Piling onto this Costas Now / Buzz Bissinger business

>> Wednesday

I'm sure that just about every sports blog out there has had something to say today about this Costas Now segment that aired on HBO last night. (Though I wouldn't know because I try to read sports blogs as little as possible. As it is, I already lament the amount of time I spend writing on this one for little more than my own amusement when I could be applying my intellect to so much else). But I wanted to share my own angle on the matter for our tiny audience.

Admittedly, I'm coming from a perspective of sheer ignorance. I don't have HBO, so I didn't see the segment. All I know is what Will Leitch and Michael Schur--two of the featured representatives of the "sports blogging community"--have had to say about it on Deadspin and Fire Joe Morgan, respectively. But the gist of what happened seems pretty self-explanatory: Buzz Bissinger, a sports journalist and author, verbally and maliciously attacked Leitch and everything about sports blogs, evidently lumping them under one huge umbrella.

That, of course, is absurd and unfair. But by no means am I willing to fully defend Deadspin's authors or readers. If you read this blog regularly and haven't yet picked up on this, I think most of Deadspin's content is--quite frankly--trash. Some people consider their reporting of off-beat sports news (i.e. the personal foibles and misadventures of sports figures) a way of "humanizing" the idolized. I consider most of it to be needless humiliation of people subjected to a brighter spotlight than most of us could handle.

I don't have much respect for what Deadspin does, and I resent the fact that they're considered the nexus of the sports-blogging world and somehow respresent a philosophy by which all sports bloggers and young sports fans abide. I'd prefer not to stand under anyone's umbrella, much less that of an entity which--I don't think--represents our blog at all. This--more than anything--is what bothers me about Bissinger's generalization because I can't say I'm very moved by any empathy I may feel for Leitch or anyone else who writes for or reads Deadspin.

I'd be lying if I said that my frustration has nothing to do with petty jealousy because it absolutely does. Even though we mostly write on this blog for our own amusement, everyone likes a little acknowledgment when they think their ideas and work are worth sharing. And in my own egocentric mind, the material we produce when we're "on" is every bit as insightful and entertaining as almost everything I've read on Deadspin or the many other blogs with heavier traffic--many of which transparently kowtow to Deadspin and other higher-profile blogs.

It would also be disingenuous of me if I didn't admit to selfishly using Deadspin for links on a number of occasions to get hits for our posts. I feel bad about doing that because dishonestly allying myself with something I don't respect for selfish motives isn't something I generally do--even if the other party couldn't care less about how I really feel. (Plus the fact that their links never made for more than a single-day bump in hits is all the more reason to say "fuck 'em.")

Personal grievances aside, I think Bissinger and other authors/journalists who resent blogs deserve some defending. It's one thing to write about sports and make it entertaining. Doing that with accountability and limitation--two things that bloggers are, for the most part, spared--is very different. We have the ability to express what paid journalists can't--in large part because we're allowed to screw up infinitely more than they are.

That said, the two media should be able to complement one other. But I also think that bloggers are incredibly guilty of wandering out of our necessary role and stepping on the turf of paid journalists at no benefit to anyone. Some forms of reporting are inherently best fit for those with access and experience, and to copy it on a blog only makes for a redundant, less substantiated version of the real thing. I think this is a legitimate and justifiable source of resentment.

The frustration felt by those who are truly a master at the craft of reporting must be similar to that felt by scientists and political scholars in knowing that the public will formulate its opinions from Fox News and late night talk shows before anything a true expert can say. And don't we all get a little pissed when people listen to someone else's ill-informed take on a matter over our own just because that person is funnier, or better looking, or simply better at speaking the language of his audience?

As much as we accuse mainstream media and journalists of winning esteem merely by speaking the language of the blowhard, old-school fan, bloggers prosper from this dynamic every bit as much, if not more so. It's a simple fact of human nature--we're more likely to listen to like-minded people. And it doesn't help that a lot of blogs essentially hand-pick their readership by honing in on a specific subject matter with a specific bent, which makes for tons of group-think, insularity, unconditional reinforcement, and an unwillingness to recognize our own vulnerability to stagnancy and blowhardedness. I think this, more than anything, is what bothers mainstream journalists who attack bloggers.

I know nothing about Buzz Bissinger, but I'm sure he's a very intelligent guy and not at all the villain he made himself out to be last night. And by all indications, Will Leitch is a really nice guy (as evidenced by his resistance to villainizing Bissinger). As best I can tell, we're all antagonists in this conflict, and we're all just competing for respect the way human beings do.

Leitch didn't need to say a word to defend himself because right now he holds all the cards. As for the Bissinger's of the world, I'm guessing that their hostility, more than anything, is just the frustration of getting older and losing a competition that they're bound to lose for reasons beyond their control. And that's a destiny that awaits all of us, whether we like it or not. Hopefully we can learn something from it, even if we can't do anything about it.


[AMENDED: After actually watching the segment (I wrote most of this on my lunch break at work where streaming video is banned by our server), I don't feel the need to retract anything, and I still feel the same about Deadspin, its devotees, and sports blogs in general. And Bob Costas is a genius. Did I mention we have the same birthday? That's right--March 19 babies (a group that also includes Bruce Willis) are better than everyone else.

AMENDED: Bob Costas was born on March 22. Oops.]

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No Headline I Thought Up Could Top The Original

>> Tuesday

I know we usually don't get too much into athletes' personal lives here, leaving that to the Deadspin folks, but this headline is too funny, and this story is too bizarre to pass on.

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Internet polls are for assholes.
a. Agree
b. Disagree
c. Unsure

Among the many incredibly nerdy things I enjoy is deconstructing stupid voluntary response internet/news polls and predicting the outcomes simply based on the wording of the questions. Of course, you don't have to be valedictorian of Kawamoto Technical High School to realize the problem with these polls. That is, their polling sample exclusively represents the ever-biased "people who care enough about the issue to go out of their way to answer it" demographic, which inevitably misrepresents true public opinion.

Compounding the inherent problems with voluntary response polls is the incredible slant most of these questions have, e.g. "Do you think the CTA el system is a squalid, rickety, outdated pile of shit? Text 'Yes' or 'No' to 58574957340."

So when I saw this SportsNation "Vote!" thing, I thought I'd play a little "Dissect the Survey Questions and Predict the Voting Results."

My guesses:

1. "Top 5" is the most popular because the choices are always set up for the middle choice to win. (And you can discard the last one because it's far more extreme than the others.

2. Obviously the four championships. Three of the other five choices are nonsense, and the average sports fan will say "4 rings > 1 ring, therefore choice A."

3. Again, obviously the middle-of-the-road choice, as it allows for a wide spectrum of feelings on the matter whereas the other two allow for no gray area.

4. Although people are naturally inclined toward complaint and judgment, I'm guessing this is close because of the wording "Do you have a problem..." That means only people with strongly negative feelings on this issue will say yes. If the wording were "Was it appropriate for Riley to miss Heat games to scout college players?" you'd see more "yes" responses.

5. Close vote between Rose and Beasley of course, but it's totally irrelevant to the issue of Riley's legacy.

6. The "role player" like Quinn (and not the scorer or veteran) is a shoe-in whenever this question is asked about a bad team.

7. The answer (as us Marquette fans well know) is always, "We want someone better with a bigger name." Total "no" majority.

8. Total softball again. 15 wins-to-playoffs is something that maybe... 5% of people would call?

9. Stupid, stupid question, but Jackson no doubt wins because he's currently coaching the first place team in the Western Conference, and the entire article above this question has been reminding us what a shit job Riley's done the last two years.

The actual results:

1) Where does Riley rank among the all-time greatest NBA coaches?
35.4% Top 5
33.2% Top 10
21.8% Top 3
9.6% Not in the top 10

2) What has been Riley's greatest accomplishment?
50.8% Coaching Lakers to four NBA championships
15.4% Coaching Miami Heat to their first NBA championship
10.6% Having helped lead the Lakers to a championship both as a player and coach
9.5% Trademarking the word "three-peat"
8.8% Coaching rough-and-tumble Knicks to 1994 Finals
4.8% Accurately predicting his '87 Lakers team would repeat as champions in '88

3) The Heat were plagued with injuries since the start of the season. How much did this play into their 15-67 record?
54.4% It had an effect, but that was only part of the problem
30.3% Injuries are no excuse for winning only 15 games
15.3% It's the sole reason the Heat collapsed

4) Did you have a problem with Riley missing four games this season as head coach so he could scout draft prospects?
51.4% No
48.6% Yes

5) Whom should the Heat pick if they receive the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery?
56.8% Michael Beasley
26.5% Derrick Rose
9.7% Someone else
6.9% O.J. Mayo

6) Which free agent is most important for the Heat to re-sign?
36.3% Chris Quinn
32.5% Jason Williams
31.2% Ricky Davis

7) Should assistant Erik Spoelstra have been promoted to head coach?
50.5% Yes
49.5% No

8) Will the Heat be back in the playoffs next season?
68.2% No
31.8% Yes

9) Pat Riley vs. Phil Jackson: Who wins?
71.2% Jackson
28.8% Riley

Ok, so I blew #7, but it's obvious that my psychological insight is boundless. So don't put your face too close to the monitor, or I'll read your thoughts.

