Thursday, October 27, 2005

Overrated, Underestimated

I want to say something about the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox:

I wasn’t wrong about this team.

My stance on the Chi-Sox has been that they’re a team full of guys having career years. I stand by that statement. Talent-wise, they’re not nearly as good as they played in the first half of the regular season or in the playoffs.

But I will give them credit on two fronts: they believed they could win it, unlike the Astros, who looked beaten after game 1—let alone after Podsednik’s walk-off. And they rode that confidence (and momentum) through the playoffs and right to the title.

And two, Ozzie Guillen deserves all the credit. I mean, all of it. The unconventional choices he made (most prominently, eschewing the lefy-righty pitching matchups) as well as his understanding that the World Series is about fundamentals (bunting, fielding, etc. especially when the games are in NL parks) won his team a title. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a manager influence a team from every aspect of the game the way he did, from every perspective: emotional, mental toughness, confidence, decision-making in lineups and switches, what have you.

But I will—wait for it—admit to being wrong about the Astros. Their pitching was solid, but not dominating, and their bats were colder than Nicole Kidman locked in a room with Tom and Katie. They failed to score a run in about 15 straight innings to end the Series. I think some credit is due to the White Sox staff, but I’m telling you, Freddy Garcia… not that good.

So, not to take anything away from the White Sox—well, okay, just a little—they didn’t win this thing as much as the Astros lost it.

So Congratulations to the South Siders who have waited since 1916, who endured the loss in ’59, even the few remaining who remember the 1919 Black Sox Scandal that nearly ruined baseball.

(By the way, Eight Men Out was on Encore last night and I got suckered in. Who didn’t realize that movie A.) was made in 1988—I always thought it was older—and B.) starred John Cusack and Charlie Sheen? Did anyone realize that the acting roster in the 80s was so full of effeminate Coreys that Charlie Sheen was cast as a lead actor in not one, but two baseball movies?)

So South Siders, enjoy your World Championship. Unless Ozzie pulls off another miracle next year, I see this team winning 80 games (assuming Konerko is gone), barely staying above .500. Maybe. Because I’m telling you, to borrow a slogan from another sport, “These guys are(n’t that) good.”

* * * *

Observations from the last week:
Roofgate! Why wouldn’t Bud close the roof at Minute Maid? Hey Bud, it’s called "Home-Field Advantage" for a reason. If the home team wants to manipulate the stadium, they should be allowed. If we ever needed proof that Bud is a power hungry despot, we saw it this week. In fact, I'm calling it the "MLBud" from now on. What I was wondering the whole game: why didn’t the Astros just close the damn thing? What could Bud do to them? Fine them? That’s the worst he could do, right? He couldn’t make them forfeit a World Series Game. No way. Can you picture Bud forcibly trying to hit the switch to close it? Do you think FOX wouldn't have been all over that, a knock-down drag-out "fisticuffs" between Drayton and Bud? That would have been infinitely more exciting than the actual games. Wouldn’t it have been worth it?

With all of the action of this year’s series, with all of the runs being scored, I’m really surprised this was the lowest rated world series ever. Wait. There was no action, there were no runs scored, and no I’m not. $10 says the Yanks and Sox make the ALCS next year, because MLBud is going to rig it for the ratings.

I stayed up for the entire “epic” 14-inning game on Wednesday. Did you? No. Why? Because you’re smarter than I am. You knew that game was going to be among the most boring extra-inning games in history (postseason or otherwise) and you went to bed. If you were even watching in the first place. But I watched the every regulation frame, and once you’re invested like that, it’s nearly impossible to turn off the TV. Because you know, the minute you do, you’re going to read online next morning the game ended in the next half-inning in dramatic walk-off fashion, or worse, went on to something insane like 28 innings and was so legendary people will be talking about it for years.

There’s a sick pride in saying you stayed up for it, just like I take a sick pride that I was at Fenway for Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS (the 19-8 Yanks slaughter that everyone thought slammed the door) or that I still remember staying up to watch the 16-inning 1986 NLCS game between the Mets and Astros when I was 9. The Mets barely won that game 7-6 even after scoring 3 in the top of the 16th off hits by a coked-out Strawberry and by ultra-clutch Lenny Dykstra. I took pride in having witnessed that. (Unfortunately, that’s not the “longest game in postseason history” anymore, thanks to the 18-inning affair between the Astros and the Cards in the ALDS this year. Ironic that the 1986 game eliminated the ‘Stros, and this year’s sent them to the World Series.)

We all know who the real man in '86 was. That's right. Mr. Carter.

Holy crap, that was a ramble. Let’s move on.

NFL Week 8 picks

Somebody asked me why I wasn’t using the spread. Well, because the pool I’m in doesn’t require it. Plain and simple.

Last Week: 10-4 (.714)
Season: 64-38 (.627)


DALLAS over Arizona
I love the fact Drew Bledsoe is playing for a team in the same division as the Giants. He guarantees the Cowboys at least 5 or 6 losses solely on his own, like last week’s game at Seattle, which is probably in the top 5 of all time turnarounds where you sat there going, “wait, did they just lose that game? Did that really happen?” Which is typical of any game involving Bledsoe. Lucky for him, he has a top tier D that won’t allow for many close games. Including this one.

