Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Half Volleys

Time is not on my side, so here are thoughts in short form...

1) Matt Schaub trade: not as good a deal as the Falcons could probably have gotten a year ago, but also far better than paying that much for a backup who can walk for nothing in 10 months. The two spot move this year means the Falcons will get one of the following players, each of whom would make a serious impact: Gaines Adams, Jamaal Anderson, Levi Brown, Joe Thomas, LaRon Landry. Here's hoping one of the tackles drops to 8. The #39 pick will not be a bad pick either. There will be first round talent at that spot (Winston Justice last year went 39; Lofa Tatupu went around there in '05; Bob Sanders went around there in '04). Another option would be to flip that extra second rounder and another pick to move into the late first round - and maybe steal a guy like Reggie Nelson. Another second rounder next year makes the deal even better. This trade was a decent play. A better play probably would've been to sell Schaub a little higher a year ago, but as of right now, I don't know if the Falcons could've gotten a better deal (nobody was signing Schaub and giving the 1 and 3).

2) Like, a third of the world's population only cares about one thing right now: the Cricket World Cup. As a nonconformist and internationalist, I've tried to follow it a little. A bit of background: a decade ago I spent the summer in England, and tried for 6 weeks to teach myself how the rules of cricket operate via county cricket in pubs and box scores in the Guardian. Needless to say, I don't think I did a good job at it. The World Cup is a bit simpler to understand, since it's one-day internationals and the rules seem a little simpler, to me at least. Anyway, there's a host of odd storylines coming out of the Cup. Namely, major upsets. Pakistan and India are two of the better teams, and both have lost to teams with weaker reputations. Despite an upset loss to youthful Bangladesh, India still have a chance to advance to the knockout next round with a win over Sri Lanka (thanks, mainly, to a rout of Bermuda). A loss to Sri Lanka probably means India are heading back to the subcontinent. But at least they still have hope. India's neighbors to the west, Pakistan, are already heading home. The big story has been the death of manager Bob Woolmer under suspicious circumstances. But that was all after Pakistan had already been eliminated by the Irish on St. Patrick's day. We Americans might not know better, but Ireland isn't exactly a huge hotspot for cricket. The Republic kind of doesn't like to act like a good colony. So the win over Pakistan was a massive, massive upset. And with Pakistan's win over Zimbabwe today, the Irish have clinched advancement to the knockout next round before their match against the Windies. The bad news is that Ireland will face either England or New Zealand in the next round be likely the worst team left in the tournament and will face all the other good teams - meaning probable elimination before the final four. Still it's been a great cup for Ireland, and a total disaster for Pakistan. And that'll probably be the last I mention cricket on here. But it does give something to follow along during the day for the next few weeks.

[I edited this because I realized it was messed up.]

3) Part One of LD's theories without statistical support or serious research backing it up...

An idea I noticed last year and maybe the previous year in the NCAA basketball tournament hasn't come up again this year, until this weekend. Domes and their effect on games. I've been to watch games in the Georgia Dome, and I honestly believe it has an effect on the game. There is a difference between the background players shoot against in domes from that background in a smaller NBA-type building. Teams that rely on three point shooting for their offense might have problems when they start playing in domes. Teams that rely on frontcourt power, rebounding and high-percentage shots are less susceptible to that kind of effect. I noticed it last year in the regionals. Last year two regionals and the Final Four were held in domes. In the two regionals held in domes (Atlanta and Minneapolis), the highest rated seeds had major strengths in the perimeter (Duke and Villanova). Both those teams eventually lost to teams with far stronger emphasis on frontcourt play (LSU and Florida). Duke in particular seemed to struggle with shooting in the dome - J.J. Redick went 3 for 18!

Now, this year there haven't been any games played in domes so far, but they start doing so tomorrow, in the Alamodome and the Edward James Dome in St. Louis.

