Line of the night

>> Thursday

During tonight's White Sox/Blue Jays broadcast on Comcast Sports Net, the ever entertaining Hawk Harrelson:


"Man, when we went through Canadian customs last night, you would have thought we had just flown in from Iran on Al-Quaeda Airlines."

That is all.

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Glimpse of Sofia Loren's Chest Terrifyingly (Tantalizingly?) Imminent

As reported earlier by this blog, lifelong SSC Napoli fan Sofia Loren (age 72) will perform a striptease if Napoli is promoted from the Italian second division into the top flight. At the time, Napoli was 5 points back of second place Genoa, also competing for the second automatic promotion place. Firmly ensconced in third place, Napoli would have to survive two harrowing playoffs to advance. But that may not be necessary.

Since we first reported this to you, Napoli has moved to 75 points (20-5-15) on the year , and have closed the gap between second and third to only 2 points with 2 matches remaining.

This week, Napoli is at home to 9th-place Lecce. Genoa is on the road to 6th-place Mantova.

Provided the teams get equal results, it then all comes down to a Napoli road trip to Genoa on the last day of the season, where a Napoli win will launch them into the top flight. The two teams drew 1-1 earlier in the season.

Ready your cameras/eye gougers.

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The Sabermetrician's burden

As I've alluded to in a few posts, some recent job duties have unexpectedly reunited me with an old friend--sports talk radio. Miind you, when I say friend, I mean the kind of friend that draws you in at first but whose lack of substance grows gradually more apparent until that day you realize he's nothing but a self-absorbed bore who constantly repeats himself. Much to your disappointment--but not at all to your surprise--the reunion after the long separation only affirms how little the friend has evolved in the time elapsed, and you remember why you let him drift in the first place.

(Both current and former friends of mine should find this all very familiar by the way.)

But my reacquaintance with sports talk radio reminded me of a very important fact: that media outlets such as these still has a very powerful and widespread influence over the way people watch and interpret sports--and for the purposes of this post, baseball in particular. I know that's hard to hear, but it it's the truth. While we spend our hours buried in the Baseball Prospectus, it's easy to forget that we're but a small minority compared to the millions who get their opinions from Colin Cowherd, Jay Mariotti, and the entire staff of the New York Post.

That's not meant to be some snooty condemnation of those media and their audience. It's simply to say that many radio hosts and columnists are quick to form opinions given limited facts and are reluctant to seek additional facts once an opinion has been formed.

As we all know, these individuals are often the most popular with the "casual fan," whose minds often work the same way. After all, fact-finding is difficult, and saying "I don't know" is a shameful admission of weakness. And if knowlege is power, then pretend knowledge will at least make one feel powerful. (Ok, so that was a little bit snooty.)

I guess the big question before I go any further is, do we care? Should we worry that Bob from Buffalo Grove thinks a lineup of .220 hitters could win a pennant or that Steve from Palos Hills thinks that Ryan Theriot is the Cubs' MVP? (I kind of raised this same question in a previous, more long-winded post.) Sometimes--as worked up as we get over such outrageous assertions--we seem to prefer it that way. Keep the knowledge to ourselves; keep the dummies in the dark; use them as fodder for our fun.

I'll admit--I'm as guilty as anyone. Last week I was listening to Mike North (the now internationally famous Mike North ever since he told Ozzie Guillen to "stay the hell out of the kitchen, junior!"), and he was embroiled in a half-conversation, half-rant deriding the emphasis on stats and trumpeting the ever-popular qualities heart and hustle, as they apply to last year's Jim Thome-Aaron Rowand trade. Of course, I was laughing it up on the inside, both repulsed and amused by the implications, caring not for the misinformation of North's listeners.

But at least ostensibly, the intent of the Sabermatrician--or of any other "higher-level" sports fan--is to change the ways of the willfully narrow-minded. If that's truly the case, the champions of Sabermetrics from all strata--not just the Baseball Prospectus--need to be inclusive. Given the drastically different perspectives of these two types of fan, that may sound impossible. But as is always the case with new modes of thinking, the burden lies with those spreading them.

As someone simply loves baseball and defends both perspectives when I can, the following are my humble suggestions to make Sabermetrics more accessible to that so-called "casual fan":

Embrace the arbitrary.

A big reason why the "casual fan" is so chained to the traditional stats of batting average, RBI, etc is the familiarity with round numbers and milestones. Those that swear by Sabermetrics tend to disparage the arbitrary nature of these numbers.

At the same time, there's no denying their appeal. 3,000, .400, 100, 755--these things stick with us. They make the game fun to follow. And while I never expect people to hear, "Alex Rodriguez has just closed within 10 win shares of Babe Ruth!" I do think casual fans could eventually latch onto the .300 EqA club or the 150 ERA+ club.

Fire Joe Morgan who used the QB rating analogy to make the same point. If football fans will marvel at 100 quarterback rating--a stat whose complexity puts most Sabermetrics to shame--surely .300 EqA or 150 ERA+ isn't too much to swallow.


Revel in the deviations.

Sometimes, it seems, when results don't follow the best projections or deviate from the strongest indicators, they're treated by Sabermatricians with hostile skepticism, bordering on bitterness. This is a no-no.

Nothing alienates the traditional fan like a perceived attempt to digitize the game they love. While the numerical element can enhance enjoyment of baseball, very few people would cite its calculable nature as a primary reason why they love the sport. Even for me--someone who derives pleasure from that scientific perspective of the game--baseball's quantifiable and instantaneously random nature can be discomforting. Those of us that equate baseball with pure pleasure prefer not to see it as we see meteorology--even when the two behave almost identically.

Projections and indicators are all you need if you're a bookie or a GM, but for the fan, the deviations are all we have left. The MLB playoffs are either a stage for human talent and drama or a temple to the god of random error. That's left for each fan to decide.


Embrace the voodoo stuff.

Are we sick of hearing what a gritty player David Eckstein is? Sure. Are we tired of hearing that Darrin Erstad played football in college, and that makes him a tough-as-nails, team-first guy? Absolutely. Would we rather our analysts stay tuned to the on-field talent rather than harping on what a great/terrible manager Ozzie Guillen makes? Of course.

But will these sorts of discussions ever cease completely? That's doubtful. And for that matter, are these hazy subjects--i.e. effort, team chemistry, managing strategy--entirely dispensable elements of the game? Well, no. They may not amount to much compared to, say, an injured superstar, but each has some, albeit tiny, impact on the measureable results.

Do motivated, happy players who like their teammates play better than disgruntled ones? One would have to assume so... at least a little. Say a team committed itself to running super hard on every ball in play and followed through on that commitment for an entire season. Wouldn't that team see a small net positive effect on their offensive production? Well, maybe not. Maybe that would only lead to fatigue and injury. But see? These are the types of value-oriented debates that could bridge the stathead mentality and the achievement ideology were the atmosphere more inclusive.

The old guard analysts will tell us how excellent basestealers can impact the game simply by rattling opposing pitchers or how young starters benefit from veteran mates in the rotation. These are anecdotal truisms that seemingly most major leaguers swear by, so it doesn't make much sense to brush them off altogether. The measureable effects may be overblown, but the self-imposed challenge remains to quantify that.

A veteran teammate will never be the sole cause for a breakout season by a young pitcher, but can it be a contributing factor? If one wants to argue no, I say the burden of proof lies with the person refuting the anecdotes, not the person telling them.

The point is this: It's tempting to smother the voodoo stuff with a blanket of Sabermetric appeals that don't adequately disprove the conventional wisdom. But doing so reaches no one except those that see things your way already.


Admit the limitations.

This one hardly needs to be said, but some Sabermatricians--not a lot, but some--still approach baseball topics with too much of an absolutist mentality.

Not everything can be quantified. Not everything has a control group. All metrics work within certain ranges better than they work within others. (For the record, I note the irony in criticizing absolutism and then proceeding to write three consecutive absolutist statements.) As the scope of discussion narrows, that grows even truer.

Unfortunately, too many people adopt a Sabermetric mantra and treat it like a Smart People badge without ever understanding its limitations or acknowledging the proper degree of uncertainty.


Know your damned shit.

