It sure has been a while since I dusted off my gloves and took the media to task for its latest absurdity in the sports world. Sometimes, these venomous hit jobs are directed at The Network - an easy enough target, what with the willingness to sit on apparent evidence of child molestation at Syracuse, only to run the story without even giving the authorities the opportunity to vet that evidence and find that, in sum, it was demonstrably false. And sometimes, these hit jobs are directed at Buffalo sports media - also an easy target, what with the spelling errors, the apparent desire to merely yuk it up with a failing, entrenched hockey coach and the pathetic derision of a blogger community which has arguably provided better and more insightful sports analysis over the past couple years. (Not here at the Deeg, of course. We are more than happy to be the slime scraped out of the bottom of the barrel, presented as food for your more carnal cravings. It's what we do.)
One of the things I've noticed about Buffalo sports fans is that they can tend to believe that their town is getting jobbed at every opportunity. It's certainly no surprise, given the history, but it can leave people with a lingering sense that, in essence, whatever we get in Buffalo is a class below what everyone else gets in other cities. Sports teams? Inferior from top to bottom. Local theater and music? Undeveloped and of poor quality. Government? Corrupt and ineffective in a way unseen throughout America. Schools? Underfunded and forgotten. Cheerleaders? Sixes instead of tens. (This one may be right).
Some of this is true. In many ways, other cities do have it better. In a lot of ways, though, Buffalo has the exact same problems as other cities, but has convinced itself that the grass is greener in New York City, in Boston, in D.C., in Philly. I've found this to be especially true when it comes to how we digest our local sports media in Western New York. There always seems to be a lingering sense that Bucky and Harrington and Hamilton and Sully are on a lower tier than the guys who cover sports in the big markets. With the internet, though, we can verify that this is simply not true, and never was this more apparent to me than during the post-game presser following last Friday's Rangers-Devils Game 6.
Dear God, it was brutal.
So, in keeping with the overlap between "media hit piece" and "mailing it in," here is the transcript of the questions asked to Rangers coach John Tortorella following Game 6. My thoughts are in italics.
I am not a professional. But I know anything written needs a good intro. And I'm trying. Honestly, I am. I'm trying to come up with something eloquent to say. I want to wittily summarize the last two rounds of the playoffs but all I can come up with is bits and pieces like "Sorry Blake, but you'll have to come up with more than dunking to be great" and "Are the Knicks seriously locking up Woodson after one playoff win?" or "Wow. I love watching LeBron play."
WHAT? I SAID IT! DO SOMETHIN'!
But seriously folks, I'm just excited. Super-duper, "Just found out I had $100 in an old pair of jeans", excited. I love basketball. And after a season of disjointed, oft-injured gahbage, the playoffs have returned the game to its proper high level.
In any sport, the playoffs are the true referendum for any player. Whether you're the third guy off the bench or the team's best player during the regular season, it's who you are in the postseason that cements your name in history. Players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James are driven by that fact. Or haunted by it. Teams like the Spurs and Celtics understand this concept well, because they've already established themselves in the record books. And those two teams are threatening to make King James and KD wait one more year to share their experience.
After Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL, no basketball fan could really have asked for a better conference finals matchup than the one we're about to see. Anyone not from Pennsylvania or Indiana who says they wanted to see the Sixers or Pacers advance was speaking strictly out of spite. These are the four best teams in the playoffs and now they all face their greatest challenge thus far.
Honestly, no sports fan could ask for more. Whether it's the action on the court or the story lines behind the scenes, there's plenty to follow. Each team has a player capable of "WOW" moments. Beyond those players are a slew of others who are among the games most recognizable faces. Both matchups are classic battles of old verse new, the end of an era versus the beginning of one. And of course, there's the LeBron James Hate Train which you can always jump on if none of that interests you.
So let's start in the East. In recent memory or near future, you may not see two opposing teams more desperate to win a non-championship playoff series than the Celtics and the Heat. Many people are rolling their eyes as they read that sentence, but it's true. The Celtics can practically hear the clock ticking on the illustrious run they've taken over the last 5 years. To end that run with a championship would obviously be a dream come true. Conversely, for the Heat, they also know that their team may look remarkably different next season if they fail to win a championship. Riley has hinted that he'd seriously consider breaking up the Big 3 if they didn't win a title this season. Not to mention, the "When will they win one?" noise that constantly surrounds them will get exponentially louder. As has been pointed out ad nauseum, this weighs heaviest on LeBron. His only chance for putting his name amongst the all-time greats lies a round beyond this one. If he can't even make it back to the Finals, it will only give more ammunition to his critics.
And certainly there's no team the Heat want to lose to less than the Boston Celtics. The Heat's main reason for existence is to defeat the Celtics. Before they became the Hated Heat, Bosh, James & Wade were separately stopped from their pursuit of a championship by these same Celtics and decided to join forces the way Pierce, Allen and Garnett did. You saw the elation on their faces when they knocked them out of the playoffs last year. How much more do they want to defeat them now that they're one round away from returning the Finals? And how badly do the Celtics want to upset the Freight Train & Friends when they know that this team may never play together again after this year?
