Friday, June 29, 2007

A Draft Unlike Any Other

I'm warning you now, this is going to be one of those epic posts because I just don't know how to shorten it any more.

As many of you know, I was fortunate enough to attend last night's NBA Draft as a member of the media and let me tell you I had a lot of expectations for this. I've always said the NBA Draft is my favorite draft because it's a synergy of my two favorite things: professional basketball and college basketball. And I thought it would be a ridiculous idea to timeline what my night was like. I seriously brought a notepad with me everywhere I went so I could get approximate times of when every ridiculously funny/entertaining/awesome thing happened to me. So without further adieu, here it is:

5:00 pm: I arrive at Madison Square Garden, press pass around my neck, and as I walk through the doors I am greeted by none other than NBA legend Bob Lanier. Huge dude, and he said hello to me but that was about it.

This is Bob Lanier playing basketball.

5:10 pm: So I went down to the floor of the Madison Square Garden Theater figuring I'm sitting with all the bigwig media at the Draft like right next to the player's green room and the ESPN set. Of course, I can't find my seat, so I go to the front of the arena to look at the sheet with the seating list. It says "Metro New York, Balcony Left". This sounded bad but it actually was pretty decent. I ended up right near where Fran Fraschilla would do his reports on foreign players.

5:15 pm: I realized that they only gave myself and the other writer from Metro one press seat for the two of us. So being the intern I had to move my stuff and sat down in the "China Hoop" seat. I'm praying they don't show up.

6:15 pm: This is only for Greg: the media food was chicken parm, pasta and salad stuff.

6:30 pm: This other guy who used to work for the Daily, but was doing some freelance stuff for the Detroit Free Press got an interview with Mike Tirico, so I joined the fun and eavesdropped a bit. He admitted to being a Tigers fan, so he lost a little bit of respect in my book.

6:45pm: So I'm trying to kill some time until the draft actually begins and I noticed all the players were on the floor getting settled in the green. So I went down there to see if I could talk to anybody. Everyone seemed pretty busy fiddling with the laptops they had set up on every table. Except for Acie Law. He was all alone, so I saddled up and started talking, figuring that if he didn't want to chat the worst he could do was tell me to go away.

Me: So you have any idea where you're gonna go tonight?
Acie: Nah man, no clue
Me: I don't see you dropping lower than the Hawks.
Acie: That's what my agent said too but you never know. I just want to get drafted.
At this point Billy Gillespie, his coach at Texas A&M and now the coach at Kentucky walked up.
Gillespie to Acie: Hey man, how you feeling?
Gillespie to Me: How's it going?
Me: Hey coach, I'm a Michigan fan, have fun with Legion this year.
Gillespie: (uncomfortbale laugh)
He then turned back to Acie and I decided it was best to walk away before I said something absurd and got myself thrown out before the Draft began.

But seriously, I hope the enigma that is Alex Legion rips apart his entire team at Kentucky.

7:00pm: I noticed Spike Lee out right behind the green room (where the players all sit) and I just couldn't resist. Walked up and said hi but I don't think he really heard me. I do think I got a head nod from him though.

7:15pm: I returned to my seat on balcony left and luckily China Hoop hadn't showed up so I was good to go for the rest of the night. About 5 minutes after I sat down Andy Katz came running by frantically talking about both the Boston and Knicks trades that ended up going down later.

7:50 pm: I sat through the first four picks on the balcony, but after Conley got picked I decided to head back to the interview area for the rest of the night. I figured that would be the best way to get some real inside info for this blog.

7:55 pm. I figured I'd go back with Conley. And when you watch on TV, you see that all the picks shake Stern's hand and then basically proceed straight to an interview with Stuart Scott. To be completely honest the entire stage area is really small. Stuart Scott is actually like right next to Tirico, Mark Jackson, Steven A., and Bilas. BUt after the interview with Stu, the draft pick moves onto an interview with ESPN radio, which i right near Stuart's little desk. From there the draft pick is led through the far aisle of the theatre with tons of fans right near them trying to get interviews. They leave the theatre and head through a series of hallways that lead to another interview area for everyone but ESPN. But all the while, they are basically walking down the hallway of the theatre, so fans are only held back by one of those line queue ropes that you see at movie theaters.

But back to my point here with Conley. As he was heading out of the actual theatre and into the series hallways, there was a Michigan fan just berading him mercifully. I wrote it all out so everyone could understand how hilarious this was, especially because it was so loud.

"You cocksucking Buckeye. Fuck you. You think you're all high and mighty because you beat Michigan twice. Dirty cocksucker. Go back to Columbus! Or better yet have fun losing 65 games next season playing for fucking Memphis. I'm gonna buy NBA League Pass just so I can watch your career go down the fucking shitter!"

I was standing pretty close to Conley and his entourage because I was following them to the press room, and I just couldn't hold in my laughter. The guy got thrown out almost immediately, but I would be willing to be that he thought it was well worth the price of admission.

8:00 pm: More funny Conley stuff. As he was walking down the hallway to the press room there was this guy with a sock puppet yelling at the top of his lungs that he was Steven A Smith and he had a camcorder with him. Apparently the guy is a youtube legend from doing this last year. He was asking Conley some absurd questions like if "Oden had ever taken advantage of his size in a sexual way during their years of playing together".

I loved all the hate Conley was getting. If you remember, he absolutely demolished Michigan this season.

8:30 pm: So when guys get lead back through the annals of Madison Square Garden they are brought to a series of rooms that is basically all media. It's basically a gauntlet of interviews. They start out with NBA TV and an interview with Kenny Smith, then a press conference for all the print media, then an interview with NBA Radio on Sirius, then with MSG Network, then with some sort of foreign media, and so on and so on. In all, once a guy gets picked, he can expect atleast two more hours of being asked the exact same questions over and over again.

