Friday, October 30, 2009

Baseball Defies Predictions of Doom [Art Spander]

Art Spander of Real Clear Sports: 

The game died years ago. Isn't that what we were told? Baseball was the echo of another time, men in baggy flannel standing around while the world sped past.
It didn't work on television, trying to cram that huge expanse onto a small screen. And kids who weren't playing video games supposedly were playing soccer, on baseball fields.
But here are the Yankees and Phillies going at it in this World Series in October 2009 as they did in the World Series in October 1950, and Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard are being given space in the sports pages equal that of Brett Favre journeying back to Green Bay.
Sure it's because of the Yankees, the most famous sporting franchise in North America, a team of wealth, pinstripes and history. The Yanks cannot be ignored. Nor, with this World Series, can baseball.
They had a 13.8 overnight Nielsen rating for Game 1, NFL type numbers, and presumably the figures will be about the same for Game 2, when the Yankees, hailed and hated, tied things up.
Baseball. "You win with pitching,'' said New York's Derek Jeter after the Yankees beat Philly, 3-1, Thursday in Game 2. Always will win with pitching.
The Phils took the first game, 6-1. Always have won with pitching.
Baseball. "Ninety feet between bases,'' wrote the late Red Smith, "is the closest man has ever come to perfection.''
Baseball, a game of axioms and survival. Despite the Black Sox scandal, despite the shutdowns and strikes, despite the despair over steroids, the sport keeps staggering on.
Gene Mauch, known infamously as the manager of the 1964 Phillies, who leading by 6 ½ games in September lost 10 in a row, told us, "Cockroaches and baseball keep coming back.''
And so baseball has returned in all its glory, old and new.
Hypnotic tedium was a description of baseball by Philip Roth, whose canon of work includes "The Great American Novel,'' dealing with the fortunes of a homeless baseball team. But Roth said not until he got to Harvard did he "find anything with a comparable emotional atmosphere and aesthetic appeal.'' Baseball was "the literature of my boyhood.''
The essence of baseball is cumulative tension. Each pitch adds to the question, the doubt. Does Cliff Lee go inside or outside to Jorge Posada? Does A.J. Burnett throw curves or fast balls to Chase Utley?
It's cold in the east. The games start too late - although not as late as past years - and go on forever. But New York and Philly are enthralled. So is much of America.
Baseball is the only team sport not played against a clock. It's the only team sport where a manager hikes to the mound to stall for time, where an argument with an official is not only accepted it's expected - even if never without positive results - where fans, like Jeffrey Mayer and Steve Bartman, may affect the outcome.
Baseball requires patience and persistence. The most famous cry is not "Play ball'' but "Wait ‘til next year.''
The Yankees have been waiting for some time. The Phillies, on the contrary, are trying to win a second straight championship, and you only wish the late James Michener, who authored dozens of books, could be around.
Michener once wrote a New York Times piece about his flawed love of the Phillies, which began in 1915 when he was 8-years-old and continued until his death in 1997. "Year after year,'' Michener conceded, "they wallowed in last place.''
A young literary critic confronted Michener and pointed out, "You seem to be optimistic about the human race. Don't you have a sense of tragedy?''
He answered, "Young man, when you root for the Phillies, you acquire a sense of tragedy."
The Phillies are no longer tragic. They are involved in a World Series destined to go no fewer than five games and maybe with luck six or seven.
The Yankees have the prestige and the bullpen. The Phillies have a high degree of self confidence. Baseball has an attraction involving two of the country's more passionate sporting cities which happen to be located 100 miles apart.
Out West they wanted the Dodgers against the Angels, but truth tell this one is better, a team not many people other than baseball purists really know, the Phillies, and a team which because of its $200 million payroll and stars even the non-fan knows, those Damn Yankees.
And remember, you win with pitching.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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Video: World Series, Game 2 Highlights [J. Mark English]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Video: Crazy Amateur Highlights [J. Mark English]

Are the Phillies Blowing It By Starting Pedro Tonight? [Tim Joyce]

Tim Joyce of Real Clear Sports:

Pedro Martinez, tonight's starter in game two of the World Series, played the lead role, with a supporting part from Grady Little, in the third most disastrous moment in Red Sox history when he blew a 5-2 lead late in the seventh game of the 2003 American League Championship at Yankee Stadium before Aaron Boone's infamous upper deck shot (the top two most crushing Red Sox moments were the loss in game six against the Mets in the 1986 World Series and the Bucky F'ing Dent homerun in 1978). One has to wonder whether the memory of that moment is still all too close for the formerly brilliant pitcher.

More to the point, are the Phillies blowing any chance of taking a commanding two-games-to-none lead against the Yankees by starting Pedro against the team he admittedly had epic problems pitching against? A team he famously declared was "his Daddy." The diminutive pitcher is 1-2 with a 4.72 ERA in six postseason appearances against his hated rivals.

This much is certain: Pedro, though an effective pitcher and an important late season addition to the Phillies when he won five of six starts, he even in fact won his last start at Yankee Stadium while a Met in 2005, is nowhere near the peerless, intimidating Hall of Fame hurler he was from the late 1990's until 2002. He is several years past his prime and will face a fierce, patient and vicious Yankee offense that will be looking to break out after being utterly dominated by the suddenly unhittable southpaw Cliff Lee in game one.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is an eminently likeable, elder statesmen figure and has proven to be the perfect fit for his team of multifarious talents. In fact he is their Joe Torre, with his calm but intense demeanor, absolute loyalty to his players and his reliance on instinct over stats to enforce his managerial will on a game. But it seems to me that Manuel is injecting a most unwanted element of emotional confusion and drama into tonight's game by starting Pedro. I find it borderline masochistic. And it may prove to be the misstep that causes the Phillies a chance to score a decided upset and beat the Yankees in the series.

