Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mets Haiku IV

We almost made it to August this year, but I cannot wait any longer. It's that time again.

Santana falters;
The Mets fight back! But who cares?
Moral wins don't count.

Even a fool knows;
Jerry, don't pitch to Pujols!
Time for heads to roll.

Familiar despair,
A season slipping away;
Bring on the G-Men.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Where's Luke Movie Review: Inception

I saw Inception today. It was very good. I would recommend it. It is very engaging and even though it's two and a half hours, it moves along at a good pace. And below this post is a post I just wrote about Lost and the reason they are both here together is that I naturally compared them in my mind with Inception representing a "How To" and Lost representing a "How Not To" on creating an intricate story with details that you may ultimately want to leave up to the viewer.

I don't want to get into the plot because to start explaining it would require me to sortof finish explaining it and I don't want to do that. But I'll say this: the plot is a massive undertaking that requires serious attention to detail and I feel like all of the details were well accounted for. And sortof a side note, Joseph Gordon Levitt has some serious gravitas in his supporting role. There are some moments where it's like, "how come no one but this newbie ever thought of or noticed this before", but ultimately the story is engaging, intricate, and visually stunning.

If you want to go in with a fresh head, then stop reading right now. I'm not going to talk about Inception at all, but I'm going to compare it to some other movies and based on that you'll be able to infer some stuff about this movie. I'm just saying, I warned you. At its absolute most basic level this movie follows a pattern we've seen before in movies like 12 Monkeys, The Usual Suspects, and Total Recall. I think The Usual Suspects doesn't fit perfectly into this mold but at the end of that movie you can, if you are so inclined, argue about what was real and what wasn't and if you had just wasted your time or not. The simplest version of this type of story is Total Recall. But that's what ultimately makes it the least successful. It's ambiguous, yes, but ultimately entirely unimportant. Although I love the notion that the adventure was simply the "vacation" he paid for. It's somehow much more interesting that way. 12 Monkeys is the best example I can think of in this genre. At the end of the day in that movie, either he saved the world or the whole thing was just hallucinations of a crazy guy in 1995. And you really don't even think of the latter possibility until you let it marinate for a while. You're on board the whole time. And the movie doesn't end on the "what's real?" moment, it's just an organic byproduct of the plot. Really well done.

Inception is well done because in order to interpret one way or the other, you'll really need to actually search for the turning point. And what may be the obvious choice for that moment I think is not actually it. And I've only seen it once, so I can't really say where it is without seeing it again. And this is a movie that I will see again. Probably a couple times (on DVD, not like I'm gonna run out to the theater again). And while I'm leaning toward an interpretation, I do appreciate the ambuguity.

Lost, Dealing With My Pain

My three co-authors were all sitting at the table with me when I had like 4 glasses of wine and was literally pounding the table and yelling about how Lost, on the whole, sucked (and the other people in the restaurant started looking at us). And Open Bar, who actually quit the show at one point for the same reasons I was giving, was trying to defend it much to my surprise. I was willing to withhold judgement until the end of the series, but shit man, I'm really disappointed with the way it turned out. My general point, outside of the pounding and yelling, was that the pilot episode ends with the line, "Guys, where are we?", and after 125 episodes we still don't know. And in fact, we are no closer to knowing than in that pilot. Incidentally, I decided to try and crystallize my thoughts here after seeing Inception today. You have most likely just read the post I'm about to write on that movie, but the short version is that Inception was very good because it was intricate, challenging, and purposely ambiguous without being utterly ponderous. Think 12 Monkeys or even possibly The Usual Suspects. I will probably cut and paste those two sentences into the next post.

Anyway, Lost started the show with essentially two parallel story lines. The shit happening on the island was the sci-fi geeky shit about the nature of the island and what its function was and then the flashbacks were the character studies of the people before they got there and eventually after they left. And somewhere along the way they just dropped the geeky shit altogether and decided to just do the character studies. So it's really easy to decide who will ultimately like and who will ultimately hate the show. If you like the character study, then you liked it, and if you liked the geeky shit and the mystical theories, then you hated it. There's no right or wrong here, except that the show creators could have feasibly decided to finish telling both stories and then everyone would have been happy. I can't possibly fathom being satisfied with the ending of the show, so if you are (Bars, both Open and Side), then I'll just leave you to it. But please don't try and convince me that the story is anything other than 50% told.

