Friday, September 28, 2007

I'm Seceding From "Red Sox Nation"

You can take your membership card and well, you can probably guess what's coming...

I spent my younger years living on the NY / VT / MA border in NW Mass. The area was kind of a mishmash of baseball loyalties that included some Yankees fans, a couple Mets fans and a majority of Red Sox fans. I grew up a Red Sox fan (no one really knows why because neither of my parents were Sox fans. I think it was just something they put in the water up there.). One of my earliest memories of my expression of my fandom was during the 1986 World Series. I was in third grade and Mrs. Woolfolk allowed each student to hang a "banner" (piece of paper) expressing their loyalties in the World Series over the edge of their desks. We were arranged in a circle and after each student had taped their message of support to the edge of their desk Mrs. Woolfolk walked into the middle of the group to review the messages. There were several "Go Sox" and"Mets #1" and even a "Super Bowl!" (that one was done by the kid from New Zealand who used to pick his nose and wipe it on everyone's desk). After reviewing all the messages, Mrs. Woolfolk stopped and said to the class, "Great job everyone, but can anyone tell me which banner is not appropriate?" Several kids raised their hands and when called upon yelled my name in unison. The content of my banner: "Mets Suck". I was 8 and I was right.

The reason I tell that story is, well, there are actually a couple reasons. One of those reasons is that it traces my fandom back 20 years before pink hats, Sweet Caroline and JD Drew. The other reason that I tell that story is because it accurately portrays me as a typical Asshole Red Sox Fan, and I do not deny being such a fan to this very day. But back to reason No. 1, as a kid, the reason I loved the Sox was because I honestly thought my team was the best team in the world. Even back when Spike Owen was flipping the ball to Marty Barrett who was firing it over to Billy Buckner. I worshipped Rich Gedman and caught because of him and did my best Dewey Evans when I was up to bat. It was a love affair and a passionate one at that. So passionate that I was willing to chance a trip to the principal's office to express my true feelings (the principal happened to be my dad). That passion continued through Nick Esasky's vertigo to Mo Vaughn's gimp to Phil Plantier's absurd upper cut swing and on into the Pedro era. It was a turbulent time but my love of the team never lost a step and my passion and loyalty for those guys was finally rewarded in 2004. And that's when it happened. That's when my loyalty was betrayed.

You see, despite popular belief, I don't like Jimmy Fallon or Ben Affleck (though I hear his new movie is great). I don't like the pink hats and Red Sox based TV shows and the camo visors and videos and documentaries (actually, I do like the documentaries) and all that crap that the MEDIA associates with Red Sox Nation. "Red Sox Nation is losing their minds about the 14.5 game lead evaporation" and "Red Sox Nation votes in a new President" and "Red Sox Nation is the new best fan group for away games"... and whatever else shit they spew. Here's a fucking newsflash, I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THIS FAKE PRESIDENT AND I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT SOME LEAD THE SOX HAD IN MAY! The only thing I have in common with those assholes is that when the Red Sox do well, we both cheer. I like the Red Sox and in particular I like Manny and Mark Bellhorn (I'm actually inviting him to my wedding). Yet because I'm a Red Sox fan, I'm thrown in this group of assholes known as "Red Sox Nation" and what comes with that association is a bunch of shit I never bought into or deserve for that matter. I'm a Sox fan and sometimes (most times) I'm a complete asshole about it. But I do it in my own unique way that has NOTHING TO DO with membership cards or worrying about meaningless division leads or buying "Ultimate Fan Packs" OR WATCHING A DEBATE ABOUT A FAKE PRESIDENT OF A FAKE ORGANIZATION THAT WAS CREATED TO EXPLOIT MY LOYALTY TO MY FUCKING TEAM! I don't want any of that and I never signed up for this shit. I admit to being an asshole about my fandom and am completely comfortable with people thinking I'm an asshole Red Sox fan. But I'm not a "Red Sox Nation Asshole Fan." I'm my own asshole. So if you're going to hate me, hate me for the asshole I am, not that asshole I'm not.

So here's what I'm doing. I'm seceding from "Red Sox Nation" (though I never really considered myself a "member") and I'm starting my own organization. We will have no name and no membership cards or fees. We'll have no debates or events or meetings. We will have no contact whatsoever. The sole benefit of membership is to not be associated with "Red Sox Nation." And if you feel even close to as passionately as I do about it, that should be more than enough.

