Thursday, July 31, 2008

You can't say Ludacris isn't trying

I'm not sure if you've heard about Ludacris and his recent foray into legitimate politics, but let's just say it hasn't gone too well. You may remember, I posted about the awesomeness that is Ludacris attempting to transform into a socially conscious human being from a thug rapper who likes to lick people from their heads to their toes. Back in the beginning of 2007, I was a bit critical of Ludacris selling his soul to white people by no longer rapping about hoes in different area codes. That was when he released a song about the plight of women.

Well, it seems Ludacris has taken my advice ... sort of. Luda's newest song, a pro-Obama, anti-everyone else riff, is getting a lot of publicity because of the Presidential campaign. See Luda, instead of rapping political (which we all know is just way over his head) has combined politics with thug life in his new song "Politics", and the Obama campaign isn't too happy about it. See the song included this:

Hillary hated on you, so that bitch is irrelevant. McCain don't belong in ANY chair unless he's paralyzed. Yeah I said it cause Bush is mentally handicapped.

and this ...

Well give Luda a special pardon if I'm ever in the slammer
Better yet put me in office, make me your vice president

Well let me be the first to say: Luda, I don't think you're going to be Obama's Vice President. And also stick to what got you here. I will never listen to another one of your songs unless it's titled along the lines of "Comin out yo backside" or something of that equivalent. By the way, I could definitely see George W Bush bobbing his head to this song, and totally overlooking the mentally handicapped part. And I don't think you'll be seeing any more pictures like the one above.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Favre Remix

I was sitting in Graham's room last night watching some kind of sports programming (switching between Mets-Marlins and Yanks-Orioles) when yet another Brett Favre update rolled across the screen, informing the masses that the legendary quarterback had officially written to the NFL for his reinstatement into the league.

Now I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in saying enough with this constant Favre coverage, but it was then that Graham asked me what I thought about it. Clearly, he didn't remember my post from a few weeks ago concerning Favre, where I outlined exactly what I thought of the situation. But to be honest, I don't blame Graham for forgetting my stance, because I think we've all lost sight of what's important amidst the daily (and sometimes thrice daily) Brett Favre news that comes out. Seriously, poor Chris Mortensen's phone bill is probably through the roof with calls to Mississippi.

I feel even worse for Mort after seeing this picture.

Through it all, though, I'm sticking to the point I made earlier this month. The Packers can feign anger at Favre all they want for flip flopping, but ultimately the public is going to realize that the team is essentially pushing one of its greatest players out the door when he desperately wants back in. And for me, it just doesn't make much sense. Here's what I wrote a few weeks ago:

I just don't get Green Bay's dilemma. Say you were the GM of an NFL team, if given the choice, who would you rather have quarterbacking your team : Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. To me, no circumstance exists where Rodgers would be the answer.

Yes, it's unfair for Favre to just un (or de-) retire like this, but he's still one of the best quarterbacks in the league. How is this a bad thing?

This morning I was thinking about how another NFL team would treat a similar circumstance: one of their legendary players flip flopping about playing. The Giants had a similar scenario last season with Michael Strahan, when he feigned retirement because he didn't really want to participate in two-a-days. Favre's conundrum was he didn't want to participate in the non-training camp aspect of preseason football, things like OTAs and mini-camp. But instead of taking a hard line stance on Strahan, the Giants did the smart thing and took a wait-and-see approach since they understood they weren't going to just replace Strahan.

Packers GM should be using this same strategy as it relates to Favre. I realize you want Aaron Rodgers to get his chance at starting after using a first-round pick on him. But like Strahan helped the Giants win the Super Bowl a year ago, I think Brett Favre also has a shot at winning a Super Bowl with this Packer squad. Also remember, we found in January's Super Bowl that not only did the Giants take a wait-and-see approach while Strahan considered calling it quits, they did so knowing full well they had a player named Justin Tuck waiting in the wings.

Yeah, some of your decisions have me scratching my head too, Teddy.

I think the media has also played a role in the Favre saga becoming a melodrama. I don't quite understand why we're all jumping on the guy just because he wants to keep playing football. He's admitted he jumped the gun in calling it quits and still thinks the fire exists to compete. And coming off the season he had a year ago, I don't get the problem. Michael Wilbon has an interesting take on the issue in today's Washington Post, where he laments the power the Packers have over Favre:

If you don't want Favre, if you think he's washed up and ready to be bronzed, then why would you care if he winds up with the Vikings or Bears? If you don't want Favre, why would you care who he plays for in the limited time he has left?

Because the Packers want it both ways, like every NFL team in history. Thompson thinks being an NFL team executive gives him the inalienable right to be able to tell players what to do for the rest of their natural lives. "I don't want you to play for me, but I'll do my best to prevent you from playing for anybody else." That's the NFL way.

And because the NFL is the unchallenged sports/entertainment leader in America, most of the general public -- even in Wisconsin -- most folks in the media and most fans nationally think the poor Packers are somehow being put upon. This is yet another case of the NFL flexing its unequalled sense of entitlement and arrogance.

See, I don't think it's the NFL or the Packers flexing their muscles. This is squarely on the shoulders of GM Ted Thompson, who has backed himself into a corner by taking this definitive "he retired so we moved on and there's no turning back from here" approach. It illuminates an even bigger issue, which is why this man can't just flip flop, just like Favre did concerning his retirement. It's not the end of the world to have Brett Favre quarterbacking a team that was a play away from the Super Bowl. If Favre had never made his March retirement announcement, none of this media bruhaha would be going on. Someone needs to put Mr. Thompson in his place because no matter what he does in this situation, he isn't getting a statue in front of Lambeau Field like Favre will.

In simpler terms, enough with this Favre stuff. Let the man play football.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gilbert is at it again

I've been trying to avoid regularly posting about the habits of Gilbert Arenas for some time now, since I've gotten some comments about my unhealthy obsession with the man. But I couldn't resist once I saw pictures of $1 million pool in the 'burbs of DC. Work is still underway. The pics are all courtesy of the DC Sports Bog.

The stone for this "mountain" apparently cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000.

These are pictures of Gilbert's Playboy Mansion-style grotto and what I'm presuming is the basement or "chill" area to said mountain grotto. It will contain three gigantic fish tanks, and the chill area will have a set-up so Gilbert can lean back on a couch and look at his fish tanks.

This really makes me want to be rich, or if that can't happen, at least be invited to a pool party at Gilbert's house. And if that can't happen, I'd settle for being the lifeguard at one of those pool parties. The only question I have is what kind of pumps are running this bad bay?

At least he read my story

So I have a google alert for my own name, meaning every time something is posted on the internet with my name attached, I receive an email telling me what website it's from. Usually I receive a few a day, depending on how many people link one of my stories, and ordinarily it's at relatively minor websites or blogs.

Well today I had a story about a McCain function specifically for NY Democrats. And to my great pleasure, it was linked on some blog.

Except this blog linked the article as its misleading story of the day. Here's why:

Roberta Weisbrod is a lovely woman, who makes her living consulting on maritime and other economic development issues. Her husband, Federal Judge David Trager, is a Republican, or at least was when Republican President Gerald Ford made him a United States Attorney, at the behest of Republican Senator Jacob Javits.

Ms. Weisbrod’s 1992 work for Clinton preceded by about one year the appointment of her husband as one the few Republicans Clinton elevated to the federal bench.

This is not to question Ms. Weisbrod's sincerity, but rather the Sun's. Full disclosure would be nice next time, guys.

My take ... I was the best at something today, whether it's for misleading people or quality work.

