Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In Case of Emergency...Call Someone Else

As you might have divined by now, I am more of a practical person than a touchy-feely one. That's why some stupid little things in life bother me. Example: I signed up for the Chase Corporate Challenge this year, which is a 3.5 mile trek for some damn charity or other. When you sign up, they give you this paper number that you're supposed to pin to your shirt. I always figured this was so that, if you died on the course, they could spot the number from a helicopter overhead, cross-reference it and let your boss know you won't be coming into work anymore. On the back of the paper number is stuff like "name", "team captain" and "emergency contact".

Okay.

I've got a big problem with this "emergency contact" thing. If I collapse because of a heart attack, collapsed lung or exploding spleen, I've got one number I want you to call: 911. That's it. We'll sort the rest out later. Don't take the time to call my mother while I'm lying there bleeding from every orifice. This is the kind of touchy-feely crap that bothers me. What, apart from asking if I'm wearing clean underwear, is my mother going to accomplish under the circumstances? If I live, well, I'll call her myself and tell her what happened.

I don't like to answer the phone in the middle of the night if I can avoid it. Not that it rings often, but still, when it does, I like to ignore it. My wife will say, "what if it's an emergency?" To that I respond, "then they should be calling 911." I figure I'm doing the caller a favor by not picking up and taking up precious seconds with idle conversation...

"Hello?"
"Hi Phil."
"Hey. How are you?"
"Not so good. Someone broke into the house, shot me, and now I've got a hole the size of a chicken pot pie in my stomach."
"Bummer."
"Yeah. They took the plasma TV too."
"Damn! I was looking forward to coming over and watching the game tomorrow night!"

It's not important that my mother or my wife or my sister or anyone else knows that I'm dying. It's important that the nearest ambulance driver knows. (In fact, a friend of mine works on an ambulance crew. Maybe I should list her as my emergency contact.) If I die, I'm sure word will travel fast and my loved ones will find out soon enough to easily beat the deadline for filing a wrongful death suit. (Maybe I should list a good personal injury lawyer as my emergency contact.)

The joke's on them, though. When I exercise, I sweat profusely, and that will surely render the ink in which I wrote the identity of my emergency contact illegible.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Post Memorial Day Thoughts on Food, Hoops and TV

Mmm...Memorial Day barbequing. It doesn't get any better than that. Well, maybe Fourth of July barbequing. On Sunday night, we managed to cook an impressive meat trio of ribs, bratwurst and steak. I will, however, offer a tip for the barbequers (is that even a word?) at home: don't screw around with the brats. My local grocery store has everything under the sun, except, it seems, Johnsonville brats. You can buy, like, 20 different varieties of kosher meat, and about 50 different varieties of goyim meat (I'm sure that's not a correct term; don't bother to correct me, I don't care), but you can't get Johnsonville F'ing Brats. I opted for fresh brats from the deli. Big mistake. Not good. Fortunately, we were all too full from everything else to notice.

Then the guys played the gals at bocce. Joe knocking my wife's ball out of the way was one of the highlights of the weekend. Not because it was a particularly great shot (it was well-executed, to be sure), but because of the shrieks of indignity. "THAT'S CHEATING!!!!", we heard several times over and over, as I literally fell down to the ground laughing. Another classic difference between men and women. If Joe had done that to another guy, the guy would probably say, "damn, nice shot", and make a lame pun about getting his balls knocked out. But when it happens to a woman, that sort of thing is apparently high treason.

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Speaking of high treason, I feel like what I'm going to suggest amounts to that, but it must be said. The Pistons need to strongly consider moving on without Ben Wallace. This year's playoffs have exposed Wallace's shortcomings like never before. He's a great defender, to be sure, and deserved his Defensive Player of the Year Award. But the NBA is moving to a faster-paced, more offensively-oriented game. The league is moving in a direction where you can't afford to be playing 4 on 5 on offense. Wallace, never a good or even average offensive player, has been almost startlingly inept in the postseason. He's averaging 4.3 points per game and is shooting 22% from the line. I don't care if you're Bill Russell; no defense is good enough to make up for that kind of futility.

