January 31, 2004

Exercises In Sports Mismanagement

This afternoon, out of the blue, I was offered a chance to go to a Celtics game. I knew that my company has pretty good seats, and dinner was included because we were taking customers out, so I gladly accepted. It wasn't until I checked the schedule that I realized I was to be treated to the Knicks game. Both teams have somewhat controversial new team presidents and both teams have new head coaches. Both teams also appear to be headed into lengthy rebuilding phases. Without further ado, here are some of my more interesting observations from the game I have dubbed "The Ainge Experiment vs. The Isiah Experiment":

  • Our seats were in the 3rd row behind the basket on the visitors' end of the court. It's really amazing how big all the players look when you're at floor level and only 20 feet away.
  • During the Knicks' warmup, it occurs to me that I could pick maybe four of the Knicks players out of a police lineup: Marbury, Van Horn, Motumbo and Penny Hardaway. Hey, wait a minute, Penny Hardaway plays for New York now?
  • Oops. Turns out that the guy I thought was Marbury is actually Shandon Anderson. Shandon is wearing those ugly new orange and white Reeboks. I also notice Allan Houston sitting on the bench in street clothes.
  • During warmups, Penny Hardaway is standing by himself at the top of the key, dribbling the ball and looking as though he doesn't have a friend in the world. It's pretty sad. If Kobe goes to jail, Commissioner Stern should see to it that Penny winds up in L.A. I always liked him better in the role of "Shaq's sidekick."
  • It's time to get the fans pumped up for the Celtics' starting lineup, so the lights go down and the jumbotron starts showing highlights from seasons past. And they've all been edited as though Antoine Walker never existed. In a more positive note for the franchise, they now have enough recent footage that they don't have to show 20 year old footage of Bird and McHale any more.
  • I have absolutely no idea who the Celtics' starting point guard is. None.
  • The game gets underway, and as players begin to sub in and out, I suddenly realize that the Knicks' have collected a whole bunch of "whatever happened to that guy" guys. They have Penny and Michael Doleac and Shandon Anderson and Othella Harrington. Who knew that Othella was still getting paid to play basketball?
  • Mark Blount seems to be the only Celtic who can put the ball in the basket. Neither team is shooting the lights out, but Blount is the only thing keeping the Celtics in it.
  • Every time out, these ushers in light blue sport coats appear, seemingly out of nowhere, and stand between the seats and the court. They're a bit creepy, because I can't figure out where they are when the game is underway.
  • The Celtics replace their starting point guard that I've never heard of with another point guard that I've never heard of.
  • The NBA now makes it a point to fill every bit of dead time in the game with some sort of pseudo-entertainment. During the course of the game, we were treated to a $77,777 three point shot, some guy trying to launch a balled-up t-shirt through a target in the upper deck, some sort of dance troupe, Lucky the mascot dunking off of a trampoline, some kid shooting basketballs into shopping carts for charity, a community hero award to a safety officer who kept some nut from jumping off of the Tobin Bridge, little dolls parachuting from the rafters with gift certificates and a hilarious race between three little kids who had to stop at various points along the way and put on pieces of Celtics uniforms that were way too big for them. The best part was that the kid wearing the Dolphins jersey almost won. I halfway expected some drunk moron in a Pats jersey to come running out the stands and tackle the kid.
  • The Knicks sub for Marbury and, hey, it's Moochie Norris! Unfortunately, Moochie hasn't brought back the 'fro.
  • The second half is rolling along, and things are getting even worse for the Celtics. Paul Pierce is completely tilted. He's made one basket all game, and near the end of the third quarter, he misses a wide open dunk. Walter McCarty and Jiri Welsch are the only Celtics making anything happen.
  • By the middle of the fourth quarter, it's garbage time. The Knicks are up by 25. Lenny Wilkins starts to empty the bench. Paul Pierce looks like a Stockholm Syndrome victim. He is now being openly booed by the Fleet Center crowd. If Danny Ainge were to stroll onto the court right now, he'd be pelted with everything that isn't bolted down.
  • We make a break for it with around five minutes left in the game. The ride back to Portsmouth is generally uneventful. There's only one more thing worth mentioning about this evening. My buddy from work dropped me off at the office so I could retrieve my car. As I'm driving home, I see a taxi cab pull up in front of the adult book store alongside Route 4. The passenger jumps out and runs inside. Taking a cab to buy some porn at 10:30 on a Friday night; yep, somebody's living the good life.

