Monday, September 28, 2009

As you've no doubt noticed, this space has been emptier than the upper tank at a Marlins game lately. I apologize. I've been busy. I've been writing for people that will actually pay me in exchange for the words. Worst. Excuse. Ever. I know. Very shortly, we shall return to our regularly scheduled program.

Monday Morning Schadenfreude

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Mudita

And, in the waning moments of what had been arguably the weekend's worst game, came the very first ohmygodicantbelievethatjusthappenedandiwasluckyenoughtohavenflticketandseeitlive moment of the 2009 NFL season. This clip includes the play before the Donkey's miracle TD, which was a nearly intercepted Orton incompletion. From the jaws of victory, the Bengals snatched defeat.

Monday Schadenfreude

And, for a close-up of the discussion between Ms. Williams and the line judge about which ball goes in which orifice...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Fantasy League Suicide Pool

(This idea appeared in this space before the start of last season and I'm breaking it out again because I think it can make the world a better place. I've already got one of my multiple fantasy leagues giving this a go this season.)

There are moments in a man's life, or at least so we all hope, when a truth so bright and crystalline enters your mind with such force that you can hardly wait to share it with the world. Einstein had his theory of relativity. Draco had his concept of law and punishment. Mary Ellis-Bunim and Jonathan Murry had The Real World. Moments ago I had my own eureka moment. I invented (at least I think I did, although it's very possible someone else beat me to it) the Fantasy League Suicide Pool.

The concept is simple. Just like most brilliant inventions. Like the paper clip. Or the grenade. Once you and your cohorts have held your fantasy football draft you then take your competition to the next level. You gamble on your gambling. You combine the two most social non-substance (and, yes, chicken wings are a substance) abuses associated with the NFL. You combine fantasy football with the suicide pool. Which, like peanut butter and chocolate, taste great together.

Each member of your fantasy league chooses a single fantasy team from the league each week to win its head-to-head matchup, just the same way standard suicide pools ask entrants to choose an NFL team each week that will win its game. Everyone in the fantasy league throws in another agreed upon amount of money on top of, but separate from, the initial fee that everyone paid to enter. You stay alive in the Fantasy League Suicide Pool as long as your fantasy-team picks continue to win. The monies are paid to the fellow (or lady) who stays alive the longest.

Not only does this strengthen the bond between fantasy leaguers and their league but it also gives them a reason to get to know their opponents teams as well. This is ideal for the person who can't give away cash fast enough this time of year and who needs just one more stimulant as they watch Kurt Warner and P.T. Barnum O'Sullivan battle it out late on a Sunday afternoon.

Now, go. Go out and spread the gospel of the Fantasy League Suicide Pool. Every non-anonymous, non-public fantasy football league out there (in other words, the real ones) can have this up and running by the start of Week 2. Which is plenty of time considering that there are necessarily fewer teams in most fantasy leagues than there are in the National Football League.

This numbers difference brings us to the sole way in which the Fantasy Football Suicide Pool could divert from the Real Football Suicide Pool that we all know and love. Since there are 10 or 12 teams in most fantasy football leagues you either have to allow for the possibility to select a team twice (but only after you've gone through the entire league once already), award each entrant a bye week (or two) that can be used at their own discretion during the season to avoid picking a team twice, or you calculate the relevant numbers (how many teams in your fantasy league and how many weeks of playoffs in your league) to arrange it so that there are no byes or duplicate picks needed.

For example, if you have a 12-team fantasy football league and that league holds playoffs in Weeks 15 and 16 then you could start your Fantasy League Suicide Pool in Week 3 and nobody would have to use a team more than once to reach the end of your fantasy-football regular season. Got it? Good. Of course, the odds are that all this number crunching will not be needed as more than one person probably won't still be alive in the pool come Week 13.

Now, if someone has already thought of this then good for them. I'm jealous that they've been doing this for years and I'm a little annoyed that they didn't tell the rest of us. If you are one of those early adapters out there who had already heard of something like this then please do drop a line and let us all know if there are any unforeseen pitfalls to this seemingly wonderful concept.

