12.28.08

Justice : Selig, MLB Turn A Blind Eye To Violence Against Women

Posted in "Wife Beater" Is Not A Fashion Statement, Baseball at 3:05 pm by

Along with remind us that Bud Selig had little to say regarding Brett Myers’ sparring session on a Boston sidewalk, the Sporting News’ Richard Justice muses, “San Diego’s Brian Giles certainly isn’t the first professional athlete to be accused of slapping a woman. What makes his case unique is that the alleged incident in 2006 was captured on video. And it’s chilling.”

The incident with a former girlfriend, Cheri Olvera, was settled in 2006 when Giles was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. He completed anger-management counseling, and the charges were dropped.

But the incident is back in the news, as the video was recently released when Olvera filed suit about financial support she said was promised her.

It’s impossible to watch the video without getting chills. Thanks to a security camera, we see Giles walk into a bar and approach Olvera. In a stunning few seconds, he appears to pull her hair and slap or shove her.

Giles should thank his lucky stars he’s not an NFL player. He would have had a Roger Goodell-imposed suspension coming and could have counted on his union to support that suspension.

Players are suspended for testing positive for steroids. Players are suspended for testing positive for recreational drugs. Players can be suspended for corking a bat, scuffing a ball or refusing a manager’s orders.

So why not suspend a player for an act everyone agrees is despicable?

I’d like to imagine the Padres will have a hard time finding a taker for Giles, and surveillance video of his manhandling a pregnant girlfriend won’t help matters.  On the other hand, such incidents were mere speed bumps in the careers of Myers, Wil Cordero or Bobby Cox

If Mike Tomlin Thought Santa Claus Was A Pain In The Ass…

Posted in Gridiron at 2:41 pm by

….wait ’til he contends with a week’s worth (if not an entire offseason) of questions concerning his decision to leave QB Ben Roethlisberger in today’s meaningless tilt with the Browns deep into the 2nd quarter.  Big Ben ended up as the meat in a D’well Jackson / Willie McGinest sandwich, his status for the playoffs obviously in jeopardy.

On the bright side, if Roethlisberger suffered a serious concussion, there’s no chance he’s been watching the 2nd half of today’s Chiefs/Bengals game, nor did he have to witness Vince Young’s first start since Week One aka National Jim Sorgi Day.

12.27.08

File Sharers Vanity Rockers Are Killing The Music Industry (And The New York Knicks)

Posted in Basketball at 8:50 pm by

Writes Charles Star of the above competition, “this came up in my Google news feed and I couldn’t think of anyone who would appreciate it more.”   I think he’s referring to me, personally, though I really have an eye on the competition’s 2nd prize, a hardbound copy of “How To Play Defense”, autographed by Mike D’Antoni and Nate Robinson.

When Kickers & Punters Emulate Football Players

Posted in Gridiron at 7:06 pm by

(Chiefs K Jan Stenerud, waxing his skis for a downhill run ready to lay someone out)

While the Giants’ Jeff Feagles is credited with a mere 11 tackles in 15 NFL seasons, the New York Times’ Judy Battista suggests the NY punter may soon be considered an anachronism, claiming “the most recent generation of kickers and punters seems to have made a philosophical choice to reject its reputation and dive into the pile.”

In November, Jacksonville punter Adam Podlesh proved the folly of having a kicker channel his inner Ray Lewis when he sustained a season-ending knee injury in his money leg while trying to make a tackle. Podlesh said he had since experienced fleeting thoughts that maybe he should avoid tackling to keep himself healthy. Then again, he doubts he will shy away next season.

œIt™s kind of cool getting down there and living the glory days of high school, said Podlesh, who was a starting linebacker in high school and has been relatively prolific with five tackles the past two seasons. œAt the same time, it™s also a job. In my mind, I might as well try. One thing I don™t like is people questioning my effort.

Pride seems to drive all of those kickers and punters in their quests to stop returners, who are usually the best athletes on the field. After all, nobody wants to flail at a returner. Kickers note that the sideline erupts when they make a tackle; a routine field goal means a pat on the back, at most.

Kickers and punters were once tough guys, like Lou Groza and Jerry Kramer, who also played on the offensive line. But the arrival in the 1960s and ™70s of foreign-born soccer-style kickers, few of whom had ever played American football, was soon accompanied by plenty of laughs.

Before a preseason game against the Chiefs in the 1970s, the returner George Atkinson of the Raiders joked with Kansas City kicker Jan Stenerud, who did not play football until his senior year of college, that he was not a real player because he never tackled anybody. Stenerud tackled Atkinson twice during that game.

Stenerud said an angry John Madden, the Raiders™ coach at the time, was said to have asked this about Atkinson, œHow could you get tackled twice by a Norwegian skier?

Les Miles’ Secret Recruiting Weapon: Maid Service

Posted in College Spurts, Gridiron, Lower Education at 7:06 pm by

Lots of good stuff in Thayer Evans’ long-haul New York Times piece on the recruitment of Lufkin, TX lineman Jamarkus McFarland. There’s talk of nudity, interest-free loans, excessive alcohol consumption, too-flirty recruiting hostesses and Hummer limos – hardly shocking. And since the story is about a player who committed to, and was seemingly recruited with more care by, the University of Oklahoma, you might say that it has a slant. But what stands out most is how the University of Texas comes off as both arrogant and socially inept about a player who was seemingly the Horns’ to lose.