At this point I'm really essentially certain of the fact that they just got in way over their heads with the geeky shit and just decided to not ever address it at all, except in the way it intertwined with the character study. The smoke monster, the voices in the forest, the flash sideways, whatever. If those things didn't play a role in the story about fake John Locke and Hurley and Michael and everybody, then they, just like a billion other things, would have been dropped.

It's not even worth making a list of questions that were unanswered. I could go on forever. But I'll say that what I was really hoping was to see the origins of Charles Widmore and Eloise Hawking (who predated the Dharma Initiative), the origins of the Dharma Initiative (including how they found the island, how they know its importance, and some actual exposition on the whole Valenzetti Equation thing), the origins of the Egyptian iconography. And I'm not thinking about things that were addressed that just don't sit right with me (Sayid and Shannon?). That's entirely outside the scope of my little exposition here.

And in comparing it to Inception, I'm not the only one who's thinking this way. In the 11 Points list on Inception, there are some points that I think sum this up nicely:
Unlike the later "Matrix" movies, this isn't a complex story whose complexity comes from the fact that there isn't actually a definitive story. (replace "Matrix" movies with "Lost" TV show.)
and also
"Lost" was considered a smart TV show but part of the reason that smart people couldn't solve it was because there really wasn't something to solve. We could've taken Stephen Hawking off of his current workload and had him devote the past six years to trying to figure out why Libby and Hurley were in the same mental institution -- and he would've failed, because there was no answer.
Here's the best summary I can give about my feelings on Lost. Basically every individual episode was engaging, interesting, worth watching, and most importantly entertaining. And for most shows you would say that as long as you were entertained by those 125 hours, then you got your money's worth. I wasn't expecting meta-answers from Full House, I just liked to hear Uncle Jesse say "have mercy" and watch Dave Coulier do Bullwinkle impressions. But this show was different. Full house was a walk around the block and we made it every time. This show was a plane flight across the Pacific and we.....well, you see where I'm going here. On the whole it fell short. Like way short. To the extent that there simply is no feasible solution to a lot of the things I found most interesting.

And I know I've essentially said the same thing in previous posts and also to you guys in person, but now that I've said it one last time, I think I can let it go.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When does football start?

Fuck the Mets.

Seriously, getting swept by the Diamondbacks?

I hate you all, Mets, but especially you, Jason Bay. And you, Frankie Rodriguez. And Oliver Perez, who, like a particularly inflamed herpes outbreak, returned last night. And Omar Minaya. And Mike Pelfrey. And Jeff Francouer. And especially, most especially, that sac-bunt-calling, Fernando Nieve-pitching manager made of equal parts misery and rape, Jerry Manuel.

Mark it down: This season is over. Our playoff chances are dead. Perhaps not mathematically, but here's where we stand:
  • 3 games over .500 with 67 to play
  • 6.5 games out of first
  • 3.5 out of the wild card
  • barely clinging to fifth in the wild-card race

Coming off of a sweep against the remarkably bad D-backs (24 games under .500 -- before playing the Mets), we head into these last 10 weeks of the season with:
  • a bullpen that contains the aforementioned STD imitator Oliver "Fucking" Perez and several other shitty baseball-throwers who should not be getting paid to throw baseballs
  • a starting rotation consisting of Johan Santana, a rookie, a 35-year-old knuckleballer and some pieces of rancid, floating debris
  • a three-catcher rotation that, against all sense, continues to include Rod Barajas as one of its three parts
  • a player impersonating Jason Bay -- in name, not baseball ability
  • a position on the field that is played defended stood in by, at best, gimpy Luis Castillo or, sigh, Alex Cora, who hit a home run in Little League once. (Well, it was really one of those grounders to short which the shortstop overthrew to first, then the first basemen ran after it and then overthrew it to second, and by the time the fat, paste-eating kid in left field tracked it down, Cora was dusting himself off after sliding into third for some strange reason when his coach screamed "RUN!" so Alex did. The throw to home beat him by about 10 feet because even then lil' Alex's legs weren't made for "going fast," but luckily the catcher was a girl so she dropped it because girls can't play baseball. Anyway, the official scorer, who may have been Alex's dad, credited him with a "Home Run!!!" and even bought him some tasty French fries and soda pop afterward to celebrate. Good times.)
Despair and inevitability have finally assumed their proper places in the lives of Mets fans worldwide.