Perhaps The Greatest Sports News "Boner" Of All-Time

With Leather and Deadspin are all over this but it has to be shown because it is so great. This is intended to be a report about the great news that Bills TE Kevin Everett is improving and is regaining feeling in all of his extremities and will likely walk soon. Instead, well, this happens...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Oh Those Wacky Dorks Of MIT

The student body at MIT is infamous for its dorky pranks (they call them "hacks" because clearly "prank" isn't nerdy enough). Some of the stuff is awfully dorky (like dropping banners about thesis procrastination at commencement) but some others are pretty impressive or unique (like stealing a 100+ year-old cannon from CalTech and transporting it across the country without anybody knowing you're doing it). The one they pulled on Tuesday was simple yet effective, and almost perfectly nerdy. They dressed up the statue of John Harvard as "Master Chief" from Halo 3 on the date of the release of the much anticipated game. And for their next trick, the MIT students will disappear when confronted with social interaction.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm Not Loving John Czarnecki's Take on the Grossman Situation

Let me get this straight, media and fans want Grossman benched, Grossman gets benched, then media kills coach for benching Grossman. Interesting.

The title of John Czarnecki's column on Chicago's decision to go with Griese over Grossman is "The Desperate Bears turn to Griese." I know that generally the writers don't choose the headlines associated with their work, but not only is the headline not true but it doesn't really reflect what Czarnecki said in the article.

First, nowhere does Czarnecki suggest that the Bears are "panicking." He spends most of his time discussing how flawed the team is as a whole and questions the decision because he is not convinced that an average, "no mistakes" QB is what this team needs. He implies that the offense as a whole needs to be taken in an entirely different direction and Chicago's front office is at fault for not going after one of the several veteran QBs available this offseason. He reasons that Lovie had no other choice but to go with a different QB after the poor performances and the lightning rod status of Rex. It was panic as much as it was a concession that Rex may be hurting this team more than he's helping it. But through it all it seems clear that this team really is a couple decent performances from their QB away from becoming one of the top 3 teams in the NFC. When a top 3 team who is 2 fewer mistakes per game away from a NFC title is able to effectively remove those 2 mistakes per game, that's not "panic" as much as it is just common sense.

But the meat of Czarnecki's article is that Lovie Smith was motivated by factors other than the performance on the field to make the change from Rex Grossman to Brian Griese (hence the opening line: "Talking Heads and the Media 1, Lovie Smith 0."). Czarnecki reasons that because Smith stuck with Rex last year and then the Bears didn't pick up major competition for him this offseason and didn't snatch up Leftwich at the beginning of the season (not to mention that publicly Smith talked about Grossman like he had all the tools of Dan Marino), that he was ready to go 16 and the playoffs with Grossman and was confident he could get the job done. He further suggests that if Lovie was really motivated by on-field factors like interceptions and whatnot, he'd have given Griese a shot last year when Grossman starting feeding defensive backs heavy doses of pigskin. It's because of this loyalty to Grossman and non-moves in the offseason that Czarnecki is convinced that something else (the media) must've motivated Smith to make the change. Essentially, Grossman has been doing this sense he's entered the league, so if you weren't unimpressed with him before, why change now? His answer is because the media told him so. I disagree.

For the same reasons Czarnecki argues that nothing had changed in terms of Grossman's on-field performance and therefore something else must've influenced Lovie's decision, I'd say that nothing has changed in terms of off-field pressures trying to convince Lovie to make the change. In fact, I think the week 3 cries for Griese are nothing compared to the Week 13 cries from last year. Last year, in week 12, the Bears lost to the Patriots 17-10 in Foxboro. Rex Grossman was 15-34 for 176 yards and 3 interceptions. And the interceptions he threw were awful. The following week, the Bears beat the woeful Minnesota Vikings 23-13. The Bears scored on a punt return, an interception return, a rushing TD by Benson and a safety. Rex Grossman was 6-19 for 34 yards and 3 interceptions. Despite the fact that the Bears were headed to the playoffs, the QB controversy was brewing big time after the New England game. There were articles (requires Westlaw subscription) about Griese getting more reps, about how it might be time to give Griese a shot and calling out Lovie for coninuing to support Grossman even though he was really the Bears ONLY weakness. AND THIS WAS A TEAM THAT WAS IN THE PLAYOFFS ALREADY. They were killing Grossman. So to suggest that now, IN WEEK FUCKING 3, Lovie is succumbing to the media pressure and that Rex's on-field efforts aren't the most significant factor for the QB change is just wrong.

