Thursday, August 30, 2007

Titans Sign Simon

This really feels like one of those great name, but not great impact signing. If this was 2004, I'm really excited. But 2007, not so much. Simon hasn't played a down of football in over a year and has some sort of arthritis. Some like Scout's Inc. analyst Jeremy Green don't think he's got a lot left. He makes a great point -- if Simon did have anything left, don't the Colts havea greater need for a run-stuffing DT than almost any other team in the league? I guess we'll see. All he's really being counted on for is for about 25-30 plays per game, stuffing the run on first and second down.

Coach Fisher and center Kevin Mawae seemed upbeat about the signing, but not everyone was so excited. The most telling quote that I saw was from Albert Haynesworth in The Tennessean: "The defensive line has been playing really good, the best we have played in the last three or four years. He is definitely an upgrade, I guess, but I think we were really good before," Haynesworth said. "We stopped the run, we rushed the passer. What else could you want? … Hopefully he can catch up in what, 12 days?"

I guess at the end of the day this is a low risk deal (1-year $1M). Let's see what happens. I guess it provides some depth in case Rien Long can't come back after Week 6.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Does the Fine Fit the Crime?

I was reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback on EPSN and I'm baffled at the lack of overall quality in this article and will probably never read TMQ again. Besides the fact that the article was close to unreadable, I couldn't believe what Greg Easterbrook wrote about the whole Vick situation, comparing killing dogs to what happens in the food service industry. I won't quibble about methods of killing. Killing is not a good outcome and there is no "nice" way to do it. It comes down to WHY are you doing it. Vick killed the dogs because he wanted to. Because he could.

But I must address Easterbrook's STUPID positions on the extent of Vick's punishment. So Vick is a "first-time offender"? He's been doing this for years. At least 7 years and reports, even from his Dad, say it dates back to his early teenage years. This may be the first time he was caught, but not the first time he committed the offense.

Secondly, I am not crying for Vick's loss of $75M in salary, bonuses and endorsement income. He only lost so much because he was MAKING so much. The deal is, if you go to jail, you lose your income during that time. I'm quite sure that Arthur Blank, Nike or anyone else who gave Vick boatloads of money would have done so if they knew about these criminal and utterly reprehensible activities. The whole thing about the dollars involved is relative. If Vick was an "average joe" making $50K a year, he wouldn't have lost so much in raw dollars -- although it might have had a greater impact on his life. And there are other white-collar criminals who have "lost" much more than Vick in potential income because they made more. Thats' how it goes. That's why money isn't factored into sentencing.

Yi "brinks" -- Signs with Bucks

Yes, the game of General Tso's Chicken that began on draft night is over. Yi and his team "brinked", and has decided to sign with the Milwaukee Bucks who picked Yi 6th overall in this years NBA Draft. Larry Krystowiak, Lenny Harris, Sen. Herb Kohl and David Stern can all exhale. This is excellent news, not only for the Bucks, but for the NBA in general.

After all the posturing from Yi's handlers about Yi holding out until next year's draft, particularly from agent Dan Fegan and many from the China Basketball Association was nothing more than bluster. The truth is that the Bucks are an excellent landing place for Yi. He's surrounded by great, young talent with Redd, Mo Williams and Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva. A potential front line of Bogut, Villanueva and Yi is exciting to think about. All three are not only 6'11" or taller, but all are good rebounders, above average shooters and excellent passers. The only negative is that not one of them are shot blockers. Redd, Williams and Yi all possess excellent range and should also stretch the defense giving Bogut and CV more room in the blocks. This can be an interesting team in a year or two.

And Then There Were Two

Well Alberto Gonzales finally resigned. One more down, two to go. Unfortunately for the country, Bush and Cheney will hang around for the next 16+ months.

It's not worth re-hashing all the episodes that led to this moment: the obfuscations, denials and changing stories. I think that many in the country are happy to have Gonzales leave office. I wonder what was the final straw that broke the AG's back to make him resign. The rancor -- from both sides of the aisle -- against his behavior as Attorney General have been long and loud. Nothing really new that I'm aware of happened. But again, let's not look a gift-horse in the mouth.

There was a lot of reactions to his resignation from the President, members of Congress and others. But I continue to be amazed at how Gonzales' (and by extension the Administration's) defenders try to turn the situation upside down and portray Gonzales as the victim of a 'great left wing conspiracy'. Take Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's response:

"I thank Alberto Gonzales for his public service and wish him well in his future endeavors. It is my hope that whomever President Bush selects as the next attorney general, he or she is not subjected to the same poisonous partisanship that we've sadly grown accustomed to over the past eight months."

