I don't set out to pick on Mike Freeman. Sure, I've done it before, but I don't loom waiting for him to screw up. I come by it honestly. Freeman recently declared the demise of the Spurs dynasty. Amazingly, finding 25 ways to say they're dead without any facts (unless you count, "Then, they got old. They got old as hell.") counts as a column at CBSSports, so maybe Vince of Slap Chop and ShamWow fame can get a new gig on there (presumably with a file picture to accompany his posts).
In the interest of full disclosure, before the season I wrote this, "The better of the two aging Texas teams, this year will signify the end of the road for the Spurs Big Three and championship hopes. It's doubtful they would've won this year, but Manu's Olympic performance may have robbed the team of any legitimate shot at a final ring." But then a funny thing happened, I watched the team play this season. Parker and Duncan were both incredible in multiple games against the Mavericks, but lacking that second penetrator (Manu) the team wasn't nearly as potent. Duncan did not look done and Parker, who in NBA miles may be older than his birth certificate indicates, still has plenty left in the tank.
The Big Three for San Antonio are 33, 31, and 26. The Big Three for Boston are 33, 32, and 31. Oddly, no one said Boston had no chance for a title last year despite an aging core. The fact is the Celtics were better prepared for the loss of KG and Perkins and Davis have played better without looking over their shoulder at the Intimidator. Otherwise, Boston could have been in the same boat as San Antonio. The Spurs have plenty of good role players, but they lack one good second-tier sorta-star. With so many teams saving for 2010 and with the economy wreaking havoc on other teams budgets, it's entirely possible that San Antonio could swoop in and steal one of these guys for a mid-level exception this off-season. If they can land one more piece and with the Lakers and Nuggets facing some tough decisions involving re-signing their own players, it shouldn't be all doom and gloom for the team that finished third in the west despite missing one of their most important pieces for half the season, including the playoffs.
Duncan posted 25 or more in three of the five games against Dallas and Parker scored 24 or more (including 38 and 43) in all but one game in the series. If you add another solid contributor, a healthy Manu (who needed a break from basketball) and another draft pick or two, why would this team not be considered one of the elites next season? If you want to make the case that there's a young man in Cleveland that's going to be raking titles in, that's fine, but it won't be because this team is too old.
Thursday, April 30
I don't set out to pick on Mike Freeman. Sure, I've done it before, but I don't loom waiting for him to screw up. I come by it honestly. Freeman recently declared the demise of the Spurs dynasty. Amazingly, finding 25 ways to say they're dead without any facts (unless you count, "Then, they got old. They got old as hell.") counts as a column at CBSSports, so maybe Vince of Slap Chop and ShamWow fame can get a new gig on there (presumably with a file picture to accompany his posts).
The Rockets and Trailblazers meet in Houston tonight for game 6 and possibly the final game of the season for the internet wonder Blazers. Houston's been playing and playing well without the "Second Round Virgin" Tracy McGrady, but it's not lost on his critics that the big fella, Yao, has not been able to push past the first round either. Often described as "he is what he is," Ming's production is often under-appreciated.
Entering the Olympics there was much consternation about Yao playing so much basketball and returning too quickly from his foot injury, but despite his size he's proven much more durable this season than many other NBA players that repped for the homeland. Among centers, only Dwight Howard ranks above Ming in all three primary statistical categories: Points, Rebounds, and Blocks. Yao led the Rockets in the same three categories this season and if he can lead his team to a win over the Blazers tonight, many of his doubters will have to re-evaluate to consider that maybe, "he's better than what we thought he was."
Note: The Rockets are 3-0 in the series when Yao gets a block and 0-2 when he doesn't get one.
Catfish has elaborated on the state of the sports media much more eloquently than I ever could so I will not be throwing any two cents into this story, but once I read it I had to share. From The Big Lead:
"Tough times in the newspaper biz. Two writers for the Baltimore Sun in the press box here got the news — by phone during the game — that they had been laid off in the latest round of cost-cutting. Stay classy, Baltimore Sun management.) (UPDATE: Make that three reporters and a photographer axed by the Sun during the game.)"
There is a certain reality that newspapers and many other businesses must face in times such as these, but if you are going to let people go you should do it in a dignified manner.
The Baltimore Sun is Absolutely Heartless, and Tim Wheatley is a Gutless Sports Editor [TBL]
To steal a phrase from Doc Holiday, Wyatt the Nuggets are rolling. Last night Denver put the exclamation on a beatdown of the Hornets 107-68. The only salvaging point for the Hornets was that they did not get swept, winning game 3 by 2 points. Denver's average margin of victory in this series was 30.75. Chauncey has given the team a completely different identity from last year and the confidence is way up from last year. The team was only 4 games better in the standings, but it is night and day the way they are playing.
The Nuggets move on to the second round against the Mavs who dispatched San Antonio. Denver has to be seen as the favorite in this series but for now they are going to celebrate their first playoff series win in 15 years. Their last one was when they upset 1 seed Seattle who was coached by George Karl. If you forgot about that series somehow, this should jog your memory:
L.A. is still the huge favorite in the west, but if the Nuggets keep up this level of play they should blow by the Mavs and perhaps give the Lakers a run for their money assuming they get by the Rockets/Blazers.
Here's a short discussion we had about the Nuggets playoff performance (after game 2 of the Hornets blowout series), the changes the team has made, and could their be a duel even more incredible than the Bulls/Celtics as the playoffs progress?
Carmelo, Nuggets finally punch ticket to second round [NBA.com]
Wednesday, April 29
Ladies and gentlemen, defenseman Tim Gleason. While the Caps beat the Rangers 2-1 in their game 7 and assured the playoffs will have another round of Ovie after there was some concern, the Whole Gales of Carolina snatched victory from defeat in the swamps of Jersey. Trailing 3-2 with less than 2 minutes in the 3rd period, Carolina launched a furious rally that started with Gleason keeping the puck in the zone with 1:24 left. Gleason dove to his knees to prevent the puck from crossing the blue line and it found its way to Jussi Jokinen, who scored the game-winner in game 4 with .2 seconds left, and he put it in with 1:20 to go.
Not only did Gleason keep the puck in the zone and help get it around to Jokinen, but it also left enough time for Carolina to get the goal that put them ahead thanks to the handywork of Eric Staal.
There were so many great players and both teams gave great efforts in the series that it would be foolish to label one player as the definite MVP, but without Gleason's save, it is doubtful that Carolina would have been able to score one let alone two goals in the final 1:20.
While Carolina celebrates and now must face the 1 seed Boston Bruins and their anti-jerseytucking bear, the Devils are left to swallow sadness.
Yesterday as I was running errands I came across a man crossing the street to get to the grocery store. He was wearing a suit and sunglasses, not an unusual combination but upon another cusory glance I saw he was wearing croakies. Really dude? I am by no means a connoisseur of fashion, but what is the purpose of croakies while wearing a suit? They are not even your actual glasses, they are just sunglasses. Totally acceptable on the beach, can let it slide if your rocking them on the court or field, but cannot see a reason why you would need them while wearing a suit. You have such an action packed day at the office, your sunglasses might fly off during a barrel roll? You sir, are living the high life.
