Thursday, June 10, 2010

Quick Reactions

I do not consider myself to be a huge fan of hockey, but come playoff time, I watch most of the action (that could be attributed to the fact that the regular season is virtually meaningless). This post-season was an interesting one, as some of the top teams fell early. However, in the end, the NHL’s best team came out on top. After struggling in their first seven games, sporting a record of just four and three, the Chicago Blackhawks went on an absolute tear, winning twelve of their next fifteen games, including , at one point, seven in a row, and a sweep of the number one seeded Sharks. Chicago, led by an incredible combination of speed, youth, and experience, came out on top over the Flyers after a very competitive, exciting, goaltending-optional, 6 games.

For anyone who didn’t watch much of the Blackhawks this postseason, you missed out a treat. How can someone not like these guys? Their captain, Jonathan Toews and winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, recently turned 22 years old, making him the second youngest captain to ever win the Stanley Cup. Then you have Patrick Kane, the 21 year old, who just scored the game-winning goal in overtime. The two young stars are many things, but similar is not really one of them. Toews is the leader of the squad and exhibits maturity, poise, and leadership that far exceed his age. In postgame interviews, he needed to excuse himself so he could find his family. Kane, on the other hand, is more wild and carefree. In his postgame interview, he was told to behave during the approaching festivities, to which Kane replied, “Not a chance!” He also told Barry Melrose that his biggest problem now is finding women. “That shouldn’t be a problem,” replied Melrose, between gasps of laughter.

Then there is the other collection of stars on the team. The toothless wonder Duncan Keith, at a seemingly elderly 26 years of age, is still yet to replace those 7 teeth that he lost earlier in the postseason. Only a hockey player would choose to gum at his food for a few weeks, rather than get some prostatic teeth put in. Could you imagine if Ron Artest got his front teeth wacked out? I don’t care how tough he is supposed to be; his mouth would have undergone rapid reconstruction immediately.

Marian Hossa, the right-winger, was maybe the happiest man of them all. For the third consecutive year, Hossa advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, very interestingly with three different teams. He lost the first two, so essentially, he needed to win this year to avoid a Buffalo-Bills-like feeling of missed opportunities. He almost gave it away at the start of the second period, when he turned the puck over to Simon Gagne, who ended up on a breakaway. However, Gagne shot in a hurry and no goals were allowed because of Hossa’s mistake.

My favorite Blackhawk, though, has to be Dustin Byfuglien, whose ass I have already kissed in my recent article, “The New NFL Offseason.” I don’t care, I’m going to do it again. Just to recap, Byfuglien is enormous, standing at 6-3 and weighing 250 lbs. The guy used to be a defender, until Chicago realized he’s also fast enough to play the wing. I counted three pucks last night that Byfuglien was able to chase down, utilizing his tremendous closing speed. He had a goal in last night’s game, as well as some crunching hits. Overall, it’s just not fair that one person can get size, strength, and speed. What about the rest of us?

Antti Niemi, the 26-year-old Blackhawk goalie, was relatively inconsistent this postseason. There were six games in which Niemi posted a save percentage of 95% or better. However, only one of those games came in the finals. In the other 5 games, Niemi allowed a combined 21 goals, including some softies last night. Yet, the goaltending situation seems to be heading in the right direction for Chicago, since Niemi started every game this postseason, leading them to the championship.

On top of the guys mentioned above, Chicago is equipped with other talented young players, like defenders Niklas Hjalmarsson (23) and Brent Seabrook (25), and forwards such as Andrew Ladd (24) and Kris Versteeg (24). If Chicago can keep Toews, Kane, Byfuglien, and a core group of all the other guys mentioned in this article, I expect them to cruise to at least 3 more Stanley Cups over the next decade or so. The Blackhawks’ future is the most promising of any team in the NHL and perhaps in all of American Sports.

Say, that’s a great idea. Here is a list of the most up-and-coming teams in each of the four big sports. If the teams have not made the playoffs recently, expect them to make the playoffs within the next 2-3 years. If they already have made the playoffs, look for the teams to compete for championships within the same time frame.

Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadians

Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Memphis Grizzlies

Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays

Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, and Houston Texans

Well, that just about does it for today and for Late Night Thoughts until the middle of August. Thanks to all my readers for the support and the feedback, positive and/or negative. I wrote on Tuesday that if you want to talk sports you should send me an email. That is still the case. Additionally, if you have any thoughts or ideas for future blogs, feel free to post them as comments to this article. Have the best summer of your lives. Between the LeBron sweepstakes, a highly competitive baseball season, and the World Cup, sports certainly have you covered. Keep reading and spreading the word. I’m out!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

STD Day, Week 4

I haven’t written anything since last Thursday as I just finished up school (finally). But, I am back for my final STD day until August. I will be spending the majority of this summer at a sleep away camp as a water-ski instructor. Writing is going to be a near impossibility, so my article this Thursday will be the last one for the next two months. Feel free though the shoot me some emails if you want to talk sports. Maybe I’ll be able to get you an answer.

NBA Finals
It’s a nightmare, these NBA finals. Boston and LA; who do I want to lose less? If you read my May 17, article, The Greatest Rivalry, you would know that there is absolutely no way I can root for Boston, even if they are playing the Lakers. I mean, I just hate them. I hate the fact that the same people in attendance at the Celtics games also show up at Fenway. I hate Garnett and his un-reprimanded dirtiness. I hate Rajon Rondo and his monstrous hands. I hate the fact that it always looks like Paul Pierce just got smacked in the face (Seriously, look at him anytime he’s talking. His clothes are all over the place and his eyes are either glazed over or rolling around uncontrollably. Reminds me of Brad Miller after Rondo got him with the right hook in last years NBA playoffs. ).

All this said, I love the “Freddy vs. Jason”-esque rivalry between the two teams; two evil beings, who, for some reason, just don’t get along. Then again, when you have KG, Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and Phil Jackson all in the same series, things are bound to get interesting. Apparently I should add Pau “The Llama” Gasol (shout out to Kevin for the nickname) to the list for his negative comments about Garnett. When I need to add Pau Gasol, the gentle giant who was more interested in being a doctor until he grew to seven feet tall, to a list of antagonists, you know that the intensity is of monumental proportions.

The win by Boston in LA Sunday night was the biggest win of the season for the team. Thanks to the disgracefully unjust 2-3-2 format (top seed gets the first two games, lower seed gets the next three, and top seed has final two) in the finals, Boston, the lower seeded team, now has an enormous advantage. The next three games will be in their home stadium. Now that I think about, it’s almost better to be the lower seed in the NBA finals. If we are working off the assumption that the home team is the favorite to win, which we obviously are since the top team gets more home games, then the team that gets three in a row at home can put serious pressure on their opponent. Anyways, the win has to be attributed to the ageless Ray Allen. Anyone that watches Sportscenter for at least twenty minutes a day knows that his 8 three pointers in the finals Sunday night were the most ever by a single player in one Finals game. As much as I hate Boston, I could not help but be in total awe of some of the shots Ray Allen easily made. I’ll admit it, I was getting exited when he started off the game 7 of 7 from behind the ark. I guess I just love steaks of any sort. Good streaks, bad streaks, whatever. It doesn’t matter to me.

Despite the major turn in the series, I still like the Lakers to prevail in 7, as I predicted at the beginning of the series. Tonight’s game is pivotal and I believe the Celtics come out on top by the score of 101-97, led by 24 points from the disoriented Pierce and another 17 from Rondo. However, the Lakers even the series at 2 in game four, when they win 98-90. I’m looking for Kobe to put up 31 in that effort, leading all scorers. In game five, the final one in Boston, I expect the Lakers to defeat the Celtics 114-110, after an additional 5 minutes of overtime. Game six, in LA, will be a surprisingly easy win for the Celtics. Their experienced players have their best games of the series (aside from Ray Allen, whose best game was Sunday). Celtics win 94-82. Lastly, game seven will be won by a super-fired up Lakers team. Bryant and Gasol both eclipse the 25-point mark, with Gasol contributing 13 rebounds as well. The Lakers get revenge on Boston for the 2008 NBA finals and Pau Gasol is awarded Finals MVP.

The Stan Van Gundy Face Creating Moment of the Week:
Back for the third consecutive week, the SVGFCMW is looking to be among the most prestigious awards in all of sports. One of the headlines of is “Clip shows boy with beer bottle.” Essentially, somebody took a video of a four-year-old boy putting a beer bottle, which most believe to be empty, up to his lips during the Phillies-Padres game from last Sunday. This situation is probably deserving of the award on its own, but as I continued to read the article, I realized that I may have encountered one of the most amusing articles on ESPN I have ever come across.

