Monthly archives: February 2006
More Snarky Behavior
A couple of times a year I go through a short stretch where every thought coming out of my brain is negative. This is one of those weeks. I mean, I've even made some semi-snide comments towards my fellow bloggers at THE JUICE. Considering I think they are both really talented writers, put me on the list of major leagues tools, like Kenny Williams and Frank Thomas.
At the same time, I'm blessed that my main job in life, standup comedy, is one of the few professions where this type of behavior is often rewarded. I'm hoping that my foul mood will continue through the end of this weekend, as I have an audition for Last Comic Standing in Chicago on Sunday.
If you are not familiar with this reality show, Last Comic Standing is a program where 20 comics are chosen from national tryouts and then they compete to be one of the 10 finalists who will live in a house over the summer. It's part American Idol, part Big Brother. I didn't audition for the first season, as I figured the show would make the comics look like idiots. While it has its exploitive moments, overall, Last Comic Standing gave a really positive view of the standup world.
After the first year's success, a lot of great comics who probably felt similarly to me about the initial concept, decided to audition for year two. Knowing this, I decided to hold off, as I didn't like my chances. Actually, I don't like my chances this year, either, but I figure I should give it a try.
Just to give you an idea of what the audition will be like, I will get to stand in a huge line outside of Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago, early Sunday morning. By far, the majority of people trying out will have never even been on a comedy stage, let alone have spent years performing all over the country working on their act. The big difference betweenLast Comic Standing and American Idol is that some novice with a decent voice can karaoke up some old Motown hit and punch their ticket to Hollywood. When doing standup, the amateur is quickly exposed, as you have to come up with your own material.
(By the way, I watched AI last night and the group of chicks on the show is very lame. A couple of the guys are good, but I'm not sure they have they right look. The talent on Rock Star: INXS was much better. Simon completely carries the show.)
One beef I've had about a lot of comics who appear on television is that many are very L.A. or NYC centric, as that's what generally connects with the network talent people who all live in these cities. I realize that this is the way it works, just like if you want to be a major writer you should live in NYC or if you are an Olympic curler you should live in Bemidji, but this system doesn't serve a lot of the country very well. The problem about this is that most comedy club audiences aren't single, late 20something hipsters. Many of the comics who are on Premium Blend and shows like it would fail miserably in the flyover country, as earthquake and subway jokes don't travel really well outside the coasts.
A fair question might be that with an attitude like this, why would I even mess with auditioning for the show? While I'm a moderately successful comic, more exposure would raise my rates and get me into a few clubs that I don't currently headline at. So I will wait my turn to perform between one-to-three minutes of my act for three judges who are completely burned-out after watching so many people who have less talent than Melissa Rivers.
I see my ace in the hole being my snarky behavior in line, which with my actual comedy talent I hope will be seen by the producers as something that could create some dramatic tension. To finely tune my irascibility, I plan on stopping by U.S. Cellular Field on my way to have Sox GM Kenny Williams give me some last minute instructions on the most effective way to irritate the people I deal with. My chances aren't good of being selected, but then Kenny Williams being the top front-office executive in MLB for 2005 seemed less likely.
(Note: I will give a brief summary of my Last Comic Standing experience next week. There is a chance I will forego the audition if the weather sucks, as I'm performing in Kalamazoo Thursday-Saturday and will have to get up early for my drive. This is the biggest negative about auditioning in Chicago versus L.A. or Tempe.
I will be appearing on the Huge Show Thursday afternoon, with guest host Kevin Matthews. This show is syndicated all over Michigan.)
Ten Things I Think I Think
If I have coffee with someone, I can steal their title for a bit ...
1. Did I mention I had coffee with Peter King? He's perhaps the nicest guy I've met in the business and he shared tips for surviving the business in return for some fantasy help. That coffee -- ok, he had tea -- is a highlight of the year.
2. If you get the chance to see Cirque du Soleil in any of its incarnations, do it. Just simply buy the ticket, check your coat and brain at the door, and let yourself revel. I checked out their arena show Delirium tonight and is it ever a mindbleep. The show's more music than tricks and a multimedia tour de force. The production alone is worth the ticket. One downside -- the soundtrack's not available yet! That's crap. When I go to a show, I almost always want a copy of it. I'd pay premium prices if I could walk out with a CD or download.
3. Arctic Monkeys. I swear someone told me about them a couple months ago and I've heard the hype ever since. It's very good, but nothing can live up to the hype. They're what everybody told me The Strokes would be a couple years ago.
3a. There's always one album I miss when doing the Top Ten list. If I'd heard Louis XIV before doing the list, it would have been in the top five, no doubt.
3b. I found out Louis XIV is from San Diego. Stunned me they weren't Scottish.
4. Glenrothes 1989 immediately goes to the top of my best scotches ever list. Exceedingly smooth with a nice lingering fruit taste in the back of my mouth. Highly recommended, even over that Macallan 25 I had a couple years ago.
5. The NFL Scouting Combine is a weird mix of stuff you just don't care about and the baseball winter meetings. Just no alcohol on site, which tempers things. Aaron Schatz has a nice article about the experience over at Football Outsiders.
