Wednesday, November 26, 2008

About this whole car bailout thing ... Don't Do It!

I was watching Monday Night Countdown the other night and I noticed a new feature Boomer and the gang do every week. I guess they had to take out Tom Jackson's 'Jacked Up' segment because of Fidel Goodell's crackdown on big hits. Now, it has been replaced with a Keyshawn Johnson-themed segment call 'C'mon man', where Key and everyone else show a highlight of a particularly boneheaded play made the previous Sunday. After the foolish mistake is made, whichever analyst introduces the highlight punctuates it with a loud 'C'mon man', I guess as an insult of some kind.

How does this relate to the auto industry looking for a gigantic bailout in light of what all these banks are getting from the federal government? Well, every time I hear some advocate of the car industry's plight or some autoworkers' union speaker, I can't help but just think to myself, 'C'mon man.'

Your resources are so messed up right now that you can't find any solution to your problems. A government handout is what the so called "backbone of America's economy" needs when our economic system is in the biggest shambles it has seen since the Great Depression. Isn't the backbone supposed to stay strong in the worst of times? You really can't declare for bankruptcy like the airplane industry did a few years back?

Seriously, is it really everyone else's problem or the government's problem that your business model was so shortsighted in the 1990s as you were busy selling thousands upon thousands of SUVs to America. Think about it, in a matter of 30 years, we went from a society that had entire families owning one, maybe two cars in the 1960s to each child having their own car in a good portion of the country. That means technically, in recent times, the car industry has been doing triple and sometimes quadruple the amount of business it did just thirty years ago.

We're not even talking about inflation here. Remember back in the day when that family car lasted 10 and sometimes 20 years. Now a good portion of the world has a car for two years tops and then signs a lease for a new one. And then there's this: I just don't think the government should be loaning money to industries that were just shortsighted. See, as the car industry was doing all these record sales, they decided to bask in the glow of their business, rather than be active members of the business community and do some forward thinking.

At least that's the sense when I read things like this in yesterday's Washington Post:

But the car company ... lawmakers envision for the future could turn out to be a money-losing operation, not part of a "sustainable U.S. auto industry" that President-elect Barack Obama and most members of Congress say they want to create.

That's because car manufacturers still haven't figured out how to produce hybrid and plug-in vehicles cheaply enough to make money on them. After a decade of relative success with its hybrid Prius, Toyota has sold about a million of the cars and is still widely believed by analysts to be losing money on each one sold. General Motors has touted plans for a plug-in hybrid vehicle called the Volt, but the costly battery will prevent it from turning a profit on the vehicle for several years, at least.

Seriously, c'mon man. How is that you haven't found a profitable way to sell these things? Aren't these the essential, yet most of the time simple solutions that high paid execs are supposed to find? Instead of doing testing on the future of the car industry in the '90s and beginning part of this decade while they racked in the cash, the automakers decided to act like God damn Scrooge McDuck from Ducktales and swim in their towers with pools of gold, while laughing at the average American as they drove around in their gas guzzling SUV.

But it isn't just the high powered execs when it comes to these automakers. The average American auto worker is to blame for all this. Actually, I should clarify. Not the average worker. I really mean the average American autoworker union. I don't mean to just stomp on the auto industry — and specifically the American auto industry — but they are actually asking for billions of tax dollars to save their asses when this is the case right now:

Economists in Michigan, the long-time home of the auto industry, say they don’t support the proposed multi-billion dollar bailout of Big Three automakers Chrysler, GM and Ford.

One reason why, they say, is the ultra-high labor costs for union workers employed by the Big Three. It costs over $73 per hour on average to employ a union auto worker, according to University of Michigan at Flint economist Mark J. Perry.

Wait, wait, let that $73 an hour sink in just a little bit. If you multiply that out by 40 hours a week, 53 weeks in a year, the average American autoworker costs $154,760 a year to employ. That's five times what I currently make working 45-50 hours a week as a writer. Now I'm not saying I have the most difficult occupation in the world, but I sure don't think it's five times as easy as working on an assembly line. Oh, but the non sense these unions have been able to negotiate at American auto plants gets even more ridiculous:

For U.S. workers at Toyota, however, the per hour labor cost is around $47.60, around $43 for Honda and around $42 for Nissan, Perry added, for an average of around $44.

What? Really? Now if you're wondering what these figures like $43 an hour at Honda or $70 at Ford, I'll explain. That includes "hourly pay, plus the benefits they’re receiving and all the other costs to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, including legacy costs – retirement costs, pensions, and so on," according to that Perry fellow quoted above.

So now that some cuts have been identified rather easily, why doesn't the auto industry just implement them right away, so the amount of money they're asking of the average American will at least not be totally outrageous. It can't be too hard to make the battery in a hybrid or electric car cheaper to make or have the workers maybe make something closer to $100,000 a year (Who am I kidding, even that sounds ridiculous for someone working in an auto plant). I guess they are sort of trying to figure the hybrid car thing out, it has just been a lot harder than expected.

But the workers, well, the world has been fighting this war against the unions for years. And well, we've been down this road before and the only person I know to come out with his name in tact was Eliot Ness. Let me just put it this way, I go with the Grand Theft Auto theory of "Union's just another word for mafia." A couple of kind authors out of the University of Chicago weigh in:

The labor movement and its members have long suffered from extortion, thievery, and fraud. Corrupt labor officials have used union power to extort money from businesses. Labor racketeering has been a major source of the Cosa Nostra crime families' power and wealth since the 1930s.