What is really bizarre about this situation is that everyone seems to acknowledge that there was no actual beer in it. So, what then, is the issue? I suppose it’s dangerous to be playing with beer bottles, but is that worthy of a front-page story on And even if it had beer in it, a sip of beer is not going to harm anyone. It’s not as if the vendor handed out the beer to the four year old saying something like, “How was I supposed to know it was a fake ID?” The boy just picked it up.

As I continued to read the article, the writer addressed an earlier issue where, “a drunken fan intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl.” Now that is really, really bizarre. How can he “intentionally” vomited on her, you may ask? Well, “Clemmens stuck his fingers down his throat and vomited on Michael Vangelo.” Apparently the two were arguing about some sports related issue and some of the vomit wound up getting on the daughter. That is a new method to arguing that I have never seen before. Let’s predict future uses of this practice.

Defense Lawyer: Your Honor, my client had an alibi at the time of the murder-
Prosecutor: Objection, that alibi was proven to be entirely unverified.
Defense Lawyer: What do you mean? He was at home with his wife!
Prosecutor: Well, this video (shows the tape) was taken at 9:42 PM outside of the Walmart located downtown. You can see here that the defendant’s wife is seen loading up her car with a full shopping cart’s worth of canned tomatoes, parsley, garlic cloves, capers, and fresh oregano, most likely for her spaghetti sauce, I believe. Is that correct, Emeril?
Emeril Lagasse: Yes, indeed. Mrs. Carter is a fine chef. In fact, if you looked more carefully in the cart you would have also seen a bottle of 1995 Quintarelli Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva.
Defense Lawyer: Ah yes, that is a fine bottle of red wine, is it not?
Emeril Lagasse: Bam! Right you are. In fact –
Judge: Gentlemen, if we could get back on track please! I have a lunch reservation downtown that I would like to make.
Emeril Lagasse: Where is it, may I ask.
Judge: Bistro Dulce. Ah, god-dammit, no Emeril, you may not ask. What the hell are you even doing here? Actually, don’t even answer that. Let’s just get back to the case, please.
Prosecutor: Sorry Your Honor. Anyways, Mrs. Carter was clearly not with her husband at the time of the murder, thus rejecting his alibi. In addition, this gun (shows gun) has fingerprints on it that appear to be consistent with those of Mr. Carter.
(very long pause)
Defense Lawyer: Bllleeehhhhhhh (chunks everywhere).
Judge: Interesting counterpoint.

Prince Albert
Every sport seems to have an ongoing argument as to who is its best player. Kobe or LeBron, Crosby or Ovechkin, Manning or Brady. All three of these rivalries/comparisons get a fair amount of public attention. Sports highlights focus on them, even when they do absolutely nothing. “And Varejao gets the pass from Gibson and throws it down hard! LeBron, on the sideline, clapping and loving it!” The debates seem destined to continue between these pairs for at least the next five years. Then there is baseball. The most likely comparison is between A-Rod and Albert Pujols. However, my problem, is that I don’t think there is enough attention given to these two players and how they rank against each other, especially in the case of Albert Pujols. Perhaps it is not the nature of the game, but I don’t think the average person realizes just how good Albert is.

As of today, Pujols leads the NL in homeruns, RBIs, and is 9th in batting average. Last year he finished the year with the most homeruns in the NL, the third most RBIs, and the third highest batting average. On top of that, he has six stolen bases this year! He had 16 in 2009. That is an aspect of his game that gets seriously overlooked. Want to know what Albert averages each year? Well, I’m going to tell you regardless. 41 home runs, 124 RBI, .333 batting average, .625 slugging percentage, 7 stolen bases. When you add on the fact that he has never played less than 143 games in a season, he is the absolute definition of consistent excellence. At some point in his career, Pujols will probably win the triple crown, which has not been done since 1967. Add on that he has never been involved in the steroid scandal, and you have to put him down with Griffey as the most respected and feared hitter in baseball over the last 20 to 25 years. He is now in his tenth year in the league and only 30 years old. If he continues to exhibit the longevity he has shown thus far, the career home run record could be his. In fact, if he continues to average the numbers he is producing now, Pujols will go down as one of the 5-10 greatest hitters in baseball history. Everyone knows he is good, but does everyone know that a hitter like Pujols may not come around again for another 20 to 30 years?

