Sunday, December 26, 2004

St. Nick

Click here to see me butcher Clement Clarke Moore's masterpiece...

As you might expect, I am THRILLED about the Nick Saban hiring. I believe this to be, no joke, the most important thing the Dolphins have done since drafting Dan Marino. We've finally got a coach who can match wits with Bill Belichick.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Musicians are STILL Stupid

Last night, while attending Kev and Melissa's Christmas party (which was, as always, fabulous), someone told me that Pat Benatar was being inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Pat Benatar.

Look, I love 80s music and all, but it is what it is. It's kitschy and cheesy, and that's why I like it. Doesn't make it good music. And it doesn't make Pat Benatar a good musician. For crying out loud, this is a woman whose lyrics make an Us Weekly article on an Olsen twins shopping spree sound deep and meaningful by comparison. "Shootin' at the walls of heartbreak, bang bang, I am the warrior!" Whoa, that's deep, man. Think about it.

Where do the pinheads who run the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame come up with this nonsense? If you look at the inductees for the RRHOF (here:, it's fairly clear what happened. They started out wanting to pay homage to the old school greats, the guys from the 40s and 50s who truly made it rock n' roll. After a couple years, and perhaps some less-than-expected business, they decided to go beyond that and start inducting great (read: big name) musicians who played rock music. After that, when they realized they were getting short on names (having inducted about 10 bands/people a year, a wonderfully shortsighted approach), they expanded it to pretty much anyone who doesn't do gospel or rap. Frankly, I expect Eminem to be inducted around 2015 at this rate, in a class with the Thompson Twins, Mr. Mister and Hootie. Whether the Blowfish make it with him is up in the air. After all, the RRHOF inducted Bruce Springsteen without the E Street Band, which is kind of like the Basketball Hall of Fame inducting Pat Riley without mentioning that he never won an NBA title without Magic Johnson.

I can't get too angry about this stuff though. We've already established that musicians are stupid, so I can't be surprised when they do things like open the doors of their hallowed shrine to anyone who's ever picked up a guitar. It's like asking a dog not to scratch.

The idea of a Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame is a nice one, but it has no clearly defined boundaries. Sports Halls of Fame are easy. Did you play baseball? Then you can be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Music crosses boundaries constantly. Johnny Cash is in the RRHOF, but did he play rock n' roll or country music? Bo Jackson didn't get extra points for being a pretty good baseball player and a pretty good football player. Sports Halls of Fame have (fairly) objective standards. Did you get 3000 hits during your career? Then you're probably getting voted into Cooperstown. No such standard for the RRHOF.

The smart move would have been to have fewer inductees. Just let in 3 or 4 people/bands per year. Build those ceremonies up around a couple big names. In fact, they were doing this at first, believe it or not. The Beatles were inducted in 1988, the Rolling Stones in 1989 and The Who in 1990. Unfortunately, after that, they didn't have a lot of names that were still really big, so they inducted everybody and their brother for a few years. Of course, then you lower standards and make it less special to be part of the Hall of Fame. That's how they get people like Pat Benatar. "Eh, she was pretty good, she can still pick up a guitar, and I know she's late on her mortgage payment, so she could probably use some cash. Plus, we're short on names this year." It's the problem of letting musicians run anything; they invariably screw it up.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Good for you, DC!

Fox's Dayn Perry sums up my feelings on the DC ballpark situation almost to a tee. (or is it "to a T"? I don't know. No matter...)

I say "almost" because I think Perry overstates his case against a publicly-financed ballpark a little. I don't, for example, believe they have a negative effect on the economy; rather, there is some tourist income, advertising income and good will that provides a benefit, not to mention the addition of a few top-bracket taxpayers to your tax base. However, that's not worth quibbling about; the larger point remains: the lords of baseball, in conjunction with DC's mayor, the hapless Anthony Williams, have dramatically overstated the benefits to a baseball park.

More importantly, it makes little difference exactly what the benefits of a new baseball stadium are. The people of DC were overwhelmingly against the idea of a publicly-financed new park. I mean, it wasn't even close. And the mayor ramrodded it through just the same. I'm not saying that you have to (or should) govern by poll, but when you've got that many people against that kind of public expenditure, maybe you should give it a second thought.

