre Dame product to the starting rotation didn’t seem so far fetched, particularly in light of some desperate stop-gap measures employed during the recent past (Lima Time, Jason Vargas, the late Jeremi Gonzalez).  So it should come as no surprise that Heilman’s representative tells the New York Daily News’ Adam Rubin that his client is fed up with the bullpen.

“The object the entire time has never been to get out of New York,” Heilman’s agent Mark Rodgers told the Daily News. “The object is to get out of the bullpen. The most success he’s ever had as a pitcher has been as a starting pitcher. He was drafted by the Mets as a starting pitcher.”

A source with knowledge of the Mets’ internal discussions suggested there’s an organizational split about Heilman – with chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon wanting him to remain and other key front-office personnel favoring a trade.
There isn’t a shortage of teams that want Heilman as a starter, with the Rockies believed to be among at least six teams intrigued.

The Mets have remained adamant that Heilman, who turned 30 last week, will not be considered for a rotation spot. A Met official Wednesday reiterated that the organization is giving no consideration to using Heilman as a starter in ’09. That’s the case even with Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine the only established starters under the team’s control.

The last time the Mets even allowed for the possibility of Heilman moving back to the rotation came during spring training in 2006. Before that, he had spent the offseason participating in winter ball in the Dominican Republic in an attempt to regain a starting role.

He dominated in the Grapefruit League that year, with a 1.29 ERA and 11 strikeouts and no walks in 14 innings. The Mets instead awarded Brian Bannister that fifth starter’s role, albeit after the rookie posted a 0.95 ERA in the spring.

Heilman came to believe that the battle was heavily weighted against him, and that the Mets had let him go to winter ball to prepare for a starting role only to appease him.

Considering Heilman’s already under contract and no one in their right mind could be comfortable with his resuming set up duties next April, what could possibly be the harm in giving him an opportunity to win a spot in the rotation during spring training? Unless the Mets are fairly certain they’ll be signing Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett — and they might not acquire either — what have they got to lose?

Piniella to Teen Mets Fan Andrew (oh, and Ryan Dempster): “Drop Dead!”

Posted in Baseball at 11:32 am by

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella, left, talks on the mound with Cubs reliever Ryan Dempster after Dempster gave up two home runs to the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, in St. Louis. Dempter was pulled out of the game soon after, but the Cubs won 5-3. From AP Photo by Jeff Roberson.

[via AP's Jeff Roberson: Piniella, about to pull his press secretary, Ryan Dempster]

Lou Piniella took to the airwaves of WMVP-AM 1000′s Waddle and Silvy Show (see the podcast section) to refute Ryan Dempster’s comments, as amplified here by frequent CSTB commenter Andrew, that the Cubs were “unprepared” for the 2008 play-offs. Dempster finally spoke about October 2008 only after signing his 4-yr/$52-mil dollar contract with the North Side.  Andrew, to his credit, is not waiting to sign a $50-mil contract before criticizing the Cubs.  I ignored Dempster’s comments in this week’s Cubs Update, so “props,” as the kids say, to Andrew for finding this week’s buried lead.

To be sure, Piniella and Dempster haven’t always got their talking points down.  While in the bullpen, Dempster prematurely announced his rotation spot when Piniella gave it to someone else. Dempster went on to win 17 games in 2008, and while appreciated, it still feels like a fluke.  After Kerry Wood, the last thing the Cubs need is a built-in salary cap with a big contract starter who doesn’t deliver.  While I hope to be proven wrong on Dempster’s future, I am also glad to see the Cubs still in the hunt for Jake Peavy this AM.

The Trib’s Paul Sullivan reports Lou’s comments here, some added comments from Piniella on why Fukudome peaked in June.  Japanese ballplayers aren’t up to the long season here?

Cubs manager Lou Piniella disputed Ryan Dempster‘s comment that the team “underestimated how prepared you have to be” entering its best-of-five playoff series against the Dodgers.