Just for Fun:
Career averages, and HR,RBI,SB/seasons in the league(excluding 2010)

Pujols: .333BA, .625SLG, 41HR, 124RBI, 7SB
A-Rod: .305BA, .573SLG, 39HR, 114RBI, 20SB
Griffey: .284BA, .538 SLG, 30HR, 87RBI, 9SB
Bonds: .298BA, .607SLG, 35HR, 91RBI, 23SB
Babe Ruth: .342BA, .690SLG, 32HR, 101RBI
Ted Williams: .344BA, .634SLG, 27HR, 97RBI

Albert has the best offensive numbers of the four most recent players. He averages the most homeruns and RBIs per season and has the highest slugging percentage and batting average. His numbers are also comparable to baseball legends like Ruth and Williams. When he retires, Pujols will be in the conversation of the greatest baseball players of all time.

More STDs for my readers in August.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

The New NFL Offseason

It’s almost officially summer. That means that the football season is only a few months away. Yeah, there’s still basketball and hockey playoffs, baseball, tennis, and the World Cup, but lets be honest, something is missing. Therefore, I have a proposition. Why not let non-NFL athletes compete in the world’s greatest sport. In fact, why not just transform them into football players all together. Instead of extended draft coverage and listening to long winded, passive-aggressive, arguments between Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr., the NFL offseason could be devoted to following the evolution of various athletes into football stars!

I now present, the NFLOA, the National Football League of Other Athletes. But who would participate? Here is the list of the best players, taken from any sport other than football, for each NFL position. The athletes selected are without a doubt the best choices for each position. Arguing this would be an act of futility.

Why select Roger Federer to play the most important position in football, and possibly, all of sports? (Yeah, I know, “It’s the center!” or “It’s the left tackle!” That may be true, but let’s be honest here; everyone pays the big bucks to see the quarterbacks.) Well, for one, I think Federer needs to be considered one of, if not the, greatest current athlete in professional sports. Therefore, he is a perfect fit for quarterback. He can handle the pressure. Aside from that, The Maestro has quick feet, has shown an incredible ability to remain healthy, and can think on the fly. Plus, his serving motion will serve as a good starting point for a throwing motion. At 6-1, 187, think Drew Brees with a kind of weird, very subtle accent.

Williams at running back ranks among the most natural fits. He’d be a little tall at 6-3, but he has enough weight (207 lbs) to complement his height. As a point guard, he has demonstrated his agility and power when driving to the hoop. Williams would be a taller version of Adrian Peterson bred with Ray Rice (not something I’d really like to watch happen). As for Tevez, he would serve as a more elusive back, but like Williams, would still be able to take a few hits. Given his smaller height of 5-7, Tevez would play a role similar to that of Leon Washington with the Jets.

The first two are obvious and don’t need much explaining. They are arguably the two most physically gifted individuals on the planet. To compensate for my copout, I needed to get a little more create for the NFLOA slot receiver. Outfielder, Juan Pierre, was a perfect fit. He ranks among the top in stolen bases each year and has an Ichiro-esque swing involving a quick, compact motion, often employing bunts to reach first base. In order to play baseball like that, Pierre needs good hands and acceleration abilities that will make him a perfect slot receiver.

At 6-9, 240 lbs, Josh Smith would be a very large tight end, but he is surprisingly quick for his size. He also has a tremendous leaping ability, as seen in his dunk contest appearances. Added bonus about Smith: he cannot attempt ill-advised three pointers in football. Soccer forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, stands at six foot four, but has a lightweight of 185 lbs. However, the fitness staff of the NFLOA is known for their miracle work. He could easily put on an additional 40 pounds and poof, you have Dallas Clark.

O-Line: RT-GLEN DAVIS (6-9, 289), RG-CARLOS BOOZER (6-9, 266), C-NIKLAS BACKSTROM (6-2, 196), LG-MAGNUS SAMUELSSON (6-8, 350), LT-ADAM DUNN (6-6, 287)
A very diverse group, the offensive line is composed of 2 basketball power forwards, a hockey goalie, a World’s Strongest Man Champion, and a MLB slugger. Davis and Boozer are very tall, but both have a fair amount of weight to them already, especially Big Baby who looks like he’s about to have one. Center Niklas Backstrom is certainly undersized, especially for this mammoth line, but he is also going to attend the Zlatan Ibrahimovic school of eating. I needed someone who I knew could respond quickly and lead the line. A hockey goalie was a perfect choice. Samuelsson is the most NFLOA ready of the five athletes, as he has near perfect height and weight. Eh, what the hell, he could eat a few more T-bone steaks too. Finally, Adam Dunn protects Federer’s blind side. This is a risk, given his “homerun or strikeout” philosophy for baseball. Hopefully he doesn’t swing and miss too many times at incoming defensive ends.

