Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Really troubling

From Sports by Brooks, this video is - at the very least - highly unsettling.

Via ESPN and CNN footage, it's ESPN's Mark Schwarz discussing the network's possession of a tape of a phone conversation between Bernie Fine's wife and a young man whom the Syracuse assistant coach had sexually abused -- and ESPN's decision to do nothing about it.

Brooks is spot on.  If you're an advertiser with an ESPN, you have some major questions for the network -- and they better come up with better answers than the ones Schwarz was providing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Good to know

Driving from New Jersey to Maryland on Monday, I listened to ESPN's Greenberg & Golic morning show.

(I generally tune into sports talk radio while driving - it goes along with being a sports fan.)

The topic of conversation was Ndamukong Suh, dirty punk.

Which is true, you know.  You can't stomp on a guy and expect not to be thought of as dirty, particularly not when you have a litany of personal foul penalties already on your resume.  (You can't give a lousy excuse for it, either, without any personal responsibility or remorse.)

Here, however, was how Mike & Mike -- and a third Mike -- discussed the matter:

1)  Special guest Mike Ditka talked about how he had done all sorts of different things on the football field that he now regrets, and how he had definitely stomped on guys -- and then proceeds to catigate Suh for the play.

2)  Co-host Mike Golic talked about his own dirty actions, including the story of one particular premeditated assault on an opponent -- and then similarly berates Suh for his action against the Packers.

In other news, Bob Gibson disapproves of pitchers for throwing inside, Ulf Samuelsson thinks the NHL should crack down on dirty play, and Roddy Piper is against eye-pokes.

Glass houses, gentlemen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Name Game

New Cubs manager Dale Sveum's surname is pronounced "swame," rhyming with 'name.'

It occurs to me that there have been a host of athletes' names through the years that do not have the most common pronunciations, and yet sports fans don't give them much thought.

Craig Biggio - "bih-zhee-oh"
Kiki Cuyler - "kye-kye kye-ler"
Johnny Evers - "ee-verz"
Mark Grudzielanek - "grud-zih-lah-neck"
Derek Jeter - "jee-ter" (NBA player Pooh Jeter pronounces his surname "jeh-ter")
Sandy Koufax - "koh-fax"
Stan Musial - "myew-zee-uhl" (or "myew-zhul")
Mike Piazza - "pee-ah-tza"
Albert Pujols - "poo-holes"
Gary/Ron Roenicke - "reh-nickey"
Red Schoendienst - "shane-deenst"
Jim Thome - "toh-may" (although "toh-me" is also acceptable)
Joe Torre - "tohr-ee"
Carl Yastrzemski - "yuh-strem-skee"

Kobe Bryant - "koh-bee"
Antawn Jamison - "an-twan"
Dirk Nowitzki - "noh-vitz-kee"
Shaquille O'Neal - "shuh-keel"
Kiki Vandeweghe - "van-deh-way"
Dwyane Wade - "dwayne"

And, lastly:

Brett Favre - "farv"

All right, who'd I miss?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ditch the NCAA hoops Top 25 poll

The Top 25 poll for college basketball, whether voted on by the coaches or by the Associated Press, is obsolete and needs to go.

*  The poll rankings don't affect seeding for the NCAA tournament, which determines the true champion for the year.  Therefore, they're entirely insignificant.

*  There's one #1 team in a Top 25 poll.  There are four #1 seeds in the tourney.  Ditto #2, #3, and so on.  Are you the #11 team in the country?  Forget that, you're a #4 in the East.  The Top 25 poll confuses things...

*  ... and let me say again, rankings don't affect seeding.  The 20th team in the poll might be a 3-seed in the tournament.  The poll carries no weight.  It's bupkis.

*  Why are "25" teams even listed?  There are 68 total teams in the tourney, 37 of them receiving at-large berths.  If you want to list the most likely teams to qualify, you might as well make it a Top 40 or thereabouts.

Really, the poll's about pure vanity and nothing else.

Ditch it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I feel you, Rick Perry

No need to discuss any politics here, except to say - for purposes of full disclosure - that I am liberal and Democratic and I support the "Occupy __" movements.

As somebody who talks for a living, specifically during baseball season, let me tell you:  It happens.

I've blanked on the name of my radio station.
I've blanked on the teams playing.
I've blanked on the stadium's name.
I've blanked on the city I'm broadcasting from.
I've blanked on my board operator's name.
I've blanked on my broadcast partner's name.
Heck, I've blanked on my name.

It happens.