“Look, the team was prepared,” Piniella told WMVP-AM 1000′s “Waddle and Silvy Show” on Wednesday.

Though likely unintended, Dempster’s statement reflected poorly on Piniella, who as manager is responsible for getting his team ready for the postseason. Piniella pointed to the lack of offense as the main culprit for the Cubs’ collapse, and reiterated they need more left-handed hitting to balance the lineup.

It ‘s very much alike, one through eight,” he said. “It’s right-handed, it’s power-hitting and it’s not very quick.”Add a left-handed bat and athleticism, “and the whole thing changes,” he said.While everyone has an opinion on what happened in October, Piniella said “the bottom line is we didn’t play good baseball.”As for Kosuke Fukudome‘s hitting problems, Piniella theorized the Japanese star was not in “as good a shape, core-wise,” after missing part of 2007 with an elbow injury. He also had to deal with the added length of a major-league season as compared to the Japanese League. He said the Cubs have talked about a more “Americanized” training regimen for Fukudome, though he didn’t elaborate.

Tony Romo’s Plan For America’s Homeless : Exposure To David Wain’s Directorial Chops

Posted in Cinema, Gridiron at 3:59 am by

The Dallas Morning News’ Tim MacMahon claims “a homeless man who goes by Doc” was treated to a matinee screening of “Role Models” by Cowboys QB / philanthropist Tony Romo.

Romo, who confirmed the story but didn’t want to elaborate, waved Doc over to sit by him and his friend. Doc sheepishly mentioned that he hadn’t showered in a few days.

“Don’t worry about that,” Romo said. “I’m used to locker rooms.”

And so the $67 million quarterback and a man who doesn’t have $6.70 to his name sat next to each other and shared laughs for 90 minutes or so.

For Romo “ who made news by changing a couple’s tire on a roadside on the way home the night of the season opener “ it was just another kind gesture to a random stranger. It meant the world to Doc.

“For me, it was a blessing,” Doc said. “It came at just the right time. It gave me some encouragement and faith in mankind. I just wanted to say thank you.”

While this is a sweet tale just prior to Thanksgiving, ’tis worth pondering that if Romo didn’t want this story publicized, perhaps other Cowboys stars have made similar gestures.  Who amongst us can say for certain that Troy Aikman never did anything nice for a stranger in a movie theatre?


Will Leitch On That Huge Waste Of Money, Pedro Martinez

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism, Will Leitch Sucks at 10:17 pm by

Pedro Martinez all but lobbying for a new Mets contract is a slightly depressing proposition ; it’s unlikely the talismanic pitcher will return to Flushing, his dominant performances in ’05 and the first half of ’06 being a very distant memory compared to the past couple of injury plagued campaigns.  “Four years wasn™t too much to give Pedro. Two, it seems, was pushing it” scolds NY Magazine’s self-proclaimed lifelong Cardinals fans Will Leitch.

“Conventional wisdom still says that the trade was crucial because it œlegitimized the Mets, making the team seem more serious and attractive to free agents. Here™s a more logical theory: The reason free agents came to Shea was because the Mets offered more money than anybody else. Every big-timer the Mets scooped up ” Carlos Beltran (2005), Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado (2006), Johan Santana and Luis Castillo (2008) ” were showered with cash. 2007, when they brought in no free agents, was the year they were outbid for Daisuke Matsuzaka and Barry Zito.

And about the wisdom of all these signings: Pedro™s early œsuccess fooled the Mets into thinking big-name players were all it took to become champions. (Or become the Yankees ” whatever.) Thus: Beltran, solid; Wagner, destroyed by injuries; Delgado, initially effective and then a mess until the second half of last season; Santana, outstanding ” for now, just like Pedro in his first season ” and with five more years to go; and Castillo, horrific, and with three more years to go. The team spent a ton of money with no World Series to show for it. Once those contracts end, odds are that the Mets will breathe the same sighs of relief that they are now with Pedro leaving.

