Sports from the point view from the guy that holds the clipboard for the guy that holds the clipboard.

Friday, September 26, 2008

BCS Defender: USC loses to Oregon State again.

How does the upset of USC by Oregon State impact the BCS vs Playoff debate?  Well for all of those who want a playoff you are disregarding this game.

I base this argument on a few assumptions, correct me if I am mistaken.

1) Any playoff format I've seen proposed will either allow for every BCS conference champ, every conference champ, or the top 4, 6, or 8 ranked teams.

2A) USC will win the Pac-10 anyway.  I am assuming that one conference loss will not be enough to take the Pac-10 title from USC.  Because they lost to a team that will lose more than one conference game and because USC will either have a better conference record or a better overall record than any other team in the Pac-10.  If they lose again, like in '06, then we'll talk about the impact of this game differently.  But that won't change what the game meant when it was played, nor what it means right now.

2B) USC will finish in the top 4, 6, or 8 in the polls if they end the season with just this one loss.  They beat Ohio St, and if Ohio St wins out and USC wins out there is no way you can drop USC low enough to be out of almost any playoff format.  USC has a cupcake schedule and should win out.  We said that at 7pm last night too, but that does not change anything.  People are also confident that Ohio St will win out and take the Big Ten.  From USC's point of view Ohio St winning the Big Ten is all they need, even if the Buckeyes drop a conference game.

I do not think these 2-3 things are much of a stretch, and if they aren't then what does this game mean if we eliminate the BCS and go to a playoff format?  It removes the meaning from this upset.  I can even safely say that USC could lose a 2nd conference game and still have a 50/50 shot at winning their conference.  That would really only eliminate them from a 4 team playoff format and possibly a 6 team, but it would still keep them in any format of 8 or more teams.

So I ask you to really look at the effect's that a playoff would have in the regular season.  Understand the emphasis that would be placed upon winning the conference and not just having the best season you can.   With the way things are currently set up USC is just looking at the Rose Bowl now, and hoping somebody else loses in an upset bigger than they did.  As of right now the Big 12 and SEC undefeateds are in control of their own destiny.  Even with one loss the winner of either conference can claim a tougher schedule than either USC.

Let's discuss Oregon St for a moment.  This game will be the highlight of their season, even if they make and win a bowl game.  They knocked off USC, and as of right now, ruined their national championship hopes.  How many times will you be able to say to a USC fan, "You got run over by a midget"?  The celebration that occurred on campus last night was one of the things we love about college football.  For those students and those athletes they will always be able to talk about this game with pride.  Under a playoff, what is their joy about?  Sure they beat the bully on their block, but they did not alter that bully's destiny.  That bully gets a black eye, but not a broken leg.  Sure it looks bad, but that bully can still fight tomorrow.  However a broken leg means that the bully needs to have someone else's bully break a leg in order to have a chance.  Big difference.  Huge difference.  It completely alters the meaning and value of last night's upset.

Taking that argument one step further.  Both teams knew what they were playing for last night.  Both knew that USC had little to gain and much to lose, while Oregon St had much to gain and nothing to lose.  Insert the game into a playoff formatted world and that game does not have the impact that it does now.  So we must ask the question, "Does Oregon St step up and play as hard as they did if this game does not ruin USC's season?"  That is a fair question.  The Beavers played their hearts out last night, does that happen if losing this game cost's USC nothing?

One month in, and in their first conference game USC has seriously hurt their chances at playing for the National Championship.  In a playoff based college football world, this would not be case.  Say what you will about the BCS, the "regular season's value" argument cannot be ignored.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Re-poster: The Eyes of Chestnut Hill are upon Thee

Originally written: October 24, 2007.

It does appear that the string of success that Boston area sports have had of recent have caused the once overlooked Boston College Eagles to be lumped into something very special. Special: Anytime the Bruins have a winning record; different rant. On Thursday the Eagles travel to Blacksburg, Virginia to play the #8 ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. Hokies: Castrated Roosters; yeah I went there. The only problem with this newfound attention is that they are playing the biggest game in school history opposite game 2 of the World Series. The good news is that people will be flipping back and forth between innings and hopefully the football team’s long tradition of choking in big games will finally come to an end. The Hokies offer the Eagles an opportunity to earn national respect. VaTech’s only loss this season was a 48-7 embarrassment to #3 ranked LSU. So the stakes are very clear for BC: Win and you control your own destiny for the BCS Title game; Lose and your reputation as over-rated choke artists will be etched in stone. I know it may be a stretch saying that BC running the table puts them in the BCS final but this year has been a bit strange and beating a highly ranked conference rival on the road is a real victory that no voter or motherboard can ignore.
Let me go a bit deeper into the history of choking, because that is the plot-line of this game. Can BC step it up and be a big-time program, or will they wallow in bottom of the top 25 as “Lineman-U”. A brief history of choking:
2004: BC was “politely” leaving the Big East for a “better opportunity”, in their last year in the Big East they have a chance to win the Conference title on their way out when, on the last week of the season, they visit a sub .500 Syracuse squad that proceeds to kick their tails up and down the field 43-17, not only losing the Title, but losing to what was until that point your biggest conference rival, and to top it off making them bowl eligible in the process.
2005: BC, in their first year in the ACC, travels to UNC in the first week of November after losing in Blacksburg, with a chance to clinch their division and get a rematch with Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game. The lose a heartbreaker 16-14 that still hurts when I think about it. They finish with a very respectable 9-3 record, but lose the division to a then 7-4 Florida State.
2006: 2 November road losses kill their chances to play for the ACC Championship, one to eventual Champ Wake Forest and another to long time rival and the team that brought them over to the ACC, Miami.
Recent history does not bode well. However there is a new coach in town, with a new system, and a Heisman candidate. Speaking of the Heisman, this is not only a showcase game for the school, but also for quarterback Matt Ryan. While many of the talking heads on ESPN claim a loss will kill his chances to join the Heisman club, a good performance by him (multi-TD 250+yds 0 INT) regardless of the outcome, will serve him well on national television.
So on a big stage, there is a big game, for high stakes and a history of not performing under pressure. I’ll be flipping back and forth between innings, but my heart will be as in it as it is the World Series. Go Eagles, the eyes of Chestnut Hill are upon thee.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dancing with the Stars: First Dance

