Friday, December 30, 2005

Two Points for Honesty

I was debating doing a “Year in Review” for my final column of 2005, but every chump does that. So then I was thinking of writing about New Year’s Resolutions for 2006, but I don’t really believe in that kind of stuff.

In the meantime, in the past week I lost my Fantasy Football Championship in my Syracuse League by two measly points… and while I was thinking about that and about New Years resolutions (or the lack thereof) that triggered the name of a Guster song (if you don’t know Guster, you need to recognize), so I came up with a little different twist.

I’m going to do 2006 Predictions! But I’m going to be honest about it.

So here you go. Enjoy. And have a safe and happy last few days of 2005, and have a prosperous 2006.

Honestly…
It won’t be any more prosperous than any other year.

Honestly…
I’m not going to work out more in 2006. And neither are you. So don’t kid yourself.

Honestly…
Peyton Manning is Dan Marino. And that’s not a compliment.

Honestly…
Tom Brady will win Super Bowl MVP again.

Honestly…
Syracuse will bow out in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Honestly…
Neither Duke or UConn will win the NCAA tournament.

Honestly…
I have no clue who will.

Honestly…
Lindsey Lohan’s breasts will somehow get even bigger in 2006.

Honestly…
Hockey still sucks, even with the new rules.

Honestly…
Family Guy will continue to be the funniest show on TV. (“I want you to imagine a naked Lindsey Lohan doing a backwards crab walk for me… JUST DO THIS FOR ME!”)

Giggity Giggity!

Honestly…
The U.S. won’t make it past the opening rounds of the World Cup.

Honestly…
Most Americans won’t even care.

Honestly…
We’ll still be in Iraq at the end of 2006.

Honestly…
I can’t wait for the 2006 Winter Olympics. They’re in Torino, Italy, opening on February 10th. Unlike the World Cup, Americans actually care about this.

Honestly…
I just realized there’s a good chance I could be in Italy for work during that time. Sweet.

Honestly…
Reggie Bush won’t live up to the hype.

Honestly…
Sony pushed the Playstation 3 launch until December of next year, which means my Christmas list for next year is written already.

Honestly…
“Someone will hit Colin Farrell with a truck” just fell into the #2 slot on my wish list.

I want you... to get hit by a truck.

Honestly…
Brittney Spears will attempt a comeback in 2006.

Honestly…
In a related story, I will shove railroad spikes into my ears in 2006.

Honestly…
The Yankees will win the AL East easily in 2006.

Honestly…
The Red Sox will finish third.

Honestly…
Manny will still be on the team.

Honestly…
Manny will still be a jackass, and just because he doesn’t realize he’s being one, doesn’t change the fact that he is one. If a six year old kid consistently hits another kid in class, do we let them off the hook, saying, “That’s just Johnny being Johnny?” No. So why do the media and the fans let an adult get away with this?

Honestly…
Everyone rips on A-Rod for his huge contract, but I’m willing to bet the Yankees could easily unload it and him if they wanted to. How come no one rips Manny for signing his deal?

Honestly…
As if you couldn’t tell, I’m tired of Manny and his crap.

Honestly…
A-Rod is Peyton Manning who is Dan Marino.

Honestly…
Brokeback Mountain will go down in history as the movie to win the most Academy Awards seen by the least amount of straight men. (Let me get this straight… they expect me to pay $9.50 to watch a a couple of gay cowboys go humpback on the hillside? Not that there’s anything wrong with that… but seriously? I wouldn’t watch that movie if they were paying me $950.)

Honestly…
New Year’s Eve is the most overrated night of the Year.

Honestly…
You won’t get that raise or that promotion you were looking next year.

Honestly…
American Idol will still be popular in 2006, despite my best efforts.

Honestly…
Josh Beckett will be the next Carl Pavano.

Honestly…
Carl Pavano will still be on the Yankees, despite my best efforts.

Honestly…
I hope he pulls a Kevin Brown and gets put on the DL for the season.

Honestly…
Reality TV will finally run its course in 2006, at long last.

Honestly…
Terry Francona will get his walking papers in 2006. And so will several of the Sox GM “By Committee” members.

Honestly…
Eli will be much better in 2006, and the Giants will be a popular choice for Super Bowl 41. (But Eli will never be as good as his brother or father.)

Honestly…
Rocky VI will suck worse than Rocky V.

Picture this... plus about 30 years.

Honestly…
The Chicago White Sox will win about 20 fewer games in 2006.

Honestly…
I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, because then everyone would be in love with me.

Honestly…
The Devil will finally collect Curt Schilling’s soul in 2006.

Honestly…
The Pats will win Super Bowl 40.

Honestly…
The Pistons will win the NBA Finals. (I’m really out on a limb there.)

Honestly…
No one cares who wins the Stanley Cup.

Honestly…
Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox will win the World Series.

Honestly…
I will still be writing this column in 2006.