6. Back in 1997, Kevin Goldstein joined my fantasy baseball league. We've been friendly ever since and I couldn't be more excited that he's now a colleague at BP. If you know him from the Prospect Report, you'll likely be surprised at just how good a writer he is.
7. I have this blank wall. No idea what to do with it. I can't put more pictures up without going over the top. I need someplace to store stuff, but matching my desk and the giant photomural behind me is tough. Doesn't a wall of wood or brick sound cool? Is there a way to do that?
8. Baseball note, just for the heck of it - the Giants will have a rough year and the Rangers will be surprisingly good.
9. Hardest job in the world has to be the overnight producer at XM 175. I can't imagine trying to schedule guests for the 2am hour. The whole crew does a great job there. Bringing Chuck Wilson on full time is both smart and overdue. I've done a lot - a LOT - of interviews over the past few years and Chuck is far and away the best. Charley Steiner's a close second, though his odd stop/start style can create awkward pauses.
10. I don't get to a lot of movies. I'd rather watch at home and I just don't have the time. I have every Oscar film on ... umm, DVD, yeah that's the ticket ... and I only have a week to watch them. I know I need to see Capote, if only to see if they touched on Mockingbird in there. (Long story, won't bore you.) Still, I'm excited to see "V For Vendetta." I won't actually get in line, but you get the picture.
10a. Here's one of the coolest phrases ever: "Home Theater Seating"
10b. Got a copy of Hotel California, coded in DTS. Amazing, amazing sound. Hearing U2, Green Day, and DMB in surround sound makes me wonder why more albums aren't done this way. Gotta be cost, which is lame. I'd pay extra.
10c. Since I haven't seen them, these are the lamest Oscar picks ever: Hoffman, Huffman, Lee, McMurtry, Clooney, Weisz, and "Crash" (because it's the least political.)
WBC, Aiken, and the Verbal Teabagger Strikes Again
White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, minor-league strength coach Dale Torborg and Ozzie Guillen participated in the taping of a Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling segment to be shown on Spike TV in two weeks.In my post last week, I wrote that Ozzie seemed to be most influenced by pro wrestling managers. I see the future.
Another example of my Nostradamus-like skills is this story entitled FANS WANT TO SUE CLAY AIKEN FOR BEING VIRGINAL, ASEXUAL CHARACTER. I will be waiting here for all the apologies from the ClayNation, who besmirched me for my thoughts on the "Gayken." (Gayken is a name comedian Kathy Griffin dubbed him.)
Question: Which has been of shittier quality over the past 20 years: the Tigers or the taste of Little Caesars and Domino's Pizza?
Horrendously Belated: The 10 Best Movies of 2005
For years, Pauline Kael refused to release an end-of-the-year "best list." The reasons why were numerous, but basically they boiled down to: 1) It wasn't her style; and 2) Top 10 lists undermined the relatively "serious" critiques she was writing in The New Yorker. Lists emphasize a number over the content of the argument. They attempt to summarize, in just one line, what are sometimes complex criticisms with many contradictions and caveats. They put apples and oranges on the same scale where, in many cases, it's simply not appropriate or logical to do so. And worst of all, they present an air of objectivity wherein realityvery little can be found. Essentially, "best-of" lists defy everything that makes good art criticism good.
I guess that's why I'm not Pauline Kael.
Below you'll find my horrendously belated list of the top 10 films released in 2005, along with some additional categories like "Honorable Mentions." I present this list not because I want to dumb-down the overall level of discourse on cinema, but because I think best-of lists can serve a valuable purpose. For one, lists are a great way to find out about movies you might have missed during the year. This reason becomes particularly compelling as studio profits fall and the Netflix Army™ grows stronger by the day. The second reasonto borrow from Andrew Sarris, a "list queen" himselfis with a best-of list, a critic puts his or her tastes on the line. Want to know how my evaluations match against someone more famous? My choices are right here, in convenient numerical order, for everyone to see.
So do your worst.
10. Henry Rubin and Dana Shapiro's Murderball
There's a general resistance among the viewing public to see documentaries, even in light of the recent success of a film like The March of the Penguins. This probably stems from bad memories of the Discovery Channel, or the oft-repeated desire for movies to provide "an escape" from the real worldI'm not exactly sure. What I am sure of, however, is that Murderball is a very good film. The array of characters is vast, the individual stories are fascinating, and the filmmakers never pander to the audience with easy stereotypes about people with disabilities. There are heroes, villains, and everything in between in this film. Even the most open-minded viewers will never see a person in a wheelchair the same way again. Sometimes the truth is more entertaining than fiction; Murderball proves this to be true.
9. Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin
While not all of the jokes hit their mark, there are enough to keep you laughing during The 40-Year-Old Virgin, even when the film gets a little too concerned with its own plot. Steve Carell hits all the right notes as Andy Stitzer, the lovable man-child who likes women "so much that [he] doesn't even talk to them." And it's the sympathy we feel for his character that makes the film work, and keeps the audience caring. That writer/director Judd Apatow had the good sense to save his best joke for last is a testament to just how smart he really is.