Here's the real reason Grossman was benched in favor of Griese: Rex Grossman is a bad quarterback and the NFC is a bad conference. Rex Grossman SIGNIFICANTLY limits your ability to win 8 games. And all you have to do to be competitive in the NFC is finish somewhere around 8-8. Last year, Rex never had 3 straight games as bad as the 3 he began this year (though weeks 11-13 of 2006 were really bad). He's thrown 1 TD and 6 Ints. If you cut those turnovers in half, it's at least arguable that the Bears are 2-1 and not 1-2 (there was no way they were winning the Dallas game with all of those injuries.). It's that simple. The Bears will go the playoffs if they have a guy who completes 55% of his passes and throws less than an INT per game. Griese can give you that and Grossman cannot. It has nothing to do with media pressure and eveything to do with a sad reality that Lovie had to eventually face. In fact, the media's insistance that a change had to be made was probably one of the reasons the change took so long. No head coach wants to be told what to do. And it had to be very satisfying to have "your guy" take you to the Super Bowl. In the same way it had to be depressing as hell to come to the conclusion that "his guy" was the reason they were losing games.

More than anything, I just think it's shitty of the media to call for Grossman's head for 10 months and then call out Lovie Smith for making the move for "non-football" reasons after it's made. The media wanted the move made for football reasons, wouldn't it then make sense that the head coach--a guy you would think would know more about the on-field crap than any pencil-pusher--would make the move for football reasons? Rex Grossman is on the bench because he sucks. That shoulda been the end of the story.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gee, FoxSport's John Czarnecki Had His Grossman - Griese Column Up Pretty Quick

Either John Czarnecki is a really fast typer or he had this article written awhile ago.

I've got a lot to say about the substance of John Czarnecki's article on Lovie Smith's decision to go with Griese over Grossman (that will come later), but the first thing I want to get at is how quickly he was able to put out what he wrote today.

While there is no fixed time for the leaking of the "report" that Griese is starting over Grossman this week, my best guess is that it hit the public wires ( and the like) around 5:00pm. The earliest report I could find of the news on Google News is 5pm. While by at 3:30pm, the report wasn't leaked on the blogospher (Will Leitch of posted a note about the need to make a change in Chicago, suggesting that he was unaware of the "report"). So it would seem that the news came out sometime around 4:30-5ishpm. John Czarnecki had his article up before 7pm. What that means is that Czarnecki caught wind of the news that Griese was starting, had an immediate opinion on the matter, wrote a column containing stats (a lot of stats), anecdotes and specific play references, got it to his editor and up on in under 2 hours. I know we're in the information/internet/blogosphere age and all, but that seems WAY fast. My guess is that he had this thing written yesterday (or last week or last year with a few small tweaks) and saved it for the moment it would be useful.

Now I'm not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with this practice. In fact, as a practical matter it makes a ton of sense to write a column about a predictable event ahead of time so you can get your opinion out there before anyone else when it actually does happen (it's like writing a column today about the tragic drug overdose of Hannah Montana. It's inevitable and it's always good to be the first person out there on a topic.). I do, however, find it a little disingenuous that a reporter comes out in response to a story less than two hours after the first story hits the wires and plays it off as if he's responding to the story when clearly he has written this beforehand and is simply trying to capitalize on the breaking story in order to get his greater point across. Czarnecki's story is about how the Bears should have done more with their QB situation coming into the season and how Griese is not the answer. The headline suggests that Czarnecki was so fired up by the move that he ran over to his Commodore 64 and fired off an opinion piece just as fast as he could. And that's just not what happened. I'm on to you Czarnecki...

Why Do We Still Fall Back On "Old Sayings" When They Just Aren't True?

Ty Cobb hated black people. That fact is not at all relevant to what I'm posting here. Just thought you should know.

I'm a big fan of old people. They provide hours of entertainment, they don't give a shit and they get away with murder (sometimes literally). In fact, I can't wait to become one so I wake up and golf at 6am, wear what I want, say what I want and go to sleep after Jeopardy. It is socially acceptable for them to act like assholes, and that's great. But there is one thing about them that I'm not so keen on. And that's there old balls sayings. For some reason these old sayings get thrown out year after year and are touted as if they are relevant or factual just because they've been kicking around for awhile. Well I'm here to put a stop to it.... well, not all of it. Just to one of those sayings.

Every time the baseball season starts and one team gets hot or another team that was supposed to be good shits the bed, baseball pundits are contractually obligated to note that "you can't win the pennant in May, but you can sure lose it in May." The first thing you'll notice about the saying is that as a matter of logic, it doesn't work. I mean, if you are ten games up or ten games out in May, you both have the same amount of games left and you both have the same opportunity to lose or win the pennant (though the team ten games out would need some help from the team leading the division). If the team ten games out wins 11 more games than the team ten games up on them, they win the division. But because the phrase is supposed to instead act as saying / expression / idiom (idiom isn't the right word, but you know what I mean) and not a statement of fact, there's no reason to break it down in that matter. It's the overall meaning of the phrase that doesn't work.