Honestly…
I still won’t be getting paid for it.

Honestly…
Thanks for reading in 2005.

***

Observations from the past week:

· If you’re one of the people who attacked the Damon signing as a financial faux-paus, you’ll be interested to know the Yanks payroll is actually dropping from $205 to $175 Million. Um, so there.

· As I mentioned, I lost my Syracuse league Fantasy Championship by TWO POINTS, easily making it the closest Championship game I’ve ever seen. Crazy thing is, I played Ryan Moates and Eddie Kennison, both of whom scored a whopping ONE POINT each. Just about every guy on my bench did more, and when you lose by two points, well, that’s hard to take. I wouldn’t have done it any differently—Moats against the Cards was a good play, and Kennison had put up 119 and a TD in the previous game against San Diego, and this one was at home. So I’ll have to be content with my loss. As for my other league, let’s just say the guy had Alexander, Santana Moss, and Larry Johnson. So you can guess how that turned out.

· Congtrats to Kevin Wall, who takes home the kitty in the Syracuse league, and Jersey Mike (Dave?) who won my Keeper League, and whose name I can never remember. That’s what happens when you play in a league with strangers. (At least I lost to a Giants fan in that one.)

If you have time, read Patrick Hruby’s Recap of the Stupid Sports Year in Review. “I’ll… (mrph)….be right… (mrph)…. out.” Hilarious.

***

NFL Week 17 Picks
Last Week: 11-5 (.688) (Is it just me, or am I 11-5 just about every week?)
Season: 162-78 (.675)


Last chance to win a week, and I’m two games out of a top 5 spot to take home a portion of the season winnings. Step yo game up!

This is one of the hardest weeks of the season to pick, because these games mean so little to so many teams. I always look for the following five scenarios in Week 17:

1.) A team who needs to win to get in, and will come through
2.) A team who needs to win to get in, and will crap the bed
3.) A good team who can lock up a spot, playing poorly against a bad team but still winning
4.) A team with motivation to play spoiler
5.) A bottom tier team with nothing to lose beating a much better team

SAN DIEGO over Denver
San Diego is my pick for #4. San Diego, who is eliminated from playoff contention, can eliminate the Chiefs with a win here. That’s huge, because the Chiefs eliminated them with a win last week. Is there a motivation bigger than revenge? Don’t think so.

Aside: I am usually very good with tiebreakers, but it’s beyond me how a team that is eliminated from playoff contention can eliminate a team they’re not even playing, when the team they are playing is guaranteed a spot. This is like reading tax code—I don’t understand it, but I know it means someone is getting screwed.

NY Giants over OAKLAND
This game has scenario #3 written all over it, even though the Giants have technically already clinched a spot. The Giants are awful on the road, and this game is on the West Coast, and there isn’t a team in the NFL that can make that trip and play flawlessly. The Giants need this game, because unless the Giants get a first-round home game, they’re a mortal lock to take a bow in the first round of the playoffs.

Aside: Who put this game at 8:00 on New Years Eve? Seriously? I’m going up to Killington for the long weekend, so my DVR will be buzzing for sure. Nobody talk to me about football until Tuesday, okay?

INDIANAPOLIS over Arizona
Tony Dungy will be back to coach this game, and Indy’s second-string offense is still better than the Cards first-string D. Plus, Indy doesn’t want to go into the playoffs with a three-game losing streak, even if they weren’t playing their starters.

Baltimore over CLEVELAND
As for the Kyle Boller bandwagon: I’m guessing it’s much easier to play quarterback when your season was over eight weeks ago. I can’t wait to rail on the guy who drafts him in one of my leagues next year.

Buffalo over NY JETS
Because I have nothing important to say about this game:

If you haven’t been watching the new show “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS) you need to get on board. It’s like “Friends” was, except in the early years when Chandler was hilarious, before Monica cut off his comedy balls. Neil Patrick Harris’ character, Barney, is one of the funniest on TV, and marks the Comeback of Doogie complete—and is his second-best role since playing a cracked-out version of himself in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, one of the more underrated movies of the past few years. Seriously, start watching.

ATLANTA over Carolina
This is scenario #4 and scenario #2, so Carolina is screwed. Atlanta was eliminated by TB last week. Carolina can get in with a win. Though the AFC might be the best conference in football, the NFC South is the nastiest. These teams genuinely hate each other. My buddy Breeze is from the ATL and we were watching the TB/ATL game earlier in the season—you could see the punches being thrown when guys got down into a pile. Though I’m sure it helped that Breeze has a 72” projection HDTV with 12.1 surround sound.

Besides, as much as Michael Vick hates me, I think he hates Carolina more.

Chicago over MINNESOTA
I’d like to thank the Vikings for tanking against Baltimore last week, and giving my Giants their playoff spot. Awfully nice of them. At least we can stop talking about Mike Tice as a Coach of the Year candidate—not that we should have been in the first place.

