Sunday, April 30, 2006

Draft Day Diary 2006

Here it is, the post you've all been waiting for. Well, not all, but some. Or a few. Okay, Kev, Nick and Lan.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The NBA MVP Vote, Phil's Big Weekend, and Prison Break

I'm a bit bothered about this year's MVP vote. Bill Simmons makes this argument a lot, and I think it's a very important one: in voting for NBA MVP, one criteria should be "if you were choosing sides for a pick-up game, and your life was on the line, who would you pick?"

Last year, if you had to choose sides for a pick-up game, would you take Nash or Shaq? If you're taking Nash, well, I'm betting my hous and my car on my team. This year, the same thing applies. If you're taking Nash over Kobe or LBJ, you've obviously lost it. I could live with LeBron over Kobe for MVP. I'd vote for Kobe, if I had a vote, but I can at least see the logic with LeBron. But Nash? There's a good argument that he wasn't even the best POINT GUARD in the NBA this year, let alone most valuable player. Chauncey Billups outplayed him every time they got together.

The argument you always hear from Suns fans is this: "well, if Kobe was on the Suns, they wouldn't win as many games". Absolutely true, they wouldn't. But then, the Lakers also wouldn't win as many games if you swapped Kobe with Nash. Each team is built a certain way. The Lakers have a front office that hasn't drafted a decent player since they took Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick of the draft and hasn't made a positive trade since he traded Vlade Divac for that same pick. The Lakers have exactly two players on their team that would be considered above average: Bryant and Lamar Odom. No one else on their team would even make the 8 or 9 man rotation for most other playoff teams, apart from maybe Kwame Brown, whose defense has come a long way. Little surprise then that Kobe Bryant shoots the ball 30+ times a game and scores a ton. He HAS to. Take away Bryant, and the Lakers are at best a 20 win team. With him, they're tied 1-1 in the playoffs with one of the best teams in the NBA.

The Suns opted to set up a fast-breaking team full of guys who: a. hadn't reached their full potential with other teams, and b. who could play, but had a hard time creating their own shot. Those two things would seem to go together, actually. If anything, this is testament more to Bryan Colangelo's powers than Steve Nash's. Colangelo successfully bought low with a lot of valuable guys, knowing that all they needed was a guy like Nash to create shots for them.

Are we REALLY supposed to believe that Boris Diaw was a train wreck of a basketball player and that Steve Nash's mere presence turned him into one of the 30 best players in the league? (As an aside, as crazy as that sounds, I believe it's true. I don't believe I could find 30 players I'd take over Diaw right now.) Or does it make more sense to believe that Diaw was a good player who had a hard time getting PT because he couldn't create his own shot, and was stuck in Atlanta, a team that had a whole bunch of guys who did pretty much the same thing (which did not include passing the damn ball), and so Diaw struggled in that environment?

Same thing with James Jones, Raja Bell and Tim Thomas. All those guys had talent, all of them run the floor well, and none of them is a particularly aggressive offensive player who can make a move and hurt a defense on their own. They need a guy like Steve Nash. And lo and behold, their games were perfectly suited to this team. This was not an accident; this was the design of Bryan Colangelo!

Steve Nash didn't take a team of nobodies and turn them into top-notch role players. Bryan Colangelo put together a team of guys that were missing only a big-time, ball-distributing point guard to be successful. And Nash is getting all the credit.

Voters don't like to give it to the easy choice. If they did, Michael Jordan would have about a dozen MVPs, and Shaquille O'Neal would have at least six. Look at the year Karl Malone won it over MJ. If you had to pick sides for a pick-up game with your life on the line, who would you pick: Malone or MJ? 9 out of 10 people would take MJ, and the 10th obviously suffers from brain damage. But they gave it to Malone because he was a trendy pick and they got tired of giving it to Jordan. Incidentally, that was the worst thing that could have happened to StocktontoMalone. Jordan was one of the most competitive and spiteful athletes ever, and his thirst for vengeance was palpable. He got it in the Finals, as you probably know.

The same thing could be happening this year. Bryant desperately wants to Be Like Mike, and has already taken over one game in the Suns-Lakers series, with the teams going back to Los Angeles for the next two. All I can say to Suns fans and Nash sympathizers is this: be careful what you wish for.

