Friday, June 27, 2008

Monkey Butlers of the Week

Quickest Turnaround From a High to a Low: Felix Hernandez, Mariners. He hit a grand slam in the second inning of Monday night's game against the New York Mets, the first ever homer by a Mariner pitcher. He had been on a scorching 1-for-8 lifetime pace prior to embarrassing Mets pitcher Johan Santana, who was unimpressed: "It seemed to me when he swung, he closed his eyes." Martinez followed up his round-tripper by rolling his ankle in the 6th inning while covering home and had to come out of the game.

Cinderella Story of the Week: Turkey. The country, not the meat. In making an improbable run to the semifinals of EURO 2008, the mad Turks dealt with a rash of injuries and suspensions that led to a less-than-full squad that took the field against Germany on Wednesday. And yet, as they did time and again in the tournament, they were there at the end with a chance to win it only to see Germany score the game winner in the 90th minute.

Most Obvious Cinderella Story of the Week: Fresno State, YOUR 2008 NCAA Baseball Champs. In what some people are calling "the biggest upset of the 21st century," the "Wonderdogs" fought their way to Omaha, burned it to the ground, and then headed back to California with a championship trophy. In the decisive third game of the best-of-three finale, Fresno rode the bat of right fielder Steve Detwiler, who went 4-4 with two home runs and six RBIs (for those scoring at home, that would be all of Fresno's runs). Even more impressive was the fact that Detwiler was playing with a severed tendon in his left thumb.

Worst Rap Performance of the Week: Shaquille O'Neal. I'm sorry, but when I heard the "news" about this "story," I was curious to what Shaq sounded like when he was "freestylin'." I've never heard Shaq rap before, and I was actually shocked to learn that he has at least five albums available for purchase. (With such song titles as "Boom!" and "Mic Check 1-2," the world can be assured that the music library of Shaq will live on forever.) At any rate, I tracked down the video of the "rap," and while I honestly wasn't expecting Eminem from 8 Mile, I wasn't expecting the stuttering fat kid from the fifth grade, either:

My two favorite lines: "If Biggie was here, he would be there," and "I'm a horse, Kobe ratted me out, that's why I'm getting divorced." Essentially, this all boils down to one thing: Kobe is relevant, and Shaq has become irrelevant. So what does Mr. Irrelevant do? He scratches and claws in any way he can to become relevant again. At least two of the sheriffs that pandered to Shaq are asking for their badges back, and Shaq has apparently decided that Huntsville, Alabama will be his new home away from home. Uh, yeah, Shaq; your kids on a rocket. Sure.

Worst Link of the Past to the Present for a Football Program: Ken Stabler, meet Jimmy Johns:

This photo saddens me.

Hand in the Cookie Jar Award: Rick Dutrow, douchebag. Dutrow has been suspended for fifteen days for loading up one of the horses he trains with twice the allowable level of clenbuterol, a drug that aids breathing by magically making a horse's lungs larger. (Josh Howard just fell out of his chair.) Dutrow was informed of the positive test in Mid-May, but failed to tell his bosses over at IEAH, so they're real happy with him right now. What's more, Dutrow's been cited for 18 other drug infractions since 2000. What's it take for a horse trainer to get banned?

Spoiled Return of the Week: Albert Pujols, by the Detroit Tigers. Returning to play for the first time in 13 games, Pujols went 4-for-4 with an intentional walk and knocked in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. Unfortunately for him, the Cardinals bullpen disintegrated, with Ryan Franklin giving up a tying home run in the ninth only to be followed by Mike Parisi walking in the winning run in the tenth. I never thought I'd say this, but maybe it's time to put Jason Isringhausen back in the closer role? He pitched 2 1/3 innings in the game, giving up two hits and recording two strikeouts and no runs.

Brady Quinn Award/Human Ping Pong Ball Award: Darrell Arthur, Kansas Jayhawks New Orleans Hornets Portland Trail Blazers Houston Rockets Memphis Grizzlies (we think). The poor guy, who has to have the worst agent ever, went to the NBA draft in New York last night and not only was he not a lottery pick, he was taken 27th overall by New Orleans. Then traded to Portland. Then to Houston. Then to Memphis. He apparently has some sort of kidney problem, so that would explain the drop to 27, but the game of hot potato that was played over the next few hours had to be stressful on the guy.

Mid-'80s Rockin' the 'Stache Award: Jason Giambi, New York Yankees. Hey, whatever works, right? Thong, fat chick slumpbuster (definition #3), Miami Vice-mustache; you name it, and Giambi will try it. (Ed. note: Is it just me, or does Giambi look more and more like a speedfreak truck driver as the days go by?)

Random Non-Sports YouTube Video of the Week:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

You Want to Know Garbage? Here You Go...

Jimmy Johns is garbage. Not the tasty-sandwich chain, mind you, but the ex-Alabama football player. Pure, unadulterated garbage.

College scholarship? Check.

Good head coach? Check.

Starting position on defense? Check.

Yeah, I'd probably sell a little cocaine, too. And not just that, I'd sell it in the parking lot of the football complex. What the hell, right? Was he feeling nostalgic and trying to bring back the halcyon days of '80s Miami football? And, yes, I'd be "deeply saddened" about being arrested, too. But, then again, most morons that get arrested for selling drugs are also pretty sad about their situations, as well. In fact, what kind of idiot would be happy about being arrested? (More info on Johns' arrest here and here.)

And if that wasn't enough, Johns was also selling pit bulls on a website that bore his name. Slight problem with that: it's against NCAA rules. At least Johns was diversified, right? Illegal drug sales on one front, pit bull entrepreneur on the other. No wonder he lost playing time under Coach Saban--he was too busy running his businesses.

While the pit bull sales may have been legit under Alabama (although not NCAA) law, each sale of cocaine is a Class B felony and carries with it a 2 to 20 year sentence. The sole possession charge is a Class C felony and carries with it a 1 to 10 year sentence. Luckily for Johns, three of the sales took place before he turned 21, so he could get a do over youthful offender on those. You see, best case for Johns here would be some sort of probation, fine & community service; as a young man with no criminal history, a sympathetic judge who had eaten a tasty breakfast AND gotten laid by two or three high-dollar call girls the night before might have given him such a sentence. But, given the current "war on drugs" (especially against cocaine), most sentences usually include jail time. And not pansy County time, either: real, big-boy State Penitentiary time. Add into that the fact that University of Alabama president Dr. Robert "Nit" Witt will likely be kicking down the doors over at the Tuscaloosa District Attorney's office and you have all the makings of a stiff sentence that will include prison time once all is said and done.

So now Johns will go down in the pantheon of college athletes whose actions destroyed their careers: Lawrence Phillips, Maurice Clarett, and now Johns.

Chacon Pulls a Sprewell

Houston Astros starter reliever Shawn Chacon decided to deliver a little beatdown to Astros GM Ed Wade on Wednesday. Chacon tells the story like this:

"I sat down to eat and Ed Wade came to me and very sternly said, 'You need to come with me to the office,'" Chacon said. "I said, 'For what?' I said, 'I don't want to go to the office with you and Cooper.' And I said, 'You can tell me whatever you got to tell me right here.' He's like, 'Oh, you want me to tell you right here?' And I said, 'Yeah.' I'm not yelling. I'm calm."

Chacon said things went downhill from there.

"He started yelling and cussing," Chacon said of Wade, according to a story on the Chronicle's Web site. "I'm sitting there and I said to him very calmly, 'Ed, you need to stop yelling at me.' Then I stood up and said, 'You better stop yelling at me.' I stood up. He continued and was basically yelling."

Chacon said that after Wade told him he needed to "look in the mirror," it got worse.

"So at that point I lost my cool and I grabbed him by the neck and threw him to the ground. I jumped on top of him," he said. "Words were exchanged."
Ha. Words were exchanged? How civil of him. "Ah yes," said the British dandy. "We drank some tea and wuhds were exchanged. Yes." Also, "look in the mirror" is usually what sets me off, too. Although, I can definitely think of 100 other things that would set me off more than that. (Like, for example, if you told me that you hoped I would die of Dalrymple's sign, then it would be ON.)