8. Woody Allen's Match Point
It's true: Woody Allen's best film since [insert your favorite Woody Allen film made after Hannah and Her Sisters]! While the skeleton of the plot is essentially cribbed from Allen's own Crimes and Misdemeanors, the dramatic emphasis has been shifted enough make this film work on its own. While this is certainly the least "Woody" of all the Allen films I've seen, make no mistakeall the hallmarks are there, from Dostoyevsky to the use of subtle, grainy music on the soundtrack to highlight character functions and actions. What's more, there's a level of eroticism in Match Point that Allen has steered clear of in the past; the scenes with Scarlett Johansson steam with a passion that makes the main character's infidelity truly feel wrong. And yet so right.
P.S., I love you, Scarlett.
7. Sam Mendes' Jarhead
Directed by Sam Mendes, Jarhead is one man's account of nine months spent in the Persian Gulf, completely isolated from the outside world. Isolation is what feeds the screenplay, and yet, one of the reasons why the film works is because it doesn't isolate itself from other war films: references to everything from Full Metal Jacket to Paths of Glory infuse Jarhead with intelligence, and help it steer clear of boot camp-to-battle clichés that make even the best war movies a rather predictable experience. If there's one thing Jake Gyllenhaal can do as an actor it's portray a brooding lonerand as a result, he's perfect for the lead role. Peter Sarsgaard, one of the most interesting actors working in this country today, gives a strong supporting performance, showing range that hasn't been present in most of his previous work. Meanwhile, cinematographer Roger Deakins captures the vastness of the desert with clarity and awe. This is the best film of Mendes' career, and like no other "war" film I've ever seen.
6. David Cronenberg's A History of Violence
5. Peter Jackson's King Kong
4. Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale
The best ensemble performance of the year comes from the cast of The Squid and the Whale, a complicated film about how complicated families can be. While Noah Baumbach's screenplay is predictably quirky, there's a depth to his characters that reaches deep and rings oh-so-true. Yes, the symbolism gets a little heavy-handed at times, but how can you not love a film that makes such good use of a Baldwin brother?
3. Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man
Where The March of the Penguins embraced and anthropomorphized natureturning a biological imperative into a story about loveWerner Herzog's Grizzly Man shows the darker side, with cold, calculating objectivity. What at first feels like yet another liberal-humanist yarn about a man who finds peace in the forest turns quickly into the ultimate cautionary tale. Timothy Treadwell died, in no small part, because he underestimated the power of the beasts he swore to "protect." There's a lesson here, and it's as clear as the Alaskan air in the summertime. Herzog reserves his judgment on his subject till late in the film, giving the audience ample time to make its own decisions about Treadwell's true nature as a person. The film is fair, evenhanded, and utterly engrossingand perhaps the best film on nature, in all its forms, that I've ever seen.
2. Phil Morrison's Junebug
Can you ever go home again? This is just one of the themes explored by Phil Morrison's Junebug, a film with an uncommon eye for detail and a playwright's taste for symbolism. Academy Award-nominated Amy Adams gives perhaps the best performance from any actor this year in her turn as the jittery, insecure, very pregnant Ashley, who can't wait for her new sister-in-law to visit the family home in North Carolina for the first time. What ensues can only be described as a messbut Junebug is hardly the Marx Bros. The editing is often choppy, and director Morrison plays with the soundtrack at different points, letting the dialogue drop away while he cuts to empty rooms filled with plastic-wrapped furniture. All of this opens up the story, howeverMorrison's controlled mess is affecting because it takes what could easily be a simple narrative about going home and turns it into so much more.
1. Michael Haneke's Caché (Hidden)
Caché (Hidden) is like no other film I saw in 2005, and is equaled only by the greatest efforts from Hitchcock. It's a unique, enthralling experience that challenges the audience to be an active participant in the film by transforming itself into the most patient of voyeurs. On one level Caché (Hidden) is a simple story about the disruptive force of simply being watched, and how a bourgeois family is forced to deal with lies that have been hidden in their past. On another, deeper level, it's a comment on how racism still pervades Western culture, and the rage that still brims just below the surface of civility for some groups. And on yet another level, it explores the meaning of being a viewer, and what assumptions come with inhabiting that role each time we step into the theater. While Caché (Hidden) lacks the type of resolution that will satisfy most people, it allows the film to breathe, and embraces the potential for humans to forgive as time passes on.
Or does it?
Addendum (02/23, 11:23 p.m.): While many critics have done a superb job of deconstructing the underlying themes in Caché (Hidden), I've found Chiranjit Goswami's analysis of the film over at notcoming.com to be the most thorough and thought-provoking of anything published on the Web. Check it out if you've got the time; it's absolutely first-rate.
Ryan Wilkins is a freelance writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can contact him via e-mail by clicking here.
The Card Matters
Here's the differences:
Just like there's no stats vs scouts, there's no ink vs internet as far as I'm concerned. I have no problem with most people in the press and there are far more internet sites doing crap work than there are newspapers. Of course, there are lazy, embittered writers who are worried that somehow, they're getting scooped and lashing out, not at me personally, but at the .com they think is part of my name.
When Dan Rather and CBS put out a questionable memo, the right-wing bloggers came out in force, so fast that many thought that Rather had been set up. Turns out that they had ol' Dan over a barrel and he's been shunted aside despite a mostly stellar, if occasionally bizarre career. When someone from the net makes a move, the mainstream circles the wagons. It doesn't work the other way around.
