Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My All-star game, Part 1

One of the great things I love about competitive sports is their annual All-star game. Funny thing about them is more often than not the actual played games, to me at least, are anti-climactic. It seems every year I get really hyped up for either the NBA or MLB All-star game and in the end I’ve turned the channel during the middle of the fourth inning or at halftime. If it’s close then i turn in back on for the last 4 minutes of the game (when everyone decides to “try”) or for the last two innings. Football’s star game is only known to me in recognition. Not once have I ever been jacked to watch the NFL’s Pro Bowl game nor will I ever, unless they adopt the XFL rules for the game. This is not debatable. That would be glorious to watch! Imagine watching Asante Samuel and Chris Henry sprinting for the 50-yard line to see which one gets there and recovers the ball. Can’t a guy dream? I don’t know why they even have it, other than creating an excuse for the players to vacation to Hawaii. I do think, however, that they should still vote people to be a “pro bowler” because there needs to some sort of recognition for great play during a season, plus it looks good when they introduce the lineups on Monday night, but beyond that they need to nix the game. Why would I want to watch a competitive match that contains zero competitiveness?

This is why I like Major League Baseball’s All-star game the most, even if I do not watch the entire thing from start to finish. It actually counts for something and with that fact alone, makes it a billion times better than all of the others combined. If the NBA adopted the same format, with which ever conference that wins the game, said conference gets home court advantage for the finals. Instantly the NBA All-star game is the funfest basketball game to watch of the year, but I still do not know if it could surpass baseball. The MLB All-star game is also much more enjoyable because the game itself still feels like a normal baseball game and is played with the same intensity. You do not see pitchers under-handing it so Adam Dunn can crush the ball 700 feet because everyone is actually trying. There is plenty of long ball to be seen in the Home Run Derby, which brings up another point. Baseball’s pre-game festivities are WAY better than all the others. Better to watch, better to bet on, better name reference (Midsummer Classic), better competitors, better everything, and certainly way better than what the NBA throws our way. Don’t even get me started on the Dunk Contest aka Junk Contest. But since I brought it up…

Ways to instantaneously spice up the crappy Dunk Contest:
1) If you are not voted to play in the actual All-star game, then you cannot participate in the contest. I don’t want to see DeMar DeRozan, Gerald Green, Rudy Fernandez, or Hakim Warrick. Who are you? I HAVE NO IDEA WHO YOU ARE OR WHY YOU ARE IMPORTANT TO THE NBA! Stay out of the Dunk Competition!
2) If Dwight Howard wants to raise the rim to 30 feet, then let him. We need to see this.
3) I’m almost positive LeBron, with his speed and vertical, could dunk from the top of the circle that connects to the free throw line. Every year we need to see how far away he can dunk it.
4) For every dunk attempted, the ball needs to be lit on fire.

With the Midsummer classic a little over two weeks away and it got me thinking. What if instead of voting for the rosters every year, each team instead sent its single best player, regardless of their position played, to compete in a best of three series? Each All-star team would be required to conform to the following guidelines.

• Each player sent, has to play their regular season position, unless there is another player from a different team that also plays said position. If so, that particular player may switch to a position that is vacant
• Roster size will be dependent upon how many teams are in your league, so for the American League there will only be 14 spots and 16 for the National League
• The best player chosen is not necessarily the person putting up the best numbers for that particular season, rather the one who is collectively considered that teams best player overall (past production playing and future potential is all factored as part of the selection)
• The teams feature an American League lineup, meaning a DH will be used and is selected using the first mention requirement on position spots. Spots each team is required to fill are as follows:

Catcher
First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Shortstop
Right Field
Center Field
Left Field
Designated Hitter
Starting Pitcher
Middle Reliever
Middle Reliever
Middle Reliever
Closer

My rules freshly set in place, I went through every team and tried to select who I truly believed was that team’s best player. For the teams that I did not particularly like or just do not follow closely, I tried to get the input of somebody that strongly follows that team and went with who they felt should be representing. For some choices, picking the player was a simple no brainer, and with others it was difficult to weigh strengths against weaknesses to pick just one player. In some cases, a team literally did not have anybody worth choosing, thank you Oakland for offering zilch to world of professional baseball (unless of course you count minor league pitching prospect Scott Deal). With each selection I’ve given a synopsis of why I think they should be the one to represent their team as its best player. We’ll begin with the American League.


BALTIMORE ORIEOLES

Player: Nick Markakis
Age/Position: 26/Right Field
2010 Stats: BA .300, HR 3, RBI 23

Although Markakis’ numbers are not much to shout about, he edges the rest of his team on his superior athletic ability. Initially touted as a pitching prospect during college, when compiling a 12-0 record and 1.63 ERA in 15 starts, the Orioles drafted him seventh overall in 2003 because of bat: .439 BA, 21 HR and 93 RBIs. Like I said, just a pure athlete. And even though he has not had that same success as he did in college, he is on the rise, whereas fellow teammates Miguel Tejada, Garrett Atkins, Ty Wigginton are on their decline.

BOSTON RED SOX
Player: Dustin Pedroia
Age/Position: 26/Second Base
2010 Stats: BA .293, HR 12, RBI 41

Playing in just his 4th year of the bigs, Dustin Pedroia already has already won a World Series ring, the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and the 2008 AL MVP. Do not get me wrong, I love me some Kevin Youkilis, but when you compare Pedroia has done over his first couple of full seasons, against Boston’s all-time great second basemen, you see why he gets the nod.

Pedroia’s averages:
BA .313, HR 13, RBI 68, R 106, H 187, 2B 47, SB 15

Bobby Doerr, inducted in to the Hall of Fame in 1986. First three seasons:
BA .299, HR 13, RBI 86, R 77, H 162, 2B 30, SB 5
Seasonal Averages (per 162 games):
BA .288, HR 19, RBI 108, R 95, H 177, 2B 33, SB 5

Billy Goodman, first three seasons:
BA .320, HR 2, RBI 63, R 70, H 140, 2B 25, SB 3
Career averages (per 162 games):
BA .300, HR 2, RBI 59, R 81, H 169, 2B 30, SB 4

Now if you take it a step higher, and compare his play against the greatest 2B to ever play the game, players like Jackie Robinson, and Charlie Gehringer, then you really see what you’re getting in Pedroia.