It is clear that Manuel has other options for tonight's game.

Why not go with Cole Hamels tonight and save Martinez for game three in Philly? After all, this would give Philadelphia two consecutive starts with lefthanders against the vaunted Yankee power. The formula for beating the Yankees hasn't really changed that much since Babe Ruth - start lefties against them at Yankee Stadium. Cliff Lee, with his pinpoint variety of pitches that left the Yankees flailing last night is Exhibit A. Granted, Hamels has been hit fairly hard in his three postseason starts thus far but his control has been superb and he's been striking out nearly a batter per inning. And though he's only pitched twice against the Yankees, he does have a 2.77 ERA in those games....

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Congressman Steve King Grills NFL Commish over Rush Limbaugh [J. Mark English]

WS Game 1: Cliff Lee Dazzles; Rollins Spot On [J. Mark English]

Following last nights dazzling performance by Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies, I offer up a reactions from journalists of both cities:

Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer: Cliff Lee is the coolest man in baseball.

There he was, pitching in the first World Series game of his life, and the first ever at the new Yankee Stadium. Derek Jeter, a future Hall of Famer who has played nearly a full season's worth of October games, slapped a base hit up the middle in the bottom of the sixth, the Phillies ahead by two runs. Fifty thousand New York fans leaned forward, eager for the Yankees rally that was sure to follow.

How many times had it started this way, with Jeter finding his way on base and his teammates taking some poor pitcher apart?

So here was Johnny Damon, as capable of tying the game with a home run as hitting behind Jeter and getting the rally going. Ball one. Ball two. A hitter's count. Damon fouled off a pitch, took a called strike. Another foul, then another.

Lee, working fast as always, fired the 2-2 pitch and Damon swung. The ball ticked off the handle of the bat and arced back toward Lee, a little pop-up.

And Cliff Lee, the coolest man in baseball, held his glove waist-high and let the ball drop into it. He caught it as casually as if he were getting a new baseball from the plate umpire, then cracked his gum for punctuation.

"I caught it, he was out," Lee said with a grin. "To be successful at this level, you've got to be confident. You've got to go out there and believe you're going to get everybody out. I try not to go over the edge and rub things in and be cocky."

Oh, and then he got Mark Teixeira and his $180 million bat to ground out weakly to second base. End of another inning, easy as you please.

The Phillies won Game 1 of the 2009 World Series, beating the mighty Yankees' hefty lefty ace and seizing homefield advantage. And they were able to do it because Lee pitched the toughest lineup in Major League Baseball like he was working a B game in spring training.

William C. Rhoden of the New York Times: Jorge Posada was stoic Tuesday afternoon as reporters flocked around, eagerly awaiting a response to the first salvo of World Series trash talk.

The catalyst was — surprise — Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies’ lightning-rod shortstop. On the “Jay Leno Show,” of all places, Rollins had predicted that Philadelphia would do more than defeat the Yankees in the Series, which began Wednesday night. He said that the Phillies would emphatically roll right over the Bronx Bombers, and they started out with a 6-1 victory in Game 1.

“Of course we’re going to win,” Rollins told Leno. Then, as if to make sure he had created a stir, Rollins added: “If we’re nice, we’ll let it go six. But I’m thinking five. Close it out at home.”

Rollins’s comments predictably set off a knee-jerk reaction around New York on Tuesday and created a distraction on a rain-soaked workout day for both teams. In the past, Rollins made extemporaneous predictions in his clubhouse or on the field. In this instance, Leno gave Rollins a grander, more calculated stage on which to be provocative. The talk show host cast the bait, and Rollins happily took it, which leads to legitimate questions as to whether Rollins really believed what he said or was just going Hollywood.

Or maybe he was really trying to get inside the Yankees’ head. “He’s been Nostradamus, that’s what I heard,” Posada said. “So we’ve got to take that away from him.”...

....But in Game 1 on Wednesday night, Rollins was more quiet than he was with Leno until the eighth inning, when he started a two-run rally with a walk and a stolen base. In the ninth, he added an infield single and scored. And Howard was right: the crowd booed Rollins loudly.

What was interesting about his latest prediction is that some Yankees fans reacted indignantly. It’s almost as though this is 2000 and the Yankees are the defending champions and the Phillies are The Little Engine That Could facing the Yankees’ mighty freight train.