Talk about a bad week. You get what is essentially a demotion, and when your boss's boss comes to talk to you, you grab him by the throat and hurl him to the ground. For those keeping score at home: Chacon is 30 years old and Wade is a spry 52 years young. In case you're wondering, the menace that is Ed Wade is pictured above.

So We've Been a Little Slow Around Here...

As some of you have noticed, we apparently decided to take the first half of the week off around here. Terribly sorry about that. Unfortunately, since we aren't paid for this, our real jobs often interfere with our ability to wax poetic on the sports stories of the day. It's been a hell of a week to miss, though! Shaq ripping Kobe, that one guy Latrell Sprewell-ing that GM, Fresno State out-Bulldogging Georgia, Tommy John filling in for Golic. Whew. What a week!

As always, when we screw up, our apology post will be accompanied by a chick picture. Now, the first place girl is definitely the clear-cut winner. But, for the second and third place girls, don't you wonder whether or not only three girls entered the contest? Yikes.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Monkey Butlers of the Week

Going Above the Call of Duty Award: Scott Baker, Minnesota Twins. Baker started the third inning of Sunday's game against the Brewers by striking out Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, but since Mike Redmond apparently allowed the ball to bounce to Pluto, Fielder was able to waddle his way to first. Baker then settled down, and after warming up again, he struck out Russel Branyon and Mike Cameron to end the inning, thus giving him four strikeouts in one inning.

Speaking of Prince Fielder: Dude apparently owes somewhere in the neighborhood of $400K in back taxes. Shockingly, Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, declined to comment on the matter because he suddenly realized that Fielder was short on money and therefore couldn't afford Boras's $4,537 per minute speaking fee.

Worst Las Vegas Act: Javon Walker, Oakland Raiders. Moments after leaving the Body English nightclub, Walker was found beaten and unconcious on a back alley in Las Vegas. This was, of course, the night after his $15K champagne party at Tryst, another Vegas nightclub. Walker claims to have been abducted at gunpoint from his room at the Bellagio, but no one seems to seriously be buying that as there are bazillions of cameras at casinos and one would presume that armed men "escorting" someone off the property would have been noticed.

Worst Las Vegas Act Not in Las Vegas: Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers. Fisher was noticeably present during the first two games of the NBA Finals in Boston, but then he pulled a David Copperfield and was not seen again the rest of the series. It's possibly that he was abducted, Dr. Who-style in Boston and replaced with an evil doppleganger powered by the blood of Red Auerbach.

The Could Be Good or Could Be Bad Award: Tiger Woods. As you may have already heard by now, Tiger played the U.S. Open this past weekend with a torn ACL and two stress fractures in his tibia. While putting on a gutsy performance through 91 holes of golf over five days, Tiger cemented his position in the pantheon of tough athletic performances. However, only time will tell whether or not his decision to play the Open will affect his ability to play well in the future. Of course, he wasn't in such bad shape that he couldn't shoot a few commercials on Tuesday.

The About Gosh Darn Time Award: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR. Junior won his first race of the season on Sunday, the LifeLock 400 in Michigan. It was his first win in 76 races and also his first since joining Hendrick Motorsports. Running on fumes and trying to hold off a challenge from Kasey Kahne, Earnhardt survived the asinine "green-white-checker" three-lap overtime to finish to the race, brought out by a caution on lap 198. Despite not winning this season until Sunday, Earnhardt had six top-five finishes in fourteen races and is third in the overall standings.

The "How Did I Miss This" Award of the Week: Edwin Jarvis. Yep, that's me. Somehow, I completely missed that Dan Patrick and CNN/SI have formed an (un)holy alliance. I'm sure this happened weeks or months ago, and while I usually know about stuff like this, I completely missed it. The site is slick and appears to offer Patrick all of the control over his own material that the evil overlords at ESPN refused to give him. Quick Dan Patrick trivia: Did you know that his last name is really Pugh? True story.

This Week's Non-Sports YouTube Video of the Week: Folks, this is what happens when boys grow up without a father in their lives.

Note to Readers: You Speak, We Listen

A new feature we're going to feature around here every once in a while will be a post in response to reader feedback. Typically, these responses will be accompanied by a picture of a woman in a bikini to detract from the inadequacy of our response.

Since some of you have accurately pointed out that we failed to mention anything whatsoever about the outcome of the NBA Finals, we decided to mention it today. The Lakers lost the Finals in six. Pau Gasol played like a pregnant yak, Lamar Odom looked terrified of some of the opposing team's players, and the Lakers bench played like they were on a last-place NBDL team. What's more, Kobe Bryant couldn't decide if he was going to be the Black Mamba or "Guy Who Wants the Media to Love Him," so he alternated between short stretches of domination and long stretches of setting up the Laker foreigners for threes and post-ups. Of course, the foreigners mostly played like WWII-era Frenchman, so you obviously know how that went.

Keep those requests coming, and thanks for reading our little corner of the Interweb!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tiger Woods: Human or Alien?

We've all had a day to reflect on the news that was released yesterday regarding Tiger Woods and his balky knee and leg. I, like many of you out there, got the sense at times that Tiger was being a bit overdramatic with his wincing at certain points during the U.S. Open. However, he revealed yesterday that not only was he playing with a torn ACL, he also had two stress fractures in his tibia.

I'm no doctor, or orthopedist, and I don't play one on TV, but that sounds damn near impossible. I know you can walk around with a torn ACL, because I've seen it done, but I don't know about walking almost 22 miles in five days on a torn ACL. Plus, with the torque Tiger puts on his left knee and lower leg, those stress fractures probably didn't feel too good on any swing he made.

Tiger made a comment during the tournament (round three, I think) that he had "taken some stuff" to help with the pain in his leg. My experience with awesome pain killers is rather limited, but whenever I've had the joyous opportunity to take some, I usually have problems muttering sentences, let alone playing golf in U.S. Open conditions.

Oh, and then there's what Tiger's swing coach, Hank Haney, had to say yesterday:
According to Haney, doctors told him the stress fractures required three weeks on crutches and another three weeks of rest, which would have meant no Open for Woods.

"But Tiger looked at the guy and said, 'I'm playing in the U.S. Open and I'm going to win,' " Haney said.
Right. My doctor tells me I need three weeks on crutches plus three weeks of rest after that, and my first inclination is not playing golf.

To put this into context, this wasn't the NBA or NFL playoffs; it's still golf, after all. And one thing that about golf is this: it is more mental than physical. Strategy and mindset go a long way in determining how successful one can be. Everyone knows that Tiger is the toughest, mentally, of any golfer on Tour, so it's not all that surprising that he was able to compartmentalize his pain and simply play through it. What's scary for the rest of the players, however, is that Tiger Woods played a U.S. Open setup and won the tournament with an injury that would have caused 99% of the other golfers out there to sit out. That's what's impressive to me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bill Simmons: Your Time Has Passed

That's it. I've had it. I'm officially, for the last time, fed up with Bill Simmons and his sycophantic ramblings that ESPN inexplicably pays him for. I cannot possibly fathom why ESPN would want to pay a columnist that has such a slanted worldview. One must wonder if Simmons is channeling Mike Myers' character in All Things Scottish from SNL and walks around muttering "If it's not Boston, it's crap!" over and over to himself.

The sad thing is that, once upon a time, Simmons was actually funny. Sure, he professed his love for all things Boston, but with me and most every other person I know that read his column, it was endearing. Then, Boston sports got good again. The Patriots. The Red Sox. And now the Celtics. The result? An insufferable human being that is completely incapable in writing anything objective whatsoever about any team that his team is playing. Witness this nugget from his latest musings:

We were sitting behind the Lakers bench for Game 5, so please believe me on this one: In the fourth quarter, with the Celtics shooting on L.A.'s basket, Ronnie [sic] Turiaf was throwing a towel up in the air every time a Celtic was about to release a free throw. Talk about dirty pool. Isn't that a technical?
Uh, excuse me? How about Sam Cassell, in all his warmups glory on the bench, slapping his hands together mere centimeters from Derek Fisher's head as he shot a jumper in Game Four? (I'm pretty sure it was Fisher shooting; it might have been Vujacic.) I think that would qualify as "dirty pool," don't you, Billy? Did you miss that one, Bill? Or are you just a blind idiot that sees what you want to see?