Jackie Robinson
, inducted to Hall of Fame 1962. First three seasons:
BA .311, HR 13, RBI 61, R 118, H 182, 2B 37, SB 29
Career averages (per 162 games):
BA .311, HR 16, RBI 86, R 111, H 178, 2B 32, SB 23

Charlie Gehringer, inducted to Hall of Fame 1949. First three seasons:
BA .304, HR 4, RBI 61, R 93, H 160, 2B 25, SB 13
Career averages (per 162 games):
BA .320, HR 13, RBI 100, R 124, H 198, 2B 40, SB 13

NEW YORK YANKEES

Player: Mariano Rivera
Age/Position: 40/Closer
2010 Stats: ERA .92, SV 17, SO 29, WHIP .61

It is no secret that I hate the Yankees. Ever since the year I first started to follow sports with real intent (1995) and the magical season of the Mariners (Alive in ’95 baby!), a true hate was birthed in my heart against our first opponent in the League Divisional Series: the Yankees. Of course we beat those slobs and were sadly shown the exit in the next round from the Cleveland Indians, but the seed had been planted none the less. My dad told me that a lot of teams hate the Yankees and have for decades, and introduced me to their history and biggest rivalry; the Boston Red Sox, the team I’ve followed closely since ’99. Anyways, one of my co-workers is a born and bred Yankee so I asked him who he considered their best player. He and I both agree that pitching is always a little more valuable and because so, as he put it, “You gotta go with Rivera. That guy is never not clutch.” I remember a certain Game 4 in 2004 that says otherwise, but whatever. I would have said Jeter.

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Player: Evan Longoria
Age/Position: 24/Third Base
2010 Stats: BA .297, HR 12, RBI 52

With how loaded the Rays are this year, it was kind of difficult to choose him when you have players like Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and BJ Upton, but if I could have any third baseman in the league it would definitely be Longoria. Although only in his third season, the 2006 3rd overall pick’s numbers are getting better every season. Longoria is projected to finish with a .304 batting average, 29 homeruns and 115 RBI. With the potential that is in front of him, he is the clear choice.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Player: Vernon Wells
Age/Position: 31/Center Field
2010 Stats: BA .285, HR 19, RBI 47

Not too many options to pick from here. Wells has been the Blue Jays offensive man for the better part of a decade and was the #2 guy in the organization until Roy Halladay left for the Phillies. Already this year Wells has surpassed last year’s terrible output when he only hit 15 homeruns and 66 RBIs. Currently he has an OPS of .913, the best of his career, and this year’s numbers should be similar to 2003 and 2006 seasons when he .310 and 33 dingers. Looks like every 3-4 years he comes out of his hitting shell. This being one of them, he’ll continue to have a solid year.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Player: Alex(is) Rios
Age/Position 29/Center Field
2010 Stats: BA .313, HR 13, RBI 40

I didn’t know whether to go pitching or batting here. On one hand you got a pitcher in Mark Buehrle that has pitched a perfect game and has been the White Sox ace for a couple of years, but with a mediocre win to loss ratio over his career and the fact that he has never won a Cy Young just doesn’t proffer enough glimmer to win me over. I think anything really memorizing that he’ll do over his career, he has done already. Sure he’ll win 12-16 games a year but likely will get as many losses too. On the other hand Rios is having the best season of his career; the type of season that he is capable of consistently having year in and year out. I think he is one of those guys that once it clicks for him, it will stay that way for the rest of his career until he gets older and his game fades in general. It’s a breakout year that will continue on for the next 5-6 seasons. If the Sox can put younger pieces alongside Rios than perhaps they’ll be able to make another run like they did in 2005. Sure, Paul Konerko is having a monster of a season but both he and AJ Pierzynski are the latter part of their careers.

CLEAVLAND INDIANS
Player: Fausto Carmona
Age/Position: 26/Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: ERA 3.64, SO 52, WHIP 1.27

Talk about a really crappy team and a team with players that I want to do well, but for whatever reason they just don’t. Take Travis Hafner for example. One of those guys that have all of the tools but for whatever reason cannot piece it together. I’ve been on his bandwagon since day one, but I need to be realistic with myself and accept the fact that it is never going to happen for him. Maybe it is because I played an entire season of MLB 2K5 – every game, for both my major league team and AAA – and was able to pick him, his 91 power vs. righties and his $900 K contract up for only a few minor league prospects. I hit 48 homeruns with him that season. Once again, video games have deceived me and my perceptions on reality. Because of this we have to go with Carmona. Sure his record is 6-6 but that is because he gets zero run support. With decent bats to back him, his record should look more like 10-4. Remember this is the same guy that went 19-8 just three years ago.

DETROIT TIGERS

Player: Miguel Cabrera
Age/Position: 27/First Base
2010 Stats: BA .332, HR 20, RBI 64

This speaks for itself right? Cabrera is pretty much leading the league in everything except batting average. I like the fact that he plays on the Tigers because you almost forget about him. Nobody ever pays attention to the Tigers. If I told you they were in dead last or first in their division with a 9 game lead you’d believe either one. That’s how inconspicuous they are. 2010 Cabrera reminds me 2006 Cabrera but with more power, so yeeeeeaaaahhhh… we shouldn’t need to explain this pick. By the way, the Tigers are half a game behind the Twins in the AL Central.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Player: Zach Greinke
Age/Position 26/Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: ERA 3.72, SO 89, WHIP 1.19

For their first 20 seasons in the major league (’69-’88) guess how many of them had a winning percentage above .500? Drumroll please… the answer is thirteen. Now, guess how many they have had in their last 20 seasons. Three. Yeah, we must be talking about the Royals. I had my ideas at who should be selected but I still asked my boy, Mike. He his family are big Royals fans so I texted him to see who he thought their best guy is and this is who he said. I’d have to agree, even though (wait for it) his record is a paltry 3-8. Gulp. He lost 8 games all of last season, so it must be one of those years. In his defense six of those losses were in games they lost by scores like 1-0 and 2-1.

