A day removed from taking LeBron to task for being a gigantic shit burger (despite also being an incredible player), it seems fitting that I'd get to stay up for a late, west coast Mets game and watch the antithesis of that on the mound. In a league with no cap, there's this guy who makes $3.9 million a year - less than Derek "Tossed Salad Roy" and Ville "The Finnish Rusty Trombone" Leino - and who is, inexplicably, right now, the best at what he does. He's so dominant that hitters laugh when they swing at his stuff. Laughing, somehow, an appropriate response because the only other logical reaction would be a temper tantrum. And no one really wants that.
I kind of fell out of love with baseball during the steroids era, as many did, and when I got brought back in to watch my family rejoice at the 2004 Red Sox win, only to find some of its heroes - Curt Schilling, for example - to be humongous dicks, I grew wary again. Sure, the Mets have been an exception, but even that has been a marriage of convenience in a sense, offset by their awful play, sometimes tough to take fan base and felonious ownership.
I was tempted to title this post "The Hero Baseball Needed?" but thought against it because it probably would have shown my ignorance to many great stars across the league - ones who perform at a high level while also being eminently likeable. Dickey, though, is certainly the hero I needed in baseball. I said it earlier this season, and it's only becoming more true - this Mets team has got me going all in.
And Robert Allen Dickey is reason #1.
He's 12-1, his ERA is 2.15, he averages just under 9 strikeouts a game, and four years ago, few of us had ever heard of him.
Unlike some stars who get pulled into the hype machine of the Network, almost forcing us to despise the guy at the center of it all out of principle, there's nothing to not like about what we're getting out of R.A. He's, comparably, vastly underpaid, he's well-liked by anyone and everyone, and he licensed his image to be on one of the best tshirts ever made.
So, if you're on the fence about baseball and need a reason to watch and have, apparently, been living under a rock during his recent dominance, start watching the Mets every five games and see the best hitters in the game get straight up befuddled at what this 37 year old knuckler does.
Sidebar: Is that Spoelstra with the backwards cap? AMAZING.
LeBron won a title. After a spring filled with the Apologist tweeting from the @DGWUSports
account in a way that strongly suggested some deep fetish that would make even Delonte West blush, I suppose I should be thankful Aps didn't hop on here with a piece about how he's happy to be a Witness to the sweat from LBJ's balls. That said, I recognize that the NBA isn't my wheelhouse... But, LeBron won a title, and - a week out - I find myself with some things to get off my chest.Caveat #1: This may be the only time I give him any credit, so if you can't stand any concession of LeBron's greatness, take it with a grain of salt.
Caveat #2: If you think his victory merits an end to the vitriol spewed his way by fans like me, you don't get why I watch sports, so if you breathlessly worship Bron Bron without regard to his many failings, take this with a grain of salt. And then think about walking into traffic.
In the lead-up to the Heat's ultimate victory last week, the prevailing wisdom was that a championship for LeBron James would provide a respite to the neverending media coverage and fan arguments about this athlete-turned-caricature. The meme of "LeBron as Choke Artist" - and the reactive and defensive push-backs that always followed - has been THE story of the NBA since James decided to forego the role of Hometown Hero
for that of Captain Callously Self-Centered
. And it hasn't disappointed, even for those of us who abhorred the circus of it all, wishing that ESPN would focus more on the sport rather than the hype.
For better or worse, our shared hope for an end to the endless hype and bickering (some amongst the brethren of the Deeg) is ultimately futile. This is what happens when one of the greatest players to ever play the game takes the court for a redemptive moment of achievement. We talk about it. We have to. Just silently watching it unfold seems a disservice, whether you've chosen to think of LeBron as athlete in pursuit of highest victory, or villain whose success is being built in the wake of heartbreak and deep resentment.
How we digest a moment like this - watching a player in complete control of his craft, getting the most of himself - can speak volumes about ourselves. What to focus on? The absurdity of James' talent and the story of his on-court achievement, or the callous way his brand has been marketed, creating a LeBron that exists between tip offs? If you focus on his image, maybe you miss out on the joy of seeing a great player, but if you focus on the player, maybe you miss the context of the icon performing amidst constant analysis, expectation and attention. Your choice then is whether you want to enjoy a truly remarkable player without getting bogged down by the background bullshit, or whether you'll be guided by your sports soul as it reminds you that this gifted player represents everything you hate about modern sports.
Even for the most vehement of LeBron haters, his talent has never been questioned. Indeed, the dude is so talented that the biggest knock against his play has been that his achievement had yet to match the potential he carried within his gigantic 6' 8", 250 pound frame. His enormous physical gifts all-but-guaranteed that he would at least get a shot in the NBA. He was a beast in high school, dominating in a way that was inarguably unfair to the opponents who simply hadn't been blessed with the kinds of tools that James had from early on. Those physical gifts - innate, unachieved and invaluable to his game - were enough to get him to the pros. His prior failures, then, were a basis for the argument that he was all talent, no heart. We all knew he could
win it all... but only if he wanted
LeBron, 4th quarters.
Those criticisms of his play, based in an overarching sense that he was showing himself to be undeserving of the immense gifts appearing in his genetic code, were probably unfair, though hell if I cared when I was a few beers deep. In any event, those criticisms are largely irrelevant now. James has little else to prove as a player. After seeing him dominate the deciding game against OKC, it was clear that he finally wanted it and was actually interested in playing up to a level commiserate with his innate talent and gifts. He did the work and he succeeded. Good job, I guess.
Yet, as much as he has closed the book on those performance-based questions about his likely legacy as a player, satisfying even the most vocal critics, so much of the story of LeBron is off the court. And that off-court story is arguably more important, as it provides a more complete narrative of LeBron's impact in pop culture and provides us real reasons to watch. We pick sides and sit down to observe the best player in the game and hope for outcomes that provide some sort of karmic conclusion to the morality play that so often force our heroes to act out. Success is thus irrelevant, as it just as easily affirms the things we hate about James - his choice to pursue a title with a stacked deck in a city so undeserving of a title that it makes me want to strangle a Marlin, for example.
