Monday, July 30, 2007

Only The French

Someone must explain to me why the Tour de France is 20 stages. I watched the 19th stage, a time trial, and at the end of the broadcast the announcers said Alberto Contador (don't ask why he is kissing something from my grandmother's china set) had won the entire race. How is this possible? The guy had nearly lost his 2+ minute lead only moments before but he was declared the winner with one day remaining in the race. Cadel Evans of Australia and Levi Leipheimer of the USA (the guy on the right in the above picture) were within 23 and 31 seconds, respectively. If it weren't for tradition yesterday's 20th stage through Paris had the making of a phenomenal finish. Alas, there was none.

A lot of people have grown disinterested in the Tour de France because Lance Armstrong is no longer riding and everyone that is left makes Barry Bonds seem like an honest person doing it with only God-given ability. That of course bothers me but I can't believe the last day of the race does not matter. I have never seen the NFL skip the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl and declare the score at the end of 3 quarters the final tally. Likewise, I have never been to a baseball game that skipped ahead to the post game celebration after "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." Hell, I can't think of any other sport, or activities that call themselves sports (e.g., fishing, bowling) that don't count the final minutes of action.

It's common to rail on sports whose winners are determined solely by judges but at least ice skaters are given scores that matter on each and every triple salchow, even the last one. The cannonball entry into the water on the last dive does hurt a diver's chance of winning gold. A gold medal winner of the 1,500m race at the Olympics is declared just that after all 1,500m have been completed. No sooner. The idea of clutchness has never entered the lexicon of the Tour de France. The last stage is for champagne and hand-holding. I will never understand but am not the least bit surprised that it's the French that advocate such a finish to a grueling sporting event.

(Photo from Peter DeJong/AP.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Perhaps It's More Than A Theory

Back when Alex Rodriguez was on the Seattle Mariners he was one of my favorite players. Back when Jason Giambi was on the Oakland A's he was one of my favorite players. The similarities do not end there. At about the same time they both sold out and joined Satan's favorite team. Both of them have difficulties performing in the postseason. But do they both have a history of using performance enhancing drugs? If you believe what Jose Canseco is throwing out there they just might have that glorious connection as well. Before you dismiss Canseco as a wacko, which he likely is, I ask you one question. If there was one player that you wanted to talk to about PEDs and you were going to pay him so he could write a book, who would it be? Most certainly it would be Canseco. In fact, he already has, ask Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero how Canseco's first book, Juiced, turned out.

What makes this revelation so interesting is that ever since Rodriguez joined the Yankees I have hated him. As my dislike for him has grown I noticed that the guy went from looking like a point guard to a tight end. In the last couple of years I have made my outlandish assertion to friends and acquaintances. Not a single person has believed me. To be honest I have barely believed myself but I often times wonder if Rodriguez became the enormous 3rd baseman he is simply because he grew into his body. You see, that is what everyone tells me when I suggest Rodriguez may be like a lot of the other sluggers. "He started in the majors when he was a teenager, he simply has become a man and filled out."

Here are some numbers to chew on. On Rodriguez's 1994 rookie card he is listed as 6'3", 190 pounds. Now, Rodriguez is 6'3", 225 pounds. That much weight in that amount of time isn't too outlandish. It would be interesting to see his weight progression over the years though. Has it been a consistent gain or were the 35 pounds gained over the course of a year or two? The fact that he plays baseball makes you have to wonder. What has the MLB been most famous for the last 10-15 years? Dudes getting huge. Everyone else in baseball has been put under the microscope.

Another thing that puts doubt in my mind as to the legitimacy of Rodriguez's weight gain is that there are young ballplayers that are pretty big but have been since they arrived on the scene. Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder (not the most svelte guy) are some that come to mind. I am pretty confident they are clean because they have looked like that since they started.

I understand that my theory on Alex Rodriguez is not a popular one. In fact, I admit it would never have been a theory if he had decided against playing for the Yankees. Be that as it may, when Jose Canseco talks about PEDs it's worth a listen. If Canseco were telling us what stocks to buy I certainly wouldn't bother linking to his comments. The only entity that will determine how far Canseco's statements go is the media. If they want to villanize Rodriguez the evidence might be there to do it. On the other hand (the most likely hand if you ask me), the media won't do much with this story, if anything. They simply love the Yankees and Rodriguez too much to try and sully his name. It's one thing to focus on the fact that he is bush league (here and here) and has a propensity to choke, it's another to bring up PEDs. I can guarantee you if Canseco said he had new information on Barry Bonds it would be the lead story on SportsCenter. Whether it's right or not, the media dictates who is going to be crucified for PEDs. Something tells me the media is going to wait for more than a book by Canseco to look into Rodriguez's ways.

(Photo on left from Magoos Baseball Cards and photo on right from I do realize the difference is not as obvious as a lot of the players that have been accused of using PEDs.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Take That Les Miles

On Thursday the Pac-10 had its annual football media day in Los Angeles, CA. The most shocking news was that USC was the unanimous pick to finish 1st. It was a grand affair so I figured a synopsis was warranted. Keep in mind I'm not too familiar with a fair number of the coaches. For many of them it was the first time I had heard them behind a microphone.