Chicago over DETROIT
Thomas Jones. Raise your hand if you thought we’d be watching the Cedric Benson show by now. Yeah, mine’s up. Meanwhile, the Jeff Garcia era continues in vintage Garcia style: .500 ball.

HOUSTON over Cleveland
Because this is the NFL, and it has to happen sooner rather than later.

CINCINATTI over Green Bay
Brett Farve always scares me. He scares me with how good he can be, and how bad he can be. Playing with his 3rd string RB and without two of his three best WRs, I’m guessing this week is for the bad. Plus, the Packers D is horrendous.

Jacksonville over ST. LOUIS
No Torry Holt. No Marc Bulger. No Issac Bruce. No Pass Defense. Of course, that could all be offset by No Mike Martz, which actually makes St. Louis better. But I doubt it.

Miami over NEW ORLEANS
It’s Ronnie Brown’s world, baby… And Ricky Williams is just a pothead with a nappy beard.

CAROLINA over Minnesota
Green Bay has no defense, so don’t put too much stock in the Vikes win last week. Plus, John Fox had the bye week to prepare. [Insert bad joke about Vikings season setting sail here.]

Oakland over TENNESSEE
Name three playmakers for the Raiders. Name three playmakers for the Titans. Exactly.

NY GIANTS over Washington
Tough game to pick. The Giants had a HUGE win last week, and yes, I believe that Eli is the real deal, and no, I didn’t need to read the approximately 1,000 columns on ESPN.com this week about him to tell me that. I need horse tranquilizers to watch the Giants D without punching my TV, but their offense makes up for it. Washington has found its offense from Mark Brunell and Santana Moss, which I can’t believe I just wrote. (Moss is leading WRs in yards and TDs.) I ultimately give this to the Giants because it’s in the Meadowlands. And don’t underestimate the inspiration of the passing of Wellington Mara for the G-men.

As a side note: I am loving the Eli era and the resurgence of the NFC East because it gets ratings… I can’t remember the last time the Giants were on TV in Boston for three straight weekends.

SAN DIEGO over Kansas City
The other 1,000 articles on ESPN.com this week were about San Diego’s A-Rod-like performance in the clutch. I can’t believe LT got shut down that badly last week (7 yards? Seven?), though I did think his TD streak might end (playing in Philly is tough on anyone, not just the Eagles). Kansas City is coming off a long weekend after their Wilma game, so they’ve had extra time to prepare. But KC’s D isn’t even in the same league with Philly’s. Look for LT to go, as the kids like to say, “off.”

DENVER over Philadelphia
Philly can’t run the ball. Their D is strong enough to make up for it at home (like last week’s lucky blocked FG), but not in Denver. Allow me to be trite and say, “you can’t win in this league if you can’t run the ball.” And please, don’t give me the crap that, “a three yard pass is just like a run.” Actually, did you see that part where he throws the ball? That’s called a pass. The play, the blocking scheme, the trends it establishes, everything is different. What’s the over-under for the week that Donovan’s arm falls off? I’m setting the line at week 13.

Interesting note about that FG block last week from ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli:

Now it can be told: When safety Quintin Mikell broke through the right side of the San Diego field goal unit last Sunday afternoon, and blocked a Nate Kaeding attempt that was then recovered by teammate Matt Ware and returned 65 yards for the game-winning touchdown, the Philadelphia Eagles had only 10 players on the field.

Tampa Bay at SAN FRANSISCO
If you have anyone—and I mean anyone—on Tampa Bay on your fantasy team, and you don’t start them this week, I’m instantly confiscating your entire team and distributing it to the needy, or my friend Breeze, who’s team is in the crapper at 1-6.

NEW ENGLAND over Buffalo
When this game is over, and after everyone gets all fucking teary-eyed over Tedy Bruschi’s inspirational return being the main factor behind the win, will at least one national columnist have the courage to point out that Buffalo started Kelly Holcombe at QB—yes, Kelly Holcombe, who backed up Tim Couch in Cleveland, who’s not even in the league anymore—and that Buffalo has the league’s second-worst run defense? Seriously, one columnist? I’m guessing… not.

PITTSBURGH over Baltimore
Not to beat a dead horse with this shtick, but: No Ray Lewis. No Ed Reed. No Kyle Boller. No Jamal Lewis, even though he is in fact playing. Did anyone see what the Steelers did to Cincy in Cincy? If Baltimore scores more than 9 points, I’ll pick them for every game for the rest of the year regardless of the opponent. I’m not kidding, I’ll really do it. I'll screw my entire pool for the rest of the year. In fact, I’m so confident they won’t, I’m willing to take bets from anyone who thinks they will. Email me with denominations or dares.

Two quick hits:
In the "If you don't know you better asx somebody" category: Jason Whitlock's NFL truths is a weekly must-read. Sports Humor at its finest.

In the "Clouds parted, Angels sang, and I wept with Joy" category: The first college basketball poll was released by the AP today. It's too soon for me to comment on this, but if Vegas is giving favorable odds on "Bill will write a 4,000 word college basketball preview column at some point in the near future" I strongly you slap money down to the affirmative.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who will be on a Halloween costume bar crawl tomorrow, telling all of Boston to “Stay Classy.” He can be reached by Veronica Corningstone’s everywhere at wrbeard@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Why NASCAR Sucks

In case you haven’t heard, ESPN is expected to announce a multi-million dollar deal with NASCAR that will allow the Worldwide Leader to carry NASCAR races in 2006, purportedly in the fall months.

