10.24.12

The NBA Goes To Unusual Lengths To Stop Zaza Pachulia From Attending His First All-Star Weekend

Posted in Basketball at 8:30 pm by

(Chuck Nevitt thanks you in advance for not comparing him to any contemporary centers)

Earlier today it was announced that starting this season, fans voting for the respective NBA All-Star teams will no longer select a center, instead being asked to select a top 3 frontcourt players and a pair of guards. Speaking with the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale bemoaned the current paucity of top flight big men.

“They had all kinds of forwards out there,” McHale said. “I think it’s a sad state when you can’t (find) enough centers in our league anymore to fill up the roster. I don’t know if it’s a position-less game. If Moses Malone was playing right now and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish, you’d have centers. I don’t know where they went. They went the way of the dinosaur, I think.

“If you put LeBron James on Moses Malone, everyone would go, ‘What an interesting matchup.’ You do it for a while and LeBron would come over and say, ‘You got to take me off this guy.’ It’s just different. There’s just not a lot of them right now.”

Newsday’s FIller : Losing The Islanders Isn’t The Worst Deal For L.I.

Posted in Hockey, New York, New York, Ugly New Stadiums at 4:22 pm by

The New York Islanders announced plans earlier today to bail on a 35 year tenure in Nassau Country, moving the NHL franchise to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in 2015.  Quick to absolve Islanders owner Charles Wang (above, right) of blame (“his expansive vision for the 77-acre tract in Uniondale, a mixed-used development called ‘The Lighthouse Project,’ was kyboshed by Nimbyism and local political turf wars”) Newsday’s Lane Filler is looking on the bright side ; at least Long Island can build something more useful than a new hockey arena.

While the Islanders — and creating a new facility for them — have always been an anchor for any serious Hub plan, they have also been limitations. An arena takes up a huge footprint, and the parking spaces for an arena either eat tremendous acreage it they’re asphalt,  or a gigantic sum of money if the parking is structured. Now, without being forced to include an arena or those types of parking in their plans (although they still might choose to) developers have a much broader opportunity. They can come up with a vision that provides them with profit, the county with tax revenue, and residents/employers/funseekers with a great place to live, work or recreate.

Or perhaps all three. Or something else entirely. That the Islanders are decamping is a shame, and the attempts to keep them have been a disaster. What happens next doesn’t have to be.

Pirates Prospect Was A (Wannabe) Military Casualty

Posted in Baseball at 1:25 pm by

While the Pirates’ curious practice of putting their Florida Instructional League prospects through Navy SEALS training exercises has been noted in this space (“The Pittsburgh Pirates – Lousy At Winning Baseball Games, But Possibly Competent At Catching The Next Bin Laden”), no one has suggested the scheme cost Pittsburgh anything greater than baseball competency dignity. On Tuesday night, however, the Pittsburgh Tribune’s Dejan Kovacevic reported OF Gregory Polanco (.325, 16 HR’s, 80 RBI’s in 2012 for the Pirates’ South Atlantic League affiliate, West Virginia) paid the price for being under the supervision of a “development system that is the laughingstock of baseball.”

Polanco’s ankle was sprained in mid-August, and it cost him most of his final month of play. But the Pirates still saw fit to have him participate in that first day with the SEALS last month, and as you might guess, the ankle was reinjured. Worse than before.

It happened during a drill in which Polanco sprinted across the outfield, through an above-ground pool of ice water, then leaped into a sand pit.

I know this because I asked Polanco himself. Through an interpreter, he described it in vivid detail. I know this because a pitcher in his drill group independently described it the same way.

When I initially asked the team two weeks ago about Polanco, this was the emailed reply from baseball operations — no name assigned — through a team spokesman: “Polanco was NOT injured during that workout. He actually injured his ankle during the season. He opted out of those workouts, as he has continued to battle swelling but no pain.”

If you believe the players — and I do — the statement was a bald-faced lie.

