Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sow Cool

I saw three people rocking the soon-to-be fashionable surgical mask look this morning on the way to work. The first two was a mother/child pair on the street and the third was a lone female waiting for the subway. This means that we've officially taken one step further down the pandemic path. Up next? Hording. And, cheap pork.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dollar $ign of the Times

T-Wolves (Possibly) Offering $1 Tickets

Desperation is a stinky cologne. Unless mixed with the proper proportion of inventiveness and salesmanship. In that case, it's alluring enough to almost convince me to buy a 29-game ticket plan for the Minnesota Timberwolves just in case I find myself in the Twin Cities for another conference of historians during the NBA season.

Ever since I bought one ticket to one T-Wolves game - they played the Heat that night and Shaq was lumbering while Garnett was wiry if I recall correctly - a few years ago, I have received emails from the club about their various promotions and happenings. Generally I delete such missives without even opening them. But not this one. Not the one whose subject line read: "Ticket Packages As Low As $1 Per Game." That caught my attention. After all, around here the Yankees have been selling tickets that are literally worth their weight in gold.

The Minnesota ticket package in question includes one night with each of the 29 clubs in the NBA. You get to see everyone when they come to town. And each game is just one buck? I can't think of a better deal this side of the ramen I ate for lunch. Like my Nissin Cup Noodles, $1 tickets sound almost too good to be true. And, they could be. Depending on how the ping pong balls pop during the upcoming. NBA draft lottery. You see, the promotion allows fans to pay per seat the number of the pick the team receives. If they land the No. 1 pick in the draft? Then the seats are just 1 dollar. If they land the No. 2 pick then the seats are 2 dollars. And, so on. "Thanks" to their 24-58 record (fifth-worst in the NBA) the Timberwolves have just a 7.6% chance of actually taking home the top selection and awarding their fans with 100 cent tickets. The deposit is $29 and becomes the total cost if the team can pull off a surprise upset at the draft. Odds are that Minny will land the fifth pick and that fans will have a chance to score $5 ticket plans. That's still not too shabby considering that there are approximately 17 tickets priced at $10 for each game at Madison Square Garden and that they sell out immediately. I like to think of them as the Unicorn Seats.

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Vinny Del Negro. I know that his team lost last night. But c'mon. The balls it took for the Chicago Bulls Head Coach to draw up that endgame play for Brad Miller (which did work the way he drew it up) made him the star of Tuesday night in my book. With his team trailing by two points in OT and just three seconds remaining on the clock, Del Negro sent his team back onto the floor following a timeout. He'd looked Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose in their faces and told them that the play was for Brad Miller, who was going to be inserted into the game for Joakim Noah. The Celtics gravitated towards the two outstanding Bulls guards as the ball was set to be inbounded. And then there was Brad Miller all alone above the elbow. He received the pass. Three. Took a few long, big-man strides towards the rim. Two. Was thwacked across the face by a late-arriving Rajon Rondo. One. As he tossed a shot up at the rim. Zero. Miller, a career 80% free throw shooter, was at the line with the game in the balance. At least, he was at the line once the blood flow leaking from his mouth was stilled. And it was all thanks to the just-so-crazy-it-might-work play called by Coach Del Negro. With that little time he could have done the obvious thing and just gotten the ball in the hands of Gordon, who would have taken a dribble or two before lofting up a contested shot from deep beyond the arc. It might have worked. But probably not. So, Del Negro got his team two FREE throws instead. So what if Miller did miss the free throws? That wasn't on Del Negro. That was on Miller. And, actually it was on the officials, who should have called Rondo for a flagrant foul on the play. He clothes-lined Miller and made no realistic attempt on the ball. I'm always against officials deciding games but I know that if John Starks had laid the wood on Luc Longley like Rondo did on Miller that it would have been a flagrant foul. Miller should have gotten the free throws and then the Bulls should have gotten the ball. Maybe Miller makes the free throws in that less-pressurized situation. Maybe not. Either way, great call by the Bulls coach.