While ruminating about said douche in the suit, I suddenly thought about Kareem. But Kareem really didn't rock the glasses per se, but he had the big purple croakie for a time on the back of the goggles. Jabbar is the all-time leading scorer in the NBA, has six rings, six MVPs, two finals MVPs, 19 All-star selections, and is 3rd all-time in blocks even though they were not recognized as a stat until his 4th year in the league. As XM would say, "he was good." [Update via The Love of Sports, Kareem is trying to trademark the term "sky hook". Had no idea about it when writing the post, interesting.]
Ha, look at Danny Ainge in that picture, but seriously get well Danny. The thought of Kareem in the goggles made me think about his role in Airplane! where he plays the pilot Roger Murdoc. When he passes out and they remove him from the co-pilot chair he has the Laker gear on as well as the goggles. Of course, his shining moment from that film was this scene here:
I've seen plenty of gladiator movies in my day but I've never been in a Turkish prison. Of course, we cannot let a post about goggles go on without this classic.
Please promote appropriate croakie use in your community.
Tuesday, April 28
There should be a certain level of respect for a sports franchise that stands as the lone professional representative for an American city. While California has no dearth of pro sports teams, San Jose has the Sharks. Now you can say all you want about the Earthquakes of MLS, but the following of Major League Soccer in this country makes the NHL look like the NFL. The Sharks are San Jose's representative in the "big four" of the nation's sports scene and once again, they have fallen short in the playoffs.
The Anaheim Ducks, who finished 26 points behind San Jose this year, defeated the Sharks 4-1 last night to take the series in 6 games over the 1-seeded Sharks. The Ducks, who were founded two years after San Jose, has enjoyed two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals and won the coveted chalice in 2007. The Sharks have made the playoffs 12 of the 18 seasons (1 season was a lockout) they have been in existence, yet they have never reached the finals. They have only reached the Conference finals once.
There was a lot of discontent after the Sharks won the Pacific divsision last year and fizzled in the playoffs in the semifinals against Dallas. They fired coach Ron Wilson and hired Todd McLellan who took them to the league's best record. The team had the right mix of core talent with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Jonathan Cheechoo and grizzled veterans Roenick, Blake, Grier, and they even dusted off Claude Lemieux. But another post-season full of hope, another crushing loss. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov perhaps said it best, "..we didn't come through again."
Franchises that have suffered longer droughts than the Sharks will offer no comfort. An 18 year drought is not the biggest sob story for a fanbase, but making the playoffs perennially only to fall short time after time while the management is doing everything they can to win would be frustrating for anyone to watch. I doubt the people of San Jose can take any solace in what the Earthquakes can do the rest of the MLS season.
Sharks again all talk, no playoff substance [Yahoo!]
Monday, April 27
Seth Curry may have left Liberty, but they have not lost all their superstars. Sam Chelanga broke the NCAA record for the 10k in California with a time of 27:28. I ran a 5k this weekend and got 27:02, that kind of puts me in my place. [BigSouthSports.com]
Liberty also had RB Rashad Jennings taken 250th overall by the Jags. Jennings sat at Mel Kiper's best available for about a round and a half. [Liberty University]
Mike Leach does not believe the Browns should have passed on Crabtree. [The Sporting Blog]
Isiah Thomas is wasting no time in the obliteration of FIU's program. [Deadspin]
USC is offcially now the draft factory of college football. [LA Times]
The U's streak officially came to end as only one Cane was taken, Spencer Atkins by the Falcons in the 6th round. It was a good 14 year run and any school will be hard pressed to break it. [SI.com]
The Red Sox go broomtime on the Yanks. [FoxSports]
Rajan Rondo is starting to break out of the "just a facilitator for good players around him" label with his great performance yesterday, but it was not enough to overcome the Bulls in 2 OT. [Ball Don't Lie]
And because you may need it, a quick Q&A on Swine Flu. [MSNBC]
Friday, April 24
It is that time of year again when people can become obsessed with their favorite teams. Draft day is a source of both hope, dashed dreams, false confidence, and wonderment as to where in the hell some guy your team takes in the 6th round out of Monmouth came from. In today's version of our blog trivia game, we test your knowledge on players taken at the top spot in the last 25 years of the draft. Some of these guys went on to NFL glory after shaking meatclaws with the commissioner, others are now the subject of mockery and are now only known through top ten lists of draft busts. The game begins after the break so sharpen those minds, reach back into those memories and as always feel free to post your score.
We begin our trip down memory lane with the number 1 pick from 25 years ago when the Patriots took WR [No cheating] who went on to have a long career with both New England and Philly. 2 years later the Bucs were on the clock when they selected two-sport athlete Bo Jackson. However, they did not Bo playing baseball because, you know, it is such a violent sport. Bo did not sign with the Bucs but instead with [No cheating] of MLB. The next year in 1987 Bo was taken in the 7th round by [Just answer baby].
In 1989 the Cowboys drafted QB [Thanks O-line and Emmitt] who promptly went 0-11 as a starter in his first season, but would later go on to better things. The next year the Colts tried to recapture QB magic when they took the mullet-donning [No cheating] out of Illinois. It did not quite work out the way they had hoped even though he swears to this day that he can still play. After DTs were taken in '91 and '92, the Patriots took Drew Bledsoe out of [Go Cougs] with their first pick. Bledsoe became the franchise player, leading them to a Super Bowl and being their everything until a hit from [Not Larry or Curly] changed everything.
The proud franchise that is the Bengals were on the clock for the first pick for the years of 1994-1995. They did not choose wisely, or maybe they were unlucky. In 1994 they took Dan Wilkinson out of Runner-Up U. Wilkinson was also known as [Not Sandler's best] and was on the SI Cover but he never really lived up to the hype. The next year they stayed in the big ten as they took RB [Ow, my knees] out of Penn State but injuries turned him into a bust. The Bengals would not pick 1st again until 2003 when they took Heisman winner [Up yours von Oelhoffen].
In 1998 there was much debate on which QB should be taken number 1. The Colts made a very sage choice by taking [He'd kill a snitch] over notorious bust [I SAID DON'T ASK ME THAT!]. The next year the Browns thought they had struck similar gold to the Colts when they took [They burn these at WVA] but despite leading them to the playoffs, he eventually could not beat out Kelly Holcomb (LOL) after being injured. The Browns had the 1st pick in 2000 as well and went with DE [Lots of PSU busts] but that did not pan out either.
From 2001-2005 a QB was taken first. The first two are no longer starters in the league: [Must love dogs] out of Virginia Tech and the black-gloved one himself [Sacks a lot]. The answer to #10 and Eli Manning were the next two and then in 2005 the 49ers picked [Small hands] who was coming off leading Utah to an undefeated season under Urban Meyer. Teams think of drafting Tebow next year should pay attention.