10.23.12

Shining A Bright Light On Lance Armstrong’s Co-Author

Posted in cycling at 10:28 pm by

However fun it might be, there’s little to be gained at this late date from kicking Lance Armstrong while he’s down, so why not turn a little attention to those amongst his enablers and apologists?  The Seattle Weekly entrusts said task to former Sonics beat writer Mike Seely, who considers the case of ‘Every Second Counts’ and ‘Not About The Bike’ co-author Sally Jenkins, she of a Pulitzer nomination and years penning for The Washington Post.  Seely is not totally without sympathy, noting he once witnessed Gary Payton in the late night company of Salt AND Pepa and chosen not to write about it.  Still, Seely muses, “I’ve never been comfortable with the tidal wave of autobiographies penned by journalists who might have to cover the subject of their collaborations in the future.” Yeah, but enough about Joe Posnanski.

Jenkins’ books with Armstrong were published in the midst of his biggest successes and, as it turns out, near the height of his alleged illicit activities. Armstrong won two Tour de France titles after the second book was published and the clouds of rumored doping were flourishing in earnest, at least in Europe. Jenkins could have recused herself from Armstrong-related columns, but people recognized her as such an expert on the famed cyclist, many wanted her take. Jenkins provided one on Aug. 24, after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency leveled its initial doping accusations against Armstrong. She could have limited herself to commenting on the man to whom she was exposed, even mentioned his maintained innocence and her lack of knowledge about its veracity. Instead, she attacked the USADA and the system, providing a quasi-defense of her co-author. That column breached an ethical demarcation.

The rest of what the Jenkins-Armstrong partnership raises is not so clear cut. If Jenkins’ relationship with Armstrong was close enough, Armstrong hypothetically could have been comfortable enough to inject himself in her presence. If that had happened, would Jenkins, as a journalist, have been obligated to report the incident? Even if she had felt compelled to do so, I doubt she could have, by journalistic or even societal standards. Writing about an activity that one “witnesses” merely is making a claim, not providing definitive proof. Otherwise people could make claims all the time about other people they didn’t like. How nice to be able to say you saw the boss, who was about to fire you, push a stranger off a balcony. Corroborating facts or testimony by a named source are necessary to meet journalistic or criminal standards.

John Wesley Coleman Captures The True Essence Of The Former Governor Of Massachusetts

Posted in eBay, Modern Art at 3:54 pm by

Or should we just call him, “A Son Of Detroit”?   Wes’ Mitt portrait is currently up for bids on eBay.

Warren Moon’s Stirring Defense Of Cam Newton : He’s Not As Bad As Jay Cutler

Posted in Gridiron, Sports TV at 3:41 pm by

When Stephen A. Smith suggested there was a racial component to criticism of Panthers QB Cam Newton, most reasoned types (and Dino Costa) wrote it off as the hysterical blatherings of a person with zero credibility.  However, when someone with Warren Moon’s resume says something similar, at the very least, we can consider the argument that pouting on camera isn’t exclusive to one race of quarterbacks. From Yahoo Sports’ Michael Silver :

“I don’t understand it,” Moon said. “I heard somebody compare him to Vince Young. It’s the same old crap – it’s always a comparison of one black to another black. I get tired of it. I get tired of defending it.”

“If you want to compare him to someone because of his demeanor, compare him to Jay Cutler. There are a lot of guys who whine and moan. Cam’s not biting anybody’s head off or pushing his linemen. He’s just disgruntled, and not handling losing well, because, think about it, he basically didn’t lose in college.

“I don’t think Cam’s as bad as Cutler, because Cutler looks like he doesn’t give a damn sometimes, or he’s yelling and cussing at someone. Cam, he just looks down when they’re losing.”

10.22.12

In Which “Mr. Howdy Doody” Enters The Sports Lexicon…

Posted in Gridiron at 8:46 pm by

…alongside “have another donut, you fat pig” and other postgame meltdowns. Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen has apologized for his crude attack on Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, and with good reason. If you don’t save these outbursts for a proper press conference, it’s almost impossible to work them into a future Coors Light commercial.

Jeff On Stan Van Gundy : He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother (And David Stern Is Fucking With Him)

Posted in Basketball, Sports TV at 3:50 pm by

Never before has anyone expressed nearly so much disappointment over not getting to spend time with Bill Simmons. It’s been suggested previously that former Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy lost out on an “NBA Countdown” analyst gig when David Stern leaned on ESPN (a charge the network denies). Speaking with USA Today’s Micheal Heistand, Stan’s brother and current ESPN hoops commentator Jeff Van Gundy warns his employer, “you have to be careful as a news organization that you don’t fall into voluntary censorship, that you worry about offending your ‘league partner.’”