Before the visit, [McFarland's mother, Kashemeyia] Adams called Texas and asked to speak with Brown. The associate head coach, Mac McWhorter, told her that she could talk only to him.

That bothered her because she had wanted to talk to Brown and commend him for the Longhorns™ dismissal of a player who had posted a racial slur on his Facebook page about President-elect Barack Obama.

During the trip, Adams said, she asked Brown about the Obama slur, and was told that the player had to be dismissed because the F.B.I. had become involved.

After Texas beat Baylor that weekend, McFarland and his mother ate dinner at Brown™s home. Flat-screen televisions were in every room, and there were two outside.

œWhose house do you like better, Bob Stoops™s, Les Miles™s or mine? Adams recalled Brown saying…

Now, I’m guessing Mack Brown meant to be more humorous than pompous in that instance. But why not tell her what she wanted to hear regarding Buck Burnette?


Bob Stoops, by contrast, later came to Lufkin and watched Beauty Shop with mom and Grandma.

Texas made another visit to McFarland™s school, but again, they did not see Adams.

After the visit, Adams received an e-mail message from Brown. œIt is obvious that the recruiting has put a strain on your relationship, the message said. œJaMac wants Texas, and Mom wants OU. We want you to still come to Texas, but we are going to slow our process down because you two need some time to get on the same page. We do not want players at Texas if everyone isn™t on the same page.

In the same message, Brown wrote that Texas would not visit again unless requested.

McFarland™s mother and grandmother were offended.

œThat™s tacky to me, Adams said. œYou™re basically telling my kid to just go against his parents.

Actually it sounds like UT may have actively decided that the parents were no longer worth the trouble (or four years of trouble), though they continued to recruit McFarland. And they could well do so up until the 4th of February, but I’d say the very existence of this article makes that rather unlikely.

Coincidentally, this is the second year in a row Evans’ chosen subject jilts UT.

York College Grapplers Want You To Know They Had No Fun Whatsoever While Contracting Herpes

Posted in College Spurts, Medical Science, The Law at 5:34 pm by

“Inside the humid confines of college wrestling practice, grapplers spend hours banging heads, grinding faces into the mat and contorting into uncomfortable positions. They spill a little blood and leave puddles of sweat” writes the Philadelphia Daily News’ Jason Nark, setting the scene for a medical tragedy (and getting several CSTB readers aroused in the process).  York College’s James Harris, a former wrestler for the school’s Division III squad is “afraid that people will think he contracted herpes from a prostitute, instead of at wrestling practice.”  Much as I want to sympathize with Harris’ plight, what’s up with disparaging prostitutes? Aren’t their jobs difficult enough without being accused of fucking amateur wrestlers?

“I feel uncleansed,” said Harris, 23, a former standout wrestler for Winslow Township High School, in Camden County. “There’s a stigma attached to it.”

Harris and two other ex-wrestlers – Andrew Bradley, of Delaware, and Alex Binder, of Maryland – are suing York College of Pennsylvania, in York County, claiming that coaches knew that a teammate had contracted herpes simplex virus Type 1, yet allowed him to continue wrestling and infecting others during the fall of 2006.

The lawsuit, filed last month in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, contends that the coaching staff disregarded NCAA guidelines and actually “required” the wrestlers to engage in practice with open lesions wrapped in gauze.

Although the York wrestling team made each infected wrestler sit out for three days, NCAA guidelines dictate that athletes with active herpes outbreaks must not compete, even with bandages, until a five-day anti-viral treatment is completed.

Harris, who recently graduated from York, said that at one point roughly 70 percent of the team – or about 25 wrestlers – had contracted herpes, which is treatable but not curable.

Not to make light of a very serious story, but I’m pleased to finally read a story that features the words “wrestling” and “herpes” without once mentioning Buddy Landell.

Del Negro : Spoelstra Needs To Learn Garbage Time Etiquette

Posted in Basketball at 3:24 pm by

What could justify Miami’s Erik Spoelstra calling a time out with little more than a half minute to play in last night’s 90-77 blowout of Da Bulls?  Other than, y’know, checking on his eBay bid for a copy of The Eat’s “Communist Radio”.  Instead, the Heat’s head coach insisted to the Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman, “I wanted to get our starters out”, but his Chicago counterpart — who lost the services of Luol Deng earlier in the night — isn’t buying it.

“They had some guys at the scorers’ table,” Spoelstra said.  “I wasn’t clearly doing anything to show anybody up. That is a common practice in the NBA. I wanted to get our guys out, just in case something crazy would happen, and it allowed them to get their subs in, too.”

The Bulls didn’t see it that way. During that timeout huddle, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro could be seen imploring his players to, “Remember this!”

After the game, Del Negro first said sarcastically, “They were just calling timeout to set up a play or something.”

He continued, “I don’t know what they were doing. There’s 30 seconds to go in the game. They’re up 15 or 13 or whatever. But, whatever, we’ll play them again.”