Sadly for Bostonians who have had plenty of sports heartbreak to go around this year, my bet is they'll have even more to swallow soon. If the Pacers, with all their size, couldn't break down a Heat team missing their best big man, the Celtics and their aging legs don't seem to have much hope of pushing this series much further than 6 games. But I will say this. If Rajon Rondo decides now is the time to prove to people that he's the best point guard in the NBA, watch out. In the closing game of their series against the Sixers, Rondo showed that when he's on, he's nearly untouchable. Chalmers has made great strides amongst Miami's Big 3, but he's not half the point guard Rondo is. And if either LeBron or Wade has to spend minutes covering him, that only means easier looks for Pierce and Allen. Add to that that Doc Rivers is a blatantly better coach than Erik Spoelstra and maybe the Celtics' hopes don't look quite so grim.
Pardon me. Coming through.
Still, the Western Conference is where the real fireworks will come from. For my money, this might as well be the championship round. San Antonio and Oklahoma City were the two best teams in the league during the regular season and their postseason performances have only made them look more dominant.
San Antonio is the one team that won't excite many people outside old school basketball fans and Houstonians. (Hous-tons? Houst… Screw it, who cares.) Since the time of the Admiral, the Spurs have been a clinic in team basketball on their way to winning four championships over eight seasons. But even with all their accomplishments, they'll probably go down as sports' most boring dynasty. I understand why stout defense, crisp passing, and high-percentage shots doesn't always translate to exciting TV, but I've never understood how this label has turned into a criticism. What started as "Well, Duncan is one of the best big men of all time, but he's just so dull in interviews" turned into "UGH! ANOTHER championship round with the Spurs. CLICK!" The Spurs aren't flashy enough for you? Fine. But show a little respect. Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches in any sport of all time. What he's done with a core of players now pushing into their late 30's with nothing but waiver signings and late draft picks is remarkable. Tony Parker looks quicker and more fluid than he has in years. Ginobli still knows how to find all the nooks and crannies of a defense. And Duncan is certainly not flashy, but at 36, he's still the best power forward in these playoffs.
(What's that, Boston fans? Kevin Garnett? Did he lead his team back from a twenty two point deficit on the road, including spearheading a 24-0 run? Right. And how many rings does he have on his fingers? Right. Moving along.)
The Thunder don't have nearly the history that the Spurs do. Their history so far is wrapped up in their superstar, Kevin Durant. The team has only existed in the league one year fewer than he has. And in that time, both the player and the team have only gotten better. When the team moved to Oklahoma from Seattle, Durant was their only commodity. Since then, GM Sam Presti, who discovered Tony Parker when he worked for the Spurs, has been brilliant in building a team around his star. He's made smart trades, like Sefolosha & Perkins, and used his draft picks extremely well, most notably in picking up James Harden and Russell Westbrook. And coach Scotty Brooks has helped make them better every single season since signing on and has them closer than ever to cracking through the conference finals ceiling. But the biggest threat to their success could be in their own locker room.
I could make that shot.
The Spurs have shown in these playoffs that even though their game is much more about offense than it used to be, they still know to how to negate your best players. They took away Blake Griffin's ability to live above the rim (as much as you can) and exposed how one-dimensional a player he is. And while CP3 got off to a great start, the pounding San Antonio's front court gave him slowed him enough to make the Clippers an easy sweep. And did you see when Popovich decided to intentionally foul the Clippers' worst FT shooter (a healthy 37%) every possession with 2 minutes left in their 22-point comeback win? Brilliant.
Surely defeating the Thunder will take at least 6 games, and that's if they can defeat them, but the point is they know how to eliminate your best weapons. So it just comes down to whether or not their opponent can adjust.
Kevin Durant has proven that he can handle any defensive situation. He still has room for improvement as a distributor and defender, but the offensive side of his game is as close to flawless as you'll see these days. You needn't look further than his 3 straight scoring titles to know that's true. So whatever defense San Antonio has planned, he'll be able to make the necessary adjustments to be effective. But Westbrook has proven to be a powder keg emotionally at times. If agitated correctly, as he was last year by the equally experienced and savvy Dallas Mavericks, he might derail his team at this crucial juncture. But if he can resist this temptation, keep his cool, and remember to feed the ball to Durant when it counts, then the Thunder will be victorious. As I said, the Spurs have been amazing in their ability to remold their style to improve with age, but if it simply comes down to who stands a better chance of winning four games first, I'll take the Thunder. But this looks like it could be an incredible series. The Thunder and Spurs have barely seemed to sweat in the playoffs so far. They match up evenly at just about every position. Both teams are passionate and well coached. If this series goes 7 games, I may pass out from joy.
In the playoffs, momentum is always a fickle friend. Up 15 one minute. Down 15 ten later. Seeing a team get blown out on the road and then turn around return the favor on their home court has been a regular occurrence (except for the Spurs & Thunder, of course.) But if you made it this far, you have just as good a reason to believe you're the team of destiny as anyone else left standing (right, Devils?). Whether you cruised to this point or had to battle for every inch, the four best teams are here.
Let's do this.
Sad. And adorable.
