Friday, January 29, 2010

Two More Reasons to Dislike the Legal System

I'm not someone who distrusts law and order.  I like it.  I like that it has a firm place in our society.  Three television shows sometimes seems a bit much, but I don't mind.  The basic tenets are excellent.

Still...

Case 1:  A meteorite crashes into a doctors' office (Examining Room #2, Williamsburg Square Family Practice, Lorton, Virginia).  Doctors Frank Ciampi and Marc Gallini donate the meteorite to the Smithsonian.  The Smithsonian thanks them very much and announces they will give the doctors $5,000.  Ciampi and Gallini announce that they will donate the money to Haitian relief efforts.

And then the landlords of the Williamsburg Square Family Practice step in and declare that the meteorite belongs to them.  They demand the Smithsonian return it.  And maybe there is a precedent, like they claim. The doctors have already lawyered in preparation.

Arguing over who "owns" a rock that just fell from space?

Let's move on.

Case 2:  The National Football League is ordering New Orleans shops to stop selling Saints shirts with "Who Dat" on them, claiming a trademark violation.  Let's get judicial!  Here's the key part of the controversy, from the article by Jaquetta White of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Louisiana Saints Limited Partnership registered the mark "Who Dat" with the secretary of state's office in April 1988, claiming that it had first used the phrase in November 1983. There are no details about how the Saints first used the term on file with the office, because that information is not required for registration.
The following month, the Saints Limited Partnership registered the mark "Who Dat" when used in conjunction with "fleur-de-lis design" with the secretary of state's office. The combination of elements was first used by the Saints organization on May 1, 1988, according to records, though again there is no specific example of such.
Both registrations are Class 35, which governs advertising and business.
However, Steve Monistere, according to records, registered the trademark five years earlier, in 1983. Monistere recorded the Who Dat that appears over the song "When the Saints Go Marching In" at his First Take studios in 1983 and created a company, Who Dat Inc., to market and sell the phrase on T-shirts soon after. According to the Louisiana secretary of state, Monistere requested a trademark on the phrase for use on records, tapes, T-shirts and bumper stickers. In his request for registration Monistere claims to have first used the phrase in commerce on Oct. 14, 1983.

I enjoy Senator David Vitter's response, printing up shirts saying "WHO DAT say we can't print Who Dat!"  That's easy money right there.  Only way to get easier money is, say, to have a meteorite fall through your roof.

Competition is Good

I love a good collaboration.

A VCR/DVD player combo?  I buy it.  Jay-Z and Linkin Park doing "Numb/Encore"?  I listen.  Stockton to Malone?  I marvel.

But it doesn't match high-quality competition.  Doesn't come anywhere close.  Compare any good combo to the best competitions.  You know what the combo is missing?  That extra little intensity that requires extra greatness from all involved or else their fate is sealed.  I'm talking Dominique vs. MJ in the Slam Dunk Competition, or Arnie Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus, or Andre Agassi vs. Pete Sampras, or Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali.  The greatest competitors in their field producing at peak capacity, trying to outdo their nemesis.

Last week, we had Kobe vs. LeBron and Ovechkin vs. Crosby.  This week -- last night, as a matter of fact -- we had the two best teams in the NHL collide in San Jose, Sharks vs. Blackhawks.

It was all that was advertised and then some.  Blackhawks took a 3-0 lead nine minutes into the game, Sharks chipped back with a goal in each period to force overtime, and the Hawks' Troy Brouwer won it 97 seconds in.  4-3, Chicago.  Classic.

On Sunday, Andy Murray meets Roger Federer in the Australian Open final.  I'm hoping for another classic.

Then, a week from Sunday, on Feburary 7... Super Bowl XLIV.

The Super Bowl, for whatever reason, has not been the best showcase of greatness in competition, at least not until the past two years.  Up until the fine finishes of Giants/Pats and Cardinals/Steelers, I would point only to Staubach vs. Bradshaw (Super Bowl X and Super Bowl XIII) as showcases of greatness in competition.

And if the Saints/Colts showdown doesn't provide the excitement I hope, at least I'll have had the satisfaction of watching Ovechkin/Crosby Part II in Washington, DC, scheduled for noon earlier in the day.  Awesomeness.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

M-E-T-S, yada yada yada

In baseball, I really do think that it's as easy as considering a team's home field when figuring whether they're making the right off-season moves.

Take the Mets.  (Please.)  They play in a cavernous ballpark that robbed their entire lineup of their power in 2009.  Who was their big free agent signing?  Poor outfielder/great power hitter Jason Bay.  Why?