In fact, the Yankees do not even have quite the home-field advantage they used to enjoy. Although the Yankees were 57-24 in their first season in the new Yankee Stadium, it is not the intimidating place that the old one was, where so many visiting teams got the shakes. This new stadium has no memories yet, no haunting veneer. It is a flashy billion-dollar building waiting for its first championship.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some Final Thoughts on the World Series [J. Mark English]

Here are what some of the writers are saying around the internet before the 'wild rumpus starts':
  • Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post: When the World Series starts Wednesday, the proud, confident defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies will face the New York Yankees, baseball's biggest chokers for the last eight years. What happened? Did these two cities, after a century, decide to swap identities? Live long enough, you really will see everything....Go to Philadelphia this month and you'll see stories about how the Phillies have reversed the town's ancient inferiority complex about its pro sports teams. You are no longer a sucker if you dare to believe in a Philly team's chance for a positively ridiculous comeback win. It's now the Phillies' trademark, especially in the playoffs. Ask the Rockies and Dodgers. Both are still numb. Go to New York this month and you are met by the opposite mood. Before Game 6 of the ALCS against the Angels, a Page 1 tabloid headline on the Yankees blared, "We Ain't Chokin'.
  • Christina Red of the New York Daily News: By the time Ryan Howard was drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round in June 2001, Alex Rodriguez was two months into his record $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers, already a bona fide star with several playoff trips under his belt with the Mariners. When the lefty-hitting Howard made his major league debut at home against the Braves three years later - Sept. 1, 2004 - it was an inauspicious outing. Pinch-hitting for pitcher Vicente Padilla, Howard struck out looking against Jaret Wright. Rodriguez was by then five months into his debut season in pinstripes, the star Yankee third baseman on a team littered with All-Stars. A-Rod already had one MVP award (2003), and was en route to a historic playoff series against the Red Sox.
  • Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated: Someone once asked Fred Zinnemann, the director, what a certain famous movie star was like. "What makes you think," Zinnemann replied, "that she's like anything?" In the same way, the more we learned about Alex Rodriguez, the more I've always asked myself: is he like anything? Ever? Certainly there's never been anyone quite like him in sports -- the best at his game, the world at his feet ... but yet, also incorporated within such majesty: insecurity ... jealousy ... and untrustworthiness. He could be so gauche he could make you cringe. Remember the magazine photograph of A-Rod kissing himself in the mirror? Good grief, even Narcissus was content merely to stare at his own reflection.
  • Tim Marchman of To play in the NFL, you have to make a show of going to college. To play in the NBA, you have to get through high school. To sign a contract with a major league baseball team, all you have to do is convince someone you're 16, provided you weren't born in a country with inconvenient labor laws....Perhaps this goes some way toward explaining both the high reverence in which the intellectual is held in baseball and the low standards necessary to qualify as one. Mike Mussina's crossword puzzle habit was the telling detail that led a thousand profiles during his long career, limning him as a man apart from the rabble surrounding him in the clubhouse. The Chicago Cubs alone have multiple lousy relievers suspected of harboring deep thoughts because they went to Notre Dame. And Tony La Russa leveraged a never-used J.D. from Florida State University into book-length fawning from both George Will and Buzz Bissinger....Yankees manager Joe Girardi fits neatly in this line. If you don't know that he has an engineering degree from Northwestern, a team broadcaster will be happy to tell you. Often caught by television cameras modeling taciturn expressions while consulting thick binders full of arcane statistics, Girardi looks like an engineer, runs a game like one, and even talks like one. (How are the playoffs different from the regular season, Joe? "You have your parts, and you understand what you need to do with your parts, and you just go from there.") And in this year's playoffs, Girardi has done a fantastic job illustrating why baseball is a game for delinquents, not engineers.
  • Kristen A. Graham and Jeff Gammage of the Philadelphia Inquirer: On a stool at the Yankee Tavern, tucked under the subway tracks a block from Yankee Stadium, Steve LoPresti was the portrait of a lifelong Yankees fan..."You have two world championships," LoPresti lectured a visitor from Philadelphia. "It took you a hundred years to win the first. We only have 26."...See why Phillies fans love these guys?...And why local fans say that while it was fun to whip Tampa Bay in last year's World Series, this year's matchup offers a rare opportunity:...A chance for Philadelphia to put a beatdown on its northern big brother - on the city that thinks it stands at the center of the known universe, on the team that epitomizes arrogance, overspending and entitlement...."I hate that team. I hate 'em!" said Anthony Longo, who works at Harry Ochs Meats at the Reading Terminal Market....New York is Alex Rodriguez dating Kate Hudson, hounded by paparazzi. Philadelphia is Chase Utley marrying Jennifer Cooper, caring for hounds. New York is over-the-top George Steinbrenner. Philadelphia is under-the-radar David Montgomery....The Yankees have loads of history and tradition and championships....The Phillies have loads of history and tradition...."It seems like they have more of everything than we do," said Temple University assistant professor Emily Sparvero, who studies the business of sports. "They have the bigger media market. They have the new billion-dollar stadium. They have the stars in the stands."

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Photos: Warming up Before Game One [J. Mark English]

Humor of the Day 10.28.09 [J. Mark English]

2009 World Series: Around the Tube! [J. Mark English]

Most Exciting Series in a Generation? [J. Mark English]

Jeff Neuman of Real Clear Sports ponders if this World Series match up could be the best in a generation:

Twelve months ago, the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. Two months later, after committing a tidy $423 million to three players - on top of the gazillions already earmarked for Alex Rodriguez and sure to go to Derek Jeter - the New York Yankees became the prohibitive favorite to take the title in 2009. The two will meet beginning Wednesday night - weather permitting, two words that will be repeated often in the days to come - in what should be the most exciting World Series in a generation.

The two teams are extremely well matched. Both have potent and deep lineups that can generate multi-run innings from any spot in the order. Both led their leagues in runs, home runs, and slugging; had four players score at least 100 runs; and were extremely effective base-stealers as well (the Phillies stole at an 81.0% rate, best in baseball; the Yankees were second in their league and third in the majors at 79.9%). Both play in parks that favor the offense - though the Phillies actually hit more homers on the road than at home.

