Two Thursdays ago, I was pulled over halfway between Houston and Austin, returning home from the Lil’ Wayne show at the Toyota Center. The patrolman asked if there was a particular reason I was in such a hurry, and while he was checking my license and registration, I asked my fellow passengers what the correct answer should’ve been.
“Yes Officer, I’m in love.” was one of the better suggestions from the peanut gallery.
While I still think that was a great answer, I am thrilled to learn that Charles Barkley — even while (allegedly) drunk — is even more of a smart ass.
(above, Hawks fans, sufficiently impressed by their team’s strong start, stick around to watch a whale shark devour Mike Bibby)
Promising that “you’ll be shocked” when the free market determines the scalper prices for the Great Depression of 2009′s Super Bowl, March Madness and Dayton 500, The New Republic‘s Darren Rovell kids, “just wait until Fan Appreciation Night at the ballpark this fall. You might get a hug and kiss for showing up.” That’s great news for Jay “Hot Lips” Horowitz, but what about the rest of us?
This year, the Milwaukee Bucks are giving you a chance to watch the league’s top three teams–the Celtics, Cavs, and Lakers–for $69 total. (They’re even throwing in a Kareem Abdul Jabbar bobblehead.) The Atlanta Hawks are letting you pick any four games for $80, and they’ll even include a ticket to the aquarium, the zoo, and a $20 concession voucher. Other teams like the Denver Nuggets and the Orlando Magic are folding in playoff priority with these packages. Playoff priority used to be the exclusive domain of VIPS and season ticket holders, but teams are so eager for fans that if you purchase a small package of games, you’ll get a chance to nab seats to the postseason before the public does. It’s not like these teams are horrible either. Orlando and Denver both lead their divisions in the standings.
Some ticket prices are just downright stupid. The Colorado Rockies, one season removed from a World Series appearance, are selling centerfield bleacher seats to kids and seniors for $1, while the Pittsburgh Pirates will allow you to pick any ten games you want to go to (except Opening Day and the series against the Cleveland Indians) for as low as $7.20 a game. Even the NFL playoffs will be a steal. In November the league decided to discount the face value of playoff ticket prices by ten percent in the face of the economic challenges ahead.
Rovell’s general point — that recent economic upheaval has provided opportunity for sports bargain hunters — is solid enough, however we’re not hearing nearly so much about price breaks on parking and concessions. Of the many examples cited, Atlanta’s casual support of pro sports predates the current recession, and the Pirates —28th out of 30 MLB clubs in paid attendance in 2008 — might well have offered such a package even in a healthy economic climate. It’s true enough the Rockies are a season removed from an NL pennant, but next spring they’ll be a winter removed from a 74-88 finish.
(the wrong Gaylord, but a glass of white wine is a nice touch, just the same)
I’ve somehow resisted the charms of a defensive battle between Oregon State and Pitt (and to be honest Dave Wannstedt looks like he’d rather be taking himself out of contention for the Jets job than actually coaching this snoozer). Instead, the appetizer to several days of football-glug-glug-football is the 9-4 Boston College WZBC’s having a very hard time getting untracked against 6-6 Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl. Win or lose, Buster Olney’s alma matter should be ashamed their homefield advantage extends beyond the game’s venue to the host sponsor, Gaylord Hotels, previously described by Keith Law as “Hell’s Outhouse”. If the Eagles can’t turn this one around, they’ll become the first team to lose a bowl game to Vandy since the 1955 Auburn squad that was suffered a Gator Bowl defeat.
The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that former Michigan defensive coordinator Scott Schafer signed an agreement precluding him from “demeaning or disparaging” the Wolverines as part of his resignation package. So much for a new career in sportswriting, then.
The NFL Network’s coverage of the Insight Bowl featuring Minnesota and Kansas just kicked off a few minutes ago, but not before what seemed like far too much face time for Jayhawks head coach Mark Mangino. The sound was turned off in the bar to accomodate the exciting throng watching an 8 day old replay of TCU’s Poinsetta Bowl victory, but I always like to imagine Mangino sounds exactly like Don Rickles’ impersonation of Marcel Marceau.
“Of all the teenage, made-for-cable, serially sponsored college football games for teams that either belly flopped in November (longtime number one Penn State in 1999, defending national champ Texas in 2006) or got jilted by a bowl older than Miley Cyrus (11-1 Kansas State in 1998), San Antonio™s indoor contest is my absolute favorite,” I wrote in Texas Monthly last month, and I guess I wasn’t kidding – Monday was my third trip to the Alamo Bowl.
Neither team fit into those categories this year, even if Mizzou was once a BCS contender. Certainly if you’d told me in September that Northwestern would hold its own against the pre-season #5, or even get a chance to play them, I would have been delighted. In the end, both schools were right where they belonged. Northwestern may have even been a little overrated, having ducked Penn State and Wisconsin this year (not that the Badgers would have necessarily beat them); at the same time, if they’d played a better game against Michigan State, they might have made it where the Spartans did, the Citrus.