I feel terrible for saying that, because Wallace has been the heart and soul of Detroit's recent run. But it looks like, barring a miracle, that run is over. Miami is a better team this year, and before long, Cleveland will wise up and put some talent around LeBron James and become the East's powerhouse. Joe Dumars has NEVER been afraid to make a controversial move for the long-term health of the team. Stackhouse for Hamilton worked. Firing Rick Carlisle worked. The Rasheed Wallace trade worked. (Drafting Darko Milicic...didn't work, but hey, nobody's perfect.) It may be time for one now. To paraphrase Branch Rickey, it's better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late.

Here's what I'm thinking: work out a sign and trade with Wallace, and send him to Minnesota in a deal for Kevin Garnett. Say, Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Dale Davis (not that he has value, but for salary ballast), Orlando's first round pick and one of Detroit's prospects (probably Amir Johnson) for Garnett and Ricky Davis. Garnett wants out of Minnesota, and the T-Wolves would get a pair of all-stars in return, plus move Davis, who they're not exactly enamored of.

Detroit could go with a lineup of Garnett and Rasheed Wallace at the power spots, Prince at the 3, Delfino starting at the 2 and Billups at the point. Delfino's offense hasn't been great, but he should improve with more time, and could develop into a first-rate "glue guy" like Josh Howard. McDyess and Davis would come off the bench and give the second unit some scoring punch. That would address another serious problem the Pistons had this year; only McDyess could be relied upon to come in and score points off the bench. For his many flaws, Davis can certainly fill it up.

Barring a miracle, the Pistons will be finished very soon. (Incidentally, to the Miami Heat fans that might be jumping over from Finheaven and reading this, congrats to your team, and good luck in the finals. I'll say it now since I haven't had much time to update lately. And let me stress that in absolutely no way am I trying to apply a reverse jinx here.) The Heat are simply a better team right now, and it looks more and more to me like Detroit's window, with the team as presently constituted, has closed. Hey, they capitalized on it; one championship and two Finals appearances are nothing to sneeze at. But if they want to do more, it looks like it's time for another bold move.

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At least the Mets are good. That counts for a lot. First place, 4.5 games up on Atlanta. This just looks like it's going to be one of "those seasons"; the ones I'll be talking about 15 years from now, and boring the shit out of my kids as they wonder what's so great about David Wright (who will then be, like, 37 years old and probbaly winding down a Hall of Fame career), and who the hell guys like Duaner Sanchez and Pedro Martinez were.

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Further proof that NO ONE knows their audience like The King. If there's a more enjoyable ad on TV than that ad for the Texas Double Whopper, I'm not sure what it is. I enjoy it so much that I've got that song stuck in my head. "I am man, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore...and I'm way too hungry to settle for chick fooooood."

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I was going to write a season recap of my favorite shows, but this post has gone on long enough. So, that'll be next time.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Miracle on Asphalt

Two posts in one day! You lucky dogs, you.

I love to play pickup basketball. Understand that I'm neither black nor athletic nor talented. I am tall, and often, that's all you need to be at least respectable at pickup hoops. Being tall means you usually luck into rebounds, and also means you have long arms, which helps make your shot less blockable (not true in my case; I have a combination of a low release point and a lack of hops), and make you more of a nuisance on defense (which is true). I have precisely two low-post moves: spin left and spin right. I couldn't drive to the hoop if I had a chauffeur.

On defense, I'm almost painfully slow, and can be beaten by a quick step, and thus have to give up a fair number of jumpers because I have to overplay the drive. However, I am both ready and willing to give a hard foul, and try to at least make the other guys pay for a low-post bucket. (I make up for this by seldom calling anything but the most egregious fouls when on offense. I may not play by the rules, but I do play fair.)