Yeah, so to take down the unions, and maybe fix the economy, we just gotta get rid of the mafia. That shouldn't be too difficult, right?

Basically we're looking for the auto industry version of Jimmy Hoffa. If you don't know, he's the man pictured above and was the corrupt leader of the Teamsters back in the day. They made a movie about his life. See below:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What to Make of Eddie Jordan

I'm sure you're all aware by now, but the 1-10 Wizards fired coach Eddie Jordan yesterday. It came as a semi-surprise to me considering the team had made the playoffs the past four seasons, but I can't say I was altogether shocked. As soon as I saw the Seattle Super Thunder can P.J. Carlisimo the other day, I figured it could be only a matter of time before the only other one-win team in the league followed suit.

But the talk around DC today is that Eddie Jordan is being used as a scapegoat for a team that gets injured far too much and yet still dumped a ton of money on those injury-prone players. I mean seriously, where was this franchise before Jordan arrived. I'd say somewhere between a rock and a hard place ... or in NBA terms somewhere between the Clippers and irrelevance (or are those the same things?). Wilbon weighs in via The Washington Post:

Atlanta, Philly, New York, Miami, Toronto, Milwaukee -- they all got better over the summer. The Wizards gave Arenas $111 million and he hasn't played one second, and we don't know when he will or what he'll look like when he does. Every time the Wizards lose a game it looks like keeping Arenas, especially at that price, was an enormous mistake. Grunfeld made a very nice draft pick in JaVale McGee, but the kid needs a couple of years to become a consistent impact player.

Other than McGee, the Wizards sat at the table with pretty much the same hand, minus reserve ace Roger Mason, who is playing very well for San Antonio. How long can the same group hold the fort while waiting for reinforcements? That's not Jordan's fault, it's Grunfeld's. The GM acknowledged that when he said, "We're all responsible . . . myself, the players, the coaches." GMs, of course, don't fire themselves. They're the boss. Grunfeld was frank when he said, "This is an area we can control."

I agree with Wilbon ... sort of. I don't think this team regressed, I just think they weren't that good to begin with. Look at their point differential from a year ago, and it's pretty clear this group without Gilbert probably should have been a 30-35 win team, but somehow made the playoffs because of some luck late in games sand just plain old grit and determination. To me, that type of stuff points to coaching.

At the same time, I can understand Grunfeld's rationale here. While Eddie Jordan is a nice coach, not in a million years did I think he was ever going to lead this group to an NBA title. They don't play defense, and he doesn't coach it very well, either. Even when they had surprising success last year, the Wiz still gave up an NBA record amount of three-pointers. Part of that, though, is the fact that this team is supposed to be centered around one playmaking point guard who just so happens to have played 15 games the past year and a half. And not only has that star not played, he also doesn't give two shits about the defensive side of the game.

Frankly, I've come to grips with the notion that this will be a lost season for the Wiz kids. My biggest fear is that this team will slip back into that mold of perpetual mediocrity that plagued it back in the day during the forgettable Wes Unseld as GM/coach days. I can't take that.

What's ironic about all this is that if you've watched this team so far, they aren't that far off from being something relatively mediocre like 4-6 or 5-5. The Wiz just can't finish in the fourth quarter. See the thing about the NBA is that the first three quarters are about who runs the best sets and schemes, but then once teams actually decide to play defense in the fourth quarter it becomes all about the stars. If you can't break your man down one-on-one and instead have to rely on jump shooting, wins will be few and far between. That's exactly what has happened to the Wizards without Gilbert. Caron is a good player, but he's not great. Same with Antawn Jamison. When Arenas is healthy, the Wiz have that type of game-changing player.

Here's the catch, we won't know if they still do until Agent Zero hits the floor again — and of course that return seems to get pushed back farther and farther every time the guy speaks to the media. If he's the same player he was before the injury, the Wiz can be relevant again, playing that fast breaking style that will make them a perpetual six-seed in the East. If he's not (which is my guess coming off however many knee surgeries), then no coach is really going to matter. This team will blow chunks for awhile.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Michigan Rennaissance Weekend?

At least that's the thought running through everybody's mind after the Michigan basketball team found a way to upset No. 4 UCLA last night. Think about it, an upset over UCLA last night, maybe an even bigger upset over Duke tonight, and then top it all off with the upset of all upsets over Ohio State on Saturday to revitalize what has been a decaying athletic department.

Wait what's that? Oh, it's the we're jumping way too far ahead of ourselves machine. Yes that win over UCLA last night was the signature victory John Beilein has been searching for since he came here two Aprils ago, but did anyone actually watch the game? What I'm trying to say is No. 4 UCLA is going to prove to be much worse than that as the season wears on. In fact, the whole Pac-10 is way down this season and I see the Bruins as no more than a fringe top-25 team.

And frankly this is a team John Beilein has always had success. Hell, this Michigan team was leading a much better Bruin team last year with nine minutes remaining in the second half before succumbing to its own general crapiness, a theme that resonated throughout the 2007-08 campaign. And Beilein also beat Ben Howland two years before this with his final West Virginia squad.

In fact, I'm confident enough to say I saw Michigan play better last season when I had to sit through hours upon hours of mediocre basketball. If Beilein pulls that proverbial rabbit out of his hat tonight and Michigan beats Duke, then I think we can officially say the John Beilein era of crazy good three point shooters and back cutters is upon us.