To spin off my last point, credibility is only established through understanding. As much as we rag on fans who love sac bunts because their selective memory underrepresents their failures, those who put blind faith in Sabermetrics are no more credible. The former simply has a keener sense for small-scale events than for their aggregate effects, and they can hardly be faulted when their intuition distorts reality by five or ten percent.

On the other hand, the person who lacks that independent understanding of baseball but drops Sabermetric terms as if he invented them only comes off as a pretentious hack bitch. And because he probably doesn't understand the inticacies of the terms he spews, that's exactly what he is. The danger with such holistic evaluations lies in ignoring their inner components and watering down our perspective as a result.

That is to say, Sabermetrics are nothing but numbers with funny acronymns until we can tie them to something tangibly baseball-related. That's true of traditional stats as well, but even more so of Sabermetrics because of their inherent complexity and indirect link to on-field "moments"--the runs, hits, homers, etc.

The primary questions, then, are not, "Who has the higher EqA?" or "What is Justin Morneau's VORP?" but rather, "What are typical ranges for EqA?" "What traditional stat or ability does EqA tend to overrate compared to VORP?" "What key assumptions are inherent in the RC27 formula?" "Why was WARP created? What shortcoming of traditional stats was it designed to overcome?" And so on, and so on.

This may sound overly dogmatic--and it is--but the person who touts Sabermetrics without asking these questions is no better than the guy who blindly swears by the hit-and run. Just latching on with the faster yacht doesn't mean you're not an anchor. (And that, my friends, is called poetry.)


Don't go creating a new monster.

Following my own logic, a sudden boom in the popularity of Sabermetrics would only mean more of those individuals I criticized in that last paragraph. We would have fans everywhere passing judgment on teams and players based on evalations they don't fully comprehend.

But then maybe Sabermetric measures really are that fantastic. Maybe they're so effective that a blind Sabermetric comparison is better than any independent judgment based on some combination of traditional stats and intuition.

Going back to the QB rating analogy, football fans rarely object to comparing quaterbacks in this manner. Or an even better example, how many of us know the first thing about seismology? Nevertheless, when a big earthquake hits, the first thing reported is the quake's impact on the Richter scale. We have no idea what this truly means--except that a higher Richter scale rating means a "bigger" earthquake--but we go by it anyway.

Hell, come to think of it, what percentage of casual baseball fans could compute ERA or slugging percentage?

I guess it all comes back to a simple question: How much blind confidence should a fan put into a highly-refined yet esoteric "better" and "worse" comparisons?

I guess that all depends on the confidence of the creators themselves.

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Ridiculous. E-S-P-N. Ridiculous.

I initially thought all the spellin' goin' on was all a big conspiracy trying to keep a surprise from me since somebody's B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y is tomorrow, and because I am two years old, I cannot string letters together into words to recognize the imminence of gifts.

However, my annual odometer turning over has instead taken a back seat to the broadcast of the National Spelling Bee on the Walt Disney family of networks tonight...on ABC, so that ESPN and ESPN2 can showcase College Softball and World Series of Poker action. This infuriates me as lord knows I was looking forward to some Ugly Betty. However, I could probably turn on the softball game and get the same effect.

Even more of a shame sadly, is that short of one of the Korean home-schooled kids shaming his family and commiting suicide on stage, there's no way this annual reading of the dictionary is going to provide anything more newsworthy as when that one kid passed out on stage , and had to use a stool for the rest of the competition, because a Spelling Bee was just too physically taxing for him.

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Demand variety! Join the fight! Boycott Yankees-Red Sox!

>> Wednesday

I am a baseball fan. I love baseball. I love just about anything related to or resembling baseball. Normally, I can sit and watch any game involving nine players a side, some kind of bat (or broomhandle or tree limb or prosthetic leg, a la Lenny on The Simpsons... or anything else bat-like), and a small, roughly spherical object and be happily entertained. Shit, I could watch two teams of Catholic nuns play stickball with a fish head in quick sand and... Well whatever, I think I've done enough exaggerating for effect.

But goshdarn, if I watch another ESPN Yankees-Red Sox broadcast this season, it just might be my last... you know, because I'd stop watching them. (Whoa, chill out, dude, I'm not gonna do something crazy.) It's just... too damned many.... too much hype... too much east coast-edness. I mean, is a Rockies-D'Backs game too much to ask for?!

Well instead of getting angry about it, I decided to take action. So if all of you in YCSNation will join me, for this Sunday night, I'm proposing a one-week boycott of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. And to prove I mean business, I've already taken written action... by making a tongue-in-cheek internet petition!

So if all of you will indulge me, please sign our petition. If we all band together, I bet we could have ten, maybe twenty signatures in no time!

Come on YCSNation--fight the power!

P.S.: Don't ask me to explain why each paragraph in the petition is spaced a mile apart. That just happened. I'm also aware that there's a typo or two in there, but you can't edit it, so shut up.

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Work soon to be available for NFL also-rans

Sounds interesting, but on the other hand, I think I've seen this story played out before.

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How to use stats to support outrageous claims

Outrageous claim: LeBron James should be benched, as evidence from last night's game:

Supporting statistics:
Cavs with James on the court: -4

Cavs with James on the bench: +8

Obviously, Cleveland is a better team without King James.

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Mike Lupica writes children's fiction? This is total news to me.

>> Tuesday

I'm not really offering any insight here, and I could very well be the last sports fan in America to learn this. But I just had to share that because I find it so funny. Even funnier, though, is this description of Lupica's new book Summer Ball:

When you’re the smallest kid playing a big man’s game, the challenges never stop—especially when your name is Danny Walker. Leading your travel team to the national championship may seem like a dream come true, but for Danny, being at the top just means the competition tries that much harder to knock him off. Now Danny’s leaving Middletown for the summer and heading to Right Way basketball camp, where he’s out of his element and maybe out of his league. The country’s best ballers are in attendance, and Danny will need to raise his game if he wants to match up. But it won’t be easy. Old rivals and new battles leave Danny wondering if he really has what it takes to stand tall.
He's no Matt Christopher; I can tell ya' that much.

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What If: Phil Mickelson Wins the 2006 U.S. Open

After seeing it replayed multiple times on the Golf Channel recently(yes, I do fairly frequently tune to the Golf Channel), I always wonder what would have happened in the world of golf had Phil Mickelson won the 2006 U.S. Open. Before the monumental collapse at 18, Mickelson had won the previous two majors and looked like he would hold on to win his third. At the same time, Tiger was having a subpar season, although a lot of that could be the attributed to the illness and eventual death of his late father Earl Woods. Still, even with Vijay's brief run at the top of the World Golf Rankings in 2004, no one had seriously challenged Tiger's reign as the dominant figure in golf. Now, it looked like Phil, who always possessed the most complete besides Tiger, was on the cusp on putting a serious dent in Tiger's control. An awful drive, even poorer second shot and double-bogey later, and Phil was left to explain how he let go of that elusize U.S. Open title. Two months and two major wins later, and Tiger had left all doubt on who's number one to rest.

However, fast forward to today and we may be back on the verge of a Tiger-Phil showdown. Phil has hired Tiger's old swing coach, Butch Harmon, and now appears to be driving the golf ball better than he has in years. At his recent Players victory, Phil played the weekend from the middle of the fairway. Even while he was winning back-to-back majors in 2005-2006, Phil would often be miraculously extracting himself from awful situations and would avoid making a big numbers. During the final round of last year's fateful Open, Phil hit 2 fairways all day. The final hole collapse may have actually been a blessing in disguise, as it caused Phil to reevaluate his swing and eventually call on Butch Harmon, the best swing coach in the golfing world, to correct his flaws. Now, it looks like Phil may be more poised than even to make a serious run at Tiger.

In the end, the Winged Foot wreck may turn out to be a good thing for Phil. Winning there may have been fool's gold, as Phil has needed to address his driving problem for a long time. While he managed to reign the swing in some for his awesome 2004 season, his struggles have dated all the way back to when he purposely altered the swing during Tiger's first dominant run in order to gain distance. Now, he seems to be committed to finding fairways, even if that means giving up 10-15 yards off his drives. On the other hand, Tiger keeps on struggling with his driver and has to extract himself on far too many holes. While I would be crazy to predict a grand shift, do not count out Phil making a serious run at Tiger's perch at the top of the golf word.

