June 2011 Archives
It's Free Agent Day eve and Jaromir Jagr still hasn't signed with anyone. And no one seems to know where he is. Last word was that his plane was held up on the runway at JFK by a bunch of turtles. Yes, turtles. Not even of the ninja variety. According to other sources, he was spotted at Wimbledon.
Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, who at one point promised us Jagr would make a decision last night now says he'll make a decision tonight. Or Friday. Or Saturday. And he's sure he'll sign with Pittsburgh. Or Detroit. Or some other team. But he's definitely in the U.S. Or London.
At this point I can only think Jagr is taking PR pointers from Bret Favre.
I'm going to keep finding uglier and uglier pictures of Jagr to post until he's an NHL player again.
It’s the last day of the Pac-10 conference. After 33 years of existence, the conference gets reborn tomorrow as the Pac-12. It’s the culmination of what Commissioner Larry Scott was hired to do—bring money and prestige to a conference that was a little down on its luck.
Though the Pac-10 was horribly mismanaged for years, the new Pac-12 is shaping up to be a much better entity. A new supervisor of officials might actually improve the league’s horrendous officiating. There’s a new TV deal in place that will generate huge windfalls for all 12 teams. A Pac-12 TV network will arrive next fall. Who knows, the Pac-12 might actually manage to get its second-place football team a spot in a bowl on New Year’s Day. Like every other major conference.
With the conference’s addition of Utah and Colorado, there will be two divisions for Pac-12 football, with the champions squaring off in the Pac-12 Championship Game. All this means, from my perspective as a Cal fan, is that Cal’s chances of going to a Rose Bowl in my lifetime have dropped from “maybe once in the next fifty years” to “never, ever, ever, ever.”
We Cal fans used to hope that some strange confluence of events would accidentally send the Golden Bears to the Rose Bowl. (And it might have happened, if it weren’t for Mack Brown.) Now, of course, that strange confluence of events must be followed by Cal winning a conference championship game against the top team in the other division.
Yeah. That’s gonna happen.
Despite that, I welcome our new Pac-12 overlords. After a decade of grousing how incompetently run the Pac-10 conference was, we Pac-10 football fans will need to find something else to complain about. Like how Reggie Bush won’t give back his Heisman Trophy.
The longest surviving sports affiliation of my life is the New York Yankees, and I hate them. Fandom comes and goes, but loathing is forever.
I discovered the Yankees in 1977, the year I turned nine and was sucked into baseball by a spectacular Dodger team. It was Tommy Lasorda’s first year, and the Dodgers had names that still echo around Chavez Ravine: Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Rick Monday, Dusty Baker, Tommy John. The Dodgers beat the defending champion Reds — the Reds — and rolled over the Phillies for the National League Championship. The only thing that stood between them and the World Series title was the Yankees.
The goddamned Yankees. The same team that earned national headlines earlier in the year because a lazy Reggie Jackson and a drunken Billy Martin almost got into a fistfight in the dugout during a game. The same team that had been swept the year before by the Reds. The Reds.
But this was the year of “Mr. October,” and with four swings in a row, Jackson put an end to the Dodgers’ season. Well, shit. There’s always next year...
When the exact same thing happened. Again Yankees/Dodgers, again Jackson’s bat, again four games to two. Again, Martin tangling with Jackson earlier in the season.
And it was galling. The goddamned Yankees.
And so I drifted away from baseball. Yeah, yeah, LA fan. So sue me. I was young. The Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series in 1981 — the year of Fernadomania — but it wasn’t the same. Between my teens and my thirties, I would have off-handedly claimed to be a Dodger fan, but the only thing in baseball that really got my blood pumping was a the glorious news of a Yankees loss. Revenge! Revenge for 1977! Screw those bastards.
But as my own kids grew up, they renewed my interest in the baseball, and in the Dodgers. We’ve been going to games over the last three seasons, and having a great time. Dodger Stadium! Dodger dogs! Vin Scully! It’s like I never left. We’re left-field bleacher people, and they let you into the outfield for fireworks on Friday nights. The grass is perfect.