Both pitching staffs, on current form, have one dependable ace, two good and sometimes great starters, and a wealth of good arms in long relief and set-up roles. The closers are another story. Brad Lidge was perfect last season (48 for 48 in saves), dreadful in the '09 regular season (7.21 ERA, 11 blown saves), but has a 0.00 ERA in five postseason games this year. Mariano Rivera is Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees are... famous. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte - the names are familiar to anyone who's followed the game over the last two decades. This year's team -- enlivened by the addition of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Nick Swisher, bolstered by the offensive and defensive presence of Mark Teixeira -- has played with a looseness and joy absent from the Bronx since, oh, forever. Jeter at 35 has had a season straight out of his younger prime. A-Rod, shaken by scandal in the spring, has played as though free from the burden of being the team's focus in this postseason. Teixeira's playoff doldrums are unlikely to continue much longer; he did lead the AL in homers and RBIs this year.

The Phillies, the defending champs, are in the unusual position of being the team with more to prove, since the Yankees were all but conceded the title as soon as they spent their megamillions. Philadelphia's lineup is the equal of the Yanks': Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Chase Utley, and Raul Ibanez each topped 30 homers; Howard led the league against with 141 RBIs; Shane Victorino had a quietly effective season; and while Jimmy Rollins struggled, he can be an important spark at the top of the lineup in a short series. How is the Yankees outfield of Damon, Cabrera, and Swisher superior to the Phils' Ibanez, Victorino, and Werth? The Phillies ranked fourth in the majors in runs -- ahead of eleven teams that had the advantage of using DHs.

The Series, as it generally does, will come down to pitching. The rotations are anchored by the recent prides of Cleveland, C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Sabathia has been terrific in the postseason, but so has Lee; the Cliff Lee of 2008-9 has pitched well against the Yankees (2-1, 1.89), while Sabathia in the same period has struggled against the Phils (0-2, 6.17). A.J. Burnett has never been a consistent pitcher, is averaging five walks per nine innings in the postseason, and Philadelphia has generally done well against him (5-8, 4.75 for his career). And for all of Andy Pettitte's reputation as a big-game pitcher, he has a losing record in the World Series (3-4).

Against the latter two, the Phillies will match up Pedro Martinez, a sure Hall of Famer who was brilliant against the Dodgers in the NLCS (and has long relished pitching against the Yankees), and Cole Hamels, last year's World Series MVP who is dominant when healthy. Is it at all unlikely that the Phils can get two top-notch starts out of Lee, and one of two each from Pedro and Hamels? The Phillies' long relievers, who should include rookie starter J.A. Happ for the Series, are less heralded than the Yankees' pair of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, but those two have looked nothing like their reputations lately (Joba's ERA since September 1 is 6.33; Hughes's ERA this postseason is 5.78, and he's allowed at least one hit in every outing). Which leaves only the closers: Can Lidge show some semblance of his 2008 form? Will Mariano Rivera, a month from his fortieth birthday, show imperfection at last?

Neither team is just happy to be there. The stage is set for seven explosive, tension-filled games. Phillies in seven.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The NBA: Where Frugal Happens [David Biderman]

Like a lot of NBA executives, Fred Whitfield, the president and chief operating officer of the Charlotte Bobcats, has been looking for creative ways to save money in a slouching economy.

So during halftime this season, don't expect to see one of those national traveling acts that cost up to $15,000 per game. For about a dozen games this year, Mr. Whitfield has enlisted the Junior Bobcats—a group of youth basketball players who are mostly 8 to 12 years old—to entertain the fans. The kids work pro bono, he says, and as a bonus, their parents usually buy tickets to see them perform. "It saves money and drives in revenue," Mr. Whitfield says.

Ever since NBA commissioner David Stern announced in July that more than half of the NBA's 30 franchises lost money last season—and recently said overall league revenue is expected to fall by as much as 5% this season—NBA teams have been trying to unwind some of their operations for the first time since the 1980s.

Most of these cuts, like the Bobcats' halftime budget, will be cosmetic: The Cleveland Cavaliers will save $40,000 by switching from paper Christmas cards to electronic ones, while the Denver Nuggets have eliminated free cellphone texting for employees. The Memphis Grizzlies say they'll save $50,000 by upgrading existing computers rather than buying new ones. "Our philosophy: lean and mean," says team executive Greg Campbell.

But behind all the small cutbacks, NBA teams are making a few adjustments this season, which begins Tuesday, that could impact the quality of play—if not the final standings. Some teams have reduced the number of assistant coaches from five to three. The New Jersey Nets grounded their advance scouts, who used to travel to watch the team's upcoming opponents, while the Grizzlies eliminated the entire scouting department. The Miami Heat asked everyone on its basketball-operations staff, including its coach, to take up to a 20% pay cut.

Meanwhile, several teams plan to reduce their rosters to 13 or 14 players from the usual 15—a maneuver that will save around $1 million per team, but could start to take a toll in March when teams start to fatigue. "Now it'll be harder to get your key players time off," says Bob Whitsitt, a former team president and GM. Former Denver coach Doug Moe says smaller rosters will remove some of the wiggle room coaches have to teach innovative plays and concepts. "More players meant more progress," he says. "It'll be harder now."