By the time I got to the back with Conley, I had missed the top 3's interviews with the print media. I sat for Conley's interview and was waiting for Jeff Green seeing as he is a DC kid. But he wasn't allowed to come out for his interview because his trade to the Sonics wasn't final and the NBA didn't really want him to be answering questions about playing for the Celtics even though he wasn't going there. So when Green didn't come the next guy up was Yi and the horse of Asians that followed him. Seriously there were like 100 Chinese media people there. Everybody wanted to know if he was actually going to play for MIlwaukee because he purposely didn't invite them to his workout since he had no desire to live in a place with like 7 other Asians. It was funny because all the Chinese media seemed more upset about it than Yi himself.

8:45 pm: I went back to the TV interview area to take a look at what it was like and what do you know...I stumbled upon Kevin Durant. I thought to myself that this might be the only time I get to talk to him, so I lied to the guy. It's not the first time I've lied and it unfortunately won't be the last. I told Durant that I had player high school basketball for the same coach as he did, Stu Vetter. And for anyone who actually knows, the closest I've gotten to playing for Stu Vetter was going to his basketball camps as a middle schooler. But I just went with it and told him I player at St. John's/Prospect Hall, the school where Vetter coached at before Montrose Christian (the high school Durant went to). We had a nice 2-3 minute convo where I basically made up every word that came out of my mouth. I'm not proud of it, but hey atleast I got to talk to Kevin Durant one-on-one for a little.

9:00 pm: By far the most entertaining point of the night was Joakim Noah's pres conference. The guy really loves the spotlight and he loves to talk. He was pretty hilarious and I just couldn't resist asking about his seersucker suit with a bowtie. Here's how the exchange went between me and him in a large press conference of 30 people. Literally this is him starring me right in the eye:

Me: What made you go with the bowtie and the seersucker tonight? Going against the trend?
JN: A funky look, isn't it?
Me: I like it
JN: Thanks a lot. You know, I'm going to be me. I think the bow tie was definitely a great look tonight. I think the suit was really, really funky. I said it was going to be funky. I've got a lot of love from the suit so far.

Other highlights from his press conference were him giving one of the MSG security guards his cell phone number because "after this shit is over, we gonna get it poppin' tonight. You ready to get ridiculous?" There was also the moment when Darren Rovell, the old sports business writer for ESPN, asked if Noah was happy about going to Chicago because of his marketability there. Noah's response (this is in the most sarcastic voice you could ever imagine):

"Oh, I feel so marketable, you have no idea. I'm so marketable: YES! (raises his arms in the air) That's exactly why I wanted to go to Chicago; to be marketable."

I realized afterwards that I should have brought a camera. But whatever.

9:20 pm: I walked by Jay Mariotti from Around the Horn and he looks really old in person.

9:30 pm: Nick Young, the Wizards first round draft pick came into the interview room, so I felt a DC obligation to be there for it. He was pretty generic, but it did seem like he had a man-crush on Gilbert. For a guy like Gil, I think that's a good thing.

10:00 pm: At this point pretty much all of the guys from the green room had been picked so the press conferences were few and far between. Plus my deadline at Metro is 10:30 and with the Zach Randolph trade having been just announced, I was kind of running all over the place. Things definitely calmed down after this. I had a sidebar on Noah, but it only made the online edition of Metro, which sucked.

11:00 pm: Now that my work was done, I decided to settle down in the actual audience for most of the second round. The true faithful were remaining because there was a mass exodus once the Knicks picked at 22. The fans were just killing Steven A. Smith the entire time. There was this one guy who was just grilling him about "Quite Frankly" being cancelled. I think he went something like this: "Hey Steven A, quite frankly, what are you doing late night tonight?" That one got Mark Jackson to crack a smile.

Midnight: So the Draft had come to a close and I was kind of milling around getting a final look at this mecca of awesomeness. And right as I'm about to turn around and leave I notice my man, Jeff Green standing alone looking kind of bored in his new Sonics hat. The guy had not really been allowed to leave and party with his friends and family until the Boston-Seattle trade was finalized. So of course I had to talk to him.

We ended up having a good 20 minute conversation about a lot of different things. We talked about DC, Georgetown, Maryland high school sports, and a lot about how pissed off he must be that he isn't wasted yet. He was a really down-to-earth guy and it was definitely a great way to end the night off.

My new favorite Jeff Green. This pic is obviously a little old seeing as JJ is in it, but he needs the publicity.

And that's that. I put a ton of expectations on this night and had been looking forward to it for weeks and I couldn't believe how it lived up to all my wildest dreams. I met so many different people and I didn't even really mention all of them in this blog post. I'll probably have some sort of actual Draft analysis in a couple days or something, but I'm really just trying to digest what I just went through last night. It was the culmination of my young years as a sports fan. Just disgustingly awesome.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

News and Notes From a Mets Walk Off

Like I said in a previous post, I was at the Mets-Cards game the other night, and was able to see my first ever walk off homerun in person. But I think the more pressing news from the game was who was there. Yes, I'm talking about this blog's favorite sideline reporter: Erin Andrews.