KANSAS CITY over Cincinnati
Nobody beats KC in Arrowhead in December.
(Too bad the Chiefs will be eliminated before they even take the field.)

Detroit over PITTSBURGH
Just kidding:

PITTSBURGH over Detroit
This is scenario #1. Pitt gets in with a win. Though technically that could be registered moot if SD beats Denver on Saturday.

Miami over NEW ENGLAND
Tom Brady will start this game. But Bill Belichick is too smart to let him finish it.

TAMPA BAY over New Orleans
I was tempted to pick this for scenario #2, but New Orleans is just too bad, and the game is at Tampa.

Houston over SAN FRANSISCO
The “Bush” Bowl. This is the pick I am the most sure about. The Texans are too unlucky to lose this game.

Aside: NFL analysts are crazy. Obviously if the Texans lose, they’re first in line to draft Reggie Bush. Several analysts have said that the Texans could trade the #1 pick for a bunch of picks or top players because they already have a good running back in Dominic Davis. Let me say this: Dumbest. Idea. Ever. Reggie Bush is the next LeBron James. No draft pick is a sure thing, but you don’t trade away a guy who comes along with that much hype—a guy who has the potential to be a Hall of Famer, a guy who could revolutionize your sport and singlehandedly turn a team around. You trade Dominic Davis. Seriously, why are we even talking about this?

Tennessee over JACKSONVILLE
Scenario #5.

Seattle over GREEN BAY
I’d like to thank Sean Alexander for singlehandedly carrying my Fantasy Team for an entire season. He almost won the Championship for me all by himself with a 32-point effort in a game that meant next to nothing.

Aside: Seattle had the ball late in the fourth quarter on the 1 yard line, with the game out of reach. Did you doubt that Mike Holmgren was going to put Alexander back in so he could tie the single-season TD record? Last year, Alexander accused Holmgren of robbing him of the rushing title by pulling him in the last game of the season after Alexander came up a yard short. No way he benches him again. I staked my Fantasy Championship on this, and I was right—except, unlike Alexander, I came up short.

Washington over DONE
I know it’s been decided for a few weeks now, but have I mentioned that the Eagles are done?

Aside: Plax drops a TD pass in the first quarter, and a Toomer TD gets called back in the fourth last week. Feely misses three game-winners against Seattle. Giants are headed to overtime against Minnesota, but Brad Johnson pulls one out of his sock drawer to get them in field goal range. The Cowboys pull one out in OT. Everyone thinks the Giants are overrated—including me—but do you realize how close the Giants were to being 15-1 or 14-2 and having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs?

DALLAS over St. Louis
Dallas needs to win to get in—but if Carolina and the Redskins win, it would be moot. And wouldn’t that be sweet?

Next Week: NFL Playoff Picks!

Bill Beard is an independent writer who is looking forward to 2006, despite his pessimistic nature. He can be reached for Nostradamus-like prognostication atwrbeard@hotmail.com.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Yankee Swap

On Wednesday, my department had our Christmas party. I witnessed the largest Yankee Swap in history (yup, that’s a YANKEE swap, not a RED SOX swap) with over 51 people. It was a tedious process, watching everyone unwrap their gifts and swap them.

(Luckily I brought a 12-pack to work for the party.)

But Tuesday night, in another kind of Yankee Swap, the New York Yankees signed former Red Sox centerfielder and Idiot King Johnny Damon to a four-year, $52 million dollar deal.

(Can you hear the Gillette executives shouting for joy?)

I guess it’s not a true analogy, because the Red Sox don’t get a crappy bottle of chocolate syrup, a cheap desk toy, or “gay magnets” in return.

(Don’t ask.)

The Red Sox get nothing, and lose the most productive leadoff hitter in baseball.

Look. Johnny Damon as a person? I can’t stand him. The only person on the planet who is dumber and more obnoxious than Johnny Damon happens to be married to Johnny Damon.

But Tuesday night, Damon made a smart decision.

The Yankees dropped a deadline at his feet—sign by midnight or we’re ending negotiations. Four years, $52 million on the table. Damon (more likely Damon’s agent, Scott Boras) signed it, knowing that if the Yankees dropped off the table, the offer he’d get from the Sox once the Yanks were out of the picture would make his dream of seven years at $80 million as realistic as a magical land in a wardrobe.

So Damon signed. And no matter how you slice it, this is a huge blow for the Red Sox.

(And please, can we just leave loyalty out of these discussions? Are you telling me if your company’s #1 competitor offered you a considerably better salary, you wouldn’t take it? Exactly.)

Already, at least one of my friends who roots for the 2006 third place AL East team has tried to play this off, commenting on Damon’s throwing arm. Well, when the worst thing you can find to say about a player concerns their throwing arm, I think he may be a pretty good player.