This is by no means a pure way to consume the sport, though getting hung up on these particulars is also by no means uncommon. His image, with the persistent taint caused by, among other things, his public declaration that he just wasn't that into Cleveland anymore, is the real reason we all love to hate the guy. I could give a shit if he wins a championship or not, or whether he nails that last shot or not (well, I would prefer not)... He's still the guy who grew up jumping on the bandwagon of teams I hate and ignoring the franchises from his hometown. He's still the guy who took on the mantle as Messianic figure for the Cavs, only to leave the team in the lurch, still waiting on the salvation he promised. And he's the guy who scoffed at us when we collectively criticized him for callously pissing on his hometown fans and who has built advertising campaigns on shoving those criticisms right back in our faces.
He's the fucking WORST.
And unlike a player who is just a simple, unlikeable dick (Bill Laimbeer comes to mind), LeBron is the worst kind of villain - the one who wants everyone to love him, convincing some to do just that, but wanting that love to exist in lockstep with his insistence to act as he chooses, regardless of the foreseeable consequences. Forgive me for thinking that this is a reprehensible level of disrespect to his fans, almost assuming that we're all unthinking narbies, waiting only to be entertained by dunks and blocks and a nightly mist of hand powder before every game.
I'm certainly aware that these musings may not apply to everyone, or even anyone, and I know that there are probably many fans of the game who can easily ignore the context within which LeBron has existed as a brand and who can watch without being swayed by the narrative of callous sports star. After all, LeBron's callousness was nothing new or completely unexpected. It was a logical next step for the sports free agent to capitalize on media interest (and laziness, IMO) and create a spectacle out of his departure to a new, exciting team. Next logical step or not, though, these are the kinds of things that matter to me as a fan and guide the way I think about sport. The ethics of it are what make the whole thing matter to me at all.
No amount of achievement can overshadow the creamy pile of douche in which this guy seems to bathe on a a daily basis. While he may be a different guy on the court - a winner now - he's still that same dipshit off it.
REALLY? FUCK YOU.
So, even if we all have one less jab to throw at James now that he has shed the role of "choker," LeBron is still out there, making sure we know how great he thinks this achievement is and how happy he is to have finally "silenced the haters" or whatever other bullshit cliché ESPN is feeding us this week, ultimately giving us yet another new reason to hate his smug, fabulously talented face. A ring doesn't fix that, and so long as LeBron remains wedded to his role as self-centered star and uninterested in rehabilitating the image he created by atoning for his prior mistakes and our understandable indignation at them, I'll keep having my delightfully immature fun by calling spades on this d-bag.
Love this? Hate it? Leave a comment below, and follow me on the tweet machine @theycallmedubs
Last Sunday I was lying on my couch, generally incapacitated from the type of Sunday hangover that comes but a few times a year ... or whenever your girlfriend leaves town for a weekend to visit family and you suddenly become indifferent to the amount of vodka you’re consuming during pre-gaming. My credit card was at the bar so my attempts to order pizza had failed, and my car was still at a bar from Friday so until after dinner I was stranded in the house. Luckily the Red Sox game was on, so I stared at it in the way negligent parents will throw on a Pixar movie to keep their kids quiet and distracted for a couple hours. From the start, something was different. On his first at-bat Youkilis got a standing ovation, which the TBS broadcast team referred to as “bizarre,” but I found completely logical in the context of trade talks heating up and Will Middlebrooks’ emergence at third base, and the resulting possibility that any game could be Youk’s last in a Sox uniform.
That David Wells passes for a television broadcaster in today’s pathetic media landscape is bizarre. The crowd reactions on Sunday were not. But I digress.
After a couple more standing ovations and a triple that could easily have been scored an error, Bobby Valentine lifted the former all-star to give him a chance to enter the dugout with all the Fenway cheers for himself, punctuated with a couple of curtain calls for good measure. While the broadcasters once again could muster nothing more than confusion, any reasonable fan could discern that Youk either had been traded or was about to be traded, but was nevertheless done in Boston. I knew I was supposed to feel something for a player that had been one of the best hitters in the league for so many consecutive years; certainly I knew my friends that rooted for the Yankees were happy to see him go after I spent years hearing how much they hated his “stupid face” in the way I hate Teixieira’s stupid horseface. But really all I could muster as he sank into the dugout and disappeared down the tunnel was one thought: It’s over already?
Don’t get me wrong, I loved his intensity, I loved his hustle and believe me, when you cheer for someone nicknamed the “Greek God of Walks,” you gain a certain affinity for watching four pitches land outside the strike zone. Sure there were injuries, yet he was dependable despite them in a way, where you knew if he was in the lineup, you would be getting his best. Maybe he was cursed by the era he played for the Sox, arriving just as the fan base started expecting a dynasty, just as anything short of a World Series championship became a massive disappointment for a city that was already beyond spoiled. He was clutch in his own way, coming alive in the final three games of the 2007 ALCS, hitting a bomb off CC Sabathia in game five, but still, those three games are remembered by me for JD Drew’s only big hit as a Red Sox and the Indians’ collapse. Sure, he played seventy-some games in 2004 but I think few fans would think of him as a member of that team. Which again leads to my bewilderment at how fast the time went.
In the movie High Fidelity
, John Cusack’s character "Rob" is left by his long time girlfriend for another man. After a period of soul searching they get back together and while there is no longer that excitement, that crazy head-over-heels feeling, he describes things as “just…good.” In the end, for Rob, that was enough.