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My Half-Assed NFL Draft Review

>> Sunday

After watching just about all of the NFL Draft proceedings, here would be my terribly important thoughts:

This would be the best draft from Packers in Ted Thompson era. While I like Aaron Rodgers, Brian Brohm would be a great insurance policy who could potentially replace him down the road in a couple of years. Jordy Nelson may not have the upside of a Devin Thomas or Malcolm Kelly, he should be a solid NFL receiver with great character and little downside. Also, his size at 6-3, 217 complements the smaller Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Patrick Lee really came on during the draft process, and should be a nice initial complement and eventual replacement for Al Harris and Charles Woodson. Adding athletic tight end Jermichael Finley later on, along with a heady potential third QB in Matt Flynn makes this a strong effort from the Pack.

While the Vikings did have a ton of picks in abundance, they made them count by getting the best safety on the board in many people's eyes in Arkansas State's Tyrell Johnson, along with USC QB John David Booty (who could eventually push Tarvaris Jackson for Vikes starting job). Notre Dame C John Sullivan had an awful senior season, but his form as an underclassmen showcased nice NFL potential and he could be a good value in the sixth round if he can revert back to old form.

Detroit finally started to re-evaluate their drafting policy for the better, and had a mixed bag of results. The run on offensive tackles forced them to reach on Gosder Cherilus a bit, but he could be a solid RT who can thrive in the run game. Speaking of reaches, LB Jordan Dizon probably got taken 1-2 rounds too early, and Detroit passed on strong prospects in Tavares Gooden, Dan Connor and Xavier Adibi to take the undersized (6-0, 229) Colorado linebacker. Kevin Smith should be a solid pro, but he already has a ton of carries under his belt and may be more prone to injury than your typical rookie. Major props to Matt Millen for taking Army S/LB Caleb Campbell in the seventh round, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he may be one of the Lions best picks in an otherwise underwhelming effort.

Finally, I don't hate the Bears draft, so that would be a marked improvement over a lot of years. Chris Williams should be a solid NFL LT, and after Ryan Clady went off the board to the Broncos, he was the probably the best available prospect at a spot the Bears sorely needed to address. Tulane RB Matt Forte should be solid pick, and he will get a chance to get major carries from day one (especially with rumors that Cedric Benson's leg injury has been slow to heal and may permanently affect him). Jerry Angelo has always been a good second day drafter, and guys like WR Earl Bennett, DT Marcus Harrison and S Craig Stelts should have an opportunity to compete for immediate playing time. TE Kellen Davis would be an intriguing athlete that could potentially be moved in the NFL (also played DE in college), and WR Marcus Monk has nice upside for a seventh round pick (has the size and skills to be effective in the redzone). My one major complaint would be passing on a QB like Erik Ainge in the fourth or fifth rounds, but this could be the draft that infuses the Bears with much needed young talent.

Other random thoughts:
Kansas City "won" the draft, but as long as the Chiefs keep Carl Peterson and Herman Edwards around, they should have plenty of chances to repeat this distinction.

Matt Ryan over Glenn Dorsey will be one of those picks that will haunt the Falcons for years, especially if Dorsey has a Warren Sapp like career and Ryan's mimics Kyle Boller.

Santana Moss will finally have some nice receiving friends in Washington (besides Chris Cooley), and this could make Jason Campbell an intriguing player to follow next year.

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My Half-Assed NFL Draft Preview

>> Friday

I assure that this would be the least researched, most opinionated, biggest waste of time YCS readers have spent on the NFL Draft. I will wisely be eschewing the temptation of doing a Mock Draft that I would have maybe 5 guys correctly slotted, and instead put myself in the mind of Jerry Angelo to help project the first day (where I can somewhat safely say I may have half a clue of what I'm talking about, at least the same as Jerry).

Pick 14:
Heart: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois

Head:
A: Trade Down, to accumulate picks (Bears really need early round prospects at RB, WR, and OT). In a trade down, I really USC OT Sam Baker, Indiana WR James Hardy or Louisville QB Brian Brohm in the 20's. Should he slip because of his toe injury, Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart would be a strong pick there also.

B: Stay at 14 and take one of the following players: OT Ryan Clady, Boise State; OT/OG Branden Albert, Virginia; OT Chris Williams, Vanderbilt

Absolutely Avoid: No one I totally hate, but very iffy about Pittsburgh OT Jeff Otah. Really, any position other than OT or RB would be a giant mistake (along with Mendenhall, I really like Stewart and wouldn't mind taking him at 14 if his health checks out).

Pick #46:
Heart: After taking Mendenhall, the Bears take the best offensive tackle on the board. I would love Sam Baker, who will probably be off the board. I am also intrigued by Kansas OT Anthony Collins, although he may be taken already also.

Head: After villing the void at OT, go after Rutgers RB Ray Rice or Tulane RB Matt Forte. Should he slip, Brohm would be a great value here. He has had health concerns, but I really like the upside of LSU WR Early Doucet and would roll the dice because of his potential (Who may develop into the best WR in this draft.

Absolutely Avoid: Michigan WR Mario Manningham (Literally a poor man's version of David Terrell, because we will likely not stiff being a first round pick). To continue to the Michigan trend, I do not like QB Chad Henne either and really do not understand how his draft stock has vaulted in the recent moments. Oklahoma WR Malcolm Kelly has way too many concerns for me to take this high also (slow, ran a 4.7 40, bad knees, questionable attitude).

For a slightly more professional and objective preview of the draft, check out my column at the Sports Bubbler (cheap plug):
2008 NFL Draft Preview

I know my feelings about Matt Ryan would be shared by our resident football expert, so I feel good about that.

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Kosuke--You may have made a terrible mistake

When Kosuke Fukudome first signed with the Cubs, I was a little worried that Chicago, historically one of the more segregated and racially insensitive major cities in the U.S., would not treat his arrival with the tact and maturity expected of human adults--especially playing in front of what is collectively one of the more obnoxious fanbases in sports.

Of course, those worries have proven resoundingly justified. I guess with the combination of being the first Japanese-born player to play for the Cubs and having a last name that kinda sorta sounds like a naughty word, some grade-A crassness was an inevitability. And that's not to say I'm totally innocent.

Having said that, I'd like to think that among our few readers, there's a mutual understanding that none of us think of foreign-born players as novelties, but as fellow intelligent human beings who are to be regarded for their personal qualities and talents. The same can't necessarily be said of a big-budget radio station that reaches people of all demographics within a sixty-mile radius of Chicago.

So I was a little bothered by a sweeper I heard earlier on WJMK (the same radio station that caused a minor ruckus a few months back with Steve Dahl's "Win a date with Drew Peterson" gag). It went something like:

"We're still trying to figure out how to say the Cubs' new Japanese player's last name without getting in trouble with the FCC."

Maybe I'm reading too much into something that's entirely harmless. But I'm gonna guess that no one from the WJMK marketing department spoke to Kosuke to see if he was cool with that. And if I can speculate some more, I'd guess that Kosuke is still struggling to adjust to Chicago and the challenge of finding people he can relate to as he goes about his daily business. On top of that, he doesn't need to put up with publicly being made a punchline and a novelty among a circle that knows nothing about him outside of baseball.

Maybe Kosuke would have had to deal with this crap no matter where he signed, and maybe the more innocent stuff like "You got Fuked!" doesn't bother him. But it also might. At the very least, I don't think any person in any job or any club wants to be recognized principally as "the Japanese guy" or "the chick" or "the old dude." And the more singularly you possess that trait, the more it must suck.

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YOU BLEW IT!!!!

>> Wednesday

If YCS were to start handing out a "Goat-of-the-week/month/year" award, it would be hard to top Liverpool's John Arne Risse. Liverpool is presently playing their archrivals Chelsea in a two-game, total-goals series to determine who goes to the Champions League Final next month.

Liverpool and Chelsea have met at this stage in the competition three times in the last four years, with the Reds playing Michael Jordan to the Blues' Patrick Ewing. With Liverpool winning 1-0 at home, four minutes of added time were tacked on. At 94:04, Risse dives into infamy.

Time expired seconds later.

The series is now level at one goal a piece, but goals scored on the road are the first tiebreaker, essentially making them worth double. Game 2 is next week at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's home ground, where they have not lost in more than two years.

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Walton: Obama's Performance Horrible

Blame Vinnie for starting this series, but Barry Melrose would not be the only sports pundit who has thoughts on Tuesday's primary. Taking some brief time away from focusing on the NBA playoffs, Bill Walton sat down with YCS to give his thoughts on last nights Pennsylvania primary.

