Thursday, February 24, 2005

Raiders and Vikes and Kings, Oh My!

Let's scratch our collective heads over how the Sacramento Kings traded Chris Webber, one of the NBA's elite power forwards and 5-time All-Star, to the Philadelphia 76ers for the NBA equivilent of an empty bag: forwards Brian Skinner, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson.

Of course, in ridding themselves of Webber's mammoth contract, the Kings now should have lots of money saved for...buying tickets to watch OTHER teams play in this season's playoffs since they've virtually eliminated themselves from the running. It must be unpleasant to say the least, to not only have to live in Sacramento, but to have the one true opportunity of successfully evading one's suffocating misery long enough to compete in the NBA playoffs yanked out from under them, adding to their burden.

The 76ers now have Iverson and C-Webb and a lock on first place. The Kings now have, uh, a badly drawn team.


In addition to this smashing news, it appears that the Raiders have gathered Moss from the Vikings for what appears to be the NFL's equivilent to an empty bag in starting inside linebacker Napoleon Harris and the team's first- round pick, the seventh overall, in April's NFL Draft, along with a seventh pick in the 2005 draft, team sources confirmed Wednesday.

Randy Moss, big mouth and all, is one of the league's premier receivers, a five-time Pro Bowler who set an NFL record for most catches in a player's first six seasons with 525, and the only wide receiver to record 1,000-yard seasons in his first six NFL seasons. Napolean Harris is uh, just a linebacker and god only knows what someone like Mike Tice is going to do to render the 7th pick of the draft useless by drafting a punter or a reserve long snapper with it.

However, what IS relevant is that like the NBA's Chris Webber, Moss' salary was a game-breaker and regardless of the talent being traded and the utter lack of talent received in kind, the story is really about money and athletes with big fat contracts nobody but a small handful are willing to pay.

I just wish there was a league somewhere in the universe where athletes who earn like 40% of their team's total salary in serving themselves first and screwing the team in the process, could peddle their wares in anonimity, like Mars, or Pluto, or perhaps another galaxy.

As sick as I am of hearing about Tom Brady and the Patriots and their successes, it's hard to imagine Tom Brady, even with THREE Super Bowl rings, telling the Pats, Oh yeah, now I want MY cut: How about a nice 400 trillion dollar contract that demonstrates my true worth?

Me-me-me-me. The secret code word of the modern athlete. See where all this me-first mentality gets these guys? Moss now stuck in a dying franchise in Oakland and C-Webb fighting Iverson for the ball at every halfcourt crossing.

Of course, all along everyone knew that Oakland was precisely where a nutter like Randy Moss belongs, sheltered by the world's largest wasteland of super-egos and last-chance renegades who've worn out their welcome in the rest of the league.

C-Webb is the second big name to go return to the East since Shaq returned to Florida. Is this an NBA conspiracy to right the lopsided nature of the talent structure of the NBA's East and West? What's next Kevin Garnett to the Atlanta Hawks for Ted Turner's snapshots of a rapidly-aging Jane Fonda?

Where this gets us all, this sudden seismic shift of big-name talent for virtually nothing in return is the reality that no one's stomach is as big as their eyes and funny enough, it was just a few year's ago that Sacramento was screaming and crying, pissing themselves with joy when C-Webb finally decided he could lower himself to stay with the Kings for a few billion dollars.

Now look.


Chelsea Badly Outplayed

They can make all the noise they want about some ominous halftime incident which they won't go into detail about, but Chelsea were run over time and again by Barcelona last night and even a man down, were well lucky to escape with "only" a 2-1 loss.

Apparently, Chelsea are planning on filing an official complaint but whatever happened in the lockeroom at the half could not have prevented the dodgy play of Drugba earning a second yellow card and ejection from the match. For the second match in a row Chelsea have had to play at least a man down and surrendering both matches is no coincidence.

It leaves one to wonder: Are Chelsea marked men?

They've still got a chance if they can shut down Barcelona when they meet them again, this time at home, in the next round but the chips are down and they are precariously balanced on the wrong side of momentum at the moment.

A solid performance against Liverpool in the Carling Cup would earn them their first silverware of the season and might go a long way towards tipping these lads back upright after weeks of injuries, bad luck and outnumbered play.