I guess she was there covering the game for ESPN and since I was in the locker rooms of both the Mets and the Cardinals, I got a first hand look at how she operates. And like you'd expect, it involves a lot of touching and a lot of flirting. She definitely knows each and every player in that locker room thinks she's smokin hot and she definitely knows she herself is smokin hot. It's really annoying to be a reporter in the locker room when you have to talk to the same people she does. Normally, I have no problem going up to a player in the middle of an interview with another reporter. It's just part of the locker room scene, everybody understands it. But with her and all the flirting, it just feels awkward going up to interview someone. It's like interrupting a guy hitting on a girl at the bar. Yeah, you could do it, but what if someone else did it to you. You'd be pissed. Well, I also get pissed when I have to wait around to interview guys. Whatever, who am I kidding? She's hot enough to get away with just about anything. And I'll give her this: She can pretty much get any interview she wants.

That is...except postgame interviews. I was cracking up in the press box when I looked down on the field and saw that the SNY (the local cable channel that carries Mets games in NYC) interview guy got to Shawn Green before Erin could. She was forced to stand behind as Green did his first interview with someone else. She looked PISSED! She could have interviewed somebody else, but it just wouldn't make sense given the situation (a 2-1 extra inning win with a walk off by Green). Maybe it was a sign that women reporters shouldn't flirt to get their way. I bet it wasn't though. I bet it was because of her heels, couldn't move as quick.

Too good for Erin.

Other Stuff
-Speaking of Green, I talked to him before the game because I'm working on this feature about torn labrums and he had one a few years back and seems to have recovered relatively well. Seemed like a pretty nice guy, and maybe my interview was the reason for his bomb in extras.

-After the game, I had to do a small article about Mets pitcher Jorge Sosa. It was funny because I was talking to him before I started interviewing him and he was speaking pretty solid English. But as soon as I broke out the recorder he immediately called over some translator and answered his questions in Spanish. I just smirked and laughed inside. And if you didn't know, Sosa was a Cardinal last year and was left off their World Series roster. So he got a ring but didn't actually do anything during the playoffs. So of course I asked him if that was extra motivation. And of course I knew it was, but of course Sosa said "it was just another game". Well when I wrote the article, I called him on that bullshit because I got Paul Lo Duca to admit that he was extra juiced (not in the steroid way) during the game. In your face Jorge Sosa.

- Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen was wearing this sweet shirt that said "I dry hump" on it in Cardinal red. I asked him about it and he said it was about a guy on the team but he didn't want to say who.

-I'll be completely honest: The Cards locker room is boring. There was very little joking around, although it did seem like everyone was businesslike. But compared to the Phillies and the Mets, it was pretty quiet.

-My favorite author, John Feinstein, was randomly at the game the other night. He's written a whole bunch of those year in the life books about various sports. He's also written for the New York Times and the Washington Post. So of course I had to start up a random convo with him, and we exchanged e mails. Just another connection along the road. The book below by him is actually the main reason why I wanted to do journalism.

Great book that follows around all the ACC teams during the regular season.

-I really cannot believe all of this Chris Benoit stuff. The Cerebral Assasin just didn't strike me as the type of guy to ever do that. And I was reading this chat by Bill Simmons and he was talking about how he just doesn't know how the WWE is going to recover from this. They already made the mistake of running a 3-hour Chris Benoit tribute on Monday night before the facts had come out and it just shines a light on the absurd amount of deaths in wrestling. The spotlight is going to be on WWE again, but if there's one company that can make it through it's WWE. They've pretty much been dealing with scandals for 25 years now.

-I went to pick up my NBA Draft credential at the Garden today and got a little sneak peek at the set. I really wanted someone else to be there with me so I could get a picture of me standing at David Stern's podium. What's funny is that the best shot any Michigan player has of getting drafted this year is with me on that podium. I'm kind if curious to see which ones get signed to a summer league team. My guess is Dion Harris and Courtney Sims go to a summer league team and then get cut. I say Courtney simply because someone will take the bait on him because he's tall. I see Europe for Petway, definitely with that dunking ability. And Lester, well maybe Europe, but I could see him CBAing it.

I was supposed to go to this predraft interview stuff with a bunch of the draft hopefuls today, but I had some cell phone issues I had to take care of. I'll definitely be doing some extensive Draft stuff on here in the next couple day seeing as I'm going to be there tomorrow night.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Remembering Lavar

I was saddened the other day when I heard about the motorcycle accident involving the once-mighty Lavar Arrington. And while I was sour about the way in which he left the Redskins a couple summers back, I still haven't forgotten the five or six years where he was by far and away my favorite player in the NFL. So rather than think about the bad times, I think we should rehash the good memories of a Redskin great. Lavar probably needs some cheering up given the fact that this accident probably spells the end of his playing career. I actually know exactly where he got in the accident, it's an exit ramp that I drove on every day when I worked for Bowie. He either must have been going really fast or had no idea how to drive a motorcycle because that ramp is nothing too serious. It's really your standard ramp. But I figured I would relay to you some of my favorite LaVar moments (of course all of them were while he was in a Skins jersey, even though the leap was done as a Nittany Lion):

1) The Annihilation, December 10, 2000: Troy Aikman was supposed to go out in a blaze of glory. But then late in the 2000 season he decided to roll out to his right only to be met by a freight train named LaVar. Arrington just pummeled him, giving Aikman what would turn out to be a career-ending concussion. The love affair was on from there because executing the career of a beloved Cowboy puts you on the good side of any Skins fan.

He will forever be remembered for this.

2) The Interception, October 21, 2001: The Redskins were 0-5 under the Schottenheimer regime and it looked like a sixth loss was on the horizon. The team trailed 14-0 with just over 10 minutes to play at Fedex Field (just a reminder that Battey left this game early) when Lavar intercepted a Chris Weinke pass and returned it 67 yards. Rod Gardner (what happened to that guy?) then caught a 85-yard bomb from Skins QB Tony Banks (what happened to that guy?) and the Skins won in overtime on a Brett Conway field goal. After that the Skins reeled off four more wins and got themselves back to .500 when they beat the Eagles in Philly. They went 8-8 but if they had kept Marty around for another season it would have been playoffs in '02. They didn't keep Marty, though, and Steve Spurrier came in and we all know what happened there.

