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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Crack Of The Bat At The Crack Of Dawn

Hey, I'm all for globalization of baseball. If Bud Selig wants to market the MLB brand in Japan, that's cool with me. But Bud is missing something when he decided to put the season opener in Japan yesterday.

Baseball is no longer the American pastime. Baseball is not the premier sport like it once was in this country. So before you go pushing baseball out of North America, take care of your issues here. Market the game in America. Fans in Japan are crazy about baseball - crazy enough that they'll stay up at ridiculous hours to watch Hideki Matsui play in New York City. Fans in America are probably less likely to get up at 5 a.m. to see the Yankees and Devil Rays play Opening Day in the Tokyo Dome.

Other countries already are better at baseball and are probably more passionate about the sport. The U.S. national team did not qualify for the Olympics in 2004. The game is withstanding a storm of criticism for steroid-tainted records. So yes, while it's always a good idea to expand the market for your product, it's more important to take care of the existing customers. Worry about baseball in America and make Opening Day a big event here in the United States - not in Japan.

There were, of course, some Americans who awoke at the butt crack of dawn, and I was one of them, because I was researching the game and I had to hook Karl Ravech, Peter Gammons, and Harold Reynolds up with statistical goodness like how often D-Rays hitters swung at the first pitch. Because we were voicing the game from Bristol, we didn't have our own cameras in Japan - we relied on the Japanese feed. And that was pretty interesting.

In Japan, Hideki Matsui is probably bigger than Michael Jordan. For example, the government of Matsui's hometown will reimburse citizens $300 if they go to see a game Matsui plays in America (just show travel itinerary and ticket stub).

Because of this, the cameras were constantly going back to Matsui so that the Japanese announcers could talk about how godlike he is. Unfortunately for our commentators, that meant that Matsui kept popping on screen in the middle of everything they were saying.

In the middle of a discussion during a Kenny Lofton at-bat about Lofton's complaints about batting ninth, the cameras suddenly swung to Matsui in the dugout, idly watching the game. Ravech and Co. gamely continued their banter about Lofton, but it seemed a little odd considering that Lofton wasn't on screen, even though he was batting.

Also, I've heard that Japanese League pitchers don't throw some of the breaking pitches that you see in the States, such as a splitter. So to see Mike Mussina throwing a pitch with his middle and ring fingers separated around the ball so drastically fascinated the Japanese crew.

That resulted in an abundance of closeups of Mussina's grip, release point, and plenty of slow-motion replays of the spin on the pitch. I'm sure Harold doesn't mind praising Mussina's pitching ability - he's arguably a future Hall-Of-Famer - but he was certainly sick of analyzing it by the 400th replay in the fifth inning.

I do want to give the crew their props, though, They did a terrific job considering they were half a world away from the action and could only go on what the Japanese cameramen were showing them.


I don't consider myself superstitious, but I had a bad feeling when I broke my stick on a slap shot in pregame warmups before my hockey game last night. I had a six-game goal scoring streak entering the game, and it was all with that stick. So I put the shattered lumber in the trash and picked up a new stick, which was really just like the old one - except that it wasn't.

All the goals were still in the old stick. I should have rubbed the old stick on the new one before throwing it out. I put a breakaway opportunity right in the goalie's chest. I had a wide open net with the goalie down and out of position, and I put the shot a foot over the crossbar.

We tied, 4-4.

And my shin pad and shoulder pad both had straps break.

O Hockey Gods, what must I do to bring the fortune of my old stick unto my new one?

Friday, March 26, 2004

Time To Make The Stats

You've heard of the Elias Sports Bureau, but it's always just in the background of whatever it is you're really thinking about. Maybe you were reading an article on how some player hits 78 percent of his home runs to left field, or that it's been 50 years to the day since someone hit for the cycle on their birthday, or something along those lines. Whatever it was, chances are good that the Elias Sports Bureau was behind the stat.

Elias is literally the authority on pro sports stats. It's the official statistician for the four major sports leagues, as well as MLS, and they contract their services out to national sports networks such as ESPN, the major broadcast networks, etc. You hear an obscure stat, Elias likely generated it.

