Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Guess There's Some Kind Of American Football Match Sunday

I just wanted to acknowledge the existence of the Super Bowl. It's not that we forgot, its just that in an effort not to take part in the over-hype, over-analysis, and over-nonsense of the least sports-related sporting event ever, we have attempted to avoid talking about the big game for the past 2 weeks.

If you are looking for some kind of pick I am not totally sure who will win. The only thing I can offer that will give an indication of my feelings about the outcome of the game is that I bet $1.50 on the Steelers to cover at -7.

Enjoy 2 hours of football and 4.5 hours of commercials and musical acts.

Weekend Video

Planning on betting on the Super Bowl? Better hope lady luck is on your side, like these folks.

Your Weekend Viewing Guide

It's Super Bowl weekend, but there are plenty other events you can watch. Here we go:
*Don't miss it


(20) Notre Dame @ (3) Pitt [NCAAB] 11AM- ESPN
Wisconsin @ Northwestern [NCAAB] 7 PM- BTN
Bulls @ Suns [NBA] 8PM- WGN
Hawks @ Sharks [NHL] 9:30 PM- CSN


Federer vs. Nadal [Aussie Open Final] 2:30 AM (live) 2:00 PM (replay)- ESPN2
Penn St. @ (9) Michigan St. [NCAAB] 11 AM- BTN
Iowa @ (19) Illinois [NCAAB] 1 PM- BTN*
Pittsburgh vs. Arizona [Supa Bowl] 5:28 PM- NBC*

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bacon Explosion: The BBQ Sausage Recipe of all Recipes

Top Ten Nominee sent me this little recipe. It is a must-have at all Super Bowl parties, along with at least two cardiologists and an EMT. Click this link for the full recipe, but here are the pictures of the Bacon Explosion in each stage of it's preparation. Mmmmm.

Just spread a little BBQ sauce on it at the end, and you're ready to go!

Bako is Back-o

The Cubs signed free agent catcher Paul Bako today. Bako was on the Cubs for the 2003 and 2004 seasons and made the trip to the NLCS where the Cubs...well, you know.

Since then, the catcher has been with a new team every year, his latest stop last season with the Reds. Bako will replace Blanco as the backup to Soto. Blanco appeared in 58 games last season and I would expect at least that from the left-hand hitting Bako.

It's another left handed bat replacing a right handed bat in an off-season where southpaws have been a major focus. So...yeah, new backup catcher. Wooooo!!!!!

All I Goat For Christmas

There have been many attempts to reverse the curses that supposedly plague the Cubs. From the huge ceremony to blow up the Bartman ball to having a priest bless the Cubs dugout (both failed, in case you were curious), there have been numerous attempts to end the curse in recent years. As is usually true, it appears comic books have found the best resolution to the problem of the curse:

In issue No. 250 of DC Comics’ “Hellblazer,” sorcerer-for-hire John Constantine takes on the Cubs curse—and fights a hulking, red goat demon in the Billy Goat Tavern below Michigan Avenue.

The tale, “All I Goat for Christmas,” is by comic book scribe Brian Azzarello, best known for his “100 Bullets” series. I’m a casual Billy Goat patron, and I’ve known Azzarello socially after writing an introduction for one of his “100 Bullets” collections. The pairing of Azzarello and the curse seemed fateful.

Sounds like a winner. Let's be honest though, as good as Constantine is, can we all agree Mark DeRosa could definitely kick that red goat demon's ass?

Just to clear something up, I don't believe in the "Curse". I think the Cubs woes were the fault of poor ownership and management for many years. In recent years they have begun to spend money, finally, and are having some measure of success. Losing in the first round of the playoffs is not a curse, however. If the Cubs continue to run the team in the professional and successful manner it has been run in recent years, they will break through eventually.

Yeah, but When do They Play the Second Half?

Oh, you mean that's it? 36 points was all Illinois could muster for the entire game? Did everyone foul out before halftime?

What an awful game just when things were looking great for Illinois basketball. The loss ends a 20 game winning streak over Minnesota. I could cite disgusting numbers for Illinois players for hours, so suffice it to say that they played like hot garbage. Illinois scored 16 points in the first half, and the 36 point total was the lowest for the Illini in 24 years.

Remember those keys to the game? Outplay their big men, contain Westbrook, and limit turnovers? The Illini limited the turnovers to nine, but failed miserably in the other two departments. Westbrook led all scorers with 15 points, while Sampson and Iverson outscored Tisdale and Davis 16-11 and the Gophers dominated the boards 40-26. I guess it's not too hard to get out-rebounded badly when you miss 36 of 51 shots.

Whew, okay that's out of the system. The Illini need to forget this game. They need to dig a deep hole, dig a few more feet just to be safe, then throw the damn thing down there after lighting it on fire. There is no time to feel sorry for yourself or even doubt yourself in the Big Ten. Take care of business Sunday at Assembly Hall against Iowa, then get ready for another road test at Madison next week.

A solid win over Iowa might keep the Illini ranked. Tune in before the Super Bowl Sunday when hopefully the real Illini team shows up to take down the Hawkeyes.

Hyped Up Showdown Between Blago and Illinois Senate Marred By Poor Sportsmanship; Senate Runs Up Score 59-0

In a contest reminiscent of a mid-90s Nebraska football game, the Illinois Senate ran up the score yesterday evening, voting to convict Blago 59-0. Good riddance jackass!

Oh and one last thank you to ex-Governor Blagojevich for adding a third thing for Chicago to be known for. Al Capone and Michael Jordan, say hello to Rod's terrible, terrible hair.

Today's Links--Illini Take a Huge Step Backwards Edition

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Look at NFL Overtime

There are a few rules in every sport that flat out suck. One such rule in the NFL, and probably my least favorite, is overtime. The advantage for the team that wins the coin toss is huge. We saw the Chargers display this advantage as they knocked the Colts out of the playoffs in overtime this year, while the Colts weren't allowed to touch the ball in the deciding period.

So what is the solution? I have always thought the college system was better, but many people say that it wouldn't fit in the NFL unless the starting position of the 25 yard line was moved way back, at which point it'd take a lot of time to finish OT. Fair enough. Just because college overtime wouldn't work doesn't change the fact that the NFL system needs to go. You know your system sucks when the team that wins the coin toss celebrates. A coin toss should not elicit celebration, but if you win this one, you're going to jump for joy because unless your coach takes the wind, you're probably going to win the game.

Here is my proposition...well, it's not mine actually, I found the article at Slate, via MGoBlog. The author proposes an auction system to decide who gets the ball first. What is auctioned you ask? Field position. Here is how it works:

The auctioneer (the ref) will start at say, the 50 yard line, then the coaches play a little "name that tune" and decide how far back they would take the ball and score. This way, both teams get a chance to have the ball first if they think they can knock it in from their own 25 or so. After the ballsiest coach has made himself known, his team gets the ball and a regular NFL overtime starts.

There is a little more talk of strategy in the article, but my question is: how is this not more fair than the current system? Apparently this idea was floated a while back and never took hold, despite some support. Someone is going to have to do a lot of convincing to persuade me that this isn't a great system to decide who gets the ball first in overtime.

Rice Mascot will not Tolerate Incompetence

Rice and Tulane played last night (you mean you didn't know that?) and after the Rice mascot disagreed with a call, he decided to protest.

First, you see the mascot arguing with the official and refusing to move from the baseline. The good part comes about 1:35 into the video where you can see the Owl go a little Zidane on the official. This would be much cooler if the Texas mascot did it.

Illinois hits the Road

Illinois has enjoyed a lot of success at home this season, to the tune of an eight game winning streak at Assembly Hall. Starting tonight, the Illini will be playing four of six on the road and it's time to show they deserve to stay in the top 25.