Of course, even the Mets (probably) can't manage to continue this awful version of baseball too much longer. During this recent 3-8 stretch, they haven't scored more than four runs once. But a lineup that looks like this:
  1. Reyes
  2. Pagan
  3. Wright
  4. Beltran
  5. Davis
  6. Bay
  7. Thole
  8. Castillo
will wind up scoring a decent amount, even if Jerry Manuel insists on giving away outs and runs willy-nilly by sacrifice bunting even though that's almost always a really stupid thing to do because -- surprise! -- outs are really valuable and you're way more likely to score runs if you let your major-league hitters hit and try to get on base and not make big-inning-killing outs instead.

I'm sure I'll keep watching, and while I watch my heart will defy all logic and reason and continue to believe we'll somehow find our way into the postseason. I will watch as Francisco Rodriguez adds to his already-miles-long list of ways to teach me new forms of heartbreak and suffering and homicidal rage. And while doing all this, I will drink, for that is what Mets fans must do to endure.

Anyways, so later tonight I'll be watching the Mets begin their four-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, splitting my time between frantically texting Side Bar in ALL CAPS (the font known as "Manuel") and cutting myself. Swing by if you can! (And bring bourbon.)


Damn we're old. Happy b-day, sizzle chest.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday Classic Video: If You Only Knew

If you are anything like me, you are going to be equal parts thrilled and nauseated by how many of the words to this song you'll remember.

These guys were the biggest clowns in the history of clowns and yet somehow we were completely riveted by this stuff. Well, all of us except LJT. I know that winit is with me on this one. Miss Elizabeth was a hottie.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

R.I.P. Asshole

This, by the way, was our first-ever picture. Fitting.

Quick thoughts on the second-most-significant person nicknamed "The Boss":

Passionate about winning.
One of a kind.
Larger than life.
Imminent subject of a Hollywood biopic.
Convicted felon, later pardoned.
Payer of money to scumbag gambler Howard Spira to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, who was nice enough to give me candy on Halloween.
Monumental figure in baseball history.
Shame of Williams College (according to my dad, at least).
Wielder of the greatest weapon in professional sports over the last 50 years, the eliminator of mistakes, the poor-decision nullifier, the bringer of inevitability, the odds stacker, the undeniable and undeniably significant advantage over his competitors: his checkbook.
And finally,


There will never be another.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The World Cup Was Awesome, Then it Wasn't

In keeping with our recent theme (to wit: professional sports that no one gives a shit about), I wanted to share my thoughts on the World Cup. Well, I actually wanted to share my thoughts on the World Cup several weeks ago, but I just didn't get around to it. If I had written this post a few weeks ago, it would have gone something like this:

Wow. The World Cup is really great. It is so fun and exciting to watch, and it is encouraging to see Americans really get behind the sport. Each match is quick (compared to say, a baseball game), lively, and totally action-packed. Unicorns, rainbows and hope. Hugs.

And I think I would have been justified in writing that post at the outset of the World Cup. People were excited about the American team, the games are a bit swifter than most U.S. sports, and they are punctuated with moments of incredible drama. The U.S. win over Algeria in extra time was incredibly exciting, and it really felt like all of NYC (at least where I was watching) had taken time out of the day to root for the team. Ergo, World Cup was great. The U.S. team's loss to Ghana was disappointing, but there was still plenty of great soccer left to watch.

But even then, there were some cracks in this happy facade. A U.S. goal against Slovenia was disallowed on a phantom call. And as frustrating as that was, it was compounded by the fact that the referee (note the singular - because there is only one fucking referee who is responsible for covering the entire match) was not required to identify the nature of the penalty, or the player who committed it.