MINNESOTA TWINS
Player: Joe Mauer
Age/Position: 27/Catcher
2010 Stats: BA .304, HR 3, RBI 33

I know, I know, I know. I know the debate. Justin Morneau, right now is their best player. And he is only 29. But you know what? He wasn’t the #1 overall pick that just got signed to a fatty contract extension, and if you look at Morneau career he’s an “every-other” type of guy. Since 2003 his seasons have looked like this: .226, .271, .239, .321, .271, .300, .274 and now in 2010 he is batting .346. Just watch, next year he’ll bat .275 – trust me on this. And you know what else? Justin Morneau is having a Joe Mauer season, so don’t complain to me. Mauer is the future and I don’t want to debate it. The second half of the season, you’ll see Mauer’s number jump up and he’ll finish the way he did last year. Of this I know.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Player: Jered Weaver
Age/Position: 27/Starting Pitcher
2010 Stats: ERA 3.01, SO 118, WHIP 1.09

Weaver inherited the top spot of Alpha Male this year, when the Angels lost Lackey to the Red Sox. Posting a 7-3 record and a league leading 118 strikeouts Weaver has to be a consensus best player pick right? Of course there are star players on the team but they’re all… old. Matsui is 36, Abreu is 36 and Hunter is 34. This one was a rather easy choice.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Player: Ryan Sweeney
Age/Position: 25/Right Field
2010 Stats: BA .293, HR 1, RBI 32

Who the hell is Ryan Sweeney? Exactly. If Dallas Braden had not thrown a perfect game earlier this year, nobody would be able to name a single player from this team. What is special about Sweeney? Nothing. He is mediocre at best! There is literally nobody on that team. I threw a dart and it landed on his name. Ryan Sweeney ladies and gentleman, Ryan Sweeney.

SEATTLE MARINERS
Player: I don’t want to say
Age/Position: It feels like poison to think it
2010 Stats: I’ll get struck by lightning if I say it out loud

He has been the All-star MVP. He has 9 Gold Glove awards. Won the Rookie of the Year AND the American League MVP his first year in the league. In 2004 he broke George Sisler’s 84-year old record of hits in a single season with 262. If you combine his hits while playing professionally in Japan with his hits he has compiled while playing for the M’s it totals 3410. That’s in the company of Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial… and he still has at least four more seasons in him. Easy.

But after watching losing season after season from the Mariners, I have come to accept that Ichiro Suzuki cannot bring a championship to Seattle. I have to accept that it would have happened by now or at least come gut wrenchingly close. It is too much to ask from the guy. An M’s pennant will come from pitching or an entire infield on steriods. We need solid pitching that has Ichiro, plus a few other productive bats behind it. They have the key parts of pitching, and Ichiro, but they’re missing those few others. That is why I would have to say that, right now, the Seattle Mariners most important player is not #51 (looking around cagey, towards the sky to see if Zeus is in the vicinity). It is starting pitcher #36, Cliff Lee.

Before we get to Lee, below are Ichiro’s two worst seasons EVER:

2005 BA .303, HR 15, RBI 68, R 111, H 206, 2B 21, 3B 12, and 33 stolen bases.
2008 BA .310, HR 6, RBI 42, R 103, H 213, 2B 20, 3B 7, and 43 stolen bases.

He is a freak. Anyway, before a gypsy comes and puts a curse on me, why I think Cliff Lee gets to rep the Mariners before Ichiro. How does a 2.39 ERA and .91 WHIP sound? Pretty good right? What about his record at 6-3? Not bad considering it should be more like 8-3 with two no-decisions that easily should be W’s had Lee received even a semblance of offense. That is an 8-3 record in 11 starts; remember he was hurt for the first month of play. Lee has been nothing short of dominant. He is certainly on his way to another Cy Young award, like the one he got back in 2008 when he went 22-3. Out of his 11 games played this year, he has gone the entire distance four times and has never allowed more than two runs in game. D-O-M-I-N-A-N-T. Do not be misled because the Mariners are so crappy. In batting average they rank 27th, 29th in runs batted in and are 30th for home runs and hits. The only person giving any offensive production is, obviously, Ichiro. Yes, Ichiro is a maniac, but Cliff Lee is the Mariners best player.

TEXAS RANGERS

Player: Josh Hamilton
Age/Position 29/Left Field
2010 Stats: BA .346, HR 18, RBI 57

Maybe they already have and I am just out of the loop, but there needs to be a E:60 done on Hamilton. What this guy has accomplished and has been accomplishing this year is nothing short of incredible. Compiling only four seasons in the majors, there is still a lot for us to see from Hamilton, the future looking bright. Of course we know what he is doing now and what he did in 2008 with the bat during the Home Run Derby, and is clearly well on his way to his third consecutive All-star appearance, but did you know that the former #1 overall pick has had a gone through a huge struggle with drug addiction that almost robbed him from being able to play the game? Neither did I, until I dug a little deeper.

Drafted in 1999 by the Rays, Hamilton signed to a $4 million dollar bonus and began play in their minor league system. Two years later, Josh began his drug (cocaine) and alcohol use and made his first stint in rehab. In 2002 his season was cut short due to toe and neck injuries and in 2003 he took the entire season off for personal reasons. A year later he was suspended 30 days for violating MLB’s drug policy. Between ’04 and ’06, Hamilton did not play any ball at all, until he was selected in the Rule 5 draft (a draft that prevents a team from stockpiling too many prospects in the minors when they could be playing for other teams in the majors) by the Chicago Cubs, who dealt him to the Reds. In his first major league at bat, Hamilton hit a home run off of Edgar Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamond backs and hit a second the very next night. Traded to the Rangers during the offseason, Josh batted .304, hit 32 home runs and drove in 132 runs during 2008. After only being able to play half the season in 2009, he is back to his similar form. Josh credits his recovery to his wife, family and his faith. Just a feel good story that wraps up the American League representatives.

Recap:
Baltimore - Nick Markakis, Right field
Boston - Dustin Pedroia, Second base
New York - Mariano Rivera, Closer
Tampa Bay - Evan Longoria, Third base
Toronto - Vernon Wells, Center field
Chicago - Alexis Rios, Center field
Cleveland - Fausto Carmona, Starting pitcher
Detroit - Miguel Cabrera, First base
Kansas City - Zach Greinke, Starting pitcher
Minnesota - Joe Mauer, Catcher
Los Angeles - Jered Weaver, Starting pitcher
Oakland - Ryan Sweeney, Right field
Seattle - Cliff Lee, Starting pitcher
Texas - Josh Hamilton, Left field


C Joe Mauer
1B Miguel Cabrera
2B Dustin Pedroia
3B Evan Longoria
SS
RF Nick Markakis
CF Vernon Wells
LF Josh Hamilton
DH
P Cliff Lee
MR Jered Weaver
MR Fausto Carmona
MR Zach Greinke
CL Mariano Rivera
Reserves: CF Alexis Rios and RF Ryan Sweeney

Using our aforementioned rules I can move Nick Markakis and Vernon Wells to fill vacant positions. Because Markakis can pitch and play on the offensive side, shows to me that he has versatility and out of our limited options, I think he could play short stop the best. That means the perennial force known as Ryan Sweeney will play right. Look out every one, Ryan Sweeney is playing right field for the American League all-stars. Move Wells to the DH and Rios to center and you have a pretty good lineup by all accounts. The only real gap was short, but I feel good about it.