Honestly, I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, but as soon as the buzzer sounded and Michigan had officially pulled off the biggest upset of this young college basketball season, my first thought was "God dammit, I sat through two years of terribleness just to witness one game like this." And of course it happened three games after I stopped covering the team. I think I'm going to be bitter once the basketball bandwagon gets going just because there's little to no chance that most of the fans that come out of the woodwork suffered through even 10 minutes of last season's games.

But whatever, I guess it's good for the program. I've always liked Beilein (especially when he picked up the tab for me and my friends at Damons towards the end of the season last year. I've kept that a secret awhile, for journalistic reasons of course). And I've always liked DeShawn Sims, so it was nice to see him be the deciding factor down the stretch.

Like I said, though, I think one win is not something that should promote mass Michigan basketball hysteria. The team is certainly better than a year ago and they will definitely win more than 10 games if only because the schedule is a whole lot easier. Do I think it's the break through year where Michigan finally ends its NCAA Tournament drought? Probably not. Now if they beat Duke tonight (again I'm saying highly unlikely) I might have to change my opinion.

So yeah, maybe it's because of all the losses I sat through the past two seasons, but I'm taking the cautious approach as it pertains to Michigan basketball. As for the woeful football team, I've been saving my hell and brimstone post for after Saturday's game. For a little preview, I'll let you know, no matter the outcome tomorrow, I'm steaming mad ... at MICHIGAN FANS!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Basketball Posse

I've had this weird dream/longing sensation in my head ever since election night and of course, it has to do with our new President-elect.

As you might have been able to tell from other recent blog posts, I have become fascinated with Barack Obama's fascination with basketball. Frankly, I think it's one of the qualities that endears him most to me. He really seems like the type of guy who, if he weren't a world-famous politician, you would see waiting for his turn to play pick-up at the local gym. He played high school basketball in Hawaii and in interviews has shown a pretty accurate jump shot and just in general looks like he's got some ballin' skills.

We already know and I have written about his desire to put a basketball court in the White House, but I want to go back to something I heard on election night. A lot of the media people were talking about how Obama basically flew/brought in nine of his buddies to play some pick-up basketball earlier in the day — apparently a tradition of his that has developed over the years. To me, this sounded like an awesome way to relieve tension. Personally, I also find a good game of hoops to be very therapeutic.

If you want to see what this mystical election day game looked like ... here it is, in CNN form:

Well, this whole idea got me thinking about my own life. This past Sunday night, I was watching Entourage and as always my thoughts started drifting to the day when I could possibly afford to bankroll my friends so they can hang out with me all the time (Speaking of Entourage, I know Vinnie Chase claims to have no earning power anymore, but the simple fact that some flight attendant could recognize him out of the blue seems to say that he could do something with his life, but I digress).

So I started thinking how I could combine these ideas. I want to be famous and wealthy enough to be able to play pick-up basketball on a whim whenever I want. But I need a capable posse of ballers by my side to be able to do this. That's when arguably the world's best boxer pound for pound comes into the equation.

If you don't know who Manny Pacquiao is yet, you're probably too late to join the bandwagon. It's pretty full.

I was watching the show 24/7 on HBO, which is right now building up to the super fight between Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya. If you don't know Pacquiao yet, he's basically like the number one rock star in Asia right now because he's the best thing to ever come out of the Philippines since ... well ... maybe ever. But because of this ultra-cool status abroad, the guy can't really train in his home country anymore since he gets recognized all over the place.

So when he's training for a fight like this one against De La Hoya, he comes to Los Angeles for training. But he doesn't live in some palace like you would expect. He lives in a two-bedroom condo with 10 of his friends — none of which are his wife by the way. The way they explained it on the show, the sleeping arrangement is Pacquiao gets one bedroom and the other dudes fight it out for the rest of the place. Apparently living in large groups without your wife for long periods of time is a Philippines thing. Now once I get rich and famous enough, my posse would not live in a two-bedroom condo. We'd definitely have a mansion with a indoor court.

So there it is, once I take over the sporting world and start making millions, I'm going to start a tradition, where whenever I feel like playing basketball, I call up my nine-person posse and we get things going. Obviously, my nucleus of nine would all have to be good basketball players. And there would definitely be a private jet and full-fledged shoe deal involved, where me and the nine get free swag or something.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Could Be Me

Hey all, I know it seems like I post something that sounds an awful lot like this seemingly every week now ... but I'm swamped at work thanks to the beginning of high school basketball season and weird deadlines thanks to Thanksgiving.

That being said, I got some money posts that are all partly written and should be live on the web by tomorrow.

But just to keep you amused, remember how I complained sometimes about my internship at the NY Sun this summer ... Well this girl puts me to shame. Apparently when Jennifer Nicole Anato-Mensah found out she was being fired from her paid internship at a local television station, the female version of Rambo emerged from within her soul:

Several newsroom employees heard Anato-Mensah shouting, yelling obscenities and threatening Prenevost (her boss), saying, "You don't know where I'm from. I'll mess you up, b ——-." (Mark's note: I believe the word is bitch)

Prenevost attempted to walk away from Anato-Mensah, but the intern followed her. A male employee stepped between her and Prenevost, who went into a nearby conference room. The male employee tried to get Anato-Mensah to calm down and pack up her things, but Anato-Mensah left her desk and again tried to get to the conference room, the complaint said.

Several male employees then stood at the conference room door as Anato-Mensah continued to yell and swear and try to push her way in. At one point, she kicked at and broke a window in the conference room door. She had to be restrained to keep her out of the room, the complaint said.
"The whole situation was very scary," Prenevost said.

Finally, employees escorted the intern out of the newsroom. She was gone when police responded to the call at the station, 3415 W. University Ave. in St. Paul.