"Barack Obama's performance last night can only be characterized as horrible. That deplorable effort in not putting away an overmatched, fatigued Hillary would be terribly unacceptable and not indicative of a future president. Insulting the voters by calling them bitter and clinging to religion would be the worst strategy since our gameplan against N.C. State on that fateful day in 1974. Now, even the great John Wooden had an occasional off day and hopefully Mr. Obama can rebound from this performance and finally deliver that knockout blow in Indiana. We need Mr. Obama to take control of this primary and not allow for John McCain to crawl his way back into this presidential race that the American people want to give back to the Democratic party that deserves this opportunity to take control like the 1986 Celtics did once they acquired my services. I plea to the American people: end this silliness now and unite in our quest to bring about change."

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Melrose: Clinton proves she's a fighter, winner

With the 2008 United States presidential race heating up by the hour, YCS is doing its best to stay on top of every twist and turn. As part of our coverage, we're seeking out the top analysts in the world of sports to share their unique perspectives on the most recent developments in the race. In the first installment of our series, popular hockey analyst Barry Melrose breaks down Senator Clinton's win in the Pennsyvania primary.


With yesterday's win in the Pennsyvania primary, Senator Clinton proved once again what a fighter and a winner she is.

People have been talking a lot lately that she should give up or do this or that, but Senator Clinton is a tough kid and a true competitor and never backs down from a fight. She's a savvy veteran who's been through battles and taken her lumps and come oat on top, and yesterday she proved again that she's a true winner.

Everyone's talking about the numbers and delegate counts and saying it's over, but I don't care aboat any of that nonsense. The name of the game is to just win baby, and that's what she did on Tuesday. You never give up in this game of politics because you never know when the momentum is gonna turn in your favor.

I like Hillary Clinton's chances in Indiana because winning the Democratic presidential nomination takes a fighter and a winner, and that's what Hillary Clinton is.

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Random Jersey Sighting of the Day for April 23, 2008

Today's honor goes to the crossing guard at Grant-White Elementary School in Forest Park. On most days I pass the school, the crossing guard is in the standard "safety yellow" vest. But today, evidently, he felt he would better grab the attention of motorists with a...


Shareef Abdur-Raheem Atlanta Hawks jersey!

It sorta made me wonder whether he was really the crossing guard or just some crazy guy with a stop sign. Actually, come to think of it, the stop sign was on the end of a long metal post, which I found kind of odd, and instead of walking kids across the street, he was walking squirrels and lawn chairs.

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Join YCS in celebrating Earth Day

>> Tuesday

Every once in a while, we like to use this blog to do something socially responsible. With today being Earth Day, as a show of solidarity for the people of Earth, we are lending our support to the environmentalist cause the best way we know how.

That's right--For today, all of our posts will be written in....

GREEN TEXT!

By writing our posts in green text, we believe we can raise awareness of important global environmental issues among America's youth, who so often come here for spiritual guidance.

We also encourage all of you to observe Earth Day by practicing resource conservation--not only throughout today but every day of the year. You can start by turning off your computer once you've finished reading this post and re-reading our entire archives. You see, in the time it took you to read that last sentence, you created another 60,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and killed four trees. That sentence? Another five trees. They're adding up fast, dude. Better turn off your computer and get outside and start planting.

Some other suggestions for conserving resources:

-Instead of driving home from work or school, take your bike or hail a rickshaw.

-Opt for tap water over bottled water. For best results, put your mouth directly around the faucet to avoid the risk of spillage.

-Go to your nearest beverage vending machine, purchase its entire contents, empty each bottle into the sink, and recycle the empties. This way, you know they'll all be recycled, and absolutely nothing gets wasted.

-Don't just throw away your trash until you've explored all ways in which it can be used for biofuel. Objects like disposable silverware and broken rubberbands can be used to craft a small turbine that you can operate with an uncontrolled burn of the combustible trash, which can be used to power your electric toothbrush.

And remember, kids: Some things, like the well-being of our planet, are more important than sports. And that's why we at YCS always take these matters very, very seriously.

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Transcription of Pope Benedict's homily at Yankee Stadium

>> Sunday


Good afternoon, Catholics! Great to be here! Wow, it's great to be doing mass here in the "House that Ruth Built"...

[Wooooo!]

And I don't mean the author of the eighteenth book of the Old Testament.

[laughter]

Boy, I see all of you at there walking around the infield dirt... I haven't seen that kind of traffic on the basepaths since the last time Jeff Weaver pitched here.

[laughter]

Looking out to my left, I see all of you standing where Alex Rodriguez would normally be playing third base.

[Woooo!]

Please, while you're out there, try not to choke.

[Laughter, howling]

I don't want to call on my divine intervention because I have to resuscitate you.

[Laughter]

I tell ya, being in this town can be real tough on a guy with connections to the Almighty. I can't go five minutes without some Yankees fan asking me to re-curse the Red Sox.

[Laughter]

Speaking of Boston, I think you all heard what I had to say about those priests in the Boston Archdiocese.

[Boos]

Hold on, now... Are you booing child molestation...?

[mild booing]

...Or the city of Boston...?

[resounding boos]

Boy, you New Yorkers are tough. The other day, an Italian fella in South Brooklyn came up to me and said, "Dos' Boston priests are real assholes, eh?"...

[woooo!!!]

And I said, "Hey now... They're good guys, eh."

And all of a sudden he's yelling to his friends, "Hey, yous! Look! It's Pope Benedict Arnold!"

[polite aplause, crowd realizing that joke was far too contrived]

Did you all see Billy Crystal hitting in spring training?

[howls]

Yeah, he struck out.

[Awwww...]

I think that might have been the best at bat a Jew has ever had!

[raucous applause, cheers]

...You know, because they're bad at baseball!

[In unison: "We got it, Pope!" ...(Single voice: "What about Ryan Bruan?!")]

Ok... Just making sure. ...Well, hey, I'm getting the wrap-it-up sign from Monsignor, so I'd better call it a day.

[Awwwwww!!!!]

You've been a great audience, and I can't wait to get back!

[Wooooooo!!!!]

Thank you, thank you [pantomime golf swing]...

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Doctor Dictionary

(Everyone else here subscribes to the dictionary.com Word of the Day, right? No? Shut up... you're a nerd.)

This one's been bugging me for a while--"physicality." It was especially prevalent during the NCAA Tournament, but I've heard it used a number of times since on NBA broadcasts, Baseball Tonight, etc. The latest offender: Bob Ley, one of ESPN's few legitimate journalists, used "physicality" during NBA highlights on Sportscenter (where he's unnecessarily put out of his element) a few minutes ago.

Commentators have used this word to conote ~ "a physical nature" or "physical style of play." What does Mr. Webster have to say about this?

phys·i·cal·i·ty
–noun, plural -ties.
1. the physical attributes of a person, esp. when overdeveloped or overemphasized.
2. preoccupation with one's body, physical needs, or appetites.

Sorry, fellas. Unless you mean to say that Tyson Chandler is staring at his reflection in the backboard while pulling down rebounds or craving someone's pralines in the stands as he runs up the floor, you're not even close.

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Vinnie's not-as-long-as-originally-billed NBA Playoff preview: the West

>> Saturday

1 L.A. Lakers vs. 8 Denver

The Lakers: If Andrew Bynum gets going, no one can stop this team. That's what Stephen A. said, so I'm going with that.

The Nuggets: Earlier this year, I saw J.R. Smith go off for seven 3s in a quarter against the Bulls. 84.0 ppg anyone? If there's a player who can pull it off, it's J.R.

Pick: The Lakers overcome Smith's heroics, win in 5.

2 New Orleans vs. 7 Dallas

The Hornets: I brought in our old pal Ted to break this one down. "I really like Charlotte's chances. They've been an up-and-coming franchise for a while now. I think the 'Beehive' will really come alive again with the Hornets back in the playoffs. I like them to make a run."

(Shhh... Keep quiet! Don't upset him. He'll hear eventually.)

The Mavs: Last year I was in Dallas on business while the Mavs were getting upset by the Warriors. Man, what a lame city that is. The most exciting thing to do around there is go to Rangers games or cruise around downtown humming the Dallas theme to yourself. I remember the day before Game 6, I had to go to some two-horse suburb called Temple. I came down with some wicked virus or bacterial thing, and I slept for about twenty-two hours straight in a dumpy Days Inn hotel room. And when I was awake, I was in the bathroom every half-hour. I hope I don't have to go there again anytime soon. Needless to say, I was happy to watch the Mavs lose.

Pick: Charlotte *wink* in 5.

3 San Antonio vs. 6 Phoenix

The Spurs: I hope these thugs get what's coming to them this year, and I don't mean those flowers Matt sent to Fabrico Oberto [rimshot]. I mean pain. And lots of it.

The Suns: Shaq looks like a man possessed since coming to Phoenix. Though I guess he always sorta looked like that. I've seen his soul, and he is pure evil.

Pick: Suns in 7 (because Barry Melrose thinks Steve Nash is the best player on the planet. And if anyone would know that, it's Barry Melrose.)

4 Utah vs. 5 Houston

The Jazz: No one wants to have to guard Carlos Boozer--not because he's a tough matchup but because his chest hair grosses them out.