To ESPN, I say… I thought we were over this.

I know you used to carry NASCAR races years ago, and even had shows like “RPM Tonight,” which absolutely no one outside of Alabama or South Carolina watched.

I thought you had moved on.

You’re the class of the sports world now. Every young athlete hopes to someday see himself on SportsCenter’s Top 10. You’re “The Show” for every sports desk jockey commentating over grainy clips of local high school football in every Podunk town—someday, they hope to get the call. You’re so good that you even had a reality show to become a sports anchor on your own network system.

So why are you regressing to this second-class sport? (Yes, that’s what it is.)

I thought your foray into Poker was just a phase. It was hot, and you picked it up like a drunk guy hitting on the group of fat girls at the pizza place at 3am. No one could blame you. Luckily, Behind Enemy Lines didn’t exist at the time, or I may have written a 3,000 word diatribe on how Poker is not even remotely a sport.

I thought your Poker phase would come and go, just like Colin Farrell’s career has. I was wrong about Poker—somehow it’s still around and popular, which doesn’t change the fact it’s not a sport and should never be broadcast on TV.

But I thought it was nothing a few Sox/Yankees ALCS matchups couldn’t fix, just like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Gobfather fixes depression for dumped girls everywhere. I thought we’d fight through it, and you’d go back to your upstanding ways, the standard for all who broadcast sports, the true Worldwide Leader.

But now this. You’re lowering yourself down into the dregs of humanity. Into… ugh …. NASCAR.

Well, you’ve asked for it. I didn’t want to have to do it, but you’re forcing me. A little tough love is in order. And remember, this will hurt me more than it will hurt you. (Didn’t you love it when your parents said that? Then give me the damn belt, right?)

ESPN, you need to be reminded why NASCAR sucks.

It’s time for a little intervention. I’ve got your 12-steps right here, biatch. Even if I could only think of 6.

Six Reasons why NASCAR sucks.

1. The damn cars go in a circle 500 friggin times.
Holy Crap. I’ve had physical exams from doctors with cold hands that were more exciting than this. Seriously, 500 times? In a circle? Listen, most TV viewers have the attention span of Speedy Gonzalez on Speed. They’re not going to stay tuned for this. And why on earth would they want to? I can tune into SportsCenter, watch the flaming wrecks, see who wins, and check online for the Bikini Wax standings. At a time when the MLB is cutting down on delays in baseball games, you expect viewers to watch cars go in the same circle 500 times? There’s a reason why NBC dropped NASCAR. The ratings are awful.

2. >The announcers are the worst in sports.
My dad watches NASCAR, though I won’t go so far as to call him a “fan.” (When he was at the family channel they sponsored a car, so he had a financial interest in it.) When I lived with him in Florida for a brief stint, out of deference of my not having to paying rent, I’d let him watch races. Not only are the announcers usually bigger hicks than the fans, but their conversation is worse if John Madden was teamed with Bill Walton for a curling match:

Hick announcer 1: Looks like the Number 8 car is moving up! He just passed the number 6 car!

Hick announcer 2: Oh boy! You’re right on about that! He’s making his move!

Hick announcer 1: Yup! There he goes! Look at that!

Hick announcer 2: Yeah! I see it! Looks like we’ve got a race on our hands!

Hick announcer 1: OOOO-EEEEE race fans! How do y’all like that!
Hick announcer 2: Yeesssssir! Can you feel the excitement!? Only 475 more laps to go!

Seriously, ESPN. This is what you’re about to bring into households nationwide. On second thought, I’d rather watch John Madden and Bill Walton announce a curling match, with Marv Albert doing the play-by-play. The more I think about it, I’d watch that over a lot of sports, from a purely comical standpoint.

3. The NASCAR fan base is too poor to buy shirts, let alone make a television contract lucrative.
Listen, certain stereotypes exist because they’re true (at least in a large percentage). Have you ever seen a NASCAR fan with a shirt on? Or at least one with sleeves? Neither have I. It’s a grandstand full of those fat drunk guys you see in Buffalo in the winter at Bills games spelling out, B-L-I-L-S. You expect these people to bring in advertising revenue? Unless you’ve got something worked out with Wal-Mart or “Crazy Joe’s Chop Shop,” (motto: If You Lost Your Car in the Hurricane, We’re Pretty Doggone Sure It Ain’t Here So Stop Callin’”) in which case, you’re in for a financial windfall.

Found this shot on some NASCAR fan site. Classic sleeveless shirt shot, with trailers in the background. Yup, here's your new demographic, ESPN.




3. Drinking and Driving
NASCAR has recently agreed to let liquor companies sponsor race teams. And that’s fine, because Americans are smart enough to know that drinking and driving is wrong. It’s not like it’s the leading cause of accidental death in this country or anything. And experts everywhere agree that having a liquor label on the side of a race car will in no way inspire people to drink and drive, just like listening to Ozzy Osbourne will in no way cause kids to blow their brains out, or playing Grand Theft Auto will in no way make kids shoot at passing cars on a freeway with a .22 caliber rifle, killing one person. Because people are smarter than that, right? Especially this demographic. Hey, I’m all for Darwinism, don’t get me wrong. But drunk drivers kill other people too.