People will point out that Illinois hasn't won on the road in about a month, but the Illini haven't exactly had a ton of chances to get wins on the road. That stretch has been two games. As for tonight, if they could choose a road game (other than Indiana), Minnesota would be the one. Illinois has a 20 game winning streak against the Gophers, eight of those on the road.

However, these aren't your older brother's Golden Gophers. Tubby Smith's squad has home wins against Louisville, Ohio State, and a blowout of Penn State. So what are the keys to beating the Gophers?

First, Illinois has to dominate inside. Minnesota has decent bigs, but Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale should be able to win this battle. Secondly, the Illini need to slow down Lawrence Westbrook. The Minnesota guard isn't easy to, well...guard. He's very quick and can get to the basket, but can also hit the three if you give him space. Finally, Illinois need to take care of the ball. The first two goals shouldn't be too hard to acheive; Illinois has better big men and plays great defense, so turnovers are their biggest fear.

Game is on tonight, 8PM on the Big Ten Network.

Noah's Crazy Shooting Form Explained

Have you ever noticed that Noah shoots a sort of side-spinning shot when he is outside of 5 feet? It's tough to miss. You may have thought that it was just his "funky" style, and that wouldn't be a terrible assumption. It would be wrong however. According to his father, former tennis star Yannick Noah, there is a different explanation:
Yannick had told the New York broadcasters an interesting story I hadn't heard before about Joakim, that he ended up shooting that odd sideways rotation shot because when he was small, he insisted on only shooting threes. I knew the three would eventually ruin young basketball players. But young Joakim couldn't reach the rim. So he put both hands around the ball and spun it up. And never stopped.
So no one in the next 20 years told him that was bad form and tried to teach him how to shoot the correct way? Noah is such a moron all the time sometimes all the time.

Hawks Start Long Roadie with a Win

Adam Burish got things started early for the Blackhawks and Chicago managed to hold off the Ducks for a 3-2 win. The victory comes in the first game back from the all-star break and the opener of an eight game road trip.

After losing three of four going into the break, the Hawks really needed a good start going into the second half. A major difference in this one was the presence of Duncan Keith. Keith didn't play his best game; he was out of position and took some unnecessary risks on some plays that I saw, but he made a beautiful play on the game winning goal.

It was a 2-1 Hawks lead in the second when Keith took a penalty. As he came out of the box, the Hawks were just breaking out after a huge save by Khabibulin and Patrick Sharp fired a cross ice pass to Keith who looked to be in great position for a shot. The Ducks' goaltender Jonas Hiller thought the shot was coming, but Keith dropped it to Toews for the one-timer and the captain connected.

The Ducks added a shorthanded goal late in the second to make it 3-2, but Khabibulin was too much in the third period. Actually, he was fantasic the entire game, stopping 36 shots. Anaheim actually carried the play most of the time with big hits and 11 more shots than Chicago. However, Burish, Kane, and Toews buried their chances and Bulin did the rest.

I know I have said this before, but this was the goalie the Hawks thought they were getting a few years ago. Sure, there wasn't much defense in front of him back then, but last night, unlike a few years ago, Khabibulin was able to carry his team to a big win. The road trip, which will be the longest for an NHL team this year, continues tonight against the L.A. Kings.

Touche, Cardinals Fans, Touche

As much as I hate the Cards and their fans, I have to give them props for this little message outside Busch Stadium:

I don't know if this will make up for their AA pitching staff, but respect for the effort. The first blow has been struck. Here's our response: A better team on paper and on the field. Keep writing in snow Cardinals fans, we'll see you in the spring.

Today's Links

  • Hey it's already Thursday of Super Bowl week! Here is the highlight from media day.
  • Chris Berman is receiving the Pat Summerall Award for demonstrating, get this: character, integrity, and leadership. Like in the video.
  • Stormin' Norman tried putting a voodoo curse on Eric Gordon before the game last night. Not sure if it worked, but the Bulls still beat up the Clippers to start their road trip.
  • Blackhawks also start their road trip off with a win, besting the Ducks 3-2. Take that Charlie Conway!
  • Derrick Rose will lead the Rookies against the Sophomores on All-Star Weekend. D-Wade will coach Rooks and Dwight Howard will run the Sophomores, while Lebron James will provide color commentary for the game. Oh sure, because he's black?!!
  • The White Sox are making an Obama-themed hat, and the invite to throw out the first pitch stands. Make as many hats as you want, the Secret Service is not allowing an acceptance to that invitation.
  • Soriano says he will hit anywhere in the lineup. Why do I feel like he misunderstood and really thought he was confirming that he would try to hit anything?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cubs Acquire Heilman

The Cubs traded newly acquired pitcher Garrett Olson and infielder Ronny Cedeno to the Mariners for pitcher Aaron Heilman.

Heilman, age 30, has spent his entire major league career with the New York Mets. He appeared in 78 games last year, all in relief. Heilman's career ERA is 4.24 after posting a 5.21 mark last season. However, the three years before that saw ERAs of 3.04, 3.62, and 3.17.

Heilman is expected to challenge Marshall for the fifth spot in the rotation and at the very worst provide dependable relief.

The right-hander spent his college days at Notre Dame, where he apparently caught Hendry's eye.

Does this end speculation about getting Jake Peavy? Well, nothing will ever end speculation, but it certainly looks unlikely since Olson was thought to be a piece in that vexing puzzle.

It's not especially tough to see Ronny Cedeno go, but he showed some good things last year and it would have been nice to see him succeed in Chicago. Plus, isn't he better than Aaron Miles anyway?

Chicago Bears Legends

Since it's the offseason for the Bears, all we hear about are the Bears deficiencies at essentially every position and crazy trade, free agent, and draft theories on how to fix the problems. Well here is a little change of pace. Here is a list of some of the craziest games the Bears have been a part of. A lot of these may be more myth than fact, but they are intriguing nonetheless. I found these on Wikipedia, so here goes:
The Staley Swindle (December 4, 1921, Buffalo All-Americans vs. Chicago Staleys): The Staleys, having won every game of their 1921 season (partially by refusing to play any road games) except their Thanksgiving game against the then-undefeated All-Americans (who, other than their match against Chicago, also had played all of their games at home), challenged the All-Americans to a rematch. Buffalo, having already scheduled their last game for December 3, agreed on the condition that it be considered a "post-season" exhibition match and not be counted in the standings. When Chicago won the rematch 10-7, Staleys owner George Halas persuaded the league to count the game in the standings by playing two more games, in an effort to discredit the All-Americans' "post-season" claim and to bring their win percentage to the same as the All-Americans. The league then instituted the first-ever tiebreaker for the championship (a now discontinued rule stating that a rematch counts more than a first matchup) and handing the championship to Chicago. The "Staley Swindle" name is primarily used by Buffalo sports fans.

First Ever Indoor Playoff Game (December 18 Portsmouth Spartans vs. Chicago Bears): Due to severe blizzards and sub-zero wind chill, the first ever NFL playoff game was moved indoors to Chicago Stadium. Because of the size of the arena, several rules were adapted for the game, including an 80-yard long field. The Bears defeated the Spartans 9-0.

The Sneakers Game (December 9, 1934, Chicago Bears vs. New York Giants, NFL Championship game): The game was played at the Polo Grounds in frigid weather on a frozen field. At halftime, New York coach Steve Owen provided his team with basketball shoes for better traction. Gliding on the ice with the sneakers, the Giants scored 27 points in 10 minutes during the fourth quarter, and ended up beating the undefeated Bears 30-13.

The Most One-Sided Victory in NFL History (December 8, 1940, Chicago Bears vs. Washington Redskins, 1940 NFL Championship Game): Sparked by a comment made by Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who had said three weeks earlier that the Bears were crybabies and quitters when the going got tough, Chicago crushed Washington, 73-0. This game currently stands as the most onesided victory in NFL history.