Hey, the Seattle Mariners also play in a pitcher's paradise.  You know who their big free agent signing was?  Slaphitting, speedy, great fielding Chone Figgins.  Smart.

Maybe it's hard to be a general manager in Major League Baseball, but Mets GM Omar Minaya sure makes it all the more difficult for himself.  The transactions he made last off-season (Francisco Rodriguez, J.J. Putz, Livan Hernandez) were designed to bolster the pitching corps.  They led instead to a disastrous 70-92 season.

This off-season there's the Bay deal and most recently a trade for outfielder Gary Matthews, Jr., who has been steadily producing diminishing results over the past three years.  If Matthews couldn't hit in Anaheim, how is he going to hit in New York?

The AL East gets a bad rap for having the Yankees and Red Sox perpetually at the top, but the Atlanta Braves won eleven straight NL East division titles and now it's looking like a fourth straight Phillies division title, isn't it?  They should send Omar Minaya a thank you card.

Ari's Weekly Hockey Favorites, Vol. 3

With thanks to the authoritative Ari Goldberg-Strassler:

Hockey Name of the Week - Dustin Byfuglien, Chicago Blackhawks.

Hockey Clip of the Week - Top 15 All-Time Shootout Goals

Hockey Game of the Week - Phoenix 5, Detroit 4 (OT).  The Red Wings led 4-3 at home with 90 seconds to go.  How in the world did they lose this game?

This Just In...

Watch out, Joe Namath!  There's a new bold underdog in town.

Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Zimmerman are "confident" that the Nats will not lose 100+ games this coming season.

Phew!  We can all rest easier now!

Lighting the Lamp and Rocking the Red

It's so much fun to root for a good team.

You'll have to excuse me.  I'm not used to this.  The Washington Redskins' last truly good season was 1991.  The Washington Wizards/Bullets' last truly good season was 1978-79.  The Washington Nationals/Senators' last truly good season was 1933.

None of those teams are any good right now.  In fact, they're all embarrassingly bad.

The Washington Capitals are not.

The Washington Capitals are magnificent.

The Caps beat the Islanders 7-2 yesterday, improving to 34-12-6 with an Eastern Conference-best 74 points.  They've scored an NHL-best 202 goals with an NHL-best +57 goal differential.  They've won seven games in a row.  They're pounding teams.  It's terrific.  They're Peyton Manning.  Their offensive potential looms even before the game begins.  The opposition knows they're going to have to score in abundance because you're just not going to shut the Caps out.  Not going to happen.

Okay, so it has happened once this year.  Buffalo blanked the Caps 3-0 on December 9.  In their next meeting, the Caps ripped the Sabres 5-2.

The Red Wings dominated the Caps last week, doubling the shot output and taking a 2-1 lead.  Then the Caps scored two goals in 45 seconds.

In Pittsburgh, the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins came out flying, going up and down the ice with the Caps in one of the most exciting games of the season.  The Caps won it, 6-3.

The season still has 30 games to go before the postseason, when things will really get interesting.  Until then, I say to all of those faint-hearted opponents coming up on the schedule.  You don't mess with the Washington Capitals right now.  You get out of the way.  (Sorry, Jack Hillen.)

These are the Glory Days of Men's Tennis

The Australian Open has been really, really good.

On the men's side.

The women's side... eh.  Even a match like last night's Serena Williams/Victoria Azarenka three-setter was lacking a... certain 'crispness,' shall we say.  It wasn't quality tennis.  There were double faults and missed slams and a torrent of unforced errors.

So, okay, the women's side is not compelling.

The men's side is very compelling.

The depth is sensational.  Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marin Cilic.

That's nine compelling championship-worthy players, not even including such dangerous talents as Marcos Baghdatis, Fernando Verdasco, Fernando Gonzalez, and the towering John Isner (6'9) and Ivo Karlovic (6'10).

Not only that, that's nine compelling championship-worthy players... from nine different countries.

In order:  Switzerland, Spain, Scotland, United States, Argentina, Serbia, Ukraine, France, and Croatia.  That's the Olympics right there.  (And if Lleyton Hewitt ever returned to contendership, we could add in Australia.)

Unfortunately we can't watch the matches!


With the Australian Open, you know, in Australia, the men's matches are held well past the witching hour.  If we're lucky, they'll be concluded around 7 or 8 am... because they keep providing classics night after night.

Roddick vs. Cilic?  Five-setter.
Tsonga vs. Djokovic?  Five-setter.
Del Potro vs. Cilic?  Five-setter.
Verdasco vs. Davydenko?  Five-setter.