To me that was Youkilis. He never did anything that left me in awe, he never made me feel like the team couldn’t survive without him, but he got the hits, sparked the clubhouse, and - mercifully - never drove me to such frustration that I wanted to drive my car over a cliff. He was just…good. There’s nothing wrong with good. I loved Manny Ramirez, for instance, as he would do things that I still think about to this day. But I can also picture him having two errors in one inning of Game One of the 2004 World Series, leading me to unleash a torrent of obscenities from my mouth that gets me angry typing this eight years later. Now that - that’s love, with its highs and its lows. Youk, on the other hand, was dependable. Never flashy and never had moments that endeared me to him in that same, intense way, but I’ll always be thankful that he was on my team during that time. That - that’s comfort, complacency. But after being in that place with crazy highest-highs and lowest-lows love, one can really appreciate comfort and complacency. One can really appreciate just…good.
In a way, maybe he got screwed by 2004. If Dave Roberts gets tagged out in Game Four, the Yankees complete the sweep and, assuming the Red Sox get it done in 2007 as they did, Youk is remembered as one of the heroes of the organization, the guy with the clubhouse intensity that pushed the team over the Indians to reverse the curse after 89 years.
Instead you’ll have fans unable to remember his name 20 years from now, while at the same time will roll off “Mark Bellhorn” without difficulty. That sucks for him. And it's what sucks about feeling that feeling I had on Sunday about the time passing too quickly. I still wanted him to be able to do more, to get another ring, to hit that walk-off in the playoffs. To have that twilight, legacy-cementing moment that would ensure he wouldn’t be forgotten. Instead he’s in a White Sox uniform and now I’m left to define his career around one World Series and a myriad of relative disappointment, especially 2008 and 2011, years when those around him should have put the finishing touches on a dynasty and instead faltered against teams that never approached them in terms of talent.
Is that unfair to Youk? Of course it is. Fans, especially those who root for Buffalo teams, should appreciate great talent even when it comes on a team that doesn’t win it all.
Fair or not, watching him walk off the field on Sunday left me wishing, for a moment, that there was more time for Youk. There's no question he deserved it, but eventually time decided for him, assisted by a young third baseman hitting the ball all over the place and demanding a spot on the field, just like he did eight short years ago. And even if I never loved this player with the kind of passion - both highs and lows - with which I have loved the Red Sox greats of the past decade, part of me wanted Youk to have a chance to bring me there. A chance to prove that "just... good" can sometimes be more than enough.Follow me on Twitter @MattyRenn
When there's something strange....in the neighborhood.....
Guess who's back? Back Again. Guess who's back? TELL A FRIEND!
Due to popular demand and my own sheer boredom, welcome to the third installment of Buffalo Sabres: Where Are They Now?
If you are new to DGWU Sports in the last year, this all started as a dumb hashtag on twitter when I was bored at home on a Sunday night. Well, it's Tuesday morning, work is slow, and I compiled a nice little list with the help of some friends on the tweet machine. Enjoy yourself and start thinking up ideas to tweet me
for "2012 - Part 2." Oh yeah, and you can read the last year's two installments here
Ville Leino: Somewhere in Finland, diving into a pile of cash like Scrooge McDuck, except missing five feet wide and yet still laughing maniacally.
(assist from @JG_1611
Tim Kennedy: Filling out an application to be groundskeeper at Patrick Kane's new house in Hamburg. - from @Boner_Shorts
Dominic Hasek: Working out for his big comeback. This involves vodka, pilates, vodka, 117 cortisone injections, and vodka.
Pat Lafontaine: Staring at a picture of himself staring at a picture of himself staring at himself in a mirror. - from the Barrister
Jason Botterill: Laughing at Sabres fans on twitter who thought a Roy for J. Staal trade would actually ever happen.
Chris Butler: Still being fucking terrible at hockey somewhere.
This smells of the poop triangle.
Robyn Regehr: Staring at the living room wall while chewing a rock. - from @Boner_Shorts
Shaone Morrisonn: Taking his talents to Южная Бич. And by talents I mean the extra n in his last name.
Tom Golisano: Wondering how his bid for the Dodgers didn't win - Free payroll service & a coupon to Quiznos - from @JG_1611
Steve Bernier: Hanging out with his new friends Scott Norwood, Bill Buckner, and Greg Norman.
Somebody needs another.
Jason Pominville: Sitting in an empty locker room, rocking back and forth repeating "You're not Craig Rivet. You're not Craig Rivet" to himself over & over again.
Tyler Ennis: Auditioning for part of Crutchy in the touring production of Newsies. - from the Barrister
Taro Tsujimoto: Whereabouts unknown, but still better than Mike Weber.
Book it. Follow me @TheScizz
and feel free to leave other #WhereAreTheyNow ideas
in the comment section. Go Sabres?
There are many things that I love to hate, and that are so easy to hate. Restaurants that serve ranch with their “buffalo” chicken sandwiches (I’m looking at you, everywhere in Albany, State College and Montpelier), people who drive 65 in the fast lane, and southerners come to mind. Just as easy for me to hate for so many years has been the NBA, a hatred which I have cherished and nurtured to the point that I can barely make it through a quarter without working myself into a blinding rage. The refereeing is far and away the worst of the major four sports, where even apologists talk about preferential teams and players to the point which respected media personalities blatantly ask the commissioner about fixing games. Many of the best players of the last decade have been so goddamn unlikable they make John Edwards or Tony Heyward seem like decent guys. There’s the style itself, filled with possessions of one guy driving to the basket while his four teammates stand around, or missed shots as the entire offense is already retreating, leaving no one to bother contesting a rebound. (Editors Note: I think the rest of the Deeg would wholeheartedly disagree with that. In 2003? Yes. Now? No way. But oh well, let the new kid have his rant!) Then there is the seemingly incomprehensible- to me at least- infatuation for it throughout this country, filling ESPN’s daily “top plays” with dunks and blocks, dedicating such a massive amount of their airtime to a sport while overtly ignoring the one that so many of us in WNY care about much more.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a fan, in the way I was a fan of every sport growing up. I cheered against the Bulls throughout the 90’s and adopted the Suns as my favorite team, with Charles Barkley as my favorite player. But as the 2000’s came and I moved on to rooting against the Lakers at every turn, I simply couldn’t appreciate the game anymore. (Editor’s Note: As noted above, because the early 2000’s were awful sauce for b-ball.) The most entertaining moment in that NBA era happened for me when sitting at a bar underage in 2004, I overheard a buddy scream in astonishment “they’re fighting the fans” as we watched “The Malice at the Palace” unfold before our eyes. I wanted to appreciate Lebron as a Cavalier and for a short period I did, until he revealed himself to me as an egomaniacal douche specializing in blowing games to the Magic and Celtics and unable to win unless he stacked the deck in his favor.
