Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Man's Man

As I watch the playoff madness of the NBA and NHL unfold before me these last couple of weeks, I am reminded of the legacies and long histories both sports have created over the century. However, there's one issue that just doesn't seem to sit well with me and I honestly believe this issue will continue to change the landscape of sports. That indigestion is flopping. Straight up flopping. I hate it. I understand the tactic and the use of flopping, but I wonder if one day it'll just be too much for me to handle. I'll leave you with four exhibits and my rant. (I'll try to get this short..but I really could go on for days).

Exhibit 1. James Harden.
It all started a last week with the Mavericks/Thunder series. Like previously mentioned, I'm a Dallas homeboy. It shouldn't be a surprise I'm rooting for the Mavericks to win it all this year. Game 3. Western Conference Finals. It's a close game (as it should be). Every point matters (yes, of course). But when you have to act to get points...I just don't know what's worst..the refs making the call or the flopper who gets awarded the points. Don't get me wrong, James Harden is a beast. He's young and very talented and could be a starter anywhere in the league. But it's a sad thing when young, rising stars are already learning this flopping "trade" to gain a competitive advantage.

Of course, there's always a subjectivity about the flagrant/technical fouls and its intent blah blah blah. JVG's got it right. Fine them for flopping. Get rid of the theatrics. I hear all about basketball in the 80s and 90s and the toughness and grit that playoff games consisted of and I wonder what they'll look like in ten more years. I wish I could have experienced the Bulls/Pistons or Celtics/Lakers. Just tough, grown-man basketball with legit elbows. When I think of playoff basketball, I envision sweat, blood, and tears (grown-man tears of course). None of this pansy play.

Exhibit 2. Chris Bosh.
He has gotten tons of criticism this year. I started to feel sorry for the guy because he's actually put up decent numbers. Sure he's not the "big" man everyone wanted him to be in Miami, but he still gets the job done. However, let's rewind to a couple nights ago. Eastern Conference Finals Game 5. Joakim Noah loses his balance while guarding him. Bosh gets the ball and drives down an open lane. Boozer comes over and lays a hard, "playoff-basketball" foul. I'm down with that. There's nothing free in the NBA playoffs. You got to earn them. Oh..but of course there's an extra tumble, turn, floppy flop. Oh..of course here comes a flagrant foul. Oh..of course Bosh gets up like Boozer just slapped his mother. It was a hard foul. If you want to be an all-star in this league, you should be use to it. (But then again, being an all-star on the Raptors doesn't say much). Learn how to take a hard foul and then I'll respect your game. You aren't even worthy for an embedded youtube clip.

Exhibit 3. Lebron James.
Please don't think I'm ragging on the Heat just because they are in the NBA Finals against the Mavs. But let's be real with Lebron James. Scottie Pippen said LBJ "may be the greatest player ever to play the game." WOW. High accolades for someone who hasn't won a ring (but someone else can blog about that). But let's be honest, Lebron James really is the face of the NBA whether you admit it or not. Lebron is a household name and will be for years to come. He's an all-star, superstar, whateverstar you can think of. He is the real deal. I bring him up only to shine some light on how flopping is infiltrating even the stars of tomorrow. Eastern Conference Finals Game 6.

I don't question his toughness. Not one bit. But Lebron James is better than that. I know it gets the job done and he will easily get calls for him until the day he retires...but the sport needs a superstar to be above that. Michael Jordan wasn't known for flopping. Try and youtube that. I couldn't find anything relevent. Let's not start comparing Lebron to Jordan. Please give MJ more respect than that. I want a Lebron James who bullies his opponents with brute strength and athletic, God-given talents a la "I-don't-need-a-foul" to Joakim Noah/refs/the fans/everyone watching him run through the Bulls (ECF Game 4). That's what the NBA needs.

Exhibit 4. Steven Stamkos (he plays hockey for those in the South).
The sole inspiration for this post. I thought about writing about flopping after watching Harden. And again when I saw Bosh try to get krunk. And again after Lebron winked to his coach after his flop. But it was Steven Stamkos (former #1 pick 2010) that inspired me to write this. As much as the first three exhibits made me a little queesy about the greatness of playoff sports, exhibit 4 leaves me no doubt that hockey (at least) is in good hands. Though I didn't get to catch Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight (date night with the girlfriend, the 2nd priority after #1 God and before #3 sports), I caught some of the highlights. Midway through the 2nd period, Stamkos takes a deflected puck to the face from 15 feet away. A FRICKING PUCK TO THE FACE. That's no flop, my friends.
Of course, he's not the first hockey player to take a puck to the face (God bless everyone else who has). But it's the aftermath that really inspires me. Immediately after taking it to the face, Stamkos makes a bee-line to the locker room. He knows his face is gonna be f-ed up. He knows he needs repair. He knows it's Game 7 of the ECF and his team is in need of him. Stamkos is no joe-shmoe. He is the team's best scorer and an instant offensive catalyst. If his team has any chance of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, he needs to be out there. He doesn't need to sell his toughness to anyone. People see it right away. Shoot, he even comes out with a gash over his nose and a caged mask. Fricking Lebron can't even play without his dinky little headband. So I tip my cap to you Mr. Steven Stamkos for being an athlete and showing us what it looks like to a real man's man in playoff sports.

I'll leave with this quote from Ron Artest -- "I don’t even know how to take a charge. To get the charge you have to fall. I’d rather not fall. You call an offensive foul, possibly be a fight. That’s just how we grew up playing basketball. Growing up if you took a charge on the playground and called it, you got stabbed."

The sports world needs more Steven Stamkos and Ron Artest.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fringe Sports Extravaganza

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend might be the best weekend of the year for fringe sports enthusiasts. Here's a rundown of some of the fascinating events over the next four days:

Friday, May 27, 8pm ET - NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 7: Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Ok, so I guess hockey is still technically one of the four major American sports, but since it's a distant fourth, I'll still consider it a fringe sport. I'm a Boston fan all the way, and a win would mean a chance of completing the quartet of Boston championships in my lifetime, something I would have never thought possible ten years ago and pretty much the pinnacle of sports fandom. Given the Bruins' Game 7 failures the last few years, I am not at all confident, but I hope the home ice advantage will carry them to the Stanley Cup Final.

If you're tuning in, remember to reserve at least 10 minutes looking for Versus on your cable lineup (at least that's how long it took me a few weeks ago). Plus - regardless of the outcome, remember to stay tuned for the handshake line at the end of the game, still one of the coolest traditions in sports (no pun intended). Go Bruins!

Saturday, May 28, 2:45pm ET - UEFA Champions League Final: Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona

Again, most of the world would not consider soccer a fringe sport, but here in the US, outside of the quadrennial spike in passion during the World Cup, soccer still lags big time in popularity. I happen to own a Manchester United jersey (kit?), so I guess I'm rooting for Man U in this one. So far I don't think Man U has been challenged much in the Champs League due to some lucky matchups like the semifinal against Schalke, so they are facing a tough task against Messi and Barcelona. Again, home field/country advantage may play a big part in this one. Go Chicharito!

This year's CL final match (fixture?) is airing on Fox in the US. Since Gus Johnson just left CBS for Fox, is there any chance of a cameo appearance on Saturday?? Gus calling soccer would be a wild change from the typically understated style of the British announcers. Based on the video below, apparently I'm not the only one who has considered this...maybe Gus is the key to moving soccer from the fringe in America??

Sunday, May 29, 12 Noon ET: Indianapolis 500
I don't think anyone can argue against IndyCar racing's status as a fringe sport. It's not even number one in auto racing anymore given the surge in NASCAR's popularity over the last couple of decades. Still, the finish of the Indy 500 each year is almost always exciting, so I usually try to catch the last few laps.