My first reaction is that they dialed down the scoring a bit.  They did not dial it down enough, we definitely should have seen some 3's last night.  The judges already have their favorites but we'll save that until after tonight.

Let me thank my Editor right now, her notes played a big part in this.  and it's her fault I watch this show.

Cody.  Little Zach is stuck in the middle of the pack and his going first hurt him.  They did a great job and I want to hate him but I can't.  His crush on Julianne humanizes him to a point that it makes me almost tolerate him.  He was better than Maurice, and once he works on his footwork he'll be a real threat to win.

Misty.  Did they even watch her dance?  4th?  Give me a break she had the  best dance of the night.  Slumping shoulders was her biggest crime.  The score was the judges.  She will win this.  She reminds me most of Layla Ali.  Great personality, and once she lets loose she will destroy the competition.

Over Scored:
Warren.  Wow, he moved much better than I thought.  I really didn't think he'd have the foot work needed.  That being said, no way he actually did a Cha-Cha!  Go re-watch it, then watch anyone else's cha-cha, and tell me he actually did the dance.  Not his fault, but the judges should count this against him.

Brooke.  She was very good, but she did look like she kept forgetting the moves.  She was much better than I expected and will play the 40ish mother of 4 card very well.  Toni, Misty, and Lance were all better though.

Ted. I love Ted.  I hope he stay son the show as long as possible, but come on!  He was awkward, stiff, and had the Jason Taylor Hand of Doom.  He's going to poke an eye out with that thing.  (Sorry Jeff.)

Maurice.  Although better than expected he was still slow, stiff, with no real rhythm until out of dance holds.  He  loses his step easily, and had  flat feet (poor heel leads).  He was scored way too high.

Quick Exits: 
Jeff.  He was done before I started typing this.  He is funny, and I'd like to see him next week out of shear comedy value.  I knew he could clean up his act and make us laugh, and he did.

Rocco.  Trying hard to be the Gute (Goot?) and failing.  He was terrible and really belonged in the Over Scored section..  Good attitude, but he'll be gone soon, not soon enough.  He'll be the guy that toward the end you say "I don't even remember him!"

Susan.  Wow, shocker here.  This is her crowd and she tanked it.  Stiff, uncomfortable and counting!  We can see you count people!  She needs to bring the Erica (bitch) or she won't be around long.  Not be mean but attack.  That's one more thing that makes this show a sport, if you don't attack you won't win.

Kim.  Much better than I thought she'd be.  Good posture, good footwork, a few missteps, but very good.  My miscalculation on Brooke means that the "hottie curse" is targeted on Kim.  Sorry KK.  Warren has a bigger but, Cloris has a bigger rack, poor Kim.

Non-Misty Heavy Hitters:
Toni.  She was good, and will play the pity card till my cold heart bleeds.  She was darn good.  She had the footwork, she had the energy, but does she have the fan base?  The internet makes me think she's the "sob story" favorite.  Ick,  I want her to win if she earns it, I'll hate if we go through another Marie Osmond.

Lance.  Wow, his partner is going to take him far.  That girl is mainlining redbull and Lance still has his NSync moves.  I underestimated him badly.  Again Footwork and Energy will take you far.  He has both, plus a fanbase.  Put him in the finals now.

Show Stealer:
Cloris.  Bigger rack than KK? Check.  Sitting on Carri-Ann's Lap? Check.  Seriously teasing Len? Check.  Needing to be *beep*ed? check.  What did this girl not do?  Yeah girl.  she had more vitality than Lacey.  But she isn't a good dancer.  I will not go anywhere near predicting when she'll go.  Just enjoy the ride, Len will.

Mea Culpa:
Wow, I was wrong a bit in my preview.  Let's clear up my mistakes.  

"My money on the other two finalist will be Susan and that chef guy."  WRONG!  It will  be Lance, and most with Toni, Brooke or Warren fighting their way in.

"Warren Sapp gets Kym Johnson. He will make fun of her accent in the first episode. He will last to the second episode."  WRONG!  See above.
"Warren Sapp - Dead duck"  -again, wow was I wrong.

About Jeff: "Or well, we'll enjoy his 3 dances." Did I say 3?  I meant 1. really.

"Moving around a professional kitchen is like dancing..."  hahahahahahahah What moron said that?

