Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Strange Prominence of Barbaro
When I found out Barbaro died, my reaction was pretty insubstantial. It’s not that I don’t feel bad for the horse, or that I don’t feel bad for the people who owned or cared about the horse. But with everything there is to be concerned about in the world, I find the death of a horse to be a somewhat minor tragedy.
So imagine my surprise when Charles Gibson reported at the top of last evening’s broadcast of World News Tonight about the death of Barbaro. I can only imagine what Peter Jennings would have thought. Maybe he’d have read it first. But I just can’t see Jennings reading the story, then going to a correspondent at the Pentagon for a report about the war.
So let me get this straight. America is engaged in two wars where people are dying every day. And the first story, on a world news program, is the death of a horse? It’s not that I don’t like animals. I’ll admit to crying when my dogs died. But I don’t ever remember so much significance placed on the death of an animal.
Barbaro may have inspired people; he may have made people happy. In that sense, I understand the sadness. But I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the Associated Press story by Dan Gelston, in which David Switzer (executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association) remarked, apparently with a straight face, that “this horse was a hero.”
I have always been cautious of using the term “hero” in sports. Of course, my main fear was in using it to describe players like John Elway or Derek Jeter, as it would equate them with soldiers, police, and firefighters. But by using “hero” and “horse” in the same sentence, Switzer has practically ruined the term. And what exactly did Barbaro do to earn “hero” status?” I’ll admit that animals can be heroes, but most of them have to do something heroic. If a dog saves a child from a burning house, the dog is a hero.
I have never owned a horse, so maybe that’s the reason for me not understanding the significance of this story. To me, a horse is a horse. I’m sure people who own horses understand, and people who saw Barbaro win the Kentucky Derby live understand.But I don’t.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 29, 2007

Contrary to popular belief
Not being a scientist, I generally try to stay out of the global warming discussion.
But last night, as I looked at the "7 degrees" on my weatherbug, I had a thought.
Every time there's a period of mild weather in the winter, every Al Gore-protege is on TV, telling me this proves global warming.
Yet when its 10 degrees and everyone is freezing, we don't hear a word.
Global warming, caused by humans or not, is nothing more than a buzz word used by lobbyists and politicians to make a point.
Again, I don't know enough about science, but I do know this: Al Gore was nominated for an Academy Award for his film An Inconvenient Truth. The result of the nomination? Cold weather.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Royal Rumble
Last year I did a recap of the show, one that caused a good friend of mine to opine that "You need to get laid."
You just can't get enough commentary like that. Still, I passed on the Rumble this year, for obvious reasons. First of all, I don't have $40 to spend on something that will just tick me off. Second, I have totally lost interest in WWE. I usually get the Rumble anyway, because it's pretty hard show to screw up. But this year I held my ground, surprisingly.
So I didn't see the show. But looking at the results, here are some thoughts.
-Vince McMahon is still punishing Jim Ross for some reason, not allowing him to call the Rumble match. Somehow, with all Ross has been through, I doubt he cares. But it does show just how petty McMahon can be sometimes.
- The final two were Shawn Michaels and Undertaker? I have to check a calander to make sure I don't miss my eighth grade history test tomorrow. Way to put over the new stars, WWE.
- Most star-studded Rumble ever? Hah. The 1992 Rumble had Davey Boy Smith, Ric Flair, Ted Dibiase, Michaels, Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, Undertaker, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Kerry Von Erich, Sgt. Slaughter, Iron Shiek and Sid. I'll take that any day of the week over what WWE has these days.
The funny thing? Flair, Michaels, and Taker were all in this one. Fifteen years later.
- So for Mania, they are going with Taker-Batista. I can only imagine the crowd's favorite in that match. Hint: He has "Sara" written on his neck.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Shuffling the Ipod, V III
Here we go again: Five songs at random
1.King Harvest Has Surely Come- The Band
The closing track on The Band's self-titled album, an album that is really one of the fine creations in rock. This song, about a struggling farmer, is sung wonderfully by Richard Manuel.
The album is really a collection of songs about American life. While The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down is one of the best songs ever written, this song showcases the soulful style of Manuel perhaps better than any on the album.