The team isn’t what it was in 1977, but Davey Lopes is still on the field as the first-base coach, and Tommy Lasorda shows up on DodgerVision to tell us not to curse.
And the Yankees are still out there. The names are all different, but the team is the same. Will always be the same.
It’s not that they’re not good — they are. It’s not that they’re from New York, though it doesn’t help. It’s that they’re so totally and completely without class. They’re tacky and arrogant and smug. They’re un-American.
I mean that. The New York Yankees are profoundly un-American. They represent everything that the classic ideal of America is opposed to. To succeed because of your talent is beautiful, but to buy your way to the top is ugly. To want to win is healthy, but to expect to win is sick. The Yankee bat-boys are on steroids. I’m not even going to talk about the Designated Hitter rule.
These people sully the game of baseball.
From 1977: George Steinbrenner (a bully and a blow-hard, convicted of giving illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon, for christsake) to Billy Martin (a volatile drunk and raging asshole) to Reggie Jackson (A candy bar? Really?)
To today: Mariano Rivera (who disrespects Jackie Robinson every time he steps on the field) to Derek Jeter (a cheat who will fake being hit by a pitch to get on base) to Alex Rodriguez (Centaurs? Really?)
You could more easily assemble a decent collection of human using the parts you find in a cemetery. They even cheat on their parking tickets.
But what does all that have to do with baseball? Isn’t that how things are done today? Who cares if the sport’s dominant team is a bunch of arrogant, self-satisfied jerks?
I do. You should. Baseball is a uniquely American game, and to see so much of its history owned by an organization that for thirty years hasn’t respected its rules or traditions is awful, painful. Lou Gehrig weeps.
The reason I hate what Frank McCourt has done to the Dodgers is because it’s so base, so utterly classless, so self-centered and arrogant. So disrespectful of baseball. So Yankees. But without the winning.
And that’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? The only reason anybody gives a damn about the Yankees is because they win. That’s the only thing there could possibly to be admire about them. It requires a ton of money and a sort of brazen ruthlessness and a total abandonment of anything that might elevate a city or a nation or a game, but they do win.
They must have learned that from Nixon.
[Photo courtesy of the person who ripped it off from the New York Times.]
This is sad for a couple of reasons. It’s sad because the once-mighty Dodgers, the team whose GM had the cojones to break the color barrier, are now embroiled in a pathetic divorce and bankruptcy soap opera. And it’s sad because even Giants fans would have figure out to do this on Kickstarter.
Because using Kickstarter to buy a pro team would be awesome. In fact, I think American McCarver will do just that.
Also, 500 followers? C’mon guys.
Rule 1: It’s not a real Wiffle ball game unless you can break a window. Or windows. […]
Rule 11: Yes you can throw your super-awesome curve ball. But throw it fat and slow over the plate. Like a 2011 Astro.
My one and only disagreement in the whole thing: Gay’s choice of beer. (Via Patrick O’Sullivan.)
I was spending some time on Google this morning, doing research for some brilliant, life changing thing I was going to write about hockey but I got distracted by clicking on too many links to Yahoo Answers and I forgot what that brilliant thing was. Reading Yahoo Answers will do that to you.
Yahoo Answers, I discovered, is the same thing as Quora, but without the proper spelling and grammar. There are a bunch of people who answer questions with the sole purpose of dropping their purported knowledge on you without really giving you an answer.
Some of the questions I’ve been reading include:
“Why do people even like hockey?”
“Is hockey only played in icy regions?”
“How come people who aren’t Canadian watch hockey?”
“Why does ESPN hate hockey?”
“Did Mark Messier cry on television?”
“What’s the best hockey video game?”
“Anyone know where Jaromir Jagr is at?”
I don’t need the internet to tell me that hockey is a less-loved sport that gets little respect. I see the coverage other sports get. Even in the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs, off-season football rumors get more press than championship NHL games. It’s like that one episode of Toddlers & Tiaras (What? I only watch it so I can be horrified by it) when the mother treats one daughter like a pretty, pretty princess and the other one gets locked in a closet with a flashlight and a pamphlet titled “Don’t Come Out Of Here Until You’re Beautiful.” I can’t be positive that really happened. This might be one of those “artistic license” moments I’ve heard about.