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Irony

Today: FIFA, soccer's world governing body, opened its new headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland . FIFA President Sepp Blatter proclaimed on the rainy day, “The sky is touched with tears but we can live with that because football also has to live in all weather conditions and rain is a gift from heaven.”

Yesterday: FIFA drew controversy by ruling that no future international matches will be played above 8,200 feet, following the lodging of a complaint regarding a South American game between a team that plays home matches at sea level and a mountain team. The match was played in freezing rain at high altitude.

So I guess football doesn't have to live in all conditions.

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Barking Up the Wrong Tree

>> Sunday


Bad news for all of the Michael Vick fans out there. This dogfighting scandal keeps getting uglier by the day, with recent reports stating that Vick has been much more involved with this than previously admitted. It may be time for Joey Heisman to take a break from his piano lessons and start getting prepared for a much bigger role than planned on for the Falcons next season.

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YCS: Big fans of Joe Mauer


(The guy in the old-school Brewers garb giving the thumbs-up is Nate. Had Zuch been in camera range, he would no doubt be doing the same thing. Credits to dear friend of YCS Iain for photography.)

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Vvvrrrrrooooooommm!!!!

Following our wont to handicap major sporting events we know nothing about, I figured I would weigh in with my pick to win today's Indy 500. So I'll give you my unique, unappropriated thoughts on the favorites, followed by my prediction.

Guys I've sort of heard of before who apparently have the best shot to win:

Tony Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion, is ready to step into the spotlight as one of American open-wheel racing's top stars. I mean, sersiously, this guy's totally ready for that.

But let's not forget Dan Wheldon. He loves racing at The Speedway and admits the 500 is a race he is "desperate" to win again--so desperate, even, that he would glady kill man to do it. He'll need help from his team because he clearly sucks on his own.

Two-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves shows his best when you least expect it. That could come in handy on Sunday. What may also come in handy are his sunny disposition and ability to emit deadly UV rays in the direction of other drivers.

Then there's Dario Franchitti. The dashing international jet-setter's résumé is missing two things: a championship crown and an Indy winner's ring. Come to think of it, it's not so jet-setting afterall. That was an odd word choice to begin with. Seriously, what motivated me to write that? But he is dashing--just catch him in a suit, and you'll see.

Sam Hornish Jr. is even more of a threat now that the pressure to win Indy has let off. Is this his last Brickyard dash in an open-wheeler? The answer: Yes. Next year he'll enter on his unicycle.

Also beware Scott Dixon . Quietly flying under the radar is this New Zealander's specialty and he's the ultimate dark horse. His other specialty: saying "mate" a lot.

While these guys are all excellent choices, for my pick, I'll have to go with Dario Fanchitti because 1) he's Italian and 2) he's a dashing jet-setter.

Readers, you know we've never been wrong. So make your bets--there's still time!

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Rutgers baseball team plays OzzieBall

>> Saturday

With no other sports to watch while on the stationary this afternoon, I tuned into ESPN, which was showing the Big East baseball championship game between Rutgers and UConn.

With Rutgers at bat leading 4-1 with 0 outs and a man on first in the bottom of the fifth, Rutgers had a guy hitting .351 with 11 dingers--wielding an aluminum bat, mind you--trying to bunt. He never got the bunt down and was retired without the runner advancing. A walk and a double later, the run scored anyway.

Smallball's poisonous influence has clearly infiltrated the college game.

Other funny thing I wanted to mention: Right after this, UConn made a pitching change. While the new pitcher was making his warmup tosses, the PA person at the stadium played both the "Macarena" and "Mambo No. 5" in succession. Woo, 1997!

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College Three Point Line Moved Back

>> Friday

I wrote about this in more detail on my new basketball blog From Way Downtown. I strongly approve of this new rule, as it should greatly improve the quality of play in college basketball.

An excellent example of someone helped by eliminating the three point shot from his game would be the Bulls Luol Deng. Deng spent the last offseason working on his mid-range jumper, and watched his scoring average and field goal percentage take a big step up. A lot of players would be wise to follow Deng's example, with Marquette's own Wesley Matthews immediately coming to mind.

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Help Out Draft Express

Not to sound like a total shill, but the good people at Draft Express need our help. By far the best NBA Draft site out there, it would be a shame if the increasing costs caused them to shut down.

While some staff members at YCS, myself included, do not have the resources to make a financial commitment at this time, I would implore those that could and our readers to give a couple of bucks and help out a very worthy cause.

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Oatmeal packet trivia

Thanks to my brother Paul for this fun little tidbit:

Q: Who is the alltime leader for most MLB starts without ever making a relief appearance?

(Pause to let you eat you finish your maple and brown sugar...)

A: Tom Glavine, with 646

Aren't you a better person now that you know that? Yes, of course you are.

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Don't apologize for that. Don't back off. You were right in the first place.

>> Thursday

I'm sort of disappointed in Bengals coach Marvin Lewis right now. If you're keeping track, this would make this the first time I've been anything but indifferent toward Marvin Lewis, and I wish it didn't have to be negative.

But seriously, I was upset to hear what he said today. If you missed this story, Marvin Lewis said the following yesterday in regard to the crazy number of arrests his players have faced in the past year:

"I think there's profiling, no question," Lewis said. "We're (Cincinnati) a small place - our guys stand out, and they know that, and you've got to do things the right way. But when you are arrested for, or you are pulled over for, not putting on your turn signal, there's something wrong there.

"Many people make right turns without putting on their turn signals and it's unfortunate that we've had a guy that's pulled over for not putting on his turn signal."

1) That statement is fairly obvious truth. Look--his players haven't been angels. NFL players in general are not angels. But there is no way that this one particular NFL franchise is as disproportionately loaded with "bad apples" as their arrest record would indicate.

2) Rich, young, black athletes have been targeted by cops ever since there was such a thing as rich, young, black athletes. This may be a difficult assertion to prove, but the anecdotes are well known.

3) Would you doubt for a second that after the first few run-ins with Bengals players, the Cincinnati cops might have started up a contest of "Who can bag the next Bengal"? Or if not that, that they wouldn't at least relish the chance to be the next cop to arrest a Bengals player?

I'm happy Lewis stood up for his players. Except then today, he went ahead and said this:

“Yesterday, I gave a radio interview and made some comments that did not illustrate the high regard I have for the Cincinnati Police Department,” Lewis said. “I apologize that what I said did not reflect my true feelings.”

“I have spoken with Tom (Thursday) to express my regret,” Lewis said. “I do not believe the Cincinnati Police Department is specifically profiling our players.”

Unfortunately, I think it's pretty obvious that Lewis does believe that but retracted to avoid a PR mess and, perhaps, because he's simply too nice a guy. But if I were one of Lewis's players, and I genuinely felt I was pulled over on a DWB, I wouldn't be too thrilled with my coach right now.

I understand that Lewis is involved in the community. I understand that he respects the police force. But I think his first obligation is to his players--not to the Crooked Cops of the CPD.

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Also calling it quits today...

is Brian Leetch, who you may remember from being in the NHL since the dawn of time.

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Keyshawn Johnson retires

So much for the Packers and Titans addressing their wide receivers need. The good news for Pack fans would be that it looks like the team may be having open tryouts for the #3 wide receiver spot. I would recommend YCS's own Nate to get in shape, in the hopes he could become the next Vince Papale. This way, at least the fans could get a shred of entertainment from the impending 5-11 season.

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YCS Spin-off Showcase

For all of the great fans of YCS, I encourage you to visit my new college basketball blog From Way Downtown. I plan on remaining a key contributor to the success of Yellow Chair Sports, but also want to focus time of covering my true passion, college basketball. Andy Katz and company, you have been put on notice.

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Roy Hibbert comes back to Georgetown

>> Wednesday

The other 15 Big East teams weep.

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Housekeeping!

Although I doubt many of you have noticed (and I wouldn't blame you since we forgot about it ourselves for the longest time), we at YCS invite your private feedback by means of this sweet new thing called "electronic mail"--or "email" for short.