2. So Wrong- Patsy Cline
Maybe the best female singer of American popular music ever, Cline gives, well a Patsy Cline performance here. It's a normal Patsy Cline ballad, but here's the thing about Patsy: Every time you hear her voice, you realize how wonderful it is, and how there really has never been another singer like her. If only she'd lived longer.

3. Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin
The ultimate story song. It's a cautionary tale to every father out there, and I think it probably did change some lives. Last May, I saw Harry's brother, Tom, in concert. He played this song, and if you shut your eyes, it was like you were hearing Harry. It brought down the house.
I first heard this song on the way to my kindergarten class. When I understood the meaning, I wanted to cry. It's a song that connects us all, and will last as long as songs are played.

4. Meet Me in the Indian Summer- Van Morrison
This is a Van track that never did much for me. It's the second cut off the Down the Road, an album that had some amazing songs (Only a Dream, The Beauty of the Days Gone By), and this track has a nice relaxing feel. Again, it's by no means bad, and as I have written about Van's music, it's like pizza.
Even when it's bad, it's good.

5. Crazy Love -Van Morrison
This is a live cut from 1970 -- it's a gift I received before leaving my last job. Imagine Van in his prime, cutting one of his best songs. Many people have tried to cover it, but Van's version live is intense and sung with passion. Great song.


Friday, January 26, 2007

The Indians lineup
The Indians ability to be a playoff contender in 2007 will come down to its pitching. But that is harder to sort out at the moment. So here is the way the layup might look:
Against right-handed starters:
1. Grady Sizemore -CF
2. Josh Barfield -2B
3. Travis Hafner -DH
4. Victor Martinez -C
5. Casey Blake -1B
6. David Dellucci -RF
7. Jhonny Peralta -ss
8. Trot Nixon -lf
9. Andy Marte -3B

Against lefties, substitute Jason Michaels for Nixon, Blake for Dellucci, and Garko for Blake.
- I can't justify the Indians' confidence in Blake, since even though he was solid last season, he's still just two seasons away from one of the worst seasons a starting oufielder ever had. But manager Eric Wedge and General Manager Mark Shapiro love the guy, which means he will play every day, even if it means taking away at-bats from potential stars Garko and Shin Soo Choo.
- Grady Sizemore leading off is the only way to start the season, because he has thrived in the position. He has the power to bat third, but then who leads off? Barfield might, but he's hardly a sure thing.
-If Marte fails, hey, Casey can take over. He can put up the exact same inconsistent numbers, worse defense (a fact no one seems to remember when they talk about putting him at third), and generally clog the bottom half of the lineup.
But remember, he has to start.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Super Bowl
I haven't written anything about the game yet because I feel we have a nice respite before we have to talk about it. But with the Cavaliers having lost five of six, what else is there?
Here's just a few thoughts:
We have two African American coaches in the Super Bowl. It will be true progress when this is not an issue, and I am usually one to disdain hype. But the truth is the NFL was slow on minority hiring, so slow it had to put in rules to make sure African Americans were considered.
While I was skeptical of the plan, it is yielding results. Three-fourths of the head coaches in the AFC North are African Americans. Maybe the NFL isn't perfect on the issue of race. But it has made progress.
- On paper, I think the Colts are the better team. But Peyton Manning will need to avoid the sluggish starts he has had recently. The Bears defense, while not at 100 percent, was able to shut down Drew Brees in the second half of the NFC Championship game. Good defense will always beat a good offense. The key to the game will probably be which Colts defense shows up in 10 days.
- Paul McCartney. The Rolling Stones. Prince. Three-straight performers I like. What are the odds?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bengal Busts
Another Bengal was arrested. I think it's getting to the point where if you see a Bengals player, call the police. At this rate, half the roster will have court dates by training camp.
Quarterback Carson Palmer seems to get it, and that's good, because he's a leader on the team. The sad thing about this is a coach and his players can only do so much. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis can't hold the hands of his players to make sure they stay out of trouble.
Palmer and Lewis can't keep guys like Johnathan Joseph out of touble. Guys like Joseph have to be smarter than they have been.
This is the kind of thing that makes coaches expendable. I think Lewis has done a wonderful job in changing the losing culture in Cincinnati. But if the Bengals miss the playoffs next season, someone could use the arrests against him, and he may not have a job.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

