Archive for May, 2006

10-Cent Beer Night at Hooters
May 30, 2006

You know those junk e-mails you get that have provocative subject lines that promise free money, complimentary vacations, and the power to please the opposite sex for all eternity? The scam artists behind those messages have to make their headlines as sexy as possible because they know that if you were immediately aware of the true contents of the message, you would immediately delete them.

Well, I had to pull that trick here to get you to read even this far. Because if you knew I was going to talk about soccer, you would have immediately clicked over to download Donna Weihofen’s latest tofu cookie recipe. Just the very mention of the word soccer probably means that I’ve lost 3/4 of you already. But for the two of you still reading, I’ll continue . . .

If you’ve been watching any of the ESPN networks lately, you’ve no doubt been exposed to their relentless promotion of the 2006 World Cup, all 64 games (!) of which will be broadcast by ESPN, ESPN2, and their broadcast network partner ABC. The networks, owned by The Walt Disney company, have recently paid $450 million for the exclusive rights to broadcast soccer in the United States.

Why? Why are the mouse networks making such a huge financial and programming commitment to soccer, a sport that has been proven time and time again to be less interesting to American audiences than power sawing and snooker? If this was the first time that soccer’s been massively force-fed down the throats of sports-hungry Americans, that would be one thing, but soccer is an international phenomenon that’s been repeatedly rejected by Americans, like cholera and Benny Hill. And it’s not as if American sports fans are completely closed-minded to “new” sports; just look at the impressively rapid growth of auto racing and televised poker over the last several years. The message should be clear to ESPN and ABC: We’ve seen soccer and we don’t like it.

What makes this boneheaded decision by ESPN to televise hundreds of hours of soccer between June 9 and July 9 all the more aggravating is the fact that sports fans with normal interests like baseball, golf, and all things Suzy Kolber will be forced to sit through loads of soccer talk and highlights on the various ESPN television and radio networks because everybody knows that ESPN simply provides more news coverage of sports properties that they and ABC own. I’m convinced that because ABC lost the the flagship primetime NFL game of the week to NBC, we will see less NFL coverage on the ESPN networks this fall. Maybe Chris Berman will be shifted over to the WNBA. I think that’s another one of those sports ESPN tries to pass off as popular.

On the late, great sketch comedy show SCTV, the owner and president of the fictional SCTV network could often be seen hounding viewers for donations (this despite the fact that SCTV was a commercial and not a public broadcasting station). During these pleas, he would usually inform viewers of the sorts of subpar programming that SCTV would have to turn to if the station didn’t start raising more money. To really scare viewers into donating large amounts, he would always threaten to air more soccer. Maybe if we all band together and send enough cash to ESPN and ABC, we can keep soccer off our airwaves for good. I’m in for $50. That only leaves $449,999,950 left to raise. C’mon, who’s with me?!

Michael Finley’s Texas-Sized Bad Luck
May 23, 2006

You think you have it rough? Just look at former UW and current NBA star Michael Finley.

In 2005, Finley gets waived by the Dallas Mavericks after eight plus years of loyal service during which he was twice named to the NBA All-Star team. Following the cut, he elects to sign with the defending champion San Antonio Spurs even though other teams were offering him more money and more playing time. After years of coming up short — often to the same San Antonio Spurs — in the postseason, Finley made the decision to become part of what he hoped would be a championship team.

Fast forward to 2006: As had happened in the past, Dallas and San Antonio meet in the NBA playoffs. Finley’s former boss Mark Cuban and his former teammate Dirk Nowitzki encourage Dallas fans to boo the “traitor” Finley (even though Finley didn’t leave Dallas, Dallas cut Finley), advice the Maverick faithful gleefully and lustfully followed. And instead of silencing those boos, Finley continued his personal intrastate NBA playoff losing streak, as his new team the Spurs was finally defeated by his old team the Mavericks.

And to top it off, Finley got punched in the groin by former teammate Jason Terry. Adding insult to painful injury and embarrassment, Terry was a major reason Finley and his Spurs were eliminated, as Terry (following a game 6 suspension) scored 27 points in Monday night’s deciding game seven, more than doubling Finley’s 12 point output.

Though Badger fans won’t be able to watch Finley play anymore this season, we will be able to cheer on former Badger star Devin Harris, who is in his second year with the Dallas Mavericks. Although considering the pain and suffering caused to him by his former team, I doubt that Finley will join the Badger faithful in cheering Harris and the Mavericks on.

I’m Sorry. Don’t Fine Me.
May 16, 2006

Apologies again for taking a break from all things blog.