4. I’ve got a small bladder.
The people in my family have small bladders. It’s true. Mine is bad, but we had to ration my sister’s liquid intake on family road trips. So what I’m saying is, I need my piss breaks. Yes, I have DVR, but I don’t like to use it on live-action sports. (It just feels not as exciting, like it’s not really “live.”) The “action” (and I use the term loosely) in NASCAR never stops. You have to piss eventually—especially if you’re drinking enough to make this interesting—and with my luck I’d walk out the minute the big wreck happens. Now imagine a football game with no two-minute warning or halftime. Imagine a baseball game without “between innings,” the seventh-inning stretch, or warm-ups for the relief pitcher. When would you take a piss? Answer the door for the pizza guy? Make a beer run? I’m willing to bet this is the real reason soccer has never caught on in the U.S. Well, other than the fact it’s gay.

5. Races are on Sundays.
How are you going to spend your Fall Sundays?
A.) Confessing to the Parish priest about something you did with chickens after chugging drinking moonshine the night before.
B.) Watching Football
C.) Watching hicks in cars go in a circle 500 times
D.) Eagerly anticipating a new episode of Desperate Housewives

If you answered anything but B, there’s a good chance you’re a hick or a chick. (It’s okay if you look forward to Family Guy, or Grey’s Anatomy. though. Those are acceptable, as long as you watch football in the afternoon. I’d include my favorite show, West Wing here too, but I’m still adjusting to the fact NBC moved this to Sundays. Completely screwed up my week.)

6. It’s the most popular spectator sport in the country.
There’s a reason they refer to it so specifically when defenders of NASCAR make this statement. “Most Popular spectator Sport.” That means you have to be at the event in person to enjoy it. Although I’d argue this statement is untrue anyway. If you tallied up the number of people who attend the one NASCAR event every Sunday, and compared it to the number of people who attend the 14 NFL games, I think it would be closer. I’m willing to bet whoever did the math on this compared one NASCAR race to one NFL game. That way, you’d no doubt have more people at the NASCAR race, due to the capacity of the venues. But really, what I’m trying to say is, I’d rather be locked in a cold room with a naked Janet Reno than watch a NASCAR race on TV.

But I’m an understanding guy. You go on your little foray, ESPN. Have fun with it for a year. And when the Race for the Shaved Bush or whatever it is ends next fall, and you see your ratings have dropped, get back to business as usual.

Until then, I’ll be hiding in this corner and fighting off Ms. Reno.

Some other observations about things more interesting than NASCAR (which doesn’t narrow it down at all):

Why no one cares that the White Sox made the World Series for the first time since 1917
It’s simple really.

1.) They’re not the Yankees or Red Sox, who account for about seemingly 90% of the MLB fan base
2.) There isn’t a single “personality” guy on this team. Not one. When the guy SportsCenter features most is your manager, you might be in trouble.
3.) They’re the fourth-string team in their own hometown, behind the Bears, Cubs, and Bulls. If that sport on ice whose name I can’t remember hadn’t gone on strike and only recently come back, I’d argue that the Sox are the fifth-string team in Chi-town. If no one in Chicago cares, how can you expect anyone else to?

Even my friend Sam—a Boston transplant/Red Sox fan currently living in Chitown—had this to say when I asked her if the city was crazy with excitement:

“Chicago is actually NOT losing its mind. There really isn't a buzz like you'd think. Ya, people are excited and it's all over the news, but walking around, you'd never know. The White Sox get no love here though. It's all Cubs, especially where I live.”

So there you have it.

Why Roy Oswalt isn’t human
The 6-0” 185-pound Oswalt manhandled the Cards two nights ago, going seven strong and only allowing one run, maintaining a no-hitter into the 5th. It’s not possible for a guy that size to pitch like he does. I should know, because his physical specs are similar to a guy I know. Namely, me. He’s my size and weight exactly. I’m guessing his weight is in muscle, where mine is mostly in beer fat, but I can’t throw 55, let alone 95.

Interesting (short) story on this freak: apparently, years ago he was about to give up pitching, and was working on his truck (yeah, he’s a hick) when the car battery zapped his pitching arm. Since then, he’s been able to throw freakishly hard with no repercussions.

Isn’t this how X-Men get their powers? Can we come up with a cool mutant nickname for him, like “Electrode” or “The Zapper” or something? Does someone with a dorky friend know the naming convention for X-men monikers? Is this the beginning of the mutant war those movies talked about? Am I the only one who cares? Don’t answer that.


Why Teddy Bruschi WON’T help the Patriots
Everyone has seemingly forgotten that, after the Pats won their first Super Bowl in 2002, they went 9-7 in 2003. Of course, that’s easily overlooked when you come back and win two years in a row. But the Patriots this year have lost too many key elements. The secondary is horrendous. Harrison’s done. Ty Law, who needed to feed his starving family—apparently he has about 6,500 relatives, if he needed more money than what he was making—and in retrospect, they probably should have paid him.

But it’s looking more and more like “genius” Belichick was getting credit for the work of two other guys. The Patriots D has more holes than a Montreal strip club, and Crennel has a Cleveland team at 2-3 with Trent Dilfer as his QB. Yes, Trent Dilfer.

