Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Celebrating a Century of Cartoon Brilliance

Not sports-related but important nonetheless...

One hundred years to the day -- February 26, 1908 -- a genius was introduced to the world. Frederick "Tex" Avery would go on to become one of the most prolific and influential cartoonists in history, responsible for iconic animated characters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as well as dozens of hilariously entertaining (and risque) shorts.

Here, in honor of the great Tex Avery, is a sampling of his works:

"Magical Maestro"

"Red Hot Riding Hood"

"Swing Shift Cinderella"

"The Cat That Hated People"

"Who Killed Who?"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Derek Redmond Defines Courage

Every time I watch Derek Redmond race in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I tear up and am reminded how powerful and profound sports can be.

UPDATE 7/12/08: Thank you to those searching for this inspirational video clip. This video is by far the most viewed post on this blog and I am only happy to help people experience this remarkable moment in sports history. That being said I feel an obligation to bring attention to a recent commercial which attempts to profit from the emotional father-son struggle while altering its imagery.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dwight Howard Was Wise to Crank That Soulja Boy

In perhaps the greatest slam dunk contest in NBA All-Star history Dwight Howard proves he is no Clark Kent.

Superman do it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How Jose Canseco Convinced Roger Clemens to Use Steroids (According to The Simpsons)

"Hi Jose Canseco. I'm Roger Clemens."

"Heh. I rocked you today."

"Yea, you took me real deep. How'd you get so strong and handsome all of a sudden?"
"Steroids and Human Growth Hormone. They're awesome."

"Isn't that stuff bad? I heard performance-enhancing drugs cause hair loss, muscle spasms, headaches and dementia."

"Wicked awesome."
"Hmm. Let me see if my black doctor has any illegal drugs."

"Foo have you lost yo damn mind?! Don't you understand the physiological and emotional consequences of injecting foreign substances into your body?!"

"Don't do it Rog. I used to be able to hit and run and leap and laugh. Now look at me. I'm as weak as a woman, forever confined to this smelly mattress. Don't make the same mistake I made. Promise me."

"I don't need steroids! I'll prove to everyone all you need to succeed is hard work and determi-"

"Woo hoo! You suck Clemens!"

"My name is Brian McNamee. Jose said you needed some help..."

"The needle goes right there."

"The power. I feel the power!"

"Until your butt gets injected with chemicals you'll never be as good as me. Ha, ha, ha."


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Super Bowl XLII Was Wise Not to Crank That Soulja Boy

White. Male. Middle-aged. Conservative.

Four adjectives that characterize the average NFL fan. They also happen to describe the most sizable and powerful demographic in the country. Not coincidentally football is America’s most popular sport. That being said, at first glance it appears Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were a curious choice for the Super Bowl XLII halftime show. If the point of having a musical guest is to attract fans who wouldn't otherwise watch a broadcast, then the NFL failed. Those who followed the NFL regular season were the most likely to tune into the Super Bowl. Coming into last Sunday saturation for the WMMC demography was at its peak; football fans were anxious to watch the championship game. Meanwhile Tom Petty listeners, by and large, can be described as Republican middle-aged white guys. Essentially the halftime program was targeted toward the very people the game itself had already covered, which minimized its attractiveness to other demographics.

In terms of drawing a new audience for the halftime show (and hoping it would stick around to watch the rest of the game) the NFL could have gone in a variety of different marketing directions. Perhaps sign on Kanye West to attract a black crowd. Or parade Carrie Underwood out onto midfield for all the ladies. Maybe try appealing to young girls. Imagine how many teeny boppers, with zero interest in football, would have tuned in to watch Hannah Montana Miley Cyrus screech out a few of her mega hits.

But the NFL played it safe. Why? Because it's smart. Following the Janet Jackson debacle the league's image took a big hit. WMMC, many who watched the live performance with their children, were appalled. For the NFL one slip-up was bad enough. If a trend of bawdy behavior became a trend customers (and advertisers) would simply take their business elsewhere.

Reaction from the league was dramatic. The following year's halftime act? Sir Paul McCartney. After that particularly tame performance the NFL recruited the Rolling Stones. However, the usually family unfriendly group was ordered to censor its lyrics. Then came 2007. Prince was the headliner. It was a puzzling choice that went against the conventional wisdom. It was almost as if the league was begging for something inappropriate. Sure enough, the Purple Rainman did not disappoint.

By selecting Tom Petty this year the NFL deliberately decided on a more conservative choice. The league learned its lesson. Business 101 states it's much easier (and cheaper) to keep a customer than sign a new one. The NFL knows it's better to play it safe and uphold a polished image rather than roll the dice. There's no point trying to entice a few million more viewers by offering a titillating performance if it's going to offend the fan base at large. Better to keep Average Joe Football Fan happy.

