"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
December 21, 2004
FOOTBALL: Punch Drunk
Bill Simmons has a fun recap of last night’s Patriot loss, including his take on how he would do the obligatory Monday Night Football introduction of himself:
However, I can’t help but wonder: can a regular season loss by a team that was 12-1 really qualify as a “stomach-puncher”?
November 28, 2004
FOOTBALL: Just Wow
I don't follow the NFL as closely as I used to, but . . . well, when you look up "taking it to another level" in the dictionary, you get something like this.
November 01, 2004
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: From the Frozen Tundra of Lambert Field
Brett Favre has apparently joined the Bush camp. Not a big surprise, but that’s good news for Republicans in Wisconsin, since Favre is easily more popular there than either of the two candidates this year.
(By the way, if you don’t get the headline above, you're obviously not following the campaign obsessively enough! See here.)
UPDATE: There is now some doubt about that earlier report. Maybe someone in Wisconsin could confirm or deny?
October 26, 2004
If you read the front end of the column, Lupica is laying the groundwork for his preferred storyline that blames everything on A-Rod, totally absolves Derek Jeter, and makes it out like the Yankees' ability to import an endless line of superstars is somehow a burden they have to carry. Well, of course.
October 13, 2004
FOOTBALL/WAR: A Man Worth Remembering
Why does the NFL insist on fining Jake Plummer tens of thousands of dollars for honoring Pat Tillman? And what can you do about it? Eric McErlain tries to answer the second question.
October 10, 2004
FOOTBALL: A Town, A Team, A Blog
In fact, between the Astros series, the election and, of course, the Longhorns (despite their loss yesterday to Oklahoma), it’s a good site to check out overall.
September 26, 2004
Another not-new-but-new-to-me link: Aaron Schatz, moving on up to Slate, on why star running backs like Ricky Williams are overrated.
May 25, 2004
FOOTBALL/LAW: Clarett Runs Out Of Time
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which previously lifted the injunction ordering the NFL to permit Maurice Clarett to participate in the NFL Draft, has now rejected Clarett's contention that the antitrust laws require the NFL to let him be eligible for the draft. The opinion is here, but it's pretty dry reading unless you're a labor antitrust lawyer (and believe me, that's coming from someone who reads a lot of judicial opinions). Clarett has 90 days to file a petition with the United States Supreme Court, although unless he can convince the Court to issue an injunction providing for new emergency relief, the Court's usual schedule won't permit his appeal to be heard and decided until December at the earliest, and quite probably after the NFL season.
May 22, 2004
BASEBALL/OTHER SPORTS etc.: Great Sports Moments
Michele asks for greatest sports moments. I'll repost my thoughts here. I'll agree with some of the moments cited by her commenters - Jose Canseco getting hit in the head with a ball and turning it into a home run is still the funniest thing that's ever happened. Bill Mazeroski's homer - ten years to the day before I was born - is tough to top for sheer instant drama and finality, especially when you consider the aura of invincability of those Yankees and the back-and-forth nature of that game and that series. And yes, I once had a poster on my wall of the famous Starks dunk over Jordan.
My personal favorite, of course, is still the bottom of the tenth inning of Game Six, 1986 World Series, specifically Bob Stanley's game-tying wild pitch. Close behind are Robin Ventura's "grand slam single" in the rain in 1999 and virtually every minute of the 1991 Super Bowl.
Probably the most electric moment from a sport I don't follow or, ordinarily, even like that much was Sarah Hughes' gold medal winning figure skating performance, because she single-handedly did what I thought couldn't be done in figure skating: overcome the expectations and grab victory through the sheer brilliance of a single performance. In other words, for one night, she actually made figure skating a real sport.
The most memorable ones I've seen in person: (1) Game Six of the Knicks-Heat series in 1997, when half the team (including Patrick) was suspended and the MSG crowd just tried to will the skeleton roster to victory; (2) Brad Clontz' wild pitch in the last scheduled game of the regular season in 1999 to send the Mets to a 1-game playoff with the Reds.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 01:22 AM | Baseball 2004 | Basketball | Football | Other Sports | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 30, 2004
FOOTBALL: The Arizona Rangers?
One more thought on the Pat Tillman story: the Arizona Cardinals, Tillman's former team, have announced plans to name a plaza outside their new stadium in his honor, which is a nice gesture. Some have gone further, suggesting that the whole place be named after him. Of course, the Cardinals are a for-profit business, and the rights to name a stadium is one of their major assets, so it's unsurprising that this idea will go nowhere.