A Court House Debacle

Yesterday was quite possibly the most frustrating I've spent here at the Sun. Let me summarize before I go into great depth: I was in a Brooklyn courthouse for more than two hours and basically accomplished nothing by myself.

Now for the gory details. I was sent by another writer to get all the information I could about a second amendment case involving a Brooklyn hot dog vendor who had a loaded gun in his home — a basement of some apartment building. Apparently the arresting officers had been given an anonymous tip that this guy had a gun in his possessions, and since New York has some of the strictest gun levels in the land, they decided to pounce. This is a big deal right now because of a recent Supreme Court ruling that re-interpreted the Second Amendment to say people could use guns for self-protection. Well, here at the Sun we've been trying to drum up a hubbub on various cases that could also be re-interpreted due to this somewhat landmark decision.

So I was first sent to this Brooklyn court house where I was to "get every single file involving this guy's case." Of course, when I got through security at this courthouse (at every courthouse you must pass security and some make you give up your cell phone, which is extremely annoying) I was promptly told the files for this particualr case were at a different court house that was luckily just down the street.

So I plugged in my ipod and started my trek to a different court, the criminal court of Brooklyn. As many know, I've had some experience in these halls — well at least the Montgomery County version of these halls — as part of my program days. I should have known something was up when I had my ipod on shuffle and "Frustration" by the Mamas and the Papas came on randomly.

The criminal court of Brooklyn.

I get through security at this court house, which thankfully does not require giving up your cell phone (more on this later). I went to the information desk there, thinking this would be the end of my journey. I figured once I reached the window, I would get my files and head on back to the office. Obviously, i was wrong.

Now as I was waiting in line, I noticed just how miserable these people looked. Everyone working there had a serious case of the Mondays and were being pretty rude to some people. Although, there was a guy ahead of me who was facing some sort of charge and trying to get the files on his own case, and yet for some reason didn't bring any form of identification. He wanted this court house employee to just give him the files on the basis of trust (his words). Just think about that for a second: a guy just committed a crime and a court house employee who sees thousands of criminals a week like him is supposed to just have some trust in him. The only way I could see anything like that happening would be if the court house employee had recently smoked a solo bowl.

But to be fair to the information window people, they were actually not the problem for me. Once I got the window, I was promptly given instructions to go to another room down the hall, where all the files were stored. He wasn't cheerful about it, but he had quickly taken care of me.

Well I walked down this hallway and to the door, where I was met by a security guard, telling me I was at the wrong room. I asked where it was. He didn't know. I then turned to my right and saw it was literally right next to me. I wanted to call this security guard an idiot, but I hadn't noticed the door either (personally I think my mistake is a little more excusable since I don't work within spitting distance of said door).

Of course, when I turned toward this door a the clerk of courts (the very man I was looking for) was walking out the door for his lunch break. I begged and pleaded with him to just help me out real quick, but of course this is city government so lunch breaks just don't get ignored. And frankly, I understood where the guy was coming from. I probably would have done the same thing if I were in his position looking at a young journalist. But here's what got me steamed. It was about 12:45 pm when I was outside his door, and this clerk told me it was best I come back at 3 p.m. If I had thought of quicker my response would have been "That's not a damn lunch break, that's a friggin siesta douchebag." But of course, I didn't actually say this. I just bowed my head, reluctantly accepting my fate of being stuck in this court house for another couple of hours.

I passed the time by listening to some tunes and a phone call to Battey, who along with Matt, is trying to convince me to move out to the mountains for the winter (I haven't reached a decision yet, but it's a definite maybe).

Rocky Mountain high?

To my surprise, the clerk showed up from his lunch break at around 2 p.m., but refused to open the door for me. Instead, he was cursing under his breath about me waiting outside the clerks office while he was on his lunch break. Once I heard this, my polite waiting game was over. Immediately I repsonded with a "God forbid you do your job as a public servant." I don't think he was very happy about that.

So I continued to wait outside this door until finally at 2:15 a woman, who I'm assuming was the administrative assistant of the clerk, opened the door for me. I started explaining to her (politely) what I needed and almost as quickly, she rudely shot back with "you can't just have all the files from a case. I don't what court you've been to before but I've been here a long time and I'm not losing my job because of you." To say I was taken aback would be an understatement.

I then asked what I could see. She said I could only see a copy of the complaint and that she would not go to the trouble of photcopying anything else for me. At this point, I had pretty much reached my limit. I had politely waited over an hour for these people and now I was getting rudely escorted away. It was time to make a scene. As many know, this is usually a winning strategy for me.

So I demanded to speak to this woman's superior. And of course, the superior was the man who had earlier muttered under his breath. I positioned myself for a lengthy verbal battle. He told me, "You can't just have everything from this guy's file. There's a rap sheet in here and stuff like that so you can't just rifle through this man's file." I responded, telling the man (now loudly because I was no longer in a jovial mood) then I'd like to see everything I'm allowed to see. I knew this would piss off said clerk because he'd already been pissed I was waiting outside his door after lunch and he also knew it was his job to do things like this.

But, shame on me for thinking a city employee would do anything remotely close to what protocol calls for. He said I would have to request specific parts of the file and then he could get them for me. I started listing things off the top of my head (frankly, at this point I didn't know what I was saying expect using words like defendant and motions and depositions, all the things I've heard my dad say over the years). He told me I needed to go to some other office to get what I wanted. I knew he was wrong, so I then began to tell him about a little document called the United States Constitution. In it, it says all court filings are for public record. It's the reason why when Michael Jordan filed for divorce the world found out about how he had a different woman in every city he played in (and yes, I told him this exact story).

I would have loved to bludgeon these people with an axe looking like this.

It was at this point that I called up the reporter who had sent me here in the first place and gave him the lowdown on what was going on. He decided he should come down to the court house and figure out what the deal was. While waiting for him, I went to the office the clerk had told me to go to, only to find out I had been in the right place and the clerk was mistaken. When the actual reporter got there, we went straight to the clerk, who again told said reporter that he couldn't have the files.

Then, this reporter did what I should have done. He asked to go even higher than the clerk and asked to speak with the bureau chief (he had done this before and calmly knew all the bullshit channels he had to go through to get what he wanted). Upon seeing the bureau chief, I think it hit all these nitwit city bureaucrats that myself and this other reporter were not going away. so they let us see the whole file, only we weren't allowed to look at the rap sheet and we weren't allowed to take the file out of the office. This meant no photocopying.

Myself and the reporter then proceeded to write in pen every word of this file, which took about 30 minutes. As for me, I was actually a little embarrassed that I had gone through everything I had gone through and ended up not being able to get the file. It was like calling home to Daddy to clean up my dirty work. In Potomac terms, it was like a rich Jappy girl calling Daddy (in this instance we'll call him Lee) and asking him to bail her out of a alcohol citation.

Now if you've made it through this whole post, I want you to scroll up and look how long it is. Peopl wonder why the government is so messed up, and this provides a perfect illustration. I was essentially told there was too much red tape to accomplish what I set out to do, only to spend basically an entire afternoon proving to these city bureaucrats that I could actually do it. Now imagine people who are seeking relief from the government due to the ever increasing terror associated with the national economy.

It's just maddening that these city bureaucrats can get away with treating the public, the people who they work for, like this. I don't exactly like my job right now either, but you don't see me snarling at employees. And the sad part about all this is that clerk and that woman are probably making more money now than I will make yearly for the next few years. Oh, the life of a journalist.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Funny Drinking Articles

Seeing as I'm desperate to return to any college campus anywhere in America (or the world for that matter), it seems appropriate that I spent part of today reading articles from college newspapers. And over the course of reading various newspapers, you tend to have some hilariously funny articles pop out of the woodwork. This is especially true of a college campus. So without further adieu:

This Penn State student wore a helmet while hammered and hilarity ensued.