The Barrister & The Scizz
It was a rainy, misty, shitty day in New York City on Thursday. The perfect setting for our second installment of Infinite Sadness, one of the peripheral cogs in the Deeg Podcast Industries. Scizz, still sitting in the solitude of his sobriety, and I, still sitting in my own sweat and overworked misery, got together via Skype to discuss some of the more recent sports news that makes us infinitely sad.
While the arc of our conversation is often tangential, we touch on the NHL playoffs and how it's been to watch hockey suddenly get big in the big market of NYC, and then have a reflective discussion on how unsurprised we are to see that the Buffalo Sabres have not invited us and our stockpile of dick jokes to attend next month's Blogger Summit. Hint: It's Scizz's fault. Second Hint: It's also Alex Sulzer's fault.
This was a ton of fun to make, as always, and includes musical interludes from Incubus, Ben Folds Five and Biggie Smalls. Enjoy by streaming or downloading below.
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Chris Kelsay won't give up number 90 to Mario fuckin' Williams? Are you serious? Kelsay, you God damn trash-bag, get over yourself, or tear your ACL and retire. Make the right choice.
Anyways, although I am still very distraught over this, I'm powering through to bring you another in-depth analysis of one of the Buffalo Bills new "rising stars" -- RB, Chris Douglas! (Kudos again to @boner_shorts
for the new title suggestion.) (Note: 98% of this profile is completely fabricated and in no way accurate. Just like Mike Harrington's Ok Cupid profile.)
Position: Running Back
College: Missouri State
High School: Billy Sims Prep (Abertone, GA)
Strengths: Not Tashard Choice. A snappy dresser.
Weaknesses: Only started one game in college, wears bow ties in game situations, pretty sure Missouri State is an online University
On-field accomplishments: Finished 27th in the nation in yards per game
Off-field accomplishment: Has seen every Tyler Perry movie eleven times
Favorite Players: Clinton Portis persona's 1,3, 7, 9, and 14
Other boyhood idols: Andre 3000 and Farnsworth Bentley
Goals: Find lenses for his glasses
Most memorable moment: Being profiled by DGWU Sports
Off-field activities/hobbies: Convincing people that Missouri State is a real college, collecting styles from 2004, singing with his Acapella group, "Clef Huxtable and the Pudding Pops"
Favorite Buffalo Bills moment: "I don't know, I don't watch lacrosse."
America allowed this to happen.
Favorite Sports Teams:
The London Silly Nannies and Kansas City Chiefs (same difference)Romantic Crush:
Madea, Tootsie, and RupaulMost embarrassing moment:
Shit his pants during the senior bowl and was forced to stay in the game because Mike Shanahan's face was already too red to deal with the smell.Most looking forward to....:
Shopping with Stevie Johnson and Naaman Roosevelt, getting two carries during the 4th quarter of the first Bills pre-season game, finding a dorky blogger that made fun of him and ripping his throat out.
Another in-depth profile of a Buffalo Bills undrafted free agent. Stay tuned at DGWU Sports for several more as we count down the days to the season. Progress!
Follow me @TheScizz
and read all the terribly inappropriate things I enjoy saying. BACK TO THE BASEMENT!!!
Hoping for a big return tonight.
As frustrated as I've been about the prospects of a successful Liverpool Football Club, and as skeptical I've been of the seemingly "hanging by a wire" success of the New York Metropolitans, it's probably a little absurd that I've been as quiet as I have about the legit - and I mean LEGIT - success of the New York Red Bulls this year. Having purchased a pair of seats for tonight's match against Chivas USA, getting me out to Red Bull Arena for one last look at the team before MLS breaks for the Euros, my attention has certainly piqued.
When Thierry Henry went down with a hamstring injury last month, things looked plenty bleak for the club. They were coming off a stinging 4-1 loss down in D.C., and it didn't help to lose their (and the MLS's) leading goal scorer. The five match winning streak that followed, which they take into the match tonight, was certainly unexpected and has left them sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings with games in hand over the teams nipping at their heels. Henry has not been the only missing starter during this streak, either. Rafa Marquez
, one of the key componets of the Red Bulls' back four, has missed significant time due to a three game ban
(for breaking the collar bone of another player!!) and more recent Achilles tendon soreness that kept him off the pitch for this past weekend's game in Monreal. Wilman Conde, another starter in the back four, had missed time due to his own injury problems, found his return to the lineup further delayed by an arrest for aggravated assault on a police
But none of this has appeared to matter all that much to the players who've taken the field over the last five fixtures. Starting with three straight shutouts following that DC game, the defense has shown itself to be more than capable of carrying the load while the supposed stars of the back four deal with their off-the-field bullshit. Key message for the kiddies: Even if you're hot shit on the pitch, if you break another player's collar bone, or perhaps assault a cop, you risk being challenged for your starting spot. Even in the MLS.
Violence is not a laughing matter.
Flippancy aside, there's no denying the surprising play of the defense. Goalkeeper Ryan Meara, recent call-up to Ireland's U-21 roster, has been at the center of this - his rookie campaign has included 3 clean sheets (all during this last streak), a 1.41 GAA and 48 saves (which, over 12 games, is a pretty decent clip in soccer, if you can believe it). Awful haircut notwithstanding
, he's been perhaps the biggest reason why the team is still afloat, not to mention leading the East. Added to this, the Red Bulls similarly youthful defense, including Connor Lade, Tyler Ruthven and Brandon Barklage, have locked it down while awaiting the return of NYRB's top flight fullback talent.