Speaking of defensive ends…

Artest is the kind of crazed animal you need coming off the edge. He has long arms and already clubs guys in the face as much as Julius Peppers does. Throw some Gatorade in his face and he can go really crazy (this dangerous task will be given to the teams water boy, 13-year-old and future-USC QB, David Sills). Lucic, the Boston Bruins Left Winger, is big (6-4, 220) and hits almost as many guys per game as Artest. The two will come to be known as Ravenous Ron and Lunatic Lucic.

Randolph, the Grizzlies power forward, and Chara, the Boston Bruin defenseman, both stand at 6-9 and weigh an identical 260 lbs. Randolph, a bigger-but-less-crazy version of Albert Haynesworth, will clog up the middle of the field along with Chara, the second Boston Bruin represented on the defensive line. They are recognized by their infamous nickname of Z squared. Randolph, when asked how he felt about the sport change said, “At least I’m out of Memphis.”

This brings up an interesting question. Where exactly is the NFLOA based?

The home for the NFLOA squad is the proposed stadium to be built in Los Angeles. For those of you not familiar with the situation, Edward P. Roski, a partial owner of both the L.A. Lakers and L.A. Kings, recently announced plans to build a football stadium in L.A., with the hope that an NFL team will move to the large city, where there is currently no representative football organization.

Side note: I called my dad last night to discuss the tragedy of Joyce and Galarraga. Somehow we got onto the topic of the “Free Agent Summit.” I find it totally hilarious that more and more free agents are dying for an invitation to the coolest party of the year.

Chris Bosh: “I want to come!”
Popular Kids: “Sure, why not, you’re a baller, but you do kind of look like a Raptor. Now that we think about, you look a lot like that chic from Baylor, Brittney Griner, too.”
Amare Stoudemire: “Can I come toooo?”
Popular Kids + Bosh: “Sure, you’re aight, but bring some girls, please.”
Dirk Nowitzki: “Vhat aboot me?”
Popular Kids + Bosh + Stoudemire + Girls: “Yeah, but you need to do something about your hair first.”
Carlos Boozer: “Hey, why didn’t I get an invite?”
Popular Kids + Bosh + Stoudemire + Girls + Nowitzki: “Cause we don’t want to see you, loser!”

Anyways, this rich dude in Los Angeles should consider buying a NBA team, moving them to the new stadium, converting that NFL stadium into an NBA one, dropping everyone on the basketball team, and picking from 3 popular kids to create the best NBA team for the next decade.

Back to the NFLOA roster…

Perhaps the only better fit in the NFLOA than Deron Williams at running back is Dustin Byfuglien at middle linebacker. He has perfect size, already, standing 6-4 and weighing 246 lbs. On top of that Byfuglien is fast enough to play right wing in hockey. As if the Byfuglien situation could not get any better, he has the most hits of any player in this year’s NHL playoffs. Byfuglien is Lawrence Taylor playing in the middle. Hamilton may come as a less obvious pick, but his 6-4, 230 frame is close to ideal for the middle linebacker position. Like his partner, Hamilton is surprisingly quick for his size. The only down side, he has a history of being injury prone.

Heyward, the youngest player on the team, is a front-runner for the NFLOA Rookie of the Year award. He stands at 6-4, a terrific height for the outside linebacker position. Reminds me of a LaMarr Woodley/Calvin Pace type of pass rusher. Anthony will work as a tremendous mentor for Heyward. Much like him, Melo entered the league with very high expectations. After years of being compared to LeBron, Melo is able to end the discussion by playing on the other side of the ball.

Mike Green, one of the most aggressive defensemen in the NHL, will use that aggression at safety. He is also among the best hitters in the league, another ability that correlates to his new position. If he were to put on twenty pounds, he’d have a nearly identical body type to future hall of fame safety, John Lynch. Drogba, the center forward for Chelsea, has the size, speed, and vertical jumping ability to be a hard-hitting safety. Like Green, putting on an additional twenty-ish pounds would give Drogba a similar body type to another good, past NFL safety; Sean Taylor. Having played professionally since 1998, Drogba is the captain of the highly feared defensive unit. Both Green and Drogba are among the best fits for their positions.