(Quick aside: The thing I harp on the most when it comes to Lebron being an insufferable tool- and what should have made “The Decision” easy to see coming- is the teams he cheered for growing up. Despite being from Akron, he rooted for the Bulls, Yankees and Cowboys while all three were in their hey-day. Every school, including yours, had a kid like this in it. I feel comfortable saying that every one of those kids was a revolting little shit and is now likely a self-absorbed asshole. I find it much easier to accept Lebron’s demeanor when seen in this light.)
All of the above are the only reason I’ve tuned in the past couple weeks. To mutter at every uncalled travel, to sigh in resignation as Lebron drives to the basket, to rage at every biased call in the Heat’s favor, every terrible shot choice, every uncontested rebound and every jerkoff that thinks flashing gang signs is kosher in front of a national television audience. But soon my long-cultivated and loudly-proclaimed hatred for the NBA will come crashing to a halt. I will be tuning in for games in November for the first time since my childhood. I’ll be live tweeting them and attempting to pass myself off as a student of the game. I will actually purchase an NBA jersey and wear it proudly to summer parties and camping trips sans undershirt. I will be engaging in hoops talk with the friends that I’ve so often dismissed as they attempted to preach the merits of the modern game to my stubborn ears.
So what happened?
Andrew Nicholson happened.
If you even passively follow WNY sports, odds are you’ve heard of him, the forward who led St. Bonaventure to an improbable run to their first A-10 Tournament title and their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2000. You may have also read that he is pegged to go somewhere in the middle of the first round of this year’s NBA draft. Beyond the box scores lies the story of an unforgettable season, one that brought to me and any Bonaventure fan those moments that remind you why you fell in love with sports in the first place.
Basketball was what introduced me to the campus where I would have the best years of my life. During a high school basketball tournament in Olean, our coaches brought us to a Bonas game to kill an afternoon before one of our games. St. Bonaventure hadn’t even been on my radar for college; I was still looking at larger schools, more identifiable names much farther away. That walk through campus, from our hotel to the Reilly Center immediately placed it on my list. It became the only campus I ever bothered to visit during my “process” of picking a school and I arrived for my freshman year in 2002 with those vague, generic hopes for the next four years that I presume all incoming freshmen have. At least I knew I had the basketball games. They were identifiable, tangible, and I looked forward to them immensely during a time that could be nothing short of terrifying.
Any alumni can tell you what happens next, the timeline seared into our memories. February 2002 it’s found out the team had admitted and was dressing an ineligible player, soon after that all conference wins are vacated, the team doesn’t dress for the final two games and the school President, athletic director, coach and assistant coach are gone. In August that year the chairman of the Board of Trustees takes his own life. Sanctions are imposed, crippling sanctions that would have damaged a large program and appeared to be nothing short of the death penalty for my tiny college in the hills. During my sophomore, junior and senior years combined, the team won six conference games and seventeen games total. I attended one game during that time, left at the half with the Bonnies down some twenty-odd points. In hindsight it’s disappointing to have attended during the lowest point in the program’s history, but like everything else going on off-campus during those years, I was ambivalent, more than content to spend those nights partying instead of watching the comedy of errors that was going on at the Reilly Center. The basketball team may have always been part of the college experience there; it just wasn’t going to be a part of mine.
Nicholson stepped on campus in 2008, the year that my last large contingent of friends graduated, effectively ending any visits to the college where I could act as a student. From then on my visits would consist of hotel rooms instead of dorm rooms, and nights out meant the bars and not the keg parties and townhouse beer pong that had always preceded them. Luckily for the basketball team, their future also looked nothing like it had in the 02-08 era.
I won’t bore you with numbers; anyone with a working Google machine can see that the Bonnies immediately became a .500 team with Nicholson, winning as many conference games as the stiffs that walked the campus in my day managed to do in three years. They managed to make the CBI in 2011 which my sources tell me is a legitimate postseason college basketball tournament of sorts. (Editor’s Note: Statistics – being neglected by the Deeg since 2011)
It’s so rare to see something in sports that truly causes you to feel awestruck, to shake your head and simply admire what you’re watching. Lebron against the Pistons in 2005 was like that. Game six of the World Series was like that. The comeback game against the Leafs this year was like that. Watching Andrew Nicholson dominate this season brought the same awe, watching one player maintain his game at a level so far and away better than everyone else on the floor and doing it in the faces of double and triple-teams for the majority of the season. He grabbed twenty-three rebounds against Duquesne and didn’t score less than nineteen over the last ten games, topping twenty-five six times. He dominated the A-10 tournament in a way I’d only seen from schools much bigger and much farther away, and he was from my school, my tiny school doing it in front of the college basketball world. That was incredible. But a couple weeks before that A-10 tournament in which he’d be named the MVP, in a game against St. Joe’s that was only televised online, he showed all who cared to watch that he was a player whose legacy will be cherished at that school.