This should be the part where I denounce MLB as shameful and irresponsible and so on. But I won't. They're just trying to make the best deal they possibly can. Is it shameful and irresponsible to hold a baseball team for ransom for a free stadium deal? Probably. But then, so were a few hundred other things MLB has done over the last ten years. Not the least of which is the fact that MLB systematically poisoned the once-fertile ground of Montreal (you know, the place the Washington Nationals used to call home). Frankly, I've given up on expecting MLB to act in a responsible fashion towards itself, its teams, its history, and of course, the cities that its members call home. The blame lies with Mayor Williams and the City Council for allowing themselves to be screwed by the Lords of Baseball.

Fortunately, an outbreak of common sense occurred (not an altogether common thing in The District), and an amendment to the financing agreement stipulated that half the stadium costs be paid privately. MLB, of course, has professed outrage and plans to pull the team and so on and so forth. Let them. If Northern Virginia or Charlotte, NC wants to hand over $500 million for a ballpark, go for it. Somehow, I find either possibility unlikely given the fiscal conservatives in charge in both places. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman badly wants a team in Sin City, but admits that a stadium deal is little more than a pipe dream at this point. Portland, OR has suffered an economic downturn that makes DC look cheery by comparison. In short, for all their bluster, MLB doesn't have a lot of other options. Stadium financing initiatives, even the most benign ones, have either failed or carried by razor-thin margins whenever they've gone to ballot. A $500 million price tag will make all but the most politically tone-deaf legislator think twice.

"But wait, how did the DC financing plan pass in the first place?" you ask. Simple, really; a whole bunch of lame ducks got behind the plan and passed it. MLB can't count on that again. In the end, I expect baseball in DC in 2005 and beyond...but with a slightly more fiscally responsible financing plan. Here's hoping the City Council holds firm and calls MLB's bluff.

New blog

Yet another shameless plug, this time for

This is a blog put together by my buddy RedSoxNine, to which I will be contributing heavily. Mostly, it will involve us handing down punishment to teams, owners, leagues and players that make decisions that are variously inane, callous, illegal, immoral, unreasonable or unfair.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Hoopin' it up

First, a shameless plug for Lan's new blog. Good stuff...

I've begun following basketball in record time. Usually, I start following basketball, both college and pro, around February. Unfortunately, this football season has stunk out loud for me. The Dolphins are horrible and all signs point to a Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl, which will be three shades beyond crap-tacular. Furthermore, the NHL, my first love, seems to be careening toward destruction. The Mets' offseason has been all smoke and no fire thus far. So, it's all about the roundball right now.

And indeed, if it's not a good time to be Phunwin in the other three major sports (and how much longer will we be calling hockey a "major sport"? Can we even call it one now? Auto racing long ago surpassed the NHL in popularity in the USA, after all. And yet, I digress.), it's a fine time for me to be a basketball fan. My pro team, the Pistons, is defending their world championship. My college team, Syracuse, is (at the moment) ranked #4 in the country, and is a legitimate threat for their second national title in three years. Good times.

So, the question is this: which game is better? Pro basketball features basketball being played at its highest level. The world's best players flock to the NBA, and so the talent level is tremendous. More than any other American sport, the NBA has become a global game; NBA teams are tremendously popular in Europe. The offensive and defensive sets are more complex than college ball. The players are better and the coaches are smarter. Teams adjust to their opponents far better, thus preventing a team from using the same play or set over and over again. How many years has Jim Boeheim befuddled opponents with a 2-3 zone? Larry Brown or Phil Jackson would pick that apart in about 20 minutes. College coaches have had 20 years to figure it out, and haven't.

On the other hand, college ball is basketball in its most pure and unselfish form. College hoopsters typically have their egos firmly in check, clearly not a trait common to NBA players. The sudden influx of professional money and all the things that come with it (cars, women, rap albums, women, drugs and more women) poisons many players, particularly as they frequently come from poor backgrounds. Look at Carmelo Anthony: in college, he could do no wrong. In the pros, he's on the fast track to becoming a jerk and a thug. The atmosphere of college ball is intense and competitive, but seldom outright hostile. College ball has more parity than the NBA. Since 1984, six teams have passed the NBA title back and forth: Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, San Antonio, Houston. 20 years, and just 6 different champions. College has had 17 different champs during that time.