Nadal would be a terrific corner, especially when used in a zone defense. He has experience covering vast amounts of space when playing tennis and is a far more physically gifted individual then people give him credit for being. Who would you rather have on your basketball team, Rondo or Rose? While you’d probably get around a 50-50 split on that question, it is irrelevant now. The two point guards will play side-by-side, employing aggressive bump-and-run man coverage. Both players are terrific in the air and seem to know where their teammates are located at all times. They won’t even need to look at the guys they’re guarding.

Kicker and Punter: Doesn’t really matter. No matter who plays the position they’d all be inconsistent, streaky (in a bad way), and exist only to let the fans down.

So there you have it. Here is the list of how many NFLOA participants each sport contributed.

NBA: 10 players
NHL: 5 players
MLB: 4 players
Soccer: 3 players
Tennis: 2 players
Track and Field: 1 player
World’s Strongest Man: 1 player

It’d be interesting to see these guys actually on the field together.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June Atrocity

“A lot of pitchers would have lost it there, and they would have been right to.”

I was originally going to write an article for today about creating the ultimate football team from non-football athletes. However, after witnessing the conclusion of the Detroit Tigers game, I changed my decision. That article will be moved to tomorrow.

Armando Galarraga took a near perfect game into the ninth inning. In his third season in the MLB, Galarraga was on the verge of reaching the greatest accomplishment of his entire life. There have been 20 perfect games thrown in the history of baseball. Remarkably, Galarraga was attempting to pitch the third of the season, all of which coming over a one month span.

With two outs in the ninth, Jason Donald hit a ground ball in between the first and second baseman. Miguel Cabrera, the first baseman, moved to field the ball and Galarraga went to cover first. Cabrera delivered the ball back to Galarraga, who stepped on the bag about a step before Cabrera. Galarraga put his hands up in celebration; I jumped off my seat and cheered with a few friends. Now here’s the kicker, first base umpire, Jim Joyce, called the runner safe. This is a serious problem.

The call made by Joyce was, and this is not a Gruden-like superlative, the single worst call, given the situation, that I can remember ever seeing. Ever. Earlier in the year I thought the no-call on Thierry Henry’s handball to win the game against Ireland was the worst call I had ever seen ( This travesty by Joyce has topped it.

A few moments after the conclusion of the game, Joe Morgan appeared on ESPN and said the following, “If you are doing something magical, like Galarraga was doing, you should get the benefit of the doubt… I mean, that is a once in a life time experience.” Absolutely correct, Joe. What is Joyce trying to prove? What could possibly go through his mind to make that call? Even if Donald was safe, wouldn’t you still want to call him out? If Galarraga has been, literally, perfect for the entire game, doesn’t it seem like you would want to reward that and give him the benefit of the doubt? Even if it were a tie, which goes to the runner, Joyce should call him out! Doesn’t he want to give Galarraga the accomplishment of a lifetime? Galarraga could have reached baseball immortality. He could have had a story to tell his children and grandchildren. But the call was not even close to being close to being close. He was out by at least a step and the ump was right there. How did he get it wrong?

This decision is unforgiveable. I don’t care about anything Joyce has accomplished in his career. Certain actions get someone fired. This is one of them. If I were Bud Selig, I would call Joyce, personally, tomorrow and tell him, “Listen, we just cannot have you in the majors anymore. You have been great, you truly have, but what you did last night was intolerable. I know this is hard for you, and I’m sure you believe my decision is very reactionary, but frankly, that doesn’t matter. When Bill Buckner allowed that ball to roll between his legs, he was released from the team that off-season. I’m afraid I must do the same for you. Thank you for your contributions to the game but your services are no longer needed.” And that’s that. End of story. No rebuttal or big deal with the press. Make it something personal, simple, and fair. The best officials in sports go unnoticed. They do not bring the attention on themselves. Joyce brought the attention to himself by making a call he must have known would result in personal spotlight. Said Joyce shortly after, "It was the biggest call of my career."

So by now most people are probably assuming that I am going to present a solution to the problem. “Use instant replay, fools! Don’t you want to get the game right?” That is probably the response most people are giving across the sports world at the moment. I am not one of those people. That’s right (Steve), I am not in favor of the expansion of instant replay use in Major League Baseball. Why? Well for one, most people feel that baseball is already too slow moving. Yeah, I’m sure when instant replay is further introduced, which will undoubtedly happen, (and quite possibly within the next week, which would actually be a rash move by the commissioner when firing Joyce is not) it will start out with restrictions. For example, each manager can use a “challenge” only once per game. But then what? What happens when there are two atrocious calls in one game? After all, the use of replay was originally introduced for only homerun use. And what’s the next evolution in replay use? Hey, if we can tell if a pitch is a ball or a strike, why not use replay for that too. Here’s my proposition. Either we keep the replay use as it is, and just find some better umpires, or we cut the use of umpires almost altogether. If we have the technology to determine whether every pitch is a ball or a strike, and if every runner is safe or out, why not just have one umpire in the middle of the field and leave everything else up to the computers and the guys upstairs looking at the cameras? Unconventional, yes. But effective, also, yes.