This context makes tonight's match an interesting one - Conde and Marquez will both be available, and it is suspected that Marquez will start. Assuming he does, and that Heath Pearce - recently acquired in the trade that saw Juan Agudelo head to Chivas USA - starts at fullback against his former club, this will leave both Lade and Ruthven on the bench. It's anyone's guess whether the defensive quality that we've seen over the past month will continue or whether there will be a settling in period for the new mixture of players at fullback.
Up top, assuming Henry starts or at least play some
, I expect that the Red Bulls will only get better. Kenny Cooper, who now leads the team with 10 goals on the year, has been a force this year and is much of the reason why the team was so willing to part with Agudelo last week. His striking partnership with Henry was stupid good before Henry went down last month, and I imagine that any issues on the back end may be covered up a bit if the offense can pick it up a little bit with Henry's return.
Of course, if I was an actual expert on the team, I'd mention something about the midfield at this point. But, let's be honest - I've already worked well past this "lunch break" of mine and you've already toughed it out through enough of my world class analysis.
As for the Deeg-related angle of tonight's festivities, I'll be hitting Red Bull Arena with aspiring soccer enthusiast, The Apologist. Sure, Aps is really more of a typical hockey, football, baseball, basketball guy, but he really wants
to like soccer. He really does. I think this is Aps' second trip to RBA, having made the trip last year for the USMNT friendly vs Ecuador. And I think he really enjoyed it last time, especially when the Ecuadorian fan base started singing those songs about Darwin and extraordinarily niched finches. ♪♫ O, pinzones hermosos! Su adaptabilidad es asombrosa!
Since this is the first time Apologist have gotten together to watch a proper sporting event since the end of the hockey season, we'll be dusting off our iPhones to record another episode of the Legal Limit
. Since we'll be at least three or four beers deep for that adventure, you'll want to check back here later this week when the episode is posted so you can revel in our asshattery. You know you love it.Updated 5/24/2012: Apologist and I were not nearly as successful with our Red Bull Arena podcasting as we had hoped. A combination of exhaustion and, for Aps, relative apathy kept things pretty difficult. The game ended pretty well, a 1-1 draw, including Kenny Cooper's 11th of the year. Our attempt an post-game analysis, however, was forced, at best, and we shant be posting it later this week. You're welcome.
Yeah, Kenny. I don't understand it either.
I've been reluctant to dive into the fray on Liverpool since the FA Cup Final. That result, as I predicted, basically ruined the campaign for Reds, leaving the club with only a paltry Carling Cup victory upon which to hang its hat. Sure, that was the same Carling Cup that I reveled in a couple months ago. The same Cup that I wanted to believe meant something substantial enough to make up for a poor as fuck league record, especially when combined with the prospect of an FA Cup victory on the horizon. While I would have punched someone squarely in the face for calling me on it at the time, it's pretty obvious that my optimism surrounding the Carling Cup was little else than face-saving by a fan desperate for something to cheer for. Pathetic as it may be, this is how I roll. It's called a coping mechanism, asshole.
In any event, it's all behind us now, and I'm certainly done with taking on a positive outlook through which I might salvage a little bit of pride and optimism. None of this is made any easier, of course, by the absolutely inexplicable events at Anfield that have transpired since that FA Cup loss to Chelsea and since the Reds closed out their season with a wimper against Swansea.
Even considerably attentive soccer fans may have paid little notice to the firing of LFC's manager Kenny Dalglish last week. After the incredible end to the Premier League season (Man City taking the crown by way of two late, desperation goals in stoppage time) and the even more incredible end to the Champions League (Chelea victorious at the "neutral" site in Munich, defeating the de facto home side in penalty kicks after a 120 minute 1-1 draw), King Kenny being let go by Fenway Sports Group is of little moment to most fans of the game. On paper, it was nothing more than a middling club firing its manager who, while achieving some recent success, could not get it done on the pitch from week to week.
Fans of Liverpool, however, know that the firing was much more significant than that. They know that there is a reason we all feel like a not insignifcant part of our collective soul
has been ripped out. Kenny wasn't just a manager, he is an institution. As a player, he appeared in 355 league matches for LFC, scoring 118 goals along the way. This is the same guy who played striker for the club at the time of it's most consistent dominance that the numbers involved sound like they must be wrong - league champions 7 out of his 14 seasons as a player, for starters, as well as multiple Cups along the way. Not to mention his two Manager of the Year honors after he took on the role of Player-Manager in 1986 - a five year reign that saw the Club get three League Championships (finishing second in the other two years) and two FA Cups.
This is a guy who, as a player and manager and, in essence, the best example of the greatness that can be Liverpool football, deserves the utmost respect from LFC fans and, more importantly, LFC ownership. A week removed, with the Club reeling and having apprently lost its bearings, his firing is nothing short of a slap in the face.
To put it in perspective - as Scizz often requests when I'm going on and on about the Beautiful Game - imagine if Gilbert Perreault (you know, a player who was actually good...