And then there’s Charlie Weis, who has single-handedly turned around Notre Dame. The Irish played a team that would be undefeated if they were in the NFC North, the USC Trojans, right down to the wire, losing on the very last play. (As an aside, this may have been the best college game I’ve ever seen, and I only saw the last quarter. I was having dinner at a very crowded Legal Sea Foods, and the place was going berserk. It was a surreal experience, made even moreso by the fact that the Legal Sea Foods is located right next to the New England Aquarium—irony at its finest.) Weis has restored the credibility of a program that had been licking its wounds from the failed “No, we believe he’s the best coach, it’s not just because he’s black” Ty Willingham experiment.

Do you think the Pats would be better than their 3-3 record if Bruschi had played? I don’t. And he won’t be the difference down the stretch. Yes, he’ll help shut the swinging gate that is the run defense, but this team is headed for a 10-6 season, at best.

But I’m not saying they won’t make the playoffs or win the Super Bowl. Because I’m not stupid.


Why Stallone shouldn’t make another Rocky movie
Stallone’s publicist publicist Michelle Bega announced the star has agreed to make a new installment in the Rocky series. Several reasons why this movie should never be made. Not only because Rocky V was ungodawful, but Stallone was nearly intolerable as a young Rocky Balboa. Yes, the movies were fantastic. I’m not saying they weren’t. But I’ve never understood how Stallone was a runner-up for Best Actor after the original Rocky—I guess no one believed that Stallone really talked like that, and everyone thought he acting. Do you want to see an old Stallone dragging around the ring like a 59-year old goat trying to box? He couldn’t get anyone to watch The Contender, what makes anyone think this is a good idea? I hate production companies.

I suppose it could have been worse… they could have tried to make a prequel with Matt LeBlanc as Rocky.


Why my fantasy team is screwed
Because I’m a loud-mouthed idiot. Last week in this space, I wrote the following about team:

“I’m going to make playoffs unless someone puts Bulger and Alexander on a stretcher, and even then I might be able to pull it off."

One of the guys in my league read that, and posted it as Bulletin Board fodder on my league’s message board. (Thanks Mickey!) So what happens? In last night’s game, Bulger tosses an interception, and during the ensuing return, gets hammered to the ground by a Colts linebacker. (Who didn’t see that coming? Is there anything more Linebackers love than to annihilate pathetic QBs during runbacks?) Bulger misses the rest of the game—destroying my season-long streak as the only team to put up 100 points every week (I finished with 96).

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Somehow I managed to win the game. But Bulger may be out for 2 weeks or longer. Time for Big Ben to step in. Football Gods, I ask you to have mercy and spare Alexander from my foolish comment!

Why the Lions are in trouble.
In a great article, Michael Smith of ESPN details the lion's problems. Great piece of writing from a guy I’ve never had any respect for as a writer. So you know it has to be good.

Why golf is the most professional of sports
Though Anika still rules the roost in the LPGA (yes, I’m writing about the LPGA, I can’t believe it either), Michelle Wie is the lady of the moment—and is being hailed as the next Tiger, you know, with the exception that she’s a woman. At the Samsung World Championship this past weekend, Wie took a fourth place finish in her first event as a professional. But her standing—and her $54,000 paycheck—were revoked when it events officials were notified by a Sports Illustrated reporter Michael Bitchberger—I’m sorry, Bamberger—that Wie had taken an incorrect drop from a bush, inadvertently placing the ball closer to the hole, and Wie was disqualified.

The bullshit of this is the drop in question had taken place the day before. Had Wie and events officials immediately addressed the drop, Wie could have modified her score by taking a penalty stroke and still qualified. But because she signed her scorecard at the end of the round—testifying that the score was accurate—the score was final, and Wie was disqualified.

Two things here: first, Bamberger should be removed from the beat by Sports Illustrated. I don’t know why no one is talking about this. Not only is it not his place to point out the discrepancy—any good reporter will tell you you’re only supposed to report, not become involved—but I’d put money down that he withheld his secret until the last day to purposefully disqualify Wie and make a bigger story—why else would he wait?

Of course, Bamberger explains his situation in a Q&A with SI, but every question is answered so perfectly it reeks worse than Colin Powell’s UN briefing on WMD. If Bamberger wanted to tell his story, he should have agreed to be interviewed by ESPN or a non-biased news source.

But why is golf the most professional of sports? Two reasons:
1.) Because they play by the rules—and no one is above them. The rules are not debatable. And the players are responsible for following them, and policing themselves. You have to respect that kind of trust and honor.
2.) But also, because they adhere to it: Wie, after hearing that she was disqualified, cried in private for a bit, then went and answered every question reporters had, even stating that she “had learned a valuable lesson.” You have to admire that attitude. You think if the same thing happened to Allen Iverson or David Wells, they’d take it so well? Riiight.

And one more thing: it was Wie’s birthday—she turned 16 on Sunday.

Some quick hits
Torre will return as Yanks manager in 2006, as if anyone doubted that.

The Red Sox are lowballing Theo Epstein, reportedly only offering him between 8-900K. A’s GM Billy “I can’t believe people are buying my Moneyball even though it’s never won a post-season series” Beane was offered 2.5M by the Sox three years ago. And Theo has a ring. Give him the cash. Or better yet, don’t… and if Cashman leaves, we’ll be happy to have him in NY.

Football picks for Week 7: (Without the spread, home team in caps)
Detroit over CLEVELAND
The Jeff Garcia era starts in Detroit (supposedly), and it starts with a win.