And ...

A shocker for any Michigan student or alum or teenager, Studio 4 has had its fair share of fights and underage drinkers. And by shocker I mean how the hell is this place still open when there was a fight involving more than 200 people.

Made the front page

I'm on the front page of today's NY Sun. It's a pretty cool story about this judo olympian from the Bronx. View it here. Thank you, and let's give this story an overly absurd amount of hits so I look like a far more popular writer than I actually am.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I made some bets awhile back

One night a few weeks ago, some friends and I were sitting around before heading out to the bars watching a Yankee game when discussion began about the Bronx Bombers' playoff chances. It was then that I put more faith in pinstripes than I have in quite some time.

When you think about it, the days of New York dominance are fading away, and have been for several seasons now, and even the Yankee of our generation, Derek Jeter, is starting to show signs of decline. Still, though, these Yanks remain pesky and always find a way to turn on the jets come August and find their way into the playoffs. For this reason, there I was on a weekend night re-investing myself into the baseball season and the city's obsession with all things Yankee by placing two separate bets that will dictate much of my fandom through September.

First, Graham began talking up the suddenly-mighty Rays, who are currently a game ahead of the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. I had to jump on this opportunity since I am of the belief that while the Rays are definitely talented, their time is not quite here yet. They remain a year away from the postseason, if you ask me. So I told Graham I thought the Yankees would make the playoffs and the Rays wouldn't, and I was willing to place money on it. The terms were set, and if neither or both make the playoffs the bet is null and void.

Hearing this, Chachi decided to jump on my risky venture into pinstripe land and bet that the St. Louis Cardinals were more likely to make the playoffs over the Yanks. It was a guarantee from my friend that I once again could not ignore. I also bet him. So now I have a lot invested in this Yankee team.

And what do you know? We're winding down to the end of July and the Yankees are surging thanks to some quality pitching (Joba and Moose), as well as a rejuvenated bullpen that has out of nowhere turned from a bunch of ragtags featuring Mo Rivera into a real weapon on opponents. The hope for Joe Girardi's squad is that Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada come back at some point, and coupled with the acquisition of Xavier Nady, will again resemble the potent lineups of years past.

I think it's only a matter of time before the Rays start a late summer swoon. With the temperature swelling, there's always that one younger team that just inexplicably runs out of gas a bit too early. It was the Brewers a year ago, and Detroit the year before that (although they barely held onto the wild card spot and ended up getting to the World Series). They've had a nice run, though, and the day of dominance in Tampa is fast approaching.

Atleast that's what I'm hoping for (sorry Greg).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How Sparty could impact my life positively

It's been a busy day for me here at The Sun. if you aren't in New York, you probably don't know about the proposed subway fare hikes that have New Yorkers big and small in an uproar. Well, I've been covering the subway beat here for awhile, so I had to go to another MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) meeting today.

But it didn't stop me from becoming prefixed on the NFL once again. This Jason Taylor trade really got me going, and I'm back into the swing of things. And when I got a chance to sit in front of a computer today, I noticed this article about the Skins offensive line from Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post (Incidentally, I met Jason at a hotel bar in Livonia, Michigan the week before the Super Bowl in 2005. Not sure if anyone actually cares about that, though).

The article goes into great detail about how injured the Skins offensive line was a year ago, and specifically the right side of Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas. And it implies that their health may be a linchpin to the success of this season. And while I agree, the success of a team does hinge an awful lot on line (cough cough notice how I was on the line in two consecutive Mudbowl victories), I think the focus on this Redskins team should turn to the outside.

I'm talking the wide receiver position. See, we're in the Jim Zorn era now, and he brings with him his usually dynamic offense from Seattle. And if you remember, the Seahawks ran a ton of West Coast style routes that largely depend on wide receivers breaking big runs after the catch. You'll also remember that the Skins had an unusual infatuation the past few years with the Mighty Mouse receivers like Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle-El, and the $10 million dollar poop aka Brandon Lloyd.

Well that didn't really work over the past couple seasons, especially in 2007, when wide receivers accounted for 1/3 of the team's touchdown catches. I understand the Gibbs offense was run heavy, but that's not a good ratio no matter how you slice it. The bottom line is the past two seasons the Redskins best offensive player has been Chris Cooley, and no matter how much I like him, that just can't happen again if this team is to reach its capabilities.

To their credit (sort of), the Redskins went out and tried to address this problem in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the NFL Draft by selecting three wide receivers in Michigan State's Devin Thomas, Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly, and USC tight end/wide receiver Fred Davis. My opinion is that one of these three needs to step up and become a consistent red zone threat in order for this Skins team to be successful.

They Skins have gotten away with it the past couple of years, but let's face the facts: Santana Moss is not a viable No. 1 receiver in the NFL and Antwaan Randle-El is more like a No. 3, slot receiver than someone who should be split out as your No. 2. Now I'm not ruling out Kelly or Davis in this debate, well actually maybe Davis since he overslept for his first ever meeting, but I just have a hunch Michigan State's Devin Thomas is going to be the guy who fills the TD catching role that this team so desperately needs.

Just check out this scouting report leading up to the draft and tell he doesn't seem like the perfect type of guy for this role:

Very good size with long arms and excellent bulk...Smooth natural athlete...Great timed speed...Extremely elusive and runs well after the catch...Terrific vision...Has reliable hands and he'll pluck the ball...Great leaping ability and ball skills...Tough, strong and physical...Is also an outstanding return man...Still has a ton of upside.

I mean, seriously, he fills all the voids. Yes, he did have just one big college season, but I think that's largely related to him being a JUCO transfer. You rarely see guys from the JUCO ranks make an immediate impact at the Division 1 level. Frankly, the reason I'm just not so sure about Kelly is the fact that his statistics went down from his junior to senior season. To his credit, Oklahoma had a freshman Qb this past season, but Sam Bradford was still pretty solid. And if you watched the Sooners at all last season, it's readily apparent that Kelly is more of the big play, fly route kind of receiver.

All in all, though, I think the pressure needs to be on the wide receivers (and also the QB throwing them the ball). They underachieved big time a year ago, and now they're being counted on more than ever. Remember how the Seahawks offense used to sputter when Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson used to get the dropsies? We can't have that at Fedex Field this season or else a young QB might get frazzled and the season may just go up in flames.

So whether it's Thomas or Kelly or even dreary-eyed Fred Davis (he's never going to live that down, in my opinion) who steps up and makes the receiving corps more than a white tight end with a fro who blogs, I don't much care. But my money, unfortunately, is on one of those East Lansing bums.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Interesting take on the Taylor trade

So my post about the possibility of Jason Taylor in a Redskins jersey was decidedly muted because I just didn't think the deal was going to happen so quickly. But upon hearing the news, I posted my subsequent post about just how happy I am now.

Actually, relieved would probably be the better description, because I was really concerned with the make-up of this year's squad. No stars equals no playoffs and the move the Redskins made yesterday certainly added a star. The team had to make this move in order to keep up in the highly-competitive NFC East. Yes, they did go against their apparently newfound fondness of draft picks, but if Taylor gives the team double digit sacks for even one season, I think the trade is an even one. And if he plays for more than just next season, even better.