It's embarrassing, but it happens.

In one incident in college, I could not remember what a certain position was named.  "It's 4th down," I said, "so they're bringing out the -- uh -- the kicker -- Nick Aiello -- who kicks it to the other team on 4th down.  Aiello.  Out to kick."  Five minutes later, my interior monologue:  "The punter.  That's what he's called!"  Hey, it's easy to laugh about it now.  At the time, I was panicking.

If you're going to vote against Rick Perry in the primaries, it would seem to me that you could find more substantive reasons than "Oops."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Clarify the MVP criteria

Major League Baseball is irrationally idiotic and obtuse.

Exhibit A:  Refusing to standardize or remove the DH, causing each league to play a significantly different game.

Exhibit B:  Placing unequal quantities of teams in the AL West and the NL Central, making it easier to make the playoffs in the AL West (and in the American League in general) and more difficult to make the playoffs in the NL Central.

Let me submit a third item.

From this November 2010 article by Hardball Times, we learn the guidelines for voting on the league Most Valuable Player Awards.

A pertinent quote:

The BBWAA has been voting on the MVP award since 1931. Jack O’Connell, secretary-treasurer for the BBWAA, said by email this week: “That award places 'value' on contributions to the team by a player. The only guidelines for the other awards is for voters to select the pitchers, players or managers they feel are most deserving of being honored. It's as simple as that. These are elections, not coronations...
BBWAA members assigned to the National League Most Valuable Player committee are told, “There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.
“The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.”

Want to know why the MVP debate is convoluted?  Because "it is up to the individual voter to decide" what the award means to her or him."

That's ridiculous.

The Cy Young Award goes to the best pitcher in the league, bar none.  The Hank Aaron Award goes to the best hitter in the league, end of story.  The Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award goes to the best rookie in the league, no questions asked.  The Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards are presented, respectively, to the top power-hitter and defender at each position, nothing vague about it.  The Manager of the Year goes to, drumroll, the best manager in each league.

But as for the MVP...

Some writers vote for the best player in the league.  Some writers vote for the best player on the best team in the league.  Some writers vote for the best player on a playoff team.  Some writers vote for the player who was the heart and soul of his team.  Some writers vote for pitchers.  Some writers exclude pitchers entirely.

The Most Valuable Player award is the TOP AWARD.  It's the pinnacle of post-season honors.

Is clarifying the MVP criteria really too much to ask for?  Or is it okay with MLB that your top award is being voted on by people who have no consensus what sort of player they are voting for.

Two easy steps to fix this:

1.  There are writers who refuse to vote for pitchers because they believe, idiotically, that "pitchers have their own award."  Yes, the Cy Young Award is solely for pitchers -- and the Hank Aaron Award goes solely to hitters.  Tell these writers to cram it and start voting deserving pitchers among their top 10.  Or don't.  Disqualify pitchers entirely.  Just make it clear.

2.  Outright specify which is more important to winning the MVP, making the playoffs or compiling huge numbers.  Don't leave it vague.  Give each accomplishment a measure of weight.

Baseball's a great game, but that doesn't mean we should overlook its idiocy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Penn State

The #1 story in sports right now is Penn State University and Jerry Sandusky.

I am reacting like everyone else.  It is sickening and horrible.  I'm increasingly uncomfortable the more I read -- it's abhorrent.

More details will come out as Penn State decides how to react.  Joe Paterno looks to be out, but that's a minuscule salve.

That is all.

Questions I'd love to see an athlete ask the media

*  Is this what you really want to do with your life?  Why?

*  Maybe that quote is disrespectful toward me and/or the team, but what was the context?

*  How much preparation did you do before you came in here?

*  Is your article already written and you're just looking for quotes to fill in?  Or:  What's your soapbox and what are you looking for from me in order to prove your point?

*  Was I the person you really wanted to talk to, or did you settle for me?

*  Are you going to treat me with the same respect that you want me to treat you?  Or:  When we're not in the same room, what do you think of me then?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why I'm watching The Boondocks

I'm a Washington, D.C., area sports fan.  I root for the Mystics, D.C. United, the Bullets/Wizards, the Maryland Terrapins and the Georgetown Hoyas, and all of the other DC-and-surrounding-vicinity colleges like George Mason, George Washington, Howard, and American University.

(I'm not really a Nats fan; I work in baseball for a Blue Jays-affiliated club, I've worked for a Rays affiliate, I grew up a Tigers fan, and there were no Nats while I was growing up.)

The two teams I wish to focus on here are the most popular:  the Redskins and the Capitals.