Green Bay over MINNESOTA
Everyone wants to wait until the end of the season to fire Mike Tice. Why? So they can lock up the first round draft pick?

Indy over HOUSTON
Duh.

Kansas City over MIA
I have no logic behind this pick whatsoever.

New Orleans over ST. LOUIS
The Rams were 2-3 with Marc Bulger.

San Diego over PHILADELPHIA
LT. And really, that’s all you need. Philly’s D is not what it was last year.

Yes, I realize I just picked six visiting teams in a row for the early games. Sue me.

WASHINGTON over San Franfinished
You happy now? SF has the worst passing D in the league, and they’re running into a red-hot Brunell-Moss combo.

SEATTLE over Dallas
Should be a great game. But Drew Bledsoe is way overdue for one of those classic Drew performances, with four interceptions and a couple of fumbles. I’m guessing it’s this one.

CHICAGO over Baltimore
I hope you like 6-3 games. Two of the best Ds in the league. Have to give the edge to Chicago on offense, and for home-field.

Buffalo over OAKLAND
No D + no Randy = no W.

NY GIANTS over Denver
Hard time here. Denver could win big. But 4 of their 5 wins have come at home. But they’ve all been against +.500 opponents. But the Giants will be pumped after the close loss to rival cowboys last week. But the Giants secondary is one of the worst in the league. But they force a lot of turnovers. But Jake hasn’t turned the ball over in something like 21 quarters. But he’s still Jake Plummer. So what I’m saying is, I have no idea. Normally, I’d go against my favorite team in a situation like this, because if they lose, then at least I was right, and if they win, I’d rather have them win than be right. So if you’re smart, go with Denver.

ARIZONA over Tennessee.
Unless Kurt Warner starts, then…
Tennessee over ARIZONA

ATLANTA over NY Jets
The most mobile QB in the league against the least mobile QB in the league.

Oh, one more thing. My World Series pick!
Two teams with dominant starting pitching. This is going to be some classic baseball. Look for a lot of bunts and sacrifices. A lot of 2 to 3 games. I think the Astros have the better pitchers, and they certainly have more experience in the postseason. Chicago has the better hitters, but I’m waiting for Contreras or Garcia to throw a clunker. You know one of them will. I think it runs the full bill, but in the end…

Astros in 7.

That’s all for this week, as if that wasn’t enough.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who just gave you enough fodder to power you through your boring Friday afternoon, including pictures of a drunk Keith Foulke licking some girl's face. He can be reached for Friday chatting at wrbeard@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It Ain’t Over Till It’s… Wait, It’s Over.

On behalf of my liver, my bloodshot eyes, and especially my bank account, I’d just like to thank the Yanks and Sox for crapping the linens and not making the ALCS.

Seriously, did you really want to see another Sox/Yanks drag-down, knock-out brawl? I know they would have taken it to seven games as surely as I know that Charlie on Lost (not that one, the one from Party of Five) is going to be slipping his banana to Kate before they get off the damn island.

I remember last October. And the one before that.

It’s hard enough to save money in Boston during the summer. You’ve got a four month window to enjoy the city’s 1.5 outdoor bars and restaurants, and all Bostonians know this. Bostonians don’t go on vacation during the summer, we stay and enjoy life in one of the most appreciative summer cities in the country.

No Boone or Roberts this year.

So when October rolls around, and the temperature drops a predictably unpredictable 20 degrees in two hours one Saturday afternoon, we anticipate breaking out the storm windows and going into hibernation fo the next six months.

Not before we lock down a hot girlfriend for the winter though. Seriously girls, is there an easier month to meet a guy who “wants a relationship” than September? Those guys don’t want commitment, they want an excuse to stay in when it’s snot-freezing cold out there.

So you’ll excuse me if I’m not upset that neither the Sox or the Yankees made the ALCS. Maybe I can afford to take a vacation this year. (On a side note: I was slated to take a two-week trip to Sicily for work in November, but my bosses here at GrannieTravel cancelled it last week for a little something I like to call “no apparent reason.”)

Think about it: 7 games. Minimum $100 per game in food and beverage, because you know you’re not staying in.

That’s $700 pissed away, and + or – 4 ulcers from beer, spicy wings, and the stress of a David Ortiz at bat.

Thanks, I can do without.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

****

End of Season Observations:

What a ride. The Yanks threw more guys at opponents than the Russian military threw at the Germans in WWII; The Sox predictably broke down with a month to play—called that, thanks very much; Manny asked to be traded, got booed for it, and the Sox couldn’t find any takers, so Manny said he wanted to stay, and got cheered for it, which proves once again that Boston fans are easier to fool with than Michelle Damon on a first date; Al Leiter—“we’re pitching Al Leiter, for chrissakes!!”—tosses an Instant Classic in Fenway a day after being picked up, leading to Joe Torre throwing him into the mix and relying on him out of the bullpen during every jam, which inevitably led to at least 10 Yanks losses; and I could go on.