Remember a few years ago, when some player got off to a hot start and people started talking about him chasing Hack Wilson's single-season RBI record of 190? Well, someone did some checking up and it turns out Wilson actually had 191 RBI in 1930. That's the kind of thing Elias does. They have boxscores (I'm talking physical, newspaper cutouts) from every MLB game going back at least to 1970. They probably have the boxscores from every game, period, in their computers.

And their computers are sick - top-of-the-line, change them every few years, massive processing power. Because that's how they crank out stats. I could call from ESPN and ask for the youngest players ever to hit a triple in their major league debut, and they'd write a program that searches their database, and 15 minutes later they'll call me with an answer.

There's a room full of computer mainframes that must have at least a million dollars worth of equipment in it. I know, because I got to see where the stats are made, as I put it. I was at the Elias Sports Bureau a couple days ago, and damn, that place is hooked up. And forget the computers - Elias is situated in an office building on Fifth Avenue in NYC, a couple blocks from Grand Central Station. The place must be raking in the cash, considering its clientele and its assets.

The whole show is bankrolled by an 83-year-old named Seymour Siwoff, who must be the most enthusiastic octogenerian on the planet. He was so thrilled about leading us around his office that you'd think he was showing off a new H2 with 25-inch spinning rims. As the president, he's got a lot to be proud of, though. Business is good.

Part of the reason Elias is so successful has to be their low profile. Elias is very protective of its massive store of information, doling it out reluctantly, even to clients like ESPN, it seems.

Short story: Apparently once, Bill James, the famous baseball sabermetrician, came to Elias demanding that the company share its data with him. He claimed it was in the public domain. The good people at Elias told him, "Hell no," and showed him the door. Ever since then, you don't want to say B--- J---- in the presence of the executive vice president of Elias, Steve Hirdt.

I saw one employee mention his name, and Steve (there are at least three other Hirdts working at Elias) told him, tongue-in-cheek, that he would be generous and let him continue his employment there despite his mentioning of B--- J----. Even I accidentally mentioned "range factor," a stat that B--- J---- created, during my visit. That slip of the tongue prompted an elbow from another ESPN researcher, who hissed at me, "That's a B--- J---- stat!"

I can't begrudge them their enormous stockpile of sports information, though, because they've helped me out many a time already since I began working at ESPN, and I'm sure they will be amazingly useful now that baseball season is getting underway.

Besides, Siwoff was kind enough to give my two coworkers and me each a 2003 Super Bowl program and an official Elias book of final 2003 NFL stats. And Elias paid for drinks and dinner after the meeting.


Maybe a month ago, Buck O'Neil came to ESPN, and I was tremendously impressed by his presence. Something that I would consider the opposite happened yesterday.

Someone who was obviously an athlete was in the research room today, and I felt like I should know who he was, but I couldn't place it. So I went up to him, introduced myself, and he replied, "I'm Sean." I still didn't know who he was, and he could tell - he looked at me as if to say, "Don't you know who I am?"

Turns out it was Sean Taylor, a safety for the Miami Hurricanes and likely top-five draft pick in this year's NFL draft. Oh well. Guess I'll have to learn his face - I'll be seeing it plenty often soon enough.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Why A Cheesesteak Beats A PowerBar

Forgive me as I get a little philosophical on you, but every now and then events transpire that call for some reflection on life and the way we live it.

I'm talking about the passing of Brian Maxwell. You don't know his name and you wouldn't know who he was if he ran past you on the street, but you've seen his work and the impact thereof.

Ever eaten an energy bar? They taste terrible. I've eaten a dog biscuit before, and if the doggie treat had a little better texture, I might rank it ahead of some energy bars. But anyway, Brian Maxwell is the guy you can thank for the booming popularity of energy bars.

B-Max created the PowerBar back in 1986, back when I thought a power bar was the thing on arcade games that showed you how many punches your character could still take. He and his wife sold the things out of their kitchen and yada yada yada, in 2000 they sold the company to Nestle for $375 mil.

Nice success story, and I suppose I'd be proud to have something like that leading my obit. Which is what happened to Maxwell yesterday. He died of a heart attack at age 51 after collapsing at a post office in California.