Anyway, we used to have a Hotmail account because Matt's a (J.J.) putz and didn't go with the superior Gmail. Well I got fed up sifting through dozens of solicitations from foreign royalty to find a few actual emails, so I've now rectified that. If you actually do have us in your address book, change to yellowchairsports@gmail.com. To everyone else, resume not caring.

(And by the way guys on staff, the password is the same as the Hotmail one. If you don't know what that is, it means we secretly don't like you, Mike.)

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Yellow Chair Sports Officially Banned in China


We might have to kiss our press credentials for the 2008 Olympics goodbye. According to Great Firewall of China, the web address for Yellow Chair Sports and its attached content that you readers have come to know and love is banned in the People's Republic of China.

Perhaps the reason was that all ".blogspot.com" and free-expression websites of their ilk are banned in the Communist country, but I like to think that it was YCS's unique brand of off-color humor, social satire, incisive analysis and sportsertainment that was riling up the masses into revolutionary fervor and making things difficult for the Reds.

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Trail Blazers ping pong balls win NBA Draft lottery

>> Tuesday

In what many people deem the most important NBA Draft lottery in history, the Portland Trail Blazers were the big winner, getting the #1 overall pick when Trail Blazers ping pong ball #17 emerged from the scramble.

"While several other teams' ping pong balls put up a fight, it was clear that the slew of Blazers ping pong balls simply wanted it more," said NBA Deputy Commissioner Glassesface Nerdguy. "Their chemistry was unmatched."

While Blazers ball #17 will be best remembered as the ball that broke through, it was the unsung contribution of Blazers ball #40, selflessly throwing itself in front of a late charge by Grizzlies ball #181, that sealed the victory. Without ball #40's sacrifice, ball #17 would not have been first through the chute.

Though considered a long shot coming into the draw, the Blazers ping pong balls used the experts' doubt as motivation.

"We heard all them cats naysaying and putting us down, but that don't mean [anything]," Blazers ball #22 said afterward. "People can say this and that about who's got the better odds and all that, but we don't listen to that [stuff]. Ain't nobody besides us knew what we were capable of, and the naysayers just found out. Ye-ah."

The Trail Blazers are expected to take Ohio St. center Greg Oden with the pick.

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Whaddayagonnadoboutit?

Due to perceived geographical obscurity, New Jersey state lawmakers passed a resolution last week recommending that Rutgers University somehow incorporate the letters "NJ" into their crimson "R" logo. I'm assuming this wouldn't lead to anyone asking "Where's RNJ?" instead of "Where's Rutgers?".


The claim is that most people don't know that Rutgers is in fact the state university of New Jersey. But, don't people who follow college sports know where Rutgers is already? Likewise, would people who don't follow college sports even notice the difference if the logo was changed?
It's a good thing that the state assembly is on top of this problem. Lord knows there aren't any other problems in New Jersey that might require some sort of action.

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Gyro-pean Glory, up for grabs in Greece


Following that lame pun, tomorrow Liverpool and AC Milan will meet at the Olympic Stadium in Athens in the 2007 UEFA Champions League Final. It will be exactly 728 days and only a short ferry ride across the Aegean from these two teams’ last meeting, in the 2005 Champions League Final in Istanbul. The two teams will even be wearing the same kit colors (Liverpool in red, Milan in white). In that historic and thrilling match, Milan took a 3-0 lead to half time, only to be undone by three goals in a span of six minutes to draw Liverpool even at 3-3. Liverpool went on to survive a late Milan surge, and eventually won the game on penalty kicks.

I went 1-1 in the semifinals , bringing my record on the competition to 18-12. I correctly called AC Milan’s upset of Manchester United , but boldly predicted Chelsea to break their Champions League Hex and go to the Final over Liverpool. Chelsea lost on penalty kicks at Anfield , thus bringing the number of picks in the knockout round where I have missed either because of PKs or away goals to five. Only one game to pick here. The winner gets European glory and to take home “the big-eared trophy” along with the title of Champions of Europe. The winner also receives a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan this December. As the token YCS soccer blogger, and fully aware that trying to pick games at this stage in the competition is really almost like flipping a coin (especially given Liverpool and Milan's similarities statistically), I will attempt to break down the Champions League Final.
GOALKEEPERS
Liverpool is backed by Pepe Reina, a hero for Liverpool after he stonewalled two of three Chelsea penalty shooters in the semifinals. Domestically, Reina started 35 of 38 Premiership matches, and recorded 143 saves (4.1 per game). In all competitions, Reina has only allowed 7 goals since mid-February (0.5 goals per game) including wins over Barcelona, Arsenal, PSV, and Chelsea. Milan counters across the pitch with Dida, the Brazilian international. Injury-plagued Dida has only started 25 Serie A matches this season for Milan, posting a 0.76 GAA. Dida is definitely the more experienced keeper, making the third-most appearances for Brazil among goalkeepers, but Reina has been a machine for Liverpool this season, and should a penalty kick occur, Reina is the keeper I would want in the nets.
EDGE: Liverpool

DEFENSE
Both teams have solid backlines, and are among the competition's leaders in terms of goals allowed per match (0.75 for Milan, 0.67 for Liverpool). The teams also hold similar statistics for cards issued, fouls committed, and ball possession, several stats I look at to get a sense of how a team controls a game. Jamie Carragher is an excellent man-marker and tackler who is also more than capable on the attack. He will appears to be Liverpool's best shot (Along with Jon Arne Risse) of containing Milan's strikers. Paolo Maldini and Cafu will answer for Milan's backline, but Maldini is getting old (he is nearly 40.)
EDGE: Wash
ATTACK
Liverpool is led by captain and England international Steven Gerrard, the hero of the 2005 Final. He has taken the fourth-most shots on goal of any player in the competition. Gerrard's strike partner Eric Crouch is likely the tallest player in the game, and could be a priceless asset in attempting to head crosses past a diving Dida. Crouch has scored 6 goals in Europe this season.
Milan is led up top by Alberto Gilardino, a young Italian striker who looks to be Milan's cornerstone for the future. Gilardino has scored 2 goals in 8 games this season in European competition. The Rossoneri's go-to man will likely be Brazilian attacking midfielder Kaka, who is the competition's leading goalscorer, finding net 10 times in 12 contests. The thing about Italian sides, especially a side like Milan is that they are very patient, poking and prodding untill a perfect opporuntity comes along, and then finish clinically; rather than just firing shots again and again.
Edge: Milan
INTANGIBLES
Domestically, Liverpool has in the words of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho "Been playing testimonials (exhibition games) for weeks now." Having already locked up Champions League football for next season, but unable to win the league, Liverpool merely had to play out the string and could focus on the Champions League. Liverpool finished third in the English Premiership. Milan on the other hand have been playing their first team for most of the past few months as they worked to overcome an early point penalty and poor play to clinch a Champions League spot for next season, a feat only achieved on Sunday with Fiorentina's draw with Messina putting Milan 6 points clear with a match to go. There are some old legs in the red-and-black kits, and who knows how tired they may be.
Liverpool won their group with a game to spare, and in the knockout rounds have dismissed technically superior clubs in Barcelona and Chelsea. Milan has had a relatively easy path to the Final, playing the likes of Celtic and Bayern Munich before finally recieving a challenge in Manchester United. Milan has the motivation for revenge after their loss to Liverpool in the 2005 Final, but time will tell if this serves as motivation or distraction. While all players are professionals, every Milan player I've heard interviewed has mentioned "revenge."
Edge: Liverpool
So who's my pick to lift club soccer's most prestigious trophy?

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Clinton Portis--Not much of a criminologist

>> Monday

"I don't know if [Vick] was fighting dogs or not, but it's his property, it's his dog," Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis told WAVY-TV in Virginia. "If that's what he wants to do, do it. I think people should mind their business."

When told that dog fighting is a felony, Portis replied, "It can't be too bad of a crime."

Reporter who had just informed him that dog-fighting is a felony: Ummmm, Clinton?... Did you just... I just said... Never mind.

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Steve Nash is a magician


I swear (fingers crossed, just in case) that this is my last (probably) post about Steve Nash and his general overratedness (but to be fair, he is really overrated). But seriously, the dude deserves the title of escape artist for squirming out of the "Can't Win When It Matters" shackles.

