Saturday, November 24, 2007

Verne Lundquist Is The Man Of My Dreams

This is the last thing I'll leave everyone with before I call it an all too necessary night.

I fell asleep on the couch during the LSU - Arkansas game (perhaps the best game since Boise St. - OU last year) and Verne Lundquist was calling the game. While asleep I had some weird ass dreams. One of those dreams involved Lundquist and man was it ever fucked.

As far as I can remember, I was out to dinner with some friends of mine and we stepped outside to grab a cigar (not generally a practice of mine). We looked down the street and Verne was outside grabbing a smoke. He was shitfaced and hanging with Jim Nantz (who I believe is talking with Gary Danielson's voice. I didn't say I could explain this dream rationally, just giving you the details) and about 5 other people talking about college football and dishing some funny stories. My friends and I meandered over to shoot the shit and Lundquist starts giving us shit about the quality of our cigars we were smoking. So we ask him if he can do better. Verne just looks at Nantz and starts laughing. He gets on the phone and in no time there's a Hummer limo that pulls up and Verne invites us in. Inside the limo is a hookah the size of a sewer piper and plasma screens lining the ceiling. Verne shows us how it's done. He lies down on the floor of the vehicle and starts taking a giant pull off the giant fucker like a champ. His mouth expanded like a fucking boa constrictor and he probably inhaled about 8 ozs of steam in one pull (I'm sure Verne was pulling straight North Carolina Tobacco...). It was unreal. We attempted to follow suit but had to use the secondary apparatus (think Half-Baked's Billy Bong Thornton) and our party of about 20 people are flying through NYC in a Hummer Limo high as kites watching LSU - Arkansas on a ceiling TV with Verne Lundquist giving play-by-play for every move we make (and also calling the game at the same time. If nothing else, Lundquist is a renaissance man). We had to pull over and let Verne out because he was being called out on some government business (if I remember correctly, there was a helicopter waiting for him). Things are a little blurry from that point on but I woke up in the middle of the 4th quarter of the actual LSU game with my mouth feeling like I'd been sucking on cotton balls and serious a hankering for Cheese Nips (I satisfied that hankering even though in real life I was sober as a church mouse).

Other than the game ,the rest of the day was a bizarre afternoon followed by an average night of mediocre television. If I ever do hang out with Verne or get a chance to meet him, I'll ask him about his magical peace pipe and his secret double life as a government agent. Or maybe I'll just hold out hope that Verne is half the party animal he was in my dreams. Because if that's the case, the man take me around in his ceiling TV limo any time (man that sounds gay...).

And Now Some Belated Love

Look what the Sox found at the dollar store! A $12 million third baseman.

For those of you how read this on a relatively consistent basis, I apologize for the spotty posting over the last two weeks. I'm up against finals and a couple paper deadlines for school and the next couple of weeks after this aren't going to be any better. Regardless, this is something I wanted to get to. So I will.

Mike Lowell signed a three year deal for $37.5 million last week and thus the World Series MVP will be manning the hot corner through his mid thirties til 2010 for the Sox. And that's really good. But the thing that I don't get is that this was portrayed as some kind of victory for the Sox. Some have even gone so far as to call it a steal considering he likely could have gotten that fourth year and probably could have commanded somewhere near $13-14 million per. But here's the thing, while Mike Lowell has had a resurgence with the Sox and is very valuable for them, his value anywhere else is highly overrated. Check out his home / away splits.

At Fenway, Mike Lowell hit .373, hit 14 home runs and had an OPS of .993. On the road he batted .276 with 7 home runs and had a .767 OPS in almost the exact same number of at bats. Lowell is a pro anywhere but he is dangerous at Fenway. And if he is ever going to sign a new contract after Fenway, he knew that the stats he accumulates over the next 3 years at Fenway will go a long way towards getting him 2-3 more years if he wants it. I'm not saying he couldn't have put a few out in Philly our used the alleys in Anaheim, but Mike Lowell will be at .300 and 100RBI at Fenway over the next 3 years because of Fenway and not necessarily Mike Lowell. The hometown discount Mike Lowell took may earn him a 3 year contract and 20 million more dollars at 36 years old that he may not deserve in another park.