The other thing that Maxwell was known for was being a world-class marathoner. In the late '70s he was ranked in the top five in the world, and he was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted the Moscow Games.

Well, you think about a guy like this, and you think about someone like Dr. Robert Atkins (I know you know of his life's work - it's the Atkins Diet), who died -- damn, I just read that he received his medical degree from Cornell. I'm kind of disappointed in the ol' alma mater.

Okay, back to the point. Dr. Atkins died because he fell after slipping on an icy sidewalk. He also weighed over 240 pounds at the time, but that's not the point. Yes, Atkins was 72 years old, but it wasn't old age that claimed the guy.

People agonize about what they eat to the point of lunacy, but you can still be in top shape - look at Maxwell, the PowerBar marathon man - and boom, a heart attack still hits you. Or you could run into bad fortune like Dr. Atkins.

So screw it, I'll go eat a cheesesteak if I feel like eating a cheesesteak. I feel good about myself - my lifestyle isn't too sedentary; I play hockey and I try to run now and then. If a 1 a.m. visit to Larry's - The Home Of The Bellyfiller - makes me happy, then I'll act on that. (At least when it's geographically convenient. I miss you up here in Connecticut, Larry's.)

As long as I'm not going nuts and eating McDonald's three times a week, I'm not worried. Maybe I won't be 20 pounds lighter, but I'll be happier.

There's a cliche that goes: Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.

Well, I don't mind skipping dessert. I don't always need a slice of cheesecake. But I also won't take the bun off my hamburger and I won't eat a carrot stick for lunch. Think about it this way: God forbid I step into the street and I get smacked by a bus. Do I want people saying that my last meal was a tofu-vegetable dip, or do I want them to say I enjoyed life to the end?


I'll bet $5 (okay, just kidding, I won't) that none of you saw the Hockey East championship game last night between UMass and Maine. Your loss. It was the fourth longest game in college hockey history, going halfway into the third overtime tied 1-1.

The goalies were playing out of their minds. UMass's goalie stopped 59 shots; Maine's saved 63. Even though I was pulling for Maine, I felt awful for Gabe Winer, the UMass tender, when the Black Bears beat him for the winner at 9:27 of the third extra period.

Maine was going to go to the NCAA tournament no matter what. UMass needed that win to make it. So their season ended when Maine got one past Winer. It's gotta be so tough to play so well for so long - nearly two games in one - and then have to go home with nothing but a runner-up nod in the conference and no tournament bid to show for it.

However, with Maine denying UMass a spot in the 16-team field, Notre Dame will likely take the final place. Since my roomie is a South Bend native and a ND alum, I guess I'll have to root for them, because I don't know if I can bring myself to root for Harvard, the ECAC representative. I felt nauseous when I saw the Crimson celebrating their last-second win over Clarkson in the conference championship earlier tonight. Freakin' Harvard.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The Chicken Sandwich Of Victory

There's an old saying that claims there's no such thing as a free lunch. That, as I will prove in a second, is wrong. There's another saying, which isn't as well-known by those who weren't recently in college, that states that food tastes better when it's free. That is absolutely right.

But there is a way to make that free food taste even better. I'm talking about food that's free when your team wins (or at least does something which produces free food). I'm talking about Chick-fil-a sandwiches for which you can redeem your Flyers ticket when the Orange and Black score four or more goals.

Chick-fil-a makes a tasty sandwich. But I wouldn't drive out to the mall with the main purpose of getting one. And if I'm going to the mall anyway, I'll probably get a cheesesteak or Chinese food or something other than Chick-fil-a.

There's something magical about that free sandwich, though. It makes fans come to Flyers games with signs that say "I want chicken." When you're at the game, and the Flyers are sitting on three goals, the crowd starts rooting for one more goal, just for that chicken sandwich.

I remember one game I was at earlier this season where the Flyers were up 3-2 late in the game, and the following though actually went through my head:
"I hope the other team pulls its goalie so the Flyers have a shot at an empty-netter to get me that chicken sandwich."

Through the grace of the hockey and chicken gods, that's exactly what happened. And when John LeClair buried that empty-net goal, the PA guys, instead of launching Blur's "Song 2" like they do after every Flyers goal, start playing the chicken dance, while the Chick-fil-a cows start dancing around the ad boards that ring the upper deck. A beautiful scene, indeed. And that chicken sandwich tasted damn good.