Listen, I know Damon throws like a pre-pubescent girl. I get that. In fact, Damon’s throwing arm has been much ridiculed in this space, and even helped “create” B-E-L. He’s been one of my favorite targets. I wrote the following in an “observations” email from the 2004 ALCS Game 3:

“Best moment of the game: A-rod hits a ball out onto Landsdowne street, fan throws it back on to the field. Damon throws it back onto Lansdowne street. Fan throws it back. Red Sox immediately sign fan and replace Damon with him.”

But hey, the Yankees won the division last year with the only guy in the league who couldn’t out-throw Damon: Bernie Williams. And Williams’ average was, well, not near his career average. (I can’t rip Bernie, sorry.)

But Red Sox fans will try to play this off, even though their team doesn’t have a shortstop, is without a centerfielder, and are short a leadoff hitter.

Sure, they can trade for Jeremy Reed, the Mariners CF. I think this would be a good deal, because a guy hitting .253 with 3 HR and an OBP of .322, and an average defensive player by all accounts, is exactly what will replace an All-Star Centerfielder. (Of course, if they trade Matt Clement for him… well, that IS an upgrade.)

This is a good move for the Yanks. It lets Jeter bat in the 2-spot, which is where he belongs. Solves the CF problem and the leadoff problem. But with all my past animosity about Johnny as a person, welll... I still have mixed feelings about this. You know when you feel like you have something in your nose, and it makes you all self-conscious, but you check the mirror like five times and you know there’s nothing there—but it still bothers you anyway? That’s kind of how I feel about this. I know everything's okay, but it makes me a little uncomfortable.

I may dislike him as a person, but at the end of the day, JD was the best option out there. George overpaid, but only slightly. Four years is about right. I can’t complain about this. At least he’s not killing the Yankees for the Sox anymore, right? And he did kill the Yankees, if you remember 2004.

Plus, we get to stick it to Sox fans. You know that’s why George did it. You know that’s why Johnny—upset with the lackluster approach of the Sox “GM by Committee”—did it.

So that’s always fun.

And it will also be fun to hear Damon’s reception when he shows up in Fenway in the road grays for the first time.

But the real drama here is when the King of Kings will have to lose his trademark Captain Caveman/What-Would-Johnny-Do-Look and go “clean.”

As sure as you're reading this, the Gillette executives are scheming, preparing for the media event that is sure to be Damon’s shave and haircut. (It will be bigger than the charity event where he let about four smoking hot girls shave him… the poor guy.)

It’s a rite of passage. It’s like hazing, except they’re paying you millions of dollars for it. It’s what you need to do to play for the most successful sports franchise in history.

Johnny's already come over to the dark side. He uncorked a "This Organization" quote in reference to the Yankees in his first interview about the signing.

He wasn't always the Captain of Cavemen.

But when Johnny pays his two bits to the barber... that's when he'll truly welcome the dark side and come over to the Evil Empire.

Sure, the Rebellion might have had a successful 2004. But today, the Empire wins, as Luke was swayed not by his father... but by a pocket full of Franklins.

The Gillette Corporation has its headquarters here in Boston. And right about now, they’re the only Boston residents—other than transplanted Yankees fans—who can really be happy about this.

Observations from the Past Week:
-The Yanks also signed Octavio Dotel, formerly of the Oakland A's, who spent most of last season recovering from shoulder surgery. Two years ago this guy was a premier closer in the league, but after a rough 2005 and the surgery, it remains to be seen how effective he will be in 2006. If he regains his form, along with Kyle Farnsworth and of course Mo, the Yankees could have one of the best bullpens in baseball.

-So I'm in both my fantasy football leagues' championship games this week-as if there was ever any doubt. If you've ever played in multiple fantasy leagues, the #1 problem is something I'm going to call the "Bizzaro Effect." For example, on my team in my Syracuse league I have Sean Alexander. However, in my keeper league, the guy I'm playing has Alexander. In my Syracuse league, my opponent has Tiki Barber. In my keeper league, I have Barber. So it's a catch-22. Really, I'm screwed either way, and in neither league can I consider myself the favorite to start with. Thankfully, both leagues have second-place payouts, so I won't come away empty-handed. I know, these are the things I worry about, I have such a rough life.

-On a more somber note, Tony Dungee's son James was found dead in his apartment last night in Florida. Dungee is the head coach for the team favored to win the Super Bowl this year. Condolences out to his family... but I'm not afraid to be the coarse one (seeing as how um, Dungee would never read this) and speculate how his abscence will affect his team. I'm sure Vegas is playing close attention to this.

-Apologies for no Lines last week. My boss was on vacation, and when he's out, I'm technically in charge. Seeing as how most of the people I work with can't make a decision on their own, it's hard to write a column at work with no one noticing when people are at your desk every two minutes asking you questions.

NFL Week 16 Picks
Last Week: 11-5 (.688)
Season: 151-73 (.674)


In honor of the holiday, I'm making my picks in "Wish List" format! Here we go:

TAMPA BAY over Atlanta
I'm wishing that Michael Vick gets coal in his stocking, because he's been nothing but mean to me this year.