SNL does a brilliant sketch
Does Jim Downey still work at Saturday Night Live? Vivek told me about this sketch, but I didn't see it. I used to be a huge fan of SNL when I was younger; one of my ambitions was to be on the show as a cast member or host. But I took a different path, and besides, I have never been able to write comedy (You should see the movie script I wrote in college).
Anyway, my interest in the show has dropped in recent years, mainly because I never found Will Ferrell all that funny (though I loved Anchorman).
But the show can still be brilliant, and unlike so many in comedy today, can take on both sides. A sketch last year with Bill Frist and Dick Cheney on the run from the law (with Cheney shooting jackrabbits) was hilarious.
But this sketch sounds even better, on multiple levels.
I mention Jim Downey because he's a long time writer, and was labeled by Dana Carvey as a republican.

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mike Tomlin or Russ Grimm? Depends on who you believe
One would be forced to assume there is always anxiety for reporters the day of a championship game.
Making deadlines, getting good quotes, and talking to Bill Belichick are bound to raise the blood pressure.
But for many in the sports media, today's stress had nothing to do with what was going on on the field.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported today that Steelers' assistant coach Russ Grimm was to be promoted to head coach, to replace Bill Cowher.
At the same time, ESPN and Sports Illustrated reported the Steelers had settled on Vikings' assistant Mike Tomlin for the job. I passed along the news from the ESPN site, and as of 12:02 a.m. Monday morning, the story still appeared on the site's front page.
Another reliable source -- Fox's Jay Glazer -- is reporting Tomlin is the man.
I don't know who's right, but I do know someone is wrong. And whichever side is wrong will likely hear about it for a long time.
Whichever side is right might be telling people about it for just as long.
Needless to say, a number of people have their reputations riding on what the Steelers' leadership -- the Rooneys -- decide.
Or, rather, what they will say.
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is reporting it's Tomlin. The one thing that made the Tribune-Review's report appear credible was its location. Now that another local newspaper has reported what everyone else in the country has reported, Tomlin does appear to be the choice.


Steelers set to hire Mike Tomlin?
That's the word. In some ways, the hiring is a surprise, if only because I figured the Steelers would stay in-house with their selection.
Russ Grimm was who I figured they'd go with.
But Tomlin is strikingly similar to Bill Cowher: A young defensive coach from outside the organization.
I'd comment on the hiring, but I understand my opinion on this matter is meaningless. Even as a Browns fan, I have come to realize you shouldn't question the judgement of the Rooneys.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Making sense of the Nixon signing
To say the Indians' signing of Trot Nixon caught me by surprise is an understatement.
It's not that I don't think Nixon has anything to offer. He's a playoff-tested veteran who could be an asset to a young club.
The problem is in the numbers.
The Indians have Jason Michaels, Casey Blake, Shin Soo Choo, David Dellucci, and now Trot Nixon. Grady Sizemore is penciled into center for the next six years. So that's five guys for two spots. You could argue Blake can play first or third (since we know Eric Wedge has to find a way to get his boy in the lineup), but all that will do is take at-bats away from Ryan Garko or Andy Marte.
So someone has to be traded. Nixon and Delucci, being new signings, seem safe. Blake is safe because the Indians already spent money making a video about how great he is to air on Sports Time Ohio.
So who goes? Choo? Garko? They are the young guys with the best upside.
The Indians offseason had been very successful to this point. The signings of relievers, and the trade for Josh Barfield ought to make the team better.
So we'll see. But I can't see the Indians carrying so many outfielders come April.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thoughts on "24"
There are few shows that garner as much debate on national issues as 24. Pat Buchanan, last year, wrote a column on the topic, proving, if nothing else, that he's a huge fan.
Still, I prefer to shift from the far-right crazies and talk about the show itself.
A good, good friend of mine got an advance copy of the premier of season six, and told me the sixth season was the best so far. Many people have made this argument.
The first four hours were great, I can't deny that.
But I will always remain partial to the first season. As I re-watch the first-ever episode, I'm struck by a few things:
1. Tony Almeda started the series with a rather stupid quasi-Mexican accent, and
2. We are nearly a half hour into the first episode, and no one has been killed, and no one has been blown up yet.
It was a slow build in the first season, but it worked to perfection. Oh, and Nina Myers was there, the only season in which she was in every episode. Turning her evil at the end of season 1 turned the series into a classic, but her turn as Jack Bauer's "sidekick with an underlying sense of sexual tension" was missed in later seasons.
OK, let's kick it old school:
Magnificent 7: Thoughts on this season
1. I think Wayne Palmer ranks just below Charles Logan as the worst President ever. Sure, Logan broke laws and killed an ex-president, but at least he was competent. Well, more competent than Wayne.
2. Wow, I am watching the first episode, and Teri Bauer is having a conversation with Jack on the cell phone, only to have it short out. Details. These days, not even a nuclear bomb can prevent cell phone calls from being heard clearly.
3. Why didn't Jack just shoot Curtis Manning in the leg?
4. Does anyone else think Morris O'Brian is the coolest character since George Mason?
5. I do appreciate how Bill Buchanan has evolved to the point where he no longer even questions Jack. He just assumes, as we do, that he knows what he's doing.
6. I just don't buy Regina King in the role as a high-profile attourney. Maybe it's because I saw three of the four Scary Movie films. And what's with the Ally McBeal recasting? Peter MacNicol and Regina King are both cast in high profile roles. Is Robert Downey Jr. going to join the cast? Actually, that'd be pretty interesting.
7. I really hope the Logans come back. And soon.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Schottenheimer stays in SD
I'm glad San Diego decided to keep Marty Schottenheimer around in 2007. What does surprise me is that Schottenheimer declined an extension for 2008.
The only reason I can think of for him doing this is money. He may have another one, but here's how I look at it:
San Diego, 14-3 this year, is not likely to be much worse next season. Actually, it looks like it will be stronger. Schottenheimer knows there aren't many places he can go that are sure-fire playoff contenders.
And suppose San Diego, with a maturing Philip Rivers and a clean Shawne Merriman, wins the Super Bowl next season. Who will be the hottest coaching free agent in the NFL?
It's possible that a year from now, Cleveland, the Giants, Miami, Tampa Bay, Dallas and others will be looking for head coaches. Imagine the money.
Marty would probably dispute that money is the main reason for his way of thinking. But somewhere, in the back of his mind, he's got to be thinking about his next contact, and how much it will be worth.
Even if he doesn't fare well in the playoffs next year, it's likely a team like Cleveland, desperate to regain past glory, will overpay him to shut the fans and media up for a while.
All in a year's time.

