Friday, November 30, 2007

Filler for the Filler

Apparently, I have once again managed to post an ancient YouTube clip below, and rather than leave that up all day, I stumbled upon this classic. Well, it's a classic to me at least.

Way to play the hop dummy

Worst goalkeeper ever? Not quite sure. Hell, who knows if this clip is years old or real even. I don't know much about soccer, but I'm pretty sure you need to stop kicks like this to keep your job.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hubris, Arachnid Style

Gheorghe: The Blog's alma mater takes on former arch-rival Richmond tonight in the renewal of a once-bitter rivalry. Once-bitter and no longer because the familiarity that breeds contempt has waned since the Spiders bailed on the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in 2001 for the seemingly greener pastures of the Atlantic 10.

Since 2001, the once-formidable Spider hoops program has stumbled into near-irrelevance (where they've bumped into the Tribe at several cocktail parties), posting three consecutive sub-.500 seasons, including an 8-22 mark in 2006-07. Meanwhile, the A-10 itself has seen its hoops fortunes decline to the point where it ranks neck and neck with the very same CAA Richmond spurned in 2001. Over the past 2 years, the CAA has outpaced the A-10 in the postseason, both in terms of number of teams and overall success.

And we're still just talking about basketball. The CAA was a better overall sports conference even when Richmond left - now it's not even close. For the want of a little bit of money and some exposure, Richmond turned its back on traditional in-state rivals. As G:TB is fond of saying, karma, she's a bitch.

------
Whitney-added garbage:

It's worth underscoring the palpable attitude U of R and theirs took when departing the Colonial for the Atlantic 10. The rest of the CAA were left to take the Spiders' exit one of two different ways: "We're better than the rest of you" or "None of you are as good as we are." That's what enacted the karma boomerang. This wasn't a logical geographic or school-size transfer for Richmond, it was an inflated sense of the worth of their program and the conference. Both have plummeted in the last six years, and although we chuckle at their expense now, it's still disappointing to have lost the old edge in the annual "I-64 Showdown."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lord and Taylor

Rest in peace, 21.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Running It Up

Over in recent comments at Jerry's Wheelhouse, a few folks have engaged in a discussion on the merits and demerits of the New England Patriots and their "running up the score" against their 2007 opponents. Read for yourself via the link above, but the general sentiment is that the complaints aren't just nancy-boyish and whiny, they're unfounded. It's a professional sport, the Patriot offense's job is to score touchdowns, respect is earned - not given, and Randall Gay was right when he said that "the Bills’ defense should have the respect not to pick up their paychecks this week."

I'll respectfully take the counter-bait (not the 16-year-old dancing on the bar) in that argument, at least on one small point. It's true, the bitching about it by the opposing victims is fairly pathetic; just don't try to defend overzealous piling-on by painting it something other than what it is. As a coach, you don't take your foot off the gas when it's 50-0 because the other team has "earned" anything, you do it because in this world you don't unnecessarily embarrass someone else. It's a form of bullying, as childish as that sounds, to keep tacking on scores when the game's in hand. There's really no reason for it, and ultimately, it doesn't serve you very well.

There are days -- or in the Pats' case, seasons -- when you've got it and the other guy doesn't. You've been down before, and you certainly will be down again, so rubbing a lesser opponent's face in it seems a bit hubristic. It starts to invoke a word that gets bandied about in this space a whole lot. Yep, karma.

In the Arlington Men's Softball League, when we're routing an inferior squad, we let up after a certain point. Not only do we stop taking the extra base and such, we do it discreetly so as not to announce to all onlookers that we've stopped giving 100%. Then, if the second game of the doubleheader involves our clownish fire drill method of placing players in the field, we tell the other guys beforehand that it's a tradition and for fun, not a slap in the face. We don't have to do these things; we owe those guys nothing. But we've been on the ass end of it when a team of tools that's up big late in the game scores from second on a deep sac fly, and it doesn't seem all that cool. Little things that speak a lot about how you operate.

I get that there's more at stake in the NFL than in beer league softball, but saying it's your job, old hoss, sure don't make it right. Belichick's job is to win games, and he's adept enough at doing it to do so without needlessly torching some bad teams beyond recognition. He can't be overly concerned with preserving his adversaries' images, but it's simply not that hard to send in some scrubs and/or run plays up the gut and/or kick the field goal and/or kneel on it when it's 48-3. In fact, real effort comes in continuing to run trick plays, long bombs, and 4th and 12 passes. Dress it up however you like, it's just being a dick.

On the other side of the coin, however, the other fellas should quit whining about it. At this point, you can see that it's not personal, so don't take it personally. New England is trying to embarrass everyone in their quest for supreme dominance. There's no point in tacking anything up on the bulletin board -- your time is better spent trying to figure out why single coverage on Randy Moss isn't working. Vowing revenge is a little melodramatic; simply pocket it and just know there will be days when the roles are reversed. That's not tremendous solace when your home fans are treated to such a lopsided event, but then again, as Randall Gay might remind you, there were two teams playing out there, and you deserve a goodly portion of the embarrassment you got. With a nod to human reproduction, just because they're being dicks doesn't mean you have to be pussies.

So, you people getting beaten about by the best team we've seen in ages: hush up and take your medicine. But also, Pats and their fans: if you're going to put on Darth Vader's suit, don't bitch about not getting Obi-Wan's love and adulation from the masses. If you're in favor of the NFL's taunting policies, don't insist that the Pats aren't doing anything wrong by rubbing lesser foes' noses in the carpet. Don't act befuddled as to why people have stopped calling you a "classy" organization after the cheating thing and now this. Everyone respects your talent by now -- a ton -- but the public's respect for your character is something earned, too.

Go ahead and keep running it up, but please don't wonder why Joe Average Fan now roots against you, and why we aren't quite as enthralled about the record-setting numbers as we might be. For a few years SportGuy whined that the world was against the Patriots -- when nobody outside the northeast and the tri-state area really gave a damn either way. Now . . . it's like Bill Simmons and his ilk got their wish, and maybe the whole thing is a lot more interesting because of it.

Of course we're now rooting against New England. They're the heavy favorite every week (and damn fun to watch), so underdog-fans will always oppose them. Moreover, they have managed to become the characters his favorite bully actor, Billy Zabka, always played. They are the pompous Johnny Lawrence, and every foe from now until January is Daniel-san. (And Belichick is the douchebag sensei instructing his guys to sweep the leg, and Pats fans are the jackass who says, "Get him a body bag! Yeeeahhh!")

For the rest of us, we should refrain from further barking about the New England Patriots running up the score week in and week out. It's a mesmerizing machine, these Pats, and we should just enjoy the show. If our old friend karma happens to upend the PatCart before they reach the finish line many folks have already conceded, it'll be an even more eye-catching result, but in the meantime, Bill Belichick and his band of dicks is must-see TV.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gheorghe Ponders...The CAA

Fresh from the rousing success of G:TB's tour through Major League Baseball's nicknames (and by rousing success, we mean that we actually made it through 5 of the 6 divisions without getting distracted and/or bored), our staff turns its attention to our favorite NCAA conference. Herewith G:TB's take on the relative snappiness of the Colonial Athletic Association's school mascots:

As always, any factual errors are the product of extreme laziness and not meant to imply that your particular school or that of your son/daughter/niece/nephew/trophy wife is less-than-superawesome. Except for JMU. We totally mean everything we said about JMU.

Delaware Blue Hens

Originality: Exhaustive research (3 minutes of Wikipedia/Google searches) indicates that no other major college athletic program has taken a female chicken as its mascot. The Toledo Mud Hens are the closest comparison. Nice work here, UD.