It's been a long time since the NBA had to deal with a recession. Before this downturn, the league had seen steady, and even strong, growth almost every year since 1984. But this season, the league's salary cap, which is tied in part to revenue, shrank. It stands at $57.7 million–about $1 million less than last year—and is expected to fall by up to another $5 million next year.

In the past 12 months, the Bobcats, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat are among several teams that have had layoffs, in some cases nearly 40 people. The NBA itself eliminated about 80 jobs before the start of last season, about 9% of its work force. The league also closed its Los Angeles office. "We know that we'll be challenged by the economy," Mr. Stern said in a recent conference call.

Some NBA insiders say they're not too concerned about these changes—which, they say, are mostly nipping at the margins. When it comes to things like assistant coaches, Jerry West, the Hall of Fame guard and former Memphis Grizzlies general manager, says there's been a hiring bloat in most franchises. "You look at all those assistants and say, 'My god, what's the point of all those guys?' "

Indeed, some of these cuts are really just steps toward efficiency. Rather than hire a bunch of no-name players over the summer to help give their recent draft picks some seasoning, the Bobcats instead shipped Gerald Henderson to Minnesota and Derrick Brown to Utah, where they played with rookies from other teams. And instead of spending thousands to fly each college prospect out for a couple of nights, teams decided to join forces for cattle calls.

At one mass audition in June hosted by the Nets, some 20 teams sent scouts. The event took place at the Nets' practice facility, where groups of at least six players would work out together in morning and night sessions over three days. The would-be stars grunted through one-on-one games and speed, strength and shooting drills. For the games, the scouts wanted to see players of the same position match up against one another. "We'd scrounge up whoever showed up to try to make it right," a Nets spokesman says.

By splitting the cost with about 20 other teams, the Nets ended up paying about $2,000 for an event that would have normally cost six figures.

"Given the economy, they can't fly all these guys out anymore," says NBA agent Sam Goldfeder.

The Nuggets are promoting a digital ticketing system where buyers never actually see a printed ticket. They say it could save six figures once all their fans are on board. The Orlando Magic is cutting the holiday party.

In Detroit, a city hard hit by the recession, the Pistons made a painful, if necessary, decision. A few years ago, the team delivered season tickets that were wrapped in leather portfolios that played music when they were opened. In other seasons, they'd come with trading cards, T-shirts and coupons. "They were the size of Monopoly box," says team president Tom Wilson.

This year, he says, tickets were shipped in a drab cardboard box—a move that saved close to $100,000. So far, he says, only one fan has complained. "I ask, 'What do you want instead? Higher ticket prices?' "

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Bad Times in Redskins Land [J. Mark English]

This is from Chris Mottram of

Today’s guest writer is a man known simply as Fitz, a friend of the Brothers Mottram and all-around outstanding Redskins fan. You may recognize him as our “Snyder Sucks” t-shirt model. He has also made appearances in several D.C. Sports Bog posts. So yeah, he’s pretty much internet famous.

This is his account of being kicked out of FedEx last night. Based on what we’re seeing on Twitter today from people at the game last night, many, many Skins fans had a similar experience:

Last night I was at my first Skins Monday Night game. I went with a couple friends, but knew I needed to take an Anti-Snyder banner with me. Problem was I couldn’t come up with anything clever until just before I left for the game. My brother texted me the perfect idea for a sign to play off on the whole Sherman Lewis bingo thing. I whipped up a quick “Snyder…B-I-N-GO F Yourself” sign on a bed sheet so everybody could see it. I knew it would get me in trouble but didn’t expect to get thrown out of the stadium by a couple security guys.


In the third quarter, one of my friends and I took out the banner and were holding it up. Next thing I know, four security guys are coming up both sets of stairs and headed right for us. They take my banner and tell us we have to leave the stadium. On the way out a bunch of people in the section are taking pictures and chanting “Free Speech!”

Once we got to the concourse area they asked for my ID, which I quickly tried to pass off to a friend. One of the security guys snatched my wallet and wrote down my drivers license info in his little black book. I guess that means means I’m banned from the stadium or something. They then escorted my three friends and I all the way from the 400 level out to the front gate. I tried to talk to them about the whole situation but they weren’t having it — too busy being serious security guys, I guess.

So, long story short, I got my point across, they took my banner, I probably got banned for life and I got to leave the game early. Good thing too, it was an awful game.

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The World Series of UGH! [J. Mark English]


I friggin' hate both the Yankees and the Phillies. Okay, hate is a strong word. I DESPISE both teams.

I loathe the Yanks out of pure and cynical jealousy.

My antipathy for the Phillies follows from them sneaking (and dancing) their way into the playoffs the last three seasons at the expense of my favorite team, the New York Mets.

In order to avoid having to express too many thoughts on this years World Series (which I'm sure will be a ratings dream for MLB), my friend Chris Mari will be sharing a few thoughts from a Phillies fan perspective.

As for now, I do not know who to root for. Although from a business perspective, the Yanks winning it all will be a boon for American Legends.

