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singles night: the aftermath

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As I approached AT&T Park, I wondered if I had been too hard on Singles Night. Maybe Singles Night would actually be a fun event. So I took some photos, and from the looks of things, no, it wasn't.


According to one of the disappointed attendees, there were "no fucking chicks, man". There was a man in a Tim Lincecum jersey who weighed approximately two-and-a-half time as much as Tim Lincecum.


When I took this photo, the DJ was urging the few remaining Singles to answer trivia questions for a sure-to-be-disappointing prize. The question that was stumping the crowd was, "When they were in New York, where did the Giants play? (Answer: The Polo Grounds.) A presumably drunk woman kept yelling, "Caaaaandlestick! Caaaaandlestick!"

So I don't know if anyone found love, but as this last picture demonstrates, Singles Night is all about bringing people together:


(I am wearing my SF Giants Starter jacket from seventh grade in that photo. Commence jealously whenevs.)

singles night at at&t park


Tonight, I will be attending my third Giants game of the year, but coincidentally, my second Singles Night. I haven't done the actual Singles Night promotion, which includes a ticket to the game, an adult beverage, and admission to a small cordoned-off area behind the center field bleachers, where the world's saddest DJ spins records up until the National Anthem. There's also a cash bar, and a mysterious promotion called Bachelor at the Park (emphasis theirs).

It's understandable if you thought Singles Night referred to the team's general inability to hit with power. Last time, the highlights were as follows:

1. When Giants shortstop Brian Bocock came to bat, a man stood up in the bleachers and organized a cheer: "When I say, 'Bo', you say 'Cock'! Bo! Cock!" Huh huh. Cock.

2. For some reason, a group of ten fans were aggressively booing the cotton candy vendor. Maybe they were surprised his product dissolved so easily?

3. Reliever Vinnie Chulk came in to a surprisingly huge ovation from the right field seats. Perhaps these were the Chulkamaniacs? I'd like to see Vinnie "chulk up" on the mound at least once. I think that would involve Vinnie getting angry, trembling, then tearing off his shirt and firing a pickoff throw into right field.

Any Giants home game will lead to a lot of Missed Connections posts even on normal days, but Singles Night might cause an explosion.

"I saw you drunkenly heckling the Detroit outfielders for seven straight innings. I never realized so many things rhymed with "Ordonez"! Let me buy you a churro some time."

"I was the pretty brunette wearing the 2003 NL West Champions t-shirt. You had a backwards Giants cap and a sweet-looking goatee. We made eye contact briefly, just before you vomited against the side of the N-Judah. If you're out of the drunk tank by now, we should hang out."

"To the girl who spilled a nine-dollar beer while freak dancing next to Orlando's Cha-Cha Bowl stand: Nice tits."

"You were wearing a pink visor and a Barry Zito jersey. I was shirtless, with SF painted on my chest, fingerbanging you next to the Coca-Cola slide. Want to get coffee sometime?"

The Singles Area was deserted by the seventh inning, which I assume meant that everyone found love in the first six innings, or they were making out in the deserted Speed Pitch Zone. Let's hope tonight is half as romantic as that!

The NFL is always in the news, even three months before the beginning of the season. The latest news was that wide receiver Marcus Robinson retired as a Chicago Bear. When a football player does this, it means he signs a ceremonial one-day contract, usually with the team where he had his greatest success. Usually there's a press conference, the owner says some nice things about his career, and maybe they play a clip of his career highlights.

In the case of Marcus Robinson, I'm not sure what those highlights were. Under "Career Highlights and Awards", Robinson's Wikipedia entry lists "No notable achievements". I'm sure he's a nice guy, but Marcus Robinson is the worst player I've ever heard of that still did the "retiring as..." routine.

Not that signing a ceremonial contract isn't ridiculous even when great players do it. Jerry Rice hadn't played football for almost two years when he retired as a 49er in 2006. Fans might have thought, "Didn't Jerry Rice retire from football a year earlier? Wasn't he on Dancing With the Stars last year, not a football team?"

Yes, but he retired as a 49er. Perhaps Rice hoped that when people reviewed his career, they wouldn't talk about his sucky final year on the Raiders, or the time he spent as the Seahawks' fourth receiver in 2004, or his aborted tryout with the Broncos in 2005. Instead, it would be like he never left the 49ers in the first place.

If Rice had signed his ceremonial contract with the 49ers this offseason, they would have found a way to screw it up. The contract would have carried a pro-rated signing bonus that landed the team in salary cap hell three years later. Old owner Eddie DeBartolo would have given Rice a new car and a plasma TV that mysteriously fell off a truck. Giants GM Brian Sabean would have made it a three-year ceremonial contract and given Rice a no-trade clause.

I wish this were possible with other parts of life. On the eve of closing escrow on my first home, I would go back to my shitty college apartment and sign a one-hour lease. Or two weeks before getting married, I would go back to an girlfriend for a ceremonial handjob.

Could regular people ceremonially retire with NFL teams? If it's a fake contract anyway, I'm sure there are guys out there who would pay large sums of money in order to hold a retirement press conference at a real NFL facility. It could be a great promotion: the first 500 fans at the home opener get to retire as 49ers. They get to take a photo with the team owner, and receive 1/3650th of a full NFL pension. Of course, this wouldn't work in the NBA, as ceremonially retired fans would be in danger of being shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies in lopsided trades. And because of NBA trade rules, some fans would have to wait until July 1st, and re-retire then.

What if I offered 49ers owner Dr. York $1,000 for the privilege? I bet the cheap bastard would take me up on it. After all, I'm as likely as Marcus Robinson is to catch a pass for the 49ers this year.

you flop with who brung you

With two seconds left in the Lakers-Spurs game tonight, Brent Barry got the ball behind the three-point arc. Derek Fisher jumped in front of Barry, hitting him in the neck. Barry staggered to the side, took one dribble, and then badly missed a long three-pointer as time expired. The ref didn't call a foul, and the game ended.

Afterward, the TNT crew took Barry to task for not playing up the contact. Kenny Smith said Barry should have jumped into Fisher. Reggie Miller had a mini-dissertation about how Barry needed to play up the contact - kick his leg out, fall backwards, and fake an injury - so the ref would blow the whistle. And Reggie Miller knows A LOT about pretending to be hurt in order to get calls.

Ironically, the usual knock on the Spurs is that they flop too much. There's a t-shirt devoted to Manu Ginobli's diving, and even Eva Longoria says Tony Parker milks injuries. ("Honey, I have to stay on the ground sometimes.") Yet, on the most crucial shot of the series, the Spurs were undone by underplaying the contact on an obvious foul.

In Texas, they say you dance with who brung you. Flopping made the Spurs who they are. Now's not the time to deny their identity, their very nature. Did E-40 quit drinking at the height of the hyphy movement? Did Kenny Smith shave off his flattop during the 1994 NBA Finals? Did Sergeant Roger Murtaugh start believing he was young enough for this shit at any point in the Lethal Weapon series? No, no, and no. If the Spurs are going out, they should go out flopping.

Of course, here's the real problem: at the end of the game, needing one basket to save their season, the Spurs threw the ball to Brent Freaking Barry. Game over, series over.

Interleague baseball started last weekend, and I for one could not be happier. Far from being a cheap gimmick designed to artificially drum up interest in an overlong baseball season, or a relic of baseball owners' post-strike desperation, interleague baseball is a magical time for baseball fans. In SF this weekend, we got the rare chance to see American League stars like Nick Swisher! And Jermaine Dye! And former Giants A.J. Pierzyzsynkski!

The more important element of interleague play is that it helps resolve the bitter rivalries between cities, smoldering conflicts whose fires are stoked highest by triennial faceoffs on the diamond. When the Minnesota Twins play the Colorado Rockies, it's not just about baseball; it's the Minneapolis versus Denver, lakes versus mountains, white people versus white people. The winning city gets bragging rights, and in many cases, a whole lot more.

Let's go through the weekend of games and look at the fallout.

Chicago White Sox sweep the Giants

With its decisive victory, Chicago retains its title as the Windy City. Because the White Sox won in a sweep, Abe Froman becomes the Sausage King of San Francisco.

Toronto takes two out of three from Philadelphia

Toronto gets full custody of the mullet, though Philadelphia has visitation rights. Also, Joe Carter gets to take a whiz on the Philly Phanatic.


Baltimore defeats Washington

Cal Ripken, Jr. receives a seat in Congress, though he will never be allowed to abstain from a vote.

Boston sweeps Milwaukee

Milwaukee has to start serving bratwurst chowder until the end of the season. "Laverne and Shirley" will be replaced by "Cheers" on all Green Bay television stations.

Atlanta wins two out of three from Oakland

Tickets for Two Dollar Wednesday must now be purchased with Confederate currency.

St. Louis wins the series against Tampa Bay

From now on, Devil Rays players are no longer allowed to make fun of Albert Pujols's last name.

Texas takes two out of three from Houston

Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler gets a seat on the space shuttle Discovery's mission to the international space station. In addition, team president Nolan Ryan can select the Houston player of his choice, put him in a headlock, and punch him in the face 10-12 times.


Colorado defeats Minnesota 2-1

The ghost of John Denver will haunt Garrison Keillor for the next six months.

LA Angels take two out of three from LA Dodgers

The Dodgers have to change their name to the Anaheim Dodgers of Los Angeles.

Seattle defeats San Diego

As a result of this series, the Chargers will be forced to sign former Seahawk running back Shaun Alexander.

Arizona won two out of three against Detroit

John McCain no longer has to drive around in an American car.

New York Mets win both games over the New York Yankees

Mr. Met gets a free four-hour session with one of Eliot Spitzer's "seven-diamond" girls, while the Yankees must eat only pizza from Infamous Derivative Ray's until the two teams meet again in late June.

Kansas City over Florida

Kansas City gets a hundred pounds of fried bananas, while Florida has to house all of Kansas City's retirees until they die.

Cincinnati sweeps Cleveland

The Indians have to pay for Ken Griffey Junior's next arthroscopic surgery, and former Bengals coach Sam Wyche gets to make this speech during the seventh-inning stretch of a game at Jacobs Field.

baseball takes the bus

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When my friend Mike B told me about his new job editing online sports video, I saw an opportunity. Yes, the web is awash with sports commentary of all stripes - but does any of it take place on public transportation? With our niche firmly in sight, "Baseball Takes The Bus" was born.

So far, there are four of these in the can, and, dare I say it, they just keep getting better. They all come at the tail end of "MLB Roundup", a short baseball commentary show, with "Baseball on the Bus" coming last, and least informatively. For your enjoyment, the videos can be found after the jump.

tedford, throughout history

After a season marked by poor play and disastrous fourth-quarter passing, Cal coach Jeff Tedford finally replaced incumbent quarterback Nate Longshore with backup Kevin Riley, down 21-0 to Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. The result was a 42-36 comeback victory, but fans wondered why the change happened so late in the year, after Cal had already lost six of seven games. What would Jeff Tedford have been like in other historical situations?

Fire Inspector Tedford
October 12th, 1871
Chicago, IL

"Now that the fire has finally been put out, Mrs. O'Leary, I'm going to have to shoot your cow."

Admiral Tedford
December 8th, 1941
Pearl Harbor

"You know what? Let's get a lookout up there, to let us know if any planes are coming. That is, after we rebuild that tower that the Japanese planes blew up."

National Guard Captain Tedford
Kent State University
May 6, 1970

"Let's give the Guardsmen rubber bullets before the next protest."

Zookeeper Tedford
December 27th, 2007
San Francisco, CA

"Tomorrow, we build a taller wall outside the tiger enclosure."

My Father Tedford
September 21st, 1978

"Sharon, I've been doing some reading, and it turns out that the Rhythm Method is not nearly as reliable as we thought. I'm buying you a diaphragm."

the mitchell report

The Mitchell Report came out this week, exposing the names of many baseball players who used performance-enhancing drugs. They listed 86 players, but there's probably a lot more, as Mitchell didn't seem to have many sources. Players named feel into a few broad categories:

1. Bay Area players implicated as BALCO customers.

2. Players who bought drugs from former Mets bat boy Kirk Radomski.

3. Players implicated by former player Larry Bigbie.

4. Players discovered in the course of an investigation into Florida pharmacies and clinics.

5. Players named by trainer Brain McNamee (Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite).

This says to me that there's a lot of other PED users in baseball that didn't come up in this report. The report is heavy on former A's, Mets, Orioles, and especially Giants, but unless this bat boy was the lone source for steroids in MLB, there's a lot more names out there.

The Giants specifically had a lot of terrible relief pitchers that turned out to be juicing. They were awful, yet cheating all the while. Finding out these players were cheating is like learning that Steve Buscemi got a face lift. Among those pitchers were:

- Jason Christiansen, who threw 126 innings in his four years with the team, with a 4.57 ERA. For this performance, Christiansen earned a little over eight million dollars. He's most famous for getting into a fight with Barry Bonds when Bonds threw Coca-Cola on him.

- Mike Stanton, who earned eight saves with the Giants at the tail end of 2006, before helping the Dodgers win the wild card at the end of the year. Fun quote in that story: Brian Sabean claims that the Giants will not have any high-salary signings in the off-season, a few months before signing Barrys Bonds and Zito to mega-deals.

- Matt Herges, mentioned in this space as one of the Rockies' Refugee All-Stars, and as a horrible, horrible pitcher back in 2007.

One wonders what these pitchers might have done absent the performance-enhancing drugs. Would they have thrown pitches underhand, and let batters choose the location, all while burning piles of the owner's money and telling embarrassing secrets about the catcher? All i know is that I won't be satisfied until all of Matt Herges's pitching statistics are expunged from the record books, and as such, the Giants are retroactively awarded the 2004 National League West title.

the nfl and the rebus

One of my favorite things about football season is the signs that fans display in the stands. They range from awkward phrases that try to incorporate TV network names ("Cooking Brady Soup: We Want a SUPER BOWL Of It"), to misspelled knocks at opposing players (Eagles fans asking Randy Moss "Boxers or Breifs?") to inappropriate commentary on national tragedies:


My favorite is the "D-Fence sign". Usually it's a team effort - one fan holds up a cardboard D, while another holds a section of picket fence. Since the cancellation of Concentration, the D-fence sign is easily the most common example of the rebus in contemporary American society. And most of the time (and 100% of the time at Raiders games), you can assume the person holding it has no idea what a rebus is.


While D-Fence may have peaked in popularity, I can't endorse any of the spinoffs such as "Off-Fence" (generally with a cardboard light switch) and D-Fence inventor Big Lo's confusing pro-Seattle "Sea-Fence" sign. However, I do think "Sea-Fence" would infuriate Raider fans more than a regular D-Fence sign would, because it involves words, and Raider fans don't know how to read.

the table of bad jerseys

Three weeks ago, I found myself at a Marina sports bar for the epic Patriots-Colts matchup. The game lived up to the hype, as both teams played like champions. We did our part to drink like champions, and as the Sunday Night Cowboys-Eagles game approached, my companions and I were still sitting, sipping water and speculating about whether Tommy Brady's mediocre first half performance was due to a fight with Gisele.

As a Pats fan in a Randy Moss jersey walked toward the exit, and Annie slapped him five, a curious group occupied the table in front of us. It was a motley group of football enthusiasts with an even motlier collection of jerseys. Here was the lineup, clockwise from the seat closest to the giant TV:

- Skinny white guy in 49ers Alex Smith jersey.
- Drunk girl in too-tight, pink, Donovan McNabb Eagles jersey.
- Large man in what looked like a homemade Dallas Cowboys imitation-jersey t-shirt, with a list of Dallas championship years on the back.
- Filipino man with a shaved head and an earring, wearing a Bluetooth earpiece and a Michael Vick jersey.

It was the sports bar equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys Not one of those jerseys should have been worn in public, and the fact that all four were at the same table defied probability. Perhaps they met in a Shameful Jerseys Yahoo group and decided to meet up. These were one step above wearing a USC Trojans OJ Simpson jersey, and a half-step below rocking one of those half-Giants, half-A's baseball shirts. Even in the douchebag-rich environment of the Marina District, these people stood out as really big douchebags.

The Vick jersey was by far the most objectionable. "What kind of message is he trying to send?" mused Annie.

"He's saying, 'I don't even want to talk to a woman today'", I replied. "What do you think the Bluetooth is for?"

"Dogfighting updates," said Annie.

"I say, hands-free phone calls to other douchebags."

On TV, Donovan McNabb threw an ill-advised interception. Vick Jersey and Dallas T-Shirt leaned over to taunt Pink McNabb Girl, while Alex Smith Jersey spilled his beer, probably due to his unusually small hands. By cheering for the Cowboys, Vick Jersey had nearly doubled his douchebag quotient, and was just a backwards Red Sox cap and some Kobe Bryant armbands away from reaching a new pinnacle of assholery. We got the hell out of there before any spilled over onto us.

big game week: mascots

This is Big Game Week, the run-up to the yearly football game between Cal and Stanford. It's Good vs. Evil, Bears vs. Cardinal, Berkeley vs. Palo Alto, Public vs. Private, California University vs. Stansbury, Sean vs. Geetika & Omar. Though I may be touching off an internecine struggle in the apartment, I would like to hereby declare that Cal has by far the superior mascot to Stanford, and in fact, the greatest mascot in the whole Pac-10 Conference.


It's no secret that I love Oski, Cal's ursine mascot. I've worked with him on a few occasions, and he's always a professional, though not much of a talker. He does it all. The slow walk with his hands held behind his back. The fist pump. And, of course, doing shots through a tube running through the eye of the costume:

Let's take a look at Oski's competition:

Arizona Wildcats:

Quite an original choice. After all, there's only 35, 40 other schools with that exact mascot. "Wildcats" is the name you end up with when you are too dumb or lazy to come up with your own idea. At the Arizona Wildcats video arcade, all the high scores read "AAA", and every VCR clock flashes 12:00.

In addition, the fearsome wildcat weighs in at 3-8 kilograms, a fearsome threaten to small birds and unattended saucers of milk all over the Pac 10. Still tougher than Stanford's mascot, however.

Arizona State Sun Devils:

Here's the origin story for the Arizona State mascot, via Wikipedia:

The nickname was said to have come from an article in the newspaper in which the writer said the quote "Lets call them Sun Devils," and the name eventually caught on the with the university.

Thrilling stuff! Of course, Hell is somewhat lacking when it comes to natural sunlight. With his sun-ravaged face and history of thuggish football programs, some would say new Head Coach Dennis Erickson is the true sun devil.


USC Trojans:

Who won the Trojan War? (Hint: Not the Trojans.)

By the way, it's always bad news for the Trojans when anyone sleeps with Paris.

UCLA Bruins:

For one, UCLA is merely copycatting Berkeley, as they have with their colors, their fight song, and the lack of decent Mexican restaurants in Westwood. Secondly, they've chosen "Bruin", an archaic name for bears that dates back to the medieval folktales about Reynard the Fox. In these stories, Bruin is a bear that gets repeatedly tricked by a fox, which is a good metaphor for Karl Dorrell's coaching style.

Washington Huskies:

"Husky" is what you call jeans for fat little boys.

Washington State Cougars:

If you've ever spent time drinking in San Francisco's Marina District, you know that you need to be wary of cougars. From this name, we can assume that Pullman, WA is even worse. These 35-and-over women are on the prowl, and they're looking for younger men. Cougars are certainly intimidating, but in a slightly different way than you want your school's mascot to be.

Oregon State Beavers:

That's dirty.

Oregon Ducks:


That's Donald Duck in the Fighting Ducks logo. He's the perfect symbol for Oregon. Donald has Uncle Scrooge; Oregon has Nike CEO Phil Knight, who also likes to swim in a bin of gold coins. In Donald's cartoons, he always gets off to a promising start before exploding into a fit of squawking anger. Oregon always starts strong before USC beats them, they get snubbed by the BCS, or their QB tears his ACL and gets replaced by Ryan Leaf's little brother, and the team implodes in a fit of squawking anger. Then they lose the Holiday Bowl.

Stanford Cardinal:

Stanford's mascot is the worst of the bunch. It's a tree, ostensibly because the campus is in Palo Alto ("Tall tree"), itself a lazy name for a city. The mascot is a big goofy tree that jumps around and dances. Due to the shame of wearing the costume, many wearers drink heavily.

If your son or daughter had an imaginary friend like that - googly eyes, floppy branches, hangs out with a bunch of rich douchebags all the time - you'd yell at them and demand they come up with an imaginary friend who was less of a loser. The Tree comes out dead last in the Pac-10 by my analysis, and it doesn't fare much better in a fight:

The Red Sox won the World Series convincingly this year over the Rockies, and outcome that Jesus could have predicted. The game was won by cancer survivor Jon Lester, and cancer survivor Mike Lowell hit a home run. Lowell was later awarded the World Series MVP for his stellar hitting during the four-game sweep of Colorado.

It was ironic that the two players spearheaded the clinching effort, since some would argue that rooting for the Red Sox is like rooting for cancer. Red Sox fandom, like cancer, is insidious. It's also hereditary: if you have one or more parents that are Sox fans, the odds are overwhelming that you too will develop Sox fandom, often growing malignant even before adulthood. You'll find cancer and obnoxious Sox fans in any part of the country, with "clusters" especially likely in high-income areas like New England and Marin County. If left unchecked, Sox fandom will run wild, consuming resources like beer and premium tickets.

Until Boston's 2004 World Series triumph, Red Sox fandom was often linked with death: the funeral atmosphere in Southie after Bill Buckner's miscue in 1986, the Curse of the Bambino representing Babe Ruth haunting the franchise from beyond the grave. Superfan Bill Simmons even titled his Red Sox book, Now I Can Die In Peace, a sentiment most often espoused inside hospices.

Is it a coincidence that pink caps are worn primarily at Breast Cancer Awareness events and the stands at Fenway Park? I don't think so.

I might be biased because I don't like Red Sox Nation. Really, I don't especially like any Nations. I don't like Raider Nation. I don't like the Nation of Islam. I don't like Birth of a Nation. I prefer The Smokehouse to Nation's Giant Hamburgers, and I greatly prefer salvation to damnation.

Rhythm Nation 1814 is OK by me.

Lester and Lowell show that investing in cancer survivors can pay off. Next year, Boston plans to acquire a shortstop with Lyme disease, two left-handed relievers with rickets, and a bullpen catcher with extremely high cholesterol.

The World Series MVP receives a new Chevy Malibu, which I mistakenly thought was the worst Finals MVP prize in any sport. You get your choice of Cadillac models for winning the Super Bowl MVP (everyone seems to pick the Escalade), but I couldn't tell if players get anything besides a trophy for the NBA. Probably a a DVD of the second season of Martin and a big sack of weed. Hockey players just get the Conn Smythe Trophy, along with a twelve-pack of Molson's and a large hunk of raw Canadian bacon.

The Malibu has a retail value of $20-27 grand, or roughly what Mike Lowell earns every four innings. He had to be excited when Jeanne Zelasko described the features of the car, an automobile that Lowell will likely give to a clubhouse attendant or ne'er-do-well brother-in-law.

Zelasko was surprisingly tough in her interview with Lowell, generally a time for softball questions interrupted by sprays of champagne from whooping teammates. Instead, Zelasko congratulated him on his clutch hitting, then brought up his expiring contract. The gist of the interview was, "Nice job with the award. How does it feel to be unemployed?"

If she's going to be a jerk, why stop there?

"Mike, you had a great World Series, earning your second World Series ring. Would you trade those rings to have two intact testicles again?"

You can help fight cancer and support The Jimmy Fund, through the time-tested anti-cancer method of buying silicone bracelets, by visiting The Lester Project.

jesus gives up on the rockies

After they've gone down 3-0 in the World Series, even Jesus Christ has given up on the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies are an organization guided by Christianity, and some have taken the team's remarkable performance through the end of the season and playoffs as proof of their divine blessing. But the win streak has ended in the World Series, leading some to wonder if Jesus no longer blesses the Rockies. According to our exclusive interview with the Messiah, that answer is yes.

Zembla: Jesus, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

Jesus: No problem. Love your work.

Thank you, Jesus! Now, is it accurate that you used to be a Colorado supporter?

Most definitely. No porn in the lockers, charity work from the team lots of prayer circles - really, what's not to like? I also appreciated their use of the humidor to dry out the baseballs, because otherwise, baseball at Coors Field is just ridiculous.

So what changed?

For one, it's their style of play. They can't lay down a simple sacrifice bunt. My father gave up his only begotten son, and they can't deliver on the simple act of sacrificing a runner one base?

You believe in little ball?

Not necessarily. But, you know, the Bible stresses patience and humility. The Rockies need to exhibit some plate discipline. Take some pitches. Ask themselves, What would I do?

So you're saying...?

Jesus walks.

Kanye West knew what he was talking about, then.

Heh. Hey, what's the difference between Me and Kanye?

What's that?

I don't think I'm Kanye West.

Good one, Lord. What do you think of the Rockies roster?

I like that they've got men of faith, but I thought they wanted to shape the roster in My image. If that's the case, how come the whole team is white? If they really studied the Bible all the time like they claim to, they should know Jesus was a black man.

I didn't realize You were black.

Come on, man. Do you know any white people named "Jesus"? I hung out with prostitutes, got hassled by the cops, and I was always poor. By the way, the new 11th Commandment is Stop Snitching. Don't take the thirty pieces of silver, guys. Anyway, the Rockies supposedly love me, so where are the brothers? Or the Jews?

Speaking of silver, do you think the Rockies are greedy?

Yes. They're trying to trademark the phrase "Rocktober". That phrase has been around for decades, including on many of My favorite hard rock stations. Honestly, this kind of cash grab is worse than the moneylenders in the temple.

Now, regarding the Boston series, did you make any prophecies?

Before the cock crows three times in the fifth inning, the Rockies bullpen will betray them seven times.

The game was out of reach at that point anyway, don't you think?

Hey, one team still managed to score a bunch of runs. Of course, they had a real DH.

Can you elaborate on that?

One of the commandments of baseball is, "Don't bet your designated hitter ninth." There's no one on the roster who can outhit Yorvit Torrealba? At their darkest hour, I delivered unto them Seth Smith - and now they've forsaken him.

In a 2006 article in USA Today, CEO Charlie Monfort said, "I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. Christians, and what they've endured, are some of the strongest people in baseball. I believe God sends signs, and we're seeing those." Your thoughts?

They missed a pretty obvious sign when we crashed the team website on Tuesday, right before World Series tickets went on sale. You're me-damn right it was an "act of God". I'm sick of the Rockies and so is Dad. You know, Charlie only got born again after he got a DUI. Like I'm not going to notice that.

Any final thoughts on the Series?

Yes. Any lack of support for the Rockies should not be taken as an endorsement of Curt Schilling in any way. Really, it's natural that I would find the Red Sox appealing, since I hate the Yankees.

If you changed your mind, could you deliver the victory to Colorado? After all, you raised Lazarus from the dead.

That was one guy. I'm supposed to revive 25 dead guys? Forget it.

Thank you, Jesus.

Sure thing. Peace be with you.


We're two games into the baseball playoffs, and all four series are at 2-0. How are teams getting ready for Game Three?

(See Part One, Part Two, Part Three)

Cleveland vs. New York - Cleveland leads 2-0

New York

Owner George Steinbrenner: Cleveland likes bugs, huh? It wasn't bad enough that we were in Cleveland - they've got to have actual vermin involved, too? Joe, we're going to fight fire with fire.

Joe Torre: Please don't do this, sir.

Steinbrenner: The Indians have gotta know, you don't bring a knife to a gun fight. Roger, get over here!

Roger Clemens: Yes Mr. Steinbrenner?

Steinbrenner: Clay Bellinger and Luis Sojo have been filling these jars all afternoon. I need you to place these all around the field.

Clemens: What do you mean?

Steinbrenner: This is a sack of rats. i want you to let them loose behind the visitor's bullpen.

Torre: George, that's crazy. I mean, that's crazy, sir. Besides, Roger is starting Game Three.

Steinbrenner: What, he's got to rest so he can pitch 3 1/3 innings and then leave for a reliever? I've seen him in the playoffs recently.

Clemens: Mr. Steinbrenner, I really don't feel comfortable doing this.

Steinbrenner: I'll give you five grand.

Clemens: At your service, sir.

Steinbrenner: Great. So my sources tell me Grady Sizemore is terrified of spiders. Let these tarantulas loose behind the monuments.

Clemens: Is that a beehive?

Steinbrenner: Yes. I want you to bury it six inches below the visitor's on-deck circle. Clay, any luck training Challenger to eat human flesh?

Torre: Excuse me, guys. I've got to go tell A-Rod that he's hitting 8th tonight.


(Manager Eric Wedge stands in the middle of the clubhouse. Behind him stands a life-sized cardboard cutout, turned to face the wall.)

Wedge: Gather round, everyone, gather round. Here's the moment we've all been waiting for.

C.C. Sabathia: Are we seriously gonna do this?

Wedge: (ignoring him) At the Al-Star Break, we were a full game out of first place. No one believed in us. Not the fans, not the media, and especially not the ownership

Travis Hafner: I was actually pretty confident. Our young talent was only going to improve as the season went on.

Grady Sizemore: Yeah, the fans have been great. And ownership has been nothing but supportive.

Wedge: I told you, 'Best I can figure, we need about 44 victories to win the division title or wild card, and then three more to get to the ALCS.'" And then I brought out this poster.

Hafner: I've said this before, but I think our goal really ought to be to win the World Series.

Sabathia: Seriously, please don't do this.

Wedge: This life-sized cutout of our 76-year-old owner Larry Dolan once had 47 stickers concealing his naked, liver-spotted body. But today, we stand one final victory away from the ALCS, and one final sticker away from...

Sizemore: Skip, we, uh, we really gotta go take batting practice. Right now. Pitchers, too - you never know.

Hafner: And infield practice!

Sabathia: Yeah, we need to leave before you turn that cutout around, dude.

(Players hurry out of the clubhouse en masse, except for Kenny Lofton)

Wedge: Kenny ! You want to watch the big reveal?

Lofton: Not now. I stole a base in Game One, so now I've got to nail this pair of batting gloves to the wall.


We're two games into the baseball playoffs, and all four series are at 2-0. How are teams getting ready for Game Three?

(See Part One)

Chicago vs. Arizona - Arizona leads 2-0


Seven hours before game time, Lou Piniella walks slowly around the deserted diamond. At first base he pauses, stoops down, and tears the base off its moorings. With the base held above his head, Piniella unleashes a string or profanity, cursing loudly and vaguely coherently until his breath gives out. Then, red-faced, Piniella heaves the base into the outfield as far as he can.

Lou continues his circuit around the field, stopping at each base and repeating his ritual. At home plate he stops and methodically kicks dirt over home plate. With each sweep of his foot, Piniella delivers another curse word, each new profanity more foul than the last. When home plate is completely obscured by dirt and mud, Piniella throws his cap onto the mound, stomps on it, and spits.

Exhausted, Piniella trudges to the dugout. "I'm ready," he whispers to bench coach Alan Trammell. "Let's get these motherfuckers."


Manager Bob Melvin: When's the last time you saw him?

Pitching coach Bryan Price: We were eating at Giordano's Pizza on West Belmont. He was finishing his eighth slice when he thought he saw a hot dog cart outside, and he just bolted.

Melvin: How'd he get away?

Price: He moves faster than you expect! He sideswiped me with his gut, and I tripped over a bench. By the time I caught sight of him again, he was running out of Panes Bread Cafe with an armload of sandwiches.

Melvin: What do we do now?

Price: I've been calling hospitals, all-night restaurants, and bacon wholesale outlets all night - no luck. Also, I've got Conor Jackson pushing a hot dog cart up and down Waveland Avenue.

Melvin: I guess we could have Owings pitch...

Price: I'm sure he'll turn up. Besides, I'm not sure it matters that he went off his diet. I saw him eat an entire fried chicken between the second and third inning once. As long as we can roll him out to the mound, he'll go five innings.

Melvin: I hope you're right. Meanwhile, let's heat up a tray of empanadas in the clubhouse. Maybe he'll smell them and come back.

Price: Got it. Oh, Livan, please come home!


We're two games into the baseball playoffs, and all four series are at 2-0. As the teams travel to different stadiums for Game Three, how is each team preparing?

Boston vs. Los Angeles of Anaheim - Boston leads 2-0


GM Bill Stoneman: What can we do differently at home?

Mike Scioscia: I don't know. Keep pitching around Ortiz, hope Weaver can come up big on Sunday?

Stoneman: No, for the fans. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim succeed because of our fans. Down 2-0, ThunderStix and animated monkeys aren't gonna cut it.

Scioscia: I think it might be more appropriate to see if we can find something for Garret's conjunctivitis.

Stoneman: Check out these cowbells. I'm thinking we hand them out at the gates, along with these wooden noisemakers. Cowbell in one hand, noisemakers in the other.

Scioscia: You know, I should really be looking at film of Curt Schilling right now...

Stoneman: So you're thinking, OK, their hands are full, we've maxed out on noise. But I was watching the Cal-Oregon game, and those fans had these little duck calls in their mouths. It was awesome!

Scioscia: Didn't Oregon lose that game?

Stoneman: OK, noisemakers, ThunderStix, cowbells, duck calls, and three new rally videos by Sunday. Can the team grow playoff beards overnight? Oh, and dye them red! Like Spezio! Hey, does anyone on the roster play in a rock band?

Scioscia: (slams door, exits, prepares self for walkoff loss.)

Red Sox

In the parking lot outside of Anaheim Stadium, Dave Henderson stands in a hooded robe. In front of him is a large, bubbling cauldron, sitting atop a pyre of burning Bobby Grich jerseys. Henderson chants quietly under his breath as he adds ingredients to the cauldron: a Gene Autry album, a "Wally World" t-shirt, a lock of Don Sutton's snow-white hair, and a DVD of The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad!. He raises the hood and speaks:

"When Bobby Grich's fly ball bounced off my glove and over the fence, I swore that the Angels would never win another playoff game against Boston."

Henderson pauses to stick a pin into the left shoulder of a Vladimir Guerrero doll, and pour a mysterious fluid onto the eyes of a Garret Anderson figure. Then, Henderson unsheathes a dagger and slices the palm of his hand. Blood drops into the cauldron and is met by thick green smoke.

"Thus I have sworn, thus it shall be. Thus is the voodoo of Hendu."


(Note: I didn't finish this preview before Game 1 actually started. You could say I was as prepared as the Angels hitters were. I'm keeping my original series prediction, foolish as it may now look.)

In contrast to the Rockies-Phillies series, I don't like either team in the Angels-Red Sox tilt. I never liked the Angels, dating back past the 2002 World series disaster, where my general dislike caramelized into thick, sugary hatred for the team down south. Since 2002, it's only gotten worse. Here are some things I hate about the Angels:

1. Former Dodger Mike Scioscia is the manager. He was such a fixture in Chavez Ravine - behind the plate, in the dugout, on Tommy Lasorda's nuts - that with him gone, Lasorda had to turn to prostitutes.

2. The spelling of Chone Figgins's first name.

3. The fake mountain range in the Angels Stadium outfield.

4. The gentle media treatment of Gary Matthews, Jr. after he was implicated in a performance-enhancing drug scandal this off-season, compared to the scorn heaped on Barry Bonds. I guess it's possible Gary was just ordering the medication for a child with growth failure...

5. The 2002 championship banner.

6. The name "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim". That is a stupid name of idiocy. to be fair, the Spanish translation (Los Angeles de Los Angeles de Anaheim) is awesome.

There was a time when I really liked the Red Sox. My father's weird self-loathing Irishman fandom led him to despise both the Boston Celtics and Notre Dame University, but he never turned his hatred on the Red Sox. I've visited Boston a few times, and declared my love for the city on these virtual pages. I watched the Don Zimmer Game from South Boston, cheering on Pedro Martinez even as he was throwing a 72-year-old man into the infield grass headfirst. Sure, I occasionally criticized Boston for being a team full of ringers, but I pulled for them all through the 2003 and 2004 postseason, even after embarrassingly declaring their 2003 Division Series to be over after the A's went up 2-0.

Something changed after 2004. Suddenly, the downtrodden, lovable Red Sox fans had become the most obnoxious, arrogant fans in the world. 86 years of playoff misery had been the only thing keeping the natural New England assholery in check. Coupled with the dominance of the Patriots, the Red Sox's success created a national army of monstrous fans, worse than Yankee fans at their worst. And Jimmy Fallon ran onto the field at the end of Game 4, while metaphorically pissing in Nick Hornby's face. I haven't seen the movie, but I'd lay dollars to donuts that Fallon started cracking up in the middle of the shot.

So with the series beginning on Wednesday, how was I to display my disdain for both teams? I did it by wearing an Angels jersey to work. But not just any Angels jersey. I wore the 1998-edition #42 Mo Vaughn jersey. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Vaughn, he left the Red Sox in 1999 to sign an $88-million dollar contract with the Angels. He injured himself falling down the dugout steps in his first game, missed the entire 2001 due to injury, and gained approximately 60 pounds over the life of his contract. Thus, a Mo Vaughn jersey brings back painful, negative memories for both fan bases.


What are the Red Sox like?

Really damn good. Great hitting, good fielding, good pitching. It's still a team of ringers, with only three lineup regulars remaining from the 2004 championship team. The lovable David Ortiz leads the way, with able support from Manny Ramirez. There's no bad hitter in the lineup. Pitching features a Japanese import, post-season hero Josh Beckett, and right-wing Bush fellater Curt Schilling.

What are the Angels like?

Only partially a team of ringers, they're similar to the Red Sox but slightly worse in most areas. Vlad Guerrero is the superstar, though he's hurt and won't play the field in this series. This will be a disappointment to certain roommates of mine, who see Vlad's throwing arm as pure poetry. In his stead, they'll be playing a white guy named Reggie, the last white Reggie since Archie comics began. The Angels have a better bench and a better bullpen than the Red Sox, and they steal more bases.

Things to say to appear more knowledgeable about this series

"Howie Kendrick is going to win a batting title someday."
"It's Kelvim. With an 'm'."
"The Angels have lost their last six (now seven) playoff games to Boston."
"Vladimir Guerrero is most reliable RBI man in the major leagues."
"Boooooooo! This guy sucks!" (when J.D. Drew is hitting, regardless of which team you are supporting)
"The Red Sox probably won't bunt here."

Root for the Red Sox if...

You like big guys who give lots of hugs, you grew up in New England, you're Irish, you like Japanese pitchers, you hate the Yankees, you appreciate the novelty of Caucasian ticket scalpers, or you work for the FOX network and desperately want a Yankees-Red sox League Championship Series.

Root for the Angels if...

You thought Walt Disney was very handsome and wish his doppelganger success owning a baseball team, you love Vlad Guerrero, you like fan gimmicks like Thunderstix and animated monkeys on the Jumbotron, you can't spell "Sean" correctly, you are The John Francis.

Who are you rooting for, Sean?

Boston, and it's not even close. As much as I despise Schilling, I love Manny and Ortiz just as much. And besides, anything south of Fresno, it's all the same.

Sean's prediction

Though the Sox are superior on paper, I'm going to go with Angels in five, because Vlad might win a game by himself, John Lackey is a stud, and it's safer to pick against the team I actually want to win.

playoff preview: rockies vs. phillies

The Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies have overcome a decade of futility and finally returned to the National League playoffs. They're the two teams that I personally find most appealing in this year's post-season, so they are of course squaring off in the first round. Blake Street Bombers! Phightin' Phils! National League Division Series Fever - catch it!

There's no historical animosity between these two teams. They're not in the same division, and due to their usual non-contender status, they've played very few meaningful games in Colorado's 15-year existences. If anything, the teams can find a lot of common ground:

Maybe they can start a feud about the Allen Iverson trade, or some manufactured rivalry between the Colorado Crush and the Philadelphia Fire. Did Jon Bon Jovi and Judy Collins ever get into a brawl?

What are the Phillies like?

In 2005 and 2006, the Phillies missed the playoffs on the very last day of the season. For fans, it's like they're collectively Charlie Brown. They tried to kick a football, Lucy pulled it away, and then Schroeder and Linus kicked them in the nuts - two years in a row. Seeing Phillies fans have their dreams crushed at the end of a six-month, 162-game season made me feel relieved that the Giants sucked from wire-to-wire these past few seasons. This year, I gave up around St. Patrick's Day. It can be freeing.

Philadelphia has four players in their starting lineup having near-superstar years: MVP-favorite and Oakland native Jimmy Rollins plays short. Second baseman Chase Utley might have been the MVP front-runner without a midseason trip to the DL. First baseman Ryan Howard won the MVP last year, and hit 47 homers this year. Center fielder Aaron Rowand made the All-Star team and is one of the best defensive outfielders in the league.

Besides those guys, they have former star Pat Burrell, two other solid outfielders in the clumsy Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino, whose bobblehead features him wearing a grass skirt. They don't have a good third baseman, but they do have three crappy guys who are crappy in different enough ways that they make an interesting platoon.

Their pitching is bizarre. Wife-beater Brett Myers started the season as the team's ace, got moved to the closer role, punched manager Charlie Manuel in the face, apologized and remind Manuel that he loved him, but he just gets crazy sometimes, bought Charlie Manuel flowers as makeup gift, went on the disabled list for two months, and later called a beat writer a "fuckin retard". They'll be starting both a 44-year-old and a rookie in this series. They also have a relief pitcher with twelve fingers. Don't be surprised to see a dwarf or a centaur take the mound if any of these games go extra innings.

What are the Rockies like?

The Rockies also have an excellent lineup, with overrated MVP candidate Matt Holliday leading the way, and defensive whiz Troy Tulowitzki helping out at shortstop. Regular Zembla feature subject Todd Helton is still at first base, thanks to his 27-year contract, and Japanese import Kaz Matsui plays second. Matsui is a crucial part of this Rockies team, both because of his solid glovework and his status as one of the few minorities on the team. It's just him and Yorvit Torrealba among position players. If you like white people, you'll love the Rockies.

The position players are good, but the Colorado bullpen is the Refugee All-Stars of the baseball world. Wyclef would have plenty of material with this collection of vagrants and unwanted players from other squads. Still, the bullpen kept them together in the playoff hunt. In their one-game playoff versus San Diego, starter Josh Fogg (a refugee from the Pirates)only lasted four innings. The Rockies were trying to stay alive, or they'd be gone 'til November, when the free agency signing period begins. So they turned to their reclamation projects.

Matt Herges had a beleaguered stint as the Giants' fill-in closer in 2004, before declining further in 2005, eventually earning a trade to Arizona. He gave up four home runs in his first eight innings with the new team, and the Diamondbacks released him two weeks later. In 2006, he signed with the Marlins, and landed in Colorado before 2007.

But that's not all. In 2002, the Dodgers dealt Herges to Montreal. Montreal kept him for the season, then traded him to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh released him a week before the season, he signed with San Diego, and was traded to the Giants at midseason. In summary, that means Herges has pitched for eight different NL teams, including every team in the NL West. (His brother-in-law, Todd Hollandsworth, played for eight different teams as well.) In the tiebreaker win, Herges pitched three shutout innings.

Herges wasn't alone. LaTroy Hawkins was run out of town in San Francisco and Chicago. He threw a shutout inning. Jeremy Affeldt, who couldn't cut it in the third world baseball nation of Kansas City, closed out an inning. Winning pitcher Ramon Ortiz was booted from Anaheim, Cincinnati, Washington, and Minnesota. Now they're in the playoffs. Maybe Steve Kline should sign there next year.

("What's he gonna do, hit me with an 84 MPH fastball?")

Thing to say to appear more knowledgable about this series

"That change of venue really helped Matsui."
"Now that they're using the humidor, Coors Field is much more of a pitcher's park."
"A real Philly cheesesteak is covered in Cheez-Whiz."
"Then, the beat writer asked him to spell 'retard'."
"Alfonseca also has six toes on each foot. And he's not a freak; it's called polydactylism."
"Sean Keane is probably not attracted to that dude."

Root for Philadelphia if...

You're from Oakland, Pennsylvania or southern Jersey, you feel bad about the Patriots stealing signals in the 2005 Super Bowl, you like mullets, you enjoy crazy press conferences where players and managers scream at reporters, or if you want to see if Ryan Howard can hit a ball 600 feet in Colorado.

Root for Colorado if...

You like John Elway, John Denver, infield defense, left-handed starting pitching, position players with long surnames, and the possibility of blizzards postponing the World Series.

Sean's prediction

Rockies in five, winning Game 5 in Philly, because God hates Philadelphia fans, regardless of the sport.

one-game playoff spectacular

Today, the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies square off in a one-game wild-card playoff. Winner gets the National League wild card berth and a matchup with the Phillies. Loser gets an extra day of meal money and shame. Let's see how they match up:

Real World seasons

Real World San Diego had six arrests, an unpublicized, untelevised rape investigation, and a cast member with cystic fibrosis who claimed she was "too punk rock" to be on the show. Standouts were future Challenge all-star Brad, and Early Morning Stoner White Washed Asian Girl Jamie Chung.

Real World Denver had fewer arrests (just one, for public urination), the depressing spectacle of alcoholic cast members teaching Katrina refugees to climb mountains, and, most importantly, Martinez native Jenn Grijalva, who liked to yell "Rock star!", hooked up with two housemates, and was drinking at Farrington's after midnight on Christmas Eve last year. (Excerpt from Farrington's review: "This place sucks. I almost wanna give it 5 stars for how bad it sucks. There's a line outside where people fight and smoke cigarettes and buy coke while waiting for people to leave so they can go in.")

Advantage: Colorado.

Frank Cushman

Jerry Maguire's client is the top prospect in the NFL draft, deciding between two teams at the top of the draft - San Diego and Denver. While Cush expresses his willingness to either "surf or ski", he ultimately opts for surfing in San Diego, after firing his Scientologist agent.

Advantage: San Diego.

Starting pitcher

Jake Peavy, the odds-on favorite for the NL Cy Young award, starts for the Padres, hoping for his 20th win. Josh Fogg, the odds-on favorite for a non-roster invitation to Rockies spring training next year, is hoping to find 20 dollars in a forgotten jacket pocket. Peavy led the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. Fogg was fifth in the league in hit batsmen. However, his name is better for punny post-game headlines.

Advantage: San Diego.


San Diego saved Peavy for this tiebreaker game, rather than start him in the season finale. After losing said finale, Padres players waited in the locker room to see if Colorado would force the tie by beating Arizona. Here's an excerpt from the story:

Once the Rockies-Diamondbacks game ended Sunday, players lifted themselves off the plush couches in the visiting clubhouse and scurried off to the shower or to grab some dinner before the bus left the stadium for the airport.

Not only were the Padres luxuriating on soft furniture while the Rockies battled for their playoff lives, many players were sitting on the plush couches, filthy and sweaty, not bothering to shower before plopping down on Milwaukee's couches. Nor did they eat, which I took to mean they were delaying, so as not to spoil their appetites for champagne.

Big Advantage: Colorado.

Controversial stadium sponsors

San Diego plays at PetCo Field, an organization opposed by PETA for its sale of live animals. PETA even placed a brick with a hidden, anti-Petco message on the stadium's facade.

The Rockies play at Coors Field, named after the Coors family and their brewing company. The Coors family has come under fire for its support of support of the Heritage Foundation and the John Birch Society. More offensive than that is the presence of creepily overtanned Pete Coors in their TV ads.


Advantage: Padres.

Former Giants

Colorado: LaTroy Hawkins, Yorvit Torrealba, Matt Herges
San Diego: Brett Tomko.

Advantage: San Diego

Players With Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligaments From Being Thrown To The Ground By Their Own Manager

Colorado: None.
San Diego: Milton Bradley.

Advantage: Colorado.


A purple triceratops named Dinger.

San Diego:
The terrifying Swinging Friar. Let's not even discuss Franken Friar.

Advantage: Colorado, by default.

Tiebreaker Challenge: Who Is Mom Rooting For?

Mom: "I hate the Padres now. To me, they're just another Southern California team. Anything south of Fresno, it's all the same. Hate 'em."

So there you have it. By a narrow margin of 5-4, the Rockies edge out the Padres, and are my pick to win. Of course, this means you can expect San Diego to win by a score of something like 10-2, delighting the residents of Pomona, Escondido, Valencia, Riverside, and San Bernardino - they're all the same to Mom, after all.

matt cain gets no support

It's been a disappointing season for the San Francisco Giants, but perhaps most disappointing for pitcher Matt Cain. On Tuesday night, Cain again pitched well, giving up only two runs in seven innings of work, but the Giants still lost, 6-4, as the bullpen gave up four runs in the ninth inning. Cain has an ERA of 3.65, tenth in the National League, and yet his record is 7-16. It's all due to a lack of run support from his offense. However, as shown below, Matt Cain is no stranger to a lack of support.

The New Bike

Matt Cain: Hey mom, where's my bike?

Mom: I'm so sorry, honey, it got repossessed.

Matt: But I mowed lawns all summer to buy that bike! Dad said if I earned half the money for it, he's pay the other half.

Mom: Your father never sent a check this month, honey. And without child support...

Matt: But they had to take my bike?