If anything, this was the season that wasn’t.: The Schilling-Johnson opening day duel that never materialized because Schilling sold his soul and Johnson aged 10 years in one offseason; the Manny trade happening and not happening; the Yanks starting rotation of Johnson, Mussina, Pavano, Wright, and Brown falling apart faster than the girl at the wedding who sees her ex dancing with another girl (especially when the girl is hotter than she is—the upgrade always kills them); Johnny Damon not winning the batting title after he had it locked up in mid-August; the Red Sox refusing to talk about resigning him until after the season was over; Bernie Williams’ final season being his worst as a Yankee instead of a Ripken-esque tour; all culminating in the Yanks and Sox not making the ALCS, and—more importantly—the Sox not repeating as World Series Champs. And, even more disappointingly, my friend Tim not having to live up to his napkin-written promise of shaving his head when the Yanks win the World Series.

Because this is my column and I can brag if I want to: With the exception of the Sox-Sox series, you’ll notice I not only correctly predicted the correct teams, but even the exact number of games it would take in each of the other series. I’m expecting a call from Al Pacino any minute now.

I took some flak for my “prediction” posting, especially from my cousin John, who questioned my loyalty to the Yanks. Hey, what am I, a Red Sox fan? I know when my team is outmatched. Blind Faith is for stupid people, terrorists, and Sox fans who wear pink hats. Any Sox fan with an IQ higher than the kid who ate paste during recess knew the Sox didn’t have it this year. And it was obvious the Yanks didn’t have it this year. I knew it, and they knew it. And the Angels proved it. Sure, I hoped I was wrong, but… I wasn’t.

What's that Al? There's an envelope in my desk drawer? With plane tickets?

But the Sox went down and got embarrassed in the process. The defending champs barely made the postseason, and then they get swept by Chicago, who I’m telling you is the worst-best team I’ve ever seen in my life. (They just got beat by an Angels squad subsisting on No-Doz and Grande Lattes.) I didn’t get to watch the final RSox game, as I was driving to Syracuse for a wedding, but I didn’t need to. Let me sum up my opinion of this Sox team: They flat-out sucked. Clement had the worst outing since ALDS inception, among other things. But you know what? I still think they’re a better team than the White Sox.

So who do you blame? Francona. I’ll repeat something I’ve been saying since last year: The Red Sox won the Series last year IN SPITE of Francona. Has anyone used the words, “Led the Red Sox to a World Series Championship” to describe him? Ever? No, and there’s a reason for it. He’s awful.

If Epstein and Co. don’t have Francona on the chopping block (along with his crony Dale “send ‘em” Swayne) by the Winter Meetings, I personally guarantee the Sox do not make the playoffs next year, no matter what happens in free agency.

As for the Yankees-Angels series it wasn’t so much the Angels pitching, as it was the Yanks season-worst play. They couldn’t hit, couldn’t move runners, couldn’t catch the ball, couldn’t throw the ball, couldn’t get on the same page with hit and runs, couldn’t steal bases, etc. etc. etc. They arguably played their worst baseball of the year, at the worst time of the year. I’m amazed they won 2 games.

Everyone was right about A-Rod. I’m just glad MVP ballots are due after the last game of the regular season, because you could have just handed it to Ortiz otherwise. (Yes, I still think A-Rod deserves MVP.) I don’t have the numbers on it, but I’m willing to bet A-Rod had the worst postseason series of any league MVP in history. Not only did he have just two hits and a goose egg in the RBI column for the entire series, but he had a top of the 9th GIDP after Jeter got a single with no outs in Game 5 when the Yanks were trailing by 2 that basically ended the Yanks season. If A-Rod just strikes out, we could be watching the Sox/Yanks right now. They got two hits, which would have scored Jeter, and when Matsui grounds to first, Bellhorn (running for Giambi) would have scored, because it would have only been the second out. Tie Game. Instead, Scrod had to take it the extra mile. Thanks, A-Rod. You’re the least clutch player in baseball. Oh, and one more thing: you suck.

As a complete aside is it possible to EVER please a woman when it comes to room temperature? My office is completely female dominated (about 95%, not exaggerating) and it doesn’t matter if the A/C is on at full blast during the summer, or the vents are dripping lava during the winter, they’re never content. And what’s worse, they won’t shut up about it. Because this is the first truly cold day of the year, they were testing the heater, and apparently they forgot about it and left it set on “Earth’s Core.” The woman next to me skinned a Polar Bear, a lion, and the Postman on the way into work, and she’s wearing their skin around the office and still complaining about how cold it is in here. Meanwhile, I’m making photocopies in my boxer briefs and sweating like A-Rod during a postseason at-bat.

(Hell yes, that whole paragraph was a set up for that joke. Where’s my damn contract, ESPN! You pay Caple for shit like that every day!)


Miscellaneous Crap you’re sure not to care about:

Is anyone else secretly glad that the Pats are starting to get their come-uppins? (How do you spell that, anyway?) I mean, after four years of “Bill Belechick is a genius” and “Tom Brady is the new Joe Montana” and “the Pats are the best dynasty in NFL history” I think you have to take a certain joy at seeing that these guys are human. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Pats: Belechick is as likeable a coach as there is in sports, because he refuses to say anything about anyone; Brady is definitely a cool customer, even if he’s the textbook example of the “right-place at the right-time” guy putting up big numbers and no one seems to notice this; and it’s good to see that the Pats D scheme isn’t so solid that you could sub the residents of the amputee wing of Mass General into the game and they’d still be successful.