Geo-cultural Relevance: The Blue Hen is the state bird of Delaware. Not at all to be confused with the city bird of Philadelphia, which isn’t actually a bird at all. High scores in this category, too.

Tradition: YoUDee, Delaware’s mascot, was inducted into the UCA Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006. I have a hunch that said Hall of Fame is located in Ted Giannoulis’ basement, but I can’t confirm it. In any case, the mascot has had more success than the Hens’ athletic programs, with the notable exception of Delaware’s more than solid I-AA football program.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They might stay with Blue Hens, but I sure as heck hope they’d come up with a better name than YoUDee. Youppi and Screech mock him mercilessly at mascot conventions, while G-Wiz takes his meal money.

Overall Impact: Not really intimidating in any way, but Blue Hens is distinctive and memorable. Just like the state of Delaware. Okay, not at all like the state of Delaware.

Drexel Dragons

Originality: There are a handful of mythological creatures in college sports (a Griffon here, a Banana Slug there), but Drexel is home to Division I’s only Dragons. Frankly, that’s a little bit surprising.

Geo-cultural Relevance: Ah, Philly, the City of Brotherly Suck. A scaly, sulfur-spewing, mouth-breathing fire hazard fits right in.

Tradition: Eh. The Dragons’ mascot is named Mario the Magnificent. I guess YoDeeU was taken. Drexel’s had some solid hoops squads over the past several years, but the school is on the outside looking in at Philly’s legendary Big 5 (frankly, the best thing ever to come out of the city other than those delectable soft pretzels), so not much to write home about.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: Drexel’s an underrated academic power, with top-notch undergraduate business and engineering programs, so the Scholars isn’t out of the question. (Note: my boss is a Drexel alum, so I’m required to include that sentence in nearly all correspondence. Not that it isn’t true. As far as you know.) On the other hand, it is right smack in the middle of Philadelphia, so the Go Fuck Yourselves is just as likely.

Overall Impact: High marks for the alliteration. Decent score for the originality. Suffers from the comparison to "Dragon Tales," which seems to be on my television every evening when I come home from work because my wife has been completely drained by my children’s manic energy.

George Mason Patriots

Originality: The NFL’s version is more prominent, but it sure seems like Mason got there first after the school’s founding in 1957. No other major college program loves America enough to take this name. Bunch of freaking pinko commie left-wing ivory tower academics.

Geo-cultural Relevance: George Mason, signer of the Declaration of Independence (actually not, but he was asked to – that magnificent bastard wanted to include individual rights in the document). Patriot. From Fairfax, VA (ish). George Mason, university. Patriots. Located in Fairfax, VA. Niiiiice.

Tradition: Until 2006, little to none, other than having a pretty decent on-campus building. After 2006, the greatest college hoops story ever told. Hoosiers, Rudy, Miracle on Ice, Chariots of Fire, and Little Giants all rolled into one.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: Some seamstress would be trying to figure out how to fit Fighting Larranagas on a basketball jersey. They’d still have that absurd blobby Gunston thing, though. He’s apparently harder to kill than a steel-coated cockroach.

Overall Impact: Top notch nickname, even though the school’s colors are green and gold.

Georgia State Panthers

Originality: There are only 30 other Panthers in college athletics. So, nice work, out-of-the-box thinkers in Atlanta. In GSU’s defense, they do have an awesomely menacing cartoon mascot.

Geo-cultural Relevance: It’s not immediately clear that any panthers or cats of any kind other than tabby are indigenous to the greater Atlanta area.

Tradition: GSU’s hoops squads have been coached by the legendary Lefty Driesell and the not-so-legendary-but-pretty-darn-good Rod Barnes. That’s the good news. The flip side is that the school’s fight song could double as my daughter’s Very First Reader. Witness:

Fight, fight, fight
With all your might
Victory is in our sight
Panthers roar and have no fear
Stand up Georgia State and cheer
The Blue and White are in the den
Rough and tough, we're here to win
We're the Panthers, and we're great
Loyalty for Georgia State
G-E-O-R-G-I-A S-T-A-T-E
Go State, Georgia State
Fight on Georgia State!!

Georgia Tech, they ain’t. Hell, Peachtree Community College, they ain’t.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: Judging by their fight song, they’d go simple and with very few letters, so as not to confuse their student body.

Overall Impact: Lame, bordering on criminally negligent.

Hofstra Pride (née Flying Dutchmen)

Originality: Hofstra shares the Pride moniker with my sister’s alma mater, Springfield (MA) College. Amazingly, they share the Flying Dutchmen nickname with Hope (MI) College and Lebanon Valley (PA) College. I had no idea that either of these names were appropriated by any other school, so I’m gonna pretend they weren’t. If nothing else, no other school has used both Pride and Flying Dutchmen, so kudos to Hofstra on that. They’ve also got a killer logo – no kidding here, G:TB really digs the stylized male/female lions. We’ve perhaps seen too much Lion King.

Geo-cultural Relevance: Judging from the map, Hofstra appears not to be located anywhere near the savannah, but a quick review of the available literature ties the Pride name to a school-saving image makeover. So, grudging acknowledgment.

Tradition: Wayne Chrebet and Gio Carmazzi hail from Hofstra, and the New York Jets call the school’s facilities their training camp home. The Pride appellation dates only back to 1987, so it doesn’t offer much in the way of long-term cred.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: I really kinda like the Flying Dutchmen, but in the same way that Redskins is offensive to Native Americans, I do understand the legacy of tears and shame Hofstra’s former nickname brought to earth-bound natives of the Netherlands. Pride is just fine.

Overall impact: Strong to quite strong. A little bit distinctive (aforementioned and now completely forgotten other schools notwithstanding) and tied nicely to the school’s history. And, speaking as someone whose alma mater goes by the Tribe, I’m not in a real position to besmirch Hofstra’s non-traditional stance.

James Madison Dukes

Originality: We’ll be treading lightly here, as my wife is a proud alumna of Virginia’s best safety school. Duquesne and Pennsylvania State-DuBois share the name with JMU, but since Duquesne’s is an obvious alliterative abbreviation and not all that clever, and PSU-DuBois doesn’t actually exist, JMU’s version is the most unique.

Geo-cultural Relevance: The Dukes are named in honor of Samuel Page Duke, JMU’s second president. Fortunately for the school’s athletic squads (and logo designers throughout history), Mr. Duke narrowly edged rival Armistead Wormworth Butt for the top job. (Easy? Obvious? Oh, for sure. But who ever said G:TB was above the low-brow?)

Tradition: JMU’s got a tough row to hoe in this category, if only because the competition in the Commonwealth is so tough. Nonetheless, the Dukes have done their alma mater proud on the playing fields over time, winning a Division I-AA football championship in 2004 and routinely pacing the CAA in hoops back in the 90s. On the other hand, if you have to resort to listing Sports Junkies’ producer Bret Oliverio as a notable alum, even in Wikipedia, perhaps you’ve got some ground to cover.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: Well, Linwood Rose helms one of the nation’s academic up-and-comers today, so if history is any judge, the JMU Roses smell just as sweet.

Overall Impact: We kid because we love. And because our JMU-alum friends have such a cute inferiority complex. G:TB likes Dukes given the school’s history, and the Duke Dog mascot is terrific.

Northeastern Huskies

Originality: Not so much. Northeastern shares the name with three other D-1 programs (Washington, Northern Illinois, and New England neighbor Connecticut), in addition to St. Cloud State, who play D-1 hockey. We expect a bit more from a school in America’s most literate city.