Classics.

Now we've got Tsonga vs. Federer and Murray vs. Cilic in the semifinals.

I'm pumped.

And tired.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

For Reference's Sake

Seeing as how the NFL scene these days is judged on Super Bowls, I don't want to let the pre-Super Bowl days get forgotten.

  • The New York Giants played in the first three NFL Championship Games, losing in 1933 to the Bears, beating Chicago in a rematch in 1934, and succumbing to Detroit in 1935.  It bears mentioning that each of the games was won by the team playing in its home city.
  • The Giants and the Boston/Washington Redskins owned a stranglehold over the Eastern/American Division/Conference, playing in every Championship Game (usually against the Chicago Bears or Green Bay Packers) until 1947 when the Philadelphia Eagles crashed the party.  The Eagles lost that year to the Bears before winning in 1948 (the first televised Championship) and 1949.
  • The brand-new Cleveland Browns were the equivalent of the Yankees in the early 1950's, appearing in the Championship every year from 1950-1955 as well as 1957.  They didn't have quite the Yanks' success, going 3-4 (including three straight losses from 1951-1953).  The Browns had formed to replace the Rams, who moved to Los Angeles in 1946 and battled Cleveland for the title in dramatic fashion in 1950 and 1951.
  • The celebrated "Greatest Game in NFL History" between the Giants and Colts in 1958 was the fourth Championship in a row broadcasted by NBC.  The first three all were emphatic routs.  1958, conversely, is the only NFL Championship to ever require to overtime.
  • It's forgotten that the two teams met again in the Championship the very next year, this time at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.  The Colts had a much easier go of it this time, reclaiming their title with a 31-16 victory.
  • Vince Lombardi's storied Green Bay Packers advanced to the title game in 1960, the franchise's first appearance since 1944.  They lost to Philadelphia, 17-13.  No worries:  they'd return to win Championships in 1961, 1962, and 1965, as well as the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967.

Let's close with a special nod to the New York Giants, who managed to go 3-11 all-time in NFL Championships before rebounding with a 3-1 record in the Super Bowl.

Oy

I hope nobody does anything to dignify this idea.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Waiting for the Minority Opinion

Today, Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk joined the growing group of people lining up to take shots at Mark McGwire.  This followed on the heels of critical comments from Jack Clark, Mike Schmidt, Jose Canseco, and a litany of sportswriters.  (UPDATE:  Ferguson Jenkins now, too.)

Here's who's defending McGwire:

His former manager, Tony LaRussa.
His former manager's friend, Bob Knight
His former teammate, Albert Pujols.
Sportswriter Joe Posnanski.

Aside from the respected, talented Posnanski, that's not a convincing list.  In fact, none of this is really news so far.  Mark McGwire's former manager and former teammate are defending him?  Baseball players who didn't take steroids are upset at him?

So what?

A Republican winning a Senate seat in Massachusetts.  That's news.
The Jets upsetting the Chargers despite a terrible quarterback.  That's news.
Youngsters re-enacting MTV's Jersey Shore.  That's hilarious.

Wake me up when McGwire's friends start rationally criticizing him, or when some Hall of Famers put together a cogent case for why McGwire belongs in Cooperstown.

For now, I'm sleeping on this story.

The Last Word From Nashville With Regard to Lane Kiffin

I have no problem with Lane Kiffin leaving the University of Tennessee for the University of Southern California.

I also have no problem with attorney Drew McElroy "fil[ing] paperwork with the Knoxville City Council Public Properties and Facilities Naming Committee to rename a waste water treatment plant the "Lane Kiffin Sewage Center."  (courtesy WBIR Knoxville)

Awesome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I'm Sick of Nate Robinson

I love Nate Robinson the basketball player.  Loved him at Washington, love him with the Knicks, love what he does on the court, love his explosiveness, love his 'spurtability.'

Hate seeing him in the Slam Dunk Competition.

It's not his fault.  He's the reigning champ, he was invited back, he's coming back.  Good for him.  I'd do the same if I was him; if I was the reigning champ of one of the competitions at the All-Star Game, I'd keep on coming back until someone dethroned me.

But the Slam Dunk Competition is not a true 'skill' competition, like, say, 'Fastest Shot" in hockey or 'Three-Point Accuracy' in basketball.  It's a freestyle competition, based on both execution and creativity.  I watch the Slam Dunk Competition for the same reason everybody else does, waiting to see something new.

But we know what Nate has, we've looked through his bag of tricks.  Maybe he'll leap over somebody or do a 360 or go between his legs.  That's all nice, but we've seen it already.  James Cameron just won the Golden Globe for Avatar.  He can't win next year for Avatar again.