The Fog Bowl (December 31, 1988, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears, NFC Divisional Playoff Game): A heavy, dense fog rolled over the stadium (Soldier Field) during the second quarter, cutting visibility to about 15-20 yards for the rest of the game. The fog was so thick that TV and radio announcers had trouble seeing what was happening on the field. The Bears ended up winning 20-12.

The Instant Replay Game (November 5, 1989, Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers): On the final play of the game, Green Bay quarterback Don "Magic" Majkowski rifled a desperation pass into the endzone which was caught by receiver Sterling Sharpe, a TD that with the extra point would give the Packers a 14-13 victory. A penalty flag was down, and it charged that Majkowski had thrown an illegal pass after he stepped over the line of scrimmage. After review, the play was ultimately ruled a touchdown for Green Bay. The Bears organization protested, and to this day, it is marked in their media guide as "The Instant Replay Game."

My personal favorite? The Staley Swindle. My least favorite? The Instant Replay Game. There was no allowance in the rule book for refs to use instant replay; what the hell was that?

Five Chicago Athletes that could Challenge the Bulls

So the Bulls have been pretty awful this season and there is no way around that. I saw that Lebron commercial where he suits up for the Browns and it got me thinking: are there five athletes in Chicago that could give the Bulls a run for their money?

Okay, there aren't, but let's try like hell to find a suitable starting five. We'll only deal with the other three major sports, so if there is a 7'4" roller derby star out there, we're out of luck.

Center: Kellen Davis (TE, Bears)

I figure we should start out with the big men, because just like the NBA, they are hard to come by. The biggest man I came across was Adam Russell, a 6'8" reliever for the Sox. I think we're going to look to the Bears for our center though. The candidates are Israel Idonije (6-7, 295) and Kellen Davis (6-7, 262). I'm going to go with the versatile Kellen Davis here. Davis played both DE and TE at Michigan State (basketball school!) and displayed an impressive 34" vertical jump at the combine. Plus, all he has to do is stop Noah and Thomas. Big deal.

Power Forward: Derrek Lee (1B, Cubs)

Okay, so we need a little more size at the PF spot and I think I'll go straight to Derrick Lee for this spot. Obviously undersized for a PF, but we know he plays great defense, right? Not to mention all of that crazy footwork at first base. I can see D Lee being the turn-around jumper of the glass kind of guy that this team needs. Plus, dealing with Big Z all the time will help when it comes to not being scared of Drew Gooden.

Small Forward: Jeff Samardzija (RP, Cubs)

At SF we need someone who can do a little bit of everything. Quick enough to get to the basket, but versatile enough to knock down shots. Also, he needs to be able to match up with Luol Deng. There's only one guy with the size and athleticism that comes to mind here and that's Jeff Samardzija. Jeff is 6'5" and showed he has the hops and quicks to keep up with Deng, from his football days at Notre Dame. Don't let that hair remind you too much of Adam Morrison, this kid can actually play!

Shooting Guard: Rex Grossman (QB, Bears)

Plain and simple, this guy needs to knock down the open shot. It shouldn't be hard to get open with the likes of Ben Gordon defending, so quickness isn't that big of a concern. I'm throwing around some of Chicago's shooters...Toews? Nah, too Canadian. Quentin has a cannon, but...Cannon! Hands down, it's the Sex Cannon. You know he'll gun it from everywhere. "Is that Kellen Davis with a solid post seal? Yep, but I bet I can jack up this three!" We need a slinger and there is only one man in this town with that kind of rep.

Point Guard: Matt Forte (RB, Bears)

This is very important, we need a floor general. Someone who can take care of the ball and maybe put the team on his back if need be. I like Patrick Kane's passing ability, but he's much too small and white; bad combo. Buehrle is the kind of leader and steady hand we need, but there is no chance he keeps up with Rose. To deal with the Bulls' amazing rookie, I'm going with a fellow Chicago rook, Matt Forte. At 6'2" and 216 we know he has the size and strength to slow down Rose. He's quick, with great vision, and don't almost all of the Bears' plays run through Forte already?

So I ended up with all Bears and Cubs, but I think it's a solid squad. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Is Jerry Reinsdorf Really A Robot Reading A Bible?

Have you ever looked at the Bulls logo upside down? Perhaps the Bulls management are really robot overlords, but what do they want from us? Only time will tell.

Yes, upside down the logo looks like a robot reading the bible on a bench. My guess as to the robot's intentions? Make millions of dollars off ticket sales, TV, and merchandise while forcing Chicagoans to suffer watching the likes of Tyrus Thomas, Larry Hughes, and Aaron Gray? Sure seems like it. Goddamn robots.

Today's Links

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cheerleading a Contact Sport

It's true. The Wisconsin Supreme Court said so today. The winning side formed a pyramid, which was toppled by a cheerleader in the newly formed position of "pep linebacker."

The last part isn't true at all, but the Court really did rule cheerleading was a contact sport and therefore schools and team members cannot be held liable for injuries occurring when accidents happen while cheering. So Bobby is off the hook for dropping Christie last weekend. That's why Bobby plays pep cornerback and not pep receiver.

From a legal standpoint it makes sense to classify cheerleading as a contact sport because accidents happen and Christie shouldn't be able to sue Bobby. The reason the decision is being posted here is simple. Make fun of cheerleading. Here are some quotes from the story via ESPN:

"The National Cheer Safety Foundation said the decision is the first of its kind in the nation."

Ah, the NCSF. It isn't known whether this helps their campaign for helmets on cheerleaders and for basketball games to be played on gymnastics mats.

"Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that two-thirds of the roughly 100 cases of "catastrophic" sports injuries among high school girls since 1982 have involved cheerleading."

Umm, wow? This hasn't led anyone to think "maybe we shouldn't throw these girls three stories into the air"? Maybe they should look at that helmet thing after all.

"The District 4 Court of Appeals ruled last year cheerleading doesn't qualify because there's no contact between opposing teams."

It'd be a lot cooler if it did. Just saying.

The Best Way To Have A Career Night? Play The Bulls Of Course!

It's no surprise to anyone watching that the Bulls have what might be the most porous defense in the NBA, but did you know that 5 players have set career highs against the Bulls and another 9 have set season highs. Here's a little walk down memory lane:

Career Highs:
Bargnani (TOR) - 31
Augustin (CHA) - 29
Horford (ATL) - 27
Varejao (CLE) - 26
Perkins (BOS) - 25

Season Highs:
Lebron (CLE) (Twice)
Johnson (ATL)
Carter (NJ)
Jefferson (MIN)
Gasol (LAL)
Outlaw (POR)
Jackson (GSW)
Bibby (ATL)
Gay (MEM)

That list is no joke people! Very few of these players are ones that went off on the perimeter. In general they are big men or slashers. Everyone is getting to the basket. The Bulls big men cannot defend the paint. We shouldn't call what the Bulls play "defense", we should just call it Swiss cheese.

That was Quick

The Big Ten Conference was the subject to ridicule around the time of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Then the Big Ten came within a few points of winning the challenge and people thought the conference might be stronger than it was first believed to be. Then people realized that Michigan beat Duke and UCLA, Minnesota beat Louisville, Michigan State beat Texas, and other teams earned impressive wins.

Suddenly the Big Ten was a conference to be feared. ESPN's "Bracketologist" Joe Lunardi had seven Big Ten teams in the tournament last week; a total second to only the Big East. So the other day when Big Ten Network announcers said “Big 10 basketball is right up there … arguably, could be the best conference in basketball right now,” you can't just call them wrong. Right?