Chris Mari has already been busy on his Facebook wall putting up the following comments:

dear boston, welcome to the phillies nation. enjoy your stay, who knows, you may even grow to like it. love, philly ps...will trade rally towels for yankees suck shirts...


dear phillies please win the world series. i want to repeat the best month, week, day everrrr.... and run around broad street like a maniac until the wee hours. oh and that parade was pretty cool too. brotherly love, christopher

Then there is my friend Adrienne (a Yankees fan) who writes things like:

Just sat next to Andy Pettitte at the movies,.. Law Abiding Citizen - he didn't like all the "blood and guts" so if he doesn't pitch well tomorrow its cause he didn't sleep well tonight! LETS GO YANKEES!

And here are some pics already up on Facebook:

Buckle up fans...its going to be an interesting few weeks...

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NBA Panini Prestige Case Rip [J. Mark English]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rush Limbaugh and the NFL [J. Mark English]

Here are some various opinions about Rush Limbaugh and the controversy surrounding his failed attempt to be a minority owner of the St. Louis Rams:

Tom Knott of the Washington Post: You knew Rush Limbaugh's NFL ownership bid was done the moment Roger Goodell read the politically correct tea leaves and dropped the "divisive" word on the highly controversial, ultra-conservative, extremely right of center talk show host.

By comparison, Keith Olbermann is a beacon of reasoned restraint. The same with Chris Matthews, who has the eternal thrill going up his leg. So, too, Anderson Cooper, Ed Schultz, Katie Couric, David Letterman, Bill Maher and so on.

The latter are all thoughtful commentators who would be seen as wonderful additions to the pristine NFL community, which has a well-documented history of inclusiveness.

Making it "rain" at a strip club before firing several gunshots is not "divisive." Accidentally shooting yourself at a nightclub is not "divisive." Killing ill-performing fighting dogs is not "divisive." Vehicular homicide is not "divisive." We could go on and on with the felonious habits of the NFL, but this is not a tome.

Limbaugh's fiery political words are hurtful. Actions that lead to a person becoming paralyzed after being shot at a strip club are unfortunate.

The hypocrisy in the Limbaugh matter is so deep, so absurd, that the perpetrators ought to be required to wear a bag over their heads in shame.


George Vecsey of the New York Times: Limbaugh went on television Monday morning with Jamie Gangel of MSNBC, insisting he’s not such a bad fellow, and surely not a racist, but let’s not lull ourselves into accepting the way he spews code words to his constituency. He is not about economic conservatism or political conservatism, which have an honorable place. The quivering anger toward President Obama is quite visceral in Dave Checketts’s new best friend.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the N.F.L. Players Association, is not fooled. Last week Smith called upon the players to speak out about Limbaugh.

The owners should know Limbaugh, who was foisted upon them by ESPN six years ago and said Donovan McNabb of the Eagles was praised as a quarterback mostly because he is African-American. Limbaugh quickly resigned.


Mercury Morris on CNN:


Michael Meyers and Stephen A. Smith on Fox News:


Rush Limbaugh himself:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Friday, October 09, 2009

Did Anyone Find the UFL Last Night? [J. Mark English]

I traversed through the channels last night on my cable box in a desperate search to find the UFL's first official broadcast. Once I finally found it being aired on Versus, I nearly puked at the grotesque sight of the uniforms. It was not a great viewing of football.

Mike Freeman from CBS Sports offers up his own perspective:

The United Football League had its debut on Thursday night and in its infinite brilliance went against college football and the baseball playoffs. In other words, someone threw the UFL a shovel and told it to start digging its own grave.

Let's assume the UFL actually wants people to watch its games. I tried. I tried very hard to watch but couldn't find the league on TV and instead ended up watching The Joy Behar Show and trying to understand what the hell Arianna Huffington was saying.

If Shane Boyd's Redwoods fall and Freeman can't see or hear them, do they make a noise? (US Presswire)
I looked and looked and looked for the UFL. Supposedly, it's on the Versus network. I've yet to find this mythical Versus. It'd be easier to find Madonna's virginity than locate Versus.

In order of obscurity, Versus finishes just behind Carrot Top and just ahead of the Mongolian sand beetle. Versus is the tar pit of networks. Its motto should be "Versus ... where sports leagues go to die."

Three Diet Cherry Pepsi drinks and an Arianna Huffington translation matrix later, I was still in hot pursuit of an actual UFL game. I ended at the league's website. Initially I went to and discovered it was the site of the Florida Gators. Damn Gators. They rule the world.

Finally, the actual UFL website was found, and looks like it was designed in 1995. It's so cheesy it makes those Valtrex commercials look like Law and Order.

It offered a link that stated "click here and go live to a game." But you had to download something first. No way was that happening. All I needed was that new rhinoceros gay porno virus to infect my machine. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

So I was stuck. No UFL games. No California Redwoods against the Las Vegas Locomotives. Nothing.

This was the opening weekend of the league and it was invisible.

The UFL stands for the Unseen Football League.

As a football addict, I want the UFL to succeed, but it won't break through a crowded fall sports universe if it makes the games difficult to find on television.

It's one thing for a league to try and compete with the NFL. It's another for a league to give up even before it begins.

Golf and Rugby Sevens New Sports in Olympics [J. Mark English]

As if Tiger Woods needed more things to accomplish, he now has one more. Winning a gold medal! Ben Smith from the London Times online has more:

Golf and rugby sevens will become Olympic sports from 2016 after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to raise the number of sports from 26 to 28.

Both sports will become part of the programme in Rio de Janeiro and in 2020 and were approved despite some opposition which claimed the Olympics could not be viewed as the pinnacle of their respective sports. However, the International Rugby Board (IRB) has said it will scrap the Sevens World Cup to ensure the Olympics becomes the world's premier sevens event.