CINCINNATI over Buffalo
The Chad wishes for 8 tiny reindeer, because I think his "surprise holiday TD celebration" is going to be Santa and his sleigh.

CAROLINA over Dallas
The Dallas Cowboys are wishing for a few extra shovels, so they can dig a hole and hide in it after last week's showing at Washington.

NEW ORLEANS over Detroit
The people that live in these markets are wishing they had DirecTV so they don't have to watch this crap.

Jacksonville over HOUSTON
All they want for Xmas in Houston is Reggie Bush. Except for Jonathan Wells, who scored two TDs last week and carried the Texans to a win, because he's fighting for a roster spot.

WASHINGTON over NY Giants
The Redskins are wishing for a playoff spot. And quite frankly, they've got the Giants right where they want them. Tiki Barber is wishing for an MVP vote, and if he doesn't get any, then Santa needs to start banging some heads around.

Philadelphia over ARIZONA
Andy Reid is just wishing this season was over.

Pittsburgh over CLEVELAND
Charlie Frye is wishing Pittsburgh didn't pick last week to figure out how to play defense again.

KANSAS CITY over San Diego
The Chargers are wishing this game was in San Diego, because no one beats the Chiefs in Arrowhead in December. No one. Nothing like beating the best team in football at home, and then seeing this game on the schedule.

ST. LOUIS over San Fransisco
Both these teams are wishing for anything but coal in their stockings.

MIAMI over Tennessee
Ronnie Brown and I are both wishing Ricky Williams had stayed a pot-smoking accupuncturist for another year.

SEATTLE over Indianapolis
Seattle got its wish granted: this game doesn't matter at all for the Colts. And Seattle still has another wish: home-field advantage, so they're going to be playing all out.

DENVER over Oakland
All Randy Moss wants for Christmas is a quarterback who can throw him the damn ball. (Me and him both, for that matter.)

Chicago over GREEN BAY
All the fans in Wisconsin want is for Brett to retire. Now.

BALTIMORE over Minnesota
All Mike Tice wants is a playoff berth. But he's Mike Tice, so he's not getting it.

New England over NY JETS
All every team in the NFL wants is not to have to play the Pats in December or January. Becuase they're still the most dangerous team in the NFL. And after last week's punishing of Tampa Bay, everyone knows it.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who would sell out just like Damon if SOMEONE, ANYONE would give him the chance! All he wants for Christmas is a paying sportswriter gig. He can be reached by potential Santas at wrbeard@hotmail.com.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Picking Your Knows

(Busy week this week, so I apologize for the brain dump you're about to experence...)

After a guy in our league went 16-0 last week, I’m pretty much out of contention for my Picks Season Pool. So now I just have to hope to win a single week and break even. Because of that, I’m going to a system I like to call “Pick Your Knows.” Essentially, this system comprises of one truism: take the strongest piece of knowledge you have about a game—a piece that trumps every other possible piece of logic, and run with it.

For example:

Chicago over PITTSBURGH
I know that Defense Wins Championships.

See, I know Pitt has a much better offense than Chicago, I know this game is in Pittsburgh, I know Big Ben threw for three TDs last week. But more than anything, I know that in the NFL, a good D beats a good offense 90% of the time. So that’s how we end up with Chicago, even though my gut tells me Pittsburgh is still the better team. With that in mind, here are my other “knows” for the week, including my NFL picks and some Hot Stove Action.

NFL Week 14 Picks
Last Week: 13-3 (.812)
Season: 128-64 (.667)


CINCINNATI over Cleveland
I know that Carson Palmer—not Peyton Manning—is this year’s MVP.

TENNESSEE over Houston
I know that Houston is the worst team in the NFL.

Indianapolis over JACKSONVILLE
I know that the Colts are the best team the NFL has seen in a long time.

New England over BUFFALO
I know that, this time of year, there aren’t too many teams I’d pick over the Bills in a home game. But I know that New England is one of them.

NY Giants over PHILADELPHIA
I know that Philly is DONE DONE DONE DONE DONE.

(As an aside: I know that the lesser Manning has to play better if the Giants are going to make the playoffs—a 54% completion rate is not going to cut it.)

NY JETS over Oakland
I know that Marques Tuiasosopo is starting this game for the Raiders. I know the guy’s been in the NFL for five years and has never thrown a touchdown pass. And I know that they brought Kerry Collins in because they didn’t think Tui could get it done. And I know a guy with a name like “Marques” is not NFL starting quarterback material.

SEATTLE over San Francisco
I know that San Fran hasn’t won an away game all year. (And I know that Seattle is going to get a first round bye.)

MINNESOTA over ST. Louis
I know that—for a team like the Vikes—Brad Johnson is a better fit.

CAROLINA over Tampa Bay
I know that I was wrong last week when I said, “Carolina is the most overrated team in the NFL.”