And the flops. Oh those god-damned flops. How many times have we seen players lose their footing when they engage a defender, go flying through the air, and land on the ground writhing in agony, only to have a television replay reveal that there was absolutely no contact whatsoever? A good clue to this nonsense is often that the gie who looks like he is about to pass out from the pain one minute is happily trotting down the field the next. It has become so much a part of the game that it takes over the game; a good slide with no contact earns a yellow card, while a kick to the chest is overlooked by the referees. I think most U.S. fans find this incredibly unsatisfying -- refs miss penalties or calls in our sports all the time (just ask that gie for the Tigers) -- but it is very, very difficult to get used to the level of inconsistency on yellow cards, and the frequency with which these gies dive and just beg for penalties.

There is also the matter of "stoppage time." The concept makes perfect sense: the clock is not stopped during each 45-minute regulation half, so the referee has discretion to add a few extra minutes to the half to to account for any stoppage of play due to injuries, etc. But in practice, the clock is so loosely enforced as to make it laughable. There has never been a single World Cup game that has ended on a breakaway, or just before a corner kick could be taken, etc. Stoppage time always ends when the ball settles in the middle of the field, or rolls out of bounds, or there is some other natural break in play. It is almost as if the ref looks at his watch and thinks, "man, time is up, but I gotta see how this thing ends." The lack of precision with timekeeping is completely foreign in U.S. sports that play off of a clock.

But there is more. Because there is only one ref, he tends to miss really, really important things. Like goals. Like goals being scored against Germany by England. Like the one everyone in the world saw (even me, because Jet Blue is awesome) except the one guy who needed to see it. And yet, despite the incredible consequences a single goal can have on the match (though, in fairness, perhaps not that particular Germany-England match), FIFA has long maintained that they won't introduce instant replay (though that might finally, finally be changing). Even baseball uses instant replay now to determine whether or not a ball was hit for a home run. There are no good arguments left to allow goals to stand that were not goals, and to fail to award a goal when one was scored.

And there is still more. Remember those yellow cards? The ones that sometimes are given out when a player commits a penalty, but other times are given out for no particular reason at all. Well, if you get two of those in consecutive matches, you do not get to play in the next match. This is the equivalent of benching an NFL player in week six who was flagged for personal fouls in weeks four and five (Jeremy Shockey would have missed all of 2006 under this regime). It would be one thing if the yellow cards actually meant something, and were only handed out in response to truly dangerous play, or blatant rule violations. But as it stands, they are handed out so wantonly as to make the punishment (missing an entire game) completely out of whack with the crime. Just ask Thomas Mueller of Germany, who was benched against Spain because of a yellow card issued after an alleged handball. There can be little doubt that Mueller - the top scorer in the tournament and winner of the "Golden Boot" - might have helped Germany alter the outcome against the eventual champions.

The most frustrating aspect of this is how easy it would be to change most of it. Add another ref. Introduce instant reply on balls that may or may not have gone in the net. And, if a player gets two yellow cards in successive matches, review both yellow cards (after the games but before the next one) to determine whether a game suspension is warranted (the NBA does this now when a player is suspended for getting too many technicals).

Referees will always have an impact on sports, but the extent of that impact, and the extent to which the human element can just completely ruin a game and a tournament, can be minimized with little to no impact on the game itself.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Counterpoint: LeBron James Is the Biggest Bitch That Ever Bitched

Side Bar probably shouldn't be smiling --
he can't gay marry LeBron in Florida. :-(

Earlier today, SB felt the need to comfort poor LeBron. I couldn’t have disagreed more with SB's DECISION, and here’s why ... (And, for the record, this post isn't about Side Bar being a bitch. It's about the bitch who just moved to South Beach being a bitch.)

SB, you said: “No matter what decision he made, someone was going to be disappointed.”
I say, on the other hand, LeBron James is a bitch. In this whole saga, it’s very much the journey that made him the bitch, though the destination is also quite bitch. The way he orchestrated things these last few weeks and especially last night’s new pinnacle of self-centered bullshit, “The Decision” – that is largely what made him a bitch, though to be sure, the final choice of Miami over Cleveland, New York and Chicago is bitch for another set of reasons.