Replay showed no substitutes waiting at the scorers’ table for the Bulls, nor did Chicago substitute during that break.

“I don’t know why they’re all fired up,” Spoelstra said. “If they want to make a big deal about it, whatever.”

Winderman points out there was a prior stoppage of play with 1:20 remaining, so there was an earlier opportunity for Spoelstra to make his moves.

Rosenberg On The Lions’ Date With History

Posted in Gridiron at 1:06 pm by

Detroit’s Cherilus Godser calls tomorrow’s trip to Green Bay, “our Super Bowl”, a rather curious way of looking at things for the 0-15 Lions, as the Super Bowl is generally played several weeks after the regular season….between two teams with winning records. The Detroit Free Press’ Michael Rosenberg isn’t having a tough time finding the humor in all of this, acknowledging Detroit’s announcement of a price cut on ’09 club seats by sneering “I was not even aware they were selling the club seats before, because as far as I can tell, nobody ever sits in them. I always wondered why they built a storage facility for La-Z-Boy in the middle of Ford Field, but I was too embarrassed to ask about it.”

As the Lions head to the frozen grass of Lambeau, though, I wonder: Could they (accidentally) win this game?

We are trying to calm ourselves by remembering that the Packers are one of the best 5-10 teams in the history of the league, which sounds like faint praise, but the Lions would KILL for that kind of honor.

Despite their record, the Packers have actually outscored their opponents by 29 points. For comparison’s sake: the Arizona Cardinals, who have clinched their division, have been outscored by 12 points.

Possibly in an attempt to ease our concerns, Lions coach Rod Marinelli promised this week that the Packers will use a lot of personnel packages and try to spread the field.

This means that Green Bay can match its third and fourth receivers against the Lions’ fifth and sixth defensive backs, and the genius of the strategy is that the Lions don’t actually have six defensive backs. This will force the Lions to burn all their time-outs while they scan the stands for anybody who looks like they can play safety.

The strategy should work. The Lions have the worst pass defense in the league by a mile, and Aaron Rodgers, statistically, is the fourth-best quarterback the Lions have faced this season.

Rodgers could be third-best by the end of the day. And the Lions should be 0-16. Nothing is Possible, or as Al Michaels might say: Do you believe in Nothing? Yes!

For Graham Le’Saux, It’s Too Little, Too Late : The FA’s Anti-Homophobia Campaign

Posted in Football, Mob Behavior, Organized Hate, social crusaders at 12:40 pm by

From ANI.com :

A video showing football stars speaking out against homophobia will be released next year as part of an unprecedented drive by the sport’s governing bodies to tackle a sharp rise in abuse and discrimination.

The video will be shown in cinemas, on TV and in stadiums in an attempt to rid terraces and pitches of homophobic chants and slurs, The Guardian reported.

The Football Association (FA), the Professional Footballers’ Association, the players’ union, Kick It Out, the sport’s diversity and inclusion campaign, and Peter Tatchell, of gay rights group Outrage, began work on plans for the video.

It is hoped that up to a dozen players, including David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, David James, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole and Cristiano Ronaldo, will be persuaded to take part.

The video is due to be released in March 2009 and could be shown in schools if the FA wins the backing of the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

If some old allegations by former Chelsea punching bag/Guardian reader Graham Le’Saux are credible, Becks is a curious choice for this campaign.

Dodgers Consider Radio Appointment Bound To Boost Cable TV Ratings

Posted in Baseball, Sports TV at 2:49 am by

It’s been a trying offseason for Dodger fans, with LA being a non-factor in the free agency market thus far and Julie McCourt suggesting Manny Money could be better spent on playgrounds.  None of that, however, matches the following item in terms of terror potential, as the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintino reports Jeanne Zelasko hopes to become the Dodgers’ new radio play-by-play announcer (link swiped from Baseball Think Factory).

A position became available when Charlie Steiner, who did 40 games a year on cable, had his role redefined. Fox, meanwhile, canceled the baseball pregame show she hosted with Kevin Kennedy due to the loss of advertising revenue.

“I love everybody I work with and would do it until I fell out of the chair, and I love sports,” she said. “But this is an interesting time for me as I try to figure out, ‘OK, what’s next?’

“There is an opening for the Dodgers . . . so I have been beating down their door a little bit.”

Zelasko said it is understandable that the Dodgers asked her if she ever had done baseball play-by-play – the answer is no – but she had that role for ice-skating and gymnastics competitions.

“But I’ve been around baseball for a very long time, and Kevin Kennedy, who should be managing somewhere, taught me more about that the game than I think most people could even consider. I was blessed to be next to him for eight years. So I’m excited. I don’t know if they’ll bite.”

She knows the experience and gender factors are not in her favor, but she has conquered the odds before. She was the first female reporter to walk the NASCAR pits, and she has handled other “firsts” with relative ease.

“Honestly, I have walked on this thin ice before with anything I’ve ever done in my broadcasting career,” she said. “As I was telling the Dodgers, I would never ask for something I thought I would fail at. I think it’s gonna take the right woman at the right time, and if I may be so bold, I believe that person’s me.”