In my opinion, IndyCar's only hope to move from the fringe is if Danica Patrick finally sheds her reputation as the new Anna Kournikova and wins the big one. Danica's by far the most popular racer on the circuit (can you name another IndyCar driver?), and a win in the biggest race of the year would certainly give IndyCar the media boost it needs. Plus, if Danica continues on her gradual move towards NASCAR, who knows if IndyCar will ever have another chance at this kind of media boost from an Indy 500 victory?

The only problem is that auto racing really does seem to be about the cars more than the drivers, and it doesn't seem like Andretti Green Racing has been or will be up to the task. With a few timely cautions though, anyone can win.

Monday, May 30, 3:30pm ET - NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship: Teams TBD
Finally, closing out the Memorial Day weekend is the annual NCAA Men's Lacrosse championship. Somehow, 3 ACC schools made it to the Final Four (apparently, only 4 ACC schools even play D1 lacrosse) along with Denver, one of only two D1 lacrosse teams west of the Mississippi (along with Air Force).

Since I no longer have a rooting interest in the tournament, I gotta root for the underdogs, and I'm hoping for a Maryland-Denver matchup. Maryland was in the bottom half of the seeding for the tournament, and I'm hoping they'll go for a few more trick plays this weekend! Denver is the 6th seed in the tournament, and no team from the west has ever made it this far, so I guess they can be considered the Cinderella team. Here's another classic Gus clip to get us into the NCAA tournament mood:

Perhaps the best part of this weekend is that there's no Triple Crown race, meaning I won't have to subject anyone to my horrible horse picks! Sorry about the Preakness, Mok!

Fantasy Fantasies - Thursday May 26

Phillies over the Reds in a ridiculous game that went 19 innings!! Wilson Valdez with the win, not sure if that counts in Fantasy, it should though! I wish they counted pitchers with hitting stats...but I digress, today's Cash and Trash goodies:


Mike Morse: 3 straight games with home runs, you would be silly not to pick him up. LaRoche is done
Lucroy/Arencibia/Salty: Unless you have a top catcher (still debating if there is value to having a top catcher), just add and drop this position based on who is hot
Jon Jay/Allen Craig: It seems like the Cards have a never ending stream of OFs that just always contribute, but La Russa still hates saves
Randy Wells: If you need a spot start this weekend, Wells is coming back on Sat to pitch vs. the Pirates, could be really good or plain awful, use with caution
Aaron Crow: For those of you in Roto leagues, Middle Relievers are a great source of Ks, WHIP, and ERA help so if you can't find any good waiver starts, consider picking up two solid MRs. Guys to consider include Adams, Crow, Venters, Dunn, Pauley, and Romo.


Narveson: Did anyone really think this would last?
Arroyo: Can't remember last time he was good
Napoli: Not sure if Ron Washington just hates him, not getting any ABs
Maybin: Sigh, what a tease
Brian Roberts: I think the guy is done, he could have been done a few years ago, I'm not really sure because he's on the O's.

Let's pour out some liquor for De La Rosa, and even more fatal for some fantasy teams because he was drafted so high, Buster Posey. It hurts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hats off to you, JJ

When it came to my attention that JJ Barea was dating a former Miss Universe, I quickly declared it as the most lopsided celebrity relationship in the NBA. Now I don’t mean to knock on JJ, but when the biggest achievement in your NBA career is just having a roster spot on a NBA team, you’re not exactly a sports star. But before I jump to any further conclusions, let’s do a simple case study on others and find the losers of the relationship.

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union
A top 10 player in the NBA and a C-list actress in Hollywood. On paper, this might not be the most balanced of relationships in terms of stardom and fame. But D-Wade can give himself a pat on the back here for finding a keeper. With the things that she’s had to deal with, Gabrielle is definitely a solid pick for Wade.

Loser: Neither

Sasha Vujacic and Maria Sharapova
A Machine and a former world #1 tennis player. The argument should end just right there, but there’s more. Outside of tennis, Sharapova has graced the lists of People’s 50 most beautiful celebs, served as back-to-back-to-back-to-back winner of Maxim’s hottest athlete in the world, and even shot an issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit spread. But to give credit where credit is due, Sasha is a 2x NBA champion. After taking that into consideration, it is still a no contest.

Loser: Sasha Vujacic

Tony Parker and Eva Longoria
3x NBA Champion/Finals MVP and a desperate housewife. Some can make the argument that Eva Longoria’s rise to fame had much to do with Tony Parker’s already celebrity status at the time. In fact, the Parker/Longoria really gave Eva that extra push to get her more notoriety especially among the 20-40 something males who watch NBA. Though this relationship had a strange, strange ending, it’s important to note that Eva’s fame rose and might of even surpassed Tony’s as the marriage went on. Also, note the fact that Eva’s 7 years older than Tony. This is a tough one to assess. Both may have already passed their prime or atleast on the down slope of their prime in their careers. But what probably tips this over for me is the fact that Tony Parker unfaithfully chose Brent Barry’s wife over Eva.

Loser: Tony Parker

Marco Jaric and Adriana Lima
An ex-Clipper/ex-Timberwolves point guard and a Victoria’s Secrets angel turn actress. This one is unfair mainly because Lima makes a living off of her looks and her looks alone. And let’s be honest, the basis of these comparisons and results is pretty much 95% looks based and 5% success based. But even if I were to give Marco the benefit of the doubt and not compare his looks, Marco really hasn’t done much. Outside of 1 crazy FIBA World Championship where the Serbs defeated USA and went on to win gold, Marco hasn’t done much with his NBA career. Granted, the argument can be made that he played for the Clippers and Timberwolves. But when your spouse holds titles such as “Hottest Girl on the Planet” (SpikeTV), “#1 most desirable woman” (, and a hall of famer on FHM’s “Sexiest Woman Alive”, you either have to be Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or this one is over.

Loser: Marco Jaric

Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian
2x NBA Champion/Reigning 6th man of the year and a Kardashian. I’m not usually one to have unwishful thinking of others but this relationship has all the signs of trouble. From a 3-week courtship->marriage, reality tv show, a Kardashian, another reality tv show – all main ingredients for a troubled relationship. It’s hard for me to understand this relationship because I’m still trying to understand why Khloe Kardashian is even considered a celebrity. I know the Kardashian brand is hot right now just like the Paris Hilton brand 5 years ago. So if someone was to do a documentary on the Kardashian’s rise to fame, I would watch it. But, I digress. Odom might not have accomplished everything we thought he would but he is still a NBA champion on a storied NBA franchise. Khloe might not have anything other than her last name but out of the 3 Karda$hians, she’s probably the most sane.

Loser: Khloe Kardashian

JJ Barea and Zuleyka Rivera (Miss Universe 2006)
To those who tune into the Miss Universe pageant, you know that these women have gone through a lot to even be on the stage. But to win it?! It’s been estimated that 100 billion people have ever lived on this earth. Taking probability into account, you calculate that ½ of 100 billion were women. As of 2011, there has been only 59 Miss Universes ever. JJ Barea is dating one of them. Look, if you’re a Miss Universe, you’re pretty much expected to marry a multi-billionaire, A-list actor, or a famous superstar athlete. JJ Barea does not fall into any of those categories. I know someone’s going to tell me that they’re both from Puerto Rico. But outside of a “destined childhood sweethearts who reunited in America” story, that means nothing. The saving grace of this comparison is that JJ Barea still has time to prove me wrong. He’s young, and he’ll most likely have a shot to play in the NBA Finals this year. If the Mavs go on to win the whole enchilada and JJ Barea is the Finals MVP, then maybe, MAYBE this can be re-evaluated.