You might be saying, "Chick-fil-a isn't crazy expensive. Why not just go and buy a sandwich?" Well, here's why. Even if you gave me a coupon for a free chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-a, I wouldn't go out of my way to use it. The free chicken sandwich that comes from a four-goal Flyers performance is different. It's the taste of victory, a tangible way for me to savor an offensive outburst.

The afternoon after a four-goal game, I'll drive to the mall and get myself a chicken sandwich, and each bite is freakin' delicious, and I can thank Ken Hitchcock and Co. for that.

It's like if I went to Penn, and the basketball team scored 100 points. Abner's Cheesesteaks is packed after that happens, because steaks are on the house in that event.

So two nights ago, I went to the Flyers-Leafs game, and the Flyers came out flat. They were down 3-0 with five minutes to go. Then Hitchcock pulls the goalie when the Flyers get a power play, they score on the 6-on-4, and then they score again with maybe a minute and a half left. And I'm thinking, they have the momentum, they're going to score, tie it at 3, and then it'll go into overtime and maybe they can win it 4-3! And I'm sure the only thing sweeter than a free chicken sandwich that your team earns for you is a free chicken sandwich that your team earns on an overtime game-winner.

Unfortunately, I'll have to wait to see what that's like. The Flyers couldn't complete the comeback and they lost, 3-2. After the game, my dad tried to console me by offering to spring for a sandwich. But it just wouldn't have been the same.

Free food tastes better when your team wins it for you.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

"Gee, Chief, The Game Was Great Until..."

Last night I'm working, trying to keep tabs on something like five different conference tournaments at once, and this is not easy, because most of the games aren't blowouts. One of these games was the Maryland-Wake Forest ACC quarterfinal.

While Maryland pulled off the upset, the heated competition was suddenly interrupted by a report that a gunshot had been heard in the arena, just a few rows behind the Wake Forest bench. Well, the first reaction to this has got to be "Why the hell is a gun being fired in a crowded arena?"

There are two explanations that readily come to mind. First, in this day and age, is that some nutcase snuck a gun into Greensboro Coliseum and started firing. This is way more possible than it should be. Some arenas will swipe you with a metal detector on the way in, but even if the thing beeps, they usually won't pull you aside to frisk you or anything. It's never happened to me, even if I've got a cell phone, keys, change, belt buckle, glasses case, etc. in my pocket. I think you'd have to wear aluminum foil boxers to set the thing off sufficiently. That's a scary thing.

The other thing I thought might have happened was that a cop was shooting at a criminal. All I have to say about that is that if this is the case, there better be a really freakin' good reason for that, because there's 20,000 plus people in the building, and you better be preventing a murder or something before you start shooting guns in that kind of crowd.

Well, neither was the case. Turns out there was an off-duty, out-of-state police officer who for some reason completely uncomprehensible had a loaded gun on him. And this policeman shot himself in the ass.

Not sure whether this was Officer Cheddar Bob from Detroit or State Trooper Forrest Gump from Alabama.

They took the cop to a hospital, and I assume he'll be okay. After they remove the bullet from his butt cheek, I assume his worst injury will be to his pride. I mean, how's he going to explain this one to his superiors?

By the way, that incident isn't doing much to help the stereotype of Southerners.


Apparently, the athletes at Colorado haven't learned much from the rape allegations circling the football team. After the basketball team lost to Texas Tech today in the Big 12 tournament, placing its selection to the NCAA tournament in jeopardy, center David Harrison had this to say:

"If we're not selected, I think it'd be a tragedy."

Let's get one thing clear. If your team doesn't make the tournament, it's a disappointment. It's depressing. It sucks. But it is not, in any way, shape, or form, a tragedy.

The athletic community seemingly still places greater emphasis on wins and losses and postseason success than it does on the quality of life for students and the Boulder community in general. Rape, murder, those are tragedies. Settling for the NIT is not.