Simmons' protestations that he's "Kobe'd out" are ridiculous. Kobe'd out? How about Celtic'd out? All ESPN has done since Boston got K.G. and Ray Allen is unceremoniously shove the Celtics down every basketball fan's throat. It's Boston this, Boston that, Boston everything. It's one thing for, say, a WTBS to promote the Atlanta Braves; they are a regional station, and back in the day they shoved the Braves down the Southeast's throat because the Braves were the closest MLB team by far. I get that. But ESPN's love for the Celtics is ridiculously overdone.

Also overdone? The hoopla surrounding Pierce's "injured" knee. Right. Sorry, Billie, but Pierce playing on a tweaked knee does not invoke images of Michael Jordan doing anything other than walking to his car. Pierce hasn't done anything in this series or any other to warrant such a comparison, and your homeriffic nature is the only reason you would write such a thing. By the way, you do realize that Kobe is playing with a torn ligament in a finger in his shooting hand, right? Funny how no one mentions that. At all. Pierce goes down like a drunken schoolmarm or Tiger Woods grimaces on the second tee and those guys are "warriors" or "courageous"; Kobe plays with a fucked up finger on his shooting hand and nobody talks about it. Yeah, I'd be Kobe'd out, too. (Also, maybe you can explain why Pierce does his best whiplash imitation any time any player from an opposing team breathes on him. You'd think they were pistol-whipping him or whacking him in the back with a tire iron the way he flails about.)

Here's another completely unbiased take from Simmons:

If someone's a little bigger than him, stays between him and the basket and has the reach to contest his jumper, and if that person is flanked by smart defenders who remain aware of what Kobe is doing at all times, it sure seems Kobe has trouble getting the shots he likes. Not to belabor the point because it's a moot discussion at this point, but MJ didn't have a "kryptonite" flaw. He just didn't. Of everyone from the '90s, John Starks probably defended him the best ... and it's not like Starks was shutting him down or anything. He just made MJ work a little harder for the points he was getting anyway. The point is, Jordan did whatever he wanted during a much more physical era, and when he faced great defensive teams -- like the '89 and '90 Pistons or the '93 Knicks -- nobody ever shackled him or knocked him into a scoring funk. Kobe? He looks a little lost offensively against the Celtics.
First, yes, if someone is longer than Kobe and keeps Kobe in front of him AND "is flanked by smart defenders who remain aware of what Kobe is doing at all times," Kobe MIGHT have trouble scoring. Essentially, Bill, you just described a defense whereby all five defenders guard one guy.

Well no wonder he's having "trouble" scoring. What a classic gem, Simmons! You are truly a basketball genius. By the way, Kobe is struggling to score 26.2 points per game this series.

Second, you point out that Jordan had no "kryptonite flaw." I'm sure that it must have been really nice to play in an era that allowed no zone defenses whatsoever. Sure, hand checking was allowed, but big deal--a player like MJ or Kobe can handle that easily. It's completely different going up against off-the-ball defenders who are playing what would've been "illegal defense" in the '90s. Your crack analysis where you mention that all five Boston defenders pay attention to Kobe? Well, they couldn't clog the lane the way they've done all series if these Finals were being played ten years ago. Just a thought, Bill.

One final point: Simmons blames the Celtics losing game five on fatigue. He mentions that they've played 107 games this year plus preseason plus a side-trip to Italy (the horrors that trip must've done to their bodies is frightening, for sure). You see, that's another thing Simmons does: he glorifies his guys and then makes excuses in case they fail, so he can "I told you so!!!" your face off. Frankly, who cares how many games they have played? They're not old men. They are very rich, well-paid athletes whose job is to play basketball. Being tired is a cop-out and everybody knows it. Using Bill's rationale, his prolific output during the Finals must mean that since he's cranking out columns almost daily, he must be tired, and as such, his columns must suffer as a result.

At any rate, I'm done with Bill Simmons. I'm not going to be able to take any more, especially after Boston closes this thing out tonight.

ESPN: Sports Guy's Boston Guy's World

Oh Yeah--Basketball is Still Going On

I wrote the Los Angeles Lakers' eulogy last week, but for some reason they wouldn't die Sunday night and now have a game 6 tonight at Boston. I personally think that Boston is going to win by 27 points, but frankly, you never know. It is a possibility that Kendrick Perkins will not play tonight as he attempts to recover from the shoulder injury that kept him out of game 5. In that game on Sunday, Pau Gasol looked less like a pregnant yak and more like an NBA big man, pulling down 13 rebounds to go along with 19 points and six assists. Gasol is a finesse player, and when someone like Perkins bodies him up, Gasol folds like a cheap tent and that's it.

If Perkins is unable to go, the Celtics are still likely to win if Eddie House, et al, keep shooting the ball the way they have been. The Lakers went all out to contain Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in game five, and as a result the Celtic "nobodies" helped Boston tie the game in the fourth quarter. Looking back, that's really all this series has been: L.A.'s nobodies vs. Boston's nobodies. The superstars are always going to get theirs in some way, shape or form, and at the end of the day it's the players like Sasha Vujajic (20 points in Game 3) and Kendrick Perkins that really end up deciding how these games go. If the Lakers are to complete the historic comeback, they're going to need everything their nobodies can give.

Without the celebs to cheer them on and pull them through, I just don't see it happening.

Hank Steinbrenner: Comedy Gold

I don't know if we've had a post about newish Yankee boss Hank Steinbrenner, so here you go. I have had more than one fleeting thought that I wish that Hank stays healthy and strong for decades to come because, frankly, he puts out some of the most entertaining quotes almost daily. And I mean comically entertaining, not batshit crazy Ozzie Guillen entertaining.

Here's his take on the aftermath of Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang's freak running-the-basepaths injury:

“My only message is simple,” Steinbrenner said in Tampa, Fla. “The National League needs to join the 21st century. They need to grow up and join the 21st century.”

Steinbrenner said he was angry and added: “I’ve got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He’s going to be out. I don’t like that, and it’s about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s.”
Right. Major League Baseball players are athletes, correct? Hanky wants us to believe that Wang is incapable of running 180 feet without getting injured.

To quote Steve Czaban: Whaaaaaaaa?

You see, it's not the manager's fault that you're 5.5 games out of first; it's not the players' fault, either. It's not even the general manager's fault. No, it's the National League's fault. Stupid non-designated hitter league! Morons! (Ed. note: The DH wasn't born until 1973, when the American League voted it into existence.)

Steinbrenner went on to say that "[p]itchers have enough to do without having to do that.” That's like saying that you have a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time, so instead you have to have a designated gum chewer.

Thanks, Hanky. Please keep the quips, anecdotes and grumbled sentences coming for years to come! I can't wait to who you'll blame when one of your players gets injured sliding into second base--the antiquated base designs, perhaps? The archaic sliding rules?

Newsday: Hank: NL is to Blame

So Who's Running the Mets Now? Isaiah?

In a move that was most likely met with head-nodding approval from the New York Knicks for both its timing and method, Willie Randolph was fired last night this morning as manager of the New York Mets. The decision came after the Mets had flown cross-country to play the Los Angeles California Raisin Angels of Anaheim presented by Disney on ESPN; what's more, the Mets won the game. Much has been made about the way the Mets organization has allowed Randolph to twist in the wind these last few weeks, and more than a few hints have been dropped regarding Randolph's status as the Mets manager. Meetings have been held, ultimatums issued, etc. However, I doubt that anyone saw it happening this way:

After weeks of speculation that his job was in jeopardy, Willie Randolph finally got fired by the New York Mets while most fans were sleeping.

Randolph was let go in the middle of the night Tuesday, 2 1/2 months into a disappointing season that has followed the team's colossal collapse last September.
When you've openly professed your opinion that your manager should be let go, don't you owe it to him to at least do it in a manner that is a bit more professional than issuing a press release at 3:11 a.m. in the morning? Doesn't it make more sense to fire him before your team gets on a plane, flies 3000 miles to California and plays a game? The Mets, for whatever reason, felt like they had to backdoor Randolph's firing, which makes no sense. They could have fired him after last year's epic collapse, or earlier this year when it was obvious the team was failing to meet expectations. Instead, they dangled the blade of the guillotine above Randolph's head, toying with him until they just couldn't stand it anymore.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A U.S. Open for the Ages

Whew. What a day. A bonus four-and-a-half hours of golf today just ended, and shockingly it was anticlimatic at best. After having played eighteen playoff holes even, Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate headed to the 91st hole, #7, for a sudden death playoff. Tiger went from tee to fairway to green and two-putted for par. Rocco went from tee to bunker to grandstand to green to missed long par putt, and as a result Tiger Woods is your winner. Considering the way these two traded jabs today I expected Tiger to nail his long birdie putt for the win or for Rocco to roll in his ridiculously long par putt, but neither happened, and all of the media folks who were complaining this morning about having to stay another day can finally go home.

