Sunday, August 28, 2005

Belichick + Microphone = Bore

posted by BiCoastal Bias

One of the most painful things I endure as a sports fan is watching Bill Belichick talk.  The Patriots’ head coach is The Football Genius of my generation.  He’s got three championships in four years.  He lives and breathes football.  He shows up on gameday in a sloppy Pats sweatshirt, probably because he’s thought about every single aspect of the game to such a degree that he didn’t get a chance to decide what to wear.  I’m positive that he is the only NFL coach to think about football more than the most rabid fans themselves.  So with all of these credentials, aren’t you chomping at the bit to hear what words come out of his mouth?  There’s a scene in “So I Married an Axe Murder” in which Mike Myers is promised pancakes, French toast, and freshly squeeze orange juice by his girlfriend’s sister, only to be handed Apple Jacks instead.  I think Myers must have felt a whole lot like I do when I catch a Bill Belichick post-game interview.

Reporter: “Are you looking forward to the chance to do what only two other teams have done: win three consecutive Super Bowls?”
Belichick cuts him off, “That’s so far down the road, we’ve got the Giants next week and we can’t even think about that stuff right now.” – Does he know that the game against the Giants is preseason, which means it won’t count in the standings?

“What’s your reaction to the word dynasty?”
“We’re respectful of the league and last year doesn’t mean anything, we’re one of 32 teams.”  The clich├ęs are flowing now as if Kevin Costner from “Bull Durham” were delivering them personally.

This particular press conference includes many other insightful comments by Belichick; for instance, he points out that the Patriots will have to go on the road 8 times this season.  Wow.  That’s genius with a capital Gee.

The reporters are what make these press conferences entertaining in the end.  Here they are, confronted with the best coach in the league, hands down.  They need quotes.   It’s not that they need Belichick to look good; but let’s face it, their stories makes much more sense when the genius coach actually talks like one.  So they ask questions, leading questions.  This is what I gather they must be thinking:  Can he just, for one moment, ponder on the success his teams have had over the last four years?  Can we get some sort of existential slip that shows that this man actually appreciates what an amazing thing he has done with his life, and for the people of New England?  Oh wait, there . . . he’s smiling!!!  Nope, dang it, that was actually a grimace.  

Could it be that a man, who is pure genius at making his team win on the football field, is fairly inept at expressing himself as to what makes him so good?  Is it possible that he literally lives for football, and everything else falls by the wayside?  What does this say about our beloved sport?  I saw an interview with Bill Parcells a couple years back.  Parcells offered some discourse on the word genius, saying that that word should be reserved for people saving lives.  It hurts to type these words . . . but . . . I may have to agree with Parcells, in fact, he may have hit upon the very reason it is so painful for me to listen to Belichick speak.  I came expecting a guru, one who would offer me word after word of wisdom and lead me down the path of enlightenment.  Instead, I got a football coach.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Shelling of Schilling

posted by BiCoastal Bias

Part of my job description as writer for The Frappe is to report back to one coast what is going on with the other; sort of like a double agent. So for you New England readers, you might not learn anything new here, except what this spy has derived about you.

Last night, Curt Schilling made his first start following his brief stint in the bullpen, and was shelled . . . by Kansas City. This isn’t all that surprising since Schilling had not been very dependable as a closer for the last month, but no one expected him to take a beating from Kansas City. While I have no doubts that Schilling will eventually be a top of the line starter once again, I do believe that we have seen his best days come and pass; the bloody sock was the beginning of the end. Now I would imagine that most baseball fans from elsewhere on the globe assumed that last season was enough to grant Schilling the honorary key to “Red Sox Nation” where he would be welcomed and worshipped for the rest of his life. After all, he was the staff ace in the fateful 86th year, and the aforementioned bloody-sock game was a gritty performance for the history books.

Nonetheless, the assumption is incorrect, evidenced by this conversation I took part in June of this year. The other participants were two lifetime Red Sox fans, and the topic was Curt Schilling’s poor performance. Both of them wanted Schilling out, gone, kicked to the curb. To top it off, one refused to admit that he ever believed in Schilling! No matter how many passion plays I saw as a child, I never understood how the crowd could have turned on Jesus so quickly, going from Palm Sunday to chanting “Crucify!” within a week; but the Schilling story has brought it a bit closer to reality for me. If the Sox weren’t playing so well without him, I’m quite sure that the request for Schilling’s head would be heard daily on sports radio stations throughout Boston.