This boggles my mind of two levels. First, I'm confounded by the remark about poisonous partisanship. First of all, the calls for Gonzales' resignation came from both sides of the aisle. Presidential candidate John McCain, Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee and others were as or more critical of Gonzales as most Democrats. Further, McConnell reacts as if the Republicans never acted in a partisan manner before they lost control of the Congress this year. I don't think you'll find many who would objectively state that Republicans were not more partisan in their dealings in the preceeding six years and certainly far more so in the Whitewater investigation and Lewinsky sex scandal.

Secondly, for a party that takes personal responsibility as a core value, I'm amazed how they never apply it to themselves. I'm actually with Republicans on the idea that personal accountability for one's actions is incredibly important. The only thing that Gonzales could have done to bring more criticism on himself would be if he admitted involvment with Michael Vick and Bad Newz Kennels. But from bad intelligence, to bad "war" strategy and the inability to respond to a natural disaster that was forecast for a full week, this Administration has never taken responsibility for the choices that they have made.

That leads me to my next area of concern. One of the rumored replacements for Gonzales seems to be DHS secretary Michael Chertoff. How could Chertoff, who presided over the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, be given greater responsibility? What does it take to get in trouble? I guess the good news is that at least he hasn't shot anyone in the face yet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Omar: Waive Mota Already

For the love of God. Please get rid of this guy. Another game blown by Mota (not that the rest of the bullpen helped at all). I really don't understand why they put him in games anymore or why he's even on the major league roster. His ERA is now 6.26. It's hard to believe that there's not one other pitcher in the minors or even on the LI Ducks who can be any worse.

Glavine throws 7 scoreless and then the bullpen implodes over the next 3 giving up 4 runs. Now the lead in the division is down to 4. I can't take it.

Nate Robinson Maturing? Nah.

I'm convinced that no one at Newsday knows anything about the NBA. In today's article in Newsday Alan Hahn writes that Nate seems to be growing up. The evidence -- he passed the ball in a practice instead of going 1-on-5 against the defense. Wow. That's impressive. Let's just crown him the next John Stockton. But this may in fact be great progress for someone who is being pushed for the backup PG spot by the great [please read with all of the sarcasm that was intended] Mardy Collins. Just not someone who will ever be a starter in the league. At least however, Hahn says he remains skeptical about Robinson's ability to "shed his class-clown personality". But was this article worth writing at all? About a guy who is in double-digits, not in any statistical category, but on the depth chart?

I am starting to think that Cablevision secretly bought Newsday though. How else could articles like this, or the drivel written by Ken Berger, be published unless it was part of James Dolan's media empire? Next case in point is that in the same article Hahn suggests that Nate Robinson's progress was hurt by Steve Francis' presence on the team. Nice to throw a former player under the bus. Does no one think that the example set by Marbury undermining Coach Brown's authority or Isiah's directive to a bunch of scrubs to be thugs (against the Nuggets) or his unwanted smooching of an employee helps set the tone for Robinson's bad behavior? Not at Newsday at least.

But the final insult of my intelligence was Hahn's asking "Is he the point guard of the future? Or with the emergence of Mardy Collins, is he merely a trade asset to be used to acquire an established veteran such as Ron Artest?". Nate a "trade chip" to get Artest? Zach Randolph is a trade chip. David Lee is a trade chip. Next year's #1 is a trade chip. Nate is a "throw in".

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mets and Red Sox fans have a lot in common

I've been living in New England for almost 5 years now. Hard to believe. As a sports fan, it's been tough at times because it's hard to find my local teams on TV without shelling out for a "League Pass". Which when you've got several teams to follow and you probably only get to watch a few games each year anyway, it hasn't seemed worth it to me.

But living up here for a while, in the heart of Red Sox Nation, I have found some several major characteristic that Mets and Sox fans have in common:
* we are both utterly paranoid about our team's performance and ability to hold a lead in a game or the standings; we just wait for the team to go into a tailspin, and at times expect it.
* we are both tired of, scared of -- yet deep down -- respect the Yankees. But there's nothing more fun than hating the Yankees and rooting against them. Certainly , having a guy like A-Rod makes it more fun.