3) "The Assassination", December 29, 2002: It was Darrell Green's last game as a Redskins, it was in front of the home crowd and it was against the Cowboys. If the Redskins didn't win this game it would just be travesty. And luckily, they scrapped out a big time win, 20-14, but the highlight of the game was a hit laid on Emmitt Smith courtesy of Lavar. It was on one of those screen passes when the ball was thrown behind Emmitt and right as he turned to head upfield, Lavar came a callin'. Emmitt didn't even see it coming. And then after the game, Lavar even said to reporters that he "assasinated" Emmitt on that hit. On the radio call Sam Huff said, "He hit Emmitt so hard that Emmitt quivered."

There should be more listed up there, but to be honest after a successful three or four years Lavar really was a bust considering he was supposed to the face of the franchise for years to come. And don't get me wrong he had some other moments like a game-saving INT against the Rams in '03 when they were still "The Greatest Show on Turf" (I was at that game) and just two seasons ago when the Skins had that incredible win streak to end the season and get in the playoffs, Lavar had some HUGE tackles in the backfield against the Niners in a must-win situation. And we can't forget that 11-sack season he had where he led all non-defensive linemen in sacks. And there were also some nice hits against the Eagles, especially during those days where he would "spy" Donovan McNabb. For the record, he served that spy role about 6 or 7 times and only once do I remember him keeping McNabb remotely in check. It's probably part of the reason why I hate McNabb so much.

There was a time when hits like this were commonplace for Lavar.

I really truly believe Lavar would have ended up as one of the biggest stars in the league had the Skins kept the Marty regime in place. Because once they brought in Marvin Lewis to be defensive coordinator, it was all downhill from there. They never clicked and then Lavar started to get hurt and then he began bickering with The Snyder. When all was said done, Lavar had become a shell of his former self on the gridiron and there really was no reason for the Skins to keep him around. Kurt Schottenheimer (he was defensive coordinator under Marty) was the greatest thing to ever happen to Lavar.

But alas, it wasn't meant to be. But maybe, just maybe, we'll still get to see Lavar in those Eastern Motors commercials.

RIP Lavar Arrington 1999-2005

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A look into the Future

This is going to more of a me thing right here rather than anything related to the wide world of sports. So this past Monday I finally had my first real article printed in Metro New York. It definitely wasn't my best work because no fringe players (Gerry McNamara, Matt Walsh, Will Bynum, Jared Ryner to name a few) would call me back. And how good can a story about undrafted players in the NBA be without any actual quotes from guys who go undrafted in the NBA Draft? But you can still see the masterpiece online by going here:

Next week should be an exciting one for me because I'm covering a Mets-Cards game and also attending the NBA Draft. And I got a lot of good feedback from the last little Inside Access thing I did with the Mets-Phils game a couple weeks back. I'll definitely have something up about the NBA Draft, seeing as it is my favorite draft out of all the drafts. And I'll try to do something with that Mets game too.

But here's what I wanted to talk about. Last week the Nats swept the Orioles in the Beltway Series and it probably was one of the main reasons why Perlozzo was fired yesterday. You have to believe that Peter Angelos was having a mild heart attack watching a team that has a bunch of players who would probably not be starting on any other team (the Nationals) defeat his above-average salary collection of players, and at Camden Yards no less. There was always this concern that the Baltimore-Washington area could not support two teams and the jury is still out on that because in the three seasons the Nats have been around, neither the O's or the Nats have been that good. But the Orioles really have a lot to do if they want to compete in the AL East. Frankly, I don't see an end to their futitlity in sight.

And here's the thing about the Nationals: They aren't nearly as bad as everybody thought they would be. After all of the doomsdayers saying the Nats would be the worst team ever after their 1-8 start, they have essentially played .500 ball and are actually 21-14 over their past 35 games. Their 30-39 record currently is exactly the same as it was last season after 69 games. But does this really mean anything? The whole point of this season was to take their lumps and hopefully along the way they would find some guys who would be fixtures in a Nats uniform for a long period of time. But have they really found anyone to build around besides Ryan Zimmerman?

I like Big Zim, but the whole batting .250 thing needs to stop. Gotta bump that average up to .275 by the end of the season.

The young pitchers that we thought were going to excel (Shaun Hill and Jason Bergmann) did well for a month, but have been injured since. Matt Chico has been ok, but he's still got an ERA hovering around five runs per game. The position players from that Cincy deal last year (Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns) have been really disappointing and to me it appears their stats from the Reds were merely just a creation of that hitters ballpark they played in. Our best hitter all year has been Dmitri Young and he plays a position that we already thought was filled by Nick Johnson. Outfielder Ryan Church is nothing more than a fourth outfielder on any other team. Christian Guzman has rebounded well but he's only got one more year left on his deal and I just don't see him getting resigned. Brian Schneider has been awesome on defense and handled the decimated pitching staff excellently, but he's still batting below .240, which is unacceptable.