Speaking of paying attention, last year the Dolphins selected [Not Howie's son] first, an OT from Michigan. They added in a veteran QB in Pennington and despite his noodle-arm made the payoffs. DO YOU HERE THIS DETROIT?! Probably not since they are going to take Stafford and regret it.
Before we take a look at the answers and how well you did, let's relive one of the magical moments from the draft. It does not involve a number 1 pick but in 1998 Philly fans that made the trip to New York wished to inform their organization of how they felt about taking Donovan McNabb instead of Ricky Williams.
1. Irving Fryar
2. Kansas City Royals
3. Oakland Raider
4. Troy Aikman
5. Jeff George
6. Washington State
7. Mo Lewis
8. Big Daddy
9. Ki-Jana Carter
10. Carson Palmer
11. Peyton Manning
12. Ryan Leaf
13. Tim Couch
14. Courtney Brown
15. Michael Vick
16. David Carr
17. Alex Smith
18. Jake Long
0-2: Think Soccer is the cat's pajamas.
3-6: Believe kicker is the way to go in round 1.
7-10: Excited to watch Berman this weekend.
11-14: Have the fiery ambition of Todd Mcshay.
15-17: Your hair is immovable as Mel Kiper Jr.'s.
Perfect 18: The next Shawn Zobel.
Thursday, April 23
PFT has a list of how much each team has on the pre-draft cap room. The big winner as far as manuevering ability goes to the Eagles with $37.44 million in cap room. Other teams with coin to spend are the Chiefs($32.3 million) and Bucs ($35.54 million). The tightest budget goes to the Steelers with $440,000 but I think they are happy with where their team is after signing Harrison. Teams that are also strapped for room are the Ravens($968,000) and hell hath frozen over...the Cardinals($1.29 million)!
The local team in Carolina also has limited options due to some reason and is sitting at $2.69 million. Not promising considering they have no first round pick and are staring at a mediocre defense at best next year. Surpisingly the Redskins are only the 8th lowest at $5.96 million, who says Daniel Snyder is not fiscally sound?
Salacry Cap as of Aprill 22 [ProFootballTalk.com]
Could this be the curse of E:60? The New York Rangers pulled ahead of the East second seed 3-1 last night on the strength of a 38 save performance by Henrik Lundqvist. This now puts in jeopardy the presence of the NHL's most electrifying player, Alexander Ovenchkin. Ovenchkin did notch a goal last night but it was not enough. Alexander is not only a great draw to the city of Washington, he has thrust himself into the spotlight in a league that is typically dormant in the minds of the American sports fan. He drives fast cars, mingles with LeBron James, does silly commercials, and visits the local erotic dancing establishments.
The energy with which he plays the game is great to watch and the NHL suits have to be sweating now that the Caps are one game from elimination. In their dream scenario the Capitals and Penguins would tangle once again in the Eastern Conference finals. The rivalry between Alexander and Sid the Kid is one that is becoming more tanglible everyday. They are classic contrasts in personality and control on the ice. This could truly be a Magic-Bird era for the NHL if these two continue to collide in the playoffs. Ovenchkin resembles more of Magic, a flamboyant Russian with dazzling moves while Crosby is more of the straight-laced Canadian aloof star.
Yet all that now will require is a rally of 3 straight wins by the Caps over the Rangers. The way Lundqvist is playing right now that might be a longshot. It is the same old adage no matter the sport; pitching wins in baseball, defense wins in football, and great goaltending trumps all in hockey. A hot netminder can take what is an average team and lead them to a deep run- I'm looking at you Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Henrik's teammates are even having trouble putting his performance thus far into words. Brandon Dubinsky came up with this gem, "He's like Tina Turner, he's Simply the Best." No idea where that came from, the song came out 21 years ago when Dubinsky was 2 years old. Despite the horrible song choice to describe Lundqvist's hot streak, the Rangers are one win away from putting the Capitals beyond Thunderdome.
Rangers overcome Ovechkin's first goal to go up 3-1 on Capitals [CBSSports]
E:60 Video [ESPN]
11:30 EST - Steph Curry announces intent [Update: HE GONE]
2:30 EST - Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington do the same. [Update: THEY GONE]
2:35 EST - Coach K takes a moment to compose himself before another stop on the book tour. [Update: Still Whoring]
Wednesday, April 22
He was widely criticized at the time, but now just months later the B.J. Raji drug test fiasco has broken out, and what Whitlock asked for is being delivered (by the same blog he ripped and others). Deadspin took aim at both SI and NFLDraftBible.com (you earn no link) for refusing to acknowledge their inaccurate reports. TBL and even Yahoo! have also called SI's postings to the carpet and SI correctly apologized.
TBL's initial response to Whitlock's demand was, "As for policing blogs, we'll pass. Someone else can take on the unenviable task of assessing the blottings of bloggers, many of whom do this for little or no pay, and have little or no journalism training. We'll keep our focus on the professionals." Hopefully, that stand will continue to soften, not because all bloggers need to be pointing fingers at each other, but in a case where an inaccurate story (particularly involving anonymous sources) impacts a person's life and reputation like the Raji story, bloggers should not turn a blind eye to these transgressions.,
...also handles BlackBerry like his defense handled Tebow. (/Deadspin)
OU, still trying to repent for hiring Kelvin Sampson has announced a new internet conduct policy. These will likely become the norm, with Texas offensive linemen reminding us why they're so important. Being the Bill of Rights lover that I am, I can't help but wonder what schools will deem worthy to, "be punishable with education, counseling, suspension or expulsion and with the reduction or cancellation of financial aid." I'm voting for BYU booting a player for changing his religion to muslim or a Clemson running back being kicked from school the week of the South Carolina game for his away message, "BRB, Boo Cocky @ the Chancellor's House!"
They also acknowledged six secondary violations, four involving Mr. Stoops. He, "and two assistants inadvertently visiting a recruit's basketball game that had been rescheduled because of an ice storm." I guess they were moths drawn to the light? and, "Stoops sending an impermissible text to a recruit when he thought he was sending an e-mail from his BlackBerry device." Pete Carroll just twittered , "LOL at Big Game Boob: http://tinyurl.com/cgzpaz Direct messages4life!"
In between listening to Jaydiohead and lamenting that other people are picking up on one my draft sleepers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, I began to ask a question that all Carolina hoops fans should consider as we drift down from Cloud "5". If one of the best players in the country was in Roy's backyard, why did it take so long for him to start recruiting John Wall? The answer is simple, but the implications could be a stain that lasts long after Wall has revived hoops in Sacramento (I prefer to project two drafts in advance... more after the break...)