2. Paul Pierce. WIth Kevin Garnett preening on the sideline, Ray Allen fouled out, and Stephon Marbury and Tony Allen terrified of actually having to shoot the ball, it was all about the Truth down the stretch in Game 5 versus the Bulls. And, the Bulls could not handle the truth. Pierce scored the Celtics last four points in regulation, including the jumper to force OT, and then he put up the C's last six points in the extra session. The beauty of his performance was the way that he was getting his shot. He was going to the right side of the key and shooting out beyond the elbow from about 18 to 20 feet. You just know that he practices that exact shot each day. Over and over. So that when he gets in these situations he can rely on muscle memory. Watching him get to his spot for those clutch shots reminded of the way that I imagined Bill Bradley hitting shots for Princeton after the first time that I read about his practice habits in John McPhee's excellent A Sense of Where You Are.

3. Chelseas FC. Only in soccer is a 0-0 tie a huge win for one of the teams involved. That was the case when the Blues held the Barcelona to a nil-nil tie in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal at the Nou Camp in the Catalan capital. Critics would say that Chelsea played "negative" football, looking only to deny their opponent rather than to create anything for themselves. I would not disagree with that. But this strategy allowed the Chelsea defense to hold Barcelona's fearsome striking troika of Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi and Sameul Eto'o in check. That threesome has netted 90 goals this season in all competitions. The two teams match wits again in a fortnight. At that point, someone will have to score.

4. Carolina Hurricanes. It was the third period of Game 7. Elimination's bad breath was fogging the face guards of the Hurricanes skaters. Until two goals in the final eighty seconds lifted them past the NJ Devils. In Newark. Jeez. That is some playoff hockey, right there. And, I didn't see any of it. I checked the score with about five minutes remaining and then went back over to hoops.

5. Dallas Mavericks. There was nothing flashy for the Mavs last night in their series-clinching win over the Spurs. They just dispatched San Antonio with the knowing confidence of a better team. In other words, they handled the Spurs the way that the Spurs usually handle others. Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle has had his team marching to one drum (being carried by lil drummer boy JJ Barea) ever since halftime of Game 1. His team fell behind early in the first quarter of that opening game. At that point, the Spurs looked like the Spurs. And the Mavs looked like the post-Game 4 of the 2006 NBA Finals Mavs. Until Carlisle flipped the script.

Benched. Kevin Garnett's F-U Face. I'm sick of seeing this guy sticking out his chin and glaring from the bench like he just did dunked on someone's head. And, if he's not going to stop making this face, even though he's nattily attired on the sideline rather than participating in the Celtics playoff games, then I implore TNT and ESPN to stop showing me this guy's mug.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday' Starting Five

1. Chauncey Billups. I've been known to stop strangers on the street just to regale them with tales of the largess of Chris Paul. I've occasionally torn petals from flowers while enumerating the ways in which he is a superior basketball player. And, Chauncey Billups and the Denver Nuggets absolutely rocked CP3 and the Hornets last night. Billups had a +39 point differential during his 30 minutes on the floor for his hometown Nuggets as they rolled up a 121-63 win over the Hornets in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series. The 58-point margin of victory was the largest in the history of the NBA playoffs. That landmark result coupled with Billups three-point barrage in Game 1 makes him storyline 1A thus far in the postseason, just behind Bulls/Celtics donnybrook going on in the East.

2. Tim Wakefield. This guy is the Jason Voorhees of Major League hurlers. Just when you think he can't possibly harm anyone any longer, just when you think that there isn't really anything frightening about him, just when you think that it's about time he hung up his cleats/cleaver, he comes back with a vengeance. The 42-year-old knuckleballer twirled seven innings of one-hit ball against the Cleveland Indians on Monday night, striking out five. 63 of the 112 pitches that Wakefield threw were strikes and none of them was on a line. The ball fluttered and knees buckled. The Red Sox would win the game (again) on a late Jason Bay home run (again), but Wake was the star. He's gone 6, 9, 7 and 7 innings in his four starts so far this year and is 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA.