Well the Big Lead laughed at them, then gave their hard sell for why the Big Ten wasn't that good. First, how do you laugh the validity right out of this point? Not only did the announcer qualify his statement as pointing out that one could make an argument for the Big Ten, he was redundant about it. He tried to point something out twice that the Big Lead either missed, or brushed over. There are arguments for the Big Ten as the best conference.

Now, I don't agree with these arguments, but they're out there. To me, the Big East is the best conference in basketball this year, with the ACC and Big Ten coming in right behind it. It was wrong to laugh at the argument right off the bat, considering the announcer obviously wasn't saying the Big Ten was the best.

Secondly, we have the case made by the Big Lead as to why the Big Ten isn't that good. I'm not going to rehash it much, but suffice it to say there are seven main points and they all have to deal with the teams' records within the conference. When the post ends after these seven points I am lost and confused.

So the Big Ten is mediocre because when they play each other they come out of it with even records? So if the Celtics, Lakers, Cavs, and Magic were to play each other all year and came out with approximately the same records, they would be just okay? Well, that's an extreme case, but what I'm saying is, how does this mean they aren't very good?

Seems to me that if MSU, Michigan, Minnesota, and others all had impressive non-conference wins (some on the road) and the conference holds the #1 strength of schedule and the #2 RPI rating, then they are pretty damn good. And if these teams that had great pre-conference records and are struggling against other teams in the conference, then I'd say those other teams are pretty damn good too.

I know it's fun to beat up on the Big Ten. Actually, I'm not sure why it's fun, but I just assume it is because so many people love to. Anyway, the Big Ten went from mediocre to great pretty fast this season; I'm just saying maybe we should wait a little while before yanking them back down with the likes of the SEC, Pac-10, and Big 12. Is it homerism when an announcer on the Big Ten Network says the Big Ten is arguably maybe one of the best conferences in basketball? Well...maybe, but I wouldn't laugh at the idea that he may be onto something. Was this post homerism by me? Absolutely.

**Update** Sparty & Friends offer their take on the subject.

People I Hate

I was originally going to name this post "A Few People Every Chicago Sports Fan Should Hate", but then StevieY pointed out to me that I shouldn't attribute my personal hate list to all Chicago sports fans. Thus, here is my personal sports hate list. All of these people should be enemies of Chicago sports fans, but you can decide who you hate. This list is in no particular order (except Bruce Pearl, who is by far the worst):

Bruce Pearl: I hate this guy more than anyone else on this list. When his face flashes on the TV screen or his name comes up in conversation, I usually react immediately by saying "F#$% that guy!". Why, you ask? Well its a long story, but I'll give you the short of it here. In the late 1980s, Pearl, an assistant at Iowa, and Jimmy Collins, an assistant at Illinois, were both pursuing a hot recruit named Deon Thomas. At some point Thomas committed to Illinois. Pearl lost, end of story, right? Wrong. Pearl proceeded to call Thomas and ask if he had received inappropriate gifts from University of Illinois in order to commit. He recorded that call. Thomas indicated he had received those things (it's still debatable whether he admitted anything). A subsequent NCAA investigation found that the allegations were completely false. Thomas passed a lie detector test regarding the issue. The problem, however, is that the investigation uncovered a bunch of other minor violations that resulted in heavy fines and sanctions on Illinois recruiting. There is speculation that when Henson retired as Illinois' coach, Collins career had been stained by the scandal and that is why he was not named the new coach. When Collins went to the Horizon League to coach UIC, Pearl coached for the rival University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Collins refused to shake Pearl's hand after any of the games between the two teams. He is the scum of the earth. When Thomas was asked about forgiving Pearl, he was quoted as saying: "It's hard to forgive a snake." This man deserves to be eliminated from the game permanently for his shady actions. If you see him on the street, flick him off for me please. Thanks.

Eric Gordon: Ahh, more shady college basketball recruiting enemies. This spot honorarily goes to Kelvin Sampson, but let's focus on Gordon for now. After committing to Illinois, Sampson texted Gordon until his cell phone literally exploded. Gordon finally agreed to go to Indiana after Sampson promised to stop texting him. He was one of the top recruits in the country and was leading IU to a great season until Sampson's shadiness caught up with him and the program collapsed in on itself. Illinois relied on that recruit and completely altered their recruiting strategy in reliance on Gordon's guarantee. Shame on him and his parents for teaching him that his word didn't matter. Shame on the whole Indiana basketball program for bringing in a coach that was a known cheater.
Bad Boy Pistons of the Late 1980s: The Jordan Rules were shady. For those that don't know, Chuck Daly was the coach of the Pistons in this era. In an effort to stop the unstoppable force that was Michael Jordan, Daly adopted a strategy he called "The Jordan Rules", where he told his team to foul Jordan as much and as hard as they could until he weakened and got frustrated. Eventually Jordan was able to overcome this strategy. The Pistons took that the way they took everything: with class.

Tony LaRussa: The Cardinals themselves are just a team, it's their fans and their coach that are so bothersome. No fans are worse than Cardinals fans. They have an inflated sense of importance based entirely on their manager's luck. Yeah, luck. Tony LaRussa, inventor of the "bat the pitcher 8th" strategy, is a lucky man. His teams have managed to have success despite a complete lack of strategy, leadership, and talent. St. Louis is an afterthought, Cardinals fans. Just so you know, your city hasn't been relevant since the late 1800s and no amount of LaRussa luck will ever change that.

Brett Favre: Well well well. 3 years ago I would have felt a little nervous putting him on the list. Not because I didn't hate him, but mostly because any Packers fan could just say I was jealous and I would have a hard time proving otherwise. Not anymore. This guy has shown his true colors. A self-centered douchebag, Favre has proven to be the complete ass-hat we all thought he was by retiring, returning, re-retiring, re-returning, etc. Looks like the saga will continue into 2009. The media's love for the all-time interception leader is baffling as well, and no amount of slurping on him by John Madden and Peter King will change my mind that this guy is overrated and a shitty human being.

The 1969 Mets: I wasn't alive for the 1969 season, but my childhood was peppered with stories of the great 1969 Cubs. 4 future hall of famers were on that team. Williams, Banks, Jenkins and Santo (he should be in the hall and you know it). This team was better than the 2008 team we all just watched choke against the D-Bags. They were heavy favorites to win the NL and go on to the World Series. But the "Miracle Mets" had other things in mind. The Cubs were leading the Mets on September 2 by 12.5 games. 12.5 games. Insurmountable one would think. After a 4-game losing streak, the Cubs travelled to Shea Stadium, where they lost a doubleheader. In the second game, a black cat came onto the field, ran around Santo in the on-deck circle, then stared at Durocher in the Cubs dugout. The Mets continued to win and the Cubs continued to lose. The Cubs ended up losing the pennant by 8 games. 8! F#$% the Miracle Mets.

Bill Wirtz: It has been well-documented on this site that I know little about and care little for the game of hockey. I barely paid attention to the Hawks the last 15 years. The one thing I knew was that Bill Wirtz was the worst owner in all of sports in the modern era. No one will even argue with that. He refused to spend any money, created an extremely non-fan friendly atmosphere, and basically killed hockey in Chicago. Evidence of how bad he was? Literally the day he died, the Hawks began to win and almost made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

Steve Bartman: It's not fair to blame Bartman for what happened to the Cubs in 2003. I mean I dislike the guy, don't get me wrong. What he represents for me and an entire new generation of Cubs fans, however, is detestable. As a Cubs fan in my early 20s, I had heard about how the Cubs were supposedly "cursed" by crazy circumstances over the last century and how they would never win a championship. In my experience, the Cubs were just bad to mediocre. There were no curses, just an average team muddling along through season after season. Then 2003 happened. The curse all of a sudden became a very real thing for young Cubs fans, not just a mythical story our fathers told us growing up. It almost makes me want to cry.