The net would rather eat its own. The sheer democracy of any asshole having the ability to become a widely read asshole is both freeing and dangerous. Watch any thread descend and go off on tangent, no matter the subject, giving rise to the Hitler Rule. It's easier to attack than to do something original, easier to react than improve, and far easier to remain static than move forward.
The baseball writers have their BBWAA and I've written far more than I'd like to in the past about that subject. Internet writers -- the ones concerned about professionalism and standards -- have nothing and on the few occasions where something started to move, it got bogged down in minutaie, definitions, and personality conflicts. I know I have this personality that comes off on-line as arrogant and that I can be an all-fired asshole pretty regularly.
The funny thing about the Prior commotion is that no one remembers that I'm a lifelong Cubs fan. No one remembers all the times I defended Prior when he was attacked. No one notices that Prior was the model in my book Saving The Pitcher and that more than almost any other player, I want him to succeed.
Its my duty to report information and give it context. That's what I do; that's what I'm paid for. It's my full-time job. All I ask is that next time, when I point to the smoke, don't say I yelled "fire."
King of Denial
"Jim Hendry issued a strong denial on all fronts to that report."
Always fun to start Spring Training in the pages of the Sun-Times. What's funnier (besides some behind the scenes stuff) is that people are making this much more than it is. If you read the original report, you'll notice that I give all sides of the story and disclaim it so heavily that I should have included a couple grains of salt with the column.
Simply put, I got a report from a solid source, one that's been accurate on this very subject previously, and mentioned it as well as putting in as much context as possible. I don't say that my favorite Cub is hurt; I say there's a report. Now, I know Jim got the information second-hand. Someone told him there was a report that Prior had shoulder problems and that's where he stopped listening, if they told him the rest.
Jim probably didn't get the message I left. It's hard to get through to him. I know my email to a Cubs front office staffer wasn't answered. I had hoped that I could get their side of the story right there. Instead of dealing with the media, the Cubs had to deal with denials and reactions. Jim has better things to do, I hope, but the Cubs are like several other teams -- they'd rather deal with a very few trusted media types than getting their side of the story out.
Action is always better than reaction. Fred Claire started in journalism and shifted to PR before moving to baseball operations. Theo Epstein started in PR. There's a lesson there.
Ozzie Guillen Squats Over Another Victim
Let's be honest, baseball lacks compelling figures. Outside of ESPN's wall-to-wall coverage of the Yankees and Red Sox or Pedro Gomez's stalking...I mean reporting of Barry Bonds' every move, very little baseball news connects with anyone besides us fanatics. Well add someone else to this list, as even though he didn't get much national attention until the World Series, Ozzie Guillen has become the most fascinating person in Major League Baseball.
Besides Bobby Knight, I can't think of a coach who has become the biggest lightning rod in his sport. Like Knight, Guillen is profane and often out of control. Where Ozzie is diametrically opposite from The General is how he is a media whore, seemingly loving to spout off to the media like Terrell Owens, but without the push-ups. Guillen never turns down a microphone, despite treating English like it's his 3rd language. Listening to Ozzie is like hearing a Hispanic version of the movie Trainspotting, as the only words that are generally clear are the expletives.
I know many of the traditionalists and auxiliary PC-police members shudder when he opens his mouth, but I find it very refreshing. Ozzie is like a morning shock jock wearing stirrups. While he has mentioned that the managers who have influenced him most were Bobby Cox and Jeff Torborg, his behavior makes it hard to see how they've rubbed off on him. In truth, it would appear the managers who he has most emulated are Bobby (the Brain) Heenan, Jimmy (Mouth of the South) Hart, Sir Oliver Humperdink, and Lord Alfred Hayes. Ozzie, the gig is up. Grow out your goatee and wrap a rubber band around it, because I think you are the reincarnation Captain Lou Albano.
Now, I've written before that I was not a fan of hiring Ozzie Guillen to manage the White Sox, as I thought when he was a player he was a major league goofball with a minor league bat. While I still believe this about him, I was dead wrong about his managing talents. Guillen has an interesting style of playing to get ahead and then using a deft touch with his pitchers to hang-on for the win. As a White Sox fan, I'm constantly nervous the guy is going have a Jimmy the Greek moment, but so far, his comments have been mainly entertaining.
Looking at his latest diatribe I can't say I disagree with anything that he said, it was just odd to hear it from a World Champion Manager. When you hear someone talk about Joe Torre being a bit overrated and that the only time Nomar has been to Mexico is on vacation in Cancun, you expect it to be preceded by "hey, long-time listener, first-time caller".
Ozzie's comments about Alex Rodriguez were a verbal teabagging. As harsh as it came off, I'm guessing most players in baseball would have shook their head yes to what Guillen said. This roasting was nothing compared to what he said about Magglio Ordonez last season, as that press conference sounded like something out of Tony Montana's mouth. Ozzie has pulled back from his comments about ARod, as he apologized for throwing the first punch. Just to give you an idea of how being a World Championship manager gives you a lot of leeway, he didn't catch much grief at all for his words. In a world where most managers only offer up clichés, Guillen is almost a John McCain-like figure, wooing the press with his own version of the "straight-talk express".
