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Friday, April 29, 2005

Brawling: what is it good for?

The Red Sox-Devil Rays suspensions are official, and I'm dismayed at this latest bout of idiocy from baseball. There is no good reason for these sorts of things. Supposedly you have to retaliate when your guy gets hit, but I don't see how getting people on your team suspended and thrown out of games really helps you in the long run. Then there are some who point to the ARod-Varitek brawl from last summer as the event that sparked the Red Sox playoff run. I personally don't think such situations should have to be the kind of thing that gets pro athletes to start performing.

I do have to give Nixon some credit for his creativity in these matters, based on his "accidentally" throwing his bat at a pitcher in Tampa a few years back when it somehow slipped out of his hands on a swing. The all-time award, though, has to go to Izzy Alcantra, who first kicked the catcher before taking off for the mound in a 2001 AAA game.

Also, can we put an end to this "Curt on the car phone" garbage? Schilling is a legendary performer, no doubt, but he seems to lower himself by engaging in the talk radio garbage. And for the record, the D-Rays lost plenty of games before Piniella arrived (after winning a World Series in Cincinnati and 116 games in one season in Seattle), they just lose because they have no good players.

This Writing Is Flat

If Tom Friedman's new book is like his column, I don't think I could last more than five pages:

Indeed, we can't rely on importing the talent we need anymore - not in a flat world where people can now innovate without having to emigrate. In Silicon Valley today, "B to B" and "B to C" stand for "back to Bangalore" and "back to China," which is where a lot of our foreign talent is moving.

Inspired by the Eschaton thread, where one commenter asks: "How many of these ******* columns about his flat world are they going to print?" I agree, the op-ed page is not your personal book promotion venue. After Lexus and the Olive Tree came out, they basically serialized it into his columns for months on end.

"Bush's Social Security Plan Cuts Benefits"

That can't have been the headline the White House was aiming for coming out of last night.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Short Attention Span Theater

The networks cut Bush off tonight at 9pm--God forbid we should miss The Apprentice or Survivor! As Drudge notes, "The White House learned a painful media lesson Thursday: Do not launch a press conference on the first night of May Sweeps!"

RELATED: For a more intelligent discussion of one of the top issues in tonight's press conference, I see the Economist has a survey on oil this week.

Match the Columnist to the Column

Both New York Times op-edders Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd wrote about the Bolton UN nomination in Wednesday's paper. One column was a collection of sarcastic quips and barbs presented in a poetically pissed off way. The other was an earnest discussion of the state of the UN, clumsily expressing frustration with the Republicans, and offering a completely unrealistic alternative choice for ambassador.

Which columnist do you think wrote which column?

I fully recognize people get into patterns of writing a certain way, but this seemed an especially glaring example, especially with the two of them dealing with the same topic in their own special ways on the same day. Perhaps to keep myself out of a similar rut I should try to write occasional blog posts in other writing styles.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

GayWatch

For the politicos who visit the page and aren't so interested in the NBA playoff post below this, I provide for your viewing pleasure (via the Hamster) a Daily Show clip, the latest installment of GayWatch. I hope Kyra Phillips and the other CNN simpleton anchor they have in the clip got to see this one.

What Kind of Obscene Gesture?

You know, ESPN.com, when I click on a link to a story headlined "NBA Fines Mobley for Obscene Gesture", I am only clicking because I want details. Then all you give me is this: "Mobley, who scored 22 points in an 87-82 loss, made the gesture after hitting a 3-pointer with 42.4 seconds to play that cut the SuperSonics' lead to 83-82." Either this wasn't on the TV or I missed it cuz I was watching the game. Did he give the crowd the finger? Did he grab his crotch? Inquiring minds want to know. It would be convenient if the NBA could signal what kind of gesture it was through the dollar amount of the fine, eg $15,000 = crotch grab.

While I'm making a nonsensical NBA post, I'll pose this rhetorical question: why are all of these playoff games lasting three hours? I feel like the commercial breaks are definitely longer since TNT has to subject me to a dozen "Into the West" promos a night. Hint to the league and the TV people: if you add time to the breaks, the game lasts longer! That's why you keep missing the first six minutes of the late games! I would be annoyed if I were a fan of one of those Western Conference teams.

Also, last note to TNT: Inside the NBA is one of the higher quality programs on television. It's a shame that it ends up airing at 1:30 on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (I plead insomnia regarding last night, otherwise I wouldn't have been up, nor should any normal person be).

Enough NBA angst, it's time for some goodies, courtesy of Kriston at BTD. I present the dinner conversation of Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo and Patrick Ewing. The highlight for me:

EWING: How many languages do you speak, seven?