Loser: JJ Barea

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fantasy Fantasies - Monday May 23rd

That was one of the worst offensive (not a double negative!) weeks of baseball I've seen. A lot of players the 'perts were high on continue to struggle and a few players revealing their true colors (I'm looking at you Ben Zobrist). Who do we buy and sell this week?

Buy Low:

Pujols: If the owner in your league is selling, buy. It might only take Fielder or Howard or Reyes straight up for him.
Longoria: He's only been back a few weeks, but he's struggling. I would take advantage of any weakness his owner is showing.
Crawford: Not sure if he'll come any cheaper than right now.
Kinsler: Again, another guy that I don't expect to continue struggling
Ubaldo: Showing signs of life, you could get him real cheap, might just take some waiver wire pitcher or a bag of peanuts...

Sell High:

Josh Tomlin: Will fall back to Earth soon, along with the Indians
James Shields: Wowz, 2nd best rated pitcher in Yahoo! right now, if you can get some real returns, I would look into it
Asdrubal Cabrera: Another Indian, not sure if he's legit
Matt Joyce: Some great numbers and possibly reaching his potental, but he's been playing a bit over his head
Lance Berkman: If anyone is willing to buy at his current price, sell

Cash Monies:

Bedard: Showing signs of vintage Orioles' days
Salas: A closer that's not named a closer but closes is technically a closer
Desmond Jennings: June is right around the corner
Porcello: Showing positive signs of reaching his potential, similar to Bailey without the Ks
Justin Turner: I had to give the Met fans something positive

Trash Dumps:

Hafner: He's cursed
Fuentes: Can't remember the last time he was good, Bailey is coming back this week
Soto: There's a lot of catchers that are very similar this year, and by similar I mean, terrible
Brett Myers: Houston can't hit, can barely pitch, and definitely cannot close
Melky Cabrera: Welcome back to Earth

Passing The Commercial Torch

Michael Jordan’s greatness was never just the wins or the stats. It was not even how high he jumped or how flashy his dunks were. Michael Jordan is great because he turned himself into a brand, something never done before. Jordan opened the doors for athletes to make more than their playing contracts and for some, even earning money years after retirement.

Jordan made it cool to promote underwear, drink Gatorade, and have your own shoe that children everywhere could buy and try to imitate him on playgrounds around the world.

There are three main ingredients an athlete needs to ascend to Jordan’s level. First, you have to perform and win at the peak of your playing career. Secondly, you need to have a personality that draws in the audience on and off the field. And lastly, you must inspire people around the world to desire to imitate everything you do.

Many people point to Kobe as the next Jordan because of his hunger to win and multiple championships. Yet for me that is a reach. There is no way that the Kobe brand is as recognizable as Jordan’s. Other notable current NBA players that need to be mentioned are D. Rose, Dwight Howard, and Lebron James. Rose may have won over Chicago and many NBA fans, but when your commercials are better when you don’t open your mouth, the message is clear. You cannot teach charisma. Sadly ithe same goes for Lebron James. Even at the height of his popularity, his best commercials were in puppet form, and after the “Decision” came a sorry campaign by Nike trying to take a jab at his critics. Dwight has the personality, the swagger, and the look. But the fact is that he lacks that winning hunger and suffers from the Shaq dilemma (big men can’t sell shoes). I do have to give props to LBJ and Dwight for their remake of the McDonalds commercial. Sadly, most college students now are too young to remember the originals with Jordan, Bird, and fan favorite Charles Barkley (can I play?)

Peyton Manning might be the closest we have to Jordan right now. Peyton is great on the field (one of the top quarterbacks of all time) and has one of the best personalities for advertisements. Peyton has used his goofy looks to his advantage to create a unique TV persona. But Peyton still lacks one thing. Jordan had millions of kids who wanted to be like Mike. In Peyton’s case, people think he’s amazing and funny, but you don’t see kids imitating his throws and wanting to buy his shoes.

This brings me to my rising star, Blake Griffin. Griffin has the potential to become great on the court and has already proven to be able to get endorsements. He has a worthy work ethic, and a strong fan base proven from vote getting competitions like the All-Star slam dunk contest. And Griffin’s TV personality has only improved over time. Blake’s got my vote, but don’t count out the dark horse of Durant’s Backpack that seems to be everywhere these days (when is Jansport going to sponsor him?)

How can you not love this guy after watching that!?!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chris Bosh, You're Doing It Wrong

Everyone has a different word for Chris Bosh. Overrated. Soft. Quitter.

All of these descriptions are pretty easy to pick up on if you've followed his career. I mean, he is what he is -- a power forward who feels much more comfortable shooting jumpshots 18 feet away from the basket than bangin' in the low post. Lucky for him, he's friends with Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, and they somehow tricked him into thinking he was one of the big 3 instead of the stepchild of the happy superstar couple. And about the whole quitting thing... he was in Canada. Nuff said.

Another word for Chris Bosh is more obvious -- velociraptor. I mean, c'mon:

Anyway, my word for him has always been... awkward. Like, the dude's just weird. It all started with his blog. Back in the good ol' days when Gilbert Arenas was blogging away, he made a quick plug for his buddy Chris Bosh's new blog, so I took the bait. This was my first look into Bosh's personality, and I came away extremely perplexed. Here's a link if you're interested in what I'm talking about:

Needless to say, I lost interest in his blog and never returned to it again, and Chris Bosh was just another athlete until right before the 2008 NBA All Star Game, when this happened:

What. The. Heck. This evidence, along with the day or two that I made the unforgivable mistake of following Chris Bosh on Twitter, finally helped me to pinpoint what exactly it was about him that was so strange to me -- Chris Bosh is just not cool.

That fact in and of itself may not be strange to you, but it boggled my mind. Yes, I'm probably being stereotypical when I say that all black NBA players are cool, but hey, when you grow up idolizing Michael Jordan, Penny Hardaway, and Allen Iverson, it's tough to argue the point. I've come to expect NBA players to have that overall "it" factor -- an element of "cool" that you can't really put into words, but if a person doesn't have it, it is mad obvious.

But anyway, this all came to light again for me because of Game 4 between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. It has come to my understanding that Chris Bosh does not know how to properly beat his chest, so I've taken it upon myself to educate the masses on this subject.

We'll start with the GOAT chest-pounder, King Kong, to show you how it's supposed to be done.

As you can see, King Kong pounds his chest with both fists, but he alternates his hands. This is textbook chest-pounding. Also, there are two other important takeaways from this video footage:
1) The timing of the chest-beating is everything. Obviously, fighting a T-Rex would suffice as a proper time to beat one's chest, but it is crucial to note that chest-beating should only occur immediately preceding or immediately following an awesome event.
2) It always helps with the effect if you have a chick handy to toss aside and out of harm's way. True story. Well done, King Kong.

That brings us on to our next exhibit -- Kevin Durant.

Rule of thumb: you can pretty much do whatever you want after you hit a game-winner. Here, KD demonstrates the classic one-handed chest-pound technique -- yelling whilst pounding his chest three times successively. The only exception to the three-pound is the one-pound. It is much more seldomly used, but just as effective. Of course, KD's chest-pounding would look a lot better if he put some meat on his chest and arms, but beggars can't be choosers.

And, finally, there's Chris Bosh:

Yes, Chris Bosh's tip-in essentially sealed the game for the Miami Heat, so this qualified him to a chest-pounding. However, his timing and delivery are way off-base. As previously stated, the timing has to occur immediately preceding or following the act, and Bosh clearly had the opportunity to seize the moment after the tip-in, but he went with an airpunch and a yell -- nothing wrong with that. It all starts going downhill for him when he suddenly realizes he has to get back on defense, and his transition from swagger to panic is far too sudden.