Now maybe this part of the trade only interests me (because I'm attempting to become a member of the press), but I don't think I'm the only one who noticed how much Vinny Cerrato straight out lied to the press yesterday as he pursued this deal. Jason La Confora, one of the Redskins beat writers for the Washington Post, details this in a blog post of his.

Here's what Cerrato said to local media:
"We haven't talked to anybody yet on anything." He then denied, again, any attempts to land Taylor to representatives of virtually every media entity that approached him at Redskins Park.

Here's what Cerrato said to ESPN this morning:
"We went out to practice at 3:00, and I talked to Bill Parcells probably like three times on the practice field, back and forth. We went and discussed some different terms, we came in after practice, talked to 3 or 4 of the veterans players, and asked them what they thought, what type of guy and everything, they said great guy. Everything was positive. Called Parcells back around 6:15 and told them, we'll do the deal. We faxed papers back and forth, got Jason Taylor on the phone and we were done."

And here's what he said to Peter King of Sports Illustrated:
"I'd called Bill a couple of months ago, I guess, like a lot of other teams did, doing their due diligence, asking him what he was interested in for Taylor,'' Cerrato said. "But nothing ever came of it. I didn't talk to him again about it 'til this afternoon. Then, during the afternoon practice, I'd say I talked to Bill three times about the terms, trying to work something out.''

I understand the need to keep these things quiet when you're still negotiating, but a good ol' fashioned "no comment" never hurt anyone. According to La Confora, a lot of the regulars who cover the Skins aren't very happy about how this all went down.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jackpot! JT a Skin

Right after I posted that thing about being unsure about jason Taylor, the Redskins went off and boldly went where no other team was willing to go. They traded a second- and sixth-round pick for Jason Taylor.

Mark is very happy now.

JT Dancing with the Skins?

Well with Redskins training camp starting today, I was all ready to break out my skeptically optimistic preview as the team heads into a new generation with Jim Zorn at the helm. But then news broke that defensive end Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first snap of 7-on-7 drills in the first practice of the year. Not exactly an awe-inspiring start to what many felt could be a disappointing season anyways.

Daniels' loss isn't all that important, if you ask me. Yeah, he was our starting defensive end, but since coming over with Gregg Williams and Greg Blatche a few years ago, he hasn't really been anything resembling an unstoppable force. I'm sure he'd be a starter for the Mudbowl squad, but anything higher than that echelon of athletics is kind of pushing it at this point.

Basically, the only time during Phillip's four years with the Skins that he's been anywhere close to looking like more than a run-of-the-mill defensive lineman was during the 2005 stretch run when the Skins made the playoffs. He had eight sacks that season, a majority of which came at that point.

Phillip Daniels beating on Marion Barber.

So the talk I've been seeing on message boards about how disastrous this injury is for the Skins this year is very much overblown. Yes, the Redskins had an atrocious D-line to begin with, one that many questioned would be able to put adequate pressure on the quarterback. But Daniels was part of that problem, and judging from the 2.5 sacks he registered a year ago, he wasn't going to be a huge part of the solution. If anything, I think this injury may be a blessing in disguise because it may force the Skins' hands.

It appears as if the Redskins management team of Vinny and the Danny were perfectly content to enter this season with a below-average defensive line. But now with a starter from that barely adequate line gone, the Danny is going to have to do something if he wants to seriously discuss the playoffs this year.

As you probably already know, ESPN is reporting the Skins are now chasing Jason Taylor, the oft-discussed dancer/sack extroadinaire who has openly been pursuing a trade this offseason. It would be a step back into the old Snyder ways to go after someone like Taylor, who would likely take some future draft picks to pry away from Bill Parcells and the Dolphins. It seemed in this year's draft that Snyder was heeding the advice of the Pats and Giants who stockpile and wisely use their draft picks (although unlike the Danny, they don't use all their top picks on the same position).

So it comes down to somewhat of a conundrum for the Redskins. Do they stay the course and not add more salary and age to an already old roster? Or do they follow Danny's fan-like heart to the promised land of aging superstars and make a run at Jason Taylor?

I think it really depends on what Taylor is going to bring to the table. As he showed last season, JT is still a dominating force, even on a really, really bad team, and he would instantly revamp the Skins' sagging defensive line. He's the type of player opposing offenses have to prepare for every week and would replace (maybe more than replace) the play-making void on defense left following Sean Taylor's death. But JTaylor has age issues (he's 35), a pretty sizable contract, and a stated desire to play one more season before entering the entertainment world.

After seeing this photo, now I'm really not sure whether he should don the burgundy and gold.

I read a Sports Illustrated article a couple years back about Taylor that went into his soul about the entertainment thing. Make no mistake, this guy isn't saying this sort of stuff on a whim after a successful turn on Dancing with the Stars. He knows what he wants to accomplish and one of his goals has always been to enter into the entertainment industry, and become bigger than just a football star. So the question remains: Is Jason Taylor worth giving up a first or second round draft pick if he's only going to play one season?

My answer is if he promises (and obviously there would have to be some kind of provision in the trade to guarantee this) to play at least two seasons, you make next year's first-round draft pick a conditional part of the deal. If he only plays next season, it would downgrade to a second-round, or preferably if Vinny can out-maneuver the Fins, a third-round pick or a couple third-round picks. I'll add as a disclaimer that I don't know what draft choices the Redskins have next year. I'm going to assume most of them since they haven't made any big time trades since acquiring Pete Kendall a year ago and getting Erasmus James for next year's seventh-round pick.

Yes, this Daniels injury points out a weakness in this season's version of the Skins' armor. But the bigger picture problem is one that has clouded over this franchise since Daniel Snyder took over the team. Whether it's hiring a quarterbacks coach as a head coach when you seemingly had a successor (Gregg Williams) in place or drafting three players from the same position with your top picks, nobody seems to know just what direction this franchise is headed. At least with Gibbs, there was some kind of clarity as to what philosophy would be followed. From management on down to the players, the 2008 Redskins are shrouded in mystery to me.

I don't think that's a good thing coming from (in my humble opinion) an educated and devoted fan.

I'm unsure whether these two should be running a pro football franchise or a local Burger King franchise.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's a race

With the MLB All Star Game come and gone — and boy was it stubborn with a game that lasted four hours and fifty minutes — it's about time we do some reflection. Reflecting on that marathon the other night, it threw off my entire work week because I was watching it in Manhattan and didn't return to my apartment in Brooklyn until around three in the morning. But I would have been fine with it going longer just to see J.D. Drew and David Wright pitch in the 16th inning.

But now that the All Star Game is finally over, focus rightfully turns back onto the division races at hand. Four out of the six divisions are pretty much too close to call at this point. The Red Sox are a 0.5 games up on the Rays, and six games up on the Yankees. The White Sox are 1.5 games up on Minnesota, with Detroit looming seven back. The Angels are six games up on the Athletics. The DBacks are a game up on the Dodgers, despite having a record below .500. The Cubs, with the best record in baseball, are 4.5 games up on the Cards, and the Brewers are right there as well. And last, and as I will explain, certainly not least, the Phillies sit 0.5 games up on the Mets.

Clearly, a lot of these races are yet to be determined considering how close they are currently. Let's not forget there's something like 70 games still to play for most teams. But I think there's only going to be one race that actually goes down to the wire, and it's one that has developed only recently. I'm talking about the Mets and Phillies.

A lot of people, especially people here in New York, left the Mets for dead after a sluggish start prompted the firing of Willie Randolph. Now, about a month later, it appears as if the firing was just what the doctor ordered. They've won nine straight and are nipping at the heels of those Phillies.