    Posted by Dan at 12:34 AM | Comments (4)
  • January 30, 2004

    Beware Those Elderly Street Gangs

    From reading the article, this sounds like a very worthy program. Poor choice of headline, though:

    Commonwealth 5 Helps Keep Senior Citizens Off Streets

    Posted by Dan at 03:29 PM | Comments (1)

    January 28, 2004

    Exploring Mars By Committee

    I have my own theory as to why NASA is having so many problems with its two Mars rovers. Since landing on the Martian surface, the rover Spirit has gone into a cycle of crashing and rebooting. It's like somebody put Windows 95 on it or something. It's twin, Opportunity, which has yet to leave its landing pad, has developed some sort of problem that causes an on-board heater to run all the time.

    While I'm not a rocket scientist (although I know a few), my theory is that the Mars rovers are just bored by the glacial pace at which the mission is proceeding. The whole thing is really quite ridiculous. Every day, JPL issues press releases along the lines of:

    "Today, the rover completed a 5 degree, counter-clockwise turn. It was a complicated and carefully planned maneuver involving our entire team of scientists and engineers. We will now spend two days analyzing all of the data returned by the rover following the rotational movement. If all goes well, next week we plan to beam instructions to the rover to initiate a 25 centimeter forward movement."

    Come on, people! I suppose this Mars mission is working better than previous attempts, and it's probably cheaper, but faster? I think not. What the eggheads at JPL need to do is step aside and hand the joystick over to some kid who spends 5 hours a day playing Twisted Metal: Black. They'll have half the surface explored between dinner and bed time.

    Posted by Dan at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

    January 23, 2004

    Still More Irrational Whining From Boston Sports Fans

    Bill Simmons, ESPN Page 2's irrepressible Sports Guy and staff writer for ABC's comedy-free late-night alternative to Leno and Letterman, should stick to his Vegas and NFL material. Every time he embarks on one of his Celtics- or Red Sox-centric rants, readers from outside of New England roll their eyes and see whether there's anything new from Ralph Wiley or Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Like virtually all New England sports fans, Simmons cannot think rationally about any topic even tangentially related to his teams.

    The targets of his latest soap box diatribe are five pro athletes that still drive him to distraction. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Pete Rose and Roger Clemens are each singled out and taken to task for their offenses, both real and imagined, against the Sports Guy's idealized sports universe.

    Let me say right off the bat that I have no issue with his critiques of Isiah and The Hit King. Isiah was a first-rate cheap shot artist who hid behind his choir-boy smile and his giant thug teammates. He was a tempermental ball-hog as a player, a babbling idiot as a sportscaster, the worst and last thing that ever happened to the CBA, a comical failure as a head coach, and now he appears poised to become the ultimate self-destruct mechanism as a team president. Even at 62 years of age, Pete Rose remains the same petulant child that he was throughout his playing and managing career. In spite of all that's happened, he still only regrets the fact that he got caught.

    Reading Simmons's scathing assault on Kareem makes me wonder whether he watched the same 20 seasons that I did. (OK, I was only alive for the last 17 seasons of Kareem's career, but I watch a fair bit of ESPN Classic.) The same guy who writes fawning columns about the entertainment value of the JailBlazers calls Kareem "famously petulant." According to Simmons, Magic and Bird "saved the NBA from Kareem." OK, I see how you could see it that way. Let's not ignore the fact that, by the same logic, Kareem and Dr. J saved the NBA from the Red Auerbach Celtics. Boston fans only like variety when somebody else's team is winning.

    Bill Laimbeer was certainly one of those guys that you hated unless he was on your team. There was generally only one time when I liked the guy, and that was when he was playing the Celtics. I simply adored the way that Laimbeer would torment the crowd at the Boston Garden. One of the testaments to Michael Jordan's "arrival" as the game's pre-eminent player was when Laimbeer began saving his most flagrant full-body fouls for Jordan instead of Larry Bird. There have been plenty of thugs and enforcers in the history of the NBA, but none is easier than Laimbeer to associate with the descent of the Celtics franchise into the state of mediocrity where they would remain throughout the nineties.