The Celtics end up missing a 3-pointer, and one of his teammates grabs the rebound, and the clock is stopped. Note that this is an entire 20+ seconds after his tip-in, but Chris then decides to commence the chest-pounding. Unfortunately, the belated timing is bad enough, but to add insult to injury, his delivery was poorly executed. He pounds his chest four times consecutively -- one time too many -- and he double-fists it without alternating hands. This guy clearly needs some practice... and yes, I'm talkin' bout practice.

The jury is still out as to how many times King Kong rolled over in his grave because of this atrocity. RIP, big fella.

Bench Players

The big name players sell jerseys but they may not necessarily always be the reason a team wins. As expected, the two superstars in the Western Conference Finals have been at the top of their game. However, because these two superstars are so great, the play of Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant essentially cancel each other out and it is up to the bench to step up and beat the other team's bench. In game 2 of this series, two Thunder players stepped up to the challenge, namely James Harden and Nick Collison, to help them tie up the series.

Harden has stepped up a lot during the playoffs and has become somewhat of a leader despite being only 21 years of age. At a time when Durant is attracting a lot of attention from the Dallas defense and when Westbrook is not playing his best, Harden has picked up the slack and has brought a lot of energy for the Thunder. He played a great game in game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, finishing with 23 points on just nine shot attempts, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Not too bad for a player coming off the bench! Even though he may seem mediocre in every and not outstanding in any one area, he plays hard every minute he's on the court and creates opportunities for his team that helps them gain momentum.

Another Thunder bench player that has been exceptional in the playoffs is Nick Collison. Though Collison may not be the strongest or tallest player in the paint, he has been solid on both ends of the court for the Thunder. He has done a good job defending superstar Nowitzki and has grabbed some pretty important rebounds for his team. His numbers may not say much but Collison has definitely contributed greatly to the success of the Thunder because he is out there hustling every play. They will definitely need him out there if they want to move on to the Finals.

Looking forward to a good game 3 tonight!

Friday, May 20, 2011

What is a sport?

It's a simple question. What qualifies as a sport? Does it require a ball or some kind of equipment? If so, then where do you categorize swimming, track, etc? Or how about any sporting event found in the Olympics? That can't be the complete answer, because then where would you put American football or its counterpart, English rugby? Or how about something that can be scored, tallied, judged, and/or timed? That definition seems a little too volatile because then you can add anything from Settlers of Catan to Dodgeball to the saltine cracker challenge. Or maybe you think those are sports?

Continuing my introspection on sports in general, I've come to realize that sports is ever-changing, ever-growing, and never-ending as long as people in the world continue to use one of the greatest gifts from God to all humans -- our imagination. You can't put an exact definition at what qualifies as a sport. To a 10 year old, his favorite sport could be playing freeze tag or kickball in PE. To a teen, his favorite might be a new "extreme sports", and he idolizes the likes of Tony Hawk and Shaun White. To a 20-something, he might be into the "e-sports" and is working his way up the Starcraft 2 ladder. To the mid-life folks, maybe they have a new-found fascination for poker and gambling. And to the retired, their sport is the triple B: bingo, bridge, and babysitting. Perhaps that's what makes the sports world exciting. It can't be contained, and it can't be defined. Perhaps in 50 years, we'll have an ESPN18 channel dedicated to America's newest sports league, the NUFL - National Ultimate Frisbee League. You never know. So if you call yourself a sports fan or fanatic, why not expand your horizons? Sit through a weekend of NBC golf, watch figure-skating, learn the technicalities of bowling, snooker, darts, and watch men throw beer kegs in Strongest Man competitions. You never know. You might even come up with the next new sport.

Preakness Preview

Just two weeks after Animal Kingdom's triumph at Churchill Downs, the second leg of the Triple Crown has arrived. Only five horses that ran the Derby are back for the Preakness, and the new unknowns mean there should be some excellent value among the 14-horse field. Here's a rundown of the field:


3 - King Congie (20-1): Should be fresh after a 5-week break; Albarado getting a chance in the Triple Crown after losing his mount on Animal Kingdom is a nice story; good value?
6 - Sway Away (15-1): I'm a fan of his pedigree (Afleet Alex) and jockey (Gomez); consistently solid (although he hasn't won in a while)
9 - Mucho Macho Man (6-1): Nice closing performance at the Derby; should be in the mix at the end
11 - Animal Kingdom (2-1): Rooting for the possibility of a Triple Crown, but not much value if he's over-bet
13 - Concealed Identity (30-1): Another pedigree I like (Smarty Jones); longshot, but has home track advantage, and could be a tremendous payout


1 - Astrology (15-1): Consistent solid results, but nothing special?
7 - Midnight Interlude (15-1): Can't do any worse than his 16th place finish at the Derby, right?
8 - Dance City (12-1): Kind of an unknown, but ran well at the Arkansas Derby
10 - Dialed In (9-2): I don't see much betting value after he finished 8th in the Derby as the favorite

Stay Aways

2 - Norman Asbjornson (30-1): Has been outmatched in stakes races; I do think it's kind of cool that he's named after a real person, though
4 - Flashpoint (20-1): Minimal experience, first time race under new trainer
5 - Shackleford (12-1): Derby's slow pace was exactly what he wanted, but still only finished 4th?
12 - Isn't He Perfect (30-1): Lots of experience, but has not performed in stakes races
14 - Mr. Commons (20-1): Little experience, new jockey

Here are the bets I would consider...let's hope I do better than my suggested Derby bets:

$2 Win: 6 (Sway Away), 9 (Mucho Macho Man)
$2 Show: 3 (King Congie), 13 (Concealed Identity)
$1 Exacta Box: 6, 9, 11 (Sway Away, Mucho Macho Man, Animal Kingdom)
$1 Exacta Box: 9, 11, 13 (Mucho Macho Man, Animal Kingdom, Concealed Identity)
$1 Trifecta Box: 6, 9, 11
$0.10 Superfecta Box: 6, 9, 11, 13

Total Bets: $28.40

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Will the Real Killer B's Please Stand Up?

Perhaps the best thing about the Los Angeles Lakers being eliminated from the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks is the respite from hearing ESPN or TNT refer to the purple and gold bench as the "Killer B's."

Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and Shannon Brown? Really? I winced each time a TV announcer referred to these three scrubs as the "Killer B's" because it was a slap in the face to the original bees from the Houston Astros.

Granted, of the four pictured above, only two -- Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio -- were part of the original Killer B's with Derek Bell and Sean Berry, but my point should be clear. The Killer B's were two future hall-of-famers and two above-average baseball players, not 3 journeymen basketball players lucky enough to still have a spot on an NBA rotation.

On a somewhat relevant tangent, earlier this week, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane announced that he had agreed to sell the team to a group led by businessman Jim Crane for $680 million. Either McLane could sell ice to an eskimo, or I want to try whatever Crane was smoking. For a point of reference, $680 million would be the second-highest price in major league history if it is approved. And yes, we are talking about the Houston Astros. This is the team that has killed its farm system in the past decade by trading away its young talent for old, washed-up veterans. This is the team that has not been relevant to MLB since 2005. This is the team that sports more empty seats than a university during spring break.

All in all, I suppose Bill Simmons tweeted it best:

If you could spend $680 million on something, would "buying the Houston Astros" crack the top-10,000 on your wishlist?


Lord Stanley’s Cup Playoffs!

While we have been writing about the NBA, horse racing, lacrosse, and fantasy baseball, the least popular non-fringe sport has been ignored, as usual.