The Rockets: Who'd have guessed back in 1991 that Dikembe Mutombo would be a starting center on a 55-win team in the playoffs? Incredibly, I did. Check out this journal entry I wrote when I was seven:

Dear jernal
Today was the werst. I tript gitting of the bus and Tyler laffed at me. I forgot my lunch but Billy gave me his banana but it was'nt ripe and Eric gave me his gushers but i was stil hungrey. I do'nt like to be a cherity case. Beging for food from frends robs a child of his dignetty. I wunder if Jenny saw me pick my nose at storey time. I thuoght no one saw but i do'nt no. Dikemby Matumbo is my faverit basketbal player and he will play in 20008. The docter sed I will be 6 feet tal then. I will be grate at basketbal like Dikemby Matumbo or pich for the Cubs and hav a thousend dollers.

Ok, so maybe I hadn't developed my understanding of numbers yet, and I couldn't spell his name right (I still can't usually), but you could tell what I meant. (And wow, that dignity thing was some pretty insightful stuff from a seven year-old, no?)

Pick: Jazz in 6.

Eastern Conference Finals: Chalk. You'd be crazy not to. But the Pistons win, except that you know they'll get screwed again and lose because of it. If you're confused who I'm picking, you're not alone.
Western Conference Finals: Lakers-Suns. Ooooh, the intrigue! Shaq-Kobe! Raja Bell-Kobe! Garicek-Vujacic (in a battle of Slavs)!
Finals pick: Lakers over Pistons.

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Vinnie's long, unnecessary, half-assed, insight-free NBA Playoff preview

>> Friday

To make up for missing out on my second annual long, unnecessary,, half-assed MLB preview, I thought I'd give our audience a similarly asenine preview for a sport that I'm even less qualified to analyze. So let's get to this.

I'll start with the much disrespected Eastern Conference because no one else seems to be interested in them. And hey--maybe the East was just more top-heavy and unlucky, no?

No? Ok, you're right.

1 Boston vs. 8 Atlanta

The skinny on the Celtics: To quote our good friend Bill Simmons, "The Celtics are awesome and perpetually the most interesting topic in sports, despite how interesting or uninteresting they may be. I remember watching Game 3 of the 1985 conference semis with my dad in the Garden. Late in the third quarter, Dennis Johnson hit a fallaway jumper to put the C's up by four, and I remember my dad saying, 'DJ is gonna die too young from a heart attack. I just have that feeling.' I thought it was an odd thing to say at the time, but of course, Dad proved to be right. Last week I was watching the C's second-to-last game with my buddy Gus, and after Kendrick Perkins missed a free throw coming out of a timeout, Gus let out a monstrous fart that blew open my April ESPN The Magazine issue to the first page of my column. We must have laughed for ten minutes striaght."

The low-down on the Hawks: The Hawks finally answered the question that basketball fans have been asking since 1999: Can Atlanta get back to the playoffs without Steve Smith? The answer: a resounding "almost." But this year in the East, almost does count.

Pick: Celtics in 3... Huh? Oh... right. They do best-of-seven in the first round now. Ok, fine... Celtics in... 7.

2 Detroit vs. 7 Philadelphia

The buzz on the Pistons: These guys are very experienced in this situation. The situation: Playing the game of baketball. I think that experience is going to help them do the things they need to do to win, like dribbling the basketball, not picking up the basketball and walking around with it in the middle of a possession, and most importantly, putting their shoes on the correct feet.

The word on the 76ers: Their fortunes will depend on the play of Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Yong, Andre Miller, and Samuel Dalembert. And there--I've just named every player I know on the Sixers.

Pick: Pistons in 4, unless the refs intentionally screw them like they do every year.

3. Orlando vs. 6 Toronto

The straight-dope on the Magic: Did you see that dunk Dwight Howard did at the All-Star Game? Yeah, with the cape... That was fucking awesome!

The Raptors: Did you see that Youtube video that Chris Bosh made to campaign for All-Star Game votes? Yeah, with the cowboy hat... That was fucking hilarious!

Pick: If this were the 1988 playoffs, neither of these teams would have existed. Therefore, I will not recognize any team who may or may not win this series.

4. Cleveland vs. 5. Washington

The Cavaliersss: I agree with Deshaun Stevenson. LeBron is overrated. Not at basketball but at playing the harmonica. He's no John Popper, that's for sure.

The Wizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....... Whoa, shit. I just dozed off. Not a commentary on the team. Gilbert Arenas and stuff.

Pick: Wiz in 6 (unless the games are fixed for LeBron like they were last year)


The West preview coming tomorrow when I wake up...

(Just kidding. I guarantee I never finish.)

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Idea For Bulls Coach

Once again, it would be coaching search time for one of my teams (although I use the phrase my team fairly loosely this year, I just can't take bad NBA basketball). Grant it, Vinnie probably cares about this a little more than I do, but I just thought of an outside the box idea here (the retread names being thrown around do nothing for me). Why not take a chance with John Calipari? I think his time at Memphis, especially learning and perfecting the dribble drive motion offense, would benefit him in a second NBA go around. The culture at Memphis, dealing well with a large group of heralded players, should also prepare Cal for a second go round with NBA players. His relationship with William "World Wide Wes" Wesley, a respected and well known figure in basketball, aids Cal in having the credibility to deal with NBA egos. From what I have heard, Calipari has expressed interest in the Knicks job, so this would not be totally outlandish from his end.

While most people chalk up his first NBA tenure as horribly bad, it would not be as bad as most people think. In his second season with the Nets, they won 43 games and made the playoffs back when the East was not a joke. In his third season, injuries and the lockout marred what turned out to be his final coaching run in the NBA. With more maturity and a very positive experience at Memphis, I think Calipari could be that rare college coach who succeeds in the NBA. I think the idea has a lot more merit than people who would casually dismiss this out of hand, and frankly expect it to be better than whatever retread Paxson eventually settles on.

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Baseball Rant Time

Okay, so it's near the end of a convincing Sox win, but here's a beauty from Ed Farmer on Rays first baseman Carlos Pena:

His batting average is down, but I'd like to see what his on base percentage would be, although that really doesn't matter for a clean-up hitter:

Umm Ed, OBP should be an important stat for every fucking person in the line-up.

If you get on base, that means you did not make an out (the ultimate goal for every at bat). With an OPS+ currently at 129, I would not be sweating the fact he's batting .179 now (OBP of .343)

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Totetsumonai!

My advice to this kid:

1. Ice that arm.
2. Get a new arm.
3. Sue your coach.
4. Kill your coach.
5. Plea self-defense.
6. Watch out for those guys in cell block 邪. They're a rough lot.

How could a coach leave his pitcher in for 250 pitches??? He's a flippin' high schooler! I don't think Wilbur Wood even threw that many pitches in a game. I hope for the kid's sake that he threw those last 165 underhand.

And that's to say nothing of the humiliation. Assuming they play 7-inning games in Japanese high school ball like we do here in Amrrrica, that's a 346.51 ERA for the game (445.51 ERA if they happen to play nine). That's insane.

That coach needs to be fired, or at least sentenced to death. What a cock.

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What was this I heard about an Earthquake?

As I'm awake much earlier than normal today, I hear the news about an Earthquake in Illinois.

The more pressing question may be, how many aftershocks did Jimmy Hart call for?

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Spinoff plug

With this short post, I'm balancing a long serious post on soccer (and not wasting much valuable e-ink on this blog with it) with the shameless promotion of my occasionally-updated spinoff blog You're Not Singing Anymore.

In it, I comment on a lot of the recent talk of allowing MLS teams to compete in the Copa Libertadores, South America's version of the Champions League, and one of the most prestigious competitions in the world. It's a move that could potentially shake up the sport in this hemisphere. I suppose it would be the equivalent of giving CFL teams a shot at the Super Bowl...or Carribean League teams a chance to take on Major Leaguers.

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NFL Prognosticator: Los Angeles Relocation

>> Thursday

Developers have announced the latest plans for a new Los Angeles stadium, and has offered it as a carrot for any team that "wants to relocate." But with the NFL at an all-time high for popularity, pervasiveness and revenues...and with no expansion likely...who would?

We start with 32 NFL teams. I would have to think that any team that built a new stadium since 1995 is out. There's no way any team in the league could get a new stadium with help from state and local government in the future if that happened. The outcry against taxpayer dollars (almost always needed at least in part for a stadium suited for the NFL) being used to support a team that bolts, leaving a white elephant would be prohibitive, and could sully the negotiations for the next round of stadiums.

OUT
Carolina (1996)
Washington (1997)
Baltimore (1998)
Tampa Bay (1998)
Cleveland (1999)
Tennessee (1999)
Cincinnati (2000)
Pittsburgh (2001)
Denver (2001)
Detroit (2002)
New England (2002)
Seattle (2002)
Houston (2002)
Philadelphia (2003)
Chicago (Soldier Field renovated 2003)
Green Bay (Lambeau Field renovated 2003)
Arizona (2006)
Kansas City (Arrowhead undergoing renovations)
New York Giants (New Meadowlands Stadium under construction)
New York Jets (New Meadowlands Stadium under construction)
Indianapolis Colts (Lucas Oil Field under construction)
Dallas Cowboys (New Cowboys Stadium under construction)

With that, we're down to 10 teams.
San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, Minnesota, St. Louis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami, Buffalo, and Jacksonville.