    Naturally, Simmons reserves his greatest disdain for Roger Clemens. Granted, it's commonplace throughout pro sports in this day and age for guys to leave the teams where they became great when those teams aren't willing to pay the going rate for their services, but Clemens didn't leave behind just any team. Clemens left the Red Sox. And even though, to the best of my recollection, the Red Sox management believed that Clemens was in the twilight of his career and weren't all that interested in resigning him, that makes him evil. And then Clemens left the Blue Jays to try to win a ring with the Yankees. And even though it was a noble quest driven by the heart of a warrior when Ray Bourque did the same thing, that makes Clemens evil. Most recently, after a brief retirement that nobody with half a brain believed was going to last, Clemens signed with the Houston Astros. And even though many star athletes near the end of their careers like to sign with teams where they can be close to their families and play with old teammates, that makes... well, you get the idea.

    I don't know, maybe I'm giving Simmons too much credit to expect him to show any semblance of balance or impartiality. But he is writing for ESPN, not the Boston Herald. Reading this column only cements my strong desire to see the Panthers win the Superbowl. If you think Boston fans are bad when they lose, you should see them when they win...

    Posted by Dan at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

    January 22, 2004

    Best Keyshawn Johnson Headline Ever

    As the Fark.com "community" has grown, the quality of the comments and headlines has declined a great deal. This headline about the armed robbery of troublesome Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson just about wrecked me, though.

    Posted by Dan at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

    What Would Mrs. Robinson Say?

    Terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and organized crime kingpin James "Whitey" Bulger remain at large, but at least we got Art Garfunkel. The lesser half of 1960's pop duo Simon & Garfunkel was arrested for possession of a "small amount" of marijuana when a state trooper smelled dope after pulling over his limo for speeding in upstate New York. The possession offense was apparently so minor that Garfunkel doesn't even need to show up for his court hearing, at which he could be fined a whopping $100.

    Despite repeated IM messages and a good 20 minutes spent hanging out by the office soda machine, the author was unable to find anyone who cared enough to comment by press time.

    Posted by Dan at 01:12 PM | Comments (0)

    January 21, 2004

    Insult Upon Injury

    It's certainly raining crap on the City of Brotherly Love. I won't belabor the outcome of Sunday's NFC Championship Game. Perhaps the only thing more painful that watching the Eagles' wide receivers get dominated by the Carolina secondary was listening to that jackass Collinsworth endlessly drone on about things that you could easily see with your own two eyes.

    Now comes a fresh assault from the evil minions of the McDonald's corporation. The McPhilly Cheese Steak is now out of test marketing and available at participating McDonald's restaurants.

    Coming soon: The Director's Cut of Rocky II, where Apollo wins the fight and celebrates with a McPhilly Cheese Steak with ketchup and mayo.

    Posted by Dan at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

    January 15, 2004

    New From America's Most Trusted Hysteria Source

    The hype-mongers at CNN are always keen to highlight minimal dangers that paranoid people may not have been aware of. Today, they scraped hard and deep into the bottom of the post-9-11 anxiety barrel and found a few more "experts" who are sounding the alarm about the few remaining rigid items that Americans are allowed to carry aboard commercial airliners.

    The story first quotes Michael Boyd, an airline industry analyst. In a rare and probably unintentional moment of clarity, the story describes Boyd as being "fixated on pointy objects." The intensive and invasive screening of airline passengers is practically for naught, according to Boyd, because the TSA still hasn't adopted his recommendation to subject airline mechanics and baggage handlers to body cavity searches when they arrive for work each day.

    Commercial pilot Fred Bates was alarmed by the fact that "an elderly passenger was holding a cane" on his flight, reaffirming his belief that the day he is properly trained to pack heat in his cockpit can't come soon enough.

    Equally amusing are the insights of MIT professor Theodore Postol. I remember taking Professor Postol's class on weapons systems when I was an undergraduate. Specifically, I remember that he rarely showed up to deliver his lectures because he was too busy delivering inflammatory quotes to the media regarding his research into the effectiveness of the Patriot missle system in the first Gulf War. Postol sees an immediate and pressing need to install biometric sensors on the aircraft controls so that only authorized pilots could control the plane. To place his ideas in context, I also feel compelled to share the fact that he once mentioned during a lecture that his house was rigged with motion sensors because he believed that Raytheon and the Department of Defense were trying to have him killed.

    I, for one, applaud the efforts of our nation's cranks, fuss-budgets and fear-mongers to make air travel an experience so devoid of risk that no ordinary person will ever have the patience to jump through the hoops. Only by arming our pilots, keeping the elderly off of planes and making it impossible for passengers to fly the plane can we prevent a tragedy like this one from ever happening again.

    Posted by Dan at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

    January 13, 2004

    Farewell, Old Friend...

