July 2007


mahmoud.jpgAs I steal liberally from the New York Times…

“This is a great time for Iraqis, and a small reward for their suffering from killings and displacement. This is a message to the entire world that Iraqis want peace, good, and building their country. This message is opposite to all the agendas working against the goals of Iraqis. The Iraqi politicians have failed in unifying Iraqis, but football did that.” —Akram Al-Ghaderi, 33, journalist.

As promised—and I know how many of you intended to hold me to this—I managed to crawl out of bed early this morning to watch the Asian Cup final between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Okay, I slept in a little and missed the entire first half. Fortunately, it was still knotted at 0-0 when I arrived at the pub. Even the sport’s most ardent supporters have to admit it’s a major flaw when you can miss half the event and still not really miss anything.

From what I saw, Iraq created more chances and were deserving of the win. Still, Iraq was so shaky toward the end of the match that its defense was registering on the Richter scale and if there had been three or four more minutes of stoppage time the Saudis would have found a way to equalize.

But the match itself wasn’t nearly as entertaining as my watching experience. (more…)

spic3.jpgThere are all kinds of ways to make this political. I mean, the Iraqis can’t even enjoy their Asian Cup semi-final win without another round of Car Bomb Derby breaking out (and incidentally, “Soccer Victory Lifts Iraq; Bombs Kill 50” is the clubhouse leader for the Surreal Headline of 2007 award); and there will be no irony lost on the fact that their opponent in the Asian Cup final is the country that actaully sent 15 of the 19 hijackers into our buildings.

But ultimately it’s just sport—22 men, one ball, no hands. And athletes at this level, they aren’t political. They play for their country, but they do not die for it.

(more…)

finch.gifThis is the first ever link dump here and it’s gonna be really bad. In fact God help you if you stumble across this link and don’t have at least an hour to spare.

This is not to bag on blogging—that would be stupid seeing how this is a blog and all—but the best writing in sports has never been done in two-paragraph spurts. Brevity might be the soul of wit, but it doesn’t leave you with much depth. So with that in mind here are four old guys, guys who predate blogging (although the still living and recently departed obviously overlap it), and guys who spent almost their entire lives writing without the aid of Google and hyperlinks.

Not that that those things are bad. In fact as a medium the Web is pretty spectacular. It’s as easy to click your way to this blog as it is to find the New York Times online*. But for whatever reason most of my favorite sports writers predate a time when volume was equated with authority. I’m sure there are still many like that around today, they are just harder to hear over the din.

(more…)

barry_bonds.jpgEnjoy it while you can, Barry because Ken Griffey, Jr. is going to finish with 822 career home runs.

No, he will. You might as well etch it into the record books today.

And you should totally believe that if you also believe that there is nothing unusual about Barry Bonds’ home run total.

The point* has been made before but the basic argument is pretty simple: In the history of the game, every slugger ever has lost power when they approached their late 30s. Yet, here comes one guy who, when he gets to be the same age as those guys whose power declined, he goes the other way and suddenly has a power explosion.

You really think there is nothing peculiar about that?

If you are going to fall for that about Barry for whatever reason—that he is simply a great player and that diet, nutrition, training, fitness etc., are allowing players to be better longer—then you should expect to see the feat duplicated by other players from here on out. (more…)

stripes-1.jpgFor a sport that is obsessed with statistics, you’d think baseball might want to put more thought in how some of its numbers are calculated.

For example, on their way to pummeling the Giants 12-1 yesterday (July 18, 2007) the Chicago Cubs put up a 5-spot in the bottom of the 5th inning. In so doing, the small bears from the windy place sent nine batters to the plate and used up about 30 minutes of clock time.

That was apparently ample time for starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano to cool down and tighten up. So with a nine-run lead and the Archie Bell cued, manager Lou Pinella decided to pull his ace and replace him with Sean Gallagher (incidentally, if the name isn’t Irish enough, he comes from Boston).

The Cubs’ offense tacked on 3 more runs in the bottom of the 8th, just in case there was a Cubs-esque collapse looming. Not out of the realm of possibility as Gallagher was making just his fifth appearance and it is the Cubs.

No such luck for the Giants. Gallagher worked four innings and gave up just one run.

And for that Gallagher was credited with a save. (more…)

brown.jpgSI.com’s Stewart Mandel put together lists of both the 10 Best and the Five Worst coaches in college football. If you’re too lazy to click on the link for the original the list of the tops goes:

1. Pete Carroll
2. Urban Meyer
3. Jim Tressel
4. Mack Brown
5. Bob Stoops
6. Frank Beamer
7. Jim Grobe
8. Rich Rodriguez
9. Mark Richt
10. Gary Patterson

Mandel qualifies his list by saying this is not the best coaches in college football, but the best coaches in college football right now. So emphasis goes to recent performance. Ergo, no Bowden and no Paterno.

It’s hard to argue with the top three, even if Meyer presumably gets a huge bump from winning the National Championship, which, if South Carolina had any kind of kicking game, they probably wouldn’t have even played for. That’s not to discount the accomplishment but more to remind how thin the margin between genius and disappointment can be. (more…)

svp.jpgWhen he was filling in for Dan Patrick last week, Scott Van Pelt actually had Deadspin editor Will Leitch on the air. Van Pelt made a couple of references to a voicemail he left some girl falling into the hands of Deadspin and ending up on the Website for all the world to hear.

It seems that Van Pelt wanted to use that for the jumping off point of a serious discussion about journalistic boundaries and what standards blogs should hold themselves to. Actually Van Pelt was missing the point, or maybe he was just focusing on the wrong point.

So, if he hasn’t figured it out yet: Scott, while it might have been pushing the limits of journalistic ethics or even simple good taste, hearing that actually made people like you more.

“Hey SVP might be a Sportscenter anchor but he leaves clumsy and embarrassing messages on girls’ answering machines just like I do. Cool.” Okay, I don’t get excited when they don’t have Bell’s Palsy but I still appreciate the self-deprication, and I’m impressed that he has a knowledge of multiple types of palsies. Anyway, something like this is much more in the average sport fan’s set of experiences than walking into the hotel bar, saying “You’re with me, Leather,” and picking up on 2-seconds worth or work.

The phone message is here (Warning: mp3 link). I saved it when it was posted in case it disappeared. Just remember Scott we’re not laughing at you. Okay, we kind of are, but only because it’s the only way we can laugh at ourselves.

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