Meanwhile, the Outback’s preference for Iowa, a team the Wildcats beat, was vindicated by the Alamo’s attendance, which couldn’t have been more than 45-50,000 actual (announced was 55,000+). The economy aside, it’s nothing more than math: a private school with 8100 undergraduates will only ever bring one-third to one-half the fan base as a state school.
This was, as the headline of this post suggests, good news for the two-man CSTB contingent. In fact, had I been a bit more eBay-conscientious, we could have had four tickets for no more than a total of three bucks. Neither of us wore purple, though we admired folks who broke out TCU and Vikings gear (Prince t-shirts would have been another option).
Unlike Vegas or the pundits, I expected a good game (or I sure as hell wouldn’t have attended, having been there in 2000 for the 66-17 Nebraska beating). Missouri was an even bigger favorite against Kansas, and they lost (and gave up 40 points). Texas was an even bigger favorite in the 2006 Alamo Bowl, and almost lost. Rivalries and bowls are both extremely unpredictable.
But, alas, Missouri’s superior talent allowed them to overcome more mistakes. They also played the run much better in the second half. Pat Fitzgerald may not care about a moral victory, but it was pretty crazy that NU could outright dominate much of a game in which they spotted that offense 15-20 yards of field position every kickoff. Then of course, they let a punt get played by Jeremy Maclin, and the game began anew.
Great night for C.J. Bacher (above), who outplayed Daniel. Crazy to think that Missouri’s kicker, who couldn’t seal the deal in regulation, is the most accurate in NCAA history. Awful that the Cats lost Corey Wooton towards the end, not because he might have made the difference (though he might have further delayed the inevitable) but because it was the turf that got him, and the prognosis isn’t good. And oh yeah – the Wildcats missed an extra point.
As I said in Texas Monthly, a bowl like this is just an extra inter-conference game – the kind that schools don’t schedule for September nearly as often as they should. Everybody left the building entertained, the Wildcats fans included – sorry Pat, but I do think that there’s still an element of “just happy to be here” for the moment. Give us a few more nine-win seasons (and that long-awaited bowl triumph), and not only will our expectations rise, we’ll even start to second-guess you.
Most of all, I enjoyed watching the NU sideline. Fitzgerald coaches like he just might sub in for the middle linebacker at any time (he could easily be penalized for going too far on the field). He also outworks Willie the Wildcat pumping up the crowd. And the players couldn’t have been any more intense and overjoyed if they had been in Pasadena.
So I’ve now attended as many Northwestern Alamo Bowls as I have Northwestern games when I was a Northwestern student. What can I say – it wasn’t just that they were awful, it was that the team I grew up watching still came first. In fact, I am now off to a Penn State pep rally at Beverly Hills High. Just might fire up the Twitter feed for that (and maybe at the Rose Bowl too).
While the blogosphere’s hoops intelligentsia are occupied with watching the Magic open up a 27 point halftime advantage over the Bulls (15 points, 13 rebounds for Dwight Howard thus far), I’m instead gazing at the Nets’ visit to Detroit. Jersey’s Yi Jianlian (above) was substituted in favor of Eduardo Najera pretty early on, a decision that presumably met with the approval of the Newark Star-Ledger’s Dave D’Alessandro, who declared of the Chinese powerless F earlier today, “his offense has almost sunk to the level of his defense, which was already excruciating…(Lawrence Frank) already knows that the moment teams see Yi lining up as the starting 4, it’s an open invitation to bend the rim.”
The thing that we find most bizarre is this obsessive commitment to Yi lately. It’s pretty clear that the kid has regressed in the last month – now he hits the wall in December, not January? – and if the coach is seeing something the rest of us are missing, we wish he’d share it.
His last 10 games — 6.2 points on 30.2 percent, neither figure a misprint – aren’t exactly what you can live with from a starter. He’s still the softest finisher in the league, he’s too timid for the position, and his confidence is shot.
Sure, he has to play. But no, he doesn’t have to play a lot – not while Eddie Najera is gathering dust, anyway.
Three times in the last eight days we’ve asked about Najera, and each inquiry received the same response we got today: “You know what he can do, and I’m just looking to incorporate it with what we do,” the coach said.
Actually, we haven’t a clue what he can do, because he’s played 81 minutes in two months. The last cameo was a three-minute stint against the Bobs Friday, when he seemed to bust a play (he scored anyway, if memory serves) and came right out.
That’s not what he signed up for. It’s time to pull him out of mothballs – or move him. Here’s an idea: Send Eddie to his hometown of Oklahoma City, throw Sean Williams into the deal, and see if the Thunder will hand over Joe Smith, who is the victim of another dubious youth movement.
Not so coincidentally, Smith’s name has popped up elsewhere this week, with the Celtics expressing interest and the Magic expressing, er, non-interest.
I’m not sure who The New York Post’s Marc Berman thought he was punishing by boycotting his own blog following the Knicks’ loss to lowly Minnesota last Friday night, but the morning after New York’s 93-89 defeat of Charlotte, Berman’s rounded up a somewhat prominent replacement. Ladies and Gentleman, now blogging for the Post, the former (self-described) No. 1 Point Guard In The NBA, Stephon Marbury.