But here's an idea that makes a lot more sense: rename the team. And not in honor only of Tillman, who after all went out of his way to avoid an excess of publicity about his decision. Call them the Arizona Rangers, in honor of Tillman's unit in the Army and their sacrifices over many generations, most famously in scaling the cliffs at Normandy on D-Day but in many other deadly engagements.
This makes sense, of course, in part because the Cards could use a name change anyway; their current name is too tied both to the Midwestern (Chicago/St. Louis) roots they left behind and to one of the most abysmal franchise histories in all of sport. Why not give the franchise an honorable excuse for a fresh start?
April 28, 2004
FOOTBALL/BASEBALL/BASKETBALL: Lighting Up The Scoreboard
If you're wondering why New York Giants fans are so excited about Eli Manning, well, let me offer some perspective here. Consider my somewhat-typical experience. I'm a Mets/Giants/Knicks fan, and I'm 32 years old. Manning gives me, potentially (if he lives up to billing), the opportunity to see my favorite team develop an offensive superstar. Now, if you're a Red Sox fan or a Lakers fan or, even, a Detroit Lions or Montreal Expos fan, that may not sound like anything terribly novel. But consider the top homegrown offensive stars of my three favorite teams over the past 30 years or so, at least based on their performance in NY:
1. Patrick Ewing
That's a top-of-the head list (feel free to quibble - this one's a natural argument-starter), and after Ewing, it's pretty weak; plenty of individual franchises could do better. And neither of the corresponding lists will knock your socks off, either - the top guys who were brought along in NY but bloomed elsewhere (Rod Strickland, Ed McCaffrey, Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell, Gregg Jefferies), and the top guys who arrived from elsewhere (a list that starts to fall off after Mike Piazza, Bernard King and Bob McAdoo - meaning no disrespect to Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez - and on which the top Giants are creaky old guys like Ottis Anderson and Fran Terkenton).
Looking at the list above, it's no surprise that the Mets have never had an MVP or a batting champ, the Knicks haven't had an MVP or scoring champ in the past 35 years, and I couldn't find the last time the Giants had a league leader in passing, rushing or receiving yards. My New York, at least, is a defensive town. That's why people went crazy for Stephon Marbury, who seems no more likely to bring home playoff glory than King or McAdoo, and why Mets fans are so hopeful about Jose Reyes if he can ever put together a healthy season.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:21 AM | Baseball 2004 | Basketball | Football | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
April 27, 2004
FOOTBALL: Football Blogs
Ricky West's buddy the Failed M.C. is looking for Atlanta Falcons blogs. There is indeed a great dearth of football blogging out there (either that or I don't know where to look); even Football Outsiders seems a bit thin on its list of football blogs, especially team-specific ones.
February 21, 2004
FOOTBALL: Screwing the NFL?
Gregg Easterbrook takes severe issue with Judge Shira Scheindlin's ruling, in Maurice Clarett's case, striking down the NFL's minimum age rule. I'm not sure if I agree with all his points, but Easterbrook certainly makes the case that the league has a valid interest in preserving a high quality of play and in keeping college football's free publicity machine for future NFL stars going.
February 20, 2004
RELIGION/FOOTBALL: Who 3:16?
One observant viewer of the Super Bowl points out that CBS appears to have blotted out the contents of posters behind the end zone, and speculates that CBS may have been concealing "John 3:16" banners.* (Link via Stuart Buck).
*For the uninitiated, John 3:16 is the one sentence of the Bible that many Christians feel captures the essence of Christianity; I can still recite it from memory, as our sophmore theology teacher in high school made us memorize it for every weekly test: "For God loved the world so much that He gave us His only Son, so that all who believe in Him may not die, but have eternal life."
February 01, 2004
FOOTBALL/POP CULTURE: Return of the Sports Guy
I hope you haven't missed out on this week's rare treat: Bill Simmons is back and blogging twice a day. Bill's Boston Sports Guy site, of course, was a hit blog before most people knew what a blog was -- for the last few years of the 1990s, he was a mostly one-man show offering daily links and sidesplittingly funny commentary on sports and pop culture. (As many of you know, I got my own start on the Net on Bill's site from May 2000 to its demise a year later). Anyway, he's been reduced to two columns a week lately while working for the Jimmy Kimmel show, but this week he's been in Houston for the Super Bowl and back in top form. Click here for yesterday's entry and links to the rest of the week.