Read almost any story about John Wall and you'll see Brian Clifton's (pictured, right) name subtly mentioned. You've probably scanned past the name looking for words like "commitment" "announcement date" and "faster and stronger than Derrick Rose." Clifton is a former agent and AAU coach that serves as John Wall's mentor. Less than a year ago, it was the Clifton brothers, but then Dwon Clifton took a job as Baylor's Director of Player Development. Dwon coached Wall's AAU team and explains Baylor as the one outlier on Wall's list of prospective teams. Not surprisingly, Baylor's not been interested in declaring how much Clifton is being paid, but it's not a coincidence that a man whose coaching experience was based primarily in the Carolinas found himself with potentially two Big XII "coaching" opportunities (Oklahoma State was also interested) so similar to the Dalonte Hill's salary capless role at K-State. Brian Clifton has been openly stating Baylor's the best choice for Wall, but Wall's savvy to the game. When asked if Dwon got the job because of him, Wall responded, "Oh, I think it was," Wall said. "You know, whichever AAU coach gets a job in college is hoping that he gets the point guard or the best player from that organization with him."
Other accusations include routing all coaches through the Clifton brothers instead of directly approaching Wall or his mother and a direct connection with other agents. Gary Parrish at CBS has done a tremendous job of identifying the smoke near the recruiting firestorm that has been John Wall since Roy called to check in. John Wall would likely be the difference between a very good young team and a title contending team the likes we haven't seen in sixteen years, but when Roy works so hard to recruit from Bremerton to North Babylon how would he have missed John Wall in Raleigh? Clifton and Williams don't get along, possibly because Roy's got enough cache to approach Wall directly, but as long as Clifton is around Wall could end up being the recruit Roy regrets. His first instinct must have been to stay away, but now his competitiveness may be getting the best of him. Wall's best chance to win is at Carolina and Carolina's tempo is the best chance for him to shine (with respects to the used car salesman in Lexington), but is a chance for number six worth it? As much as I'd like to see Wall in the baby blue, Roy must tread carefully.
Note: If both Lawson and Ellington don't go pro, the Heels likely won't have a scholarship for Wall.
It has not been a stellar year for the Charlotte sports scene (or housing scene for that matter). The Panthers got humiliated by the Cardinals in the playoffs and while the Bobcats did improve, they fell short of the playoffs and a chance to have LeBron spank them silly. But fear not fellow Queen City townspeople! The Atlanta Steam of the Lingere Football League are reportedly relocating to Charlotte. This does not quite make up for the loss of the Hornets, but it's a start. According to Monkey Throwing Darts, the stadium in Gwinnett Georgia and the Georgiadome turned the franchise down. Sounds like they have a one-way ticket to Bojangles Arena here in the QC. If that is the destination then the team does have a chance, I know the area. And yes, I do feel shady researching this topic at work.
Atlanta Has Lost Its Steam [Monkey Throwing Darts via Deadspin]
Far be it from me take away from what was an incredible playoff game last night, but I have a slight problem with the Carolina Hurricanes alternate logo. First off, the Canes won last night 4-3 on a goal by Jussi Jokinen's deflection off a shot by Dennis Seidenberg with .2 seconds left. Martin Brodeur was not happy with the goal as he thoguht he was interfered with but the replay pretty much shows Jokinen was outside the crease and the goal was legit. Carolina evened the series at 2-2 in what has been an entertaining contest between these two teams.
That brings me to my bone to pick with the Canes. Having cheered many years for a team named the Hurricanes myself, the alternate logo for Carolina which they are using more and more and is emblazened on their shoulders looks like this:
Looks appropo right? The flag is bent by the breeze and the team colors match the warning flag colors. However, the correct flag signal for a hurricane is two flags not one. Observe:
The local FSN channel where the game was shown had many shots of fans tailgaiting outside the RBC Center in Raleigh and many were waving a single flag instead of the double. Either they should add a second flag or change their name to the Carolina Tropical Storms. Hey, Tropical Storms are nothing to mess with, they can drop copius amounts of rainfall and cause inland flooding. Assuming they want to keep the Hurricane name, the flags should start looking like this:
I guess that is what happens when you name your franchise for a meteorological event that strikes coastlines when you are situated over 100 miles from the coast.
Brodeur furious, then calm, after goal with :00.2 left [NHL.com]
Tuesday, April 21
Yesterday, a local radio host insulted a sport that 99% of the general population does not even remotely think about. He contested that rowing is not a sport because you "sit on your ass and go backwards." Now, many members of talk radio and especially this particular one are prone to make statements without any knowledge of the subject because they feel they are important enough to have the opinion off the top of their heads be heard by the masses. I happen to fall into that 1%. I was a rower in college and coached both high school and college rowing for two years after that so I took it personal when this windbag insulted the sport that means so much to me.
I thought immediately I would make this post about my feelings about rowing. Perhaps enlighten whoever came across this our blog to how much dedication it took to be a rower, how close I was with guys that I rowed with or coached, or how despite being an ignored sport rowers are some of the best athletes in the world. I could have gone on and on, it would have perhaps been our longest post ever. But then I thought that was the wrong way to go about it. Those stories deserve to be told; the story of Lance Armstrong attempting to take up rowing in Austin, Texas to stay in shape but quitting soon after because he thought it was too difficult. But they cannot be told in a tone of one attempting to prove to some shithead with a microphone that has no concept of what athletic competition is about because he will never know what it takes and probably does not care. He does not care about a member of the 2004 gold medal team in the men's eight that was a firefighter who was there at ground zero and had nightmares with only the drive of winning an Olympic gold medal fueling him. So I will not digress into that.
Rowing has its place in the world and it is very small and only for a people willing to put themselves through it. I used to take insults on the sport a lot more seriously, like when I was reading Bill Simmons years ago and he took a shot a rowers. Now here is a guy that screams Boston favoritism and in virtually every post alludes to his beloved beantown yet he puts down a sport that in that town is one of the few places in the country it is valued. I wrote him what was assuredly too lengthy an email about why I thought he was wrong to make that comment. Surprisingly I never heard back. The point is that it is no use trying to defend something most people have never experienced. I know, my old rowing buddies know, but others never will and I cannot hold that against them. Unless they act like jackasses about it, like our friend.
So when this jackass of a radio host or others like him voice their opinion I have to let it slide. Besides, this guy spouts off a slew of idiotic things everyday so it is not like it is out of the norm for him. I am not going to say I will boycott the show because it is the only show on locally at that time and I like to listen to sports radio when I workout in the afternoons. He loves to cover golf and I believe even played it in college and also loves buttering up to NASCAR(sitting on your ass and moving forward?) people he has on his show. Well let's take a look at a few examples:
Top-level rowing athletes:
Top-level NACAR driver:
A horrible spectator sport it is, a largley ignored sport it is, a misunderstood sport it is but still a sport. If you enjoy reading, I recommend The Amateurs by David Halberstam. It gives you a glimpse into the world of rowing and is a very captivating and easy read.
Around here, Charlotte Bobcats fans know how it feels to be beaten at the buzzer by the Celtics' Ray Allen. The Bulls can now join what seems to be a growing legion of teams, especially recently, downed by Allen at the last second. With KG watching in what looked like a suit borrowed off Professor Plum, Ray hit a 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 118-115 win over Chicago and tie the series at 1. No one in their right mind thinks Boston can repeat without Garnett but it does not mean they are going away without a fight. Ben Gordon lit it up for 42 in the losing effort.