The NHL’s reach is quite limited. For example, many of my friends in Dallas are huge fans of the Dallas Stars, but just 4 to 5 hours away in Austin and Houston, hockey is not even acknowledged as a sport. But for me, hockey is by far the most thrilling sport you can watch in person, no matter if it's at the high school, college, or pro level. My favorite childhood sport memory was watching Mark Messier, Mike Richter, and Brian Leetch skating around with the Stanley Cup in 1994. I had no idea the last time the NY Rangers had won was over 50 years ago.
Hockey games in high school were like no other. Fans chanted back and forth, with little censorship. In a New Canaan High versus Stamford High regular season game, the wealthy New Canaan students pulled cash from their wallets waving it at the opposing fans chanting “you're on welfare” -- clearly, nothing was too far. Regular chants consist of slowly chanting an opposing player’s name and following it with “you suck” repeated twice, or my favorite “it’s all your fault” chant while pointing at the opposing goalie after your team had just scored.

This year's NHL playoffs has not disappointed, as we have seen Ovechkin will his team past a pesky Rangers team that had multiple games go into overtime, only to follow it with a pathetic series against Tampa Bay. Once again, Ovechkin and the top-seeded Capitals had an early exit. In the west, we saw two teams overcome past demons. Finally, the Vancouver Canucks were able to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in 7 hard-fought games, where clearly being the 1 and 8 seeds did not matter. We witnessed the San Jose Sharks almost blowing a 3-0 lead, where their fans had to be thinking "here we go again" against the battle-tested and historic Red Wings. Boston got its revenge against Philadelphia, who did pull off the unbelievable last year of coming back to win after starting a series 0-3. But this time, the Boston Bruins came in angry and straight-up embarrassed the Flyers, making them pull their goalie over and over.

For a majority of Americans, hockey isn’t a sport they follow, but trust me -- give these playoffs a chance, and you will not regret watching grown men padded-up and fighting to control a tiny black puck. And if you don’t agree, there is always the Mighty Ducks movies to get you excited about HOCKEY!

Fantasy Fantasies - Thursday May 19

Can anyone hit this week? Home runs are down across the entire league, pitching has been otherworldy, what's going on here? I miss the steroid era...

Cash in

Jake Peavy - is "the Snake" is back? Indians were hot coming in and he put them in a sleeper hold
Travis Hafner - What is this, 2006? Pronk is pronking whenever he's in the lineup
Elliot Johnson - Don't ask me who he is, what position he plays, he's the new Sam Fuld until Jennings gets the call
Ramon Hernandez - Razor Ramon has a ridiculous HR/AB rate, not sure why he isn't getting more burn in reality and in fantasy
Matt Guerrier/Kenley Jansen - Do you really trust Vicente Padilla??

Trash Out

Brandon McCarthy - Not worth anymore than a spot start right now
Ryan Raburn - Sad to say this, but just not getting it done
Tim Stauffer - If he only pitched for another team
Dice-K - Not even worthy of a DL slot
Padilla - If you owned Broxton, you had to roll the dice. You lost. Cut him and move on Guerrier or Jansen

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Last night, we might have witnessed the quietest 40-point performance ever by Kevin Durant -- the night belonged to Dirk, and Dirk alone. Scoring 48 points on only 15 shots is mind-boggling until you realize Oklahoma City put Dirk on the line 24 times, and Mr. Nowitzki did not waste a single point from the charity stripe. Dallas Mavericks are still 7 wins from putting their past failures to rest, yet for the first time in many years, Dallas has the right to be optimistic -- especially when Dirk feels that no one can guard him without walking away with a couple extra fouls to their name. Jeff Van Gundy even went as far as to say, “Serge Ibaka should name his firstborn son Dirk.” To think Dirk was 34 out of 37 total shots; that’s something I would boast about if I were alone in a gym shooting shots inside the paint.

Let’s also not forget that both of the shortest Mavericks scored over 20 points. One of the most entertaining parts of last night’s game was watching J.J. Barea go head-to-head with Nate Robinson. I have no idea what was going through Scott Brooks' mind when he put Nate out there to try and guard Barea. Maybe he thought J.J. Barea’s lack of height was his advantage, and if he put a man with similar size on him, they could prevent Barea from running all over them. Clearly, Brooks was mistaken because we saw J.J. Barea just terrorize Nate Robinson and easily find his way to the basket in the limited 6 minutes the two matched up, while Nate went 0-3 from the field. This really got me wondering how amazing J.J. Barea would be if he could play in a six feet under league because after yesterday, I think Barea would be dropping 50 every night.

Despite the 48-point outburst and over 50% shooting, Oklahoma City had its chances to win this game, and that has to feel good for the Thunder going in to game two. But that still does not ease the mind from thinking if there is anything the Thunder can do to stop Dirk. Durant said it best when asked why Dirk was so good: “he’s 7 feet and shoots fadeaways.” It’s that simple, yet that amazing.
Looking forward to tonight, I can’t wait to see how the Heat will respond. It is amazing how so many sports writers are already calling this a must-win for the Miami Heat when the game is in Chicago, but the judgment of Lebron’s mental toughness is clear in these statements. The public still does not think Lebron can come through when his back is really pushed against the wall. Lebron James cannot just win to make doubters into believers, but he needs to almost lose first. So let the hate continue tonight, and I hope we see some more Taj highlights!

Monday, May 16, 2011


Time for another fringe sport post. Normally, I watch lacrosse once a year - the men's NCAA Division I championship game on Memorial Day. My minimal knowledge of lacrosse extends to a history report I did in the third or fourth grade about the Iroquois tribe. I don't even know all the rules for lacrosse (for example, how do they determine who plays with the long sticks vs. the short sticks?), but at least it's fairly easy to follow (pass the ball, shoot it in the goal).

This year for some reason ESPN is making a big deal about the entire tournament. Maybe they are already planning programming contingencies in case the NFL and NBA seasons are cancelled this fall? Any way, lacrosse is one of the few sports that my alma mater plays on a Division I level, so I had the rare opportunity to watch my school on national TV for the first time in a long while (with the basketball team in shambles lately, I have to take what I can get!). Sure, they got trounced in the second half, but it was still pretty entertaining. Additional side benefit - I found out I get ESPNU as part of my cable lineup!

I also happened to catch 5 minutes of the Maryland-UNC game (match? fixture? some French word?), and apparently I tuned it at the right time because I saw this play live:

I love trick plays, and seeing the UNC fan (benchwarmer?) on the sideline trying to scream at his teammates was pretty funny too. If every lacrosse match features plays like these, maybe ESPN is making a good bet on lacrosse emerging from the fringe.

Fantasy Fantasies - Monday May 16

Let's just get to this, we're already 6 weeks into the season, 25% of the way through, there's got to be some desperation out there and owners for you to exploit. Here are some guys I would be targeting and guys that I would unload

Buy Low

Uggla - I've owned Dan Uggla for 3 straight seasons, some days he'll get you a golden sombrero, some days, it's 2 HRs and 4 ribs. Buy.
Ubaldo - Another guy I think that will have a nice little summer, speculate
Crawford - Still a special player, he's going to come around, buy now while he's still struggling
Dunn - Power potential, I think he will still hit 30.
Gallardo - Still maintaining my buy recommendation, will find his groove

Sell High

Trevor Cahill - The ratios aren't there, there will be a correction, dump
Tim Hudson - One of my favorite pitchers, but never a good K rate, if someone is willing to give you talent here, take it.
Phil Humber - Another bad K rate guy, sell
Matt Joyce - A cash guy that I like, but sell if someone is willing to pay for his amazing month
Melky Cabrera - I don't think he keeps this up, exit

Cash Money Pickups of the week:

Andres Torres - leading off, speed, a little pop, back from injury, under the radar
Cameron Maybin - 5 tool skill set, always had potential, could be showing it, take a chance!
Johnny Cueto - If he's still available, move fast
Jhonny Peralta - Do you think his first name was a mistake?
Jake Arrieta - Stats are stats, the kid can pitch!