We've set up a regular Tuesday night game at a local park. Here's our usual lineup:
Nick - quick, athletic, quality handle, but small and scrawny and can be backed down into the low post at will.
Joe - small but bulky, no handle, not terribly athletic, but a hard-working defender.
Lan - medium height, strong and physical defender, good knowledge of hoops, but not athletic and a streaky, to say the least, shooter.

Our buddy Kev used to join us, but that was before he had a kid, so we don't expect to see him much. Too bad; Kev was probably the best passer among the group.

Last week, I made a tactical error. I invited our friend Ben to join the weekly game. Ben has the fortune of being tall, athletic, has a handle (to be distinguished from "love handles", which I have), and can pass. Basically, he combines the best traits of Nick and myself with none of the weaknesses. As Joe so charitably said after I asked Ben to join us, "you're an idiot, Phil."

We played a 2 on 3 game: Joe and Ben vs. the rest. Since Ben is the best player and Joe the worst, this seemed to be the fairest grouping. Now understand that in 3 on 2, the 3 should win about 99% of the time, because someone will always be open and on defense, someone can always be double-teamed, presumably the better player. If the better player can be double teamed, you should be able to deny him the ball most of the time, particularly here, where a quick defender (Nick) is teamed with a big defender (me).

We lost 8-6. The Miracle on Asphalt was born.

Partly my fault: Nick and Lan had Joe boxed in and about to lose the ball. For reasons yet to be explained, I left Ben to come over and complete the box. Bad move: Joe tossed the ball blindly to an open Ben who laid it in for the W.

I say it was partly my fault, because with a chance to win, Lan decided that was the ideal time to launch one of his trademark 20 foot jumpers. They're trademarked because, with a chance to win, Lan will utter the words "good game" before he shoots, and will miss far more often than not. He tried this on a windy day, with a court on an open plain, and no one having hit a shot outside about 10 feet all day due to rust, lack of talent and the wind. He missed the hoop by a good 12 inches to the left.

(Incidentally, I'd have let all this go if Lan hadn't given me a ration of shit for my boneheaded defense after the game. And you thought I was above using my blog to settle personal scores. Actually...no, you probably didn't. I'm almost shockingly immature at times.)

We made a decision this week to upgrade the talent level of the weekly game. Our buddy Alex will be joining us next time. He played Division III basketball. If nothing else, we've got an even number of regulars now, and two guys with actual talent. Maybe we'll even start keeping stats, like my boy Jason does for his softball league.

Phunwin - 7 reb, 2 ast, 3 stl...8 pts on 4-17 fg.

Or, maybe not.

Take the Mets, Pistons, Mavs...and leave the NHL

Big, big, biggety-big sports night, and weekend, for the ol' Canadian Badass. (For the few people wondering what the oft-used "CB" moniker stood for, there you go. For the origin of the nickname, you'll have to wait another time...or ask. It's really no big secret, and if you're dying to know, I'll tell you.)

The Subway Series begins tonight. Yes, it's usually overhyped, and yes, I still have my reservations about interleague play, but there's little denying that Mets-Yankees has created a lot of interest in baseball, much like Sox-Cubs (the team from Chicago now gets the "Sox" moniker, where the team from Boston is the "Red Sox"; that's what being defending World Champs does for you) and Angels-Dodgers, and A's-Giants, for empty-headed Left Coasters. (If you're from west of the Nevada state line, you're empty-headed. No offense.)

I will say that I've always had a problem with people from New York who say, "well, I hope they both do well." Or, I suppose more accurately, "Yo Vinny, I really hope the f**kin' Mets and the f**kin' Yanks kick ass, ya know? Let's go grab some f**kin' pizza." For crying out loud, pick a side! Fortunately, most people do pick a side for the Subway Series, only to later return to default status.

Incidentally, I think the Yanks win tonight, and then the Mets take the next two.

