Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Oh please may I hear another story about how dour and uncolourful Bill Belichick is? Oh please may I hear that story again about John Fox that tells of what a transformation he's overseen at Carolina?

Oh please can read about how there aren't any superstars on Carolina or how this time New England has to be the favourite instead of the underdog?

Oh please can I read another article about why the BCS is a disaster and please can that article have all the cliches of how to fix it?

Oh please can someone else tell me why Pete Rose is the antichrist and doesn't to deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

Oh please will someone else wax poetic on the CFL?

Oh please can you tell me why having Cameron and Reyes and Kaz in the middle of the defense will make a difference when you still have three hop Piazza pantomiming throwing out runners at second base?

Oh please tell me why Bud Selig can't be the Archduke Ferdinand of Major League Baseball?

Oh please will someone demonstrate to me how John Gruden can be the Holy Grail one season and not even in the postseason the next?

Oh please can you give the NY Knicks what they want? Willis Reed limping, saving the day, over and over again?

Oh please can you tell me the Yankees fans won't revel in that moment of realisation when the most overrated pitcher on the planet called Pettitte pitches for Houston and gets bombed over and over until his back fails or his shoulder hurts and then Roger Clemens comes running and pulls a groin or hurts himself like some other 45 year old man might in similar circumstances?

Oh please can you erase the WNBA?

Oh please can you give Mike Schmidt his due?

Oh please can you make me watch another thirty seconds of ESPN because I might have missed the subtle hip hop nuances and meanings?

Oh please can I watch another 12 consecutive hours of Super Bowl pregame hype = please times a trillion?

Oh please can my life revolve around billion dollar commercials that only famous people or computer graphics can act in?

Oh please can I see the Patriots falling behind early? Oh please can I see Carolina because I see all the other teams every year, like, I dunno Tampa, Baltimore, St Louis, all those teams that had shite quarterbacks and no one said stood a chance?

Oh please can I hear another hurrah for Tom Brady?

Oh please can I see another interception?

Oh please can I be in Las Vegas?

Oh please can I be a seven point underdog too if I study hard and go to school?

Oh please.

Carolina 20 NE 16

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Let's Bring David against Goliath to Baseball
"Martyrdom... is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability."--George Bernard Shaw

The FA Cup brought a bit of romance to football yesterday. It was a glaring contrast in size, pay and talent when the mighty millionaires of Chelsea, who ranked 104 places above the semiprofessional Scarborough, traveled this weekend to that Northeast seaside resort town to hold an important fourth round FA Cup match. The kind of stunning mismatch that invites giant-killing and mythological heroics that live forever in the minds of fans everywhere.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials. --Chinese Proverb

I can't decide which is more absurd: that whining Yankee fans would accuse Roger Clemens of nothing short of treason and being a turncoat two-timer after he backed off his decision to retire and decided to sign with the Houston Astros instead, or the ridiculous attempt by Clemens to smooth ruffled Yankee fan feathers by confessing that "I still consider myself a Yankee."

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Bye bye Vladdy, We Hardly Knew Yea

"Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones." --Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970), Unpopular Essays (1950), "Outline of Intellectual Rubbish"

Thursday, January 08, 2004

ESPN, Where Art Thou?

"You want a prediction about the weather, you're asking the wrong Phil. I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life." -- Bill Murray as Phil in Groundhog Day.

We don't get much NFL coverage here in England. We get the Sunday night ESPN game on live feed with a one thirty in the morning kickoff (so all you East Coasters whining about the games starting too late to cater to West Coast spectators, try focusing on a hyperventilating Joe Theisman at 3 in the morning sometime.) We get the Monday Night Game on Tuesday nights (most weeks) and if you've got Sky TV Digital, well, you might even get a live NFL Playoff game at a reasonable hour on a early weekend evening.

The best thing I can say about the coverage is that it is a live feed so you get real American professional announcers doing the game for an audience of people who already understand the game. Sometimes on Sky, you get the Sky network geniuses thinking how neat it would be to use their own announcers who always feel compelled to explain every nuance of the game to an audience they assume know nothing about it. If you think listening to John Madden's fatted veal grey lips spittle the same tired lines over and over again like the BAM! sound bubbles of a tv episode of Batman, is annoying, trying having a blitz explained to you by a ex-New York Giant Englishman for the twelfth time in a half hour. An added bonus, when watching the match on England's Channel Five, when ESPN/ABC takes one of their trillion commercial breaks, instead of pickup tits truck commercials and bad swill beer tits commercials and ominous ads about how your company will fail like a Twitney Spears Marriage without some sort of 28th century inside investment technology to lead you into the next generation of doom and killing, you get the tight analysis of Mike Carlson during commercial breaks instead.