Mom: Your father also owed Barry Zito a lot of money.

Making Out

Matt's high school girlfriend: Yes, Matt, yes. Kiss me!

Matt: Hey, why does your bra feel so stiff? What gives?

Matt's high school girlfriend: Do you mean the underwire?

Matt: Yeah! Is that like a medical brace or something?

Matt's high school girlfriend: No, it's just a support garment.

Matt: A su-what garment?

Matt's high school girlfriend: A support bra. You know, it supports my breasts?

Matt: Look, if you've got scoliosis, just tell me.

The Accident

Doctor: Mrs. Cain, Matt was in a bad crash yesterday. He stopped breathing briefly after the accident, and, well, we're not sure if he'll ever regain consciousness again.

Mrs. Cain: Oh God! He's so young!

Doctor: I'm very sorry, ma'am.

Mrs. Cain: Are you saying, you're considering taking him off life support?

Doctor: Life support! I knew we forgot something!

The New House

Architect: I don't know what happened, Matt. The ceiling just collapsed.

Matt: What was holding it up?

Architect: I dunno, some kind of beam, I forget the specific kind.

Matt: (picks up piece of rotten lumber) Is this the wood you were using? This is old and brittle, and it looks like it could fall apart at any moment. And why does this 2x4 have "Rich Aurilia" written on the side? This one says "Ryan Klesko".

Architect: To be fair, those were all part of very successful buildings in the mid-to-late 90s.

The Internet Connection

Matt: Hello, Tech Support? My internet connection is down.

Tech Support: Well, what do you expect? Your whole infrastructure is old and slow.

Matt: I don't have any control over that. Can you just fix this problem?

Tech Support: Tell you what. I'll send Brian Wilson down to deal with it.

Matt: Is that a good idea?

Brian Wilson: Sorry, Matt, I accidentally set the router on fire.


cal vs. tennessee: part one

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Cal defeated Tennessee, 45-31, in the first game of the college football season. I was at the game last Saturday, and saw the orange-clad visitors go home sad, the women smoking unfiltered cigarettes and the men stroking their ill-advised wispy half-goatees.

The final score was vindication for Cal fans, hurt by last year's blowout loss and a whole season of trash-talking from SEC fans. However, this only means the series is tied 1-1. I crunched the numbers to find a tiebreaker to the state rivalry.

1. The Law. Albert "Albie" Gore III was arrested for drunk driving in Orange County this July. He was also was driving a Prius, which means it was a double victory for California over Tennessee. (Cal 2, Tenn 0)

2. Currency. Everyone knows that Andrew Jackson is on the $20. But who's on the million? Ronald Reagan, that's who. Point for California. (3-0)

3. Hustle & Flow. The Oscar for Best Song was a big win for Tennessee, especially. However, critics and audiences alike underestimated how much the film was inspired by director Craig Brewer's time in Pleasant Hill, CA. That scene where the girl seduces the electronics store employee in order to get a fancy microphone? I've seen worse from high school girls trying to buy beer at World Gas. (3-1)

4. The Civil War. It's true in organized labor, and it's true in history: America works best when we say Union Yes. (Cali up 4-1)

5. Rap music. "Going back to Cali", by a guy not even from California, is better than any rap song produced by a Tennessee artist. "Tennessee" by Arrested Development is a classic, but seems to be overlooked or overshadowed these days by other early-90's hip-hop acts, or their frontman's own self-importance. Speech, "Zingalamaduni" was terrible name! And it's not like the first album had such an awesome, catchy name that you could coast. Come on now! (5-1)


6. Geography. The state of Tennessee is geographically and constitutionally divided into three Grand Divisions: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. Constitutionally divided, mind you. California is informally divided into four regions as well:

a. LA
b. Bay Area
c. San Diego
d. Boondocks.

While those divisions probably should be constitutional, and the greater Fresno area should be cordoned off, California has not done it yet, so Tennessee wins this round. (5-2)

7. Mascots. Cal has Oski, beloved bear, and one of the NCAA's first openly-gay mascots. Tennessee is the Volunteers, but their mascot is some kind of brown dog. I asked a fan next to me about it: "You're the Volunteers, so what's that down there on the field?" She told me, "That's a hound dog!" (6-2)

8. Fight songs. Someone complained that the UT band played the fight song, "Rocky Top", too much during last year's game. I didn't notice, but then again, I have attended at least ten Cal-USC games over the years. anything short of playing the fight song after every single first down, touchdown, defensive stop, and homoerotic pushup performed my male yell leaders, as the Trojans do with "Fight On". "Rocky Top" is a nice song, so I'm calling this one a push. (6-2-1)

9. Squirrels. Cal's squirrels are on top of the prestigious Campus Squirrel Listings. Tennessee's squirrels are mostly found inside pots, being cooked and eaten by rednecks. Point for Cali. (7-2-1)


10. Reception of Harsh Taunts.

Cal: "SEC rules, Pac-10 Drools" - Clay Travis.
Tennessee: "You can't spell 'Citrus' without 'UT'" - Steve Spurrier.

UT wins, because that one stings, even if it's known as the Capital One Bowl now. So that's 7-3-1, and it looks like, scientifically, California is the superior state, and we didn't even get into California's advantages in weather, diversity, and the effects of places called Alamo on their state heroes.

sean keane print famousness


Pick up the current issue of ESPN The Magazine to see the first appearance of Sean Keane The Freelance Sports Humorist. In the July 16th issue, the cover features Jimmy Kimmel and LeBron James, and the "Espys 2012" piece features a joke by yours truly about embattled Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pac-Man" Jones. Look for my name amidst a long list of contributors, then cut the page out for your scrapbooks, subscribe to the magazine, and enjoy the finest sports magazine in the world that is also named for a cable network. ESPN will soon stand for "Enjoy Sean-Produced 'Nee-slappers (The Magazine)", and I'm pleased as punch to be a part of it.

LJ and JK ESPYS Cover.jpg

whitewashing the nba draft

The LA Times says that the Timberwolves and the Lakers were discussing a possible three-team (or more) trade that would bring Kevin Garnett to the Lakers. I was skeptical from the start.

The rumor involved a deal with both Indiana and Boston, yet not a single Caucasian player was headed to either city. Look, Larry Bird and Danny Ainge love white players. The Celtics almost threw up a whitewash a few years ago. Bird gave Golden State a playoff berth this year by trading for Troy Murphy AND Mike Dunleavy. On purpose!

It's still possible that the Lakers could get Jermaine O'Neal, but if so, I want to see more realistic trade packages. How about Vlad Radmanovic heading to Indianapolis instead of Lamar Odom? Then, the Pacers could potentially have a starting front court of Murphy, Vlad Rad, and Dunleavy - the softest, slowest, jump-shootingest collection of big men in NBA history.

The newest Garnett rumor has Shawn Marion heading to Boston, and Kevin Garnett heading to Phoenix. There are some permutations to the deal, including the involvement of the Atlanta Hawks or Charlotte Bobcats, but it appears that Boston and Phoenix are the key players. This deal is much more likely to happen because of one man: Pat Burke.

pat burke.jpg

Pat Burke is a 33-year-old reserve center for Phoenix, and the first Irish-born basketball player to make it to the NBA. He's the captain of the Irish national basketball team, which probably rivals the Jamaican bobsled team in terms of its suitability for international competition. If you put Pat in Boston, every pale-faced, freckled, borderline-alcoholic shamrock-tattooed Celtics fan (that's like 65% of the fanbase) would run out to buy a Burke jersey the very next day. Black players might not want to come to Boston, but Burke might play for free for the kind of adulation he'd receive in Boston. If the Suns could include Eric Piatkowski or famed Kiwi Sean Marks in the deal, this could be a blockbuster whitewash of Tom Sawyerian proportions.


Best of all, the Suns have two late-first-round draft choices to sweeten the deal, the perfect place to take a flyer on a college Caucasian like Josh McRoberts or Nick Fazekas.

Look, Danny Ainge has helped build two NBA champions already, helping the Pistons acquire Rasheed Wallace in 2004 and the Miami Heat pick up Antoine Walker in 2005. He might as well help out Phoenix, since the Celtics won't be anywhere near a championship anytime soon. Why not put together a team that's popular in Southie and makes fans feel like they're time-traveling to the 1950's?

Besides, Greg Ostertag wants to make a comeback. Embrace the precision chest passes, the blocked layups, and the sunburns, and make this thing happen, Ainge. Then, when the Celtics finish with the NBA's worst record, they can use next year's top pick on Kevin Love.

Stanford's scandal du jour is the story of Azia Kim, an 18-year-old who sucessfully pretended to be a Stanford student for nearly eight months.

This is very similar to the story of Buddy Teevens, the Florida tight ends coach who led the Stanford football team from 2002-4. Athletic Director Ted Leland was going to conduct an elaborate search for departing coach Tyrone Willingham's replacement, but when Teevens showed up in 2002, no one questioned him. Soon he was leading practices, making recruiting trips, and drawing up doomed ineffectual game plans. The athletic department tolerated this because, as one staffer said, "Buddy was so nice. No one wanted to confront him."


An anonymous SEC head football coach said, "With your assistant coaches, you know two years in advance that this guy is going to end up coaching at a Big Ten school, being regarded as being the top of the game," he said. "Buddy wasn’t one of those. I don't think anyone would say that.

Lacking a Stanford ID or key card, Teevens would enter the locker room by climbing onto a dumpster and entering through an open window. "I thought he just liked breezes," said a former player. "Breezes, and getting his ass kicked at the Big Game." Some players speculate that Teevens was homeless, and spent many nights in the trainer's room if he couldn't find an assistant coach to crash with.

Eventually, the ruse was discovered, and Teevens was relieved of his duties. Friends and colleagues speculate that it may have been peer pressure that caused Teevens to pretend to be a real football coach. He was replaced by Walt Harris, who resigned after his parents found out he'd been spending most nights at his girlfriend's house.

the nba coaching carousel

Friday saw two big developments in the world of NBA coaching. The Toronto Star says Sam Mitchell is returning as coach of the Raptors, and the Rockets officially fired Jeff Van Gundy. Mitchell was widely expected to explore coaching vacancies in Indiana, Charlotte or Sacramento, but ultimately decided to stay put.

When sportswriters rank the best vacant coaching jobs available, they tend to focus on the talent on the team's roster, their draft prospects, or their salary cap situation. Rarely do they discuss what should be a huge factor, the relative livability of these cities. It's why Warriors fans should be worried when Don Nelson says he's "not sure" he's going to stay as the head coach. The Warriors aren't competing against a job with another team for Nellie's affections; they're competing against Nellie's desire to begin drinking scotch at 10 AM every day in Hawaii.

If Mitchell was choosing between living in Toronto and living in Indianapolis, is that a difficult decision at all? Even if Indiana paid him more money, is that worth the lifestyle downgrade? Indianapolis drives NBA personnel so crazy, they end up getting into altercations with "small black males with handicapped short arms".

Meanwhile, Van Gundy has got to be relieved to be departing the humid, polluted hellhole that is Houston, Texas. The man used to live in New York City, and now he's spent four years in a city with no zoning, 95-degree mornings most of the year, and a light rail system that kills people. His choice was simple this offseason:

A: Stay in Houston, sign a new contract, and try to lead the Rockets out of the first round of the playoffs, or
B: Live and work anywhere in the world that isn't Houston, Texas

Any right-thinking human being would choose B.

My favorite part of the Van Gundy story is that the Rockets offered him a front office position, as if a vice president position makes it at all worthwhile to stay among the smog, traffic, and, worst of all, Houstonians. Look, Van Gundy didn't get fired. He got paroled.

Now Houston wants to get Rick Adelman to replace Van Gundy. Adelman has a history of success, but more importantly, he used to coach in Sacramento, meaning his expectations for weather and culture are low enough to find Houston, if not actually nice, at least acceptable.

The truly significant result of Van Gundy's firing is that he could team up with his brother, former Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy. Stan's Wikipedia page has a truly degrading photo of Coach Stan.) Omar's Van Gundy brothers coaching plan can become a reality. His idea is that the Van Gundys would share the head coaching role, "like a two headed ugly monster coach".


Omar explains further:

Jeff can feel free to run out onto the court and grab Zo's leg during their first matchup with the Heat, and then Stan can go punch Riles in their second matchup.

This is a brilliant idea. I think they, the Mega-Gundy, should be treated as a single entity - a technical for one is a technical for both, though it yields only one free throw. Stan has to shave his head, while Jeff has to grow a mustache. They will do interviews together, and be known as Jan Van Gundy. I think they should coach the Charlotte Bobcats, so they can torment Pat Riley four times a year in divisional play and give Adam Morrison's mustache the tutelage it needs. Also, the Charlotte job guarantees that neither Van Gundy ends up in Indianapolis, Memphis, or Sacramento, and you simply cannot put a price on that.

stu jackson, traffic cop

"This is a very unfortunate incident, but the rule is the rule. It's not a matter of fairness. It's a matter of correctness, and this is the right decision."
-Stu Jackson, on suspending Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw

Stu Jackson, Traffic Cop


(Robert Horry runs a red light in his Humvee, collides with Steve Nash in the crosswalk, and drives off. Boris Diaw steps off the curb and is apprehended by Officer Stu Jackson.)

Officer Stu Jackson: (Blows whistle) That's jaywalking, young man.

Diaw: My friend just got hit by a car!

Officer Jackson: The law states that, between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers, pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk.

Diaw: But I didn't even cross! I just took two steps off the curb!

Officer Stu Jackson: The law doesn't give me any discretion here. I'm going to have to give you a citation.

Diaw: Fine. Write the ticket. Can I at least go check on my friend?

Officer Stu Jackson: I'm pretty sure your friend is dead.

Diaw: What?

Officer Stu Jackson: Say, you think Stromile Swift can still develop into a good player, right?

The Fender-Bender

(Amare Stoudemire is stopped at an intersection. Bruce Bowen crashes his battered, banged-up jalopy into the back of Stoudemire's car, while honking his horn. Stoudemire gets out to confront Bowen.)

Amare Stoudemire: What the hell, man?

Bruce Bowen: Sorry. Totally unintentional.

Stoudemire: How did you not see me there?

(Officer Stu Jackson approaches the two men.)

Officer Stu Jackson: Whoa whoa whoa. What's going on here?

Stoudemire: He rear-ended me!

Bowen: I apologized to him. Just part of driving.

Officer Stu Jackson: I'm more concerned about you leaving your vehicle, Mr. Stoudemire. Let me see your registration. Mr. Bowen, you are free to go.

Bowen: Thank you, sir.

(Bowen hits Stoudemire in the groin with the car door, and drives off.)

Officer Stu Jackson: Looks like your taillight is out, too. This is going to cost you.

Stoudemire: That's not fair at all!

Officer Stu Jackson: Can I ask you a question? You'd give up the #2 pick in the draft for a 35-year-old Otis Thorpe, right?

The Sports Book

(Officer Stu Jackson enters, places large sack of cash on the counter.)

Officer Jackson: I'd like to bet $25,000 on the San Antonio Spurs to win the NBA title.

Cashier: Of course, sir.

Officer Jackson: By the way, you'd pay Bryant "Big Country" Reeves $10 million a year, right?

Cashier: Whatever you say, sir.

The Golden State Warriors suffered a disappointing loss to the Utah Jazz Monday night. Seeing his team's spirits were down, Don Nelson decided a team-building activity was in order. And since this was Don Nelson, he decided to take them to a bar. Unfortunately, the team may have continued some of its bad habits.)

A Team-Building Night Out With the Warriors


(The Warriors pile into the team bus, ready for a night out)

Coach Nellie: OK, what bar should we go to?

Baron Davis: Let's go downtown.

Jason Richardson: Yeah, downtown.

Stephen Jackson: We should focus on downtown.

Andris Biedrins: Sure, I guess.

Al Harrington: Definitely downtown.

Matt Barnes: Downtown is where it's at.

Jackson: I know a place that's got a full bar out on the patio. And you know what that means?

Richardson: Shots. Outside shots.

Davis: Oh hell yes.

Harrington: Outside shots are the greatest!

Barnes: I feel like taking outside shots all night!

Biedrins: Is this such a good idea? We might get cold tonight.

Nellie: What are you saying?

Biedrins: Well, maybe we should try to establish an inside presence, too?

All: Shut up, Andris! What do you know?

Open Threes

(Jason Richardson approaches the bar)

Richardson: What do you have in a bottle?

Bartender: Imports are $5, domestics are $4, and you can get Pabst Blue Ribbon for $3.

Richardson: PBR for $3? Yes! I'll take ten of those.

(Bartender uncaps the beers. Richardson tries to take all ten bottles back to his table by himself.)

Bartender: Mr. Richardson, do you want to take that many threes by yourself? Isn't that a bit ill-advised?

Richardson: Look, someone's gotta carry the load for this team.

(Richardson drops the armful of beers on the ground. Coach Nellie runs over angrily.)

Nellie: Dammit, Jason, those were open threes! We've got to drain those! Aw, just get me an import!

(Richardson waves in Mickaël Piétrus, who jogs up to the bartender.)

Piétrus: Dix Pabst Blue Ribbons, s'il vous plaît.


Adonal Foyle: Hey, Andris. What's happening with that cute girl you were talking to?

Andris Biedrins: I don't know.

Foyle: Come on, man. That girl was gorgeous.

Biedrins: I know. But she said she just got out of a long relationship.

Foyle: So?

Biedrins: So? She's on the rebound.

Foyle: I see what you mean. Gotta stay away from those rebounds.

Biedrins: I wouldn't even know what to do with a rebound!

Foyle: Looks like it doesn't matter, Andris. She just started making out with Paul Millsap.

Quality Shots

Monta Ellis: Stephen, what are you drinking?

Stephen Jackson: Not sure. (points to array of empty one-ounce glasses) One of them was Jägermeister, one was Wild Turkey, a couple were 151, two were tequila from this dirty unlabeled bottle, and that last one was a Cement Mixer.

Ellis: What's a Cement Mixer?

Jackson: Baileys and lime juice. You swish it around in your mouth until it gets lumpy.

Ellis: That is disgusting. How can you drink that stuff? I hate to say this, but you have to improve your shot selection, Stephen.

Jackson: Nah, these were all quality shots. Hey, bartender? Pour me one that's half-Jack-Daniels, half-Apple-Pucker.

Ellis: I need to go somewhere else now.

Jackson: You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.


(The team returns to the bus at closing time, only to find the driver agitated and upset.)

Bus Driver: Nellie, one of the drunks from the bar wandered into the bus. He's doing a lot of damage in there.

Nellie: OK, I'm calling a cab.

Bus Driver: Aren't you even going to try to stop that alcoholic?

Nellie: Nope. Once he gets inside, that Boozer is unstoppable.

lancer-franc update the second

Continuing our series, here's how the Frenchmen did in Game 4 of the playoffs:

Tony Parker: 5-for-5.

Boris Diaw: 0-for-0.

Mickaël Piétrus: 0-for-3

Parker has recovered, Piétrus has fallen way off, and Diaw still isn't getting to the line much.

I was wrong in attributing the improvement in Mickaël's shooting to wine and hugs. According to the man himself, the improvement was due to not practicing his foul shots on Thursday in practice, and then playing with his puppy in Golden Gate Park. Hugs no, puppies yes, for Piétrus. Do you think Nellie will let him take his dog on the road? It may make the difference in Game 5.

lancer-franc update

Let's check in on how the French players fared from the free-throw line in Game 3 of the conference semi-finals.

Tony Parker: 2-for-4.

Boris Diaw: 2-for-4.

Mickaël Piétrus: 8-for-9

Clearly, Pietrus has overcome the anxieties that are still plaguing his amis. Is it his distance from the Longoria-Parker nuptials? Is it that he grew up in the Caribbean, not in France? I'm still going to go with wine and hugs.

In Game 2 of the two Western Conference semi-finals, French players combined to make only three foul shots, out of nine attempts. Tony Parker was 3-6, Mickaël Piétrus was 0-for-3, and Boris Diaw did not attempt a foul shot. Before this, French players had shot extremely well from the line in the playoffs. Piétrus was 16-19, Diaw was 7-9, and Parker was 18-21. In addition, Frenchman Ronny Turiaf of the eliminated Los Angeles Lakers shot 7-10 in the first-round loss to the Suns.

So what changed? I have three theories:

1. Anxiety over election returns:

Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidency of France, distressing these athletes. Footballer Lillian Thuram has been an outspoken opponent of Sarkozy, claiming that he is "awakening the hidden racism" of the French people. Thuram also took issue with Sarkozy's comments blaming blacks and Arabs for suburban riots, and calling urban immigrant youths "scum".

Perhaps the basketball players are distracted. During the frantic up-and-down of the game, they can put aside their political fears about France's right-wing, racialized future, but at the moment of contemplation just before a lancer-franc, the fears come back. Also, it would not surprise me if the players were unconsciously aiming slightly left of the cylinder, to counter-balance the political shift.

2. After notable headbutts, French players miss important penalty shots:

In last summer's World Cup, David Trezeguet missed his penalty shot just minutes after Zinedine Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi. Since Tony Parker split open Steve Nash's nose, French free throw shooting has gone into le toilette. Maybe Boris Diaw could sense this, and thus settled for jump shots throughout Game 2.

3. Sympathy for Tony Parker

Eva Longoria told Jimmy Kimmel that she was not having sex with Tony Parker until their wedding day in June. It is possible that the sympathetic Frenchmen feel that putting it in the hole so easily is essentially taunting poor Tony.


I'll be watching to see if the trend continues when the Suns and Spurs resume hostilities tonight in San Antonio. As far was the Warriors are concerned, there's a simple way to get Piétrus back on track: Wine-tasting with Nellie.

Or maybe Mickaël just needs a hug.


Detroit 108, Chicago 87

The 108-87 blowout loss in Game 2 means the 0-2 Bulls are in a hole so deep that even shovels might be useless, except as weapons to use on Rip Hamilton's and Tayshaun Prince's knees.

-Rick Telander

Bill Swerski's Superfans, Game 3 Edition


Bob Swerski: Good evening, my friends, and welcome to "Bill Swerski's Super Fans"! I'm Bob Swerski, filling in for my brother Bill, who had a heart attack during the first quarter of Game 2. With me, as always, are the Super Fans: Pat Arnold...

Pat Arnold: Hey, Bob.

Bob: ...Carl Wollarski...

Carl Wollarski: Good to see ya, Bob.

Bob: ...and Todd O'Connor.

Todd O'Connor: How ya' doing, Bob?

Bob: Real good, Todd. We're here, live from Mike Ditka's restaurant in the heart of Chicago, Illinois, the city of broad shoulders, hog butcher for the world, the Windy City. A town that is also the home of a certain team, that finished third in a certain Central Division, a team that is presumably still trying to win this semifinal series against Detroit, a team that is known as, Da Bulls!

All: Da Bulls!

Bob: Any predictions for Game 3, gentleman?

Carl: Pistons 104, Bulls 85. I feel confident that the Bulls stay within twenty points of the Pistons at home.

Bob: A bold prediction, Carl. Todd?

Todd: A United Center security guard locks the Pistons in their locker room for the first six minutes of the second half. Pistons 82, Bulls, 66.

Bob: Expecting a real nail-biter, eh, Todd?

Todd: My cousin is a security guard down there - say no more.

Pat: Pistons 125, Bulls 72. But Chris Duhon only craps his pants once while trying to guard Chauncey Billups.

Bob: The additional playoff experience gives Duhon greater control of...da bowels.

All: Da Bowels!

Bob: Since the season is pretty much at an end, who do you like the Bulls to take in this year's draft?

Pat: In the first round, you gotta go with Durant. In the second round, they need another shooting guard, so I like the guy from Ohio State, Daequan Cook.

Todd: Dae Quan!

Carl: Dae Quan!

Bob: Sounds like there's a consensus. Is there any chance this series could turn around?

Pat: What if the Pistons bus crashed on the way to the arena?

Bob: Who's left to compete in the game?

Pat: It's just Antonio McDyess, Kid Rock, the team trainer, and Hooper the mascot.


Todd: Bulls 78, Pistons 73.

Carl: Is Scott Skiles still coaching the Bulls?

Pat: Yeah.

Carl: Pistons 67, Bulls 62.

Bob: It's tough to look back at what might have been. If only the Bulls had used P.J. Brown's expiring contract and some of their many young players to trade for a certain Spanish power forward, who plays for a certain Tennessee team, and provides a certain low-post scoring threat that Chicago lacks. I'm speaking, of course, of Pau Gasol!

All: Ga-Sol!

Bob: What about this: How would the Bulls fare versus a team of Mini-Pistons?

Todd: What do you mean?

Bob: An evil wizard casts a spell on the Pistons. They have the same guys, but they're all eighteen inches tall.

Carl: What about Lindsay Hunter?

Bob: Mini-Hunter is only sixteen inches tall.

Pat: Are they wearing their normal uniforms?

Bob: No, the mini-Pistons have mini-uniforms.

Pat: I say...Bulls, 92, Mini-Pistons, 79.

Todd: Bulls 104, Mini-Pistons, 101. And Ben Gordon goes for at least 18 points on mini-Hamilton.

Carl: Mini-Rasheed gets ejected, but Mini-Pistons take it, 88-81.

Bob: Two little tiny technical fouls, eh, Carl?

Carl: That's right, Bob.

(Todd begins choking and slamming his fist into his chest.)

Bob: Todd, what's wrong?

Carl: Is he having a heart attack? (Todd shakes his head.)

Pat: He looks like Andres Nocioni there!

Bob: Oh no! Todd is choking! Quick, do the Heimlich maneuver!

(Carl jumps up and throws his pork chop off the rim of the trash can, then clutches his arm as if he was fouled.)

Bob: Not the Hinrich maneuver! The Heimlich!

(Pat administers the Heimlich, and Todd coughs up a shower of peanuts.)

Todd: Sorry, I was so upset about the team that I ate those peanuts way too fast. Gotta remember to remove...da hulls!

All: Da Hulls!

Bob: That's all the time we have for tonight. Join us for our live broadcast during Game 3, where we're going to do our best not to cry. Now, what if Game 3 was played on the surface of the moon, but only the Bulls get space suits...

Suns vs. Spurs

Nash scored 31 but missed a crucial 45 seconds in the final minute because of the bloody cut on his nose, the result of a head-on collision with Parker with 2:53 to play. The cut required six stitches after the game.

A Conversation Between Tony Parker and Zinedine Zidane

(Phone rings)

Tony Parker: Bonjour?

Zinedine Zidane: Bonjour Tony. It's Zinedine. I just wanted to congratulate you on the game today.

Parker: Merci, Z. The Suns were tough, but we were lucky to steal a game on the road. Hopefully we can go all the way.

Zidane: I hope you can as well, though I feel sorry for poor Boris. By the way, nice job knocking out Nash. I never knew you had such a talent for the headbutt.

Parker: That was an accident. I felt terrible about Steve's nose.

Zidane: But of course it was an accident. You were blind with rage. Frustrated by him tweaking your nipple, perhaps, non?

Parker: Really, Zizou. I didn't mean to hurt him. In fact, he fouled me on the play.

Zidane: Yes, that was a nice touch when you fell down and pretended to be horribly injured after the play. The trainer even came out! Beautiful work, worthy of Ginobli himself. The perfect way to deflect suspicion.

Parker: I was stunned. I didn't even know where I was for a few minutes there.

Zidane: Of course. I understand. I know you cannot see me over the phone, but I am winking conspiratorially right now.

Parker: Listen, Zizou, I'm pretty tired after that game, so...

Zidane: A bit of advice Tony. Tell the media that Nash insulted your sister.

Parker: I don't have a sister.

Zidane: Eva Longoria, then. The key is, refuse to say what the insult was! Leave them guessing for months!

Parker: I really need to go.

Zidane: Was it an anti-Mexican remark? Did he cite the declining ratings of Desperate Houswives? A negative review of Señorita Justice? They will never know! You headbutt whomever you please!

Parker: I'm hanging up now.

Zidane: One more thing, Tony? If you get a chance, ask Steve for one of his Suns jerseys. I would like it for my sister.

Parker: (Dial tone)

For the second time this series, Stephen Jackson got an early start on his postgame shower. And again, the culprit was ... clapping...The official was standing down near the block, Jackson walked past him clapping, continued walking and continued clapping ... and at the time he got T'd up, he was looking and clapping in the opposite direction of the official.

From MJD at The Fanhouse

What Really Happened at the End of Game 5

(Stephen Jackson walks past Referee Ken Mauer while clapping.)

Referee Ken Mauer: That's a T. You're out of here, Jackson!

Golden State Fan: Let's go Warriors! (Clap-clap Clap-clap-clap) Let's go Warriors! (Clap-clap Clap-clap-clap)

Mauer: You're out of here, too, Golden State Fan!

(Security escorts Golden State Fan out of the arena.)

(Dallas fans applaud the ejection.)

Mauer: What the...I'll clear this whole arena, I swear to God!

Referee Jim Clark: Ken, there's only 8.9 seconds left. Let's just finish this game.

Mauer: I'm not going to tolerate this disrespectful crap!

Referee Bernie Fryer: Come on, game's almost over.

(Officials retire to the locker room.)

Fryer: What a game. I gotta unwind with some TV. I think Friends is on.

Clark: There's a mosquito in here.

(Fryer turns on the television. The Friends theme song plays.)

The Romantics: So no one told you life was gonna be this way (Clap-clap-clap-clap)

Mauer: That's it! You're out of here, Friends! (Mauer lunges for the remote control.)

Fryer: Whoa, Ken, calm down. I'll turn it off. Cuban set up a sound-activated system in here. (Claps off.)

Mauer: Are you disrespecting me, Bernie?!? You're out of here, Fryer!

Fryer: Ken, you can't eject me from the locker room.

Clark: This mosquito is driving me crazy!(Clark squashes the mosquito between his hands) Got him!

Mauer: Jim, you son of a bitch. How can you show me up like that? I thought we were a crew!

(Mauer lunges at Clark, hands grasping for Clark's throat. Fryer breaks up the fight.)

Fryer: What the hell are you doing, Ken? This is crazy behavior!

Mauer (sighs): I'm sorry guys. It's just...the results came back from the free clinic. I'd been getting this burning sensation when I pee. My testicles are painfully swollen. And there's a sporadic discharge from my penis.

Clark: And?

Mauer: It turns out I've got...the clap. And I guess I'm a little sensitive about it.

Clark: Oh, Ken. Why didn't you tell us?

Mauer: I was embarrassed.

Fryer: An STD is nothing to be embarrassed about. It's just part of life on the road. In fact, I applaud you for your honesty.

Clark: Uh-oh.

Mauer: You applaud me? That's it, old man! You're going down!

It was a thrilling weekend of NBA playoff basketball. At Zembla, we've commissioned a mean twelve-year-old to comment on all the exciting series. He's in seventh grade and he's really pretty cruel - I started to cry twice just talking to him about the article, after making fun of my personal appearance and kicking me in the shins. Anyway, here it is:

A Seventh-Grade Bully Recaps the NBA Weekend

Golden State vs. Dallas

Look who lost two games in Oakland. It's "Dork" Nowitzki. I call him that because he's a dork. Yeah, I called you "Dork". What are you gonna do about it, Dork? Shoot a meaningless three when you're down five points? Or pass to your jerk friend Jerky Stackhouse? Dork.

Chicago vs. Miami

Congratulations, Miami, on another title: the championship of sucking. It was a sweep! If Alonzo Mourning doesn't retire after the season, maybe he can get a victory transplant.

New Jersey vs. Toronto

Toronto should go ahead and change their name to the Craptors, because that's what they play like. Crap-covered dinosaurs. If a real raptor saw Game 4, he'd be so disappointed, he'd try to eat T.J. Ford. Then Jason Kidd would hit the raptor with a cookie, and later buy the raptor some expensive jewelry to apologize.

Utah vs. Houston

"Tracy" is a girl's name, and Andrei Kirilenko is a crybaby.

Cleveland vs. Washington:

Why are you hitting yourself, Washington? Why are you hitting yourself? I'm not doing anything, but your whole team is still all hurt. Why are you hitting yourself? I didn't even watch this series, because LeBron James only plays LeBoring Games.

San Antonio vs. Denver

I think George Karl might have caught strategy cancer. Or butt cancer again.

Phoenix vs. Los Angeles

Way to go, Kobe Bryant! TNT named you "The Closer" of Game 4. The Closer premiering June 18th on TN...wait, I'm sorry. They actually named you "The Loser" of Game 4. The Loser is premiering...never, but I have a feeling the season finale is going to be set in Phoenix.

This blog sucks balls, fat boy.

(Editor's note: So mean!)

go coach for a rec team, brother

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What happens when you don't get along with your coach? Sometimes you get singled out for harder work at practice. Sometimes you lose playing time. Sometimes you aren't allowed to wash Coach Sean's car. And sometimes, if you're a Stanford swimmer, your records are expunged from the books.

Coach Skip Kenney was mad that Michael McLean took a summer internship in 2005, instead of making voluntary offseason workouts his main priority. NCAA rules forbid coaches from forcing athletes to practice out of season, nor can coaches punish athletes for not practicing in the off-season. So, in addition to making McLean practice at 4:30 AM, apart from his teammates, and banning him from some away meets, he pulled any mention of McLean's accomplishments out of the 2006-07 team media guide. Four other swimmers received similar treatment, presumably because they crossed Kenney in some way.

According to his biography on Stanford's official site, "Skip Kenney stands alone among his peers for his accomplishments in the pool and his character away from the pool."

(Note: Swimming has an unusually high concentration of parents and coaches named Skip. I worked for a Skip and coached against at least two others. Perhaps that's an unavoidable side effect of a sport that requires club memberships and allows parents to stroll the decks holding cocktails during competitions. Actual captain's hats are still thankfully scarce.)

From my experience as a swim coach, this whole thing seems unthinkable. Not just because it's a huge ethical lapse by the coach, but because swimmers are absolutely obsessed with personal records and meticulous accounting of their best times. Parents of five-year-old swimmers will carry around cards listing every time they got all year. I've had a parent call me at home to tell me about how relay splits more accurately reflect his daughter's freestyle speed than her individual event times. Teams give out stickers, towels, gold stars, and, on one case, iron-on penguin patches to commemorate best times. How did Kenney ever think that messing with the record books would go unnoticed on a swim team?

There's no way Kenney is going to get fired over this, petty as it is, because he's simply too successful. I think an appropriate remedy, besides a fine and suspension for Kenney, would be for the athletic department to cancel these "voluntary" summer workouts for at least 2007, if not beyond. Even though IT'S DIVISION ONE SWIMMING, you still have to follow the rules. Or you might as well go coach for a rec team, brother.

Nice work by Tom FitzGerald, a fine Chronicle sportswriter and Sean Keane supporter from way back. The moral of this story is that, as usual, Stanford sucks.

eli manning vs. wayne palmer


After watching the NFL season and the first twelve hours of 24, I can't help but notice the parallels between New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and fictional President of the United States Wayne Palmer.

Palmer vs. Manning Wayne_Palmer_S6.jpg
Code name The Citadel Elisha
More successful older brother David Peyton
Who endorses Jack Bauer's renegade anti-terror efforts, Allstate Insurance Direct TV, Gatorade, Adidas, MasterCard
Rose to his prominent position because of... People blindly hoping he'd be like his brother, only with less terrorism People blindly hoping he'd be like his brother, only with more postseason success
Succeeded President Charles Logan, who resigned from office in disgrace. Logan's wife was very outspoken, and a little bit crazy. Kurt Warner, who loses his job to a hotshot first-round QB every year. Warner's wife is very outspoken, and a little bit crazy.
Tortures... Suspected terrorists New York Giants fans
Natural rival Arabs Philadelphia Eagles
Imposing backup Hardass vice president Noah Daniels Fatass second-string QB Jared Lorenzen
Disciplinarian named Tom Chief of Staff Tom Lennox, who wants to roll back most of the civil liberties protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights Coach Tom Coughlin, who requires his players to arrive to meetings five minutes early
Over the heads of his associates Rhetoric about civil liberties 85% of his passes
Ally named Pierce When armed commandos attack Wayne, he is saved through the intervention of Secret Service agent Aaron Pierce When Eli was making a playoff push in 2005, he was aided by the strong linebacker play of Antonio Pierce
Standard unit of time 60 minutes 60 minutes
Which in reality lasts 60 minutes Three hours, fifteen minutes
Past incompetence Blew brother's re-election campaign by having an affair with a married woman, while her husband (Wayne's boss) recovered from a stroke. The boss died, his sister-in-law was murdered by Wayne's mistress, and the mistress subsequently killed herself. Threw three interceptions against only ten completions in a 23-0 playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Notable giveaways Unspecified major concessions to the Chinese government in exchange for the release of Jack Bauer 44 interceptions and three lost fumbles in three seasons
Unbalanced trades Wayne turned over Jack Bauer and $25 million to Abu Fayed in exchange for the location of known terrorist Hamri Al-Assad The New York Giants traded QB Philip Rivers, a 2005 first round pick, and third round picks in 2004 and 2005 to San Diego in exchange for Manning
Trade aftermath Fayed detonated a suitcase nuke in Valencia, killing upwards of 12,000 people. Meanwhile, Hamri Al-Assad had rejected violence, and was pursuing political solutions to his goals San Diego went 14-2 in 2006, while three of the players obtained in the Manning trade went to the 2007 Pro Bowl. Meanwhile, the Giants lost their first playoff game in consecutive seasons
Uninspiring quote "I don't know if I'm the right man to lead this country." "You feel pressure when you're in a situation where you don't know what you're doing."
Lives and dies by... A bomb The bomb

If the Wayne-Eli connection continues, expect the government to continue its lackluster anti-terror efforts through at least Hour 18. Then, in the fourth quarter of the day, Wayne will return from the hospital and govern his best, making good reads and aggressive orders. He'll be aided by CTU's replacement for the late Agent Curtis, wide receiver Plaxico Burress.

Unfortunately, the first part of the day has been so screwed up that his late heroics will be useless. The three remaining bombs will explode, killing Jack Bauer and half of California before midnight, but Wayne will do an excellent job directing the "hurry-up" early-morning relief effort.

keane-coached athlete makes good

There's a nice feature in the Chronicle today about Stanford center Jayne Appel, who is the first kid I used to babysit to become a contender for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. For many years, she swam on a team I coached, excelling in backstroke and winning a Coach's award for her hard work and positive attitude. I think it's clear that Appel's success on the basketball court is a direct result of rhyming cheers, intense games of Marco Polo, and of course, washing Coach Sean's car.

Perhaps Appel's most significant accomplishment is, in my solipsistic world view, making me root for Stanford for the first time in my life. Even after decades of parental anti-Palo-Alto brainwashing, I still have no problem pulling for the Stanford women in hoops, a clear sign that Jayne is a special kid. She's only going to get better once she starts earning the respect of the officials. I suggest she begin holding her nose and quacking like a penguin and perhaps doing more cannonballs.

So when you're filling out your brackets for the Women's NCAA Tournament in a few weeks, don't overlook the Lady Cardinal, particularly if any of the tournament games are held in 4-7 feet of water.

observations from super bowl xli

Don't stand so close to me:

When CBS went to the obligatory shot of both broadcasters standing up in the booth, Phil Simms stood extremely close to partner Jim Nantz. Simms stood perpendicular to Nantz, his chest against Nantz's shoulder, with both hands clasped above Nantz's crotch. There appeared to be plenty of space for the two guys to stand normally - it wasn't an especially tight angle - and yet Simms arranged himself as if they were taking a prom photo. For his part, Nantz looked very uncomfortable, with his arms held rigidly against his sides. It wasn't an accident. When CBS returned to the shot one quarter later, Simms was back grinding Nantz's hip once again. I didn't catch any homoerotic statements from Simms, but a homoerotic picture is worth a thousand homoerotic words.

Crucial gambling play of the game:

The over/under for the Super Bowl was 47 points, and the final score was 29-17. With 46 total points scored by both teams, the "Under" won, thanks to a fumbled snap on the Colts' first extra point attempt. By mishandling the snap, Hunter Smith cost his team a point, a point that proved to be more important for the gamblers than it was to the Colts. In addition, the failed PAT meant that the game was never tied after 0-0, which determined a big prop bet at our party.

A butterfly flaps its wings in China. Half a world away, Hunter Smith drops the snap. 3,500 miles away from him, Dustin loses a dollar to Jigar.

Groundskeeping MVP, Daunte Culpepper:

Though the weather was terrible, the turf looked great. Some articles lauded George Toma for his field preparation, but the real hero was Daunte Culpepper. Thanks to his horrific quarterbacking, the Dolphins did not play a home game after christmas, and the turf had over a month to recover.

Most deceptive halftime statistic:

At halftime, Rex Grossman's quarterback rating was 120.8. When CBS put up this graphic, everyone laughed, since Rex clearly sucked in the first half. He was 6 of 8, for 32 yards and a touchdown. The rating actually climbed to 122.9 just before Grossman lost 11 yards on consecutive plays with a sack and a fumble. Less than 15 game minutes later, Grossman's QB rating had plunged to 56.8.

Gloria Estefan's accent:

It appears to be twice as strong as it was in the early '90s.

Through halftime, our consensus MVP:


Hidden effect of the rain: Screwed-up hair:

When Jim Nantz had to stand in the rain to present trophies, his perfectly-coiffed hair got wet. Up front, Nantz's hair got soaked, matted down, and generally looked artificial. Extreme weather exposes fake hair, as Chris Myers learned last year when half of his toupee blew off during the Carolina-Chicago game. Sideline reporter Steve Tasker eschewed an umbrella, and looked miserable by halftime. The other sideline reporter wanted no part of the weatrher. After an initial bare-headed report, Solomon Wilcots said fuck it, I'm wearing a hat and a waterproof jacket.

It was a particularly tough day for black hair. While some of us speculated about the safety of Prince playing electric guitar during a rainstorm, Jessica observed that Prince seemed more concerned with his relaxer. Only for his finale was Prince willing to discard his do-rag. Tony Dungy's wife also seemed concerned with her expensive hairsyle during the tedious trophy presentation.

Should Peyton have won the MVP?:

Manning won Super Bowl MVP at even-money odds, a ludicrous percentage for an individual, yet justified, seeing as he won. The next-worst pre-game odds were for Grossman, at 5.5:1. Historically, the MVP award goes to the winning quarterback about 50% of the time, But Vegas saw Peyton as nearly six times more likely than Rex to take home the hardware. Only when the winning QB has unimpressive statistics does someone else win.

Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai were great, but unfortunately, they play the same position. If a player wasn't definitively the best running back on his own team, it is hard to argue that he should be the game msot valuable player. Bob Sanders could have won, with a forced fumble and an interception, based on the Larry Brown/Dexter Jackson Super Bowl MVP rationale. I thought the Indianapolis offensive line's success was the key to the game, but how do you pick out one individual? Thus Peyton Manning set another benchmark: Dorkiest Super Bowl MVP, narrowly edging out Kurt Warner.

Commercials were too long:

90 seconds is too long for a funny ad. See Sierra Mist, Coca-Cola's acid trip ad, or the controversial Snickers ad where two guys accidentally kiss, then recoil in horror. The men then rip out handfuls chest hair, in an attempt to be "manly". Because nothing says "not gay" like removing your chest hair. Of course, the homophobic Snickers ad was at the same Super Bowl that featured Prince, Cirque de Soleil, Phil Simms, and a head coach named Lovie.

In my mind, the main problem with these ads was that they were all short films primarily intended to trick the audience into buying things.

My Super Proposal Denouement:

The guy didn't get his marriage proposal on CBS during the Super Bowl, but his ad did run during Veronica Mars this week. Here's the video of her reaction. I still wish she'd said no.

Most Bizarre Challenge:

Tony Dungy threw his red flag to contend that the Bears had too many men on the field. I had no idea that was reviewable. However, you'd think that the guy who told Dungy to challenge had, you know, counted to make sure.

Lucrative prop bets:

Devin Hester scored the game's first touchdown, beating 20:1 odds. If you'd consistently bet on Hester and also picked Other Chicago TD for "The First Scoring Play of the Game", you won a 14:1 prop. The last touchdown of the game was scored by Kelvim Hayden, which means the betting favorite "Field" won, paying out a healthy $500 for each $100 wagered. In addition, people who bet the last score would "Other Indianapolis TD" took home $1100.

Joseph Addai had the Colts' first reception, paying out at $350. If you bet "Chicago Scores First And Loses", you collected $400 for every $100 wagered. Betting on the winning combing point range of 43-49 won $325. The First Quarter ($325) was the highest-scoring quarter, upsetting the favorite, Second Quarter($190). Wagering that there would be no scoring in the final two minutes of the first half yielded a $190 return.

Lucrative hypothetical prop bets:

Prince will cover a Foo Fighters song during halftime (+7500). Suddenly, Dave Grohl's inexplicable fondness for assless chaps makes sense.
No shot of the troops overseas watching the game, during regulation play (+575). Maybe Peyton Manning just hates the troops.
Entertaining ads produced specifically for this Super Bowl (O/U 2.5, UNDER). I blame GoDaddy.
Rex Grossman doesn't throw an interception until the fourth quarter (+450).
Buckets of Gatorade dumped on winning coach (O/U 1.5, OVER)

We finished the keg:

At 8:30 P.M. I drank out of a red SOLO cup that identified me as "Eli". Gene's cup read "Maurice". Docta V's said "God".

No trick plays:

Last year, trick plays helped Pittsburgh put away Seattle in the Super Bowl. This year, neither team to my knowledge did as much as run an end around. The Colts don't even seem to run a large variety of regular plays. They're sort of like a dominant high school team that gets by by running the same three plays all game, because the defense can't stop them. If Tony Dungy retires, maybe the Colts can lure Bob Ladoceur away from De La Salle.

Questions To Ponder

Is it possible that the frustrated pouty faces that Peyton Manning makes on the sidelines have very little to do with his poise while playing quarterback?
Did anyone miss "Eye Vision", the CBS technology that made replays look just like The Matrix?
Why didn't they show Archie and Eli Manning in the stands? Was it raining too hard to show the luxury boxes?
Who is "this generation's Dan Marino"? Donovan McNabb? Will he also start dyeing his hair blond in retirement?

Was it a good Super Bowl?:

I say, absolutely. The first quarter was extremely exciting and unpredictable, mainly because neither team could hold onto the ball. There were rushing, receiving, special teams, and defensive touchdowns throughout the game. And watching Rex Grossman play quarterback was like watching Plan 9 From Outer Space or Troll 2: worth seeing because it's failure on such a grand scale. Two terrible interceptions, multiple fumbles, plays where he fell down untouched, plays where he ran the wrong direction, Rex did it all. I like to imagine that Tony Eason and David Woodley shared a champagne toast together as the mantle of Worst Super Bowl QB of all time was finally passed.

What else to look for in the super bowl

6a. Commercials = Disappointment:

It turns out the My Super Proposal guy will not in fact get his proposal on TV. For some reason, CBS is planning to run a commercial for which someone paid $2 million, rather than this guy's proposal, for free. If you're that guy's girlfriend, you have to ask yourself: Do I want to marry such a failure?

Meanwhile, Kevin Federline has starred in a commercial and managed to food workers. When I heard there was a protest to K-Fed's dissing of fast food workers, I thought, fast food workers? That has to be the least powerful labor union in the history of the world. Then I realized that fast food workers aren't organized! It was actually the National Restaurant Association that complained, thus getting the first publicity ever received by the National Restaurant Association.

8. Will Marvin Harrison choke?:

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning has acquired a reputation as a choker, because of the Colts' postseason defeats. However, receiver Marvin Harrison has played significantly worse in those losses, and worse in the wins as well. Harrison dropped a few passes against the Patriots last week, but it was forgotten in the wake of the Colts' comeback win. Manning hasn't been great in the playoffs, but Joe Montana wouldn't have looked that great if Jerry Rice had dropped passes all the time.

Who will be the most prominent player to cry on the field?

I'm not talking about the locker room, or the postgame celebration. I'm only counting tears that happen on the field. No matter how much he has been wanting this Super Bowl title, I don't see Coach Tony Dungy crying on the field. I think there are the leading candidates:

*Peyton Manning - Not if he wins, but if he throws a bad interception, or injures his hand, or gets his feelings hurt.

*Rex Grossman - Again, not after winning, but more likely after he simply gets too excited after throwing a long pass. It won't even matter if it's complete or incomplete; I'm expecting just a bizarre surge of adrenaline and emotion resulting in some hysterical tears.

*Lance Briggs - Just a hunch.

*Robbie Gould - After an injury on a kickoff return.

*Ted Marchibroda - Because he is 87 years old.

What to look for in the Super Bowl

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1. Homoeroticism

As discussed in this space in the past, Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are the most homoerotic announcing team in sports. Nantz is unnaturally calm and emotionless, so the most interesting moments will happen when he and Simms discuss a player's physique, or gently spar about each other's sartorial choices. There's something magical when Nantz's yuppie blandness and Simms's aw-shucks country-boy drawl combine to straight-facedly discuss the "deepest penetration of the night" or overuse the word "backside".