Even now it is difficult for me to find the words to describe the swing in emotions I experienced that day, from despair to euphoria and then back and forth numerous times in a matter of minutes. Luckily for you who like sports (and if you don’t why the fuck are you reading this?), that is a feeling we can all relate to. I mean, here are just a few of my tweets from the final minutes and overtimes:
What a joke ·
This team’s losing in the first round of the A-10 and making the CBI. ·
Wait, what? ·
Nicholson is what would happen if ’04 David Ortiz and Chris Drury had a kid. (Editor’s Note: Gross.) ·
Sports man, freaking sports.
So what’s next for him? Well the two teams I don’t want him to go to- Heat and Lakers- seem relatively unlikely, as he should be gone before Miami selects and the Lakers don’t even have a first round pick. The mock drafts I’ve seen- a big ‘fuck you’ to ESPN for putting theirs behind the insider paywall scam- have him going to Boston or Cleveland, with Oklahoma City and Atlanta as other possibilities. One of my friends from Bonas doesn’t see him lasting past the teens. That’d be nice, but I’d be fine with the twenties. He’s certainly not as muscular or athletic as those in the upper echelon but he can make a shot from anywhere on the floor and would be a perfect change-of-pace guy on many NBA rosters. Regardless, I will have a new favorite NBA team come next Thursday and will be following them in a way I haven’t followed a team in nearly twenty years.
I know my fellow alumni as well as friends that have seen him play are on board, but now I’m putting the call out to all of you to join the bandwagon, assuming you missed the stop in March. We may never appreciate the NBA like those in New York, Boston, Chicago, or Indiana do, we may always be resentful of the overblown coverage that the league receives compared to the underappreciated NHL, and we may be turned off by many of the very players that are the best in the world, but this kid, this chemistry-degree graduate from Toronto is something special if for no other reason than he belongs to Western New York now. He’s ours
, and he’s easier to root for than any Niagara Falls product who flamed out of the league. (Last Editor’s Note: Scizz here, I’m still holding out for Flynn, God dammit!)
Either join the bandwagon or tell me all your NBA jokes soon because come November I won’t find them so funny anymore, especially if they’re about my favorite team- whoever they may be.
Follow me on twitter @MattyRenn
Ralph Wilson says, "Let the hate flow throuuuuuuuuuuugh you!"
The Scizz w/ special guest Criminally Vu1ga
The Hate List. What a charming idea. A week after my colleague, the Defenseman, wrote an absolutely amazing, heart-wrenching post in which he calls out some of us complainers in the sports world, here I am being a negative Nancy, throwing the warm and fuzzies aside for some good old fashioned haaaaaaaaterade. But I have not come alone! Joining me is the ever so evil, yet brilliant Criminally Vu1gar from his blog of the same name
and Black and Blue and Gold
. This brainchild was created when the two of us, as usual, were making fun of people on twitter and realized we both have something in common: hating random members of the sports world for no "legit" reason whatsoever. After a few DM’s (and BM’s, am I right?), the Hate List was created. Now bask in our awfulness as we attempt to come to terms with why we dislike so many sports personalities. My picks are in blue
, while C.V.’s are in red
. (because they didn’t have any rainbow fonts. ZING!)
I hate Mark Martin. And I know, that statement is going to get me a ton of shit from NASCAR fans, mostly the anti-Earnhardt (read: anti-talent) crowd. Fuck you, I’m sick of your bullshit and your excuses and your inane hatred of awesome drivers with awesome mustaches. THAT justifies rooting for a driver that just lacks the killer instinct to win a championship. And seriously, when does Mark “2nd place” Martin get inserted into the conversation with Bill Buckner, Scott Norwood, and Lindy Ruff? Can we dust off the choker label already?
Dustin PennerFirst off, this bitch has two cups. Dustin Penner has TWO cups. After not even getting drafted and then impressing in the minors, Penner latched onto the MIGHTY Ducks and manages to help take the team to the finals and win it in his first full season. WHAT THE FUCK?!? Save us Derek Whitmore, you’re our only hope.
The following season, when Oilers GM/douche-nozzle Kevin Lowe fails to sign away Thomas Vanek from the Sabres (remember when Tommy had an 84 point season? Yeah, me neither), he makes Penner his consolation prize with a ridiculous 5 year, $21.25 million dollar contract for a guy with one year of NHL experience. Penner’s stats hold steady with the Oilers, but is later traded to the Kings in 2011 where his stats immediately drop, which I call a “Torres” or a “Boyes”.
Then this season, while still producing the worst stat-line of his career, Penner gets injured eating pancakes. Let me say that one more time. He got injured eating pancakes. The story goes, he got up in the morning, reached for a stack of his wife’s “delicious” pancakes, and then tweaked his back to the point he missed several weeks of action. Wowzers. Does anyone else think this sounds peculiar? I think since he goes out of the way to tell such an embarrassing story AND makes sure to mention his wife’s delicious pancakes, the real reason was him trying some insane sexual position with a USC co-ed and his wife found out about it. What’s that? His wife filed for divorce just a couple months later? Yup. NAILED IT.
Oh, then of course he wins another cup. Shithead.
A better time....
Oh the “greatest baseball player of all time.” Oh how he saved baseball (and paved the way for guys like Prince Fielder, out of shape “athletes” who need a mirror and a camera attached to a tiny robot to find their penis). Babe Ruth wasn’t the greatest baseball player of all time. He wasn’t even close. During a time when his popularity was at an all time high, he came in SECOND in the inaugural Hall of Fame vote (to the real greatest baseball player of all time, Ty Cobb, who everyone thought was a sack full of bastard cocks, and yet they still voted him in over Ruth). This is Yankee syndrome at its finest, where the largest American market with the most successful history sees its players get way more credit than they deserve. It’s why there are still people that think Derek Jeter is a defensive maven, or that Roger Clemens is innocent, or that Andy Pettitte is anything more than a super nice guy with some good moments and a last name that looks like the cat walked across the keyboard.