Geo-cultural Relevance: Lord knows a good, shaggy puppy can help keep a body warm through Boston’s dark, cold winters. Lord also knows that The Shaggy D.A. was not one of Tim Conway’s finest efforts.

Tradition: Northeastern’s been around since 1898, but it’s hard to get noticed when Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and Boston College all share the same address. Jim Calhoun coached the Huskies, and Mike Jarvis is an alum. NU’s hockey squadron annually faces off in the legendary Beanpot with BU, Harvard, and BC.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They’d have to do something spectacular to get noticed. Red Sox announcer Don Orsillo is an alum; maybe they’d go with the Remdawgs in an effort to get the Boston Globe and NESN to notice them. Maybe not.

Overall Impact: Like Northeastern in general, the Huskies is sort of an afterthought.

Old Dominion Monarchs

Originality: Kudos to the ODU higher-ups for being confident enough in their school’s position to use a butterfly as a mascot. That’s an important lesson for the less-tolerant in our society. Though I’m less certain about the color choice, given that the butterfly in question is generally orange or yellow and black. It’s really a striking creature.

Geo-cultural Relevance: As a former native of the Tidewater area, I can vouch for the fact that the occasional butterfly flutters through the region from time to time.

Tradition: ODU’s men’s sports programs have taken a back seat to their women’s historically, but the hoops squad has won more CAA titles than all but one other conference mate. (Bonus points if you can name the all-time leader.) The Big Blue Beast alternate nickname is killer, though, even if it’s hard to figure out how it relates to butterflies. ODU’s Constant Convocation Center is a damn terrific college venue, too.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They might stick with Monarchs, as the Commonwealth of Virginia is noteworthy in its connection to England’s regal line. But they’d probably go away from the whole butterfly thing.

Overall Impact: High marks from the G:TB staff for ODU’s choice – the Big Blue Beast flaps its wings in Norfolk, and a rainstorm brews somewhere in Africa. That’s some serious impact.

Towson Tigers

Originality: Tigers? Really? The players on my kindergarten-age daughter’s rec league soccer team came up with six more original names in 90 seconds this fall. Of course, most of them had some connection to the Power Rangers or Barbie, but they were more original. We went with the SuperWinners.

Geo-cultural Relevance: Shmank.

Tradition: Whit’s gonna love this. According to the never-wrong keepers of the flame at Wikipedia, it turns out that former Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz, a Towson alum, led the drive to change the Towson nickname from the Golden Knights to the Tigers in the early 1960s. Now my colleague’s got a reason to dislike Towson, a school that heretofore inspired nothing so much as indifference.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They’d canvas the local elementary schools in an effort to punch up the mascot, settling finally on the Explorers in an homage to Dora after first rejecting the Wiggles and the Incredibles.

Overall Impact: Yeah. Not so much.

UNC Wilmington Seahawks

Originality: Though it’s not necessarily bracingly original, the Seahawks appellation is unique enough in context that the Dub gets a thumbs-up here.

Geo-cultural Relevance: It’s quite possibly the perfect fit for a school known affectionately as UNC by the Sea.

Tradition: Like a lot of the CAA’s schools, Wilmington’s really not been around all that long. Not their fault, but there’s not a ton to speak of in this department, save for the run of hoops excellence in the early part of this decade. The swim team kicks ass, though.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: I really don’t think they could do any better than Seahawks. And frankly, with the beach right there beckoning, I don’t think they’d be inclined to spend a lot of effort on it.

Overall Impact: Seahawks is the best fit of name to school in the conference. Kudos to Wilmington. And if you’d like to invite the G:TB staff to visit, say in late May or early June, we’re not so stuck on professional protocol that we’d decline the offer.

Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Originality: Better than Tigers and Panthers, I guess, but not groundbreaking.

Geo-cultural Relevance: At some point, when Richmond was but a twinkle in William Byrd’s eye, I’m quite certain that sheep roamed freely along the gentle James River, and the brisk crack of horn-to-horn combat rang out over the countryside. Well played, VCU.

Tradition: Like conference-mate ODU, VCU’s origins can be traced in some manner to William and Mary, which allows the Rams to ride the coattails of the nation’s second-oldest college. Or run screaming from W&M’s hoops legacy, either one.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: They’d have a great deal of fun. VCU’s got a strong media/arts program and excellent medical/dental schools. The creative freaky-freakies and the science kids would come up with something spectacular, I’m quite certain, like the Psilocybic Surgeons.

Overall Impact: Middle of the road.

William and Mary Tribe

Originality:
One of a kind. Once the forces of creeping political correctness forced W&M to drop the Indians moniker (despite the fact that the school was originally chartered to educate natives and the leadership of the local tribes didn’t object to the name), the Tribe was a reasonably elegant solution.

Geo-cultural Relevance: As noted above, W&M was founded in 1693 to “educate” the local native population. The Tribe nickname pays fitting homage to the school’s historical origins. The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom and surpassing sense of proportion, has deemed this historical association to be somehow offensive. Tribe chieftain Gene Nichol has penned a supremely fitting response to the NCAA, among the many reasons why this subset of the W&M Alumni Association heartily endorses our embattled leader.

Additionally, the Tribe name serves as a foundation for one of the nation’s dorkiest student body cheers, which is extremely culturally relevant to the W&M student body. Freed from the dank corridors of Swem Library for 15 minutes one weekend, clever W&M undergrads reversed “Go Tribe” to the sublimely geeked out “Ebirt Og”, which continues today as a battle cry. Then, they went back to the library to prepare for their careers as captains of industry and ruiners of fun.

Tradition: W&M bestrides the CAA like a colossus in this area, both in terms of actual history (I mean, let’s be serious, Thomas Jefferson alone is enough to trump the alumni of all the other CAA schools combined) and athletic accomplishment. We’re actually not kidding here – with one minor exception, W&M has fielded the conference’s most successful athletic program since the CAA was founded in 1985. Well, with one very notable exception. Dammit.

If They Picked a Mascot Today: The very same forces of conservatism and ill-considered do-goodery that seek to remove Gene Nichol from office would demand nothing but the blandest, inoffensive, vanilla moniker. Ladies and gentlemen, yourrrr William and Mary Wrens.

Overall Impact: We’re clearly biased, but we like the Tribe. It’s not the best in the conference, but it’s unique and connected to the school’s history. Ebirt Og.

Insert Cliched Vegas Phrase Here

Well, after five long days and longer nights in Las Vegas, I'm back, and I know you all missed me very much. I laid down some cash on a handful of long-odds scenarios while I was out there, but with all due respect to our pals, I would never have bet on returning to find the Wheelhouse braintrust as local celebrities. After all this time who knew the key to blogosphere success was torching a previously untouchable hometown coaching legend? Some quick hits and thoughts from my travels to Sin City...

It appears in the last ten days or so Southwest Airlines has modified their stellar cattle call boarding process (don't ask me why I flew Southwest when it was a business trip...I am a dummy). You still board by Group (A, B or C) but now they've added a Position Number within each Group (1-60). Not terribly hard to comprehend, right? A15 would board before A36, A60 before B12, and so on - they've even got nice signs breaking each Group down in increments of five. Well, I guess a lot of travelers are absolute morons, because you would've thought people were being asked to split the atom before boarding. Heads were exploding, people were crying, wills were being finalized - it was a complete debacle. I suggest this new test to see if people are worthy of flying: if you can't complete the Jumble in your local Courier-Journal or Times Dispatch, head on down to Exxon, fuel up the Family Truckster, and stay the hell away from the airport.