"The hottie curse will hit BB." -Yeah 40+ Mother of 4, she ain't going anywhere as long as the kids are in each "practice clip".

"This pair is my call for first dead. Toni has no audience left, her "Q" rating is in the gutter"  Toni is going to be spending lots of quality time in your living room.

About Suasn and Tony: "Unless she sucks badly they go far."  She sucks.

About Maurice and Cheryl: "She can take Maurice to the top, if he has the personality for it."  Although I think he'll come crashing down to earth about halfway through, he has the personality.

The judges, and some fans, don't realize it, but it's Misty's show to lose.

Bye Jeff!  We will miss you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Re-Poster: DWTS Pre-view!

I am reposting this because tonight is the night.  I get to miss Monday night Favreball, thank goodness.  I love football, but I  hate Favre.  Seriously though,  DWTS is the real deal if you are a sports fan.  You get to watch people develop, you get to see teamwork in action, plus you get both intentional and unintentional comedy.  

There will be weekly re-caps.

Yeah, this is a Dancing with the Stars series. I'll be quick with my explanation.
When I was younger, somewhere between the ages of 10-13 my parents had a running joke: I loved watching sports so much that if they sweat and kept score I'd watch. Seriously, rugby, Aussie rules football, almost anything ESPN would show back when they were desperate to show real sporting events and not just the talk-fest it is now. Honestly watch the show and tell me if those people are not getting a real physical work out. Then tell me they are not competing based upon a real number score. Then this is a sport and I'll treat it as such.
Now all sports, especially ones with female competitors, have a distracting appeal. I will not deny that it is higher with DWTS. We are going to keep the distracting elements of the show to a minimum, they cannot be ignored, dancing is sexy. Despite this we are going to take the competition aspect of the show seriously.

The cast:
Lance Bass - Openly gay former NSync member. The gay thing only gets mentioned because I thought an all homosexual season of DWTS would be awesome. It would awkward and funny and the person who won would be the person that really stepped up. But it was never going to happen unless we had some major closet ejections (athletes and ex-athletes).

Toni Braxton - Former VH1 project. She'd have had a reality show if they did those things 10-15 years ago. Supposedly did some Broadway but she has been MIA for a while.
Brooke Burke - Former Wild On host on E! She will fight for the "hottie curse" with Kim Kardashian. The hottest girl on the show usually bites it early on due to the sheer jealousy of the DWTS target audience. Sorry, but it is true.

Rocco Dispirito - Moving around a professional Kitchen is like dancing. I hate saying that, hate it. I already hate this guy due to my hatred of the Food Network. I know he's not on Food Network, but I have still never heard of them, and I almost always root against these people. Despite his graduating from BU, he's out in my book. He'll be that competitor that I hate but always moves on. There is one each season.

Maurice Green - One blog I read and love (AA) claimed, dismissively, that ex-athletes always seem to win. Dancing is about one thing first and foremost: footwork. The athletes that have won have had good footwork going in due to their sport. And those that have come close to winning fall in the same boat. Sprinting may or may not be enough in itself.

Kim Kardashian - As mentioned with Brooke Burke, one of these chicks is going down early. (Done giggling?) And it may not be the worse dancer. Why is she famous again?

Cloris Leachman - She will rock the pity vote hard. Unless she sucks horribly she will make it to the 2 dance portion of the show (past the half-way mark).

Cody Linley - This kid could be dangerous. He is a little Zac Efrom clone (the blonde mimbo from High School Musical) and if he can dance at all the old women will swoon over him in a highly inappropriate but unspoken of way. (What? I just spoke of it? Ooops.)

Susan Lucci - Again with the pity vote, plus the Soap Opera crowd is the target audience of this show. She is a juggernaut going in and can pull off a Marie Osmond type run very easily.

Misty May-Treanor - My early favorite. Again with the footwork, she has it. Moving on sand will translate very well into moving on the dance floor. A fierce competitor with a great personality, she should win. Plus, she is just the right amount of attractive, not too hot, but still beautiful. Guys, she will look better in a dress than she does in her volleyball uni, promise.

Ted McGinley - Awesome! The guys forced to watch this show will love him. He rules. Personality? Check. He may not last but we'll love every second he is there.

Jeffrey Ross - I hope he has the positivity needed for this show. It's corny, but the positive attitude is a big part of the appeal of this show. People are trying to win but they also become friends. If he can turn his jerkiness aside, similar to Adam Carola last season, then he'll do ok. Or well, we'll enjoy his 3 dances.

Warren Sapp - Dead duck. He doesn't have the footwork that Jason Taylor had. He's a "big boned" DL not a speed DL like Taylor. He'll be fun, the guy has a great personality. That and he'll try hard, this counts for a ton on this show.

That is half the story. Their partners matter greatly. And can be the difference between winning and losing.
The partnership is like most 2 person sports as far as chemistry being the most important ingredient. The chemistry has an exponential importance because one partner is doing the teaching, the choreography, and the coaching, while the other person is the one being more closely judged. It is a dynamic unique to DWTS and I like it. Unlike that other dancing show that I do not watch, you get to see the partnerships develop. And not only the partnerships, watching the contestants learn to dance and grow in their skill, knowledge, and ability is something that should be enjoyable to any sports fan.