I'm worn out. Luckily, I have two screens at work, so I was able to work on one and watch on the other. Of course, as the day wore on, IBM's servers started to slowly melt, and the video and audio quality went into the tank, but I was at least able to make out most of the final hole.

My hat's off to Rocco Mediate, for hanging in there despite his "158th ranked player in the world" status (he's up to something like 47th now), and to Tiger Woods as well. Not so much for him playing on the "balky" knee, because frankly, none of us know how much it hurt or how much it really affected him; only he knows. I'm more in awe at the fact that he was absent from competitive golf for the better part of two months and hadn't even walked eighteen holes during that span prior to last Thursday. That's impressive.

Finally, a Monday Sports Day

Mondays have long been a walking anomaly in the sports world. Sure, you have always had Monday Night Football, but that's only for half the year, and even at that the teams you get usually suck. Honestly, does anyone care about the Jets against the Dolphins in Week 4? Not hardly.

And, just like every other day of the week, when the respective other professional sports are in season, you'll get regular season games on a Monday. But, you don't get that "appointment television" kind of feel like you do, say, about college football on Thursday nights or Saturdays or the NFL on Sunday.

Well, today is your lucky day as the U.S. Open will be having an 18-hole playoff between the supposedly gimpy Tiger Woods and the everyman, "I wear a peace sign as a belt buckle" Rocco Mediate. It kicks off at noon eastern and, luckily for most of the people that can afford to play golf and enjoy watching it, it will be shown live at the U.S. Open's website.

Yesterday's final round was an interesting one to watch. Rocco could not have been in a more perfect position to "steal" a major from Tiger. First, he was playing ahead of Tiger so he didn't have to deal with the immense gallery that was following Tiger & Lee Westwood. Second, he had the benefit of not really being pushed all that much by Tiger as Tiger completely blew up on the first two holes to go from 3-under to even barely after his final round started. Heck, even Lee Westwood matched Tiger shot for shot, which sounds like a good thing until you realize that many of those shots were into bunkers and the wilderness.

Whether it was the knee or the course, you got the sense that it just wasn't Tiger's day. That is, of course, until Mediate became incapable of knocking in any sort of birdie putt whatsoever down the stretch. That failure left the door open for both Woods and Westwood, but it was Tiger that was able to capitalize, even after hitting a drive into a sand trap and then from the sand trap to the rough. He left himself an 18-footer and he rolled it in, so here we are. Tiger's knee seemed to bother him early on, but I noticed that down the stretch he hardly grimaced or acted like anything was wrong. After the round, he told reporters that he had taken "some stuff" to help dull the pain, so presumably Tiger was playing the back nine of a major under the influence of Percoset, right? Whether the knee plays a part in today's playoff remains to be seen.

I hope that today's action is a good one. Frankly, I could see Rocco completely disintegrate in the first six holes, resulting in a laugher. Although, with his laid-back personality and happy-go-lucky mentality, he may be able to avoid the pressure and simply swing loose. Anyone that wears a peace symbol for a belt buckle has to be the epitome of laid-back grooviness, right? If that's the case, we might actually see a time where the person who feels the most pressure is not Tiger's playing partner, but Tiger himself.

But I doubt it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Monkey Butlers of the (Last Two) Week(s)

Award for Getting the Most Out of a Sac Fly: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins. In a game against the Orioles on June 4, Mauer drove in not one, but two runs with one sacrifice fly. He hit a ball to deep center field and as the fielder went to throw the ball back into the infield, he slipped; as a result, Carlos Gomez, who had been on second, just kept on running and scored, giving Mauer two RBIs with one sac fly.

Best Example of a Colossal Waste of Money: Cedric Benson, Chicago Bears. Benson was dismissed from the team this week after his second alcohol-related arrest. His numbers with the Bears work out to something like this: $40K per carry, $10K per yard, and $1.7M per touchdown.

Worst Drunk-Driving Episode by a Non-Athlete: Juan Campos, idiot. Campos was so drunk that he was somehow able to completely not see the two dozen or so bicyclists that he plowed into with his car. The riders were part of a race just over the U.S. border in Mexico. Ouch.

Worst Drunk-Driving Episode by a Former Athlete: Kenny Stabler. Stabler, 62, was pulled over in the wee hours of the morning last Sunday in Robertsdale, AL, not far from Alabama's beautiful, sparkling Gulf Coast. As a result of the traffic stop, he was charged with DUI. He's had two prior DUI arrests, one in 1995 and the other in 2001, so if you think about it, he was a bit overdue for another one.

Best Dance-off: Words cannot even describe.

Busch Stadium Fan Battle - video powered by Metacafe

Most Epic, Mind-Blowing and Indefensible Collapse of the Past Two Weeks: Big Brown, horse. Big Brown failed in his bid to complete a long anticipated run to the Triple Crown by finishing last in the Belmont Stakes. The reason for his poor showing has yet to be determined, but my money is on the lack of steroids. Just a hunch. (What, you expected the Lakers to be here?)

Most Crushing Injury of the Past Two Weeks: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals, and Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs, (tie). Pujols went down with a strained calf in Tuesday night's 7-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds and is expected to miss three weeks. Soriano fell victim to the inevitable curse of the Cubs and broke a bone in his hand after being hit with a pitch during Wednesday's 7-2 win over the Atlanta Braves. He's expected to miss six weeks. Anyone else find it eerie that both Pujols and Soriano were injured in games their respective teams won by scores of 7-2? No? It is Friday the 13th, you know.

Best Rejuvenation of Former NBA Players: Terry Porter, Michael Curry & Vinny Del Negro. This week, Porter was hired as head coach of the Phoenix Suns, Curry was introduced as the Detroit Pistons' new coach, and Del Negro was hired as the new head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Never has so much former averageness been rewarded so richly in such a short period of time. No word on whether Del Negro still sports his perfectly-coiffed, '80s hairdo as no recent pictures of him exist.

Most Supernatural Healing Powers of the Week Award: The Boston Celtics Medical Staff. After miraculously healing Paul Pierce's injured knee during last week's Game One, Kendrick Perkins' ankle before Game Two, and Rajon Rondo's ankle before Game Four, the Celtics Medical Staff have proven they possess supernatural powers that must be shared with the rest of the world. Perhaps they could turn their incredible powers on cancer, or perhaps Hobson's heart, which is possibly irreparable after last night's Lakers' collapse. Who knows what good they could do for society? Good thing for us they don't live in Africa or they would have already been burned alive for being witches. I suspect, however, that the Boston trainers were more likely engaging in the same activities as Mr. Miyagi is pictured doing here and not curing "injuries."

Worst. Television. Announcer. Ever.: Chris Berman, ESPN. There can be no doubt to this one. Scientists have tried, and failed, to calculate which level of Hell Berman's suckdom has sunk to; even though they may be able to theorize how many levels of Hell exist, they cannot accurately predict where Berman's suckdom would plunge to because of the forces his suckdom exert on Hell itself. In other words, as his suckdom plunges further and further into Hell, more levels of Hell are apparently created. As such, Berman's performance on television can only be described as sucking so bad as to be immeasurable.

Random YouTube Video of the Week:

R.I.P. Lakers

It was an enjoyable ride. The Lakers exceeded expectations and played themselves into the first seed in what was universally thought as the best conference in basketball. They rolled through the playoffs and took on the ESPN media darlings in the Boston Celtics. Everyone expected an epic series.

Instead, Boston leads 3-1.

Sure, it ain't over til it's over, and everyone has a chance until they're eliminated, but this isn't hockey, folks. There are no rabbits in the hat that can be pulled out Copperfield-style; this series is over. The only suspense is whether or not Boston will be celebrating in L.A. or at home.