*cough* *Lindy sucks* *cough*) was the coach of the Buffalo Sabres, or if Jim Kelly were coaching the Bills. Also, imagine that either of them had, as a player, actually brought a championship or two (or SEVEN!!) to Buffalo, as opposed to just years of hard work and marginal success. And, finally, imagine that they were fired after only one season as coach, with absolutely no plan for a successor in place.
I know, right? FUCKED UP BULLSHIT. We would go goddammned berzerk. Which, as it happens, is exaclty what has happened with Liverpool fans this past week. And if the reports are to be believed - that the Club is reaching out to any and all viable candidates for interviews and that many top talents have already bowed out with a "thanks but no thanks" refusal - this mess is not getting better any time soon.
I'll be the first to admit that, when news of the firing broke last week, I was sitting on the "I don't love it, but can accept this" side of the fence. I love Kenny, and would have loved more than anything to see him at the helm for a continued revival of the club - his infectious smile beaming from the sidelines, celebrating with players and fans whom he clearly adores, bringing the club into an era of dominance to rival those magical years in the 80's. But, I can also accept that the team did not perfom well at crucial moments this year, when three points were needed and expected - a fact I noted in CrapTastiCast 29 last week - and that there was a clear need for some
change to be made if there was going to be a realistic hope of Champions League play in the next few years. After all, as Yachter noted during the cast, Kenny brought a ton of expensive and apparent dead weight to the roster with his summer signings last year, so - even if we all love the guy - you can't say that he's been the model of success in this second stint as manager. That said, as a fan of this Club - a club that we're told is an example of the rich tradition of English football and that has far-reaching influence globally - the situation post-Dalglish is simply untenable. No successor in place? Not even a clear vision of what kind of manager is being sought? So, instead of Dalglish - a manager who, at the very least, can still instill a sense of pride in the "Liverpool Way" and who motivated his squad to two Cup finals - Liverpool's American ownership has left the club in the lurch, lacking in any clear sense of direction, leadership and, sadly, prospects for the future.
As of now, the only leadership at the Club comes in the form of Ian Ayre, who was hand picked by former American owners Gillett and Hicks. Forgive me if references from some of the worst sports owners in recent history don't make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Going up the ladder, the situation doesn't get much better. Sure, FSG brought championships to Boston fans who had been pining for them since 1918, but they're also the same guys who let Theo Epstein go and who have allowed the storied Red Sox franchise to devolve into the tire fire it most certainly is.
(Which begs the question, as an aside -- WHY DOES THE FA ALLOW AMERICANS TO BUY EPL TEAMS?? Maybe they just like watching us fuck it all up as some sort of cathartic exercise in Britain's post-imperialist age. I think I may be on to something there.)
It wouldn't be hard to draw not-so-subtle comparisons between Fenway and Anfield to bolster my fears of the future of LFC, but that's a depressing task for another depressing day when I actually care to research the inner workings of a baseball team I utterly despise. It's probably enough to say that the greater universe of Liverpool fans are, with very good reason, feeling a dreadful sense that the Club is spiraling out of control and that we may yet be in for another half decade of depressing underachievement.
In a week's time, or so we're told, there should be a short list of managerial candidates, and maybe then I'll hop back on here to talk about how good or bad or wretched each of them makes me feel. Until then, I'll just sit with the realization that Liverpool, the supposed bright spot in my sports world, may be sinking to the shitshow status of my Bills and Sabres, and that it may be a while until I start to be optimistic about them again.
Williamsburg's inhabitants, epitomized.
Cause we're eeeeeeeeeeesaaaaaaaaay....
Wednesday evening in the hipster hole known as Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Deeg gathered in the Yachstman's new apartment to record Ep. 29 of the infamous CrapTastiCast. Good times were had by all.....except Yachter's dog Scout, who was obviously pissed we took her bone away because of the awful sound feedback it causes. (This will be audible several times during the recording)
While in the home of the Beastie Boys, we kept the MCA tribute going with more music from our favorite group and had some wonderful discussions. Segment one is dedicated to Vince Young and the Buffalo Bills, jizz residue, stories of Yachtsman's uselessness as a young adult, and dog & baby stains. Powerful stuff.
Segment two is almost all soccer talk, as the guys converse about Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish, the Scizz cracks terrible jokes and needs other sports analogies to help understand what the hell they are talking about. We also sneak in some quick NBA playoff chatter at the end. Fuck you, Lebron.
Finally, we unveil a new segment featuring a yet unnamed sports trivia game (leave suggestions in the comments) that was inspired by Doug Benson's podcast "Doug Loves Movies". It actually went much better than expected, except for that part where all the listeners will be furiously frustrated with how little we actually know about sports when put under pressure. Download through Libsyn
or iTunes. And as always you can stream away if need be.