NATIONAL LEAGUE AND GAME RESULTS TO FOLLOW IN PART 2 OF MY FANTASY ALL-STAR GAME.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Silencio!

By a show of hands (for the 12 of you that actually read this… I’m so pathetic) how many of you keep phone on silent? I know I do, even if it can get me in trouble with the boss aka the wife. Anytime I actually have my ringer on and I get a call, I’m always looking around to see what the foreign sound is, and that’s if I even hear it. I’m ringtone deaf. That bad boy has to be cranked to the maximum for it to be any use to me. I wasn’t always this way though. I used to buy ringtones back in the day when Sprint was my pimp (guess who I was in that working relationship) but because they paid for my cell phone bill, I never took the time to look at the bogus way the ringtone agreements are set up. By the time I quit working there, I was a crack addict for ringtones. I was the Ring King. Everyone wanted their phone to ring like mine. Saved by the Bell theme, Wilson Philips ‘Hold on’, you name it and I had it blasting from my hip. Then came the wakeup call (no pun intended) when I got a new phone as a fresh post-Sprint basnik. I think that is the reason I became a silent mode guy. That and I wasn’t 19 anymore and did not want to look like douche.

Did you know that when you purchase an application or a game it states if it is a onetime purchase, a 1-month, 3-month or whatever. They tell you up front. But with a ringtone, there is no such claimer – at least there wasn’t when we I was shelling out Washington’s for them.

In retrospect I have no idea why I was doing this because:
A) You were only getting 30 seconds (if you’re lucky) of a song, the part of the song always remained a mystery until after it was downloaded and paid for, but at least it was semi-fun because of the gamble like buying a scratch card
B) Depending on how recent the song is for the ringtone you’re buying, that bad boy could cost as much $2.99 if it was the top song on the radio

With Sprint, anytime you upgraded your phone or had it replaced because of damage, you could go into your Sprint online account and download everything you had purchased: except ringtones. Those are only available for download for 90 days after purchase. Are you freaking kidding me? A time limit for a music clip that is 30 seconds? Can you imagine if iTunes tried to pull that? I can, and can tell you that there wouldn’t be an iTunes if they tried to one over everybody the way they do with ringtones. So why am I still with Sprint you ask? Well sport, a couple of reasons. First, I’m loyal and have been with them since ‘02. So loyal instead of having to wait 2 years to get a full $150 off a phone upgrade, Sprint lets me do it every year. More important than that, Sprint thinks I work for General Electric (which I do not and never have) and because they think that, they give me 25% off my entire bill every single month. More than $35 dollars’ worth. I now one-over them, but better.

Anyways, this is completely off topic and not what I want to talk about. The whole reason I brought this up is because last night when I was setting my alarm to wake up for the USA v. Algeria game this morning, I never took my phone off silent. The foils of going with the no-tone. I missed the entire first half and only woke up when wife got up for work. We turned the game on right as Dempsey bounced one off the right post. Literally 1 inch more the left and it would have bounced in. I still can’t believe that did not go in, but was great way to turn on a game you are really excited to watch.

I also need to mention the fact that we’re poor newlywed college kids and get our cable from a literal cable that goes from the wall to the back of the TV. No box or menu guide, awww, how 1998 and nostalgic, I know. Poor us. Needless to say, the only HD we get is when we watch a Blu-Ray or a station that broadcast in HD, such as ABC, NBC and Fox. Sadly ESPN does not fall in to that free HD category but I made an extremely important discovery the other day while flipping through the chunk of channels that nobody watches. QVC, HSN, those wacky religious concert stations – you know what I’m talking about. Somehow, and it certainly was not in there three weeks ago, I know this because every once in a while if you flip through the junk chunk like I do, you’ll find a gem. Like the Pixar documentary (didn’t even change the channels during the commercials it was that good). Did you know Steve Jobs is a part owner of Pixar? That man has to be worth a trillion dollars by now. Anyhow, the Spanish channel had slipped in, and bless their South American hearts, were members of the free HD family and you KNOW they’re not going to not show all of the World Cup games. A Christmas Miracle. I’ve watched so many soccer games in Spanish I now day dream that watching the games on Telemundo will magically transform me into a fluent speaker and listener of EspaƱola. It’s working too and I can prove it. The word ‘gol’ in Spanish, which is pronounced ‘goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooollllll [inhale] goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooolllllll’ means ‘goal’ in English. I’m on my way let me tell you.

Not knowing Spanish was a good thing today however because I didn’t know the outcome of the England v. Slovenia and had zero awareness that if we even tied Algeria we were out. Also, since missing the first half of our game, I didn’t have to bare the pains of another US goal hijacking from the officials. Seriously when will this going to stop or when will FIFA step in and do something about it? Because of this my outlook remained positive and from a sole, second-half perspective, I could feel that we were going to score. Mind you, I never would have thought that Landon Donovan was going to score in the 91st minute, on a masterful series on events that started with a herculean heave from keeper Tim Hudson. Trust me, there was a giant freak out celebration by myself. There are not words to express the energy burst when that ball found the back of the net. It happens every time we score and I’m sure other people feel the same way. The only thing I can think of to compare it is when Colossus describes the first time his mutant powers manifested on the original X-Men cartoon. It’s when the runaway tractor trailer is about to pancake his sister and he steps in front of her as his body turns in to Adamantium and the 30-ton tractor crushes around his body like a wave on a rock. I felt that indestructible.

When the game ended I flipped back over to ESPN to get the updates/highlights and quickly learned how close we were from elimination, making it that much sweeter that we won the group. With Germany beating out Ghana, and Australia winning over Serbia, it looks like we’ll be playing the team with the home crowd on their side in Ghana, but it is still better than facing zee Germuns. They are the number eight team as far as power ranking go in the tournament. Now England can duke it out with them in the old classic. I like our odds in our match even though the Sports Power Index (SPI) has predicted Ghana to win as a 52% favorite. Pish posh, barring another slew of stolen goals, we will win for sure. Believe the hype! This team is all-time! Speaking of all-time, after the US game recap, I was introduced the longest tennis match of all-time. Yes, even Wimbledon has been swallowed out of everyone’s minds because of the World Cup. Admit you forgot is going on too.