---

Big weekend for Phil. My buddy Pete, fellow arch-conservative, lover of beer and Hellraiser in Chief, is coming to visit and I've obtained a weekend pass from the warden. Moreover, the NFL draft begins on Saturday (only one of the five best sports days of the year, and yes, that's a future post), the NASCAR race at Talladega (one of my favorite tracks) is Sunday, and the Mets are playing the hated Braves this weekend. My wife's only words to me on the subject? "If you drink too much, please call a cab." That's reason # 531 I love that woman.

---

I was afraid this would happen, and here we are. Prison Break has slowly but surely degenerated into yet another FOX show about the evil shadow government. The premise of the show, the part that (I believe) sucked everyone in, was the idea about Michael Schofield knowing exactly how to break out of the prison, using all sorts of clever things at his disposal and doing all this to save his brother's life. Well, now we've got The Company, which apparently runs everything in the U.S., pulling the strings, and choosing a new president and what not. For crying out loud, folks, if you want to do it right, call up David Duchovny and my girl Gillian Anderson. Believe me, they're available.

That's not the only way the show's going downhill. We've got a conspiracy to break out so huge that it's amazing that only NOW have the guards found out about it. In a totally unrelated note, we've got main characters that are so dumb as to defy description; Schofield telling the prison snitch about the escape was merely the icing on the cake. Don't get me started about the lady doctor with a heart of gold and a brain of oatmeal, the chief of the guards with the investigative prowess of a beer-stained cocktail napkin, or the black dude (I can't remember his name) who's somehow managed to convince his wife that he's a soldier in Iraq. We've got plot holes so gaping that you could drive a batallion of M1A1 Abrams tanks through them. And oh yeah, the acting is abysmal. The writing is clever in parts (I love the rejoinder from the poker game last week when the black guy raised and the Mexican guy got pissed: "you want welfare? Vote Democrat."), but this show is absolutely limping to the season finale.

I'm still watching, of course. There's enough about the show that's redeemable. The premise is still fun, Schofield and the lady doctor are impossible not to like, and some of the acting is good. The guy who plays T-Bag is excellent, though they've toned down his sinister side, which is a shame. Stacy Keach is a pro, and Wade Williams (the head guard) is good, too. And Schofield's "wife" is insanely hot, though it appears she's no longer going to be making appearances on the show.

Part of the mistake was they started too early. The season premiere was, I believe, back in August. Maybe they had only written half the story arc by that point and needed the time to write and film the rest. It wouldn't surprise me in the least; it's almost like an entirely different show at this point. I can't see how they turn this into a second season, but FOX has so many crappy shows out right now that they'll probably try. They'll sell it as "a night of action, on FOX!" And then, once ratings for 24 begin to suffer, because the lead-in drags so badly, they'll pull the plug.

With that, I wish you an absolutely phenomenal weekend.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Lunchtime Dragon

I like to think of myself as a smart person. By "smart", I don't mean smart as in "smart-assed" (though that's often true), or smart in the way that high school teachers say that "every student is smart in their own way" when they're on a "build self-esteem" kick, as opposed to, say, a "teach math" kick. No, I consider myself to be possessed of above-average intelligence and possessed of a capacity to learn things quickly. (Not to mention outrageously handsome, eminently likeable and humble, too.)

Yet, I make some of the same mistakes over and over. For instance, I enjoy Chinese food. I eat it, enjoy it, but then, 2 hours later, wonder, "why on earth did I eat that?" Second only to McDonald's (which I've successfully eliminated from my diet), Chinese leaves both the worst and longest-lasting aftertaste of any food. Grease, MSG, garlic, and God-only-knows what other spices linger on your tongue, between your teeth, in your throat and gurgle up from your belly for several hours. I call this the "Lunchtime Dragon".

The Lunchtime Dragon is impervious to gum, cough drops and breath mints, and most of us don't carry (at lunchtime, anyway) the necessary combination of floss, toothpaste, toothbrush and listerine to play St. George to this foul beast. (That's why it's the Lunchtime Dragon; if you eat it for dinner, you're going to bed soon anyway, and presumably using all those implements. Unless you're British.)