Ultimately, just like Bob Knight and Billy Martin, Guillen will only get a free pass as long as his team continues to win. Besides the World Championship that he helped deliver, the other thing that has been immeasurable to the White Sox organization is how he's become the biggest sports celebrity in the city. Sure the northsiders still are the majority, but add up another season like 2005, plus the headline grabbing ways of it's manager and the White Sox might come very close to drawing even with the Cubs for the Windy City's attention.
Post Note: Can you imagine what else Ozzie might have said, if he would have been interviewed on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" by anyone else than James Brown? JB is the king of the slow-pitch soft ball interviewers. If Bernard Goldberg or Armen Keteyian would have been on the other side of him, Guillen would have gone off like Jeffrey Ross at a Comedy Central Roast.
Actual. Baseball. Content.
No, not really.
This is probably better for a wiki, but since we know we have readers here from every team, let's see if we can get a full rundown of who's who in your team's possible BPR guests. Name your team, who you've heard (or haven't heard), and what you know of them briefly. Let's stick to a couple categories: Front Office (GM, AGM, Scouting Director, equivalents), Field Staff (Manager, Pitching Coach, etc), Broadcasters (TV and radio), player. If you're going to name a player, they'd better be exceptional and not cliche machines. I'm talking Eric Byrnes level good-on-radioness.
Here's an example:
Now it's your turn. Take a couple minutes and let's build something interesting.
It's the big day and ESPN barely seems to notice. ESPN.com has finally made the move from what they were - a marketing vehicle for TV - to a full-on, premium-mode web site built to generate traffic, ad impressions, and cash flow. The slow move over didn't create the kind of hateful outburst from "SportsNation" as we had when BP switched to a pay-model, but Gary Huckabay is looking smarter and smarter for having made the move.
Most of what I was going to say about the move was already said by Aaron Gleeman, so I'll just link to his great post and save myself some keystrokes. Aaron's been on a bit of a roll lately, seemingly re-energized by something. Maybe it's his workouts!
The ESPN move goes hand in hand with this New York Metro article about network theory and blogs. I love network theory so this was great reading. I am a bit curious how the monetary models of subscriptions work in with the Power Law nature of the blog world. Without disclosing too much, the traffic at BP has not gone down since going Premium.
It's hardly a new world and it's still harder than it should be to get credentials, but as the Gods step down from heaven, bloggers still have to aim for the skies.
Honestly, I Will Start to Write About Baseball Soon
Question: Why is that with the tight security that a Vice President has to be under, he is still allowed to go hunting with armed private citizens? Some things you have to give up when you are part of the administration. For example, having to sell stocks that you own. This is done to keep you from appearing like you are profiting from political decisions. Of course there is no law which keeps you from pushing for a war with faulty intelligence, which would profit your former company (Halliburton) more than any other by providing no-bid contracts.** So I guess this whole sell your stocks deal isn't fool-proof.
If I was RICH Cheney's press secretary I would have spun his human hunting incident this way.
Since I live in Indiana, I thought I would weigh in on the Mike Davis resignation.
Mike Davis was selected as the interim coach when Bob Knight was fired because the players at the time threatened to leave, if he wasn't made co-coach. (John Treloar was the other part of the co-head coach equation, now a forgotten figure assistant coaching at LSU.) Mike Davis was never the right guy for the job for many reasons.
Davis' recent statement that Indiana needs to bring in a new coach with ties to the Indiana is partially true. There is a strong faction of IU fans who believe that Bob Knight is a Christ-like figure. Hiring one of the General's former players would pacify this group for a couple of years. This group seems to have forgotten that during the 90's, Knight's team at IU consistently underachieved and was a flop most of the time in the NCAA tourney. (It also should be mentioned that Cheney and Knight have similar hunting targets, but that's another story.)
Davis was never a good fit on the public relations front, as he is a poor speaker. Considering that fund-raising is a big part of any college coaching job, not connecting with alumni at banquets is a problem. Race is involved in this case, as most of the alumni at IU are white, so unless you are extremely successful on the court, being a minority heightens the pressure. Also, IU has traditionally had lots of white players as stars, but since Davis took over, all of his top recruits were black. This is another thing I think a lot of IU fans have had a hard time dealing with. (Sorry, I know a lot people don't want to hear this, but it's the truth.)
While not making the tourney was the biggest factor in Davis being vilified by most IU fans, a close second for why he was unpopular with the fans was his failing to recruit top high school hoop stars from Indiana. Davis was a good recruiter, but he seemed to focus on getting players from his home-state of Alabama. In a state where high school basketball is a religion to many, it is disheartening to have a roster consisting mainly of non-Hoosiers. This was never more magnified than this year, as the best prep big-man (Greg Oden) since Shaq and probably the greatest Hoosier high school hoop talent since Oscar Robertson, signed with Ohio State.
While it might not be as great of a gig as IU fans believe, I would argue it's still one of the 2 best jobs in the Big 10. Bloomington has the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in the league. It's a basketball school in a basketball state. Its practice facilities are top-notch. (Assembly Hall is abysmally designed arena to watch a game, but that doesn't affect the players.) I would rate only the University of Illinois as slightly better job in the Big 10, as it's the only major university in a state with incredible high school talent, especially in Chicago and Peoria.