I didn't catch the halftime performance for Super Bowl XLII. Like most sports fans I don't give a damn about musical guests, unnecessary hoopla or silly commercials: show me what's happening on the field. I'll go out on a limb and guess the show wasn't terribly enthralling. That being said I'll wager every dollar I have Tom Petty wasn't the worst musical performance ever at a football championship.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Grading the Mariners Offseason Moves

Spring training is only days away so it's time to see what Seattle has been up to this winter. In chronological order:

Declined arbitration to OF Jose Guillen (F)
An unconscionable move. Even for a front office that has demonstrated its incompetence time and time again this was a horrendous decision. If Guillen accepted arbitration Seattle would have retained one of its most productive players. If he declined Seattle's offer the Mariners would have been compensated with a top-50 selection in the 2008 amateur draft. Even if the M's didn't want Jose to return in 2008 for whatever reason (he's had personality issues in the past and will be suspended the first 15 games of the season due to performance enhancing drugs) they knew Kansas City was ready to offer him a lucrative contract. Basically there was no way Guillen was going to accept a one-year deal with the Mariners when he had a three-year offer sheet from the Royals ready to go. Seattle had a free draft pick in its lap. All it had to do was offer arbitration. Instead the team decided to let Jose walk away for nothing.

Selected RHP R.A. Dickey from the Twins in the Rule 5 Draft (C+)
The Mariners plucked a knuckleballer from Minnesota for $25,000. If Dickey sticks with the team Seattle has to hand over another twenty-five grand to the Twins. Considering what arms cost nowadays this was a bargain basement deal. The kind of low-risk, under-the-radar move good teams make.

Signed RHP Carlos Silva to a four-year contract with a mutual option for 2012 (C)
Starting pitcher was the biggest need for Seattle entering this offseason. After whiffing on several hurlers (Hiroki Kuroda topping that list) Bill Bavasi overpaid for Silva to ensure the inning eater signed with the Emerald City. Carlos helps fill a need for the M's but he's neither great nor cheap. $48 million should buy more than durability.

Signed INF Miguel Cairo to a one-year contract (C-)
Cairo is like a Hispanic version of Willie Bloomquist. One mediocre utility player is enough. What's the point in having two?

Signed LHP Horacio Ramirez to a one-year contract (D)
The horrible trade that keeps on giving. If he's released before Opening Day the team only has to pay him 1/6 of the $2.75 million Ramirez is due.

Signed free agent OF Brad Wilkerson to a one-year contract (C+)
Another shrewd and low-risk move by the Mariners. Who knew they were capable? If Wilkerson remains healthy he should be a serviceable outfielder. Seattle needs a left-handed bat to compliment a lineup heavy on right-handed hitters. Brad might be the man.

Acquired LHP Erik Bedard from Baltimore for OF Adam Jones, LHP George Sherrill, RHP Chris Tillman, LHP Tony Butler and LHP Kam Mickolio (D+)
In the short-term the Mariners are a better team. Adding an elite pitcher like Bedard (along with Silva's addition) transforms Seattle's biggest problem, the starting rotation, into a plus. However, the outfield and bullpen take some heavy blows. By making this move and mortgaging a significant portion of its future Seattle is saying it is a contender now. Thus anything less than a playoff appearance in the next two years will be a colossal failure. It's too soon to project whether Erik will resign with Seattle so there's no point in speculating beyond 2009.

Here's how this trade will break down:

* decent chance the Orioles win. Some of the prospects go onto have productive careers while Seattle fails to make the playoffs through at least 2009 (regardless of how well Bedard pitches).
* smaller chance the Mariners win. Seattle earns a playoff berth in 2008 and/or 2009 while none of the prospects pan out in Baltimore.
* small chance both teams wins. Bedard helps the M's make the playoffs and a majority of the prospects pan out for the O's.
* extremely small chance both teams lose. Bedard and Seattle miss the postseason. Jones et al flop in Baltimore.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's Official: We Will Never See a 50 Rating Again

This was the perfect storm for advertisers. Two weeks of unrelenting hype. An exhilarating rematch between teams from the #1 and #5 media markets to determine the champion of America's favorite sport. Perfection on the line.

Yet when the dust cleared "only" 43.3% of all televisions in the country tuned in to witness the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

The only way a 50 rating is going to ever happen again is if Martians visit our planet and hold a one-night singing competition to determine the fate of Earth. And it has to be shown exclusively on one broadcast network. Until "Alien Idol" happens, the final episode of M*A*S*H will reign supreme.

Of course, if such an event occurred it would presumably be shown without commercials. I mean, I'm pretty sure the Martians wouldn't appreciate crappy ads for domestic beer and foreign cars distracting the public's attention. Nor would our intergalactic overlords want to be brought to you by Cisco Systems.

Thus in the ultimate of ironies the most-watched broadcast in the history of television would make no money.

Now that would be the end of western civilization as we know it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Close But No Cigar

What an incredible game. Congratulations to the New York Giants as they stun the New England Patriots and win Super Bowl XLII 17-14.