Furthermore, the Lunchtime Dragon is a double-entendre. Chinese food leads to an incurable case of "Dragon Ass" in the afternoon; tiredness sets in around 2 to 3 hours after consumption.

The residual guilt from eating roughly 40 grams of fat takes much less time. In my case, it normally sets in right after I drive past a Subway on my way back to work. "Why the hell didn't I eat there? It's healthier, won't make me tired, and won't lead to an awful aftertaste!"

So why do I eat the stuff for lunch on a semi-regular basis? I honestly have no idea. Worst of all, I'll probably do it again soon.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Screwed by the Trivia Nazis

Twice in the last couple days I've been burned, unjustly, by a trivia question.

I usually eat oatmeal for breakfast. On the front of the packet is a trivia question, with the answer on the back. The trivia question was "what is the largest city in the largest state in the U.S.?"

I thought about it and said, "Los Angeles, California". "Largest city" always means largest by population, and largest state often means the same.

I flipped the packet over and it said, "Anchorage, Alaska".

"Bullshit!" I exclaimed, to no one in particular. My answer was right on not just one, but two levels. First, Los Angeles is obviously the largest city in California by population, and it is also, I believe, the largest in terms of square area (according to my limited research; I was unable to find a list that conclusively confirmed this). Thus, it appears that by any measure, Los Angeles is the largest city in California.

However, to arrive at the answer "Anchorage, Alaska", one has to assume that "largest state" means largest by size, while "largest city" means largest by population. That seems, to me, logically inconsistent. Indeed, Anchorage is not the largest city in Alaska by area, that distinction goes to Sitka. If the answer had been "Sitka, Alaska", I could have lived with that; at least the term "largest" would have been consistent. But it seems to me that you can't give the term one meaning, then (without explanation) give it a completely different one just a few words later.

The second one that burned me was on last night's Mets-Padres game on SNY. The question was "what was the last 14+ inning game the Mets won on the road?" The announcer noted that the Mets had lost an incredible 14 straight 14+ inning road games (the most recent coming the night before). I said, "1986 NLCS, Game 6."

The answer was "Mets vs. Reds, July 22, 1986."

Now, the NLCS is traditionally played in October. The last time I checked, October came AFTER July. Thus, the Mets won game 6 of the NLCS that year AFTER July 22.

Fortunately, the announcer was good enough to say, somewhat apologetically (since I'm guessing about 90% of the people who answered guessed precisely as I did), "we should note that the Mets won game 6 of the NLCS that year on the road in 16 innings." I can accept this a little easier since, 1. he acknowledged that I was right, in a way, and 2. postseason games are usually not counted for the purposes of record keeping; rather, postseason games are considered to set postseason records.

I have yet to write a letter to the company that produces my oatmeal, but I just might do that.

Friday, April 14, 2006

We Have a Rodent Problem

We have a rodent problem, it seems.

It started innocently enough, when my wife noted that the squirrels around our house seemed to be a bit more aggressive than the average bushy-tailed, bug-eyed, nut-hoarding rats that you usually see. I came home the other day and saw a hole in the top of my garbage can. I thought, "that looks an awful lot like a squirrel chewed through it." It seemed improbable, however, that a squirrel would chew through plastic roughly 1/4" thick.

Well, this morning, I went out to my car. I heard rustling in the garbage can and saw some paper towels strewn on the ground. I opened the garbage can, and there I saw the offender: a squirrel, looking pretty much like every other squirrel on the planet, perched upon a now shredded trash bag, staring up at me as if to say, "do you mind? I'm trying to rummage through your trash."

We've historically had a problem with squirrels in my family. When I was a little kid, growing up in the wilderness of Upstate New York, we had red squirrels. Red squirrels are much more aggressive and ill-tempered than your average gray squirrel, and generally make life miserable for other local animals. Thus, my father gave me a BB gun and a green light to fire at will. He instructed me to set up in a sniper position on the porch to take care of the problem, which I did, with what was surely an impressive display of marksmanship for an 8 year old.