And when you take a look at each team's rosters, this race has all the makings of something that goes down to the final day — just like it did last year. The Phillies clearly have the superior lineup. It's pretty tough to find another team with names like Rollins, Utley, Howard, Burrell in the heart of the order. To be fair, the Mets counter with Wright, Reyes, and Beltran, but that just doesn't have the same pizazz, if you will. Each team also has a solid closer with a propensity for blowing saves in really high-pressure environments in Brad Lidge and Billy Wagner.

The similarities go even further down to the starting pitching. Both teams have a dynamic front line starter (Johan Santana and Cole Hamels). Both have a solid No. 2 starter (Jamie Moyer and John Maine). And then each have sometimes brilliant, sometimes erratic back-of-the-line grinders. The real wild card in all this is Pedro Martinez. Right now he's pitching no better than a No. 4 starter, but we all know when the lights come on Pedro can be brilliant if he's got any gas left in the tank.

So that leaves the Phillies with a superior lineup and the Mets with (potentially) a superior rotation. Who wins out if everything remains the same is really unknown in my book. I could see either team winning. Now, if the Phils or Mets conduct some sort of trade, this concersation could get thrown out the window. Some writers have floated rumors of the possibility that the Mets could be chasing after a trade for Matt Holliday, since the Rockies can't seem to get him signed to a long term deal. And it's been widely reported that the Phillies are in the market for another starter, with names like Erik Bedard being thrown.

If either team can swing a significant trade, which both of the possibilities I just threw would be, then the division could have a favorite.

As for the other divisions, as much as I like the Rays ownership I think the team is one year away. I see them finishing somewhere around the 85-90 win mark, and looking a lot like last year's Brewers. Minnesota has been admirable this year, but they don't have the horses to hang in long term. I could see Detroit getting hot late, but I think they've dug themselves a hole that is too crater-like to climb out of. The Angels will run away from their division. And anyone writing off the Yankees for that wild card spot are just crazy.

My lone bold prediction coming out of the All-Star break.

In the National League Central, the Cubs should win the division, no matter how good that C.C./Sheets combo looks and sounds. And the Diamondbacks just have too much pitching for whatever postseason magic Joe Torre can conjure up with the Dodgers.

So with 70-some odd games remaining, here's a stab at what the playoffs will look like come October:

AL EAST: Red Sox
AL WEST: Angels

NL EAST: Mets (closing out Shea in style)
NL WEST: Arizona

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's them gosh dang Europeans again

It's been a busy day here in New York. I attended yet another of the mayor's press conferences, where he once again announced something awesome in government-speak. And by government-speak, I mean overly complicated lingo to disguise the fact that the announcement is much less important than he's trumpeting it to be.

But as I listened to him speak, I couldn't help but wish this was the St. Louis mayor. I would love to hear his thoughts on the travesty that is Anheuser Busch selling its soul (and brewery) to Belgian beer giant, InBev.

Seriously, I'm not from St. Louis, but I've been there once before, and I am absolutely outraged over this. The most American of American beer companies is no longer American. I will never touch a Bud heavy with the same emotion ever again. And frankly, my light beer of choice may switch from Bud Light to something else. Hell, even Natty Light is made by Anheuser Busch. I was a Bud guy and now I've basically been knocked over the head with those European toilet-like things. I'm being told by an associate it's called a bidet.

One of these things

I just don't understand how a family could sell away what it's known for, especially in an industry like beer sales, which will never be affected by a dragging economy. In fact, a dragging economy means people are more depressed and drinking more.

At least the Anheusers could have sold it to a foreign company that has a name that sounds sort of American. I heard InBev and I instantly began thinking of factory workers dressed like guys from a Devo music video. And I don't buy InBev executives who say they're going to keep all 12 factories here open and without cuts. With a struggling economy stateside, and the Euro prospering big time abroad, it just doesn't make any business sense to keep a ton of operations here. Things should be especially troubling for workers when they read statements like this:

Mr. Liszewski, who operates a machine that puts labels on bottles of Bud Light, earns $27 an hour. He is a blue-collar man in work boots who has been able to pay off his house and buy land in Southern Illinois where he can hunt for deer. “It’s not just been a good life,” he said. “It’s been an excellent life.”

Are you serious? I'm wondering if by machine that puts labels on bottles, the writer actually means he gets paid $27 an hour to place stickers on bottles. Sounds to me like that fellow might be one of the first cuts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Home Run Derby Diary with a bunch of girls

I think it's safe to assume everyone who reads this blog — at least all the people I know — has grown rather comfortable over the years watching sports with one of their own kind in the room. By own kind I'm talking red blooded males. Sports is just something boys and men alike have learned to connect through. It's just natural to watch alongside each other.

And along the way, a female (and maybe even two or three) have joined the sports viewing fray from time to time. But last night marked a significant moment in my 22-year-old life. The 2008 Home Run Derby will go down as the first sporting I've watched with a room full of girls and no other male along side.

See, all my friends in the city had somehow gotten their hands on tickets to the festivities at Yankee Stadium. I had covered the event's build-up, but was SOL in obtaining a press credential for any of the goings ons. Through complicated circumstances, I ended up watching Josh Hamilton's coronation as heroin addict-turned-national phenomenon with a whole troupe of girls. These are the chronicles of how watching sporting events with women can be the most annoyingly entertaining past time a male can partake in:

8 p.m.: Well, the first fifteen minutes of the Derby were spent with Jess and Becca's dad as they reminisced about old time Yankee and Phillies players (obviously they are from New York and Philly). This wasn't so bad, since they were atleast talking sports.

8:05 p.m.: I announce my winning prediction of Lance Berkman.

8:10 p.m.: Reggie Jackson, Mr. October, comes to throw out the first pitch. Oh and look, the ultimate conceited prick (ask anyone who covered or worked for the Yankees back when he played) is, shocker here, being a conceited prick and re-creating his home run swing from the pitcher's mound while bowing to the crowd. Reggie, hate to break it to ya buddy, you're old, graying, balding, and washed up. Oh, and you're a conceited prick who played for the Yankees. See, there are showmen in decaying states that make you sad and sorry after years of entertaining the masses (Muhammed Ali for instance). Reggie's the other kind of showman, who no one will feel pity for when he's hobbling on a cane in ten years. (Too mean?)

8:15 p.m.: Jess sits down to enjoy the Home Run festivities. Dan Uggla is up to bat and all I can think about is my fantasy baseball team. See, I just made a pretty risky trade in my league. I gave up Jose Reyes, Dan Haren, and Mark Buerhle in return for Uggla, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Mussina. I don't think I've ever rooted against someone in the Derby since it isn't actually a real game, but if Uggla hurts his ankle I will throw something through this new 40" HDTV I'm watching.

8:25 p.m.: Jackpot, Uggla didn't get hurt. And the parents left.

8:30 p.m.: Grady Sizemore is up and the only thought that comes to my mind is where did my Sizemore jersey shirt that I bought discounted in Cleveland a couple years back go? That thing was awesome, but it got lost along the way. Maybe in 20 years I'll see it in on a poor Somalian boy in one of those Christian charity commercials where we're all supposed to save the African children.

8:36 p.m.: Oh good God ... it's a commercial break and four girls — all of which are no doubt not interested in this — just walked in to join us.

8:40 p.m.: The first sign this viewing experience is going to the shitter happens almost instantaneously: The girls aren't really paying attention to the home run hitters. For them, the real competition is which player has the cutest little boy handing them gatorade between swings. The initial vote appears to be for the boy in the Hanley Ramirez jersey, presumably his son.