But with all that being said, I love the fucker. He's a pro. He hits in all counts and plays to the situation. When a guy with no control is walking Manny and Ortiz in front of him, Mike Lowell is driving a first pitch curveball down the line or taking a fastball into the gap because he knows the guy is gonna try and get ahead against him. He understands the situation better than any hitter in that lineup and never tries to do too much. He takes pitches when the starting pitcher is nearing his limit and swings at first pitch strikes when a righty reliever has been brought in after Ortiz just got intentionally walked. He's not light tower dangerous but in the same way Paul Byrd and Greg Maddux are crafty and know a hitter's holes, Mike Lowell sees a drawn in infield or the position of the outfield and recognize how the pitcher's gonna pitch him and he reacts accordingly. He's not the most talented hitter and dollar for dollar isn't going to produce like a Carlos Lee or some other young stud earning $12 million a year but I'll take a Mike Lowell at-bat in almost any situation over a $15+ million Soriano at-bat or watching $20+ million of Giambi swing for the hills only able to use 1/4 of the field.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Uno Attacks AIDS Commercial

I saw this commercial last week and have been waiting for someone with a little more tech savvy than myself to post it on youtube. Well finally someone made it happen. I love America. Now, you may be wondering what the F I'm doing posting this stupid commercial but if you listen closely to the words around the 12-13 second mark you'd here a line that makes it sounds like this card game could give you a communicable disease that will likely lead to a lifetime of chemical cocktails and a slow and untimely death. The line I'm speaking of sounds something like this " might get AIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDSSSS!!!" It's really unbelievable that they could let this commercial get out like this. If you can't hear it very well in the above video, check out the snippet below. It's pretty clearly AIDS.

Kosta Koufos Is Old School, In A Late 90's Kinda Way

Kosta Koufos is described as "old school" and a "throwback." From what I saw the last two games the kid is Rik Smits without the post-NBA motocross ambitions.

I should probably start by saying that I think Kosta Koufos is a really good basketball player. Also, before I begin pontificating about the prospects of Mr. Koufos on the next level--and for the sake of full disclosure--I should probably say that Kosta was about 70% of the reason that Ohio State beat 'Cuse in the preseason NIT, and that that loss was infuriating because 'Cuse played so poorly and OSU shot out of their f'n minds. It's because of that loss that it's very hard for me to be objective about Koufos, but I'm going to talk about him anyway. And if you're still reading this, you're gonna listen.

First, Kosta Koufos is good. Very good. He's a legitimate 7 footer with 3 point range, a low post game on both sides of the paint and great feet. He doesn't have the muscle to bang yet but right now he doesn't have to because he's never in the wrong position and he's taller than everyone so even if he get moved by a stronger guy, he's usually long enough to grab the board or get the look. He's also smart as hell on the floor. At the top of the key he's one of the few college big guys with the vision to make the low post or backdoor pass. He's not the prototypical big kid who steps out and looks to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. He can slip the high screen and move down the lane or fake the pick and roll and step back to take the three. His game is complete. We're told he's a lottery pick. A potential top 3 guy. A kid who in 4-5 years is supposed to lead an NBA team to a championship. We're told he's old school in a George Mikan kind of way with a Dirk Nowitzki flair. We're supposed to be excited. But haven't we seen this all before?

On defense he's lazy. He's conservative and strays far from the lane. Never fronts and never goes for the steal. In transition he's lazy. He holds the ball and doesn't look up court even if his young guards are flying. He's got the stamina of a mid 50's chain smoking Italian wife from Staten Island. Before tonight's game agaisnt A&M he hadn't played more than 31 minutes. And his most extended service of the year tonight against the most physical team he was awful at 4-16. He can't go up and down the floor 6 times without his hands meeting his knees. Matta is aware of this and pulls him 3 minutes before every the 13 and 7 minute TV timeouts to give him 5-10 minutes of break per half. Koufos also settles for shots that he won't be able to take against legit big men. He spots up from 15 feet with a 6'7" guy in his face because the guy can't reach him and takes crazy one handed runners through the lane because even if he misses he's in a better place to get the board then the 6'8" guys he's gotta reach over. He's no dummy. The guy can recognize his advantage and he uses every inch of it. He's an efficient weapon on the floor and it's impressive in the college game. But here's the rub, in 4 games he's got 9 fouls. He's not aggressive. He doesn't draw contact. He's been to the free throw line 10 times in 4 games. He's a guy who should be at the line 10 times a game. He should be blowing through people and getting charges on offense, blocking or attempting to block 8 guys a game and getting chippy bodying fouls. Instead he's laying back and fading away. He's around the basket and grabbing boards but getting out rebounded by smaller guys who want it more ('Cuse's 6'5" SF Paul Harris had 12 boards to Koufos' 9) and he never takes an aggressive foul. He's getting 18 and 8 a night and getting to the line 3 times and playing about 30 minutes a night. No better no worse. He can improve if he wants to but I don't think he wants to change his game.