Some years before that, a squirrel managed to get into our house early in the morning. The dog was going crazy, chasing after it and breaking things. My mother, of course, was in a state of panic. My father grabbed a trash can and trapped the squirrel inside. He then grabbed a pistol and threw on a pair of boots to take the rodent outside to meet its maker.

Now picture, if you will, this spectacle: a grown man, outside, in his skivvies, with a pair of boots, a pistol, and a squirrel trapped in a trash can, with a German shepherd snarling and barking inside, straining to get out. My dad opened the trash can, aimed the pistol, and then a neighbor drove by and beeped (the standard redneck way of saying "Hi!"), apparently unfazed. Obviously, he knew my dad well enough. My dad turned and waved, putting common courtesy ahead of his dislike for this troublesome squirrel, and the squirrel seized the opportunity. It jumped out of the trash can and ran for its life. My dad fired off a full magazine, never hitting the rodent. Of course, we're pretty sure it never came back.

Back to the present time, I looked at this squirrel who was impatient at my presence and apparently desirious of further tearing through my trash. I do not own a pistol (thanks, wife), and even if I did, it's illegal to discharge firearms in our town (thanks, pinko liberals). Since I am untrained in any other way of getting rid of a squirrel, I closed the lid and resolved to get a new trash can, and possibly some rat poison. A moment later he climbed out and scurried off, having had his fill of my garbage for the time being. The sins of the father, it seems, shall be visited upon the son.

---

Some guy, and this guy is my new hero, took the time to reenact the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series on Nintendo's RBI Baseball. If you haven't seen it yet, it's well worth your time. Here's the link.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Talkin' Baseball...

...specifically Mets baseball.

Before getting too far into that, and thus losing the attention of the 3 or 4 people who visit here, I should note that Chuck Klosterman has a phenomenal article on Barry Bonds. Even if you're not a big baseball fan, it's worth 5 minutes of your time to read it. Great stuff.

(Of course, the biggest drawback to Klosterman is that ESPN essentially views him as an alternative to Bill Simmons, so they have Klosterman pen a couple articles every time The Sports Guy decides to take a week off...which is often. Then again, if I had a mostly stay-at-home job and a newborn baby, I suppose my work schedule would be sporadic too, so who am I to criticize someone who's provided me hundreds of hours of free entertainment? Maybe I should just get off my high horse and get on with the post.)

Onto the Mets. I'm very excited about Flushing's Finest this season. The Mets are 6-1 and are atop the NL East by 3 games and have the best record in the majors. The 6-1 start is also their best since 1985, my first year as a Mets fan. Unlike in many previous seasons, where the Mets would make a couple splashy acquisitions and expect to contend, they're finally building a real baseball team. The Mets had three huge holes last season, and two lesser areas of concern. We'll get to those in a moment.

The Mets won 83 games last year, and in terms of run differential, were nearly a identical team to the NL champion Astros and the 88 win Phillies. The run differentials went like this: Mets +74, Phillies +81, Astros +84. Those 10 runs would, translate to a difference of 1 win over a 162 game season. In terms of run differential, the Mets were good enough to win 90 games. Instead, they won 83. This may suggest any number of things: bad luck, or an inability to win close games, or perhaps an inconsistent offense that explodes at times and sputters others.

Luck, of course, is not something that can be changed. However, GM Omar Minaya saw some things that could be addressed. The Mets had the worst production from their first basemen in the NL last year. It's never good to be the worst at anything, but when first base, a position traditionally relied upon for a lot of runs, is a hole, you're going to have problems. In fact, you might well see exactly the sort of inconsistent offense we saw from the Mets last year. So, they went out and got Carlos Delgado, one of the two or three best first base sluggers in the NL. With Delgado around, and the expected turnaround from Carlos Beltran and the expected improvement of David Wright, one would expect the Mets' offense to be significantly more potent this year. And indeed, it has been.

The other big weakness that was addressed was closer. Braden Looper blew a lot of games last season; another factor in the team underperforming vis-a-vis its run differential. So they signed Billy Wagner, one of the two or three best closers in the NL. Wagner has pitched well so far, and hasn't really hit his stride yet, as his velocity is recovering from a finger injury.

