Archive for May, 2008

Lakers Look Unstoppable, Finley Looks To Leave, and Brewers Look To Score Some Runs
May 30, 2008

Life is based on a few simple rules. Gravity. Supply and demand. White Castle hamburgers are always tasty. George Carlin is always funny. And eventually, youth and passion will always beat out age and experience.

We witnessed the latest example of this last truism over the last few days as the Los Angeles Lakers dismantled the San Antonio Spurs in a surprisingly short five game Western Conference Final. Twice in the series — in game one and in game five — the Spurs built up what should have been insurmountable leads. But their aging players couldn’t play at the same level and intensity they played at in the first half and lost games that should have been nearly impossible to lose.

Now of course the talk starts of what the Spurs will have to do to keep their remarkable streak of winning the NBA Championship every other year — they won in 2003, 2005, and 2007, so I guess it was silly to think they’d win it in 2008 — alive. The most obvious answer is to get younger.  

One of the veteran free agents likely to be purged in any youth movement in San Antonio is former Badger standout Michael Finley. Finley — who’s been in the NBA for 13 years already — is still a very productive player: He averaged nearly 27 minutes and over 10 points per game in 2007-2008 in his primary role as Manu Ginobili’s backup. As Ginobili was nursing a sore ankle, Finley played 25 minutes in game five and scored 13 points.

Finley can still definitely play — or should I say “shoot,” as he hasn’t averaged more than two assists per game since 2004-2005 — and it will be interesting to see where he lands should the Spurs not re-sign him. And if he decides to retire, the two-time NBA All-Star will have a lot to reflect on: How he won a championship before former teammates Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, the 2007 playoff game against Denver during which he shot eight of nine from three-point land, and, yes, the groin punch he received from Jason Terry during that same series. Pardon me while I wince and grimace in pain in remembrance of that NBA moment.

Speaking of former Badgers, Jolene Anderson started off strong in her first two games for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, but did not have a good night on Tuesday — 2 of 11 from the floor, including zero for seven from beyond the arc. But hey, she’s still the team’s fifth-leading scorer and has 21 percent of the respondents in an on-line poll asking “Which new Sun player has impressed you most?” And she’s not playing for Lisa Stone anymore, so she has to be happier. And there you have it — with this paragraph, I have officially exceeded the amount of WNBA coverage available anywhere on the Internet. Don’t believe me? Check out ESPN.com, where WNBA is listed lower than mixed martial arts, poker, and lacrosse.

Getting back to the NBA for just a second, I didn’t watch any of the Lakers opening round series with the Nuggets (figured the matchup was a joke, which it was) and not much more of their second round against Utah (other series were more interesting), so the Spurs/Lakers series was the first good look I got. All I can say is, as much as I personally revile the Lakers, as much as I think Kobe Bryant’s a egotistical crybaby adulterer, as much as I think Phil Jackson is just plain goofy, and as much as I would love to see them stink just to bum out Pat Sajak, David E. Kelley, Dyan Cannon, Adam Sandler, Cameron Diaz and the rest of the Hollywood intelligentsia that descend on the Staples Center during the postseason, I have to say that the Lakers look very, very, very impressive. As intriguing as the Boston/Pistons series is, I’m afraid that Los Angeles will wipe the floor with either of them in no more than six games.  And yes, I know that either Boston or Detroit will have home court. It won’t matter.

Don’t look now, but the Brewers have survived three straight series without dropping one (two wins, one split). Look at the bright side: Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan were stellar in Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s victories. The down side: Five runs in three games. Can’t count on winning too many series with that kind of run production. Despite being the hero of Wednesday’s game, Rickie Weeks is still struggling mightily at the plate. He had three strikeouts on Thursday and is now hitting .204. Bill Hall can complain all he wants, but reducing his role is the right move. Daryl Hall is more effective against right-handed pitching. I like the roster moves. Things aren’t working. The adage isn’t “If it sucks, don’t fix it.” But a sweep this weekend against Houston — and they’re at home, so it’s possible — and the Brewers have new life.

Things that are needed: Instant replay in baseball — Everything but balls and strikes. Rookie salary cap in the NFL. A 17th game in the NFL. A White Castle in Madison.

Things that are not needed: Four NFL preseason games — two’s enough. Horse racing — it’s not dog fighting, but you can’t tell me it’s fun for the horses.  Any summer tour headlined by any of these bands: New Kids on the Block, Poison, Stone Temple Pilots, Motley Crue.

Got to go pick up the kids. A lesson to parents out there: Be nice to your kids. Look what Locke and Ben did to their fathers on Lost. (OK, so I’m a little behind on the show. I’m working on it.)