Player names that sound dirty: Brian Griese, John Tait, Adewale Ogunleye. ("Ogunleye" means Iron God).

2. Family members in the crowd

Peyton Manning's father is former NFL quarterback Archie Manning. If this game was on FOX, we'd be seeing him every ten minutes, from progressively closer camera angles. If Indianapolis were to put together a fourth-quarter drive, the FOX cameras would alternate between images of praying Colts fans and zoomed-in shots of Archie's nose hair, breaking away only milliseconds before the snap of the ball. Since it's on CBS, we'll see more measured use of the relative shot, but we should see Archie at least once per quarter.

The most notable Bear relative is backup QB Bran Griese's dad, a former QB for the Miami Dolphins. Two factors will prevent us from seeing much of Dad Griese: Unless Rex Grossman gets hurt, Brian won't play; and Dad works for ABC. It would be interesting if they chose to show any of Brian Urlacher's illegitimate children in the crowd.

3. Name puns

If Peyton Manning is intercepted by Bears cornerback Ricky Manning, Jr., Simms might actually spit up with excitement. Same name! If Ricky Manning, Jr. then lateraled the ball to safety Danieal Manning, Joe Buck might have a mild aneurysm, so great would his frustration be at missing the chance to shout, " Manning! That was a disgusting act!"

Other ones to look for:

Jeff Saturday recovers a fumble in the end zone: "This year for Indianapolis, they'll remember Super Bowl Saturday".

Hunter Hillenmayer forces a fumble: "The Bears defense thrives on turnovers, and he was certainly hunting for one there."

Anthony "Booger" MacFarland intercepts a pass: "Booger MacFarland with the pick!"

Cedric Benson is stopped short of a first down: "The doorbell rings, and Benson says, 'You want me to get that...?'"

Israel Odinije makes a tackle: "If he keeps making plays like that, Indianapolis will have to recognize Israel's right to exist."

Cato June's pants come off as he runs to the sidelines: "June is busting out all over!"

Rex Grossman starts dry-humping a Colts cheerleader on the sideline: "That is gross, man."

4. There will be endless pre-game discussion of "The Super Bowl Shuffle", the rap song recorded by the 1985 Bears prior to their lone Super Bowl triumph. To date, that is still the only musical performance by a sports team to be nominated for a Grammy (for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance—Duo or Group). The Bears did not dominate the Grammy Awards like they dominated the Patriots. "The Super Bowl Shuffle" lost out to "Kiss", recorded by none other than halftime performer Prince.

5. Prince performing at the halftime show after writing "WHORE" on his cheek.

6. Funny commercials! I do wonder what Bud Light has in store for us this year! And Pepsi is sure to spend a great deal of money on a dorky ad campaign, ideally with a bunch of dorky celebrities, and maybe also a talking animal. My one hope for the Super Bowl ads is that the My super Proposal guy gets shot down. Because I am mean and heartless. But also because he has already signed a deal with a marketing company to imemdiately put his girlfriend's reaction shot up on YouTube. If she rejects him, it may be the greatest, most painful viral video of all time. Just say no, His Super Girlfriend.

7. Colts by 10.

Phil Simms is an affable broadcaster who seems very comfortable with his masculinity. So much so that he doesn't censor himself at all in discussing the physical side of the game, his fondness for rough play, or even players' physiques. Last year, Simms wore a pink shirt during the divisional round, and a pink tie for the championship game. Along the way, Simms produced gems like:

"The Broncos have their deepest penetration of the night".

Regarding Jerome Bettis: "You look at that body, and he's just so big - but then you look at those quick little feet."

And my favorite: "Good blocking on the backside." has compiled a list of Phil's homoerotic comments throughout the years. This year's AFC Championship Game was no different. Because I love Phil Simms, and I have the sense of humor of a seventh-grader, here's a compendium of his broadcasting highlights from the Patriots-Colts game on Sunday. As a bonus for readers who prefer brunettes, there's some bonus Jim Nantz homoeroticism in there, too. Tee-hee! In there.


"The Patriots are very big and powerful up front."

"They're trying to confuse them by having guys get in there and switch positions."

"When it starts to slip, you're in trouble. But it has not slipped."

On Tom Brady's QB sneak:

"He just pats Koppen on the rear end, he probably yells out, 'Get ready!'"

On Dwight Freeney vs. Matt Light:

"He gets underneath him, and that helps him get around."

Nantz #1:

"To the backside, no one on top of Jabar Gaffney."

Nantz #2:

"Anderson got in there and rolled over him."

Nantz and Simms, discussing either foreplay or the Patriots offensive gameplan:

"You've got to loosen them up. You've got to loosen them up first."

Nantz and Simms also got into a discussion about eyeglasses. Simms mentioned his need for "thick, binocular glasses", and Nantz appeared to get upset with his TV boyfriend. "Why don't you wear them on camera?", he demanded. It really sounded like Nantz was disappointed in Simms, both for sacrificing his vision, and for trying to look more handsome than Jim Nantz. Simms admitted as much, sheepishly responding, "Because I'm vain."

I'm happy to report that Nantz and Simms will also be broadcasting the Super Bowl. Simms was paired with Greg Gumbel for his previous Super Bowl gigs, a fine partnership which nonetheless lacked the homoerotic synergy of the Nantz-Simms duo. Whether you're a fan of the NFL or just homoeroticism, this year's Super Bowl should be a memorable one.

adios, uribe


Former Giants shortstop Jose Uribe passed away Friday after a car crash in the Dominican Republic. Uribe was on the Giants from 1985-1992, and one of my favorite players throughout his San Francisco career, both for sparkling glove work and his silly-sounding name. Maybe it was my unfamiliarity with how to pronounce Spanish vowel sounds, but "Jose Uribe" ranked up there with "Renaldo Nehemiah" and "Manu Tuiasosopo" among the greatest names of mid-80s Bay Area athletes.

The Giants acquired Uribe after the 1984 season, in exchange for the team's best player, Jack Clark. The trade was a historically bad one for the Giants. Besides Uribe, they got pitcher Dave LaPoint, who went 7-17 in his one year with the team, Gary Rajsich, who hit .165 and was released by July, and David Green, who hit five home runs in 100 games while playing first base. Jack Clark led the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series, while the Giants lost 100 games. Meanwhile, Uribe took over the shortstop job and changed his name from Jose Gonzalez, which made him literally a player to be named later.

The 1985 Giants were a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad baseball team, and also the first baseball team that I remember clearly. Perhaps this has something to do with the low expectations I feel for my favorite baseball squads. I watched the 1984 World Series, but the old scorecards I have indicated I feel asleep by the fifth inning most games. (Said scorecards are primarily notable for the different ways in which five-year-old Sean attempted to spell "Kurt Bevacqua".) While 1985 was a bad year, a few developments indicated that better years were ahead for the team.

Most notably, the Giants selected Will Clark in the amateur draft. Later that month, the team released Duane Kuiper, and Mike Krukow took over his post-game show radio duties, which would have implications for their TV broadcasts for years to follow. In September, they hired Al Rosen and Roger Craig as GM and manager, who immediately transformed the team. And in the first week of the season, Jose Uribe took over as the starting shortstop.

The real significance of Uribe's arrival was that he displaced incumbent starter Johnnie LeMaster, AKA "Johnnie Disaster". LeMaster was so hated, he once took the field with "BOO" on the back of his jersey in place of his name. Though I was only six years old in 1985, grown men openly cursed in my presence if the subject of LeMaster's inept hitting or fielding came up. It was as if Neifi Perez fielded like Edgardo Alfonzo. Playing Uribe sent a message - This team might suck, but at least they were going to suck differently.

I think I might have been drawn to Uribe because his baseball skills paralleled my own. He couldn't hit the ball out of the infield, and neither could I. Uribe always knew where to throw the ball, he snagged difficult ground balls, and he turned a ton of double plays. This made me a valuable Little Leaguer at age six, though much less when I got older and other kids figured out how a force play worked. The 1985 Giants weren't much better than a Little League team. Just like my own Sun Valley Urgent Care-sponsored team, the Giants needed, more than anything, a guy who could at least be counted on throw to the right base.

Uribe was part of a great young infield in 1986, with Will Clark, Robby Thompson, and Chris Brown (who once missed a game because he "slept on his eye funny"). Brown was replaced by Kevin Mitchell the next year, and eventually Matt Williams, but the other three guys played together through the 1992 season. It was a remarkably stable infield, and one with excellent defense. Some people might argue that Williams would have been more valuable if he'd never moved from shortstop to third base, but it was Uribe's defense that made that shift defensible.

Ultimately, Uribe will be remembered for his his name, and the chant that went along with it. When he came to the plate, or turned a difficult defensive play, fans would chant "Oooh! Ree-bay! Oooh! Ree-bay!", a call-and-response chant akin to UC berkeley's "Go! Bears!" cheer. It was a fun way to handle what for some fans was probably a challenging Spanish name, and to distract fans from Uribe's inevitable rally-killing strikeouts.

This chant was also responsible for the dumbest fan cheer I have ever heard. It was 1989, and I was at a Giants game with my dad. Uribe came to the plate, batting in his customary #8 spot. The guys behind us seemed particularly enthused to join in the "Oooh! Ree-bay!" chant. After Uribe miraculously reached base, pitcher Bob Knepper came up, and the fans behind us were still psyched. Here was their cheer:

"Oooh! Knepper! Oooh! Knepper!"

Rest in peace, Jose Uribe. Here's hoping the angels are chanting your name at the pearly gates, and that they don't switch to, "Oooh! St. Peter!" after you enter.

the nfl's little brother


Watching the 49ers this year has been a painful exercise at times. They're 2-5, and have been throughly routed in four of those losses. When the 49ers play San Diego or Chicago, it doesn't even seem like the teams are in the same league. San Diego scored 35 points at halftime, and Chicago was up 41-0 after two quarters. There also doesn't seem like a lot of animosity in these games. Both teams will be playing hard, but there haven't been a lot of personal fouls or trash-talking showdowns.

That's because the 49ers are the Little Brother of the NFL. Games look closer than they should because other teams shut down their offenses after halftime, so as not to rub it in. Every game is either a miraculous, inspirational victory over a bad team, or an out-and-out ass whipping from any average or better opponent. In the San Diego game, a scrappy 49ers defensive end forced his way to the quarterback and sacked him for a safety. After the San Diego free kick, the 49ers fumbled on the next play. By the second half, San Diego was running on nearly every play to run out the clock, the football equivalent of putting a hand on the 49ers' forehead, while the 49ers fumed and punched the air.

Being a 49ers fan is kind of like following your little brother's football team. They have the worst TV announcers every week, since the good announcers work on the big kids' games. Fans are amazingly supportive, cheering loudly even when the team is down 25 points in the third quarter. Only at 49er games will you hear fans say, "It's still a four-possession game." Even when the team gets killed, game stories praise the team's spirit, and focuses on where they might have made improvements. Much like kids being dragged by their parents to their little brother's game, TV viewers have no choice but to watch the 49ers each week.

The 49ers are not very good at football, but they sometimes to do cute things that are tangentially related to football. Against the Chargers, they ran a reverse in the fourth quarter, trailing by 22. The ball carrier fumbled. They've got a bunch of former college quarterbacks playing wide receiver and running back. Maybe they aren't good at the new positions yet, but those guys are heroes for trying.

It's also possible that the 49ers are not the NFL's Little brother, but the NFL's Li'l Brudder, a football team like a three-legged dog. Alex Smith has got the heart of a champion. What am I doing with my life? I'm thinking of getting into male modeling.



"I'm gonna be a quarterback when I grow up. I'm gonna throw for 2000 yards."

the emotional kenny rogers

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Kenny Rogers is pitching like the reincarnation of Christy Mathewson and no one knows exactly why. Most of the media has decided that it's because he has become so emotional. Joe Buck devoted an entire inning to explaining how emotional Rogers had been in his Division Series start against the Yankees, emphasizing his apology to the Yankees in his postgame press conference. Buck made sure America knew Rogers "wasn't trying to show up the Yankees" by pumping his fist after every strikeout and shouting with every batter he retired.

It's not just FOX that is pushing the "emotional" theme. writes, "If Rogers had any physical edge before, he seemingly had his usual emotional one after that." They also claim Rogers "channel[ed] his energy into his pitching." After his win over the A's, the AP wrote: Rogers was aggressive, part of a personal plan this month: Encourage his inner emotions, rather than trying to keep them in check.

Here's my question: Has Kenny Rogers had a reputation for being unemotional before this? Because I mostly remember him kind of being an asshole. He memorably failed in both of his stints in New York, particularly in the playoffs. In 2005, Rogers pushed two cameramen that were filming the team walk out of the dugout. Then, he shoved one of them again, throwing his camera down, and kicking the camera on the ground.


Rogers also broke a bone in his hand punching a water cooler a few weeks earlier. At the time, he kept a sticker on his locker that read "My Shitty Attitude Is None Of Your Fucking Business". Way back in 1994, Rogers shoved a beat writer out of the Texas clubhouse.

Now, Rogers has pitched 23 scoreless innings in the playoffs, and he's the toast of Detroit. Why is that? Apparently, it's his newfound commitment to fist-pumping, yelling, and showing up the opposing team. If I understand this argument correctly, Kenny Rogers was never this dominant before, because he wasn't enough of an asshole.

There have to be some real reasons he's suddenly unhittable. Maybe his changeup has been unusually effective against teams who rely on right-handed power hitters. Maybe the near-freezing temperatures in Detroit help keep long fly balls from turning into home runs. Maybe, since Rogers is 41, the extra few days of rest he gets are especially beneficial. Since he also dominates in the spacious McAfee Coliseum, maybe Comerica Park's large outfield helps Rogers, who doesn't strike out a lot of hitters. (Home ERA: 3.26; Road ERA: 4.41; three times as many home runs on the road in the same number of innings.)

All of these things are possibilities, and they might even be more important to Rogers's success than letting himself get aggro on the mound. Of course, maybe Rogers is constantly talking his feelings so no one notices he's secretly scuffing the ball. Maybe Rogers pumps his fist to confirm that there's still pine tar stuck to his hand. Maybe his eyes welled up with tears after the Yankee game because he was ashamed to be cheating so blatantly. Or maybe he's secretly frustrated knowing that his doctoring of the baseball has been revealed by his archenemies: television cameramen.

Whatever the cause, I expect Rogers to pitch Game Six of the Series, if necessary, wearing a bunch of Vaseline his emotions on his sleeve.

(UPDATE: Will Leitch has an excellent take on Rogers's emotions over at Deadspin:

"Kenny Rogers can not just decide he's a better pitcher when he releases his emotions; at that point, he is not 'releasing emotion' as much as he is 'yelling as a superstitious tic.' In other words: He is starting to look silly out there. He is yelling because he thinks it makes him a better pitcher, rather than because he is actually emotional about something.")

In this clip, Cal running back Justin Forsett breaks free for a seemingly meaningless touchdown in the fourth quarter of Cal's 45-24 win over Oregon. Musburger announces, "And we're over sixty [points]", referring to the game's over/under of 60. He's very aware of where the Las Vegas line ended up for this contest. Some places had it at 59 points, and I'm sure some had it at 61, which is why Brent mentions that some people were watching the extra point closely. In the words of my dad, "It makes you wonder if Brent had bet the over." Thanks to Dad for sending the video my way.


Musburger sounds genuinely thrilled about Forsett's score. Of course, Musburger often seems overly excited about plays that don't really warrant it. Maybe he really was happy to see Cal go up by a full 28 points, but the combination of glee in his voice and the unwillingness to outright say over/under on the air convinces me that Justin Forsett and the Bears made Musburger some money on Saturday. Maybe that's why he still works constantly at age 67. Musburger loves the action, but he really loves the action, partner.

marco! scutaro!

Game Journal
Game Three, American League Division Series
Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics

We have a little trouble at the gate, as Paul's celebratory "sweep" broom is judged to be too long. To shorten it might make it stadium-legal, but would result in an additionally-illegal jagged tip. The broom is in about as good condition as Brad Radke's shoulder, so it is abandoned.

The A's have come under fire for their cheap, low-ride operation: inadequate staffing, no postgame parking lot staff, closing concession stands for no reason. Oakland is an amazingly cheap organization. Their most controversial move has been covering the entire upper deck in tarps, to lower the stadium's seating capacity (and presumably cut down on staffing needs). We see another side of this cheapness on the way to our seats, when a sign informs us that the bathrooms will not open until 1:15, fifteen minutes after the first pitch.

Maybe the janitorial money saved has gone to fireworks. The A's shoot off fireworks before and after player introductions, and during the national anthem. The momentum slows a bit when they announce second baseman D'Angelo Jimenez, and the crowd asks each other, "Who?" There is a post-anthem flyover from what looks like a giant transport planes. They can't get fighter jets? It's Fleet Week!

Rickey Henderson throws out the first pitch. He is wearing a tan suit with sunglasses, and there is an enormous medallion around his neck. Rickey's pitch goes a little outside, but Rickey wants Oakland to know that Rickey is available to fill in if Oakland needs a backup middle infielder. Rickey has always wanted to end Rickey's career in Oakland.

Before the game, all fans were handed rally towels, a cheap knockoff of Minnesota's Homer Hankies. Paul received a rally towel at Pac Bell Park the previous week, which he says was "significantly nicer". Pieces of the towels are coming off every time a fan waves one.

Top of the first: Trouble in our Plaza Reserved section from a fan in a tattered cap. He's in the first row, and declares his intention to stand for the whole game. He also berates a pair of Twins fans sitting two sections away. I write down a prediction: "Fourth-inning ejection". Quote: "Look, I'm not a total asshole, but I really want to stand." If you're qualifying how much of an asshole you are, that's a good sign that you're a pretty big asshole.

Middle of the first: At 1:18, the newly-opened bathroom already smells like weed.

Bottom of the first: The cheer of, "Bro-ken! (Clap clap) Shoul-der! (Clap clap)" fails to distract Brad Radke, and he gets through the first inning in an efficient 14 pitches. By my count, he's got about 65 pitches left. The guy in the hat sits down, so maybe he really isn't a total asshole.

Top of the second: Canadian Justin Morneau leads off for the Twins. At the World Baseball Classic this spring, correspondent Mike B reports that one fan cheered for Justin the whole day, but called him "Monroe!" the whole time. On an 0-2 pitch, Monroe! gets a double, the third hit pitcher Danny Haren has given up in the first three batters. Inexplicably, Torii Hunter bunts Monroe over to third on the first pitch. Before he's even thrown out at first, I've written, "Dumb play". Right now, Hunter is hitting better than anyone else on the team, but apparently, he thinks he's Derek Jeter.

Rondell White follows with a fly ball to left, not deep enough to score Monroe!. Jason Tyner, who has hit one home run since Little League walks. The guy behind us starts heckling the home plate ump, even though we're deep in the left field stands. Jason Bartlett strikes out to end the inning.

Danny Haren pitch count: 30.
Me smacked in the face by a rally towel count: 2.

Middle of the second: The tarps do not completely cover the upper deck of the outfield. The area above home plate seems to be devoted to the media overflow, which is about 40 unhappy people. The tarps now read "WELCOME TO AKLAND".

Bottom of the second: The playoff slump of the much-maligned Eric Chavez ends in a big way, with a giant home run to right. I was maligning the hell out of him, but that was a pretty nice swing. Payton swings at the very next pitch and singles.

Nick Swisher follows with a long at-bat featuring five straight foul balls. Swisher seems to understand that, against the wounded Radke, this is a war of attrition. Even though he eventually strikes out, Swisher is reminiscent of the boxer that pounds his opponent's upper arms in every clinch, in hopes he can't raise his arms by the late rounds. With a broken shoulder, I doubt Brad Radke can box anyway.

Marco! (Clap clap) Scutaro! (Clap clap) Zembla favorite Marco Scutaro delivers once again in the clutch for Oakland. The man is amazing in late innings, in RBI situations, and in games that I attend. Through two innings, Radke has already thrown 40 pitches. The trainer might have to put a few staples in his armpit in the dugout.

Top of the third: Dirty-named Nick Punto grounds out, and manages to stay on his feet as he runs through the bag. Haren gets a 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom of the third: Jason Bartlett is having a tough defensive series for Minnesota. He fumbled a sure double play in Game 1, and has generally looked terrified at all times that a ball might be hit in his direction. Here he bobbles a grounder and barely throws out non-speedster Jason Kendall. On the next play, he's too nervous to do anything but wave weakly at Kotsay's grounder as it rolls by. Apparently Brad Radke's fastball did something to anger Milton Bradley, because he hits an enormous blast to dead center. Even though he knows it's gone immediately, he runs really hard around the bases. 4-0, Oakland.

Top of the fourth: There's a reliever warming up in the Minnesota bullpen, and that's really not something you want to see in the fourth inning of an elimination game. In the beer line, one fan presents his theory as to how the upper deck closure shuts out opposing fans. Because Minnesota didn't know if they were playing New York or Oakland until the last day of the season, they didn't have time to get tickets for road games. Indeed, I have only seen about thirty Twins fans this afternoon. It will be interesting to see the effects in the ALCS, as the Tigers-Yankees winner might not be determined until late Sunday night. Torii Hunter hits a no-doubt homer to get the Twins on the board, and I am doubly glad he decided to bunt in the second. 4-1.

Bottom of the fourth: Poor Brad Radke drops an easy popup to allow D'Angelo Jimenez to reach. It was the easiest defensive chance of the game so far, and he completely biffed it. Paul asks, "Doesn't the pitcher usually let a real infielder catch those?" Yes, yes he does. Maybe Radke has a broken glove hand as well? The gaffe isn't that surprising, considering Radke hasn't practiced in months due to his shoulder. On a day he's not pitching, Radke is the Walter Sobchak of the Twins: He doesn't throw on the side, he doesn't take infield practice, he doesn't turn on the oven, and he sure as shit doesn't roll!

Kendall follows with a single, and we're witnessing the very last of Radke's career here. No way he comes out for the fifth. Kotsay flies out to end the inning, and Radke wanders into the dugout. I am disappointed, as I wanted the error to hurt Radke in the game, not just hurt his ability to raise his arm over his head at age 45.

Top of the fifth: Punto singles with two outs. An overconfident Jason Kendall whizzes a pickoff throw into right field. Joe Mauer, having a rough series, grounds out to second.

Bottom of the fifth: Bradley shocks the entire stadium with a drag bunt that just misses the third base bag. First the pickoff throw, then the bunt - Nick Punto may need to change his pants. Radke is indeed out of the game, replaced by a lefty I've never heard of named Perkins. Thomas singles to right, just deep enough that there's no throw. Chavez slams a double off the left field wall, missing a home run by a few feet. Any other player in the league scores on that play, including many retired and/or deceased players. However, most fans are just happy the Big Hurt wasn't thrown out at third.

Juan Rincon comes in, and Ron Gardenhire is getting serious. On the first play, Jay Payton grounds to shortstop, and...Frank Thomas is running? He's out at home by about 90 feet. There's an awkward play at the plate, where Frank tries to slide, but it's sort of half-assed, and Mauer looks embarrassed for him as he makes the tag. In those situations, the catcher is like a squad of cops collaring a drunk. "Frank, you want to do this the easy way, or the hard way?" Rincon gets out of it, and the game is still too close for me.

Top of the sixth: With one out, Monroe! singles. Hunter resists the urge to sacrifice and instead hits a double. The tying run is at the plate, and we want The Duke! Duchscherer is only just warming up, so it's up to Haren for the time being. Rondell White singles, scoring Monroe! and THERE'S A PLAY AT THE PLATE! Milton Bradley, star of the game, throws out Hunter on a very close play at home. I was surprised he didn't score easily, but Bradley played it perfectly. Best of all, Rondell White didn't even advance to second on the throw. Jason Tyner does not homer, and that should be it for Danny Haren. Oakland 4, Minnesota 2.

Bottom of the sixth: One thing that makes Marco Scutaro so popular is his ethnic ambiguity. Is he Latino? Italian? All races can embrace his scrappy, underdog talents. The A's don't do anything, so the highlight comes when a guy in the second deck leaps for a foul ball that lands fifteen rows above him.

Top of the seventh: Officially, Justin Duchscherer is known as The Duke, and he's the A's pitcher I trust most. However, a minor contingent refers to him as The Douche, due to his uncanny ability to clean up in a tight situation. He's helped this inning by the team's uncannily accurate defensive positioning. Bradley barely moves to catch Luis Castillo's liner, and we're headed for the seventh inning stretch.

Seventh inning stretch: When the game is a sellout, the crowd is less forgiving of an elaborate calisthenics routine. The "Stretch" part is really just an expression.

Bottom of the seventh: There is a bar behind first base that looks like a nightclub. It's packed with people, there's a velvet rope, and what appear to be bouncers. There are women in this bar of a caliber rarely seen at A's games, and never at Raider games. Maybe they come to Raider games, but their faces are painted and they're wearing spiky costumes and they're Raider fans, so they're tainted forever. Once Frank Thomas receives an two-out intentional walk, I head back to my seat.

Dennys Reyes is in the game to pitch, and he is pretty fat. However, he looks a lot less fat than I remember - he's in Bob Wickman territory, rather than Rich Garces territory. Honestly, it's not like you lose a lot in being a morbidly obese relief pitcher. Your job has virtually no physical activity to begin with, and there's no guarantee you'll pitch on any given day. It's totally acceptable to eat a hot dog in the bullpen. Or five hot dogs. Today, I think Dennys Reyes ate two hot dogs, at most.

Reyes goes 3-2 on Chavez, and then poor Frank Thomas has to run down to second on two consecutive foul balls. The eighth pitch nearly drills Chavez, and Reyes might have simply gotten sick of that at-bat and decided to go have a snack in the clubhouse. The Twins bring in Jesse Crain to face Jay Payton, and I wonder why they don't use closer Joe Nathan. Sure, it's the seventh, but one run ends the game at this point. It looks like Crain has gotten out of the inning, but Monroe! botches the grounder and the bases are loaded. In Canada, that's 1.13 errors.

Nick Swisher comes up, the poster boy for Billy Beane's oft-discussed Moneyball approach. The A's are criticized for not doing little things to score runs in the playoffs; Swisher's main skill set is power and selectivity. Moneyball wins out, as Swisher coaxes a seven-pitch walk to score a crucial insurance run. Then, things go crazy.

Marco Scutaro comes to the plate. If Swisher's at-bat was validation, I saw this at-bat as a validation of all the Scutaro supporters out there who champion his clutch abilities, applaud his defensive versatility, and make homemade t-shirts with his name on the back. With the bases loaded, Scutaro hits his fourth double of the series and clears the bases. The A's are up 8-2 and the crowd is going wild and chanting "Marco! (Clap clap) Scutaro! (Clap clap)" Sometimes one group will yell "Marco!" and another group will yell "Scutaro!" It goes on for a full five minutes. Marco Scutaro hasn't had people cheer for him this way since Little League, if even then. When Scutaro gets his hat and glove from Jimenez, Jimenez gives him a huge, father-returning-from-the-war hug. You don't see a lot of midgame on-field hugging in baseball, but it was completely appropriate.

[Editor's note: Scutaro grew up in Venezuela, so he did not play Little League. In addition, his father was Italian, and his mother was Spanish. They both died before he reached the big leagues, and Scutaro promised his mother on her deathbed that he would make the majors.]

Eighth inning: The game is out of reach. Everyone is deliriously cheering and chanting, almost apart from the action on the field. The Duke appears to be throwing every pitch straight down the middle of the plate, which is how we like it. Monroe! goes deep with two outs, and the fans stop cheering for about three seconds. Then a fan throws the home run ball back onto the field, and it's all cheers again. Torii Hunter makes an out by accident for the first time and the A's are three outs away.

Ninth inning: Ken Macha does an NBA-like thing and lets The Duke warm up in the ninth inning, so he can get an ovation when he's removed before the first batter. Huston Street comes in to pitch. I trust The Duke more, but it's a five-run lead! Who cares?

Rondell White singles, and Lew Ford comes in to pinch-run. Not that it matters, but this is a bizarre situation in which to use a pinch-runner. Maybe Lew Ford's dad brought snacks for the team, and Gardenhire feels bad not letting Ford get in the game after that. Jason Tyner does not follow with a home run, and instead hits into a double play, highlighted by a sweet turn by none other than the new mayor of Oakland, Marco Scutaro. Lew Ford was in the game for approximately 23 seconds.

There are two outs. The A's are up five runs, and a fan behind me calls the umpire a "fucking idiot" for not calling a strike. Jason Bartlett singles, and aside from his poor baserunning and unceasing defensive failures, he's had a pretty good series. Luis Castillo flies out to left and it's over. The A's have won a playoff series for the first time in 16 years. The Dodgers look like a bunch of suckers now, huh?

Postgame: A woman in our row begins tossing confetti. Perhaps inevitably, Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" plays. Swisher, Street, and Chavez get together for a "Go Bayside"-style high-five. We speculate as to whether the ban on alcohol in the Oakland clubhouses, created after Esteban Loaiza's DUI arrest, will be lifted for the playoffs. Our questions are answered when Loaiza appears on the Jumbotron, spraying a cop with champagne. Bobby Kielty is wearing extremely silly goggles. He'd smoked a celebratory joint by the top of the eighth, we agree. For some reason, a groundskeeper drags the infield.

In the stands, the crowd begins chanting for Scutaro again. All the way out of the stadium, fans do not stop yelling "Marco! Scutaro!" It is amazing and touching that the fans have assigned credit for the biggest win in a decade to the least-heralded player on the team. But lest we get too sentimental, remember that Scutaro also has an extremely fun name to chant.

how the a's can still blow it

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I'm attending the playoff game between the Twins and A's this afternoon, and while I'm excited, I am under no delusions that Oakland will actually win. This is the third time in six years that the A's have taken a 2-0 lead in the first round of the playoffs. Both times, in 2001 and 2003, they proceeded to lose three straight games and the series. Since 2000, the A's have lost four first-round series, all of them in five games. When they have a chance to eliminate their opponent in the Division Series, the A's are 0-9.

But Sean, you might say. The A's are in great shape. They beat Johan Santana, the best pitcher in baseball, in Game 1. He hadn't lost at home in over a year! They won another game on the road, meaning that they've got two home games before Minnesota even has a chance to tie it up. The opposing pitcher in Game 3 has a "stress fracture in his right shoulder that keeps him in near constant pain". Minnesota's Game 4 pitcher has a 5.94 ERA and weighs over 250 pounds. Forget it. They're losing in five.

What can go wrong? Plenty.

  • Dan Haren injures his shoulder in a bar fight at Crogan's. He leaves Game 1 after an inning and a third. Reliever Gil Heredia is ineffective.
  • Milton Bradley is ejected and suspended for biting an umpire.
  • Nick Punto stops sliding head-first into first base and legs out three infield hits a game.
  • Marco Scutaro and D'Angelo Jimenez break their hands high-fiving one another.
  • Joe Mauer fouls a ball off his shin, which bounces up and breaks Jason Kendall's nose.
  • Rich Harden spends Saturday morning enjoying some "socialized medicine" with fellow Canadian Justin Morneau, and his effectiveness drops quicker than the value of the loonie.
  • Federal agents burst into the Oakland dughout and arrest Ken Macha for his participation in an elaborate Dot Racing gambling ring.
  • Oakland decdides to prove they can play "little ball". Jay Payton strikes out twice trying to bunt, and Frank Thomas is caught stealing four times. Joe Morgan cheers.
  • When Ron Washington falls ill, the team brings in Jeremy Giambi to coach third base.
  • Radke heroically keeps the game close for six innings, and Minnesota's stellar bullpen handcuffs the A's hitters for the remainder of the game. Also, Nick Swisher is stabbed by a drunken Raider fan in the parking lot.
  • Every time an A's runner heads home, they shove the catcher and yell at the umpire instead of simply touching home plate. Somewhere in Arizona, Eric Byrnes weeps with pride.
  • Relief pitchers Kiko Calero and Justin Duchscherer fall into severe depressions when they realize how silly their names are.
  • Frank Thomas eats fifteen rancid Dollar Dogs and falls ill, not realizing that Two Dolla Wednesday was a full nine days ago.

  • Bobby Kielty tears his ACL running on the torn-up, football-destroyed outfield turf.
  • In the ninth inning of Game 5, the A's pinch-hit Adam Melhuse for Thomas in order to get the platoon advantage. "It's called playing the percentages," explains Billy Beane. "It's what smart general managers do to win ballgames." Melhuse strikes out looking.
  • Eric Chavez continues to play exactly the same as he has every postseason.

Theory: The teams that I like always lose in the postseason, and the teams I hate most will find a way to prevail. So here's a preview of the upcoming baseball playoffs based on who I hate most, since those teams are going to win. For a balanced perspective, I will include teams and players that my parents and family members really hate.

Here's a guide to what our family hates:

1. Affiliation with the Los Angeles Dodgers. We are Giants fans, and so we hate the Dodgers. I hate former Dodgers for years after they leave the team. When the Giants signed Orel Hershiser in 1998, my father gave him a standing boovation on Opening Day. It took me five years of watching Dusty Baker as a hitting coach before completely trusting him. If Tommy Lasorda ever set foot in our house, the carpet would probably burst into flames under his feet. We're not crazy about former members of the Yankees, Mets, or Angels, either.

2. Wronging the Giants. If a pitcher beaned Barry Bonds anytime in the last decade, or sparked a bench-clearing brawl, or hit a significant home run to beat the Giants, he's on the list.

3. Weird batting stances/dirty equipment/excessive spitting. This is my mother's pet peeve. Shirts covered in tobacco juice and helmets caked in pine tar are but, but what Mom really hates are unorthodox batting stances, particularly ones in which the batter appears to be crouching down and cheating his way into a walk. I think this started with Rickey Henderson, and continued through Craig Counsell. Mom isn't too thrilled with how Luis Gonzalez or even Moises Alou stand in the batter's box, either.

Last year's Houston Astros may have been my mother's most hated team that played outside of the Los Angeles area. My mother despises Craig Biggio (filthy helmet, weird batting stance, allows himself to be hit by pitches), Lance Berkman (destroys the Giants, appears to wear mascara), Roy Oswalt (weird-looking), and Roger Clemens (dude, everyone hates Roger Clemens). To complete the hatefest, the Astros brought back Jeff Bagwell to pinch-hit and DH in the playoffs, and my mom hates him most of all ("That batting stance is bullshit. Stand up!") It was quite a hateful team, so of course they made it to the World Series. Her most despised player, A.J. Pierzinski, was a playoff hero for the White Sox. If you go by the Hate Index, you can get a good idea of who will be playing in the Fall Classic.

San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals

I have hated the St. Louis Cardinals since the day that Ozzie Smith sucker-punched Will Clark back in 1988. I have hated Tony LaRussa almost as long. My dislike of Tony is neither logical or reasonable. Seeing his face makes me want to euthanize a stray animal, just to stick it to ARF. The playoffs are generally satisfying for a Tony-hater, because LaRussa will inevitably make a huge managerial blunder that knocks St. Louis out of the playoffs. Whether it is leaving in his starting pitcher to hit for himself in late innings (2001/2002), bungling Mark McGwire's pinch-hitting appearances (2000), or wasting pinch-hitters to obsessively gain an insignificant platoon advantage (every single year), Tony can be counted on for one strategic meltdown every year. The Cardinals will keep three catchers, three lefthanded relievers, and at least one injured hitter on the playoff roster every year until Tony hangs them up.

The Padres are an interesting team, hate-wise. As a division rival of the Giants, they should provoke a lot if ire. But, they really don't. Maybe it's because Padres fans are so rare outside of San Diego. Even in San Diego, Giants fans would often form a majority of the crowd, back in the Qualcomm stadium days. Maybe it's their general lack of success. Maybe it's their hard-hitting local news and stellar fine dining.

Mike Piazza is a perfect example. He's a former Dodger, and a former Met, and he's Tommy Lasorda's godson. Yet, in the navy blue and khaki of San Diego, it's hard to feel that strongly about him.

Cardinals Hate list

Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols (Dad thinks he's on steroids), Juan Encarnacion (Dodger ties, beat the Giants in 2003), Yadier Molina (residual anti-Molina-Brothers bias from the 2002 World Series).

Cardinals Hate Index: 9.

Padres Hate list

Third base coach Glenn Hoffman (Dodger), pitcher Shawn Estes (failing to slide into second base in the 2000 NLDS, getting tagged out, and injuring his ankle [see injury to insult]), Mascot "The Friar" and his hideous creation Franken Friar (terrifying).

Padres Hate Index: 3.

Prediction: St. Louis in 4.

something positive about joe theisman

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Everyone hates ESPN broadcaster Joe Theisman. There's a lot of reasons to hate him. In college, he changed the pronunciation of his last name so it would rhyme with "Heisman", to improve his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy. (He did not win.) As a broadcaster, he is reluctant to criticize any player, but quick to credit various coaches for anything and everything that occurs on the field. If his producers and the FCC allowed it, Joe would fellate an offensive coordinator on-air.

Theisman also likes to use "football" as an adjective, as if fans might forget what sport they're watching without a reminder. "This is a football team that needs to just go out there and make some football plays if they want to win this football game." Last year, Joe said that he thought Jim Haislett of the New Orleans Saints should win the Coach of the Year award. At the time, the Saints were 2-8.

Let it be known that there was once a moment where Theisman was a competent announcer. Maybe the moment didn't last long, but the accompanying video shows that for at least three minutes and sixteen seconds in 1987, Theisman was at the top of his game and damn near psychic. In a move that recalled Tony Kubek predicting Johnny Bench's intentional walk fakeout in the 1972 World Series, Joe called the 49ers amazing comeback minutes before it happened.

Joe was working as a color man for CBS when the 49ers came to Cincinnati to play the Bengals. In the fourth quarter, the Bengals had the ball and a six-point lead, with just seconds remaining. Even though it was fourth down, Coach Sam Wyche decided to go for the first down, rather than punt from his own 30 yard line. Theisman saw this was a bad idea right from the start. Joe told America he'd have given Bengals QB and future obnoxious broacaster Boomer Esiason this advice:

"Boomer, I'll tell you what I want you to do. I want you to take the snap from center...I want you to run around a little bit, then run out the back of the end zone, give up the two points, and the clock will run out. And then, worst comes to worst, they have to punt from the twenty, and there's no time on the clock. If they just take the snap from center, it is conceivable that San Francisco could wind up getting one more play. And from the thirty yard line - who knows what's gonna happen?"

What does happen is Boomer hands off, and the 49ers stop the ballcarrier for a four yard loss. The Niners get the ball at the 25 with two seconds remaining. Just as Theisman speculated minutes earlier, Joe Montana throws a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice, and the 49ers win an absolutely shocking game. The Cincinnati fans boo their team off the field. San Francisco Coach Bill Walsh skips off the field. A stopped clock is temporarily right. And for what may have been the last time in his broadcasting career, Theisman gets some well-deserved kudos from his partner.

"Joe Theisman, I gotta give you absolute full credit for recognizing not just the situation, but what the strategy should have been on the part of [Sam] Wyche," he says. Unfortunately, the video ends before we can hear if Theisman credits the 49ers' offensive coordinator with calling such an effective football play.

nfl roundup, week three

Seattle 42, New York Giants 30

Eli Manning is making a bid to become the new Brett Favre. Eli gunslung his way to 27 fourth quarter points, meaning the Giants only lost by twelve. Of course, the comeback effort was only necessary because of Eli's three interceptions. Next week, Eli is going to get addicted to Vicodin, then hold a press conference where he hints at retirement.

Carolina 26, Tampa Bay 24

Chris Simms played with a ruptured spleen, which was removed after the game. Steve Young said that, while his father's spleen was one of the toughest in NFL history, Chris Simms's spleen grew up in the laissez-faire atmosphere of Chris Simms's body, and thus may not have had the the physical toughness and ability to succeed in the NFL or the reticuloendothelial system. Young added that he'd let Phil Simms remove his own children's spleens.

Raiders Update

The Raiders were idle this week while Tampa Bay lost, making them only the second-worst pirate-themed NFL team for one week. Next week, when the Buccaneers have a bye and the Raiders lose to Cleveland, they'll be tied at 0-3. Andrew Walter will probably keep his internal organs intact for at least seven more days.

Philadelphia 38, San Francisco 24

You hear a lot about adding insult to injury, but this game showcased the less-heralded "injury to insult", when Frank Gore and Vernon Davis both managed to hurt themselves on a play where Gore fumbled at the goal line and Davis let a 300-pound man ran the fumble back 98 yards for touchdown. Gore achieved the rare "insult to injury to insult" when Philadelphia's Brian Dawkins called him a pussy for straining his abs trying to stretch the ball across the goal line.

Cincinnati 28, Pittsburgh 20

I only saw Cincinati Coach Marvin Lewis's postgame press conference, where he pleaded with the team to leave the stadium with class. Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason seemed to think he was sending a message to trash-talking receiver Chad Johnson, but I think he was really saying, "Please guys, nobody get arrested."

UPDATE: Linebacker Odell Thurman, already serving a drug suspension, got arrested after the game for drunk driving. He also had teammates in the car with him. Good pep talk, coach.

Washington 31, Houston 15

Move over, Rich Gannon! There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Mark Brunell. Brunell broke Gannon's record for consecutive completed passes by connecting on his first 22 throws yesterday. Gannon's family said that Brunell was a worthy successor, and that they were just happy that a white man broke the record.

New York Jets 28, Buffalo 20

J.P. Losman is the quarterback for Buffalo. That name is almost "Lose-man", and it's appropriate, because J.P. loses all the time. I think I am the first person to ever make this joke.

Indianapolis 21, Jacksonville 14

Also, Giants outfielder Randy Winn has never been on a team with a winning record since reaching the majors. More like Randy Lose!

Green Bay 31, Detroit 24
Baltimore 15, Cleveland 14

Aaron Rodgers and Kyle Boller both called Jeff Tedford this weekend and cried like little girls.

Miami 13, Tennessee 10

I would have been more excited about this game if it had been Vince Young vs. Joey Harrington, instead of Kerry Collins vs. Daunte Culpepper. Neither of these teams is any damn good.

Chicago 19, Minnesota 16

Minnesota coach Brad Childress reminds me of Garth Pancake, the character played by JK Simmons in The Ladykillers.

Childress: childress_large.jpg

Pancake: ladykillers4.jpg

Tuesday meeting:

Coach Childress: OK, stopping the outside run. Easiest thing in the world. Mountain Girl drew up some run blitz schemes, and I think...

Fred Smoot: Did you bring your bitch to the Tuesday film session?

Coach Childress: Excuse me?

Fred Smoot: I said, did you bring your bitch to the Tuesday film session?

Coach Childress: This is Mountain Girl. Mountain is my right hand. She helps me with the Cover-2. Helps me with damn near everything. She's the other half of my life.

Fred Smoot: I can't believe you brought your bitch to the Tuesday film session!

Coach Childress: You son of a bitch punk! Shut your goddamn mouth! (Clutches waist) Oh God. IBS.

St. Louis 16, Arizona 14

Paris Hilton will be calling Phoenix-area radio stations to complain that Matt Leinart should be the starter for Arizona after this game. Any half-decent NFC West team should be able to sneak into the playoffs because they get to play the 49ers, Rams, and Cardinals twice. Unfortunately, none of those three teams seems able to rise out of their mediocrity. The teams will all go 2-4 in the division, lose to Seattle twice, and pick in spots 8-10 in next June's draft.

Denver 17, New England 7

I didn't see this big Sunday night showdown because I was at a wedding banquet. So while the game was going on, I was watching middle-aged Chinese-American couples doing elaborate line dancing. From what I gather from game accounts, that dancing was far more coordinated and effective than the New England offense.

the raiders audition new quarterbacks

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The Raiders have brought in Tommy Maddox to compete for the starting quarterback position, making him the third new QB they've considered in the past [few] months. First it was New Orleans failure and notorious backwards passer Aaron Brooks, and then they brought in Jeff George, who hasn't played in the NFL since 2001. Now, the team is looking at Maddox, a 35 year-old who failed miserably for Pittsburgh last year, to the point that irate fans covered his lawn in garbage.

Maddox didn't leave Oakland with a contract, which means the Raiders third quarterback position is still open. Starter Aaron Brooks has already been injured, and the offensive line has given up 15 sacks in just two games. It's clear that the Raiders are going to need a lot of extra quarterbacks this year. But who's next? We'll take a look at the most likely candidates to try out for the Oakland job in the next few months.

Jim Druckenmiller


Fondly known as Jim "Drunkenmiller", Druck came out of the storied Virginia Tech football program. His performance on and off the field set a standard that all subsequent Tech quarterbacks have tried to match, including Michael and Marcus Vick. The 49ers picked him in the first round of the 1997 draft, even though he was a 24 year-old college senior, and he was out of the NFL two years later. His last pro action came as a backup for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football league. At age 34, Druck's a little young for Oakland, but he'll at least get to come in for a workout.

Gino Torretta


He may have only played one game during his NFL career, but Torretta has the most important quality that the Oakland Raiders look for in a player: a Heisman Trophy. If Torretta doesn't work out, Danny Wuerffel, Andre Ware, or Johnny Lujack could get a call.

Vince Evans


So what if he's 51 years old? Evans was a backup QB for the Raiders for nearly a decade, from 1987-1995. Al Davis loves him, even if he rarely got into a game. Vince Evans in a nutshell: When asked about his favorite games from his Raiders career, Evans listed two preseason victories.

Scott Bakula


At some point during Quantum Leap's run, Dr. Samuel Beckett must have leaped into an interception-prone NFL QB, right?

Bakula also led the Texas State University Fightin' Armadillos to a 1-8-1 season in the film Necessary Roughness. Necessary Roughness was a very inspirational film for the entire Raiders organization. Coach Ed "Straight Arrow" Gennero's conflicts with the college administration mirrors the Raiders struggles with the NFL league office. Former linebacker Bill Romanowski drew inspiration from that white samurai linebacker guy. And Sebastian Janikowski became a placekicker solely on the off chance he might someday get to shower with Kathy Ireland. Let's be honest: 1-8-1 looks like a much better record than the Raiders are going to achieve this year.

As a bonus to having Bakula try out, they could also bring in Sinbad to fill in at left tackle.



Starting quarterback at Walden College, and later a third-string quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, B.D. retired from professional sports in 1987 and lost his leg in Iraq. Despite being an above-knee amputee with a prosthetic leg, B.D. would still be far more mobile than starter Andrew Walter.

Uncle Rico


Al Davis loves the deep pass. With Uncle Rico, Davis would finally achieve his dream of having a quarterback who could throw a ball over a mountain. As the third-string quarterback, Uncle Rico's main responsibility would be to throw steaks at malcontent wide receiver Jerry Porter.

Of course, what Al Davis really wants is to get his hands on Uncle Rico's time machine, so he can go back and beat nemesis Jon Gruden in the state championship Super Bowl XXXVII. If they'd have just thrown more deep balls, they would have been Super Bowl champs. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.

For years, every Wednesday home game for the Oakland Athletics has been a discount ticket opportunity. While the price doubled a few years back, and seats are now only available in the furthest reaches of the outfield, Two Dolla Wednesday and its One Dolla hot dogs remain the best deal in baseball. Much like the Masters, Two Dolla Wednesday is a tradition unlike any other. It's a tradition of drunkeness, of erratic defensive play, of smuggled alcohol, and of the ill-advised Rally Mustard plan, all of which may be coming to an end this evening. Let's look back on the year that was in Two Dolla Wednesday baseball.

April 19 - Detroit 11, Oakland 4.
A's record: 7-8.

The A's lost to Detroit lefthander Kenny Rogers, who upped his career record to an astonishing 24-4 at the Athletics' home ballpark. Zembla predicted the A's would have trouble besting Rogers, due to his unique bond with the ballpark.

Kenny Rogers:

I once had a rib removed to improve my circulation

McAfee Coliseum:

If someone takes your picture, there'll be an altercation


And we ride it together, uh huh
Making A's hitters suffer, uh huh

At the time, the outcome looked like a disaster. Losing a series to the hapless Tigers was a terrible sign. If they couldn't beat a crappy team like Detroit, what hope did the A's have of beating the real contenders in the American League, like Toronto and Cleveland? The Tigers went to 8-7 on the season, and I figured it was the last time they'd see the good side of .500 in 2006. I am an excellent baseball prognosticator.

Economic note: The two-dollar ticket price worked out to 50 cents for each Oakland error.

May 3 - Cleveland 14, Oakland 3.
A's record: 14-13.

Surely, this was the first step in the Indians' inexorable march to the AL Central crown. The loss snapped a five-game Oakland win streak, and the team went on to lose their next three series. Things looked bleak for Oakland, and more importantly, they were down 25-7 on aggregate for Two Dolla Wednesdays.

Kiko Calero gave up four runs, 20% of his entire season's total, in just one-third of an inning. Joe Kennedy gave up nearly half of his year's earned runs in just one-third of an inning. Throw out this game, and Calero would have an ERA of 2.72, and Kennedy an ERA of 1.28.