Imagine that for just a moment! A sporting event without commercials! It almost feels like paradise except for the fact that by halftime it's already almost time to put the morning pot of coffee on and get the shower started.

Nevertheless, it isn't hard to notice how quickly the NFL coaching vacancies were filled, baddabing, baddabang and the smoke has cleared and look what we've got:

A retread dictator, the kind of hardass that will beat respectability into the Giants, a guy who took an infant franchise to the Conference Championship Game twice but never made it to the Super Bowl, a guy who makes the NFC East that much tougher. On the other hand, my first thought at the news of the Giants signing Tom Coughlin was: what the hell must Jeremy Shockey be thinking? Get me out of here as fast as possible? It should be intriguing to see, once the games of faux diplomacy and lip service have been exhausted and Shockey is back to being Shocking, just how it's going to sit with General Coughlin, a guy who doesn't like long hair, wants the players in suits and will run the team like they were playing at West Point instead of the East Rutherford. Yeah, I'm sure Shockey wants to win, blablabla, just as bad as the General but there's more than one way to skin a cat and while football is a game big on war metaphors, it isn't often that someone as unrelentingly uptight as Coughlin wins the Super Bowl. Gruden? Nah. Belichick? Grumpy, yes, but better known as defensive genius more than a little dictator. The Niagra Falls of Coaching, Dick Vermeil? No chance. Mike Shanahan? Nope. You've gotta go all the way back to 1991, also with the NY Giants, when Parcells was the dictator and coach and won a title. Problem further is that Coughlin isn't the motivational genius Parcells is. The Giants got themselves a good coach but don't count on him outcoaching Parcells against Dallas, Andy Reid against the Eagles or even Joe Gibbs against the Redskins.

Joe Gibbs is by far the most intriguing hire. It's such big news even the cloyingly annoying Tony Kornheiser had a good line in the Washington Post for a change: "So Joe Gibbs is coming back to coach the Redskins, huh? Coach "Joe"? For real? Bringing the Boss Hog, Joe Bugel, with him? Who else? Grimm? Henning? Torgy? Pec? Sort of like The Blues Brothers. "We're putting the band back together -- we're on a mission from God."

My first morbid thought upon hearing this news was that what ifGibbs doesn't succeed? Where does Boy Blunder Danny Snyder go from there? Throw up his hands and sell the team? There are no football coaches left in the world for the Redskins to hire if Joe Gibbs doesn't do it. It's that simple. Can he readapt to an NFL of free agency? Can he return after 11 years out of the loop? Sure he can. In DC, Joe Gibbs can walk on water. He is the Jesus Christ of NFL Coaching inside the Beltway. If he doesn't do it, no one will. But he will. He's got a Midas Touch and the only thing to fear in the end is after all the winning has waned and The Mighty Joe is ready to hang it up again, let's hope there's someone a little more prepared and a little more capable than Rich Pettibone waiting in the wings next time. In the meantime, can you find anything wrong in another pair of Gibbs-Parcells matchups every season? Can you imagine how hysterical that Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is going to get now?

Dennis Green, much like Marvin Lewis did in Cincinnati, brings automatic respectability to an otherwise lifeless and laughable franchise with an historically apathetic ownership. Frankly, you've got to wonder if Green is a glutton for punishment when just as easily, he could've had the Raiders job instead. Have the Raiders really floundered to the level of the Arizona Cardinals in a matter of a year or is Green afraid of disappearing from the NFL coaching circuit if he doesn't win, much like the Raiders' last fired black head coach, Art Shell? The Cardinals have reached double digit losses nine times since 1989 which, believe it or not, is exactly the same amount of times the Bengals reached double digit losses since 1989. But before Mr Green gets any delusions of grandeur, he might consider the fact that the Bengals were up against the likes of the Steelers, Browns and Ravens, whereas Arizona have to play in a division consisting of a considerably more formidable St Louis, Seattle and San Francisco. And let's face it, while no one might have imagined an end of the year scenario that had Marvin Lewis in tears thanking owner and the perpetually-hated Mike Brown, try and imagine the teletubbyish Dennis Green shedding tears of thanks for a cantankerous old Grinch like Bill Bidwell...As Adele told Carrie when asked in the movie Kalifornia if her Brad Pitt boyfriend, Early Grace ever hit her: "Only when I deserve it". As John Madden would say, in Batman sound effect bubbles KAPOOW! ZONK! Good luck in the lovely dry heat of the Republic of Arizona, Mr Green.