The match between the United States John Inser and France’s Nicolas Muhut had already gone on so long yesterday that they were continuing it today. The two are stuck in the fifth set with their games tied 59-59. When I turned it on they were in games 27-27 and were about 20 minutes away from breaking the 6 hour 33 minute record and I turned in off when they were still tied 33-33 and 10 minutes past the old record. I had time to watch 4 episodes of Entourage, drive to the library and then work, and they were still playing. The match has now been postponed for a second straight night. I can’t even fathom being Inser or Muhut. I’d be lying on a table moaning, with drool falling out of my mouth and IV in my arm. Watching them play you could tell neither of them had any legs to return serves. It was a battle of who could make the least mistakes on their serves and it was ace after ace after ace, another record which was shattered. TV commentators Hannah Storm and Brian McEnroe kept comparing the match to boxing, the players both on the ropes just hanging on as long as they could trying to make it to the 15th round before the collapsed. I never would have though Tennis would ever, in any way, be compared to a boxing match. So far the match has gone on for 10 hours and who knows how long it will go on tomorrow. Looks like her Majesty the Queen, has picked the perfect time to return to Wimbledon tomorrow after a 30 year hiatus.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Being sick and other thoughts

I hate being sick. It’s like someone took the feeling of ‘ache’, turned it in to a tangible film and covered your body with it like a spray tan. Bleh. That’s how I was livin from Sunday to Wednesday in what I like to call: four days of suck. Being sick isn’t just a physical battle between your body and some foreign virus, it is a mental battle as well. The worst part is not how crappy you feel, it’s the way the sickness barges in and says, “I’m taking over your life and there is nothing you can do about it.” That is the part that I hate the most, and is what I try to combat first and foremost. That is also the culprit of why I get cranky and my wife reacts with her sarcastic ‘gUHeeeezzze’s and ‘someone’s in a mood’s, which in turn makes me even more snappy. I don’t want to be told what to do from any other angle when I’m sick, even the ones that are trying to help me.

To combat this I try and consume myself with things that will consume me; all other things falling to the wayside. This is a good and bad thing. Good news is that I win the mental battle part of the virus, bad news is that lose control of all following decisions after pulling the trigger on the chosen distraction. Game 5 I completely missed but that is because I slept 70 percent of Sunday (16 hours for those of you keeping score at home) but because I deployed what will be referred to as ‘the consumption method’ I didn’t even tune in to Game 6. However, after catching the highlights, it was a bonus to see that I didn’t have to. The problem with the consumption method is the consumption carries on long after the bug does. Por ejemplo, Entourage still owns my life right now and I’m not even mad, except when I realize that I don’t have real cable with HBO and season seven starts of on the 27th. On the flip side, I’m just at the tail end of season three so I’m good for now. At the rate Blockbuster is mailing me these discs’ – I’ll be locked up for the next two months or so.

(Quick rant: I signed up for a Blockbuster online account the very first week they debuted it, after they saw how Netfix was on the up and up, and did this for two reasons. A) the price was comparable and I thought it was a better deal and B) Blockbuster gave itself a leg up for every movie they mailed out. You had the option for mailing it back OR you could drive to an actual Blockbuster, turn it in there and they would give you a free in-store rental for each movie you were exchanging and in turn, they would immediately mail out the next title in your online queue. I ended up moving around a bunch in 2005 and suspended my account for a couple of years. In February I went to activate it again, and was able to keep the original deal I had from day one. I get three titles at a time for $19.99 – which is $29.99 if you sign up now. Everything is same except the exchange policy. Now when exchanging in-store, they will not send you a movie from your online queue UNTIL you have returned the movie. This sucks because before, when Blockbuster didn’t have their head up their ass, not only were you getting a TON of movies, but getting them in the mail more efficiently than Netflix. When the mailed copy was scanned in at the store, your queue was updated immediately. Now my account getting processed quickly is contingent upon how often the employees check the drop box and actually check in the titles. If I drop off a movie that I got from the in-store exchange on Tuesday afternoon, more than likely it doesn’t get checked in until after they close at midnight; technically Wednesday. This now means my movie won’t get shipped from the warehouse until Thursday and unless I’m lucky and get it on Friday, I don’t see my mailed copy until Monday. It totally sucks and defeats the purpose of the in-store exchange. If I want my queue to be updated right away, I have to go into the store and have an employee check it in by handing it to them and asking them to check it in while I watch. Defeats the whole point of drop box and is effing up my shi..taki mushrooms.)

Another discovery from the consumption method has been Red Dead: Redemption. Think Grand Theft Auto, but cowboys. Thank you, Rockstar Games. I want to be a cowboy so freaking bad. It’s a whole entire post by itself that I won’t get into.

On to sports…

Saturday’s World Cup match up “ended” (key word) great. I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, and I didn’t on Saturday, but there were some thoughts along that line 4 minutes in to that game. I’ve since repented just in case and have been forgiven. Gerrard’s strike happened in slow motion. You saw the play before it happened, saw that nobody was in front him, you knew just like everybody else watching at home that Heskey was going was going to slip the ball right do him and Gerrard was gonna send it in. I felt so dejected and was brooding on how bitter my follow up post was going to be before the ball even touched the back of the net. I hated everything about everybody for almost the entire first half.

Fortune struck in the 40th minute and seemed to happen in even slower motion, or at least the thoughts in my head did. When Dempsey put his shot forward, I had mixed emotions. It wasn’t necessary and we needed to make better use of our possessions but at the same time I was glad we were trying to make things happen on a semi-good look. When the ball was half way there in the air going to Green (who I absolutely did not think would get the starting nod) I was back to my critical analysis of our play. Then when it hit his hands I knew that he would either pick it up or fall on it. When it rolled a little bit behind him, scoffing to myself I thought it’d be great if it went in. When it continued to roll, my mind was already thinking in the past tense; saying to myself, “that would have been great if it rolled in.” But it kept rolling. That ball is going roll in! I’m screaming at my T.V. like I’m watching a thoroughbred 1/8 of mile from clinching the Triple Crown to GOOO! GOOOO! GOO! and as soon as that ball passed the entire white strip: mayhem. All by myself, fist pumping and running around the living room. English commentator, Martin Tyler, summed it up the goal perfectly, “Sometimes when you buy a ticket, you a win a raffle.”

I thought you we did a pretty good job of limiting Rooney but there were a couple of lapses on Michael Bradley’s part that allowed for a few scares. I’m still deciding if I like him or not. I’ll know better by tomorrow. As the rest of games go it seems like all of the ballers in the world have been contained and a bit of a no-show. Rooney, Messi, Ronaldo and the like have yet to dazzle and remind us why they get so much attention. Can’t wait for them to notch a goal. A Messi bender upper V would do the trick. I also love how all great players, regardless of sport, are known by a single name and 14 of Brazil’s 23 players are known by a single name. Digest on that tidbit. They should call the World Cup the Brazil Cup, and every team has to play Brazil best 2 out of 3, and the 2-4 teams that can actually somehow beat them twice then compile a super team to face Brazil in a do-or-die match for the Cup. If the super team wins than those countries that make up the team are considered best in the world. Tell me you wouldn’t watch that, as well as expect Brazil to be the favorite going in every time.

