04.30.11

Who Knew Alan Partridge Was Such A Big NWOBMH Fan?

Posted in Austin, consumer affairs, record collector disease, Rock Und Roll at 8:10 pm by

On the bright side, all the T’pau rarities at this weekend’s Austin Record Convention were very reasonably priced.

Super Hoops In Excelsis (Or, Club Owned By World’s 7th Richest Man Described As “Minnows”)

Posted in Football at 1:33 pm by

Pending next Friday’s Football Association hearing to determine whether or not Queens Park Rangers’ fielding Alejandro Faurlin while the Argentine’s contract was held by a third party is deserving of a mild slap on the wrists or a 15 point deduction, QPR have clinched the 2010-2012 Npower Championship after this afternoon’s 2-0 win at Watford.  As a former QPR season ticket holder whose tenure included relegation to what used to be called Division Three, the ‘R’s (possible) return to England’s top flight is as surreal as it is long-awaited, an opinion perhaps held by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Richard Hinds, who attempts to rationalize his far-flung obsession with the W12 club that’s long been in the shadow of Chelsea. “There is something trainspotterishly satisfying about supporting a relatively obscure foreign team,” gushes Hinds (“for the Portland Trail Blazers fan in Wagga Wagga or the Grasshopper Zurich supporter in Ipswich”),  though he’s surely more satisfied when the team is actually winning something.

Brian Moore and the pounding theme to The Big Match. A George Best-ian character in the QPR hoops called Stan Bowles, complete with muttonchop sideburns, a multitude of antisocial habits and exquisite skills. A highly exotic (in rural Australian terms) ”QPR Is Magic” scarf brought home by a family friend. Pilgrimages to Loftus Road – OK, not exactly the Westminster Abbey of sport – during London days. The basis of a lifelong addiction. Now, the anguished attempts to follow the misfortunes of QPR have become compelling. At least more so than usual during the 17 long years since the ”Super Hoops” bestowed upon the Premier League their gifts of mid-table mediocrity, bloody managerial executions and a capacity for financial mismanagement that can make the Global Financial Crisis seem like a slight misunderstanding about the receipts at a primary school fete.

Of course, the long-distance sporting love is now much easier. I had been following QPR for eight years before I saw them play a full game live on TV – the 1982 FA Cup final against Tottenham. (Rangers scored a late equaliser and, naturally, Spurs won the replay.) Now pay TV is so hungry for content QPR’s recent blistering (no, really!) 2-2 draw with Cardiff City was shown live. So the once difficult, and inevitably satisfying, measures once required to follow the less renowned foreign clubs have been mostly removed.

This, of course, has not necessarily been good news for some local leagues, who struggle to compete with superior foreign content. (And even QPR). It is a problem Sports Minister Mark Arbib might ponder during the latest review of Australian soccer: Why do some of us still struggle, somewhat, to become fully engaged with the local product? Yet we are celebrating because (surely! please!) a west London minnow is going up.

04.29.11

The French Football Federation : Blatantly Racist Or Simply Allergic To Winning?

Posted in Football, Racism Corner at 5:35 pm by

(France’s victorious 1998 World Cup starting XI)

The Guardian’s Angelique Chrisafis reports that following last summer’s near-mutiny against Equipe de France coach Raymond Domenech, there are allegations FFF officials conspired to racially imbalance the makeup of future squads.

The French football federation has opened an internal investigation after website Mediapart reported that top management approved a quota system to limit young black players and those of north African origin emerging as candidates for the national team. The alleged plan involved limiting non-white youngsters as young as 12 or 13 from entering the selection process through training centres and academies.

“For the top brass in French football, the issue is settled: there are too many blacks, too many Arabs, and not enough white players in French football,” the website said.

According to Mediapart, one of the most senior football federation figures wanted to set a cap of 30% on players of certain origins, but insisted at a meeting the quota should be kept quiet. At another meeting, the French national team coach Laurent Blanc allegedly backed changing youth talent selection criteria to favour players with “our culture, our history”. Sources claimed Blanc cited current world champions Spain, saying: “The Spanish, they say: ‘We don’t have a problem. We have no blacks.’”

