Tuesday, January 24, 2006


1. Apparently losing to the Hawks is the straw that breaks the camel's back. Artest to Sac-town. Win-win situation. I think both teams improve. Artest, if he stays sane for a a year and a half, instead of the typical 1 year expiration, could make the Kings serious contenders this year and next.

UPDATE: Well, looks like this deal ain't happening now. It went from a win-win to a big big big big lose-lose. Peja is pissed, the Pacers now are going to be 5 times as pissed at Artest, forcing them to take even less for him. Just a big old mess. Meanwhile, the Pacers got annihilated yet again.

2. English soccer is beset by allegations of corruption (link via Coke Bref) in the transfer market, called Bunging. I haven't been as up to date on this as I'd like, but for those not following soccer, bunging is an illegal practice of kickbacks to managers or chairmen for allowing transfers to go through. For example (and this is a hypothetical - no allegations here), Arsenal wants to obtain the services of Theo Walcott from Southampton. Walcott's agent wants the deal to go through, so that Walcott can get the portion of the transfer fee entitled to him (a portion of which goes to the agent) and higher wages from one of the world's biggest clubs (as compared to a recently relegated, smaller market club). Southampton is stalling, waiting for a better offer or an influx of cash to be able to hang on to him or something. So Walcott's agent offers cash (a "bung") to the decisionmakers at Southampton in order to have them "change their mind". If the allegations, made by Luton's Mike Newell and somewhat corroborated by Sven Goran Eriksson, are true, it'd be a serious blow to the sport. It'd be like if the Spurs slipped cash under the table to the Knicks GM in order for him to allow Nazr Mohammed to go to San Antonio for virtually nothing. Personal payoffs to individuals in exchange for the individual acting against the best wishes of his employer. This is shady business. And I truly hope it doesn't happen here. But would you put it past Isiah Thomas or Rob Babcock, considering some of the outrageous moves they've made in the last few years?

3. I think this is kind of odd. I read Peter King and Bill Simmons pretty regularly, and I'm not sure I've ever seen them, or any other national writers (other than contrived ESPN yell sessions) as far apart on an issue as this. Herman Edwards, with two years left on his contract, wants out to be able to go coach the Chiefs. Peter King thinks it's completely unbelieveable that the Jets only obtained a 4th round pick in exchange (questions the Jets' management's manhood, compares it to the Vermeil, Gruden and Belichick deals), thinking the Jets should've got much much much more for him. Simmons thinks it's completely unbelieveable that the Chiefs gave up anything to get him and that the Jets have to be elated that they don't have to fire him and pay him the rest of his contract. I think Edwards is a decent coach (the kind that can get to the playoffs every other year or so), but not in the Vermeil, Belichick or Gruden strata. So a 4th rounder seems about right to me. But I can't remember two national columnists taking such disparate views on the same deal.

4. Dan Shanoff... dude, just... I don't know. Yesterday's Quickie was all about how he's so over the Super Bowl because there aren't any compelling storylines, like loudmouth wide receivers or movie star-dating quarterbacks. Further proof that he looks for copy, not a good game. Mighty MJD has a stellar closer to his criticism:

"Maybe you jones for outsize drama. I jones to see who's the best. I want to see who's going to be the World Champion. That's enough for me, because I like sports. If you need outlandish characters and plot twists, give up sports and go watch Desperate Housewives or something."

That pretty much sums up my annoyance with Shanoff, but today he took it (link here today) to a completely new level. He brings us his new recurring feature "My Bad", where he allows readers of the Quickie to point out how moronic, insular and "WFAN-wouldn't-let-you-on-the-air-with-these-weak-takes" his opinions are. His readers pointed out, reasonably, that uhhh, you care because it's the championship of the most followed sport. And then they did point out several interesting storylines (Bettis, Alexander, first title shot for Seattle, good young QBs). Now, instead of actually giving credit to the reader responses, or even just posting them without snark, he has to get in the last word with a snide comment rebutting (poorly) the readers' submissions. Here's the thing: if you want credit for offering your space to the readers for their ideas, you can't point out how wrong they are. As a New Year's Resolution, Shanoff spoke exaltedly about how interactive he was going to make the Quickie this year, and how he was going to offer corrections and whatnot. If it's called "My Bad", you can't then point out how you weren't wrong in the first place. It kind of goes against the point. It seems like Shanoff wants the credit of offering feedback without the responsibility of actually having it mean anything. Straight from the Dennis Dodd or Matt Hayes playbook. Look, Shanoff doesn't have to offer any space to his readers, and in fact, I think he'd be better off not. But if he does and wants the credit for doing so, this isn't the way to do it.

Another moronic Shanoff take today: whining that nobody gave a 25th place college basketball poll vote to North Dakota State. Great win for the Bison. But they're 10-9. Polls mean something in college hoops (they do affect, if even slightly tourney selections). Shanoff here is encouraging voters not to treat their ballots with the same level of importance that those same ballots are then treated by others. This is, at best, silly; at worst, affecting the propriety of the game.

Also, dude, nobody with a brain thinks Earl Boykins is more "must-see" than KG, Amare, Carmelo, Duncan, Shaq, Dwight Howard, Arenas, Nash, The Wallace boys, Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter, Kidd, Chris Paul, Ginobili, Kirilenko, Jermaine O'Neal, Pierce, Bibby, Allen, Redd (and I think I could go on quite a ways). Yes, he's short. You are too. But you won't be an NBA player just because Boykins is. That mention just furthers my theory on the guy: that his ideal sporting world is a place where every team is made up of only small, nerdy guys like him. Seems like he never matured past that stage where he was throwing a football to himself, pretending to be both Montana and Rice.