Monday, April 20
Fake Twitter accounts are becoming the norm as the networking stie continues to grow. I have found that the fake ones are usually more entertaining than whatever the impersonated athlete/celebrity can come up with. Florida quarterback and Jesu Cristo right-hand man Tim Tebow is not immune to these instances of jocularity. Some of the entries are rather amusing.
Tim Tebow's Twitter page [ESPN Page 2]
I think I can say with certainty that this was my favorite Yankee game of the year. [New Daily News]
The UFC title fight was maybe the worst ever, thanks to Leitis employing the Paris Hilton fall on his back routine. [Bloody Elbow]
The Nuggets slaughter the Hornets last night, thanks in part to the Birdman, who entertains everytime he gets on the floor, unless he is in a dunk contest. [Rumors and Rants]
Roberto Luongo is playing the role of difference maker for Vancouver, but I still cannot forgive them for using Whalers' colors on their current jerseys. [The Love of Sports]
Looks like ESPN will replace Emmitt Smith with Matt Millen. So basically taking the on-field great/on-mic horror with decent on-mic/front office debacle. [Deadspin]
Rick Pitino...oye. [TBL]
Friday, April 17
Can we just pretend that Julius is missing, so at least someone will talk about this stalemate? Maybe we can send Navy SEALS to Carl Carey's house, because if the Panthers are held hostage through the draft there has to be some sort of crime being committed. While GM Marty Hurney remains optimistic about the situation (and even 90's return), he also pointed out that Carl Carey has not come to him with one trade offer. Not one?
Ninety, what are you paying this guy for? You demanded a trade and the only person on the planet that can negotiate (and who will be rewarded handsomely if you don't move) is doing nothing to help facilitate your departure. If Pep is not traded by the draft any positive momentum from the 12-4 season will be lost and the team will be headed straight to Mediocre Town (a lil place right outside Fayetteville). The team can't even afford to re-sign their long snapper because of this situation. Pep, you've said this wasn't about money it's about moving on, but with a fat payday dangling in front of you and your clueless agent, you appear ready to screw the city that loved you. Sadly, you now have more big plays made in the off-season than you do in the post.
Before the college basketball season even began it was assumed that both Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington were in their final year of college basketball. Months later, the Heels have a national championship, Lawson was the ACC Player of the Year and Wayne Ellington was the NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player, so why have they not yet declared, unlike 40 other underclassmen? Because both tested their draft stock last season, they would be locked into the draft if they decided to declare this season. Last night, the team had the post-season awards banquet and many were expecting the announcements to come soon after, but so far both have remained silent.
While both will probably opt for the draft, if only one did Ty Lawson would seem to be the most logical choice. Depending on the ranking, Lawson is between the third and fifth best point guard available. If Ricky Rubio were to pull out of the draft because of buyout issues with his current team, Lawson may trail only Brandon Jennings on team's PG lists. The impending decision of Steph Curry could also influence whether Lawson is a late lottery pick or stumbling to the bottom of the first round. Other PGs of note: Jrue Holliday, Darren Collison, Eric Maynor, and Jeff Teague.
Ellington's stock remains somewhat of an enigma with him drifting between the lower half of the first round and the top of the second round. ASU's James Harden and Memphis's Tyreke Evans are both likely lottery picks, but Chase Budinger and Terrence Williams are similar players that could push Ellington lower. Ellington's former high school teammate and current rival Gerald Henderson is also more athletic and his decision could also have a negative impact.
Regardless of where they are drafted, can they accomplish more in their senior seasons? Lawson's shot and defense improved dramatically this season and Ellington's shot was aided by his increased willingness to attack the basket. With a bountiful stock of underclassmen (Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis, Greg Monroe, Evan Turner, and Willie Warren and others) as well as at least five one and done candidates their stock may not have much growth potential.
TBL reported yesterday that Stephen A. Smith's contract will be up shortly at ESPN. Today, Stephen A.'s official website confirms that he will no longer be at ESPN after May 1st. Smith has become yesterday's news, but at his peak he was one of the most visible and lampooned media members on the internet. His 'in your face' style and the annual heckling at the NBA draft made him an easy target for everyone, including ESPN's own Scott Van Pelt.
Many people may celebrate the departure of Smith from the WWL, but much of cheering is a result of his overexposure in such a short period of time. When he made the transition from "just another writer" to his over the top antics, he was primarily covering the NBA. To this day, listening to Smith discuss the L remains enjoyable, because you can hear the passion in his voice. With other sports, it was always a tad forced and not backed up by years of rabid following. Had he remained solely an NBA analyst, Smith could have excelled at the Leader. Whatever the reason, ESPN's decision to make him their first all medium all-star was a mistake. Never fully appreciated for what he was saying because of how he was saying it, here's to wishing Stephen A. good luck on his next venture, hopefully it will be NBA-centric, because few people in today's mainstream media have the same passion and knowledge as Mr. Smith.
It is a proud day for my alma mater as Playboy announced that the University of Miami is the nation's top party school. The U was ranked number one based on five categories that included campus life, sports, sex, brainpower, and something called "bikini". The bikini rating combined weather, guy-to-girl ratio and cheerleaders. Playboy plans to make this list an annual occurence. I am a little surprised that UM was able to keep the pace with other schools when it came to sports considering the woeful football and basketball seasons it endured this year, but its strong baseball team and other sports such as swimming and diving, tennis, and track and field must have picked up the slack. As for the other categories, the school should speak for itself.
Here is the complete list:
1. University of Miami
2. University of Texas (Austin)
3. San Diego State University
4. University of Florida (Suck it Gators!)
5. University of Arizona
6. University of Wisconsin (Madison)
7. University of Georgia
9. University of Iowa
10. West Virginia University
I hope everyone down in Coral Gables is going to head out to Coconut Grove tonight to celebrate. It just makes me appreciate that degree even more.
Playboy names Univ. of Miami top U.S. party school [Reuters.com]
Props to my fellow former Cane Jordan for alerting me to the story.
Last night as Xtra Medium was playing Street Fighter II and NBA Hangtime on his new laptop I found myself switching between playoff hockey and TWWL's collection of Mike Tyson's knockouts. These were the young Tyson, before jail and insanity took over. It truly took us back to see the way Tyson dominated early in his career. He was solid force of nature and anything that got in his way he destroyed. Catfish was of course quick to point out that most of the guys he was fighting were not exactly top caliber pugilists. One of them, John Alderson who is featured in the clip below was a coal miner from West Virginia. XM and I theorized that big John used to get into fistacuffs at the local tavern after a long day in the dark mines and would win so people naturally told him, "Hey you should box professionally!".