Hockey is never going to be beautiful. It’s never going to be glamorous. But that’s ok, because most hockey fans aren’t looking for glamour. The things we love about the game aren’t the things that are made for the pageantry other professional sports have come to be about. There are nuances and small moments that pull it all together for us. The sound of a puck banging off the crossbar. A shorthanded goal. The seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals. An 80 mph wrist shot. An open ice hip check. The hold-your-breath moment when you’re not sure if the puck has crossed the line and you wait for that red light to go on.
It’s an exciting game. Maybe you can’t get that from just watching it on television. It’s a sport that needs to be experienced live just once so you can absorb the energy, so you can see up close how finesse and violence come together to make something that’s exhilarating to watch.
I’m not going to sit on Yahoo Answers and explain all of this to people who ask questions like “Why do hockey goalies wear masks?” Sure, I could spend all day giving sarcastic answers to stupid questions or make fun of Mark Messier (he’s the only man who has cried more in public than John Boehner) or play Where’s Waldo with Jaromir Jagr. That would be fun for about ten minutes.
You either get it or you don’t. I’m ok with the fact that my favorite sport is the one that gets made fun of the most, the one that gets the least respect. Hell, I think there are more people who admit to watching the WNBA than admit to being hockey fans. That’s fine. I didn’t want to have to explain offsides to you, anyhow.
But if you’re ever on Long Island I’ll be happy to take you to a game and show you what you’re missing.
And for the record, the answer to “What’s the best hockey video game?” is always NHL ‘94 for Sega. Always.
Jaromir Jagr — heading back to the NHL after playing in Russia for three years — was supposed to sign with the Penguins today. Or maybe the Red Wings. Or Montreal. But as of 9:30 tonight we still don’t know where he’s going because he forgot to call ESPN to schedule an hour long tribute to himself to announce which team he’ll be playing for.
It's no stretch to argue that last night's Phillies-Red Sox game here in Philly was the biggest baseball game of the season to date. It's only June, of course, but still:
- The Phils entered with the best record in baseball.
- The Sox spent June leading the AL and entered the game just a half-game behind the Yankees for the second-best record in the game.
- Both teams had their best pitchers on the mound: Cliff Lee and Josh Beckett.
- Neither team's success is a surprise. The Yankees are hitting 6 or 7 home runs a night and the Giants have pitched themselves to 12 games over .500, but no one would be surprised to see Lee facing Beckett in a Game One come October. These two looked like the favorites in April, and they look like the favorites now, heading into June.
So: a big game against a big team. And the Phillies smoked them. They hit Beckett hard and Lee finished with his third consecutive complete-game shutout -- a two-hitter -- and a 0.22 ERA for the month of June. The Red Sox didn't even come close to scoring a run -- only one runner got as far as second base ("Darnell McDonald", whoever he is, with an 8th inning double) and none reached third.
What struck me, at the ballpark, sitting high in the nosebleeds down the third-base line, was the mood of the fans. There was no skittishness before the game. There was no griping after the Phils went down 1-2-3 in the first. There was no disappointment, only sincere applause, when Scutaro broke up Lee's no-hit bid in the 6th. After Lee closed the 5-0 win with a 1-2-3 ninth, there was no jubilation. Applause, cheering, high-fives and laughter all around, yes. But no jubilation. What permeated the park was a sense of satisfaction. That this outcome was expected. Of course the Phils won. They're the best team.
It's the difference between winning a million dollars in the lottery and earning a million dollars through hard work. You're happy either way, but one pops an ecstatic frenzy, the other completes a sense of deep satisfaction.
The 1993 Phillies were the lottery. The whole story felt on the verge of imminent collapse every Mitch Williams loading the bases with no outs and a one-run 9th lead step of the way.