I like watching Kosta Koufos play because he's such a smart player and plays such a different game than everyone else but he's done nothing to show that he's not just another soft European with great inside touch and not enough range. And if that's what you want to lead your team then he's your man. That's gonna get him a ton of publicity and probably won't leave him many lonely nights and he'll probably work lottery contract out of the whole deal but for the timebeing Kosta Koufos is Rik Smits with a better haircut and hotter teenage groupies.

The World's Most Sober Arena

Listen Mr. Dolan, I know you are unhappy, but does that mean you have to deprive me of beer?

I have been to MSG to watch college basketball a number of times. I usually go to the Big East tournament, hit up a St. John's game or two and watch some of the pre-season tourneys if 'Cuse is playing. One of the great things about going to watch college basketball at MSG is that you can get great seats for a pretty cheap price. The other great thing is that you can get shitfaced and there's usually a very short line for the concessions because the place is rarely packed (for games other than the Big East tourney, which is usually jammed to the gills). So when I bought tickets to the pre-season NIT game between 'Cuse v. Ohio St. game I 35%was pretty psyched to get loose and watch the young 'Cuse team roll over the less athletic Buckeyes. As it turned out, neither of things happened. Not only did 'Cuse lose because Ohio St. played the best game they will likely play all year (they shot 50% to 'Cuse's 35%), but when we went to go grab some booze from the concession stands during the games, we were told they weren't selling any. Assuming that the problem was merely that this particular concession stand wasn't selling beer, we went to the next one where we learned that they weren't selling beer either. In fact, there was no beer being sold. We got no explanation for the lack of booze and because MSG has a "no re-entry" policy, we were forced to sit through the entire game sans beverage.

Now, it's not like I'm some alcoholic and need a beer every half an hour or I start melting or something but I when I go to a sporting event I like to grab as much shitty food as I can shove in my face and as much beer as I can drink. I don't think that's too much to ask. As an economic prospect, it doesn't make a ton of sense. Did they not want to make money? There were dozens of patrons who were outraged by the lack of booze were much more vocal than I. And I really wouldn't have been so upset had there been some kind of warning on the tickets or a sign somewhere as we entered the event warning us of the lack of alcohol except that there was not. At least that way I could have stayed at Stout for a couple more beers and not shown up to watch the excruciating last hour and a half of the Washington v. Texas A&M game stone cold sober.

I get that things at MSG are no going so great and the people running the company are suffering. I'm just not sure that the best course of action is to give people less booze. It's been my experience that booze makes things better. Even MSG and the Dolans would look good after a couple beers.

The Knicks' Season

Nothing really to add. Just though that this picture summed up the state of the Knicks better than I could in words.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Do We Have To Give Out A Heisman This Year?

The person who drew this picture of Tim Tebow is more deserving of an award than the subject of the drawing.

It's been a wacky college football season (once again). There's a different storyline and favorite to win it all every weekend with upsets galore. There hasn't been a true dominant team from start to finish all year. And every time you think you know who's gonna play for it all, ten minutes later you need to go back to the drawing board. It's all been very entertaining. But lost in the shuffle of the BCS chaos is the game's most prestigious award. No player has stepped up to separate himself from the pack for the Heisman and I'm not sure any player is really worthy. I'm not saying there aren't a lot of good to great players out there, but I don't see a Reggie Bush or Desmond Howard or even a Jason White.

Think about it, can you name a player who has had that signature moment or signature game to set himself apart? No. Take a look at the QBs: Dennis Dixon was probably a late season favorite until he tore his ACL and now that he's out for the season he's pretty much done. WVU's Pat White has had a disappointing season and while he's putting up pretty big numbers and his team still has a shot at the title, he hasn't had quite the impact his candidacy led everyone to believe. The other riff raff including Brian Brohm, Chad Henne and Andrew Woodson were at times terrific but their teams have been so inconsistent that they are well outside of consideration. The three major wildcards in the mix are Sam Bradford of OU, Colt Brennan of Hawaii and Chase Daniel of Mizzou. Bradford has had a great year but has no buzz about him while Brennan has a ton of buzz but no air of legitimacy to his candidacy. I don't think either are being taken very seriously by the voters. Daniel has the best chance to make a mark because he's got two extremely high profile games before the ballots are cast and his candidacy could go skyward if Mizzou makes a push towards the title game or he has a fantastic game. And then there's the leader in the clubhouse: Punishing Prayer - Tim Tebow. Tebow has got to be the favorite, but in his 3 biggest games of the year he had his 3 worst games. In those three losses, Tim Tebow threw 4tds and 2ints. In the other 8 wins (only 2 of which were against ranked opponents) Tebow threw 22tds and 4ints. I'm not saying Tebow beat up on bad teams, or that those losses were his fault, but he didn't step up against the best teams he played. He'll probably win but it's a shame because his weak performances in huge games don't represent Heisman material in my eyes.