Put James White in, or the Air Up There so he can showcase his 720.

Maybe I'm selling Gerald Wallace, Shannon Brown, Eric Gordon, and DeMar DeRozan short -- and I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

The thrust of the competition, though, is innovation.  It's what made Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, and Vince Carter legendary.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Missing Ingredients? No Worries

In his Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James makes an emphatic case against the 1961 New York Yankees as one of baseball's greatest teams.  The argument goes like this:  The Yankees had poor team speed, poor table-setters, shallow starting pitching, an unproven bullpen, and absolutely no bench aside from Johnny Blanchard.

He's right, except that those Yankees pounded everybody en route to an easy World Series title -- and then won the Series again the next season in seven games against the Giants.  They would've won three World Series in a row if not for Bill Mazeroski's home run in 1960, and they were back in the Fall Classic in both 1963 and 1964, losing both years.

So, yes, they had flaws... but they were also pretty darn great enough to go to five consecutive World Series, win two of them, and lose two of them in seven games.

Every time in every sport a team separates itself from the pack, there are two different rushes - one to glorify the team in question, and one to seek out their flaws.

Hey, guess what?  An imperfect team with visible flaws can still win a championship, provided their strengths are strong enough.

Michael Jordan's 1990s Chicago Bulls didn't need a quality power forward, center, or point guard.  Hakeem Olajuwon's 1990s Houston Rockets didn't need anything but The Dream and a bunch of three-point shooters.  Ray Lewis's 2000 Baltimore Ravens didn't need an offense.  Peyton Manning's 2006 Indianapolis Colts didn't need a defense or a running game.  The Detroit Red Wings have won Stanley Cups without superlative goaltending; the New Jersey Devils won three Cups without a deadly offense.

Inexperienced teams have won.  Low-paid teams have won.  No-star teams have won.  Poorly-managed/coached teams have won.

A champion is not determined by strengths and flaws.  A champion is determined by health, resilience, energy, and most certainly a lucky break here and there.

Especially where the referees and umpires are concerned.

Powerhouse in Storrs

They've won 58 straight games.

They're 17-0 this year, outscoring opponents by an average of 89-45.

In their highest offensive output of the year, they won by 70 (105-35).  In their lowest offensive output of the year, they won by 25 (68-43).

They won their first game of the season by 70 points, then beat the #2 team in the country by 12 points and the #3 team in the country by 24.  The #7 team?  Beat them by 41.

They're the University of Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team, and they're spectacular.

UPDATE:  They just beat #7 Duke (in Duke), 81-48.  That's 59 straight wins.

It's the Colts, Right?

If you're someone who dislikes the Colts, well, this is a year to really dislike them.  Their path to the Super Bowl just looks too easy, doesn't it?  It's like all of the big powerhouses in the AFC decided to get out of the way, clearing the Colts' path.

You want a champion to earn it, to persevere and show their grit.

Then you have the Colts, a team began the season 14-0, and then packed it in the final one-and-a-half games against the Jets and the Bills.

I swear I've seen this happen in tennis before:  the favorite seed breeze his way through while all of the other guys beat up on one another, leaving tired underdogs to face the favorite at the very end.

The all-defense, all-running, no-throwing Ravens posed no challenge to Indianapolis this weekend, so what makes us think that the all-defense, all-running, no-throwing Jets will do any better?  Heck, the Jets are basically the Baby Ravens, using the same defensive scheme and the same conservative offense.

The Super Bowl comes next, two weeks later, in which the Colts will get to face either the Saints or the Vikings.

But, hey, at least those teams will be better than the 2006 Chicago Bears.

Ari's Weekly Hockey Favorites, Vol. 2

From the respected Ari Goldberg-Strassler:

Non-Hockey Name of the Week - Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings goalie.  Doesn't sound like a hockey player, does he?

Hockey Clip of the Week - Pavel Datsyuk/Todd Bertuzzi's shootout goals, Detroit Red Wings

Hockey Game of the Week - Chicago 4, Red Wings 3 (OT).  Masterful, high-quality play by both sides, leading to a heart-stopping overtime period, leading to a brilliant shootout.  Awesomeness.

Hockey Jersey of the Week:  Minnesota Wild third jersey.

Blowhard Alarm

I understand that media types may like him because he provides a great quote and I understand that his players may like him because he's all about fire and brimstone, but Jets head coach Rex Ryan is a blowhard of the highest order.

Rex Ryan on December 21, following a 10-7 loss to the Falcons:  "We're obviously out of the playoffs and that's unfortunate."