But first let's start with a commentary on the Pac-10 commissioner, Tom Hansen. I think the guy is still under the impression that radio is the preferred medium of today's fan. A lot of devoted Pac-10 fans wonder why the Pac-10 doesn't get any respect. Well, Hansen is the reason as far as I'm concerned. Take the media day as an example. I spent Wednesday watching the SEC media day on ESPNU and noticed that the Mountain West media day was on CSTV. This had me fired up for the Pac-10 media day but I find out it is only on the Internet. Are you kidding me? I could care less if other conferences have their own TV networks (Mountain West) that should not dictate that I have to watch Pac-10 media day on a computer monitor. The big timers at the Pac-10 need to figure out what the hell is going on, it's 2007. Most fans don't care that the Pac-10 dominates in women's badminton or whatever else they want to brag about. College athletics are about football, so give me more football. Until changes are made in how the Pac-10 distributes its content I find it impossible for anyone outside of the West Coast to give the conference respect. Frankly, I don't blame them either. How legitimate can a conference be if its pride and joy is a media contract with a regional sports network (FSN)? Let's get with the program Hansen. Look for an upcoming post on more Hansen shenanigans.

Some other observations about the media day in general. I missed the first 8 minutes or so (it was only Hansen talking so perhaps it was a blessing in disguise) because I was trying to get the live feed to work on my Mozilla browser. Maybe it was only my computer's version but I had to finally fire up Internet Explorer to get the thing going. Please tell me I am the dumb one and the Pac-10 is smart enough to have the live feed work on other browsers. Also, the camera was set up in the back of the room just above head level. It was great seeing the heads of some people I know (UO Media Services standout Andy McNamara being one) but this is not a high school talent show. Now that I have finished railing on the Pac-10 being run like it's a JV operation let's get to some analysis on each coach. These are presented in the order they appeared. Note: Nearly every coach was asked about Les Miles' comments earlier in the summer.

Tyrone Willingham (Washington): This guy is so boring I was asleep before he even started fielding questions.

Jim Harbaugh (Stanford): I may get in trouble for saying this but I like the guy. He seems like he has high energy and brings a little excitement to The Farm. At the very least I know the lady that was on his arm when I saw him in San Diego in the beginning of June should be able to help with recruiting.

Bill Doba (Washington State): Now I really like this guy. He appears to be an honest and straightforward guy. He knew how to make some jokes and didn't seem like he was being phony. If only he didn't coach in Pullman, WA the closest to hell I have ever been in my life.

Mike Stoops (Arizona): This guy's red tie matched his red face, which was no surprise. He certainly is optimistic about this upcoming season and wants more consistency from his players. Something tells me this has nothing to do with the administration likely wanting the same from him.

Dennis Erickson (Arizona State): He regularly gets ripped on for being a vagabond but I can't knock him too much for that. I did live in 5 states before college and I'm not a terrible person. I did like his jokes and think he could have some success. If he can turn around Oregon State he certainly will be able to make Arizona State a contender before too long.

Mike Bellotti (Oregon): Easily my favorite coach in the conference. He is the dean of coaches in the conference and it's obvious why. Great guy. He gave a rundown of changes in the coaching staff and analyzed both sides of the ball and mentioned the D-line worries him most (couldn't agree with him more). Below are the questions he and Jonathon Stewart were asked, with summarized answers when appropriate.
  1. Dixon playing baseball - not the happiest guy in the world he decided to do it
  2. Going to the Big House - more worried about Houston right now
  3. More Dixon playing baseball
  4. D-line concerns
  5. Brilliance of Stewart - don't forget about Jeremiah Johnson
  6. Stewart's opinion on new OC - cool guy
  7. Erickson's value to Civil War rivalry - doesn't matter who's coaching, it's a rivalry
  8. Competitiveness of Pac-10 - should be a tight race
  9. Les Miles - perception problem around the country that Pac-10 is soft but really isn't
Karl Dorrell (UCLA): Looked sharp and sleek in his suit. Didn't want to talk about his assistant coach getting arrested for the entire time but spent half of his time talking about it. Never heard him talk before but he could not be anymore monotone and boring. Odds of him firing up a team before a game or at halftime are near zero.

Jeff Tedford (California-Berkeley): He was the only coach noticeably bigger than his player (DeSean Jackson). Jackson looked like a high-schooler but you can ask Oregon how good he is. Had to answer questions about Les Miles' comments and rightfully so. It was Cal's meltdown in Knoxville last year that makes everyone think Pac-10 is weak. Would you try showing up for the first half against Tennessee this year Tedford?!