This is the shame of David Stern's suspensions. The headline across ESPN after San Antonio won was something along the lines of SPURS WIN* (not that they're trying to influence public opinion or anything). The Spurs won...kinda...there are a lot of what-ifs...the Suns could have (should have?) won.

Where are the questions of whether Steve Nash can ever get to the championship? Where are the columns suggesting that maybe it's not possible to win a championship with absolutely no defense? Where is any criticism of the Suns?

Lost in a pile of what-ifs.

Of course, we can't blame Mr. No-Rings-but-plenty-of-MVPs for how the series played out. It's not like he's actively suggesting that the series should have an asterisk.

"I can sit up here and complain about it after the fact... I guess cry about it after the fact,"

But, of course, you're not going to, right?

"But it's tough not to just think forever what would have happened if this stupid rule didn't get in the way of this series. There's no guarantees of anything, but to come this far and put this much into a season and for us to be without two key guys for Game 5 for nothing we instigated -- and for not either one of them having a malicious tone in their offense -- will forever haunt us."

Wow. That sounds a lot like crying after the fact.

"But I don't want to cry about it after the fact. The Spurs played great."

Let's review: I don't want to cry after the fact --> waaaaaaaaaah, we got screwed! waaaaaaaaah! --> seriously, I'm not going to cry after the fact

Not that I can really blame Nash for playing this up. I too would be trying to distract people from the fact that once again you have fallen short of the NBA Finals. I too would want to pawn the Game 5 loss off on the easy suspension excuse before people looked at the box score and realized that you were 1-for-8 in the fourth quarter of that game (including a ridiculously bad final attempt with plenty of ticks left on the clock).

Look, it was a bad break for the Suns, no doubt. But to question the legitimacy of the series is stupid, because it ignores so many other factors.

First, the Suns (not Horry) initiated the brief scuffle. All Horry did was give a hard foul, one that he said he would do again if in the same situation. Hard fouls happen all the time in playoff basketball, and are usually met with some words and glares from the opposing team. But when you race at a guy with your fists clenched like a drunken frat boy, you are raising it to a new level. Did Stoudamire and Diaw have ill intent when they came off the bench? It certainly didn't appear so. They looked to be taking preventive roles. But if the on-court Suns had not raised the level to where something needed to be prevented, none of this would have happened.

Second, I don't want to hear this bullshit about "If Amare Stoudamire had played, the Suns would have won game 5. Period. No argument." If the hip check incident had not happened, or had the incendiary suspensions not been handed out, game 5 is a completely different game.

(Warning: tangent) This is something that has always bugged me about post-game analysis in general. The idea that the addition of a injured/suspended star into a game would simply add a certain amount of points to that teams total. You can't say (so-and-so injured superstar) would have made that catch/shot/pass/goal/etc. if he had played, because that player would have been treated differently by the defense than his replacement. The entire strategy of a game changes entirely when you take out a key element like Amare Stoudamire. To assume that the insertion of a star player automatically guarantees you positive results is absurd. Just ask the Rockets or Nuggets.

Would the Suns have stood a better chance with Stoudamire? Certainly. Would they have won the game? Don't know. But guess what? They had every chance to win the game without him. I know, I know, they were tired and worn too thin because they only had six players. I'm not buying that excuse because these are professional athletes, and these are the playoffs. Endurance should not be much of an issue, at least not so much of an issue that you blow an 8-point lead in five minutes. Remember, Kobe and Shaq played virtually every minute of every game in their title run.

Of course, the NBA commentators have to have something to talk about while we all wait around for the Spurs and Pistons to trudge through the most uneven conference finals in recent memory (I would love to be proven wrong here). So we're going to hear the same Suns-got-screwed, asterisk-season montage for the next week or so.

And there sits Steve Nash, a significant part of six legitimate playoff teams that had their chance and blew it. There he sits with everyone's pity--pity that the Suns got screwed, pity that he didn't win his third MVP, pity that he hurt his nose--and nobody's criticism. Well, except mine.

You can always count on YCS to be the voice of cynicism in the sea of feel-good media romances.

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Poor Kid

Taking crazy Little League parents one step further, a woman in Staten Island, NY is taking legal action against her now 15-year old son's Little League coach for not teaching him how to slide into second during a game 3 years ago. The suit claims the fateful slide caused, "serious bodily injury" that required multiple surgeries and caused "permanent scarring and disability."

The Little League contends that they are a safe playing environment, even taking time to point out that they installed foam bases to lessen the risk of injury. Which brings up the following questions...

1.) How big of a sissy is this kid if he caused himself "serious bodily injury, permament scarring and disability" by sliding into a base made of foam in a Little League game?


2.) This kid is now 15, and as such is in high school. How much does he get beaten up at school now?
3.) The average 12-year old is more or less in 6th or 7th grade. He hadn't learned to slide by then? I may have royally sucked at baseball when I was in Little League, a deficiency that continues to this day. All the baseball talent in my family admittedly was pooled into one kid. But even when I managed to luck myself into a walk or get hit by a pitch and actually BECAME a baserunner I knew how to slide without ending up in a hospital.

4.) What kind of legal precedent will this set? Can we now sue our favorite teams' coaches and management for gross negligence, and emotional trauma?

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Amerikanischer Fussball, ya?

The NFL apparently is quite keen on the possibility of a 17-game schedule in the future, where every team would play one neutral-site game at an international location. Word out of the NFL offices is that the Kansas City Chiefs will be the next team to host an international game, and club president Carl Peterson says, "We're going to Deutschland." Germany for you non-deutschesprechers.

The international idea for the NFL is something that cannot be ignored for long because frankly, outside of expanding into high school or college football hotbeds like Alabama, Texas, or Nebraska, (LA?) and short of annexing the CFL, the NFL simply cannot get much bigger than it is in North America.

Last September, I had some concerns about this international experiment, but was happily proven wrong by how quickly the tickets went for the Dolphins-Giants game at Wembley. If they're going to Germany, it would be a good idea. NFL Europa/NFL Europe/World League of American Football has relatively succeeded in Germany where it has failed in Scotland, England, and Spain. Some attribute the cause to a relative lack of German interest for Rugby (aka: Football with no pads and no stopping).


Personally, I'd like to see some info if possible as to how many of the Wembley tickets were purchased by American citizens to see if the real NFL (Not the Yo Murphy experience) brought out the expats. The article cites Frankfurt's attendance in the 30k range, but doesn't mention that Frankfurt is within a 2-hour shot down the autobahn from two U.S. Air Force Bases.

I guess time will tell as to whether the NFL through NFL Europa or International Regular Season games is making profitable inroads with an international audience, or if it's catering to fans it already had that previously couldn't attend games because of service, work, or family commitments abroad. Either way, the NFL seems to be going about this the right way, testing the waters slowly and gradually, whetting the appetite for more instead of plunging headstrong into an ocean-spanning disaster (cough World League of American Football cough).

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Embracing uncharted depths of awful

>> Sunday

Disney Conglomerative Sports Broadcasting Enterprises--better known on the street as ESPN--continues its attempt to alienate the 18-80 brain-bearing adult demographic.

As if Friday night's Roger Clemens minor-league rehab/tune-up start wasn't terrible enough, I just took in the following exchange (paraphrased) during the Spurs-Jazz game on ABC:

Sucky play-by-play guy: [...blah blah blah] Desperate Housewives season finale tonight. ... Well the Spurs are certainly not "desperate" right now ...

Mark Jackson or third-wheel guy, can't remember which: Well the Jazz might need an "extreme makeover" after this game...

...or something like that. I can't remember the exact verbiage, but the point being, it was two of the lamest, pun-iest cross-promotional transitions I've ever heard within the span of three sentences. Remarkably, I didn't catch one reference to the Tony Parker-Eva Longoria engagement this afternoon, though I expect they'll save that conversation for a game when they don't have "coming up next on ABC..." as an excuse to schill out.

Ugh. If only all the games could be on TNT.

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Dum dum dum d-d-dum dum. D-dum dum dum d-d-dum dum


So apparently there are lots of people out there convinced that the NBA playoffs are largely contingent on the concept of "pressure." At least, that seems the case, as often as the topic comes up during playoff coverage.