How soon they forget ;  France’s 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 triumphs were accomplished with rosters that were a relative model of modern multiculturalism.

ATL Birdbrains, Reporter Agree : Bianchi Was The MVP

Posted in Basketball, Sports Journalism at 4:49 pm by

Following Orlando’s hasty first round exit at the hands of Atlanta, the Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi asks, “where do they (the Magic) go now that they have become lost on this highway to nothingness?”  He’s well qualified to ask such questions given his own role in ousting the heavy favorites ; “It was me, after all, who provided the Hawks their fuel and fire heading into Game 6.”  There seem to be a few guys in the Hawks locker room who concur, as the Journal-Constitution’s Michael Cunningham explains :



The Hawks had printouts of a column by the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi (above) in their lockers the day after they lost Game 5 101-76 at Orlando. Bianchi wrote that the Hawks are “Team Dummy” and that “they will always do stupid things and take stupid shots.”

Some passages in the copies of the story given to Hawks players were underlined, including:

“The Magic are going to win this series and the Birdbrains are going to fold up and collapse like a $5 lawn chair. You know it, I know it and, deep down in the lonely recesses of their fragile minds, the Birdbrains know it, too.”

Hawks forward Josh Smith was offended by the column.

“You’ve got reporters calling people idiots and dummies,” Smith said Thursday. “I don’t understand how people can challenge somebody’s intelligence when you are talking about basketball. Some people take it too far.”

Hawks coach Larry Drew said it wasn’t his idea to pass out the article to the team but added, “Certainly we can use bulletin-board material”.

ESPN’s New Ombudsman : Rick Sutcliffe

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism, Sports TV at 3:36 pm by

(since most of us are rather tired of looking at Rick Sutcliffe, here’s a photo of Peter Sutcliffe, no relation, instead)

Despite protestations from ESPN NY columnist Ian O’Connor that his forthcoming tome, ‘The Captain : The Journey Of Derek Jeter’, is the byproduct of hundreds of interviews — and repeated attempts to get Jeter to respond to criticism — ESPN baseball analyst Rick Sutcliffe would have you believe that penning a biography of a famous athlete is a rather simple task. From the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory) :

Sutcliffe spoke Monday night as if he were delivering a message from Jeter. And it wasn’t two thumbs up. Before the game Sutcliffe said he had spent 15 minutes with Jeter. “He was as angry as I’ve seen him in a long, long time,” Sutcliffe said on the air.

What followed was an indictment of the book. “Derek says he (O’Connor) hasn’t talked to ‘anybody close to me.’ Supposedly there was like a coach that he played for when he was in the ninth grade. And there was some cousin that he was talking about that Derek didn’t even know,” Sutcliffe said Monday night. “He (Jeter) was upset about it. A lot of it, like Tim said Brian Cashman told him, is stuff that happened a long time ago.”

There’s more to the ties that bind Sutcliffe and Jeter. Oh yeah, that ESPN world is small. On ESPNNewYork.com there are “testimonials” to Jeter as he approaches his 3,000th hit. Sutcliffe offers one, praising Jeter for attending a fund-raiser for the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City and making the event a success. Sutcliffe was born and raised in Kansas City. A TV source was surprised Sutcliffe pursued such a hard line Monday night. The source said ESPN has a policy where its talent cannot criticize “colleagues” or “competitors.”

Said policy, you might recall, led to brief absences on the part of Tony Kornheiser and Bill Simmons.  Though both are frequent objects of scorn around these parts, you could argue it would be somewhat difficult for ESPN to replace either.  In the case of Sutcliffe, however, how tough could be to find a boozed-up man or woman of average baseball intellect that loved sucking up to Derek Jeter?