In St. Louis, my guess is that the dome helps Florida, who has probably the strongest frontcourt out of Butler, UNLV and Oregon. Butler in particular appears susceptible to dome-related poor shooting - their best two players are guards, and Graves, their best player is particularly reliant on 3-pt shooting. Oregon is one of the most frequent shooting teams from behind the arc. Many pundits have said that Florida has an easy path in terms of the other teams in the region, but with the effect of the dome on outside shooting (which I have little concrete evidence to back up my assertion), Florida might have an even better chance at defending their title.

In San Antonio, the dome is a little smaller, and it's an NBA arena already it was an NBA arena for a decade or so, so the depth and angles might not be a perfect fit for my theory. Regardless, Ohio State probably has some advantage, even though they have strong guard play. Oden upfront provides a better option than just about anyone in the nation in the middle. Their first opponent, Tennessee, features an offense that takes a ton of threes and whose best players rely on outside jumpers. Memphis plays uptempo, and is pretty balanced. Texas A&M runs a lot of high screens for 3-pt shots. The Aggies have good shooters - but if they went cold the offense could suffer.

Basically, I'd guess Florida and Ohio State have some advantage because their regions are played in domes. Then the next week in the Georgia Dome, who knows how it'll be, depending on the other teams that advance. Perhaps I'll actually have to update my blog again this month.

4) Part Two of LD's theories without statistical support or serious research backing it up...

The University of South Carolina wants to ruin international soccer, or at least cause headaches for lots of players involved in it.

First, a few weeks ago some college football dudes noticed the trials and tribulations of the hair-apparent (booo...) to Steve Taneyhill's legacy for the Cocks, Stephen Garcia. Dude was arrested (the first time, not the keying) for public drunkeness and not responding to a cop. How was it that Garcia got so drunk? He was pounding away at a birthday party at Columbia's Knock Knock Club for West Ham United defender Anton Ferdinand. Anton, the not as talented but equally as obnoxious brother of England and Man U international Rio Ferdinand, for some reason wanted to celebrate his 22nd birthday with some of his friends who play for the Cocks' soccer team in Columbia, rather than, on his own continent, during the season, etc. In fact, the story is that Anton lied to the club about his whereabouts. He said he was visiting a sick grandmother or something, not going to Columbia to get drunk. I gotta tell ya... I find this whole story weird. Stephen Garcia and Anton Ferdinand in the same news item? Odd.

Then this week there was a bigger name involved in a fracas concerning someone related to the USC athletic department. This week Inter Milan and Brazil stud Adriano got into a bar fight with Rolando Howell, a basketball player for Varese who played his college ball at, yep, South Carolina. Howell's a 6'9" Center in the Italian league. Evidently the fight was over a woman, some Italian celebrity.

So in a span of a few weeks, not one, but two international soccer players have incidents with legal implications, and both are somehow connected with the University of South Carolina. Coincidence? How could this be a coincidence. Clearly USC has it in for the entire international sporting community.


Sunday, March 11, 2007


A while ago I teased that there was something else I liked that deserved its own post. I've also hinted at other reasons why I haven't been posting as much as I used to. Not to put this all on one reason, especially one that can't exactly defend herself, but well, here goes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Lord and Lady Douchebag present to you...

The Countess:

No matter what I write on here, or do in real life, this is the best thing I've ever created.


Blogroll Updated

I added and moved around a whole bunch of links. Lots more reference sites, and a host of sports blogs added.

I deleted some blogs as well. Some have been inactive for a while, others I know have moved on to SB Nation or AOL Fanhouse sites. If I deleted your link and you want it back, email me at the address in the upper right corner and I'll add it back.

As always, the fact that I link to other sites on the blogroll does not necessarily mean that I agree with everything that's written on that site.

The blogroll's purpose is first and foremost for my ease of navigating to sources I seek out frequently. A secondary purpose is to direct readers there.

If you want me to add you as a link, feel free to email me the address and I'll have a look at it. Fair warning: I won't be linking to sites simply as advertisement or to gambling sites.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Live from Peshawar!!!