You never know, I could blow a gasket one of these days considering how fast the journalism world is falling during this recession crap. I think I would go for this place's computers if I was going nuts. Replacing a window is cheap, replacing multiple computers, that's tough to do on short notice.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Unfortunately, the Tatum Bell Saga Continues

Not sure if you heard the news but because I way too deep into fantasy football right now it was kind of a big deal that Tatum Bell re-signed with the Broncos this past week.

See, Mike Shanahan and Denver have had a rash of running back injuries, so drastic that the team was forced to give carries to its back-up fullback. Why is this so huge? Ummm ... do we all not recall the last time we heard from Tatum:

Johnson left his bags outside CEO Matt Millen’s office while he met with team officials and, ultimately, worked out a deal with the team. So when Johnson came back to get his bags, they were nowhere to be found. Johnson and Millen were stumped.

The team checked the videotapes generated by the team’s in-house surveillance system, and they quickly identified the culprit. So who might it have been? None other than Tatum Bell, who lost his gig with the Lions after Rudi arrived. Per the source, Bell took the bags to the house of a female acquaintance. When confronted on the matter, Bell offered up some cockamamie story that he thought the bags belonged to someone he knew. The girl, however, said that she hadn’t seen Bell in several months and he showed up out of the blue and asked her to keep the bags for a while.

I mean seriously Shanahan, you're picking up the closest thing the NFL has to a gypsy. Think about it, Tatum Bell stole this guy's property without any discreetness at all then came up with a ridiculous lie to try to get out of it. That's what a gypsy does!

I don't know, maybe the team is just that desperate. I guess Tatum Bell has been kind of successful during some parts of his career. Actually, maybe it makes sense if there was no one else available. I'm now convinced Tatum could make an immediate impact. Oh wait, this is Tatum Bell we're talking about. Because he's the only guy making six digits to steal luggage wasn't enough for the legend that is Tatum Bell ... he decided to make some extra cash selling cell phones at a mall. According to the Rocky Mountain News:

After selling phones for a few months at the Aurora Mall, Bell was back in the Broncos’ locker room on Wednesday, ready to practice with the team that traded him to Detroit in 2007.

Now that Tatum Bell is back in the NFL, this guy got his job back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Facebook Follies

I remember when I first encountered facebook. It was the summer before I started at Michigan and I was in a friend's basement when they were setting up their profile. From there, as we all know, the thing skyrocketed.

During my time at the Daily in college, myself and other aspiring journalists would go on Facebook solely for the purpose of trying to find some athlete that had mistakenly put something stupid up (photos, interests, etc). Hell, by the time I was a sophomore and junior in college, facebook had gotten so big that Michigan held a yearly seminar educating its athletes about having a facebook page at all.

It all seemed a little outrageous to me considering a player or person can directly control how much of their personal info they want out there. Well, it doesn't seem so outlandish now that Texas kicked someone off the football team for having inappropriate stuff on his facebook page:

In the status update section of his Facebook page, Buck Burnette posted, “All the hunters gather up, we have a (slur) in the White House,” in reference to Obama’s becoming the first African-American elected to the presidency. Burnette said the comment was a text message he received from a friend and that he exercised bad judgment posting it on his page. He later apologized in a written note that was read by Brown during a team meeting.

What a bummer. It was a pretty vulgar remark he posted, but I'm not sure I would have kicked him off the team for it. If I'm Mack Brown I just bring him into the locker room and tell the rest of the team I'm gonna be gone for 15 minutes. Then you shut the door behind you and let the masses take care of the punishment, if you know what I'm saying. Oh well, it's a good thing Burnette was buried on the Longhorn depth chart, so this doesn't affect their season too much.

Speaking of BCS, the No. 1 team in that poll had a little something of facebook noteworthiness in the same article. I thought I'd share it with you:

Texas Tech senior quarterback Graham Harrell has seen an increase in popularity the last two weeks following wins over Texas and Oklahoma State. Harrell said his Facebook account recently maxed out at 5,000 friends.
“I don’t get on (the site) anymore because it got a little overwhelming. I can’t really keep up with it anymore,” Harrell said. “To add a new friend, I have to delete an old one. That doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the way it goes.”

Oh that Graham Harrell, he's so dreamy.

Quit Feeding the BCS Monster

Haven't really addressed it on the blog too much, but I can't help but hear all this clamor over the BCS these days. I'm guessing no one can get away from it, though. You've got JoePa basically not acknowledging the BCS even exists, calling it the "BSC or whatever". Pete Carroll said the BCS "stinks". Hell, our new President even called for a playoff system during that interview with Chris Berman.

And then there are the ESPN analysts and Sportscenter hosts. It seems like every highlight that's college-football related has to be tinged with a little bit of "Man I wish we had a playoff" sarcasm. Now I don't want to make it look like I don't want a playoff. I think there's five grumpy old men (Dick Cheney inevitably has to be one of them) who sit in rocking chairs in some wood cabin sipping on scotch and everytime the chair moves they let out an evil laugh because of what they've done to college football.

The BCS conference commissioners before their latest meeting on how to screw over the college football world.

So it came as a shock when i found out ESPN is basically gift wrapping a fresh bottle of the most expensive scotch ever made to these old bastards:

The Walt Disney Co., the parent company of ESPN, is among the bidders for the five BCS games -- and according to reports in USA Today and SportsBusiness Daily, the company has bid about $25 million per year more than its closest competitor for the new BCS deal. ...