    Binion's Horseshoe Casino closed its doors on Saturday morning. Owner Becky Binion Behnen agreed to close the legendary casino after failing to raise enough money to convince Nevada gaming regulators that she can continue to make payroll. The news this morning is that Harrah's Entertainment has reached an agreement in principle to buy the Horseshoe for an undisclosed amount that is rumored to be on the order of $50 million.

    This is a sad development, indeed. Faithful readers will recall that, in one man's humble opinion, the Horseshoe dealt the best craps game around. One recoils in horror to imagine the sort of "improvements" that Harrah's will bring to the venerable, old property. I guess some things are just too good to last.

    Posted by Dan at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

    January 09, 2004

    When Corn Flies

    Somebody please tell me that I'm not the only one who senses a complete disaster in the making. Try to read the following sentence without lapsing momentarily into a disconnected variant of the Pete Carroll Face:

    "Callahan, the first outsider in more than 40 years to coach the Cornhuskers, will bring an NFL-style passing offense to a program that built its success on a dominant running game."

    How can this help but fail spectacularly. Your average Nebraska offensive lineman would do better on the MCAT than blocking for a five step drop. This is madness. I don't want to live in a world where Cornhusker QB's don't wind up playing Free Safety on Sunday. (If they wind up playing at all.)

    Posted by Dan at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

    January 06, 2004

    Wiggled To The Brink Of Insanity

    Over New Years, I spent a few days with friends, including a couple of wonderful 20-month-olds. As much as I love spending time with the young 'uns, they come with a dark encumbrance. Most children below a certain age seem to be part of the cult. For those who haven't guessed already, I'm talking about the Wiggles.

    For the uninitiated (and you live in a truly blessed state of ignorance, might I say), the Wiggles are four incredibly dopey Australian guys who have built a world-wide following of awe-struck pre-adolescents. Although popular for many years in their home country, they have only recently popped up state-side. The Wiggles love to sing and dance and merchendize. If you doubt the last point, skip on over to Amazon, select "All Products" in the search box drop down, type "The Wiggles" and click "Go." I dare you. I double-dare you. My friends' son Devin, a wonderful child who generates more energy between breakfast and his afternoon nap than your average quasar, received roughly two metric tons of Wiggles merchandise for Christmas this year.

    There are four Wiggles, easily distinguishable by the color each wears. Murray, the red Wiggle, plays the guitar and makes more stupid faces than Bill Cosby eating a box full of pudding pops. Greg, the yellow Wiggle, sings the lead and does magic tricks, like pulling new Wiggles merchandise out of this hat. Jeff, the purple Wiggle, plays the keyboard and has the distinction of being the only lazy, unindustrious Asian character in the history of television. Anthony, the blue Wiggle plays the drums or something. He's really pretty dull.

    As though the four Wiggles and their Wiggle car and their instruments weren't enough to fill the shelves at Toys 'R Us, there are also Wiggle friends. There's Dorothy the Dinosaur and Wags the Dog and Henry the cheap-looking plaid Octopus and Captain Feathersword the Gay French Pirate. (I KID! I KID! For all I know, he's actually Portuguese or something...)

    The Wiggles videos are must-own material for parents who need some time to themselves each day to read the paper or shower or use the bathroom. The Wiggles videos are Toddler Heroin. You just pop one in and the kid is entranced. The effect on adults is somewhat more like bad acid cut with rat poison. The songs are stupid and repetitive and they get stuck in your head to the point that you feel like removing them with a power drill and a 3/4 inch spade bit. After a while, your brain begins to twist the words so that you hear the Wiggles mocking you. "You poor, dumb bastard! If only you could eject this tape and smash it without your kid pitching a two hour tantrum... Oh, wait, is that the sound of our merchandising people cooking up another thousand bucks worth of Wiggles toys? Just in time for the holidays. Try getting this song out of your head before bedtime, beeyatch..."

    Yes, the Wiggles are evil. But, then again, so was Sponge-Bob and Barney and, hell, our parents probably thought Sesame Street and Captain Kangaroo were evil, too. Now, it you'll excuse me, I'm going to remove the Cartain Feathersword ditty from Devin's Wiggles toy guitar from my head with a cold chisel...

    Posted by Dan at 08:51 PM | Comments (1)

    January 02, 2004

    Live Long And Prosper

    Happy New Year. I raise my beverage to wish you, my readers, and yours all the best in 2004.

    Posted by Dan at 12:57 AM | Comments (1)