But here’s the thing; don’t call these fans fickle. “The Nation” will never turn their collective back on their team. Granted, it sure sucks to be the player underperforming for that team; but somehow in the midst of the giant magnifying glass and the inevitable criticism anyone in a Boston uniform is subject to, there’s a bizarre-unhealthy love for this team at the center of it. Is there a clear distinction between dedication to your team and dedication to the players who fulfill it? It’s not a fun question to ponder; and perhaps material for a different blog.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Idiot Like A Fox

posted by IntrinsicBent

When Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban was asked why he granted Dirk Nowitzki permission to represent his home country of Germany in the upcoming European Championships on Fox Sports’ BDSS Period recently, he quipped “I’m an idiot.  That’s the only good reason I can think of.”

Nice work.  It has nothing to do with the fact that Dirk is the Jordan of Germany.  The closer you get to Dirk’s hometown, the more you think you’re in Fort Worth because of all the Mavs gear.

Not to mention that it further cements easy access to any Helmut with awesome game in the future.

We see you working Mr. Cuban!

The Indiana Pacers Are A Powder Keg

posted by IntrinsicBent

And Ron Artest seems more than willing to be the blowtorch.  Artest (lookup in the dictionary under conundrum) is all over the place in this linked New York Post article.  He’s doing honorable work with wheelchair charities, referring to himself in the third person (“That night, it was Ron Artest”. “This night, it was Ron Artest, too.”), and foreshadowing the possibility of a future chaotic incident (“Fighting would be easy, It would be hard to back off”).

This is nothing new for those familiar with Artest’s career to this point.  Even the famed “Malice at the Palace” incident was surreal with Artest stirring the pot, getting a reaction, kicking back calmly at the scorer’s table in the eye of the storm, and then snapping again when a partially filled plastic cup hit him.

Artest also says, “Yeah, I’m ghetto,”  “I kind of snap at some times.  But at the same time, I’m doing good things.”  

He seems willing to apologize to the kid that was pictured who seemed traumatized, but not to anyone else involved, including his teammates or coach in general.

A trip to his website continues to reveal an eerie Jekyll and Hyde theme.  

But rehashing this ridiculous event is not my point.  We cultivate this type of behavior as part of the “American Dream, or what the global community now thinks of us as the “Western Influence”.  Shortcuts are allowed as soon as a gift for shooting jump shots, hitting home runs, or rushing for touchdowns is exhibited.  Boundaries of right and wrong are lost during this process, and the hangers on start jockeying for position.  Often close family members are afraid to cross the “Star” because that might mean that they’re on the outside looking in and not getting their gravy.  Call it the “Elvis Effect”.  (“Want another peenut butter and bownana sandwich Elvis?”).  If the athlete grew up in a broken home with no solid authority figures, this process is even tougher.  

Believe it or not, money does not cure everything.  If you’re not careful you’ll still be champ, do time in the joint, raise pigeons, get outboxed by tomato cans, and get face tattoos.

But here’s the very worst part.  We love to cheer our stars and build our expectations of them to unrealistic proportions.  And then we seemingly relish the opportunity to tear them down until they become the latest joke shared around the water cooler.  This may be the most reprehensible component.

We think it’s horrible if a player treats his “game” as a job or a business.  We think it’s horrible if an owner treats our team as a business or an investment that needs to make money.  We feel the fact that we purchase our ticket allows us to haze our “heroes” with insults of the intimate details of their lives that are constantly under the microscope.  Can we mix these ingredients and not expect volatile outcomes?

It’s only a game…………….where millions of dollars are at stake.

It’s okay, I’m riding high as a Laker fan in Lakerland where we don’t have any issues to deal with.    

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Unavoidable Conversation

posted by IntrinsicBent

I’ve tried and tried to not have this conversation.  Or have these thoughts.  But, it’s just not possible.

This is a discussion that we have to have.  Just like that dreaded discussion you had to have with Pops (or worst yet, Moms) about the Birds and the Bees.  Let’s talk about performance enhancing drug use in pro and/or competitive sports.  If I have to broach this subject, I’d prefer not to give the impression that I’m trying to tag along on the wave of the latest scandal for the sake of proving my point.  The problem with that is, it’s almost a daily occurrence.

