Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin: A Bridge to Nowhere

John McCain has really lost the right to proclaim himself a "maverick". I know he's saying that he didn't choose the safe pick when he announced Sarah Palin as his VP on the ticket ahead of Romney, Pawlenty and Ridge. He even went as far to say that this pick was made on his gut, not on the polls. But I've got to call "Bullshit" on this one. The political calculus here is so obvious.

I'm sure that there are many good attributes in Mrs. Palin's favor, but this is the most obvious case of pandering to a number of constituencies, not least of all the disaffected Hillary voters who feel that the Hill-dog got mis-treated in the Democratic primaries. Palin is supposed to be the:

  • Bridge to Women Voters: The ultimate pander. In the wake of Obama's victory over Hillary, McCain did everything he could to court the 18 million people who voted for Hillary. Now he took the 'daring' step to bring a woman onto his ticket as VP. But once these female democratic voters start to see some of Palin's positions -- e.g. hard-core Pro-Life and lifetime NRA member -- I don't think the average 'soccer mom' will connect with this particular 'average hockey mom'.

  • Bridge to the Future: Yeah, McCain is the old guy. He doesn't come across as hip or knowledgeable about any technology invented after 1982. So while people like Bobby Jindal (R-GOV LA) and Tim Pawlenty (R-GOV MN) were in the mix, they had that extra Y chromasome that knocked them out of the running. But Palin's youth and inexperience (2 years as governor of the least populated state and 2 terms of Mayor of a town of 9,000 people; I realize I'm glossing over her run as sports reporter) will blunt McCain's position that Obama is too inexperienced to be President -- especially since at 72, being "one heartbeat away from the presidency" never felt so close

  • Bridge to Conservative Voters: This one he got right. I do not doubt that in the coming weeks you will hear a lot about the truly heart-wrenching story (no sarcasm intended) of her choice to continue with the pregnancy of her son Trig even though she knew he would be born with Down's Syndrome. It was no shocker that Dr. James Dobson was one of the first to praise her selection. And her other positions on gun control (or lack thereof) and offshore drilling will certainly thrill the conservative base.

  • But in the end, she will be a Bridge to Nowhere, much like Senator Ted Stevens' (R-AK) misguided project to build a $350M bridge to connect 4 seals to 3 polar bears.

    Now the upside from the selection for me is that I think the late night talk show hosts should have a lot of good material to work with. There is no doubt that Jon Stewart will comment on Palin's relative hot-ness in the political world. I mean this is the guy that made a joke about spying a Merkel camel toe in a picture at a G-8 meeting. A few other potential jokes I expect to hear (all of which are terrible. read at your own risk. please play mental rim shot in your head at the end):
  • Yes, Sarah Palin is immensely popular in Alaska. She has the caribou vote all wrapped up

  • Sarah Palin will be very comfortable in the White House. After all she grew up in one herself...but it was called an igloo.
  • Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Buster Olney on Mets Bullpen Woes

    In today's chat, Buster Olney of ESPN said what every Met fan has been trying not to admit.

    Let's face it: The Mets' bullpen will be as good, in the next six weeks, as Aaron Heilman is.

    It's painful, but it's true. Unless Wagner gets back soon, we're doomed.

    The Intersection of Sports and Politics

    I just got back from vacation, so this one is a little overdue.

    Unless you've been living under a rock or only get your news from US Weekly, you know about the Russian invasion of Georgia last week. I'm not going to talk about the timing of the invasion with the opening of the Beijing Olympics, although I have been rooting vociferously against the Russians. And it would be really cool if an American raised a Georgian flag while on the podium and proclaimed "We are all Georgians!". And perhaps "traitors" Becky Hammon, an WNBA standout, and JR Holden (Bucknell '98), who are playing for the respective Russian women's and men's basketball teams, should have withdrawn from the Olympics at the last minute in protest (I'm sure there would have been a line of rich Republicans -- is that redundant? -- who would have taken care of any economic harm that would have followed). But none of those things are going to happen.

    I want to talk about pro-sports here. Pro athletes, especially the highest profile athletes like Michael, Tiger and Kobe have gone out of their way to stay out of any political or social controversies for fear of harming their global brands. Despots and terrorists buy sneakers too, I guess.

    This position is in stark contrast to earlier stars like Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and perhaps most famously, 1968 Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos' "black power salute", who used their celebrity to stand up for important issues of their day.

    But what seems worse is that even in light of the invasion of Georgia, athletes are still going to the highest bidder, regardless of recent events. Just days after Russia began the invation, Jannero Pargo, who despite the foreign sounding name is really from Arkansas, signed a 1-year deal to play for Dynamo Moscow of the Russian League. Frankly, I think it's despicable. Players should understand that their brand can be ruined just as easily by the actions they take, not the just stands they refuse to take. I'm going to be the first one boo Pargo should he ever return to the NBA. And if Kobe or LeBron goes to play for a Russian club for $50M of corrupt oil and gas money, they should be unanimously reviled as well.

    Now I don't want to limit this rant to the NBA. There are a heck of a lot more players leaving the NHL to cash in with the dollars being doled out by the Russian Continental Hockey League (KHL). Just this past year perennial All-Star Jaromir Jagr and goalie Ray Emery joined the Russian league. I hope you choke on your borscht.