How do you explain blowing a 24 point lead? How do you explain being up by 21 points at the end of the first quarter, a Finals record, and then going on to lose? Simple, really: the Lakers quit playing about halfway through the third quarter. Boston kept going because, you know, you get paid to play 48 minutes so you play 48 minutes. The Lakers eased up, Boston made a run, and then L.A. got tight. The last half of the fourth quarter was absolutely excruciating to watch if you were a Lakers fan: every player on the court was simply terrified to shoot or do anything with the ball, Kobe Bryant included. One trip down the floor, Kobe dribbled for a few seconds and then threw the ball to Sasha Vujacic. Kobe then stood alone at half court until someone threw up an off-balance shot as the shot clock wound down.


After the game, Kobe said that the Lakers wet the bed. Hmm. Now, I am a big Lakers fan. There is no doubt. But one way to look at it is this: Kobe shot 4 times in the first half and the Lakers led by 18; all the other Lakers were involved, everyone was playing within the flow of the game, and all were getting open looks. In the second half, Kobe shot 15 times. The rest of the Lakers seized up, and look what happened.

I'm not saying that Kobe doesn't need the ball in his hands at the end of a tight game; there is no doubt that he's a hell of a closer in those situations. But last night you almost got the feel that Kobe decided "Well, this one's over; now I got to get mine." And in the process of getting his, he disrupted what up until then had been a fantastic basketball game.

Kobe doesn't really deserve all of the blame, of course; the rest of the Lakers became automatronic robots that couldn't move, dribble or shoot, so frankly it didn't matter if Kobe had been facilitating the offense or not.

All I can take out of this is that hopefully this will be a tremendous learning experience for the younger players on the Lakers. As I've said to friends before, my fear for this team was that it had no heart. You punch the Lakers in the gut, and oftentimes they don't punch you back; rather, they just roll over and take it. And that's exactly what happened last night in the second half.

The only silver lining I can take away from last night is that, as always, there is next year. I hope that the Lakers discover a bit of heart and moxie in the off season and make sure that a collapse like the one that happened last night never happens again.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On the Death of the Generational Athlete

The U.S. Open is once again upon us and, as usual, the love & adoration party for Tiger Woods is in full swing. That bothers me not because I don't like Tiger Woods; rather, I do like Tiger Woods and want him to do well. Not "do well" in a "hey, he's a cool guy and would be awesome to grab a beer with" kind of way, but more in a "once in a generation player who can break records and I get to see it" kind of way. My dad's generation had Arnold & Jack, and now I've got Tiger. Since I hated Michael Jordan, I pretty much missed the awe and adoration boat with him, but with Tiger I want to see him break Jack's records. I want him to win twenty or thirty majors. I want him to win every time he tees it up because, frankly, and I know this is cliche, but I don't think anyone will ever come along ever again that can do what Tiger has done and will do in the future.

As I got to thinking about what Tiger has accomplished, I began to think that it's essentially impossible for another athlete in the Tiger or Jordan mold to come along again. We live in a world that is afflicted with ADD; we are a satisfy-me-now world that wants everything to have been done yesterday. There just are too many outlets that can distract us from our daily activities; if you are over 30, imagine your life at 15 years old if you had a PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, the Internet, and 500 cable channels to watch. How concerned would you be on working on your fielding? Or taking batting practice? Would you even care about an offseason workout program? You might, but you wouldn't be as focused on those activities as you would on MLB: The Show or NCAA '08.

Tiger Woods is a member of a soon-to-be extinct breed that focuses on one thing: being the best at their craft. Kobe Bryant does it in the NBA. Peyton Manning does it in the NFL. All three share something in common: fathers that guided them into a game they either played and/or loved. Kobe's dad is a former NBA-er. Archie Manning built his own legacy in the NFL. And Tiger's dad, well, he was teaching his son about golf before he could walk. All three of those guys are now around the age of 30; Kobe is 29, while Peyton and Tiger are both 32. The only video games these guys knew about growing up were either the old NES or the local arcade. There was no internet, and if you had cable, 50 channels was awesome. Kids played outside more. They enjoyed the physical competition of sports more. Nowadays, I don't think that they do. Kids can play their home-based video games or take their gaming on the road with them via a Gameboy or PSP. They can watch one of dozens of channels programmed just for them. I fear that the simple joy of a backyard football game will be lost on thousands of today's kids because of the multitude of outlets available to occupy their time.

Take, for example, LeBron James. The man has serious basketball skills; there is no doubt about that fact. But, while watching him play, I often get the feeling that his mind is elsewhere, that subconsciously he is thinking about his next big commercial shoot or television appearance. LeBron James may one day be the classic example of an incredibly gifted athlete that didn't accomplish what he could have. That, in and of itself, may suit him and everyone else just fine, me included. However, imagine if LeBron had Kobe or Tiger's drive and will to win? I don't think he does, although it may not have manifested itself just yet. Time will tell.

But, there is hope, I think. The common denominator among Kobe, Tiger & Peyton is this: their fathers. As a new dad myself, I think about what effect I can have on my son's life. I hope that I can guide him away from the indoor activities that seem to plague so many of today's youth and at least get him interested in baseball, football, or my first love, basketball. I don't think that the kids today lack the competitive drive to be elite-level athletes; I just think that they don't care as much about it because there are so many other tugs at their time. There are other things to satisfy that competitive drive, and they often involve a video game controller.

So, enjoy those elite athletes that are simply obsessed with being the absolute best at their craft while you can. Kobe, Tiger & Peyton won't be around forever. When they retire, we may find ourselves with plenty of capable athletes that just don't care as much about what they do. Which may mean, of course, that instead of being glued to the television for the U.S. Open, I may just be playing my PS3.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Breaking News: Pau Gasol scratched from the playoffs!

Pau Gasol out for remainder of playoffs!!!

In shocking news, the Los Angeles Lakers have announced that Pau Gasol has been removed from the playoff roster for a medical condition.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Dr. Rashed Ali from UCLA Medical Center said Gasol is suffering from candidiasis and severe fatigue, constipation and has been ill over the past few mornings.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson declined comment, but longtime fan Manuel Hernandez speculated that the symptoms were due to the severe owning Gasol has take from the Celtics frontcourt over the past week:

More information will be available as soon as the anonymous doctors call us back.

In possibly unrelated news, Kevin Garnett, Leon Powe and five other members of the Boston Celtics have been scheduled to appear on The Maury Povich Show to combat upcoming paternity tests.

The Tim Donaghy Mess

If you don't listen to sports talk radio, or you don't care to peruse the blogosphere on an hourly basis, then perhaps you haven't heard about the latest "bombshell" from Tim Donaghy. In public court papers filed Tuesday by his attorney John F. Lauro (and I prefer to believe that the F stands for fuckin'), Donaghy claims that other NBA officials conspired to affect the outcome of two playoff games, one in 2002 and the other in 2005. Based upon the details given in the filings (which don't include team names), it has been widely reported that the 2002 series mentioned refers to the Western Conference finals that year between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers and, more specifically, game six of that series. The other was the 2005 series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets.

Where's the proof? Where's the evidence that this is anything but a criminal who is now carrying on a personal grudge match with the NBA? Articles across the globe describe Donaghy's allegations similar to the following:

Donaghy also told the FBI that a couple of referees appeared to cook up foul calls in a 2002 NBA playoff game in order to have the series go a seventh game. The only seven-game series in the entire 2002 playoffs was between the Lakers and Kings in the Western Conference finals. The Lakers won Games 6 and 7 to advance to the NBA Finals.

Huh? They "appeared" to screw Sacramento in order to benefit the NBA, because they were "company men" who seemingly decided on their own that the NBA would benefit from a seven-game series?

Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked about Donaghy's allegations before last night's game three, and he had an interesting response:

"The allegation was that they were extending the series?" said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, answering questions about Donaghy less than two hours before the biggest night of his season. "Was that after the fifth game, after we had the game stolen away from us after a bad call out of bounds and gave the ball back to Sacramento and they made a three-point shot? There's a lot of things going on in these games and they're suspicious, but I don't want to throw it back to there."