Who's the pressure on for this next game? The pressure's on them. No, it's on them! No... if they lose tonight, THEN the pressure will be on them. These guys are young/experienced; they don't feel pressure.

The fixation on the subject is just a tad absurd. Between-game coverage in a seven-game NBA playoff series is a pretty banal on the whole, and these mind-reader debates on "pressure" and "focus" and "energy" only accent the banality. They're the inevitable result of the repetition in a seven-game series. Once all the matchups and backstories have been entirely picked apart--by the end of Game 2 or so--there's nothing left to talk about besides pressure.

And sure. The psychological factors have an impact--especially in the NBA. But are we wasting breath trying to play mind-reader? Is it really worth debating which team feels more pressure entering Game 4 or 5 or 7 or the series itself, as if any of it can account for the ensuing outcomes?

Some pressures may be constructive for a certain player and destructive for another while another pressure might produce the reverse effect on the same two guys. Some players are at the mercy of their every emotion; some are stalwart and robotic.

But the fact remains--all athletes in all situations feel at least some degree of pressure. And even if or when two teams feel a significantly different amount of pressure, can this factor really seize control of a game's outcome? It's almost assumed that the team facing more pressure is at a disadvantage, ignoring the possibility that it could produce an advantage or, more likely, that the effects of pressure on each team will negate themselves and leave the outcome to more substantial factors.

In fact, if we tie the concept of pressure to the other favorite playoff buzzword, "energy," it would seem that teams with more pressure are at potential, though not guaranteed, advantage. Whether they're legit or not, players and coaches throughout these playoffs have regularly blamed losses on and attributed wins to energy level.

Most fans, I think, take the angle as cliche--used by players to either humor us, distract us, or protect their own psyche. Regardless, to assume that more energy (amphetamines?) leads to greater success--a dangerous assumption itself--assumes that more pressure gives a team an edge.

Recalling MEEN104: Introduction to Thermodynamics, I know that U=pV--internal energy equals the product of pressure and volume. (Take that Dr. DeGraw! Turns out I did learn something. Give me a D, will you!) Being a big believer in applying physical principles to the mind-body dynamic, I would conclude that the team with more pressure on them has the greater reserve of energy, which they expend as pressure is released (assuming that a player's volume will remain unchanged throughout the course a game, though Zach Randolph does seem to expand continuously. Then again, I doubt Zach Randolph will ever see the playoffs.)

It would seem, then, that harboring pressure, not simply feeling pressure, is the real danger for a playoff team. A team that can effectively release its pressure on the court is the team that plays with more energy, which--according to D'Antoni, Skiles, Wallace(s), Webber, Sloan, et al--leads to more victories.

In reality, that anticipatory pressure may affect a player's mindset between games, but by the 8:00 mark of the first quarter, most of that pressure gives way to the usual in-game pressures--staying with your man, passing out of a double team, hitting free throws, etc--rendering the build-up pressure talk useless.

Anyway, enough of that. Time for unsubstantiated predictions!

Spurs-Jazz: Jazz in 7 games
Pistons-Cavs: Pistons in 5 games
Tyler Perry's House of Payne: cancelled in 4 weeks



("Clean that up." "What the hell?!" Hahahaha! Where do they come up with that stuff?!?!)

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Van Gundy family apparently unfit to coach in NBA

>> Friday

There are officially, at this moment, no more Van Gundys coaching in the NBA. This could be temporary, as masochist Stan Van Gundy is trying to take the only path worse than retirement: the Charlotte Bobcats (In which case it would be debateable whether a Van Gundy was coaching an NBA team).

Either way, Jeff is gone. Now, there are a lot of reasons that Houston may have decided to fire Jeff Van Gundy. Maybe it's because he couldn't seem to get McGrady and Yao's games to compliment each other. Maybe it's because the Rockets blew a 3-1 series lead and failing to get to the second round yet again. Maybe Houston finally realized that any man that does this is not fit to work the clock at a high school scrimmage.

But my bet, and you can consider this super-insider information, is that he got run out of Houston for his failure to regularly utilize the great unknown weapon of the NBA.

Steve Novak played in a mere 35 games, averaging 5.5 minutes per game, and Van Gundy refused to give him a break from his bench warming role in Steve's return to Milwaukee. I like to think that my scream-til-I'm-hoarse cussing from the upper deck had a hand in Van Gundy's eventual demise.

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I somehow let this slip past

>> Thursday

In case you missed it, the USARPS World Championship was held this week in Las Vegas, and while I'd planned to write an extensive preview post, time ran short on me. All in all, it was as thrilling an RPS tournament as I've ever seen.
For the rest of you RPS fans who couldn't make it to Vegas for the championship, you'll be shocked to learn that Jamie Langridge--a 2-to-1 underdog at the time of the draw--showed a "powerful paper" to upset 2-to-1 favorite David Borne in the finals and take home the championship.
According to post-tournament rumors, Borne was so disgruntled after the loss that he plans to replace both his coach and personal trainer by next season.

(Image courtesy of this guy)

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Oh how I love you sports talk radio

From today's White Sox postgame show, one of the funniest statements I've heard in a while:

Caller [syntax embellished]: Yeah, hey dere... You'll have to check out da stats on dis, but if I remember in two oh five... I mean, uh, two thousand five, da Sox didn't have a single guy hit over .300 or a single pitcher win twenty games.

Host: Yep, that's right. Podsednik led the team with, I think, a .290 batting average.

Caller: It just goes t' show, it's not hitting for a high average that matters, it's hitting timely. You could have a lineup of .220 hitters, but if they get deir hits at da right time, yer gonna score runs and win games.

Host: That's correct. I don't think anyone's gonna argue with you there.

Hello...? Yeah, hey there. Vinnie, from Bloomingdale on my car phone... Big fan of the show, first time caller... Umm, yeah, just wanted to say you're a total dumbshit moron for agreeing with that guy. Other than that, great show. I can tell you're really going places. Go Sox!

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Dumb Sports Rule #578

The International Olympic Committee has told the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid that they must change their bid logo (seen below) because of all things, it looks too much like the Olympic torch.


The IOC says that bid cities logos "shall not contain the Olympic symbol, the Olympic motto, the Olympic flag, any other Olympic-related imagery (e.g. flame, torch, medal, etc.), slogan, designation or other indicia or the distorted version thereof or a design confusingly similar thereto.''

In other words, the logos for the Olympic bids can't use any imagery to let people know that it's for the Olympics. Personally, all I see is a city skyline on top of a stalactite.

Didn't seem to be a problem with New York, London, or Vancouver.

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The Glories of Local Media

This morning getting ready for work, I caught Fox News Chicago's 7-9 broadcast where their "on the town" reporter was at a diner close to the United Center participating in my favorite local news segment, "Ask the locals how the local team is going to do." Needless to say, no one had a negative or even lukewarm opinion on the Bulls' chances.

But that wasn't what got me. The on-the-town reporter, some blonde who I could tell probably couldn't name three players on the current team held up a plate of rather unattractive-looking sausage and eggs and loudly proclaimed,
"And the owner of this diner is SO CONFIDENT that the Bulls are going to win, that he's offered free breakfast to the players tomorrow!"
I found it laughable 1.) Because figuring a $7.00 breakfast for a 12-15 man roster is still looking at topping off around 100 bucks, and 2.) Because professional athletes making millions of dollars are so pinched for money that they'll play extra hard tonight to get a few strips of free bacon and some hash browns tomorrow morning. It's the NBA. They're not a bunch of 17-year-olds going to State.
No word on whether the players will also receive free coffee top-offs and get called "hon" by the likely-sassy waitress.

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This record holds the all-time record for the dumbest record of all time

>> Wednesday

For the third time tonight, I just caught mention of baseball's most thrilling feat since William Van Landingham broke the record for most letters in a name back in 1994: Sammy Sosa hitting a homerun in his record 45th different major-league ballpark.

Talk about the most secondary of tertiary of... quartiary (??) of accomplishments. Let's break this down:

Things about this record attributable to Sosa's abilities:
Hitting lots of homeruns

Things about this record not attributable to Sosa's abilities:
Everything else


And just for fun, here's Sammy's rookie card (Look at that pretty moustache.):

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It's time to clear out this flophouse

Because I so often rag on Bill Simmons, I always find it necessary to note when I feel he's written a fine column (as if I'll somehow impact his readership or something when he's linked from the front page of espn.com, but whatever).