Me do good?
For those of you who are our old school DGWU Sports followers, you may remember my beef with Mr. Gary Sanborn. Before his Florida State rapey self came along, the Buffalo Bills had a great long-snapper named Ryan Neill. Ryan was a young, upstart kid from Jersey who not only could be the team’s long-snapper, but he could play defensive end and had a heart of gold! I should also mention he went to high school with my future wife and I was holding out for some cool hook-ups in the future. Garrison Sanborn ruined this for everyone!!!! STOP JUDGING ME!
This one is personal for me. I grew up in Syracuse, and there was a time when this city’s bandwagon shitstain residents suddenly decided “hey, we’re all Eagles fans now!” There were times when the Eagles received precedence over the Bills on the local Fox affiliate because the programming manager has Ben Roethlisberger-caliber decision making skills. (No seriously dude, just guard this bathroom, it’ll be awesome.) So even though there were times I rooted for McNabb, I grew to despise him. When the T.O. saga hit, I got to see his stupid bearded face all over my TV all the time. It was the beginning of the slow death march of my interest in the NFL. It amazes me how much a victim McNabb became even though he is A). extremely annoying, B). A dick, C). sucks, D). constantly showed up out of shape, E). All of the above, and F). has a stupid looking face. Donovan McNabb’s face is diaper rash mixed with crotch rot mixed with bathing a paper cut in lemon juice. Google image search "Donovan McNabb" and all you find is his un-helmeted face grinning through stupid press conferences where the only caption that makes sense is "herp a derp derp derp." Now do the same for Fred Jackson. Wall to wall pictures of him playing football. Exactly.
This is going to be a fun night.
I can't claim to have anything major to say these days. I'm not inclined to get too worked up about the endless conversations about what blogging means and what it means in the Buffalo sports universe in particular. Shit, most of what I've written here in the past few months is far from relevant to the Buffalo sports scene, what with my general disdain for speculating about drafts and free agents and teams that are a few months away from playing games that count. By the time the Sabres season comes around, I'll have a baby boy to dote on and, I imagine, far less time to dwell on these bizarre loves of mine. So, needless to say, I'm having my fun now.
And that fun, right now, is New York Mets baseball.
Last night, the DGWU Sports crew hit Citi Field for game two in this series against the Orioles. Game one, if you happened to be under a rock yesterday, was RA Dickey's second straight one-hitter. The former Buffalo Bison is pitching as good as anybody in the league right now, and better than the team's "ace," Johan Santana. As for Johan, he followed suit with a gem of his own last night, leading the Mets to their second straight shutout against Baltimore. Santana was in complete control through his six innings last night, and it was good to see following two less-than-inspiring outings which, in turn, followed his epic no hitter on June 1st
The Deeg had an absurdly fun time last night as we were thoroughly over-served and unsurprisingly giddy to have a chance to hang out again. Yachtsman stepped on a homeless guy on the subway, Scizz threatened the same guy with a round of old-timey boxing, and Apologist got over the loss of his Orioles by watching Lebron "Pool Boy" James pull off some heroics of his own. And me? I pretended to not know any of those clowns while barely containing my laughter.
We're really good at this.
Needless to say, live-blogging tonight seems to be an appropriate follow-up to those shenanigans since I'm probably still drunk and since these live blogs usually end up being an excuse for me to find infantile pictures on the internet and giggle like a moron.
Again, we're good at this.
Click through "read more" for the fantastic voyage.
After a super organized podcast two weeks ago, we came up with the brilliant idea this week to complete a power hour before recording episode 31 of the CrapTastiCast. If you’re unsure of what a power hour is, it involves the consumption of larges quantities of beer in a single hour, and is usually done by teenagers and college students to get super drunk while pre-gaming. We cannot be held responsible for what followed.
In our first segment, we talk about bad decisions, the blogger summit, fan access, and get some insight on all three from regular CrapTastiCast guest, Joe Pinzone of Buffalo Wins
and his own podcast, Talkamania
. That’s right, we got Joseph lit up again. And apologies for around the 3:40 mark where there is an unexplained jump-cut. We lost about 20 seconds of casting that is now somewhere in the podcasting stratosphere.
Later on, we make numerous inappropriate jokes about people we don’t know, chat about the NBA Finals, argue more about Lebron James (It wouldn’t be Deeg approved without it!), tell stories about James Vanderbeek’s sister, and laugh at Joe as he almost takes a shit in my hallway closet. Seriously. Then we end it by playing a very drunken and forgetful version of “Name That Sports Trivia Contest Thing” during the 3rd segment. Musical interludes are from The Talking Heads, Radiohead, and the Ramones.
Download the podcast through Libsyn
or the iTunes link below, as well as stream right from the blog.
Stay tuned to the blog and podcast, as in the next few weeks we will be switching the CrapTastiCast over to another podcast hoster, so you’ll have to re-subscribe. Sorry about that, but the new host will allow us to do many more cool things, as well as save us $$$. Dollar Dollar Bill Ya’ll. Jump to 1:10 in the video below to enjoy some Keith Murray in an Alex Van Pelt jersey.
One of these sends the correct message....
As of a few weeks ago, James Harden was probably one of my favorite players in the NBA. He is a former lottery pick that has been over-shadowed on an Oklahoma City squad that has big names All-Stars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, yet he doesn’t seem to have a chip on his shoulder about it. He is constantly hustling, is the first guy to dive for a loose ball, and is never afraid to take the winning shot, even though he is only the sixth man (pay attention LEBRON!). He also rocks a giant beard and hipster-ish mohawk. What’s not to like about this guy?
Simple. Last week while taking out the old man Spurs on the way to the NBA Finals, Harden, like he does, hit a big shot. However, he followed it by doing this:
Okey silly dilly dokey-o, I'm an idiot!