In the meantime, enjoy. You're welcome.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Tim Hudson. Few people realize it but if Tim Hudson has a hot month he could finish this 2000-09 as the second winningest pitcher of the decade. By coming back from Tommy John surgery and winning his first game in long while last night, he notched his 136th win since the start of the 2000 season. As of this morning, he's got one more win the Roy Halladay during that stretch and one fewer than Roy Oswalt. He's more than a dozen wins ahead of Johan Santana and is really, really (I'm almost positive) far ahead of just about anyone else you'd think might have him beat. Except for Randy Johnson. The Big Unit has him by seven wins, which will be hard to make up in just a few weeks. Still, that's pretty impressive for Hudson, whose injury troubles have made a lot a people forget just how good he was in Oakland and how consistent (if not spectacular) he was once he got to Atlanta.

2. Colorado Rockies. Home runs by Todd Helton (another one of those guys whose numbers over the course of the decade put him in some pretty amazing company) and Carlos Gonzalez propelled the Rockies by the light-hitting Mets and out of their skid. Yup, the Mets coming to town are the best thing for a slumping ballclub. The Rockies' win coupled with the Giants loss in Philly keeps hopes of a purple Rocktober alive.

3. UEFA. The overlords of European football (that's soccer) have come down hard on Arsenal striker Eduardo for taking a dive during a Champions League qualifier at Celtic. He went to ground when the goalkeeper came out to challenge him and won a penalty for Arsenal. He cooly slotted home the goal. Arsenal would add a few more scores and would dispatch Celtic handily but the Scots were angry after the match. I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I'm thrilled to see a hard line being taken against those who take dives. Not only can it affect the outcome of a game but it also is gives all the anti-soccer folks out there plenty to mock about the beautiful game. So, on the that score: good for UEFA. On the other hand, I feel like a two-match ban is a bit harsh considering that if the referee had not been fooled by Eduardo and had penalized (as the rules allow) during the game then he just would have received a yellow card an no ban whatsoever. It feels wrong that he is facing a harsher penalty because he actually got away with it. That makes this feel a bit hollow and if it was done only to appease Celtic and to appease the masses who became aware of the story. What now? I think that if you were going to allow video evidence to suspend Eduardo after the fact then you have to at least bring the rules on the pitch into line. Does a dive by an offensive player in the box, one that is clearly seeking a shot from the penalty spot, warrant a straightaway red card just the same as a hand ball by a defender that is clearly trying to stop a goal? I think this penalty brings us closer to that reality. And, to be honest, I'm fine with that. UEFA made a bold move in suspending a player for diving but now they've got to follow through if it's going to be viewed as anything other than a knee-jerk reaction to bad press.

4. Cole Hamels. He tossed a complete-game two hitter last night against the red-hot Giants. Yet, I've got him in the four spot. And that's because he's pitched most of this season like No. 4 starter. He's given you innings and has shown flashes of something more but he's been too erratic to have produced anything better than a .500 record. That's been Hamels in 2009. The MVP of the 2008 World Series entered last night's game with a 7-8 record. With the Phillies firmly in control of the NL East, Hamels has got one month to figure out how to duplicate his sterling effort for the three to five starts he could make in the postseason.

5. Ricky Rubio. Teenage Spanish hoops prodigy Ricky Rubio has signed a two-year deal to play for Barcelona in the Spanish pro league and has no plans of showing up in the NBA before 2012 even though the Minnesota Timbewolves spent the No 5 pick in the 2009 draft on him. There was always doubt of whether or not he would show up in Minny, which has been burned by cosmopolitan point guards before (a certain Mr. Starbury, you might have heard of him). The shores of the Mediterranean or Minnesota? Tapas or whatever the local fare in St. Paul looks like? Aside from the issue of where he plays in the USA, there is also the very important notion of how much he plays for. If he does stay in the Catalan capital for two seasons, taking him past his 21st birthday, then he is no longer bounded by the rookie pay scale in the NBA. That changes any deal he might sign and probably opens up a whole other avenue of possible trades (although I'm not totally sure about that part). Financially, it makes sense to do everything the way he has done it. I think. He's getting paid to play in Europe right now and I don't doubt that all the media attention that followed the draft didn't drive his price up abroad. And if he stays a bit longer then he won't have to pay a buyout fee (although there is one for either of the next two years) and could potentially sign a more lucrative NBA deal than if signed after the draft. And, the best part, is that this could all happen by the time a collegiate player would be entering their senior year.