8:45 p.m.: I'm still bitter that Greg had an unfair advantage picking up Evan Longoria. And of course, we've already had the obligatory "Hahaha Longoria like Desperate Housewives" comment from the girls.

Also, they begin talking about sexual harassment in the workplace. Apparently one of the girls was wearing something revealing and her boss called her out about it at a board meeting. How embarrassing? It got me thinking about a good joke: Women's rights. But seriously, I had nothing to add on this issue. It was one of those situations that had I'd said anything, it probably would have been discounted or I would have been called insensitive right away. And they wonder why men in large groups almost always make sexually harassing comments. We don't get to do it anywhere else.

8:50 p.m.: I'm having trouble hearing the announcing on ESPN because the ladies are talking, but I'm going to take a wild stab and say Berman is being a moron and Joe Morgan is talking about how this generation's players suck compared to the other generation.

Oh and apparently, according to the girls, it feels like you're in a dorm when you live in the same area as a lot of other people in the city. My only problem with this theory is that New York City happens to be a rather large town and yet, most of these girls decided (not randomly) to congregate in the same area. So didn't you want it to feel like a dorm?

8:56: Oh terrific, Reggie has joined the ESPN broadcast. He and JoeMo are talking about, another shocker here, how good the players of the past were. Oh and Reggie just announced that he wouldn't have been like the collection of spoiled players today that decided not to partake in the Derby this year and would have participated every year if they had it while he was playing. Not to beat a dead horse here with Reggie, but isn't this the same guy that almost got in a fight with his manager in the dugout and then decided not to try for half the year until he was put in the cleanup spot?

Mind you, this is all going through my head as four girls yammer away about coffee table and TV stands from Bed Bath and Beyond.

9:05: Chase Utley just got booed by the crowd. Lovely. Oh shit, girl terminology is even floating into my insults of Philly athletes. Notice the gap in time here, as well. The conversations about dresses and who hooked up with who have completely obliterated my focus from the Derby.
*Postgame I found out Chase told the fans to go f-bomb themselves after the booing. That tells you a lot about Philly athletes.

9:23: My first text message of the night goes to Graham and it reads "Watchin the hr derby with four thetas...shoot me."

9:30: Josh Hamilton is up, and the girls want to watch Weeds. As they hit the guide button on the remote Hamilton's first moon shot goes 505 feet. I didn't really see it because the screen was tinified (I just made that word up) and in the right corner of the tv.

9:32: The girls want to watch the previous episode of Weeds before the new one at 10 pm. Hamilton just hit another bomb. And another. And another. Holy shit, dilemma time for the ladies.

9:37: For some reason it's taking the ladies some time to decide what to do with the Weeds conundrum, so I finally step in and say something for one of the first times tonight. I point out to Jess, the one semi-functional sports fan of the bunch, that Josh Hamilton is destroying the leather out of the ball. Somehow, someway, the Gods answer my prayers and we're staying on the Derby.

9:40: Alright, this is just getting absurd. I don't think I've ever seen anyone this locked in for the Derby. He's doing it with such ease, too. Everyone has been praising the current Rays personnel staff, but if they hadn't given up on Hamilton, he'd be in a Tampa jersey this season. At least it's partial redemption for Greg getting Longoria in fantasy.

9:50: I'm going to take you through the progression of how Josh Hamilton became unreal in the baseball universe. First he captured the attention of diehard sports fans with his first couple of homers. Anyone who watches baseball regularly knows how tough it is to get the ball to the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. Hamilton was hitting them to the back of those bleachers. Then, he captured the attention of the casual fan when announcers started mixing in comments about his inspirational story. The rise to No. 1 draft pick, subsequent heroin addiction, followed by a reclaim to fame. This is what I like to call Chris Berman excitement, because he likes just about everyone.

Then, he captures the attention of girls. I saw this first hand as over the seemingly endless amount of time Hamilton was homering with eight outs the ladies in the room with me actually started watching something other than the little boys in oversized jerseys. Speaking of which, why isn't this considered being a pediphile. Would R. Kelly have gotten away with such talk if little girls were carrying the Gatorade. The girls were also impressed when I told them they are definitely going to make a movie out of his life, especially now that Rick Ankiel is apparently roided up.

The next step in baseball's unreality is getting your name chanted by the Yankee fans. Getting adopted by an opposing fan base is pretty unique. And here's the sad thing about Joe Morgan. He's such an old timer with no conception of just how good the modern player is that girls and opposing fans realize how great a performance is before he does. I lost count of which home run it was, something like the 23rd or 24th when Hamilton mishit a ball that Berman thought was going to die on the warning track in right center field. But Morgan accurately called it gone, and from there you knew he realized something special was happening.

And the last step in baseball immortality, well it happened after Hamilton hit his last home run in that first round. I'll just show the text message I sent Graham: i think erin andrews wants to give josh hamilton dome. I'm assuming I wasn't the only one to notice this blog's favorite sideline reporter out of breath when she interviewed him after the game. I don't think EA gets winded for anyone ... only a true icon.

9:55: Three of the girls leave the room after the Hamilton heroics. We decide to watch the new episode of Weeds.

10:30: We're back on the Derby after a relatively entertaining episode of Weeds, and it's already the finals. I had a strange feeling Hamilton might not make the finals because he tired himself out, but apparently they've got a new rule that takes the total into account. A smart move on MLB's part.

10:35: I'm not sure who to root for. I've got Morneau on my fantasy team, and he's been rock solid for me all season. But who can root against Hamilton after that first round. Btw, a new girl walked into the room, but she's a Yankee fan and actually knows some baseball. But because she hasn't been watching I've had to explain the true awesomeness of what Hamilton has done.

10:50: Hamilton goes into the obligatory "Thank you God" routine which really annoys some people, including the girls in the room. I'm not a religious man, but I feel the need to stick up for my new favorite, Hamilton. See, the whole Christian religion is about spreading the gospel of their man (or woman), Jesus Christ. And what better way to spread that message to the masses than in front of a stadium full of people on national television after you've captivated the sporting world. If he truly believes in Christianity, the only thing he can do is the Thank God routine.

11:00: Well it's over. My deadly experiment with woman is complete. But what a bummer. Hamilton didn't win and we didn't get our happy ending. I feel bad for my man, Morneau, because Erin just passed over him in the interview circle for her new crush Hamilton. This teaches American kids a valuable lesson ... get hooked on heroin, recover, and then lose the Home Run Derby and you might be the one to woo Erin Andrews.

Oh yeah, and remind me to never watch sports with just a room full of girls ever again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The slowest day in sports

It's the All-Star break in baseball, which officially means there are no major leagues playing games today. It is the most retarded (look it up, it literally means slow) day in sports. To be fair, there are some interesting dilemmas going on in other sports like the Brett Favre saga or the he said, she said game being played by Elton Brand, his agent David Falk, and Mike Dunleavy. I dare you to guess who the girl is.

With no sports going on, let's head down Eliot Spitzer Lane. I just got back from a pre-trial hearing for the receptionist of the Emperer's Club, the prostitution ring that former New York governor Eliot Spitzer was embroiled with. And by embroiled, I actually mean he was getting hotel rooms in DC and then having sex with prostitutes courtesy of the Emperor's Club (and maybe government money).

Let's ignore the fact that I got so lost and convoluted in the federal courthouse trying to figure where this hearing was taking place, and go straight ahead to what this woman got charged with. Not aiding in prostitution or anything clearly illegal like that. No, this woman is apparently accepting a plea bargain where she will plead guilty to conspiracy to violate THE TRAVEL ACT.