Catholics who have tickets to Opening Day at Fenway Park are getting their panties in a bunch because the game falls on Good Friday, and they can't eat meat on Good Friday, which apparently will create a huge conflict when it comes to watching the game. Oh no, what are you going to do? Watch the game and eat popcorn instead of a Fenway Frank?

This apparently has become such an issue that Catholic fans have actually asked the Boston Archdiocese for a dispensation so that they can eat meat at the game. Obviously, everyone's missing the point. Now I'm not Catholic, but as I understand it, the point is deprivation. So if you're going to the game, you're probably not following the spirit of the holiday anyway...

Fortunately the Archdiocese considered Opening Day a flimsy excuse, which it should. But a spokesman for the Archdiocese actually called out MLB for scheduling Opening Day on Good Friday. He said that he hoped it was just an oversight, and that the scheduling is "insensitive to the huge number of people who are Christians and fans."

Come on, get over yourself. Opening Day is always around this time of year. MLB wasn't trying to trivialize the crucifixion of Jesus. Besides, I've been to games on Passover, and you know what I do? I don't eat the hot dog buns. It's not vital to the enjoyment of the game. Or you could go like Annie in Bull Durham and convert to the Church of Baseball.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Breaking Down The "Dream"

Alright, I've given it some thought, and now it's time for me to explain why "Dream Job" just isn't working (even as I continue to watch the show).

In order to do this, I'm going to work from the assumption that "Dream Job" was more or less patterned after "American Idol." I think this is a fair assumption. "American Idol" was one of the first of the recent wave of successful reality shows, it's one of the few that continues to sustain its viewership, and it has set the bar for talent competitions, as opposed to other reality shows like "Survivor" which don't really draw out talent.

Also, the main point of comparison is that both "Idol" and Jobby Job offer contracts as the grand prize. The "Idol" winner gets a recording deal; the "Dream Job" winner gets a one-year deal as a SportsCenter anchor. So I think this is a fair place to start this analysis.

Here's the fundamental difference between "American Idol" and "Dream Job:" "Idol" is, at its core, a search for an entertainer. "Job" is a search for a newscaster (and it just happens to be sports news).

That is the essence of why "Dream Job," while good in theory, just isn't working. Think about it: The job of SportsCenter anchor is a dream job for many, just like being a pop singer is a dream for others. Where the difference lies is that people will listen to a singer if they think he or she is entertaining. Since SportsCenter is, first and foremost, a news show, people watch to be informed about sports.

Many of the anchors on ESPN are entertaining, and that's a big reason ESPN has become such a tremendously popular station. Think of the catchphrases that ESPN has introduced into the nation's collective lexicon: Dan Patrick's "En fuego," Stu Scott's "Booya," and Chris Berman's "Back-back-back-back-gone," to name a few.

Even with the catchphrases, the show is still about highlights. Bottom line, nobody would tune in to watch catchphrases. The show isn't about the anchor. On the other hand, a CD is about the music.

See where I'm going here? If you like music but you don't like the "American Idol" winner, then you have the option not to buy Ruben Studdard's CD. On the other hand, if you like sports, you're going to watch SportsCenter - for the highlights, remember - regardless of who the anchor is. You don't watch SportsCenter because Kenny Mayne is hosting the show on a given day. Actually, the reverse might happen - you might turn off the show if the anchor sucks.

Or, to frame it another way, you wouldn't want a competition to select the next ABC News anchor. This is no different, other than that we're selecting a sports news anchor.

Here's another issue I have with "Dream Job," while I'm busy comparing it to "American Idol." Some of the most successful "Idol" episodes are the first few episodes of the season, when they show the auditions in each city and then show the process of how the judges pared down the contestants into the final groups. In fact, "Idol" has been on for about two months now and we've only just reached the final 12. Along the way, the viewers have gotten to know some of the contestants already, and some of the rejects (notably William Hung) have even found a kind of bizarre celebrity.

On the other hand, "Dream Job" jumped right to the final 12. In the first episode, there was all of 10 minutes dedicated to the selection process. Come on, I know footage was shot at the auditions. There's no excuse for not showing how the final 12 contestants were chosen. Who did they beat out?

To be honest, I'd really like to see how they were chosen, because at least half of them aren't that impressive. Are you telling me that out of the tens of thousands of prospective anchors, none was better than these guys?