Can’t Resist The Headline Dept : Dissing Suzy Kolber

Posted in Gridiron, Sports TV at 3:20 pm by

Tbough I’m mostly in agreement with Ted Berg that the NFL Draft is a far less interesting televised spectacle than say, actual baseball or basketball games that count for something, I did watch some of ESPN’s coverage from Radio City last night.  Other than Roger Goodell failing to hush a mob chanting “we want football” (“so do we, fellas” countered a flustered Goodell) the other made-for-TV talking point involved Suzy Kolber’s not-so-cunning stunt when interrogating former Heisman winner / New Orleans’ first round pick, RB Mark Ingram.  Though it might’ve been more appropriate to show Reggie Bush breaking down in tears, it was his projected replacement who wept on camera, a scene that struck Jeff Pearlman as “emotional manipulation”.

You greet Ingram with a letter from his incarcerated father. You read it for the millions watching—a personal moment turned public. He cries. And cries. And cries some more. In the ESPN production booth, everyone cheers. What raw emotion! What spur-of-the-moment grittiness! Great job, Kolber! Great job!

But it’s not a great job. You don’t spring this sort of letter upon a 21-year-old kid on national TV. It might make for great viewing, but it’s dishonest, dishonorable and wrong. This is the life he’s been handed—a father behind bars; trying to overcome that and somehow get past it.

He should be celebrated. Not exploited.

04.28.11

Nets’ Brooklyn Neighbors : We Don’t Want Your Glorified Wing Stop (Or The Indie Rock)

Posted in Basketball, New York, New York, Real Estate, Ugly New Stadiums at 8:37 pm by

“We do not need a bar on Pacific Street,” argued Brooklyn resident Syble Henderson at last night’s Community Board 6 subcommittee meeting to consider plans to open Players Gastro Pub & Sports Bar adjacent to Bruce Ratner’s under-construction Barclays Arena.  “Historically that block has been impacted with all kinds of anti-social activities,” claimed Henderson, who surely realizes that serving a postgame microbrew to Brook Lopez would mean a new low for the neighborhood.   Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder provides further details from last night’s discussion :

“Nightclubs have a lifespan and they typically go through cycles,” Scott Alling told the audience. “We thought that would just deteriorate it.” Given the large space available, the partners would only take the front, and aim to mostly food and beverage, operating as a gastropub. “Of course, in that that five to seven [pm] span” before the arena’s open, “we want to do a lot of business.”

“We want to run this as a sports bar when the stadium is having a sporting event,” he said at another point. “When it’s having a rock’n’roll night, we plan on running it as an indie rock venue, live music before, and after.”

Jon Crow, another mainstay of the garden and an Atlantic Yards opponent, pointed to the likelihood of disorderly arena attendees “urinating on our neighborhood. That’s why this is shocking and frightening–you realize the neighborhood doesn’t want the u-rena.”

“I understand you don’t want it,” responded Terry Flynn, Jr., the partners’ lawyer. “The reality of situation, people are going to open businesses, because of the opportunity to make money, and also can serve your community. What we intend on doing is both.”

“This is no different from Madison Square Garden, and people coming out of Madison Square Garden going to dinner before or after the arena,” he said. “Your concerns–we intend on making sure it’s operating properly.”

The difference, unmentioned, is that MSG does not encroach on a residential neighborhood.

Interrupt The Owner WIth A Boner’s Stairmaster Session At Your Own Risk

Posted in Basketball, Sports Journalism at 4:45 pm by

Prior to Dallas’ demolition of  Portland in Game 5 of their Western Conference first round series,  Mavs owner Mark Cuban (above, left) had his afternoon cardio-care briefly interrupted by the Portland Tribune’s Kerry Eggers, who had the temerity to quiz Cuban regarding a widely reported incident from Game 3.

I started the interview by asking Cuban if he knew what hit him.

“I got hit by something,” he said, pleasantly enough. “All I know is the pretty lady next to me jumped, something hit me in my face and that was it.”

Any idea what the object was?

Suddenly, Cuban’s mood darkened to the color of the Dallas sky (tornado warnings) that afternoon.

“What the (expletive) does it matter?” he asked. “Does it make a damn bit of difference at this point?”

“Well, I …” I began.

“Does it make a damn bit of difference at this point?” Cuban repeated.

“You sound irritated by it,” I said.

“Yeah, because it’s a dumb-ass question,” he said. “What’s the point of bringing it up? Are you going to go find somebody? Are you going to hunt the person down? … Ask me a real question.”