You see, back in May--in case you haven't heard--the Red Sox were up 14.5 games on the Yankees. The Yankees, for their part, were in last place. Going into tonight's games, the Yanks are two out with six to play. Certainly well within reach. But if they do end up losing the pennant this year, it is has everything to do with their awful start. They really would have "lost the pennant in May" and thus the phrase would hold up in that circumstance. But with the Red Sox, it falls flat on its ass.

On May 29th, the Red Sox were 36-15. They were playing .706 ball. Only a handful of teams have ever put up close to that pace up over the course of a season, and most of those teams were pre-WWII. Since that time they are 56-49, or .533 winning percentage. Now clearly had the Sox played .533 ball over the course of the entire season they wouldn't be near the playoffs (they'd be in third place and probably would have been eliminated from the playoffs over the weekend). So really, the ONLY reason the Sox have ANY shot at the pennant is because of their start. They coasted into the playoffs after that and may just coast to an AL East crown. I don't know how more plainly I can put it: If the Red Sox win the AL pennant, it is because of how they played in April and May. The saying is flat out wrong.

Now I know it could be argued that the reason the Sox have a shot at the pennant is because the Yankees "lost it" in May & April but that's horseshit. If the Sox played .533 ball in April & May like they did the rest of the year, the Yanks--even considering how poorly they were playing--in May would only have been about 7 games out. It was the Sox .700+ ball through the first 50 games that gives them the shot to win. It has nothing to do with the Yanks.

So the next year when some old dude sidles up to you at the end of May and tells you that "a team can't win it in May, but they can lose it," punch him right in the throat and yell "That saying is wrong and everyone knows it so go to sleep old man!" Or just nod, agree and laugh at him when he walks away. He is old, afterall...

UPDATE: Sox up 3 with 5 to go.

Oh A-Rod, This Is Too Easy... Your Wife Cuts Your Meat For You...?

"Does Alex Walex want me to cut up his meaty weaty for him? Yes he does! Ohhhhh, yes he does! Such a good boy...

You know, if A-Rod were just a normal dude who did normal things, people would probably just let him go through life with nary a second thought (maybe not). But because he does weird shit like wear purple lip gloss, bang Canadians and this (via an email from a friend of mine):
Buddy: btw..i ate dinner next to AROD on saturday night at (Topnotch Midtown NYC Steakhouse) - for all you yanks fans his wife cuts his steak cause he doesnt want to hurt himself by accident

Me: Please tell me you are not joking about A-Rod....

Buddy: According to 2 different waitors - yes, his wife cuts his steak - I could not believe it either
people are right to give him shit. Good God A-Rod...

Has there ever been anything more predictable than A-Rod having his wife cut his food for him for fear he cut himself were he to do it? He just... I mean, he's really... I'm at such a loss of words for this guy. It's like he's trying to act like a complete weirdo.

Monday, September 24, 2007

When Maximus Speaks, Michigan Beats A Crappy Team. When Bob Costas Speaks, 'Cuse Beats A 37 Point Favorite

Sure Russell Crowe has had some pretty cool lines in his day with all that Gladiator crap and whatnot. And I'm not even going to suggest that he couldn't get a group of football players fired up before a big game, but the fact that he gave a pre-game speech before Michigan defeated Notre Dame doesn't really solidify his perceived effectiveness as a great pre-game speaker in my mind. It's like crediting Columbus' battle strategy for defeating the native islanders after the small pox epidemic killed everyone. Michigan was going to win anyway. But when one of your most famous alums stops by before a game that no one expects you to win and gives a rousing speech to the team in the week preceding the game and THEN that underdog team comes in and blows the doors off of that favored team in their home stadium.... now THAT is a pre-game speech. And apparently that's what happened with the Syracuse football team thanks to the verbal stylings of one Bob Costas.

According to (The Axeman), Costas stopped by the Syracuse team this week and gave a well-received talking-to. There's no transcript of what was said but it must've been something pretty great. Given the success of the speech from the 5'7" journalist, we hear that next week they're gonna call in Mike Lupica.

Save Your Allusions And Metaphors. Syracuse Beating Louisville Tops Them All

Maybe Louisville wasn't quite "Goliath," but then again calling Syracuse "David" would be giving them too much credit.