Otherwise, not even the Premiership title seems so safe any more.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Chelsea Out of FA Cup!

For 90 minutes perhaps, Chelsea manager, the magical import from Portugal, Jose Mourinho, lost his magical touch yesterday against Newcastle in an FA cup knock out at St James Park in the snow.

Mourinho, who was as humble and graceful in defeat as he normally is in victory, made the tactical decision to hold out seven starters in anticipation of Wednesday's important Champions League match against Barcelona. Chelsea fell behind 1-0 in the opening minutes of the match and played well throughout the rest of the first half but by the start of the second half, Mourinho had taken a huge, and retrospectively unwise chance by using all three of his alloted substitutions straight away, bringing in Duff, Gudjohnsen and Lampard.

It was silly because it was overstated. Whereas two subs could have been put in and and equal message would have been underscored thereby saving one sub for later in the match, Mourinho's roll of the dice with all three proved to be disasterous as winger Wayne Bridge was taken off with a broken ankle within the first few minutes of the second half and Chelsea were forced to play a man down and a goal down for the rest of the match.

More troublesome was Duff's gimpy output in the second half after a collision between keeper Carlo Cudicini and a Newcastle duffer which not only gave Newcastle a virtual two man advantage but also loomed ominously for Wednesday tie against mighty Barcelona.

The loss means Chelsea's season long aspiration of winning all four titles, the league title, the FA Cup, the Champions League Cup and Carling Cup, has gone down in flames. The Carling Cup will be decided Sunday against Liverpool and the League title still seems assured but a great doubt is now cast upon their ability to push forward against Barcelona in the Champions League match.

Perhaps more disgraceful was that Newcastle managed to win this match despite themselves. Time and time again, rather than manage the ball and control the clock, they took wild shots downfield and unnecessarily surrendered the ball to Chelsea giving them many unnecessary opportunities.

It must stick in the craw of Mourinho to lose to a side like Newcastle who, even when given a two man advantage and the lead, barely seemed capable of maintaining their composure.


Old Firm Derby

Another dismal outcome was seen in Glasgow yesterday as Celtic, who had not lost at home to rival Rangers in five years, saw the streak come to a screeching halt as the Rangers' 400th league goal against their perennial rivals saw them take a 1-0 lead they would not relinquish, only add too.

The goal followed an unforced gaffe by Celtic keeper Rab Douglas and was later exacerbated by another defensive mistake that sealed Rangers victory when Ulrik Laursen was left floundering in Nacho Novo's wake before the Spaniard delicately lofted the ball over Douglas.

Oh misery! Newcastle's and manager Souness' nemesis, Craig Bellamy – fairly subdued, overall – was in O'Neill's starting selection alongside John Hartson, with Chris Sutton dropping into midfield, and the attacking configuration might have paid off but for the Rangers goalkeeper, Ronald Waterreus, who made an auspicious derby debut with important saves from both Welshmen during Celtic's first half superiority.

The second half saw the Rangers take hold and keeper howler on the Celtic side.

It also means Celtic fall three points behind the Rangers in the Scottish Premierleague tables.


Today's 6th round FA Cup draw will be held at 1:00 to determine whom Newcastle will fell next in their race to win their first FA Cup title in 50 years which is, ironically enough, the same 50 years it's been since Chelsea won the league title.


And this Tuesday and Wednesday will see what on paper, should be great matchups between classic teams in the Champions League's next stage:

Tuesday, February 22

Bayern vs. Arsenal
Liverpool vs. Leverkusen
PSV vs. Monaco
Real Madrid vs. Juventus

Wednesday, February 23

Barcelona vs. Chelsea
Bremen vs. Lyon
Manchester United vs. AC Milan
Porto vs. Internazionale

Sports Amnesia predicts that potential, both English sides Arsenal and Liverpool could lose their opening matches whilst PSV will cut down Monaco and Real Madrid will be able to overcome Juventus at home.

On Wednesday, although Barcelona are the favourites and home, Chelsea should be able to battle to a 0-0 draw if they're lucky. Root for Lyon over Bremen, Man U will defeat AC Milan which should be a wonderful struggle with AC Milan's old yet talented defence and Porto should lose to Inter.