Pete Carroll (USC): I think he was the only coach that took a seat on the left, as the viewer looked at the podium. Not sure if this means anything. This next comment could be a result of me following college football too closely. This was the only coach (except one) that named off a crap load of players and I had heard of every single one of them. Here is the best answer to the Les Miles question. He told the reporters to look at USC's schedule last year and see who the closest games were against. They were against conference opponents since they beat Notre Dame, Arkansas, Nebraska and Michigan by a combined 438 points. By the way, find me a team that has had 4 better non-conference game opponents in the history of college football.

Mike Riley (Oregon State): Riley was not present at the media day. I never heard officially but I would suspect it was due to the unfortunate passing of football staff member Jim Gilstrap. This article on the OSU website mentions his funeral was to be held yesterday.

That's a wrap from Pac-10 media day. Not sure how many people were able to see any of it but I have filled you in with the most important parts.

(Photo from AP.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mark Alesia Honored

Right about now you are asking, Who is Mark Alesia? I don't even know him, wouldn't know him if he walked into my house right now but I love Mark. Allow me to explain.

When I was doing my Masters thesis project on college athletic department revenues I was having the hardest time getting the research data I wanted. Because it was going to be difficult I only studied athletic departments of schools in the Pac-10 and SEC. Legally, all of the public schools in these conferences were required to provide me with the financial information I requested. After sending my questionnaire to the CFOs at each school I received at most 6 responses. It was Spring Break and I had three months left to finish my study. Things were looking very bleak. Then, after a heads up from the recently named Interim Executive Director of the Duck Athletic Fund (I'd link to his picture but am unable to find one on the Internet, just know that his grammar is impeccable), I found Indianapolis Star's Mark Alesia's research on just what I needed. Alesia, through the powers of magic or something, was able to find detailed financial information on Division I athletic departments. It was the key to my finishing graduate school.

Now that I have given you the full background I will get back to the reason for this blog. Mark Alesia was honored by the Society of Professional Journalists with its 2006-07 Investigative Reporting Award. If you are as much of a dork as I am, here is a link to the impressive numbers he was able to obtain. I'm telling you this stuff is absolute gold.

Dennis Dixon MILB Update #4

This is the next-to-last Dennis Dixon MILB Update. The talk in Eugene is starting to heat up around who is going to be the starting quarterback in a couple of weeks. Coming home from work today the Sports Idol (local radio guy) and Joe Giansante (local TV guy) were bantering about the topic. All of this talk centers around Dixon's decision to play baseball this summer. I have made my feelings known on his decision (it really doesn't bother me at all). Personally, I can't believe Dixon going to play baseball is what makes people question who the starting quarterback is. As far as I can tell the Ducks haven't played a game since the late season swoon when Dixon was not very good. It is my belief that last season's finish should weigh more on people's minds than a couple of weeks in the summer. Before I get myself into trouble let's move on.

Dixon has finally been given some respect from the GCL Braves website. In the stats area he is listed as an OF, not a P. That is a good thing I suppose. Dixon has played in 24 games and has 12 hits in 64 ABs for a .188 BA. That still is not that spectacular but Dixon continues to show patience at the plate. He is the runaway team leader in BB with 14. His strikeouts are fairly high (18) given his limited number of ABs but check out the rest of that roster. I doubt Dixon is playing with a single guy that is going to play in the big leagues one day. Dixon is tied for the team lead in steals (5) and has one fielding error. All in all, given the talent the Braves have drafted I would think they are happy with Dixon's summer.

Fellow UO and Clark Hall alum, Dadroza, was correct some writers more famous than I have picked up on my story. Mark Schlabach of and Brian Meehan of The Oregonian have written articles in the last couple of weeks. Read them if you just want to learn about things I have been telling you about all summer.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Stern Trying To Sabotage Blazers

Ever since I started noticing who the NBA Commissioner is I have disliked him. I think David Stern's presence became known to me after the greatest generation of players retired (Jordan, Barkley, Olajuwon, Ewing, Drexler, Johnson, Bird, etc.). It was at this time I began to notice Stern thought he was the sole reason the NBA was successful. I understand that sports are full of pompous individuals but there is no doubt in my mind that Stern is the runaway leader in that category. With that being said, I do not feel sorry for the position he is in right now. Having an NBA referee involved in point-shaving and who knows what else is just what he deserves. Maybe next time Stern will be less concerned with making sure his players' belts match their shoes and more concerned his crooked referees don't get caught.

As a Blazers fan of the late 1990s (by default this includes Rasheed Wallace) I have long felt the NBA referees sucked, and sucked hard. There were so many bogus fouls and technicals called against the Blazers that I would routinely lose my mind. Some of the calls were so awful I had no other option but to think the little troll in NYC was telling the refs how to call games. Most people just dismissed my conspiracy thoughts because I was a diehard fan. That likely was the correct thing to do but now I don't feel so bad for eliminating the NBA from my sports calendar.

I spent a good portion of today reading up on the events of the last few days concerning Tim Donaghy's relation with organized crime. There are so many interesting facets to this that I will simply provide links to various vantage points on the story.