Anyhow, prediction for tonight: Lakers go back to back. Celtics are really going to miss Perkins and lose because of it.

And I need to come clean and get this off my chest as a Sacramento Kings fan. I think I’ve been rooting for the Lakers this whole series. Gulp. I know I have. I deserve to be burned at the stake. I just cannot stand Paul Pierce. I’m sorry and every year he gets older and less good and makes it even worse. I’m going to throw a party when he retires. I hate the Celtics because of him and cannot root for them. When he is gone, I won’t mind the Celtics I already know. These are not the Celtics from two years ago. The 07-08 Celtics are different than this year’s Celtics because back then everyone was juiced to see ‘The Big Three’ come together and win the championship. I wanted KG to get his title after wasting away in Minnesota and rooted for them against the hated Lakers. I was happy when it came together for them in the end. But now, they’ve become just Celtics and are no longer remembered for where they played before and their absence of a ring. They do nothing for me and after thinking about it for a while, the Lakers winning a title is more bearable. The lesser of two evils I guess. It just goes to show you how one person can make you root for your hated rival. I just need to get this out there and off my chest and feel better already.

Kings till I die, but for tonight only – anybody but the Celtics.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Where's Puljos been hiding?

As interleague play begins this weekend, Major League Baseball is forcing my attention to be brought upon the National League, I ponder about, the league as whole, best player Albert Puljos. In turn I realize that I haven’t heard too much noise involving Albert Puljos. Why is that and what is the answer?

Albert Puljos is the type of player that is so good; you sometimes forget how good he is, if that makes any sense at all. It does to me so just roll with it. This season, with the exception of the first week and a half of April, when Puljos came exploding out of the gate like we all expected him to, we haven’t really heard too much about him. Hitting two homeruns on opening day. It’s been quiet for him thus far so naturally he must be sucking it up, right? Wrong, because if any person playing on my team(s) (the Red Sox and Mariners) got their stuff together and put up AP numbers, I’d be doing the Ronaldinho celebration Kobe style. Click here to see what I’m talking about, it is my favorite commercial right now. But that just goes to show you how consistently fantastic Puljos has been because we are bored when he gives us great production. Numbers for Puljos as of today:

BA HR RBI OPS
.306 14 44 .978

In the National League that ranks him 2nd in homeruns, 4th runs batted in, 2nd with OPS and 8th respectively with his batting average, and even still I ask myself what could be wrong or what he tweak to return to his usual form. Bottom line is that we have been spoiled by Albert Puljos for nine straight years and we gripe if he isn’t batting at least .330 and hitting a jack every three games. How dare he let his OPS slip under 1.000, the insanity of it all, absolutely unbelievable, I’ll never forgive him! So what seems to be his deal? Why is his batting average so ugly to look at? These are questions that I ask myself and I can’t seem to snap out of it. Those are good numbers. Hell, those are great numbers. I’ve become the pampered little fan because of Daddy Puljos and now can no longer identify with my old, orphan Annie self. I hate it and I am ashamed. You know how they say people have gone Hollywood, well, I’ve gone Puljos. I have no sense of reality. You know, if he continues to play the way he does he’ll end up with a .318 average on the season, he’ll have gone yard 36 times and driven in 115. Super year for every other player in the bigs, but since it is Albert, I’m acting like he just kicked my dog and I’m screaming, “what the ---- is your problem man?”

The only problem that Albert Puljos has is being awesome. And the ability for playing the game of baseball tremendously. And being overshadowed like every other hitter in the game because of this year’s caliber of pitching. There have been 21 perfect games (and yes I’m counting Galarraga’s perfect game, unlike crappy Bug Selig who I haven’t liked since he called the All-star game in a tie in ’02) ever thrown in MLB history and three of them have happened this year! Knowing this helps take the sting away of such sub-par play from a guy who will hit more than 800 homeruns when all is said and done. And yet I digress…

Moving on, the games I look forward to during interleague play.

June 13th
Washington Nationals at Cleveland Indians

The two teams going head to head here: not much history. The real draw for this game is the second start for rookie Steven Strasburg after going 7 innings, 14K’s and 0 BB in his opening start. His curve in that game was re-dic-uh-lous. I was reading Bill Simmons’s running diary of game 3 and they did a poll for what his nickname should be. The majority was “Commander and Chief”, which is kind of clever given the city he plays in and the team name, but saying the name outloud is too dorky if you ask me, which is why I am unveiling Strasburg’s new nickname that I have so cleverly come up with.

Albastras.

It’s perfect. Paying homage to the Albatross, it embraces everything Steven Strasburg is. He is and is going to continue to be, a big deal. Albatross = big. There are not very many guys with as good as stuff that he has. His fastball sits in the 98-100 range, has nasty biting curve, and a real good change up on that he throws with good arm speed. Albatross = rare. And of course the ‘tross’ and ‘Stras’ part of their names rhyme. A trifecta. Plus, anytime I hear the word ‘Albatross’ I am instantaneously reminded of two movies I used to watch over and over on VHS. First movie was Jurassic Park and the correlation is the conversation between John Hammond (played by Richard Attenborough) and Jeff Goldblum (played by Jeff Goldblum) about recreating a species. Second, is The Rescuers: Down Under, when the kangaroo mouse with the Austrailian accent working at the airport for birds, is shocked that a bird as big as an Albatross is going to try and land on his runway. I distinctly remember the emphasis he puts on the ‘al’ sound while proclaiming, “An Albatross?!” For no reason at all, that line is burned into my mind forever.

Remember, you read it here first: The Albastras.

June 16th
Philadelphia Phillies at New York Yankees

Of course this is game two in this three game set, but we get to see two teams that are projected to see each other in the World Series square off with two of their best pitchers in Roy Halladay and AJ Burnett. Both will be bringing their extra ‘A’ game and it should be a great duel.

June 18th
Los Angeles Dodgers at Boston Red Sox

Manny Ramirez will be playing his first game in Boston since being traded in 2008. I cannot wait! My only wish is that he was playing better than he is, so the chances of him going big over The Monster could throw me back to ’04. If only he could be playing at a crappy Albert Puljos level, ya know? But still it will be nice to see him back in Fenway and expect the fans to give him a standing ovation. Add the drama between these two cities that’s been going back and forth during these NBA Finals and we’ll have a hot one for sure.