So this take is not really in response to the Lance Armstrong allegations of today.  I strive to maintain a “glass half full” outlook.  I’m confident he will again come out of this charge exonerated.  I also possess a somewhat twisted sense of humor that I wrestle with which makes me wonder if these charges are found to be true, if the throngs will sport yellow “Juice Strong” bracelets.  I hope for the sake of this very worthy cause and the victory Lance had defeating cancer, that he proves again he is clean and above board.

This is also not in response to Frank Robinson’s turning on Rafael Palmeiro today, which may have something to do with the fact that Palmeiro is only 17 home runs behind him in the record books.  We caught a piercing glimpse of Robinson’s bitterman act in Anaheim, er……LA Anaheim of the OC, earlier this season.

This unavoidable conversation is just that…….unavoidable.  It doesn’t matter if you are talking to yourself or others, it always comes back as a consideration.  This happened to me again this past Sunday while I was eating lunch with friends.  The Halos/BoSox game was on and Steve Finley weakly grounded out in the infield which has been the norm so far this season.  I turned to my friends and without engaging my brain to mouth filter, quickly mused, “Do you guys think Finley’s problems have to do with…..”  Before I could finish, they both jumped in with the age, transition, history of slow starts, “reasons” that it couldn’t be true.

Thanks to those of you that adopted “If you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying” method of raising the level of your game.  You painted yourself, your teammates, and sports with the broad brush of scrutiny, doubt, and disbelief.

If you guys and gals won’t listen to Nancy Reagan, then listen to Spade and that new Farley kid on those Capitol One ads and just say no.

Great Lineups are Like Great Rock Albums

posted by BiCoastal Bias

I’ve always seen a strong tie between great baseball lineups and great rock albums.  Before we begin, notice that I’m exclusively talking about rock albums; R & B albums are usually fairly shallow with the single as the first track.  But a great rock album is an hour of music that runs as deep as the Ruth/Gehrig Bombers.  However, since any great rock album should have more than nine songs, consider the six through eight spots in the lineup to represent the sixth song up until the second to last song on the record.  Let the ridiculous comparisons begin:

Lead-Off:     This one is obvious; speed is the key here.  A great album needs an upbeat rockin’ first song to kick it off, just like a good lineup needs a fast leadoff man that’ll take you from first to third on the next base hit.  Juan Pierre does it for the Marlins; while “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” goes to bat for Nirvana’s Nevermind.

Second:     Speaking of going from first to third, that’s the whole point of the two-spot in a great lineup/album.  The best example of this is Superdrag’s Regretfully Yours, in which the opening song rolls right into “Phaser,” setting the table for the rest of the album; much like Darin Erstad always executes whatever small-ball task is necessary to put Vladimir Guerrero into a runner-in-scoring-position situation.  (Angel fans should know that I’m referencing their pre-July 29 lineup.)

Third:     Every great lineup/album saves its big gun for the 3-hole.  This is where one finds the Guerreros, Tejadas, Pujols, and Miguel Cabreras of the MLB.  Similarly, Jimmy Eat World chose “The Middle” for the third track on Bleed American, Blink 182 used “Dammit” for Dude Ranch, U2’s The Joshua Tree centered around “With or Without You,” and I could give examples forever.  This is the name or tune on everyone’s lips when the team makes the postseason and the CD hits stores.

Clean-up:     At this point, let’s slow it down a notch; like Green Day’s American Idiot does with “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and the Phillies and White Sox do with big oafs Thome and Konerko.

Fifth:     The fifth spot in the order is where the depth of an album/lineup is either displayed or dismayed.  Is this Jason Varitek leading the powerful BoSox, or Chip Ambres floundering for the Royals?  Is this Weezer’s Blue Album with the notorious “Sweater Song,” or Weezer’s Green Album featuring the unmemorable “Crab”?

Six – Eight:     Let’s face it, these spots are mostly filler, and some I would even call defensive: which could either refer to a soft hitting shortstop, or a handful of fast songs you can’t even understand the lyrics to but somehow round out the disc.

Last:     The National League gets disqualified here since this is the pitcher’s spot, so let’s focus in on the Jr. Circuit.  The ninth spot in the lineup/album features that lovable catalyst that for one reason or another, makes a real connection with the fans.  For the Yankees fans out there, Robinson Cano bottoms out the lineup, the sole evidence that perhaps New York still has some remnant of a farm system, not to mention that the guy was named after Jackie Robinson making it even harder to dislike him even though the pinstripes alone should be enough.  Switchfoot ends The Beautiful Letdown with a heart-stirring acoustic number.  Adam Kennedy and his ninth spot in the order will always be associated with his improbable 2002 ALCS MVP performance; a fond memory for any Orange County kid.  Jimmy Eat World’s albums Clarity and Futures both end with emotional classics: you won’t here these songs on the radio, but if you learn to play them on the guitar, you might make your girlfriend cry.