I don't buy it. I want to see how the producers arrived at the final 12. "American Idol" has already brought back their worst auditions for at least two shows this season alone. Why can't "Dream Job" do the same? If people were really worse than Quigs, then show us that. I find it hard to believe he was one of the best 12 applicants.

Years from now, when I'm running things at the Worldwide Leader, you better believe I'll have things running smoother than Dick Vitale's head. If I had a say in "Dream Job," maybe it wouldn't be getting ripped on...as much.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Dangerous Barbershop Pole Sex Parties

You'd think that the authorities in Boulder, Colorado, would have their hands full with the storm of allegations swirling around the football team. You've heard it all - crazy sex recruiting parties, allegations of rape from something like six different women (including a player on the team), and the coach responding to it all like the value of a human being depends on her abilities as a kicker.

Nope. The law in Boulder is actively keeping its residents safe and secure from those menacing barber poles. We wouldn't want any of those threatening red and white rotating poles harassing the locals. Let the drunken, partying football players roam free. But God help us if a barber pole spins away in Boulder.

I'm serious. City sign laws in Boulder prohibit most moving electronic signs, and that includes barbershop poles. Oh, the existing poles were grandfathered in when the law was passed. But keep the new poles off the streets! They might host sex parties for the other barbershop poles!

Well, the owner of the barbershop in question - the Buff Barber Shop - decided to challenge the law. And the five-O decided to slap him with a ticket and a thousand-dollar fine. Fortunately for him, the people in charge decided they were being silly and chose not to outlaw his blatantly disturbing barbershop pole. And they're looking into rewriting the city code.

Isn't it good to know that the local Boulder government is hard at work on the issues that affect the community?


The Red Sox just got a license to ill.

Looking at the transaction wire yesterday, I saw this nugget come across: "BOSTON RED SOX-Named Mike Dee chief operating officer."

I guess he's done running from the law, the press, and the parents. Now for the Red Sox' sake, let's see if he really does got mad hits like he was Rod Carew.

(That's a Beastie Boys reference, people.)


Anyone catch Dream Job last night? I get the feeling like ESPN is trying to bail out of this show as fast as it can. They're now eliminating contestants two at a time. Two got bounced this week, and two are scheduled to go next week. You know what that means? They'll be down to six contestants after just four episodes. Sounds like ESPN is in a hurry to get their commitment to the show done with.

As for the contestants last night, hippie-rapper dude Zach Selwyn looks like the favorite right now. He cleaned up his look to curry favor with the judges and looks a hell of a lot more respectable. The '70s leisure suit is gone, replaced with a normal business suit. He also trimmed the shaggy hair and turned his beard into a goatee.

He's probably the most poised behind the camera (although he did call Jason Giambi "Jeremy"). He turned in the funniest line of the night, when he said of LeBron James, "That's the best first step I've seen since my daughter started walking!"

His coanchor, Mike Hall, whom I think got a bad rap from the judges, responded with, "You have a daughter?"

And Zach goes, "Quiet!"

Sunday, March 07, 2004

I Love This Game!

"Hi, I'm Alex..."

"Hi, Alex."

"...And I'm a Hockey Dork."

I went to the Springfield Falcons game last night, by myself, because I am a Hockey Dork and I had nothing better to do, so I figured, hey, it's only a 50-minute drive, why not go see some minor-league hockey on the cheap?

It was time and money well-spent. AHL hockey isn't the prettiest sight, but the games I've seen always make for fun viewing, because the players play hard and they play with grit. Unlike the NHL, where a lot of players coast through the 82-game season, the AHL players aren't playing to reach the playoffs. They're playing to get themselves noticed and to get the call to the Big Time.

So players go flying around the ice and deliver some punishing hits, because they don't know if the guy at their position on the big club turned an ankle tonight. Maybe there will be a sudden need, and if Jim Minorleaguer is playing well, then he'll get the call.

Can't score? No problem, you can impress the brass with your fighting skills. Maybe the big club's star player is complaining about clutching and grabbing and the parent team needs an enforcer.