3. The Los Angeles Lakers. Sometimes it looks like Kobe Bryant is almost insulted when an opposing player tries to actually make skin-to-skin contact while his team has the ball. During those moments it looks like Bryant cannot believe the audacity of those who would even imply through their actions that his game is not entirely within his control. And, I guess, with Kobe, it really is all about control. He threw an elbow (followed by unnecessary glares) in the direction of Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko during the first half of the Lakers series-clinching Game 5 win when the lanky Russian attempted to front him the post during the first half. Surprisingly, Kobe was actually called for a foul.

4. The Mighty Ducks. Along came a duck to put the accomplishment of the Lakers in perspective. The eighth-seeded Ducks of Anaheim knocked off the top-ranked San Jose Sharks in the West bracket of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Sharks had the best record (by having one less loss than Boston) in the NHL this season. And they're out. They're as relevant as the Knicks after the Ducks sent them packing in six games. Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller made 36 saves in the series-clinching win.

5. Omir Santos. Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico (known, seriously, as "Pork Rind Town"), Santos was selected in the 21st round of the 2001 Amateur Player Draft by the New York Yankees. He would not step on a Big League field (at least, not during a game) until 2008 when he was wearing a Baltimore Orioles uniform. He was cut by the Orioles before the start of the 2009 season and picked up by the New York Metropolitans. Thrust into the starting lineup by an injury to first-string catcher Brian Schneider and the malaise of large-headed back-up backstop Ramon Castro, Santos has gotten the attention of fans and teammates alike. He cracked the first home run of his career last night against the Florida Marlins. And it was a grand slam. Welcome to the Big Leagues. As soon as the SNY cameras stop tracking the flight of the ball they immediately cut to Ramon Castro in the dugout. He was clapping. Not smiling, but clapping.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday's Starting Five

1. The New York Jets. As a Jets fan, I'm not sure how I feel about Mark Sanchez, the USC QB that the Jets traded up to select on Day 1 of the 2009 NFL draft. The kid started just 16 games at USC. He did throw a heckuva lot of touchdowns in those games. But, that's not a lot to go on. He's charismatic. He seems smart. He says the right things. He's good looking. He seemed to be the face of this year's draft more than No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford, who strikes me as a plenty of arm/plenty of room-for-rent between the ears sort of guy. Of course, SI's Norm Chad thinks that Sanchez is the thick-skulled QB of this year's draft. On the other hand, Mike Lombardi of The National Football Post thinks that Sanchez is the cat's pajamas if they were tailored to fit on the bee's knees.. So, who knows? Well, aside from Mel Kiper's barber. But, he'll never tell. Like I said, I don't know how I feel about Sanchez. Or the fact that the Jets are thin at a lot of positions after only drafting three players this weekend. Still, I dig the Sanchez move for the moment. If only because it shows that the Rex Ryan Era will be marked by definitive action. For a franchise that has always seemed reactionary and to be playing catch-up with trends and opponents, it was nice to seem them proactively go after what they wanted. Even if everyone wasn't totally psyched.

2. Hedo Turkoglu. With the score tied and 14 seconds remaining in Game 4 between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic, TNT broadcaster P.J. Carlisimo thought that it would be Dwight Howard's ball since he is the "best" player on the Magic. The camera man knew better, focusing on the Turkish forward as the Magic emerged from a timeout with the score tied, 81-81. The camera man knew that it was Turkoglu's ball whenever the game was on the line. I knew. Seriously, I did actually tell two people that the play would be for Hedo and that he would hit the shot if he got the chance. One of the two people was impressed when this actually happened. The other less so.

3. Yao Ming. The Rockets are his team right now. And, they are one win away from reaching the second round of the NBA playoffs. In other words, Yao is poised to boldly step where injured teammate Tracy McGrady hath never stepped before. Much will be made of this in Houston if the club can close out the youthful Blazers this week. Last night, the Rockets assumed control of the series behind a dominant performance from Yao Ming the Merciless. He scored 21 points to go along with 12 boards. Thus far in the postseason, he is shooting 58% from the field and 95% from the line. He's not playing with the ferocity of an early 2000s Shaq, but he is consistent and relentless. The Blazers have no answer for him. Does Andrew Bynum?