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth Server To Be Plugged Back In

Posted in Blogged Down, Internal Affairs, Merry Fucking Christmas at 1:18 am by

First off, I hope you all had a terrific holiday. Much as I’d like to claim I did my part by denying you a escape-the-family-valve in the form of 3rd hand sports gossip/news/griping, CSTB’s record breaking two days AWOL had less to do with your editor’s laziness and totally down to a denial of service attack launched by Colin Cowherd billing issue we’ve thankfully resolved.

Normal service will resume just as soon as I can remember which room I watch television in.

12.24.08

Eggers Considers What’s In A (Nick)Name

Posted in Basketball, Free Expression, Sports Journalism at 7:31 pm by

When Blazers mouthpiece Brian Wheeler calls Brandon Roy (above), “The Natural”, the Tribune’s Kerry Eggers frowns. “The problem is, the nickname™s not exactly original. Sport™s ‘Naturals’ already have included the likes of Robert Redford, Randy Couture, Jeff Francouer “ and I™m probably missing somebody.” Hey, if Ric Flair wants to put Kerry in the figure four, that’s totally his call.  But Eggers is thinking oh-so-clearly in bemoaning the scourge of “this first-initial, last name thing” (“anything but B-Roy, D-Wade, T-Law, T-Mac, J-Kidd and C-Webb…we need to erradicate it like smallpox.”)

Greg Anderson was allegedly called œCadillac because he rode his bicycle to and from campus at the University of Houston. Wouldn™t œSchwinn have been more appropriate?

I like John œHondo Havlicek, Cedric œCornbread Maxwell, Dennis œWorm Rodman, Robert œChief Parish and œDr. J (Julius Erving) and œThe Big O, Oscar Robertson. You gotta love Sam œBig Smooth Perkins and Lionel œL-Train Hollins (and Simmons) and the two John Williams “ œHot Rod and œHot Plate.

There™s a dearth of good ones in the big leagues these days, though. Most of them have to do with size (Big Unit, Big Papi, Big Hurt). I™m OK with K-Rod, given the play off A-Rod and Francisco Rodriguez™s strikeout capacity.

Today™s NBA?

œHalf Man, Half Amazing for a younger Vince Carter was inventive. And œThe Chosen One for LeBron James, whom some people are now calling œLBJ “ not bad.

But K.G.? G.O.? L.A.? Please.

Can™t we do better than that?

Yeah, well, I’d like to think so, too.

Happy Birthday CSTB Employee of the Year Gerard Cosloy!

Posted in Internal Affairs at 7:02 pm by

http://www.thismoment.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/blog/odd.jpg

[Mr. Cosloy, pictured, receiving late breaking news of a new Mushnick column.]

An internet adult friend finding service networking hotspot, Facebook, currently lists today as the birthday of one Gerard Cosloy.  My best to you, sir.  As such, I think it might be a good thing for all of us to take a moment from enjoying our holiday to appreciate CSTB.  In much the same way George Bailey came to appreciate his life’s worth at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, viewing a world he never touched, I wonder what the sports world would be without this forum.  In that nightmare world, Will Leitch is a respected sports journalist at a major magazine.  The Mets continue to make ineffective deals and questionable hires for manager each year.  Sports journalists like Phil Mushnick write without fear of looking ridiculous. Tim McCarver and Joe Buck’s broadcast careers go unhindered, making baseball fans everywhere miserable.  And this reporter?  Without CSTB, I would have been unable to offer managerial advice to stop the Cubs from choking in post-season, push Sam Zell to sell to Mark Cuban, and with unrelenting posting, land Jake Peavy or Randy Johnson.  It was here I broke the Roger Clemens steroid story, years before the Mitchell Report.  I had no proof, just malice and a venue to print such spite, called CSTB.

Happy Birthday Gerard!

Jon Solomon’s 24 Hour Xmas Marathon – In Progress

Posted in Merry Fucking Christmas, Radio, Rock Und Roll at 5:23 pm by

Edition 21 of Jon Solomon’s 24 Hour Christmas Spectacular is in progress as of this writing on WPRB.com. Please keep in mind, just because you can see Jon and he cannot see you is no excuse for not wearing trousers.

Vaccaro : Mets Need To Keep Up With The Joneses Steinbrenners

Posted in Baseball at 3:21 pm by

There have been no shortage of heated reactions to the Yankees lavishing an 8 year, $180 million pact on 1B Mark Teixeira yesterday in the wake of the CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett acquisitions. While the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan claims the Bombers “represent the very worst in America”, an equally hysterically Brewers owner Mark Attanasio called for a salary cap, telling Bloomberg News, “At the rate the Yankees are going, I’m not sure anyone can compete with them.”  Though I’m thankful Attanasio’s perspective is not shared by Rays skipper Joe Maddon, the New York Post’s Mark Vaccaro has one of the more curious takes on the subject, highlighting the alleged pressured faced not by the Yankees’ AL East rivals, but rather by the New York Mets.  It’s time, writes Vaccaro, for the Mets “to act like they belong in the same sentence – or the same city – as the Yankees…unless, of course, the Mets and the Wilpon family don’t have as much money as they say they do, and unless they want to ensure that questions about just how much they lost at the hands of Bernie Madoff will never, ever go away.”