SB, you said: “He hardly smiled, seemed almost apologetic to Jim Gray for his decision”
You know why? Guilty conscience. Yes, he was embarrassed at the choice he was making because he knows how shitty it is on so many levels, most especially taking a dump on Cleveland after stringing them along all this time and also by agreeing to permanently become Scottie Pippen.

SB, you said: “I have yet to hear anyone talk about the fact that he is putting team and collective excellence ahead of the maximum possible salary. That is an atypical approach for modern-day superstar athletes; perhaps it should be celebrated, not vilified.”
So his salary will now be about $15M-plus, instead of $16.6M. Big fucking difference. And as I said yesterday, LeBron James’ NBA salary is only a fraction of what Lebron™ makes. (Though maybe he did just give up $150 million, but I don’t think that’s what you were implying, so you don’t get credit. And even with that, it wasn’t his intention to sacrifice that money; he’ll lose it as a result of everyone now thinking he’s a bitch.)

SB, you said: “He had to at least make sure that he himself would not be disappointed, and the way to do that was to go to the team that was most likely to win a championship.”
Sure, the Heat are probably now the favorites to win it all next year. But had he gone to the Bulls, they certainly would have been the favorites. I think you can make a pretty damn good case that a starting five comprised of Derrick Rose, LeBron, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah is better than Wade, LeBron (who should always be mentioned second, from now on), Bosh, Dabney and Wayne Chrebet or whatever other league-minimum guys the Heat will put on the floor to round out the team. And to further that point, if winning is all that matters, why not take an even bigger pay cut -- say, league minimum -- so the team can acquire some decent supporting players?

SB, you said: “There are only so many times that TNT can make the Heat-Lakers the game of the week.”
There are exactly two.

SB, you said: “once Bosh and Wade made their decision, LeBron almost seemed to be falling in line, not leading the charge. The build-up to this whole summer was all about LeBron. But the way it played out made his decision feel a little bit like an afterthought.”
Okay, you got that part right. See? I’m being fair.

A few more thoughts…

First of all, as a life-long Delonte West fan, I’m happy that he’s probably the most popular player in the Midwest right now. Way to go, Delonte!

Fuck this whole going-to-charity nonsense, too. It was the Boys and Girls Club…of Greenwich, Connecticut. LIKE THEY NEED ONE OF THOSE IN FUCKING GREENWICH.

And I thought pessimism was a Mets fan’s default state. I can only imagine what it’s like if you’re from Cleveland. Actually, no, I’d rather not imagine that.

Can’t WAIT to see the Heat’s first visit to Cleveland next year. I thought when Johnny Damon went back to Fenway after signing with the yankees that the reaction was rough. Bring the Kevlar, LePippen!

What I also can’t wait for? Carmelo.

And not a single word of thanks to the people of Cleveland? He pretty much gave them an hour-long kick to the balls. That’s really what it must’ve felt like if you’re Joe Unemployed Guy at the bar in Cleveland – like you just got kicked right in the balls for an hour. (A ha! Perhaps THIS is why SB identifies so closely with LeBron.) Now, normally I’m all for disparaging anything to do with Ohio or its residents (except Kenyon, shut up, LJT), but even I have my limits. What LeBron did was just sadistic.

And thank you, Kevin Durant. Much as I hate when people get all moralizing and shit when it comes to star athletes, the two ways that LeBron and Durant handled their contract situations couldn’t have contrasted better. Durant = class. LeBron = bitch.

LeBron, allow me to address you directly for a moment. Everyone now wants you to fail. Sure the Heat may have some new fans, but that's because no one has ever given a shit about them before. Except for maybe a few randoms -- and they already like Dwyane Wade better anyway. Have fun being Garfunkel the rest of your life, you bitch.

And finally, props to LJT for pointing out that if you’re still on the fence about whether LeBron is as big a bitch as I’ve made him out to be here, please consider his dumbass Abe Lincoln beard – which no one can blame ESPN for.

Farewell, Young David. Tear :- (

LeBron, whatever. There was never a moment I thought he would realistically come to the Knicks. I really thought he'd go to Chicago, but whatever, that's finally over.