Second base was a big weakness as well. The Mets have Anderson Hernandez playing there now. Hernandez isn't much with the bat, but he's not significantly worse than incumbent Kaz Matsui, and he's been excellent with the glove, which Matsui certainly was not. It's better to have a good-field, no-hit second baseman than a no-field, no-hit second baseman.

Basically, the Mets had what should have been a 90 win team, and made huge upgrades at two spots, and a small upgrade at a third. In a vacuum, that could easily be a 100 win team.

The only concern I have right now is starting pitching. The Mets got a virtuoso performance from Pedro Martinez last year (who won 15 games and could have easily won 20), and got the old Tom Glavine in the second half. Can those guys be counted on to do it again, despite their age? What about the completely unpredictable Victor Zambrano? Or the similarly ancient Steve Trachsel? The fifth spot in the rotation is being held by a rookie who's pitching lights-out thus far.

The rest of the National League is not strong; the Braves have been falling apart, ditto the Dodgers. The Cubs can't stay healthy either. Right now, the Mets and Cardinals look like the class of the NL. If the Mets can either hold together the existing rotation, or acquire another starter, there's no reason this team can't win the National League.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Complete Military History of France

Thanks to Stacy for sending this along and to albinoblacksheep.com for this marvelous work in progress. Come on, we know France has at least a few catastrophic defeats before the entire country collapses under the weight of its own entitlement system.

Gallic Wars- Lost. In a war whose ending foreshadows the next 2000 years of French history, France is conquered by of all things, an Italian. [Or at ths time in history, a Roman -ed.]

Moors in Spain- Lost.
Even with Charlemagne leading them against an enemy living in a hostile land, French are unable to make much progress. Hide behind Pyrennes until the modern day.

Norse invasions- Lost.
After having their way with the French for 70 years, the Norse are bribed by a French King named Charles the Simple (really!) who gave them Normandy in return for peace. Normans proceed to become just about the only positive military bonus in France's [favour] for next 500 years.

Albigenses Crusade- French massacared by French.
When asked how to differentiate a heretic from the faithful, response was "Kill them all. God will know His own." Lesson: French are badasses when fighting unarmed men, women and children.

Hundred Years War-Mostly lost, saved at last by female schizophrenic who inadvertently creates The First Rule of French Warfare; "France's armies are victorious only when not led by a Frenchman." Sainted.

Italian Wars- Lost. France becomes the first and only country to ever lose two wars when fighting Italians.

Wars of Religion- France goes 0-5-4 against the Huguenots

India- British were far more charming then French, ended up victors. Therefore the British are well known for their tea, and the French for their whine (er, wine...). Ensures 200 years of bad teeth in England.

Thirty Years War- France is technically not a participant, but manages to get invaded anyway. Claims a tie on the basis that eventually the other participants started ignoring her.

War of Revolution- Tied. Frenchmen take to wearing red flowerpots as chapeaux.

The Dutch War- Tied

War of the Augsburg League/King William's War/French and Indian War- Lost, but claimed as a tie. Three ties in a row induces deluded Frogophiles the world over to label the period as the height of French military power.

Seven year War- Lost. After getting hammered by Frederick the Great of Prussia (yep, the Germans again) at Rossbach, the French were held off for the remainder of the War by Frederick of Brunswick and a hodge-podge army including some Brits. War also saw France kicked out of Canada (Wolfe at Quebec) and India (Clive at Plassey).

War of the Spanish Succession- Lost. The War also gave the French their first taste of a Marlborough, which they have loved every since.

American Revolution- In a move that will become quite familiar to future Americans, France claims a win even though the English colonists saw far more action. This is later known as "de Gaulle Syndrome", and leads to the Second Rule of French Warfare; "France only wins when America does most of the fighting."

Haiti- Lost. French defeated by rebellion after sacrificing 4,000 Poles to yellow fever. Shows another rule of French warfare; when in doubt, send an ally.

French Revolution- Won, primarily due the fact that the opponent was also French.

Quasi-War with U.S.- Lost. French privateers (semi-legal pirates) attack U.S. shipping. U.S. fights France at sea for 3 years; French eventually cave; sets precedent for next 200 years of Franco-American relations.