Right now, immediately, the Mets need to consummate their pursuit of Derek Lowe (above), need to find a way to close a deal with the best available starter on the market, filling the most gaping hole on their roster.

Right now, immediately, they need to re-investigate their negotiations with Oliver Perez, and at least call Orlando Hudson. Unless the team is drowning and dying in red ink – which it insists it is not – the Mets need to prove with their checkbooks that they really are in the same category as the Yankees.

The Mets were delighted by their work at the Winter Meetings, and it is true that acquiring Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz made them instantly better in one area of need.

But it also is true that part of what made the K-Rod deal so satisfying was the dearth of dollars it cost. They got him on the cheap, at least compared to what his initial market seemed to be.

No one is suggesting the Mets need to throw money into a bonfire just to keep up with the Yankees. But they do need to improve their team, which right now looks, at best, to be second-best in the NL East behind the Phillies, with the Marlins and Braves very much in the same neighborhood. And decidedly second-rate in their own city.

There still are gems, expensive ones, necessary ones, out there for the taking. All you have to do is pay them. Ramirez. Lowe. Perez. Hudson, who would bring the kind of fire and leadership for which this team has been screaming for years. The Mets need starting pitching, and could sure use lineup help. You can make an argument for any of them.

Much as I like the odds of Derek Lowe winning 15 games in a Mets uniform next season, I’m far less enthused about him commanding a 4 or 5 year deal. And it’s the height of paranoia (or stirring shit up for the sake of it) to suggest a team featuring Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, David Wright and Francisco Rodriguez has been rendered irrelevant by the Bronx spending spree. Whether the Yankees win 100 or 130 games next season is of little consequence to Mets fans — their team making the postseason is their primary concern.  In signing K-Rod and trading for J.J. Putz, Omar Minaya addressed a pair of his club’s most glaring weaknesses.  By contrast, Brian Cashman’s purchases of Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira, while unquestionably making his team stronger, still leave the Yankees as a less than fully realized squad.  Teixeira might get on base 4 times out of 10, but his resume as a middle reliever is awfully thin.

The Late Gene Siskel Was A Killjoy

Posted in Cinema, Merry Fucking Christmas at 2:39 pm by

Thanks to Max for screening the “Silent Night Deadly Night” Tuesday evening. Much as I hate to speak ill of the dead, Gene Siskel really missed the boat on this one.

Charm City Skeptic Asks, “Was ‘The Wire’ Too Bleak”?

Posted in non-sporting journalism, The World Of Entertainment at 12:12 pm by

Aside from, well, anyone who sat through the disappointing 5th season, it’s pretty hard to find a discouraging word written about HBO’s “The Wire”.  With the release of all 5 seasons as a DVD box set, however, CNN’s John Blake, a West Baltimore native, offers a rare voice of dissent.  “I love ‘The Wire’,” insists Blake.  “The dialogue crackles, the characters are rich and the minute ways it captures how Baltimoreans move and talk is uncanny. But the ‘Complete’ story isn’t the whole story.”

The Wire’s” most unsettling scene for me took place in season four. It involved a murder — of a gentle teenager’s spirit. The character’s name is Dukie, and he brought back memories of some people I knew.

Dukie is lost. He has no family, his public school is paralyzed by violence and he’s not tough enough to make it on the streets. He has a gift for computers but doesn’t know what to do with his ability.

Dukie looks one day for help from “Cutty,” an ex-con who runs a boxing gym in their neighborhood. Cutty tells Dukie that “the world is bigger” than the violent neighborhood both live in.

“How do I get from here to the rest of the world?” Dukie asks Cutty.

“I wish I knew,” Cutty sighs, and walks away.

Why did Cutty give Dukie such a hopeless answer? Maybe it’s because some people who never lived in a neighborhood like “The Wire” confuse hopelessness for authenticity. Yeah, I could shock you with stories of violence, but it’s so easy to slip from revelation to titillation. I start off telling you a story about how tough my school was, and soon I’m shooting it out with five drug dealers who want to steal my homework.

But I never remember West Baltimore being so hopeless. A man like Cutty wouldn’t tell a young man that he had no way out — adults rallied around kids with potential.

I even checked with some childhood friends — one who is now an undercover police officer who literally works a “wire” for the Baltimore Police Department — and we all agreed that “The Wire’s” bleakness was exaggerated.

“They made it seem like we grew up in Bosnia,” my friend, another “Wire” fan, told me.

My community was filled with what Barack Obama calls the “quiet heroes.” (Obama reportedly is a big fan of “The Wire.”) There was my high school tennis coach. The dignified deacons in my church. The retired steelworker who watched Orioles baseball games on his porch next door. Relatives, teachers, even summer job programs (one gave me my first exposure to journalism) — all inspired me.

Yet those quiet heroes seem fated to fail in “The Wire.” The show implies that only a fantastic few ever escape the streets.