You can't root for the Skins and the Caps in the same way.

The Washington Redskins have won three Super Bowls and five total championships.
The Washington Capitals have zero Stanley Cups and zero total championships.

The Redskins have been in existence since 1932, in Washington, D.C. since 1937.
The Capitals have been in existence since 1974, playing in D.C. the entire time.

The Redskins, clearly, have the lineage and tradition, with generations of faithful fans.
The Capitals do not.


Each team has made the playoffs exactly 22 times.  This year, it is very likely that the Caps will make the playoffs and the Skins will not.  Even conceding that it is easier to make the postseason in the NHL than the NFL, it's easy to see that the Washington Capitals are a first rate powerhouse, among the favorites in the Eastern Conference entering each season, while the Washington Redskins are miserable losers with optimistic moments few and far between.

The Caps lost to the Islanders on Saturday, 5-3, after winning the previous day in Carolina.  It's tough to win the second of back-to-back road outings.  The defeat dropped their record to 9-3, best in the Southeast.   Still, hey:  I know the Caps are going to make the playoffs.  That's where things get interesting since they've made a habit of losing early in the postseason.  But they're going there, no doubt in anyone's mind.  It's taken for granted.

The Skins lost to the 49ers on Sunday, 19-11, their fourth consecutive loss.  They are now 3-5.  They are terrible.  Their offense is nonexistent.  They were lucky to score 11 points.

That's where both teams, while their fates diverge, come together for me:  I really have no must-see need to watch their games.  The Caps are going to win, more often than not, but their regular season games feel inconsequential.  The Redskins' games are also inconsequential because they're not going anywhere; they stink.

And so I am now watching episodes of The Boondocks instead of my teams.  That's great - brilliant, even - TV.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Good news, everyone

Complaining is easy, especially on something as cathartic/therapeutic as a blog.

On the bright side, though:  There's a new Shel Silverstein book!  (Here's my current book of choice.  It's just outstanding.)

Hockey is terrific.

And, hey, it looks as though I might be publishing a book soon!  Stay tuned...

Hypothetically speaking, that's nonsense

On ESPN Radio's Scott Van Pelt Show yesterday, Ryen Russillo and Doug Gottleib discussed a potential national championship rematch between LSU and Alabama following their game on Saturday night.

(LSU and Alabama have fine defenses, offensive lines and running games.  Their quarterbacks are mediocre.  I'd rather watch Andrew Luck face Matt Barkley... but that was last week.)

The main crux of Russillo and Gottleib's conversation:  if LSU vs. Alabama is a terrific game, shouldn't they rematch for the national title?  From there, they imagined a victorious Alabama team stumbling against Mississippi State or Auburn and what ramifications a loss post-LSU would have.

Classic sports talk radio fodder:  Bring up a situation that doesn't exist yet, and then react as if it did, creating hypothetical situations from it.

It's nonsense.  It's drivel.

My local area of sports talk, DC, does this all the time.  "Let's say the Redskins get killed by the 49ers this week, will it be time to panic?"  "Yeah, but let's say they play the 49ers in a close game but lose by a field goal.  Do you panic then?"  And from there, they get into a topic of conversation on the week in which Mike Shanahan finds himself on the hot seat.  Ridiculous.

It's like the old Jewish joke of the man who goes to his neighbor's house to borrow something.  On his way, he starts imagining what his neighbor's reaction will be.  Sure, he'll lend it... but what if he doesn't?  What kind of a man wouldn't lend to his neighbor?  By the time he arrives at his neighbor's door, he's worked up into such a lather that he knocks on the door, punches his greeting neighbor in the face, and snarls, "Keep it!"

We don't know what's going to happen in LSU/Alabama.  It could be that, hey, the game's a classic.

Then let's react to it.

How's that sound, sports talk drivelers?

By the way - if Boise State, Houston, Oklahoma State and Stanford all end the season undefeated, there's no way a one-loss team should be anywhere near the national title game.

Cram it, SEC.

EDIT:  On the Tony Kornheiser Show today, Tony just posed this hypothetical scenario to Pat Forde -- What would happen if the SEC team that wins on Saturday night then loses in the SEC Title game?  Idiocy.  There's a lot in life that's complicated and headache-inducing.  No need to create headaches out of thin air due to adding hypotheticals onto hypotheticals.  Let's discuss things when they actually happen.