There were 83 total penalty minutes in the game last night, including three fights. These were good fights, too - the jerseys were off, the elbow pads were off, and the players were swinging away. The funny part about the fights was that as soon as one broke out, the PA guys turned on the music, so the players were going at it while "Headstrong" by Trapt blared in the background and their teammates looked on in amusement.

As for the game itself, it was a little lacking on defense. Providence outshot Springfield, 42-26, and goalie Jean-Marc Pelletier, a Cornell guy, was left out to dry. He took the loss, 4-2, although he played a pretty solid game after the first period.


You know how you hear announcers say things like, "LeBron James was born to play basketball" all the time? Well, what if LeBron had been born 150 years ago, before basketball was invented? What would he have done then? Or what if he had been born in Finland? Think he'd be shooting hoops anyway?

Maybe I was born to play a sport that just hasn't been invented yet. Or that I haven't tried yet. Maybe I'd kick ass at skeleton.

Then again, I think I might pee my pants if I had to try skeleton. That looks real frickin' scary. And I struggle on roller coasters.


There are these public service commercials on TV where friends are shown confronting each other about their pot smoking, and the point is that you should intervene if your friends are abusing drugs, because it's the right thing to do.

For some reason, this started my roommate and I talking about how intervention should be used to help along skills in drinking games. You could have PSAs like this:

"Look, I'm practicing my Beirut skills four nights a week. You can't just show up on weekends and think your shot will be true. You're letting this team down with your lack of dedication and responsibility. I can't carry this team on my own. And while I'm at it, stop leaving your bitch cup..."

Or this:

"If you can't pound a beer in under six seconds, it's time to improve or get out of the game. Slow chugging: the anti-cool."

I don't think we'll be seeing those anytime soon, though.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Get Your Freak On

I spent most of my day yesterday with two songs in my head: Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" (I hate the intentional misspelling) and Ice Cube's "Today Was A Good Day."

The former was because the Eagles came out of nowhere and snapped up Jevon "The Freak" Kearse off the free agent market the instant it opened. The latter was because said signing made today a very good day, indeed.

How great is this (assuming you're an Eagles fan like I am)? The Redskins were the frontrunners to get Kearse, and the 'Skins have already reloaded with Mark Brunell and Clinton Portis this offseason, so seeing the Birds swoop in and pick up the best defensive end on the market made my day.

Even though Kearse's sack numbers have been down and he's been injury-prone his last few seasons, I still like the move. He did, after all, have more sacks than the Eagles' defensive ends had last season.

Kearse was locked up by the Eagles through the 2012 season. Donovan McNabb will be wearing the midnight green through 2013. With those two stars, hopefully the Eagles will have the anchors of their defensive and offensive units for years to come.

Kearse wore number 90 with the Titans. Corey Simon already sports that number with the Eagles, so I wonder which number Kearse will choose. 92, 93, and 96 are available, as far as I know. I'd say it's a safe bet that Kearse's jersey will quickly become the second-best seller of the Eagles' players. A Kearse jersey would also be a good investment, considering he'll be around for eight years.

Of course, now watch him fail his physical today and nix the whole deal. Knock on wood.

Kearse's signing put me in such a good mood that I wasn't even too bummed out by the Flyers watching the top two defensemen on the trading block go to Eastern Conference rivals.

Actually, the Flyers will probably still make another move or two before the trading deadline on Tuesday. Which brings me to a point I'm very happy to make. My three favorite teams - the Flyers, Phillies, and Eagles - are all actively making the roster moves they need to make in order to chase a championship. Is it possible that Philly's 21-year championship drought could end soon?

Of course, with the possibility comes pressure. As my brother eloquently put it, "Someone better f---ing win or I'm gonna go apes---."


Have you seen the test that former Georgia assistant basketball coach Jim Harrick Jr. gave to students in his class "Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball?" When I first saw it, I really thought it was a joke. A very unfunny joke. The test is like something you might get in a chain e-mail.

Here's a sample question from the test:
"How many points does a 3-point field goal account for in a basketball game?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4"

The test was 20 questions long, and it was the final exam - the only basis for final grades given in the class. As you might guess, Harrick taught the class to basketball players so they could get an easy A. The funny thing about this (well, the whole thing is funny in a twisted way) is that Georgia released the test in response to Harrick's lawsuit that the university defamed him.