As far as the interleague games going this weekend, I don’t have the slightest clue of the marquee matchups or even care for that matter. All I know is that Albert Puljos better hit 20 home runs this weekend so on Monday I can finally find some peace and stop begrudging him. The World Cup will be dominating my life this weekend and with the big game less than 24 hours away I will not be noticing much else. Right now my biggest concern is when I will be going to Old Navy to buy a t-shirt with an American flag on it. It’s funny, every time the World Cup rolls around I seem to notice my serious lack of America-themed clothing and then there is the pressing reminder that I don’t own an American flag to wear as a cape during games. This has bothered me for almost a decade. I can’t be the only one that feels this way.

Anyhow… I’ll leave you with this: USA! USA! USA!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

World Cup preview: USA v. England

The hype surrounding the US National team in the 2010 FIFA World Cup is reaching new heights. The rise of MLS and its gaining popularity among viewers is spilling in to the mainstream, creating a buzz, and consequently many have predicted a deep run for the red, white, and blue. With the United States v. England opening round game looming, I decided to take a preview at Saturday’s 12:30 ET kickoff on ESPN.

Every great team needs its poster boy, its Gladiator, their go-to guy during the crunch time. Looks like the national team has found their man. That man is Landon Donovan and the US is pimping him hardcore. That is who they’re telling us to expect great things from. It seems no matter what I’m watching, regardless of the channel, the forward and captain of Team USA is featured in some 30 second spot, either telling me to drink Gatorade so I can soccer better for America or buy a Flo-TV so I can watch every game of the Word Cup live. Of course at the end, they tell me to specifically watch Donovan and the rest of the squad square off against England this weekend. These constant reminders of ‘Donovan and the US’ are… working.

I’m riled up, fired up, and ready to go. Soccer is awesome and I’ve never had a problem sitting down to watch a match from start to finish. Never needed that extra push to stay up on who is the latest and greatest in the world, the up and coming and so forth. Maybe that is why I appreciate the effort they’re putting forth for this cup and game. My hope is that it is working for the rest of you. Plus any time you have a chance to shout USA! USA! USA! is always good time.

Quick list of things that I love about soccer:

1) There are no stupid TV timeouts or commercial breaks. You get 45 uninterrupted minutes of freak-of-nature athletics. One 15-20 minute half, followed by another 45 uninterrupted minutes. Plus stoppage time.

2) The aforementioned freak of nature athletics. Reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies Dogma. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck play two angels, Loki and Bartleby, who have been kicked out of heaven, are trying to get back in to heaven through a wacky Catholic Church loop-hole.

Bartleby (Affleck): Well, then, you know, don’t use a gun. Just lay the place to waste.

Loki (Damon): Easy for you to say. You get off light in razing. You got to stand there and read at Sodom and Gomorrah; I had to do all the work.

Bartleby: What work did you do? You lit a few fires.

Loki: I rained down sulphur, man, there’s a subtle difference.

Bartleby: Oh, yeah, I’m sure.

Loki: Hey you know,*bleep* you man. Any moron with a pack of matches can set a fire. Raining down sulfur is like an endurance trail man. Mass genocide is the most exhausting activity one can engage, outside of soccer.

I love it. Kills me every time.

3) The sudden eruption of 90,000 people at the drop of hat. You can be sitting quietly in your seat and 4 seconds later you’re going absolutely bananas hugging and high-fiving a complete stranger.

4) The flops. You may hate them, but not me. The best ones are when they bring the trainers onto the field with the stretcher while the player is writhing in pain. They ask him if he can go on and he’s not sure, but then they bust out this can of spray. Nobody knows what is in this can besides aerosol and magic. Trainer will spray some on his shin, he’ll adjust his shin guards and by an act of God: the player is totally fine. Only in soccer.

5) Color commentator Ray Hudson.

I especially love the fluff pieces that have been featuring Donovan too. It was on Outside the Lines or E:60 and it talked about his loan to Everton and how excited he has been playing in the Premiere League. “Playing in that league,” Donovan said, “puts you against the best of the best.” This is true. Preforming well at that level has boosted his confidence for how he will play against England. Good. I appreciate the swagger. We’ll need it. The only thing that hasn’t changed is his delivery in interviews. He conducts every one with the same monotone, robot; I might not be a human sort of way. Listening to him speak has the candor of someone describing a live feed of paint drying. He could have had his legs amputated ten minutes earlier and still you couldn’t phase how boring the response is going to sound. Although I have noticed that he has stepped them up somewhat to an Evan Lysacek level, but still.

Luckily his game doesn’t play the way his interviews do. Perhaps it is because he has been playing so long and has so many appearances or maybe it just the receding hairline (I am not one to talk) but in my mind Landon Donovan is 45 years old. In all actuality he is 28. I know, right? You thought he was way older too didn’t you? I don’t know why but that makes me feel better about Saturday. I know it’s weird but it does. It’s the simple surprises I suppose.
What will be surprising is if Donovan plays like he is 45. In order to do well the US needs to unleash the beast and more importantly finish. No more of this roaring in like a lion and going out like a lamb. If this year’s World Cup turns in to the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup all over again, I’m going to throw the most heavy laden soccer item I possess through my TV; which – if that happens –would be my fallen spirits. I happen to like my TV very much, so if we botch things up again, at the very least, expect some serious sulking and a grumpy follow up article. I just don’t know if I could handle that kind of rejection. And don’t think for a second that our national team has forgotten that. It was only a year ago. That loss is fuel for the fire baby!

On the soccer power index (SPI) England is currently ranked 3rd, behind Italy in second and not surprisingly Brazil holding the top spot. The United States respectively weighs in at #15 on the list. As it stands now the United States men’s national soccer team has an overall World Cup record of 6-3-11 (wins-decisions-losses). No bueno. I’m tired of that record looking so awful. It’s time we win some games and make that thing look more respectable. We haven’t done much of anything since this thing tournament started. In 1930, the Cup’s inaugural year, they finished in third place but in modern times the deepest they’ve ever gone is the quarter finals in 2002. England, despite having won the 1966 tournament, and having one of the deepest rosters in the last three tournaments, has fared only slightly better by making it to the quarter finals 5 times. When it comes to crucial knockout matches against the top teams, it has been tough for them to close out. One could only assume that this is why the matchup is creating such a rumble with both teams having so much to prove. Anything to make the match more intense between these two power houses.

Keys to the game for United States:

● England is going to be relentless on the offensive, so limit the number of looks forwards Peter Crouch and Wayne Rooney get.