MUTOMBO: I speak Ebonics now, so eight. Yao, do you speak Ebonics? [Yao shrugs.]

Mutombo's cellphone rings. The ring tone is 50 Cent's In Da Club. He answers and starts speaking one of his eight languages -- not English.

EWING: Man, every time I go over to Dikembe's, he's on the phone. [Ewing picks up his cellphone and starts mocking Mutombo.] 'Doobleedoo doobloodoo doobleedoo. ...' I'm like, 'What the hell is he saying?'

Blogging of insane people, don't you wonder what gets said when Ricky Davis and Stephen Jackson are exchanging their trash talk (I'm not getting into the Celtics debacle from the other night, just go here for that). Simmons has a persuasive debunking of the "Reggie Miller is a superstar" hooey today--I still chuckle every time I see that his blog is called "More Cowbell."

I will try to do more oddball NBA playoff-themed posts in the coming weeks, just ignore them if that's not your thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"Bullet" Trains Kill

Or at least one did in the big Japanese crash the other day. An interesting NYT piece, which some might find borderline inappropriate in the immediate aftermath of such an event, basically blames Japanese society's obsession with being on time.

The article notes that, "In 2004, on the 40th anniversary of the bullet-train, there was much hand-wringing over the fact that a year earlier the trains on that line had registered on average a delay of 6 seconds." It goes on:

Train companies are secretive about delays. But any regular rider notices that they tend to be caused, not by engineering mishaps, but by causes beyond human control, like typhoons and suicides jumping before oncoming trains. So confident is Japan in its trains' safety that there are no restrictions on how close residential buildings can be erected next to tracks: It is not rare to see them only one meter, or three feet, apart.

First, are suicides of people jumping on the tracks really a common occurrence? I think that's a rarity stateside, though if you're in a society that obsesses over six seconds, I can see how you might want to jump. Also, one meter between the tracks and a house? Are you sane?

The backstory is that the young, inexperienced train conductor had recently been reprimanded for overshooting a station platform and causing a delay. He did the same thing the other day, so he was speeding up to make up the lost time, hoping not to get chewed out so badly by his boss again. That boss probably feels crappy right now.

A Journey to the Planet Dorkdom

So, Matt Yglesias linked a Julian Sanchez post analyzing some dialogue from the Star Wars: Episode III script (aside: how is the script of a movie that has yet to be released on the internet?). In perusing the above links, I encountered some highly dorky Star Wars discussion in the blog comments, and this from the Hit & Run thread took the cake:

I used to know this girl who was a big Star Wars fan. For about two years we wrote and e-mailed each other soft-core pornographic stories, with idealized versions of ourselves as the main characters, set in the Star Wars universe just prior to the time of The Phantom Menace.

Wait, that's not even the dorky part. In my personalized Star Wars pornographic fanfic, I tried to work some libertarian philosophizing into the background. (My character came from a semi-anarchistic planet that was sort of a cross between medieval Iceland and modern-day Somalia.) Now that's dorky.

Suddenly, my own life seems way less pathetic--thanks, Stevo Dorkly!

Weld for Governor--of New York?

Bill Weld, former MA guv, is now considering a run for the top job in New York state if George Pataki steps aside. A bit of political trivia buried in the AP wire story: "Sam Houston is the only two-state governor in history, having served in Tennessee from 1827 to 1829 and Texas from 1859 to 1861." Weld's the kind of Republican I like, the kind who could never get elected in one of those Sam Houston states.

10 Million Ways to Die

Add another to the list: getting your legs chopped off by the plane you skydived from. The guy managed to land, only to die later.

From the rhetorical questions file: why do singers always get far more attention when they screw up the national anthem than when they sing it properly?

While I'm linking, Norbizness found some lost Star Wars dialogue.

I got an email today from some guy who wanted my thoughts on Ozzy Osbourne's appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in '02. OK, then, I thought, and I responded, happy to run with the topic. In the last few weeks, I've also gotten emails from the online operations of Ted Kennedy and Harry Reid (they'll be sad to learn that my words don't exactly swing large blocs of votes here). Last fall I got an email from a guy doing a project on blogs for a communications class at the Uniersity of Maryland. Last January, I was even interviewed for a wired.com article on blogs. Truly bizarre the attention one gets from writing one of these things, even if practically no one reads it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

S for Stupid

All of the discussion of grading NFL teams' drafts is foolish. So some NFL writer liked what some teams did and didn't like what others did. Obviously the teams themselves disagree about the wisdom of some of their selections. We'll find out whose moves paid off soon enough.