I wasn’t going to write this post today for two main reasons. One, I lost the notebook with my outline. I didn’t used to outline my posts, but I can be very forgetful (see: missing notebook) and there’s nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank page knowing you had ideas, or staring at a finished product and knowing it could have been much better than the pile of shit you slapped together. (Ed. Note: this is NOT a pile of shit. Keep reading!). The second reason was when getting ready for work I pulled something in my back, collapsed in a pile of screaming agony and am still in pretty intense pain as I type. But then I told myself that unlike Josh Beckett, I can play through it and not be an overweight insufferable jackass…
Whenever I tell people that I’m a Red Sox fan I immediately see the condemnation in their face. Not the condemnation that says that person is a Yankees fan, or a Rays fan (the latter is a joke, Rays fans are a myth like Noah’s Ark or Brad Boyes’ 40 goal season), but the condemnation that says I must be a bandwagon fan, one of those post-2004 assholes who claimed the Red Sox as their own simply because winning is more fun than losing and it’s easy to make fun of A-rod. I loathe bandwagon fans more than I loathe terrorists (some terrorists; bandwagoners would go ahead of Al-Qaeda but below the 1980’s IRA in my power rankings) and if I were the decider over such issues I would move all bandwagoners to Florida - the Mecca of such wretched souls - and give them a TV package that only gets Royals, Blue Jackets, Bobcats and University of Indiana football for all of eternity.
Bandwagon fans are the Mississippians of sports fans.
Anyway, as a tot in the early '90s I found myself able to choose who would be my baseball team, an option that had not been afforded to me in football and hockey. With a similar opportunity my friends chose teams like the Indians, Blue Jays, Pirates, teams that were merely hours away from home, in many cases televised locally, and more importantly played some of the best baseball in the league. I cheered for these teams myself until I watched Ken Burns’ “Baseball” on PBS. Now in hindsight, “Baseball” is nothing but propaganda designed to push the viewer towards the Red Sox - or Yankees - corner, but that, coupled with my grandfather being a Boston fan, did the trick and I became one of those “tortured Red Sox fans.”
That term means something entirely different than it used to. For my grandfather, it meant watch Dent’s home run or Wilson’s dribbler down first. For me, it meant a watching Boone’s home run in a room full of Yankee fans, heading out to get shitfaced on Crystal Palace, Keystone Light and rage, coming back to my dorm the next morning to see my AIM away message was still “5 OUTS…”. But now, it means reconciling your love for the Red Sox through childhood, your teens, college, and today with the fact you share that love with a bunch of meatheads who believe Tedy Bruschi could kill Seal Team 6 and that Sam Adams counts as a microbrew, and who have diligently worshiped the Bruins ... since April 2011. The last decade has made Boston fans insufferable and it sucks to have your team loyalty and you as a fan tainted by such douchebaggery, and to share your rooting interest with the guy that rained homosexual slurs at you for two hours in TD Garden just because you paired your Sox hat with a Mogilny jersey.
O-ver-rate-d!! *clap* *clap* *clapclapclap*
That may be why I’ve greeted this season - this incomprehensible flaming garbage heap of a season - with what could only be termed as a morbid eagerness. I imagine this must be how one watches the running of the bulls from a second floor balcony in Pamplona, with a beer cracked, ready to get on with the carnage. It didn’t help having an offseason full of discussion of the most mundane, incomprehensible crap, arguments about beer and chicken
, or having your superstar blame the worst October collapse in two generations on God and night games
. Believe me, Red Sox haters, I empathize with you. I hate that ESPN spent the entire winter talking more about Theo Epstein than anything going on in the NHL, and I hate that the Boston media inexplicably made the eating habits of pitchers who weren’t starting the story over the pitchers actually starting who were taking a massive dump on the mound every day in September. I hate the pink hats, the wave and I hate that “Sweet Caroline” still gets sung when my team is losing by six runs. What I will do is tell you that many Sox fans, this one included, will be- or should be- entertained by the farce of the 2012 just like you.
I’d like to think any true Red Sox fan saw this coming a mile away. Did anyone who either watched John Lackey or owned him in fantasy really think he was the answer when Schilling and Pedro moved on? 2007 may have reaffirmed to the front office that they had the formula to success but that title may have been a little more luck than being head and shoulders above the rest of the league. The idea that CC Sabathia and Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona) would bring their “C” games a win away from the World Series seems laughable today (maybe not so much w/ Hernandez/Carmona), but it happened in back-to-back games of the ALCS. The Rockies got the wild card in a one-game playoff thanks to a very questionable call in extra innings, were rightfully swept in the World Series by Boston, and wouldn’t have fared any better against the Indians.
All-Star teams don’t work, and when you comprise that All-Star team of washed up pitchers, mercurial injury prone former all-stars and superstars that are used to playing in front of 2,500 fans a game, you have the potential for a disaster. Sometimes you can get by on talent alone, like the Red Sox did from May-August last year. But eventually the chips are down, your 160 million dollar asshole is half-assing to a shallow line drive against the fucking Orioles and the Yankees are keeping Rivera glued to the bench because he threw all of four pitches the night before. Suddenly you’re watching the worst fan base in baseball pretending they were pounding those cowbells in their Longoria jerseys all season and the media is blaming it on KFC and the manager, not the fact that your GM gave 160 million dollars an outfielder you didn’t need who was perfectly happy playing to crowds smaller than those seen by the Elmira Jackals. (I may still be bitter about Game 162.)