Galarraga missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. He will never go down as one of the pitchers to have thrown a perfect game, but I will always remember that he should have. I hope everyone else does too.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

STD Day, Week 3

Irregular balls, a walk-off balk, evidence for the greatest curse in professional sports, and injustice everywhere! Yes, it has been a very interesting week.

The Rasheed Wallace “I’m Still Really Immature” Realization of the Week:
Here is a new award inspired by the always-childish Rasheed Wallace. We may all think he is a total fool, but that doesn’t mean will don’t appreciate his clownish antics. I know I love them. Unlike most awards, this one is actually meant to be awarded to myself.

In a shocking turn of events, soccer players from every position and nation have voiced complaints about the World Cup soccer ball. I am, of course, being sarcastic. The complaints are about as predictable as the conclusion to the film, Valkyrie. Now, things got really interesting when Adidas decided to fire a response back. In an article taken from, entitled, “Adidas: Ball feedback had been positive,” the company attempted to defend themselves. But that is really irrelevant. This is an award about immaturity, not rationality. Therefore, I will not be listing the three most legitimate responses by Adidas, but rather, the top 3 sexual innuendoes.

3. “Casillas said the balls were ‘in an appalling condition.’” – After playing soccer in the hot South African summer for 90 minutes, I’d say that would be expected.

2. "It hurts a little, but if you hit it right, it flies.” – If the initial pain was only described as “a little,” I do not want to imagine the agony when it is hit right and “flies.”

1. “Asked why the ball behaved differently at altitude, where many of the games will be played in South Africa, Van Schaik said that applied to all balls.” – That seems like a gross generalization that Van Schaik could not possibly know.

Huge Win
The victory of the Duke lacrosse team over Notre Dame to win the NCAA Championship was an incredible event to witness. Lacrosse was never too popular when I was in middle school or high school, so I never got involved in following the sport. However, on Monday afternoon, I experienced a level of happiness comparable to what I felt when the Duke basketball defeated Butler to win their respective national championship in April of this year. This wasn’t because of my support of Duke or of Lacrosse, but because of the terrible connotation of when the two words are paired together: Duke Lacrosse.

At this point, probably everyone reading this is already familiar with where I am going. Beginning in March of 2006, three Duke lacrosse players were under attack for allegations of raping a young woman who was a student at North Carolina Central University and who also worked as a stripper. Given the fact that the accuser was black, and that all three Duke players were white, there were many who classified the potential rape and assault as an example of a hate crime as well. After over a year of a witch-hunt-like series of accusations and findings, the three men were finally proven innocent (interesting that they were first treated as guilty). In my mind, the oppression imposed by local enforcement and Americans across the country on the Duke lacrosse team, the school, and the players and their families, was an absolute disgrace. Because of the chaos, the remainder of the 2006 Duke lacrosse season was terminated and head coach Mike Pressler, who coached the team for 16 years, was rashly fired.

Somehow, Duke managed to pull everything back together. The seniors of this year’s team were freshman at the time of the unjust disaster. As new students, people who were considered despicable in the eyes of many surrounded them. The championship won by Duke, the first in school history, has meaning that goes far beyond the sports world. It is proof that the university has overcome one of the most turbulent times in its rich history. Congratulations. Go Duke!

If this isn’t foreshadowing, I don’t know what is!
Quick, what is the biggest curse in professional sports?
The Sports Illustrated cover jinx? No.
Curse of the Bambino? No.
Heisman Curse? No.
Super Bowl Hangover? No.
The Color Red? Is that one even real? (Reds, Phillies, Bucs, Indians, Red Sox, Cavaliers, Chiefs. Hmm, on second thought maybe teams shouldn’t wear red anymore. But still, No!)
The most imposing, consistently damaging, and cursing curse in modern professional sports is the one and only Madden Curse. It’s almost not even a curse anymore, but a certainty. If you are on the cover of the Madden NFL video game, you will either get injured or have a woeful year. Let’s recap the disaster.