I don't know about anyone else, but I think the constant flops on the defensive end are the single biggest thing detracting from my enjoyment of these playoffs. For example, as excited as I would be to see the Bulls extend their series to seven games, I grew so disgusted watching Crap-tain Kirk flop on every possession that I found it hard to cheer for them.

In fact, from the moment 'Sheed got T'd up (and screamed "You know that ain't right! That's fuckin' bullshit!" within audible range of the TV mic on his way back to the bench), I watched last night's game as a neutral observer. He was right--that call was fuckin' bullshit, as were the--I don't know--dozen or so times I saw Hinrich or another Bull flop last night.

And to answer your previous question--yes, "Crap-tain Kirk" is the best I've got tonight.

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Eavesdropping instead of working

Funny thing I just overheard at work:

Foreign, non-sports-savvy girl in next cubicle, talking into phone: Yeah, hi... I just tried to get into that file, but when I put in the password you gave me, it didn't work... Yeah... Ok, I typed in "L-E-D-R--"... Yeah, "d" as in "dog"... Oh, "b," not "d." Ok, so it's "L-E-B-R-O-N" and then the number "23." Ok, got it... yep, that worked... Thanks.

Ok, so maybe that was a dumb story. It seemed a lot funnier about a minute and a half ago. Anyway, from now on I'm going to refer to LeBron James as "LeDron James." It will be an inside joke with myself.

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Stuff

>> Tuesday

Here's a typically stupid refrain I heard this morning from a typically stupid person known as Steve Phillips on a typically stupid medium known as ESPN Radio:

Greg Maddux has excelled in the major leagues despite an unfortunate deficiency in "stuff."

Here's how the topic came about. Host Trey Wingo asked Phillips whom he considers the pitcher of this generation--Clemens or Maddux. (Who doesn't love vague, irreconcilable barstool debate at 8:30am?) I think Phillips answered Clemens although I'm not really sure because I don't really care. But that's when he pulled out the "stuff" stuff.

Paraphrased, Phillips argued that Clemens has always had better "stuff," but Maddux has had a remarkable career because of his smarts and guile and all sorts of other nebulous qualities that apparently don't qualify as "stuff."

Now anyone who knows me will attest that I revere Greg Maddux--unhealthily so. Therefore, no one is more inclined to paint Maddux's career as a moral triumph than I am, but please Steve (and others), recognize Maddux's strengths for what they really are--strengths.

Maddux has an innate ability to put a ridiculous amount of left-to-right movement on a fastball and middle-to-lower right movement on a changeup/sinker ever since he came into the majors. Moreover, he's done so with the ability to place those pitches within an inch of his intended spot on an ungodly consistent basis. Are these innate physical pitching abilities any less "stuff" than velocity or bite on a slider?

I'm not saying Clemens is a slouch when it comes to control, nor am I saying that Maddux's ability to understand the hitting patterns and swings of opposing hitters aren't rare and unique abilities that transcend typical evaluation of major league pitchers. I'm simply saying that I'm tired of people playing off like Maddux's success has been the result of some black magic or telepathic mind control.

Greg Maddux is a pitcher with phenomenal control, an excellent repetoire, and an incredible grasp on pitch sequencing--all in all, a vast wealth of "stuff."

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Ummmm.....OK

The Mid-Continent Conference has rebranded, changing its name to "The Summit League."
The new conference logo features a silver mountaintop. I can only assume that the Summit is a metaphorical summit, as the conference's members are located in Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, and Utah. Most of those states are not exactly known for their purple mountains' majesty.

The strange part in this game of conference musical chairs is that the conference now known as the Horizon League (formerly known as the Midwest Collegiate Conference) changed its name in 2001 largely as a result of being confused with the Mid-Con. Now the Mid-Con changes its name to Summit League alongside the former Midwestern Collegiate Conference that is now the Horizon League. Follow?

Now if only the MAC, MAAC, and MEAC could sort out their differences...or lack thereof.

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Geezers Everywhere Jump on Napoli Bandwagon

SSC Napoli was a powerhouse of Italian soccer in the mid-to-late 1980s, winning the Italian (at the time the most prestigious) league in 1987 and 1990, paired with a European triumph in the UEFA Cup in 1990. The club eventually went into bankruptcy and fell on hard times, being relegated to the third tier of Italian calcio (The equivalent to our Double-A).

However, after winning the Serie C last season, and having a stellar season in Serie B this year, Napoli are closing in on promotion to Serie A, the top of the pyramid. For a big club like Napoli, this is a welcome day their fans.

But not anymore, thanks to 1950s Italian bombshell and avid Napoli supporter Sofia Loren, aged 72 years. Loren has promised to do a striptease if I ciucciarelli (The Donkeys) make it back to the top flight. While we all gotta get our jollies somehow, no one should be subjected to a nude 72-year old.

Napoli are presently in third place, 5 points behind second-place Genoa for an automatic promotion spot with 5 games to go. Napoli have a match in hand. The teams finishing 3rd-6th are seeded in a tournament to determine the final ticket to Serie A.

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YCS Reaction to the Brett Favre situation

>> Monday

As reported yesterday by Fox Sports, Packers legendary QB Brett Favre asked to be traded following the draft. Unhappy with the Pack not landing Randy Moss and a general lack of adding significant offensive players, Favre feels that the Pack may not be going all-out to win now.

At this point, I think it may be in the best interest for the Pack to trade Favre and see what they have with Aaron Rodgers. While many Packers fans lack faith in Rodgers's potential, you are obligated to see what a first round pick can do before giving up on him. Even with Favre, the Pack look to be a 5-6 win team competing with Detroit to avoid the NFC North basement. There are enough teams with a strong need at quarterback that Favre could net an early round pick. Also, with the way the Packers decision makers have misled Favre, it would be fair to Favre for them to find a situation where he could go out a winner.

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The wheels on the bandwagon go creek, creek, creek

>> Sunday

What do Carlos Santana, Kate Hudson, Luke Wilson, and Snoop Dogg all have in common?

That's right. Before last month, none of them had ever been to a Golden State Warriors game. Ok, well maybe that's unfair speculation, but if you ask me, there's nothing worse than a front-running celebrity fan. They're the worst, Jerry. The worst. I may not be a celebrity, but I know I'd never do that shit.

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Small sample size

But let's use it anyway.

P.J. Brown:
26 min, 6 pts, 3 reb, 0 blk

Tyrus Thomas:
14 min, 10 pts, 7 reb, 1 blk

Oh, well. That still won't fix game three. And Skiles is still a dumb bald midget.

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The question on everyone's mind

>> Friday

How in blazes does the name Biedrins get pronounced Be-a-dritch? When I first heard it during a Bulls game earlier this seaon, I assumed it was just Johnny "Red" Kerr being senile. But apparently he was right. Be-a-dritch. That's the most m3$$3d-up pronunciation since Uwe von Schumman. I mean, Baron Davis didn't play for the UCLA Bruitch, did he?

(Speaking of Baron Davis, I think the other question on everyone's mind is, what's up with Baron's teeth? Like, I've always kind of wondered that when I've seen him play, but there's never been much reason to care until now. Ok, there still isn't.)

This post is really important and should not get bumped for a long, long time.

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Fire Scott Skiles

>> Thursday

This post almost came to fruition after the embarassing first two games, but tonight's chokejob takes the cake. Momentum clearly started changing in the middle of the third quarter, yet Skiles sits on his hands and refuses to make any kind of adjustment. You have an athletic freak, Tyrus Thomas, just sitting on the bench. Skiles refuses to put him in and sticks with waste of space P.J. Brown. Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince both start getting hot on Detroit's end of the floor. You have Thabo Sefolosha ready, who contained one of the best players on the planet in Dwyane Wade during the Miami series. What does Skiles do? You guessed it, stays the rocky course and never dreams of making an adjustment. I haven't even touched on the first two games, where Skiles' crew watched Detroit conduct an offensive exhibition.