The only foundation the Natties have is their bullpen, which looks set for the time being with Saul Rivera, Jesus Colome, Jon Rauch, and Chad Cordero among others. Team President Stan Kasten, the guy who was the architect of those Braves teams from the '90s, always preaches that this is part of what's going to need to happen in order for this team to reconstruct itself (Apparently he doesn't like using the word plan, so I tried to use a synonym of plan and ended up with a llong strong of words that actually just mean plan). Well, as a loyal fan I'm willing to wait another year after this one. But I expect to be competing for the wild card in 2009. Do I think it will happen? I really don't think so given that we have about five or six players that are legitimately going to be around then. It takes a lot more than five or six guys to build a great team. I've got some faith left in the tank, but these new owners will not be able to get away with spending only a little money this offseason. I want to see my faith rewarded after three seasons of losing.

Manny Acta has been a pleasant surprise as a manager. He is the right guy for the future. Jury is still out on Bowden though. I still haven't gotten over him not trading Soriano last summer.

Friday, June 15, 2007

LeBron's Shaq Moment

This will be a quick one but after watching the San Antonio Spurs just completely demolish the Cavs in the Finals, it got me thinking about LeBron James. He definitely struggled, but who wouldn't when you have Daniel Gibson and a bunch of nobodies as your teammates. And don't forget about that complex offense that MIke Brown runs, you know the "give it to LeBron and hope it works" thing. That must have been real hard for the Spurs to prepare for.

But think about it. There's precedent for something like this. LeBron can go one of two ways here. He could pull a Dan Marino and never make it back to the Finals after getting one little taste of it. Or this could be like Shaq back in the day when the Magic got obliterated by Hakeem the Dream in his prime. Remember how Olajuwon just demolished Shaq in that Finals. It was humbling for the big man and he ended up signing a big deal with the Lakers where we all know he went on to have three of the most dominating years ever by a center. He was Batman to Kobe's Robin, as is well documented.

So where will LeBron go? I'm of the feeling that this is the first of numerous Finals appearances for King James. I mean if he can make it to the Finals with the cast he has now, the sky is the limit. This Cavs team was horrendous and yet somehow navigated through the east. It was a weakened east, obviously, but making it to the Finals is still making it to the Finals. There really aren't that many players in history that can say they essentially single handedly took their squad to the Finals. I just hope Cavs GM Danny Ferry doesn't pick up any studs in the next few seasons because the Cavs could become one helluva juggernaut.

I was really young at the time, but I still vividly remember Hakeem's disgustingly awesome spin move. The year he took out Shaq, he also completely embarrassed David Robinson in the Western Conference Finals. That was the year The Admiral won MVP and I think a couple years before he stiffed the Broonsta on an autograph request.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oakmont Sounds Like a Haunted House

So while you were busy doing whatever it is you do — whether that's working for some hedge fund, a consulting firm, an investment bank, a lawfirm, or you're just chilling taking some classes — I was talking to big time NBA agents and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. And yet it's not even that satisfying because the one person who I thought would be a no brainer to call me back hasn't yet. Gerry Mcnamara, if you are reading this somewhere, please give me a call.

But in all seriousness, I talked to Andy Miller, who might be the second-biggest agent in the NBA these days. He's the guy who negotiated that ridiculous Garnett contract that has hamstrung the TWolves since back in the day. He's also the guy in charge of getting Chauncey Billups a new deal this summer. I say second-biggest because Arn Tellem is legit and has a client list that is pretty absurd. Also, just got off the phone minutes ago with one of the lead guys from Priority Sports. His name was Brad Ames and they represent a ton of players and actually have the second-biggest client list in the NBA these days. For the record, this is all for a story on undrafted free agents that should be appearing in Metro New York any day now.

But onto something that I don't think has ever come up on this here blog: GOLF

Specifically we're talking about the U.S. Open. And even more specifically we're talking Oakmont. Why? Because the people on television that say they know things about golf are all predicting the highest scores in a major...ever! The rough is brutal, the fairways are small and someone on TV compared getting a shot on the green to "getting a golf ball to stop in a bath tub". Now, I'm no bath tub expert, but I'm pretty sure they are all slanted to the point that I could place a golf ball in it and said ball would have zero chance of stopping. In fact the cars in this youtube video have a better shot of stopping on this road than a ball in a bath tub:

-- (For some reason the link thingy isn't showing up so here's the url...must see though)

Phil's hurt too. He hurt his wrist hitting out of the rough practicing at Oakmont a few weeks ago. It's why he pulled out of that tournament a few weeks back. And usually when it comes to golf, the conversation has to veer to Tiger Woods. But something's weird, while everyone acknowledges Tiger's excellence...nobody seems to be predicting him to win the thing. They say his driver is all messed up and that will ultimately doom him, you know, because of those narrow fairways and all. Last time there was a U.S. Open at Oakmont, the Big White Mocha Frappachino, Ernie Els (you know cuz he' white and from the continent of Africa) won it all. But let's be honest with ourselves here, any golf fan knows that Ernie hasn't done shit since...well I can't remember anything besides that U.S. Open that was played down the street from my home in Potomac at Congressional CC where I think he placed top 3.

I'm going to throw a prediction out there that may shock you. Actually it will shock you because I don't think it really makes much sense but I've just got a hunch. He likes running up fairways and being Spanish. Yes, that's right. You heard it here first:

SERGIO GARCIA...just like the commercial (You know Sergio? Sergio!!! And then we all fly on a private jet when Sergio wins at Oakmont. We all know Sergio, of course)

That's the smile of a champ.

Random Stuff
-I hate the Detroit Tigers and I hate Justin Verlander for being good. (are you happy Krauss?)

-I think everyone knows how much I love Skip Bayless and what a great jackass he is, but his whole "I hate Prince James" routine is wearing on me. He keeps bashing LeBron, even after he single handedly got this Cavs team to the Finals. And he keeps comparing him to Michael Jordan because he claims he must because everyone else says he's the next Jordan. Well Skip, right now he's way ahead of MJ. He got by the Pistons by himself, whereas Jordan needed some help from a guy named Scottie. Seriously, if you give the guy an actual coach and one more piece, they are the best team in the East year in and year out and would be able to compete with any Western team. He's that good.