From here, the next logical step would be to pick the smallest media market, hoping the NFL could upgrade to LA, but frankly, since LA is the #2 media market in the country, any team would be an upgrade.

The NFL seems to be angling to get Buffalo into Toronto, so that is not an option. Miami, Buffalo, Minnesota, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Jacksonville could not be moved without a major reshuffling of divisions and upending of traditional rivalries, which was one of the main goals in the NFL's move to an 8-division system. Assuming the NFL still has respect for that tradition, we're down to 4. San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, and St. Louis.

San Diego, St. Louis and Oakland would appear to be candidates on the surface simply because of their prior ties to the LA area. However, I can't see the Raiders or Rams moving to LA....again...

As far as proposed new stadiums, San Francisco's bid for a new stadium has run into numerous political issues, making them a likely candidate. However, the NFL may be reluctant to move such a historical franchise. Prior recent relocations (Rams, Raiders, Browns/Ravens, Oilers/Titans) were largely franchises that were less than successful in those homes. I believe there are only two Super Bowl appearances between those four franchises in their former homes).

San Diego's proposed stadium has not yet panned out, and would arguably be the most minimally-impacted move since San Diego is only 2 hours away from LA, about the same distance from Milwaukee to Green Bay. Existing Chargers fans would be able to make the commute, perhaps similar to the Packers' model of having games for Milwaukee ticket-holders. The Chargers have already made LA inroads, (the Chargers already have held training camp at the Home Depot Center in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson), and are playing in the third-oldest stadium in the league. So of all the teams that COULD relocate, the Los Angeles Chargers appears to be the most likely on the surface. Someone who knows more about day-to-day NFL politics want to chime in?

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A Message From the Marquette Family

>> Wednesday

Continuing today's theme of classy posts, here would be a message to St. Anthony's coach Bob Hurley from the Marquette family:

Go Fuck Yourself

Motivation for said message:

The truth about Bob Hurley

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Crass (as if you'd expect otherwise)

>> Tuesday




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Only in New York!

>> Monday

So last week, some prankster construction worker, who's evidently a big Red Sox fan, burried a David Ortiz jersey in a concrete pour that would have been part of the Yankees' locker room in New Yankee Stadium.

Only in New York!

And when word broke of this practical joker's mischievous hijinks, it caused panic among Yankee fans everywhere and prompted an official statement from the Yankees on the matter--roughly, "Posh! That never happened and there's no such thing as a 'jinx.'"

Only in New York!

And then this weekend--after a grueling 18-hour interrogation with the construction crew that involved (I'm guessing now) waterboarding, water deprivation, Chinese water torture, and a bunch of other water-related stuff--the Yankees' brass learned that the prank actually occurred, as well as the whereabouts of the jersey, and ordered the jinxing agent unearthed from the stadium's foundation.

Only in New York!

Seems a little ridiculous, huh? These are grown adults with well-paying jobs? I mean, I'd love to see that change-order, am I right? Well--wait, what? Oh weird... someone just emailed me a scanned copy of it. How do you like that?

Wow, organized labor is expensive in the Bronx. $57/hour for a jackhammer guy?

Only in New York!

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Who's your MVP of the over-40 crowd?

>> Sunday





I was watching the Phils-Cubs game today, and I couldn't help but notice that Jamie Moyer, the oldest active player in the MLB, is actually still being paid to play the game.

As one of the least knowledgeable and least regular contributors to this blog, I won't try to offer any insight or wax poetic on older players in baseball. I will however ask all of you to vote for your MVP of the MLB over-40 crowd and briefly justify your choice.

Your nominees are as follows:
Jamie Moyer - 45
Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux - 42
John Smoltz, Doug Brocail - 41
Jeff Kent, Kent Mercker, Luis Gonzalez, Tom Gordon, and Trevor Hoffman - 40

I couldn't help but notice that four of the five starting pitchers from the '95 Braves are on the list. It's too bad Steve Avery didn't stick around too. I'd still take Maddux because (1.) he's Maddux, and (2.) good starting pitching is harder to come by.

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The joys of hockey ignorance

As I sorta kinda started getting back into the NHL earlier this year after not caring for a solid five years, I figued, "Man, I bet I won't recognize anyone playing in the NHL anymore."

Much to my surprise, it was like the league was frozen in time (oh shit... unintentional pun... better run with it) under the word "Hockeytown" at center ice of Joe Louis arena, smoothed over by a zamboni and occasionally pelted by an octopus during those five years.

It seems as though once per period, I find myself saying, "He's still in the NHL?!"

After watching some first-round playoff action the last few nights, I've compiled a short list of playoff competitors who've sparked that reaction:

Alexei Kovalev
Dallas Drake
Curtis Joseph
Mathieu Schneider
Nick Lidstrom
Darren McCarty
Brendan Shanahan
Keith Carney

Which is to say nothing of the old guys I was already aware of (e.g. Chelios, Hasek, Federov, Modano, Jagr, Selanne). Don't get me wrong--I'm not making fun or saying these guys are washed up (after all, I really wouldn't know). In fact, I've always admired the way hockey players are able to play such a physical sport at a high level into their late 30s and 40s.

Mostly, I find it comforting to see so many familiar faces and names in these playoffs because it reminds me that I haven't let the world (or at least the part of it I can watch on cable sports channels) fly on past me as badly as I thought.

Hey, speaking of hockey, here's a thought I had: Can you imagine if a Sabermetric-like philosophy toward hockey analysis started to take hold of the mainstream the way it has in baseball? Can you imagine the resistance?

Compared to baseball, hockey has, I think, way more of the intangible-loving, "this guy plays the game right" old-school dogma entrenched both in its tradition and its current analysis. For God's sake, the silly "three stars" thing is still considered a noteworthy component of a hockey postgame.

Not only that, but I think hockey is even more dominated by semi-arbitrary and luck-driven stats like +/- and, for that matter, the assist. Can you imagine if some new metric showed that Marty Brodeur is actually a league-average goaltender? Or that Ray Borque was only stealing ice time from a more deserving replacement when he won the Stanley Cup in 2001? There would be a revolt. It would be madness.

Anyway, I'm gonna stop before I prove myself a bigger ignoramous than I already have.

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FSC's Studio Announcers hurt my head

>> Saturday

Yes, I know I'm probably the only one on this blog who watches FSC, but earlier today, with Fulham up 1-0 at halftime (and having not won on the road in 34 games), the studio host with his British accent said,


"It's been 34 games since Fulham lost one on the road."

I sat stunned. He got the storyline of the game completely wrong. Then I translated into American English.

"It's been 34 games since Fulham LAST WON on the road."

Damn English...

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More bogus stats: Was John Calipari full of shit?

>> Wednesday

Ok, so this is a couple days north of relevant, but a few nagging questions have been on my mind since Monday, namely:

1. What did I do with my Brewers floppy hat?
2. Do all of my friends secretly hate me?
3. Is the roach poison in my apartment slowly giving me cancer?
4. Who's that actor in that one movie, and where do I know him from?
5. Will I die alone?
...and most importantly,
6. Was Memphis actually able to hit their free throws "when they counted," as John Calipari claimed they would, or was it just random chance that they improved in the NCAA Tournament?

So far, I've concluded, 1. Check your "hat shelf," dumbass, 2. Probably, but I might be paranoid, 3. I won't live forever anyway, 4. bit part on Home Improvement!, 5. In a sense, we all do, and 6. Let's look at the numbers!

So I went to this sweet Z-Score for two proportions calculator and sought my answer.

Here's the problem: I'm not totally sure if this is the right statistical test for the situation because 11th-grade stats was a long time ago. But if it is the right test, here's what I found.

I plugged in the pre-tourney sample of 495 makes in 830 attempts (59.6%) and compared it to Memphis's free throw stats from their first five tourney games (113-161, good for 70.2%).

The result? A 1.5% chance that the improvement was a result of pure random chance and not some tangible factor, i.e. motivation.

But here's the hitch: In Game One against Doormat U., the Tigers shot a very un-Dana Barros-like 22-35 (62.85714%). And in Game Two--their closest game prior to the final--against Mississippi St., they shot a very Chris Dudley-like 15-32 (46.875%).

(And by the way, to reaffirm how awesome I am with numbers, those were mentally-generated percentages... Check me with a calculator if you dare.)

So... Giving Memphis the benefit of the doubt--i.e. that rounds one and two only require concentration from sucker teams, even when it's a close game--their games 3-5 total comes out to 76-94 (80.9%).

The result:

There's less than a 0.1% chance that the 21.3% difference between pre-tourney Memphis and games 3-5 Memphis was a fluke.