So last night I tried calling in to EDSBS radio... Unfortunately, when they called me back, I was rolling along in the single worst spot in the metropolitan area of Atlanta for my celly to receive reception (there's a hole in coverage at the confluence of Ponce and Scott Blvd. right under the railroad track bridge). I tried calling back again, but I totally understand only getting one bite at the apple.

I did have some answers to the 4 questions...

1) What I know about my team... I was planning on taking this a different route. My team is Georgia, but there are far better bloggers that track the Dawgs much better than I do. So I was planning on instead talking about the "team" I probably write the most about in the Fall - the on-camera crew of pundits on College Gameday. And here's what I know about my team: Nothing is going to change. Sure, there might be a few new quirks or sponsored bits (like a field goal kick for scholarship money or something). But for the most part, there'll be nothing different. Expect the same lack of analysis, baseless predictions, biases worn on sleeves, and, of course, loads and loads and loads of cross-promotion.

2) What I don't know about my team... Well, this is also only tangentially about that. What I don't know, and really don't understand is why no other television network creates a competitor for College Gameday. Last year it was plainly evident that ESPN had taken a pro-cross-promotion view towards the show. Chris Fowler admitted as much in a column and on-air. If you are a television executive at CBS or Fox Sports Net (or even TBS), you had to hear loud and clear that ESPN will no longer be covering your products as well as they used to. Basically, ESPN was begging someone to create their own show. But so far, nobody has stepped up. And the main thing is that College Gameday isn't that good! Yes, it set the bar, but others can definitely go above it. A competing show can focus on things lots of fans care about - like actual analysis, weather reports, injury reports - things gamblers want to know about. Things that NFL pregame shows do a pretty good job of. If CBS put on a serious minded show, with good production values and relied on news and analysis rather than personalities, I honestly think they'd draw a sizable audience.

3) Offseason coping mechanism... I'm polygamous when it comes to sports, so I don't get bothered by March Madness, baseball, etc. I actually like them. Also, I dig on foreign sports, so I follow the premiership and international soccer. This summer I'll be following the America's Cup hard core too. Oh yeah... I sometimes even talk to my wife.

4) Badass death... I had two, but both are kind of long. If I had to cut it short, I would've just said the way Lt. Frank Drebin wanted to go: having your nuts chewed off by a Lapplander. The other options:

(A) The setting: smoky, black and white Texas heat of an old Jim Thompson novel. I've fallen in with a woman. A dark, mysterious, sultry woman. The kind who would let the pork chops burn while she was building your appetite. The kind of dame whose powers of persuasion were unsurpassed. She might've led me on, but what's a schlub accountant in a town like this supposed to do? Anyway, I did her taxes, she did her part. It was a mutually beneficial relationship until her ex husband rolled into town. She needed something to happen, and when she needed something, my own needs didn't get met. We worked together on a plan. A dark plan. A twisty plan. But when push came to shove, I was the one who had to pull the trigger, and the one who had to mix the metaphors. My accounting skills moved the cuckhold's cash into the right nooks and crannies, and the dame made sure I was in the right spot to hook the noose around the ex's neck. But surprisingly enough, when the noose tightened around his neck, I felt a choke myself. Turns out that the angles played by this angel weren't just in my favor. The big brute of a sheriff rolls in at the right time, just after one final roll in the hay with the dame. Finally I realized where the cash was flowing, and who exactly was benefitting. They pulled a pound and a half of lead from my gut, placed there from the biggest barrel on a sidearm any lawman in Texas is allowed to carry. I can't say it wasn't worth it though. She was the kind of woman you knew was too good for you, but how can you say no? The scam worked perfectly, just the mark wasn't who I thought it was. Course, that sheriff's kid ain't who he think he is either. [Fade out from bleeding dude half naked on bed.]