Moving onto the RBs, there are 3 that stand out and 5 total worthy of discussion. The two that you can discard immediately are Ray Rice and Mike Hart. Both RBs are outstanding and run as hard or harder than anyone in the NCAAs, but you can't overlook how disappointing their seasons have been. It overshadows their candidacy. The 3 guys who are in the conversation are Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall and Chris "Beanie" Wells. McFadden has had a great season but he really wasn't dominant until the South Carolina game; a game in which he ran for over 300 yards. Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall has been under the radar for most of the season but at 6.2 yards/carry and over 1500 yards for the team who knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation that is now going to a non-lawn product bowl game (he may also be the first RB off the board in April), Mendenhall needs serious consideration. I think he falls well short because McFadden's numbers are more impressive and Beanie's been a bigger game back, but he may surprise some folks with his vote total. The final RB candidate, and in my mind the best player in college football, is OSU's Beanie Wells. If Tim Tebow is the guy who shrunk in the big games this year, Beanie Wells was rock hard and in your face (that's kinda gay). Michigan St - 200+ yards; @ Penn St - 133 yards; Wisconsin - 169 yards; & Michigan - 222 yards (I don't consider the Illinois game a "big game" because it wasn't one going into the game). He's got huge yards, and HUGE games. He's really the only guy with the signature big game in a big spot with the Michigan game (though it is debatable how "big" a game Michigan was in the grand scheme of things). In my mind, that's what a Heisman candidate does. Yes they have huge numbers and dominate all year. But in the biggest game on the biggest stage they step and give their team a chance to play for the national title. That's what Beanie Wells did and it's something that no other candidate can say they've done... yet (see Chase Daniels).

There are a couple more we probably need to mention. The WR crop is very light. Michigan's Manningham is in there, Harry Douglas of Louisville and maybe Robiskie and the very underrated monster, Aaron Kelly of Clemson all have been good but no one stands out. There is one guy who at least statistically blows everyone out of the water but probably won't get more than a sniff, that's Michael Crabtree. If you haven't seen this fucker play, then you are missing out. He's big at 6'3" 220. He's fast at a sub 4.5 40 and he can catch anything thrown his way. His stats this year are comical. 125 catches, 1800+ yards and 21 tds. All of those lead the nation for the Texas Tech Raiders. Yes, those Raiders who just knocked off Oklahoma. And what did Crabtree do against the Sooners? 12 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown. The kid is good but he is in no way a Heisman candidate. He's not high profile enough. Moving on to the other nominees from the defensive side and offensive line, they include (but are not limited to) Glenn Dorsey, James Laurinaitis and even Jake Long, Michigan's big nasty OT (the longest of long, no pun intended. Seriously). That's really about it.

I know it seems weird that in one of the greatest college football seasons in recent memory in terms of edge of your seat entertainment that no player stands out to the point where you could legitimately call them a favorite, but it's true. Right now, Tim Tebow is probably the favorite and his team is going to play against the 2nd best team from the weakest conference in the country in a Bowl game named after a credit card company or a purveyor of large fried vegetables. That's not exactly the guy I picture holding the Heisman. Maybe it's fitting that in such a nutty year where no team wants to reach up and grab the No. 1 ranking that the player who wins the Heisman is a guy who did a ton for his team but who didn't do enough in the biggest games to carry them to victory. Or maybe we're still waiting to find the guy who does.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

This Just In: Tom Brady Is Good

I'll keep this short.

Like many of you, I am watching NBC's Sunday Night Football In America: A Tradition Older And More Dear To Americans Than Apple Pie, Christmas, Masturbation & Breakfast Combined, when I noticed something. As of this moment, Tom Brady is 18 for 22 for 250 yards and 3 tds. Of those four incompletions, 3 hit the guy directly in the hands and were dropped and the other one was thrown at the feet of Kevin Faulk because the screen pass was blown up. He's only thrown one ball that should not have been caught. What this led me to conclude is that Tom Brady is good. Really good in fact. I would argue this (and yes, I am aware I am a complete homer): Tom Brady is playing his position and his sport better than anyone has ever done anything. Let's move beyond football quarterbacking here because that's not even an argument. He's quarterbacking better than Shakespeare wrote tragedies or Van Gogh painted shit or better than Beethoven composed symphonies. His domination is beyond anything I've ever seen or heard about. It's remarkable.