When this team won the Series in 2008, Philly fans, delirious from the city-wide drought of major-sport championships after the fo-fo-fo '83 Sixers, treated it like a lottery win. But not no more. They expect the Phillies to win. They expect Cliff Lee to pitch complete-game shutouts. They expect to score four or five runs off Josh Beckett. Beckett might be the fourth starter if he were in Phillies pinstripes and Phillies fans know it.
Tom Verducci nailed it back in December 2009, when he called the Phillies the Yankees of the National League, "the king who wants more". The sort of team that takes the best pitching staff in the game and adds Cliff Lee. The Phillies' fans have caught up with the team.
Competitiveness is no longer enough. Waiting for good luck is no longer part of the plan. Only dominance will suffice. That's how the team carries itself, and it's how the fans now act.
Like I said, it's only June, and as I write this, two games remain in this series, the next one starting in just a few minutes. It's baseball. Anything can happen. But it's clear how Phillies fans expect this season to end.
Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
I watched the third and fourth set of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s upset of Roger Federer at Wimbledon from bed this morning. Believe me, if you watched those sets, the only shocking thing was that he had lost the first two. Federer looked totally outmatched. I don’t think this is on Federer--I think Tsonga was playing the match of his life. It was kind of amazing, like he flipped a switch and became one of the best players in the world.
So Ron Artest has pretty clearly been working on himself. Remember, between jumping into the stands to start punching fans in 2004 and the announcement that he’s changing his name to Metta World Peace this week, he thanked his therapist on national television after the the Lakers’ championship win in 2010. And then actioned off the ring he got to benefit a mental health charity.
Yeah, yeah, make your jokes. But in the big-ego, me-first world of professional basketball, introspection — much less actual personal improvement — is as rare as a LeBron fan. When even the nice guys have Superman logos tattooed on their arms, and the dumb ones think they’re so good at basketball that they can play baseball, to see someone acknowledge a larger world, much less draw attention to a larger goal for it, is nice to see. This isn’t an awkward post-season PSA or community service as a condition of parole — you change your name out of deeply held belief. Lew Alcindor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, Rod Smart to He Hate Me. This is perhaps the most public way to announce to the sport, the fans, the world, what’s important to you. It’s your identity.
Ron — Metta — has obviously been through it, and come out the other side a better man. Good for him, and — in some small way — good for all of us, too.
After Andrew’s inaugural bowling post yesterday I was overjoyed to get today’s Groupon deal for San Francisco in my inbox, which is for a 68% discount off of bowling at an AMF bowling center. Groupon’s copywriting guidelines were made for writing about bowling, no?
Spend two rotations of the minute hand gracefully lobbing three-holed marbles at stoic ivory formations as automatic scoring systems and pin-spotters free fingers for celebratory handstands. Bowlers young and old compete to pick up strike- and spare-hitchhikers with an appropriately weighted ball from the center’s stable of spheres. Before beginning the pin bombardment, players don the included rental shoes, ensuring their homemade bowling cleats don’t scratch polished surfaces.
Alas, no mention of slip-n-slides or trampolines.
 Are there any other types of bowling centers? This is a serious question.
The big news at the NHL draft last week (besides your favorite team making a terrible pick) was the announcement that the new (again) NHL franchise in Winnipeg will be using the name of the city's former NHL team, the Jets. As it should be.
The Jets were Winnipeg's NHL team from 1979-1996, when they moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes. This current Winnipeg team is not the Coyotes but the former Atlanta Thrashers (stick with me here) who were sold in May and moved to Winnipeg, which was like taking a square peg out of a round hole and putting it back in its proper place.
True North, the corporation which bought the Thrashers, did not buy the name rights so they had to come up with a new name for the team. There was much controversy and gnashing of teeth prior to the official announcement. The people wanted their beloved Jets back. Which at first I thought was weird. I mean, imagine you're dating this girl named Darleen and you really love her and she leaves you. Then years later you meet a girl that's similar to Darleen and you fall in love with her and she says she'll move in with you. You say "OK, but change your name to Darleen."