“There’s certainly circumstantial evidence that something from the outside — presumably the NBA — changed (ESPN’s) thinking. … I was happy when they came to an agreement and shocked when they pulled their offer.”

Obviously it’s personal for Jeff. And after ESPN asked Jeff to help recruit Stan, “Obviously this stings. Frankly, it’s a shame what happened.”

Going forward? “As a broadcaster of the NBA, it give you pause,” Jeff says. “How forthcoming can you be? You don’t want your honesty to cost you a chance at employment.This is a shot across the bow.”

Jeff’s big picture: “This is an organization that’s treated me great. But this raises interesting questions about what a (league-network) partnership means. You have to realize, as a fan, you’re not getting the whole truth”

10.21.12

Gregg Doyel : Defending The 4th Best QB In The NFC East’s Right To Own A Dog

Posted in Dogs, Gridiron, Sports Journalism at 4:51 pm by

Though it’s a bye week for the Philadelphia Eagles, CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyell isn’t taking any time off when it comes to simplistic, illogical analysis of Michael Vick’s recent acquisition of a family dog. “Four years ago, if you’d told me that Michael Vick would own a dog in 2012, I’d have been sick,” writes Doyel. “But that was a different Vick, and that was a different me. People change, you know?” I guess we can look forward to a 2016 Doyel column proposing the best rehabilitation path for Jerry Sandusky might be working with young boys.

That dog is going to work its magic on Vick. That’s what I believe. By the time that dog is done with him, Michael Vick will be more devastated than ever about what he did — the life he lived, the person he was — back when he was funding a dog-fighting ring. That’s what I hope, but it’s also what I believe.

Dogs are special. You know that. A person that would knowingly raise dogs to fight, to tear each other apart just so the real animals — the ones outside the cage — can wager a few bucks? A person who would do that is a criminal, and Michael Vick was that. He went to prison for it, as you recall. He lost almost everything but his athletic ability. Very few mourned for him, because he got what he deserved.

But since then he has done everything right, and I mean everything. This isn’t a story about his football career, so don’t tell me that he hasn’t done everything right — the fumbles, the interceptions, etc. This is a story about something more precious than football. It’s a story about a human being, and a dog, and redemption. And before we learned last week that he owned a dog, Michael Vick had done everything right.

It’s going to be emotional torture for Vick, but it will be more than that. It will be healing. That dog’s going to make him a better person, and when someone as influential as Michael Vick is a better person, the effects ripple outward.

Shame then, none of the dogs Vick previously owned — you know, those he drowned, strangled or electrocuted — had an opportunity to “work their magic”.

Raissman : Aloof Yanks Are Becoming Easy-To-Avoid-TV

Posted in Baseball, Sports TV, The Marketplace at 3:41 pm by

During the Yankees’ unceremonious ALCS exit, some of the minor storylines (ie. nothing to do with A-Rod’s zipper issues) included scads of empty seats and the Nu Stadium and Nick Swisher falling from favor with his legion of Bleacher Bro’s Creatures.  While the former can be blamed to some extent on the economy and/or the Bombers’ annual post-season success being taken for granted, the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman suggests recent poor ratings for the YES Network point to, “an image taking a cockeyed turn,” if not  “a brand that is rusting around the edges.”

The Bombers averaged a 3.92 rating, down 8.3% from 2011 and YES’ lowest Yankees household rating since 2003. The nine-year low came during a season in which the Yankees battled Baltimore down to the wire to win the AL East, which should have driven the ratings to an all-time high. At the time we first reported the ratings drop, the thought was that more fans take it for granted the Yankees will punch their October ticket, so why watch? Considering the fan backlash and the Yankees’ reaction to it, maybe a negative perception had already caused these fans to turn off YES.

All of those old-grinder Paul O’Neill teams are now completely in the rear view mirror, finally replaced by a different breed of player, some of whom are perceived as selfish whiners. Players who went through the motions when their backs were to the wall.

How will this play on YES during the 2013 season? If the Yankees continue to be viewed as aloof and unlikable, if they give off an uncaring vibe, like Robinson Cano, the brand will be further tarnished. Like it or not, the current face of that brand is Alex Rodriguez.