4. The Chicago Bulls. Once (like just a few weeks ago) mired in mediocrity alongside the Bucks, Knicks, Nets and Bobcats, the Bulls have blossomed along with the flowers this spring. Led by precocious rookie point guard Derrick Rose and the indomitable Ben Gordon, the Windy City's representative's in the NBA's postseason tournament have shined thus far and find themselves even with the defending champs after four games. Gordon has been marking Celtics defenders with his excellence like a tiger staking claim to a new tract of the jungle. He hit a late three-pointer to force a second overtime in last night's Game 4 and then opened up the scoring in the second extra session to pull the Bulls even in the series.

5. Washington Capitols. Not too long ago, the Caps trailed the New York Rangers, 1-3, in the best-of-seven first round playoff series. Now, they're even at 3 games apiece and have home ice for the winner-take-all Game 7. They've gone from choke-artist to momentum-having favorite in the span of week.

Sixth Man. Swine Flu (occasionally mistaken for Pirate Flu). I think that this is how we all die. After everyone freaked out about SARS and Bird Flu and West Nile Virus and whatever else sounded exotic and lethal, it's going to be the pigs that gets us. And don't forget that this is going to get really interesting as soon as the MTA starts shuttling this stuff contagion around New York City like the conveyor belt at sushi restaurant and some sandwich-board-carrier makes the connection between pigs and all those biblical prohibitions of pork.

Monday Mudita

The Rumors of WWOD's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Starting today, all trains are being placed back on appropriate rails. All sporting events will be noted. And all sporting personalities will be duly mocked and lauded when appropriate. I'm back baby.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Mudita

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

34 ≥ ♥ ≥ KG

In Which Variables Represent Celtics-Related Motivational Melodramas

34 = Paul Pierce's manufactured Willis Reed moment in the 2008 NBA Finals NBA
♥ = Danny Ainge's Pre-Playoff, "Win One For the Gipper" Heart Attack
KG = Kevin Garnet's "No One Believes In Us Anymore" team-rallying knee injury

UPDATE: Chicago Bulls call shenanigans on Kevin Garnett.

High Top Finance

WWOD's Investment Strategy

A few months ago, there was a lot of hype around construction/infrastructure companies that would benefit from President Obama's stimulus package. There has also been a resurgence in exchanging cash 4 gold, although it must be noted that Atlantic City was way ahead of the curve here. Speaking of dens of sin, I even emailed my brother (supposedly the financially-minded one) about this possibly being a good time to get in on the Vice Fund. Needless to say, those with some liquidity have been looking for ways to make a buck off the dire state of the economy and those with fewer bucks have been looking for something that will hold it's value better than their 401k.
Well, look no further. Because the place where you should be funneling your money isn't CDs or T-bills. It's Patrick Ewing's line of sneakers. You should be hording these things. Because they are going for several hundred dollars a pair on the secondary market. These things were the hotness (at least to me) back when I was younger. And my sister, somewhere, has the pair of black EWING hightops that I rocked in rec league basketball as younger man. For reasons unbeknownst to WWOD?, these sneakers are no longer being produced. They're like the Faberge Eggs of athletic footwear. Every few weeks I'll notice a pair pop up on ebay and without fail they'll fetch several hundred dollars. I would guesstimate that $400 seems to be about the average price to obtain a set of these things. But that paltry sum certainly will not bring home a pair of the highly sought-after blue suede model of these deadstock sneaks. Unlike most everything else in this economy, you can trust EWING sneakers. They should only appreciate in value.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Job Market

I have (at least) two friends out of work right now. Good friends. Who are good workers. Smart people who have succeeded at previous jobs. I've also worried about my own job during the past few months as well. And, not because I waste too much time writing on this website for so few people. And not because I'm not good passable at what I do. I've had to worry because my company, like many, was considering layoffs as a means of dealing with the recession. As a means of saving some jobs. My boss even told several of us that if the hammer came down that it wouldn't have anything to do with performance or even that he didn't have the work for us. I actually began studying for the GRE just in case I needed a Plan B. Because what better strategy is there when faced with job loss than to seek out a massive debt load while gaining training in a field - journalism - that is dying?