For those of you are unfamiliar with what Harden is doing with his hands there, that would be a gang sign. More specifically, one of the gang signs for the notorious “Bloods”. Now I’m not entirely sure that Harden is even a member of said gang, but you have to think he knew what he was doing and that it isn’t some random gesture. This means one of two things. First, James Harden is, or at least was, a member of the Bloods, and knowingly threw up the sign to show his affiliation. He is from Lakewood, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles, which is a hotbed of Blood gang activity. So there is a possible connection.
(It should also be noted that apparently Harden has sent some gang-related tweets in the past year. Then again, I say dumb shit I don’t mean on twitter all the time.)
If that is indeed the case, FUCK HIM IN HIS BEARD, FACE, AND ASS. C’mon James! You are a role model to kids in urban areas all over this country. Kids that are battling their consciences daily in these communities see a rich, successful NBA player proudly displaying these bullshit signs and what do you think that does? Gives these kids more false hope that gangbanging can lead to success, or at least is “cool”.
Now, there is the second option: that Harden isn’t, in fact, a member of the gang. In a Yardbarker post from last week
, (no, not ESPN, more on that later), it gets pointed out that super ghetto rapper and apparent gang member “Slim Thug” called out Harden as a phony and tweeted, “go yo rich ass home and practice!” So, maybe he is the dorky hipster we all think, and just knows the sign and was doing it as a joke. Well fuck that too!
Most of those kids watching won’t know the difference. Even though Charles Barkley famously has acknowledged that NBA players don’t need to be role models, many of them automatically are whether they like it or not, especially a player like Harden that has been in the media’s eye a copious amount lately. Honestly, I don’t know if he is a Blood or not (most likely not), but with any luck, this act will get James Harden shot in a drive by in the near future to show these kids what really happens to gang members. Sorry if this all seems harsh, but as an adult (I know, weird right?) that has an occupation that works with kids in a heavily infested gang area, this absolutely infuriates me. I take all gang involvement in my line of work very seriously, and have taken numerous courses on gang awareness, influence, and recruiting over the past several years. I don't claim to be an expert, but I've learned the basics. Enough to know gangs are a disease that not only hold kids back from being truly successful in life, but also gets them injured or even killed. I want no part of these jackals who promise a glorious life that mainly leads to poverty, prison and death. I've even tried to stop listening to rappers who openly glorify it in their current lyrics. Fuck those bitches, too.
Now onto the media aspect of all these shenanigans. Why has there not been more backlash about this from the NBA or mainstream media? I googled several forms of “james harden gang sign thunder spurs nba bloods” and that yardbarker piece was the most mainstream thing I could find. Nothing from ESPN. Nothing from Sports Illustrated. Nothing from Deadspin?? This is absurd. A major player from one of the best teams in the league throws up an obvious gang sign and nobody covers it? This stinks of the NFL cover-up of Michael Vick/Ron Mexico in 2005.
It is well known that David Stern gets his way with EVERYTHING in the NBA (and don't call him out on it if you want to keep your personal life in the clear
). Formers referees have said they were told to coerce certain aspects of certain games in certain directions, all the time usually leading to a major market or “top story team” advancing in the playoffs. The Cavaliers and Hornets getting the number one pick in the lottery draft over the past two seasons has also been pretty peculiar, so why would anybody put it past Stern to make sure one of the golden boys of his golden franchise gets off without so much as a slap on the wrist or a “stern” talking to? (see what I did there?). Keep in mind, the NBA is very familiar with doling out fines for gang-related behavior. In 2008, NBA All-Star and former stabbee Paul Pierce was fined $25K for throwing this up at Hawk’s Center Al Horford:
Now again, I have no clue if Pierce is throwing up a gang sign here, but from the course I've participated in and the research I've done, it sure looks like a well-documented sign that the Bloods commonly use. I’ve never liked Pierce anyways, but the point is that the NBA did something about the act and did so very publicly. Now, Harden makes what to me, is a much more obvious gang sign, that as far as I know means nothing in any other circles of life, and Mr. Stern, the NBA, and the rest of the media are absolutely silent. Bullshit.
As much as I want the OKC Thunder to roll over the Miami Heat and wipe that smug grin off of Lebron’s face, there is a part of me that wants no success for a guy that promotes anything gang related in a positive light, whether jokingly or not. I might be over-reacting, but there should at least be a discussion about this going on in the media, if only to let people know that this shit might be going on. Five years ago I very well may have shrugged my shoulders at this and kept cheering for Harden like nothing happened. Not now. Not after I’ve seen 13 & 14 year old kids who work hard and care about their future, suddenly transform over night because of promises from gangs that don’t give a flying fuck about their lives. I just wish it didn’t take me this long to find that out.
If I’m wrong and there is an honest explanation for Harden’s actions, I’ll be the first to admit my reaction was uncalled for, but as of now, I can’t think of a single scenario that could explain his piece of crap immaturity.
Follow me on twitter if you don't believe in kids getting shot. @TheScizz
I love baseball now, and I love it because of its pace. This makes me old. I have my reasons.
FUN FACT! This is also Jerry West.
Buffalo is a city based partly upon the culture of the United States, partly on the culture of Canada, and fully on the belief that neither are particularly interested in us. These factors produce a neurosis within us. We are thin-skinned, yet quick to judge others. We profess to be good neighbors as long as we all stay within our mutually agreed upon ethnic neighborhoods. We are not so good neighbors when someone new to our fair city is unaware of these customs
. We crave acceptance by larger metropoli yet revel in our unique brand of defensive provincialism. People must have strokes when they move to the Queen City. Sport is perfectly suited to a constructive release of these emotions. Sport is tribal.
