Wednesday, February 23, 2005The Morning Toast: Sensationalism & Steroids
I think Barry reads my columns. Not the stuff I babble about here, but my real columns, the ones I get paid for and stuff.
Now I can't find the column in Google, but about two months ago I wrote about cheating in baseball and why reporters/fans etc. Were getting so upset about this perceived cheating in the sport. I mentioned Gaylord Perry, a guy who's Hall of Fame career was based around his "cheating".
My point was that nothing is really illegal in baseball. Is using steroids immoral and wrong? Sure, but in baseball terms it isn't cheating. They didn't test for anything, they didn't check anything, baseball actually used the "honor code" as laughable as that sounds.
So was I really surprised when Barry busted out with these lines during his Tuesday press conference:
"You guys are like rerunning stories. This is old stuff. It's like watching 'Sanford and Son.' It's almost comical, basically. ... Are you guys jealous, upset, disappointed, what?'"
"I don't know what cheating is. I don't believe steroids can help your eye-hand coordination, technically hit a baseball. I just don't believe it. That's my opinion."
Now Mike Lupica gets it, Dan Shanoff gets it and not surprisingly Jayson Stark doesn't. Barry Bonds isn't Jason Giambi, he's not overly sensitive about his situation and he's not going to apologize or beg for forgiveness.
There's no need to.
He's still the most fascinating player in the game. He's a mystery to the media, he doesn't run after every camera like Curt Schilling. He doesn't use his family to hide behind his selfishness like Roger Clemens, he isn't an out and out phony like A-Rod or Sammy Sosa.
The media wants to like Bonds, he's ever they ask for in an athlete. He's articulate, he's provocative, he's got a great sense of the game's history, he's got great baseball lineage. But he's also surly, he's also difficult.
People are going to think what they are going to think and no amount of apologies will change public opinion. So Bonds turns it around. "You think I'm cheating and my records are fabricated? Well that's YOUR problem. Not mine."
Bonds is a smart man, extremely smart. He knows the game. He knows that the media will follow him regardless, he knows that the fans, whether they cheer or boo, will run to see him every night over the summer.
As a member of the media, actually both contributors here are members of the media, it's funny when we as a group gang up and pounce on athletes. And weak ones, like Giambi, cower and apologize and cow-tow for us every chance they get so they can get the good press. Bonds is one of the few guys who isn't afraid to punch back and for that reason he's still one of the people that I enjoy listening to most. He makes our job difficult.
BTW Bee-Ranom, I'd love to hear your test on your fellow Sun Devil.
Oh No O'Neal
In the midst of the Barry Bonds press conference, the news of Shaquille O'Neal's injury has been hidden. The Big Aristotle injured his knee last night when he landed on Antonio Davis' foot. The quick X-Ray was negative but the most detailed MRI is pending.
Shaq told his teammates that he'll be all right and I hope he isn't lying because the Eastern Conference playoffs are starting to look interesting with Detroit playing its best ball, the Nets warming up and ask Orlando if Indiana will be a force to reckon with in the season's final 30 games?
Diener Is Done
In throwing a bone to my friends over at Marquette Hoops, I must say I was quite sad to hear that a broken hand will end the collegiate career of Marquette point guard Travis Diener, leaving him 83 points short of the school's all-time scoring record.
The good news is Diener will be healthy for the NBA Draft and I think he's got a strong 10-year professional career ahead of him and another 20 years behind the mike as an analyst after that.
Lemieux May Get His Wish
As I've said..repeatedly..now that the NHL is on ice, it's a good time to completely overhaul the rules that have turned the game into the No Hockey League.
Well thanks to Mario Lemieux, I might finally get what I've been asking for.
Many of the new rules are being tried this season in the AHL, which expects to have at least two 100-point scorers (Binghamton's Jason Spezza and Manchester's Mike Cammalleri) and possibly more. Among them are shootouts to decide overtime ties, wider blue-lines that increase the size of the neutral zone, less distance between the nets and the end boards, smaller goaltending gear, no-touch icing and tag-up offsides.
The NHL is also toying with eliminating the red-line, thus doing away with the dreaded two-line passing rule and creating the end-to-end breaks so common in international play.
Tomorrow, more NFL than you'll ever need.
Monday, February 21, 2005The Morning Toast: Fear & Loathing Edition
You can read obits from the wire, The New York Times and from the Denver Post.
Moving On But Looking Sad..
NBA All-Star Game Entertainment: It's Fannnnnn....Hilarious.
I could actually talk about the All-Star game (which the East won 125-115 with AI winning the MVP award) but why talk about that when you can talk about the unique halftime "entertainment".
Other than the occasional Ray Charles song, I can safely say I'm not down with country "music" and it seemed like a rather odd choice for an NBA All-Star game. However, I'm willing to give anything a chance, especially when I can put LeeAnn Rhimes on mute and just watch (BTW, what was up with the outfit...Jessica Simpson already got the part of Daisy Duke). After Rhimes came Big & Rich, a group that obviously doesn't take themselves too seriously as evidence by the hot pink jacket, the rapping cowboy who looks like Ken Norton Jr. and the midget in the oversized Mavericks jersey.
The only thing missing out of this package was the flying trapeze and the bearded lady. Well since it's an NBA crowd, country music got over about as well as David Duke would have but as a fan of all things silly, I can get with a country group like Big & Rich because...well because they don't suck like 99% of country music and if they do I'm too busy laughing at the gimmicks to care.