My three highlights:

1. Five guys ran around with "GO A'S" painted on their chests. Yes, one guy had to be the apostrophe.
2. Of Nick Swisher, one fan said, "Best hitter, worst beard."
3. Two of my friends attended wearing customized A's t-shirts. One said "Marco" on the back, while the other said "Scutaro". I am going to venture that these are the only customized Marco Scutaro partner t-shirts in existence.

Economic note: Fans paid 25 cents for each Oakland hit.

May 17 - Oakland 7, Seattle 2.
A's record: 20-19.

The A's got their first Two Dolla victory of the year. Barry Zito, the official pitcher of Two Dolla Wednesday, handled the Mariners with ease. It was almost too easy, as if the A's had some sort of insurmountable psychological advantage over the Mariners. This was their fifth consecutive win over Seattle, but the law of averages says Seattle would turn the tide eventually. Right?

It was a rough game for baserunning: two pickoffs, and three runners thrown out at home. Longtime fans could take comfort that the A's were reverting back to historical form: strong pitching, lots of walks, and piss-poor baserunning. I ate five hot dogs.

Economic note: One dollar per sacrifice fly.

June 14 - Oakland 7, Seattle 2.
A's record: 34-31.

A bit of Two Dolla Deja Vu for the A's, as they again handled Seattle on a discount baseball Wednesday. It was Oakland's sixth consecutive victory, and their eighth win in a row over Seattle. The overcast, rainy day did little to make the Mariners feel at home this evening, nor did it diminish the Two Dolla crowd. Surely, Seattle was due for victory against Oakland sometime soon.

Bobby Kielty had two hits for the third Two Dolla Wednesday in a row, making him this year's Marco Scutaro, a low-priced player who raises his game to new heights during low-priced games. Perhaps the discount yellow sun of Two Dolla Wednesday gives Kielty unlimited powers.

Economic note: In honor of Two Dolla Wednesday, I drank two beers, which cost seven-and-a-half times as much as my tickets.

After losing at Tennessee, the University of California's football team rebounded with a victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers last Saturday. The team looks to be well on their way to another 9-3 season, culminating in a blowout loss to Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. I can't wait.

I was at the Minnesota game, enjoying the offensive dominance and festive atmosphere. What I did not enjoy was the Mic Man. For those of you unfamiliar with Cal football, the Mic Man is a designated dork from the Rally Committee. He stands in front of the student section in a shirt and tie, leading cheers, making bad jokes, and receiving the loathing of the entire stadium. I hate the Mic Man and so does everyone else.

In honor of Cal's big game this weekend against perennial (women's soccer volleyball) powerhouse Portland State, here is a selection of history's greatest speeches, as delivered by the Mic Man:

Patrick Henry

All right, the Virginia Militia needs us. Let's make some noise, First Continental Congress! Hey Alumni! Liberty!
Gooooooo Sons of Virginia!

John F. Kennedy

Let the Russians hear it in East Berlin. Ich bin ein Berlinner. You know it, you tell the story, you tell the whole damn world this is NATO territory!

Martin Luther King

First down Bears! First down Bears! Thank God almighty, it's a First Down, Bears!

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Gimme an F!
Gimme an E!
Gimme an A!
Gimme an R!
What's that spell?
What do we have to fear?
What's the only thing we have to fear?
Who's gonna win?
Gooooooo Fear!

Henry V

Make some noise, Agincourt! Ohhhhhh! Ohhhhhh! Ohhhhhh! St. Crispin's Day! Ohhhhhh! We few! We happy few! Ohhhhhh! Ohhhhhh! Come on! Ohhhhhh!

Jonathan Edwards

The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber. The pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them. The flames do now rage and glow - oh, sinner, take off that red shirt!

jewish heritage night at at&t park


I went to see the Giants play the Reds on a recent Thursday night. When we arrived, there was klezmar music playing on Willie Mays Plaza and the air was thick with the smell of knishes. Why was this night different from all other nights? Because it was Jewish Heritage Night, part of the Giants' program of ethnic heritage nights.

We had unknowingly gone to the ball park during Heritage Week - Monday was the season's second Irish Night, Tuesday was Italian Night, and the following Friday was African-American Night. Of course, none of those other ethnicities have the same legacy of baseball success as the Jews, so this was a special night.

For Mexican Heritage Night, the team provided sombreros to all fans. We hoped that they would be handing out yarmulkes with the SF logo on them, but no such luck. Sadly, that meant there would be no opportunity to turn the skullcaps inside out to make Rally Yarmulkes. It turns out that the giveaway was Giants caps written in Hebrew, but only for fans who purchased the Jewish Night package. In other words, the team was being cheap.

Randy Winn led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run into the left-field bleachers, and the Giants had the lead. The homer was an absolute rocket blast, so much that we initially thought Randy Winn was retaliating for a kidnapping. When Pedro Feliz hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the second, it looked like we might be looking at a Six-Day War against pitcher Eric Milton's unimpressive fastball. However, those would be the last runs the Giants would score this evening. It's as if their offense began fasting at sundown.

The Giants unveiled a full array of special graphics for the occasion. A digital Jackie Mason appeared with the words "Oy Vey" whenever a hitter reached base. That was OK. Mike Myers-as-Linda Richman popped up to tell the crowd, "I'm a little verklempt" after good defensive plays. One could argue about the appropriateness of "verklempt". Does a late-August battle between two .500 teams normally leave fans emotionally affected? We also got two different video clips from "Fiddler on the Roof", and an audio-only rendition of "Tradition". Was this Jewish Heritage Night or Jewish Stereotype Night?

We would have liked to see them go all the way with the scoreboard, Jewish mother style. Make announcements between innings warning fans to bundle up. Instead of the bit where fans stand and wave their VISA cards, have single doctors stand and wave their telephone numbers. And instead of flashing "NOISE", the scoreboard could simply say, "Fine, don't clap. Sit on your hands, what do I care? I'll just go sit in the dugout like a dog."

The matzo-eating contest was a bit of a disappointment, as the winner appeared to be crumbling the matzo against his face more than he was actually eating it. Kobayashi would have been disappointed, but the judges may have looked the other way because of our winner's snazzy yarmulke. Our favorite special event was the old bearded man playing the shofar, a traditional Jewish wind instrument, from behind home plate. If you have never heard "Charge!" played on the horn of a ram, you simply have not lived.

In the sixth inning, gentile Shea Hillenbrand hit a single, but he was stranded on third when the inning ended. Though Pedro Feliz hit a double with two outs, the coach inexplicably held up Hillenbrand as he rounded third. Please, third-base coach Gene Glynn, let my baserunners go!

For us, the evening peaked in the bottom of the eighth, when Cincinnati brought in the only Jewish player on either team, reliever Scott Schoeneweis. There was palpable tension in the crowd as Schoeneweis warmed up, as fans were torn between team and religious loyalties. It only got more intense as catcher Eliezer Alfonzo strode to the plate, pausing to kiss his crucifix necklace on his way to the batter's box, a direct challenge to Schoeneweis's faith. Now it was a holy war. On this night, the Torah proved mightier than the New Testament, and Alfonzo went down swinging.

The Giants eventually lost 6-3, and we resigned ourselves to wandering through the South of Market area, looking for public transportation. No trains were running, so it took about 40 years to get home. There was a lot of time to reflect on the night. The game was a victory, not only for the Reds, but for Scott Schoeneweis. Batters will have no choice but to officially recognize his existence from now on, and it proves once and for all that you can be a successful major league pitcher without a foreskin. We learned that Scott Hatteberg is not actually Jewish, that a rally rabbi is ineffective in motivating an offense, and that you can make only one java-related joke about Todd Coffey "warming up" in the bullpen before one of your companions punches you. But the main thing we learned was that baseball is even more fun when it's combined with half-assed ethnic pandering. We'll certainly be there next year for Zoroastrian Heritage Night, that's for sure.

brett favre is in mid-season form

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Brett Favre threw five interceptions in training camp. It's good to see that he's picking up right where he left off last year, with his league-leading 29 interceptions. Even in the pre-season, Brett Favre is a gunslinger! I'm pretty sure that John Madden and Peter King were still impressed by his performance.

In Week 4 of the 2005 season, Favre battled back against the Panthers, only to fall short on the final desperation drive. The AP game summary discussed the "vintage" Favre effort at length, how he battled back, how he cavred up the Carolina defense, and how impressed the Panther players were afterward. The writer only mentioned his two first-half turnovers around the twentieth paragraph.

After the game, Favre said, "You ask yourself: 'What more could I have done?' That eats at you." My dad suggested, "How about not fumbling deep in your own territory on your opening possession?" Favre also sevred up an interception that led to a Carolina touchdown. When you give the other team 14 free points, you don't desevre to win.

I have a theory that Favre's "gunslinger" nature makes him more likely to make comebacks - not necessarily because it's a great style, but because it's so variable. There have been many games where Favre leads a comeback in the fourth quarter, but I think there have also been a significant number of games where the Packers are down seven to ten points, and Favre throws killer interceptions to put the game completely out of reach.

When Favre throws up wild, 50-yard bombs and they get caught, he's a hero. When those passes get intercepted, it gets forgotten, since the team was already losing at the time, and Favre's still a hero. I mean, did you hear what happened to his house after Hurricane Katrina?

The best example of the free pass Favre gets from the media came in a 2005 playoff game against Minnesota. The Packers were behind, but driving for a touchdown. Favre threw a pass from something like five yards across the line of scrimmage. After that play, which would have been gotten Favre benched in a Pop Warner game, and may well have ended Green Bay's season, the announcers were actually laughing about it. That's just Favre, that's just what a gunslinger does, forgetting where the line of scrimmage is. He's all heart, that Brett Favre! What a line-of-scrimmage-ignoring competitor!

I like Brett Favre, I really do. I like that he shows so much enthusiasm on the field. I like that he starts every game. I like that he shaved his head out of solidarity when his wife went through chemotherapy. I like that he successfully petitioned the league to let him drink beer while he was rehabbing from Vicodin addiction. I liked him in There's Something About Mary. But broadcasters and sportswriters are making me hate him.

If just once, Joe Theisman would call out Favre for a bad pass, or if Peter King would skip a press conference where Favre announces he's still making up his mind about retirement, it would go a long way to redeeming Favre for me. Failing that, he could promise to keep gunslinging through the Week 14 game against the 49ers. Come on, Brett. Niner fans are stavring for some cheap wins. Don't let us down, buddy.

the handsome man gap


The publication of the 2006 Handsome Man Team (thanks Deadspin) has made me consider the handsomeness of my favorite team, the San Francisco Giants. The only Giant to appear on any of the three previous Handsome Teams is Barry Bonds, as an outfiled reserve. With his swollen head, hair loss, weight gain, and bacne, I don't think Bonds comes close to qualifying for the team anymore. You can't blame East Coast bias in the selections, because the Oakland A's are well-represented. According to one female Giants fan, the Giants "might be one of the all-around ugliest teams".

One change to this year's team is the absence of J.T. Snow. For nine years, J.T. played first base for the Giants, a long tenure that seemed to have as much to do with his good looks as his fielding ability. While Snow's lack of power and inconsistent hitting frustrated many, Snow's admirers defended his defensive ability, his rescue of Darren Baker during the 2002 World Series, and the way his ass looked while doing all those things. When Snow departed to Boston as a free agent, the Giants did little to fill the void of handsomeness.

So who are the candidates for Handsomest Man on the Giants? Let's examine the candidates.


Jeremy Accardo, RP: Accardo was the player mentioned most often in my informal handsomeness survey. Accardo earns points because of his handsomeness out of the bullpen, a traditionally weak position for male beauty. However, when a relief pitcher is your best-looking player, it is a bad sign for the overall handsomeness of your team.


Moises Alou, OF: Alou is not bad-looking, but two factors make him lose any and all handsome points. First, he pees on his hands to toughen them up for hitting. Second, his father Felipe looks like a turtle. When fans see the Giants manager, they are given a horrifying glimpse into Moises's testudinal future.


Jason Ellison, OF: One woman said Ellison might be the handsomest man on the Giants, but I don't see it. I may be biased against him due to his disappointing play, which includes a series of awful defensive plays in the outfield. For a player whose primary job is as a defensive sub in the late innings, this is especially bad. Ellison has just been demoted to Fresno, as the Giants have called up the far less handsome Tood Linden.


Steve Kline, RP: Kline is not an especially handsome man to begin with, and loses points due to his filthy hat. Kline wears one hat, one undershirt, and one pair of socks for the entire season. Kline says, "I like to see how bad and smelly it gets at the end of the year." Though in theory, one's body odor is separate from one's handsomeness, Kline is not doing himself any favors. The black Giants cap is a little more conducive to grime than his old Cardinals hat, but it's still gross.


Noah Lowry, P: Lowry might have been the captain of SF Team Handsome were it not for the birthmark under his right eye. It is superficial to disqualify the man over something like this, but major league handsomeness is all about superficiality.


Mike Matheny, C: Mentioned in the writeup of the 2004 Handsome Man Team and currently out with post-concussion symptoms, Matheny has filled Brent Mayne's old role as wavy-haired veteran handsome catcher. While it could not cushion his skull from major brain trauma, Matheny's glorious hair launches him into the handsome debate. Given the Giants' recent history with craggy-faced backstops like Benito Santiago and Yorvit Torrealba, Matheny is a breath of fresh air as a catcher who wears his mask for protection, not out of shame.


Matt Morris, P: While the facial hair of most major leaguers ranges from "disgusting" to "unfortunate", the beard works for Matt Morris. One female associate pegged him as "hot" before the season began, but failed to mention him as a Handsome Man candidate this week. He has become a much more consistent pitcher recently. While on-field success shouldn't really affect one's handsomeness, we all know it does. Reportedly has "very nice eyes".


Jose Vizcaino, IF: I didn't know This Guy I Know was so good-looking. Probably too old for any all-handsome consideration, but he's definitely a bench player with a starting-caliber smile.


Omar Vizquel, SS: In the 90's, Vizquel was a legendary hearthrob among Cleveland Indians fans, when he was probably the only Venezuelan in the state of Ohio. He fields well, and in his spare time, Omar sings (scroll down to "Omar sings 'Broadway'"). He's past his prime, and better-looking when he wears a cap to hide his baldness. Also, while Vizquel is good-looking, his looks are not exceptional for a shortstop, traditionally one of the handsomest positions in baseball. If this were 1999, Vizquel would be the clear winner here, but he is simply too old.


Randy Winn, OF: One fan argued that Randy Winn, despite his non-traditional facial features, Randy Winn was indeed a handsome man. She is simply wrong.

The Giants farm system has done a poor job of developing handsome over the years. Prospects like Jacob Cruz and Armando Rios didn't stick with the big club, and they weren't all that handsome to begin with. Jesse Foppert failed to live up to his potential, either as a handsome man or an ace pitcher. And if your farm system can't develop handsome players, you are forced to overpay for marginal handsomeness on the free agent market.


Fred Lewis is the only guy who looks like he has the combination of baseball talent and handsomeness that might contribute at the major league level. If Linden falters, don't be surprised if Lewis takes over as the fifth outfielder in September, and the #1 outfielder in ladies' hearts.

ESPN's soccer announcers have been justifiably derided for their suckiness. The games have been broadcast both on the ESPN networks and also Univision, and I have usually opted for the Spanish-language broadcast. I think there are a sizable number of viewers who have chosen to watch the games with inferior picture quality, being broadcast in a language they don't even understand, in order to avoid ESPN's Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa.

I haven't studied Spanish since 1997, but I still find the Univision announcers more intelligible than Balboa. In Germany's match against Argentina, Balboa repeatedly insisted that the penalty shootout could involve "all eleven guys". This is tantamount to a baseball broadcaster, in the bottom of the ninth, yammering that both teams needed to be prepared to play 18 innings. As it turned out, only four guys on each side took penalty kicks, just seven short of Balboa's prediction. Balboa also stressed how he was "unimpressed" by the German goalkeeper, Jens Lehmann, minutes before he saved two penalty shots to win the game.

One nagging annoyance of the early World Cup games was the Bottom Line. Because games were shown on ESPN2, a running ticker of scores and sports news ran constantly below the action. This would have been convenient were the games on early in the morning, when no other sports were happening. Hell, most NBA players are just going to bed at 6:55 AM, the time many World Cup matches started. At 6:55, there is no sports news, with the exception of the game you are currently watching. Yet for ninety minutes, ESPN devoted 10% of their screen area to information about probable pitchers, NBA playoff scoring averages, and leaderboards for obscure golf tournaments.

That wasn't the only way that ESPN encroached on the viewing area. Instead of a small box showing team names and the clock, ESPN went for a huge bar across the top of the screen, about four times the amount of space they needed to say, "Still tied, 0-0."

For the knockout round, it got even worse. An extra title bar was placed above the score bar, which said, "Quarterfinals - Fifa World Cup - Live". It's 8 AM! Who is watching this by mistake? It's as if ESPN is catering to the developmentally delayed, or perhaps disoriented alcoholics. Otherwise, these drunks and simpletons might wake up confused as to why ESPN was televising a friendly between Germany and Argentina. Fortunately for them, no matter what point in the game they wake up, the title bar is there the whole match.

The graphics were similarly horrible. ESPN thinks nothing of placing a graphic in the center of the screen, obscuring the action. Often the graphic is only tangentially related to the game at hand, or says something self-evident. The team that scores first usually wins? You don't say! We were treated to a twenty-second, half-screen graphic during Germany-Argentina that listed each team's remaining subs - Germany: 0; Argentina: 0.

Other Cup notes:

  • One reason to watch Univision is the emotional, vaguely incoherent calls of important moments. When Germany won the penalty shootout with Argentina, here was the Univision call:

    "El Alemán! El Alemán! Yes! Jens! Yes! Jens! Yes! Jens! El Alemán! El Alemán! Jens! Yes!"

    Also of note is that announcer Andres Cantor has defected from Univision to Telemundo, taking his trademark "Gooooooooool!" call with him. As a result, goal calls on Univision feature a shorter, staccato burst of "Gol! Gol! Gol! Gol! Gol!" rather than one drawn-out "Goooool!" Kind of like if Cake did a cover version of Andres Cantor's goal call, minus the inevitable trumpet solo.

  • Jens Lehmann reminds me of a taller, German version of Mike B. He's got curly hair, a slightly receding hairline, and two days of beard growth. Lehmann also looks sleepily grumpy in a way I remember from living with Mike B., a look that says, "I'm getting up to build Pepsi displays at 5 AM, and you guys are still up drinking malt liquor and playing video games."

  • Most valuable information gleaned from the Bottom Line: "The U.S. Paintball Championships will be pre-empted by the World Cup Quarterfinals. They will be shown at 9 PM ET." Get those TiVos ready, America!

  • Budweiser is the official beer of the World Cup, in Germany. Cassie says, "It's as if they had the World Cup in the US, and the official soft drink was Tab."

  • Univision didn't say what they were pre-empting. I'm going to assume it was a telenovela.

  • England's Peter Crouch is absolutely fascinating to watch. Crouch is 6'7" and approximately 105 pounds. He reminds me of the protagonist of the 1981 Scottish classic, Gregory's Girl. Or a giraffe. Crouch seems to have a normal-sized torso, but ridiculously long legs, which do not prevent him from doing The Robot when he scores a goal. Cassie gasped nearly every time he got the ball, both in hopes that he might score and in fear that his wee fragile legs would break, and he'd have to be put down like an injured racehorse. It's constant fascination coupled with fear.

    You're a freak, Peter Crouch! You're unnatural!

  • At different points in their game with Germany, Argentine players surrounded the referee and began arguing with and abusing him. It was like watching the famous Globetrotter circle, only with far more ponytails.

  • You see far more balding players during the World Cup. In the post-Jordan era of American sports, balding players of any race tend to immediately shave their heads. Not so with international footballers. While many do indeed choose the shaved-head look, there are a significant number of World Cup participants with receding hairlines and what look like sweaty combovers.

    According to

    A bald athlete has a special appeal. Athletes are so often exemplars of the human body, stunning combinations of speed, strength and agility. To see a bald athlete is to be reminded that he is human, that in most regards he is just like me.

    Maybe these footballers are simply unashamed of their baldness. One might say it's refreshing for a player to simply accept his hair loss naturally without resorting to extreme measures like the razor. And how does the naturally balding athlete look? Honestly, kind of gross and terrible.

"Hey Shandon. This is Karl. Just calling to congratulate you on, you know, winning an NBA title. Glad you finally got a ring, dude."

"Shandon, it's John. Way to go, man. You deserve to win a title, after all those great years with the Jazz, ten All-Star games, and retiring as the all-time leader in assists. Oh, wait, I was thinking of someone else. Anyway, great job, buddy."

"'Sup Shandon. It's Doleac. Man, can you believe we're actually the NBA Champions? Michael Doleac, Shandon Anderson, and Jason Williams all have more championship rings than Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Kevin Garnett combined. Kind of boggles the mind. So, I was just calling to see if I could get that U2 CD back sometime soon. Thanks."

"Hey, Shandon. It's Karl again. Once again, congratulations. I was wondering if I could come over sometime this week. You know, catch up on old times, maybe show you the slides from my hunting trip, see your championship ring. I should very much like to hold it in my hand, one time. Call me back."

"This is a collect call from Howard Eisley. To accept the charges, please press 1. To refuse, dial 0, or hang up."

"Shandon, it's Isiah. I know we've had our differences in the past, but after watching your performance in the Finals, the New York Knicks would like to offer you a four-year, $24 million-dollar contract. Give me a call."

"Shandon, it's Malone. Let me cut to the chase. I have your son. Right now, he's fine, but if you ever want to see him alive again, you're gonna give me that ring, you understand? Say hi to your daddy, Kori. Stop crying! Stop it! Shandon, I need you to be at the left-most phone booth outside the Delta Center at 9 PM tonight. Come alone. I need that ring! I'm sorry, man. But this is how it has to be."

I'm mainly a baseball fan, but I've been watching the World Cup this week. And I get the feeling that a lot of baseball superstitions and rituals just don't work when you try to apply them to soccer.

Don't talk during a no-hitter

Ashley: Good job, Paul.
Sean: Whoa whoa whoa. Don't talk to the goalie! He's got a perfect game going!
Ashley: I just wanted to tell him, good job shutting down the other team.
Sean: Are you trying to jinx this thing?
Ashley: You might be confused. Our opponents average just over one goal per game, so it's not that unusual for us to hold the other side scoreless for 45 minutes.
Sean: (Punches Ashley in the face) Shut up!


Sean: Hey, don't step on the line! It's bad luck.
Wayne: Sean, this is a corner kick. Please get out of the way.

Rally caps

Sean: Rally time! Time for rally shin guards!
Joe: What?
Sean: Rally shin guards! Come on. Turn 'em inside out.
Rio: This really hurts.
Joe: I think my leg is bleeding.
Sean: OK, we keep the rally shin guards on until we score a goal.
(Rest of the team weeps)

Rhyming taunts

Sean: We want a keeper! Not a crappy sweeper!
Peter: What are you chanting about?
Sean: Just giving those guys the business. We want a midfielder! Not a utility infielder!
Frank: What's a utility infielder?
Peter: Are you making fun of our team, or theirs?
Sean: Theirs! Come on, give it a shot, guys. Nothing's more devastating than a rhyming taunt.
Frank: Um...We want a direct kick, not an indirect kick?
Peter: We want a good pass! Ronaldo is a fatass!
Sean: That's not exactly right...
Frank: We want a goalie! Not a ravioli!
Peter: We want a striker! Not Commander Riker!
Frank: We want a new coach! Not Sven-Goran Eriksson!
Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson: It hurts to hear you say that, Frank.

In conjunction with an ESPN magazine cover story on John Daly, there is a new Bill Simmons column, in which he makes the novel argument that gambling by athletes is not that big a deal. He addresses the hypocrisy of pro sports' supposed intolerance for gambling, when football shows constantly make reference to point spreads, and ESPN devotes twenty hours a week to televised poker.

The wildly popular NCAA Basketball Tournament is an event completely centered around office pools. Witness the lack of excitement for this year's Final Four, in part because George Mason was a "bracket-buster", and ruined many a gambler's pool. (For the record, my Final Four was LSU, Florida, UCLA, and UConn.) Absent a wagering interest, people couldn't work up much excitement for UCLA-Florida.

The two main points that Simmons raises are:

1. Gambling is not always a debilitating, life-destroying addition. "Watch any TV show in which a character starts betting, and almost always, he loses control before the big 'intervention' episode."

2. One's competitive instincts toward sports would likely translate to competitiveness at gambling, and in fact, one's poise at the gambling/blackjack table could be an indicator of one's poise in a sporting event. Says Simmons: "If I owned a team, I'd insist on playing poker with any coach or manager I was thinking of hiring."

As evidence for his argument, Simmons cites two stories about Michael Jordan. One involved observing his play at a high-stakes blackjack table in Connecticut, which showed off the poise of Jordan (and also that of a young Rip Hamilton). The second story was about Jordan bribing a baggage handler in order to win a small bet with teammates over which bags would emerge first from the baggage carousel, which showed Jordan's drive to win at anything, no matter how trivial. Jordan is an "alpha dog",

The column is interesting, but it doesn't fit with the accompanying excerpt from John Daly's book. Daly is indeed a compulsive gambler, but he plays slot machines compulsively. Daly writes:

"Playing slot machines for me is like being compeltely alone, on my own, like on a cross country drive. I'll check my watch and maybe 10, 15 hours have gone by. It's scary how far away I get."


Playing slots doesn't reveal anything about Daly's competitiveness or poise, because with slot machines, he has no control over the outcome. Gambling involves a lot of luck, but at least playing poker or blackjack requires some modicum of strategy and skills. When you play slots, you just pull the lever over and over. It's a machine, specifically a machine specifically calibrated, and regulated by the state government, to return only 75-90% of the money wagered. Although Daly talks as though he has a rivalry with a slot machine at the Wynn Las Vegas casino ("That $5,000 machine owed me," he writes), it's hard to argue that that's really a contest.

What would Simmons say if he learned that a potential new coach had lost over a million dollars in five hours, playing slot machines the whole time? Probably, "Thank you for your time, but we're going to go in a different direction." Or, "Perhaps you'd be more comfortable working for Chris Cohan?"

I'm sure that this is complete coincidence, and it couldn't possibly affect ESPN's editorial opinion about the legitimacy of gambling, but the Simmons column is followed by a two-page ad for


As part of Zembla's continuing efforts to educate the world about the dangers of blasting caps, we present Blasting Cap Danger, a cautionary tale about the perils of blasting caps, presented by the Institute of Makers of Explosives.

Only the second half of this film is actually about blasting caps. The first half is a story about gender roles and the airline industry. Young Cathy wants to be a pilot, just like her dad, but her aspirations are mocked by two neighbor boys. "What do girls know about planes?" asks the bullying older boy, before he himself confuses a fighter plane for an attack plane. I have to admit, Cathy knows a lot more about planes than I do.

The two boys ride off to fix their bicycles, while Cathy and her mom go to meet her father. Even though it's his birthday, not hers, Captain Dad brings Cathy a cowboy outfit, the better to further her defiance of gender roles. Inexplicably, Cathy guesses that her gift is indeed a cowboy outfit. If the pilot thing doesn't work out, maybe Cathy could become a psychic. Of course, those neighbors would probably say, "What do girls know about telling the future?"


Meanwhile, the boys arrive at a hardware store or repair shop or something, staffed by a creepy man who invites boys to "fix themselves" an apple from the tree outside. There, they find a blasting cap, just lying on the ground. While the younger boy has reservations, the older boy hatches a plan to throw the blasting cap into Cathy's grill (the cooking device, not her face) and "scare the daylights out of her". Cathy is, at most, seven years old, BTW.

After a lightning-fast bicycle repair, the mean boy goes to do his mischief, while the younger boy stays behind to receive an expository lesson about blasting caps, after he finds yet another one on the ground. Maybe blasting caps really were everywhere in the 1960's. That, or Creepy Guy is running a terrorist bomb factory.


It's no coincidence that Willie Mays later made a blasting caps PSA. Creepy Guy describes the dangers of blasting caps through baseball references. Babe Ruth never did as much damage as a blasting cap, while a kid who hit a blasting cap with hammer injured his hand, and "will never play baseball again". The exploded shoe pictured above is only a hypothetical.

The sensitive younger neighbor rides home with Creepy Guy's words echoing in his head. "They're as dangerous as a hand grenade". "Might put your eye out." "Mind if I take off my shirt?" He races to Cathy's house only to find her lying on the ground, seemingly dead. Luckily, she's only pretending to be dead as part of a cowboy-related pantomine. What do girls know about playing dead? Captain Dad gets rid of the blasting cap, and the boys enjoy ice cream, and everything is fine. Our final words come from the narrator: Don't touch them!

willie mays and blasting caps


Back in the 1960's, there weren't as many endorsement opportunities for African-American or Latino athletes, no matter how good they were. Minority baseballers had to choose from whatever TV commercials were offered. For the Giants, Willie McCovey did commercials for Bel-Air Foods. Juan Marichal shilled for Saxon Apple Juice. And the great Willie Mays did public service announcements about the dangers of blasting caps:

(Via YouTube)

My dad says that this has to be one of the most successful public service announcements of all time, as he can't remember hearing about anyone being injured or maimed by blasting caps. In fact, he can't remember ever seeing abandoned blasting caps lying around town. It may have been that dad's friends were sure to protect their hands and arms, and thus saved their eyes.

Willie Mays isn't shown doing anything particularly spectacular in the ad's baseball highlights. It's not clear what's happening in the first clip, as there appears to be a play at the plate, before Mays is shown sliding into second. Then Mays hits an easy single. I think the admakers didn't want to distract from the blasting caps monologue, especially this line:

"If you see a blasting caps, remember now, don't touch them. Tell the police, or a fireman, whatever it is."

In the end, this is a timeless message. Have fun, like Willie does, with baseball equipment. Not with blasting caps, OK? Don't touch them!

Giants vs. Marlins, 6/6/06

Last time I saw Jason Schmidt face the Florida Marlins, it was the 2003 playoff. Schmidt shut Florida down, 2-0. Here is a poem I wrote, in the style of William Blake, to celebrate that dominant performance:

The Portly Right-Hander

Each pitch proving the Pirates wrong
Trading him for Ryan Vogelsong
An unhittable fastball on ev'ry pitch
And to the umpire each man would bitch
Just strikes, no balls, and but three hits
Flor'da no rallies, merely fits
Last fourteen hitters all made out
Vict'ry's what this Schmidt's all about

Little did I know that Schmidt would be nearly as dominant this evening, a night I sat in excellent seats with my sister Kelly. Kelly is a great ballpark companion because she knows the game, she's very funny, and she brings snacks. I am not as good of a ballpark companion, as my creepily detailed knowledge of the career of Wes Helms did nothing to convince him to throw us a ball during batting practice.

Venezuelans, Rookies & Middle School Cymbal Players

During batting practice, our favorite player was definitely Alfredo Amezaga, Florida's charismatic utility infielder. He took grounders in front of us, along with Helms, when regular third baseman Cabrera was taking his cuts. Amezaga really put a lot of energy into his infield practice. One ball was hit to the foul side of third base, but Amezaga made a nice stab at the ball, followed by a leaping throw to first. When the crowd applauded his effort, Amezaga shrugged and said, "They don't play me."

The Giants honored a library reading incentive program before the game. The Giants send out Matt Cain to shake hands and take photos with the various librarians, because he doesn't know how to read. It is possible that Cain really does support local libraries, but it is much more likely that he drew photo op duty because he is the youngest guy on the team.

The national anthem was played by the Hoover Middle School band. Just before they started, Omar Vizquel jogged over, and stood next to the cymbal players during their performance. There are only a few cymbal crashes in our national anthem, so the percussionists mostly stared, goggle-eyed, at Omar. He slapped hands with all of the drummers before jogging back to the dugout. There's a reason why he's everyone's favorite Giant.

Catching up With the Marlins

Since their triumph in 2003, the Marlins have turned over nearly their entire roster. Only two players remain from the team that won the world championship just 31 months ago. When my sister Kelly and I arrived to watch batting practice, we found it hard to recognize anyone besides Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

Instead, the Marlins are full of young players with potential, displaced former prospects in their late twenties, and a few crappy old pitchers. Their oldest position player, Matt Treanor, is only 30, which would make him the third-youngest hitter on the Giants opening day roster.

The Marlins may be trying to rebuild their tattered franchise by stockpiling failed young catchers. Miguel Olivo was a prsopect once, but he's been discarded by three different teams since July of 2004. Josh Willingham and Mike Jacobs both used to play behind the plate, but now they start in left field and at first base, respectively. There were no wild pitches at first base or in left field, so maybe Florida is on to something.

(On a side note, one reason I enjoy baseball is that it gives me an opportunity to watch young men who are the same age as me, but have far more success in their chosen field, and then deride them for being washed-up. "27 years old, and he's never hit over .270. What a bum. Miguel Olivo will never accomplish anything. Ooh, are those Mint Milanos, Kelly?")

In Which My Sister Predicts the Future

After Randy Winn leads off the first inning with a double, Kelly correctly predicts that Omar Vizquel will sacrifice. Either Kelly is psychic, or Felipe Alou is managing the Giants using optimal strategies for girls softball. Barry Bonds hits into a double play, and the Giants do not score.

Happy Days at AT&T Park

The Giants always let a kid announce the hitters in the third inning. Tuesday night saw the best kid announcer ever, a ten-year-old named Jackson Smith. Once he nailed the name, "Eliezer Alfonzo", we knew the kid had chops. He delivered the names with the volume and inflection of a seasoned wrestling announcer. It's a shame that the Giants went down in order that inning, because I really wanted to hear him say, "Now batting, OOOOOOO-Marrr Viz-QUELLLLLLL!"

Alfonzo has only been in the major leagues for a week, but Kelly and I are pretty sure he already has a nickname. "Fonzie". For the past three years, the Giants had Edgardo Alfonzo, and the names are just too similar for the nickname to change. It doesn't matter if "Alfonzo" is actually a common last name in Venezuela, or if Eliezer has never seen Happy Days. He'll be called Fonzie and like it. Kelly did suggest "Ebeneezer Fonzie" as an expanded nickname. I think Molly would approve.

Dream Fan Experiences

Public address announcer Renel hypes a promotion in which fans can submit their "dream fan experience, if they were YOUR San Francisco Giants". Kelly wonders if the fantasy is restricted only to baseball-related activities. "What if my fantasy was to watch two Giants make out with each other?" Matt Cain would probably be forced to do it.

Ray Durham

Second baseman Ray Durham gave a remarkably candid taped interview between innings, where he detailed his love of video games, particularly Halo. Not only that, but he continually looks for new opponents to play online, hassling teammates or their screen names. This affection for video games, coupled with his choice of the THX theme as his walkup music, leads me to believe that:

a) Ray Durham is a nerd
b) He and I would get along quite well.

Durham doubles in the seventh, though it looks like he could have had a triple. Kelly implores him to run harder. "Pretend there's a big killer alien grenade behind you, Ray! Hustle!" Kelly has never played Halo.

He's Going the Distance

Before Schmidt came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth, they played Cake's "The Distance". Do they always play that when someone is going for a complete game, i.e., "going the distance"? I hope they do, because it was very exciting. Schmidt responded by giving up hits to the first two Marlins hitters, and then advancing them to second and third with a wild pitch. Felipe Alou may have been experiencing bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse for leaving Schmidt in the game. It turned out Schmidt was just milking the drama. With the tying run ninety feet away, Schmidt struck out the final three Florida hitters to close out the game and tie a century-old team record with 16 strikeouts.

The Giants didn't acknowledge Schmidt's feat until the game was over. I could tell he was striking out a significant number of hitters, but I didn't know exactly how many. I looked around constantly, trying to find a running total of his punchouts, or a guy taping photocopied "K"s to the wall. Nothing. No trophy, no flowers, no flashbulbs, no wine. Maybe the Giants didn't want to jinx anything, like how you don't ever tell a pitcher that he's throwing a no-hitter.

A guy on MUNI had a different opinion. "Peter Magowan's got no class," he said.

running out the clock at work

You can learn a lot from watching the NBA playoffs. And not just about basketball. There are many real-life situations where the lessons of playoff basketball can be valuable. For example, seeing how the Phoenix Suns played in the fourth quarter has helped me to develop a strategy for "running out the clock" at the end of the day, at my unnamed non-profit law firm.

Play keep-away: People are going to keep calling until we turn the phones off at 5. As we approach 5:00, more and more procrastinating lawyers will call, with more and more desperate questions. The worst possible outcome is fielding a call at 4:58 and getting trapped in a fifteen-minute conversation with a frantic rookie lawyer facing a court deadline. Nobody wants overtime.

The key is to distribute the calls, just like Steve Nash moves the ball around for the Suns. He knows they can't sit on the ball, and we can't just sit on the phone calls. The key is transferring. Transfer calls to support staff out on the perimeter. Find the open mailbox and send the caller to voice mail. Don't be afraid to hit the hold button, huddle up, and regroup. Be aware of your officemates. Don't let them get trapped.

Move without the ball: More perilous than the late-afternoon phone call is the late-afternoon attorney request. The request could be anything - copying documents, locating a lost file, carrying a series of heavy objects from one place to another. There's no telling how long that project might last.

One element of Phoenix's success late in games is their tremendous movement away from the action. In every game you see Boris Diaw or Shawn Marion cutting to the hoop for easy dunks, as the defense simply loses track of them. It's the same in the office. Zigzag away from the computer. Cut to the water cooler. Then the bathroom. Then go outside and move your car. If you don't have a car, move someone else's. Keep moving. You will appear to be busy, and the attorneys won't be able to find you.

Hack-a-Temp: Sometimes it's impossible to avoid work assignments late in the day. That's when it's time to delegate work to the temp. More crucial than passing off the work is the break in the attorney's rhythmn. Everything stops, as the temp steps to the copier, struggling to collate and velobind legal documents. A few paper jams and off-centered copies later, the attorney has been completely taken out of their game, often deciding to give up and go to Whole Foods for organic vegetables instead.

Don't forget the lazy guy: Last Tuesday, as the day grew short, there were briefs to be copied and transcripts to mail out. The attorneys had the workday in hand. It seemed inevitable that the support staff would have to actually do work. Then the lazy guy came in, arms laden with cookies and pretzels, and suddenly all the attorneys were eating in the break room. At the workday's most pivotal moment, the lazy guy had stepped in to save us.

The Suns have a lazy guy of their own, Tim Thomas. Even though Thomas stands 6'10", he has averaged only four rebounds per game for his career. The Bulls sent Thomas home earlier this year, preferring to pay him $14 million rather than have him stay with the team. However, Thomas hit a last-second three-pointer to vanquish the Lakers, and remained a huge asset for the team, until the Suns finally ran out of gas against Dallas. It is not clear whether Thomas provides post-game snacks.


bonds = pete rose?

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Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run on Sunday, and also disappointed me. Not by hitting the home run, but by what transpired in the subsequent press conference. The usual sarcasm and berating of reporters didn't faze me, nor did I mourn Babe Ruth's relegation to the #3 all-time spot. What bothered me was that Bonds wore a 715 hat during the whole post press conference, presumably because he wants to sell it on his website. Later, he stood up to reveal that he was wearing a 715 t-shirt as well.

That kind of fashion decision reminds me of Pete Rose. Pete Rose wears hats celebrating his own records as well. His hats say, "Hit King" or "4,256", a reference to his all-time record for career hits. Rose has embraced the "Hit King" moniker so much that his kids call him "HK", instead of "Dad".

As obnoxious as that is, at least Rose beat a record. Barry's hat commemorates nothing more than second place. Rose also doesn't wear a hat that says "4,192", because the number that matters is the one you end up with, not "Old Record + 1". 715 was an important number when Henry Aaron did it, because it meant he was first.

Second place is simply not a big deal in the context of baseball records. When Bonds was stuck at 713 homers, there were sportswriters who speculated about which pitcher would "go down in history" like Jack Billingham. Who was Jack Billingham? He's the guy who gave up Aaron's 714th home run. I had to look it up. Even still, no one remembers who gave up Sammy Sosa's 62nd home run.

Rose passed Aaron for #2 on the all-time hits list, and he didn't stitch 3,772 on a hat. Even Pete Rose wouldn't do that. OK, he probably would if he thought he could make a buck off of it, but he didn't.

Who is going to buy this 715 gear? Aren't you branding yourself an idiot by rocking clothing celebrating a meaningless home run, in a game your favorite team ultimately lost? I imagine that Barry sees them as a set. What goes well with a 715 cap? How about a 715 t-shirt? Pair them with a Say No To Drugs wristband and you've got yourself quite an outfit.

your fantasy baseball boyfriend

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During our fantasy baseball draft this year, the inevitable moment came in the 14th round. Mike's team, the Stone Hand Swingers, drafted Detroit right fielder Magglio Ordóñez. Mike has drafted Magglio every year I've played with him. It doesn't matter if Magglio is coming off an All-Star season or an injury-marred year where he played only 82 games. Mike is going to pick him.

Maybe Mike appreciates Magglio's consistent production over the years. For half a decade he was a lock for 30 homers and 110 RBIs. Maybe Mike has a soft spot for Venezuelan players. Or maybe, as his wife suggested, Magglio Ordóñez is Mike's fantasy baseball boyfriend.


Sometimes you simply value one player higher than your leaguemates do, for whatever reason. Mike ends up with Andruw Jones every year for this same reason. But Magglio is different. Mike cares about Magglio. When Magglio went on the disabled list in 2004, Mike posted a note commemorating Magglio's years of fantasy service, and noted that it was Magglio's first trip to the DL in his eight-year career. Since Mike was Magglio's fantasy manager for half of that career, it was a touching tribute.

After the 2004 season, the White Sox didn't even try to retain Magglio, and he signed with the Tigers. Mike didn't hesitate at all to pick up Magglio back for last year's fantasy team, Sam Beckett's Boys. and people say there's no loyalty in baseball.

Do I have a fantasy baseball boyfriend? I seem to end up with Manny Ramirez and Barry Zito every year, and somehow I've ended up with Colorado first baseman Todd Helton on my team two years in a row. If anyone, I think Zito is my fantasy baseball boyfriend. I see him pitch on Two Dollar Wednesday all the time. He's always available in the eighth round of the draft, right when I decide I need another starting pitcher. And while he doesn't strike out quite as many batters as you might like, Barry Zito does have gorgeous hair.

tim duncan is secretly funny

Do a search for "'Tim Duncan' + robot" and you get 55,300 hits. Search for "'Tim Duncan' + boring" and you'll get 55,300. But underneath his ruthlessly efficient exterior, Tim Duncan has a good sense of humor. No, really. Now that the Spurs have lost in the playoffs, here's a story about him from last year's NBA Finals.

In game 5 of the Finals, Robert Horry hit a game-winning three-pointer to beat the Pistons in overtime. In a postgame interview, Duncan acknowledged his own struggles at the foul line in the waning seconds, Duncan repeatedly credited his teammate "Bob Horry". "That's just Bob Horry" he said, about Horry's regular postseason shooting heroics. Duncan teased Horry a few times, talking about how Horry lazed his way through the regular season before bringing his A game to the playoffs. But the key was the name. "Big Shot Bob". "It's great we had a veteran like Bob Horry who's been here before."

The thing is, Robert Horry hates to be called Bob. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of telling this to the media, which is how Duncan found out about it. Since then, Duncan wastes no opportunity to promote the "Big Shot Bob" nickname, even though Horry would desperately prefer to be known as "Big Shot Rob".


Horry seems very good-natured, though he's also a prideful guy. And not without reason. He's won six championships, and never lost before the second round of the playoffs. In 2002, Horry beat the Kings with a three-pointer at the buzzer, after a wild rebound bounced right into his hands. When the reporter suggested that, given the fortuitous bounce, the shot was somewhat lucky, Horry would have none of it. "Perfect form", he repeated. "I have perfect form on my jumper."

In other words, Horry is the perfect guy to rankle with this. Duncan is single-handedly ruining Horry's prized nickname. Do a search for "big shot bob" and you get 17,000 hits. Searching for "big shot rob" only yields about 300 more results. Bill Simmons even calls him "Big Shot Brob". In conclusion, if Tim Duncan is a robot, he's a funny robot.

The A's have a scoreboard promotion that they like to do on Two Dolla Wednesday. Because BART sponsors the evening of discount baseball (it's officially known as "Double Play Wednesday"), there's one inning break where the announcer implores the crowd to stand up and wave their BART tickets, in hopes of winning an unspecified prize. It never fails to get the crowd on their feet, shaking their flimsy paper tickets like Polaroid pictures.

(What's cooler than being cool? Not waving your BART ticket in the air like a jackass. Alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright.)

The Giants have a very similar promotion, but with one subtle deviation. I feel this difference illustrates the fundamental distinction between a crowd at AT&T née Pac Bell Park and a crowd at the McAfee née Oakland Coliseum. In San Francisco, fans don't wave BART tickets; they wave VISA cards.

let's play one

I went to my first Giants game of the year today, as the Astros visited "AT&T Park". All of the signs still say "SBC Park", and all the fans still say "Pac Bell Park", so I can't get too worked up over the constant name changes. It was one thing when Candlestick Park became "3Com Park", because there was still a sense of anti-corporate indignation among the fans. No nickname has emerged for the ballpark at China Basin, and it's hard to feel righteous about using a different corporate name for the stadium. When we pay bills at work, we still use "Pacific Bell" as AT&T's vendor ID, but that's out of laziness, not protest.

The park has undergone some changes since last year. There is an extremely high-tech scoreboard along the bottom of the second deck on the third-base side. Presumably there's also one on the first-base side, but I was sitting just above where that would have been, and thus cannot confirm or deny its existence. The scoreboard was mostly used to display fancy advertisements and implore fans to make noise. Apparently Seinfeld reruns are lucrative enough to justify a permanent stadium ad. There's also a Spanish-language TV station called KTNC 42 Azteca America (which my notes incorrectly call "King 42"), which I may have never learned about without the magic of stadium advertising.

Another big change comes in right field, where the Old Navy Splash Landing has been replaced by the Levi's Landing. It's a fascinating reversal in Bay Area denim fortunes. The Fisher family, former Giants part-owners, bought a 90% stake in the A's last year. The A's in turn were once owned by the Haas family, the owners of Levi Strauss & Co. For baseball fans, the main changes are that the "Splash Hits" counter in right field is now a digital display, and the A's will be adding five additional pockets to their uniform pants.

You might notice I haven't dealt with the actual baseball on the field much. That's because the game was depressingly one-sided. Our game was actually a makeup of the rainout two nights earlier, played as part of a split doubleheader. "Split doubleheader" means the team plays two games in a row, but charges a separate admission to each game. As a result, the stands were half-empty, and so was the Giants lineup. Barry Bonds, Moises Alou, Omar Vizquel, and Mike Matheny all sat for the second game, leading to the discouraging sight of Mark Sweeney hitting cleanup. Our helpful stadium graphics informed us that Sweeney has "the third-most pinch-hits since 1974", which is kind of like being third in your class at a continuation high school. His walkup music is Prodigy's "Firestarter", a song that, coincidentally, came out the last year Sweeney was considered a prospect.

Needless to say, this was a lineup of scrubs. Steve Finley thinks he's fly and is also known as a buster. Jose Vizcaino's game is weak and he's looking like trash. After the game, I saw backup catcher Todd Greene hanging out the passenger side of his best friend's ride, trying to holler at some girls.

Scrub Giants lineup + Roy Oswalt pitching for Houston = 8-0 defeat. We really should have left in the eighth inning when Felipe Alou brought in reliever Tyler Walker, AKA "The White Flag". It got so bad that my dad admitted to missing J.T. Snow, after replacement first baseman Lance Niekro missed two easy pop-ups. Dad pining for J.T. Snow is like Paul McCartney saying he really misses Pete Best's drumming.

The game was pretty much a disaster, as was the infield grass after two days of being under a tarp. There was a tiny moral victory when a semi-rally in the ninth inning ruined Oswalt's chance at the complete-game shutout, but the reliever needed only two pitches to get the final two outs, and everyone walked out to the strains of "That's Life". My dad was disappointed by the loss, but he still doesn't think Craig Biggio's a Hall of Famer.



Adam Morrison got a lot of flak after his team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, lost to UCLA last Thursday in the NCAA Tournament. Morrison played pretty well in this game, but committed the cardinal sin of bursting into tears on the court after UCLA took the lead. Afterward, newspapers and the sports blogs alike debated the crying issue, with the two sides of the issue being, essentially:

a) Leave him alone! He was sad!
b) Adam Morrison is a huge pussy

For the record, I do not think Adam Morrison is a pussy, and I can only barely grow a better mustache than him. Compare:



However, I do think I can teach him a thing or two about crying. When I used to play Little League baseball, I was no damn good at all, even when I was only seven or eight years old. At that age, I had only two baseball skills:

a) Knowing how a force play worked, and
b) Crying after my inevitable strikeout or weak ground ball to the pitcher

I was a crying expert. The backlash against Morrison might stem from his lack of experience with crying, and his subsequent lack of crying fundamentals. He made a lot of rookie mistakes.