Washington over ARIZONA
I know that Kurt Warner could throw for 300 yards every game—and the Cards would still lose to even a .500 team because they can’t run the ball at all.

DENVER over Baltimore
I know the porn moustache let me down last week. But I know that Denver isn’t going to lose at home this time of year.

Kansas City over DALLAS
I know that Priest Holmes getting hurt was the best thing that’s happened to the Chiefs all year. I know that Drew Bledsoe had his worst game as a Cowboy last week. And I know I couldn’t be happier that he’s on the Cowboys, because I know he can single-handedly sink their season.

SAN DIEGO over Miami
I know the Chargers have LT.

GREEN BAY over Detroit
I know I don’t pick against Brett Favre in Green Bay in December.

ATLANTA over New Orleans
Tiebreaker: 49

I know that I’m .500 on Atlanta games. I know that’s the worst record I have with any single team. I know that I don’t have any idea which Atlanta team is going to show up. And I know that’s not good.

Ike Reese, hard at work "Picking His Knows."

Completely out of nowhere:
With the snow coming down in New England today, here’s a great article on December football.

Quick Fantasy Notes:
· I know I earned a first-round playoff bye in both of my fantasy leagues this week. Ironically, though, I’m headed in a different direction in both. In my “main league” (only so called because I’ve been doing it the longest) I’ve lost the last three games, and only earned the second-seed bye because the guy behind me lost. I lost to the second-worst team in the league last week, mainly due to the solid –6 that the Pitt D put up. I would have won had I not played a D at all. Regardless, dropping my last three games doesn’t bode well for my playoff momentum.

· In my other league, it’s a different story. I haven’t lost in 8 weeks, though I did have a tie in there, which is pretty amazing in a league where we start four individual defensive players. I won the regular season after starting off 1-4, and also had the most points. Banner season. I also have no players on my team who are facing a Colts-like scenario, where they might be sitting over the final few weeks, so I’m considering myself a strong favorite to win it all. It’s weird though, to still be alive and not to be facing anyone this week in either league. I’m feeling a little fantasy restlessness.

(As an aside, that second league is a keeper league, which I've never done before. It only recently occurred to me that I have LT in a keeper league. Does that instantly put me in contention for the next five years? I think it does.)


Baseball Hot Stove

Stuff I know:
· C Doug Mirabelli to San Diego for 2B Mark Loretta
I know that Varitek can’t catch Wakefield, so that’s a problem. But I know that Loretta is a big upgrade from Graffinino at second, both offensively and defensively.

· SS Edgar Renteria to Atlanta for 3B Prospect Diego Marte
I know that Edgar was a disaster, but the general rule is you only swap veterans for prospects if you’re rebuilding. So I’m looking for the Sox to move Marte, who hit two home runs and had six RBI in only 9 at-bats with the Braves last year, somewhere for a shortstop.

· No more Helmet-Head!
John Olerud retired this week at the age of 37. I know Olerud was a top-notch hitter: a career .295 hitter, 255 home runs, and a batting title in with Toronto in 1993 when he hit an absurd .363. But when you think of guys who have been involved in the conspiracies of baseball, you should think of Shoeless Joe, George Brett (the Pine Tar incident), Babe Ruth’s infamous called shot, and “what’s under John Olerud’s helmet?”

· Tony Womack to Cincy for Player to Be Named Later
I know that I’m very excited about Player to Be Named Later joining the Yankees, because I’m pretty damn sure he can’t be any worse than Tony Womack.

Speculation guessed on what I know:
· I know the Red Sox have an opening at shortstop. And I know Nomar is still available. I also know Nomar could be in centerfield for the Yanks next year, because he’s openly said, “I’ll play anywhere.” If there’s even a miniscule chance Jeter, A-Rod, and Nomar could be on the same team, I’m going to root for that to happen. This would be like having Christina Aguilera, Brittney Spears, and Kelly Clarkson in your bedroom all at the same time. (Take a guess as to who is who in that scenario.)

You guessed it: Nomar.

· I know that Roger Rocket isn’t going to retire, because he doesn’t have the stomach for it. And I know that the Yanks would love to have him back, even for one year…

And I know I’d love to have him back on the team.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who has no problem Picking His Knows in public. He can be reached for comment, commentary, or by Miss Manners at wrbeard@ hotmail.com.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Roundball

We were bored with a lot of time to kill, and—luckily—a few cases of beer to kill it with.

Often, that’s a dangerous combination. Not on this day.

We came up with something else.

It was a nice fall day in Syracuse—and no, I don’t mean there were just two feet of snow on the ground instead of the usual five. It was cool but not cold, and the sun was actually shining—a rarity in this cloudiest of cities. Maybe it was, say, 50 or so degrees. (That’s a heat wave for Syracuse in November.)