  • The latest on Donaghy's situation is here. Apparently, he has received threatening phone calls and the police are monitoring his residence. My guess, life for Donaghy is going to be difficult from here on out.

  • Some of's prominent Page 2 writers have provided their opinions on the matter, Bill Simmons (really good stuff) and Scoop Jackson. The interesting thing about Simmons is that he has long held that the NBA refs are atrocious. Deadspin even gave Simmons props on his piece (they usually hate him) and provided a link to a YouTube clip that shows just how incredibly bad the refs for Game 3 of Suns vs. Spurs were. I'll give you one chance to determine who one of the refs was. Hint: He is going to be a part of a witness protection program very soon.

  • There is an interesting article from the guy the movie "Two for the Money" was based on. Brandon Lang gives his expert opinion on how a referee could get involved with organized crime and alter games.

  • This whole story is disappointing but Andy Katz has a piece on how this situation hurts the poor college referees. I believe that college refs generally stink but what else do you expect from real estate agents and school teachers? It is my belief that there aren't enough good basketball refs, primarily because it is difficult to officiate, so that can explain crappy college refs. Students and overzealous alumni rarely have a soft spot for these guys and I don't expect things to get any better.

  • Finally, there are a couple of blog entries from ESPN's NBA writers, Marc Stein (subscription required) and Chris Sheridan. Stein has some player reaction and Sheridan asks 3 key questions. The primary question being, When did the NBA know about Donaghy's problems? If it is January, as the Denver Post reports, or earlier, David Stern deserves what's coming to him. A couple of the articles I have linked mention that the NBA may have known a while ago and investigated it. Not sure if that is true, for the sake of the NBA it better not be. To know that a ref is crooked and to still employ him would be inexcusable.
Join me at 8:00 am Pacific in watching Stern try to explain just what the hell has been happening. He will likely come across as the smug jerk I have come to know. This time, instead of him having the last smile/smirk I will be sitting in my office chair and I will be the one with the smirk. Stern likely hasn't gotten much sleep the last few days trying to figure out how not to come across like the @#$ that he is. His ability to not come across like his usual self may determine just how long he keeps his job. As I think about this more and more I think this is Stern's way of trying to take down the Blazers. He wants to ruin the league before Oden, Roy and Aldridge have a chance to win multiple rings.

(Photo from Brendan McDermid, Reuters.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

2007 British Open

For the second consecutive golf major my predictions were wrong, shocking I know. This time they ended up being terrible. The final leaderboard is here. My go to pick, Tiger Woods finished 12th. This isn't that bad of a finish but it does nothing to improve my standing as a golf expert. My other picks in the Top 3 only played the course twice. Colin Montgomerie and Spencer Levin missed the cut, in fact, neither of them were all that close to doing anything at any point. Padraig Harrington ended up winning the event. I did not see a single hole of weekend play so my analysis would be as worthless as my prediction. From what I can gather, Sergio Garcia had the tournament in the bag before play started today. If only this was a Champions Tour event and lasted 3 days instead of 4.

(Photo from Getty Images.)

Beckham Plays, What Next?

David Beckham played yesterday and apparently people are excited. I wouldn't know I was camping. As far as I can tell I missed next to nothing and the ankle injury had nothing to do with it (I will explain later). I know it's impossible for him to be Michael Jordan in a sport where offense is not celebrated. At least not the point-scoring offense Americans prefer and rightfully expect. Ticket prices seem rather high so we need something to put us in the seats. Now the soccer elitists are going to counter that the game is beautiful and the reason for Beckham's arrival is not to score tons of goals. They are right I suppose. It instead is to put fannies in seats (Americans like goals) and raise the profile of soccer (Americans like offense). I counter that the most important reason for Beckham's presence in the U.S. is so some people make tons of money, (see Beckham, David). People need to be honest with themselves and realize money is the true reason for him coming here. It's primarily money for him but there are some other folks out there that will benefit.

As for the injury, I know that Beckham is nursing an injured ankle. The only thing that affected was his playing time. Whether he is 40%, 80% or 100% he is still a midfielder and still plays soccer. Goals are minimal and after a while Americans will hate that the soccer play that makes Beckham most famous, direct kicks, are a result of cowardly flops and terrible acting. Now that I've disputed the injury argument from our soccer friends I will return to the reasons for Beckham's arrival, and why the first game is a sign that he will be glad he came over but American soccer will not.

Of course I knew Beckham was here and going to play in an exhibition game against an English club, Chelsea FC. With the constant promos on ESPN and reality television shows (I heard the Victoria Beckham show was entertaining by the way) I was under the impression this was a major event. Imagine my surprise when I read a sellout crowd of 27,000 people were in attendance. I wasn't surprised it was a sellout, I was shocked that the capacity was 27,000 people. The MLS brings one of the world's most famous people to play soccer and all they can find is a 27,000-seat stadium? I don't care if this is an ordinary stadium for the MLS, this was not an ordinary game. Beckham debuted and Chelsea FC was the opponent. Put the game in a bigger stadium so Beckham can at least feel like he earned some of his money. If the kid that plays Harry Potter was going to play for the Galaxy against a 40-and-over rec league team from Pierre, SD more than 27,000 people would show up. I understand not playing in an enormous stadium but there might be more than 27,000 people at the first day of Alabama football practice in a couple of weeks. That is American football for anyone thinking Beckham really has altered the sports landscape.