Even taking into account some of the competition being sub-par, Tyson dominated in a way few, if ever, have seen. The young Mike was in control thanks to his training team, mainly his caretaker Cus D'Amato and Kevin Rooney. Watching Tyson in these young fights, he was using the 'peak-a-boo' style effectively and had you never seen what he turned into afterwards, you would have thought he was a mentally stable person. He was gracious in defeat and even offered help get them to their feet and good wishes to his opponents after defeat. There were signs of the troubles ahead though during the program. After one fight, one of the first people into the ring was Louis Farrakhan. The last shot in the clip below is one of Don King hoisting Tyson up after a win. D'Amato died in late 1985 and many saw that as the beginning of the problems for Tyson. Later he went on to fire Rooney and after that his fighting ability turned from sweet science to knockout-seeking brawler.
I was at this point that the bloodsuckers and remoras attached themselves to Tyson and led the chain of events that began with the Buster Douglas knockout and ended with how we know him today: broke and an easy target of mockery. From looking at Tyson's background it is not hard to beleive that he had mental problems from the beginning and when ex-wife Robine Givens shared her opinion that Mike was bi-polar. If he had had the proper guidance of people like D'Amato and Rooney, perhaps things would have turned out different, but if you look at the way he dominated in these early matches, it was only a matter of time before he was given ungodly amounts of money and made to feel impermeable. Perhaps it was inevitable that Mike would fade into "bolivion". At least we can reminisce below about his young years when he was Kid Dynamite' and how we all enojoyed playing Punch-Out.
Thursday, April 16
Ever since Catfish introduced me to sporcle, I can tell you it has taken up a small chunk of my workday. Somedays even a large chunk. The NBA Jam quiz one brought back a special twinge of nostalgia for me. I was around 12 when this game came out in the arcades and in case this was before or after your time, let me tell you mastering this game was the goal of every kid with a quarter and a dream. The game took the realm of joysticks and two buttons to new heights because it featured a ridiculous play style that put NBA players in the Matrix. We can all recall the "he's on fire!" and "boomshakalaka!", the ball turning into a flaming orb when you reach said fire, and the ability to demolish the backboard on a dunk. I recall how kids used to line-up to go at it at this game and everyone crowded around the machine to try to get a glimpse of the action. The game truly revolutionized a game genre.
The quiz asks you to name the orignial 54 NBA players it featured in the 1993 arcade release. It was also great remembering how Jordan would not release his rights to the game, which would become a trademark of his in future video game releases. I got 48 correct and am ashamed to say I even missed a Charlotte Hornet, but I think it is not too bad considering I haven't touched the game in over a decade. So if you remember the glory days of NBA Jam, try and see how many you can get and relive the old days.
Can you name the players from the game NBA Jam (Arcade Edition - 1993)? [sporcle]
Wednesday, April 15
Every team has played 81 games and yet on the final night of the regular season, eight playoff seeds are still up for grabs. In the east, six seeds are set with only the 6th and 7th to be determined. The Bulls can snatch the 6th seed away from the 76ers with a win or a Philly loss. The irony being their reward is to play Orlando a team that demolished the Bulls in three of four games this season. If the Bulls end up the seven seed, they may become a fashionable upset pick (already picked by Cleet on the most recent Shackleford Files) against a Celtics team with a wounded KG. Out west, only the 1st seed Lakers and 8th seed Jazz are locked in, and 2-7 are all playing each other tonight. Denver's in the driver's seat, a win and they lock up the two seed. Everyone else will be frantically trying to get off the Lakers half of the bracket. Here's a link for all the scenarios. Tonight's action will almost be as excited as NFL schedule release night!
Recorded Sunday night, we present the Shackleford Files with no interruption in honor of the Masters (sadly, we have no tinkerers). We discuss The Duck, Kenny Perry and two guys named Eldrick and Phil. We also take a look at the college basketball coaching carousel, with Catfish asking a serious question about Kentucky's hire. Quick hit on the NFL and Cleet has one of the NBA Finals teams out in the first round. While the walk off is important, we'd also think you should take a minute to read this post for another perspective. The kid from Washington State whose name we couldn't recall is Taylor Rochestie. Enjoy and feel free to leave us your comments.
Did you watch the entirety of TWWL or NFL Network's coverage? Yeah me neither but it does not mean I glanced quickly through my team's schedule. The NFL complete schedule is here and the important thing to remember is not to get to happy or dispirited at this point. After all, you are always a week 1 injury away from having your season implode.
In case you were wondering how the suits at the NFL devise the schedule, here is a guy with a beard. [NFL.com]
ASD worlds will collide December 13th when the Panthers visit the Patriots.
My final word on the schedule I will make is why the hell are the Patriots at Indy for the 3rd straight year? I understand that the NFL want these two teams to play annually because of the rivalry but shouldn't they alternate home and home? I understand the Pats get no sympathy from anyone but that seems messed up.
Ten Games To Watch [CBSSports]
The Dolphins logo will always remind me of special Ed. Did you know Mercury Morris did a lot of coke in his day? Oh yeah, the fins are on primetime a lot this year. [SI.com]
Tuesday, April 14
"Word has it the Hawks and Bobcats will not send teams to Orlando, Utah or Las Vegas. Rather than fly a flock of players across the country for a week at a cost of roughly 150G, some teams figure to stage mini-camps in their home cities, assign a player or two to someone else's squad, or flat out combine forces. I had heard the 76ers would be cutting back as well, but a source says they plan to participate (in partnership with the Nets, perhaps) in Orlando's tournament." (NY Post)
Well, this seems like a winning idea. If proven winners like Atlanta are also doing it, I'm completely comfortable with this. *** you brought this on yourself. You'd rather pay $450,000 to horse jumpers than spend one third that on your young players.
Be sure to check out the final ***Cats Planet Radio podcast of the regular season.
Syracuse and Kansas met in the 2003 national championship game and even had a rematch this year which the Orange won. Both teams reached the sweet 16 in this year's tournament and both teams would be title contenders next year provided their key players returned to school. Yet this is where the fortunes of these two basketball powers take a divering course.