I confess to not having followed football that much this season, but Bill's Thursday column completely sold me on why the Patriots should be heavy favorites:
Read More »
Consider the following things:
Bill's Monday column also ran through another of his specialties, worshipping at the altar of gorgeous women . . . just two thoughts: (1) Bill asks what happened to Phoebe Cates, but if I recall correctly she made a conscious decision to stay out of the limelight and have children (with her husband, actor Kevin Kline); and (2) Bill writes of Jennifer Anniston, "[e]specially in those first two seasons of "Friends," when she had a little more weight on her . . . [t]hen she went Elisabeth Shue on us and got skinny ... she still looks great, but it's not the same." I have to not only agree, but say that this is, as far as I can tell, this is nearly a unanimous opinion and one that's shared by women as well as men. Nearly every time we watch Friends, my wife and I comment on how much better Anniston and Courtney Cox looked before they went all diet-crazy. I just don't know how women in Hollywood get it into their heads that they aren't supposed to look like . . . well, women.
Anyway, read the whole week's worth of columns, if you haven't already.
« Close It
FOOTBALL: The Toll Of The Pounding
The NY Daily News has a sad look at the decrepit-before-his time Earl Campbell, who was absolutely the most unstoppable force I've ever seen on a football field - harder to contain in his prime even than Jerry Rice or Lawrence Taylor. The online edition lacks the photo (check here for that). Take a look at the white-bearded Campbell and ask yourself if you can believe this man is two years younger than John Edwards.
January 20, 2004
If you didn't already, you should check out Bill Simmons' rambling Friday column . . . it defies summary (ice boogers! lunch with porn stars!), but this was my favorite part:
[W]e might as well call it "Martzitis" because he's the most famous case. Certain coaches have a pathological need to win on their terms -- they call ridiculous naked bootlegs and wide receiver screens in big moments, instead of just keeping things simple and putting their best players in position to make plays. Martz does this more than anyone. How many times did we see things like "Marc Bulger rolling out on a naked bootleg on third down, then getting creamed" in big situations?
This, of course, is a common affliction outside of football as well; Tony LaRussa is perhaps baseball's most notorious example, although I can think of examples of managers like Bobby Valentine, Bobby Cox and Roger Craig managing themselves out of some games by insisting on doing it their way and imposing their own personal touches on what ought to be the players' game.
December 31, 2003
Punch the Bag shares some thoughts on Pat Tillman, late of the Arizona Cardinals and currently serving as an Army Ranger.
October 24, 2003
FOOTBALL: TMQ Talk
I was proud to be one of the early linkers to FootballOutsiders.com, a site that tries to do for football what Baseball Prospectus does for baseball; one of the lead writers, Aaron Schatz, was an early reader of this site. Now, FootballOutisders has become the official safe house for news on Gregg Easterbrook's football column after his firing by ESPN.com; check out his statement here, which is bowed but not broken:
Though I apologized and deserved to be criticized, I didn't think I deserved to be fired by ESPN. But then, I didn't think Emmitt Smith deserved to spend his final year with the Arizona Cardinals, either. Both things seem to have happened.
October 22, 2003
Eugene Volokh complains that he got the following non-response from ESPN.com to his email about Gregg Easterbrook's firing:
From: ESPN Support
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your interest, but that is currently not a feature on ESPN.com.
He then notes that other readers got the response I got:
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003 08:54:13 -0700
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your comments and are considering your opinion. We will
It appears that Volokh's problem was that he selected"Other" rather than "NFL" in the drop-down subject menu on ESPN's contact page.
Meanwhile, Ralph Wiley throws out the ceremonial first race card in ESPN.com's post-Limbaugh/post-Easterbrook era:
Dub's theory on baseball curses is that everybody sort of avoids what he calls the truth about them; teams that were -- or are -- historically dismissive and smugly cruel about its black folks -- those are the teams that stay cursed. . . . Maybe one day the Cubs and the Red Sox will get out of historical denial, ante up and kick in, pay off whatever their psychic debt is, and move on.
Um, a little history? Since the breaking of the color barrier, six all-white teams have won the World Series:
The Yanks waited nine years to integrate -- longer than the Cubs but not as long as the Cardinals (three World Championships since 1947), and when they finally brought in Elston Howard, Casey Stengel reportedly watched him in spring training and remarked, "they had to go and get me the only n_____r in the world who can't run." But that history's lost on Wiley and his race-is-everything meme. (Wiley also throws in a shot about the Marlins playing "non-sabermatrician style," but I'll leave that for another day).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:00 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Football | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 18, 2003
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: TMQ Sacked?