I'll readily admit Detroit to be the better team who should win the series. However, they have no business sweeping a team as talented as the Bulls. Yes, Skiles helped turned the Bulls back into a legitimate NBA playoff team. However, these three games have proven the Bulls need a change if they want to take the next step and compete for championships.

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Keeping the 'Brew' in Brewers


Common sense and cool (foamy) heads have finally prevailed, at least in Milwaukee. The Brewers have decided to continue to allow alcohol in the clubhouse.

Some people, Jay Mariotti being one of them, feel like this is the equivalent of pissing on Josh Hancock's grave. Brewers players, like Chris Capuano, see it in a different light:

"For the most part they treat us like adults. There's no curfew on the road. You're expected to handle yourself professionally. Guys are not going to sit in the clubhouse and drink four and five beers and then drive. We would never do anything like that. But it's nice if a guy wants to have a beer after a game that the team is OK with it."

Amen. These bans have been completely knee-jerk reactions to appease fans and whiny sports columnists that climb onto a soapbox to try to sound like a concerned fan with a good sense of morals. It's in the same realm as the propositions that the NBA should ban players from going to clubs. On the surface, you say "How can that be bad?" But this is a potentially slippery slope, because it is a matter of whether professional sports leagues treat their players like people, or property. When you start taking away basic rights because a small percentage of players make dumb decisions, you are coming dangerously close to treating your players like property.

Like Cappy said, allowing your players to have a beer after the game (or in the fourth inning if you're a middle reliever with Roy Oswalt on the mound) is treating them like adults, and I'm sure that the Brewers' biggest sponsor had nothing to do with the decision. Regardless, hopefully more teams can take a page from the Brewers notebook and continue to allow their players the freedom to down a few suds after a game.

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When Brewers Fans Get Hope...

This from YCS fan Scott Genz. Apparently, a new movement is going for fans to "donate" their underpants to the cause, should the Brewers make the playoffs. Since these are Brewers fans we're talking about, they were obvisously intoxicated at the time of making this pledge. Almost worth rooting hard for a Crew playoff appearance to see the waterworks that will allegedly ensue.

Pee Your Pants For The Brewers

And blogged on Deadspin here...

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How did no one on this staff catch this earlier?

>> Wednesday

I think what confounds me the most is that she hesitates before her little slip, as if she's taking time to clarify her thoughts.


NBA Reporter Freudian Slip

She nasty.

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Cutting to the Chase

>> Tuesday

Soccer fans are known throughout the world for visual displays that glorify their team , or poke a little fun at their rivals.

This one from Norway though cuts right to the chase. I imagine it's the kind of fan display the YCS staff would put together if...well....if anyone else on the staff besides me gave a damn about soccer besides a passing interest for a month once every four years.


For the record, FC Lyn Oslo bites.

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Yes, Bill Simmons actually wrote this

>> Monday

Credit to the good folks at KSK for finding this gem of egotism:

It's easy to discount the spiritual impact of basketball crowds ifyou haven't attended a playoff game with special fans before. There'sno way to understand it unless it definitely has happened to you. Thenyou know. As strange as this sounds, it's like a woman being unable to tell whether she's ever had an orgasm. If she thinks it might havehappened, or it felt like it kind of happened one time... it didn'thappen. When it happens, they know. Then they feel stupid for all theother times when they thought it had happened.

On a related note, the folks at Kissing Suzy Kolber consistently produce some hilariously funny stuff and should be a must read for sports humor fans. I particularly enjoyed their Brady Quinn and Lindy Slinger(Quinn's girlfriend) stuff. Anyway, after you've vistited YCS, go to KSK and enjoy their wittiness.

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More ragging on everybody's favorite Canadian


I will not stop.

Here are some, uh, interesting post-game comments from Steve Nash:

"We have to be a little hungrier. I think some of us just didn't have the fire it takes to beat a championship team."

Besides using several meaningless cliches to say "We lost," this is coming dangerously close to throwing your teammates under the bus. Personally, I think it's there, since he is clearly not including himself in this anonymous group of "some of us." But I want a second opinion, since my disproportional hatred for Steve Nash is matched only by my disproportional hatred for Brady Quinn. The only thing that might save him is that it's not obvious who he's referring to since no one on the Suns had a particularly bad game, which might actually make it worse.

What do you say YCS Nation? Does this qualify as throwing your teammates under the bus?

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Michael Hunt presents "Mike's Monologue": No towel edition

>> Sunday

Nate's most recent post reminded me that I haven't kept my promise to update our readers whenever Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Mike Hunt breaks out a new installment of his webcast "Mike's Monologue."

Sure enough, Hunt has delivered two monologues since the last update. In this most recent installment, a straight-from-the-shower Hunt talks to his camcorder about David Halberstam and asks it some trivia questions. Shockingly, it has yet to answer them. But maybe you can.

Enjoy!

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YCS Dallas-area on-location reality sports tour (i.e. Vinnie goes to a Rangers game)

Although it has no bearing on you readers, I've spent the last two weeks in Dallas for my work. That being the case, however, Mike's been prodding me to go on a binge of Dallas sports activities--go to a Rangers game, go to a Mavs game, pretend to watch an FC Dallas game, drive by the Cotton Bowl, hang out with Tony Romo--and then write an on-location-type piece about it.

Well, as expected, I've done exactly one of those things, but to indulge Mike, I'll do a quick little write-up about my day at Rangers Ballpark don't-call-me-Ameriquest-Field in Arlington.

My overall impression: very excellent place to watch a game. It reminds me a good bit of watching a game at Miller Park--new ballpark amenities and atmosphere without the theme park feel and Wrigley Field knock-offs.

I sat in the third row of the bleachers on the rightfield side, just between the grass lawn and the Rangers bullpen where I spent the game chattin' it up with some big old Texan criminologist/psycoanalyst and his son fom Seattle wearing one of those newsie hats. (Freeze frame the hightlights of the Teixeira home run and you just might see us!) Compared to the $XX.xx I'd pay for bleachers at Wrigley, the $15 ticket + $6.00 for my delicious Coors banquet beer (long, long, long-shot grasp for corporate blog sponsorship) was a bargain for what I felt was an excellent spot in the park. And I didn't even have to pay for parking thanks to the free shuttle from Sherlock's Pub and Grill in Arlington (smaller-scale grasp for sponsorship).

The young second-year kid Cameron Loe on Texas and A.J. Burnett treated us to a nice little pitcher's duel; Michael Young hit a clutch (Sorry!) homerun; and Japanesefirstname Otsuka nailed down the save for an exciting Rangers victory. The one thing that irked me was Otsuka's introduction to the sound of "Hell's Bells"--long known as Trevor Hoffman's signature music--but oh well.

On the shuttle back to Sherlock's, I caught sight of the new under-construction Cowboys stadium, which, as far as I can tell, will be large, made of steel and concrete and stuff, and aided by the use of cranes and other large machinery. I also learned of the less-than-shocking Roger Clemens signing from the guy in the seat next to me.

In conclusion, I have no idea where I was going with the post other than to satiate Mike.

Oh, and in totally unrelated information, my delivery guy just told me I have a signature like a famous person and Hollywood, "Tom Cruise-like" look about me, so I'm thinking of trying my hand in acting or finally cutting that album.

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The rules don't apply to Steve Nash

Steve Nash is currently dripping (literally dripping) blood from his nose, and somehow they keep letting him back on the court.

I'm screaming so hard at the TV that I'm about to get a bloody nose myself.

I fucking hate Steve Nash.

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Context, context, context

>> Saturday

Hate crime?

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Do I actually care about this fight?


This is one of those tough moments as a sports fan when you decide whether you jump on with the hype or defiantly go about your own business.
Don't get me wrong; I really enjoy watching boxing. But I know almost nothing about its finer points. Were I to go out of my way tonight to see Mayweather-De La Hoya, it would only be to feel like I'm not missing out. If not for that aspect, would I really feel the need to watch it? Of course not. I could be almost as entertained watching two lightweights knock each other silly on ESPN2. But thanks to the enormous coverage of this fight, I'm gonna feel like a total chump if I miss it.
Well, I've always been one to cave to peer pressure, so I guess I'll go somewhere to watch it and pretend I know what top-notch boxing is. Am I the only one in this boat?

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