I always love the flight out to Vegas, mainly because of the cross-section of society looking forward to living large and losing large. We had the two forty-year-old sons and their pop looking to blow the family fortune. There were the three loaded sorority chicks obviously on their way to a bachelorette party. Two rows in front of me, six NASCAR fans excited to wager on the upcoming Ford 400 (yeehaw, Jimmie Johnson). And of course me, reading an Entertainment Weekly cover to cover while a 6'2", 230 lb. Bea Arthur look-a-like elbowed me for 4 straight hours. Good times.

It's been mentioned in this space before, but it obviously needs to be said again. People, please, when the plane lands there is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO CLAP. Yes, I know we just landed in Vegas and you can't wait for the chicks and guns and fire trucks, but it is the pilot's job to land the plane. He does not need a round of applause for completing a vital aspect of his job.

The first billboard I see after deplaning: Carrot Top at the Luxor. Somewhere, Amazing Jonathan is drinking a cyanide mojito.

The second billboard: Tony Danza in "The Producers". Let President Skroob know they're letting Tony Miceli defile his work.

No, I did not make it to the final day of the O.J. proceedings Tuesday. And yes, I was honestly bummed out about it. I mean, how many more chances will I get to wear my "Free O.J...Again" t-shirt?

Let's see, as best as I can remember, the rest of the week went something like this: work...slots...work...making it rain...work...Tao...work...crashing the Democratic debate...work...craps...work...Blush...work...details redacted...work.

McCarran Airport might be Hell on Earth. You will never see a greater collection of distraught and despondent individuals in your life. I actually had to step over some guys leg to use the john. And for the love of god, have these people never learned queuing theory? I haven't seen chaos like that since the last 30 minutes of Deep Impact.

All in all, five days in Vegas is two days too many, especially when you're there on business. Frankly, it's good to be back. Anyone know where I can find some random video clips on the internet?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Life in the Colony

Just a quick run through this week's CAA Games to Watch (obviously not on TV):

1. The Upset Special: Look for UVA to have a letdown against a bruising Drexel squad after a big win at Arizona. If Pete Gillen were still manning the Cavalier wheel, it'd be a lock, but Dave Leitao makes the JPJ a more daunting arena for the Dragons to enter. (Tuesday, 8pm)

2. Upset Special 2: Electric Boogaloo: Mason hopes not to get stuffed by a 24th-ranked K-State on Turkey Day in the opening round of the [insert whistle] Old Spice Classic in Orlando. A real chance for some CAA clout, possibly televised. (9pm)

3. Wilmington dropped one to the Redbirds of Illinois State over the weekend; now they get to go to Indiana for a potential thumping. (Unrelated aside: the name Redbirds for a basketball movie is still unprotected and available for use. And will likely remain that way.) (Tuesday, 7pm)

4. The Big Blue Beast of ODU needs to avoid overlooking David before facing Goliath. They're matched up against top-ranked Tar Heels in the Las Vegas Invitational on Friday around midnight EST. (TJ has a few tips for them.) Before they even think about doubling down against Carolina, however, they need to concentrate on bashing the Gaels of Iona on Tuesday night. (7pm)

5. And finally, it's that time again (or possibly for the first time) . . . It's Northeastern Conference week for the CAA!

That's right. When these two conferences get together, you can throw out the records. Which you can probably do anyway, since it's mostly bad losses to ranked teams thus far. CAA-NEC. That's right. These two conferences simply do not like each other. Or dislike each other. They don't even know each other.

It's a classic battle of "our one of the only five (5) teams never to make the NCAA tournament in 59 years is better than your one of the only five (5) teams never to make the NCAA tournament in 59 years." The Northeastern sees the Colonial's "multiple schools named after early American statesmen" and raises them a "multiple schools named after a saint . . . the same saint." That's correct, they have two schools named St. Francis in the NEC, and when those two squads square off, you never know what's going to happen . . . you just know the name of the school that's going to win, plus you can be sure that a boatload of "Assisi" epithets will be hurled from bleacher to bleacher. Trust me, it's not pretty, and it's ultimately just thoroughly confusing.

Here's what's on the docket for the CAA-NEC (rhymes with "chronic") showdown:

Tuesday 11/20: William & Mary @ Wagner , 7pm
Wednesday 11/21: Hofstra @ St. Francis (NY), 7pm
Friday, 11/23: Robert Morris @ Drexel, 2pm
Saturday, 11/24: Mount St. Mary's @ JMU

Unsolicited comments on the CAA-NEC 4-pack (sponsored by Bartles & Jaymes): Consider Robert Morris (the school, not the man) another foe ripe for overlooking; the Colonials blew by the aforementioned Gaels and the Midshipmen before getting taken down by the Pirates at Seton Hall. (Possibly the least macho sentence ever typed at Gheorghe.) . . . And is there a good reason that William & Mary's mascot isn't the Colonial? I've been to Pittsburgh, as well as Washington, DC, and neither RMU nor GWU can possibly reek of tri-cornered hats, knickers, and authentic outhouses quite like W&M in Williamsburg, VA. So long as there's an outrage about the "Tribe" and two feathers, why not abandon an outdated, possibly offensive image for the William & Mary Colonials? . . . Oh, and the Tribe could use a win over Wagner after facing Top 25 opponents (and measuring up better than expected) in their first two contests . . . Lastly, look for Hofstra to knock off St. Francis, if and only if the bus driver gets them to the right campus.

That's all for this week. CAA you later!

(Correction - that was the least macho sentence ever typed at Gheorghe.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Peas in a Pod

The headline "Report: A-Rod plan to go around Boras came from Buffett" has some in the sporting world shaking their heads, but in actuality, this was far from a case of strange bedfellows. The only thing shocking was that it didn't happen earlier.

Consider this:
- A-Rod came of age in Miami; Buffett lives in Key West.
- Long ago, back when he was great, A-Rod played the shortstop position; long ago, back when he was great, Buffett sang, "I rounded first never thought of the worst / As I studied the shortstop's position."
- Buffett wrote "A Pirate Looks at Forty"; many consider A-Rod 's deal, one that will keep him in pinstripes until after he's 40, utter piracy.
- Buffett sang "Something So Feminine About a Mandolin"; 'nuff said.
- A-Rod is a me-first kind of guy who makes teammates bristle; Buffett's overinflated ego irked his bandmates and made longtime Coral Reefers like Fingers Taylor quit the band.
- During Buffett's September 2004 concert at Fenway Park, he paused between songs to try to break the "curse"; A-Rod's 2-for-17 in the last four games of that year's ALCS was similarly helpful to the Sox cause.
- Buffett's die-hard fans are called "Parrot-Heads"; A-Rod's . . . wait, does A-Rod have any?
- We've had some things -- and one more thing -- to say about A-Rod; I penned a lengthy record review of a Buffett album several years back that was just as damning.
- Buffett broke his leg sliding into second in the 70's; A-Rod . . . well, I'll let you watch the 2008 season in suspense.

As you can see, this was clearly a very natural fit. I don't see what all the head-scratching is all about.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shudder to Think


One of G:TB’s internet pals made an offhand comment several days ago about the Washington Redskins’ organizational difficulties, referring to the team’s management as the Snyder Administration. At that instant, my blood ran cold, and chills chased down my spine, as 8+ years of ineptitude, suffering, and negligence crystallized in one searingly clear insight: Dan Snyder and George W. Bush are the same guy.