Johnny Flynn, the high-flying, iron-man, do-everything point guard for Syracuse is reportedly waiting by his mailbox for paperwork to sign with agent Leon Rose according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. Rose represents some guy named LeBron James so I guess he comes with a smidge of credibility. Once Flynn scribbles his name proper on the line his college eligibilty will be up in smoke. Initially first thought to be testing the NBA waters at the pre-draft camps, somebody must have gotten hold on young Johnny's ear and filled with stories of lottery picks and samsonite's full of cash. Having LeBron's agent offer his services is enough for any young man to take the leap. While I am sure our Syracuse alum Concierge wishes Flynn well, but this drops the Orange out of their Final Four hopes for next year. Just how far they fall will be determined what other pieces will fall. Paul Harris was thought to be testing the waters but is no saying that he had not had the intentions of leaving. Devendorf, while he may not be a high first-rounder would be a huge loss to Syracuses backcourt and their trash-talking ability. They do have Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson along with Onuaku and Jackson in the frontcourt and Rautins coming back from the perimeter, but without the dynamic point play of Flynn, Syracuse will definitely have a tougher time next year. [Syracuse Post-Standard]
While things may be gloomy (and probably cold) in Syracuse, the situation is a lot brighter in Lawrence with the news that Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich will be returning to Kansas next year. Collins averaged just under 19 points a game and 5 assists as the Jayhawks' point guard while Aldrich was a force down low all year and recorded a triple double in the NCAA tournament. Bill Self won the title a year ago and won AP coach of the year this year after going 27-8 and getting endged by Michigan State in the tourney. Aldrich has just as much cause to go to the NBA as anyone as his father has been out of work for awhile, but he stated that it was the passion of the fans and the encouragement of his parents that made his decision. With KU also in the running for recruits Xavier Henry and Lance Stephenson, Kansas is going to be heavily favored to cut the nets down in Indy next year. [CBSSports]
I would've forgiven Benny Santiago for doing roids if he had a beard like that. (PopularVulture via BB)
A 'Four out play' helps Dodgers win. If this had been in the ole rec league, rest assured at least one coach would've been kicked out and one screeching mother would've had all the neighborhood dogs howling. (Big League Stew)
Panthers making big moves son, big moves! "[T]raded a conditional seventh-round draft choice in 2011 to the Green Bay Packers for long snapper J.J. Jansen, an undrafted rookie last year who spent the season on injured reserve." Suck it Peppers, you've been replaced. (Observer)
This description of John Wall's performance at the Nike Hoop Summit sums up the feelings of every Facbook-using basketball fan in North Carolina. Additional John Wall YouTube goodness endorsed by yours truly. I tried to play it cool with the recent revelation that Wall coming to UNC was a possibility, but having watched this, I'm developing a crush.
At least Dale Jr. won something. The new ad campaign for the All-Star race is well conceived and has Dale "Wahoo" Junior wearing a title belt. Junior apparently only wanted to participate if he could be in full Wahoo headdress. No link to the image, but you can watch Ric Flair's promo (and 39 woos) with the poster in the background. Highlight: "20 other drivers that wanna take your women, wanna take your money, and wanna take your trophy."
"...at the end of the day, the three [underclassman] big boys - Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, and Tyler Zeller - may be better as pros than Lawson, Hansbrough, and Ellington. With Hansbrough, energy and effort only get you so far in our league. You can count on one hand how many guys get by on that..." Davis... check, Zeller... check, Thompson... whoa, dood your credibility just flew out the window, better go get it. As for the Hansbrough line, if a small number of guys get by on effort, why would
a the hard worker not be a possibility? Does he realize Brian Cardinal is still in the league? (Globe via Observer)
Two of these posts in 24 hours can't be good for the ego, especially given my performance in picking the Tourney. There's still two days remaining in the NBA season, but with all of the playoff spots locked in, it's time to take a look back. The rookie of the year award hasn't been given out, but my Eric Gordon prediction died the day he shook hands with Mike Dunleavy.
I hit on 50% of my stars on the move predictions (Iverson, Marion, and Randolph), and feel if it wasn't for the economy Carter could've been dealt as well. Odom and Bibby, yeah not so much.
Starting in the East, I called six of the eight playoff teams (wee!), missing on the Bobogatos and leaving out the Bulls (damn that Salmons, Miller trade) and the Heat. Out west I was strug-a-ling, predicting both the Suns and Clippers to make the post-season, with Denver and Dallas missing out. That's why George Karl should be coach of the year and I will win nothing.
"Be prepared for another round of LeBron v. Kobe debates, as the King wins his first MVP." Even when I wrote that, I had no idea the force that LBJ would become on both ends of the floor.
"If [Joe Dumars] doesn't believe they're a championship contender, look for one of the mainstays to possibly be on the move (most likely Sheed)." Highlight all the way up until I decreed Detroit had issued notice to the East.
"With no Monta Ellis for most of the first half and an apparently dissatisfied Al Harrington, Nellie's final year will be marked with more drama than wins." The fact this is number three should tell you how well this went.
"DWade can't carry a team for 82 games (like he did in the Olympics)." Apparently, he didn't get the memo.
"With so many teams in the west getting better, [the Denver Nuggets] are one of the few distinctly getting worse." Straight shooting like Gana Diop at the foul line.
" Although they have added Ricky Davis, this [Clipper] team has the energy and ability to cause trouble for a lot of teams." Proving not even the rules of math apply in Clipperland, 1 dumb coach > 4 very talented players.
Prediction I'm pinning all my hopes on
"At the end of the year, [the Lakers] will be depending on the same bench guys to come through in the playoffs, and there's no reason to think they will step up this year."
Finals Prediction I hope will salvage my preview, much like march madness, but in which I have zero confidence
Cavs over Rockets
Monday, April 13
Harry Kalas passed away at the age of 73 today before the Phillies were to take on the Nationals. Not only was Kalas beloved in Philly, but he truly is a member of the pantheon of great sports announcers for his work on NFL Films various radio broadcasts that included baseball, pro and college football and college basketball.
It may not just be the asymymmetric dimensions of the New York Mets new stadium that are a mystery, the fans themselves may need time to adjust. I can only imagine what it would be like to be a Mets' season ticket holder for years in the horrible, yet lovable dump that was Shea and now, if you can afford it, be moving in to the nice new digs across the way. It would be like if my '91 Volvo were suddenly replaced by a shiny new BMW. Having 17,000 less seats than Shea kind of irks me but the almighty dollar rules out over Joe fan sitting in the upper reaches spilling his mini-helmet filled with ice cream all over his shirt. The good news is that there will be plenty of bathrooms for all in the new digs.
New York hosts San Diego tonight in a new home for the first time in 45 years. The game is on ESPN tonight at 7 and should feature plenty of coverage of the park itself to exceed the game itself. A lot of focus will be on the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at the front of the stadium which will be a tribute to the city's past. A nod to the old Brooklyn Dodgers is fitting because it was the exodus of the Dodgers and Giants that soon prompted the birth of the Metropolitans.
The Mets are a ho-hum 3-3 so far and after the excitement of getting good work out of the bullpen early, it was dissapointing to see the team blow a 13K, no earned run performance by Santana yesterday. Expectations are high for the team and along with them are hopes that the team will not squander another September lead in what should be a highly competitive division.
Some good news even before the opening pitch was that Bernie Madoff's tickets went for $7.5k on ebay.
The memory of Detroit is fading away for fans of teams other than North Carolina. A lot of people are throwing out the boring card for this year's tourney but saying that mainly because of lack of upsets and buzzer-beaters. To me, those people are instant-gratification whores, but there is no arguing the Final Four except for the first half of UConn-MSU was a snoozer. Catfish and I went toe-to-toe with our tournament picks in a pick-counterpick and while we were both atrocious with the exception of Catfish correctly picking UNC, one of us has to ermerge the winner.
Looking up at the big scoreboard:
However, I was 0 for the Final Four. I had Carolina getting there but losing to Pitt, while Catfish had Carolina winning it all...even if it was over Purdue. I think based on that, I am willing to concede the victory to Catfish.