SportsBusiness Daily reported that in bidding, Disney is offering about $125 million annually to air the games, while Fox is offering about $100 million annually. According to USA Today, several people with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed those figures.

Now personally, I'm all for ESPN broadcasting these major bowls because most FOX announcers blow. But I think if the Worldwide leader is going to advocate for a playoff, they shouldn't be allowed to offer this absurd amount of money for the broadcasting rights to something they hate so much. It's hypocrisy at its most expensive price.

There's a catch to this, though. According to the blog Awful Announcing, it might not matter if ESPN offers those scotch-sipping jackasses the moon because of FOX's current contract:

While ESPN probably offered a number that's way higher than FOX would or did, under the current contract the BCS still has to present FOX with a number first. The network can either accept or refuse, and if they don't accept, the rights go out on the open market. The number that's being thrown around is a $500 million, 4-year deal, which would constitute a 50% hike over last year's price to FOX.

Seriously, folks this isn't very difficult. If you want a playoff, the powers that be within college football just need to treated like pigeons. How does an analogy of old men drinking whisky turn into flying rats? Well, when you're in the park and you want to be around pigeon, you get some bread crumbs and the bastards come flying from all over the place. When you're out they move onto the next sap. And when there aren't anymore saps to go around, it probably means it's winter and there's nobody in the park, so the pigeons die.

Hey, look everyone, it's BCS coordinator and ACC commissioner John Swofford.

Well ESPN, you claim to not want the BCS (or pigeons) around anymore and yet here you are offering them 125 million bread crumbs. Why would they go away if they can get fat and happy off your bread crumbs (no matter how much criticism they may take for it)?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Giving Myself Wizards Diversions

Maybe you aren't aware, but the lifeblood of my winters is currently 0-4. I'm talking about the Wizards, and to my dismay the team is probably looking square in the eyes of its second-consecutive 0-5 start to a season with a Wednesday home game against the Jazz. So I should be used to this right? Well I'll let Marc Stein of do the 'splainin for me. When he ranked all the teams in his power rankings this week, he described the No. 28 (out of 30) Wizards like this:

The good news: No one knows more about digging out of an 0-5 hole than the Wiz, who had to do the exact same thing last season. The bad news: This Wiz team looks way shakier than last season's Wiz did.

By way shakier, he really means Deshawn "I Can't Feel My Face" Stevenson is about to be benched because he isn't playing defense anymore, but can't shoot threes anymore either. The conundrum: Nick "I'll take double the amount of shots I should if I don't have to play defense" Young would likely be his replacement. But to be fair, Young would be a huge upgrade at this point.

Then there's Antawn Jamison and Antonio Daniels looking more and more like the 30-somethings that they are. Oh yeah the team's already weak front court looks like it's going to be depending a whole lot on a 19-year-old who is skinnier than a string bean (although he's looked pretty talented so far) in Javale McGee. Caron has been his usual self but he can't do it all. And couple all that with Gilbert not retruning for another month or so, and you have me staring straight in the face of the terrifying prospect that is a Clippers-esque 32-50 season.

Couple all that with the fact that Boom Dizzle (Mr. Baron Davis for non-regular readers) is on a terrible Clippers team this year and I've found myself in a NBA doldrum. I think that's part of the reason I haven't been blogging much about the association so far this season. Well here are some things I'll be keeping my brain around while I try to avoid watching the Wiz kids self-destruct on the floor:

1) Iverson and the Stones: I like this trade for the Pistons, and I'll like it even more when Antonio McDyess waits another week and a half and re-signs with the Pistons now that he's been waived by Denver. Who wouldn't trade Billups on the downside of his career with four years of a contract for Iverson about to be on his downside with an expiring contract. Give it a whirl with Iverson for one season, see what happens, and then if it fails cut your losses. You do realize this puts Detroit in the running for Carlos Boozer or Joe Johnson this offseason. Now that's a scary thought.

2) Mike D'Antoni: The Knicks are 4-2 already this season. If D'Antoni can somehow make this team even close to a playoff contender the next two seasons, I don't see how LeBron won't sign with them in 2010. I've heard rumors that Nike is guaranteeing King James an extra $100 million if he goes to the LA or NYC areas when his contract is done in Cleveland.

3) What the Hawks: It was a nice run in the first round, taking the Celtics to seven games, but never in a bazillion years did I think the Hawks would start this year 6-0. The loss of Josh Childress left them with no bench to speak of, and yet I think most of the NBA world overlooked what a nice little trio Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford make up. Seriously this team looks real good, and if they re-sign Johnson this offseason, will look real good for years to come. As sad as it is to say, the Hawks look like they're going to take the Wizards thrown as fast-paced team that has dangerous stars but will likely lose to Cleveland in that 4-5 first-round matchup.

4)The inevitable Lakers/Celts Finals: Everyone is talking about the revamped East, but I think it's still Boston's to lose. And the Lakers depth is just going to pound away on the Western Conference all year. Unless something drastic happens (like Chris Paul takes his game to a stratosphere nobody knew existed) I think the Lake show makes a return appearance barring injuries.

5) Roger Mason: You just watch with Tony Parker out, there's going to be one player everybody is talking about. He played really, really well for the Wiz last year, but Roger Mason is going to have his coming out party this season. He's perfect for that Gregg Poppovich "get the ball inside to Duncan, then when the D collapses swing the ball until we get an open 3" offense. I'm guessing 14 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds a game.