So there it is.  I’m sure this is just the beginning of a very important argument that will last a lifetime.  For you old timers out there wondering why I didn’t include any classic rock, I have a response.  That was a different time, albums were on records not to mention that players and balls weren’t juiced; but more importantly, I couldn’t find any examples that supported my theory.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Go Ahead And Plan The Parade Route New York

posted by IntrinsicBent

As an Anaheim, er.....LA Angels of Anaheim fan, I've got a call in to Mike Sciosa to let him know that it was a good try, but maybe next year. Maybe he can evaluate the motherlode of talented players he has in the minors the remainder of this season since the Yanks will now win the series.

Why?

I'm convinced after checking out yesterday's NY Times that the Yanks latest move will power them through to taking it all. And no, it doesn't involve a new steroid masking agent that the mlb doesn't know about.

The Yankees are bringing back Ruben Rivera. Yes, Mariano's cousin and the teammate that was run in 2002 from the Yanks for stealing Derek Jeter's glove during spring training. Could there be anything more detrimental to any team sport's locker room chemistry than a dang thief? I know........ let bygones be bygones. That's exactly what Jeter had to do.

Bye.......it's gone.

It's only a minor league contract, but why? Is this really the missing piece that solves their many ills?

Nope.

A few pitchers under the age of 40 (unless it's the Rocket) would help.

Having a high priced 1st baseman/dh live up to his hype would help. Not to mention not allowing steroids to be THE topic for so much of the season.

Also, how about an outfielder (Sheffield) that can act like he's been there before? Pleeaassee! Sheff has a ring, but is more concerned with himself and whether people think he's the leader than he is with the team. At least he's been consistent his whole career with that.

There's something to be said for old skool team chemistry. We've seen it in recent championship teams like the Angels (you knew I'd get that in there), BoSox, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Pistons, Ravens, and Patriots. I know what you're thinking........hey those teams had superstars on them. Maybe they have name recognition now after their achievement, but most had very few huge names to lean on but thought about team first. And very few of the "experts" gave them a puncher's chance of going anywhere. Remember when the Patriots played the Rams in the Superbowl? Nobody, and I mean nobody but Hank Stram thought they'd win. Tom Brady's Mom had St. Louis.

Grit, sacrifice, work ethic, perserverance, and the athlete's best friend luck still shine through. Even in these days of huge payrolls and even huger egos. Coaches and managers are more psychologist than they are teacher. I could post daily on that subject alone. But I won't. Instead I'll keep reminding myself of the golden rule, and keep my picture of Jim Thorpe close by.

So hide your gear fellas, 'cuz there's a new teammate in town, and he needs to boost his Ebay memorabilia sales. In the end, Steinbrenner will buy, Cashman will stress, and Piniella will keep trying to get out of his gig to go after the Yanks job.

Oh yeah........psyche! on the parade thing. You're not going to be there.

It's great to be an Angels fan. By any city's name.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Here's Your Number 4

posted by IntrinsicBent

Let me let you in on a little secret about America's #4 sport. No, it's definitely not hockey, or that vampire sport that sucks the lifeblood out of American sports (soccer), poker, pool, bowling, or even NASCAR.


It's gotta be UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, whose time has come. This ultimate X sport is jammed with unbelievable action, athleticism, personalities, and yes, sometimes brutal physical violence. Think modern gladiator. Or even boxing back when the personalities and competitions were intriguing.


This 17 year old sport is far from being your Daddy's tough man contest from back in the day, and has come along way from it's beginnings as a competition for bragging rights as to which martial arts discipline reigned supreme. It seems to be poised to get some respect, even as some States deem it too intense to sanction events to be held within their borders.


I happened across it many years ago after the very first competition when I was trolling my cable channels and found it on a spanish speaking station. Did this deter me? Heck no, I dialed the volume down and tried to figure out what was going on. It was a bizarre collection of super heroes at the top of their training disciplines. Stuff like muay thai boxing, boxing, jiu jitsu, kick boxing, wrestling, and a host of other Star Wars character sounding names I'd never heard of.