The point is that the real ills are still there and we’re seeing them continue. Gonzalez may ultimately not be a major market player - someone better suited in San Diego where he can be blissfully removed from national television for his career. Youk might not be a leader - someone better suited to lead a “25 guys, 25 cabs
” Sox team from the 60's than some lovable idiot reincarnation of 2004. Valentine may be better off cracking jokes about Japanese culture from the press box than trying to handle a pitching staff already held together with two hands and duct tape. Marlon Byrd has a problem with being good at hitting a baseball. Josh Beckett is an asshole. If you’re relying on Vicente Padilla and Aaron Cook to do anything other than actually set themselves on fire while on the mound, your expectations, not their play, is the problem.
Sure there are positives - Will Middlebrooks, the ageless David Ortiz, the four game winning streak among them - but I’m just not buying it. Through long stretches of this season the Sox haven’t looked any better than the worst team in the league, like some real-life montage from a sports movie where the team is chucking the ball into the dugout, the pitcher’s getting shelled and their superstar is mired in an unfathomable slump. At least those teams are usually filled with lovable characters.
Seasons like this are the natural progression of sports, when a team is holding onto its past, attempting to repackage it in a substandard wrapper, caught between what they once were and what they will be. We saw it in the final years of the Kelly-Thomas-Reed Bills teams, or in the '02-'04 (and to a lesser extent '08-'09) Sabres teams, or this season's Mavericks, having won a title at the back end of their window. And now we’re seeing it with the Red Sox, who have chosen to sign players they don’t need, scapegoat those who are not at fault, and give the press and the ignorant fan base red herrings through which to channel their anger and frustration.
My advice to other Red Sox fans: enjoy it! The team has a fundamental flaw (lack of unity) that isn’t going to be fixed this season, barring a Rachel Phelps style “win the whole fucking thing” plotline, and other major flaws (pitching, hitting) that are unlikely to be corrected to the extent needed for them to make the playoffs. So, laugh when Beckett lets in seven through three innings, or when Gonzalez strikes out swing at a fall at his feet with the bases loaded, or when Bobby V looks like he wants to murder anyone who told him this was a solid career decision. Talk about how terrible of a signing Carl Crawford was, or how the Bailey trade isn’t going to work out, or how Youkilis needs to hang it up. If anything, do it to pre-empt the Yankee fans and the rest of the Red Sox haters who group us in with the pricks who inundated twitter with racial slurs after Joel Ward won game 7 for the Caps. Do it because you laugh when people trip over the sidewalk, or even because from September-January the entire Boston region roots for fucking Tom Brady
. Justify it however you can but, please, enjoy the ineptitude and the hilarity of unencumbered failure, because folks…
It’s not getting any better.
Follow the Outlander @MattyRenn
Earlier this week, I was about to post my second installment of the in-depth profiles of the Buffalo Bills un-drafted free agents, when I received a text from the Bills saying they released the subject of the post, Richmond QB Aaron Corp. I was going to scrap the whole thing and put up a detailed look into another player, but since we have no real accountability on this god-forsaken blog, I decided to put up the Corp one anyways. Besides, undrafted FA's are known to be brought back periodically to the practice squad if injuries erupt on the team. And, with Vince Young and his crazy ass ways on the roster, the Bills need access to all the back-up QB's possible. So here is the second entry in "Long Road to the Practice Squad", QB Aaron Corp! Kudos to @Boner_Shorts
for the new title idea.(Note: 98% of this profile is completely fabricated and in no way accurate. If you didn't pick up on that, then Tommy will come back there and hit you on the head with a tack hammer.)
Me throw pretty one day
High School: Academy for the Mediocre (Kansas City, Mo)
Strengths: Big arm, pocket presence, not afraid of failure, great knowledge of Richmond restaurant scene, played at USC
Weaknesses: Playing Quarterback, easily startled, terrified of success, Played at Richmond
Reason for Transfer from USC to Richmond: Refused to take money, hookers, and blow from boosters. Also, an overwhelming desire to be average.
Goals: "To make it the NFL and abruptly leave to play 3rd string QB for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats."
On-field accomplishments: Playing at USC
Off-field accomplishment: None
Favorite musical artists: Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe
Favorite movies: Spider-Man 3, Beverly Hills Cop 3, The Godfather: Part 3, & John Carter
Off-field activities/hobbies: Playing his Sega Saturn, collecting football cards of career back-ups, turning down 10's in order to date 3's.
Romantic Crush: Ann Veal
"Oh I'm sorry Ann, I didn't see you there"
Favorite Buffalo Bills moment:
The entire 2001 seasonFavorite Sports Teams:
The Hartford Whalers, Los Angeles Rams, & Flint TropicsFavorite Players:
Tood Collins, David Carr, Raghib IsmailMost embarrassing moment:
Five touchdown, 400 yard game against Louisiana Tech. All those questions in the presser afterwards made him uncomfortable.Most looking forward to....:
Getting begged for retweets from members of the Bills Mafia
"Long Road to the Practice Squad" number two is in the books! What book that is, I have no idea and should probably be burned, immediately. Check back next week for another. LEARNING!
Follow me @TheScizz
and DM me pics of your left forearm. HOT.