12.23.08

Matthews : The Yankees Are Beyond Reality

Posted in Baseball at 9:39 pm by

(this man just lost himself a customer)

I’m through with baseball,” writes Babes Who Love Baseball‘s Lizzy, the Yankees’ $180 million acquisition of Mark Teixeira causing her to pledge,  “I will never pay to watch a game, purchase team merchandise, or read the sports section of any paper that I’m not paid to read.” She has a tough time reconciling the Bombers committing $423 million to free agents this offseason, just months after requesting nearly a half billion in public money towards the completion of the new Yankee Stadium, and while Newsday’s Wallace Matthews echoes these sentiments (“sometimes it seems as if the Yankees inhabit some alternate reality, a bizarro universe in which the AL East race is not a competition among ballclubs but among bankbooks, one in which the recession doesn’t exist, unemployment has been eradicated and depression is a word for shrinks, not sharks.”) the columnist insists that back on Planet Earth, “Boston is no longer the enemy and money is no longer the answer — if, in fact, it ever really was.”

While the dinosaurs of the division were sleeping, the Tampa Bay Rays shot past both of them. The Rays return in 2009 a year older, a year more experienced, a year better. But not a penny more expensive. Unlike the Yankees, they win baseball games the old-fashioned way — on the field, not on the balance sheet.

And the Rays are not alone. Since the last time the Yankees actually won a world championship, 11 of the 16 teams to make it to the Series have come from decidedly middle-market cities, places such as St. Louis and Colorado and Detroit and, oh yeah, Tampa Bay, which until proven otherwise continues to be the best team in the AL East.

Once again, the Yankees remind us that they don’t really want to compete, they want to be coronated. Just hand them the rings now, because on paper, they can’t lose. George Steinbrenner may be out of the loop, but his philosophy of winning is alive and well.

But no one could have imagined the kind of shameless shopping spree the Yankees have been on this month — $161 million for CC Sabathia, $82.5 million for A.J. Burnett and a reported $180 million for Teixeira — at a time when more than 10 million Americans are out of work and another 4 million might join them in 2009.

But no matter. Those 4 million out of work will be offset by another 4 million, the ones who still can afford to pay their way into the new Yankee Stadium. And the luxury boxes, averaging a half-million dollars a pop, are at 100 percent capacity, scarfed up by those corporations who still can afford such luxuries, even if they have to use your tax money and mine to pay for them.

While many of the rest of us are struggling, the Yankees are making so much money that they can afford to give away two exhibition games. Making so much money that their luxury-tax bill for 2008, $26.9 million, is petty cash, slightly less than the Marlins pay for their entire roster and less than the Yankees pay for A-Rod.

Even for the prototypical Yankees fan — and you know who you are and what I’m talking about — this manner of excess is distasteful at best, wastefully insane at worst.

And besides, there’s no evidence that it actually, you know, works.

I guess it depends on how Matthews defines success.  One post season absence in 14 years isn’t too shabby, nor was 4 million paid customers at Yankee Stadium in 2008. I’m hardly in a position to speak on behalf of Yankee fans but I have a sneaking suspicion another 3rd place finish would be considered far more distasteful than the fiscal largess Matthews deplores.

Ron Artest Doesn’t See The Romance In Your Tight Pants

Posted in Basketball, Fashion, Hip Hop at 6:05 pm by

The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feingen pointed out earlier today that Houston’s Ron Artest is now the 5th member of the Rockets to have signed a Chinese sneaker deal (Yao Ming remains in the Nike fold). As such, it seemed like an appropriate time to review some new fashion thoughts Artest shared with Slam Online’s Myles Brown.

SLAM: So I saw that post about tight pants on your blog. If you had to choose between a 30 game suspension or 15 games of wearing tight pants, which one would you go with?

RA: Well it™s not necessarily that. What it is, is people in the media”like I™m from a neighborhood where we wear things baggy. And you™ve got a lot of people who started out how I started out, but then they switched up and now they™ve got all these people following them and the wrong message is being sent out there. I just think the wrong message is being sent out there and people are doing things”I don™t have anything against gay people”but there™s subliminal messages like that, like that™s how you should be.

SLAM: So you think the tight pants are a gay thing?

RA: No. No. There™s many other things that™s happening too within the hip hop community and it™s been talked about a lot. People can™t really pinpoint it, but it™s just like hip hop was just so different back in the days and now they™re trying to add all this other stuff that™s not really”at least I don™t think”the truth. I can™t even go on the radio and hear a Styles P or a Jadakiss. I don™t even hear it no more. And I can™t go on MTV and see anybody hood, dressed like where the music really came from. So it™s always frustrating and it bothers me a lot, especially since I™m doing music. So I™m hoping”I™m praying”we get another Biggie. Jay Z, he™s getting older, so I™m praying we just get another Biggie so we can be on top again.

Mike Tomlin Would Like To Bench Santa Claus

Posted in Gridiron, Merry Fucking Christmas at 3:43 pm by

Believe it or not, St. Nick might be less popular in the Tomlin household than LenDale White. From the International Herald Tribune :

Bill DiFabio, a sports announcer from Washington, Pa., traditionally dresses up as Santa for the pre-Christmas press gathering and often pokes fun at the Steelers coach for a few moments. Former coach Bill Cowher often went along with the gag.