Lance gets an newcomer, Lacey Schwimmer. No relation to David. She apparently has done very well on So you think you can Dance. I don't watch that dancing show so I'm forced to trust Wikipedia (*crosses fingers*).

Toni gets Alec Marzo, and while he is damn good, you have to be to be married to Edyta. This pair is my call for first dead. Toni has no audience left, her "Q" rating is in the gutter and this show is like the NFL, you can't get into game shape during the season. You can't build an audience during the show large enough to help you win. You need to bring some people in with you. But who knew who Helio was? Helio has 1,000x the charm that Toni does. He's oozes charisma, unless she has it hidden well, she's done.

Brooke gets Derek Hough. this guy is a winner. He could compete successfully at almost anything. He hides it well but he wants to win. That will not be enough. The hottie curse will hit BB.

Rocco gets Karina Smirnoff. This is the wildcard pair. Moving around a professional kitchen is like dancing and he will take to it well because Karina is a damn good teacher. They will surprise most. And I will hate him for no good reason. Agian irrational hatred, any sports fan can understand this.

Maurice gets Cheryl Burke. Cheryl is the Patriots of DWTS, she wins and people love her or hate her. But she is probably the best at this competition. She can take Maurice to the top, if he has the personality for it.

Kim gets Mark Ballas. Mark is also very good and comes from a family of dancers. He can dance and teach.   That combined with KK's reality show will, sadly, bring them past the halfway mark.

Cloris gets Corky Ballas. Corky is Mark's dad. He can teach dance. This is the darling couple and no one will want to see them go, but they are going to leave early. They will be adorable though.

Cody gets Julianne Hough. Ah Julianne, Mormons aren't supposed to dress and dance like that, but that does not stop you? They could surprise people because as I mentioned above he's has potential. Julianne is always very good, almost as good as Cheryl.

Susan gets Tony Dovolani. Tony is smooth as hell and Susan has a large and tailored fan base. This is the power couple. Unless she sucks badly they go far. He's too good and she is too popular. This show is like a home game for her. She's new to the game but she still has home court advantage because the audience all know her and love her.

Misty gets Maksim Chmerkovskiy. He nearly won with Mel B. Add his skill with Misty's competitiveness and her athleticism being the proper type to help her learn to dance and you have the Winners. They will smoke everyone. Oh yeah and Misty has a personality that America has only partially seen and that they will fall in love with.

Ted gets Inna Brayer. One thing people love about DWTS are the contestants that have no chance but will honestly try. They will make you laugh and enjoy them. We always feel bad for the pro dancer that gets stuck with these people. They will have a short but very enjoyable runs It is bittersweet. Imagine playing on the Kansas City Royals, you suck, but then imagine enjoying it, and then having it end quickly.

Jeff gets Edyta Sliwinska. Edyta is awesome and has abs that rival any Olympic athlete. When wondering if this show is a sport, look at her abs and ask yourself if she could do more sit-ups than Michael Phelps, the answer is yes. As for how they will do see, Ted and Inna.

Warren Sapp gets Kym Johnson. He will make fun of her accent in the first episode. He will last to the second episode. Again, see Ted and Inna.

So that's the breakdown. Misty and Maksim win, and everyone is fighting for second place. My money on the other two finalist will be Susan and that chef guy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Steroids Hall of Fame: Hulk Hogan

In 1994 Hulk Hogan, real name who cares he's a wrestler, testified in a trail over steroid use in the then WWF.  He testified that he and several other athletes in the WWF had used several different steroids obtained from several different doctors.  He implicated his former boss Vince McMahon in the drug use but denied repeatedly, under oath, the claim that Vince was distributing them.  Hulk Hogan admitted to using drugs going back to 1976.  He also claimed to only have used steroids for 12 years.  Once his youngest child was born, it was claimed, he stopped.

Now I understand that talking about Hogan opens up many cans of worms.  We could talk about wrestling, Vince McMahon, Chris Benoit, and even Hulk's wife because all have a history steroid use.  I'm not going anywhere near any of them, because none of them were in Rocky III.

Let's break this down.

The guy was the World Title holder in three different promotions a total of 13 times.  Alright to be honest wrestling is a stunt-show and the wrestlers are highly accomplished stunt men.  They don't wrestle but they put on quite an impressive display of athleticism.  You climb to the top of the third turnbuckle jump onto a guy in the middle of the rink, make it look like you killed him while making sure you killed neither him nor yourself.  I don't watch wrestling anymore, but did as a child and "sampled" it in an ironic way for a bit many years ago.  I'm going to be fair and  give them credit for what it is they actually do.

The Steroids:
In his own words he took "Injectables and orals. Anabol, decagabril, testotosterone."  With deca being his preferred drug.  He uses the "they were legal" excuse, and made sure he had perscriptions for as many of his doses as he could.  Granted he was not covering his ass so much as he was scared of getting ripped off with fake drugs.  And I know what you are thinking, all wrestlers are on steroids what's the big deal?  We'll get to that in a minute.