But there comes a time when you kind of want everyone to shut up. As Ad-Rock once proclaimed - “I tell you everybody I’ve had it with all these people with static.” Times like when I have to read someone talking some junk about how it was really Rob Scuderi’s fault that Steve Bernier decided to fuse his face to the glass from behind. Or how the Kings making it to the final therefore means the Sabres could have. Or that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter winning the Stanley Cup as role players means that the Flyers clearly made a mistake in getting rid of them, because the Kings won the cup, you see, and everything needs to be a zero sum game even though the Flyers' goaltender looked like he was being tazed for most of his minutes. It’s enough to make you quit sports altogether.
These momentary losses of cognitive ability are not alarming on their own, but when taken as a group they begin to look more like Grandpa wandering out of the retirement home rather than simply misplacing your keys. If at any point you have found yourself agreeing with any of those three points at the same time, seek medical attention, because you may be a terrible person.
It’s easy to rag on the stupidity of most of our sports dialogue, but I would be disingenuous if I said that’s why I feel the pull of the national pastime. I’m writing about sports for Christ’s sake, what right do I have to be complaining? I’m part of the problem. The evil is inside me.
The real reason baseball has won me in a more passionate form is because I’ve got a son now, and I really need time to stop.
Lets say dumb things!
My kid showed up in late April. My wife was a trooper in the delivery room. That’s how Strong Island rolls.
Things don’t get real when the kid comes out, although that is pretty amazing. The real meta-action begins when the nurse takes him to the warming table and begins cleaning him, and he locks eyes with you - the first time he’s locked eyes with anything. That shit changes you. You grow up at that moment if you haven’t already.
Things were great. They even had WGN at the hospital, which was inexplicable as the hospital was in Buffalo. Regardless, we got in a Cubs game together. Well, he kind of slept while I held him and watched the Cubs game.
After a few days they sent us home. We had a hard time feeding him when we got there. The next day we got nervous and went to the pediatrician, who kept the office open after hours so we could get there. They took his temperature at 94 degrees. Then they told us to go to Children’s Hospital.
I was already in some sort of state, because when I heard that his temperature was that low I thought “well that’s totally normal” to myself. Yes, being four degrees down is totally great for a newborn. He’s running at optimal.
My wife has told me to speed exactly once in our eight years of marriage, and that was it.
I was pretty numb up until we arrived at the hospital.
SIDE NOTE THAT IS AWESOME UPON REFLECTION: I blew through red lights! I was like the crazy Steve McQueen on the wheel. When I tell my kid this story it will look something like this:
Then you get there and everyone is banged up for some reason or another, and they are all kids. There are better places to be. And I’m carrying in my son, who I’ve had for three days, and he looks so peaceful because he’s sleeping. You’d just think “oh cute kid he’s asleep.” It isn’t until you pick him up and he’s limp that you realize how close it is to all coming apart.
Having a nurse take your kid out of your arms before you know how he will be is something I do not recommend having happen to you. Time starts to drag, and all you want is for the fucking doctor to come in and say it was all a big mistake and everyone panicked. I want people to tell me I panicked. No one tells me I panicked.
We’ve been blessed with a kid whose light weight and lanky figure belies his toughness. He is most certainly tougher than his father. His father was a wreck, although I wasn’t supposed to cry because I’m the dad and I’m supposed to hold it together because everyone else is in rough shape and SOMEONE HAS TO TALK TO THE NURSE.
I swear to God the baseball part is coming soon.
Then they do bring your kid back, and you want time to freeze again. After testing him and bombarding him with enough radiation to begin activating his innate superpowers, we get the news that he is probably fine and that it was a feeding issue that no one was able to catch at the hospital before we were released. We would have to stay for a few days.
We did stay, he was fine, and they discharged us a few days after our arrival. Then I spent the next week convinced I was the worst father ever. This doesn’t require much encouragement anyway (I also had Jungleland stuck in my head at the time, and given the circumstances it was not the best Boss song to have going). So now I have this super tough kid that I’m super worried about. I needed to find a way not to panic.
That’s when baseball saved me.
I have people in my life that I care enough about to want to hang out with them. One of these friends who I did not have to pay came over not too long after we returned home and we watched the Red Sox on the NESN. He is a Sox fan, and the Cubs are banned under the Geneva Conventions. The Cubbies were blacked out for our protection by MLB.tv. It was during this game, holding my kid and just talking to someone about nothing in particular, that I realized what I had been missing in my life.
Everything about the static nature of the game gave me the time with my son I needed. Because we are an advanced and civilized nation, fathers get no assigned time to spend with their new kids beyond their own personal or vacation time. So I was back to work within two days of my son’s birth. Would’ve liked to have hung out a bit beyond seeing him with an IV in his arm. But the farther the middle class falls, the harder it works. So I work.
Baseball became, in that instant, the timekeeper. It was my safe place with my son.
I’m not going to turn into George Will or Ken Burns here. That’s not what I’m getting at. What I am trying to say, I think, is that I totally get baseball now. I fully understand its appeal to those who want so desperately for the world to fucking stop for five seconds so that they can have a moment with their son before he starts filling out college applications. The pitcher gets the signal. He winds up. He throws. Time passes slowly. We can be taken away on a voyage of mathematics and athleticism for a few hours a day. Every day is a chance for someone to beat the odds that they themselves have set. All the while, time passes slowly.
There were a brief few moments in that emergency room where I allowed for the possibility that three days would be all I was going to get with my kid. That fear has been ringing in my head like tinnitus. It's like those three days are still going, sometimes. I need to find a way to slow the world down to keep these three days going. No other sport does it quite like baseball.
There is no ulterior hipster motive going on with buying into baseball. It isn’t really even the fault of the other sports we all seem to revolve around in this Buffalo Twitterdome. There are times when those sports are the tops. There are times when the static becomes too great.
George Carlin has a famous bit about the differences between baseball and football, and it’s a funny one, but when the rest of the world is a dogfight, I think for a few hours it isn’t so bad to be safe at home.