I'm doing work tonight, so I'm actually listening to the game on the radio and don't have much time to blog, but let me just say that I agree completely with Instapundit and the many others he links to that the apparent summary firing of Gregg Easterbrook (the Tuesday Morning Quarterback) by ESPN Page 2 is just an appalling overreaction, even worse than ESPN's treatment of Rob Neyer some years back. Plus, the hypocrisy of an organization that pushes Easterbrook and Rush Limbaugh out the door for mildly inappropriate references to race and ethnicity while continuing to employ Ralph Wiley - who generalizes about race as often as Neyer cites statistics - is jaw-dropping.
Email ESPN here to let them know you want your TMQ back.
UPDATE: Aaron Schatz adds his two cents on why he'd be glad to have Easterbrook writing at FootballOutsiders.com. My own take is that Easterbrook's comments don't seem to be intentionally anti-Semitic, but they certainly crossed a line by pushing certain buttons (Jewish studio heads, greed, etc.) that have been too familiar hobby-horses for anti-Semites, so I can readily understand why offense was taken. More on this later, but this whole thing reeks of a game of "gotcha" with no application of common sense or perspective.
October 02, 2003
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: More McNabb
While I tend to agree with my co-blogger The Mad Hibernian that some of the outrage at Rush Limbaugh over his comments on Donovan McNabb is rather artificial (Howard Cosell got away with worse), the fact is that this was a really idiotic thing for Rush to say, and one that will probably doom his second career as a sportscaster. Let's put this in perspective: Rush has a new job. He comes with a reputation. Ex-ballplayers have to prove to the audience that they're not just dumb, inarticulate jocks. Dennis Miller had to prove that there was a place for a comedian in the Monday Night Football booth. The one thing Rush has to prove is that he can keep his politics out of his football commentary. Responding to questions about the NFL's silly minority-hiring mandates is one thing; the network asked him to give his take on that controversial subject.
If Terry Bradshaw or John Madden said Donovan McNabb was overrated in part because of his race, it wouldn't be news. Bill Simmons, last Friday:
I can't imagine any QB in the league playing worse than McNabb did two weeks ago. Is he even that good? It's like the Ben Affleck thing -- everyone keeps telling me that Ben Affleck is a major movie star, enough times that you even start believing it ... but check out his filmography on IMDB.com some time. Not exactly a bevy of hits. Same goes for McNabb. For a few years, he was a winning QB on a very good football team. Doesn't make him a superstar.
But a lot of people will now just say, "Limbaugh. We knew he was a bigot." And that doesn't help Rush's ability to get people to hear his political message, either.
UPDATE: I seem to be behind the news cycle a bit on Limbaugh - more on the broader story later.
August 10, 2003
FOOTBALL: The Enemy is Me
Sports Illustrated's quote of the week shows that Kerry Collins of the New York Giants knows his strengths and weaknesses: In discussing the mental part of the game, Collins said, "I try to stay out of my own way. Sometimes going inside my head is like going behind enemy lines."
August 08, 2003
FOOTBALL: The Outsiders
Statistical analysts have built an impressive body of knowledge about baseball -- can it be replicated for the gridiron? Aaron Schatz of Lycos50 (one of the very early readers of this site) and Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch are among the writers trying to find out at FootballOutsiders.com (I'll have to add it next time I reorganize the permalinks), including essays discussing the application of Bill James' Pythagorean Theory to football and looking at which coaches have exceeded their Pythagorean projections for their careers (the underachievers, unsurprisingly when you think about it, are all pass-happy types). There are a lot of interesting questions about how these methods translate, but the site is worth a look.
April 29, 2003
WAR/FOOTBALL: Pat Tillman Update
Remember Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal who walked away from a multi-million dollar contract shortly after 9/11 in order to enlist in the Army? Such an admirable act requires the occasional update. Read about him here. I wish him and his brother luck in rendering their service to our country.
January 10, 2003
FOOTBALL: RIP Will McDonough
RIP Will McDonough. He died of a heart attack while, fittingly enough, watching SportsCenter. Dave Barry, from his 2002 year-end review: "In sports, the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl, thus using up all the sports luck that New England has been accumulating for decades, and thereby guaranteeing that the Red Sox will not win the World Series for another 150 years." The dean of Boston football writers got to see it. I wasn't always the biggest McDonough fan, especially when he wrote about baseball, but may he Rest in Peace.