Cultural Impact:
Hulkamania.  Go up to any 30something squat down a bit, flex your arms downward and scream at them "Whatcha gonna do brother?!?!?!" and they will laugh.  Or at least I would.  This guy was in Rocky III!  The first Rocky I ever saw.  I did not even realize until I was in HS the the first Rocky won an academy award.  I thought they were all as "awesome" as Rocky III.  Everyone knew someone who had one of those red and gold tear-a-way shirts.  He had a Saturday morning cartoon, and I'll go on record right now and say he'll be the only member of this club with that claim to fame.  Shy of Big Mac he could also be the most recognizable member as well.  You can also say that he was the man that put wrestling on the map.  Every person wrestling now owes him, big time.

Hulk further emphasizes the point that in some circles steroid use is just assumed.  No one seemed to care that professional wrestling was awash with steroids.  Honestly do you remember the trial I referenced when it was happening?  Although he did use them to get bigger, he also used them to heal from injuries.  That's a big deal for someone who spends 90% of the year on the road, and is in a physically strenuous job.  When Hulk started using wrestling was not the big industry it is now.  If you were hurt you did not perform, no play = no pay.  That's just how it was, until Hulk changed it all.  He is easy to vilify because without him wrestling would have stayed in the shadows and never would have had the impact on America that it did.  So thanks for cheating you big jerk, you and your 22" guns shoved this "sport" down our throats.  If you had not taken steroids we would have been spared the words "Vince McMahon Billionaire".

Remember kids, say your prayers and take your vitamins!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Re-poster: Bill Buckner

Originally written: April 8, 2008.

The year was 1986. I was an 11 year old youth soccer playing Boston Red Sox fan. I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch something very historic. Instead, a man named Bill Buckner made me cry. I did not realize at the time that it was not at all his fault. I was 11, how was an eleven year old boy supposed to know that a man with 6 broken bones in his ankle should have already been subbed for defensively, right John McNamara? Or that a catcher is supposed to keep the ball in front of him at all costs, ESPECIALLY in extra innings, especially during the World Series, right Rich Gedman? Or that a guy named Bob Stanley was the last man who should have ever touched the ball in that situation? Or that Mike Greenwell should not have pinch hit before DON BAYLOR!?!?! No, I learned these things later, as my love for baseball grew, and my father explained reality to me. The historic highlight was just the end of a series of mistakes and Bill Buckner had the misfortune of being at the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time. It was also explained to me later that he was good for 100 RBI every year like the sun rising in the east. It was then that I realized what that number meant in baseball. Over 20 years, and one Mitchell report later 100 RBI’s is still as important as it was that night. The next day it meant a little less apparently.
So that moment was a turning point for me, when sports stopped being only fun and became very real, and when statistics became more than just numbers in the newspaper. I became a Buckner apologist and was proud of my defense of that man. The pain of that moment as it was continuously replayed changed. It went from the loss of a World Series to the unfair vilification of a man who helped get the Red Sox to the World Series.
Then 2004 came around and my first thought after the Red Sox won was of my grandfather who had died in 1998. The second was for Bill Buckner and the lifting of the curse that was upon him. Nothing can ever replace those 18 years of humiliation but at least it was over. That incident could become something else, and not his defining moment.
Today I’m 32 and Bill Buckner made me cry again. Not the anguished cry-myself-to-sleep-tears of 1986, but the wet eyed “I’m a man and I’m not going to cry over this” tears. Everyone heard there would be a special guest today, opening day at Fenway Park, to throw out the first pitch. And most people realized, “DUH! It’s going to be Buckner.” But that didn’t take away from the moment at all. He cried as he walked to the mound. And watching him throw the ball to Dwight Evans, then shake Johnny Pesky’s hand will be one of those moments I never forget. It was bigger than the World Series celebration that today was. Bigger than the "Curse of the Bambino". It was a chance for people to apologize, forgive and attempt to fix a past wrong. He got what we all want, a moment to shine. He got his long deserved standing ovation at Fenway and nothing can ever take that away from him or those who have defended him all these years. The ball between his legs is sports history, and 100 years from now it will still be shown, but now it’s just a piece of film and not the defining moment of a man who man who hit for .289, with 2715 hits, and 1208 RBI’s over a 20 year career.
If you love baseball try not to cry at the video. This is not about the Red Sox, or Boston, but rather one man and his redemption. The link is to the article but I could not get a direct link to the video working, just click on video link within the article.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Steroids Hall of Fame: Mark McGwire

It's Big Mac Time!  In "honor" of the 10 year anniversary of his breaking of Roger Marris' single season home run record, I bring to you today a brief look into the career of Mark McGwire.

Remember that summer?  When McGwire and Sammy Sosa together brought baseball back from the cancellation of the 1994 World Series?  It was the summer my mother cared about baseball.  It was cute watching McGwire try to do Sosa's complicated home run hand jive.  At the time, it felt pure and it felt right.  No one thought twice about McGwire's huge arms.  We were blissfully ignorant of all issues steroids, as far as baseball was concerned.  We did enjoy it, we loved it, and we thought we were watching something special and wonderful.

Wow, we were wrong.  What we were witnessing was the highest level of cheating in American sports history.  It touched all of us.  We were all duped, and when the little bottle of androstenedione was found in his locker we got just a hint of how deep this scandal would run.  We also go a taste of the excuse to end all excuses "It was legal at the time".

Ok let's break it down.

The guy set the rookie home record at 49. was the first player to hit 30+ home runs in his first 4 seasons.  He ended his career with 583 home runs.  A twelve time all-star and a rookie of the year in 1986.  The guy should have been a first ballot hall of famer.