If I'm being honest about my sports allegiances, I'm not sure if I'm a baseball guy. Mets fan, sure, but not an entrenched fan of the sport itself. Not in the way that some people are - people who grew up playing or going to games on a weekly basis, or who grew up with strong allegiances to the team their parents cheered for.
For those that know me, my confession of less-than-complete interest in baseball isn't terribly revelatory. At times, late in seasons, I can tend towards vocal cynicism with the sport. There are certainly times when I scoff at the idea of "America's Game" - a sport that can put me to sleep sometimes, a sport sullied by substance abuse and cheating, a sport largely ignored worldwide. But, there's also the beauty of it. Those perfect moments where the team you're pulling for comes through in the clutch, where a matter of centimeters makes all the difference. Like any sport that captures our attention and passion (and, there are many), baseball can bring us to the highest of places.
What I forget, sometimes, is that I'm still pretty new to the game - an odd thought considering how ever-present baseball is in American culture. I never played as a kid (soccer was my summer and fall sport), and left with AAA ball in Buffalo - albeit very decent AAA ball - I never really went all in. Sure, my parents were both Red Sox fans, but Boston was 400 miles away from Buffalo and, frankly, I didn't need baseball. I had my underachieving hockey team. I had my crumbling NFL franchise. I was all set.
Living in New York City changed this, though, at least to the extent that I can't ignore the game here. NYC is a great sports town, but more than that it is a big baseball town. When its teams are playing well, or poorly, they rule the airwaves and the water coolers, if only to encourage fans of opposing teams to jump into the verbal fray. Listen to enough radio during the season, as I did during my first full summer in New York, and it starts to sink in that one of the things that New Yorkers do is follow baseball. Making the choice to follow and adore the Mets, therefore, is - at least in part - a choice to go all in with New York as well. To decide to adopt a substantial aspect of New York City culture so that, in the bustle of city living, I don't feel quite so out of place.
As fate would have it, for the first time in years I'm in a position where I may need to leave New York City in the not-too-distant future. And, as fate would have it, I find myself watching a lovable Mets team and feeling, at least incrementally, more and more like an entrenched New Yorker with every come-from-behind win that these supposed scrubs put together.
After watching the Mets go to the brink of success soon after I moved to Queens in '05, only to sink faster than Liam Neeson's credibility
, the first six or seven weeks of this season have been incredibly heartening. My only Mets thoughts before the April rolled around revolved pretty closely to those I had last May
, when I mused on the frustration of a fan base stuck supporting team with an economic ball-and-chain in the face of Fred Wilpon. Even when the team began with a hot start, I was quick to shift back to a protectionist, pessimistic stance.
Indeed, in that early April piece, I predicted a certain slide to 4-5 when the Mets faced the Phillies that week. The Mets went on to easily win that series, only missing out on the sweep by way of a dominating Cole Hamels performance in the third game. And while there have been hiccups along the way - getting swept by the Astros, for starters - this team has been consistently good through the first 35 games.
The surprising play has been a theme of this season, whether it be about the team itself or the individual players that are getting them there. David Wright, left for dead by me and many fans, has rejuvenated his career and is batting better than we've seen since '07, really. Hitting .398 through tonight's 3-1 win over the Brewers, Wright looks like he's found the swing he had lost somewhere around the time Carlos Delgado stopped protecting him in the lineup, and suddenly his hits are actually appearing in clutch situations (rather than during blowout wins or losses, as seemed to be the case in the past few years). RISP? .364. RISP with 2 outs? A stupid .462. This is a David Wright I simply did not expect to be back in Flushing. I guess dropping that fence line was a great idea. Go figure.
While Wright is a great story of the season, the play of the recent call-ups has been utterly bananas and is redefining what Mets baseball can be this year. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who came into the starting lineup when Torres went down and opened up a spot in centerfield, is batting over .300 with 12 RBIs. His field play displays his youth at times, though he's really no worse than Jason Bay (and a hell of a lot cheaper) and brings a bat that Bay has been unable to locate since being signed by the Mets last year. Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis have started to find their stride in the last few weeks as well (Murph more than Ike, though), and suddenly the Mets batting order may actually start to make opponents worry and wonder where three outs are coming from.
On the other side of the ball, the optimism keeps on coming. Johan Santana, back from injury, is pitching some insane starts, though sadly his win-loss column makes us all feel like the team could be doing more to help him get the results he rightfully deserves. His 1-2 record and 2.92 ERA are reminiscent of his first season in Flushing, when the team consistently failed to give him decent run support. Yet, with the whole team pitching well, and the bats finding success late in games (leading the league in comeback wins), Santana's poor record may just be the nature of the beast. (To that point, Dickey is the only starter with a winning record at 5-1; lots of no decisions for everyone).
I'm the fucking boss.
Which isn't to say that this Mets team is without faults - we need another starting pitcher with Big Pelf out for the year, and we may still be in need of a closer, and there isn't a legit starting catcher in the bunch. But, these kids keep winning, inexplicably. They sit at 20-15, are nearing the quarter way mark of the season, and are very much in the mix of the NL East.
At any rate, so long as they keep playing well, I'll keep latching on to this team, living and dying with every game, and continuing to feel more and more like a New Yorker who can't bring himself to leave this City that has become his home.