Well, I think releasing this test will be a good way to defame him further. And you know what? He deserves it for committing such blatant academic fraud.

Here's my favorite question from Harrick's final exam:
"What is the name of the exam which all high school seniors in the state of Georgia must pass?
a. Eye Exam
b. How Do The Grits Taste Exam
c. Bug Control Exam
d. Georgia Exit Exam"

The How Do The Grits Taste Exam? I wish Harrick had created one of those. Then he could have been really creative with answers.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Weight-ing For Barry

I remember when I hit my growth spurt. I was about 12 or 13. When I got to sixth grade, I was a 4-11 nerd who wore sweatpants and ugly striped shirts to school every day. Three years later, I graduated from middle school as eight more inches of nerd. But at least I dressed better.

Those were the days. I used to be able to dominate in basketball - I'd just stand under the hoop and shoot, miss a layup, grab my own rebound, shoot, miss again, rebound again, shoot, miss again, rebound again, and then eventually I'd succeed on a putback. Kind of like Shaq. Then I showed up in high school, and suddenly I found that just about all my friends were taller than me. The days of endless rebounds are long gone, and now I'm worthless at basketball - I'm a 5-10 white boy with no outside shot and a slow reaction time.

So where was I again? Oh yes, the growth spurt. The point here is that the average male hits his growth spurt sometime around the age of 14. Some, like me, are deluded into thinking they're tall by hitting it a little earlier, and some, who delight their college basketball coaches, continue to grow even at their 20th birthday.

But I have never heard of anyone hitting his growth spurt at age 36. The only growing anyone does at age 36 is horizontally, and here I'm talking about Molson-fueled horizontal growth, not the Enzyte-propelled kind, 'cause that just ain't right.

That is why I find it incredibly hard to believe that Barry Bonds is not on the juice. He may not be on THG, and maybe you could even take him up on his offer and test him every day and he'd come up clean. But if you look at a picture of Bonds 10 years ago and compared it to a picture of him today, you'd have to agree with Turk Wendell and say that the proof lies in the pudding. And the pudding isn't 100 percent organic.

Let's get something straight here. Bonds is a tremendous hitter, 'roids or no 'roids. You don't hit over 600 bombs and put up the other numbers that Bonds has posted without immense talent. There's no supplement that helps you put the bat on the ball, and as Ted Williams once said, that's the hardest thing to do in all of sports. I also don't question Bonds's work ethic - clearly, he's in good shape if he's still producing the way he is at 38.

That being said, Bonds's weight has risen drastically during his playing career, and lifting can only take you so far given a certain body type. Am I saying he's on steroids? I don't know. Obviously, there's a chance that he really did bulk up naturally or using legal supplements. However, his weight increase has been so significant, and so late in his career, that the questions are inevitable.

He broke into the majors in 1986 weighing 185 pounds. Even as late as 1996, he checked in at 190. Then, at age 32, in '97, Bonds put on 16 pounds. Two years later, four more pounds. And then, before the 2001 season, when Bonds was 36 - 36, people! - he added another 18 pounds to his frame. Of course, we all know that in 2001 Bonds shattered Mark McGwire's home run record and hit 73 dingers.

Plenty of American males gain 43 pounds between age 21 and age 38. It just isn't in the biceps. So when Barry says that you can test him every day, it makes me think that he's found something that isn't illegal yet according to MLB, because it's just so hard to see someone put on that type of weight (and even his head looks bigger) and not think he's on steroids.

Bulking up has been beneficial to Bonds's home run numbers. Just check out the chart below.

It's clear that his power has come from his weight. The million-dollar question, then, is whether or not his weight has come from an insane workout regimen or salvation in a syringe. Bonds is the only one who can give you an answer with complete certainty. But with what else besides a denial could he possibly respond?

Barry Bonds
Career by playing weight

Seasons Weight HR/Year
2001-03 228 54.7
1999-00 210 41.5
1997-98 206 38.5
1992-96 190 38.4
1986-91 185 23.7

This simply designed chart is here to illustrate how Bonds's home run production has increased with his weight. And to show that I do something with my time at the research department at ESPN.