-Jim Boeheim...just as whiny-sounding on the phone as he is on TV.

-People are telling me I'm insane but I am 90 percent sure that when I'm done here in NYC, I will return to Maryland for a few days, road trip 25 hours to Colorado State, spend a few days out there, and then trip it 18 hours to Ann Arbor. Maybe I am insane, but c'mon, I've got one last chance to see the country as a college student.

For some reason the open road is calling my name.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

No Need to Panic About Gil

So I'm sure you all have seen the news that Gilbert Arenas has made it official that he will be opting out of his deal after next season. I was a little distressed at first until I came to this realization: If this is really a financial decision for him, there's just no way Gilbert leaves town. The Wizards will offer him max money for three simple reasons:

1) He's pretty much improved every season he's been in the league to the point that he is probably the third-best player in the Eastern Conference (behind Bron Bron and a healthy D Wade). You really aren't going to find another player that will be as good as Gil right now. Remember that stretch in December/January; there was no better player in the entire league than Gil for a good 3-4 week stretch.

2) Yes, the team lost in the first round for a second consecutive season, but let's be honest with ourselves here...this team had Eastern Conference finalist written all over it before injuries ruined them. The Wiz kids were leading the East and had just finished beating the Pistons twice in five days when Antawn went down in January. The nucleus was never fully in tact the rest of the way.

3) Gil is a cultural icon in Washington, D.C these days. The city hasn't embraced a player like him since Sam Huff was warming up the diesel every time Riggins got a carry. Seriously, the man is beloved more so than any other person in DC.

I'm pretty sure we're going to be seeing more shots like this from Gilbert in a Wizards jersey.

Here's the tricky part though: Gilbert said before he actually didn't want max money because he thought it would hamstring the team. Obviously, now he has gone back on his word. And as I sat in a hookah bar here in NYC at about 530am, Randy brought up the point that he just doesn't see Gilbert being the best player on a championship team. He said that Gilbert would have to be second fiddle to win a title.

Do I agree with this? Sort of. The way the Wizards play right now, yes, there's no way they beat any of the current Western Conference powers in a seven-game series. But say Gilbert decides to become a complete player and actually put 100 percent into the defensive end...I really think the sky is the limit for him if that happens.

The bottom line is that Ernie Grunfeld is just way too smart of a GM not to sign Gilbert after next season. Plus, Gil's desire to make max money will only motivate him to come out on all cylinders following the injury at the end of this past season. I really just don't see him leaving the Wizards unless he takes less money elsewhere and this really isn't a financial decision.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Mets-Phils: Inside Access

So last night I attended my first MLB game as a member of the press with all the luxuries afforded to person who covers the team. I basically spent all of pregame in the Phillies locker room and all of postgame in the Mets digs. It's too bad Metro New York didn't actually let me cover the game since it went to extras after Pat "I strike out every other at bat" Burrell hit a bomb off Mets closer Billy Wagner in the top of the ninth to tie the game. The game also featured back-to-back-to-back homers by the Mets courtesy of Delgado, Wright, and Lo Duca (in that order). But Randy once told me that the best blogs involve me letting everyone know the juicy tidbits that only a reporter actually gets to see, so I figured I'd share some funny moments from the locker rooms:

-When I walked into the Phillies' locker room at around 345ish, their front office brass were on TV for the MLB Draft that was going on at the time. A bunch of the guys were huddled around the TV awaiting the selection. And as the Phils were on the clock, Chase Utley just blurted out, "I hope they choose an asshole so we can get rid of Myers (he was referring to injured closer Brett Myers). Everyone in the room had a good laugh, even Myers. But then Shane Victorino decided to take the joke a step further and yelled over the din, "I hope they choose a fag so we can get rid of Hamels." Seriously, no one in the room laughed and Victorino looked like an idiot. I was biting my tongue because I wanted to laugh but felt like I couldn't.

-I may have found someone who deposed David DeJesus as not only my favorite center fielder in the big leagues, but also just my favorite player. See, the reason I was at the game was to collect quotes about the Subway Series that is coming up next weekend, so I was in the Phils' locker room to get some opinions on it. I talked to Aaron Rowand for literally like 20 minutes and he gave me some great quotes. The guy has a great baseball mind. And then after the interview we talked Big Ten football for awhile.

-Back when I worked for Bowie a few summers ago, Ryan Howard was still in the minors. And the year prior to working at Bowie he participated in the Home Run Derby for AA that took place at Bowie's stadium. Now if you remember from last year's MLB Home Run Derby, Howard absolutely demolished the competition and just crushed the ball all night. Well a few summers back in the AA Home Run Derby, Howard had just one homer. So to spark conversation with the reigning NL MVP I brought it up in a good natured kind of way. He started blaming the pitching coach who was throwing that night and then he said the balls were screwy or something. I responded by telling him "Sounds like a bunch of excuses" (it's on tape, I swear, and he didn't rip my head off because I said it kiddingly). Howard of course responded, "I think you saw last year (at the MLB Home Run Derby) what i can do when they throw the ball straight.

I made fun of Ryan Howard about his Reading Phillies career. I'd say that took some balls.

-Here's the thing about Major League locker rooms: These guys are so sick and tired of the daily media onslaught. I actually feel bad for some of these guys, especially players in New York. But I'm sure you know about all the cliche bullshit they spout out everyday and usually I hate it. But I sort of understand where they are coming from. Assholes like myself, while necessary, are really just gnats that these guys have to deal with all summer long. But in the end, I bet they miss all the adulation from the media when they retire.