Honorable Mention: Ben Wallace, Larry Hughes, Mike Illitch, Dusty Baker, Mike McCaskey, Brock-for-Broglio, Pat Riley(Circa 1990s),Corey Patterson, Ray Nietschke, Eddy Curry.

While writing this post, I went from boiling blood anger to near-tears sadness. If none of these people were to exist, my life would be so much better. If anyone has any others to add that I forgot, please feel free to add them in the comments.

In Honor of Mark DeRosa

Beloved by all Cubs fans, here is a cartoon that summarizes what DeRosa meant to all of us:

Today's Links

  • McDonough says the timing is right to hold the NHL All-Star Game in Chicago. Agreed.
  • Hey, it's Super Bowl week! Here's a little on the big game with an interesting point about the second possession of the game.
  • The Big Ten is overrated in basketball so says The Big Lead. More on this later.
  • There was some ugly behavior at the end of the Michigan-Michigan State hockey game Saturday night. More video with UM's student section reaction about one minute in.
  • Greg Oden turns 21, says he can't wait until someone doesn't recognize him and cards him. Yeah Greg, it's because they know who you are that their "ID if under 30" policy is a little lax with you.
  • The Cubs have sued Under Armour for allegedly reneging on a sponsorship deal. Does this mean no more ads on the outfield wall?
  • Illinois is ranked 19th in the AP, 20th in the Coaches' Poll and they continue to confound expectations.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Vinny Del Negro May Be On The Way Out, And He May Have Company

Peter Vecsey of the New York Post has "sources" that indicate VDN may not be the Bulls coach much longer. They also think Pax's days could be numbered (Thanks to Zoner for finding this and getting my hopes up):

Chicago's correspondents get the distinct feeling Vinny Del Negro may be the NBA's eighth head coach to get vaporized. I'm hearing Bulls managing partner Jerry Reinsdorf may soon varnish GM John Paxson. Toronto ended a seven-game slide Friday with a convincing, 20-point win at Chicago. Far be it from me to suggest the closing moments were uneventful, but Oprah took her second-half combo meal to go.
I'm not sure what it means to "varnish" someone, but it doesn't sound positive. I know I'm reaching here, being as that I'm not sure who these Chicago correspondents are or if they even exist, but God I hope it's true. Watching the Bulls shit the bed last night against the Timberwolves was just painful. Out of about 10-15 timeouts and first plays of quarters, the Bulls ran half the plays to Deng for a contested 20 footer and the other half to Rose for him to dribble around into triple teams and get a bad look. is still available...

Illinois Downs Wisconsin

Make it eight straight at home. Five game losing streak to Wisconsin? Over. There's a different streak involved here and that is the four straight games UW has dropped in Big Ten play. The Illini were ranked 24th coming into the game and after an impressive week, they're sure to move up.

It's all about the numbers in college basketball and it's hard not to be excited about the ones associated with Illinois basketball this season. After a season to forget last year, the Illini are 17-3. 17 and 3!

Demetri McCamey continued his great play with 25 points and Mike Davis helped out with 10. McCamey also had seven assists and Davis had 8 boards. Aside from McCamey's great night, it was another example of Illinois spreading the scoring around and playing great team defense.

Illinois will try and continue their success as they hit the road for a Thursday night game against Minnesota. If the Illini can win up at the Barn, they'll be a virtual lock for the tournament barring an outbreak of some kind of debilitating illness...although something tells me Tisdale would still know what to do.

Kane and Toews get a Goal Each, but East Wins All-Star Game

A game that features over 100 shots and 22 goals in regulation is an offensive player's dream. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews fit that description nicely and both performed well in their first all-star appearances.

In a game that victimizes goalies and defensemen, Brian Campbell was able to add an assist to the gaudy statistics in Sunday night's event. Campbell, Toews, and Kane all started for the Western Conference, but the East was able to pull the game out on penalty shots when Alexander Ovechkin netted the winner after a shifty move.

With no hitting in the game, we got to see some amazing passing and some moves that prompted me to rewind on the DVR. Evgeni Malkin had one of the moves of the night and it didn't even result in a goal. The Pittsburgh forward took a pass on the right side and tried a spinning between the legs shot that should have counted for a goal regardless of whether it went in.

As for Kane and Toews, the young Hawks both had goals that had chances to be game winners. Toews roofed a shot about two minutes into the third period to give the West a 10-9 lead that stood until Martin St. Louis evened the game about 10 minutes later. Then Kane scored on a breakaway with 4:41 to go for an 11-10 lead, but that advantage lasted just over a minute and the game headed to overtime and the eventual 2-1 loss in the shootout.

All in all a good showing from the Blackhawks in the game. Kane and Toews looked like they were feeling things out at the beginning, but once they got in the flow of the game they put on a show just like everyone else. Kane had an assist to go along with his goal. Hopefully the goal for Kane will help him break out of his scoring slump. This is likely the first of many experiences at the All-Star game and Kane and Toews are off to a good start.

The Hawks start a long road trip Wednesday night at Anaheim.

Your Morning Wake-Up Video: Tyrus Thomas Puts Nasty Dunk on Jermaine O'Neal

Thanks to Docksquad for finding this video. Yeah, umm, the Raptors are definitely going to need a timeout after that one:

Today's Links

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Your Weekend Viewing Guide

Well say goodbye to football for the next 7 months or so (besides the Super Bowl next week). There's a ton of great college basketball this weekend though, and who doesn't love the NHL All-Star game? Well, I've never seen it, but who ELSE doesn't love it? *Must see games.


11:00 a.m. - NCAAB Maryland at (2)Duke (ESPN)
1:00 p.m. - NCAAB Depaul at (10)Marquette (ESPN2)
2:30 p.m. - NCAAB (24) Memphis at Tennessee (CBS)
3:00 p.m. - NCAAB Wisconsin at (24)Illinois (ESPN)*
6:00 p.m. - NCAAB (3) Connecticut at (19)Notre Dame (ESPN)*


2:45 p.m. - NCAAB (7)Michigan St. at Ohio St. (ESPN)
5:00 p.m. - NHL West Allstars at East Allstars (VS)*
6:00 p.m. - NBA Chicago at Minnesota (WCIU)

Friday, January 23, 2009

What's Going on at the Aussie Open?

Well, besides tennis, there seem to be a lot of crazy things going on at the Australian Open this year. We'll show you in video form...

First, a ballboy gets hit in the face. This isn't too exciting, but fun to watch nonetheless.

Next, a fight breaks out and chairs are thrown all over the place. Much more awesome.

And finally, a streaker! Finally as in last on the list...not that I was hoping for a guy with no pants to get on camera. NTTAWWT.

Gambling Website Asks StevieY19 For Betting Advice Podcast, Listeners Lose Millions of Dollars

Earlier this week asked us to do a podcast about Illinois basketball, the road to March Madness, and college hoops in general. StevieY19 was brave enough to accept the challenge. We are very excited to present:

Steve from Not Qualified to Comment talking college hoops on!

Based on his college football picks, I wouldn't exactly bet on what he says, but at least you don't have to hear my nasally voice. Enjoy!

Is Private Ownership Good For The Cubs?

In the last 24 hours news has come out that the Tribune Company accepted the bid of the Ricketts family. This sale could have far-reaching consequences for the Cubs, but what seems most interesting is the differences between a public owner, like the Tribune, and a private owner, like Ricketts.

In Chicago, we have had mostly private owners except the Tribune and the Cubs. Reinsdorf and his ownership group with the White Sox and Bulls has had mixed results. There seems to be some kind of commitment to putting a winning product on the field/court there, though clearly old Jerry can be a stingy bastard at times.