The person most IU fans dream of being their new coach is Steve Alford. Currently, Alford's team at Iowa is leading the Big 10 conference, which even makes him a hotter commodity. As an Iowa grad, I hope Alford ends up at IU, as I think he's a mediocre coach. He's an average game tactician and a below average recruiter. This season the Hawkeyes success mostly has to do with the senior talents of Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner. Alford has been lucky that the state of Iowa has produced quality players like these 2, along with other starters Adam Haluska and Mike Henderson.
It's perfect timing for Alford to leave, as next year's Hawkeyes will be lucky to have a winning record, after losing 4 starters. IU, on the other hand, has a very talented roster. I can understand that Alford's always dreamed of coaching his alma mater, but most Iowa fans can tell you that his tenure at the school has been disappointing for the most part. With Alford's reputation as a player and his dad's contacts as legendary high school coach, I would guess he would return the school to being a consistent Top 20 team. At this point, I just hope that the constant distractions that the IU job opening creates, doesn't derail the chemistry that Iowa has, as Brunner and Horner deserve better than that.
How's My Drafting, The Sequel
Because we had such an overwhelming response to the last one like this --- there's nothing less interesting than talking about other people's fantasy teams --- and because taking cheap shots at me seems to be the sport of the day, why not see how I did in the XM Radio league. Jeff Erickson put this together and it includes some real experts like Ron Shandler, Eric Karabell, Greg Ambrosius, and Steve Moyer.
This draft was worse than my Sportsline NL League for interminable. Some people had connection problems, some were late, some drafted by phone. That doesn't make for a fun draft, let alone a fast one. I cut out at 3.30, got back online at 5 and found out I'd only autopicked 9 rounds! Despite the autopilot for the latter rounds, I still came out okay IMO.
14 team, mixed 5x5 league, I picked 13th ... Here we go:
1/13 Andruw Jones - Defense doesn't count, but the guy was the HR champ last season and he put on 20 lbs of muscle this offseason. Jason Giambi might be wondering where the press is on this, but I like Jones' chance of continuing a run of big power seasons at this age.
The autopicks were as good as anything I'd make, so I'm happy with that. Some decent upside, good across categories. I think I'm a bit weak on runs, but I should be competitive to mediocre across the board. There's no one on the team I hate, so it's at least got that going for it. Your thoughts?
Schizo Scott: Don't Play a Game of Pepper with this Guy
(BEWARE: Political talk will follow. Remember, you have been warned.)
Now repeat after me. Guns Don't Shoot People. Vice Presidents Shoot People.
If it wasn't bad enough that RICH** Cheney shoots someone and then fails to mention it to the White House for a day, the initial comment by his office was that the VP had just "peppered" his victim. (** Please note that I don't call him Dick or Richard, as I believe RICH in all caps is the best way to describe a guy, who received an extremely golden parachute after leaving Halliburton.)
I'm really tired of how this administration never answers to the press besides a few blurbs in a Bob Woodward book. This is why I wasn't too bothered by the shots (verbal) that Gee Dub took while attending Coretta Scott King's funeral. Neither of these guys ever faces a crowd, which might disagree with them. I'm not saying they should go on a tour of liberal college bookstores, but they do owe the American people a lot more explanation of their political decisions than what they currently offer. Cheney hasn't had a regular press conference in over 3 and half years. Shameful.
Bill O'Reilly has been touting how this isn't that big of a deal, as the shooting only affected one guy, the victim. This from the same guy who made his career going after another politician (Bill Clinton) for being involved in an incident which only affected one person. (M. Lewinsky) When you think about it, Clinton and Cheney both sprayed their victims in the face, but Monica's recovery was a lot easier, basically just needing a blue dress and one big gulp. I don't totally disagree with O'Reilly, as the manufacturing of evidence for the war in Iraq and the involvement of the VP in the Valerie Plame case are much larger issues than an accidental shooting.
Of course, O'Reilly doesn't focus much on these issues, as he felt the biggest story over the weekend was Al Gore making incendiary comments about how the American government has treated Muslims. While I'm not a big fan of Gore's comments, to treat them as the biggest story of the day is lunacy. Gore is yesterday news. No wait a minute, John Kerry is yesterday's news. Gore is a fringe player at this point. Just a (justifiably in my eyes) bitter man, who is given to speaking on important truths, but often adds a little too much hyperbole, which ultimately wrecks his message. At least the guy was a top-notch Vice President, though, unlike what we have gotten from RICH.
How is it that RICH can turn down the advice of the White House that he should tell the mainstream press about the incident, instead of offering it to some paper in Corpus Christi? How is that RICH can continue to not answer to anyone about his questionable behavior? I'm tired of people claiming that our current President is a strong leader, as he continues to fail to police his own HOUSE. While facing more pressure from the press, the ineffective opposition leadership provided by Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Howard Dean will probably allow the current administration to slide through it.
What a sad time in American political history. Maybe the 22nd Amendment wasn't such a great idea, as we need a shot of Slick Willie.
The NFL Exhales
The NFL's drug policy has kept them out of the public eye and the crosshairs of Congress. What it didn't do was address things like this case, a well documented violation of every possible anti-doping rule that somehow didn't result in any positive tests. Stunning.