The golf event will consist of men's and women's 72-hole strokeplay competitions with 60 players in each field. The best 15 players in the world would qualify automatically for each draw, while existing golf tour schedules would be altered to avoid any clash with the Olympics.

Rugby had 81 votes in favour and eight against, and golf 63 in favour and 27 against. Seven sports had been considered for inclusion by the IOC, with squash, karate, softball, baseball and roller sports all rejected.

"Congratulations to both federations. We all look forward to great competition in 2016 and 2020," Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, said.

Padraig Harrington said he hoped the Olympic tournament would soon surpass the majors for golfers.

"I do believe in time the Olympic gold will become the most important event in golf and I don't believe it will take that long," he said. "In the four years between the Olympics there will be 16 majors, so winning gold will be that much more special."

Harrington admitted that golf's elitist image may have contributed to the 27 votes against. "I believe it was a stumbling block and could have caused some of those votes against us," he said.

"But being in the Olympics will help change - it has changed over the last 20 years, and 99 per cent of the professional players are not from elite backgrounds."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Yankeeland Ain't the Same [Tim Joyce]

Instant, knee-jerk nostalgia and longing for times past is seemingly a birthright for many New Yorkers. The phrases, actually more like incantations, of "it was so much better back in the 70's" or "the city is just not the same" or "it's all about money now" and "Sex and the City is evil" are frequently uttered by those who declare themselves authentic Gotham denizens. I admit that I, on occasion, lapse into such behavior. And who's to judge the veracity of these sentiments? Perhaps they come from an irrational, overly emotional place but does that lessen their truth? I think not.

So, with this in mind, I turn to the Yankees. Their awesome power and versatility on display in Game 1 in their playoff debut at the House That Ruth Did Certainly Not Build (more like the Stadium the City Got Bullied Into Giving the Steinbrenner Family after they threatened to vacate New York) dealt a blow to the heavily underdogged Twins who were clearly exhausted - and probably hungover? - after their thrilling win less than 24 hours prior in that embarrassment of a baseball field in the Mill City against the choking Detroit Tigers. I'd be surprised if the Twins are able to escape an 0-10 record against the Yankees in 2009 - they were swept in their seven games in the regular season prior to Wednesday's game.

And much will be made of this team's righting the playoff wrongs from the Yankees of recent years, where they had only won four of their previous 17 playoff contests. Alex Rodriguez will be a big story - for reasons other than steroids and Kate Hudson - as he seemed to exorcise at least a portion of his sizeable collection of postseasons ghosts last night by securing hits with runners on base, something he had been unable to do basically since the Great(est) Choke of 2004 against the Red Sox. And with Jeter being his usual sublime playoff self and the eerily ageless Mariano Rivera ready to hurl a demoralizing one inning knockout on a moment's notice, the Yankees appear for now to be the clear favorites to take the World Series and return the trophy to its rightful owner after eight years in enemy hands.

If the Yankees do indeed triumph in November (and by the way what the hell is up with this scheduling, having our summer game conclude several days into November? That month should be associated solely with the awe-inspiring World Series moments delivered after the 9/11 tragedy when there was a legitimate reason to play in the 11th month of the year. MLB could easily have managed the postseason itinerary in a more compressed manner) there will be the usual celebrations, both on the field and off, and New York will gloat about having its 27th world championship.

But it's just not the same. While walking around the city last night and watching the game in several watering holes to gauge interest, there was not that palpable sense of tension and excitement that is usually a built-in part of autumnal acoustics and environment in New York. In recent years one would have to jockey for position to get a good seat and watch these games. There's just no pulse on the street - and those Yankee diehards who would challenge this assertion are either in denial or blind and deaf.

One can't use a sense of ennui or jadedness as an excuse. As previously mentioned, the Yankees have not played well in the playoffs in some time and missed the postseason last year for the first time since 1993. So you'd think that fans would be more eager and intense with their rooting this time around.

And when the Yankees were winning repeatedly in the mid and late 1990's it never appeared to this observer that fans were losing interest. There was a distinct, almost civic, awareness and pride that those teams and players engendered. Those teams were, in fact, loved.

Is this Yankee team loved? Well, players themselves are but not as a unit. Most definitely Jeter and Rivera are loved, adored and worshipped and rightfully so. And to a lesser degree Posada falls into that category, followed by those who came up through the once-vaunted farm system - Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.

So then what's the reason for this lack of Yeats' dreaded "passionate intensity" when it comes to the Yankees? It's hard to pin it on one thing as it's more of an accumulation of events that have led to - and I'll invoke Jimmy Carter here - a malaise of sorts for a segment of Yankee fans; a vulgarly overpriced and less intimate stadium in this time of economic distress most exemplified by New York's Wall Street, the stacking of free agent players that would make even prior Yankee teams blush, the steroid scandals with Roger Clemens and A-Rod, the absence of Joe Torre, etc.

Of course, the sellout crowds cheering like crazy over the next few weeks and loving this version of Yankee success would find this entire argument ridiculous and wrong, perhaps bitter. But there's no question that, well ... things were just better in Yankeeland back in the 90's.