I also think the consternation over the Redskins selection of Jason Campbell is rather bizarre. It's not like Patrick Ramsey has been that good. If Ramsey is good enough, he should win the job. If the Redskins think Campbell can be an upgrade, then taking him makes sense. All this concern for Patrick Ramsey's feelings seems a bit much.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Moussaoui Death Penalty

The logic of the death penalty seems to unravel entirely in terrorism cases. So Moussaoui may die for whatever involvement in 9/11 he may have had. Too bad we can't execute those other terrorists but, alas, they killed themselves in carrying out the attack! Confound it!

Draft Toilet Humor

Tony Kornheiser summed up my thoughts on the NFL Draft rather well in the opening of PTI Wednesday and Thursday. Here's Wednesday (paraphrased):

Mike Wilbon: "Tony, everyone wants to know, who's going number one?"

Kornheiser: "Not me, I just went, so I'm good for the next 30 or 40 minutes."

And then on Thursday:
Wilbon: "Word is the Dolphins are looking at receivers, Tony, would you take Braylon Edwards if you were going number two?"

Kornheiser: "I don't know, would he fit in the stall?"

Also, how does Mel Kiper survive doing so much TV during draft week?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The State of Women's Tennis

People who think there's been a growth of popularity for women's tennis due to the quality matches are kidding themselves. The real reason? Have a look at Page 2's feature marking Maria Sharapova's 18th Birthday. Not much of a pretense there, I'd say.

Meet the New Pope, Same as the Old Pope

It appears the cardinals' choice of some old European guy is not going to inject much of progressive streak into the Catholic Church. I guess I'll have to keep waiting for a cold day in purgatory.

Sympathy for a Cop Killer

I was all ready to feel bad for the Providence Police about one of their officers being shot and killed. But when I saw what they did to the suspect, I felt a little differently. Way to lose sympathy fast, jeez.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Marathon Day

This is a day when I miss being around Boston because I revel in the ridiculousness of the marathon, as I noted in this blog post on last year's race.
The Bill Simmons ode to the marathon is really one of his masterpieces too, highly recommended.

My parents told me that a neighbor is running this year, and now the official runners get computer chips implanted in their shoes that automatically record when they cross different points along the course. The shoe even sends a text message to family and friends telling them where that person is, which helps alert the interested spectators as to when so-and-so should be passing by. I think my parents plan to be along the route somewhere to cheer him on today. Hopefully they can figure out all this newfangled technology.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, this is another regular Monday.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Why O'Neal Is Wrong

Scoop Jackson today asks, "Why Can't O'Neal Ask Questions?" in reference to the imbroglio over Jermaine O'Neal's recent suggestion there was a racist motivation behind the proposed NBA age limit.

Here's why, Scoop: people don't like it when unsubstantiated charges of racism are thrown around. If David Stern really is a closet racist, it's amazing he's been able to force himself to smile through the NBA Draft for the last twenty years.

Correlation does not equal causation. Just because most teenage NBA entries are black doesn't mean the league is considering an age limit specifically because it wants to keep young black men from getting rich. Anyone who has heard Stern's take on this knows that he's concerned about the ones who enter the draft on bad advice and end up undrafted, not in college, and having their lives seriously screwed up. I think the Leon Smith case and others have affected Stern's thinking on this a lot.

I happen to disagree with Stern and to believe that the rare, exceptional talent like a LeBron James shouldn't be punished for the foolishness of more marginal prospects. But injecting race into the conversation only serves as a distraction from the real issue and even risks discrediting all opponents of an age limit.

And for the record, O'Neal did more than "ask questions." As I quoted the other day, O'Neal said, "As a black guy, you kind of think [race is] the reason why it's coming up." It's reasonable to demand O'Neal provide some sort of evidence of racist motivation behind the proposal since otherwise we would just be letting him get away with impugning league officials in a very ugly way.

So either give real evidence of racism, or don't mention it again. There are plenty of ways to argue the merits of rejecting an age limit.

Anthony Williams Sends Peter Angelos a Love Letter

It's on the WaPo op-ed page today and it makes little sense regarding the Nationals' TV situation:

More important for fans: The number of games scheduled for over-the-air television this season is 79 -- more than almost any other team. By comparison, the New York Yankees will show just 21 games over the air, while the Boston Red Sox plan to air 28 and the Los Angeles Dodgers 25.

Very deceptive use of the statistics here. "Over-the-air" TV is no great shakes since most people have cable now. The fact is that Red Sox and Yankees fans can watch every single game their teams play. Nationals fans (who include among them many Yankee and Red Sox transplants to the DC area) are used to being able to follow a team like that, so it's not surprising they are upset about this idiocy of putting half the games on TV. What the hell is that?