Mike Tomlin also played along initially, asking, “What have you got for me, Santa?” and inviting DiFabio to join him at his desk in front of the room.

But when DiFabio commandeered the news conference for more than five minutes, passing out gifts and cracking jokes about fellow sportscasters, the Browns and Cowboys, nose tackle Casey Hampton’s weight and the woebegone Pirates, Tomlin became impatient.

To end the unrehearsed skit, Tomlin ” who could be heard sighing several times throughout the comedy bit ” grudgingly agreed to toss a football to the fake Santa.

“If that will get you out of here,” Tomlin said.

Later, the Steelers said there would be no future appearances from Santa at any of their news conferences.

Klapisch : K-Rod Unlikely To Fix The Mets’ “Image Problem”

Posted in Baseball at 3:23 pm by

While Bobby Bonilla infamously offered to show Bob Klapisch the Bronx, the Bergen Record columnist uses his ESPN.com space Wednesday to show newly acquired Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez a big vial of Calm The Fuck Down pills.

Klapisch claims Rodriguez’ over the top theatrics are considered so distasteful, Mariano Rivera asked to be kept as far away as possible from his fellow reliever at last July’s All-Star Game.  “If Rivera took exception to K-Rod’s two-handed point to the skies, imagine how the rest of the National League will feel about it in 2009,” warns Klapisch.  “The Mets already have an image problem with the Phillies, and their new bullpen savior isn’t likely to improve matters.”

K-Rod’s celebrating profile will be layered atop Jose Reyes’ customized high-fiving after scoring an important run in a big game — outside the dugout. Such gloating, which has been part of the Mets’ legacy since the ’80s, has been steadily irritating opponents for the past four years.

But unlike the 1986 club, as arrogant as it was successful, the latter-day Mets have collapsed in the past two Septembers — choked, just as Hamels says. They’ve yet to win a pennant since the miniature renaissance began in 2006, despite an influx of marquee talent and the ballooning of the payroll over $130 million.

Without citing Reyes in particular, Manuel copped to the Mets’ immaturity. Indeed, one baseball executive said, “If you don’t think [the celebrating] has any consequence, then why does a team like the Marlins always love to stick it to the Mets?”

The implied answer, of course, is that the Marlins — who, despite being out of the playoff race, denied the Mets a playoff berth in the final weekends of the 2007 and 2008 seasons — were paying the Mets back for their showboating sins.

What happens, say, the first time K-Rod strikes out Ryan Howard to nail down a Mets victory at Citizens Bank Park? You don’t have to ask — Rodriguez will have his guns (OK, index fingers) blazing toward the heavens. It’ll certainly light the fuse, which, sooner or later in the summer, figures to ignite a fire.

While Klapisch might be correct in suggesting the Mets have an abundance of swagger for a team that hasn’t been to a World Series since Bill Clinton was President, surely Bob would agree New York’s blown save problem was of greater concern than an image problem. If the name of the game was making opponents happy, Omar Minaya would’ve made a deal for Eric Gagne.

SI : Yanks Sign Teixeira

Posted in Baseball at 3:04 pm by

If you were still wondering how the Yankees planned to replace Jason Giambi’s production, fear not, as SI.com’s Jon Heyman has the story bound to cause some Xmas teeth-gnashing in Boston (and equally likely to enrich Kevin Youkilis).

The Yankees have reached an agreement in principle to sign Mark Teixeira, SI.com has learned, beating out the rival Red Sox for the free-agent slugger’s services.

Teixeira, who hit .308 with 33 home runs and 121 RBIs in 2008, will receive an eight-year, $180 million deal from the Yankees with a full no-trade provision.

The final three teams in the race to sign Teixeira were the Red Sox, Nationals and Yankees. However, it was the Yankees who stepped their heavy pursuit of Teixeira on Tuesday.

While there were rumors that the Severna Park, Md., product preferred to be on the East Coast, there never was any real evidence of that. He loved his time in Anaheim and continued to live in the Dallas area, so those suggestions may have been overplayed.

Teixeira’s deal raises the Yankees’ offseason spending spree to $423.5 million. Just last Thursday, the Yankees completed agreements with two pitchers, giving CC Sabathia a $161 million, seven-year contract and A.J. Burnett an $82.5 million, five-year deal.

News of Teixeria’s acquisition hits the ‘net the same day the Yankees announced they’re selling bleacher seats for an April 3 exhibition with the Cubs for a mere 25 cents.  It’s a heck of a gift horse to throw at a fan base gradually being priced out of the ballpark, one that should make the $10 beers taste all that much better.

Has Scott Boras Painted Himself Into A Corner?

Posted in Baseball at 1:07 pm by

Or, if the above headline strikes you as a poor-fit, David Williams proposes, “Hubris : It’s What’s For Dinner.”  We’re a week away from the end of 2008, yet almost 20 clients of agent Scott Boras —- Derek Lowe, Manny Ramirez, Oliver Perez and Mark Teixeira amongst them — remain unsigned.  While the Daily News‘ Bill Price argues the Mets oughta refrain from the Ollie bidding (“Perez is symbolic of everything that has been wrong with the Mets over the last two seasons”), the New York Times’ Michael Schmidt suggests, “the combination of Boras™s patience, team executives who are wary of the weakening economy, and the lack of movement in negotiations between Boras and teams for his premier client, Teixeira, has slowed the movement of the others.”