5. This story was on CNN's main page, near the top. A few questions: a) Undressed was on the air for 6 seasons? Seriously? Is it still on the air? I haven't seen anything about it for about 6 years - and I only remember the show at all because there was a particular plotline where there were twins and one was a lesbian (google hits here I come!) and it was intriguing to frustrated first year law students like my roommates and me (when we weren't watching scrambled episodes of Night Calls). b) It was an ensemble cast, and a cast that changed week to week. Nobody ever had more than a few days on camera. Why on earth is this top of the fold news? This story, and the "dude who may have inspired Turtle from Entourage dies" story just keep hammering away at that key question: why do we care about people nominally more famous than ourselves? The widely linked-to "50 Most Loathsome People in America" article has a particularly cutting insight in it's entry for #4: You:

"Silently enabling and contributing to the irreversible destruction of your planet. Absolving yourself of your responsibility to do anything about it that your immediate neighbors don’t. Assuming that it’s normal behavior to spend several hours each day totally inert and staring into a cathode ray tube. Substituting antidepressants for physical motion. Caring more about the personal relationships of people you will never meet than your own."

It's the harshest criticism in an article filled with machete cuts and lemon juice. And the Undressed actor article just feeds it. I've been writing for almost a year now, and probably the bulk of it has been criticism of people I don't know and I probably never will: sports writers, coaches, players, filmmakers, etc. I'm part of the problem here, and I kind of realize it, but I don't know what to do about it. This minutiae for some reason means something to me, and a lot of other people. I care about things that, by all reasonable accounts, I shouldn't. I might go into this a little more later.

6. Back off the high horse... Did you all see that Hollywood (more specifically, the maker of Dodgeball) is making a movie version of Magnum PI? I wrote this to Lt. Gunnyhighway, a Magnum-o-phile (big fan of short shorts):

"I fully expect them to cast Nelly as TC, Nathan Lane as Higgins, and the dude who humps a pie in American Pie as Magnum. After your childhood TV memories have been completely micturated-upon by Yankee Stiffler in the Dukes of Hazzard, Colin Farrell in Miami Vice and the mess that'll be made out of this, I expect you to go Unabomber on Hollywood producers pretty soon. I'll be happy to proofread the manifesto, if you'd like."

7. Beating a dead horse... How painful must it have been for Peter King to watch last weekend's NFL Conference Championship games getting played in front of half-empty stadia and disinterested fans in places that aren't along the Atlantic seaboard? Just a shame that nobody cares out in Whereverthefuckyouare, NotalongtheAcelaline.

8. The whining coming out of Heismanpundit (and here) about how USC really is a dynasty and LSU fans are dumb and stuff is seriously like fingers on a chalkboard. Here's the deal. [UPDATE: After much discussion with Heismanpundit, it's clear that he hasn't taken the position that USC is a dynasty, and in his view that is tangential to the debate in the posts above. It deserves mention that the whining from the onepeat.com people is pretty bad and I don't personally agree with their position either. This post speaks for itself, and I stand by the rest of it, and for further discussion look in the comments to this post.] We pick one hard and fast rule and stick with it - no complaints. Either the BCS champion is the "National Champion" or we allow split titles. If the former option is what we use, then if you don't hold that crystal trophy, tough shit; if you get screwed out of playing in the title game even though you should've, tough shit. If the latter option is the one we're going to use, then the definition of "title" cannot be limited to the BCS title winner, the AP poll, or the coaches' poll, or any particular poll just because you think it's more valid than someone else. If there can be split titles, any group with a reasonable argument can claim to crown a title. So that means under the former option, USC is the undisputed champion for 2004-5, but isn't anything for 2003-4. If we use the latter option, USC can claim half of a split title in 2003-4, but that also means USC can only claim a split title in 2004-5, because Auburn has as much a claim to a title. So let's pick a rule and go by it. Either you call USC a one time BCS champion, or you can say they were back to back split champs. Undisputed once or Disputed twice. My personal view is for the latter. I say if you have a team that has as good or better a record as anyone else and hasn't lost to a team with an identical record, that team can claim a "title".

In either event, while USC has been very dominant over the last three years (and it's possible that their 2002 team might've been their best, by the end of the season), I don't think they're a dynasty. Being involved in the national title picture in three (or 4) years in a row is a tremendous accomplishment. But let's leave it at that. I think any talk about a dynasty in this era, where everyone has the same number of scholarships and there are 50+ schools that play big time college football (with huge budgets, firing caches after 9 win seasons, etc), is just silly. I could accept that Oklahoma in the 50s was a dynasty, but the system then was totally different. These days, a dynasty is not possible. And a dynasty over 3 and a half years doesn't cut it in my book. To me a dynasty means at least 5-6 years where nobody else really had a chance to win against them. UCLA hoops in the 60s-70s. The Celtics with Russell. College football today is different. Talent is too spread out. On the one hand, there aren't enough games in a season to have the matchups between top teams and ensure one team stands alone. On the other hand, there are enough serious programs to where multiple programs can play comparatively difficult schedules without playing one another, or even common opponents. There isn't a playoff to determine that only one team stands alone. So it comes down to this: Is USC a great team, possibly the best program of the decade so far? Probably so. But they're in the same class as Miami was from 2000-2002. And Nebraska from 1993-1997. And Alabama from 1977-1979. Tremendous, dominant teams. Not dynasties. There's no such thing as a dynasty in college football's modern era.

There. That oughta tide y'all over for a while. Possibly garner a few comments too.