But this post isn't about me. Or my unemployed friends. It's about Isiah Thomas. Who has found himself again gainfully employed after being gainfully, sort-of unemployed. The deposed Knicks coach and executive just inked a five-year pact to coach men's basketball at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. It's official. And the Internets came alive with derision. It was the hiring that launched a thousand blog posts. Which is logical (and was humorous) given Isiah's dismal track record being in charge of anything while not wearing short shorts. But, seriously, this move is sensible for FIU. It's even clever. After all, they have been mentioned on Sportscenter, in my office and in my kitchen within the past week. Quite a treble. And, all of this media attention leads directly into the opening of recruiting season. Which is today. Well played, FIU.

“We are excited to have Isiah Thomas join the FIU family,” said FIU President Modesto A. Maidique. “This is bigger than basketball and bigger than athletics. Having a nationally-recognized coach like Isiah at FIU will have a positive impact on our university as a whole, helping us achieve additional national exposure.”

For once, here is a quote from a higher up that actually means what it says. And says what the person means. The endgame here is "achieve additional national exposure." No form of the word "win" appears in this quote. There is no talk about conference titles. No warning for the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky University, who are currently the cream of the Sun Belt Conference, where FIU finished 8th last season. Not even a shot across the bow of the University of Denver, who finished two games ahead of FIU last season in the conference. Because this hire is not about winning. It's about the very existence of the press conference when the quote was uttered. It's about this post on this random blog. It's about exposure and the profile of the program. And, that's all. This isn't about winning the Sun Belt Conference or trying to upset the balance of collegiate sporting power in Miami. This is about big smiles and media coverage. Which is why Isiah Thomas is perfect for the job. He's the only coach that I've ever seen call a time out before an out-of-bounds play only to send his team back on the floor without a play called.

All lack of coaching acumen aside, I would imagine that the caliber of athlete that FIU is able to recruit improves significantly under Isiah. He's a name brand. He's a Hall of Famer. And he's got that Chesire grin that should serve him well in living rooms on recruiting visits. The team, therefore, will improve. By sheer force of the athleticism they'll win some games that they historically would have lost. Through the power of belief instilled in them by their pathologically self-confident coach they'll overcome teams with a more realistic self-image. The Golden Panthers of Florida International will do these things and will creep towards the .500 mark next season. They season after that they will have a winning record by virtue of their weak conference and some even easier non-conference games. And they will threaten in the Sun Belt Conference, powered by swagger. Everything that was wrong with the derivatives market before we knew it was wrong will be wrong with this team. They might even play a game with a berth in the NCAA tournament on the line. They will lose in the conference tournament final, though. Oh, yes. This will happen. But after dropping that game they will be gifted a spot in the National Invitational Tournament. It's not the Big Dance but it's something special. Especially at FIU. Antiquated and belittled, the NIT is still special because the semis and the finals are played at Madison Square Garden.

If there were Vegas odds on FIU reaching the NIT semifinals in the next five years then I would surely take that bet. It's going to happen. Isiah will have to return to the Garden. He'll have to return to the site of his crime like criminals are supposedly want to do. He'll have to come back and pass the security personnel and parking attendants who remember the way he left. He'll have to come back and stroll the sideline like he once did. Or, at least he'll have to sit forlornly in a folding chair like he once did. He'll have to listen to the media that will descend on the place for his return. And, he'll have to return to hear the catcalls of disgruntled Knicks fans that will surely rain down from the stands. He'll have to return to face me. I'll dust off my old "Fire Isiah" t-shirt. And, I'll be there. Just like any NIT semi-final, I'll buy the cheapest seat upstairs and then move down once the game tips off.