There were about 10 of us outside of a South Campus apartment (picture a rolling hillscape of oversized concrete boxes) when someone found a little ball about the size of a mini-basketball. With beers in hand, we began kicking it around. Somebody would lazily kick it to someone else. And then it would go back. Then to someone else. Most of us weren’t even paying attention, more focused on discussing the Orangemen’s—still “men” before we castrated our teams this year—chances in the afternoon’s football game.

But we’re guys. And nothing involving a ball stays relaxed for long.

Someone kicked it hard past his target. The ball smashed up against the glass sliding door of the apartment with a resounding “thud.”

It just took one word to get it started:

“Score!”

And “Roundball” was born. Soon, we had teams, and a hodgepodge of rules were verbally agreed upon as the game went along. It was a bastardization of soccer and half-court basketball—with some very, well, messed-up rules.

1. Each team has one goalie—which gets real interesting, because:
2. Both teams shoot at the same goal simultaneously (in this case, the diameter of the glass doors—we only had one back door, after all, so this rule was born out of necessity).
3. One hand must hold a beer at all times (the cardinal rule)
4. The ball is not allowed to go higher than anyone’s knees
5. Light checking is allowed, but knocking someone over is a penalty shot (hey, we only brought so many clothes, and it’s always muddy in Syracuse)
6. Spilling your beer while in possession of the ball results in a loss of possession
7. When your team scores, the other team drinks (not to say that constant drinking was illegal in any way!)

And we played until we had to leave for the football game. I think the final score in the First Annual Roundball Championship was something like 25-21. (Hey, we had just invented the scoring, we didn’t get around to drawing up any “Belichickian” defensive schemes.)

Needless to say, we got pretty drunk. And a little muddy. But it was fun. It was a bunch of 20-something guys doing what guys do: getting drunk and being competitive.

We’ve only revisited the game once or twice since then, and neither time did it duplicate the beauty or drama of its inauguration game.

So why do I tell this story? No reason really. Just a fun story, a good memory, and maybe to point out that guys are crazy, competitive, alcoholic idiots. And I’m so glad I’m one of them.

So very appropriately, let’s move on to:

My NFL Week 13 Picks

Last week: 11-5 (.69)
Season: 115-61 (.65)


While that record doesn’t appear bad, it was one more of those weeks when the majority of people did better. The guy who won only missed one game. We’ve officially dropped off the leaderboard (by one game) so we need to go out on a limb or two this week to get back in the chase. We’re not in Detroit Lions “panic mode” just yet. But we’re getting there.

It’s getting desperate though, to the point we’re talking about ourselves in the plural.

I’m also including the lines this week, but solely for discussion, because there are some interesting ones. These are still just straight picks, not spread picks.

This is the best week of games on the docket yet. Three division-title matchups (Carolina/Atlanta, Giants/Cowboys, Pittsburgh/Cincy) and some other games that are virtual toss-ups. This is the week when football pools are won... and lost.

Atlanta (+3) over CAROLINA
The Panthers have never beaten a Michael Vick-led team. (People are picking the Panthers to go to the Super Bowl. I think they’re the most overrated team in football right now.) Is it obvious I’m back on the “Michael Vick just wins” bandwagon?

MIAMI (-3) over Buffalo
Two top tier running backs versus the worst run defense in the NFL. It’s all about R&R (Ricky and Ronnie) this week, baby!

PITTSBURGH (-3.5) over Cincinnati
The Chad’s already got a routine worked out for a TD dance. He’s had some good ones this year. But he didn’t have any in Week 7 when the Steelers dominated the Tiggers at Cincy, because The Chad didn’t see the endzone. And he only had 4 catches for 94 yards, most of which came on a big catch in garbage time. So as much as I enjoy The Chad’s antics, I think he’s getting a little ahead of himself. Gots to score before you can dance, yo.

NY GIANTS (-3) over Dallas
I was driving back from NY last week, so I didn’t watch live as Jay Feely’s season went in the crapper with not one, not two, but three missed Field Goals to lose the game for the Giants. Meanwhile, Billy Cundiff missed a late-game FG that would have won it for the Cowboys against the Broncs. So why do I think this game is going to come down to a Field Goal? I’ve been nervous about this one since Josh Brown’s Tivo’ed kick sail through the uprights last Sunday night. I was doubly pissed about it, because I had Tivo’ed the Simpsons, and because the game went into overtime, I not only got to watch the giants lose, but I also lost the Simpsons episode. Karma hates me.

(Because you care: There is a 50% chance I may be attending this game, which would make it my first Giants game… ever. I know, hard to believe. I’m not holding my breath or anything, but if my ticket connection comes through, I’d be happier than I was when I heard Nick and Jessica were splitting up. I think I have a chance…)

CHICAGO (-7) over Green Bay
Brett Favre was one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game. (Read that sentence again.)