Guess what, all you Red Sox/Pats fans… the Pats are the new Yankees, and everyone hopes you lose. No one outside of Boston hated the Yanks in 1996, when they won the World Series for the first time in almost 20 years. And now they’re the most hated franchise in sports. Seriously, the Pats are one more unprovoked “Angry Tom” press conference (who, for the record, completely misunderstood Schottenheimer) away from launching a Bill Simmons alter-ego out in someplace like Pittsburgh or Indianapolis. And then it’s only a matter of time before payroll goes over the Salary Cap and you’re not resigning guys like Dillon and Branch who will go to someplace like Chicago and haunt you for the rest of your days. (aka Pettite-Clemens)

I’m sure you care that my fantasy team is 3-2 despite leading in points scored by 70 points. I’m the only guy to score over 100 every week, and I’m in second at 3-2 behind my newly-married buddy Wall (who’s wedding I was at this weekend, congrats buddy!) who is magically 5-0. (Hey Wall, are you happier at being married or that your fantasy team is 5-0? On second thought, don't answer that.)

▪ Yes, there was the weekend McNabb went off and he beat me. I can deal with that. But every league has that guy who forgets to change his team once in awhile, and Wall had a giftwrapped win a couple weeks ago because of that. And I had a no-win situation this Monday, when I was trailing by 15 going into MNF, with Gates and the Steelers D playing. And you see my conundrum. Basically, unless the Steelers D scored 2 touchdowns I was going to lose because they’d cannibalize each other. Oh well. I’m going to make playoffs unless someone puts Bulger and Alexander on a stretcher, and even then I might be able to pull it off. Not counting the pot money just yet. (The fantasy pot, not the smoking kind. Geez.)

As for my boys, the G-Men head to Dallas this weekend. I’m starting to believe in Eli, if only because he’s been hitting my WR Burress as his #1 go-to-guy and helping my fantasy team turn into the St. Louis Rams (winning with offense). With the way the Cowboys manhandled Philly last week (um, how about running the ball, huh?) it should be an interesting matchup. Unlike the Eagles, the Giants can run the ball, so I don’t think we’ll see a blowout like that. However, the Giants secondary defends the pass as well as Tara Reid’s brother defends his sister’s decency on “Taradise.” So we’ll see.

So you can see this column will be delving into football over the next few weeks (with one eye on the rest of the MLB playoffs) and some more random stuff. And just wait for college basketball! Regardless, I hope I can be clever enough to keep you reading.

I’m sure once the Hot Stove heats up, I’ll have plenty to say about the deals going on. The Free-Agent signing period begins 15 days after the close of the World Series. Free agents from the Sox and Yanks this offseason: Damon and Matsui are the headliners. (Matsui will almost certainly stay in the Bronx.) But there’s also Gordon, Timlin, Millar, Mueller, Leiter, Embree, Felix Rodriguez, John Flaherty, Ruben Sierra, and of course Bernie Williams, who may have played his final season in the Bronx. This year’s Pavano is B.J. Ryan, the Southpaw from Baltimore, who both the Yanks and Sox are already expressing interest in. Should be very different teams on the field next year for both squads. So stay tuned.

▪ Seriously, thanks for reading this baseball season. I’d call the first full season of Behind Enemy Lines a success, despite the lack of a lucrative offer from SI or ESPN.com, or even Barstool Sports. Their loss.

Thanks again.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who enjoyed writing this very inconsistently-posted column on “the Sox and Yanks rivalry, and other random crap you’re sure not to give a damn about.” He can be reached for debate, procrastination, fantasy football tips, or really any reason at all at wrbeard@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

For the Record...

After having a decent weekend as far as predictions went (who would have thought Cleveland would have blown all three games? No surprises, right? Well, THAT was a surprise) I wanted to get my postseason picks up quick before things go too far. I haven't looked at any scores or current games today. You'll just have to trust me.

Yanks vs. LAAASC: Angels in 5
Why: Good pitching beats good hitting in the playoffs. Every time. And the LAAASC have the best bullpen in the league.
Why I might be crazy: The Yanks were eliminated in the first round by LAAASC in 2002. And if you think the MLB conspiracy machine will let the Yanks or RSox not play another ALCS...

Sox vs. Sox: Red Sox in 4
Why: The White Sox are the worst "best record in the league team" in the history of baseball. They had about 6 guys who were having career years in the first half and they all came crashing down in the second half, almost blowing the biggest lead in baseball history. Can you spell "done"? I think you can.
Why I might be crazy: Who knows which Red Sox will show up? The team who held the AL East lead all season or the team that couldn't hold off the makeshift Yankees pitching staff?

RSox at Angels: Angels in 6
Why: Same thing... good pitching beats good hitting.
Why I might be crazy: If the Red Sox get this far, there's no reason to believe they can't run the table. I can't picture Papi or Schilling letting the team go down if they make the ALCS. But I'm picking it anyway.

As for the National League...
Houston vs. Hotlanta: Houston in 4
San Diego vs. St. Louie: Cards in 3


Houston vs. St. Louis: Houston in 7

WORLD SERIES
Angels vs. Houston

You like pitching? This is your World Series: Clemens, Pettite, Oswalt, Lidge, Colon, Byrd, Washburn, K-Rod.
The Difference? One guy: Vlad Guerrero. Series MVP, because:

Angels in 6. And my World Series pick from midseason holds up.

Now comes the fun part: Watching this go to hell. Because the only thing you can be certain of is that what you think will happen won't happen.

Enjoy the games.