Sorry, folks, but I'm calling bullshit on this one. From what I heard on the radio this morning, you would have thought Donaghy had laid out in specific detail exactly which officials were the conspirators, who at the league office told them to fix the game, and exactly how they did it. Instead, we're left with Donaghy's opinion on what happened. Nothing more, nothing less. But, thanks to dandy fops like Mike Greenberg on ESPN's Mike & Mike show, this is being blown completely out of proportion. Greenberg took the time to read the entire complaint letter sent to David Stern by none other than Ralph Nader. Yeah, Nader is exactly who I want to get my basketball knowledge from. Talking heads like Greenburg need to take a long, deep breath, realize the insanity of the situation, and just move on to something else.

Another article quoted the letter as saying "league officials would inform referees that opposing players were getting away with violations," and so then the refs would call the violations on those players. OH NO! That means that the refs were told they had made mistakes and then they rectified them?? Oh, the humanity! They called fouls that were supposed to be fouls? Get 60 Minutes on the phone and tell them we've got a hot one, folks. I can see the headline now: "Sun Rises in East; America Stunned."

Don't believe me, eh? Let's take a look at game six from the 2002 Western Conference finals, shall we? L.A. shot 21-of-27 in that fourth quarter to only 7-of-9 for the Kings. Six of L.A.'s free throws, however, came in the last twenty seconds as Sacramento looked to extend the game by fouling. L.A. was five-of-six in that stretch, so take those free throws out of the equation and you have L.A. going 16-of-21 in the quarter. So, instead of an 18 shot disparity, it's down to 12.

Now, of the remaining free throws shot by L.A., Shaquille O'Neal shot ten of them. The Lakers were focusing on pouring the ball into Shaq almost every time down the court in that fourth quarter, and as a result, Shaq was very active and was able to get to the line. He went 6-of-10 from the line. Plus, Lawrence Funderburke was guarding Shaq for a large portion of the fourth quarter and picked up several fouls; he's not exactly the defensive stalwart, you know? And, don't forget about all the talk back then about how hard it was to officiate the games Shaq played in; from game to game, it seemed to change what was and wasn't a foul just due to O'Neal's sheer size. Add into that Vlade Divac's hall of fame flopping status (video here) and those ten free throws by Shaq look downright normal.

That leaves 11 free throws remaining. Kobe Bryant took three of them, Robert Horry and Devean George each took two apiece and Rick Fox took four. Two of Fox's free throws came after he was fouled making a defensive rebound, and frankly, the nine free throws remaining don't amount to a grand conspiracy to fix a game. The Lakers worked the ball into Shaq early in the quarter and, when he was fouled, those fouls ultimately added up and put Sacramento in the penalty. So, from there on out, any fouls they committed (save offensive) put the Lakers at the line. It didn't work out for them like it didn't work out for many teams in that '00-'02 run for the Lakers: Sacramento simply had no answer for Shaq.

Also, if this was really some sort of conspiracy, why in the world would the refs call a shooting foul on superstar Shaq for fouling Lawrence Freakin' Funderburke with 2:06 left in the game and L.A. only up by one? Or on Derek Fisher with 1:27 to go and the Lakers up three? Or, for pete's sake, Rick Fox with twenty seconds left and L.A. up by three?

There was no conspiracy. I just don't believe it. Tim Donagahy is a criminal. And not just a criminal; he's a degenerate gambler, and frankly, that to me says plenty about his character and his honesty. Gamblers who get in over their head and start perverting the rules and regulations of their jobs to satisfy their gambling debts are garbage and would probably sell their own mother to get out of trouble. This whole sentiment that "oh, he could get in MORE trouble if he doesn't tell the truth" crap is ridiculous. The ONLY reason this has come to light is because the NBA attempted to collect $1M from Donaghy (in a private court filing) to pay for the investigation it had to do into Donaghy. Donaghy's attorney got mad and used the legal system to try to settle a grudge. Donaghy has already told investigators his allegations and they've ostensibly been looked in to. We would have never heard about it had Donaghy's (or his attorney's) pride and arrogance not gotten in the way.

Mr. Donaghy, should you read this, please just do us all a favor and accept your punishment like a man and leave us be.

Chicago Tribune: Ex-ref Tim Donaghy Details NBA Improprieties
ABC News: Shamed Ref: NBA Playoffs Were Rigged

WATN? - Pascual "I-285" Perez

To be honest, I have no idea why this fool popped in my head this week. Maybe it's because I've had a lot of time with no TV while I have been moving? Maybe it's because I'm just about fed up with basketball? Or maybe it's because I was sitting in Atlanta traffic the other day and that always makes me think of one, infamous athlete...

Pascual "I-285" Perez!

My first MLB experiences were the early 80s Braves teams with Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Brett Butler, etc. But when it came to pure comedy, it was usually Pascual.

Whether it was him peeking between his legs to check runners on first, 'finger shooting' batters or his trademark sprint to the dugout...he was always good for a laugh. Nevermind the fact that he missed a scheduled start because he was circling Atlanta and couldn't find the stadium, hence the nickname.

I'm pretty sure ol Pascual is either dead, incarcerated...or possibly an international drug kingpin by now. No matter what, he was funny as hell to watch and the most entertaining part of some truly terrible Braves baseball.

So, wherever you are Pascual...please do not get in touch. I don't want to be an accessory to whatever it is you have gotten in to since you left baseball. I have a feeling there are felony charges associated.

Was it Over When the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell No!

The Lakers took a stand against the overwhelming media crush on the Boston Celtics and pulled out a crucial game three victory last night, 88-81. Kobe Bryant scored 36 and Lamar Odom Pau Gasol Sasha Vujacic poured in 20 off the bench.

As expected, the Lakers shot more free throws than the Celtics. For the game, L.A. was 21-of-34 from the line, while Boston was 15-of-22. Apparently, the Staples Center has some sort of transdimensional warping effect on free throw shooting. At any rate, the conspiracy theorists, when they're not busy slobbering all over the latest Tim Donaghy allegations, will insist that game three was officiated differently than the first two games of the series. I disagree, and here's why: the Lakers, and Kobe Bryant in particular, were MUCH more aggressive in driving to the basket last night. As a result, they were able to get in the lane and as such initiate contact and draw fouls. It's exactly what Rajon Rondo was able to facilitate in games one and two for Boston.

After the game, Kobe Bryant was asked whether or not he had a response for all of the "talk radio" people that had essentially declared the Lakers dead after losing the first two games of the series:

"It wouldn't be talk radio. It wouldn't be talk radio, you know, if everybody was just so optimistic and positive. That's not fun. You've got to have hosts that are just going to throw shit to the window, you know? If you don't have that then nobody's going to listen to it. So, amen to them. It's entertaining."
Now the series shifts to a crucial, crucial game four. This is obviously another must-win for the Lakers, and I imagine the Celtics view it as a must-win almost as much as L.A. does. However, if Paul Pierce shows up and shoots 2-of-14 again, we'll be tied up going into game five on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lakers Are Essentially "Confused"

I guess Phil Jackson said it best, although he was only referring to Lamar Odom. The word he used? Confused. That pretty much sums it up for me.

The Lakers this Finals have looked confused. Kobe Bryant has uncharacteristically missed shots, and while I realize that on some of those misses he had a "hand in his face," he still usually makes most of those. The Lakers and everyone else have also looked confused at the widening gap in the foul disparity between Boston and L.A. I've been watching basketball for 20+ years, and in my experience, the team that is more physical typically gets called for more fouls. But, since we have somehow dimension-shifted into Bizarro World, that's not the case in these Finals.

The Lakers bench looks confused. Guys aren't rotating well off of screens. They're loafing on defense. And, for the love of God and all that is holy and righteous in this world, can I get ONE damned Laker to dive on the floor for a loose ball? Just one?

Tonight's game three is definitely a must-win for the Lakers. No ifs, ands or buts. I'm anticipating a bit more parity in the foul-calling department, I expect the Lakers bench to clear the cobwebs from their dusty brains, and I expect Kobe to play better. He has to.

Friday, June 6, 2008

This Weekend's TV Battle

So it's been pretty busy in the Monkey Butler world today, and as such, there will be no Monkey Butlers of the Week column. Instead, next week, we'll bring you the Monkey Butlers of the Past Two Weeks column! Sad, I know, but it's the best we can do.

