I realize that others can, and will, speak more eloquently to the music of Vic Chesnutt than I. Still, news of his death yesterday felt like one more punch taken in a miserable year. Sorry, as usual when an artist dies, I think of myself first and what I just lost. I can only point to how much he got done, how deeply he affected those who knew him, and his example of what can and can’t be taken away from a person. He was 45. Considering how he reportedly died, on Christmas Day, I found this lyric quoted by Ben Sisario in his New York Times obit of Chesnutt particularly moving: œI™m not a victim/Oh, I am an atheist.
“I would rather not play on Christmas,” Van Gundy said. “This is a day to spend with your family. The league has been good to all of us in terms of what we get (big money) out of these TV games, so it would sound a little disingenuous to complain too much. But if I had my way, we’d take a five-day Christmas break.”
He said he would not be watching any of the other four games being played Friday. He did say he used to watch the Knicks and the Rockets play when his brother Jeff was coaching those teams.
“I won’t watch one second of the other four games. I have no interest. That’s not great advertisement for the league, but I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game,” he said. “If there’s a holiday, we’re playing. That’s just the way it is.”
Much as I appreciate Stan’s pity, here’s the deal. I’ve already been to the movies, eaten chinese food, killed Christ, made an obscene phone call to Charlie Ward, charged onerous interest rates for loans and taken part in a vast conspiracy to control the media and entertainment industries. Having accomplished all of that before 2:30 eastern time, should I be mocked for having little else left to do than watch the NBA?
It’s a multi-cultural world you’re living in, V.G. OK, maybe not you, but the rest of us. The entire planet doesn’t observe Christmas, but if I’m gonna feel bad about someone working on a national holiday, there’s Walgreens and 7-11 employees across the country who’ll get my empathy far quicker.
In part it’s a gaiety-of-the-nation thing. But this is, after all, the time of year at which we traditionally display a weakness for comedy bad guys, and following blanket critical notices for his hilarious performance at that Eastlands press conference on Monday, at which he unveiled the new manager, Roberto Mancini, there is no reason why (Manchester CIty CEO) Garry Cook should not line up alongside your King Rats and your Captain Hooks.
Sitting next to Mancini, he had mastered the “bulldog chewing a wasp” face which is the stock in trade of the scuppered pantomime villain, and which is currently being deployed twice daily by national treasures from Brian Blessed (Abanazar, Wimbledon) to Nigel Havers (Fleshcreep, Nottingham). The only disappointment is that City have yet to bus in small children to throw sweets at Garry. That might be a part of “the project” to kickstart in the new year.
On Monday, our hapless antihero insisted to the assembled throng that there had been absolutely “no conspiracy” “ and those who prefer to reserve the term for things such as Watergate might well agree. Alas, Mancini’s amusing decision to undermine his new chief executive’s account about 27 seconds later has left people decrying Garry’s “covert operation”, as though it were akin to the Bay of Pigs, as opposed to lining up the Italian and telling him to enjoy the complimentary shortbread in Manchester’s Lowry Hotel until the coast was clear.
[Cosloy, this afternoon, working a CSTB "hot line" lead that Tiger Woods' marriage might not be doing so well.]
For those of us born into a non-Xtian religous affiliation, who appreciate a certain “indie” sensibility to our music and bought much of it in the 1990s (if not so much now), and who don’t have any family obligations of a time-consuming nature this evening, and haven’t seen any breaking Milton Bradley news today “ we turn our Xmas Eve thoughts to another important birthday, that of CSTB founder Gerard Cosloy. God Bless you GC! Please have someone buy you a beer “ no, TWO “ for me!
At the time of George Michael’s 1986 resignation as regular sports anchor from Washington DC’s WRC, I wrote, “Once upon a time, cable TV was unavailable in large chunks of lower Manhattan and Queens (thank you, Donald Manes), and as such, rather than bask in the dulcet tones of the young (well, younger) Chris Berman on a late Sunday night, Michael™s œSports Machine was the only game in town for the highlights-starved.” Michael, a DC sports media fixture for more than a quarter century, and a national name/face thanks to his syndicated highlights program was once described by The Couch Slouch as “the only guy in town who can show you five minutes of tape in a four-minute sportscast.” Michael, a former disc-jockey turned sports mouthpiece, passed away yesterday at the age of 70.
“Growing up,” recalled Mr. Irrelevent’s Jamie Mottram, “my friends and I cherished the times we were able to stay up late enough to watch Sports Machine. Along with Saturday Night Live, it was our favorite show. I think a lot of sports-obsessed kids felt that way.”
I’m a little longer in the tooth than Mottram, and I always associated watching “The Sports Machine” with the end of a weekend with the oncoming dread of a Monday morning. And make no mistake, this was a pre-blog / pre- PTI / well before WFAN became-a-ratings-juggeranut era in which guys like Michael, Boston’s Bob Lobel, New York’s Warner Wolf and Jerry Girard were hugely influential in establishing just what the next morning’s talking points would be. If even said chatter wasn’t nearly as loud (or as easy to find)
If the anger and distraction of being an accused steroid cheat might infuriate and shake Pacquiao’s focus, might the much more unsettling view be that the fighter opposite you has an illegal advantage you can’t compete with? Might this be the first time in his life that Mayweather has ever stepped into a ring with fear and doubt in his mind?