Benched. David Kahn. The sportswriter turned General Manager of the Timberwolves is being torn apart by his former peers right now for his seemingly failed double-barrel point guard gambit at the 2009 NBA Draft. Frankly, I don't think he's totally screwed, though. He still controls the rights to Rubio and, let's just say for the sake of argument, he were willing to trade those rights to the New York Knicks for rookie forward Jordan Hill and some other asset(s) then he ends up with the player he would have likely drafted in the No. 5 slot and another usable piece. I know nothing is that simple. I know. And I know this development doesn't mean that Rubio will be a Knickerbocker. I know. But I think that Rubio is young and NBA hearts will only grow fonder the longer he stays away, which means that Kahn controls a very unique asset. Kahn can sill turn this around. KAAAAAAAAHHNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. Chester Taylor. Did you know that Wally Pipp could really pick 'em at first? No. That's probably because the dude never played after the most important migraine in Yankees history. Once Pipp was pulled from the lineup he was replaced by a young go-getter named Lou Gehrig, who happened to be one of the greatest right-handed hitters in the history of our pastoral pastime. So, yeah, most people didn't really get a chance to see Pipp dig any throws out of the dirt. A lot of football fans probably think of Taylor as being about as useful as Pipp since he backs up and occasionally spells all-world running back Adrian Peterson. Here's the thing, though, the Purple Jesus does not have a reputation for being as durable as the Iron Horse. In fact, he's like the glass horse. He could shatter at any moment. So, Taylor could see some extended run this year or at the very least plenty of cameo carries along the way to reduce wear and tear on He Who Runs For Our Sins. And, if last night's 28-yard catch and run TD against the Texans on Monday Night Football was any indicator this guy has got some skills. I know he only got a handful of touches but I was really impressed by how strong he ran the ball.

2. Adrian Peterson. What sort of jerk leads with Chester Taylor the morning after Adrian "I've been eating His Body and Blood for years on Sunday" Peterson goes off for a 75-yard touchdown up the middle on the first play from scrimmage? Someone going to Hell. That's who does that. Watching that touchdown run was all it took to get me totally into football mode. I'm sure the epic fail that is the 2009 Mets season helped prime the pump, but watching AP take that one to the house got me ready for NFL Sundays. I need to start finding some new chili recipes.

3. Andy Pettitte. I heard about what was happening while watching the Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and Texans. I figured I should check it out. I mean what was happening almost never happens. Even if it already happened once this year. When I tuned in the game was in the top of the seventh, no outs. Once two men were down I figured this was for real. I popped upstairs and told one of my roommates, a Yankees fan, that "Pettitte's got a perfect game deep into the seventh." I said it out loud. I jinxed it. The next batter hit a grounder towards third baseman Jerry Hairston (playing because A-Rod apparently gets regular days off at this point) who let the ball eat him. Safe at first on the error. Perfect game over. My bad.

4. Adam Lind. Starring in the role of "the spoiler" last night was this Blue Jays outfielder, who clouted two home runs and drove in eight as Toronto routed the Texas Rangers, who are locked in a struggle for the AL Wild Card spot.

5. Vladimir Guerrero. Apparently when Vlad was in his early twenties playing for the Expos he lived up in Montreal with his brother Wilton (also on the team) and his mom. She drove her boys to games and practices, packed them lunch and picked them up when they were done. And Vlad was among the finest talents in the Big Leagues just living quietly in Montreal playing games that weren't even televised. I love this story (which I unearthed while scavenging the Vault at And I love that he's ending this season on a tear. He hit two more home runs last night to finish August with a .337 average with 9 HR and 17 RBI. I hope that he carries this over into October. And I HATE that the Mets passed up on him when he was a free agent in 2003 because of his concerns about his back.

Benched. Brett Favre. I'm struggling to think of some other athlete who has gone from being so revered and fetishized to someone so actively dislikable. I've got nothing right now. Usually this happens the other way around. Usually a guy is disliked early in his career and then becomes likeable as he ages, changes teams and makes one last run. Yet, with this illegal and dangerous chop block last night, Favre manages to sink even lower.