The reasons are many: One, I had server issues which resulted in the loss of some content that is tough for me to re-create. (Hey, you think being a genius blogger is easy?) Two, I’ve been spending lots of time watching Average Homeboy videos on-line. (He is totally blazin’, all right?) And three, I’m now scared to blog.

Why am I scared to blog? Well, it came out last week that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $100,000 for writing negative things about NBA officials on his blog. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve probably noticed that I can be negative from time to time. And if you know me at all personally, you know that I don’t have $100,000 to pay any fines imposed upon me for something I write here.

So I’ve decided to swallow my journalistic pride and apologize to those whom I may have offended, upset, or just disappointed, hoping that my pathetic groveling will be enough to wipe out any fines that may have been coming my way. Here goes:

Sorry, Brett Favre. I’ve given Number 4 a hard time for his persistent indecisiveness regarding his retirement. But now that he’s decided to play another season for the Packers, it’s clear that any uncertainty he had about a 16th year in football has quickly dissipated. Just listen to these inspiring words: “I’m not going to lie. I wonder if it’s the right decision. There are times I say, ‘I hope I made the right decision.’ Yeah, I wonder what my attitude would be like if we lose six in a row. I hope it’s still good.” Whoa, curb that enthusiasm, Brett! Add to that impressive display of commitment your refusal to participate in the next Packers mini-camp and I have to say I was wrong to question your competitive fire and leadership. Even better is that you’ve already begun to renege on your promise that this will be your final season, which means that we may be in for another round of “will he or won’t he retire?” next year! Color me excited!

Sorry, Minnesota Twins fans. I predicted here in early April that the Twins would win the AL wildcard and return to the postseason for the fourth time in five seasons. Well, that now appears about as likely as Bea Arthur topping the Maxim Hot 100 list. The problem? Oh, just a little thing I like to call starting pitching: The Twins’ aggregate ERA is third-worst in Major League Baseball and the pitching staff can’t even secure a victory when the offense gives them a seven-run first-inning cushion, as happened on Mother’s Day. A pitcher hasn’t won a game after surrendering seven first-inning runs in 106 years, and that’s about how long it’s going to take the Twins to get back to the postseason if the pitching staff doesn’t improve mightily.

Sorry, Barry Bonds. Earlier I professed not too much sympathy at the treatment you’ve been getting lately. That was before I watched Bonds on Bonds, an ESPN series that further cements the channel’s legacy of producing the lamest reality shows in the history of the genre (Dream Job? I’d Do Anything?). In the show, Bonds tearfully responds to the maelstrom of controversy surrounding him and his alleged steroid usage: “If it makes them happy to go out of their way to try to destroy me, go right ahead. You can’t hurt me any more than you’ve already hurt me.” (By “them,” I guess Barry means the media, even though the media aren’t the ones booing him, throwing things at him, or holding up asterisk signs when he steps to the plate.) Well, I had no idea that injecting human growth hormones (allegedly), committing perjury (allegedly), and alienating teammates, the fans, and the media alike were all so emotionally draining. So sorry, Barry, for treating a jerk like a jerk. I should know better.

Sorry, Bud Selig. I also haven’t been that fair to the Commissioner of Baseball. But I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on one of his few good decisions, and that is his announcement that Major League Baseball will not celebrate Barry Bonds passing Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list. Even when Bonds passes Ruth, Bonds will still be second (and a distant second, at that) on the HR list. Since when does a professional sport celebrate coming in second? If that were the case, the Minnesota Vikings would be the most celebrated team in the history of pro sports instead of a punchline to tired jokes told by Packer fans. But even though Selig claims Bonds’s alleged steroid use isn’t a factor in his decision, it’s hard to see him not acknowledging Ken Griffey Jr. or Alex Rodriguez passing by the Babe. I guess even the Commissioner thinks Bonds is a jerk (see above).

Sorry, Rosie O’Donnell. I must admit to being less than thrilled (all right, I became physically ill) when I heard you were returning to my TV set on a daily basis as a new addition to The View. While I can’t change my opinion of you as one of the most untalented people ever to be on TV, if your presence results in the ouster of Star Jones, who is not only equally untalented but also now frightening to look at, then you can’t be all bad. If you decide to physically pummel Elisabeth Hasselbeck during “Hot Topics” or interview Teri Hatcher in the voice of your Riding the Bus with My Sister character, you will immediately become one of my favorite celebrities. So something to think about.