When the good doctor pleaded guilty, in large part because of an HBO interview that could and would use his own words against him in a court of law, he got a nice deal on par with Victor Conte's plea and also kept the NFL out of the headlines and a potentially perilous trial.
The NFL can slink back, knowing it really dodged a bullet that might have forced it to create a real drug policy rather than a PR facade and the resultant parade of positives most expect would occur. It will be a while before we see how the legal case against Patrick Arnold plays out, one that will be far more interesting.
How's My Drafting
Erik Siegrist already broke down his picks over at Just A Bit Outside, so I'll follow his lead and do the same. It's a 5x5, NL-only league with a load of fantasy experts. I'm not one and my last couple years show it. A 2d place finish in 2004 was followed by a 2d to last in 2005, showing a nice consistency in randomness. Brad Wochomurka came down to my version of PNC Park to help and we ended up relatively happy.
We joked over lunch pre-draft that we should write down our crazy theories, but in the end, we used a beta version of the new PECOTA Fantasy Manager to guide us. We decided early to go pitching light, but that changed slightly. We weren't consciously punting any categories or loading up on anything either, though it looks that way now. Picking in the 12 slot of a snake draft blows, with a ton of time between picks and, as Erik points out, you're forced to overdraft some people knowing there's 20-something picks before you get another chance.
There was a point where any player Brad or I spoke his name, he'd be picked next. I swept for bugs later, but all I found was Dick Cheney hiding behind a ficus.
1/12 Barry Bonds
A steal, if he's healthy and between what I know, what PECOTA thinks, and what Alou is talking about with defensive replacements, I'm comfortable taking him this high.
2/13 Pedro Martinez
So about avoiding pitching ... Pedro was too tempting. We talked about Jose Reyes and Adam Dunn, but knowing that so many guys would go off the board before our next pick, getting one good and perhaps great pitcher seemed too smart a move. Pedro has his questions, but the Mets are better which should help wins and all the pitchers that went behind him (Jason Schmidt, Jake Peavy, Roy Oswalt) have their own questions.
By That Much
Someone - I don't know who - once said they'd rather lose by twenty than by one. I seem to remember Coach Newton, my high school football and wrestling coach saying it, but I have a habit of putting other people's wisdom in his mouth.
If true, is being close worse than never coming close? Is the fate of the Triple-A player who knows he's a heartbeat away harder to take than the Single-A draftee who takes his bonus check and washes out? There are tons of guys who live and die at Triple-A, the types of guys who have spent the last couple months looking for jobs and figuring out if there's a chance that this is the year.
It seems every team has one. Some are simply never quite there - Roberto Petagine comes to mind. He's always touted as the next big thing and when I saw him play alongside Paul Konerko and Sean Casey, I would have taken Petagine over the other two combined. There's Jim Rushford, a guy who can crush Triple-A pitching but didn't do much when he got all-too-brief chances at the bigs.
Certainly, the life of a Triple-A level player isn't bad. It's better than work, but often not much more lucrative. Players at the minimum, guys who didn't bank a nice bonus, are spending 10-12 hours at the ballpark, months away from their family, and getting what's the equivalent of minimum wage given the hours. That close to big bucks, even on a split deal, it's amazing that more don't get tempted by performance enhancers or shady agents.
You'll see guys hanging on, trying to figure out why they're there. Ty Wigginton spent a month of last season trying to figure out why he wasn't in Pittsburgh. Bobby Hill was so surprised to find himself back in the minors that he blurted out, on-air, that "I must suck." Jon Nunnally looked nothing like he did when I saw him play as a rookie. Then again, neither did I.
Most people don't know any better. They go to the park and know that there's baseball and popcorn and beer, that the guys on the field are getting paid, and that some of them might be in the bigs someday. They don't know Pete Zocollilo's Double-A line or see Stubby Clapp for anything more than a bald guy with a funny name, singing along to "Tainted Love."
All the guys hope to be Bo Hart for a moment or Scott Podsednik. They can see themselves in the uniform of the big club. They all, to a man, have something between confidence and delusion, just knowing that 'I'm getting screwed here' by not getting the chance that someone else got. It's never them. Like guilty men in prison, there's no bad hitters in Triple-A.
And most of us, we'd give anything to be them just for a day.
Who The Bleep Are These Guys?
So I'm getting ready for my first real fantasy draft. I've done my Strat list, my Scoresheet keepers, and one off-season mock, but the Sportsline "Experts" League is one I take seriously. First, they were nice enough to call me an expert and second, I got my ass handed to me last season. Call this a comeback.
Looking at the B&N the other day for help, I glanced at some of the magazines and as I'm flipping through, realizing that PECOTA (the new cards are up today!) is giving me a TON more info, I also realized that for the most part, I have no idea who the people writing these are. I saw a couple familiar names -- Peter Kreutzer, Matthew Berry, Ron Shandler -- but a lot that I simply had no clue about.
Now, I like to think that if I don't know everyone in this business, I've at least heard of everyone, but over and over, I found myself wondering who these guys are and what they do during the year? Are these fantasy experts who spend all their time playing? A little digging and no, most were just staff writers for the publisher, likely doing the same style of writing for football, hoops, rugby, whatever the assignment is. There's nothing wrong with that and I certainly bought enough of those magazines for years.