The Halas/McCaskey family has owned the Bears since the beginning of time. They are a good example of what can happen when a family owns a team. Obviously Papa Bear Halas was committed to winning, but since Virginia McCaskey took over, it has been unclear what their goal is. Obviously profits are a major driving force, since it is a business. But was she really hiring the best personnel to make decisions regarding players and coaches? We all remember the Mike McCaskey fiasco, when she "hired" her son to run the team and he was just terrible. On the other hand there have been periods of prosperity under Virginia (high school class of 1938 by the way, I looked it up, she's an old lady).

The Tribune corporation on the other hand, was in it purely for profit. It was clear from the crummy teams they put on the field the last 20 years or so. In recent years things have changed. They hired competent individuals to run the teams operations (Hendry, MacPhail, McDonough, etc.). As a business, they had a vested interest in hiring the best people for the job, not just their family members.

So what does the future hold under the Ricketts regime? There is no way to tell, but we can only hope that they continue to hire competent people and spend money to put a good team on the field. Word is that massive renovations must be done to Wrigley Field. Also there is also the possibility that there will be a change in personnel, as happens when a new regime takes over. But if I hear anything about Ricketts' long lost cousin Joey taking Hendry's job, I will be the first one outside the Cubs offices with a torch and pitchfork.

Jeff Jordan put on Scholarship by Illinois

Illinois coach Bruce Weber said Thursday that Jeff Jordan was on scholarship for the second semester. This is great news and a testament to the work Jordan has put in for the Illini.

I'm sure being the son of Michael Jordan isn't an easy task to begin with, and turning down scholarship offers from various mid-majors to walk on at Illinois to earn a scholarship there is remarkable.

Jeff said that he wasn't expecting the scholarship to come so soon, but he has been part of the Illini rotation playing about nine minutes per game as a sophomore. Weber said that the staff is getting more confidence in Jordan every day.

Aside from the story of "hey look what's happening with Michael's kid!" I think that earning a scholarship says a lot about Jeff and about the Illini this year. For Jordan, to turn down the mid-majors and prove himself at Illinois shows he didn't want anything handed to him for being Jordan's son. Not only that, it shows that he is a legit D-1 basketball player and found his role as a defensive stopper that can knock down a mid-range jumper.

In terms of the Illini, I think any time you honor a role player with a scholarship it's good for the team. Not that Pruitt and Randle were bad guys, but without the two "stars" from the past few years, the Illini have becomed more of a balanced, team oriented club and it has led to a lot of success.

Saturday, Illinois will put their 8-game home winning streak on the line against a Wisconsin team coming off an OT loss to Iowa. The Badgers have won five straight against the Illini, including knocking them out of the last two Big Ten Tournaments.

I Just Can't Write Anymore About How The Bulls Suck, So Take It Away Pax

Apparently John Paxson has given a "State of The Bulls" address recently. He is pretty spot on regarding most of the things he talks about. Here are the highlights (Sorry about how long this is):
John Paxson was matter-of-fact and candid in delivering a midseason state-of-the-Bulls address Wednesday at the Berto Center, admitting the Bulls are "not very good right now" and acknowledging that he had failed to create the team he wants.

Know this about the Bulls' general manager: For all those who criticize him for failing to make a move or perhaps making the wrong one, Paxson already has pummeled himself over it.

On the first day of training camp, Paxson said his top priority was to re-create the selfless, hustling, lunch-bucket teams that made three straight playoff appearances under Scott Skiles from 2005-07.

Asked his assessment of where this season's team stood in that category, Paxson said, "It's not good enough."

Here's Paxson on a variety of topics:

On the Bulls' play: "I'm obviously not happy. I don't think my expectations were such going into the season thinking we were going to be a top-level team. But what I want to see is the team play together. And right now, through 40-plus games, we're not doing that. And that concerns me."

On the coaching staff: "The only person I'll evaluate right now is myself, and I obviously haven't done the job of putting the type of team I want on the floor in terms of competitiveness and effort. That falls on me."

On the possibility of a trade: "What's inhibiting a lot of deals is the luxury tax because you have a ton of teams right up against it. To do a deal, the dollars have to work within a very small amount of money. Paying the tax is a real issue, especially with some of the things going on in the world business-wise. It's just a smart move to be respectful of what that tax means.

"We're looking. And players can't be looking over their shoulder all the time either. They have to accept that they have to play and compete and perform. My job is to field that team. Right now, we're not the type of team that I want."

On the porous defense: "It's two things. The level of personal commitment to that side has to be there. And paying attention to whatever the scheme is you're trying to run. I know [coach Vinny Del Negro] and his staff have tried to simplify a lot of things we're doing defensively to try to get consistent at something. Even though we haven't always been consistent moving the ball offensively, I still think we can score enough. But we're giving up far too many points and far too many easy points. The defensive end has to get better, or we're going to continue like [this]."

On whether the Bulls purposely will clear salary-cap space to wait for the stellar 2010 free-agent class: "I want to try to make our team better today — 2010 is a long way off. There are always avenues you can go down to get off contracts. Teams like a lot of our pieces because they fit alongside an established star. I'm not saying they're offering a lot in return. And that's what we're trying to find, another established player to put alongside [ Derrick] Rose."

On whether Rose is regressing: "I wouldn't say that. I'm not sure what's expected. He's going to have games where he doesn't play as well as he would like. I haven't seen one rookie who doesn't have some ups and downs. He's playing very well."

On Luol Deng since returning from injury: "He has been good, real active. He's running the floor and doing the things he does well. We get mired in quick shots that always hurt you as a team. If they don't go in, you have no floor balance and your transition defense is poor. Then other guys start hunting for their shots because they haven't touched the ball for a while. Lu isn't a quick-shot player. He needs an offensive flow. When he's at his best, we're moving the ball."

On the inability to close out games: "We're not very good right now. We're not playing well enough to win those games. … The turnovers we had throwing the ball away in the backcourt, it's just concentration and focus. I'm not going to say I'm pleased we've been competing better because we want to win. I don't like where we're at. I don't think anybody does."
Seems like he isn't exactly standing behind Vinny very strongly. I wouldn't either. There is no reason to break this down any further, but at least its nice to hear him be somewhat honest and critical. Is a trade imminent? God I hope so. Here's a little illustration I found that may help us better understand what Pax is trying to do here:

Today's Links

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sick Double Alley-Oop in a High School Game

Self-Explanatory and awesome:

ESPN Credits Deadspin with McGwire Story

Jay McGwire's intention to write a book revealing the "McGwire family secret" was big news yesterday. The story led Sports Center and amazingly contained a credit to Deadspin, the original source.

I'm not an expert, so I don't know if Deadspin, or any other blog has been credited on ESPN's flagship program before. The guys at Awful Announcing would know if it's been done, and they seem to be of the opinion this is a first.

A win for the bloggers, via ESPN of all places. I suppose if you're going to get a big win in the sports media world, it almost has to come from ESPN. Kudos to Deadspin for the recognition and also to ESPN for, well, doing what it should. Here's the video:

Blackhawks go to All-Star Break with a Loss

The Blackhawks had lost just one of their first 43 games at the United Center this year in regulation. Two games later, that total is up to three with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota Monday and a 2-0 loss to St. Louis last night.

The Hawks enter the all-star break having lost three of four and seem to be having some trouble putting the puck in the net. Chances that were sure goals a month ago just aren't finding the twine, including a great chance for Dustin Byfuglien last night. The breaks that were going Chicago's way are now near misses, like a play last night when Matt Walker had a goal, but for a whistle sounding just before it was in.

People always debate about timing in sports. Does it pay to have a longer break before a playoff series? Is it a good thing to play a rival during a slump? I tend to think that these things don't matter as much as we think. Whether the team wins or loses determines what the media says in these situations and you have a "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" situation. Yeah, I'll bring the latin.