Hard Times For Bloggers
May 23, 2008

Bloggers are being criticized a lot lately. You could say that blogs and the people who write them are being hit more than the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation. But I don’t want to say that because it would be: a) cruel, which is a stereotype of blogs and which I’d like to stay away from at least for one column, and b) true, and blogs aren’t supposed to have a shred of truth to them and I’d hate to start now.

Buzz Bissinger, journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Friday Night Lights, tore into Will Leitch, the founder of sports Web site Deadspin, on a recent HBO special hosted by Bob Costas. Bissinger basically blamed blogs for the dumbing down of this country, telling Leitch he was “full of s***.” Then just a few days later, a blogger with the uninspired handle of “Badger Blogger” wrote that Milwaukee Brewer manager Ned Yost was to be fired last Monday. For some reason, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel picked up on the story — to its credit, they referenced the blog, but certainly the fact that it was in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel gave the report more credibility than it deserved.

Oh, by the way, last I heard, Ned Yost was still the manager of the Brewers. Although by the time you read this, who knows? (Oops, there I go with the cruel thing again. And I thought watching That’s So Raven was a hard habit to break.)

Can bloggers be cruel? Well, what’s horrifying cruel to one person is simply irreverent to another, but I think the safe answer to that question is yes. But cruel discourse is hardly limited to bloggers. Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Ann Coulter, Don Imus, and countless others have made a fine living being cruel without relying solely on a blog to transmit their often hateful or offensive messages.

But let’s go with the assertion that at the very least blogs are by and large not very respectful of their subjects. While certainly lines need to be drawn, is that such a bad thing? Let’s stick with sports blogs for a second. We live in a time where Jimmy Kimmel can be censored on ESPN for simply telling jokes about athletes. Athletes who often make more money in a season than most fans will see in a lifetime. Certainly even outspoken ESPN, FOX, CBS, or ABC analysts and commentators have limits, either real or self-imposed, on what they can and can’t say about players and coaches lest they in any way jeopardize their network’s very profitable affiliations with the major sports leagues and as a result find themselves out of a job. I for one don’t mind hearing some uncensored and unfiltered opinions or learn of an incident that might otherwise have gone unreported, and that’s where blogs can play a valid role.

We’re in tough times financially in this country. Athletes and other entertainers shouldn’t be unfairly criticized just for being successful, but if Matt Leinart and Nick Lachey are dumb enough to use their power and influence to do beer bongs with college co-eds and be photographed doing it, then I have no sympathy for them if those pictures are then published on someone’s blog. Athletes and entertainers are revered — usually far too highly — in this country, and I frankly have little issue with some of their — as long as innocent bystanders like their spouses and children are left alone — embarrassing moments being uploaded to a blog or broadcast on a show like TMZ.

“Badger Blogger”‘s wanna-be scoop on the supposed firing of Ned Yost gets into a different area for which blogs deserve to be heavily criticized. Just because blogging has made it possible to pretty much report anything without fear of reprisals does not make it OK to do so. (Jeez, I sound like my parents . . . “Just because Eric’s parents took him to Porky‘s, doesn’t mean it’s OK and doesn’t mean we will take you.”) Reporting erroneous or unchecked information as fact is as reprehensible on blogs as it would be in any print or broadcast media. I don’t know who “Badger Blogger” is, but his blog is not one that I would visit after this incident.

You might say, eh, so some moron writes something on a blog and some other morons were dumb enough to believe it. Shouldn’t people be smart enough not to believe everything they read, especially on the Internet? Well, I agree with that to a certain extent, but the bigger problem as it relates to journalism is that the instantaneousness of blogs specifically and Internet journalism in general means that journalists are under more pressure than ever to break stories without properly checking their facts. Witness the fallout from The Boston Herald‘s erroneous story on Spygate. I don’t forgive John Tomase for reporting what turned out to be untrue, but I understand the professional pressure that led him to do so. I also don’t forgive the Journal-Sentinel for giving “Badger Blogger” more credibility, but I understand the fear of dropping the bag on a big story.

My simple hope for this blog, which I’ve been writing since January 10, 2006, as well as for my entertainment blog over on mymadisontv.com and for my weekly appearances on C3K Live, is that it be entertaining. And if I do make an error in judgment in one of my posts, that it be a simple lapse of good taste. If I have to succumb to one of the cliches of bloggers, I’d rather be offensive than be a liar.