Then again, I've never won a fantasy league.
I'm not saying that my "expert" status means I know more about winning a league than the next guy. It doesn't. I suck at fantasy, especially at roto, which I'm just about to completely reject. There's a lot of people out there with good information and it's worthwhile to check as many as you can to build your own picture and strategy.
I did leave B&N empty-handed, if that tells you anything.
Elsewhere in Gotham City ...
While I've been kind of slacking on this front, there's other writing out there from me:
* The Team Health Reports are about to start this week at BP.
* There's some good stuff coming up at "The Year of Living Chemically," including interviews with some experts and the reason why I won't be doing Pilates, despite Ryan Klesko's endorsement.
* I wrote an article for Mind and Muscle and participated in the latest "Council of the Gods." (I may be arrogant, but I so don't deserve that title nor do I belong in that company. Some seriously smart people in there and well worth reading.)
* I have an article in the Rotowire Baseball Preview magazine that a lot of you will be interested in reading, especially my critics. It's called "Confessions of a Rumor Mongerer" and is available in print and for Rotowire subscribers.
* Super Bowl XL? Seattle in a close game.
Schizo Scott on the Super Bowl
I haven't made but one NFL choice over the past few weeks (Broncos over Pats), because I don't like to bet against home teams during the playoffs. This was a bizarre playoff year, where road teams did really well, which didn't suprise me much, except for the Colts losing. In case you missed it, I've had a really good season picking games in the NFL, hitting at 59% rate (33-23). On the college side I was 29-27, which makes you a loser when you add the juice. By the way, this is a different kind of juice than is usually discussed around here.
The Super Bowl seems like a trap game, as the Steelers should be more like a 7 or 8 point favorite, instead of going off at 3.5. The Seahawks have the top left-side offensive line in football, as Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson might be the two best at their respective positions in the NFL. I like Matt Hasselbeck, but the athletic ability of the Steelers linebackers cause a lot of confusion for quarterbacks. (Ask Peyton Manning) Besides the large advantage the Steelers have on defense, I think their wide receievers are a big step-up over what Seattle has.
With the overall talent advantage, plus a reasonable pointspread, why am I not more enthusiastic about Pittsburgh? I have seen Bill Cowher lose too many big games in playoff situations for that not to be a concern. Holmgren has one ring and I think he has a good feel for his team. The AFC is the better conference and it's hard to look past how dominant they've been in the Super Bowl over the past 10 years.
2 star Pittsburgh 24-16.
I plan over the next couple of weeks to check back on how the major prognosticators did in their pre-season predictions for Major League Baseball, the NFL and College Football. In regards to college basketball, my picks have been all over the place.
The Good: Stating the Big 10 would get 7 teams in the Big Dance and putting Northern Iowa and Creighton in my Top 25. (Check the RPI- The Missouri Valley is a beast.)
The Bad: I had currently middle of the road MAC team Ohio, rated 19 in the land. I said the Pac-10 would be improved, with a number of quality teams. Ouch. What could be worse? Try making Stanford my sleeper Final 4 team. Once again, I have no feel for the Pac-10, as I must have lost every football game I chose from this conference in 2005.
If I was going to revise my Final 4, I would stick with my Connecticut, Michigan State, and Duke selections, but would move West Virginia up from my original spot of 7. I love to watch the Mountaineers play and they are really hard to match up with.
Finally, I've never been a fan of JJ Redick, but in Duke's loss to Georgetown, he put me in his corner. The guy has always been an unreal shooter, but he has added to this the ability to take his defender off the dribble, which has made him nearly impossible to defend. He's become a solid defender as well, making JJ the more diverse player between him and Adam Morrison. I still like UCONN to win it all, but Redick just might be great enough to will his team to a championship.
A FEW RANDOM NOTES
I've got to figure with all the acclaim that Brokeback Mountain is getting, the Cowboy from the Village People must really feel vindicated. During his acceptance speech, Ang Lee should recognize Randy Jones as a real trailblazer.
You can have your SNL rap parodies, this is the funniest clip I've seen recently. Flexen Schnitzel or Gropen Frau! Smigel rules comedy again. Oh and watch out for the race of unstoppable cyber gays, with their metallic fanny packs!
Will and I have similar fetishes towards new electronics, as we are fanatical about satellite radios, DVR, Sidekick2, and our MP3 players, but I'm not on board with him on the video IPOD. I just don't like watching anything that small, as I have a hard time enjoying video which appears on a screen any smaller than 35 inches. Maybe Will was right, though, as porn stars like Jenna Jamison are now available for IPOD, set to be downloaded on. I really don't know how teenage boys aren't having hand to gland combat 10 times a day, with all the porn accessible. I can remember just a minute of watching bikinis sashaying on the lido deck of the Love Boat would set-off the launch sequence on my pocket rocket.
Did I really read that Ozzie Guillen has now become one of Will's favorite people in baseball. I bet Will has never made a bigger 180 on how he felt about a person. Hey, maybe there's still hope for me to begin to appreciate Clay Aiken. Nah.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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