This is a pretty full sports weekend, especially if you're into Euro 2008. Don't know what Euro 2008 is? Don't worry...plenty of other Americans have no idea either. It's a "soccer tournament" between the "countries" of "Europe." It will be playing all weekend.

The big sports news of the weekend comes from the Belmont Stakes, where Big Brown and horse racing's largest ego, Rick Dutrow, attempt to give the world horse racing's first Triple Crown in thirty years. Considering Big Brown has been fed a steady diet of steroids his whole life, and his supposed top competition, Casino Drive, has some sort of hoof problem, I would think it would be a massive upset should Big Brown not win. We'll see.

Oh, and there's another NBA Finals game on Sunday night. We'll see which Celtic decides to imitate Willis Reed this time.

In the whole world of sports this weekend, you've got...

College Baseball: Arizona at Miami, NCAA Super Regional, ESPN, 7
MMA: WEC, Faber vs. Pulver, et al, Spike, 7
NASCAR: Craftsman Truck Series in Fort Worth, Speed, 9
College Baseball: Stanford at Cal State Fullerton, NCAA Super Regional, Deuce, 10:30

Soccer: Euro 2008, Switzerland vs. Czech Republic, Classic, 11:30am
College Baseball: N.C. State at Georgia, NCAA Super Regional, Deuce, Noon
Soccer: Euro 2008, Portugal vs. Turkey, Classic, 2:30
PGA: St. Jude Championship, CBS, 3
MLB: At least two teams playing each other, Fox, 3:30
Horse Racing: Belmont Stakes, ABC, 5:30
College Baseball: Arizona at Miami, NCAA Super Regional, ESPN, 7:30
NASCAR: Nationwide Series in Nashville, Deuce, 7:30

Tennis: French Open, Men's Final, 9 am
Soccer: Euro 2008, Austria vs. Croatia, Deuce, 11:50am
Formula One: Canadian Grand Prix, Fox, 1
College Baseball: Coastal Carolina vs. North Carolina, NCAA Super Regional, ESPN, 1
NASCAR: Pocono 500, TNT, 2
Soccer: Euro 2008, Germany vs. Poland, Deuce, 2:30
College Baseball: UC Irvine vs. LSU, NCAA Super Regional, ESPN, 4
College Baseball: Texas A&M vs. Rice, NCAA Super Regional, Deuce, 7
Soccer: U.S. vs. Argentina, Classic, 7:30
NBA Finals: Game 2, Los Angeles at Boston, ABC, 9
MLB: Cubs at Dodgers, ESPN, 9

Boston Takes Game One: Pierce Proves to be a Faker

Boston took down Los Angeles last night, 98-88, in Game One of the NBA Finals. I could sit here and try to blame Paul Pierce the Pansy's acting job for the loss, but that's not what cost the Lakers the game. (Henceforth, Paul Pierce will be known as PPP, or 3P, for Paul Pierce the Pansy.)

Here's what cost L.A. the game:

Rebounds: Boston 46, L.A. 33
Kobe: Shot 9-of-26 from the field
Lakers: Shot 5-of-20 in the fourth quarter.

That's it. The fact that the Lakers were only down four with less than half a quarter to play is rather stunning given the above numbers. Sure, the Lakers could have demonstrated some sort of killer instinct and gone on a run when 3P got "hurt," but they fumbled that opportunity away and overall just looked nervous and jittery. They played well early but seemed to coast a bit in the second half and it cost them. I expect that they will play much better on Sunday.

The game turned out almost exactly like Hobson and I thought it would. Now it's up to the Lakers to settle down and take Game Two before they head back to L.A.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tonight's TV Battle

There's only one thing to watch tonight, and that's the NBA Finals (ABC, 8:30). The game tips at 9.

If you are a communist and hate the beauty of the game of basketball, I guess you could tune into So You Think You Can Dance (Fox, 8), or Last Comic Standing (NBC, 8).

In the world of other "sports" tonight, you've got...

MLS: Chivas USA at New York, Deuce, 7:30
MLL Lacrosse: Philadelphia at Long Island, Deuce, 9:30

(All times Eastern)

The Finals, They Are Upon Us

The day is finally here. Mere hours from now the bastion of all that is good and hopeful in the world, the Los Angeles Lakers, will take on the power of the dark side in the Boston Celtics. Of course I am kidding--the Lakers don't represent everything that is good in the world. For example, they aren't a manifestation of butterflies or rainbows. But they are still a beacon of good in a world filled with Celtic darkness. I mean, let's face it: the Celts were a weird society whose male members preferred sleeping with each other over their beautiful females. The Lakers represent lakes, and everyone loves going to the lake. There's fishing, swimming, jet skiing, you name it. Not to mention the beer.

So which is it, America? Do you prefer fun lake parties or dandies throwing themselves at you? I think that the answer is clear.

We here at Buzz's Monkey Butler offer up our official NBA Finals predictions, and the result of my informal poll of the newsroom is unanimous:

Edwin Jarvis: Lakers in six.
Hobson: Lakers in seven.
Cadbury: Lakers in five.
Alice Duckworth: Lakers in six.

Should the Lakers win, it will be proof positive that Buzz's Monkey Butler is a prognosticator unlike any the world has ever seen. It will also prove, once and for all, that lakes are more awesome than dandy fops.

Your U.S. Open Odds and Ends

The PGA's second major of the year is a scant week away, and since I've got nothing else on my mind except NBA basketball, I figured I'd do a post on golf.

The PGA has decided to specially group the top 12 players in the world for the first two rounds, so the TV folks over at ESPN are high-fiving and smacking each other on the butt right now as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be paired together (along with world #3 Adam Scott) next Thursday and Friday. The tension is palpable: Will Tiger & Phil talk? Will they look at each other? Will Phil club Tiger in the knee? Who is Adam Scott? My prediction is that they both end up shooting 77 both days and barely make the cut.

Another story that's been floating around is the celebrity round Golf Digest is putting on tomorrow. It features Matt Lauer, Justin Timberlake and Tony Romo playing with an amateur, John Atkinson. For those of you that haven't heard, Atkinson is battling lung cancer and was the runaway winner in Golf Digest's online vote that determined who got to play with the three celebs.

The whole premise is to see if "normal" golfers could break 100 on Torrey Pines when it is set up for the U.S. Open. Last year, Tiger stated that a 10-handicapper wouldn't have broken 100 at Oakmont under Open conditions. Romo, for his part, is pretty confident, claiming that if the wind is down, he could break 80. Since he's probably the best golfer of the foursome, and has attempted to qualify for the Open before, I don't think it's outside the bounds of reality that he could break 100. But 80? I don't think so.

Timberlake seems to have the attitude that I would have were I playing, saying, "I'll be there for comic relief. I just hope Jessica Simpson doesn't show up so Tony does well."

Actually, I kind of hope she does.

Golf Digest: U.S. Open Celebs

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tonight's TV Battle

Every so often, each generation that has walked this planet we call Earth has experienced a moment so unique, so profound, that it simply changes the course of human history. The invention of the wheel; ancient Russians meandering along a land bridge to North America; Christopher Columbus running into the Americas; some unknown master's creation of armless porn; Michaelangelo's creation of gay porn; and the discovery that hot pockets can be both lava hot and completely frozen, all at the same time. All of these moments in history so changed the course of human events that our society was forever and unalterably changed. Tonight, we witness another watershed moment in human history:

She's Got The Look (TVLand, 10 & 11).

That's right, folks: you can now return to MILF Island without ever having fully been there in the first place. Finally, a show that focuses on the often-ignored Cougar segment of society, a show that will once-and-for-all show us shallow, limited males that there can be beauty found in women in their 40s even though ugly still persists. Can world peace and a cure for all diseases be that far behind? I submit that they cannot!

Plus, desperate can sometimes be hot, right? Judging by the insanity at these message boards, I'm thinking that desperate still just equals mostly crazy.

In the world of sports (as if you won't be watching MILF Island), you've got...