But the Knicks. The fucking Knicks. Please, someone explain to me why the only thing that has come out of Madison Square Garden that has brought me any joy in the last five years is gone. David Lee, David fucking Lee, who I am admittedly totally biased for and probably overrate, but who did average 20 and 10 last year and was an all star, was traded away.

I didn't like when they said that they were gonna go out and get LeBron, Wade, and Bosh and so they couldn't afford to keep Lee (what a preposterous plan, btw. you'll never get those guys on the same team.), but I understood. But now they have all this salary cap space, they signed a guy whose game is contingent on having a good point guard which they don't have, and THEY STILL SUCK. Their plan went to shit and the only thing that I still truly loved about the Knicks is gone. Gone. And who the fuck is Anthony Randolph?

Is this now a 2011 free agent plan?

Evan had a much more rational response to this turn of events. I think I'm on the verge of just quitting the NBA all together. Wake me up for the Lakers-Heat Final.

In LeBron We Disgust

The LeBron James free agency saga lasted nearly two years, reaching an almost fever pitch over the last two weeks. Will he or won't he? Stay or go? And where? The answer was finally revealed last night, in one of the most anti-climactic, faux dramatic announcements since Bill Clinton acknowledged that he had, in fact, had sex with that woman.

And today comes the inevitable outrage. LeBum. In an open letter to Cavaliers' fans, majority owner Dan Gilbert absolutely excoriated the "former King," calling his a "cowardly betrayal," and guaranteeing that the Cavs would win an NBA title before LeBron (a proclamation that Harvey Araton of the Times rightly characterized as "foolish"). (Side note: Read the whole letter. It was so obviously written in the heat of the moment and with emotion that it is almost funny to see how absolutely devastated this guy is to have lost LeBron. I cannot imagine how David Stern doesn't fine this guy for this letter). There are reports out of Cleveland of people burning their LeBron jerseys, and of others throwing rocks at a local billboard that displays the suddenly erstwhile hometown hero.


I am not the biggest NBA fan (though I might have become one if LeBron had opted to sign with the Knicks), so my reaction to the whole thing was somewhat muted. But I do keep coming back to two sentiments that run together, and I guess they form my reaction to this whole episode. First, I feel kind of badly for LeBron (calm down, keep reading). Second, this really could not have played out any worse for the NBA.

The frustration of Cavs' fans, the disappointment of Knicks' fans and Bulls' fans, and the general discontent of sports' fans with LeBron's decision is understandable. But it is also not fair. Whatever he did, LeBron could not win. No matter what decision he made, someone was going to be disappointed (a point he made to Jim Gray last night, almost defensively). If he signed with anyone other than the Cavaliers, he was going to be a sell out. A hometown star who deserted his friends and family for a bigger stage. But signing in Cleveland would have made it tougher for him to win a championship (because he was unable to lure other free agents to his team). It also would have increased his overall take, opening him up to criticism that he was really making a purely economical decision. So in making his choice, as he explained it to Jim Gray, he had to at least make sure that he himself would not be disappointed, and the way to do that was to go to the team that was most likely to win a championship, his ultimate goal. With both Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh committed to Miami, the decision had to be an easy one once it was viewed through that lens. And if winning a championship was your ultimate goal, I am not sure any of us would have done anything differently.

Sports figures are routinely criticized, if not worse, for their absolute and myopic pursuit of the highest dollars they can get. There is no loyalty, there is no concept of team, just an all-penetrating desire to maximize cash. LeBron took a different approach. And while he will hardly be on welfare, I have yet to hear anyone talk about the fact that he is putting team and collective excellence ahead of the maximum possible salary. That is an atypical approach for modern-day superstar athletes; perhaps it should be celebrated, not vilified.