Mom Helps Me Writes The Blog
May 12, 2008

In honor of Mother’s Day (really, every day should be Mother’s Day. What’s wrong with you, you miserable sod? You need an excuse to pick up the phone and call your mother? She’s been worried sick about you.), I thought I would have my mom help me write today’s blog. So I called her at her palatial estate in Burnsville, Minnesota. Here’s a transcript:

Me: Hey, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Mom: Which child of mine is this? The one that takes me on whirlwind trips to exotic locales or the one that hits me up for babysitting?

Me: Mom, I’m sorry that I don’t work for a major commercial airline like my sister. But I hope you had a good time in Las Vegas yesterday.

Mom: Did you know that they changed the name of the Barbary Coast to Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon? What’s next? Will the Bellagio become JD’s Honky Tonk?

Me: I’m sorry, I know you have a fondness for the Barbary Coast ever since you scored big on the Jeff Foxworthy slot machine there. Hey, listen, do you mind if I get some of your takes for my sports blog? I thought it’d be fun, since it’s Mother’s Day and all.

Mom: You still write that thing? Didn’t CBS shut it down last year?

Me: Mom, I can’t talk about that. Everything’s fine. So, what do you think about the NBA Playoffs? They’ve been great so far, huh?

Mom: Well, you know I can’t watch the NBA that much.

Me: Why’s that?

Mom: Oh, all those tattoos those men have! (Takes a slug from a can of Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi.) Have you seen them? Back in my day, you got a simple heart or butterfly or skull and daggers or something like that and that was it. You know, we kept it simple.

Me: Do you have a skull and daggers tattoo?

Mom: But these boys today have like the Gettysburg Address written on them or something. It’s disgusting. Either that or they’ve got stuff all over their necks. I wouldn’t let anyone put a tattoo on my neck. One slip of that tattoo needle there and your jugular’s slit.

Me: Well, mom, sorry that you can’t get past a little self-expression. It’s too bad, because you’re missing some great games, especially in the Western Conference. But no one can win on the road. Not even the almighty Celtics.

Mom: Don’t get me started on the Celtics. Your father refuses to root for them since that awful Kevin McHale gave them Kevin Garnett.

Me: Well, I’m sure they miss Dad’s support. Anyway, I’m convinced Boston’s going to choke. If not in this series, then certainly against Detroit. Garnett can’t win the big one. In the West, I’m not so sure that San Antonio’s not going to steal game five in New Orleans and eventually win a series that they started 0-2 in. They’ve got the inexperienced Hornets doubting themselves now. The Spurs no doubt sense a little blood in the New Orleans water.

Mom: Blood in the water? I’ve got blood in my . . .

Me: Mom, please. Stay with me. The Jazz, meanwhile, are just delaying an inevitable Lakers win. The Jazz always let me down in situations like this. Back in the day, I used to always root for Stockon, Malone, Jeff Hornacek, even Greg Ostertag. And they never sealed the deal. This team certainly isn’t as good as the one those guys were on.

Mom: So you like the Lakers and Pistons?

Me: If I had to make a prediction now, I would say  Spurs and Pistons. But certainly Boston and Los Angeles is the match-up that everyone’s hoping for. The TV ratings would be good for that series.

Mom: Speaking of TV, can you believe that nasty Parvati won over that nice Amanda? Parvati didn’t win any challenges! What were those idiots on the jury thinking?

Me: Agreed. But maybe Amanda shouldn’t have been such a sap at tribal council. Nobody respects a player who cries so much and then refuses to give any reasons why people should vote for her.

Mom: And then have you seen this commercial for The Ladders, some snooty Web site that caters to rich folks with snooty jobs looking to get even snootier jobs to make them even richer? It starts off with a tennis player getting attacked on the court! Hasn’t anyone who screened this ad heard of Monica Seles?

Me: Again, I have to agree. I was sort of offended by it and I don’t get offended by much.

Mom: Oh, that reminds me of the time you were fourteen and your father and I came home to find you watching Eddie Murphy: Delirious. Holy moley . . .

Me: Mom, let’s not go there right now. What about the Brewers?

Mom: The Brewers? They’re done.

Me: Really? Just like that, you’re writing them off so early in the season.

Mom: Look, they stink. They can’t hit. Ryan Braun is coming on a little bit, but Bill Hall? Rickie Weeks? And Mike Cameron’s down to like .174. They’re harder to watch than your appearances on C3K Live.

Me: Mom, I get good reaction to my weekly appearances on Channel 3000’s live talk show hosted by Dan Smith. Every Monday at 8 AM Central Standard Time.