But there's been an interesting turn of events that I didn't expect. I've actually found myself rooting for the Sox. I didn't like the Yankees anyway and with being in different leagues, it's not so bad. And I guess just being up here, they're on TV, in the paper, you just start to get into it. But if they meet in the Series -- and with the Mets bullpen, I'm not that confident -- there are no questions where my allegiances lie. And I'm hoping history will be on my side :)

Vick Pleads Out...Sort Of

Well why am I not surprised. Michael Vick's plea deal only admits to some of what he's been charged with. Yes, he admitted guilt around organizing and funding a dogfighting enterprise, Bad Newz Kennelz. But the big news is that he DID NOT admit to being involved in either killing the dogs or betting on them. According the the article in ESPN, he will admit to being present for killing the dogs, but not participating in the activities.

There is no doubt in my mind that Vick's plea was done, not to reflect the truth, but to preserve his ability to play in the NFL in the future. No NFL owner was going to want to make a dog-killer the face of their franchise and Vick knew that Roger Goodell would come down with an extensive suspension (whether it was concurrent or not is besides the point) for the gambling charges.

Now I don't believe that Goodell and the NFL will believe that Vick was not involved in the killing or gambling. At least not publicly. But the NFL is not going to just accept the "summary of facts" from the plea deal. I believe they will continue their own investigation and continue to look into these charges further. I believe that the NFL will take the plea agreements of the other 3 defendants, as well as other information resulting from the VA prosecutors investigation, into consideration in which Vick was implicated in both gambling and the torture and killing of the dogs. While the torture and killing of the dogs is utterly reprehensible, gambling is the third rail in the NFL.

The end result is that Goodell will come down with a of those big ones used to ring the bell at carnivals. Not only will he come down because of the facts, but because Vick once again is not showing contrition about what he did and is purposefully going out of his way to evade responsibility for his actions. As Goodell has laid out with all of the other suspensions he's come down with in his short tenure, honesty and contrition are mandatory. If you pass on either, you're done. Vick passed on both counts. I believe this will be the only pass Vick completes for at least 3 years.

Vick just better hope that he can use his speed to stay out of the arms of much of the prison population. As a good looking guy and a dog-killer, he's going to pine for the days when he only had defensive ends and linebackers chasing him.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stephon Backs Off Vick Support

Well that didn't take long. I guess Dolan or Isiah called to tell him to recant, because clearly Stephon's not smart enough on his own.

Marbury's Lucky Vick Doesn't Own the Knicks

Ah Stephon, once again you have graced us with your wisdom. In an article in Newsday yesterday it was reported that Marbury said in an interview aired by Capital 9 News in Albany. "From what I hear, dogfighting is a sport. It's just behind closed doors and I think it's tough that we build Michael Vick up and then we break him down ... I think he fell into a bad situation."

Truly amazing. I can imagine he's trying to defend Michael Vick's indefensible actions. Why, I can only speculate. Maybe they're friends, maybe he's just trying to show solidarity with another black athlete who came from humble beginnings. But it's one thing to ask as others have (including the head of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP) that IF Vick is contrite and IF he abides by the provisions of his plea deal that he be given another chance to play in the NFL.

But to say that dogfighting is a legitimate sport and to imply that Vick "fell" into this situation is completely absurd. First of all dogfighting is illegal. Pitting to animals, who have no ability to determine their own actions, against each other in a fight to the death is horrific, despicable, reprehensible and an affront to most people's sensibilities of right and wrong -- Black or White. And for all those that try to make the Vick case simply about race is similarly distasteful.

Secondly, Vick did not "fall into" dogfighting. He had been actively involved in it since at least 2001. His friends did not bring him into this unknowingly or unwillingly. Vick funded the entire endeavor. He paid for the dogs, paid for the kennels, the "training" pits. And he of course was directly involved in gambling on these illegal fights which is also illegal activity.

Lastly, Marbury also improperly compared dogfighting to hunting. I am not a hunter. I only kill bugs. But hunting is totally different. Yes the end result is the same -- the animal dies -- but the intention and method behind it is completely different. Hunting is done for sport, but in almost all cases, it's also tied to maintaining a proper balance of the animal population, the kill is quick and hunter's typically eat what they kill or sell it to someone who will (unless you're Dick Cheney). What Vick did -- hanging, drowning, electrifying dogs who lost a fight -- is TORTURE. There's no sport involved.

BTW, there was a great chat with Howard Bryant from ESPN that discussed a lot of these issues. Check it out. But let me wrap up.

Marbury should just be happy that Vick doesn't own the Knicks. Because based on Marbury's level of play and the awful record he has led them to (and just about every other team that he has played for), Vick would probably have electrocuted him too.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

From TNT to Riding the "T"

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the headline on that Reggie Miller was contemplating a comeback...with the Boston Celtics. So many things crossed my mind, like:
* "Reggie, you're 42, stay behind the mike"
* "Reggie, on the Celtics?"
* "What's Spike Lee thinking right now. Definitely having nightmares."
* "What the hell is Ainge thinking?"