Trash Ugly Drops of the week:

Aroldis Chapman - Pretty sure I told you to trash this kid a week ago, you paid the price if you didn't!!
Jorge Posada - If he's not baseball relevant, he's not fantasy baseball relevant.
Sam Fuld - Fun while it lasted, but Jennings is coming!
Brandon League - Joining the Ryan Franklin All-Stars along with Brandon Lyon
John Lackey - I know he just hit the DL, but honestly, I can't remember the last time this guy was good.

When Injuries Become a Blessing…

Looking back to the fall, I remember creating my strategy for the fantasy basketball season. Carlos Boozer was on my "do not draft list," and it was not that I did not think Boozer was a quality player, but I knew he was going to start the year hurt, so I'd rather take a player of less production that would actually play the entire season. I will not pretend I ever gave the Bulls their proper respect, and it is clear that they are proving me wrong. The baby bulls are grown up, and they have as much of a chance at this championship as any team left.
As a Knicks fan, I remember seeing the Knicks run all over the Bulls in the first two matchups. They spread them out, and players like Toney Douglas drained three after three. The two games might fool NBA fans around the world to think the Knicks were better off without Carmelo, yet clearly, there were key pieces missing in each game. In the first matchup, Boozer was still recovering from the injury he started his season with, and in the matchup over Christmas, Noah was still wearing a cast on his arm. The Bulls raced to the first seed in the East without their full frontcourt for most of the season.
Last night, the Bulls murdered the Heat on the offensive glass, and there was nothing Lebron or Wade could do to change that. The Chicago Bulls grabbed 19 offensive rebounds -- and no, that is not a typo -- the biggest one being a ridiculous putback by Taj Gibson. Before this year, we all knew Taj was growing into a decent player, but his development would be slowed with the addition of Boozer and growing potential of Joakim Noah. But luckily for all Bulls fans, Boozer took forever to return, and Noah had multiple trips to the DL. Gibson took advantage and has gained the trust of his new coach and teammates. No moment is too big for this kid, whether it's standing up and blocking Lebron or following a Watson miss for the biggest putback this year (or maybe decade), Taj Gibson has matured and handled the pressure.

Many times injuries ruin a team, and as a Mets fan, I can clearly relate with that statement. Nevertheless for the Bulls, it clearly has been a blessing, and now that Boozer, Noah, Gibson, and Asik are all healthy, the Heat better take every defensive rebound seriously because last night they missed out on over 41% of them. Oh, and one more thing, somewhere Anderson Varejao is smiling after seeing LeBron lose in the battle of stars versus team defense and watching Wade get DUNK FACED by Taj Gibson. What goes around comes around, Mr. Wade.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Give Durant the Ball!

While watching the ending quarter of game four between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma Thunder something was clearly off with Durant. Durant seemed to be distracted, frustrated, and even upset. His body language told us everything we needed to know, his shoulders were slumped, his hands on his hips, and no joy or excitement in his eyes. During a 9 minute stretch in game 4 Durant did not take a shot, clearly changes need to be made for tonight's game and needs to start with the Thunder playing through Durant. Even one of the females watching the game with my friends and I notice something was not right. After watching a couple minutes of overtime she asked a simple question that was in all of our minds. "Why is that guy not passing the ball?" while she pointed at Russell Westbrook. Later she followed up with "can he please pass the ball there are people open." Every guy in the room couldn't help but chuckle, but she was right, Russell Westbrook seemed to be ignoring many of his teammates and most noticeably Kevin Durant. I remember watching Durant play for the Longhorns, and never once did DJ Augustin need to be reminded he was playing with greatness and he needed to get Durant the ball.

If the Thunder plan on facing Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals this on going rift between the top two players on the Thunder needs to end now. Russell and Kevin need to have the same joy playing together they played with at the start of the year and in the summer with team USA. Russell seems to go out of his way to ignore Durant, almost choosing to try to be the lone wolf hero. Even though he had a 40 point burst in game four he looked awfully stupid doing it. And in the end it still took some heroic offense from the Durantula for the Thunder to finally put away the pesky Grizzlies. Lucky for Oklahoma Conley and Mayo fouled out, which Mayo's foul should have been avoided and a clear coaching mistake. Without their guard play Memphis' front line looked worn out.

Westbrook shot 13 more shots than their main shooter. I am sorry, Tony Allen is a good defender, but not close to being good enough from keeping the ball from the hands of the leagues top scorer. Hopefully the chemistry between Durant and Westbrook returns, because it was missing the other night, and all you need to know is Westbrook played point for 51 minutes and only recorded 5 assists. Tonight Durant needs to get over 25 shots, and Westbrook gets his mates involved raking up over 10 dimes, because if not the Thunder will find themselves in a hole that only less than 20% of teams find a way to climb out of. The Thunder need a new attitude to go with Durant's new shoes he will be wearing, which were designed by one of his twitter followers!

Sex, Sports, and Scandals

It was the day of Super Bowl 33. Falcons and Broncos. I was a huge Broncos fan -- Elway, TD, Sharpe, Romanowski. And outside of the dirty bird endzone celebration, I knew nothing about the Falcons. However, as I sat through the hours of pregame shows, it became apparent to me that Falcons safety Eugene Robinson had done something wrong. At the time, the announcers only mentioned that he was bailed out of jail the night before. However, the story was he was arrested the day before the Super Bowl for paying an undercover cop for sexual favors. The first thought that ran through my mind was, "Will he play?" (and he did). The next thought was, "WHY?!" At the time, I was naive, and I was oblivious to all the other sex scandals in sports. I remember being really angry at why he was still allowed to play when he was bailed out of jail the early morning of the Super Bowl. Little did I know that at the time, we were still in the infant stages of sex and sports.

Beckham. Kemp. Kobe. Marv Albert. Vick. Calvin Murphy. Roethlisberger. Isaiah. Oden. Woods. Roethlisberger (again). Just some of the biggest names in sports in the last decade to be involved in sex scandals (and I left out alot and yes, Calvin Murphy was a stretch(htown!)). Some were innocent, some weren't. Either way, it's a reality that we have to deal with as a sports fan. At this point, nothing should surprise us anymore. But can we hold these individuals at fault? They're paid to play the game. Whether they acknowledge that they're role models or not, it's a personal decision. At the end of the day, we're going to judge an athlete by how well they did on the field and not off of it. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to have played the game. No one will recall that he cheated on his wife and that his divorce was the most expensive celebrity divorce ever when he paid his ex-wife $168mil.

And now, 13 years after the Eugene Robinson scandal, outside of the people in Georgia and myself, no one will remember Super Bowl 33 for the Eugene Robinson arrest and scandal because of the fact that his team didn't win. Everyone will remember it as Elway's last game and Elway leaving on top. At the end of the day, achievements on the field will reign supreme. For example: Kobe. If Kobe had not won the 2 championships the past couple of years, he will forever be remembered as the guy who broke up the dynasty and the rapist. So a note to Greg Oden: if you don't come back from your injury and take the trailblazers to atleast the Finals, you will forever be known as the 2nd coming of Sam Bowie and for indiscriminate sexting.