As far as catapulting soccer in America, I'm not sure if that is going to happen. When news of Beckham's signing with the MLS first broke I thought that might happen. Now that it he is actually here, I'd bet against it. You're to tell me Americans are finally going to start liking soccer because a good-looking man is playing in the midfield and kicking penalty kicks? I am not an expert on male hotness but I am confident hot men can be seen doing a lot more exciting things in the United States. Whether that is playing a ball sport that requires the use of hands or acting in movies, I can't say. A more expert opinion is needed to figure that out for sure.

The novelty of an international celebrity playing soccer in the United States is going to fade before too long. I would hope for the sake of the hype machine that sold-out crowds will see the Galaxy play as long as Beckham is playing. However, the diminutive size of the stadiums need to be considered when contemplating the presence of a soccer revolution. I applaud the MLS for trying something new and creating excitement but I doubt it will have the long-term effects hoped for. One thing the MLS does have going for them is that the WNBA still exists. It is a miracle of Biblical proportions that the WNBA exists. I knew a lot of Americans were stupid but I guess I underestimate just how stupid. Would someone explain to me why it is so difficult to find a couple million dollars funding for a legitimately good business idea when at the same time the WNBA exists?

(Photo from Getty Images.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

British Open Preview

Well, it's that time again. A golf major is starting so a sterling preview is in order. Due to it being the summer I have not had the chance to analyze this tournament very closely. I'm not even 100% sure which country this year's British Open is being played but I am thinking it's Scotland. My breakdown of the course is quite simple. It looks like all of the other Open courses. Longer grass in between the holes. By 'in between' I mean where I hit all of my shots (miles from the fairway) but where professionals rarely are seen. Everything else is pretty short, dead-looking grass. Now that I have the course broken down in a scientific manner it's time for my top 3.

1. Tiger Woods - I would be a complete idiot if I chose anybody else. He is the best golfer in the world and is looking to pull of a rare three-peat so betting against him would be a mistake. Only big-time golf experts study golf enough to pick someone besides Tiger. Look for Tiger to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday.

2. Colin Montgomerie - He has perfected being the bridesmaid at major tournaments and he is coming off of a win on the other side of the pond. I also read on ESPN's golf blog (subscription required) that he holds the course record at the site of this week's tournament. All of this leads me to believe a runner-up finish is in the cards for Monty.

3. Spencer Levin - This is my upset of the week but Levin is due for a breakout performance. He broke on to the scene with a 13th place finish as an amateur in the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Levin has fiddled around on some of the minor tours since but has been doing a fine job on the Canadian Tour this year and qualified for the British Open. Also, Levin graduated a couple of years behind me and while playing baseball he gave me great advice on how to play shots from 50-100 yards out. I still suck at those shots but it has nothing to do with his advice.

There's the prediction for this weekend. Let's check back on Sunday evening to see how things turned out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Beijing 2008 Will Be Awesome

Disclaimer: If anyone from the vaunted Chinese government is reading this know that it is a parody and not the true feelings of the writer of this blog. China is a great country and I hope to one day live there so that my future children can experience dry weather and whatever else the smartest civilization ever is able to come up with.

I realize I am behind the times but I'm not a big fan of the Chinese. Everyone likes to brag about their emerging economy and billions of people but that is not enough for me to think the future of the world is in their hands and I should bow down to them. A lot of things they do bother me but what I read today has to take the cake. They have decided they can control the weather and are sending missiles into clouds to ensure no rain. Repeat after me, MORONS! This is yet another action in a long line of them that will ensure the Chinese host the greatest Olympics ever.

Well, contrary to most people's opinions I think their Olympics are going to suck. Since the day they were awarded the Olympics I've thought it was a bad idea. My sister was in China when it was announced so at least I didn't need to act like I was happy when the news was broken like she did or risk being harmed. It still boggles my mind that the IOC granted China the Summer Games. In order to put on a nice show when the voting was being held they cleaned up by destroying shanties and displacing poorer people. I'm certain other things happened but I'd rather not find those out. The government's treatment of certain people isn't the greatest, yet because it is a place with a bright economic future the IOC decides to award them the Olympics. (Check out Amnesty International's website if you think I'm making things up. I'm in no way advocating for Amnesty International. I have no idea if I agree with what their political agenda, if there is one, but at first glance they seem legit.) This may be extreme but if enough "smart" people convince the IOC that Darfur is an emerging market, in the next 15 years the IOC may decide to put the Summer Games there too.