January 08, 2003
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: Searching For A Black Parcells
I got quite a laugh out of Rich Lowry's column on how the Dallas Cowboys are catching heat for hiring Bill Parcells without interviewing African-American candidates. I mean, could the proponents of race-counsciousness in the hiring of coaches pick a worse battle? This sounds like something PETA would do. There are only a handful of other coaches with similar qualifications to Parcells, and most of them (like Don Shula) are old and retired. None are black. Dennis Green? Green's got a decent resume - a lot of playoff appearances despite a perennial revolving door at QB, but also a lot of playoff failures. Parcells, he's not, any more than Randall Cunningham was John Elway.
At any rate, if people are serious about affirmative action in the NFL, their campaign should focus on getting more African-Americans considered for posts as offensive and defensive coordinators, which is the key stepping-stone job into the head-coach network, plus there are twice as many of those jobs and they open up more frequently. (Also, you can't fairly compare a guy with head coaching experience, whatever it may be, to a guy without any; the decision to hire an experienced coach is common in risk-averse organizations, and makes sense in some situations.)
January 06, 2003
FOOTBALL: NFL Rules
Rich Lowry on NRO reprints a fascinating point from a reader email on the last play of the Giants' implosion yesterday:
"Immediately [after the game ended] Chris Collinsworth gets after Matt Allen, the Giants holder, for not immediately spiking the ball. Collinsworth exclaimed that this would have stopped the clock and allowed for another field goal attempt. . . . under NFL rules Allen spiking the ball would have induced an intentional grounding penalty with a ten second runoff, thus ending the game. Only a quarterback taking a hand-to-hand exchange from the center, then immediately throwing the ball forward to the ground, constitutes a legal spike. Anything else is intentional grounding which results in not only loss of yardage and down, but a ten second runoff to boot."
I wasn't sure if this was correct, so I went to the rules; I didn't have time to scour the rulebook, but the grounding rule itself doesn't say anything about the passer taking a handoff rather than a long snap as a predicate to a proper spike:
Intentional Grounding of Forward Pass
3. Intentional grounding will not be called when a passer, while out of the pocket and facing an imminent loss of yardage, throws a pass that lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player(s) have a realistic chance to catch the ball (including if the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or end line).
However, Jerry Seeman, the NFL's director of officiating, addressed just this point in a Q&A on the NFL's website two years ago:
Brian Chan, B.C. Canada: If the holder for a field-goal unit has trouble handling the snap, can he legally spike the ball to stop the clock without being called for intentional grounding?
Jerry Seeman: If the holder spiked the ball, it would be intentional grounding. The only player that can legally spike the ball to stop the clock, is a T-quarterback.
That looks like the answer to that - Collinsworth was wrong.
January 02, 2003
FOOTBALL: A Syllogism
November 13, 2002
Bill Simmons waxes nostalgic for the days when being a sports fan sucked. Simmons is perhaps more bitter than I'd be, but he has a point. We lose our individual innocence and wonderment as we age, and the world discovers new ways to be cynical; the combination makes us think the past was a Golden Age. We can always identify ways it really was, but we're selective (Gustave Flaubert: "Our ignorance of history makes us libel our own times. People have always been like this." Bill James (paraphrased): "When people tell me they'd like to have lived in the 18th century, I ask them whether they'd have enjoyed having their teeth pulled without anasthesia."). In the 1930s, fans said, "I remember before all this home run craziness, when scoring a run was a team effort and really meant something." They didn't say, "I remember when I was a kid and the White Sox threw the World Series."
James had a better point in the 80s when he said he wished somebody had told him in the sixties and early seventies to enjoy all the great power pitchers, that they wouldn't always be around. He was writing then about the generation of great leadoff men headed by Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines, and it says something about what followed that generation that both men lasted into the 21st century. Every generation does have its glories that we will not see the like of again. Enjoy Pedro and Randy Johnson; admire Barry Bonds; tip your hat to Shaq. They may not pass this way any time soon.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:27 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Basketball | Football | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 22, 2002
The Tuesday Morning Quarterback, writing on ESPN2 (hey, didn't he used to be on MSN somewhere?), proves that bashing the New York Times isn't just for political writers.
September 23, 2002
FOOTBALL: CROW, ANYONE?
Mike Francesa on WFAN was berating some fan who called in yesterday, predicting a 31-21 Jets loss, with the Dolphins jumping out to a 31-7 lead and the Jets saving face with some garbage time TDs. Francesa told the guy he'd be embarrassing himself by 6pm. How's that crow taste? Football prognosticating can be a damn humbling business.
August 28, 2002
FOOTBALL: Randall To Canton??
NFL Hall of Fame debates usually leave me dry, but . . . Randall Cunningham? I'm speechless. I thought Dan Dierdorf said it best when he said that Cunningham was "not afraid to make the stupid pass."