In conclusion: John Calipari was, at most 1.5% full of shit. And CDR is a worthless choker for costing me money in my office pool. And you don't care about any of this. And I still can't find my floppy hat. Where is my fucking floppy hat?

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Free Tibet? OK. I'll have some.

>> Tuesday

With the Summer Olympics drawing near, it's time for everyone's favorite pasttime. I'm of course referring to using sport as a metaphor for your country's national history , or in using sport to express your political aims.

Talk has cropped up on a couple of cable new shows speculating on whether the United States will boycott the Olympic Games in Beijing due to recent Chinese crackdowns in Tibet. You may remember Tibet as the country most famous for not being its own country.
Anyone who argues we should boycott the games is spewing pure, total bullshit, and here's why.

1.) Olympic Boycotts accomplish nothing in terms of real, actual foreign policy gains. The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the USSR's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Surprise! It didn't work, and the Soviets remained in Afghanistan for another 10 years. While each US President had their own approach to Containment policy during the Cold War, President Carter's was perhaps the most bizarre. Truman went to Korea, Reagan outspent the Soviets on defense, Nixon opened diplomatic relations with China, LBJ sent troops to Vietnam, and Jimmy Carter said, "You invade Afghanistan? Oh yea? Well guess what, buddy? We're not going to the Olympics! Yea! We got you now! Now you're going to win EVEN MORE gold medals than you usually do!" A boycott of China would accomplish exactly the same. It reeks of the kid who doesn't like the way the game is being played, so he's taking his ball and going home.
If you really want to play the tough love game with China, then take a step that at least LOOKS like it might accomplish something, along the lines of "don't import from them", like the trade embargo we have with Cuba (who has a similar human rights record, but there's apparently no problem with the US National team potentially heading there for World Cup Qualifiers later this year). Loss of trade and commerce with China is really undoable at this point for a variety of reasons, so that is not an option. Fortunately for pols playing to their fanbases, an Olympic boycott would look like we were actually accomplishing something, and many would be too stupid to know the difference .

2.) Unlike the kid who takes his ball home, a boycott will not hurt the Games substantially. In reprisal for the 1980 American-led boycott, the Soviets boycotted the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, and those games are widely considered to be among the best in history. Given the United States' relative standing in the foreign arena right now, I think we can count on even fewer countries to join in the boycott as did in 1980. The Beijing games will be a success.

3.) Don't act all surprised that China reacted swiftly and harshly with a clampdown on Tibetan protestors. Don't be appalled at China's actions just because they are laying the hammer down on Richard Gere's crew. If you're going to be appalled at anything, be appalled at the PRC's human rights record over the past 60 years. The recent transpirings in Tibet is nothing new. China has repressed political freedoms, committed hoardes of human rights abuses over the years, and most unforgivably, has banned Yellow Chair Sports' subversive message from the masses.

4.) A boycott is unfair to the athletes. The United States sends one of the largest delegations to the Olympics every year. Each of these athletes are at the pinnacle of performance, and have spent their entire lives training just to have a chance to compete for a medal and wear their country's colors. Many of these athletes have the Olympics as their sole avenue for glory, as many sports (swimming, track, gymnastics, etc.) are not revenue generating on the level that football, basketball, and baseball are. To have all that work undone possibly by one State Department official announcing an official boycott is the height of unfairness. China will not change its policies as a result. The only people that will get hurt are the athletes.
5.) Plus, a boycott may not even stop the athletes from competing under the Olympic flag (as neutrals), as a number of countries including Australia and Denmark did in 1980. So the end result would be the United States (or any boycotting nation) look like the kid who wants to take their ball and go home.....who leaves the ball on the playground and goes home anyway.

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Thoughts on Buzz Williams Being the New Marquette Coach

When the search started, I supported Buzz, especially if Marquette could not land the home run hire. Despite coming pretty close to landing Tony Bennett (Vinnie's nightmare), Marquette has decided to go with Buzz Williams and I think this would be a very good move. During my time following Marquette, Williams definitely seemed to the best assistant the former coach decided to bring on board. He immediately played a big role in salvaging what looked to be another disappointing recruiting class by using his Texas roots to land sleeper wing Joseph Fulce and raw but talented big man Chris O'Tule. Buzz also played a major role in helping Marquette land big time guard Tyshawn Taylor of St. Anthony's, and I still think Buzz has a chance to keep Taylor on board (as much as any of the prospective hires). Also, the hire of Buzz should ensure that Marquette's major commitment from 2009, top 100 Texas wing Erik Williams, will stay on board. The most important factor in all of this would be that the core of a very strong Big East team, including the four all-conference level upperclassmen (Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward), should now be back for a 2009 season that features a group with a lot to prove still (with their head coach himself looking to prove a lot of people wrong).

Now, as a strong Buzz supporter, there would no question that this would be a gamble, as his head coaching slate would basically be clean (his one year at New Orleans a wash in my opinion). However, I think his recruiting prowess should ensure that we will continue to have talent to win and potentially win big. Along with the former head coach here, Buzz comes with a strong recommendation from one of the best in the biz currently, Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie (whom Buzz partnered with at Texas A&M to get the Aggies program off the ground and into the national spotlight). If you make a mistake in hiring a coach, you do so erring on the side of recruiting. For all of the hand wringing, my guess is that a similar reaction occurred from some Pitt fans when they chose to promote Jamie Dixon in 2003 (a good framework for how the Buzz era will go at Marquette in my estimations). Five NCAA Tournaments, 2 Sweet 16's and five straight seasons of double digit Big East wins, and Dixon would be one the hottest coaching commodities on the market (and potentially could be in contention for a potential Kansas opening should Self take the money and come home). I have a good feeling that five years from now, Marquette will be hoping to keep their hot young coach who has amassed a very successful run of his own here. It did not take much for me to jump on board Buzz's bandwagon where he came here as in professing him to be a hot young coach, and I think many of the dissenters will be jumping on board pretty soon when we see what he's capable of on the recruiting trail.

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"Well, Kansas has been in this spot before..." and other stupid comments by Billy Packer

>> Monday


I have long held a disdain for the terrible tandem of Billy Packer and Jim Nance, but my frustrations have reached new heights. His idiocy this weekend was intolerable. He sucks in so many ways, and CBS should stop rewarding him with the best jobs based solely on his longevity and seniority.

Here are his most salient transgressions from the past 72 hours:

  • "Kansas has been in this spot before in a championship game... The 1957 team played in overtime when they won the championship." What? Did he just suggest a connection between this OT game and a game played 51 years ago? Did anyone else catch this comment? This suggestion is almost absurd as Cubs' fans saying they have been suffering for 100 years. Seriously. I thought he was going to reference some big OT game that KU pulled out this year (or even last year!), not some game that half of Kansas' fan base and the entire Kansas squad wasn't even alive to witness. We all know you are a dumb old bastard that has been around the sport for a long time, Billy. You don't have to prove it by referencing the '57 championship.
  • "See, back in 1985, Memphis... (then gets cut off by a change in the action)." Fortunately for Billy, some exciting play kept him from finishing this thought. A mere few minutes after his ridiculous "Kansas has experience in OT" comment, he almost went back to the well to make some connection between the current Memphis squad and that of the 80's. Sorry baldo. No connection. You're lucky KU missed the front end of a 1-and-1; otherwise, you would have finished that statement and looked quite the fool.
  • "See, this is what happens when a big guy gets tired. He commits a stupid foul." (after Joey Dorsey committed his third foul on a 50/50 charging/blocking call) Billy has this tendency to make arguments or criticisms and then continue to spend the next 10 minutes justifying his argument. Case in point: Joey Dorsey was looking winded, Billy Packer argues that Dorsey's prone to commit a foul, Joey Dorsey makes a relatively good defensive play and slides in a moment too late for the charging call, and Billy has to mention this play several times as a justification for his original argument (wow, long run-on sentence). Anyways, Packer is always on the defensive, always justifying his comments with little bits of questionable "proof."
  • "This game is over." (Saturday night) I think plenty of people have pounced on this comment, which came less than halfway into the first half of the UNC-KU game. Of course, in typical Packer fashion, he justified this comment later when UNC pulled within an arm's length by saying the game was still over. Nonetheless, a stupid comment.

And for good measure, here's what I hate about Jim Nance:
  • He's too melodramatic - This guy may be the best at the business in overstating the importance of basketball in the bigger picture of life, the excitement of games, the emotions of the NCAA tournament, etc. Honestly, this guy either is a big emotional puss or really wants to oversell the drama.
  • He yields too much to Billy - "What do you think, Billy?" Seriously, Jim. Don't even ask.

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Marquette Coaching Search Update

>> Saturday

Unfortunately, I would not be typing this from the riverwalk as I search the streets of San Antonio (or Austin, Texas) for the next Marquette coach. Anyway, here would be what I have been able to ascertain so far. Edited in to throw a few more names appeared to be interested as of this afternoon.

1. I do believe the reports that Sean Miller, Anthony Grant, and Tony Bennett to be out of consideration accurate. While I would rule nothing out yet, previous knowledge of their situations leads to believe the reports to be true.