The other thing that really chaps my hide is that the Chinese government doesn't care at all about knock-off products. If you want to find fake Nikes, golf clubs or anything else of value China is the place for you. (This BusinessWeek article is a bit dated but I remember it from college and it applies.) Piracy has always made me mad and when an entire country supports it I can't stand it. I realize I should relax because this is all in the name of "emerging markets" so everything is okay.

They can build the greatest venues with the newest technologies but I'm not going to be impressed. My greatest hope for the Olympics is that the Americans sweep the men's 110 high hurdles. I won't like the fact that Liu Xiang will disappear from the face of the earth but more American medals is fine with me. Watch out for an inflated medal count from the host country due to a small factory staffed by children producing fake medals. The only chance they have of making a serious run at the top of the medal count is having their women's swim team compete in the men's weightlifting events. And one last thing, the Chinese men's basketball team is going to be an embarrassment to the sport.

(Photo from Greg Baker/AP.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

While I Was Gone

I did not get much sports news while I was away so I spent a fair amount of time today catching up on things. Work is a bit slow at the moment so I was able to get away with it. There were a few things that happened that caught my eye.

1. Home Run Derby - Vlad won the Derby, which made me very happy. It appears there weren't very many home runs hit. In particular, no one had a fair ball land in McCovey Cove. For whatever reason this gave people reason to marvel at the greatness of Barry Bonds. Personally, I saw it more as a reason to marvel at the greatness of BALCO.

2. All-Star Game - How in the hell does Albert Pujols have as many ABs at this year's All-Star Game as (insert name of your favorite 6-year old cousin)? If Tony LaRussa thinks managing to lose the game is going to keep the Dodgers from winning the World Series he is gravely mistaken.

3. Greg Oden - Check out this YouTube clip and explain to me why the NBA is using 8 ft. hoops for summer league. Everyone wants to look at the fact that Oden had 19 fouls in 2 games and say he was terrible. I contend that number is more of an indictment on the high school refs they had at the games. Oden will dominate. The Blazers will win championships.

4. Tour de France - This thing started and nobody cares. I remember a few years ago it was a big deal for me to wake up at 6:00 am to catch the end of each stage to see where Lance was. Now that he has retired and everyone else has been busted for drugs people are more excited about eating contests and I wake up later. Only the NHL has any idea what the Tour is feeling these days.

5. David Beckham - The Beckhams arrived in LA and it was a big deal. I'll give the guy credit and admit he probably is good-looking but I'm not sure that is going to make Americans watch football. My unhealthy sports addiction is well-documented but I am certainly not going to watch MLS games because he is playing. I vow to only care about the World Cup and no male model is going to change that.

6. Yankees Still Suck - It is mid-July and people still haven't figured this out. The Yankees play some horrendous teams with one-fourth their payroll and folks think they are new and improved. That simply is not the case. They still have the most overrated player at nearly every position, embarrassingly poor pitching and a racist manager (so says Gary Sheffield and Kenny Lofton). That trifecta tells me they may finish above .500 but miles away from a playoff berth.

(Photo from Kimberly White/Reuters.)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

SEC Fans Are Serious

Ever since I went to the Oregon vs. Mississippi St. game in Starkville, MS I have thought SEC football is something entirely different from any other type of football. It was a small college town with a bad football team but based on the rabid nature of the fans you would have thought they were in the thick of the national championship race. Visiting Starkville has made me want to check out the premier places in the SEC for a football game. The atmospheres in Palo Alto, Pullman and Berkeley on game days just don't get my blood going like I expect any SEC town would. I have not had the opportunity to get back to SEC country but I was able to speak to an alum last week on the cruise I went on.

Joe is in his early 50s and was a student equipment manager at Alabama for the last few years of Bear Bryant. I kid you not, this was the first thing he told me after I asked him if he went to Alabama. The fact that he had an Alabama hat and polo shirt on is what led me to ask. I talked with him for at least a half hour and learned a lot of great things about life at Alabama. Joe told me he was from Louisiana and explained how difficult it is to live near Death Valley. I later found out he lives only 30 minutes from New Orleans and a couple of miles from complete devestation. I got the impression he didn't share that minor detail with me early in the conversation because he finally found someone on the cruise that wanted to talk football not because it was difficult to talk about. I envision Joe thinking there were too many people from the West Coast that only care about college football for 4 months out of the year, if that, on the Alaskan cruise.

I had a great time hearing about Alabama football. Here are some tidbits. The spring game could have had more than 92,000+ people because another few thousand in the parking lot were turned away. The Alabama faithful are giddy over Nick Saban and glad to get rid of Mike Shula. "Shula was a nice guy but was more of a quarterback's coach than a head coach." They realize parity, particularly in the SEC, makes winning far more difficult but that doesn't mean expectations can't be high. Beating Auburn really is what Saban has been hired to do. Bryant-Denny Stadium (shown above) was the size of Autzen about 4 expansions ago and more expansions are in the works. Joe catches the first half of the Pac-10 games before heading to bed and his teenage son makes it a point to watch the entire game. Receiving season tickets to Alabama games is nearly impossible. Joe is a part of the former letterwinners club and since he hasn't requested tickets in a few years isn't entirely confident he is going to get the three he asked for. I get the impression tickets to Autzen are infinitely easier to obtain. It was this topic on season tickets that made me realize SEC fans are more serious than any other fan.