That was my first reaction, at least. But the more I thought about it the more I realized why it was the right thing to do. Remember when you used to scream out Darleen's name during sex? How good would it feel to do that again? Even if the sex wasn't that great sometimes? Even if this isn't Darleen but someone who sort of looks like her?
When they finally announced the team would be taking the name of the Winnipeg Jets, I surprised myself by becoming all emotional about it. The Jets were back in Winnipeg. The part of me that longs for the NHL of the 80s might have cried a little bit. The Jets. That hapless, adorable team that won all of nine of 80 games in the 1980-81 season. Everyone loved them then. We rooted for them. We cheered each of those nine wins like they were mini Stanley Cups. "Go, Jets, Go!" we shouted at them, the way you shout at that one kid who is last to run around the bases at the end of a t-ball game.
So I'm happy to see the name Winnipeg Jets back in action. I'm happy for the city, for the hockey fans and for people like me who are stuck in the past and wish everything old was new again. Now if we could just get the Devils to move back to Colorado, Dallas to head back to Minnesota as the North Stars, give Hartford back their Whalers...there are so many cities that would love to call Darleen's name out again.
Mr. Kopan is charged with unlawful contact with minors, indecent exposure and related offenses for conduct at the bowling alley. The boys said they would spend the night there and that Mr. Kopan would expose himself to them, show them pornography, slide naked with them on a Slip N Slide, bounce naked with them on a trampoline and masturbate in front of them at various times.
Sorry, I needed to be the first one on American McCarver to post in the bowling category. This was all I could come up with.
On a personal note, I’ve bowled since I was 10 and have never seen a Slip N Slide at a bowling alley.
...when it came to the Trade, Peterson was generally considered to be the winner. After all, he and Susanne are still married today, with children of their own. This result was predicted by Dr. Joyce Brothers, famed TV psychoanalyst. "It's very rare that a four-way swap ever works," Brothers said.
This is baseball related (and a great read), trust me. When I get my time machine, first thing I'm doing is checking out baseball in the 1970's.
Photo: Larry Morris/The New York Times/Redux
Am I the only one who is fascinated by photos of players who are in the uniform of the wrong team? It’s almost sacrilegious.
Steve Carlton started six games for the “You Gotta Like These Kids” Giants in 1986. He had an ERA over 5, went 1-3, and was released. That year the Giants really only had three pitchers (Krukow, LaCoss, and Vida) so they were as desperate as Carlton was. It didn’t work out. The next year the Giants won their division. Lefty went on to make 35 more appearances in 1987 and 1988 for the White Sox and Twins before retiring for good.
Mike: you still in London?
Me: i am. just back at the hotel after a night at the pub.
Mike: perfect time to write your wimbeldon post!
Me: two weird things about sports in london: 1) people actually care about wimbledon. they had it playing in our office when andy murray was on. they care. they really care.
Me: 2) people pay attention to cricket. and it turns out the iphone is the perfect “pay attention to cricket” device, since matches last like two or three months. cricket is why push alerts were invented. ALERT: SOMETHING JUST HAPPENED.
Mike: i’ll never understand cricket
Me: me neither. even though it looks like baseball!
Mike: except that there’s sandwiches. so i map it to bowling. if i’m drinking and eating i must be bowling
Me: that makes sense
Me: absolutely. maybe we should start paying attention to cricket. and really alienate the readers.
I owe my love of sports to my mother. It's an unusual thing, as most parent-child sports bonding stories are father related, but my father is a Mets fan and my mother was going to see to it that her daughter did not meet that same fate. So I was raised a Yankee fan, learning the fine art of gloating under the tutelage of my mother and my grandfather.
When there wasn't baseball, there was hockey. The New York Islanders became a fixture in our lives in 1972. My father wasn't really into hockey but my mother became obsessed with the sport and I followed suit. By the time the Isles grew into a championship team I was at the age when a mother-daughter relationship usually deteriorates into something along the lines of "You're 18. Why are you still living here?" Hockey--and a winning team--kept our ties strong.
A few days ago I was talking to my son--who is a New York Rangers fan despite my best efforts to steer him right--about the dynasty years of the Islanders.