No smokescreen

You have to realize that crying will make people think that you are a baby. Once the tears start flowing, be ready to suggest an alternate hypothesis. When Young Sean would get thrown out on a close play at first, sure, he'd sob, but he'd also shout, "It's my allergies! I have allergies!" as my embarrassed coach led me back to the dugout.

If Morrison had tried this tactic, there might have still been a national referendum on his tears and manliness. But I think at least one reporter might think, "Well, the pollen count was fairly high in the Oakland Arena last Thursday. Maybe it was really getting to Morrison."

Pretending to be hurt

Almost as good as faking an allergic reaction is faking an injury. This is not quite as ideal, since you are admitting to being enough of a baby that you cry when you get hurt. A mystery allergy is highly suspicious, but the resultant tears are essentially involuntary. Morrison may have thought of the injury gambit against UCLA, but he acted too slowly. After the final buzzer, Morrison collapsed to the floor sobbing, as if he'd blown out a knee or snapped his Achilles tendon.

Unfortunately, he was crying before the collapse. A seasoned crier knows you've got to clutch your knee, grimace in pain, and limp a little at the first sign of watery eyes. To his credit, Morrison stayed down a long time and he cried a whole lot, but that still create a plausible injury scenario.

Pretending to be sad about something else

The last option for Morrison was to pretend something else made him sad, like the illness of a pet or a sad movie. Crying over failure at an athletic contest is frowned upon, but imagine if Morrison had taken a different tack at his postgame press conference: "Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's game-winning layup affected me very deeply, because it reminded me of that scene in the The Notebook with all the geese."

So what if that doesn't make sense? Sometimes love doesn't make sense!

Wait until the game is actually over

Even Young Sean waited to be called out before bursting into tears on the diamond. Come on, Adam Morrison! There's three seconds left, buddy!


why joe buck sucks, part 1


Fox announcer Joe Buck is terrible, but he's impossible to avoid. As the top play-by-play man for both football and baseball, Buck bothers America eight months a year. Here's an example:

In 2003, the Chicago Cubs played the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the playoffs. If you are unfamiliar with the Cubs' history of futility, just know that they haven't been to a World Series since 1945, and they haven't won the World Series since 1908. 1908 was the last time they won a series in the postseason. So when the Cubs took the lead in the decisive Game Five, it was a pretty exciting event.

Since this was a Fox telecast, there were plenty of shots of little children and old people in Cubs gear, players' wives, and praying fans. When starting pitcher Kerry Wood was still in the game, the director had taken to showing his wife, Sarah, about every two minutes. Kerry went eight strong innings, so they showed her a lot. There were so many shots of her reactions that Wood asked Fox to stop filming her quite so much in subsequent games.

When Joe Borowski came in to close the game, it was definitely a milestone in Cubs history, one that might be recorded and re-played by devoted fans for years. Borowski struck out Andruw Jones for the final out, and Joe Buck's historic call went like this:

"Sarah Wood will be celebrating with her husband tonight!"

Yes, for the Cubs' first series win in 95 years, by all means acknowledge the starting pitcher's wife first. Joe Buck is a douchebag.

UPDATE: If you dislike Joe Buck, check out SportsCentr.


This week, Sports Illustrated published an excerpt from Game of Shadows, a book by two San Francisco Chronicle writers which details the steroid use of Giants star Barry Bonds. The published excerpt details the progression of Bonds's steroid use in very specific detail. According to the book, Bonds used designer steroids, human growth hormone, female fertility drugs, insulin, cattle steroids, and even something called "Mexican jumping beans". SI's selection also accuses Bonds of drug possession, adultery, and tax evasion. His mistress tells the authors that Bonds once choked her, and struggled with sexual dysfunction.

With all of this damaging, titillating information available already, one wonders what's left in the book to entice buyers. The answer is, plenty. Zembla will be presenting excerpts from Game of Shadows that are even more shocking than what already appeared in SI. Today we present the story of another one of Barry Bonds's illicit extramarital affairs.

Part One: Thunder Pup

Barry Bonds and Shawon Dunston began their relationship in 1998, after Dunston came over from the Indians in a midseason trade. Bonds insisted that Dunston keep the affair secret, since he'd gotten "too much s---" from the media in the past for dating utility players. Dunston moved on to St. Louis in 1999, but the two rekindled their affair when Dunston re-signed with the Giants before the 2001 season.

In just over two years, Dunston had noticed dramatic changes in Barry. He was much more muscular than in the past. Barry had begun shaving his head, suffered outbreaks of acne, and Dunston noticed that his testicles were significantly smaller than in the past. Bonds claimed he wasn't doing anything beyond taking flaxseed oil and studying extra game film.

In addition to the physical changes, Bonds had developed a vicious temper. Back in their shared hotel room, Bonds often shouted at Dunston, "Why do you f------ swing at everything? Would it kill you to take a f------ walk, you punk bitch?" In July, Dunston could only watch, hurt, as Barry dallied with right fielder John Vanderwal on a long road trip. Still, there were flashes of Barry's former tenderness. After Bonds hit six home runs in a weekend series against Atlanta, he and Dunston shared a Jacuzzi in the clubhouse.

Dunston told Bonds that, the way he was hitting, he might break Mark McGwire's single-season home run record. Bonds said, "F--- that white boy," and then promised to buy Dunston a Mercedes Benz if he did break the record. Then the two made love on the clubhouse floor.

Bonds made good on his promise. However, he had to hide the purchase from his accountants and Giants general manager Brian Sabean, who might ask uncomfortable questions about the money and gifts being lavished on Dusnton. As a result, Bonds paid for the car entirely in cash, which he obtained by selling jewelry, equipment, and hair dye stolen from Jeff Kent's locker.

On October 5, 2001, Bonds hit home runs #71 and #72, in a loss to the Dodgers. The Giants held a postgame story to commemorate the record, during which Bonds wept and a demonstrative Dunston hugged and consoled him at the podium. When Bonds initially became emotional, Dunston told the crowd about the new Mercedes, though he said the gift was "from a bet" they'd made about Bonds winning the home run title. Though Barry smiled for the camers, inside he was furious that Dunston had betrayed the secrecy of their bond, risking financial trouble with both the IRS and Bonds's ex-wife, Sun.

Things would never be the same after that between Dunston and Bonds, though their relationship continued through the 2002 season. Bonds became increasingly abusive and overprotective regarding Dunston. After losing to the Angels in the 2002 World Series, Dunston planned to re-sign with the Giants. His plans changed when he got a phone call from Bonds.

"I need you to disappear," said Bonds.
"What do you mean, Barry?" said Dunston.
"Did I f------ stutter?" Barry replied. "F------ retire, dawg!" Before the stunned Dunston could reply, Barry had already hung up.

For months, Dunston wondered if the Mercedes incident had ruined his relationship with Bonds, or perhaps the stress of losing the World Series had disappointed Bonds to the point he couldn't be with a teammate anymore. Dunston blamed himself, the flaxseed oil, even Giants pitcher Felix Rodriguez. Only later did he learn that his rejection came because a different veteran player had caught Barry's fancy: Outfielder Marquis Grissom.

a tribute to woody

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Judging by appearances, you'd never dream Kirk Rueter would be a professional athlete. He's skinny, gangly, and bald. He has huge ears. His fastball goes about 85 miles per hour on a good day. His nickname is "Woody", based on his resemblance to the cowboy doll from Toy Story - not a ringing endorsement of athletic prowess. It was like watching your fifth-grade math teacher on the mound - only the teacher somehow wins two-thirds of his decisions. Yes, for nearly a decade, Woody was an essential member of the Giants rotation, good for 180 innings and double-digit wins every year. On Monday, after thirteen seasons and 130 wins, Kirk Rueter called it a career.

It seems like batters underestimated the guy as well. You'd see hitter after hitter shaking their heads after facing Woody, wondering how after seeing nothing but 78 MPH pitches, they only managed to hit a weak dribbler to shortstop. As a fan, you tend to think of toughness and competitiveness in terms of physical strength or aggressiveness: the pitcher who pumps his fist after a strikeout, the batter who screams at the ump. Rueter wasn't demonstrative, or physically gifted, but in his own way, he was as competitive as any guy in the league. He hardly ever missed a start, and in important games, Giants fans trusted Rueter with the ball. (I still think the Giants would have won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series if only they'd started Rueter instead of Livan Hernandez.)

Rueter was a unique pitcher, in that he sustained a very successful major league career for many years without ever striking anybody out. The only way you can get away with that in the major leagues is if you limit your walks, you don't give up home runs, and don't let anyone steal bases. It also helps if you're left-handed. Rueter was great at holding runners, but at first glance, nothing special when it came to walks and homers. His real talent was his absolute refusal to give in with runners on base. Most of his home runs happened with the bases empty, and most of his walks came with men on base. If the batter wasn't willing to swing at a garbage pitch on the corner of the plate and dribble it back to the mound, Rueter was perfectly willing to put guys on and avoid the big hit. Nate Silver discussed the craftiness of Rueter back in 2003, using much more math than I have here.

He's the best example of a guy whose peripheral statistics (walks, strikeouts, won-loss record) belie what an effective pitcher he really was. Rueter tended to have good won-loss records, but the team's record in games he started was even better. In 2002, his official record was 14-8, but the team went 25-8 in his starts. He didn't always work past the sixth inning, but he nearly always kept the team in the game.

Rueter was quite possibly the best defensive pitcher in the league, though he never won a Gold Glove. He had a great pickoff move, was impossible to run on, and even more deadly on bunts. When Rueter was on the mound and J.T. Snow was playing first, Giants fans probably saw more forceouts and double plays on sacrifice attempts than any team in the league. Rueter pitched with a lot of exuberance, but best of all, the guy worked fast. He got the ball back from the catcher, and pitched it immediately. No dilly-dallying, no pacing around. Fielders and fans alike loved the fast pace, as Rueter was one of the few guys in the league who might get through a game in under two hours.

In addition, Woody was by all accounts a great guy. He was a regular guest in the broadcast booth, bantering with Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper on days he wasn't pitching. In fact, between his visits to the booth, his smart pitching, and the endless stories about "The Shed", Rueter probably gave Krukow a good 10% of his material in a given year. This year, Kruk is going to be forced to talk about the kangaroo court more than ever.

Woody's career with the Giants ended badly, with ineffective pitching, a move to the bullpen, and even a battle with gout before he was released. He'd lost some of his speed and control, and a guy like Rueter didn't have much margin for error to begin with. Still, he'd earned the love and respect of the fans. Even though I was hoping he'd just retire last year, I was sad when the inevitable release happened. I'll miss seeing #46 out there every five days, befuddling hitters with junk, smiling goofily, and exuberantly running off the field after inducing a rally-killing double play. When Kirk Rueter Day happens this year, as it inevitably will, I'll be giving him a standing ovation. But I hope we keep the cheering brief. Woody likes the game to move along briskly.

last thoughts on kirby puckett

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Kirby Puckett died on Monday, at the ridiculously young age of 45. I wasn't a Twins fan, but I liked Kirby Puckett. Everybody liked Kirby Puckett. He was a ten-time All-Star, won six Gold Gloves, and along with Prince, was one of only two black men to live in Minnesota during the 1980's.

I watched SportsCenter with my dad Monday night, when they reported on Puckett's passing. Tim Kurkijian did the report, and the whole thing seemed kind of lazy. They began with a look at the 1991 World Series, where Puckett hit the game-winning home run in Game 6. Kurkijian asserted that Game Six was when Puckett truly became a clutch player, when the Twins won the championship. He neglected to mention the championship they'd won four years earlier, or that the not-yet-clutch Puckett had hit .357 during that World Series.

Kurkijian decided to focus on something much more important than a world championship. He decided America needed to know that in 1988, Puckett became the first player to collect 234 hits AND drive in 121 runs since since Joe Medwick in 1937. Yes, the prestigious 234/121 Club. ESPN also put together a shot of Puckett singling to center, followed by his teammates applauding on the dugout steps, as if they were celebrating him reaching 234 and 121.

Maybe because I am used to rooting for assholes, I don't really care about whether a player is a jerk off the field. The golden image of Kirby Puckett got tarnished by a series of incidents after his retirement, but for me, it seemed kind of irrelevant to my relationship with Puckett, the ballplayer, especially since he was retired when the bad stuff came out about him. It's not as if I liked Kirby Puckett for his charity work. I liked him because he got lots of hits, ran fast, made crazy catches, and was shaped like a bowling ball.

An exchange between me and Dad:

Dad: Puckett was pretty young to have a stroke. Do you think he was on 'roids?

Me: I don't know. Kirby wasn't exactly a cut dude, Dad.

Other things I remember about Kirby Puckett:

- The way the Twins announcer would do an over-the-top, WWF-style introduction of him before important games, starting with, "Batting third, and playing center field" in a relatively normal voice, and then screaming, "KIRRRRRRRBEEEE PUCKETT!!!!"

- In 1987, the Cardinals beat the Giants in the NLCS, and I was absolutely heartbroken. Though I would learn to hate the Cardinals even more in 1988, after the Will Clark-Jose Oquendo-Ozzie Smith brawl, my distaste for St. Louis made me an unjustifiably rabid fan of the Twins in the subsequent World Series. Looking back, the Twins were probably the worst champs of my lifetime, their triumph based on obnoxious towel-waving and an even more obnoxious home ballpark. But they did not have Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, or Whitey Herzog in their dugout, and for that I loved them.

- One of the reasons I like baseball is that having an unconventional body type is not an impediemnt to success. You don't see this is in other sports. Players under six feet are a novelty in the NBA, while even a semi-retarded Latvian can stay in the league for years provided he's seven feet tall. But some of the greatest baseball players do not look like studs: Greg Maddux, Yogi Berra, Tony Gwynn, Kirk Rueter - they all don't look like what you'd think as "athletes". On a related note, I bet Tony Gwynn will be renewing his gym membership before the end of the week.

barry bonds: cross-dresser

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Barry Bonds made headlines this week, dressing up as Paula Abdul for the Giants' "American Idol" parody on the first two days of spring training. Observers were amused and horrified by the spectacle of Bonds in drag, complete with blond wig, fake breasts, and exposed, steroid-swollen shoulders. That Bonds's drag show coincided with the start of filming for his new ESPN reality show was mere happenstance. True Giants fans know that Barry Bonds has made a number of cross-dressing tributes to his favorite reality television programs during his Giants career.

1993: Mired in an eight-game losing streak in September, Barry tries to fire up his teammates by dressing as Real World cast member Tami. His lip-synced performance of "I'm a Slave(To Your Lovin')" is met with huge applause and laughter from his teammates. The scene turns ugly when Will Clark drags an underwear-clad Barry out of the dressing room, against his will, for an encore. A frightened Barry shouts, "It wasn't not funny!", and Clark is not re-signed after the season.

1999: This Week In Baseball attempts to exploit the new reality dating show craze by pairing up major league ballplayers for their own Blind Date segments. Barry dons a dress ("Just to be funny, man") for his outing with third baseman Charlie Hayes. The date goes sour after dinner, when Hayes attacks pitcher Todd Stottlemyre, claiming he was being taunted. Barry tears ligaments in his elbow separating the two men, and a pop-up bubble queries, "Is he on the juice?"

2002: Giants regulars produce a Survivor parody video for manager Dusty Baker's birthday. The video turns heated when Barry is voted out at a mock tribal council, and angrily denounces Jeff Kent as his torch is snuffed. "We had an alliance, dawg," shouts Barry. "If I ever saw you in the desert, trying to wash your truck, I wouldn't stop to give you any water to rinse the suds off." For some reason, Barry is wearing only a coconut bra and an improvised skirt made from his tribal buff.

2005: Reliever Jason Christiansen gets into a fistfight with Barry over who gets to play Naima in the clubhouse tribute to America's Next Top Model. Barry eventually leaves the team to continue his rehabilitation in Beverly Hills, preserving his dignity and manicure.


A 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon sits parked across the key. My dad is seated at midcourt, eating a salami-and-cheese sandwich and doing a crossword puzzle. When the buzzer sounds, participants must convnce my dad to get up and move the car out of the way so they can shoot at the basket. The first two players to sink five shots - without the ball hitting the car - advance to the finals, where they'll have to help Dad push a broken-down 1976 Toyota Corolla out of the key before continuing.

Dunk Contest

Competitors begin by lowering the hoop to seven feet, using a broomstick or a sturdy rake to trigger the basket's release switch. Then, they must find a deflated mini-basketball in a cardboard box full of old sports equipment. Dunkers will be scored based on style and speed, with bonus points awarded if the cute girl from the other end of Stevenson Drive walks by and sees them dunk.

Making a Simple, Unguarded Left-Handed Lay-Up

Dribbling and shooting with only the left hand, players must make a single lay-up. As I repeatedly insisted to my fourth-grade basketball coach, this is far more difficult than it appears.

Skills Challenge

Challengers dribble through an obstacle course made up of orange soccer cones and overturned garbage cans. Then they must throw a series of bounce passes and chest passes at targets on the side of the house - without my mom coming out and yelling at them. Lowest time/least lecturing wins.

Letting the Kid Win

In an event pioneered by my dad, participants will attempt to build the confidence of an young, unskilled, hesitant teammate with a fragile ego by letting them win a game of one-on-one. The veteran must lose the game convincingly, so that his teammate does not suspect the ruse, fight back tears, and then run inside to organize his baseball cards and re-read The Fellowship of the Ring.

jerome bettis: miked up!

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ABC fitted Jerome Bettis with a body mike for Super Bowl XL. They played some clips during the game, but obviously censored quite a bit. Zembla is proud to present highlights of the Jerome Bettis "Miked Up" clips ABC wouldn't or couldn't play:

  • "I don't care about the Super Bowl MVP award. I just want a ring. Plus, the MVP gets an Escalade, and you know Jerome Bettis don't drive no American car."
  • "Ow. Ow. Ow. Damn, I crapped my pants a little bit on that tackle."
  • "Willie, I want you to hit that hole, and then just fall down. Lean forward and get the safe two yards. That's Steelers football, baby."
  • "Honestly, this is the first time I've been to Detroit in eight years. Terrible, depressing city."
  • (Singing) "You make a dead man come, yeah, you make a dead man come."
  • "Yo soy el autobus, cabron!"
  • "No, me and my girlfriend have an open relationship, baby. Both of us see other people. It's cool."
  • "Please don't hit me so hard, Mr. Tatupu. (whispered) Please. I'll just fall down. No one will know." (Pause) I'll give you money."
  • (Flatulence) I guess The Bus should have made a longer stop in the can during halftime, huh?
  • "Oh, that's nothing. Just got a little bit of a stiffy here, Antwaan. Nah, that always happens when Troy makes a tackle. It's cool."
  • "Willie, you need some oxygen? Want to borrow my inhaler? How about some Skittles? I got a bag right here in my helmet."
  • We gotta pull together here! This win means nothing if we don't cover the spread! Let's get a first down here - for the gamblers!
  • "Jerome Bettis, you've just won the Super Bowl? What are you going to do next?"
    "I'm going across the border to Windsor, to gamble, smoke Cuban cigars, and pick up a busload of whores!"

super bowl xl leftovers

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I was remiss in not mentioning the greatest entree in Super Bowl Party history. Mike and Jessica served up a turducken! A turducken, I tell you! A duck inside a chicken inside a turkey! Such decadence, such deliciousness! Not since Arachne has there been such brazen, ambitious creativity, to rival that of the gods - yet even Athena would surely smile on the turducken. No one awarded turducken legs to team players, so I suspect Max the dog will get an informal MVP award in his dish in the next few days.

Censoring the Stones

ABC decided to censor portions of the halftime show, including the song "Start Me Up". Because the average American hasn't heard that song over a thousand times already.

What amused me was the AP also decided that, since ABC was worried, they also needed to excise the offensive lyrics from their news account:

In "Start Me Up," the show's editors silenced one word close to the song’s end, a reference to a woman so sexy she could arouse a dead man. The lyrics for "Rough Justice" included a synonym for rooster that was removed.

By the way, the first phrase was, "You make a dead man come", which in my book implies more than simply arousing a corpse. Also, that synonym for rooster was "cock". In case you weren't sure.

Gambling Review

The "Most Niners" Theory went 8-3 in predicting playoff winners this year, and 8-3 against the spread as well. In the entire postseason, underdogs either won outright or failed to cover the spread. Favorites went 6-5. With all of my sarcastic Las Vegas updates, implying the game might be fixed by gamblers, the behavior of the teams didn't appear to influenced by the point spread at all. Except for Mike Holmgren on that last drive in the Super Bowl. I don't trust him.

In personal wagering, I lost a dollar on an admittedly stupid bet that Pittsburgh would score on their first possession, but won the dollar back by betting against the cement foot of Josh Brown on his first half field goal miss.

Shame, Punter Tom Rouen, Shame

I didn't make it clear enough before that I think that punting cost Seattle the game. Maybe it's not fair to pin it on Tom Rouen, so I'll say that the whole punting team failed. There was a punt where a Seahawk waited for the ball to bounce on the two, ready to down the ball, and then stepped into the end zone to catch it. There's never a reason to step into the end zone when covering a punt. Just an idiotic play. On that punt, and Darrell Jackson's inexplicable string of out-of-bounds receptions, Seattle consistently demonstrated an inability to recognize the field's boundary lines. That happened to us one year in the Mud Bowl, but we were using a folded up sweatshirt, two beer bottles, and a weirdly-shaped rock as our markers. The Seahawks and their well-defined, white-painted lines have no such excuse.

Football Outsiders determined that "the probability that four punts from those locations would all go for touchbacks is 1 in 515." Seahawk fans can find comfort in being done in by historically improbable incompetence.

Is Matt Hasselbeck Cool?

Madden said Hasselbeck and Roethlisberger were the two coolest Super Bowl QBs he'd ever seen. Given their respective performances, perhaps coolness is overrated. Hey Big Ben! Next time you're at the Super Bowl, don't worry about the popular kids are doing, or throw interceptions to try and fit in. The coolest thing you can be is yourself.

Hasselbeck is interesting, because two different teams of Fox broadcasters discussed Hasselbeck's excitability at length, yet Madden claims he's relaxed and cool. Maybe being in John Madden's presence has a calming effect on a player. You're sitting in a horse trailer, having some turducken with Madden, and he's midway through a sentence with nine different clauses. The tryptophan kicks in, and since you can't follow what he's saying even when you aren't in a non-drowsy state, you just nod sleepily at regular intervals.

Sweetest Play in Super Bowl History?

The Steelers scored on a touchdown pass from a wide receiver, off a reverse. The Randle El-Hines Ward connection has to be way up on the list all-time sweet Super Bowl plays, perhaps even #1. I can't think of a better-designed, sweeter play than that one, though I have a vague memory of Joe Morris throwing a pass to Ed McConkey in Super Bowl XXI. (To preserve editorial integrity, I will not research this fuzzy recollection until posting.) What made the play even sweeter, perhaps even awesome, or incredible, was how Pittsburgh set up the play with a real reverse to Ward in the second quarter, which also went for big yardage. Then, about three game minutes after the touchdown, they faked a reverse, and threw to Randle El for a first down. So frickin' sweet.

In my one year of organized flag football, in third grade, there was a game where I got hit in the mouth and had to come out. While I was on the sideline, the coach let me call a few plays, one of which was a double reverse-wide-receiver pass that went for a long touchdown. Since we were playing six-on-six, the pass went to our quarterback, but you can't expect Ben Roethlisberger to show the same athleticism as a nine-year-old Kurt Larson. If it's any consolation to Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks defense, the Hidden Valley Elementary third-graders were also taken by surprise by this play.

In the aftermath of Pittsburgh's victory, there's been a lot of talk about the poor officiating in Super Bowl XL. To get some perspective on the game, I asked baseball umpire Doug Eddings to look at the game tape and give his opinion on some of the more controversial calls.

Zembla: Thanks for helping out, Doug.

Doug Eddings: No problem. Say, were the Chicago White Sox involved in the Super Bowl this year?

Zembla: No, the White Sox are a baseball team. It's the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

Eddings: OK, got it. Do either of these teams play in the American League Central Division?

Zembla: Again, that's baseball. The Seahawks are in the NFC West, and the Steelers play in the AFC North.

Eddings: AFC North, that's close enough. Let's do this.

Zembla: Sounds good. Now, Doug, I'm going to show you a controversial play, and you just let me know what you think of the call on the field.

Eddings: Will do, buddy.

Zembla: Here's the first one. Darrell Jackson catches a pass at the 23 for a first down, but the Seahawks are called for holding.

Eddings: Looks like a pretty obvious penalty to me.

Zembla: Alright, let's move on. The next play is a little more critical. Darrell Jackson catches what looks like a touchdown pass, but he's called for offensive pass interference. Some people have complained that this was a "ticky-tack" call, and that the referee threw the flag late.

Eddings: You know, that didn't seem late to me. In fact, he seemed a little hasty. Take your time, let the players jog off the field into the dugout --

Zembla: They don't have dugouts.

Eddings: Whatever. The important thing isn't the speed of the call. It's that you eventually make a call, and stick to it, no matter how indefensible and illogical that call might be. Anyway, Jackson clearly changed the direction of the defensive back there. Great call.

Zembla: Alright. The next play is a punt return. Peter Warrick runs the kick back 33 yards, but it's called back due to a holding penalty.

Eddings: Warrick plays for the Seahawks?

Zembla: Yeah.

Eddings: OK, that's definitely a hold. Holding that one guy over there, totally.

Zembla: Fair enough, Doug. Now, in this disputed play, Ben Roethlisberger tries to run the ball in, but appears to be stopped at the goal line. The touchdown signal is a bit delayed --

Eddings: Doesn't matter. What's your hurry? He's been signalling like that all game. Great call.

Zembla: Well, the Seahawks challenge the call, and the replay official--

Eddings: No need! That replay crap is bullshit! He saw it fine the first time. Next call.

Zembla: This next play is - it's actually just a missed field goal by Josh Brown. I guess it's not really controversial.

Eddings: You sure that kick missed? Kinda looks like it went through the uprights to me.

Zembla: Doug, he obviously missed the kick. Look at it. It goes wide left. It's not even that close.

Eddings: (Shrugs) Agree to disagree.

Zembla: The next play is - OK, this is simply a terrible call. On an interception return, Matt Hasselbeck tackles Ike Taylor, but he gets called for blocking below the waist, even though he's making a tackle, not blocking.

Eddings: Boy, that is a close one. He looks like he's blocking well below the waist here.

Zembla: Come on, Doug! How could he be blocking there? Hasselbeck's making a tackle! He's on defense!

Eddings: Young man, they teach us in umpiring school never to be afraid to ask for help when you're unsure. So if you don't mind, I'd like to consult with my good pal, NFL official Pete Morelli. Come on in, Pete. (Pete Morelli enters)

Pete Morelli: Hey Doug. You're asking about the Hasselbeck block?

Eddings: Yes. To me, the question is, does Hasselbeck make a football move?

Zembla: That's not the question!

Morelli: Doug, I'm going to say that Hasselbeck definitely makes a football move going after that blocker. Good call. Tack on fifteen yards to the end of the return.

Eddings: I concur, Pete.

Zembla: Unbelievable. Fine, we'll move on. On this play, Hasselbeck scrambles, but appears to fumble at the end of the play. Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu recovers - but the play is challenged and reversed.

Morelli: Polamalu. Replay. Why does that sound familiar?

Eddings: Pete, that looked like a horse collar tackle by Hasselbeck. What do you think?

Morelli: Hmm. See, this is where I would have blown the play dead and made them replay the down, Doug.

Eddings: I concur. First down, Steelers!

Morelli: Exactly.

Zembla: That doesn't make any sense! Pete, what gives? In the game against Indianapolis, every call you made went against the Steelers. And now, you and Doug are displaying ridiculous favoritism toward Pittsburgh. Did the NFL pay you off? Is this because Jerome Bettis was playing in Detroit, his hometown?

Eddings: I'm fairly sure Bettis is from Chicago.

Zembla: He's from Detroit!

Eddings: (Shrugs) Agree to disagree.

Zembla: Seriously, Pete, what's going on?

Morelli: (Deep breath) It's Mr. Joey Porter. He knows where I live.

Zembla: But...the game's over. The Steelers won. You weren't even working the game!

Morelli: That doesn't matter to Mr. Porter. From what I hear, he's already trying to motivate himself for next season. If you're reading, Mr. Porter, you should know both Doug and I respect you a whole bunch.

Zembla: OK, this is pathetic. We'll look at one last play, and then this is over. Here, the play clock expires, but the officials still allow Ben Roethlisberger to call time out. Shouldn't this have been a delay of game penalty?

Morelli: No sir. I wouldn't be surprised if a defensive player on the Pittsburgh sideline, possibly a outside linebacker, saw the play clock winding down and alertly signalled for a timeout. Great call.

Eddings: Pete, I'm gonna have to say that's a passed ball. Take your base, Big Ben.

Zembla: I hate you both.

super bowl roundup


Homoerotic Announcing

We got a "deepest penetration of the game" at the eight-minute mark of the second quarter. Later in the game, John Madden said, "When you see Big Ben bend over, you know something happened on that play." There were repeated references to Big Ben "playing with the glove", which may or may not have something to do with bending over.

However, the most homoerotic moment of the Super Bowl was not due to the announcers. It came when Steeler trainers dealt with an injured player by removing his pants and taping up his groin. They shielded him with towels but...I have watched an embarrassing amount of football in my life, and I can't remember it ever being necessary for someone to take off their pants like that.

Madden and Al Michaels were equally confused:

Madden: Why do you even need to take a guy’s pants off to check? Do you even check a hamstring that way?
Michaels: Without a 20 second delay, I would not even want to hazard a guess.

Al Michaels, ladies and gentlemen! He'll be here all week!


After the first half, the consensus was that there were 0-3 exciting plays in the first half, at least two of which involved questionable officiating decisions, while there were 4-7 amusing commercials. The key factor for both exciting plays and effective ads seems to be violence. The dinosaur stomping the caveman and the guy throwing his cell phone off his friend's face got the biggest reactions, rivaled only by the play where Antwaan Randle El almost got his back broken on a tackle.

Opinion was split on other ads. Some thought the musical Burger King ad was "Dadaist and surreal", while others thought it was simply "not very good." My sarcastic "Awww" at seeing the baby Clydesdale pull the Budweiser wagon with help was accompanied by actual sentimental response, and a few sniffles. Bud and Bud Light really spent money this year, placing a commercial in nearly every break in the action. However, I have to criticize Bud Light for having two spots in a single quarter where people fell through roofs in Bud Light-related hijinks.


With the Super Bowl Sharpie ad following on the heels of an awful SNL sketch whose entire premise was, "Pirates say 'Arr'", I think pirates may have peaked. Then again, I thought that two-and-a-half years ago as well, and pirates are still going strong. Which is good for me, since I still do a pirate joke in my act, though I usually don't say "Arr!"

The Fusion

Gillette has a huge promotional campaign geared up for the launch of the Fusion, a new five-bladed razor. Docta V informs us that the third result of a Google search for "five bladed razor" is from The Onion. Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades predicted this new innovation two full years early. The Fusion ad doesn't make clear whether Gillette did indeed "put another aloe strip on that fucker, too".

Uncomfortable Sexual Pairings in Advertising

Madison Avenue forced viewers to imagine the couplings between Yosemite Sam and a mud flap silhouette, as well as a giant monster and a robot. To top things off, a Bud ad showed a dog who appeared extremely captivated by a shorn sheep.

Worst Halftime Interview of All Time

Bill Cowher stopped for a chat with Suzy Kolber on his way to the locker room. Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, coming off a series where he inexplicably ran off nearly the entire clock only to miss a 54-yard field goal, completely brushed off his chat with Michelle Tafoya. She asked only one question, and he shouted something about "Got some bad information on the replay challenge" and hustled off the field. Tafoya looked hurt.

This Year's John Candy

People claimed Matthew Lillard was in the stands cheering for the Seahawks. Can anyone confirm or deny that Lillard was at the Super Bowl, or that he's even still alive?

Sean Is Psychic

After correctly predicting the Rolling Stones set list for the halftime show ("Start Me Up", some new song, "Satisfaction"), I also predicted that Seahawk Josh Brown would miss his 50-yard field goal. I also said the game was over once Pittsburgh went up 14-3, which was accurate, if not especially precise. Predicting that I would find a twenty-dollar bill in the parking lot after the game was not as successful.

Zinger of the Game

An ABC spot for Desperate Housewives featured, among others, Tony Hawk, professing their love for the show. Gene requested a Tivo rewind, so we could see the exact moment when Tony Hawk sold out. Mike responded with the Zinger of the Game: "Gene, the Tivo doesn't rewind to 1994."

What Happens When Joey Porter Threatens To Drink Your Blood Before The Game

If you're Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens, you drop a lot of passes. Earlier this week, Joey Porter said, "I got my first taste of blood and now I'm thirsty for more", and called Stevens "a first-round bust". Now, I don't think he dropped those passes because he was intimidated by Porter. I think Jerramy Stevens just sucks.

After the game-ending incompletion, Porter showed he can't let go of a grudge. While his teammates began to celebrate and prepare Gatorade, Porter stood over Stevens and continued to yell at him. I should note that while Porter has been crazy and over-the-top in his pre-game trash talking, he has also been right about the weakness of Jerramy Stevens and the Colts' inability to come from behind against Pittsburgh.

Pretending It's Scoreless

In two consecutive playoff wins, Bill Cowher's halftime speech told his team to pretend like the game was just beginning, or scoreless. Jerome Bettis took it even further in the Super Bowl. A "Miked Up" audio clip from Bettis in a fourth-quarter huddle showed him urging the team to pretend, not just that it was a tie game, but that it was "no different from Week One". And, I guess it still worked, though I wonder if one of the more impressionable Steelers (like TE Heath Miller) looked around and thought, "Wow, Matthew Lillard came to the season opener? Awesome."

Gambling Scandal

Pittsburgh was a favorite in this game, with point spreads ranging from 3-4.5 points. This meant that, late in the game, with Seattle down eleven points, the drama was still very much alive in Las Vegas. If Seattle could score a touchdown, and convert the two-point play, they'd cover the spread, regardless of what happened on the subsequent onside kick attempt.

Seattle took over with just under two minutes remaining and no times out. In the immortal words of Bill Simmons, "Everyone who's ever played a football video game knows that, when you're down by two scores with less than a minute to play, you kick the field goal as fast as possible, then go for the onside and the Hail Mary." Everyone except Mike Holmgren. Once Seattle got to the 26 with 30 seconds to go, it was time to send in the kicker, so they'd at least have time to try the desperation pass at the end.

Holmgren coached as if he had money riding on the game. He kept running plays, trying for the cover-clinching touchdown. Sure, even if they'd taken it in on 4th-and-7, time would have expired, and Seattle still would have lost the game. But people who bet on the Seahawks - a group that may or may not have included Coach Mike Holmgren - those people would have won with the TD and three-point loss.

Record-breakers Goats

With a few minutes remaining in the first quarter, ABC announced that Seattle's Darrell Jackson had tied the record for "Most receptions in the first quarter of the Super Bowl". We gave a sarcastic cheer, and someone might have yelled, "Send that ball to Canton!" After Jackson's touchdown pass was called back (because he pushed off his defender), we lamented the missed opportunity - not the lost seven points, but the chance to have the record all to himself.

By the way, Jackson tied another record later in the game, for "Fewest receptions in the final three quarters of the Super Bowl", with zero. That's a record Darrell Jackson shares with many people, including me. Unofficially, he also set a record for most passes caught out of bounds.

Seattle punter Tom Rouen also set a record of his own. He had the highest punting average in Super Bowl history - 50.2 yards! Of course, since two-thirds of his punts went into the end zone for touchbacks, and Randle El returned the other two for a total of 32 yards, Rouen's net average was 31.5 yards. I'm pretty sure that's not a Super Bowl record.


Hines Ward certainly deserved the MVP award, but he had an unfair advantage in the voting. Fans were encouraged to vote for the game's MVP via text message (standard rates applied). If the decision was close, one could easily imagine fans getting frustrated at the keypad aerobics necessary to punch in "R-A-N-D-L-E-E-L", or "H-A-S-S-E-L-B-E-C-K", and decide that, while he might not have played the best game, "W-A-R-D" was much quicker to type.

Did Bill Cowher cry?

He clearly smiled, and as he was walking off the field, Cowher's eyes were clearly wet. Had the tough facade cracked? Had John Wayne finally shed a tear? The replay of the celebratory Gatorade splash suggested a different hypothesis. While being drenched by the refreshing sports beverage, Cowher was struck fairly hard on the back of the head by the cooler. Now, I'm not saying Cowher is incapable of tears and an emotional release - I'm just saying, his eyes might have been watering due to a mild concussion.

mud bowl recap


Mud Bowl Recap

Team "Rock Ice" triumphed over "The Blade", 24-18, in a game played without extra points on a narrow field at Heather Farms. Trees weren't a factor, as we used the strip of soccer field bounded by the penalty box, sidelines, and end line. Since were only playing 4-on-4, this proved less of a restriction as one might have imagined, except for our inability to kick off in bounds.

Why Rock Ice?: Sean's traditional breast cancer awareness bandanna was replaced this year by a purple bandanna from South America, promoting an alcoholic beverage called Rock Ice. (Bandanna courtesy Sean's little sisters) As you could imagine, it looked awesome, tough, and not at all dorky.

Why The Blade: Because they'll cut you, bitch.

Crucial play of the game: An incompletion that resulted in the game's most severe injury. On a desperation pass versus a blitz, Mike just missed a TD pass when he rolled his ankle. He stayed in and caught a critical "two completions" first down pass on the very next play, though I accidentally hit his ankle with both my arm and chin on the two-hand touch. While The Blade scored on that possession, the hobbling of Mike gave the slow Rock Ice team a chance to get back in the game with a few interceptions.

Other injuries: Jammed finger, a few pulled hamstrings, and what I feared might be a broken wrist, though I now believe it's just bruised and I was being a big wuss earlier.

Best coverage: Either Gabe on Paul, or Paul on Gabe. It seemed like on every other pass, balls were slapped away. And slapped hard.

Sweetest play: Paul completes a long bomb to Mike for a touchdown, burning cornerback Sean, and giving The Blade a 14-7 lead.

Best celebration: None. I doubt anyone reached the end zone with enough energy to spike the ball, let alone dance.

Best call: Jigar calls the Blitz/force INT play on defense, which indirectly caused Mike's hobbling when Rock Ice ran it the first time. This time, the pass was picked off and taken in for the win.

Worst Adam Vinatieri imitation: Sean, trying a surprise pooch punt on fourth down, and kicking it approximately twenty feet and out of bounds.

Best question: Why do we count "alligators"? We didn't get into the Alligators vs. Mississippis debate, thankfully, though I hear die-hard fans in Pittsburgh count "Roethlisbergers" when rushing the QB.

Best imitation of an ambulance: Christine, shuttling the swollen-ankled and the lazy back from the park.

Famous game this most resembled: Seahawks at Packers, January 2004 - "We want the ball and we're gonna score!"

belated mud bowl preview

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Super Bowl XL kicked off around 3:30 in Detroit. Before that, a more impressive event occurred in Walnut Creek, as Mud Bowl XI (or perhaps VIII, and possibly as much as XIII) went down at Heather Farms. The storied history of the Mud Bowl includes such memorable events as Scott Barnett's four-INT performance in 2001, Dustin catching a touchdown pass while smoking a cigarette in 2003, and the time a middle school kid begged to be let in the game, and then had his sweatshirt accidentally torn in half the first time he touched the ball. Good times.

Since my attempt to make scientific predictions of the championship games failed so miserably, I saw no reason to attempt the same for the Super Bowl. Instead, I'd like to present my comprehensive (and slightly belated) guide to this year's Mud Bowl. Remember, the game is only an exhibition, so please, no wagering.


Heather Farms has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, complete with a separate diving pool and a high dive. The park also has baseball diamonds, a duck pond, and a recreation center. For our purposes, the important thing is that they have a stretch of grass, ideally a muddy one. And that the stretch of grass is close enough that anyone injured (or embarrasingly out of shape) can make it back to the house without needing to commandeer a golf cart or improvise a stretcher.



Nicknames: "Wade", "Barney", "Michael Michael Motorcycle" (nickname retired after first grade)
Specialties: Intercepting passes, talking trash, grilling meat.
Super Bowl particpant he most resembles: Ben Roethlisberger, due to the beard. I'm resisting a Hasselbeck hairline joke here.


Nickname: "Jess", "The Ororo of Orinda"
Specialties: Tackling the hell out of Mike's brother Eric.
Super Bowl particpant she most resembles: Hines Ward, due to sure hands, tenacious blocking, and Korean heritage.


Nickname: "Paul Means Business"
Specialties: Speed, agility, golf, poker
Super Bowl participant he most resembles: Paul invariably scores multiple touchdowns in Mud Bowl games, yet his willowy frame and soft-spoken nature leave him underestimated. His style of play evokes Joe Jurevicius, and I would watch out for both men today.


Nickname: "Eugenio", "Bonecrusher"
Specialties: Power, pass rush, fasting
Super Bowl participant he most resembles: Gene sees himself as a linebacker, and many of us see him as a modern-day version of his father, Clark. Thus, Gene is Pittsburgh linebacker Clark Haggans.


Nickname: "Jigs", "Brown Lightning"
Specialities: Running the West Coast offense, play-calling, cinematography
Super Bowl participant he most resembles: Antwaan Randle El


Nickname: "The Martinez Marksman", "The Alhambra Assassin"
Specialties: Unknown, as I've never seen him play football. He's excellent on X-Box, particularly Grand Theft Auto.
Super Bowl participant he most resembles: This is kind of vague, but I'm going with Seattle safety Michael Boulware. As Gabe has moved from the East Coast to California in recent months, so has Michael Boulware moved from his college position of linebacker to playing safety in the NFL.


Nickname: "Docta V"
Specialties: Trick plays, quarterbacking, Linux
Super Bowl participant he most resembles: Pittsburgh fullback Dan Kreider, as both are questionable to actually play Sunday


Nickname: "Waffles", "The Argonaut"
Specialties: Foreign languages, reading, triathlons
Super Bowl participant she most resembles: Steelers triple-threat Antwaan Randle El.


Nickname: "Crazy Jogging White Girl"
Specialties: International relations, development, speed
Super Bowl participant she most resembles: Annika is also an enigma, as she's been in the Peace Corps, out of the sight of Mud Bowl scouts. My selection is based on Annika's near-obsession with the state of Ohio, and accordingly, I'm choosing Seattle defensive end and Ohio State alum Rodney Bailey.


Nickname: "Coach Sean", "Keaner", "Sean the Bon" (6 & Unders only)
Specialties: Puns, judicious hustle, knowledge of football trivia and terminology
Super Bowl participant he most resembles: Due to limited athletic ability and a streak of never having a punt blocked, Sean most resembles Pittsburgh punter Chris Gardocki.

Weather Conditions

I'm guessing we will have little trouble finding unoccupied grass, but trees may or may not serve as obstacles. It should be sunny.

Physical Conditions

Poor, across the board. There will be many times out taken. I wouldn't put it past any of the participants to throw an improvised challenge flag, made out of a red sock or shredded t-shirt, just to get an emergency stoppage of play. I think the odds of someone vomiting are about 2.5:1.


Points: 56
Injuries: 3 (1 severe)
Wagers: 2
Beers consumed on the field: 3
Interceptions: 5
Ruined pieces of clothing: 1

two dollar subscription plan


Many have prematurely announced that this year would mark the end of Two Dolla Wednesday baseball in Oakland. In an effort to cut costs and increase ticket demand, the Oakland Athletics closed the entire third deck of the Oakland-Alameda County Network Associates McAfee Coliseum. According to an offical team press release, "The effected (sic) seating areas - along with the upper level seating area in the football structure - will be covered with a tarpaulin to reflect the team's rich history and take advantage of marketing opportunities." In other words, some tarps with feature the A's logo, but most of them will be covered with ads.

However, rumors of Two Dolla Wednesday's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Wednesday baseball will still be available to the bargain-hunting baseball enthusiast for the low two-dollar price, but the seats will be (somehow) worse. Last year, all seats in the third deck were part of the promotion. This year, the sale price is limited to the Plaza Outfield and Plaza Reserved levels (Sections 200-203, 231-249 - see Seating Chart)

With public excitement for Two Dolla Wednesday still at record high levels, any economist worth his salt could tell you that a scarcity of discount seats is inevitable. That is why I am offering the Two Dolla Wednesday Season Ticket Package. For just $14, you can have tickets to all seven of the Two Dolla Wednesday night games. For $20, you get ten games, including three Wednesday afternoon contests. The Wednesday matchups against the Yankees and Red Sox are not discounted, and thus not a part of the package, but there has been talk of organizing a trip to see New York visit Oakland in April.

Now, some of you might not want to commit to seven games, particularly since this is the first week in February. But consider this: If you only attend five games, that's still less than three dollars per game. Doesn't the security of knowing you've got a seat every Wednesday you want outweigh the potential two-dollar loss on an unused ticket?

And it's not just the seat. Buying the Season Ticket Package gets you access to the one-dollar Coliseum hot dogs, sold only on Wednesdays. They'll sell you ten at a time at the concession stand. Ten hot dogs for a dollar, you might say. Why Sean, that's disgusting. Disgustingly cheap, I agree! You also get Dot Racing, the Cap Dance, the BART race, and The Wave, all at no additional charge. Based on historical evidence, Marco Scutaro is nearly guaranteed to deliver the game-winning hit in at least one of those games.

If you'd like to be a part of the discount excitement, leave me a comment or send an email. We've already received orders for six packages, so the plan will definitely move forward in the next week or so. Watch for a preview of the exciting discount matchups in this space this weekend, and a listing of the discount dates follows after the jump:

the celtics throw up a whitewash


The Boston Celtics made a big trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday, swapping shooting guard Ricky Davis and disappointing center Mark Blount for Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi. People who know more about basketball than I do can analyze the tradeoff between Wally's excellent shooting and Davis's superior defense. I am excited about the deal because it puts Boston that much closer to being able to throw up a whitewash.

It's a fact. Boston loves white basketball players. It could be the legacy of Larry Bird, or it could be a testament to the racism of the city, but Boston will rally around its white cagers like no other. It's part of the reason why Boston hired former Caucasian star Danny Ainge back in 2003, though it wasn't until this offseason that the snowstorm began. Ainge signed marginally-talented Caucasian Brian Scalabrine to a free agent contract. Supposedly, Ainge found it significant that Scalabrine has the same brain type as Larry Bird, Jerry West, and John Stockton. He certainly shares with those players a genetic resistance to sickle cell anemia, something Ainge also considers extremely significant.

Ainge then traded away Antoine Walker, and received seven-foot Caucasian Curtis Borchardt in return. Ainge also dealt for Caucasian point guard Dan Dickau. Adding those three players to the team's existing paleface, Raef LaFrentz, the Celtics had a ploddingly-slow, fundamentally-sound quartet with a combined vertical leap of six-and-a-half feet. They were achingly close, just one white shooting guard away from fulfilling every aging Bostonian racist's dream of an all-white starting lineup. No slam dunks, but plenty of crisp bounce passes and awkward high fives on the bench. As a concession to Boston racists who are also xenophobic, all four were American, which is a fairly amazing feat in today's NBA.

Unfortunately, Ainge's snow-white dreams were dashed when Borchardt proved to be too injured, and was waived. Dickau tore his Achilles tendon in mid-December. Approaching the midpoint of the season, the Celtics were 17-25, six games out of first place. More importantly, they were down to just two Caucasians. Clearly, they needed to make a move. When Ainge called Minnesota GM (and legendary Celtic Caucasian in his own right) Kevin McHale to discuss swapping Davis for Szczerbiak, they did just that.

Szczerbiak is a standout Caucasian, blessed with a sweet jump shot and a last name with a string of four consecutive consonants, including two Z's. His outside shooting ability once drew comparisons to Larry Bird, because every white wing player gets compared to Larry Bird. It's the law.

However, Olowokandi has been a disappointment after being selected first in the draft back in 1998. One would think there'd be little gain in acquiring the Kandi Man, until you consider that he was born in England. He may not be a Caucasian, but Ainge is betting that fans will rally around his British citizenship, if not his skin color.

The Celtics can't yet throw up the whitewash, but a group of Olowokandi, LaFrentz, Scalabrine, Szczerbiak, and point guard Delonte West would constitute a group where every member was either Caucasian, red-haired, or British. Not too bad. With Olowokandi's contract expiring at the end of the season, Boston would free up money to make a run at a free agent like Matt Harpring, or Joel Pryzbilla, or Vladimir Radmanovic, or Keith Van Horn. If Warriors GM Chris Mullin is paying attention, he'll get on the phone right now and see if Ainge will trade Paul Pierce and Al Jefferson for Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. Hell, Utah should argue that the suddenly-controversial Greg Ostertag
would look great in the green and white. If the Ainge plan comes to fruition, I will confidently state that next year's squad will be the most popular 30-win team in Celtics history.

championship game preview, 1/22/06

Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5) at Denver Broncos (14-3)
Point Spread: Denver -3
Over/Under: 41.5 points

Carolina Panthers (13-5) at Seattle Seahawks (14-3)
Point Spread: Seattle -3.5
Over/Under: 43.5 points

These figure to be some high-quality games today. I'm 5-3 picking games in the playoffs, which is nothing special, especially since I was most wrong about games I was most confident about. I'm also 5-3 against the spread, but I think everyone is: In every game so far, the favorite covered the spread, or the underdog won outright. I have no confidence in my ability to logically predict an outcome here, so I will offer a smorgasbord of theories to help guide your predictions and wagers.