Joe explained that he had a voice message in his cabin on the ship a couple of nights before. The message was from a buddy and simply told Joe to call him back at his earliest convenience. He assumed it was his buddy calling about football season tickets. The season is getting closer and neither of them have the actual tickets in hand so Joe was hoping the buddy called with news about the tickets. Wrong! The buddy called to tell Joe that the Alabama baseball team had hired a new assistant coach from a school in Louisiana. Mind you it cost $7.95 per minute to use the phones in the cabin and that is the news Joe received. He told me the story and had no remorse that he called up his buddy and in return he found out the baseball team had a new assistant coach.

I'm sorry but that doesn't happen anywhere else. In the week I was gone Oregon lost a couple of football players, had a bowl game vacated because the opponent had to forfeit a season's worth of games, brought back baseball, instituted a recreational activity and dropped wrestling. I had no messages on my cabin phone, one text message (related to the football team) and one voice mail (unrelated to anything) on my cell phone. After meeting Joe I realize no matter how much people want to convince me otherwise, the pure devotion of SEC fans to their schools means all other conferences are playing for 2nd.

(Photo from University of Alabama Athletic Department.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

I Have Pie On My Face

In the spirit of being honest I must admit to being a moron. Some of you will relish in my mistake and I have to live with that. A few weeks ago I compared Vladimir Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez. A large portion of my reasoning for leaning towards Vlad was because I stated he has won a World Series. Well, that is completely false. An individual simply known as 'Anonymous' pointed this out. Thanks to 'Anonymous' for the heads up. I hope this does not impact anyone's desire to return to this blog. I apologize for the embarassing blunder. This important clarification does nothing to change my opinion. It just makes my argument significantly weaker.


After finishing in dead last for the last 26 years, the powers that be have decided the University of Oregon needs to actually field a team to try to reverse the trend. I am obviously overjoyed by the news. Fortunately, I only wore my Oregon State NCAA Champions t-shirt once. Unfortunately, multiple pictures were taken of me wearing the t-shirt on July 4th so certain blackmail will follow. To my credit I have a Nike Oregon Baseball hooded sweatshirt that I picked up from Eastbay about 18 months ago. Many people will consider me a villainous traitor for my actions but I will know that I have one of the first, if not the first, Oregon Baseball piece of apparel. It may take ages for the team to make a run at a Pac-10 title but I will be present for as many games as possible.

Please don't ask me what my feelings are on 'competitive cheer'. If you know me you already know my feelings and if you don't know me then ask someone that does. Okay, fine. Here are my brief thoughts. Apparently, the thinking is that we can quickly "become a national power" in the sport. Note, we are using a very liberal definition for the word 'sport' in order to use it in this case. The exact same reason was used when women's lacrosse was added. I guess every person's definition of 'quickly' is different. Northwestern's women's lacrosse team became competitive quickly, as I define it. Let's hope for the new 'competitive cheer' team quickly more closely resembles my definition. You can read between the lines and figure out my thoughts on adding a 'sport' for the sole reason that no other school is crazy enough to field a team. In the end, if having to add leisure activities is what it takes to bring back baseball I am all for it.

(Image from University of Oregon Athletic Department.)

Monday, July 9, 2007

On Location: Alaska

Not sure anyone is reading this blog since I am on a cruise with the family members that I know read it. Alaska is very pretty, but I have not had much interaction with the sports world to produce a quality post. There was an incident yesterday however that was entertaining.

I was in a jacuzzi with family members and noticed a girl running on the running track above at a quick rate. We told a cousin that is single he should go up there and run with her. He declined saying he had seen her before and thought she was 13. From our vantage point we thought she could be 17 or 18. Anyway, that is not the interesting part. This girl was dressed like a big-time runner and running at a speed rarely seen for girls on cruise ships. This is not a knock on girls it is a knock on the speed of grandmas walking around the boat.

There was either a dad or coach (likely both) intently watching her and yelling at her to go faster as she was across the boat. All of us in the jacuzzi immediately thought he was one of those over-the-top dads. This girl was on vacation and dad/coach was as serious as any coach I will see in Eugene next summer at the Trials. I'm not sure if that is healthy parenting. Oh yeah, the dad helped her with her stretches. Some of which I had never seen before. My only guess for why this dad/coach was intent on making his daughter run, and run faster, was because he wants his daughter to be able to run at the University of Oregon. (There has not been clarification if this girl will be entering college in 5 years or 1 year. Trying to get the younger cousins to clarify that.) The Ducks only accept the elite and that appeared to be the level the dad/wanted for his daughter.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Dennis Dixon MiLB Update #3

Special thanks to Andy Mac at work for asking me a simple question. "How is the Dennis Dixon update going?" He could have been a lot meaner and said, "The information in your blog is terribly inaccurate. He has been playing." So yes, Dixon has been getting some time in the GCL Braves outfield. I warned everyone to take the information on the team website with a grain of salt. I should have been more careful about it myself, but wasn't. Dennis Dixon, who is still shown as a pitcher on the team roster has had 25 ABs and 0 IP in 8 games. That is quite odd and the primary reason why I didn't see he had been playing.