No one has ever done anything better than Tom Brady is playing the quarterback for the NFL. And to be honest, I don't think it's all that close.

I Have Solved The Replay Debate

Replay could've turned Jeffrey Maier from folk hero to little fat loser if the MLB had adopted my replay philosophy.

Today the outcome of a yet another sporting event was almost detrimentally impacted by the fact that the refs got it wrong and replay CLEARLY showed they got it wrong. The refs in the Browns game called the game-tying field goal "not good" before re-re-convening and getting it right. Now this whole process would have been a lot easier had the refs been allowed review the television replay but for some unknown reason the rules do not allow it (the ref did go over to the replay booth and did talk to someone but the increasingly shady NFL officials insist that no one informed the ref of the right call before he miraculously changed the call on the field). The fact that the rules do not allow this review is clearly a MAJOR oversight and could've been disastrous for the potentially playoff bound Browns (especially considering that one win will likely determine whether or not the Browns get in the playoffs for the first time in recorded history). And despite the fact that the right call was eventually made, the idea that the right call was available but was beyond the reach of the officials is completely absurd. And coming on the heels of a baseball season where several major calls in the playoffs were shown by replay to be at the very least questionable but were unable to be corrected because baseball has no replay, it seems about time that something is done to fix replay once and for all. And I think I have the simple solution.

The two arguments generally put forth by opponents of replay are that the games will take too long and that they don't want to over-review and take away the some of the subjectivity (balls and strikes in baseball and calls like holding or pass interference in football). Let me take a moment to respond to those people: shut the fuck up. The games are long as it is and the idea that we can't implement replay because we don't want to extend the game 10 minutes in order to get things right strikes me as a weak argument. I'd sit through an extra hour if it meant I wasn't going to go home and watch how my team got fucked by a "foul ball" that was really a home run. And in response to the second argument, if the call requires any degree of subjective assessment, it would be beyond the purview of the my replay philosophy. So you wanna hear my replay system? Here goes:

If the call could be changed through objective replay assessment, it will be subject to review. If a call requires someone to subject it to an assessment of "degrees" (I'll explain this in a minute), it is beyond my replay system's scope. The review process would be a 3 person team of replay officials in the booth and vote of 2 out of 3 would carry the day. The booth's entire responsibility is to review plays and EVERY PLAY WOULD BE SUBJECT TO REVIEW AND COULD BE CHANGED BY THE BOOTH BEFORE THE NEXT PLAY/PITCH/WHATEVER. They will have no longer than 1 minute to make their decision under any circumstances. The review booth would be in constant contact with the officials on the field and on close plays they will alert the field/court/ice officials immediately that the play is under review and play would be delayed as deemed necessary to make the review.

That's it. That's the whole kit and kaboodle. And this would apply to every sport and every situation. The part about "degrees" could best be described as this: If the call requires an official to make a judgment call, then it can't be reviewed. There are things like holding in football or the difference between a charge and a block in basketball. Other penalties would be subject to review. Plays like offsides (in NFL and NHL) and delay of game in NFL as well as goaltending in basketball would all be subject to review. With balls and strikes, I just find it more practical and fun that there be no fixed "zone" determined by CPUS. I like that it requires the players to adjust to the ump's zone. But other than balls and strikes, pretty much everything else is fair game. So a baseball hit down the line the hops third base, reviewed. A punt that goes airborne out of bounds, reviewed and spotted correctly. An NBA player has his feet in the "no charge" circle but gets called for a charge, reviewed. A hockey player... well, no one gives a shit. If the call is in anyway questionable, it will be subject to review and we will get it right or at least more right than it was on the field. I don't understand why this can't happen.

Lastly, I get that old people aren't fans of change and old people are running these sports, making these calls and writing about all of it. I know these new contraptions are scary and the kids with their Ipods and their internets and pocket phones are disrespectful and no one appreciates the good ol' days. I get that holding onto your outdated and impractical modes of operating represents a bygone era that you long for and complain about over a 4pm prime rib and 9% tip. I get all of that. But the problem is that the technology is available and the door was already opened for replay review years ago. We at home sit back and see you old fucks fuck it up on the field in crystal clear HDTV no less. You've opened the door for some of it to be fixed, why not fix the rest of it. I'll happily wait the extra ten minutes.