MLB: Devil Rays at Red Sox, ESPN, 7
NHL: Stanley Cup Finals, Detroit at Pittsburgh, Game 6, NBC, 8
NBA: Classic NBA Finals Doubleheader: 1985 Game 6 and 1987 Game 4, Lakers vs. Celtics, Classic, 8 & 10

Dream Finals Preview

That laughing and jumping for joy you heard Friday night (and continue to hear) is David Stern and the brass over at ABC celebrating the Celtics victory and the realization that a Lakers vs. Celtics final is actually here. And I’m not judging them, because I’ve wanted this so bad it hurts. You know that banner across the scorers’ table at each team’s arena that marks off a number, counting down from 16 to trophy? I have one on the side of my house counting from 24 to Lakers vs. Celtics finals. The neighbors have given up reasoning with me.

I love the Lakers and have since I can remember. My childhood dog was named Magic, my room was covered in Laker posters, I wore Laker t-shirts to school everyday for two years, and I invited Magic Johnson to my wedding (no show). You wouldn’t believe how happy I was when my son was born on August 14th and as a result can share a birthday with Magic (the wife shot down Earvin, Magic, or Buck for first or middle names). While I am obviously biased in this analysis I can honestly say that my fandom made me break this thing down more in an attempt to see all points of view, so here ya go…..

There’s no love loss here. Obviously this isn’t the 80s. But, this new version of the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry is pretty chippy as well:

That being said, this thing will come down to matchups like every other seven game series. Here is the tale of the tape for each team (Lakers here and Celtics here), followed by some analysis.

There are so many good matchups in this series:

PG – Derek Fisher vs. Rajon Rondo: I have been very impressed by the maturity of Rondo. He’s grown up a ton this year and even more in these playoffs. He’s got Fish in athleticism for sure, but I don’t think they can make up for 3 rings and Fish’s uncanny knack for knocking down the big shot. Yes, Rondo is quick, but is he quicker than Tony Parker, who Fish managed last series? Yes, Rondo is athletic, but is he more athletic than Deron Williams, who Fish battled and beat in West semifinals? No way. Rondo got by Chauncey “Mr. Big Shot” Billups last round, but the Laker offense doesn’t require Fish to create off the dribble, thus negating some of what makes Rondo a good defender: speed. I’ll take Fish here but closer than more outsiders would think. Advantage: Lakers.

SG – Kobe Bryant vs. Ray Allen: I don’t know how much these guys will actually guard each other, and the defensive assignments will change throughout the series as adjustments are made (see the Coaches section below). But I’m just going position by position here so we’ll put them head to head. Kobe is the best player on the planet and has been there before. Not only does he have the 3 rings, but he was the closer on those teams, even with Shaq around. I can’t say anything about him that hasn’t been said. I think that Ray Allen is the biggest X-factor for the Celtics in the series. His inconsistency has been shocking to me, after such a stellar career. I think everyone thought he would lose a step after playing over 100 games this year, but shooting brick after brick on open shots was totally unexpected. However, his play in the last 2 games vs Detroit reminds us that he can still be explosive and his range is still there. He is so important because of his effect on the crowd. At home, those threes get the Boston faithful on their feet and going nuts. On the road, nothing stops a run and shuts up fans more than a cold-blooded 3. If he’s “good Ray” for 7 games, chalk up title #17 for the Celtics. But I don’t think he’ll keep it going for all 7. Advantage: Lakers.

SF – Vladimir Radmanovich vs. Paul Pierce: Easily Boston’s best matchup. Vlad doesn’t play big minutes for L.A., and when he’s in, he’s totally one-dimensional. His three point shooting can help open up the court but he’s a VERY streaky shooter. His defense and rebounding are usually non-existent. Good thing for the Lakers that they don’t have to rely on him too much. Paul Pierce is the Celtics' most clutch player. I love KG, but we’ve all seen him shrivel under the pressure too many times. Pierce doesn’t flinch and will win them at least one game in the series, if not more. As a Laker fan, he scares the shit out of me. Advantage: Celtics.

PF – Lamar Odom vs. Kevin Garnett: So much talent, so many head issues. Lamar is a freak to have his skills at his height. But, as any NBA fan knows, he’s been a HUGE disappointment the majority of his career. Even now he goes into funks that drive Phil, Kobe, and Laker fans crazy. But when his head is on straight, he can take over a game. KG is your Defensive Player of the Year. He is the heart and soul of this team and its fans. He TOTALLY changed the culture and spirit of the Celtics. He’s putting up his usual All Star numbers and always has a big effect on the game. But he still shrinks in crunch time, passing up shots or taking fade aways instead of taking it to the rack. If these two match up, I think it helps the Lakers. Lamar prefers to play outside, facing the basket. This will draw KG out of the lane, making space for Kobe, Pau, and other Laker cutters. On the other end, Lamar can do his best on KG, especially with help from Pau Gasol and a collapsing Fish (since Rondo can’t shoot). But like the SG analysis, going strictly position by position, you gotta give the nod to KG. Advantage: Celtics.

C – Pau Gasol vs. Kendrick Perkins: Gasol is another member of the “so much talent, so many head issues” club. His inconsistency is maddening! He can take over games with his back to basket game, his fifteen footers, and his excellent passing skills. But at times, he becomes too passive and is almost invisible out there. Still, he has a HUGE advantage over Perkins offensively. He is also the better pure defender, both in the post and outside. What Perkins gives you is hustle and work ethic. He gets the nod on the boards even though he’s giving up the height advantage, and will no doubt draw a few charges a game as the Lakers are prone to dropping the shoulder in the lane. But, if Gasol plays the game he is capable of, he will give the Lakers much more than Perkins can give the Celtics. Advantage: Lakers.

Bench – This is a very interesting matchup and it could decide the championship. Both benches bring a ton of energy and quickly change the flow of a game. Both have been tested on the road in these playoffs, which is where bench guys normally struggle to produce. The Lakers get more offense off the bench and it can come from a number of different players. Sasha Vujacic can knock down the threes, Luke Walton can facilitate the offense and get others shots, Ronny Turiaf can get second chance points for himself or others. But the L.A. bench isn’t usually too keen on playing defense. They could easily get manhandled by a physical team like the Celtics. The Celtics' bench is comprised of James Posey, two senior citizens, and a Big Baby. Eddie House could be a factor if Doc plays him (5.4 mpg in playoffs) and Boston fans are all excited about Tony Allen guarding Kobe. He better not try any of this:

Advantage: Celtics (since they have home court)

Coach – Phil Jackson vs Doc Rivers: 9 rings vs. well, a nice guy in his first Finals? Advantage: Lakers.

Out of seven categories, that's a 4-3 edge for the Lakers. Hmmm...a presage, perhaps? A sign of things to come?

These were the two #1 seeds and they both deserve to be here. It will be a close series that will go seven games; here's how I think it will go down:

Game 1 – Both teams come out rusty and a little tight. Kobe will probably try to do too much and get the Lakers out of rhythm. Celtics home court is just too much and they pull away late. Celtics, 1-0

Game 2 – Phil makes the better adjustments, gets guys in the right places, and Kobe has a big game (possible triple double). Lakers win. Series tied, 1-1

Game 3 – The single most impressive thing the Celtics have done this post season is winning game 3 in Detroit. Everyone thought they were dead and they came out strong. Expect the same game here. Lakers overconfidence leads to a big hole early. Frantic rally gets them close, but not over the top. Celtics, 2-1

Game 4 – Laker blowout. Celts got the road win they wanted and Phil, Kobe & company won’t lose two in a row. Series tied, 2-2

Game 5 – This one makes Laker fans sweat. Game 7 vs Portland in 2000 sweat. Game 4 vs Sacramento in 2002 sweat. Games 1 and 5 vs San Antonio this year sweat. But just like those games, L.A. pulls it out late and takes their first series lead. Lakers, 3-2

Game 6 – Lakers come out hot vs a tight Celtic squad whose backs are against the wall. But this one looks a lot like game 7 vs the Cavs this year. Celts win an ugly one late. Series tied, 3-3

Game 7 – By this point, I’ve had five heart attacks and can’t sleep, eat, or function in society. I probably will have lost my job and I hope my family is still with me. Game 7 is for closers, and Kobe is the best we’ve seen since MJ. He gets it done and it looks a lot like game 6 vs Utah this year. Celtic fans have a moment of silence then rush out to check the latest on Big Papi’s wrist. Lakers win the series, 4-3

A new Laker dynasty has begun.