The Napoleonic Wars- Lost. Temporary victories (remember the First Rule!) due to leadership of a Corsican, who ended up being no match for a British footwear designer. Should be noted that the Grand Armee was largely (~%50) composed of non-Frenchmen after 1804 or so. Mainly disgruntled minorities and anti-monarchists. Not surprisingly, these performed better than the French on many occasions.

Barbary Wars- Lost. Pirates in North Africa continually harass European shipping in Meditteranean. France's solution: pay them to leave us alone. America's solution: kick their asses ("the Shores of Tripoli"). [America's] first overseas victories, won 1801-1815.

Mexico- Lost. France attempts to take advantage of Mexico's weakness following its thorough thrashing by the U.S. 20 years earlier ("Halls of Montezuma"). Not surprisingly, the only unit to distinguish itself is the French Foreign Legion (consisting of, by definition, non-Frenchmen). Booted out of the country a little over a year after arrival.

The Franco-Prussian War- Lost. Germany first plays the role of drunk Frat boy to France's ugly girl home alone on a Saturday night.

Panama jungles- Lost. No one but nature to fight, France still loses; canal is eventually built by the U.S. 1904-1914.

World War I- Tied and on the way to losing, France is saved by the United States [Entering the war late -ed.]. Thousands of French women find out what it's like to not only sleep with a winner, but one who doesn't call her "Fraulein." Sadly, widespread use of condoms by American forces forestalls any improvement in the French bloodline.

World War II- Lost. Conquered French liberated by the United States and Britain just as they finish learning the Horst Wessel Song. Also should be noted that France attempted to hide behind the Maginot line, sticking their head in the sand and pretending that the Germans would enter France that way. By doing so, the Germans would have been breaking with their traditional route of invading France, entering through Belgium (Napoleonic Wars, Franco-Prussian War, World War I, etc.). French ignored this though, and put all their effort into these defenses.

War in Indochina- Lost. French forces plead sickness; take to bed with the Dien Bien Flu

Algerian Rebellion- Lost. Loss marks the first defeat of a western army by a Non-Turkic Muslim force since the Crusades, and produces the First Rule of Muslim Warfare; "We can always beat the French." This rule is identical to the First Rules of the Italians, Russians, Germans, English, Dutch, Spanish, Vietnamese and Esquimaux. According to Richard Mann, the French consider the departure of the French from Algeria in 1962-63, after 130 years on colonialism, as a French victory and especially consider C. de Gaulle as a hero for 'leading' said victory over the unwilling French public who were very much against the departure. This ended their colonialism. About 2 million ungrateful Algerians lost their lives in this shoddy affair.

War on Terrorism- France, keeping in mind its recent history, surrenders to Germans and Muslims just to be safe. Attempts to surrender to Vietnamese ambassador fail after he takes refuge in a McDonald's.

The question for any country silly enough to count on the French should not be "Can we count on the French?", but rather "How long until France collapses?"

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. All you do is leave behind a lot of noisy baggage."

Or, better still, the quote from the Wall Street Journal: "They're there when they need you."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Why I Love My Wife, Reason #283

Every so often, I'm reminded that I hit the jackpot when choosing a spouse.

My wife and I were discussing plans for our anniversary, which is in August. In an offhand, unrelated sort of way (seriously), I mentioned the fact that I'd like to go to Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati during a week during a summer. As you may or may not know, I have a lifetime goal of visiting every MLB franchise's ballpark at some point. The Pirates, Indians and Reds are all still on the list.

My wife said, "well, why don't we do that this summer?"

Flabbergasted, I responded, "well, I didn't necessarily mean this summer. I know you want to do something nice for our anniversary."

She responded, "that can be our anniversary trip. I'd like to go on a roadtrip with you, I think it would be lots of fun."

I'd write more, but I'm presently in the ICU after what the doctors called a "minor myocardial infarction".

NFL Teams Moving, and My New Pet Peeve

More on the possibility of moving am NFL team to Los Angeles, and my odds on the possible scenarios...