Friday, November 07, 2008


It was certainly refreshing this week to hear all these athletes and celebrities talk about the election and their appreciation of the fact that Barack Obama was now President. LeBron came out and said he was happy his kids now have proof that they can aspire to be anything in this country. I was listening the radio on election day when Usher came on and said something other than "Yeah" when asked if he was voting for Obama. He made this semi-coherent speech about how Obama getting elected would change the world since no other superpower would ever elect a minority as its leader.

Well as I was watching the Wizards lose a 12-point fourth-quarter lead to the Bucks the other night, this hilarious feature about who on the Wizards would make the best President came on. Be sure to watch until Gilbert comes and talks about Russian bench warmer Aleksiy Pecherov:

But there's more. Here in Washington, the big rumor going around is whether Barack Obama, a former high school point guard and just plain balla, will build a basketball court in the White House to replace Nixon's bowling alley. Actually, he said as much back in April:

"I have sworn that we're taking out the bowling alley in the White House and we're putting in a basketball court," Obama said, according to a pool press report of his visit this afternoon to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle, Ind., today.

One of the big unknowns about the Supreme Court is that it too has a basketball court on its top floor. Because of this, people have taken to calling it "The Highest Court in the Land". I'm not sure whether Barack's court would trump that, though. But already Wizards on hopping on the bandwagon:

“I want to play Obama one-on-one,” Andray Blatche, the Wizards’ 6’11” forward, declared after practice the other day. His teammate Caron Butler jumped in: “It’d be nice to go out there, shoot around with him, tour the White House.”

I think Caron is being a bit more realistic. I'm gonna bet Obama's PR people won't want him playing one-on-one with a guy like Blatche, who just last summer got arrested for soliciting a prostitute who also happened to be an undercover cop.

In general, you gotta love the genuine enthusiasm all of these big time athletes are showing for the electoral process and politics as a whole. It's a welcome change from the "Republicans buy Nikes, too" days of Michael Jordan and the rest of the sporting world's, where there was this insistence on keeping quiet when it came to politics. I just wonder if anyone has told them that they are going to be some of the chief beneficiaries of Barack's much anticipated upper class tax raises.

And what do you know, I have an interesting take on the tax issue from none other than Grant Hill, courtesy of an article by SI's Ian Thomsen to close out the week:

According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, at least 20 NBA players will pay $1 million or more in additional taxes annually under the Obama administration. Can the good will of this election be transformed into a social movement of lasting power?

"The problems that exist are far greater than the benefits of certain tax brackets and certain NBA players,'' Hill said. "During the Bush administration, a lot of guys saved a lot in taxes. But I think a lot of guys are willing to look past that to try to do what's right and make the necessary changes to improve things.''

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wilbon Rips Snyder, Skins Fans, and the NFL

Well, if you watched this past Monday's game between the Steelers and the Skins, you probably know what I'm gonna write about here. Apparently there were an absurd amount of Steelers fans at the game, sullying the good name of Skins fans for the time being. It has been the talk of the town here since the game.

Offensive players on the team said they had to go to a silent count for much of the game, that's how loud the Steelers fans were. A lot of people thought all the terrible towels in the crowd were actually a Skins promotion, until they looked more closely and saw that every single person waving a towel also had some form of Steeler apparel on.

Personally, I was disgusted by the whole thing but that's because I would never, ever give my ticket to a game to a fan of the opposing team. But I'm guessing I'm in the minority concerning that. Well in the Post today, Wilbon decided to address the matter and he didn't pull any punches. Here are some highlights that were particularly damning:

The Redskins like to say they have the best fans in the league. Please, they're not even in the game for consideration of that distinction. You think Steelers fans, no matter how late the game time or how much they hate the stadium, would sell their tickets and let Redskins fans gobble them up? No chance. You think somewhere between one-third and one-fourth of Eagles, Broncos, Browns, Bears, Giants, Seahawks or Packers fans would sell their seats to brokers, when their team is a serious contender no less? No chance. ...

I don't need an NFL or Redskins report to tell me about the filthy language and nasty behavior in the stands Monday night or what the league is going to do about it, which is nothing. I saw it firsthand and received a couple of dozen e-mails on the subject. It was abominable, and the Steelers fans were just as responsible as Redskins fans. ...

But what is unique and beyond the control of fans is that a 90,000-seat stadium is 25,000 seats too many. There's no team or city in the league that should have a stadium with more than 70,000 seats. Tickets are too easy to come by. And at least one-quarter of the people at FedEx go for the purpose of getting ripped, which, along with the excessive traffic, lack of close parking and inadequate public transportation, makes the Redskins game-day experience probably the most uncomfortable experience in the NFL. I've covered games in all 31 stadiums, many of them 20 times or more. It's an eight-hour day for most Redskins fans and many just don't have that kind of time on a weeknight as well as the tolerance to endure the intoxicated bums who make the game itself completely impossible to enjoy.

Just to add some personal anecdotes to Wilbon's analysis, I was on the Beltway Monday night and had to deal with the traffic associated with that Monday nighter. See, the Beltway is Dc's main highway for commuting and it's also the only way to get to Fedex Field. Monday night was a nightmare on it, just jampacked to the brim. I left for a high school soccer game at 4 pm, thinking even with the excessive traffic, I'd get to the game by the 5:00 start time. Mind you, this game was taking place at a field that would ordinarily take 15 minutes to get to under normal circumstances. Well, when all was said and done on the beautiful highway known as the Capital Beltway, I showed up at the game around 5:40, having missed nearly the entire first half.