BALTIMORE (-7) over Houston
If Houston can’t hold on to a 24-3 halftime lead against a team playing as poorly as the Rams, even when the Rams are on their third string QB, then they don’t even deserved to be picked to win a game. (Fitzpatrick is still better than Kyle Boller, but that’s not saying much.)

Jacksonville (-2.5) over CLEVELAND
Since I have nothing interesting to say about this:

Scariest headline of the week: Affleck a Father Seriously, I’m frightened. As if the world needed another Affleck. Luckily, it was a girl. Red Sox Nation has a new dark princess.

Forgive her, Father, for she knows not what she's done.

Minnesota (-3) over DETROIT
This has trap game written all over it. Detroit has the, “Let’s Play Hard So We Can Show They Shouldn’t Have Fired Coach” –thing going for them. You can’t underestimate the power of that. And with Dre Bly shooting his mouth off this week, I mean, the possibilities for this game are limitless.

As an aside, I think we’re about three weeks away from Joey Harrington showing up at practice with an AK-47 and pulling a GTA-style Rampage on them: “Kill 25 Teammates in Two Minutes.” Seriously.

Tampa Bay (-3.5) over NEW ORLEANS
Marc Bulger. Ben Roethlisberger. Josh McCown. Brad Johnson. Jamie “First Series Concussion” Martin. My fantasy team has been a revolving door of quarterbacks this year. The latest entry? Chris Simms. Has there ever been a worse season for Fantasy Quarterbacks than this season? I mean, ever?

Tennessee (+15.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
Just kidding. I wanted to see if you were paying attention.

INDIANAPOLIS (-15.5) over Tennessee
There we go. And for the record, I was on the “Undefeated Season” bandwagon way before all these NFL analysts were. Thank you very much.

Arizona (-3) over SAN FRANSISCO
With the exception of the KC/Denver game, this is actually the hardest game on the schedule—even though it might appear obvious. The Niners beat St. Louis and Tampa in the Bay (um, I mean, the one in California), and also did the following at home: came a two-point conversion away from taking Seattle to OT, lost to the Cowboys by 3, and played the Giants tough for three quarters. All of those are better teams (yes, even the Rams) than Arizona. But I’m giving Arizona the edge because of Fitzgerald and Boldin. Arguably among the best receiving tandems in the league. But I would not at all be surprised to see the Niners take this one. Tough, tough game to call.

Washington (-3) over ST. LOUIS
After last week’s game at Houston: Please, there’s no more room! Stand clear of the closing doors! There will be another bandwagon arriving shortly. The Ryan Fitzpatrick “I went to Hahvahd” Bandwagon is now leaving the station! Next stop, St. Louis!

After this week’s game at Washington: Attention please, the Ryan Fitzpatrick “I went to Hahvahd” bandwagon has been re-routed. St. Louis will be the final stop for this bandwagon. Everyone off, please. Wait on the platform, the Tampa Bay TE Nate Lawrie “I went to Yale” bandwagon will be along shortly.

Denver (Push) over KANSAS CITY*
Stat of the week: Kansas City has not lost at home in December since 1996. But do not underestimate the power of the porn moustache.

By the way, the worst part of my weekend last weekend? Watching Ron Dayne break off the game-winning run in OT against Dallas. Anyone but him. The guy was a waste of skin on the Giants. Mark my words, something is amiss in Denver. I think they’re doing crazy experiments in Mile High, real “The Island of Dr. Moreau” type stuff. I refuse to believe they can just turn any chump into a solid back. It reeks of evil, I’m telling you. Can you see Mike Anderson, Quentin Griffin and Ron Dayne turning on Shanahan and devouring his flesh? It’s only a matter of time.

*This is my asterisk pick of the week--meaning I could change my mind at any time.

NEW ENGLAND (-10) over NY Jets
Two things come to mind for this game: First, New England has the easiest closing schedule in the NFL. So they’ll get a chance to defend their title. And secondly, the Jets may actually want to throw this game so they have a chance at the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. Actually, Brooks Bollinger is slated to start for the Jets. So maybe they are.

SAN DIEGO (-10) over Oakland
You’ve got two of the best players at their positions in the NFL (LT and Gates). And somehow, Marty forgets this every week. If San Diego fails to make the playoffs, he needs to be fired. Actually, he should probably be fired now so they have a chance to make the playoffs.

SEATTLE (-3.5) over Philadelphia
Philadelphia is done. This game might be close, but that doesn’t change the fact that Philadelphia is done. Done Done Done Done DONE DONE DONE. Done. Seriously. Done. That is so much fun to write.


If I’m lucky enough to get those tickets, believe me there will be a column about the Giants/Cowboys game. If not, well, you might get one anyway.

Bill Beard is an independent writer who doesn’t have anything against the city of Philadelphia, even though he’s ripped the Eagles and Villanova in the same week. He likes McNabb and Cheesesteaks. And the city’s history. But yeah, that’s about it. He can be reached for comment or commentary at wrbeard@hotmail.com