I sat on the bench for a whole month and didn’t say one word. It wasn’t easy because I love to play but that’s the nature of the biz. Then they made a trade and needed 8 guys and coach told me he had a certain number of minutes. I was cool. My jersey was never hung in my locker though so I never refused to play. Things were never handled properly.
Through it all, I respected their business position to go in another direction just like they have to respect my business position that I have a contract and obligated to pay me. It’s the principle of the whole thing. It’s really not about the money but it’s about the money. Feel me?
While everybody was talking this and that about me being in LA as a distraction at the Lakers game, I was out there meeting a shipment overseas with my new product. I went to the game because I wanted to see the game. Al Harrington is one of my closest friends so I wanted to see him as well. It’s tough watching other players on the floor when you want to be out there on the court but I had to endure it and shift some of my focus to business and getting outside of my self by helping others.
I’m far from perfect but I always follow my heart so I know my path is true. We’re gonna make mistakes but how can you grow if you never have the opportunity to move past your mistakes. I don’t know where this is headed, but in time it will be resolved. In the meantime, I wish everybody out there a safe and Happy New Year in the greatest city on earth.
(not, we should stress, a recent photograph)
From the Arizona Republic :
Charles Barkley was arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving early Wednesday morning in Scottsdale, Gilbert police said.
An officer with a law enforcement task force that targets drunken driving saw the former NBA star run a stop sign around 1:30 a.m., said Gilbert police Lt. Eric Shuhandler.
Barkley declined to submit to a breath test but was given a blood test. The results have not come in.
After Barkley was processed, he was cited and released. He left in a cab, Shuhandler said.
Shuhandler said there was nothing remarkable about Barkley’s arrest and that it is customary to release people after they’ve been arrested on suspicion of DUI.
“Most of us have experienced dreams or nightmares on the same repeated themes, whether it’s falling from precipitous heights, sitting an exam without revision or going to work with no clothes on,” muses an uncredited When Saturday Comes Daily scribe. “For Chris Hutchings, however, the nightmare is a reality. He keeps being appointed as a football manager as successor to his friend Paul Jewell, only to be sacked soon afterwards, then hired again as Jewell’s assistant at another club.” Indeed, corporal punishment enthusiast Jewell is out of work yet again, and WSC is very quick to offer an alternative to Derby County’s
inexplicable alleged interest in Paul Ince.
If Nigel Clough (above) were to leave the current Conference leaders Burton Albion to take on either of the clubs with whom Brian Clough won League titles it would be only the fourth time that a club has been managed by father and son. The most recent case was Kevin Bond whose turbulent spell at Bournemouth fell a long way short of emulating his father John’s record there in the early 1970s. The other two instances both involved Fulham. Harry and Joe Bradshaw were in charge at Craven Cottage in the decade either side of World War One while the two Bill Dodgins, senior and junior, both managed the club between the late 1940s and early 1970s – Dodgin junior was also one of his dad’s successors at Brentford during that period.
While Derby and Forest can both lay claim to the elder Clough, Nigel’s direct ties are to the latter, with whom he spent the best years of his career, winning fourteen England caps. If he is considering a move to the City Ground, the recent travails of of another former England player may give him pause for thought. Paul Ince moved up three levels in going from MK Dons to Blackburn in August and, irrespective of whether he was given enough time, he clearly found the gap a difficult one to breach. Nigel Clough had an indifferent start to his spell at Burton who finished in the bottom half of the Conference in his first three seasons in charge, but his side has steadily improved over the last three years and currently hold a seven point lead at the top. Clough has had five years more experience in management than Ince but they have all been at the same level, three steps below the Championship.
As long as you’re not married to him, starter Derek Lowe has been one of the more dependable pitchers in the big leagues over the past decade. Reliability, however, is not a word often associated with the enigmatic Oliver Perez, whom according to the New York Times’ Jack Curry, might not receive a contract offer from the Mets.
After methodically studying the starting pitchers left on the free-agent market, the Mets have determined that Derek Lowe would be the best addition to their club. The Mets have shown that by offering Lowe a three-year contract for about $36 million, according to people who have been briefed on the discussions.
The Mets do not want to offer Lowe more than three guaranteed years, so if he holds firm in his pursuit of five years and $90 million, he may not be close to signing. Lowe, who turns 36 in June, has averaged more than 200 innings and 15 wins the last seven seasons.
When the Mets pursued the free agent Francisco RodrÃguez, they benefited from being one of the only teams willing to spend for a closer. Before the season ended, there was speculation that RodrÃguez would get a $75 million deal. The Mets signed RodrÃguez for about half that, giving him a three-year, $37 million deal.
The Mets are hoping the same happens with Lowe, and that he eventually falls to them for less than the $18 million a year he is seeking. Boras would not say how many teams had made offers to Lowe, but he said there were more teams involved in talks with Lowe than a week ago.
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer reports the Cubs are very close to swapping starter Jason Marquis for Rockies’ reliever Luis Vizcaino, with a a bid for free agent OF Milton Bradley being Jim Hendry’s next move after Marquis’ salary is off the books. If Wittenmyer is correct about the Bradley acquisition, the Cubs will become Milton’s 7th team in 10 years. Which cap will he don on his Anger Management Hall Of Fame Plaque?