In the case of the Blackhawks though, I'll say the mini-slump comes at a good time, as they'll have a week to refocus and let these wounds fester a bit. The week also gives Duncan Keith some time to rest and get back on the ice when the second half starts up. The Hawks will need the vastly underrated defenseman when the games start up, as they will be on the road for 12 of their next 14 games. That will be a hell of a test for this young team coming out of the break.

Meanwhile, don't forget that Kane, Toews, and Campbell will be starting for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game Sunday at 5:oo Central Time, so tune in. Or, just come back here to see how it went down. Dave Bolland and Kris Versteeg will also be participating in the Young Stars game on Saturday.

Chicago's Worst Contracts

In honor of Larry Hughes and his terrible contract, I decided to write about the worst sports contracts that currently exist in Chicago. I didn't include any Bears contracts since none of the money is guaranteed, so the team can cut a bad contract pretty much anytime. God willing Hughes and all these people will be gone soon, but until then, here goes:

Almost Over
Larry Hughes ($13 million a year through 2010): The issues with Larry Hughes have been well-documented here. While his numbers haven't been horrendous this year, he is a notorious team cancer and he steals minutes from a team that is trying to develop it's young backcourt. Are we really better off with Hughes than we were with Ben Wallace? I think its a wash.

Jose Contreras ($10 million a year through 2009): Ok, so Contreras had an unbelievable 2005 season that was key to the Sox title run. He had a decent year in 2006 and was then rewarded with this 3 year deal which made some sense at the time. His numbers have slid since then, however, posting a 5.57 ERA in 2007 and a 4.54 in an injury-riddled 2008. 2009 remains to be seen, but his contract is up after this season, so he won't be a problem for long.

Too Early to Tell
Kirk Hinrich ($9.5 million a year through 2012): Kirk Hinrich seemed like he would be a solid contributor on the Bulls for years. He may have reached his ceiling, but the Bulls were willing to pay him a 4 year deal based on that ceiling. Unfortunately he had an awful awful year last season (along with the rest of the Bulls). With the acquisition of Rose, it now looks like even if he gets back to his former 16ppg and 6apg lines, there may not be a place for him in the lineup. It remains to be seen if he can play next to Rose.

Alfonso Soriano ($17 million a year through 2014): Obviously he has the potential to be great. Even without the steals that he used to put up in New York, his bat can still sing and carry the Cubs offense for long stretches. If he can stay healthy, this contract may not be that terrible. That being said, he claims that he is 33, but the truth is he is probably more like 35 or 36. That would make him 39 and 40 in the final years of his contract. Very few players production gets better or even stays the same at that age, excluding Barry Bonds of course.

Luol Deng ($11.5 million a year through 2014): It's way too soon to tell with Luol. I was reluctant to put him on this list at first, but if he cannot find his place in this offense, it may turn out being a bad contract. At this point it seems his best may be a second option, which is definitely not worth the $71 million he got. He is also coming off an injury and learning his place in a new offense. Only time will tell.

Cristobal Huet (4 years, $22.5 Mil): Huet's contract didn't look bad at all with Khabibulin struggling last year. Khabibulin's deal would have come close to topping this list a year ago actually. The Hawks signed Nikolai to a four year, $27 million deal when he was 32. Huet was also 32 when the Hawks inked him for $4.5 million less. However, with Khabibulin playing well, the Hawks have two goaltenders taking up two of their four biggest contracts. It's great to have a dependable backup, and it was nice of him to push Khabibulin to be decent, but that's a lot of money for a backup. Obviously the deal could end up being okay if Huet emerges as a starter when Bulin leaves, or the Hawks can use him as trade bait to get another defender or veteran scorer for the playoffs. Remember the Hawks still have promising youngster Corey Crawford waiting for his turn. (Thanks to StevieY19 for contributing on this one)

Just Plain Awful
Andres Nocioni ($7 million a year through 2012): This guy is terrible. Somehow his +/- is high, but that statistic is very misleading. He is not worth this money, but could be at least somewhat useful if used as a SMALL FORWARD (stop playing him at pf and c Vinny, we get killed on the glass!) in short bursts to bring energy off the bench. He can't guard anyone on defense and he is a black hole on offense. The one great thing about Nocioni is that someone somewhere will probably think he is a good piece to add to their team. But will Pax pull the trigger if he gets the chance? Probably not.

Kosuke Fukudome ($12 million a year through 2011): This one is painful for me. I bought a Kosuke jersey tee 2 days after they signed him last winter. He was unstoppable in April and May and even though I felt like a douche wearing a trendy Fukudome shirt, at least he was playing well. We all know what happened next. The bottom completely fell out. His performance from May onwards was horrendous. He is very good defensively and extremely patient at the plate, which makes him useful as a late inning defensive replacement and a pinch hitter; the highest-paid defensive replacement/pinch hitter in the National League. There is a slim chance he can adjust to major league pitching. Very slim.

Today's Links

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

NBA Mid-Way Point Power Rankings

With most NBA teams reaching the 41-game point, we are hitting the half-way mark of the NBA Season. And what better way to celebrate surviving this long than an NBA Power Rankings post. With some help from Dr. Internet himself I present to you these rankings in a Bill Simmons-esqe tiered division format:

The as Bad as the Economy Division

30. Washington Wizards- This team is going no where, even bringing Arenas back won't save them. It’s a sad day when the most interesting thing I can say about them is that rookie Javale McGee is the first NBA player whose Mom played in the WNBA.

29. Sacramento Kings-This is a team that has yet to win a game vs the Eastern Conference. 0-15. A lot of work to be done here and all they are doing is filling Rookie Jason Thompson's car with popcorn.

28. LA Clippers-This team is the NBA version of Samuel L. Jackson's character from Unbreakable. The Clippers had just wrapped up a 12 game losing streak, but the good news is that Eric Gordon has been averaging 21+ points since Baron Davis went to the DL.

The Kwame Brown Memorial Division- All potential

27. Oklahoma City Thunder-Since the Thunder fired PJ Carlesimo, the team has played some more inspired ball. Kevin Durant has shot close to 49% on FGs and about 26 ppg since the change. Also, Russell Westbrook has been coming on strong as well averaging 15-5-5 in that same time span.

26. Memphis Grizzlies- A team with a payroll half the size of the New York Knicks, and their highest paid guy is Antoine Walker. Right now they have two guys who can put up 20+ points against you on any night.( Mayo and Gay) But do they really have anything else???

25. Minnesota T-Wolves- Kevin Mchale fired the old coach and put himself at them helm of this team in the midst of a 13-game losing streak. Since then they are 9-3 with Randy Foye averaging 20 points on 50% FG shooting during the month of January.

The NHL Division(They are interesting occasionally, but really they suck)

24. Golden State Warriors- The Good news: Monta Ellis just came out and said he wants to be a Warrior for life. The Bad news: at 6 years and and $66 million he may be the only one. Meanwhile, Jamal Crawford is averaging 26 ppg and 6 apg in the month January.

23. Indiana Pacers- This team really missed Mike Dunleavy Jr. Without his veteran play and scoring ability, Indiana has the most loses(9) in games decided by 3 points or less. Now that he is back he has brought his ability to do this back into the equation.

22. Charlotte Bobcats- A team that should be horrific but has been helped by the coaching of Larry Brown and the addition of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. While they are scoring the fewest ppg as a team,(91.2) they are basically in the top 5 in ppg allowed(93.9)

21. Toronto Raptors- What a difference a year makes. This team was once thought to be on the verge of being an Eastern Conference powerhouse, but now with 2010 looming are we going to start hearing Chris Bosh's name in the trading block rumor mill?