To those of you looking for baseball news, the best that can be offered outside of the normal realm of the website links to the side of this page is to wait a few weeks whilst the euphoria of the opening days of Spring Training die out and the calm reserve of reality begin to set in before we start hennypennying about this team or another and everyone's chances. Trust that Sports Amnesia will begin a comprehensive examination of all that is necessary to examine for the upcoming season and what you don't find immediately, will be ultimately prized over at Archie Bunker's Army.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

One Down, One To Go
"There are two kinds of light--the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures." -- James Thurber

Now that the The NHL is about to scrap its season, wouldn't it be nice if the NBA has a season-ending labour dispute as well? Perhaps it would be a fitting hibernation, the two sports no one really cares about joining hands and disappearing from our television screens and subconscious forever.

Raise your hand if, other than headlines about broken down negotiations, you even noticed the NHL season had gone missing. And keep those three hands raised if you will ever notice the passing of the NHL? Hockey is more exciting on the Winter Olympics level than it ever will be on the NHL level. Goodbye and good riddance.

Now, let's sink our teeth into missing marrow of the NBA. How many of you would care about the NBA if it was smack in the middle of the baseball season instead of existing on a plane outside of it? How many of you would care about the NBA if the Super Bowl wasn't over already?

Worse than even the NHL's overinflated sense of worth, NBA stars, as we've all heard ad nauseum are selfish, egotistical pituitary freaks with disproportionate athletic talent and even more disproportionate wages. Fair enough. If ESPN didn't exist (we can all dream, can't we?) to show us endless reels of LeBron James, from infancy to fatherhood, would we really care at all if he existed?

Or hey, has anyone outside of Jack Nicholson missed Kobe Bryant these last few weeks?

The NBA is as boring as the NHL and were it not for this lull period between the Super Bowl and Opening Day, they could both cease to exist with little but a muted protest from a few diehards.

Witness how much more important Spring Training is becoming. Is it mere coincidence that calendars everywhere are counting down the hours and minutes to the day when their pitchers and catchers finally report whilst the NBA rattles on? Discover for me the planet on which anyone cares about the NHL or NBA preseason because it certainly isn't this one.

If we could get the NBA to follow suit with the NHL and shut it down for good, just imagine the sorts of things that could take their places.

NCAA Basketball could resume it's place in the fiction of the heart rather than serve as a sort of glorified post-high School season for rejects who couldn't grab their NBA millions by the age of 18, just for example.

More coverage of the Dominican, Venezuelan and Mexican Winter Baseball leagues.

Perhaps a few other, alternative sports could take the place of the NHL and NBA in the pantheon of sports that exist to fill the gap between football and baseball season. Over here, we've got our own multi-million quid prima donnas in the English Premiership, a poor man's NBA, so to speak, played by foot rather than hands and height. Just last Wednesday night I went to a stadium filled with 43,000 supporters all singing and chanting, even as the English played the Dutch to an incredibly dull 0-0 draw in an international friendly.

Last weekend, rather than staring at a blank television screen or watching something as dull as Sacramento play Houston in a meaningless NBA game, I watched several thrilling Six Nations tournament rugby matches, including the English narrowly losing to the French (where else would you see that line?) and the Welsh beating up the Italians (ditto). The week before that, Wales defeated England on home soil for the first time in 12 years.

There are no prima donnas in internaational rugby, I assure you. There are bloodied faces and broken bones and real mano a mano battles. There are no billion dollar mid-air pirouettes, and slam dunks and chest pounding. There is heart and passion and brutal power. If you could imagine the NFL around 1935 or so, you'd have today's international rugby scene.

All of these alternatives would be far more palatable than the now-defunct NHL and the should-be defunct listless showman-mongering of the NBA. Would the two of these useless professional leagues disappear over the horizan, sportsfans everywhere would be better served and more appreciated.

So go ahead, NBA players, are you listening? Join the NHL in solidarity! Take the rest of the season off. We don't need you.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Nearly Spring Training: Gentlemen, Fill Your Syringes

It's rather difficult to avoid the moment the word "baseball" comes off the tongue these days: there are about 143,000 pages devoted to Jose Canseco and his accusations of steroid use. Guess the self-appointed Godfather of Steroids must be pretty happy with himself by now.