NESN is even on basic cable in Boston as of a few years ago, and it's never been an issue for people up there who want to see the games.

Also, what is up with having a home opener at night? Home openers are supposed to be day games.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

No Race-ing to the NBA, Kids

Yes, I'm on a posting binge here. Anyway, Jermaine O'Neal is throwing out the accusation that David Stern is a racist for seeking an NBA age limit:

"As a black guy, you kind of think [race is] the reason why it's coming up.

"You don't hear about it in baseball or hockey. To say you have to be 20, 21 to get in the league, it's unconstitutional. If I can go to the U.S. Army and fight the war at 18 why can't you play basketball for 48 minutes?" O'Neal said.

Of course, you do hear about it in football--never mind.

I agree with O'Neal that an age limit is a bad idea. But let's stick with serious arguments before we casually toss things like this out there, please?

The key difference with baseball and hockey is they have well-developed minor league systems, not that they are sports with more white guys. The NBDL is a young experiment that hopefully will expand and flourish, giving hoop prospects a real alternative to the joke that is the "student-athlete" experience we recently witnessed in the NCAA Tournament.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Kids Swear A Lot

So reports the Washington Post, addressing one of the most pressing issues of the day. In my real life, I swear a good bit, but, dear reader, I never dirty this page with such language. Thus I have proven that you can talk dirty and still be a productive adult--not that I know much about that productive adult business (I may turn into one some day).

Also nice is the Post's sidebar to the article, which informs readers on how to get a control of themselves with tips like this:

6. Stop complaining. Before you start griping or whining about something, remind yourself that no one really wants to hear about it.

Or, more succinctly, "Shut the %$#@ up!"

Pass the Homophobia

Is it me, or does this Times article strike anyone else as ridiculously homophobic? I mean, two men, eating in a restaurant, facing each other? They must be gay for sure!

Also, I'm sure it's been explained before, but how does Jennifer 8. Lee get away with a number for a middle initial?

NY's Finest...Liars

Looks like the cops made up charges against protesters during the RNC, lovely. This is a known police tactic, to detain and frustrate legit free speech. Someone ought to do something since I have a feeling NYT articles eight months after the fact aren't so embarrassing as to deter such behavior. At least the hand-held cameras seem to be tipping the balance some (and the technology shall set us free).

If You Want to Get Your Ass Kicked...

...then go with two roller suitcases, dressed in black, and stand outside the Capitol building!









I Love Hootie

There is no better award presentation in sports than when Hootie Johnson, in his own special dialect of English, presides over the presentation of the green jacket at the Masters. I was thinking of doing an audio post on this, but then I realized my Hootie Johnson imitation sucked. (Yes, I really thought about it. Also, have you noticed the Hootie and the Blowfish guy is doing Burger King ads these days? But I digress.)

Instead, I'll look for a good picture.



Sorry, that's all I can get from yesterday.

How much money's worth of free advertising do you think Nike gets from the now-famous shot of the ball hesitating before dropping on for that amazing chip-in birdie on 16? Another bonus of Tiger winning majors now: extra TV time for his wife.

I doubt I will be posting again on golf for a very long time.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

En Vivo Desde East Rutherford, New Jersey

I'm watching the Celtics play New Jersey on Telemundo right now--some of us read the NBA.com weekly email newsletter and find out about these things--and I've got a few complaints/comments.

1. The Celtics don't play much defense.
2. The play-by-play announcers sound like they're in a TV studio rather than the arena.
3. The announcers scream for every basket like it's a goal in soccer.
4. The halftime interview with Vince Carter was in English, which was kind of strange, with the reporter asking him a few questions, and then speaking Spanish when she threw it back to the studio.

Don't go down by the Tidal Basin today if you don't like crowds. And if you're running, you will have to slow down to a walk to get through, as I learned a little while ago. Maybe if I weren't a moron, I would've realized that a pleasant Saturday at the peak of the National Cherry Blossom Festival was a bad time to try passing through there.

The Nationals were actually on TV last night, amazingly. If you're trying to build a fan base for a professional sports franchise, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that having your games on TV is a good idea. Fortunately, the people running things seem to be figuring this out now, but it's still a bad situation to have Washington's ability to follow its team held hostage by those killjoys in Baltimore.