● Stopping every decent shot on goal will be impossible, requiring strong play from keeper Tim Howard. Howard has been playing in the English Premiere League for Everton since 2003 and should be up to the test of these English strikers

● Donovan. He’s our guy right? With the most caps from any other active player on the team at 123, look for our offense to feed through him with his assists or adding to his already all-time leading 42 goals

Keys to the game for England:

● Wayne Rooney is clearly their best player. Any bumps and bruises he received over the last couple of months playing for Manchester United are a non-factor. What needs to be kept in check is his known temper. Look for the US to try and exploit that to get calls in their favor. If Rooney can keep it dialed back, look out.

● A man with so much to prove is defender John Terry. After having been stripped of his captaincy with the reports of an affair between him and a former player’s wife leaking earlier this year, expect an extra zealous Terry trying to win back the hearts of his nation and stopping the United States attacking schemes

● Again the goal keeper. David James will play brilliant but has been known to show the occasional lapse in judgment. Look for the US to try and exploit that

Expect a nail biter in this game. For a country that just spent over a billion dollars on new stadiums and renovations to older ones, the players won’t be the only ones to sparkle. I’m so sold on the United States right now that I see them winning 2-1, scoring the go ahead gold in the 81st minute, giving England more than ten minutes to give 300 million Americans (obviously we’re all going to watch it right?) more heart attacks than McDonalds. What more to say other than: USA! USA! USA!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Last strike of the Mamba?

As ludicrous as it might sound, playing his best playoff basketball of his career, Kobe Bryant’s peak has reached its very most (if you will) peaking point. Take a good look, because this is it. This is the last time that we will see Kobe this good. Ever. Unless of course you pop in the highlight tape/reel, but that goes without saying. (By the way, why is the term ‘tape/reel’ still used when their tangible forms are outdated and not even used?)

I’m not saying he is done or he is washed up because that simply is not the case. This is only the start of the gradual fade that we will see over the next four seasons. It is just that, despite what our mind is telling us when we watch him smoothly drop in an impossible turn around fade away, Kobe is human and humans get old. Does that mean we will we see hints of it during the series with Boston? Doubt it. Will the Laker’s avenge ’08 and go back to back? Probably, I don’t think Game 1 was an anomaly. Everyone has been saying that this series is without question, going seven games. After what I saw last night I think six but wouldn’t be surprised if they wrapped it in five. Could Kobe even win another title after this year? Sure, and why not, especially if the rumors of the Lakers getting Bosh in a sign and trade are true. All in all, he has a couple of years left in him where he’ll be the premiere guy of the West Coast, but it will never be what it is right now ever again. I’m sorry that may not sit well with some of you. This is the final curtain call of Kobe as we’ve known him.

We saw shades of the gradual decline in the opening round one against the Thunder. Granted it was somewhat shaded because we had Kevin Durant showing everyone, “I’m Kevin Durant and I’m going to be doing what you’re now seeing but better, every season, for the next ten years.” But the scent of it crept in and before it had chance to linger the Kobe Bryant of the Suns/Jazz series emerged and the winds changed, wiping our senses of it. But it still happened.

Kobe’s locked in right now, no doubt, and he has that hunger that nobody else has right now in the series. Ron Artest might be a close second, but only because he doesn’t want to be remembered as this generations Rodman sans the titles. Until he gets a least one ring he is just someone that should have been born a dog fighter. Not the human pitting animals one against the other; I mean the actual dog that is fighting for its life. You can tell because of the leash (cheesy pun intended) he’s let Phil Jackson and Bryant put on him. Say what you will about his Tweeting, you can see it in him during games and that’s even when he hoisting some of those ‘what-the-hell-are-you-doing-jacking-up-that-three’ shots.

But back to Kobe and his inevitable decline, which again I’ll state: has begun. Now, if the Lakers win the series that will put him one shy of tying Jordan’s six and if that happens then we’ll likely see that decline trickle on down at a 176-179 degree angle. Be MJ, that’s his mantra. But, and I think it is an unlikely ‘but’, if the Lakes do not win the title because Boston gets the Cleveland series version of Rando to show up or Ray Allen decides to make 9,000 three pointers, than we are going to see that declining angle at a greater slope. Plus, we don’t even know if Phil Jackson is going to stay in L.A. or just retire. These are all things that need to be factored in. Especially the latter.

If I were Phil Jackson, I wouldn’t let Jerry Buss treat me this way and I wouldn’t stay with the Lakers just on principle. Jerry Buss is not making any sense to anyone. The man has brought you 4 titles and is three games away from a 5th in ten years! This is basically the conversation that transpired:

Buss: Hey, Phil howsit’ goin?

Jackson: Oh, you know just winning another championship. This one is going to go on a chain around my neck, and then after that I’ll have to start doubling up on my fingers.

Buss: That’s nice. It’s funny you brought that up. I’m gonna need you to keep on doing what you have been doing except I want you take a 30% pay cut. Mmmmmmkaaaayy?

Jackson: (Baffled. Right eye squinting, left eyebrow rising).

Maybe he should retire. Nobody would think any less. Greatest coach of all time and no person would argue that fact with you. Or maybe, instead of retiring, he should leave town and head back to Chicago, the town where it all began, and hook up with LeBron. Too bad after the Larry King interview any doubts/fingers-crossed-hopes that LeBron was leaving Cleveland (I just don’t like looking at their ugly uniforms) were put to bed. He is staying and now it is all about who is coming to Ohio. So why not Jackson? Cavaliers’ owner, Dan Gilbert, has said repeatedly that he will do anything he can to keep LeBron (a.k.a. anything LeBron say he wants I will get it for him). If I were James that would be the first thing requested and second would be changing the previous mentioned ugly knits to go along with my new number six. That would give Phil the opportunity to have coached three of the Top-10 players ever in the NBA and if he could win a championship with James too it would make it that much sweeter. No coach would ever be able to say that he had that kind of opportunity, let alone being the person to accomplish the feat. If Cleveland puts a 5-year offer at $15 million a season he takes it. Even if the Nets decide to put something out there in the 18-20 range. Just wait and see. Barring that Buss figures that he does not want to shoot himself in the foot this is what will happen.

As it sits right now, L.A. will be looking for a new head coach in the off season, but if they win maybe their chances of keeping him increase. Either way Kobe needs him to stave off time and to get the record numbers he is gunning for. It had to happen sometime and it will be sad to one day watch NBA games and not see him on the court. I guess knowing that the decline has begun will make these Finals that much more enticing to watch and makes the next couple of his seasons special as we watch his final act and his attempts to eclipse the record books in such an illustrious career.