Daunte Culpepper, Madden 2002. After leading the Vikings to the playoffs the previous year, Culpepper threw 23 interceptions, broke the record for must fumbles in a season, and led the Vikings to a 5-11 record.

Marshall Faulk, Madden 2003. Previous Year: Previous year: 1382 yards, 5.3 yards/carry, 12 touchdowns. Next year: 953 yards, 4.5 yards/carry, 8 touchdowns. It was the first full season in which he rushed for under 1,000 yards, a number he would never reach again.

Michael Vick, Madden 2004. Vick breaks his leg in the pre-season, forcing him to miss 12 games

Ray Lewis, Madden 2005. One of the only survivors. He suffered a wrist injury in week 15, but when you’re getting compared to season ending injuries, a week 15 injury seems insignificant.

Donovan McNabb, Madden 2006. McNabb suffers a series of injuries such as a sports hernia in week 1 and an ACL tear that put him on the IR.

Shaun Alexander, Madden 2007. After winning the MVP award the previous year, Alexander suffers from a foot injury that takes him out of 6 games. Says Alexander (actually, this is not made up) “Do you want to be hurt and on the cover, or just hurt?"

Vince Young, Madden 2008. Young misses just one game and throws for 3 less touchdowns and 4 more interceptions than the preceding season. A moderate curse effect.

Brett Favre, Madden 2009. For a period of time, Favre was retired following his appearance. He then returned playing for the Jets, during which he started off promising, but suffered a torn bicep that caused the Jets to go 1-4 over the final 5 games. Favre threw 2 touchdowns compared to 9 interceptions over that time.

Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald suffered from no symptoms, but Polamalu sprained his MCL in the first game of the season, returned for 3 games later in the year, but was then subjected to another injury.

Out of a total of 10 players, 4 went down with major injuries, 4 put up numbers that ranked among their career worsts, 1 suffered a minor injury, and 1 went unharmed. Yikes.

This year, Drew Brees, the quarterback for the Super Bowl winning Saints, is on the cover of Madden. When I first heard this information about a month ago, I immediately told whoever was listening that I no longer believe the Saints will make the playoffs. That may seem like a crazed decision made by someone who believes too much in a silly little curse.

Mark it down, Adam Weinberger, on June 1, 2010, at 6:42 pm stated that the New Orleans Saints will fail to make the playoffs in the 2010-2011 NFL season.

Apparently, I am not alone. Now on ESPN is the article, “Big Question: Who is Brees’ backup.” Big question!? Why is that a big question? I have never heard the question of who is backing up one of the 3 best quarterbacks in the NFL be referred to as a “big question.” The only explanation, of course, is that the Saints are bracing themselves for an injury to their most important player. Pat Yasinskas writes, “They’re pretty much set at every spot, except backup quarterback. They’re not done there yet. Sometime in the coming weeks, the Saints have to bring in a backup with some experience who can handle the team in case anything happens to Brees.” Yeah, he knows it’s coming too.

The “Stan Van Gundy” Face Creating Moment of the Week:
Back for a second straight week, the Van Gundy Face awarded is given to Arizona Diamondback pitcher, Esmerling Vasquez, for his walk-off balk.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, with Casey Blake on third and the game tied, Vasquez made the illegal move towards third. Blake, who is apparently a wilily veteran, made a fake stutter step towards home plate. When Vasquez saw him moving, he stopped his motion, thus, balked. Blake was allowed to literally walk off the field for the win.

My Van Gundy face for this one was probably dead-on accurate. What the hell was Vasquez thinking? Who would try to steal home, in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied? Nobody would try that! In fact, Vasquez shouldn’t have even been looking at Blake. Casey Blake has been in the MLB since 1999. Over that stretch he has 35 total stolen bases! I think in order to be worried about a guy stealing home, the man on third base needs to average at least 35 stolen bases per season! Vasquez’s decision to make sure Blake didn’t steal home would be like a bank teller sounding an alarm when a 14-year-old girl walked into the bank.

“Norman, why would you do that?!”
“Gee, I don’t know boss, she looked suspicious.”
“Suspicious, she’s not even 16 years old. What was suspicious?”
“You see that bag she’s holding, I thought there was a gun in there!”
“Well, thanks to you, our entire work day has been ruined. Good work. Someone should probably fire you…”

More STD’s for my readers next week.