I tried posting on the Nationals' TV situation both Thursday and yesterday with no success. Blogger really is an absolute piece of crap these days and I might switch blogging platforms soon, if I can work up the motivation to do so.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sports Marketing 101

If you're trying to build a fan base for a professional sports franchise, it might help to have the team's games on television. I think they tried the no-local-television-contract approach in Montreal and that didn't work out so well. Good to see things are improving, though Peter Angelos still seems to be intent on ruining everyone's good time with the Nationals.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Fever Pitch Makes Me Ill

Yes, I'm being negative right now. This Fever Pitch movie is going to be super lame, though. Seeing Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore frolicking around the diamond just after the Red Sox had won the World Series seemed to denigrate the whole thing back in October, and I'm not forgiving them. Plus I'm sure Fallon's ridiculous Boston accent, which is fine for a stupid SNL skit, will be cringe-inducing on the big screen.

Brian Williams is a Fool

When a reporter recounted that the Pope's will said he had no earthly possessions, Brian Williams said, "In the words of John Lennon, 'Imagine no possessions.'" Me to the TV set at that point: "And no religion too."

If you're getting up at 4am to watch the funeral, you might want to check if you've refilled your meds lately.

Get Your Pope On

Had enough of those guys in the frilly costumes and pointy hats on TV yet?

I see the Pope considered retiring back in 2000, which would have spared us the last five years of witnessing his public decrepitude. I was a supporter of this idea of papal retirement way back in February in fact.

In other news, yesterday Grammar Police was on CNN and today it got linked by Wonkette. I remember back when Kriston Capps was a wee blogspotter!

Finally, check out this hilarious book cover for Byron York's farcical "Vast Lwft Wing Conspiracy." Maybe if those heavy hitters like David Sirota and Buzzflash could do a little bit more "conspiring" the Democrats and liberal-minded folk might not be entirely shut out of power in this country. A few more lines on the cover and you'd see "Dimmy Karras", please.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Prelude to a Blog Post

I'm sitting here watching the CBS pregame show for the college basketball championship game, which they have dubbed "Prelude to a Championship." Prelude? Is that a word they use in TV these days?

I am picking Illinois, the team I picked before the start of the tournament. I think that good guard play beats good inside play in the college game, and we'll know if I'm right soon enough. I would find it amusing if Bruce Weber (someone give that man a voice, please) choked tonight, since UNC's last title came when a guy named Webber choked memorably in 1993. I'm also predicting that the X-factor in tonight's game will be one of the five or so principals named Williams. (I made a similar Williams joke recently and was told I was a racist--any thoughts on that?)

To be mildly serious for a moment, I think some of the reaction to the Alex Sanchez steroids suspension is stupid. People may want to see a name player get punished to prove the drug testing program is legit, but the reality is that the guys most tempted to use substances to get ahead are more marginal players who really need it or else they'll be out of work. The only Red Sox steroid case I can recall in recent years was Manny Alexander, a light-hitting utility infielder.

Time for that one shining moment every year when I really enjoy Luther Vandross music.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Boston.com Registration--Boo!

Boston.com is going over to the dark side. I'll let them explain:

Yes, we know, we know -- it's a bother. And we don't like to bother you. So why are we doing it? We have two really good reasons:

1. We want to know you better. Seeing how many users read a story or do the crossword puzzle is limited research; we want to give you more of the stories and features you like.

2. Our advertisers want to reach those who are most interested in their products. So if you live in a certain geographic area, for example, one of our retailers might place an ad for a store near you on the pages you visit.

Sorry, but neither of these are good reasons. You can accomplish #1 pretty easily without having users register on your site. Even I have a site counter, so that's not hard to do, and I imagine a real web site can break things down more fully and figure out the number of people who view an article. The second reason is basically because they want more ad revenue. If it keeps their content free, so be it, but I'm not enthused by ads in general, and I do everything I can to ignore them when they appear on my screen.

How about adding an RSS feed for Globe articles while you're at it so I won't have to deal with visiting your site any more now?

ESPN on Crack

Let me get this straight, the Red Sox-Yankees baseball season opener was bumped to ESPN2 tonight because ESPN was showing women's basketball?

We Want the Same, But Change, Won't You?

Link:

CNN) -- A majority of U.S. Catholics surveyed want the next pope to have a theological outlook similar to that of Pope John Paul II, but they would also like to see changes on issues such as birth control, stem cell research and allowing priests to marry, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Sunday.

I'm confused how one can have a "theological outlook similar" while changing positions on various theological issues.

Friday, April 01, 2005

ESPN.com at 10

While the Pope may or may not be dead at this point, I'll post on ESPN.com's tenth anniversary today. Check out that hideous front page they had back when it was called ESPNET SportsZone--yikes!