I know that Reggie would only play for 15 minutes a game. I'm sure he can still stroke it. And he still wants a ring. It's not crazy, it's just impossible to get my mind around Reggie Miller wearing the Green. Or any colors other than Yellow and Blue. Mind boggling.

Almost as mind boggling is the about face that the Celtics have made to their roster. Last year they had a bunch of kids (not counting Ratliff, but who would). This year, they average age of the team might be 10 YEARS older than last year...even without Reggie. I guess PJ Brown can't be far behind. I wonder what kind of coverage Harvard Pilgrim has for broken hips. With guys that old on the squad, it's probably worth investigating.

But how great would it be to see Reggie lay another 9 points in 22 seconds on the Knicks to knock Isiah's crew out of the playoffs. I guess we may find out. Celtics-Knicks are scheduled on April 14th. Second to last game of the season. I love it. Spike, sweet dreams.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"Never Again" is not just a slogan

Recently I was reading the Boston Globe and saw an article about a situation in Watertown, MA. What I read was confusing and concerning.

The short story is that there is a very good project going on in Watertown called "No Place to Hate". The concept is that the residents of the town set up an expectation within the community that racism or any sort of targeting of religious, social or sexual groups will not be tolerated. A very good goal indeed. One of the main sponsors of this program, not surprisingly is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL is generally a force for good. The title bar of their website pretty much sums up what they stand for: Fighting Anti-Semitism, Bigotry and Racism.

But here's where the story takes an odd turn. There's a lot of upset people in Watertown, and the anger is directed at the ADL. The reason was stunning to me. A sizable segment of the local population is Armenian-American. And there has been a long-running dispute between the Armenians and Turkey about recognizing the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during WWI as genocide. Many, but not all countries have recognized the events during that time as genocide.

The recognition of the genocide became an issue in Watertown because the Armenian-American population asked the ADL to recognize the genocide and the ADL declined. The ADL did not deny the genocide, but they sidestepped the issue and said it was not their place to make the determination of what did or did not happen. That's not acceptable. Many countries have made the determination and so has the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

As a Jew, I am thoroughly disgusted with this position. One of the reasons for the creation of the ADL was to ensure that the Holocaust against the Jews of Europe during WWII was not repeated again. Whatever reasons the ADL purports to have for staying out of the debate are crap. The core tentant of "Never Again" is that it does not just apply for Jews. "Never Again" is for any group. That's why the Jewish people stand up for the tragedy in Darfur, stood up with African-Americans against segregation and bigotry in the 60's and should stand up and be counted again in this discussion. The ADL would be all over a Holocaust denier and should not play a similar role in another "dispute" over history. Period, end of sentence.

I sincerely hope that Abraham Foxman and the ADL reconsider their position and reclaim the high road that they have been on for the past 90 years.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Brand Achilles Ruptured; Clips Season Scuttled

Absolutely terrible news for a great guy. Elton Brand is one of the best power forwards in the game and a great person. And by far the best player on the Clippers. Now after rupturing his achilles tendon he's out for 6 months. Elton, don't rush back. There's no reason. Get healthy and get ready for the 2008-09 season. Even if you can make it back in 6 months as reported, don't. By the time you take the court, the Clips will have already lost 30+ games. This year's Clips will be fighting history, trying not to have the worst record of all time.

What do Clipper fans have to look forward to this season. Corey Maggette will average 27 ppg, Tim Thomas will put up numbers that make up for last year's awful (but utterly predictable) season -- 18 & 7 are not unreasonable expectations. Chris Kaman should see some improved productivity too. We'll give him a mulligan for his sophmore slump campaign and hope he can move up to 15 & 11 with more space on the block. And without having to worry about win totals, we should see if Jared Jordan (a great second-round pick) is the next John Stockton or the next Dan Dickau. No reason to give Cassell 30+ mpg, especially in his walk year.

And the 08-09 season will see a lot of cap room for the Clips to reload with, probably close to $18M. Maybe more if they can move Maggette's expiring contract or better yet the Mobley and his last 2 years/$19M. And they're almost a mortal lock for a Top 3 pick (after this year, you can never say top pick), although there's no Durant or Oden to be found.

Titans DL Woes

I just had the "pleasure" of reading yet another article about how the Titans will be fine at DE with 4th year players Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy. Not coincidentally, this is the 4th year of such articles. To paraphrase Rick Pitino's classic rant from 10 years ago as the Celtic's coach, "Jevon Kearse is not walking through that door." I get it. These guys aren't very good and are almost never healthy, but that's what we've got.