Rex Ryan on January 17, following a 17-14 playoff victory against the Chargers:  "We believed the whole time.  We believed the whole year."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Vikings Run Up the Score

Late in the second half against the Cowboys today, just past the two-minute warning, the Minnesota Vikings held a commanding 27-3 lead.  It was 4th down and 3 at the Dallas 11 yard line.

The Vikes went for it.  Brett Favre tossed a touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe, sealing Minnesota's 34-3 victory.

Immediately, Fox play-by-play broadcaster Joe Buck brought up the issue of running up the score.  He was right.

Consider:
* the game's decision was not in doubt
* the Vikings' play call was not a running play, it was a pass that went to the end zone

The central argument for the Vikings' decision to throw for the end zone was voiced by both Fox color commentator Troy Aikman and Fox studio analyst Jimmy Johnson.  It is the defense's job to stop the offense, argued Aikman and Johnson.  If you don't want the opponent to run up the score, don't let them score.  Aikman, it seemed, was decidedly put off by the reaction of veteran Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking, who went angrily to the Minnesota sideline to voice his own thoughts on the Shiancoe touchdown pass.

The argument against the Vikings' decision was voiced by Fox studio analyst Terry Bradshaw:  Have respect for your opponent.  Said linebacker Brooking afterward, "I thought it was classless."

The opinions were not mutually exclusive.  In fact, all of them were right.  The Vikings have every right to score whenever they'd like.

And they're most definitely classless.

The Meaning of a Super Bowl Ring

Here's every NFL quarterback who has a Super Bowl ring:
4:  Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana
3:  Troy Aikman, Tom Brady
2:  John Elway, Bob Griese, Jim Plunkett, Ben Roethlisberger, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach
1:  Doug Williams, Len Dawson, Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, Brad Johnson, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Earl Morrall, Joe Namath, Brett Favre, Jim McMahon, Mark Rypien, Phil Simms, Ken Stabler, Joe Theismann, Kurt Warner, Steve Young

I bring this up because the Super Bowl ring is often offered as something that makes a quarterback's career -- or, in the case of Dan Marino, diminishes his career's achievements.

But looking at the list above, a Super Bowl ring has only made a difference for a handful of those signal-callers.

  • It made Joe Namath a legend and put him into the Hall of Fame.
  • It ended the racist myth that an African American could not play quarterback, thanks to Doug Williams.
  • It put Joe Montana into the conversation of greatest quarterbacks of all time.
  • It allowed a young Tom Brady to enter that same conversation.
  • It got the monkey off the back of John Elway.

That's it.

Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana are not equals.  Troy Aikman and Tom Brady are not equals.  Ben Roethlisberger and Roger Staubach are not equals.  Jeff Hostetler and Len Dawson are not equals.  Jim McMahon and Peyton Manning are not equals.

Fran Tarkenton and Jim Kelly never won a Super Bowl, despite multiple tries.  They're better than Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson.  Warren Moon never went to a Super Bowl and Mark Rypien has.

Here's what having a Super Bowl ring means:  You won the NFL Championship.  Period.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

March Madness Spoiler

First, the NCAA women's basketball prediction:

Connecticut's going to win.

Now, the NCAA men's basketball predictions.  No need to focus on every team, just the interesting ones and which round they'll make it to, so none of them get their hopes up:

Texas - #1 seed, Championship
Kentucky - #1 seed, Final Four
Syracuse - #1 seed, Championship
Kansas - #1 seed, Elite Eight
Purdue - #2 seed, Elite Eight
Michigan State - #2 seed, Final Four
Duke - #2 seed, Sweet Sixteen
Villanova - #2 seed, Sweet Sixteen
West Virginia - #3 seed, Sweet Sixteen
Clemson - #4 seed, 1st round
Georgetown - #4 seed, 2nd round
Gonzaga - #4 seed, 2nd round
Brigham Young - #5 seed, Sweet Sixteen
North Carolina - #5 seed, 2nd round
Pittsburgh - #5 seed, 2nd round
Wisconsin - #6 seed, Sweet Sixteen

I don't know about you, but I'm already excited about the first round match-up between #7 Butler and #10 Cornell.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It Really is a Popularity Contest

In the widespread field of sports media, opinions are much more numerous than facts (sort of like how lawyers outnumber people in need of lawyers in Washington, DC).

How, then, would an enterprising personality in sports media contrive to be noticed?

For a start, take a tip from irritants Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd and build your career upon disparaging popular beliefs.  Is there a player who everyone loves?  Point out his weaknesses.  Is there a team that everyone hates?  Point out how great they are.