 "I knew deep down in my heart, as much as I loved my teammates back in Cleveland and as much as I loved home, I knew it couldn't do it by myself against [the Celtics]”
LeBron said this Tuesday night after his Miami Heat beat the Celtics and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. When I read this Wednesday morning on ESPN I didn’t really know how to react. I’ve been a LeBron fan since he came into the league so I was glad for him and his teammates to advance, but now he was pretty much saying that he needed the Super Friends to be able to beat the Celtics.
The player that many said was the next Michael Jordan was saying he couldn’t do it alone. That takes a lot of humility, and I can respect that. But as sports fans it makes us squirm a little, because we never want to hear players admit that X team or Y player is just too much for them. In sports we idolize the underdogs. We cheer for the Butlers, the Richmonds, the Rudy’s of the sports world. We like the idea of Heart and we want our sports heroes to show it. We like the gutsy play of a winner who just can’t lose, who puts his team on his back and carries them to victory. We saw that from LeBron in 2007 when he dropped 25 straight on the Pistons and we loved him for it. But now that same LBJ is saying that he just isn’t good enough to take the Celtics. While the Cavs may not have been underdogs to everyone else when they played Boston, it’s clear that at least to LeBron, they were and maybe always would be.
So what else could he do except leave? If he really just never expected to bea ble to beat the Celtics or the Lakers or any other elite team as a Cavalier than I can understand why he felt he needed to leave. Maybe carrying the Cavaliers on his back for so long was just too much for him. Maybe the championship expectations were getting to him and he couldn’t handle it anymore. When he fled to Miami to join Wade and Bosh a lot of people thought he was a coward. Many people in the media said he was a coward for leaving the Cavs and joining Miami. They were saying that MJ wouldn’t have done it, that Kobe wouldn’t have either. And now it turns out that they were right. By his own words, LeBron admitted to needing help and that he needed to run to find it.
I don’t know how I feel about that. I can appreciate the humility it takes for a superstar like LeBron to admit to needing help. But as a sports fan, I just feel disappointed that he would admit it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kentucky Derby Recap

Out of the theoretical bets I had at the end of last post, only my $2 Show bet on Mucho Macho Man paid off ($7.00 payout), for a total net loss of $21.40 (-76.4%), ouch. I was done in by a horse on my "No Chance" list (Animal Kingdom) somehow winning the race even though many of the historical precedents pointed against him:

- Racing on dirt for the first time
- Running only his fifth race ever
- Coming off an extended 6-week layoff
- Multiple jockey switches (although if I had known John Velazquez was going to end up with the mount I might have given Animal Kingdom more consideration)

On the plus side, 6 out of the 7 horses on my "Definite Potential" list finished in the top 11, and at least the four that I liked the most (Dialed In, Pants on Fire, Twice the Appeal, Soldat) did finish in consecutive order...too bad it was 8th place to 11th place!

Any way, I think I've learned that the Derby is probably too big of a crapshoot to find consistent value since the field ever year is huge and the horses are all young with minimal past experience, but it's still fun to speculate each year.

Hopefully one day I'll actually get out to Lousiville to watch the Derby in person, but watching in HD isn't a bad alternative. The Derby is labeled as the most exciting two minutes in sports, but this creates a problem for NBC each year having to create filler for their coverage. Some thoughts on the filler coverage this year:

- The coverage always consists of the crowd singing of "My Old Kentucky Home" before the race. This year's singing featured repeated shots of Joey Fatone in some luxury suite??

- The coverage also features awkward interviews with the owners/trainers walking from the paddock to the track with their horses. They always have their kids walking with them (tradition I guess?), and I always feel bad for the sideline reporters because the owners/trainers are too nervous/excited to offer up anything insightful. At least no one was on crutches this year like two years ago when Mine That Bird's trainer decided to make the walk even though he had a broken leg.

- Speaking of sideline reporters, I have to give some extra respect to the horseback sideline reporter (Donna Brothers for NBC) who interviews the jockeys right before and right after the race. She has to to concentrate on asking the questions and holding the microphone in position all while making sure her horse keeps pace and doesn't run off. This year NBC also had a helmet cam, so somehow she had to make sure that was pointed correctly too...pretty crazy. I hope she gets paid as much as the NBA sideline reporters (Craig Sager, uggh).

- I also enjoy NBC giving one fan a chance to put in a $100,000 Win bet each year. Last year the guy actually picked Super Saver correctly and won almost $1 million, and he was back this year standing in the background whenever they checked in with this year's lucky fan. I also like the serious guy they have hanging around carrying a gold briefcase with the $100k in cash. He always looks really worried that someone's going to jump him for the cash, even though there are armed guards surrounding them.

Well, with the 2011 Derby over, the focus now switches to the Preakness. Almost as soon as the race was over, Gary Stevens proclaimed that Animal Kingdom would really like the surface at Pimlico, so I guess that means he has a chance? It's been a few years since we had a Triple Crown possibility going into the Belmont, so hopefully Gary's right. With a bunch of the Derby contenders dropping out, the field should be much more manageable to analyze, but there will probably a few new contenders too. Hopefully I can actually come up with some winning bets next time!

Cooperstown Hair-itage

The baseball world has becomes more obsessed with Brian Wilson's beard to the point you can even interact with it on

Now Nike has taken the time to honor the greatest unique facial hair looks in Major League Baseball history!

      Ozzie Smith             Brian Wilson             Jeff Bagwell

     Reggie Jackson          Keith Hernandez         Dennis Eckersley
Thank you Brian Wilson for you dedication of growing you beard so that we can appreciate the legends of Hair-itage hall of fame.

Go grab you cooperstown hair-itage shirt now!

The Biggest Loser

A man who can lose with dignity is an honorable man. And today, ladies and gentlemen, Kobe Bean Bryant is that man.

As many of you know, I might be one of the biggest Kobe haters out there, but if there's ever a time to give credit where it's due, the time is now.
A few hours ago, the Dallas Mavericks busted out with their brooms and swept the Los Angeles Lakers into a dustpan of uncertainty. The Lake Show will now be without the greatest head coach of all time heading into next season, with nothing but the same championship expectations and another year of wear and tear on Kobe's body. It's hard to find the silver lining in a near-40 point blowout, but Kobe showed me something today that deserves respect.

In the 2nd half of the game, as the Mavericks were pulling away from the 2-time defending champs, the Lakers showed their frustration. Now, the first incident between Lamar Odom and Dirk Nowitzki was a little physicality and a lot of acting. Maybe I'm a bit biased since Lamar is the sweetest dude on 'Khloe and Lamar' (no homo), but I've seen the replay enough times to come to the conclusion that it did not deserve an ejection. But then again, maybe an early trip to the locker room was his dream come true, who knows.

But the second incident with Andrew Bynum taking the cheap shot on JJ Barea? For those of you who haven't seen the play, here's the video:

That play was dirty, childish, and completely uncalled for -- I hope the NBA comes down hard on Bynum for it. I mean, hey, I'd be mad too if a 5'10" scrub was ripping my team's defense to shreds, but there was a chance for Barea to be seriously hurt with that foul. The irony of the whole situation was that he was escorted off the court by Ron Artest. C'mon, you know it's bad when you are more out of control than Ron Artest.

But this is when I saw my first glimpse of Kobe's maturity. If you watch the play unfold, Bynum elbows the midair Barea to the ground, and Kobe puts his hands on his hips and shakes his head in disgust. Then, after the game, Kobe and a few of his teammates sought out JJ to check if he was okay and to apologize for Bynum's foul.

So thank you, Kobe, for showing the world how to lose with class. I can't respect a lot of the other stuff you do, but I can respect that.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fantasy Buy and Sell - May 8

What a week in baseball, with two no hitters (one ugly, one spectacular). How did I do last week in terms of buy low, sell high you ask??? (linky):

If you bought on Pena, Hudson, Gallardo, Ubaldo, or Jeter (nice Sunday stat line), kudos to you. The windows are probably shut on keeping these guys for a low price. If you sold Russ Martin, Lohse, or Zobrist, congrats!! Not sure if Berkman, Masterson, or Francoeur will keep it up, but I own Masterson and don't mind seeing him do well.