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Meanwhile, the Pistons, inexplicably, are fighting for their playoff lives tonight. The last three games, you could cut the lack of effort with a knife. They are playing without...oh God, here it comes...a sense of urgency. (Yes, go ahead, kill me now. Just jam a steak knife between my ribs and through my heart. I deserve it.) Personally, I think they come out and obliterate the Cavs tonight, but then, I thought they'd do it the last two games, too. And now, they've given the rightful league co-MVP a taste of success, and I'm not sure he's going to roll over. When the other team has the best player in a series, you cannot let them hang around. I mean, letting an inferior team hang around is a bad idea to begin with, but when they've got the best player, it's ultra-dangerous. The team with the best player in a given series can usually win at least one game on that alone. Well now, they've given the team with the best player TWO shots to close them out. That's a great way to end a very promising season far too soon.

And yes, I called LeBron James the rightful co-MVP. I would have voted for Kobe Bryant, but the argument for James was plenty compelling. I'm not going to split hairs between the two. If you favored James for MVP, that's fine. If you favored Steve Nash, well, we've got issues. Actually, YOU'VE got issues. I'm fine.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks, my pick to win the West, have two shots to close out the Spurs, starting tonight. Yes, I picked the Mavs to make the Finals before the playoffs started. I'll even find where I said it if you doubt me. Just seemed like their year. Right now, it sure looks it. Still, you can never, ever, EVER count out the defending champs. I believe very strongly in this principle. And the "best player" theorem, described above, still holds. I don't care if Tim Duncan is playing on one leg right now. If your life was riding on the outcome of a game, and you had to pick between Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, who would you take? I'd take Duncan, even at 80%. And I bet you would, too. Personally, I think the Mavs have to close it out tonight. If it goes back to the Alamo City for game 7, they're going down. You're not beating Tim Duncan in a game 7 at home. It's not happening. I don't care if someone saws his leg off before the game without anesthetic. He's the successor to Shaq, who was the successor to MJ, who was the successor to Magic and Bird, who were the co-successors to Wilt; the guy who cannot, under any circumstances short of death, be counted out.

So why am I picking the Mavs to win tonight? Like I said, it just feels like their year.

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Funny thing's been happening at a time when we're having one of the most entertaining baseball seasons in awhile and one of the best NBA playoffs in years; I've had a LOT of people ask me about the NHL playoffs. My stepdad said the other night, "hey, how about the Sabres?"

"What about them?", I responded.

This conversation's sum and substance has been repeated with at least half a dozen different people over the last week and a half.

I've tried to convey this to as many people as possible. (Heck, my wife has even helped.) I've given up on the NHL. I don't care anymore. I couldn't possibly have told you who was in the Western Conference Finals if I hadn't just looked it up. (It's the Oilers and Ducks, if you care.) I mean, I hate to be a poor sport about it, because I guess the Sabres are doing very well and that makes a lot of people happy around here, but I just don't care.

The weird part, though, is this: I hated the Sabres growing up. I was a Bruins fan. Now, I just don't feel anything about the Sabres. I'm completely neutral. If it makes some people I know happy that they're doing well, well, that's nice. I suppose that's proof positive that I've left the NHL behind for good.

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Last thing to note: blog posting's going to be less frequent in the next few weeks. I'm writing my fantasy football player previews for drstats.com. That takes a fair amount of time, and since I only have so much time to kill tooling around on the internet, the blog loses out for awhile. Sorry. I hope to write up a post-mortem of Season One of Prison Break soon. Maybe I'll get a chance this weekend.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Which Poseidon Character Am I?

You're the Captain!
Take the "Which Poseidon character are you?" test at Hell in a Handbag Productions

No wonder the Poseidon capsized, Lt. Frank Drebin was at the helm! Geez, I hope they don't make the same mistake this summer.