Tanya Hollander, fan of kitty cats and conspiring to violate arcane travel laws.

As soon as her lawyer said that, I nearly burst out in laughter. The things these lawyers do for their clients. A woman who worked for a multi-state prostitution ring violated the Travel Act, involving commerce over state lines. She'll probably just get probation. I wonder if she'll rat out Spitzer.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Maybe this will get Bowden fired

I've been out of town for the past few days, explaining the lack of recent posts. I wasn't really paying too much attention to the goings on of the sports world, other than the continuing Brett Favre drama. But now that I'm back at my desk at the Sun, I noticed this bombshell that may just get Jim Bowden canned once and for all.

Apparently the Nationals are part of an FBI probe on Latin American scouting and signings. Basically, the Nats may have illegally siphoned off money from a "prized prospect" who hasn't actually panned out so far.

I found the underworld of all these signings to be the most fascinating part of all this. I recommend reading this piece from Sports Illustrated, which details all the dirty dealings in the Dominican. To me, it sounds a lot like the world of street and AAU basketball that I encountered while covering Rucker Park. There are adults taking advantage of teenagers who happen to be good at sports.

A source familiar with the Wilder investigation explains that a major league team official, with a nice shirt and pressed pants and in a position of authority, will likely get little resistance from the largely poor and often undereducated player. In some cases the buscon who acts as the agent for the player and the team official agree on how much each of them will receive out of the player's bonus before the player signs the contract. The buscon, who often has a long relationship with the player, convinces the player -- usually around the age of a high school sophomore -- to turn over the money. In the wake of the Wilder investigation, teams are now directly depositing the bonus into a bank account opened on behalf of the player.

A lot of people only associate this funny business with AAU basketball and the wheelings and dealings that go on between agents and handlers. But as we've seen with Reggie Bush (football), all of these European club soccer academys that attempt to sign kids before they reach double digits age-wise, and now with baseball in the Dominican, all of these shady business happens in every sport around the entire world.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pumping my own stuff

Well I've been here at the New York Sun for nearly six weeks now, and I come to you this morning bearing good news. Mark finally made the front page.

Today, I had a story on the giant profits New York City is likely to see courtesy of next Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game. I recommend everyone click on the link so that the powers that be here at the Sun think my story is more popular than it actually is. I'm not saying you have to read the story, but a hit would be helpful for my career (Man, I'm shameless).

And to answer your question: No, even though I did write an All-Star story, the Sun will not be giving me a press pass to the game. That's going to someone else. I wish I were them.

Why Elton Why?

It seems like just yesterday I was watching the 1999 NCAA Championship game featuring Duke and UCONN. It's a memorable game (especially for me having grown up a Duke fan in Maryland territory) because this was the year Duke had one of the top 5 college basketball teams of all time. The Dukies went 37-1 on their way to losing the title game and the roster featured so many good players. There was William Avery at point guard, Trajan Langdon as a 3-point gunner, Chris Carrawell as the defensive stopper, Shane Battier as the charge takin', trifecta makin' power forward. Hell, they even had Corey Magette coming off the bench. But there was no denying the dominating force on that team. He went by the name of Elton Brand.

That season, Brand averaged nearly 18 points and almost 10 rebounds per game, which was saying something on a roster so loaded. Duke simply manhandled everyone that year, and right until the last moments of the national title game it appeared they would go down as one of the great teams of all time. But then the Blue Devils didn't show up in the brightest of bright lights and laid a giant egg playing against a UCONN team led by Khalid El-Amin and Rip Hamilton. One of the worst moments of my childhood is Trajan Langdon clumsily mismanaging the final minute of that game.

At that moment in time, I asked myself, "Why not Elton? Why not give the ball to Elton?" They pretty much ignored him the whole game, and Brand only got eight shots off. He made five and finished with a very respectable line of 15 points and 13 rebounds. He then went on to become the first Blue Devil to declare early for the NBA Draft, where he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors.

Obviously I've been an Elton fan during his NBA career because of his Durham ties ... that is up until yesterday. As news started filtering out that Elton was going to accept an $82 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, I found myself cringing and asking myself Why Elton Why? I hate everything Philadelphia related, and even though he's a Duke product, Elton now falls in that category.

76ers fans should be rightly happy about this deal considering they were already a team I was deathly afraid of and showed they were a player or two away from making a big time splash in the Eastern Conference when they took the Pistons to six games in the first round of the playoffs. Basically, Philly is a solid shooting guard who has a good 3-point shot (calling free agent, Mr. James Posey) from joining the Celtics and Pistons among the upper echelon of the East. I mean think about it, 15 years after the Sixers traded a disgruntled undersized power forward by the name of Charles Barkley to the Sun, they've now finally replaced him in the form of the undersized bullfrog, Elton.

Let's be real here: I will never put a picture up of Elton in a Sixers uniform. Am I right in saying he looks like a bullfrog?

What's funny about all this is that Elton took a page out of another, younger Duke player's book. Remember the trickeration pulled by Carlos Boozer a few years back when he opted out of a deal with the Cavs, promising to re-sign with them for a certain figure and then ended up signing a different deal with the Jazz? Well what Elton did was probably even worse. I'll let Marc Stein of ESPN explain it:

(Elton) and agent David Falk announced last week that Brand was opting out of the final year of his previous contract -- worth $16.4 million -- to give the Clippers more payroll flexibility to strengthen the team around Brand. Within 24 hours of those declarations, Clippers management responded on the first day of free agency by reaching terms with (Baron) Davis in what easily ranks as the biggest free-agent coup in team history.

One source familiar with the negotiations, furthermore, insisted Tuesday that the Clippers increased their final offer to Brand to a virtual match of Philadelphia's at an estimated $81 million over five seasons. The Clippers were also the only team in the running with the ability to offer a no-trade clause to Brand, something that only one other player in the league -- Staples Center co-tenant Kobe Bryant -- has in his contract.

In other words, Elton screwed over the Clippers. They got a premier player, and one of this blog's favorites, in Baron Davis. Then they offered him the same amount of money as the 76ers. Now instead of joining forces with the Baron, he's become a thorn in my side. I guess he really had a desire to leave the ultra-competitive west, where he, Baron, and the Clips would likely have been no better than the sixth-best team.

The real loser in all this is my man, Baron. He went from the most fun team in the league that took advantage of his fast breaking skills to the Clippers, who are now a team with too many backcourt players and not enough frontcourt girth. I guess he's at least back in his hometown of Los Angeles, but something tells me being around the old homeboys is going to hurt him more than it helps.

But let's not mince words here, anymore. I no longer am an Elton fan. I can't be considering he's now a player for a team in the city I most despise besides Baltimore. I'm still sitting here, shaking my head, asking myself what happened to the bullfrog that was Elton Brand. In the words of Steve Miller, Elton decided to take the money and run.

And now, looking squarely at the beginnings of another Eastern Conference juggernaut for the Wizards to deal with, all I can really say is Why Elton, why?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Newflash: People don't watch bad baseball teams

Obviously, I've lamented about the current state of the Washington Nationals before, but now I have proof that I'm not the only one from DC upset with the direction (or lack thereof) this team has taken.

According to reports in the Sports Business Journal and Washington Post, the Nationals have the lowest television ratings in Major League Baseball. And here's what really got me steamed, and should signal to Nats' management that things need to change, and fast:

SportsBusiness Journal reported last month that Orioles broadcasts on MASN and MASN2 are drawing higher ratings in the Washington market than are Nationals broadcasts.