Also:  If Major League Baseball's postseason was run like college football, the Yankees and Phillies would have been voted into the Championship Game, the Rays and Red Sox would have been inserted into prime BCS bowls since their division was clearly the toughest, and the Cardinals would've played an unwatched bowl game on December 28th against the Angels.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Apathy and disgust, conquered

The NBA missed its Opening Night last night due to the lockout.

I'm in the minority when I say:  I miss it.  I cheer for competition in baseball, for hockey, for football, for soccer, and yes, for basketball.  (Not auto racing.  Not golf.)

I'm not happy when my Washington Wizards lose games, but I'm used to it.  I'm really not thrilled when an entire league loses games.

There are complex issues at work in the lockout, I realize.

Generally, I fall on the side of the players.  The owners not only make more money and have more job stability, they have longer primes.  An owner can run a basketball franchise much longer than a player can play the game.

Additionally, to put this into simple mathematics, let's say the Cleveland Cavaliers before LeBron James sold only 47% of their tickets, with LeBron James sold 99% of their tickets, and after LeBron James sold only 43% of their tickets.  (This is hypothetical, mind you, not fact.)  Don't you think James deserves a share of the profits that the Cavs made, especially since it was based upon his presence?  I'd say so.  I don't mind a player making an exorbitant amount of money as long as he in turn helps his employer profit.  That's what it comes down to, in the end:  Win games, make money, and not always in that order.

Setting aside the lockout, though...

The solution to every athlete and sport's problem has always been:  Play the game.

Michael Vick needs to revitalize his image?  Baseball needs to recuperate from the steroid scandals?  Brawls and referee controversy in the NBA?  Recruiting and agent problems in college football?

The games play on, and all is forgotten.

I don't like a lot of things about college football.  I don't like the polls, the BCS, the conferences, the coaches, the fraud of "student-athletes," the recruiting -- heck, I don't even like the Heisman Trophy.  (Wait until after the National Championship to hand it out and then we'll know who the best player in college football is.  No more chumps like Jason White or Troy Smith who couldn't cut it against a good team.)  But I love the game of college football, what transpires on the gridiron.  When I watch Stanford play USC or Boise State play Georgia, I forget about all of the game's woes.

The World Series was its own best advertisement for baseball.  You may not like a heck of lot of things about the Major Leagues, whether it's the Yankees payroll or commissioner Bud Selig or the way the DH is ignored by one league and glorified by the other.  Still, all of those concerns fade away when the game is compelling, and the 2011 World Series was FILLED with compelling baseball.

(The NFL is an exception.  The NFL is producing terrible football right now.  I'm hoping it's just a funk that will be straightened out by season's end, but seriously - the last time the NFL was good, Tom Brady and the Patriots were going for it on 4th down against the Colts, 11/15/09.)

The NBA is dealing with apathy right now.  When the owners and players' association figures things out and comes to a deal, it may very well still have to deal with an apathetic or disgusted public...

Until, that is, the NBA produces compelling, exciting basketball once more.

Then all will be forgotten.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Baseball's biggest PR problem

The problem with baseball is not that the games go on for over three hours, or that Tony La Russa and Ron Washington used their entire bullpens in each World Series contest, or that the umpires' strike zones are inconsistent.

It's much more simple than that.

Baseball is my favorite sport.  Basketball isn't.  Yet this page of the NBA's greatest shots is better than anything baseball can ever produce online.  Why?  Because it has video links.

Baseball's media department, run by Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) prohibits the sharing of any MLB video away from the official Major League website.  It's asinine and counterproductive, and promotion of the game suffers because of it.

If I wanted to show someone why Barry Sanders was so good, I type 'Barry Sanders' into YouTube and a multitude of his highlights come up.  Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins, same thing.

The greatest dunks?  The greatest hockey goals and saves?  They're easy to find and share.  A non-fan becomes a fan in a heartbeat.  "So that's why Pele's the greatest soccer player!"  "That's why Wayne Gretzky's the Great One!"  Yes, video proof.

Why should someone become a baseball fan?  Who was Bill Buckner?  What did Kirk Gibson's home run against the Eck look like?  Why is Ozzie Smith regarded as the greatest defensive shortstop of all time?  Baseball has none of this.

I know exactly why Pete Maravich was the man.  Where are the highlights of his baseball contemporaries - Mantle, Mays, Clemente, Banks, Gibson, Aaron, etc.?  Ken Burns can show video reels of Babe Ruth in his national pastime documentary - why aren't those videos easier accessed by a curious public?

Of all the sports, baseball is most proud of its history... yet, visually, that history is entirely inaccessible to fans, and that's bush league.