"That's old time hockey, mom."
"No. Old time hockey is Eddie Shore."
"The 80s were 30 years ago. Face it. It's old time hockey."
I know he's right. I have a tendency to live in the past when it comes to the NHL. The 80s were a great time for hockey. It was a different game then. Men were men and hockey players didn't wear helmets and if your team was playing the Flyers, you could expect at least one bench-clearing brawl. My mother - normally not one to condone violence - raised me to believe a hockey game wasn't complete until someone got a game misconduct. I miss the fights. I miss players climbing into the stands. I miss Dave Schultz. I miss the Patrick Division I even miss Ron Duguay's hair.
I tell this all to my son.
"You don't really miss that stuff," he says. "You're just being nostalgic for when Islanders were a good team. Remember that? Good times, right?" I send him to his room.
He's right, again. I miss those days. When I talk about how I long for the days of the Campbell Conference and the Hartford Whalers and Dave Semenko, I'm really saying I long for the days when my team was a dynasty. I'm that person. I'm the "Well, the Yankees have 27 World Series wins" person of hockey.
Perhaps I'm living in the past because the future of the Islanders is so uncertain. There's a chance the team could be leaving Long Island soon, taking with them any chance of giving their fans a more recent victory to cling to.
I don't even talk about the subject of the Islanders leaving with my mother. She doesn't want to discuss it. That doesn't stop my son from bringing it up, though.
"So grandma, when the Islanders leave are you going to become a Rangers fan?"
"I'd sooner root for the Mets," she says.
None of us can see that. Then again, none of us can see this Island without its hockey team. The thing that kept the tenuous relationship I had with my mother in my early 20s from breaking might be going the way of the Minnesota North Stars and the Quebec Nordiques.
Sometimes we get really nostalgic and we'll go on YouTube looking for clips of Clark Gillies punching out Eddie Hospodar. We remember the good times we shared over hockey games. Sure, we can share some good times with the Islanders now. It's just not the same when your team isn't winning. Or when they are threatening to leave.
We've made a secret pact to become Winnipeg Jets fans if they do.
My dad — a Yankees fan until the institution of the DH, since then a die-hard Phillies fan, and, take my word for it, a hell of a good guy despite the fact that he now invariably prefixes “Yankees” with the adjective “damn” — was quite excited to learn that I’ve endeavored to write for a sporting publication. But he gave me an earful regarding the colorful language in Knauss’s piece on the McCourt/Dodgers fiasco.
“You don’t need that sort of language, John.”
“But Dad,” I told him, “imagine you were a lifelong Dodgers fan. They were one of the proudest and most-storied franchises in baseball. Now, they’re writing bad checks to Vin Scully. You can’t express that sort of outrage without some strong language.”
Anyway, the conversation reminded me of this recent gem from Letters of Note — an 1898 league-wide National League memo addressing the scourge of on-field profanity. Pay no attention to suggestions that it was a satirical in-joke; anything this funny must be true.
Joe Posnanski is a great writer now plying his trade for Sports Illustrated. But I am loving his new podcast, particularly the regular installments with Parks and Recreation showrunner Michael Schur, also known as Ken Tremendous, proprietor of the former best sports blog on the Internet. Schur and Posnanski do “drafts” of various sports-related things, like dinner companions, or baseball books, or nostalgic things. They are ridiculous and fascinating, and prove that the mock draft can indeed be applied to the most ridiculous things for editorial fodder.
Being a sports fan in the Pacific time zone is quite a bit different from being a co-conspirator in the collective East Coast Bias. Out here, we have to rush home from work to catch Monday Night Football or the start of the All-Star Game. (In fact, I haven't watched an All-Star Game live since I bought my first TiVo.) But no baseball game lasts much later than 11 p.m.
Last night I watched the Marlins-Seattle game go into extra innings--at 1 a.m. Miami time. All thirteen die-hard Marlins fans had been wheeled back into their private rooms at the home many hours before.