Buffalo Bills - 3:2
The odds would be even lower than that, but there's recent talk that Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano will buy the team. I hope he does; Buffalo shouldn't lose its team. Otherwise, this is easily the odds on favorite. Really old owner without significant community ties, depressed economy, low revenue stream, stadium lease that can be broken without significant cost.

New Orleans Saints - 4:1
This SHOULD be the team to move. The city was barely viable to begin with. Hopefully the political pressure to keep the team in New Orleans will die down before too long. Exactly why there's so much pressure to keep a team in one city, that cannot support their team, because of a natural disaster, and why there's virtually no pressure to keep a team in another city, that can support it, that's had an absolutely miserable last 100 years is beyond me. Ah, hypocrisy.

No Team in LA - 6:1
The NFL seems intent on putting a team in Los Angeles, but we've heard that before. The people there who have been pushing for a team have repeatedly failed to get their act together...why expect them to now?

Jacksonville Jaguars - 7:1
The Jags are good, yet never fill the stadium, and don't have a particularly large and/or wealthy community to draw upon. There's also no history to keep the team there, for that matter.

San Diego Chargers - 12:1
They were in LA once before, and they almost moved there not too long ago, why not a return trip? Still, it seems they're pretty happy in San Diego, and will be more so once a new stadium gets built, which it will, I think.

Minnesota Vikings - 20:1
They hate the Metrodome, but I think they're seriously planning a new, outdoor stadium for the Vikes. New stadiums = happy owners.

The Field - 15:1
No one else stands out as a possible candidate, now that the Chiefs and Cardinals have stadium modifications in the works. The Seahawks would have been (they actually DID move to LA for a few days several years ago), but they also got a new stadium. But, things can change. Who knows, maybe Al Davis could drag the Raiders back there...again.

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I hate Daylight Savings Time. What kind of idiots decided upon this, anyway? The whole concept never made a lick of sense to me. Why set our clocks back an hour in October, and then ahead an hour in April? It's utterly pointless.

As you can tell, this whole thing completely discombobulates me.

I'm an early riser. Always have been. Yet every year, for a couple weeks after we set the clocks ahead, my internal clock is shot. Usually, when the alarm goes off at 6:30, I'm out of bed, and in the shower right away. But after the clocks get set ahead, I'm still tired, so I hit the snooze button a couple times. This leads to me being grumpy because now I'm behind schedule. That, in turn, leads to me driving faster and more aggressively to work, because I don't like to be late (though it should be noted that "late" is a relative term here, since I'm usually there by 7:30). That, in turn, leads to more grumpiness.

So we can add another list of things to do to my "When I'm Czar Of The World" List: abolish the whole idiotic idea of Daylight Savings Time.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Save The Bills...Seriously

Your humble scribe has no love for the Buffalo Bills. None. Zilch. If the Bills didn't win another game for the next decade, I'd be a happy guy. Jimmy Johnson's first season as Miami's head coach was, in my estimation at the time, a success, despite the unspectacular 8-8 record, since he managed two wins over Buffalo.

To paraphrase the (in)famous words of our 37th president, "you won't have the Buffalo Bills to kick around anymore." At least it looks like we won't.

And I don't like it one bit.

I may hate the Bills, but I also respect their history, and more importantly, I realize how much they mean to the people of Western New York, and Buffalo in particular. Erie County has been wrestling with a budget deficit that makes the federal government look fiscally responsible by comparison. This all comes on the heels of a 20th century that could have arguably been considered the worst of any major American city. There is not a whole lot that people in Buffalo have to rally around; the Bills are one of the few things in which the locals can take honest-to-goodness civic pride. They are, for better or worse, a rallying point for a depressed community.

Last week, profootballtalk.com, a site with tons of quality (and usually credible) gossip about the NFL fingered the Bills as the franchise perhaps most likely to move to Los Angeles, given the NFL's mania for placing a team in the Republic's second-largest city. The site quoted an NFL insider who noted a few very salient points:
1. Ralph Wilson is ancient.
2. The team will almost certainly be sold when Wilson dies.
3. The Bills have one of the smallest revenue streams in the NFL, and possibly the lowest capacity for making money outside ticket sales.
4. The economy in Erie County is in the tank, which probably ties in with #3.
5. The team's stadium lease is not especially prohibitive of departure.