Dominant Animal Theory: Steelers and Panthers. Hey there, you might protest. Steelers aren't animals! To that I say, a Steeler is a human being - the most crafty and dangerous animal of all.

Phil Simms Quarterback Grooming Theory: Steelers and Seahawks. This theory is almost the polar opposite of the Beard to Success Ratio Theory. Phil Simms likes a man that's "neater, trimmer, and better-looking", so Jake Plummer's mountain man beard clearly loses out to Ben Roethlisberger's beard, because Big Ben appears to shave his neck. Matt Hasselbeck is less likely to shave before the game, but his baldness gives him the neatness advantage over the wild-haired Jake Delhomme.

Most Niner Theory: Steelers and Panthers. Before the divisional round, I proposed the "Least Niner Theory" as an indicator for playoff success. My reasoning was that having been a 49er was like a reverse pedigree, and that a team that needed to look to San Francisco for players was not a team that inspired confidence. However, the team with the most former 49ers has gone 6-2 so far in the post-season, forcing me to re-examine this theory. Perhaps having experienced the misery and constant losing that go along with being on the 49ers, these players are revitalized by their move to a winning team. That might have been the thinking behind the Broncos' decision to acquire four former Cleveland Browns defensive linemen in the offseason. Someone blogging in Cleveland can figure out the "Most Browns" theory if they really want.

Google Disrespect Theory: Steelers and Panthers. Players and coaches on all four remaining teams will be claiming to be respected inadequately leading up to the game. To find out, who's truly disrespected, you have to go to Google. For the search string "'I don't respect' + [team name]", the clear winners were the Steelers and Panthers, as well as for the search string "[team name] sucks". The Panthers had an overwhelming total for the latter phrase, which I at first attributed to the presence of another sports team called the Panthers. However, even accounting for the college and NHL varieties of Panthers, the Internet still thinks Carolina is three times suckier than Seattle.

Honolulu Coaching Experience Theory: Broncos and Panthers: The Pro Bowl takes place the weekend after the Super Bowl in Honolulu's Aloha Stadium. While most sports assign All-Star Game coaching duties to the coach with the best record, the NFL makes the coach who lost the Championship Game lead his conference's Pro Bowl squad. Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher has led the AFC squad four times (and is undefeated!), which is the third-most coaching appearances ever, behind John Madden and Tom Landry, and tied with Marty Schottenheimer. Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren coached the 1996 NFC team. Denver coach Mike Shanahan has never led a Pro Bowl squad, nor has Carolina coach John Fox.

Dominant Cheerleader Theory: Broncos and Panthers: The Broncos have great cheerleaders, the Steelers have no cheerleaders. Easy call here. I haven't seen the Carolina cheer squad this post-season, but earlier this year, two Top Kat cheerleaders got into an altercation after allegedly having sex in a bathroom stall. Panthers clearly win this one.

Dustin Reed Favorite Band Hometown Theory: Broncos and Seahawks: I can't think of any bands that have come out of Pittsburgh, but I think Dustin likes the Apples in Stereo. The real difficulty comes in deciding between Carolina's Archers of Loaf and Seattle's Nirvana. While Dustin loves the Archers, he never had an Eric Bachmann sticker on his bass, so Seattle wins this one.

"Mike" Theory: Broncos and Seahawks: Denver and Seattle have far more Mikes among their head coaches. If I had evidence that either Holmgren or Shanahan had been named "Wade" at birth, I would pick them with zero hesitation.

Punter's Revenge Theory: Broncos and Panthers: Before the season, Denver traded its punter, Jason Baker, to Carolina, for punter Todd Sauerbrun. If they faced off in the Super Bowl, the stakes would be incredibly high, the reputation of the punters and the team's general managers hinging on every punt return, every touchback. And even though it probably won't happen, I would absolutely love to hear an extended exchange of trash talk on both sides. "What's up, Baker? You want to go, bitch? Snap the ball to me. I'll drop it inside the 20 right now. You can't call a fair catch when Todd Sauerbrun throws down, sucka."

Quarterback Snake-Similarity Theory: Broncos and Panthers: One might argue that Matt Hasselback's lack of hair is serpentine, or that Ben Roethlisberger's penchant for trick plays is deceptive, but Plummer and Delhomme have them trumped. No matter what, if your name is Jake, you are "The Snake".

Hypothetical Quarterback Nicknames From My Sister Molly Theory: Broncos and Panthers. Jake "Liquid" Plummer beats Ben "Mothless Burger" Roethlisberger. Jake "From Casa" Delhomme beats Matt "Portcullis" Hasselbeck (Hasselbeck -> Castle back -> portcullis).

Head Coach Mustache Theory: Steelers and Seahawks: This might be infair to the clean-shaven coaches in Denver and Carolina, but if they have a problem with it, there's a simple and elegant solution: Grow a mustache.



Clearly, the smart money should be on the Broncos and Panthers today. As for myself, I am going to test out the "Twelve Chips will Fit In my Mouth At Once" hypothesis and the "Jim Nantz Double Entendre Corollary" to the "Phil Simms Homoeroticism Theory".

nfl playoff preview, 1/14/06


Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks


The tough Washington defense faces off with NFL MVP Shaun Alexander in know what, there's just no way Washington is winning. Seattle is the top seed in the NFC, Washington is the lowest seed. Seattle won 13 games this year, Washington won 10. Seattle has rested its starters for weeks, and had no game last weekend. Washington has had to win each of its games for the last six weeks. Seattle is playing at home, Washington had to fly cross-country for this game.

Nevertheless, I will be rooting irrationally for Washington today. For unknown reasons, the Redskins became my second-favorite football team, behind the 49ers, when I was pretty little. I have a feeling that one of my dad's friends tried to subtly brainwash me, probably Kevin O'Brien. Kevin was the one who got me and my sister t-shirts featuring "The Fun Bunch", and he also instilled with me the superstitious belief that one's sitting postion while watching a football game has a profound effect on the outcome of that football game.

So, though I have no real stake in today's game, and prefer Seattle's city, football philosophy, and their non-racist nickname and mascot, I'll still be pulling for the Redskins. And they are totally gonna lose, though their foamhead remains superior.

New England at Denver

Denver is really good, and so is New England. I think Denver will win, because they're at home, and it's a higher altitude, and they have a good pass defense, but there is no way I would wager on this game. I despise the Patriots, or more accurately, I despise Patriots fans. As such, my hatred for the team makes the game nearly unwatchable due to anxiety, and risking money would only compound the error. Damn you, Bill Belichick!

Tom Brady, the New England quarterback, ridiculously said that the Patriots "have been probably disrespected more than any team in the league this year", which was before a game in which his team was favored by more than a touchdown over a 12-4 opponent. It was also about a week after he won the Sportsman of the Year award. Nonetheless, I feel that Tom Brady has been disrespected in the past few weeks, specifically in the Keane house.

My dad's cousin's wife plays tennis with Brady's mother. Since she has done so for years, she remembers Brady as a kid, and as such calls him "Tommy Brady". Since we heard this, my entire family exclusively calls him "Tommy". "Think Tommy and the Pats are gonna win this week?" "Hope Tommy doesn't throw an interception." "Aw, Tommy feels disrespected."

It also makes me wonder why adult male quarterbacks still go by "Joey", "Bobby", or "Tommy" and still expect to command respect. There's a reason why there are a disproportionate number of "Drews" playing quarterback - they're avoiding the potential stigma of "Andy".

I'm going to predict a Broncos victory, mainly due to their foamhead superiority.





When he was still at UNLV, Larry Johnson was one of the most dominant college basketball players in history. My dad still uses him as a reference point for college centers and power forwards he considers potential superstars, having compared both Elton Brand and Emeka Okafor to the college version of LJ in the past. Unfortunately, Johnson was never really the same after he hurt his back during his third year in the league. Even though he made a few All-Star teams, and had an extremely popular shoe commercial where he dressed up as his own grandmother, LJ didn't live up to expectations.

Eventually he ended up on the New York Knicks. Before the 98-99 season, he re-invented himself and his game. He converted to Islam. He became a vegetarian. Lacking the leaping ability and strength that he had before, LJ developed a perimeter game. He took far more three-point shots - and made more of them - than ever before. Perhaps most importantly, he started throwing up The Big L.

Right fist clenched, elbow bent, pointing at the roof. Left arm perpendicular, left fist pointing at his right elbow. It formed a great big L. L for Larry. Larry Johnson would run to the other end of the court holding the Big L high, infuriating the other team and probably some of his own fans, and then he'd set himself for some half-assed defense.


I'm not sure it occurred to Larry that making an "L" with your fingers usually signifies "Loser". But maybe it's different when you use both arms, I dunno.

The Big L gained its greatest fame during the 1999 NBA Playoffs, when LJ was fouled while attempting a three-pointer against the Indiana Pacers, and ended up converting a game-winning four-point play. Of course, between the successful shot and the subsequent free throw, LJ threw up The Big L, and that became the lasting image of the game.

The post-game interview was classic:

LJ: Praise Allah.
Reporter: So, Larry, were you just in the zone?
LJ: No, no. No zone. Allah Akbar.
Reporter: Um, that's a prayer...

Eventually, the Knicks went all the way to the Finals, where LJ made headlines for refusing to talk to the media, then cursing about his unwillingness to talk to the media, then finally talking to the media and calling the Knicks a band of "rebellious slaves", then getting criticized by Bill Walton, then telling Walton he should "check his history and see how many slaves his ancestors had." Tremendous stuff. Incidentally, the Knicks lost in five games to the Spurs, and LJ shot 2-18 on three-pointers.

My favorite response to The Big L came later in the Pacers series, and may or may not have been a shot at Larry Johnson's Muslim faith. One of the Pacers' guards (I think it was Travis Best) sunk a three-pointer, and then made a very LJ-like arm gesture as he ran down the court. When asked after the game, the player stated that he had thrown up "The Big J". Which stood for Jesus, of course.

chad johnson, hero

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Chad Johnson and the Cincinnati Bengals square off this afternoon against the Steelers of Pittsburgh, in what is probably the most fascinating of the weekend's wild-card playoff matchups. Now, I could have easily said, "Coach Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals" or "Quarterback Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati Bengals", but I feel like Chad Johnson is the real standard-bearer for this Bengals team. This is their first appearance in the playoffs since 1990, and while Palmer, Rudi Johnson, interception machine Deltha O'Neal and rookie of the year Odell Thurman are big parts of the team's success, Chad Johnson is the proverbial straw that stirs the literal drink that is Bengals football.

Mr. Johnson is an excellent receiver, but where he has truly excelled is in elevating the theatrical, performative side of professional football-playing. Johnson makes lists of opposing cornerbacks, and decides who has and has not covered him adequately. He will occasionally guarantee a victory against a noteworthy opponent, which is at its core a wholly meaningless gesture, yet there's bravado to it. In 2003 he did this against the unbeaten Chiefs, and then he backed it up with a win. He has concluded that stopping Chad Johnson is impossible, saying, "If I had to stop myself, I probably wouldn't be able to do it, either."

Wide receiver is a unique position in the NFL, because it is completely at the mercy of other players in order to make an impact. Even if a receiver runs perfect routes and consistently beats his defender, his success is predicated on the coach calling his number on a play, the offensive line delaying the pass rush so he has time to break free, the quarterback spotting him and delivering the ball. And yet, when a wide receiver is truly on his game, there is really no more devastating weapon, as any 49ers fan weaned on the exploits of Jerry Rice can attest. Such is the paradox and tenuousness of the NFL wide receiver. It may be why wide receivers often seem so volatile: the conflict between their potential impact on a game and their accompanying lack of control over same.

For some reason, Chad Johnson is in some circles a polarizing, controversial player. Observers will lump him in with Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, the former who criticizes every quarterback, coach, and team he plays for, and the latter who is rightly known for giving minimal effort when a play does not concern him directly. Chad Johnson is quite serious, supports his teammates, and works hard, to the point of sleeping at the team's practice facility so he can watch game film longer. So why is he considered a cancer by some?

It's the same reason that he should be celebrated. Chad Johnson has taken touchdown celebrations to a new pinnacle this season. Many touchdown celebrations seem self-glorifying, but Chad Johnson tailors his for geographic regions. He includes props and cinematic allusions. The difference between his stuff and that of Terrell Owens is that Johnson doesn't seem to be mugging for attention, or showing up the opponents, like Owens. Instead, his routines are basically just goofy, with their sole purpose being to entertain the fans, home or away. He clearly loves playing football and he's a happy guy.

And unlike Owens, Chad Johnson is legitimately funny. Against the Chicago Bears this year, Johnson scored and did an Irish jig in the end zone, which was either a reference to Bruce Willis's similar dance in The Last Boy Scout or a subtle dig at Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who recently fathered a child with a woman who had previously sued Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley. He threw autographed gifts to the crowd in a game against Buffalo. Against Baltimore, he picked up the end zone pylon and putted the football like Tiger Woods. He proposed marriage to a cheerleader. He even claimed to be keeping a deer in his garage at home, to be used in a touchdown celebration later, and reporters dutifully reported it as fact.

So, Chad Johnson is really good, and he makes the game more entertaining. If the Bengals pull off the victory today, Zembla will feature its own victory celebration, with a look at some other notable sports displays in past years.

[NOTE: A few hours before the game, Johnson spent time with tailgaters in the parking lot, thanking them for their support. Even though the Bengals fell short today, dude, the starting QB tore his ACL on the first pass of the game. Hard to come back from that. Chad Johnson still played like a winner today.]

The two biggest off-the-field football scandals of this fall that didn't involve Terrell Owens were about a decadent boat trip and a controversial rap song. Many of the Minnesota Vikings attended a wild party on Lake Minnetonka that led to four player citations this week. Reportedly, the boats were only forty-five minutes into their trip before the rambunctious sexual activity led the frightened crew to return the boats to the harbor.

The rap song was recorded at the University of Miami, detailing the lurid exploits of a group called the Seventh Floor Crew, a crew that included at least one current Miami football player. The song is almost nine minutes long, the lyrics are extremely raunchy, but the general theme is that the seventh floor is the place to go for gang bangs at U of M. Even though the song was two years old, and hilarious, there was predictably hysterical outcry when the song became better-known. Also, a blogger got kicked out of campus housing after posting a link to the song. Here's the chorus:

"If your ho only know
That she was getting fucked on the seventh floor
If that bitch only knew
That she was getting mudded by the whole damn crew
What would she do?"

So, the question that comes to mind is, If the Minnesota Vikings from the boat cruise were members of the Seventh Floor Crew, who would they be?

Bryant McKinnie: "Big Nick" (who "slings dick"). Bryant McKinnie is 6'8, 343 pounds, so he's got the "big" part covered. Despite the myriad of sex acts detailed by the Seventh Floor Crew, Big Nick is the only one to discuss cunnilingus. As McKinnie is the only Viking accused of picking up a naked woman, placing her on the bar, and performing oral sex on her, this seems like the perfect match. Big Nick promises to run a seven-man train, Big Bryant participated in a four-man oral sexstravaganza in deck chairs. Had the cruise not been prematurely stopped, McKinnie may well have done it until the roof collapsed.

Daunte Culpepper: "Marvelous". As a quarterback, Culpepper must use his field vision to read the defense, which seems to parallel Marvelous, who "keeps his eyes peeled for deez here ho's" on the seventh floor. The posture described by Marvelous - holding his nuts with both hands and a smile - is reminiscent of Culpepper's stance behind center, awaiting the snap. The criminal complaint alleges that Culpepper placed his hands on the buttocks of a woman giving him a lap dance, while Marvelous emphasizes the buttocks in his rhyme, going as far as to spell out "A-S-S".

Moe Williams: "Big Beez". Williams is a good pass blocker and an excellent short-yardage back. On the Seventh Floor crew, he'd be Big Beez. Moe is one of the four Vikings charged in the case, which matches up with Big Beez's assertion that whenever the SFC fucks a bitch, "all the guys on the crime scene". Big Beez also aims for the mouthpiece when he nuts, a parallel to Moe's style of hard-nosed, smashmouth football.

Fred Smoot: "G-Reg". Smoot paid for the sex boat cruise, and also had the raunchiest allegation in the police complaint. He is accused of using a double-headed dildo on two women simultaneously, out in the middle of the floor. Now, some might argue that Smoot should be T-Buck, due to T-Buck's affinity for multiple positions ("from the back, from the front, on the T-Bird trunk"). However, G-Reg is clearly the kinkiest member of the SFC, with his proclivities for bukkake and ear-fucking ("Come on fellas, let's get weird/Stick that dick up in her ear"). The bold Seventh Floor Crew still blanches at G-Reg's insistence that he nuts directly into a ho's eye, but G-Reg ignores their uncertain reaction and repeats, "In the eye!" I can imagine Fred Smoot announcing, "Come on fellas, let's get weird" right before he went Requiem For A Dream on his two boat ladies.

Darren Sharper: Tavares Gooden, AKA "T-Good" AKA "The Big-Dick Bandit". T-Good plays linebacker for Miami. His most notable line in the song involves his uniform number and his dong: "She thought 5-2 was just my number, then she realized/ Multiply that bitch up you get my dick size". So, when deciding which Viking matches up best with T-Good, my selection is based on who has a uniform number that can be multiplied to an impressive but not impossible penis size. None of the Vikings on the cruise can get to 10 exactly. Cornerback Ken Irvin would be an embarrassing 4 (2x2). Wide receiver Travis Taylor would be a frightening 72(8x9). Also, I'm leaving out anyone with a 1 in their uniform number, because the Multiplicative Identity Property of One is boring. So, candidates are: Will Offord (2x4=8), Ralph Brown (3x3=9), and Darren Sharper (4x2=8). I'm picking Sharper, simply because "D-Sharp" makes a much better MC name.

Lance Johnstone: "Li'l Newt". Along with Smoot, Johnstone organized the boat trip. Li'l Newt seems very concerned with logistics in his verse, detailing the specific order in which the Seventh Floor train will be run, in an orderly, team-based manner. Johnstone might appreciate this, since the scouting report says he has trouble with double teams.

Mewelde Moore: "Dub C" AKA "Thundercat". Mewelde "Dub M" Moore initially claimed he didn't attend the boat trip. However, he went with McKinnie on a covert op to throw away garbage bags from the party, in a dumpster at a construction site. In the song, Dub C entreats the ladies to "check the bag" (where they'll find his wee-wee). Also, "Mewelde" sounds like it could be the name of a Thundercat, or at least a Thundercats villain.

Koren Robinson: "Holla Man". Holla Man gets out control about halfway through his verse. He drops the beat, just like Koren Robinson does with important third-down passes, and proceeds to ramble on semi-coherently, just like Koren Robinson does when he gets pulled over for drunk driving.

Willie Offord: "T-Buck". I think T-Buck's aforementioned positional flexibility is similar to Offord's, who was Minnesota's special teams captain as well as the starting strong safety before he was injured. Also, for no good reason, I think Willie Oford likes to "put it in the butt".

belated world series recap

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Everybody's already forgotten about the World Series by now, but I have some leftover material about it. Perhaps this will help assuage the pain caused by the end of Two Dolla Wednesday baseball in Oakland.

The right to choose

There was a great deal of fake controversy before Game 3 of the World Series. The games were moving back to Houston and Minute Maid Park (née Enron Field), the Astros' swanky new ballpark with a retractable roof. While the Astros feel they have an advantage playing with the roof shut, the commissioner's office chose to keep it open for Game 3, since the weather was nice. This decision did not go over well with Houston's players and fans.

Now, the Astros are one of the more notably Republican teams in the country. Former President Bush has tickets right behind home plate. Enron bought naming rights to the stadium, before its bankruptcy. The owner, Drayton McLane, is a Southern Baptist deacon, and the Astros are the only team to employ a full-time chaplain. And, like the Republican Party, the Astros do not have a single African-American on their team.

As a result, the rhetoric coming from Houston sounded like an NARAL rally. "How can the commissioner impose his beliefs on our team?" "The Astros should have the right to choose how they want the roof!" I expected to see signs in the stands proclaiming, "Keep Your Laws Off Our Ballpark!"

However, the roof was left open, and the game proceeded the way baseball was meant to be played: in the open air, in a ballpark named after a juice company, with a replica of a 19th-century locomotive running on a track behind left field, and a gigantic hill in center field with a flagpole stuck in the middle.

Back, and to the left

The most crucial play in the Series came in Game Two, when Paul Konerko hit a dramatic grand slam to put the White Sox ahead. Afterward, there were plenty of replays from the FOX broadcast team, but not of that home run. No, FOX chose to show replay after replay of the previous hitter, Jermaine Dye, and a missed call on a hit-by-pitch. They ran the tape forward and backwards, and even used CSI technology where they zoomed way in on one particular part of the replay to show that the pitch had likely hit Dye's bat, and not his arm. It felt less like watching a baseball game then like sitting in on the Warren Commission. Yes, the ump missed the call, but it was a 3-2 count - Dye could have easily ended up on first on the next pitch. The more significant play, the grand slam home run was mostly ignored.

Me and TiVo down by the schoolyard

Game Three was a marathon. I got home at 10:30, expecting to watch an accelerated, TiVo-ed version of the game with "Waffles" Keagy. Instead, the game was still on, and entering its 12th inning. Soon after that, Geoff Blum hit a home run, and the Sox went up three games to none. Being a dedicated baseball fan, I decided to watch our recording of the earlier innings, alone, since others can't really fathom the appeal of watching a sporting event when you already know the outcome, and it's five hours long.

I watched, trying to pay close attention, as the Astros jumped out to a lead and then blew it when their manager left in starter Roy Oswalt to throw a staggering 46 pitches in a single, five-run inning. I was doing my best to pick out the subtleties of the game, but what came through instead were glaring, obvious truths: when your pitcher gives up six hits, a walk, and hits a batter in one inning, maybe think about warming up a reliever. It was after this inning that I realized Chicago wouldn't be scoring the winning run for three more hours, and no amount of 30-second fast-forwarding was going to make it worthwhile. So I went to bed.

New Stats

One thing I really enjoyed about the FOX broadcast was their embrace of Little League World Series broadcast elements. Normally, a baseball telecast is full of graphics showing statistics of questionable value, like "Record in night games versus left-handed pitching", or "Batting average with the roof open in post-season games taking places in odd-numbered years." Even standard measures like batting average are basically worthless when they're based on a sample of two or three games. Thankfully, in Game Three, FOX didn't bother, Instead, when Jason Lane stepped to the plate in the fourth inning, the graphic below his name informed us of his favorite movie.

This is what baseball needs more of. I've seen close to a thousand Giants games during his career, and I can't say that I have any idea what Barry Bonds's favorite food is. That is, if steroids don't count as a food.

Spin Cycle

There were multiple signs in Minute Maid Park exhorting the Astros to "Wash the Sox". Oooh, spin cycle. Very threatening, Houston. I wonder what missed the cut there: "Put The Sox In The Dryer! You Know, So One Of Them Gets Lost! Man, Why Is That, Anyway?"

The Philadelphia Eagles have suspended upstart wide receiver Terrell Owens after he bad-mouthed the team, the organization, and Donovan McNabb in a recent interview, one day after getting into a fistfight with one of the team’s assistant coaches. Zembla reported on Owens‛s performance for the 49ers back in 2003, so this page is quite familiar with his fanciness, surliness, wussiness, and increasingly less-frequent awesomeness. He‛s obviously a great player, as he showed in the Super Bowl, and even more obviously an asshole.

Still, Zembla feels that T.O. has not quite reached his full potential. He‛s pretty hated right now, definitely Pro Bowl-caliber hatedness, but he has a unique opportunity to achieve Hall of Fame hatedness this year. Below is a hypothetical scenario, by which Mr. Owens might reach the pantheon of athletic hatedness occupied by such luminaries as John Rocker, Albert Belle, and Tommy Lasorda:

Week 9: A suspended Owens conducts interviews for reporters on the front lawn of his house in New Jersey. He exercises while fielding questions, but the journalists are disturbed when he exclusively does "girl push-ups".

Week 10: Despite Andy Reid‛s wife, five children and strong Mormon faith, Owens alleges that the Eagles coach is a homosexual. After the Eagles defeat the Giants at home, 27-13, Owens says, "I just think if a man was sexually attracted to women, and not men, he‛d call a few more deep passes." Fans are horrified, not because of T.O.‛s rampant homophobia, but because, for the briefest of moments, they had to imagine Andy Reid having sex.

Week 11: In a goodwill gesture, Owens invites quarterback Donovan McNabband the Eagles offensive linemen to have dinner at a fancy restaurant. This backfires when it comes time to pay. Though it‛s his treat, T.O. "alligator arms" the check, failing to pick up the crucial tab. Observers comment that it looks like Owens feared the harsh contact with his bank account. A disgusted McNabb puts it on his credit card.

Week 12: Terrell expresses his belief that the Saints should move away from New Orleans on a permanent basis. "Clearly, San Antonio has a much more promising metropolitan area, not to mention a larger television market," says Owens. "At some point, the NFL is going to have to put aside sentimentality and a misguided sense of loyalty to the Gulf region, and do what is best for both the franchise and the league as a whole. Also, I heard Deuce McAllister likes to wear women‛s underwear."

Week 13: Terrell modifies his usual pre-game outfit by adding a codpiece to his white, skin-tight Lycra bodysuit. He also demands that reporters begin to accent the second syllable of his first name instead and refer to Andy Reid as "the greatest Pro Bowl coach of all time."

Week 14: After a road victory over the Rams, Owens departs from his usual practice of ripping teammates and coaches, and begins to criticize historical figures. In his most controversial statement, Owens declares that,"if Brett Favre had been leading the Civil Rights Movement, we‛d have probably had a black president by now." Owens later insists that he had never criticized Martin Luther King, Jr. by name, and that his quote had been taken out of context. Then he calls Mother Theresa a "lying whore".

Week 15: When placekicker David Akers reinjures his hamstring during a crucial game against Arizona, T.O. comes in and misses two PATS. The Eagles eventually lose by a single point, 20-19. T.O. calls the injured hamstring a "stupid little fairy".

Week 16: The Eagles lose their final game and barely miss out on a playoff spot. After the game, Owens demands a contract extension and signing bonus. As his teammates dejectedly clean out their lockers, Owens demonstrates his entire repertoire of unused touchdown celebration dances, all of which are suspiciously similar to the Electric Slide. Hours later, T.O. is arrested while defecating into the Liberty Bell.

this guy i know

During the middle of the ninth inning of Sunday’s Game 2 of the World Series, I got a phone call from former roommate Mike B. "I was watching the game, and when This Guy I Know got that hit, I thought of your sister, Molly", he said.

I did too. "This Guy I Know" is professional hitter Jose Vizcaino, who had a pinch-hit, game-tying single in the top of the ninth for the Astros. He played shortstop for the Giants in 1997, the heyday of Molly's nicknaming era. Baseball history is full of nicknames based on a player's style of play, hometown, or personal appearance. There’s the "Sultan of Swat", Babe Ruth. Hank Aaron was "Hammerin' Hank". Mickey Mantle came from Commerce, Oklahoma, so he was the "Commerce Comet". Big-nosed Ernie Lombardi was "Schnozz".

Molly's nicknames followed no such logical patterns. Rather, she invented nicknames based on immediate word association. A name could remind her of a movie or a phrase, but usually she just seized on some other similar word. J.T. Snow was "Snowy River". Shawn Estes was "Estates". Often, the nicknames were literary or musical. Outfielder Stan Javier was "Javert". Charlie Hayes was "Purple Haze". Molly also demonstrated her mastery of the Spanish language by dubbing Wilson Delgado, "Skinny", and Pedro Feliz, "Happy Peter".

These are different from "Bermanisms”, the nicknames created by ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman. Berman's names were puns on athletes' names, generally trying to be funny pop culture references. My sister wasn't really trying to be funny, except maybe with "Whatchu Talkin' 'Bout" Ellis Burks.

Sometimes, Molly’s nicknames sounded very well thought-out and accurate, however unintentional. Brent Mayne was "Lion", and he did have a big, fluffy, mane-like hairstyle. One might think of Marvin "Barnyard" Benard's filthy batting helmet, or how his uniform often got dirty when he'd dive for a routine fly ball he had misjudged. I have a feeling Molly didn't consider those things. "Barnyard" was just the most similar noun to Benard she could think of.

My favorite nicknames were the really inexplicable ones. Barry Bonds was called "Baby Huckles", which was a combination of his two earlier nicknames, "Baby Bonds" (because he's a whiner) and "Huckle Barry" (because of, um, huckleberries). Molly called Robb Nen "Chicken", which she explained as such: "Nen-Hen. Hen-Chicken. Get it?" Even though his last name is pronounced the same as "Miller", Bill Mueller still got the Ben-Stein-in-economics-class treatment, known in our house as "Muuuueller? Muuuueller? Anyone?" And in 1998, when Jeff Kent's hair was dyed the exact same color that Jennifer Lopez promoted in a L'Oreal commercial, Molly decided he would forever be known as "Feria".

All of this is just background for Mr. Vizcaino. If you say it just right, "Viz-KAI-ee-no" does sound a lot like "This Guy I Know". In Game Three, Vizcaino drew a clutch pinch-walk in the 13th inning, and I tried to explain his nickname to my roommate.

"Wait, isn't Vizcaino on the White Sox?", she queried.

I hadn’t realized the implications of this, but the White Sox do have a pitcher named Luis Vizcaino. Since my sister is in Chile and presumably unable to watch these telecasts and give nicknames, I have taken it upon myself to dub the Chicago pitcher, "This Other Guy I Know". I think she'd approve.

The Wedding Guest

PRIEST: If anyone here knows why these two people should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.

(Silence. DOUG EDDINGS remains seated.)

PRIEST: I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.

(Bride and groom kiss. "Wedding March" plays. Bride and groom exit. Wedding guests pile into cars and drive to the wedding reception. DOUG EDDINGS sits alone in the church.)

DOUG EDDINGS: Wait! He doesn't love her!


DOUG EDDINGS: I'll take "Bad Umpiring" for $800, Alex.

ALEX TREBEK: The answer is: "In Game 5 of 1997's National League Championship Series, this home plate umpire's strike zone was nearly as large as his gut."

(DOUG EDDINGS buzzes in, clutching the buzzer and pumping his fist.)


DOUG EDDINGS: Alex, I didn't buzz in. That was my signal that I heard and understood the question. I've been signaling like that the whole game.

ALEX: Judges? (Three beeps)

The Garage

(DOUG EDDINGS is crouched behind his workbench, wearing safety goggles and a chest protector. The garage door opens and MRS. DOUG EDDINGS enters.)

MRS. DOUG EDDINGS: Honey, I'm home. (MRS. DOUG EDDINGS looks around at messy floor, strewn with chalk, dirt, and bags of resin.) I thought I asked you to sweep the garage this afternoon.

DOUG EDDINGS: I did sweep the garage.

MRS. DOUG EDDINGS: No, you didn't. Look at this mess. You never even touched the dirt.

DOUG EDDINGS: Yes I did touch the dirt! The mess has clearly changed direction!

MRS. DOUG EDDINGS: If you think that lame excuse is going to help you get to first base with me, think again, buster.


BILLY: Uno! You forgot to say it, Uncle Doug! Draw two!

DOUG EDDINGS: No! No! The rules clearly state that a player is allowed to non-verbally indicate he has only one card remaining! So, it's my turn, and I'm playing a Reverse, and I win!

BILLY: That's not fair! You're a cheater!

DOUG EDDINGS: Oh yeah, well, YOU'RE OUTTA HERE, Billy! (DOUG EDDINGS ejects Billy from the living room.)

Las Vegas Sports Book

DOUG EDDINGS: I'd like to wager $50,000 on the Chicago White Sox to win the World Series.

marco scutaro: discount hero

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Updating a previous item, Marco Scutaro yesterday produced the walk-off, game-winning single in Oakland's 5-4 victory over Cleveland. Amazingly, this is his fourth such hit on a Two Dolla Wednesday since joining the A's in 2004, which has to be a record. Zembla salutes Marco Scutaro, baseball's true low-price leader. Pour yourself a root beer float, Slugger, you've earned it.

Last Wednesday was the very first Two Dollar Wednesday of the 2005 season for the Oakland A's. I went out to Oakland on Tuesday night to buy tickets, but combination of baseball fever and painkiller bliss convinced me to attend that game as well. My motives were entirely unselfish, as I kept a running diary of the game, which is presented here intact, except for places where I added jokes or left out chunks of observations, to be used for longer pieces in the future. For the sake of amusement and self-mockery, I preserved all of my stunningly bad predictions and poor identifications.

Negotiating the ticket buy takes some time. Navigating my way through the West Side Club to get to my seat takes even longer. McAfee Coliseum née Network Associates Coliseum AKA "The Net Ass" made renovations to accommodate the Raiders' return a decade ago. Said remodeling has made the logistics of the upper deck a lot more complicated. Getting to some sections is fairly easy, but to get to the "premium" upper deck seats requires going up a long ramp, follwoed by a detour behind the concession area and up another set of ramps, and then using a levitating potion obtained by killing the spider boss at the end of the third castle. Getting to luxury boxes is even more difficult. It suffices to say that it requires three forms of ID and judicious use of the Feather of Feather Fall.

Bottom 2nd: On BART, I read a blurb in the Oakland Tribune about Oakland rookie Nick Swisher. It stated that Swisher, like many rookies, is only learning how to hit to the opposite field, now that he's in the major leagues. What this means is that many talented hitters are able to pull the ball (that is, hit the ball to right field, for a left-handed hitter like Swisher) against inferior minor league pitching. In the big leagues, the pitchers are better, and hitters must learn to try and drive the ball to the opposite field.

Swisher comes up with two men on and proceeds to make the Tribune's writer look like a genius, by hitting a double into the left-center gap, driving in both baserunners. I decide that Nick Swisher is a hitting genius.

Post-2nd Inning Break: The dad sititng two rows below me has convinced his young sons (probably ages 8 and 5) to take off their shirts, and whip them around their heads, chanting, "Let's Go Oakland!" There are vague promises of hot dogs in exchange for this act. As our section is nearly empty, much like the whole stadium, and it is beginning to get quite cold, this is almost too hilarious for words. They break out the chant sporadically for the next three innings.

Top of the 3rd: On consecutive plays, A's pitcher Rich Harden misses attempted behind-the-back stabs of ground balls. I attribute this awkward fielding to his inherent, inescapable Canadianess. As the A's are playing the lone remaining Canadian baseball franchise, I surmise that there is a lot riding on this game for Harden. He's pitching quite well: in three innings, he's only had to throw 22 pitches, evoking recently departed A's great Tim Hudson.

Blue Jays' speedster Alexis Rios manufactures a run, stealing second base after a walk, and then scoring on two groundouts to second base. Toronto cuts the lead to 2-1.

Mid-inning Break: Looking for a way to best wash down my penicillin/Vicodin cocktail, I purchase a Mountain Dew from an affable stadium vendor. He challenges my intial order, which doesn't specify the green variety, but he seems to accept the explanation that I am "old school". The vendor engages me in a discussion about the evolution of Mountain Dew Code Red, and the racially-segmented demographics of its popularity. At two different points in our conversation, he requests I give him a high five. I wonder about the length of our conversation, until I notice that I am the only person in line. There is no one at this game. Dude was lonely.

Bottom of the 3rd: A's center fielder Mark Kotsay singles. Kotsay is a very well-rounded player: he hits for average, has some power, runs well, and plays good defense. He was acquired before last season, in exchange for Ramon Hernandez, which was a good deal, but also a sign of the A's getting whiter. They're an overwhelmingly Caucasian team, which probably reflects their focus on drafting four-year college graduates more than it does some organizational prejudice. In contrast, the Giants started a Caucasian-free lineup at least once last season, which may have been the first time in baseball history that happened.

My notes say that the A's have gotten less white this off-season, as with the acquisition of #2 hitter Charles Thomas, but when I look at the actual data, I don't see it. They added Juan Cruz, but lost Arthur Rhodes. Charles Thomas joined the team, but they lost Billy McMillon. Oakland is still the whitest team in baseball. Thomas tries to sacrifice Kotsay to second base, but ends up drawing a walk instead. However, the A's fail to capitalize on the opportunity, and strand both runners. I predict that Nick Swisher will be hitting second in the lineup by July.

Mid-Inning Break: I said it last year, and I'll say it again: The Giants are not going to win the National League West this year if they keep blowing three-run ninth-inning leads to the Dodgers. Silver lining: at least the Giants' bullpen didn't give up seven runs this time.

Top of the 4th: I look closer at the A's pitcher and realize it is not Canadian Rich Harden, but American Dan Haren on the mound for the A's. I am an idiot. An idiot who is sitting in the third deck, and really ought to be checked for night blindness, but an idiot nonetheless.

Here is where I show my knowledge of baseball.

CF Vernon Wells comes to the plate. I write, "Wells: still a stud" (Wells hits a weak fly ball to center.)

3B Corey Koskie is next. I write, "Koskie hitting kleanup? Kount the Blue Jays out of playoff kontention." (Koskie singles, for Toronto's first hit.) Here, I also predict that Dan Haren will have a better pitching season than the man the A's traded for him, Mark Mulder.

Designated Hitter Shea Hillenbrand bats fifth. I write, "SH at DH? P.U." (Hillenbrand also singles.)

Next up is former third baseman Eric Hinske, who is playing first base tonight. I write, "The Blue Jays are starting three third basemen tonight (Koskie, Hillenbrand, Hinske). I wouldn't draft a single one of them in a 12-team fantasy league." (Hinske hits a three-run home run.)

I am a baseball expert. Toronto's rally coincided both with my dissing of their players, and with my realization that Dan Haren was not Rich Harden. Toronto leads, 4-2.

Mid-Inning break: A Dot Racing gambling tip: When the A's are facing an opponent with a color in their name, bet against that color in the evening's Dot Race. I am unable to convince the shirtless five-year old to wager, and the white dot wins.

Bottom of the 4th: The Oakland offense is baffled by the pitching of the usually-mediocre Josh Towers. Towers is unstoppable in Oakland and against the A's in general. I consider yelling, "You're going down, Towers", but decide that I probably already have a file with Homeland Security for Weekend at Cheney's.

Top of the 5th: Mark Ellis plays second base for the A's. Two years ago, I mocked his worthless hitting and penchant for Jay-Z, but tonight, I am thoroughly impressed with his defense. His absence last season probably cost the A's the division title, though Mark Mulder's 80 MPH fastball from August-October did its damnedest to throw away the playoff spot as well.

Ellis's counterpart, Toronto second baseman Orlando Hudson, comes up with runners on. Hudson is one of two Blue Jays with excellent adult film star names; the other being Alexis Rios, if he gringofied his name to "Alex Rivers". The A's have two, by my reckoning: the aformentioned Rich Harden (if he went with another nickname) and Huston Street. Orlando Hudson gets extra credit in this exercise, since he described how his general manager "looked like he was a pimp back in his day". The Smooth Pimp grounds out, 5-3, to end the inning.

Mid-Inning Break: A guy notices my frantic scribbling and asks if I'm a sportswriter. I tell him, no, but claim that Bruce Jenkins is my dad. My dad also hates the DH and rock music between innings, so it's not a terrible stretch.

Bottom of the 5th: I've been watching all game, and the Blue Jays' uniforms do not appear to have any blue in them. However, I also can't tell "Harden" from "Haren", so take that observation for what it's worth.

Top of the 6th: Nick Swisher makes an excellent running catch in the outfield, followed by an awkward step and a face-first fall onto the warning track. You can gauge how closely fans are paying attention by their reaction to the play. Fans who saw it all the way are mostly laughing, yet applauding appreciatively. Fans who picked up the play only just before he caught it are in hysterics. Fans who looked over way late are giving Swish a standing ovation for the "diving" catch. They show the replay on the Jumbotron, and everyone cracks up, especially the A's bullpen. Unless they're shivering with cold, not laughing. It's really cold. The boys in front of me are wearing shirts again, along with jackets and oversized beanies.

Mid-Inning Break: The PA guy's drinking problem appears to have returned for the 2005 season, as his narration of the Cap Dance lagged behind by a full five seconds. The dramatic moment of revelation, as the ball was revealed to be under the left field hat, lost some of its tension, as the announcer was stumbling through an incomprehensible reference to Win Ben Stein's Money.

Bottom of the 6th: Jason Kendall walks to the plate to the strains of the Ataris' cover of "The Boys of Summer". He strikes out. I blame the song.

I can't figure out why Kendall is batting third for the A's. Last year, Kendall played for the Pirates, a team that won only 72 games, and he didn't ever bat third for them.

Top of the 7th: Toronto catcher Greg Zaun comes to the plate, as a scoreboard graphic announces that he had a "Career High 91 Hits" last year. Sometimes I wonder if scoreboard operators are intentionally trying to shame the opposing players.

Mark Ellis makes another stellar defensive play, turning a difficult ground ball into a semmingly-easy double play. One of the only clever outfield signs I've ever seen in the Oakland outfield (and can't believe is allowed to stay) celebrates "ELLIS D". Haren finishes the inning, having thrown exactly 100 pitches, and given up just four hits. The A's are still down 4-2.

Seventh-Inning Stretch: I snap a photo for some fans. I make them say "Durazo" instead of "Cheese".

Also, "Tequila" is gone. "Tequila" used to always follow "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", along with a low-tech animated homage to Pee Wee Herman. Perhaps they couldn't find a corporate sponsor for a "Dance Cam" after the child pornography charges against Paul Reuebens.

Bottom of the Seventh: I consider trying to fire up the Oakland players and crowd with some anti-Canadian slurs, but thinking about my options is depressing. Do I mock socialized health care? Legalized weed? Enlightened attitudes toward sexual diversity? I settle for humming "Summer of '69", but I do it derisively.

Toronto keeps Towers in the game, but brings in two defensive replacements: Reed Johnson in left, and former Athletic Frank Menechino at third. Menechino is now the fourth third baseman to enter the game for Toronto.

Towers retires the first two hitters, but after Marco Scutaro singles, Towers leaves the game, also after exactly 100 pitches. The new pitcher, Brandon League, has an ERA of 12.00. There's hope for Oakland. Mark Kotsay singles to put the tying run on first base. Charles Thomas then hits what looks like a sure double to right, but defensive replacement Reed Johnson makes a fine leaping catch at the wall. I like to think that Toronto's manager and bench coach pounded fists seconds later.

Top of the 8th: While reliever Justin Duchscherer shuts down the Blue Jays, I peruse the handmade outfield signs. Aside from "Elis D", there's "Kielty's Krew", "Kotsay's Korner", and "SH Perfect 10", which references Scott Hatteberg's uniform number, but makes him sound like he's barely legal.

Bottom of the 8th: The A's have three consecutive left-handed hitters coming up, so Toronto goes with lefty Scott Schoeneweis, one of the rare tribe of major league Jewish players. One of the weaknesses of the Athletics is their lack of quality right-handed hitters, making them especially vulnerable to such lefty-killers as Schoeneweis. He walks Erubiel Durazo, but retires the other A's without incident. Still 4-2 Toronot, heading to the ninth.

Top of the 9th: Catcher Greg Zaun hits a home run with two out. I mutter, "That zuckz", and then write "The Wrath of Zaun" in my notebook. I have a funnier line the next night, when he throws a runner out trying to steal, and I shout, "Kneel before Zaun!" 5-2, Toronto.

Bottom of the Ninth: Mark Ellis leads off against non-fearsome closer Miguel Batists. He works a nine-pitch walk, and there's hope for Oakland. Swisher comes up and fails to go far enough the opposite way, driving a ball 390 feet, but to straightaway center. It's a long out. Keith Ginter strikes out looking, and Mark Kotsay grounds to first. Game over. The 250 remaining fans leave in disappointment.

Synopsis: Haren had a good game, aside from one really bad pitch. Every guy I dissed burned the A's, almost immediately. Tomorrow, I vow to fill the notebook with praise for the potential of Russ Adams and Reed Johnson.

belated super bowl review


The Super Bowl was two weeks ago, so what gives with the writeup coming out now? I was going to do my best to transcribe my notes quickly, to make this posting more timely, but Philadelphia Coach Andy Reid told me to take my time. "No need to rush," he said. "People are always rushing around willy-nilly in this crazy modern world. I say, relax. Type at your own pace. Stop and smell the flowers. Let your offense huddle after every play, even when you're down by ten points with three minutes left in the Super Bowl. Life, and the fourth quarter, are just too short."

Jamie Foxx the Beautiful

Before the game, there's a tribute to former Ray Charles. I was going to be snide and question how important the Super Bowl was for him, but it turns out he did the arrangement for the subsequent national anthem, and also grew up near Jacksonville. If they were going to use a local act, we could have ended up with Limp Bizkit, so it's relatively inoffensive when Alicia Keys sings "America the Beautiful" in Natalie Cole ghost-duet style. There are blind children singing along and deaf children signing along, and while it feels like a bizarre detour into Mr. Holland's Opus, it's ultimately nice.

Later, Will Smith introduces the Eagles, since he was born and raised in West Philadelphia, and I find myself comparing him to Jamie Foxx. Ten years ago, Will Smith was doing Six Degrees of Separation and Jamie Foxx was playing Wanda, the ugliest woman in the world, on In Living Color. Now Jamie Foxx has two Oscar nominations and a record contract, and Will Smith is introducing the Eagles and starring in Hitch. Of course, since I've made this observation, Hitch has made about $80 million, so maybe Will Smith is doing just fine. Still, Wanda? Tommy Davidson should be on the phone with his agent right now.

The Awesomest Generation

Before the anthem, there was a tribute to the Greatest Generation, because it's the 60th anniversary of...some event during World War II. Since WWII spanned five different years for Americans, we could theoretically have an anniversary tribute to WWII veterans every single year. The audience is cheering them for not dying since the end of the war, and that will only get more impressive with each passing year. By the time the last WWII vet dies, I'll have published my book, Generation Awesome, about my heroic post-9/11 peers.

The anthem went totally over the top, with a huge military chorus, an extra verse, an Air Force flyover, and a shout-out to the Empire with live satellite uplinks to Iraq and Afghanistan. I think one of the Greatest even mouthed, "You owe us, France" just before all the fireworks went off.

President Clinton Reinforces Stereotypes

Former presidents Clinton and Bush have become a tag-team tsunami awareness duo since the disaster, so they made a pregame appearance in the announcers' booth. Bush picked a 14-point Patriots victory. Clinton got a laugh by saying that he was indecisive, since "both cities voted for him". I thought, how clever of Clinton, playing on his waffler image. When pressed, he hemmed and hawed further, making it clear he really was a waffler, and still refused to predict a winner. He's not even running for anything! Make a decision! Pick the Eagles because Bush took New England! Anything! Dammit, Clinton!

Bush provided a funny moment when he got distracted and slightly terrified by a boom mike. Clinton was unfazed by the technology, which makes me think he'd be a fine instant replay official.

Replay Officials

There were two different calls in the first half reversed after replay review. Both involved fumbles occurring after a player's knee hit the ground, while the on-field official missed the call. After the second one, the referee looked really ashamed. "Fine! I'm watching the knee! Are you happy now?" Later, there was an incompletion overturned on review, and the ref was properly chagrined, although the receiver's knee was not a factor.

Inoffensive Announcers

The announcers weren't so bad. However, there are certain phrases used to the point of meaninglessness by nearly every sports announcing crew out there. A quick sampling:

If a player or the ball is unable to stop quickly, due to its forward motion, then and only then do I want to hear a reference to "momentum". The contest has no inherent "momentum" that can shift back and forth.

By virtue of playing in the Super Bowl, it can be assumed that all players on the field are professionals, earning salaries in exchange for their football play. It is unnecessary for the announcers to remind us that the New England linebackers are "doing a job", or "really working out there".

Though generally a peaceable man, Gene implied that continued overuse of the term "execution" was softening his stance on capital punishment for sports announcers.

Philadelphia and Dehydration

The Eagles had a lot of trouble staying hydrated. Donovan McNabb was sick to his stomach late in the game. A bunch of players headed to the locker room during the game, presumably to get rehydrated via IV. This shows a certain degree of inattention by the medical staff, or poor preparation by the players, but mostly, it's one of the first times since high school physical education classes that I've seen so many people opting out of sports due to cramps. It might have been less embarrassing had they simply said that Todd Pinkston's "friend was visiting."