It is fated. The moment will happen. And, FIU will get rolled. And, I'll revel in it. Oh, yes. I will. But, still that moment will validate FIU President Modesto A. Maidique's hiring of Thomas. Because he will take them some place they've never been before. And, I'm fine with that. Because, for the first time in a long time, someone else is taking advantage of Isiah rather than him taking advantage of others.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Mudita

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Knicks even missed when trying to throw in the towel last night against the Pistons.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

= 1,000 Words

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Harder Now That It's Over

The Knicks are officially eliminated from playoff contention. The second season is looming on the hardwood. I almost won a lot of money on the NCCA tournament and then somehow lost a not inconsiderable amount. Also, baseball began. The Mets officially have a bullpen. So many things are happening. Cats and dogs are living together. Mass hysteria. We're getting our bearings here at WWOD HQ. Please bear with us. We'll be back tomorrow. Hopefully.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Demographics They Are A-Changin'

While factually correct, octogenarian Penn State football coach Joe Paterno's take on the game of basketball raised a few (bushy) eyebrows. And made some of us long for the days of yore, when a 5'11" fella of mixed Irish and Jewish heritage seemed the prototypical NBA player.

Stuck Inside of Denver With the New York Blues Again

Oh, the mustached man draws X's
For players down on the block.
Isola asks him what's the matter.
And knows that he'll talk.
And the foes treat him kindly.
And fill the highlight tape.
So deep inside my heart
I know we can't be great.
Oh, Mama can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Denver
With the New York blues again.

Again. The Knicks came out with the look of a dozen guys that had just gotten dumped by their girlfriends. Or had been pantsed by the grad-school bully during recess. Again. Their dispirited, meek play saw them neatly into a huge hole. Again. In the second half, they rallied to make the game close enough down the stretch that you felt obligated to keep watching. Again. Ultimately, the comeback bid fell short. Again.

Last night's game was in Denver against the Nuggets. But it might as well have been in Utah against the Jazz. Or, in Charlotte against the Bobcats. It's the same old song. The same New York blues. Again.

What is there to even say right now? This team is cooked. Yet it marches on. Flaunting it's inadequacies each night. At this point, I just want the regular season to end. I don't want to watch these Knicks any longer. I just want it to stop hurting. I want them to go home. So that I can focus on the NBA playoffs and start looking ahead to the forthcoming draft.

Thoughts, Observations and Things Better Left Unsaid:
-One can't help but wonder how much blame coach D'Antoni deserves for the way this team keeps coming out unprepared to play. The listlessness is very reminiscent of an Isiah Thomas-coached team. And that is about as disparaging a remark as I could make. On the other hand, the team does seem to respond to him at the half. Where is that purpose earlier? Is it player pride or coaching acumen that ignites the comeback. I still think that D'Antoni is one of the top coaches in the game, don't get me wrong. I'm just upset by this trend. Because I'd probably rather see the team come out hard and fast but be overcome by superior talent in the second half rather than come out soft and slow only to belatedly show they are capable of competing in the second half.
-Al Harrington is the most skilled player on the club. But, he does not understand how to take over a game if his outside shot isn't falling (like it was on Friday against the Hornets). He forces bad shots from midrange after stopping the ball, when he should be going at the rim and either scoring or shoveling the ball to a teammate. It's frustrating to watch him out there floundering. And even more frustrating to watch him sitting on the bench when the game is being decided. There are several players who have improved under D'Antoni and his staff, but somebody really needs to figure out a way to explain this game of basketball to Harrington.
-I would say that D'Antoni's use of Jared Jeffries on the defensive end has made him far more tradeable than he was at the mid-season deadline (when we could have shipped him, along with Nate, to Sacto).
-No matter what team he has played for, Chris Duhon has had the ball taken out of his hands in endgame situations. Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrik got it in Chicago and Nate gets the ball now (just like Jamal Crawford did at the start of the season). If we can't count on him to run the offense when we need a bucket then why are we counting on him for the rest of the game?