I quickly figured out that there were three ways a bout was decided (In order of coolness): 1) By judges' decision after the bout is complete (yawn). 2) By knockout. (always a treat) and 3) By submission, or tapout (awesome). The third happens when an opponent has you in a hold that is so extreme that you start tapping the canvas or your opponent, because you're going to have something break on your body, or you'd really like to be able to breath. This tapout motion closely resembles your dog's leg when you find that sweet spot on his belly.

So my first experience was ok, with a skinny little dude whipping much bigger opponents by wriggling around and grabbing body parts until the bigger dudes tapped out to keep these same parts attached to their bodies. Come to find out, this guy named Royce Gracie and his family are legends from South America and have a jiu jitsu style named after them.

The first bouts were elimination tournaments where you fought until you lost. Ok, that is exactly like your Daddy's tough man competitions.

I saw parts of a few of these contests throughout the years, giggling at those that paid for them by pay-per-view, while I watched them free (with no sound). For this reason alone, I told myself that I'd hit a Spanish class, but of course never did.

Then early this year, late at night, I happened across this reality series called The Ultimate Fighter which I watched and got hooked on. Similar to The Contender, but much more action packed. They stuck a whole slew of fighters in two weight classes into a house in Vegas and were offering a six figure UFC contracts to the winners in each weight class, middleweight, and light heavyweight. The catch was that these guys could not watch tv, read magazines, listen to music, or have any other "normal" distractions. All they could do is train, and get on each other's nerves. They would have competitions where the winner got to decide who would fight from each team, with the loser being eliminated. It was at this point that I was able to get my wife watching the drama of the reality tv portion before she'd tapout by not watching the fighting part.

Very long story not very short, after many twists and turns and high drama plots, the final two competitors competed on UFC's first live broadcast on cable tv on Spike Tv. The light heavyweight bout was a literal knockdown dragout that kicked the interest level up a notch (Yeah, I know, that's food channel jargon).

The UFC of today consists of what is known as Mixed Martial Arts. No longer does a black belt in judo allow you to roll into the octagon (UFC's version of the ring) ready to fight. Now you need to be trained in various styles and disciplines to be able to effectively compete. You have to know how to grapple, throw, kick box, box and anything else that might allow you to leave alive, victorious, hopefully with all your faculties intact.

Shortly after that, the coaches of the two teams competed for their title on pay per view that I finally paid for. The new season of the Ultimate Fighter starts this Sunday on Spike. Watch this thing and you'll get hooked. If you don't, you've already tapped out. But trust me, if you do, start setting aside pay per view bucks........you're gonna need them.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Calling All Ricky Williams Fans

posted by BiCoastal Bias

Against all of my sensibilities, I’m finding myself rooting for Ricky Williams this season.

In the past, I’ve never been much of a Ricky Williams fan, so it seems fairly unreasonable (to me at least) that I would suddenly be one now.  But when I see his hideously bearded face attached to an emaciated caricature of his former body on the television screen, I can’t help but want to be on his sideline, whether the event be a football game or just the daily public scrutiny taking place in front of his locker.  

Let’s start with the reasons why we should all despise Ricky Williams.  I’ll start with the quick one, Ricky smokes pot.  This one is pretty easy for me to get over, since the majority of my acquaintances also use marijuana or at least have in the past.  And since pot is by no means “performance enhancing,” Ricky is far from being labeled a cheater.  No matter what your general position on drug use is, I would think that this makes him a much more sympathetic character than a Jason Giambi.  

The second reason is much tougher, and that is that Ricky is a quitter.  To paraphrase my old high school football coach, when you quit, “You [take a dump] on your teammates.”  And this I have no direct response for; in fact, if I was a Dolphins’ fan, I would likely not be writing a favorable Ricky Williams article right now.  Some would go as far to say that Ricky cost his coach and other teammates their jobs, and while this statement is pretty obviously grounded on facts, in the end everyone has got to take responsibility for himself.  I just don’t think it’s fair to place others’ employment status on the shoulders of the team’s star.  

But I still haven’t answered my own question, why would someone root for this quitter?  My response: look at him!  As he humbly answers the reporters’ questions, I just can’t help but think, “This guy is pathetic!”  It’s as if Ricky is wearing his scars of life right out in the open for all to see.  And no matter how many times I’m told that his reasons for returning are far short of heroic, I still see a vulnerable has-been trying to make a comeback with a last-place team, and those stories never get old.  So I beg your pardon for rooting for the guy I’m supposed to despise, I just can’t help it.