The Steelworker

Philadelphia's starting tight end was injured in the NFC Championship Game. To replace him, the Eagles brought back a former tight end, Jeff Thomasen, now retired, who is currently employed in construction. He had to use all his vacation time for the year in order to practice for the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, meaning that, win or lose, he was going back to work the day after the Super Bowl. The Eagles were all surely disappointed to lose the game, but only one of them had to be back behind a desk ten hours after the game ended. If faced with the loss of his tight end, Bill Belichick would have been more ready, with punter Josh Miller taking snaps at tight end during training camp, and even catching a touchdown pass during the game. Actually, if Belichick ran Thomasen's construction firm, he would have had multiple janitors and receptionists ready to step in at Thomasen's desk for the whole pre-Super Bowl period.

Terrell Owens and the Ankle-Cam

Longtime Zembla favorite Terrell Owens had a stellar game, playing on a broken ankle that inhibited him from cutting to the left. As usual, TO rose to the occasion of a big game, racking up over 100 yards, including one long catch-and-run predicated by an impossible-looking leftward spin away from his defender. The TV crews provided some strange TO angles throughout the telecast, isolating a single camera on him and shooting from ground level. At first I thought that an admiring producer wanted to showcase Owens's magnificent leg muscles, but I reaize now that FOX chose that shot to ensure that, if Terrell Owens were to re-shatter the weakened ankle, America would have a closeup on the glorious inury.

The Halftime Show

Me: Wouldn't it be great if McCartney whipped it out at the end of this set? Not the whole thing, just one testicle.

Gene: Only if it had some elaborate piece of metal jewelry stuck through it.

Me: If that happened, would it make you think differently of his music?

Gene: Yes.

My Least Intelligible Note To Myself

"rambling Belichick-father-relationship-gay-sounding odd V. Lombardi segue. anapolis?"

Someone in the federal government leaked grand jury testimony from the BALCO trial to the San Francisco Chronicle, confirming as fact what was formerly just suspicion. Barry Bonds was using a steroid cream during the 2003 season (if not earlier), and now professional sports and society are headed straight to hell, at least the portion that wasn't already headed there after the Pacers-Pistons brawl. Broken-hearted children will have to look elsewhere for heroes, perhaps to the NFL, a league that's conquered the steroid menace.

I think that many of Barry's accomplishments are still pretty amazing, even though he was on the juice. It's just that they're now amazing in the way that somersault slam dunks off a trampoline are amazing. Or a guy fighting off six cops while on PCP. On one hand, sure, he's on PCP, but on the other, that's still six cops.

While history will forever downgrade Barry's offensive prowess of the past four years, no one can deny that he's the most effective steroid user of all time. Consider the other BALCO defendants. Garry Sheffield had excellent seasons in 2003 and 2004, but he suffered a series of nagging injuries and came nowhere near Bonds's performance. Jeremy Giambi has been in four organizations in two years, and spent all of last season in the minor leagues. Jason Giambi hit .200, got cancer, and was infected with debilitating parasites. Armando Rios and Bobby Estalella are out of professional baseball. Benito Santiago plays for the Kansas City Royals, which is basically the same thing. Bonds won an MVP award every year. Give the man credit - that is some serious steroid performance.

Now that he's been outed as a steroid cheat and a liar, baseball fans are going to hate Barry. Everyone pretty much did already, especially reporters, but now it's open season. Even I kind of hate Barry now, and I love Barry. Barry is the best player on my favorite team, so I'm biased in his favor, but I'm also a guy who called Mark McGwire "Captain Andro" for the last three years of his career. He's going to be booed in every stadium in the league next year, even the few he wasn't booed in last year. There's no chance he'll win over the public, so he might as well play up his unpopularity like a wrestling villain. Here are some ways Barry could piss off the fans even more:

Grow a full beard, like an evil alternate dimension Star Trek crew member.

New walkup music: Motley Crϋe's "Dr. Feelgood" or the Imperial March from Star Wars.

Expand the elbow guard so that it covers all but 15% of his arm.

Go beyond standing in the batter's box to admire home runs. Carry a small digital camera and take a picture of the ball in flight before slowly circling the bases.

Push for the return of Sonny Jackson as third base coach.

Admit to providing a five year old Darren Baker with "the clear" and "the cream".

Move the recliner into the dugout and sit in it between innings.

Change back to his old uniform number, Willie Mays's retired #24. Ask, "When was it the team retired Willie's number? After he won his seventh MVP award, or after he hit his 700th home run? Help me out, I can't remember."

Make a large and public show of support for beleaguered team mascot Lou Seal.

Wear the same dirty helmet all season. In June, stop changing socks. After the All-Star Break, don't wash uniform pants or jock strap.

Punch first baseman J.T. Snow in the face, for no good reason at all.

In a live interview, tell Mike Krukow that he doesn't know a goddamn thing about a kangaroo court, and he never will. Then add, "Put the microphone down, meat."

Marry Mia Hamm.

Put together a new promotional "Say Hey" campaign for the upcoming season. "I didn't commit perjur-ay! Say hey!"

Begin referring to own bowel movements as "splash hits".

After every intentional walk, behead a live chicken and hang it on the right field wall.

Release documents revealing that, in addition to putting Jason Giambi in contact with Greg Anderson, Barry masterminded Giambi's wussy deodorant ad campaign.

Win the World Series.

Game 2: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics, September 15, 2004

If you're heckling relievers, take care
Duck your head if they reach for a chair
Even though Doug Brocail
Is as fat as a whale
It's A's pitching that'll make you despair

The Rangers and A's have only occasionally had a rivalry through the years. Mainly, that's because the Rangers have been terrible. They were a competitive team from 1996-99, and that's been about it for their 32 years in Texas. Since the Rangers' only decent stretch in their history (three division titles, one playoff win) coincided with a rebuilding phase for Oakland, there's been little actual competition between the two teams. Even though I have a passionate hatred for the Dallas Cowboys, and a knee-jerk dislike of all things Texan, I find it hard to work up much anger toward the Rangers.

Two nights before our Two Dollar Wednesday excursion, all of that changed. Just after the Rangers tied the game in the top of the ninth, a heckling exchange between the Rangers bullpen and some nearby fans turned violent. Players rushed the stands and reliever Frank Francisco hurled a metal chair into the stands, breaking a woman's nose. The game was delayed for twenty minutes or so, one of the Rangers had an asthma attack, and the A's eventually won the game in extra innings.

Public reaction was swift. After a verbal confrontation caused a gang of physically imposing millionaire athletes to attack paying customers with blunt objects, sportswriters all across the country rose as one to condemn . . . heckling. Oakland and its fans were condemned for drunkenness, for racism, and, bizarrely, for a lack of security, even though no fans left their seats and nothing save insults was tossed at the players. Security guards generally don't even face the field, which was where the violence was coming from.

Look, the Oakland Coliseum is basically a shithole. It's a converted football stadium. The old views of the Oakland hills are now blocked by massive slabs of concrete. The grass is poorly maintained on the rare occasions that it hasn't been torn up from football games. The A's don't hire much in the way of service personnel, they don't refill paper towel dispensers in the bathroom, it takes at least ten minutes just to get condiments, and the public address announcer often sounds clearly intoxicated. The team won't spend money on players and it won't spend money on the stadium, yet the fans that do show up are routinely demonized for their lack of support and behavior. Going to the Coliseum is punishment enough without having furniture hurled at you by obese relief pitchers.

Reports have it that the infuriating heckles involved:

a) pitcher Doug Brocail's weight, and
b) a fan's query, "Which of you guys is gonna blow it tonight?"

While not kind remarks, I must mention:

a) Doug Brocail is a mediocre pitcher who weighs at least 240 pounds
b) Reliever Francisco Cordero, a target of the heckles, did in fact give up two runs in the bottom of the tenth inning to blow the game

So the Rangers were close to the A's in the standings, and their players had attacked the Oakland fans. The stage was set for a blood feud on Wednesday night. There was extra security personnel all over the park, most bizarrely in our section, the third deck above the right field line. Theoretically, a fan with incredible aim could hit the Ranger bullpen from that distance, but if such a fan could, they'd probably be playing for the Rangers already. Nevertheless, our section was guarded for nine innings by two uniformed Oakland cops, both of whom spent most of their time drinking soda and eating free ballpark food.

Our party was excited for the game, but the A's didn't quite show the same kind of enthusiasm. After Ranger starter Ryan Drese walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, the A's failed to score. They took a 2-1 lead in the third, but then the Rangers began pounding the ball. Doubles, home runs, and line drive singles abounded. It was as if the baseballs themselves had been heckling the Rangers. Perhaps a chant of "hey batter batter saaa-wing batter!" had backfired horribly. Perhaps the ball had suggested that Ryan Drese was a belly-itcher, not a pitcher, and his teammates were defending his honor. As it turned out, the A's may have been better off if starter Mark Mulder had spent the evening belly-itching.

There's a certain detachment that sets in when you're sitting far from the playing field and the home team is getting pounded. Enormous home runs like the ones Mr. Mulder surrendered are quite impressive from such great heights, though the poets are wrong if they think his curveball looked perfect from far away. After a while, your attention starts to wander. You make bets on dot racing, on the cap dance, even the animated BART train race (net gambling: -$1 on the evening - goddamn blue dot holds a lead worse than Francisco Cordero). And, you begin to notice things, such as the announcer's apparent drinking problem.

Mike was the first to notice this at the previous Wednesday game. During dot racing, he decided to choose an "Olympics" theme, assigning each of the colored dots the name of an athlete. I think the white dot was Michael Phelps, the red dot was Carly Patterson, and the blue dot was Tyler Hamilton. However, during the race play-by-play, the announcer confused the names from the very start. He started calling one of the dots "Natalie Coughlin", then switched to "Tim Gatlin" who I believe is not a real athlete. By the end, he was lagging behind the race results, and announced the winner as something that sounded like "Agslalian", who he explained was "the Argentinian horse that threw its rider."

This time, his speech seemed slurred, though it could have just been the Coliseum speakers. Not that I blame the guy; if I had to announce a race between animated dots 81 times a year, I'd probably be sniffing glue or shooting up in the booth. Most of the fans are too busy making up insulting rhymes about Erasmo Ramirez's name to notice anyway.

By the time the ninth inning came around, the A's were down 10-2. They'd given up two runs in the top of the inning, on another enormous home run and a walk/wild pitch. To win the game, the A's would need a miracle. Resorting to tired superstitions like rally caps or cheering was not going to inspire a comeback. We needed something dramatic, something punishing. Rally Mustard.

The concept of Rally Mustard was not a sophisticated or well-thought-out custom. It only came about because Christine was smart enough to bring in her own condiments to thwart the lines. Before Bobby Crosby was to bat, I explained the concept. Before each at-bat, you squirt a bunch of French's yellow mustard directly into your mouth. That creates good luck, as well as a tiny hole in your esophagus, and the A's ride the positive energy to victory. Sure enough, Bobby Crosby reached on an infield single. Next, our imminent heartburn inspired Mark Kotsay to draw a five-pitch walk. The potential tying run was a mere six batters away! Even Dustin, lifelong adversary of mustard, took a Rally squirt. Marco Scutaro grounded into what looked to be a double play, but the second baseman, possibly distracted by our foul breath, threw the ball away. A few more foul mouthfuls of mustard later, Eric Chavez drew a walk.

The eighty remaining fans began to stir. The Rangers changed pitchers. Giddy from mustardseed, I announced that if the A's got within four runs, we'd switch to dijon. Disastrously, after the Rangers changed pitchers, we changed tactics. If mustard was lucky, wouldn't a combined ketchup-and-mustard squirt be extra-lucky? The answer was no. The lazy sweetness of the ketchup neutralized the Rally spice of the mustard. Four pitches later, the game was over and the A's had lost.

On the BART ride home, we considered the lessons of Rally Mustard. Maybe we could tailor the Rally condiments for each hitter - Rally Salsa for Erubiel Durazo, Rally Mayonnaise for Scott Hatteberg, Rally Barbecue sauce for Jermaine Dye. Maybe the thwarted rally was our punishment for ignoring Dirty Harry's anti-ketchup wisdom. Maybe if we were sitting near the rangers bullpen, Doug Brocail would have snatched all our condiments and eaten them while he warmed up. And maybe Dustin had sacrificed his taste buds for the no damn reason, just because of alcohol and peer pressure. And when you think about it, isn't that the greatest Two Dollar Wednesday lesson of all?

four dollars worth of wednesday, part 1

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Game 1: Baltimore Orioles at Oakland Athletics, August 25, 2004

There were a lot fewer Two Dollar Wednesday night games than usual this season for the Oakland A's. It's hard to tell if this is random scheduling, or a calculated effort by the tightwad Oakland ownership to squeeze more cash out of their fan base. As a discount baseball veteran, it is clear that there are trends in place.

First, ownership doubled the ticket price a few years ago, though stale hot dogs remained available for a buck. Next, the discount seating area was restricted. Bargain-minded fans used to be able to buy tickets for either of the upper deck sections at the reduced rate, but two years ago, the promotion was restricted to the third deck only. This resulted in some bizarre-looking crowds, with ten thousand people crowding the third deck, ten thousand others scattered around the lower reserved section, and a virtually empty second deck. This year, the discounts were suspended for games involving the popular Red Sox and Yankees, and most summer Wednesday contests became day games.

None of these decisions is indefensible, but the practical result was that Two Dollar Wednesday, as an Event, diminished in stature. I'm too old to cut work for baseball games, or, at least American League baseball games. (Since I work four blocks from SBC née Pac Bell Park, afternoon "appointments" with Dr. Bonds are a different story.) It's hard to keep the momentum going for discount evening baseball, even after a thoroughly enjoyable A's-Angels tilt, when the next such game doesn't happen for two full months.

Also, the mass e-mail never went out. We had about twenty-five for the June game, but I arrived at the game to discover that our party consisted of just two, me and Mike. It wasn't the first time we've attended a freezing-ass night game in a semi-deserted stadium together, and Bonds willing, it won't be the last. You develop a certain chemistry and rapport with another person after such a long time, like a second baseman knowing just where to toss the ball to his double-play partner, or a lover with a perfectly-timed reacharound. Mike and I knew what to do in this situation, and accordingly, we were well on our way to getting plowed before the A's even had a baserunner.

After a while, we blearily realized that the Oriole pitcher, Bruce Chen, was throwing a no-hitter. For his age (27), Chen has played for an astounding number of baseball teams, including 80% of the National League East in one memorable 22-month stretch. He always seemed to have potential as a young player, if you could overlook the huge amounts of home runs he gave up. Still, since he throws with his left hand, nine different teams have been willing to take a chance on him in the last four years. And tonight, the not-so-young Panamanian was making it happen. The fly balls he gave up stayed in the park, and the A's were hitless through five innings.

It was about then that our friend Stephanie arrived. We welcomed her, attempted to jinx Chen by yelling at him about his no-hit bid, and watched Eric Chavez reward our heckling with a two-out single in the sixth. With Canadian pitcher Rich Harden throwing well for the A's, it remained scoreless.

Just before the sixth, Stephanie revealed that, contrary to her bold demeanor and casual talk about the designated hitter, she was an American League baseball virgin. Sure, she'd been with a few Dodger games before, but those were National League games. Besides, she probably showed up in the fourth inning and left by the seventh - her ballpark cherry was probably still intact. I can't speak for Mike, but I felt very special that Stephanie had chosen us for this special, special occasion. Accordingly, I took it slow and was extremely gentle when explaining the infield fly rule and the platoon advantage. She rejected my offer of cuddling during the seventh-inning stretch, however.

Inning after monotonous riveting inning, the teams traded scoreless frames. Chen vs. Harden! Panama vs. Canada! The Canal vs. the St. Lawrence River! Operation Just Cause vs. Some Future Military Operation To Let Halliburton Steal Maple Syrup! The unfortunately-named B.J. Ryan relieved Chen in the eighth inning, but the game remained knotted into the ninth.

It's a strange thing about baseball that low scores are considered the mark of a "classic" game, while in any other sport, low scores tend to define a "boring" game. It's this puritanical ethic that baseball fans have to celebrate the least impressive, slowest moments of their sport. Glowing columns are written about the glories of the sacrifice bunt and the productive out, while middle-aged sportswriters openly pine for the higher pitcher's mounds and 1-0 games of the 1960's. Great pitching can be thrilling, but when Bruce Chen is on the mound, what you're seeing is poor hitting. I'm all for tension and excitement in a game, but also I think you can achieve that and still have runners make it all the way to third base.

Admittedly, two-thirds of us were also drunk. Still, it was hard to miss the irony when Stephanie asked why the American League had adopted the designated hitter rule. "To increase offense," Mike said, as Baltimore DH David Newhan grounded weakly to second base. Closer Octavio Dotel replaced Harden, so now it was Ryan vs. Dotel! Louisiana vs. Dominican Republic! Crawfish and bribery scandals vs. . . . OK, forget it. The Orioles went quietly, and we began calculating when in the extra innings we would start feeling hung over.

But someone forgot to tell Marco Scutaro it was a pitcher's duel. Fresh off his powerful single to shortstop in his last at-bat, Scutaro strode to the plate with two on, two out in the bottom of the ninth. On a 2-1 count, Ryan left a pitch over the plate, and you cannot make those kind of mistakes to Marco Scutaro! He slammed it over the left field fence, coincidentally the shallowest part of the ballpark, and the A's were 3-0 winners. Scutaro was mobbed, we high-fived, and Stephanie burst into tears for no reason.

Walking out of the park, I realized that I would probably tell my children about this game, maybe even at Twenty-Four-Dollar Wednesday. I'll play up the drama and complain about how robot umpires ruin the sanctity of the sport. With any luck, Bruce Chen will still be playing professionally. I mean, he's left-handed, so why not?

reds at giants, 8/5/04: brilliant



Thursday was an occasion for playing hooky from work, as our entire office moved down Third Street to take in the afternoon showdown between the Giants and the Cincinnati Reds. The weather was lovely, the company was excellent, but the baseball was less than stellar. A difficult season for the Giants and their bullpen full of belly-itchers reached a new low, as the Reds turned a close contest into an embarrassing rout by scoring ten runs in the eighth inning. During this endless, soul-crushing parade of offensive might (the Reds) and unbridled suck (the Giants), a young British visitor displayed an impressive understanding of our national pastime, and I put the finishing touches on a very silly-looking sunburn.

I blame the sun for many of our woes. Expecting the usual overcast and chilly San Francisco summer weather, our party was unprepared for the clear, sunny day that resulted. Our food consumption was slow and weary, our peanut fights half-hearted, our heckling quiet and uninspired. I think I may have even referred to Reds' pitcher Aaron Harang as "nothing but a lousy diatribe". Even my sunscreen application was lacking. I thought I'd learned my lesson from last month, when I burned my upper arms after rolling up my sleeves during a convertible ride. The result was a painful reverse farmer tan. This time I was more vigilant with the SPF, but neglected the narrow strip of forehead between my hat brim and eyebrows. Luckily, it only hurts when something really surprises or worries me.

Still, Kirk Rueter was on the mound, so the game went quickly. Rueter works faster than any other pitcher in the league, since he doesn't issue a lot of walks or home runs, and takes roughly 2.4 seconds between pitches. The Giants weren't hitting either, so we reached the eighth inning with the Reds ahead 2-1, and the time of game at a brisk 90 minutes or so. Even with Barry Bonds resting on the bench, we had faith that the team could come back. And so did the British kid sitting behind me.

Brief digression: The Giants are pretty sucky this year, outside of Jason Schmidt and Barry Bonds. They do not play especially good defense, they don't have any star hitters besides Bonds, and their relief pitchers have been nightmarishly bad all season. Bonds and Schmidt are so good that their presence alone makes the team a contender, but the dropoff after them is quite steep. Still? Way better than the Reds. /Digression

The British kid behind me provided a great deal of entertainment with his enthusiasm, accent, and total lack of familiarity with the game of baseball. Throughout the afternoon, he repeatedly asked his American friend to explain the confusing parts of the game. During the endless eighth inning, I began listening to the British kid more than I did my co-workers. He proved to be remarkably (if unintentionally) insightful about the Giants and their major weaknesses.

1. Inconsistent defense

After catcher A.J. Pierzynski missed an easy foul pop, the British kid and his American friend had this exchange:

British Kid: Now, the chap with the mask - he's the receiver?
American Friend: He's the catcher.
BK: Catcher. Brilliant. So, the catcher - is he permitted to touch the ball when it's in the air like that?

2. Crappy, crappy relief pitchers

This took place after the unfortunately-named Merkin Valdez had walked his second consecutive batter with the bases loaded, making the score 7-1.

BK: It does rather seem like a lot of points.
AF: Actually, it's runs.
BK: (Thoughtful pause) Should they use a different pitcher, then? Have they got anyone else?

3. No quality hitters, besides Barry Bonds

This occurred in the bottom of the ninth, with the Giants trailing 12-3. American Friend was explaining how, in general, a team batted its best hitter fourth, in the "cleanup" spot.

BK: Got it, thanks.
(Giants "cleanup" hitter Pedro Feliz grounds weakly to the pitcher)
BK: (Another thoughtful pause) So that's their best batter, then?

The Giants should hire that kid as an adviser. He'd probably work for fish and chips and the occasional takeaway curry. He was the highlight of the afternoon, along with the fine companionship, and Ken Griffey's bases-loaded strikeout, during which he probably pulled one of his hamstrings again. Ken, if you want that presidential fitness medal, you gotta focus a little more on the sit-and-reach. It was a far cry from Oakland's earlier 17-8 thumping of Cincinnati this year on a Two Dolla Wednesday (eight cents per run!), but I'm still always glad to be taken out to the ballgame, even when it's a shame.

belated nfl review, week 5

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Introductory paragraphs? We don't need no stinking introductory paragraphs!

49er Game: San Francisco 24, Detroit 17:

The 49ers snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating the lowly Detroit Lions. Previously, Zembla had stated that San Francisco's season would be over with a defeat at the paws of Detroit. Thankfully for the squad's smoldering ember of playoff hope, the team maintained their slim lead for the entire fourth quarter, holding off a half-hearted Detroit comeback with some extremely mediocre second-half play. The fans booed, the team made some defensive stops, and I fell asleep in the third quarter.

This is not an exciting football team. Jeff Garcia can't loft the ball more than 15 yards in the air. His patented leap-in-the-air-and-throw-the-football-straight-at-the-ground move has become increasingly more frequent, and increasingly more desperate. The offensive line allows him to get hit a lot. The result is that the Niners are limited to runs and short passes only, leading to a rather boring, limited offense. All the same, with all of their home divisional games remaining, plus a game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the team is poised to finish 9-7, sneak into the playoffs, and get blown out by the Eagles or Buccaneers in the first round.

Terrell Owens Surliness Update:

At a pregame breakfast, Owens and Garcia reportedly "settled their differences", which is a relief, considering that both men will be receiving millions of dollars this season for their football play. But, thanks to this wonderful, big-hearted effort, fans can rest assured that a schoolyard conflict will not undermine the footballing season.

Terrell Owens Fanciness Update:

1) After his first-quarter touchdown catch, Mr. Owens did an intricately-choreographed celebratory dance. He seemed upset when teammates high-fived him, distracting him from his dance.

2) During a timeout in the second quarter, TV cameras caught Mr. Owens lying supine on the turf, chortling as a trainer lovingly stretched his thigh muscles.

3) Mr. Owens wore a diamond earring approximately the size of a watch band for the entire football contest.

Terrell Owens Wussiness Update:

Lions defensive back Dre Bly made in interception in the second quarter because Mr. Owens both failed to complete his pass pattern nor make any attempt to break up the pass.

Strength of Schedule:

The 49ers have notched their only two wins this season against the two worst teams in the NFL this season, Detroit and Chicago. Unimpressive? Yes. But, they can take some consolation. Unlike their cross-bay rivals, they did not lose to the league's worst team, the Chicago Bears.

It must have been quite a Monday morning at the police stations of Oakland. Hungover, still-beligerent fans waking up in the drunk tank with no memory of the alcohol-fueled acts of rage that landed them in the slammer, recalling only similarly-drunken Raiders placekicker Sebastian Janikowski's crucial missed extra point in the Chicago game. Perhaps one drunken fan will make eye contact with the also-hungover desk sergeant, lips silently mouthing "Kordell Stewart?" over and over. The fans will eventually get bailed out by their girlfriends, call in sick at the refinery, and sleep deep into the afternoon, waking up just in time to attend the A's-Red Sox game and throw batteries at Johnny Damon's ambulance.

Dante Hall's Inferno of Touchdown Goodness:

Do not kick to this man! He has four kick returns for touchdowns in five games. If your team scores a touchdown, consider an onside kick. On fourth down, you might as well go for it. Turning the ball over is still preferable to giving up a touchdown going the other way. Punting out of bounds versus Kansas City will soon join the pantheon of chicken-out sporting decisions, along with the Barry Bonds intentional walk, the Shaquille O'Neal off-the-ball foul, and any heavyweight champion fighting a Caucasian. If Dante Hall takes one back this week, Dick Vermeil is going to be sobbing.

Cooking with Dick Vermeil:

I think this would be a good show. Coach Vermeil coaxes great flavor out of underappreciated ingredients, ingredients that often become disappointments in other chef's recipes. Also, every recipe involves chopping onions, so he's basically in tears the whole time.

NFL Coaching Reunion Tour 2003:

Thomas Wolfe wrote, "You can't go home again," which proved to be a prescient sentiment as three formerly-great coaches returned for road games against their old teams. Of course, even Wolfe couldn't have anticipated that Tampa Bay would blow a 21-point lead in just under five minutes.

Steve Mariucci reminded me of my sister's ex-boyfriend, that everyone in the family loved. Of course, he's heavier than he used to be, and she's moved on and is dating a tattooed drywall specialist, and Mom has stopped hoping they'll get back together. Even so, you can't help but root for him and wish him well at junior college. Still, you feel sorry for him, grimacing involuntarily as he talks about souping up another classic car, or paces the sidelines in a too-tight light blue team shirt.

Mike Holmgren took his undefeated Seahawks team to Green Bay on Sunday, and Brett Favre took their lunch money and their sneakers. Coach Holmgren left Green Bay for Seattle after two consecutive Super Bowl appearances, desperate to prove his genius away from Favre, his Hall of Fame quarterback, and Ron Wolf, the meddling General Manager. He even took Favre's old backup, Matt Hasselbeck, with him, and traded running back Ahman Green (now a star with Green Bay).

It's as if George Martin had left the Beatles and formed a new band, taking with him Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe. And then, every few years, the new band had to compete against the Beatles in a Battle of the Bands, with predictable results. This year, Holmgren and the boys had been rehearsing a lot, made a great new single, and were totally poised to win the Battle. But then Best broke his sticks, and Sutcliffe got distracted by a German photographer, and Hasselbeck threw a crucial third-quarter interception, and the band lost 35-13.

Finally, Tony Dungy took his new team, the Indianapolis Colts, to face his old team, Tampa Bay. Countless other sources can describe their unreal comeback from 28 points down, capped by a partially-blocked game-winning field goal in overtime that ricoheted off the right upright and still went in. Here's what stood out to me about the contest:

1) Monday Night Football miked outspoken Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson (look out, Terrell!), which captured an unbroken stream of high-pitched whining, capped by NFL's Most Expressive Coach Jon Gruden lecturing him, "Keyshawn, Keyshawn, you gotta take some criticism, Keyshawn."

2) Batshit crazy color commentator John Madden referred to one Colts block as a "triple dipper chipper".

3) Expressive Coach Gruden is known for his dedication to his job. Supposedly, he wakes up every day, without fail, at 3:30 AM. By the end of this epic Monday Night battle, Gruden may have been 20+ hours into his day. I haven't heard this mentioned anywhere else, so let me suggest that it may have been Gruden's sleepiness, or even just mild crankiness, that ultimately cost Tampa Bay the victory. Since there seems to be a camera trained on Gruden at all times, waiting for some grotesque facial expression or filthy explosion of profanity, one could easily review the game tapes and see if there was any eye-rubbing or yawning. What do you say, Science?

slide, jeremy, slide! revisited


Game 3 of the Oakland-Boston Division Series was eerily reminiscent of the 2001 Series against the Yankees. In both games, glaring baserunning errors cost Oakland a chance to score early, in a close, low-scoring game ultimately decided by a home run. In 2001, the A's lost in nine innings; in 2003, it wasn't until the 11th that the A's went down. Even with to the egregiousness of the mistakes, it is my contention that the errors of this Game Three will not be remembered as severely as that of 2001's. In that game, with the A's holding a 2-0 series lead, and returning home to Oakland, Terence Long hit a double with a man on first. Shane Spencer made an errant throw home, but Derek Jeter cut off the throw, scooped to the catcher, and when runner Jeremy Giambi failed to slide, he was out at the plate. The A's went on to lose Game Three 1-0, as well as Games Four and Five, with Giambi's non-slide being blamed for the defeat.

It has become one of those legendary post-season gaffes that take on much greater stature in memory than their actual game significance. Bill Buckner's notorious error in Game Six of the 1986 World Series came after the game was already tied, and on a play where the speedy Mookie Wilson may well have reached even had he fielded the ball cleanly. A wild pitch tied the game before Wilson hit the grounder. If Buckner had come up with the ball, at best the Red Sox would have gone to extra innings tied at five-all, on the road. Even so, the Red Sox had a chance to win Game Seven the next night. Bill Buckner is no more responsible than Bob Stanley for blowing the game, and much less so than Calvin Schiraldi, yet he's the eternal goat because his gaffe was so memorable.

What people don't remember about Game Three of the 2001 Series is that, at the time, the score was Yankees 1, A's 0. Giambi's run would only have tied the game, not won it. But, the combination of brilliant defense (Jeter) and glaring fundamental error (Giambi) is what makes the Giambi play stand out. No one talks about the bizarre decision to begin hitting Miguel Tejada second in the postseason. No one mentions the errors by Jason Giambi or Eric Chavez in Game Five, each costing the A's one run in a game they lost by two. The most memorable play will always be seen as the most important play, regardless of the true significance.

Jeremy Giambi may rest a little easier, because in Game Three of this year's American League Division Series, two different A's in one inning made baserunning lapses that dwarf Giambi's failure to slide (on a play where he was out by inches, if that). In the sixth inning, Eric Byrnes collided with Boston catcher Jason Varitek on a play at the plate, while the throw went past Varitek to the backstop. Byrnes never touched home, not on his initial crashing of the plate, and not afterward, as the ball bounced around behind home and he busied himself with grabbing his knee and shoving Varitek. The runners all moved up two bases, but Byrnes was tagged out where he stood, inches away from home.

Two batters later, Ramon Hernandez grounded a ball under the glove of shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. Miguel Tejada, running from second, bumped into third baseman Bill Mueller as he rounded third. The umpire raised his hand and called obstruction, at which point Tejada simply stopped running. He stood there, arguing and pointing at Mueller, until he too was tagged out, within spitting distance of home. Later, the umpires said that they were prepared to award Tejada home plate on any reasonably close play, but when he made no attempt at all to score, they had no choice but to call him out. The two plays cost the A's at least two runs, possibly more - two putouts at home have a way of killing a rally. This wasn't Jeremy Giambi making a bad judgment call on a close play. This was two players in one inning choosing to fight and argue rather than simply touch home plate. Giambi is an oaf and Giambi should have slid, but at least he tried to touch home.

Will this nightmarish sixth inning of baserunning go into the annals of postseason embarrassments, along with Tony Fernandez's misplayed grounder in 1997, Lonnie Smith's baserunning in 1991, and Fred Snodgrass' muffed fly in 1912? There are a few reasons why I don't think it will. First of all, there were two guys who screwed up. Multiple goats means that the blame is diffused by its distribution over two people. There's also a decent chance that Tejada or Byrnes will make a great play later in the series, earning them a pass from later criticism. Second, these mistakes were complicated and difficult to understand upon fisrt viewing. There's no single moment that can be shown in a blooper reel. It's easy to say that the A's would have gone all the way in 2001 "if only Jeremy had slid." It's a lot harder to say, "The A's would have won it all in 2003, if only Byrnes hadn't thrown a temper tantrum, and Tejada had had a clearer understanding of the subtleties of Major League Baseball's obstruction rule." Thirdly, the Red Sox still aren't going to win this series, so the point will be moot. And Jeremy Giambi, out for the year but still part of the Red Sox team, will retain his legendary goat status.

A Poetic Look at the First Two Games of the National League Division Series Between the San Francisco Giants and the Florida Marlins

By Sean Keane and William Blake

Accompanying woodcuts forthcoming.

Game of Innocence (Giants 2, Marlins 0)

The Tournament of Revenge

Each year brings a new rival, but memories are long
Fans think of past teams with hearts quite sober
For nothing makes a rivalry, no hatred e'er so strong
As being beaten by a rival in October

But with last year came payback, for some old playoff scars
The Braves were scalped, revenge for '93
Next, for '87, they beat LaRussa and the Cards
And Candy Maldonado yelped with glee

The next teams on the vengeance list, for you payback proponents
(Since the Mets and Angels sucked so hard, you know)
The Marlins and the Cubs, two potential opponents
Spelled Giants doom six and five years ago

If SF runs the table, and returns to the Series
They'll get to take one last bit of revenge
Bay Bridge Series, Nineteen Sixty-Two, and, less seri'us
Nineteens Twelve and Twenty-Four, to avenge

The Favored Child

My father got tickets from his co-worker Stan
And, lo, we ditched work for the game
We met at the gates just according to plan
As Renel announced Jason Schmidt's name

Dad printed a scorecard as in days of yore
We ate sandwiches out in the sun
Delight in our eyes as Florida failed to score
A kind father, and his favored son

The Portly Right-Hander

Each pitch proving the Pirates wrong
Trading him for Ryan Vogelsong
An unhittable fastball on ev'ry pitch
And to the umpire each man would bitch
Just strikes, no balls, and but three hits
Flor'da no rallies, merely fits
Last fourteen hitters all made out
Vict'ry's what this Schmidt's all about

The Gold Glove Right Fielder

Jose Cruz, defensive star
In right field ranges near and far
Countless pitches lifted into the breeze
Become seven putouts, made with ease

The #5 Hitter

Be wary of the IBB to Bonds
Your fear can lead to trouble
For when Barry's the man on first
He'll score on any double


The fans all dislike it when pitchers walk Barry
There are signs, catcalls, even a chicken dancer
The sign reading "No Balls" is not quite as merry
Flor'da's Mike Lowell had testicular cancer

Game of Experience (Florida 9, San Francisco 5)

The Tournament of Nightmares

Lo, the Florida Marlins
One hates them with such zeal
How could a title e'er been won
By a baseball team in teal?

I'd thought ahead to Sheffield
And the looming bat of Sammy
But now the road to the NL title
Is running through Miami

The More Favored Child

Game 2 brought more tickets, but not for the son
Sister Kelly attended with Dad
Not as much joy on this day, nor as much sun
For the Giants' pitching was quite bad

Father and daughter still bonded that day
Regardless of the final score
The reason that Sean could not come to the game
Is simple: Dad loves Kelly more

The Other Portly Right-Hander

The Giants, every other year
Acquire a pitcher, who looks fond of beer
Livan Hernandez, four years hence
For one sweet year, it made good sense
Then his ERA and waist did bloat
And in last year's playoffs, was the goat
Jason Schmidt in '01 became the ace
Despite his rather rounded face
Sidney Ponson, large Aruban knight
Was brought in for the playoff fight
Opposing hitters, down he'd shut
If his heart 'twere as large as his gut
In Game 2, Ponson took the hill
To add a victory to the till
Today, no match for the Marlin bat
'Twas also his curveballs that were fat
And by the sixth inning, Sir Sid was gone
Is he the new Schmidt, or the new Livan?

The Gold Glove Right Fielder

Bases loaded, fly to right
A falling Cruz, a sorry sight
A two-run error, the Giants are beat
Did Cruz wear the Gold Glove on his feet?

The #5 Hitter

When it comes to lineup protection
Alfonzo's doing fine
But he needs to hit more doubles
If the pitchers give up nine


The signs are less exuberant, on this losing playoff day
One constant remains: No one's quite sure how to spell "Fillet"

nfl review, week 4


The cream is rising to the top of the NFL, and the 49ers are sifting to the bottom. Their offensive line looks weakened, as if by osteoporosis, and the offensive play-calling has, well, curdled.

49er Game: Minnesota 35, San Francisco 7

No comment.

Terrell Owens Surliness Update:

From ESPN's game summary

Owens, who criticized the play-calling and pass protection in a post-game rant last week, stormed off the field after Kevan Barlow was stuffed for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 31 late in the third.

Owens flung his helmet on the sideline and continued to scream. He was still frustrated afterward in the locker room -- lamenting the Vikings' ability to involve their star receiver, Moss, while his team continued to struggle getting him the ball.

"Why wouldn't I want the ball?" Owens said. "Is that being selfish?"

After the game, Owens also said that the 49ers had no heart, and hinted that the team would be better off with backup Tim Rattay at quarterback, rather than Jeff Garcia.

While Owens is probably still correct about the direction of the offense, and the inability of the starting QB to throw the ball further than 15 yards, one wonders what he's trying to accomplish, beyond lowering his potential signing bonus from whatever team he signs with in the offseason. He might be frustrated at his lack of passes, but the team lost by 28 freakin' points. Was a more involved Owens going to cut the margin of victory to 21? 18?

The team seems to be on the brink of panic, but they're still only 1-3. They still get to play the Arizona Cardinals twice. Many injured offensive lineman are going to return, as is injured defensive back Jason Webster. There's a lot of season remaining. In a way, this extended tantrum from Owens might prove helpful, as attention is going towards the potential locker room strife, and away from the piss-poor on-field performance. Of course, if they lose to Detroit at home next week, the season is over for the 49ers.

Gus Frerotte!?!:

Daunte Culpepper was injured, so Minnesota started journeyman Gus Frerotte at quarterback. Frerotte has played for five different teams in his career, amassing a quarterback rating of 75.9 for his career, which is just slightly below average. Last year, he lost his starting job for the NFL's worst team, the Cincinnati Bengals, and only played in four games. Frerotte is probably best-known not for his skills as a passer, but for suffering the stupidest football injury of all time, just barely nosing out kicker Bill Gramatica tearing his ACL celebrating a routine field goal.

On a third-and-goal play from the 1, he had rolled out of the pocket looking for a receiver. When he saw a clear path in front of him, Frerotte dashed toward the goal line and just managed to get into the right front pylon of the south end zone ahead of two Giants defenders.

Frerotte kept running toward the corner of the stadium. First he spiked the football against the wall, then he stopped momentarily and continued celebrating his team's first score by butting the top of his helmeted head into a padded wall. He clearly recoiled after the impact.

As Frerotte trotted back toward the bench area, he winced as he tried to get his helmet off.

The 49ers defense made this no-talent ass clown look like a Hall of Famer on Sunday. True, throwing the ball to Randy Moss has made mediocrities like Jeff George and (late-career) Randall Cunningham look like superstars, but Frerotte was stil lfantastic. Four touchdown passes, no interceptions, and a final quarterback rating of 157.25, just slightly below the maximum possible score of 158.33 (yes, the QB rating scale makes no sense at all). More importantly, he didn't head butt, kick, jump off of, or run into anything. Every dog has his day, and on Sunday, mighty Gus Frerotte was that dog.

NFL Commentator of the Week:

Rush Limbaugh resigned from his job on the Sunday NFL Countdown show after saying that Donovan McNabb was overrated by the media because he was black. ESPN received a deluge of protests in the last few days, although no one challenged Limbaugh's assertion on the television program itself, and Rush quit under pressure. While reporters will no doubt debate the appropriateness and validity of his claims ad nauseum for the next few days, the larger question is, What the hell was Rush Limbaugh doing on the Sunday NFL Countdown in the first place?

Dennis Miller was a bad idea, too, but at least Dennis Miller used to be funny. The only thing Limbaugh brings to the table, besides a healthy appetite, is the ability to make controversial statements exactly like the one he was just fired for making. Does Rush Limbaugh look like he'd ever played football? Does he have any football credentials at all? This "story" is no surprise at all.

The hiring and firing of Limbaugh represents a disturbing trend in ESPN broadcasts of making the reporting of sports more of a story than the actual sports themselves. ESPN's baseball announcers routinely refer to stellar defensive plays as "Web Gems", after a promotional feature on their own site. ESPN has gradually replaced broadcasts of sporting events with programs featuring ESPN personalities and sportswriters arguing with one another. Broadcasts of this year's baseball playoffs often returned late from mid-inning breaks so that a studio host could interview "expert" Bobby Valentine about game strategy, even though there were already four announcers working the game in question. ESPN even premiered an hour-long show about the making of Sportscenter.

This is likely a result of Disney's purchase of ESPN and ABC. The new corporate overlords clearly want more "branding" of the ESPN name. This was especially evident tonight, when, after a day with three baseball playoff games, including a 12-inning war between Boston and Oakland that was punctuated by a two-out, bases-loaded bunt single by the catcher, the lead story on Sportscenter was... the resignation of an ESPN employee, Rush Limbaugh, accompanied by commentary from other ESPN employees about what this meant for Rush and for ESPN.

Dom Capers, Hero:

In the final seconds of the Houston-Jacksonville game, Houston had the ball on the Jacksonville goal line, trailing by three points. A field goal sends the game to overtime. Houston coach Dom Capers keeps the offense in, and they win on a quarterback sneak.

Too often, it seems like coaches make decisions to cover their asses, rather than to win football games, even when the odds are in favor of the unconventional move. It's as if reaching overtime is considered a moral victory, even if the team later loses in the extra period. Houston had about a 50% chance of winning in OT, slightly less because of the chance their field goal could be blocked. Pushing in a score from less than a yard away was clearly a much better gamble, but I'm sure that if it had failed, Capers would have been criticized for months.

My dad mentioned this after watching the 49ers lose to the Rams in overtime, after rallying for a game-tying touchdown at the end of the game. "Why not go for the two-point conversion and try to win right then?" he complained, and I'm inclined to agree. An NFL team generally succeeds on about 40% of their two-point conversion tries. For an above-average offensive team like the 49ers, the odds are probably in the 40-45% range. On the road, against a great offensive team like St. Louis, the 49ers' chances were not great in OT. But they kicked the tying extra point, and then promptly lost when St. Louis scored on their first possession.

Coach Dennis Erickson would have been railed if the two-point try had failed and the team had lost. But, they lost anyway. Regulation losses and overtime losses count exactly the same in the standings. Risky decisions are interesting. Watching a Gramatica brother jog on to the field to decide the game's fate is really lame. This is why Houston coach Dom Capers, is an NFL Hero.

Da Bears:

Chicago opened up a new stadium on Monday night, while Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers opened up a can of whoopass. Chicago lost 38-23, bringing their record to 0-3. They have lost their three games by a combined score of 111-43. They are the worst team in football. I asked Bill Swerski's Super Fans for their take on the team.

Bob Swerski: I'm Bob Swerski, filling in for my brother Bill, who had a heart attack following a suicide attempt during halftime of the Packers game. We're here to talk about the sorriest NFL franchise there is, Da Bears.

Superfans: DA BEARS!

Bob Swerski: First of all, let's look ahead to next week's game, where Da Bears are hosting the defending AFC champion Oakland Raiders. Predictions?

Carl Wollarski: Raiders, 84. Bears, 10.

Todd O'Connor: Raiders, 108. Bears, 3.

Pat Arnold: Raiders, 61. Bears, 0. Game called at halftime due to Bears' forfeit.

Swerski: Some optimism for Da Bears this week, I see. Alright, now what if Da Bears were facing Mount Carmel high school's junior varsity team this week instead?

O'Connor: Is Kordell Stewart the quarterback?

Swerski: Yeah.

O'Connor: Mount Carmel, 31. Bears, 24.

Swerski: OK, how about if Da Bears played the Washington Generals?

Arnold: In football, not basketball?

Swerski: Yeah, football.

Arnold: Generals, 43. Bears, 2.

Wollarski: Generals, 24. Bears, 0.

O'Connor: Is Dick Jauron still coaching Da Bears? (Swerski nods.) Generals, 56. Bears, 13. Man, what will it take to get that guy fired?

Arnold: Firing's too good for him. They ought to give him Da Chair.

Super Fans: DA CHAIR!

belated nfl review, week 3


The 49ers choked away a fourth quarter lead, the Raiders had their asses handed to them in Denver, and Terrell Owens wants the damn ball already. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Minnesota Vikings are all undefeated. It's the NFL, baby, where on any given Sunday, any team can win.

Actually, those above records aren't another of my indictments of the NFL's commitment to parity. Tampa Bay and Kansas City look like serious powerhouses. Miami and Denver look like pretty solid clubs. Tennessee and Indianapolis have a shot at the Super Bowl. It's the NFC that looks potentially embarrassing, beyond the Buccaneers.

Carolina hasn't lost, but their starting quarterback is Jake Delhomme. They only beat Tampa Bay by blocking a field goal and two extra points in Week 2, which was amazing, and screwed Martin Gramatica of the hated Gramatica brothers, but is not a great indicator for future success. Seattle needed a few penalty calls and a few tipped passes turned interceptions to beat St. Louis, at home, last week. They're nothing special. Some people seem to like the New York Giants, but they already lost to Dallas, due to an inability to kick off in bounds. I also think that running back Tiki Barber is going to give them bad karma. Last year, his team lost an incredibly heartbreaking game to the 49ers, blowing an enormous lead, desperately coming back in the final seconds, and eventually losing on a botched field goal snap. After this game, Tiki decided that he would be an honorary member of his twin brother Ronde's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, haunting the sidelines and hanging out with the team all the way through to their Super Bowl victory. After a debilitating loss, i just don't think it's appropriate to pretend to be a member of a different team to soak up postseason glory. Tiki and the Giants are going nowhere.

49er Game: Cleveland 13, San Francisco 12

Man, the Niners are depressing this year. They had a beautiful drive on their first possession, taking up nearly eight minutes of time. Unfortunately, after going for it on fourth-and-goal and failing, they got no points to show for it. When the team loses by a single point, an inability to score on two plays from the one yard line looms very large.

Terrell Owens Surliness Update:

It's Week 3, so it's about time for Terrell Owens to complain to the media about how he isn't getting the ball. Often Owens is portrayed as an arrogant prima donna when these complaints become public, but I don't think it's that big a deal for these reasons:

1) If the coach is going to call plays based on what the local paper's NFL reporter writes, the team has bigger problems than one disgruntled wide receiver shooting his mouth off.

2) Owens isn't coming back to the team next year, no matter what happens the rest of the season, so his relationship with the team doesn't matter much.

3) Owens is right - he should be getting the ball more. On the final drive of the second quarter, he caught four passes for 50 yards, and the team moved into field goal range in a minute and a half. In the second half, he caught two passes. Granted, the team only scored 6 points in each half, but the team's inability to get a single first down in the fourth quarter opened the door for Cleveland's comeback.

Scapegoating the Kicker:

Before the game this week, the 49ers cut placekicker Jeff Chandler, and replaced him with a guy named Owen Pochman. Chandler was selected in the third round of the draft in 2002, but couldn't win the job from XFL refugee Jose Cortez until nearly the end of the season. Up until then, the 49ers wasted a roster spot on an extra placekicker for countless games, while Cortez blew countless crucial field goals. Keeping multiple kickers is one of the stupidest things a team can do, though the San Diego Chargers are going one better this year and keeping two punters and four tight ends.

The 49ers haven't had much luck with the placekicker position over the years. Cortez was awful, probably the worst NFL kicker to ever keep his job as long as he did. He missed multiple last-second kicks last season, often on chip shot field goals, and his replacement, Chandler, wasn't a whole lot better. Since 1994, they've employed, then lost NFL kickers Doug Brien, Wade Richey, and Jeff Wilkins, all of whom have later beaten them with last-second field goals. Now, Pochman joins the squad, while I fully expect Jeff Chandler to beat the 49ers with a crucial field goal sometime in the next 12 months.

NFL Announcer of the Week:

Monday Night Football's Al Michaels was recently named the lead broadcaster on ABC's telecasts of the NBA. This means that Michaels will be teamed with both the insane John Madden and the even insaner Bill Walton. His broadcasting career from now on will be but a blur of "Boom!"s and "Horrrrible!"s, as he deals with the two wackiest, least-connected-to-reality TV commentators working today.

I would have thought Michaels might need the NFL's long hiatus to recover from having to deal with Madden, but apparently he's decided to take this broadcasting challenge head-on. It's like a heroin addict in the midst of withdrawal deciding that he might as well quit smoking that same week. A noble quest for Mr. Michaels, but I fear for his sanity. The best-case scenario is that he becomes really, really good at interrupting marathon stream-of-consciousness rants to describe game action.

Goodbye to Alameda County:

I moved out of Alameda County two months ago. San Francisco is a big upgrade, I feel, both for quality of life and a marked absence of Raider fans. Everywhere I went in Berkeley or Oakland, I would inevitably pass one person wearing at least one item of silver and black paraphernalia. Riding the bus, walking home, avoiding flaming stores on International Boulevard, those fans were everywhere. When I, along with four Squelch staffers spent 24 straight hours in a Super K-Mart in Oakland, we discovered that between 2 and 4 AM, everyone in the store was:

A) a Super K-Mart employee, or
B) wearing a Raiders jacket

The lack of Raider fans is refreshing. But not quite as refreshing as the knowledge that, since I no longer reside in Alameda County, the Oakland Raiders will no longer receive a single penny of my tax dollars. It's bad enough that I had to sponsor scumbags like Al Davis and Bill Romanowski as long as I did. The Raiders are out of my life, and they'll soon be out of playoff contention as well. Good riddance.

belated nfl review, week 2


Hopefully, these aren't all going to be belated. To the games!