At the Crossroads
My posts have become infrequent, and with Blogger changing to a new system, it has become a hassle just to log on. I have loved and maintained this blog for almost three years now, and I don't really want to give it up. Not really because it has had tremendous growth, because it hasn't.
But I like that so many people can read it. At the same time, I keep feeling as though my blog is becoming obsolete. Many of my friends have come and gone from this server -- some on to bigger things, and some out of blogging all together.
I have opened up a site on the new blogger, just to see if I can modify it how I want. If it works, I may switch to it. I'd send you there, but there is nothing there but format.
But as for now, I'll keep blogging here.
I will start exploring to see if there's a better option for my blogging. If anyone has any thoughts, well, I'm open to those.
But I'll keep you posted.
Now, back to normal.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Stephen A. Smith gets the axe, and that's OK with him
It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog, or to anyone who knows me personally, that I'm not exactly a fan of Stephen A. Smith.
Well, actually, it's not him I don't like. Maybe if I knew him, I'd feel differently. But from reading his columns and watching him on TV, my view of him has not been positive.
Smith embodies exactly what I hate about sports journalism, or rather, what has become of it. I won't dispute his sports knowledge. But his in-your-face style, accompanied by a louder than needed presentation, have left me cold.
ESPN has facilitated an atmosphere on its programs where analysts have become annoying not for the points they make, but for the way they make their points. I have written on this subject a few times. I'm not sure if I'm in the minority or not. I'm sure their are viewers of ESPN -- like myself -- who prefer analysts who speak normally, and speak to us, not at us.
How big of a group I'm in is unknown. We try to speak up, but I think we are not being heard, in part, because we don't scream to make our points.
Nonetheless, Smith's show, Quite Frankly, was cancelled by ESPN. A step in the right direction? A return to personable communication? A chance to see less of Stephen A. Smith?
Well, no, actually.
From the article on the cancellation:
Smith's presence will be expanded across numerous platforms, the network announced on Friday.
To wit: He'll be featured more regularly on "SportsCenter,'' NBA studio programming, and on ESPNEWS, as well as host four TV interview specials surrounding big events.
In addition, "opportunities" with ESPN the Magazine and columns "will be explored," the network said.