Dixon has been playing the outfield. Last night he was in right field batting 9th. After going 1 for 3 he managed to raise his batting average 29 points to .120. He also stole his 2nd base in 2 attempts. Though batting only .120, Dixon has an OBP of .313. Considering his low number of hits (3) and high number of strikeouts (10) that isn't too bad. Dixon has twice as many walks (6) as anyone else on the team. His play in the field seems to be fine since he has yet to record an error. All in all, Dixon is getting off to a slow start but there appear to be signs that he could be a serviceable player. At this point, that is all the Braves could hope for.

I am not an expert on Rookie League ball clubs but the GCL Braves seem like they absolutely suck (2-11). Let's hope for the sake of the guys on the team that Dixon is not the only one that hasn't played ball in 4 years. For having not played for that long, Dixon is holding his own. I'm not sure what excuses the other guys on the team have. Seeing that the team plays at Disney's Wide World of Sports a reasonable excuse may be that they are living at Walt Disney World for the summer. After spending time at Blizzard Beach I would be in no mood or condition to play baseball.

(Photo from Zane Pitt/The Daily Emerald.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Worst Series Ever

Tonight starts what many have been waiting for. The three-game series in July between the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds. These two fine franchises are a combined 30 games under .500 a week before the All-Star Game. I'm not sure if that is some type of record at this point in the season but it certainly is not something to be proud of. The irony in all of this is that I hate both teams and it pains me to think that one of the teams will actually win the series.

The Giants have long been a team I have loathed. Growing up in the valley between the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe allowed me to befriend a fair number of Giants fans. So it is known, most of the people I considered my true friends were Oakland A's fans. I am better able to relate to A's fans I guess. There is just something pompous and arrogant about the Giants that filters down to most of their fans. Anyhow, it gives me great pleasure to see the Giants playing some of the worst baseball known to humanity. Nothing better could happen to a team that has sold itself to the large, farm animal steroid's devil. (Looks like a totally different person doesn't it?)

As for the Reds, I had neutral feelings about the Reds growing up until I met my boss. He grew up loving the Red Machine so being the great subordinate I am I decided that was reason enough to despise the Reds. I have been rooting against them the last 5 or 6 years, and with great success I might add. The only problem with hating the Reds is the presence of Ken Griffey, Jr. on the roster. As explained in an earlier post, he is my favorite player so the last few years have been painful for the both of us. I guess that is what makes this year so rewarding. Griffey is starting in the All-Star game due to his great 1st half of the season and the Reds are 20 games under .500. The only thing that could make me happier is seeing the Giants 21 games under. All I need to do is give it time.

(Photo from Jeff Gross/Getty Images File.)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Oklahoma's Favorite Ref

It's official I have a sports addiction. I ended up watching some Arena Football League. Following a wonderful family wedding last night I spent a few moments winding down before going to bed. I was able to catch the final 10 minutes of SportsCenter, which I enjoyed. Then, as is the case every night, a replay of that night's televised sporting event started.

This time it was AFL playoffs. I never watch the AFL, find it boring and wonder where all of the players come from. I watch as much college football as is humanly possible and I have no idea who any of the players are. It baffles me that it is possible that I never recognize the players. Though I don't know any of the players I apparently know one of the referees. And that is when my sports addiction hit me. The ref made a couple of penalty calls in the 10 minutes that I watched. I instantly knew who we was and so did the residents of Norman, OK.

It was none other than Dave Cutaia. He is of the onside kick fame in the Oregon vs. Oklahoma game last year. There is no need to go into the details of that day. The Sooners got screwed, plain and simple. Nothing more can be said. I understand there are only so many referees in the world and only those with severe sports addictions would even recognize Cutaia. I also understand that good people make mistakes. Given the Pac-10's track record, it doesn't surprise me that the Pac-10 has promoted Cutaia since his moment in the spotlight (see agreeing to TV rights deals with regionalized Fox Sports Net and then wondering why no one east of the Rockies watches the games), but the AFL deciding to use Cutaia in a playoff game?

America truly is the land of second chances. More power to Cutaia for taking advantage of this even when you wouldn't think it was possible. When all was said and done the replay referee in the Autzen Stadium press box is the one that took the fall. Based on the call made on the field that day he had no other choice but no one cares about that. Cutaia continues his distinguished career as if nothing happened.

(Photo from Don Ryan/AP.)