Gee, Mark, I thought that was a real question.

“The question turns into something antagonistic to somebody,” he said. “Either you try to get me to accuse somebody of something …”

“I’m not trying to get you to accuse anybody of anything,” I broke in. “I’m just trying to get the story on what happened in your words.”

“You could have read other accounts, because about 50 people wrote about it,” he said.

“I intended to ask whether his dialogue with Portland fans may have led to the projectile incident,” adds Eggers, though it would appear Cuban’s rapport with the Portland media isn’t much better.

Q : How Do You Make The Basketball Hall Of Fame? A : By Watching Portland Select Greg Odin

Posted in Basketball at 4:23 pm by

Alright, Oklahoma GM Sam Presti (above, background) hasn’t been inducted into Springfield, MA’s 2nd most historic spot (the first, of course, being the laboratory where Friendly’s invented The Fribble) but observing the rapid emergence of the Thunder (“their two best players are both 22 years old, and their likely next-best two players, James Harden and Serge Ibaka are both 21…this isn’t supposed to be happening” has The Painted Area’s M. Haub suggests in all seriousness that Presti’s handiwork qualifies as “the best team-building job ever done by a General Manager.”

Yes, Presti was fortunate to land Kevin Durant in the lottery, but beyond that, it’s been a series of impeccable, brilliant decisions and moves which has rebuilt and positioned his franchise for championship contention far, far faster than expected. Off the top of my head, I can only think of Red Auerbach’s work in acquiring both Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn way back in 1956 to jump-start the Celtics dynasty, and also how he managed to put/steal together the Big 3 in 1980.

It leads to this question I’ve been pondering: if you were starting a franchise, and you could have either any one player in the league, or Sam Presti, which would you take?

I would generally always take a player, and would probably still do so in this case, but I really have to think about it. It’s a testament to the fact that Presti is, in my opinion, easily the best general manager in the league currently, and is already getting close to establishing himself as an all-time great.

04.27.11

Mourinho : The FIx Is In For Barcelona

Posted in Football at 9:32 pm by

If there is, as Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho insists, some sort of UEFA conspiracy to fuck his side out of the Champions League final, let’s give the forces of corruption full credit. Perhaps they’re not Barcelona sympathizers nearly as much as they enjoy listening to The Special One work the microphone like no one else in professional sports.   The Guardian’s Sid Lowe scribbled furiously as Mourinho raged against favoritism towards Barca (“I don’t know if it is the Unicef sponsorship or if it is because they are nice guys”) and insisted, “tonight we have seen that we do not have any chance” after his side came out on the short end of a 2-0 home loss in the first leg of their CL semi-final.

Mourinho accused Barcelona of wielding untouchable power in European football and said their coach, Pep Guardiola, should feel “ashamed” if he wins a competition that “yet again” is engulfed in “scandal”. Barcelona also had a man sent off, their substitute goalkeeper, José Pinto, for his role in a mass brawl as the teams left the field at half-time. The incident was one of numerous flashpoints.

“One day,” Mourinho said, pointedly using the Barcelona coach’s full name, “I would like Josep Guardiola to win this competition properly.” That was a reference to the controversial semi-final victory of Guardiola’s team over Chelsea en route to their triumph in 2009.

“If I tell Uefa what I really think and feel, my career would end now,” Mourinho said. “Instead I will just ask a question to which I hope one day to get a response: Why? Why? Why Ovrebo? Why Busacca? Why De Bleeckere? Why Stark? Why? Because every semi-final the same things happen. We are talking about an absolutely fantastic football team, so why do they need that? Why? Why does a team as good as they are need something [extra] that is so obvious that everyone sees it?

“Why Ovrebo [two] years ago [when the Norwegian referee did not give Chelsea a series of penalties against Barcelona]? Why couldn’t Chelsea go to the final? Last year it was a miracle that Inter got there playing with 10 men for so long. A miracle. Why weren’t there four penalties against Chelsea [in 2009]? Why send off [Arsenal's Robin] Van Persie [in the last 16]? Where does their power come from?”