Not for the first time, Leitch’s take on the New York sporting scene seems utterly confused.  The “trade” Will refers to was in fact, Martinez signing with the Mets as a free agent after fulfilling his contractual obligations to Boston.  Of the “big-timers the Mets scooped up”, Johan Santana and Luis Castillo were each acquired via trades.  And while Omar Minaya failed to land Barry Zito….are we to believe that was a bad thing?

Leitch is correct in stating there’s no worthwhile silverware in the Wilpon trophy cabinet to show for all their largesse, but signing Martinez was a viable way to show Beltran (just slightly better than “solid” during his Mets tenure, assuming you’ve actually seen him play), if not a depressed fanbase, the club was serious about contending (at least according to New York Magazine).  There’s also the matter of the money-spinning SNY and the construction of Citi Field, neither of which might’ve come to fruition without Pedro’s arrival, but I’m willing to let that slide.  Will’s done some amazing things in his time, but making Omar Minaya seem like a sympathetic figure in November of 2009 has to be on the top of the pile.

Jags’ Williamson To Vikes’ Childress : Let’s Meet At The 50 Yard Line

Posted in Gridiron at 9:47 pm by

Former Vikings / current Jaguars WR Troy Williamson felt free sharing his animus for Minnesota head coach Brad Childress (above) with the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Sean Jensen, but went just a bit further within earshot of the Orlando Sentinel’s Tania Ganguil prior to Jacksonville and Minnesota’s meeting next Sunday.

“I mean, if I could duke it out with coach Childress, that™d be a different story,” Williamson said. “But other than that this is just another game to play on Sunday.”

Williamson brought that up again twice on his own accord. He even asked us to let Vikings Coach Brad Childress know that he wanted to meet him at the 50-yard line. The best part? Williamson probably isn’t going to play on Sunday. He hasn’t been cleared by doctors after a groin injury.

“That™s why I said me and coach Childress can meet at the 50 yard line so I can get my work in on Sunday,” Williamson said.

Jags Coach Jack Del Rio didn’t have a problem with Williamson spouting off. He’s not sure that’s bulletin board material. After all…

“I haven™t seen many guys go after the coach and that become an issue,” Del Rio said, laughing. “So unless that™s going to motivate Brad to play harder I™m not going to worry.”

“He probably wouldn’t have to run very fast to catch him,”
Del Rio added.

Q-Rich To Celts : Let’s See How Tough You Are At Pottery Barn

Posted in Basketball at 4:20 pm by

Jonathan Abrams has a funny piece in Wednesday’s New York Times about the excessive grunting & howling that happens during most Association contests (œanytime anybody goes to a hoop, they yell or scream”), with an increasingly vocal percentage of players trying to draw fouls.  Though the trend is more noticeable than bothersome, I would submit there’s at least one member of the New York Knicks making far too much noise in the locker room — G Quentin Richardson, as quoted in this morning’s Boston Globe after last night’s loss to the Celtics :

“I think a few of those guys know they can™t just say anything to us,” said Richardson. “I™m just real curious to see what those guys will be saying if we weren™t in a basketball league, and didn™t have referees. I mean it wouldn™t be the same story. I mean they are the world champions and rah-rah-rah, but the tough part I don™t factor. I come from a neighborhood where you can say what you want to say, but ’til you do something, it don™t mean nothing. Some of those guys are happy to get a ring, but you ain™t been in the league long enough to talk to people like that. I don™t have a lot of respect for that. Like I said, I™d be curious to hear what they have to say in a different setting, I™d be very curious to see that.

If Q wasn’t in a basketball league, precisely in what setting would he have a beef with Leon Powe or Rajon Rondo?  The queue at Home Depot? A late night screening of “Bolt”?  Much as I’d like to see the Knicks capable of holding their own in a rivarly with the Celtics, but Boston already did something, while making portions of the last regular season look pretty easy in the process.