2. On the other hand, it looks like Chris Lowery, Brad Brownell and Bob McKillop would indeed be interested and could be potential candidates.

3. Buzz Williams would definitely be getting a hard look, and would likely be the players choice. I'm gone back and forth on Buzz, but in the end I would not mind due to his strong recruiting prowess.

4. Any other candidate lists would be educated guesses, as this search committee will leak nothing and deal in secrecy. I'm sure feelers have been sent out already and your responses have seen from guys saying there out to be their reaction to the feelers.

5. In a lot of cases, denials of interest start taking place when something else would be in the works. Also, there will generally be smoke screens sent out (Buzz Williams heading back from Final Four to Milwaukee for a "formal interview" could be an excellent example of this) to hide what would really be going in negotiations behind the scenes. Lon Kruger was the smoke screen in the Crean case, with Indiana fans believing Kruger to be the candidate minutes before Crean took the job.

6. I have a hunch it will be Buzz or some big named candidate not seriously mentioned. My faith in a big name candidate comes solely from Cottingham's motivation to make an impact and his private reaction to this whole situation. However, my guess would be as good as yours.

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Another offseason has passed; a new season has begun... and Bill Simmons still knows nothing about baseball

>> Friday

And I'm still bitching about the fact that Bill Simmons doesn't know about baseball. From the Sports Guy's mailbag column (few days old... just noticed it):

Q: Your stubborn insistence on writing basketball nonsense for months on end reminds me of when Pearl Jam made albums like "Binaural" to purposely drive fans away. The baseball season just started and have we been treated to an SG column about it? No! I'd even read a Red Sox column or a Tom Brady column just because it's not a basketball column. You do realize the baseball season started right?-- Danny G., Kansas City, Mo.

Danny G.--This is the exact opposite of what you should be telling him. It's awful, awful advice. You are encouraging him to do something he's very bad at in lieu of what he's good at. I would say Bill Simmons writing about baseball is more like when Liz Phair strayed from the biting, satirical tone and raw instrumental style that characterized her masterpiece "Exile in Guyville" to take on the sound of a boy-crazed female pop star. Or like when... No--one analogy is already one too many.

(Also, I think making an obscure music, film, or porn reference is a requisite/guarantee for an email to be included in a Simmons mailbag column.)

Anyway, the point of this post was to point out this paragraph:

Todd Jones, Troy Percival, Huston Street, Joe Borowski, George Sherrill and C.J. Wilson make up 40 percent of the league's closers. Would you ask any of those six guys to help you fix a flat tire, much less save a baseball game? I didn't think so.

Huston Street has compiled WHIPs of 1.01, 1.09, and 0.94 in his first three years at the ages of 21, 22, and 23 respectively. I am utterly clueless as to why he'd be included on this list. Also, George Sherrill may have been a one-year wonder, but he did put up a 0.99 WHIP and 56 Ks in 45.2 IP last year. Not too shabby.

And then this:

The AL has three monster lineups (New York, Boston and Detroit), two other very good lineups (Cleveland and Anaheim) and one lineup with a chance to become very good (Tampa Bay), as well as an inordinate amount of good hitters who seem like they're poised for a gargantuan year either because it's a contract year, they worked out all winter, they're coming back from an off-season and/or they're ready to make the proverbial leap: Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, Billy Butler, Delmon Young, Carl Crawford, Alex Gordon, Vernon Wells, Nick Markakis, Josh Hamilton, Robbie Cano, B.J. Upton, Justin Morneau, Howie Kendrick, Travis Hafner ... for God's sake, the list doesn't end, and if the first three guys on that list have career years, their three offenses are going to be insanely, abnormally good.

First off all, I don't think even I've ever written a sentence so long and convoluted. And I write some really long and convoluted sentences.

Second, Bobby Abreu is 34 years old. Manny Ramirez will soon turn 36. If either of them--particularly Manny--has a career year, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams should probably write a book about him.

The moral is: The balance in the AL may lean toward offense this year. But it just shows how easily a bad analyst can exaggerate this gap by using such sound criteria as "could maybe have a career year" or "can/cannot be trusted to change a flat tire" and then lumps together a bunch of names. Don't make that same mistake, kids. Listen to your Uncle Vinnie.

Next time I'll tell you boys all about the time I got punched in the nose by Dick Pole. (Here's a hint: It had to do with his name.)

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Advice to the Marquette search committee

>> Thursday

Why not help me find the next Marquette coach. While I'm confident in your ability to a good job and think the worse case scenario (Brad Brownell) would still do a good job, why not bring aboard a youthful enthusiast of the program who has a strong knowledge of the college basketball landscape. It may not work out, but I would bring the mentality of think big or go home. Marquette has a ton to offer despite what Crean's sheep in the media would like you to believe (money talks and bullshit walks away to Bloomington). Also, you can guarantee I would not leak anything to the media (At least correct info that is, I would love to see Andy Katz and Seth Davis continue to look like the fools they are). I have plenty of time on my hands and would offer services very cheaply. Besides, San Antonio could really use a fat Marquette fan wanting to make a presence. Hell, this may not even be the most ridiculous thought ever posted here.

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YCS Flawed Stats/Info Analysis: Part 2135143463463434

>> Wednesday

SI.com seems surprised that LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham is nowhere near the list of the highest-paid players in the game today. Beckham's salary ranked 44th in the world, at a little over $7 million per year. The defending World Player of the Year, Brazil's Kaka earns twice as much plying his trade at AC Milan.

However, there is a key difference. Beckham's salary is only the tip of the iceberg. Part of Beckham's contract with MLS was that he would control his image rights, enabling him to keep his endorsement revenue, and earn a percentage of sales of LA Galaxy #23 jerseys. Those shirts are among the highest-selling in the world.

Under many European contracts,* these image rights and jersey sales go to the club, not to the player. So while Becks may make less than Kaka, his contract situation is MUCH better, and Becks is not going to the poorhouse any time soon.

* I cannot confirm if this is the case with Kaka's contract, but it would not surprise me.

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Back to the All-Tom Crean Show after this quick interruption

Just in case this story didn't make it out of the Chicago market, here's proof that Jim Hendry isn't the only idiot in the Cubs' organization.

More importantly, though, why the hell did it take so long for Ernie Banks to get a statue? Granted, I think statues of athletes outside of stadiums are an unnecessary extravagance, but if anyone got one outside of Wrigley first, it should have been him and not Harry Caray.

1. Statues and busts are intended for people admired for their physical attributes, not their voices.
2. He's Mr. freaking Cub--which isn't to say the nickname alone merits a statue, but the fact that he's still the best player that the franchise has ever had does.
3. Harry Caray was with the Cubs for 16 years... as a broadcaster. Banks was there for 19... as a player... a Hall of Fame player. And unlike Harry, he was (presumably) sober during the action.

I don't know... it just seems like a total disrespect to me. Anyway, if the typo story is already old news to readers in Milwaukee and elsewhere, sorry for wasting your time.

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Where Do We Go Now?

For the cruelest April Fools Joke ever presented to me, Tom Crean has taken the first plane to Indiana here, leaving Marquette in the always fun position of looking for a new head coach. Also, the manner in which he left, refusing to contact current players and incoming recruits, has thrown out nine years of good will Crean worked to establish. I can understand Crean deciding to take the gamble in turning Indiana around, but have the professionalism to be up front about it to your players.

Meanwhile, Marquette has plenty of positives to sell a prospective head coach: state of the art practice facilities in Al McGuire Center, strong compensation package for the right coach (Crean made 1.7 million per year, plus the Brinks truck Indiana just backed up at the Al for Crean's buyout), and the ability to compete in the best league in America with the Big East. Now, who should be the lucky candidate to help lead Marquette in the future.

Buzz Williams: He would likely keep everyone on the current together (except potentially James), and probably all of our recruits except Nick Williams (including top 2008 prospect Tyshawn Taylor and 2009 prospect Erik Williams). He can definitely recruit at the level we need, and at this point I would be willing to gamble that he can handle the other parts of job as bringing talent in would be by far most important aspect of the job.

Anthony Grant: Yes, I have been riding this guys jock for over a year now (and Jeremy Foley did a 100 yard dash to lure him in when it looked like Billy Donovan was leaving for Orlando Magic). He played a big role in luring Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah and Taurean Green to Florida, and has won big in his two seasons at VCU (52 wins, two Colonial conference titles, NCAA win over Duke). A dynamic young recruiter, I think Grant could do an excellent job selling Marquette and have us competing at the top of the Big East.

Mark Fox: A name that just recently popped in my mind, but has a very good track record at Nevada (three NCAA Tournaments appearances, three WAC titles) and has an outstanding recruiting signed at Nevada (McDonald's All-American Luke Babbitt, Scout top 100 player Mark McLaughlin, former Indiana wing Joey Shaw). Also, along with the more heralded Nick Fazekas and Ramon Sessions, Fox has developed a future NBA player in JaVale McGee and looks to be sly as a fox (not quite the math teacher look that he somewhat resembles) on the recruiting trail.