-Talked to Chase Utley, but he was pretty boring. He didn't really have much to say although he seemed like a pretty nice guy. Judging from him making fun of Myers earlier, I'm guessing he's one of those guys who just doesn't say much to the media.

-Charlie Manuel is extremely hard to understand. He's got this southern twang, but it's more just the fact that he doesn't actually know how to pronounce certain words and he's got a lisp. In the game last night he got thrown out after the umps gave David Wright a homer even though it wasn't originally ruled as such. As it was going on, I turned to the other guy there from Metro and sad, "I don't even think the umpire understands what he's saying right now. He's probably just waiting until Charlie's face gets so red that he's gotta believe there's some sort of insult involved or else he wouldn't be so red."

-The fan in me wanted to talk to Davey Lopes (He's the Phils' first base coach) about coaching in DC last year for the Nats. I didn't though

-It has been documented before, but if you didn't know, Antonio Alfonseca has a sixth finger on his right pitching hand. And by sixth finger, I mean a deformed nub that actually does have a fingernail on it. It's definitely not the same size as his other five fingers, but I'd definitely classify the nub as a legit sixth finger. I tried my best to stare at it for awhile without him realizing. He was busy doing Sudoku.

You can't see his thumb but this is definitely a clear view of the sixth finger/nub

-When I found out I would be going to the Mets game, I decided not to eat until I got to Shea because I figured the media would have free food, which is pretty common wherever you go for games, regardless of the league. And since I'm on a limited budget here in NYC, this seemed perfect. Well to my dismay, the Mets charge $8.75 for the media to eat at the games. And since I was so hungry from starving myself, I had to fork over the bills. It sucked.

-After the game I went to the Mets locker room to get some quotes. It was pretty tough, especially trying to get Subway Series quotes since the team had just blown a late lead and lost it in the 10th.

-I seriously thought Carlos Beltran was going to rip my head off. And by rip my head off, I mean rip my head off. I was trying to get an interview with him before the NY media mob encircled him, so I could ask him these Subway Series questions. He was sitting in front of his locker with shirt and pants on and wasn't really doing anything. So I go up to him and ask, "Hey Carlos can I get you for a minute." He responded sternly and scarily, "Please let me get dressed, then I will talk!" Being the novice that I am, I backed off for fear of the mole on the side of his head attacking me. And I didn't get to talk to him until all of the rest of the assembled media came in and circled him. I figure I can solace in the fact that Carlos probably would have given me some ho hum answers given the way he answered questions about the game. He was giving the classic "we win as a team, lose as a team" theory over and over again. Afterwards I went up to him and apologized, saying it was my first day. He smiled and gave me a "don't worry about it". So I'm hopefully off his shit list now.

Look at that thing. It's HUGE! Glad it didn't eat me.

-The best/nicest player in the Mets' locker room was Billy Wagner. After talking to the massive media collection (it is NY), I approached trying to get some one-on-one time. And to my surprise he obliged and even gave me the Subway Series quote I wanted/needed so badly. All this after blowing a save. Class act.

All in all a very awesome experience. I mean it's not everyday you get to talk to Major League Baseball players. Now if I can just convince this newspaper to give me a chance and let me write I'll be in business. Oh yeah, so I was planning on picking up this second job promoting comedy clubs on the street, you know, to earn some extra cash. But I had a revelation last night/this morning: Fuck it, it's not often you're in a city like New York with few responsibilities and why be stuck with a job where you essentially have to hassle people into buying something. I'll pick up money where I can (hopefully I'll find some easy temp jobs or something). And if I don't, I'm guessing mom/dad will help me out. Hey it means more time for blogging, too.

God, that sounds so Potomac of me, but whatever.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Finals

Alright so I've had a few days to think about what my NBA Finals prediction is going to be and to be honest, the more I think about it, the more confused I get.

Immediately after the Cavs won Game 6 I thought to myself, "Well, that was a nice run by the Cavs. They pretty much maximized the potential they had given the fact that they are a one-man team and have an idiot for a coach." And the Spurs are about as close as you get to a dynasty in the NBA these days. But then I started reading stuff online about how in their two regular season meetings, LeBron just demolished Bruce Bowen and because of his size, is one of the few players in the league who can take it to the rack against the Spurs' stingy interior defense.

And it pains me to say the Cavs have a legitimate shot in this one because frankly, their team is just awful besides LeBron. I was telling Graham the other day that I really think the Wiz kids could have beaten the Cavs in a seven-game series. But the WIz kids would have NO shot against the Spurs. The Cavs on the other hand, do have a legit shot at winning this simply because LeBron has elevated his game. But if he wants to pull this off, Bron Bron is going to have to take his game to a stratosphere it's never been to.

The bottom line is that the Spurs have a complete team, and are equipped with three players (Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili) who can take over a game on the offensive end at any given point. The Cavs have just one player who can do that (LeBron). By the way, enough of this talk about how Daniel Gibson is that second scorer that the Cavs have needed forever. The guy had two good games against the Pistons and now he's no longer a surprise. You really think Gregg Poppovich doesn't have a plan to slow him down. Boobie is coming back down to earth in this series.

That being said, I still think the way LeBron is playing will be worth atleast two wins for the Cavs. But that's it. The Spurs are the best defensive team in the league and they will find a way to get the ball out of Bron's hands when it comes down to crunch time. This will be the coronation of Tim Duncan, although his stats won't be extremely impressive (I see him averaging a 20 and 10 in the series), and Parker is going to play a huge role as well. The Cavs don't have anyone capable of keeping up with him. The Cavs have had a nice run here, but predictably I'm taking Spurs in 6.