Watching LeBron last night, he looked every bit the part of a guy who showed up at his coronation only to regret having to wear the crown. I honestly would not have traded places with him at that moment. He hardly smiled, seemed almost apologetic to Jim Gray for his decision, and copped out behind the fact that his mom had blessed his decision (insert Delonte West joke here), as if that would be enough for the rest of us, too. ESPN's woefully inadequate production didn't help either. This broadcast was thrown together at the last minute, and when James actually announced his decision --- the moment ESPN tells us we have all been waiting for --- you could barely hear him, and there was no reaction from the audience at all. The entire hour ended up being awkward, uncomfortable, and just plain weird. Again, LeBron shoulders some of the blame for this: Kevin Durant didn't agree to a prime time special to announce his signing with Oklahoma City. But LeBron was trying to do something good, i.e., capitalize on ESPN's fascination with this whole saga to sell some airtime for the benefit of one of his charities. But instead it just came off as a self-promoting PR stunt.

I know there are people in the world who deserve a lot more sympathy than a 25 year-old who is already a millionaire many times over. But that's just it. He is only 25 years old. I am not sure I could have handled this level of media scrutiny any better than he did, and I am not sure I would have made a different decision. ESPN and other media outlets made this the biggest sports story of the year because, well because that's what they do, they promote and sell interest in sports. So accusations that LeBron "carefully constructed" this whole process are tongue-in-cheek at best; LeBron could have crawled under a rock for the last two weeks and this still would have been a huge story (he just about did).

Given the money he is guaranteed to make, LeBron really couldn't lose here. But given the microscope he was under, and the millions of people who were going to criticize whatever decision he made, he couldn't really win, either. I think he knew that, and I think that is why he made his decision.

In addition to my (mild) sympathy for LeBron, I cannot see how this whole thing could have played out any worse for the NBA. Three of the league's best players are now concentrated in one market, and on one team. There are only so many times that TNT can make the Heat-Lakers the game of the week. The timing was off too: once Bosh and Wade made their decision, LeBron almost seemed to be falling in line, not leading the charge. The build-up to this whole summer was all about LeBron. But the way it played out made his decision feel a little bit like an afterthought.

The comparisons to the "evil empire" are already underway. And LeBron's near perfect image now has at least a few smudges on it. The Heat will no doubt sell tickets wherever they go, but LeBron was going to sell out arenas wherever he played. I just cannot understand how it helps the NBA to send Team USA out 82 times a year to beat up on lesser teams (I suppose Kobe could take issue with that last sentence, but few others could).

I would have liked to see LeBron in New York (of course), but failing that I really wanted him to stay in Cleveland. It felt like the ending we would have expected out of a cheesy movie. But instead he chose the team that he (rightly) thinks gives him the best chance to win a championship, rather than the team that could and would pay him the most money. Stripping away all the hype that accompanied this whole saga - some of which he created or encouraged, but most of which he did not - I am just not convinced (as many people seem to be) that his decision is worthy of contempt and scorn.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Go Fuck Yourself, LeBron (Also, Please Come to New York)

Admittedly, I'm not the world's biggest or most loyal Knicks fan, but it's also not my fault that over the past decade-plus, Isiah Thomas and the Dolans treated me and all Knicks supporters like Stephon Marbury does interns in pickup trucks. It's been a dark, desolate period of salary-cap incompetence, unfathomably bad management at all levels, and Eddy Curry donut runs since Spree took us to the Finals in 1999.

But these past two years, under Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni, have provided the first glimmer of hope in ages. I was a fan of the decision to more or less forfeit two seasons in order to open up cap space to afford premium free agents in the 2010 offseason. Basically, they were willing to lose a lot if it meant getting LeBron James.

Everything was going according to plan.

Until now, I guess, as it appears "sources" are "indicating" LeBron is gonna choose Miami. In which case, adios, asshole, have fun in South Beach with Dwyane and Chris as you add your contribution to the NBA's return to being completely uninteresting.

Really, who's gonna want to watch those three just stampede over everyone else? The only way it'll be watchable is if they somehow fuck it all up and don't win like 75 games every year and go undefeated through the playoffs and win five straight championships.

Of course, there will be one group of happy people: Heat fans. Everyone else, though, will either quickly learn to hate the Heat or simply turn their attention elsewhere. It's kind of like those offseasons where the yankees go out and buy everyone who's good -- sure, it makes yankee fans happy, but everyone else's reactions range from "FuCk teh stineBrennerz!" to "Whatever, same shit, different year, when's football back?"