You can't get ESPN Sports Center here, not through Sky TV, not even if you jam a coathanger into your tv antenae. And for the homages I read about how wonderful it is, the truth of the matter is, by the time I was leaving New York, Sports Center had gotten a little too clever for itself, a little too enamoured with its own sense of self-important news readers. I can tell you for a fact there isn't a man, woman, child, animal, mineral or vegetable in all of the United Kingdom as annoying as listening to Stewart Scott Ebonicize the American Sports Experience every morning. It was a terrible way to start the day. Evil enough to keep a spittoon bedside-handy on the off-hand chance you'd be force fed another "as cool as the other side of the pillow" line just as the vestiges of the previous night's partying was creeping it's way up your throat like a malignant bile waiting to explode at the next "BOOYEAH!". Ah yes. Stewart Scott is not a disease to be taken lightly.

We don't get much in the way of the NBA here either though for some reason, but we do get the Fox Sports NHL feed once or twice a week at around three in the morning. What we do get in bigger than life tabloid style coverage is FOOTBALL. Every page is soaked with the latest comings and goings, the finest details of every match played from the Premiere League down to the local levels. The funny thing is, you can't watch any matches on television unless you either subscribe to Sky TV or you head over to your local pub to watch it on theirs. In and of itself, this isn't such a bad thing until you find that there are "four or five" matches a week that are on Sky that you want to see and your mates in the pub slowly begin to become more familiar to you than your own wife. Not to mention watching the digits of your beer intake quadruple, your vision bloating into the onset of a permanent alchoholic haze and forgetting which match your watching by every halftime. Think about it though. Imagine if you couldn't watch a single NFL game on anything but ESPN. Imagine if every collegiate and professional game of the week could only be seen on cable. It's a mind-boggling sort of monopoly Sky TV has running here. Then again, Sky TV is paying billions to fund the Premiership. Money without which, the English League might well be like the Dutch Eriedivisie, an empty dreamland ghost of a league, twisting in the wind on its own youth squads, watching it's superstars develop in someone else's billionaire league in another country many many miles away.


And perhaps the most amazing thing of all: making the news in the sports pages these days in England, perhaps underscoring the lack of interesting diversity, missing the NCAA Hoops, the NBA showboats, the NFL Playoffs, etc., you find yourself slowly gazing into the articles about people like John Boy Walton taking the World Darts Title and wondering what is wrong with the world. "He was busting 180s everywhere - he was buzzing.", the article quotes a fan of Walton. Real schoolyard, street-smart, hip-hop darts at its finest alrighty.

Now, I like darts just as much as the next pint-swilling lad in a pub but if I'm going to make fun of things like golf and bowling being called "sports" in America, then frankly, I've got to have a problem with darts being in the sports pages of the British tabloids and not running the lead in the local pub newsletter, as well.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

The Mets finally have a new closer in Braden Looperafter dumping sad sack Armandogeddon the Mets have, in essence, traded Benitez for the three minor leaguers they got from the Yankees, plus a new closer in Looper. In his final two outings of the regular season, and throughout the playoffs, Looper regained his effectiveness as a setup man. He had two excellent performances against the Mets to close out the regular season, then went 2-0 with a save in the playoffs.

Looper's 1-2/3 shutout innings in Game 4 of the World Series against the Yankees particularly piqued the Mets' interest. In the outing, he escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 11th.

Perhaps the biggest laugh is that the Marlins think they've solved their closer problems by signing Armandogeddon, but the truth is, the problems have only just begun.

"That was probably the last piece of this team that was really in need, and we took care of it," Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said Sunday, a day after the hard-throwing right-hander accepted a $3.5 million, one-year deal with the World Series champions.

It was only last July that the Marlins were heavily rumoured to trade right-handers Nate Bump, Justin Wayne and Blaine Neal and Double-A left-hander Ryan Snare among the primary bait to grab Benitez from the Mets. As we know, Armandogeddon Sweepstakes were "won" by the Yankees, who lived to regret it and the Marlins, who never had to suffer Armandovision in the post season, later went on to defeat the Yankees in the World Series.

In forsaking the Marlins and helping them win the World Series, the Mets got, above all, Jason Anderson
On the other hand, given the general apathy of Marlin fans when the Marlins aren't World Champions, ole Armando might do just fine in a Florida climate of indifference before 8,000 fans every night.