Are you serious?!?!?!? Anyone who has read this blog, or knows me, understands how much I despise the city of Baltimore and the fact that their citizens are watching my team more than the people in my area is just plain annoying. But can you really blame DC residents for turning their backs and giving a collective "meh" to a team that's currently 34-56 and sitting dead last by a long shot in its division?

Yes, there have been injuries galore this season, but the excuses this team has gotten away with through the years need to stop. It's time they be held accountable just like every other moribund franchise in sports. This latest report just indicates to me how much more urgent Nationals management has to be in making drastic changes to the franchise. They can begin by actually spending some money this offseason and get some more legitimate Major League baseball players.

I mean, seriously, Christian Guzman is the lone player representing the team in the All-Star game next Tuesday. The same Christian Guzman who is three years removed from one of the worst statistical seasons in MLB history (.219 batting average in 142 games). I think that tells you a lot about the state of this franchise.

People are ignoring this team, even after more than $600 million were spent on a brand spanking new stadium. Although I'm in New York right now, I may have a solution to our problem. Back in the days of perennial whipping boy and Redskins head coach, Norval Turner, Skins fans used to wear paper bags over their heads (with eye and mouth holes cut out of course) during home games. DC101 used to hand the things out during tailgates in the parking lot. It symbolized just how much disgust us fans had with the continuing string of 4-12 and 5-11 seasons. Well, injuries or not, I think we've gotten to that level with this baseball franchise. It's time to step up and let management know that the product that has been on the field this season is just plain unacceptable.

Something like this would work.

Monday, July 07, 2008

When did Favre become a problem?

I'm sure everyone heard the rumblings over the weekend concerning Brett Favre's possible un-retirement (or is it de-retirement, I'm not really sure) from the NFL. I know there were a lot of people out there who thought this was no shocker at all considering Favre just came off one of the best seasons of his long career, and he ended it on such a sour note.

But I guess I was of the minority in thinking Favre was not the type of guy to go into a national press conference, cry his brains out, and then renege on his word. For some reason, I thought I had seen the guy play his last down of football, and I'm still not completely convinced he's going to come back. But all the reports, no matter how much Favre wants to downplay them, indicate that he's at least thinking about playing in the NFL next season.

Without reading much about it over the weekend, I figured the Packers would be cool with having the man, the myth, the legend back in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field, but then I read this interesting take from SI's Peter King:

The one thing I don't believe Favre understands yet is the tumult which will greet his return to the Packers, or to another NFL team. There are Packer fans who have moved on, and wish he would do the same. He doesn't realize fully -- yet -- that Brett Favre returning to the Packers would bug a slew of Packerphiles who wish he'd make a decision and stick with it and ride off into the sunset with his glory intact. Because he insulates himself from much of the football world in Mississippi, I'm sure he doesn't realize the impact that playing for another team would have on his bleed-Packer-green fandom. Playing for any old NFL team would be crime enough to many of his faithful, but playing for a rival like Minnesota or Chicago would be like Johnny Damon spurning the Red Sox for the Yankees. Times five.

All of this scares the living tar out of (head coach) Mike McCarthy and (GM Ted) Thompson. They've happily proceeded through the off-season preparing the 24-year-old successor to Favre, Aaron Rodgers, to take his place, and they don't want their grand plan interrupted now. It's quite understandable. Rodgers has shown promise, and the Packers have him signed through the end of the 2009 season. Can you imagine what Rodgers would think if McCarthy came to him this week and said, "I know you've been working hard getting ready to start for us, and we've promised you the starting job, but we're going to bring Brett back for one year. Or two. Or three.'' If I were Rodgers, and I'd already waited through three years without starting a game, and Favre returned, I know what I'd tell McCarthy. That's fine, Mike. But I will never sign another contract with the Packers. After 2009, whatever happens, I'm gone.

My only problem with this thinking is the whole Aaron Rodgers business. I know he's been preparing this whole offseason as if he's the starter, but he's been doing that for three seasons. What's another season in the bullpen. He may be bitter as hell at Favre for stealing his spot, but Favre will probably be gone in another year or two ... and he's Brett Favre and you're Aaron Rodgers, so how can you even argue with what he wants to do?

Here's what I don't understand about all of this ... the Packers were one bad Favre throw from making it to the Super Bowl, and return many of the key players from that squad — except Favre. So basically, the Packers' brass is in a public relations conundrum, but seem to not understand that the mere mention of Favre propels them back to the top of the NFC.

You want to know what would be a PR disaster for the Packers? Favre not playing in a Packer uniform next season. Seriously, say he played for the Texans or the Vikings, that would just be awful. I'm talking Boston winning another sports title within the next 15 years awful.

I just don't get Green Bay's dilemma. Say you were the GM of an NFL team, if given the choice, who would you rather have quarterbacking your team : Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. To me, no circumstance exists where Rodgers would be the answer.

Yes, it's unfair for Favre to just un (or de-) retire like this, but he's still one of the best quarterbacks in the league. How is this a bad thing? If the Packers win the Super Bowl or even come close to it again, I think they'll be plenty happy with whatever PR nuisances they're going to have to deal with. Yes, there might be some intense media scrutiny in the offseason, but once the games begin, isn't it just like another Favre season?

Basically, if he keeps on winning, this whole un-retire, de-retire business will look silly in hindsight.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Franchising the Hamptons

Like I said in the previous post, I've been real busy as of late covering various happenings around New York City. Also, I was up for a job at the Worldwide Leader, ESPN, and then didn't get it. But it made life a little hectic, what with preparation and then just general nervousness. Apparently I wasn't the right fit, but they said they'd keep the resume on file, whatever that means.

But enough about that, because I was already pissed, and writing about it just makes me more angry.

Happy thoughts are revolving around my visit to the Hamptons this weekend in celebration of 4th of July. Although the weather wasn't the greatest, the beer was still cold and frankly, the Hamptons are the Hamptons. Being there makes you forget about the $9 Coors Lights or the $11 Jack and Cokes. You suck it up, break out the seersucker, and just try to enjoy the general absurdity of so many rich people congregating with their sports cars in one little section of Long Island.

Westhampton Beach

While there, I came up with a possible new business venture, depending on the support I may or may not receive from friends and family. Giannotto's Pizza, Hawaii's "burgeoning" pizza conglomerate started by my uncle, would make a great franchise, especially in the heart of the Hamptons. From visiting the place the past two 4th of July's, it has hit me that for all the coolness and celebrity happenings that go on, visitors long for something a little more casual.

Giannotto's Pizza could fill that void. The rich snobs who live there during the summer would eat up a place that has something quirky like "Established in Hawaii in 2002" on the front sign. While rent would likely be through the roof since it is the Hamptons, you could make up for that with exorbitant prices that all the rich people can afford. That is, if the pizza is good. If you don't have a good product, there's no telling what disaster could happen. An added bonus is that the farms on the outer edges of the Hamptons specialize in tomatoes.

The insides of Giannotto's Pizza in Maui.

I think if you get on the main strip of some town in the Hamptons, and sell pizza by the slice, as well as have a restaurant in the back serving Italian food courtesy of my grandmother's recipes, there's not telling how successful (or unsuccessful) it could be. It's probably a crazy idea, but it is an idea of some kind. If the writing career stalls in the next couple years, maybe I'll revisit this post.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Been Real Busy

I haven't had much down time, and been working some real late nights. So blogging has been at the minimum lately. I'm going to the Hamptons for the 4th of July weekend, so I won't be posting from there. I'll be back next, full force.