Part truth, part sensationalism? Does it matter how much is true and how much isn't?

Does it matter that it is true at all?

It's not like any of these guys were throwing baseball games and ruining the integrity of the game itself. Yeah, they were cheating, they were trying to get an unfair edge over their opponents, probably so they could hit homers like all baseball fans were clamoring like rabid dogs to see. The road of sport is littered with ideals tossed aside in the spirit of competitiveness. It's the very nature of competition that an edge will be sought and found, legal or illegal. Sure, it's too bad these guys got huge taking drugs that could ruin them physically. They still had to hit the balls. And didn't baseball itself juice baseballs to ante up the stake for homerball and cheat as well?

No one has clean hands on this, not players, not agents, not baseball who looked the other way, not fans who craved seeing those homeruns so badly. The homerun is probably the manliest achievement in all sports in America and it is a natural junction with the desire to see more of it that getting there means crossing lines that shouldn't be crossed.

But is it the end of the world of baseball? Hardly. Bonds was the NL MVP three times out of four seasons well before any steroid mumbling started. McGwire had 49 homers his rookie season, well before any rumours surfaced. A guy hitting 50 homers and batting .200 isn't very valuable. If you look at their numbers: McGwire hit .299 the year he had 70 homers. Sosa hit .308 the same year he chased McGwire with 66. When Bonds hit his .328 when he hit 73 homers. People talk all the time about how it gave them an unfair edge to hit homers with but it doesn't make .300 hitters out of Dave Kingmans, does it? I mean as simple as it sounds, you still have to hit the ball before you can hit a homer and perhaps steroids makes them stronger to hit the ball harder and fartehr but as far as I know, there aren't any steroids around to improve hand-eye coordination and if there were, players would have already taken them.

Still, as Chicago writer Rick Morrissey aptly noted the other day, "thanks to a muscle-bound former slugger obeying his muse, we now have the wholesome image of Canseco jabbing steroid-filled syringes into the butts of Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez. Makes you want to grab a glove and play catch in the back yard, doesn't it?"


On a more thrilling note about baseball, Red Sox Republican Huckster Curt Schilling, whose sock is in the Hall of Fame, has hinted he might be around after all to pitch on Opening Day against the Yankees and The Unit after all. The biggest question will be, does the winner or the loser get to pick Roger Clemens like a scab off the wound of the Houston Astros by the 2005 trade deadline?


If the Detroit Tigers make the same percentage jump in victories this season with the addition of Troy Percival and Magglio OrdoƱez as they did last season (43 wins in 2003, 72 in 2004) with the addition of Pudge Rodriguez and Fernando Vina, they'll have 101 victories this season, "probably" enough to win the AL Central.


When you consider the word "exhaustive", you might find this summary of the Best and Worst Trades of the Trade which examines all trades made in baseball from 1961 to the present. It comes as little suprise that the Mets have had a history of the worst trades made.

Sickening Super Bowl

And now, in the dying embers of the NFL season, cames the news earlier this week that Donovan McNabb was "sick" during the Super Bowl.

And now that he's had his surrogates speak for him, allowed others to plant the seed, he's safe to deny it and appear valient for doing so (no, I wasn't sick, I just sucked) but still, being sick would certainly explain his performance that allowed the bloody Patriots to steal another it. So does it all mean that were it not for an upset tummy we wouldn't be forced to listen to all this dynasty prattle?

Hmmm. Guess all that chunky soup isn't so good for you after all. In fact, in some circles, this is all the evidence we need for a The Chunky Soup Curse.

I haven't given up on them though. Even though McNabb has choked now in four out of five Championship games he's played in and he's not even 30 years old yet! Just think of the possibilities!

What he needs is another Terrell Owens. Since there is only one, what I'd like to see, since he's rumoured to be available, is for the Eagles to engineer a trade for Randy Moss - can you imagine Randy Moss and Terrell Owens together on the same team? I don't care about the one-two punch in end talent and the defensive nightmares trying to cover the two of them at once. What I care about is the subsequent fireworks as the two of them jostle for position in the World's Biggest Ego competition. Of course, Moss has the big edge in that he has never played in the Super Bowl nor made a miraculous recovery to play in one. He's just got a big mouth.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Larry Holmes of NFL Dynasties
"To win without risk is to triumph without glory." -- Pierre Corneille, from "The Cid", 1636.