Here are more buy low, sell high options for this week:

Buy -

Uggla - Still maintaining my buy recommendation
CarGo - Still think the talent is there, buy buy buy!
Choo - Might have had a little too much soju, but still a 5 cat performer and the Indians are playing way over their heads!
Ryan Dempster - I think he's been a little bit unlucky, might still be able to get him cheap
Bumgarner - No wins to show for his great pitching this season, speculate

Sell -

Vernon Wells - If anyone offers you anything of value, take it
Carlos Beltran - As a tried and true Met fan, I say take your gains and walk away
Liriano - I'm a huge Liriano fan (and owner), but I would listen to offers
Buchholz - I would sell, the ratios are questionable
Neil Walker - What a sleeper pick, sell now if you can

Saturday, May 7, 2011


If you followed the postgame from last night's Game 3 of the Mavericks/Lakers series, one thing definitely stands team has ever come back from a 0-3 series deficit. 98-0. That's what the Lakers will have to ignore coming into Game 4 of the 2nd round in Dallas tomorrow. But like with all things in life, there's always a first with everything.

Granted, I've been a Dallas fanboy since the days of Jason Kidd (1st time around), Jim Jackson, Jamal Mashburn, and the once very lowly Mavericks. I want the Mavericks to win it all each and every year. I've been through the banter of the '06 Finals, the jokes of Ericka Dampier, the "I hate this and that" about Dirk and Cuban and Dallas, etc etc etc etc. It's old news to me. Even the latest knock from a friend via Facebook..."if any team's gonna squander a 3-0 lead in the NBA playoffs, it would be the mavs." I'm sure many people are nodding to that statement, but let's just make the obvious even more obvious. We're talking about Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Who couldn't see them coming back from 0-3 deficit against any team?

Jalen Rose (ESPN analyst) said it was a done deal and gave the Mavericks a premature congratulations last night. I may be a Dallas fanboy, but I'm a realist too. I'll just go ahead and name one player from each team that I think will dictate Game 4 (and even rest of the series barring a Mavericks sweep).

Lakers: Shannon Brown.

If there was a 7th Man of the Year Award in the NBA this guy would have won it the last two years. He's a high-energy and high-flying guy off the bench that has yet to really establish a presence with the Laker's second unit. But he's no slouch. We saw in Game 3 that he's capable of creating havoc for the Mavericks (4-8 for 10 pts 3 rebs in 19 mins). He attacked the glass well, took it strong in the offensively paint, and played sound defense against Game 2's hero JJ Barea. Everyone's been ripping on the Laker's big men this series, but the Lakers need their guards desperately to step up and Brown is the key. He needs to be the catalyst and an instant sparkplug on the offensive end. Too many times have I seen him passively try to facilitate an offense that is dying for a true scorer. He's shooting just fine (44% FG% in postseason) but scoring just 6 points/game won't cut it. If the Lakers want any chance of winning, Brown needs at least 12 points and a few steals. A dunk here or there would greatly help his confidence too.

Dallas Mavericks: Peja Stojakovic.

Peja, aka the Serbian Sniper, has been everything and than some for $402,065 that the Mavericks invested in him in January. Mark Cuban might be super rich, but that doesn't mean he's a dumb times (a la Ericka Dampier's 7 year/ $73 million). But unlike Dampier, Stojakovic has produced in the playoffs and was easily Game 3's unsung hero (11 pts 3-4 3pt in the 4th quarter). However, in order for the Mavs to move onto the Western Conference Finals, the Mavs will be relying not only on Peja's impact on the offensive end, but even more importantly on the defensive end. I saw in the First Round (against Portland) some of the troubles that Peja had on the defensive end in guarding the likes of Gerald Wallace, Brandon Roy, and even LaMarcus Aldridge. He seemed to be out-worked, out-hustled, and always a step behind. Even during the first two games in LA, I would cringe whenever Kobe found a mismatch with Peja in an isolation situation. But to my surprise in Game 3, he stepped up and stepped up big when the Mavericks needed him the most. That 4th quarter was all about how Peja was able to handle Lamar Odom off the drive (and well...yes his barrage of 3 pointers). So while even his sweet jumper is a vital component to a deep playoff run, Stojakovic will need to step up his defensive prowess to keep his minutes on the floor. Even with rumors of Caron Butler coming back if the Mavs make a deep run, I don't see that happening if Peja is playing lights out on both ends of the floor. Plus, Caron looks good in his suit. Remember, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Though I don't see a sweep this series, 99-0 is easily attainable for the Dallas Mavericks. If the Lakers do end up coming back, I'll make sure to delete this post and pretend like I never jinxed the Mavericks.

I got half yo back, Rashard Mendenhall

Everyone knows where they were on September 11. It is, in many ways, this generation's JFK assassination. The shock, devastation, and hopelessness stirred in each of us as we were glued to our television sets all over the nation. I, for one, will never forget the images of people jumping to their deaths from the top floors of the World Trade Centers to avoid being burnt alive. Then, naturally, these feelings of despair gave way to rage and a call for justice against those responsible.

Osama Bin Laden became the face of the attacks. And now, in 2011, nearly a decade after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden is dead.

People's reactions ranged from fans chanting "USA" at a Phillies/Mets baseball game to citizens parading the streets in pure gleeful celebration.

Rashard Mendenhall, the starting running back of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was not so amused. In a Twitter barrage that has ended up costing him his Champion endorsements and countless fans, Rashard voiced:

  • “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side...”

  • “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”

  • "I believe in God. I believe we're ALL his children. And I believe HE is the ONE and ONLY judge."

  • "For those of you who said you want to see Bin Laden burn... I ask how would God feel about your heart?"
I must admit that I have no idea how to react to the news of Osama's death, but the backlash against Mendenhall is incredible. While he later posted a blog entry to apologize and attempt to clarify his tweets, I don't see how there's anything to apologize for other than his conspiracy-theorist quip about 9/11. While there are many out there, myself included, who don't think we know the whole story of what happened that fateful day in New York City, this was neither the time nor the place to question it, and Mendenhall should have known better.

With that said, I wholeheartedly agree with his statement regarding the celebration of Bin Laden's extermination. Ask anyone who knows me -- I love this great nation to my core -- but the overwhelming hatred and uncontrolled cheer was truly frightening. I think what irks me most is how many times the word "justice" has been thrown around.

A decade ago, President George W. Bush had promised that "we will find these people and we will bring them to justice." Then, this past week, President Obama, during his announcement to the masses concerning the covert Navy SEALs operation, said, "...on nights like this, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to Al Qaeda's terror, justice has been done."

What is this "justice" we are speaking of, and is it our job to carry it out? And does this justice serve any purpose other than making us feel better? Does Bin Laden's death eradicate all the pain and hurt that he has brought upon so many American families?

Like Rashard Mendenhall, I too believe that only God can judge. All in all, I'm just glad that it wasn't me who had to make the decision to carry out the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden, as I am still struggling through the ethics of the entire situation. Yes, I do understand that he was the leader of Al Qaeda and probably plotting to do more harm to Americans, but, without going into too much of a tangent that would likely lead to discussions of capital punishment, I'll just say that I'm not entirely sure it is man's authority to "bring them to justice."

I will leave you with these follow-up thoughts from Mendenhall: "I wasn't questioning Bin Laden's evil acts. I believe that he will have to face God for what he has done. I was reflecting on our own hypocrisy. During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man's death."