Mayweather has had forty fights to this point and has never insisted on special stipulations like this. Whether there is reason to be suspicious of Pacquiao or not it clearly reflects Mayweather’s concerns. He has fought forty times using the official rules of boxing, but this time he wants more. It’s kind of like asking for a 30 foot ring. Yeah, fights are always in a ring, so what’s the problem with a 30 foot ring? You can look at it like Pacquiao is scared of taking a drug test, but it is Mayweather who is asking for something unusual.
But I digress. Salon’s Kate Harding threw a media pundit shit-fit over the AP’s 2009 Female Athlete Of The Year poll, one in which Breeders Cup winner Zenyatta finished a distant second to Serena Williams, and Belmont Stakes victor Rachel Alexandra came in 7th behind UConn hoops standout Maya Moore. And to be totally truthful, I was disappointed in the AP’s results, too. No love for soccer thug Liz Lambert? Zero recognition for South African track and field pioneer Caster Semenya? Clearly, these AP voters care even less about women’s sports than this blog’s publisher.
However, that’s not the source of Harding’s gripe. “I can’t help noticing,” she wrote “that Zenyatta and Alexandra are not human, which — call me speciesist — is something I usually expect from an ‘athletes of the year’ list. Perhaps if the AP folks had given the subject a bit more thought, they might instead have chosen to honor, say, Rosemary Homeister, who in 2009 became the second most successful female jockey of all time. Or, you know, any other two women in sports, leaving Zenyatta and Rachel to duke it out for Horse of the Year. Something more like that?”
I’m sorry, but did we learn absolutely nothing this year from “District 9″? Much the way great sportspersons/pioneers such as Semenya, Renee Richards and John Kruk have forced the world to reconsider outdated gender roles, maybe the AP ought to be applauded for looking past something as ultimately trivial in 2009 as species? Certainly Harding has a point when complaining none of the male athletes on their 2009 list had to share the top ten with horses, but that list is a farce, too! Some jumpsuit-wearing d-bag driving around in a circle is a better athlete than than this glorious competitor? I (fucking) think not.
There’s some precedent for the AP’s ranking horses alongside humans. Secretariat only finished 6th amongst male athletes in 1973, despite winning the Triple Crown. Naturally, the human-biased sports media sided with such flash in the pans as Hank Aaron, Bill Walton and some nobody named O.J. Simpson. Apathy towards female athletics is regrettable, sure. Maybe even inexcusable if you fancy yourself a halfway intelligent sports fan. But must Harding diminish the achievements of my stall sisters just to advance her own horse-hating agenda?
“I grabbed his shoe, took a little tug on it, and then sort of double pumped, Milbury said. œI don™t know if I hesitated for a minute because I thought I™d be vilified for the next 30 years, but I gave him a cuff across the leg, and then I did what I thought was probably the most egregious thing of all: I threw his shoe on the ice.
Eighteen Bruins went into the stands. Milbury said, œIf you watch the tape ” and I can freely throw my teammates under the bus now after 30 years ” people were throwing some serious shots down below us that were obscured by the fact that everybody was focusing on the idiot highest up in the stands hitting somebody with a shoe.
Bruins fans, in particular, still relish the incident. E. M. Swift, who covered hockey for Sports Illustrated, played in a college game in 1972 when one of his Princeton teammates was beaten with a œstale Italian sub by the Colgate athletic director while he grappled with Milbury. œWe hate everything New York here in Boston, he said, œso the fact that it was the Rangers and New Yorkers getting beaten with a shoe, those guys are folk heroes up here.
œUnder the same circumstances, I don™t think I™d go through a process of sorting through the rules and regulations and legal consequences, Terry O™Reilly said. œI think I™d jump over the glass and grab the guy again.
Phyllis Schlafly: Not happy with Win-Loss, either.
In a fascinating bit of hot stove nerdery, Nick Steiner at Hardball Times uncovers a new possible weakness in the ERA statistic in an innovative, defense-independent way. Long story short, he took AJ Burnett’s ten best 2009 outings (average outing: 1.06) and ten worst (average outing: 9.13) then looked at his stuff, location and pitch selection and found that AJ throws just about exactly the same when he’s getting shelled as when he’s dealing.
In his 10 best starts, he averaged a Game Score of 70.9. In his 10 worst starts, he averaged a Game Score of 31.9. More intuitively, his ERA was 1.06 in his good starts compared to 9.13 in his bad starts… quite the difference.
I then grabbed all of the PITCHf/x information on those two groups of starts. In case you are unfamiliar with it, PITCHf/x is a ball- tracking technology powered by SportVision, which measures certain key characteristics of each pitched ball, including speed, spin deflection (movement) and location. After manually classifying Burnett’s pitches game-by-game (yes this was a pain), I was ready to look at the data.
My agenda was simple. I wanted to see, using the intrinsic qualities of each pitch, exactly how differently he pitched in his best and worst starts of the season. I looked at three variables: stuff, location and approach.
…[I] found no meaningful differences in terms of what he threw, the velocity/movement of his pitches, where he threw them and when he threw them. I think I’ve established that there was practically no difference in how he pitched in his good starts compared to his bad starts.