To Easterners, NFL Football is a post-church, post-lunch activity. Meanwhile, ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown is usually on before I crack an eye on Sunday morning. Some college football games start at 9. NFL games start at 10, and even the Sunday Night Football telecast is over with hours before bedtime. Sadly, baseball isn’t usually included in the crazy-early time mix, other than the Patriot’s Day game in Boston, which is on at 8 a.m. on a Monday every year. (Great morning-commute fodder via the MLB.com At Bat app.)
But the best thing about being sunk eight hours behind Greenwich, if you ask me, is the ability to watch live European sports in the extreme early-morning hours. Like, you get up at 6 a.m. and watch sports for an hour or two before getting out of bed and trundling off to work. Or not, depending on how good the sport is.
The Women’s World Cup and Wimbledon are both going on right now, early in the morning. I’m getting up early and turning on the TV. My kinds crawl into bed and ask me endless questions about why those people are wearing yellow (they’re Australians rooting for Lleyton Hewitt, dear--and they’re already disappointed) and why that woman has a funny bandage wrapped around her head in the Japan-New Zealand soccer match (she bumped her head, apparently).
It’s great. And it’s special, because these international events aren’t available all year round. We watched a whole lot of the 2010 World Cup with our eyes half-closed. The French Open and Wimbledon bring tennis into the early morning. And during English Premier League season, there’s now usually an early-morning game on ESPN.
My daughter loves baseball and is now using “just until the end of this inning” as an excuse not to go to bed, but for bonding over sports with my kids, there’s just something special about doing it at the crack of dawn.
[Photo by Jonathan_W via Flickr]
So if anybody deserves to be beaten into a coma by Dodger fans, it’s Frank McCourt. The guy who makes Rupert Murdoch seems like a responsible, locally involved owner needs a fist right in his smug, buff-shined face, and needs it badly, needs it today. The Dodgers’ bankruptcy filing this morning — just another couple of steps in the team’s long tumble down the stairs — unfortunately won’t be the last embarrassment in his disastrous reign. It’s just the latest.
Frank McCourt is to the Dodgers as Sherman is to the South, as Sarah Palin is to rational political discourse, as a particularly virulent strain of coprophage is to your lower intestine. He doesn’t own the Dodgers so much as consume them, extract what he can and leave the husk broken and bleeding by the side of the road.
The creditors listed in the bankruptcy filing read like an ugly, on-field parallel to the McCourt’s own free-spending, weak-thinking ways:
Twenty million dollars is owed to that lazy cheat Manny Ramirez, who fled the game rather than get banned from it. Twenty million! After a year and a half with the team. That’s roughly a dollar for every boo he earned during his sluggish, half-hearted stay. The humiliation of this single, shattering fact — the true legacy of the McCourts — has the potential to out-do the embarrassment of the dreadlock wigs that they used to sell at the stadium.
Eleven million is owed to the thundering zero that was Andruw Jones, a big-bat who spent his pathetic year with the team either sub-.200 or on the DL. And who is now a Yankee, making $500K.
Twenty million is owned to Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, Jon Garland, Jonathon Broxton, Chad Billingsly and Matt Guerrier, the last of two of whom have the distinction of being the only active pitchers on the top half of creditors list who have managed the towering achievement of actually winning half their games. Kazuhisa Ishii is owed three million and he hasn’t played since 2004.
Even Vin Scully — national treasure, god among men, and someone who has out-performed everybody else on the Dodgers, front-office or on-field — is owed $150,000. I swear to God, if McCourt tries to cheat Vin Scully out of a single dime of his money, there is no place on Earth that he will be able to hide. I know a few parking lots in Boston that could be dug up and sealed over in a night.
Oh, hey, have I mentioned that the Dodgers are only ahead of the sad-sack Padres in their division, and by one lousy game? You spend tens of millions on disappointments who aren’t even contributing their meager skills anymore, and I guess you count that as a good showing.
And, actually, McCourt does. He said that during his tenure the Dodgers have been profitable and successful — which aren’t usually words that you associate with bankruptcy filing and basement dwelling. But, hey, nice haircut, Frank.