Combine this with the fact that Bethune Cookman's marching band provided the pre-race entertainment at the Daytona 500 and me thinks someone made a scheduling snafu :).
I picked the winner but did I watch? No, not really.
Maybe next year NASCAR.
NHL = No Hockey League
Actually I've felt that way since the neutral zone trap spread to the lower-market teams, but after false reports (mostly from ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek, the biggest reason NOT to buy ESPN The Magazine) about a deal being reached on Saturday and the season's cancellation being un-canceled, both sides of hockey met again just to hammer the point home -- there's no NHL this season.
Apparently the appearance of Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky made a bad situation worse. The players, upset that the union seems broken, didn't want Trevor Linden to go. The owners, now in full control of the situation, didn't want to negotiate period much less raise their cap number.
Despite his loss of momentum, Gretzky should be the next commissioner and give up his desire of to coach for the good of the game. I think he will do this, he's always been a hockey first guy.
And Gretzky as the ambassador of the NHL (or whatever it'll be called) could be the only way for ESPN to entertain its two remaining option years to broadcast the sport. With an April 15 deadline, it would be in the NHL's best interest to make a decision quickly and if that decision is a strike, they have to sell ESPN on their theory.
So where is the sport going now? Probably to a strike which could mean the end for a lot of the European presence in the league. Many of the great European players like Peter Forsberg and Jaromir Jagr were already looking to play a few more seasons, move back to their respective countries and grow the sport there.
The bad side to that is my fear that the league is no closer to implementing the international rules that will help the sport rebound. The European players (considered soft by their North American counterparts) represented the speed and skill the league tried to sell despite the real product looking very different.
But so what? All that matters in the sports...business is the score at the end of the day, and if you don't win Two out of Three, it is time to quit the business. They will call you a hopeless Loser and your wife will file for Divorce. Strange men in black suits will show up and kick down your door at night. That is the fate of Losers in this country. (HST)
Sunday, February 20, 2005The Sunday Brunch: HBO, It's Not Just TV..
I have a new respect for directors of live television. Last night HBO had a planned production of a Bernard Hopkins-Howard Eastman fight with an undercard fight featuring rising middleweight superstar Jermain Taylor.
Well Taylor's night ended early as he knocked out a fella named Edouard in the third round and HBO quickly went to its prefight feature package with Hopkins. Normally after the prefight feature, HBO will go straight to the Tale of the Tape and the introductions. However word came down that Hopkins wasn't ready so Larry Merchant (ugh) was sent to his dressing room to see what was up.
Apparently Hopkins was told that he didn't have to fight until a specific time regardless of when the last fight ended and knowing that no one will ever dispute his word or question him, he figured TV could wait.
Well the wait was around 35-40 minutes and HBO had to do some quick filling. After a strange interview with Hopkins in which the boxer was taping his own hands, Merchant went to Eastman's locker where he wasn't talking. Meanwhile HBO managed to snag Mike Tyson from the crowd for an interview.
Think about it for a second, a live Mike Tyson interview...Some director was shitting bricks. However Jim Lampley is a pro and conducted a great segment with Tyson talking about the recent death of Max Schmeling. Overall Tyson sounded quite content and happy, it was really one of those fun moments in live TV (although Mike butchered the word obliterate).
Still 25 minutes to kill, so Lampley and Roy Jones Jr. discuss another undercard fight while Merchant goes back to Hopkins' dressing room for more televised hand tapings. Meanwhile Lampley pulls out Oscar de la Hoya, the event's promoter, for another live interview. Hey thank god this even is in L.A. eh?
Finally after a long spot with Oscar, Lampley and Jones discuss promoting for a bit before the intros begin. It was roughly 37 minutes of dead air and HBO made it feel like less than five. Excellent work.
BTW Hopkins won his 20th title defense with a 12 round unanimous decision.
The NBA finally pulled off a fairly strong All-Star Saturday event. The dunk show was surprisingly good, the 3-point contest exciting, the skills competitions and that shooting exhibition are what they are but anyone watching All-Star Saturday isn't watching it for those two events.
Right now I'm picking the East in All-Star game. Not that it matters. I think Shaq will be the MVP.
Other all-star predictions:
-- 13 players will be in double figures.
-- Steve Nash will have at least 15 assists as he'll play the majority of the game.
-- Tracy McGrady will lead the West in scoring with 27.
-- Kobe Bryant will try to dunk on Shaq at least once and get fouled hard for his persistence.
-- Kobe will also get booed (loudly) in the pre-game introductions.
-- Shaq will lead the East in scoring with 22 points, he'll also have 18 rebounds.
-- There will be over 40 dunks and 15 alley-oops.
-- LeBron will be two rebounds short of a triple-double.
Michael Wilbon said that the Daytona 500 isn't made for people of his (and my) ilk and he's correct. NASCAR hasn't really filtered into the black community although a credit the sport for continuing to try.
I am going to watch a few laps of today's race. I promise myself I will go to a live NASCAR event before I'm 35 just to see how it holds up live. In my heart of hearts I can't believe that watching a car go round in circles is anymore exciting than watching it on TV, but I felt the same way about horse racing at one point in my life before going to my first Belmont Stakes..
So anywhere...err...go Jeff Gordon, I guess.
Tomorrow I'll dissect the NHL's weekend cancellation of their plan to uncancel and why the sport is officially going to go an entirely different direction.