(B) Glastonbury. Darkness. 800,000 in the crowd. Storm clouds gather in the distance. The original lineups, all reunited. GnR, Crue, Van Halen (not Van Hagar), and Metallica featuring the reanimated corpse of Cliff Burton. Naturally, they invite me on stage to take over on the skins. After a face melting, boner inducing 24 minute drum solo (during which Tommy Lee announced his retirement from drumming and Lars Ullrich hanged himself out of pure exasperation in knowing that they'll never rule as hard), the storm grows closer and more violent. 800,000 arms in the air, having been rocked so hard they've gotten sober, drunk again, and had their eardrums explode. Finally, I build to a climax on the solo. Hitting it so hard people are losing their minds. I build to the back of the set, with the sticks trained on the massive, double gong on what used to be Tommy Lee's set. At the exact instant I strike both gongs, sending a massive pulse through the crowd that instantly causes 800,000 people to quiver in ecstasy at once, 13 strikes of lightning slam into the stage at once. Luckily, the sheer force of the gong strikes draws all lightning away from the other people on stage, who have either passed out in rapture or are unable to move because they are stultified by my awesomeness. 13 strikes of lightning and thousands of volts of electricity instantly congregate on the gong I am currently banging. The confluence of electricity explodes at my last strike - and the full amount of force channels into my bones. Since the strikes knocked out the power on stage, the lightning is the only light seen by the crowd. The current travels into me, lighting up my bones like a fluorescent skeleton. For 3 minutes, I continue the drum solo as an electric skeleton on the dark stage, again building to the gongs, for the finale, I strike both gongs at once. This channels all of the electricity back into the gongs, and the sound waves send the electricity back to where it came from. The lights come back on, the transfixed crowd comes out of their trance. I lie on the ground slumped over. A casualty of rock.

Apologies for not coming through in the clutch and for making the show less good with my terrible phone and all.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Wow. How embarrassing for him and CBS

Last year on Selection Sunday Billy Packer's performance was horrible. His personal ties to power broker coaches in major conferences were on display for everyone to see, and a perfect case study for anyone wanting to discuss ethics and conflicts of interest for pundits in the media. His rants about how undeserved the at-large berth for George Mason proved to be an extremely poetic finish when the green and gold advanced to the final four. One would think that his performance last year couldn't be topped.

It was today.

With 14.5 seconds left in the UNC-Duke game, with a 12 point lead for the Tar Heels, Tyler Hansbrough took the ball to the rim, was fouled by two Blue Devils, had the ball knocked away after a foul, and was clearly, unambiguously clocked with a forearm to the face by Duke's Gerald Henderson. The foul was among the most vicious that I've ever seen. It could be considered a punch (though I'm not exactly sure - see update below). It could be considered an elbow. Henderson led with the forearm and the target was Hansbrough's face. The ball, long since cast aside, was nowhere near the direction of Henderson's thrust.

I don't typically like to presume to read the minds of others. I'll make an exception this time.

Gerald Henderson's forearm/elbow/punch to Hansbrough was 100% intentional. The facts and circumstances regarding the foul make this a clear inference. Henderson's left arm is by his side, not in the air, trying to block a shot. His right arm is cocked back and follows through after he strikes Hansbrough. His reaction after the strike is not one of "my bad, it was an accident."

Consider these facts: Duke-North Carolina is the most tense rivalry in college basketball, if not all of American sport. Duke was in the midst of suffering its worse loss of the season. The result of this game affected seeding in the ACC tournament (and NCAA seeding). Hansbrough dominated the game. 26 points, 18 rebounds.

Everything about the punch/elbow/forearm leads to one interpretation: that Henderson was frustrated with his team's performance and the result, and in order to protect whatever sense of self worth, he had to do something violent and outside the bounds of the rules of the game. This was a vicious, violent assault.

This was a more-violent attack than what began the brawl in the garden between the Knicks and Nuggets last December, but it came from the same thing. One team feels disrespected, gets mad that guys who punked him are still on the court, and they want to send a message physically. It's an embarrassment and not what basketball's about.

But this post isn't really about that. It's about Billy Packer.

Packer's coverage of this moment was so inappropriate and wrong that I cannot believe he is allowed to describe basketball.