Combine all that with an ass kicking from the Steel crew and those awful all-burgundy jerseys the Skins decided to sport and you've got a true disaster of a Monday night. Seriously, the two times the Skins were on national television this season, they decided to throw clunkers up on the board.

Throw in the fact that the Wiz couldn't even sell out their home opener last week, and I've got to say DC sports fans are at a crossroads. What's with the non-support? I guess I shouldn't be so naive considering my middle school years were spent arguing with friends who refused to root for their home team only to come crawling back once Gibbs had his return reign. And don't get me started about those God damn Ravens fans that cropped out of nowhere after they won a Super Bowl.

I will say this, DC fans might be turning fair weather, but at least we're not Philly. Although after watching Pittsburgh take over the stadium Monday, I've got to say I'd rather see a stadium full of DC boo birds than a stadium full of another team's fans. That World Series parade looked pretty sweet, too.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

So Just How Did Barack Do All This?

Democrats around the world today are rejoicing, mostly because their candidate, Barack Obama, became President-elect of the United States last night. But for me, it's not really about that (that's partly because I don't consider myself a full-on Democrat).

For me, the lasting image of this historic campaign, this historic time in American politics, will always be the breakdown of this concept of traditional "Democratic strongholds" and "Republican strongholds." Like I said in my last post, the signal most refreshing thing about Barack Obama was ability to get the American people caring about their politics again, something that has been an issue since Richard Nixon betrayed the public's trust back in the Watergate days.

People voted for what candidate brought the most to the table, not the party that would most conform to their ideology. And now, a day later, the examination of what took place begins. Strategists from all over are going to focus on the demographics, especially how Hispanic voters (the biggest and fastest growing minority group in America) flocked to Obama. How the age group of 18-29 year-olds came out in record numbers as compared to previous years.

That's all well and good to me, but I want to know how it happened. And I've been scouring the newspapers this morning trying to figure it all out. The Washington Post has a pretty interesting piece that basically points to Obama's deft handling of the economic crisis as his primary reason for victory. With his campaign in the doldrums following the convention season (which, to their credit, the Republicans owned thanks to the shocking jolt provided by Sarah Palin, Obama and his top advisers met in an effort to re-shape his campaign for the stretch run.

Then Lehman fell and all hell broke loose. Except for in the Obama camp. As our new President remained cool, calm, and collected throughout, it was some little-known foresight that not only won him the election but also bodes well for his future as leader of the free world. See back in August:

Relying on a stockpile of data gathered over the spring and summer, Obama's strategists agreed that economic instability, driven by the subprime mortgage crisis, was likely to evolve into the dominant theme of the race.

Joel Benenson, Obama's lead pollster, separately concluded in August that the campaign would need to target a slice of undecided voters deeply motivated by economic concerns. In a PowerPoint presentation, Benenson identified about one-quarter of the electorate as being "up for grabs" in the 18 battleground states, with 67 percent of them citing the economy as a top issue, far more than the 51 percent who named Iraq.

Amidst this long as hell campaign that Obama embarked upon (seriously, getting challenged by Hillary until June is the equivalent of Obama going through an entire NFL season without a bye week), I think all of us lost sight about how well-run a campaign the man had. He had very few slip-ups and he went to more places around the country than any President before him.

From the back, Robert Horry kind of looks like Obama. Btw, this is the shot in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals that sunk the Kings, and sadly, was pretty much the last we heard of Chris Webber's career as an elite power forward.

Apparently, this was all part of a plan that began as soon as Obama defeated Hillary back in June (and just to continue the sports analogies, this election was almost exactly like the 2002 NBA Playoffs. The Lakers barely got by the Kings in a seven-game Western Conference finals which was marred by loser complaints afterwards and then the Lake show swept the Nets in four in one of the more predictable finals of all time). Obama and his team set about transforming the politics involved with a national election, starting with a mutation of their original message from "Change We Can Believe In" to "The Change We Need":

At the campaign's headquarters in Chicago, an unprecedented ground game was under development. Regional directors, battle-hardened during the primaries, were retrained and dispatched the moment the general election launched, opening offices across an ambitious 18-state battleground.

Rather than work toward a traditional Democratic electoral map that hinged on trying to steal Ohio or Florida, Obama advisers aimed at using the candidate's unique profile -- and the vast public dissatisfaction with President Bush -- to peel off seemingly more difficult states such as Virginia and Colorado.

All this was possible thanks to the unprecedented amount of money Obama raised, something that will likely be emulated by all future Presidential candidates to come. That drastic advantage in wealth led to technological things like this:

Jon Carson, a brainy, 33-year-old field director, developed sophisticated databases to chart developments -- the number of hits the campaign's Florida Web page got in a single day, for example, or the number of people nationwide who had downloaded voter-registration forms. Such unprecedented technology would later give the campaign confidence that its strength in Republican-leaning states was not a mirage.

Through it all, I think the general movement towards a new order of campaigning towards something bolder and brighter than we've ever seen in modern politics is what won this election for Barack Obama. This was the most well-executed Presidential campaign I can remember. Just think about all the new concepts Obama brought to the political equation that look large in hindsight, but seemed small at the time they were initially thought up.

Chris Hughes, one of the unsung hero of this campaign.

There was his hiring of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes as his resident technology expert, something that enabled Obama to:

revolutionize the use of the Web as a political tool, helping the candidate raise more than two million donations of less than $200 each and swiftly mobilize hundreds of thousands of supporters before various primaries.