This guy was a lifer.  He was juicing right from the beginning.  Unlike Barry Bonds there was no before and after photos.  This guy was jacked his rookie year and was only slightly more jacked when he hit 70 home runs in 1998.  He is the reason we have the "Steroids = Home Runs" myth.  He was hitting the long ball as a rookie and was doing it until he retired in 2001.  Andro was his drug of choice, because that's all we know of.  He won't talk about the past, and thus is denying himself and us a sense of closure that  many of us want.

Cultural Impact:
I'll play the race card.  He was white, so it was a shock to America that he could cheat.  The questions surrounding his use have had an impact on how we view baseball players, and how baseball players handle their drug use.  He gave us the play stupid card.  His actions  inspired Jason Giambi's I'm apologizing but I'm not going to tell you what I am apologizing for.  They inspired Raphael Palmero's lying to congress, and Sammy Sosa's "I need an interpreter" maneuver.  And how can we not give McGwire credit for Barry Bonds' righteous indignation, and blame the media tactics.

As much as we want to, we cannot go back and change the past.  We are all dirty from that summer.  How do we handle the emotions we feel now?  For me, you are reading it.  For others it is anger, denial, and acceptance.  We are stuck with what happened and stuck with no truth about how it happened.

Maybe instead of the Mitchell report, baseball should have done what some countries have done after a reign of tyranny.  They looked to Truth and Reconciliation hearings.  A place where people were free from prosecution but were asked to tell the truth.  A place where people could hear all sides of the full story and make amends so that everyone could move on.  The window for something like this is long past and Selig would never have the guts to even try it.

McGwire does not want to talk about the past, but what is baseball without it's past?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reposter: Why we really Love March Madness

Seeing as how I've written a few things before I started doing this blog.   Let's take a quick re-visit to some of those other pieces.  Of course we'll start with one the better things I've done and then work our way down to the real crap.  Yes it has been edited a bit, spelling, missing words, and bold paragraph titles/themes.  

Originally written: March 28, 2008.