An excellent recent example would be Lane Kiffin's hiring at USC.  The vast majority of analysts proclaimed it a joke, whether because of Kiffin's slight of the University of Tennessee (which had just hired him last year) or because of his unproven track record compared to a growing resume.  Cowherd, naturally, declared the move to be a 'great hire' and dedicated a great deal of his radio show to praising it and insulting all critics.  No reason to give an opinion that everyone else also holds, right?

If your unpopular opinion turns out to be the incorrect one, don't fret.  Take a tip from Skip Bayless.  Bayless, amongst other incorrect predictions, loudly forecasted that the Oklahoma Sooners would defeat the Texas Longhorns this past season.  He was wrong.  How did he respond?  By accusing Sooners head coach Bob Stoops of being the biggest choker in college football.  You see, it wasn't that he was wrong, it was that the Sooners choked.  Big difference.  Nicely done, Skip.

There's this, too:  Get a minority group of people angry at you.  Mike Wise of The Washington Post has shown his adeptness in this department, launching a ridicule campaign against Washington Capitals fans and hockey fans in general.  Anger breeds popularity.  It's angry people who write letters to editors and call up radio talk shows.  The more people are angry, the more your name will be widely known.

Are Cowherd and Bayless and Wise, among others (Mark Madden, Boston sportswriters, etc.) really this dislikable in real life?  Yeah, maybe.

Or maybe they, like Rush Limbaugh before them, have figured out the industry.

It's not about being right.  It's about ratings (and the Benjamins that go with them).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is Kurt Warner Better Than Tom Brady?

Bill Barnwell thinks so, at least in terms of playoff success.

And you know what?  It's difficult to argue with him.

In the first six full seasons of Tom Brady's career, the argument for his greatness rested upon his three Super Bowl rings, all of which came thanks to the right foot of Adam Vinatieri.

How many seasons do you think Brady had with a 100.0+ quarterback rating in that time?  None.  In his two highest seasons, he posted a 92.6 rating and a 92.3 rating.  Otherwise, he was in the 80.0's.

The entire Brady mythology revolved around his Super Bowl rings.  There was a perpetual argument between him and Peyton Manning (three seasons of 100.0+ and three more with a 90.0+ rating) in which it was argued that it didn't matter that Peyton put up unbelievable numbers, Tom Brady had the rings.  Brady was a 'winner,' the argument went, with the implicit message being that Manning was a 'loser.'

And then the situation reversed.

In 2006, Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl.

In 2007, Tom Brady put up unheard-of numbers, but his undefeated Patriots were shocked in the Super Bowl by the New York Giants.

Who was the winner now?

Let's bring Kurt Warner (two 100.0+ QB ratings and three 90.0+ ratings) into the equation.

In Super Bowl XXXIV, his Rams were tied with the Titans, 16-16, when he tossed a dramatic 73-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce that turned out to be the game-winner when Kevin Dyson's dive came up a yard short.

Two years later, Warner led a game-tying touchdown drive in the final minutes against Brady's Patriots, capped off by a 28-yard score to Ricky Proehl... only to watch Vinatieri's kick cause the upset.

Then there was last year, with Warner bringing the Cardinals back from thirteen points, capped off with a go-ahead 64-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald... only to see Ben Roethlisberger win the Super Bowl for the Pittsburgh Steelers with a magnificent hook-up with Santonio Holmes in the final minute.

To sum up the facts:  Kurt Warner has as many Super Bowl rings as Peyton Manning and probably could have had as many rings as Tom Brady if only his defense could have come up with a couple of stops.

To sum up my opinion:  Eh, good for him.

Ari's Weekly Hockey Favorites, Vol. 1

From the authoritative Ari Goldberg-Strassler:

Hockey Name of the Week - Cal Clutterbuck, Minnesota Wild

Hockey Clip of the Week - Rob Schremp, New York Islanders, who apparently has a background in baseball

Hockey Game of the Week - Anaheim 3, Chicago 1.  The Ducks get outshot 43-12 by the Blackhawks, 34-6 following the first period, and still manage somehow to win.  Losing goaltender Antti Niemi gave up two goals on six shots in the first, and then put up his feet and watched his teammates unsuccessfully bombard Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller.

I don't think Ari would mind if I add in a hockey article of the week:  Vancouver's Alex Burrows is pretty sure that referee Stephane Auger does not like him.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yes, THAT Skylar McBee

The best game yesterday in sports may have been the Arizona/Green Bay classic.