(Thanks to Dr. Zoom for another time-killing test.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Eddie F**kin' Moore

If you asked my buddy Kev what his favorite NFL draft memory was, I'm fairly certain he'd recount this story:

We were watching the 2003 draft at my apartment. I, shockingly, was drunk as a skunk. The Dolphins, in an equally shocking development, did not have a first round pick. These were the dark days, when Dave Wannstedt and his five brain cells ran the show. The Phins had a few needs, most of them on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line had been crumbling for a few years at that point, and I was hoping for one of the highly rated tackles or guards available at the #49 spot, their first pick. A wide receiver would have also been fine, since that was probably the biggest weakness of all, as Miami had Chris Chambers and a bunch of guys who were CFL material.

I waited by the TV, drinking beer after beer, for about 7 hours until the Phins were on the clock. Then, the bar along the bottom of the screen flashed "Current Selection".

I moved to the edge of my seat.

"Miami Dolphins - LB Eddie Moore".

I would have been less angry if Kev had dropped trou and taken a dump on my kitchen table. For the next five minutes, a steady stream of expletives polluted the air, broken up occasionally by the words "Eddie" and "Moore", and occasionally "who?".

There were two reactions to this: my cat ran under the bed and Kev laughed hysterically. Had my wife been present, she surely would have provided a third.

See, here's the thing: I'm an avid college football fan and a fairly attentive draftnik. I don't claim to be a draft guru like Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock or the great Keith Box, but I have a general rule that's nearly always worked out well: if a guy is drafted on the first day, and I've never heard of him either from watching college football or in my draft prep, he's a lousy pick.

I didn't know Moore from Adam.

In any event, ever since that moment, this young man, whose only particular sin was managing to catch the attention of a poor head coach and worse talent evaluator, became known as "Eddie F**kin' Moore". I don't believe I've ever actually said the words "Eddie Moore" without the F-verb in the middle. Well, before that last sentence, anyway.

Moore's career in Miami was, to say the least, undistinguished. He ended the season on injured reserve for three straight years in Miami, an impressive feat that not even famed glass men Yatil Green and Brent Smith were able to manage. In 2004, he posted his best season, starting four games, playing 13 in all, and tallying 34 tackles, a forced fumble, and four passes defensed. He also played pretty well on special teams. And of course, ended the season on IR.

He was also, somewhat infamously, 0-1 in bar fights, suffering a first round KO for staring at another guy's lady just a bit too long. Moore claims he was sucker-punched. Others claim he's just a sucker.

Nick Saban, it seems, prefers guys who actually win their bar fights, or at least go out with a blaze of glory; recent draftees Matt Roth and Joe Toledo each required several bouncers, a SWAT team, three pro wrestlers and some off-duty members of the 82nd Airborne to be escorted out of their watering holes. And thus Moore was traded to the New Orleans Saints yesterday, in an impressive demonstration of making a silk's purse from a sow's ear.

Moore was far from a lock to make the roster. The Dolphins are likely to keep 7 linebackers on the roster and Zach Thomas, Channing Crowder, Donnie Spragan, Sedrick Hodge and Derrick Pope were pretty well locked into five spots. There are still some fairly talented linebackers on the free agent market who could be had for a bargain price, and several guys in minicamp that merit a look. All told, Moore's chances of making the team were probably south of 50%.

In return, the Dolphins received LB Courtney Watson. Now, Watson's far from the second coming of Mike Singletary, but he is a competent inside linebacker who gives the Dolphins another option when they want to go 3-4. Considering that Crowder's had injury problems, and Thomas is a bit long in the tooth, depth is crucial there. Watson's a third year pro who has also had injury problems, but has managed to stay on the field long enough to accumulate 92 tackles, three sacks and four passes defensed.

One could take the opportunity to bash Dave Wannstedt, yet again, for overruling Rick Spielman. Spielman, though no great shakes as a GM, at least had the sense to push for WR Anquan Boldin. Although hindsight is 20-20, one wonders exactly how Wannstedt believed Moore over Boldin made any sense. Boldin was higher on Miami's draft board, but Wannstedt felt that outside linebacker was a greater need. In the 2002 season, Dolphin wide receivers that weren't named "Chris Chambers" caught a total of 73 passes for a total of 1011 yards and three touchdowns. James McKnight led that group with 29 catches for 528 yards and two touchdowns. It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine how anything could have exceeded Miami's need for a wide receiver. Well, except maybe a new quarterback, but that particular horse has been beaten, ground up and sent to the glue factory.