For the first few minutes after the brutal, flagrant punch/elbow/forearm, Packer assured the viewers that it was clearly "an accident" and that Henderson was just "going for the ball". While Packer was narrating the replays, he disregarded the left hand of Henderson (at his side). He pretended not to notice how Henderson's arm was cocked back. He told us (at least three times) that Henderson was going for the ball even though the ball had been knocked away and wasn't even in the frame. Packer ignores that Henderson's eyes remained trained on one thing - the path his fist/arm/elbow would travel to strike Hansbrough.

He assured us again and again that Henderson didn't mean it and it was just bad luck that Hansbrough's face got in the way. Everything about the play and the circumstances regarding the finish of the game told us that this was a frustration/intimidation/classless foul. But in Packer's alternate universe, Henderson was blameless.

At one point Packer told us Henderson shouldn't even have been whistled for ANY foul, since Hansbrough had been fouled by other Devils already.

After Hansbrough had bled all over the floor, with definitely a broken nose and possibly lost teeth, Packer carried water for Henderson. A sad, small man does this.

But he then goes further!

For the next few minutes (it took a while for the officiating crew to sort it out), Packer spent his time telling us how it would be terrible for Henderson (a) to get whistled for a foul, (b) to get a flagrant foul, (c) to get ejected because of the effect on Duke in the upcoming ACC tournament. Direct quote: "This is a tough one for Duke".

Let's make this clear: Tyler Hansbrough, the best player on UNC and one of the best players in the conference, and clearly one of the most valuable players on ANY team in the nation gets clocked in the face, may have a broken nose, might have been hit in the eyes, might have been put out for the season (he didn't know anything about Hansbrough's status). But the victim of this sickeningly flagrant assault isn't the one getting discussed. No. It's a "tough one" because of the guy who did the assaulting might be punished appropriately!

How warped of a mind must you have to think this way?

When the officiating staff got the call correct and ejected Henderson, Packer grumbled about how bad a call it was. Mind-blowing.

Then he repeated the "this is a tough one for Duke" bit. Concern for the victim? None. Concern for the transgressor? Total.

Here's the only tough thing for Duke: Should they kick Henderson off the team permanently or just suspend him for the rest of the season. Because anything less is a complete sanction of the kind of cheap-shot that Henderson threw.

This was simply an embarrassing performance by CBS's #1 color commentator.

Here's the thing about Packer. Everyone around the country knows he's biased toward the ACC, and his personal conflicts are worn on his sleeve. This is only sort of true. Yes, Packer loves the ACC. But he really loves certain personalities in the sport. He's a water carrier for the coaches and programs he's closest too. He's close to certain personalities and his punditry is shaped by that. That's why he said such misinformed large-conference snobbery last year. And it has something to do with what he was talking about today. He was carrying water for Coach K. He knows the effect of today's loss and an early round ACC tourney loss would have on Duke's seeding in the NCAA tournament. He knows the effect of a (deserved) lengthy suspension for Henderson upon Duke.

He's shameless. He's a water carrier. He's a jabbering conflict of interest. He's not correct very often.

Billy Packer is an embarrassment. And when CBS lets him spout his slanted opinions, they share in his embarrassment.

Update: See comments for some clarification. I've edited the post a little bit to show that I'm a little wishy washy about terming Henderson's act as strictly a punch (though I think it can be interpreted in that way a little). I think there was intentional hard contact, and I've tried to state it as some form of elbow/forearm/punch or some generic term like "clocked". Main thing I think is about Packer's response, not the act itself - and his response was shameful regardless of how you describe the act because (a) Packer didn't know Henderson's intent but assumed the best (despite facts and circumstances) and (b) Packer's concern was all for Duke, rather than the guy who actually got hit.

Second Update: In regard to the foul itself, I think Pat Forde's article is pretty good, though I think he's a little too unequivocal about the foul being unintentional.

Yet another Update: Welcome Deadspin readers! If you got here from somewhere else, you can see the footage of Packer's comments at Deadspin here and at Loser With Socks (which I've been meaning to add to the blogroll for about a year it seems) here.