But, hey, it draws my attention when a top-15 college basketball team tosses its best player off the team (for the impressive grand slam combination of speeding, marijuana, a handgun with an altered serial number, and an open container of alcohol) and indefinitely suspends three other key players just before they host the top-ranked team in the country on national television...

...which they then win.  Tennessee 74, Kansas 68.

The key shot came from whimsically-named walk-on Skylar McBee, stepping off the page of a Dr. Seuss book to drop in a crucial, buzzer-beating, off-balance, three-point heave in the final minute.

Read this from ESPN's Brian Bennett and understand how extraordinary an achievement this was for Tennessee yesterday, beating the star-studded Jayhawks with six scholarship players and three walk-ons.

Bold NFL Playoff Opposite Forecasts

This past weekend, most everything that NFL 'analysts' and 'experts' believed would happen... didn't happen by a long short.  For example, I enjoy Bill Simmons, but he'd prefer that you forgot all about his first round picks.

The Jets would get put in their place by the Bengals... nope.
The Packers would easily defeat the Cardinals... not even close.
The Eagles would play the Cowboys tough... didn't happen.
The Patriots would take care of the Ravens to set up a Colts rematch... no, sir.

With this in mind, let's take on this coming weekend's games:

Dallas at Minnesota
popular opinion:  Dallas' defense is going to lock down the Vikings.
opposite forecast:  The Cowboys defense will be carved up by Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson.

** Winner:  Minnesota **
** Loser:  all of us fans who hate when announcers gush about Brett Favre **


Arizona at New Orleans
popular opinion:  Kurt Warner is unstoppable, the most lethal offensive player in the playoffs and a certain Hall of Famer.
opposite forecast:  The New Orleans defense will make the afternoon miserable for Warner, frustrating him, knocking him down, sacking him, and maybe even forcing a few turnovers.

** Winner:  Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams **
** Loser:  a very bruised Kurt Warner **


Baltimore at Indianapolis
popular opinion:  There really doesn't seem to be much popular opinion about this game yet.  Maybe nobody cares.
opposite forecast:  Best game of the weekend.

** Winner:  The Fans **
** Loser:  one of these teams, unfortunately **


NY Jets at San Diego
popular opinion:  Rex Ryan's right.  The red-hot Jets really do run the football better than everyone else and play better defense than everyone else.  Watch out, baby!  J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS!
opposite forecast:  It's not going to be close.

** Winner:  The Chargers' wide receivers who don't get covered by Darrelle Revis **
** Loser:  Rex Ryan's ego **

Hey, How 'Bout That

Breaking news:  Mark McGwire admits steroid use.

Also, the sky is blue, grass is green, and snow is white.

Chapman to Cincinnati... but why?

Aroldis Chapman is a 21-year-old fireball left-handed pitcher, recently defected from Cuba.  That added up to $30.25 million contract over six years from the Cincinnati Reds.

I hope I'm wrong, but this looks like a bad move for both Chapman and Cincinnati.

The Reds are about high-ceiling guys, with talented arms like Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey at the Major League level and J.C. Sulbaran among others coming up through the Minors.  Add Chapman to that crew now.

But the Reds don't feel like the Tampa Bay Rays, who've reaped benefits from their young arms.  Instead, they're more like the mid-90s New York Mets, who came up with Generation K -- Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson -- and then watched all three prospects get overworked, get rushed to the Majors, and then succumb to arm injuries, with not one of them giving the Mets anything to brag about.

Here's what's happened with the Reds' arms:

Bailey was rushed to the Show at age 21 in 2007 and got bombed in nine starts, was even worse in eight starts in 2008 at age 22 and was on the cusp of being traded, then improved to 8-5, 4.53 in 20 starts last year.

Cueto went 9-14 with a 4.81 ERA in 2008, then improved slightly (with greatly decreased strikeouts) to 11-11, 4.41 this year.  Not anything to brag about yet.

Volquez went 17-6 in 2008, then was injured last year and has had to undergo Tommy John surgery.  He'll be out for a while.

Aroldis Chapman is younger than the rest of those guys but is getting paid much more money.  How long will the Reds be able to keep him in the minors in order to work on his secondary stuff, his command, and, most importantly, his composure?

For his sake, I hope he stays healthy and doesn't make his MLB debut until late 2011 or early 2012.

Somehow, I doubt that will happen.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

All You Need is Glove

There was a fascinating debate on Brian Kenny's ESPN radio show last night between Kenny, Joe Sheehan, and Rob Neyer regarding the Hall of Fame candidacy of Edgar Martinez.