49er game: St. Louis 27, San Francisco 24 (OT)

The Niners came to the TWA Temporary Corporate Monkier Dome in St. Louis, and lost a heartbreaking game in overtime. The team rallied back to tie in the game's final seconds, but after wide receiver Cedric Wilson failed to get out of bounds on the final play of regulation, the Rams won the coin toss and quickly kicked the game-winning field goal.

While it is frustrating to watch the 49ers struggle against St. Louis, it is nice that the team has their traditional rival back. When I was younger, the Niners and Rams played many hard-fought games, including a Monday Night contest in 1989 which was one of the greatest football games I've ever seen. For nearly a decade, the Rams were horrendous, and the once-great rivalry and devolved into a bi-yearly ass-kicking.

All this changed after the move to St. Louis. The Rams didn't get better right away, but the 49ers did lose their home-away-from home advantage they enjoyed in the Rams' old home in Anaheim. Since the Niners had a much larger fan base, and Southern California was nearby, the stands would often boast tens of thousands of Niner fans at away games. Joe Montana never lost a game there. Instead, the Rams played in a large artificial-surfaced dome, which was generally packed with fans that actually supported the home team. Domes are notoriously difficult for road teams, due to the crowd noise, as well as whatever other noise the stadium staff can pump in.

Finally, the Rams made a huge improvement in 1999, the same year that concussions ended Steve Young's playing career. The Rams won the Super Bowl, while the 49ers limped to their first losing record in over fifteen years. The tide had turned. Last year, the 49ers surpassed the injury-plagued Rams, but this year, the teams appear to be fairly evenly matched again. As a fan, I'm glad to have the rivalry back. I enjoy close games with the Rams; I just don't like losing those games.

Terrell Owens Clutchness Update: On 4th-and-8 with under thirty seconds remaining, the 49ers trailed by a touchdown. Everyone in the Corporate Moniker Dome knew, or should have known, that the ball was headed for Mr. Clutch, Terrell Owens. St. Louis blitzed, and Owens hauled in the game-tying score.

Terrell Owens Fanciness Update: Before the game, Owens warmed up wearing a skin-tight white bodysuit, looking like a member of the Ibiza bosled team. One could see the muscles of his impressive physique quite clearly through the rippling white Spandex/Lycra/body paint material, that is, if one were looking for that kind of thing. Of course, the insulated bodysuit was for a game played indoors, but when has logic ever stood in the way of fanciness in the past?

Mike Martz, Genius: Mike Martz is the coach of the Rams. The Rams have been known, for the past four years, for their innovative and complex offensive sets, often featuring four receivers and intricate timing-based pass patterns. Quarterback Kurt Warner has set records, running back Marshall Faulk has won the league's MVP award, and the team has scored lots of points. However, Martz sometimes seems to be more concerned with his own cleverness than actually winning football games. More specifically, he seems to forget that Faulk, one of the finest running backs in the league, plays for his team.

In the 2002 Super Bowl, the Rams were enormous favorites over the New England Patriots, the worst Super Bowl champions of all time. The Patriots' upset got an assist from Martz, who called an astonishing 50 pass plays, compared to 22 rushes. 22 rushes for a team that had the best running back in the league, and constantly faced defenses with five, six, or even seven defensive backs on the field. It was as if Martz was simply trying to defy New England, and prove that his genius play-calling could prevail even against a team geared to stop that very same plan. While the Rams outgained the Patriots by over 100 yards, and had 11 more first downs, they still lost.

Some of Martz's pass-craziness is responsible for the Rams' current quarterback controversy. Backup Marc Bulger has been elevated above record-setter Warner, with the justification being that the Rams win more with him. This is true, but:

a) Bulger has racked up his win totals facing inferior opponents, and
b) Martz himself has admitted to simplifying the offense and calling more runs for the less-experienced Bulger.

So, the Rams do better when they aren't passing 70% of the time. Indeed, most teams do, as unpredictability is an advantage, and running the ball has the added benefit of using up time, advantageous when a team is trying to give their own defense a rest. In the 49er game, the Rams ran 22 pass plays in the first half, and 7 rushes. They scored seven points. In the second half, after Bulger had taken some hard hits, the Rams went for 16 rushes and 17 passes, and scored 17 points. Will Mike Martz learn anything from this? History says no.

Putting the "ESP" in ESPN: Midway through the second quarter, Sean Keane thought Marc Bulger looked shaky. "If the Niners can put a hit on Bulger, I think he'll fumble," he loudly announced to two reliable witnesses. On the very next play Bulger was sacked, and linebacker Jeff Ulbrich recovered the fumble.

Sean also believes that the New York Yankees will play in the World Series this year, that the Phoenix Suns are a "sleeper" team in the NBA's Western Conference, and that Duran Duran's new album will suck. Place your bets now, sports fans!

Madison Avenue News: A Quiznos ad in the first half featured a man suckling from a mother wolf, easily one of the more disturbing images I have seen in mass-market advertising. I thought it might get so many complaints that it would never air again, but others have informed me that the Quiznos "Raised By Wolves" ad campaign is still going strong. What this says about our culture is unclear. Certainly, more research is necessary.

Bad NFL Announcer of the Week: The 49ers-Rams tilt aired on Fox, subjecting millions of innocents to Joe Buck's announcing. Through some combination of nepotism and FOX network dumbassery, Buck has become the lead announcer on both baseball and football telecasts. He exemplifies the FOX trend of talking about anything other than the game in progress, whether it's the Fan Cam, the players' and coaches' families, or songs tangentially related to players' names. Especially the songs. During the baseball playoffs last year, Buck thrice began singing "You've Got a Friend In Me" during games where Kirk "Woody" Rueter was pitching.

Buck believes that America would rather hear him "banter" with his other announcers than describe what's actually happening on the field of play. Buck believes America wants to hear him sing along with music leading into commercials, or occasionally and inexplicably during the game broadcast itself. Worst of all, Buck believes he is funny. He's still very young for an announcer, and I shudder to think I may have to endure his fakey unfunniness for another few decades. I also shudder to realize I'm already worked up about Joe Buck, and the baseball playoffs are still a week away. This is not good.

And finally: Kurt Warner probably didn't deserve his benching this week, but the benefit was that, for the first time in four years, I watched a Rams' game and didn't have to see the freakish and intense Mrs. Kurt Warner in the stands. I am willing to reserve judgment on Mrs. Marc Bulger, for nothing can be as bad as Warnerette. a_brenda_m.jpg

chasing 170

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(Barry Bonds drew his 2,063rd career walk last night, moving into second place on the all-time list, ahead of the great Babe Ruth. In honor of this achievement, Zembla reprints an old essay from the 2001 season, when in the midst of trying to break Mark McGwire's old record of 70 home runs, Barry quietly approached the single-season walk record, which he would later shatter in 2002.)


Amid all of the home run hoopla, with front page updates on Barry Bonds' hitting statistics, and the "Bonds vs. Gonzalez vs. McGwire" section of, another important offensive record is within Barry's reach. It's older than McGwire's record, older than Maris', and even older than the Babe's sixty home run season. I'm talking, of course, about the single-season walk record.

Back in 1923, Babe Ruth, the Prince of Patience, the Baron of the Base on Balls, walked an astonishing 170 times. Since then, only a few players have even come close to equaling the Babe. McGwire set the National League record back in 1998, the same year he broke the home run record. McGwire walked his way down to first 162 times that year, a fairly amazing walk-per-game average. Only Ted Williams has ever walked even 162 times, and he did it twice. Barry set the old National League record with 151 back in 1996, when Matt Williams broke his foot and Barry's lineup "protection" consisted of such sluggers as Glenallen Hill, Bill Mueller, Steve Decker, and Jay Canizaro. Career-wise, Rickey Henderson is the career leader, passing the Babe this year, but never walked more than 126 times in any single season.

The Babe is #2 on the career charts, and Williams is right behind him. With the five years Williams lost to the war, he might have ended up with 2,600 career walks or so, making him nearly uncatchable. As it is, he's #3 all-time. Barry is, not surprisingly, the highest active player not named Rickey Henderson on the list. He's eighth all-time, likely to pass Mel Ott for seventh place later this year, and, barring injury, could become the all-time leader by mid-2004. This year alone, he's moved up from 13th place, passing some luminaries (Stan Musial and Harmon Killebrew), some less-than-amazing players (Darrell Evans and Ed Yost), and one convicted tax cheat/ compulsive gambler (Who do you think?)

Right now, Bonds is on pace for 163, which would break the National League record. He's walked six times in the past two games, making him a serious threat to the record. If he heats up the walk engine like he did in June (averaging nearly two walks per game), Barry is a serious threat to the record. I'd like to see this story start to get some serious coverage. I want a walk counter on the right field wall at Pac Bell. I want Major League Baseball to fly in Ruth's surviving relatives to Giants games if Barry gets close. I want to hear Dusty Baker complain in post-game press conferences about how pitchers are "refusing to pitch around Barry."

This is how I imagine the quest turning out. Barry has 70 homers and 170 walks on the last game of the season. The Giants need to beat the Dodgers to clinch the division title. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, score tied, bases loaded, Barry comes to the plate. He stands stock-still as a 3-2 Jeff Shaw fastball comes in just a centimeter off of the outside corner. I'd like to think that Barry would still take the time to remove his elbow guard before slowly trotting down to first base, as the crowd and his teammates go wild.

I just hope Barry doesn't start wearing a hat that reads "W.K." for "Walk King," a la Pete "Hit King" Rose. Whatever the result, I'm rooting for Barry to pass Big Mac - and rooting nearly as hard for him to pass the Babe.

belated nfl preview


Are you ready for some damn football? You're damn right Zembla is. The NFL has returned. It's the nation's most popular professional sport, just ahead of baseball and probably NASCAR. It seems like, just as in presidential elections, the American South is most important in terms of popularity and success. Football is the one professional sport where players' contracts aren't guaranteed, where Pro Bowl players are forced to renegotiate their contracts weeks before the season begins to avoid outright release, where the union has little power, and where suspected drug dealers and admitted racists like Bill Romanowski can end a teammate's season with a haymaker punch and receive nothing more than a one-practice suspension. The NFL has no loyalty to players, coaches, or fans. At its core, it's an attractive, alcoholic, womanizing playboy in league form, with franchises skipping town on a whim, extracting money for stadiums, and suing their home counties for millions of dollars while the always-forgiving, co-dependent fans forgive everything.

The NFL prides itself as being the top league, though an objective look at its stability reveals problems. Fans and the media are always bemoaning the problems of baseball, while extolling the virtues of pro football. What goes unnoticed, in all of the plaudits about financial health and parity, is how the NFL stacks up. Baseball has had no teams change cities since 1970; the NFL has had six teams relocate since then, with the Raiders moving twice. Currently, fully half of the teams in the National League have a shot at the playoffs; even with a much higher percentage of teams making the playoffs, the NFL rarely has so many contenders with a month to go. Player movement between franchises is significantly higher in the NFL than in any other sport. Also, the whole idea of "parity," that any given team can win any given Sunday begs the question of what it means to be a good team, in general. Personally, I feel that the triumph of the mediocre New England Patriots in the 2002 Super Bowl mostly means that winning the Super Bowl simply does not mean as much as it used to.

That being said, I love the NFL, partially because it infuriates me so. I also fully realize I have still not adjusted to the demise of the 49er dynasty. Growing up, the 49ers were good every single year, without fail. A 10-6 season was a disappointment. For many of my formative years, the 49ers started Joe Montana, and had Steve Young, likely one of the best five quarterbacks in the league, earning millions of dollars on the bench, just in case of emergency. Now, in the wake of the owner's racketeering conviction, and the advent of the salary cap, the once-proud 49ers are reduced to the level of peon teams like the Rams and Eagles. It's a shame.

The game is still very entertaining, and I follow it voraciously. Last year, I watched a majority of the Monday Night Football telecasts, altered last year with the addition of John Madden to the broadcast team. Madden is getting older, and in my opinion, clearly losing his mind. He will talk at length, lovingly, obsessively, about the bodies of 300-pound lineman. These monologues with continue throughout several plays, as embattled play-by-play partner Al Michaels vainly attempts to describe the action on the field. He is obsessed with an ABC gimmick called the "horse trailer"; a horse trailer that accompanies Madden and the MNF team (along with Madden's enormous RV, the "Madden Cruiser") to every game. At the end of each game, Madden selects the best players, whose picture is displayed on the side of the horse trailer. Of course, the mentally ill Madden rarely chooses just one player, so that the horse trailer is often bedecked with four or five players from any single contest.

The surreal highlight of the season, however, came in the pre-Thanksgiving telecast, when ABC sent a "turducken" into the announcers' booth. A "turducken" is a turkey, stuffed with a chicken, which has itself been stuffed with a duck. It's a fairly disgusting amalgamation of poultry, but it's yet another Madden obsession which the ABC crew not only tolerates, but encourages. In the middle of this game, while important football plays were occurring, ABC and Madden took a break to explain the mechanics and origin of the turducken, culminating in Madden forcibly dissecting the turducken with his bare, bloated hands. Al Michaels had to leave the booth. Shit, I had to leave the room. Let it be known: John Madden has lost his mind.

Besides the turducken and the horse trailer, the one thing that I wish would disappear from the NFL is the fake reverse. In every single NFL game I viewed last year, there was at least one play in which the quarterback dropped back, faked a handoff to the running back, who then, without the ball, faked another handoff to a circling wide receiver. In all this deception, I never saw this trick play result in substantial gains, partly because two of the team's players were busy horsing around in the backfield, partly because the best deep pass threat was invariably pretending to take an imaginary handoff, but mainly because, every team in the league did a fake reverse every single week. Actual trick plays are fun, but NFL teams are copycats. Enough of the fake reverse, I plead!

The local squad, the aforementioned 49ers, faces an interesting season. Gone is former coach Steve Mariucci, fired due to a regime change in ownership and his conservative coaching style. The 49ers always tried to run the ball a lot, controlling the ball and the clock, but never seemed to put teams away, or play especially aggressively. This was most notable in the team's second-round playoff game against the eventual champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers, down by multiple touchdowns nearing halftime, chose to run out the clock rather than attempt a score, with a minute remaining and two timeouts. While Mariucci was successful, the 49ers seemed to play at their best when scrambling for comebacks, throwing passes willy-nilly and clawing at victory, as in their comeback victory against the New York Giants the previous week. Perhaps the new coach will have more of a foot-on-the-throat mentality.

This season also might mark the final campaign of superstar wide receiver and Zembla favorite, Terrell Owens. Owens has always been an enigmatic player, by far the finest of the 49ers' post-championship era, which admittedly is like being the best cast member on "Star Trek: Enterprise", or penning #1 hits for the Jefferson Starship. It is not Owens' fault that the team did not rise to his level of play; he has generally been an unbelievably clutch player, carrying the team to their fantastic playoff win last season with his tough pass-catching and borderline-insane sideline encouragement. He also caught, versus double coverage, the last-second, game-winning, playoff-advancing touchdown pass back in 1999, versus the Green Bay Packers. He is the most difficult receiver in the league to tackle, routinely knocking down defenders and grabbing extra yardage.

Still, Owens has his weaknesses. His signature play last season involved catching a touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks, then removing a pen from his sock, singing the ball, and handing it to a fan. This would have been a really stylish move, had he given the ball to a kid, or some loyal 49er fan behind the end zone. Instead, he gave it to his financial advisor. Not cool. Also, simply by being a wide receiver, Owens is part of a bizarre fraternity of effeminate one-upsmanship. Jerry Rice used to write "Flash 80" on a towels hanging above his backside. Receivers routinely wear the tightest uniforms, the most ridiculous hairstyles, the most elaborate on-field fanny packs, and engage in the most slap-fighting, trash-talking, and fake injuries worthy of an Argentinian soccer player. Owens is amazing, Owens is a superstar, but Owens is still a fancy-pants wideout, so all adulation and praise is tempered slightly.

The 49ers have begun the season with a 42-point thrashing of the Chicago Bears, all might be good in the NFL world. If you're a friend of mine, rowdy or not, feel free to come over one of these night, provided that you, too, are ready for some damn football.

The top two teams in the National League faced off last week at Pac Bell Park, in a series of classic games, more classic if you were a fan of the orange and black. The Atlanta Braves came to SF looking to avenge their defeat in last year's playoffs, while the Giants were returning home after five straight losses on the East Coast the previous week. The series began well for the Giants. Tuesday night, Barry Bonds returned to the team after attending to his terminally ill father, and hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the tenth inning. On Wednesday, the Giants' starter left with an injury, but the bullpen held Atlanta scoreless for five innings and the team won in the bottom of the ninth. Thursday, the Giants' best pitcher, Jason Schmidt was taking the mound, and I had two free tickets to the game. Would this game live up to the standard set by the previous two?

Roommate and compatriot Gene Wood attended the game with me, his first visit to the four-year ballpark. Our first conversation was not about the architecture or quaint throwback charm of the stadium, but rather the bar code scanners that the Giants use, instead of having ushers tear tickets. At first, it seems needlessly futuristic, as ticket-tearing is simpler, but Gene explained that it's undoubtedly a great way to harvest information about the attendees - what gates are crowded at what times, which ticket holders show up early, which tickets go unused, etc. Not surprisingly, the Giants' president owner is also the CEO of Safeway, whose Club Card database is also likely an amazing source of consumer information, buying habits, etc. They seem to be putting their data to good use, as we were attending the team's 31st consecutive sold-out game.

We arrived at the park slightly late, to find our seats had been given away by an overzealous usher. Since they went to a guy in a wheelchair, and we were re-seated immediately, it wasn't a big deal. Once we sat down, it was clear that this game was all about Giants' starter Jason Schmidt.

Scmidt has been the most effective starting pitcher in the National League this year. Ever since his final three appearances in last year's playoffs, all victories, he has been incredibly effective, throwing hard and rarely walking hitters. The only reason that his statistics aren't more impressive is that the team has had a large lead, so they've babied his arm. Though the Braves have the league's best offense, they looked like a Little League team against Schmidt. Garry Sheffield, riding a 24-game hitting streak, went 0-for-3. The opposing pitcher struck out on a pitch over his head in the sixth. That same inning, Schmidt struck out all three hitters on just nine pitches. Through eight innings, Schmidt had given up but three hits.

Schmidt was helped out by a few spectacular catches by Giants right fielder Jose Cruz. Jose Cruz is a member of a class of players I like to refer to as baseball's right field Ronin. These are outfielders that, though highly thought of as young players, were rejected by their original teams by reason of injury or trade, like a samurai without a master. Although talented, these players are doomed to remain baseball nomads, never receiving a long-term contract, job security, or respect. They tend to be good hitters and solid defenders, though not such good defenders that they can play center field. Another common trait is that, while effective, they seem to play just below their potential. They also tend to have high strikeout totals.

The Giants have employed a string of ronin to man right field in recent years, from Cruz to Reggie Sanders to Ellis Burks. Other notable ronin of the recent past include Eric Davis, Juan Encarnacion, and Gary Sheffield. Future ronin include J.D. Drew and Adam Dunn. Cruz is an underrated hitter, due to his high walk totals, and an excellent fielder, so I hope that the Giants retain his services, and save him from a ronin's lonely existence.

Meanwhile, the Giants were hitting, but not taking full advantage of their chances. Atlanta was choosing to walk Barry Bonds when he came up, and for the most part, the Giants were stranding runners. They left the bases loaded in the fifth, and two runners on base in the second, fourth, and eighth innings. Going into the top of the ninth, the Giants led 3-0, and many fans headed for the exits, confident that victory was safely in hand. Gene commented, "Those people are probably hoping to see a car accident on the way home."

A convention in modern-day baseball is to reserve one strong relief pitcher for the ninth inning, as a "Closer." The Closer is not necessarily used at the game's most crucial juncture, but when he has a chance to earn a save, meaning, his team is leading by 1-3 runs. This role worked perfectly for dominant pitchers like former Oakland Athletic Dennis Eckersley, but is now used by all big league teams, regardless of the talent of their relief staff. The Braves have an extremely dominant Closer in John Smoltz, whom they also reserve exclusively for save situations. Twice in the series so far, the Giants had scored the winning run off of inferior relievers, but because a save was not in order, Closer Smoltz had not taken off his warmup jacket.

One might think a three-run lead is not especially difficult to protect, and in general, that is a correct impression. My only beliefs are that one's best relievers are most valuable when games are closest - that is, tie games, leading by one run, or even trailing by a run. Still, the mystique of the Closer is such that any manager going against this conventional wisdom risks the wrath of the fans and sportswriting community.

A save was in order for the Giants, so Schmidt left in favor of their Closer, Tim Worrell. Tim Worrell is decidedly not a dominant pitcher. He's not bad, but he certainly doesn't fit the general stereotype of a flame-throwing relief pitcher, as exemplified by Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Goose Gossage, and Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn. Nevertheless, the Giants' staff plays "Iron Man" as Worrell walks in from the bullpen, fills the stadium's screen with exploding graphics reading "WORRELL," to try to build up some fake intimidation for a pitcher that only became the Closer because Robb Nen got hurt. Needless to say, the Braves were not fooled by the PA system bravado, and with the help of some poor infield defense by the Giants, they tied the score at 3-3. Incredibly, as the game headed to the bottom of the ninth, large numbers of people continued to leave the park. Perhaps they wanted a car fire.

The ninth began, and Smoltz was warming up in the bullpen. After two days of inactivity, it appeared the Braves might use their top reliever. The Atlanta manager, Bobby Cox, had been roundly criticized for not using Smoltz at all in the first two games. Perhaps he was finally going to play for the win, and not the save, tonight. The Giants failed to score in their half of the ninth, held the Braves at bay in the top of the tenth, and when the tenth inning began, the Braves new pitcher was...Trey Hodges?

Yes, Trey Hodges. He began the inning by striking out Marquis Grissom, and then Barry Bonds stepped to the plate. Surely, the fans thought, this will be the time for Smoltz. Less than 48 hours earlier, Cox had left Smoltz in the bullpen while Bonds hit the game-winning home run. Even in a non-save situation, he had to bring in Smoltz, right?

He did not. Hodges stayed in. And Bonds hit the first pitch he saw over the center field fence. The remaining crowd of 20,000 went wild. The Giants mobbed Bonds at home plate. I gave Gene an awkward high five. John Smoltz ate some sunflower seeds and adjusted his cup. Thousands of early-departing fans kicked themselves and prepared to lie to their co-workers about having seen the home run live.

So, to recap: Barry Bonds, folk hero. Jason Schmidt, dominant ace. Jose Cruz, lost samurai. Bobby Cox, dunce. Gene Wood, staunch companion, and responsible for a decision as good as Bobby Cox's pitching changes were bad: going to Gordon Biersch after the game.

tim hudson battles the red ringers

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We don't have a TV at our new apartment. Or, more correctly, we have three televisions at our new apartment, but they aren't hooked up to anything. So when Monday night featured a pitching battle for the ages between Boston's Pedro Martinez and Oakland's Tim Hudson, I headed out to find a sports bar to enjoy the final innings of the contest.

Tim Hudson is probably my favorite major league pitcher to watch, with a few caveats. First, he often has repulsive facial hair, characterized by the lower-lip patch of fuzz known colloquially as a "tickler." Also, his wife's name is Kim Hudson, which is to my mind unacceptable. She could very easily go by Kimberly, or he could be Timothy, and their names wouldn't annoyingly rhyme, and seeing their public service announcements wouldn't make me hate life. but I probably just need to move past it.

The goodness of Tim Hudson outweighs even the badness of the his beard. He's a very effective pitcher, probably the best on in the American League last year, and one of the top two or three this season. He's won over 70% of his decisions for his career. He gives up very few runs, and doesn't walk too many hitters. His strikeout totals are not especially high, but that's not too bad because Tim Hudson gets lots of ground balls. Besides being an effective pitching strategy, watching ground balls is a lot better than watching guys swing and miss.

[Strikeout tangent]:

Sports fans often decry modern baseball as boring. Games take too long, offensive levels are high, and, in the immortal words of Irish visitor Andrea Pappin, "All the players are fat." Too much, the home run is demonized as being responsible for this slow baseball, which I think is unfair. The problem is, there's no real disincentive for striking out. For the hitter, an out is simply an out, whether it's a ground ball to third or a swing and miss. Sitting with the bat one's shoulder forces pitchers to throw more pitches, and often leads to more walks. So, while strikeouts are aesthetically unpleasant, a guy who strikes out a lot is no worse than a player who makes many outs through weak grounders or pop-ups.

The problem is this aesthetic side of things. Fans like watching team sports because of the team. A high-strikeout game is the baseball equivalent of that play in basketball where four guys walk over to one side of the court so the shooting guard can go one-on-one. Maybe that's exciting for some people, but I always think of one-on-one as what you play where there aren't enough guys there for a real game. Interaction between people is interesting, whether you're watching a rock band, a basketball team, or an improv group. Strikeouts just involve the pitcher, catcher, and hitter, while seven guys stand out in the field adjusting their cups.

In Bull Durham, Crash Davis tells Nuke LaLoosh, "Strikeouts are boring and besides, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls; it's more democratic." The Athletics' pitching staff has taken that to heart. More players are involved, games go faster, and it's an all-around better scene when Hudson or Mark Mulder is on the mound. The strikeout trend probably won't change unless the strike zone or bat designs change, but until then, long live the ground ball pitcher.

[End strikeout tangent]

Tim Hudson's opponent in this game was Pedro Martinez, historically-great pitcher and historically-great quote machine. Pedro is known for his stellar pitching but also his non-stop talking on the bench. He also delivered one of the finest post-game quotes in recent memory, after a game where he nearly threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Devil Rays responded by beaning three or four Boston players. Many Devil Rays complained that Pedro had been "head-hunting," throwing at batters intentionally, but Pedro dismissed the complaints. "There's no crying in baseball...They almost got no-hit, so tell them to swallow it."

Pedro is great, but also fairly fragile. He doesn't throw a lot of innings, and is at risk for a shoulder injury every time he takes the mound. Boston's manager doesn't seem to know this, leaving Pedro in to throw over 125 pitches in two of his last three starts. Not surprisingly, a tired Pedro couldn't pitch past the fifth inning, and by the time I arrived at the bar, he was about to give way to reliever Casey Fossum, with Oakland leading 2-0.

At the bar, I was seated between two silent, seething young Red Sox fans. They both looked like nice guys, but clearly, watching hitter after hitter pound the ball into the ground against Hudson was making them wince. Red Sox fans are a notably tortured bunch. Though always one of the richest teams in baseball, the Sox haven't won the World Series since 1918, often falling short in memorably painful ways. For a team that routinely spends $100 million on payroll, it has to be especially awful to finish behind the Yankees every year. Consequently, Red Sox fans seem to expect disaster at all times. Even with their best pitcher on the mound, these fans seemed to be waiting for the game, the season, and their playoff chances to be slipping away any second.

Still, I wonder how satisfying a playoff appearance would be for the fans of Boston. Yes, they're tortured, yes, men in New England don't want to die having never seen a World Series win, yes, Boston is more special than the rest of the country. Still, the Red Sox have so many new players, it must not even feel like the same team. Since the end of last season, Boston has acquired four new first basemen, a new second baseman, a new third baseman, a new reserve infielder, a new backup outfielder, one new starting pitcher and eight new relievers, not counting ones that have been acquired and then released. Their starting center fielder was signed as a free agent last year, their starting left fielder the year before that. 60% of their roster is different from last year. Boston is a team full of ringers. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, the Red Sox fans end up cheering for the shirts, not the players. How meaningful is a title when it's won by a pack of mercenaries?

(Note: Boston's main rival, the New York Yankees, is also a team of ringers.)

That last question can also be addressed to the fans of the Los Angeles Lakers, as they attempt to recover from their playoff defeat by recruiting a new squad of ringers. If it means that Karl Malone gets a ring, do you even want your team to win the championship?

Now, my favorite team, the Giants, has also acquired ten new players since last season, but it's slightly different. First, a few of those acquisitions were made to cover injuries. Secondly, they didn't simply buy players from other teams, as Boston did in deals with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Third, they're my favorite team, so shut up, OK?

Back at the Coliseum, the Athletics were extending their lead with a three-run home run off of Fossum. Hudson had given up just one hit through six innings, an infield hit that was immediately erased by a double play. The Red Sox offense, one of the best in baseball history, had only managed to hit two balls out of the infield. The seventh inning showed a glimmer of promise for the Red Sox when New England hero Nomar Garciaparra (when speaking with a Boston accent, the best-sounding name in baseball history) reached on a weak ground ball to third, muffed by overrated Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez and generously ruled a hit. Boston's best hitter, Manny Ramirez, stood at the plate, and the disconsolate Boston rooters at my sides seemed to regain their last hope. The hope lasted for only four pitches, as Hudson induced yet another ground ball, this time a double play ball to short, and the Red Sox were retired again. The guy to my right ordered another whiskey.

Hudson finished with a two-hit, complete-game shutout, both hits coming on ground balls that never left the infield. He threw only 93 pitches the whole game, an impossibly low number. Only three balls reached the outfield. The whole thing took only 2 hours, 24 minutes. Baseball as it should be played.

I felt bad as I watched the two Sox fans bolt for the doors, seconds after former Athletic Johnny Damon struck out swinging to end the game. I wouldn't swear that I saw tears in the eyes of the fan to my left, but I don't think Pedro would have approved of his reaction all the same.

A letter written to notably tall Korean Jay Lee, after the Golden State Warriors traded forward Todd Fuller to the Utah Jazz. Fuller was the Warriors' first round pick in 1996, selected two picks ahead of Kobe Bryant, three ahead of Peja Stojakovic, and four ahead of Steve Nash - truly, one of the least savvy personnel moves in NBA history.)

February 4, 1999

Dear Jay,

I can barely type, as the tears in my eyes are clouding my view of the monitor. I sensed that this day might come, but I was hoping it wouldn't come quite so soon. The Golden State Warriors have turned their backs on an off-season of hard work and a devastating spin move, and traded Todd Fuller to the Utah Jazz for a second-round pick. Apparently, the Warriors had too many players under contract, and decided to get rid of, in the words of Garry St. Jean, "the worst player in NBA history."

Fuller went to the Jazz because they were under their quota of tall white players with no offensive skills. This may just be the player who gives the Jazz the final push they need to win the NBA title. Don't under-estimate the value of 2.1 rebounds and 3.4 points per game; over the course of an entire NBA season, that works out to over 150 rebounds and nearly 300 points! Let me tell you, when Fuller comes in for the final 45 seconds of the fourth quarter with the Jazz up by 25, he is going to show some mad skills. Dare I say, this is the player that could make the Utah fans forget Mark Eaton.

By trading for the second-round pick of the Jazz in 2000, which could very well be the very last pick in the entire draft, the Warriors sent a message to Fuller that said; "By rule, this is the least we could have gotten for you, but if it were possible to trade you for less, we would have." Knowing the strong will and work ethic of Fuller, I am sure that he will redouble his efforts to show the Warriors their mistake, and in two or three years, make it to the second unit, and be the valuable fifth-man-off-the-bench, contributing his six fouls to the winning effort. Why, by the time Fuller is done with his career, he will be in the hallowed company of such luminaries as Charles Jones and Frank Brickowski.

So, goodbye, White Tornado. May you spin to a better place, and play your 2.5 minutes a game using 110% of your limited skills. Godspeed.


(Note: The Warriors received the 55th pick in the draft, not quite the very last choice, and selected forward Chris Porter, who was out of the NBA one year later.)

Todd Fuller Player Page

On Wednesday, July 2, and Tuesday, July 8, I attended baseball games at the world-famous Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, known affectionately as the Net Ass. It was two separate days and two separate displays of fantastic, fundamentally-sound, ass-kicking baseball. Unfortunately, these displays were put on by the Athletics' opponents, the league-leading Seattle Mariners and the league-trailing Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The first game was part of the ever-popular Double Play Wednesday promotion, where the A's offer two-dollar tickets and one-dollar hot dogs. Informally, this promotion is known as Two Dolla Wednesday, and it always draws a large, bargain-crazy crowd to the games. Last year it was Dollar Wednesday, but the A's have wisely decided to raise the bar to keep out the riff raff. They have also restricted discount seating to just the third deck, rather than the second and third decks, which I attribute more to cheapness than an actual marketing strategy.

Double Play Wednesday reflects the Oakland philosophy of keeping costs down, mantaining modest expectations, and cutting corners. They're the Southwest Airlines of baseball. You can see this on the field, where journeyman catcher Scott Hatteberg replaces MVP Jason Giambi at first base, and the team dreams of getting past the first round of the playoffs. You can also see it in the concession stands, where the woefully understaffed workers struggle to accomodate the large dog-hungry crowds. Buying dollar dogs is a lot like going to Ben and Jerry's on Free Cone Day: the marginal cost of waiting in line for multiple innings usually exceeds the bargain price of the food. As a final insult, Oakland also understocks their condiments. After two innings in line waiting for lukewarm hot dogs, the subsequent ten-minute wait for mustard and sauerkraut just breaks your spirit.

By the time we arrived at our seats, the Mariners had already taken a 2-0 lead. And it just got worse. The Mariner pitcher was young hotshot Joel Pineiro, whose first name is pronounced "JO-el", like he's from Krypton. He only gave up three hits in his eight innings of work, so maybe he did have some otherworldly powers. Perhaps the A's could defeat him if they didn't have to play on a planet with a yellow sun. After he struck out Jermaine Dye in the seventh inning, he may have even exclaimed, "Kneel before Zod!"

Meanwhile, the Mariners were hitting the hell out of the ball. Every player in their lineup had at least one hit, even the ones hitting below .200, and they all reached base at least twice. Through the sixth inning, Seattle already had seven runs and twelve hits, and it only got worse. Naturally, our interest moved on to drinking heavily, making up songs about struggling Oakland players ("Goodbye Ruby Durazo," about Oakland's DH, wondered "Who could hang an 0-for-4 on you?"), and rampant gambling. We bet on the Cap Dance. We bet on the BART train race. We bet on Dot Racing. And it goes without saying that anytime you overhear someone refer to the Red Dot as "that cheating motherfucker Red", you know Dot Racing Fever has become an epidemic.

The best wager came from Dustin Reed. After the A's had been meekly retired in the bottom of the eighth, Dustin bet that the A's would actually suck more in the final inning than they had the rest of the game. Given that it was currently 9-0, and only one Oakland baserunner had reached third the whole game, I thought this was a safe wager. But once Frank Menechino's throwing error opened the door for a four-run Mariner ninth inning, I had to hang my head and pay up. Not even my chant of "Greatest Comeback of All Time" could inspire the A's to get a single hit in the ninth.

Final totals: Mariners - 13 runs, 20 hits, no errors. A's - 0 runs, 3 hits, one error, zero pride.

my kingdom for a gelded horse


This past weekend, a horse named Funny Cide competed in the Belmont Stakes, attempting to become the first horse in twenty-five years to win the Triple Crown. Funny Cide had been a surprise winner of both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the first two legs of the Triple Crown. If Funny Cide won the Belmont, he'd win a multimillion dollar bonus and achieve the status of legend. And I couldn't care less, since horse racing isn't a sport.

Horse racing is an elaborate gambling exercise, not a real athletic competition. Horses aren't athletes, for one, because they're horses. For another, whips are prominently used in horse races. Any "athlete" that gets regularly struck with a whip during competition is something less than self-motivated. That, or they play basketball for Bobby Knight.

Mainly, I have a problem with horse racing because the "athletes" are all one minor leg injury away from being shot in the head. What if baseball were like that?

"Slow roller to short. Vizcaino throws to first and just gets Ray Durham by a step. And Durham is hurt. He's clutching his hamstring. Here comes trainer Stan Conte.... And he has shot Ray Durham in the head. Ray Durham, shot in the head. What a career for this great second baseman! That hamstring pull would have left Durham in pain, so it's best that he went quickly."

And later: "Fly ball to left, medium deep. Bagwell tags up. Bonds is going to have a play at the plate. Here's the throw and there's a huge collision at home plate, and Bagwell is out! Bagwell and Santiago are both slow to get up, and... both are shot in the head! Wow! What a turn of events! I cannot believe Benito Santiago held on... even in death, his glove clutches the ball. So we go the bottom of the seventh, where the Giants will send up Aurilia, Bonds, and a pinch-hitter."

To be fair, a leg injury isn't necessarily a death sentence for a horse. In 1999, a Triple Crown aspirant named Charismatic broke its leg at the Belmont and was saved by its jockey. Still, that rescue and medical care was motivated not only by concern for the animal, but also concern for the millions of dollars in stud fees the champion horse would later command. Funny Cide is a gelding, and sans testicules, is not a candidate for breeding. If Funny Cide had broken a nail on its charge down the stretch, it would have been at the glue factory by Monday morning.

Before the race went off on Sunday, I told anyone that would listen that Funny Cide didn't have the stones to win the Triple Crown. I also pre-emptively claimed that, due to the wet track, Funny Cide's potential Triple Crown would be "tainted." The record book did not require an asterisk, however, as Empire Maker denied Funny Cide by winning the Belmont. Plus, Empire Maker still has his testicles, so it's like a double victory.

As for me, I won a dollar each betting against Funny Cide and Supervisor (the most mediocre horse name in history), but lost it back after giving an Empire Maker bettor 2:1 odds. Since I also still have both my testicles, I consider it a win.

The final word on the Belmont Stakes comes from SF Chronicle sportswriter Gwen Knapp, who wrote something funnier than I could even make up:

A surgeon took his manhood biologically, but in every other sense, this horse had not been neutered.

CSI TEAM LEADER GIL GRISSOM: We reconstructed the bat fragments. Using computer imaging, we find that the negative space in between the shards of the bat barrel was filled by cork.

SAMMY SOSA: That's why I'm here right now, to explain that it was a mistake.

GRISSOM: Some people thought you were going to break the all-time home run record, Sammy. Instead, you just broke a corked-up bat. (Grisssom exits. Executive producer's name appears)

* * *

GRISSOM: The AFIS system compares fingerprints to an international database of prints collected by federal and local baseball authorities from all over the globe. Potential matches are then verified by a fingerprint expert. On all of the corked bats we examined, only two clear prints came up: hitting instructor Gene Clines, and yours.

SOSA: It's my mistake and I take the blame for it.

GRISSOM: Oh, you certainly will. You thought the Cubs might be sipping champagne as National League Central Division champions this season. Instead, it looks like you'll have to settle for the cork. (Grissom exits. Executive producer's name appears.)

* * *

SOSA: I use that bat for batting practice. I want to put on a show for the fans during batting practice, make people happy. I just picked the wrong bat for the game. I have never used a corked bat in a game ever before.

GRISSOM: Sammy, it doesn't take infrared heat sensors to see through that lameass excuse. (Grissom exits. Executive producer's name appears.)

* * *

GRISSOM: Sammy, the rules of the game clearly state: "Any batter that willfully uses an altered bat shall be immediately declared out and...

WILLOWS: Gil, we just got the DNA tests back on that body from St. Louis - it's Mark McGwire!

GRISSOM: I guess stealing the 1998 National League MVP award from him wasn't enough, was it, Sammy?

SOSA: It's a mistake, and I take the blame for it.

BASEBALL TONIGHT ANALYST HAROLD REYNOLDS: Look, I gotta believe Sammy when he says he didn't cork his bat or murder Mark McGwire. I'm sticking by Sammy.

GRISSOM: And I thought Peter Gammons was an idiot!

(Grissom exits. Executive producer's name appears.)

nba action - it's (far from) FAN-tastic!

Basketball is a great sport, with many exciting and charismatic athletes. Still, among professional sports, it has by far the lamest team names. By my reckoning, only eight of the 29 teams in the league have a decent name, with the others ranging from the geographically inappropriate (Utah Jazz) to just plain weak (Indiana Pacers). The only thing close as bad as the team names is the postgame player interviews, and even then, it's close.

It really isn't that difficult. Team names just need to have a few of the following qualities:

1. Name of an animal:

The tougher the animal, the better. Not surprisingly, most teams opt for carnivores. Cats and birds of prey are widespread; slow, herbivorous animals less so. Half of the teams in any given NCAA Tournament field will be named "Wildcats." Granted, the Buffalo Bills have a buffalo as their mascot, but their name doesn't make any goddamn sense anyway.

1a. Job-based human name, or sufficiently ancient tribal name:

By "job-based human name," I mean that having "Buccaneers" as a mascot is fine, while having "Redskins" or "Indians" really is not. It seems very clear to me that "Dallas Cowboys" is acceptable in a way that "Dallas Whiteboys" would not be. "Minnesota Vikings" is OK because they lived so long ago, and because Vikings kick ass, bro.

2. Geographic appropriateness and/or illiteration:

There has been a trend recently to select animal mascots that correspond to a region's indigenous wildlife. The Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and Arizona Diamondbacks are all recent examples of this trend. I don't think this is necessary. An alliterative name is a lot more effective than one that's been geographically determined; there may not have been a lot of pirates based in Pittsburgh, but the name works due to the double-P.

Still, a name shouldn't contrast glaringly with its region. It would ahve looked stupid if the Dallas hockey team had retained the "North Stars" moniker after leaving Minnesota. Similarly, the Washington Senators became the "Twins" upon moving to Minneapolis, and the second incarnation became the "Rangers" when they relocated to Texas. The Colorado Avalanche would look like jackasses if they were still called the "Nordiques."

3. Inanimate objects, but only if they're really cool:

This is where the NBA really runs into trouble. The only inanimate objects that work as team names are ones with cool qualities, that bring to mind victory-type metaphors. The New York "Jets" fly, they're fast. they're cool, that's an acceptable name. For the flip side of this, see below.

Doesn't seem that tough, does it? And yet, there's just seven teams with quality names: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks. Four animals, two peoples from yesteryear, and a super-cool inanimate object ("Maverick" is used in the unbranded animal sense of the word). Every other team has flaws of varying degrees of seriousness, which are categorized below.

The geographically inappropriate: Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Hornets

The LA teams moved from other places; the City of Angels isn't known for its shipbuilding or its lakes. The Kings inherited their name from the Kansas City Kings, who themselves were descended from the Rochester Royals. The first two names were questionable - what does it mean to be the King of Kansas City? - but at least they were alliterative. It seems like Sacramento "Squires" is closer to the level of royalty implied by the city itself. The "Grizzlies" moved to Memphis and changed their colors to blue and orange upon being purchased by Federal Express. Though the grizzly bear isn't normally associated with the Deep South, at least that beats them changing names to the "Express."

The Utah Jazz play in the least jazzy city in the United States, if not the entire world. Part of that is because the only African-Americans in the entire state play for the Jazz themselves. The Jazz used to play in New Orleans, and the name has hung on, even in the land of Mormons and green Jell-o. Meanwhile, the New Orleans basketball team is called the Hornets, even though Utah, through some weird Latter-Day animal symbology, goes nuts over bees and beehives. Could they maybe trade names? Could we stop associating the word "Jazz" with point guard John Stockton, the whitest man in NBA history?

The geographically cowardly: Golden State Warriors

They play in Oakland. Oakland, California. What, the NBA's worst franchise is too good to be associated with Oakland? Alameda County renovates their arena, and there's no love from the team? The California Angels finally owned up to their Orange County roots and became "Anaheim." Five years later, they were world champions. It should be a lesson to the Warriors. Embrace O-town.

The nearly-respectable: Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors

"Timberwolves" is too long a name, so everyone calls the team the "T-Wolves," which only exacerbates the horrible public nickname trend towards "First initial-plus-First syllable of last name." Some write it as "T'Wolves," which would be pronounced like "T'was," or "train," if the speaker was an eight year-old Sean Keane. "Pistons" fits in with Detroit, and the auto industry, and makes one think of motion, but... a piston isn't even really one of the cooler parts of an engine, and it sounds a lot like part of a flower's reproductive system. "Raptors" might be acceptable if it weren't such a transparent attempt to sell team merchandise by glomming onto the "Jurassic Park" phenomenon.

The Abstract Non-Pluralizable Concept: Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz (again!)

Both Florida teams, both piss-poor names. One determining factor a team should look at when selecting a team name is, "OK, what will an individual player on our team be referred to as?" Even the teams with the lamest names can at least say, "We're the Devil Rays. One individual player is a Devil Ray. We understand the need to refer to individuals using a singular form of a noun."

But in Miami, Orlando, and Salt Lake City, that's impossible. One Jazz player is... still a "Jazz"? A "Note"? Both "Heat" and "Magic" could have been dreamed up by lazy headline writers in the sports section, just to facilitate lame puns. Pick a name that ends in "s," people.

Inanimate and uncool: Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Seattle Supersonics

Let's just agree right away that "Nuggets" and "Nets" are undeniably lame. The sun is a good star and all, but suggesting a team of multiple "Suns" is a little bit sci-fi freaky-deaky for me. "Spurs" are basically jagged pieces of metal. How inspiring.

"Supersonics" does refer to planes, which I earlier stated was a legitimate team mascot. However, no one uses "supersonic" as a noun anymore. It's been primarily an adjective since at least the '70s, if not the '20s.

Lame: Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Portland Trailblazers

"Cavaliers" means "knights," so it seems decent. Except, it's always shortened to "Cavs," which to me means, baby cows. Ooh, look out for Cleveland! They're as tough as veal! A "Pacer" is either a mediocre horse, or one of the worst-received automobiles of all time. I think "Trailblazer" is some kind of Lewis and Clark bullshit. It's always shortened to "Blazers," which is quite appropriate given their players' current proclivity for marijuana abuse. Either way, unless I get to shoot at poorly animated buffalo and squirrels, I want no part of this Oregon Trail business.

the music city gambling miracle


Inspired by recent efforts by fellow bloggers to point out prominent conspiracies, and in honor of Super Bowl Sunday, Zembla presents a look at one of the more suspicious professional sports moments of recent years. The "Music City Miracle" occurred in January of 2000, at the end of a playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the eventual AFC Champion Tennessee Titans. The "miracle" in question was a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, by Tennessee's Kevin Dyson, to win the game in the final seconds. It was a different sort of miracle that allowed Titan-supporting gamblers a chance to win at the last second as well.

This was the situation: Buffalo had kicked a field goal with only 16 seconds left on the clock to go ahead, 16-15. On the ensuing kickoff, Tennessee ran a trick play called "Home Run Throwback" in which tight end Frank Wycheck lateraled to Dyson, who ran untouched for the shocking go-ahead touchdown. There was a great deal of controversy over whether Wycheck had thrown a forward pass (which would have been illegal) or a backwards lateral. After a long review, the referees let the play stand, and Tennessee had a 21-16 lead. They tacked on an extra point to reach the final margin of 22-16.

There has been a lot of writing about this game, most of it focused on the amazingness of the play or the history of playoff heartbreak for the Buffalo Bills. Occasionally, the legality of Wycheck's "lateral" will be debated. Never have I heard anyone mention the bizarre strategy employed by Titans' Coach Jeff Fisher following the touchdown.

After scoring, NFL teams have two options. They may attempt an easy kick for one point, or try for a more difficult two-point conversion. The Titans had two choices: kick for the guaranteed six-point lead, or try for the two-point conversion and the seven-point lead. If the conversion failed, Tennessee would still lead by five. Either way, Buffalo was going to have to score an immediate touchdown on the next return.

Now, that touchdown would have been pretty unlikely. But, if it had occurred, that would have been a definite six points, and, given that NFL kickers convert 99% of their extra points, almost a definite seven points.

With the extra point, Tennessee led by six. In that game situation, a six-point lead is only incrementally better than a five-point lead; the only way it could help is if Buffalo got a touchdown, but blew the extra point. A seven-point lead, on the other hand, would have given Tennessee a certain trip to overtime as a worst-case scenario. It was a wild moment, true, but wouldn't one of the fifteen or so coaches on headsets tell Coach Fisher, "Hey, that extra point is useless - go for two!"? The answer lies with Las Vegas.

See, Tennessee was a 5�-point favorite over Buffalo. That meant, if you put money on the Titans, they had to win by six for you to collect. Was it coincidence that one of the most shocking and controversial plays in NFL history was followed by a spread-beating, otherwise-useless PAT (point after touchdown)? On that day, Tennessee fans celebrated, alongside Gamblo-Americans who Coach Fisher rewarded for their faith and gambling dollars. The Football Gods were not pleased. They like gritty comebacks, trick plays, and memorable moments, but They hate point-shaving. Is it a coincidence that later that postseason, the very same Kevin Dyson was tackled just inches away from scoring the game-tying touchdown in the Super Bowl? I think not.

By the way, the Raiders are favored by four points, so make sure to also keep the gambling scoreboard in mind while you enjoy the American footballing contest. Go Pirates!

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