ESPN has now picked up the story, noting that Wilson met with Gov. Pataki and expressed concerns about the team's long-term outlook. Loosely translated, that means "we need public money, or we're outta here." Pataki has no particular incentive to help; first, he's not running for re-election, and second, even if he was, Erie County is blue and turning dark blue given the total ineptitude of Republican County Exec Joel "Emperor Nero" Giambra. Erie County voted against Pataki all three times he ran for governor. (If the team were in Rochester or Syracuse, maybe they'd have a shot at state support...but I digress.)

PFT also mentioned a few other candidates to move to Los Angeles: Kansas City, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Minnesota and San Diego. The Chiefs can now be crossed off the list, as they've managed to get a ton of money from Jackson County, MO for stadium renovations. I believe Minnesota will cease to be a candidate sooner than later, as there have been rumblings about a new stadium for the Vikings. Those will probably pick up with the hated Red McCombs gone from the owners' box. That leaves San Diego, Jacksonville, New Orleans, and Buffalo as likely candidates for a move to LA.

Understand, the NFL has wanted to move back to LA for some time. They desperately wanted to give the league's 32nd team to the City of Angels, but the various competing ownership groups couldn't get their acts together, and so Houston, with the well-organized Bob McNair in charge, won out. From a fiscal point of view, it makes sense. There's too much money to be made in LA for it to be ignored as a venue. It's the nation's second-largest TV market. Los Angeles has more people (and therefore more potential fans with open wallets) than Buffalo, New Orleans, San Diego and Jacksonville combined.

On a "fan loyalty" scale, Buffalo would surely come in well ahead of Los Angeles (or, for that matter, the other three cities that might lose their team), but on an "available cash" scale, it's not even close. Wilson knows that too, and surely knows that he could sell the team for nearly a billion dollars, given the current price for an NFL franchise. He reportedly threatened to move the team to Toronto a few years ago before he got Erie County to cut him a sweetheart lease, and his attachment to Buffalo has long been considered tenuous at best by many locals. Wilson, it should be noted, is from Detroit, which I don't hold against him, but Buffalonians are among the most bizarrely provincial city dwellers in the country.

The real target for a move should be New Orleans, a city that was barely economically viable for the NFL even before it was hit by Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, NFL owners are just politically sensitive enough to avoid "stealing the Saints", even if all the die-hard Saints fans could probably split a large pizza and a 12-pack of beer in my basement, but not politically sensitive enough to avoid taking a team from a city that's been kicked around for most of the last 100 years and doesn't have much left but its pro football team to distinguish it from Flint, Michigan.

That hardly seems fair, but that's the direction of the NFL now. Fewer old-line owners respect the value of tradition, and there are more owners who, driven by both necessity and desire, want the league and its members to be cash cows. I don't necessarily blame them; if you've begged, borrowed and saved enough to piece together the $800+ million it costs for an NFL franchise, you're certainly entitled to some return on investment. But still, it's not necessarily a pleasant feeling, especially when a team that means a lot to your little corner of the world is in the crosshairs of that mercenary attitude.

The ultimate answer to this, as my friend Joe once pointed out, would be public ownership. The only reason the Green Bay Packers haven't been moved elsewhere is because the people of Green Bay, WI own the team. Unfortunately, in today's NFL, public ownership is impractical. For one, franchises are simply too expensive. Wilson could probably sell the Bills for $850 million. A big-time business mogul would scoff at that; there's no way he could make that money back in a team based in Buffalo. Rochester's Tom Golisano bought the Sabres, but he also bought the team from a bankrupt company at a bargain price. Where would a group of small investors, i.e. a few hundred residents of Buffalo, Rochester, Niagara Falls and Syracuse, come up with that money? Apart from the money issue, ownership structure would be a nightmare. How would it be organized? Would the NFL seriously allow such an ownership structure, given that most ownership efforts that don't have one majority shareholder fail miserably? Look at what happened with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks for one fine example.

There will almost certainly be an NFL team in Los Angeles by the end of the decade. Right now, it would seem there's a good chance that team will be Buffalo.