But it didn't have to be that way. Mike Reinfeldt, the Titans new GM can't be blamed for these failed second rounders. But at the same time, he can be blamed for not doing anything about it. Yes, the Titans had 12-year pro Simeon Rice in on Friday for a meeting/physical. But he's not the same player he was even three years ago. Reinfeldt had opportunities to address this during the draft (Anthony Spencer, Tim Crowder) or via free agency (Patrick Kearney). But instead we're staring at Odom and LaBoy again. And it's not like he hadn't thrown a Floyd Reese draft pick under the bus before. The Titans pick of Chris Henry in the 2nd round was a direct slap at the drafting of LenDale White just last year. I'm not saying I'm sold on White, but Henry was a HUGE REACH.

But I'll go a step farther. Reinfeldt's draft was terrible. Sure Michael Griffin is a good player and after I had a few minutes to calm down after they passed on several good WRs, I was happy at the pick. LaMont Thompson sucks and they needed a good FS to start opposite Hope. I felt good about the secondary, even with the PacMan situation. I liked both Finnegan and Hill. But then to try to convert this guy to CB! OMG. And if they wanted to take a S that could play CB, why not go with Brandon Merriweather from Miami...who actually played CB in college. And the rest of the draft was a mess. A couple of questionable receivers, not much else.

And the draft wasn't the only thing he screwed up. The Titans still have major holes at DE, DT, and WR (while I liked the Moulds acquisition he's not an elite receiver anymore). Yet the Titans did little to address these holes with FAs and have over $15M in salary cap money left. When did Bud Adams turn into Donald Sterling? I'm disgusted. If I had more spare time, I'd start Please, somebody else take up the banner.

Marbury is my President Bush

You know how the late night hosts and other comedians love having President Bush around for constant fodder? I feel the same way about Stephon Marbury. You can always count on him to say something stupid or so petty that it makes it almost too easy to make fun of him.

Let's not even bring up his comments from this past season where he continued to live in the fantasyworld in which he believes he's the top point guard in the NBA. More recently there was the truly laughable self-delusion that if he did go play in Italy when his contract ran up, he would be hailed as the basketball version of David Beckham. As I've written about before, Marbury is clueless.

But this all leads me to his latest incredibly stupid comment. In the aftermath of the deal that sent KG to the Celts (and likely the Knicks back to the lottery) Marbury, in an exclusive interview in the NY Post, states that the Knicks have nothing to fear from KG and the Celtics. Is this the same Stephon Marbury who was almost begging to play with the very same KG...either in NYC or MSP? And what were the pearls of wisdom that Marbury came up with: "I'm not thinking about Boston," Marbury added. "I'm only thinking about the New York Knicks. Our new nickname is nice and nasty. That's how we're coming." That's so lame -- it sounds like a white guy trying to sound street.

What's better is that it didn't stop there. Marbury said that he was happy for KG because he knew KG was tired of losing. Like Marbury can be considered a winner? KG's record with the T-Wolves is dramatically better than Marbury's record wtih the Wolves, Nets, Suns and Knicks. In 11 years Marbury has only had 2 -- count 'em -- 2 winning seasons, one with KG. In comparison KG has had 8 seasons of .500 or better with one trip to the Western Conference finals. All on KG's back. One could say that Marbury's team records were similarly attributed to his own performance. He was not good enough to put a team on his shoulders, but always felt that he was on par with the top players in the game.

And of course, so interview with Marbury would be complete without throwing somebody under the bus. Today's victim was Kevin McHale. First, there is no question that McHale, while one of the greatest players, is a terrible GM. And he could easily be mistaken for Herman Munster (I wonder if he's related to Fred Gwynne?). But to say that he's worried for his cousin (the supposedly talented Sebastian Telfair -- who is on his 3rd team in his short 4 year career) who will now play for McHale. Marbury seems to be worried -- not because McHale is a poor GM -- but because he blames McHale of leaking that Marbury was jealous of Garnett, forcing his trade out of the Twin Cities back in the 98-99 season. Once again Marbury blaming someone else for his own actions. Poor Stephon. Look in the goddamn mirror once in a while. You've left 3 teams so far. In each case the team you went to got worse, while the team you left got better. You're a millstone around the neck of every franchise you've been with. Man up and take some responsibility and stop hatin' on a guy who was 10 times the player you ever thought you were.

I mean he should finally learn to shut up and that it's best not to talk at all. It's inconceivable that MSG gave this guy a talk show.