     Many people have written about their love for this annual event. But sadly they miss the heart of the matter usually making lists specific to that season so they can re-write the very same piece the next year and still come off as relevant. Lame. Let’s really look at what makes this one of the world’s most exciting sporting events.
     It is does not discriminate. There is no elitism involved here at any level. The NCAA tournament does not discriminate based upon the size of the school, the conference, or the fan. All are welcome, and for the teams it is fair because every team has to earn their way in via the same methods. The entry methods are level, win your conference tournament or be one of the best thirty some odd schools that did not win their conference tournament. Yes, someone always gets left out, but you cannot accept everyone or the beauty of having to earn it is lost. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and 64 is the perfect number. The tournament also gives the teams a chance to build their reputation and move their way up the pecking order from Cinderella to a top 25 school. Prime example of this is Gonzaga. 10 years ago they were Cinderella, now they are a perennial top 25 school that will get an at-large bid if they lose their conference tournament. Not only that but they are bringing their conference up with them. St Mary’s College was able to use Gonzaga’s success to earn their own at-large bid. All because Gonzaga took their Cinderella role and showed repeatedly that they can play at a top 25 level.
     For the fans this event is equally as open. It does not matter if you watched every game of every Big Monday or if you have trouble spelling ESPN, you are welcome to fill out a bracket and play along. The first timer, the one that usually wins the pool, is welcome with open arms for their picks are just as likely to lose as the stat junky’s is. Think about that, hours and hours of pouring over shooting percentages, free throw percentages, rebounding statistics can all be worth the same as a brief glimpse at a team’s uniform. That is a level playing field. But it also makes things fun. It gives people a reason to talk with people they would never otherwise talk to. It brings offices, schools, and families closer together. Now a big part of the reason for this is the clean and simple to understand format. 64 teams, with brackets set in stone. No ifs, no re-seeding, no tie-breakers, no if necessary’s. If team A wins they play the winner of the Team B / Team C game. Anyone can follow along. Other events try but they just can’t get out of their own way and then other people get involved and make things even more complicated. Look at the NFL Playoffs, try following along and explaining it to a 10 year old with no interest in sports. Good luck. Then add on the silly side bets on the Super Bowl and all openness has been removed. While back at our beloved March Madness, even the gamblers latch onto the simplicity because that’s their best access to money. Because things are so level and fair they don’t need point spreads, over/unders, or odds to win. Those exist if you are hard-core but if you just want to play all it takes is $5 and a bracket cut from the newspaper. Those who want to bet $0 are as welcomed as those who want to bet the farm. When even bookies are open to all bets, you have something really special.
     It is Rebellious. If the NCAA Tournament were run by the NBA how long would it take to play all 63 games? That’s right, 2 months, at least. The NCAA gets it done in 3 weeks. TV means nothing to them, yet their tournament is still worth a billion dollars. Even though they do things so very wrong when it comes to maximizing a TV audience.
     They play games during office hours! No your boss doesn’t care; he’s watching the games online as well. But TV cares. What other sporting event at this level occurs while 90% of the people who care are at work or school? NONE! It doesn’t happen. It’s a mortal sin in the TV world. The President doesn’t make an address to the nation before 8pm eastern unless he absolutely has to, and even then he’ll drop the bombs first then tell us in primetime. But the NCAA tournament starts at noon on a Thursday, every year. That’s 9am on the west coast. The only other sporting event that even comes close to pulling a stunt like this is MLB where one team plays one game before noon on a weekday. The Boston Red Sox play a home game starting at 10am on Patriot’s day, a local holiday. So that’s close, it’s a Monday, it is morning. But it’s not a national interest game, it’s only one game, it only happens once a year, and technically it is a holiday. The NCAA tournament doesn’t just do one game at noon, it does 3. That’s not enough; thumbing its nose at the rules again they do the same thing on Friday. Not only that but they get the games over with in a timely fashion. The games end not too long after midnight and definitely before 1am. This allows those deserving, or sneaky school children the chance to watch many more of the games. Not only that, but the NCAA has the audacity to play several games at once, often times up to four games! WOW! Four games being played simultaneously. Now way would any other sport do that in the playoff to decide its champion? The NHL is about the only one that even comes close, but if they had a truly national fanbase we all know they’d end that practice real quick. Then to top it all off, they dare to give their fans 3 full days off between games. That’s three perfectly good TV days that they throw away. Who needs Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday anyway? Let the people work on those days to make up for the two we took from their jobs. What other event would allow it to walk away from our short attention span 24 hour news cycle American minds for three full days and expect us to be able to get excited again? No one has the cajones to do that, except the NCAA. So let’s put this together: they cram 16 games into a 12 hour slot that starts at noon, then they do it again the very next day, then after two more days of excitement they take a 3 day break. This must be where term March Madness came from, one of the TV executives hearing of this schedule and saying, “THAT’S MADNESS!”
     It is the emotions, stupid! Let’s face it, no other sporting event grabs our hearts like this one. It’s not just about our favorite teams, or the favorite to win, or the Cinderella, it’s about all of that and more. There’s overtime, there are buzzerbeaters, and there are dominant performances that shock us. With 63 games you get to taste everything that can happen. All of the things we love get a chance to shine on a stage that matters for both us as fans and for the kids involved. The emotion makes this work. We don’t mind seeing one of the players cry after either a victory or a defeat because they are still kids and we do feel their pain and their joy. We are as emotionally vested as they are because it is a “one and done” format. The star player fouling out hurts us as much as him, even if we are rooting against his team. We can cheer for Cinderella even if we picked the team they beat to win it all. We allow our allegiances to blow in the wind as our brackets fall apart, because there is always another favorite, another Cinderella, or another match-up of equals. The story goes on and our interest doesn’t fade. In most other sporting events, no matter how much we may love “the game”, or “the league”, or “the players”, we lose interest once our team is gone. We care about all 63 games. Every person that fills out a bracket will want to know the result of every single game. In other sports there are flat out games, series, and match-ups that we just don’t give a damn about and we ignore them. Here we stay and watch no matter what happens. Just because Duke is eliminated does not mean Duke fans have turned off the tournament. No, they stay and watch, picking other teams to root for, or they just enjoy the game for what it is. People don’t get upset if the Championship game has a crappy match-up, they don’t care if one team doesn’t deserve to be there.
     By the time that Monday night rolls around we are so vested that we leave the BS behind. We got on this train knowing the rules and being committed to the journey. We may hate, we may love, but we don’t judge. We just watch and enjoy. Then when it’s over, there is no second guessing. No questioning, no saying, “Well if they had to play so-and-so in the Sweet 16 they never would have won.” No unlike every other sporting event known to mankind we accept the outcome as pure, fair, and just.
     These are what make this tournament the event it is. These are the things that other sports need to look at and improve if they want to grow a loyal fanbase. It’s not perfect, and in fact its flaws make us love it more. But it works, and every year we come back for more.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Steroids Hall of Fame: New Rules

Ok, it was pointed out to me that I broke half of my guidelines when I wrote the Rodney Harrison piece.

The original standards were set in my first piece and a follow up piece I did an hour later after a Google search revealed someone doing something similar.  The other blog is no longer around and I  wasn't going to let it sway me anyway.

Old Rules:
Great on the field
Impact off the field because of Drug use
Retired or Banned (at least effectively)

Rodney Harrison is borderline great on the field.  He's the best there is right now at his position, but is he Canton bound?  I'm not sure.  He is not retired nor has he been baned.  Jose Canseco was also not "great", although he was the first ever member of the 40/40 club.  If his career ended with a little more dignity he'd be in Cooperstown.

New Rules:
Great on the Field (a good argument for real HOF, or best there currently or at the time at his position)
Impact off the field because of drugs (what did we learn from them)
Retired or Served a Suspension due to the use.  (I won't speculate on current players that have yet to be busted.  But if you have been busted you're fair game.  If you're retired then I have no problem with rumors.)

Steroids Hall Of Fame: Rodney Harrison

Football season is here, so what better way to start than by  enshrining someone that helps crystalize our differing attitudes toward steroid use.  A reminder:

Baseball = Bad

Football = It's ok you aren't a bad guy.

Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you, from my very own New England Patriots, the NFL's "dirtiest" player Rodney Harrison. 