Consider the following:
  • Both Snyder and Bush ascended to their current positions not on merit, but basically because they both had pantsloads of money.
  • Both Snyder and Bush were the beneficiaries of malfeasance during an initial selection process (Milstein is Gore is Finkel is Einhorn).
  • Both Snyder and Bush lost the approval of the masses long ago, yet each clings to their post in almost mocking fashion.
  • Both Snyder and Bush go to enormous lengths to control media access and religiously adhere to message discipline.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have megalomaniacal tendencies.
  • Both Snyder and Bush are embroiled in long, tedious, poorly planned campaigns marked by frequent claims of incremental success followed by even more frequent evidence of decline into chaos. See Redskins, Champions of the Offseason. See also, Redskins 23, Jets 20 followed by Eagles 33, Redskins 25. Finally, see also, Iraq, War in.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have terrible environmental records. Snyder cut down 50,000 square feet of trees on federally protected land, while Bush gave Alaska to oil companies.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have exhibited terrible judgment in initially hiring and then protecting loyalists in the face of overwhelming evidence of their incompetence. See Cerrato, Vinny, and Gonzalez, Alberto, among others. Brownie’s still doing a heckuva job somewhere.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have turned once-proud entities into pale imitations of their former selves - laughingstocks to outsiders and embarrassing affronts to their most ardent supporters.
  • Both Snyder and Bush deeply damaged the legacies of respected leaders (Joe Gibbs, Colin Powell, and George H.W. Bush).
  • Snyder owns Redskins One. Bush thinks he owns Air Force One.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have subordinates with questionable firearms safety habits. Redskins safety Sean Taylor pointed a handgun at a guy he suspected of stealing his ATV, while Vice President Dick Cheney blew some dude’s face off while grouse hunting. (Note: this item only applies if you actually believe that Cheney is Bush’s subordinate.)
  • Both Snyder and Bush have spent profligately on highly questionable programs despite widespread advice to the contrary. See Lloyd, Brandon; Smith, Bruce; Sanders, Deion and Prescription Benefit, Medicaid.
  • Both Snyder and Bush have soaked the little guy while cozying up to the wealthiest among us.
  • Snyder’s father famously bought him an enormous Redskins belt buckle, while Bush wears enormous belt buckles to make people think he’s a cowboy.

Finally, and most depressingly, both Snyder and Bush think they’re right, and we’re stuck with both of them. And I hate 110-yard fields, so Canada’s just not an option. I need a drink.

The Mike Ness Files

"I was wrong/Self destruction's got me again/I was wrong/I realize now that I was wrong" - Social Distortion from I Was Wrong.

From the grand G:TB tradition of throwing up ideas for recurring features and then letting them die on the vine comes today's episode, inspired by legendary SoCal punks, Social D. In addition to catalyzing this sure to be successful running concept, the band that brought you Ball and Chain, Prison Bound, and Story of My Life (and dozens of other rollicking classics) also triggered the following exchange, which occurred several days after I introduced the 'I Was Wrong' blogpost idea:

Teejay: I know who Social Distortion is.
Rob: Okay, who are they?
Teejay: The seminal punk band.
Rob: You got that from Wikipedia, didn't you?
Teejay (sheepishly): Yes.


I'll stipulate that my brother in blogging is several years younger than Whit and I, and a product of the hip-hop generation, but he's also a connoisseur of 80s cheese metal, so his tastes run at least a little to blazing guitars and insistent percussion. It's almost...almost unforgivable that he didn't know Social Distortion. We'll give him a pass because he's a Jets fan and needs a little tenderness right now. But he was wrong.

I was wrong - way wrong - about how bad the Washington Nationals would be in 2007, though I was hardly alone. I also purchased 12 Inches of Snow because I thought Informer was a catchy little ditty. My bad.

Whitney had a particularly ill-advised flattop-mullet during our freshman year of college, though he did it to protest his mother's admonitions about the length of his hair. Regardless, he was wrong.

The Mike Ness Files will return to this space periodically to catalogue our various ill-conceived prognostications and expectorations. Or not. I could be wrong.

------
Whitney's Addendum: Well, I was even more wrong about the Washington Nationals this year. I'll admit it. I penned a ridiculous piece comparing them to (mostly) terrible sitcoms. I bashed and mocked, then not only felt stupid when there were nine teams as bad or worse than the Nats, but felt a karmic beatdown when the Nationals contributed directly to my team of choice failing to make the playoffs. I was way wrong; I'm not saying Jim Bowden was right, but I was wrong.

I've been dead wrong for several seasons in betting that the Wizards won't make the playoffs; perhaps that's also cosmic backlash for this former season ticket-holder, current turncoat . . . but if TJ wants the bet, I'll make it again for this year.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gheorghe Quotes the Classics, Vol. 2

"Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious." - Brendan Gill

Preach on, Brother Gill. Whoever you are (were).

Teejay is winging his way across the country for a week in Sin City. Whitney claims to be busy with work. So you will listen to every damn word I say today. Nearly all of which will be ill-conceived and poorly framed. We're considering (and most likely dismissing) intellectual discussions of the following topics:
  • An exposition on the relative merits of the coaching stylings of Joe Gibbs v2.0 and Andy Reid. We'll likely leave this one alone because it will, by definition, require profanity and questionable judgment on our part. Let's just say that the level of dumbfoundedness displayed yesterday by highly-paid professional leaders of men may be unprecedented.
  • A discussion of the various proposition bets G:TB will be making while Teejay is in Vegas. If you think we're passing up the opportunity to get the Field (everyone but New England) to win the Super Bowl at 4:1, you're more clueless than Joe Gibbs and Andy Reid.
  • Extended sentimental waxings about the sacrifices my father and his fellow Veterans made to allow the rest of us to freely pursue life, liberty, happiness, and the right to blog snarkily. If anyone actually read this blog, I might actually follow through on that idea. Except for the fact that my Cowboy-lover Dad made fun of the Redskins last night - way to ruin it for everyone, Colonel.
  • Have we mentioned that Joe Gibbs and Andy Reid were singularly putrid yesterday afternoon? Almost Norvelous, in fact.
  • Cautious optimism for the William and Mary men's hoopsters after their closer-than-the-score-indicated 68-53 loss to No. 5 Gheorghetown on Saturday. W&M was within 2 points at 48-46 before the Hoyas wore them down. The CAA's pre-season 9th-place team may surprise some people on their way to another 8-10 conference record.
  • Kudos to our brothers in blogging at Jerry's Wheelhouse for an on-air mention on this morning's First Team on Fox radio program. Jerry's all growns up.
  • Bonus "Bite Me Randy Newman' programming when Dustin Pedroia gets announced as the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year.
  • Bitter rantings about the heightist conspiracy in this country when Dustin Pedroia gets bypassed for 2007 AL Rookie of the Year.
Please join me in the Comments section for a rousing discussion of the scope and scale of the trouble Teejay will get into during a week in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Calling the Karma Police

How much did you pay for the new Radiohead album?

As you might've heard, established British purveyors of modern alternative smooth music Radiohead elected to make their latest effort, In Rainbows, available for download from their website for a sum to be determined by each consumer. As the BBC now tells us, however, 62% of downloaders are deciding they'll give no cash back for the opportunity to grab these ten songs:
Fans were invited to put their own price on the 10 mp3 files that made up In Rainbows, from nothing to £100. But internet monitoring company Comscore found that only 38% of downloaders willingly paid to do so. The average price paid for the album was $6 (£2.90), the study found. American fans were the most generous, paying on average $8.05 (£3.85), compared to the $4.64 (£2.22) paid by those outside the US. [Of course, some might suggest the American geniuses are confused by the whole "pounds sterling" thing and intended to pay less.] Of those who were willing to pay, the largest percentage (17%) paid less than $4 (£1.90). However 12% were willing to pay between $8-$12, (£3.80 - £5.71).
Shocking, of course.