OK, groveling and pleading forgiveness is over. Now please don’t fine me. Because as the Average Homeboy raps, “Just because I’m not from the projects / Doesn’t mean that I can write million dollar checks.” So true, average homeboy. So true.

Sorry Fans
May 11, 2006

Having server issues, which has resulted in the loss of my last entry, which was undoubtedly my finest yet.

Will work on restoring.

In the meantime, check out the Blazin’ Hazen videos on-line.

Bucks, Brewers Set To (Shudder) Eclipse Packers?
May 4, 2006

While the Packers will probably always reign supreme in the hearts and minds of Wisconsin sports fans, it’s not totally insane to imagine the balance shifting more toward the Bucks and Brewers over the next couple of seasons.

Despite the Bucks losing to the Pistons in five games in this week’s opening round playoff series, the team has an exciting nucleus of young players that will only get better in what — if you take out the Pistons team that just whipped Milwaukee by 29 points — is proving to be a more wide-open Eastern Conference than many people (myself included) expected.

The real shame of this year’s Eastern Conference playoffs is not that the Bucks lost to the Pistons, but that Milwaukee didn’t play well enough toward the end of the season to avoid having to play Detroit in the first round. One look at the difficulties that Miami is having with Chicago, that the Nets are having with the Pacers, or even that the Cavaliers are having with the Wizards, and it’s not hard to imagine that had the Bucks drawn a higher seed, they would still be playing and playing with a real hope of advancing. Next year they won’t run into the top seed in the first round and they’ll advance.

Granted it’s only May, but the Brewers are more than hanging tough in a division that’s turning out to be one of the toughest — if not the toughest — in baseball. I’m still not predicting any World Series rings in the near future, but like the Bucks, the Brewers have a solid core group of everyday players — Fielder, Weeks, Hardy — who look to be around for a while. Right now, with the combo of the younger players and Carlos Lee, Geoff Jenkins, and Bill Hall, the Brewers are at the very least competitive and fun to watch.

Competitive and fun to watch: Don’t know if we’ll be able to say that about the Packers anytime soon. Maybe if the Bears stink next year (when was the last time they were good two years straight?), the Vikings continue their dysfunctionality (firing the personnel director? Was their draft that bad?), and the Lions play like, well, the Lions, the Packers can win the division at 8-8 or 9-7. That’s a lot of ifs, but the future of the team will look even murkier next year after Favre departs.

But take heart, Wisconsin pro sports fan and let me be one of the first to say what you might be hearing more than you think over the next few years: “The Packers lost again? Well, we still have the Bucks and Brewers.”

What Do I Know?
May 1, 2006

I hate post-NFL Draft “winners and losers” columns simply because it’s impossible to know at this point which teams drafted well and which teams didn’t. No one can say for sure until a couple of years from now after players have had an opportunity to prove themselves. What you can say for sure is that pretty much everything that I predicted in this blog last week didn’t happen. So I guess that makes me a post-NFL Draft “loser.”

I said the Texans would take Reggie Bush with their number one pick. They instead took DE Mario Williams. This proves the point that some teams stink not necessarily because of their coaches or their players but because their front office makes horrible football decisions. Of course, Mario Williams could be the next Lawrence Taylor and Reggie Bush could be the next Ron Dayne (sorry, Ron). But try selling this pick to any Texan fan. You’d be better off trying to convince them that Dustin Hoffman was in Star Wars.

I said Green Bay would take Maryland tight end Vernon Davis with the first pick in order to supply Brett Favre with a new playmaker for his final season. They went with the popular pick of Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk instead. Hawk may be the better pick, but I’m still surprised the team didn’t do more to bolster the offense for Favre. Not to mention the loss of Javon Walker, which was going to happen regardless.

I was surprised that the Titans went with Vince Young instead of Matt Leinart. The popular consensus is that Leinart is, of the two of them, more ready to start in the NFL right away. And the Titans, with the inevitable trade or release of Steve McNair, need somebody right away. Young will probably struggle for a couple of seasons, while Leinart will be in Arizona learning under Kurt Warner and then play alongside Larry Fitzgerald, Edgerrin James, and Anquan Boldin. Despite losing some money in his drop to tenth pick overall, Leinart and the Cardinals are the real winners in this scenario.

But the biggest losers from last weekend are not the Texans, Bills, Reggie Bush, or even me for picking everything wrong. No, that would be the Minnesota Twins, who embarrassed themselves, the state of Minnesota, and Major League Baseball by putting up a pathetic showing this weekend in Detroit during which they were outscored by a whopping margin of 33-1 over three games. Maybe Bud Selig was right about contracting them.