He was suspended for the first 4 games of the 2007 season for admitting he used Human Growth Hormone. Many in the NFL cried foul at Patriots fans for not giving him the same treatment that Roger Clemens got when his name was part of the Mitchell report. But let's be fair to Bostonians, Clemens never helped us win a title. In fact he had a reputation for blowing the big game while he was pitching for the Red Sox. It's ok to be upset with someone who cheated but never helped his team by doing so. Harrison on the other hand has been a self-less team player and only took HGH to "help" him "recover" from an injury. You know so he could get back and help the team. He did miss nearly all of the 2005 season with injuries (three torn ligaments in one knee). So don't blame us for being hypocrites, blame Clemens for being a selfish choker. It really is that simple.

As for the rest of NFL fans and the media? What the hell is wrong with you people?!?! Cheating is cheating! Drugs are drugs, and drugs are bad, be it 'roids, HGH, EPO, pot, E, LSD, coke, heroin they are all bad! Aren't they?!? Why can an NFL player miss a month and it's no biggie, Harrison will be enshrined in Canton, but a baseball player is ruined forever? Honestly the only reason Harrison gets any flack at all is because he plays for the Patriots. If has was still with the Chargers and this happened it would not have even been remembered by most.

Why are we as fans, the media do start out that way, have different emotional triggers for these two sports? Is it because we view football as a more physical game and thus deserving of some more leeway? That we can't imagine, STILL, how steroids can help a person hit a baseball? Let's look at Harrison, the way he plays is violent. He goes all out on every play and wants to hit the other team as hard as he can. While see a big jacked up baseball player with a toothpick in his hands seems kind of ridiculous. Look at Bonds, he was all 'roided up and he wore armour to the plate like a big baby. Yes fastballs HURT and yes Rodney wears pads, but all football players wear pads. Not every baseball player does.

There is also some BS going on here and it is one further proof that steroids are different than other drugs. The only other drug with this level of hypocrisy tied to it is pot. Hands up for each of you reading this that knew in their lifetime one active policeman that smoked regularly (once a week). More than half of you should have your hands raised.

Maybe the issue is that NFL players have been more honest about their drug habits than baseball players have. They've been publicly dealing with the issue for over 20 years, while baseball had gotten a free pass until this millennium. Even Rodney was quoted as saying "I took a banned substance." That's 100x more specific than what Giambi apologized for. Is it fair to say that it's ok for fans to overlook current NFL transgressions because we spent so long over looking baseball's?

So what do I say about a guy on my favorite team? And not just a guy, but a crucial player? See 2006 AFC championship game and that pass to Dallas Clark up the middle late in the 4th quarter. Harrison was not there because he was injued, a healthy Rodney does not lat a TE make that play. I honestly don't know. If I walk away from the Patriots, I know that all teams have someone as bad on their team. So I'd have to walk away from sports, and that is something I'm not ready to do. So I file this under the way things are. I'm addicted to sports and the people I root for are desperate to win. Color me the enabler then because I'll plead guilty to that charge.

Did he use them more than just for recovering from his injury?  Only the niave would say no, and if I 'm not ready give up my ignorance and niavette then I should stop this series right now.  You can't assume everyone's dirty but you can;t give the benefit of the doubt to those that have been busted.  I'll say he's clean now, everyone gets a second chance, but I won't say he was clean until he got injured.  It's possible but he's lost that argument.

Welcome to the club Rodney.  Say hi to the gang:

It won't stay such a small and elite club for long, so save some seats.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Steroids Hall of Fame: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Today we step away from main stream sports to take a brief look at the world of competitive BodyBuilding.  We turn our eyes toward "the King", as MuscleMag International refers to him as.   Governor of California,  Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Athletic accomplishments:

He is a 7 time Mr. Olympia, 6 of which were consecutive.  Say anything you want, you don't mess those guys.  They may not be able to scratch their backs but they are huge.  Artificially so!


Steroid use:

He admitted using steroids, "while they were legal".  Ah yes, it wasn't cheating because everyone was doing it.  Where have we heard that before?  Oh yes, that is Baseball's excuse.  


Cultural Significance:

Well he shows us that steroids have been around for a long time, this is not at all a new problem.  He also shows how much, in the right context, Americans are willing to tolerate.  He gets away with it because he "stopped", he was "honest" about his use, and it was culturally acceptable in his sport, so he was not ever counted as a "cheater".  When he was making his name in movies during the 80's, people knew of steroids and we did not really think too much of it.  We thought it was something done only by those people who had a reason to do it, so he got a free pass.  He even appeared in an anti-drug music video, sponsored by President Ronald Regan called Stop the Madness.  

It was just understood that he was on steroids.  So he, I feel, more than anyone shows us how mainstream steroids are.  This is not a case of forgiving and forgetting something that occurred over 20 years ago, this is a tacit acceptance of steroid use by a major political figure in America.


Again we have to point to the hypocrisy of our reactions to steroid use.  Poor Barry Bonds has suffered everything short of pitchforks and torches and he can't get a contract to save his life.  Yet Arnold is a popular governor and is a major force in the American political landscape.  So you can run for office with a steroid track record but you can't ever get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 



Governor, yes

Cooperstown, no

Canton Ohio, yes

Olympic gold medal, no

Mr. Olympia, yes

Yellow Jersey, no

The lines are clear but I can't figure out how they were drawn.


So, a big thanks to The Governator.  You are clearing a path for all those kids in high school who use steroids.  Thanks to you they all know that they have a future in politics.   Well done sir.