With teams dropping out of the bidding, or at least saying so, there is no clear path to a resolution for Boras and Teixeira. And, for that matter, there is no timetable for how quickly his other clients will sign.

According to a person in baseball briefed on the discussions between Boras and several teams, the Red Sox remain interested in signing Teixeira to an eight-year contract that would pay him $168 million to $172 million. The person said that Boras had told several people in baseball that the Angels were still interested in Teixeira.

Unless something happens quickly with Teixeira, it is likely that Felipe López will enter January as the only Boras client to sign with a new team. Major League Baseball shuts down between Christmas and New Year™s Day, although some agents and team executives continue to negotiate. That means that the high-profile players like Ramírez and Lowe and even the lesser-known ones like Willie Bloomquist and Álex Cora will remain uncertain of their 2009 destinations.

Nothing To Play For Niners Go ‘Stache Crazy

Posted in Fashion, Gridiron at 11:12 am by

The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Crumpacker reports that for next Sunday’s home tilt with the Redskins, the 49′ers won’t merely be wearing throwback uni’s, they also plan to sport mustaches, in tribute to James Franco’s performance in “Milk” to Niners of yesteryear.

“Today is Mustache Monday,” Hill said a day after the 49ers rallied to beat the Rams 17-16 in St. Louis. “It’s for the throwback game. Every day we go to meetings and we go by these beautiful pictures and we admire these guys’ mustaches.”

On facing walls of a hallway just off the locker room in Santa Clara are black and white photos of those 49ers who spent at least 10 years with the club. Some of the greats of the past had mustaches of varying quality, among them Kevin Fagan, Mel Phillips, Roger Craig (a classic caterpillar that thankfully was short-lived), Ray Wersching, Keith Fahnhorst, Jerry Rice (in the form of a goatee), Jimmy Johnson, the late John Ayers and Randy Cross.

“Most of us have been working on our mustaches,” said Hill, who led the 49ers on two touchdown drives in the final seven minutes to beat the Rams. “I started four weeks ago. How bad is that?”

Hill said his offensive linemen instigated the ‘staches in honor of their predecessors with an eye toward the throwback game in the finale.

“Every single day that we walk through here, you just can’t help but admire John Ayers’ mustache. It’s awesome,” Hill said.

Hill had to be informed that the one of his position predecessors, the greatest quarterback in franchise history, once had a mustache. Photos exist of a young Joe Montana sporting a Fu Manchu, although it is not on the wall of the facility.

Though I wish the Niners the best of luck this weekend, I must admit I’m surprised by their plans.  I wasn’t aware Misprint‘s distribution extended all the way to Northern California.

12.22.08

Mike Hunt’s Not Quite Ready To Retire The Big Dog’s No. 13

Posted in Basketball at 10:55 pm by

Milwaukee hosts Utah tomorrow night, but the Journal-Sentinel’s Michael Hunt preferred to focus on the past in his Sunday column, noting the Bucks trail only Celtics, Blazers, Suns and Knicks for the most player numbers retired (seven — Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sidney Moncrief, Junior Bridgeman, Jon McGlocklin, Brian Winters and Bob Lanier). Glen Robinson’s no. 13 is currently worn by Luke Ridnour, and was previously donned by Mike James, leading Hunt to ask, “If the Bucks, in the time since Robinson left, have been willing to twice issue the number with which their second all-time scorer was synonymous, do they have any intention of retiring it? Does Robinson, who was traded six years ago after being arrested in a high-profile assault case, even deserve to be considered?”

What are the criteria? Should it be based solely on on-court achievement? Does the candidate also have to be a good and productive citizen like McGlocklin? Were McGlocklin and Winters worthy? How about Lanier, who played only 278 of his 959 games for the Bucks? Who™s next, if anyone at all?

That™s the easy part:

Marques Johnson and Bobby Dandridge.

Dandridge was an important piece of a championship team. Johnson starred for some of the greatest Bucks teams ever. If any more Bucks numbers are going to be retired, the next should be Johnson™s No. 8 and Dandridge™s No. 10, currently worn by Tyronn Lue.

Like Robinson, Johnson had off-the-court issues that he successfully overcame. Dandridge™s hard personality was difficult for the Bucks to manage at the time, but he has expressed regret for his behavior during his numerous trips back.

If those issues once stood in the way of the Bucks honoring Dandridge and Johnson, it™s way past time to move on.

The decision to retire a number apparently rests with a one-man committee, owner Herb Kohl, who was very fond of Robinson. No doubt it broke the senator™s heart when the Bucks were put in the position of having to trade him, not only because of the bad publicity from the arrest but also because Robinson™s career was in decline.

Time has a way of softening the past. But as for Robinson™s play, it would have to be on scoring alone because the rest of his game was limited at best. Had he made that open shot against Philadelphia to get the Bucks to the 2001 Finals, maybe it™s a different conversation. A better conversation for the Bucks is how wide, or limited, the field should be. If Robinson, why not Ray Allen?