Playoffs. Playoffs?!?! But, Hey we're in the East!

20. Chicago Bulls- This team has not had a 3 game win streak since April of 2007. That's a year and a half of basketball without a 3 game win streak. Good News: Coach Vinny Del Negro thinks Derek Rose is a lock for ROY. Bad News: Vinny Del Negro had a thought.....

19.New York Knicks- Despite playing inspired basketball 66% of the time (compared to 2% of the time under Isaiah "it was my daughter" Thomas), there really wont be much here to talk about until July of 2010. The most interesting things about this team will come out in the NY tabloids. My guess for whats next, Eddy Curry and Zeke wake up together in bed of the penthouse of the 4 seasons hotel amongst several paparazzi there to capture their undying love for each other. And then Curry for good measure soils a towel and makes Zeke rub it all over his face.

18. Milwaukee Bucks- Is Michael Redd ready to step up and earn the contract he signed and lead this team? My guess is no, and he will be nothing more than a glorified shooter in this league, much like Allan Houston. Team going nowhere until the offense runs through somebody other than Redd. Oh and can we please stop saying how Bogut is finally starting to earn his worth as a #1 overall pick. When 12 ppg and 8 rpg for a career is "earning your worth" as a #1 overall pick then I will start getting myself in shape and playing college ball as I still have 4 years of NCAA eligibility left.

17. NJ Nets- For a team that traded 2 of its 3 best players in the past year, the Nets are outperforming expectations. But imagine if this team wasn't an abysmal 9-14 at home! And by the way Brook Lopez could steal Rookie of the Year, just ask anyone who isn't Vinny Del Negro.

16. Philadelphia 76ers- This team is better without Elton Brand on the court, pure and simple. When he was out there, players such as Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams actually regressed in their development as they were too focused on how to make Brand the focal point of the offense. The success of this team in the long run will depend on Brand actually being able to defer the spotlight to other players and play more of the 76ers run-n-gun game.

The Any Chance we Can Pull an Arizona Cardinals? Division

15. Miami Heat- For a team whose record is supremely average they are among the Top 5 in a couple very important categories. Top 5 overall player(Wade), Top 5 rookie( Beasley) and Top 5 in Most Tradable contract(Marion). With other assets like Haslem, Chalmers and one of the more underrated Coaches in Eric Spoelstra this team could be making some noise in the not to distant future.

14. Dallas Mavericks- During his MVP season in 06-07 Dirk Nowitzki was putting up 25 points, 9 boards with getting a block and hitting one 3-pointer every game. This year: 26ppg, 9rpg, 1bpg and 1 3pg. Wow, imagine if he had Devin Harris' 26 ppg and 6.5 apg on his squad?

13. Detroit Pistons- They have so many talented scorers in their backcourt but only so many shots to go around. With the emergence of Rodney Stuckey(19-5-5 in the month of January) who is going to start being a role player???

12. Utah Jazz-Carlos Boozer who? In his absence Paul Millsap has averaged 18 ppg and 12 rpg. I don't know if the Jazz just keep falling into talented PFs or that Jerry Sloan can just flat out coach 'em. Either way we can all be sure that Boozer will be wearing a different jersey next season.

11. Portland Trailblazers- With a 15-4 home record the Blazers are actually living up to the all that preseason hype. As of today they sit at the 6th seed in the West, could they win a playoff series? Maybe not, but all that young talent is going to get some very valuable playoff experience.

10. Atlanta Hawks- This team has talent at every position and now its time for them to step up. Joe Johnson looks tired and may not be able to carry the weight of a team on his shoulders for an entire season. Keep your eyes open for a resurgence from Mike Bibby.

9. Phoenix Suns- On paper this team is as good as any of the top dogs in the NBA. But are they all on the same page? Nash is clearly not the same player he was just 2 years ago when he averaged 19 ppg and 12 asp, as of today he is at 14 and 9. The good news: the Suns were 13-10 before the Jason Richardson trade and 10-5 since.

The Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone Division

8. Houston Rockets- What exactly has Ron Artest meant to this team? How bout absolutely nothing. Early in the season we saw lots of promise for a big three here but with T-Mac injured again(surprise surprise), that talk has quickly dissolved. Luckily for Houston they still have Yao(until he gets hurt), which seems to mean a solid 45-55 wins every season. But tell me this folks, do you honestly see this team getting out of the first round? Because I don't.

7. Denver Nuggets- Chauncey Billups has made all the difference in his return to Denver(27-13 since his arrival). Has it been Chauncey taking this team to the next level or was it more addition by subtraction by getting rid of Iverson. Clearly the AI/Melo experiment was a failure. We will find out more about this team in the next month when they will have to do it without their best player in Melo. Right now they are knocking on the door, can they knock it down?

6. San Antonio Spurs- Solid Team. Again. Expect anything different with the same roster since 1962? Well at least it feels that way. Ill have more to say about this team when I care to watch a game they play, which doesn't seem anytime soon because i estimate Ive already spent 150 hours watching this boring ass team that never changes. Mark em down for 50-60 wins easily. I hope they get eliminated from the playoffs early so I' not forced to watch them in the finals yet again.

5. New Orleans- - This team is evidence of how a great distributing point guard can simply make a career. Does anybody on this planet think that Tyson Chandler would be anything without Chris Paul? Take CP3 off this team and they are putrid. The fact that this team wouldn't win more than 20 games without Paul means, in my mind, that CP3 should be 1 or 2 in MVP voting every year that he is in the league. Besides him, LeBron and Wade are the two players just as important to his team. How much would I have to pay you to watch the Hornets minus Paul vs Cavs minus James. $100? $500???


4. Boston Celtics-- Despite a rough stretch 2 weeks ago this team has seemed to galvanize itself and hit its stride. I've said it before and ill say it again, this year, the key to this team is Rajon Rondo. If he continues to play at a high level this team is virtually unstoppable. I would even go as far as to say he is more important to this team other than the Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett. Oh and please, can we stop talking about how Doc Rivers is a good coach? Talk about somebody who was dealt a royal flush and just didn't fold his cards. The guy couldn't cut it in Orlando, and he had one of the worst seasons in history before KG, Ray, and Rondo got there. Danny Ainge deserves all the credit for maintain his relationship with Mchale and KG is practically the coach on the court. By the way, does anybody curse more than Kevin Garnett on the court?

3. Orlando Magic- This team is making real strides. Jameer Nelson is the leader for most improved player right now. Dwight Howard is a beast as usual. Rashard Lewis, perhaps the most underrated and unassuming star in the league, is playing at an extremely high level. Here is the problem though. No depth. JJ Reddick is getting playing time! Extremely weak bench. Will need huge growth from rookie Courtney lee in the second half to maintain their excellence. Look for this team to make an under the radar deadline deal to improve the bench. This could be their time.

2. LA Lakers-Kobe Kobe Kobe. As much as I hate Kobe as a fan, I have to give him props for carrying this team on his shoulders. Finger injury could pose a problem but I don't anticipate it being as big as a factor as some other people. One issue with this team is that they are extremely soft defensively and have no physicality. You would think a team that was this close to an NBA Championship would be playing with some fire and intensity, but they are going on talent alone. If this team goes into an offensive slump in the playoffs that could spell surprising doom for them early in the playoffs. Right now they are the favorite in the west but it remains to be seen if they have the toughness it takes to go all the way.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers-Right now, they are the clear cut favorites in the East. The road to the NBA Championship will go through Lebron James. However I do think it is more important to this team to get the #1 seed in the East than any other team because of their home dominance. Against elite teams such as Boston and LA, they have hit bumps on the road. Although their road record is really respectable as well, this team is simply unbeatable at home. If they get the #1 seed in the playoffs, watch out.

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