To their credit, the band hasn't pulled the plug on this unique method of releasing a record even as this news arrives. I mean, they sort of had to figure there'd be a lot of freeloaders, right? The cynical side of me marvels that 38% of people are actually forking over money for what could be a free album. But then again, I paid for the album . . . and I'm still irritated at myself and the record industry for the ill-afforded thousands of dollars I handed it in the 1990's. But pay for the mp3's I did, and so did one in three.

What is it that wills people to give semi-anonymously to a band that doesn't need the revenue?

Is it a deep-rooted sense of doing the right thing?
A Pavlovian effect wherein you know you just never get something for nothing and therefore open up the wallet involuntarily?
Or is it more paranoid, a peering-over-your-shoulder sense that some authority is judging you by your donation -- either the Lord in heaven, or the band itself looking at your credit card receipt?
Is it a combination of guilt, duty, and vanity, so you fill the box with numbers that correspond to your perceived socio-economic strata?

Not really sure.

For me, some of these may have played a factor, but the Visa charge was basically my tiny gesture of applause for one band's circumvention of convention in a manner that rewards the only people that matter -- the fans -- while cutting out the necessary, often evil middleman -- the record company. We could get into a larger discussion of Radiohead as Robin Hood, the tilted economics of the music industry, and pros and cons of the major label, and Warner Music & Ticketmaster as the Scylla and Charybdis of rock and roll (forgive me, I also saw The Police the other night) . . . but nobody comes to Gheorghe: The Blog for such heavy-handed analyses and debates.

(They come, I assume, for TJ's YouTube clips and O.J. jokes, my made-up nicknames and self-righteous blathering, and Rob's superlative insight from his vantage point below sea level. But I digress.)

In this case, let's just say that one group has issued a novel, even enlightened take on getting their music to the masses in a way that doesn't squeeze the listeners for every cent, not to mention a way that helps the environment. They aren't the first band to try to tackle an industry behemoth (Pearl Jam battled Goliath Ticketmaster in vain a decade ago); they aren't even the first to give away their tunes in a method that's equal parts of-the-people democracy and very savvy marketing. Just like those artists who scoffed at Metallica for their short-sightedness and embraced the Internet age as a way of delivering their sound to countless new listeners, Radiohead now draws headlines, raises eyebrows, makes a few new fans, and returns plenty of revenues in a way that just another CD on the shelves of Sam Goody for $18.99 never, ever could. It's shrewd, make no mistake, but it's also a pretty cool way to go about the business side of the art form.

But is it Gheorghe-y?

The Radiohead approach isn't entirely altruistic; it's gimmicky, pseudo-anarchic, and ultimately deceptively capitalistic (which is why it just might work). It's innovative, though, and it certainly takes steps towards easing the public's investment risk in rock and roll. A check mark for cleverness, a check mark for freezing out the stereotypical record company "fat cats," and oh yeah, one more for delivering an album whose merit goes above and beyond the style-over-substance, overhyped dud that it could have been. It's slower than I usually enjoy, but there are more actual "songs" than musical meanderings this time around, and it's worth the £4 I plunked down.

As for this phenomenon's level of Gheorghitude, it lacks the requisite silliness of G:TB-endorsed efforts, which is fairly unsurprising for Radiohead (and most Britpop, excepting perhaps the occasional Blur or Pulp). You know, silliness like this.

If Ween or They Might Be Giants end up following suit, it's unparalleled Gheorgheness for the music world. We can only hope.

What about against-the-grain economic system shakers in sports?

Right now in baseball all the chatter is whether Alex Rodriguez will "earn" 300 or 350 million dollars over the next stretch of years. As difficult as it is to justify a baseball player making $30+M a year -- and dear lord, that's difficult -- a Smithian, purely capitalistic approach can make a case for it. Those who think that ARod won't grab every cent he can because he has some sort of conscience about wrecking the Rangers or because he needs an extra fifty mill like I need that 26th cold one at 4 AM are deluding themselves in almost cartoonish fashion. Alas, those sinister villains Boras and Natasha (ARod makes a nice Natasha, no?) are two steps ahead of simple Bullwinkle (me) and little Rocky (Rob). (TJ, I guess you're Peabody the encyclopedic dog.)

Of course he's going for it all. He won't quit until he's reached the GNP of half the UN. What's to stop him? The expected public backlash from Windfall #1 didn't slow him one iota. His peers are just as determined to maximize their bankrolls, so why should he be the guy to make a sacrifice? And just who would be benefiting, the old boys club of Caucasian Codgers we call owners?? Guys like Big Stein and Nap Angelos? Please. Even if ARod wanted to settle for less, he has two very big thugs shoving him into the biggest payload possible: Scott Boras and the Players' Union, two entities of great influence, highly exaggerated self-worth and deeply misguided principles.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

We're talking about a business where even an otherwise respectable participant like Ivan Rodriguez notifies his previous ownership at the start of free agency that "there will be no hometown discount," gets stymied by the rest of the league, then bemoans the disrespect his club showed him considering the sentimentality of the prior year's success. Hypocrisy, shadiness, and outright lying, all in the name of making the most money. It's the aspect of sport where our "heroes" are revealed to be abundantly human, and the only solace we fans can take comes courtesy of our friend Jimmy Giovanelli, who reminds us that the country gets a little boost every time some young, dumb jock is given millions of dollars to inject rapidly and ruthlessly back into the economy.

An act of personal sacrifice, though?

Not. Gonna. Happen.

But what if it did? What if it could? What if Alex Rodriguez's balls finally dropped (presumably from him yelling "Aaaah!!!" as he ran by them) and he decided that this was about much more than his own greedy satisfaction? What if it no longer mattered to him whether he'd be able to afford yet another friggin' Pomeranian, or yet another condo in South Beach or Chelsea or Key West or San Fran or Provincetown or Fire Island? What if he decided to make an entirely new legend for himself, casting aside all preconceived notions of what we know Alex Rodriguez to be and establishing himself as the man of the people for all times?

How would he go about it? Professional athletes, unlike professional musicians, don't make their livelihood on creative brilliance. Plus, with an industry like Major League Baseball, there's no bucking the system and having fans pay him through the website. But what if ARod, or any other megastar, decided that he could get by (eke out a living on Ramen noodles and mac & cheese) on $10 million a year? He could sign on with just about any team in the league at that point, perhaps setting his sights on some sad sack but good karma small-market team who needs a boost to get over the hump. Fight the Union, fire his agent. Make a mint in endorsements as the baseball's returning hero. Be beloved by every yahoo who clamors for the salary cap. (That's me, standing right behind Bob Costas.)

Meanwhile, he could make the case that the savings he provided the owner needs to be recouped a bit with our help -- we who would get to the ballpark more for less with ticket sales not skyrocketing to pay his salary. We would be able to make donations at the park and online to The [Insert Player Name Here] Foundation, a charity focusing on some needy group of folks in the team's metro area. For every dollar the fans contribute, the owner matches it (perhaps in a tax-deductible fashion). Some set-up like that where the player still gets great money, the team has a better chance to win, the fans are happy, and the charity gets a bonus.