The most intriguing stroyline of the Finals: How much bigger will Manu's bald spot get?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Give ARod a Break

Remember that ARod love train that was travelling throughout the nation in April. I remember Krauss walking into our room from lacrosse practice one April night (I think the Yanks were playing the DRays) and upon hearing the news that Rodriguez had hit another bomb, responding "OMG, he did it again, he did it again" while scurrying around like a teenager who had discovered the wonders of Playboy. It was actually really weird, but that's not the point. The point is that everybody was lovin ARod. All that bad will from the errors and the non-Jeter loving of last year had vanished with game winning homers and Grand Slams.

There was no way for ARod to continue the pace he set in April. I repeat NO WAY. And yet when his average slid to a paltry
.300 and he still led the American League in homers and RBIs, the New York media turned on him. When I arrived in the city last week, media members were talking about ARod's "slump", and how he was one of the main reasons for the Yanks being so far out of first place. Again, he's batting .300 and was near the top of the league in almost every significant offensive category. And then news came out about his apparent infidelity from his wife. If you haven't heard already, ARod was caught first going out to dinner, then attending a strip club, and finally heading up a hotel's elevator with a blonde woman equipped with ginormous breasts.

To say the media had a field day would be an understatement. Metro New York was on this story so hardcore that they had me write an article about it on my first day of work with them. Of course, they didn't run it but whatever. Then on Wednesday night ARod got caught yelling something at Blue Jays third baseman Howie Clark during a routine pop up, forcing Clark to miss the thing. Of course he got reamed out again by the media. Let's stop here and think about what we're doing to ARod.

We're criticizing him for infidelity against his wife. That doesn't seem unreasonable considering he has a child with her. But then again, are you fucking serious? If you think more than 50 percent of major sports athletes don't have girls on the side, you're crazy. LeBron's got one kid with his baby's mama and has another on the way. He just said in an interview that he would miss the birth of that child for the Finals. Seriously, athletes cheat on their wives all the time. When I worked for the AA Bowie Baysox, players used to request two sets of tickets on opposite sides of the field. One set for the wife and kids, another for the girl on the side and her friends. Yet, when a guy like ARod gets caught, the media portrays him as some unGodly villain, despite the fact that his behavior was set by the culture he works in.

This guy cannot get a break. If I were him, I would definitely be opting out of my contract this year.
I would want to get as far away as possible from the New York media mob.

And then there's the whole popup thing. When I first saw the play, I thought it was a savvy move. In baseball terms, ARod created an extra out for his team, and they certainly need that extra out given the fact that ARod, Jeter, and Posada have been about the only players hitting this season. Howie Clark, one of those guys who bounces around the minors and majors, MISSED a routine pop-up that any third grader could have caught. ARod didn't miss that pop up. He was trying to help his team win the game and of course he just gets pounded on. Was it a bush league move? I don't think so. It was no more bush league than a catcher talking shit to a batter while he's hitting. We're 54 games into the season and Arod's got 20 home runs, 47 RBIs and is hitting .293. That projects out to about 60 homers and nearly 150 RBIs. Those are MVP numbers and this New York area is just killing him. Even Joe Torre (and if you remember I called for his firing after last season) bashed ARod this week.

ARod is not the problem. The problems surround a litany of things including the facts that: Johnny Damon can't throw, Abreu has been atrocious both in the field and at the plate, the pitching is OLD, Torre continues to mishandle the bullpen, and no one seems to notice that Jeter is on pace to TRIPLE the amount of errors he had in the field last year. There's more but I think you get the point. We need to lay off Alex Rodriguez because frankly, he's got a pretty good shot at going down as one of the top 5 greatest baseball players of all time. The stats back it up.

And this gets me to a bigger problem with New York City: The media. They are completely and utterly unreaosnable.

I've been in New York City for a week now and specifically been working for a newspaper in New York City for almost a week. And I've come to a realization: Everything you hear about the New York media is true. They are just brutal unless their teams are the best. It being baseball season, right now the talk of the town is the Yankees and their stunning collapse. People here are downcast that the team worth over 200 million dollars has an equivalent record to the Nationals. The media is all over everybody because this team has essentially been eliminated from the AL East race already. But as bad as things have gone for the Yanks (and I don't know if anybody could have imagined this bad of a start to the season) there's still hope. There are over 100 games remaining in this young season and New York sits just seven games out. That is far from insurmountable. I don't think the media here understands that you can still win the World Series as a wild card team. In fact, in five of the past six seasons, one of the teams in the World Series has been a Wild Card. A Wild Card team won the Fall Classic three straight years (2002-2004). So simply being a Wild Card team is far from the end of the world.

And that gets to the crux of my problem with this town and its media. They are just brutal. I don't understand why people even root for the team given how negative the media is towards them. The people on the streets are even brutal. I suggested to my new editor at the newspaper where I'm working that we as a paper take a different approach concerning some coverage about the Yankees. I suggest we write an article about how the Yanks are still just seven games out after such a ridiculously horrible beginning. The guy seriously looked at me like I was trying to convince him to eat fried poo. He was like "Mark, this isn't DC or Michigan or whereever. The media here expects the best and anything less than the best is unacceptable". And he told me this with a straight face. I absolutely completely disagree with the philosophy of just completely badmouthing a team like that. We're not even halfway through the season yet. Lay off.

It's going to be a long season even if the team is able to turn it around. For some weird reason, getting to the play in the playoffs and having as good a shot at a title as anyone else just isn't enough.