Sean Miller: I'm not sure if Miller leaves Xavier before the Pitt job opens up, but probably worth a call just in case. I am still a little hesitant to believe if he's as good as his track record (three NCAA appearances, an Elite 8 this season, two A-10 titles). Like Fox, Miller really proved himself in recruiting this past season by signing top 50 big man Kenny Frease and talented guards Mark Lyons and Brad Redford. He did benefit by inheriting a roster with Stanley Burrell and Josh Duncan (with Thad Matta doing most of heavy lifting in the Derrick Brown and B.J. Raymond recruitments), but it looks Miller would be capable of building a roster on his own and he would may be the safest pick of this group.

Now, candidates such as Mike Anderson from Missouri (love the up-tempo style, not a big fan of Mizzou's disciplinary problems), Brad Brownell from Wright State and Chris Lowery from Southern Illinois could also be solid candidates. However, the top four guys on my list would be an excellent framework to start and hopefully end from.

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Ok...Why?

Chief among our questions about why Tom Crean has decided to leave MU has been "why now?" He's been a hot candidate for other high profile positions in the past (including Kentucky and, if you believe rumors, UCLA) and has refused at times when the MU program was in worse shape than it stands today. Below are my best guesses at A: why Tom Crean decided to leave and B: why he decided to leave now.

It's Indiana Basketball

Indiana has a tradition, talent pipeline and fan base unlike any other school in the country. Crean even mentioned this himself, acknowledging that there are few programs that can top Indiana when it comes to the total basketball experience. The reasoning here is solid, although I'd be hard pressed to believe that this was the only reason he's going to the Hoosiers.

Maxed out?

Amidst the speculation floats the idea that Crean believed that he'd effectively topped out the potential of the Marquette program. Despite a run of solid years in the Big East, postseason wins have been tough to come by since the departure of Dwyane Wade. This is probably in part based on a limited talent pool. Tying into the first reason, Crean will have a much easier go of securing top talent in Bloomington than he did in Milwaukee.

Second Fiddle

Any Marquette fan that lives in Milwaukee (and the state of Wisconsin at large) can tell you that no matter what, Badger basketball is king in terms of coverage and fan support. As such, the decision for the state's top players is often rendered moot - the top talent is going to Madison barring a heavy push as in the case of Wes Matthews. Again, this isn't the case at Indiana. Crean will have little trouble getting the upper echelon players from a basketball crazy state to commit to the crimson and cream. It is highly unlikely that you'll see a repeat of any of Mike Davis' failures to keep players like Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Dominic James and Josh McRoberts in the Hoosier state.

Second Fiddle, part 2

As Badger basketball is an empire in Wisconsin, so too is Bo Ryan the emperor. He is almost universally fawned over by print and television media and is lavished with overtures of genius by fans and analysts alike. As such, Crean's accolades were by nature limited, regardless of the success he enjoyed coaching in the Big East at a nationally prominent program. Since it's no secret that Crean has an enormous ego (after all, he's a college basketball coach), one can easily see how grating this could be who prides himself as a showman and a marketer desperate to make himself a national household name. A move to a smaller pond with fewer big fish means that this happens by default, and as such, the move makes obvious sense.

Big Ten Ties

Remember that Crean came up in the coaching ranks under Tom Izzo at Michigan State. While it's probably a stretch that that means he's drawn back to the conference, it's enough of a possibility that it bears mentioning. However, it's not really valid to say that he's got legitimate familiarity with a conference in which he hasn't coached in just under a decade. Suffice it to say, I'm not buying this reason.

Life Made Easy

Let's face it - going to Indiana and the Big Ten makes life easier for Tom Crean in a lot of ways, some of which I've already mentioned. Recruiting is simpler, fan support is a given and national coverage is basically omnipresent (for better or worse, given the recent Kelvin Sampson business). One thing few people seem to throw out there is that Crean might think that he'll have an easier time stockpiling wins in a conference that is in almost every way inferior to the Big East. Having to deal with annual games against Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State seems awfully light when compared to the murderer's row of the top flight Big East programs. This may be Big East-centric arrogance on my part, but I think it's relevent enough to mention.

A side note to this, of course, is the question of whether Crean's up-tempo, guard-oriented style of play will succeed consistently in a conference that plays a brand of hoops considerably more goonish than the superiorly athletic Big East (arrogant enough that time?).

Well, there you have it. Those are, for my part, the best excuses I can give for why Tom Crean decided to fly the coop, as they say. Feel free to post your own ideas in the comments.

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Tommy Boy - We'll Miss You

>> Tuesday

Here is the complete release provided by Marquette University with regard to coach Tom Crean leaving for Indiana:

Marquette University wishes Tom Crean, his wife Joani and the Crean family the very best as he pursues new professional opportunities. Tom and Joani have been an important part of our Marquette family for the past nine years, devoting countless hours not only to our men's basketball program but to other athletic and community endeavors as well.

Coach Crean has brought pride, honor and a winning mentality to our men's basketball program. It is no surprise that other universities would seek him out.

Coach Crean put Marquette back in the forefront of college basketball by embracing our strong tradition and building a competitive program for today. His tutelage resulted in three recent Marquette graduates earning NBA contracts. In his nine seasons, Marquette has averaged 20 wins a year, won a conference championship and made eight postseason appearances, including the 2003 Final Four and this year's second-round loss to Stanford. Since 2001, Crean has directed the Golden Eagles to 190 victories. He is a two-time recipient of the Ray Meyer Conference USA, NABC District XI and USBWA District V Coach of the Year awards, and in 2003 won the Coach Clair Bee Award as well as being named a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award.

The basketball program Tom has built is strong, with talented players and staff and solid university support. We anticipate that a Marquette coaching vacancy will attract many well-qualified candidates. We look forward to continuing Marquette's winning legacy and to competing successfully at the highest national level.

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Shit.

Crean to Indiana.

Being reported by all legitimate news outlets.

Please let this be the most elaborate/cruel April Fools joke ever.

Update: Crean's departure is not an April Fools Joke. But we have obtained video of Coach Crean saying an emotional goodbye to the MU fanbase.

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Tom Crean leaving for Indiana... Sad? Confused? Elated? Pissed off?


I'm sure all of the YCS team has something to say about Crean bolting for IU, but I'll go ahead and throw my initial thoughts here. I'm sure Zuch will have more informed notions on the subject, but here are my 2 cents.

Why you should be sad:
1. Crean took us to a Final Four and the postseason in 8 of 9 seasons.
2. Crean has averaged more than 20 wins a season, recruited 3 NBA players and likely another 2 or 3 NBA players-to-be.
3. Crean has had us nationally ranked for much of the last 6 or 7 years.
4. Darrin Horn (Western Kentucky) appears to be headed to South Carolina; he would have been one of the best coaches to replace Crean. Who is going to replace Crean?
5. Not only did Crean have success in winning basketball games, but he got us on national TV, revived school spirit, and helped us sell out many home games (in a huge arena by college basketball standards).

Why you should be confused:
1. Crean has a lot of connections to Marquette. Not only was he fond of the Al McGuire tradition, but his father-in-law is a big shot in the Athletic Deparment, and his wife is very involved in the Marquette community.
2. Hasn't there been talk of him bolting every year since 2003? Why now?
3. Why Indiana? We all know about the Indiana basketball tradition, but how patient will the IU fans be with him? Why purposely step into the big pile of poop that is the current IU basketball program?
4. Does he want to get beat by Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo three to four times a year (or more if you count the Big Ten tourney)? That prospect doesn't seem very fun.

Why you should be elated:
1. According to popular opinion, Crean is actually a huge, selfish jerk. He's a phony, and he's obviously not very loyal. Then again, what college basketball coaches aren't?
2. Despite his outstanding recruiting and program-building, he is a sub-par game coach. He is very bad at drawing up plays at the end of games, has an often-bewildering game plan, and has a reputation of being badly out-coached by the best in the business.
3. I guess the contract buyout will allow us to still pursue a pretty talented coach.

Why you should be pissed off:
Because you met this guy, got to shake his hand, cheered your ass off for his team for 8 seasons, appreciated his success, generally defended him despite your occasional frustration with his performance in big games, and did everything a loyal fan would do for him only to have him bolt for a big public school.

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Huh?

Amidst the other news and notes from yesterday's Brewers-Cubs game, the FSN Wisconsin announcers dropped this little nugget on us during the game:

Someone gave Carlos Marmol an MVP vote last year. What the hell? Granted, the guy was awesome, but seriously. How frivilously do baseball writers take their voting responsibilities?

"Let's see...David Wright 1, Rollins 2, Chipper Jones 3...and four...ah, what the hell, how about that middle reliever from the Cubs that's been solid after coming up from AAA in May."

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Meh, A Boring Story About Racing...Wait, What?!?!

The following headline is from ESPN.com:

FIA Head Might Skip Race After Nazi Sex Scandal

There are three words in that sentence guaranteed to cause a stir. Can you find them? Here's a hint: they rhyme with "Bazi sex scandal."

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