There was new technology brought in to more efficiently conduct online phone messaging, which allowed Obama and his campaign to start a nationwide voter registration drive after the primaries and:

after Senator Clinton bowed out of the race, the millions of people on the Obama campaign’s e-mail lists were asked to rally her supporters as well as undecided voters by hosting “Unite for Change” house parties across the country. Nearly 4,000 parties were held.

Oh, but there's more:

During the primaries, volunteers could sign in online, receive a list of phone numbers and make calls from home. The volunteers made hundreds of thousands of calls last winter and spring. At the end of June, the Obama campaign began carefully opening up its files of voters to online supporters, making it easier to find out which Democratic-leaning neighbors to call and which registered-independent doors to knock on.

All this while McCain's own social networking attempts appeared futile to onlookers:

(The McCain site is) virtually impossible to use and appears largely abandoned,” said Adam Ostrow, the editor of Mashable, a blog about social networking.

Plain and simple, Obama revolutionized the use of 21st century technology in a political campaign, embracing the future and signaling an end to what now seems like rudimentary forms of gaining support like merely giving stump speeches, kissing babies, and shaking hands. Cynical Republicans will probably point to the huge amount of money he spent in doing, but there was no way mobilizing the nation to the extent Obama did could ever be cheap.

I just finished a meeting with the publisher at my paper here, and she made a point to mention that even though Obama won these traditionally red states like Indiana, Virginia, and Colorado, there still remains large pockets in all of these states where people don't even know someone else who voted for Obama. She thinks in terms of unifying the country, Barack has some work ahead of him.

I say the tools are in place for the country to become "unified" once again. If anything, all this new technology Obama brought to the forefront has made it easier than ever for someone to get involved or at least (if you're a Republican scratching your head about a guy who is going to raise our taxes tenfold) give our new President a chance.

So in order to reward the people who read this entire post, I'll leave you with these two passages from another really well-written piece in the Washington Post. If you're a reluctant McCain fan (which is what Republicans have to admit they are because if there was a true Republican candidate this election wouldn't have even been up for debate considering the damage Bush has done to the party), here's how the Republicans move forward:

Republicans watched yesterday as the electoral map turned blue in places where they have labored for a decade to cultivate a permanent, conservative voter base that would ensure presidential victories.

The party -- now clearly a minority one -- is left wondering whether the Democratic rout is the result of a coincidental marriage of a powerful personality and a terrible political and economic environment or if it signals a deeper change in voter patterns and beliefs that will make it difficult for them to recapture the White House for years.

If you're a Barack guy, here's a simple way of summing up what he's just accomplished and what really went down when all the votes were finally counted:

Obama melded the pride and aspirations of African Americans with a coalition of younger and disaffected voters drawn to his rhetorical style, and a unified base of Democrats worried about the economy and frustrated with the war in Iraq.

Well put. Now we just gotta hope Barack is as good a leader as he is a campaigner and unifier. I've got a feeling we'll find out quickly one way or the other.

Barrackin' the USA

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, it's been a hectic time the past week. On top of being a working sports editor at a Northern Virginia newspaper, I also happen to just plain work there. And seeing as we were a paper smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest battle ground areas in this election, I was called into duty to take on some political reporting.

I've refrained from entering into politics for the most part on this forum, mostly because I don't think I'm nearly qualified to be in the business of persuading minds ideologically. But I can't help but feel in awe about what went down tonight.

I don't think it really hit me just how historical all this was until I started seeing the build up over the course of today. I started at a precinct in suburban Maryland, a state that was a no-brainer to go Barrack Obama's way. At 7 am the line stretched 50 yards, it grew to 150 yards just 30 minutes later. I know people want to focus on the race issue — but it's Obama's ability to transcend race that really struck me.

As soon as the results started pouring in and it started becoming clear that this indeed would be Obama's day, my attention immediately turned to that victory speech. A great setting with Grant Park, a great night in general with warmer than expected temperatures. I mean, frankly, that victory speech was automatically going to be filed into the national archives of this country for generations to come whether Obama stuttered his way through it or delivered it masterfully. Seriously, if you were lucky enough to be at Grant Park, let me know. I'd love to hear what being a part of history is like.

Afterwards, I started watching some of the pundits talk about his performance. How he was more stoic than he was on the campaign trail. How he wisely tried to attract himself to the remaining Americans who still don't believe in him. How he was smart to make it clear that the change he's seeking hasn't ended with just one election victory. But what stuck out to me about Obama's speech was its parallels to history, its sense that this was an important moment.

I couldn't help but think of Kennedy's "Ask not what you can do" business when I heard this:

"Let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.

and then when he quoted Lincoln himself:

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, We are not enemies, but friends, though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.

I think it's Obama's embrace of the urgency wrapping around our country that has drawn the nation to him. We're past the days of Bush lie after Bush lie about our stable footing. Whether Barack Obama is a man of his words remains to be seen, but the man sure as hell did a good job pulling the strings on our hopes and dreams.

Seriously, the streets of every major American city look like Brazil after a World Cup or something. When's the last time regular joe schmos had a spontaneous reaction like this? The 60's? All this talk of America's youth being in some kind of apathetic malaise were overblown, especially considering the ridiculous turnout numbers that are undoubtedly going to emerge in the coming weeks.

Basically what I'm trying to say after watching hours of poltical coverage is that I think Obama got the nation caring about itself again. We may not actually be involved in the process that affects our daily lives, but at least it seems as if people care enough to at least take interest in it again.

Above any other barriers that were broken during this grueling 21-month Presidential campaign, the crumbling of America's boredom with legitimate discourse and undertaking of the political process should be the lasting legacy of Obama's victory.