I got home at around 1:30pm on Saturday and debated about whether or not to turn on the 'Cuse v. Louisville game for about ten minutes. I had just eaten and I didn't want to ruin my carpet or clothes (what I'm alluding to here is my fear that Syracuse's poor play would cause me to throw up my breakfast sandwich all over my living room). But when I turned on the TV and saw that 'Cuse entered the 2nd half up 21-7, I almost threw up anyone out of pure shock (not that shock can induce vomitting, or at least I don't think it can). I then sat through 25 minutes of ecstacy and a final five minutes of the most mind-numbing horrible play I've ever seen. Syracuse fumbled twice in the final 5 minutes and one of those was on Louisville's ten yard line up 10 with 2 minutes left even though they could've kneeled down, run off some time from the clock and kicked a field goal. But despite their best efforts, 'Cuse won the game in perhaps the biggest upset in Big East History and one of the biggest of all-time. I received congralutory text messages and emails from all over God's green earth. It was fantastic. And then came all the media coverage with allusions to David and Goliath and the like. And I just don't think those comparisons do justice to what happened.

I think that what people fail to realize here is that Syracuse wasn't just "David." They weren't just a "bad team" or some little upstart like App. St. They were perhaps the worst team in the college football. They were like David's hair-lipped, retarded younger brother. David may have been an underdog, but at least he had a slingshot. Syracuse entered this contest with no weapons whatsoever. It was like David fighting Goliath with a whiffle ball and Johnny Damon's arm strength. Now clearly, this "Goliath" has an "Achilles Heal" (no cliched mythical allusion left unturned) the size of a school bus in their horrendous defense, but even so, the fact that Syracuse was able to expose this weakness is nothing short of miraculous. Achilles was brought down by an arrow to the heal (or knife to the back depending on who you believe). Syracuse entered this battle weaponless. I mentioned this in an earlier post but it bears repeating:
• Syracuse ranks 116th out of 119 Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) teams in total offense, 101st in total defense and 118th in sacks allowed (18).

• The past two years, Syracuse ranked 110th and 115th in total offense; 107th and 57th in total defense; 116th and 109th in sacks allowed.

• With only three more losses this season -- care to bet the under? -- this team will have matched the school record for most losses (24) over a three-year stretch, matching the squads of 1972-74 and 1891-93.
There's more too. In the three games prior to this game, Syracuse had scored 32 points total. They had 21 at halftime against Louisville. Before Saturday, Syracuse had 5 completions over 15 yards in their first three games. Against Louisville, Syracuse AVERAGED 16.3 yards PER ATTEMPT! Syracuse hadn't beaten a ranked team in 3 years. Before Saturday, Quarterback Andrew Robinson had thrown 1 touchdown IN HIS ENTIRE CAREER. He matched that on the first play from scrimmage. This wasn't just some ordinary underdog story. This was waking up, walking outside and noticing that the sky was now neon green and the sun was navy blue. It's one of the most absurd results in the history of confrontations at any level in any circumsntance, and that's not hyperbole.

So I forgive people for making the requisite allusions to David and his sling. Society has conditioned us to break that out any time someone with very little might beats someone with a ton of power and resources. I just want to make it clear that this victory was more impressive than David's. David had rocks and a divine confidence. Syracuse came to this fight with an offense as powerful as a goose-down pillow and a will to win as strong as wet toilet paper. Syracuse over Louisville should be the new "David vs. Goliath."

EAGLES FANS: Dear Donny, Sorry For All Of The... Uh, Well, Ya Know, Everything

After such auspicious beginnings, it's amazing that things went so sour with Donny and Eagles fans at the beginning of this season.

Here's a draft of the letter Eagles fans can use to send to Donovan McNabb this morning in place of the racial hatemail they usually send:

Dear Useless Quarterblack Donovan,
Fuck you and your family and your family's family Thank you for your great performance on Sunday in beating the shit out of the Detroit Lions. Sorry about the racial epithets and hatemail directed at you, your mother and your children. I especially enjoyed regret the one directed at your mother that made reference to cans of Chunky Soup and forcible inser.... well, you probably know what I'm talking about. I'm also sorry for burning your effigy in the parking lot and in my house and in my backyard and on your frontlawn. Those actions made me feel more alive and real than I have in years. Those actions reflect poorly of me and my ability to make good decisions when faced with adversity.

Lastly, I am not sorry for taking dumps on those pizzas I had sent to your place last week. That was pretty messed up.

Keep up the good work you fucking piece of shit,

Eagles No. 1 Fan