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Two More Points on Favre

    • I thought it was pretty telling that during his press conference yesterday that he admitted that his primary motive over the past few weeks has been spite. "Maybe that was a little vindictive nature or whatever. But I realized that was not going to happen," Favre said. Ya think?

    • There was a lot of talk going on about Roger Goodell's involvement in the Favre saga. Of course it was all under the auspices of the "best interests of the game". But could there have been a better outcome for Goodell or the NFL but to have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time end up in the NFL's biggest market and play with a team that hasn't been really relevant in the 40 years since Broadway Joe led the Jets to victory in SB III? No doubt that Goodell took one out of the same book that David Stern used to push Isiah out of the Knicks job and usher in Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Thankfully the Favre Saga is Over

    But it's interesting to read all of the stories today. It's amazing how so many "experts" are completely at odds on this story. Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN just wrote one of the more "pro-Brett" stories while fellow ESPN writer Jeffry Chadiha just wrote a piece that puts the blame more on Favre than the Pack. Jay Glazer, who seems to have gotten this story more right than anyone else, appeared on PTI the other day and clearly laid out all of the retirement/un-retirements that Farve did over the last 3 months and felt that the Pack did the right thing in trying to deal with the situation from the beginning.

    One of the dumbest stands came from PTI's Michael Wilbon who kept screaming that the Pack should just release Brett, almost comparing holding a player to a contract, which pays a mere $12M a year, to slavery. Of course Brett's release potentially could have helped Wilbon's hometown team the Bears, so I'm sure that colored his judgment somewhat. But I'm sure if it was Carlos Zambrano screaming to get out of Chicago, Wilbon would have had a much different take on the subject.

    I guess it's pretty clear who Brett's friends in the media are. But while the story of Favre's future with the Jets will be covered heavily, the constant 24-hour news cycle that was "Favre Watch 2008" is finally over.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

    Tuesday, August 5, 2008

    Kristic Crazy Talk

    Well another NBA player goes to Europe. No, it's not star, just someone who thinks he is. Nenad Kristic.

    OK, he was a decent player in the league and at one point looked like he could be a legit center. But on the Nets he was clearly the 4th option and I don't think that he was going to get a whole hell of a lot better, especially coming off 2 injury-plagued years where he played just 26 games in 06-07 and 45 in 08-08.

    Yet for some reason he feels he should have been paid like an elite player. Quoted in the Begen Record, Kristic said he plans to return to the NBA.

    "That's my plan," said Krstic, who signed a two-year deal with Triumph in Moscow on Monday. "I'm going to try to play really good in Russia and see what's going to happen."

    "I didn't want that," Krstic said of the Cleveland deal. "When you look at big guys in the NBA, they signed really big contracts. I know I am on that level. I know I'm healthy right now. I took that like disrespect. To accept that offer from an NBA team only because it's an NBA team, I didn't want to do that."
    What level does he really think he's on. I know you can't teach height, but height is at least supposed to allow you to do things like rebound and block shots. Never in his career has Kristic averaged 7 rebounds per game or one blocked shot per game. At 7 feet tall, Kristic's inability to put up any

    Yes, Kristic can score, but so can a lot of guys. At the $10M/year that Kristic was looking for, I'm much rather have a guy like Tyson Chandler, the Hatian Sensation or the Celtics' Kendrick Perkins, who at about $4M/year is a bargain. The truth is that the Nets will probably get just as good collective production from Josh Boone, Sean Williams and rookie Brook Lopez with a much improved defensive presence.

    Just because Isiah was dumb enough to give Eddy Curry $10M/year, doesn't mean that anyone else would give a similar contract to Kristic...even Kevin McHale.

    Statistical oddities

    In ESPN writer Buster Olney's blog, a few statistical oddities dug up by ESPN Research:

    • Mark Simon of ESPN Research did some thinking about the parallels between the '69 Mets and the '08 Rays:

    How are the 2008 Rays similar to the 1969 Mets?

      On the 1969 Mets, the ace starter was 24-year-old Tom Seaver.
      On the 2008 Rays, the ace starter is 24-year-old Scott Kazmir.
      The 1969 Mets had a 61-101 record in 1967, two years prior to winning the World Series.
      The 2008 Rays had a 61-101 record in 2006, two years ago.
      The 1969 Mets had a closer, Ron Taylor, who had won a World Series (1964).
      The 2008 Rays have a closer, Troy Percival, who has won a World Series (2002).
      The 1969 Mets were 53-39 at the All-Star break.
      The 2008 Rays were 55-39 at the All-Star break.
      The 1969 Mets manager had a three-letter first name (Gil) and a six-letter last name (Hodges).
      The 2008 Rays manager has a three-letter first name (Joe) and a six-letter last name (Maddon).
      The 1969 Mets had a rookie as their primary third baseman (Wayne Garrett).
      The 2008 Rays have a rookie as their primary third baseman (Evan Longoria).

    Speaking of weird similarities, we have this from Greg Dohmann of ESPN Research:

    Yankees and Mets
    Through 111 games of 2008
    Div. rank3rd3rd
    Since July 117-1118-11