So less, I guess, is more.
Great. Well, maybe I should thank ESPN for the warning. After all, every time Smith is on TV, I change the channel. I guess I'll be doing that more often.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I was one of the lucky ones. I got to work tonight and was lucky enough to be distracted through most of Ohio State's loss to Florida.
But give Florida credit. It won, won big and proved it deserved to be National Champions. What I'm not sure of is why the Buckeyes played so poorly. Being beat 41-14 is a two-way game. Florida played very well, and Ohio State was humiliated on a level it has never been since Jim Tressel took over.
It was still a great season, and it's too bad Troy Smith had to go out on a game like that.
But that's how it goes.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Comings, Goings
It was inevitable that someone was going to have to take the fall for Braylon Edwards' immaturity. It's unfortunate that the person that took it was wide receivers' coach Terry Robiskie.
In many cases, when I write about an athlete or coach, I'm writing on what I have read or seen on television. But in Robiskie's case, I can write from a personal experience. I don't want to get into the details, but some months ago I was covering a charity event held by the local Browns' Backers. The original guest of honor, a former Browns player, canceled at the last moment. Despite being given little notice, and having to get up early on one of his few days off, Robiskie drove a few hours just to fill in. He was terrific, answering questions from the backers and accepting my request for an interview. He was talkative and friendly, in a great mood. For one day, I was positive about the Browns.
Robiskie is a class act, and as a fan, I will miss him.
Bill Cowher's resignation is not really a surprise. He's spent 15 years in Pittsburgh, won a Super Bowl, and has nothing left to prove. I expect him back in coaching one day, but for now I wish him well in his retirement. He certainly deserves a break.
I do, however, feel sorry for whoever takes Cowher's place. Since 1969, there have been seven U.S. presidents, but only two Steelers' coaches. Think there will be pressure?
The Raiders have become a parody of themselves, firing Art Shell, as though he was the reason the team won two games. I'm sure Shell doesn't want pity, but I do have to make this point: In the 1990s, Art Shell was a successful coach for the Los Angeles Raiders. But despite his success, he was never given another shot after the Raiders axed him.
Until this year, when he returned to the Raiders. He had to know the situation was not ideal, but he also knew he might never get another chance to be a head coach. It's sad, because after this season, I doubt he will get another opportunity.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Lie me a river
We are taught, from an early age, to distrust politicians. The same goes for infomercial pitchmen, lawyers, and used car salesmen.

Of course, not all politicians, pitchmen, lawyers, and salesmen are deceitful. It's a stereotype, to be sure. But somewhere along the way, I wish my mother had pulled me aside in my youth and told me: "Son, beware of football coaches."

Football coaches lie. They say they aren't going anywhere, and then jet off.

When I was in college at Bowling Green in 2002, Urban Meyer, then the school's football coach, publicly said he wouldn't leave after two short, successful years.

Weeks after, he was flying to Utah to coach.

This is not to single out Meyer. Butch Davis denied he was going from the University of Miami — which he had rebuilt into a title contender — to the Cleveland Browns in 2001. He even signed a contact extension with the Hurricanes. But soon, he was standing at a podium in Cleveland, sentencing himself to the Browns head coaching position.

Four years after Davis, Miami has been jilted again. Only this time, it wasn't the college.

The Dolphins had to know they were getting an interesting character when they hired Nick Saban away from the LSU. After all, it was Saban who told the media he wasn't leaving LSU. Then he bolted to the NFL.

A look at his coaching career shows two things: he's pretty good at what he does, and he doesn't stay anywhere too long. He was at Toledo one year, Michigan State, and LSU five years each, and was with the Miami Dolphins two years.

When his named surfaced for the Alabama gig, the coach denied he was leaving south Florida, even appearing to scold reporters for even asking the question.

I'm not really offended by any of this. What I do wonder though, is if potential Alabama players, when meeting with Saban in the near future, will ask him a question. After being talked to about the dedication and loyalty in the program at Alabama, a player should stop the coach and ask him if he can promise he'll be there when the player leaves.

But it probably doesn't matter. No answer from Saban, or most coaches, can be taken at face value.