The debate centered around this:  Edgar Martinez was a Designated Hitter.  He did not play a position that required him to ever bring a glove into the office.  Should this prevent him from going to Cooperstown?

The majority of Hall of Fame voters agreed with Sheehan, who comes down in the 'con' category.

I disagree.

The Hall of Fame has plenty of one-dimensional types, guys who could only do just one thing, but they did it well enough to be inducted.  Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams didn't care at all about the fine art of fielding.  Ozzie Smith and Bill Mazeroski couldn't hit.  After the DH was introduced, pitchers in the American League didn't have to hit, they just had to pitch.

Well, I don't subscribe to the notion that a guy who was a great hitter and an embarrassingly bad fielder or vice versa deserves to go into the Hall of Fame over a guy who was a great hitter and a non-fielder.

A precedent has been set with certain niche categories of baseball players, the sorts of guys who only affect a small percentage of each game like a DH does.  After a heck of a lot of wrangling over whether closers deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley are all in.  Mariano Rivera's a certainty to follow, and maybe Trevor Hoffman, too.

Edgar Martinez was as fine a Designated Hitter as any of those guys was a closer.

Due to Mariners idiocy, he was made a regular player late, at age 27, and then missed most of the 1993 season due to injury.  No matter.  From 1995-2003, he was phenomenal, compiling six different 100 RBI seasons and missing a seventh by two ribbies.  He was a doubles machine, mashing 514 of them (41st all-time) over the course of his shorter-than-it-should've-been career.  He finished with a .312 batting average, a .418 on-base percentage (22nd all-time), and a .515 slugging percentage.  Jim Rice and Andre Dawson wish they could've had those numbers.

If you don't want any DH to go into the Hall of Fame, here's an idea:  abolish the position.  Don't hold your grudge over the head of a guy who played by the rules, filled a starting role that every team in the American League has to fill, and did it in a historically excellent fashion.

Pitcher A vs. Pitcher B

Pitcher A:  254-186, 3,824 innings, 2,478 strikeouts, 1,390 walks, 105 ERA+ (the league-adjusted ERA stat, where 100 is league average)

Pitcher B:  258-195, 3,908 and 2/3 innings, 2,342 strikeouts, 1,117 walks, 105 ERA+

Who do you put into the Hall of Fame?  Both of them?  Neither of them?

Pitcher A is Jack Morris.
Pitcher B is Jamie Moyer.

Think on that.

Planning the World Series, Literally

See, now this is what I'm talking about!

The United States and Japanese baseball champions taking each other on?  Let's do it!

The biggest questions are:
  1. When would it happen during the year?  I'm hoping a week after the MLB World Series ends.
  2. How would the whole 'homefield advantage' work?  Flying back and forth just seems unfeasible.
Nevertheless, if those logistical questions could be figured out, I'd definitely be tuning in.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Congratulations to the Hawk

There was only one Baseball Hall of Fame inductee by the BBWAA this year, outfielder Andre Dawson.

Here's the complete ballot, thanks to the indispensable Baseball-Reference.com.  Note that a total of 405 votes was needed for induction, so Blyleven came up five votes shy and Alomar eight votes shy.  I suspect, therefore, that both will be inducted next year.

Did someone really say to themselves, "David Segui -- now that guy was a Hall of Famer!"

2010 Voting Results
Player
Votes
2010%
2009%
Andre Dawson
420
77.9%
67.0%
Bert Blyleven
400
74.2%
62.7%
Roberto Alomar
397
73.7%
1st year
Jack Morris
282
52.3%
44.0%
Barry Larkin
278
51.6%
1st year
Lee Smith
255
47.3%
44.5%
Edgar Martinez
195
36.2%
1st year
Tim Raines
164
30.4%
22.6%
Mark McGwire
128
23.7%
21.9%
Alan Trammell
121
22.4%
17.4%
Fred McGriff
116
21.5%
1st year
Don Mattingly
87
16.1%
11.9%
Dave Parker
82
15.2%
15.0%
Dale Murphy
63
11.7%
11.5%
Harold Baines
33
6.1%
5.9%
Less than 5%, will not be on next year's ballot
Andres Galarraga
22
4.1%
1st year
Robin Ventura
7
1.3%
1st year
Ellis Burks
2
0.4%
1st year
Eric Karros
2
0.4%
1st year
Kevin Appier
1
0.2%
1st year
Pat Hentgen
1
0.2%
1st year
David Segui
1
0.2%
1st year
Mike Jackson
0
0%
1st year
Ray Lankford
0
0%
1st year
Shane Reynolds
0
0%
1st year
Todd Zeile
0
0%
1st year