Mom: Whatever. And the pitching is even worse. Thank goodness Jeff Suppan had a good game on Sunday. But this closer-by-committee crap. That’s garbage. Either you have a closer or you don’t. And the Brewers don’t. And they might not have one for the rest of the season. You can’t just take a middle reliever and make him a closer. It’s a different mindset. It’s like turning on Becker and trying to pretend really hard that it’s Cheers. Doesn’t work. 

Me: Thanks for the analogy there, Mom. Hasn’t Becker been off the air for like five years? Try to stay current.

Mom: Well, you should talk. When was the last time you went to a movie that wasn’t a cartoon?

Me: Good point. Anyway, what else you got?

Mom: Not much. You know that things are slow in the sports world when ESPN is running lacrosse scores on their ticker. Oh, what do you think of Cedric Benson?

Me: The guy’s a bum. He’s been a worthless player and he’s had drug and alcohol charges brought up against him before. He’ll be out of the league next year at this time.

Mom: What about Koren Robinson?

Me: Better player but still a bum. Some team needing receivers might pick him up. But like the Packers, they’ll end up regretting it.

Mom: What about the Minnesota Twins? Can they stay in first place?

Me: Mom, you know I write for a Madison, Wisconsin, Web site. Not everyone cares about the Twins. But for the record, I thought they’d end the year in third place in the AL Central. I also thought the Brewers would win the NL Central. I still think I’m right about the Twins. Feeling much less confident about Milwaukee.

Mom: Well, thanks for calling, son. I’ve got to get to the airport now. Your sister is taking me to Tokyo Disney for the week. She says the Jungle Cruise there puts the Orlando one to shame.

Me: Well, they don’t have the Country Bear Jamboree there.

Mom: Who cares? Those computer bears give me the creeps. Like that Josh Groban.

Me: Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Mom: Wait a second. I cut out an article about hair restoration and sent it to you. Did you get it?

Me: Bye, mom.

 

 

 

Report: Miley Cyrus ‘Embarrassed’ By Photo, Brewers
May 4, 2008

The Brewers made one of their smartest, if most predictable, moves of the season last Friday when they cut struggling reliever Derrick Turnbow from their roster. In eight appearances this season, Turnbow was 0-1 with a 15.63 earned run average. He surrendered 12 hits, 13 walks, and 11 runs in just 6 1/3 innings, and opponents batted a whopping .414 against him. Watching Turnbow pitch in 2008 had become the year’s second most cringe-inducing experience, just after watching Paula Abdul meander incoherently on American Idol.

Like American Idol‘s ratings, the outlook for the Milwaukee Brewers has fallen off sharply.

Thought by many (including me) to be the favorites to win the NL Central, the Brewers are just a notch above .500 after one month of play. And they’re moving in the wrong direction, with a record of 4-8 over the last two weeks. They’re in third place in their division, largely due to their losing record within the weak NL Central.

Even with the awful Turnbow gone, the Brewers’ pitching is about as distinguished as Dustin Diamond’s acting career. Now with the crushing news that Yovani Gallardo, their second-best starter, is likely out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, the 2-5 starters in Milwaukee’s rotation average a rotten 5.77 ERA. No one outside of Sheets has more than one victory. And except for Sheets, the Brewers’ rotation isn’t able to deliver quality starts, and the Brewers’ bullpen is becoming worse for the wear, a situation made worse by the fact the Brewers have played in more extra-inning games (seven) than any other team in the majors. And with one health scare already with Sheets, his starts have now become nerve-wracking stress tests as many fear that any pitch could be his last of the season.

The good thing about the pitching problems is they distract somewhat from the struggles that the Brewers have had at the plate this year. Teams stress patience early in the season as hitters work to find their grooves, but after a month of weak hitting, it’s definitely time for concern. The Brewers rank 25th in the major leagues in batting average and hits. While Ryan Braun has come alive of late, Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, and J.J. Hardy all continue to disappoint. Weeks and Hall are especially frustrating, as Weeks’s .197 average makes him one of the worst lead-off batters in the league, and Hall’s 29 strikeouts make him one of the worst chasers in the league. Both are richly deserving of the boos that have become more commonplace at Miller Park this year than at any time in the stadium’s short history.

It was hoped that the reinstatement of Mike Cameron would give the Brewers’ lineup a wake-up call, but after a monster first game, Cameron has gone a sorry two for his last sixteen with seven strikeouts. Perhaps Cameron has been sucked in by the Brewers’ offensive woes, that, like Jerry Seinfeld’s car odor, are capable of destroying everything in its path.

If the Milwaukee Brewers, a  team built to win now, don’t soon get rid of their own funkified odor that has been following them around most of this season, count the jobs of manager Ned Yost, hitting coach Jim Skaalen, and pitching coach Mike Maddux also in danger of being destroyed.