Yep, there are probably a dozen flaws, but I'm thinking off the top of my head. With some time, the right people thinking for him, and a fiscal strategy that makes some sense, it could be done. I'm sure Radiohead's plan began as a cockamamie scheme in somebody's head, but they made it happen. And right up until ARod signs with some foolhardy team (dear God, please not the Mets) for 500 bazillion pounds sterling, I'll keep wondering if practicality or prudence will make an appearance in the Hot Stove sessions. And listening to these mp3's.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal

The Boston Red Sox have won two World Series titles in the last four years. Democrats (poorly) control Congress. I have two silly, happy, beautiful children and a loving wife. I just saw The Police in concert for the first time. Life is good.

But, just as Sting laments in Hole in My Life, there's something missing. It's the last of the big checkmarks on my cosmic to-do list (besides, you know, see the 8 Wonders of the World and balance my checkbook): I must see William and Mary play in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Before you shrug that seemingly modest aspiration off as the snarky rantings of a sleep-deprived blogging head, drink deeply for a moment from the fount of W&M's historical ineptitude. When the 2006-07 Tribe scrapped to a .500 record (15-15, 8-11 in the Colonial Athletic Association), it marked only the third time since 1985-86 that the Green and Gold had ascended to that lofty plateau, and only the sixth time in that span that W&M had cracked the .400 barrier. W&M's all-time CAA record is 113-238 (they're 215-399 overall since joining the conference in 1985). And don't get me started on the postseason.

Ahh, the postseason. The bane of my alma mater's hoops existence. Since joining the CAA in 1985, the Tribe has posted a 3-22 mark in conference tournament play. They've never won more than a single game in any CAA Tournament. W&M is one of five original NCAA programs still wearing the all-time collar. The Tribe joins Army, The Citadel, Northwestern, and St. Francis (N.Y.) in the 0-for-59 Club, all five schools competing in major college basketball since 1948 with no appearances in the Big Dance.

During the 1997-98 season, the Tribe shook off decades of misery to post a 20-6 regular season record and tie for the CAA regular season championship. And then lost to a mediocre American University team in the first round of the tournament. A frantic letter-writing campaign to the NIT selection committee found no purchase, and the Tribe was once again shut out. I'm guessing the NIT poobahs were flummoxed by the fact that the letters weren't written in crayon, like the ones they were accustomed to receiving from Clemson and West Virginia fans. Bitterness: the lifeblood of Tribe hoops since 1693.

The 2007-08 Tribe returns several solid, young players from last season's over-achieving squad, and head coach Tony Shaver's got the ship moving slowly in the right direction. There's something, though, about the squad that gives me pause. I just can't seem to put my finger on it.

So cheer on, Tar Heels and Hoyas, Bruins and Gators, Spartans and Jayhawks, cheer on, safely insulated from life on the far, far other side of the tracks. You'll never know the joy of a .500 season, the nobility of the struggle to push this rock up this goddamned hill only to see it crash mightily back under the weight of a panicked Chuck Swenson late-game huddle, or a 100-38 loss to Duke. And when that day comes, when Jim Nantz announces William and Mary's name as the 15 seed in the Albuquerque region, my tears will still be damp on my cheeks as I book the flight. I assume they'll still have airplanes when I'm in my 60s.

I think the title pretty much explains it...

"Dickhead catches cricket ball with face"...though can we really be sure the guy is a dickhead? Did he deserve to take one off the melon? I guess we'll never know. Enjoy this filler while we await the recap of Rob and Whit's journey to the Verizon Center to see Gordon Sumner and his ensemble butcher their hits of yesteryear.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Jack-Asterisk

Barry Bonds is back in the news again for his mouth rather than his home run swing. It seems that Mr. Bonds has taken more than a little offense to the fan-voted asterisking of his 756 ball, one that will likely end up in the Hall of Fame. You can't blame him for being irked, but as always, it's how he responds to the affronts that continues to make him sports' most unlikable megastar. Observe.

The clown who bought the historic home run ball took a poll (not the way they do at the Wheelhouse) and determined that the voice of the people indicated that he should put a large asterisk on the ball before donating it to Cooperstown. Even if you hate Barry, and I assume by the fact that you have functional organs that might one day be labeled "heart" and "brain" by a coroner that you do hate Barry, you have to admit that this is fairly harsh. Not entirely unjust, but harsh. Here is how a sensible veteran of the game for 20+ years should respond:
"It's extremely disappointing. I'm well aware of the public sentiment regarding my feat, but this epitomizes my situation -- it always feels like a singular, personal attack when there is speculation, even accusations that encompass the entire league. I accept that as one of the league's premier stars, I'm going to be more of a target than many, but permanently defacing a small piece of baseball's glorious history before final judgment has been passed on me and everyone else in this game is an irreversible act of guilty until proven innocent. In many ways, I've brought some scorn on myself through the years, but even I can be hurt by what I see as piling on. I'm hopeful Mr. Ecko will abandon this lynch mob verdict and preserve the original dignity of the generous act of donating the ball to the esteemed halls of Cooperstown."
If he'd gone that route, he'd win back a few on the fence, and even those who despise him the most would have to concede it was a well-reasoned reply. Instead, as we've been shown, steroids and HGH do not inflate the intelligence quotient, and here's the article [edited with Gheorghe's commentary] about how Barry the Wiser chose to respond:
NEW YORK-- Barry Bonds would boycott Cooperstown if the Hall of Fame displays his record-breaking home run ball with an asterisk. That includes skipping his potential induction ceremony.

"I won't go. I won't be part of it," Bonds said in an interview that aired Thursday night. "You can call me, but I won't be there." [So far, his response is understandable. If only he'd stop here, or elucidate calmly as to how much this would hurt him personally.]

The ball Bonds hit for home run No. 756 this season will be branded with an asterisk and sent to the Hall. Fashion designer Marc "The Bunnyman" Ecko bought the ball in an online auction and set up a Web site for fans to vote on its fate. In late September, he announced fans voted to send the ball to Cooperstown with an asterisk.

Bonds has called Ecko "an idiot." [Endearing him that much more to the guy who owns the ball. Well played, sir.]

"I don't think you can put an asterisk in the game of baseball, and I don't think that the Hall of Fame can accept an asterisk," Bonds said. "You cannot give people the freedom, the right to alter history. You can't do it." [This is, without a doubt, my favorite line, so I'll repeat: "You cannot give people the freedom, the right to alter history." Where do you think you are, America??? Sounds like something the commander-in-chief might've stumbled into.]

"There's no such thing as an asterisk in baseball." [Yet. There weren't anti-steroid rules in baseball a decade ago, either.]

So, if the Hall goes through with the asterisk display?

"I will never be in the Hall of Fame. Never," Bonds said. "Barry Bonds will not be there. [Finally, we're starting to see eye to eye. Oh, wait.]

Giants general manager Brian "Homo" Sabean reiterated Thursday that the team won't bring back Bonds next season. The seven-time NL MVP, who has spent 15 of his 22 major league seasons in San Francisco, was asked whether he will retire as a Giant.

"Yeah, it's my house. No matter what that's my house, no one's going to take that away, no one ever," Bonds answered. "No one's going to take the love of that city of me away, ever." [They like me. They really like me.]

Bonds, who has 762 homers, broke Aaron's record with a shot into the right-center seats off Washington Nationals pitcher Mike "Make Explosion Noises Here" Bacsik at San Francisco on Aug. 7. Matt "Guitar" Murphy, a 21-year-old student and construction supervisor from New York, emerged from a scuffle holding the ball. He said he decided to sell it because he couldn't afford to pay the taxes required to keep it.