[Excuse me for a moment, as I go off on a bit of a tangent...

Picture Here

But that's pretty much where the yankee comparison ends. The NBA season is quite a different creature from the baseball season. In baseball, even a team like the yankees -- with their non-salary-capped $200 million-plus payroll, with their All-Stars at just about every position, with their infield that makes more money than several entire teams -- still can only win about 60% of their games. Right now, their best-in-baseball record is 53-31, a .631 winning percentage. Winning 100 games in a season -- which very rarely happens -- only equates to winning about 62% percent of the time. So for much of the regular season, and certainly on a game-by-game basis, there is at least some drama, some degree of suspense as Mariano comes in to close out a 2-run game. And that's even when the yankees play the Royals, who, due to the nature of baseball, will still beat the yankees about 30% of the time or more, no matter the disparity in salary or talent.

However, in basketball, the best teams routinely win over 60 out of 82 games a year. Last season, the Cavs had the league's best record at 61-21, meaning they won about 75% of the time -- and that isn't even all that remarkable for an NBA team.

By comparison, the very best record in all of baseball history is 116-36, by the 1906 Chicago Cubs. Know what that percentage comes out to? 75%.

The '96 Bulls, who own the NBA's best record ever, went 72-10 (.878 winning pct.); they were 41 and fucking 3 at one point that year, before (presumably) taking it easy the rest of the way. Point is, if LeBron goes to Miami to join those other two -- after all the drama and nonsense and bullshit hour-long ESPN "decision specials" whose proceeds "go to charity" that we've been subjected to the past two years as he approached free agency -- anything less than a full-on attempt to match and/or exceed what the Jordan-era Bulls accomplished (both regular-season-wise and in total championships) will be a big letdown.

Now back to what we were talking about...]

And hey, I don't blame LeBron for much of this. Sure, it's nauseatingly egotistical. Sure, it's greedy. But hey, he's put in his time (and in fucking Cleveland, too, let's not forget), he's earned the right to make his demands and then take however much time he wants to decide.

The way it stands now, I tend to agree with this guy, whose tweet I put at the top.

Loyalty, wherever it fits in the world of free-agency-oriented, multi-billion-dollar professional sports, is worth something, sure. And maybe he really loves Ohio. And maybe I'm a Chinese jet pilot. Whatever, I've long thought he was gonna end up staying there. And if he does, who's really gonna be surprised? The worst consequence for LeBron is that people will accuse him of stringing his oldest fans along for all this time. That, and he'll still be in Ohio.

However, if he comes to New York, he has the opportunity to achieve something towering. Winning a championship here would be the grandest coronation someone whose nickname is King anyway could imagine. I bet he would shoot right past Jeter-level adulation and enter the Mantle Zone. With a premiere player like Amar'e (why the dick is there an apostrophe there?) here already and more cap space opening next summer (cough -- Carmelo -- cough), he could do a lot worse. Like, say, Ohio.

But Miami? As I described above, the expectations are prohibitively high already and besides, it'll look weak, like he took the easy way out. And I'm sure we'll hear all about how he and the other two already-super-rich guys agreed to take less money to make it happen. Spare me. LeBron James, NBA player, earns a pittance compared to LeBron™.

So it pretty much comes to this: Stay in Cleveland, and this whole saga, while anticlimactic, is at least over and your people will still love you. Or you can come to New York and be loved and give us championships and make the Knicks a real-life basketball team again. Or else, go have fun in Florida while no cares as you fail chasing Jordan like a junkie chases the dragon, you greedy fucker.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fuck Frankie Rodriguez

The reason the Mets are not going to do anything other than sputter out by September is Frankie Rodriguez. At this point in his career he can throw five pitches:

1) a 56 foot curve ball
2) a 58 foot slider
3) a 57 foot change up
4) a 59 foot fastball
5) a fastball right over the plate

He yanks like 90% of his pitches straight into the ground. I could hit him at this point. Opposing batters need only wait for the one fastball he's gonna throw right down the middle and hit the snot out of it. The hitters who cannot do even that have the option of just taking the walk, which he will give as long as you don't swing.

I hate him and he sucks (mutually exclusive).