Top Ten List from the New York Rangers [David Letterman]

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Video: Edwards headed to Jets [ESPN]

The Dome That Wouldn't Die [Jeff Neuman]

Jeff Neuman of Real Clear Sports writes:

Don't put the Hefty Bag out by the curb just yet. Rinse out the Homer Hankies, and don't toss the ear plugs. The most ill-conceived park in major-league baseball lives for another few days.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis opened for business the year after the 1981 strike shut down baseball for fifty-eight days. Its last baseball game was supposed to be three days ago, but like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Rasputin, and Tom DeLay, it refuses to go away.

A month ago, the Twins were seven games behind the Detroit Tigers. A week ago, they were two games back, beginning a vital four-game set in Detroit - their last realistic chance to make up ground. They split the four games, losing vital calendar pages while getting nowhere. The Tigers' magic number was two, with three to play. It never reached zero.

The Metrodome has long been the Twins' loud secret weapon. When they won the championship in 1987, their record at home was twenty-seven games better than on the road. In League Championship Series and World Series play, the Twins have gone 12-2 at the Metrodome while losing ten of fifteen on the road. They've been in three World Series, including one in 1965; each Series went seven games, the Twins won two of them, and they have yet to win a World Series game on the road.

Down the stretch this season, Minnesota won nine of their last ten at home leading up to yesterday's one-game playoff. It's the second year in a row that the Twins played a 163rd game to determine the Central Division champion. Last year, they lost to the Chicago White Sox. This year, they defeated the Tigers.

Care to guess where each of those games was played?

Its baseball diamond is shoehorned into a basically rectangular structure intended for football. The outfield dimensions are irregular, proving that asymmetry is not synonymous with charm. The large sheet of vinyl beyond the right-field boundary (it's difficult to call it a wall) covers the seats that extend outward for Vikings games. The roof is Teflon, the ceiling a shade of whitish gray, with intermittent holes that accommodate lighting and do a wonderful job of mimicking balls in flight. Fielders are urged to keep a constant eye on what would be routine pop flies anywhere else; if you lose sight of the ball, you'll have to choose among the many small round options in your range of vision. As with any enclosed arena, it holds sound very well; crowd noise at games can reach levels associated more with fighter jet engines than baseball's bucolic roots.

Worst of all, the dome forced Minnesotans to make a choice no fan should face: Do I want to spend a beautiful day outside, or do I want to go to a baseball game? If you live in Minnesota, chances are you love the outdoors; summers there are too short to waste much time watching others play, especially inside.

The passing of the Metrodome from the major leagues will reduce the number of artificial surfaces in baseball to two: Toronto's Rogers Centre and St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field. Perhaps it's true that, as the bumper-sticker has it, Nature Bats Last.

The dome isn't going away; the Vikings will continue to play games there, squandering the home-field advantage they enjoyed when they played outdoors in the cold. Young twin-cities fans will discover a new baseball sensation: the smell of fresh-cut grass on a summer evening, one that's been denied them for nearly 30 years. The great bubble will still be around, a reminder of futuristic visions from someone else's past. And, for at least another week, it will cast its inflated shadow on the game that fits it so poorly. The Yankees will be overwhelming favorites to eliminate the Twins and quickly, but no one's gotten rich yet betting against the monster in the night.

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Video: Breaking Down The Twins' Central Win [ESPN]

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Rush Limbaugh Bids on the St. Louis Rams [J. Mark English]

LBelieve it or not, but long time football fan, as well as conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, may be the next owner of the St. Louis Rams.

Here is more from with Jim Salter of the Associated Press:

The lowly Rams have someone who loves them.

Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday he is teaming up with St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts in a bid to buy the Rams, owners of the NFL's longest losing streak at 14 and just 5-31 since 2007.

In a statement, Limbaugh declined to discuss details, citing a confidentiality agreement with Goldman Sachs, the investment firm hired by the family of former Rams owner Georgia Frontiere to review assets of her estate, including the NFL team.

Limbaugh also declined to discuss other partners that might be involved in the bid, but said he and Checketts would operate the team.

"Dave Checketts and I have made a bid to buy the Rams and we are continuing the process," Limbaugh said.

Forbes magazine has estimated the Rams franchise has a value of $929 million.

Frontiere's children, Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, inherited 60 percent of the Rams when their mother died in January 2008. Billionaire Stan Kroenke of Columbia, Mo., owns the remaining 40 percent. It wasn't clear if the Limbaugh/Checketts bid was for 100 percent of the Rams or just the share owned by Rosenbloom and Rodriguez.

"Our strategic review of our ownership of the Rams continues," Rosenbloom said in a statement released late Monday. "We will make an announcement upon the completion of the process."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined comment. Calls seeking comment from Checketts were not returned.

Limbaugh is a native of Cape Girardeau, Mo., about 100 miles south of St. Louis. He's so popular among conservatives—fans of his show call themselves "dittoheads"—that he has been called by some the voice of the Republican Party.

Limbaugh, who lives and works in Palm Beach, Fla., once worked for the Kansas City Royals and is an avid sports fan.

In 2003, Limbaugh worked briefly on ESPN's NFL pregame show, but resigned after saying Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

Checketts, 53, and his Sports Capital Partners and Towerbrook Capital Partners purchased the Blues in 2006 from Bill and Nancy Laurie. The Blues have been gradually rebuilt under his leadership and made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004.

Checketts first approached Rosenbloom in early 2009 about possibly buying the Rams. Eric Gelfand, a spokesman for Checketts, said in June that Checketts had put together a group consisting of local and outside investors.

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