Bonds told MSNBC he hoped to reach 764 homers because he was born in July 1964. [That . . . makes sense . . . to somebody, I'm sure.] He said he's been working out and still is considering whether to play next season.

"I may hit two home runs so I can go home. I just think that I have a lot of game left. I think that I can help a team with a championship," Bonds said. "I'm a hell of a part-time player, too." [Except, of course, if your team is not actually in the market for a clubhouse distraction, a payroll destroyer, a guy who spells it "teim," and a guy who "may hit two home runs so I can go home." The guy is unbelievable.]

Bonds said he won't talk to George Mitchell's staff looking into steroids use in baseball while he is under investigation in the BALCO case. A grand jury has been investigating whether Bonds committed perjury when he testified he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.

"I know it ends in January, so a couple more months. But I haven't been keeping up with it. Not at all," Bonds said. [I'm betting Greg Anderson has.] "I have nothing to hide. I have said that before and I will say it now and I will look you in the face. [Reporters scurry for lightning cover.] I have nothing to hide, nothing. So look all you want to." [Thanks, big guy. This isn't an unwarranted police search, they don't need your permission.]
The dude is never, ever, ever going to comprehend that a good chunk of life is less about what exactly we do and more about how we do it. Easy for me to say, I'm not hounded by a-hole reporters who will benefit by my undoing, but there's got to be an easier way for him. I'm trying to teach my children about the Golden Rule, and Barry is going to be Exhibit B (the painting of Confucius and the Dalai Lama having a chugging contest is Exhibit A). His disdain for everyone but himself is stupefying.

I've always been against the asterisking of any records in MLB's good book, if only because you could pretty much asterisk 3/4 of the whole account if you wanted to make it truly fair. Dead Ball Era batsmen must roll over in their dugouts when they hear talk of special exceptions because of steroids. The game has gone through many more changes over the years than just the advent of performance-enhancing drugs, which is why excessive hoop-la over the topping of virtually any record these days is inevitably an overblown, underthought, media- and money-driven waste. Baseball can't even level out its current playing field among small and large market teams. You think its record book spanning over 135 years is fair?

But you know . . . with every move Barry Bonds makes, with every surly, snide snipe from the guy, I rather do hope they brand that damn thing with an asterisk just as they finally let Mark McGwire into the Hall. And it's not because he's the only steroid abuser, not even close. And it's not because he's the best player of the tainted era. And it's definitely not because he's black. (Though racists unfortunately permeate every aspect of our world, Bonds' posturing as the victim of racism lost credence once Henry Aaron started to receive overdue praise from the baseball world during Barry's stretch run.)

No, the reason I'm suddenly siding with the hack writers who can't ink a piece on Barry Bonds without excessive uses of Shift-8 is that one of the few principles I devoutly believe in is the concept of karma. Barry got by for a while on his God-given talent while looking down his nose at the world. When he was upstaged, he stacked the deck and ascended the mountaintop, Rosie Ruiz-style. And all the while he has the gall/audacity/brass balls/lack of anything discernible as a soul to lie to the world with every step, his smirk ever-widening with each accolade. The Senate, the sporting world, and especially the fans have wanted to smack that smug look off Bonds' face by watching him go to jail and have his numbers stricken from the record -- and yet, up to now, he's had the last laugh on every last one of us.

Chances are he'll never have to own up to his mistakes, he'll get into the Hall of Fame, and what's remembered of him a generation or two later will, like Ty Cobb's legacy, fall back mostly on the numbers. But just as a random movie quote now pops into my head when I think of the former ("Ty Cobb wanted to play, but none of us could stand the son-of-a-bitch when we were alive, so we told him to stick it!"), here's hoping that one oddly marred baseball in some future exhibit in Cooperstown will stand for generations to come as a tiny, 108-stitched window into Barry Bonds the Human above and beyond Barry Bonds the Baseball Player. And that possibility may be why, for the first time, there's a worried look in the otherwise arrogantly confident and condescending eyes of the former Giant.

I applaud the effort Greg, but you're no Gheorghe

Looks like a new ESPN the Magazine spot is featuring Greg Oden at his uncharismatic best. What is up with that vacant stoner look in every faux ad?

Young man, this is how a big man makes an ad:

Goalie Fights are Fantastic

You can have your Domi/Probert and Brashear/Simon goon brawls. I'll take a good ole goalie fight any day of the week and twice on Sunday (just not this Sunday - I heard the Greatest Game in the History of Ever was being played this week). How about Patrick Roy behaving like a one-man army in this clip, a la Charlton Heston in "Omega Man." You ever see it? Beauty. Moving on, my personal favorite on this list is #4, with Neil Little trying to Superman dat ho:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Fun with Sports Illustrated's NBA Preview Issue

Our cable has been out for the last two days, so I have been devouring last week's SI NBA Preview mag when I get home (and a little on the Metro, but it's tough to read with all the sweaty, mindless drones bumping into me and giving me dirty looks). Anyhoo, the best part of the preview issue (as it also is with SI's NFL and MLB issues) is the Enemy Lines section, an opposing scout's look at each team. This year's scout's "takes" (Rack me, I'm out) did not disappoint. I thought I'd let you join in the fun today. Below are seven quotes taken from these Enemy Lines sections (I tried to pick seven different teams/players, but one team sucks so much they get a team quote AND a player quote), with the offending team or player masked for now - try to take a stab at guessing the winners, er, losers (answers below):

7. "You can say that Player X just needs to play for the right coach, but I wonder if that coach has been born yet."
The correct answer is this guy will never mesh well with any coach ever.

6. "Every time I see Player Y, I'm asking, Why is this guy not better? He's capable of shooting the ball and making plays around the basket, and he's more than athletic and skilled enough. But instead he just floats around, not playing hard, not mixing it up."
OK, so this one can probably be applied to over 50% of the league. Good luck guessing which overpaid baller they're referring to.

5. "Their point guard situation is one of the worst in the league. None of them has a strong personality, no one has blow-by speed, no one can knock it down, no one is a great on-ball defender. They're all backups."
Tell us how you really feel Mr. Anonymous Scout. By the way, if this was last year's issue, I absolutely would have said the team in question was the Hawks.

4. "Player Z thinks he's a jump shooter, but he doesn't make jump shots, and he thinks he's a ball handler, but he's not quick enough to get by people, so he'll run into them and get called for a charge."
Excuse me for a moment - I need to go drop Player Z from my fantasy team.

3. "The question that ultimately comes up is whether this team can stop anybody. I don't think they can."
Amazingly, this scout is not referring to the Wizards.

2. "I don't trust Coach Blank as a tactician. His energy and passion are his strengths, and it's to his benefit that he keeps things simple."
In other words Coach Blank, always remember "K.I.S.S."...Keep It Simple Stupid.

1. "This team is so bad that you can tell who's taking the first shot simply by whoever gets the ball in his hands first."
By far my favorite observation in the entire issue.

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Answer (Derrick Mc)Key:
7 - Ron Artest, Sacramento Kings
6 - Tim Thomas, Los Angeles Clippers
5 - Los Angeles Lakers
4 - Marvin Williams, Atlanta Hawks
3 - Milwaukee Bucks
2 - Sam Mitchell, Toronto Raptors
1 - Atlanta Hawks

Gheorghe Quotes the Classics

"The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously." - Nicholas Butler

G:TB doesn't know who Nicholas Butler is, but we like the cut of his jib.

[Editor's Note: Yes, I added the completely unnecessary photo. I can't help myself. It is an illness.]