At the beginnig of the hockey season, Catfish and I considerd adopting an NHL team in hopes that it would provide us with a incentive to watch more hockey. After weighing the options carefully, we chose Buffalo. Not only did the experiment not work in that we did not watch more hockey than normal, but the Sabres did not make the playoffs. They finished 10th in the Eastern Conference, 2 points behind Montreal and Florida. That's right, the team from Buffalo, New York finished behind the team from South Florida that has palm trees on their jerseys. But not to worry, the Panthers missed the playoffs as well.
The Sabres can point to injuries, but in a 16 team playoff system, that is not an excuse. So more good news for Buffalo! Well, at least they have TO. In other news, Sabres' coach Lindy Ruff has been chosen to coach Canada at the world championships so he has that going for him...which is nice. For those NHL teams still playing, the games start Wednesday.
Playoff Preview and Schedule [NHL.com]
Saturday, April 11
While watching an episode of Leverage, I noticed the security guard looked an awful lot like JR, so I headed to IMDB to confirm. For my money, his uncredited acting was his best performance to date, even if Super Fan Number 99 disagrees.
Friday, April 10
Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News noted that the Mavericks are extremely interested in acquiring the Hornets' Chris Paul. Coincidentally, so are most other teams in the league, but the fact that the Hornets didn't hang up at the mention of Chris Paul indicates bigger problems for their franchise. If Peja's $13 million against the cap is the albatross around their neck, Tyson Chandler's $11 million contract is the pair of cement shoes dragging the team to the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain. Peja already proved immovable this season and will likely remain so while Tyson was nearly shipped out for pennies on the dollar. Next season when CP3's new contract kicks in, the Hornets will be staring luxury tax square in the eye and with little reason to think this team will improve to become one of the elite teams in the west.
If the Hornets want to get under the tax they're faced with either giving up David West's very favorable contract or Paul's. Even if the team figures out a way to keep Paul, as his contract balloons to nearly a quarter of the salary cap, it will be increasingly difficult to field a quality team around him. If David West opts out after 2011, they'll be forced to decide whether to let him go or pay two players half of the team's cap. Without the financial flexibility of large market teams, having a superstar and re-signing them can be both a blessing and a curse. If they keep Paul and West, they risk sliding into irrelevance, but if they move one or both they are trading the first two stars in the franchise's history (during time in NO) and risk alienating their fans base. As a Charlottean, I've seen this movie before and it's tough to watch your superstars leave, even if sometimes it's for the best.
Thursday, April 9
Let me explain how this post came about. On Tuesday, I was invited by K-Man to attend the final Bobcats home game of the season. Then today, a friend of the blog was discussing sports bucket lists. I wondered if anyone had "attend a Bobcats game" on their list? Probably not, but why? This post is not about bucket lists or about the Cats, but I will use both to illustrate a problem that currently plagues America and not just in sports. More after the break...
When I think of my bucket list, I include both Wimbledon and the Kentucky Derby. I am not a huge fan of tennis or racing of any sort, but the opportunity to have the experience is what I treasure. Just as people will pay slightly more to buy paper clips at a store where they have positive encounters, fans will do likewise to watch the same two tennis players compete at a different venue, because of the atmosphere. It's why going to Wrigley Field is on people's bucket lists, but seeing the Cubs in person is not (or at least not as often). On certain nights, all the venue needs to be is a backdrop to the drama unfolding, but often the scene needs to be a part of the experience. Federer and Nadal could have played on the streets of London and last year's Wimbledon final would still have been epic, but if Tiger had carved up a municipal course in 1997, it wouldn't have held the same weight as becoming the first person of color to win the Masters. Many of the bucket list destinations have history on their side, but they also have a human elements. The mint julips and gaudy hats of the Derby, the strawberries and cream and strict dress code of Wimbledon all add unique character. The tennis courts and one and a quarter mile races are not exclusive to these two events and while history plays a role, the effort of the organizations in charge greatly enhance the adventures of the patron. This effort is what this post is all about.
At the Bobcats final home game, we were not treated with the customary t-shirt that had been a tradition of every "Fan Appreciation Night," dating back to the old days of the Hornets. Instead customers were given a small reusable shopping bag and a Sprite keychain with a BOGO coupon. I don't need another t-shirt, but a reusable shopping bag and a straight to the trash lanyard keychain were a disappointment. The team did do several halftime giveaways, but thanks to a Breyer's craving (the lone decent food buy at the arena), that was rendered null and void for yours truly, but again it was stuff I didn't need or want. Beyond that, the experience was no different than any other Bobcats game. There was a ceremony at the end, where players gave autographed jerseys and shorts to select season ticket holders, but there was little to no value to anyone not receiving the gift. This was the Bocats organization last opportunity to make a lasting impression that would make the fans long for next season and they failed miserably.
Organizations across the country are using the economy as a way to make customers expect less and less, instead of using this time as an opportunity to work harder and convince people to spend money on their product or event. Instead of developing cost effective ways to enhance the experience, companies appear resigned to mediocrity. More and more, life has become about what's not included, instead of what is. People don't require costly giveaways to have an enjoyable time. In most cases, a little effort and ingenuity will more than make up, but everywhere companies are too prone to saying, "It's the economy" as an excuse for providing the customer with less.
The Bobcats have become the epitome of these lowered expectations. They have the same cliché halftime acts night after night. Nothing against the unicyclist kicking bowls onto her head, but I've seen her more times than I've seen Sean May in a game. Speaking of May, the Bobcats selected him to take the mic and thank the fans before the game, but he was delivering the same speech he's been giving for the last month. It's the last game of the season and the owner (who was in attendance), the coach, or even a starter couldn't be bothered to take thirty seconds to thank the fans? Another opportunity lost. How difficult would it have been to create little vignettes with players describing their favorite moments of the year with accompanying game footage to play during the timeouts? Remind people why they care about your product. The whole night reeked of everyone except the players on the court mailing it in. Raymond Felton's career high scoring night was never acknowledged, despite him setting the mark in the 3rd quarter. The "closing ceremony" consisted only of names of season ticket holders being read. Why not give the players (or at least the cpatains) the mic to thank the fans one final time for their support and give the fans one more chance to show some love for the players they've cheered for all year long? The down time at games should be a blank slate for theatre, comedy, etc. not just giveaways where only a few get an improved experience.
It's too easy to blame the economy when a nose to the grind stone mentality can convince people to want to make your company a continued part of their lives, stock market be damned. One of the things I always remember from attending Reds games was the cheesy races they had on the scoreboard. It cost the team nothing to re-use those year after year, but they were always part of the experience and kids were always raising their fingers to cheer on their selected number. In today's tough times, companies would be wise to embrace cost-effective means to enhance the customers enjoyment, rather than throwing their arms up and expecting the customer to accept the new lower levels of service. If more companies and teams would do this, they just might find themselves on people's bucket lists or at least willing to spend to be a part of the greater experience.