They said all along that one of the keys to an Eagles victory in the Super Bowl would be a perfect game from QB Donovan McNabb. McNabb was far from it, throwing three interceptions and with it, combined with a few other turnovers and horrific clock management, gift-wrapped the Super Bowl and World Championship for the NFL's latest version of a "dynasty" who yet again, barely defeated their mediocre opponents to win.

In the meantime, the Patriots, deserving or not, will go on to be hallowed as a dynasty of non-superstars and unselfish team spirit, led by a "genius" coach; about as exciting as the parity-first NFL gets these days.

Like Larry Holmes reigning champion over a mediocre stable of heavyweights during the late 70s and early 80s such as Tex Cobb, Gerry Cooney, Trevor Berbick, et al., the New England Patriots have established themselves by beating teams, three out of four seasons, that simply don't measure by any stretch of the imagination, to quality opponents.

They've beaten a highly overrated St Louis Rams side coached by a man widely reviled as a nonce and an incompetent in Mike Martz. They beat him and his Rams by a last second field goal and won by 3 points.

They've beaten a Carolina Panthers team that barely outscored their opponents all season by a mere 325-304 margin, again with a last second field goal and again, winning by 3 points.

And now they've beaten a Philadelphia Eagles team that have made a habit of losing the big games: three consecutive NFL Championship losses and a Super Bowl giveaway to boot, growing in legend with failure to the level of teams like the 80s Bills, and the Vikings of the 70s and 80s. And again, the Eagles, a team they beat by a scant three points.

The Rams, Panthers and Eagles, three forgettable teams, as forgettable as a trio like Tex Cobb, Cooney and Berbick will ever be, have fallen to the mighty machine that are the Patriots, by a collective 9 point margin.

One could certainly make the argument that the Patriots are the luckiest team in the history of NFL Champions. None of the other franchises with three Super Bowl victories or more to their credit have done so as unconvincingly and against such weak opposition.

Now that the wheels of the New England Patriots bandwagon have been officially greased and as that bandwagon has become top-heavy with pundits falling all over themselves in this era of hysterical hyperbole and groundlessly gushing hosannas of greatness to crown the Patriots, as a dynasty, let's consider what two other teams mentioned in that same breathless breath of wonder as the Patriots, accomplished against their peers:

The Packers of 1965 first defeated Unitas' Colts and then a Jim Brown-led Cleveland Browns team to win the NFL Championship. This is before they even went on to crush two consecutive Super Bowl opponents and twice defeat a superb Dallas Cowboy team coached by one of the NFL's coaching legends, Tom Landry. Their record in those three postseasons were 7-0. Where in the pantheon of great teams will Patriot patsies like the St Louis Rams, the Carolina Panthers and the Philadelphia Eagles compare?

The Steelers of 1974, to get to the Super Bowl, defeated the Buffalo Bills, led by OJ Simpson, considered for many years one of football's greatest running backs. They then trounced an Oakland Raiders team led by coaching legend John Madden before overwhelming a pathetically overmatched Minnesota Vikings team. In '75, they defeated the Colts, Raiders and then the Dallas Cowboys, three teams who long ago established their level of legendary football franchises, outscoring the three by a 65-37 margin. No three point squeakers here. They then lost in '76 to those same Raiders who went on to win a Super Bowl of their own. Two seasons later, they ran through the opposition again, this time against a Bronco team that had made it to the Super Bowl the season before, then destroyed an Earl Campbell-led Houston Oiler team 34-5 before topping it off with a dramatic victory over the defending champion Dallas Cowboys.

These are just two franchises, two "dynasties" who not only dismantled their opposition with startling efficiency but did against opponents who were, in their own right, dynasties, or were themselves led by Hall of Fame superstars.

Owed primarily to a watered-down NFL of parity, the New England Patriots have won and even then by razor-thin margins, barely being better than their opponents and yet somehow, in the intoxicating rush of over-enthusiasm, are deemed to be the equals of the greats before them.