I'm not sure which is better. Put a gun to my head, and I suppose I'd choose the pro game. But, with the Dolphins relegated to pulling for a draft pick, there's plenty of room on my sports plate for both.

Friday, December 10, 2004

baseball and steroids

Now that I'm back from vacation and have some time to write, I was planning a bigger entry for today. Unfortunately, work got in the way. Work can be a bitch that way. So, you'll get an abbreviated rant on the steroid scandal.

Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, using steroids? Wow, I'm shocked. But you know what really burns me up about this whole thing? The words "leaked grand jury testimony". Now, I'm from New York, and maybe out in the black hole of common sense that is California, the laws are different. But where I come from, grand jury testimony is supposed to be sealed.

For those of you who come from the Golden State, that means you can't talk about it. Ever.

Grand jury testimony is sealed for a reason: prosecutors frequently give people immunity from prosecution if they testify before a grand jury. And in that testimony, people sometimes admit to some particularly awful things. As a result, both they and the prosecution need to have confidence that the testimony will be confidential. So, grand jury testimony is sealed. When it gets leaked, the entire process breaks down.

Someone leaked the testimony of Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. Someone, probably an overzealous and underethical prosecutor, committed a felony (it's a felony in New York, but God only knows what the hell they do in the Black Hole of Common Sense) and smeared these two guys after they were assured of confidentiality in this matter. And no one seems to care.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

So Long, Tom

I'm not a huge fan of network news; I believe there's far too much emphasis on human interest stories, and not nearly enough on what actually matters. Nevertheless, Tom Brokaw signs off this evening after a long and distinguished career, and I wish him well.

Brokaw, unlike his counterparts at ABC and CBS, was more or less objective when he was on the air and pursuing a news story. To a conservative, that counts for a lot. Brokaw was man enough to admit when he, and his network, were wrong. To a person who believes in accountability and responsibility, that also counts for a lot.

I don't get attached to news anchors and other TV personalities. My mom, for example, cried during Jane Pauley's final "Today" show (even though Pauley was a hack), and will surely cry during Brokaw's final NBC News broadcast. Nevertheless, it was refreshing receiving my newscast in the familiar Great Plains drawl beneath a veneer of well-rehearsed Midwestern (and thus listener-friendly) English.

So long Tom. Enjoy your well-earned retirement.

Best. Rant. Ever.

The mighty Kev Dog, striking the precise chords about Notre Dame's ridiculous firing of head coach Tyrone Willingham. Take note, this is the same school that let Bob Davie finish out his contract. The same Bob Davie who's such a fantastic coach that he's not had a nibble in the job market and now works for ESPN. Anyway, this is a rare instance where Kev's righteous indignation trumps my own...

"In fairness to all, I was off the charts pissed last night about Willingham's firing. I came in to do some work around 9:00 last night when a colleague of mine with an evening class came walking in at the wrong time. An hour & a half later I was just about done.
"So, let's just say it honestly: Notre Dame hates black people. If I'm Lloyd Carr, Jim Tressel, and any other coach in ND's recruiting base, I'm telling every recruit exactly that. Notre Dame hates black people.
"Really, how many coaches right now in college ball doyou fire Ty Willingham for? I came up with MAYBE five: Nick Saban, Norm Chow, Pete Carroll, Steve Spurrier and Bob Stoops. And that's MAYBE I'd fire Ty. Actually, Phil knows that if I were running ND I would only fire Ty before his contract expires for the resurrected Jesus--and by then I figure football's not gonna be a high priority at that point.
"I will say this: I was thankful to see Kevin White own up to the hypocrisy that is college athletics. In his press conference yesterday he admitted that ND's players were first-class gentlemen and that the ND players' GPAs were never higher under any coach at ND. So, Paul Hornung should be reinstated immediately in my view as a result (he of the "we need to lower our standards so that we can recruit the black athlete"comments). Because, as we found out yesterday, when push comes to shove at ND, we'd rather have dumb, fast & strong than classy, intelligent and, God forbid,well-mannered.
"This is a Catholic school, right? Whatever. Hypocrites. Notre Dame's a f---ing embarrassment. You can quote me on it."

And indeed, I have quoted you on it. Couldn't have said it better myself.