As an aside, I firmly believe that after the Moore over Boldin move, Spielman simply threw up his hands and said, "have it your way, Wanny". Perhaps he went out drinking after that, and put on some glasses and a suit with shoulderpads to pass himself off as Howie Long, in an effort to get some chicks. The 2003 draft was probably Miami's worst since the disastrous 1987 draft, where three picks in the first two rounds led to John Bosa, Rick Graf and Scott Schwedes. But that's a discussion for another time.

And so ends the saga of Eddie F**kin' Moore. 34 tackles, 3 trips to IR, 0-1 in bar fights, and several thousand draft day expletives.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Lady Luck, Grilling and Trash-Talk

So I was watching the Mets game tonight, and Atlanta went up 6-2 in the 7th with one out. I thought to myself, "the hell with it, this game's turning into a rout." I went downstairs to watch Wednesday's episode of "House" (which was TOTALLY awesome, I might add. Any show that incorporates the line "ooh, level 3...should I call Jack Bauer?" gets a double thumbs up from me. And yet, I digress.), then Monday's "Prison Break". Suffice to say, I'm a tad behind on my TV watching.

I watched some more hoops (more on this below) and then went off to bed. Almost as an afterthought, I checked the box scores. "Let's see how bad the Mets lost", I wondered. I moused over to theworldleaderinselfaggrandizement.com...er, ESPN, and saw the following boxscore:

Mets 8
Braves 7
Final - 14 innings

A four-run seventh (immediately after I visited Dr. House), then an exchange of home runs in the 11th, and then, in the 14th inning, a walk, an advance on a passed ball, and a game-winning single.

I'm leaving aside, for the moment, the whole "that's what you get for not watching through the end." Hey, I'd rather not watch and miss a great win than watch and catch a lousy loss. Here's the larger point: pennant-winning teams win those kind of games. 3rd and 4th place teams don't.

Most statheads will tell you that a team's record in 1-run games is really just a reflection of luck. And I happen to agree with that; the average baseball game contains any number of bounces and breaks that could go either way and affect the outcome. One run one way or the other, in the big scheme of things, means little. The Mets are now 7-2 in one-run games. If you're going to win the pennant, you need more than just a good pitching staff and quality lineup. You need a fair amount of luck on your side, and you need a fair number of breaks to go your way.

I don't know if there's some mythical quality that allows some teams to play really well in close games, or if there's some grand karmic force that's actively evening things out (last year, the Mets, in terms of run differential, were every bit as good as the Astros and Phillies, yet were well out of the playoffs), or what. But right now, whatever it is, it's on the Mets' side. They're winning games that you just don't win unless you're a pennant contender.

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I believe that, last night, I qualified for some higher plane of manhood. I used an open flame to cook a whole meal. Usually, when one cooks on the grill, meat goes on the grill, with the starch and vegetable being cooked on the oven. Not for me. Steak, seasoned potatoes and corn on the cob, all grilled to perfection. If I could figure out a dessert to cook on the grill, I might never use the oven again.

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I caught the end of the Cavs-Wizards game last night. Gilbert Arenas (an 82% free throw shooter) went to the line and clanked the first of two free throws. Then, LeBron James touched him on the arm and said something to him as he walked by. I'm not a lip-reader, and I don't know what LeBron said, but if he pulled a Scottie Pippen to Arenas' Karl Malone, I mean, that's GOT to forgive a lot of wrongs, doesn't it? How awesome would that be if James, like Pippen, talked smack to Arenas, got him off his game and caused him to clank that second free throw?

Arenas, of course, like Malone in Game 1 of the 1997 Finals, bricked both free throws, giving the Cavs the chance for the win, and they cashed in.