As for 19-0... there's always next year.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

What the Lakers Look Like Now

Los Angeles made a huge splash on Friday, acquiring Pau Gasol from Memphis for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol and two future first-round picks. As far as trades go the most obvious comparison is the Kenyon Martin deal to Denver. At the end of the 2004 season New Jersey dealt the disgruntled power forward in a sign-and-trade for three first-round picks.

In these situations Pau and Kenyon were both:
- good, borderline great power forwards
- not happy with their teams
- signed to bloated contracts (Gasol $63 million/4; Martin $92.5 million/7)

While the Martin experiment hasn't worked in Denver, Lakers fans are looking forward to teaming an inside scoring threat with Kobe. But is LA now a legit title contender?

A quick rundown of the Laker roster:


Pau Gasol, PF
Huge upgrade over Kwame Brown. Possesses wide range of offensive skills. Plays smart and efficient. Quick for his size. Labeled as soft. Lacks leadership qualities. Not a good defender. Injuries are a concern.

Lamar Odom, SF
Widely considered one of the most underachieving talents in basketball. Mostly operates on the perimeter. Length gives him an advantage over peers. Lacks mean streak and avoids contact. Average defender.

Andrew Bynum, C
Injured and may miss the rest of the season. Made huge strides but still has a long way to go. Aggressive inside the paint, which leads to a lot of dunks. Needs to develop a consistent shot from five feet and beyond.

Kobe Bryant, SG
The premier player in the league. Ideal size, strength and agility. No weaknesses. Can takeover a game at any given moment. Often defers to his teammates early to get them in a rhythm. Excellent at drawing contact, which leads to easy points at the free-throw line. Lives for the big moment. Good defender. Improved 3-point shot. Can be prone to trying to do too much.

Derek Fisher, PG
One of the most cerebral players in the league. Compensates for lack of athleticism with acute sense on the court. Great ball handler. Deadly from three-point range. President of the Player's Association Executive Committee.


Jordan Farmar, PG
Excellent ball handler. Outside shot developing nicely. Good at finishing at the basket. Needs to improve defensively. Not big enough to post, not fast enough to run. Can get flustered after a mistake, which leads him to press.

Luke Walton, SF
Intelligent team player. Always does the little things that don't appear in the box score. Great passer.

Trevor Ariza, SF
Tremendous athlete. Runs the floor well. Good rebounder. Limited range.

Ronny Turiaf, PF
Energizes team and fans with unrelenting energy and effort. Needs to learn how to control emotion after bad plays.

Sasha Vujacic, SG
Improved jumper. Deceptively quick. Nonexistent inside the paint.

Vladimir Radmanovic, SF
Big man with good range. Spreads out the defense. Lacks inside game. Poor defender.

Coby Karl, SG
Good size and shooting touch. Not athletic. Recovered from thyroid cancer. Son of Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl.

DJ Mbenga
End of the bench emergency big body.

Chris Mihm, C
Out for the season with an injury.

The Lakers are well-constructed from top to bottom. They're good. Really good. Bryant, Fisher and coach Phil Jackson have won multiple championships and are surrounded by a supporting cast that can rise to the occasion.

But can doesn't mean will. Los Angeles needs three things to go right in order to compete for a title.

First and foremost, the health of Andrew Bynum. Without him LA inserts Turiaf into the starting lineup, which greatly diminishes the team's quality and depth. If they play Utah or New Orleans in the playoff the Lakers will need two healthy bigs to counter against Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, Tyson Chandler and David West.

Secondly, none of the Lakers reserves are great scorers. Teams like San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix have elite talents Manu Ginobli, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa coming off the bench. While many teams simply try to stay competitive with their second units, the aforementioned players can put up points in a hurry for their ballclubs. LA needs a spark off the bench. Ariza showed flashes of brilliance during his stint in Orlando and seems like a prime breakout candidate.

And finally, Lamar Odom. If the playoffs started tonight the small forwards playing in the Western Conference would be: Shawn Marion, Peja Stojakovic, Josh Howard, Andrei Kirilenko, Michael Finley, Carmelo Anthony and Stephen Jackson. While Odom wouldn't always be matched up head-to-head with his SF counterparts he would have to equal their production.
An inconsistent Odom equals doom.

All in all, the Lakers probably won't win a title this year. They lack the talent and experience to beat the Spurs or Suns four times in a seven-game series. Against Utah and Dallas, maybe. However, Los Angeles won't be first-round fodder like it has been the past couple years. Phil Jackson has proven he can get results with two stars and good role players.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Trivia, Tags and More

Can you name...

...the four sanctioning bodies of boxing championships? And college football fans complain about the BCS being inconclusive.

...the current baseball player who holds the all-time record for total bases in a game?

...the golfer with the most career PGA Tour wins? It may not be who you think.

Recently I've been posting almost exclusively about the Seattle Mariners, my favorite team. I've created a tag to make it easier to look up all my criticisms against them.

In other news my next post will evaluate the Mariners offseason. Wonder what that'll have to say.