The one good thing that comes out of all this is that the McCourts won’t be able to go ahead with their divorce. I can’t think of a better punishment than Frank and Jamie McCourt being stuck with each other. I can only hope they do half as much damage to each other as they’ve done to one of the most iconic teams in baseball.
But a beating would be nice, too.
"We'd say, 'When he comes back, he's going to say, 'That's the nicest person I've ever met." And every time he'd come back -- whether it was old, young, male, female -- he'd get in the car, and he'd say, 'That's the nicest person I've ever met.' And then we'd just start laughing."
(And, yes, I used a picture of Sparky in a Phillies uniform because I'm THAT guy.)
[The latest in a series of exchanges between sporting rivals.]
Jason: Greg, I was going to make a joke about how troubled the Dodger ownership is right now, but Bud Selig stepped in and told me I couldn't. I hear the pride of L.A. baseball is playing at Dodger Stadium today! And they're beating the Dodgers 6-1!
Greg: You mean the pride of LA baseball of Anaheim. And the Dodgers are saving it for tomorrow, when I'll be there with six 10-year-olds.
Jason: Six! Geez, for your sake I hope Bug Selig steps in and tells them to play better.
Greg: The plan is to win on balks. I hear that's now the world champions do it.
Jason: We win in many different ways. Watch the champions and learn, Dodger creditors.
Greg: The Dodgers' management mastered falling onto their faces in the dirt long before Schierholtz.
Jason: He's still working on it, it's true. Will be a long time before he can do it at Dodger caliber.
Greg: It's impressive the way the Giants have progressed from getting knocked over like Posey, to just falling over, all by themselves.
Jason: Falling all the way to first place, somehow.
Jason: By the way, I hear Matt Kemp is a shoo-in for a slot in the AAA all-star game.
Michael Sokolove, writing for the NYT Magazine, pretty much wrote what I wanted to write about the 37-year-old .250-hitting Derek Jeter:
But the careers of elite athletes, enviable as they may be, are foreshortened versions of a human lifespan. Physical decline — in specific ways that affect what they do and who they are — begins for them before it does for normal people. The athletes themselves rarely see the beginnings of this process, or if they do, either do not acknowledge it or try to fight it off like just another inside fastball. They alter their training routines. Eat more chicken and fish, less red meat. They try to get "smarter" at their sport.
A great many of us, their fans, live in our own version of denial — even in this age of super-slow-motion replay and ever more granular statistical data. We want to think our favorite players have good years left, great accomplishments ahead of them, just as we would hope the same for ourselves.
As if slowly making my way through The Pale King wasn't enough, watching Federer this weekend was a reminder that David Foster Wallace is, indeed, dead.
Starting Friday morning I went into a mini-media blackout in order to have time to really enjoy my DVR'd French Open men's semis and final (not that avoiding news about professional tennis is all that hard). I love watching the men play on clay -- it slows the game down enough to have it appear to be played by actual people, instead of genetically improbable super humans.
Friday's semi-final against Djokovic occasionally reminded me of Federer at his peak. He wasn't perfect, but there were flashes of perfection...points that simply took your breath away. At one point I tweeted DFW's description of Federer -- "kinetic beauty" -- with a link to his classic essay in the New York Times about Federer.
Because of DFW's obsession with Federer (set against his deep love of tennis) the two are inextricably linked in my mind: DFW's prose is to contemporary american literature as Federer's peak game is (or, more accurately, was) to men's tennis.
Which is what made Sunday's final so disappointing. Fed was obviously a long shot: Nadal is unstoppable on clay (and barely stoppable on any other surface), and had only dropped two sets the entire tournament. But watching Federer go up 5-2 in the first set, and then lose five games straight -- and the next set -- reminded me that Federer is, indeed, human. His best tennis is behind him.
In an alternate universe, DFW is still alive, and is still writing about Federer, chronicling this phase of his career, and comparing him to Nadal and Djokovic and Murray. Instead, we're left wishing Pale King were more like Infinite Jest, that Federer today were more like Federer yesterday. And knowing that it's only a matter of time before there won't be any more Wallace to read or kinetic beauty to watch.