Bitterness aside, this sporting run by the New England area and its athletes and coaches is almost too deep to fathom. Only Pittsburgh, in 1979 and 1980, have given
their fans two Super Bowls, with the Steelers, sandwiched around a World Series victory by the Pirates.

And the success seems to be something in the water in New England. There's not just the Patriots and the Red Sox after all. There's also Pete Carroll, the coach of the newest "dynasty" of collegiate football, a man laughed out of New England and now the latest guru of the amateur gridiron and his success with USC. There's also the Eagles of Boston College basketball who recently became the first team in Big East history to start a season 20-0. And waving it all on is the inexplicably funny and unapologetic partisanship of the pro-Boston Sports Guy, ESPN's Bill Simmons. Simmons, as we all know, has had a successful run in recent years that staggers the imagination in its breadth and width for a comparative overnight success story of unflinchingly biased sports writers masquerading as sports comics, coming up from nowhere to national fame.

It's no wonder that for every pundit fawning over the Patriots, there are an equal number of a growing legion of New England haters, fans who have quickly grown tired of the domination and success of a single area and will root against the Patriots and the Red Sox with as much vigor and disdain as they once reserved for storied franchises like the Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys.

But let's not lose perspective. These Patriots, despite their admirable success, their gutty and inventive play, their creativity under fire and their undefeated and seemingly personally-flawless quarterback, are not the Ali, nor the Joe Louis, nor the Rocky Marciano and maybe not even Smokin Joe of the NFL.

They are the Larry Holmes of NFL Champions: wildly successful against a series of opponents from a diluted pool of talent who do not measure up to those who came before them.

Without a truly great opponent to measure themselves against they can only measure themselves against the reflection of themselves and unfortunately, in the NFL's age of parity, this is as close as they will ever come to greatness.

Hats off to the Patriots nonetheless. They've mastered the philosophy of teamwork, as every great team does and perhaps with a few more years down the road of perspective, their feats might gain an added brilliance.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Fate Drops It's Last Dime

Patriots Outlast Eagles and simultaneously make millions of pointspread losers in final minutes after surrendering a 10 point point-spread-busting lead.

I won't say much just yet other than for the victory marks the 13th consecutive Super Bowl that I was rooting for the wrong team. Not since the Redskins' 1992 victory over the Bills did I finish my Super Bowl watching with anything more than a gut bloated by chili and beer and a distinct sense of dread to listen to the "I told you so" choruses the following Monday. Perhaps Super Bowl Monday should be an official holiday. Allow those of us always on the losing end of the margin to wallow in the juices of our own misery, indigestion, heartburn and dread.


Was I the only one absolutely floored by Paul McCartney's performance at halftime being a highlight and not the schmaltz-fest I'd envisioned. Good lord, the Jesus TV Censors even allowed him to use the term "California grass" and I'll tell you, as we were coming up to that stanza, I thought for sure he was going to suddenly change the lyrics to "bought some California trash" or something equally ridiculous. I mean how is that one year following the moral outrage of Janet Jackson's bared breast, the world's second to last living Beatle is standing there before God and America singing about buying weed?? I'm surprised the power wasn't pulled halfway through the line.


For the thousands of readers whose emails have already begun pouring in complaining that Sports Amnesia's Super Bowl Special Edition was never published, well, yes, true enough. The editorial staff of Sports Amnesia was out on a collective weekend on the piss for a few of those days they should have been preparing and then spent the better part of Sunday before the Super Bowl having a few pints and losing four consecutive chess matches and then back-to-back Premiership matches which saw Southampton manage to impart a point on Everton after dominating and our heroes, the lads at Chelsea perform a functional yet seemingly single point draw at home against Manchester City and confirming for all who wondered that yes indeed, now that Arjen Robben is injured indefinately, it's time for panic to set in.

There will be more Super Bowl coverage later today or perhaps this evening however, due to the disappointing result, the hosannas and paens to the NFL's greatest dynasty blablabla will be limited as Sports Amnesia begin scouting college hoops in anticipation of the Bubble and scouting NL East sides as Spring Training nears.